"I didna think I was to be made a convenience o'. I lookit to do my day's wark, and sae earn my day's wage."
"Did Davie promise you siller at a'?"
"I'll no say he did; there wasna any promise fully made; but I thocht o' it."
"How much was you thinking o'? What sum will pay you to stand by my gude name, and say for me the right word when you hear the wrang one? For you ken, aunt, I'll ne'er deserve the wrang one."
"Wad five shillings weekly be o'er much?"
"Ay, it's a deal. But I'll gie it to you. And you can knit your ain stocking, and go and come as it likes you; and I'll mind my ain hame, and I'll pay you the siller every Saturday night."
"I dinna like the talk o' siller sae near the Sawbath day. We'll hae the settlement on Saturday at noon."
"Vera weel. We willna differ about an hour or twa."
"I didna sleep gude last night. A box bed isna quite the thing for an auld woman like me."
Maggie hesitated. Her own little room was very dear to her. It gave her a measure of privacy, and all her small treasures had their place in it. The concealed, or box bed, in the house place wall, had been David's sleeping place. It was warm and thoroughly comfortable; it was the usual, and favorite bed of all people of Janet Caird's class. Maggie wondered at her objection; especially as her own room was exposed to the north wind, and much colder than the house place. She based her opposition on this ground—
"You can hae my room if it please you better, Aunt Janet; but it is a gey cold one in the winter; and there isna ony way to make it warmer."
"Tuts, lassie! What for wad I want your bit room, when there is my brither's room empty noo?"
She rose as she spoke, and opened the door of the apartment which Allan had so long occupied. "It's a nice room, this is; a gude fire-place and an open bed, and you can pack awa a' those books and pictur's—they dinna look like vera improving ones—and I'll put my kist i' that corner, and just mak' mysel' quite comfortable."
"But you canna hae this room, Aunt Janet. Neither I, nor you, hae the right to put oor foot inside it. It is rented, and the rent paid doon; and the books and pictures canna be meddled wi'; there mustna be a finger laid on them."
"My certie! The man is gane far awa'; o'er the Atlantic Ocean itsel'—I'll bear the blame o' it. He took quite a liking to me, that was easy seen, and I'm vera sure, he willna mind me using what he canna use himsel'."
"He put the room, and a' in it, under my care, aunt. The books are worth mair siller than you ever counted; and I wouldna let ony-body—unless it was the minister an orra time—stay in it."
"What's the matter wi' the lassie? Maggie, you are no to be bided! I'll hae this room for mysel', and that's the end o' the controversy."
She had sat down in the big rush chair, by the still burning turfs, and she was looking round her with the critical eye of a person who is calculating the capabilities of a place. Maggie left her sitting there, and began to tidy up the house. In half an hour Janet re-appeared, and went to her kist—a great wooden box painted light blue—and began to undo its many cords and lock. Then Maggie closed the door of the disputed room, turned the key, and put it in her pocket.
The noise instantly arrested the old woman. She stood up, and cried out in a passion, "What's that you're doing, Maggie Promoter?"
"I'm locking Mr. Campbell's room. I'll no see you break into ony one's right, be they here, or far awa'."
"You hizzy! You! You'll daur to call me a thief, will you?"
"Dinna fight me at the outset, Aunt Janet. If I am wrang, when Davie comes hame at the New Year, I'll gie you the key. But I'll no do it, till he says sae, no, not if I die for it! Now then?"
"Setting yoursel' up in a bleezing passion wi' a person auld enough to be your mither! Think shame o' yoursel', Maggie Promoter!"
Maggie was certainly in a passion. Her eyes were full of tears, her face burning, her form erect and trembling with anger. Yet she was bitterly annoyed at her own weakness; she felt degraded by her outburst of temper, and was just going to say some words of apology, when a number of women entered the cottage. There was Jenny and Maggie Johnston, and Kirsty Buchan, and Janet Thompson and Mysie Raith; five buxom wives in linsey and tartan, all talking together of their "men" and their families.
Maggie's instincts revolted against any public discussion of her own affairs, and Aunt Janet was not disposed to tell her grievance while Maggie was present. So both women put it aside to welcome their visitors. There was much hand-shaking, and loud talking, and then Janet Caird said with a bustling authoritative air, "Put on the kettle, Maggie, a cup o' tea when kimmers meet, mak's talk better;" and Maggie, dumbly resentful at the order, obeyed it.
She was not in a generous mood, and she was calculating, as she silently set the table, how much of her seven shillings a week would be left, when she had paid Janet Caird five out of it, and entertained all her kimmers. When the tea was brewed, the old woman went to her blue kist, and brought out a bottle of Glenlivet, "just to tak' off the wersh taste o' the tea;" and Maggie, perceiving they had set down for a morning's gossip and reminiscence, said, "I'll awa' up the beach a wee, friends. I hae a headache, and I'll see if the wind will blow it awa'."
No one opposed the proposition. She folded her plaid around her head and shoulders and went out. Then Janet Caird put down her tea cup, looked mournfully after her, sighed, and shook her head. Upon which, there was a general sigh, and a general setting down of tea cups, and a short, but eloquent silence.
"You'll hae your ain adoo wi' that self-willed lass, I'm feared, Mistress Caird."
"'Deed, Mistress Raith, she's had o'er much o' her ain way, and she is neither to rule, nor to reason wi'."
"Davie Promoter is a wise-like lad; he did right to bring you here."
"And nane too soon."
"She's sae setten up wi' the fuss Maister Campbell made wi' baith o' them. Naething gude enough for Dave and Maggie Promoter. The best o' teachers and nae less than Glasca College itsel', for the lad—"
"My nephew Davie isna quite a common lad, Mistress Buchan. Dr. Balmuto gied him the books he needed. Think o' that noo."
"And the lass is a handsome lass. Maister Campbell thocht that. Angus just hated the sight o' him, for he said he came between himsel' and Maggie."
"She wouldna hae the impudence to even hersel' wi' Maister Campbell, a man connectit wi' the nobility, and just rollin' in gowd and siller," said Aunt Janet; drawing on her imagination for Mr. Campbell's distinctions.
This was the key-note to a conversation about Maggie in which every one of the five women present gave their own opinion, and the opinion of all their absent cronies about the girl's behavior. And though Janet Caird knew nothing of Maggie, and could say nothing definitely about her, she yet contrived in some manner to give the impression, that David Promoter had been afraid to leave his sister alone, on account of her attachment to Mr. Campbell; and that she had been specially brought from Dron Point to keep watch over the honor of the Promoter family.
If Maggie had been a popular girl, the loyalty of the Pittenloch wives to "their ain folk" would have been a sufficient protection against any stranger's innuendoes; but there was no girl in Pittenloch less popular. Maggie was unlike other girls; that was a sufficient reason for disfavor. Society loves types, and resents the individual whom it cannot classify; and this feeling is so common and natural that it runs through all our lives and influences our opinion of things inanimate and irresponsible: —the book of such inconvenient size or shape that it will not fit the shelf in our book-case, how many an impatient toss it gets! The incongruous garment which suits no other garment we have, and seems out of place on every occasion, how we hate it! Although it may be of the finest material and excellently well made.
So, though no one knew anything wrong of Maggie, and no one dared to say anything wrong, how provoking was the girl! She did nothing like any one else, and fitted into no social groove. She did not like the lads to joke with her, she never joined the young lassies, who in pleasant weather sat upon the beach, mending the nets. In the days when Maggie had nets to mend, she mended them at home. It was true that her mother was a confirmed invalid, confined entirely to her bed, for more than four years before her death; and Maggie had been everything to the slowly dying woman. But this reason for Maggie's seclusion was forgotten now, only the facts remembered.
The very women who wondered, "what kind of a girl she must be never to go to dances and merry makings;" knew that she had watched night and day by her sick mother; knew that the whole household had trusted to Maggie from her seventeenth year onward. Knew that it was Maggie that made all the meals, and kept the house place clean, and took care of the men's clothing, and helped to mend the nets, and who frequently after a day of unceasing labor, sat through the stormy nights with the nervous, anxious wife and mother, and watched for her the rising and setting of the constellations, and the changes of the wind.
Before her mother had been a twelvemonth under "the cold blanket o' the kirk yard grass," her father and brothers found rest among the clear cold populous graves of the sea. Then came Allan Campbell into her life, and his influence in the Promoter household had been to intensify the quiet and order, which David and Maggie both distinctly approved. The habit of being quiet became a second nature to the girl, every circumstance of the last years of her life had separated her more and more from the girls of her class and age. She was not to blame, but what then? People suffer from circumstances, as well as from actual faults.
There were two other points in Maggie's character undoubtedly influencing the social feelings which finally determined the girl's future—her great beauty, and her quick temper. There were women in the village who considered her rare and unmistakable beauty a kind of effrontery, at least they resented it with the same angry disapproval. A girl with no "man" to stand by her, ought not to look so provokingly radiant; nor, by the same rule, ought she to have such positive likes and dislikes, or a tongue always so ready to express them.
That very morning soon after leaving her aunt and the gossips around her, she met upon the beach Mysie Raith and Kitty Cupar. Kitty looked queerly at her and laughed, and instead of ignoring the petty insult, Maggie stopped the girls. "What are you laughing at, Kitty Cupar?" she asked indignantly.
"At naething," promptly replied the girl.
"What a born fool you must be to giggle at naething. Tak' tent, or you'll be crying for naething, afore night."
Then she went onward, leaving the girls full of small spite and annoyance. She was not far from her father's ill-fated boat. It always stood to Maggie in the stead of his grave. David had told her not to go near it, but she was in a perverse temper "and ill-luck, or waur ill-luck, I'm going;" she said to herself. It showed many signs of its summer's exposure; the seams were open, the paint peeling off, the name nearly effaced. She sat down on the shingle and leaned against it.
"Oh Lizzie! Lizzie!" she whispered to the poor forlorn battered thing. "You brought sair loss and sair change! Four hearts that loved me weel, you flung to the bottom o' the sea; and there's nane to care for me as they did. Davie is bound up in his diction'ries, and thinks little of Maggie noo; and he is gane far awa'. He'll ne'er come back to me, I'm feared; he'll ne'er come back! It is just anither wreck, Lizzie, for a' you left is ta'en awa' this day."
It is a great grief to miss the beloved in all the home ways, but oh, how that grief is intensified when people not beloved step into their places! It made Maggie bitterly sorrowful to see Janet Caird in her father's chair. What a mistake she had made! She had no idea she would feel so resentfully to the one who was in her house because "they were not."
"It will be waur yet to see her reading his Bible," she thought, but she lifted the big book and laid it before her aunt at the usual hour for the evening prayer. "Na, na," said Janet, with an expression of self-approbation, "I dinna approve o' women reading the Word aloud. It is nae house without a man at the head o' it, and we canna hae exercises without a man to gie us the sense o' them. We are twa lane women, we maun be contented with the whisper o' a verse or twa to our ain hearts."
And Maggie was almost glad. She thought of her father reading the Book with his four sons around him; and she thought of David's pale solemn face bending over it, as they two sat together to listen to its comfort and its counsel; and she said, "I'll put the Book out o' sight, and I'll hae it opened nae mair, till I sit wi' Davie in his ain manse; and then we'll read again that bonnie verse He gied us—Then are they glad, because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven."
"She has profaned the sacred name of Friend And worn it to vileness"
* * * * *
"Ah, wretched and too solitary he Who loves not his own company!"
* * * * *
"Fortune came smiling to the maid, and woo'd her"
Life would be but a mean abode for men and women if they could not open the windows of their souls and look beyond it. During the weeks which immediately followed Janet Caird's association with Maggie she felt this truth, though she did not define the feeling to herself. She only realized the comfort of withdrawing from the fretful presence of her aunt to the contemplative, passionless serenity of the Word of God. But even this was an offence. "What are you doing at a', Maggie?" was the certain inquiry if she went to the quiet of her own room for an hour.
"I'm reading the Book a wee, Aunt Janet."
The comments upon this reply varied, according to Janet's temper. Sometimes it was, "Well, the gude ken, you need to read it." Again it would be, "Havers! Hoo can the like o' you understand it, and no man body to gie you the sense?" And if the volume happened to be one from Allan's small library, her railing at "no-vels and the sin o' them" was unstinted.
But the real cause of difference between the women was far beyond Maggie's knowledge or power to alter. It had sprung up the very hour that David asked her to come to Pittenloch and be a companion to his sister. No sooner had he left her than she began to consider in what light the proposition could bring her personally the most respect and sympathy, and a neighbor coming in at the moment, she found in her own small boast the key-note of her future treatment of her niece.
"I hae been called for, Mistress Futtrit, a' the road to Pittenloch," she said, with a sigh; "my nephew is settled for the ministry—an' nae less— and I maun just gae and tak' the guiding o' his sister and his hoose."
"You're auld to be fashed wi' a bairn noo, Mistress Caird."
"Na, na, it isna a bairn; Maggie Promoter is a braw, handsome lass, wi' mair lovers than she has fingers and toes."
"But that's waur than a bairn. You'll be worn oot wi' the care o' it. I ken by the heartaches my ain Baubie gied me. Early and late she keepit me in het water."
"I hear tell that oor Maggie is just extraordinar' handsome and extraordinar' self-willed. I ken I'm going to sorrow, but her fayther was my brither, and I'll hae to do my duty, or be a meeserable woman."
"It's a credit to you, Mistress Caird, to hae feelings like them, and you'll be supported dootless."
Jean Futtrit's pretty Baubie had not always behaved well; and Jean was suspicious of all other young girls. She had thought the worst of Maggie at once, and she made Janet Caird feel herself to be a very meritorious domestic martyr in accepting the charge of her. This idea satisfied Janet's craving for praise and sympathy; she fully endorsed it; she began to take credit for her prudence and propriety before she even entered upon her new life.
And circumstances in Pittenloch favored Janet; in a few days she had received so much condolence, and had committed herself so completely regarding her niece, that nothing could have induced her to reconsider her conduct. Every trifle also in Maggie's attitude testified against herself. She resented the constant conclaves of tea-drinking, gossiping women in her house, and she was too honest-hearted to hide her disapproval from them. The result was, that backed by Janet Caird, they came still more frequently, and were more and more offensive. If she determined to make the best of the matter, and remained with them, she was subjected to advices, and innuendoes, and rude jokes, almost intolerable; and if she went away she was accused of bad temper, of a greedy, grudging disposition, and of contempt for her own people and class.
If Maggie had been wise enough to attend faithfully the weekly meeting in Elder Mackelvine's cottage, she would have silenced many of her enemies. But this one evening Maggie looked forward to, on different grounds; Janet Caird never missed the meeting, and her absence gave Maggie two sweet hours alone in her home. She locked her door, visited Allan's room, changed her book, and afterward sat still, and let the time slip away in thoughts sacred to her own heart.
As the end of the year approached Dr. Balmuto was expected. He made a visit to Pittenloch every three months. Then he consoled the sick, baptized weakly infants, reproved those who had been negligent in attending kirk, and catechised and examined the young people previous to their admission to The Tables. Maggie had not been very faithful about the ordinances. The weather had been bad, the landward road was dangerous when snow had fallen, and she did not like going in the boats among so many who gave her only looks of grave disapproval. So she had made many excuses, and in this matter Janet Caird had let her take her own way without opposition. Absence from kirk was a proof of a falling away from grace, which in the eyes of these people was beyond explanation; provided the delinquent was not unmistakably sick.
The minister had noticed Maggie's frequent lapses from duty. He spoke to Elder Mackelvine about it; and as the elder was in a manner responsible for the flock to his superior shepherd, he felt obliged to repeat much of the gossip he had heard. He had no ill will to the girl, far from it; yet unknowingly he did her many wrongs, even though he distinctly said, "he knew no ill of Maggie Promoter, and was but repeating what a lot of idle women said."
But Dr. Balmuto was troubled and alarmed. He thought not only of Maggie, but also of David. He had sanctioned his ambition for the ministry, and had helped him toward the office; and he could not bear to think of a whisper against a name likely to stand in the list of God's servants. He was angry at Maggie's imprudences, even if they were no worse than imprudences. He paid a special visit to the Promoter cottage, and putting aside Mistress Caird with a polite wave of the hand which greatly impressed her, he demanded to see Maggie alone.
He told her frankly all that he had heard, and the girl was astounded. There was just truth enough with every lie to carry the lie through. Many of them she found it almost hopeless to try to explain; and when the doctor asked her, "if there had been any words of love between Mr. Campbell and herself?" she could not deny it. She remained speechless, and the minister thought very badly of the woman dumb and blushing before him.
"Mind what I tell you, Maggie Promoter," he said sternly, "I know the young man Campbell. He is none of your kind. He cannot make you his wife. If he could, you would be wretched, for he would soon scorn you. Can the eagle mate with the kittywake? Sin and sorrow come of such love making. It will ruin both David and yourself. Mind, I have warned you. If you were my own daughter I would say no less to you."
"There has been nae wrang word between us, sir. Nae word my ain fayther and mither mightna hae listened to. That is the truth, sir."
"Then do not hold yourself apart from your own people. Don't fret about the young man's absence, and neglect the ordinances to do it; remember they are for your comfort and salvation."
"Folks hae thocht ill o' me, sir; and they treat me according to their ill thochts:—and I wish Davie was hame, for I'm broken-hearted wi' the wrang that is done me; morning, noon and night," she said warmly.
"Keep your temper and hold your tongue, Maggie. I suffer no woman to rail in my presence. Do well, and you will be well spoken of, and doubtless also, well treated."
She covered her face with her hands and sobbed bitterly; and his heart relented a little. "I am glad to see the tears, Maggie; no one can do more than be sorry for their sins and then mend them. Come, come, lassie; turn over a new leaf, and the future shall mend the past."
"There is naething to mend, sir. I hae done no wrang to man, woman, or child. You should hae stood up for the orphan lass, that has nae one near to befriend her; but when a' men are against me—then I'll lippen to the Lord!"
Her short passionate rain of tears was over. She stood erect, calm, perhaps with an air of indifference. The doctor was much annoyed; he felt that he had failed in reaching the girl's heart, and he went away with that sense of irritation which our inabilities always leave with us.
Maggie did not go out of the cottage for a week. She was expecting David home for the holidays, and she confidently looked for him to right her. Unfortunately, David came by Kinkell, and called first at Dr. Balmuto's. He had done very well in his Greek and Hebrew, and he wished to show the minister that his kindness had been appreciated and improved. Dr. Balmuto received David a little coldly. He had not really been moved to help him by any personal liking, but rather from a conscientious conviction that the young man had a decided vocation for theology. In fact, there had always been a tinge of self-satisfaction about David which he seriously disliked, and for which very reason he had once sent him back to the boats to learn humility. Though honestly pleased at his progress, he did not think it well to praise him too much; especially as he observed that David boasted in a quiet way of the favor shown him by his teachers, and named, when there was no occasion for naming it, the circumstance of having been twice asked to dinner by Prof. Laird.
"This and that is all very well, and I am glad of it, David," he said; "but your name must be kept stainless; and the more learned you are, the more people will look up to you, and the more readily the fly in the ointment will be seen and heard tell of. I am sorry to say your sister has been very imprudent. Pittenloch does nothing but talk of her queer ways, and doubtless there have been love promises between her and Mr. Campbell. Now if there is ill said about him and your sister, you must see that it puts you in a bad light to take any favor whatever from him."
David rose angrily. "I canna let even you, sir, speak ill in that way about Maggie. I was by her side until Mr. Campbell left Pittenloch. And I will defend his name as well as Maggie's. There was not the wrong thocht in either of their hearts. I am sure o' that."
"I am glad to hear you speak so bravely and confidently. Go home, and put your house in better order than it is. There seems to be ill-will and unhappiness in it. Make your women walk circumspectly, and give no occasion for people to take your name up. Your name is not to be lightly used now, David Promoter."
David had looked forward to this visit, anticipated the minister's praises and satisfaction, had even brought him a little present of some fine tobacco. He left the manse with a sense of anger and humiliation, and with the tobacco in his pocket. He had found no opportunity to offer it. And the home-coming from which Maggie had expected so much was an unhappy one. David blamed her for Dr. Balmuto's coldness and apparent lack of interest in his affairs; and whether Maggie had done wrong, or had only been wronged, he felt that she had injured him and his prospects. Nervous and sensitive to a foolish degree on the subject of social respect from those in authority, he gave to the affair far more importance than it deserved. He made Maggie almost feel as if she had brought absolute and irretrievable ruin upon him.
Still he would not be unjust to her, nor listen to any accusation not made before her face. Even Aunt Janet, though she attacked David on his weakest side, by giving him all the respect due to a placed minister, did not succeed in gaining his private ear. "I'll give nae occasion for backbiting," he said, "tell me when Maggie is present, what you have to say against her."
"She read novels, instead of working at her trade—she held herself aloof from people, and stayed by herself. She did not go regularly to kirk and meeting. She had spent good money having the 'Allan Campbell' put in order, yet she would neither lend nor hire the boat when it was asked of her. She kept Mr. Campbell's room locked up, and would not even let a friend of the family drink a cup of tea inside it. She was queer and cold to all the lads, and had been specially rude to Angus Raith, whose mother was Mistress Caird's chief friend. Folks, too, wondered where she got money, and Maggie had not respected their curiosity, and satisfied them that she was living honest."
These were Aunt Janet's principal accusations against her niece. Maggie answered them very plainly. She declared that she could not get work, because her aunt's complaints had deprived her of all her friends. The books she read were the same books Mr. Campbell had read aloud to them both. As for the boat, she did not want it to go to waste, and if she loaned it to one person, she might as well have given it to the village. If she had taken hire, it would have been a great offence, and worse said of her, than for keeping it at anchor. As it was, she asserted Aunt Janet had lent it to the Raiths frequently, without her knowledge or consent at the time.
"Not mair than three times, Maggie," interrupted Mrs. Caird, "and you were that ill-tempered I couldna ask you anent it. You wad hae snappit my head aff."
"That was three times o'er many, aunt," answered David; "the boat was Maggie's; folks should speer it of hersel'; I would hae nae right to lend it, and I wouldna do it, nae matter wha asked it o' me."
"The Raiths are gude frien's"—
"For a' the Raiths in Fife and Moray, no!"
"Then Davie, as for letting Mr. Campbell's room be for the use of a' and sundry that liked it, how could I? You ken, he told me tak' care o' the pictures and books inside it."
"You wad hae as much right to his purse as his room, if he had left his purse in your keeping. The room wasna yours to lend, Maggie."
"And, Davie, I dinna like Angus Raith, and his mither is here the day lang, and till the late night; and Angus is aye to convoy her hame; and he sits in your chair, and glowers at me, or he says words I canna listen till, and I want nae love from him or any other man. If you will be a brither to me, and no let folks tread my gude name in the mire, I'll aye be a true sister to you, Davie, and I'll care for nane but you."
"I'll let nane say ill o' you, if you dinna deserve it, Maggie. Folks should think shame o' themselves to set on a lass without man or woman to stand by her."
"I'm sure I aye said what I could wi' truth for the lassie."
"I dinna think it. And as for Maggie's money, that is Maggie's business and my business. Maggie's money is clean money, every penny o' it. There is my word for that. I am sure it was weel kent that fayther left money lying in Largo Bank; but I'll gie accounts to nane; and I'll not hae Maggie asked for them either. As for Angus Raith, he might hae taken his 'no' before this. I'll not blame Maggie for not liking him; and I wad be as weel pleased for Maggie to bide single, till I hae my ain manse to marry her from. Now I willna hae my life and prospects wrecked for women's battlement and quarrels;" and then David very foolishly spoke of Dr. Balmuto's coldness to him; and on this subject David got warm and eloquent, and Aunt Janet perceived that the minister was disposed to blame Maggie.
Before leaving for his classes again, he did what he thought was the prudent thing to do for all parties. He really satisfied no one. Maggie felt that he had been less kind to her in many ways than he ought to have been. The villagers resented the change in his manners and speech. Their affairs, never interesting to him, were now distasteful; he went little among them, but sat most of his time reading in his own cottage. If he walked down to the pier or the boat-house, he brought unavoidably a different element with him. The elder men disputed all he said, the younger ones took little notice of him. He might have understood from his own experience what Maggie was suffering; but David had his mind full of grand themes, and he brushed the opinions of a few fishermen off, as he brushed a fly from his open book. After he had returned to Glasgow, Aunt Janet said, with an air of wrong and offence—"Brither and sister sail in one boat;" and she had more sympathy for her opinion.
The dreariest part of the winter was to come. David was not to return home again until the end of July; perhaps not even then. He had been spoken to about spending the long vacation with Prof. Laird's son in the Hebrides, as a kind of travelling tutor; and he hoped for the appointment. If he got it a whole year might pass before his next visit to Pittenloch. And Maggie's position had not been in any respect bettered, either by the minister's or David's interference. Aunt Janet had received no special reproofs or threats for her encroachments on Maggie's rights, and she made a point of extending them in many ways. Before March was over the girl was growing desperate.
Character is cumulative, and Maggie had been through these days of mean and bitter trials unconsciously gathering strength. She was not the same woman that had stood reproachful at destiny by the beached boat eleven months before. Yet even then she had nursed a rebellious thought against the hopelessness of Fate. She had refused to believe that the boat had been built and destined for death and destruction; if something had been done, which had not been done, it would have come safe to harbor. So also she would not believe that her own misery was beyond help, and that all that remained to her was a weary hoping and watching for Allan's return.
She was just at the point when endurance is waiting for the last unendurable straw, when one morning Angus Raith called early, and asked permission to use the "Allan Campbell" for a day's fishing. "Tak' her and welcome," answered Janet Caird, promptly.
"Aunt Janet, you hae nae right to lend what isna yours, nor ever like to be yours. David told you that plain as words could mak' it."
"You and your brither wear the life oot o' me, wi' your pride and ill-temper. Tak' the boat, Angus."
"You let it alone, Angus. It is my boat, and I'll send the water-bailiff after you for theft, if you lift her anchor."
"You will, will you? You mean meeserable hizzy! Then you'll hae to tak me up wi' Angus; for I'm wi' him, and will stand by him, afore a' the lords o' Edinburgh. Tak' the boat, Angus. I'll tak' the blame o' it! David Promoter willna publish a thief in his ain house; he's o'er much set up wi' himsel' and his gude name."
"Thank you, Mistress Caird; I'll tak' it. If a man tak's your sweetheart, you may weel tak' his boat. I'll bring you part o' my luck, when the boat comes hame at night."
"Dinna count your feesh, until you've caught them, Angus Raith," said Maggie, passionately; "and as for luck, it is bad luck you deserve, and bad luck you'll get, wi' your stolen boat."
"Hear to the lass! bespeaking sorrow for gude men, on a gude day's wark!"
Maggie answered not a word; she turned dourly round, went into her room and locked it. "I'll run awa' from it a'!" and in the first moment of her solitary passion of grief, the words struck her like an order. In great emergencies, the soul does gives orders; clear, prompt, decisive words, that leave no shadow of doubt behind them. "Go" said her soul to her, and she began immediately to consider her plans. She did not want for money. She had upwards of L23 left, beside an order for the L50 lying in Largo Bank, which David had insisted on her keeping in case any sudden need came for it.
"I'll put on my kirk clothes, and I'll go to Kinkell; Watty Young will carry me in his wagon to Stirling, and there, I'll tak' a train for Glasgow. David will find some way to get me a shelter, and I can sew, and earn my ain bite and sup."
This was her simple, straightforward plan, and as soon as she had determined to go away, it seemed wonderful to her that she had not done it sooner. "But one canna cross the stile till they get to it," she reflected; now however the idea took complete possession of her. She heard Mrs. Raith and various other women talking with her aunt: she heard herself repeatedly called to come and look after the broth, or other domestic concerns, but she took no notice of any demand upon her. She occupied the morning in locking away her simple treasures, and in making into a small bundle a linsey dress and a change of linen. She did not notice, until her room grew suddenly dark, that the wind had risen, and the sky become black and stormy. Some uneasy presentiment drove her then to the cottage door, where she stood with the rain blowing into her face, watching the boats tossing back to harbor.
"You see what your ill wishes hae brought. I hope there mayna be lives lost by your temper."
"Parfect nonsense! There is nae ill wish that is mair than idle breath, if it be na His will."
Just at dusk there was an outcry and a clamor of women's voices followed by passionate wailing, and a few minutes afterward Mistress Raith ran shrieking into the cottage. "The 'Allan Campbell' has gone to the bottom, and my boy Laurie wi' her. Oh, the ill heart, and the ill tongue o' you, Maggie Promoter! I'd like fine to send you after him! Gie us a help, wives, and let's gie her a ducking at the vera least!" The wretched mother was half crazy, and Maggie fled from her presence. The circumstance was the seal to her purpose. She knew well how her few angry words would be held against her, and she said mournfully, "There's nae hope o' kindness nor justice here for me. I should hae gane this morning when the thocht came to me. I wad hae been on the road to Stirling ere this."
There was a constant succession of visitors at the cottage until late, but as soon as all was quiet, Maggie went to her wretched hearthstone, and silently made herself a cup of tea. Janet Caird sat rocking herself to and fro, bewailing the dead, and the living; but yet carefully watching the unusual proceedings and dress of her niece. At length, finding Maggie was not to be provoked into words, she pretended suddenly to observe her kirk clothes—"Whatna for hae you that fine merino on this night? Surely, Maggie Promoter, you arena thinking o' going to the house o' mourning —you, that ought to be on your bended knees for the ill wishes you sent the puir lad to the bottom wi'. And after a' it wasna Angus but little Laurie that got the weight o' your ill thochts!"
"Do stop, aunt. Say them words to the minister, and hear the reproof you'll get! As if the breath o' an angry woman could make Him turn the keys that nane turn but Him. And if you want to ken whar I am going, I may as weel tell you now, as the morn. I am going to my brither Davie, for I cannot thole the bad tongue and the bad heart o' you, anither day."
"Hear to the wicked lass! My bad tongue! My bad heart! I sall scream oot at sich words—"
"Dinna flyte mair at me for ony sake, Aunt Janet. You'll get the hoose to yoursel' in the early morning."
"And then what sail I do? A puir auld woman wiled awa' frae her ain hame."
"Aunt Janet, you can go back to your ain hame. There is nane to hinder you. When you are ready, lock the door, and gie the key to Elder Mackelvine. But if you like this bien comfortable cottage better than the one bit empty room David took you from, you can stay in it your lane. I wadna bide wi' you anither day for gude words, nor gude gold; no, nor for onything else."
"My bite and sup were aye sure at Dron Point; but what will I do here at a'? Hae you made a provision for the five shillings weekly?"
"Na, na; I hae paid that o'er lang. At Dron Point you spun your pickle o' tow, and you nursed the sick folk. There is mair spinning here, and mair sick folk. You are nae waur off, but better. And it is little o' the siller I hae given you that has been spent. A' expenses hae come oot o' my pocket."
"I'll no hear tell o'you going awa'! Sich daftness. And surely if you will gae, you'll no leave an auld body like me wi'out some sma' income. You that's got siller."
"I hae nae mair than I want. But I'll ask Davie to do what he thinks he can do for you; seeing that you are my fayther's sister. Puir fayther! I hope he doesna ken how hard you hae been on me."
"You sall not go! I'll no be left my lane—"
"I tell you, aunt, I am going in the morning. There is naebody in Pittenloch can stop me; no, nor Doctor Balmuto himsel'."
Still Janet Caird scarcely believed Maggie. The girl had never been further from home than Kinkell. She thought she would go first to the minister, and she felt sure the minister would send her back home. So when Maggie passed out of the door soon after daybreak, and said "good-bye, Aunt Janet," the old woman answered with an affected laugh—"gude-bye till the sun is doon. The night will bring you hame, Maggie."
Maggie took the hills and was far up them before the village was astir. She had no intention of calling upon the minister; she still resented his last conversation with her, and after what he had said to Davie she had little hopes of obtaining a kind hearing from him just yet. She found Sandy Young's wagon nearly ready to start for Stirling, and she easily got a seat in it. It was a slow, lumbering conveyance, but she was in no hurry; and she enjoyed very much the leisurely drive through lanes, and inland hamlets, and queer old towns. It was a strange and wonderful experience to a girl who had seen little of nature but the sea and the rocks, and little of men, save the men and women of her own distinctive class.
On the evening of the third day she reached Glasgow. It was a clear, blowing March day, very near the anniversary of her father's and brothers' death. Glasgow was in one of its brightest moods; the streets clean and crowded, and the lamplighters just beginning to light them. She easily found her way to the Candleriggs, and to the house in which David lodged. Here, for the first time, her heart failed her. She loitered about the window of the bakery until she had a sense of shame and hunger and weariness that overcame all her fears. "I'm wanting Mr. Promoter, ma'am," she said at length to the woman behind the counter, and the woman looking sharply at her answered, "He's in his room. Go through the close and up the stair; it's at the right hand side."
It seemed strange to knock at her brother's door, and yet Maggie felt as if David would expect it of her. He answered the timid summons by a loud peremptory "Come in;" but when Maggie entered he leaped to his feet in amazement, and let the big book in his hand fall to the floor. There were the remains of tea on the table, and a young man who was sitting with David had pushed the cups aside, and filled their places with his papers and books.
"Ay, it's me, Davie."
"What has brought you to Glasgow?"
"You ken I wouldna come without a good reason. I hope I am na unwelcome." Her eyes filled, she could scarcely endure the strain of uncertainty as she stood before him.
Then he took her hands and kissed her brow, and said, "Cameron, this is my sister, my only near relative, so I'm sure you'll excuse me the night." And the young man, who had been gazing with delight on Maggie's beauty, rose with an apology and went away.
"Now, Maggie, I want to know what has brought you here?"
"Gie me some bread and tea first, for I am fair famished, and then I'll tell you."
"I must also speak to the good wife about a sleeping place for you under her own eye. You'll be going back to-morrow '"
"I'll not go back to Pittenloch again." Then she told him all the wrong and shame and sorrow that had dogged her life since he had left her at the New Year. "Let me stay near by you, Davie. I can sew, I can go oot to service. I'll be happy if I see you one hour on the Sabbath day."
His face was white and stern and pitiless. "You want to ruin my life, Maggie, and your ain too. Mr. Cameron will speak of having seen you here. And it is nae less than evendown ruin for a theology student to have women-folks coming to his room—young women like yoursel'."
"I'm your ain sister, Davie."
"Who is to know that? Can I go about saying to this one and to that one 'the woman who came to see me, or the woman I went to see, on Sabbath last is my sister.' It would not do for you to stay here, for I have company to see me and to study with me, and you and I would both be spoken of. It would not be right for you to take a room and live by yourself, and sew out by the day. You are too noticeable, and I could not spare the time to call and look after you in any way. And as to going out to service, I am mair than astonished to hear you naming a thing like that. We are fisher folk. Nane of the Promoters ever served mortal man as hand-maid or flunkey. We have always served God and cast the nets for a living. We werena indebted to any human being. We aye took our daily bread from His hand. And if you, Maggie Promoter, would dare to go out as a servant I would give you the back of my hand for ever."
"Then what will I do, Davie? What will I do? I am sae miserable. Do hae some pity on me."
"You speak as if happiness was 'the because' of life. Do? Do your duty, and you will be happy, whatever wind blows. And as to my having pity on you, I would love you little if I gave way now to your impatience and your wounded pride. Who loves you if I don't? I am aye thinking of the days when we will have a braw house of our ain. Can you not wait?"
"It is lang waiting; and many a hope goes wi' the weeks and the months. Davie, I canna go back."
"You must go back. I will write a letter to Dr. Balmuto and ask him to put you with some decent family in Kinkell: and keep his own eye on you. What can you want more than that? And let me tell you, Maggie, I think it very unsisterly of you, bothering and hampering me with women's quarrels, when I am making myself a name among them that will be looked to for the carrying on o' the kirk in the future. But I'll say no more, and I'll forgive this romantic folly o' yours, and to-morrow I'll put you in the Stirling train, and you'll go, as I tell you, to Dr. Balmuto."
Maggie made no further objections. David wrote the promised letter, and he spent a part of the next day in showing her the "wonderfuls" of the cathedral and the college. He was even gentle with her at the last, and not a little proud of the evident sensation her fresh, brilliant beauty caused; and he asked her about her money matters, and when he put her in the train, kissed her fondly; and bade her "be brave, and patient, and cheerful."
And still Maggie said nothing. Her eyes were full of tears, and she looked once or twice at her brother in a way that made his heart dirl and ache; but she seemed to have resigned herself to his direction. Only, at the first station beyond Glasgow, she got out of the train, and she allowed it to go on to Stirling without her.
"Brown shell first for the butterfly And a bright wing by and by. Butterfly good-bye to your shell, And, bright wings, speed you well"
In leaving the train Maggie had not yielded to a passing impulse. It was a deliberate act. David's indifference to her happiness, his subordination of all her likes and dislikes, her time, and work, and hopes, to his own ambition shocked and pained her. She had spent the night in thought and had reached a decided conclusion. As they walked about the cathedral and college, and up and down the High Street, while she looked with shuddering horror on the squalid, hopeless poverty of the inhabitants of those localities, she asked her brother where the rich people lived.
"At the West End," answered David. "On Sauchiehall Road, and the crescents further on, away maistly up to Kelvin Grove." And later on, as they were passing down Buchanan Street, he pointed out the stages which ran constantly to these aristocratic quarters of the city, and asked, "if she wished to see them?"
"Ay, I wad like too, but there's little time noo, it will do again."
Yet she took good note of everything, and David Promoter, as he sat that night at his own fireside with his tea and books, little dreamed that his sister Maggie had found herself a home within an hour's ride from the Candleriggs. It was not much of a home, but it satisfied the weary, heart-sore girl. A little back room on a fourth story, with a window looking into a small court; but it was clean and quiet, and the bit of fire burned cheerily, and the widow woman from whom she had rented it made her a refreshing cup of tea, and brought with it the good wheat loaf and the "powdered" butter for which Glasgow is famous; as well as a slice or two of broiled Ayrshire bacon. The food was cheap, and the ordinary food of the people, but it seemed a great treat to the fisher-girl, who had been used to consider wheat flour, fine butter, and bacon, very like luxuries.
And the peace! Oh how good, how good that was! No captious old woman flyting and complaining at every mouthful. No laughing noisy gossips. No irritating interferences. No constant demand on her attention or sympathy. She sat and drank and thanked God with every mouthful; and with grateful tears promised Him to live a good life, and do her honest, kindly duty every hour.
At last too, she could think of Allan without fear of any evil suspicious eye upon her. She had been in such excitement and anxiety for some days, that she had let him slip from her mind; for it was one of this loving woman's superstitions, never to mix his memory with angry or sorrowful thoughts. But in the peace and stillness that followed her meal, she called him back to her. With closed eyes and folded hands she remembered the words he had said to her, remembered the strength and sincerity of his promise, the glow and tenderness of his handsome face, the truth in the firm clasp of his hands, the glance of commingled love and grief which had been his farewell. "I'll never wrong him by a doubt. Never, never, never," she whispered. "If God has willed him to me, there's nane can keep him frae me. Oceans canna part us, nor gold, nor friends, nor time, nor death itself. Allan! Allan! Allan!"
At that moment Allan was in a pretty pleasure yacht idly drifting on the gulf of Mexico. Mardi Gras had taken him to New Orleans, and there he had hired the boat, and was leisurely sailing from one gulf town to another. The skipper was his only companion, but he was fore, and Allan lay under an awning, full of the afternoon's lazy content. The scent of orange blossoms was blown from the shore, the blue waters dimpled in the sunshine, and the flop of their ripple in the clincher-landings was an old and pleasant music to him. Suddenly he sat erect and listened: "Maggie called me. Three times over she called me." The impression upon his spiritual ear was so strong that ere he was aware he had answered the call.
He could dream no longer. His nobler part was on the alert. He was not, however, unhappy. The impression made upon him had been one of love and longing, rather than of distress. His eyes brightened, his face flushed, he walked rapidly about, like a man under a keener sense of life. Lovers see miracles, and believe in them. Allan thought it nothing extraordinary that Maggie's soul should speak to his soul. And why should we doubt the greeting? Do we any of us know what subtle lines are between spirit and spirit? A few years since, who dreamed of sending a message through the air? Is it not more incredible that flesh and blood in New York should speak with flesh and blood in Washington, than that spirits, rare, rapid and vivid as thought, should communicate with each other, even though the circumference of the world be between them? Allan did not try to analyze the circumstance; he had a conviction, positive and delicious, and he never thought of reasoning it away.
With a sense of infinite comfort and content, Maggie read her evening portion, and went to rest. She had determined to enjoy that evening's calm, without letting any thought of the future trouble her; and she awoke in the morning strong and cheerful, and quite ready to face the question of her support. She spoke first to her landlady. "Mistress Malcolm," she said, "I'm a dressmaker, and I want wark. Will you gie me your advice, for I'm not used to city ways?"
"You hae come to the city in a good time though. In the spring there is aye work in plenty. Tak' the 'Herald' and read the advertisements. I hae a paper ben the kitchen, I'll get it for you. See here now! Nae less than nine dressmakers wanting help! The first call comes frae Bute Crescent; that isna ten minutes walk awa'. Go and see the lady."
Half an hour afterward, Maggie was ringing at the door of Mrs. Lauder's house. It was a very handsome one, handsomely furnished, and the show-rooms were gay with the newest fashions. Maggie's beauty and fine figure was an instant commendation. "Can you sew well, and cut, and fit?" asked Mrs. Lauder.
"'Deed, ma'am, I think I can. I was wi' Miss Jean Anderson o' Largo for twa years. She'll say the gude word for me, every way."
"I shall want you to be part of the day in the salesroom; but I will provide you a suitable dress for that purpose; and I will give you ten shillings a week, at first. Will that do?"
"It will do weel, ma'am."
"What is your name?"
"Come to-morrow, Miss Promoter."
"Folks aye call me Maggie."
"Very well. Come to-morrow, Maggie."
The dress provided by Mrs. Lauder was a long, plain, black merino, tightly fitting, with small turned back linen cuffs and collar; and Maggie looked exceedingly handsome and stately in it. Her work was not hard, but the hours were long, and there was no outlook. She could not lift her head and catch from the sea the feeling of limitless space and freedom. Still she was happy. It was better to live among strangers who always gave her the civil word, than to be with kin who used the freedom of their relationship only to wound and annoy her. And her little room was always a sanctuary in which she found strength and peace. Also, the Sabbath was all her own; and her place in the kirk to which she regularly went was generally filled an hour before service bells. That kirk was a good place to Maggie. She was one of those delightsome women, who in this faithless age, have a fervent and beautiful faith in God. Into His temple she took no earthly thought, but kept her heart, there,
"one silent space, A little sacred spot of loneliness. Where to set up the memory of His cross, A little quiet garden, sacred still To visions of His sorrow, and His love"
So the weeks went calmly, and not unpleasantly away. Now and then she had a restless heartache about David; and three times she walked all the way to the Barony kirk, where she knew he worshiped, to get a sight of her brother. She did not fear to do so. David Promoter, on Sabbath days, looked neither to the right hand nor to the left. In the kirk his pale grave face was bent toward his Bible, or lifted to the preacher. Maggie could have sat within the touch of his hand and he would not have seen her. But she got no comfort from these visits to David's kirk, and she missed all the comfort of her own kirk. So she finally said to herself— "I'll tak' my ain road, and I'll ne'er look his road, and when it will be the right time, the twa roads will meet again."
As the summer advanced there was less work to do, and she frequently was at home in sufficient time to stroll along Kelvin side, or visit the Botanic Gardens. Inland scenery, trees, and, above all things, flowers, greatly delighted her. It gave her a thrill of exquisite pleasure to tread among long, green grass, and feel the wavering sunshine and shadows of the woods about her; and in the midsummer month, when she was to have a short holiday, she promised herself many days of such pure and natural enjoyment.
But often fortune has better plans for us than we make for ourselves. One day, near the end of June, Maggie was standing at an upper window, gazing wistfully at the little park, full of pretty shrubs, which belonged specially to Bute Crescent. A handsome carriage rapidly took the turn, came dashing up the broad gravelled sweep, and stopped at Mrs. Lauder's house. In a few minutes there was a call for Maggie, and she went down stairs. The customer was before a long mirror with a mantle of black silk and lace in her hands. She was a young lady, slight and small, and as Maggie entered she turned toward her.
It was Mary Campbell, and Mary knew in a moment who the tall beautiful woman in the black dress was. She was very much astonished, but she did not in any way betray her surprise. On the contrary, she gathered her faculties quickly together and looked at Maggie critically, and at first without kindness.
Mary was at this time living at Drumloch, but a variety of business had brought her to Glasgow for a week or two. Her first impulse was to go to her uncle and tell him of her discovery. Her second was to keep it, at least for a little while, to herself. It was almost certain that there had been some great change in the girl's circumstances, or else she had come to Glasgow in search of her lover. Mary could not tell how much or how little Maggie knew of Allan's movements and intentions; she thought it likely the girl had grown impatient and left her home. If so, perhaps it was her duty to interfere in a life brought so directly to her notice. She almost wished she had not seen her; gratified curiosity is very well, but if it bring with it a sense of obligation, it may not be worth the price to be paid.
Such were the drift of Mary's thoughts; and yet for Allan's sake she felt that Maggie ought to be cared for. If she did not choose to assume the charge, she ought to tell her uncle. Mary's conscience had taken up the question, and Mary's conscience was a tyrannical one. It gave her no rest about Maggie. "Maggie!" She repeated the name with a smile. "I knew she would have to come down to 'Maggie' or 'Jennie'. I said so. Oh, Theodora, what a fall! But she is handsome, there is no doubt of that. And she walks as a mortal ought to walk, 'made a little lower than the angels'. And she really has a ravishing smile, and perfect teeth also. I own I was afraid about the teeth, nature generally forgets that detail. And her hands, if large, are shapely; and her hair is a glory, as it ought to be in a woman —and I wonder who taught her to dress it, and if she herself chose the long, plain, black garment. Maggie is more of a puzzle than ever. I think I will find her out without Uncle John's help."
The next day, and every day afterward for a week, she went to Mrs. Lauder's on some pretext or other. She always saw Maggie. She made little plans to see her, and she went away from every interview feeling a greater bondage to her. "I suppose I shall have to take her back to Drumloch with me!" As her visit to Glasgow drew to its close she came to this conclusion. She felt that for Allan's sake Maggie had a claim on their care; either John Campbell or herself ought to find out if she needed help or friends, and after consideration Mary thought she had better assume the charge. John Campbell would go straight to her, tell her who he was, and invite her to Blytheswood Square, and, in fact, take the girl wholly on trust. Mary also meant to be kind to her, but how hard it is for a woman to do a kindness as God does it, without saying, "Whose son art thou?"
Just before her return to Drumloch, she said to Mrs. Lauder, "I want some one to sew in my house. Do you think Maggie would give me a couple of months. You cannot need her until September."
"I think she will be very willing. I will send her to you."
"Mistress Lauder says you wad like me to go wi' you, Miss Campbell. I'll be glad to do it. I am just wearying for the country, and I'll do my best to pleasure you."
"Oh, thank you. It is to sew table damask. I will give you. L5 a month."
"That is gude pay. I'll be gratefu' for it."
"Be ready by nine o'clock to-morrow morning. I will call here for you."
Drumloch was a very ancient place. The older portion was battlemented, and had been frequently held against powerful enemies; but this part of the building was merely the nucleus of many more modern additions. It stood in one of the loveliest locations in Ayrshire, and was in every respect a home of great splendor and beauty. Maggie had never dreamt of such a place. The lofty halls and rooms, the wide stairways, the picturesque air of antiquity, the fine park and gardens, the wealth of fruits and flowers quite bewildered her. Mary took her first real liking to the girl as she wandered with her through the pleasant places of Drumloch. Maggie said so frankly what she liked and what she did not like; and yet she had much graceful ingenuousness, and extremely delicate perceptions. Often she showed the blank amazement of a bird that has just left the nest, again she would utter some keen, deep saying, that made Mary turn to her with curious wonder. Individualities developed by the Bible have these strange contradictions, because to great guilelessness they unite an intimate knowledge of their own hearts.
Mary had been much troubled as to where, and how, she was to place this girl. As David had boasted, she belonged to a race "who serve not." "She may come to be mistress of Drumloch. It is not improbable. I will not make a menial of her. That would be a shame and a wrong to Allan." She had formed this decision as they rode together in the train, and acting upon it, she said, "Maggie, what is your name—all your name?"
"My name is Margaret Promoter. I hae been aye called Maggie."
"I will call you Maggie, then; but my servants will call you Miss Promoter. You understand?"
"If it is your will, Miss Campbell."
"It is my wish, Maggie. You are to be with me entirely; and they must respect my companion. Can you read aloud, Maggie?"
"I wad do my best."
"Because I want you to read a great deal to me. There is so much fine sewing to do, I thought as we worked together one of us could have a needle, the other a book."
Following out this idea, she gave Maggie a pretty room near her own. Into one adjoining immense quantities of the finest linen and damask were brought. "I am just going to housekeeping, Maggie," said Mary, "and Drumloch is to have the handsomest napery in Ayrshire. Did you ever see lovelier damask? It is worthy of the most dainty stitches, and it shall have them." Still Maggie's domestic status hung in the balance. For a week her meals were served in her own room, on the plea of fatigue. Mary did not feel as if she could put her with the housekeeper and upper servants; she could not quite make up her mind to bring her to her own table. A conversation with Maggie one morning decided the matter. She found her standing at the open window looking over the lovely strath, and the "bonnie Doon," with eyes full of happy tears.
"It is a sweet spot, Maggie."
"It is the sweetest spot on earth, I think."
"If we only had a view of the sea. We might have, by felling timber."
Maggie shook her head. "I dinna like the sea. 'There is sorrow on the sea, it canna be quiet.' [Footnote: Jeremiah 49, v. 23.] I ken't a fisher's wife wha aye said, the sweetest promise in a' the Book, was that in the Revelations, 'there shall be nae sea there.'"
"Did you ever live near the sea?"
"Ay; I was born on the coast of Fife."
"Have you any kin living?"
"I hae a brother—he minds me little."
"Promoter, I never heard the name before."
"It is a Fife name. The Promoters dinna wander far. If my fayther hadna been drowned, I should hae stayed wi' my ain folk."
"But you are glad to have seen more of the world. You would not like to go back to Fife, now?"
"If my eye hadna seen, my heart wouldna hae wanted. I was happy."
"Promoter is an uncommon name. I never knew a Promoter before; but the Campbells are a big clan. I dare say you have known a great many Campbells?"
"The man whom fayther sold his fish to was a Campbell. And the woman I lodged wi' in Glasgow had a daughter married to a Campbell. And Mistress Lauder often sent me to Campbell's big store for silk and trimmings. And whiles, there was a minister preached in oor kirk, called Campbell—and there is yoursel', miss, the best o' them all to Maggie Promoter."
"Thank you, Maggie." Not in the faintest way had Maggie betrayed her knowledge of Allan, and Mary respected her for the reticence very much. "Now for our work. I will sew, and you shall read aloud. I want you to learn how to talk as I do, and reading aloud is an excellent exercise."
"I'll ne'er speak such high English as you, and I like my braid Scotch weel."
"But your voice is so delightful when you say the words as you ought to. You can read 'high English,' why not talk it?"
"My ain tongue is mair homelike and kindly. But I'll try yours, an' you want me to."
After Mary had listened an hour, she suddenly interrupted Maggie. "You read that love scene with wonderful feeling. Had you ever a lover, Maggie?"
"Maist girls have lovers. I couldna expect to escape. You will dootless hae lovers yoursel', ma'am?"
"I had one lover, Maggie, not much of a lover, he wanted to marry Drumloch, not me."
"That was a' wrang. Folks shouldna marry for gold. Sorrow comes that way."
"You would not, I am sure'"
"No, not for a' the gold in Scotland."
"Is your lover poor then, Maggie?"
"I ne'er asked him if he had this or that. He is a gude kind lad."
"Did he ever give you any beautiful things—precious rings or lockets—as the lovers in books do? The Sir Everard of whom you have just been reading gave Lady Hilda a ring of diamonds and opals, you remember?"
"The Fife lads break a sixpence in twa wi' their troth lass; and I hae my half sixpence. There can be no ring but a wedding ring for a lassie like me."
Then Mary laid down her work, and as she passed Maggie she touched her gently, and smiled in her face. She was rapidly coming to a decision; a few minutes in her own room enabled her to reach it. "The girl is a born lady; I gave her every opportunity, but neither to the text of 'Campbell,' nor 'lover,' did she betray herself or Allan. And really, when I think of it, I had almost a special direction about her. I did not intend to go to Mrs. Lauder's that morning. I should not have gone, if Madame Bartholemew had been at home. I should not have gone if Miss Fleming had been able to do my work. Maggie has evidently been put in my charge. Not to go any higher than Uncle John and Allan, I think when they demand her of me, they will say—'Where is thy sister?' not 'Where is thy servant maid, or thy sewing maid.' But I must be sure of myself. If I accept this obligation, I must accept it fully with all its contingencies and results. Can I be generous enough? Patient enough? Just enough? Loving enough?" And no wonder men honor good women! Who could have helped honoring Mary Campbell who saw her stand with honest purpose examining her own heart, and then lowly kneeling, asking God's blessing and help for the resolve so consecrated.
It was no light favor to be quickly given and quickly removed. Most good things are gradual; and Mary's kindness fell as the dew, a little in the morning, and a little in the evening. Here, a formality was dropped; there a tangible token of equality given. First, the evening dresses of white mull and pale merinos; then the meal at her table, and the seat in her carriage. And when this point had been reached, it had been so naturally and unobtrusively reached, that even the servants only remembered the first days of Maggie's residence at Drumloch, as a time when "Miss Promoter dootless had a sorrow o' her ain, and keepit much to hersel'."
With a more conventional girl, Mary might have had much difficulty in reaching this state of affairs; but Maggie took her kindness with the simple pleasure and gratitude of a child; and she certainly had not the faintest conception of Mary Campbell's relation to Allan.
Allan had distinctly spoken of his home as being in Bute; and of his cousin, as living in the same house with him from her childhood. Mary, in her own castle in Ayrshire, was certainly far enough away from all Allan's statements to destroy every suspicion of her identify. And the name of "Campbell" told her nothing at all. As Mary said, "The Campbells were a big clan." They abounded throughout the west of Scotland. Around Drumloch, every third man was a Campbell. In Glasgow the name was prominent on the sign boards of every street. In a Fife fishing village there are rarely more than four or five surnames. A surname had not much importance in Maggie's eyes. She had certainly noticed that "Campbell" frequently met "Promoter;" but certain names seem to have affinities for certain lives; at least certain letters do; and Maggie, quoting a superstition of her class, settled the matter to her own satisfaction, by reflecting "what comes to me wi' a 'C,' aye comes wi' good to me."
TO THE HEBRIDES.
"And yet when all is thought and said. The heart still overrules the head."
"From the lone shieling of the misty islands. Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas: But we in dreams behold the Hebrides."
One morning toward the end of July, Mary was reading the "Glasgow Herald." "Maggie," she said, "one of the Promoters has evidently left Fife, for I see the name among the list of students—David Promoter—he has done wondrously. The man is a miracle, he has taken every prize in his classes, I think."
"I'm right glad to hear tell o' it. I must aye wish weel—"
"Well, Maggie, not weel."
"Well, to the name."
It was true. David had overstepped even his own ambition. He had finished the term with an ovation from his fellows, and he had been urged to go with Prof. Laird's son to the outer Hebrides. And now that the strain of his study was over, and the goal, so far, nobly won, he could afford to remember his sister. Indeed David deserves more justice than these words imply. He had often thought of her since that March afternoon when he had put her into the train for Stirling. But he really believed that his first duty was to his studies, and he fully expected that his letter to Dr. Balmuto would be a sufficient movement to insure her welfare. Practically, he had thrown his own duty upon the minister's conscience, but he felt sure that the good man had accepted the obligation, for if not, he would certainly have written to him on the subject.
He sent the doctor the newspapers advertising his success, and a couple of days afterward went to Kinkell. Young Laird did not require his company for a week, and he thought well of himself for taking a journey to Fife merely to pleasure his sister, before he took his own pleasure. He had improved much in personal appearance during his residence in Glasgow. He was well dressed, and he had acquired an easy confidence of manner which rather took Dr. Balmuto by surprise. Perhaps it irritated him a little also; for he was not at all satisfied with David. The first words he said were not words of congratulation, they were a stern inquiry.
"David Promoter, where is your sister Maggie? Has she come back with you?"
"I came to ask you about Maggie, sir."
"Me! What way would you come to me? I have nothing to do with Maggie Promoter."
"Sir, when she left me last March, I gave her a letter to you, and put her in the train that was to bring her here."
"What did you write to me about?"
"I told you how unhappy and dissatisfied my sister was at Pittenloch; and I asked you to advise her to stay at Kinkell under your eye. Then none could speak ill o' her."
"Why under my eye? Are you not your sister's natural protector?"
"My studies—my college duties—"
"Your first duty was Maggie. You will be a miserable divine, let me tell you, if you have not plenty of humanity in you; and the kirk and the household are bound together with bands that cannot be broken. What is the worth of all the Greek you know, if you have forgotten your own flesh and blood? I'll not give you one word of praise, David, until you can tell me that Maggie is well and doing well."
"My God! Maggie not here! Where then is she? I must awa' to Pittenloch; maybe she is gone back there."
"No, she has not gone back. Poor girl! What would she go back there for? To be worried to death by a lad she hates, and a lot of women who hate her? I went to Pittenloch a week after she left, and I had a day of inquiries and examinations; and I can tell you Maggie has been sair wronged. That old woman in your house has the poison of hell under her tongue:—and the lifted shoulder and the slant eye, what woman can stand them? So she went to her brother, as a good girl past her wits would do, and her brother put her on the train and sent her back to her sorrow!"
"I sent her to you, sir. I thought I could trust in you—"
"Why to me, I ask again? You knew that I had spoken sharply to her at the New Year, how was she likely to come to me then? Where is your sister, David Promoter?"
"You should hae written to me, sir, when you found out that Maggie was gone from her hame."
"I thought, everyone thought, she was with you. I am shocked to find she is not. Whom else can she be with? Whom have you driven her to?"
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Where is Allan Campbell? That is what you must next find out."
David looked at the minister like one distraught.
"I can't understand—I can't believe—gie me a drink o' water, sir."
He was faint and sick and trembling. He drank and sat down a few minutes; but though the doctor spoke more kindly, and set clearly before him what was best to be done, he heard nothing distinctly. As soon as he was able, even while the doctor was speaking, he rose and went out of the house. Sorrow has the privilege to neglect ceremonies, and David offered no parting courtesy, but for this omission the minister was rather pleased than angry with him:
"The lad has some heart, God be thanked!" he muttered, "and the day will come when he will be grateful to me for troubling it."
David went with rapid steps down the rocks to Pittenloch. How hateful the place looked to him that afternoon! How dreary those few tossing boats! How mean the cottages! How vulgar the women in their open doors! How disagreeable the bare-footed children that recognized him and ran hither and thither with the news of his arrival.
He was full of shame and anger. Where was his praise, where was his honor, with this disgrace in his home? How could he show those newspapers extolling his diligence and attainments, when Maggie had made his very success a disgrace to him? Oh, how bitterly he felt toward her!
Mistress Caird met him at the door with her apron at her eyes: "Come in, sir," she said, with a courtesy, "though it is a sorrowfu' house you come to."
"Aunt Janet, you have been drinking. I smell the whiskey above everything. Ah, there is the bottle!" His sharp eyes had seen it behind the tea caddy on the mantelshelf. He took it and flung it upon the shingle as far as his arm could send it.
"That is my ain whiskey, David; bought wi' my ain siller, and the gude ken I need a wee drappie to keep my vera heart frae breaking wi' the sorrow I hae had."
"Say, wi' the sorrow you hae made. Pack your trunk, Aunt Janet. I'll take you to Dron Point in the morning."
He would talk no more to her. He let her rave and explain and scold, but sat silent on his hearth, and would go and see none of his old friends. But it did console him somewhat that they came crowding in to see him. That reaction which sooner or later takes place in favor of the injured had taken place in Maggie's favor since the minister's last visit. Mistress Caird felt that she was leaving Pittenloch something like a social criminal. No one came to bid her farewell. David and a boy he hired took her silently to her old home. She had sacrificed every good feeling and sentiment for popularity, and everyone spoke ill of her.
Getting near to Dron Point, she said to David, "You are a miserable set-up bit o' a man; but you'll pay me the L4 10s. you are owing me, or I'll send the constable and the sherra a' the way to Glasca' for it."
"I owe you nothing, woman."
"Woman, indeed! Maggie, the hizzy!—agreed to gie me five shillings weekly if I wad say the gude word for her she ne'er deserved, and I havna been paid for eighteen weeks. That mak's it L4 10s. Just hand o'er the siller and be done wi' it."
"It is a theft, an extortion;" but he took a L5 note from his pocket-book and gave her it. "That is a gratuity," he said, "a gratuity to help you until you find employment. I do not owe you a penny."
"There's nae gratuity in honest earned money; and if you wad gie me L50 it wad be too little to pay me for the loss o' health and time and gude name I hae made through you and yours. Set you up for a minister, indeed! Clean your ain door-stane before you speak o' other folks. I'm glad to be rid o' the sight and the hearing o' you."
That was the parting shot, and David could have very heartily returned it. But he heeded his Bible rule, and to her railing made no answer. Janet would rather have been sworn at. He left her bargaining with a man to take her blue kist to the village public, but he did not return to Pittenloch. He had given Elder Mackelvine the key of the cottage, and the elder had promised to find a proper woman to care for it. So he sent the boy back with the boat, and found the quickest way from Dron Point to Glasgow.
In his last interview with Allan Campbell, Allan had told him, if any difficulty arose about his money matters, or if he needed more money before he returned, to go to his father; and in view of such an emergency, had given David the address of Campbell & Co. He went there as soon as he arrived in Glasgow. It was in the middle of the afternoon and John Campbell had just gone to his house in Blytheswood Square. The young man who answered his inquiry was pleasant spoken, and trustworthy, and David said to him—"Where is Mr. Allan Campbell?"
"He is in the United States. I believe in New Orleans."
"When will he return?"
"It is very uncertain. Not for a year or more."
Then he concluded that Maggie had gone to him. That was the thing Dr. Balmuto feared. What a fool he had been not to suspect earlier what everyone else, doubtless, perceived. One hope yet remained. He wrote to the Largo Bank about the L50. If Maggie had lifted it, then he would feel certain she was doing honestly for herself, in some quiet village, or perhaps, even in Glasgow. But when he found the money had not been touched, he accepted without further hope the loss and the shame. It is so much easier to believe evil than good, even of those we love. Yet, how could David, knowing Maggie as he did, do her this shame? Alas! David Promoter thought very badly of the majority of men and women. It was his opinion that God had so made them, that they preferred evil to good, and only by some special kind of Divine favor and help—such as had been vouchsafed to himself—chose the right road.
He certainly grieved for Maggie; but oh! how bitterly he felt the wrong she had done him. For her own indulgence, how she would curtail and cramp all his future college course! He had hitherto dressed well, and been able to buy easily all the books he needed. For the future he would have to rely upon his own exertions; for his first decision had been to pay back the money he had taken from Allan's fund, and make the proceeds of his teaching defray his class fees. When he had done this, he had only L8 left, out of the L50 which his father had left accumulated; but he was to receive L25 from Prof. Laird for his two months' services, and with this L33, and the stray teaching he would certainly find to do, he really had no fear of pushing his way through the next year. But yet he felt keenly the bondage to care and necessity which Maggie's selfishness had put him under. He never thought of blaming himself. It did not occur to him that she had rights as sacred as his own. "The cruelty of her! The cruelty of her!" he kept saying, as he moodily paced his little room. He did not remember his own indifference, nor reflect that a trifle of kindness, even the small favor of a-weekly visit, would have kept the girl contentedly under his own eye.
But David had marked out his course, and he was not the man to permit any woman to seriously interfere with his plans. He put down with a mighty will his grief and disappointment, and shame, and went off to the Hebrides with his pupil. But in spite of himself, Maggie went with him. He was compelled to be very economical, and he could not quite get rid of anxiety, and of planning for the future, which the change in his money affairs forced upon him. And it was all Maggie's fault. "Her weakness, her craving 'to be made of,' and to be happy, her inability to bear a little feminine gossip, her longing after the companionship of himself —or another." Maggie, after all, spoiled the trip to which he had looked forward for half a year with longing and delight.
When he returned to the Candleriggs, the first thing he saw was a letter from Maggie. It had been lying upon his table for some weeks. In fact Maggie had written it soon after her removal to Drumloch, but she did not wish to post it from so small a place, and she therefore waited until her first visit to Glasgow, which occurred early in August. She had remembered the time when it was possible that David might go to Pittenloch, and she feared that he would be very miserable when he found out that she had never returned to Kinkell. Without revealing her own location or circumstances, she wished to satisfy him as far as possible of her innocence and welfare; so she had thus written—
"Dear Davie. I am feared you will not get this, ere you find out I did not go back yonder day you sent me. I have met with good friends, and am living honest and happy. Have no fear anent me. I will do right, and do well. Where I am there is no ill can be said of me, and no ill can come to me. I was glad beyond telling to read of your well-doing. You'll win to the top of the tree, Davie, I aye thought that. Some day, you will find it in your heart to love Maggie, and to forgive her, that she was forced to lay an anxious thought on you. Your true, loving sister, Maggie Promoter."
The letter was a comfort to him, and for a moment or two a great surprise. The writing was Maggie's writing, but much improved, the spelling was correct. It was evident that she was trying to teach herself, and it pleased him somewhat; although he was far from considering education as a necessity for women. "To think of Maggie reading the newspapers!" he exclaimed; "but then," he reflected, "she had doubtless been looking for a word about him," and with this thought, he became just, even tender, to her memory. As he folded away the letter, he said, "I was wrong to think wrong of her. She was always a good girl, and very fond of me. It would be long ere she would do aught to hurt my good name. It's no to be thought of." So with a lighter heart he went bravely to work again, and the weeks and months in their busy monotony passed wisely and quickly away.
To Maggie also, they went wisely and quickly, although life at Drumloch was far from being monotonous. Mary had the quick, nervous temperament which is eager for change and movement. She went frequently into Glasgow to give and to attend entertainments, for Drumloch was yet in the hands of painters and upholsterers. But she always went alone. She had fully made up her mind that it would not be well to let John Campbell see Maggie. If he liked her, he would be sure to write to Allan, and curtail his probation, and Mary felt that such a course would be an injustice to her plans for the gradual preparation of the girl for the position she might have to fill.
So Maggie was left in charge at Drumloch. Almost imperceptibly she rose to this duty. First one thing, then another, was fully grasped by her, until the steward and the housekeeper took her directions as readily as they did those of Miss Campbell. Maggie had a natural aptitude for comprehending small pecuniary and household details, "accounts" did not confuse her, and they did seriously confuse Mary. She could make nothing of the "books" which her head servants rendered weekly, and which were clear to Maggie. So, while Mary was entertaining in Blytheswood Square, and going to dinner parties, and dances, Maggie was equally happy looking after the hundred things which from the village, the farm, the gardens and the house demanded her supervision and direction.
During this winter John Campbell did not often visit Drumloch, and when he did Mary had always a long list of shopping for Maggie to attend to in Glasgow. The change was pleasant to Maggie and it was also pleasant to Mary; for it cannot be denied, that she sometimes, at this period, chafed under her self-imposed duty. Every one has peculiarities; they may be admirable ones, and yet be irritating to those whose peculiarities run in a different direction. There were occasional days in which Mary felt that it was the first necessity of life to get rid of Maggie Promoter for a little while. But she never suffered Maggie to suspect this feeling; she was even at such times effusively kind to her, and generally compromised with her conscience by giving her protege some rich or pretty present.
Thus the winter passed, and in May Mary went to London. John Campbell accompanied her; he had not been well for some months and he hoped the change of scene would benefit him. Also, he had a great pride in his niece, and he was no little pleased when she was presented at Court, and for some months reigned a belle in the very best Scottish society in the metropolis. At this time she had not much interest in Drumloch, though Maggie wrote to her daily, and Maggie's letters were wonderfully clever and amusing. And yet she had not received any special lessons; she had simply passed in a silent sort of way out of a region of ignorance, into one penetrated by the thought of educated men and women. There had been in her mentally a happy unconscious growth upward, like that of a well-watered plant. But no system of education could have been so excellently fitted for her development. The charge taught her self-reliance; the undisputed authority she wielded imparted to her manner ease and dignity, and that nameless something which is the result of assured position. There was also the advantage of a conscious, persistent effort on Maggie's own part; she tried to make every letter she wrote more neat, and clear, and interesting. She took pride in the arrangement of her hair, was anxious about the fit of her dresses, and did not regard the right mixture of colors in her costumes as a thing beneath her consideration. Early in July Mary returned to Drumloch. She had come as far as Glasgow with a party who were going to Oban. Oban was then little known. During the summer tourists of the wealthy and cultivated classes, who had read Scott's "Lord of Isles," came on short pilgrimages to the pretty clachan; but it was not, as now, the Charing Cross of the Highlands, where all the world you see.
"The doctor and the scholar. The poor man with his penny fee. The rich man with his dollar. The priest who steals short holiday, The prince who goes incog, sir The schoolboy with his dreams of play, The sportsman with his dog, sir."
"We are going over classic ground, Maggie, and we will read the 'Lord of the Isles' together this week, ere we put a foot on it," said Mary, who was in a merry mood with life, and all the love and care of it.
"But if I go also, what shall be done with Drumloch?"
"Mrs. Leslie and Bruce will do the best they can; and for the rest, let things 'gae tapsal-teerie,' as Uncle John says. I have made up my mind, Maggie, to take you with us, and I am not going to be disappointed for a trifle. Oh, Maggie! how we shall enjoy the great bens, and the corries hazy with blue bells, and the wonderful isles of Skye and Iona."
"Skye! My mother was a Skye woman. I should like well to see Skye. How long shall we be away?"
"Only a month. Winter comes soon among the mountains, and the roads are bad, even the sea road, which is the one we shall take."
"I have a tryst," said Maggie, blushing scarlet; "it is at the end of August. I canna break it; if I did, life would be a miserable uncertainty to me, and maybe, to some one else."
Then Mary remembered how nearly the two years of Allan's absence were over; and she understood well what tryst Maggie had to keep. "We shall be back in Glasgow by the 20th of August. How long will it take you to keep this tryst, Maggie?"
"I would ask a week to go and come again."
"But would you come again?"
"I would do that whate'er befell."
"Do you think your lover will be there?"
"He said that."
"And do you believe in him after two years?"
"Yes. I believe in every word he said. He will be there."
"You shall be there also, Maggie, though we should have to send special horses and carriages with you. I intend to be back at Drumloch about the 22d, that will give you plenty of time. When you return we will go to Blytheswood Square, until Uncle John gets home."
"What would take him at all to a heathen country like Russia?"
"They are not quite heathens, Maggie; indeed, I believe they claim to be the best kind of Christians; and Russian rubles turn into very good English sovereigns. There was some trouble about one of his ships at Odessa, and as a very clever London physician said that Uncle John needed travel and change, he thought he would go himself and see about it. But he is one of those men who do not like to tread in their own footsteps, so instead of coming back by the way he went, he will pass through Russia northward, to a port on the Baltic, called Riga, where also he has some business. I think Riga is on the Baltic; suppose you get the atlas, and we will trace his course together."
"I have heard you speak much of Mr. Campbell, I would like well to see him."
"You should have seen him ere this, Maggie; but I was waiting until —until, you looked and spoke as you do this morning;" and she rose and kissed the blush of Maggie's cheek, and then turned the conversation to the dark tartans which she thought would be the best material for travelling dresses. "And we want them very prettily made," she added, with a rising color, "for it is fine folk we are going to meet, Maggie—Lord John Forfar, and Captain Manners, and Lady Emma Bruce, and Miss Napier; so you see, Miss Promoter and Miss Campbell must dress accordingly."
Maggie was young enough and happy enough to feel all the excitement of the proposed trip. Still she was troubled about her tryst with Allan. Oban and the Highlands were so far away. In Pittenloch, her mother, coming from Skye, had been looked upon almost as a foreigner. She was quite unable to compute the distances; she knew nothing of the time it would take to travel them: she felt ashamed to show anxiety to Mary on the matter. "But I'll trust my way to His ordering. He'll no let me be too late for any good thing He wills me;" and having thus settled the subject in her heart, she went about the necessary preparations in a joy of anticipation, which made Mary feel how pleasant it would be to have so fresh and charming a companion.