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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr (March 29, 1831 – March 10, 1919) was a British novelist.Collection of 26 Works of Amelia E. BarrA Daughter of FifeA Night of the NetsA Reconstructed MarriageA Rose of a Hundred LeavesA Singer from the SeaA Song of a Single NoteAll the Days of My Life An AutobiographyAn Orkney MaidChristineI, Thou, and the Other OneJan Vedder's WifeMaids Wives and BachelorsPlaying With FirePrisoners of ConscienceRemember the AlamoScottish sketchesThe Bow of Orange RibbonThe Hallam SuccessionThe Lion's WhelpThe Maid of Maiden LaneThe Man BetweenThe Measure of a ManThe Paper CapThe Squire of Sandal-SideWas It Right to ForgiveWinter Evening Tales
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The Premium Complete Collection of Amelia E. Barr
Detailed Biography of Amelia E. Barr
A Daughter of Fife
A Night of the Nets
A Reconstructed Marriage
A Rose of a Hundred Leaves
A Singer from the Sea
A Song of a Single Note
All the Days of My Life An Autobiography
An Orkney Maid
I, Thou, and the Other One
Jan Vedder's Wife
Maids Wives and Bachelors
Playing With Fire
Prisoners of Conscience
Remember the Alamo
The Bow of Orange Ribbon
The Hallam Succession
The Lion's Whelp
The Maid of Maiden Lane
The Man Between
The Measure of a Man
The Paper Cap
The Squire of Sandal-Side
Was It Right to Forgive
Winter Evening Tales
Detailed Biography of Amelia E. Barr
She was born on March 29, 1831 in Ulverston, Lancashire, England as Amelia Edith Huddleston to Reverend William Huddleston, a Wesleyan minister.
A brief return to her father's financial stability allowed Barr to return to the Normal School in Glasgow where she learned the Stowe teaching method. Its principles are based on morality and lifelong learning, rather than learning by rote. On 11 July 1850, she and a prosperous local wool merchant, Scotsman Robert Barr, married. The couple emigrated to the USA in September of 1853, landing in New York city. In Chicago, Illinois Barr tutored at home, and established a school for girls, though she was not involved for long as her husbands' business prospects fell through and they travelled west to settle in Galveston, Texas, in 1866 where Robert Barr became an auditor for the state. Yellow fever claimed the lives of him and three of their children. Barr would have a total of twelve children but lose many in their early years. Of strong constitution and well-founded convictions, Barr did not escape the severe trials of life and love.
With her three remaining daughters, Mrs. Barr moved to Ridgewood, New Jersey in 1868. She came there to tutor the three sons of a prominent citizen, William Libby, and opened a school in a small house. This structure still stands at the southwest corner of Van Dien and Linwood Avenues. Amelia Barr did not like Ridgewood and did not remain there for very long. She left shortly after selling a story to a magazine. In 1869, she moved to New York City where she began to write for religious periodicals and to publish a series of semi-historical tales and novels.
By 1891, when she achieved greater success, she and her daughters moved up the Hudson River to Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, where they renovated a house on the slopes of Storm King Mountain and named it Cherry Croft. The name has been applied to that period of her career, the most productive and successful. She remained there until moving in with her daughter Lilly in White Plains in her last years.
She had a sunstroke in July 1918 and never fully recovered. She died on March 10, 1919 in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York. She was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Tarrytown, New York near her friend, Louis Klopsch.
A DAUGHTER OF FIFE
"Thou old gray sea, Thou broad briny water, With thy ripple and thy plash, And thy waves as they lash The old gray rocks on the shore. With thy tempests as they roar, And thy crested billows hoar, And thy tide evermore Fresh and free."
On the shore of a little land-locked haven, into which the gulls and terns bring tidings of the sea, stands the fishing hamlet of Pittenloch. It is in the "East Neuk o' Fife," that bit of old Scotland "fronted with a girdle of little towns," of which Pittenloch is one of the smallest and the most characteristic. Some of the cottages stand upon the sands, others are grouped in a steep glen, and a few surmount the lofty sea-washed rocks.
To their inhabitants the sea is every thing. Their hopes and fears, their gains and losses, their joys and sorrows, are linked with it; and the largeness of the ocean has moulded their feelings and their characters. They are in a measure partakers of its immensity and its mystery. The commonest of their men have wrestled with the powers of the air, and the might of wind, and wave, and icy cold. The weakest of their women have felt the hallowing touch of sudden calamity, and of long, lonely, life-and-death, watches. They are intensely religious, they hold tenaciously to the modes of thought and speech, to the manner of living and dressing, and to all the household traditions which they have cherished for centuries.
Two voices only have had the power to move them from the even spirit of their life—the voice of Knox, and the voice of Chalmers. It was among the fishers of Fife that Knox began his crusade against popery; and from their very midst, in later days, sprang the champion of the Free Kirk. Otherwise rebellions and revolutions troubled them little. Whether Scotland's king sat in Edinburgh or London—whether Prince Charles or George of Hanover reigned, was to them of small importance. They lived apart from the battle of life, and only the things relating to their eternal salvation, or their daily bread, moved them.
Forty-two years ago there was no landward road to Pittenloch, unless you followed the goats down the steep rocks. There was not a horse or cart in the place; probably there was not a man in it who had ever seen a haymaking. If you went to Pittenloch, you went by the sea; if you left it, there was the same grand highway. And the great, bearded, sinewy men, bending to the oars, and sending the boat spinning through clouds of spindrift, made it, after all, a right royal road.
Forty-two years ago, one wild March afternoon, a young woman was standing on the beach of Pittenloch. There was an ominous wail in the sea, telling of the fierce tide yet to come; and all around her whirling wraiths of vapor sweeping across the level sands. From a little distance, she appeared like a woman standing amid gray clouds—a sombre, solid, figure; whose attitude was one of grave thoughtfulness. Approaching nearer, it was evident that her gaze was fixed upon a fishing boat which had been drawn high upon the shingle; and from which a party of heavy-footed fishermen were slowly retreating.
She was a beautiful woman; tall, supple, erect; with a positive splendor of health and color. Her dress was that of the Fife fisher-girl; a blue flannel jacket, a very short white and yellow petticoat, and a white cap drawn over her hair, and tied down with a lilac kerchief knotted under the chin. This kerchief outlined the superb oval of her face; and made more remarkable the large gray eyes, the red curved mouth, and the wide white brow. She was barefooted, and she tapped one foot restlessly upon the wet sands, to relieve, by physical motion, her mental tension and sorrow.
It was Maggie Promoter, and the boat which had just been so solemnly "beached" had been her father's. It was a good boat, strong in every timber, an old world Buckie skiff, notorious for fending in foundering seas; but it had failed Promoter in the last storm, and three days after he and his sons had gone to the bottom had been found floating in Largo Bay.
If it had been a conscious criminal, a boat which had wilfully and carelessly sacrificed life, it could hardly have been touched with more dislike; and in accordance with the ancient law of the Buchan and Fife fishers, it was "put from the sea." Never again might it toss on the salt free waves, and be trusted with fishermen's lives. Silently it was drawn high up on the desolate shingle, and left to its long and shameful decay.
Maggie had watched the ceremony from a little distance; but when the fishers had disappeared in the gathering mist, she slowly approached the boat. There it lay, upside down, black and lonely, far beyond the highest mark of any pitying tide. She fancied that the insensate timber had a look of shame and suffering, and she spoke to it, as if it had a soul to comprehend her:—
"Lizzie! Lizzie! What cam' o'er you no to bide right side up? Four gude men to your keeping, Lizzie, and you lost them a'. Think shame o' yersel', think shame o' yersel', for the sorrow you hae brought! You'll be a heart grief to me as long as you lie there; for I named you mysel', little thinking o' what would come o' it."
For a few minutes she stood looking at the condemned and unfortunate boat in silence; then she turned and began to walk rapidly toward the nearest cluster of cottages. The sea fog was rolling in thick, with the tide, and the air was cold and keen. A voice called her through it, and she answered the long-drawn "Maggie" with three cheerful words, "I'm coming, Davie." Very soon Davie loomed through the fog, and throwing a plaid about her, said, "What for did you go near the boat, Maggie? When you ken where ill luck is, you should keep far from it."
"A better looking or a bonnier boat I ne'er saw, Davie."
"It's wi' boats, as it is wi' men and women; some for destruction, some for salvation. The Powers above hae the ordering o' it, and it's a' right, Maggie."
"That's what folks say. I'm dooting it mysel'. It's our ain fault some way. Noo there would be a false plumb in yonder boat, though we didna ken it."
"Weel, weel, she failed in what was expected o' her, and she's got her deserts. We must tak' care o' our ain job. But I hae news for you, and if you'll mak' a cup o' tea, and toast a Finnin haddie, we'll talk it o'er."
The Promoter cottage was in a bend of the hills, but so near the sea that the full tide broke almost at its door, and then drew the tinkling pebbles down the beach after it. It was a low stone dwelling, white-washed, and heather-roofed, and containing only three rooms. David and Maggie entered the principal one together. Its deal furniture was spotless, its floor cleanly sanded, and a bright turf fire was burning on the brick hearth. Some oars and creels were hung against the wall, and on a pile of nets in the warmest corner, a little laddie belonging to a neighbor's household was fast asleep.
Maggie quickly threw on more turf, and drew the crane above the fire, and hung the kettle upon it. Then with a light and active step she set about toasting the oat cake and the haddie, and making the tea, and setting the little round table. But her heart was heavy enough. Scarcely a week before her father and three eldest brothers had gone out to the fishing, and perished in a sudden storm; and the house place, so lately busy and noisy with the stir of nearly half-a-dozen menfolk, was now strangely still and lonely.
Maggie was a year older than her brother David, but she never thought of assuming any authority over him. In the first place, he had the privilege of sex; in the next, David Promoter was generally allowed to be "extr'onar' wise-like and unwardly in a' his ways." In fact there had been an intention of breaking through the family traditions and sending him to the University of Aberdeen. Latterly old Promoter had smoked his pipe very often to the ambitious hope of a minister in his family. David's brothers and sister had also learned to look upon the lad as destined by Providence to bring holy honors upon the household. No thought of jealousy had marred their intended self-denial in their younger brother's behalf. Their stern Calvinism taught them that Jacob's and Jesse's families were not likely to be the only ones in which the younger sons should be chosen for vessels of honor; and Will Promoter, the eldest of the brothers, spoke for all, when he said, "Send Davie to Aberdeen, fayther; gladly we will a' of us help wi' the fees; and may be we shall live to see a great minister come oot o' the fishing boats."
But though the intended sacrifice had been a sincerely pure and unselfish one, it had nevertheless been refused. Why it had been refused, was the question filling David's heart with doubt and despair, as he sat with his head in his hands, gazing into the fire that March afternoon. Maggie was watching him, though he did not perceive it, and by an almost unconscious mental act was comparing him with his dead brothers. They had been simply strong fair fishers, with that open air look men get who continually set their faces to the winds and waves. David was different altogether. He was exceedingly tall, and until years filled in his huge framework of bone and muscle, would very likely be called "gawky." But he had the face of a mediaeval ecclesiastic; spare, and sallow, and pointed at the chin. His hair, black and exceeding fine, hung naturally in long, straggling masses; his mouth was straight and perhaps a little cruel; his black, deep set eyes had the glow in them of a passionate and mystical soul. Such a man, if he had not been reared in the straitest sect of Calvinism, would have adopted it—for it was his soul's native air.
That he should go to the university and become a minister seemed to David as proper as that an apple tree should bear an apple. As soon as it was suggested, he felt himself in the moderator's chair of the general assembly. "Why had such generous and holy hopes been destroyed?" Maggie knew the drift of his thoughts, and she hastened her preparations for tea; for though it is a humiliating thing to admit, the most sacred of our griefs are not independent of mere physical comforts. David's and Maggie's sorrow was a deep and poignant one, but the refreshing tea and cake and fish were at least the vehicle of consolation. As they ate they talked to one another, and David's brooding despair was for the hour dissipated.
During the days of alternating hope and disappointment following the storm in which the Promoters perished, they had not permitted themselves to think, much less to speak of a future which did not include those who might yet return. But hope was over. When Promoter's mates beached his boat, both David and Maggie understood the rite to be a funeral one. It was not customary for women to go to funerals, but Maggie, standing afar off, amid the gray thick fog, had watched the men drag the unfortunate craft "where a boat ought never to be;" and when they had gone away, had stood by the lonely degraded thing, and felt as sad and hopeless, as if it had been the stone at a grave's mouth.
All the past was past; they had to begin a life set to new methods and motives: "and the sooner the better," thought Maggie, "if fayther were here, he wad say that."
"Is the tea gude? And the fish, and the cake?"
"Ay, they're gude. I didna think I was sae hungry. I'm maist 'shamed to enjoy them sae hearty."
"Life's wark wants life's food; and we canna sit wi' idle hands anither seven days. You were saying you had news, what will it be?"
"Ay, I had forgotten. Willie Johnson's Willie has brought back wi' him a young man. He wants a quiet room to himsel', and there's naebody in Pittenloch can gie him ane, if it be na us, or the Widow Thompson. He's offered a crown a week for ane."
"You should hae said instanter we'd be thankfu'. My certie! A crown a week, that's a fair godsend, Davie."
"The widow has the first right to the godsend; if she canna tak' it, she'll send it our way, Maggie."
"Davie, there is £50 in Largo Bank."
"I ken that."
"You'll tak' it. It will gie you a' the start you need at Aberdeen. Fayther said £30 a year wad do, wi' a carefu' hand to guide it. You'll be Helping yoursel' wi' a bit teaching afore it is a' gane."
"I'll no touch it. What are you talking aboot? Oor fayther saved it for his auld age and his burying."
"And he'll ne'er be auld now, Davie! and God has found him a grave that only He kens o'! I can spin, and weave, and sew, and the lasses roun' aboot have keepit my needle aye busy. Why not? I served my time in Largo, and I can cut a skirt or josey, and mak' a kirk gown, better than any one nearer."
"You'll be wanting to marry ere lang, Maggie. Angus Raith thinks much o' you; and £50 wad buy his share in Cupar's boat. I sall hae the cottage, and the £50 is to be for your wedding and plenishing."
"This is na a time to talk o' wedding, Davie; and there is na any promise made to Angus Raith! Go into Kinkell the morn and speak wi' the minister; he is a wise man, and we will baith o' us do the thing he says."
After this, the conversation drifted hither and thither, until the meal Was finished. Then while Maggie tidied up the room, David opened the door And stood thoughtfully within its shadow. "There's a voice in the sea to-night," he said mournfully, "and when the tide turns back, the wind will have its way."
"Can you see aught?"
"Naething. There's a heavy mist and a thick smur—but I hear steps on the shingle. I'm thinking it will be Johnson wi' the stranger I spoke o'."
"Ay, weel, I hae gotten my feet dressed," and she looked down with approval at her ribbed gray stockings, and low shoes, the brass clasps of which she had just latched.
David did not answer her, for he was bidding his visitors welcome. Then Maggie turned round with the freshly lit "cruisie" in her hand, and her eyes were caught by two other eyes, and held as if by a spell. She was conscious, as she stood blushing, that the stranger had been astonished at her appearance, but she certainly did not dream that it was her great beauty which had for one moment made him incapable of controlling his sense of it. It was only one moment, in the next he turned to David, and offered to pay him two shillings a day for the use of his vacant room, and a share of his simple fare.
The interview lasted but a very short time. Maggie said, she could have the room ready for him by noon of the following day, and as soon as the matter was settled, he went.
He had not sat down, and so every one else had remained standing; but at the open door he caught Maggie's eyes once more, and with a slight movement of adieu to her, he disappeared. She trembled, and turned hot and cold, and felt as if she must cry. It was with difficulty she hid her emotion from her brother, who looked queerly at her as he said, "I ne'er saw any man look like that man."
"He had a bonnie braidcloth cloak on."
"Sae handsome and sae stately; and if kings hae any grander way, there's nae wonder folks bow down to them. I aye thocht that Dr. Balmuto had the maist compelling look wi' him; but I think yonder man wouldna fear him, e'en though the doctor had on his Geneva bands and his silk gown."
"What's his name, Davie?"
"I dinna ken. I never thocht to ask him."
Then a singular sadness, one quite distinct from the shadow of their known sorrow, settled upon both brother and sister. Was it a sorrow of apprehension? one of those divinations which we call presentiments. Neither David nor Maggie questioned it; they were not given to analyzing Their feelings, indeed they were totally unacquainted with this most useless of mental processes.
But nevertheless, the stranger had left an influence, and for half an hour they sat silently musing. Maggie was the first to break its spell. In a low voice, as she bent lower to the dying fire, she began to talk of the dead for whom "God had found graves;" and to recall little incidents of their hard unselfish lives, which particularly touched David's and her own experience.
"If they were here to-night, Davie—oot on the dark sea—tossed up and down—pulling in the nets or lines wi' freezing hands—hungry, anxious, fearfu' o' death—wad we wish it?"
"Na, na, na, Maggie! Where they are noo, the light doesna fade, and the heart doesna fail, and the full cup never breaks. Come, let us ask o' the Book thegither. I dinna doot, but we sall get just the word we are needing."
Maggie rose and took it from its place on the broad shelf by the window, and laid it down upon the table. David lifted the light and stood beside her. Then with a reverent upward glance, he opened the well-used leaves:—
"Maggie, what need we mair? Listen to the word o' the Lord;" and with a voice tender and triumphant he read aloud—
"Then are they glad because they be quiet: so He bringeth them unto their desired haven."
"She was a form of life and light, That seen, became a part of sight, And rose where'er I turned mine eye, The Morning Star of Memory."
"Thou art more than all the shrines that hold thee."
The next morning was a very stormy one; there was an iron-gray sky above a black tumbling sea; and the rain, driven by a mad wind, smote the face like a blow from a passionate hand. The boats were all at anchor, with no prospect of a fishing that day; and the fishermen, gathered in little groups, were muttering over the bad weather. But their talk was not bitter, like the complaints which landsmen make over leveled crops. Regarding every thing that happened as the result of righteous decree, why should they rail at disappointment or misfortune? Some went slowly to a shed where boats were being built; others sat down within the doors of their cottages and began to knit their nets, or to mend such as were out of order.
David could take a landward route to Kinkell, among the shore rocks; for though the path was often a mere footing, it was well known to him; and as for the stormy weather, it seemed only a part of the darker and fiercer tempest in his own soul. He left Maggie early. She watched him climbing with bent head the misty heights, until a projecting rock hid him from view; then she went back to her household duties.
The first one was to prepare the room she had rented for its strange guest and it gave her many a pang to fold away the "kirk clothes" of her father and brothers and lock them from sight in the big "kist" that was the family wardrobe. For clothing has a woeful individuality, when we put it away forever; and the shoes of the dead men had a personality that almost terrified her. How pitiful, how forsaken, how almost sentient they looked! Blind with tears, she hid them from sight, and then turned, as the Bereaved must ever turn, back to the toil and need of daily life.
There was but one window in the room, a little one opening on hinges, and glazed with small diamond-shaped bits of glass. The driving storm had washed it clean, she hung a white curtain before it, and brought from the living room a pot of scarlet geranium, and a great sea shell, from whose mouth hung a luxuriant musk plant. Its cool fragrance filled the room, and gave an almost dainty feeling to the spotlessness of the deal furniture and the homespun linen. Before the turf fire there was a square of rag carpet, and the bits of blue and scarlet in it were pretty contrasts to the white wood of the chairs and table.
The stranger was to have come about noon, but it was the middle of the afternoon when he arrived. The storm was then nearly over, and there was a glint of watery sunshine athwart the cold; green, tossing sea. Maggie had grown anxious at his delay, and then a little cross. At two o'clock she gave a final peep into the room and said to herself,—"I'll just get on wi' my wark, let him come, or let him bide awa'. I canna waste my time waiting for folk that dinna ken the worth o' time."
So when her lodger stood at her door she was at her baking board, and patting the cakes so hard, that she did not hear him, until he said, "Good afternoon, Miss Promoter."
Then she turned sharply around, and answered, "Maggie Promoter, if it please you, sir."
"Very well," he said gravely, "good afternoon, Maggie. Is your brother at home?"
"No, sir; he's awa' to Kinkell. Your room is ready for you, sir." As she spoke she was rubbing the meal from her hands, and he stood watching her with delight. He had wondered if her beauty would bear the test of daylight, or if it needed the broad shadows, and the dull glow of the burning turf and the oil cruisie. But she stood directly in the band of sunshine, and was only the more brilliantly fair for it. He was not in love with her, he was sure of that, but he was interested by a life so vivid, so full of splendid color, grace, and vitality.
With a little pride she opened the door of his room, and stirred up the glowing peats, and put the big rush chair before them,—"And you can just call me, sir, when you want aught," she said, "I'll go ben noo, and finish my cake baking."
"Maggie, this room is exactly what I wanted; so clean and quiet! I'm much obliged to you for allowing me to use it." "You pay siller, sir, and there's nae call to say thank you!" With the words she closed the door, and was gone. And somehow, the tone of reserve and the positive click of the latch made him feel that there would be limits he could not pass.
In a couple of hours he heard the little stir of David's return, and the preparation for tea. Maggie brought his table to the fireside and covered it with a square of linen, and set upon it his cup and plate. He had a book in his hand and he pretended to be absorbed in it; but he did not lose a movement that she made.
"Your tea is a' ready, sir."
He lifted his eyes then, and again her clear candid gaze was caught by his own. Both were this time distinctly conscious of the meeting, and both were for the moment embarrassed.
"It looks good, Maggie, and I am hungry. Is your brother back?"
"David is hame, sir. It was a hard walk he had. He's tired, I'm thinking."
The last words were said more to herself than to her lodger. She was somewhat troubled by Davie's face and manner. He had scarcely spoken to her since his return, but had sat thinking with his head in his hands. She longed to know what Dr. Balmuto had said to him, but she knew David Would resent questioning, and likely punish her curiosity by restraining confidence with her for a day or two. So she spoke only of the storm, and of the things which had come into her life or knowledge during his absence.
"Kirsty Wilson has got a sweetheart, David, and her no sixteen yet."
"Kirsty aye thocht a lad was parfect salvation. You shallna be mair than civil to her. She has heard tell o' the man staying wi' us. It wad be that brought her here nae doot."
"She was not here at a'. Maggie Johnson telled me. Maggie cam' to borrow a cup o' sugar. She said Cupar's boat tried to win out o' harbor after the storm. It could not manage though."
"It was wrang to try it. Folks shouldna tempt Providence."
"The cakes baked weel to-day."
"Ay, they are gude eating."
Then she could think of nothing more to say, and she washed the cups, and watched the dark, sad man bending over the fire. A vulgar woman, a selfish woman, would have interrupted that solemn session at her hearth. She would have turned Inquisitor, and tortured him with questions. "What's the matter?" "Is there anything wrong?" "Are you sick?" etc., etc. But when Maggie saw that her brother was not inclined to talk to her, she left him alone to follow out the drift of his own thoughts. He seemed unconscious of her presence, and when her active house duties were over, she quietly pulled her big wheel forward, and began to spin.
The turfs burned red, the cruisie burned low, the wheel "hummed" monotonously, and Maggie stepped lightly to-and-fro before it. In an hour the silence became oppressive, she was sleepy, she wished Davie would speak to her. She laid her fingers on the broad wooden band and was just going to move, when the inner door was opened, and the stranger stood at it. His pause was but a momentary one, but the room was all picture to him, especially the tall fair woman with her hand upon the big wheel, and her face, sensitive and questioning, turned toward her brother.
"Ay, sir." He moved slowly like a man awakening from a sleep, but very quickly shook off the intense personality of his mood, and turned to the stranger with a shy and yet keen alertness.
"I dinna ken your name, sir, or I wad call you by it."
"My name is Allan Campbell."
"Sit down, sir. You are vera welcome. Can I do aught to pleasure you?"
"I want my trunk from Largo. Yesterday the sea was too heavy to bring it. Can you get it for me to-morrow?"
"An' the sea be willing, sir."
"There is a box of books also, but they are very heavy."
"Books! We'll try and bring them ony way."
"You love books then?"
"Better than bread."
"What have you read?"
"I have read my Bible, and The Institutes, and the Scot's Worthies, and pairt o' the Pilgrim's Progress. But I didna approve o' John Bunyan's doctrine. It's rank Armenianism."
"I have just finished a volume of Scott's poems. Have you read any of them?"
"Na, na; I hae nae skill o' poetry, sir, an' it be na the Psalms o' David."
"Let me read you a stanza, that I think you will enjoy."
He went for his book and drew a chair beside the little light, and read with a great deal of fire and feeling some passages from "The Lay of the Last Minstrel." He was soon sensible that he was gradually stirring in these two untutored souls, feelings of which they had hitherto been unconscious. He put more and more passion into the words, finally he threw down the book, and standing erect, recited them with outstretched arms and uplifted face. When he ceased, David was listening like one entranced; and Maggie's knitting had fallen to the floor: for she had unconsciously risen, and was gazing at the speaker with a face that reflected every change of his own. It was as if the strings of a harp had snapped, and left the souls of the listeners in mid-air. With an effort the enthusiasm was put aside, and after a minute's pause, David said, "I ne'er heard words like them words. Mony thanks to you, sir. I'm right glad it was a Scot wrote them," and he murmured softly—
"O Caledonia stern and wild! Land of brown heath and shaggy wood, Land of the mountain and the flood."
Still it was Maggie's shy, tremulous glance and luminous face, that Thanked and pleased Campbell most, and he lifted the book and went away, almost as much under the spell of the poet, as the two simple souls who had heard his music for the first time. There was a moment or two in which life seemed strange to the brother and sister. They had much the same feeling as those who awaken from a glorious dream and find sordid cares and weary pains waiting for them. David rose and shook himself impatiently, then began to walk about the narrow room. Maggie lifted her stocking and made an effort to knit, but it was a useless one. In a few minutes she laid it down, and asked in a low voice, "Will you have a plate o' parritch, Davie?"
"Ay; I'm hungry, Maggie; and he'll maybe like one too."
So the pan was hung over the fire, and the plates and bowls set; and while Maggie scattered in the meal, and went for the milk, Davie tried to Collect his thoughts, and get from under the spell of the Magician of his age. And though poetry and porridge seem far enough apart Campbell said a hearty "thank you" to the offer of a plate full. He wanted the food, and it was also a delight to watch Maggie spread his cloth, and bring in the hot savory dish of meal, and the bowl of milk. For her soul was still in her beautiful face, her eyes limpid and bright as stars, and the simple meal so served reminded him of the plain dignified feasts of the old rural deities. He told himself as he watched her, that he was living a fairer idyl than ever poet dreamed.
"Gude night, sir," she said softly, after she had served the food, "you took me into a new life the night, and thank you kindly, sir."
"It was a joy to me, Maggie. Good night."
She was a little afraid to speak to David; afraid of saying more than he would approve, and afraid of saying anything that would clash with the subject of his meditations. But she could not help noticing his restlessness and his silence; and she was wondering to herself, "why men-folk would be sae trying and contrary," when she heard him say—
"Grand words, and grand folk, Maggie; but there are far grander than thae be."
"Than kings, and queens, and braw knights and fair leddies?" "Ay, what are thae to angels and archangels, powers and dominions, purity, faith, hope, charity? Naething at a'."
"Maybe; but I wish I could see them, and I wish I could see the man who wrote anent them, and I wish you could write a book like it, Davie."
"Me! I have an ambition beyond the like o' that. To be His messenger and speak the words o' truth and salvation to the people! Oh Maggie, if I could win at that office, I wouldna envy king nor knight, no, nor the poet himsel'."
"Did you see the minister?"
"Ay; bring your chair near me, and I'll tell you what he said. You'll be to hear it, and as weel now, as again."
"Surely he had the kind word to-day, and you that fu' o' sorrow?"
"He meant to be kind. Surely he meant to be kind. He sent me word to come up to his study, and wee Mysie Balmuto took me there. Eh, Maggie, if I had a room like that! It was fu' o' books; books frae the floor to the roof-place. He was standing on the hearth wi' his back to the fire, and you ken hoo he looks at folk, through and through. 'Weel, Davie,' he said, 'what's brought you o'er the hills through wind and rain pour? Had you work that must be pushed in spite o' His work?'"
"I felt kind o' shamed then at my hurry, and I said, 'Doctor, you'll hae heard tell o' the calamity that has come to our house?' And he answered, 'I hae heard; but we willna call it a calamity, David, seeing that it was o' His ordering.'"
"'It was very suddent, sir,' I said, and he lookit at me, and said, 'His messengers fly very swiftly. Your father was ready, and I do not think He calls the young men, unless He wants them. It was not of the dead you came to talk with me?' I said, 'No, sir, I came to ask you aboot Maggie and mysel'.'"
"Then I told him hoo I longed to be a minister, and hoo fayther and the rest had planned to send me to Aberdeen this vera year, and hoo there was still £50 which you wanted me to take, and he never said a word, but just let me go blethering and blundering through the story, till I felt like I was the maist selfish and foolish o' mortals. When I couldna find anither word, he spake up kind o' stern like—"
"What did he say? You be to tell me that noo."
"He said, 'David Promoter, you'll no dare to touch the £50 this year. Go back to the boats, and serve the Lord upon the sea for a twelve months. Go back to the boats and learn how to face hunger, and cold, and weariness, with patience; learn to look upon death, and not to fear him. Forbye you cannot leave your sister her lane. Lassies marry young among your folk, and she'll need some plenishing. You would not surely send her from you with empty hands. You cannot right your own like with wranging hers, not even by a bawbee.'"
"He shouldna hae said the like o' that. The siller isna mine, nor wasna meant for me, and I'll ne'er touch it. That I wont." "Marry Angus Raith, and tak' it, Maggie. He loves you weel."
"Angus Raith isna to be thocht o', and it's ill-luck mixing wedding talk wi' death talk. The minister is right; whatna for are we hurrying up the future? Let us be still and wait; good, as well as evil comes, and us not looking for it. I'm sorry you didna hae a pleasanter visit."
"It wasna just unpleasant. I ken weel the minister is right. Put on a covering turf noo, Maggie, for the tide serves at six o'clock, and I'll be awa' to Largo the morn."
Maggie was up at gray dawn next morning, while yet the sea birds were dozing on their perches, looking like patches of late snow in the crannies of the black rocks. There was no wrath in the tide, only an irresistible set shoreward. When David was ready for his breakfast, Campbell was ready also; he said he wished to go with the boat, and David's face lighted up with satisfaction at the proposal. And Maggie was not ill-pleased to be left alone. She was restless, and full of strange thoughts, and needed the calm and strength of solitude.
It was an exquisite morning; the sea was dimpling and laughing in the sunrise, and great flocks of hungry white sea-birds were making for the Firth. Maggie folded her plaid around her, and walked to the little pier to see the boat away; and as she stood there, the wind blew the kerchief off her head into the water; and she saw Campbell lean forward and pick it up, and then nod back to her an assurance of its safety. She turned away half angry at herself for the thrill of pleasure the trifling incident had given her. "It's my ain folk I ought to be thinking o', and no strangers; it's the dead, and no the living that ought to be in my heart. Oh Maggie Promoter, whate'er has come o'er you!"
To such reflections she was hasting with bent head back to her cottage, And trying to avoid a meeting with any of the few men and women about so early. But she was soon sensible of a rapid step following her, and before she could turn her head, a large hand was laid upon her shoulder, and Angus Raith was at her side.
"Sae you thocht to shun me, Maggie."
"You are wrang there, I didna even see you, Angus."
"That's the God's truth. You havena e'en for any body noo, but that proud, fine gentleman that's staying wi' you."
"Be quiet, Angus. Hoo daur you say the like o'that? I ne'er saw the man's face until yestreen; you shouldna think ill o' folk sae easy."
"What does he want here amang fishers? They dinna want him, I'm vera sure. There's nae room for gentlemen in Pittenloch."
"Ask him what he wants. He pays for his room at Pittenloch; fourteen white shillings every week, he agreed wi' Davie for."
The magnitude of the sum astonished him. He walked silently by Maggie's side until she came to her door-step. He was a heavy-faced Celt; sallow, and dark-eyed; with the impatient look of a selfish greedy man. Maggie's resolute stand at her door-stone angered him, "I'm coming in a wee," he said dourly, "there are words to be said between us."
"You are wrang there too, Angus. I hae neither this, nor that, to say to you; and I'm busy the day."
"I spoke to your fayther and your brother Will, anent a marriage between us, and you heard tell o' it."
"Ay, they told me."
"And you let me walk wi' you frae the kirk on the next Sabbath.—I'm no going to be jilted, Maggie Promoter, by you."
"Dinna daur to speak that way to me, Angus. I never said I wad wed you, and I dinna believe I ever sall say it. Think shame o' yoursel' for speaking o' marrying before the tide has washed the footmarks o' the dead off the sea sands. Let go my hand, Angus."
"It is my hand, and I'll claim it as long as you live. And it will be ill for any ither body that daurs to touch it."
"Daurs indeed! I'll no be daured by any body, manfolk or womanfolk. You hae gi'en me an insult, Angus Raith, and dinna cross my door-stane any more, till you get the invite to do so."
She stepped within her open door and faced him. Her eyes blazed, her whole attitude was that of defiance. The passions, which in well-bred women are educated clean down out of sight, were in Maggie Promoter's tongue tip and finger tips. Angus saw it would not do to anger her further, and he said, "I meant nae harm, Maggie."
"I'll no answer you anither word. And mind what I told you. Dinna cross my doorstane. You'll get the red face if you try it." She could have shut the door, but she would have thought the act a kind of humiliation. She preferred to stand guard at its threshold, until Angus, with a black scowl and some muttered words of anger, walked away. She watched him until he leaped into his boat; until he was fairly out to sea. Then she shut and barred the door; and sitting down in her father's chair, wept passionately; wept as women weep, before they have learned the uselessness of tears, and the strength of self-restraint.
"We figure to ourselves The thing we like, and then we build it up As chance will have it, on the rock or sand."
"About some act, That has no relish of salvation in it."
Upon the shores of Bute, opposite the rugged, heathery hills of Cowal, John Campbell had built himself a splendid habitation. People going up and Down the Kyles were in the habit of pointing out Meriton Mansion, and of asserting that the owner had risen from extreme poverty to his enviable position. There was not a word of truth in this story. John Campbell was the youngest son of Campbell of Drumloch, a gentleman of ancient lineage, and of considerable wealth. Alexander, his elder son, inherited from him the castle of Drumloch and the lands pertaining to the name and the estate; to his younger son John he gave a large sum of money. With this money he opened a shipping house on the Broomilaw of Glasgow, and gradually built a fleet of trading vessels, which traversed every known sea. John Campbell's name had indeed become synonymous for enterprise, wealth and commercial honor.
The tie between the brothers was always an affectionate one; and when Alexander died early in life, he left his child and the estate in charge of John. The estate was much embarrassed, the child was a delicate girl of nine years. But when ten years had passed the conditions of both were changed; Mary Campbell had grown to a sweet and charming womanhood, and Drumloch had paid off its last shilling of mortgage, and was as desirable an estate as could be found in the west of Scotland.
During these ten years, one desire had dominated all others in John Campbell's heart—the marriage of his son Allan to the heiress of Drumloch. It seemed to him the most natural of events, and also the most desirable. It would keep the old family and name, in the old home. It had been his brother's dying wish. He might buy his son a much larger and finer estate, but with gold he could not buy the family associations, and the long, honorable lineage of Drumloch. The old keep could be enlarged and beautified; the lands lying far and near could be bought and added to its domain; and yet Allan could lawfully call himself, "Campbell of Drumloch."
Thus to establish on a broader and richer basis the old home of his Fathers was the grand object of John Campbell's life. He thought of it until it became almost a sacred duty in his eyes. For the Scotsman's acquisitiveness is very rarely destitute of some nobler underlying motive. In fact, his granite nature is finely marbled throughout with veins of poetry and romance. His native land is never forgotten. His father's hearth is as sacred as an altar in his memory. A bluebell or a bit of heather can bring tears to his eyes; and the lilt of a Jacobite song make his heart thrill with an impossible loyalty. Those who saw John Campbell on the Broomilaw would have judged him to be a man indifferent to all things but money and bills of lading. Those who saw him softly stepping through the old halls of Drumloch, or standing almost reverently before the hard grim faces of his ancestors, would have called him an aristocrat who held all things cheap but an ancient home and a noble family. His son Allan, as the future Campbell of Drumloch, was an important person in his eyes; he took care that he was well educated, and early made familiar with the leisure and means of a fine gentleman. And as Allan was intelligent and handsome, with a stately carriage and courtly manners, there seemed no reason why the old root should not produce a new and far more splendid line.
When Mary Campbell was nineteen, and her estate perfectly clear, it seemed to her uncle a proper time to consummate the hopes for which he had toiled and planned. He explained them fully to his son, and then said, "Now, Allan, go and ask Mary to be your wife. The sooner I see you in your own place, the happier I shall be."
A spirit of contradiction sprang up in the young man's heart, as soon as the words were uttered. Probably, it was but the development of an antagonism that had been lying latent for years. He remained silent so long, that his father's anger rose.
"Have you nothing to say, sir?" he asked. "A good wife and an old and honorable estate are worth a few words of acknowledgment."
"I do not wish to marry Drumloch, sir." John Campbell turned white, and the paper in his hand shook violently. "Do you mean me to understand that I have been working ten years for a disappointment? I will not have ten Years of my life wasted to pleasure a foolish youth."
"Is it right for me to marry a woman I do not love, and so waste my whole life?"
A conversation begun in such a spirit was not likely to end satisfactorily. Indeed it closed in great anger, and the renewal of the subject day after day, only made both men more determined to stand by the position they had taken toward each other. Allan almost wondered at his own obstinacy. Before his father had so broadly stated the case to him, he had rather liked his cousin. She was a calm, cheerful, sensible girl, with very beautiful eyes, and that caressing, thoughtful manner which is so comfortable in household life. He believed that if he had been left any freedom of choice, he would have desired only Mary Campbell to be his wife. But he told himself that he would not be ordered into matrimony, or compelled to sacrifice his right of choice, for any number of dead-and-gone Campbells.
There was no prospect of any reconciliation between father and son, except by Allan's unconditional surrender. Allan did not regard this step as impossible in the future, but for the present he knew it was. He decided to leave home for a few months, and when the subject was opened again to be himself the person to move the question. He felt that in the matter of his own marriage he ought at least to make the proposition; it was enough for his father to agree to it. The trouble had arisen from the reversal of this natural order.
Mary had perceived that there was dissension between her uncle and cousin, but she had not associated herself with it. She was sure that it was about money, for evidently Allan had lived an extravagant life when he was abroad. So, when he said to her one morning, "Mary, father and I cannot agree at present, and I think I will go away for a few weeks;" she answered,
"I think you are right, Allan. If one has a hurt, it does not do to be always looking at it, and touching it. If you have a quarrel with uncle, let it rest, and then it will heal. Do you want—any money, Cousin Allan? I have plenty, and I do not use it."
She spoke shyly with hesitation and blushes, but he felt all the kindness of the question. He took her hand and kissed it. At that moment she looked lovely to him.
"I have no need of money, Mary. I only ask for your kind remembrance."
"That is ever yours. Do not go far away."
"Not far. You shall hear from me soon."
The thought of a correspondence struck him very pleasantly. He might thus—if he liked the idea upon future reflection—arrange the whole matter with Mary, and return home as her expected husband. That would be a sufficient assertion of his own individuality.
He went to Edinburgh. He had no definite plan, only that he felt a desire for seclusion, and he knew fewer people in Edinburgh than in Glasgow or London. The day after his arrival there he accompanied a casual acquaintance to Leith pier, from which place the latter was going to sail for London. As he stood watching the vessel away, his hat blew off and a fisherman brought it back to him. It was Will Johnson of Pittenloch, and he was not a man to whom Allan felt he could offer money. But he stood talking with him about the Fife fishing towns, until he became intensely interested in their life. "I want to see them," he said to Will; "let me have a couple of hours to get my trunks, and I will go with you to Pittenloch."
There are very few men who have not a native longing for the ocean; who do not love to go
"——back to the great, sweet Mother, Mother and lover of men, the sea;"
and Allan forgot all his annoyances, as soon as he felt the bound of the boat under him. Johnson had to touch at Largo, but ere they reached it the wind rose, and it was with some difficulty the harbor was made. But during the rough journey Allan got very near to the men in the boat; he looked forward to a stay at Pittenloch with pleasure; and afterward, events would doubtless shape themselves better than he could at that time determine them.
It had been a sudden decision, and made very much in that spirit which leads men to toss up a penny for an oracle. And sometimes it seems as if a Fate, wise or otherwise, answers the call so recklessly made. If he lived for a century Allan knew that he would never forget that first walk to Promoters—the big fisherman at his side, the ocean roaring in his ears, the lights from the cottage windows dully gleaming through the black darkness—never forget that moment in which Maggie Promoter turned from the fire with the "cruisie" in her hand, the very incarnation of womanhood, crowned with perfect health and splendid beauty.
It was Allan's nature to drift with events, and to easily accommodate himself to circumstances. In France he had been a gay, fashionable trifler; in Germany cloudy philosophies and musical ideas had fascinated him; in Rome he had dreamed in old temples, and painted and smoked with the artists in their lofty shabby studios. He was equally ready to share the stirring danger and freedom of the fisher's life, for he was yet young enough to feel delight in physical exertion, and in physical danger.
When the boat went hammering through cheerless seas, and the lines were heavy with great ling fish, it was pleasure to match his young supple thews with those of the strongest men. And it was pleasure, when hungry and weary, to turn shoreward, and feel the smell of the peat smoke on the south-west wind, bringing the cottage hearth, and the welcome meal, and the beautiful face of Maggie Promoter nearer. Even when the weather was stormy, and it was a hurl down one sea, and a hoist up the next, when the forty foot mast had to be lowered and lashed down, and the heavy mizzen set in its place, Allan soon grew to enjoy the tumult and the fight, and his hand was always ready to do its share.
Very soon after going to the Promoters he procured himself some suits of fishers' clothing; and Maggie often thought when he came in from the sea, rosy and glowing, with his brown hair wet with the spindrift, nets on his shoulders, or lines in his hands, that he was the handsomest fisher-lad that ever sailed the Frith of Forth. David and Allan were much together, for David had gone back to the boats as the minister bade him, yet the duty had been made far easier than he expected. For when Allan understood how the Promoters' boat had failed them, he purchased a fishing skiff of his own, and David, and the men whom David hired, sailed her for her owner. David had his certain wage, the men had the fish, and Allan had a delight in the whole situation far greater than any mere pleasure yacht could possibly have given him.
Where there is plenty of money, events do not lag. In a couple of months the Promoters' cottage was apparently as settled to its new life as ever it had been to the old one. The "Allan Campbell" was a recognized craft in the fishing fleet, and generally Allan sailed with her as faithfully as if his life depended upon the catching of the gray fish. And when the sea-mood was not on him, he had another all-sufficing occupation. For he was a good amateur painter, and he was surrounded by studies almost irresistible to an artistic soul.
The simple folk of Pittenloch looked dubiously at him when he stood before his easel. There was to them something wonderful, mysterious, almost uncanny, in the life-like reproduction of themselves and their boats, their bits of cottages, and their bare-footed bairns—in the painted glimpses of the broad-billowed ocean; and the desolate old hills, with such forlorn lights on their scarps, as the gloom of primeval tempests might have cast.
The controversy about these bits of painted canvas interested every one in the village; for though Allan talked beautifully about "looking up" through nature unto nature's God, it was a new doctrine to the Fife fishers; who had always looked for God in their Bibles, and their consciences. Except in rare cases, it was impossible for them to conceive how painting might be a Gate Beautiful to the temple.
Indeed Elder John Mackelvine, a dour, stern, old Calvinist, was of opinion that every picture was a breaking of the second commandment—"A makin' o' an image and likeness o' the warks o' God, and sae, neither mair nor less than idolatry. Forbye, pictur's are pairfectly ridic'lus," he continued; "what for, will you want the image o' a thing, when you hae the thing itsel'? John Knox kent weel what he was doing when he dinged doon a' the pictur's and images in thae auld kirks. He kent men were aye mair pleased to worship their ain handywark, than the Creator's."
David listened with many misgivings, but he ventured to say that, "there was nae thocht o' idolatry in Allan Campbell's heart."
"You'll dootless ken a' aboot it, Davie," answered Mackelvine scornfully; "but you'll no deny that he was sae set up wi' the pictur' he made o' Largo Bay, that he might just as weel hae bowed doon to it. The Everlasting hills! The everlasting seas!" said the old fisher, man, rising And stretching upward and outward his bare, brown arm, "put them in a paintin'! Pairfect nonsense! Even-down sin!"
From this conversation David went directly home. It was Saturday night and the boats all in harbor for the Sabbath day. The house place was spotlessly clean, the evening meal waiting. As soon as David spoke to his sister, Allan opened his door and called him. "Come here, David Promoter, I want to show you something."
David guessed that it was a new picture, and he went a little reluctantly.
"This is an 'interior', David," he said excitedly; "it is the first I have ever tried, and I am so pleased with the result;—what do you think of it?"
David slowly approached the easel. The picture represented faithfully the living room of his own cottage. All its breadths of light and shade, all its telling contrasts, were used skilfully as a background for Maggie. She was gazing with a white anxious face out of the little window seaward, watching the gathering storm, and the fishing boats trying to make the harbor through it.
"What do you think of it, David?"
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