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The Judge   By: (1892-1983)

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Author of "The Return Of The Soldier"

New York George H. Doran Company






"Every mother is a judge who sentences the children for the sins of the father."



It was not because life was not good enough that Ellen Melville was crying as she sat by the window. The world, indeed, even so much of it as could be seen from her window, was extravagantly beautiful. The office of Mr. Mactavish James, Writer to the Signet, was in one of those decent grey streets that lie high on the northward slope of Edinburgh New Town, and Ellen was looking up the side street that opened just opposite and revealed, menacing as the rattle of spears, the black rock and bastions of the Castle against the white beamless glare of the southern sky. And it was the hour of the clear Edinburgh twilight, that strange time when the world seems to have forgotten the sun though it keeps its colour; it could still be seen that the moss between the cobblestones was a wet bright green, and that a red autumn had been busy with the wind nipped trees, yet these things were not gay, but cold and remote as brightness might be on the bed of a deep stream, fathoms beneath the visitation of the sun. At this time all the town was ghostly, and she loved it so. She took her mind by the arm and marched it up and down among the sights of Edinburgh, telling it that to be weeping with discontent in such a place was a scandalous turning up of the nose at good mercies. Now the Castle Esplanade, that all day had proudly supported the harsh, virile sounds and colours of the drilling regiments, would show to the slums its blank surface, bleached bone white by the winds that raced above the city smoke. Now the Cowgate and the Canongate would be given over to the drama of the disorderly night; the slum dwellers would foregather about the rotting doors of dead men's mansions and brawl among the not less brawling ghosts of a past that here never speaks of peace, but only of blood and argument. And Holyrood, under a black bank surmounted by a low bitten cliff, would lie like the camp of an invading and terrified army.... She stopped and said, "Yon about Holyrood's a fine image for the institution of monarchy." For she was a Suffragette, so far as it is possible to be a Suffragette effectively when one is just seventeen, and she spent much of her time composing speeches which she knew she would always be too shy to deliver. "There is a sinister air about palaces. Always they appear like the camp of an invading army that is uneasy and keeps a good look out lest they need shoot. Remember they are always ready to shoot...." She interrupted herself with a click of annoyance. "I see myself standing on a herring barrel and trying to hold the crowd with the like of that. It's too literary. I always am. I doubt I'll never make a speaker. 'Deed, I'll never be anything but the wee typist that I am...." And misery rushed in on her mind again. She fell to watching the succession of little black figures that huddled in their topcoats as they came down the side street, bent suddenly at the waist as they came to the corner and met the full force of the east wind, and then pulled themselves upright and butted at it afresh with dour faces. The spectacle evoked a certain local pride, for such inclemencies were just part of the asperity of conditions which she reckoned as the price one had to pay for the dignity of living in Edinburgh; which indeed gave it its dignity, since to survive anything so horrible proved one good rough stuff fit to govern the rest of the world. But chiefly it evoked desolation. For she knew none of these people. In all the town there was nobody but her mother who was at all aware of her. It was six months since she left John Thompson's Ladies' College in John Square, so by this time the teachers would barely remember that she had been strong in Latin and mathematics but weak in French, and they were the only adult people who had ever heard her name... Continue reading book >>

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