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   Chapter 6 OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 21916

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"There is a change in every hour's recall,

And the last cowslip in the fields we see

On the same day with the first corn poppy.

Alas for hourly change, Alas for all

The loves that from his hand proud Youth lets fall,

Even as the beads of a told rosary!"

The next day Allan bade David "good-bye," for a week. He went first to his father's office; where he received a glad welcome. Their dispute did not interfere with the courtesies of life; nor indeed, had it in any degree dulled the sincere affection between father and son. As they stood a moment hand-fast, they looked into each other's face, and in the mutual look there was a dumb acknowledgment of a love which could not be easily shadowed, and which no circumstances could altogether extinguish.

"Where have you been so long, Allan? I have wearied to see you."

"I was on the East coast, father."

"Trying to find out what you really wanted?"

"That, and also making some fine studies. I have brought back with me a few pictures which I hope you will like. Shall I take the noon boat to Meriton, or wait for you?"

"Go at noon. I may stop at Largo to see a yacht I think of buying."

"How is Mary?"

"Well and bonnie. She will be glad to see you. She has been glad always to see a letter with the Edinburgh postmark. James Sinclair is waiting for advices, so 'good-bye' until we meet at Meriton. Just tell MacRoy to let us have a bottle of the 'comet' [Footnote: Comet wine, that of 1811, the year of the comet, and the best vintage on record; famed for its delicate aroma.] Madeira tonight. The occasion will excuse it." Allan felt grateful, for he knew what the order really meant-it was the wine of homecoming, and rejoicing, and gratitude. And afterall, he had been something of a prodigal, and his father's greeting, so full of regard, so destitute of reproach, had touched him very much. How beautiful was Clyde side! How homelike the heathery hills, the dimpling bays, the luxuriant stretches of wood, the stately dwellings crowning the smooth green, sloping lawns! The bold rocks of Fife, the bellowing waves, the plaintive cries of the fishermen, the salt and sparkle of the great sea, the rocking, bounding boat upon it, all these things slipped from his memory in the charm of the present picture.

He was impatient to reach his home, and glad to see the coachman and a phaeton waiting, when the steamer touched the little jetty. The man raised his hat with a pleasure there was no mistaking. "I came my ways doon on a 'may be,' sir," he said proudly, "I jist had a feeling o' being wanted here. Whiles, thae feelings are as gude as a positive order. You'll be come to stay, Mr. Allan, surely, sir. There'll be a sight o' birds in the heather this year."

"My stay depends on this and that, Archibald. Is there any change round

Meriton?"

"Nane worth the praising, sir. We hae a new minister. I dinna think much o' him."

"Not orthodox, I suppose."

"A puir body, sir, a puir body at a sermon. I like a gun and a minister to shoot close. Dr. MacDonald is an awfu' scattering man. He'll be frae Genesis to Revelations in the same discourse, sir."

They were passing between plantations of young larch; the great hills rose behind them, the songs of a multitude of birds filled the warm, sweet air. The horses tossed their heads, and lifted proudly their prancing feet. Allan had a keen sense of the easy, swift motion through the balmy atmosphere. As he leaned back against the comfortably cushioned vehicle, he could not help contrasting the circumstances with the hoary sea-shattering rocks of Fife, the tossing ocean, the tugging oars, and the fisherman's open boat. He did not try to decide upon the merits of the different situations; he simply realized the present, and enjoyed it.

The great doors of Meriton House stood open, and a soft-treading footman met him with bows and smiles, and lifted his cloak and luggage, and made him understand that he had again entered a life in which he was expected to be unable to wait upon himself. It gave him no trouble to accept the conditions; he fell at once into the lofty leisurely way of a man accustomed to being served. He had dismissed his valet in Edinburgh, when he determined to go to Pittenloch, but he watched his father's servant brushing his dinner suit, and preparing his bath and toilet, without one dissenting feeling as to the absolute fitness of the attention. The lofty rooms, the splendor and repose, the unobtrusive but perfect service, were the very antipodes of the life he had just left. He smiled to himself as he lazily made contrasts of them. But Fife and the ways of Fife seemed far away. It was like a dream from which he had awakened, and Meriton was the actual and the present.

He knew that he would meet Mary Campbell very soon, and he was not indifferent to the meeting. He could not help glancing with complaisance at the new evening suit he had brought with him; and looking a little ruefully at his browned and hardened hands, and the tan of wind and weather on his face. He hoped he would meet Mary before his father's arrival; so that he could get accustomed to the situation before he had to exhibit himself in it to those keen and critical observers, the servants.

He went early into the dining-room, and found Mary already there. She had some ferns and roses in her hands, and was mingling them, for the adornment of the dinner table. She put them down, and went to meet him with a smile like sunshine. Her small, slender figure clothed in white India mull had a peculiarly fragile appearance; but Allan watched her, as she glided about the room filling the crystal vases, with a restful content. He thought how intelligent her face is! How graceful her diction, how charming her low, sweet voice!

The dinner was a kind of festival. Mac Roy made every one feel so, when he served with careful and elaborate ceremonies the famous wine. Allan felt almost pained by the significance given to his return. It roused the first feeling of opposition in him. "I will not float with the current unless I wish to do so," was his mental determination; "and I will not have it supposed that my return home is a surrender of my inclinations." Unfortunately John Campbell regarded it as such; and his desire was to adequately show his appreciation of the concession. Before Allan had been at home three days, he perceived that his father was restless and impatient. He had watched and waited so long, he could not help feeling that Allan was unkind to keep a question of such importance in abeyance and uncertainty.

But the week Allan had allowed himself nearly passed and he had not been able to say a word to Mary on the subject pressing him so closely. He felt that he must have more time, and he went into Glasgow to see David. He found him in Professor Laird's study hard at work; and he saw at a glance the easy attitude of the young man among his new surroundings. When the servant said, "Here is a gentleman to call on you, Mr. Promoter," David rose without the slightest embarrassment to welcome his visitor; though when the door was closed, he said with a smile, "I let them call me 'Mister Promoter;' I must consider the office I'm seeking and gie it honor; but it sounds unca strange, sir. Whiles, I feel as if I wad be glad to hear somebody say 'David' to me."

"Well, David, have you had a good week?"

"A week fu' o' grand promises, sir. I hae had a glint inside spacious halls o' delightfu' stillness and wonderfu' wisdom. I'll ne'er forget the joy o' it."

"We promised Maggie to return in seven days. I shall not be able to keep my promise, but I think it will be right for you to do so."

"I wad be glad if you were going wi' me."

"I shall follow ere long; and even if I should never see you again, David, I think your future is assured. Would you like me to go with you as far as Edinburgh?"

"I wad like it, but there is nae occasion for it. The city doesna fright me noo. If I couldna find my way to Pittenloch wi' a gude Scot's tongue in my mouth, and siller in my purse, I wad hae little hope of ever finding my way into a pulpit. Thank you kindly, sir."

"Then good-bye for the present, Davie, and give my regards to your sister."

He felt like a traitor to Maggie and to his own heart, but what was there else for him to say. When he reached the street the whole atmosphere of life seemed to have changed. A sudden weariness of the placid existence at Meriton attacked him. Was he to go on, year after year, dressing and visiting, and taking little rows in land-locked bays, and little rides and drives with Mary Campbell? "I would rather fling a net in the stormiest sea that ever roared, for my daily bread," he said. Yet he went on dressing, and rowing, and riding, and visiting for many more weeks; sometimes resenting the idle, purposeless life as thoroughly enervating; more frequently, drifting in its sunshiny current, and hardly caring to oppose it, though he suspected it was leading him to Drumloch.

What curious "asides" and soliloquies of the soul are dreams! Perhaps if we cared to study them more conscientiously they would reveal us to ourselves in many startling ways. The deep, real feelings which we will not recognize while awake, take possession of us when we sleep; and the cup-bearer who was slain for dreaming that he poisoned the king was, very likely, righteously slain. The dream had but revealed the secret thought of his soul. "We sleep, but our heart waketh," and though

"Calm and still may be the sleeping face

In the moonlight pale,

The heart waketh in her secret place

Within the veil.

And agonies are suffered in the night;

Or joys embraced too keen for waking sight."

One morning, just at the gray dawn, Allan had a dream of this kind. He saw Maggie on the sea alone, and he was sailing away from her. She stood upright in a little open boat, which the waves tossed to and fro:-a speechless, woe-stricken woman, who watched him with sorrow-haunted eyes, but neither by word, look, nor movement called him to her.

He awoke, and could sleep no more. The dream had revealed him to himself. Who was there in all the world as dear to him as Maggie was? He felt that she was wretched, and he hated himself for having made her so. That very hour he wrote to David, and said all that he might say, to give her hope and comfort, and over and over he declared his purpose of being in Pittenloch, before David left it for Glasgow. How soon David might get the letter was a very uncertain thing, but still he could not rest until he had written it.

He was dull and silent at breakfast, and hid himself and his moody temper behind his favorite newspaper. Mary had often noticed that men like to be quiet in the early morning; she gave them naturally all the benefit they claim from the pressure of unread mails and doubtful affairs. If her cousin was quiet

and sombre, he might have half-a-dozen innocent reasons for the humor; when he felt more social, he would be sure to seek her. And when she saw him sauntering toward her favorite retreat she was nothing astonished. It was the fulfillment of as natural an expectation as that the clock should strike at the full hour.

"I am glad to see you, Allan," she said, with a charming serenity of manner. "We shall not now have many days as fair as this one is." She wore a gown of pale blue lawn, and had a great cluster of scarlet fuchsias in her hand. Behind the garden bench on which she sat, there was a hedge of fuchsias seven feet high and very thick. Her small dark head rested against its green and scarlet masses. The little bay tinkled and murmured among the pebbles at her feet. She had a book, but she was not reading. She had some crochet, but she was not working. Allan thought he had never seen her look so piquant and interesting: but she had no power to move him. The lonely, splendid beauty of the woman he had seen in his morning vision filled his heart. He sought Mary that hour only for Maggie's sake.

While he was wondering how he could best introduce the conversation he desired, Mary broke the silence by a sudden question. "Cousin Allan, where were you this spring? I have often wanted to ask you."

"Why did you not ask me? I wish you had, I should like to have talked on that subject. I was in the Fife fishing district."

"Oh!"

"Why do you feel curious, Mary?"

"I have always thought there was something singular about that journey.

What took you to Fife? I never heard you speak of Fife before."

"It was an accident. My hat blew off, a Fife fisherman got it for me. I liked the man, and went back to Fife with him."

"Accidents open the door to Fate. Now then, what singular thing happened to you in Fife?"

"Nothing unusual happened. Is this my catechism or yours, Mary?"

"We can divide it. It is your turn to question."

"Do you know why I left home?"

"You had a 'difference' with Uncle John."

"What about?"

"Money, I dare say. I feel sure you were very extravagant while you were abroad."

"It was not about money."

"About going into business then? You ought to do something, Allan. It is a shame for you to be so lazy."

"It was not about business. It was about you."

"Me!"

"My dear Mary, for what I am going to say, I beg your pardon in advance, for I feel keenly the position in which I must appear before you. You know that the welfare of Drumloch has been my father's object by day, and his dream by night. He cannot bear to think of a stranger or a strange name in its old rooms. Long ago, when we were little children, our marriage was planned, and when the place was clear, and you had grown to a beautiful womanhood, and I had completed my education, father longed to see us in Drumloch. There were points we could not agree upon. He was angry, I was obstinate-Mary, I know not how to tell you; how to ask you-"

"Allan, my dear brother Allan, spare yourself and me any more words." She looked up with clear, candid eyes, and laid her hand upon his. "Uncle is not unjust in his expectations. His outlay, his cares, his labor, have saved Drumloch to the family. It is as much his purchase as if he had bought every acre at public roup. And he has been a second father to me; kind, generous, thoughtful. It is hard enough for him that his plans must fail; it would be cruel indeed if he were parted from a son he loves so tenderly as he loves you, Allan. Let me bear the blame. Let it be my fault his hopes cannot be realized."

"Can they not be realized, Mary?"

"Do you mean by that question to offer me your hand, Allan? At any rate I will consider it a fulfillment of your father's desire. No, they cannot be realized. You are to me as a brother. I distinctly refuse to accept you as a husband. Uncle John is a gentleman; he will consider my 'no' as final; and he is too just to blame you, because I decline to be your wife. Nor shall we be any worse friends, Allan, for this honest talk, I am sure of that." She smiled bravely in his face, and he did not suspect how deeply both her affections and her pride had been wounded.

"Let us go back to the house; the air is heavy and hot, we may have a storm."

Allan was thoroughly miserable and unsettled. As soon as Mary had so positively refused him, he began to have doubts and longings. "Drumloch was a fine estate-the name was old and honorable, and in a fair way for greater honors-Mary was sweet and sensible, and a woman to be desired above all other women-except Maggie. Yet, after all, was he not paying a great price for his pearl?" Mary and Maggie were both difficult to resign. He began to grumble at events and to blame every one but himself. "If his father had not been so unreasonable, he never would have gone to Edinburgh at the time he did-never would have gone to Pittenloch-never would have met Maggie Promoter."

John Campbell came home in unusually high spirits. He had made a profitable contract, and he had done a kindness to an old friend. Both circumstances had been mental tonics to him. He felt himself a happy man. The atmosphere of the dinner table chilled him a little, but for once the subject on which he was always hoping and fearing did not enter his mind. When Mary left the room, he said cheerfully, "We will be with you anon, dearie, and then you shall sing for us, 'The Lass O' Gowrie,'" and he began to hum the pretty melody as he poured out for himself another glass of port. "Help yourself, Allan. You do not seem very bright to-night."

"I do not feel very bright. Mary told me positively this morning that she would not marry me."

"What! Not marry you? Did you ask her?"

"She said 'no'."

"Oh, but she be to marry you! Your father would not have taken 'no', sir."

"A man cannot force a rich girl to be his wife. If you will speak to Mary, you will understand how useless any further hope is."

"I will speak to her. I can hardly believe this sorrow has really come to me."

He rose and went to his niece. "Come here, Mary, and sit down beside me. Allan tells me you will not have him for your husband. Your decision is a sore trouble to me; almost the worst trouble that could come to me. Oh, Mary, what is the matter? Is not Allan handsome, and kind, and good, and rich enough to mate you? And he loves you, too; I am sure he loves you; he could not help it."

"But, uncle, what if he loves some other girl better than me?"

"That isn't possible. Did he tell you such a thing as that?"

"No; but I am sure it is so. However, Allan is the second thought, uncle;

Drumloch is the first. We must save Drumloch for the Campbells, uncle."

"You dear lassie! But how can that be done if Allan is not in the same mind?"

"Three things may happen, uncle. I may remain unmarried, I may marry, I may die. If I remain unmarried, I am only the steward of Drumloch; I shall save it for Allan or Allan's children. If I die, its disposition will be the same. If I marry into a strange name or family, I will sell Drumloch to you before I change my name."

"You are a wise, kindly little woman; and you have found a drop of comfort for me. I will buy Drumloch any day you wish to sell it. May be then I'll be Campbell of Drumloch myself."

"Drumloch will be well off with such a laird. I would not fret yourself one moment, uncle. There is more good in a disappointment than can be seen."

"God bless you, my dearie! Allan is blind, and deaf, and foolish, or he would never have taken 'no' from you."

"He is in love, uncle. That accounts for everything. Do you know where he was during his last absence?"

"On the east coast, making pictures. The two he gave me are wonderful. He has genius certainly; the Campbells mostly have genius. I had siller to make, or I could have painted pictures myself. I have a remarkable perception anent color."

"He was in the Fife fishing villages."

"And a very good place for subjects. The Fife fishers are a fine race -faithful, religious, handsome."

"Very handsome, I should think. Did you notice the woman in the pictures

Allan gave you?"

"Yes, I did; a splendid study in both cases."

"Have you been in Allan's room lately?"

"Not since he returned home."

"Go to it to-night. You will find the walls covered with studies from

Fife. In nearly every study the same figure reappears. That is the woman

Allan loves. I am right, uncle; I feel I am."

"A fisher-girl!"

"Perhaps; but what a fisher-girl! The mother of men must have been like her. There is one picture in which she leans against a jagged mass of rocks, gazing over the sea. The face is so splendid, the figure so fine, the sense of life so ample, that it haunts you. And every likeness of her has just that tinge of melancholy which lies at the bottom of all things that are truly happy, or truly beautiful. How could Allan care for any other woman, having seen her?"

"You are a quick observer, Mary."

"The heart has its oracles as well as the head, uncle."

She spoke sadly, and John Campbell looked with a kindly curiosity at her. He felt almost certain that she had suffered a keen disappointment, as well as himself. "But she would die before she would make a complaint," he thought, "and I may learn a lesson from her. It is a weak soul that is not capable of its own consolation. She has evidently determined to make the best of things beyond her sorting."

After a short silence, Mary slipped quietly from the room. John Campbell scarcely noticed her departure. He had the heartache, and men of sixty have it far worse than men of twenty. When their hopes fail, they have no time left, often no ability left to renew them. To make the best of things was all that now remained; and he was the more able to do this because of Mary's promise to him. But it is always hard to feel in the evening that our day's work has been unsuccessful, and that resignation, and not success, must make the best of the hours remaining.

As he mused the storm, which had threatened all the afternoon, broke. The swash and patter of the rain against the windows, and the moaning of the trees on the lawn, made a dreary accompaniment to his melancholy musings. It grew chill, and a footman entered, put a match to the laid fuel, and lighted the gas. Then John Campbell made an effort to shake off the influence which oppressed him. He laid down the ivory paper knife, which he had been turning mechanically in his fingers, rose, and went to the window. How dark it was! The dripping outlook made him shiver, and he turned back to the slowly burning fire. But solitude and inaction became unbearable. "Regretting never mended wrong; if I cannot get the best, I can try for the second best. And perhaps the lad is not beyond reasoning with." Then he rose, and with a decided air and step went straight to Allan's room.

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