MoboReader> Literature > A Daughter of Fife

   Chapter 7 MAGGIE.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 25408

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"O, Love! let this my lady's picture glow

Under my hand to praise her name, and show

Even of her inner self a perfect whole

That he who seeks her beauty's furthest goal,

Beyond the light that the sweet glances throw

And refluent wave of the sweet smile, may know

The very sky and sea-line of her soul"

The suite of rooms which belonged especially to the heir of Meriton were very handsome ones, and their long, lofty parlor was full of art treasures gathered from the various cities which Allan had visited. The fire in this room had been lighted for some time and was burning cheerily, and the young man sat in its ruddy glow when his father entered.

"I was lonely to-night, Allan, so I have come to make you a visit."

"You do me a great honor, sir, and are most welcome." And he went to meet him gladly. But as Blair, his valet, was softly moving about in an inner room, conversation was confined to conventional grooves until the servant with a low "good night, sir," glided away. As soon as they were alone the effort to conceal emotion was mutually abandoned. John Campbell sat on one side of the hearth, with his head dropped toward his folded hands. Allan kept his eyes fixed upon the glowing coals; but he was painfully aware of his father's unhappy presence, and waiting for him to open the conversation which he saw was inevitable.

"I have had a knock-me-down blow to-night, son Allan."

"And I am much to blame for it; that is what grieves me, father."

"You are altogether to blame for it, Allan. I thought Mary loved you when you came home this summer; to-night I am sure she loves you. You must have made some great blunder or she would have married you."

"There was a great blunder. I did the thing accidentally which I had often had in my heart to do, but which I am very certain would have been impossible to me, had it not blundered out in a very miserable way. We were speaking of my late absence, and I let her know that she had been the cause of our dispute, the reason why I had left home."

"If you had planned to get 'no,' you could have taken no better way. What girl worth having would take you after you had let her understand you preferred a quarrel with your father, and an exile from your home, to a marriage with her?"

"I would, for your sake, father, unsay the words if I could. Is there any excuse, any-"

"There is no excuse but time and absence. Mary loves you; go away from her sight and hearing until she forgets the insult you have given her. I don't mean go away to the east or to the west coast, or even to London or Paris. I mean go far away-to China or Russia; or, better still, to America. I have friends in every large sea-port. You shall have all that my name and money can do to make your absence happy-and women forgive! Yes, they forget also; wipe the fault quite out, and believe again and again. God bless them! You can write to Mary. Where a lover cannot go he can send, and you need not blunder into insults when you write your words. You have time to think and to rewrite. I shall have to part with you again, son Allan. I feel it very bitterly."

Allan did not answer at once. He sat looking at his father's bent face and heavy eyes. The blow had really aged him, for "'tis the heart holds up the body." And to-night John Campbell's heart had failed him. He realized fully that the absence and interval necessary to heal Mary's sense of wrong and insult might also be full of other elements equally inimical to his plans. Besides, he had a real joy in his son's presence. He loved him tenderly; it maimed every pleasure he had to give him up.

"What do you say, Allan? There has been a mistake, and we must make the best of the chances left us. Had you not better go away? Mary will forgive you sooner at a distance."

Allan bit his lips, and looked steadily at the kind, sorrowful face opposite him. Then he answered, "You are too good a father to deceive, sir. I will not do you that wrong, however angry you may be with me. I love another woman. I never can marry Mary without wronging both her and myself."

"That alters everything, Allan. How long have you loved this other woman?"

"Since I left home last March."

"You cannot be sure of a love only a few months old. Will you tell me who she is?"

Allan took a taper and lit every gas-jet in the room. "Look around, father, you will see her everywhere." He led him first to the picture still upon his easel-Maggie, in her long, brown merino kirk dress; with linen cuffs folded back over the tight, plain sleeves! and a small, turned down linen collar at the throat. She had a sea-shell in her open left palm, and she was looking at it, with that faint melancholy smile Allan always chose for her face! He asked for no criticism, and John Campbell made none. Silently the two men passed from picture to picture. Maggie always. Maggie baking the oat cakes. Maggie at the wheel. Maggie mending the nets. Maggie peering through misty gloom for the boats, out on the angry sea. Maggie bending over the open Bible. Maggie with a neighbor's baby cuddled up to her breast. Maggie rowing, with the wind blowing her fine hair like a cloud around her. Maggie knitting by the fireside, her face beaming with sisterly love on the pale dark face of her brother David. As Allan had said, "Maggie everywhere."

The elder man went back to look at several of the pictures; he stood long before the one on the easel. He sat down again, still silent; but Allan saw that there was no anger on his face.

"Well, father?"

"She is a grand looking woman. No one can deny that. A peasant woman, though?"

"Yes, sir, a peasant woman; the daughter of a Fife fisherman."

"She is not a common peasant woman. You could not believe that she would ever kick her heels in a 'foursome reel,' or pass coarse jokes with the lads. Yet she must be uneducated, and perhaps vulgar."

"She is never vulgar, sir. She has a soul, and she is conscious of it. She had parents, grave and thoughtful, who governed by a look, without waste of words. Though she lives on the wild Fife coast, she has grown up beneath the shade of Judea's palms; for the Bible has blended itself with all her life. Sarah, Moses, Joshua, Ruth, and David, are far more real people to her than Peel or Wellington, or Jenny Lind, or even Victoria. She has been fed upon faith, subjected to duty, and made familiar with sorrow and suffering and death. The very week I met her, she had lost her father and three eldest brothers in a sudden storm. If you could see her eyes, you could look into her pure soul. A woman like that is never vulgar, father."

"A lover is allowed to exaggerate, Allan."

"But I do not exaggerate. Uneducated she certainly is. She can write a little; and in the long stormy days and evenings, I read aloud to her and to her brother. But Scott and Burns and Leigh Hunt are not an education. Her Bible has really been her only teacher."

"It is His Word," said John Campbell, reverently. "It is the best of teachers. The generations to whom Scotland owes everything, had no other book. It made her men calm, reflective, courageous unto death. It made her women gentle, faithful, pure, ideal. I remember my mother, Allan; she came from the same school. Her soul lived so much in the Book, that I am sure if an angel had suddenly appeared to her, she would scarcely have been surprised. What domestic women those were! How peaceful and smiling! How fond of the children! How dear to the children!" He had wandered a few moments back into his own past; and though he hastily recalled himself, the influence was upon him.

"Allan?"

"Yes, father."

"Have you said anything to this girl? Have you in any way committed your promise to her?"

"I have never sought her love. I was their guest, I would not wrong her by a thought. There was in my heart a real intention to marry Mary Campbell. I am your son, do you think I would plot shame or sorrow for any girl?"

"Does she love you?"

"I cannot tell-sometimes I fear so."

"Allan, there are few loves that conquer life. Life would be a hurly-burly of unbridled passion, if we had not the power to control our likes and dislikes. We two cannot quarrel. You are my one child. The sole desire of my heart is your welfare and happiness. We will make a paction between us. Go away for two years. Let absence test the love you have conceived for this strange girl. At the end of it you will either love her better, or your heart will have turned back to the friend and hope of your childhood and youth. If so, Mary will forgive you, and I may yet see you Laird of Drumloch. But if the new love outgrows the old; if you are sure, after two years' test, that none but this fisher-girl can be your wife, I will not oppose your happiness. I can trust you to bring no woman to Meriton who will be a shame or a grief to my old age."

He leaned forward and put out his hand; Allan clasped and kissed it. "No man could have a wiser or a kinder father. I will do whatever you advise, sir."

"You will not require to go to Fife again, I hope?"

"I promised to go there again. I must keep my word. It would be cruel to drop out of so dear a life, and if she loves me, give her neither hope nor promise."

"Write."

"I promised to go."

"Then keep your word. I can depend upon you. If you say anything to her, tell the whole truth. Allan, I am not asking more from you than I have already given. Some years ago, I met again bonnie Jessie Russell. She was my first love. I nearly broke my heart about her. The old affection came back to both of us. I could have married her then, but she was a widow with four children. I would not divide your inheritance. I put down my own longing, and thought only of you, and of Drumloch. Love is meant to comfort and brighten life, but not to rule it like a despot. I have had my say. Good night, Allan."

He rose and went slowly out of the room, and he stopped at the easel and looked again at the pictured woman upon it. "Does she know who you are, Allan?" he asked.

"She knows only that my name is Campbell."

"Do not tell her more. When a love affair gets named, it travels far. I draw many sailors from the Fife sea-towns. We don't want strangers to discuss our personal affairs;"-and leaning upon Allan's arm, he passed out of the room, in which he had not only bravely buried his own desires, but also, wisely and kindly accepted others materially altering the few years of life left him. But oh, how selfish is youth! Only one thing is indispensable to it, the need of being happy at any cost. How good is God to those whom he permits to ripen into middle, and old age, and become mellow, and generous, and self-forgetting!

It will be seen, then, that John Campbell was not one of those money-makers with stunted senses, and incomplete natures, for whom all the grapes in the garden of God are sour. He had loved and suffered, the songs of his native land had sweet echoes in his heart, he could appreciate beauty, he delighted in color, he had learned the blessedness of giving and forgiving, he had found out that with renunciation the higher life begins. When Allan told him in the morning that he was going to Fife, he accepted the information pleasantly, as part of an understood arrangement.

"Will you be long away, Allan?"

"A few days, sir."

"And when you return? What then?"

"I have decided to go Westward."

"I am glad of it. Boston! New York! Baltimore! Charleston! New Orleans! Why the very names are epics of enterprise! Old as I am, if I could win away from my desk, I would take a year or two to read them."

They parted pleasantly with a lingering handclasp, and words of "good speed;" and though Allan was going to bid Maggie a long farewell, he was light-hearted, for it was not a hopeless one. If she loved him, and could have patience for two years, he would be free to make her his wife. And he intended to give her this hope to share with him.

When he arrived in Edinburgh, the city was all astir with moving regiments, and the clear, crisp autumn air thrilling with military music-that admirable metallic music so well disciplined, so correct, and yet all the more ardent and passionate for its very restraint. It typified to him the love he had for Maggie Promoter. Its honorable limitations, the patience and obedience by which it was restricted, only made it stronger; and he understood how in order to love a woman well, truth and honor must be loved still better.

The first person he saw upon Leith pier was Willie Johnson. "Willie!" he cried, laughing outright in his pleasured surprise; "have you come to t

ake me to Pittenloch? I want to go there."

"Hech! but I'm glad to see you, Master Campbell, I'll put to sea noo. I cain' awa in spite o twaill signs, and the wind turned wrang, and my feesh all spoiled, and I hae had a handfu' o bad luck. Sae I was waiting for the luck tide to turn, and there is nane can turn it sae weel as yoursel' We'll be awa' hame noo, and we'll hae wind and water with us

"Sing wo and well a day but still

May the good omens shame the ill,"

said Allan gayly, and the old classical couplet sent his thoughts off to the Aegean sea and the Greek fishermen, and the superstitions which are the soul alphabet of humanity.

Johnson had very little news for him. "There's few wonderfu' to see, or hear tell o', in Pittenloch, sir. The Promoters were you asking for? Ay they are well, and doing well, and like to do better still. They say that David is quite upsetten wi his good luck and keeps himsel mair from folk than need be But a fu' cup is hard to carry.

"They are mistaken, Johnson, I am sure David Promoter has not a pennyworth of personal pride in him He is studying hard, and books-"

"Books' sir, he's got a boat fu' o' them. It isn't vera kindly taken, his using a boat for kirk business. Some think it willna be lucky for the rest."

"What foolishness, Willie!"

"'Deed, sir, it is just an invite to misfortune to bring the kirk into the boats. There's naething so unlucky around them as a minister, if it be nae a black cat, or a pair o' tongs."

Allan laughed; he could not help laughing, he was so happy. Maggie was growing nearer to him every moment; and it was a real joy to be again upon the sea, to feel the fresh wind blowing through his hair, and the cradling motion of the wide swell of the waves. Early in the morning they arrived at Pittenloch. There was the brown pier, and the blue water, and the spaces of yellow sand, and the sea-weed and tangle all populous with birds whose shrill cries filled the air. There were the white cottages, and the men strolling off to the boats and the women in the open doors watching them away.

There was the Promoters cottage. It was closed and Allan was disappointed. Surely Maggie should have felt him coming. Every moment as he went toward it, he expected the door to open, and a sense of unkindness was chilling his heart, when he heard a swift, light step behind him. He turned, and there stood Maggie. She had the dew of the sea on her face, her cheeks were like a rose, pink and wet before sunrise. Her eyes had a glint as of the morning star in them, she was trembling and panting with her surprise and rapid motion.

He had thought of the sweetest words to greet her with, he had imagined that he might find it possible to take her in his arms and kiss his welcome from her lips. But in spite of her evident gladness, something in her manner restrained him; also, there was Christie Buchan, and half a dozen other women watching them. So what he said and did, was only to hold out his hand, and ask, "Are you well, Maggie? Are you glad to see me?"

"Weel, and right happy, sir."

"And David?"

"He is weel and happy too, sir. He likes the early hours for study, and I aye try to tak' a walk and let him hae the house place quiet, and to himsel'."

"He should have used my room. Students are tyrants, Maggie, if you give in to them, they will stop the clock and make you breathe with your fingers on your lips."

Smiling, she opened the door and said, "Step inside, sir; there's nae foot welcomer."

"I thocht you wad come! I said you wad come!" cried David joyfully. "Noo I'm the proudest man in Fife! Maggie, let us hae some tea, and a kippered herring, and toast the oat cake crisp. I'll no call the king my cousin to-day! Mr. Campbell, you are just the answer to my heart's desire."

"Thank you, David. It is pleasant to be made so much of"-and he opened the door of his room, and cried out, "O how nice it is, Maggie! I will just wash the salt off my face and then come and breakfast with you; and toast me a couple of herring, Maggie, for I am as hungry as a fisherman, and I have not tasted a herring since I left Pittenloch."

Three at a little round table, and only some tea, and fish, and oat cake; and yet, never was there a gayer meal. After it was over, David was eager to show Allan what he had accomplished, and the young men went together into Allan's room to examine lexicons and exercises.

David was full of quick interest, and Allan deserved credit for affecting a sympathy it was impossible for him to feel. In a little while, some one began to sing and the voice was singularly clear, and sweetly penetrating. Allan put down the papers in his hand, and listened like one entranced.

"It's just Maggie, and I'm mair astonished at her. She hasna sung a word since fayther's death. What for is she singing the noo? It's no kind o' her, and me wi' yoursel' and the books;" said David very fretfully; for he did not like to be interrupted in his recitations.

"Hush! hush! I would not lose a syllable for all the Latin language,

David."

[Footnote: Words and air by Alexander Nicholson, LL. O.]

[Illustration: Musical notation omitted.]

"My heart is yearning to thee, O Skye,

Dearest of islands!

There first the sunshine gladdened my eye,

On the sea spark-ling;

There doth the dust of my dear ones lie,

In the old graveyard.

[Musical notation omitted.]

Bright are the golden green fields to me

Here in the lowlands;

Sweet sings the mavis in the thorn tree

Snowy with fragrance;

But oh for a breath of the great North sea

Girdling the mountains!

Good is the smell of the brine that laves

Black rock and skerry;

Where the great palm-leaved tangle waves

Down in the green depths,

And round the craggy bluff, pierced with caves,

Sea-gulls are screaming.

Many a hearth round that friendly shore

Giveth warm welcome;

Charms still are there, as in days of yore,

More than of mountains;

But hearths and faces are seen no more

Once of the brightest.

Many a poor black cottage is there

Grimy with peat smoke;

Sending up in the soft evening air

Purest blue incense,

While the low music of psalm and prayer

Rises to heaven.

Kind were the voices I used to hear

Round such a fireside,

Speaking the mother tongue old and dear,

Making the heart beat

With endless tales of wonder and fear,

Of plaintive singing.

Reared in those dwellings have brave ones been;

Brave ones are still there;

Forth from their darkness on Sunday I've seen

Conning pure linen,

And, like the linen, the souls were clean

Of them that wore it.

Blessings be with ye, both now and aye,

Dear human creatures!

Yours is the love no gold can buy.

Nor time wither.

Peace be to thee and thy children, O Skye!

Dearest of Islands!"

"That is not one of your fisher songs, David?"

"Na, na; it is a sang made aboot Skye, and our mither was a Skye woman; sae Maggie learned it to please her. I dinna think much o' it."

"It is the most touching thing I ever heard." The melody was Gaelic, slow and plaintive, and though Maggie gave the English words with her own patois, the beauty and simplicity of the song was by no means injured. "Put by the books, David," said Allan. "I have no heart now for dry-as-dust lessons. Let us speak of Maggie. How is she going to live when you go to Glasgow?"

"She will just bide where she is. It is her ain hame, and she is amang her ain folk."

"Surely she will not live alone?"

"Na, na, that wed gie occasion for ill tongues to set themsel's to wark. Aunt Janet Caird is coming to be company for her. She is fayther's sister, and no quite beyond the living wi'. I thocht o' taking the boat the morn, and going for her."

"Where to?"

"About twenty miles to the nor'ward, to a bit hamlet, thae call Dron

Point."

"What kind of a woman is she, David? I hope she is kind and pleasant."

"We can hope sae, sir; but I really dinna expect it. Aunt Janet had a bad name wi' us, when we were bairns, but bairns' judgment isn't to lippen to."

"I think it is. If you have any fear about Aunt Janet being good to live with, don't go for her."

"The thing is a' settled between her and oursel's. Maggie and I talked it o'er and o'er. There wasna any other thing to do. All o' oor kin but Aunt Janet hae big families o' their ain to look after. Maggie willna hear tell o' leaving the cottage, and she canna stay in it her lane. Sae, she must tak' the ill and gude thegither."

"For my own sake I am glad she stays in the cottage, because I wish to keep possession of my room. Your face need not cloud, David; I am not coming here at all; but it is inconvenient for me to remove my books, and the many sea-treasures I gathered during my stay with you. If I did remove them, I should have to store them in some other place, so it will be a kindness, if you will continue to rent me the room."

"Your foot is aye welcome in my house, sir; and when you are wanting a week's fishing, there is naething to prevent you taking it, if Aunt Janet is here. She is a vera strict pairson; the deil himsel' wouldna be suspected o' wrang-doing, if she were watching him."

"Poor Maggie! David, it does seem a hard lookout for her; especially when you will be so happy with your books, and I am going on a two years' pleasure trip to America."

David's face brightened involuntarily, and Allan could see that the thought of his certain absence was not at all displeasing. But he did not blame him for a fear so brotherly and natural; he was, however, dissatisfied with the arrangements made for Maggie's comfort, and he asked, "Can she not go to Glasgow with you, David? It would be a fine thing to have a little home for yourself there, and Maggie to look after your comfort. You would study better."

"I wad do naething o' the sort. I wad be keepit back by ony woman. There is many a ceevil word to say to them, that is just time and strength ta'en from study. Maggie kens weel, that when I hae my kirk, she'll be first and foremost wi' me. I'll count nae honor or pleasure worth the having she doesna share. Forbye, sir, when you hae a hame, and the plenishing o' it, folk should think lang ere they scatter it to the four winds. It is easy to get rid o' household things; whiles, it is maist impossible to get them thegither again. I might die, and Maggie be left to fight her ain battle. If it should come to that, Hame is a full cup; Hame is a breastwark; you can conquer maist things on your ain hearthstone."

"Perhaps you are right, David."

"I ken weel I am right. Maggie and I hae thocht o' every thing; her gude name, and her happiness is my first wish. She is vera dear to me. She is a' I have, sir."

"I shall not be in Pittenloch for two years, David, so I will pay you now for the use of my room. The rent I believe is seven shillings weekly, that is £36. I wish you would give this sum entire to Maggie. I should like her to feel in some measure independent; and I should like you to feel that you had no necessity to take thought about her from week to week."

"Thank you, sir, for the kind thocht, as weel as for the siller; and I shall tell Maggie to keep the knowledge o' it from her aunt, who is a woman o' a vera parsimonious disposition."

"Also my boat is to be hers. She can hire it out or she can sell it. It is absolutely her own. It would be folly for me to keep it rocking at anchor, and rusting away. I can not speak to her on such subjects, but you will be sure and make her understand, David."

"'Deed sir, I'll tak' care that she gets the gude o' all your kindness. It's mair than thochtfu' o' you; and I'll hae nae need noo, to let Maggie step in atween me and my ain proper duties."

Then they went to the boat together, and David removed all his books and belongings from her, and she was made ready to go for Aunt Janet the following morning. The rest of the day went rapidly by, Allan had many visits to make, and some special tokens of regard to leave. Then they had tea together at Maggie's fire-side, and Allan watched her once more stoop to the glowing turf, and light the little iron cruisie, and rise with the light from it on her beautiful face. The simple household act was always one of meaning and interest to him. He renewed in it that moment of strange delight when he had first seen her. This evening he tried to catch her eyes as she rose, and he did so, and what did she see in his steady gaze that brought the happy blood in crimson waves over her throat and face, and made her eyelids shine with the light that was underneath them?

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares