"Well, David, have you had a good week?"
"A week fu' o' grand promises, sir. I hae had a glint inside spacious halls o' delightfu' stillness and wonderfu' wisdom. I'll ne'er forget the joy o' it."
"We promised Maggie to return in seven days. I shall not be able to keep my promise, but I think it will be right for you to do so."
"I wad be glad if you were going wi' me."
"I shall follow ere long; and even if I should never see you again, David, I think your future is assured. Would you like me to go with you as far as Edinburgh?"
"I wad like it, but there is nae occasion for it. The city doesna fright me noo. If I couldna find my way to Pittenloch wi' a gude Scot's tongue in my mouth, and siller in my purse, I wad hae little hope of ever finding my way into a pulpit. Thank you kindly, sir."
"Then good-bye for the present, Davie, and give my regards to your sister."
He felt like a traitor to Maggie and to his own heart, but what was there else for him to say. When he reached the street the whole atmosphere of life seemed to have changed. A sudden weariness of the placid existence at Meriton attacked him. Was he to go on, year after year, dressing and visiting, and taking little rows in land-locked bays, and little rides and drives with Mary Campbell? "I would rather fling a net in the stormiest sea that ever roared, for my daily bread," he said. Yet he went on dressing, and rowing, and riding, and visiting for many more weeks; sometimes resenting the idle, purposeless life as thoroughly enervating; more frequently, drifting in its sunshiny current, and hardly caring to oppose it, though he suspected it was leading him to Drumloch.
What curious "asides" and soliloquies of the soul are dreams! Perhaps if we cared to study them more conscientiously they would reveal us to ourselves in many startling ways. The deep, real feelings which we will not recognize while awake, take possession of us when we sleep; and the cup-bearer who was slain for dreaming that he poisoned the king was, very likely, righteously slain. The dream had but revealed the secret thought of his soul. "We sleep, but our heart waketh," and though
"Calm and still may be the sleeping face In the moonlight pale, The heart waketh in her secret place Within the veil. And agonies are suffered in the night; Or joys embraced too keen for waking sight."
One morning, just at the gray dawn, Allan had a dream of this kind. He saw Maggie on the sea alone, and he was sailing away from her. She stood upright in a little open boat, which the waves tossed to and fro:—a speechless, woe-stricken woman, who watched him with sorrow-haunted eyes, but neither by word, look, nor movement called him to her.
He awoke, and could sleep no more. The dream had revealed him to himself. Who was there in all the world as dear to him as Maggie was? He felt that she was wretched, and he hated himself for having made her so. That very hour he wrote to David, and said all that he might say, to give her hope and comfort, and over and over he declared his purpose of being in Pittenloch, before David left it for Glasgow. How soon David might get the letter was a very uncertain thing, but still he could not rest until he had written it.
He was dull and silent at breakfast, and hid himself and his moody temper behind his favorite newspaper. Mary had often noticed that men like to be quiet in the early morning; she gave them naturally all the benefit they claim from the pressure of unread mails and doubtful affairs. If her cousin was quiet and sombre, he might have half-a-dozen innocent reasons for the humor; when he felt more social, he would be sure to seek her. And when she saw him sauntering toward her favorite retreat she was nothing astonished. It was the fulfillment of as natural an expectation as that the clock should strike at the full hour.
"I am glad to see you, Allan," she said, with a charming serenity of manner. "We shall not now have many days as fair as this one is." She wore a gown of pale blue lawn, and had a great cluster of scarlet fuchsias in her hand. Behind the garden bench on which she sat, there was a hedge of fuchsias seven feet high and very thick. Her small dark head rested against its green and scarlet masses. The little bay tinkled and murmured among the pebbles at her feet. She had a book, but she was not reading. She had some crochet, but she was not working. Allan thought he had never seen her look so piquant and interesting: but she had no power to move him. The lonely, splendid beauty of the woman he had seen in his morning vision filled his heart. He sought Mary that hour only for Maggie's sake.
While he was wondering how he could best introduce the conversation he desired, Mary broke the silence by a sudden question. "Cousin Allan, where were you this spring? I have often wanted to ask you."
"Why did you not ask me? I wish you had, I should like to have talked on that subject. I was in the Fife fishing district."
"Why do you feel curious, Mary?"
"I have always thought there was something singular about that journey. What took you to Fife? I never heard you speak of Fife before."
"It was an accident. My hat blew off, a Fife fisherman got it for me. I liked the man, and went back to Fife with him."
"Accidents open the door to Fate. Now then, what singular thing happened to you in Fife?"
"Nothing unusual happened. Is this my catechism or yours, Mary?"
"We can divide it. It is your turn to question."
"Do you know why I left home?"
"You had a 'difference' with Uncle John."
"Money, I dare say. I feel sure you were very extravagant while you were abroad."
"It was not about money."
"About going into business then? You ought to do something, Allan. It is a shame for you to be so lazy."
"It was not about business. It was about you."
"My dear Mary, for what I am going to say, I beg your pardon in advance, for I feel keenly the position in which I must appear before you. You know that the welfare of Drumloch has been my father's object by day, and his dream by night. He cannot bear to think of a stranger or a strange name in its old rooms. Long ago, when we were little children, our marriage was planned, and when the place was clear, and you had grown to a beautiful womanhood, and I had completed my education, father longed to see us in Drumloch. There were points we could not agree upon. He was angry, I was obstinate—Mary, I know not how to tell you; how to ask you—"
"Allan, my dear brother Allan, spare yourself and me any more words." She looked up with clear, candid eyes, and laid her hand upon his. "Uncle is not unjust in his expectations. His outlay, his cares, his labor, have saved Drumloch to the family. It is as much his purchase as if he had bought every acre at public roup. And he has been a second father to me; kind, generous, thoughtful. It is hard enough for him that his plans must fail; it would be cruel indeed if he were parted from a son he loves so tenderly as he loves you, Allan. Let me bear the blame. Let it be my fault his hopes cannot be realized."
"Can they not be realized, Mary?"
"Do you mean by that question to offer me your hand, Allan? At any rate I will consider it a fulfillment of your father's desire. No, they cannot be realized. You are to me as a brother. I distinctly refuse to accept you as a husband. Uncle John is a gentleman; he will consider my 'no' as final; and he is too just to blame you, because I decline to be your wife. Nor shall we be any worse friends, Allan, for this honest talk, I am sure of that." She smiled bravely in his face, and he did not suspect how deeply both her affections and her pride had been wounded.
"Let us go back to the house; the air is heavy and hot, we may have a storm."
Allan was thoroughly miserable and unsettled. As soon as Mary had so positively refused him, he began to have doubts and longings. "Drumloch was a fine estate—the name was old and honorable, and in a fair way for greater honors—Mary was sweet and sensible, and a woman to be desired above all other women—except Maggie. Yet, after all, was he not paying a great price for his pearl?" Mary and Maggie were both difficult to resign. He began to grumble at events and to blame every one but himself. "If his father had not been so unreasonable, he never would have gone to Edinburgh at the time he did—never would have gone to Pittenloch—never would have met Maggie Promoter."
John Campbell came home in unusually high spirits. He had made a profitable contract, and he had done a kindness to an old friend. Both circumstances had been mental tonics to him. He felt himself a happy man. The atmosphere of the dinner table chilled him a little, but for once the subject on which he was always hoping and fearing did not enter his mind. When Mary left the room, he said cheerfully, "We will be with you anon, dearie, and then you shall sing for us, 'The Lass O' Gowrie,'" and he began to hum the pretty melody as he poured out for himself another glass of port. "Help yourself, Allan. You do not seem very bright to-night."
"I do not feel very bright. Mary told me positively this morning that she would not marry me."
"What! Not marry you? Did you ask her?"
"She said 'no'."
"Oh, but she be to marry you! Your father would not have taken 'no', sir."
"A man cannot force a rich girl to be his wife. If you will speak to Mary, you will understand how useless any further hope is."
"I will speak to her. I can hardly believe this sorrow has really come to me."
He rose and went to his niece. "Come here, Mary, and sit down beside me. Allan tells me you will not have him for your husband. Your decision is a sore trouble to me; almost the worst trouble that could come to me. Oh, Mary, what is the matter? Is not Allan handsome, and kind, and good, and rich enough to mate you? And he loves you, too; I am sure he loves you; he could not help it."
"But, uncle, what if he loves some other girl better than me?"
"That isn't possible. Did he tell you such a thing as that?"
"No; but I am sure it is so. However, Allan is the second thought, uncle; Drumloch is the first. We must save Drumloch for the Campbells, uncle."
"You dear lassie! But how can that be done if Allan is not in the same mind?"
"Three things may happen, uncle. I may remain unmarried, I may marry, I may die. If I remain unmarried, I am only the steward of Drumloch; I shall save it for Allan or Allan's children. If I die, its disposition will be the same. If I marry into a strange name or family, I will sell Drumloch to you before I change my name."
"You are a wise, kindly little woman; and you have found a drop of comfort for me. I will buy Drumloch any day you wish to sell it. May be then I'll be Campbell of Drumloch myself."
"Drumloch will be well off with such a laird. I would not fret yourself one moment, uncle. There is more good in a disappointment than can be seen."
"God bless you, my dearie! Allan is blind, and deaf, and foolish, or he would never have taken 'no' from you."
"He is in love, uncle. That accounts for everything. Do you know where he was during his last absence?"
"On the east coast, making pictures. The two he gave me are wonderful. He has genius certainly; the Campbells mostly have genius. I had siller to make, or I could have painted pictures myself. I have a remarkable perception anent color."
"He was in the Fife fishing villages."
"And a very good place for subjects. The Fife fishers are a fine race —faithful, religious, handsome."
"Very handsome, I should think. Did you notice the woman in the pictures Allan gave you?"
"Yes, I did; a splendid study in both cases."
"Have you been in Allan's room lately?"
"Not since he returned home."
"Go to it to-night. You will find the walls covered with studies from Fife. In nearly every study the same figure reappears. That is the woman Allan loves. I am right, uncle; I feel I am."
"Perhaps; but what a fisher-girl! The mother of men must have been like her. There is one picture in which she leans against a jagged mass of rocks, gazing over the sea. The face is so splendid, the figure so fine, the sense of life so ample, that it haunts you. And every likeness of her has just that tinge of melancholy which lies at the bottom of all things that are truly happy, or truly beautiful. How could Allan care for any other woman, having seen her?"
"You are a quick observer, Mary."
"The heart has its oracles as well as the head, uncle."
She spoke sadly, and John Campbell looked with a kindly curiosity at her. He felt almost certain that she had suffered a keen disappointment, as well as himself. "But she would die before she would make a complaint," he thought, "and I may learn a lesson from her. It is a weak soul that is not capable of its own consolation. She has evidently determined to make the best of things beyond her sorting."
After a short silence, Mary slipped quietly from the room. John Campbell scarcely noticed her departure. He had the heartache, and men of sixty have it far worse than men of twenty. When their hopes fail, they have no time left, often no ability left to renew them. To make the best of things was all that now remained; and he was the more able to do this because of Mary's promise to him. But it is always hard to feel in the evening that our day's work has been unsuccessful, and that resignation, and not success, must make the best of the hours remaining.
As he mused the storm, which had threatened all the afternoon, broke. The swash and patter of the rain against the windows, and the moaning of the trees on the lawn, made a dreary accompaniment to his melancholy musings. It grew chill, and a footman entered, put a match to the laid fuel, and lighted the gas. Then John Campbell made an effort to shake off the influence which oppressed him. He laid down the ivory paper knife, which he had been turning mechanically in his fingers, rose, and went to the window. How dark it was! The dripping outlook made him shiver, and he turned back to the slowly burning fire. But solitude and inaction became unbearable. "Regretting never mended wrong; if I cannot get the best, I can try for the second best. And perhaps the lad is not beyond reasoning with." Then he rose, and with a decided air and step went straight to Allan's room.
"O, Love! let this my lady's picture glow Under my hand to praise her name, and show Even of her inner self a perfect whole That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal, Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know The very sky and sea-line of her soul"
The suite of rooms which belonged especially to the heir of Meriton were very handsome ones, and their long, lofty parlor was full of art treasures gathered from the various cities which Allan had visited. The fire in this room had been lighted for some time and was burning cheerily, and the young man sat in its ruddy glow when his father entered.
"I was lonely to-night, Allan, so I have come to make you a visit."
"You do me a great honor, sir, and are most welcome." And he went to meet him gladly. But as Blair, his valet, was softly moving about in an inner room, conversation was confined to conventional grooves until the servant with a low "good night, sir," glided away. As soon as they were alone the effort to conceal emotion was mutually abandoned. John Campbell sat on one side of the hearth, with his head dropped toward his folded hands. Allan kept his eyes fixed upon the glowing coals; but he was painfully aware of his father's unhappy presence, and waiting for him to open the conversation which he saw was inevitable.
"I have had a knock-me-down blow to-night, son Allan."
"And I am much to blame for it; that is what grieves me, father."
"You are altogether to blame for it, Allan. I thought Mary loved you when you came home this summer; to-night I am sure she loves you. You must have made some great blunder or she would have married you."
"There was a great blunder. I did the thing accidentally which I had often had in my heart to do, but which I am very certain would have been impossible to me, had it not blundered out in a very miserable way. We were speaking of my late absence, and I let her know that she had been the cause of our dispute, the reason why I had left home."
"If you had planned to get 'no,' you could have taken no better way. What girl worth having would take you after you had let her understand you preferred a quarrel with your father, and an exile from your home, to a marriage with her?"
"I would, for your sake, father, unsay the words if I could. Is there any excuse, any—"
"There is no excuse but time and absence. Mary loves you; go away from her sight and hearing until she forgets the insult you have given her. I don't mean go away to the east or to the west coast, or even to London or Paris. I mean go far away—to China or Russia; or, better still, to America. I have friends in every large sea-port. You shall have all that my name and money can do to make your absence happy—and women forgive! Yes, they forget also; wipe the fault quite out, and believe again and again. God bless them! You can write to Mary. Where a lover cannot go he can send, and you need not blunder into insults when you write your words. You have time to think and to rewrite. I shall have to part with you again, son Allan. I feel it very bitterly."
Allan did not answer at once. He sat looking at his father's bent face and heavy eyes. The blow had really aged him, for "'tis the heart holds up the body." And to-night John Campbell's heart had failed him. He realized fully that the absence and interval necessary to heal Mary's sense of wrong and insult might also be full of other elements equally inimical to his plans. Besides, he had a real joy in his son's presence. He loved him tenderly; it maimed every pleasure he had to give him up.
"What do you say, Allan? There has been a mistake, and we must make the best of the chances left us. Had you not better go away? Mary will forgive you sooner at a distance."
Allan bit his lips, and looked steadily at the kind, sorrowful face opposite him. Then he answered, "You are too good a father to deceive, sir. I will not do you that wrong, however angry you may be with me. I love another woman. I never can marry Mary without wronging both her and myself."
"That alters everything, Allan. How long have you loved this other woman?"
"Since I left home last March."
"You cannot be sure of a love only a few months old. Will you tell me who she is?"
Allan took a taper and lit every gas-jet in the room. "Look around, father, you will see her everywhere." He led him first to the picture still upon his easel—Maggie, in her long, brown merino kirk dress; with linen cuffs folded back over the tight, plain sleeves! and a small, turned down linen collar at the throat. She had a sea-shell in her open left palm, and she was looking at it, with that faint melancholy smile Allan always chose for her face! He asked for no criticism, and John Campbell made none. Silently the two men passed from picture to picture. Maggie always. Maggie baking the oat cakes. Maggie at the wheel. Maggie mending the nets. Maggie peering through misty gloom for the boats, out on the angry sea. Maggie bending over the open Bible. Maggie with a neighbor's baby cuddled up to her breast. Maggie rowing, with the wind blowing her fine hair like a cloud around her. Maggie knitting by the fireside, her face beaming with sisterly love on the pale dark face of her brother David. As Allan had said, "Maggie everywhere."
The elder man went back to look at several of the pictures; he stood long before the one on the easel. He sat down again, still silent; but Allan saw that there was no anger on his face.
"She is a grand looking woman. No one can deny that. A peasant woman, though?"
"Yes, sir, a peasant woman; the daughter of a Fife fisherman."
"She is not a common peasant woman. You could not believe that she would ever kick her heels in a 'foursome reel,' or pass coarse jokes with the lads. Yet she must be uneducated, and perhaps vulgar."
"She is never vulgar, sir. She has a soul, and she is conscious of it. She had parents, grave and thoughtful, who governed by a look, without waste of words. Though she lives on the wild Fife coast, she has grown up beneath the shade of Judea's palms; for the Bible has blended itself with all her life. Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, and David, are far more real people to her than Peel or Wellington, or Jenny Lind, or even Victoria. She has been fed upon faith, subjected to duty, and made familiar with sorrow and suffering and death. The very week I met her, she had lost her father and three eldest brothers in a sudden storm. If you could see her eyes, you could look into her pure soul. A woman like that is never vulgar, father."
"A lover is allowed to exaggerate, Allan."
"But I do not exaggerate. Uneducated she certainly is. She can write a little; and in the long stormy days and evenings, I read aloud to her and to her brother. But Scott and Burns and Leigh Hunt are not an education. Her Bible has really been her only teacher."
"It is His Word," said John Campbell, reverently. "It is the best of teachers. The generations to whom Scotland owes everything, had no other book. It made her men calm, reflective, courageous unto death. It made her women gentle, faithful, pure, ideal. I remember my mother, Allan; she came from the same school. Her soul lived so much in the Book, that I am sure if an angel had suddenly appeared to her, she would scarcely have been surprised. What domestic women those were! How peaceful and smiling! How fond of the children! How dear to the children!" He had wandered a few moments back into his own past; and though he hastily recalled himself, the influence was upon him.
"Have you said anything to this girl? Have you in any way committed your promise to her?"
"I have never sought her love. I was their guest, I would not wrong her by a thought. There was in my heart a real intention to marry Mary Campbell. I am your son, do you think I would plot shame or sorrow for any girl?"
"Does she love you?"
"I cannot tell—sometimes I fear so."
"Allan, there are few loves that conquer life. Life would be a hurly-burly of unbridled passion, if we had not the power to control our likes and dislikes. We two cannot quarrel. You are my one child. The sole desire of my heart is your welfare and happiness. We will make a paction between us. Go away for two years. Let absence test the love you have conceived for this strange girl. At the end of it you will either love her better, or your heart will have turned back to the friend and hope of your childhood and youth. If so, Mary will forgive you, and I may yet see you Laird of Drumloch. But if the new love outgrows the old; if you are sure, after two years' test, that none but this fisher-girl can be your wife, I will not oppose your happiness. I can trust you to bring no woman to Meriton who will be a shame or a grief to my old age."
He leaned forward and put out his hand; Allan clasped and kissed it. "No man could have a wiser or a kinder father. I will do whatever you advise, sir."
"You will not require to go to Fife again, I hope?"
"I promised to go there again. I must keep my word. It would be cruel to drop out of so dear a life, and if she loves me, give her neither hope nor promise."
"I promised to go."
"Then keep your word. I can depend upon you. If you say anything to her, tell the whole truth. Allan, I am not asking more from you than I have already given. Some years ago, I met again bonnie Jessie Russell. She was my first love. I nearly broke my heart about her. The old affection came back to both of us. I could have married her then, but she was a widow with four children. I would not divide your inheritance. I put down my own longing, and thought only of you, and of Drumloch. Love is meant to comfort and brighten life, but not to rule it like a despot. I have had my say. Good night, Allan."
He rose and went slowly out of the room, and he stopped at the easel and looked again at the pictured woman upon it. "Does she know who you are, Allan?" he asked.
"She knows only that my name is Campbell."
"Do not tell her more. When a love affair gets named, it travels far. I draw many sailors from the Fife sea-towns. We don't want strangers to discuss our personal affairs;"—and leaning upon Allan's arm, he passed out of the room, in which he had not only bravely buried his own desires, but also, wisely and kindly accepted others materially altering the few years of life left him. But oh, how selfish is youth! Only one thing is indispensable to it, the need of being happy at any cost. How good is God to those whom he permits to ripen into middle, and old age, and become mellow, and generous, and self-forgetting!
It will be seen, then, that John Campbell was not one of those money-makers with stunted senses, and incomplete natures, for whom all the grapes in the garden of God are sour. He had loved and suffered, the songs of his native land had sweet echoes in his heart, he could appreciate beauty, he delighted in color, he had learned the blessedness of giving and forgiving, he had found out that with renunciation the higher life begins. When Allan told him in the morning that he was going to Fife, he accepted the information pleasantly, as part of an understood arrangement.
"Will you be long away, Allan?"
"A few days, sir."
"And when you return? What then?"
"I have decided to go Westward."
"I am glad of it. Boston! New York! Baltimore! Charleston! New Orleans! Why the very names are epics of enterprise! Old as I am, if I could win away from my desk, I would take a year or two to read them."
They parted pleasantly with a lingering handclasp, and words of "good speed;" and though Allan was going to bid Maggie a long farewell, he was light-hearted, for it was not a hopeless one. If she loved him, and could have patience for two years, he would be free to make her his wife. And he intended to give her this hope to share with him.
When he arrived in Edinburgh, the city was all astir with moving regiments, and the clear, crisp autumn air thrilling with military music— that admirable metallic music so well disciplined, so correct, and yet all the more ardent and passionate for its very restraint. It typified to him the love he had for Maggie Promoter. Its honorable limitations, the patience and obedience by which it was restricted, only made it stronger; and he understood how in order to love a woman well, truth and honor must be loved still better.
The first person he saw upon Leith pier was Willie Johnson. "Willie!" he cried, laughing outright in his pleasured surprise; "have you come to take me to Pittenloch? I want to go there."
"Hech! but I'm glad to see you, Master Campbell, I'll put to sea noo. I cain' awa in spite o twaill signs, and the wind turned wrang, and my feesh all spoiled, and I hae had a handfu' o bad luck. Sae I was waiting for the luck tide to turn, and there is nane can turn it sae weel as yoursel' We'll be awa' hame noo, and we'll hae wind and water with us
"Sing wo and well a day but still May the good omens shame the ill,"
said Allan gayly, and the old classical couplet sent his thoughts off to the Aegean sea and the Greek fishermen, and the superstitions which are the soul alphabet of humanity.
Johnson had very little news for him. "There's few wonderfu' to see, or hear tell o', in Pittenloch, sir. The Promoters were you asking for? Ay they are well, and doing well, and like to do better still. They say that David is quite upsetten wi his good luck and keeps himsel mair from folk than need be But a fu' cup is hard to carry.
"They are mistaken, Johnson, I am sure David Promoter has not a pennyworth of personal pride in him He is studying hard, and books—"
"Books' sir, he's got a boat fu' o' them. It isn't vera kindly taken, his using a boat for kirk business. Some think it willna be lucky for the rest."
"What foolishness, Willie!"
"'Deed, sir, it is just an invite to misfortune to bring the kirk into the boats. There's naething so unlucky around them as a minister, if it be nae a black cat, or a pair o' tongs."
Allan laughed; he could not help laughing, he was so happy. Maggie was growing nearer to him every moment; and it was a real joy to be again upon the sea, to feel the fresh wind blowing through his hair, and the cradling motion of the wide swell of the waves. Early in the morning they arrived at Pittenloch. There was the brown pier, and the blue water, and the spaces of yellow sand, and the sea-weed and tangle all populous with birds whose shrill cries filled the air. There were the white cottages, and the men strolling off to the boats and the women in the open doors watching them away.
There was the Promoters cottage. It was closed and Allan was disappointed. Surely Maggie should have felt him coming. Every moment as he went toward it, he expected the door to open, and a sense of unkindness was chilling his heart, when he heard a swift, light step behind him. He turned, and there stood Maggie. She had the dew of the sea on her face, her cheeks were like a rose, pink and wet before sunrise. Her eyes had a glint as of the morning star in them, she was trembling and panting with her surprise and rapid motion.
He had thought of the sweetest words to greet her with, he had imagined that he might find it possible to take her in his arms and kiss his welcome from her lips. But in spite of her evident gladness, something in her manner restrained him; also, there was Christie Buchan, and half a dozen other women watching them. So what he said and did, was only to hold out his hand, and ask, "Are you well, Maggie? Are you glad to see me?"
"Weel, and right happy, sir."
"He is weel and happy too, sir. He likes the early hours for study, and I aye try to tak' a walk and let him hae the house place quiet, and to himsel'."
"He should have used my room. Students are tyrants, Maggie, if you give in to them, they will stop the clock and make you breathe with your fingers on your lips."
Smiling, she opened the door and said, "Step inside, sir; there's nae foot welcomer."
"I thocht you wad come! I said you wad come!" cried David joyfully. "Noo I'm the proudest man in Fife! Maggie, let us hae some tea, and a kippered herring, and toast the oat cake crisp. I'll no call the king my cousin to-day! Mr. Campbell, you are just the answer to my heart's desire."
"Thank you, David. It is pleasant to be made so much of"—and he opened the door of his room, and cried out, "O how nice it is, Maggie! I will just wash the salt off my face and then come and breakfast with you; and toast me a couple of herring, Maggie, for I am as hungry as a fisherman, and I have not tasted a herring since I left Pittenloch."
Three at a little round table, and only some tea, and fish, and oat cake; and yet, never was there a gayer meal. After it was over, David was eager to show Allan what he had accomplished, and the young men went together into Allan's room to examine lexicons and exercises.
David was full of quick interest, and Allan deserved credit for affecting a sympathy it was impossible for him to feel. In a little while, some one began to sing and the voice was singularly clear, and sweetly penetrating. Allan put down the papers in his hand, and listened like one entranced.
"It's just Maggie, and I'm mair astonished at her. She hasna sung a word since fayther's death. What for is she singing the noo? It's no kind o' her, and me wi' yoursel' and the books;" said David very fretfully; for he did not like to be interrupted in his recitations.
"Hush! hush! I would not lose a syllable for all the Latin language, David."
[Footnote: Words and air by Alexander Nicholson, LL. O.]
"My heart is yearning to thee, O Skye, Dearest of islands! There first the sunshine gladdened my eye, On the sea spark-ling; There doth the dust of my dear ones lie, In the old graveyard.
[Musical notation omitted.]
Bright are the golden green fields to me Here in the lowlands; Sweet sings the mavis in the thorn tree Snowy with fragrance; But oh for a breath of the great North sea Girdling the mountains!
Good is the smell of the brine that laves Black rock and skerry; Where the great palm-leaved tangle waves Down in the green depths, And round the craggy bluff, pierced with caves, Sea-gulls are screaming.
Many a hearth round that friendly shore Giveth warm welcome; Charms still are there, as in days of yore, More than of mountains; But hearths and faces are seen no more Once of the brightest.
Many a poor black cottage is there Grimy with peat smoke; Sending up in the soft evening air Purest blue incense, While the low music of psalm and prayer Rises to heaven.
Kind were the voices I used to hear Round such a fireside, Speaking the mother tongue old and dear, Making the heart beat With endless tales of wonder and fear, Of plaintive singing.
Reared in those dwellings have brave ones been; Brave ones are still there; Forth from their darkness on Sunday I've seen Conning pure linen, And, like the linen, the souls were clean Of them that wore it.
Blessings be with ye, both now and aye, Dear human creatures! Yours is the love no gold can buy. Nor time wither. Peace be to thee and thy children, O Skye! Dearest of Islands!"
"That is not one of your fisher songs, David?"
"Na, na; it is a sang made aboot Skye, and our mither was a Skye woman; sae Maggie learned it to please her. I dinna think much o' it."
"It is the most touching thing I ever heard." The melody was Gaelic, slow and plaintive, and though Maggie gave the English words with her own patois, the beauty and simplicity of the song was by no means injured. "Put by the books, David," said Allan. "I have no heart now for dry-as-dust lessons. Let us speak of Maggie. How is she going to live when you go to Glasgow?"
"She will just bide where she is. It is her ain hame, and she is amang her ain folk."
"Surely she will not live alone?"
"Na, na, that wed gie occasion for ill tongues to set themsel's to wark. Aunt Janet Caird is coming to be company for her. She is fayther's sister, and no quite beyond the living wi'. I thocht o' taking the boat the morn, and going for her."
"About twenty miles to the nor'ward, to a bit hamlet, thae call Dron Point."
"What kind of a woman is she, David? I hope she is kind and pleasant."
"We can hope sae, sir; but I really dinna expect it. Aunt Janet had a bad name wi' us, when we were bairns, but bairns' judgment isn't to lippen to."
"I think it is. If you have any fear about Aunt Janet being good to live with, don't go for her."
"The thing is a' settled between her and oursel's. Maggie and I talked it o'er and o'er. There wasna any other thing to do. All o' oor kin but Aunt Janet hae big families o' their ain to look after. Maggie willna hear tell o' leaving the cottage, and she canna stay in it her lane. Sae, she must tak' the ill and gude thegither."
"For my own sake I am glad she stays in the cottage, because I wish to keep possession of my room. Your face need not cloud, David; I am not coming here at all; but it is inconvenient for me to remove my books, and the many sea-treasures I gathered during my stay with you. If I did remove them, I should have to store them in some other place, so it will be a kindness, if you will continue to rent me the room."
"Your foot is aye welcome in my house, sir; and when you are wanting a week's fishing, there is naething to prevent you taking it, if Aunt Janet is here. She is a vera strict pairson; the deil himsel' wouldna be suspected o' wrang-doing, if she were watching him."
"Poor Maggie! David, it does seem a hard lookout for her; especially when you will be so happy with your books, and I am going on a two years' pleasure trip to America."
David's face brightened involuntarily, and Allan could see that the thought of his certain absence was not at all displeasing. But he did not blame him for a fear so brotherly and natural; he was, however, dissatisfied with the arrangements made for Maggie's comfort, and he asked, "Can she not go to Glasgow with you, David? It would be a fine thing to have a little home for yourself there, and Maggie to look after your comfort. You would study better."
"I wad do naething o' the sort. I wad be keepit back by ony woman. There is many a ceevil word to say to them, that is just time and strength ta'en from study. Maggie kens weel, that when I hae my kirk, she'll be first and foremost wi' me. I'll count nae honor or pleasure worth the having she doesna share. Forbye, sir, when you hae a hame, and the plenishing o' it, folk should think lang ere they scatter it to the four winds. It is easy to get rid o' household things; whiles, it is maist impossible to get them thegither again. I might die, and Maggie be left to fight her ain battle. If it should come to that, Hame is a full cup; Hame is a breastwark; you can conquer maist things on your ain hearthstone."
"Perhaps you are right, David."
"I ken weel I am right. Maggie and I hae thocht o' every thing; her gude name, and her happiness is my first wish. She is vera dear to me. She is a' I have, sir."
"I shall not be in Pittenloch for two years, David, so I will pay you now for the use of my room. The rent I believe is seven shillings weekly, that is L36. I wish you would give this sum entire to Maggie. I should like her to feel in some measure independent; and I should like you to feel that you had no necessity to take thought about her from week to week."
"Thank you, sir, for the kind thocht, as weel as for the siller; and I shall tell Maggie to keep the knowledge o' it from her aunt, who is a woman o' a vera parsimonious disposition."
"Also my boat is to be hers. She can hire it out or she can sell it. It is absolutely her own. It would be folly for me to keep it rocking at anchor, and rusting away. I can not speak to her on such subjects, but you will be sure and make her understand, David."
"'Deed sir, I'll tak' care that she gets the gude o' all your kindness. It's mair than thochtfu' o' you; and I'll hae nae need noo, to let Maggie step in atween me and my ain proper duties."
Then they went to the boat together, and David removed all his books and belongings from her, and she was made ready to go for Aunt Janet the following morning. The rest of the day went rapidly by, Allan had many visits to make, and some special tokens of regard to leave. Then they had tea together at Maggie's fire-side, and Allan watched her once more stoop to the glowing turf, and light the little iron cruisie, and rise with the light from it on her beautiful face. The simple household act was always one of meaning and interest to him. He renewed in it that moment of strange delight when he had first seen her. This evening he tried to catch her eyes as she rose, and he did so, and what did she see in his steady gaze that brought the happy blood in crimson waves over her throat and face, and made her eyelids shine with the light that was underneath them?
THE BROKEN SIXPENCE.
"I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn How much I love you?" "You I love even so, And so I learn it." "Sweet, you cannot know How fair you are." "If fair enough to earn Your love, so much is all my love's concern."
"Ah! happy they to whom such words as these In youth have served for speech the whole day long!"
David left early in the morning for Dron Point, and Allan went to the pier with him, and watched the boat away. It was not a pleasant morning. There had been, all night, surly whiffs of rain, and the sky was full of gleam and gloom and guest.
"I think it is likely Aunt Janet will get a good sea-tossing," Allan said in a voice of satisfaction, and David smiled grimly, and reflected audibly, "that it was all o' twenty miles, and the wind dead against them, for the hame coming."
Then Allan walked rapidly back to the cottage. He was longing to speak to Maggie, and every moment of David's absence was precious. She was far from expecting him, for she knew that David and Allan had left the cottage together, and she supposed Allan had also gone to Dron Point. When he opened the door the house was empty; but glancing up the beach, he saw Maggie, with her head bent to the smiting rain, slowly making her way home. He knew that this early walk had become a usual thing with her, and he understood by his own feelings, how grateful the resolute onward march against wind and rain would be to her heart.
In a few minutes she pushed open the cottage door; and her wet rosy face, in the dark green folds of the plaid over her head, had a vivid distinctness. When she saw Allan she trembled. His unexpected presence, the eager longing gaze in his eyes, his outstretched arms, the soft, penetrating utterance of her name, "Maggie! dearest Maggie!" All these things were an instant's revelation to her. She clasped her hands helplessly, and the next moment Allan was taking the wet plaid off her head and shoulders, and whispering, as he did so, all the fond words which he had so long restrained.
She let him tell her again and again how much he loved her. She had no more power to resist the sweet pleading than a man dying of thirst has power to resist water. For a few moments she surrendered herself to a joy so pure and so unexpected. "Oh Maggie, sweetest Maggie, tell me that you love me: that you love none but me, that you will marry none but me," pleaded Allan.
"I have aye loved you, sir. I dreamed about you when I was a lassie. I keep it the thocht o' you close in my heart. When you lookit at me the night you cam' here first, I kent you, and I loved you that vera moment. Whate'er the love I give to you, it is your ain, my soul brought it into the warld for you, and for nae other man."
"In two years, Maggie, I will come for you. My wife! My wife!"
"I'll no say that, sir; not just yet. Marrying is o' this warld. Loving is from somewhere beyond it. You told me about another leddy; and beside that, I wouldna come atween you and your fayther.
"I have spoken to the other lady, and she has refused me."
"Puir thing! I'm dooting you asked her for the refusal. I hae had many a sair heart anent her since you went awa'; and when I think o' her, I dinna feel as if I deserved my ain joy."
"I could love none but you, Maggie. And I have told my father that I love you. I have told him every thing."
"Weel, sir? What said he?"
"He only asked me to wait for two years, and during that time to stay away from you."
"He asked jist what I wad hae asked, even for mysel'. I'm a poor ignorant fisher-lass, I wouldna daur to marry you, unless you had tried your love for me in some mair than ordinar' way."
"Maggie, you are a part of my own soul. I can have no real wife but you."
"I hope sae, sir. I love you weel."
"Call me, Allan."
She looked up, blushing like a flame. Some instinct beyond her control moved her. She put her hands upon his shoulders and kissed him, and as she did so, she said thrice over, "Allan! Allan! Allan!"
"Maggie! Sweetheart! Life can give me no happier moment than this." And so, forgetting every thing but their love, and their great joy in each other, they sat hand in hand and talked the hours away. Allan had so much to make her understand, and she was anxious in all things to do as he desired. "If you possibly can, my love," he said, "remain here. Do not work hard. Read all the books I have left in my room. Wait patiently for me. Trust in me with all your soul. If I live, I will surely come for you in two years."
"And the time willna be that lang, for I'll aye be thinking o' you."
"Maggie, when the Fife girls give their promise, what do they bind it with?"
"They break a sixpence wi' the lad they love, and they each keep a half o' it."
He took a sixpence from his pocket and broke it silently in two. He had prepared it for the ceremony, but it required a slight effort, and the girl stood with her eyes fixed on his white, handsome, resolute face, as he accomplished the rite. Then he lifted one half, and said:
"This is yours, Maggie Promoter. With this silver token, I bind you mine, until death parts us."
"And this is yours, Allan Campbell. Wi' this siller token, I bind you mine, until death parts us."
Handfast they stood with the broken silver in their palms; their shining eyes reading the sacred promise in each other's face. Allan's heart was too full for words; Maggie, trembling with joy, was yet awed by the solemn significance of the promise. Yet she was the first to speak—
"I'll be true to you, Allan, true as the sun to the dawn, true as the moon to the tide. Whene'er you come, late or early, you'll find me waiting."
He took her by the hand, and they walked up and down the house place together; and the rain plashed against the window, and the sun glinted in after it, and the village awakened to its daily life and labor, but they took no note of the world outside the cottage, until a little child tapped low down on the closed door.
"My mammy wants some milk, Maggie Promoter," and Maggie filled the small pitcher, and then smilingly said, "We hae forgotten our breakfast, Allan. What will you hae?"
"To-day is all mine, Maggie; let us have oat cake and milk, and kisses." And he followed her from cupboard to drawer, and stood by her while she spread the cloth, and ate his portion by her side, and thought it like a meal in Paradise.
And oh, how swiftly went those few hours stolen from two years of waiting and longing; full of the eager joy of the moment, touched with the sweet melancholy of the near parting. They forgot that the wind had changed, and that David would be earlier home for it; forgot all things but their own bliss and sorrow, until a passing neighbor called out—"yonder boat coming wi' all her sails spread, will be the 'Allan Campbell,' Maggie."
Then they knew that their real parting had come. From it, Allan, white with grief, went to the pier, and Maggie forced back her tears, and hung on the kettle, and spread the table, and made all things ready to welcome her aunt. She had not seen her for many years, she had not any pleasant memories of her, but "blood is thicker than water," and kinship, to the Scotch heart, has claims of almost sacred obligation.
Allan, thinking of Maggie's comfort, watched Aunt Janet's arrival with much interest. She was a tall, thin woman, dressed in homespun linsey, with a ruffled linen cap upon her head, and a faded tartan plaid about her shoulders. David's offer had been a great piece of good fortune to her, but she had no intention of letting the obligation rest on her side. Her first words on landing were a complaint.
"I ne'er was on such an upsetting sea, niece Maggie. It's vera seldom I hae the grievous prostration o' the sea sickness, but the boat was ill rigged and waur managed, and if I hadna been a vera Judith in fortitude, I wad hae just turned round about, and gane my ways hame again."
"The 'Allan Campbell' is thought to be a fine boat, aunt."
"Fife fishers dinna ken a' things."
"They'll ken aboot boats, though."
"They may. I'm no sae sure. They lose a gude many every year that comes to them."
"How is Aunt Margery?"
"Her man has got into the excise. She holds her head as high as a hen drinking water aboot it. I never could abide pride o' any kind. It's no in me to think mair o' mysel' than other folks think o' me."
Allan joined the family party in the evening, and he did his best to win Janet Caird's favor, and conciliate her numerous prejudices. But unfortunately she intercepted a glance intended for Maggie, and her suspicions were at once roused. Young people, in her opinion, were full of original and acquired sins, and she made up her mind in a moment that David had suspected his sister's propriety, and was anxious to shelter her under the spotless integrity of Janet Caird's good name.
"And for the sake o' the family I sall watch her well," she decided; "she sall na lightly either the Cairds or the Promoters if I ken mysel'": and from the moment of that resolve, Allan was ranged in her mind, "among the wolves that raven round the fold."
There was nothing in the parting to strengthen her suspicions. Maggie was indeed white and silent, but Allan went almost hurriedly away: as if he were weary of the circumstances surrounding him. David thought him cool and cross, and was pained by the mood; but Maggie knew the meaning of the worried, slightly haughty manner; for in one quick glance, he had made her understand how bitter it was to leave her in her worse than loneliness; and how painful in his present temper was the vulgar effusiveness of Janet Caird's thanks and noisy farewells.
An hour upon the sea cured him. "David," he said, "I was very cross. I did not like that woman in your home. She spoils my memory of it."
"She is my fayther's sister, sir."
"Forgive me, David. Let us speak of other things. You have found comfortable lodgings, I hope?"
"Ay, sir. Willie Buchan's third cousin married a Glasgow baker, who has a gude place in the Candleriggs Street. That is close by the High Street and vera convenient as to locality. The charges also are sma'. I hae a comfortable room and my bite and sup for ten shillings weekly."
This introduced a subject which opened up endlessly to David, and Allan was glad to let him talk; for thought is sweet to the lover, thought of the beloved under any circumstances. No other shadow darkened a friendship that had been so evenly cloudless, and David and Allan parted full of mutual good will and regard, although the hopes and aims of each were so widely different.
Allan went directly to his father's office, but John Campbell had gone to a board meeting, and so he took the next boat for Meriton. Evidently Archibald had not been warned that day by any peculiar "feeling" of his arrival. There was no conveyance of any kind waiting for him; but as the distance was only two very pleasant miles, Allan did not much regret the prospect of having to walk them.
The woods adjoining the road were the Campbells' property, he leaped the wall, and took the footpath through them. How silent it was under the pines! the more so because of that vague stir in the air among them. What nameless perfumes! emanations from the resinous earth, from the old trunks, from the foliage. What delightful mysteries in their nooks! Bird twitterings intimate and charming; chirpings of the mothers to their newly fledged young; little cries of joy, and counsel, and innocent surprises! A large, cool, calm hand was laid upon his heart, the hand of nature; he sauntered slowly in the aromatic air, he dreamed impossible dreams of bliss, and with the faith of youth believed in them. Good! When we have weaned youth from dreams, from poetry, from enthusiasms, and made it thoroughly sensible, and material, what kind of race will remain to the world?
And alas! All happy dreams are short enough. Allan's was dissipated by a sound of suppressed weeping. He looked cautiously around, and on the clean, brown ground beneath the pines, a little in advance of him, he saw a woman sitting. Her back was against the trunk of a large tree, her face was turned quite away from him, but he knew it was Mary Campbell. And softly and hurriedly he retraced his own steps for some distance, and then he found the wall, and leaped into the highway, and walked home by it; thoroughly awake and disenchanted.
He did not meet Mary until the dinner hour. She was then elegantly dressed, her face clear and bright, her manner, as it always was, gentle and yet cheerful.
"The sphinx," thought Allan, "is some inscrutable woman on our own hearth-stone." He remembered the low sobbing he had heard in the wood, the bowed head, the unmistakable attitude of grief, and then he looked at Mary's face dimpling with smiles, and at her pretty figure, brave in glistening silk and gold ornaments. And somehow, that night, she made him feel that she was the head of the House of Campbell, and the heiress of Drumloch.
The next day was the Sabbath. She was very particular about her religious duties; she went to kirk twice, she had the servants in the evening for catechism and parallel passages.
She gave Allan no opportunity of seeing her alone. On Monday morning, although it rained, she insisted on going to Glasgow; and she stayed in Glasgow until the following Wednesday evening. It was perhaps the first sensation of "snub" that Allan had ever received; and it annoyed him very much.
But on Wednesday night she seemed to relent, and she did all in her power to make their last dinner together one pleasant to remember. When she left her uncle and cousin to finish their wine, she left them well disposed to kindly confidence. For since Allan's return from Fife he had not felt confidence possible. His father had asked no questions, and shown no disposition to discuss his plans. But at this hour he voluntarily renewed the subject.
"You went to Fife, I suppose, Allan?"
"Yes, sir. I was there two days."
"And are you still in the same mind?"
"Nothing can change my mind on that subject, sir."
"Time has worked greater wonders, Allan. However, I will venture no opinion for two years. When do you go Westward?"
"I shall leave for Liverpool by to-morrow night's train. I shall sail on Saturday."
"Call at the office early, or go to town with me. All is ready for you. Write as often as you can, Allan, I shall weary for your letters." His eyes were full of tears, he lifted his wine glass to conceal them.
"Father, is there any special reason why I should go so far away from you? Can I not wait two years at home?"
"In justice to my own side of the bargain, Allan, you must travel and compare other women with this Fife girl. You must not only be where you can not see her, but also, where you can see many others. I think American women will be a fair test of your affection. Between Boston and New Orleans their variety is infinite. Gillbride says, they are the blood, and beauty, and intellect of all races potently mingled. Mary has a right to be considered; she is evidently embarrassed by your presence; the least you can do for her now, is to relieve her from it. Next spring there will be an opportunity to re-consider matters, if you desire. Money has accumulated belonging to Drumloch, and Mary has decided to expend it on the house. A new wing is to be built, and she will go to reside there. The work will get on better, and the tenants look with justice to the advantages of an open house again. But there is no more to be said at this time. Come, Allan, let us go to the drawing-room, I hear Mary playing a song I never can resist, no nor any other person, I think—" and he began to hum "O Love will venture in."
"Isn't it a wonderful combination of thirds and sevenths? There is nothing like it in the whole portfolio of music. Nothing so winning, nothing that can so charm and haunt your ear-chambers." And they stepped softly and slowly, and stood at the door together, to listen to the enchaining plaintive little song:
[Musical notation omitted.]
O love will venture in where it daurna weel be seen, O love will venture in where wisdom once has been; But I will down the river rove amang the woods so green, And a' to pu' a posie to my ain dear May.
The primrose I will pu', the firstling o' the year, And I will pu' the pink, the emblem o' my dear: For she's the pink o' womankind and blooms without a peer: And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.
I'll pu' the budding rose when Phoebus peeps in view, For it's like a baumy kiss o' her sweet bonnie mou' The hyacinth's for constancy, wi' its unchanging blue And a' to be a posie for my ain dear May
The lily it is pure and the lily it is fair, And in her lovely bosom I'll place the lily there, The daisy's for simplicity of unaffected air; And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.
The woodbine I will pu' when the e'ening star is near And the diamond draps o' dew shall be her e'en sae clear; The violet's for modesty, which weel she fa's to wear And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.
I'll tie the posie round wi' the silken band of love, And I'll place it on her breast, and I'll swear by a' above. That to the latest breath o' life the band shall ne'er remove. And this will be a posie to my ain dear May.
The last long drawn notes of melancholy sweetness were scarcely still, when a servant entered. "The minister is here, sir."
"I had forgotten," said Campbell hastily. "There is an extra kirk session to-night. It is about the organ, Mary. Will you go?"
"I would rather not. Every one will have his testimony to raise against it, and I should get cross."
"Then good night, bairnies. I must not keep the minister waiting. Maybe I'll be beyond your time. Don't lose your beauty sleep for me."
He left the room in a hurry, and in a few minutes the "bairnies" heard the crunch of the retreating wheels upon the gravel. Mary continued at the piano, lightly running over with one hand the music she happened to turn. Allan stood on the hearth watching her. Both were intensely and uncomfortably conscious of their position. At length Allan said, "Mary, suppose you cease playing, and talk with me!"
"Very well." She rose slowly and turned with affected reluctance. Affected, because she really wished for some satisfactory conversation with him. The recollection of their last confidence was painful and humiliating. She could hardly bear the idea of carrying its memory throughout two years. Few as the steps were between herself and Allan, she determined, as she took them, to speak with all the candor which her position gave her the right to use; and at any rate, not to end their interview again in debt to self-esteem. The strength of the Scotch mind is in its interrogative quality, and instinctively Mary fell behind the cover of a question.
"Why should we talk, Allan? Is there any thing you can say that will unsay the words you have spoken?"
"You were not fair with me, Mary. You took me up before I had finished my explanation."
"Oh, I think there was enough said."
"You made words hard to me, Mary. You forgot that we had been brought up together on terms of perfect confidence. I always held you as my sister. I told you all my boyish secrets, all the troubles and triumphs of my college life, all my youthful entanglements. I had few, very few, secrets from you. I think we both understood by implication—rather than by explanation—that it was our father's intention to unite the two branches of the Drumloch family, and so also unite their wealth by our marriage."
"I never understood there was any such intention. No one ever spoke to me of it. But if the plan had been possible, it was a wise plan; any sensible parents would have conceived it, and hoped and worked for its accomplishment."
"When I left home last spring—if I had thought you cared for me—one word would have detained me."
"Was it my place to say that word? And, Allan, you would not have been moved by any word at that time. You thought only of asserting yourself, your rights, your inclinations. The crown of England would not have fitted you, unless it had been your gracious will to select it."
"A man must have some individuality—"
"At twenty-four years old how much has he? He is a mass of undigested learning and crude opinions. What he will be at thirty-four depends upon a thousand circumstances which he cannot even apprehend. Wishes and advices from a father are not commands. You showed a petulant, foolish temper, quite unworthy of you, in turning your back on Uncle John, and saying in effect, 'I don't intend to take your advice, I intend to take my own way, even though it lead me to a Fife fishing village—and a degrading love affair."
She said the words calmly, looking steadily, not at Allan, but into the depths of the Argand lamp. There was no nervous movement of her hands; her interlaced fingers lay motionless on the table before her.
Allan answered promptly, "I have no degrading love affair in any Fife village. If I had, do you think I should have entered your presence at all? The woman I love is as sacred in my eyes as you are. I intend to make her my wife. I should have told you all about her the morning that you took for granted my offer in order to peremptorily refuse me—if you had allowed me"—
"Oh, Allan! don't say that! We are getting deeper and deeper into mistakes. I certainly thought you wanted me to refuse you. I tried to make the necessity as easy as possible for you. But imagine how I felt when I came to consider things! I was asked to do this humiliating piece of deception, in order that I might clear your way to some fisher-girl. It was too bad, Allan!"
"I do seem to have treated you badly, Mary, because you gave me no opportunity to tell you every thing, and to ask as a great sisterly kindness what you gave under a sense of indignation and wrong. I feel that it is now useless to explain; but how did you know that I was in love with a fisher-girl?"
"I have seen the pictures you painted while you were away. They revealed the story to me—as much of it as I care to know."
"There is now no secrecy in the matter. I have told my father all, and he has asked me to go to America for two years. At the end of that time he will accept my marriage."
"Poor Uncle John! I wonder how people can toil and deny themselves for ungrown children! When they come to years of have-my-own-way, they generally trample upon all their love and labor. For instance, you see a tall, large, handsome woman in what you think picturesque poverty, you want her, just as you used to want the fastest boat on the river, or the fastest horse in the field. The fact that you ought not to have her, that you cannot have her, except by trampling on all your father's dearest hopes, does not, in the least, control you. You can conceive of nothing better than the gratification of your own wishes. If all the men were like you, and all the women were in my mind, there would be no more marrying in the world, Allan Campbell!"
"Mary, if you should ever be really in love, you will then excuse me; at present I can make no apology which you will understand or accept. Forgive me upon credit. I am going away for a long time; and I cannot go happily if we are at variance." He sat down by her side, and she let him take her hand, and plead the memory of all their past affection for, and reliance on each other. "Be my friend, my sister still, Mary; though you will not answer me, I will trust to you. Let us part kindly now, we can gain nothing by further discussion, at this time." He lifted her face and kissed it; and the next moment she heard the door close behind his footsteps, and realized that the opportunity of which she had made such an unhappy use was gone.
There is little need to say that she was miserable. All of us have been guilty of like perversities. We have said unkind things when our hearts were aching with suppressed affection; we have been so eager to defend ourselves, to stand fairly in some dear one's sight, that we have hasted in the wrong direction, and never blundered into the right one until it was too late. Poor Mary! She had stung herself all over. She could think of nothing that she had said that she did not wish unsaid; and of many things of sisterly care, and even friendly courtesy, that she had entirely forgotten. Mortification dismissed all other feelings, and she set her reflections to its key. "How glad he must be to have escaped a wife so sharp-tongued and domineering! No doubt that Fife girl would have been all submission and adoration! When a man falls in love with a girl so much beneath him, it is a piece of shameless vanity. It is the savage in the man. He wants her to say 'my lord' to him, and to show him reverence! I could not do that kind of thing, no, not even if he filled the highest pulpit in the land, and preached to the queen herself every Sunday."
When John Campbell returned, he found Mary still in the parlor. She was playing some noisy, mechanical "variation," whose rapid execution was a physical vent for her chagrin and disappointment. She rose with alacrity, rang for hot water, brewed his toddy, and affected the greatest interest in the kirk meeting. Indeed she was interested in it; for the gathering had been to consider whether John Campbell's offer of an organ, and her own offer of her services as organist, could be accepted by the church.
"It was hopeless from the first," said Campbell with a queer smile; "every shepherd in Bute was there to protest. You would have thought I had proposed a Popish Mass Book, or at least an Episcopal Litany. There will be no 'music boxes' in Bute kirks this generation, Mary. And, would you believe it, the minister was dead against it?"
"I thought he favored an organ in the choir?"
"I was always uncertain about him. I never could interest him in the subject. He would listen, and shake his head, or say, 'just so, sir,' or refer to a session in which all could say the word in their heart; and so on. To-night, after an opening prayer, in which he took the liberty to remind the Lord of all the spiritual dangers connected with praising Him with instruments of our own handiwork, he stood up and said, 'I'm not in favor of any music with the Psalms of David, they are far better without it. And if I were willing for the organ box, we are a poor kirk, and could not afford to rob our stipendary and mission funds to pay a man player on instruments; and as for women interfering with the ordinances in any way, you all know what St. Paul says on that subject.' And, of course, when the minister talks with the people's prejudices, he is omnipotent."
"Was it put to the vote?"
"Yes. Two of the congregation, Burns of Blantree, and myself, stood up when the organ was proposed; the rest sat grim and dour. Nothing less than an earthquake could have made them stir. When those opposed to an organ were requested to rise, they stood up solid as a phalanx, and firm as a stone wall. I wish Allan had gone with me. Where is the lad?"
"He bade me 'good-by' some time since. I dare say he has several things to do in his rooms. A man cannot go away for two years and leave his treasures to moths, and dust, and unchecked decay. Uncle, how soon can we begin to build at Drumloch? This organ business has made me lose sympathy with the Meriton people:—and I want something to do, Uncle John, something to think about, and look after."
"Then I will have the plans drawn, and estimates made, and you shall go to your own home, Mary, as soon as possible. The people are looking forward to your return. You will be happier among them. We can return to Glasgow at once; I shall be very glad to do so; and you can go to Drumloch in the spring."
The proposal pleased Mary. She wanted to get away from Meriton. She did not like being in the same house with those numerous similitudes of the Fife girl. The garden in which Allan had made her that pretence of an offer, the parlor in which she had given way to such a petulant, disagreeable temper, were full of mortifying remembrances. She wanted to turn over a new leaf of life, to cross the past one, and to cancel forever the hopes there credited.
SEVERED SELVES AND SHADOWS.
"Now I would speak the last Farewell, but cannot; It would be still Farewell a thousand times; So let us part in the dumb pomp of grief."
* * * * *
"Rumor is a pipe Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, And if so easy and so plain a stop The still discordant, wavering multitude Can play upon't."
At that time, Mary saw no more of her Cousin Allan. He had gone when she rose next morning, gone away in a slow, even downpour of rain, that was devoid of every hope of blue sky or sunshine. On the river they were in a cloud of fog impenetrable to sight, and inexpressibly dreary. Everything also in the little boat was clammy and uncomfortable. There was a long day before Allan; for his business scarcely occupied him an hour, and then he went out into the black, chill street, and felt thoroughly miserable. His father's face had been so white, his hands had trembled so, he had made such a brave effort to say a cheerful 'good-by.' Allan's conscience troubled him; he felt supremely selfish, he could not satisfy himself that he had any right to put so good a parent to so much sorrow.
If he could have written to Maggie, it would have been some consolation. But he had not been able to make any arrangements for that solace. A post office did not exist in Pittenloch; if a letter were addressed there, it lay in Dysart until the Dysart postmistress happened to see some one from Pittenloch. Under such circumstances, there was no telling into whose hands his letters might fall. And a letter to Maggie Promoter from strange parts, would be a circumstance to rouse unbounded curiosity. Either curiosity would be illegitimately satisfied, or Maggie would be the object of endless suspicions.
He thought of David, but there would be little comfort in seeing David, for he could not talk to him of Maggie. Allan would have liked well to confide in David, and explain, as he thought he ought to, his honorable intentions toward his sister; but Maggie had earnestly entreated that nothing should be said to her brother. "He'll be aye questioning me. He'll be aye watching me. He'll maybe tell folks, and I'll feel everybody's eye is on me. Forbye, he willna be as happy in what you hae done for him. He thinks now, it was just for your admiration o' his abilities, and your liking for his sel', that you sent him to Glasga' College. If he kent you thocht o' me, he wad be sure it was for my sake, and that wad jist tak' the good out o' everything for Davie." Thus, Maggie had reasoned, and Allan thought her reasoning both generous and prudent.
So there would be little comfort in threading the dirty ways of Argyle Street to the Candleriggs; and he went to his hotel and ordered dinner, then back to his father, and begged him to come and spend the last hours of his delay with him. And John Campbell was delighted. "Things will go tapsalteerie, Allan, but let them; we will have a bite and a cup of kindness together." It was a very pleasant bite and cup, seasoned with much love, and many cheerful confidences; and when Allan, at length, left the dreary precincts of the old Caledonian Station, the last thing he saw was his father's bare, white head, and that courtly upward movement of the right hand which was his usual greeting or adieu; a movement which is as much the natural salutation of a gentleman, as a nod is the natural one of a vulgar mind.
John Campbell remained in Glasgow for the next three days, and Mary was lonely enough at Meriton. It was a little earlier than they usually removed to their city home, but she began to make preparations for that event. In the course of these preparations, it was necessary to inspect the condition of Allan's apartments. How desolate and forsaken they looked! No other rooms in the house had the same sense of loss, even though they had been in the same measure dismantled. The empty polished grates, the covered furniture, the closed blinds, the absence of all the little attributes of masculine life—pipes, slippers, newspapers, etc.— were painfully apparent.
But no one had touched any of the numerous pictures of Maggie. They were on the wall, the mantel, the table, the easel. She glanced at them, and left the room; but after a moment's hesitation, she returned, drew up the blinds, and stood resolutely before the large one upon the easel. "What is there in her face that is so charmful?" she asked. "Why did it draw me back here? Does my sense of justice forbid me to dislike without a reason, and am I looking for one?" She went from picture to picture. She stood long before some, she took one or two in her hand. She did not like the girl, but she would not be unfair in her criticisms. "Whatever she is doing, she is like a poem. I could not bake oat cakes, and look as if I had stepped out of Gessner's Idyls. But she does. What limpid eyes! And yet they have a look of sorrow in them—as if they had been washed clear in tears—she is not laughing anywhere. I like that! If she were gay and jocund in that picture how vulgar it would be.—If her splendid hair were unbound, and her fine throat and neck without kerchief, and if she were simpering with a finger on a dimple in her cheek, I know that I should detest her. It is her serenity, her air of seriousness, which is so enthralling—I wonder what her name is—it should be something grand, and sweet, and solemn—I should think Theodora would suit her—What nonsense! In a Fife fishing village every girl is either Jennie or Maggie or Christie." So she mused, going from picture to picture, until they acquired a kind of personality in her mind.
Her uncle came home a little sad. "Allan has gone again," he said. "I seem to have seen very little of the lad. He is such a fine lad, too. We had a few happy hours together at the last. I am very glad of that! When he comes home next time, he will settle, and never leave me again. I shall be a happy man when that day gets around, Mary."
"He will settle, that is, he will marry that fisher-girl! He has told you all about her, he says?"
"He was very honest and candid with me, very."
"What is her name, uncle?"
"I do not know. He did not tell me, and I never thought of asking."
"Where does she live?"
"Really, Mary, I never asked that either. I don't think it makes the least difference."
"Oh, but it does. I am very much disappointed. I was thinking we could take a trip to the village, and see the girl ourselves. Would not that be a good thing?"
"It would be a very bad thing, a very dishonorable thing. If I thought it necessary to play the spy on my son Allan, I should prefer to know he was dead. The girl may become my daughter. I should be ashamed to meet her, if I had gone to peep at her behind her back. She would not despise me more than I should despise myself."
"I do not look at it in that light, uncle. There might be several good reasons."
"We won't discuss them, Mary. Let us talk of Drumloch. Wilkie is drawing the plan of the new wing. When will you go back to Glasgow? I was at Blytheswood Square to-day; the house is in beautiful order."
"I will go back to-morrow. I am weary of Meriton this year. I have found myself everywhere at a discount. Allan refuses my estate and myself. The minister and the kirk refuse my services as organist. And when I had a very kind idea in my head about Theodora, you make me feel as if I had been plotting treason against her, and against honor and everything else of good report. Let me hide my head in the smoke of Glasgow to-morrow."
"Theodora! Is that the girl's name?"
"That is the fisher-girl's name, the one I have given her. I suppose she will have to descend to Jennie or Christie."
"Are you not a little ill-tempered, Mary?"
"I am shamefully ill-tempered, uncle. I am afraid I am growing bad, and I cannot make up my mind to get any more good from Dr. MacDonald. When ministers want to snub women, they always quote St. Paul. Now, I do not believe any wrong of St. Paul. I have an idea that he was a perfect gentleman, and rather polite to our sex."
"They quote his own words, my dear."
"They quote, as they have transposed and transformed them. I think if a woman had translated that particular passage, it might have been less pleasant for Dr. MacDonald to quote."
"Nevermind Dr. MacDonald to-night, dearie. Sing us a few words of Robert Burns. It would be an ill heart that could not get cheery in his company. I bought the bonniest likeness of him yesterday. What a handsome lad he was!"
"I always fancy he must have looked like Joseph. The Talmud says all the women in Egypt loved Joseph. I am sure everybody, young and old, make their hearts over to Robert Burns.
[Musical notation omitted.]
There was a lad was born in Kyle, But whatnaday, o' whatna style, I doubt its hardly worth our while To be sae nice wi' Robin.
For Robin was a rovin boy, A rantin', rovin', rantin', rovin', Robin was a rovin' boy, O ran-tin', rov-in', Robin!
Our monarch's hindmost year but ane Was five and twenty days began; 'Twas then a blast o' Januar' win' Blew hansel in on Robin. For Robin was, etc.
The gossip keekit in his loof, Quo' she, wha lives will see the proof, This waly boy will be nae coof; I think we'll ca' him Robin. For Robin was, etc.
He'll hae misfortunes great and sma', But aye a heart aboon them a', He'll be a credit till us a' We'll a' be proud o' Robin. For Robin was, etc."
Half an hour's song put both in cheerful temper, and when Mary said, "Now, uncle, we must stop, because I want to take the first boat to-morrow," the dear old man went gayly off, singing:—
[Musical score omitted]
"Then up in the morning's no' for me, Up in the morning early; I'd rather gang supper-less to my bed, Than rise in the morning early.
"Up in the morning's no' for me, Up in the morning early, I'd rather gang supperless to my bed, Than rise in the morning early,"
and he was as proud and pleased with the apropos quotation, as if he had written it himself.
John Campbell's city house was one of the handsomest of the many handsome mansions in Blytheswood Square; and there the principal treasures of his home life were gathered: silver, paintings, furniture, books, as well as the mementoes which had come to him from past generations. He had expected Allan to spend the winter at home, and made many extensive changes in view of the company which the young people would probably desire. When Mary entered the house, she turned a face of astonishment and delight upon her uncle. Everywhere the utmost richness and luxury of appointment were manifest, and over her piano hung the painting of the beaming Robert Burns, for which Campbell had just paid L500. He had intended to surprise his niece, and he had his full measure of thanks in her unaffected pleasure. It was a happy home-coming, and as they sat together that night, Mary tried to inspire the father's heart with her own hopes in regard to Allan's future.
"He will come back in a year, uncle," she said, "and he will bring with him one of those bright-looking New York women, brains to the finger tips, nerves all over, with the most miraculously small feet, and costumes just as wonderful. Or it will be some large-eyed, slow-moving, long, lithe Southern girl who will look like a great white lily turned into a woman. I do not think seriously that Theodora has the slenderest chance of becoming Allan's wife, and, would you believe it, uncle, I am honestly sorry for her?"
"I believe it, dear, if you say so; but I would not have expected it."
"I cannot help thinking about her. I wish I could. I have wondered a dozen times to-day if she knows that she is shut up alone in that nearly empty house. How the storm will beat upon Allan's windows all the winter! How the wind will howl around the big, desolate place! And think of the real Theodora waiting among all kinds of rude surroundings on that bleak Fife coast. There must have been a mistake with that girl, uncle. She was meant for lofty rooms and splendid clothing, and to be waited upon hand and foot. Don't you think souls must often wonder at the habitations they find themselves in?"
"There is One above who orders all things. He makes no mistakes of that kind, dearie. I dare say the girl is very happy. She will be a kind of heroine among her own class of women, and they will envy her her rich handsome lover."
"And you think she will be happy under those circumstances? Not unless Fife girls are a higher creation of women. If they envy her they will hate her also; and I doubt if she will have many more friends among the fisher-lads. They will look upon her as a renegade to her order. The old women will suspect her, and the old men look askance at her with disapproving eyes. The girl will be a white blackbird; the properly colored birds will drive her out of the colony or pick her to death. It is only natural they should."
"But they are a very religious people; and grace is beyond nature.
"I do not deny that, uncle; but did you ever find grace with a mantle large enough to cover a defenceless woman who was under the ban of the majority? Now did you?"
"I know what you are after, Mary. You want to go and see her. This talk is a roundabout way to enlist my sympathy."
"Suppose I do want to go and see her, what then?"
"You could not go. The thing is simply impossible for some months at least. We know neither her name nor her place of residence. I should have to write to Allan on that matter; he might decline to tell me; if he did tell me, his answer will come with the snow and the winter storms. How then are you going to reach the Fife coast? And what kind of excuse could a lady make for visiting it about Christmas?"
"Excuses are plenty as blackberries in season. I wonder you did not 'speer her name and hame;' that would have been my first question."
"If I am buying a ship, Mary, I look at her build; I want to know if she is sea-trusty; her name is of small account. Now, if I were you, I would not trouble myself about Allan's sweetheart. I dare say she is happy enough."
"I am quite sure she is wretched. I feel it. And I have an idea that Allan would expect me, feeling so, to look after her."
Mary Campbell's divination was a correct one. Maggie was even thus early very wretched. In fact her misery began before Allan and David were quite out of sight. For a few minutes Janet Caird let her stand and watch the departing boat; then she said with an air of business, "Weel, weel, Maggie, they are gane, but the wark o' the house bides. If you are ready I'll just gae through it, and tak' a look at the things put under my hand and charge."
Maggie turned round sharply. "There is nae charge in your hand, Aunt Janet. I hae keepit the house since I was seventeen years auld, and I'm no needing help frae onybody."
"Then whatna for was I brought here, frae my ain bit o' heather roof? It will ill set you to put your fayther's auldest sister under your thumb. Folks will talk ill o' you."
"They will talk as they like to talk, and it's mair often ill than gude. But the house is mine, and I'll guide it yet. You are vera welcome, Aunt Janet, and I'll be thankfu' for your company, and your word o' advisement, and if you'll bide under my roof, I'll bide under the shelter o' your gude heart, and gude word; for you ken, a lone lassie ought to hae some person weel respectit to stand by her, and to be a witness that she lives as a decent lassie ought to live."