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A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 28957

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02

"Now I would speak the last Farewell, but cannot;

It would be still Farewell a thousand times;

So let us part in the dumb pomp of grief."

* * * * *

"Rumor is a pipe

Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures,

And if so easy and so plain a stop

The still discordant, wavering multitude

Can play upon't."

At that time, Mary saw no more of her Cousin Allan. He had gone when she rose next morning, gone away in a slow, even downpour of rain, that was devoid of every hope of blue sky or sunshine. On the river they were in a cloud of fog impenetrable to sight, and inexpressibly dreary. Everything also in the little boat was clammy and uncomfortable. There was a long day before Allan; for his business scarcely occupied him an hour, and then he went out into the black, chill street, and felt thoroughly miserable. His father's face had been so white, his hands had trembled so, he had made such a brave effort to say a cheerful 'good-by.' Allan's conscience troubled him; he felt supremely selfish, he could not satisfy himself that he had any right to put so good a parent to so much sorrow.

If he could have written to Maggie, it would have been some consolation. But he had not been able to make any arrangements for that solace. A post office did not exist in Pittenloch; if a letter were addressed there, it lay in Dysart until the Dysart postmistress happened to see some one from Pittenloch. Under such circumstances, there was no telling into whose hands his letters might fall. And a letter to Maggie Promoter from strange parts, would be a circumstance to rouse unbounded curiosity. Either curiosity would be illegitimately satisfied, or Maggie would be the object of endless suspicions.

He thought of David, but there would be little comfort in seeing David, for he could not talk to him of Maggie. Allan would have liked well to confide in David, and explain, as he thought he ought to, his honorable intentions toward his sister; but Maggie had earnestly entreated that nothing should be said to her brother. "He'll be aye questioning me. He'll be aye watching me. He'll maybe tell folks, and I'll feel everybody's eye is on me. Forbye, he willna be as happy in what you hae done for him. He thinks now, it was just for your admiration o' his abilities, and your liking for his sel', that you sent him to Glasga' College. If he kent you thocht o' me, he wad be sure it was for my sake, and that wad jist tak' the good out o' everything for Davie." Thus, Maggie had reasoned, and Allan thought her reasoning both generous and prudent.

So there would be little comfort in threading the dirty ways of Argyle Street to the Candleriggs; and he went to his hotel and ordered dinner, then back to his father, and begged him to come and spend the last hours of his delay with him. And John Campbell was delighted. "Things will go tapsalteerie, Allan, but let them; we will have a bite and a cup of kindness together." It was a very pleasant bite and cup, seasoned with much love, and many cheerful confidences; and when Allan, at length, left the dreary precincts of the old Caledonian Station, the last thing he saw was his father's bare, white head, and that courtly upward movement of the right hand which was his usual greeting or adieu; a movement which is as much the natural salutation of a gentleman, as a nod is the natural one of a vulgar mind.

John Campbell remained in Glasgow for the next three days, and Mary was lonely enough at Meriton. It was a little earlier than they usually removed to their city home, but she began to make preparations for that event. In the course of these preparations, it was necessary to inspect the condition of Allan's apartments. How desolate and forsaken they looked! No other rooms in the house had the same sense of loss, even though they had been in the same measure dismantled. The empty polished grates, the covered furniture, the closed blinds, the absence of all the little attributes of masculine life-pipes, slippers, newspapers, etc.-were painfully apparent.

But no one had touched any of the numerous pictures of Maggie. They were on the wall, the mantel, the table, the easel. She glanced at them, and left the room; but after a moment's hesitation, she returned, drew up the blinds, and stood resolutely before the large one upon the easel. "What is there in her face that is so charmful?" she asked. "Why did it draw me back here? Does my sense of justice forbid me to dislike without a reason, and am I looking for one?" She went from picture to picture. She stood long before some, she took one or two in her hand. She did not like the girl, but she would not be unfair in her criticisms. "Whatever she is doing, she is like a poem. I could not bake oat cakes, and look as if I had stepped out of Gessner's Idyls. But she does. What limpid eyes! And yet they have a look of sorrow in them-as if they had been washed clear in tears-she is not laughing anywhere. I like that! If she were gay and jocund in that picture how vulgar it would be.-If her splendid hair were unbound, and her fine throat and neck without kerchief, and if she were simpering with a finger on a dimple in her cheek, I know that I should detest her. It is her serenity, her air of seriousness, which is so enthralling-I wonder what her name is-it should be something grand, and sweet, and solemn-I should think Theodora would suit her-What nonsense! In a Fife fishing village every girl is either Jennie or Maggie or Christie." So she mused, going from picture to picture, until they acquired a kind of personality in her mind.

Her uncle came home a little sad. "Allan has gone again," he said. "I seem to have seen very little of the lad. He is such a fine lad, too. We had a few happy hours together at the last. I am very glad of that! When he comes home next time, he will settle, and never leave me again. I shall be a happy man when that day gets around, Mary."

"He will settle, that is, he will marry that fisher-girl! He has told you all about her, he says?"

"He was very honest and candid with me, very."

"What is her name, uncle?"

"I do not know. He did not tell me, and I never thought of asking."

"Where does she live?"

"Really, Mary, I never asked that either. I don't think it makes the least difference."

"Oh, but it does. I am very much disappointed. I was thinking we could take a trip to the village, and see the girl ourselves. Would not that be a good thing?"

"It would be a very bad thing, a very dishonorable thing. If I thought it necessary to play the spy on my son Allan, I should prefer to know he was dead. The girl may become my daughter. I should be ashamed to meet her, if I had gone to peep at her behind her back. She would not despise me more than I should despise myself."

"I do not look at it in that light, uncle. There might be several good reasons."

"We won't discuss them, Mary. Let us talk of Drumloch. Wilkie is drawing the plan of the new wing. When will you go back to Glasgow? I was at Blytheswood Square to-day; the house is in beautiful order."

"I will go back to-morrow. I am weary of Meriton this year. I have found myself everywhere at a discount. Allan refuses my estate and myself. The minister and the kirk refuse my services as organist. And when I had a very kind idea in my head about Theodora, you make me feel as if I had been plotting treason against her, and against honor and everything else of good report. Let me hide my head in the smoke of Glasgow to-morrow."

"Theodora! Is that the girl's name?"

"That is the fisher-girl's name, the one I have given her. I suppose she will have to descend to Jennie or Christie."

"Are you not a little ill-tempered, Mary?"

"I am shamefully ill-tempered, uncle. I am afraid I am growing bad, and I cannot make up my mind to get any more good from Dr. MacDonald. When ministers want to snub women, they always quote St. Paul. Now, I do not believe any wrong of St. Paul. I have an idea that he was a perfect gentleman, and rather polite to our sex."

"They quote his own words, my dear."

"They quote, as they have transposed and transformed them. I think if a woman had translated that particular passage, it might have been less pleasant for Dr. MacDonald to quote."

"Nevermind Dr. MacDonald to-night, dearie. Sing us a few words of Robert

Burns. It would be an ill heart that could not get cheery in his company.

I bought the bonniest likeness of him yesterday. What a handsome lad he


"I always fancy he must have looked like Joseph. The Talmud says all the women in Egypt loved Joseph. I am sure everybody, young and old, make their hearts over to Robert Burns.

[Musical notation omitted.]

There was a lad was born in Kyle,

But whatnaday, o' whatna style,

I doubt its hardly worth our while

To be sae nice wi' Robin.

For Robin was a

rovin boy, A rantin', rovin', rantin', rovin',

Robin was a rovin' boy, O ran-tin', rov-in', Robin!

Our monarch's hindmost year but ane

Was five and twenty days began;

'Twas then a blast o' Januar' win'

Blew hansel in on Robin.

For Robin was, etc.

The gossip keekit in his loof,

Quo' she, wha lives will see the proof,

This waly boy will be nae coof;

I think we'll ca' him Robin.

For Robin was, etc.

He'll hae misfortunes great and sma',

But aye a heart aboon them a',

He'll be a credit till us a'

We'll a' be proud o' Robin.

For Robin was, etc."

Half an hour's song put both in cheerful temper, and when Mary said, "Now, uncle, we must stop, because I want to take the first boat to-morrow," the dear old man went gayly off, singing:-

[Musical score omitted]

"Then up in the morning's no' for me,

Up in the morning early;

I'd rather gang supper-less to my bed,

Than rise in the morning early.

"Up in the morning's no' for me,

Up in the morning early,

I'd rather gang supperless to my bed,

Than rise in the morning early,"

and he was as proud and pleased with the apropos quotation, as if he had written it himself.

John Campbell's city house was one of the handsomest of the many handsome mansions in Blytheswood Square; and there the principal treasures of his home life were gathered: silver, paintings, furniture, books, as well as the mementoes which had come to him from past generations. He had expected Allan to spend the winter at home, and made many extensive changes in view of the company which the young people would probably desire. When Mary entered the house, she turned a face of astonishment and delight upon her uncle. Everywhere the utmost richness and luxury of appointment were manifest, and over her piano hung the painting of the beaming Robert Burns, for which Campbell had just paid £500. He had intended to surprise his niece, and he had his full measure of thanks in her unaffected pleasure. It was a happy home-coming, and as they sat together that night, Mary tried to inspire the father's heart with her own hopes in regard to Allan's future.

"He will come back in a year, uncle," she said, "and he will bring with him one of those bright-looking New York women, brains to the finger tips, nerves all over, with the most miraculously small feet, and costumes just as wonderful. Or it will be some large-eyed, slow-moving, long, lithe Southern girl who will look like a great white lily turned into a woman. I do not think seriously that Theodora has the slenderest chance of becoming Allan's wife, and, would you believe it, uncle, I am honestly sorry for her?"

"I believe it, dear, if you say so; but I would not have expected it."

"I cannot help thinking about her. I wish I could. I have wondered a dozen times to-day if she knows that she is shut up alone in that nearly empty house. How the storm will beat upon Allan's windows all the winter! How the wind will howl around the big, desolate place! And think of the real Theodora waiting among all kinds of rude surroundings on that bleak Fife coast. There must have been a mistake with that girl, uncle. She was meant for lofty rooms and splendid clothing, and to be waited upon hand and foot. Don't you think souls must often wonder at the habitations they find themselves in?"

"There is One above who orders all things. He makes no mistakes of that kind, dearie. I dare say the girl is very happy. She will be a kind of heroine among her own class of women, and they will envy her her rich handsome lover."

"And you think she will be happy under those circumstances? Not unless Fife girls are a higher creation of women. If they envy her they will hate her also; and I doubt if she will have many more friends among the fisher-lads. They will look upon her as a renegade to her order. The old women will suspect her, and the old men look askance at her with disapproving eyes. The girl will be a white blackbird; the properly colored birds will drive her out of the colony or pick her to death. It is only natural they should."

"But they are a very religious people; and grace is beyond nature.

"I do not deny that, uncle; but did you ever find grace with a mantle large enough to cover a defenceless woman who was under the ban of the majority? Now did you?"

"I know what you are after, Mary. You want to go and see her. This talk is a roundabout way to enlist my sympathy."

"Suppose I do want to go and see her, what then?"

"You could not go. The thing is simply impossible for some months at least. We know neither her name nor her place of residence. I should have to write to Allan on that matter; he might decline to tell me; if he did tell me, his answer will come with the snow and the winter storms. How then are you going to reach the Fife coast? And what kind of excuse could a lady make for visiting it about Christmas?"

"Excuses are plenty as blackberries in season. I wonder you did not 'speer her name and hame;' that would have been my first question."

"If I am buying a ship, Mary, I look at her build; I want to know if she is sea-trusty; her name is of small account. Now, if I were you, I would not trouble myself about Allan's sweetheart. I dare say she is happy enough."

"I am quite sure she is wretched. I feel it. And I have an idea that Allan would expect me, feeling so, to look after her."

Mary Campbell's divination was a correct one. Maggie was even thus early very wretched. In fact her misery began before Allan and David w

ere quite out of sight. For a few minutes Janet Caird let her stand and watch the departing boat; then she said with an air of business, "Weel, weel, Maggie, they are gane, but the wark o' the house bides. If you are ready I'll just gae through it, and tak' a look at the things put under my hand and charge."

Maggie turned round sharply. "There is nae charge in your hand, Aunt Janet. I hae keepit the house since I was seventeen years auld, and I'm no needing help frae onybody."

"Then whatna for was I brought here, frae my ain bit o' heather roof? It will ill set you to put your fayther's auldest sister under your thumb. Folks will talk ill o' you."

"They will talk as they like to talk, and it's mair often ill than gude. But the house is mine, and I'll guide it yet. You are vera welcome, Aunt Janet, and I'll be thankfu' for your company, and your word o' advisement, and if you'll bide under my roof, I'll bide under the shelter o' your gude heart, and gude word; for you ken, a lone lassie ought to hae some person weel respectit to stand by her, and to be a witness that she lives as a decent lassie ought to live."

"I didna think I was to be made a convenience o'. I lookit to do my day's wark, and sae earn my day's wage."

"Did Davie promise you siller at a'?"

"I'll no say he did; there wasna any promise fully made; but I thocht o' it."

"How much was you thinking o'? What sum will pay you to stand by my gude name, and say for me the right word when you hear the wrang one? For you ken, aunt, I'll ne'er deserve the wrang one."

"Wad five shillings weekly be o'er much?"

"Ay, it's a deal. But I'll gie it to you. And you can knit your ain stocking, and go and come as it likes you; and I'll mind my ain hame, and I'll pay you the siller every Saturday night."

"I dinna like the talk o' siller sae near the Sawbath day. We'll hae the settlement on Saturday at noon."

"Vera weel. We willna differ about an hour or twa."

"I didna sleep gude last night. A box bed isna quite the thing for an auld woman like me."

Maggie hesitated. Her own little room was very dear to her. It gave her a measure of privacy, and all her small treasures had their place in it. The concealed, or box bed, in the house place wall, had been David's sleeping place. It was warm and thoroughly comfortable; it was the usual, and favorite bed of all people of Janet Caird's class. Maggie wondered at her objection; especially as her own room was exposed to the north wind, and much colder than the house place. She based her opposition on this ground-

"You can hae my room if it please you better, Aunt Janet; but it is a gey cold one in the winter; and there isna ony way to make it warmer."

"Tuts, lassie! What for wad I want your bit room, when there is my brither's room empty noo?"

She rose as she spoke, and opened the door of the apartment which Allan had so long occupied. "It's a nice room, this is; a gude fire-place and an open bed, and you can pack awa a' those books and pictur's-they dinna look like vera improving ones-and I'll put my kist i' that corner, and just mak' mysel' quite comfortable."

"But you canna hae this room, Aunt Janet. Neither I, nor you, hae the right to put oor foot inside it. It is rented, and the rent paid doon; and the books and pictures canna be meddled wi'; there mustna be a finger laid on them."

"My certie! The man is gane far awa'; o'er the Atlantic Ocean itsel'-I'll bear the blame o' it. He took quite a liking to me, that was easy seen, and I'm vera sure, he willna mind me using what he canna use himsel'."

"He put the room, and a' in it, under my care, aunt. The books are worth mair siller than you ever counted; and I wouldna let ony-body-unless it was the minister an orra time-stay in it."

"What's the matter wi' the lassie? Maggie, you are no to be bided! I'll hae this room for mysel', and that's the end o' the controversy."

She had sat down in the big rush chair, by the still burning turfs, and she was looking round her with the critical eye of a person who is calculating the capabilities of a place. Maggie left her sitting there, and began to tidy up the house. In half an hour Janet re-appeared, and went to her kist-a great wooden box painted light blue-and began to undo its many cords and lock. Then Maggie closed the door of the disputed room, turned the key, and put it in her pocket.

The noise instantly arrested the old woman. She stood up, and cried out in a passion, "What's that you're doing, Maggie Promoter?"

"I'm locking Mr. Campbell's room. I'll no see you break into ony one's right, be they here, or far awa'."

"You hizzy! You! You'll daur to call me a thief, will you?"

"Dinna fight me at the outset, Aunt Janet. If I am wrang, when Davie comes hame at the New Year, I'll gie you the key. But I'll no do it, till he says sae, no, not if I die for it! Now then?"

"Setting yoursel' up in a bleezing passion wi' a person auld enough to be your mither! Think shame o' yoursel', Maggie Promoter!"

Maggie was certainly in a passion. Her eyes were full of tears, her face burning, her form erect and trembling with anger. Yet she was bitterly annoyed at her own weakness; she felt degraded by her outburst of temper, and was just going to say some words of apology, when a number of women entered the cottage. There was Jenny and Maggie Johnston, and Kirsty Buchan, and Janet Thompson and Mysie Raith; five buxom wives in linsey and tartan, all talking together of their "men" and their families.

Maggie's instincts revolted against any public discussion of her own affairs, and Aunt Janet was not disposed to tell her grievance while Maggie was present. So both women put it aside to welcome their visitors. There was much hand-shaking, and loud talking, and then Janet Caird said with a bustling authoritative air, "Put on the kettle, Maggie, a cup o' tea when kimmers meet, mak's talk better;" and Maggie, dumbly resentful at the order, obeyed it.

She was not in a generous mood, and she was calculating, as she silently set the table, how much of her seven shillings a week would be left, when she had paid Janet Caird five out of it, and entertained all her kimmers. When the tea was brewed, the old woman went to her blue kist, and brought out a bottle of Glenlivet, "just to tak' off the wersh taste o' the tea;" and Maggie, perceiving they had set down for a morning's gossip and reminiscence, said, "I'll awa' up the beach a wee, friends. I hae a headache, and I'll see if the wind will blow it awa'."

No one opposed the proposition. She folded her plaid around her head and shoulders and went out. Then Janet Caird put down her tea cup, looked mournfully after her, sighed, and shook her head. Upon which, there was a general sigh, and a general setting down of tea cups, and a short, but eloquent silence.

"You'll hae your ain adoo wi' that self-willed lass, I'm feared, Mistress


"'Deed, Mistress Raith, she's had o'er much o' her ain way, and she is neither to rule, nor to reason wi'."

"Davie Promoter is a wise-like lad; he did right to bring you here."

"And nane too soon."

"She's sae setten up wi' the fuss Maister Campbell made wi' baith o' them. Naething gude enough for Dave and Maggie Promoter. The best o' teachers and nae less than Glasca College itsel', for the lad-"

"My nephew Davie isna quite a common lad, Mistress Buchan. Dr. Balmuto gied him the books he needed. Think o' that noo."

"And the lass is a handsome lass. Maister Campbell thocht that. Angus just hated the sight o' him, for he said he came between himsel' and Maggie."

"She wouldna hae the impudence to even hersel' wi' Maister Campbell, a man connectit wi' the nobility, and just rollin' in gowd and siller," said Aunt Janet; drawing on her imagination for Mr. Campbell's distinctions.

This was the key-note to a conversation about Maggie in which every one of the five women present gave their own opinion, and the opinion of all their absent cronies about the girl's behavior. And though Janet Caird knew nothing of Maggie, and could say nothing definitely about her, she yet contrived in some manner to give the impression, that David Promoter had been afraid to leave his sister alone, on account of her attachment to Mr. Campbell; and that she had been specially brought from Dron Point to keep watch over the honor of the Promoter family.

If Maggie had been a popular girl, the loyalty of the Pittenloch wives to "their ain folk" would have been a sufficient protection against any stranger's innuendoes; but there was no girl in Pittenloch less popular. Maggie was unlike other girls; that was a sufficient reason for disfavor. Society loves types, and resents the individual whom it cannot classify; and this feeling is so common and natural that it runs through all our lives and influences our opinion of things inanimate and irresponsible: -the book of such inconvenient size or shape that it will not fit the shelf in our book-case, how many an impatient toss it gets! The incongruous garment which suits no other garment we have, and seems out of place on every occasion, how we hate it! Although it may be of the finest material and excellently well made.

So, though no one knew anything wrong of Maggie, and no one dared to say anything wrong, how provoking was the girl! She did nothing like any one else, and fitted into no social groove. She did not like the lads to joke with her, she never joined the young lassies, who in pleasant weather sat upon the beach, mending the nets. In the days when Maggie had nets to mend, she mended them at home. It was true that her mother was a confirmed invalid, confined entirely to her bed, for more than four years before her death; and Maggie had been everything to the slowly dying woman. But this reason for Maggie's seclusion was forgotten now, only the facts remembered.

The very women who wondered, "what kind of a girl she must be never to go to dances and merry makings;" knew that she had watched night and day by her sick mother; knew that the whole household had trusted to Maggie from her seventeenth year onward. Knew that it was Maggie that made all the meals, and kept the house place clean, and took care of the men's clothing, and helped to mend the nets, and who frequently after a day of unceasing labor, sat through the stormy nights with the nervous, anxious wife and mother, and watched for her the rising and setting of the constellations, and the changes of the wind.

Before her mother had been a twelvemonth under "the cold blanket o' the kirk yard grass," her father and brothers found rest among the clear cold populous graves of the sea. Then came Allan Campbell into her life, and his influence in the Promoter household had been to intensify the quiet and order, which David and Maggie both distinctly approved. The habit of being quiet became a second nature to the girl, every circumstance of the last years of her life had separated her more and more from the girls of her class and age. She was not to blame, but what then? People suffer from circumstances, as well as from actual faults.

There were two other points in Maggie's character undoubtedly influencing the social feelings which finally determined the girl's future-her great beauty, and her quick temper. There were women in the village who considered her rare and unmistakable beauty a kind of effrontery, at least they resented it with the same angry disapproval. A girl with no "man" to stand by her, ought not to look so provokingly radiant; nor, by the same rule, ought she to have such positive likes and dislikes, or a tongue always so ready to express them.

That very morning soon after leaving her aunt and the gossips around her, she met upon the beach Mysie Raith and Kitty Cupar. Kitty looked queerly at her and laughed, and instead of ignoring the petty insult, Maggie stopped the girls. "What are you laughing at, Kitty Cupar?" she asked indignantly.

"At naething," promptly replied the girl.

"What a born fool you must be to giggle at naething. Tak' tent, or you'll be crying for naething, afore night."

Then she went onward, leaving the girls full of small spite and annoyance. She was not far from her father's ill-fated boat. It always stood to Maggie in the stead of his grave. David had told her not to go near it, but she was in a perverse temper "and ill-luck, or waur ill-luck, I'm going;" she said to herself. It showed many signs of its summer's exposure; the seams were open, the paint peeling off, the name nearly effaced. She sat down on the shingle and leaned against it.

"Oh Lizzie! Lizzie!" she whispered to the poor forlorn battered thing. "You brought sair loss and sair change! Four hearts that loved me weel, you flung to the bottom o' the sea; and there's nane to care for me as they did. Davie is bound up in his diction'ries, and thinks little of Maggie noo; and he is gane far awa'. He'll ne'er come back to me, I'm feared; he'll ne'er come back! It is just anither wreck, Lizzie, for a' you left is ta'en awa' this day."

It is a great grief to miss the beloved in all the home ways, but oh, how that grief is intensified when people not beloved step into their places! It made Maggie bitterly sorrowful to see Janet Caird in her father's chair. What a mistake she had made! She had no idea she would feel so resentfully to the one who was in her house because "they were not."

"It will be waur yet to see her reading his Bible," she thought, but she lifted the big book and laid it before her aunt at the usual hour for the evening prayer. "Na, na," said Janet, with an expression of self-approbation, "I dinna approve o' women reading the Word aloud. It is nae house without a man at the head o' it, and we canna hae exercises without a man to gie us the sense o' them. We are twa lane women, we maun be contented with the whisper o' a verse or twa to our ain hearts."

And Maggie was almost glad. She thought of her father reading the Book with his four sons around him; and she thought of David's pale solemn face bending over it, as they two sat together to listen to its comfort and its counsel; and she said, "I'll put the Book out o' sight, and I'll hae it opened nae mair, till I sit wi' Davie in his ain manse; and then we'll read again that bonnie verse He gied us-Then are they glad, because they be quiet; so He bringeth them unto their desired haven."

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