Two weeks afterward they were in Oban, watching from the heights the exquisite bay, and the lovely isle of Kerrera, the high mountains of Mull, and Ossian's "Misty Morven." The Petrel, a cutter yacht of forty tons, was lying at anchor. In the morning they were to start for a glimpse of the Atlantic across the purple bogs of the Lews; going by way of Mull and Canna, and swinging round Barra Head, toward the red, rent bastions of Skye. Through that charmful circle of the outer isles, with their slumbrous tarns, and meres, and treeless solitudes they went. And oh, how full of strange and dreamy beauty were the long quiet summer days in that land of mystic forgetfulness! that great, secret land of waters, with its irresistible tides, and the constant ocean murmur haunting it like a spirit voice.
Maggie enjoyed them with all her soul, though she did not speak in italics about her feelings; perhaps she did not know very well how to express herself. Forty years ago, even highly educated women did not rave about scenery, they knew nothing of shadows and colors, nothing of "effects" scarped, jagged and rifted. Neither had they any uneasy consciousness that they ought to blend the simple delights of fresh air, fresh scenes, and pleasant company, with some higher kind of recreation.
Coming home through the sound of Barra, Mary said, "We are a day or two late, Maggie, but I have not forgotten your tryst. We shall run down the coast now, and round the Mull of Kintyre on the 24th. The next day we may be at Drumloch, that will be early enough?"
"Mair than enough, Miss Campbell. I needna leave Drumloch until the 27th, though if it came easy I would leave before that."
"How near we are to the cliffs; we are rippling the shadows along shore. Look at those forlorn headlands, Maggie. It was the sombre sadness of this land that charmed the early saints, and girt all these isles with their solitary cells."
"I liked well to read about them; and I can never think of Iona without remembering Columba with his face bright from the communion of angels."
"And the hymn he wrote there, Maggie, we shall never forget that; it breathes the soul of the saint, and pictures the scene of his saintship. Now to the cries of the sea-birds overhead, let us have a few lines; the swell of the waves will keep the time and the tune."
"That I might often see The face of the ocean. That I might see its heaving waves Over the wide ocean, When they chaunt music to their Father Upon the world's course, That I might see its level sparkling strand, It would be no cause of sorrow, That I might hear the songs of the wonderful birds, Source of happiness; That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves Upon the rocks; That I might hear the roar by the side of the church Of the surrounding sea, That I might see its ebb and flood In their career; That I might bless the Lord Who conserves all, Heaven with its countless bright orders. Land, strand and flood. At times kneeling to beloved Heaven; At times psalm-singing; At times contemplating the King of Heaven, Holy, the Chief; At times work without compulsion; This would be delightful; At times plucking duilisc from the rocks; At times fishing; At times giving food to the poor; At times in a solitary cell. The best advice in the presence of God To me has been vouchsafed. The King, whose servant I am, will not let Anything deceive me."
Skene, Celtic Scotland, v. 2, p. 93.
"Thank you, Maggie, historical places are not much to see, often, but they are a great deal to feel. That hymn set me back into the sixth century, and I have been wondering what sort of women you and I would have been then. Perhaps nuns, Maggie."
"We will not think ill o' ourselves, Miss Campbell. Nane o' the Promoters were ever Catholics."
"The Campbells prayed as the king prayed always—we have been a prudent clan for both worlds, Maggie. 'To get on' has been the one thing needful with us; but there are many families of that kind. Has not the wind changed?"
"Yes; it looks like bad weather;" and the mist as she spoke came rolling down the sound with the swoop of a falcon. Hitherto they had been singularly fortunate. "Fine weather and fair winds," had been the usual morning greeting; or if a passing squall appeared it had found them near to some sheltered loch, or inlet. Lord Forfar was for putting into Boisdale, for the glass was going down rapidly; but Lady Bruce was sure, "a little breeze would be a most delightful change."
It was not very likely to be so with the wind rising out of the northeast; and ere long the Petrel's topmast was sent down, and a double reef put in her mainsail. Until midnight it blew hard with a fast rising sea, and a mist as thick as a hedge. After this, it was ugly weather all the way home, and as they passed Ailsa Craig the wind changed to full north, and fetched the sea down with it.
"The waves come high down the Frith," said Maggie to the owner of the yacht, a hardy young fellow who leaned against the taffrail, and watched his boat hammering through the heavy seas.
"They come any size you like down here, Miss Promoter. But our skipper is a good sailor; he has only one fault; he drives a boat without mercy. Still I think even Captain Toddy will run for shelter to-night."
Captain Toddy thought not. He had a name for carrying on, and the Petrel was not his boat if she did get a bit crushed. So the ladies, sitting under the weather railing, watched the storm from among the folds of yellow oilskin in which they had been tucked. Ere long, in the thick of a gusty squall, the Petrel took her first header very heavily. Her bow disappeared to the butts, and with a tremendous noise the sea came over the deck in a deluge. Every plunge she made it was the same thing, and all of the ladies were thoroughly drenched. The cabin was wet and miserable, and there was no promise of any favorable change. Evidently the best thing to do was to make for the port of Ayr; for on the following day Mary Campbell was suffering very much from the effects of her exposure, and when Captain Toddy let the anchor fly underfoot pretty near the 'auld Brig' she was in a high fever, and breathing with pain and difficulty.
THE BROKEN TRYST.
"I sit on my creepie, and spin at my wheel, And I think on the laddie that lo'ed me sae weel; He had but ae sixpence, he brake it in twa, And gied me the hauf o' t when he gaed awa'. He said, think na lang lassie tho' I gang awa'. I'll come and see you in spite o' them a'"
—Logie O Buchan.
"I am going to be ill," said Mary, with trembling lips, "I feel as if I were walking into a great darkness, Maggie."
They were driving toward Drumloch in the early morning, and there was that haunted, terrified look in her eyes, with which a soul apprehensive of suffering and danger bespeaks the help and sympathy of those near to it. Maggie had seen the look before; the little children dying upon her knees had pierced her heart with it. She remembered it, even in the eyes of strong men driven by a sense of duty or humanity into the jaws of death. Mary took her hand and clung to it; and let her head fall helplessly upon Maggie's breast. When they reached home, she had almost to be carried to her room, and servants were sent off on fleet horses for medical aid.
"A bad case of inflammation of the lungs," was the doctor's verdict. "It is likely to be a serious business, Miss Promoter, and Miss Campbell's friends should be informed at once of her condition."
Mary would not be spoken to on the subject. "Her uncle," she said, "was her only friend. In his last letter he had told her to send communications to the Hotel Neva at Riga. It was uncertain when he would get there. And what was the use of alarming him, when he was too far away to help her?" Maggie perceived from the first moment of Mary's conviction of danger and suffering, that the girl had flung herself upon her love and care. With all her soul she accepted the charge. She would have held herself as unworthy to live if she had had one moment's reluctance in the matter. In strong physical anguish it is almost impossible to be generous and self-forgetting, and Mary, in the first hours of acute, lacerating agony, forgot all things but her ever-present need of relief. Early in the second day the fever reached the brain, and her talk became incoherent. It required all Maggie's firm strength and tender love to control the suffering girl.
And it was nearly time for her tryst with Allan. On the twenty-ninth of August he had bidden her farewell; two years from that day he had promised to be in Pittenloch. She believed he would keep his promise; but how was she to keep hers? Only by being recreant to every sentiment of honor, gratitude and humanity. "And if I could be that false to Mary Campbell, I wad weel deserve that Allan should be false to me," she said. She had never read Carlyle, never heard of him, but she arrived at his famous dictum, as millions of good men and women have done, by the simplest process of conscientious thought: "I'll do the duty that lies close by my hand and heart, and leave the rest to One wiser than I am."
She remembered also that she could write to Allan. There was a bare chance that he might get the letter, especially if he should linger a few days in Fife. But although she was ignorant of the action which David had taken with regard to Janet Caird, she never thought of addressing the letter to her care. For a moment she hesitated between Willie Johnson and Elder Mackelvine, but finally chose the former, for Willie and Allan had been great friends, and she was certain if Allan went to Pittenloch he would not leave the village without seeing his old boat mate. It was a loving, modest little letter, explaining the case in which she found herself, and begging him to come to Drumloch and say a word of kindness to her. When she folded and sealed it, she thought with pleasure of Allan's astonishment and delight at her improvement; and many an hour she passed, calculating, as well as she could, the distance, the time, and the chances of Allan receiving her message.
As it happened, he just missed it; but it was Maggie's own fault. If she had trusted it to the Drumloch mail-bag and servant it would have reached Dalry on the twenty-ninth; and on that day Willie Johnson was in the post-village, and received several letters lying there for himself and others in Pittenloch. But when, in our anxiety, we trust to our own judgment, instead of to that something which, for lack of a better name, we call good fortune, we are usually, and perhaps justly, deserted by good fortune. Maggie feared the footman would shirk her solitary letter, and perhaps keep it until his regular visit to the post the following day; so she gave it to the doctor, earnestly asking him to post it as he passed through the town. And the doctor fully intended to do so, but he was met by an urgent call for help; he forgot it then; he did not pass near the post-office for two days, and the two days might as well have been two months, for it was fully that time before Willie Johnson received his next letters.
Mary was exceedingly ill on the twenty-ninth. Her soul had reached the very border-land of being. In the dim, still room she lay, painfully breathing, faintly murmuring words unintelligible and very far away. But as Maggie sat motionless beside her, sometimes hopelessly watching, sometimes softly praying, she could not help thinking of the beach at Pittenloch, of the fresh salt air, and the sea coming in with the wind, and the motion and sparkle and sunshine, and the tall, handsome man she loved looking with sorrowful longing for her. And though she never grudged Mary one moment of the joy she was sacrificing, yet her tears dropped upon the clay-like hands she clasped in her own; for human love and human hopes are very sweet, never perhaps more sweet than in the very hour in which we yield them up to some noble duty, or some cruel fatality.
And Maggie mourned most of all, because Allan would think her faithless; would judge her from the wicked, envious tongues that had driven her from her home; and it is always the drop of injustice in sorrow that makes sorrow intolerable. Only, Maggie trusted! In spite of many a moment's fear and doubt she trusted! Trusted God, and trusted Allan, and trusted that somehow out of sorrow would come joy; and as she stepped softly about her loving cares, or watched, almost breathlessly, Mary passing Death's haggard hills, she often whispered to herself part of a little poem they had learned together:
"I will try to hope and to trust in God! In the excellent Glory His abode Hath been from of old; thence looketh He, And surely He cannot help seeing me. And I think perhaps He thinks of me; For my heart is with Him continually."
In the meantime, Allan, like all true lovers, had outrun the clock to keep his tryst. On the evening of the 28th of August a small steamer cast anchor at Pittenloch pier. She had one passenger, Allan Campbell. He had been waiting two days in Leith, but no boat from Pittenloch having arrived during that time, he had hired a small steamer to run up the coast with him. He landed in the evening, just about the time the lamps in the cottages were being lit; and he looked eagerly toward the Promoter cottage for some such cheering sign. As he looked, the window became red, and he leaped off the boat in a fever of joyful expectation. Surely Maggie would be watching! The arrival of a strange steamer must have told her who was coming. Every moment he expected to see her at the open door. As he neared it, the turfs sent up a ruddy glow, and touched the whole interior with warm color. The entrance was light, but the house place was empty. Smiling to himself, he went in, and stood upon the snow-white hearth, and glanced round the dear, familiar room. Nothing was changed. In a moment or two he heard a step; he looked eagerly toward it, and a very pleasant-looking old woman entered.
"I thocht it wad be you, Maister Campbell. Welcome hame, sir! I'll mak you a cup o' tea anon, for the kettle's boiling, and a' things ready."
"Thank you. I don't remember—I suppose Mistress Caird has left?"
"Sent awa', sir—not before she deserved it."
"And you are in her place? I think I have seen you before?"
"Nae doot, sir. I'm Mysie Jardine—the Widow Jardine, sir."
"And Maggie? Is she near by? At home? Where is she?"
"There is nane ken that, sir."
"What do you mean, Mysie?"
"Maggie's gane awa', sir."
"Maggie gone away! Where to?"
"'Deed, sir, I'd be fain to ken where to—but I hae the house for the care o' things; and David Promoter left word that if I took up Maggie's name in my lips, I wad be to leave instanter; sae I'll say naething at a'. Elder Mackelvine kens a' that anybody kens, and when you hae had a drap o' tea, you can ask him a' the questions you like to."
"Never mind tea, I am going at once to Mackelvine's."
"I'll be to get your room ready, sir; and put a bit o' fire in it, and the like o' that?"
"Yes, I shall come back here." He felt stunned, and glad to get into the fresh air. Maggie gone! He could hardly believe the words he had heard. Sorrow, anxiety, keen disappointment, amazement, possessed him; but even in those moments of miserable uncertainty he had not one hard or wrong thought of Maggie. Elder Mackelvine's cottage was quite at the other end of the village, and he was walking rapidly down the shingle toward it, when he met Willie Johnson.
"I heard tell you were here, Maister Campbell, and I cam' instanter to meet you, sir. You'll hae to bide wi' us to-night, for a' is changed at the Promoters."
"So I see, Willie." Then mindful of Maggie's good name, and of the fact that their betrothal was unknown, he said, with as much of his old manner as he could assume, "What has come to the Promoters? I hope some good fortune?"
"I hope that, too; but there's nane can say, if it be good or ill. Davie, you will dootless hae heard tell o'?"
"I have heard nothing from him for two years."
"Then your ears will be like to tingle wi' the news; for he has set himsel' in a' the high seats in Glasca' College; and folks talk o' naething less than a Glasca' pu'pit for him; and you ken, it tak's doctors in divinity to stand up afore a Glasca' congregation. Elder Mackelvine never wearies o' talking anent him. For mysel', I canna say I ever likit him o'er weel; and since puir Maggie gaed awa', I hae ta'en little pleasure in the honor he has done oor village."
"Maggie gone away! Where to?"
"Nane can tell. She had a sair trial wi' yonder auld harridan her brother brought to bide wi' her."
"I did not like the woman, Willie."
"Like her? Wha wad like her but the blackhearted and the black-tongued? She gied the girl's gude name awa' to win hersel' a bit honor wi' auld wives, and even the minister at first was against Maggie; sae when she couldna thole her trouble langer, she went to her brither, and folks say, he gied her the cold shoulder likewise. But when four months had gane he cam' here oot o' his wits nearly, and sent Janet Caird hame wi' a word, and the care o' the house was put on Mysie Jardine. Davie hasna set e'en on his cottage, nor foot in it, since; nor sent any word to his auld frien's—though as to frien's it is naething less than a professor he changes hats or the time o' day with noo, they tell me; and I can weel believe it, for he aye had the pride o' a Nebuchadnezzar in him."
Elder Mackelvine in a measure corroborated Willie Johnson's statements. Maggie had been "hardly spoken of," he admitted; but "I dinna approve o' the way oot o' trouble that she took," he added sternly. "Lasses ought to sit still and thole wrang, until He undertakes their case. If Maggie had bided in her hame a few weeks langer, He wad hae brought oot her righteousness as the noon-day. There was a setting o' public feeling in the right direction followed close on her leaving, and then cam' Dr. Balmuto wi' searchings, and examinations, and strong reproofs, for a', and sundry; and I didna escape mysel';" said the elder in a tone of injury.
"What could they say wrong of Maggie Promoter?" asked Allan, with flashing eyes.
"Ou, ay, a better girl ne'er broke her cake; but folks said this, and that, and to tell the even-down truth, they put your ain name, sir, wi' hers—and what but shame could come o' your name and her name in the same breath?"
"'Shame!' Who dared to use my name to shame hers with? Let me tell you, elder, and you may tell every man and woman in Pittenloch, that if I could call Maggie Promoter my wife, I would count it the greatest honor and happiness God could give me. And if I find her to-morrow, and she will marry me, I will make her Mrs. Allan Campbell the same hour."
"You are an honorable young man, there's my hand, and I respect you wi' a' my heart. Gudewife, mak' us a cup o' tea, and put some herring to toast. Maister Campbell will eat wi' me this night, and we' hae a bed to spare likewise, if he will tak' it."
Allan gratefully ate supper with the elder, but he preferred to occupy his old room in the Promoter cottage. "I have a kind of right there," he said, with a sorrowful smile, "I hired it for two years, and my term is not quite out yet."
"And David told me also, that whenever you came, this year, or any year, to gie you the key o' it. You will find a' your books and pictures untouched; for when Dr. Balmuto heard tell what trouble Maggie had had to keep Janet Caird oot o' it, he daured her to put her foot inside; and Davie cam' himsel' not long after, and took her back to Dron Point in a whiff and a hurry, wi' nae words aboot it."
"I am afraid David is much to blame about his sister. He should have let Maggie stay with him."
"I'll no hear David Promoter blamed. He explained the hale circumstances o' the case to me, and I dinna think the charge o' a grown, handsome girl like Maggie was comformable, or to be thocht o'. A man that is climbing the pu'pit stairs, canna hae any woman hanging on to him. It's no decent, it's no to be expectit. You ken yoursel' what women are, they canna be trusted wi' out bit and bridle, and David Promoter, when he had heard a' that Maggie had to complain o', thocht still that she needed over-sight, and that it was best for her to be among her ain people. He sent her back wi' a letter to Dr. Balmuto, and he told her to bide under the doctor's speech and ken, and the girl ought to hae done what she was bid to do; and so far I dinna excuse her; and I dinna think her brother is to hae a word o' blame. A divinity student has limitations, sir; and womenfolk are clean outside o' them."
The elder was not a man who readily admitted petty faults in his own sex. He thought women had a monopoly of them. He was quite ready to confess that their tongues had been "tongues o' fire;" but then, he said, "Maggie had the 'Ordinances' and the 'Promises,' and she should hae waited wi' mair patience. Davie was doing weel to himsel' and going to be an honor to her, and to the village, and the country, and the hale Kirk o' Scotland, and it was the heighth o' unreason to mak' him accountable for trouble that cam' o' women's tongues."
That night Allan slept again in his old room; but we cannot bring back the old feelings by simply going back to the old places. Besides, nothing was just the same. His room wanted, he knew not what; he could not hear the low murmur of Maggie's voice as she talked to her brother; or the solemn sound of David's, as he read the Exercise. Footfalls, little laughs, slight movements, the rustle of garments, so many inexpressible keys to emotion were silent. He was too tired also to lay any sensible plans for finding Maggie; before he knew it, he had succumbed to his physical and mental weariness, and fallen fast asleep.
He kept the boat waiting two days in Pittenloch, but on the morning of the third sorrowfully turned his back upon the place of his disappointment. He felt that he could see no one, nor yet take any further step until he had spoken with David Promoter; and late the same night he was in the Candleriggs Street of Glasgow. He was so weary and faint that David's sonorous, strong, "come in," startled him. The two men looked steadily at each other a moment, a look on both sides full of suspicion and inquiry. Allan was the first to speak. He had taken in at a glance the tall sombre grandeur of David's appearance, his spiritual look, the clear truthfulness of his piercing eyes, and without reasoning he walked forward and said, somewhat sadly,
"I do not know if it is well or ill, Mr. Campbell, and I will not shake hands on uncertain grounds, sir. Ken you where my sister is?"
"How can you wrong me so, David Promoter? But that would be a small wrong in comparison—how can you shame Maggie by such a question of me? Since we parted in Pittenloch I have neither seen nor heard from her. Oh, Maggie! Maggie!"
He could control himself no longer. As he paced the small room, the tears stood in his eyes, and he locked and unlocked his hands in a passionate effort to relieve his emotion. David looked at him with a stern curiosity. "You are mair than needfully anxious, sir. Do you think Maggie Promoter has no brother? What is Maggie to you?"
"Everything! Everything! Life is hopeless, worthless, without Maggie. She is my promised wife. I would give every shilling I have in the world rather than lose her. I would throw the whole of my world behind me, and go into the fishing boats for her. I love her, sir, as you never can love any woman. Do you think I would have given Maggie a heartache, or let Maggie slip beyond my ken, for all the honor and glory in the world, or for a pulpit as high as the Tower of Babel?"
"Dinna confound things, Mr. Campbell. Maggie, and the pulpit, and the Tower o' Babel are a' different. If you love Maggie sae blindly as a' that, whatna for did you leave her then? Why didn't you speak to me anent the matter? Let me tell you, that was your plain duty, and you are noo supping the broo you hae brewed for yoursel'."
David was under powerful emotion, and culture disappeared; "he had got to his Scotch;" for though a man may speak many languages, he has only one mother tongue; and when the heart throbs, and glows, and burns, he goes back to it. "Why didna you speak wi' me?" he asked again, as he let his hand fall upon the table to emphasize the inquiry.
"I will tell you why. Because Maggie loved you, and thought for you, and would not put one dark drop into your cup of happiness. Because she was afraid that if you knew I loved her, you would think I had tried to help you from that motive, and so, refuse the help. Because the dear girl would not wound even your self complacency. Do not think I am ashamed of her, or ashamed of loving her. I told my father, I told the only female relative I have, how dear she was to me. My father asked me to test my love by two years' travel and absence. I did so to convince him, not because I doubted myself. Do you know where Maggie is? If you do, tell me, I have a right to see her."
David went to a big Bible lying on a small table, and took from among its leaves three letters. "I have had these from her at different times. Two you see are posted in Glasgow, the last received was posted three weeks ago, from Portree, in Skye. She says she is with friends, and doing well, and you have but to read the letters to understand she is with those who are more than kind to her. There are few women in Scotland that could write a letter like her last. It shows a mind well opened, and the pen o a ready writer."
"May I have them?"
"Since you make so great a claim on Maggie, you may; but why did she not write to you, if you were trothplighted?"
"Because it was fully understood there was to be no communication of any kind between us for two years. That much I owed to the best of fathers. Also, as you know, Maggie has learned to write since we parted. But I ought to have made surer provision for her happiness. I am only rightly punished for trusting her where I did."
"You trusted her with her ain brother, Mr. Campbell. If Maggie had done as she should hae done—"
"Maggie has done perfectly right. I am sure of that. I could swear to it."
"Sir, we will keep to lawful language. Christian gentlemen don't need oaths. I say Maggie should have gone to Dr. Balmuto when I sent her."
"I do not know the circumstances, but I say she ought not to have gone to Dr. Balmuto. I am sure she only did whatever was wise and womanly."
"There is no use in reasoning with one who talks without knowledge. If I get any information about Maggie, or from her, I will send it to your address. I love Maggie. The lassie aye loved me. She wouldna thank you to speak sae sharply to me. She will tell you some day that I did all that could be expectit of me."
"Forgive me, David. I feel almost broken-hearted. I am irritable also for want of food. I have not eaten since early this morning."
"That is not right, sir. Sit down, in a few minutes you shall have all that is needful."
"No, no; I must go home. Half an hour will take me there. Shake hands, David. Whatever differences we may have, you, at least, understand fully that I never could wrong your sister."
"I am glad to give you my hand, sir. I owe you more than can be told. I had not been where I am to-day but for you."
"And if there is anything more needed?"
"There is nothing more, sir. I have paid back all I borrowed. I have been fortunate above my fellows. I owe you only the gratitude I freely and constantly pay."
Allan scarcely understood him; he grasped the hand David offered him, then walked to Argyle Street and called a cab; in half an hour, he was in his own rooms in the Blytheswood Square house. His advent caused a little sensation; the housekeeper almost felt it to be a wrong. "In the very thick of the cleaning!" she exclaimed; "every bit of furniture under linen, and all the silver put by in flannel. Miss Campbell said she wasna coming until the end o' September; and as for Mr. Allan, every one thought he was at a safe distance. We'll hae to hurry wi' the paint work noo, and if there's one thing mair than anither no to be bided it's hurrying up what should be taken pains wi'."
Generally Allan would have been conscious of the disapproval his visit evoked, and he would have reconciled the servants to any amount of trouble by apologies and regrets; but at this time his mind was full of far more personal and serious affairs. He had been inclined to think the very best of Maggie, to be quite certain that she had been detained by circumstances absolutely uncontrollable by her; but after reading again and again her letters to David, he did think she ought to have had some written explanation of her absence waiting for him. She knew he would certainly see either Willie Johnson or Elder Mackelvine, and he felt that she might —if she wished—have spared him much anxiety and disappointment.
He longed now to see his father; he determined to tell him the truth, and be guided by his advice. But John Campbell's last letter to his son had been dated from Southern Russia, and it was scarcely likely he would be in Glasgow for three weeks. However, Mary Campbell was at Drumloch, and he thought as he sipped his coffee, that it would probably be the best thing to go there, rest for a day or two with his cousin, and if he found her sympathetic, ask her help in his perplexity.
He called at the office on his way to the railway station, and he was met by the manager with an exclamation of peculiar satisfaction. "No one could be more welcome at this hour, Mr. Allan," he said; "we were all longing for you. There is bad news from Russia."
"Is very ill. He took a severe cold in a night journey over the Novgorod Steppe, and he is prostrate with rheumatic fever at Riga. I had just told Luggan to be ready to leave by to-night's train for Hull. I think that will be the quickest route."
"I can catch the noon train. I will call in an hour for money and advices, and go myself."
"That is what I expected as soon as I saw you. Have you heard that Miss Campbell is very ill?"
"No. Is she at Drumloch? Who is caring for her?"
"She is at Drumloch. Dr. Fleming goes from Glasgow every day to consult with the Ayr doctor. Her housekeeper, Mrs. Leslie, is an old servant, she was with Miss Campbell's mother; forbye, Fleming says, she has with her a young lady friend who never leaves the sick room night or day."
"I was just going out to Drumloch, but that is now neither possible nor desirable. I could be of no use to Miss Campbell, I can be everything to my father."
Allan had only one call to make. It was upon a middle-aged man, who had long been employed by their house in affairs demanding discernment and secrecy. Few words passed between them. Allan laid a small likeness of Maggie on the table with a L100 Bank of England note, and said, "Simon Fraser, I want you to find that young lady for me. If you have good news when I return, I will give you another hundred pounds."
"Have you any suggestions, Mr. Allan? Is she in Glasgow?"
"I think so. You might watch churches and dressmakers."
"Am I to speak to her?"
"Not a word."
"Shall I go to the office with reports?"
"No. Keep all information until I come for it. Remember the lady is worthy of the deepest respect. On no account suffer her to discover that you are doing for me what unavoidable circumstances prevent me from doing myself."
An hour after this interview Allan was on his way to Riga. In every life there are a few sharp transitions. People pass in a moment, as it were, from one condition to another, and it seemed to Allan as if he never could be quite the same again. That intangible, un-namable charm of a happy and thoughtless youth had suddenly slipped away from him, and he was sure that at this hour he looked at things as he could not have looked at them a week before. And yet extremities always find men better than they think they are. His love and his duty set before Allan, he had not put his own happiness for one moment before his father's welfare and relief. Without delay and without grudging he had answered his call for help and sympathy.
But while he was hurrying on his journey of love and succor, Maggie was watching in an indescribable sickness of delayed hope. If Allan got her letter on the 29th she thought he would surely be at Drumloch on the 30th. She gave him until the evening. She invented excuses for his delay for several more wretched days. Then she resigned all hope of seeing him. Her letter had missed him, and perhaps he would never again visit Pittenloch. What a week of misery she spent! One morning Dr. Fleming turned her sharply to the light. "Miss Promoter," he said, "you are very near ill. Go away and cry. Take a good cry. It may save you a deal of suffering. I will stay by Miss Campbell an hour. Run into the garden, my brave woman, and have it out with yourself."
She was thankful to do so. She wrapped her plaid around her and almost fled to the thick laurel shrubbery. As she walked there she cried softly, "Oh, Allan, Allan, Allan, it wasna my fault, dearie! It wasna Maggie's fault! It wasna Maggie's fault!" Her bit of broken sixpence hung by a narrow ribbon round her neck. She laid it in her hand, kissed it, and wept over it. "He'll maybe come back to me! He'll maybe come back to me! And if he never comes back I'll be aye true to him; true till death to him. He'll ken it some time! He'll ken it some time!" She cried passionately; she let her quick nature have full way; and sobbed as she had been used to sob upon the beach of Pittenloch, or in the coverts of its bleak, black rocks.
The cruelty of the separation, the doubt, the injustice that must mingle in Allan's memory with her, this was what "rent her heart." Oh, words of terrible fidelity! And how was she to conceal, to bear this secret wound? And who should restore to her the dear face, the voice, the heart that wrapped her in its love? In that sad hour how prodigal she was of tender words! Words which she would perhaps have withheld if Allan had been by her side. What passionate avowals of her affection she made, so sweet, so thrilling, that it would be a kind of profanation to write them.
When she went back to the house she was weary, but calm. Only hope seemed to have gone forever. There are melancholy days in which the sun has no color, and the clouds hang in dark masses, gray upon darker gray. Life has the same pallors and glooms; we are weary of ourselves and of others, we have the sensation of defeat upon defeat, of hopeless struggles, of mortal languors that no faith can lift. As Maggie watched that day beside her friend she felt such prostration. She smiled scornfully to herself as she remembered that ever in the novels which she had read the lover and the hero always appeared in some such moments of extremity as she had gone through. But Allan had not found her in the laurel walk, and she did not believe he would ever try to find her again. Sorrow had not yet taught her that destiny loves surprises.
About midnight she walked into an adjoining dressing room and looked out. How cold and steely the river wound through the brown woods until it mingled with the ghostly film on the horizon! Through what cloudy crags,
The moon came rushing like a stag, With one star like a hound,
behind it! As she watched the solemn, restless picture, she was called very softly—"Maggie'"
The word was scarce audible, but she stepped swiftly back, and kneeling by Mary's side lifted her wasted hand. The eyes that met hers had the light of reason in them at last.
"I am awake, Maggie."
"Yes, dear. Do not talk, you have been ill; you are getting better."
Mary smiled. The happiest of pillows is that which Death has frowned on, and passed over. "I am really getting well?"
"You are really getting well. Sleep again."
There was a silence that could almost be felt; and Maggie sat breathless in it. When it became too trying, she rose softly and went to the next room. There was a small table there, and on it a shaded lamp and a few books. One of them was turned with its face downward and looked unfamiliar; she lifted it, and saw on the fly-leaf, Cornelius Fleming, A.D. 1800. It was a pocket edition of the Alcestis in English, and the good man had drawn a pencil opposite some lines, which he doubtless intended Maggie to read:—
"Manifold are the changes Which Providence may bring. Many unhoped for things God's power hath brought about. What seemeth, often happeneth not; And for unlikely things God findeth out a way."
She smiled and laid the little volume down. "The tide has turned," she thought, "and many an ill wind has driven a ship into a good harbor. I wonder what was the matter with me this morning!" And she sat quiet with a new sense of peace in her heart, until the moon was low in the west, and the far hills stood clear and garish in the cold white light of morning. Then Mary called her again. There was a look of pitiful anxiety on her face; she grasped Maggie's hand, and whispered "The 29th? Is it come?"
"Your tryst, Maggie?"
"I will keep it some other time."
"Now, Maggie. To-day. At once. Oh Maggie! Go, go, go! I shall be ill again if you do not."
It was useless to reason with her. She began to cry, to grow feverish.
"I will go then."
"And you will come back?"
"In three or four days."
"Spare no money. He will be waiting. I know it. Haste, Maggie! Oh dear, you don't know—oh, be quick, for my sake."
Then Maggie told Mrs. Leslie such facts as were necessary to account for Mary's anxiety, and she also urged her to keep the appointment. "Better late than ever," she said, "and you may not be too late; and anyhow the salt air will do you good, and maybe set you beyond the fit o' sickness you look o'er like to have."
So within an hour Maggie was speeding to the coast of Fife, faintly hoping that Allan might still be there; "for he must ken by his own heart," she thought, "that it would be life or death, and naething but life or death, that could make me break a promise I had made to him."
THE MEETING PLACE.
"Love's a divinity that speaks 'Awake Sweetheart!' and straightway breaks A lordlier light than sunshine's glow, A sweeter life than mortals know. I bow me to his fond command, Take life's great glory from his hand; Crowned in one moment's sweet surprise, When Somebody and I—changed eyes."
Maggie had very little hope of meeting Allan, and yet he might have lingered. Judging him by her own heart, she thought he would have done so, unless circumstances of which she had no knowledge made waiting impossible. It was this faint hope that made her wear the costume most becoming to her—a gown and mantle of dark blue cashmere and velvet, and a white straw bonnet with bands and strings of blue velvet and one drooping plume of the same tint. Mary looked at her critically, and said, "You do me great credit, Maggie, I expect some one to be very pleased with me. Kiss me, dear, and be sure and bring good news back with you."
Late that night Maggie reached Kinkell. She rested at its small inn until daylight, then, ere any one was astir, she took the familiar path down the rocks. Perhaps she ought to have had a great many fine thoughts, and grateful emotions, on that walk; but people cannot feel to order, and Maggie's mind was wholly bent upon Allan and herself. She was also obliged to give much of her attention to her feet. The shelving narrow path, with its wide fissures and slight foothold, had become really dangerous to her. There were points at which she almost feared, and she felt more vividly than ever she had done before how far the old life had slipped behind her. She had become unfit for it; she shrank from its dangers; and when she came in sight of the cottages, and remembered the narrow orbit of life within them, she shrank even from its comforts and pleasures.
From her own cottage the smoke was rising in plentiful volume through the white wide chimney. She did not know of Janet Caird's removal, and supposed she would have to parry all her old impertinences and complaints. When she opened the door Mysie, who was stooping over the fire toasting a cake, turned her head; then she lifted herself and dropped a courtesy.
"I am only Maggie Promoter, Mysie. Is Janet Caird sick?"
"Why, Maggie! I'd never hae kent you, lassie! Come to the fire, for it is raw and cold—I'm glad I had the fire kindled, and the kettle boiling—you can hae your breakfast as soon as you like it."
"I'll hae it the noo, Mysie." She fell at once into her old speech, and as she removed her bonnet and mantle asked again, "Is Aunt Janet sick?"
"I dinna ken, nor I dinna care much, either. She's gane awa' frae Pittenloch, and Pittenloch had a gude riddance o' her."
"Ay; when your brother Davie cam' here, mair than a year syne, he just bid her pack her kist, and he and Troll Winans took her at daylight next morn to whar' she cam' frae. Elder Mackelvine made a grand exhort in the next meeting anent slandering folks; for Janet Caird was a gude text for it; and Kirsty Buchan said, it was a' the gude Pittenloch e'er got oot o' her."
"David was here then?"
"Ay, he was here. Didna ye ken that?"
"Was there ony ither body here?"
"Ay, there was. A week syne here comes that bonnie young Allan Campbell that was aye sae fond o' your brither Davie."
"Did he stay here wi' you?"
"Ay, for sure he did. For three days he stayed; and he just daundered roun' the boats and the beach, and lookit sae forlorn, wanting Davie and the bonnie boat that had gane to the bottom, that folks were sorry for him. He gied Elder Mackelvine twenty pounds for the widows o' Pittenloch, and he gied me mysel' a five pound note; and I could hae kissed the vera footmarks he made, he was that kindly and sorrowfu'."
"Did he name my name, Mysie?"
"Ay, he did that. He sat in Davie's chair every night, and talked to me anent you a' the time maistly; and he said, 'Mysie, she'll maybe come back some day; and if ever she does, you'll tell her I was here, and that I missed her sairly; and he left a bit of paper for you wi' me. I'll get it for you, when we hae had our breakfast."
"Get it the noo, Mysie. I'm fain to see it; and I dinna want my breakfast much—and shut the door, and run the bolt in, Mysie; I'm no caring to see folk."
It was one of those letters which we have forgotten how to write—large letter cap, folded within itself, and sealed with scarlet wax. It was, "Dearest Maggie! Sweetest Maggie! Best beloved of women!" It was full of tenderness, and trust, and sorrow, and undying affection. Maggie's tears washed it like a shower of rain. Maggie's kisses sealed every promise, and returned to the writer ten-fold every word of its passionate mournful devotion.
She did not now regret her journey. Oh, she would most gladly have walked every mile of the way, to have found that letter at the end of it. "He'll come back here," she thought; "love will bring him back, and I know by myself how glad he will be to hae a word from me." In the drawer of the table in Allan's room there was some paper and wax. Allan's letter had been written with his pocket pencil, but she found among David's old papers the remains of several pencils, and with some little difficulty she made them sufficiently sharp to express what she wished to say.
She told him everything—where she had spent the time since they parted —how good Miss Campbell had been to her—how impossible it would have been to desert her in an hour of such need and peril—how much she had suffered in her broken tryst, and how longingly and lovingly she would wait for him at Drumloch, though she waited there until the end of her life. "And every year," she added, "I'll be, if God let me, in Pittenloch on the 29th of August, dear Allan;" for she thought it likely he might come again at that time next year.
Into Mysie's hand this letter was given with many injunctions of secrecy and care. And then Maggie sat down to eat, and to talk over the minor details of David's and Allan's visits; and the changes which had occurred in her native village since she left it. "I dinna want you to say I hae been here, Mysie. I'll get awa' at the dinner hour, and nane will be the wiser. I can do nae gude to any one, and I'll maybe set folks wondering and talking to ill purpose."
"I can hold my whist, Maggie; if it's your will, I'll no speak your name. And I hope I hae keepit a' things to your liking in the cottage. If sae, you might gie me a screed o' writing to your brither, sae that when he comes again, he'll be contented, and willing to let me bide on here."
"I'll do that gladly, Mysie. Hoo is a' wi' you anent wark and siller?"
"I get on, Maggie; and there's a few folk do mair than that; forbye, Maister Campbell's five pounds will get me many a bit o' comfort this winter."
"Hoo much weekly does Davie allow you for the caretaking?"
"He didna speak to me himsel'. He left Elder Mackelvine to find some decent body wha wad be glad o' the comfortable shelter, and the elder gied me the favor."
"Dinna you hae some bit o' siller beside frae Davie?"
"Na, na; I dinna expect it. The hame pays for the care o' it."
"But I'll hae to pay you for the care o' my letter, Mysie, for I can weel afford it. I'll gie you two pounds for the next three months; and at the beginning o' every quarter you'll find the two pounds at the minister's for you. He'll gie it, or he'll send it to you by the elder."
"I dinna like to be paid for a kindness, Maggie. The young man was gude to me, and I'd do the kind turn to him gladly."
"Weel, Mysie, David ought to hae minded the bit siller to you, and he wad dootless hae done it, if he hadna been bothered oot o' his wits wi' Aunt Janet. Sae, I'm only doing the duty for him. Davie isna mean, he is just thochtless anent a' things outside o' his college, or his books."
At twelve o' clock, when every one was at their dinner, and the beach was empty, Maggie easily got away without observation. She did not regret her journey. She had Allan's letter and she had also a few withered flowers which he had gathered on the top of the cliffs during his visit, and left in his room. Poor, little brown bits of gorse and heather, but they had been in his hands, and were a precious and tangible link between them. The carriage which had brought her to Kinkell was waiting for her, and the horses being refreshed and rested, she left immediately for Drumloch.
She had many a thought to keep her company; but in the main, they were thoughts of hopeful love toward Allan, and of grateful affection toward Mary. This visit to Pittenloch had enabled her to measure Mary's singular beneficence and patience; and she was almost glad that she had been able to prove her gratitude by a cheerful renunciation of hopes so dear and so purely personal. She knew then, if she had never before known, the value of what had been done for her, and she understood why David had so resolutely put aside everything that would interfere with his mental culture. In such a mood, it was even easy to excuse his harshness. "He feared I would be a hindrance to him," she thought; "and maybe, when a man is climbing out of ignorance into knowledge, he ought to be feared for hindrances, even though he likes them well."
Mary Campbell, like most people of a nervous temperament, had a quick, sensitive ear. She heard Maggie's arrival and her step upon the stair long before Mrs. Leslie did. She was still confined to her bed, but she turned her questioning eyes eagerly to the door by which Maggie would enter. She came in so brightly, and with such a happy light on her face, that Mary felt sure the journey had been a successful one.
"In time, Maggie, after all?" she whispered, as Maggie kissed her.
"No, he did not wait for me:—but it is all right."
"Oh Maggie! what a shame!"
"Don't say that, Miss Campbell. He kept his word. He left me a letter. He is not to blame. No one is to blame. It will be all for the best. I am sure of that."
"Never call me Miss Campbell again, Maggie. I am Mary, your friend, your sister Mary. Do you think I can forget those dreadful days and nights when you walked with me, as I went through the Valley of the Shadow? Though I could not speak to you I knew you were there. Your hand, so cool, so strong, and gentle was what I clung to. On that last awful point of land, beyond which all was a black abyss, I clung to it. I heard your voice when I had passed beyond all other earthly sounds. It was the one link left me between that world and this. Maggie! Maggie! You cannot tell how sorry I am about this broken tryst."
"You must not say that, dear. You must not talk any more. I have a letter that makes it all right. We will speak of it again when you are stronger."
"Yes, Maggie—and I know—I know—it is sure and certain to come right —very soon, Maggie."
Indeed Mary had arrived at a very clear decision. As soon as she was able, she intended to write to Allan and bring him to Drumloch to meet Maggie. She would make a meeting for the lovers that should amply repay the one broken for her sake. She knew now, that as Allan had been in Pittenloch, he had returned from America, and that he was still faithful to his love. She felt certain that there would be a letter from him among her Accumulated mail matter. Perhaps he had even called at Drumloch. The next time she was alone with Mrs. Leslie she asked if her cousin had been to Drumloch yet. "He was expected home about this time," she said, "and I should not like him to be turned from the door, even if I am ill."
"I heard that he had gone to Riga, Miss Campbell. Your uncle has been no just well, and it was thought to be the right thing for Mr. Allan to go and be company hame for him There are letters nae doubt from baith o' them, but you willna be let meddle wi' the like o' thae things, yet awhile."
The winter set in early, and cold, and Mary's recovery was retarded by it. At the beginning of November she had not left her own rooms. But at that time her seclusion was mostly a precautionary measure. She had regained much of her old sprightliness, and was full of plans for the entertainments she intended to give as soon as she was perfectly well. "I am going to introduce you to Glasgow society at the New Year, Maggie," she said, "and I can imagine the sensation you will cause—the wonder—the inquiries—the inventions—and the lovers you will be sure to have! I think we shall enjoy it all, very much."
Maggie thought so, also. She was delighted with the fine new costumes being made for Mary and herself. The discussions about them, their fitting on, their folding away in the great trunks destined for Blytheswood Square, helped to pass the dreary days of the chill damp autumn very happily. One morning early in November Mary got a letter which gave her a great pleasure. "Uncle John is coming tonight, Maggie!" she cried. "Oh how glad I shall be to see him! We have both been to the door of death, and come back to life. How much we shall have to say to each other! Now I want you to dress yourself with the greatest care to-night, Maggie; you must be ready when I have exhausted words on your beauty, to step into his presence, and make words seem the poorest kind of things."
"What shall I wear?"
"Wear? Well, I think that dark brown satin is the most becoming of your dinner gowns—and dress your hair behind very high and loosely, with the carved shell comb—and those long brown curls, Maggie, push them behind your pretty ears; your face does not need them, and behind the ears they are bewitching."
Maggie laughed. She liked handsome dress, and it pleased her to be called handsome. She had indeed a good many womanly foibles, and was perhaps the more loveable for them. Dr. Johnson thought that a man who did not care for his dinner would not care for more important things; and it is certain that a woman who does not care for her dress is very likely to be a mental, perhaps also a moral, sloven.
Mary had hoped to signalize her delight in her uncle's visit by going down stairs to dine with him; but the day was unusually damp and cold, and her proposal met with such strong opposition that she resigned the idea. She dressed herself early in a pretty chamber gown of pink silk trimmed with minever; but in spite of the rosy color, the pallor of her sickness and long confinement was very perceptible. The train that was to bring John Campbell reached Ayr at four o'clock, and Maggie saw the carriage hurrying off to meet it, as she went to her room to dress for dinner. In less than an hour there was the stir of an arrival, and John Campbell's slow, heavy tread upon the stairs, and Mary's cry of joy as she met him in the upper corridor.
Maggie went on dressing with an increase of happiness; she felt Mary's pleasure as if it were her own. With a natural and exquisite taste, she raised high the loose soft coils of her nut-brovn hair; and let fall in long and flowing grace the rich folds of nut-brown satin that robed her. She wore no ornaments of any kind, except a cluster of white asters in her belt, which Mary had given her from those brought for her own use.
She was just fastening them there when Mary entered. "You lovely woman!" she cried enthusiastically. "I think you must look like Helen of Troy. I have a mind to call you Helen. Have you reflected that you will have to be Uncle John's host? So before I take you to him, go down stairs, dear, and see if the table is pretty, and all just as I should like to have it for him. And if there are no flowers on the table, Maggie, go to the conservatory and cut the loveliest you can find—only if you stay too long, I shall send Uncle John to find you."
She passed out nodding and smiling and looking unusually beautiful and happy. Maggie found that the dinner table was splendidly laid, but it was, as she expected, destitute of flowers, because it had always been either Mary's or her own pleasure to cut them. The conservatory was an addition to the large double drawing-rooms on the opposite side of the hall, and she was rather astonished to see that the fires had been lighted in them. At the entrance of the conservatory she stood a moment, wondering if she could reach a superb white camellia, shining above her like a star among its dark green leaves. As she hesitated, Allan opened the door, and walked straight to the hearth. He did not see Maggie, and her first impulse was to retreat into the shadow of some palms beside her. A slight movement made him turn. She stood there smiling, blushing, waiting.
The cry was one of utter wonder and delight. "Oh, my love! My love! My love!" He held her in his arms. She was his forever now. "Not death itself shall part us again," he whispered, with that extravagance of attachment which is permissible to lovers. For what lover ever spoke reasonably? The lover that can do so is not a lover; he is fathoms below that diviner atmosphere whose language is, of necessity, as well as choice, foolishness to the uninitiated.
Allan had been sent by Mary for some book she affected to particularly want. He forgot the book, as Maggie forgot the flowers, and in half-an-hour, John Campbell was sent after his dilatory son. Old men do not like surprises as well as lovers, and Mary had thought it best to prepare him for the meeting that was close at hand. He had felt a little fear of the shock he was sure he would have to bear as graciously as possible. But pleasant shocks do not hurt, and John Campbell's spirits rose as soon as his eyes fell upon the beautiful woman standing by his son's side. He came forward with smiles, he welcomed Maggie, and called her "daughter" with a genuine pride and tenderness.
Very soon he reminded the lovers that he was an old man who thought highly of his dinner; he gave Maggie his arm and led her into the dining-room. There were no flowers on the table, and the meats were a little out of time and past savor, but Allan and Maggie were oblivious of such trifles, and John Campbell was too polite, and perhaps also too sympathetic to remind them that they were still in Ayrshire, and that Ayrshire was not Eden. And though Mary had not been able to witness the happiness she had planned, she felt it. It seemed to pervade the house like some quicker atmosphere. She had even a better appetite, and the servants also seemed conscious of a new joy, and indefinable promise of festivity—something far more subtle than a bird in the air had carried the matter to every heart.
After dinner, while John Campbell was talking to Maggie, Allan went to see Mary. She was still on her sofa, a little tired, but very happy and very pretty. He knelt down by her side, and kissed her, as he whispered, "Oh Mary! My sister Mary! How good you have been to me! It is wonderful! I cannot thank you, dear, as I want to. I am so happy, so happy, Mary; and it is your doing."
"I know how glad and grateful you are, Allan. The work was its own reward. I love Maggie. She has far more than repaid me. My dear Allan, you are going to be a very happy man. Now you may go to Maggie, and tell Uncle John that I expect him to sit with me to-night."
They smiled gladly at each other as they parted, and yet as soon as the door was shut between them they sighed. In the very height of our happiness why do we often sigh? Is it because the soul pities itself for joys so fleeting that they are like the shadow of a bird "that wings the skies and with whose flight the shadow flies." For even to-morrow there would be some change, however slight. Allan knew that never again could he taste just this night's felicity. And blessed are they who take God's gift of joy every hour as it comes, and who do not postpone the happiness of this life unto the next one.
Early in the morning Allan went to see David. He had removed from the Candleriggs, and he found him in comparatively handsome rooms in Monteith terrace. He rose to meet Allan with a troubled look, and said at once, "I have no more information, Mr. Campbell. I am very sorry for the fact."
"David, I have found Maggie! I am come to take you to see her."
"Why has she not come to see me? I think that is her duty, and I'm no inclined to excuse her from it. She has given me many a troubled hour, Mr. Campbell, and she ought to say some word anent it."
"There are always whys and wherefores, David, that cannot be explained in a minute or two. She has been living with my cousin, Miss Campbell of Drumloch. I think that circumstance will warrant your faith in Maggie without further explanations at present." Allan was so happy, he could not be angry; not even when David still hesitated, and spoke of lectures to be attended, and translations yet unfinished.
"Come, come," he said persuasively; "shut your books, David, and let's away to the 'Banks and Braes o' bonnie Doon'. Miss Campbell and Maggie are both anxious to see you. We cannot be quite happy without you, David."
Then smiling, yet half-reluctant, he went to his room to dress. When he returned—hat and gloves in hand—Allan could not but look at him with a little amazement. His suit of black broadcloth was cut in the strictest ecclesiastical fashion, and admirably set off the dusky pallor and fine stature of the young student. Every minor detail was in keeping. His linen band and cuffs were fine and white, the fit of his shoes and gloves perfect, the glossy excellence of his hat beyond a cavil.
"I am at your service now, Mr. Campbell, though let me tell you, I think I am giving-in to Maggie more than I ought to, sir."
"David, we are going to be brothers, and I am proud and glad of it. Suppose you drop the Mr. Campbell and the sir—I think it is quite time."
"There is a measure of respect in the word sir; and I wouldna care to drop it altogether with my nearest and dearest; I like it for myself whiles. But I am fain of the brotherhood, Allan; and I will give you with all my heart a brother's love and honor."
Then David surrendered himself to the pleasure of the hour. He had never been in that part of Scotland before, but he knew every historical and literary landmark better than Allan did. And when he drove through the fine part of Drumloch, and came in sight of the picturesque and handsome pile of buildings, he said with a queer smile, "The Promotors don't flit for a bare shelter, Maggie found a bonnie hiding place."
He was quite as much delighted and astonished at his sister's appearance and improvement, but he did not express it. He kissed her kindly, but his first words had the spirit of the reproof he thought she well deserved: "Maggie Promoter, you did not behave well to me yonder day I sent you home, as it was my duty to do. If the Lord hadna undertaken the guiding o' you, you wad hae made a sair mistake, my lassie! But I'll say nae mair, seeing that He has brought gude out o' evil and right out o' wrang."
"I am sorry, Davie, very sorry, but—"
"That is enough. And you are like to do weel to yourself; and we may baith say, that He has aye carried the purse for us, ever since the day He took our father and bread-winner from us. And though you have been whiles a sair thought to me, yet now you are going to be an honor and a rejoicing and I am a very proud and happy brother this day, Maggie."
John Campbell was still at Drumloch, and David and he "sorted" from the first moment of their meeting. They had ecclesiastical opinions in common, especially in regard to the "Freedom of the Kirk" from all lay supremacy;—a question then simmering in every Scotch heart, and destined a little later to find its solution in the moral majesty of the "Free Kirk Movement." David's glowing speech stirred him, as speech always stirs the heart, when it interprets persuasion and belief ripened into faith: and faith become a passionate intuition. That he was the master spirit of the company was shown by the fact that he kept the conversation in his own groove, and at his own will. Mrs. Leslie made him her deepest courtesy, and the old butler threw into all his services an amount of respect only given by him to his spiritual masters and teachers.
And David took all with that unconscious adaptation of attention which indicates those born to authority and to honor. When asked after dinner if he would pay his respects to the mistress of Drumloch, he rose calmly and with a real unconcern. He had sat with doctors of divinity, and faced learned professors with a thesis or an exegesis that touched the roots of the most solemn propositions; an interview with a lady a little younger than himself was not likely to disturb his equanimity. For he was yet in that callow stage of sentient being, which has not been inspired and irradiated by "the light that lies in woman's eyes."
That night as they sat together Maggie's and Allan's marriage was discussed. "They want to be married very quietly," said Mary laughing. "Did you ever hear such nonsense, Uncle John? There has not been a wedding feast in Drumloch for seventy years. We will grace the old rooms, and handsel all the new ones with the blythest bridal Ayrshire has seen in a century. Don't you agree with me, Mr. Promoter?"
Certainly Mr. Promoter did; and the kirk also, he said, had aye favored a public binding of the sacred tie, not to go further back to the wedding feast at Cana, honored by His presence and provided for by His hand.
"And Maggie shall walk in silk attire; and we will dress the rooms in flags and flowers, and lay a great feast, and call friends and neighbors from afar. For we have the bonniest bride to show them that ever 'stepped stately east or west from Drumloch's bonnie braes'."
WOO'D AND MARRIED AND A'.
"My love is fair, I could not he'p but choose him My love is good, I could not bear to lose him. My love is wise, oh, what could I refuse him?"
"And Love, our light at night and shade at noon, Lulls us to rest with songs, and turns away All shafts of shelterless, tumultuous day Like the moon's growth, his face gleams through his tune, And as soft waters warble to the moon Our answering spirits chime one roundelay"
A "blythesome bridal" is a traditional Scotch law, not to be lightly broken by either rich or poor. Its non-observance usually implied some sorrowful element, and Mary's national, as well as natural desire, as therefore toward an elaborate festal ceremony. As soon as this intention was put into words their very echo seemed to be a prelude to the coming joy.
The old, still house acquired, no one could very well tell how, an air of expectation and pleasant hurry. Guest chambers, that had not been used for many years, were prepared for occupation.
The ceremony was to take place on New Year's Day; so that the lovers were to date a fresh life from a fresh year—a year in which they had shed no tears, nor feared, nor been in any strait or disappointment. They would write upon its first page their marriage joy; and in order to do so would not need to wipe out one sorrowful memory. In the meantime they dwelt in a land of delights. Wonderful things happened to Maggie every day. John Campbell never wearied of sending her presents. "She is my daughter," he said, "and what for will I not send her the plenishing for her bridal?" Allan gave her jewels. Mary ransacked her antique "awmries" and cabinets for the laces of by-gone Campbell beauties; and spent her sovereigns lavishly on modern fairy-like webs for the wedding garments.
It would have been unlovely and unwomanly in Maggie not to be happy; not to be a little excited, not perhaps, sometimes, to have been a little trying. For a great happiness is often depressing to those who have to witness its exultation, prolonged day after day. Ordinary mortals feel outside of it, and it strikes them with a vague, but certain, fear. Mary often said to herself—"I would not be so silly about any one as Maggie is about Allan. I hope if ever I do fall in love, a measure of common sense will be granted me."
Still people usually show a singular patience and tolerance with lovers. The old have "been in Arcadia," and have tender memories of it. The young have a wistful anticipation, a sympathetic curiosity. At any rate, the courtship was only to last six weeks, and Mary determined, however provoking the engaged pair might be, that she would put all down to the fact that lovers believe themselves to be a sublimated couple, quite out of the community of ordinary mortals; and being so happy and self-satisfied with themselves, they could not understand why every one else was not in the same supreme condition.
And Mary Campbell was right; for if love is to have anything like the place in real life, that it has in poetry—if we have any faith in that mighty ruler of hearts and lives, a genuine love affair, we ought not to dim the glory of marriage by denying it this sojourn in a veritable land of enchantment; for in its atmosphere many fine feelings blossom, that never would have birth at all, if the niceties and delicacies of courtship were superseded by the levelling rapidity of marriage. There is time for writing and reading love letters, and both tongue and pen get familiar with affectionate and noble sentiments. We may admit that love-making is an unreasonable and impracticable piece of business; but in this very circumstance all its charm lies. Love delights in asserting the incredible, and in believing the impossible. But it is precisely in the depths of this delicious foolishness that the heart attains its noblest growth. There may be many grander hopes, many calmer and more reasonable joys in store for us, but,
"There's nothing half so sweet in life As Love's young dream."
At length the wonderful day arrived. It had been well prepared for, and all was in readiness. There was no hurry, no fret, no uncertainty. Early in the morning men began to hang the old battle flags and armor of the Campbells of Drumloch and to adorn the rooms with myrtle and fresh flowers. It was not the fashion then to turn the house into a conservatory, but the effect of the scattered groups of flowers, and bridal wreaths, was far more festal in character.
At four o'clock the party were all assembled, and in response to some understood signal, the clergy grouped themselves at one end of the large parlors. Then Allan entered at the other. With him was a minister in silk cassock and white lawn bands. It was Dr. Balmuto. Maggie followed, leaning upon John Campbell's arm. An involuntary stir, a murmur of admiration, greeted her. She was dressed in a robe of ivory-tinted silk, interwoven with threads of pure silver. Exquisite lace veiled her throat and arms; opals and diamonds glowed and glinted among it. Her fine hair was beautifully arranged, and in her hand she carried the small Testament upon which she would seal her vows.
Even David Promoter responded in some measure to the influence of the hour. Not often did he permit himself to lose sight of the great object of his existence; but this was an "occasion," when he felt that he might lawfully put his sister, and his natural interest in her, before other hopes and aims. And this day, he was really proud of Maggie. She had done well unto herself; she had justified all his own intentions toward her; she had allied him with one of the best families in the west of Scotland. He kissed her with a tender approval, and reminded her, as it was indeed his duty, how good God had been to her, and how, He had brought her also, unto her "desired haven."
He gave her this short homily, as he stood before her in Mary's little parlor, just ere the wedding service began. Maggie listened to him with a touching gratitude and humility. In her eyes David was something more than a brother. He had laid his hand upon the altar and was set apart for its ministering. And he looked, every inch of him, the priest of his people. For David had always considered the proper habit of his order a subject worthy of his careful attention; and on this auspicious occasion he was dressed with the utmost care. Even among the varied and splendid uniforms of the military officers present, David Promoter's rich and sombre vestment was very noticeable. No one could deny that he was a singularly handsome and distinguished-looking man. It was upon his arm Mary Campbell entered, and her delicate beauty, enhanced by a white robe of some diaphanous material, made a telling contrast to the young minister's tall form, and black raiment.
Maggie, on her father-in-law's arm, was but a few steps in advance of them. They saw Allan turn and watch her coming to him, and the light on his face transfigured it. This was the woman he had been born to meet; the woman that was the completion of his own nature. Once more he caught at a venture the beautiful eyes through which had come their first recognition; and he saw that they met his full of glad confidence and happy expectation.
Dr. Balmuto's charge was a very solemn and a very loving one. The tears were on his cheeks as Maggie stood before him. He spoke to her as gently as if she were his own daughter. He bade her look forward to the joyful duties of her lot. He laid her hand in Allan's hand with a blessing. Then from every lip arose the triumphant strains of the one hundred and twenty-eighth psalm—the happy, hopeful wedding psalm—and with the gracious benediction, Allan and Maggie turned with smiling faces toward their future.
The first months of their married life were to be spent in Continental travel. Maggie was to see all the famous places, which, as yet, were only names to her, and Allan was to see them again through her eyes. They went away in the gay, splendid fashion of the time, in an open landau drawn by four horses, with outriders. The guests crowded the hall and the open door; the servants gathered below them; the tenants lined the road to the small station which they had selected for their starting point. And thus in a very triumph of joy they started upon their long life journey.
The festivities of the bridal were continued for many days, both in the castle and among the servants; and during them the young couple were abundantly discussed. One of these discussions, occurring between the factor of the estate and Miss Campbell's maid, is worth repeating, as it indicated a possible motive in the reticent little lady's life with which her friends were not familiar.
"Wha are these Promoters?" asked the factor.
"They are a Fife family."
"Wasna that handsome young minister her brother?"
"He was that."
"He seems to hae set his heart on the heiress o' Drumloch."
"Captain Manners has the same notion."
"The minister will win."
"The minister will not win. Not he!"
The words were so emphatically snapped out that they were followed by a distinct silence.
"Jessie," the factor said, "you are vera positive; but if there is one thing mair unreliable than anither, it is a woman's fancy. The minister is a braw lad."
"I ken ane that's worth twenty o' him, ay, I'll say, fifty o' him."
"You're no surely meaning that young Glasca' lawyer that comes here, whiles."
"You're no surely meaning to pass an insult on Miss Mary, factor. I'm thinking o' my Lord Forfar, and nae ither man to match him. He would kiss my lady's little shoon, and think the honor too much for king or kaiser. And for a' their plumes, and gold, and scarlet, the rattle o' their swords, and the jingle o' their spurs, there wasna an officer at the bridal I'd name in the same breath wi' Lord Lionel Forfar."
"But the minister"—
"Houts! What does a bonnie lady, young and rich and beautiful, want wi' a minister body, unless it be to marry her to some ither lad?"
"You're for Forfar because he is Fife."
"You're right—partly. I'm Fife mysel'. A' my gude common sense comes frae Fife. But for that matter, the minister comes from the auld 'kingdom' too."
They were talking in a little room adjoining the servants' dining hall. The factor was smoking, Jessie stood on the stone hearth, tapping her foot restlessly upon it.
"What's the man thinking o'?" she exclaimed after a little. "One would say you were at a funeral instead o' a wedding."
"Thoughts canna always be sent here or there, Jessie. I was wondering what would come o' Drumloch if my lady took the Fife road. It would gie me sair een to see its bonnie braes in the market."
"Think shame o' yoursel' for the vera thought—
'The Campbells will sit in Drumloch's halls, Till the crown be lost and the kingdom falls'
When the lady goes to her fate, there's a laird waiting, I trow, to take her place; and weel will he fill it."
"You'll be meaning Mr. John Campbell?"
"Wha else? He was born in the house, and please God, he'll die in its shelter. If my lady goes to Forfar Castle what will she want wi' Drumloch? A good sum o' lying siller will be better for her, and she would rather bide Miss Campbell a' the days o' her life, than take the hame o' the Campbells to strange folk."
"I wish her weel always, but I'm no against the thought o' serving John Campbell again. Women are whiles vera trying in the way o' business. There's naething but arithmetic needed in business, but they will bring a' sorts o' im-prac-ti-ca-ble elements into it likewise."
"I hope you mean naething wrang by that big word, factor."
"Nae wrang, nae wrang, Jessie. Miss Campbell is easy to do for, and she has bonnie ladylike ways wi' her; but I'd like fine to see that grand, grey-headed auld gentleman laird o' the place. He'd bring a deal o' respect with him."
"He would that; and folks would hear o' Drumloch in London; for Miss Campbell said to that Glasca' law body, that her uncle would gie up the business to his son Allan, and go into parliament himsel'—goodness kens they need some douce, sensible men there. Hear to the fiddles! I feel them in the soles o' my feet! I never could sit still when 'Moneymusk' was tingling in my ear chambers. Come awa', factor, and let us hae a reel thegither!"
"Wi' a' my heart, Jessie. And though I am on the wrang side o' fifty, there's none has a better spring than I hae." He had laid down his pipe, and taken her hand as he spoke, and tripping and swaying to the enchanting strains they went into the dancing hall together.
"Nae wonder the fiddles made us come, it's the gypsy band, factor;" and Jessie pointed out five or six dark, handsome fellows with tumbled black hair, and half-shut gleaming eyes, who had ranged themselves with sullen shyness and half-rebellious order at the upper end of the room. But how wondrously their slim, supple fingers touched the bow, or the strings! They played like magicians, and wrought the slow, grave natures before them up to a very riot of ravishing motion. Faster and faster flew the bounding, sliding feet; the dancers being stimulated by the musicians, and the musicians driven to a passion of excitement by those exhilarating cries, and those snappings of the fingers, through which the canny Scot relieves the rapture of his delicious dancing.
But mere physical delight never satisfies even the humblest gathering of this douce nationality. In a few hours the fiddles were stopped, and the table set out, and the great bowl of wedding punch brought in, to brighten wit, and song, and story. It was then very near the close of the day, and with it came Mary Campbell to give the bridal toast. She had been dancing with her own friends, and her cheeks were like a delicate flame, and her eyes like twin stars. Never had she looked so beautiful, as when standing amid the standing crowd, she raised the tiny glass above her head, and said in the sudden stillness—
"Here's to the bonnie Bride! Long may she live! and happy may she be!"
Then hand clasped hand, and glass touched glass, and heart touched heart, and from every lip rang out, again and again, the loving, joyful invocation—
"Here's to the bonnie Bride! Long may she live! and happy may she be!"