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   Chapter 12 TO THE HEBRIDES.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 28955

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"And yet when all is thought and said.

The heart still overrules the head."

"From the lone shieling of the misty islands.

Mountains divide us, and the waste of seas:

But we in dreams behold the Hebrides."

One morning toward the end of July, Mary was reading the "Glasgow Herald." "Maggie," she said, "one of the Promoters has evidently left Fife, for I see the name among the list of students-David Promoter-he has done wondrously. The man is a miracle, he has taken every prize in his classes, I think."

"I'm right glad to hear tell o' it. I must aye wish weel-"

"Well, Maggie, not weel."

"Well, to the name."

It was true. David had overstepped even his own ambition. He had finished the term with an ovation from his fellows, and he had been urged to go with Prof. Laird's son to the outer Hebrides. And now that the strain of his study was over, and the goal, so far, nobly won, he could afford to remember his sister. Indeed David deserves more justice than these words imply. He had often thought of her since that March afternoon when he had put her into the train for Stirling. But he really believed that his first duty was to his studies, and he fully expected that his letter to Dr. Balmuto would be a sufficient movement to insure her welfare. Practically, he had thrown his own duty upon the minister's conscience, but he felt sure that the good man had accepted the obligation, for if not, he would certainly have written to him on the subject.

He sent the doctor the newspapers advertising his success, and a couple of days afterward went to Kinkell. Young Laird did not require his company for a week, and he thought well of himself for taking a journey to Fife merely to pleasure his sister, before he took his own pleasure. He had improved much in personal appearance during his residence in Glasgow. He was well dressed, and he had acquired an easy confidence of manner which rather took Dr. Balmuto by surprise. Perhaps it irritated him a little also; for he was not at all satisfied with David. The first words he said were not words of congratulation, they were a stern inquiry.

"David Promoter, where is your sister Maggie? Has she come back with you?"

"I came to ask you about Maggie, sir."

"Me! What way would you come to me? I have nothing to do with Maggie

Promoter."

"Sir, when she left me last March, I gave her a letter to you, and put her in the train that was to bring her here."

"What did you write to me about?"

"I told you how unhappy and dissatisfied my sister was at Pittenloch; and I asked you to advise her to stay at Kinkell under your eye. Then none could speak ill o' her."

"Why under my eye? Are you not your sister's natural protector?"

"My studies-my college duties-"

"Your first duty was Maggie. You will be a miserable divine, let me tell you, if you have not plenty of humanity in you; and the kirk and the household are bound together with bands that cannot be broken. What is the worth of all the Greek you know, if you have forgotten your own flesh and blood? I'll not give you one word of praise, David, until you can tell me that Maggie is well and doing well."

"My God! Maggie not here! Where then is she? I must awa' to Pittenloch; maybe she is gone back there."

"No, she has not gone back. Poor girl! What would she go back there for? To be worried to death by a lad she hates, and a lot of women who hate her? I went to Pittenloch a week after she left, and I had a day of inquiries and examinations; and I can tell you Maggie has been sair wronged. That old woman in your house has the poison of hell under her tongue:-and the lifted shoulder and the slant eye, what woman can stand them? So she went to her brother, as a good girl past her wits would do, and her brother put her on the train and sent her back to her sorrow!"

"I sent her to you, sir. I thought I could trust in you-"

"Why to me, I ask again? You knew that I had spoken sharply to her at the

New Year, how was she likely to come to me then? Where is your sister,

David Promoter?"

"You should hae written to me, sir, when you found out that Maggie was gone from her hame."

"I thought, everyone thought, she was with you. I am shocked to find she is not. Whom else can she be with? Whom have you driven her to?"

"What do you mean, sir?"

"Where is Allan Campbell? That is what you must next find out."

David looked at the minister like one distraught.

"I can't understand-I can't believe-gie me a drink o' water, sir."

He was faint and sick and trembling. He drank and sat down a few minutes; but though the doctor spoke more kindly, and set clearly before him what was best to be done, he heard nothing distinctly. As soon as he was able, even while the doctor was speaking, he rose and went out of the house. Sorrow has the privilege to neglect ceremonies, and David offered no parting courtesy, but for this omission the minister was rather pleased than angry with him:

"The lad has some heart, God be thanked!" he muttered, "and the day will come when he will be grateful to me for troubling it."

David went with rapid steps down the rocks to Pittenloch. How hateful the place looked to him that afternoon! How dreary those few tossing boats! How mean the cottages! How vulgar the women in their open doors! How disagreeable the bare-footed children that recognized him and ran hither and thither with the news of his arrival.

He was full of shame and anger. Where was his praise, where was his honor, with this disgrace in his home? How could he show those newspapers extolling his diligence and attainments, when Maggie had made his very success a disgrace to him? Oh, how bitterly he felt toward her!

Mistress Caird met him at the door with her apron at her eyes: "Come in, sir," she said, with a courtesy, "though it is a sorrowfu' house you come to."

"Aunt Janet, you have been drinking. I smell the whiskey above everything. Ah, there is the bottle!" His sharp eyes had seen it behind the tea caddy on the mantelshelf. He took it and flung it upon the shingle as far as his arm could send it.

"That is my ain whiskey, David; bought wi' my ain siller, and the gude ken I need a wee drappie to keep my vera heart frae breaking wi' the sorrow I hae had."

"Say, wi' the sorrow you hae made. Pack your trunk, Aunt Janet. I'll take you to Dron Point in the morning."

He would talk no more to her. He let her rave and explain and scold, but sat silent on his hearth, and would go and see none of his old friends. But it did console him somewhat that they came crowding in to see him. That reaction which sooner or later takes place in favor of the injured had taken place in Maggie's favor since the minister's last visit. Mistress Caird felt that she was leaving Pittenloch something like a social criminal. No one came to bid her farewell. David and a boy he hired took her silently to her old home. She had sacrificed every good feeling and sentiment for popularity, and everyone spoke ill of her.

Getting near to Dron Point, she said to David, "You are a miserable set-up bit o' a man; but you'll pay me the £4 10s. you are owing me, or I'll send the constable and the sherra a' the way to Glasca' for it."

"I owe you nothing, woman."

"Woman, indeed! Maggie, the hizzy!-agreed to gie me five shillings weekly if I wad say the gude word for her she ne'er deserved, and I havna been paid for eighteen weeks. That mak's it £4 10s. Just hand o'er the siller and be done wi' it."

"It is a theft, an extortion;" but he took a £5 note from his pocket-book and gave her it. "That is a gratuity," he said, "a gratuity to help you until you find employment. I do not owe you a penny."

"There's nae gratuity in honest earned money; and if you wad gie me £50 it wad be too little to pay me for the loss o' health and time and gude name I hae made through you and yours. Set you up for a minister, indeed! Clean your ain door-stane before you speak o' other folks. I'm glad to be rid o' the sight and the hearing o' you."

That was the parting shot, and David could have very heartily returned it. But he heeded his Bible rule, and to her railing made no answer. Janet would rather have been sworn at. He left her bargaining with a man to take her blue kist to the village public, but he did not return to Pittenloch. He had given Elder Mackelvine the key of the cottage, and the elder had promised to find a proper woman to care for it. So he sent the boy back with the boat, and found the quickest way from Dron Point to Glasgow.

In his last interview with Allan Campbell, Allan had told him, if any difficulty arose about his money matters, or if he needed more money before he returned, to go to his father; and in view of such an emergency, had given David the address of Campbell & Co. He went there as soon as he arrived in Glasgow. It was in the middle of the afternoon and John Campbell had just gone to his house in Blytheswood Square. The young man who answered his inquiry was pleasant spoken, and trustworthy, and David said to him-"Where is Mr. Allan Campbell?"

"He is in the United States. I believe in New Orleans."

"When will he return?"

"It is very uncertain. Not for a year or more."

Then he concluded that Maggie had gone to him. That was the thing Dr. Balmuto feared. What a fool he had been not to suspect earlier what everyone else, doubtless, perceived. One hope yet remained. He wrote to the Largo Bank about the £50. If Maggie had lifted it, then he would feel certain she was doing honestly for herself, in some quiet village, or perhaps, even in Glasgow. But when he found the money had not been touched, he accepted without further hope the loss and the shame. It is so much easier to believe evil than good, even of those we love. Yet, how could David, knowing Maggie as he did, do her this shame? Alas! David Promoter thought very badly of the majority of men and women. It was his opinion that God had so made them, that they preferred evil to good, and only by some special kind of Divine favor and help-such as had been vouchsafed to himself-chose the right road.

He certainly grieved for Maggie; but oh! how bitterly he felt the wrong she had done him. For her own indulgence, how she would curtail and cramp all his future college course! He had hitherto dressed well, and been able to buy easily all the books he needed. For the future he would have to rely upon his own exertions; for his first decision had been to pay back the money he had taken from Allan's fund, and make the proceeds of his teaching defray his class fees. When he had done this, he had only £8 left, out of the £50 which his father had left accumulated; but he was to receive £25 from Prof. Laird for his two months' services, and with this £33, and the stray teaching he would certainly find to do, he really had no fear of pushing his way through the next year. But yet he felt keenly the bondage to care and necessity which Maggie's selfishness had put him under. He never thought of blaming himself. It did not occur to him that she had rights as sacred as his own. "The cruelty of her! The cruelty of her!" he kept saying, as he moodily paced his little room. He did not remember his own indifference, nor reflect that a trifle of kindness, even the small favor of a-weekly visit, would have kept the girl contentedly under his own eye.

But David had marked out his course, and he was not the man to permit any woman to seriously interfere with his plans. He put down with a mighty will his grief and disappointment, and shame, and went off to the Hebrides with his pupil. But in spite of himself, Maggie went with him. He was compelled to be very economical, and he could not quite get rid of anxiety, and of planning for the future, which the change in his money affairs forced upon him. And it was all Maggie's fault. "Her weakness, her craving 'to be made of,' and to be happy, her inability to bear a little feminine gossip, her longing after the companionship of himself -or another." Maggie, after all, spoiled the trip to which he had looked forward for half a year with longing and delight.

When he returned to the Candleriggs, the first thing he saw was a letter from Maggie. It had been lying upon his table for some weeks. In fact Maggie had written it soon after her removal to Drumloch, but she did not wish to post it from so small a place, and she therefore waited until her first visit to Glasgow, which occurred early in August. She had remembered the time when it was possible that David might go to Pittenloch, and she feared that he would be very miserable when he found out that she had never returned to Kinkell. Without revealing her own location or circumstances, she wished to satisfy him as far as possible of her innocence and welfare; so she had thus written-

"Dear Davie. I am feared you will not get this, ere you find out I did not go back yonder day you sent me. I have met with good friends, and am living honest and happy. Have no fear anent me. I will do right, and do well. Where I am there is no ill can be said of me, and no ill can come to me. I was glad beyond telling to read of your well-doing. You'll win to the top of the tree, Davie, I aye thought that. Some day, you will find it in your heart to love Maggie, and to forgive her, that she was forced to lay an anxious thought on you. Your true, loving sister, Maggie Promoter."

The letter was a comfort to him, and for a moment or two a great surprise. The writing was Maggie's writing, but much improved, the spelling was correct. It was evident that she was trying to teach herself, and it pleased him somewhat; although he was far from considering education as a necessity for women. "To think of Maggie reading the newspapers!" he exclaimed; "but then," he reflected, "she had doubtless been looking for a word about him," and with this thought, he became just, even tender, to her memory. As he folded away the letter, he said, "I was wrong to think wrong of her. She was always a good girl, and very fond of me. It would be long ere she would do aught to hurt my good name. It's no to be thought of." So with a lighter heart he went bravely to work again, and the weeks and months in their busy monotony passed wisely and quickly away.

To Maggie also, they went wisely and quickly, although life at Drumloch was far from being monotonous. Mary had the quick, nervous tempe

rament which is eager for change and movement. She went frequently into Glasgow to give and to attend entertainments, for Drumloch was yet in the hands of painters and upholsterers. But she always went alone. She had fully made up her mind that it would not be well to let John Campbell see Maggie. If he liked her, he would be sure to write to Allan, and curtail his probation, and Mary felt that such a course would be an injustice to her plans for the gradual preparation of the girl for the position she might have to fill.

So Maggie was left in charge at Drumloch. Almost imperceptibly she rose to this duty. First one thing, then another, was fully grasped by her, until the steward and the housekeeper took her directions as readily as they did those of Miss Campbell. Maggie had a natural aptitude for comprehending small pecuniary and household details, "accounts" did not confuse her, and they did seriously confuse Mary. She could make nothing of the "books" which her head servants rendered weekly, and which were clear to Maggie. So, while Mary was entertaining in Blytheswood Square, and going to dinner parties, and dances, Maggie was equally happy looking after the hundred things which from the village, the farm, the gardens and the house demanded her supervision and direction.

During this winter John Campbell did not often visit Drumloch, and when he did Mary had always a long list of shopping for Maggie to attend to in Glasgow. The change was pleasant to Maggie and it was also pleasant to Mary; for it cannot be denied, that she sometimes, at this period, chafed under her self-imposed duty. Every one has peculiarities; they may be admirable ones, and yet be irritating to those whose peculiarities run in a different direction. There were occasional days in which Mary felt that it was the first necessity of life to get rid of Maggie Promoter for a little while. But she never suffered Maggie to suspect this feeling; she was even at such times effusively kind to her, and generally compromised with her conscience by giving her protégé some rich or pretty present.

Thus the winter passed, and in May Mary went to London. John Campbell accompanied her; he had not been well for some months and he hoped the change of scene would benefit him. Also, he had a great pride in his niece, and he was no little pleased when she was presented at Court, and for some months reigned a belle in the very best Scottish society in the metropolis. At this time she had not much interest in Drumloch, though Maggie wrote to her daily, and Maggie's letters were wonderfully clever and amusing. And yet she had not received any special lessons; she had simply passed in a silent sort of way out of a region of ignorance, into one penetrated by the thought of educated men and women. There had been in her mentally a happy unconscious growth upward, like that of a well-watered plant. But no system of education could have been so excellently fitted for her development. The charge taught her self-reliance; the undisputed authority she wielded imparted to her manner ease and dignity, and that nameless something which is the result of assured position. There was also the advantage of a conscious, persistent effort on Maggie's own part; she tried to make every letter she wrote more neat, and clear, and interesting. She took pride in the arrangement of her hair, was anxious about the fit of her dresses, and did not regard the right mixture of colors in her costumes as a thing beneath her consideration. Early in July Mary returned to Drumloch. She had come as far as Glasgow with a party who were going to Oban. Oban was then little known. During the summer tourists of the wealthy and cultivated classes, who had read Scott's "Lord of Isles," came on short pilgrimages to the pretty clachan; but it was not, as now, the Charing Cross of the Highlands, where all the world you see.

"The doctor and the scholar.

The poor man with his penny fee.

The rich man with his dollar.

The priest who steals short holiday,

The prince who goes incog, sir

The schoolboy with his dreams of play,

The sportsman with his dog, sir."

"We are going over classic ground, Maggie, and we will read the 'Lord of the Isles' together this week, ere we put a foot on it," said Mary, who was in a merry mood with life, and all the love and care of it.

"But if I go also, what shall be done with Drumloch?"

"Mrs. Leslie and Bruce will do the best they can; and for the rest, let things 'gae tapsal-teerie,' as Uncle John says. I have made up my mind, Maggie, to take you with us, and I am not going to be disappointed for a trifle. Oh, Maggie! how we shall enjoy the great bens, and the corries hazy with blue bells, and the wonderful isles of Skye and Iona."

"Skye! My mother was a Skye woman. I should like well to see Skye. How long shall we be away?"

"Only a month. Winter comes soon among the mountains, and the roads are bad, even the sea road, which is the one we shall take."

"I have a tryst," said Maggie, blushing scarlet; "it is at the end of August. I canna break it; if I did, life would be a miserable uncertainty to me, and maybe, to some one else."

Then Mary remembered how nearly the two years of Allan's absence were over; and she understood well what tryst Maggie had to keep. "We shall be back in Glasgow by the 20th of August. How long will it take you to keep this tryst, Maggie?"

"I would ask a week to go and come again."

"But would you come again?"

"I would do that whate'er befell."

"Do you think your lover will be there?"

"He said that."

"And do you believe in him after two years?"

"Yes. I believe in every word he said. He will be there."

"You shall be there also, Maggie, though we should have to send special horses and carriages with you. I intend to be back at Drumloch about the 22d, that will give you plenty of time. When you return we will go to Blytheswood Square, until Uncle John gets home."

"What would take him at all to a heathen country like Russia?"

"They are not quite heathens, Maggie; indeed, I believe they claim to be the best kind of Christians; and Russian rubles turn into very good English sovereigns. There was some trouble about one of his ships at Odessa, and as a very clever London physician said that Uncle John needed travel and change, he thought he would go himself and see about it. But he is one of those men who do not like to tread in their own footsteps, so instead of coming back by the way he went, he will pass through Russia northward, to a port on the Baltic, called Riga, where also he has some business. I think Riga is on the Baltic; suppose you get the atlas, and we will trace his course together."

"I have heard you speak much of Mr. Campbell, I would like well to see him."

"You should have seen him ere this, Maggie; but I was waiting until -until, you looked and spoke as you do this morning;" and she rose and kissed the blush of Maggie's cheek, and then turned the conversation to the dark tartans which she thought would be the best material for travelling dresses. "And we want them very prettily made," she added, with a rising color, "for it is fine folk we are going to meet, Maggie-Lord John Forfar, and Captain Manners, and Lady Emma Bruce, and Miss Napier; so you see, Miss Promoter and Miss Campbell must dress accordingly."

Maggie was young enough and happy enough to feel all the excitement of the proposed trip. Still she was troubled about her tryst with Allan. Oban and the Highlands were so far away. In Pittenloch, her mother, coming from Skye, had been looked upon almost as a foreigner. She was quite unable to compute the distances; she knew nothing of the time it would take to travel them: she felt ashamed to show anxiety to Mary on the matter. "But I'll trust my way to His ordering. He'll no let me be too late for any good thing He wills me;" and having thus settled the subject in her heart, she went about the necessary preparations in a joy of anticipation, which made Mary feel how pleasant it would be to have so fresh and charming a companion.

Two weeks afterward they were in Oban, watching from the heights the exquisite bay, and the lovely isle of Kerrera, the high mountains of Mull, and Ossian's "Misty Morven." The Petrel, a cutter yacht of forty tons, was lying at anchor. In the morning they were to start for a glimpse of the Atlantic across the purple bogs of the Lews; going by way of Mull and Canna, and swinging round Barra Head, toward the red, rent bastions of Skye. Through that charmful circle of the outer isles, with their slumbrous tarns, and meres, and treeless solitudes they went. And oh, how full of strange and dreamy beauty were the long quiet summer days in that land of mystic forgetfulness! that great, secret land of waters, with its irresistible tides, and the constant ocean murmur haunting it like a spirit voice.

Maggie enjoyed them with all her soul, though she did not speak in italics about her feelings; perhaps she did not know very well how to express herself. Forty years ago, even highly educated women did not rave about scenery, they knew nothing of shadows and colors, nothing of "effects" scarped, jagged and rifted. Neither had they any uneasy consciousness that they ought to blend the simple delights of fresh air, fresh scenes, and pleasant company, with some higher kind of recreation.

Coming home through the sound of Barra, Mary said, "We are a day or two late, Maggie, but I have not forgotten your tryst. We shall run down the coast now, and round the Mull of Kintyre on the 24th. The next day we may be at Drumloch, that will be early enough?"

"Mair than enough, Miss Campbell. I needna leave Drumloch until the 27th, though if it came easy I would leave before that."

"How near we are to the cliffs; we are rippling the shadows along shore. Look at those forlorn headlands, Maggie. It was the sombre sadness of this land that charmed the early saints, and girt all these isles with their solitary cells."

"I liked well to read about them; and I can never think of Iona without remembering Columba with his face bright from the communion of angels."

"And the hymn he wrote there, Maggie, we shall never forget that; it breathes the soul of the saint, and pictures the scene of his saintship. Now to the cries of the sea-birds overhead, let us have a few lines; the swell of the waves will keep the time and the tune."

"That I might often see

The face of the ocean.

That I might see its heaving waves

Over the wide ocean,

When they chaunt music to their Father

Upon the world's course,

That I might see its level sparkling strand,

It would be no cause of sorrow,

That I might hear the songs of the wonderful birds,

Source of happiness;

That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves

Upon the rocks;

That I might hear the roar by the side of the church

Of the surrounding sea,

That I might see its ebb and flood

In their career;

That I might bless the Lord

Who conserves all,

Heaven with its countless bright orders.

Land, strand and flood.

At times kneeling to beloved Heaven;

At times psalm-singing;

At times contemplating the King of Heaven,

Holy, the Chief;

At times work without compulsion;

This would be delightful;

At times plucking duilisc from the rocks;

At times fishing;

At times giving food to the poor;

At times in a solitary cell.

The best advice in the presence of God

To me has been vouchsafed.

The King, whose servant I am, will not let

Anything deceive me."

Skene, Celtic Scotland, v. 2, p. 93.

"Thank you, Maggie, historical places are not much to see, often, but they are a great deal to feel. That hymn set me back into the sixth century, and I have been wondering what sort of women you and I would have been then. Perhaps nuns, Maggie."

"We will not think ill o' ourselves, Miss Campbell. Nane o' the Promoters were ever Catholics."

"The Campbells prayed as the king prayed always-we have been a prudent clan for both worlds, Maggie. 'To get on' has been the one thing needful with us; but there are many families of that kind. Has not the wind changed?"

"Yes; it looks like bad weather;" and the mist as she spoke came rolling down the sound with the swoop of a falcon. Hitherto they had been singularly fortunate. "Fine weather and fair winds," had been the usual morning greeting; or if a passing squall appeared it had found them near to some sheltered loch, or inlet. Lord Forfar was for putting into Boisdale, for the glass was going down rapidly; but Lady Bruce was sure, "a little breeze would be a most delightful change."

It was not very likely to be so with the wind rising out of the northeast; and ere long the Petrel's topmast was sent down, and a double reef put in her mainsail. Until midnight it blew hard with a fast rising sea, and a mist as thick as a hedge. After this, it was ugly weather all the way home, and as they passed Ailsa Craig the wind changed to full north, and fetched the sea down with it.

"The waves come high down the Frith," said Maggie to the owner of the yacht, a hardy young fellow who leaned against the taffrail, and watched his boat hammering through the heavy seas.

"They come any size you like down here, Miss Promoter. But our skipper is a good sailor; he has only one fault; he drives a boat without mercy. Still I think even Captain Toddy will run for shelter to-night."

Captain Toddy thought not. He had a name for carrying on, and the Petrel was not his boat if she did get a bit crushed. So the ladies, sitting under the weather railing, watched the storm from among the folds of yellow oilskin in which they had been tucked. Ere long, in the thick of a gusty squall, the Petrel took her first header very heavily. Her bow disappeared to the butts, and with a tremendous noise the sea came over the deck in a deluge. Every plunge she made it was the same thing, and all of the ladies were thoroughly drenched. The cabin was wet and miserable, and there was no promise of any favorable change. Evidently the best thing to do was to make for the port of Ayr; for on the following day Mary Campbell was suffering very much from the effects of her exposure, and when Captain Toddy let the anchor fly underfoot pretty near the 'auld Brig' she was in a high fever, and breathing with pain and difficulty.

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