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Title: Christine - A Fife Fisher Girl
Author: Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston, 1831-1919
Language: English
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CHRISTINE



  By AMELIA E. BARR

    Christine
    Joan
    Profit and Loss
    Three Score and Ten
    The Measure of a Man
    The Winning of Lucia
    Playing with Fire
    All the Days of My Life


  D. APPLETON & COMPANY
  Publishers    New York


[Illustration: When she came to the top of the cliff, she turned and
gazed again at the sea. Page 6]



  CHRISTINE

  A FIFE FISHER GIRL

  BY
  AMELIA E. BARR

  AUTHOR OF "JOAN", "PROFIT AND LOSS", "THE MEASURE OF A MAN",
  "ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE", ETC.


  FRONTISPIECE BY STOCKTON MULFORD


  "_The sea is His, and He made it_"


  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY
  NEW YORK    LONDON
  1917

  COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY
  D. APPLETON AND COMPANY

  Printed in the United States of America



  I Inscribe This Book To

  Rutger Bleecker Jewett

  Because He is my Friend, And
  Expresses All That Jewel of a
  Monosyllable Requires And
  Because, Though a Landsman,
  He Loves the Sea And
  In His Dreams, He is a Sailor.

  Amelia E. Barr.
  _January 7th, 1917._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                                                         PAGE
       I. Fishers of Culraine                                        1
      II. Christine and the Domine                                  23
     III. Angus Ballister                                           38
      IV. The Fisherman's Fair                                      61
       V. Christine and Angus                                       86
      VI. A Child, Two Lovers, and a Wedding                       115
     VII. Neil and a Little Child                                  152
    VIII. An Unexpected Marriage                                   183
      IX. A Happy Bit of Writing                                   212
       X. Roberta Interferes                                       247
      XI. Christine Mistress of Ruleson Cottage                    280
     XII. Neil's Return Home                                       306
    XIII. The Right Mate and the Right Time                        339
     XIV. After Many Years                                         362



CHAPTER I

FISHERS OF CULRAINE

  The hollow oak our palace is
    Our heritage the sea.

  Howe'er it be it seems to me
    'Tis only noble to be good.
  Kind hearts are more than coronets
    And simple faith than Norman blood.


Friends, who have wandered with me through England, and Scotland, and
old New York, come now to Fife, and I will tell you the story of
Christina Ruleson, who lived in the little fishing village of
Culraine, seventy years ago. You will not find Culraine on the map,
though it is one of that chain of wonderful little towns and villages
which crown, as with a diadem, the forefront and the sea-front of the
ancient kingdom of Fife. Most of these towns have some song or story,
with which they glorify themselves, but Culraine--hidden in the clefts
of her sea-girt rocks--was _in_ the world, but not _of_ the world.
Her people lived between the sea and the sky, between their hard lives
on the sea, and their glorious hopes of a land where there would be
"no more sea."

Seventy years ago every man in Culraine was a fisherman, a mighty,
modest, blue-eyed Goliath, with a serious, inscrutable face; naturally
a silent man, and instinctively a very courteous one. He was exactly
like his great-grandfathers, he had the same fishing ground, the same
phenomena of tides and winds, the same boat of rude construction, and
the same implements for its management. His modes of thought were just
as stationary. It took the majesty of the Free Kirk Movement, and its
host of self-sacrificing clergy, to rouse again that passion of
religious faith, which made him the most thorough and determined of
the followers of John Knox.

The women of these fishermen were in many respects totally unlike the
men. They had a character of their own, and they occupied a far more
prominent position in the village than the men did. They were the
agents through whom all sales were effected, and all the money passed
through their hands. They were talkative, assertive, bustling, and a
marked contrast to their gravely silent husbands.

The Fife fisherman dresses very much like a sailor--though he never
looks like one--but the Fife fisher-wife had then a distinctly foreign
look. She delighted in the widest stripes, and the brightest colors.
Flaunting calicoes and many-colored kerchiefs were her steady fashion.
Her petticoats were very short, her feet trigly shod, and while
unmarried she wore a most picturesque headdress of white muslin or
linen, set a little backward over her always luxuriant hair. Even in
her girlhood she was the epitome of power and self-reliance, and the
husband who could prevent her in womanhood from making the bargains
and handling the money, must have been an extraordinarily clever man.

I find that in representing a certain class of humanity, I have
accurately described, mentally and physically, the father and mother
of my heroine; and it is only necessary to say further that James
Ruleson was a sternly devout man. He trusted God heartily at all
hazards, and submitted himself and all he loved to the Will of God,
with that complete self-abnegation which is perhaps one of the best
fruits of a passionate Calvinism.

For a fisherman he was doubtless well-provided, but no one but his
wife, Margot Ruleson, knew the exact sum of money lying to his credit
in the Bank of Scotland; and Margot kept such knowledge strictly
private. Ruleson owned his boat, and his cottage, and both were a
little better and larger than the ordinary boat and cottage; while
Margot was a woman who could turn a penny ten times over better than
any other woman in the cottages of Culraine. Ruleson also had been
blessed with six sons and one daughter, and with the exception of the
youngest, all the lads had served their time in their father's boat,
and even the one daughter was not excused a single duty that a
fisher-girl ought to do.

Culraine was not a pretty village, though its cottages were all alike
whitewashed outside, and roofed with heather. They had but two rooms
generally--a but and a ben, with no passage between. The majority were
among the sand hills, but many were built on the lofty, sea-lashed
rocks. James Ruleson's stood on a wide shelf, too high up for the
highest waves, though they often washed away the wall of the garden,
where it touched the sandy shore.

The house stood by itself. It had its own sea, and its own sky, and
its own garden, the latter sloping in narrow, giddy paths to the very
beach. Sure feet were needed among its vegetables, and its thickets of
gooseberry and currant bushes, and its straying tangles of blackberry
vines. Round the whole plot there was a low stone wall, covered with
wall-flowers, wild thyme, rosemary, and house-leek.

A few beds around the house held roses and lilies, and other floral
treasures, but these were so exclusively Margot's property, and
Margot's adoration, that I do not think she would like me even to
write about them. Sometimes she put a rosebud in the buttonhole of her
husband's Sunday coat, and sometimes Christina had a similar favor,
but Margot was intimate with her flowers. She knew every one by a
special name, and she counted them every morning. It really hurt her
to cut short their beautiful lives, and her eldest son Norman, after
long experience said: "If Mither cuts a flower, she'll ill to live
wi'. I wouldna tine her good temper for a bit rosebud. It's a poor
bargain."

One afternoon, early in the June of 1849, Christine Ruleson walked
slowly up the narrow, flowery path of this mountain garden. She was
heard before she was seen, for she was singing an east coast ballad,
telling all the world around her, that she

  --Cast her line in Largo bay,
    And fishes she caught nine;
  Three to boil, and three to fry,
    And three to bait the line.

So much she sang, and then she turned to the sea. The boat of a
solitary fisherman, and a lustrously white bird, were lying quietly on
the bay, close together, and a large ship with all her sails set was
dropping lazily along to the south. For a few moments she watched
them, and then continued her song.

She was tall and lovely, and browned and bloomed in the fresh salt
winds. Her hair had been loosened by the breeze, and had partially
escaped from her cap. She had a broad, white brow, and the dark blue
eyes that dwelt beneath it were full of soul--not a cloud in them,
only a soft, radiant light, shaded by eyelids deeply fringed, and
almost transparent--eyelids that were eloquent--full of secrets. Her
mouth was beautiful, her lips made for loving words--even little
children wanted to kiss her. And she lived the very life of the sea.
Like it she was subject to ebb and flow. Her love for it was perhaps
prenatal, it might even have driven her into her present incarnation.

When she came to the top of the cliff, she turned and gazed again at
the sea. The sunshine then fell all over her, and her dress came into
notice. It was simple enough, yet very effective--a white fluted cap,
lying well back on her bright, rippling hair, long gold rings in her
ears, and a vivid scarlet kerchief over her shoulders. Her skirt was
of wide blue and gray stripes, but it was hardly noticeable, for
whoever looked in Christine's face cared little about her dress. He
could never tell what she wore.

As she stood in the sunshine, a young man ran out of the house to meet
her--a passing handsome youth, with his heart in his eager face and
outstretched hands.

"Christine! Christine!" he cried. "Where at a' have you keepit
yourself? I hae been watching and waiting for you, these three hours
past."

"Cluny! You are crushing the bonnie flowers i' my hands, and I'm no
thanking you for that."

"And my puir heart! It is atween your twa hands, and it's crushing it
you are, day after day. Christine, it is most broke wi' the cruel grip
o' longing and loving--and not a word o' hope or love to help it haud
together."

"You should learn seasonable times, Cluny. It's few lasses that can be
bothered wi' lovers that come sae early. Women folk hae their hands
full o' wark o' some kind, then."

"Ay, full o' flowers. They canna even find time to gie the grip o'
their hand to the lad that loves them, maist to the death throe."

"I'm not wanting any lad to love me to the death throe, and I'm not
believing them, when they talk such-like nonsense. No indeed! The lad
I love must be full o' life and _forthput_. He must be able to guide
his boat, and throw and draw his nets single-handed--if needs be."

"I love you so! I love you so! I can do nothing else, Christine!"

"_Havers!_ Love sweetens life, but it's a long way from being life
itsel'. Many a man, and many a woman, loses their love, but they dinna
fling their life awa' because o' that misfortune--unless they have no
kindred to love, and no God to fear."

"You can't tell how it is, Christine. You never were i' love, I'm
thinking."

"I'm thankfu' to say I never was; and from all I see, and hear, I am
led to believe that being in love isna a superior state o' life. I'm
just hoping that what you ca' love isna of a catching quality."

"I wish it was! Maybe then, you might catch love from me. Oh
Christine, give me a hope, dear lass. I canna face life without it.
'Deed I can not."

"I might do such a thing. Whiles women-folk are left to themsel's, and
then it goes ill wi' them;" and she sighed and shook her head, as if
she feared such a possibility was within her own fate.

"What is it you mean? I'm seeking one word o' kindness from you,
Christine."

Then she looked at him, and she did not require speech. Cluny dared to
draw closer to her--to put his arm round her waist--to whisper such
alluring words of love and promise, that she smiled and gave him a
flower, and finally thought she might--perhaps--sometime--learn the
lesson he would teach her, for, "This warld is fu' o' maybe's, Cluny,"
she said, "and what's the good o' being young, if we dinna expect
miracles?"

"I'm looking for no miracle, Christine. I'm asking for what a man may
win by a woman's favor. I hae loved you, Christine, since I was a bit
laddie o' seven years auld. I'll love you till men carry me to the
kirk yard. I'd die for your love. I'd live, and suffer a' things for
it. Lassie! Dear, dear lassie, dinna fling love like mine awa'.
There's every gude in it."

She felt his heart throbbing in his words, but ere she could answer
them, her brother Neil called her three times, in a voice that
admitted of no delay. "Good-by, Cluny!" she said hurriedly. "You ken
Neil isna to be put off." Then she was gone, and Cluny, full of
bewildered loving and anxious feelings, rushed at headlong speed down
the steep and narrow garden path, to his grandmother's cottage on the
sands.

Neil stood by a little pine table covered with books and papers. He
was nearly twenty-one years old, and compared with his family was
small in stature, lightly built, and dark in complexion. His hair was
black, his eyes somberly gray, and full of calculation. His nose, lean
and sharp, indicated selfish adherence to the realities of life, and
the narrow nostrils positively accused him of timidity and caution.
His mouth was firm and discreet. Taken as a whole, his face was
handsome, though lean and thoughtful; but his manner was less
pleasant. It was that of a serious snob, who thinks there is a destiny
before him. He had been petted and spoiled all his life long, and his
speech and conduct were full of the unpleasant survivals of this
treatment. It spoiled him, and grated on Christine's temperament, like
grit in a fine salad.

He had never made a shilling in his life, he was the gentleman of the
family, elected by the family to that position. In his boyhood he had
been delicate, and quite unfit for the rough labor of the boats, but
as he had developed an extraordinary love for books and learning, the
minister had advised his dedication to the service of either the Law
or the Gospel. To this proposal the whole household cheerfully, even
proudly, agreed. To have an educated man among the Rulesons pleased
everyone. They spoke together of the great Scotch chancellors, and the
great Scotch clergy, and looked upon Neil Ruleson, by special choice
and election, as destined in the future to stand high among Scotland's
clergy or Scotland's lawyers.

For this end, during eleven years, all had given their share without
stint or holdback. That Neil had finally chosen to become a Lord of
the Law, and to sit on the Bench, rather than stand in the Pulpit, was
a great disappointment to his father, who had stubbornly hoped his son
would get the call no man can innocently refuse to answer. His mother
and brothers were satisfied. Norman Ruleson had once seen the Lords
ride in civic pomp and splendid attire to Edinburgh Parliament House,
and he was never weary of describing the majesty of the judges in
their wigs and gowns, and the ceremonials that attended every step of
the administration of justice.

"And the big salary coming to the judges!" Normany always added--"the
salary, and the visible honors arena to be lightlied, or made
little o'. Compared wi' a minister's stipend, a judge's salary is
stin-pen-dous! And they go wi' the best i' the land, and it isna
anything o' a wonder, when a judge is made a lord. There was Lord
Chancellor Campbell, born in Fife itsel', in the vera county town
o' Cupar. I have seen the house next the Bell Inn where he was
born, and his feyther was the minister o' Cupar. About the year
18----"

"You needna fash either us, or yoursel', Norman, wi' names and dates;
it will be time in plenty, when you can add our lad to the list."

Margot at this hour was inclined to side with her husband. Margot
believed in realities. She saw continually the honorable condition of
the Scotch clergy; Norman's story about the royal state and power of
the judges was like something read out of a book. However, now that
Neil was in his last year of study, and looking forward to the
certificate which would place him among men in such a desirable
condition, she would not darken his hopes, nor damp his ardor.

Neil's classes in the Maraschal college at Aberdeen were just closed,
but he was very busy preparing papers for their opening in September.
This was to be his final term, and he expected to deliver a
valedictory speech. The table in the best room, which he was permitted
to occupy as a study, was covered with notes, which he wished
copied--with books from which he was anxious to recite--with work of
many kinds, which was waiting for Christine's clear brain and fine
penmanship.

It had been waiting an hour and Neil was distinctly angry.

"Mother! Where at all is Christine?" he asked.

"She went to your brither Norman's cottage. His little lad isna as
weel as he should be."

"And my wark has to wait on a sick bairn. I'm not liking it. And I
have no doubt she is wasting my time with Cluny McPherson--no doubt at
all."

"Weel! That circumstance isna likely to be far out o' the way."

"It is very far out of _my_ way. I can tell you that, Mother."

"Weel, lad, there's no way always straight. It's right and left, and
up and down, wi' every way o' life."

"That is so, Mother, but my work is waiting, and it puts me out of the
right way, entirely!"

"Tut! tut! What are you complaining aboot? The lassie has been at your
beck and call the best pairt o' her life. And it's vera seldom she can
please you. If she gave you the whites o' her e'en, you would still
hae a grumble. It's Saturday afternoon. What's your will sae late i'
the week's wark?"

"Ought I not to be at my studies, late and early?"

"That stands to reason."

"Well then, I want Christine's help, and I am going to call her."

"You hae had her help ever sin' you learned your A B C's. She's twa
years younger than you are, but she's twa years ahead o' you in the
ordinary essentials. Do you think I didna tak' notice that when she
was hearing your tasks, she learned them the while you were stumbling
all the way through them. Dod! The lassie knew things if she only
looked in the face o' them twice o'er, and it took you mair than an
hour to get up to her--what you ca' history, and ge-o-graph-y she
learned as if they were just a bairn's bit rhyming, and she was as
quick wi' the slate and figures as you were slow. Are you forgetting
things like these?"

"It is not kind in you to be reminding me of them, Mother. It is not
like you."

"One o' my duties to a' my men-folk, is to keep them in mind o' the
little bits o' kindness they are apt to forget. Your feyther isna to
mind, he ne'er misses the least o' them. Your brother Norman is like
him, the rest o' you arena to lippen to--at a' times."

"I think I have helped Christine as much as she has helped me. She
knows that, she has often said so."

"I'll warrant! It was womanlike! She said it to mak' ye feel
comfortable, when you o'erworked her. Did ye ever say the like to
her?"

"I am going to call her. She is better with me than with Cluny
Macpherson--that I am sure of."

"You and her for it. Settle the matter as it suits ye, but I can tell
ye, I hae been parfectly annoyed, on several occasions, wi' your clear
selfishness--and that is the vera outcome o' all my thoughts on this
subject."

Then Neil went to the door, and called Christine thrice, and the power
of long habit was ill to restrain, so she left her lover hurriedly
and went to him.

"I have been watching and waiting--waiting for you, Christine, the
last three hours."

"Tak' tent o' what you say, Neil. It isna twa hours yet, since we had
dinner."

"You should have told me that you were intending to fritter and fool
your afternoon away."

"My mither bid me go and speir after Norman's little laddie. He had a
sair cold and fever, and----"

"Sit down. Are your hands clean? I want you to copy a very important
paper."

"What aboot?"

"Differences in the English and Scotch Law."

"I don't want to hae anything to do wi' the Law. I canna understand
it, and I'm no wanting to understand it."

"It is not necessary that you should understand it, but you know what
a peculiar writing comes from my pen. I can manage Latin or Greek, but
I cannot write plainly the usual English. Now, you write a clear, firm
hand, and I want you to copy my important papers. I believe I have
lost honors at college, just through my singular writing."

"I wouldn't wonder. It is mair like the marks the robin's wee feet
make on the snow, than the writing o' human hands. I wonder, too, if
the robin kens his ain footmarks, and if they mean anything to him.
Maybe they say, 'It's vera cold this morning--and the ground is
covered wi' snow--and I'm vera hungry--hae ye anything for me this
morning?' The sma footmarks o' the wee birds might mean all o' this,
and mair too, Neil."

"What nonsense you are talking! Run away and wash your hands. They are
stained and soiled with something."

"Wi' the wild thyme, and the rosemary, and the wall-flowers."

"And the rough, tarry hand of Cluny Macpherson. Be quick! I am in a
hurry."

"It is Saturday afternoon, Neil. Feyther and Eneas will be up from the
boats anon. I dinna care to write for you, the now. Mither said I was
to please mysel' what I did, and I'm in the mind to go and see Faith
Balcarry, and hae a long crack wi' her."

Neil looked at her in astonishment. There was a stubborn set to her
lovely mouth, he had never seen there before. It was a feminine
variety of an expression he understood well when he saw it on his
father's lips. Immediately he changed his tactics.

"Your eyes look luck on anything you write, Christine, and you know
how important these last papers are to me--and to all of us."

"Wouldna Monday suit them, just as weel?"

"No. There will be others for Monday. I am trusting to you, Christine.
You always have helped me. You are my Fail-Me-Never!"

She blushed and smiled with the pleasure this acknowledgment gave
her, but she did not relinquish her position. "I am vera sorry, Neil,"
she answered, "but I dinna see how I can break my promise to Faith
Balcarry. You ken weel what a friendless creature she is in this
world. How could I disappoint a lass whose cup is running o'er wi'
sorrow?"

"I will make a bargain with you, Christine. I will wait until Monday,
if you will promise me to keep Cluny Macpherson in his place. He has
no business making love to you, and I will make trouble for him if he
does so."

"What ails you at Cluny? He is in feyther's boat, and like to stay
there. Feyther trusts him, and Eneas never has a word out o' the way
with him, and you ken that Eneas is often gey ill to wark wi', and
vera demanding."

"Cluny Macpherson is all right in the boat, but he is much out of his
place holding your two hands, and making love to you. I saw him doing
it, not ten minutes ago."

"Cluny has made love to me a' his life lang. There is nae harm in his
love."

"There is no good in it. Just as soon as I am one of Her Majesty's
Councilors at Law, I shall take an office in the town, and rent a
small floor, and then I shall require you to keep house for me."

"You are running before you can creep, Neil. How are you going to pay
rents, and buy furnishings? Forbye, I couldna leave Mither her lane.
She hasna been hersel' this year past, and whiles she has sair
attacks that gie us all a fearsome day or twa."

"Mither has had those attacks for years."

"All the more reason for us to be feared o' them. Neil, I canna even
think o' my life, wanting Mither."

"But you love _me_! I am bound to bring all kinds o' good luck to our
family."

"Mither is good luck hersel'. There would be nae luck about the house,
if Mither went awa'."

"Well then, you will give Cluny up?"

"I canna say that I will do anything o' that kind. Every lass wants a
lover, and I have nane but Cluny."

"I have a grand one in view for you."

"Wha may the lad be?"

"My friend at the Maraschal. He is the young Master of Brewster and
Ballister, and as fine a young fellow as walks in shoe leather. The
old Ballister mansion you must have seen every Sabbath, as you went to
the kirk."

"Ay, I hae seen the roof and turrets o' it, among the thick woods; but
naebody has lived there, since I was born."

"You are right, but Ballister is going to open the place, and spend
gold in its plenishing and furnishing. It is a grand estate, and the
young master is worthy of it. I am his friend, and I mean to bring you
two together. You are bonnie, and he is rich; it would be a proper
match. I owe you something, Christine, and I'll pay my debt with a
husband worthy of you."

"And how would I be worthy o' him? I hae neither learning nor siller.
You are talking foolishness, Neil."

"You are not without learning. In my company you must have picked up
much information. You could not hear my lessons and copy my exercises
without acquiring a knowledge of many things."

"Ay, a smattering o' this and that. You wouldna call that an
education, would you?"

"It is a better one than most girls get, that is, in the verities and
the essentials. The overcome is only in the ornamentals, or
accomplishments--piano-playing, singing, dancing, and maybe what you
call a smattering of the French tongue. There is a piano in Ballister,
and you would pick out a Scotch song in no time, for you sing like a
mavis. As for dancing, you foot it like a fairy, and a mouthful of
French words would be at your own desire or pleasure."

"I hae that mouthfu' already. Did you think I wrote book after book
full o' your French exercises, and heard you recite Ollendorf twice
through, and learned naething while I was doing it? Neil, I am awa' to
Faith, I canna possibly break my word to a lass in trouble."

"A moment, Christina----"

"I havna half a moment. I'll do your writing Monday, Neil."

"Christine! Christine!"

She was beyond his call, and before he got over his amazement, she was
out of sight. Then his first impulse was to go to his mother, but he
remembered that she had not been sympathetic when he had before spoken
of Christine and Cluny Macpherson.

"I will be wise, and take my own counsel," he thought, and he had
no fear of wanting his own sympathy; yet when he reviewed his
conversation with Christine, he was annoyed at its freedom.

"I ought not to have told her about Ballister," he thought, "she will
be watching for him at the kirk, and looking at the towers o'
Ballister House as if they were her own. And whatever made me say I
thought of her as my housekeeper? She would be the most imprudent
person. I would have the whole fishing-village at my house door, and
very likely at my fireside; and that would be a constant set-down for
me."

This train of thought was capable of much discreet consideration,
and he pursued it until he heard the stir of presence and conversation
in the large living room. Then he knew that his father and brother
were at home, to keep the preparation for the Sabbath. So he made
himself look as lawyer-like as possible, and joined the family.
Everyone, and everything, had a semi-Sabbath look. Ruleson was in a
blue flannel suit, so was Eneas, and Margot had put on a clean
cap, and thrown over her shoulders a small tartan shawl. The hearth
had been rid up, and the table was covered with a clean white
cloth. In the oven the meat and pudding were cooking, and there was a
not unpleasant sancta-serious air about the people, and the room.
You might have fancied that even the fishing nets hanging against the
wall knew it was Saturday night, and no fishing on hand.

Christine was not there. And as it was only on Saturday and Sunday
nights that James Ruleson could be the priest of his family, these
occasions were precious to him, and he was troubled if any of his
family were absent. Half an hour before Christine returned home, he
was worrying lest she forget the household rite, and when she came in
he asked her, for the future, to bide at home on Saturday and Sabbath
nights, saying he "didna feel all right," unless she was present.

"I was doing your will, Feyther, anent Faith Balcarry."

"Then you were doing right. How is the puir lassie?"

"There's little to be done for her. She hasna a hope left, and when I
spoke to her anent heaven, she said she knew nobody there, and the
thought o' the loneliness she would feel frightened her."

"You see, James," said Margot, "puir Faith never saw her father or
mother, and if all accounts be true, no great loss, and I dinna
believe the lassie ever knew anyone in this warld she would want to
see in heaven. Nae wonder she is sae sad and lonely."

"There is the great multitude of saints there."

"Gudeman, it is our ain folk we will be seeking, and speiring after,
in heaven. Without them, we shall be as lonely as puir Faith, who
knows no one either in this world, or the next, that she's caring to
see. I wouldn't wonder, James, if heaven might not feel lonely to
those who win there, but find no one they know to welcome them."

"We are told we shall be satisfied, Margot."

"I'm sure I hope sae! Come now, and we will hae a gude dinner and eat
it cheerfully."

After dinner there was a pleasant evening during which fishers and
fishers' wives came in, and chatted of the sea, and the boats, and the
herring fishing just at hand; but at ten o'clock the big Bible, bound
round with brass, covered with green baize, and undivested of the
Books of the Apocrypha, was laid before the master. As he was trying
to find the place he wanted, Margot stepped behind him, and looked
over his shoulder:

"Gudeman," she said softly, "you needna be harmering through thae
chapters o' proper names, in the Book o' Chronicles. The trouble is
overganging the profit. Read us one o' King David's psalms or
canticles, then we'll go to our sleep wi' a song in our hearts."

"Your will be it, Margot. Hae you any choice?"

"I was reading the seventy-first this afternoon, and I could gladly
hear it o'er again."

And O how blessed is that sleep into which we fall, hearing through
the darkness and silence, the happy soul recalling itself--"In thee, O
Lord, do I put my trust--Thou art my hope, O Lord God--my trust from
my youth--I will hope continually--and praise Thee--more and more--my
soul which Thou hast--redeemed! Which Thou hast redeemed!" With that
wonderful thought falling off into deep, sweet sleep--it might be into
that mysteriously conscious sleep, informed by prophesying dreams,
which is the walking of God through sleep.



CHAPTER II

CHRISTINE AND THE DOMINE

    I remember the black wharves and the boats,
    And the sea tides tossing free;
  And the fishermen with bearded lips,
  And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
    And the magic of the sea.

  The Domine is a good man. If you only meet him on the street, and
  he speaks to you, you go for the rest of the day with your head
  up.


One day leads to another, and even in the little, hidden-away village
of Culraine, no two days were exactly alike. Everyone was indeed
preparing for the great fishing season, and looking anxiously for its
arrival, but if all were looking for the same event, it had for its
outcome in every heart a different end, or desire. Thus, James Ruleson
hoped its earnings would complete the sum required to build a cottage
for his daughter's marriage portion, and Margot wanted the money,
though not for the same object. Norman had a big doctor's bill to pay,
and Eneas thought of a two weeks' holiday, and a trip to Edinburgh and
Glasgow; while Neil was anxious about an increase in his allowance.
He had his plea all ready--he wanted a new student's gown of scarlet
flannel, and some law books, which, he said, everyone knew were double
the price of any other books. It was his last session, and he did hope
that he would be let finish it creditably.

He talked to Christine constantly on the subject, and she promised to
stand up for the increase. "Though you ken, Neil," she added, "that
you hae had full thirty pounds a session, and that is a lot for
feyther to tak' out o' the sea; forbye Mither was aye sending you a
box full o' eggs and bacon, and fish and oatmeal, ne'er forgetting the
cake that men-folk all seem sae extra fond o'. And you yoursel' were
often speaking o' the lads who paid their fees and found their living
out o' thirty pounds a session. Isn't that sae?"

"I do not deny the fact, but let me tell you how they manage it. They
have a breakfast of porridge and milk, and then they are away for four
hours' Greek and Latin. Then they have two pennyworths of haddock and
a few potatoes for dinner, and back to the college again, for more
dead languages, and mathematics. They come back to their bit room in
some poor, cold house, and if they can manage it, have a cup of tea
and some oat cake, and they spend their evenings learning their
lessons for the next day, by the light of a tallow candle."

"They are brave, good lads, and I dinna wonder they win all, an' mair,
than what they worked for. The lads o' Maraschal College are fine
scholars, and the vera pith o' men. The hard wark and the frugality
are good for them, and, Neil, we are expecting you to be head and
front among them."

"Then I must have the books to help me there."

"That stands to reason; and if you'll gie me your auld gown, I'll buy
some flannel, and mak' you a new one, just like it."

"The college has its own tailor, Christine. I believe the gowns
are difficult to make. And what is more, I shall be obligated to have
a new kirk suit. You see I go out with Ballister a good deal--very
best families and all that--and I must have the clothes conforming
to the company. Ballister might--nae doubt would--lend me the
money--but----"

"What are you talking anent? Borrowing is sorrowing, aye and shaming,
likewise. I'm fairly astonished at you naming such a thing! If you are
put to a shift like that, Christine can let you hae the price o' a
suit o' clothing."

"O Christine, if you would do that, it would be a great favor, and a
great help to me. I'll pay you back, out of the first money I make.
The price o' the books I shall have to coax from Mother."

"You'll hae no obligation to trouble Mother. Ask your feyther for the
books you want. He would be the vera last to grudge them to you. Speak
to him straight, and bold, and you'll get the siller wi' a smile and a
good word."

"If _you_ would ask him for me."

"I will not!"

"Yes, you will, Christine. I have reasons for not doing so."

"You hae just one reason--simple cowardice. O Man! If you are a coward
anent asking a new suit o' clothes for yoursel', what kind o' a lawyer
will you mak' for ither folk?"

"You know how Father is about giving money."

"Ay, Feyther earns his money wi' his life in his hands. He wants to be
sure the thing sought is good and necessary. Feyther's right. Now my
money was maistly gi'en me, I can mair easily risk it."

"There is no risk in my promise to pay."

"You havna any sure contract wi' Good Fortune, Neil, and it will be
good and bad wi' you, as it is wi' ither folk."

"I do not approve of your remarks, Christine. When people are talking
of the fundamentals--and surely money is one of them--they ought to
avoid irritating words."

"You'll mak' an extraordinar lawyer, if you do that, but I'm no sure
that you will win your case, wanting them. I thought they were sort o'
necessitated; but crooked and straight is the law, and it is well
known that what it calls truth today, may be far from truth
tomorrow."

"What ails you today, Christine? Has the law injured you in any way?"

"Ay, it played us a' a trick. When you took up the books, and went to
the big school i' the toun to prepare for Aberdeen, we all o' us
thought it was King's College you were bound for, and then when you
were ready for Aberdeen, you turned your back on King's College, and
went to the Maraschal."

"King's College is for the theology students. The Maraschal is the law
school."

"I knew that. We a' know it. The Maraschal spelt a big disappointment
to feyther and mysel'."

"I have some work to finish, Christine, and I will be under an
obligation if you will leave me now. You are in an upsetting temper,
and I think you have fairly forgotten yourself."

"Well I'm awa, but mind you! When the fishing is on, I canna be at
your bidding. I'm telling you!"

"Just so."

"I'll hae no time for you, and your writing. I'll be helping Mither
wi' the fish, from the dawn to the dark."

"Would you do that?"

"Would I not?"

She was at the open door of the room as she spoke, and Neil said with
provoking indifference: "If you are seeing Father, you might speak to
him anent the books I am needing."

"I'll not do it! What are you feared for? You're parfectly unreasonable,
parfectly ridic-lus!" And she emphasized her assertions by her decided
manner of closing the door.

On going into the yard, she found her father standing there, and he
was looking gravely over the sea. "Feyther!" she said, and he drew her
close to his side, and looked into her lovely face with a smile.

"Are you watching for the fish, Feyther?"

"Ay, I am! They are long in coming this year."

"Every year they are long in coming. Perhaps we are impatient."

"Just sae. We are a' ready for them--watching for them--Cluny went to
Cupar Head to watch. He has a fine sea-sight. If they are within human
ken, he will spot them, nae doubt. What hae you been doing a' the day
lang?"

"I hae been writing for Neil. He is uncommon anxious about this
session, Feyther."

"He ought to be."

"He is requiring some expensive books, and he is feared to name them
to you; he thinks you hae been sae liberal wi' him already--if I was
you, Feyther, I would be asking him--quietly when you were by your twa
sel's--if he was requiring anything i' the way o' books."

"He has had a big sum for that purpose already, Christine."

"I know it, Feyther, but I'm not needing to tell you that a man must
hae the tools his wark is requiring, or he canna do it. If you set
Neil to mak' a table, you'd hae to gie him the saw, and the hammer,
and the full wherewithals, for the makin' o' a table; and when you are
for putting him among the Edinbro' Law Lords, you'll hae to gie him
the books that can teach him their secrets. Isn't that fair,
Feyther?"

"I'm not denying it."

"Weel then, you'll do the fatherly thing, and seeing the laddie is
feared to ask you for the books, you'll ask him, 'Are you wanting any
books for the finishing up, Neil?' You see it is just here, Feyther,
he could borrow the books----"

"Hang borrowing!"

"Just sae, you are quite right, Feyther. Neil says if he has to
borrow, he'll never get the book when he wants it, and that he would
never get leave to keep it as long as he needed. Now Neil be to hae
his ain books, Feyther, he will mak' good use o' them, and we must not
fail him at the last hour."

"Wha's talking o' failing him? Not his feyther, I'm sure! Do I expect
to catch herrings without the nets and accessories? And I ken that
I'll not mak' a lawyer o' Neil, without the Maraschal and the books it
calls for."

"You are the wisest and lovingest o' feythers. When you meet Neil, and
you twa are by yoursel's, put your hand on Neil's shoulder, and ask
Neil, 'Are you needing any books for your last lessons?'"

"I'll do as you say, dear lass. It is right I should."

"Nay, but he should ask you to do it. If it was mysel', I could ask
you for anything I ought to have, but Neil is vera shy, and he kens
weel how hard you wark for your money. He canna bear to speak o' his
necessities, sae I'm speaking the word for him."

"Thy word goes wi' me--always. I'll ne'er say nay to thy yea," and he
clasped her hand, and looked with a splendid smile of affection into
her beautiful face. An English father would have certainly kissed her,
but Scotch fathers rarely give this token of affection. Christine did
not expect it, unless it was her birthday, or New Year's morning.

It was near the middle of July, when the herring arrived. Then early
one day, Ruleson, watching the sea, smote his hands triumphantly, and
lifting his cap with a shout of welcome, cried--

"There's our boat! Cluny is sailing her! He's bringing the news! They
hae found the fish! Come awa' to the pier to meet them, Christine."

With hurrying steps they took the easier landward side of descent, but
when they reached the pier there was already a crowd of men and women
there, and the _Sea Gull_, James Ruleson's boat, was making for it.
She came in close-hauled to the wind, with a double reef in her sail.
She came rushing across the bay, with the water splashing her gunwale.
Christine kept her eyes upon the lad at the tiller, a handsome lad,
tanned to the temples. His cheeks were flushed, and the wind was in
his hair, and the sunlight in his eyes, and he was steering the big
herring boat into the harbor.

The men were soon staggering down to the boats with the nets, coiling
them up in apparently endless fashion, and as they were loaded they
were very hard to get into the boats, and harder still to get out.
Just as the sun began to set, the oars were dipped, and the boats
swept out of the harbor into the bay, and there they set their
red-barked sails, and stood out for the open sea.

Ruleson's boat led the way, because it was Ruleson's boat that had
found the fish, and Christine stood at the pier-edge cheering her
strong, brave father, and not forgetting a smile and a wave of her
hand for the handsome Cluny at the tiller. To her these two
represented the very topmost types of brave and honorable humanity.
The herring they were seeking were easily found, for it was the Grand
Shoal, and it altered the very look of the ocean, as it drove the
water before it in a kind of flushing ripple. Once, as the boats
approached them, the shoal sank for at least ten minutes, and then
rose in a body again, reflecting in the splendid sunset marvelous
colors and silvery sheen.

With a sweet happiness in her heart, Christine went slowly home. She
did not go into the village, she walked along the shore, over the wet
sands to the little gate, which opened upon their garden. On her way
she passed the life-boat. It was in full readiness for launching at a
moment's notice, and she went close to it, and patted it on the bow,
just as a farmer's daughter would pat the neck of a favorite horse.

"Ye hae saved the lives of men," she said. "God bless ye, boatie!" and
she said it again, and then stooped and looked at a little brass plate
screwed to the stern locker, on which were engraved these words:

  Put your trust in God,
    And do your best.

And as she climbed the garden, she thought of the lad who had left
Culraine thirty years ago, and gone to Glasgow to learn ship building,
and who had given this boat to his native village out of his first
savings. "And it has been a lucky boat," she said softly, "every year
it has saved lives," and then she remembered the well-known melody,
and sang joyously--

  "Weel may the keel row,
    And better may she speed,
  Weel may the keel row,
    That wins the bairnies' bread.

  "Weel may the keel row,
    Amid the stormy strife,
  Weel may the keel row
    That saves the sailor's life.

  "God bless the Life-Boat!
    In the stormy strife,
  Saving drowning men,
    On the seas o' Fife.

  "Weel may her keel row--"

Then with a merry, inward laugh she stopped, and said with pretended
displeasure: "Be quiet, Christine! You're makin' poetry again, and you
shouldna do the like o' that foolishness. Neil thinks it isna becoming
for women to mak' poetry--he says men lose their good sense when they
do it, and women! He hadna the words for their shortcomings in the
matter. He could only glower and shake his head, and look up at the
ceiling, which he remarked needed a coat o' clean lime and water.
Weel, I suppose Neil is right! There's many a thing not becomin' to
women, and nae doubt makin' poetry up is among them."

When she entered the cottage, she found the Domine, Dr. Magnus
Trenabie, drinking a cup of tea at the fireside. He had been to the
pier to see the boats sail, for all the men of his parish were near
and dear to him. He was an extraordinary man--a scholar who had taken
many degrees and honors, and not exhausted his mental powers in
getting them--a calm, sabbatic mystic, usually so quiet that his
simple presence had a sacramental efficacy--a man who never reasoned,
being full of faith; a man enlightened by his heart, not by his
brain.

Being spiritually of celestial race, he was lodged in a suitable body.
Its frame was Norse, its blood Celtic. He appeared to be a small man,
when he stood among the gigantic fishermen who obeyed him like little
children, but he was really of average height, graceful and slender.
His head was remarkably long and deep, his light hair straight and
fine. The expression of his face was usually calm and still, perhaps a
little cold, but there was every now and then a look of flame.
Spiritually, he had a great, tender soul quite happy to dwell in a
little house. Men and women loved him, he was the angel on the hearth
of every home in Culraine.

When Christine entered the cottage, the atmosphere of the sea was
around and about her. The salt air was in her clothing, the fresh wind
in her loosened hair, and she had a touch of its impetuosity in the
hurry of her feet, the toss of her manner, the ring of her voice.

"O Mither!" she cried, then seeing the Domine, she made a little
curtsey, and spoke to him first. "I was noticing you, Sir, among the
men on the pier. I thought you were going with them this night."

"They have hard work this night, Christine, and my heart tells me they
will be wanting to say little words they would not like me to hear."

"You could hae corrected them, Sir."

"I am not caring to correct them, tonight. Words often help work, and
tired fishers, casting their heavy nets overboard, don't do that work
without a few words that help them. The words are not sinful, but they
might not say them if I was present."

"I know, Sir," answered Margot. "I hae a few o' such words always
handy. When I'm hurried and flurried, I canna help them gettin'
outside my lips--but there's nae ill in them--they just keep me going.
I wad gie up, wanting them."

"When soldiers, Margot, are sent on a forlorn hope of capturing a
strong fort, they go up to it cheering. When our men launch the big
life-boat, how do they do it, Christine?"

"Cheering, Sir!"

"To be sure, and when weary men cast the big, heavy nets, they find
words to help them. I know a lad who always gets his nets overboard
with shouting the name of the girl he loves. He has a name for her
that nobody but himself can know, or he just shouts 'Dearie,' and with
one great heave, the nets are overboard." And as he said these words
he glanced at Christine, and her heart throbbed, and her eyes beamed,
for she knew that the lad was Cluny.

"I was seeing our life-boat, as I came home," she said, "and I was
feeling as if the boat could feel, and if she hadna been sae big, I
would hae put my arms round about her. I hope that wasna any kind o'
idolatry, Sir?"

"No, no, Christine. It is a feeling of our humanity, that is wide as
the world. Whatever appears to struggle and suffer, appears to have
life. See how a boat bares her breast to the storm, and in spite of
winds and waves, wins her way home, not losing a life that has been
committed to her. And nothing on earth can look more broken-hearted
than a stranded boat, that has lost all her men. Once I spent a few
weeks among the Hovellers--that is, among the sailors who man the
life-boats stationed along Godwin Sands; and they used to call their
boats 'darlings' and 'beauties' and praise them for behaving well."

"Why did they call the men Hovellers?" asked Margot. "That word seems
to pull down a sailor. I don't like it. No, I don't."

"I have been told, Margot, that it is from the Danish word,
_overlever_, which means a deliverer."

"I kent it wasna a decent Scotch word," she answered, a little
triumphantly; "no, nor even from the English. Hoveller! You couldna
find an uglier word for a life-saver, and if folk canna be satisfied
wi' their ain natural tongue, and must hae a foreign name, they might
choose a bonnie one. Hoveller! Hoveller indeed! It's downright wicked,
to ca' a sailor a hoveller."

The Domine smiled, and continued--"Every man and woman and child has
loved something inanimate. Your mother, Christine, loves her wedding
ring, your father loves his boat, you love your Bible, I love the
silver cup that holds the sacramental wine we drink 'in remembrance
of Him';" and he closed his eyes a moment, and was silent. Then he
gave his cup to Christine. "No more," he said, "it was a good drink.
Thanks be! Now our talk must come to an end. I leave blessing with
you."

They stood and watched him walk into the dusk in silence, and then
Margot said, "Where's Neil?"

"Feyther asked him to go wi' them for this night, and Neil didna like
to refuse. Feyther has been vera kind to him, anent his books an' the
like. He went to pleasure Feyther. It was as little as he could do."

"And he'll come hame sea-sick, and his clothes will be wet and
uncomfortable as himsel'."

"Weel, that's his way, Mither. I wish the night was o'er."

"Tak' patience. By God's leave the day will come."



CHAPTER III

ANGUS BALLISTER

  If Love comes, it comes; but no reasoning can put it there.

  Love gives a new meaning to Life.

  Her young heart blows
  Leaf by leaf, coming out like a rose.


The next morning the women of the village were early at the pier to
watch the boats come in. They were already in the offing, their
gunwales deep in the water, and rising heavily on the ascending waves;
so they knew that there had been good fishing. Margot was prominent
among them, but Christine had gone to the town to take orders from the
fish dealers; for Margot Ruleson's kippered herring were famous, and
eagerly sought for, as far as Edinburgh, and even Glasgow.

It was a business Christine liked, and in spite of her youth, she did
it well, having all her mother's bargaining ability, and a readiness
in computing values, that had been sharpened by her knowledge of
figures and profits. This morning she was unusually fortunate in all
her transactions, and brought home such large orders that they
staggered Margot.

"I'll ne'er be able to handle sae many fish," she said, with a happy
purposeful face, "but there's naething beats a trial, and I be to do
my best."

"And I'll help you, Mither. It must ne'er be said that we twa turned
good siller awa'."

"I'm feared you canna do that today, Christine. Neil hasna been to
speak wi', since he heard ye had gone to the toun; he wouldna' even
hear me when I ca'ed breakfast."

"Neil be to wait at this time. It willna hurt him. If Neil happens to
hae a wish, he instantly feels it to be a necessity, and then he
thinks the hale house should stop till his wish is gi'en him. I'm
going to the herring shed wi' yoursel'."

"Then there will be trouble, and no one so sorry for it as Christine!
I'm telling you!"

At this moment Neil opened the door, and looked at the two women.
"Mother," he said in a tone of injury and suffering, "can I have any
breakfast this morning?"

"Pray, wha's hindering you? Your feyther had his, an hour syne. Your
porridge is yet boiling in the pot, the kettle is simmering on the
hob, and the cheena still standing on the table. Why didna you lift
your ain porridge, and mak' yoursel' a cup o' tea? Christine and
mysel' had our breakfasts before it chappit six o'clock. You cam' hame
wi' your feyther, you should hae ta'en your breakfast with him."

"I was wet through, and covered with herring scales. I was in no
condition to take a meal, or to sit with my books and Christine all
morning, writing."

"I canna spare Christine this morning, Neil. That's a fact." His
provoking neatness and deliberation were irritating to Margot's sense
of work and hurry, and she added, "Get your breakfast as quick as you
can. I'm wanting the dishes out o' the way."

"I suppose I can get a mouthful for myself."

"Get a' you want," answered Margot; but Christine served him with his
plate of porridge and basin of new milk, and as he ate it, she toasted
a scone, and made him a cup of tea.

"Mother is cross this morning, Christine. It is annoying to me."

"It needna. There's a big take o' fish in, and every man and woman,
and every lad and lass, are in the herring sheds. Mither just run awa'
from them, to see what orders for kippers I had brought--and I hae
brought nine hundred mair than usual. I must rin awa' and help her
now."

"No, Christine! I want you most particularly, this morning."

"I'll be wi' you by three in the afternoon."

"Stay with me now. I'll be ready for you in half an hour."

"I can hae fifty fish ready for Mither in half an hour, and I be to go
to her at once. I'll be back, laddie, by three o'clock."

"I'm just distracted with the delay," but he stopped speaking, for he
saw that he was alone. So he took time thoroughly to enjoy his scone
and tea, and then, not being quite insensible to Christine's kindness,
he washed the dishes and put them away.

He had just finished this little duty, when there was a knock at the
outside door. He hesitated about opening it. He knew no villager would
knock at his father's door, so it must be a stranger, and as he was
not looking as professional and proper as he always desired to appear,
he was going softly away, when the door was opened, and a bare-footed
lad came forward, and gave him a letter.

He opened it, and looked at the signature--"Angus Ballister." A sudden
flush of pleasure made him appear almost handsome, and when he had
read the epistle he was still more delighted, for it ran thus:

  DEAR NEIL,

  I am going to spend the rest of vacation at Ballister Mansion, and
  I want you with me. I require your help in a particular business
  investigation. I will pay you for your time and knowledge, and
  your company will be a great pleasure to me. This afternoon I will
  call and see you, and if you are busy with the nets, I shall enjoy
  helping you.

  Your friend,

  ANGUS BALLISTER.

Neil was really much pleased with the message, and glad to hear of an
opportunity to make money, for though the young man was selfish, he
was not idle; and he instantly perceived that much lucrative business
could follow this early initiation into the Ballister affairs. He
quickly finished his arrangement of the dishes and the kitchen, and
then, putting on an old academic suit, made his room as scholarly and
characteristic as possible. And it is amazing what an _air_ books and
papers give to the most commonplace abode. Even the old inkhorn and
quill pens seemed to say to all who entered--"Tread with respect. This
is classic ground."

His predominating thought during this interval was, however, not of
himself, but of Christine. She had promised to come to him at three
o'clock. How would she come? He was anxious about her first
appearance. If he could in any way have reached her, he would have
sent his positive command to wear her best kirk clothes, but at this
great season neither chick nor child was to be seen or heard tell of,
and he concluded finally to leave what he could not change or direct
to those household influences which usually manage things fairly
well.

As the day went on, and Ballister did not arrive, he grew irritably
nervous. He could not study, and he found himself scolding both
Ballister and Christine for their delay. "Christine was so ta'en up
wi' the feesh, naething else was of any import to her. Here was a
Scottish gentleman coming, who might be the makin' o' him, and a
barrel o' herrin' stood in his way." He had actually fretted himself
into his Scotch form of speech, a thing no Gael ever entirely forgets
when really worried to the proper point.

When he had said his heart's say of Christine, he turned his
impatience on Ballister--his behavior was that o' the ordinary rich
young man, who has naething but himsel' to think o'. He, Neil Ruleson,
had lost a hale morning's wark, waiting on his lairdship. Weel, he'd
have to pay for it, in the long run. Neil Ruleson had no waste hours
in his life. Nae doubt Ballister had heard o' a fast horse, or a
fast----

Then Ballister knocked at the door, and Neil stepped into his
scholarly manner and speech, and answered Ballister's hearty greeting
in the best English style.

"I am glad to see you, Neil. I only came to Ballister two days ago,
and I have been thinking of you all the time." With these words the
youth threw his Glengary on the table, into the very center and front
of Neil's important papers. Then he lifted his chair, and placed it
before the open door, saying emphatically as he did so--

  Lands may be fair ayont the sea,
  But Scotland's hills and lochs for me!

O Neil! Love of your ain country is a wonderful thing. It makes a man
of you."

"Without it you would not be a man."

Ballister did not answer at once, but stood a moment with his hand on
the back of the deal, rush-bottomed chair, and his gaze fixed on the
sea and the crowd of fishing boats waiting in the harbor.

Without being strictly handsome, Ballister was very attractive. He had
the tall, Gaelic stature, and its reddish brown hair, also brown eyes,
boyish and yet earnest. His face was bright and well formed, his
conversation animated, his personality, in full effect, striking in
its young alertness.

"Listen to me, Neil," he said, as he sat down. "I came to my majority
last March, when my uncle and I were in Venice."

"Your uncle on your mother's side?"

"No, on the sword side, Uncle Ballister. He told me I was now my own
master, and that he would render into my hands the Brewster and
Ballister estates. I am sure that he has done well by them, but he
made me promise I would carefully go over all the papers relating to
his trusteeship, and especially those concerning the item of
interests. It seems that my father had a good deal of money out on
interest--I know nothing about interest. Do you, Neil?"

"I know everything that is to be known. In my profession it is a
question of importance."

"Just so. Now, I want to put all these papers, rents, leases,
improvements, interest accounts, and so forth, in your hands, Neil.
Come with me to Ballister, and give the mornings to my affairs. Find
out what is the usual claim for such service, and I will gladly pay
it."

"I know the amount professionally charged, but----"

"I will pay the professional amount. If we give the mornings to this
work, in the afternoons we will ride, and sail, fish or swim, or pay
visits--in the evenings there will be dinner, billiards, and
conversation. Are you willing?"

"I am delighted at the prospect. Let the arrangement stand, just so."

"You will be ready tomorrow?"

"The day after tomorrow."

"Good. I will----"

Then there was a tap at the door, and before Neil could answer it,
Christine did so. As she entered, Ballister stood up and looked at
her, and his eyes grew round with delighted amazement. She was in full
fisher costume--fluted cap on the back of her curly head, scarlet
kerchief on her neck, long gold rings in her ears, gold beads round
her throat, and a petticoat in broad blue and yellow stripes.

"Christine," said Neil, who, suddenly relieved of his great anxiety,
was unusually good-tempered. "Christine, this is my friend, Mr. Angus
Ballister. You must have heard me speak of him?"

"That's a fact. The man was your constant talk"--then turning to
Ballister--"I am weel pleased to see you, Sir;" and she made him a
little curtsey so full of independence that Ballister knew well she
was making it to herself--"and I'm wondering at you twa lads," she
said, "sitting here in the house, when you might be sitting i' the
garden, or on the rocks, and hae the scent o' the sea, or the flowers
about ye."

"Miss Ruleson is right," said Ballister, in his most enthusiastic
mood. "Let us go into the garden. Have you really a garden among these
rocks? How wonderful!"

How it came that Ballister and Christine took the lead, and that Neil
was in a manner left out, Neil could not tell; but it struck him as
very remarkable. He saw Christine and his friend walking together,
and he was walking behind them. Christine, also, was perfectly
unembarrassed, and apparently as much at home with Ballister as if he
had been some fisher-lad from the village.

Yet there was nothing strange in her easy manner and affable intimacy.
It was absolutely natural. She had never realized the conditions of
riches and poverty, as entailing a difference in courtesy or good
comradeship; for in the village of Culraine, there was no question of
an equality founded on money. A man or woman was rated by moral, and
perhaps a little by physical qualities--piety, honesty, courage,
industry, and strength, and knowledge of the sea and of the
fisherman's craft. Christine would have treated the great Duke of
Fife, or Her Majesty, Victoria, with exactly the same pleasant
familiarity.

She showed Ballister her mother's flower garden, that was something
beyond the usual, and she was delighted at Ballister's honest
admiration and praise of the lovely, rose-sweet plot. Both seemed to
have forgotten Neil's presence, and Neil was silent, blundering
about in his mind, looking for some subject which would give him
predominance.

Happily strolling in and out the narrow walks, and eating ripe
gooseberries from the bushes, they came to a little half-circle of
laburnum trees, drooping with the profusion of their golden blossoms.
There was a wooden bench under them, and as Christine sat down a few
petals fell into her lap.

"See!" she cried, "the trees are glad o' our company," and she laid
the petals in her palm, and added--"now we hae shaken hands."

"What nonsense you are talking, Christine," said Neil.

"Weel then, Professor, gie us a bit o' gude sense. Folks must talk in
some fashion."

And Neil could think of nothing but a skit against women, and in
apologetic mood and manner answered:

"I believe it is allowable, to talk foolishness, in reply to women's
foolishness."

"O Neil, that is cheap! Women hae as much gude sense as men hae, and
whiles they better them"--and then she sang, freely and clearly as a
bird, two lines of Robert Burns' opinion--

  "He tried His prentice hand on man,
    And then He made the lasses O!"

She still held the golden blossoms in her hand, and Ballister said:

"Give them to me. Do!"

"You are vera welcome to them, Sir. I dinna wonder you fancy them.
Laburnum trees are money-bringers, but they arena lucky for lovers. If
I hed a sweetheart, I wouldna sit under a laburnum tree wi' him, but
Feyther is sure o' his sweetheart, and he likes to come here, and
smoke his pipe. And Mither and I like the place for our bit secret
cracks. We dinna heed if the trees do hear us. They may tell the
birds, and the birds may tell ither birds, but what o' that? There's
few mortals wise enough to understand birds. Now, Neil, come awa wi'
your gude sense, I'll trouble you nae langer wi' my foolishness. And
good day to you, Sir!" she said. "I'm real glad you are my brother's
friend. I dinna think he will go out o' the way far, if you are wi'
him."

Ballister entreated her to remain, but with a smile she vanished among
the thick shrubbery. Ballister was disappointed, and somehow Neil was
not equal to the occasion. It was hard to find a subject Ballister
felt any interest in, and after a short interval he bade Neil good-bye
and said he would see him on the following day.

"No, on the day after tomorrow," corrected Neil. "That was the time
fixed, Angus. Tomorrow I will finish up my work for the university,
and I will be at your service, very happily and gratefully, on Friday
morning." Then Neil led him down the garden path to the sandy shore,
so he did not return to the cottage, but went away hungry for another
sight of Christine.

Neil was pleased, and displeased. He felt that it would have been
better for him if Christine had not interfered, but there was the
delayed writing to be finished, and he hurried up the steep pathway to
the cottage. Some straying vines caught his careless footsteps, and
threw him down, and though he was not hurt, the circumstance annoyed
him. As soon as he entered the cottage, he was met by Christine, and
her first remark added to his discomfort:

"Whate'er hae you been doing to yoursel', Neil Ruleson? Your coat is
torn, and your face scratched. Surely you werna fighting wi' your
friend."

"You know better, Christine. I was thrown by those nasty blackberry
vines. I intend to cut them all down. They catch everyone that passes
them, and they are in everyone's way. They ought to be cleared out,
and I will attend to them tomorrow morning, if I have to get up at
four o'clock to do it."

"You willna touch the vines. Feyther likes their fruit, and Mither is
planning to preserve part o' it. And I, mysel', am vera fond o' vines.
The wee wrens, and the robin redbreasts, look to the vines for food
and shelter, and you'll not dare to hurt their feelings, for

  "The Robin, wi' the red breast,
    The Robin, and the wren,
  If you do them any wrong,
    You'll never thrive again."

"Stop, Christine, I have a great deal to think of, and to ask your
help in."

"Weel, Neil, I was ready for you at three o'clock, and then you werna
ready for me."

"Tell me why you dressed yourself up so much? Did you know Ballister
was coming?"

"Not I! Did you think I dressed mysel' up for Angus Ballister?"

"I was wondering. It is very seldom you wear your gold necklace, and
other things, for just home folk."

"Weel, I wasn't wearing them for just hame folk. Jennie Tweedie is to
be married tonight, and Mither had promised her I should come and help
them lay the table for the supper, and the like o' that. Sae I was
dressed for Jennie Tweedie's bridal. I wasna thinking of either you,
or your fine friend."

"I thought perhaps you had heard he was coming. Your fisher dress is
very suitable to you. No doubt you look handsome in it. You likely
thought its novelty would--would--make him fall in love with you."

"I thought naething o' that sort. Novelty! Where would the novelty be?
The lad is Fife. If he was sae unnoticing as never to get acquaint wi'
a Culraine fisher-wife, he lived maist o' his boyhood in Edinburgh.
Weel, he couldna escape seeing the Newhaven fisherwomen there, nor
escape hearing their wonderful cry o' 'Caller herrin'!' And if he had
ony feeling in his heart, if he once heard that cry, sae sweet, sae
heartachy, and sae winning, he couldna help looking for the woman who
was crying it; and then he couldna help seeing a fisher-wife, or
lassie. I warn you not to think o' me, Christine Ruleson, planning and
dressing mysel' for any man. You could spane my love awa' wi' a very
few o' such remarks."

"I meant nothing to wrong you, Christine. All girls dress to please
the men."

"Men think sae. They are vera mich mista'en. Girls dress to outdress
each ither. If you hae any writing to do, I want to gie you an hour's
wark. I'll hae to leave the rest until morning."

Then Neil told her the whole of the proposal Angus had made him. He
pointed out its benefits, both for the present and the future, and
Christine listened thoughtfully to all he said. She saw even further
than Neil did, the benefits, and she was the first to name the subject
nearest to Neil's anxieties.

"You see, Neil," she said, "if you go to Ballister, you be to hae the
proper dress for every occasion. The best suit ye hae now will be
nane too good for you to wark, and to play in. You must hae a new suit
for ordinary wear, forbye a full dress suit. I'll tell you what to
do--David Finlay, wha dresses a' the men gentry round about here, is
an old, old friend o' Feyther's. They herded together, and went to
school and kirk togither, and Feyther and him have helped each ither
across hard places, a' their life long."

"I don't want any favors from David Finlay."

"Hae a little patience, lad. I'm not asking you to tak' favors from
anyone. I, mysel', will find the money for you; but I canna tell you
how men ought to dress, nor what they require in thae little odds and
ends, which are so important."

"Odds and ends! What do you mean?"

"Neckties, gloves, handkerchiefs, hats, and a proper pocket book for
your money. I saw Ballister take his from his pocket, to put the
laburnum leaves in, and I had a glint o' the bank bills in it, and I
ken weel it is more genteel-like than a purse. I call things like
these 'odds and ends.'"

"Such things cost a deal of money, Christine."

"I was coming to that, Neil. I hae nearly ninety-six pounds in the
bank. It hes been gathering there, ever since my grandfeyther put five
pounds in for me at my baptisement--as a nest egg, ye ken--and all I
hae earned, and all that Feyther or Mither hae gien me, has helped it
gather; and on my last birthday, when Feyther gave me a pound, and
Mither ten shillings, I had ninety-six pounds. Now, Neil, dear lad,
you can hae the use o' it all, if so be you need it. Just let Dave
Finlay tell you what to get, and get it, and pay him for it--you can
pay me back, when money comes easy to you."

"Thank you, Christine! You have always been my good angel. I will pay
you out o' my first earnings. I'll give you good interest, and a
regular I. O. U. which will be----"

"What are you saying, Neil? Interest! Interest! Interest on love? And
do you dare to talk to me anent your I. O. U. If I canna trust your
love, and your honor, I'll hae neither interest nor paper from you.
Tak my offer wi' just the word between us, you are vera welcome to the
use o' the money. There's nae sign o' my marrying yet, and I'll not be
likely to want it until my plenishing and napery is to buy. You'll go
to Finlay, I hope?"

"I certainly will. He shall give me just what is right."

"Now then, my time is up. I will be ready to do your copying at five
o'clock in the morning. Then, after breakfast, you can go to the town,
but you won't win into the Bank before ten, and maist likely Finlay
will be just as late. Leave out the best linen you hae, and I'll
attend to it, wi' my ain hands."

"Oh, Christine, how sweet and good you are! I'm afraid I am not worthy
o' your love!"

"Vera likely you are not. Few brothers love their sisters as they
ought to. It willna be lang before you'll do like the lave o' them,
and put some strange lass before me."

"There's nae lass living that can ever be to me what you hae been, and
are. You hae been mother and sister baith, to me."

"Dear lad, I love thee with a' my heart. All that is mine, is thine,
for thy use and help, and between thee and me the word and the bond
are the same thing."

Christine was much pleased because Neil unconsciously had fallen into
his Scotch dialect. She knew then that his words were spontaneous, not
of consideration, but of feeling from his very heart.

In a week the change contemplated had been fully accomplished. Neil
had become accustomed to the luxury of his new home, and was making
notable progress in the work which had brought him there.

Twice during the week Margot had been made royally happy by large
baskets of wonderful flowers and fruit, from the Ballister gardens.
They were brought by the Ballister gardener, and came with Neil's love
and name, but Margot had some secret thoughts of her own. She
suspected they were the result of a deeper and sweeter reason than a
mere admiration for her wonderful little garden among the rocks; but
she kept such thoughts silent in her heart. One thing she knew well,
that if Christine were twitted on the subject, she would hate Angus
Ballister, and utterly refuse to see him. So she referred to the gifts
as entirely from Neil, and affected a little anxiety about their
influence on Ballister.

"I hope that young man isna thinking," she said, "that his baskets o'
flowers and fruit is pay enough for Neil's service."

"Mither, he promised to pay Neil."

"To be sure. But I didna hear o' any fixed sum. Some rich people hae a
way o' giving sma' favors, and forgetting standing siller."

"He seemed a nice young man, Mither, and he did admire your garden. I
am sure he has told Neil to send the flowers because you loved
flowers. When folk love anything, they like others who love as they
do. Mebbe they who love flowers hae the same kind and order o' souls.
You ken if a man loves dogs, he is friendly at once wi' a stranger who
loves dogs; and there's the Domine, who is just silly anent auld
coins--copper, siller or gold--he cares not, if they're only auld
enough. Nannie Grant, wha keeps his house, told Katie Tweedie that he
took a beggar man into his parlor, and ate his dinner with him, just
because he had a siller bit o' Julius Cæsar in his pouch, and wouldna
part wi' it, even when he was wanting bread."

"Weel then, the Domine doubtless wanted the penny."

"Vera likely, but he wouldna tak it frae the puir soul, wha thought
sae much o' it; and Nannie was saying that he went away wi' a guid
many Victoria pennies i' his pouch."

"The Domine is a queer man."

"Ay, but a vera guid man."

"If he had a wife, he would be a' right."

"And just as likely a' wrang. Wha can tell?"

"Weel, that's an open question. What about your ain marriage?"

"I'll marry when I find a man who loves the things I love."

"Weel, the change for Neil, and for the a' of us has been--in a way--a
gude thing. I'll say that."

Margot was right. Even if we take change in its widest sense, it is a
great and healthy manifestation, and it is only through changes that
the best lives are made perfect. For every phase of life requires its
own environment, in order to fulfill perfectly its intention and if it
does not get it, then the intent, or the issue, loses much of its
efficiency. "Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not
God," is a truth relative to the greatest nations, as well as to the
humblest individual.

Neil was benefited in every way by the social uplift of a residence in
a gentleman's home, and the active, curious temperament of Angus
stimulated him. Angus was interested in every new thing, in every new
idea, in every new book. The world was so large, and so busy, and he
wanted to know all about its goings on. So when Neil's business was
over for the day, Angus was eagerly waiting to tell him of something
new or strange which he had just read, or heard tell of, and though
Neil did not realize the fact, he was actually receiving, in these
lively discussions with his friend, the very best training for his
future forensic and oratorical efforts.

Indeed he was greatly pleased with himself. He had not dreamed of
being the possessor of so much skill in managing an opposite opinion;
nor yet of the ready wit, which appeared to flow naturally with his
national dialect. But all this clever discussion and disputing was
excellent practice, and Neil knew well that his visit to Ballister had
been a change full of benefits to him.

One of the results of Neil's investigations was the discovery that Dr.
Magnus Trenabie had been presented to the church of Culraine by the
father of Angus, and that his salary had never been more than fifty
pounds a year, with the likelihood that it had often been much less.
Angus was angry and annoyed.

"I give my gamekeeper a larger salary," he said. "It is a shame!
The doctor's salary must be doubled at once. If there are any
technicalities about it, look to them as quickly as possible. Did my
father worship in that old church?"

"He did, and I have heard my father tell very frequently, how the old
man stood by the church when the great Free Kirk secession happened.
He says that at that burning time everyone left Dr. Trenabie's church
but Ballister and ten o' his tenants, and that the doctor took no
notice of their desertion, but just preached to your father and the
ten faithful. He was never heard to blame the lost flock, and he never
went into the wilderness after them. Your father would not hear of his
doing so.

"Magnus," he would say, "tak' time, and bide a wee. The puir wanderers
will get hungry and weary in their Free Kirk conventicles, and as the
night comes on, they'll come hame. Nae fear o' them!"

"Did they come home?"

"Every one of them but three stubborn old men. They died out of its
communion, and the old Master pitied them, and told their friends he
was feared that it would go a bit hard wi' them. He said, they had
leaped the fence, and he shook his head, and looked down and doubtful
anent the outcome, since naebody could tell what ill weeds were in a
strange pasture."

After this discovery Angus went to the old church, where his father
had worshiped, and there he saw Christine, and there he fell freshly
in love with her every Sabbath day. It did not appear likely that love
had much opportunity, in those few minutes in the kirk yard after the
service, when Neil and Angus waited for Margot and Christine, to
exchange the ordinary greetings and inquiries. James Ruleson, being
leading elder, always remained a few minutes after the congregation
had left, in order to count the collection and give it to the Domine,
and in those few minutes Love found his opportunity.

While Neil talked with his mother of their family affairs, Angus
talked with Christine. His eyes rained Love's influence, his voice was
like a caress, the touch of his hand seemed to Christine to draw her
in some invisible way closer to him. She never remembered the words he
said, she only knew their inarticulate meaning was love, always love.
When it was time for Ruleson to appear, Margot turned to Angus and
thanked him for some special gift or kindness that had come to the
cottage that week, and Angus always laughed, and pointing to Neil,
said:

"Neil is the culprit, Mrs. Ruleson. It is Neil's doing, I assure you."
And of course this statement might be, in several ways, the truth. At
any rate, the old proverb which advises us "never to look a gift horse
in the mouth," is a good one. For the motive of the gift is more than
the gift itself.

These gifts were all simple enough, but they were such as delighted
Margot's childlike heart--an armful of dahlias or carnations--a basket
of nectarines or apricots--two or three dozen fresh eggs--a pot of
butter--a pair of guinea fowls, then rare in poultry yards, or a brood
of young turkeys to feed and fatten for the New Year's festival. About
these fowls, Neil wrote her elaborate directions. And Margot was more
delighted with these simple gifts than many have been with a great
estate. And Christine knew, and Angus knew that she knew, and it was a
subtle tie between them, made of meeting glances and clasping hands.



CHAPTER IV

THE FISHERMAN'S FAIR

  The winds go up and down upon the sea,
    And some they lightly clasp, entreating kindly,
  And waft them to the port where they would be:
    And other ships they buffet long and blindly.
  The cloud comes down on the great sinking deep,
  And on the shore, the watchers stand and weep.


So the busy fishing season passed away, and was a very fortunate one,
until it was nearly over. Then there were several days of foggy,
dismal weather, and one night when the nets were down a sudden violent
storm drove from the north, and the boats, being at that time mostly
open boats, shipped water at every sea. The greatest hurry and
confusion followed, and they were finally compelled to cut the nets
adrift, glad indeed to lose all, if they could only make the first
shelter. And mothers and wives, standing helpless at the little
windows of their cottages, watched the storm, while the men they loved
were fighting the furious tempest in the black night.

"God help my men!" prayed Margot. She was weeping like a child, but
yet in her anguish full of faith in God's mercy, and looking
trustfully to Him to send her men home again. "I'll ne'er fret for
the nets," she said, "they'll hav' to go, nae doubt o' that. Let them
go! But oh, Feyther i' heaven, send hame my men folk!"

Ah! Women who spend such nights may well call caller herrin' "the
lives o' men"!

In the misty daylight, the men and the boats came into harbor, but the
nets in every boat--each net about eight hundred and fifty yards
long--were totally lost. However, the herring season was practically
over. Indeed, the men were at the point of exhaustion, for the total
take had been very large, and there is scarcely any human labor more
severe on the physical endurance, than the fishing for caller
herrin'.

It was just at this time that Neil Ruleson had to leave Culraine for
Aberdeen. He was to finish his course at the Maraschal College this
year, and never before had he gone there so well provided, and
never before had he felt so poor. For though he had received the
unlooked-for sum of two hundred pounds for his services, he felt
it to be unequal to his ambitious requirements, six weeks at
Ballister House having taught him to regard many little comforts as
absolute necessities.

"I am very nearly a lawyer now," he reflected, "a professional man,
and I must try and look like it, and live like it. The bare room and
unfashionable clothing of the past must be changed to more respectable
quarters, and more appropriate garments." Of course he knew that
Christine would not permit him to injure his future fine prospects,
but he had promised to repay the ninety pounds he had borrowed from
her out of his first earnings, and he felt that the money was now due,
and that he ought to pay it. But if he did so, he must simplify all
his plans, and he had taken so much pleasure and pains in arranging
the surroundings of his last session, that he was exceedingly loth to
surrender even the least important of them.

While he was packing his trunk, and deliberating on this subject, the
great storm came, and his father barely saved the boat and the lives
of the men in her. The nets were gone, and his mother asked him
plainly if he could not help his father to replace them.

"I will do so gladly, Mother," he answered, "when I have paid my
college fees, and the like, I will see what I can spare--there is
Christine's money!" he continued, in a troubled, thoughtful
manner--and Margot answered,

"Ay, to be sure. If Christine hadna loaned you her money, it would hae
been at her feyther's will and want, this moment, but if you are going
to keep your word, and pay Christine out o' your first earnings,
there's nae need to talk wi' you. Christine will help your feyther and
proud and glad to do the same."

"You see, Mother, it is nearly the end of things with me at Aberdeen,
and it would be hard if my future was scrimped at its beginning. That
is what Ballister thinks. 'Neil,' he said to me, 'you will have to
speak before the public--lawyers and people of full standing--and you
must have the dress that is proper and fitting.'"

"Weel, your feyther will hae to get new nets--if he is to mak' bread
for the lave o' us."

"The herring season is over now, and there is no immediate expense
regarding it."

"You are much mista'en, and ye ken it fine! The barrels in which the
fish are packed are to pay for, and the women who packed them are not
fully paid. The coopers who closed the barrels, and the Fishery
Office, hae yet to send in their bills."

"The Fishery Office! What have we to do with the Fishery Office? It is
a government affair."

"Mebbe sae. But the barrels canna be shipped until an officer frae the
Fishery Office puts the crown brand on every barrel. Do you think the
man does that for naething?"

"I never heard of such a thing."

"Weel, it has to be done, whether Neil Ruleson has heard o' the thing
or not."

"What for?"

"The crown isna branded on any barrel unless the fish in it are fine,
fresh, and unbroken. But as soon as the barrels get the crown, they
can be shipped to foreign ports, mostly to Stettin."

"Why Stettin?"

"I don't know. Ask your feyther. You are just making a put-aff wi'
your questions. Answer me the one question I asked yoursel'--What can
ye do to help your feyther? Answer me that."

"Father will not use nets until the next herring season--a whole year
away--in the winter, he always does line fishing. With your help,
Christine can weave new nets before they are needed."

"I see weel that you dinna intend to pay your debt to Christine, nor
yet to help your feyther."

"Father has not asked me for help. Everyone knows that father is well
fore-handed."

"O lad, the dear auld man barely saved the boat and the lives she
carried! He has been roughly handled by winds and waves, and may hae
to keep his bed awhile, and your brither Eneas is that hurt and
bruised, he will ne'er go fishing again, while your brither Norman has
a broken arm, an' a wife that has gane into hystericals about the lost
nets. You'd think it was her man she was screaming for. And Fae and
Tamsen waited too lang, and went o'er the boat wi' their nets, an'
there's ithers that hae broken limbs, or joints out o' place, or
trouble o' some sort."

"I'm very sorry, Mother. If I could do any good to the general ill, I
would do it, but if I ruined all my future life I do not see that I
could help anyone. I must be just, before I am generous."

"To be sure. I hope you'll try to be just, for I am vera certain
you'll ne'er be generous; and if you are just, you'll pay your sister
back her ninety pounds."

"I will have a conversation with Christine, at once. Where is she?"

"The Domine sent for her early, she has been helping him wi' the hurt
folk, all day long. What hae you been doing?"

"I went down to the pier, to look after the boat. I knew father would
be anxious about it. Then I had to go into the town. I was expecting
an important letter, and the doctor was needing some medicines, and I
brought them home with me. In one way, or another, the miserable day
has gone. I hope Father is not much hurt."

"It's hard to hurt your feyther. His head keeps steady, and a steady
head keeps the body as it should be--but he's strained, and kind o'
shocked. The Domine gied him a powder, and he's sleeping like a baby.
He'll be a' right in a day or twa."

"I would like to sit by him tonight, and do all I can, Mother."

"You may well do that, Neil; but first go and bring your sister hame.
I wouldn't wonder if you might find her in Fae's cottage. His puir,
silly wife let the baby fa', when she heard that her man and his boat
was lost; and I heard tell Christine had ta'en the bairn in charge. It
would be just like her. Weel, it's growing to candle lighting, and
I'll put a crusie fu' o' oil in feyther's room, and that will light
you through the night."

Neil found his sister sitting with Judith Macpherson and her grandson,
Cluny. Cluny was not seriously hurt, but no man comes out of a
life-and-death fight with the sea, and feels physically the better for
it. Such tragic encounters do finally lift the soul into the region of
Fearlessness, or into the still higher condition of Trustfulness, but
such an education--like that of Godliness--requires line upon line,
precept upon precept.

James Ruleson had been perfectly calm, even when for a few minutes it
seemed as if men, as well as nets, must go to death and destruction;
but James had been meeting the God "whose path is on the Great
Waters," for more than forty years, and had seen there, not only His
wonders, but His mercies, and he had learned to say with David,
"Though He slay me, yet will I put my trust in Him."

Judith Macpherson was of a different spirit. She was a passionate
old woman, and the sea had taken her husband and five sons, and her
only daughter. Accordingly she hated the sea. That some day it would
be "no more" was her triumphant consolation. She delighted in
preaching to it this sentence of annihilation. If Judith was seen
standing on the cliffs, with her arms uplifted, and her white head
thrown backward, the village knew she was reminding its proud waves of
their doom of utter destruction. The passionate flaming language
of her denunciations will not bear transcribing, but the oldest
sailors said it was "awesome and no' to be listened to, or spoken
o'." That afternoon she had been seen on the sands, in one of her
frenzies of hatred, and when Neil entered her cottage, she was still
rocking herself to and fro, and muttering threats and curses.

She had attended skillfully and tenderly to Cluny's bruises and
nervous excitement, but he was frightened and depressed by her mood,
and he begged Christine to stay wi' him an hour or twa. And Christine
had been willing. Judith was always kind to her, and the handsome lad
with his boyish adoration was at least a settled feature of her life.
This night she let him tell her all his plans for their happy future,
and did not feel any pressure of duty to deny his hopes. He had just
come out of the very jaws of Death. What could she do, but let him
dream his dream and have his say?

However, in all troubles, either personal or public, it is a great
thing to be still, and to whisper to the soul--"This, too, will pass!"
It is behind us today, tomorrow it will be still farther away. In a
week we shall not talk of it, in a month it will have passed from
Life, and belong only to Memory. There is scarcely any sorrow that may
not be greatly helped and soothed by this reflection. For God does not
willingly afflict the children of men, and it is He Himself, that has
appointed Time to be the consoler of Sorrow.

By the end of October, the village was in its normal mood and
condition. All the expenses of the fishing season had been paid, and
the profits satisfactorily ascertained and divided. Great quantities
of cord had been procured, and the women and the older men were busily
making nets for the next season, while the younger men were ready for
the winter's line-fishing. There was an air of content and even of
happiness over the small community. It was realized that, in spite of
the storm, the season had been good, and the Domine had reminded them
on the last Sabbath, that they had not yet rendered thanks to God, nor
even visibly told each other how good God had been to them.

For it was the custom of Culraine to keep a day of thanks and
rejoicing when the herring had been secured, and to send word to all
the near-by fishers to come and rejoice with them. They began now to
prepare for this festival, and in this preparation were greatly
assisted by gifts from Ballister House. Neil had gone back to the
Maraschal, but Angus was still at Ballister. He had been royally
generous to the village in its distress, had supplied the Domine with
necessary drugs and materials, and had seen to it that the injured had
those little luxuries of food which tempt the convalescent. He was
still more eager to help the fishers in their thanksgiving, Margot
Ruleson being the authorized distributor of all his gifts, as she was
also the director of all concerning the affair.

This _foy_, or fair, was to be kept on the thirty-first of October,
embracing particularly the Hallowe'en night so dear to the peasantry
of Scotland. The Domine had selected this date, possibly because he
wished to prevent its usual superstitious observance. But though some
old men and women doubtless lighted their Hallowe'en fires, and baked
their Hallowe'en cake, with the usual magical ceremonies, the large
majority were far too busy preparing for an actual and present
pleasure, to trouble themselves about prophesying spells and charms.

The day was opened by a short address to the people assembled in the
old kirk. About thirty minutes covered the simple ceremony. First the
Domine stood up, and the people stood up with him, and all together
they recited aloud the jubilant thirty-fourth psalm. Then the Domine
said,

"Sit down, friends, and take heed to what I say. I have no sermon for
you today. I have no sins to charge you with, and to beg you to
forsake. I have just one message. It is three words long. 'God is
Love!' Whatever you hear, whatever you do, no matter what happens to
you, remember that God is Love! You are heritage-born to the sea, but
the way of the Lord is through the Great Waters. God must see you in
your struggles, and God must love the patient, brave, sailormen.
Christ showed you special favors. He might have chosen carpenters, but
he chose fishermen. And for seeing God's wonders on the deep sea, you
may be the sons and heirs of the prophet Jonas. Also,

  "The church is like unto a ship:
  The Scriptures are the enclosing net
  And men the fishers are!

Well, then, as often as you come unto a sermon, consider how God by
his preachers trawleth for your souls. Friends, in all times of your
joy and your sorrow, you have the key to God's council chamber, and to
God's mercy chamber. It is just 'Our Father,' and the few blessed
words that follow it. There is little need for long talk. This is the
day you have set for thanksgiving. Rejoice therein! God is as well
pleased with your happiness, as he was and is with your good, brave
work. The hard winter days wear on. Make this day a memory to brighten
them. Amen."

There was a considerable number of visitors from fishing villages as
far south as Largo, going from house to house, talking over old
seasons with old comrades, and there were the sound of violins
everywhere, and the laughter of children, in their Sunday clothes,
playing in the streets. Even sorrowful Faith Balcarry was in a new
dress, and was at least helping others to be happy. Indeed, it was
Faith who suddenly burst into the Hall when the decorations were
nearly finished, and cried, "Surely you'll show the flags o' the lads'
boaties! They'll feel hurt if you slight their bits o' canvas! It is
most like slighting themsel's." She had her arms full of these bits of
canvas, and the men decorating the Fishers' Hall seized them
triumphantly, and told Faith they were just what they wanted; and so
made Faith for once in her sad life a person helpful and of
importance. Then in twenty minutes the red and blue and white ensigns
were beautifully disposed among the green of larch and laurel, and the
glory of marigolds and St. Michael's daisies, and of holly oaks of
every brilliant color.

When the sun was setting Angus looked in. Everyone but Christine and
Faith had finished his work and gone away. Faith was brushing up the
scattered leaves from the floor, Christine was standing on the top
step of the ladder, setting her father's flag in a halo of marigolds.
He watched her without speaking until she turned, then the swift glory
of her smile, and the joy of her surprise was a revelation. He had not
dreamed before that she was so beautiful. He said he was hungry, and
he hoped Christine would not send him all the way to Ballister for
something to eat. Then what could Christine do but ask him to dinner?
And she had already asked Faith. So he walked between Christine and
Faith up to Ruleson's cottage. And the walk through the village was so
exhilarating, he must have forgotten he was hungry, even if he was
really so. There was music everywhere, there were groups of beautiful
women, already dressed in their gayest gowns and finest ornaments,
there were equal groups of handsome young fishermen, in their finest
tweed suits, with flowing neckties of every resplendent color--there
was such a sense of pleasure and content in the air, that everyone
felt as if he were breathing happiness.

And Margot's welcome was in itself a tonic, if anybody had needed one.
Her table was already set, she was "only waiting for folks to find out
they wanted their dinner--the dinner itsel' was waitin' and nane the
better o' it."

Ruleson came in as she was speaking, and he welcomed the Master of
Ballister with true Scotch hospitality. They fell into an easy
conversation on politics, and Margot told Christine and Faith to mak'
themsel's fit for company, and to be quick anent the business, or she
wadna keep three folk waiting on a couple o' lasses.

In half an hour both girls came down, dressed in white. Christine had
loaned Faith a white frock, and a string of blue beads, and a broad
blue sash. She had arranged her hair prettily, and made the girl feel
that her appearance was of consequence. And light came into Faith's
eyes, and color to her cheeks, and for once she was happy, whether she
knew it or not.

Christine had intended to wear a new pink silk frock, with all its
pretty accessories, but a beautiful natural politeness forbade it.
Faith was so abnormally sensitive, she knew she would spoil the girl's
evening if she outdressed her. So she also put on a white muslin gown,
made in the modest fashion of the early Victorian era. Some lace and
white satin ribbons softened it, and she had in her ears her long gold
rings, and round her throat her gold beads, and amidst her beautiful
hair large amber combs, that looked as if they had imprisoned the
sunshine.

Margot was a good cook, and the dinner was an excellent one,
prolonged--as Margot thought--beyond all reasonable length, by a
discussion, between Ruleson and Angus, of the conservative policy.
Ruleson smoked his pipe after dinner, and kept up the threep, and the
girls put out of sight the used china, and the meat and pastries left,
and Margot put on her usual Sabbath attire--a light-gray silk dress, a
large white collar, and a borderless cap of lace over her dark hair.
The indispensable bit of color was, in her case, supplied by a vivid
scarlet shawl of Chinese crêpe, one of those heavily embroidered
shawls of dazzling color, which seem in these latter days to have
disappeared.

It was getting near to seven o'clock, when they entered the hall and
found it already full and happy. They had not thought it necessary to
wait in whispering silence, until the music came and opened the
entertainment. They possessed among themselves many good story
tellers, and they were heartily laughing in chorus at some comic
incident which a fisherman was relating, when the Ruleson party
arrived.

Then there was one long, loud, unanimous cry for Christine Ruleson,
for Christine was preëminent as a vive-voce story teller, a rare art
even among the nations of Europe. She nodded and smiled, and without
any affectation of reluctance, but with a sweet readiness to give
pleasure, went at once to the platform, and as easily, and as
naturally as if she were telling it at her home fireside, she raised
her hand for attention, and said:

       *       *       *       *       *

"_The Wreck of the Grosvenor_

"The _Grosvenor_, an East Indiaman, homeward bound, went to pieces on
the coast of Caffraria. There were a hundred and thirty-five souls on
board, and they resolved to cross the trackless desert to the Dutch
settlements at the Cape of Good Hope. A solitary child was among the
passengers, a boy of seven years old, who had no relation on board,
and when he saw the party beginning to move away, he cried after some
member of it, who had been kind to him. The child's cry went to every
heart. They accepted him as a sacred charge.

"By turns they carried him through the deep sand and the long grass.
They pushed him across broad rivers on a little raft. They shared with
him such fish as they found to eat. Beset by lions, by savages, by
hunger and death in ghastly forms, they never--O Father in heaven! Thy
name be blessed for it! they never forgot the child. The captain and
his faithful coxswain sat down together to die, the rest go on for
their lives--but they take the child with them. The carpenter, his
chief friend, dies from eating, in his hunger, poisonous berries; the
steward assumed the sacred guardianship of the boy. He carried him in
his arms, when he himself was weak and suffering. He fed him, when he
was griped with hunger. He laid his little white face against his
sun-burned breast. He soothed him in all his suffering.

"Then there came a time when both were ill, and they begged their
wretched companions--now very few in number--to wait for them one day.
They waited two days. On the morning of the third day, they moved
softly about preparing to resume their journey. The child was sleeping
by the fire, and they would not wake him until the last moment. The
moment comes, the fire is dying--the child is dead!

"His faithful friend staggers on for a few days, then lies down in the
desert and dies. What shall be said to these two men, who through all
extremities loved and guarded this Little Child?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Christine had noticed the Domine rise, and she pointedly addressed
this question to him, and he understood her wish, and lifting up his
hands and his voice, he cried out triumphantly:

"They shall be raised up with the words--'Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto the least of these, ye have done it unto Me!' These good men," he
continued, "were men of the sea, Mariners of England,

  "That guard our native seas,
  Whose flag has braved a thousand years,
  The battle and the breeze!"

The Domine might have continued, but there was a sudden thrill of
enchanting violins, the door was flung open, and the magical notes of
a foursome reel filled the room, and set the feet of all tapping the
floor, and made all faces radiant with anticipation. The good man then
realized that it was not his hour, and he sat down, and watched the
proceedings for a few minutes. Then he saw James Ruleson take his
wife's hand, and watched their first steps in the joyous reel, and he
was satisfied. If the dancing was under Ruleson's control, he knew all
would be done decently and in order, and he went away so quietly that
his absence was not noticed for some time.

Now, if the dancing that followed was like some of our dancing of
today, I should pass it with slight notice, or it might be, with
earnest disapproval, but it was not. It was real dancing. It was not
waltzing, nor tangoing, and it was as far as possible from the
undressed posturing called classical dancing. Everyone was modestly
clothed, and had his shoes and stockings on. And naturally, and as a
matter of course, they obeyed the principle of real dancing, which is
articulation; that is, the foot strikes the ground with every accented
note of the music. This is how Goldsmith in "The Vicar of Wakefield"
shows us Olivia dancing--"her foot being as pat to the music, as its
echo."

All good dancing is beautiful, and it never requires immodesty, is
indeed spoiled by any movement in this direction. However, as my
fisher company danced modestly and gracefully, rendering naturally the
artistic demands of the music, there is no necessity to pursue the
subject. As the night wore on, the dancing became more enthusiastic,
and graceful gestures were flung in, and little inspiring cries flung
out, and often when the fiddles stopped, the happy feet went on for
several bars without the aid of music.

Thus alternately telling stories, singing, and dancing, they passed
the happy hours, mingling something of heart, and brain, and body, in
all they did; and the midnight found them unwearied and good-tempered.
Angus had behaved beautifully. Having made himself "Hail! Well met!"
with the company, he forgot for the time that he was Master of
Ballister, and entered into the happy spirit of the occasion with all
the natural gayety of youth.

As he had dined with Faith Balcarry, he danced with her several times;
and no one could tell the pride and pleasure in the girl's heart. Then
Christine introduced to her a young fisherman from Largo town, and he
liked Faith's slender form, and childlike face, and fell truly in love
with the lonely girl, and after this night no one ever heard Faith
complain that she had no one to love, and that no one loved her. This
incident alone made Christine very happy, for her heart said to her
that it was well worth while.

Cluny was the only dissatisfied person present, but then nothing would
have satisfied Cluny but Christine's undivided attention. She told him
he was "unreasonable and selfish," and he went home with his
grandmother, in a pet, and did not return.

"He's weel enough awa'," said Christine to Faith. "If he couldna leave
his bad temper at hame, he hadna ony right to bring it here."

Of course it was not possible for Christine to avoid all dancing with
Angus, but he was reasonable and obedient, and danced cheerfully with
all the partners she selected, and in return she promised to walk home
in his company. He told her it was "a miraculous favor," and indeed he
thought so. For never had she looked so bewilderingly lovely. Her
beauty appeared to fill the room, and the calm, confident authority
with which she ordered and decided events, touched him with admiring
astonishment. What she would become, when _he_ gave her the
opportunity, he could not imagine.

At nine o'clock there was a sideboard supper from a long table at one
side of the hall, loaded with cold meats, pastry, and cake. Every
young man took what his partner desired, and carried it to her. Then
when the women were served, the men helped themselves, and stood
eating and talking with the merry, chattering groups for a pleasant
half-hour, which gave to the last dances and songs even more than
their early enthusiasm. Angus waited on Christine and Faith, and
Faith's admirer had quite a flush of vanity, in supposing himself to
have cut the Master of Ballister out. He flattered himself thus, and
Faith let him think so, and Christine shook her head, and called him
"plucky and gay," epithets young men never object to, especially if
they know they are neither the one nor the other.

At twelve o'clock Ruleson spoke to the musicians, and the violins
dropped from the merry reel of "Clydeside Lasses" into the haunting
melody of "Caller Herrin'," and old and young stood up to sing it.
Margot started the "cry" in her clear, clarion-like voice; but young
and old joined in the imperishable song, in which the "cry" is
vocalized:

[Illustration: Music and Lyrics:

Who'll buy cal-ler her-rin'? They're twa a pen-ny twa a pen-ny, Who'll
buy cal-ler her-rin'? They're new come fra Loch fine. Come friends
sup-port the fish-er's trade. Wha still in yer'll earns his bread. While
'round our coast aft tem-pest tost. He drags for cal-ler her-rin'.
They're bon-nie fish, and dain-ty fa-ring. Buy my cal-ler her-rin'.
They're new come frae Loch-flae. Who'll buy my cal-ler her-rin'. There's
nought wi' them will stand com-par-ing. E'en they hae like dia-monds.
Their sides like sil-ver shine. Cal-ler her-rin', Cal-ler her-rin']

At one o'clock the Fishers' Hall was dark and still, and the echo of a
tender little laugh or song from some couple, who had taken the
longest way round for the nearest way home, was all that remained of
the mirth and melody of the evening. Angus and Christine sauntered
slowly through the village. The young man was then passionately
importunate in the protestations of his love. He wooed Christine with
all the honeyed words that men have used to the Beloved Woman, since
the creation. And Christine listened and was happy.

At length, however, he was obliged to tell her news he had delayed as
long as it was possible.

"Christine," he said. "Dear Christine, I am going with my Uncle
Ballister to the United States. We intend to see both the northern and
southern states, and in California shall doubtless find the ways and
means to cross over to China and Japan, and at Hongkong get passage
for India, and then----"

"And then whar next?"

"Through Europe to England. I dare say the journey will take us a
whole year."

"Mair likely twa or even three years. Whatna for are you going?"

"Because my uncle is going, and he is set on having me with him."

"I wouldn't wonder. Maybe he is going just for your sake. Weel I hope
you'll hae a brawly fine time, and come hame the better for it."

"I cannot tell how I am to do without seeing you, for a whole year."

"Folk get used to doing without, vera easy, if the want isn't siller.
Love isna a necessity."

"O, but it is! Dear Christine, it is the great necessity."

"Weel, I'm not believing it."

Then they were at the foot of the hill on which Ruleson's house stood,
and Christine said, "Your carriage is waiting for you, Angus, and you
be to bid me good night, here. I would rather rin up the hill by
mysel', and nae doubt the puir horses are weary standin' sae lang. Sae
good night, and good-by, laddie!"

"I shall not leave you, Christine, until I have seen you safely
home."

"I am at hame here. This is Ruleson's hill, and feyther and mither are
waiting up for me."

A few imperative words from Angus put a stop to the dispute, and he
climbed the hill with her. He went as slowly as possible, and told her
at every step how beautiful she was, and how entirely he loved her.
But Christine was not responsive, and in spite of his eloquent
tenderness, they felt the chill of their first disagreement. When they
came in sight of the house, they saw that it was dimly lit, and
Christine stood still, and once more bade him good-by.

Angus clasped both her hands in his. "My love! My love!" he said. "If
I spoke cross, forgive me."

"I hae naething to forgive. I owe you for mair pleasure and happiness,
than I can ever return."

"Give me one kiss of love and forgiveness, Christine. Then I will know
you love Angus"--and he tried gently to draw her closer to him. "Just
one kiss, darling."

"Na! Na," she answered. "That canna be. I'm a fisher-lass, and we hae
a law we dinna break--we keep our lips virgin pure, for the lad we
mean to marry."

"You are very hard and cruel. You send me away almost broken-hearted.
May I write to you?"

"If you'll tell me about a' the wonderfuls you see, I'll be gey glad
to hear from you."

"Then farewell, my love! Do not forget me!"

"It's not likely I'll forget you," and her voice trembled, as she
whispered "Farewell!" and gave him her hand. He stooped, and kissed
it. Then he turned away.

She watched him till in the dim distance she saw him raise his hat and
then disappear. Still she stood, until the roll of the carriage wheels
gradually became inaudible. Then she knew that she was weeping, and
she wiped her eyes, and turned them upon the light in the cottage
burning for her. And she thought tenderly of her lover, and whispered
to her heart--"If he had only come back! I might hae given him a kiss.
Puir laddie! Puir, dear laddie! His uncle has heard tell o' the
fisher-lassie, and he's ta'en him awa' from Christine--but he's his
ain master--sae it's his ain fault! Christine is o'er gude for anyone
who can be wiled awa' by man, or woman, or pleasure, or gold. I'll be
first, or I'll be naething at a'!"

She found her father alone, and wide awake. "Where is Mither?" she
asked.

"I got her to go to bed. She was weary and full o' pain. Keep a close
watch on your mither, Christine. The trouble in her heart grows warse,
I fear. Wha was wi' you in your hame-comin'?"

"Angus Ballister."

"Weel, then?"

"It is the last time he will be wi' me."

"Is that sae? It is just as weel."

"He is awa' wi' his Uncle Ballister, for a year or mair."

"Is he thinking you'll wait, while he looks o'er the women-folk in the
rest o' the warld?"

"It seems sae."

"You liked him weel enough?"

"Whiles--weel enough for a lover on trial. But what would a lass do
wi' a husband wha could leave her for a year on his ain partic'lar
pleasure."

"I kent you wad act wiselike, when the time came to act. There's nae
men sae true as fishermen. They hae ane dear woman to love, and she's
the only woman in the warld for them. Now Cluny----"

"We willna speak o' Cluny, Feyther. Both you and Mither, specially
Mither, are far out o' your usual health. What for did God gie you a
daughter, if it wasna to be a comfort and help to you, when you
needed it? I'm no carin' to marry any man."

"Please God, you arena fretting anent Angus?"

"What for would I fret? He was a grand lover while he lasted. But when
a man is feared to honor his love with his name, a lass has a right to
despise him."

"Just sae! But you mustna fret yoursel' sick after him."

"Me! Not likely!"

"He was bonnie enou', and he had siller--plenty o' siller!"

"I'm no' thinkin' o' the siller, Feyther! Na, na, siller isn't in the
matter, but--

  "When your lover rins over the sea,
    He may never come back again;
  But this, or that, will na matter to me,
    For my heart! My heart is my ain!"

"Then a's weel, lassie. I'll just creep into Neil's bed, for I dinna
want to wake your mither for either this, or that, or ony ither thing.
Good night, dearie! You're a brave lassie! God bless you!"



CHAPTER V

CHRISTINE AND ANGUS

  They did not separate, as if nothing had happened.
  A sorrow we have looked in the face, can harm us no more.


Perhaps Christine was not so brave as her father thought, but she had
considered the likelihood of such a situation, and had decided that
there was no dealing with it, except in a spirit of practical life.
She knew, also, that in the long run sentiment would have to give way
to common sense, and the more intimate she became with the character
of Angus Ballister, the more certain she felt that his love for her
would have to measure itself against the pride and will of his uncle,
and the tyranny of social estimates and customs.

She was therefore not astonished that Angus had left both himself and
her untrammeled by promises. He was a young man who never went to meet
finalities, especially if there was anything unpleasant or serious in
them; and marriage was a finality full of serious consequences, even
if all its circumstances were socially proper. And what would Society
say, if Angus Ballister made a fisher-girl his wife!

"I wasna wise to hae this, or that, to do wi' the lad," she
whispered, and then after a few moments' reflection, she added, "nor
was I altogether selfish i' the matter. Neil relied on me making a
friend o' him, and Mither told me she knew my guid sense wad keep the
lad in his proper place. Weel, I hae done what was expected o' me, and
what's the end o' the matter, Christine? Ye hae a sair heart, lass,
an' if ye arena in love wi' a lad that can ne'er mak' you his wife, ye
are precariously near to it." Then she was silent, while lacing her
shoes, but when this duty was well finished, she continued, "The lad
has gien me many happy hours, and Christine will never be the one to
say, or even think, wrang o' him; we were baith in the fault--if it be
a fault--as equally in the fault, as the fiddle and the fiddlestick
are in the music. Weel, then what's to do? Duty stands high above
pleasure, an' I must gie my heart to duty, an' my hands to duty, even
if I tread pleasure underfoot in the highway in the doin' o' it."

As she made these resolutions, some strong instinctive feeling induced
her to dress herself in clean clothing from head to feet, and then add
bright touches of color, and the glint of golden ornaments to her
attire. "I hae taken a new mistress this morning," she said, as she
clasped her gold beads around her white throat--"and I'll show folk
that I'm not fretting mysel' anent the auld one." And in some
unreasoning, occult way, this fresh, bright clothing strengthened
her.

Indeed, Margot was a little astonished when she saw her daughter. Her
husband had told her in a few words just how matters now lay between
Ballister and Christine, and she was fully prepared with sympathy and
counsels for the distracted, or angry, girl she expected to meet. So
Christine's beaming face, cheerful voice, and exceptional dress
astonished her. "Lassie!" she exclaimed. "Whatna for hae you dressed
yoursel' sae early in the day?"

"I thought o' going into the toun, Mither. I require some worsted for
my knitting. I'm clean out o' all sizes."

"I was wanting you to go to the manse this morning. I am feared for
the pain in my breast, dearie, and the powders the Domine gies me for
it are gane. I dinna like to be without them."

"I'll go for them, Mither, this morning, as soon as I think the Domine
is out o' his study."

"Then I'll be contented. How are you feeling yoursel', Christine?"

"Fine, Mither!"

"'Twas a grand ploy last night. That lad, Angus Ballister, danced with
a' and sundry, and sang, and ate wi' the best, and the worst o' us. I
was hearing he was going awa' for a year or mair."

"Ay, to foreign parts. Rich young men think they arena educated unless
they get a touch o' France or Italy, and even America isna out o'
their way. You wad think a Scotch university wad be the complement o'
a Scotch gentleman!"

"Did he bid you good-by? Or is he coming here today?"

"He isna likely to ever come here again."

"What for no? He's been fain and glad to come up here. What's changed
him?"

"He isna changed. He has to go wi' his uncle."

"What did he say about marrying you? He ought to hae asked your
feyther for ye?"

"For me?"

"Ay, for you."

"Don't say such words, Mither. There was no talk of marriage between
us. What would Angus do with a girl like me for a wife?"

"You are gude enou' for any man."

"We are friends. We arena lovers. The lad has been friendly with the
hale village. You mustna think wrang o' him."

"I do think vera wrang o' him. He is just one kind o' a scoundrel."

"You hurt me, Mither. Angus is my friend. I'll think nae wrang o' him.
If he was wrang, I was wrang, and you should hae told me I was
wrang."

"I was feared o' hurting Neil's chances wi' him."

"Sae we baith had a second motive."

"Ay, few folk are moved by a single one."

"Angus came, and he went, he liked me, and I liked him, but neither o'
us will fret o'er the parting. It had to be, or it wouldn't hae been.
Them above order such things. They sort affairs better than we
could."

"I don't understand what you're up to, but I think you are acting vera
unwomanly."

"Na, na, Mither! I'll not play 'maiden all forlorn' for anyone. If
Angus can live without me, there isna a woman i' the world that can
live without Angus as weel as Christine Ruleson can. Tuts! I hae you,
Mither, and my dear feyther, and my six big brothers, and surely their
love is enough for any soul through this life; forbye, there is the
love beyond all, and higher than all, and truer than all--the love of
the Father and the Son."

"I see ye hae made up your mind to stand by Ballister. Vera weel! Do
sae! As long as he keeps himsel' in foreign pairts, he'll ne'er fret
me; but if he comes hame, he'll hae to keep a few hundred miles atween
us."

"Nonsense! We'll a' be glad to see him hame."

"Your way be it. Get your eating done wi', and then awa' to the manse,
and get me thae powders. I'm restless and feared if I have none i' the
house."

"I'll be awa' in ten minutes now. Ye ken the Domine doesna care for
seeing folk till after ten o'clock. He says he hes ither company i'
the first hours o' daybreak."

"Like enou', but he'll be fain to hear about the doings last night,
and he'll be pleased concerning Faith getting a sweetheart. I doubt if
she deserves the same."

"Mither! Dinna say that. The puir lassie!"

"Puir lassie indeed! Her feyther left her forty pounds a year, till
she married, and then the principal to do as she willed wi'. I dinna
approve o' women fretting and fearing anent naething."

"But if they hae the fret and fear, what are they to do wi' it,
Mither?"

"Fight it. Fighting is better than fearing. Weel, tak' care o'
yoursel' and mind every word that you say."

"I'm going by the cliffs on the sea road."

"That will keep you langer."

"Ay, but I'll no require to mind my words. I'll meet naebody on that
road to talk wi'."

"I would not say that much."

A suspicion at once had entered Margot's heart. "I wonder," she mused,
as she watched Christine out of sight--"I wonder if she is trysted wi'
Angus Ballister on the cliff road. Na, na, she would hae told me,
whether or no, she would hae told me."

The solitude of the sea, and of the lonely road, was good for
Christine. She was not weeping, but she had a bitter aching sense of
something lost. She thought of her love lying dead outside her heart's
shut door, and she could not help pitying both love and herself. "He
was like sunshine on my life," she sighed. "It is dark night now. All
is over. Good-by forever, Angus! Oh, Love, Love!" she cried aloud to
the sea. "Oh, you dear old troubler o' the warld! I shall never feel
young again. Weel, weel, Christine, I'll not hae ye going to meet
trouble, it isna worth the compliment. Angus may forget me, and find
some ither lass to love--weel, then, if it be so, let it be so. I'll
find the right kind o' strength for every hour o' need, and the
outcome is sure to be right. God is love. Surely that is a' I need.
I'll just leave my heartache here, the sea can carry it awa', and the
winds blow it far off"--and she began forthwith a tender little song,
that died down every few bars, but was always lifted again, until it
swelled out clear and strong, as she came in sight of the small, white
manse, standing bravely near the edge of a cliff rising sheerly seven
hundred feet above the ocean. The little old, old kirk, with its
lonely acres full of sailors' graves, was close to it, and Christine
saw that the door stood wide open, though it was yet early morning.

"It'll be a wedding, a stranger wedding," she thought. "Hame folk
wouldna be sae thoughtless, as to get wed in the morning--na, na, it
will be some stranger."

These speculations were interrupted by the Domine's calling her, and
as soon as she heard his voice, she saw him standing at the open door.
"Christine!" he cried. "Come in! Come in! I want you, lassie, very
much. I was just wishing for you."

"I am glad that I answered your wish, Sir. I would aye like to do
that, if it be His will."

"Come straight to my study, dear. You are a very godsend this
morning."

He went hurriedly into the house, and turned towards his study, and
Christine followed him. And before she crossed the threshold of the
room, she saw Angus and his Uncle Ballister, sitting at a table on
which there were books and papers.

Angus rose to meet her at once. He did it as an involuntary act. He
did not take a moment's counsel or consideration, but sprang to his
feet with the joyful cry of a delighted boy. And Christine's face
reflected the cry in a wonderful, wonderful smile. Then Angus was at
her side, he clasped her hands, he called her by her name in a tone of
love and music, he drew her closer to his side. And the elder man
smiled and looked at the Domine, who remembered then the little
ceremony he had forgotten.

So he took Christine by the hand, and led her to the stranger, and
in that moment a great change came into the countenance and manner
of the girl, while a peculiar light of satisfaction--almost of
amusement--gleamed in her splendid eyes.

"Colonel Ballister," said the Domine, "I present to you Miss Christine
Ruleson, the friend of your nephew, the beloved of the whole village
of Culraine."

"I am happy to make Miss Ruleson's acquaintance," he replied and
Christine said,

"It is a great pleasure to meet you, Sir. When you know Angus, you
wish to know the man who made Angus well worth the love he wins."

The Domine and Angus looked at the beautiful girl in utter amazement.
She spoke perfect English, in the neat, precise, pleasant manner and
intonation of the Aberdeen educated class. But something in
Christine's manner compelled their silence. She willed it, and they
obeyed her will.

"Sit down at the table with us, Christine," said the Domine. "We want
your advice;" and she had the good manners to sit down, without
affectations or apologies.

"Colonel, will you tell your own tale? There's none can do it like
you."

"It is thus, and so, Miss Ruleson. Two nights ago as I sat thinking of
Angus in Culraine, I remembered my own boyhood days in the village. I
thought of the boats, and the sailors, and the happy hours out at sea
with the nets, or the lines. I remembered how the sailors' wives
petted me, and as I grew older teased me, and sang to me. And I said
to my soul, 'We have been ungratefully neglectful, Soul, and we will
go at once, and see if any of the old playfellows are still alive.' So
here I am, and though I find by the Domine's kirk list that only three
of my day are now in Culraine, I want to do some good thing for the
place. The question is, what. Angus thinks, as my memories are all of
playtime, I might buy land for a football field, or links for a golf
club. What do you say to this idea, Miss Ruleson?"

"I can say naething in its favor, Sir. Fishers are hard-worked men;
they do not require to play hard, and call it amusement. I have heard
my father say that ball games quickly turn to gambling games. A game
of any sort would leave all the women out. Their men are little at
home, and it would be a heartache to them, if they took to spending
that little in a ball field, or on the golf links."

"Their wives might go with them, Christine," said Angus.

"They would require to leave many home duties, if they did so. It
would not be right--our women would not do it. Once I was at St.
Andrews, and I wanted to go to the golf links with my father, but the
good woman with whom we were visiting said: 'James Ruleson, go to the
links if so be you want to go, but you'll no daur to tak' this young
lassie there. The language on the links is just awfu'. It isna fit for
a decent lass to hear. No, Sir, golf links would be of no use to the
women, and their value is very uncertain to men.'"

"Women's presence would doubtless make men more careful in their
language," said Angus.

"Weel, Angus, it would be doing what my Mither ca's 'letting the price
o'er-gang the profit.'"

"Miss Ruleson's objections are good and valid, and we admit them,"
said the Colonel; "perhaps she will now give us some idea we can
work out"--and when he looked at her for response, he caught his
breath at the beauty and sweetness of the face before him. "What are
you thinking of?" he asked, almost with an air of humility, for the
visible presence of goodness and beauty could hardly have affected
him more. And Christine answered softly: "I was thinking of the
little children." And the three men felt ashamed, and were silent.
"I was thinking of the little children," she continued, "how they
have neither schoolhouse, nor playhouse. They must go to the town,
if they go to school; and there is the bad weather, and sickness,
and busy mothers, and want of clothing and books, and shoes, and
slates, and the like. Our boys and girls get at the Sunday School
all the learning they have. The poor children. They have hard times
in a fishing-village."

"You have given us the best of advice, Miss Ruleson, and we will
gladly follow it," said the Colonel. "I am sure you are right. I will
build a good schoolhouse in Culraine. I will begin it at once. It
shall be well supplied with books and maps, and I will pay a good
teacher."

"Not a man teacher, Sir. They have small patience with little
children. They will use the taws on baby hands, that cannot make a 'k'
or a 'z' at first sight. Give them a woman teacher, who will not be
afraid of the bairnies snuggling into her arms, and telling her all
their little troubles."

"Domine," said the Colonel, "we have received our orders. What say
you?"

"I say a school, by all means, Sir. To the children of Culraine it
will be a dispensation."

"First, we must have land for it."

"I was thinking, as you spoke, of James Ruleson's land. It lies at
the foot of his hill, and would be the very best location for a
schoolhouse."

"Then we will see James Ruleson."

"Father is line-fishing now. He will not be home until five o'clock,"
said Christine.

"If possible, we will see him after five. Come, Domine, let us have a
look through the old kirk."

"I saw it standing open," said Christine, "and I was thinking there
might be a strange wedding there today."

"No, no, Christine. It was opened for the Colonel, though there are no
Ballister effigies in it. If it was an old English kirk, there would
be knights and crusaders, and soldiers lying there, in stone state. We
do not like images in our kirks. The second command stands clean
against it. Come with us, Christine, and when we return I will give
you the medicine your mother requires."

So the Domine and the Colonel led the way, and Angus and Christine
followed. And when they reached the kirkyard, Angus said, "Stand here
a moment, you dear, dear girl, and tell me how you could talk to my
uncle in the high English of Aberdeen. It was beautiful! How did you
acquire it?"

"Through long years of practice, Angus. I heard all Neil's lessons,
and I always spoke the English, when I was with Neil. He didna like me
to speak Scotch, because he was feared of spoiling his English. It was
our home secret, for it would have been a great offense, if I had
used English in the village. You can see that."

"Yes, of course."

"They dinna mind the Domine speaking English, yet if he particularly
wants them to do anything, he is maist sure to drop into the most
familiar Scotch."

"Neil must have had great influence over you, Christine," and Angus
said the words disagreeably. He was feeling jealous of any influences
but his own controlling Christine.

"Ay, I always did what he told me to do. Step softly, Angus. The
Domine is talking."

When they reached the Domine's side, they found him turning the leaves
of a very old Bible. "You see, Colonel," he said, "my father gave me
The Book when I first came here. My ancestors have preached from it
since A.D. 1616. It came to me through a long succession of good men.
It has been my close, personal friend ever since. The finest Bible in
Scotland could not take its place. There are pages in it that have
been luminous to me. I have seen the glory shining out of the black
letters. There are pages in it so sensitive to me that I feel a
special spiritual emanation from them. I will be glad of a new cushion
for The Book, for the one on which it now lies is worn and shabby, and
that ought not to be."

"Then I cannot give you a new Bible, even for the church."

"Impossible! I could not preach from a new Bible. Colonel, it is not
a book, it is a friend. We have secrets together. I have promises from
it, that are yet owing me. It holds our confidences for thirty years.
Sometimes I think it really speaks to me. Sometimes a glory seems to
shine over the page I am reading, and my soul is so happy, that my
tongue speaks aloud joyfully the shining words that have been given
me."

"I would not separate you from such a Bible, Sir."

"I shall be grateful if you give me a new cushion for it. Nothing is
too good for The Book."

Then they stood looking thoughtfully over the bare place. It had an
old, past look. It was plain and moldy, and needed repairing in every
way. The Colonel made a note of what was required in the nave of the
kirk, and then glanced upward. The gallery appeared to be in still
worse condition, but in front of it there was a wonderfully beautiful
model of a full-rigged ship.

"Ah!" exclaimed the Colonel, "a ship instead of a clock! Is that
right, Sir?"

"Quite. I put it there. It was made by a sailor lad born in Culraine,
who came here to die. Long, painful, hopeless days were soothed by the
fashioning of that miniature ship. All the village watched its
progress, all felt an interest in the dying lad. He finished it on the
eve of his death. Young and old came to bid him good-by, and to see
his white, trembling hands dress the topmost spar, and fly the blue
Peter. 'I am just about to sail,' he said, 'sae I'll up wi' the blue
Peter. That means I'm ready to go. Let her carry it till I'm safely
hame.' I put a new Peter on the top-mast last year," said the Domine,
and his eyes filled with tears, as he looked steadfastly at the
emblem.

"We seem to expect a clock in the front of the gallery, Sir. Can a
ship take its place?"

"Nothing, nothing, could be more appropriate. The favorite image of
the church in all ages has been a ship, or a boat. The first preaching
was connected with a ship, for while Noah builded the ark, he preached
repentance. The holiest object of the Jewish tabernacle was the ark,
made like a boat. All Christ's known life is associated with boats.
The favorite image of the early persecuted church was a boat beaten by
the winds and waves, and our own churches preserve everywhere this
world-wide idea, by calling the body of the church the nave, from
navis, a ship."

"That is very interesting information, Sir," said Angus.

"You are going to Venice, Ballister; you will find many of the oldest
churches in Venice built in the shape of a ship; and near Lisbon there
is a chapel of marble, with pillars like masts, and its sails and
cordage carved on the walls. Is not this life a voyage to the eternal
shores, and what could typify our safety better than a ship with
Christ for the captain of our salvation? You see, I will still be
preaching. I make no excuse."

"None is necessary. We are glad to listen."

"Come now, Christine, and I will give you medicine for your mother.
Gentlemen, in a few minutes I will return here."

When they were alone the Domine said: "Christine, you did wisely, and
your speech was correct and beautiful, but I would advise you to keep
your English for special occasions."

"Sir, not even my father and mother know I can drop the Scotch. When
the time comes to tell them, I----"

"Yes, yes. And the villagers? It might be an offense."

"You are right, Sir."

"You speak as if you had learned to speak at the Maraschal."

"Yes, sir. I learned it from Neil. We always talked it together, for
Neil hated the dialect, and I made a bargain wi' him. I promised to
talk as he taught me, if he would keep the circumstance from everyone.
He said he would, and he has stood by his promise. Sae have I, but I
hae been talking English nearly five years now."

"You wonderful woman! Then this morning you gave yourself away."

"I wanted to do it--I couldna resist the want. And it was only to you,
and the twa Ballisters. Nane o' you three will go blabbing. Anyway,
when Neil leaves the Maraschal, he will care little how I talk. He'll
hae finer folk than Christine, to crack and claver wi'."

"He will not find finer folk easily. Now run home as quickly as you
can, and prepare your father and mother for the Ballister visit. I
will come with him, and ask your mother to have a cup of tea by the
fire for us."

"Will Angus be wi' ye, Sir?"

"No, he will not."

"Why?"

"Because I am going to send him to the factor's, and also to Lawyer
Semple's. You need not be looking for him. Try and leave well alone.
It is hard to make well better, and it is very easy to make it worse.
If you hurry a little, I think you may be home by twelve o'clock."

So Christine hurried a little, and reached home by the noon hour. Her
dinner was ready, and her father very unexpectedly was sitting by the
fireside.

"Feyther," she said, "I hope you arena sick," and then she smiled at
the inquiry, for his broad, rosy face was the very picture of robust
health.

"Sick! Na, na, lassie! I'm weel enou', but Norman was feeling badly.
His arm hurts him sairly, and I was noticing that the fish had gane to
deep waters. We'll hae a storm before long."

Then Christine served the dinner waiting for her, and while they were
eating, she told the great news of a school for Culraine. Ruleson was
quickly enthusiastic. Margot, out of pure contradiction, deplored the
innovation.

The walk to the toun, she said, was gude for the childer. If they were
too tired to learn after it, it showed that learning was beyond their
capabilities, and that they would be better making themsel's usefu' at
hame. And what were women with large families to do without their big
lads to bring water to wash wi', and their half-grown lasses to tak'
care o' the babies, and help wi' the cooking and cleaning?

"But, Margot," said Ruleson, "think o' the outcome for the
childer----Think o'----"

"Ye dinna require to tell me the outcome. As soon as the childer get
what they ca' an education, they hurry awa' to some big city, or
foreign country, and that's the end o' them. Settle a school here, and
I'll tell you the plain result--in a few years we'll hae neither lads
nor boats, and the lasses now growing up will hae to go to Largo, or
to some unkent place for husbands. Gie our lads books, and you'll
ne'er get them into the boats. That's a fact! I'm tellin' you!"

Between Margot and Christine the argument continued all afternoon, but
Ruleson went to the foot of the hill, and looked at the land proposed
for the site of the future school. He was glad that it was his land,
and he was so much of a natural poet that he could see the white
building, and the boys and girls trooping in and out of its wide
doors. And the vision of the children playing together there was so
clear to his imagination, that he carefully stepped off the acres he
supposed would give them sufficient room for their games; and then
shutting his eyes that he might see better, he decided that it was too
small, and so stepped off another acre.

"I'll ne'er scrimp the childer, God bless them!" he thought, "for it
will be a happy day to James Ruleson, when he sees them runnin' to
these acres wi' books and balls in their hands."

Then he went home, and Margot said something about his Sunday claes,
but James did not heed her. He put on a clean shirt, and a suit of
blue flannel. His shirt was open at the throat, his feet were in boots
that reached nearly to his knees. But he had a grandly satisfied look,
and the beautiful courtesy of men who as a rule think only good of
their neighbors, and do only good to them.

Margot, like Christine, was in her fisher-costume, with little
accentuations in Christine's case; but Margot was the very mate for
the splendid man she called "her man." Scotch, from head to feet,
douce and domestic, yet cleverer than James, though obedient to him--a
good woman, fit for the work of this world, and not forgetful
concerning a better one.

Keeping in mind the Domine's directions about a cup of tea, Christine
laid the table with their best linen and china, and though no
difference was made in the food provided, Christine saw that it was
well cooked. After all, it was quite an event for James Ruleson, and
in the outcome of it he expected to realize one of the greatest
pleasures that could come to him.

About five o'clock the Domine and Ballister arrived. They entered a
room full of the feeling of home. It was clean, and white as a snow
drift, and there was a bright fire blazing on the hearth. The covered
table with its knives and forks and spoons, and its gilt rimmed
teacups, was in itself a symbol of hospitality. The Domine looked at
it, and then said, "Margot, you are baking sea trout. I told you never
to do that again, when I was coming, unless you intended asking me to
help in the eating of it."

"Today, they were cooked special for you, Sir, and I hope you will hae
the good will to pleasure me in the eating o' them."

"Certainly, Margot, certainly! I could not resist your invitation."

Hearing these words, Ruleson rose, and said, "Colonel, if you will
join the Domine at the meal God has gi'en us, James Ruleson will
gladly break bread with you."

After these preliminaries, Christine served the meal, and then waited
on her parents and their guests. They ate the fish with great
enjoyment. It was to the Colonel a gastronomical discovery. No
anchovy, no sauces of any kind, just the delicate fish, baked with a
few slices of Ayrshire ham, and served with potatoes boiled in their
jackets so skillfully that the jackets dropped from them when
touched. It was a dish pure and simple, and captivated every palate.
Nothing more was needed that Christine's quiet service and the
animated conversation did not supply. As to Margot, she was kept busy
filling small cups with that superexcellent tea we get in Scotland,
and find it next to impossible to get anywhere else.

After the fish was fully eaten, Christine--almost without notice--cleared
the table, and brought on a rice pudding, and a large pitcher of
cream. The men ate the whole of it. Perhaps they did so unconsciously,
for they were talking about the school in an enthusiastic manner, while
it was disappearing. Then James Ruleson lit his pipe, and the Colonel
his cigar, and they sat down at the fireside. The Domine, with a smile
of perfect happiness, sat between them, and every remnant of dinner
silently disappeared.

During the hour following the Domine drafted the principal items to be
discussed and provided for, and it was further resolved to call a
village meeting in the Fishers' Hall, for the next evening. Then the
Colonel's carriage was waiting, and he rose, but really with some
reluctance. He cast his eyes over the comfortable room, and looked
with admiration on the good man who called it home, on the bright,
cheery woman, whose love made it worth the name, and on the girl who
filled it with her beauty; and he said to Margot, "Mrs. Ruleson, I
have eaten today the very best of dinners. I enjoyed every mouthful
of it."

"Indeed, the dinner was good, Colonel; and we were proud and glad o'
your company."

"And you will meet us in the Hall tomorrow night, and bring all the
women you can with you?"

"I'll do my best, Sir, but our women are a dour lot. They lay out
their ain way, and then mak' the taking o' it a point o' duty."

And all the way to Ballister House the Colonel wondered about his
dinner--no flowers on the table, no napkins, no finger bowls, no
courses, no condiments or pickles, no wine, not even a thimbleful of
whiskey, nothing but excellently cooked fresh fish and potatoes, a
good cup of tea with it, and then a rice pudding and plenty of cream.
"Wonderful!" he ejaculated. "Upon my word, things are more evenly
balanced than we think. I know noblemen and millionaires that are far
from being as happy, or as well fed, as Ruleson's family."

The next morning the bellman went through the village calling men and
women together at half-past seven, in the Fishers' Hall; and there was
great excitement about the matter. Even the boys and girls here took a
noisy part in the discussion, for and against, the argument in this
class being overwhelmingly in favor of the school.

Among the adults, opinion was also divided. There were lazy mothers
who could not do without their girls' help, and greedy fathers who
expected their little lads to make, or at least save them a few
shillings a week; and Christine feared the gift would be ungraciously
taken. Ruleson had a long talk with big Peter Brodie, and Peter told
him not to fash himsel' anent a lot o' ignorant women and men folk. If
they were such fools, as not to ken a blessing when it was put into
their vera hands, they ought to be made to understand the fact; and
with a peculiar smile he intimated that he would take great
satisfaction in gieing them as many lessons as they required.

The meeting was, however, crowded, and when the Colonel and the Domine
stepped on the platform, the audience were just in the mood to give
them a rousing cheer. It opened the Domine's mouth, and he said:

"Friends, I have great and good news for you. Colonel Ballister is
going to build us a school of our own. We shall want some of you as
Trustees, and others will have to form an executive board. We are
going to have a women's board as well. The men's board will look after
the management of the school. The women's board will look after the
bairns, and see that they get fair play in every respect. A women's
board will be a new thing, but Culraine is not afraid of new ways, if
they be better ways." Then he went into particulars, which we need not
do, and concluded by telling them that James Ruleson had given land
both for the school and the playground, and that it was hoped James'
approval would stand for many, and much. "We will now take the vote
of both men and women for, or against, the school."

Then a man in the center of the crowded hall stood up. It was Peter
Brodie.

"Gentlemen," he said, "a vote is outside necessity. We dinna vote as
to whether we want sunshine, or fish, or bread. We are sure o' the
matter. The school is mental bread and meat and sunshine to our lads
and lasses. We thank God for it. There would be a deal o' trouble i'
getting and counting names, and the like o' that. Let us vote,
gentlemen, as our forefathers voted for the Solemn League and
Covenant, by just lifting their right hands above their heads. The
Domine could gie us the word, and if after it there is man or woman
with baith hands down, Peter Brodie will be asking the reason why."

This speech was received with acclamation, and when the tumult had
subsided, the Domine called for the silent vote of approval, that had
ratified their immortal compact with their kirk. He described in
picturesque words that wonderful scene in the Greyfriars' kirkyard,
when sixty thousand right hands rose as promptly as one hand for the
True Religion, and he told them that after the kirk, their first duty
was the school. Then he stood still a moment, and there was a profound
silence. After it came the word:

"Stand!"

Men and women rose as by one impulse.

"Those who are in favor of a school in Culraine, and grateful to God
and man for it, let them lift up their right hands above their
heads."

Every right hand was lifted. There was not a protesting hand, and
Peter Brodie observed that if there had been one, it ought to be cut
off, and cast into the fire, with a' the lave o' useless members.

The meeting was then practically over, but many remained. The room was
warm and lighted, and it seemed unreasonable not to have a song and
story, and dance out of it. Christine was entreated to remain, but she
said her mither wasna feeling well, and she be to gae hame wi' her. In
truth she was much depressed because Angus had not come with his
uncle. She did not like to ask why, and her heart was full of unhappy
surmises. But she put the trouble aside while with her mother, and
gave herself willingly to the discussion of Peter Brodie's ill-bred
and forwardsome behavior.

"I perfectly thought shame of his interference," said Margot.
"Mercifully he spoke some kind o' Scotch, for I hae heard him--special
when he was angry--rave in his native Gaelic, and then he got his ain
way, for nae decent man or woman could answer his unpronounceable
words. They were just a vain babblement."

"Jean Pollok was a' for the school tonight; this morning she was
raving against it."

"That was to be looked for. There is as much two-facedness in some
women, as there's meat in an egg."

"But for all disputing, Mither, everyone seemed to think the school
would be a good thing."

"It is this, and that, and what not, and how it will end nobody knows.
Some folks are ill to please, even when they get their ain way."

"You could hardly make Mary Leslie keep her sitting. She wanted to
stand up, and ask the Domine how she was to cook and wash and clean
and sew and nurse her baby, without the help o' her girls, Jess and
Flora. She said there was eleven in her family, and she wanted to know
how it was to be managed. It was hard to keep her still."

"It was vera barefaced o' her. But she put up her hand wi' the rest."

"Ay, Mither. She was feared for Peter Brodie quarreling with her man.
That's Peter's way o' managing women; he mak's their husbands
responsible for a' they say, and do; he says, 'the husbands ought to
hae brought up their wives better.' He has done it, you know, Mither,
several times."

Margot laughed. "Ay," she said, "for Tamson's wife. Naebody blamed
him. Anne Tamson has a parfectly unruly tongue, and her husband,
Watty, got the licking for what she said anent Frazer and his wife. I
wouldna fear the man mysel', and the maist o' our women could gie him
as much--and mair--than he sends."

So they talked until the cottage was reached, and the day was over.
Christine went gladly to her room. A crusie was burning on the table,
and she removed her gown and uncoiled her long, brown hair. Then all
was still, and she let herself think, and her decision was, "if Angus
had wanted to come, he would have done so.

"It isna my place," she continued, "to tak' care on the subject. I'll
no mak' mysel' and ithers miserable anent him, forbye Angus Ballister
is clear outside me, and my life."

Then she rose and took a large copy book from a drawer, and sitting
down at the table, took pen and ink and wrote:

  November second. I was a little troubled all day about Angus. He
  didna come, and he didna send, and there was neither sign nor
  sight o' him. Weel, my warld went on wanting the lad, and the
  school talk filled the day, and at night I went wi' Mither to the
  meeting about it. From this hour I begin to forget Angus. I will
  ask God to keep my heart from all love's care and sorrow.

Then she put the book away, turned out the light and lay down. But the
old mysterious, hungering sound of the sea had an angry sough in it;
and she went to sleep fearing it, and thinking of it as a deep
starless darkness, hanging over the dreamlike figures of dead sailors
and fishers. At midnight she awoke, the storm her father had predicted
was roaring over the great waters. She went to her little window and
looked out--darkness, wildness, desolation--and she hasted and put
plenty of peats on the fire, and carried her mother an extra quilt.

"I hae made up the fire, Mither dear," she said, "and if ye want to
get up, you'll be warm, and I'll come and sit by you."

"Will I waken your feyther?"

"Whatna for? There's naething to fear. Norman and Eneas are doubtless
at hame. Most o' our men are. Few would start after the dance. They
would see the storm coming."

"Will it be a bad storm?"

"I think it will. But the sea is His, and He made it. If there is a
storm He is guiding it. Ye ken how often we sing 'He plants His
footsteps on the sea, and rides upon the storm.'" And so, sweet-eyed
and fearless, she went away, but left peace and blessing behind her.

In the living room, she laid more peats on the fire. Then she went to
her own room. Some words had been singing in her heart as she moved
about, and she took the big copy book out of the drawer, and stooping
to the crusie burning on the table, she wrote them down:

  The night is black, the winds are wild,
    The waves are taking their own will,
  Dear Jesus, sleeping like a child,
    Awake! and bid the storm be still.

She read the words over with a smile. "They might be worse," she
thought, "but Christine! You hae been writing poetry. You'll hae to
stop that nonsense! Weel, it wasna my fault. It came o' itsel', and I
dinna feel as if I had done anything much out o' the way--and I was
maist asleep, if that is ony kind o' an excuse. I----"



CHAPTER VI

A CHILD, TWO LOVERS, AND A WEDDING

                     Because I am,
  Thy clay that weeps, thy dust that cares,
  Contract my hour that I may climb and find relief.

  Love, thou knowest, is full of jealousy.
  Love's reasons are without reason.


The summer had been full of interest and excitement, but it was over.
There was the infallible sense of ended summer, even at noonday; and
the dahlias and hollyhocks, dripping in the morning mist, seemed to be
weeping for it. If it had been clear cold weather, the fishers would
have been busy and happy, but it was gloomy, with black skies over the
black sea, and bitter north winds that lashed the waves into fury. The
open boats hardly dared to venture out, and the fish lay low, and were
shy of bait.

James Ruleson, generally accompanied by Cluny Macpherson, was out
every day that a boat could live on the sea, and Margot and Christine
often stood together at their door or window, and watched them with
anxious hearts, casting their lines in the lonely, leaden-colored sea.
The boat would be one minute on the ridge of the billow, the next
minute in the trough of the sea, with a wall of water on either hand
of them. And through all, and over all, the plaintive pipe of the
gulls and snipe, the creaking of the boat's cordage, the boom of the
breakers on the shore, the sense and the presence of danger.

And Christine knew that Cluny was in that danger for her sake. He had
told her on the day after the storm, as she sat sympathetically by his
side, that he was only waiting for her "yes or no." He said when she
gave him either one or the other, he would go to the Henderson
steamboats, in one case to work for their future happiness and home,
in the other to get beyond the power of her beauty, so that he might
forget her.

Forget her! Those two words kept Christine uncertain and unhappy. She
could not bear to think of Cluny's forgetting her. Cluny had been part
of all her nineteen years of life. Why must men be so one or the
other? she asked fretfully. Why force her to an uncertain decision?
Why was she so uncertain? Then she boldly faced the question and asked
herself--"Is Angus Ballister the reason?" Perhaps so, though she was
equally uncertain about Angus. She feared the almost insurmountable
difficulties between them. Caste, family, social usage and tradition,
physical deficiencies in education and in all the incidentals of
polite life, not to speak of what many would consider the greatest of
all shortcomings, her poverty. How could two lives so dissimilar as
Angus Ballister's and Christine Ruleson's become one?

She asked her mother this question one day, and Margot stopped beating
her oat cakes and answered, "Weel, there's a' kinds o' men, Christine,
and I'll no say it is a thing impossible; but I hae come to the
conclusion that in the case o' Angus and yoursel' you wouldna
compluter if you lived together a' the rest o' this life."

"Why, Mither?"

"Because you are--the baity o' you--so weel satisfied wi' your present
mak' up. That's a'. And it is a' that is needfu' to keep you baith
from going forwarder. There's a lump a' rank cowardice in it, too."

"Mother, do you think I am a coward?"

"All women are frightened by what is said o' them, or even likely to
be said o' them. And nae wonder. Women are far harder judged than men
are. You would think the Ten Commands were not made for men. Yet if a
woman breaks one o' them, God's sake! what a sinner she is!"

"I don't see what you are meaning, Mither."

"It's plain enou'. Men are not set down below notice, if they break
the twa first a' their lives lang, if so be they pay their deficit to
God in gold to the kirk. How many men do you know, Christine, who
never break the third command? How many men honor the fourth? As to
the fifth, Scots are maistly ready to tak' care o' their ain folk.
The sixth, seventh and eighth belong to the criminal class, and ye'll
allow its maistly made up o' bad men. Concerning the ninth command,
men are warse than women, but men call their ill-natured talk
politics, or het'rodoxy, or some ither grand name; and I'll allow that
as soon as they begin to covet their neighbor's house and wife and
horses and cattle, they set to wark, and mak' money and build a bigger
house than he hes, and get a bonnier wife, and finer-blooded horses
and cattle--and I'm not saying whether they do well or ill--there is
sae much depending on the outcome o' prosperity o' that kind. But tak'
men as a whole, they leave the Ten Commands on the shoulders o' their
wives."

"And do the women obey them, Mither?"

"Middling well. They do love God, and they do go to kirk. They don't
swear, and as a general thing they honor their fathers and mothers.
They don't, as a rule, murder or steal or tak' some ither woman's
husband awa' from her. I'm no clear about women and the ninth and
tenth command. They are apt to long for whatever is good and
beautiful--and I don't blame them."

"I wish I was better educated, Mother. I would be able to decide
between Angus and Cluny."

"Not you. The key of your life is in your heart, not in your brain."

"It is a pity."

"That is, as may be. In the long run, your feelings will decide, and
they are likely to be mair sensible than your reasons. And where love
is the because o' your inquiry, I'll warrant a bit o' good sense is
best o' all advisers."

"What is gude sense? How can a girl get it?"

"Gude sense is the outcome o' all our senses. As regards Ballister,
ca' to your decision a bit o' wholesome pride. Ye ken what I mean."

"Weel, weel, Angus is far awa', and Cluny is only waiting the word I
canna say, and what will I do when I hae nae lover at a', at a'?"

"When you haven't what you love, you must love what you hae. And I
fear there is a heart fu' o' cares ready for us to sort. Geordie
Sinclair was telling your father that Neil is flinging a big net i'
Aberdeen--dining wi' rich folk o' all kinds, and rinning as close
friend wi' a lad ca'ed Rath. He was saying, also, that Rath has lying
siller, plenty, o' it, and that he is studying law in the same classes
as Neil, at the Maraschal."

"I dinna see why we should fret oursel's anent Neil dining wi' rich
folk. He was aye talkin' o' his intention to do the same. The mair
rich friends he has, the better; it isna puir folk that go to law.
Neil is casting his net vera prudently, nae doubt. I'll warrant it
will be takin' for him even while he sleeps. Worry is just wasted on
Neil."

"I'm thinking that way mysel', but feyther is feared he will be
spending money he shouldna spend."

"He is lawyer enou' to ken the outcome o' that way. Neil will be on
the safe side--every day, and always! There's nae need to fash
oursel's anent Neil!"

"Weel then, your feyther is sairly heart-hurt anent Allan's youngest
laddie. Last New Year when he went to Glasgow to see Allan, he thought
things were far wrang, and he has worried himsel' on the matter ever
since. It is a dreadful thing to say, but the bairn is vera delicate,
and his mother isna kind to him. She is a big strong woman, ne'er sick
hersel', and without feeling for a bairn that is never well, and often
vera sick. Feyther said his heart was sair for the little fellow,
lyin' wakefu' lang nights wi' pain and fear, and naebody in the house
carin'. Yesterday feyther hed a letter frae your brither Allan, and he
was fu' o' grief, and begging feyther to go and see the bairn, and if
possible tak' him to Culraine, and try if we could do anything to help
him to health and happiness."

"Will she let feyther hae him?"

"She's as uncertain as the wind, but the lad is named James after his
grandfeyther, and he'll ask for him, on that plea."

"O Mither, get feyther to go at once! I'll tak' a' the trouble o' the
child! Only to think o' it! Only to think o' it! A mither no carin'
for her suffering child!"

"She doesna ken what suffering is, hersel'. She ne'er tak's cold and
she doesna see why ither folks should. She is never fearsome, or
nervous, she never feels the dark to be full o' what terrifies her
vera soul, and she canna understand her bairn's terror. She treats him
vera much as she treats his brithers, but they are big, rugged lads,
that naething hurts or frights. All right for them, but she is slowly
killin' little James, and you couldna mak' her see it."

"Feyther ought not to lose an hour."

"He'll hae to be vera cautious i' the matter. Allan's wife isna easily
managed. Proud and strong in her health and youth, she is fairly
scounfu' o' the weak and sick, but I think your feyther can manage
her. I'll get him awa' tomorrow, if so be it's possible."

Then there was such pressure of the two women brought to bear upon the
grandfather's heart, that he was eager for the morning to come, and
before it was yet light he was away to the town, to catch the earliest
train to Edinburgh, from which place he could get quick transit to
Glasgow.

"Now, Mither, we hae done a' we can, at the present, for Allan's
little lad," said Christine. "Do you think feyther will write to us?"

"I'm sure he will not. He wad rayther do a hard day's work than write
a letter. What are you going to do wi' your day, dearie?"

"I am going to write to Neil."

"Do. You might remind him that his feyther and mither are yet living
in Culraine."

"That news isna worth while. If he wants to write, he'll write. If he
doesna want to write, we arena begging letters. I'm thinking mair o'
little James than I am o' Neil. You dinna like his mither, I'm
thinking?"

"You're thinking right. Allan picked her up in some unkent place, and
when a man lives between sailing and docking, he hasna time to ken
what he's doing. Forbye, Christine, new relations dinna get into their
place easy. They mind me o' that new dress my sister sent me frae
Liverpool. It wanted a lot o' taking-in, and o' letting-out. It's just
that way wi' new relations. Allan's wife required plentiful taking-in,
and the mair letting-out there was, the mair unfittable she became."
Then Margot rubbed the end of her nose with an air of scorn, and said
decidedly, "She wasna a comprehensible woman. I couldna be fashed wi'
her. It isna the bringing o' bairns to the birth, that hurts the heart
and spoils the life o' a mither, it's the way lads and lasses marry
themsel's that mak's her wish she had neither lad nor lass to her
name."

"Mither, that isna like you."

"Allan was just twenty-three when he married the woman, without word
or wittens to any o' us. It was a bad day's wark, and he hes never
been able to mend it. For there's nae takin'-in or lettin'-out wi' his
wife. She is sure she is parfect, and what will you do, what can you
do, wi' a parfect woman? I hope and pray that I'll never fall into
that state; parfection isna suitable for this warld."

"It ought to be a grand virtue, Mither."

"It's the warst o' all the vices. We hae three or four specimens o' it
in the village o' Culraine, and they are the maist unenlightened
people we hae to tak' care o'. But when parfection is born o'
ignorance, it is unconquerable. The Domine said sae, and that only God
could manage a parfect man or woman."

"When little James comes, wouldn't it be well to hae the Domine look
him over? He can tell us what's the matter wi' the laddie, and what we
ought to do for him."

"That is a sensible observe, Christine. There will be nae harm in
doing what it calls for."

"Now I'll awa', and write to Neil. Hae ye ony special message for him,
Mither?"

"You might say I would like to ken something anent thae Raths. They
arena Fifemen, nor Shetlanders, Highland Scots, nor Lowland Scots; and
I'm thinking they may be Irish, and if sae, I'm hopin' they hae the
true faith."

"Mither dear, I wouldna fash wi' the Raths. They are simply naething
to us, and if we set Neil on 'praising and proving,' he'll write pages
anent them."

"Sae he will. You might name the ninety pound he's owing you."

"It wouldna be advisable. Neil will pay when it's fully convenient to
himsel'. I'm not expecting a farthing until it is sae."

"I can think o' nae ither thing. It seems vera superfluous to tell
Neil to be good, and to do good. He has the gift o' admiring himsel'.
Tell him he can be thankful, for it isna every man that has the same
capability."

"I'll read you my letter, Mither, when I hae written it."

"You'd better not. You'll say lots I wouldna say, and naething I would
say, and the amends and contradictions would require another letter o'
explanations. I'm going to look through my ain lads' outgrown breeks
and jackets. I'll warrant wee James will come to us next door to
naked."

"I didna know that you had saved the lads' auld claes."

"Did you think I wad throw them awa'? All our lads grew quick, they
ne'er wore out a suit, and I put their wee breeks and coaties awa'. I
thought they might come in for their ain bairns, and lo and behold!
Allan's little lad is, like as not, to come into his feyther's Sunday
raiment."

"Did you save their shirts and such like?"

"Why wouldn't I? But vera few linen things are left. They were too
easy to wear and tear, to be long-lived, but I fancy I can find a
sleeping gown for the bairn, and maybe a shirt or twa. But stockings
are beyond mention. They got them into unmendable holes, and left them
in the boats, or the fish sheds, and I fairly wore my knitting
needles awa' knitting for lads wha wouldna use their feet ony way but
skin-bare."

So the grandmother went to find what clothes she could for a little
lad of eight years old, and Christine sat down to answer Neil's last
letter. To herself she called it an "overflowing screed." Indeed it
was full of the great Reginald Rath, his fine family, his comfortable
wealth, his sister, Roberta, and her highly respectable house in the
Monteith Row o'erby the Green of Glasgow City. Christine told him in
reply that she was glad he had found a friend so conformable to all
his wishes. She asked him if he had heard lately from Angus Ballister,
and casually mentioned that the Domine had received ten days ago a
letter from the Colonel about the school building, and that Angus had
sent her some bonnie pictures of the city of Rome. She also informed
him that his nephew was coming to Culraine, and that she herself was
going to take the charge of him, and so might not have time to write
as often as she had done.

In the afternoon Faith came from the village to help with the nets
a-mending, and she brought the village gossip with her, and among the
news of all kinds, the date of her own marriage. She was going to wed
the Largo man on Christmas Day, and she had forgotten her loneliness
and melancholy, and laughed and joked pleasantly, as she went over her
plans with Christine. Margot watched her, and listened to her with
great interest, and when at sunset the lassie went down the hill, she
said to Christine: "Wonders never cease. Faith Balcarry was moping
melancholy, she is now as merry as a cricket. She was sick and going
to die, she's now well and going to marry. She had nane to love her,
and nane she loved. Her whole talk now is o' the Largo man, and the
wonderfu' love he has for her, and the untelling love she has for him.
Weel! Weel! I hae learned ane thing this afternoon."

"What hae you learned, Mither?"

"I hae learned, that when a lass is dying wi' a sair affliction, that
there is parfect salvation in a lad."

It was the evening of the third day ere James Ruleson returned home.
He had met no difficulties with Mrs. Allan Ruleson that were not
easily removed by the gift of a sovereign. And he found the little
lad quietly but anxiously waiting for him. "My feyther whispered
to me that you would come," he said softly, as he snuggled into
James' capacious breast. "I was watching for you, I thought I could
hear your footsteps, after twelve o'clock today they were coming
nearer, and nearer--when you chappit at the door, I knew it was
you--Grandfeyther!" And James held the child tighter and closer in
his arms, and softly stroked the white, thin face that was pressed
against his heart.

"I'm going to tak' you hame to your grandmither, and your aunt
Christine," James whispered to the boy. "You are going to get well
and strong, and big, and learn how to read and write and play,
yoursel', like ither bairns."

"How soon? How soon?"

"Tomorrow."

"I thought God didna know about me. Such long, long days and nights."

"You puir little lad! God knew all the time. It is o'er by now."

"Will it come again?"

"Never! Never again!"

The next day they left Glasgow about the noon hour. The child had no
clothing but an old suit of his elder brother, and it was cold winter
weather. But James made no remark, until he had the boy in the train
for Edinburgh. Then he comforted him with all the kind words he could
say, and after a good supper, they both went early to bed in a small
Edinburgh hostelry.

In the morning, soon after nine o'clock, James took his grandson to a
ready-made tailor's shop, and there he clothed him from head to feet
in a blue cloth suit. From the little white shirt to the little blue
cloth cap on his long fair hair, everything was fit and good, and the
child looked as if he had been touched by a miracle. He was now a
beautiful boy, spiritually frail and fair, almost angelic. Ruleson
looked at him, then he looked at the pile of ragged clothes that had
fallen from his little shrunken form, and he kicked them with his big
feet to the other end of the shop. A thick, warm overcoat, and new
shoes and stockings, were added to the outfit, and then they were
ready for their home train.

As they walked slowly down Prina's Street, they met a regiment of
Highland soldiers, accompanied by a fine military band. The boy was
enthralled, he could not speak his delight, but he looked into his
grandfather's face with eyes painfully eloquent. It was evident that
he had life to learn, not gradually, as the usual infant learns it;
but that its good and evil would assail him through all his senses in
their full force. And Ruleson understood, partially, how abnormally
large and important very trivial events might appear to him.

Soon after four o'clock they arrived at their destination, and found a
train omnibus about to go their way. Ruleson lifted his grandson into
it, and the vehicle set them down at the foot of his own hill; then he
carried the boy up to the cottage in his arms. The door was closed,
but there was the shining of fire and candlelight through the windows.
Yet their arrival was unnoticed, until Ruleson entered and stood the
little child in the middle of the room. With a cry of welcome Margot
and Christine rose. Ruleson pointed to the child standing in their
midst. The next moment Christine was removing his coat and cap, and
when Margot turned to him, his beauty and the pathos of his thin,
white face went straight to her heart. She took him in her arms and
said, "Bonnie wee laddie, do ye ken that I am your grandmither?"

"Ay, grandmither," he answered, "I ken. And I hae a grandfeyther too.
I am vera happy. Dinna send me awa', for ony sake."

Then the women set him in a big chair, and admired and loved him from
head to feet--his fair hair, his wonderful eyes, his little hands so
white and thin--his wee feet in their neat, well-fitting shoes--his
dress so good and so becoming--this new bairn of theirs was altogether
an unusual one in Culraine.

Ruleson quickly made himself comfortable in his usual house dress.
Christine began to set the table for their evening meal, and Margot
buttered the hot scones and infused the tea. This meal had a certain
air of festivity about it, and the guest of honor was the little child
sitting at Ruleson's right hand.

They had scarcely begun the meal, when there was a knock at the door,
and to Margot's cheerful "Come in, friend," Dr. Trenabie entered.

"Blessing on this house!" he said reverently, and then he walked
straight to the child, and looked earnestly into his face. The boy
looked steadily back at him, and as he did so he smiled, and held up
his arms. Then the Domine stooped and kissed him, and the thin, weak
arms clasped him round the neck.

It was a tender, silent moment. The man's eyes were misty with tears,
and his voice had a new tone in it as he said, "Ruleson, this little
lad is mine, as well as yours. I have been spoken to. Through him we
shall all be greatly blessed, and we shall yet see a grand preacher
come out of the boats and the fisherman's cottage."

There was a few moments' silence, and then Margot said, "Take your
sitting, Sir, and a cup o' tea will do you mair gude than doing
without it."

"I'll sit down gladly." Then they talked of the child's extreme
weakness and nervousness, and the Domine said that with plenty of
fresh milk, and fresh fish, and with all the fresh air he could
breathe, and all the sleep he could shut his eyes for, the little one
would soon be well. "Then Christine," he said, "must give him his
first lessons. After they have been learned, it will be joy of Magnus
Trenabie to see him safe through school and college. Give me so much
interest in the boy, Ruleson, for he is called and chosen, and we have
in our hands the making of a Man of God."

Later in the evening, when the school affairs had been discussed and
the boy and Christine had disappeared, the Domine was told the few sad
incidents which made up the whole life of little James Ruleson. There
was a strong tendency on his grandfather's part to make excuses for
the mother of the neglected boy. "You see, Domine," he said, "she has
never been sick, and her ither children are as rugged as hersel'. She
couldna understand James. She didna ken what to do wi' him, or for
him."

"I know, Ruleson, but physical pride is as real a sin as spiritual
pride, and is the cause of much suffering and unhappiness. My own
father was one of those bronze men, who thought weakness to be
cowardice, and sickness to be mostly imagination. His children were
all weak and sensitive, but he insisted on our roughing it. Fagging
and hazing were good for us, he enjoyed them. Bodily strain and mental
cram were healthy hardening processes. I had a little sister, she was
weak and fearful, he insisted on her taking the cold water cure.
Nerves were all nonsense! 'Look at me!' he would say proudly, 'I get
up early, I work all day, I know nothing about headaches, or
neuralgia, or nerves'--In the world he passed for a genial, hearty
man."

"We hae plenty o' such unfeeling fellows," said Ruleson. "I dinna
fret, when they hae a hard spell o' rheumatism. Not I!"

"It is not mere flesh and blood, Ruleson, that moves the earth on its
axis. It is men whose intelligent brows wear the constant plait of
tension, whose manner reveals a debility beneath which we know that
suffering lurks, and who have an unconscious plaintiveness about them.
Such men have fits of languor, but let the occasion come and they
command their intellect and their hands just as easily as a workman
commands his tools. The mother of this boy of ours was a physical
tyrant in her home, and she never suspected that she had under her
control and keeping a spirit touched and prepared for the finest
issues of life. Oh, Ruleson,

  "Sad it is to be weak,
    And sadder to be wrong,
  But if the strong God's statutes break,
    'Tis saddest to be strong."

The child became rapidly an integral part of the household. No one
thought of him as a transient guest, no one wanted him in that light,
and he unconsciously made many changes. Margot often spoke to
Christine of them: "Were you noticing your feyther this afternoon,
Christine?" she asked one day, when little James had been two weeks
with them. "Were you noticing him?"

"How, Mither, or whatna for?"

"Weel, as soon as he was inside the house, the laddie had his hand,
and when he sat down he was on his knee, and showing him the book, and
saying his letters to him--without missing ane o' them, and granddad
listening, and praising him, and telling him it was wonderfu', an' the
like o' that."

"Weel, then, it is wonderfu'! He learns as if he was supping new milk.
He'll be ready for the school when the school is ready for him. And
he's nae trouble in ony way. The house would be gey dull wanting
him."

"That's truth itsel'. I like to hear his soft footsteps, and I would
miss his crooning voice going o'er his lessons. You mustna gie him too
lang, or too many lessons. I hae heard learning tasks were bad for
sickly weans."

"Perhaps that was the cause o' his mither neglecting him anent his
books, and such things?"

"Not it! His mither is a lazy, unfeeling hizzy! I'd like to hae the
sorting o' her--fine!"

"Maybe he was too sick to be bothered wi' books and lessons."

"Maybe he wad niver hae been sick at a', if he had been gi'en a few
books and lessons. Griselda Ruleson had better keep out o' my
presence. If she ventures into it, the words arena to seek, that I'll
gie her."

One cold afternoon Christine was hearing the boy's lessons when Cluny
Macpherson called. He looked annoyed at the child's presence and said,
"I saw your mither in the village, sae I thought I wad hae a chance to
speak a few words to you, wi' nane by, but oursel's."

"You needna mind wee James."

"Send him awa'. I want you, and nane but you."

James was sent away, and then Christine said, "You hae got your will,
Cluny. Now what hae you to say to me, that the little one couldna
listen to?"

"I want to know, Christine, when you will marry me. I hae been waiting
months for that word, and I can wait nae langer. I'm goin' awa'
tomorrow."

"Your waiting isna over, Cluny. Indeed no! I'm not thinking o'
marriage, nor o' anything like it. I canna think o' it. Mither isna
fit for any hard wark, even the making o' a bed is mair than she ought
to do. I'm not thinking o' marriage. Not I!"

"It is time you were. Maist o' our girls marry when they are nineteen
years auld."

"I'm not nineteen yet. I don't want to marry. I hae my wark and my
duty right here, i' this house--wark that God has set me, and I'll not
desert it for wark I set mysel', to please mysel'."

"That's the way wi' women. They bring up God and their duty to screen
their neglect o' duty. Hae ye nae duty towards me?"

"Not that I know of."

"Will you let a lad gie ye his life-lang love, and feel nae duty anent
it?"

"I dinna ask you for your love. I hae told you, mair than once, that I
dinna want any man's love."

"Tuts! That is out o' all nature and custom. Ye be to marry some
man."

"I havna seen the man yet."

"I'm thinking it will be Angus Ballister. I'll mak' him black and blue
from head to foot, if he comes near Culraine again."

"You talk foolishness. The Ballisters own twenty houses or mair, in
Culraine."

"Houses! Twa rooms, a but and a ben, and a heather roof. What are they
bothering us the now for? They hae let Culraine well alane for
years--it is only sin' you and your beauty cam' to the forefront,
that they hae remembered us. The factor, to gather their rents, was a'
we saw o' them, till your brither brought that dandified lad here, and
then the auld man had to come--on the report o' your beauty, nae
doubt."

There was a fishing net which required mending, hanging against the
wall, and Christine, standing in front of it, went on weaving the
broken meshes together. She did not answer the jealous, impetuous
young man, and all at once he became conscious of her silence.

"Why don't you speak to me, Christine? Oh lassie, canna you pity a lad
sae miserable as I am, and a' for the love I hae for you. I'm sorry!
I'm sorry! I'm broken-hearted, if I hae angered you! My dear! My dear
love! Will ye na speak ane word to me?"

Then she turned to him a face full of pity and anger, yet strangely
beautiful. "Cluny," she said, "I'll talk to you, if you'll speak o'
yoursel' and let be a' ither folk."

"How can I? I'm sick wi' the fear that you love, that you intend to
marry Ballister. Tell me straight, and be done wi' it, if that is what
you intend to do."

"You havna any right to ask me such a question. I never gave you any
right to do sae."

"You hae let me love ye wi' a' my heart and soul for fifteen years. Is
that naething?"

"Ithers hae loved me, as weel as you."

"They hev not. Nane on this earth lo'es you as I lo'e you. Nane!"

The man was beyond himself in uttering these words. It was a Cluny
transfigured by a great love. The loftier Inner Man spoke for his
mortal brother, and Christine looked at him and was astonished. He
appeared to be taller, he was wonderfully handsome, his attitude of
entreaty in some way ennobled him, and his voice had a strange tone of
winning command in it, as he stretched out his arms and said:

"Come to me, Christine. I love you so! I love you so! You cannot say
me 'nay' this afternoon. It is perhaps the last time. My dearie, I am
going away tomorrow--it might be forever."

"Cluny! Cluny! You distress me! What do you wish me to say, or do?"

"Tell me the truth about Ballister. Are you going to marry him?"

"I am not."

"Perhaps not this year--but next year?"

"I am never going to marry him in any year."

"Will you marry Cluny Macpherson?"

"It is not unlikely."

"When? Be merciful, dearie."

"There are several things in the way o' my marrying anyone just yet."

"Ay, there's that new bairn i' the house. Whatna for is he here?"

"He is my brither Allan's son. He is sick, we are going to mak' him
weel."

"Ay, and you'll wear a' your love on the little brat, and send a man
that lo'es you to death awa' hungry."

"Cluny, I love no man better than I love you. Will not that satisfy
you?"

"Na. It's a mouthfu', that's a'. And it leaves me hungrier than ever;"
and he smiled and clasped her hands so fondly, that she sat down
beside him, and let him draw her close to his heart.

"Dearest woman on earth," he whispered, "when will you be my ain? My
very ain! My wife!"

"When the right time comes, laddie. I love none better than you. I'm
not likely to love anyone better. When the right time comes----"

"What do you ca' the right time?"

"When I can marry without neglecting any duty that God has left in my
hands to perform, or look after. I canna say mair. There are many
things to consider. Mither could not be left yet, and I am not going
to leave her for any man--and I hae promised to tak' a' the care and
charge o' Allan's little lad, but it's Mither I am thinking mainly
on."

"How soon will she be well?"

"In God's good time."

"Christine, surely I hae trysted you this very hour. Give me ane, just
ane kiss, dearie. I'll get through years, if need be, wi' a kiss and a
promise, and work will be easy to do, and siller be easy to save, if
Christine be at the end o' them."

Then he kissed her, and Christine did not deny him, but when he took
from his vest pocket a pretty gold ring holding an emerald stone, she
shook her head.

"It's your birthstone, dearie," he said, "and it will guard you, and
bring you luck, and, mind you o' me beside. Tak' it, frae Cluny, do!"

"Na, na, Cluny! I hae often heard my mither say, 'I hae plenty now,
but the first thing I owned was my wedding ring.'"

"I thought it would mind you o' Cluny, and the promise ye hae just
made him."

"If I mak' a promise, Cluny, I'll be requiring no reminder o' the
same."

"Will you gie me a lock o' your bonnie brown hair, to wear next my
heart?"

"I'll hae no charms made out o' my hair. Tak' my word, just as I gave
it. As far as I know, I'll stand by my word, when the right time
comes."

"If you would just say a word anent the time. I mean as to the
probabilities."

"I won't. I can't, Cluny. I havna the ordering o' events. You'll be
back and forth doubtless. Where are you going?"

"To the Mediterranean service, on ane o' the Henderson boats. I'll be
making siller on thae boats."

"Dinna mak' it for me. It is you, your ain sel' I'll marry, and I
wouldna mind if we started wi' the wedding ring, as Mither did. Folks
may happen live on love, but they canna live without it."

"I would hae chosen you, Christine, from out o' a warld fu' o' women,
but I like to think o' you as mine by predestination, as well as
choice."

"I didna think your Calvinism went that far, Cluny. They'll be haeing
a kirk session on your views, if you publicly say the like. Ye be to
ta' care o' the elders, laddie."

They could talk now cheerfully and hopefully, and Cluny went away from
Christine that night like a new man, for

  There is no pleasure like the pain
  Of being loved, and loving.

Then every day seemed to be happier than the last. The child was
sunshine in the house, whatever the weather might be. His thin, soft
voice, his light step, above all, his shy little laugh, went to their
hearts like music. He had only learned to laugh since he came to
Culraine. Margot remembered the first time she had heard him laugh.
She said he had been almost afraid, and that he had looked inquiringly
into her face, as if he had done something he should not have done.

So the weeks and the months wore away, and the winter came, but the
weather was sunny and not very cold, and in early December Ruleson
wrapped his grandson up in one of his own pilot coats, and took him to
the boat, and carried him to the fishing ground, and showed him how to
cast and draw the line. And Jamie took naturally to the sea, and loved
it, and won Ruleson's heart over again, whenever he begged to go with
him.

Then Christmas and New Year were approaching, and there were many
other pleasures and interests. Faith's marriage was drawing near, and
she was frequently at Ruleson's, for the girl relied on Christine's
help and advice in all matters concerning the new life to which she
was going. This year also, Christmas was made memorable by a box full
of gifts which came all the way from Rome, with the compliments and
good will of the Ballisters and which contained many remembrances for
the villagers. For Ruleson himself there was a fine barometer, to
Margot a brooch and earrings of white cameo, and to Christine some
lovely lace, and a set of scarlet coral combs, beads, and earrings. To
Christine's care there was also intrusted a box full of Roman ribbons,
scarves, and neckties, their wonderful hues making them specially
welcome gifts to people so fond of brilliant colors.

From these gay treasures a scarf and sash were selected for the bride,
and the rest were sent on Christmas Eve to the young girls of the
village. Many other pretty trifles were among the gifts--fans and sets
of Roman pearls, and laces for the neck and head, and pretty veils,
and fancy handkerchiefs, and in a long letter Angus directed
Christine to do her will with all he sent. He only wished to repay to
the village the happy hours he had spent in it the past summer.

This letter was not lover-like, but it was friendly, and sad. He said
so much might have been, and yet nothing he longed for had happened.
He recalled tender little episodes, and declared they were the only
memories he valued. The whole tone of the letter was the tone of a
disappointed and hopeless man, to whom life had lost all its salt and
savor. Christine read it carefully. She was determined not to deceive
herself, and in a wakeful watch of the night, she went over it, and
understood.

"There isna ony truth in it," she said to herself, "and I needna gie a
thought to the lad's fine words. He is writing anent a made-up sorrow.
I'll warrant he is the gayest o' the gay, and that the memory o'
Christine is a little bit o' weariness to him. Weel, he has gi'en what
he could buy--that's his way, and he will mak' in his way a deal o'
pleasure among the young lasses." And the next day the bits of
brilliant silk were sorted and assigned, and then sent to the parties
chosen, with the Ballister compliments. The affair made quite a stir
in the cottages, and Angus would have been quite satisfied, if he
could have heard the many complimentary things that the prettiest
girls in Culraine said of him.

Two days before Christmas Day, Neil made his family a short visit. He
was looking very well, was handsomely dressed, and had all the
appearance and air of a man thoroughly satisfied with himself and his
prospects. He only stayed a short afternoon, for his friend Reginald
was waiting for him at the hotel, and he made a great deal of his
friend Reginald.

"You should hae brought him along wi' you," said Margot, and Neil
looked at Christine and answered--"I lost one friend, with bringing
him here, and I am not a man who requires two lessons on any
subject."

"Your friend had naething but kindness here, Neil," answered
Christine, "and he isna o' your opinion." And then she told him of the
Christmas presents sent from Rome.

"Exactly so! That is what I complain of. All these gifts to you and
the villagers, were really taken from me. I have not been remembered.
Last Christmas I was first of all. A woman between two men always
makes loss and trouble. I ought to have known that."

"Weel, Neil," said Margot, "there's other kindnesses you can think
o'er."

"I have not had a single New Year's gift this year--yet. I suppose
Reginald will not forget me. I have my little offering to him ready;"
and he took a small box from his pocket, and showed them a rather
pretty pair of sleeve buttons. "Yes, they are pretty," he commented,
"rather more than I could afford, but Reginald will return the
compliment. I dare say it will be the only one I shall receive."

"You ought not to forget, Neil," said Margot, in a not very amiable
tone, "you ought to remember, that you had your New Year's gifts at
Midsummer."

"Oh, I never forget that! I could not, if I would," he answered with
an air of injury, and Christine to avert open disagreement, asked,
"Where will you stay in Glasgow, Neil?"

"I shall stay with Reginald, at his sister's house. She lives in
highly respectable style, at number twelve, Monteith Row. The row is a
fine row o' stone houses, facing the famous Glasgow Green, and the
Clyde river. She is a great beauty, and I expect to be the honored
guest of the occasion."

"Will you hae time to hunt up your brithers in Glasgow? Some o' them
will nae doubt be in port, and you might call at Allan's house, and
tell them that little Jamie is doing fine."

"I do not expect I shall have a moment to spare. If I have, I will
make inquiries. I think, however, Miss Rath is going to make rather a
gay time in my honor, and I shall feel obligated to observe all its
occasions."

"How old is Miss Rath?" asked Christine.

"I have never asked her age. I suppose she is over twenty, as she
controls her own property."

"Happen you may lose your heart to her."

"O! I am not a man to lose anything so important."

"Weel, weel, you're nae wiser than the lave o' men, Neil."

"I think I am, Christine. At least, I have that reputation."

"Will you hae a cup o' tea, Neil?"

It was Christine who asked him, and he answered, "No. I had just
finished a good lunch, when I came here, and Reginald said he should
wait dinner for me. He orders very liberally, I must say," and he took
out a new gold watch, and looked at the time.

His mother saw it at once, and glanced at Christine, who instantly
followed an exclamation of wonder, by asking, "Whoever gave ye the
bonnie timepiece, Neil?"

"I gave it to myself, Christine. I have been coaching Reginald, and
two or three other students, and it's rather a paying business. I
shall do a great deal in that way after the New Year. Well, I think I
must be going."

"Your feyther will be hame within an hour. He'll hae our wonderfu'
bairn wi' him. You will surely stay and see them."

"You mean Allan's son?"

"Ay," answered Christine, "he's a beauty, and he is sae clever, we'll
be needing a school, and the set o' teachers in it, to keep the lad
within the proper scope o' knowledge. He's a maist remarkable boy!"

"I used to fill that position," said Neil.

"Not you," said Margot. "You were a puir weakling, every way. It took
everyone's love and labor to bring you through. I'm not sure now, if
you were worth it. It was scrimp and toil through long years for a'
the Rulesons."

"I am not ungrateful, Mother, and I shall no doubt win a high
degree."

"We hae nae doubt you will, Neil. Dinna go as soon as you come.
Feyther will be here anon."

"I cannot keep Reginald waiting. I will try and see father as I
return."

So he went, and mother and sister looked at each other, and were
silent. Margot opened and shut a drawer in the dresser, pushed the
chair in which Neil had sat violently into its place, and then lifted
a broom and flung it down with a force that is best explained by the
word 'temper.' She felt unable to speak, and finally burst into
passionate weeping, mingled with angry words.

"Oh, Mither! Mither! dinna tak' on that way. It's nae new thing. It's
just what we expectit. You hae looked it in the face many a time. Oh,
I'm sae glad his feyther wasna here!"

"His feyther ought to hae been here."

"Na! na! We dinna want feyther to think a' his love and labor was
thrown awa'. It wad fairly break his heart. We must just keep the
mistake to oursel's. We can forgie, and still lo'e the puir lad, but
feyther wad go to extremes, both wi' Neil and himsel'. We can thole
his selfishness. We aye knew it was there. We hae held our tongues
sae far. We must gae on being silent. I wouldna hae feyther know for
onything. Let him hae his dream, Mither!"

"My heart feels like to break, lassie."

"Mine too, Mither. But we needna gie feyther a heart-break. We'll just
keep the visit quiet."

"Your way be it, Christine."

_Women do such things!_

At this moment Ruleson's voice was heard. He was coming up the hill
with Jamie's hand in his own. "They'll be inside in a minute,
Mither--a smile frae you is worth gold now," and she stooped and
kissed her mother. This unusual token of love and care went to
Margot's heart with a bound.

"You dear lassie," she said. "I'll do as you say," and that moment
she was called upon to make good her words. Ruleson was at the
hearthstone, and Jamie was at her knees, telling her what a splendid
time they had had, and how many big fish they had caught.

"Did you bring ane o' the haddocks hame with you, James?" she asked,
and Ruleson answered, "I found Tamsen's boy at the pier, waiting to
buy all my catch, and I thought ye wad hae something better for us."

"There's naething better than a fresh haddock. You canna cook them
wrang, if you try; but I'll find something good for good fishermen
like you and Jamie." And she spread the table with good things, and
Ruleson said softly, as if to himself--"Thou satisfieth my mouth with
good things, my cup runneth over." And Christine and her mother had
come very close to each other and Margot had forgotten her heart-break
in Christine's kiss, and almost forgotten Neil's visit. At any rate
she was quite happy to hide it from her husband. "He's like a' men,"
she reflected, "he doesna spit oot his anger like I do, and be rid o'
it. He buries it in his heart, and he buries it alive, and it doesna
gie him a moment's peace. Christine is right, and I'm glad I held my
tongue, even frae good words."

When all the Ballister Christmas presents had been distributed the New
Year's festival was at hand, and the village was all agog about
Faith's marriage. The arrangements had been slightly changed, and
after all she was to be married from Ruleson's house. Early in the
morning she came up there with her simple bride garments in a leather
trap, which she carried in her hand. She wanted Christine to dress
her. She said, Christine had brought her all her good fortune, and she
be to send her away, and then good would go with her.

So Christine dressed the timid little woman, and really made her look
lovely, and at ten o'clock her Largo lover, called Willie Anderson,
came there also. He had a couple of friends with him, and Ruleson
himself took the place of Faith's father, and gave her his arm, as
they all walked together, very doucely and religiously, to the
Domine's house.

The Domine had been advised of the visit, and the large Bible lay open
on the table. Standing before it the young couple received the
Domine's charge, and then in the presence of their witnesses, pledged
themselves to life-long love and devotion. The Domine entered the
contract in his Kirk Book, and the witnesses signed it. Then the
simple ceremony was over. The Domine blessed the bride, and she turned
with a blushing, happy face to her husband.

"My ain! My wife!" he said, and gave her his arm, and Christine with
her father and Anderson's two friends followed. All were very silent.
The bride and bridegroom were too happy to talk, and their friends
understood and sympathized with the feeling.

The day was fine and clear, and the walk back to Ruleson's was still
and sweet, and in spite of its silence, very pleasant; and they had no
sooner opened Ruleson's door, than their senses were refreshed by the
sight of the festal table, and the odor of delicious foods. For Margot
had made a wedding dinner after her own heart. One of her precious
turkeys had been sacrificed, and there was that wealth of pudding and
cakes and pastry which no man loves and appreciates more than the
fisherman. It was an excellent dinner, well cooked, and well enjoyed,
and happily prolonged with pleasant conversation, until Christine
reminded them they were probably keeping the crowd asked to the
Fishers' Hall waiting.

In a pleasant haste they left all in James' care, and went in a body
to the hall. There was quite a large company there, very well employed
in practicing the steps of a new strathspey, and others in exhibiting
their special bits of splendor. The whole room was flashing with Roman
colors, and Judith Macpherson's Protestantism was angered by it. She
said with her usual striking eloquence, that, in her opinion, they
were nothing but emblems of popery. They came frae Rome. Why not? If
we had elders in the kirk, worth the name o' elders, they wad ca' a
session anent such a shamefu' exhibition o' the pope's vera signs and
symbols. Indeed, she told Ruleson that she would stand up in the kirk
on the next Sabbath day, if he, or someone, didna tak' the proper
steps in the matter, and "I'll tell you, James Ruleson, I'm minded to
go my ways to the manse right now, and bring the Domine himsel' here,
to see the wicked testimonies."

Then the bridal dance began, and Ruleson drew Judith aside, and told
her he would himself speak anent the colors, if she thought they were
sinfu'.

"Sinfu'!" she screamed. "Why Ruleson, man, they come frae the pope,
and thae men they ca' socialists. I hae heard tell o' the tricolor,
and of a' the misery and sin that cam' frae it in France. Isna France
i' the pope's dominions?"

"Oh no, Judith, they arena the same countries."

"James Ruleson, they may be different countries, but that tricolor sin
is the same everywhere, even if it get into a godly place like
Culraine. You must put a stop to our lasses wearing the pope's colors,
James Ruleson. That's a fact!"

James promised to do so. In reality he would have promised anything
she asked, rather than have her go to the manse and disturb the
Domine. He was only too grateful to observe that the wearers of the
sinful colors were not disturbed by Judith's suspicions, and that the
sailormen and fishermen were apparently most in love with the girls
who wore the greatest quantity of the offensive emblems.

At three o'clock the dance was over, the greetings were all said and
Willie Anderson anxious to carry off his bride on the tide top. "The
waters are fu' at four o'clock," he said to Ruleson, "and I want to
lift anchor and spread sails at the same moment. Then we'll hae wind
and tide wi' us, and we'll win hame on the tide top. That would be a
lucky thing, you ken, Ruleson."

"The ways o' a good man are a' lucky, Anderson, for they are ordered
of the Lord, but a man must hae his way on his wedding day--maybe
he'll ne'er get it again!"

So Ruleson said a few words to the chattering groups, and they
instantly formed into line. The violins went first, then the bride and
bridegroom. Then Ruleson and Margot, Christine and her brother
Norman, and the rest as fancy led them in the selection of partners.

Willie Anderson's brand-new boat lay at the pier, and he had rigged up
a little gangway trimmed with ivy between it and the shore. Every boat
in harbor was flying its flag, except Anderson's boat--she was waiting
for the bride, but as soon as the crowd had settled itself, Anderson
went to the gangway, and a little lad waiting there for that purpose
handed him a parcel. It contained the new flag for the new boat, and
it was blue as the sea, and had three white words in its center, "Mine
and Thine."

And while cheering filled the air, Willie wrapped it round his bride's
slim form, and then lifting her in his strong arms, he leaped into
the boat with her. In a few minutes the flag was flying at the
masthead, the anchor lifted, and the _Mine and Thine_ began her home
journeying.

And as they watched her, the tide turned, the sails filled, and she
danced out of harbor, for the tide ran with her, and she was timed to
reach home on the tide top.



CHAPTER VII

NEIL AND A LITTLE CHILD

                        Fearful commenting
  Is leaden servitor to dull delay.

  How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
  To have a thankless child.


Neil did not find it convenient on his return northward, to call again
at the home in Culraine. His mother was disappointed, and fretted to
Christine about the neglect. His father was silent, but James
Ruleson's silence often said far more than words. When all hope of a
call was over, Christine wrote to her brother, telling him in plain
words what desire and hope and disappointment had filled the two days
previous to the re-commencement of the Maraschal classes.

  Neil, dear lad, you must know that Mither was watching the road up
  the hill, for the past two or three days, and for the same time
  feyther didna go near the boats. He was watching the road
  likewise, for he didna want to miss you again. They were, both o'
  them, sairly disappointed, when you neither came, nor sent word as
  to what was keeping you from sae evident a duty. Ye be to remember
  that Mither isna as well as she should be; and you must not
  neglect her now, Neil. You might ne'er be able to make it up to
  her in the future, if you do. I'm telling you, dear lad, for your
  ain heart's ease. Yesterday morning, she put on a clean cap and
  apron and sat down by the fireside to knit, and watch and listen.
  By and by, the cat began to wash her face, and Mither was weel
  pleased wi' the circumstance, for she said it was a sure sign
  company was coming. So she went often to the door, and watched and
  listened, but no company came, till sun down, when the Domine
  called. Mither was so disappointed she couldna steady her voice,
  her eyes were full o' angry tears, and she drove poor old Sandy
  off the hearth, and into the cold, calling him a "lying prophet,"
  and ither hard names, to which Sandy is not accustomed. Forbye,
  she hasna gi'en him a drop o' milk since. Do write Mither a long
  letter, full o' love and hope o' better days, and make some good
  excuses to her, for your neglect. Christine can make them out o'
  her ain loving heart.

  CHRISTINE.

Indeed, Christine in this letter did small justice to Margot's
indignant disappointment, and now that hope was over, she made no
pretense of hiding her wrong and her sorrow. The Domine saw as soon as
he entered the cottage, that Margot was in great trouble, and he more
than guessed the reason, for he had been called to the town very early
in the day, to meet an old friend on his way to the Maraschal College,
where he filled a Professor's Chair in the medical department. Passing
with this friend down the High Street, he had seen Neil with Roberta
Rath on his arm, examining leisurely the attractive shop windows,
while Reginald trailed at speaking distance behind them.

He kept still further behind. He had no desire to interfere. Neil had
never sought his confidence, and he did not know--except through
Christine's partial remarks--what the young man's private hopes and
plans might be. So he listened to Margot's passionate complaints a
little coldly, and she was quick to perceive it.

"You canna understand, Domine, what I suffer. Ye hae never had an
ungratefu' bairn. And I'm feeling for his feyther too--the dear auld
man, he'll be clean heart-broken!"

"No, no, Margot! A good heart that trusts in God, never breaks. It has
no cause to break."

"It is eleven years, Domine, we hae all o' us been keepin' oursel's
poor, for Neil's sake."

"The last eleven years, Margot, you have missed no good thing. God has
been good to you, and to yours. I have seen! I have not forgotten!"

"Just a few kind words would hae paid for a' we hae pinched and
wanted."

"There has been neither pinch nor want in your home, Margot."

"Ye don't ken a' things, Sir. My man has worked harder than he ought
to hae worked."

"I think you may be mistaken, Margot. James Ruleson trusts in God. Why
should he overwork himself?"

"To keep the roof o'er our heads, and find food for the bairns."

"Nay, nay, Margot! Prayer, and lawful work, keep the door safe, and
the table spread."

"Oh Domine! If you feel that your love is slighted--that the bairn you
love mair than yoursel' lightlies ye; if you feel that he's 'shamed o'
you!" And Margot covered her face, and her words were lost in
heart-breaking sobs.

"Margot, you must cease weeping. Will it do you any good to kill
yourself? What will you say to your Maker in such case?"

"I willna be feared to say all that is in my heart to Him. He knows a
mither's heart, and the griefs it tholes and carries. I canna expect
you to know how love feels when it is scorned, and made little o'."

"I know something of that same sorrow, Margot. I gave the love of my
life to one who scorned it. Only God knew my sorrow, but He was
sufficient for my comfort. There is only one way of conquering wrongs
against love, Margot."

Margot did not speak, and after a moment's pause, he asked, "Do you
want to know that way?"

"No, Sir. If it is your way, I'm no able to follow it."

"Suppose you try. You think your youngest son has treated you badly?"

"Ay, I'm sure o' it, and he's treated his feyther and his brothers
badly, and his one sister worse than a'. How can folk forget injuries
that tread love under feet? They canna do it."

"They can. Do you want to know how? Do you want to know how I did
it?"

"I couldna walk in your shoon, Sir. They're o'er big for me."

"Tell Mither, Sir. Tell her, she'll maybe find it easier than she
thinks; and maybe I could help her;" and Christine went and stood by
her mother's chair, and drew her mother's head close to her breast,
and kissed her softly, as she whispered, "Ask the Domine what to do
wi' wrangs ye canna bear, and canna pay back?"

"That's the sair part, Sir. Christine has touched the raw. If any man
or woman in the village scorns or wrangs me, I can gie them as gude as
they send--words or blows--and I wad do it! Yes, I would!"

"Have you given up your kirk membership, Margot?"

"No, Sir, I hae done naething yet, requiring me to do sae; but it's
hard saying what I might be driven to, if somebody doesna mak' Jess
Morrison quit meddling wi' my family affairs--the lying hizzy!"

"Margot! Margot! My friend Margot! You astonish me, you trouble me!"

"Weel, Domine, I'm very sorry to trouble you. I wad rather trouble the
hale village than you. What do you want me to do?"

"Just to try for one month, my plan of treating any injustice, or
injury, I receive."

"Weel then, what is your plan? I'm no promising to do what I'm vera
sure is far oot o' my way, but if you had been injured on every side
o' your heart, as I hae been, what would you do?"

"When I receive an injury, Margot, I think it calmly over, and I am
sure to find some excuse for part of it--the rest I forgive."

"There's nae excuse in Neil's case, Sir."

"Yes, there are several. These Rath's promise much for his future. He
may even be in love with Miss Rath, and a man in love isna a
responsible creature. You hae told me, in the course of years, how
much Norman's wife troubled you, and Norman could not prevent her. I
have heard the same kind of story about Robert's and Allan's, and
Alexander's wives. Men do not seem to be responsible, when they are
seeking some woman for a wife. Take this into your thoughts, anent
Neil. There were also unhappy money considerations. Evidently Neil is
not ready to pay Christine's ninety pounds back, and he does not like
to be questioned about it. He would rather keep out of the way. In
both these cases, it is not Neil. It is first the girl, then the
money. He does not despise you, he is only too considerate about Miss
Rath. In the case of the money, he is perhaps counting on its use for
his advancement in life, and he would rather not talk about it. He
does not hate or scorn his own people, he is only looking out for his
future love, and his future living. That is such a common and natural
feeling, we need not wonder and weep over it. There must be other
excuses to make, if I knew all about Neil's life and hopes, and for
the rest of the faults against him--forgive them, as God forgives your
faults against His long suffering love and patience."

"Mebbe that is the right way, but----"

"Right! Say that word to yourself, Margot. Say it till it rings like a
shout in your soul, till you feel it in your hand like a drawn sword.
It is a conquering word. Say it till your weak heart grows strong."

"Mither will feel better in a few days, Sir."

"To be sure she will. Neither joy nor sorrow leaves us where it found
us. Poor Neil!"

"Why 'poor Neil,' Sir?"

"Because he cannot see beyond his limit, and his limit is self, and
selfishness is utter loss. They conquer who endure. Live it down.
Deserting our own is a cruel, silent treason even if they deserve it.
It is a sin that our souls are ashamed of. Margot, your weakness
tonight came o'er you in a moment when you were slack in Faith. You
are naturally and spiritually a brave woman, Margot. What have you to
fear?"

"I dinna want the lad I hae nursed at my breast to be ashamed o'
me--that is my fear, Domine. I dinna want to lose his love."

"Does a man ever forget the mother who bore him? I can't believe it.
When all other loves fade, that is green. It is nearly fifty years
since I bid my mother 'good-by' for ever in this life. She is the
dearest and sweetest mother to me yet. I remember her eyes, the touch
of her lips, the soft caress of her hands, as if I had seen her
yesterday. A man, however wicked, is not beyond hope, who yet loves
his mother. Neil is not a bad boy. He will love you to the end."

"I fear, I fear, Domine, that----"

"No! You do not fear. You have nothing to fear. There was a noted
preacher and poet, who shall tell you what your fear is. His name was
Crashaw, and he was an Englishman, who died just about two hundred
years ago and he says to a fearful soul:

  "There is no storm but this
  Of your own cowardice,
    That braves you out.
  You are the storm that mocks
  Yourself, you are the rocks
    Of your own doubt.
  Besides this fear of danger, there's
    No danger here,
  And they that here fear danger,
    Do deserve their fear."

"Ay, that's what you ca' poetry. I dinna understand a word o' it, but
I can mind that David said, he didna fear, even in the dead-mirk-dale;
but it's a far-back thought to King David, and when a mither is angry
at her bairn, she feels as if the Lord, too, was like to lose sight o'
her, and that earth and heaven are baith a' wrang."

"Well, then, Margot, when you feel as if the Lord was like to lose
sight o' you, then you canna lose sight o' the Lord. Then, in the
words of your Covenanters' Psalms, you be to cry out: 'How lang, O
Lord! Will ye mind me nae mair? How long will ye hap yer face frae
me?' And then, Margot, you mind how the few verses of doubt and fear,
end--'the Lord he's wrought a' things neiborlie for me'. Now, Margot,
I am not going to preach to you. Your own leal heart can do that. I
will just say goodnight with one verse from that same dear old book o'
psalms--'Let the words o' my mouth, an' the thought o' my heart, be
for pleasure in yer sight, O Lord, my strength, and my hame bringer.'
I leave blessing with you."

"You werna as kind as you should hae been to the Domine, Mither. He
tried to comfort you," said Christine.

"That was in the way o' his duty. What does he know, puir fellow!
anent a mither's love or sorrow?"

"I'm glad feyther hes wee Jamie for his comfort."

"Ay, but Jamie doesna comfort me, in the place o' Neil."

"You hae me, Mither. Dinna forget Christine."

"Would I do that? Never! Christine is worth a' the lads in Scotland.
They marry--and forget."

"The Domine says he loves his mother today, better than ever, and her
dead near fifty years."

"The Domine is a wonder, and he ne'er put a wife in her place. I hope
your feyther didna go to the toun today. Where has Jamie been?"

"He went out with feyther, this morning. I think they went to the
boats, but I canna weel say. They ought to be hame by this hour. I
wonder what is keeping them sae late?"

"Weel, Christine, the trouble hes gone by, this time, and we willna
ca' it back. If your feyther didna come across the lad i' the town, it
will mebbe be best to let him get back to the Maraschal without remark
or recollection."

"To be sure, Mither."

"I wonder what's keeping your feyther? It is too late, and too cold,
for Jamie to be out."

"I hear their voices, Mither. They're coming up the hill. Stir the
fire into a blaze o' welcome. Just listen to the laddie laughing--and
feyther laughing too. Whatever has happened to them?"

James Ruleson and the lad at his side came into the cottage the next
moment. The light of the laugh was yet on their faces, and oh, what a
happy stir their advent made in the cozy, firelit room! Margot forgot
she had been crying and complaining, she was helping her man take off
his heavy coat, and Christine was helping the child, who was in a
state of great excitement:

"I hae been to the circus!" he cried. "Christine! Gran'mither! I hae
been to the circus! It was wonderful! I did not want to leave it. I
wanted to stay always there. I want to go tomorrow. Gran'feyther! Will
you take me tomorrow? Say yes! Do say yes!"

"Why, James!" cried Margot, "I never heard tell o' the like! Hae ye
lost your senses, gudeman?"

"No, I think I hae just found them. I am sair-hearted, because I didna
send all the lads there. Let us hae a cup o' tea, and we will tell you
how we spent the day."

Then there was a ten minutes hurry, and at the end a well spread
table, and four happy faces round it; and as Margot handed Ruleson his
big tea cup, she said, "Now, James Ruleson, tell us what you and the
lad hae been after today, that took you into such a sinfu' place as a
circus. You'll hae to face the Domine on the matter. You, a ruling
elder, in a circus! I'm mair than astonished! I'm fairly shocked at
ye! And I'm feared it was a premeditated sin. And ye ken what the
Domine thinks o' premeditated sins."

"It was far from a sin o' any kind, gudewife. Jamie and I were on our
way to the boat, for a few hours' fishing, when we met a lad wi' a
note from Finlay, saying he wanted a few words o' advice from me, and
I took a sudden thought o' a day's rest, and a bit o' pleasure wi'
little Jamie. Sae, to the town we went, and first o' all to Finlay's,
and I had a long talk wi' him, about some railway shares he owns, on
my advice; and they hae turned out sae weel, he wanted me to tak' part
o' the profit. I wouldna do that, but I let him gie twenty pounds
towards the school fund."

"You might hae put that twenty in your ain pouch, gudeman, and nae
fault in the same. You are too liberal anent the school. Our ain lads
get naething from it."

"Jamie will hae the gude o' it, and lots o' Culraine lads and lasses
until they get a better one. Weel, so be it! After Finlay and I had
finished our crack, I took Jamie to Molly Stark's, and we had a
holiday dinner."

"Chicken pie! Custard pudding! Strawberry tarts! Nuts and raisins! And
a big orange! Grandmither! Oh, it was beautiful! Beautiful!"

"Then we walked about the town a bit, and I saw a big tent, and men
playing music before it, and when we got close pictures of animals and
of horses, and men riding. And Jamie saw many little lads going in,
especially one big school, and he said, 'Grandfeyther, tak' me in
too!' And I took counsel wi' my ain heart for a minute, and it said to
me, 'Tak' the lad in,' and so I did."

"And now you're blaming yoursel'?"

"I am not. I think I did right. There was neither sound nor sight o'
wrang, and the little laddie went wild wi' pleasure; and to tell the
vera truth, I was pleased mysel' beyond a' my thoughts and
expectations. I would like to tak' you, Margot, and Christine too. I
would like it weel. Let us a' go the morn's night."

"I hae not lost my senses yet, James. Me go to a circus! Culraine wad
ne'er get o'er the fact. It wad be a standing libel against Margot
Ruleson. As for Christine!"

"I wad like weel to go wi' Feyther."

"I'm fairly astonished at you, Christine! Lassie, the women here would
ne'er see you again, they wad feel sae far above ye. I'm not the
keeper o' your feyther's gude name, but I hae a charge o'er yours, and
it is clear and clean impossible, for you to go to a circus."

"If Feyther goes----"

"Your feyther hasna heard the last o' his spree yet. To think o' him
leaving the narrow road. Him, near saxty years old! The kirk session
on the matter will be a notable one. Elders through the length and
breadth o' Scotland will be takin' sides. Dear me, James Ruleson, that
you, in your auld age, should come to this!" and then Margot laughed
merrily and her husband and Christine understood she was only joking.

"And you'll maybe go wi' us all some afternoon, Margot?"

"Na, na, James! I'll not gie Jess Morrison, and the like o' her, any
occasion for their ill tongues. They'd just glory in Margot Ruleson,
Elder Ruleson's wife, going to the circus. I wouldn't be against
going mysel' I'd like to go, but I wouldn't gie them the pleasure o'
tossing my gude name on their ill-natured tongues."

"I saw Peter Brodie there, and his three lads, and his daughter
Bella."

"Weel, James, tak' the little laddie again, if so you wish. Peter will
stand wi' you, and he's the real ruling elder. But Christine is
different. It lets a woman down to be talked about, whether she is
right, or wrang."

Then Jamie was allowed to give his version of the wonder and the joy
of a circus, and the last cups of tea were turned into some glorious
kind of a drink, by the laughter and delight his descriptions evoked.
Then and there it was resolved that his grandfather must take him
again on the following day, and with this joyous expectation in his
heart, the child at last fell asleep.

When Ruleson and his wife were alone, Margot noticed that her man's
face became very somber and thoughtful. He was taking his bed-time
smoke by the fireside, and she waited beside him, with her knitting in
her hands, though she frequently dropped it. She was sure he had
something on his mind, and she waited patiently for its revealing. At
length he shook the ashes from his pipe, and stood it in its proper
corner of the hob, then going to the window, he looked out and said,

"It's fair and calm, thank God! Margot, I saw Neil today." As he
spoke, he sat down, and looked at her, almost sorrowfully.

"What did he say for himsel'?"

"I didna speak to him. I was in Finlay's store, at the back o' it,
whar Finlay hes his office. A young man came into the store, and
Finlay got up and went to speak to him. It was Rath, and when he went
awa', Finlay called me, and showed me a little group on the sidewalk.
They were Rath and his sister, our Neil and Provost Blackie's son."

"Our Provost Blackie's son?"

"Just sae. And Neil and him were as well met and friendly as if they
had been brought up in the same cottage. The four o' them stood
talking a few minutes, and then Neil offered his arm to Miss Rath, and
led the young lady to a carriage waiting for them. She smiled and said
something, and Neil turned and bowed to Rath and young Blackie, and
then stepped into the carriage and took his seat beside the lady, and
they drove off together."

"Gudeman, you arena leeing to me?"

"I am telling you the plain evendown truth, Margot."

"Did he see you?"

"No. I keepit oot o' his way."

"Whatna for?"

"I needna say the words."

"I'll say them for you--you thought he would be ashamed o' you."

"Ay, he might hae been. Dinna cry, woman. Dear, dear woman, dinna cry!
It's our ain fault--our ain fault. If we had stood firm for the
pulpit, if we had said, 'you must be either a preacher or a
schoolmaster,' this wouldna hae been. We were bent on makin' a
gentleman o' him, and now he prefers gentlemen to fishermen--we ought
to hae expectit it."

"It is cruel, shamefu', ungratefu' as it can be!"

"Ay, but the lad is only seeking his ain good. If he still foregathered
wi' our rough fisher-lads, we wouldn't like it. And we would tell him
sae."

"He might hae found time to rin down, and see us for an hour or twa,
and gie us the reasons for this, and that."

"He looked like he was courting the young lady--and we know of auld
times, wife, that when our lads began courting, we hed to come after.
I was wrang to gie in to his studying the law. Studying the gospels,
he wad hae learned that there are neither rich nor poor, in God's
sight. We gave the lad to God, and then we took him awa' frae God, and
would mak' a lawyer and a gentleman o' him. Weel, as far as I can see,
he is going to be a' we intended. We are getting what we hae worked
for. There's nane to blame but oursel's."

This reasoning quite silenced Margot. She considered it constantly,
and finally came to her husband's opinion. Then she would not talk
about Neil, either one way, or the other, and it soon fell out that
the lad's name was never mentioned in the home where he had once ruled
almost despotically. Only Christine kept her faith in Neil. She wrote
him long letters constantly. She told him all that was going on in the
village, all about his father and mother, the Domine and the school
house. She recalled pleasant little incidents of the past, and
prefigured a future when she would see him every day. And she seldom
named little Jamie. She divined that Neil was jealous of the position
the child had gained in the household. And Christine was no
trouble-maker. Her letters were all messages of peace and good will,
and without any advice from her father she had personally come to very
much the same conclusion that he had arrived at. "There has been a
great mistake," she said softly to herself, "and we be to mak' the
best o' it. It isna beyond God's power to sort it right yet."

So Neil was seldom named unless a letter came from him, which was not
a frequent occurrence. The boxes filled with home delicacies were no
longer sent, nor was their absence noted, nor their presence
requested. Neil was making money as a coach to younger and wealthier
students. He now dined at the best hotel, and had a very good
breakfast in his comfortable rooms. But Christine felt that the
breaking of this tie of "something good to eat" was a serious thing.
Home was a long way further off to Neil, when the motherly baskets of
homemade dainties ceased coming to him, and all Christine's
apologies--whether they touched his mother's ill health, or his own
prosperity's making them unnecessary, did not mend the matter. They
were just common bread and meat, mere physical things, but their want
was heart-hunger, and doubt and suspicion, in place of the love and
pleasure they had always caused.

Generally, however, as one interest in life dies out, another springs
up, and the school building, and the little laddie kept the Ruleson
family happily busy. Ruleson had been asked to superintend the
building and he did the work with a completeness which was natural to
him. He looked over every load of stone, and saw that the blocks of
granite were well fitting, and perfect in color. He examined all the
mortar made, lest the builders follow modern habits and put too much
sand among the lime. He returned as unworthy many pounds of nails,
which were either too short, or too slight, for the purposes for which
they were intended; and the slating for the roof was a thing he did
not trust to anyone but James Ruleson. So the school house and his
fishing kept him busy and happy, and Margot and Christine looked at
him with wonder and pleasure. He was always smiling, and always
listening to Jamie, who was chattering at his side, whenever he was on
land.

So life at Culraine pursued the even tenor of its way, until the
middle of March, when the school was opened for a short quarter until
the herring should come on in July. The building was by no means
finished, but the walls were up, the windows in, the slate roof on,
and the desks and forms in place. The master's room, the painting,
plastering, and decoration were untouched. Ruleson thought they could
be attended to during the herring fishing, and the school formally
opened in September.

To a man quite unaccustomed to business, these were tremendous, yet
delightful responsibilities; and Ruleson lived between his boat and
the school. When he was on land, Jamie was always at his side.
Hitherto Ruleson had been noted for his reticence. Even among such a
silent race as the Fife fishers his silence was remarkable. He had
held his peace even from good, but the child always chattering at his
side had taught him to talk. Jamie's thirst for knowledge was
insatiable, he was always wanting to know something or other, and the
inquisitive "why" was constantly on his lips. Few people could
remember James Ruleson's laughing, now his big guffaw constantly
carried on its echo the little lad's shrill treble laugh. Ruleson had
many amiable qualities unused and undeveloped that the boy brought out
in many different ways. In his little grandson's company he was born
again, and became as a little child. This was an actual and visible
conversion. The whole village testified to this wonderful new birth.

On the fourteenth of March the dream of his heart came true. He saw
the little children come running through the sand hills, and over the
heather, to the school. From far and near, they came, wearing their
best clothes, and happy as if it was a holiday. He listened to them
reciting, after their teachers, a morning prayer. He heard them
learning in class together the alphabet, and the first lessons in
numbers and addition, a lesson which all acquired rapidly by some
secret natural process. For if the teacher asked how many two and two
made, he had not to wait a moment for a correct answer from every baby
mouth. It amazed Ruleson, until he remembered that no one had ever
taught him to count. Through generations of clever bargaining mothers,
had this ability become a natural instinct. The Domine thought it
might have done so.

In some way or other, the school made Christine's life very busy. She
was helping weary mothers make little dresses, and little breeches, or
doing a bit of cleaning for them, or perhaps cooking a meal, or
nursing the baby for an hour. She was mending or weaving nets, she was
redding up her own home. She was busy with the washing or ironing, or
hearing Jamie's lessons, or helping her mother with the cooking. Her
hands were never idle, and there was generally a smile on her face, a
song on her lips, or a pleasant word for everyone within the sound of
her cheerful voice.

She had also her own peculiar duties. There were long and frequent
letters from Cluny to answer, and occasionally one from Angus
Ballister, the latter always enclosing a pretty piece of lace, or a
trifle of some kind, special to the city he was in. Ballister's
letters troubled her, for they were written still in that tone of "it
might have been," with a certain faint sense of reproach, as if it was
her fault, that it had not been. This was so cleverly insinuated, that
there was nothing for her to deny, or to complain of. She wished he
would not write, she wished he would cease sending her any reminders
of "days forever gone." His sentimental letters were so evidently the
outcome of a cultivated heart-breaking disappointment, that they
deeply offended her sense of truth and sincerity.

One day she received from him a letter dated Madrid, and it contained
a handsome lace collar, which she was asked to wear for his sake, and
thus remember his love "so sorrowfully passionate, and alas, so early
doomed to disappointment and despair!"

"The leeing lad!" she angrily exclaimed. "I'll just tell him the
truth, and be done wi' him. I'll send him the collar back, and tell
him I'm no carin' to be reminded o' him, in ony shape or fashion. I'll
tell him he kens naething about love, and is parfectly ignorant o' any
honest way o' makin' love. I'll tell him that he never loved me, and
that I never loved him worth talking about, and that I'll be obligated
to him if he'll drop the makin' believe, and write to me anent village
matters, or not write at a'."

Days so full and so happy went quickly away, and though there had been
so much to do, never had the village been ready for the herring visit,
as early, and so completely, as it was this summer. When Margot's
roses began to bloom, the nets were all leaded, and ready for the
boats, and the boats themselves had all been overhauled and their
cordage and sails put in perfect condition. There would be a few
halcyon days of waiting and watching, but the men were gathering
strength for the gigantic labor before them, as they lounged on the
pier, and talked sleepily of their hopes and plans.

It was in this restful interval that James and Margot Ruleson received
a letter from their son Neil, inviting them to the great Commencement
of his college. He said he was chosen to make the valedictory speech
for his class, that he had passed his examination with honor, and
would receive his commission as one of Her Majesty's attorneys at law.
"If you would honor and please me by your presence, dear father and
mother," he wrote, "I shall be made very happy, and I will secure a
room for you in the house where I am living, and we can have our meals
together."

It is needless to say this letter canceled all faults. Margot was
delighted at the prospect of a railway journey, and a visit to
Aberdeen. She was going to see for hersel' what a university was
like--to see the hundreds o' lads studying for the law and the gospel
there--to hae a change in the weary sameness of her hard fisher life.
For a few days she was going to be happy and play, hersel', and see
her lad made a gentleman, by the gracious permission o' Her Majesty,
Queen Victoria.

The invitation being gladly accepted, Margot had anxious consultations
with Christine about her dress. She knew that she was the handsomest
woman in Culraine, when she wore her best fishing costume; "but I
canna wear the like o' it," she said in a lingering, rather longing
tone.

"Na, na, Mither, ye be to dress yoursel' like a' ither ladies. Your
gray silk is fine and fitting, but you must hae a new bonnet, and
white gloves, and a pair o' patent leather shoon--a low shoe, wi' bows
o' black ribbon on the instep. There's few women hae a neater foot
than you hae, and we'll gae the morn and get a' things needfu' for
your appearance. Feyther hes his kirk suit, and he is requiring
naething, if it be not a pair o' gloves."

"He never puts a glove on his hand, Christine."

"Ay, weel, he can carry them in his hand. They are as respectable in
his hands, as on them. It is just to show folk that he can afford to
glove his hands, if he wants to do it. That is maistly what people
wear fine claes of all kinds for. They would be happier i' their ivery
day loose and easy suits, I'm thinking," said Christine.

"I wonder why Neil didna ask you, Christine. You helped him many a
weary hour to the place he is now standing on. If he had not asked
anyone else, he ought to hae bidden you to his finishing and
honoring. Why didn't he do that proper thing? Hae ye ony quarrel wi'
him?"

"Not a word oot o' place between us. I wrote him a four-page letter
three days syne."

"What's the matter, then?"

"He's feared for me, Mither. He's feared his friend Reginald will do
as Angus did, fa' in love wi' me, and then get oot o' love wi' him.
Men are silly as bairns anent some things. I'm not carin', Mither.
Someone must bide at hame, and look after wee Jamie, and you yoursel'
will be mair contented if you ken I am here to tak' tent o' the house
and bairn, and the lave o' things."

"Ay, it's better. You canna leave a house its lane, any mair than a
bairn. The ane will get into dole and mischief, as quick as the ither.
You'll be minding Polly Cromarty's bit cottage, taking fire and
burning to the ground, and not a man, woman, or bairn near it. And
Bella Simpson the same, and Kate Dalrymple losing a' her savings, and
the house locked and barr'd and naebody in it, or near it. I'll go to
Aberdeen real happy if you are watching the house, while I'm awa'
playing, mysel'."

So there was a week of happy preparation, and then on a fine Monday
morning Mr. and Mrs. Ruleson went to Aberdeen. Margot was satisfied to
leave her house in Christine's care, but at the last hour, she had
discovered another likelihood of trouble. It was the herring.

"They are maistly twa weeks earlier, or later than looked for,
Christine," she said, "and, of course, they'll be earlier this year. I
wouldn't wonder that when we reach Aberdeen, we'll find them there, if
they arena at Culraine itsel'. And if feyther's boat isna leading, it
will be that meddlesome Peter Brodie's boat--and that would rile me a'
the year through."

"Mither, it is too soon for the herrin'. You needna fret yoursel'
anent the herrin'. If there are any signs o' the feesh, I'll gie young
Donald Grant a smile, and he'll watch for them night and day to
pleasure me. I'll not let Peter hae a chance to find them."

"That's a' right."

And when they were fairly gone and out o' sight, Christine sat down
to consider, and to draw her personality together. She felt as if
there were half-a-dozen Christines, and she was equally conscious of
an unusual house. Its atmosphere was intense and restless, and
slightly dissatisfied. Christine considered it for a few moments,
and then said, "Nae wonder! Everything in it is tapsalterie, and
I'll just go through it, and make it tidy and clean, and proper
for the hame-coming."

At Aberdeen railway station they found Neil waiting for them. He took
them to the house he called "home." It was a very respectable house,
in a very respectable quarter of the city, kept by Mrs. Todd, a
sea-captain's widow, a woman with "relatives weel kent, and o' the
better class o' folk." She took to Margot, and Margot, with some
reservations, took to her. Ruleson was anxious to see the city. From
the small window in his railway carriage his eyes had rested upon its
granite towers and spires, and he went with Neil to walk down
Maraschal and Union Streets, the latter being a most splendid roadway,
with houses and pavements of gray granite. For a full mile's length,
the street looked as if it had been cut and fashioned out of the solid
rock, for the mortar used could not be seen. There were splendid shops
on these streets, but there was no sign of a circus, nor of any other
place of amusement.

Sitting at tea with the captain's widow, he named this fact. "I saw
naething o' a circus," he said, "and a man with whom I talked a few
minutes said there were no theaters or concert halls, or the like o'
such places, in Aberdeen."

"Just sae," answered the widow, "we hae nae amusements here, but
preaching, preaching!"

"Gudeman, why were you seeking information anent amusements? They
arena in your way."

"I was just makin' a few interrogatories, Margot. I wanted to ken how
the people passed their days. I didna see any sign o' manufactories.
What do they mak' then in Aberdeen?"

Ruleson looked pointedly at the widow as he spoke, and she answered
with an air of quiet superiority. "Aberdeen mak's men--men out o' the
raw material, for a' the marts and markets o' the warld. We hae lads
to be made men o' frae every part o' Scotland; for poor lads can get
here the best o' learning for sma' cost. They can hae board for five
shilling a week, and the professors' fees are only seven or eight
pounds a session. A twenty-five-pound bursary will pay all expenses.
Many of the poor students board themselves, and a great deal can be
done on porridge and milk, and fish, and meal. And we hae the gentry,
too, Sir! plenty of rich lads, as well as poor ones, and the one kind
helps the ither."

Ruleson saw both kinds the next day--hundreds of braw young lads,
running over with the joyous spirit of youth. Hard to control, yet
thoroughly under control, they filled the large university hall with
an almost intoxicating influence of life. You could not feel old while
breathing it. Yet it all seemed very much like a church meeting to
Margot, until Neil stepped to the front of the crowded platform. That
sight brought her heart and soul home, and she laid her hand on her
husband's hand, and sat still to listen.

He looked handsome and gentlemanly, and held a folded paper in his
hand. Bowing to the professors, the provost, and the other dignitaries
surrounding him, he then turned a smiling face to the audience, and
commenced his speech. It was a very learned discussion on a point of
law then causing international argument, and as his various points
reached their climax, he was warmly applauded. At its close many
stood up in their enthusiasm to honor him, and in the midst of this
excitement, the president of the Maraschal handed him, with the set
formula, the credentials which made Neil Ruleson one of Her Majesty's
gentlemen and councilors-at-law.

Neil's father sat motionless, but his grave face changed like the
pages of a book which are being turned. Margot was almost hysterical.
She covered her face and wept, and all eyes were turned on her, and
every heart said to itself, "She will be the lad's mother." And coming
out of the hall, many nodded to her and smiled. They wanted her to
feel that they rejoiced with her. Outside the university, Neil joined
his father and mother, and as he passed through the crowd, with his
mother on his arm, he was hailed with the congratulations both of
those who knew him, and those who did not know him.

It was a wonderful hour to the Ruleson party, and perhaps only James
Ruleson had any shadow of regret in it. He did not once voice this
regret, but it was present to his thoughts and imagination. Neil as a
gentleman of Scotland and a member of the Scottish bar was a great
honor, but Oh, if he had seen him in the minister's gown and bands,
and heard his first sermon, how much greater his joy! How much prouder
of his son's success he would have been!

But he said nothing to Margot which could dim her satisfaction.
Mrs. Todd did that quite sufficiently. She spoke with contempt o'
the fool-like way Aberdeen folk went on, every time a lad happened
to get a degree, or a bit o' school honor; and the thing happening a'
the time, as it were. She made Margot feel by her short, cool
remarks, that Neil's triumph might, after all, be an ordinary affair,
and for a little season took all the glory out of Neil's achievement,
though in doing so, she was careful of the reputation of her native
city, and candidly admitted that in spite of a' their well-kent
scholarship, Aberdeeners were kindly folk, aye ready to gie a shout
o' encouragement to a new beginner.

Margot, however, quickly readjusted the dampened and discouraged
feeling Mrs. Todd's opinions induced. "She's just jealous, because
Neil is a Fife lad. That's a' there is to her say-so! I hae heard
often that Aberdeeners were a jealous folk. I'm saying naething
against their kindliness. They hae treated Neil weel, and nae doubt
they understood weel enou' what they were doing."

Neil spent most of the day with his parents, but about six in the
evening he came to them in full evening dress, and said he was going
to the Rath's hotel. "They have a dinner in my honor," he continued,
"and the Provost's son, and several important people will be there;
and I am to be introduced to the Hepburn of Hepburn Braes, a great
nobleman in these parts. There will be ladies, too, of course, and I,
am expecting a profitable and pleasant evening." And though Margot
was quite elated over her son's great friends, Ruleson would have been
far prouder had he known Neil was going to take the chair at a session
of elders connected with some kirk of which Neil was the Domine.

The next morning they returned to Culraine with hearts full of
memories for which they could thank God, and they found their son
Allan sitting at their fireside. As soon as Allan saw them enter, he
rose and went to them, and took their hands in his hands, and said in
a voice trembling with emotion, "Father! Mother! Your kindness to my
little lad has made you father and mother twice over to me." Then what
a happy hour followed! For as they were sitting down to their evening
meal, the Domine entered. He had heard of Allan's visit and had become
anxious about the child, lest he might be taken from them. And it was
during these troubled hours he bethought him of the necessity for a
legal adoption of little Jamie by his grandfather and himself, a plan
taken into consideration that very night, and within the next three
months made binding as book and bond could fix it.

The Domine was a welcome addition to the family party. He slipped with
a smile into Christine's place, and she rose and served them with
grace and sweetness. And as she went softly around the table,
replenishing emptied plates, and refilling teacups, saying nothing,
but seeing to everyone's comfort, her beauty took on an extraordinary
charm. Woman, or rather ministering angel, she seemed, and it was
strange that all present took her beautiful service, as things of
spiritual beauty are usually taken, without much notice. Yet she was
that night the golden band around the table, that kept the sweet
influences of the meal peaceful and unbroken from the beginning to the
end of it. A few happy hours followed, and then the Domine took Allan
back to the manse with him. "They are a' tired here," he said, "but
you and I, Allan, can talk the night awa'."

This they did, but there were only two or three sentences in their
long conversation which concern this story. They referred to the happy
family life of the Rulesons. "I never go to your father's house,
Allan," said the Domine, "without regretting that I did not marry. I
have come to the conclusion that marriage is Nature's way of coaxing
the best out of us. A man puts his back into the uplift for wife and
children, for to make them happy is better than riches or fame."

"Still you might have made a mistake, Sir."

"Earth would be heaven, Allan, if we never made mistakes. But in spite
of mistakes, men live contented with the world, and happy with each
other."



CHAPTER VIII

AN UNEXPECTED MARRIAGE

           The tale that I relate
  This lesson seems to carry
  Choose not alone a proper mate,
  But proper time to marry.


The little enthusiasm incident to Neil's success did not last long,
for

        Joy's the shyest bird,
        Mortal ever heard,
  Listen rapt and silent when he sings;
        Do not seek to see,
        Less the vision be
  But a flutter of departing wings.

And if it is not tightly clasped, and well guarded, it soon fades
away, especially if doubt or question come near it. The heart, which
is never weary of recalling its sorrows, seems to have no echo for its
finer joys. This, however, may be our own fault. Let us remember for a
moment or two how ruthlessly we transfer yesterday into today, and
last week into this week. We have either no time or no inclination to
entertain joys that have passed. They are all too quickly retired
from our working consciousness, to some dim, little-visited nook in
our memory. And taken broadly, this is well. Life is generally
precious, according to the strength and rapidity of its flow, and
change is the splendid surge of a life of this kind. A perfect life is
then one full of changes. It is also a safe life, for it is because
men have no changes, that they fear not God.

Now the people of this little fishing village had lives lined with
change. Sudden deaths were inevitable, when life was lived on an
element so full of change and peril as the great North Sea. Accidents
were of daily occurrence. Loss of boats and nets reduced families to
unlooked-for poverty. Sons were constantly going away to strange seas
and strange countries, and others, who had been to the Arctic Ocean,
or the ports of Australia, coming back home. The miracle of the son's
being dead and being alive again, was not infrequently repeated.
Indeed all the tragedies and joys of life found their way to this
small hamlet, hidden among the rocks and sand dunes that guard the
seas of Fife.

Margot's triumph was very temporary. It was not of the ordinary kind.
It had in it no flavor of the sea, and the lad who had won his honors
had never identified himself with the fishers of Culraine. He did not
intend to live among them, and they had a salutary fear of the law,
and no love for it. As a general thing neither the men nor women of
Culraine cared whether Neil Ruleson won his degree or not. Such
pleasure as they felt in his success was entirely for his father's
sake.

And Margot was content that it should be so. She was not heart-pleased
with Neil, and not inclined to discuss his plans with her neighbors.
She noticed also that Neil's father had nothing to say about his son's
success, and that if the subject was introduced, it was coldly met and
quickly banished.

It hurt Christine. Her life had been so intermingled with Neil's
hopes and plans, she could not let them drop unnoticed from her
consciousness. "Why do you say naething anent Neil, Mither?" she
asked one wet morning, when the boats were in harbor, and Ruleson had
gone down to the new schoolhouse.

"Weel, Christine, I hae said a' there is to say."

"Were you really disappointed, Mither?"

"In a way."

"But Neil succeeded."

"In a way."

"What way, Mither?"

"His ain way. He has been vera successful i' that way, sin' the day he
was born. A wee, shrunken, puny infant he was, but he hes been a bit
too much for us all--and there's seven big men in our family, forbye
mysel' and Christine. Whiles I had a glimmering o' the real lad, but
maistly I did the lad's way--like the rest o' us."

"You said he was kind to you and Feyther."

"He hed to be. It's a law, like the laws o' the Medes and Persians,
in Aberdeen, that lads takin' honors should pay great attention to
their feythers and mithers. Some were auld and poor--far poorer than
fisher-folk ever are--they had worked, and starved, and prayed for
their lads, and they were going about Aberdeen streets, linked on
their lads' arms, and all o' them like to cry wi' joy. Neil had to do
like the lave, but I let his feyther gae his lane wi' him. I wasna
carin' to mak' a show o' mysel'."

"Then you shouldna blame Neil, Mither."

"Should I not? I do, though."

"What did he do wrang?"

"He did little right, and that little he had nae pleasure in. I know!
He should hae spent the evening wi' his feyther and mysel', and told
us what plans he had made for the future, but he went to the Raths'
and left us alane. He had promised all along to come hame wi' us, and
spend a few weeks wi' the boats--your feyther is short-handed since
Cluny Macpherson went awa'--and there's little doing in the law
business during July and August, but he said he had an invite to the
Raths' house on the Isle of Arran, and with them he has gane."

"I'm sorry, sorry, Mither."

"Sae am I, Christine, but when things hae come to 'I'm sorry,' there's
nae gude left i' them."

"Do you think he is engaged to Roberta Rath?"

"I canna say. I don't think he kens himsel'."

"Did you see her?"

"He pointed her out to me. She was getting into a carriage, and----"

"Weel?"

"O, she was a little body; I saw naething o' her but a blue silk
dress, and a white lace bonnet. It would be ordinary, nae doubt. She
waved a white-gloved hand to Neil, and the lad's face was like an
illumination. She seemed vera sma' and thin--just a handfu' o' her.
Naething like yoursel' and our ain full-statured, weel-finished
women."

"I feel as if I had lost Neil."

"You may do sae, for a man can be lost by a woman, quite as completely
as by the North Sea."

Then Ruleson entered the cottage. He was wet through, but his face was
red with health, and radiant with excitement. He had been in the new
schoolhouse, and seen three large boxes unpacked. "Margot! Christine!"
he cried joyfully, "you'll be to come down the hill--the baith o'
you--and see the wonderfu' things that hae come for ordering and
plenishing o' our school. There's a round ball as big as that table,
set in a frame--and it turns round, and round, and shows a' the
countries and seas i' the wide warld. The Maister said it was called a
globe. There's maps o' Scotland, and England and a' other nations to
hang on the walls, and they are painted bonnily; and there's nae end
o' copy books and slates, and bundles o' pencils, and big bottles o'
ink, and, Margot, I ne'er saw sae many school books i' a' my born
days. Naething has been forgotten. The maister said sae, and the
Domine said sae."

"Was the Domine there?"

"Ay, was he. He and the maister unpacked the boxes. Forbye, there is
three prizes for the three best scholars--the bairns will go wild o'er
them."

"What are they?"

"I canna tell you. The Domine forbade me."

"You'll hae to tell me, gudeman. I'll hae nae secrets between us twa,
and I'm mair than astonished at the Domine, throwing a married man
into such a temptation."

"I'll go wi' you how, Feyther. I want to see the wonderfuls."

"They are locked by for today. We are going to fix the school room
Monday, and hae a kind o' examination Tuesday. I hope to goodness the
herrin' will keep to the nor'ard for a few days."

"Listen to your feyther, Christine! Wishing the herrin' awa' for a lot
o' school bairns."

"Weel, Margot, woman, it's maist unlikely the feesh will be here for a
week or mair, but they hae a will and a way o' their ain, and aince or
twice, or mebbe mair than that, I hae seen them in these pairts in
June."

"I think the Domine might hae notified Christine. She ought, by
rights, to hae been at that unpacking."

"Weel, Margot, it cam' my way. I dinna think my lassie grudges me the
pleasure."

And Christine looked at him with a smile that deified her lovely
face, and made Ruleson's heart thrill with pleasure.

"I wad rayther you had the pleasure than mysel', Feyther. You ken
that," she said, and Ruleson laid his hand on her head, and answered:
"I ken it weel! God bless thee!"

That evening, while Christine and little Jamie were busy over
Jamie's lessons, Margot said to her husband, "Gudeman, I'd like to
ken what prizes hae been bought. The Domine didna include me in his
prohibition, or else he has less sense than I gie him credit for."

"He said I had better tell naebody."

"Ay, but you had best tell me. What classes are you givin' prizes to?
It's a vera unusual thing to gie prizes. I think little o' paying
bairns to learn their lessons. But they're no likely to be worth the
looking at----"

"'Deed are they--vera gude indeed, for the wee bairns for whom they
were bought. There are three o' them. The first is for the infant
lass, nane o' them over six years auld."

"Weel, what is it?"

"The Domine----"

"Says many a thing you ta' nae heed to. Just sae. You needna heed him
on this point. Are not we twa one and the same? Speak out, man."

"The Domine----"

"Wha's minding the Domine here? Are you mair feared for him, than for
your wife?"

Then Ruleson, with his great hearty laugh, pulled a chair to his side,
and said, "Sit down, Margot. I'm mair afraid of you, than I am of any
man living. I'm trem'ling wi' fear o' you, right now, and I'm just
going to disobey the Domine, for your sake. What will ye gie me, if I
break a promise for your sake?"

"I'll keep my promise to you, and say naething anent your transgression.
What kind o' a prize could they gie to them babies i' the infant
class--nane o' them five years auld? Did you see it?"

"Ay, I unpacked it."

"Was it a rattle, set wi' wee bells?"

"Naething o' the kind. It was a big doll, bonnily dressed, and a
little trunk fu' o' mair claes, and a full set o' doll cheena, and a
doll bed and night claes; wonderfu', complete. My goodness! Whoever
gets it will be the proud wee lassie."

"Little Polly Craig will be getting it, o' course. Who chose the
presents?"

"I'm thinking it was the Domine and the schoolmaster's wife."

"Then they would be knowing wha' they were buying for?"

"That goes without the saying. I didna hear onyone say the doll was
for Polly Craig."

"Nor I, but Polly's mother hasna been to hold, nor to bind, anent the
infant's progress. The hale village is weary o' the story o' Polly's
remarkable intimacy wi' her alphabet and spelling. The bairn may be a'
her mither says, but I'm thinking she's getting her abilities too
aerly to be reliable. Weel, then, who gets the next prize?"

"Willie Tamsen."

"I dinna ken the Tamsens."

"They're nice folk, from the south o' Fife. Willie is seven years
auld, or thereby. He's clever, the schoolmaster says, in figures and
geography, and weel-behaved, and quiet-like. The Domine says he's
first in his catechism class, and vera attentive to a' that concerns
his lessons--a good little lad, wi' an astonishing power o' ken in
him."

"Weel, what will you gie sae remarkable a bairn?"

"A gold guinea."

"A gold guinea! I ne'er heard o' such wild extravagance. It's fair
sinfu'. Whate'er will a lad o' seven years auld do wi' a guinea? Buy
sweeties wi' it. I dinna think the Domine can sanction a bit o'
nonsense like that."

"I'm maist sure the Domine gave the guinea out o' his ain pocket. The
Tamsens are vera poor, and the laddie is the warst-dressed lad i' the
village, and he is to go and get a nice suit o' claes for himsel' wi'
it. The Domine knew what he was doing. The laddie will be twice as
bright, when he gets claes for his little arms and legs."

"Weel, I hae naething against Willie Tamsen. He never meddled wi' my
flowers, or stole my berries. I hope he'll get the claes. And there
was to be three prizes?"

"Ay, one for the lads and lasses from eight to eleven years old, that
takes in a large pairt o' the school. The bigger lads and lasses will
come in the autumn, when the herrin' hae been, and gane."

"I'm not asking anything anent that class. I dinna envy the
schoolmaster and mistress that will hae them to manage. They'll hae
their hands fu', or my name isna Margot Ruleson. Wha will get the
third prize?"

"Our Jamie. And he has weel won it. Jamie isna a lad o' the common
order. The Domine says he'll mak' the warld sit up and listen to him,
when he comes to full stature."

"The Domine is as silly anent the bairn, as you are. After my ain lad,
Neil, I'm expecting naething oot o' the Nazareth o' Culraine. We were
a' going to shout o'er Neil Ruleson--weel, we hae had our cry, and
dried our eyes, and hae gane on our way again."

"Neil has done weel--considering."

"Gudeman, we hae better drop that 'consideration.' I was talking o'
our Jamie. What are they going to gie our second wonder o' a bairn?"

"The maist beautiful book you ever saw--a big copy of Robinson Crusoe
fu' o' pictures, and bound in blue wi' gold lettering. The bairn will
hae wonder after wonder wi' it."

"Did you buy the book?"

"Not I. What mak's you ask that information?"

"Naething. Jamie should hae had something he could hae halfed wi'
Christine. She has spent the best o' her hours teaching the bairn. Few
or nane o' the lads and lasses would hae the help o' any hame lessons.
It was really Christine put Neil Ruleson among her Majesty's
lawyers."

"Weel, then, she'll do her pairt in putting James Ruleson among the
ministers o' the everlasting God. That will be a great honor, and pay
her handsome for a' her love and labor."

"Gudeman, ministers arena honored as they were when we were young. If
preaching were to go oot o' fashion, we----"

"What are you saying, Margot Ruleson? The preacher's license is to the
'end o' the warld.' The Word o' the Lord must be gien to men, as long
as men people the earth."

"Vera weel! The Word o' the Lord is in everybody's hands the now; and
everyone is being taught to read it. Maist folk can read it as weel as
the minister."

"The Word must be made flesh! Nae book can tak' the place o' the
face-to-face argument. Preaching will last as long as men live."

"Weel, weel, I'm not going to get you to arguing. You arena in the
clubroom, and I'm too tired to go into speculations wi' you. I'm
obliged to you, gudeman, for the information you hae imparted. I wad,
however, advise the Domine to gie his next secret into the keeping o'
some woman, say mysel'. Women arena sae amiable as men, and whiles
they can keep a secret, which is a thing impossible to men-folk."

"If they are married, I'll admit there are difficulties."

"Gude night, and gude dreams to you, James Ruleson."

"Ye ken weel, Margot, that I never dream."

"Sae you lose the half o' your life, James. I'm sorry for you. I shall
dream o' the three happy bairns, and their prizes. Say, you might hae
picked out another lassie; twa lads to one lass is o'erganging what's
fair. I'm awa' to sleep--you needna answer."

It was trying to the village that Sabbath had to come and go, before
the school examination. But everything waited for arrives in its time.
And this was a Monday worth waiting for. It was a perfect June day,
and the sea, and the sun, and the wind held rejoicing with the green
earth and the mortals on it. If there was envy, or jealousy, or bad
temper among the villagers, they forgot it, or put it aside for future
consideration. Everyone was in his best clothes, the boys and girls
being mostly in white, and the little place looked as if there were a
great wedding on hand. Christine had made an attempt to decorate the
room a little. The boys cut larch boughs and trailing branches, the
men loaned the flags of the boats, the women gave the few flowers from
their window pots, and strips of garden, and Margot, a little sadly,
cut her roses, and gave permission to Christine to add to them a few
laburnum branches, now drooping with their golden blossoms.

The room looked well. The flowers and the flags did not hide the globe
and the maps. And the blackboard kept its look of authority, though a
branch of laburnum bent over it. The schoolmaster was playing a merry
Fantasia as the company gathered, but at a given signal from Christine
he suddenly changed it to the children's marching song, and the rapid,
orderly manner in which it led each class to its place was a wonderful
sight to the men and women who had never seen children trained to
obedience by music.

The Domine opened the examination by reading, in the intense silence
that followed the cessation of the music, three verses from the
eighteenth chapter of St. Luke:

  "And they brought unto him infants that he would touch them, but
  when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them.

  "But Jesus called them unto him, and said, 'Suffer little children
  to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom
  of God.

  "'Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the Kingdom
  of God as a little child, shall in no wise enter therein.'"

Then the schoolmistress touched a hand bell and a crowd of little
children, none over five years old, gathered round her. Contrary to
the usual practice of children, their behavior and recitals were
better than usual, and laughter and hand-clapping followed all their
simple efforts. Polly Craig was their evident leader, and when she had
told a charming story about a little girl who would do what she ought
not to do, the records of the class were read by the Domine, and the
prize awarded to Polly.

Willie Tamsen and Jamie Ruleson's classes were treated in a similar
way, and were equally successful in their recitations and equally
delighted with their gifts. Now, the real joy in giving gifts is found
in giving them to children, for the child heart beats long after we
think it has outgrown itself. The perfect charm of this gathering lay
in the fact that men and women became for a few hours little children
again. It was really a wonderful thing to see the half-grown girls,
the married women, and even old Judith Macpherson, crowding round
Polly to admire the waxen beauty and the long fair curls of her prize
doll.

After the school exercises the adults slowly scattered, sauntering
home with their wives, and carrying their babies as proudly as Polly
carried her new treasure. Truly both men and women receive the
kingdom of God and Love, when they become as little children. The
children remained for two hours longer in the school room. For the
entertainment of their parents the youngest ones had danced some of
those new dances just at that period introduced into Scotland,
called polkas and mazurkas, and now, to please themselves, they
began a series of those mythic games which children played in the
world's infancy, and which, thank God, have not yet perished from
off the face of the earth. "How many miles to Babylon?" "Hide and
seek," "In and out," "Blind man's buff," and so forth, and in this
part of the entertainment, everything and everyone depended upon
Christine. Mothers, going home, called to her, "Christine, look
after my bairn," and then went contentedly away.

They might contentedly do so, for whoever saw Christine Ruleson that
afternoon, in the midst of those forty or fifty children, saw
something as near to a vision of angels, as they were likely to see on
this earth. She stood among them like some divine mother. A little one
three years old was on her right arm. It pulled her earrings, and
rumpled her hair, and crushed her lace collar, and she only kissed and
held it closer. A little lad with a crooked spine, and the seraphic
face which generally distinguishes such sufferers, held her tightly by
her right hand. Others clung to her dress, and called her name in
every key of love and trust. She directed their games, and settled
their disputes, and if anything went wrong, put it right with a kiss.

The Domine watched her for ten or fifteen minutes, then he went slowly
up the hill. "Where at a' is Christine, Domine?" asked Margot. "I'm
wanting her sairly."

"Christine is too busy to meddle with, Margot. She's doing God's best
work--ministering to little children. As I saw her half-an-hour ago,
she was little lower than the angels. I'm doubting if an angel could
be lovelier, or fuller of life and love, and every sweet influence."

"Christine is a handsome lass, nae doubt o' that, but our women are
all o' them heritage handsome. I'm doubting if Eve, being a Jewess,
could be worth evening wi' us."

"Eve was not a Jewess. She was God's eldest daughter, Margot."

"Then God's eldest daughter hasna a very gude character. She has been
badly spoken of, ever since the warld began. And I do hope my
Christine will behave hersel' better than Eve did--if all's true that
is said anent her."

"Christine is a good girl, Margot. If little children love a woman,
and she loves them, the love of God is there. Margot! Margot! God
comes to us in many ways, but the sweetest and tenderest of all of
them, is when he sends Jesus Christ by the way of the cradle."

All's well that ends well. If this be true, the first session of
Culraine school was a great success. It had brought an entirely new,
and very happy estimate of a father's and a mother's duty to their
children. It had even made them emulous of each other, in their care
and attention to the highest wants of childhood.

The whole village was yet talking of the examination when the herring
came. Then every woman went gladly to her appointed post and work,
and every man--rested and eager for labor--hailed the news with a
shout of welcome. Peter Brodie's big Sam brought it very early one
lovely summer morning, and having anchored his boat, ran through the
sleeping village shouting--"Caller Herrin'! In Culraine Bay!"

The call was an enchantment. It rang like a trumpet through the
sleeping village, and windows were thrown up, and doors flung open,
and half-dressed men were demanding in stentorian voices, "Where are
the fish, Sam?"

"Outside Culraine Bay," he answered, still keeping up his exultant cry
of "Caller Herrin'!" and in less than half an hour men were at work
preparing for the amazing physical strain before them. Much was to do
if they were to cast their nets that evening, and the streets were
soon busy with men and lads carrying nets and other necessities to the
boats. It was up with the flag on every boat in commission, for the
fishing, and this day's last preparations excited the place as if it
were some great national holiday. The women were equally full of
joyful business. They had to cook the breakfast, but immediately after
it were all in the packing and curing sheds. You would have been sure
they were keeping holiday. Pleasant greetings, snatches of song,
encouraging cries to the men struggling down to the boats with the
leaded nets, shouts of hurry to the bewildered children, little
flytings at their delays, O twenty different motives for clamor and
haste were rife, and not unpleasant, because through all there was
that tone of equal interest and good fellowship that can never be
mistaken.

Margot had insisted on a visit to her special shed, to see whether all
was in readiness for her special labor, but Christine had entreated
her to wait for her return from the town, where she was going for
orders. She had left her mother with the clear understanding that she
would not risk the walk and the chatter and the clatter until the
following day. But as soon as she was alone, Margot changed her
intentions. "I must make the effort," she said to herself. "I'm feared
of the pain, that's all about it." So she made the effort, and found
out that there was something more than fear to be reckoned with.

Christine brought home astonishing orders, and Margot's face flushed
with pride and energy. "I'll not let that order slip through my
fingers," she cried, "I'm going to the kippering, and what I canna do,
Christine can manage, following my say-so."

This change in Margot's work was the only shadow on that year's
herring-tide. It was a change, however, that all felt would not be
removed. Margot said, with a little laugh, that she was teaching her
lassie how to make a living, or how to help some gudeman to do it.
"And I have a fine scholar," she soon began to add. "Christine can now
kipper a herring as weel as her mother, and why not? She has seen the
kippering done, ever since she wore ankle tights."

"And you will be glad of a bit rest to yourself, Margot, no doubt,"
was the general answer.

"Ay, I have turned the corner of womanhood, and I'm wearing away down
the hillside of life. I hae been in a dowie and desponding condition
for a year or mair."

"Christine is clever with business, and folks do say she has a full
sense of the value of money."

"To be sure, Nancy. There's no harm in the like of that. Her feyther
came from Aberdeen folk, and it's weel recognized that Aberdeen folk
look at both sides of a penny."

"Christine is a clever lass, and good likewise, we were all saying
that, a while ago."

"Weel, some folk, out of bad taste, or a natural want of good sense,
may think different; but there--that's enough on the subject of
Christine. Her feyther is gey touchy anent Christine, and it will be
as weel to let that subject alone."

So, day after day, Margot sat in a chair at her daughter's side, and
Christine filled the big orders as her mother instructed her. And they
were well filled, in good time, and the outcome was beyond all
expectation. Yet Christine looked sadly at the money, and Margot
turned her head away, to hide the unbidden tears in her eyes, as she
said:

"It's all yours, lassie. I'll not touch a farthing of it. You have
fairly won it. It will happen help Neil's deficiencies. Oh, my dear
lassie! Mither has done her last kippering! I feel it."

"Then I'll kipper for you, Mither, as long as we both live. The hill
is now o'er much for you--and the noisy women, and skirling bairns!
Christine will go to Mother's shed, and Mother will bide at hame, and
red up the house, and have a cup of tea ready for hungry folk, as they
come weary hame."

And Margot let it go at that, but she was as she said, "dowie and
despondent." Ruleson begged her to go with him to Edinburgh, and get
the advice of a good physician, but Margot would not listen to any
entreaty.

"I'll no do any such thing," she answered. "Not likely! The Domine can
gie the pain a setback, and if God wants me here, He'll keep me here,
sick or well, and if He doesna want me here, I'm willing to go where
He does want me." From this position Margot was not movable, and now
that the herring fishing was over, there did not appear to be any
reason for making her restless and unhappy. So she naturally drifted
into that household position, where everyone took care not to tire,
and not to vex, grandmother.

One morning in the early days of October, Christine was sitting
sewing, and Margot was making shortcake. They had been talking of Neil
and wondering where he was.

"I'm thinking it is whole o' a month, since we heard from the lad,"
said Margot.

"I dare say it's mair, Mother; and that letter was from some strange
French seaside place, and he was thinking that they wouldna stay there
very long. He has mebbe gane further awa' than France."

"I wouldn't wonder--setting a young man traveling is like setting a
ball rolling down a hill. Baith o' them are hard to turn back."

Margot had scarcely finished speaking, when Sam Brodie opened the
door. He had been to the town post office and seen, in the list of
uncalled-for letters, a letter addressed to Christine, so he had
brought it along. It proved to be from Neil, and had been posted in
Rome. Christine was familiar with that postmark, and it still had
power at least to raise her curiosity. Neil's handwriting, however,
spoke for itself, and before she broke the seal, she said, "Why,
Mither! It is from Neil."

"I thought that, as soon as Sam came in. I was dreaming of a letter
from Neil, last night. I dinna dream for naething. Make haste with the
news--good or bad--read it all. I want to hear the warst of it." Then
Christine read aloud the following letter:

  DEAR CHRISTINE,

  I want you to tell Mother that I married Miss Rath in Paris on the
  fifth of September ult. We were afraid that Reginald was going to
  interfere, so we settled the matter to prevent quarreling--which,
  you know, is against my nature. Reginald's opposition was quite
  unlooked for and, I must say, very ill-natured and discouraging.
  If there is anything in a man's life he should have full liberty
  and sympathy in, it is his marriage. I dare say Mother will have
  some complaint or other to make. You must talk to her, until she
  sees things reasonably. We were married in the Protestant
  Episcopal Church in Paris, very quietly--only the necessary
  witnesses--and came on here at once. I disapproved so highly of
  Reginald's behavior at this important period of my life, and of
  some insulting things he said to me, that I have resolved not to
  have any more relations with him. After all I have done for him,
  it is most disheartening. My wife feels her brother's conduct very
  much, but she has perfect trust in me. Of course, if I had been
  married in Scotland, I would have had my friends' presence, but I
  am quite sure that my best interests demanded an immediate
  marriage. We shall be home in a month, and then I propose to open
  a law office in Glasgow _in my own name_. I shall do better
  without impedimenta like Reginald Rath. I trust to you to make all
  comfortable at home. I shall desire to bring my wife to see my
  mother. I am proud of Roberta. She is stylish, and has a good deal
  more money than I expected. I shall not require Reginald's money
  or patronage, they would now be offensive to my sense of honor and
  freedom. Give my love to my father and mother, and remember I am

  Always your loving brother,

  NEIL.

There was a few moments' dead silence, and Christine did not lift her
eyes from the paper in her hand, until a passionate exclamation from
Margot demanded her notice.

"Oh, Mither, Mither!" she cried, "dinna mak' yoursel' sick; it's Neil,
our Neil, that you are calling a scoundrel."

"And I'll call a scoundrel by no ither name. It's gude enough for
him."

"We were talking one hour ago about him marrying Miss Rath, and you
took to the idea then. Now that he has done so, what for are you
railing at him?"

"I'm not railing at him for marrying the lass, she's doubtless better
than he deserves. It's the way that he's done the business--the mean,
blackguardly way he's done the business, that shames and angers me.
Dod! I would strike him on the face, if he was near my hand. I'm
shamed o' him! He's a black disgrace to his father and mother, and to
all the kind he came from."

"Generally speaking, Mother, folks would say that Neil had done weel
to himsel' and praise him for it."

"Who are you alluding to? Dinna call the name 'Neil' in my hearing.
Scoundrel is gude enough to specify a scoundrel. I hae counts against
him, and he must clear himself, before I'll pass his christened name
o'er my lips."

"What are your counts against him? Maybe I can speak a word to explain
them."

"Not you! First, he has, beyond a' doubt, deceived the lass's brother.
He should hae spoken to him first of all, and the young man wouldna
hae said insulting words if there wasna cause for the same."

"The lady was of full age, and sae had the right to please herself,
Mither."

"She had not. She was as bad as Neil, or she would have sought her
brother's consent."

"Perhaps Neil wouldna let her tell her brither."

"That's like enough. He has got the girl, and that means he has got
full control o' her money. Then he breaks his promise to go into
partnership in business with the brother, and will open a law office
in his ain name! He'll open it, ye ken, wi' the Rath siller, in his
ain name! Having got plenty o' the Rath siller to set himsel' up, he
drops the man whom he used to fleech and flatter enou' to sicken a
honest man. And he trusts to you to mak' all comfortable here--but no
word or whisper anent the ninety pounds he's owing you. He has gotten
mair money than he expectit wi' his stolen wife, and yet he hasna a
thought for the sister wha emptied the small savings o' her lifetime
into his unthankfu' hands. Wae's me, but I'm the sorrowfu' mither this
day."

"For a' that, Mither, dinna mak' yoursel' sick. Luck o' some kind
threw the Rath siller in Neil's way."

"Ay, and the scoundrel has ta'en all he could get o' it."

"That's the way o' the warld, Mother."

"It isn't the way o' honest, honorable men. He ought to hae spoken to
the young man plainly, and he ought not to hae quarreled wi' him
anent their business proposal. I understand that the Rath lad was na
very knowing in the law nor indeed notable for managing his ain
affairs, in any way."

"Weel, Mither, it comes to this--Neil had made up his mind to tak' his
living out o' the Rath purse, and he finally decided that he would
rayther tak' it from the lady, than the gentleman."

Margot laughed at this remark. "You'll not be far wrang in that
observe, Christine," she said, "but the lad may be far out o' his
reckoning, and I'm not carin' if it be so. Nae doubt he thought the
lassie wad be easier controlled than her brither, who, I was led to
believe, had a vera uncertain temper. Roberta may pay a' our wrangs
yet. Little women are gey often parfect Tartars."

"Mither! Mither! You wouldn't wish your ain lad to marry a Tartar o' a
wife, and sae be miserable."

"Wouldn't I? A stranger winning their way wi' the Raths' siller,
wouldna hae troubled me, it would hae been out o' my concern.
Christine, there are two things no good woman likes to do. One is to
bring a fool into the warld, and the other is to bring one o' them
clever fellows, who live on other people's money, instead o' working
their way up, step by step. I'm shamed o' my motherhood this day!"

"Na, na, Mither! Think of Norman, and Allan, and the lave o' the
lads!"

"And forbye, I think shame o' any son o' mine being married in a
foreign country, in France itsel', the French being our natural
enemies."

"Not just now, Mither, not just now."

"Our natural enemies! and a kind o' people, that dinna even speak like
Christians. Ye ken I hae heard their language in this vera room,
Christine, and sorry I am to hae permitted the like."

"There's nae harm in it, Mither."

"It led him astray. If Ruleson's lad hadna kent the French tongue, he
would hae persuaded thae Raths that America was the only place to see
the warld in."

"Well, Mither, he went to the English church in France--the Protestant
Episcopal Church!"

"Another great wrang to our family. The Rulesons are of the best
Covenanting stock. What would John Knox say to a Ruleson being married
in an Episcopal Church, at the very horns o' the altar, as it were? An
unchristened Turk could do naething more unfitting."

"Mither, I hear feyther and Jamie coming up the hill. Let us hae peace
this night. We will tak' counsel o' our pillows, and in the morning
we'll see things in a different way, perhaps."

"Perhaps!"

And the scorn Margot threw into the seven letters of that one
word, "perhaps," would have been an impossibility to any woman
less ignorant, or less prejudiced in favor of her own creed and
traditions. For it is in Ignorance that Faith finds its most
invincible stronghold.

Ruleson came in with a newspaper in his hand. Jamie was with him, but
as soon as he entered the cottage, he snuggled up to his grandmother,
and told her softly, "Grandfather has had some bad news. It came in a
newspaper."

Grandfather, however, said not a word concerning bad news, until he
had had his tea, and smoked a pipe. Then Christine and Jamie went to
Christine's room to read, and Ruleson, after tapping the bowl of his
pipe on the hob until it was clean, turned to Margot, and said,
"Gudewife, I hae news today o' Neil's marriage to Miss Rath."

"Ay, Christine had a letter."

"What do you think o' the circumstance?"

"I'm wondering, when it was in a foreign country, and outside his ain
kirk and creed, whether it was legal and lawful?"

"Neil is lawyer enough to ken he was all right. It is not the law side
o' the question I am thinking of. It is the hame side. Not a word to
his ain folk, and not one o' us present at the ceremony!"

"Neither were any of the lady's family present. It was, I'm thinking,
a marriage after Neil Ruleson's ain heart. Neil first, and last, and
altogether."

"How's that? The young man, her brother----"

"Neil has quarreled wi' him. Neil has got the lady and her money, and
he is going to begin business in his ain name, exclusive! I consider
Neil something o' a scoundrel, and a mean one, at that."

"I was talking to Finlay anent the matter, and he says Neil has done
weel to himsel', and he thinks him a gey clever young man."

"And I'd like to have Finlay keep his false tongue out o' my family
affairs. I say Neil has done a dirty piece o' business with the Raths,
and that will be seen, and heard tell o'."

"As I was saying, Margot, it is the hame side o' the affair that gave
me a shock. To think of a' we hae done, of a' his brithers hae done,
and of the siller he got frae his sister! To think o' it! Only to
think o' it! And not ane o' us bid to his wedding. It fairly staggers
me!"

"Nae wonder, gudeman! It's an unspeakable business! I'll not talk o'
it! The lad I nursed on my heart, and he's fairly broken it at last.
He's a sinful creature!"

"We are all o' us sinfu' creatures, Margot!"

"We are not. You are much mista'en, James. There's plenty o' good men
and women on every side o' us. Neither you, nor mysel', would do as
Neil has done."

"Perhaps not--but we baith hae our ain way o' sinning, Margot, you ken
that."

"Speak for yoursel', gudeman!"

"Finlay said----"

"Kay! Kay! I'll no be fashed wi' Finlay's foolishness. I'm awa' to my
sleep. My lad, my dear lad, you are heart-weary. I'm sorry for you."

"Wait a moment, Margot. Finlay says he has nae doubt Neil has married
ten thousand pounds a year. Think o' that!"

"I'll think of nae such foolishness. And if it was twenty thousand,
the lad would need it all--we hae brought him up sae badly!"

Margot disappeared with the words, and the unhappy father as he
covered the fire, and pottered about the house, said sorrowfully:

"She's right! She's always right. If her words are in the way o'
reproach, it's my fault! James Ruleson's fault! I ought to hae stood
out against the Maraschal. If we had made him a minister, he would hae
been obligated to set an example to a kirkful o' men and women, and
folks will sin against their ain house, when they will do their duty
to a kirkful."



CHAPTER IX

A HAPPY BIT OF WRITING

                          The dead sailor,
  Has peace that none may gain who live;
  And rest about him, that no love can give,
  And over him, while life and death shall be,
  The light and sound, and darkness of the sea!


The winter following Neil's marriage was a pleasant one to the village
of Culraine. The weather was favorable, the line fishing more than
usually prosperous, and the school remarkably successful. Ruleson took
the greatest delight in its progress, and nothing gave him greater
pleasure than a walk in its vicinity, when he could see the children
coming and going, with their books and balls in their hands. They all
knew him, but however large the group in the playground, he could pick
little Jamie out of it in a moment. And oh, how good it was to see the
old man defying his failure with Neil, and building still grander
hopes on this lad of ten years old! Truly, from the good heart Hope
springs eternal. It forgets that it is mortal, because it takes hold
on immortality.

Christine heard constantly from Cluny, but it was nearly a year since
she had seen him, for the crew of a passenger steamer trading to
foreign ports, do not obtain leave easily, especially in their first
year. And Cluny had never been in Glasgow port long enough to make a
journey to Culraine and back possible. Christine did not fret herself
because of his absence. She was not as one of the foolish ones, who
regard a lover and love-making as the great essential of life. She had
proved in her own case, that Duty was far above, and beyond Love. She
had known cases where Honor had been put before Love. She had seen
Angus Ballister put mere social caste before Love. It was a fact known
to all the world, that gold laughed at Love, and bought and sold Love,
as if he were merchandise in the market place.

She loved Cluny, but her love was subject to her duty, which at
present was evidently in her own home. Her father was strong and full
of the joy of living, but his work was on the winter seas, and he
needed the comfort of a well-ordered house and properly-cooked food
after his hard day's fishing. Her mother was sick and failing, and it
appeared to Christine's anxious heart that she was losing, instead of
gaining, ground. Margot denied this position, but Christine noticed
that one little household duty after another was allowed to drift
quietly into her hands. Then also there was Jamie, whom she tenderly
loved, and who was wholly dependent on her care and help. His
food--his clothes--his lessons! What could Jamie do without her?

One morning in February, she had a letter from Cluny, which set at
naught all these claims. He had two hundred pounds in the Bank of
Scotland, and he wanted to get married. He was studying navigation,
and he would be third officer in another year. He was fairly wasting
his life without Christine. He was growing old with the disappointment
he was getting constantly. He was next door to dying, with one put-off
after another. If he came up on the fifteenth, would she walk over to
the Domine's with him? He felt as if the Domine might bury him, if he
didna marry him. He declared he had been sick with the love and pain
of wanting her, ever since he could remember himself, "and yet,
Christine," he wrote, "you are mine. Mine from your birth hour. Mine
whether you love me, or don't love me. Mine if you marry someone else.
Mine even if you die, for then I would soon follow, and find you out,
wherever you were."

What was a girl of cool, reasonable nature, to do with a lover of this
impetuous, vehement temper?

She told her mother that Cluny was coming, and she noticed that the
news instantly changed the atmosphere of the room. Margot had been
sewing and chatting cheerfully in her chair by the fireside. She
dropped her work, and became thoughtful and silent. Christine knew
why, and she said to herself, "Mither is fearing I am going to marry
Cluny, and leave her alane! As if I would! The man never lived, who
could make me do the like o' that." She waited ten minutes to give
Margot time to recover herself, but as she did not do so, she asked,
"Mither, are you doubting Christine?"

"No, dearie! I couldna do that."

"What then?"

"I'm doubting mysel'. Doubting my power to look to your feyther's
comfort, and the like o' that, and maybe fearing a strange woman in
the house."

"Why a strange woman?"

"There's things I canna do now--things I havna the strength for,
and----"

"You think that Christine would leave you?"

"Weel, there is the peradventure."

"Mither, put your arm round me. To the end of your life, Christine
will put hers round you. Naebody can part us twa. Naebody!"

"I thought Cluny was coming--and--that----"

"I would leave you. Leave you now! Leave you, and leave feyther
without anyone to cook his meals, and leave wee Jamie, who looks to me
as if I was his Mither. Na, na! You mustna judge Christine in that
way. What for would I leave you? Because a lad loves me out of a'
sense and reason. Even if I was his wife, love and duty would count
your claim first. God said a man should leave feyther and mither, and
cleave to his wife; but He didna tell a woman to leave her feyther and
mither, and cleave to her husband."

"He would mean it, Christine."

"Then He would hae said it. He leaves nae room to question."

"There might be what is called 'inferences.'"

"Na, na, Mither! It is thus and so, and do, and do not, wi' God.
There's nae inferences in any o' His commands. When folks break them,
they ken well they are breaking them. But what will we be talking o'
this matter for? You yoursel' are beyond the obligation."

"I ne'er had it, I may say, for my feyther was drowned ere I was born,
and my mither died ere I was five years old. It's different wi' you,
dearie."

"It is, but Christine kens all o' her duty, and it will be her
pleasure to fulfill it." And she clasped her mother's hands in hers,
and kissed her. And Margot's old pawky smile flitted o'er her face,
and she said, "We must ask the Domine anent this question"--then a
little sarcastically--"or Neil will gie us the Common Law o' Scotland
concerning it."

So the trouble ended with a smile and the shout of Jamie as he flung
open the house door, in a storm of hurry and pleasure. "Auntie!
Grandmither!" he cried. "We are going to have a tug-of-war between the
English and the Scotch, on the playground, at half-past twelve. I'm on
the Scotch side. Gie me my dinner, Auntie, and I'll be awa' to help
floor Geordie Kent, and the rest of his upsetting crowd. Geordie's
mither is English, and he's always boasting about the circumstance."

"Are you going to tak' the brag out o' him, Jamie?"

"I am going to help do so, with all my might, but there's some Border
lads among the English set, and they are a hefty lot, and hard to
beat."

"That's right, Jamie! Fife lads shout when the boat wins the harbor,
not till then. All the same, laddie, bring me word o' your victory."

When dinner was over Christine dressed herself for her visitor, and
the light of love and expectation gave to her face an unusual beauty.
She wore her fisher costume, for she thought Cluny would like it best,
but it was fresh and bright and quite coquettish, with its pretty
fluted cap, its gold earrings, its sky-blue bodice and skirt of blue
and yellow stripes, and the little kerchief of vivid scarlet round her
shoulders. Its final bit of vanity was a small white muslin apron,
with little pockets finished off with bows of scarlet ribbon. If she
had dressed herself for a fashionable masquerade ball she would have
been its most picturesque belle and beauty.

It was seven o'clock when Cluny arrived. Ruleson had gone to a meeting
of the School Trustees, a business, in his opinion, of the very
greatest importance; and Margot's womanly, motherly sense told her
that Cluny would rather have her absence than her company. So she had
pleaded weariness, and gone to her room soon after tea was over, and
Cluny had "the fair opportunity," he so often declared he never
obtained; for Margot had said to Jamie, "You'll come and sit wi' me,
laddie, and gie me the full story o' your bloody defeat, and we'll
mak' a consultation anent the best way o' mending it."

"This is glorious!" cried Cluny, as he stood alone with Christine in
the firelit room. "I have you all to mysel'! Oh, you woman of all the
world, what have you to say to me this night?"

"What do you want me to say, Cluny?"

"Tell me that you'll go before the Domine with me, in the morning."

"Now, Cluny, if you are going to begin that trouble again, I will not
stay with you."

"Trouble, trouble? What trouble? Is it a trouble to be my wife?"

"I have told you before, I could not marry you till the right time
came."

"It is the right time now! It has to be! I'll wait no longer!"

"You will wait forever, if you talk that way to me."

"I'll take my ain life, Christine, rayther than hae it crumbled awa'
between your cruel fingers and lips! aye writing, and saying, 'at the
proper time'! God help me! When is the proper time?"

"When my mither is better, and able to care for hersel', and look
after feyther and the house."

"Is she any better than she was?"

"Na, I'm feared she is worse."

"She is maybe dying."

"I am feared she is."

"Then if I wait till she dies----"

"Be quiet, Cluny! How dare you calculate anything for my life, on my
mither's death? Do you think I would walk from her grave to the altar
to marry you? I would hae to lose every gude sense, and every good
feeling I have, ere I could be sae wicked."

"Do you mean that after your mither's death, you will still keep me
waiting?"

"You know right well, Cluny, what our folk would say, if I didna
observe the set time of mourning."

"Great Scot! That's a full year!"

"Ay. If a bairn dies in our village, its folk wear blacks for a year.
Would I grudge a year's respect for my mither's memory? Forbye there
would be my poor heart-broken feyther, and a' his needs and griefs."

"And the bairn, too, I suppose?"

"Ay, you're right. The bairn is in our keeping, till he is fourteen.
Then he goes to Domine Trenaby."

"I hope the next storm will mak' an end o' me! I'm a broke man, in
every worth-while. I hae money to mak' a home, but I canna hae a home
without a wife, and the wife promised me puts one mountain after
another in the way, that no man can win over"--and he passionately
clasped and unclasped his hands, while tears, unrecognized, flowed
freely, and somewhat relieved the heart tension that for a few moments
made him speechless.

It seems natural for a woman to weep, but it sends a thrill of pity
and fear through a woman's heart to see a man break down in
unconscious and ungovernable weeping. Christine was shocked and
strangely pitiful. She soothed, and kissed, and comforted him, with a
gracious abandon she had never before shown. She could not alter
circumstances, but she strengthened him for the bearing of them. She
actually made him confess that she would lose something in his
estimation, if she was capable of leaving her mother under present
conditions. In his embrace she wept with him, and both of them learned
that night the full sweetness of a love that is watered with mutual
tears.

So, at the last, she made him strong and confident in hopes for the
future, because God is love, and the circumstances that separated them
were of His ordering. And Christine would think no ill of God, she was
sure that life and death, and all things God ordained, were divinely
good; and her influence overarched and enveloped Cluny, and perhaps
for the first time, the real meaning of life and its difficulties
pealed through his heart and brain.

Then as they were talking, Ruleson returned, and Ruleson, liking Cluny
well, was rejoiced to see him, and they talked together with the
greatest interest, while Christine placed upon the table the simple
luxuries she had prepared for this anticipated meal. It was indeed a
wonderfully happy meal, prolonged by interesting conversation till
nearly midnight, for Ruleson wanted to hear all Cluny could tell
about the Mediterranean, and Cluny was pleased to listen to Ruleson's
enthusiastic description of the good work the school was doing.

When Cluny at length rose to depart, Ruleson asked the date of his
ship's next visit to Glasgow, and then promised to meet him there, and
to bring Christine with him for a two or three days' pleasuring. Cluny
was delighted, for though Christine only shook her head and smiled, he
believed that in some way or other the visit could be managed. And
Margot was enthusiastic about it. She said Christine must ask Faith to
come and stay with her, and Norman would come to her through the night
in case of trouble, and the Domine would call and see her, and wee
Jamie was comfort and help baith. "Forbye," she added, "I'm wanting to
hear a' about Neil and his wife, and their way o' living, Christine,
and if you'll just make them an hour's passing call, you can gie me a
vera clear idea o' the same."

So the hastily projected trip became an anticipatory pleasure for
which there was constant preparation going on. It was a wonderful
prospect to Christine, who had never been five miles from her home,
and Margot entered heartily into the scheme for making it a notable
affair. She said the time was a lucky ordering, for it was near enough
Easter to warrant a new spring suit, and she gave Christine a
five-pound note, and sent her into the town to buy one. "You'll get
your ain choice, lassie," she said, "but I'm thinking, if it should be
o' a light pearly-gray, it would suit you weel, and get your gloves
and parasol o' the same shade, as near as may be, but buy your bonnet
in Glasgow town, for you will hae the height o' the fashion there, and
scores o' shops to choose from."

So for nearly a month this pleasant expectation kept the Ruleson
cottage busy and happy. Christine's pearly-gray cashmere dress came
home, and was greatly admired, even by the Domine, who also took a
great interest in the proposed visit to Glasgow. He advised her to
send Neil word, as soon as she arrived there:

"And do as you have always done, Christine, strive for peace and
family unity. There have been wrongs, no doubt, but you Rulesons have
all nursed one mother's breast, and learned your prayers at one
mother's knees, so if there is any little trouble between Neil and
yourself, Christine, forgive it."

"I love Neil, I hae loved him all my life, Sir. I intend to go on
loving him. Ninety pounds could not part us. No, nor ninety hundred
pounds. There's no money's-worth, can count love's-worth."

How does a young girl feel on the eve of her first pleasure journey,
when she has pretty new clothing to wear, and money enough to spend,
and is going in the care of an indulgent father to have fresh and
unknown entertainments, with a lover who adores her, and whom she
admires and truly loves? Is she not happy and joyous, and full of
eager anticipation? And it was the last day of waiting. The valise
which held her new dress and her father's best suit, was packed,
Faith had readily taken hold of the house duties, and Margot had been,
and was, unusually well and active. Ruleson had gone fishing "to pass
the time," he said, and all was ready for the early start they
proposed to make in the morning.

Ruleson generally came home in time for his six o'clock meal, but
Christine, standing at the open door about four o'clock, saw him
making for the harbor. "Father's just like a bairn," she thought. "I'm
gey uplifted mysel', but I'm plum steady, to what he is." Then Margot
joined her. "Is that your feyther coming, Christine?"

"Ay, it's feyther, sure enou'!"

"What for is he coming at this time o' day?"

"He's just in a wave o' excitement, he isna heeding what the clock
says."

"What time is it?"

"Not quite four."

"Weel, you hed better put on the kettle; he's used to eating as soon
as he comes hame, and if his head is wrang anent the time, his stomach
is doubtless wrang anent its eating."

So the women went inside, and Christine put on the kettle, and Margot
began to lay the cloth, and set the china on the table. It took
Ruleson about half an hour to walk between his boat and his house, but
suddenly Margot noticed that he was overdue, and yet not in sight. She
called Christine, and they stood together at the land side door, and
watched for him. A sudden silence fell between them, they stopped
wondering about his delay, and kept their eyes on the road. The time
seemed to stand still. Margot went into the house and sat down.
Christine's life seemed to be in her eyes. Every minute was like an
hour. "Feyther, Feyther!" she said in an anxious whisper. "Whatna for
are you delaying? What at all is keeping you? Come, Feyther!" And to
this strong cry of the Inner Woman, he turned a corner, and was in
full view.

Christine saw in a moment that something was wrong. "He isna walking
like himsel'! He must hae got hurt some way or ither!" and she ran
like a deer to meet him.

"Feyther! Feyther! Whatever's ailing you?"

He stood still and looked at her, and she was shocked at his
appearance.

"Have you hurt yoursel', Feyther?"

"Something has hurt me. I hae taken a sair cold and shivering. I am
ill, lassie. I maun hae a doctor as soon as maybe. I am in a hot and
cauld misery. I can hardly draw a breath."

Margot met them at the door. "Feyther is ill, Mither! Where's Jamie?
He will run and tell the Domine. Get feyther into his bed, and if I
canna find Jamie, I'll away mysel' for the Domine. Perhaps I had
better go to the town for Doctor Fraser."

"Feyther says no! He wants to see the Domine, particular."

"Then I'll waste no time seeking Jamie. I'll go mysel' to the manse,
and I'll be back as quick as possible. Keep a brave heart, Mither.
There's only you, till I get back."

Happily she found the Domine more than halfway on his road to
Ruleson's. He said he had had a feeling an hour ago, that he was
wanted there, and he was angry with himself for not obeying the word
given him. Then he took Christine's hand, and they went hurriedly and
in silence to the sick man.

"My friend! My dear friend!" he said as he clasped Ruleson's hot hand
and listened to his labored breathing, "I am going as fast as I can
for Fraser. This is a trouble beyond my skill, and we want you well
for the Easter school exercises. The bairns willna be happy missing
you. So I'll go quick as I can for Fraser." Then turning to Margot, he
said, "Where is Faith Anderson? I thought she was with you."

"She is, but she went to the village to see some o' her auld friends.
She said she would be back by nine o'clock."

"And Jamie? He could go wi' me."

"Faith took Jamie wi' her."

Then he went away, and Margot and Christine stood helplessly beside
the suffering man. It grew dark, and no one came, and Christine felt
as if she was in some dreadful dream, and could not awaken herself.
They expected Norman about seven, but something detained him, and it
was after nine when Faith and Jamie were heard on the hill. They were
laughing and talking noisily, and Christine ran to meet, and to
silence them. The sick man was growing rapidly worse, and there was no
sign of the Domine and the doctor. Indeed it was near midnight when
they arrived, and by this time Ruleson was unconscious.

Those who know anything of pneumonia will understand the hard, cruel
fight that a man in the perfect health and strength of James Ruleson
made for his life. Every step of the disease was contested, and it was
only when his wonderful resistance gave out, and his strength failed
him, that the doctor and the Domine lost hope. At length, one sunny
afternoon, the Domine drew up the window shade, and let the light fall
on the still, white face for a minute. Christine was at his side, and
he turned to her, and said, "I am going back to the manse for the
Blessed Cup of Remembrance. Get the table and bread ready, and tell
your mother it is the last time! She must try and eat it with him."

Christine looked at him with her soul in her eyes. She understood all
he meant and she merely bowed her head and turned to the dying man. He
lay as still as a cradled child. The struggle was over. He had given
it up. It was peace at last. Where was James Ruleson at that hour? The
Domine had said, "Do not disturb him. We know not what now is passing
in his soul. Let him learn in peace whatever God wishes him to learn,
in this pause between one life and another."

Margot was on her bed in another room. Christine knelt down at her
side, and said gently, "Mither, the great, wonderful hour has come.
The Domine has gane for The Cup. With your ain dear hands you will
spread the cloth, and cut the bread, for your last eating wi' him.
And, Mither, you won't cry out, and weep, as those do who have nae
hope o' meeting again. You will mak' yoursel' do as the daughters o'
God do, who call Him 'Feyther'! You'll be strong in the Lord, Mither,
and bid Feyther 'good-by,' like those who are sure they will meet to
part no more."

And Margot whispered, "I was brought low, and He helped me."

A few hours later, in this simple cottage bedroom, the miracle of
Love's last supper in the upper chamber at Jerusalem, was remembered.
With her own hands Margot covered a little table at her husband's
bedside with her finest and whitest linen. She cut the bread into the
significant morsels, and when the Domine came, he placed them solemnly
on the silver plate of the consecrated service, and poured wine into
the holy vessel of The Communion. All was then ready, and they sat
down to wait for that lightening which so often comes when the
struggle is over and the end near.

They waited long. Ruleson's deep sleep lasted for hours, and the
Domine began to hope it might be that life-giving sleep which often
introduces the apparently dying to a new lease of life.

He awoke after midnight, with the word "Margot" on his lips, and
Margot slipped her hand into his, and kissed him.

"We are going to have supper with the Lord Christ. Will you join us,
Ruleson?"

"Ay, will--I--gladly!"

After the simple rite Ruleson was quite happy. He said a few words
privately to the Domine, asked for his grandson, and told him to be a
good man, and a minister of God, and promised if it was in God's will
he would watch o'er him, and then blessed and sent him away.

"I might hae another struggle at the last. I dinna want him to see
it."

"The struggle is over, James," answered the Domine. "Be still, and
wait for the salvation of the Lord."

And for some hours, even until the day broke, and the shadows began to
flee away, that dying room was in a strange peace. Margot and
Christine sat almost motionless, watching their loved one's face
growing more and more calm and content, and the Domine stood or sat at
the foot of the bed, and all was intensely still.

"Great things are passing in the soul now," he said to the women. "It
is contemplating the past. It is judging itself. It is bearing witness
to the righteousness and mercy of its Maker. Pray that it may come
from this great assize justified through Christ." Soon after, he added
"The tide has turned, he will go out with the tide. Stand near him
now, and sing softly with me his last human prayer:

  "Jesus, lover of my soul,
    Let me to thy bosom fly;
  While the nearer waters roll,
    While the tempest still is nigh:
  Hide me, oh my Saviour, hide!
    Till the storm of life is past,
  Safe into the haven guide,
    Oh receive my soul at last!"

Once the dying man opened his eyes, once he smiled, but ere the last
line was finished, James Ruleson had

  Gone on that long voyage all men take,
  And with angelic help, had once again,
  By unknown waters, entered a new world.

Time waits neither for the living nor the dead, and when a month had
come and gone, Margot and Christine had accepted, in some measure,
their inevitable condition. Ruleson had left his small affairs beyond
all dispute. His cottage was bequeathed entirely to his wife and
daughter, "for all the days of their lives." His boat was to be sold,
and the proceeds given to his widow. The two hundred cash he had in
the bank was also Margot's, and the few acres of land he owned he gave
to his eldest son, Norman, who had stood faithfully by his side
through all his good and evil days. No one was dissatisfied except
Norman's wife, who said her man, being the eldest born, had a full
right to house and cash, and a' there was, saving Margot's lawful
widow right. She said this so often that she positively convinced
herself of its rightness and justice, "and some day," she frequently
added, "I will let Mistress and Miss Ruleson know the ground on which
they stand." To Norman, she was more explicit and denunciatory--and he
let her talk.

It had been very positively stated in the adoption of James Ruleson,
the younger, that the simple decease of his grandfather made him the
adopted son of the Domine, and it was thought best to carry out this
provision without delay. Margot had been seriously ill after the
funeral, and she said calmly now, that she was only waiting until her
change came. But life still struggled bravely within her for its
promised length, and the Domine said Death would have to take her at
unawares, if he succeeded yet awhile. This was the truth. The desire
to live was still strong in Margot's heart, she really wished
earnestly to live out all her days.

Now, public sympathy soon wears out. The village which had gone _en
masse_ to weep at James Ruleson's funeral, had in two weeks chosen
Peter Brodie to fill his place. The women who were now busy with their
spring cleaning, and their preparations for the coming herring season,
could not afford to weep any longer with "thae set-up Rulesons." Neil
had ignored all of them at the funeral, Margot's sorrow they judged to
be "a vera dry manifestation," and Christine would not talk about her
father's last hours. The women generally disapproved of a grief that
was so dry-eyed and silent.

So gradually the little house on the hill became very solitary. Jamie
ran up from the school at the noon hour, and sometimes he stayed an
hour or two with them after the school was closed. Then the Domine
came for him, and they all had tea together. But as the evening
twilight lengthened, the games in the playground lengthened, and the
Domine encouraged the lad in all physical exercises likely to increase
his stature and his strength.

Then the herring season came, and the Rulesons had nothing to do with
it, and so they gradually lost their long preëminence. Everyone was
busy from early to late with his own affairs. And the Rulesons? "Had
they not their gentleman son, Neil? And their four lads wearing the
Henderson uniform? And the Domine? And the lad Cluny Macpherson? Did
he care for any human creature but Christine Ruleson?"

With these sentiments influencing the village society, it was no
wonder that Margot complained that her friends had deserted her. She
had been the leader of the village women in their protective and
social societies, and there was no doubt she had been authoritative,
and even at times tyrannical. But Margot did not believe she had ever
gone too far. She was sure that her leniency and consideration were
her great failing.

So the winter came again, and Christine looked exceedingly weary.
While Ruleson lived, Margot had relied on him, she was sure that he
would be sufficient, but after his death, she encouraged an
unreasonable trial of various highly reputed physicians. They came to
her from Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and she believed that every fresh
physician was the right one. The expense of this method was far beyond
the profit obtained. Yet Christine could not bear to make any
protest.

And the weeks went on, and there appeared to be neither profit nor
pleasure in them. The Domine watched Christine with wonder, and in the
second year of her vigil, with great anxiety. "Christine will break
down soon, Margot," he said one day to the sick woman. "Look at the
black shadows under her eyes. And her eyes are losing all their
beauty, her figure droops, and her walk lags and stumbles. Could you
not do with Faith for a few days, and let Christine get away for a
change? You'll hae a sick daughter, if you don't do something, and
that soon."

"I canna stand Faith Anderson. She's o'er set up wi' hersel'. I am
that full o' pain and sorrow that Faith's bouncing happiness is a
parfect blow in a body's face."

"The schoolmaster's wife?"

"I'm no a bairn, Domine; and she treats auld and young as if they were
bairns. She would want to teach me my alphabet, and my catechism o'er
again."

"There's Nannie Brodie. She is a gentle little thing. She will do all
Christine does for a few shillings a week."

"What are you thinking of, Domine? I couldna afford a few shillings a
week. I hae wonderfu' expenses wi' doctors and medicines, and my purse
feels gey light in my hand."

"I see, Margot, that my advice will come to little. Yet consider,
Margot, if Christine falls sick, who will nurse her? And what will
become o' yourself?"

He went away with the words, and he found Christine sitting on the
doorstep, watching the sea, as she used to watch it for her father's
boat. She looked tired, but she smiled brightly when he called her
name.

"My dear lassie," he said, "you ought to have some new thoughts, since
you are not likely to get new scenes. Have you any nice books to
read?"

"No, sir. Mither stopped _Chambers Magazine_ and _The Scotsman_, and I
ken a' the books we hae, as if they were school books. Some o' them
are Neil's old readers."

"You dear, lonely lassie! This day I will send you some grand novels,
and some books of travel. Try and lose yourself and your weariness in
them."

"O, Sir! If you would do this, I can bear everything! I can do
everything!"

"I'll go home this hour, and the books will be here before dark. Get
as much fresh air as you can, and fill your mind with fresh pictures,
and fresh ideas, and I wouldn't wonder if you win back your spirits,
and your beauty. Your mother is a great care, lassie!"

"Ay, Doctor, but she is in God's care. I hae naething to do but help
and pleasure her, when she's waking. She sleeps much o' her time now.
I think the medicine o' the last doctor frae Aberdeen, is the because
o' her sleepiness. I was going to ask you to take a look at it."

He did so, and said in reply, "There's no harm in it, but it would be
well enough to give it with a double portion of water."

Then the Domine went away, and Christine did not know that this hour
was really the turning point of her life. And it is perhaps well for
the majority that this important crisis is seldom recognized on its
arrival. There might be interferences, and blunderings of all kinds.
But a destiny that is not realized, or meddled with, goes without let
or hindrance to its appointed end.

Christine rose with a new strength in her heart and went to her
mother. "Come here, dear lass," said Margot. "The Domine was telling
me thou art sick wi' the nursing o' me, and that thou must hae a
change."

"The Domine had no right to say such a thing. I am quite well, Mither.
I should be sick, if I was one mile from you. I have no work and no
pleasure away from your side, dear, dear Mither! I am sorry the
Domine judged me sae hardly."

"The Domine is an interfering auld man. He is getting outside his
pulpit. When I was saying I missed wee Jamie, and I wished him to come
mair often to see me, you should hae watched him bridle up. 'James
must be more under control,' he said, in a vera pompous manner. I
answered, 'The laddie is quite biddable, Doctor,' and he said,
'Mistress, that belongs to his years. He is yet under authority, and I
cannot allow him too much freedom.' And the bairn is my ain! My ain
grandchild! Too much freedom wi' his sick grandmother! Heard ye ever
the like?"

"Weel, Mither, he was right in a way. Jamie has been a bit stiff-necked
and self-willed lately."

"There isna a thing wrang wi' the laddie."

"Weel, he behaves better wi' you than wi' any other person. The Domine
is making a fine lad o' him."

"He was a' that, before the Domine kent him at a'. I wasna carin' for
the reverend this afternoon. I dinna wonder the village women are
saying he has his fingers in everyone's pie."

"It is for everyone's good, Mither, if it be true; but you ken fine
how little the village say-so can be trusted; and less now, than ever;
for since you arena able to sort their clashes, they say what they
like."

"Nae doubt o' it, Christine."

"The Domine promised to send me some books to read. You see, Mither,
the pain you hae wearies you sae that you sleep a great deal, and I am
glad o' it, for the sleep builds up what the pain pulls down, so that
you hold up your ain side better than might be."

"That's a plain truth, dearie."

"Then when you sleep, I am lonely, and I get to thinking and worrying
anent this and that, and so I look tired when there's naething wrang.
But if I had books to read, when I hadna yoursel' to talk wi', I would
be gey happy, and maybe full o' wonderfuls to tell you as you lie
wakin' and wearyful."

"It is a maybe, and you hae to give maybes a trial."

"You see, Mither, we gave up our _Chambers Magazine_ and _The
Scotsman_ when Feyther left us alane."

"It was right to do sae; there was sae many expenses, what wi' the
burying, and wi' my sickness, the last item being a constant outgo."

"You must hae the medicines, and we be to gie up all expenses, if so
be it was needed for that end."

"Weel, if I was to stay here, and be a troubler much langer, that
might be needed, but I hae a few pounds left yet."

"It will never be needed. The children o' the righteous hae a sure
claim on the God o' the righteous, and He is bound and ready to answer
it. Those were almost the last words Feyther said to me. I was
wearying for books, and you see, He has sent them to me, without plack
or bawbee."

"Weel, lassie, if books will mak' you happy, I am glad they are coming
to you. Whiles you can read a short story out o' _Chambers_ to mysel'.
I used to like thae little love tales, when you read one sometimes to
us by the fireside. Anyway, they were mair sensible than the village
clash-ma-clavers; maist o' which are black, burning lees."

"Dear Mither, we'll hae many a happy hour yet, wi' the tales I shall
read to you."

"Nae doubt o' it. They'll all o' them be lees--made up lees--but the
lees won't be anent folks we ken, and think weel of, or anent
oursel's."

"They won't be anent anybody, Mither. The men who write the stories
make up the men and women, and then make up the things they set them
to do, and to say. It is all make-believe, ye ken, but many a good
lesson is learned by good stories. They can teach, as well as sermons.
Folks that won't go and hear a sermon will maybe read a good story."

"You wadna daur to read them in a kirk, for they arena the truth."

"Weel, there are many other things you wouldna care to read in the
kirk--a perfectly honest love letter, for instance."

"When did you hear frae Cluny?"

"Yesterday. He is kept vera close to his business, and he is studying
navigation, so that helps him to get the long hours in foreign ports
over. He's hoping to get a step higher at the New Year, and to be
transferred to the Atlantic boats. Then he can perhaps get awa' a
little oftener. Mither, I was thinking when you got strong enough, we
might move to Glasgow. You would hae a' your lads, but Norman, mair at
your hand then."

"Ay, but Norman is worth a' the lave o' them, and beside if I left
this dear auld hame, Norman would want to come here, and I couldna
thole the thought o' that ill luck. Yet it would be gey hard to refuse
him, if he asked me, and harder still to think night and day o' his
big, blundering, rough lads, among my flower beds, and destroying
everything in baith house and bounds. I couldna think o' it! Your
feyther brought me here when the house was naething at a' but a but
and a ben. A bed and a table, a few chairs, and a handfu' o' crockery
was a' we had in the wide warld--save and forbye, as I hae often told
you, my gold wedding ring." And Margot held up her white, shrunken
hand, and looked at it with tears streaming down her face. And oh, how
tenderly Christine kissed her hand and her face, and said she was
right, and she did not wonder she feared Norman's boys. They were a
rough-and-tumble lot, but would make fine men, every one o' them being
born for the sea, and the fishing.

"Just sae, Christine. They'll do fine in a fishing boat, among nets
and sails. But here! Nay, nay! And then there's the mither o' them!
That woman in my place! Can you think o' it, lassie?"

"We'll never speak again o' the matter. I ken how you feel, Mither. It
would be too cruel! it would be mair than you could bear."

Then there was a man's voice heard in the living room, and Christine
went to answer the call. It was the Domine's messenger, with his arms
full of books. And Christine had them taken into her mother's room,
and for a whole hour sat beside her and showed her books full of
pictures, and read short anecdotes from the magazine volume, and
Margot for a while seemed interested, but finally said with an air of
great weariness: "Tak' them all awa', dearie. Ye can hae the best
bedroom for them."

"Dear Mither, will you let me hae the use o' it? I will keep a' in
order, and it is sae near to yoursel', I could hear you if you only
spoke my name."

"Tak' the room and welcome. Neil had it for many a year. It has a
feeling o' books and lesson-larning in it."

So that night, when her mother was in her first sleep, Christine took
her books into this large, silent room. It faced the sea. It had an
atmosphere different from that of any other room in the house, and no
one but herself was likely to enter it. There was a broad sill to the
largest window, and Christine arranged the Domine's books on it. In
the dozen or more volumes there was a pleasant variety--history,
poetry and the popular novels of the time--especially the best work of
George Eliot, Miss Braddon, Thackeray, and Dickens.

It was all so wonderful to Christine, she could hardly believe it. She
touched them lovingly, she could have kissed them. For in those days
in Scotland, good literature was yet a sort of luxury. A person in a
country place who had a good novel, and was willing to loan it, was a
benefactor. Christine had borrowed from the schoolmaster's wife all
she had to lend, and for several weeks had been without mental food
and mental outlook. Was there any wonder that she was depressed and
weary-looking?

Now all quickly changed. The housework went with her as if it were
paid to do so. She sang as she worked. She was running in and out of
Mither's room with unfailing cheerfulness, and Margot caught her happy
tone, and they were sufficient for each other. Mother and books would
have been sufficient alone, but they had also many outside ties and
interests. The Domine allowed Jamie to go to grandmother's once a day.
There were Cluny and Neil, and all the rest of the boys, the Domine
and the villagers, the kirk and the school; and always Jamie came in
the afternoon, and brought with him the daily _Glasgow Herald_. It was
the Domine's way. At first he had not consciously recognized what
Christine required, but as soon as the situation was evident to him,
he hasted to perform the good work, and he did the duty liberally, and
wearied not in it.

So the days came and went, and neither Margot nor Christine counted
them, and Cluny came whenever he could by any travel get a few hours
with Christine. And the herring season came and went again, and was
not very successful. Margot and Christine were sorry, but it was no
longer a matter of supreme importance. Still, the gossip concerning
the fishing always interested Margot, and someone generally brought it
to her. If no one did, she frankly asked the Domine what was going on,
for he always knew everything affecting the people who sat in Culraine
Kirk of Scotland.

Certainly he watched Christine's improvement with the greatest
interest and pleasure. In six months she was a far more beautiful
woman than she had ever before been. Her soul was developing on the
finest lines, and it was constantly beautifying its fleshly abode. The
work was like that of a lapidary who, day by day, cuts and polishes a
gem of great value. Even Margot occasionally looked intently at her
daughter, and said wonderingly, "You are growing very bonnie,
Christine, the Domine must hae lost his sight, when he thought you
were sick and wearying for a change."

"I'm never sick, Mither. Whiles, when I was worrying mysel' anent
Angus Ballister, I used to hae a dowie weariness come o'er me; but
since feyther went awa' I havena had as much as a headache. Now if it
suits you, Mither, I'll gie you your knitting, I'm wanting to go and
write down something."

"Weel, gie me the needles, and gie my love to Cluny, and tell him to
bring me ane o' them white fuchsia plants he saw in a Glasgow
window."

"I hae given that word already, Mither."

"Do it again, lassie. Any man bides twice telling."

But the writing Christine wished to do was not a letter to her lover.
It was some lines that had been running through her mind for an hour,
and she knew that the only way in which she could lay their
persistency, was to write them down. She had just finished this work,
when the door was opened, and the Domine came in, with a gust of wind,
that blew the paper on which she was writing across the room. He
caught it first, and he smiled when he saw it was poetry.

"I'll even read it, Christine, it might be worth while."

"I couldna help writing the lines down, Sir. They bothered me till I
did sae. They always do."

"Oh-h! Then the lines are your own. That is a circumstance I cannot
pass."

"Gie them to me, Sir. Please!"

"When I have read them, Christine," and immediately he proceeded to
read them aloud. He read them twice, the second time with care and
sympathy:

  "The boats rocked idly on the bay,
    The nets hung straight within the deep,
  On the hard deck the fishers lay,
    Lost in a deep and dreamless sleep.
  Why should they care, and watch, and wake--
    Nets of the sleeping fishers take.
  Only the sea the silence broke,
    Until the Master Fisher spoke.

  "O Christ, Thou must have loved the sea,
    Its waves held firm Thy steady feet.
  Wouldst Thou not talk of boats and nets,
    If Thou some fishermen shouldst meet?
  Yes, Thou wouldst speak of boats and nets,
    Though walking on the golden street.

  "And if, O Christ, Thou met'st some day
    The Fishermen from Galilee,
  Wouldst Thou not speed the hours away,
    Recalling life upon their sea?
  And sure their hearts would burn and thrill,
    Remembering, Thy 'Peace be still!'

  "The Crystal Sea could ne'er replace
    The old Earth Sea, so wild and gray--
  The strain, the struggle, and the race
    For daily bread, from day to day.
  O Christ! we fishermen implore,
    Say not, 'The sea shall be no more.'

  "Its tides have seen Thy godlike face--
    Look down into its hidden graves,
  Have felt Thy feet in solemn pace
    Pass through the valley of its waves.
  Fisher of Galilee! We pray,
    Let not the Earth Sea pass away."

"Weel, Sir, will you give me the bit paper now?"

"I want you to give it to me. In a year I should like to read it
again, and see how you have improved."

"Take your will wi' it, Sir."

"To write poetry teaches you how to write prose--teaches you the words
of the English language, their variety and value. A good prose writer
can write poetry, for he is acquainted wi' words, and can always find
the word he wants; but a good poet is not often a good prose writer."

"How is that, Sir?"

"Because he is satisfied with his own vehicle of expression. He thinks
it is the best. I am glad you have begun by writing poetry--but do not
stop there." As he was speaking he folded up the bit of paper in his
hand, and put it into his pocketbook. Then he went to speak to
Margot.

"Margot," he said, "what do you think? Christine has been writing a
poem, and it is better than might be."

"Christine has been making up poetry ever since she was a bit bairn.
She reads a great deal o' poetry to me out o' the books you sent her.
Oh, Domine, they hae been a wonderfu' pleasuring to us baith! Though I
never thought I wad live to find my only pleasure in novels and bits
o' poetry. Three or four years ago I wad hae laughed anyone to scorn
who said such a thing could happen to Margot Ruleson. 'Deed wad I!"

"God often brings the impossible to pass, and even nourishes us on it.
What has Christine been reading to you?"

"She has read to me the doings o' David Copperfield, and about that
puir lad, Oliver Twist. I was greatly ta'en up wi' the lads. I maist
forgot mysel', listening to their troubles and adventures."

"Very good, Margot. What is she reading to you now?"

"A book by a Mr. Thackeray. His picture is in the book. It's what they
ca' a frontispiece. He has a big head, and he isna handsome, but he
looks like he could mak' up a good story."

"Is the book called 'Vanity Fair'?"

"That's the very name. I dinna see yet the meaning o' it."

"Do you like it?"

"Weel, I like the folks best that I shouldna like. There's an auld
woman in it, that I wad gie a cup o' tea and an hour's crack to, any
day, and be glad o' the pleasure o' it; and there's the girl, called
Becky, that isna at a' a kirklike girl, but I canna help liking her
weel. I think I wad hae been her marrow, if I had been born and
brought up as she was. I'm sure it must be gey hard for men to mak' up
the likeness o' a real good woman--they mak' them too good, you feel
as if they should be in heaven, and mostly I find they send them there
by early death, or some other disease, or mischance."

"So you like Becky?"

"I do. There's circumstances, Sir! They alter cases. They do that! If
a woman has the fight wi' the warld on her hands, she'll be requiring
a little o' the deil in her, just to keep the deil out o' her. I hope
the man Thackeray has had sense enou' to mak' Becky come a' right at
the lang end."

"I believe she becomes very respectable, and joins the Church of
England."

"That would be the right thing for her. I hae heard that it is a vera
broad church, and that its deacons----"

"Wardens, Margot."

"Wardens be it. I hae heard that they dinna dog its members round
Sunday and work days, as our deacons do. Your ain deacons are vera
officious, sir."

"Elder James Ruleson, while he lived, saw that every kirk officer did
his duty."

"Thank you, Domine! It is good to hear his name. Everyone seems to
have forgotten him--everyone."

"He is not forgotten, Margot. His name is on nearly every page o' the
kirk books, and the school will keep his memory green. I am going to
propose a Ruleson Day, and on it give all the children a holiday.
Weel, Margot, here comes Christine, and I believe she has Becky in
hand." Then he turned to Christine and said, "You have taken steps on
a fair road, go straight forward." And she smiled, and her smile was
like sunshine, and the Domine felt the better for it. He lifted his
head higher, and took longer steps, and walked home with a new and
pleasant hope in his heart.



CHAPTER X

ROBERTA INTERFERES

  Small service is true service while it lasts.

  He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.


Nearly two years had passed since James Ruleson's death, and Christine
was facing an embarrassing condition. She was nearly without money.
During the severe illness which followed her husband's death, Margot
had entrusted all she had to Christine, except the sum she had
retained for her own burial; and Christine knew this was a provision
all Culraine women regarded as a sacred duty. To break into this sum
would be a serious, perhaps a dangerous, trial to Margot. However,
there was the ninety pounds that Neil had borrowed from her, and never
repaid. Now she must apply for it, must indeed urge its immediate
return, and she wrote her brother the following letter:

  DEAR NEIL,

  We are in a sair strait. I am nearly without money, and Mither has
  none left but her burial siller, and you know it will nearly kill
  her to break into that. I would not ask you to pay me the ninety
  pounds you owe me, if there was any other way I could do. I would
  go out and sell fish, before I would trouble you. But surely it
  will not be hurting you any way now, to pay ninety pounds. Jim
  Carnagie was telling me that you were doing a well-paying
  business. Dear Neil, it is for your mither! She pleaded for you to
  have your own will and wish all your life long. I need not remind
  you of all her thoughtfulness for your comfort, while you were at
  the Maraschal. She is dying, a cruel, hard, long death. I cannot,
  no, I cannot, trouble her last days anent the siller she needs for
  food to keep her in life, and for medicines to soothe her great
  pain. Neil, I have always loved and helped you. I was glad when
  Miss Rath took to you kindly, for I knew you had to have some
  woman to look after your special ways and likings. Tell her the
  truth, and I am sure she will not oppose your paying such a just
  debt. Neil, answer me at once. Do not think about it, and delay
  and delay. You know, dear Neil, it is getting on the fourth year,
  since I loaned you it, and you promised to pay me out of the first
  money you earned. I think, dear, you will now pay me as lovingly
  as I let you have it when you needed it so badly.

  Mither does not know I am writing you, or even that we need money,
  so haste to make me more easy, for I am full of trouble and
  anxiety.

  Your loving sister,

  CHRISTINE.

This letter had a singular fate. It was left at Neil's house five
minutes after Neil had left his house for a journey to London, on some
important business for the Western Bank. It was consequently given to
Mrs. Ruleson. She looked at it curiously. It was a woman's writing,
and the writing was familiar to her. The half-obliterated post office
stamp assured her. It was from Neil's home, and there was the word
"Haste" on the address, so there was probably trouble there. With some
hesitation she opened and read it, read slowly and carefully, every
word of it, and when she had done so, flung it from her in passionate
contempt.

"The lying, thieving, contemptible creature," she said, in a low,
intense voice. "I gave him ninety pounds, when his father died. He
told me then some weird story about this money. And I believed him. I,
Roberta Rath, believed him! I am ashamed of myself! Reginald told me
long syne that he knew the little villain was making a private hoard
for himself, and that the most o' his earnings went to it. I will look
into that business next. Reggie told me I would come to it. I cannot
think of it now, my first care must be this poor, anxious girl, and
her dying mother. I believe I will go to Culraine and see them! He has
always found out a reason for me not going. I will just show him I am
capable of taking my own way."

She reflected on this decision for a few moments, and then began to
carry it out with a smiling hurry. She made arrangements with her cook
for the carrying on of the household for her calculated absence of
three days. Then she dressed herself with becoming fashion and
fitness, and in less than an hour, had visited the Bank of Scotland,
and reached the railway station. Of course she went first to
Edinburgh, and she lingered a little there, in the fur shops. She
selected a pretty neck piece and muff of Russian sable, and missed a
train, and so it was dark, and too late when she reached the town to
go to the village of Culraine.

"It is always my way," she murmured, as she sat over her lonely cup
of tea in her hotel parlor. "I am so long in choosing what I want,
that I lose my luck. I wonder now if I have really got the best and
the bonniest. Poor father, he was aye looking for a woman to be a
mother to me, and never found one good enough. I was well in my
twenties before I could decide on a husband; and I am pretty sure I
waited too long. Three women bought furs while I was swithering
about mine. It is just possible to be too careful. Liking may be
better than consideration. Johnny Lockhart told me if I would
trust my heart, instead of my brain, I would make better decisions. It
might be so. Who can tell?"

In the morning, when she had finished her breakfast, she went to the
window of her room and looked into the street. Several Culraine
fishing-women were calling their fresh haddock and flounders, and she
looked at them critically.

"They are young and handsome," she thought, "but their dress is
neither fashionable, nor becoming. I should think it was a trial for a
pretty girl to wear it--too short petticoats--stripes too yellow and
wide--too much color every way--earrings quite out of fashion--caps
picturesque, but very trying, and a sailor hat would be less trouble
and more attractive. Well, as the fisherwomen are crying fresh
haddock, I should think I may call on Christine, and not break any
social law of the place."

Christine was not now a very early riser. If Margot had a restless,
bad night, both of them often fell asleep at the dawning, and it had
occasionally been as late as eight o'clock when their breakfast was
over. Roberta Rath's visit happened to fall on one of these belated
mornings. It was nearly nine o'clock, but Margot had just had her
breakfast, and was washed and dressed, and sitting in a big chair by
the fireside of her room.

Christine was standing by a table in the living room. There was a
large pan of hot water before her, and she was going to wash the
breakfast dishes. Then there was a soft, quick knock at the door, and
she called a little peremptorily, "Come in." She thought it was some
girl from the school, who wanted to borrow a necklace or some bit of
finery for an expected dance. And it is not always that the most
obliging of women are delighted to lend their ornaments.

When Roberta answered her curt invitation, she was amazed. She did not
know her, she had never seen Roberta, nor even a likeness of her, for
there were no photographs then, and the daguerreotype was expensive
and not yet in common request. She looked with wide-open eyes at the
lady, and the lady smiled. And her smile was entrancing, for she
seemed to smile from head to feet. Then she advanced and held out her
hand.

"I am Roberta," she said. And Christine laid down her cup and towel,
and answered with eager pleasure, "You are vera welcome, Roberta. I am
Christine."

"Of course! I know that. You are exactly the Christine I have dreamed
about," and she lifted up her small face, and Christine kissed her,
before she was aware. It was the most extraordinary thing, and
Christine blushed and burned, but yet was strangely pleased and
satisfied.

"Can I stay with you till four this afternoon, Christine? I want to
very much."

"You will be mair than welcome. Mither will be beside hersel' wi' the
visit. Is Neil wi' you?"

"No. I have come of my own wish and will. Neil is in London. Let me
speak to the man who drove me here, and then I will tell you how it
is."

She left the house for a few minutes, and came back with a beaming
face, and a parcel in her hand. "Suppose, Christine," she said, "you
show me where I can take off my bonnet and cloak and furs." So
Christine went with her to the best bedroom, and she cried out at the
beauty of its view, and looked round at the books and papers, and the
snow-white bed, and was wonder struck at the great tropic sea shell,
hanging before the south window; for its wide rose-pink cavity was
holding a fine plant of musk-flower, and its hanging sprays of bloom,
and heavenly scent, enthralled her.

"What a charming room!" she cried. "One could dream of heaven in it."

"Do you dream, Roberta?"

"Every night."

"Do you like to dream?"

"I would not like to go to bed, and not dream."

"I am glad you feel that way. Some people cannot dream."

"Poor things! Neil could not understand me about dreaming. Nor could I
explain it to him."

"Lawyers don't dream. I have heard that. I suppose the folk in the
other warld canna fash themselves wi' the quarreling o' this warld."

Roberta was untying the parcel containing the furs, as Christine
spoke, and her answer was to put the long boa of sable around
Christine's neck and place the muff in her right hand. Now, good fur
suits everyone--man or woman--and Christine was regally transformed by
it.

"Eh, Roberta!" she cried. "What bonnie furs! I never saw the like o'
them! Never!"

"But now they are yours!"

"You dinna--you canna mean, that you gie them to me, Roberta?"

"I surely do mean just that. I give them to you with all my heart and
you look like a Norse princess in them. Come, give me a kiss for the
boa, and a kiss for the muff, and we will call the gift square."

Then Roberta kissed Christine and they laughed a sweet, gay little
laugh together. And Christine said, "I hae always wanted a sister. Now
I hae gotten one weel to my liking! And O, the bonnie furs! The bonnie
furs! They suit me fine, Roberta! They suit me fine!" and she smiled
at herself in the little mirror, and was happy, beyond expression.

"You are as happy as if you had found a fortune, Christine!"

"I hae found mair than a fortune, Roberta! I hae found a sister! I
wasna looking for such good luck to come to me!"

"That is the way good luck comes--always as a surprise. We watch for
it on the main road, and it just slips round a corner." Then Roberta
took Christine by the hand, and they went to the living-room, and
Christine began to wash her teacups, and as she laid them dripping on
the tray, Roberta took the towel and wiped them dry.

"You shouldna do that, Roberta."

"Why not, Christine?"

"It isna wark for you."

"While Father lived, I always washed the china beside him. Then he
read the newspaper, and we had happy talks. We were plain-living folk,
until Father died. Then Reggie and I set up for quality. We had the
money, and Reggie had quality friends, and I thought it would be
fine."

"Do you think it is fine?"

"It is no better than it is spoken of. Christine, can you guess what
brought me here?"

"Did you get a letter I wrote Neil?"

"Yes."

"Then I know why you came."

"Neil had just left for London. You asked for no delay. So I brought
the money, Christine, and I had the Bank calculate the proper amount
of interest for four years, at five per cent."

"There was no interest asked. There is none due. I didna lend a' the
money I had on interest, but on love."

"Then here is the money, Christine, and I must thank you for Neil, for
the long credit you have given him."

"I havena been needing the siller until now, but now it is a real
salvation."

Christine put the money in her breast, and then together they put the
cleansed china in its proper place. Just as they finished this duty, a
little handbell tinkled, and Christine said,

"That is Mither's call. Let us go to her."

"Mither, dear Roberta is here. She has come to see you." And the young
woman stood looking into the old woman's face, and in a moment
something inarticulate passed between them. They smiled at each other,
and Roberta stooped and kissed the white, worn face. There needed no
further explanation. In a few minutes the three women were conversing
in the most intimate and cheerful manner. To her mother, Christine
appeared to be rather silent. Margot wished she would be more
effusive, and she exerted herself to make up for Christine's
deficiency in this respect. But the release from great anxiety often
leaves the most thankful heart apparently quiet, and apparently
indifferent. Many who have prayed fervently for help, when the help
comes have no words on their tongues to speak their gratitude. Flesh
and spirit are exhausted, before the Deliverer they are speechless.
Then He who knoweth our infirmities speaks for us.

To make what dinner she could, and put the house in order was then
Christine's duty, and she went about it, leaving Roberta with Margot.
They soon became quite at ease with each other, and Christine could
hear them laughing at their own conversation. After awhile they were
very quiet, and Christine wondered if her mother had again become
sleepy. On the contrary, she found Margot more alive and more
interested than she had seen her since her husband's death.

There was a crochet needle between them, and they were both absorbed
in what it was doing. Crochet was then a new thing on the earth, as
far as England and Scotland was concerned; and at this date it was the
reigning womanly fad. Margot had seen and dreamed over such patterns
of it as had got into magazines and newspapers, but had never seen the
work itself. Now Roberta was teaching her its easy stitches, and
Margot, with all a child's enthusiasm, was learning.

"Look, Christine," she cried. "Look, Christine, at the bonnie wark I
am learning! It is the crochet wark. We hae read about it, ye ken, but
see for yoursel'. Look, lassie," and she proudly held out a strip of
the first simple edging.

The three women then sat down together, and there was wonder and
delight among them. A bit of fine, delicate crochet now gets little
notice, but then it was a new sensation, and women thought they lacked
an important source of pleasure, if they went anywhere without the
little silk bag holding their crochet materials. Roberta had crocheted
in the train, as long as it was light, and she fully intended to
crochet all day, as she sat talking to her new relations.

Margot could knit blindfolded, she learned by some native and natural
instinct. In two days she would have been able to teach Roberta.

There was a simple dinner of baked fish, and a cup of tea, and
Christine beat an egg in a cup and was going to carry it to Margot,
when Roberta stayed her. "Does she like it in that sloppy way?" she
asked.

"Weel, it is for her good. She has to like it."

"We can make it far nicer. See here," and Roberta beat the egg in the
cupful of milk, added a little sugar, and placed it in the oven. In a
few minutes it was a solid, excellent custard, and Margot enjoyed it
very much. "I ne'er liked raw food," she said, "and raw egg isna any
more eatable than raw fish, or raw meat."

In the afternoon the Domine and Jamie came in, and Roberta won his
heart readily with her gay good nature and thoughtful kindness to the
sick woman. He had put a letter into Christine's hand, as he came in
and said to her, "Go your ways ben, and read it, but say naething to
your mither anent its contents. Later I'll give you good reasons for
this."

So Christine went away, and opened her letter, and there fell from it
a five-pound note. And the letter was from a great magazine, and it
said the money was for the "Fisherman's Prayer" and he would be very
glad if she would write him more about fishers. There were also a few
pleasant words of praise, but Christine's eyes were full of happy
tears, she could not read them. What she did was to lay the letter and
the money on her bed, and kneel down beside it, and let her silence
and her tears thank the God who had helped her. "I was brought low and
He helped me," she whispered, as she bathed her eyes and then went
back to the company.

Such a happy afternoon followed! The Domine was in a delightful mood,
Jamie recited for the first time "How Horatio Kept the Bridge," and
Margot was as busy as her weak, old fingers would let her be. With the
Domine's approval, Christine showed her letter to Roberta, and they,
too, held a little triumph over the good, clever girl, for it was not
vanity that induced her confidence, it was that desire for human
sympathy, which even Divinity feels, or He would not ask it, and
Himself prompt its offering.

Soon after five o'clock they had a cup of tea together, and Roberta's
cab was waiting, and the fortunate day was over. Roberta was sorry to
go away. She said she had had one of the happiest days of her life.
She left her own little silk crochet bag with Margot, and gave her
gladly her pretty silver hook with its ivory handle, and the cotton
she had with her. She said she would send hooks of different sizes,
and the threads necessary for them, and also what easy patterns she
could find.

She went away amid smiles and blessings, and the Domine and Jamie went
with her. They would see her safely to her hotel, they said, but she
would not part with them so early. She entreated them to dine and
spend the evening with her. And so they did. And their talk was of
Christine, of her love and patience, and her night-and-day care. Even
her orderly house and personal neatness were duly praised.

Roberta left for her Glasgow home, early on the following morning, and
arrived at Monteith Row a little wearied, but quite satisfied with the
journey she had taken. What the result to herself would be, she could
hardly imagine. But its uncertainty kept her restless. She had
resolved to clean and prepare the house for winter, during her
husband's absence, but she could not do it. A woman needs a stiff
purpose in her heart, when she pulls her home to pieces. If anything
is going to happen, it usually chooses such a time of discomfort and
disorder.

She found it far more pleasant to select crochet hooks and cotton for
Margot and herself. She sent the Domine a book that she knew would be
acceptable, and to Jamie she sent a Rugby School pocket-knife,
containing not only the knives, but the other little tools a boy finds
so necessary. To Christine she sent a large, handsome portfolio, and
such things as a person addicted to writing poetry requires. She could
settle to nothing, for indeed she felt her position to be precarious.
She knew that she could not live a day with Neil, unless he was able
to account satisfactorily for his theft--she called it theft to
herself--of the first ninety pounds.

Neil had promised to be home in a week, but it was two weeks ere he
returned. He said business had detained him, and what can a woman say
to "business"? It appears to cover, and even cancel, all other
obligations. If there had been any tendency in Roberta's heart to
excuse, or even to forgive her husband, he killed the feeling by his
continual excuses for delay. The lawyer who had accompanied him was
home. What was Neil doing in London, when the principal in the case
had returned?

At last she received particular instructions as to the train by which
he would arrive. She took no notice of them, though it had been her
custom to meet him. He was a little cross at this neglect, and more
so, when the sound of his peremptory ring at the door brought only a
servant to open it. He did not ask after her, and she did not appear,
so he gave his valise to the servant, with orders to take it into the
dining room. "I suppose your mistress is there?" he asked. He was told
she was there, and he added, "Inform her that I am in my room
preparing for dinner, and order the cook to serve it at once."

Roberta saw the valise brought in, and she made no inquiries
concerning it. She saw the dinner brought on, and she seated herself
in her place at the table, and drew the chair holding the valise
almost to her side. Then she waited.

Neil entered the room immediately. She did not turn her face to the
door when it opened. She said as if speaking to a servant, "Place the
soup at the head of the table. Mr. Ruleson is home."

When he took the head of the table, and so faced her, and could no
longer be ignored, she said, "Is it really you, Neil? By what train
did you arrive?"

"I told you, in my last letter, at what time I should arrive in
Glasgow. You did not meet me, as I expected. I had to take a cab
home."

"The stable man said one of the horses was acting as if it did not
feel well. He thought it had better not be driven."

"He thought it would be more comfortable to stay at home this wet
night. I had a very cold, disagreeable drive. I dare say I have taken
a severe cold from it."

"The soup waits, if you will serve it."

He did so, remarking the while, "I sent you word I would be home by
this train. Did you receive my letter?"

"Yes."

"Then why?"

"O you know, you have been coming by so many trains the past week, I
thought it best not to take the sick horse out on such an uncertainty
as your promise."

"I was, as I told you, detained by business."

"I hope you made it pay you."

"A few hundreds."

"Ah! Then you would not mind the expense of a cab."

"Do I ever mind necessary trifles?"

"I have never considered the matter," and the little laugh of
indifference which closed the sentence, made him look at her
attentively.

She was in full evening costume, and it struck him that tonight she
looked almost handsome.

"Did you intend to go out this evening? Has my coming home prevented
some social pleasure?"

"I had told Reginald to meet me in my box at Glover's Theater.
Reginald is a social pleasure no woman would willingly miss."

"I do not approve of Reginald Rath, and I would rather you did not
invite him to our box. His presence there, you know, would assuredly
preclude mine."

"I cannot interfere with dear Reggie's rights. The box is as much his,
as mine. Father bought it in perpetuity, when the theater was built.
The Merrys, and Taits, and others did the same--and Father left it to
Reggie and myself, equally."

"It would be very unpleasant to you, if Reginald married a woman you
did not like--and you really approve of so few women--it is remarkable
how few----"

"Yet I have found a woman since you went away, that is perfect--as
good and clever as she is beautiful."

"Where did you find her?"

"It is my little romance. I will tell you about her after dinner."

"I am not impatient."

This kind of half-querulous conversation continued during the service
of dinner, but when the cloth had been drawn, and the wine and the
nuts promised the absence of servants uncalled for, Roberta's attitude
changed. She took a letter from her bag, and pushed it towards Neil.

"It is your letter," she said, "it came ten days ago."

"Why did you open it?"

"The word 'haste' was on it, and I thought it might be an announcement
of your mother's death, or serious sickness--not that I thought you
would care----"

"Of course, I care."

"Then you had better read the letter."

She watched his face gathering gloom and anger as he did so, and when
he threw it from him with some unintelligible words, she lifted and
put it again in her bag.

"That is my letter, Roberta, give it to me."

"You have just flung it away from you. I am going to keep it--it may
be useful."

"What do you mean?"

"Neil, you must now answer me one or two questions. On your answers
our living together depends."

He laughed softly, and said, "Nothing so serious as that, surely,
Roberta!"

"Just that. When you went to your father's funeral, you told me that
you owed your sister ninety pounds. You said it was her life's savings
from both labor and gifts, and that she had loaned it to you, in order
to make possible your final year at the Maraschal. You said further,
that your father was not a saving man, and you feared they would be
pinched for money to bury him. And I loaned you ninety pounds, being
glad to see such a touch of natural affection in you. This letter from
Christine says plainly that you never paid her the ninety pounds you
borrowed from me. Is Christine telling the truth?"

"Yes."

"Yet, on your return, you gave me a rather tedious account of your
mother's and Christine's thankfulness for the money. It created in me
a wrong impression of your mother and sister. I asked myself why they
should be so crawlingly thankful to you for paying a just debt, and I
thought meanly of them. Why did you not pay them the ninety pounds you
borrowed from them? And why did you invent that servile bit of
thankfulness?"

"I will tell you, Roberta. When I got home I found the whole village
on my father's place. The funeral arrangements were, for a man in my
father's position, exceedingly extravagant, and I was astonished at my
mother's recklessness, and want of oversight. Christine was overcome
with grief, and everything appeared to be left to men and women who
were spending other people's money. I thought under the circumstances
it was better not to pay Christine at that time, and I think I was
right."

"So far, perhaps, you were prudent, but prudence is naturally mean and
as often wrong as right. And why did you lie to me, so meanly and so
tediously?"

"You have to lie to women, if you alter in the least anything you have
told them. You cannot explain to a woman, unless you want to stand all
day doing it. There are times when a lie is simply an explanation, a
better one than the truth would be. The great Shakespeare held that
such lies were more for number, than account."

"I do not take my opinion of lies from William Shakespeare. A lie is a
lie. There was no need for a lie in this case. The lie you made up
about it was for account, not for number--be sure of that. You admit
that you did not give Christine the ninety pounds you borrowed from
me, in order to pay your debt to her. What did you do with the
money?"

"Have you any right to ask me that question? If I borrowed ninety
pounds from the bank, would they ask me what I did with it?"

"I neither know nor care what the bank would do. I am seeking
information for Roberta Ruleson, and I shall take my own way to obtain
it."

"What is it you want to know?"

"What you did with that ninety pounds?"

"I banked it."

"In what bank? There is no record of it in the Bank of Scotland, where
I have always supposed, until lately, our funds were kept."

"I did not put it in the Bank of Scotland. Every business man has an
official banking account, and also a private banking account. I put
that ninety pounds to my private bank account."

"In what bank?"

"I do not give that information to anyone."

"It must be pretty well known, since it has come as a matter of gossip
to me."

"You had better say 'advice' in place of gossip. What advice did you
get?"

"I was told to look after my own money, that you were putting what
little you made into the North British Security."

"I suppose your clever brother told you that. If Reginald Rath does
not leave my affairs alone, I shall make him."

"You will have a bad time doing it. Your check books, no doubt, are in
this valise. You will now write me a check on the North British for
one hundred and eighty pounds. It is only fair that the North British
should pay out, as well as take in."

"Why should I give you a check for a hundred and eighty pounds?"

"I gave you ninety pounds when you went to your father's funeral, I
took ninety pounds to Culraine ten days ago, in answer to the letter
Christine wrote."

"You went to Culraine? You, yourself?"

"I went, and I had there one of the happiest days of my life. I got
right into your mother's heart, and taught her how to crochet. I saw
and talked with your splendid sister. She is the most beautiful,
intelligent girl, I ever met."

"Such nonsense! She knows nothing but what I taught her!"

"She knows many things you know nothing about. I think she will become
a famous woman."

"When Mother dies, she will marry Cluny Macpherson, who is a Fife
fisher, and settle down among her class."

"I saw his picture, one of those new daguerreotypes. Such a
splendid-looking fellow! He was a Fife fisher, he is now Second
Officer on a Henderson boat, and wears their uniform. But it is
Christine I am telling you about. There is a new _Blackwood_ on the
table at your right hand. Turn to the eleventh page, and see what you
find."

He did so, and he found "The Fisherman's Prayer." With a scornful face
he read it, and then asked, "Do you believe that Christine Ruleson
wrote that poem? I have no doubt it is the Domine's work."

"Not it. I saw the Domine. He and that lovable lad he has adopted----"

"My nephew."

"Dined at the hotel with me. I never before met such a perfect man. I
did not know such men lived. The Domine was as happy as a child over
Christine's success. She got five pounds for that poem."

"I do not believe it."

"I read the letter in which it came. They praised the poem, and asked
for more contributions."

"If she is making money, why give her ninety pounds? It was
absurd----"

"It was just and right. You say you have made a few hundreds on this
London case, you will now write me a check for the two loans of ninety
pounds each."

"I did not borrow the last ninety pounds. You took it to Culraine of
your own will and desire. I do not owe the last ninety pounds. I
refuse to pay it."

"I will give you until tomorrow morning to change your mind. When
Christine wrote you the letter, now in your hand, she had not a
sixpence in the world--her luck came with the money I took her. I do
not think she will ever require anyone's help again. Oh, how could you
grudge even your last penny to a sister like Christine?"

"She owes everything to me. I opened up her mind. I taught her to
speak good English. I----"

"'I borrowed all her life's savings, kept the money through the death
of her father, the severe illness of her mother, and the total absence
of anyone in her home to make money or in any way help her to bear the
burden and fatigue of her great strait.' You can tell me in the
morning what you propose to do."

Then she rose, and left the room, and Neil made no offer to detain
her. In fact he muttered to himself, "She is a little premature, but
it may be as well."

In the morning he rose while it was yet dark, and leaving word with a
servant that he was going to Dalkeith and might be away four days, or
longer, he left in the gloom of fog and rain, and early twilight, the
home he was never to enter again. He had grown accustomed to every
luxury and refinement in its well-ordered plenty, and he had not the
slightest intention of resigning its comfortable conditions, but he
had no conception of the kind of woman with whom he had now to deal.
The wives of Culraine, while dominant in business, gave to their men,
in the household, almost an unquestioned authority; and Neil had no
experience which could lead him to expect Roberta would, in any
essential thing, dare to disobey him. He even flattered himself that
in leaving her alone he had left her to anxiety and unhappiness, and
of course, repentance.

"I will just give her a little lesson," he said to himself,
complacently. "She gave me until this morning. I will give her four or
five days of solitary reflection, and no letters. No letters, Neil
Ruleson! I think that treatment will teach her other people have
rights, as well as herself."

Roberta did not appear to be disquieted by his absence. She sent a
messenger for her brother, and ate a leisurely, pleasant meal, with
the _Glasgow Herald_ for a companion; and before she had quite
finished it, Reginald appeared.

"Your early message alarmed me, Roberta," he said. "I hope all is well
with you, dear?"

"Indeed, Reggie, I don't know whether it is well, or ill. Sit down and
I will tell you exactly how my life stands." Then she related
circumstantially all that had occurred--Neil's first request for
ninety pounds at his father's death--his appropriation of that sum,
and his refusal to say what had been done with it--Christine's letter
of recent date which she now handed to her brother. Reginald read it
with emotion, and said as he handed it back to his sister: "It is a
sweet, pitiful, noble letter. Of course he answered it properly."

Then Roberta told him all the circumstances of her visit to Culraine,
and when she had finished her narration, her brother's eyes were full
of tears.

"Now, Reginald," she asked, "did I do wrong in going myself with the
money?"

"Up to the receipt of Christine's letter, you supposed it had been
paid?"

"Certainly I did, and I thought Neil's family rude and unmannerly for
never making any allusion to its payment."

"So you paid it again, resolving to fight the affair out with Neil,
when he came home. You really accepted the debt, and made it your own,
and be sure that Neil will find out a way to make you responsible for
its payment in law. In point of truth and honor, and every holy
affection, it was Neil's obligation, and every good man and woman
would cry shame on his shirking it. Roberta, you have made the supreme
mistake! You have allied yourself with a mean, dishonorable caitiff--a
creature in whose character baseness and wickedness meet; and who has
no natural affections. As I have told you before, and often, Neil
Ruleson has one idea--money. All the comforts and refinements of this
home would be instantly abandoned, if he had them to pay for. He has a
miserly nature, and only his love of himself prevents him from living
on a crust, or a few potato parings."

"Oh, Reginald, you go too far."

"I do not. When a man can grudge his good, loving mother on her
death-bed anything, or all that he has, he is no longer fit for human
companionship. He should go to a cave, or a garret, and live alone.
What are you going to do? My dear, dear sister, what are you going to
do?"

"What you advise, Reginald. For this reason I sent for you."

"Then listen. I knew a crisis of some kind must soon come between you
and that--creature, and this is what I say--you must leave him. Every
day you stay with him insults your humanity, and your womanhood. He
says he will be four or five days away, we will have plenty of time
for my plan. Before noon I will have here wagons and men in sufficient
number to empty this house into Menzie's granite storage in two days.
Send the silver to the bank. I will put it in a cab, and take it
myself. Pack things you value highly in one trunk, which can be
specially insured. Our pictures we will place in the Ludin Picture
Gallery. We can clear the house in three days, and on the morning of
the fourth day, young Bruce Kinlock will move into it. If Neil can
face Kinlock, it will be the worse for him, for Kinlock's temper
blazes if he but hear Neil's name, and his hand goes to his side, for
the dirk with which his fathers always answered an enemy."

"Then, Reginald, when I have turned myself out of house and home, what
follows?"

"We will take a passage to New Orleans."

"New Orleans! Why there? Such an out-of-the-way place."

"Exactly. That creature will argue thus--they have gone to some place
on the Continent--very likely France. And he will probably try to make
you a deal of trouble. I have never named New Orleans to anyone. Even
our friends will never suspect our destination, for we shall go first
to France, and take a steamer from some French port, for New Orleans.
When we arrive there, we have a new world before us, and can please
ourselves where we go, and where we stay. Now, Roberta, decide at
once. We have time, but none too much, and I will work night and day
to get you out of the power of such a husband."

"He may repent."

"We will give him time and reason to do so. He has been too
comfortable. You have given him constant temptation to wrong you. He
will not repent until he feels the pinch of poverty and the want of a
home. Then he may seek you in earnest, and I suppose you will forgive
him."

"What else could I do? Would not God forgive him?"

"That is a subject for later consideration. If you will take my advice
you must do it with all your heart, and be as busy as I will be. We
want no altercation with him just yet."

"I give you my word, Reggie, that for two years I will do as you
advise. Then we will reconsider the question."

Then Reginald clasped her hand, and drew her to his side. "It is for
your salvation, dear, every way, and loneliness and deprivation may be
for his good. We will hope so."

"You once liked him, Reggie."

"Yes, I did. He betrayed me in every way he could. He purposely
quarreled with me. He wanted a free hand to follow out his own
business ideas--which were not mine. But this is now idle talk. Neil
will never be saved by people helping him. He must be left to help
himself."

"That is hope enough to work on. Tell me now, exactly what to do."

Reginald's plans had long been perfected, and by the noon of the third
day the beautiful home was nothing but bare walls and bare floors.
That same night, Reginald Rath and his sister left Glasgow by the
midnight train, and the following morning, Bruce Kinlock, with his
wife and five children, moved into the dismantled house, and in two
days it was in a fairly habitable condition. There was, of course,
confusion and a multitude of bustling servants and helpers, and a
pretty, frail-looking little lady, sitting helplessly in a large
chair, and Bruce ordering round, and five children in every place they
ought not be, but there was universal good temper, and pleasurable
excitement, and a brilliantly lighted house, when on the following
Saturday night, Neil drove up to his residence.

He thought, at first, that Mrs. Ruleson had a dinner party, then he
remembered Roberta's reverence for the Sabbath, and knew she would
not permit any dancing and feasting so near its daybreaking. The
Sabbath observance was also his own strong religious tenet, he was an
ardent supporter of Doctor Agnew and his extremist views, and
therefore this illumination in the Ruleson mansion, so near to the
Sabbath-day, offended him.

"Roberta knows that I am particular about my good name, and that I am
jealously careful of the honor of the Sabbath, and yet--yet! Look at
my house! It is lit up as if for a carnival of witches!" Then he
hurried the cab man, and his keys being in his hand, he applied the
latch-key to the lock. It would not move it, and the noise in the
house amazed him. He rang the bell violently, and no one answered it.
He raged, and rang it again. There was plenty of movement in the
house, and he could plainly hear a man's voice, and a guffaw of
laughter. He kept the bell ringing, and kicked the door with his
foot.

Then a passionate voice asked what he wanted.

"I want to get in. This is my house."

"It is not your house. It never was your house."

"What number is this?"

"Twenty-three, Western Crescent. What Tomfool asks?"

"This is my house. Open the door, or I will call the police." He did
call the policeman on the beat, and the man said, "A new family moved
in yesterday, Sir, and I was taken from Hillside Crescent, only two
days ago. I am on the night watch. I havena seen any o' them yet, but
there seems to be a big lot o' them."

"Do you know where the family went, who lived in twenty-three previous
to this new tenant?"

"I heard they went abroad--left in a great hurry, as it were."

Then Neil went back to the house, and rang the door bell with polite
consideration. "The new-comers will certainly know more than the
policeman," he thought, "and I can get no letter till Monday morning.
It will be very annoying to be in this doubt until then."

He had plenty of time for these reflections, for the bell was not
noticed, and he rang again with a little more impetuosity. This time
it was answered by a huge Highlander, with a dog by a leash, and a
dogwhip in his hand; and Neil trembled with fear. He knew the man. He
had once been his lawyer, and lost his case, and the man had accused
him of selling his case. There was no proof of the wrong, none at all,
and it was not believed by anyone except Reginald Rath, and even
Roberta allowed he was too prejudiced to be fair. These circumstances
passed like a flash through Neil's heart, as Bruce Kinlock glared at
him.

"How dare you show your face at my door?" he asked. "Be off, you
whippersnapper, or I'll set the dog on you."

"I have always believed, until the present moment, that this was my
house. Can you tell me where my family has removed to?"

"You never had any right in this house but the right of sufferance.
Honest Reginald Rath has taken your wife away--he's done right. Ye
know well you are not fit company for the lady Roberta. As for your
family, they have the pity of everyone. What kind of a brute is it
that has not a shilling for a dying mother, though he's owing his
family ninety pounds, and far more love than he deserves. Go, or it
will be worse for you! You sneaking ne'er-do-well."

Kinlock had spoken with inconceivable passion, and the very sight of
the red-headed, gigantic Highlander, sputtering out words that cannot
be written, and of the growling brute, that only required a relaxed
hand to fly at his throat, made him faint with terror.

"I am sure, Mr. Kinlock----"

"How daur you 'mister' me? I am Kinlock, of Kinlock! You had better
take yourself off. I'm at the end of my patience, and I cannot hold
this kind of a brute much longer. And if he grabs any kind of a human
being, he never lets go while there's life in him. I can't say how he
would treat you--one dog does not eat another dog, as a rule." Then he
clashed-to the door, and Neil was grateful. He did not ask again for
it to be opened.

He went to his office. Perhaps there was a letter for him there. It
was locked, and the man who kept the keys lived over the river.
Thoroughly weary and distressed, and full of anxious forebodings, he
went to a hotel, and ordered supper in his own room. He did not feel
as if he could look anyone in the face, with this dreadful uncertainty
hanging over his life. What was the matter?

Thinking over things he came to no conclusion. It could not be his few
words with Roberta on the night of his return from London. A few words
of contradiction with Roberta were almost a daily occurrence, and she
had always accepted such offers of conciliation as he made. And he was
so morally obtuse that his treatment of his mother and sister, as
influencing his wife, never entered his mind. What had Roberta to do
with his mother and Christine? Suppose he had treated them cruelly,
what right, or reason, had she to complain of that? Everything was
personal to Neil, even moralities; he was too small to comprehend the
great natural feelings which make all men kin. He thought Kinlock's
reference to his dying mother a piece of far-fetched impertinence, but
he understood very well the justice of Kinlock's personal hatred, and
he laughed scornfully as he reflected on the Highlander's longing to
strike him with the whip, and then set the dog to finish his quarrel.

"The Law! The gude Common Law o' Scotland has the like o' sic villains
as Kinlock by the throat!" he said triumphantly. "He wad hae set the
brute at my throat, if he hadna kent it wad put a rope round his ain
red neck. I hae got to my Scotch," he remarked, "and that isna a good
sign. I'll be getting a headache next thing. I'll awa' to bed, and to
sleep. Monday will be a new day. I'll mebbe get some light then, on
this iniquitous, unprecedented circumstance."



CHAPTER XI

CHRISTINE MISTRESS OF RULESON COTTAGE

  Now, therefore, keep thy sorrow to thyself and bear with a good
  courage that which hath befallen thee.--Esdras ii, ch. 10, v. 15.

  Be not afraid, neither doubt, for God is your guide.--Esdras i,
  ch. 16, v. 75.


It was a cold winter day at the end of January, and a streak of white
rain was flying across the black sea. Christine stood at the window,
gazing at her brother's old boat edging away to windward, under very
small canvas. There was a wild carry overhead, out of the northeast,
and she was hoping that Norman had noticed the tokens of the sky.
Margot saw her look of anxiety, and said: "You needna worry yoursel',
Christine. Norman's boat is an auld-warld Buckie skiff. They're the
auldest model on a' our coasts, and they can fend in a sea that would
founder a whole fishing fleet."

"I noticed Norman had lowered his mainsail and hoisted the mizzen in
its place, and that he was edging away to windward."

"Ay, Norman kens what he must do, and he does it. That's his way. Ye
needna fash anent Norman, he'll tak' his old Buckie skiff into a gale
that yachts wi' their lockers fu' o' prizes wouldna daur to venture."

"But, Mither dear, there's a wind from the north blowing in savage
gusts, and the black seas tumble wild and high, and send clouds of
spindrift to smother the auld boat."

"Weel, weel! She'll give to the squalls, and it's vera near the turn
o' the tide, then the wind will gae down, as the sea rises. The bit
storm will tak' itsel' off in a heavy mist and a thick smur, nae doubt
o' it."

"And Norman will know all this."

"Ay, will he! Norman is a wonderfu' man, for a' perteening to his
duty."

Then the door opened, and one of the Brodie boys gave Christine two
letters. "I thought ye wad be glad o' them this gloomy day," he said
to Christine.

"Thank you, Alick! You went a bit out o' your road to pleasure us."

"That's naething. Gude morning! I am in a wee hurry, there's a big
game in the playground this afternoon." With these words the boy was
gone, and Christine stood with the letters in her hand. One was from
Cluny, and she put it in her breast, the other was from Roberta, and
she read it aloud to her mother. It was dated New Orleans, and the
first pages of the letter consisted entirely of a description of the
place and her perfect delight in its climate and social life.

Margot listened impatiently. "I'm no carin' for that information,
Christine," she said. "Why is Roberta in New Orleans? What is she
doing in a foreign land, and nae word o' Neil in the circumstance."

"I am just coming to that, Mither." Then Christine read carefully
Roberta's long accusation of her husband's methods. Margot listened
silently, and when Christine ceased reading, did not express any
opinion.

"What do ye think, Mither?"

"I'll hae to hear Neil's side, before I can judge. When she was here,
she said naething against Neil."

"She did not name him at all. I noticed that."

"Put her letter awa' till we get Neil's story. I'll ne'er blame my lad
before I hae heard his side o' the wrang. I'm disappointed in Roberta.
Wives shouldna speak ill o' their husbands. It isna lawfu', and it's
vera unwise."

"The faults she names are quite in the line o' Neil's faults."

"Then it's a gude thing he was keepit out o' the ministry. The
Maraschal was gude enough. I'm thinking all the lad's faults are quite
in the line o' the law. Put the letter awa'. I'm not going to tak' it
into my consideration, till Neil has had his say-so. Let us hae a good
day wi' a book, Christine."

"So we will, Mither. I'll red up the house, and read my letter, and be
wi' you."

"Some wee, short love stories and poems, and the like. That verse you
read me a week syne, anent the Lord being our shepherd, is singing in
my heart and brain, even the now. It was like as if the Lord had but
one sheep, and I mysel' was that one. Gie me my crochet wark, and I
will listen to it, until you are through wi' your little jobs."

The day grew more and more stormy, but these two women made their own
sunshine, for Margot was now easy and pleasant to live with. Nothing
was more remarkable than the change that had taken place in her. Once
the most masterful, passionate, plain-spoken woman in the village, she
had become, in the school of affliction and loss, as a little child,
and the relations between herself and Christine had been in many cases
almost reversed. She now accepted the sweet authority of Christine
with pleasure, and while she held tenaciously to her own likings and
opinions, she no longer bluffed away the opinions of others with that
verbal contempt few were able to reply to. Her whole nature had
sweetened, and risen into a mental and spiritual region too high for
angry or scornful personalities.

Her physical failure and decay had been very slow, and at first
exceedingly painful, but as her strength left her, and her power to
resist and struggle was taken away with it, she had traveled through
the Valley of the Shadow of Death almost cheerfully, for the Lord was
with her, and her own dear daughter was the rod that protected, and
the staff that comforted her.

They had a day of wonderful peace and pleasure, and after they had had
their tea, and Margot had been prepared for the night, Christine had a
long sweet session with her regarding her own affairs. She told her
mother that Cluny was coming to see her anent their marriage. "He
really thinks, Mither, he can be a great help and comfort to us
baith," she said, "and it is but three or four days in a month he
could be awa' from the ship."

"Do you want him here, dearie?"

"It would be a great pleasure to me, Mither. I spend many anxious
hours about Cluny, when the weather is bad." And Margot remembered how
rarely she spoke of this anxiety, or indeed of Cluny at all. For the
first time she seemed to realize the girl's unselfish love, and she
looked at Christine with eyes full of tears, and said:

"Write and tell Cluny to come hame. He is welcome, and I'll gie ye
baith my blessing!" And Christine kissed and twice kissed her mother,
and in that hour there was a great peace in the cottage.

This concession regarding Cluny was the breaking down of Margot's last
individual bulwark. Not by assault, or even by prudence, was it taken.
A long service of love and patience made the first breach, and then
Christine's sweet, uncomplaining reticence about her lover and her own
hopes threw wide the gates, and the enemy was told to "come hame and
welcome." It was a great moral triumph, it brought a great
satisfaction, and after her surrender, Margot fell into a deep,
restful sleep, and Christine wrote a joyful letter to Cluny, and began
to calculate the number of days that must wear away before Cluny would
receive the happy news.

A few days after this event Christine began to read to her mother
"Lady Audley's Secret," and she was much astonished to find her sleepy
and indifferent. She continued in this mood for some days, and when
she finally threw off this drowsy attitude, Christine noticed a very
marked change. What had taken place during that somnolent pause in
life? Had the silver cord been loosed, or the golden bowl broken, or
the pitcher broken at the fountain? Something had happened beyond
human ken, and though Margot made no complaint, and related no unusual
experience, Christine knew that her spirit was ready to return unto
God who gave it. And she said to herself:

  "As I work, my heart must watch,
  For the door is on the latch,
      In her room;
  And it may be in the morning,
      He will come."

In the afternoon little Jamie came in, and Christine told him to go
very quietly to his grandmother, and speak to her. She smiled when he
did so, and slowly opened her eyes. "Good-by, Jamie," she said. "Be a
good boy, be a good man, till I see ye again."

"I will, Grandmother. I will! I promise you."

"What do you think o' her, Jamie?" asked Christine.

"I think she is dying, Auntie."

"Go hame as quick as you can, and tell your feyther to come, and not
to lose a minute. Tell him he must bring the Cup wi' him, or I'm
feared he'll be too late."

The Domine's voice roused Margot a little. She put out her trembling
hand, and the likeness of a smile was on her face. "Is He come?" she
asked.

"Only a few more shadows, Margot, and He will come. I have brought the
Cup with me, Margot. Will you drink the Wine of Remembrance now?"

"Ay, will I--gladly!"

The Domine and Christine ate and drank the sacred meal with her, and
after it she seemed clearer and better, and the Domine said to her,
"Margot, you will see my dear old friend, James Ruleson, very soon
now. Will you tell him I send him my love? Will you tell him little
Jamie is my son now, and that he is going to make the name of James
Ruleson stand high in the favor of God and man?"

"I'll tell him a' anent Jamie--and anent Christine, too."

"The dead wait and long for news of the living they love. Someway,
sooner or later, good news will find them out, and make even heaven
happier. Farewell, Margot!"

Later in the evening there came that decided lightening which so often
precedes death. Margot asked for Norman, and while he knelt beside
her, she gave him some instructions about her burial, and charged him
to stand by his sister Christine. "She'll be her lane," she said,
"'til my year is gane by, and the warld hates a lone woman who fends
for hersel'. Stay wi' Christine tonight. Tell Christine to come to
me."

When Christine was at her side, she asked, "Do you remember the verses
in the wee, green book?"

"Called 'Coming'?"

"Ay"--and she added very slowly the first few words she wished to
hear--"It may be when the midnight----"

      "Is heavy upon the land,
  And the black waves lying dumbly
      Along the sand,
  When the moonless night draws close,
  And the lights are out in the house,
  When the fires burn low and red,
  And the watch is ticking loudly,
      Beside the bed.
  Though you sleep tired out, on your couch
  Still your heart must wake and watch,
      In the dark room.
  For it may be that at midnight,
      I will come."

And then Norman said solemnly, "In such an hour as you think not, He
will come."

About ten o'clock Christine caught an anxious look in her eyes, and
she asked, "What is it, Mither, dear Mither?"

"Neil!" she answered. "Did ye send for the lad?"

"Three days ago."

"When he does come, gie him the words I send him. You ken what they
are."

"I will say and do all you told me."

"But dinna be cross wi' the laddie. Gie him a fair hearing."

"If he is sorry for a' he has done----"

"He willna be sorry. Ye must e'en forgie him, sorry or not--Ye ken
what the Domine said to me--when I spoke--o' forgiving Neil--when
he--was sorry?"

"The Domine said you were to remember, that while we were yet sinners
God loved us, and Christ died for us."

"Ay, while we--were--yet--sinners! that leaves room for Neil--and
everybody else, Christine--Christine--I am weary, bairns--I will go to
sleep now--gude night!"

Death had now become a matter of consent to Margot. She surrendered
herself to her Maker, and bade her children "goodnight!"

  Her life had many a hope and aim,
  Duties enough and little cares,
    And now was quiet and now astir,

until God's hand beckoned her into His school of affliction. Now in
the House not made with Hands she understands the meaning of it all.

The next week was a particularly hard one to Christine. In the long
seclusion of her mother's illness, and in the fascination which study
now had for her, the primitive burial rites of Culraine were an almost
unbearable trial. Every woman who had ever known Margot came to bid
her a last earthly farewell. Some cried, some volubly praised her,
some were sadly silent, but all were alike startled by the mighty
change that affliction and death had made in the once powerful,
handsome, tremendously vitalized woman, who had ruled them all by the
sheer force of her powerful will and her wonderful vitality. Pale and
cold, her raven hair white as snow, her large strong hands, shrunk to
skin and bone, clasped on her breast, and at rest forever--they could
hardly believe that this image of absolute helplessness was all that
was left of Margot Ruleson.

For three days the house was always full, and Christine was troubled
and questioned on every hand. But for three days long a little brown
bird sat on a holly tree by her window, and sang something that
comforted her. And the sweet, strong song was for her alone. Nobody
else noticed it. She wondered if they even saw the little messenger.
On the afternoon of the third day, the Domine, standing at the head of
the coffin, spoke to the men and women who filled the house. His eyes
were dim with tears, but his voice had the strong, resonant ring of a
Faith that knew it was well with the dead that die in the Lord. It was
mainly to the living he spoke, asking them solemnly, "What does the
Lord require of you? Only this service--that you do justly, and love
mercy, and walk humbly with your God."

Then Margot's sons, Norman and Eneas, lifted the light coffin. The
Domine walked in front of it, and all the men present followed them to
the open grave, in the old kirk yard. In Scotland women do not go to
the grave. Christine locked herself in her room, and the women
mourners gradually returned to their homes.

That night she was quite alone, and she could give free outlet to her
love, and grief, and hope. She felt her mother in every room. She
could not believe she had gone far away. At times, walking about the
desolate house, she called her mother with passionate weeping again,
in the soft low voice that she had used when soothing her pain and
weariness. At length even her superb vitality gave way, and she fell
upon her bed in a comforting, restorative sleep.

Morning found her ready and able to face the new life. She rose with
the dawn, ate her breakfast, and then lifted the hardest duty before
her. This was to brush and carefully fold away Margot's last simple
clothing. Margot herself had cared for her one silk dress, her bits
of lace, and the beads and rings and combs of the days of her health
and vanity. Christine had seen her face wet with tears as she locked
them in the trunk, and had kissed those tears away with promises of
renewed life. But there was no one with her to kiss away the tears she
shed over the simple gowns of Margot's last hard days. As she was
doing this loving duty, she thought of the angels folding up neatly
the simple linen garments in which Christ had been buried. With such
thoughts in her heart, oh how lovingly she stroked the plain cotton
gowns, and the one black merino skirt, that had made up Margot's last
wardrobe. Her tears dropped over them, and she turned the key with a
little cry so heart-broken that no doubt her angel wept with her.

"Oh Mither, Mither!" she cried, "how little had ye for a' the days o'
your hard, sorrowfu', painfu', fifty-five years--for a' your loveless
girlhood--for a' your wifely watchings and fearings for feyther on the
stormy seas--for a' your mitherhood's pains and cares--for the lang,
cruel years you were walking i' the Valley o' the Shadow o' Death--for
a' the years o' your hard, daily wark, loving and tending your six
sons and mysel', feeding, dressing, and makin' us learn our catechism
and our Bible verses--curing fish, and selling fish, makin' nets, and
mending nets, cooking and knitting and sewing. Surely the good Master
saw it all, and will gie you His 'well done,' and the wage ye hae
earned."

The bits of crochet work that her mother's trembling fingers had
made--her last work one little table mat unfinished--had a strange
sacredness, and a far more touching claim. She took these to her own
room. "They hold Mither's last thoughts. They seem a part o' her. I'll
never lose sight o' them while I draw breath o' life. Never!" And she
kissed and folded them up, with the dried rose leaves from Margot's
garden.

Then she stayed her tears, and looked round the disordered house.
Everything was out of its proper place. That circumstance alone made
her miserable, for Christine was what her neighbors called a
"pernickity" housekeeper. She must have a place for everything, and
everything in its place. Until she had her home in this precise
condition, she resolved to take no other trouble into consideration.
And simple and even derogatory as it appears to be, nothing is more
certainly efficacious in soothing grief, than hard physical labor. It
took her two days to put the cottage in its usual spotless condition,
and during those two days, she gave herself no moment in which to
think of any trouble before her.

She knew well that there must be trouble. Her mother's burial money,
put away twenty-nine years previously, had proved quite insufficient
for modern ideals and modern prices. She was nearly out of money and
there would be debts to meet, and every debt would be to her like a
wolf baying round the house. That was one trouble. Cluny was another.
She knew he would now urge an immediate marriage, and that his plea
would have an appearance of extreme justice. She also knew that he
would be supported by Norman, whose wife had long set her heart on
occupying the Ruleson cottage. That was a second trouble. The third
was Neil. He had been immediately notified of his mother's death, and
he had taken no notice of the event. The other boys not present, were
all at sea, but where was Neil?

These things she would not yet permit her mind to consider.--In fact,
the tossed-up, uncleanly house, dulled her faculties. She could not
think clearly, until all was spotless and orderly. Then she could meet
trouble clear-headed and free-handed. However, on the third evening
after her mother's burial, every corner of the house satisfied her.
Even her dusters and cleaning-cloths had been washed and gone to their
special corner of the kitchen drawer; and she had felt, that
afternoon, that she could comfortably arrange her paper and pencils on
the table of her own room.

She was eager to write. Her heart and brain burned with the thoughts
and feelings she longed to express. "Tomorrow," she said to
herself--"Tomorrow, I shall go on with my book." Three months
previously she had begun a story to be called "A Daughter of the Sea,"
but lately she had been obliged to lay it aside. She found "the bits
o' poetry," were all she could manage in the short intervals of time
that were her own.

My readers may reflect here, on the truth that there is no special
education for a writer. The man or woman who has anything to say to
the world, brings the ability to declare it with him. Then all the
accidents and events of life stimulate the power which dwells in the
heart and brain, and the happy gift speaks for itself. Christine had
been making up poetry ever since she could remember, and while yet a
child had been the favorite story-teller in all the social gatherings
at Culraine. And it is not unlikely that a good story-teller may turn
out to be a good story-writer.

About one-third of her first novel, "A Daughter of the Sea," was
completed, and now, with a happy resolution, she sat down to finish
it. She did not have the material to seek, she had only to recollect
and write down. The day passed with incredible swiftness, and early in
the evening Norman opened the door, and saw her sitting by the fire.
Her hands were clasped above her head, and there was the shadow of a
smile on her still face.

"O Norman!" she cried, "how glad I am to see you! Nobody has been here
since----"

"I know, dear. Folks hae thought it was the kinder thing to stop away,
and let you get the house in order."

"Maybe it was. Come in, and see it, now that everything is in its
place."

So Norman went through all the large, pleasant rooms with her, and
he could not help a sigh, as he contrasted them with his own untidy
and not over-cleanly house. Then they returned to the ordinary
living-room, and when they were seated, Norman lit his pipe, and
they talked lovingly of the mother who had gone away, and left her
earthly home full of sweet memories. They spoke in soft, tender
voices. Christine wept a little, and smiled a little, as she told
of her mother's last days, and Norman's mouth twitched, and his big
brown eyes were heavy with unshed tears.

After this delay, Norman put away his pipe, and bending forward with
his elbows on his knees, and his head in his hands, he said,
"Christine, I hae brought you a message. I hated to bring it, but
thought it would come more kindly from my lips, than in any ither
way."

"Weel, Norman, what is it? Who sent you wi' it?"

"My wife sent me. She says she will be obligated to you, if you'll
move out o' the Ruleson cottage, as soon as possible. She is wanting
to get moved and settled ere the spring fishing begins. These words
are hers, not mine, Christine. I think however it is right you should
know exactly what you hae to meet. What answer do you send her?"

"You may tell her, Norman, that I will ne'er move out o' the Ruleson
cottage. It is mine as long as I live, and I intend to hold, and to
live in it."

"Jessy has persuaded hersel' and a good many o' the women in the
village, that you ought to marry Cluny as soon as he comes back to
Glasgow, and go and live in that city, so as to make a kind o' a home
there, for the lad. There was a crowd o' them talking that way, when I
came up frae the boat this afternoon, and old Judith was just
scattering them wi' her fearsome words."

"Norman, I shall not marry until a year is full o'er from Mither's
death. Mither had the same fear in her heart, and I promised her on
the Sacred Word, which was lying between us at the time, that I
wouldna curtail her full year o' remembrance, no, not one minute! That
is a promise made to the dead. I would not break it, for a' the living
men in Scotland."

"They were talking of Cluny's rights, and----"

"Cluny hes no rights but those my love gives him. I will not marry for
a year, at least. I will not live in Glasgow. I will bide in my ain
hame. It suits me fine. I can do a' the writing I want to do in its
white, still rooms. I can see wee Jamie here every day. I am out o'
clash and claver o' the village folk. I can watch the sea and the
ships, and feel the winds, and the sunshine, and do my wark, and eat
my morsel in parfect peace. Na, na, the auld hame suits me fine! Tell
your wife Christine Ruleson will live and die in it."

Norman did not move or speak, and Christine asked anxiously, "Do you
wish me to leave Culraine, and go to Glasgow, Norman?"

"No, I do not! Your wish is mine, and if Mither were here today, I
know she would scorn any proposal that brought Jessy here. She never
liked Jessy."

"Her liking or disliking did not influence her will about the house.
She loved every stone in this cottage, and above all she loved her
garden, and her flowers. Tell me, Norman, if Jessy came here, how long
would the house be in decent order? And where would Mither's bonnie
flower-garden be, by the end o' the spring weather? For Mither's sake
I'll tak' care o' the things she loved. They werna many, and they
werna worth much, but they were all she had, for her hard working
life, and her sair suffering. And she relied on you, Norman. She said
in her last hours, 'If things are contrary, Christine, and you can't
manage them, ca' on Norman, and nane else. Norman will stand by his
sister, if a' the warld was against her.'"

"Ay, will he! Blood is thicker than water. We had the same Feyther and
Mither. Nane better ever lived," and he stretched out his hand, and
Christine clasped it, and then he kissed her, and went away.

Jessy was waiting for him. "Ye hae been a mortal lang time, Norman,"
she said. "I hae been that narvous and unsettled i' my mind, I
couldna even get a bite ready for ye."

"Weel ye be to settle yoursel' now, Jessy; for my sister has her mind
fixed on the way she has set hersel', and naebody will be able to move
her. Naebody!"

"Is she getting her wedding things ready?"

"She is going to wear blacks for the full year."

"There's nae occasion for her to cast them. She can put on a white
gown for the ceremony. I suppose they will hae the Domine come to the
house and marry them."

"You are going ayont a' probabilities, Jessy. Christine willna marry
for a full year. I am not sure she will ever marry."

"She be to marry! Of course she'll marry! She canna mak' a leeving oot
a' a few bits o' poetry! She be to marry! All women hae to marry.
Where is she going to bide?"

"Just where she is."

"I'll not hear tell o' that. The house is yours. After the widow's
death, the home comes to the auldest son. That's the law o' Scotland,
and I'm vera sure it's the law o' England likewise. It's the right
law. When folks break it, the break is for sorrow. There was Robert
Toddie, who left his house and land to his daughter Jean, and she
married her lad, and took him to live there--never heeding her
brother's right--and baith her bairn and hersel' died within a
twelvemonth, and sae Robert cam' to his ain, and he's living in the
Toddie house this day. Why dinna ye speak to me?"

"I hae heard ye tell the Toddie story till it's worn awa'."

"How was the house looking?"

"Clean and bright as a new-made pin."

"That's right! I'll just tak' the bairns and go up there! One room is
a' she's needing, and I canna spare her that vera lang."

"You'll not daur to tak' a step up there. Ye hae no mair right there,
than you hae in the schoolmaster's house."

"I hae every right there. I hae got the best o' advice on the subject.
I'm thinkin' the law stands aboon your opinion."

"Not even the law and the fifteen lords o' Edinburgh could gie you the
right to put your foot on that place, in the way of the right.
Christine is mistress o' Ruleson's, mistress and owner. That, and
naething less!"

Norman was very unhappy. He could not get the idea of his right to
Ruleson cottage out of his wife's mind, and he had understood from the
laying of its first stone that the building was to be for a home for
Margot and Christine as long as either of them lived. He had some
sentimental feelings also about the place, for Norman was a dumb poet,
and both in his brain and heart the elements of humanity were finely
mixed. But he was reticent and self-denying, and the work of his hands
being needed by the rapidly increasing family, he had put forth no
personal claims. Longing for knowledge and the wisdom of the schools,
he had gone silently and cheerfully to the boats and lifted the oars
at his father's side.

But the house he had helped to build was dear to him. The image of his
grave, kind father still sat in the big chair by the fireside, and his
mother's quick step, and cheerful voice, and busy household ways, were
yet the spirit of the building. He loved its order and cleanliness,
and its atmosphere of home and hospitality. Sitting by his fireside
that night, he constantly contrasted it with his own disorderly, noisy
dwelling, with his slip-shod wife, and her uncertain and generally
belated meals. And his purpose was immovable.

During this silent session with himself, his wife never ceased
talking. Norman was oblivious both to her entreaties and her threats.
But as he rose and laid down his pipe, she laid her hand on his arm,
and said, "Gudeman, ye hae heard what I hae said, and----"

"I hae heard naething since I told you that Christine was owner and
mistress o' Ruleson cottage. Let be, Jessy, I'm weary and ready for
sleep."

"You'll hear this word, and then ye may sleep awa' what little sense
you hae left. I'll go the morn into the town, and see Lawyer Forbes,
and you'll mebbe believe him when he serves Christine wi' a notice to
quit, and tak' her belongings--poems and a'--wi' her."

"If such a thing could happen, I should at once hae it deeded back to
her, as a gift. Listen, woman, to my last word on this matter--if you
could by any means get possession o' the house, ye would hae it from
foundation to roof-bigging, all to yoursel'! Neither I, nor any o' my
children, would cross its doorstane. That's a fact, as sure as
death!"

"You couldna tak' my childer from me!"

"I could, and I would. Tak' your will, you foolish woman! I shall bide
by every word I hae said."

"But Norman----"

"Let go! You hae never yet seen me in a blaze! Dinna try it tonight!
If I lift my hand it will be your ain fault. Get out o' my sight, and
hearing! Quick, woman! Quick! I'm no' able to stand you langer--O God!
O God, help me!"

Jessy, cowed and shocked at this unexpected passion of a patient man,
disappeared; but the next moment she was heard in the children's room,
crying and scolding, and the sharp slapping of her hand followed.
Norman jumped to his feet, his heart throbbed and burned, he clenched
his hands, and took a step forward. The next moment he had sat down,
his eyes were closed, his hands were clasped, he had hid himself in
that secret sanctuary which his hard life and early disappointments
had revealed to him, when he was only a lad of seventeen. Jessy's
railing, the children's crying, his own angry voice, he heard them
not! He was hiding in His pavilion, in the secret of His tabernacle.
He had cast his burden upon the Lord. He was in perfect peace.

Christine spent a restless, unhappy night. Norman had put before her a
future that frightened her. She had seen the misery made by little
wicked innuendoes half a dozen words long. Truly words could not kill
her, but they could make life bitter and friendless, and there were
women in the village she could neither conciliate, nor cope with, for
the weapons they used were not in her armory. "Mither had a sharp
tongue," she said softly, "but even she couldna cope wi' a lying
tongue. Weel, there's words anent it, in the Good Book, and I'll seek
them out, and they'll be helping me."

After all, the central trouble of her heart was neither her house, nor
her neighbors, nor even her lover. Someway or other, they could and
would be managed. But how was she to refill her empty purse? There was
only one half-crown in it, and she had already found out the cruel
uncertainty of literary work. It depended on too many people. Her
novel was three-fourths done, but she reasoned that if men were so
long on finding out whether they liked half a dozen verses, it would
be all of a year, ere they got her novel well-examined. After
realizing this condition, she said firmly, and with no evidence of
unusual trial, "I can tak' to the fish, in the meantime. I havna
outgrown my fisher dress, nor forgot my fisher-calls, and Culraine
folk will help me sell, if I look to the boats for my bread. They
dinna understand the writing business--nae wonder! There's few do! The
Domine was saying it belongs to the mysteries o' this life. Weel, I'll
get my pleasure out o' it, and the fish are ay sure to come, and sure
to be caught, and if I set mysel' to the business, I can beat the
auldest and youngest o' the fisherwomen in the selling o' them."

When she came to this decision, the clock struck twelve, and she
looked up at its face for a moment, and shook her head. "I canna sleep
yet," she said, "and you needna be calling me. There's Cluny and Neil
to think o', and dear me, wha' can Neil be hiding himsel'? He canna
hae heard o' Mither's death, he would hae come here, and if he couldna
come, he would hae written. There has been nae word, either, from that
lass he married. She wrote seven lang pages o' faults and accusations
again her lawful husband, and then let the matter drop, as if it was
of no further consequence. I didn't answer her letter, and I am glad I
didn't. And I canna write now, for I know no more anent her
whereabouts, than I do anent Neil's. I wouldn't wonder if they are
together in some heathen country, where men fight duels, and kill each
other for an ugly word. In a case like that, it would be fair murder
for poor Neil. I wish I knew where the misguided lad is! Norman and
Neil had no marriage luck, and wha kens what my luck may be, in the
way o' a husband!"

This intensely personal reflection claimed her whole attention. It was
long since she had seen Cluny. Shortly before her mother's death, he
had gone as supercargo on a large merchant steamer, bound for New
Zealand. It was a most important post, and he had been promised, if
successful, the first captaincy in the fleet of passenger steamers
carrying between England and the United States, that was vacant.
Before leaving on this long trip to New Zealand, he had only managed
to see Christine for three hours. He had reached Culraine at eight
o'clock. He had run like a deer the mile and quarter which lay between
the railway station and the Ruleson cottage, reaching his goal just as
Christine finished reading a goodnight psalm to her mother. She had
heard his steps afar off, it had seemed as if the comforting words
were read to them--then she was at the open door, and they met in each
other's arms.

Three hours of pure, perfect happiness had followed. Cluny went first
to Margot's side. He knew it was the last time he could ever stand
there. In this world they would see each other no more, and he was
sorrowfully shocked and touched by the change in the handsome woman,
once so vibrant and full of life. Sometimes they had not been very
good friends, but this white, frail image, stretching out hands full
of pleasure and goodwill to him--this gentle mother of the beloved
Christine, won in a moment all his best sympathies. He promised her
everything she asked, and then she sent him away with her blessing.

So it had been three hours of marvelous happiness. They had been
content to forget all things but the joy of each other's presence. To
the last possible minute he had remained with her, and their hopeful
farewell had not been dimmed by a single tear. Since that night, she
had sent no anxious worrying thoughts after him. From every port at
which his ship touched, he had written her long, loving letters, and
now she was beginning to expect his return. Any day she might have a
letter from him, dated Liverpool or Glasgow.

"Lat them talk," she said with a little defiant laugh. "Lat their
tongues tak' their ain ill-way, I'm not feared. There's Norman at my
side, and the Domine not far off, and God aboon us all. I'll speak to
Norman anent the fishing, and if needs be, I can kipper the herring as
weel as Mither did." Then in a moment a wonderful change came over
her, the angry scorn of her attitude, and the proud smile on her
handsome face vanished. She clasped her hands, and with the light of
unconquerable love on her face, she said with tender eagerness--"What
does she do now? Oh dear God, what is Mither doing now? I canna tell.
I canna tell, but it is Thy will, I'm sure o' that." Then the loving
tears that followed this attitude washed away all traces of her scorn
and anger, and she lay down with prayer on her lips, and fell sweetly
asleep.



CHAPTER XII

NEIL'S RETURN HOME

  They that sin, are enemies to their own life.--Tobit, xii, 10.

  But Thou sparest all, for they are Thine, O Lord, Thou Lover of
  Souls.--Wisdom of Solomon, xi, 26.


Tomorrow is always another day, always a new day, and as long as we
live, always our day. It will bring us our little freight of good or
evil, and we must accept it, our salvation being that we have the
power of turning the evil into good, by the manner in which we accept
it. When Christine awoke in the morning, she awoke all at once. No
faculty of the Inner Woman dozed or lingered, every sense of the
physical woman was attent, even sight--which often delays after its
sister senses are conscious--promptly lifted its curtains, and
Christine knew in a moment that she was _all there_, every sense and
faculty alert, and ready for whatever the new day brought her.

She thought first of the trouble that Jessy was likely to make. "The
maist o' the women will side wi' Jessy," she thought, "not because
they like her, but because they dearly like a quarrel. I'll not
quarrel with them. I'll bide at hame, and if they come up here, I'll
bolt the doors on them. That's settled. I can neither keep back,
nor hurry forward Cluny, sae I'll just put him in God's care, and
leave him there. Neil has ta'en himsel' out o' my kindness and
knowledge, I can only ask God to gie his angel a charge concerning
him. The great queston is, how am I to get my bread and tea? There's
plenty o' potatoes in the house, and a pennyworth o' fish will make
me a meal. And I am getting a few eggs from the hens now, but
there's this and that unaccountable thing wanted every day; and I
hae just two-and-sixpence half-penny left. Weel! I'll show my
empty purse to the Lord o' heaven and earth, and I'm not doubting
but that He will gie me a' that is gude for me."

She put down her tea cup decisively to this declaration, and then
rose, tidied her house and herself, and sat down to her novel. With a
smile she opened her manuscript, and looked at what she had
accomplished. "You tiresome young woman," she said to her heroine.
"You'll hae to make up your mind vera soon, now, whether ye'll hae
Sandy Gilhaize, or Roy Brock. I'll advise you to tak' Sandy, but I
dinna think you'll do it, for you are a parfect daffodil o' vanity,
and you think Roy Brock is mair of a gentleman than Sandy. I dinna ken
what to do wi' you!----"

Here the door was noisily opened, and Jamie rushed in, crying "Auntie,
Auntie! I hae three letters for you, and one o' them came a week
ago."

"Oh Jamie, why did you not go to the post office before this?"

"I was getting ready for my exam----"

"Gie me the letters, laddie."

"And I could not get off till this morning."

There was a long letter from Cluny, but it was not the delayed letter;
and when Jamie had gone home, she gave her whole heart to the reading
of it. Then she turned anxiously to the other two. Both of them
contained small checks for poems written so long ago that she had
quite forgotten them. They were, however, veritable godsends, and she
thanked God for them. Now she could go to work. She could even take
time to make her foolish heroine do the proper thing. She felt as
rich, with her two pounds, as if the two had been twenty. And Cluny
was on his way home! Her letter had been posted at Auckland, and he
was about to leave there, for home, when he wrote.

The novel now progressed rapidly. It was writing itself, and "The
Daughter of the Sea" was all the company Christine wanted. Norman came
up the hill once in the day, or he sent his son Will, in his place,
and Jamie always ate his lunch beside Aunt Christine, and sometimes
Judith called to see if there was any news of Cluny. Sunday was her
day of trial. Ill-will can make itself felt, and never say a word, and
Christine noticed that everyone drew away from her. If Judith, or
Peter Brodie, or anyone spoke to her, they were at once set apart.
Everyone else drew away, and the very girls to whom she had been
kindest, drew furthest away.

It was, perhaps, a good thing for her. She only drew the closer to
God, and her pen was a never-failing friend and companion. The days
flew by, in the nights she slept and dreamed, and now and then the
Domine came in, and comforted and strengthened her. Then she read him
little chapters from her book, and he gave her much good advice, and
sufficient praise to encourage her. So week after week went on, and
though the whole village really disapproved of her retaining the
Ruleson cottage, she nearly forgot the circumstance. And the book grew
and grew in beauty, day by day, until on one lovely June afternoon,
the pretty heroine married Sandy Gilhaize, and behaved very well ever
afterward.

The Domine came in and found her flushed and excited over the wedding,
and the parting, and he took the book away with him, and told her he
would look after its sale, and she was to worry no more about it. "Try
and forget it exists, Christine, then neither your wishing nor your
fearing will interfere with the fortune your good angel intends for
it."

"I am going to gie the house a good clean, frae the roof to the
doorstep," she answered, "and when I hae that business on hand, it is
all I can think about."

"Is not cleaning the house again a work of supererogation?"

"I dinna ken what kind o' wark that may be, Sir, but Mither always
cleaned the house weel, before the herring came. She'll be expecting
me to do the same thing."

So the Domine took away the manuscript, and Christine cleaned her
house with even extra care, and one night a week afterwards, she sat
down to her cup of tea, telling herself that there wasna a speck o'
dust from the roof to the doorstane. "Even the knives and forks shine
like siller," she said, "and the bath-brick board wouldna file the
cleanest duster." She was personally in the same spotless condition,
and the little scone, and bit of baked fish, and the cup of tea on the
snow white tablecloth, only emphasized this sense of absolute purity.

As she was drinking her tea, Norman lifted the latch and entered, and
she greeted him joyfully. "Come awa' and welcome," she cried. "I was
just longing to see you. Bring a cup and saucer off the rack, laddie,
and sit down, and tell me what's going on in the village."

"Weel, the great news is the nearness o' the herrin'. From a' accounts
we may hae them in our bay in a week."

"I am glad o' the news."

"I dinna think you would be carin'."

"Why shouldn't I care? I am longing to mak' some money. I intend to
tak' up my mither's kippering."

"I'm glad o' that. Why should ye let it slip through your fingers? I
heard tell that Nancy Baird was thinking o' taking Mither's place."

"She'll do naething o' that kind. Mither took pains to fit me for that
wark, and I am going to do it wi' all my might. Norman, what can you
do to mak' it easy for me?"

"That is what I came here to talk to you about. I'll tell Willie he is
your gillie, as it were, for the fishing. He will carry the fish to
the shed for you, and dinna forget Mither's cubby there is yours!
Feyther paid for the space, and put up all the fixtures. If they werna
named in the will, and there is any question of my right in the
matter, say, I hae given it to you."

"But the kippering shed and fixtures were named and given to Mither
and mysel', and----"

"They are yours. Let no one put you oot o' your right. Willie will
bring the feesh to you--the finest I hae in my nets--and when they are
kippered, he'll go to the town wi' you, and carry your basket."

"That is all I need, Norman, and I am vera gratefu' for your
kindness."

"And I'll be walking through the shed, to see that a' is right. And if
anything is beyont you, sister, you'll send Willie for me."

Christine could not speak, but she put her hand in his, and the look
on her lovely face filled his eyes with tears. "You are wonderfu'
like Mither this afternoon, Christine," he said softly. And both were
silent a little while. When he spoke next, it was of Neil--"Hae ye had
a word frae the lad yet?" he asked.

"Not one, nor from the lass he married. I don't know what to think."

"Weel, it is as easy to think good, as evil. If we dinna thing wrang,
we won't do wrang. Thinking no evil! That is what the Good Book
advises. The puir lad was spoiled i' the making. If he comes back to
any o' us, he will come back to you, Christine. There was the son, wha
left his hame, in the gospels--ye ken how he was treated?"

"Whenever Neil comes hame, Norman, he will hae a loving welcome from
Christine."

"The puir lad made a mistake wi' his marriage. That is the warst of a'
mistakes. No man wins o'er it. It is the bitter drop in a' he eats and
drinks, it is the pebble in his shoe, whether he warks or plays. Neil
willna come hame till sorrow drives him here--then?"

"I'll do all that love can do, Norman."

"And call on me, if you think it needfu'."

The very next day Christine went to see her mother's customers.
The idea of Nancy Baird's stepping into her mother's shoes was
intolerable. "I'll not thole a thing like that! It settles the
question to me! If I didna need the money, I would kipper the
herrin', but I'm needing the money, and the herrin' are my lawfu'
venture." So to the town she went, and even far exceeded her usual
orders. She was much elated by her success, and immediately began
to prepare her mother's place for the work before her. It caused
much talk in the village, but it prevented the Baird woman's taking
unauthorized possession of Christine's place in the curing-shed.

Then while she was waiting and watching for the fish, she got a letter
from Cluny. He was at home again. He was coming to Culraine on
Saturday. He would be there by noon, and he would remain in Culraine
until Monday night. She was full of joy, and instantly began to
prepare for her visitor. It was Friday morning, and she had but little
time, but that little was enough if things went with her. First she
went to the village and asked Judith to come and stay with her, until
the following Tuesday, and the old woman was delighted to do so. "We
will hae Cluny to oursel's then," she said, "and I'll tak' the house
wark off your hands, Christine, and you and Cluny can hae the time for
your ain talk and planning."

"And man nor woman can say nae ill word anent Cluny visiting me, if
you are here."

"Lat them say their pleasure. They'll say naething oot o' the way,
while I am here. They ken better."

"Why not?"

"Because I hae promised ane and all o' them to call a church session
the first ill word I hear. I will hae their names read out frae the
pulpit--christened name and surname--and then they will be oot o'
communion wi' the kirk, till they confess their sin, standing up in
the congregation, and asking to be forgiven. Will ye think o' Sally
Johnson, and Kitty Brawn, and a' that crowd o' sinful women making
such a spectacle o' themsel's! Gar! It makes me laugh." And she
laughed, as women of the natural order do laugh, and such laughing is
very contagious, and Christine laughed also, as she gurgled out, "You
never would do a thing like that, Judith?"

"Wouldn't I? Lat them try me."

"The Domine wouldn't do it."

"He couldna help himsel'. It is in the 'Ordering o' the Kirk.' He wad
be forced to call the session, and I wouldn't won'ner if he rayther
liked the jarring occasion. He dislikes insulting women, and why
shouldn't he like to gie them a galling withstanding. It wad be vera
desirable i' my opinion."

Cluny had said, in his letter, that his next voyage would be the last
before their marriage, and that he would have to sweeten the next half
year with the memories of his coming visit. So Christine killed her
young, plump, spring chickens, and saved all her eggs, and provided
every good thing she could for her expected lover.

The next three days were days taken out of this work-a-day world, and
planted in Paradise. Everything appeared to unite to make them so.
Judith looked after the house, the lovers wandered in the hill side
garden. They were lovely days, green, shot with gold, and the whole
sweet place was a caress of scent. The roses in Margot's garden were
in their first spring beauty, and the soul of a white jasmine vine,
that surrounded the spot, breathed of heaven. The larkspurs stood
around like watchful grenadiers. Lilies and pansies were at their
feet, and the laburnum hung its golden droops above them. All the day
long, the sea was blue and calm, and the waves seemed to roll
themselves asleep upon the shore. At night, there was a full moon
above the water, and in its light the projecting rigging of some ships
lying on it looked like spider webs on the gray firmament. The sun,
and the moon, and the sea were all new, and the whole world was their
own.

Talk of their marriage no longer made trouble, for Christine now
sweetly echoed his hopes and his dreams. She had said "on the
fifteenth of next April, or there-abouts," and Cluny seized and clung
to the positive date. "Let it be the fifteenth," he decided. "I cannot
bear 'there-abouts,' or any other uncertainty."

"The fifteenth might fall on a Sunday."

"Then let it be Sunday. There can be no better day;" and Christine
smiled and lifted her beautiful face, and he wanted to give her a
thousand kisses. For nearly three days all the ancient ecstasies of
love and youth were theirs. I need say no more. The morning redness of
life and love has once tinged us all.

Judith went home the following day. Nothing less than the joys and
sorrows and contentions of the whole village, were sufficient for her
troubled and troubling spirit. Judith had everyone's affairs to look
after, but she gave the supremacy of her attention to Cluny and
Christine. Christine, she said, was a by-ordinary girl. She had
written a poem, and got gude siller for it, and there wasna anither
lass in Culraine, no, nor i' the hale o' Scotland, could do the same
thing.

Christine's first employment was to put her house in perfect order,
then she took out her old fisher dresses, and selected one for the
work before her. She hoped that her effort to take her mother's place
in the kippering shed would put a stop to the fisherwives' opinion
that she was "setting hersel' up aboon them a'." She longed for their
good will, and she had no desire whatever to "tak' her mither's
outstanding place," a fear of which intention some of the older women
professed.

Her first visitor was her brother Norman. He put a stop at once to all
her good and kind intentions. "You mustna go near the kippering," he
said. "I hae heard what must put a stop to that intent. The herrin'
are near by, and may be here tonight. If so be, I will send my lad,
Willie, to the foot o' the hill wi' your feesh, by five o'clock in the
morning. He will carry your basket easy, and do your bidding in a'
things. Gae yer ways to the town, and cry your feesh, and you'll hae
the siller in your hand when you come hame."

"Why can I not kipper my fish, Norman?"

"It isna worth while tellin' ye. God alone understands quarrelsome
women, but if you go to the kippering-shed, there will be trouble--and
trouble for me, Christine--for Jessy is in wi' them."

"I will do as you tell me, Norman. Hae the fish ready at six
o'clock."

Then Norman went away, and Christine put back in its place the
kippering suit, and took out her very prettiest selling suit. For her
mourning dress touched only her domestic and social life, her business
had its own dress, and the fisher dress was part of the business. She
had no sense of humiliation in assuming it, nor yet in the selling of
the fish. She had liked very well the little gossip with known
householders, and had not been offended by the compliments she
received from strangers and passersby. The first morning of this new
season was really a little triumph. All her old friends wanted to hear
about Margot's sickness and death, and when her basket was empty, she
sent Willie home and stayed with an old friend of her mother's, and
had a cup of tea and a fried herring with her.

They had much to talk about, and Christine resolved to stay with her
until the mail should come in, which would be about eleven o'clock.
Then if there was any letter for her, she could get it at once. "The
Domine is aye thoughtless anent the mail," she reflected, and then
with a little laugh added, "he hasna any love letters coming, or he
would be thinking on it."

She received two letters. One was a letter from Cluny, mailed at
Moville, Ireland. The other was from Blackwood's Publishing House,
offering her a hundred and fifty pounds advance, and ten per cent
royalty for her novel, or, if she preferred it, three hundred and
fifty pounds for all rights. She went to the Domine with this letter,
and he advised her to accept three hundred and fifty pounds for all
rights. "You will be requiring bride-dresses, and house-napery of many
kinds," he said, "and, my dear girl, God has sent you this check. He
knew you would have need of these things. You ought to be very happy
in this thought."

"I am, Sir. You know how 'just enough' has been my daily bread; and I
was worrying a little about wedding garments, and expenses."

"Well, Christine, of all life's fare, God's daily bread is best.
Answer your letter here, and I will mail it for you. In a few days you
will have plenty of money. Go at once, and put it in the bank."

"I will, Sir. And when I get home, I will begin another book at
once."

"Go with the fish, until you have the money in your hand. Things
unforeseen might happen to delay payment. Good Fortune does not like
us to be too sure of her. I have seen her change her mind in that
case."

"You are always right, Sir. I will do as you say."

"In three days you may expect the money. Do your work as if you were
not expecting it. Miss nothing of your duty."

So Christine went the second morning, and had extraordinary success.
Among the "Quality Houses" they were watching for her. They had never
before seen such fine, and such fresh fish. They would have no others.
She went home with her little purse full of silver, and her heart
singing within her. It was not, after all, so bad to be a fisher-girl.
If it was all small money, it was all ready money. And the people who
had known her mother had remembered her, and spoken kindly of her, and
Christine loved them for it. She had not yet forgotten. Oh no! Many
times in the day and night she cried softly, "Mither! Mither! Where
are ye? Dinna forget Christine!"

On the third morning she had a little adventure. She was delaying, for
she was waiting for the mail, and had taken a cup of tea with her
mother's old friend. She stood in the doorway talking, and Christine
was on the sidewalk, at the foot of the steps. Her empty basket was at
her feet. She stood beside it, and the sunshine fell all over her. Its
searching light revealed nothing but a perfection of form, a
loveliness of face, and a charm of manner, that defied all adverse
criticism. She looked as the women of that elder world, who were the
mothers of godlike heroes, must have looked.

Suddenly her friend ceased her conversation, and in a low hurried
voice said,

"Here comes the young master, and his bride! Look at them."

Then Christine turned her face to the street, and as she did so, a
carriage passed slowly, and Angus Ballister looked at her with an
unmistakable intention. It was a stern, contemptuous gaze, that
shocked Christine. She could make no response but sheer amazement, and
when the carriage had passed it required all her strength to say a
steady "good-morning" to her friend, and hurry down the road homeward.
Not then, and there, would she think of the insult. She put it
passionately beneath the surface, until she reached her home, and had
locked herself within its shelter. Then, she gave way utterly to her
chagrin and sorrow, and wounded pride, and wept such bitter, cruel
tears, as no other sorrow had ever caused her. She wept like a wounded
child, who knows it has been cruelly treated, who comprehends the
injustice of its pain and its own inability to defend itself, and
finds no friend or helper in its suffering.

Finally, when perfectly exhausted, she fell asleep and slept till the
sun set and the shadows of the night were on sea and land. Then she
arose, washed her tear-stained face, and made her tea. In her sleep
she had been counseled and comforted, and she looked at the
circumstance now with clear eyes.

"I got just what I deserved," she said bluntly to herself. "Why did I
go to the fishing at all? I wasna sent there. God took me awa' from
the fishing, and showed me what to do, just as He took King David from
the sheep-cotes, and made him a soldier. If David had feared and
doubted, and gone back to the sheep-cotes, he wouldna hae been King o'
Israel. Weel, when God took the nets out o' my hands, and told me to
sing, I got feared singing and story-telling wouldna feed me, and I
went back to the nets. Now then, Christine, thank God for the snubbing
you got. Yesterday I knew money was coming, plenty o' it. Why didn't I
sit still or go to the wark He wants me to do. Why? Weel, if I must
tell the bottom truth, I rayther fancied mysel' in my fisher dress. I
was pleased wi' the admiration I got baith frae the men and the women.
Something else, Christine? Ay, my Conscience, if I be to tell all, I
liked the gossip o' the women--also the pride I had in my ain strength
and beauty, and the power it gave me o'er baith men and women--ay, and
I liked to mak' the siller in my ain fingers, as it were--to say to
folk, 'here's your fish,' and then feel their siller in the palm o' my
hand. I was wrang. I was vera wrang. I wad be served as I deserve, if
thae book people went back on their word."

Just here the Domine and Jamie came, and the Domine had the letter
with the money in it. Then he noticed that she had been crying, and he
asked, "Who has been hurting you, Christine?" and she answered:

"Mysel', Sir. I hae been hurting mysel'." Then while he drank a cup of
tea, she told him the little circumstance, which even yet made her
draw her shoulders together, with a gasp of bitter chagrin.

"Christine, you will remember that I told you it was they who waited
patiently on the Lord, who received His blessing. Are you satisfied
now?"

"Oh, Sir! Do not ask me that question. You know I am satisfied."

"Then put this money in the bank, and go to wark with all your mind,
and all your soul. Being a woman you cannot preach, so God has chosen
you for the pen of a ready writer. Say all that is given you to say,
whether you get paid by the handicrafters, or not. God will see that
you get your wages. Goodnight! You may let the bit Ballister affair
slip out of your mind. The young man isn't naturally bad. He is
ashamed of himself by this time. No doubt of it."

These things happened at the beginning of the herring season, and for
two months Christine had a blessed interval of forgetfulness. Every
man, woman and child, was busy about the fish. They had no time to
think of the lonely girl, who had begun, and then suddenly abandoned
the fishing--nobody knew what for. But they saw her in the kirk every
Sabbath, apparently well and happy, and old Judith said she had nae
doubt whatever that Cluny had forbidden her to hae any pairt in the
clash and quarreling o' the women folk in the herrin' sheds, and why
not? Cluny would be a full captain, wi' all his trimmings on, when he
came to Culraine next April for his wife, and was it likely he would
be wanting his wife cryin' feesh, and haggling wi' dirty, clackin'
women, for a few bawbees? Christine was a lady born, she said, and her
Cluny would set her among the quality where she belonged. Judith had
no doubt whatever that Christine was obeying an order from Cluny, and
Jessy Ruleson said she was glad the lass had found a master, she had
always had too much o' her ain ill way.

For nearly three months Christine lived a quiet, methodical life,
undisturbed by any outside influence, and free from all care. She rose
very early, finding creative writing always easiest before noon. She
went to bed very early, knowing that the sleep before midnight is the
renewing sleep, and she hemmed the day, night and morn, with prayer,
to keep it from unraveling. All that could happen between these two
prayers was provided for, and she gave herself heart and soul to the
delightful toil of story-writing. She wrote as she felt. She used the
dialect and idioms of her people when it was necessary, and no one
checked her for it. It was her style, and style is the stamp of
individual intellect, as language is the stamp of race. Certainly it
is an habitual deviation from accuracy, but it is a deviation for the
purpose of communicating freedom and feeling. The pen is neither
grammar nor dictionary, its purpose is to be the interpreter of the
heart.

One morning in September she had a strange feeling of inability to
work. The fog dulled her mind. Nothing was firm and certain in her
ideas. She found herself dreaming of incoherent and mysterious things,
a woof of thought, as airy as the fog itself. "I'll put the paper and
pencil awa'," she said, "and I'll build up the fire, and make some
good bread, then if I am no mair awake I'll red up the house. There's
dust on everything and little wonder if there's dust on my mind, too."
Then someone tried to open the door and she called out, "Wait a wee!
I'll slip the bolt in a minute." When she had done so, she opened the
door and Neil, in a low broken voice said, "Christine! Let me in! Why
am I bolted out?" and he whimpered out the words, like a hurt child,
as he passed her.

She looked at him in amazement. She could hardly believe her own
senses. This was not her brother--a wan, trembling man, with the
clothing of a laborer, and his hair clipped close to his head.

"Bolt the door again," he said, in his old authoritative way, "and
give me something to eat. I am sick with hunger, and cold, and misery
of all kinds."

"I'll do all that, Neil, but where hae you been this lang time, and
what makes you sae poor, and sae broken down?"

"Get me something to eat, and I will tell you."

So she left him crouching over the fire, with his elbows on his knees,
and his face hidden in his hands. And she asked him no more questions,
but when he had had a good meal, he said, "You asked where I had been,
Christine? I hae been in prison--in the House of Correction. I was put
there by that villain Rath, who accused me of obtaining money under
false pretenses."

"I feared something of the kind. A man came here a short time before
mother died----"

"Mother dead!"

"Ay, going on eight months now."

And he cried out like some hurt animal, and Christine hasted to say,
"She left her love and her blessing. At the very last, she spoke o'
you, Neil."

"The man you were speaking of, what did he say?"

"He asked me for the particulars o' my loan to you. He pitied me, and
said you had a way o' getting money on vera questionable pretenses."

"Well, what then?"

"I said you made no pretenses to me, that you didna even ask me to
lend you money, that I offered it to you, and refused a' bond, or
acknowledgment, and only bid you pay me when money was easy wi' you.
And I took the liberty o' calling him a sneaking scoundrel, and
something else I'll not say o'er again. Then I wrote, and told you
the entire circumstance, and you never answered my letter."

"I never received it. Rath wanted to leave Scotland, and the case was
fairly rushed through. I was stunned. I think I lost my senses. I did
get a lawyer, but I am sure Rath bought him. Anyway, I lost the case,
and before I realized the situation, I found myself in prison for six
months. I was made to work--look at my hands--I had dreadful food,
dreadful companions. I was ill all the time. And when at last I was
set free, someone had claimed my fine clothing, and left me these
shameful rags."

"Oh Neil! dear Neil! Had you no money?"

"My lawyer charged me shamefully--literally robbed me--and I spent a
great deal while in prison in getting proper food, and any comfort I
could, at any price. After I got free, I was very ill in the hospital,
and more went, and I have only enough left to pay my passage to
America. I walked most of the way here. I'm a broken, dying man."

"You are naething o' the kind. All men mak' mistakes, a good many hae
a stumble on the vera threshold o' life, and they leap to their feet
again, and go prosperously ever afterward. You hae made a mistake, you
must master it, you hae had a sair stumble, and you are going to leap
to your feet, and run the rest o' your life-race to a clean, clear
victory. The first thing is your claes. I am going at once to the
Domine. You are about his size. I will get a suit, and some clean
linen from him."

"Oh Christine, he may tell----"

"The Domine betray you! What are you saying?"

"I can't trust anyone but you."

"But you must."

"Finlay knows my size and measure, exactly."

"Vera well, then go to Finlay."

"How can I go through the town, or even the village, in this dress?
You will hae to go for me."

"I will go to the Domine. It is impossible for me to go and buy a
man's full suit at Finlay's. He is a great talker. He wad want to ken
why and wherefore I was buying a man's suit--you ought to think o'
this, Neil. I'll ask Norman to go."

"Norman will hae to tell that silly fool he married."

"Then I had better go to the Domine. He willna cheep o' the matter to
anyone. Keep the doors bolted while I am awa', and go to your own old
room. It is a' ready for you."

Only half satisfied with these arrangements, he went fretfully to bed,
and Christine went as quickly as she could to the manse. The Domine
listened to her story with an air of annoyance. "I know Neil's story,"
he said, "and he has told it as far as his telling goes, as truthfully
as I expected. I am not so sure about his need of money, the clothing
is different. I will send over what is necessary, and call in the
afternoon and see him."

"Dinna be cross wi' the lad, Sir. He is sair broken down," and
suddenly Christine covered her face and began to cry with almost a
child's complete surrender to circumstances. The Domine soothed her as
he would have soothed a child, and she said, "Forgie me, Sir, I had to
give way. It is a' by now. I'm not a crying woman, you know that,
Sir."

"I do, and I am the more angry at those who compel you to seek the
relief of tears. But I'll be as patient as I can with Neil, for your
sake, and for his father's and mother's sake."

So Christine returned and Neil was difficult to awaken, but he heard
her finally, and opened the door, in a half-asleep condition. "So the
Domine refused you?" he said--"I thought he would."

"He did not refuse me. He will send, or bring, what you need, later."

"You should hae brought them with you, Christine. I dislike to be seen
in these disreputable rags. You should hae thought o' that."

"I should, but I didna."

Then she cooked dinner, and he sat beside her, and told, and retold
the wrongs and sufferings he had innocently endured. It was all
Reginald Rath he blamed, and he would not admit that his behavior had
been in any way provocative of it. "He was furious because I married
his sister, and naturally took the management of her money into my own
hands."

"Where are the Raths now?"

"I do not know. Somewhere in California, I suspect."

"Why?"

"My wife has a good deal of real estate there. It was of little value
when deeded to her. Its worth has increased enormously. Rath hated the
idea of it belonging to me."

"Neil, how does Roberta feel toward you?"

"She was angry as he was at first--but she loved me."

"Why do you not go to her?"

"I do not know where she is."

"Why not go to California?"

"I have not money enough. Whatever set you to writing books,
Christine?"

"How do you know I have been writing books?"

"I saw a review of a book by Christine Ruleson. It praised the bit
novel a good deal--Did you get much for it?"

"They paid me vera weel."

"How much?"

She hesitated a moment, and then said, "Three hundred and fifty
pounds."

"That is a deal of money for a book--I mean a storybook, like a novel.
I did not know writing novels paid so well, or I would have chosen it,
in place of the law."

"The Domine thinks writing as a profession must choose you, that you
cannot choose it."

"The Domine does not know everything. Have the men who bought it paid
you yet?"

"The publishers? Yes, they paid upon acceptance."

"How did you learn to write?"

"I never learned. I just wanted to write, and I wrote--something in me
wrote. My writing is neither here nor there. Go to your old room, and
lie down and sleep. The Domine may think it best for you to go
somewhere at once."

So Neil went to his room but he could not sleep, and about four
o'clock the Domine called for him. They met very coldly. The Domine
had long ago lost all interest in him as a scholar, and he resented
the way in which Neil had quietly shuffled off his family, as soon as
he supposed he had socially outgrown them. The young man was terribly
humiliated by the necessity of appearing in his dirty, beggarly
raiment, and the Domine looked at him with a pitying dislike. The
physical uncleanliness of Neil was repellent to the spotless purity
which was a strong note in the minister's personality. However, he
thought of the father and mother of Neil, and the look of aching
entreaty in poor Christine's face quite conquered his revulsion, and
he said, not unkindly, "I am sorry to see you in such a sad case,
Neil. You will find all you need in that parcel; go and dress
yourself, and then I shall be waiting for you." He then turned quickly
to Christine, and Neil found himself unable to offer any excuse for
his appearance.

"Poor Neil!" sighed Christine.

"Yes, indeed, poor Neil," answered the Domine. "What can man do for a
fellow creature, who is incapable of being true, and hardly capable of
being false?"

"I advised him to go to his wife. He says she loved him once, but
turned against him at her brother's request."

"She did, and a wife who cries out has everyone's sympathy."

"She will forgive him--if she loved him."

"She may, I have known women to go on loving and trusting a man found
out in fraud--only a woman could do that."

"A man----"

"No!"

"Oh, Domine, for father's sake--you loved father--for his sake, be
kind to poor, dispairing Neil."

"Yes, child, 'despairing'--that is, because he knows he is wrong, and
is not sorry for his fault. A good man in the presence of any
misfortune stands up, feels exalted, and stretches out his arms to the
Great Friendship--he never drifts like a dismasted ship."

Here Neil entered the room again, looking very respectable in the new
tweed suit which the Domine had brought him. "Does it fit you, Neil?"
he asked.

"As if made for me, Sir. I thank you for it."

"It was altered for you. Finlay knew your measure to a quarter of an
inch, he said. I told him you were not fit to come."

"Was that prudent, Sir?"

"Yes, for we are going away at once."

"I would like to rest with Christine for a few days."

"How can you think of such a thing? Do you want to ruin your sister as
well as yourself? Do you not know that Rath is going to sue you as
soon as your first sentence is served, for shortage in his money
account? He will keep up this prosecution, if you stay in this
country."

"What can I do? What can I do?"

"You must go to the United States, or Argentine, or India, or----"

"I have no money to spend in travel."

"How much have you?"

"Thirty pounds--and a little over."

"H-m-m! I will lend you twenty pounds, if you will repay it."

"Certainly, I will repay it. I will go to New York. I shall have a
little left, when I get there, I suppose. I shall have to travel
decently."

"You can get a comfortable passage for twelve pounds. With the balance
you can make a spoon, or spoil a horn. Many a good man has built a
fine fortune on less than forty pounds."

"I can spare fifty pounds, Sir. I will gladly give it."

"You cannot spare it. You need every shilling of it, and as I have
said--fifty pounds will make a man, or waste a man. Any Scotchman with
youth, education, and fifty pounds, feels sure of his share of the
world, or he is not worth his porridge."

"You forget, Sir, that I have the bonds of a false charge to fight."

"The charge was not false. Do what is right, in the future, and I
promise you that it shall never more come up against you. But if you
go on buying money with life and honor, you will have a second charge
to meet. I know whereof I speak. I have had several interviews with
Mr. Rath. He is my half-sister's nephew. He will do anything
reasonable I ask of him."

"My God! And you let me go to prison, and blasted my good name, and
made a beggar and a wreck of me. I won't have your help," and he
turned to Christine, and cried out passionately, "Christine!
Christine! Save me from a friend like this! Help me yoursel', dear
lassie! Help Neil yoursel'! For Mither's sake help Neil yoursel'."

She went quickly to his side. She put her arms round him--her white,
strong, motherly arms. She kissed his face, and wept with him, and she
said with a loving passion, all those soft, cruddling, little
sentences with which a mother soothes a hurt child. "I'll gie you a'
the siller you want, dearie. I'll gie it to you as a free gift. I'll
stand by ye through thick and thin. Guilty or not guilty, ye are my
ain dear brither! I don't believe you're guilty! You are feyther's
son, ye couldna be guilty. It's a' spite, and envy, and ill will.
Mither bid me be kind to you, and I will be kind, though all the
warld's against me!"

The Domine watched this scene with eyes full of tears, and a tender
fatherly look. He finally put his elbow on the table, and rested his
face in his hand, and no doubt he was praying for counsel. For he
presently stood up, and said in a kind, familiar voice, "Neil, we must
hurry, we have a little journey before us, if you get the next
Atlantic steamer. We will talk this matter fairly out, when we are
alone. It is cruel to force it on your sister. She knows, and you know
also, that you may safely put your trust in me."

Then Christine left the room, and when she returned the two men were
ready to leave the house. "Where are you taking Neil, Domine?" she
asked, in that lowered voice Fear always uses. "Where are you taking
my brother?"

"Only to Moville, Christine. There may be spies watching the outgoing
steamers--especially the American Liners--so he had better go to
Moville, and take his passage from there."

She did not answer. She bent her tearful, loving face to Neil's, and
kissed him again, and again, and whispered hurriedly--"Write to me
often, and soon," and when her hand unclasped from his, she left with
him the money she had promised. The Domine pretended not to see the
loving transaction, and the next moment the two men were wrapped up in
the thick darkness, which seemed to swallow up even the sound of their
footsteps.

That night Christine mingled her lonely cup of tea with tears, but
they were tears that had healing in them. Those to whom love has
caused no suffering, have never loved. All who have loved, have wept.
Christine had given away her heart, it had been bruised and
wounded--but ought she to love her brother less, because he had proved
himself unworthy? If anything could bring him back to her trust, would
it not be the prayers and tears born from her desolation? To regret,
and to desire, between these two emotions the horizons recede; they
are two spiritual levers, by which the soul can work miracles of
grace.

So the days went on in alternating sunshine and storm. The Domine or
Jamie came every day to see if all was well with her. Sometimes Norman
stopped long enough on an evening visit, to talk about Neil and to
wonder over his past and future. For though he had reached New York
safely, they knew little of his life. He said he had found a clerkship
in the general store of a merchant in a small town on the Hudson
River, about sixty miles from New York; but he intimated it was only a
resting place, till he felt ready to go to California. His great
anxiety was to obtain the knowledge of his wife's hiding-place, for he
was sure her brother was determined to keep them apart. And this
conviction was gradually making a reconciliation with her the chief
aim and desire of his unhappy life. He was sure the Domine knew where
she was, and his letters to Christine urged on her constantly a
determined effort to induce him to reveal her residence. Christine had
made three efforts to win the Domine's confidence, and had then
abandoned the attempt as utterly useless.

The herring-fishery with all its preparatory and after duties and
settlements was now quite past, and the school was in full swing
again, and the quiet days of St. Martin's summer were over the land.
All the magnificent flowers of early autumn were dead, but the little
purple daisy of St. Michael filled the hedges, and the crannies of the
moor. In the garden, among the stones of its wall, the mint and the
thyme and the wall flowers still swung in sunny hours, faint ethereal
perfume; but it was like the prayers of the dying, broken and
intermittent, the last offering of the passing autumn. There were gray
and ghostly vapors in the early morning, and the ships went through
them like spirits. The rains sobbed at the windows, and the wind was
weary of the rain. Sometimes the wind got the best of both fog and
rain, then it filled the sails of the ships, and with swelling canvas
they strutted out with the gale.

In the mornings, if the sea was willing, she saw the fishermen
hastening to the boats, with their oilskins over their arms, and
water bottle swinging at their sides. And it was the sea after all,
that was her true companion. The everlasting hills were not far
away, but they were young compared with the old, old, gray sea. Its
murmur, its loud beat of noisy waves, its still, small voice of mighty
tides, circling majestically around the world, all spoke to her. Her
blood ran with its tide, she wrote best when they were inflowing.
When it was high water with the sea, it was high water with
Christine's highest nature, spiritual and mental. Their sympathy
was perfect, and if taken away from the sea, she would have been as
miserable as a stormy petrel in a cage. So then, with the sea
spread out before her, and her paper and pencils in hand, she hardly
missed human companionship.

Still there were days when she wanted to talk, when singing did not
satisfy her, and one morning when she had watched a boat come ashore,
broadside on the rocks, she felt this need almost like a pain in her
heart. No lives had been lost, and she had watched her brother Norman
playing a godlike act of salvation with the life-boat, yet she had
what she called "a sair heartache!"

"It isna for the men," she said softly, "they are a' safe, through
God's mercy, and Norman's pluck and courage. I think it is for the
poor, poor boat, beaten and lashed to pieces, on thae black, cruel
rocks! Poor Boatie! left alane in her misery and death! And she did
her best! Nae doubt o' that! She did her best, and she had to die!"

Just then there was a knock at the door, and though she had a moment's
wonder at anyone's coming up the hill, so early in such rough weather,
she cried out, "Come in. Lift the hasp, and come in." Then she turned
round to see who would enter. It was Roberta Ruleson.



CHAPTER XIII

THE RIGHT MATE AND THE RIGHT TIME

  For the destiny whereof they were worthy drew them unto this
  end.--Wisdom of Solomon, xix, 4.

  Mercifully ordain that we may become aged together.--Tobit, viii,
  7.

  The Bride of Love and Happiness!


Roberta Ruleson was the last person in the world Christine expected to
see. She came in smiling, and with outstretched hand said, "Dear
Christine, tell me that you are glad to see me."

"There's nane living, Roberta, saving your ain husband, I would be
gladder to see."

"I have sent the carriage away, can I stop with you this night?"

"You can stay as long as you want to stay. I will be gey glad o' your
company."

"I have long looked for an opportunity to come to you. At last I
pretended to be very sick with rheumatism, and had a famous physician
to see me. Of course I had looked up the symptoms I had to complain
of, and I succeeded in deceiving him. He was puzzled about my freedom
from fever, but I told him 'it came bad enough every third day,' and
he said he would see me on the third day. My brother and his saucy
wife left for Edinburgh yesterday, and they think I am safe in bed. I
am safe here. I left Glasgow an hour after they did."

"Will you hae a cup of tea and a mouthful o' bread and broiled ham?"

"I am hungry and cold, and shall be very glad of it."

"Then go and tak' off your bonnet and cloak, and come to the fireside.
I'll hae the food ready for you, in ten minutes."

Christine wanted a few minutes to consider. Was it right for her to
tell Roberta all she knew, or must she follow the Domine's plan and be
non-committal. She had not satisfied herself on this subject when
Roberta returned to her, and she then hastily decided to do right and
tell the truth whatever turned up. The tea and ham and bread were
ready and Roberta sat down to them with the pleasant eagerness of a
hungry child. She was, however, much changed. Her face showed plainly
the wear and tear of a troubled, anxious mind, and as soon as she had
taken a long drink of tea, she asked abruptly, "Christine, where is
Neil?"

Then all Christine's hesitation vanished, and she answered frankly,
"Neil is in a little town on the Hudson River, about a two hours'
journey from New York."

"What is he doing?"

"He is bookkeeper in a shop there."

"What is the name of the town? Tell me truly, Christine."

"I will let you read his last letter. It came two days ago."

"Thank you! It would be a great comfort to me."

There was a John Knox teapot on the chimney-piece, and Christine
lifted it down, removed the lid, and took Neil's letter out, and
handed it to Roberta.

The woman's invincible sense of whatever was ridiculous or inconsistent,
with a person or event, was instantly roused by the appearance of John
Knox. She laughed with girlish merriment. "To think of John Knox
interfering in my matrimonial difficulties!" she cried, "it is too
funny! The old scold! How grim and gruff he looks! If he could
speak, how he would rave about the outrageous authority of women. It is
refreshing to know that he had a wife that snubbed him, and didn't
believe in him, and did not honor and obey him, and----"

She had unfolded the letter as she was speaking, and now her eyes were
so busy, that her tongue got no message to deliver, and this was what
she read:--

  MY DEAR SISTER CHRISTINE,

  I am still here, waiting for the information I asked you to get
  me, namely the address of my dear wife. I am unhappy, I may say I
  am miserable; and I can never settle anywhere, till I see her. If
  she then refuses to hear and believe me, life will be over to me.
  But she will believe me, for I will tell her the truth, and she
  will see that though I was foolish, I was not criminal. The law
  separating these two conditions is far from being clear enough. I
  want to know where my wife is! She will believe me! She will trust
  me! You do. Mother did. Roberta has been very near and dear to me.
  She has been forced to abandon me. It is the injustice of my
  treatment that is killing me. If I could only clear myself in her
  sight, I could lift life again, and make the best of it. I am not
  half content in this place. I cannot believe the people here are
  representative Americans, and I dislike small towns. Traders and
  dwellers in small towns are generally covetous--they have a
  sinister arithmetic--they have no clear notions of right and
  wrong, and I think they are capable of every kind of malice known
  to man. I want to go to a big city, where big motives move men,
  and if you do not send me Roberta's hiding place, I will put out
  for California, if I foot it every step of the way. I am stunned,
  but not broken.

  Your loving brother,

  NEIL.

When she had finished this letter, she was crying. "Give it to me!"
she sobbed, "it is all about me, Christine. Give it to me! Poor Neil!
He has been badly used! Oh Christine, what must I do?"

"You ought to go to his side, and help him to mak' a better life. What
prevents ye?"

"Oh the shame of it! The atmosphere of the prison!"

"You promised God to tak' him for better or worse, richer or poorer.
You are breaking your promise every day, and every hour, that you stay
away from him."

"You must not blame me ignorantly, Christine. My brother and I were
left alone in the world, when he was ten years old, and I was eight.
He at once assumed a tender and careful charge of my lonely life. I
cannot tell you how good and thoughtful he was. When I left school he
traveled all over Europe with me, and he guarded my financial
interests as carefully as if they were his own. And I gave him a great
affection, and a very sincere obedience to all his wishes and advice.
At first he seemed to favor my liking for Neil, but he soon grew
furiously jealous, and then all was very unpleasant. Neil complained
to me. He said he did not want me to take my brother's opinion without
saying a few words in his own behalf, and so I soon began to take
Neil's side. Then day by day things grew worse and worse, and partly
because I liked Neil, and partly because I was angry at Reginald, and
weary of his exacting authority, I became Neil's wife."

"That was an engagement for a' the days of your life. You hae broken
it."

"The law excused and encouraged me to do so."

"Were you happy in that course?"

"About as unhappy as I could be. I was sure Neil had been hardly dealt
with, that advantage had been taken of his terror and grief, when he
found himself in prison. I am sure the lawyer he employed was really
seeking Reginald's favor, and practically gave Neil's case away, but I
was angry at Neil's want of spirit and pluck, in his own defense.
Reginald told me that he cried in the dock, and I shed a few
passionate tears over his want of courage and manliness."

"Poor Neil! If you had stood by him, he would have stood by himself.
Remember, Roberta, that he was only just out of his college classes,
and had had neither time nor opportunity to make friends; that his
mither was dying, and that we had no money to defend him; that his
wife had deserted him, and that he is naturally a man of little
courage, and you will judge him very leniently."

"Reginald told me he was saving money in order to run away from me,
and----"

"If he was saving money to run awa' with, he intended to take you with
him. If he was going awa' alone, a few pounds would hae been all he
needed. And it seems to me you were the runaway from love and duty.
But it is little matter now, who was most to blame. Life is all
repenting and beginning again, and that is everything that can be done
in this case."

"I will start for New York tomorrow. Can you get Doctor Trenabie here
for me?"

"Do you know him?"

"He is a distant relative both of the Raths and the Ballisters."

"He never said a word about his relationship, to me."

"It would have been most unlike him had he done so, but I can tell
you, he wrote me before my marriage, and advised me to be very
cautious with Mr. Neil Ruleson."

"I will send for him," said Christine, a little coldly, and then she
drew the conversation towards the Raths and Ballisters. "Were they
closely connected with Doctor Trenabie?" she asked.

"In a distant way," said Roberta, "but they are firm friends, for many
generations."

"The Domine does not talk much about himsel'."

"No. He never did. He vowed himself early in life to chastity and
poverty, for Christ's sake, and he has faithfully kept his vow. Old
Ballister gave him the kirk of Culraine at fifty pounds a year, and
when the death of his father made him a comparatively rich man, he
continued his humble life, and put out all the balance of his money in
loans to poor men in a strait, or in permanent gifts, when such are
necessary. Reginald used to consider him a saint, and many times he
said that if I was married to a good man, he would try and live such a
life as Magnus Trenabie."

"Once I knew Colonel and Angus Ballister."

"I heard Angus lately boasting about his acquaintance with you--that
is since your book has set the whole newspaper world to praising
you."

"He is married. I saw him with his bride."

"A proud, saucy, beautiful Canadian, educated in a tip-top New York
boarding school, in all the pronounced fads of the day. Now, I have
seen New York girls of this progressive kind, and the polish being
natural to them, they were not only dashing and impertinent, they were
fascinating in all their dictatory moods. But this kind of polish is
intolerable when laid over a hard, calculating, really puritanical
Scotch nature. Such a girl has to kill some of her very best
qualities, in order to take it on at all."

"She would be gey hard to live wi'. I wouldn't stay wi' her--not a
day."

"Yet, I can tell you, both English and Scotch men are enslaved easily
by this new kind of girl. She is only the girl of the period and the
place, but they imagine her to be the very latest improvement in
womanly styles. Now, I will astonish you. Reginald married the sister
of Angus Ballister's wife. She is equally beautiful, equally
impertinent and selfish, and she holds Reginald in a leash. She makes
fun of my dowdy dress and ways, and of my antiquated moralities, even
to my brother, in my very presence, and Reggie looks at me critically,
and then at Sabrina--that is the creature's name--and says--'Roberta,
you ought to get Brina to show you how to dress, and how to behave.
You should just see Brina tread our old fogyish social laws under her
feet. She makes a sensation in every room she enters.' And I answer
pointedly--'I have no doubt of it.' She understands my laugh, though
Reggie is far from it. Of course she hates me, and she has quite
changed Reggie. I have no longer any brother. I want to go and see if
my husband cares for me."

"Of course he cares for you, more than for any ither thing. Go to him.
Mak' a man every way of him. Teach him to trust you, and you may trust
him. Now go and sleep until the Domine comes, and he will tak' care of
your further movements."

When the Domine came, he treated Roberta very like a daughter, but he
would not hear her tale of woe over again. He said, "There are faults
on both sides. You cannot strike fire, without both flint and steel."

"I have been so lonely and miserable, Doctor, since I saw you last.
Reggie has quite deserted me for her."

"Well, then, Roberta, walk your lonely room with God, and humbly dare
to tell Him all your heart."

"I never had any suspicion of Neil, until----"

"Roberta, women trust on all points, or are on all points suspicious."

"I trusted Neil, for as you know, he was under great obligations----"

"Obligations! Obligations! That is a terrible word. Love should not
know it."

"If I had never met Neil----"

"You only meet the people in this life, whom you were meant to meet.
Our destiny is human, it must come to us by human hearts and hands.
Marriage brings out the best and the worst a man or woman has. Let
your marriage, Roberta, teach you the height and the depth of a
woman's love. There are faults only a woman can forgive, and go on
trusting and loving. Try and reach that height and depth of love. Then
you can go boldly to God and say, 'Forgive me my trespasses, as I have
forgiven those who trespassed against me.' What do you want me to do
for you?"

"I want you, dear Doctor, to go and take the very earliest passage to
New York that you can get. Any steamer and any line will do. Also I
want you to go to the bank of Scotland, and tell them to transmit all
my cash in their keeping to the bank of New York. Also, there is a
trunk at Madame Bonelle's I want placed on the steamer, as soon as my
passage is taken. It has a carefully chosen wardrobe in it. Brina
thought it was full of dresses to be altered, according to American
styles"--and this explanation of the dress episode she gave to
Christine with a smile so comically illuminating, that the Doctor's
smile perforce caught a gleam from it.

But he was in an authoritative mood, and he said, "What is your
intention, Mrs. Ruleson? This is a singular order for you to give."

"Doctor, I am going to my husband. Christine has told me where he is.
He loves me yet, and I want to go, and help, and comfort him."

"That is right. It is converting love into action. If this is not
done, love is indolent and unbelieving. It is not enough for Neil to
love you, your love must flow out to him in return, or your married
life will be barren as sand."

"I shall forgive him everything. He is longing to explain all to me."

"Forgive him before he explains. Have no explanations, they turn to
arguments, and an argument is a more hopeless barrier than a vigorous
quarrel, or an indignant contradiction. You do not want to judge
whether he is right or wrong. The more you judge, the less you love.
Take him just as he is, and begin your lives over again. Will you do
this?"

"I will try."

"Roberta, you have a great work before you--the saving of a man--the
lifting of him up from despair and ruin to confidence and hope, and
success. He is well worth your effort. Neil has fine traits, he comes
of a religiously royal ancestry, and true nobility is virtue of race.
You can save this man. Some women could not, others would not, you can
do it."

"I will do it, Sir, God helping me."

"Now I will go to Glasgow, and do all you require. You must take some
money with you, the bank----"

"I have a thousand pounds in my purse."

"You extravagant woman!"

"Money is necessary, in saving souls, Sir."

"I believe you. Where shall I meet you in Glasgow?"

"At the Victoria Hotel--dinner at six."

To these words the Doctor disappeared, and Roberta began to amplify
and explain and justify her position and her intentions. She talked to
Christine, while Christine cooked their meals and did all the
necessary housework. She begged her to lock the doors against all
intruders, and then making herself comfortable in the large cushioned
chair by the fireside, she took off her tight shoes, and divested her
hair of all its pads, and combs, and rats, and with a sigh of relief
said, "Now we can talk comfortably." They talked all day long, and
they talked of Neil. A little later, she was eager to tell Christine
all about her brother's unaccountable marriage. "I was really ashamed
of the affair, Christine," she said. "No consideration for others,
scarcely time to make the wedding-dress, and I think she asked
everyone she saw to come to her marriage. She talked the slang of
every country she had visited, and the men all thought it 'so funny'
when she kicked up her dress with her heel, and treated them to a bit
of London or New York slang. The perfectly silly and easy way in which
men are caught, and tied fast, always amazes me, Christine. It is just
like walking up to a horse's head, with a dish full of corn in one
hand and a bridle in the other. This little Sabrina Wales walked up to
Reginald Rath with a bit of London slang on her lips, and a wedding
ring hid in the palm of her hand, and the poor man is her slave for
life."

"Not necessarily a slave for life, Roberta."

"Necessarily. No remission. No redemption. The contract reads 'until
death us part.'"

They discussed Sabrina from head to feet--her hair, her eyes, her
complexion, her carriage, her way of dressing, her gowns--all short in
front and long behind--"can you guess what for, Christine?"

"Perhaps she has pretty feet."

"She has very small ones. I do not know whether they are pretty or
not. But the effect is striking, if you watch her from the front--you
can't help thinking of a turkey gobbler."

The hours went happily enough, Christine enjoyed them. After her paper
heroine, this all-alive, scornful, loving and hating, talking and
laughing woman was a great pleasure. Christine baked delicious scones,
and scalloped some fine oysters in bread crumbs and chopped parsley,
and made one or two pots of Pekoe and Young Hyson tea, and they
nibbled and sipped, and talked over the whole sacred druidical family
of the Raths, even to Aunt Agatha, who was worth half a million
pounds--"which I threw away for a good joke," said Roberta.

"Look at the clock, it is near midnight! We must go to bed."

"Well, then, I have had the loveliest day. I shall never forget it,
and I will tell Neil all about it before long. Dear Christine, I am
glad you are my sister, it lets me take nice little liberties with
you; and you know, I love you, but that is inevitable. No one can help
it."

When Roberta went, she seemed to take the sunshine with her. The
summer of All Saints, and the melancholy of its long fine weather was
over, and there was the touch of winter in the frosty nights and
mornings, but for five weeks Christine heeded nothing but her new
novel. For the time being, it fully absorbed her; and for the next few
weeks she made great progress. Then one morning Norman came to see
her. "Christine," he said. "I am in great trouble. Jessy is vera ill
with scarlet fever, and I am anxious about the children."

"Bring them all here, Norman."

"They'll mebbe hinder you i' your writing."

"But what is my writing worth, when the children are in danger? Go and
bring them here at once. Get Judith to come with them. With her help I
can manage. I will come in the afternoon, and sit with Jessy awhile."

"No, you willna be permitted. The doctors say there are o'er many
cases. They hae ordered the school closed, and they are marking every
house in which there is sickness."

This epidemic prostrated the village until the middle of January,
taking a death toll from the little community, of nearly eighty,
mostly women and children. But this loss was connected with wonderful
acts of kindness, and self-denial. The men left their boats and nursed
each other's children, the women who were well went from house to
house, caring tenderly even for those they supposed themselves to be
unfriends with. If the fever triumphed over its victims, love
triumphed over the fever. In the Valley of the Shadow of Death, they
had forgotten everything but that they were fellow-sufferers.
Christine's house had been a home for children without a home, and she
had spent a great part of her time in preparing strengthening and
appetizing food for those who needed it more than any other thing. No
one, now, had a word wrong to say of Christine Ruleson. She had been a
helping and comforting angel in their trouble, and if there had been a
woman or child more suffering and destitute than all the rest,
Christine had always taken her to her home. For in such times of
sorrow, God reveals Himself to the heart, not to the reason. Oh, how
far it is, from knowing God, to loving Him!

Well, then, Sorrow may endure for a night, but Joy cometh in the
morning. And the mornings grew to be spring mornings, full of that
sunshine that goes not only to the heart of man, but to the roots of
every green thing. The silence of the receding hills was broken by
streams glancing and dancing down the glens. The "incalculable
laughter of the sea" was full of good promise, for those who had been
sick, and for those who had perforce been long idle. The roar of angry
billows was hushed, and it came up to the land, hard-edged with stiff,
tinkling waves, and the convalescents rested on the shingles beside
them, taking life with every breath, and enjoying that perfect rest
that shingle knows how to give, because it takes the shape of the
sleeper, whether he be young or old, or short or long.

The days were of soft, delicate radiance, the nights full of stars.
The moon in all her stages was clear as silver, the dawns came
streaming up from the throbbing breast of the ocean. The springtime
songs were bubbling in the birds' throats, they sang as if they never
would grow old, and the honey bees were busy among the cherry blooms,
delirious with delight.

Who speaks of sadness in such days?

Certainly Christine did not. All the troubles of the hard winter were
past, and her heart was running over with a new joy. Cluny was coming
home. Very soon, the long waiting would be over. This thought made her
restlessly busy. Her home had to be renovated thoroughly. Altogether
twenty-eight children had been sheltered for short or longer periods
there, and they had all left their mark on its usually spotless walls
and floors. Well, then, they must be cleaned--and men quickly appeared
with lime and white paint, and women with soap and scrubbing brushes.
And Christine went through the rooms, and through the rooms, with
them, directing and helping forward the beautifying work.

She had also to think of her wedding-dress, and her wedding-breakfast,
but these cheerful, lengthening days gave her time for everything.
When the house pleased even her particular idea of what it ought to
be, she turned to the garden. The seeds of the annuals were sown, and
the roses trimmed, and not a weed left in the sacred little spot.

Then day after day added to all this beauty and purity, and one
happy morning Jamie brought the letter. Cluny was in Glasgow, and his
letter was like the shout of a victor. He would be in Culraine on
Thursday--first train he could make--they would be married Saturday
morning. Christine could not put him off any longer. He had been
waiting twenty-one years--for he had loved her when he was only nine
years old--and he had fulfilled every obligation laid on him. And
now! Now! Now! She was his wife, his very own! there was no one,
and no circumstance, to dispute his claim! and so on, in sentences
which stumbled over each other, because it was impossible for
humanity to invent words for feelings transcending its comprehension.

Christine laughed softly and sweetly, kissed the incoherent letter,
and put it in her breast. Then she walked through the house and
garden, and found everything as it should be. Even the dress in which
she would meet her lover, with its ribbons and ornaments, was laid out
ready to put on the next morning. Judith was in the kitchen. The
wedding dress, and the wedding cake, would be brought home on Friday
morning.

However, a woman, on such an occasion, wants to make the perfect still
more perfect. She wondered if it would not be well to go and give her
last directions and orders that afternoon, and finally decided to do
so.

She was just leaving the baker's, when Colonel Ballister entered. He
met her with respectful effusiveness, and asked permission to walk
home with her. And as they walked to the village together, the Colonel
said, "I spent four, long, delightful hours with Captain Macpherson
last night. He is to be here tomorrow."

"I didna ken you was acquaint wi' him, Colonel."

"Mr. Henderson introduced me to him, and then asked us both to dinner.
We had a delightful three hours at Henderson's, then the captain and I
walked round and round the square for an hour, and we liked each other
so well, that I got permission from him, to ask a great favor from
you."

"I dinna see how I can favor you, Colonel, but if I can do sae, I'll
be gey glad to do it."

"I want you to allow me to be present at your marriage ceremony. I
shall never forget the supper I ate with your father and mother. I
respected them both with all my heart, and I am one of the most
enthusiastic admirers of your writing, and you must know and feel that
I am your sincere friend."

"I do know it, Sir. I thank you for your kind words anent my dear
feyther and mither; and I shall be a very proud and happy girl, if you
will stand a few minutes by the side o' Cluny and Christine. It will
be for our honor and pleasure!"

"Captain Macpherson asked me to call and see him, and I will then
find out your arrangements, and very proudly drop into them." Then he
walked to the foot of the hill with her, and could not help noticing
the school, from which at least eighty boys and girls were issuing
with a shout and a leap for the playground. On this sight he looked
pleasantly for a few moments, and then smiling at Christine said:

"Our enterprise! It appears to be attractive."

Not knowing just what reply to make, she smiled, and nodded, and gave
him her hand. "Good-by, Christine! May I call you Christine? In a day
or two it will not be permissible. May I say it until then?"

"Christine is my name. Call me Christine always."

"Captain Macpherson would have something to say to that."

"What for? He has naething to do with my name."

"The first thing he does, after you are his wife, is to change it."

"He can only change the family name. Every one o' us in the family has
that name. It is common to all, far and near. Cluny can change that,
and I hae no objections; but he wouldna daur to touch a letter of my
christened name. That is my ain, as much as my hands and my eyes are
my ain--ay, and a gey bit mair sae--for a man may claim the wark o'
your hands, and the glint o' your e'en, but he canna mak' use o' your
name. It is o'er near forgery--and punishment. Sae I am Christine to
yoursel' neither for wark, nor for use, but just for pure honest
friendship--Christine, as lang as we baith wish it sae."

"Thank you, Christine. I am proud of the favor!"

Now I am beggared for words, when I come to try any description of
Cluny's wonderful joy in the final fruition of his long-delayed hopes.
When he landed, he was at first volubly happy. He told everyone he was
going to be married. He expected everyone to rejoice with him. All his
thoughts, words, and actions were tinctured with Christine. Men looked
at him, and listened to him, with pity or envy, and one of the
greatest of Glasgow's mercantile magnates cried out enviously--"Oh,
man! Man! I would gie all I possess to be as divinely mad as you
are--just for one twenty-four hours!"

But joy at its very deepest and holiest turns strangely silent. The
words it needs have not yet been invented, and when Cluny was free of
all duty, and could come to the very presence of his Beloved, he could
say nothing but her name, "Christine! Christine!" almost in a
whisper--and then a pause, a pause whose silence was sweeter far than
any words could have been. Speech came later, in passionate terms of
long and faithful love, in wonder at her beauty, ten-fold finer than
ever, in admiration of her lovely dress, her softer speech, her
gentler manner. She was a Christine mentalized by her reading and
writing, and spiritualized by her contact with the sick and suffering
little children of the past months. Also, love purifies the heart it
burns in.

Everything was ready for the marriage, and it was solemnized on
Saturday morning in the Ruleson home. The large living room was a
bower of fresh green things, and made gay and sweet with the first
spring flowers. The marriage table was laid there also, but the Domine
stood on the hearthstone, and on the very altar of the home in which
Christine had grown to such a lovely and perfect womanhood, she became
the wife of Captain Cluny Macpherson.

That day when Cluny came in to the bridal, he wore for the very first
time his uniform as captain of the new steamer just finishing for him.
For he had asked one great favor for himself, which was readily
granted, namely, that his commission as captain be dated on his
wedding day. So then he received his wife and his ship at the same
time. The room was crowded with men and women who had known him from
boyhood, and when he appeared, it was hard work to refrain from
greeting him with a shout of "Welcome, Captain!" But it was the light
of joy and admiration in Christine's face, which repaid him for the
long years of working and waiting for this gloriously compensating
hour.

The Colonel said he had the honor of assisting at the wedding of the
handsomest couple in Scotland. And it was not altogether an
exaggeration. Christine in her white satin gown, with white rose buds
in her golden hair, and on her breast--tender, intelligent, intensely
womanly was the very mate--in difference--for Cluny, whose sea-beaten
beauty, and splendid manhood were so fittingly emphasized by the gold
bands and lace and buttons, which Jamie had once called "his
trimmings." He wore them now with becoming dignity, for he knew their
value, because he had paid their price.

There was a crowded breakfast table after the ceremony. The Domine
blessed the meal, and the Colonel made a flattering speech to the
people of Culraine--his people--he called them; promising them better
water, and better sanitary arrangements, and another teacher who would
look especially after the boys' athletic games and exercises. During
this speech the Captain and his bride slipped away to the train, in
the Colonel's carriage, and when it returned for the Colonel, the
wedding guests were scattering, and the long-looked-for event was
over.

Over to the public, but to the newly-wed couple it was just beginning.
To them, the long, silent strings of hitherto meaningless life, were
thrilling with strange and overwhelming melodies. Marriage had
instantly given a new meaning to both lives. For the key to life is in
the heart, not in the brain; and marriage is the mystical blending of
two souls, when self is lost, and found again in the being of another.
It was with them,

  That ever working miracle of God,
  The green and vital mystery of love,
  Still budding in the garden of the heart.

The wedding festivities over, all excitement about it quickly
subsided. Christine would be sure to come back again, Cluny would
return at stated periods, and always bring with him the air and flavor
of lands strange and far off. Their farewells would always be short
ones. Their presence would always be a benefaction. There was nothing
to discuss, or wonder over, and the preparations for the herring
season were far behind-hand. They could talk about the wedding later,
at present the nets and the boats were the great anxiety in every
house in the village. So Christine and Cluny with little observation,

  Sailed happily into the future,
    Wherever their wishes inclined them;
  Love and Good Fortune as shipmates,
    And Troubles always a mile behind them.[*]

  [*] A fisherman's toast or blessing.



CHAPTER XIV

AFTER MANY YEARS

  Her life intensive rather than extensive; striking root downward,
  deep in the heart, not wide in the world.

  A memory of dew and light, threaded with tears.


Not long before the breaking out of the present European war, I was in
London, and needed a typist, so I went to a proper Intelligence Office
on the Strand, and left a request directing them to send any likely
applicant to my hotel for a conversation. On the next afternoon I
heard a woman's voice in an altercation with the bellboy. I opened the
door, and the boy said he could not quite make out the lady; he was
very sorry indeed, but the lady would not explain; and so forth.

The lady looked at the premature little man with contempt, and said a
few passionate words of such unmistakable Scotch, that I felt the
bellboy to be well within the pale of excusable ignorance.

"Are you from the Intelligence Office?" I asked.

"Yes, Madam. At the request of Scott and Lubbock I came to see you
about copying a novel."

"Come in then," and as soon as the door was closed, I offered my hand,
and said only one word--"Fife?"

"Ay," she answered proudly, "Fife! I can speak good English, but the
stupid lad made me angry, and then I hae to tak' to the Scotch. I
don't hae the English words to quarrel wi', and indeed if you want a
few words of that kind, the Scotch words hae a tang in them that
stings like a nettle, even if folk cannot quite make out the lady or
gentleman that uses them."

I could not help laughing. "What words did you use?" I asked.

"Naething oot o' the way, I just told him, in a ceevil manner, that he
was a feckless, fashious gowk, or something or ither o' an idiotic
make. He was just telling me he didn't speak French, when you opened
the door," and then she laughed in a very infectious manner. "But this
is not business, Madam," she said, "and I will be glad to hear what
you require."

Our business was soon pleasantly arranged, and just then, very
opportunely, my five o'clock tea came in, and I asked Miss Sarah
Lochrigg to stay, and drink a cup with me, and tell me all about the
Scotland of her day. "It is fifty years since I left Scotland," I
said, "there will be many changes since then."

She took off her hat and gloves and sat down. "I come from a fishing
village on the coast of Fife. They don't change easily, or quickly,
in a fishing village."

"What village? Was it Largo?"

"No. Culraine, a bit north of Largo."

"Never!"

"Ay, Culraine. Do you know the place?"

"I used to know people who lived there. Doctor Magnus Trenabie, for
instance. Is he living yet?"

"No, he went the way of the righteous, twenty years ago. I remember
him very well. He preached until the last day of his life, but he was
so weak, and his eyesight so bad, that one of the elders helped him up
the pulpit stairs, and another went up at the close of the service,
and helped him down, and saw him safely home.

"One Sabbath morning, though he made no complaint, he found it
difficult to pronounce the benediction, but with a great effort he
raised his hands and face heavenward, and said every word plainly.
Then he turned his face to the elder, and said, 'Help me home,
Ruleson,' and both Ruleson and Tamsen took him there. He died sometime
in the afternoon, while the whole kirk was praying for him, died so
quietly, it was hard to tell the very time o' his flitting. He was
here one minute, the next he was gone. In every cottage there was the
feeling of death. He was really a rich man, and left a deal of money
to the Ruleson school in Culraine village."

"Then Norman Ruleson is yet alive?"

"Ay, but his wearisome wife fretted herself into a-grave a good many
years ago."

"And the other Ruleson boys? Are they all alive yet?"

"I cannot tell. They were all great wanderers. Do you remember old
Judith Macpherson?"

"To be sure I do."

"Well, her grandson married the only girl Ruleson, and they have ruled
Culraine ever since I can remember. The Captain was very masterful,
and after he was 'retired,' that was after he was sixty, I think, he
lived at Culraine, and Culraine lived as much to his order as if they
were the crew of his ship."

"Where did they live?"

"In the old house, but they built large rooms round about it, and put
on another story above all the rooms. They made no change in the old
part of the house, except to lift the roof, and insert modern widows.
The new rooms were finely papered and painted and furnished, the old
living room is still whitewashed, and its uncarpeted floor is
regularly scrubbed and sanded. The big hearthstone has no rug to it,
and the rack against the wall is yet full of the old china that Mrs.
Macpherson's mother used. All the Macpherson boys and girls were
married in that room, just in front of the hearthstone, or on it. I do
not remember which. The Captain's wife insisted on that part of the
ceremony."

"Did you know the Captain's wife?"

"In a general way, only. She is very well known. She writes
books--novels, and poems, and things like that. Some people admire
them very much, most of our folks thought them 'just so-so.' I can't
say I ever read any of them. My mother believed all books but the
Bible doubtful. Domine Trenabie read them, and if you wanted Captain
Macpherson's good will, you had to read them--at least, I have heard
that said."

"Is she writing books yet?"

"Ay, she had one on the market last year. She did not write much while
her children were growing up--how could she?"

"How many children has she?"

"I think eleven. I believe one died."

"What are you telling me?"

"The truth, all the truth, nothing but the truth. She has seven sons,
and five girls. The youngest girl died, I heard."

"She is older than I am. Does she look older?"

"No. She looks younger. Her hair is thinner, as I can remember it, but
pretty and bright, and always well dressed. I have seen her in her
fisher's cap in the morning. In the afternoon she wears a rose and a
ruffle of white lace, which she calls a cap. Her gowns are long and
handsome, and she has beautiful laces, but I never saw any jewelry on
her. Colonel Ballister gave her a necklace of small, but exceedingly
fine India pearls, but nobody ever saw it on her neck. Perhaps she did
not like to put them on. People said he bought them for the girl he
hoped to marry when he returned home. She married someone else."

"Yes, I know. She made a great mistake."

"Weel, young Angus Ballister made a mistake, too. His wife wouldn't
live anywhere but in Paris, until the estate was like a moth-eaten
garment. They had to come home, and she fretted then for California,
but there wasn't money for anywhere but just Ballister. Mebbe there
was some double work about the affair, for I ne'er heard tell of any
scrimping in Ballister Mansion, and when he came to Culraine he was
free as ever with his siller and his promises--and he kept his
promises, though some of them were the vera height of foolishness. He
was thick as thack with the Macphersons, and the Captain and himsel'
spent long days in Macpherson's boat, laying out, and pretending to
fish."

"Why 'pretending'?"

"They never caught anything, if it wasn't a haddock or a flounder,
when the water was crowded with them, and when, as little Bruce Brodie
said, 'the feesh were jumping into the boat, out o' each other's
way.'"

"Did you ever hear anything of Neil Ruleson, who was a lawyer and went
to America?"

"Never until I was a full-grown lassie. Then they came to pay a visit
to Mrs. Macpherson. They are very rich. They have money, and houses,
and land beyond all likelihood, and just one sickly son to heir it
all."

"Neil Ruleson's wife was the sister of a Mr. Reginald Rath. Do you
remember anything of the Raths?"

"Very little. Rath and Ballister married sisters. Rath's wife died in
Rome, of fever. They had no children, and Rath went to Africa with
General Gordon. I do not think he ever came back, for I heard my
brother reading in the _Glasgow Herald_, that the two claimants to the
Rath estate were likely to come to an agreement."

We were silent for a few moments, and then I said, "There is one more
person I would like to hear of. He was only a lad, when I knew him,
but a very promising one, a grandson of old James Ruleson, and called
after him, though adopted by the Domine."

"I know who you mean, though he is now called Trenabie. There was
something in the way of the law, that made it right and best for him
to take his adopted father's name, if he was to heir his property
without trouble. The Rulesons thought it fair, and made no opposition,
and the lad loved the Domine, and liked to be called after him. So he
was ordained under the name of Trenabie, and is known all over England
and Scotland as Doctor James Trenabie."

"Why James? The Domine's name was Magnus."

"He would not have his Christian name changed. He said he would
rather lose ten fortunes, than touch a letter of his name. James had
been solemnly given him in the kirk, and so written down in the Kirk
Book, and he hoped in God's Book also, and he believed it would be
against his calling and salvation to alter it. Folks thought it was
very grand in him, but his Aunt Christine was no doubt at the bottom
o' his stubbornness. For that matter he minds her yet, as obedient as
if he was her bairn."

"Then he got the Domine's money?"

"The lion's share. The village and school of Culraine got a good slice
of it, and King's College, Aberdeen, another slice, but Jamie Ruleson
got the lion's share. He married the daughter of the Greek Professor
in King's, and their first child was a laddie, who was called Magnus.
Some are saying that his preaching isna quite orthodox, but rich and
poor crowd any church he speaks in, and if you are going to Glasgow,
you will hardly be let awa' without hearing him."

"How is that?"

"This one and that one will be asking you, 'Have you heard Doctor
Trenabie preach? You'll never think o' going awa' without hearing the
man?'"

A little later I heard him. Sarah Lochrigg had not said too much.
I saw and heard a preacher by Grace of God--no cold, logical
word-sifter, but a prophet inspired by his own evangel. He was
full of a divine passion for heavenly things, and his eager, faithful
words were illuminated by mystic flashes, just as a dark night is
sometimes made wonderful by flashes of electricity. The subject of
his sermon was "Our Immortality" and his first proposition startled
me.

"Before asking if a man has a future life, let us ask, 'is he
living now?' The narrow gateway to the cities not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens, is Conscience! If there is no Conscience, is
there any soul?" From this opening he reasoned of life, death and
eternity, with that passionate stress of spirit which we owe
entirely to Christianity. The building seemed on fire, and it was
difficult even for the reticent Scot to restrain the vehement,
impetuous cry of the jailer at old Philippi--"What shall I do to be
saved?"

Physically, his appearance was one well-fitting a Man of God. He
looked worthy of the name. He was tall, and slenderly built, and when
some divinely gracious promise fell from his lips, his face broke up
as if there were music in it. He had the massive chin, firm mouth and
large, thoughtful gray eyes of his grandfather Ruleson, and the
classical air of a thoroughbred ecclesiastic that had distinguished
Doctor Trenabie. Surely the two men who so loved him on earth hear the
angels speak of him in heaven, and are satisfied.

It was a coincidence that on the following morning, I found, in a
Scotch magazine, three verses by his Aunt Christine. In the present
stressful time of war and death, they cannot be inappropriate, and at
any rate, they must have been among the last dominant thoughts of my
heroine. We may easily imagine her, sitting at the open door of the
large room which gave her such a wide outlook over the sea, and such a
neighborly presence of the village, watching the ghost-like ships in
the moonlight, and setting the simple lines either to the everlasting
beat of noisy waves, or the still small voice of mighty tides circling
majestically around the world:

WHEN THE TIDE GOES OUT

  Full white moon upon a waste of ocean,
    High full tide upon the sandy shore,
  In the fisher's cot without a motion,
    Waiteth he that never shall sail more.
  Waiteth he, and one sad comrade sighing,
    Speaking lowly, says, "Without a doubt
  He will rest soon. Some One calls the dying,
                When the tide goes out."

  Some One calls the tide, when in its flowing,
    It hath touched the limits of its bound;
  Some great Voice, and all the billows knowing
    What omnipotence is in that sound,
  Hasten back to ocean, none delaying
    For man's profit, pleasuring or doubt,
  Backward to their source, not one wave straying,
                And the tide is out.

  Some One calls the soul o'er life's dark ocean,
    When its tide breaks high upon the land,
  And it listens with such glad emotion,
    As the "called" alone can understand.
  Listens, hastens, to its source of being,
    Leaves the sands of Time without a doubt;
  While we sadly wait, as yet but seeing
                That the tide is out.

This was my last message from Christine. For a few years she had sent
me a paper or magazine containing a poem or story she thought I would
like. Then Sarah Lochrigg sent me a Glasgow paper, with a sorrowful
notice of her death in it, declaring that "it could hardly be called
death. She just stepped from this life, into the next." Sarah, in a
later letter, added she had been busy in her house all morning and as
cheerful and interested about the coming spring cleaning as if she was
only twenty years old. About fifteen minutes before twelve she said,
"Now, I am tired. I will rest awhile," and she drew her father's large
chair before the open door. The sea and the boats were spread out
before her and the village lay at her feet. She could see the men
fishing and the women going about the streets.

"The tide is well in," she said to her maid, "it will be high tide at
three minutes before noon. Call me in about half an hour."

So she was left alone and I do not doubt it was then she heard that
unfathomable call, that voice from some distant world far off yet
near, and that her soul instantly answered it. She did not leave this
world worn out with pain and sickness. She went without hesitation,
without fear, without seeking any human help.

And I tell myself that she doubtless went out with the full tide and
that some convoy of the Sea Angels was with her, for His way is in the
sea, and His path in the great waters, and His footsteps are not
known. She died no death to mourn, for "Blessed are the dead that die
in the Lord!"

       *       *       *       *       *



Transcriber Notes

Hyphenation standardized.

Original spellings, including expectit and keepit, preserved as
printed.

Passages in italics indicated by _underscores_.





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