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   Chapter 3 THE CAMPBELLS OF MERITON.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 16172

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"We figure to ourselves

The thing we like, and then we build it up

As chance will have it, on the rock or sand."

"About some act,

That has no relish of salvation in it."

Upon the shores of Bute, opposite the rugged, heathery hills of Cowal, John Campbell had built himself a splendid habitation. People going up and Down the Kyles were in the habit of pointing out Meriton Mansion, and of asserting that the owner had risen from extreme poverty to his enviable position. There was not a word of truth in this story. John Campbell was the youngest son of Campbell of Drumloch, a gentleman of ancient lineage, and of considerable wealth. Alexander, his elder son, inherited from him the castle of Drumloch and the lands pertaining to the name and the estate; to his younger son John he gave a large sum of money. With this money he opened a shipping house on the Broomilaw of Glasgow, and gradually built a fleet of trading vessels, which traversed every known sea. John Campbell's name had indeed become synonymous for enterprise, wealth and commercial honor.

The tie between the brothers was always an affectionate one; and when Alexander died early in life, he left his child and the estate in charge of John. The estate was much embarrassed, the child was a delicate girl of nine years. But when ten years had passed the conditions of both were changed; Mary Campbell had grown to a sweet and charming womanhood, and Drumloch had paid off its last shilling of mortgage, and was as desirable an estate as could be found in the west of Scotland.

During these ten years, one desire had dominated all others in John Campbell's heart-the marriage of his son Allan to the heiress of Drumloch. It seemed to him the most natural of events, and also the most desirable. It would keep the old family and name, in the old home. It had been his brother's dying wish. He might buy his son a much larger and finer estate, but with gold he could not buy the family associations, and the long, honorable lineage of Drumloch. The old keep could be enlarged and beautified; the lands lying far and near could be bought and added to its domain; and yet Allan could lawfully call himself, "Campbell of Drumloch."

Thus to establish on a broader and richer basis the old home of his Fathers was the grand object of John Campbell's life. He thought of it until it became almost a sacred duty in his eyes. For the Scotsman's acquisitiveness is very rarely destitute of some nobler underlying motive. In fact, his granite nature is finely marbled throughout with veins of poetry and romance. His native land is never forgotten. His father's hearth is as sacred as an altar in his memory. A bluebell or a bit of heather can bring tears to his eyes; and the lilt of a Jacobite song make his heart thrill with an impossible loyalty. Those who saw John Campbell on the Broomilaw would have judged him to be a man indifferent to all things but money and bills of lading. Those who saw him softly stepping through the old halls of Drumloch, or standing almost reverently before the hard grim faces of his ancestors, would have called him an aristocrat who held all things cheap but an ancient home and a noble family. His son Allan, as the future Campbell of Drumloch, was an important person in his eyes; he took care that he was well educated, and early made familiar with the leisure and means of a fine gentleman. And as Allan was intelligent and handsome, with a stately carriage and courtly manners, there seemed no reason why the old root should not produce a new and far more splendid line.

When Mary Campbell was nineteen, and her estate perfectly clear, it seemed to her uncle a proper time to consummate the hopes for which he had toiled and planned. He explained them fully to his son, and then said, "Now, Allan, go and ask Mary to be your wife. The sooner I see you in your own place, the happier I shall be."

A spirit of contradiction sprang up in the young man's heart, as soon as the words were uttered. Probably, it was but the development of an antagonism that had been lying latent for years. He remained silent so long, that his father's anger rose.

"Have you nothing to say, sir?" he asked. "A good wife and an old and honorable estate are worth a few words of acknowledgment."

"I do not wish to marry Drumloch, sir." John Campbell turned white, and

the paper in his hand shook violently. "Do you mean me to understand that

I have been working ten years for a disappointment? I will not have ten

Years of my life wasted to pleasure a foolish youth."

"Is it right for me to marry a woman I do not love, and so waste my whole life?"

A conversation begun in such a spirit was not likely to end satisfactorily. Indeed it closed in great anger, and the renewal of the subject day after day, only made both men more determined to stand by the position they had taken toward each other. Allan almost wondered at his own obstinacy. Before his father had so broadly stated the case to him, he had rather liked his cousin. She was a calm, cheerful, sensible girl, with very beautiful eyes, and that caressing, thoughtful manner which is so comfortable in household life. He believed that if he had been left any freedom of choice, he would have desired only Mary Campbell to be his wife. But he told himself that he would not be ordered into matrimony, or compelled to sacrifice his right of choice, for any number of dead-and-gone Campbells.

There was no prospect of any reconciliation between father and son, except by Allan's unconditional surrender. Allan did not regard this step as impossible in the future, but for the present he knew it was. He decided to leave home for a few months, and when the subject was opened again to be himself the person to move the question. He felt that in the matter of his own marriage he ought at least to make the proposition; it was enough for his father to agree to it. The trouble had arisen from the reversal of this natural order.

Mary had perceived that there was dissension between her uncle and cousin, but she had not associated herself with it. She was sure that it was about money, for evidently Allan had lived an extravagant life when he was abroad. So, when he said to her one morning, "Mary, father and I cannot agree at present, and I think I will go away for a few weeks;" she answered,

"I think you are right, Allan. If one has a hurt, it does not do to be always looking at it, and touching it. If you have a quarrel with uncle, let it rest, and then it will heal. Do you want-any money, Cousin Allan? I have plenty, and I do not use it."

She spoke shyly with hesitation and blushes, but he felt all the kindness of the question. He took her hand and kissed it. At that moment she looked lovely to him.

"I have no need of money, Mary. I only ask for your kind remembrance."

"That is ever yours. Do not go far away."

"Not far. You shall hear from me soon."

The thought of a correspondence struck him very pleasantly. He might thus-if he liked the idea upon future reflection-arrange the whole matter with Mary, and return home as her expected husband. That would be a sufficient assertion of his own individuality.

He went to Edinburgh. He had no definite plan, only that he felt a desire for seclusion, and he knew fewer people in Edinburgh than in Glasgow or London. The day after his arrival there he accompanied a casual acquaintance to Leith pier, from which place the latter was going to sail for London. As he stood watching the vessel away, his hat blew off and a fisherman brought it back to him. It was Will Johnson of Pittenloch, and he was not a man to whom Allan felt he could offer money. But he stood talking with him about the Fife fishing towns, until he became intensely interested in their life. "I want to see them," he said to Will; "let me have a couple of hours to get my trunks, and I will go with you to Pittenloch."

There are very few men who have not a native longing for the ocean; who do not love to go

"--back to the great, sweet

Mother,

Mother and lover of men, the sea;"

and Allan forgot all his annoyances, as soon as he felt the bound of the boat under him. Johnson had to touch at Largo, but ere they reached it the wind rose, and it was with some difficulty the harbor was made. But during the rough journey Allan got very near to the men in the boat; he looked forward to a stay at Pittenloch with pleasure; and afterward, events would doubtless shape themselves better than he could at that time determine them.

It had been a sudden decision, and made very much in that spirit which leads men to toss up a penny for an oracle. And sometimes it seems as if a Fate, wise or otherwise, answers the call so recklessly made. If he lived for a century Allan knew that he would never forget that first walk to Promoters-the big fisherman at his side, the ocean roaring in his ears, the lights from the cottage windows dully gleaming through the black darkness-never forget that moment in which Maggie Promoter turned from the fire with the "cruisie" in her hand, the very incarnation of womanhood, crowned with perfect health and splendid beauty.

It was Allan's nature to drift with events, and to easily accommodate himself to circumstances. In France he had been a gay, fashionable trifler; in Germany cloudy philosophies and musical ideas had fascinated him; in Rome he had dreamed in old temples, and painted and smoked with the artists in their lofty shabby studios. He was equally ready to share the stirring danger and freedom of the fisher's life, for he was yet young enough to feel delight in physical exertion, and in physical danger.

When the boat went hammering through cheerless seas, and the lines were heavy with great ling fish, it was pleasure to match his young supple thews with those of the strongest men. And it was pleasure, when hungry and weary, to turn shoreward, and feel the smell of the peat smoke on the south-west wind, bringing the cottage hearth, and the welcome meal, and the beautiful face of Maggie Promoter nearer. Even when the weather was stormy, and it was a hurl down one sea, and a hoist up the next, when the forty foot mast had to be lowered and lashed down, and the heavy mizzen set in its place, Allan soon grew to enjoy the tumult and the fight, and his hand was always ready to do its share.

Very soon after going to the Promoters he procured himself some suits of fishers' clothing; and Maggie often thought when he came in from the sea, rosy and glowing, with his brown hair wet with the spindrift, nets on his shoulders, or lines in his hands, that he was the handsomest fisher-lad that ever sailed the Frith of Forth. David and Allan were much together, for David had gone back to the boats as the minister bade him, yet the duty had been made far easier than he expected. For when Allan understood how the Promoters' boat had failed them, he purchased a fishing skiff of his own, and David, and the men whom David hired, sailed her for her owner. David had his certain wage, the men had the fish, and Allan had a delight in the whole situation far greater than any mere pleasure yacht could possibly have given him.

Where there is plenty of money, events do not lag. In a couple of months the Promoters' cottage was apparently as settled to its new life as ever it had been to the old one. The "Allan Campbell" was a recognized craft in the fishing fleet, and generally Allan sailed with her as faithfully as if his life depended upon the catching of the gray fish. And when the sea-mood was not on him, he had another all-sufficing occupation. For he was a good amateur painter, and he was surrounded by studies almost irresistible to an artistic soul.

The simple folk of Pittenloch looked dubiously at him when he stood before his easel. There was to them something wonderful, mysterious, almost uncanny, in the life-like reproduction of themselves and their boats, their bits of cottages, and their bare-footed bairns-in the painted glimpses of the broad-billowed ocean; and the desolate old hills, with such forlorn lights on their scarps, as the gloom of primeval tempests might have cast.

The controversy about these bits of painted canvas interested every one in the village; for though Allan talked beautifully about "looking up" through nature unto nature's God, it was a new doctrine to the Fife fishers; who had always looked for God in their Bibles, and their consciences. Except in rare cases, it was impossible for them to conceive how painting might be a Gate Beautiful to the temple.

Indeed Elder John Mackelvine, a dour, stern, old Calvinist, was of opinion that every picture was a breaking of the second commandment-"A makin' o' an image and likeness o' the warks o' God, and sae, neither mair nor less than idolatry. Forbye, pictur's are pairfectly ridic'lus," he continued; "what for, will you want the image o' a thing, when you hae the thing itsel'? John Knox kent weel what he was doing when he dinged doon a' the pictur's and images in thae auld kirks. He kent men were aye mair pleased to worship their ain handywark, than the Creator's."

David listened with many misgivings, but he ventured to say that, "there was nae thocht o' idolatry in Allan Campbell's heart."

"You'll dootless ken a' aboot it, Davie," answered Mackelvine scornfully; "but you'll no deny that he was sae set up wi' the pictur' he made o' Largo Bay, that he might just as weel hae bowed doon to it. The Everlasting hills! The everlasting seas!" said the old fisher, man, rising And stretching upward and outward his bare, brown arm, "put them in a paintin'! Pairfect nonsense! Even-down sin!"

From this conversation David went directly home. It was Saturday night and the boats all in harbor for the Sabbath day. The house place was spotlessly clean, the evening meal waiting. As soon as David spoke to his sister, Allan opened his door and called him. "Come here, David Promoter, I want to show you something."

David guessed that it was a new picture, and he went a little reluctantly.

"This is an 'interior', David," he said excitedly; "it is the first I have ever tried, and I am so pleased with the result;-what do you think of it?"

David slowly approached the easel. The picture represented faithfully the living room of his own cottage. All its breadths of light and shade, all its telling contrasts, were used skilfully as a background for Maggie. She was gazing with a white anxious face out of the little window seaward, watching the gathering storm, and the fishing boats trying to make the harbor through it.

"What do you think of it, David?"

"It is wonderfu', sir; but I dinna approve o' it. I think you will hae nae right to put the fear o' death and dool, and the breaking hearts o' women into a pictur'. Forbye, you might sell it, and I wouldna like my sister-no to speak o' my hame-to be turned into siller. And there's mair to say, sir. Some o' oor folk think it isna lawfu' in the sight o' God to mak' the image o' anything; and seeing, sir, that I humbly hope some day to stand upon the altar steps, it would ill become me to hurt the conscience o' auld or young. I must walk circumspect for the vera hope's sake."

"I never thought of selling a picture, David; I would not sell one with your sister in it, for all the gold in Scotland. And this is the first time I have heard of your intention regarding the ministry. Why did you not tell me before? How gladly I would have helped you!"

"It is a hope I dinna let mysel' think o' just yet, sir. Dr. Balmuto bid me bide in the boats for a twelve months, and, you ken, I couldna leave Maggie her lane, here."

"Perhaps Maggie will marry." He dropped each word slowly, as if it gave him pain.

"Ay; I hope she will. There was mair than one word spoken aboot a lad in the village; but after oor great loss, she wouldna hear tell o' any lad; and the minister thocht we might weel wait thegither for one year onyway. He'd be right, dootless."

"David, after tea let us take a walk on the beach together. I have something to say to you."

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