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   Chapter 4 MAGGIE AND ANGUS.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 19033

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"What thing thou doest, bravely do;

When Heaven's clear call hath found thee"

"All thoughts, all passions, all delights

Whatever stirs this mortal frame,

All are but ministers of Love,

And feed his sacred flame."

It was an exquisite evening toward the end of May; with a purple sunset brightening the seaward stretches, and the gathering herring fleet slowly drifting in the placid harbor. They walked silently toward a little rocky promontory, and there sat down. Allan's face was turned full toward his companion.

"David," he said, "I have lived with you ten weeks; slept under your roof, and eaten of your bread. I want you to remember how many happy hours we have spent together. At your fireside, where I have read aloud, and Maggie and you have listened-"

"Ay, sir. We hae had some fine company there. Poets, preachers, great thinkers and warkers o' all kinds. I'll ne'er forget thae hours."

"Happy hours also, David, when we have drifted together through starlight and moonlight, on the calm sea; and happy hours when we have made harbor together in the very teeth of death. I owe to you, David, some of the purest, healthiest and best moments of my life. I like to owe them to you. I don't mind the obligation at all. But I would be glad to show you that I am grateful. Let me pay your university fees. Borrow them of me. I am a rich man. I waste upon trifles and foolishness every year more than enough. You can give me this great honor and pleasure, David; don't let any false pride stand between us." He laid his hand upon David's hand, and looked steadily in his face for the answer.

"God, dootless, put the thocht in your heart. I gie Him and you thanks for it. And I'll be glad o' your help. Dr. Balmuto spake o' a year in the boats; when it is gane I'll tak' your offer, sir."

"You must not wait a year, David. You must try and be ready to go to

Aberdeen, or Edinburgh, or Glasgow in the autumn. What do you think of

Glasgow? The dear gray old college in the High Street! I went there

myself, David, and I have many friends among its professors."

"I'd like Glasca',-fine."

"Then it shall be Glasgow; and I will see Dr. Balmuto. He will not oppose your going, I am sure."

"Aboot Maggie, sir? I couldna seek my ain pleasure or profit at her loss. She doesna tak', like other lasses do, to the thocht o' marriage; and I canna bear to say a cross word to her. She is a' I have."

"There must be some way of arranging that matter. Tell Maggie what I have said, and talk affairs over with her. She will be sure to find out a way."

The conversation was continued for hours. Every contingency was fully discussed, and Allan was much pleased with David's prudence and unselfishness. "I think you will make a good minister," he said, "and we will all yet be very proud of you."

"I sall do my duty, sir, all o' it. I sall neither spare sin nor sinner. My ain right eye sall nae be dear to me, if it wad win a thocht frae His wark."

His pale face was lit as by some interior light, his eyes full of enthusiasm. He sat asking questions concerning the manners and methods of universities, the professors and lectures, and books and students, until the late moon rose red and solemn, above the sea and sky line, and Allan knew then it was almost midnight.

"We must go home, David. Maggie will wonder what has happened. We should have thought of her before this hour."

Indeed when they came near the cottage they saw Maggie standing at the door watching for them. She went in and closed it as soon as she perceived that all was well, and when the laggards would have explained their delay, she was too cross to listen to them.

"It's maist the Sabbath day," she said, hiding her fretfulness behind conscientious scruples, as all of us are ready to do. "I hope it wasna your ain thouchts and words you were sae ta'en up wi'; but I'm feared it was. You wadna hae staid sae lang, wi' better anes."

She would not look at Allan, and it pained him to see upon her face the traces of anxiety and disappointment.

Far through the night he sat at his open window, gazing out upon the sea, which was breaking almost below it. The unshed tears in Maggie's eyes, and her evident trouble at his absence, had given him a heart pain that he could not misunderstand. He knew that night that he loved the woman. Not with that low, earthy affection, which is satisfied with youth, or beauty of form or color. His soul clave unto her soul. He longed to kiss her heavy eyes and troubled mouth, not because they were lovely, but because his heart ached to soothe the sorrow he had given her, and longed to comfort her with happy hopes for the future.

But he had seen enough of these honest-hearted fisher-women, to know that the smallest act of tenderness was regarded by them as a promise. Of that frivolous abuse of the sweetest things which is called flirtation, Maggie had not the faintest conception. If it could have been explained to her, she would have recoiled from it with shame and indignation.

She would not have comprehended that a man should admire her, and tell her that he loved her, unless he intended to make her his wife.

And Allan was not prepared to admit this conclusion to the intercourse which had been so sweet, so inexpressibly sweet. He knew that her simple presence was a joy to him. He could see that her shining eyes grew brighter at his approach, and that her face broke up like happy music as he talked to her. "She is the other half of my own soul," he said, "and my life can never be complete without her. But what a mockery of Fate to bring us together. I cannot fall to her station; I cannot raise her to mine. I ought to go away, and I will. In a little while she will forget me."

The thought angered and troubled him; he tossed restlessly to and fro Until daybreak, and then fell into a heavy slumber. And he dreamed of Mary Campbell. His heart was full of Maggie, but he dreamed of Mary; and he wondered at the circumstance, and though he was hardly conscious of the fact, it made him a trifle cooler and more restrained in his intercourse with Maggie. And Maggie thought of her bad temper the previous night, and she was ashamed and miserable.

At irregular intervals, as occasion served, he had gone into Edinburgh, and when there, he had always made an opportunity for writing to Meriton. Mary therefore concluded that he was staying in Edinburgh, and John Campbell did not fret much over the absence of a son who could be recalled easily in a few hours. He understood that Allan was in correspondence with his Cousin Mary, and he would not admit a doubt of the final settlement of the Drumloch succession in the way he desired.

And undoubtedly the result of Allan's long self-examination was a resolve to tear himself away from Maggie Promoter, and return to his home and his evident duty. He could show his regard for the Promoters by interesting himself in David's advancement. Maggie would understand his motives. She would know what he suffered by her own sufferings, but the weary ache would die out finally, and leave only in each heart a tender memory which perhaps they might carry into another life, "if both should not forget." He almost wept as he made this mental funeral of his dearest hopes; yet he made it frequently during the following days, and he was making it so earnestly as he walked into Kinkell to see Dr. Balmuto, that he was at the manse before he had realized that he was on the road to it.

The doctor had seen him frequently in Kirk, but always in such clothes as the fishers wore. He glanced at the elegantly dressed young man and recognized him. Then he lifted the card which Allan had sent in as his introduction, and said sharply, "Good morning, Mr. Campbell. I have seen you often lately-in fisher's dress. I hope you have a good reason for the masquerade, for let me tell you, I know something of John Campbell, your father, and I doubt if you have his approval."

"I must ask you, doctor, to take my motives on trust for the present. I assure you I think they are good ones. But I came here this morning to speak of David Promoter. I have been staying with him for some weeks. I respect and admire him. I desire out of my abundance to help him."

"He is a proud lad. I doubt if he will let you."

"He is quite willing that I should have this pleasure, if he has your permission. I wish him to go to Glasgow this autumn; he says you told him to stay in the boats for a year."

"I did; but I may have made a mistake. I thought he was a little uplifted with himself. He spoke as if he were needful to the church-but the lad may have felt the spirit in him. I would not dare to try and quench it. Your offer is a providence; it is as if God put out his own hand and Opened the kirk door for him. Tell David Promoter I said, 'Go to Glasgow, and the Lord go with thee.' But what is to come of his sister? She is a very handsome girl," and he looked sharply at Allan, "is she going to marry?"

"I have asked nothing concerning that question, sir."

"I am very glad to hear you say that; glad for her sake, glad for yours also."

Then the subject of the Promoters was gradually dropped; although Allan spent the day at Kinkell manse. For the doctor was a man with a vivid mind. Though he was old he liked to talk to young men, liked to hear them tell of their studies, and friendships, and travels, and taste through their eager conversation the flavor of the

ir fresher life. Allan remained with him until near sunset, then in the warm, calm gloaming, he slowly took the homeward route, down the precipitous crags and hills.

At a sudden turn of the path near the beach, he saw Maggie. She sat upon a rock so directly beneath him that he could have let his handkerchief fall into her lap. Her arms were dropped, her attitude listless; without seeing her face, Allan was certain that her eyes were sad, and her long gaze at the incoming tide full of melancholy. He was just going to speak, when he saw a man coming toward her at a rapid pace. It was Angus Raith, and Allan was conscious of a sharp pang of annoyance and jealousy.

He had no intention to watch them, neither had he any desire to meet Angus while he was with Maggie. That would have been a little triumph for Angus, which Allan did not intend to give him. So he determined to remain where he was until they had either parted or gone away together. He was undoubtedly angry. It never struck him that the meeting might be an accidental one. He was certain that, for some reason or other, Maggie had an appointment with her well-known admirer; and he said bitterly to himself, "Like to like, why should I have the heart-ache about her?"

The sound of their voices, in an indistinct, fitful way, reached him where he sat. At first there was nothing peculiar in the tone, but in a few minutes it was evident that Maggie was getting angry. Allan rose then and went slowly toward them. Where the hill touched the beach it terminated in a point of jagged rocks about seven feet high. Maggie and Angus stood on one side of them, Allan on the other. He was as yet unseen, but half-a-dozen steps would bring them together. Maggie was by this time in a passion.

"It is weel for you, Angus Raith, that my fayther is at the bottom o' the sea," she said. "If Will was alive, or John, or Sandy, this day, ye hadna daured to open your ill mouth to me."

"Why dinna you tell your fine brother Davie?"

"Davie is aboon sorting the like o' you. Do you think I wad hae hands that are for the Ordinances touch you, you-born deevil?"

"Tell Maister Allan Campbell then. If a's true that's said to be true-"

"Dinna say it, Angus! Dinna say it! I warn you to keep a still tongue in your head."

"If he isna your man, he ought to be."

In a moment she had struck him on the mouth a blow so swift and stinging that it staggered him. Allan heard it; he stepped quickly forward and put his hand upon her shoulder. She was quivering like a wounded bird. But she drew herself proudly away from Allan's touch and faced Angus in a blaze of scornful passion.

"Ay; strike me back! It wad be like you!" For the first impulse of the man on recovering himself had been to raise his hand. "But I'd rayther you struck me dead at your feet, than to be your wife for ane five minutes."

Angus laughed mockingly. "You kent wha was behind the rock dootless! The blank-blank-blank fine gentleman! The--the--the--" and a volley of epithets and imprecations followed which made Maggie put her hands to her ears.

"Let me take you home." It was Allan who spoke, and again he laid his hand gently upon her. She shook it angrily off. "Dinna touch me, sir!" she cried, "I hae had scorn and sorrow in plenty for you. I can tak' mysel' hame finely;" and she walked rapidly away with her head flung proudly backward.

The girl had never been taught to control her feelings. She was a natural woman suffering under a sense of insult and injustice, and resenting it. And she was angry at Allan for being a witness to her emotion. His very calmness had seemed like a reproof to her. Wrath, chagrin, shame, resentment, swept in hot passionate waves over her; and the very intensity of her mental anguish imparted to her body a kind of majesty that perforce commanded respect.

Never had Allan thought her so beautiful. The words of irrevocable Devotion were on his lips. But at that moment had he been king of Scotland, Maggie Promoter would not have stayed to listen to them. So he turned to Angus. The man, with an insolent, defiant face, stood leaning against the rock. He had taken out his pipe, and with an assumption of indifference was trying to light it. Every trick of self-defence was known to Allan. He could have flung Angus to the ground as easily as a Cumberland shepherd throws the untrained wrestler, but how little honor, and how much shame, there would be in such an encounter! He looked steadily at the cowardly bully for a moment, and then turning on his heel, followed Maggie. The mocking laugh which Angus sent after him, did not move any feeling but contempt; he was far more anxious to comfort and conciliate the suffering, angry woman, than to revenge himself upon so despicable an enemy.

But when he arrived at the cottage the door was shut. This was so rarely its condition that he could not help feeling that Maggie had intentionally put him away from her presence. He was miserable in his uncertainty, he longed to comfort the womanhood he had heard outraged, but he was not selfish enough to intrude upon a desired solitude, although as he slowly walked up and down before the closed door, he almost felt the chafing of the wounded heart behind it.

And Maggie, in all her anger and humiliation, was not insensible to Allan's position. As she rocked herself to and fro, and wept and moaned Without restraint, she was conscious of the man who respected her unjust humiliation too much to intrude upon it, even with his sympathy: who comprehended her so well, as to understand that even condolence might be an additional offence. She could not have put the feeling into words, and yet she clearly understood that there are some sorrows which it is the truest kindness to ignore.

In about half-an-hour the first vehemence of her grief was over. She stood up and smoothly snooded back her hair; she dried her eyes, and then looked cautiously out of the window. In the dim light, Allan's tall graceful figure had a commanding aspect, greatly increased in Maggie's eyes by the fashionable clothing he wore that day. As she watched him, he stood still and looked toward the sea; and his attitude had an air of despondency that she could not endure to witness. She went to the door, set it wide open, and stood upon its threshold until Allan came near.

"I dinna mean to shut you oot, sir," she said sadly, "you are aye welcome."

"Thank you, Maggie."

His voice was grave, almost sorrowful, and he went at once to his own room. That was precisely what Maggie felt he ought under the circumstances to do; and yet she had a perverse anger at him for doing it.

"He might hae said, 'it's a fine night;' or 'has Davie come hame?' or the like o' that," she whispered; "I'll hae lost his liking forever mair, anda' for Angus Raith's ill tongue. I wish I had keep't my temper, but that is past wishing for." Then a sudden thought struck her, and she knocked gently at Allan's door.

"Is that you, Maggie?"

"Yes, sir. I want to speak a word wi' you. Will you come ben a minute?"

He responded at once to her desire-"What is it, Maggie?" he asked.

"If it please you, sir, I dinna want Davie to ken anything anent to-night's ill-words and ill-wark."

"I think that is a very wise decision."

"No gude can come o' telling what's ill, and if you wad believe me, sir,

I'm vera, vera sorry, for my share in it."

Her eyelids were dropped, they trembled visibly, and there was a pathetic trouble and humiliation in her beautiful face. Allan was sick with restrained emotion. He longed to fold the trembling, wounded woman to his heart. He fully believed that he had the power to kiss back the splendor of beauty and joy into her pale face; and it would have been the greatest felicity earth could grant him, to do so. Yet, for honor's sake, he repressed the love and the longing in his heart, and stood almost cold and unresponsive before her.

"I am vera, vera sorry," she repeated. "The man said words I couldna thole, and sae-I struck him."

"I do not blame you, Maggie. It would be a delight to me to strike him as he deserves to be struck. For your sake, I kept my hands off the wretch. To-morrow, before all his mates, if you say so, I will punish him."

"Na, na, na; that is the thing I'm feared for I dinna want my name in everybody's lips; and you ken, sir, hoo women-folks talk anent women. They'd say; 'Weel, weel, there's aye fire where there's smoke,' and the like o' that, and they wad shake their heads, and look oot o' the corner o' their e'en, and I couldna thole it, sir."

"There is David to remember also. Dr. Balmuto thinks with me. He is to go to Glasgow College in the autumn, and a quarrel might now be a bad thing for his whole life. He wants every hour for study, he has no time for Angus Raith I think."

"Thank you, sir-and if you wad try and forget the shame put upon me, and no quite tak' away the gude will you had for me, I'd be vera grateful and happy." And she covered her eyes with her left hand, and shyly put out the right one to Allan.

"Oh, Maggie! Maggie!" he said almost in a whisper, "you little know how you try me! Dear girl, forget all, and be happy!" And as her hand lay in his hand, his eyes fell upon it. It was a brown hand, large, but finely formed, the hand of a sensitive, honorable, capable woman. It was the hand with which she had struck Angus Raith; yet Allan bowed his head to it, and left both a kiss and a tear on its palm.

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