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   Chapter 14 THE MEETING PLACE.

A Daughter of Fife By Amelia Edith Barr Characters: 25788

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"Love's a divinity that speaks

'Awake Sweetheart!' and straightway breaks

A lordlier light than sunshine's glow,

A sweeter life than mortals know.

I bow me to his fond command,

Take life's great glory from his hand;

Crowned in one moment's sweet surprise,

When Somebody and I-changed eyes."

Maggie had very little hope of meeting Allan, and yet he might have lingered. Judging him by her own heart, she thought he would have done so, unless circumstances of which she had no knowledge made waiting impossible. It was this faint hope that made her wear the costume most becoming to her-a gown and mantle of dark blue cashmere and velvet, and a white straw bonnet with bands and strings of blue velvet and one drooping plume of the same tint. Mary looked at her critically, and said, "You do me great credit, Maggie, I expect some one to be very pleased with me. Kiss me, dear, and be sure and bring good news back with you."

Late that night Maggie reached Kinkell. She rested at its small inn until daylight, then, ere any one was astir, she took the familiar path down the rocks. Perhaps she ought to have had a great many fine thoughts, and grateful emotions, on that walk; but people cannot feel to order, and Maggie's mind was wholly bent upon Allan and herself. She was also obliged to give much of her attention to her feet. The shelving narrow path, with its wide fissures and slight foothold, had become really dangerous to her. There were points at which she almost feared, and she felt more vividly than ever she had done before how far the old life had slipped behind her. She had become unfit for it; she shrank from its dangers; and when she came in sight of the cottages, and remembered the narrow orbit of life within them, she shrank even from its comforts and pleasures.

From her own cottage the smoke was rising in plentiful volume through the white wide chimney. She did not know of Janet Caird's removal, and supposed she would have to parry all her old impertinences and complaints. When she opened the door Mysie, who was stooping over the fire toasting a cake, turned her head; then she lifted herself and dropped a courtesy.

"I am only Maggie Promoter, Mysie. Is Janet Caird sick?"

"Why, Maggie! I'd never hae kent you, lassie! Come to the fire, for it is raw and cold-I'm glad I had the fire kindled, and the kettle boiling-you can hae your breakfast as soon as you like it."

"I'll hae it the noo, Mysie." She fell at once into her old speech, and as she removed her bonnet and mantle asked again, "Is Aunt Janet sick?"

"I dinna ken, nor I dinna care much, either. She's gane awa' frae

Pittenloch, and Pittenloch had a gude riddance o' her."

"Gane!"

"Ay; when your brother Davie cam' here, mair than a year syne, he just bid her pack her kist, and he and Troll Winans took her at daylight next morn to whar' she cam' frae. Elder Mackelvine made a grand exhort in the next meeting anent slandering folks; for Janet Caird was a gude text for it; and Kirsty Buchan said, it was a' the gude Pittenloch e'er got oot o' her."

"David was here then?"

"Ay, he was here. Didna ye ken that?"

"Was there ony ither body here?"

"Ay, there was. A week syne here comes that bonnie young Allan Campbell that was aye sae fond o' your brither Davie."

"Did he stay here wi' you?"

"Ay, for sure he did. For three days he stayed; and he just daundered roun' the boats and the beach, and lookit sae forlorn, wanting Davie and the bonnie boat that had gane to the bottom, that folks were sorry for him. He gied Elder Mackelvine twenty pounds for the widows o' Pittenloch, and he gied me mysel' a five pound note; and I could hae kissed the vera footmarks he made, he was that kindly and sorrowfu'."

"Did he name my name, Mysie?"

"Ay, he did that. He sat in Davie's chair every night, and talked to me anent you a' the time maistly; and he said, 'Mysie, she'll maybe come back some day; and if ever she does, you'll tell her I was here, and that I missed her sairly; and he left a bit of paper for you wi' me. I'll get it for you, when we hae had our breakfast."

"Get it the noo, Mysie. I'm fain to see it; and I dinna want my breakfast much-and shut the door, and run the bolt in, Mysie; I'm no caring to see folk."

It was one of those letters which we have forgotten how to write-large letter cap, folded within itself, and sealed with scarlet wax. It was, "Dearest Maggie! Sweetest Maggie! Best beloved of women!" It was full of tenderness, and trust, and sorrow, and undying affection. Maggie's tears washed it like a shower of rain. Maggie's kisses sealed every promise, and returned to the writer ten-fold every word of its passionate mournful devotion.

She did not now regret her journey. Oh, she would most gladly have walked every mile of the way, to have found that letter at the end of it. "He'll come back here," she thought; "love will bring him back, and I know by myself how glad he will be to hae a word from me." In the drawer of the table in Allan's room there was some paper and wax. Allan's letter had been written with his pocket pencil, but she found among David's old papers the remains of several pencils, and with some little difficulty she made them sufficiently sharp to express what she wished to say.

She told him everything-where she had spent the time since they parted -how good Miss Campbell had been to her-how impossible it would have been to desert her in an hour of such need and peril-how much she had suffered in her broken tryst, and how longingly and lovingly she would wait for him at Drumloch, though she waited there until the end of her life. "And every year," she added, "I'll be, if God let me, in Pittenloch on the 29th of August, dear Allan;" for she thought it likely he might come again at that time next year.

Into Mysie's hand this letter was given with many injunctions of secrecy and care. And then Maggie sat down to eat, and to talk over the minor details of David's and Allan's visits; and the changes which had occurred in her native village since she left it. "I dinna want you to say I hae been here, Mysie. I'll get awa' at the dinner hour, and nane will be the wiser. I can do nae gude to any one, and I'll maybe set folks wondering and talking to ill purpose."

"I can hold my whist, Maggie; if it's your will, I'll no speak your name. And I hope I hae keepit a' things to your liking in the cottage. If sae, you might gie me a screed o' writing to your brither, sae that when he comes again, he'll be contented, and willing to let me bide on here."

"I'll do that gladly, Mysie. Hoo is a' wi' you anent wark and siller?"

"I get on, Maggie; and there's a few folk do mair than that; forbye, Maister Campbell's five pounds will get me many a bit o' comfort this winter."

"Hoo much weekly does Davie allow you for the caretaking?"

"He didna speak to me himsel'. He left Elder Mackelvine to find some decent body wha wad be glad o' the comfortable shelter, and the elder gied me the favor."

"Dinna you hae some bit o' siller beside frae Davie?"

"Na, na; I dinna expect it. The hame pays for the care o' it."

"But I'll hae to pay you for the care o' my letter, Mysie, for I can weel afford it. I'll gie you two pounds for the next three months; and at the beginning o' every quarter you'll find the two pounds at the minister's for you. He'll gie it, or he'll send it to you by the elder."

"I dinna like to be paid for a kindness, Maggie. The young man was gude to me, and I'd do the kind turn to him gladly."

"Weel, Mysie, David ought to hae minded the bit siller to you, and he wad dootless hae done it, if he hadna been bothered oot o' his wits wi' Aunt Janet. Sae, I'm only doing the duty for him. Davie isna mean, he is just thochtless anent a' things outside o' his college, or his books."

At twelve o' clock, when every one was at their dinner, and the beach was empty, Maggie easily got away without observation. She did not regret her journey. She had Allan's letter and she had also a few withered flowers which he had gathered on the top of the cliffs during his visit, and left in his room. Poor, little brown bits of gorse and heather, but they had been in his hands, and were a precious and tangible link between them. The carriage which had brought her to Kinkell was waiting for her, and the horses being refreshed and rested, she left immediately for Drumloch.

She had many a thought to keep her company; but in the main, they were thoughts of hopeful love toward Allan, and of grateful affection toward Mary. This visit to Pittenloch had enabled her to measure Mary's singular beneficence and patience; and she was almost glad that she had been able to prove her gratitude by a cheerful renunciation of hopes so dear and so purely personal. She knew then, if she had never before known, the value of what had been done for her, and she understood why David had so resolutely put aside everything that would interfere with his mental culture. In such a mood, it was even easy to excuse his harshness. "He feared I would be a hindrance to him," she thought; "and maybe, when a man is climbing out of ignorance into knowledge, he ought to be feared for hindrances, even though he likes them well."

Mary Campbell, like most people of a nervous temperament, had a quick, sensitive ear. She heard Maggie's arrival and her step upon the stair long before Mrs. Leslie did. She was still confined to her bed, but she turned her questioning eyes eagerly to the door by which Maggie would enter. She came in so brightly, and with such a happy light on her face, that Mary felt sure the journey had been a successful one.

"In time, Maggie, after all?" she whispered, as Maggie kissed her.

"No, he did not wait for me:-but it is all right."

"Oh Maggie! what a shame!"

"Don't say that, Miss Campbell. He kept his word. He left me a letter. He is not to blame. No one is to blame. It will be all for the best. I am sure of that."

"Never call me Miss Campbell again, Maggie. I am Mary, your friend, your sister Mary. Do you think I can forget those dreadful days and nights when you walked with me, as I went through the Valley of the Shadow? Though I could not speak to you I knew you were there. Your hand, so cool, so strong, and gentle was what I clung to. On that last awful point of land, beyond which all was a black abyss, I clung to it. I heard your voice when I had passed beyond all other earthly sounds. It was the one link left me between that world and this. Maggie! Maggie! You cannot tell how sorry I am about this broken tryst."

"You must not say that, dear. You must not talk any more. I have a letter that makes it all right. We will speak of it again when you are stronger."

"Yes, Maggie-and I know-I know-it is sure and certain to come right -very soon, Maggie."

Indeed Mary had arrived at a very clear decision. As soon as she was able, she intended to write to Allan and bring him to Drumloch to meet Maggie. She would make a meeting for the lovers that should amply repay the one broken for her sake. She knew now, that as Allan had been in Pittenloch, he had returned from America, and that he was still faithful to his love. She felt certain that there would be a letter from him among her Accumulated mail matter. Perhaps he had even called at Drumloch. The next time she was alone with Mrs. Leslie she asked if her cousin had been to Drumloch yet. "He was expected home about this time," she said, "and I should not like him to be turned from the door, even if I am ill."

"I heard that he had gone to Riga, Miss Campbell. Your uncle has been no just well, and it was thought to be the right thing for Mr. Allan to go and be company hame for him There are letters nae doubt from baith o' them, but you willna be let meddle wi' the like o' thae things, yet awhile."

The winter set in early, and cold, and Mary's recovery was retarded by it. At the beginning of November she had not left her own rooms. But at that time her seclusion was mostly a precautionary measure. She had regained much of her old sprightliness, and was full of plans for the entertainments she intended to give as soon as she was perfectly well. "I am going to introduce you to Glasgow society at the New Year, Maggie," she said, "and I can imagine the sensation you will cause-the wonder-the inquiries-the inventions-and the lovers you will be sure to have! I think we shall enjoy it all, very much."

Maggie thought so, also. She was delighted with the fine new costumes being made for Mary and herself. The discussions about them, their fitting on, their folding away in the great trunks destined for Blytheswood Square, helped to pass the dreary days of the chill damp autumn very happily. One morning early in November Mary got a letter which gave her a great pleasure. "

Uncle John is coming tonight, Maggie!" she cried. "Oh how glad I shall be to see him! We have both been to the door of death, and come back to life. How much we shall have to say to each other! Now I want you to dress yourself with the greatest care to-night, Maggie; you must be ready when I have exhausted words on your beauty, to step into his presence, and make words seem the poorest kind of things."

"What shall I wear?"

"Wear? Well, I think that dark brown satin is the most becoming of your dinner gowns-and dress your hair behind very high and loosely, with the carved shell comb-and those long brown curls, Maggie, push them behind your pretty ears; your face does not need them, and behind the ears they are bewitching."

Maggie laughed. She liked handsome dress, and it pleased her to be called handsome. She had indeed a good many womanly foibles, and was perhaps the more loveable for them. Dr. Johnson thought that a man who did not care for his dinner would not care for more important things; and it is certain that a woman who does not care for her dress is very likely to be a mental, perhaps also a moral, sloven.

Mary had hoped to signalize her delight in her uncle's visit by going down stairs to dine with him; but the day was unusually damp and cold, and her proposal met with such strong opposition that she resigned the idea. She dressed herself early in a pretty chamber gown of pink silk trimmed with minever; but in spite of the rosy color, the pallor of her sickness and long confinement was very perceptible. The train that was to bring John Campbell reached Ayr at four o'clock, and Maggie saw the carriage hurrying off to meet it, as she went to her room to dress for dinner. In less than an hour there was the stir of an arrival, and John Campbell's slow, heavy tread upon the stairs, and Mary's cry of joy as she met him in the upper corridor.

Maggie went on dressing with an increase of happiness; she felt Mary's pleasure as if it were her own. With a natural and exquisite taste, she raised high the loose soft coils of her nut-brovn hair; and let fall in long and flowing grace the rich folds of nut-brown satin that robed her. She wore no ornaments of any kind, except a cluster of white asters in her belt, which Mary had given her from those brought for her own use.

She was just fastening them there when Mary entered. "You lovely woman!" she cried enthusiastically. "I think you must look like Helen of Troy. I have a mind to call you Helen. Have you reflected that you will have to be Uncle John's host? So before I take you to him, go down stairs, dear, and see if the table is pretty, and all just as I should like to have it for him. And if there are no flowers on the table, Maggie, go to the conservatory and cut the loveliest you can find-only if you stay too long, I shall send Uncle John to find you."

She passed out nodding and smiling and looking unusually beautiful and happy. Maggie found that the dinner table was splendidly laid, but it was, as she expected, destitute of flowers, because it had always been either Mary's or her own pleasure to cut them. The conservatory was an addition to the large double drawing-rooms on the opposite side of the hall, and she was rather astonished to see that the fires had been lighted in them. At the entrance of the conservatory she stood a moment, wondering if she could reach a superb white camellia, shining above her like a star among its dark green leaves. As she hesitated, Allan opened the door, and walked straight to the hearth. He did not see Maggie, and her first impulse was to retreat into the shadow of some palms beside her. A slight movement made him turn. She stood there smiling, blushing, waiting.

"Maggie!"

The cry was one of utter wonder and delight. "Oh, my love! My love! My love!" He held her in his arms. She was his forever now. "Not death itself shall part us again," he whispered, with that extravagance of attachment which is permissible to lovers. For what lover ever spoke reasonably? The lover that can do so is not a lover; he is fathoms below that diviner atmosphere whose language is, of necessity, as well as choice, foolishness to the uninitiated.

Allan had been sent by Mary for some book she affected to particularly want. He forgot the book, as Maggie forgot the flowers, and in half-an-hour, John Campbell was sent after his dilatory son. Old men do not like surprises as well as lovers, and Mary had thought it best to prepare him for the meeting that was close at hand. He had felt a little fear of the shock he was sure he would have to bear as graciously as possible. But pleasant shocks do not hurt, and John Campbell's spirits rose as soon as his eyes fell upon the beautiful woman standing by his son's side. He came forward with smiles, he welcomed Maggie, and called her "daughter" with a genuine pride and tenderness.

Very soon he reminded the lovers that he was an old man who thought highly of his dinner; he gave Maggie his arm and led her into the dining-room. There were no flowers on the table, and the meats were a little out of time and past savor, but Allan and Maggie were oblivious of such trifles, and John Campbell was too polite, and perhaps also too sympathetic to remind them that they were still in Ayrshire, and that Ayrshire was not Eden. And though Mary had not been able to witness the happiness she had planned, she felt it. It seemed to pervade the house like some quicker atmosphere. She had even a better appetite, and the servants also seemed conscious of a new joy, and indefinable promise of festivity-something far more subtle than a bird in the air had carried the matter to every heart.

After dinner, while John Campbell was talking to Maggie, Allan went to see Mary. She was still on her sofa, a little tired, but very happy and very pretty. He knelt down by her side, and kissed her, as he whispered, "Oh Mary! My sister Mary! How good you have been to me! It is wonderful! I cannot thank you, dear, as I want to. I am so happy, so happy, Mary; and it is your doing."

"I know how glad and grateful you are, Allan. The work was its own reward.

I love Maggie. She has far more than repaid me. My dear Allan, you are

going to be a very happy man. Now you may go to Maggie, and tell Uncle

John that I expect him to sit with me to-night."

They smiled gladly at each other as they parted, and yet as soon as the door was shut between them they sighed. In the very height of our happiness why do we often sigh? Is it because the soul pities itself for joys so fleeting that they are like the shadow of a bird "that wings the skies and with whose flight the shadow flies." For even to-morrow there would be some change, however slight. Allan knew that never again could he taste just this night's felicity. And blessed are they who take God's gift of joy every hour as it comes, and who do not postpone the happiness of this life unto the next one.

Early in the morning Allan went to see David. He had removed from the Candleriggs, and he found him in comparatively handsome rooms in Monteith terrace. He rose to meet Allan with a troubled look, and said at once, "I have no more information, Mr. Campbell. I am very sorry for the fact."

"David, I have found Maggie! I am come to take you to see her."

"Why has she not come to see me? I think that is her duty, and I'm no inclined to excuse her from it. She has given me many a troubled hour, Mr. Campbell, and she ought to say some word anent it."

"There are always whys and wherefores, David, that cannot be explained in a minute or two. She has been living with my cousin, Miss Campbell of Drumloch. I think that circumstance will warrant your faith in Maggie without further explanations at present." Allan was so happy, he could not be angry; not even when David still hesitated, and spoke of lectures to be attended, and translations yet unfinished.

"Come, come," he said persuasively; "shut your books, David, and let's away to the 'Banks and Braes o' bonnie Doon'. Miss Campbell and Maggie are both anxious to see you. We cannot be quite happy without you, David."

Then smiling, yet half-reluctant, he went to his room to dress. When he returned-hat and gloves in hand-Allan could not but look at him with a little amazement. His suit of black broadcloth was cut in the strictest ecclesiastical fashion, and admirably set off the dusky pallor and fine stature of the young student. Every minor detail was in keeping. His linen band and cuffs were fine and white, the fit of his shoes and gloves perfect, the glossy excellence of his hat beyond a cavil.

"I am at your service now, Mr. Campbell, though let me tell you, I think I am giving-in to Maggie more than I ought to, sir."

"David, we are going to be brothers, and I am proud and glad of it.

Suppose you drop the Mr. Campbell and the sir-I think it is quite time."

"There is a measure of respect in the word sir; and I wouldna care to drop it altogether with my nearest and dearest; I like it for myself whiles. But I am fain of the brotherhood, Allan; and I will give you with all my heart a brother's love and honor."

Then David surrendered himself to the pleasure of the hour. He had never been in that part of Scotland before, but he knew every historical and literary landmark better than Allan did. And when he drove through the fine part of Drumloch, and came in sight of the picturesque and handsome pile of buildings, he said with a queer smile, "The Promotors don't flit for a bare shelter, Maggie found a bonnie hiding place."

He was quite as much delighted and astonished at his sister's appearance and improvement, but he did not express it. He kissed her kindly, but his first words had the spirit of the reproof he thought she well deserved: "Maggie Promoter, you did not behave well to me yonder day I sent you home, as it was my duty to do. If the Lord hadna undertaken the guiding o' you, you wad hae made a sair mistake, my lassie! But I'll say nae mair, seeing that He has brought gude out o' evil and right out o' wrang."

"I am sorry, Davie, very sorry, but-"

"That is enough. And you are like to do weel to yourself; and we may baith say, that He has aye carried the purse for us, ever since the day He took our father and bread-winner from us. And though you have been whiles a sair thought to me, yet now you are going to be an honor and a rejoicing and I am a very proud and happy brother this day, Maggie."

John Campbell was still at Drumloch, and David and he "sorted" from the first moment of their meeting. They had ecclesiastical opinions in common, especially in regard to the "Freedom of the Kirk" from all lay supremacy;-a question then simmering in every Scotch heart, and destined a little later to find its solution in the moral majesty of the "Free Kirk Movement." David's glowing speech stirred him, as speech always stirs the heart, when it interprets persuasion and belief ripened into faith: and faith become a passionate intuition. That he was the master spirit of the company was shown by the fact that he kept the conversation in his own groove, and at his own will. Mrs. Leslie made him her deepest courtesy, and the old butler threw into all his services an amount of respect only given by him to his spiritual masters and teachers.

And David took all with that unconscious adaptation of attention which indicates those born to authority and to honor. When asked after dinner if he would pay his respects to the mistress of Drumloch, he rose calmly and with a real unconcern. He had sat with doctors of divinity, and faced learned professors with a thesis or an exegesis that touched the roots of the most solemn propositions; an interview with a lady a little younger than himself was not likely to disturb his equanimity. For he was yet in that callow stage of sentient being, which has not been inspired and irradiated by "the light that lies in woman's eyes."

That night as they sat together Maggie's and Allan's marriage was discussed. "They want to be married very quietly," said Mary laughing. "Did you ever hear such nonsense, Uncle John? There has not been a wedding feast in Drumloch for seventy years. We will grace the old rooms, and handsel all the new ones with the blythest bridal Ayrshire has seen in a century. Don't you agree with me, Mr. Promoter?"

Certainly Mr. Promoter did; and the kirk also, he said, had aye favored a public binding of the sacred tie, not to go further back to the wedding feast at Cana, honored by His presence and provided for by His hand.

"And Maggie shall walk in silk attire; and we will dress the rooms in flags and flowers, and lay a great feast, and call friends and neighbors from afar. For we have the bonniest bride to show them that ever 'stepped stately east or west from Drumloch's bonnie braes'."

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