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   Chapter 8 THE BROKEN SIXPENCE.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 28487

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"I love you, sweet: how can you ever learn

How much I love you?" "You I love even so,

And so I learn it." "Sweet, you cannot know

How fair you are." "If fair enough to earn

Your love, so much is all my love's concern."

"Ah! happy they to whom such words as these

In youth have served for speech the whole day long!"

David left early in the morning for Dron Point, and Allan went to the pier with him, and watched the boat away. It was not a pleasant morning. There had been, all night, surly whiffs of rain, and the sky was full of gleam and gloom and guest.

"I think it is likely Aunt Janet will get a good sea-tossing," Allan said in a voice of satisfaction, and David smiled grimly, and reflected audibly, "that it was all o' twenty miles, and the wind dead against them, for the hame coming."

Then Allan walked rapidly back to the cottage. He was longing to speak to Maggie, and every moment of David's absence was precious. She was far from expecting him, for she knew that David and Allan had left the cottage together, and she supposed Allan had also gone to Dron Point. When he opened the door the house was empty; but glancing up the beach, he saw Maggie, with her head bent to the smiting rain, slowly making her way home. He knew that this early walk had become a usual thing with her, and he understood by his own feelings, how grateful the resolute onward march against wind and rain would be to her heart.

In a few minutes she pushed open the cottage door; and her wet rosy face, in the dark green folds of the plaid over her head, had a vivid distinctness. When she saw Allan she trembled. His unexpected presence, the eager longing gaze in his eyes, his outstretched arms, the soft, penetrating utterance of her name, "Maggie! dearest Maggie!" All these things were an instant's revelation to her. She clasped her hands helplessly, and the next moment Allan was taking the wet plaid off her head and shoulders, and whispering, as he did so, all the fond words which he had so long restrained.

She let him tell her again and again how much he loved her. She had no more power to resist the sweet pleading than a man dying of thirst has power to resist water. For a few moments she surrendered herself to a joy so pure and so unexpected. "Oh Maggie, sweetest Maggie, tell me that you love me: that you love none but me, that you will marry none but me," pleaded Allan.

"I have aye loved you, sir. I dreamed about you when I was a lassie. I keep it the thocht o' you close in my heart. When you lookit at me the night you cam' here first, I kent you, and I loved you that vera moment. Whate'er the love I give to you, it is your ain, my soul brought it into the warld for you, and for nae other man."

"In two years, Maggie, I will come for you. My wife! My wife!"

"I'll no say that, sir; not just yet. Marrying is o' this warld. Loving is from somewhere beyond it. You told me about another leddy; and beside that, I wouldna come atween you and your fayther.

"I have spoken to the other lady, and she has refused me."

"Puir thing! I'm dooting you asked her for the refusal. I hae had many a sair heart anent her since you went awa'; and when I think o' her, I dinna feel as if I deserved my ain joy."

"I could love none but you, Maggie. And I have told my father that I love you. I have told him every thing."

"Weel, sir? What said he?"

"He only asked me to wait for two years, and during that time to stay away from you."

"He asked jist what I wad hae asked, even for mysel'. I'm a poor ignorant fisher-lass, I wouldna daur to marry you, unless you had tried your love for me in some mair than ordinar' way."

"Maggie, you are a part of my own soul. I can have no real wife but you."

"I hope sae, sir. I love you weel."

"Call me, Allan."

She looked up, blushing like a flame. Some instinct beyond her control moved her. She put her hands upon his shoulders and kissed him, and as she did so, she said thrice over, "Allan! Allan! Allan!"

"Maggie! Sweetheart! Life can give me no happier moment than this." And so, forgetting every thing but their love, and their great joy in each other, they sat hand in hand and talked the hours away. Allan had so much to make her understand, and she was anxious in all things to do as he desired. "If you possibly can, my love," he said, "remain here. Do not work hard. Read all the books I have left in my room. Wait patiently for me. Trust in me with all your soul. If I live, I will surely come for you in two years."

"And the time willna be that lang, for I'll aye be thinking o' you."

"Maggie, when the Fife girls give their promise, what do they bind it with?"

"They break a sixpence wi' the lad they love, and they each keep a half o' it."

He took a sixpence from his pocket and broke it silently in two. He had prepared it for the ceremony, but it required a slight effort, and the girl stood with her eyes fixed on his white, handsome, resolute face, as he accomplished the rite. Then he lifted one half, and said:

"This is yours, Maggie Promoter. With this silver token, I bind you mine, until death parts us."

"And this is yours, Allan Campbell. Wi' this siller token, I bind you mine, until death parts us."

Handfast they stood with the broken silver in their palms; their shining eyes reading the sacred promise in each other's face. Allan's heart was too full for words; Maggie, trembling with joy, was yet awed by the solemn significance of the promise. Yet she was the first to speak-

"I'll be true to you, Allan, true as the sun to the dawn, true as the moon to the tide. Whene'er you come, late or early, you'll find me waiting."

He took her by the hand, and they walked up and down the house place together; and the rain plashed against the window, and the sun glinted in after it, and the village awakened to its daily life and labor, but they took no note of the world outside the cottage, until a little child tapped low down on the closed door.

"My mammy wants some milk, Maggie Promoter," and Maggie filled the small pitcher, and then smilingly said, "We hae forgotten our breakfast, Allan. What will you hae?"

"To-day is all mine, Maggie; let us have oat cake and milk, and kisses." And he followed her from cupboard to drawer, and stood by her while she spread the cloth, and ate his portion by her side, and thought it like a meal in Paradise.

And oh, how swiftly went those few hours stolen from two years of waiting and longing; full of the eager joy of the moment, touched with the sweet melancholy of the near parting. They forgot that the wind had changed, and that David would be earlier home for it; forgot all things but their own bliss and sorrow, until a passing neighbor called out-"yonder boat coming wi' all her sails spread, will be the 'Allan Campbell,' Maggie."

Then they knew that their real parting had come. From it, Allan, white with grief, went to the pier, and Maggie forced back her tears, and hung on the kettle, and spread the table, and made all things ready to welcome her aunt. She had not seen her for many years, she had not any pleasant memories of her, but "blood is thicker than water," and kinship, to the Scotch heart, has claims of almost sacred obligation.

Allan, thinking of Maggie's comfort, watched Aunt Janet's arrival with much interest. She was a tall, thin woman, dressed in homespun linsey, with a ruffled linen cap upon her head, and a faded tartan plaid about her shoulders. David's offer had been a great piece of good fortune to her, but she had no intention of letting the obligation rest on her side. Her first words on landing were a complaint.

"I ne'er was on such an upsetting sea, niece Maggie. It's vera seldom I hae the grievous prostration o' the sea sickness, but the boat was ill rigged and waur managed, and if I hadna been a vera Judith in fortitude, I wad hae just turned round about, and gane my ways hame again."

"The 'Allan Campbell' is thought to be a fine boat, aunt."

"Fife fishers dinna ken a' things."

"They'll ken aboot boats, though."

"They may. I'm no sae sure. They lose a gude many every year that comes to them."

"How is Aunt Margery?"

"Her man has got into the excise. She holds her head as high as a hen drinking water aboot it. I never could abide pride o' any kind. It's no in me to think mair o' mysel' than other folks think o' me."

Allan joined the family party in the evening, and he did his best to win Janet Caird's favor, and conciliate her numerous prejudices. But unfortunately she intercepted a glance intended for Maggie, and her suspicions were at once roused. Young people, in her opinion, were full of original and acquired sins, and she made up her mind in a moment that David had suspected his sister's propriety, and was anxious to shelter her under the spotless integrity of Janet Caird's good name.

"And for the sake o' the family I sall watch her well," she decided; "she sall na lightly either the Cairds or the Promoters if I ken mysel'": and from the moment of that resolve, Allan was ranged in her mind, "among the wolves that raven round the fold."

There was nothing in the parting to strengthen her suspicions. Maggie was indeed white and silent, but Allan went almost hurriedly away: as if he were weary of the circumstances surrounding him. David thought him cool and cross, and was pained by the mood; but Maggie knew the meaning of the worried, slightly haughty manner; for in one quick glance, he had made her understand how bitter it was to leave her in her worse than loneliness; and how painful in his present temper was the vulgar effusiveness of Janet Caird's thanks and noisy farewells.

An hour upon the sea cured him. "David," he said, "I was very cross. I did not like that woman in your home. She spoils my memory of it."

"She is my fayther's sister, sir."

"Forgive me, David. Let us speak of other things. You have found comfortable lodgings, I hope?"

"Ay, sir. Willie Buchan's third cousin married a Glasgow baker, who has a gude place in the Candleriggs Street. That is close by the High Street and vera convenient as to locality. The charges also are sma'. I hae a comfortable room and my bite and sup for ten shillings weekly."

This introduced a subject which opened up endlessly to David, and Allan was glad to let him talk; for thought is sweet to the lover, thought of the beloved under any circumstances. No other shadow darkened a friendship that had been so evenly cloudless, and David and Allan parted full of mutual good will and regard, although the hopes and aims of each were so widely different.

Allan went directly to his father's office, but John Campbell had gone to a board meeting, and so he took the next boat for Meriton. Evidently Archibald had not been warned that day by any peculiar "feeling" of his arrival. There was no conveyance of any kind waiting for him; but as the distance was only two very pleasant miles, Allan did not much regret the prospect of having to walk them.

The woods adjoining the road were the Campbells' property, he leaped the wall, and took the footpath through them. How silent it was under the pines! the more so because of that vague stir in the air among them. What nameless perfumes! emanations from the resinous earth, from the old trunks, from the foliage. What delightful mysteries in their nooks! Bird twitterings intimate and charming; chirpings of the mothers to their newly fledged young; little cries of joy, and counsel, and innocent surprises! A large, cool, calm hand was laid upon his heart, the hand of nature; he sauntered slowly in the aromatic air, he dreamed impossible dreams of bliss, and with the faith of youth believed in them. Good! When we have weaned youth from dreams, from poetry, from enthusiasms, and made it thoroughly sensible, and material, what kind of race will remain to the world?

And alas! All happy dreams are short enough. Allan's was dissipated by a sound of suppressed weeping. He looked cautiously around, and on the clean, brown ground beneath the pines, a little in advance of him, he saw a woman sitting. Her back was against the trunk of a large tree, her face was turned quite away from him, but he knew it was Mary Campbell. And softly and hurriedly he retraced his own steps for some distance, and then he found the wall, and leaped into the highway, and walked home by it; thoroughly awake and disenchanted.

He did not meet Mary until the dinner hour. She was then elegantly dressed, her face clear and bright, her manner, as it always was, gentle and yet cheerful.

"The sphinx," thought Allan, "is some inscrutable woman on our own hearth-stone." He remembered the low sobbing he had heard in the wood, the bowed head, the unmistakable attitude of grief, and then he looked at Mary's face dimpling with smiles, and at her pretty figure, brave in glistening silk and gold ornaments. And somehow, that night, she made him feel that she was the head of the House of Campbell, and the heiress of Drumloch.

The next day was the Sabbath. She was very particular about her religious duties; she went to kirk twice, she had the servants in the evening for catechism and parallel passages.

She gave Allan no opportunity of seeing her alone. On Monday morning, although it rained, she insisted on going to Glasgow; and she stayed in Glasgow until the following Wednesday evening. It was perhaps the first sensation of "snub" that Allan had ever received; and it annoyed him very much.

But on Wednesday night she seemed to relent, and she did all in her power to make their last dinner together one pleasant to remember. When she left her uncle and cousin to finish their wine, she left them well disposed to kindly confidence. For since Allan's return from Fife he had not felt confidence possible. His father had asked no questions, and shown no disposition to discuss his plans. But at this hour he voluntarily renewed the subject.

"You went to Fife, I suppose, Allan?"

"Yes, sir. I was there two days."

"And are you still in the same mind?"

"Nothing can change my mind on that subject, sir."

"Time has worked greater wonders, Allan. However, I

will venture no opinion for two years. When do you go Westward?"

"I shall leave for Liverpool by to-morrow night's train. I shall sail on

Saturday."

"Call at the office early, or go to town with me. All is ready for you. Write as often as you can, Allan, I shall weary for your letters." His eyes were full of tears, he lifted his wine glass to conceal them.

"Father, is there any special reason why I should go so far away from you?

Can I not wait two years at home?"

"In justice to my own side of the bargain, Allan, you must travel and compare other women with this Fife girl. You must not only be where you can not see her, but also, where you can see many others. I think American women will be a fair test of your affection. Between Boston and New Orleans their variety is infinite. Gillbride says, they are the blood, and beauty, and intellect of all races potently mingled. Mary has a right to be considered; she is evidently embarrassed by your presence; the least you can do for her now, is to relieve her from it. Next spring there will be an opportunity to re-consider matters, if you desire. Money has accumulated belonging to Drumloch, and Mary has decided to expend it on the house. A new wing is to be built, and she will go to reside there. The work will get on better, and the tenants look with justice to the advantages of an open house again. But there is no more to be said at this time. Come, Allan, let us go to the drawing-room, I hear Mary playing a song I never can resist, no nor any other person, I think-" and he began to hum "O Love will venture in."

"Isn't it a wonderful combination of thirds and sevenths? There is nothing like it in the whole portfolio of music. Nothing so winning, nothing that can so charm and haunt your ear-chambers." And they stepped softly and slowly, and stood at the door together, to listen to the enchaining plaintive little song:

[Musical notation omitted.]

O love will venture in where it daurna weel be seen,

O love will venture in where wisdom once has been;

But I will down the river rove amang the woods so green,

And a' to pu' a posie to my ain dear May.

The primrose I will pu', the firstling o' the year,

And I will pu' the pink, the emblem o' my dear:

For she's the pink o' womankind and blooms without a peer:

And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.

I'll pu' the budding rose when Phoebus peeps in view,

For it's like a baumy kiss o' her sweet bonnie mou'

The hyacinth's for constancy, wi' its unchanging blue

And a' to be a posie for my ain dear May

The lily it is pure and the lily it is fair,

And in her lovely bosom I'll place the lily there,

The daisy's for simplicity of unaffected air;

And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.

The woodbine I will pu' when the e'ening star is near

And the diamond draps o' dew shall be her e'en sae clear;

The violet's for modesty, which weel she fa's to wear

And a' to be a posie to my ain dear May.

I'll tie the posie round wi' the silken band of love,

And I'll place it on her breast, and I'll swear by a' above.

That to the latest breath o' life the band shall ne'er remove.

And this will be a posie to my ain dear May.

The last long drawn notes of melancholy sweetness were scarcely still, when a servant entered. "The minister is here, sir."

"I had forgotten," said Campbell hastily. "There is an extra kirk session to-night. It is about the organ, Mary. Will you go?"

"I would rather not. Every one will have his testimony to raise against it, and I should get cross."

"Then good night, bairnies. I must not keep the minister waiting. Maybe

I'll be beyond your time. Don't lose your beauty sleep for me."

He left the room in a hurry, and in a few minutes the "bairnies" heard the crunch of the retreating wheels upon the gravel. Mary continued at the piano, lightly running over with one hand the music she happened to turn. Allan stood on the hearth watching her. Both were intensely and uncomfortably conscious of their position. At length Allan said, "Mary, suppose you cease playing, and talk with me!"

"Very well." She rose slowly and turned with affected reluctance. Affected, because she really wished for some satisfactory conversation with him. The recollection of their last confidence was painful and humiliating. She could hardly bear the idea of carrying its memory throughout two years. Few as the steps were between herself and Allan, she determined, as she took them, to speak with all the candor which her position gave her the right to use; and at any rate, not to end their interview again in debt to self-esteem. The strength of the Scotch mind is in its interrogative quality, and instinctively Mary fell behind the cover of a question.

"Why should we talk, Allan? Is there any thing you can say that will unsay the words you have spoken?"

"You were not fair with me, Mary. You took me up before I had finished my explanation."

"Oh, I think there was enough said."

"You made words hard to me, Mary. You forgot that we had been brought up together on terms of perfect confidence. I always held you as my sister. I told you all my boyish secrets, all the troubles and triumphs of my college life, all my youthful entanglements. I had few, very few, secrets from you. I think we both understood by implication-rather than by explanation-that it was our father's intention to unite the two branches of the Drumloch family, and so also unite their wealth by our marriage."

"I never understood there was any such intention. No one ever spoke to me of it. But if the plan had been possible, it was a wise plan; any sensible parents would have conceived it, and hoped and worked for its accomplishment."

"When I left home last spring-if I had thought you cared for me-one word would have detained me."

"Was it my place to say that word? And, Allan, you would not have been moved by any word at that time. You thought only of asserting yourself, your rights, your inclinations. The crown of England would not have fitted you, unless it had been your gracious will to select it."

"A man must have some individuality-"

"At twenty-four years old how much has he? He is a mass of undigested learning and crude opinions. What he will be at thirty-four depends upon a thousand circumstances which he cannot even apprehend. Wishes and advices from a father are not commands. You showed a petulant, foolish temper, quite unworthy of you, in turning your back on Uncle John, and saying in effect, 'I don't intend to take your advice, I intend to take my own way, even though it lead me to a Fife fishing village-and a degrading love affair."

She said the words calmly, looking steadily, not at Allan, but into the depths of the Argand lamp. There was no nervous movement of her hands; her interlaced fingers lay motionless on the table before her.

Allan answered promptly, "I have no degrading love affair in any Fife village. If I had, do you think I should have entered your presence at all? The woman I love is as sacred in my eyes as you are. I intend to make her my wife. I should have told you all about her the morning that you took for granted my offer in order to peremptorily refuse me-if you had allowed me"-

"Oh, Allan! don't say that! We are getting deeper and deeper into mistakes. I certainly thought you wanted me to refuse you. I tried to make the necessity as easy as possible for you. But imagine how I felt when I came to consider things! I was asked to do this humiliating piece of deception, in order that I might clear your way to some fisher-girl. It was too bad, Allan!"

"I do seem to have treated you badly, Mary, because you gave me no opportunity to tell you every thing, and to ask as a great sisterly kindness what you gave under a sense of indignation and wrong. I feel that it is now useless to explain; but how did you know that I was in love with a fisher-girl?"

"I have seen the pictures you painted while you were away. They revealed the story to me-as much of it as I care to know."

"There is now no secrecy in the matter. I have told my father all, and he has asked me to go to America for two years. At the end of that time he will accept my marriage."

"Poor Uncle John! I wonder how people can toil and deny themselves for ungrown children! When they come to years of have-my-own-way, they generally trample upon all their love and labor. For instance, you see a tall, large, handsome woman in what you think picturesque poverty, you want her, just as you used to want the fastest boat on the river, or the fastest horse in the field. The fact that you ought not to have her, that you cannot have her, except by trampling on all your father's dearest hopes, does not, in the least, control you. You can conceive of nothing better than the gratification of your own wishes. If all the men were like you, and all the women were in my mind, there would be no more marrying in the world, Allan Campbell!"

"Mary, if you should ever be really in love, you will then excuse me; at present I can make no apology which you will understand or accept. Forgive me upon credit. I am going away for a long time; and I cannot go happily if we are at variance." He sat down by her side, and she let him take her hand, and plead the memory of all their past affection for, and reliance on each other. "Be my friend, my sister still, Mary; though you will not answer me, I will trust to you. Let us part kindly now, we can gain nothing by further discussion, at this time." He lifted her face and kissed it; and the next moment she heard the door close behind his footsteps, and realized that the opportunity of which she had made such an unhappy use was gone.

There is little need to say that she was miserable. All of us have been guilty of like perversities. We have said unkind things when our hearts were aching with suppressed affection; we have been so eager to defend ourselves, to stand fairly in some dear one's sight, that we have hasted in the wrong direction, and never blundered into the right one until it was too late. Poor Mary! She had stung herself all over. She could think of nothing that she had said that she did not wish unsaid; and of many things of sisterly care, and even friendly courtesy, that she had entirely forgotten. Mortification dismissed all other feelings, and she set her reflections to its key. "How glad he must be to have escaped a wife so sharp-tongued and domineering! No doubt that Fife girl would have been all submission and adoration! When a man falls in love with a girl so much beneath him, it is a piece of shameless vanity. It is the savage in the man. He wants her to say 'my lord' to him, and to show him reverence! I could not do that kind of thing, no, not even if he filled the highest pulpit in the land, and preached to the queen herself every Sunday."

When John Campbell returned, he found Mary still in the parlor. She was playing some noisy, mechanical "variation," whose rapid execution was a physical vent for her chagrin and disappointment. She rose with alacrity, rang for hot water, brewed his toddy, and affected the greatest interest in the kirk meeting. Indeed she was interested in it; for the gathering had been to consider whether John Campbell's offer of an organ, and her own offer of her services as organist, could be accepted by the church.

"It was hopeless from the first," said Campbell with a queer smile; "every shepherd in Bute was there to protest. You would have thought I had proposed a Popish Mass Book, or at least an Episcopal Litany. There will be no 'music boxes' in Bute kirks this generation, Mary. And, would you believe it, the minister was dead against it?"

"I thought he favored an organ in the choir?"

"I was always uncertain about him. I never could interest him in the subject. He would listen, and shake his head, or say, 'just so, sir,' or refer to a session in which all could say the word in their heart; and so on. To-night, after an opening prayer, in which he took the liberty to remind the Lord of all the spiritual dangers connected with praising Him with instruments of our own handiwork, he stood up and said, 'I'm not in favor of any music with the Psalms of David, they are far better without it. And if I were willing for the organ box, we are a poor kirk, and could not afford to rob our stipendary and mission funds to pay a man player on instruments; and as for women interfering with the ordinances in any way, you all know what St. Paul says on that subject.' And, of course, when the minister talks with the people's prejudices, he is omnipotent."

"Was it put to the vote?"

"Yes. Two of the congregation, Burns of Blantree, and myself, stood up when the organ was proposed; the rest sat grim and dour. Nothing less than an earthquake could have made them stir. When those opposed to an organ were requested to rise, they stood up solid as a phalanx, and firm as a stone wall. I wish Allan had gone with me. Where is the lad?"

"He bade me 'good-by' some time since. I dare say he has several things to do in his rooms. A man cannot go away for two years and leave his treasures to moths, and dust, and unchecked decay. Uncle, how soon can we begin to build at Drumloch? This organ business has made me lose sympathy with the Meriton people:-and I want something to do, Uncle John, something to think about, and look after."

"Then I will have the plans drawn, and estimates made, and you shall go to your own home, Mary, as soon as possible. The people are looking forward to your return. You will be happier among them. We can return to Glasgow at once; I shall be very glad to do so; and you can go to Drumloch in the spring."

The proposal pleased Mary. She wanted to get away from Meriton. She did not like being in the same house with those numerous similitudes of the Fife girl. The garden in which Allan had made her that pretence of an offer, the parlor in which she had given way to such a petulant, disagreeable temper, were full of mortifying remembrances. She wanted to turn over a new leaf of life, to cross the past one, and to cancel forever the hopes there credited.

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