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´╗┐Title: A Knight of the Nets
Author: Barr, Amelia Edith Huddleston, 1831-1919
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Knight of the Nets" ***

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available by the Canadian Institute for Historical
Microreproductions.



A KNIGHT OF THE NETS

BY

AMELIA E. BARR


1896



CONTENTS.

CHAPTER


I    THE WORLD SHE LIVED IN.

II   CHRISTINA AND ANDREW.

III  THE AILING HEART.

IV   THE LASH OF THE WHIP.

V    THE LOST BRIDE.

VI   WHERE IS MY MONEY?

VII  THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

VIII A GREAT DELIVERANCE.

IX   THE RIGHTING OF A WRONG.

X    TAKE ME IN TO DIE.

XI   DRIVEN TO HIS DUTY.

XII  AMONG HER OWN PEOPLE.

XIII THE "LITTLE SOPHY".



_Grey sky, brown waters: as a bird that flies
  My heart flits forth to these;
Back to the winter rose of Northern skies,
  Back to the Northern seas_.



CHAPTER I

THE WORLD SHE LIVED IN


It would be easy to walk many a time through "Fife and all the lands
about it" and never once find the little fishing village of
Pittendurie. Indeed, it would be a singular thing if it was found,
unless some special business or direction led to it. For clearly it was
never intended that human beings should build homes where these
cottages cling together, between sea and sky,--a few here, and a few
there, hidden away in every bend of the rocks where a little ground
could be levelled, so that the tides in stormy weather break with
threat and fury on the very doorstones of the lowest cottages.  Yet as
the lofty semicircle of hills bend inward, the sea follows; and there
is a fair harbour, where the fishing boats ride together while their
sails dry in the afternoon sun. Then the hamlet is very still; for the
men are sleeping off the weariness of their night work, while the
children play quietly among the tangle, and the women mend the nets or
bait the lines for the next fishing. A lonely little spot, shut in by
sea and land, and yet life is there in all its passionate variety--love
and hate, jealousy and avarice, youth, with its ideal sorrows and
infinite expectations, age, with its memories and regrets, and "sure
and certain hope."

The cottages also have their individualities. Although they are much of
the same size and pattern, an observing eye would have picked out the
Binnie cottage as distinctive and prepossessing. Its outside walls were
as white as lime could make them; its small windows brightened with
geraniums and a white muslin curtain; and the litter of ropes and nets
and drying fish which encumbered the majority of thatches, was
pleasantly absent. Standing on a little level, thirty feet above the
shingle, it faced the open sea, and was constantly filled with the
confused tones of its sighing surges, and penetrated by its pulsating,
tremendous vitality.

It had been the home of many generations of Binnies, and the very old,
and the very young, had usually shared its comforts together; but at
the time of my story, there remained of the family only the widow of
the last proprietor, her son Andrew, and her daughter Christina.
Christina was twenty years old, and still unmarried,--a strange thing
in Pittendurie, where early marriages are the rule. Some said she was
vain of her beauty and could find no lad whom she thought good enough;
others thought she was a selfish, cold-hearted girl, feared for the
cares and the labours of a fisherman's wife.

On this July afternoon, the girl had been some hours mending the pile
of nets at her feet; but at length they were in perfect order, and she
threw her arms upward and outward to relieve their weariness, and then
went to the open door. The tide was coming in, but the children were
still paddling in the salt pools and on the cold bladder rack, and she
stepped forward to the edge of the cliff, and threw them some wild
geranium and ragwort. Then she stood motionless in the bright sunlight,
looking down the shingle towards the pier and the little tavern, from
which came, in drowsy tones, the rough monotonous songs which seamen
delight to sing--songs, full of the complaining of the sea, interpreted
by the hoarse, melancholy voices of sea faring men.

Standing thus in the clear light, her great beauty was not to be
denied. She was tall and not too slender; and at this moment, the set
of her head was like that of a thoroughbred horse, when it pricks its
ears to listen. She had soft brown eyes, with long lashes and heavy
eyebrows--eyes, reflecting the lances of light that darted in and out
of the shifting clouds--an open air complexion, dazzling, even teeth,
an abundance of dark, rippling hair, and a flush of ardent life opening
her wide nostrils, and stirring gently the exquisite mould of her
throat and bust. The moral impression she gave was that of a pure,
strong, compassionate woman; cool-headed, but not cold; capable of
vigorous joys and griefs.

After a few minutes' investigation, she went back to the cottage, and
stood in the open doorway, with her head leaning against the lintel.
Her mother had begun to prepare the evening meal; fresh fish were
frying on the fire, and the oat cakes toasting before it. Yet, as she
moved rapidly about, she was watching her daughter and very soon she
gave words to the thoughts troubling and perplexing her motherly
speculations.

"Christina," she said, "you'll not require to be looking for Andrew.
The lad is ben the house; he has been asleep ever since he eat his
dinner."

"I know that, Mother."

"Well then, if it is Jamie Logan, let me tell you it is a poor
business. I have a fear and an inward down-sinking anent that young
man."

"Perfect nonsense, Mother! There is nothing to fear you about Jamie."

"What good ever came through folk saved from the sea? Tell me that,
Christina! They bring sorrow back with them. That is a fact none will
deny."

"What could Andrew do but save the lad?"

"Why was the lad running before such a sea? He should have got into
harbour; there was time enough. And if it was Andrew's duty to save
him, it is not your duty to be loving him. You may take that much sense
from me, anyway."

"_Whist, Mother_! He has not said a word of love to me."

"He perfectly changes colours every time he sees you, and why so, if it
be not for love of you? I am not liking the look of the thing,
Christina, and your brother is not liking it; and if you don't take
care of yourself, you'll be in a burning fever of first love, and
beyond all reasoning. Even now, you are making yourself a speculation
to the whole village."

"Jamie is a straight-forward lad. I'm thinking he would lay his life
down for me."

"I thought he had not said a word of love to you."

"A girl knows some things that are not told her."

"Very fine; but it will not be the fashion now to lie down and die for
Annie Laurie, or any other lass. A young man who wants a wife must
bustle around and get siller to keep her with. Getting married, these
days is not a thing to make a song about. You are but a young thing
yet, Christina, and you have much to learn."

"Would you not like to be young again, Mother?"

"No, I would not! I would not risk it. Besides, it would be going back;
and I want to go forward and upward. But you need not try to turn the
talk from Jamie Logan that way. I'll say again what I said before, you
will be in a fever of first love, and not to be reasoned with, if you
don't take care of yourself."

The girl flushed hotly, came into the house, and began to re-arrange
the teacups with a nervous haste; for she heard Jamie's steps on the
rocky road, and his voice, clear as a blackbird's, whistling gayly "In
the Bay of Biscay O!"

"The teacups are all right, Christina. I am talking anent Jamie Logan.
The lad is just a temptation to you; and you will require to ask for
strength to be kept out of temptation; for the Lord knows, the best of
us don't expect strength to resist it."

Christina turned her face to her mother, and then left her answer to
Jamie Logan. For he came in at the moment with a little tartan shawl in
his hand, which he gallantly threw across the shoulders of Mistress
Binnie.

"I have just bought it from a peddler loon," he said. "It is bonnie and
soft, and it sets you well, and I hope you will pleasure me by wearing
it."

His face was so bright, his manner so charming, that it was impossible
for Janet Binnie to resist him. "You are a fleeching, flattering
laddie," she answered; but she stroked and fingered the gay kerchief,
while Christina made her observe how bright were the colours of it, and
how neatly the soft folds fell around her. Then the door of the inner
room opened, and Andrew came sleepily out.

"The fish is burning," he said, "and the oat cakes too; for I am
smelling them ben the house;" and Janet ran to her fireside, and
hastily turned her herring and cakes.

"I'm feared you won't think much of your meat to-night," she said
regretfully; "the tea is fairly ruined."

"Never mind the meat, Mother," said Andrew. "We don't live to eat."

"Never mind the meat, indeed! What perfect nonsense! There is something
wrong with folk that don't mind their meat."

"Well then, you shouldn't be so vain of yourself, Mother. You were
preening like a young girl when I first got sight of you--and the meat
taking care of itself."

"Me, vain! No! No! Nobody that knows Janet Binnie can ever say she is
vain. I wot well that I am a frail, miserable creature, with little
need of being vain, either for myself or my children. You are a great
hand at arguing, Andrew, but you are always in the wrong. But draw to
the table and eat. I'll warrant the fish will prove better than it is
bonnie."

They sat down with a pleasant content that soon broadened into mirth
and laughter, as Jamie Logan began to tell and to show how the peddler
lad had fleeched and flethered the fisher wives out of their bawbees;
adding at the last "that he could not come within sight of their fine
words, they were that civil to him."

"Senselessly civil, no doubt of it," answered Janet. "A peddler aye
gives the whole village a fit of the liberalities. The like of Jean
Robertson spending a crown on him! Foolish woman, the words are not to
seek that she'll get from me in the morning."

Then Jamie took a letter from his pocket, and showed it to Andrew
Binnie. "Robert Toddy brought it this morning," he said, "and, as you
may see, it is from the firm of Henderson Brothers, Glasgow; and they
say there will be a berth for me very soon now in one of their ships.
And their boats are good, and their captains good, and there is chances
for a fine sailor on that line. I may be a captain myself one of these
days!" and he laughed so gayly, and looked so bravely into the face of
such a bold idea, that he persuaded every one else to expect it for
him. Janet pulled her new shawl a little closer and smiled, and her
thought was: "After all, Christina may wait longer, and fare worse; for
she is turned twenty." Yet she showed a little reserve as she asked:--

"Are you then Glasgow-born, Jamie?"

"Me! Glasgow-born! What are you thinking of? I am from the auld East
Neuk; and I am glad and proud of being a Fifer. All my common sense
comes from Fife. There is none loves the 'Kingdom' more than I, Jamie
Logan. We are all Fife together. I thought you knew it."

At these words there was a momentary shadow across the door, and a
little lassie slipped in; and when she did so, all put down their cups
to welcome her. Andrew reddened to the roots of his hair, his eyes
filled with light, a tender smile softened his firm mouth, and he put
out his hand and drew the girl to the chair which Christina had pushed
close to his own.

"You are welcome, and more than welcome, Sophy," said the Mistress; but
for all that, she gave Sophy a glance in which there was much
speculation not unmixed, with fear and disapproval. For it was easy to
see that Andrew Binnie loved her, and that she was not at all like him,
nor yet like any of the fisher-girls of Pittendurie. Sophy, however,
was not responsible for this difference; for early orphanage had placed
her in the care of an aunt who carried on a dress and bonnet making
business in Largo, and she had turned the little fisher-maid into a
girl after her own heart and wishes.

Sophy, indeed, came frequently to visit her people in Pittendurie; but
she had gradually grown less and less like them, and there was no
wonder Mistress Binnie asked herself fearfully, "what kind of a wife at
all Sophy would make for a Fife fisherman?" She was so small and genty,
she had such a lovely face, such fair rippling hair, and her gown was
of blue muslin made in the fashion of the day, and finished with a lace
collar round her throat, and a ribbon belt round her slender waist.

"A bonnie lass for a carriage and pair," thought Janet Binnie; "but
whatever will she do with the creel and the nets? not to speak of the
bairns and the housework?"

Andrew was too much in love to consider these questions. When he was
six years old, he had carried Sophy in his arms all day long; when he
was twelve, they had paddled on the sands, and fished, and played, and
learned their lessons together. She had promised then to be his wife as
soon as he had a house and a boat of his own; and never for one moment
since had Andrew doubted the validity and certainty of this promise. To
Andrew, and to Andrew's family, and to the whole village of
Pittendurie, the marriage of Andrew Binnie and Sophy Traill was a fact
beyond disputing. Some said "it was the right thing," and more said "it
was the foolish thing," and among the latter was Andrew's mother;
though as yet she had said it very cautiously to Andrew, whom she
regarded as "clean daft and senselessly touchy about the girl."

But she sent the young people out of the house while she redd up the
disorder made by the evening meal; though, as she wiped her teacups,
she went frequently to the little window, and looked at the four
sitting together on the bit of turf which carpeted the top of the cliff
before the cottage. Andrew, as a privileged lover, held Sophy's hand;
Christina sat next her brother, and facing Jamie Logan, so it was easy
to see how her face kindled, and her manner softened to the charm of
his merry conversation, his snatches of breezy sea-song, and his clever
bits of mimicry. And as Janet walked to and fro, setting her cups and
plates in the rack, and putting in place the tables and chairs she did
what we might all do more frequently and be the wiser for it--she
talked to herself, to the real woman within her, and thus got to the
bottom of things.

In less than an hour there began to be a movement about the pier, and
then Andrew and Jamie went away to their night's work; and the girls
sat still and watched the men across the level sands, and the boats
hurrying out to the fishing grounds. Then they went back to the
cottage, and found that Mistress Binnie had taken her knitting and gone
to chat with a crony who lived higher up the cliff.

"We are alone, Sophy" said Christina; "but women folk are often that."
She spoke a little sadly, the sweet melancholy of conscious, but
unacknowledged love being heavy in her heart, and she would not have
been sorry, had she been quite alone with her vaguely happy dreams.
Neither of the girls was inclined to talk, but Christina wondered at
Sophy's silence, for she had been unusually merry while the young men
were present.

Now she sat quiet on the door step, clasping her left knee with little
white hands that had no sign of labour on them but the mark of the
needle on the left forefinger. At her side, Christina stood, her tall
straight figure fittingly clad in a striped blue and white linsey
petticoat, and a little josey of lilac print, cut low enough to show
the white, firm throat above it. Her fine face radiated thought and
feeling; she was on the verge of that experience which glorifies the
simplest life. The exquisite glooming, the tender sky, the full heaving
sea, were all in sweetest sympathy; they were sufficient; and Sophy's
thin, fretful voice broke the charm and almost offended her.

"It is a weary life, Christina. How do you thole it?"

"You are just talking, Sophy. You were happy enough half an hour
since."

"I wasn't happy at all."

"You let on like you were. I should think you would be as fear'd to act
a lie, as to tell one."

"I'll be going away from Pittendurie in the morning."

"What for?"

"I have my reasons."

"No doubt you have a 'because' of your own. But what will Andrew say?
He is not expecting you to leave to-morrow."

"I don't care what Andrew says."

"Sophy Traill!"

"I don't. Andrew Binnie is not the whole of life to me."

"Whatever is the matter with you?"

"Nothing."

Then there was a pause, and Christina's thoughts flew seaward. In a few
minutes, however, Sophy began talking again. "Do you go often into
Largo, Christina?" she asked.

"Whiles, I take myself that far. You may count me up for the last year;
for I sought you every time."

"Ay! Do you mind on the road a real grand house, fine and old, with a
beautiful garden and peacocks in it--trailing their long feathers over
the grass and gravel?"

"You will be meaning Braelands? Folks could not miss the place, even if
they tried to."

"Well then, did you ever notice a young man around? He is always
dressed for the saddle, or else he is in the saddle, and so most sure
to have a whip in his hand."

"What are you talking about? What is the young man to you?"

"He is brawly handsome. They call him Archie Braelands."

"I have heard tell of him. And by what is said, I should not think he
was an improving friend for any good girl to have."

"This, or that, he likes me. He likes me beyond everything."

"Do you know what you are saying, Sophy Traill?"

"I do, fine."

"Are you liking him?"

"It would not be hard to do."

"Has he ever spoke to you?"

"Well, he is not as shy as a fisher-lad. I find him in my way when I'm
not thinking. And see here, Christina; I got a letter from him this
afternoon. A real love letter! Such lovely words! They are like poetry;
they are as sweet as singing."

"Did you tell Andrew this?"

"Why would I do that?"

"You are a false little cutty, then. I would tell Andrew myself, but I
am loath to hurt his true heart. Now you are to let Archie Braelands
alone, or I will know the reason why."

"Preserve us all! What a blazing passion for nothing at all! Can't a
lassie chat with a lad for a half hour without calling a court of
sessions about it?" and she rose and shook out her dress, saying with
an air of offence:--

"You may tell Andrew, if you like to. It would be a very poor thing if
a girl is to be miscalled every time a man told her she was pretty."

"I'm not saying any woman can help men making fools of themselves; but
you should have told Braelands that you were all the same as married,
being promised so long to Andrew Binnie. And you ought to have told
Andrew about the letter."

"Everybody can't live in Pittendurie, Christina. And if you live with a
town full of folk, you cannot go up and down, saying to every man you
meet, 'please, sir, I have a lad of my own, and you are not to cast a
look at me, for Andrew Binnie would not like it."

"Hold your tongue, Sophy, or else know what you are yattering about. I
would think shame to talk so scornful of the man I was going to marry."

"You can let it go for a passing remark. And if I have said anything to
vex you, we are old friends, Christina, and it is not a lad that will
part us. Sophy requires a deal of forgiving."

"She does," said Christina with a smile; "so I just forgive her as I go
along, for she is still doing something out of the way. But you must
not treat Andrew ill. I could not love you, Sophy, if you did the like
of that. And you must always tell me everything about yourself, and
then nothing will go far wrong."

"Even that. I am not given to lying unless it is worth my while. I'll
tell you aught there is to tell. And there is a kiss for Andrew, and
you may say to him that I would have told him I was going back to Largo
in the morning, only that I cannot bear to see him unhappy. That a
message to set him on the mast-head of pride and pleasure."

"I will give Andrew the kiss and the message, Sophy. And you take my
advice, and keep yourself clear of that young Braelands. I am
particular about my own good name, and I mean to be particular about
yours."

"I have had your advice already, Christina."

"Well, this is a forgetful world, so I just mention the fact again."

"All the same, you might remember, Christina, that there was once a
woman who got rich by minding her own business;" and with a laugh, the
girl tied her bonnet under her chin, and went swiftly down the cliff
towards the village.



CHAPTER II

CHRISTINA AND ANDREW


This confidence greatly troubled Christina; and as Sophy crossed the
sands and vanished into the shadows beyond, a strange, sad presentiment
of calamity oppressed her heart. Being herself in the enthusiasm of a
first love, she could not conceive such treachery possible as Sophy's
word seemed to imply. The girl had always been petted, and yet
discontented with her situation; and had often made complaints which
had no real foundation, and which in brighter moods she was likely to
repudiate. And this night Andrew, instead of her Aunt Kilgour, was the
object of her dissatisfaction--that would be all. To-morrow she would
be complaining to Andrew of her aunt's hard treatment of her, and
Andrew would be whispering of future happiness in her ears.

Upon the whole, therefore, Christina thought it would be cruel and
foolish to tell her brother a word of what Sophy had said. Why should
she disturb his serene faith in the girl so dear to him, until there
was some more evident reason to do so? He was, as his mother said,
"very touchy" about Sophy, being well aware that the village did not
approve of the changes in her dress, and of those little reluctances
and reserves in her behaviour, which had sprung up inevitably amid the
refinements and wider acquaintances of town life.

"And so many things happen as the clock goes round," she thought.
"Braelands may say or do something that will put him out of favour. Or
he may take himself off to a foreign country--he is gey fond of France
and Germany too--and Goodness knows he will never be missed in
Fifeshire. Or _them behind_ may sort what flesh and blood cannot
manage; so I will keep a close mouth anent the matter. One may think
what one dare not say; for words, once spoken, cannot be wiped out with
a sponge--and more's the pity!"

Christina had also reached a crisis in her own life,--a crisis so
important, that it quite excused the apparent readiness with which she
dismissed Sophy's strange confidence. For the feeling between Jamie
Logan and herself had grown to expression, and she was well aware that
what had hitherto been in a large measure secret and private to
themselves, had this night become evident to others. And she was not
sure how Jamie would be received. Andrew had saved his life in a sudden
storm, and brought him to the Binnie cottage until he should be able to
return to his own place. But instead of going away, he had hired his
time for the herring season to a Pittendurie fisherman; and every spare
hour had found him at the Binnie cottage, wooing the handsome
Christina.

The village was not unanimously in his favour. No one could say
anything against Jamie Logan; but he was a stranger, and that fact was
hard to get over. A man must serve a very strict and long probation to
be adopted into a Fife fishing community, and it was considered "very
upsetting" for an unkent man to be looking up to the like of Christina
Binnie,--a lass whose forbears had been in Pittendurie beyond the
memory or the tradition of its inhabitants.

Janet also was not quite satisfied; and Christina knew this. She
expected her daughter to marry a fisherman, but at least one who owned
his share in a good boat, and who had a house to take a wife to. This
strange lad was handsome and good-tempered; but, as she reflected, and
not unfrequently said, "good looks and a laugh and a song, are not
things to lippen to for housekeeping." So, on the whole, Christina had
just the same doubts and anxieties as might trouble a fine lady of
family and wealth, who had fallen in love with some handsome fellow
whom her relatives were uncertain about favouring.

A week after Sophy's visit, however, Jamie found the unconquerable hour
in which every true love comes to its blossoming. It was the Sabbath
night, and a great peace was over the village. The men sat at their
doors talking in monosyllables to their wives and mates; the children
were asleep; and the full ocean breaking and tinkling upon the shingly
coast. They had been at kirk together in the afternoon, and Jamie had
taken tea with the Binnies after the service. Then Andrew had gone to
see Sophy, and Janet to help a neighbour with a sick husband; so Jamie,
left with Christina, had seized gladly his opportunity to teach her the
secret of her own heart.

Sitting on the lonely rocks, with the moonlit sea at their feet, they
had confessed to each other how sweet it was to love. And the plans
growing out of this confession, though humble enough, were full of
strange hope and happy dreaming to Christina. For Jamie had begged her
to become his wife as soon as he got his promised berth on the great
Scotch line, and this event would compel her to leave Pittendurie and
make her home in Glasgow,--two facts, simply stupendous to the
fisher-girl, who had never been twenty miles from her home, and to whom
all life outside the elementary customs of Pittendurie was wonderful
and a little frightsome.

But she put her hand in Jamie's hand, and felt his love sufficient for
whatever love might bring or demand. Any spot on earth would be heaven
to her with him, and for him; and she told him so, and was answered as
women love to be answered, with a kiss that was the sweetness and
confidence of all vows and promises. Among these simple,
straight-forward people, there are no secrecies in love affairs; and
the first thing Jamie did was to return to the cottage with Christina
to make known the engagement they had entered into.

They met Andrew on the sands. He had been disappointed. Sophy had gone
out with a friend, and her aunt had seemed annoyed and had not asked
him to wait. He was counting up in his mind how often this thing had
happened lately, and was conscious of an unhappy sense of doubt and
unkindness which was entirely new to him. But when Christina stepped to
his side, and Jamie said frankly, "Andrew, your dear sweet sister loves
me, and has promised to be my wife, and I hope you will give us the
love and favour we are seeking," Andrew looked tenderly into his
sister's face, and their smiles met and seemed to kiss each other. And
he took her hand between his own hands, and then put it into Jamie's.

"You shall be a brother to me, Jamie," he said; "and we will stand
together always, for the sake of our bonnie Christina." And Jamie could
not speak for happiness; but the three went forward with shining eyes
and linked hands, and Andrew forgot his own fret and disappointment, in
the joy of his sister's betrothal.

Janet came home as they sat in the moonlight outside the cottage. "Come
into the house," she cried, with a pretense of anger. "It is high time
for folk who have honest work for the morn to be sleeping. What hour
will you get to the week's work, I wonder, Christina? If I leave the
fireside for a minute or two, everything stops but daffing till I get
back again. What for are you sitting so late?"

"There is a good reason, Mother!" said Andrew, as he rose and with
Jamie and Christina went into the cottage. "Here is our Christina been
trysting herself to Jamie, and I have been giving them some good
advice."

"Good advice!" laughed Janet. "Between you and Jamie Logan, it is the
blind leading the blind, and nothing better. One would think there was
no other duty in life than trysting and marrying. I have just heard
tell of Flora Thompson and George Buchan, and now it is Christina
Binnie and Jamie Logan. The world is given up, I think, to this weary
lad and lass business."

But Janet's words belied her voice and her benign face. She was really
one of those delightful women who are "easily persuaded," and who
readily accept whatever is, as right. For she had naturally one of the
healthiest of human souls; besides which, years had brought her that
tender sagacity and gentleness, which does not often come until the
head is gray and the brow furrowed. So, though her words were fretful,
they were negatived by her beaming smile, and by the motherly fashion
in which she drew Christina to her side and held out her hand to Jamie.

"You are a pair of foolish bairns," she said; "and you little know what
will betide you both."

"Nothing but love and happiness, Mother," answered Jamie.

"Well, well! look for good, and have good. I will not be one to ask
after evil for you. But mind one thing, Jamie, you are marrying a
woman, and not an angel. And, Christina, if you trust to any man, don't
expect over much of him; the very best of them will stumble once in a
while."

Then she drew forward the table, and put on the kettle and brewed some
toddy, and set it out with toasted cake and cheese, and so drank, with
cheerful moderation, to the health and happiness of the newly-promised
lovers. And afterwards "the books" were opened, and Andrew, who was the
priest of the family, asked the blessing of the Infinite One on all its
relationships. Then the happiness that had been full of smiles and
words became too deep for such expression, and they clasped hands and
kissed each other "good night" in a silence, that was too sweetly
solemn and full of feeling for the translation of mere language.

Before the morning light, Mistress Binnie had fully persuaded herself
that Christina was going to make an unusually prosperous marriage. All
her doubts had fled. Jamie had spoken out like a man, he had the best
of prospects, and the wedding was likely to be something beyond a
simple fisherman's bridal. She could hardly wait until the day's work
was over, and the evening far enough advanced for a gossiping call on
her crony, Marget Roy. Last night she had fancied Marget told her of
Flora Thompson's betrothal with an air of pity for Christina; there was
now a delightful retaliation in her power. But she put on an expression
of dignified resignation, rather than one of pleasure, when she made
known the fact of Christina's approaching marriage.

"I am glad to hear tell of it," said Marget frankly. "Christina will
make a good wife, and she will keep a tidy house, I'll warrant her."

"She will, Marget. And it is a very important thing; far more so than
folks sometimes think. You may put godliness into a woman after she is
a wife, but you can not put cleanliness; it will have to be born in
her."

"And so Jamie Logan is to have a berth from the Hendersons? That is far
beyond a place in Lowrie's herring boats."

"I'm thinking he just stopped with Lowrie for the sake of being near-by
to Christina. A lad like him need not have spent good time like that."

"Well, Janet, it is a good thing for your Christina, and I am glad of
it."

"It is;" answered Janet, with a sigh and a smile. "The lad is sure to
get on; and he's a respectable lad--a Fifer from Kirkcaldy--handsome
and well-spoken of; and I am thinking the _Line_ has a big bargain in
him, and is proud of it. Still, I'm feared for my lassie, in such an
awful, big, wicked-like town as Glasgow."

"She'll not require to take the whole town in. She will have her Bible,
and her kirk, and her own man. There is nothing to fear you. Christina
has her five senses."

"No doubt. And she is to have a floor of her own and all things
convenient; so there is comfort and safety in the like of that."

"What for are you worrying yourself then?"

"There's contingencies, Marget,--contingencies. And you know Christina
is my one lassie, and I am sore to lose her. But 'lack a day! we cannot
stop the clock. And marriage is like death--it is what we must all come
to."

"Well Janet, your Christina has been long spared from it. She'll be
past twenty, I'm thinking."

"Christina has had her offers, Marget. But what will you? We must all
wait for the right man, or go to the de'il with the wrong one."

Thus the conversation went on, until Janet had exhausted all the
advantages and possibilities that were incident to Christina's good
fortune. And perhaps it was out of a little feeling of weariness of the
theme, that Marget finally reminded her friend that she would be
"lonely enough wanting her daughter," adding, "I was hearing too, that
Andrew is not to be kept single much longer; and it will be what no one
expects if Sophy Traill ever fills Christina's shoes."

"Sophy is well enough," answered Janet with a touch of pride. "She
suits Andrew, and it is Andrew that has to live with her."

"And you too, Janet?"

"Not I! Andrew is to build his own bigging. I have the life rent of
mine. But I shall be a deal in Glasgow myself. Jamie has his heart
fairly set on that."

She made this statement with an air of prideful satisfaction that was
irritating to Mistress Roy; and she was not inclined to let Janet enter
anew into a description of all the fine sights she was to see, the
grand guns of preachers she was to hear, and the trips to Greenock and
Rothesay, which Jamie said "would just fall naturally in the way of
their ordinary life." So Marget showed such a hurry about her household
affairs as made Janet uncomfortable, and she rose with a little offence
and said abruptly:--

"I must be going. I have the kirkyard to pass; and between the day and
the dark it is but a mournful spot."

"It is that," answered Marget. "Folks should not be on the road when
the bodiless walk. They might be in their way, and so get ill to
themselves."

"Then good night, and good befall you;" but in spite of the
benediction, Janet felt nettled at her friend's sudden lack of
interest.

"It was a spat of envy no doubt," she thought; "but Lord's sake! envy
is the most insinuating vice of the lot of them. It cannot behave
itself for an hour at a time. But I'm not caring! it is better to be
envied than pitied."

These reflections kept away the thought and fear of the "bodiless," and
she passed the kirkyard without being mindful of their proximity; the
coming wedding, and the inevitable changes it would bring, filling her
heart with all kinds of maternal anxieties, which in solitude would not
be put aside for all the promised pride and _eclat_ of the event. As
she approached the cottage, she met Jamie and Christina coming down the
cliff-side together, and she cried, "Is that you, Jamie?"

"As far as I know, it's myself, Mother," answered Jamie.

"Then turn back, and I'll get you a mouthful of bread and cheese.
You'll be wanting it, no doubt; for love is but cold porridge to a man
that has to pull on the nets all night."

"You have spoken the day after the fair, Mother," answered Jamie.
"Christina has looked well to me, and I am bound for the boats."

"Well, well, your way be it."

Then Christina turned back with her mother, and they went silently back
to the cottage, their hearts being busy with the new hopes and
happiness that had come into their hitherto uneventful lives. But
reticence between this mother and daughter was not long possible; they
were too much one to have reserves; and neither being sleepy, they soon
began to talk over again what they had discussed a hundred times
before--the wedding dress, and the wedding feast, and the napery and
plenishing Christina was to have for her own home. They sat on the
hearth, before the bit of fire which was always necessary in that
exposed and windy situation; but the door stood open, and the moon
filled the little room with its placid and confidential light. So it is
no wonder, as they sat talking and vaguely wondering at Andrew's
absence, Christina should tell her mother what Sophy had said about
Archie Braelands.

Janet listened with a dour face. For a moment she was glad; then she
lifted the poker, and struck a block of coal into a score of pieces,
and with the blow scattered the unkind, selfish thoughts which had
sprung up in her heart.

"It is what I expected," she answered. "Just what I expected,
Christina. A lassie dressed up in muslin, and ribbons, and artificial
roses, isn't the kind of a wife a fisherman wants--and sooner or
later, like goes to like. I am not blaming Sophy. She has tried hard to
be faithful to Andrew, but what then? Nothing happens for nothing; and
it will be a good thing for Andrew if Sophy leaves him; a good thing
for Sophy too, I'm thinking; and better _is_ better, whatever comes or
goes."

"But Andrew will fret himself sorely."

"He will; no doubt of that. But Andrew has a good heart, and a good
heart breaks bad fortune. Say nothing at all to him. He is wise enough
to guide himself; though God knows! even the wisest of men will have a
fool in his sleeve sometimes."

"Would there be any good in a word of warning? Just to prepare him for
the sorrow that is on the road."

"There would be no sense in the like of it. If Andrew is to get the
fling and the buffet, he will take it better from Sophy than from any
other body. Let be, Christina. And maybe things will take a turn for
the dear lad yet. Hope for it anyhow. Hope is as cheap as despair."

"Folks will be talking anon."

"They are talking already. Do you think that I did not hear all this
clash and clavers before? Lucky Sims, and Marget Roy, and every
fish-wife in Pittendurie, know both the beginning and the end of it.
They have seen this, and they have heard that, and they think the very
worst that can be; you may be sure of that."

"I'm thinking no wrong of Sophy."

"Nor I. The first calamity is to be born a woman; it sets the door open
for every other sorrow--and the more so, if the poor lassie is bonnie
and alone in the world. Sophy is not to blame; it is Andrew that is in
the fault."

"How can you say such a thing as that, Mother?"

"I'll tell you how. Andrew has been that set on having a house for his
wife, that he has just lost the wife while he was saving the siller for
the house. I have told him, and better told him to bring Sophy here;
but nothing but having her all to himself will he hear tell of. It is
pure, wicked selfishness in the lad! He simply cannot thole her to give
look or word to any one but himself. Perfect scand'lous selfishness!
That is where all the trouble has come from."

"_Whist, Mother_! He is most at the doorstep. That is Andrew's foot, or
I am much mista'en."

"Then I'll away to Lizzie Robertson's for an hour. My heart is knocking
at my lips, and I'll be saying what I would give my last bawbee to
unsay. Keep a calm sough, Christina."

"You need not tell me that, Mother."

"Just let Andrew do the talking, and you'll be all right. It is easy to
put him out about Sophy, and then to come to words. Better keep peace
than make peace."

She lifted the stocking she was knitting, and passed out of one door as
Andrew came in at the other. He entered with that air of strength and
capability so dear to the women of a household. He had on his kirk
suit, and Christina thought, as he sat down by the open window, how
much handsomer he looked in his blue guernsey and fishing cap.

"You'll be needing a mouthful and a cup of tea, Andrew?" she asked.

Andrew shook his head and answered pleasantly, "Not I, Christina. I had
my tea with Sophy. Where is mother?"

"She is gone to Lizzie Robertson's for an hour. Her man is yet very
badly off. She said she would sit with him till the night turned.
Lizzie is most worn out, I'm sure, by this time."

"Where is Jamie?"

"He said he was going to the fishing. He will have caught his boat, or
he would have been back here again by this hour."

"Then we are alone? And like to be for an hour? eh, Christina?"

"There will be no one here till mother comes at the turn of the night.
What for are you asking the like of them questions, Andrew?"

"Because I have been seeking this hour. I have things to tell you,
Christina, that must never go beyond yourself; no, not even to mother,
unless the time comes for it. I am not going to ask you to give me your
word or promise. You are Christina Binnie, and that is enough."

"I should say so. The man or woman who promises with an oath is not to
be trusted. There is you and me, and God for our witness. What ever you
have to say, the hearer and the witness is sufficient."

"I know that. Christina, I have been this day to Edinburgh, and I have
brought home from the bank six hundred pounds."

"Six hundred pounds, Andrew! It is not believable."

"_Whist, woman!_ I have six hundred pounds in my breast pocket, and I
have siller in the house beside. I have sold my share in the
'_Sure-Giver_,' and I have been saving money ever since I put on my
first sea-boots."

"I have always thought that saving money was your great fault, Andrew."

"I know. I know it myself only too well. Many's the Sabbath day I have
been only a bawbee Christian, when I ought to have put a shilling in
the plate. But I just could not help it."

"Yes, you could."

"Tell me how, then."

"Just try and believe that you are putting your collection into the
hand of God Almighty, and not into a siller plate. Then you will put
the shilling down and not the bawbee."

"Perhaps. The thought is not a new one to me, and often I have forced
myself to give a white shilling instead of a penny-bit at the kirk
door, just to get the better of the de'il once in a while. But for all
that I know right well that saving siller is my besetting sin. However,
I have been saving for a purpose, and now I am most ready to take the
desire of my heart."

"It is a good desire; I am sure of that, Andrew."

"I think it is; a very good one. What do you say to this? I am going to
put all my siller in a carrying steamer--one of the Red-White fleet.
And more to it. I am to be skipper, and sail her from the North Sea to
London."

"Will she be a big boat, Andrew?"

"She will carry three thousand 'trunks' of fish in her ice chambers.
What do you think of that?"

"I am perfectly dazzled and dumbfoundered with the thought of it. You
will be a man of some weight in the world, when that comes to pass."

"I will be Captain Binnie, of the North Sea fleet, and Sophy will have
reason enough for her muslins, and ribbons, and trinkum-trankums--God
bless her!"

"You are a far forecasting man, Andrew."

"I have been able to clear my day and my way, by the help of
Providence, so far," said Andrew, with a pious reservation; "just as my
decent kirk-going father was before me. But that is neither here nor
there, and please God, this will be a monumental year in my life."

"It will that. To get the ship and the wife you want, within its twelve
bounds, is a blessing beyond ordinary. I am proud to hear tell of such
good fortune coming your way, Andrew."

"Ay; I knew you would. But I have the siller, and I have the skill, and
why shouldn't I lift myself a bit?"

"And Sophy with you? Sophy will be an ornament to any place you lift
her to. And you may come to own a fishing fleet yourself some day,
Andrew!"

"I am thinking of it," he answered, with the air of a man who feels
himself master of his destiny. "But come ben the house with me,
Christina. I have something to show you."

So they went together into an inner room, and Andrew moved aside a
heavy chest of drawers which stood against the wall. Then he lifted a
short plank beneath them, and putting his arm far under the flooring,
he pulled forth a tin box.

The key to it was in the leather purse in his breast pocket, and there
was a little tantalizing delay in its opening. But when the lid was
lifted, Christina saw a hoard of golden sovereigns, and a large roll of
Bank of England bills. Without a word Andrew added the money in his
pocket to this treasured store, and in an equal silence the flooring
and drawers were replaced, and then, without a word, the brother and
sister left the room together.

There was however a look of exultation on Christina's face, and when
Andrew said "You understand now, Christina?" she answered in a voice
full of tender pride.

"I have seen. And I am sure that Andrew Binnie is not the man to be
moving without knowing the way he is going to take."

"I am not moving at all, Christina, for three months or perhaps longer.
The ship I want is in dry dock until the winter, and it is all this
wealth of siller that I am anxious about. If I should go to the fishing
some night, and never come back, it would be the same as if it went to
the bottom of the sea with me, not a soul but myself knowing it was
there."

"But not now, Andrew. You be to tell me what I am to do if the like of
that should happen, and your wish will be as the law of God to me."

"I am sure of that, Christina. Take heed then. If I should go out some
night and the sea should get me, as it gets many better men, then you
will lift the flooring, and take the money out of hiding. And you will
give Sophy Traill one half of all there is. The other half is for
mother and yourself. And you will do no other way with a single bawbee,
or the Lord will set His face against it."

"I will do just what you tell me."

"I know it. To think different, would be just incredible nonsense. That
is for the possibilities, Christina. For the days that are coming and
going, I charge you, Christina Binnie, never to name to mortal creature
the whereabouts of the money I have shown you."

"Your words are in my heart, Andrew. They will never pass my lips."

"Then that is enough of the siller. I have had a happy day with Sophy,
and O the grace of the lassie! And the sweet innocence and lovesomeness
of her pretty ways! She is budding into a very rose of beauty! I bought
her a ring with a shining stone in it, and a gold brooch, and a bonnie
piece of white muslin with the lace for the trimming of it; and the joy
of the little beauty set me laughing with delight. I would not call the
Queen my cousin, this night."

"Sophy ought to love you with all her heart and soul, Andrew."

"She does. She has arled her heart and hand to me. I thank _The Best_
for this great mercy."

"And you can trust her without a doubt, dear lad?"

"I have as much faith in Sophy Traill, as I have in my Bible."

"That is the way to trust. It is the way I trust Jamie. But you'll mind
how ready bad hearts and ill tongues are to give you a sense of
suspicion. So you'll not heed a word of that kind, Andrew?"

"Not one. The like of such folk cannot give me a moment's
trouble--there was Kirsty Johnston--"

"You may put Kirsty Johnston, and all she says to the wall."

"I'm doing it; but she called after me this very evening, 'take care of
yourself, Andrew Binnie.' 'And what for, Mistress?' I asked. 'A beauty
is hard to catch and worse to keep,' she answered; and then the laugh
of her! But I didn't mind it, not I; and I didn't give her word or look
in reply; for well I know that women's tongues cannot be stopped, not
even by the Fourth Commandment."

Then Andrew sat down and was silent, for a happiness like his is felt,
and not expressed. And Christina moved softly about, preparing the
frugal supper, and thinking about her lover in the fishing boats,
until, the table being spread, Andrew drew his chair close to his
sister's chair, and spreading forth his hands ere he sat down, said
solemnly;--

_"This is the change of Thy Right Hand, O Thou Most High! Thou art
strong to strengthen; gracious to help; ready to better; mighty to
save, Amen!"_

It was the prayer of his fathers for centuries--the prayer they had
used in all times of their joy and sorrow; the prayer that had grown in
his own heart from his birth, and been recorded for ever in the sagas
of his mother's people.



CHAPTER III

THE AILING HEART


Not often in her life had Christina felt so happy as she did at this
fortunate hour. Two things especially made her heart sing for joy; one
was the fact that Jamie had never been so tender, so full of joyful
anticipation, so proud of his love and his future, as in their
interview of that evening. The very thought of his beauty and goodness
made her walk unconsciously to the door, and look over the sea towards
the fishing-grounds, where he was doubtless working at the nets, and
thinking of her. And next to this intensely personal cause of
happiness, was the fact that of all his mates, and even before his
mother or Sophy, Andrew had chosen _her_ for his confidant. She loved
her brother very much, and she respected him with an equal fervour. Few
men, in Christina's opinion, were able to stand in Andrew Binnie's
shoes, and she felt, as she glanced at his strong, thoughtful face,
that he was a brother to be very proud of.

He sat on the hearth with his arms crossed above his head, and a sweet,
grave smile irradiating his strong countenance, Christina knew that he
was thinking of Sophy, and as soon as she had spread the frugal meal,
and they had sat down to their cakes and cheese, Andrew began to talk
of her. He seemed to have dismissed absolutely the thought of the
hidden money, and to be wholly occupied with memories of his love. And
as he talked of her, his face grew vivid and tender, and he spoke like
a poet, though he knew it not.

"She is that sweet, Christina, it is like kissing roses to kiss her.
Her wee white hand on my red face is like a lily leaf. I saw it in the
looking-glass, as we sat at tea. And the ring, with the shining stone,
set it finely. I am the happiest man in the world, Christina!"

"I am glad with all my heart for you, Andrew, and for Sophy too. It is
a grand thing to be loved as you love her."

"She is the sweetness of all the years that are gone, and of all that
are to come."

"And Sophy loves you as you love her? I hope she does that, my dear
Andrew."

"She will do. She will do! no doubt of it, Christina! She is shy now,
and a bit frighted at the thought of marriage--she is such a gentle
little thing--but I will make her love me; yes I will! I will make her
love me as I love her. What for not?"

"To be sure. Love must give and take equal, to be satisfied. I know
that myself. I am loving Jamie just as he loves me."

"He is a brawly fine lad. Peddie was saying there wasn't a better
worker, nor a merrier one, in the whole fleet."

"A good heart is always a merry one, Andrew."

"I'm not doubting it."

Thus they talked with kind mutual sympathy and confidence; and a
certain sweet serenity and glad composure spread through the little
room, and the very atmosphere was full of the peace and hope of
innocent love. But some divine necessity of life ever joins joy and
sorrow together; and even as the brother and sister sat speaking of
their happiness, Christina heard a footstep that gave her heart a
shock. Andrew was talking of Sophy, and he was not conscious of Jamie's
approach until the lad entered the house. His face was flushed, and
there was an air of excitement about him which Andrew regarded with an
instant displeasure and suspicion. He did not answer Jamie's greeting,
but said dourly:--

"You promised to take my place in the boat to-night, Jamie Logan; then
what for are you here, at this hour? I see one thing, and that is, you
cannot be trusted to."

"I deserve a reproof, Andrew, for I have earned it," answered Jamie;
and there was an air of candid regret in his manner which struck
Christina, but which was not obvious to Andrew as he added, "I'll not
lie to you, anent the matter."

"You needn't. Nothing in life is worth a lie."

"That may be, or not be. But it was just this way. I met an old friend
as I was on my way to the boat, and he was poor, and hungry, and
thirsty, and I be to take him to the 'public,' and give him a bite and
a sup. Then the whiskey set us talking of old times and old
acquaintances, and I clean forgot the fishing; and the boats went away
without me. And that is all there is to it."

"Far too much! Far too much! A nice lad you will be to trust to in a
big ship full of men and women and children! A glass of whiskey, and a
crack in the public house, set before your promised word and your duty!
How will I trust Christina to you? When you make Andrew Binnie a
promise, he expects you to keep it. Don't forget that! It may be of
some consequence to you if you are wanting his sister for a wife."

With these words Andrew rose, went into his own room without a word of
good-night, and with considerable show of annoyance, closed and bolted
the door behind him. Jamie sat down by Christina, and waited for her to
speak.

But it was not easy for her to do so. Try as she would, she could not
show him the love she really felt. She was troubled at his neglect of
duty, and so sorry that he, of all others, should have been the one to
cast the first shadow across the bright future which she had been
anticipating before his ill-timed arrival. It was love out of time and
season, and lacked the savour and spontaneity which are the result of
proper conditions. Jamie felt the unhappy atmosphere, and was offended.

"I'm not wanted here, it seems," he said in a tone of injury.

"You are wanted in the boat, Jamie; that is where the fault lies. You
should have been there. There is no outgait from that fact."

"Well then, I have said I was sorry. Is not that enough?"

"For me, yes. But Andrew likes a man to be prompt and sure in business.
It is the only way to make money."

"Make money! I can make money among Andrew Binnie's feet, for all he
thinks so much of himself. A friend's claims are before money-making.
I'll stand to that, till all the seas go dry."

"Andrew has very strict ideas; you must have found that out, Jamie, and
you should not go against them."

"Andrew is headstrong as the north-wind. He goes clear o'er the bounds
both sides. Everything is the very worst, or the very best. I'm not
denying I was a bit wrong; but I consider I had a good excuse for it."

"Is there ever a good excuse for doing wrong, Jamie? But we will let
the affair drop out of mind and talk. There are pleasanter things to
speak of, I'm sure."

But the interview was a disappointment. Jamie went continually back to
Andrew's reproof, and Christina herself seemed to be under a spell. She
could not find the gentle words that would have soothed her lover, her
manner became chill and silent; and Jamie finally went away, much hurt
and offended. Yet she followed him to the door, and watched him kicking
the stones out of his path as he went rapidly down the cliff-side. And
if she had been near enough, she would have heard him muttering
angrily:--

"I'm not caring! I'm not caring! The moral pride of they Binnies is
ridic'lus! One would require to be a very saint to come within sight of
them."

Such a wretched ending to an evening that had begun with so much hope
and love! Christina stood sadly at the open door and watched her lover
across the lonely sands, and felt the natural disappointment of the
circumstances. Then the moon began to rise, and when she noticed this,
she remembered how late her mother was away from home, and a slight
uneasiness crept into her heart. She threw a plaid around her head, and
was going to the neighbour's where she expected to find her, when Janet
appeared.

She came up to the cliff slowly, and her face was far graver than
ordinary when she entered the cottage, and with a pious ejaculation
threw off her shawl.

"What kept you at all, Mother? I was just going to seek you."

"Watty Robertson has won away at last."

"When did he die?"

"He went away with the tide. He was called just at the turn. Ah,
Christina, it is loving and dying all the time! Life is love and death;
for what is our life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little
time, and then vanisheth away."

"But Watty was well ready for the change, Mother?"

"He went away with a smile. And I staid by poor Lizzie, for I have
drank of the same cup, and I know how bitter was the taste of it. Old
Elspeth McDonald stretched the corpse, and her and I had a change of
words; but Lizzie was with me."

"What for did you clash at such a like time?"

"She covered up his face, and I said: 'Stop your hand, Elspeth. Don't
you go to cover Watty's face now. He never did ill to any one while he
lived, and there's no need to hide his face when he is dead.' And we
had a bit stramash about it, for I can't abide to hide up the face that
is honest and well loved, and Lizzie said I was right, and so Elspeth
went off in a tiff."

"I think there must be 'tiffs' floating about in the air to-night.
Jamie and Andrew have had a falling out, and Jamie went away far less
than pleased with me."

"What's to do between them?"

"Jamie met with an old friend who was hungry and thirsty, and he went
with him to the 'public' instead of going to the boat for Andrew, as he
promised to do. You know how Andrew feels about a word broken."

"_Toots_! Andrew Binnie has a deal to learn yet. You should have told
him it was better to show mercy, than to stick at a mouthful of words.
Had you never a soft answer to throw at the two fractious fools?"

"How could I interfere?"

"Finely! If you don't know the right way to throw with a thrawn man,
like Andrew, and to come round a soft man, like Jamie, I'm sorry for
you! A woman with a thimble-full of woman-wit could ravel them both
up--ravel them up like a cut of worsteds."

"Well, the day is near over. The clock will chap twelve in ten minutes,
and I'm going to my bed. I'm feared you won't sleep much, Mother. You
look awake to your instep."

"Never mind. I have some good thoughts for the sleepless. Folks don't
sleep well after seeing a man with wife and bairns round him look death
and judgment in the face."

"But Watty looked at them smiling, you said?"

"He did. Watty's religion went to the bottom and extremity of things.
I'll be asking this night for grace to live with, and then I'll get
grace to die with when my hour comes. You needn't fash your heart about
me. Sleeping or waking, I am in His charge. Nor about Jamie; he'll be
all right the morn. Nor about Andrew, for I'll tell him not to make a
Pharisee of himself--he has his own failing, and it isn't far to seek."

And it is likely Janet had her intended talk with her son, for nothing
more was said to Jamie about his neglect of duty; and the little cloud
was but a passing one, and soon blew over. Circumstances favoured
oblivion. Christina's love encompassed both her brother and her lover,
and Janet's womanly tact turned every shadow into sunshine, and
disarmed all suspicious or doubtful words. Also, the fishing season was
an unusually good one; every man was of price, and few men were better
worth their price than Jamie Logan. So an air of prosperity and
happiness filled each little cottage, and Andrew Binnie was certainly
saving money--a condition of affairs that always made him easy to live
with.

As for the women of the village, they were in the early day up to their
shoulders in work, and in the more leisurely evenings, they had
Christina's marriage and marriage presents to talk about. The girl had
many friends and relatives far and near, and every one remembered her.
It was a set of china from an aunt in Crail, or napery from some
cousins in Kirkcaldy, or quilts from her father's folk in Largo, and so
on, in a very charming monotony. Now and then a bit of silver came, and
once a very pretty American clock. And there was not a quilt or a
tablecloth, a bit of china or silver, a petticoat or a ribbon, that the
whole village did not examine, and discuss, and offer their
congratulations over.

Christina and her mother quite enjoyed this popular manifestation of
interest, and Jamie was not at all averse to the good-natured
familiarity. And though Andrew withdrew from such occasions, and
appeared to be rather annoyed than pleased by the frequent intrusion of
strange women, neither Janet nor Christina heeded his attitude very
much.

"What for would we be caring?" queried the mother. "There is just one
woman in the world to Andrew. If it was Sophy's wedding-presents now,
he would be in a wonder over them! But he is not wanting you to marry
at all, Christina. Men are a selfish lot. Somehow, I think he has taken
a doubt or a dislike to Jamie. He thinks he isn't good enough for you."

"He is as good as I want him. I'm feared for men as particular as
Andrew. They are whiles gey ill to live with. Andrew has not had a
smile for a body for a long time, and he has been making money. I
wonder if there is aught wrong between Sophy and himself."

"You might away to Largo and ask after the girl. She hasn't been here
in a good while. And I'm thinking yonder talk she had with you anent
Archie Braelands wasn't all out of her own head."

So that afternoon Christina put on her kirk dress, and went to Largo to
see Sophy. Her walk took her over a lonely stretch of country, though,
as she left the coast, she came to a lovely land of meadows, with here
and there waving plantations of young spruce or fir trees. Passing the
entrance to one of these sheltered spots, she saw a servant driving
leisurely back and forward a stylish dog-cart; and she had a sudden
intuition that it belonged to Braelands. She looked keenly into the
green shadows, but saw no trace of any human being; yet she had not
gone far, ere she was aware of light footsteps hurrying behind her, and
before she could realise the fact, Sophy called her in a breathless,
fretful way "to wait a minute for her." The girl came up flushed and
angry-looking, and asked Christina, "whatever brought her that far?"

"I was going to Largo to see you. Mother was getting worried about you.
It's long since you were near us."  "I am glad I met you. For I was
wearied with the sewing to-day, and I asked Aunt to let me have a
holiday to go and see you; and now we can go home together, and she
will never know the differ. You must not tell her but what I have been
to Pittendurie. My goodness! It is lucky I met you."

"But where have you been, Sophy?"

"I have been with a friend, who gave me a long drive."

"Who would that be?"

"Never you mind. There is nothing wrong to it. You may trust me for
that, Christina. I was fairly worn out, and Aunt hasn't a morsel of
pity. She thinks I ought to be glad to sew from Monday morning to
Saturday night, and I tell you it hurts me, and gives me a cough, and I
had to get a breath of sea-air or die for it. So a friend gave me what
I wanted."

"But if you had come to our house, you could have got the sea-air
finely. Sophy! Sophy! I am misdoubting what you tell me. How came you
in the wood?"

"We were taking a bit walk by ourselves there. I love the smell of the
pines, and the peace, and the silence. It rests me; and I didn't want
folks spying, and talking, and going with tales to Aunt. She ties me up
shorter than needs be now."

"He was a mean fellow to leave you here all by yourself."

"I made him do it. Goodness knows, he is fain enough to be seen by high
and low with me. But Andrew would not like it; he is that
jealous-natured--and I just _be_ to have some rest and fresh air."

"Andrew would gladly give you both."

"Not he! He is away to the fishing, or about his business, one way or
another, all the time. And I am that weary of stitch, stitch,
stitching, I could cry at the thought of it."

"Was it Archie Braelands that gave you the drive?"

"Ay, it was. Archie is just my friend, nothing more. I have told him,
and better told him, that I am to marry Andrew."

"He is a scoundrel then to take you out."

"He is nothing of the kind. He is just a friend. I am doing Andrew no
wrong, and myself a deal of good."

"Then why are you feared for people seeing you?"

"I am not feared. But I don't want to be the wonder and the talk of
every idle body. And I am not able to bear my aunt's nag, nag, nag at
me. I wish I was married. It isn't right of Andrew to leave me so much
to myself. It will be his own fault if he loses me altogether. I am
worn out with Aunt Kilgour, and my life is a fair weariness to me."

"Andrew is getting everything brawly ready for you. I wish I could tell
you what grand plans he has for your happiness. Be true to Andrew,
Sophy, and you will be the happiest bride, and the best loved wife in
all Scotland."

"Plans! What plans? What has he told you?"

"I am not free to speak, Sophy. I should not have said a word at all. I
hope you will just forget I have."

"Indeed I will not! I will make Andrew tell me his plans. Why should he
tell you, and not me? It is a shame to treat me that way, and he shall
hear tell of it."

"Sophy! Sophy! I would as lief you killed me as told Andrew I had given
you a hint of his doings. He would never forgive me. I can no forgive
myself. Oh what a foolish, wicked woman I have been to say a word to
you!" and Christina burst into passionate weeping.

"_Whist_! Christina; I'll never tell him, not I! I know well you
slipped the words to pleasure me. But giff-gaff makes us good friends,
and so you must just walk to the door with me and pass a word with my
aunt, and say neither this nor that about me, and I will forget you
ever said Andrew had such a thing as a 'plan' about me."

The proposal was not to Christina's mind, but she was ready to face any
contingency rather than let Andrew know she had given the slightest
hint of his intentions. She understood what joy he had in the thought
of telling his great news to Sophy at its full time, and how angry he
would naturally feel at any one who interfered with his designs. In a
moment, without intention, with the very kindest of motives, she had
broken her word to her brother, and she was as miserable as a woman
could be over the unhappy slip. And Sophy's proposal added to her
remorse. It made her virtually connive at Sophy's intercourse with
Archie Braelands, and she felt herself to be in a great strait. In
order to favour her brother she had spoken hastily, and the swift
punishment of her folly was that she must now either confess her fault
or tacitly sanction a wrong against him.

For the present, she could see no way out of the difficulty. To tell
Andrew would be to make him suspicious on every point. He would then
doubtless find some other hiding place for his money, and if any
accident did happen, her mother, and Sophy, and all Andrew loved, would
suffer for her indiscretion. She took Sophy's reiterated promise, and
then walked with the girl to her aunt's house. It was a neat stone
dwelling, with some bonnets and caps in the front window, and when the
door was opened, a bell rang, and Mistress Kilgour came hastily from an
inner room. She looked pleased when she saw Sophy and Christina, and
said:--

"Come in, Christina. I am glad you brought Sophy home in such good
time. For I'm in a state of perfect frustration this afternoon. Here's
a bride gown and bonnet to make, and a sound of more work coming."

"Who is to be married, Miss Kilgour?"

"Madame Kilrin of Silverhawes--a second affair, Christina, and she more
than middle-aged."

"She is rich, though?"

"That's it! rich, but made up of odds and ends, and but one eye to see
with: a prelatic woman, too, seeking all things her own way."

"And the man? Who is he?"

"He is a lawyer. Them gentry have their fingers in every pie, hot or
cold. However, I'm wishing them nothing but good. Madame is a constant
customer. Come, come, Christina, you are not going already?"

"I am hurried to-night. Mistress Kilgour. Mother is alone. Andrew is
away to Greenock on business."

"So you came back with Sophy. I am glad you did. There are some folks
that are o'er ready to take charge of the girl, and some that seem to
think she can take charge of herself. Oh, she knows fine what I mean!"
And Miss Kilgour pointed her fore-finger at Sophy and shook her head
until all the flowers in her cap and all the ringlets on her front hair
dangled in unison.

Sophy had turned suddenly sulky and made no reply, and Miss Kilgour
continued: "It is her way always, when she has been to your house,
Christina. Whatever do you say to her? Is there anything agec between
Andrew and herself? Last week and the week before, she came back from
Pittendurie in a temper no saint could live with."

"I'm so miserable. Aunt. I am miserable every hour of my life."

"And you wouldn't be happy unless you were miserable, Sophy. Don't mind
her talk, Christina. Young things in love don't know what they want."

"I am sick, Aunt."

"You are in love, Sophy, and that is all there is to it. Don't go,
Christina. Have a cup of tea first?"

"I cannot stop any longer. Good-bye, Sophy. I'll tell Andrew to come
and give you a walk to-morrow. Shall I?"

"If you like to. He will not come until Sunday, though; and then he
will be troubled about walking on the Sabbath day. I'm not caring to go
out."

"That is a lie, Sophy Traill!" cried her aunt. "It is the only thing
you do care about."

"You had better go home, Christina," said Sophy, with a sarcastic
smile, "or you will be getting a share of temper that does not belong
to you. I am well used to it."

Christina made an effort to consider this remark as a joke, and under
this cover took her leave. She was thankful to be alone with herself.
Her thoughts and feelings were in a tumult; she could not bring any
kind of reason out of their chaos. Her chagrin at her own folly was
sharp and bitter. It made her cry out against herself as she trod
rapidly her homeward road. Almost inadvertently, because it was the
shortest and most usual way, she took the route that led her past
Braelands. The great house was thrown open, and on the lawns was a
crowd of handsomely dressed men and women, drinking tea at little
tables set under the trees and among the shrubbery. Christina merely
glanced at the brave show of shifting colour, and passed more quickly
onward, the murmur of conversation and the ripple of laughter pursuing
her a little way, for the evening was warm and quiet.

She thought of Sophy among this gay crowd, and felt the incongruity of
the situation, and a sense of anger sprung up in her breast at the
girl's wicked impatience and unfaithfulness. It had caused her also to
err, for she had been tempted by it to speak words which had been a
violation of her own promise, and yet which had really done no good.

"She was always one of those girls that led others into trouble," she
reflected. "Many a scolding she has got me when I was a wee thing, and
to think that now! with the promise to Andrew warm on my lips, I have
put myself in her power! It is too bad! It is not believable!"

She was glad when she came within sight of the sea; it was like a
glimpse of home. The damp, fresh wind with its strong flavour of brine
put heart into her, and the few sailors and fishers she met, with their
sweethearts on their arms and their blue shirts open at their throats,
had all a merry word or two to say to her. When she reached her home,
she found Andrew sitting at a little table looking over some papers
full of strange marks and columns of figures. His quick glance, and the
quiet assurance of his love contained in it, went sorely to her heart.
She would have fallen at his feet and confessed her unadvised admission
to Sophy gladly, but she doubted, whether it would be the kindest and
wisest thing to do.

And then Janet joined them, and she had any number of questions to ask
about Sophy, and Christina, to escape being pressed on this subject,
began to talk with forced interest of Madame Kilrin's marriage. So,
between this and that, the evening got over without suspicion, and
Christina carried her miserable sense of disloyalty to bed and to sleep
with her--literally to sleep, for she dreamed all night of the
circumstance, and awakened in the morning with a heart as heavy as
lead.

"But it is just what I deserve!" she said crossly to herself, as she
laced her shoes, "what need had I to be caring about Sophy Traill and
her whims? She is a dissatisfied lass at the best, and her love affairs
are beyond my sorting. Serves you right, Christina Binnie! You might
know, if anybody might, that they who put their oar into another's boat
are sure to get their fingers rapped. They deserve it too."

However, Christina could not willingly dwell long on sorrowful
subjects. She was always inclined to subdue trouble swiftly, or else to
shake it away from her. For she lived by intuition, rather than by
reason; and intuition is born of, and fed by, home affection and devout
religion. Something too of that insight which changes faith into
knowledge, and which is the birthright of primitive natures, was hers,
and she divined, she knew not how, that Sophy would be true to her
promise, and not say a word which would lead Andrew to doubt her. And
so far she was right. Sophy had many faults, but the idea of breaking
her contract with Christina did not even occur to her.

She wondered what plans Andrew had, and what good surprise he was
preparing for her, but she was in no special hurry to find it out. The
knowledge might bring affairs to a permanent crisis between her and
Andrew,--might mean marriage--and Sophy dreaded to face this question,
with all its isolating demands. Her "friendship" with Archie Braelands
was very sweet to her; she could not endure to think of any event which
must put a stop to it. She enjoyed Archie's regrets and pleadings. She
liked to sigh a little and cry a little over her hard fate; to be
sympathised with for it; to treat it as if she could not escape from
it; and yet to be nursing in her heart a passionate hope to do so.

And after all, the process of reflection is unnatural and uncommon to
nine tenths of humanity; and so Christina lifted her daily work and
interests, and tried to forget her fault. And indeed, as the weeks went
on, she tried to believe it had been no fault, for Sophy was much
kinder to Andrew for some time; this fact being readily discernible in
Andrew's cheerful moods, and in the more kindly interest which he then
took in his home matters.

"For it is well with us, when it is well with Sophy Traill, and we have
the home weather she lets us have," Janet often remarked. The assertion
had a great deal of truth in it. Sophy, from her chair in Mistress
Kilgour's workroom, greatly influenced the domestic happiness of the
Binnie cottage, even though they neither saw her, nor spoke her name.
But her moods made Andrew happy or miserable, and Andrew's moods made
Janet and Christina happy or miserable; so sure and so wonderful a
thing is human solidarity. Yes indeed! For what one of us has not known
some man or woman, never seen, who holds the thread of a destiny and
yet has no knowledge concerning it. This thought would make life a
desperate tangle if we did not also know that One, infinite in power
and mercy, guides every event to its predestined and its wisest end.

For a little while after Christina's visit, Sophy was particularly kind
to Andrew; then there came a sudden change, and Christina noticed that
her brother returned from Largo constantly with a heavy step and a
gloomy face. Occasionally he admitted to her that he had been "sorely
disappointed," but as a general thing he shut himself in his room and
sulked as only men know how to sulk, till the atmosphere of the house
was tingling with suppressed temper, and every one was on the edge of
words that the tongue meant to be sharp as a sword.

One morning in October, Christina met her brother on the sands, and he
said, "I will take the boat and give you a sail, if you like,
Christina. There is only a pleasant breeze."

"I wish you would, Andrew," she answered. "This little northwester will
blow every weariful thought away."

"I'm feared I have been somewhat cross and ill to do for, lately.
Mother says so."

"Mother does not say far wrong. You have lost your temper often,
Andrew, and consequent your common sense. And it is not like you to be
unfair, not to say unkind; you have been that more than once, and to
two who love you dearly."

Andrew said no more until they were on the bay, then he let the oars
drift, and asked:--

"What did you think of Sophy the last time you saw her? Tell me truly,
Christina."

"Who knows aught about Sophy? She hardly knows her own mind. You cannot
tell what she is thinking about by her face, any more than you can tell
what she is going to do by her words. She is as uncertain as the wind,
and it has changed since you lifted the oars. Is there anything new to
fret yourself over?"

"Ay, there is. I cannot get sight of her."

"Are you twenty-seven years old, and of such a beggary of capacity as
not to be able to concert time and place to see her?"

"But if she herself is against seeing me, then how am I going to
manage?"

"What way did you find out that she was against seeing you?"

"Whatever else could I think, when I get no other thing but excuses?
First, she was gone away for a week's rest, and Mistress Kilgour said I
had better not trouble her--she was that nervous."

"Where did she go to?"

"I don't believe she was out of her aunt's house. I am sure the postman
was astonished when I told him she was away, and her aunt's face was
very confused-like. Then when I went again she had a headache, and
could hardly speak a word to me; and she never named about the week's
holiday. And the next time there was a ball dress making; and the next
she had gone to the minister's for her 'token,' and when I said I would
go there and meet her, I was told not to think of such a thing; and so
on, and so on, Christina. There is nothing but put-offs and put-bys,
and my heart is full of sadness and fearful wonder."

"And if you do see her, what then, Andrew?"

"She is that low-spirited I do not know how to talk to her. She has
little to say, and sits with her seam, and her eyes cast down, and all
her pretty, merry ways are gone far away. I wonder where! Do you think
she is ill, Christina?" he asked drearily.

"No, I do not, Andrew."

"Her mother died of a consumption, when she was only a young thing, you
know."

"That is no reason why Sophy should die of a consumption. Andrew, have
you ever told her what your plans are? Have you told her she may be a
lady and live in London if it pleases her? Have you told her that you
will soon be _Captain Binnie_ of the North Sea fleet?"

"No, no! What for would I bribe the girl? I want her free given love. I
want her to marry plain Andrew Binnie. I will tell her everything the
very hour she is my wife. That is the joy I look forward to. And it is
right, is it not?"

"No. It is all wrong. It is all wrong. Girls like men that have the
spirit to win siller and push their way in the world."

"I cannot thole the thought of Sophy marrying me for my money."

"You think o'er much of your money. Ask yourself whether in getting
money you have got good, or only gold. And about marrying Sophy, it is
not in your hand. Marriages are made in heaven, and unless there has
been a booking of your two names above, I am feared all your courting
below will come to little. Yet it is your duty to do all you can to win
the girl you want; and I can tell you what will win Sophy Traill, if
anything on earth will win her."  Then she pointed out to him how fond
Sophy was of fine dress and delicate living; how she loved roses, and
violets, and the flowers of the garden, so much better than the pale,
salt blossoms of the sea rack, however brilliant their colours; how she
admired such a house as Braelands, and praised the glory of the
peacock's trailing feathers. "The girl is not born for a poor man's
wife," she continued, "her heart cries out for gold, and all that gold
can buy; and if you are set on Sophy, and none but Sophy, you will have
to win her with what she likes best, or else see some other man do so."

"Then I will be buying her, and not winning her."

"Oh you unspeakable man! Your conceit is just extraordinary! If you
wanted any other good thing in life, from a big ship to a gold ring,
would you not expect to buy it? Would your loving it, and wanting it,
be sufficient? Jamie Logan knew well what he was about, when he brought
us the letter from the Hendersons' firm. I love Jamie very dearly; but
I'm free to confess the letter came into my consideration."

Talking thus, with the good wind blowing the words into his heart,
Christina soon inspired Andrew with her own ideas and confidence His
face cleared; he began to row with his natural energy; and as they
stepped on the wet sands together, he said almost joyfully:--

"I will take your advice, Christina. I will go and tell Sophy
everything."

"Then she will smile in your face, she will put her hand in your hand;
maybe, she will give you a kiss, for she will be thinking in her heart,
'how brave and how clever my Andrew is.' And he will be taking me to
London and making me a lady!' and such thoughts breed love, Andrew. You
are well enough, and few men handsomer or better--unless it be Jamie
Logan--but it isn't altogether the man; it is what the man _can do_."

"I'll go and see Sophy to-morrow."

"Why not to-day?"

"She is going to Mariton House to fit a dress and do some sewing. Her
aunt told me so."

"If I was you, I would not let her sew for strangers any longer. Go and
ask her to marry you at once, and do not take 'no' from her."

"Your words stir my heart to the bottom of it, and I will do as you
say, Christina; for Sophy has grown into my life, like my own folk, and
the sea, and the stars, and my boat, and my home. And if she will love
me the better for the news I have to tell her, I am that far gone in
love with her I must even put wedding on that ground. Win her I must;
or else die for her."

"Win her, surely; die for her, nonsense! No man worth the name of man
would die because a woman wouldn't marry him. God has made more than
one good woman, more than one fair woman."

"Only one woman for Andrew Binnie."

"To be sure, if you choose to limit yourself in that way. I think
better of you. And as for dying for a woman, I don't believe in it."

"Poor Matt Ballantyne broke his heart about Jessie Graham."

"It was a very poor heart then. Nothing mends so soon as a good heart.
It trusts in the Omnipotent, and gets strength for its need, and then
begins to look around for good it can do, or make for others, or take
to itself. If Matt broke his heart for Jessie, Jessie would have been
poorly cared for by such a weak kind of a heart. She is better off with
Neil McAllister, no doubt."

"You have done me good, Christina. I have not heard so many sound
observes in a long time."

And with that Janet came to the cliff-top and called to them to hurry.
"Step out!" she cried, "here is Jamie Logan with a pocket full of great
news; and the fish is frying itself black, while you two are
daundering, as if it was your very business and duty to keep hungry
folk waiting their dinner for you."



CHAPTER IV

THE LAST OF THE WHIP


With a joyful haste Christina went forward, leaving her brother to
follow in more sober fashion. Jamie came to the cliff-top to meet her,
and Janet from the cottage door beamed congratulations and radiant
sympathy.

"I have got my berth on the Line, Christina! I am to sail next Friday
from Greenock, so I'll start at once, my dearie! And I am the happiest
lad in Fife to-day!"

He had his arms around her as he spoke, and he kissed her smiles and
glad exclamations off her lips before she could put them into words.
Then Andrew joined them, and after clasping hands with Jamie and
Christina, he went slowly into the cottage, leaving the lovers alone
outside. Janet was all excitement.

"I'm like to greet with the good news, Andrew," she said, "it came so
unexpected Jamie was just daundering over the sands, kind of
down-hearted, he said, and wondering if he would stay through the
winter and fish with Peddle or not, when little Maggie Johnston cried
out, 'there is a big letter for you, Jamie Logan,' and he went and got
it, and, lo and behold! it was from the Hendersons themselves! And they
are needing Jamie now, and he'll just go at once, he says. There's luck
for you! I am both laughing and crying with the pride and the pleasure
of it!"

"I wouldn't make such a fuss, anyway, Mother. It is what Jamie has been
looking for and expecting, and I am glad he has won to it at last."

"Fuss indeed! Plenty of 'fuss' made over sorrow; why not over joy? And
if you think me a fool for it, I'm not sure but I might call you my
neighbour, if it was only Sophy Traill or her affairs to be 'fussed'
over."

"Never mind Sophy, Mother. It is Jamie and Christina now, and Christina
knows her happiness is dear to me as my own."

"Well then, show it, Andrew. Show it, my lad! We must do what we can to
put heart into poor Jamie; for when all is said and done, he is going
to foreign parts and leaving love and home behind." And she walked to
the door and looked at Jamie and Christina, who were standing on the
cliff-edge together, deeply engaged in a conversation that was of the
highest interest to themselves. "I have fancied you have been a bit shy
with Jamie since yon time he set an old friend before his promise to
you, Andrew; but what then?"

"I wish Christina had married among our own folk. I have no wrong to
say in particular of Jamie Logan, but I think my sister might have made
her life with some good man a bit closer to her."

"I thought, Andrew, that you were able to look sensibly at what comes
and goes. If it was a matter of business, you would be the first to see
the advantage of building your dyke with the stones you could get at.
And you may believe me or not, but there's a deal of the successful
work of this life carried through on that principle. Well, in marrying
it is just as wise. The lad you _can get_, is happen better than the
lad you _want_. Anyhow Christina is going to marry Jamie; and I'm sure
he is that loving and pleasant, and that fond of her, that I have no
doubt she will be happy as the day is long."

"I hope it is the truth, Mother, that you are saying."

"It is; but some folks won't see the truth, though they are dashing
their noses against it. None so blind as they who won't see."

"Well, it isn't within my right to speak to-day."

"Yes, it is. It is your right and place to speak all the good and
hopeful words you can think of. Don't be dour, Andrew. Man! man! how
hard it is to rejoice with them that do rejoice! It takes more
Christianity to do that than most folks carry around with them."

"Mother, you are a perfectly unreasonable woman. You flyte at me, as if
I was a laddie of ten years old--but I'll not dare to say but what you
do me a deal of good;" and Andrew's face brightened as he looked at
her.

"You would hardly do the right thing, if I didn't flyte at you, Andrew.
And maybe I wouldn't do it myself, if I was not watching you; having
nobody to scold and advise is very like trying to fly a kite without
wind. Go to the door and call in Jamie and Christina. We ought to take
an interest in their bit plans and schemes; and if we take it, we ought
to show we take it."

Then Andrew rose and went to the open door, and as he went he laid his
big hand on his mother's shoulder, and a smile flew from face to face,
and in its light every little shadow vanished. And Jamie was glad to
bring in his promised bride, and among her own people as they eat
together, talk over the good that had come to them, and the changes
that were incident to it. And thus an hour passed swiftly away, and
then "farewells" full of love and hope, and laughter and tears, and
hand-clasping, and good words, were said; and Jamie went off to his new
life, leaving a thousand pleasant hopes and expectations behind him.

After he was fairly out of sight, and Christina stood looking tearfully
into the vacancy where his image still lingered, Andrew led her to the
top of the cliff, and they sat down together. It was an exquisite
afternoon, full of the salt and sparkle of the sea; and for awhile both
remained silent, looking down on the cottages, and the creels, and the
drying nets. The whole village seemed to be out, and the sands were
covered with picturesque figures in sea-boots and striped hanging caps,
and with the no less picturesque companion figures in striped
petticoats. Some of the latter were old women, and these wore
high-crowned, unbordered caps of white linen; others were young women,
and these had no covering at all on their exuberant hair; but most of
them displayed long gold rings in their ears, and bright scarlet or
blue kerchiefs round their necks. Andrew glanced from these figures to
his sister; and touching her striped petticoat, he said:--

"You'll be changing this for what they call a gown, when you go to
Glasgow! How soon is that to be, Christina?"

"When Jamie has got well settled in his place. It wouldn't be prudent
before."

"About the New Year, say?"

"Ay; about the New Year."

"I am thinking of giving you a silk gown for your wedding."

"O Andrew! if you would! A silk gown would set me up above every thing!
I'll never forget such a favour as that."

"I'll do it."

"And Sophy will see to the making of it. Sophy has a wonderful taste
about trimming, and the like of that. Sophy will stand up with me, and
you will be Jamie's best man; won't you, Andrew?"

"Ay, Sophy will see to the making of it. Few can make a gown look as
she can. She is a clever bit thing"--then after a pause he added sadly,
"there was one thing I did not tell you this morning; but it is a
circumstance I feel very badly about."

"What is it? You know well that I shall feel with you."

"It is the way folks keep hinting this and that to me; but more, that I
am mistrusting Mistress Kilgour. I saw a young fellow standing at the
shop door talking to her the other morning very confidential-like--a
young fellow that could not have any lawful business with her."

"What kind of a person was he?"

"A large, dark man, dressed like a picture in a tailor's window. His
servant-man, in a livery of brown and yellow, was holding the horses in
a fine dog-cart. I asked Jimmy Faulds what his name was and he laughed
and said it was Braelands of Braelands, and he should think I knew it
and then he looked at me that queer, that I felt as if his eyes had
told me of some calamity. 'What is he doing at Mistress Kilgour's?' I
asked as soon as I could get myself together, and Jimmy answered, 'I
suppose he is ordering Madame Braelands' millinery,' and then he
snickered and laughed again, and I had hard lines to keep my hands from
striking him.'

"What for at all?"

"I don't know. I wish I did."

"If I give you my advice, will you take it?"

"I will."

"Then for once--if you don't want Braelands to win Sophy from you--put
your lover's fears and shamefacedness behind your back. Just remember
who and what you are, and what you are like to be, and go and tell
Sophy everything, and ask her to marry you next Monday morning. Take
gold in your pocket, and buy her a wedding gift--a ring, or a brooch,
or some bonnie thing or other; and promise her a trip to Edinburgh or
London, or any other thing she fancies."

"We have not been 'cried' yet. And the names must be read in the kirk
for three Sundays."

"Oh man! Cannot you get a licence? It will cost you a few shillings,
but what of that? You are too slow, Andrew. If you don't take care, and
make haste, Braelands will run away with your wife before your very
eyes."

"I'll not believe it. It could not be. The thing is unspeakable, and
unbearable. I'll face my fate the morn, and I'll know the best--or the
worst of what is coming to me."

"Look for good, and have good, that is, if you don't let the good hour
go by. You, Andrew Binnie! that can manage a boat when the north wind
is doing its mightiest, are you going to be one of the cony kind, when
it comes to a slip of a girl like Sophy? I can not think it, for you
know what Solomon said of such--'Oh Son, it is a feeble folk.'"

"I don't come of feeble folk, body nor soul; and as I have said, I will
have the whole matter out with Sophy to-morrow."

"Good--but better _do_ than say."

The next morning a swift look of intelligence passed between Andrew and
Christina at breakfast, and about eleven o'clock Andrew said, "I'll
away now to Largo, and settle the business we were speaking of,
Christina." She looked up at him critically, and thought she had never
seen a handsomer man. Though only a fisherman, he was too much a force
of nature to be vulgar. He was the incarnation of the grey, old
village, and of the North Sea, and of its stormy winds and waters.
Standing in his boots he was over six feet, full of pluck and fibre, a
man not made for the town and its narrow doorways, but for the great
spaces of the tossing ocean. His face was strong and finely formed; his
eyes grey and open--as eyes might be that had so often searched the
thickest of the storm with unquailing glance. A sensitive flush
overspread his brow and cheeks as Christina gazed at him, and he said
nervously:--

"I will require to put on my best clothes; won't I, Christina?"

She laid her hand on his arm, and shook her head with a pleasant smile.
She was regarding with pride and satisfaction her brother's fine
figure, admirably shown in the elastic grace of his blue Guernsey. She
turned the collar low enough to leave his round throat a little bare,
and put his blue flannel _Tam o' Shanter_ over his close, clustering
curls. "Go as you are," she said. "In that dress you feel at home, and
at ease, and you look ten times the man you do in your broadcloth. And
if Sophy cannot like her fisher-lad in his fisher-dress, she isn't
worthy of him."

He was much pleased with this advice, for it precisely sorted with his
own feelings; and he stooped and kissed Christina, and she sent him
away with a smile and a good wish. Then she went to her mother, who was
in a little shed salting some fish. "Mother," she cried, "Andrew has
gone to Largo."

"Like enough. It would be stranger, if he had stopped at home."

"He has gone to ask Sophy to marry him next week--next Monday."

"Perfect nonsense! We'll have no such marrying in a hurry, and a
corner. It will take a full month to marry Andrew Binnie. What would
all our folks say, far and near, if they were not bid to the wedding?
Set to that, you have to be married first. Marrying isn't like
Christmas, coming every year of our Lord; and we _be_ to make the most
of it. I'll not give my consent to any such like hasty work. Why, they
are not even 'called' in the kirk yet."

"Andrew can get a licence."

"Andrew can get a fiddle-stick! None of the Binnies were ever married,
but by word of the kirk, and none of them shall be, if I can help it.
Licence indeed! Buying the right to marry for a few shillings, and the
next thing will be a few more shillings for the right to un-marry. I'll
not hear tell of such a way."

"But, Mother, if Andrew does not get Sophy at once, he may lose her
altogether."

"_Humph_! No great loss."

"The biggest loss in the world that Andrew can have. Things are come to
a pass. If Andrew does not marry her at once, I am feared Braelands
will carry her off."

"He is welcome to her."

"No, no, Mother! Do you want Braelands to get the best of Andrew?"

"The like of him get the best of Andrew! I'll not believe it. Sophy
isn't beyond all sense of right and feeling. If, after all these years,
she left Andrew for that fine gentleman, she would be a very Jael of
deceit and treachery. I wish I had told her about her mother's second
cousin, bonnie Lizzie Lauder."

"What of her? I never heard tell, did I, Mother?"

"No. We don't speak of Lizzie now."

"Why then?"

"She was very bonnie, and she was very like Sophy about hating to work;
and she was never done crying to all the gates of pleasure to open wide
and let her enter. And she went in."

"Well, Mother? Is that all?"

"No. I wish in God's mercy it was! The avenging gates closed on her.
She is shut up in hell. There, I'll say no more."

"Yes, Mother. You will ask God's mercy for her. It never faileth."

Janet turned away, and lifted her apron to her eyes, and stood so
silent for a few minutes. And Christina left her alone, and went back
into the house place, and began to wash up the breakfast-cups and cut
up some vegetables for their early dinner. And by-and-by her mother
joined her, and Christina began to tell how Andrew had promised her a
silk gown for her wedding. This bit of news was so wonderful and
delightful to Janet, that it drove all other thoughts far from her. She
sat down to discuss it with all the care and importance the subject
demanded. Every colour was considered; and when the colour had been
decided, there was then the number of yards and the kind of trimming to
be discussed, and the manner of its making, and the person most
suitable to undertake the momentous task. For Janet was at that hour
angry with Mistress Kilgour, and not inclined to "put a bawbee her
way," seeing that it was most likely she had been favouring Braeland's
suit, and therefore a bitter enemy to Andrew.

After the noon meal, Janet took her knitting, and went to tell as many
of her neighbours as it was possible to see during the short afternoon,
about the silk gown her Christina was to be married in; and Christina
spread her ironing table, and began to damp, and fold, and smooth the
clean linen. And as she did so, she sang a verse or two of 'Hunting
Tower,' and then she thought awhile, and then she sang again. And she
was so happy, that her form swayed to her movements; it seemed to smile
as she walked backwards and forwards with the finished garments or the
hot iron in her hands. She was thinking of the happy home she would
make for Jamie, and of all the bliss that was coming to her. For before
a bird flies you may see its wings, and Christina was already pluming
hers for a flight into that world which in her very ignorance she
invested with a thousand unreal charms.

She did not expect Andrew back until the evening. He would most likely
have a long talk with Sophy; there was so much to tell her, and when it
was over, it would be in a large measure to tell again to Mistress
Kilgour. Then it was likely Andrew would take tea with his promised
wife, and perhaps they might have a walk afterwards; so, calculating
all these things. Christina came to the conclusion that it would be
well on to bed time, before she knew what arrangements Andrew had made
for his marriage and his life after it.

Not a single unpleasant doubt troubled her mind, she thought she knew
Sophy's nature so well; and she could hardly conceive it possible, that
the girl should have any reluctances about a lad so well known, so
good, and so handsome, and with such a fine future before him, as
Andrew Binnie. All Sophy's flights and fancies, all her favours to
young Braelands, Christina put down to the dissatisfaction Sophy so
often expressed with her position, and the vanity which arose naturally
from her recognised beauty and youthful grace. But to be "a settled
woman," with a loving husband and "a house of her own," seemed to
Christina an irresistible offer; and she smiled to herself when she
thought of Sophy's surprise, and of the many pretty little airs and
conceits the state of bridehood would be sure to bring forth in her
self-indulgent nature.

"She will be provoking enough, no doubt," she whispered as she set the
iron sharply down; "but I'll never notice it. She is very little more
than a bairn, and but a canary-headed creature added to that. In a year
or two, Andrew, and marriage, and maybe motherhood, will sober and
settle her. And Andrew loves her so. Most as well as Jamie loves me.
For Andrew's sake, then, I'll bear with all her provoking ways and
words. She'll be _our own_, anyway, and we be to have patience with
they of our own household. Bonnie wee Sophy."

It was about mid-afternoon when she came to this train of forbearing
and conciliating reflections. She was quite happy in it; for Christina
was one of those wise women, who do not look into their ideals and
hopes too closely. Her face reflecting them was beautiful and benign;
and her shoulders, and hands, her supple waist and limbs, continued the
symphonies of her soft, deep, loving eyes and her smiling mouth. Every
now and then she burst into song; and then her thrilling voice, so
sweet and fresh, had tones in it that only birds and good women full of
love may compass. Mostly the song was a lilt or a verse which spoke for
her own heart and love; but just as the clock struck three, she broke
into a low laugh which ended in a merry, mocking melody, and which was
evidently the conclusion of her argument concerning Sophy's behaviour
as Andrew's wife--

"Toot! toot! quoth the grey-headed father,
  She's less of a bride than a bairn;
She's ta'en like a colt from the heather,
  With sense and discretion to learn.

"Half-husband I trow, and half daddy,
  As humour inconstantly leans;
The man must be patient and steady,
  That weds with a lass in her teens."

She had hardly finished the verse, when she heard a step blending with
its echoes. Her ears rung inward; her eyes dilated with an unhappy
expectancy; she put down her iron with a sudden faint feeling, and
turned her face to the door.

Andrew entered the cottage. He looked at her despairingly, and sinking
into his chair, he covered his wretched face with his hands.

It was not the same man who had left her a few hours before. A change,
like that which a hot iron would make upon a green leaf, had been made
in her handsome, hopeful, happy brother. She could not avoid an
exclamation that was a cry of terror; and she went to him and kissed
him, and murmured, she knew not what words of pity and love. Under
their influence, the flood gates of sorrow were unloosed, he began to
weep, to sob, to shake and tremble, like a reed in a tempest.

Christina saw that his soul was tossed from top to bottom, and in the
madness of the storm, she knew it was folly to ask "why?" But she went
to the door, closed it, slipped forward the bolt, and then came back to
his side, waiting there patiently until the first paroxysm of his grief
was over. Then she said softly:--

"Andrew! My brother Andrew! What sorrow has come to you? Tell
Christina."

"Sophy is dead--dead and gone for me. Oh Sophy, Sophy, Sophy!"

"Andrew, tell me a straight tale. You are not a woman to let any sorrow
get the mastery over you."

"Sophy has gone from me. She has played me false--and after all these
years, deceived and left me."

"Then there is still the Faithful One. His love is from everlasting, to
everlasting. He changeth not."

"Ay; I know," he said drearily. But he straightened himself and
unfastened the button at his throat, and stood up on his feet, planting
them far apart, as if he felt the earth like the reeling deck of a
ship. And Christina opened the little window, and drew his chair near
it, and let the fresh breeze blow upon him; and her heart throbbed
hotly with anger and pity.

"Sit down in the sea wind, Andrew," she said. "There's strength and a
breath of comfort in it; and try and give your trouble words. Did you
see Sophy?"

"Ay; I saw her."

"At her aunt's house?"

"No. I met her on the road. She was in a dog-cart; and the master of
Braelands was driving her. I saw her, ere she saw me; and she was
looking in his face as she never looked in my face. She loves him,
Christina, as she never loved me."

"Did you speak to her?"

"I was that foolish, and left to myself. She was going to pass me,
without a look or a word; but I could not thole the scorn and pain of
it, and I called out to her, '_Sophy_! _Sophy_!'"

"And she did not answer you?"

"She cruddled closer to Braelands. And then he lifted the whip to hurry
the horse; and before I knew what I was doing, I had the beast by the
head--and the lash of the whip--struck me clean across the cheek bone."

"Oh Andrew! Andrew!" And she bent forward and looked at the outraged
cheek, and murmuring, "I see the mark of it! I see the mark of it!" she
kissed the long, white welt, and wetted it with her indignant tears.

Andrew sat passive under her sympathy until she asked, "Did Braelands
say anything when he struck you? Had he no word of excuse?"

"He said: 'It is your own fault, fisherman. The lash was meant for the
horse, and not for you.'"

"Well?"

"And I was in a passion; and I shouted some words I should not have
said--words I never said in my life before. I didn't think the like of
them were in my heart."

"I don't blame you, Andrew."

"I blame myself though. Then I bid Sophy get out of the cart and come
to me;--and--"

"Yes, dear?"

"And she never moved or spoke; she just covered her face with her
hands, and gave a little scream;--for no doubt I had frighted her--and
Braelands, he got into the de'il's own rage then, and dared me to call
the lady 'Sophy' again; 'for,' said he, 'she will be my wife before
many days'; and with that, he struck the horse savagely again and
again, and the poor beast broke from my hand, and bounded for'ard; and
I fell on my back, and the wheels of the cart grazed the soles of my
shoon as they passed me."

"And then?"

"I don't know how long I lay there."

"And they went on and left you lying in the highway?"

"They went on."

"The wicked lass! Oh the wicked, heartless lass!"

"You are not able to judge her, Christina."

"But you can judge Braelands. Get a warrant for the scoundrel the morn.
He is without the law."

"Then I would make Sophy the common talk, far and near. How could I
wrong Sophy to right myself?"

"But the whip lash! the whip lash! Andrew. You cannot thole the like of
that!"

"There was One tholed for me the lash and the buffet, and answer'd
never a word. I can thole the lash for Sophy's sake. A poor love I
would have for Sophy, if I put my own pride before her good name. If I
get help 'from beyond,' I can thole the lash, Christina."

He was white through all the tan of wind, and sea, and sun; and the
sweat of his suffering stood in great beads on his pallid face and
brow. Christina lifted a towel, which she had just ironed, and wiped it
away; and he said feebly;--

"Thank you, dear lass! I will go to my bed a wee."

So Christina opened the door of his room and he tottered in, swaying
like a drunken man, and threw himself upon his bed. Five minutes
afterward she stepped softly to his side. He was sunk in deep sleep,
fathoms below the tide of grief whose waves and billows had gone over
him.

"Thanks be to the Merciful!" she whispered. "When the sorrow is too
great, then He giveth His beloved sleep."



CHAPTER V

THE LOST BRIDE


This unforeseen and unhappy meeting forced a climax in Sophy's love
affairs, which she had hitherto not dared to face. In fact,
circumstances tending that way had arisen about a week previously; and
it was in consequence of them, that she was publicly riding with
Braelands when Andrew met them. For a long time she had insisted on
secrecy in her intercourse with her "friend." She was afraid of Andrew;
she was afraid of her aunt; she was afraid of being made a talk and a
speculation to the gossips of the little town. And though Miss Kilgour
had begun to suspect somewhat, she was not inclined to verify her
suspicions. Madame Braelands was a good customer, therefore she did not
wish to know anything about a matter which she was sure would be a
great annoyance to that lady.

But Madame herself forced the knowledge on her. Some friend had called
at Braelands and thought it right to let her know what a dangerous
affair her son was engaged in. "For the girl is beautiful," she said,
"there is no denying that; and she comes of fisher-folk, who have
simply no idea but that love words and love-kisses must lead to
marrying and housekeeping, and who will bitterly resent and avenge a
wrong done to any woman of their class, as you well know, Madame."

Madame did know this very well; and apart from her terror of a
_mesalliance_ for the heir of Braelands, there was the fact that his
family had always had great political influence, and looked to a public
recognition of it. The fisher vote was an important factor in the
return of any aspirant for Parliamentary honour; and she felt keenly
that Archie was endangering his whole future career by his attentions
to a girl whom it was impossible he should marry, but who would have
the power to arouse against him a bitter antagonism, if he did not
marry her.

She affected to her friend a total indifference to the subject of her
son's amusements, and she said "she was moreover sure that Archibald
Braelands would never do anything to prejudice his own honour, or the
honour of the humblest fisher-girl in Fifeshire." But all the same, her
heart was sick with fear and anxiety; and as soon as her informant had
gone, she ordered her carriage, dressed herself in all her braveries,
and drove hastily to Mistress Kilgour's.

At that very hour, this lady was fussing and fuming angrily at her
niece. Sophy had insisted on going for a walk, and in the altercation
attending this resolve, Mistress Kilgour had unadvisably given speech
to her suspicions about Sophy's companion in these frequent walks, and
threatened her with a revelation of these doubts to Andrew Binnie. But
in spite of all, Sophy had left the house; and her aunt was nursing her
wrath against her when Madame Braeland's carriage clattered up to her
shop door.

Now if Madame had been a prudent woman, and kept the rein on her
prideful temper, she would have found Mistress Kilgour in the very mood
suitable for an ally. But Madame had also been nursing her wrath, and
as soon as Mistress Kilgour had appeared, she asked angrily:--

"Where is that niece of yours, Mistress Kilgour? I should very much
like to know."

The tone of the question irritated the dressmaker, and instantly her
sympathies flew toward her own kith, and kin, and class. Also, her
caution was at once aroused, and she answered the question,
Scotch-wise, by another question:--

"What for are you requiring to see Sophy, Madame?"

"Is she in the house?"

"Shall I go and see?"

"Go and see, indeed! You know well she is not. You know she is away
somewhere, walking or driving with my son--with the heir of Braelands.
Oh, I have heard all about their shameful carryings-on."

"You'll not need to use the word 'shameful' with regard to my niece,
Sophy Traill, Madame Braelands. She has never earned such a like word,
and she never will. You may take my say-so for that."

"It is not anybody's say-so in this case. Seeing is believing, and they
have been seen together, walking in Fernie wood, and down among the
rocks on the Elie coast, and in many other places."

"Well and good, Madame. What by that? Young things will be young
things."

"What by that? Do you, a woman of your age, ask me such a question?
When a gentleman of good blood and family, as well as great wealth,
goes walking and driving with a poor girl of no family at all, do you
ask what by that? Nothing but disgrace and trouble can be looked for."

"Speak for your own kin and side, Madame. And I should think a woman of
your age--being at least twenty years older than myself--would know
that true love never asks for a girl's pedigree. And as for 'disgrace,'
Sophy Traill will never call anything like 'disgrace' to herself. I
will allow that Sophy is poor, but as for family, the Traills are of
the best Norse strain. They were sea-fighters, hundreds of years before
they were sea-fishers; and they had been 'at home' on the North Sea,
and in all the lands about it, centuries before the like of the
Braelands were thought or heard tell of."

Mistress Kilgour was rapidly becoming angry, and Madame would have been
wise to have noted the circumstance; but she herself was now past all
prudence, and with an air of contempt she took out her jewelled watch,
and beginning to slowly wind it, said:--

"My good woman, Sophy's father was a common fisherman. We have no call
to go back to the time when her people were pirates and sea-robbers."

"I am _my own_ woman, Madame. And I will take my oath I am not _your_
woman, anyhow. And 'common' or uncommon, the fishermen of Fife call no
man master but the Lord God Almighty, from whose hands they take their
food, summer and winter. And I will make free to say, moreover, that if
Braelands loves Sophy Traill and she loves him, worse might befall him
than Sophy for a wife. For if God thinks fit to mate them, it is not
Griselda Kilgour that will take upon herself to contradict the Will of
Heaven."

"Don't talk rubbish, Mistress Kilgour. People who live in society have
to regard what society thinks and says."

"It is no ways obligatory, Madame, the voice of God and Nature has more
weight, I'm thinking, and if God links two together, you will find it
gey and hard to separate them."

"I heard the girl was promised since her babyhood to a fisherman called
Andrew Binnie."

"For once you have heard the truth, Madame. But you know yourself that
babyhood and womanhood are two different things; and the woman has just
set at naught the baby. That is all."

"No, it is not all. This Andrew Binnie is a man of great influence
among the fishers, and my son cannot afford to make enemies among that
class. It will be highly prejudicial to him."

"I cannot help that Madame. Braelands is well able to row his own boat.
At any rate, I am not called to take an oar in it."

"Yes, you are. I have been a good customer to you, Mistress Kilgour."

"I am not denying it; at the same time I have been a good dress and
bonnet maker to you, and earned every penny-bit you have paid me. The
obligation is mutual, I'm thinking."

"I can be a still better customer if you will prevent this
gentle-shepherding and love-making. I would not even scruple at a
twenty pound note, or perhaps two of them."

"_Straa_! If you were Queen of England, Madame, I would call you an
insolent dastard, to try and bribe me against my own flesh and blood.
You are a very Judas, to think of such a thing. Good blood! fine
family! indeed! If your son is like yourself, I'm not caring for him
coming into my family at all."

"Mistress Kilgour, you may close my account with you. I shall employ
you no more."

"Pay me the sixteen pounds odd you owe me, and then I will shut my
books forever against Braelands. Accounts are not closed till
outstanding money is paid in."

"I shall send the money."

"The sight of the money would be better than the promise of it, Madame;
for some of it is owing more than a twelvemonth;" and Mistress Kilgour
hastily turned over to the Braelands page of her ledger, while Madame,
with an air of affront and indignation, hastily left the shop.

Following this wordy battle with her dressmaker, Madame had an equally
stubborn one with her son, the immediate consequence of which was that
very interview whose close was witnessed by Andrew Binnie. In this
conference Braelands acknowledged his devotion to Sophy, and earnestly
pleaded for Mistress Kilgour's favour for his suit. She was now quite
inclined to favour him. Her own niece, as mistress of Braelands, would
be not only a great social success, but also a great financial one.
Madame Braelands's capacity for bonnets was two every year; Sophy's
capacity was unlimited. Madame considered four dresses annually quite
extravagant; Sophy's ideas on the same subject were constantly
enlarging. And then there would be the satisfaction of overcoming
Madame. So she yielded easily and gracefully to Archie Braelands's
petition, and thus Sophy suddenly found herself able to do openly what
she had hitherto done secretly, and the question of her marriage with
Braelands accepted as an understood conclusion.

At this sudden culmination of her hardly acknowledged desires, the girl
was for a short tune distracted. She felt that Andrew must now be
definitely resigned, and a strangely sad feeling of pity and reluctance
assailed her. There were moments she knew not which lover was dearest
to her. The habit of loving Andrew had grown through long years in her
heart; she trusted him as she trusted no other mortal, she was not
prepared to give up absolutely all rights in a heart so purely and so
devotedly her own. For if she knew anything, she knew right well that
no other man would ever give her the same unfaltering, unselfish
affection.

And when she dared to consider truthfully her estimate of Archie
Braelands, she judged his love, passionate as it was, did not ring true
through all its depths. There were times when her little _gaucheries_
fretted him; when her dress did not suit him; when he put aside an
engagement with her for a sail with a lord, or a dinner party with
friends, or a social function at his own home. Andrew put no one before
her; and even the business that kept him from her side was all for her
future happiness. Every object and every aim of his life had reference
to her. It was hard to give up such a perfect love, and she felt that
she could not see Andrew face to face and do it. Hence her refusals to
meet him, and her shyness and silence when a meeting was unavoidable.
Hence, also, came a very peculiar attitude of Andrew's friends and
mates; for they could not conceive how Andrew's implicit faith in his
love should prevent him from finding out what was so evident to every
man and woman in Largo.

Alas! the knowledge had now come to him. That it could have come in any
harder way, it is difficult to believe. There was only one palliation
to its misery--it was quite unpremeditated--but even this mitigation
of the affront hardly brought him any comfort as yet Braelands was
certainly deeply grieved at the miserable outcome of the meeting. He
knew the pride of the fisher race, and he had himself a manly instinct,
strong enough to understand the undeserved humiliation of Andrew's
position. Honestly, as a gentleman, he was sorry the quarrel had taken
place; as a lover, he was anxious to turn it to his own advantage. For
he saw that, in spite of all her coldness and apparent apathy, Sophy
was affected and wounded by Andrew's bitter imploration and its
wretched and sorrowful ending. If the man should gain her ear and
sympathy, Braelands feared for the result. He therefore urged her to an
immediate marriage; and when Mistress Kilgour was taken into counsel,
she encouraged the idea, because of the talk which was sure to follow
such a flagrant breach of the courtesies of life.

But even at this juncture, Sophy's vanity must have its showing; and
she refused to marry, until at least two or three suitable dresses
should have been prepared; so the uttermost favour that could be
obtained from the stubborn little bride was a date somewhere within two
weeks away.

During these two weeks there was an unspeakable unhappiness in the
Binnie household. For oh, how dreary are those wastes of life, left by
the loved who have deserted us! These are the vacant places we water
with our bitterest tears. Had Sophy died, Andrew would have said, "It
is the Lord; let him do what seemeth right in his sight." But the
manner and the means of his loss filled him with a dumb sorrow and
rage; for in spite of his mother's and sister's urging, he would do
nothing to right his own self-respect at the price of giving Sophy the
slightest trouble or notoriety. Suffer! Yes, he suffered at home, where
Janet and Christina continually reminded him of the insult he ought to
avenge; and he suffered also abroad, where his mates looked at him with
eyes full of surprise and angry inquiries.

But though the village was ringing with gossip about Sophy and young
Braelands, never a man or woman in it ventured to openly question the
stern, sullen, irritable man who had been so long recognised as her
accepted lover. And whether he was in the boats or out of them, no one
dared to speak Sophy's name in his presence. Indeed, upon the whole, he
was during these days what Janet Binnie called "an ill man to live
with--a man out of his senses, and falling away from his meat and his
clothes."

This misery continued for about two weeks without any abatement, and
Janet's and Christina's sympathy was beginning to be tinged with
resentment. It seems so unnatural and unjust, that a girl who had
already done them so much wrong, and who was so far outside their daily
life, should have the power to still darken their home, and infuse a
bitter drop into their peculiar joys and hopes.

"I am glad the wicked lass isn't near by me," said Janet one morning,
when Andrew had declared himself unable to eat his breakfast and gone
out of the cottage to escape his mother's pleadings and reproofs. "I'm
glad she isn't near me. If she was here, I could not keep my tongue
from her. She should hear the truth for once, if she never heard it
again. They should be words as sharp as the birch rod she ought to have
had, when she first began her nonsense, and her airs and graces."

"She is a bad girl; but we must remember that she was left much to
herself--no mother to guide her, no sister or brother either."

"It would have been a pity if there had been more of them. One scone of
that baking is enough. The way she has treated our Andrew is
abominable. Flesh and blood can't bear such doings."

As Janet made this assertion, a cousin of Sophy's came into the
cottage, and answered her. "I know you are talking of Sophy," she said,
"and I am not wondering at the terrivee you are making. As for me,
though she is my cousin, I'll never exchange the Queen's language with
her again as long as I live in this world. But all bad things come to
an end, as well as good ones, and I am bringing what will put a stop at
last to all this clishmaclaver about that wearisome lassie,"--and with
these words she handed Janet two shining white cards, tied together
with a bit of silver wire.

They were Sophy's wedding cards; and she had also sent from Edinburgh a
newspaper containing a notice of her marriage to Archibald Braelands.
The news was very satisfactory to Janet. She held the bits of cardboard
with her fingertips, looking grimly at the names upon them. Then she
laughed, not very pleasantly, at the difference in the size of the
cards. "He has the wee card now," she said, "and Sophy the big one; but
I'm thinking the wee one will grow big, and the big one grow little
before long. I will take them to Andrew myself; the sight of them will
be a bitter medicine, but it will do him good. Folks may count it great
gain when they get rid of a false hope."

Andrew was walking moodily about the bit of bare turf in front of the
cottage door, stopping now and then to look over the sea, where the
brown sails of some of the fishing boats still caught the lazy south
wind. He was thinking that the sea was cloudy, and that there was an
evil-looking sky to the eastward; and then, as his mind took in at the
same moment the dangers to the fishers who people the grey waters and
his own sorrowful wrong, he turned and began to walk about
muttering--"Lord help us! We must bear what is sent."

Then Janet called him, and he watched for her approach. She put the
cards into his hand saying, "Sophy's cousin, Isobel Murray, brought
them." Her voice was full of resentment; and Andrew, not at the moment
realising a custom so unfamiliar in a fishing-village, looked
wonderingly in his mother's face, and then at the fateful white
messengers.

"Read the names on them, Andrew man, and you'll know then why they are
sent to Pittendurie."

Then he looked steadily at the inscription, and the struggle of the
inner man shook the outward man visibly. It was like a shot in the
backbone. But it was only for a moment he staggered; though he had few
resources, his faith in the Cross and his confidence in himself made
him a match for his hard fate. It is in such critical moments the soul
reveals if it be selfish or generous, and Andrew, with a quick upward
fling of the head, regained absolutely that self-control, which he had
voluntarily abdicated.

"You will tell Isobel," he said, "that I wish Mistress Braelands every
good thing, both for this life and the next." Then he stepped closer to
his mother and kissed her; and Janet was so touched and amazed that she
could not speak. But the look of loving wonder on her face was far
better than words. And as she stood looking at him, Andrew put the
cards in his pocket, and went down to the sea; and Janet returned to
the cottage and gave Isobel the message he had sent.

But this information, so scanty and yet so conclusive, by no means
satisfied the curiosity of the women. A great deal of indignation was
expressed by Sophy's kindred and friends in the village at her total
ignoring of their claims. They did not expect to be invited to a house
like Braelands; but they did think Sophy ought to have visited them and
told them all about her preparations and future plans. They were her
own flesh and blood, and they deeply resented her non-recognition of
the claims of kindred. Isobel, as the central figure of this
dissatisfaction, was a very important person. She at least had received
"cards," and the rest of the cousins to the sixth degree felt that they
had been grossly slighted in the omission. So Isobel, for the sake of
her own popularity, was compelled to make common cause, and to assert
positively that "she thought little of the compliment." Sophy only
wanted her folk to know she was now Mistress Braelands, and she had
picked her out to carry the news--good or bad news, none yet could say.

Janet was not inclined to discuss the matter with her. She was so cold
about it, that Isobel quickly discovered she had 'work to finish at her
own house,' for she recollected that if the Binnies were not inclined
to talk over the affair there were plenty of wives and maids in
Pittendurie who were eager to do so. So Janet and Christina were
quickly left to their own opinions on the marriage, the first of which
was, that "Sophy had behaved very badly to them."

"But I wasn't going to say bad words for Isobel to clash round the
village," said Janet "and I am gey glad Andrew took the news so
man-like and so Christian-like. They can't make any speculations about
Andrew now, and that will be a sore disappointment to the hussies, for
some of them are but ill willy creatures."

"I am glad Andrew kept a brave heart, and could bring good words out of
it."

"What else would you expect from Andrew? Do you think Andrew Binnie
will fret himself one moment about a wife that is not his wife? He
would not give the de'il such a laugh over him. You may take my word,
that he will break no commandment for any lass; and Sophy Braelands
will now have to vacate his very thoughts."

"I am glad she is married then. If her marriage cures Andrew of that
never-ending fret about her, it will be a comfort."

"It is a cure, sure as death, as far as your brother is concerned.
Fancy Andrew Binnie pining and worrying about Archie Braelands's wife!
The thing would be sinful, and therefore fairly impossible to him! I'm
as glad as you are that no worse than marriage has come to the lass;
she is done with now, and I am wishing her no more ill than she has
called to herself."

"She has brought sorrow enough to our house," said Christina. "All the
days of my own courting have been saddened and darkened with the worry
and the care of her. Andrew was always either that set up or that
knocked down about her, that he could not give a thought to Jamie's and
my affairs. It was only when you talked about Sophy, or his wedding
with Sophy, that he looked as if the world was worth living in. He was
fast growing into a real selfish man."

"_Toots!_ Every one in love--men or women--are as selfish as they can
be. The whole round world only holds two folk: their own self, and
another. I would like to have a bit of chat before long, that did not
set itself to love-making and marrying."

"Goodness, Mother! You have not chatted much with me lately about
love-making and marrying. Andrew's trouble has filled the house, and
you have hardly said a word about poor Jamie, who never gave either of
us a heartache. I wonder where he is to-day!"

Janet thought a moment and then answered: "He would leave New York for
Scotland, last Saturday. 'T is Wednesday morning now, and he will maybe
reach Glasgow next Tuesday. Then it will not take him many hours to
find himself in Pittendurie."

"I doubt it. He will not be let come and go as he wants to. It would
not be reasonable. He will have to obey orders. And when he gets off,
it will be a kind of favour. A steamboat and a fishing-boat are two
different things, Mother, forbye, Jamie is but a new hand, and will
have his way to win."

"What are you talking about, you silly, fearful lassie? It would be a
poor-like, heartless captain, that had not a fellow-feeling for a lad
in love. Jamie will just have to tell him about yourself, and he will
send the lad off with a laugh, or maybe a charge not to forget the
ship's sailing-day. Hope well, and have well, lassie."

"You'll be far mistaken, Mother. I am not expecting Jamie for more than
two or three trips--but he'll be thinking of me, and I can not help
thinking of him."

"Think away, Christina. Loving thoughts keep out others, not as good. I
wonder how it would do to walk as far as Largo, and find out all about
the marriage from Griselda Kilgour. Then _I_ would have the essentials,
and something worth telling and talking about."

"I would go, Mother. Griselda will be thirsty to tell all she knows,
and just distracted with the glory of her niece. She will hold herself
very high, no doubt."

"Griselda and her niece are two born fools, and I am not to be put to
the wall by the like of them. And it is not beyond hoping, that I'll be
able to give the woman a mouthful of sound advice. She's a set-up body,
but I shall disapprove of all she says."

"You may disapprove till you are black in the face, Mother, but
Griselda will hold her own; she is neither flightersome, nor easy
frightened. I'm feared it is going to rain. I see the glass has
fallen."

"I'm not minding the 'glass'. The sky is clear, and I think far more of
the sky, and the look of it, than I do of the 'glass'. I wonder at
Andrew hanging it in our house; it is just sinful and unlucky to be
taking the change of the weather out of His hands. But rain or fine, I
am going to Largo."

As she spoke, she was taking out of her kist a fine Paisley shawl and a
bonnet, and with Christina's help she was soon dressed to her own
satisfaction. Fortunately one of the fishers was going with his cart to
Largo, so she got a lift over the road, and reached Griselda Kilgour's
early in the afternoon. There were no bonnets and caps in the window of
the shop, and when Janet entered, the place had a covered-up,
Sabbath-day look that kindled her curiosity. The ringing of the bell
quickly brought Mistress Kilgour forward, and she also had an unusual
look. But she seemed pleased to see Janet, and very heartily asked her
into the little parlour behind.

"I'm just home," she said, "and I'm making myself a cup of tea ere I
sort up the shop and get to my day's work again. Sit down, Janet, and
take off your things, and have a cup with me. Strange days and strange
doings in them lately!"

"You may well lift up your eyes and your hands, Griselda. I never heard
tell of the like. The whole village is in a flustration; and I just
came o'er-by, to find out from you the long and the short of
everything. I'm feared you have been sorely put about with the wilful
lass."

"Mistress Braelands had no one to lippen to but me. I had everything to
look after. The Master of Braelands was that far gone in love, he
wasn't to be trusted with anything. But my niece has done a good job
for herself."

"It is well _some one_ has got good out of her treachery. She brought
sorrow enough to my house. But I'm glad it is all over, and that
Braelands has got her. She wouldn't have suited my son at all,
Griselda."

"Not in the least," answered the dressmaker with an air of offence.
"How many lumps of sugar, Janet?"

"I'm not taking sugar. Where was the lass married?"

"In Edinburgh." We didn't want any talk and fuss about the wedding, and
Braelands he said to me, 'Mistress Kilgour, if you will take a little
holiday, and go with Sophy to Edinburgh, and give her your help about
the things she requires, we shall both of us be your life-long
debtors.' And I thought Edinburgh was the proper place, and so I went
with Sophy--putting up a notice on the shop door that I had gone to
look at the winter fashions and would be back to-day--and here I am for
I like to keep my word.

"You didn't keep it with my Andrew, for you promised to help him with
Sophy, you promised that more than once or twice."

"No one can help a man who fights against himself, and Andrew never did
prize Sophy as Braelands did, the way that man ran after the lass, and
coaxed and courted and pleaded with her! And the bonnie things he gave
her! And the stone blind infatuation of the creature! Well I never saw
the like. He was that far gone in love, there was nothing for him but
standing up before the minister."

"What minister?"

"Dr. Beith of St. Andrews. Braelands sits in St. Andrews, when he is in
Edinburgh for the winter season and Dr. Beith is knowing him well. I
wish you could have seen the dresses and the mantillas, the bonnets and
the fineries of every sort I had to buy Sophy, not to speak of the
rings and gold chains and bracelets and such things, that Braelands
just laid down at her feet."

"What kind of dresses?"

"Silks and satins--white for the wedding-dress--and pink, and blue and
tartan and what not! I tell you McFinlay and Co. were kept busy day and
night for Sophy Braelands."

Then Mistress Kilgour entered into a minute description of all Sophy's
beautiful things, and Janet listened attentively, not only for her own
gratification, but also for that of every woman in Pittendurie. Indeed
she appeared so interested that her entertainer never suspected the
anger she was restraining with difficulty until her curiosity had been
satisfied. But when every point had been gone over, when the last thing
about Sophy's dress and appearance had been told and discussed, Janet
suddenly inquired, "Have they come back to Largo yet?"

"Indeed nothing so common," answered Griselda, proudly. "They have gone
to foreign lands--to France, and Italy, and Germany,"--and then with a
daring imagination she added, "and it's like they won't stop short of
Asia and America."

"Well, Jamie Logan, my Christina's promised man is on the American
line. I dare say he will be seeing her on his ship, and no doubt he
will do all he can to pleasure her."

"Jamie Logan! Sophy would not think of noticing him now. It would not
be proper."

"What for not? He is as good a man as Archie Braelands, and if all
reports be true, a good deal better."

"_Archie_ indeed! I'm thinking 'Master Braelands' would be more as it
should be."

"I'll never 'master' him. He is no 'master' of mine. What for does he
have a Christian name, if he is not to be called by it?"

"Well, Janet, you need not show your temper. Goodness knows, it is as
short as a cat's hair. And Braelands is beyond your tongue, anyhow."

"I'm not giving him a word. Sophy will pay every debt he is owing me
and mine. The lassie has been badly guided all her life, and as she
would not be ruled by the rudder, she must be ruled by the rocks."

"Think shame of yourself! For speaking ill to a new-made bride! How
would you like me to say such words to Christina?"

"Christina would never give occasion for them. She is as true as steel
to her own lad."

"Maybe she has no temptation to be false. That makes a deal of differ.
Anyway, Sophy is a woman now in the married state, and answerable to
none but her husband. I hope Andrew is not fretting more than might be
expected."

"Andrew! Andrew fretting! Not he! Not a minute! As soon as he knew she
was a wife, he cast her out of his very thoughts. You don't catch
Andrew Binnie putting a light-of-love lassie before a command of God."

"I won't hear you talk of my niece--of the mistress of Braelands--in
that kind of a way, Janet. She's our betters now, and we be to take
notice of the fact."

"She'll have to learn and unlearn a good lot before she is to be spoke
of as any one's 'betters.' I hope while she is seeing the world she
will get her eyes opened to her own faults; they will give her plenty
to think of."

"Keep me, woman! Such a way to go on about your own kin."

"She is no kin to the Binnies. I have cast her out of my reckoning."

"She is Christina's sixth cousin."

"She is nothing at all to us. I never did set any store by those Orkney
folks--a bad lot! A very selfish, false, bad lot!"

"You are speaking of my people, Janet."

"I am quite aware of it, Griselda."

"Then keep your tongue in bounds."

"My tongue is my own."

"My house is my own. And if you can't be civil, I'll be necessitated to
ask you to leave it."

"I'm going as soon as I have told you that you have the most
gun-powdery temper I ever came across; forbye, you are fairly drunk
with the conceit and vanity of Sophy's grand marriage. You are full as
the Baltic with the pride of it, woman!"

"Temper! It is you, that are in a temper."

"That's neither here nor there. I have my reasons."

"Reasons, indeed! I'd like to see you reasonable for once."

"Yes, I have my reasons. How was my lad Andrew used by the both of you?
And what do you think of his last meeting with that heartless limmer
and her fine sweetheart?"

"Andrew should have kept himself out of their way. As soon as Braelands
came round Sophy, Andrew got the very de'il in him. I was aye feared
there would be murder laid to his name."

"You needn't have been feared for the like of that. Andrew Binnie has
enough of the devil in him to keep the devil out of him. Do you think
he would put blood on his soul for Sophy Traill? No, not for twenty
lasses better than her! You needn't look at me as if your eyes were
cocked pistols. I have heard all I wanted to hear, and said all I
wanted to say, and now I'll be stepping homeward."

"I'll be obligated to you to go at once--the sooner the better."

"And I'll never speak to you again in this world, Griselda; nor in the
next world either, unless you mend your manners. Mind that!"

"You are just full of envy, and all uncharitableness, and evil
speaking, Janet Binnie. But I trust I have more of the grace of God
about me than to return your ill words."

"That may be. It only shows folk that the grace of God will bide with
an old woman that no one else can bide with."

"Old woman! I am twenty years younger--"

But Janet had passed out of the room and clashed the shop door behind
her with a pealing ring; so Griselda's little scream of indignation
never reached her. It is likely, however, she anticipated the words
that followed her, for she went down the street, folding her shawl over
her ample chest, and smiling the smile of those who have thrown the
last word of offence.

She did not reach home until quite dark, for she was stopped frequently
by little groups of the wives and maids of Pittendurie, who wanted to
hear the news about Sophy. It pleased Janet, for some reason, to
magnify the girl's position and all the fine things it had brought her.
Perhaps, because she felt dimly that it placed Andrew's defeat in a
better Tight. No one could expect a mere fisherman to have any chance
against a man able to shower silks and satins and gold and jewels upon
his bride, and who could take her to France and Italy and Germany, not
to speak of Asia and America.

But if this was her motive, it was a bit of motherhood thrown away.
Andrew had sources of comfort and vindication which looked far beyond
all petty social opinion. He was on the sea alone till nearly dark;
then he came home, with the old grave smile on his face, saying, as he
entered the house, "There will be a heavy blow from the northeast
to-night, Christina. I see the boats are all at anchor, and no prospect
of a fishing."

"Ay, and I saw the birds, who know more than we do, making for the
rocks. I wish mother would come,"--and she opened the door and looked
out into the dark vacancy. "There is a voice in the sea to-night,
Andrew, and I don't like the wail of it."

But Andrew had gone to his room, and so she left the door open until
Janet returned. And the first question Janet asked was concerning
Andrew. "Has he come home yet, Christina? I'm feared for a boat on the
sea to-night."

"He is home, and I think he has fallen asleep. He looked very tired."

"How is he taking his trouble?"

"Like a man. Like himself. He has had his wrestle out on the sea, and
has come out with a victory."

"The Lord be thanked! Now, Christina, I have heard everything about
that wicked lassie. Let us have a cup of tea and a herring--for it is
little good I had of Griselda's wishy-washy brew--and then I'll tell
you the news of the wedding, the beginning and the end of it."



CHAPTER VI

WHERE IS MY MONEY?


In the morning it was still more evident that Andrew had thrown himself
on God, and--unperplext seeking, had found him. But Janet wondered a
little that he did not more demonstratively seek the comfort of The
Book. It was her way in sorrow to appeal immediately to its known
passages of promise and comfort, and she laid it open in his way with
the remark:

"There is the Bible. Andrew; it will have a word, no doubt, for you."

"And there is the something beyond the Bible, Mother, if you will be
seeking it. When the Lord God speaks to a man, he has the perfection of
counsel, and he will not be requiring the word of a prophet or an
apostle. From the heart of The Unseen a voice calls to him, and gives
him patience under suffering. I _know_, for I have heard and answered
it." Then he walked to the door, and opening it, he stood there
repeating to himself, as he looked over the waters which had been the
field of his conflict and his victory:--

  "But peace they have that none may gain that live;
  And rest about them that no love can give
  And over them, while death and life shall be,
  The light and sound and darkness of the Sea."

It was a verse that meant more to Andrew than he would have been able
to explain. He only knew that it led him somehow through those dim,
obscure pathways of spiritual life, on which the light of common day
does not shine. And as he stood there, his mother and sister felt
vaguely that they knew what "moral beauty" meant, and were the better
for the knowledge.

He did not try to forget Sophy; he only placed her beyond his own
horizon; and whereas he had once thought of her with personal hope and
desire, he now remembered her only with a prayer for her happiness, or
if by chance his tongue spoke her name, he added a blessing with it.
Never did he make a complaint of her desertion, but he wept inwardly;
and it was easy to see that he spent many of those hours that make the
heart grey, though they leave the hair untouched. And it was at this
time he contracted the habit of frequently looking up, finding in the
very act that sense of strength and help and adoration which is
inseparable to it. And thus, day by day, he overcame the aching sorrow
of his heart, for no man is ever crushed from without; if he is abased
to despair, his ruin has come from within.

About three weeks after Sophy's marriage, Christina was standing one
evening at the gloaming, looking over the immense, cheerless waste of
waters. Mists, vague and troublous as the background of dreams, were on
the horizon, and there Was a feeling of melancholy in the air. But she
liked the damp, fresh wind, with its taste of brine, and she drew her
plaid round her, and breathed it with a sense of enjoyment. Very soon
Andrew came up the cliff, and he stood at her side, and they spoke of
Jamie and wondered at his whereabouts, and after a little pause, Andrew
added:--

"Christina, I got a very important letter to-day, and I am going
to-morrow about the business I told you of. I want to start early in
the morning, so put up what I need in my little bag. And I wish you to
say nothing to mother until all things are settled."

"She will maybe ask me the question, Andrew."

"I told her I was going about a new boat, and she took me at my word
without this or that to it. She is a blithe creature, one of the Lord's
most contented bairns. I wish we were both more like her."

"I wish we were, Andrew. If we could just do as mother does! for she
leaves yesterday where it fell, and trusts to-morrow with God, and so
catches every blink of happiness that passes by her."

"God forever bless her! There is no mother like the mother that bore
us; we must aye remember that, Christina. But it is a dour, storm-like
sky yon," he continued, pointing eastward. "We shall have a snoring
breeze before midnight."

Then Christina thought of her lover again, and as they turned in to the
fireside, she began to tell her brother her hopes and fears about
Jamie, and to read him portions of a letter received that day from
America. While Andrew's trouble had been fresh and heavy on him,
Christina had refrained herself from all speech about her lover; she
felt instinctively that it would not be welcome and perhaps hardly
kind. But this night it fell out naturally, and Andrew listened kindly
and made his sister very happy by his interest in all that related to
Jamie's future. Then he ate some bread and cheese with the women, and
after the exercise went to his room, for he had many things to prepare
for his journey on the following day.

Janet continued the conversation. It related to her daughter's marriage
and settlement in Glasgow, and of this subject she never wearied.

The storm Andrew had foreseen was by this time raging round the
cottage, the Clustering waves making strange noises on the sands and
falling on the rocks with a keen, lashing sound It affected them
gradually; their hearts became troubled, and they spoke low and with
sad inflections, for both were thinking of the sailor-men and fishermen
peopling the lonely waters.

"I wouldn't put out to sea this night," said Janet. "No, not for a
capful of sovereigns."

"Yet there will be plenty of boats, hammering through the big waves all
night long, till the dawn shows in the east; and it is very like that
Jamie is now on the Atlantic--a stormy place, God knows!"

"A good passage, if it so pleases God!" said Janet, lifting her eyes to
heaven, and Christina looked kindly at her mother for the wish. But
talking was fast becoming difficult, for the wind had suddenly veered
more northerly, and, sleet-laden, it howled and shrieked down the wide
chimney. In one of the pauses forced on them by this blatant intruder,
they were startled by a human cry, loud and piercing, and quite
distinct from the turbulent roar of winds and waves.

Both women were on their feet on the instant Both had received the same
swift, positive impression, that it came from Andrew's room, and they
were at his door in a moment. It was locked. They called him, and he
made no answer. Again and again, with ever increasing terror, they
entreated him to open to them; for the door was solid and heavy, and
the lock large and strong, and no power they possessed could avail to
force an entrance. He heeded none of, their passionate prayers until
Janet began to cry bitterly. Then he turned the key and they entered.

Andrew looked at them with anger; his countenance was pale and
distraught, and a quiet fury burned in his eyes. He could not speak,
and the women regarded him with fear and wonder. Presently he managed
to articulate with a thick difficulty:--

"My money! My money! It is all gone!"

"Gone!" shrieked Christina, "that is just impossible."

"It is all gone!" Then he gripped her cruelly by the shoulder, and
asked in a fierce whisper:

"What did you do with it?"

"Me? Andrew!"

"Ay, you! You wicked lass, you!"

"I never put finger on it"

"Christina! Christina! To think that I trusted you for this! Go out of
my sight, will you! I'm not able to bear the face of you!"

"Andrew! Andrew! Surely, you are not calling me a 'thief'?"

"Who, then?" he cried, with gathering rage, "unless it be Jamie Logan?"

"Don't be so wicked as to wrong innocent folk such a way; Jamie never
saw, never heard tell of your money. The unborn babe is not more
guiltless than Jamie Logan."

"How do _you_ know that? How do _I_ know that? The very night I told
you of the money--that very night I showed you where I kept it--that
night Jamie ought to have been in the boats, and he was not in them.
What do you make of that?"

"Nothing. He is as innocent as I am."

"And he was drinking with some strange man at the public. What were
they up to? Tell me that. And then he comes whistling up the road, and
says he missed his boat. A made up story! and after it he goes off to
America! Oh. woman! woman! If you can't put facts together. I can."

"Jamie never touched a bawbee of your money. I'll ware my life on that.
For I never let on to any mortal creature that you had a penny of
silent money. God Almighty knows I am speaking the truth."

"You won't dare to bring God Almighty's name into such a black
business. Are you not feared to take it into your mouth?"

Then Janet laid her hand heavily on his shoulder. He had sat down on
his bed, and was leaning heavily against one of the posts, and the very
fashion of his countenance was changed; his hair stood upright, and he
continually smote his large, nervous hands together.

"Andrew," said his mother, angrily, "you are just giving yourself up to
Satan. Your passion is beyond seeing, or hearing tell of. And think
shame of yourself for calling your sister a 'thief and a 'liar' and
what not. I wonder what's come over you! Step ben the house, and talk
reasonable to us."

"Leave me to myself! Leave me to myself! I tell you both to go away.
Will you go? both of you?"

"I'm your mother, Andrew."

"Then for God's sake have pity on me, and leave me alone with my
sorrow! Go! Go! I'm not a responsible creature just now--" and his
passion was so stern and terrific that neither of them dared to face
any increase of it.

So they left him alone and went back to the sputtering fireside--for
the rain was now beating down the chimney--and in awe-struck whispers
Christina told her mother of the money which Andrew had hoarded through
long laborious years, and of the plans which the loss of it would break
to pieces.

"There would be a thousand pounds, or near by it. Mother, I'm
thinking," said Christina. "You know well how scrimping with himself he
has been. Good fishing or bad fishing, he never had a shilling to spend
on any one. He bought nothing other boys bought; when he was a laddie,
and when he grew to the boats, you may mind that he put all he made
away somewhere. And he made a deal more than folks thought. He had a
bit venture here, and a bit there, and they must have prospered
finely."

"Not they!" said Janet angrily. "What good has come of them? What good
_could_ come of money, hid away from everybody but himself? Why didn't
he tell his mother? If her thoughts had been round about his siller, it
would not have gone an ill road. A man who hides away his money is just
a miracle of stupidity, for the devil knows where it is if no decent
human soul does."

It was a mighty sorrow to bear, even for the two women, and Janet wept
like a child over the hopes blasted before she knew of them. "He should
have told us both long since," she sobbed. "I would have been praying
for the bonnie ship building for him, every plank would have been laid
with a blessing. And as I sat quiet in my house, I would have been
thinking of my son Captain Binnie, and many a day would have been a
bright day, that has been but a middling one. So selfish as the lad has
been!"

"Maybe it wasn't pure selfishness, Mother. He was saving for a good
end."

"It was pure selfishness! He was that way even about Sophy. Nobody but
himself must have word or look from her, and the lassie just wearied of
him. Why wouldn't she? He put himself and her in a circle, and then
made a wilderness all round about it. And Sophy wanted company, for
when a girl says 'a man is all the world to her,' she doesn't mean that
nobody else is to come into her world. She would be a wicked lass if
she did."

"Well, Mother, he lost her, and he bore his loss like a man."

"Ay, men often bear the loss of love easier than the loss of money.
I've seen far more fuss made over the loss of a set of fishing-nets,
than over the brave fellows that handled them. And to think of our
Andrew hiding away his gold all these years for his own hoping and
pleasuring! A perfectly selfish pleasuring! The gold might well take
wings to itself and fly away. He should have clipped the wings of it
with giving a piece to the kirk now and then, and a piece to his mother
and sister at odd times, and the flying wouldn't have been so easy. Now
he has lost the whole, and he well deserves it I'm thinking his Maker
is dourly angry with him for such ways, and I am angry myself."

"Ah well, Mother, there is no use in our anger; the lad is suffering
enough, and for the rest we must just leave him to the general mercy of
God."

"'General mercy of God.' Don't let me hear you use the like of such
words, Christina. The minister would tell you it is a very loose
expression and a very dangerous doctrine. He was reproving Elder
McInnes for them very words, and any good minister will be keeping his
thumb on such a wide outgate. Andrew knows well that he has to have the
particular and elected grace of God to keep him where he ought to be.
This hid-away money has given him a sore tumble, and I will tell him so
very plainly."

"Don't trouble him, Mother. He will not bear words on it, even from
you."

"He will have to bear them. I am not feared for Andrew Binnie, and he
shall not be left in ignorance of his sin. Whether he knows it or not,
he has done a deed that would make a very poor kind of a Christian
ashamed to look the devil in the face; and I be to let him know it."

But in the morning Andrew looked so utterly wretched, that Janet could
only pity him. "I'll not be the one to break the bruised reed," she
said to Christina, for the miserable man sat silent with dropped eyes
the whole day long, eating nothing, seeing nothing, and apparently lost
to all interests outside his own bewildering, utterly hopeless
speculations. It was not until another letter came about the ship he
was to command, that he roused himself sufficiently to write and cancel
the whole transaction. He could not keep his promises financially, and
though he was urged to make some other offer, he would have nothing
from The Fleet on any humbler basis than his first proposition. With a
foolish pride, born of his great disappointment and anger, he turned
his back on his broken hopes, and went sullen and sorrowful back to his
fishing-boat.

He had never been even in his family a very social man. Jokes and songs
and daffing of all kinds were alien to his nature. Yet his grave and
pleasant smile had been a familiar thing, and gentle words had always
hitherto come readily to his lips. But after his ruinous loss, he
seldom spoke unless it was to his mother. Christina he noticed not,
either by word or look, and the poor girl was broken-hearted under this
silent accusation. For she felt that Andrew doubted both her and Jamie,
and though she was indignant at the suspicion, it eat its way into her
heart and tortured her.

For put the thought away as she would, the fact of Jamie's dereliction
that unfortunate night would return and return, and always with a more
suspicious aspect. Who was the man he was drinking with? Nobody in the
village but Jamie, knew him. He had come and gone in a night. It was
possible that, having missed the boat, Jamie had brought his friend up
the cliff to call on her; that, seeing the light in Andrew's room, they
had looked in at the window, and so might have seen Andrew and herself
standing over the money, and then watched until it was returned to its
hiding-place. Jamie _had_ come whistling in a very pronounced manner up
to the house--that might have been because he had been drinking, and
then again, it might not--and then there was his quarrel with Andrew!
Was that a planned affair, in order to give the other man time to carry
off the box? She could not remember whether the curtain had been drawn
across the window or not; and when she dared to name this doubt to
Andrew, he only answered--

"What for are you asking after spilled milk?"

The whole circumstance was so mysterious that it stupified her. And yet
she felt that it contained all the elements of sorrow and separation
between Jamie and herself. However, she kept assuring her heart that
Jamie would be in Glasgow the following week; and she wrote a letter to
meet him, expressing a strong desire that he would "be sure to come to
Pittendurie, as there was most important business." But she did not
like to tell him what the business was, and Jamie did not answer the
request. In fact, the lad could not, without resigning his position
entirely. The ship had been delayed thirty hours by storms, and there
was nearly double tides of work for every man on her in order that she
might be able to keep her next sailing day. Jamie was therefore so
certain that a request to go on shore about his own concerns would be
denied, that he did not even ask the favour.

But he wrote to Christina, and explained to her in the most loving
manner the impossibility of his leaving his duties. He said "that for
her sake, as well as his own, he was obligated to remain at his post,"
and he assured her that this obligation was "a reasonable one."
Christina believed him fully, and was satisfied, her mother only smiled
with shut lips and remained silent; but Andrew spoke with a bitterness
it was hard to forgive; still harder was it to escape from the wretched
inferences his words implied.

"No wonder he keeps away from Pittendurie!" he said with a scornful
laugh. "He'll come here no more--unless he is made to come, and if it
was not for mother's sake, and for your good name, Christina, I would
send the constables to the ship to bring him here this very day."

And Christina could make no answer, save that of passionate weeping.
For it shocked her to see, that her mother did not stand up for Jamie,
but went silently about her house duties, with a face as inscrutable as
the figure-head of Andrew's boat.

Thus backward, every way flew the wheels of life in the Binnie cottage.
Andrew took a grim pleasure in accepting his poverty before his mother
and sister. In the home he made them feel that everything but the
barest necessities were impossible wants. His newspaper was resigned,
his pipe also, after a little struggle He took his tea without sugar,
he put the butter and marmalade aside, as if they were sinful luxuries,
and in fact reduced his life to the most essential and primitive
conditions it was possible to live it on. And as Janet and Christina
were not the bread winners, and did not know the exact state of the
Binnie finances, they felt obliged to follow Andrew's example. Of
course, all Christina's little extravagances of wedding preparations
were peremptorily stopped. There would be no silk wedding gown now. It
began to look, as if there would be no wedding at all.

For Andrew's continual suspicions, spoken and unspoken, insensibly
affected her, and that in spite of her angry denials of them. She
fought against their influence, but often in vain, for Jamie did not
come to Pittendurie either after the second or the third voyage. He was
not to blame; it was the winter season, and delays were constant, and
there were other circumstances--with which he had nothing whatever to
do--that still put him in such a position that to ask for leave of
absence meant asking for his dismissal. And then there would be no
prospect at all of his marriage with Christina.

But the fisher folk, who had their time very much at their own command
and who were nursed in a sense of every individual's independence, did
not realise Jamie's dilemma. It could not be made intelligent to them,
and they began to wonder, and to ask embarrassing questions. Very soon
there was a shake of the head and a sigh of pity whenever "poor
Christina Binnie" was mentioned.

So four wretched months went by, and then one moonlight night in
February, Christina heard the quick footstep and the joyous whistle she
knew so well. She stood up trembling with pleasure; and as Jamie flung
wide the door, she flew to his arms with an irrepressible cry. For some
minutes he saw nothing and cared for nothing but the girl clasped to
his breast; but as she began to sob, he looked at Janet--who had
purposely gone to the china rack that she might have her back to
him--and then at Andrew who stood white and stern, with both hands in
his pockets, regarding him.

The young man was confounded by this reception, he released himself
from Christina's embrace, and stepping forward, asked anxiously "What
ever is the matter with you, Andrew? You aren't like yourself at all.
Why, you are ill, man! Oh, but I'm vexed to see you so changed."

"Where is my money, James Logan? Where is the gold and the bank-notes
you took from me?--the savings of all my lifetime."

"Your money, Andrew? Your gold and bank-notes? _Me_ take your money!
Why, man, you are either mad or joking--and I'm not liking such jokes
either." Then he turned to Christina and asked, "What does he mean, my
dearie?"

"I mean this," cried Andrew with gathering passion, "I mean that I had
nearly a thousand pounds taken out of my room yon night that you should
have gone to the boats--and that you did _not_ go."

"Do you intend to say that I took your thousand pounds? Mind your
words, Andrew Binnie!" and as he spoke, he put Christina behind him and
stood squarely before Andrew. And his face was a flame of passion.

"I am most sure you took it. Prove to me that you did not."

Before the words were finished, they were answered with a blow, the
blow was promptly returned; and then the two men closed in a deadly
struggle. Christina was white and sick with terror, but withal glad
that Andrew had found himself so promptly answered. Janet turned
sharply at the first blow, and threw herself between the men. All the
old prowess of the fish-wife was roused in her.

"How dare you?" she cried in a temper quite equal to their own. "I'll
have no cursing and fighting in my house," and with a twist of her hand
in her son's collar, she threw him back in his chair. Then she turned
to Jamie and cried angrily--

"Jamie Logan, my bonnie lad, if you have got nothing to say for
yourself, you'll do well to take your way down the cliff."

"I have been called a 'thief' in this house," he answered; and wounded
feeling and a bitter sense of wrong made his voice tremble. "I came
here to kiss my bride; and I know nothing at all of what Andrew means.
I will swear it. Give me the Bible."

"Let my Bible alone," shouted Andrew. "I'll have no man swear to a lie
on my Bible. Get out of my house, James Logan, and be thankful that I
don't call the officers to take care of you."

"There is a mad man inside of you, Andrew Binnie, or a devil of some
kind, and you are not fit to be in the same house with good women. Come
with me, Christina. I'll marry you tonight at the Largo minister's
house. Come my dear lassie. Never mind aught you have, but your
plaidie."

Christina rose and put out her hand. Andrew leaped to his feet and
strode between them.

"I will strike you to the ground, if you dare to touch my sister
again," he shouted, and if Janet had not taken both his hands in her
own strong grip, Andrew would have kept his threat. Then Janet's anger
turned most unreasonably upon Christina--

"Go ben the house," she screamed. "Go ben the house, you worrying,
whimpering lassie. You will be having the whole village fighting about
you the next thing."

"I am going with Jamie, Mother."

"I will take very good care, you do _not_ go with Jamie. There is not a
soul, but Jamie Logan, will leave this house tonight. I would just like
to see any other man or woman try it," and she looked defiantly both at
Andrew and Christina.

"I ran the risk of losing my berth to come here," said Jamie. "More
fool, I. I have been called 'thief' and 'loon' for doing it. I came for
your sake, Christina, and now you must go with me for my sake. Come
away, my dearie, and there is none that shall part us more."

Again Christina rose, and again her mother interfered. "You will go out
of this house alone, Jamie Logan. I don't know whether you are right or
wrong. I know nothing about that weary siller. But I do know there has
been nothing but trouble to my boy since he saved you from the sea. I
am not saying it is your fault; but the sea has been against him ever
since, and now you will go away, and you will stay away."

"Christina, am I to go?"

"Go, Jamie, but I will come to you, and there is none that shall keep
me from you."

Then Jamie went, and far down on the sands Christina heard him call,
"Good-bye, Christina! Good-bye!" And she would have answered him, but
Janet had locked the door, and the key was in her pocket. Then for
hours the domestic storm raged, Andrew growing more and more positive
and passionate, until even Janet was alarmed, and with tears and
coaxing persuaded him to go to bed. Still in this hurly burly of
temper, Christina kept her purpose intact. She was determined to go to
Glasgow as soon as she could get outside. If she was in time for a
marriage with Jamie, she would be his wife at once. If Jamie had gone,
then she would hire herself out until the return of his ship.

This was the purpose she intended to carry out in the morning, but
before the dawn her mother awakened her out of a deep sleep. She was in
a sweat of terror.

"Run up the cliff for Thomas Roy," she cried, "and then send Sandy for
the doctor."

"What is the matter, Mother."

"Your brother Andrew is raving, and clean beyond himself, and I'm
feared for him, and for us all. Quick Christina! There is not a moment
to lose!"



CHAPTER VII

THE BEGINNING OF THE END


On this same night the Mistress of Braelands sat musing by the glowing
bit of fire in her bedroom, while her maid, Allister, was folding away
her silk dinner-gown, and making the preparations for the night's
toilet. She was a stately, stern-looking woman, with that air of
authority which comes from long and recognised position. Her
dressing-gown of pale blue flannel fell amply around her tall form; her
white hair was still coiled and puffed in an elaborate fashion, and
there was at the wrist-bands of her sleeves a fall of lace which half
covered her long, shapely white hands. She was pinching its plaits
mechanically, and watching the effect as she idly turned them in the
firelight to catch the gleam of opal and amethyst rings. But this
accompaniment to her thoughts was hardly a conscious one; she had
admired her hands for so many years that she was very apt to give to
their beauty this homage of involuntary observation, even when her
thoughts were fixed on subjects far-off and alien to them.

"Allister," she said, suddenly, "I wonder where Mr. Archibald will be
this night."

"The Lord knows, Madame, and it is well he does; for it is little we
know of ourselves and the ways we walk in."

"The Lord looks after his own, Allister, and Mr. Archibald was given to
him by kirk and parents before he was a month old. But if a man marries
such a woman as you know nothing about, and then goes her ways, what
will you say then?"

"It is not as bad as that, Madame. Mrs. Archibald is of well-known
people, though poor."

"Though low-born, Allister. Poverty can be tholed, and even respected;
but for low birth there is no remedy but being born over again."

"Well, Madame, she is Braelands now, and that is a cloak to cover all
defects; and if I was you I would just see that it did so."

"She is my son's wife, and must be held as such, both by gentle and
simple."

"And there is few ills that have not a good side to them, Madame. If
Mr. Archibald had married Miss Roberta Elgin, as you once feared he
would do, there would have been a flitting for you and for me, Madame.
Miss Roberta would have had the whole of Braelands House to herself,
and the twenty-two rooms of it wouldn't have been enough for her. And
she would have taken the Braelands's honour and glory on her own
shoulders. It would have been 'Mrs. Archibald Braelands' here and there
and everywhere, and you would have been pushed out of sight and
hearing, and passed by altogether, like as not; for if youth and beauty
and wealth and good blood set themselves to have things their own way,
which way at all will age that is not rich keep for itself? Sure as
death, Madame, you would have had to go to the Dower House, which is
but a mean little place, though big enough, no doubt, for all the
friends and acquaintances that would have troubled themselves to know
you there."

"You are not complimentary, Allister. I think I have few friends who
would _not_ have followed me to the Dower House."

"Surely, Madame, you may as well think so. But carriages aye stop at
big houses; indeed, the very coachmen and footmen and horses are dead
set against calling at cottages. There is many a lady who would be
feared to ask her coachman to call at the Dower House. But what for am
I talking? There is no occasion to think that Mrs. Archibald will ever
dream of sending you out of his house."

"I came here a bride, nearly forty years ago, Allister," she said, with
a touch of sentimental pity for herself in the remembrance.

"So you have had a long lease, Madame, and one like to be longer; for
never a better son than your son; and I do think for sure that the lady
he has married will be as biddable as a very child with you."

"I hope so. For she will have everything to learn about society, and
who can teach her better than I can, Allister?"

"No one, Madame; and Mrs. Archibald was ever good at the uptake. I am
very sure if you will show her this and that, and give her the word
here and there yourself, Madame, there will be no finer lady in Fife
before the year has come and gone. And she cannot be travelling with
Mr. Archibald without learning many a thing all the winter long."

"Yes, they will not be home before the spring, I hear."

"And oh, Madame, by that date you will have forgot that all was not as
you wanted it! And no doubt you will give the young things the loving
welcome they are certain to be longing for."

"I do not know, Allister. The marriage was a great sorrow, and shame,
and disappointment to me. I am not sure that I have forgiven it."

"Lady Beith was saying you never would forgive it. She was saying that
you could never forgive any one's faults but your own."

"Lady Beith is very impertinent. And pray what faults has Lady Beith
ever seen in me?"

"It was her general way of speaking, Madame. She has that way."

"Then you might tell Lady Beith's woman, that such general ways of
speaking are extremely vulgar. When her ladyship speaks of the Mistress
of Braelands again, I will ask her to refer to me, particularly. I have
my own virtues as well as my own faults, and my own position, and my
own influence, and I do not go into the generalities of life. I am the
Mistress of Braelands yet, I hope."

"I hope so, Madame. As I was saying, Mrs. Archibald is biddable as a
child; but then again, she is quite capable of taking the rudder into
her own hands, and driving in the teeth of the wind. You can't ever be
sure of fisher blood. It is like the ocean, whiles calm as a sleeping
baby, whiles lashing itself into a very fury. There is both this and
that in the Traills, and Mrs. Archibald is one of them."

"Any way and every way, this marriage is a great sorrow to me."

"I am not disputing that, Madame; but I am sure you remember what the
minister was saying to you at his last visitation--that every sorrow
you got the mastery over was a benefactor."

"The minister is not always orthodox, Allister."

"He is a very good man; every one is saying that."

"No doubt, no doubt, but he deviates."

"Well then, Madame, even if the marriage be as bad as you fancy it, bad
things as well as good ones come to an end, and life, after all, is
like a bit of poetry I picked up somewhere, which says:

  There's nane exempt frae worldly cares
    And few frae some domestic jars
  Whyles _all_ are in, whyles _all_ are out,
    And grief and joy come turn about.

And it's the turn now for the young people to be happy. Cold and bleak
it is here on the Fife coast, but they are among roses and sunshine and
so God bless them, I say, and keep us and every one from cutting short
their turn of happiness. You had your bride time, Madame, and when
Angus McAllister first took me to his cottage in Strathmoyer, I thought
I was on a visit to Paradise."

"Give me my glass of negus, and then I will go to bed. Everybody has
taken to preaching and advising lately, and that is not the kind of
fore-talk that spares after-talk--not it, Allister."

She sunk then into unapproachable silence, and Allister knew that she
needed not try to move her further that night in any direction. Her
eyes were fixed upon the red coals, but she was really thinking of the
roses and sunshine of the South, and picturing to herself her son and
his bride, wandering happily amid the warmth and beauty.

In reality, they were crossing the Braelands's moor at that very moment
The rain was beating against the closed windows of their coach, and the
horses floundering heavily along the boggy road. Sophy's head rested on
her husband's shoulder, but they were not talking, nor had they spoken
for some time. Both indeed were tired and depressed, and Archie at
least was unpleasantly conscious of the wonderment their unexpected
return would cause.

The end of April or the beginning of May had been the time appointed,
and yet here they were, at the threshold of their home, in the middle
of the winter. Sophy's frail health had been Archie's excuse for a
season in the South with her; and she was coming back to Scotland when
the weather was at its very bleakest and coldest. One excuse after
another formed itself in Archie's mind, only to be peremptorily
dismissed. "It is no one's business but our own," he kept assuring
himself, "and I will give neither reason nor apology but my wife's
desire." and yet he knew that reasons and apologies would be asked, and
he was fretting inwardly at their necessity, and wondering vaguely if
women ever did know what they really wanted.

For to go to France and Germany and Italy, had seemed to Sophy the very
essence of every joy in life. Before her marriage, she had sat by
Archie's side hour after hour, listening to his descriptions of foreign
lands, and dreaming of all the delights that were to meet her in them.
She had started on this bridal trip with all her senses set to an
unnatural key of expectation, and she had, of course, suffered
continual disappointments and disillusions. The small frets and
sicknesses of travel, the loneliness of being in places where she could
not speak even to her servants, or go shopping without an attendant,
the continual presence of what was strange--of what wounded her
prejudices and very often her conscience,--and the constant absence
of all that was familiar and approved, were in themselves no slight
cause of unhappiness.

Yet it had been a very gradual disillusion, and one mitigated by many
experiences that had fully justified even Sophy's extravagant
anticipations. The trouble, in the main, was one common to a great
majority of travellers for pleasure--a mind totally unprepared for
the experience.

She grew weary of great cities which had no individual character or
history in her mind; weary of fine hotels in which she was of no
special importance; weary of art which had no meaning for her. Her
child-like enthusiasms, which at first both delighted and embarrassed
her husband, faded gradually away; the present not only lost its charm,
but she began to look backward to the homely airs and scenes of Fife,
and to suffer from a nostalgia that grew worse continually.

However, Archie bore her unreasonable depression with great
consideration. She was but a frail child after all, and she was in a
condition of health demanding the most affectionate patience and
tenderness he could give her. Besides, it was no great sin in his eyes
to be sick with longing for dear old Scotland. He loved his native
land; and his little mountain blue-bell, trembling in every breeze, and
drooping in every hour of heat and sunshine, appealed to the very best
instincts of his nature. And when Sophy began to voice her longing, to
cry a little in his arms, and to say she was wearying for a sight of
the great grey sea round her Fife home, Archie vowed he was homesick as
a man could be, and asked, "why they should stop away from their own
dear land any longer?"

"People will wonder and talk so, Archie They will say unkind
things--they will maybe say we are not happy together."

"Let them talk. What care we? And we are happy together. Do you want to
go back to Scotland tomorrow? today--this very hour?"

"Aye. I do, Archie. And I am that weak and poorly, if I don't go soon,
maybe I will have to wait a long time, and then you know."

"Yes, I know. And that would never, never do. Braelands of Fife cannot
run the risk of having his heir born in a foreign country. Why, it
would be thrown up to the child, lad and man, as long as he lived! So
call your maid, my bonnie Sophy, and set her to packing all your braws
and pretty things, and we will turn our faces to Scotland's hills and
braes tomorrow morning."

Thus it happened that on that bleak night in February, Archie Braelands
and his wife came suddenly to their home amid the stormy winds and
rains of a stormy night. Madame heard the wheels of their carriage as
she sat sipping her negus, and thinking over her conversation with
Allister and her alert soul instantly divined _who_ the late comers
were.

"Give me my silk morning gown and my brocade petticoat, Allister," she
cried, as she rose up hastily and set down her glass. "Mr. Archibald
has come home; his carriage is at the door--haste ye, woman!"

"Will you be heeding your silks to-night, Madame?"

"Get them at once. Quick! Do you think I will meet the bride in a
flannel dressing-gown? No, no! I am not going to lose ground the first
hour."

With nervous haste the richer garments were donned, and just as the
final gold brooch was clasped, Archie knocked at his mother's door. She
opened to him with her own hands, and took him to her heart with an
effusive affection she rarely permitted herself to exhibit.

"I am so glad that you are dressed, Mother," he said. "Sophy must not
miss your welcome, and the poor little woman is just weary to death."
Then he whispered some words to her, which brought a flush of pride and
joy to his own face, but no such answering response to Madame's.

"Indeed," she replied, "I am sorry she is so tired. It seems to me,
that the women of this generation are but weak creatures."

Then she took her son's arm, and went down to the parlour, where
servants were re-kindling the fire, and setting a table with
refreshments for the unexpected guests. Sophy was resting on a sofa
drawn towards the hearth. Archie had thrown his travelling cloak of
black fox over her, and her white, flower-like face, surrounded by the
black fur, had a singularly pathetic beauty. She opened her large blue
eyes as Madame approached and looked at her with wistful entreaty; and
Madame, in spite of all her pre-arrangements of conduct, was unable at
that hour not to answer the appeal for affection she saw in them. She
stooped and kissed the childlike little woman, and Archie watched this
token of reconciliation and promise with eyes wet with happiness.

When supper was served, Madame took her usual place at the head of the
table, and Archie noticed the circumstance, though it did not seem a
proper time to make any remark about it. For Sophy was not able to eat,
and did not rise from her couch; and Madame seemed to fall so properly
into her character of hostess, that it would have been churlish to have
made the slightest dissent. Yet it was a false kindness to both; for in
the morning Madame took the same position, and Archie felt less able
than on the previous night to make any opposition, though he had told
himself continually on his homeward journey that he would not suffer
Sophy to be imposed upon, and would demand for her the utmost title of
her rights as his wife.

In this resolve, however, he had forgot to take into account his
mother's long and absolute influence over him. When she was absent, it
was comparatively easy to relegate her to the position she ought to
occupy; when she was present, he found it impossible to say or do
anything which made her less than Mistress of Braelands. And during the
first few weeks after her return, Sophy helped her mother-in-law
considerably against herself. She was so anxious to please, so anxious
to be loved, so afraid of making trouble for Archie, that she submitted
without protest to one infringement after another on her rights as the
wife of the Master of Braelands. All the same she was dumbly conscious
of the wrong being done to her; and like a child, she nursed her sense
of the injustice until it showed itself in a continual mood of sullen,
silent protest.

After the lapse of a month or more, she became aware that even her ill
health was used as a weapon against her, and she suddenly resolved to
throw off her lassitude, and assert her right to go out and call upon
her friends. But she was petulant and foolish in the carrying out of
the measure. She had made up her mind to visit her aunt on the
following day, and though the weather was bitterly cold and damp, she
adhered to her resolution. Madame, at first politely, finally with
provoking positiveness, told her "she would not permit her to risk her
life, and a life still more precious, for any such folly."

Then Sophy rose, with a sudden excitement of manner, and rang the bell.
When the servant appeared, she ordered the carriage to be ready for her
in half an hour. Madame waited until they were alone, and then said:

"Sophy, go to your room and lie down. You are not fit to go out. I
shall counter-order the carriage in your name."

"You will not," cried the trembling, passionate girl. "You have ordered
and counter-ordered in my name too much. You will, in the future, mind
your own affairs, and leave me to attend to mine."

"When Archie comes back"

"You will tell him all kinds of lies. I know that."

"I do not lie."

"Perhaps not; but you misrepresent things so, that you make it
impossible for Archie to get at the truth. I want to see my aunt. You
have kept me from her, and kept her from me, until I am sick for a
sight of those who _really_ love me. I am going to Aunt Kilgour's this
very morning, whether you like it or not."

"You shall not leave this house until Archie comes back from Largo. I
will not take the responsibility."

"We shall see. _I_ will take the responsibility myself. _I_ am mistress
of Braelands. You will please remember that fact. And I know my rights,
though I have allowed you to take them from me."

"Sophy, listen to me."

"I am going to Aunt Kilgour's."

"Archie will be very angry."

"Not if you will let him judge for himself. Anyway, I don't care. I am
going to see my aunt! You expect Archie to be always thinking of
feelings, and your likes and dislikes. I have just as good a right to
care about my aunt's feelings. She was all the same as mother to me. I
have been a wicked lassie not to have gone to her lang syne."

"Wicked lassie! Lang syne! I wish you would at least try to speak like
a lady."

"I am not a lady. I am just one of God's fisher folk. I want to see my
own kith and kin. I am going to do so."

"You are not--until your husband gives you permission."

"Permission! do you say? I will go on my own permission, Sophy
Braelands's permission."

"It is a shame to take the horses out in such weather--and poor old
Thomas."

"Shame or not, I shall take them out."

"Indeed, no! I cannot permit you to make a fool and a laughing-stock of
yourself." She rang the bell sharply and sent for the coachman When he
appeared, she said:

"Thomas, I think the horses had better not go out this morning. It is
bitterly cold, and there is a storm coming from the northeast. Do you
not think so?"

"It is a bad day, Madame, and like to be worse."

"Then we will not go out."

As Madame uttered the words, Sophy walked rapidly forward. All the
passion of her Viking ancestors was in her face, which had undergone a
sort of transfiguration. Her eyes flashed, her soft curly yellow hair
seemed instinct with a strange life and brilliancy, and she said with
an authority that struck Madame with amazement and fear:

"Thomas, you will have the carriage at the door in fifteen minutes,
exactly," and she drew out her little jewelled watch, and gave him the
time with a smiling, invincible calmness.

Thomas looked from one woman to the other, and said, fretfully, "A man
canna tak' twa contrary orders at the same minute o' time. What will I
do in the case?"

"You will do as I tell you, Thomas," said Madame. "You have done so for
twenty years. Have you come to any scath or wrong by it?"

"If the carriage is not at the door in fifteen minutes, you will leave
Braelands this night, Thomas," said Sophy. "Listen! I give you fifteen
minutes; after that I shall walk into Largo, and you can answer to your
master for it. I am Mistress of Braelands. Don't forget that fact if
you want to keep your place, Thomas."

She turned passionately away with the words, and left the room. In
fifteen minutes she went to the front door in her cloak and hood, and
the carriage was waiting there. "You will drive me to my aunt Kilgour's
shop," she said with an air of reckless pride and defiance. It pleased
her at that hour to humble herself to her low estate. And it pleased
Thomas also that she had done so. His sympathy was with the fisher
girl. He was delighted that she had at last found courage to assert
herself, for Sophy's wrongs had been the staple talk of the
kitchen-table and fireside.

"No born lady I ever saw," he said afterwards to the cook, "could have
held her own better. It will be an even fight between them two now, and
I will bet my shilling on fisherman Traill's girl."

"Madame has more wit, and more _hold out_" answered the cook. "Mrs.
Archibald is good for a spurt, but I'll be bound she cried her eyes red
at Griselda Kilgour's, and was as weak as a baby."

This opinion was a perfectly correct one. Once in her aunt's little
back parlour, Sophy gave full sway to her childlike temper. She told
all her wrongs, and was comforted by her kinswoman's interest and pity,
and strengthened in her resolution to resist Madame's interference with
her life. And then the small black teapot was warmed and filled, and
Sophy begged for a herring and a bit of oatcake; and the two women sat
close to one another, and Miss Kilgour told Sophy all the gossip and
clash of gossip there had been about Christina Binnie and her lover,
and how the marriage had been broken off, no one knowing just why, but
many thinking that since Jamie Logan had got a place on "The Line," he
was set on bettering himself with a girl something above the like of
Christina Binnie.

And as they talked Helen Marr came into the shop for a yard of ribbon,
and said it was the rumour all through Pittendurie, that Andrew Binnie
was all but dead, and folks were laying all the blame upon the Mistress
of Braelands, for that every one knew that Andrew had never held up his
head an hour since her marriage. And though Miss Kilgour did not
encourage this phase of gossip, yet the woman would persist in
describing his sufferings, and the poverty that had come to the Binnies
with the loss of their only bread-winner, and the doctors to pay, and
the medicine folks said they had not the money to buy, and much more of
the same sort, which Sophy heard every word of, knowing also that Helen
Marr must have seen her carriage at the door, and so, knowing of her
presence, had determined that she should hear it.

Certainly if Helen had wished to wound her to the very heart, she
succeeded. When Miss Kilgour got rid of her customer, and came back to
Sophy, she found her with her face in the pillow, sobbing passionately
about the trouble of her old friends. She did not name Andrew, but the
thought of his love and suffering hurt her sorely, and she could not
endure to think of Janet's and Christina's long hardships and sorrow.
For she knew well how much they would blame her, and the thought of
their anger, and of her own apparent ingratitude, made her sick with
shame and grief. And as they talked of this new trouble, and Sophy sent
messages of love and pity to Janet and Christina, the shop-bell rung
violently, and Sophy heard her husband's step, and in another moment he
was at her side, and quite inclined to be very angry with her for
venturing out in such miserable weather.

Then Sophy seized her opportunity, and Miss Kilgour left them alone for
the explanation that was better to be made there than at Braelands. And
for once Archie took his wife's part without reservation. He was not
indeed ill-pleased that she had assumed her proper position, and when
he slipped a crown into Thomas's hand, the man also knew that he had
done wisely. Indeed there was something in the coachman's face and air
which affected Madame unpleasantly, before she noticed that Sophy had
returned in her husband's company, and that they were evidently on the
most affectionate terms.

"I have lost this battle," she said to herself, and she wisely
retreated to her own room, and had a nominal headache, and a very
genuine heartache about the loss.

All day long Sophy was at an unnatural pitch, all day long she exerted
herself, as she had not done for weeks and months, to entertain and
keep her husband at her side, and all day long her pretty wifely
triumph was bright and unbroken. The very servants took a delight in
ministering to it, and Madame was not missed in a single item of the
household routine. But about midnight there was a great and sudden
change. Bells were frantically rung, lights flew about the house, and
there was saddling of horses and riding in hot haste into Largo for any
or all the doctors that could be found.

Then Madame came quietly from her seclusion, and resumed her place as
head of the household, for the little mistress of one day lay in her
chamber quite unconscious of her lost authority. Some twelve hours
later, the hoped-for heir of Braelands was born, and died, and Sophy,
on the very outermost shoal of life, felt the wash and murmur of that
dark river which flows to the Eternal Sea.

It was no time to reproach the poor little wife, and yet Madame did not
scruple to do so. "She had warned Sophy,--she had begged her not to go
out--she had been insulted for endeavouring to prevent what had come to
pass just as she had predicted." And in spite of Archie's love and
pity, her continual regrets did finally influence him. He began to
think he had been badly used, and to agree with Madame in her
assertions that Sophy must be put under some restrictions, and
subjected to some social instruction.

"The idea of the Braelands's carriage standing two hours at Griselda
Kilgour's shop door! All the town talking about it! Every one wondering
what had happened at Braelands, to drive your wife out of doors in such
weather. All sorts of rumours about you and Sophy, and Griselda shaking
her head and sighing and looking unspeakable things, just to keep the
curiosity alive; and the crowds of gossiping women coming and going to
her shop. Many a cap and bonnet has been sold to your name, Archie, no
doubt, and I can tell you my own cheeks are kept burning with the shame
of the whole affair! And then this morning, the first thing she said to
me was, that she wanted to see her cousins Isobel and Christina."

"She asked me also about them, Mother, and really, I think she had
better be humoured in this matter. Our friends are not her friends."

"They ought to be."

"Let us be just. When has she had any opportunity to make them so? She
has seen no one yet,--her health has been so bad--and it did often
look. Mother, as if you encouraged her _not_ to see callers."

"Perhaps I did, Archie. You cannot blame me. Her manners are so crude,
so exigent, so effusive. She is so much pleased, or so indifferent
about people; so glad to see them, or else so careless as to how she
treats them. You have no idea what I suffered when Lady Blair called,
and insisted on meeting your wife. Of course she pretended to fall in
love with her, and kissed, and petted, and flattered Sophy, until the
girl hardly knew what she was doing or saying. And as for 'saying,' she
fell into broad Scotch, as she always does when she is pleased or
excited, and Lady Blair professed herself charmed, and talked broad
Scotch back to her. And I? I sat tingling with shame and annoyance, for
I knew right well what mockeries and laughter Sophy was supplying
Annette Blair with for her future visitors."

"I think you are wrong. Lady Blair is not at all ill-natured. She was
herself a poor minister's daughter, and accustomed to go in and out of
the fishers' cottages. I can imagine that she would really be charmed
with Sophy."

"You can 'imagine' what you like; that will not alter the real state of
the case; and if Sophy is ever to take her position as your wife, she
must be prepared for it. Besides which, it will be a good thing to give
her some new interests in life, for she must drop the old ones. About
that there cannot be two opinions."

"What then do you propose, Mother?"

"I should get proper teachers for her. Her English education has been
frightfully neglected; and she ought to learn music and French."

"She speaks French pretty well. I never saw any one pick up a language
as cleverly as she did the few weeks we were in Paris."

"O, she is clever enough if she wants to be! There is a French woman
teaching at Miss Linley's Seminary. She will perfect her. And I have
heard she also plays well. It would be a good thing to engage her for
Sophy, two or three hours a day. A teacher for grammar, history,
writing, etc., is easily found. I myself will give her lessons in
social etiquette, and in all things pertaining to the dignity and
decorum which your wife ought to exhibit. Depend upon it, Archie, this
routine is absolutely necessary. It will interest and occupy her idle
hours, of which she has far too many; and it will wean her better than
any other thing from her low, uncultivated relations."

"The poor little woman says she wants to be loved; that she is lonely
when I am away; that no one but the servants care for her; that
therefore she wants to see her cousins and kinsfolk."

"She does me a great injustice. I would love her if she would be
reasonable--if she would only trust me. But idle hearts are lonely
hearts, Archie. Tell her you wish her to study, and fit herself for the
position you have raised her to. Surely the desire to please you ought
to be enough. Do you know _who_ this Christina Binnie is that she talks
so continually about?"

"Her fourth or fifth cousin, I believe."

"She is the sister of the man you won Sophy from--the man whom you
struck across the cheek with your whip. Now do you wish her to see
Christina Binnie!"

"Yes, I do! Do you think I am jealous or fearful of my wife? No, by
Heaven! No! Sophy may be unlearned and unfashionable, but she is loyal
and true, and if she wants to see her old lover and his sister, she has
my full permission. As for the fisherman, he behaved very nobly. And I
did not intend to strike him. It was an accident, and I shall apologise
for it the first opportunity I have to do so."

"You are a fool, Archie Braelands."

"I am a husband, who knows his wife's heart and who trusts in it. And
though I think you are quite right in your ideas about Sophy's
education, I do not think you are right in objecting to her seeing her
old friends. Every one in this bound of Fife knows that I married a
fisher-girl. I never intend to be ashamed of the fact. If our social
world will accept her as the representative of my honour and my family,
I shall be obliged to the world. If it will not, I can live without its
approval--having Sophy to love me and live with me. I counted all this
cost before I married; you may be sure of that, Mother."

"You forgot, however, to take my honour and feelings into your
consideration."

"I knew, Mother, that you were well able to protect your own honour and
feelings."

This conversation but indicates the tone of many others which occupied
the hours mother and son passed together during Sophy's convalescence.
And the son, being the weaker character of the two, was insensibly
moved and moulded to all Madame's opinions. Indeed, before Sophy was
well enough to begin the course of study marked out for her, Archie had
become thoroughly convinced that it was his first duty to his wife and
himself to insist upon it.

The weak, loving woman made no objections. Indeed, Archie's evident
enthusiasm sensibly affected her own desires. She listened with
pleasure to the plans for her education, and promised "as soon as she
was able, to do her very best."

And there was a strange pathos in the few words "as soon as I am able,"
which Archie remembered years afterwards, when it was far too late. At
the moment, they touched him but lightly, but _Oh, afterwards!_ Oh,
afterwards! when memory brought back the vision of the small white face
on the white pillow, and the faint golden light of the golden curls
shadowing the large blue eyes that even then had in them that wide gaze
and wistfulness that marks those predestined for sorrow or early death.
Alas! Alas! We see too late, we hear too late, when it is the dead who
open the eyes and the ears of the living!



CHAPTER VIII

A GREAT DELIVERANCE


While these clouds of sorrow were slowly gathering in the splendid
house of Braelands, there was a full tide of grief and anxiety in the
humble cottage of the Binnies. The agony of terror which had changed
Janet Binnie's countenance, and sent Christina flying up the cliff for
help, was well warranted by Andrew's condition. The man was in the most
severe maniacal delirium of brain inflammation, and before the dawning
of the next day, required the united strength of two of his mates to
control him. To leave her mother and brother in this extremity would
have been a cruelty beyond the contemplation of Christina Binnie. Its
possibility never entered her mind. All her anger and sense of wrong
vanished before the pitiful sight of the strong man in the throes of
his mental despair and physical agony. She could not quite ignore her
waiting lover, even in such an hour; but she was not a ready writer, so
her words were few and to the point:--

DEAR JAMIE--Andrew is ill and like to die, and my place, dear lad, is
here, until some change come. I must stand by mother and Andrew now,
and you yourself would bid me do so. Death is in the house and by the
pillow, and there is only God's mercy to trust to. Andrew is clean off
his senses, and ill to manage, so you will know that he was not in
reason when he spoke so wrong to you, and you will be sorry for him and
forgive the words he said, because he did not know what he was saying;
and now he knows nothing at all, not even his mother. Do not forget to
pray for us in our sorrow, dear Jamie, and I will keep ever a prayer
round about you in case of danger on the sea or on land. Your true,
troth-plighted wife,

CHRISTINA BINNIE


This letter was her last selfish act for many a week. After it had been
written, she put all her own affairs out of her mind and set herself
with heart and soul, by day and by night, to the duty before her. She
suffered no shadow of the bygone to darken her calm strong face or to
weaken the hands and heart from which so much was now expected. And she
continually told herself not to doubt in these dark days the mercy of
the Eternal, taking hope and comfort, as she went about her duties,
from a few words Janet had said, even while she was weeping bitterly
over her son's sufferings--

"But I am putting all fear Christina, under my feet, for nothing comes
to pass without helping on some great end."

Now what great end Andrew's severe illness was to help on, Christina
could not divine; but like her brave mother, she put fear under her
feet, and looked confidently for "the end" which she trusted would be
accomplished in God's time and mercy.

So week after week the two women walked with love and courage by the
sick man's side, through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Often his
life lay but within his lips, and they watched with prayer continually,
lest he should slip away to them that had gone before, wanting its
mighty shield in the great perilous journey of the soul. And though
there is no open vision in these days, yet His Presence is ever near to
those who seek him with all the heart. So that wonderful things were
seen and experienced in that humble room, where the man lay at the
point of death.

Andrew had his share of these experiences. Whatever God said to the
waiting, watching women, He kept for His suffering servant some of His
richest consolations, and so made all his bed in his sickness. Andrew
was keenly sensible of these ministrations, and he grew strong in their
heavenly strength; for though the vaults of God are full of wine, the
soul that has drunk of His strong wine of Pain knows that it has tasted
the costliest vintage of all, and asks on this earth no better.

And as our thoughts affect our surroundings, quite as much as rain or
sunshine affect the atmosphere, these two women, with the sick man on
their hearts and hands, were not unhappy women. They did their very
best, and trusted God for the outcome. Thus Heaven helped them, and
their neighbours helped them, and taking turns in their visitation,
they found the Kirk also to be a big, calm friend in the time of their
trouble. And then one morning, before the dawn broke, when life seemed
to be at its lowest point, when hope was nearly gone, and the shadow of
Death fell across the sick man's face, there was suddenly a faint,
strange flutter. Some mighty one went out of the door, as the sunshine
touched the lintel, and the life began to turn back, just as the tide
began to flow.

Then Janet rose up softly and opened the house door, and looking at her
son and at the turning waters, she said solemnly:--

"Thank God, Christina! He has turned with the tide? He is all right
now."

It was April, however, in its last days, before Andrew had strength
sufficient to go down the cliff, and the first news he heard in the
village, was that Mistress Braelands had lain at death's door also.
Doubtless it explained some testimony private to his own experience,
for he let the intelligence pass through his ear-chambers into his
heart, without remark, but it made there a great peace--a peace pure
and loving as that which passeth understanding.

There was, however, no hope or expectation of his resuming work until
the herring fishing in June, and Janet and Christina were now suffering
sorely from a strange dilemma. Never before in all their lives had they
known what it was to be pinched for ready money. It was hard for Janet
to realise that there was no longer "a little bit in the Largo bank to
fall back on." Naturally economical, and always regarding it as a
sacred duty to live within the rim of their shilling, they had never
known either the slow terror of gathering debt, or the acute pinch of
actual necessity. But Andrew's long sickness, with all its attendant
expenses, had used up all Janet's savings, and the day at last dawned
when they must either borrow money, or run into debt.

It was a strange and humiliating position, especially after Janet's
little motherly bragging about her Christina's silken wedding gown, and
brawly furnished floor in Glasgow. Both mother and daughter felt it
sorely; and Christina looked at her brother with some little angry
amazement, for he appeared to be quite oblivious of their cruel strait.
He said little about his work, and never spoke at all about Sophy or
his lost money. In the tremendous furnace of his affliction, these
elements of it appeared to have been utterly consumed.

Neither mother nor sister liked to remind him of them, nor yet to point
out the poverty to which his long sickness had reduced them. It might
be six weeks before the herring fishing roused him to labour, and they
had spent their last sixpence. Janet began seriously to think of
lifting the creel to her shoulders again, and crying "fresh fish" in
Largo streets. It was so many years since she had done this, that the
idea was painful both to Christina and herself. The girl would gladly
have taken her mother's place, but this Janet would not hearken to. As
yet, her daughter had never had to haggle and barter among fish wives,
and house-wives; and she would not have her do it for a passing
necessity. Besides Jamie might not like it; and for many other reasons,
the little downcome would press hardest upon Christina.

There was one other plan by which a little ready money could be
raised--that was, to get a small mortgage on the cottage, and when all
had been said for and against this project, it seemed, after all, to be
the best thing to do.

Griselda Kilgour had money put away, and Christina was very certain she
would be glad to help them on such good security as a house and an acre
or two of land. Certainly Janet and Griselda had parted in bad bread at
their last interview, but in such a time of trouble, Christina did not
believe that her kinswoman would remember ill words that had passed,
especially as they were about Sophy's marriage--a subject on which they
had every right to feel hurt and offended.

Still a mortgage on their home was a dreadful alternative to these
simple-minded women; they looked upon it as something very like a
disgrace. "A lawyer's foot on the threshold," said Janet, "and who or
what is to keep him from putting the key of the cottage in his own
pocket, and sending us into a cold and roofless world? No! No!
Christina. I had better by far lift the creel to my shoulders again.
Thank God, I have the health and strength to do it!"

"And what will folks be saying of me, to let you ware yourself on the
life of that work in your old age? If you turn fish-wife again, then I
be to seek service with some one who can pay me for my hands' work."

"Well, well, my dear lass, to-night we cannot work, but we may sleep;
and many a blessing comes, and us not thinking of it. Lie down a wee,
and God will comfort you; forbye, the pillow often gives us good
counsel. Keep a still heart tonight, and tomorrow is another day."

Janet followed her own advice, and was soon sleeping as soundly and as
sweetly as a play-tired child; but Christina sat in the open doorway,
thinking of the strait they were in, and wondering if it would not be
the kindest and wisest thing to tell Andrew plainly of their necessity.
Sooner or later, he would find out that his mother was making his bread
for him; and she thought such knowledge, coming from strangers, or
through some accident, would wound him more severely than if she
herself explained their hard position to him. As for the mortgage, the
very thought of it made her sick. "It is just giving our home away, bit
by bit--that is what a mortgage is--and whatever we are to do, and
whatever I ought to do, God only knows!"

Yet in spite of the stress of this, to her, terrible question, a
singular serenity possessed her. It was as if she had heard a voice
saying "Peace, be still!" She thought it was the calm of nature,--the
high tide breaking gently on the shingle with a low murmur, the soft
warmth, the full moonshine, the sound of the fishermen's voices calling
faintly on the horizon,--and still more, the sense of divine care and
knowledge, and the sweet conviction that One, mighty to help and to
save, was her Father and her Friend. For a little space she walked
abreast of angels. So many things take place in the soul that are not
revealed, and it is always when we are wrestling _alone_, that the
comforting ones come. Christina looked downward to the village sleeping
at her feet,

  "Beneath its little patch of sky,
  And little lot of stars,"

and upward, to where innumerable worlds were whirling noiselessly
through the limitless void, and forgot her own clamorous personality
and "the something that infects the world;" and doing this, though she
did not voice her anxiety, it passed from her heart into the Infinite
Heart, and thus she was calmed and comforted. Then, suddenly, the
prayer of her childhood and her girlhood came to her lips, and she
stood up, and clasping her hands, she cast her eyes towards heaven, and
said reverently:--

"_This is the change of Thy Right Hand, O Thou Most High
    Thou art strong to strengthen.'
    Thou art gracious to help!
    Thou art ready to better.'
    Thou art mighty to save'"_

As the words passed her lips, she heard a movement, and softly and
silently as a spirit, her brother Andrew, fully dressed, passed through
the doorway. His arm lightly touched Christina's clothing, but he was
unconscious of her presence. He looked more than mortal, and was
evidently seeing _through_ his eyes, and not _with_ them. She was
afraid to speak to him. She did not dream of touching him, or of
arresting his steps. Without a sign or word, he went rapidly down the
cliff, walking with that indifference to physical obstacles which a
spirit that had cast off its incarnation might manifest.

"He is walking in his sleep, and he may get into danger or find death
itself," thought Christina, and her fear gave strength and fleetness to
her footsteps as she quickly followed her brother. He made no noise of
any kind; he did not even disturb a pebble in his path; but went
forward, with a motion light and rapid, and the very reverse of the
slow, heavy-footed gait of a fisherman. But she kept him in sight as he
glided over the ribbed and water-lined sands, and rounded the rocky
points which jutted into the sea water. After a walk of nearly two
miles, he made direct for a series of bold rocks which were penetrated
by numberless caverns, and into one of these he entered.

Hitherto he had not shown a moment's hesitation, nor did he now though
the path was dangerously narrow and rocky, overhanging unfathomable
abysses of dark water. But Christina was in mortal terror, both for
herself and Andrew. She did not dare to call his name, lest, in the
sudden awakening he might miss his precarious foothold, and fall to
unavoidable death. She found it almost impossible to follow him nor
indeed in her ordinary frame of mind could she have done so. But the
experience, so strange and thrilling, had lifted her in a measure above
the control of the physical and she was conscious of an exaltation of
spirit which defied difficulties that would ordinarily have terrified
her. Still she was so much delayed by the precautions evidently
necessary for her life, that she lost sight of her brother, and her
heart stood still with fright.

Prayers parted her white lips continually, as she slowly climbed the
hollow crags that seemed to close together and forbid her further
progress. But she would not turn back, for she could not believe that
Andrew had perished. She would have heard the fall of his body or its
splash in the water beneath and so she continued to climb and clamber
though every step appeared to make further exploration more and more
impossible.

With a startling unexpectedness, she found herself in a circular
chamber, open to the sky and on one of the large boulders lying around,
Andrew sat. He was still in the depths of a somnambulistic sleep; but
he had his lost box of gold and bank-notes before him, and he was
counting the money. She held her breath. She stood still as a stone.
She was afraid to think. But she divined at once the whole secret.
Motionless she watched him, as he unrolled and rerolled the notes, as
he counted and recounted the gold, and then carefully locked the box,
and hid the key under the edge of the stone on which he sat.

What would he now do with the box? She watched his movements with a
breathless interest. He sat still for a few moments, clasping his
treasure firmly in his large, brown hands; then he rose, and put it in
an aperture above his head, filling the space in front of it with a
stone that exactly fitted. Without hurry, and without hesitation, the
whole transaction was accomplished; and then, with an equal composure
and confidence, he retraced his steps through the cavern and over the
rocks and sands to his own sleeping room.

Christina followed as rapidly as she was able; but her exaltation had
died away, and left her weak and ready to weep; so that when she
reached the open beach, Andrew was so far in advance as to be almost
out of sight. She could not hope to overtake him, and she sat down for
a few minutes to try and realise the great relief that had come to
them--to wonder--to clasp her hands in adoration, to weep tears of joy.
When she reached her home at last, it was quite light. She looked into
her brother's room, and saw that he was lying motionless in the deepest
sleep; but Janet was half-awake, and she asked sleepily:--

"Whatever are you about so early for, Christina? Isn't the day long
enough for the sorrow and the care of it?"

"Oh, Mother! Mother! The day isn't long enough for the joy and the
blessing of it."

"What do you mean, my lass? What is it in your face? What have you
seen? Who has spoken a word to you?" and Janet rose up quickly, and put
her hands on Christina's shoulders; for the girl was swaying and
trembling, and ready to break out into a passion of sobbing.

"I have seen, Mother, the salvation of the Lord! I have found Andrew's
lost money! I have proved that poor Jamie is innocent! We aren't poor
any longer. There is no need to borrow, or mortgage, or to run in debt.
Oh, Mother! Mother! The blessing you bespoke last night, the blessing
we were not thinking of, has come to us."

"The Lord be thanked! I knew He would save us, in His own time, and His
time is never too late."

Then Christina sat down by her mother's side, and in low, intense
tones, told her all she had seen. Janet listened with kindling face and
shining eyes.

"The mercy of God is on His beloved, and His regard is unto His elect,"
she cried, "and I am glad this day, that I never doubted Him, and never
prayed to Him with a grudge at the bottom of my heart." Then she began
to dress herself with her old joyfulness, humming a line of this and
that psalm or paraphrase, and stopping in the middle to ask Christina
another question; until the kettle began to simmer to her happy mood,
and she suddenly sung out joyfully four lines, never very far from her
lips:--

"My heart is dashed with cares and fears,
   My song comes fluttering and is gone;
 Oh! High above this home of tears.
   Eternal Joy sing on!"

How would it feel for the hyssop on the wall to turn cedar, I wonder?
Just about as Janet and Christina felt that morning, eating their
simple breakfast with glad hearts. Poor as the viands were, they had
the flavour of joy and thankfulness, and of a wondrous salvation. "It
is the Lord's doing!" This was the key to which the two women set all
their hopes and rejoicing, and yet even into its noble melody there
stole at last a little of the fret of earth. For suddenly Janet had a
fear--not of God, but of man--and she said anxiously to her daughter:--

"You should have brought the box home with you, Christina. O my lass,
if some other body should have seen what you have seen, then we will be
fairly ruined twice over."

"No, no. Mother! I would not have touched the box for all there is in
it. Andrew must go for it himself. He might never believe it was where
I saw it, if he did not go for it. You know well he suspicioned both
Jamie and me; and indeed, Mother dear, you yourself thought worse of
Jamie than you should have done."

"Let that be now, Christina. God has righted all. We will have no casts
up. If I thought of any one wrongly, I am sorry for it, and I could not
say more than that even to my Maker. If ill news was waiting for
Andrew, it would have shaken him off his pillow ere this."

"Let him sleep. His soul took his body a weary walk this morning. He is
sore needing sleep, no doubt."

"He will have to wake up now, and go about his business. It is high
time."

"You should mind, Mother, what a tempest he has come through; all the
waves and billows of sorrow have gone over him."

"He is a good man, and ought to be the better of the tempest. His ship
may have been sorely beaten and tossed, but his anchor was fast all
through the storm. It is time he lifted anchor now, and faced the brunt
and the buffet again. An idle man, if he is not a sick man, is on a lee
shore, let him put out to sea, why, lassie! A storm is better than a
shipwreck."

"To be sure, Mother. Here the dear lad comes!" and with that Andrew
sauntered slowly into the kitchen. There was no light on his face, no
hope or purpose in his movements. He sat down at the table, and drew
his cup of tea towards him with an air of indifference, almost of
despair. It wounded Janet. She put her hand on his hand, and compelled
him to look into her face. As he did so, his eyes opened wide;
speculation, wonder, something like hope came into them. The very
silence of the two women--a silence full of meaning--arrested his soul.
He looked from one to the other, and saw the same inscrutable joy
answering his gaze.

"What is it, Mother?" he asked. "I can see you have something to tell
me."

"I have that, Andrew! O my dear lad, your money is found! I do not
think a penny-bit of it is missing. Don't mind me! I am greeting for
the very joy of it--but O Andrew, you be to praise God! It is his
doing, and marvellous in our eyes. Ask Christina. She can tell you
better than I can."

But Andrew could not speak. He touched his sister's hand, and dumbly
looked into her happy face. He was white as death, but he sat bending
forward to her, with one hand outstretched, as if to clasp and grasp
the thing she had to tell him. So Christina told him the whole story,
and after he had heard it, he pushed his plate and cup away, and rose
up, and went into his room and shut the door. And Janet said
gratefully:--

"It is all right, Christina. He'll get nothing but good advice in God's
council chamber. We'll not need to worry ourselves again anent either
the lad or the money. The one has come to his senses, and the other
will come to its use. And we will cast nothing up to him; the best boat
loses her rudder once in a while."

It was not long before Andrew joined his mother and sister, and the man
was a changed man. There was grave purpose in his calm face, and a joy,
too deep for words, in the glint of his eyes and in the graciousness of
his manner.

"Come, Christina!" he said. "I want you you to go with me; we will
bring the siller home together. But I forget--it is maybe too far for
you to walk again to-day?"

"I would walk ten times as far to pleasure you, Andrew. Do you know the
place I told you of?"

"Aye, I know it well. I hid the first few shillings there that I ever
saved."

As they walked together over the sands Christina said: "I wonder,
Andrew, when and how you carried the box there? Can you guess at all
the way this trouble came about?"

"I can, but I'm ashamed to tell you, Christina. You see, after I had
shown you the money, I took a fear anent it. I thought maybe you might
tell Jamie Logan, and the possibility of this fretted on my mind until
it became a sure thing with me. So, being troubled in my heart, I
doubtless got up in my sleep and put the box in my oldest and safest
hiding-place."

"But why then did you not remember that you had done so?"

"You see, dearie, I hid it in my sleep, so then it was only in my sleep
I knew where I had put it. There is two of us, I am thinking, lassie,
and the one man does not always tell the other man all he knows. I
ought to have trusted you, Christina; but I doubted you, and, as mother
says, doubt aye fathers sin or sorrow of some kind or other."

"You might have safely trusted me, Andrew."

"I know now I might. But he is lifeless that is faultless; and the
wrong I have done I must put right. I am thinking of Jamie Logan?"

"Poor Jamie! You know now that he never wronged you?"

"I know, and I will let him know as soon as possible. When did you hear
from him? And where is he at all?"

"I don't know just where he is. He sailed away yon time; and when he
got to New York, he left the ship."

"What for did he do that?"

"O Andrew, I cannot tell. He was angry with me for not coming to
Glasgow as I promised him I would."

"You promised him that?"

"Aye, the night you were taken so bad. But how could I leave you in
Dead Man's Dale and mother here lone to help you through it? So I wrote
and told him I be to see you through your trouble, and he went away
from Scotland and said he would never come back again till we found out
how sorely all of us had wronged him."

"Don't cry, Christina! I will seek Jamie over the wide world till I
find him. I wonder at myself I am shamed of myself. However, will you
forgive me for all the sorrow I have brought on you?"

"You were not altogether to blame, Andrew. You were ill to death at the
time. Your brain was on fire, poor laddie, and it would be a sin to
hold you countable for any word you said or did not say. But if you
will seek after Jamie either by letter or your own travel, and say as
much to him as you have said to me I may be happy yet, for all that has
come and gone."

"What else can I do but seek the lad I have wronged so cruelly? What
else can I do for the sister that never deserved ill word or deed from
me? No, I cannot rest until I have made the wrong to both of you as far
right as sorrow and siller can do."

When they reached the cavern, Andrew would not let Christina enter it
with him. He said he knew perfectly well the spot to which he must go,
and he would not have her tread again the dangerous road. So Christina
sat down on the rocks to wait for him, and the water tinkled beneath
her feet, and the sunshine dimpled the water, and the fresh salt wind
blew strength and happiness into her heart and hopes. In a short time,
the last moment of her anxiety was over, and Andrew came back to her,
with the box and its precious contents in his hands. "It is all here!"
he said, and his voice had its old tones, for his heart was ringing to
the music of its happiness, knowing that the door of fortune was now
open to him, and that he could walk up to success, as to a friend, on
his own hearthstone.

That afternoon he put the money in Largo bank, and made arrangements
for his mother's and sister's comfort for some weeks. "For there is
nothing I can do for my own side, until I have found Jamie Logan, and
put Christina's and his affairs right," he said. And Janet was of the
same opinion.

"You cannot bless yourself, laddie, until you bless others," she said,
"and the sooner you go about the business, the better for everybody."

So that night Andrew started for Glasgow, and when he reached that
city, he was fortunate enough to find the very ship in which Jamie had
sailed away, lying at her dock. The first mate recalled the young man
readily.

"The more by token that he had my own name," he said to Andrew. "We are
both of us Fife Logans, and I took a liking to the lad, and he told me
his trouble."

"About some lost money?" asked Andrew.

"Nay, he said nothing about money. It was some love trouble, I take it.
He thought he could better forget the girl if he ran away from his
country and his work. He has found out his mistake by this time, no
doubt."

"You knew he was going to leave 'The Line' then?"

"Yes, we let him go; and I heard say that he had shipped on an American
line, sailing to Cuba, or New Orleans, or somewhere near the equator."

"Well, I shall try and find him."

"I wouldn't, if I was you. He is sure to come back to his home again.
He showed me a lock of the lassie's hair. Man! a single strand of it
would pull him back to Scotland sooner or later."

"But I have wronged him sorely. I did not mean to wrong him, but that
does not alter the case."

"Not a bit. Love sickness is one thing; a wrong against a man's good
name or good fortune, is a different matter. I would find him and right
him."

"That is what I want to do."

And so when the _Circassia_ sailed out of Greenock for New York, Andrew
Binnie sailed in her. "It is not a very convenient journey," he said
rather sadly, as he left Scotland behind him, "but wrong has been done,
and wrong has no warrant, and I'll never have a good day till I put the
wrong right; so the sooner the better, for, as Mother says, 'that which
a fool does at the end a wise man does at the beginning.'"



CHAPTER IX

THE RIGHTING OF A WRONG


So Andrew sailed for New York, and life resumed its long forgotten
happy tenor in the Binnie cottage. Janet sang about her spotless
houseplace, feeling almost as if it was a new gift of God to her; and
Christina regarded their small and simple belongings with that tender
and excessive affection which we are apt to give to whatever has been
all but lost and then unexpectedly recovered. Both women involuntarily
showed this feeling in the extra care they took of everything. Never
had the floors and chairs and tables been scrubbed and rubbed to such
spotless beauty; and every cup and platter and small ornament was
washed and dusted with such care as could only spring from heart-felt
gratitude in its possession. Naturally they had much spare time, for as
Janet said, 'having no man to cook and wash for lifted half the work
from their hands,' but they were busy women for all that. Janet began a
patch-work quilt of a wonderful design as a wedding present for
Christina; and as the whole village contributed "pieces" for its
construction, the whole village felt an interest in its progress. It
was a delightful excuse for Janet's resumption of her old friendly,
gossipy ways; and every afternoon saw her in some crony's house,
spreading out her work, and explaining her design, and receiving the
praises and sometimes the advice of her acquaintances.

Christina also, quietly but yet hopefully, began again her preparations
for her marriage; for Janet laughed at her fears and doubts. "Andrew
was sure to find Jamie, and Jamie was sure to be glad to come home
again. It stands to reason," she said confidently. "The very sight of
Andrew will be a cordial of gladness to him; for he will know, as soon
as he sees the face of him, that the brother will mean the sister and
the wedding ring. If you get the spindle and distaff ready, my lass,
God is sure to send the flax; and by the same token, if you get your
plenishing made and marked, and your bride-clothes finished, God will
certainly send the husband."

"Jamie said in his last letter--the one in which he bid me farewell--'I
will never come back to Scotland.'"

"_Toots! Havers!_ 'I _will_' is for the Lord God Almighty to say. A
sailor-man's 'I will' is just breath, that any wind may blow away. When
Andrew gives him the letter you sent, Jamie will not be able to wait
for the next boat for Scotland."

"He may have taken a fancy to America and want to stop there."

"What are you talking about, Christina Binnie? There is nothing but
scant and want in them foreign countries. Oh! my lass, he will come
home, and be glad to come home; and you will have the hank in your own
hand. See that you spin it cannily and happily."

"I hope Andrew will not make himself sick again looking for the lost."

"I shall have little pity for him, if he does. I told him to make good
days for himself; why not? He is about his duty; the law of kindness is
in his heart, and the purpose of putting right what he put wrong is the
wind that drives him. Well then, his journey--be it short or
long--ought to be a holiday to him, and a body does not deserve a
holiday if he cannot take advantage of one. Them were my last words to
Andrew."

"Jamie may have seen another lass. I have heard say the lassies in
America are gey bonnie."

"I'll just be stepping if you have nothing but frets and fears to say.
When things go wrong, it is mostly because folks will have them wrong
and no other way."

"In this world, Mother, the giffs and the gaffs--"

"In this world, Christina, the giffs and the gaffs generally balance
one another. And if they don't,--mind what I say,--it is because there
is a moral defect on the failing side. Oh! but women are flightersome
and easy frighted."

"Whyles you have fears yourself, Mother."

"Ay, I am that foolish whyles; but I shall be a sick, weak body, when I
can't outmarch the worst of them."

"You are just an oracle, Mother."

"Not I; but if I was a very saint, I would say every morning of my
life: 'Now then, Soul, hope for good and have good.' Many a sad heart
folks get they have no need to have. Take out your needle and thimble
and go to your wedding clothes, lassie; you will need them before the
summer is over. You may take my word for that."

"If Jamie should still love me."

"Love you! He will be that far gone in love with you that there will be
no help for him but standing up before the minister. That will be seen
and heard tell of. Lift your white seam, and be busy at it; there is
nothing else to do till tea time, and I am away for an hour or two to
Maggie Buchans. Her man went to Edinburgh this morning. What for, I
don't know yet, but I'll maybe find out."

It was on this very afternoon that Janet first heard that there was
trouble and a sound of more trouble at Braelands. Sophy had driven down
in her carriage the previous day to see her cousin Isobel Murray, and
some old friends who had gone into Isobel's had found the little
Mistress of Braelands weeping bitterly in her cousin's arms. After this
news Janet did not stay long at Maggie Buchans; she carried her
patch-work to Isobel Murray's, and as Isobel did not voluntarily name
the subject, Janet boldly introduced it herself.

"I heard tell that Sophy Braelands was here yesterday."

"Aye, she was."

"A grand thing for you, Isobel, to have the Braelands's yellow coach
and pair standing before the Murray cottage all of two or three hours."

"It did not stand before my cottage, Janet. The man went to the public
house and gave the horses a drink, and himself one too, or I am much
mistaken, for I had to send little Pete Galloway after him."

"I think Sophy might have called on me."

"No doubt she would have done so, had she known that Andrew was away,
but I never thought to tell her until the last moment."

"Is she well? I was hearing that she looked but poorly."

"You were hearing the truth. She looks bad enough."

"Is she happy, Isobel?"

"I never asked her that question."

"You have eyes and observation. Didn't you ask yourself that question?"

"Maybe I did."

"What then?"

"I have nothing to say anent it."

"What was she talking about? You know, Isobel, that Sophy is kin of
mine, and I loved her mother like my own sister. So I be to feel
anxious about the little body. I'm feared things are not going as well
as they might do. Madame Braelands is but a hard-grained woman."

"She is as cruel a woman and as bad a woman as there is between this
and wherever she may be."

"Isn't she at Braelands?"

"Not for a week or two. She's away to Acker Castle, and her son with
her."

"And why not Sophy also?"

"The poor lassie would not go--she says she could not. Well, Janet, I
may as good confess that there is something wrong that she does not
like to speak of yet. She is just at the crying point now, the reason
why and wherefore will come anon."

"But she be to say something to you."

"I'll tell you. She said she was worn out with learning this and that,
and she was humbled to death to find out how ignorant and full of
faults she was. Madame Braelands is both schoolmistress and
mother-in-law, and there does not seem to be a minute of the day in
which the poor child isn't checked and corrected. She has lost all her
pretty ways, and she says she cannot learn Madame's ways; and she is
feared for herself, and shamed for herself. And when the invitation
came for Acker Castle, Madame told her she must not accept it for her
husband's sake, because all his great friends were to be there, and
they were to discuss his going to Parliament, and she would only shame
and disgrace him. And you may well conceive that Sophy turned obstinate
and said she would bide in her own home. And, someway, her husband did
not urge her to go and this hurt her worst of all; and she felt lonely
and broken-hearted, and so came to see me. That is everything about it,
but keep it to yourself, Janet, it isn't for common clash."

"I know that. But did Madame Braelands and her son really go away and
leave Sophy her lone?"

"They left her with two or three teachers to worry the life out of her.
They went away two days ago; and Madame was in full feather and glory,
with her son at her beck and call, and all her grand airs and manners
about her. Sophy says she watched them away from her bedroom window,
and then she cried her heart out. And she couldn't learn her lessons,
and so sent the man teacher and the woman teacher about their business.
She says she will not try the weary books again to please anybody; they
make her head ache so that she is like to swoon away."

"Sophy was never fond of books; but I thought she would like the
music."

"Aye, if they would let her have her own way about it. She has her
father's little fiddle, and when she was but a bare-footed lassie, she
played on it wonderful."

"I remember. You would have thought there was a linnet living inside of
it."

"Well, she wanted to have some lessons on it, and her husband was
willing enough, but Madame went into hysterics about the idea of
anything so vulgar. There is a constant bitter little quarrel between
the two women, and Sophy says she cannot go to her husband with every
slight and cruelty. Madame laughs at her, or pretends to pet her, or
else gets into passions at what she calls Sophy's unreasonableness; and
Archie Braelands is weary to death of complaining, and just turns sulky
or goes out of the house. Oh, Janet, I can see and feel the bitter,
cruel task-woman over the poor, foolish child! She is killing her, and
Archie Braelands does not see the right and the wrong of it all."

"I'll make him see it."

"You will hold your tongue, Janet. They who stir in muddy water only
make it worse."

"But Archie Braelands loved her, or he would not have married her; and
if he knew the right and the wrong of poor Sophy's position--"

"I tell you, that is nothing to it, Janet."

"It is everything to it. Right is right, in the devil's teeth."

"I'm sorry I said a word to you; it is a dangerous thing to get between
a man and his wife. I would not do it, not even for Sophy; for reason
here or reason there, folks be to take care of themselves; and my man
gets siller from Braelands, more than we can afford to lose."

"You are taken with a fit of the prudentials, Isobel; and it is just
extraordinary how selfish they make folk."

And yet Janet herself, when going over the conversation with Christina,
was quite inclined on second thoughts not to interfere in Sophy's
affairs, though both were anxious and  sorrowful about the motherless
little woman.

"She ought to be with her husband wherever he is, court or castle,"
said Christina. "She is a foolish woman to let him go away with her
enemy, and such a clever enemy as Madame Braelands is. I think, Mother,
you ought to call on Sophy, and give her a word of love and a bit of
good advice. Her mother was very close to you."

"I know, Christina; but Isobel was right about the folly of coming
between a man and his wife. I would just get the wyte of it. Many a
sore heart I have had for meddling with what I could not mend."

Yet Janet carried the lonely, sorrowful little wife on her heart
continually; though, after a week or two had passed and nothing new was
heard from Braelands, every one began to give their sympathy to
Christina and her affairs. Janet was ready to talk of them. There were
some things she wished to explain, though she was too proud to do so
until her friends felt interest enough to ask for explanations. And as
soon as it was discovered that Andrew had gone to America, the interest
and curiosity was sufficiently keen and eager to satisfy even Janet.

"It fairly took the breath from me," said Sabrina Roy, "when I was told
the like of that. I cannot think there is a word of truth in such a
report."

Mistress Roy was sitting at Janet's fireside, and so had the privilege
of a guest; but, apart from this, it gave Janet a profound satisfaction
to answer: "Ay, well, Sabrina, the clash is true for once in a
lifetime. Andrew has gone to America, and the Lord knows where else
beside."

"Preserve us all! I wouldn't believe it, only from your own lips,
Janet. Whatever would be the matter that sent him stravaging round the
world, with no ship of his own beneath his feet or above his head?"

"A matter of right and wrong, Sabrina. My Andrew has a strict
conscience and a sense of right that would be ornamental in a very
saint. Not to make a long story of it, he and Jamie Logan had a
quarrel. It was the night Andrew took his inflammation, and it is very
sure his brain was on fire and off its judgment at the time. But we
were none of us thinking of the like of that; and so the bad words
came, and stirred up the bad blood, and if I hadn't been there myself,
there might have been spilled blood to end all with, for they were both
black angry."

"Guide us, woman! What was it all about?"

"Well, Sabrina, it was about siller; that is all I am free to say.
Andrew was sure he was right, and Jamie was sure he was wrong; and they
were going fairly to one another's throats, when I stepped in and flung
them apart."

"And poor Christina had the buff and the buffet to take and to bear for
their tempers?"

"Not just that. Jamie begged her to go away with him, and the lassie
would have gone if I hadn't got between her and the door. I had a hard
few minutes, I can tell you, Sabrina; for when men are beside
themselves with passion, they are in the devil's employ, and it's no
easy work to take a job out of _his_ hands. But I sent Jamie flying
down the cliff, and I locked the door and put the key in my pocket, and
ordered Andrew and Christina off to their beds, and thought I would
leave the rest of the business till the next day; but before midnight
Andrew was raving, and the affair was out of my hands altogether."

"It is a wonder Christina did not go after her lad."

"What are you talking about, Sabrina? It would have been a world's
wonder and a black, burning shame if my girl had gone after her lad in
such a calamitous time. No, no, Christina Binnie isn't the kind of girl
that shrinks in the wetting. When her time of trial came, she did the
whole of her duty, showing herself day by day a witness and a testimony
to her decent, kirk-going forefathers."

"And so Andrew has found out he was wrong and Jamie Logan right?"

"Aye, he has. And the very minute he did so, he made up his mind to
seek the lad far and near and confess his fault."

"And bring him back to Christina?"

"Just so. What for not? He parted them, and he has the right and duty
to bring them together again, though it take the best years of his life
and the last bawbee of his money."

"Folks were saying his money was all spent."

"Folks are far wrong then. Andrew has all the money he ever had. Andrew
isn't a bragger, and his money has been silent so far, but it will
speak ere long."

"With money to the fore, you shouldn't have been so scrimpit with
yourselves in such a time of work and trouble. Folks noticed it."

"I don't believe in wasting anything, Sabrina, even grief. I did not
spend a penny, nor a tear, nor a bit of strength, that was useless.
What for should I? And if folks noticed we were scrimpit, why didn't
they think about helping us? No, thank God! We have enough and a good
bit to spare, for all that has come and gone, and if it pleases the
Maker of Happiness to bring Jamie Logan back again, we will have a
bridal that will make a monumental year in Pittendurie."

"I am glad to hear tell o' that. I never did approve of two or three at
a wedding. The more the merrier."

"That is a very sound observe. My Christina will have a wedding to be
seen and heard tell of from one sacramental occasion to another."

"Well, then, good luck to Andrew Binnie, and may he come soon home and
well home, and sorrow of all kinds keep a day's sail behind him. And
surely he will go back to the boats when he has saved his conscience,
for there is never a better sailor and fisher on the North Sea. The men
were all saying that when he was so ill."

"It is the very truth. Andrew can read the sea as well as the minister
can read the Book. He never turns his back on it; his boat is always
ready to kiss the wind in its teeth. I have been with him when _rip!
rip! rip_! went her canvas; but I hadn't a single fear, I knew the lad
at the helm. I knew he would bring her to her bearings beautifully. He
always did, and then how the gallant bit of a creature would shake
herself and away like a sea-gull. My Andrew is a son of the sea as all
his forbears were. Its salt is in his blood, and when the tide is going
with a race and a roar, and the break of the waves and the howl of the
wind is like a thousand guns, then Andrew Binnie is in the element he
likes best; aye, though his boat be spinning round like a laddie's
top."

"Well, Janet, I will be going."

"Mind this, Sabrina, I have told you all to my heart's keel; and if
folks are saying to you that Jamie has given Christina the slip, or
that the Binnies are scrimpit for poverty's sake, or the like of any
other ill-natured thing, you will be knowing how to answer them."

"'Deed, I will! And I am real glad things are so well with you all,
Janet."

"Well, and like to be better, thank God, as soon as Andrew gets back
from foreign parts."

In the meantime, Andrew, after a pleasant sail, had reached New York.
He made many friends on the ship, and in the few days of bad weather
usually encountered came to the front, as he always did when winds were
blowing and sailor-men had to wear oil skins. The first sight of the
New World made him silent. He was too prudent to hazard an opinion
about any place so remote and so strange, though he cautiously admitted
"the lift was as blue as in Scotland and the sunshine not to speak ill
of." But as his ideas of large towns had been formed upon Edinburgh and
Glasgow, he could hardly admire New York. "It looks," he said to an
acquaintance who was showing him the city, "it looks as if it had been
built in a hurry;" for he was thinking of the granite streets and piers
of Glasgow. "Besides," he added, "there is no romance or beauty about
it; it is all straight lines and squares. Man alive! you should see
Edinburgh the sel of it, the castle, and the links, and the bonnie
terraces, and the Highland men parading the streets, it is just a bit
of poetry made out of builders stones."

With the information he had received from the mate of the "Circassia,"
and his advice and directions, Andrew had little difficulty in locating
Jamie Logan. He found his name in the list of seamen sailing a steamer
between New York and New Orleans; and this steamer was then lying at
her pier on the North River. It was not very hard to obtain permission
to interview Jamie, and armed with this authority, he went to the ship
one very hot afternoon about four o'clock.

Jamie was at the hold, attending to the unshipping of cargo; and as he
lifted himself from the stooping attitude which his work demanded, he
saw Andrew Binnie approaching him. He pretended, however, not to see
him, and became suddenly very deeply interested in the removal of a
certain case of goods. Andrew was quite conscious of the affectation,
but he did not blame Jamie; it only made him the more anxious to atone
for the wrong he had done. He stepped rapidly forward, and with
extended hands said:--

"Jamie Logan, I have come all the way from Scotland to ask you to
forgive me. I thought wrong of you, and I said wrong to you, and I am
sorry for it. Can you pass it by for Christ's sake?"

Jamie looked into the speaker's face, frankly and gravely, but with the
air of a man who has found something he thought lost. He took Andrew's
hands in his own hands and answered:--

"Aye, I can forgive you with all my heart. I knew you would come to
yourself some day, Andrew; but it has seemed a long time waiting. I
have not a word against you now. A man that can come three thousand
miles to own up to a wrong is worth forgiving. How is Christina?"

"Christina is well, but tired-like with the care of me through my long
sickness. She has sent you a letter, and here it is. The poor lass has
suffered more than either of us; but never a word of complaining from
her. Jamie, I have promised her to bring you back with me. Can you
come?"

"I will go back to Scotland with you gladly, if it can be managed. I am
fair sick for the soft gray skies, and the keen, salt wind of the North
Sea. Last Sabbath Day I was in New Orleans--fairly baking with the heat
of the place--and I thought I heard the kirk bells across the sands,
and saw Christina stepping down the cliff with the Book in her hands
and her sweet smile making all hearts but mine happy. Andrew man, I
could not keep the tears out of my een, and my heart was away down to
my feet, and I was fairly sick with longing."

They left the ship together and spent the night in each other's
company. Their room was a small one, in a small river-side hotel, hot
and close smelling; but the two men created their own atmosphere. For
as they talked of their old life, the clean, sharp breezes of
Pittendurie swept through the stifling room; they tasted the brine on
the wind's wings, and felt the wet, firm sands under their feet. Or
they talked of the fishing boats, until they could see their sails
bellying out, as they lay down just enough to show they felt the fresh
wind tossing the spray from their bows and lifting themselves over the
great waves as if they stepped over them.

Before they slept, they had talked themselves into a fever of home
sickness, and the first work of the next day was to make arrangements
for Jamie's release from his obligations. There was some delay and
difficulty about this matter, but it was finally completed to the
satisfaction of all parties, and Andrew and Jamie took the next Anchor
Line steamer for Glasgow.

On the voyage home, the two men got very close to each other, not in
any accidental mood of confidence, but out of a thoughtful and assured
conviction of respect. Andrew told Jamie all about his lost money and
the plans for his future which had been dependent on it, and Jamie
said--

"No wonder you went off your health and senses with the thought of your
loss, Andrew I would have been less sensible than you. It was an awful
experience, man, I cannot tell how you tholed it at all."

"Well, I didn't thole it, Jamie. I just broke down under it, and God
Almighty and my mother and sister had to carry me through the ill time;
but all is right now. I shall have the boat I was promised, and at the
long last be Captain Binnie of the Red-White Fleet. And what for
shouldn't you take a berth with me? I shall have the choosing of my
officers, and we will strike hands together, if you like it, and you
shall be my second mate to start with."

"I should like nothing better than to sail with you and under you,
Andrew. I couldn't find a captain more to my liking."

"Nor I a better second mate. We both know our business, and we shall
manage it cleverly and brotherly."

So Jamie's future was settled before the men reached Pittendurie, and
the new arrangement well talked over, and Andrew and his proposed
brother-in-law were finger and thumb about it. This was a good thing
for Andrew, for his secretive, self-contained disposition was his weak
point, and had been the cause of all his sorrow and loss of time and
suffering.

They had written a letter in New York and posted it the day they left,
advising Janet and Christina of the happy home-coming; but both men
forgot, or else did not know, that the letter came on the very same
ship with themselves, and might therefore or might not reach home
before them. It depended entirely on the postal authority in
Pittendurie. If she happened to be in a mood to sort the letters as
soon as they arrived, and then if she happened to see any one passing
who could carry a letter to Janet Binnie, the chances were that Janet
would receive the intelligence of her son's arrival in time to make
some preparation for it.

As it happened, these favourable circumstances occurred, and about four
o'clock one afternoon, as Janet was returning up the cliff from Isobel
Murray's, she met little Tim Galloway with the letter in his hand.

"It is from America," said the laddie, "and my mother told me to hurry
myself with it. Maybe there is folk coming after it."

"I'll give you a bawbee for the sense of your words, Tim," answered
Janet; and she hastened herself and flung the letter into Christina's
lap, saying:--

"Open it, lassie, it will be full of good news. I shouldn't wonder if
both lads were on their way home again."

"Mother, Mother, they _are_ home; they will be here anon, they will be
here this very night. Oh, Mother, I must put on my best gown and my
gold ear-rings and brush my hair, and you'll be setting forward the tea
and making a white pudding; for Jamie, you know, was always saying none
but you could mix the meal and salt and pepper, and toast it as it
should be done."

"I shall look after the men's eating, Christina, and you make yourself
as braw as you like to. Jamie has been long away, and he must have a
full welcome home again."

They were both as excited as two happy children; perhaps Janet was most
evidently so, for she had never lost her child-heart, and everything
pleasant that happened was a joy and a wonder to her. She took out her
best damask table-cloth, and opened her bride chest for the real china
kept there so carefully; and she made the white pudding with her own
hands, and ran down the cliff for fresh fish and the lamb chops which
were Andrew's special luxury. And Christina made the curds and cream,
and swept the hearth, and set the door wide open for the home-comers.

And as good fortune comes where it is looked for, Andrew and Jamie
entered the cottage just as everything was ready for them. There was no
waiting, no cooled welcome, no spoiled dainties, no disappointment of
any kind. Life was taken up where it had been most pleasantly dropped;
all the interval of doubt and suffering was put out of remembrance, and
when the joyful meal had been eaten, as Janet washed her cups and
saucers and tidied her house, they talked of the happy future before
them.

"And I'll tell you what, bairnies," said the dear old woman as she
stood folding her real china in the tissue paper devoted to that
purpose, "I'll tell you what, bairnies, good will asks for good deeds,
and I'll show my good will by giving Christina the acre of land next my
own. If Jamie is to go with you, Andrew, and your home is to be with
me, lad--"

"Where else would it be, Mother?"

"Well, then, where else need Jamie's home be but in Pittendurie? I'll
give the land for his house, and what will you do, Andrew? Speak for
your best self, my lad."

"I will give my sister Christina one hundred gold sovereigns and the
silk wedding-gown I promised her."

"Oh, Andrew, my dear brother, how will I ever thank you as I ought to?"

"I owe you more, Christina, than I can count."

"No, no, Andrew," said Janet. "What has Christina done that siller can
pay for? You can't buy love with money, and gold isn't in exchange for
it. Your gift is a good-will gift. It isn't a paid debt, God be
thanked!"

The very next day the little family went into Largo, and the acre was
legally transferred, and Jamie made arrangements for the building of
his cottage. But the marriage did not wait on the building; it was
delayed no longer than was necessary for the making of the silk
wedding-gown. This office Griselda Kilgour undertook with much
readiness and an entire oblivion of Janet's unadvised allusions to her
age. And more than this, Griselda dressed the bride with her own hands,
adding to her costume a bonnet of white tulle and orange blossoms that
was the admiration of the whole village, and which certainly had a
bewitching effect above Christina's waving black hair, and shining
eyes, and marvellous colouring.

And, as Janet desired, the wedding was a holiday for the whole of
Pittendurie. Old and young were bid to it, and for two days the dance,
the feast, and the song went gayly on, and for two days not a single
fishing boat left the little port of Pittendurie. Then the men went out
to sea again, and the women paid their bride visits, and the children
finished all the dainties that were else like to be wasted, and life
gradually settled back into its usual grooves.

But though Jamie went to the fishing, pending Andrew's appointment to
his steamboat, Janet and Christina had a never-ceasing interest in the
building and plenishing of Christina's new home. It was not
fashionable, nor indeed hardly permissible, for any one to build a
house on a plan grander than the traditional fisher cottage; but
Christina's, though no larger than her neighbours', had the modern
convenience of many little closets and presses, and these Janet filled
with homespun napery, linseys, and patch-work, so that never a young
lass in Pittendurie began life under such full and happy circumstances.

In the fall of the year the new fire was lit on the new hearth, and
Christina moved into her own home. It was only divided from her
mother's by a strip of garden and a low fence, and the two women could
stand in their open doors and talk to each other. And during the summer
all had gone well. Jamie had been fortunate and made money, and Andrew
had perfected all his arrangements, so that one morning in early
September, the whole village saw "The Falcon" come to anchor in the
bay, and Captain Binnie, in his gold-buttoned coat and gold-banded cap,
take his place on her bridge, with Jamie, less conspicuously attired,
attending him.

It was a proud day for Janet and Christina, though Janet, guided by
some fine instinct, remained in her own home, and made no afternoon
calls. "I don't want to force folk to say either kind or unkind things
to me," she said to her daughter. "You know, Christina, it is a deal
harder to rejoice with them that rejoice than to weep with them that
weep. Sabrina Roy, as soon as she got her eyes on Andrew in his
trimmings, perfectly changed colours with envy; and we have been a
speculation to far and near, more than one body saying we were going
fairly to the mischief with out extravagance. They thought poverty had
us under her black thumb, and they did not think of the hand of God,
which was our surety."

However, that afternoon Janet had a great many callers, and not a few
came up the cliff out of real kindness, for, doubt as we will, there is
a constant inflowing of God into human affairs. And Janet, in her
heart, did not doubt her neighbours readily; she took the homage
rendered in a very pleased and gracious manner, and she made a cup of
tea and a little feast for her company, and the clash and clatter in
the Binnie cottage that afternoon was exceedingly full of good wishes
and compliments. Indeed, as Janet reviewed them afterwards, they
provoked from her a broad smile, and she said with a touch of
good-natured criticism:--

"If we could make compliments into silk gowns, Christina, you and I
would be bonnily clad for the rest of our lives. Nobody said a
nattering word but poor Bella McLean, and she has been soured and sore
kept down in the world by a ne'er-do-weel of a husband."

"She should try and guide him better," said Christina. "If he was my
man, I would put him through his facings."

"_Toots_, Christina. You are over young in the marriage state to offer
opinions about men folk. As far as I can see, every woman can guide a
bad husband but the poor soul that has the ill-luck to have one. Open
the Book now, and let us thank God for the good day He has given us."



CHAPTER X

"TAKE ME IN TO DIE!"


After this, the pleasant months went by with nothing but Andrew's and
Jamie's visits to mark them, and, every now and then, a sough of sorrow
from the big house of Braelands. And now that her own girl was so
happily settled, Janet began to have a longing anxiety about poor
Sophy. She heard all kinds of evil reports concerning the relations
between her and her husband, and twice during the winter there was a
rumour, hardly hushed up, of a separation between them.

Isobel Murray, to whom at first Sophy turned in her sorrow, had not
responded to any later confidences. "My man told me to neither listen
nor speak against Archie Braelands," she said to Janet. "We have our
own boat to guide, and Sophy cannot be a friend to us; while it is very
sure Braelands can be an enemy beyond our 'don't care.' Six little lads
and lassies made folk mind their own business. And I'm no very sure but
what Sophy's troubles are Sophy's own making. At any rate, she isn't
faultless; you be to have both flint and stone to strike fire."

"I'll not hear you say the like of that, Isobel. Sophy may be misguided
and unwise, but there is not a wrong thought in her heart. The bit
vanity of the young thing was her only fault, and I'm thinking she has
paid sorely for it."

All winter, such vague and miserable bits of gossip found their way
into the fishing village, and one morning in the following spring,
Janet met a young girl who frequently went to Braelands House with
fresh fish. She was then on her way home from such an errand, and Janet
fancied there was a look of unusual emotion on her broad, stolid face.

"Maggie-Ann," she said, stopping her, "where have you been this
morning?"

"Up to Braelands."  "And what did you see or hear tell of?"

"I saw nothing; but I heard more than I liked to hear."

"About Mistress Braelands? You know, Maggie-Ann, that she is my own
flesh and blood, and I be to feel her wrongs my wrongs."

"Surely, Janet There had been a big stir, and you could feel it in the
very air of the house. The servants were feared to speak or to step,
and when the door opened, the sound of angry words and of somebody
crying was plain to be heard. Jean Craigie, the cook, told me it was
about the Dower House. The mistress wants to get away from her
mother-in-law, and she had been begging her husband to go and live in
the Dower House with her, since Madame would not leave them their own
place."

"She is right," answered Janet boldly. "I wouldn't live with that fine
old sinner myself, and I think there are few women in Fife I couldn't
talk back to if I wanted. Sophy ought never to have bided with her for
a day. They have no business under the same roof. A baby and a popish
inquisitor would be as well matched."

It had, indeed, come at last to Sophy's positive refusal to live longer
with her mother-in-law. In a hundred ways the young wife felt her
inability to cope with a woman so wise and so wicked, and she had
finally begun to entreat Archie to take her away from Braelands. The
man was in a strait which could end only in anger. He was completely
under his mother's influence, while Sophy's influence had been
gradually weakened by Madame's innuendos and complaints, her pity for
Archie, and her tattle of visitors. These things were bad enough; but
Sophy's worst failures came from within herself. She had been snubbed
and laughed at, scolded and corrected, until she had lost all
spontaneity and all the grace and charm of her natural manner. This
condition would not have been so readily brought about, had she
retained her health and her flower-like beauty. But after the birth of
her child she faded slowly away. She had not the strength for a
constant, never-resting assertion of her rights, and nothing less would
have availed her; nor had she the metal brightness to expose or
circumvent the false and foolish positions in which Madame habitually
placed her.

Little by little, the facts of the unhappy case leaked out, and were
warmly commented on by the fisher-families with whom Sophy was
connected either by blood or friendship. Her father's shipmates were
many of them living and she had cousins of every degree among the
nets--men and women who did not forget the motherless, fatherless
lassie who had played with their own children. These people made Archie
feel their antagonism. They would neither take his money, nor give him
their votes, nor lift their bonnets to his greeting. And though such
honest, primitive feelings were proper enough, they did not help Sophy.
On the contrary, they strengthened Madame's continual assertion that
her son's marriage had ruined his public career and political
prospects. Still there is nothing more wonderful than the tugs and
twists the marriage tie will bear. There were still days in which
Archie--either from love, or pity, or contradiction, or perhaps from a
sense of simple justice--took his wife's part so positively that Madame
must have been discouraged if she had been a less understanding woman.
As it was, she only smiled at such fitful affection, and laid her plans
a little more carefully. And as the devil strengthens the hands of
those who do his work, Madame received a potent reinforcement in the
return home of her nearest neighbour, Miss Marion Glamis. As a girl,
she had been Archie's friend and playmate; then she had been sent to
Paris for her education, and afterwards travelled extensively with her
father who was a man of very comfortable fortune. Marion herself had a
private income, and Madame had been accustomed to believe that when
Archie married, he would choose Marion Glamis for his wife.

She was a tall, high-coloured, rather mannish-looking girl, handsome in
form, witty in speech, and disposed towards field sports of every kind.
She disliked Sophy on sight, and Madame perceived it, and easily worked
on the girl's worst feelings. Besides, Marion had no lover at the time,
and she had come home with the idea of Archie Braelands tilling such
imagination as she possessed. To find herself supplanted by a girl of
low birth, "without a single advantage" as she said frankly to Archie's
mother, provoked and humiliated her. "She has not beauty, nor grace,
nor wit, nor money, nor any earthly thing to recommend her to Archie's
notice. Was the man under a spell?" she asked.

"Indeed she had a kind of beauty and grace when Archie married her,"
answered Madame; "I must admit that. But bringing her to Braelands was
like transplanting a hedge flower into a hot-house. She has just wilted
ever since."

"Has she been noticed by Archie's friends at all?"

"I have taken good care she did not see much of Archie's friends, and
her ill health has been a splendid excuse for her seclusion. Yet it was
strange how much the few people she met admired her. Lady Blair goes
into italics every time she comes here about 'The Beauty', and the
Bells, and Curries, and Cupars, have done their best to get her to
visit them. I knew better than permit such folly. She would have told
all sorts of things, and raised the country-side against me; though,
really, no one will ever know what I have gone through in my efforts to
lick the cub into shape!"

Marion laughed, and, Archie coming in at that moment, she launched all
her high spirits and catches and witticisms at him. Her brilliancy and
colour and style were very effective, and there was a sentimental
remembrance for the foundation of a flirtation which Marion very
cleverly took advantage of, and which Archie was not inclined to deny.
His life was monotonous, he was ennuye, and this bold, bright
incarnation, with her half disguised admiration for himself, was an
irresistible new interest.

So their intimacy soon became frequent and friendly. There were
horseback rides together in the mornings, sails in the afternoons, and
duets on the piano in the evenings. Then her Parisian toilets made poor
Sophy's Largo dresses look funnily dowdy, and her sharp questions and
affected ignorances of Sophy's meanings and answers were cleverly aided
by Madame's cold silences, lifted brows, and hopeless acceptance of
such an outside barbarian. Long before a dinner was over, Sophy had
been driven into silence, and it was perhaps impossible for her to
avoid an air of offence and injury, so that Marion had the charming in
her own hands. After dinner, Admiral Glamis and Madame usually played a
game of chess, and Archie sang or played duets with Marion, while
Sophy, sitting sadly unnoticed and unemployed, watched her husband give
to his companion such smiles and careful attentions as he had used to
win her own heart.

What regrets and fears and feelings of wrong troubled her heart during
these unhappy summer evenings, God only knew. Sometimes her presence
seemed to be intolerable to Madame, who would turn to her and say
sharply: "You are worn out, Sophy, and it is hardly fair to impose your
weariness and low spirits on us. Had you not better go to your room?"
Occasionally, Sophy refused to notice this covert order, and she
fancied that there was generally a passing expression of pleasure on
her husband's face at her rebellion. More frequently, she was glad to
escape the slow, long torture, and she would rise, and go through the
formality of shaking hands with each person and bidding each
"good-night" ere she left the room. "Fisher manners," Madame would
whisper impatiently to Marion. "I cannot teach her a decent effacement
of her personality." For this little ceremony always ended in Archie's
escorting her upstairs, and so far he had never neglected this formal
deference due his wife. Sometimes too he came back from the duty very
distrait and unhappy-looking, a circumstance always noted by Madame
with anger and scorn.

To such a situation, any tragedy was a possible culmination, and day by
day there was a more reckless abuse of its opportunities. Madame, when
alone with Sophy, did not now scruple to regret openly the fact that
Marion was not her daughter-in-law, and if Marion happened to be
present, she gave way to her disappointment in such ejaculations as--

"Oh! Marion Glamis, why did you stay away so long? Why did you not come
home before Archie's life was ruined?" And the girl would sigh and
answer: "Is not my life ruined also? Could any one have imagined Archie
Braelands would have an attack of insanity?" Then Sophy, feeling her
impotence between the tongues of her two enemies, would rise and go
away, more or less angrily or sadly, followed through the hall and
half-way upstairs by the snickering, confidential laughter of their
common ridicule.

At the latter end of June, Admiral Glamis proposed an expedition to
Norway. They were to hire a yacht, select a merry party, and spend July
and August sailing and fishing in the cool fiords of that picturesque
land. Archie took charge of all the arrangements. He secured a yacht,
and posted a notice in the Public House of Pittendurie for men to sail
her. He had no doubt of any number of applications; for the work was
light and pleasant, and much better paid than any fishing-job. But not
a man presented himself, and not even when Archie sought out the best
sailors and those accustomed to the cross seas between Scotland and
Norway, could he induce any one to take charge of the yacht and man
her. The Admiral's astonishment at Archie's lack of influence among his
own neighbours and tenants was not very pleasant to bear, and Marion
openly said:--

"They are making cause with your wife, Archie, against you. They
imagine themselves very loyal and unselfish. Fools! a few extra
sovereigns would be much better."

"But why make cause for my wife against me, Marion?" asked Archie.

"You know best; ask Madame, she is my authority," and she shrugged her
shoulders and went laughing from his side.

Nothing in all his married life had so annoyed Archie as this dour
displeasure of men who had always before been glad to serve him. Madame
was indignant, sorrowful, anxious, everything else that could further
irritate her angry son; and poor Sophy might well have prayed in those
days "deliver me from my friends!" But at length the yacht was ready
for sea, and Archie ran upstairs in the middle of one hot afternoon to
bid his wife "goodbye!"

She was resting on her bed, and he never forgot the eager, wistful,
longing look of the wasted white face on the white pillow. He told her
to take care of herself for his sake. He told her not to let any one
worry or annoy her. He kissed her tenderly, and then, after he had
closed the door, he came back and kissed her again; and there were days
coming in which it was some comfort to him to remember this trifling
kindness.

"You will not forget me, Archie?" she asked sadly.

"I will not, sweetheart," he answered.

"You will write me a letter when you can, dear?"

"I will be sure to do so."

"You--you--you will love me best of all?"

"How can I help it? Don't cry now. Send me away with a smile."

"Yes, dear. I will try and be happy, and try and get well."

"I am sorry you cannot go with us, Sophy."

"I am sorry too, Archie; but I could not bear the knocking about, and
the noise and bustle, and the merry-making. I should only spoil your
pleasure. I wouldn't like to do that, dear. Good-bye, and good-bye."

For a few minutes he was very miserable. A sense of shame came over
him. He felt that he was unkind, selfish, and quite unworthy of the
tender love given him. But in half an hour he was out at sea, Marion
was at his side, the Admiral was consulting him about the cooling of
the dinner wines, the skipper was promising them a lively sail with a
fair wind--and the white, loving face went out of his memory, and out
of his consideration.

Yet while he was sipping wine and singing songs with Marion Glamis, and
looking with admiration into her rosy, glowing face, Sophy was
suffering all the slings and arrows of Madame's outrageous hatred. She
complained all dinner-time, even while the servants were present, of
the deprivation she had to endure for Sophy's sake. The fact was she
had not been invited to join the yachting-party, two very desirable
ladies having refused to spend two months in her society. But she
ignored this fact, and insisted on the fiction that she had been
compelled to remain at home to look after Sophy.

"I wish you had gone! Oh, I wish you had gone and left me in peace!"
cried the poor wife at last in a passion. "I could have been happy if I
had been left to myself."

"And your low relations! You have made mischief enough with them for
Archie, poor fellow! Don't tell me that you make no complaints. The
shameful behaviour of those vulgar fishermen, refusing to sail a yacht
for Braelands, is proof positive of your underhand ways."

"My relations are not low. They would scorn to do the low, cruel,
wicked things some people who call themselves 'high born' do all the
time. But low or high, they are mine, and while Archie is away, I
intend to see them as often as I can."

This little bit of rebellion was the one thing in which she could show
herself Mistress of Braelands; for she knew that she could rely on
Thomas to bring the carriage to her order. So the next morning she went
very early to call on Griselda Kilgour. Griselda had not seen her niece
for some time, and she was shocked at the change in her appearance,
indeed, she could hardly refrain the exclamations of pity and fear that
flew to her lips.

"Send the carriage to the _Queens Arms_," she said, "and stay with me
all day, Sophy, my dear."

"Very well, Aunt, I am tired enough. Let me lie down on the sofa, and
take off my bonnet and cloak. My clothes are just a weight and a
weariness."

"Aren't you well, dearie?"

"I must be sick someway, I think. I can't sleep, and I can't eat; and I
am that weak I haven't the strength or spirit to say a word back to
Madame, however ill her words are to me."

"I heard that Braelands had gone away?"

"Aye, for two months."

"With the Glamis crowd?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you go too?"

"I couldn't thole the sail, nor the company."

"Do you like Miss Glamis?"

"I'm feared I hate her. Oh! Aunt, she makes love to Archie before my
very eyes, and Madame tells me morning, noon, and night, that she was
his first love and ought to have married him."

"I wouldn't stand the like of that. But Archie is not changed to you,
dearie?"

"I cannot say he is; but what man can be aye with a fond woman, bright
and bonnie, and not think of her as he shouldn't think? I'm not blaming
Archie much. It is Madame and Miss Glamis, and above all my own
shortcomings. I can't talk, I can't dress, I can't walk, nor in any way
act, as that set of women do. I am like a fish out of its element. It
is bonnie enough in the water; but it only flops and dies if you take
it out of the water and put it on the dry land. I wish I had never seen
Archie Braelands! If I hadn't, I would have married Andrew Binnie, and
been happy and well enough."

"You were hearing that he is now Captain Binnie of the Red-White
Fleet?"

"Aye, I heard. Madame was reading about it in the Largo paper. Andrew
is a good man, Aunt. I am glad of his good luck."

"Christina is well married too. You were hearing of that?"

"Aye; but tell me all about it."

So Griselda entered into a narration which lasted until Sophy slipped
into a deep slumber. And whether it was simply the slumber of utter
exhaustion, or whether it was the sweet oblivion which results from a
sense of peace long denied, or perhaps the union of both these
conditions, the result was that she lay wrapped in an almost lethargic
sleep for many hours. Twice Thomas came with the carriage, and twice
Griselda sent him away. And the man shook his head sadly and said:--

"Let her alone; I wouldn't be the one to wake her up for all my place
is worth. It may be a health sleep."

"Aye, it may be," answered Griselda, "but I have heard old folk say
that such black, deep sleep is sent to fit the soul for some calamity
lying in wait for it. It won't be lucky to wake her anyway."

"No, and I am thinking nothing worse can come to the little mistress
than the sorrow she is tholing now. I'll be back in an hour, Miss
Kilgour."

Thus it happened that it was late in the afternoon when Sophy returned
to her home, and her rest had so refreshed her that she was more than
usually able to hold her own with Madame. Many unpardonable words were
said on both sides; and the quarrel, thus early inaugurated, raged from
day to-day, either in open recrimination, or in a still more
distressing interference with all Sophy's personal desires and
occupations. The servants were, in a measure, compelled to take part in
the unnatural quarrel; and before three weeks were over, Sophy's
condition was one of such abnormal excitement that she was hardly any
longer accountable for her actions. The final blow was struck while she
was so little able to bear it. A letter from Archie, posted in
Christiania and addressed to his wife, came one morning. As Sophy was
never able to come down to breakfast, Madame at once appropriated the
letter. When she had read it and finished her breakfast, she went to
Sophy's room.

"I have had a letter from Archie," she said.

"Was there none for me?"

"No; but I thought you might like to know that Archie says he never was
so happy in all his life. The Admiral, and Marion, and he, are in
Christiania for a week or two, and enjoying themselves every minute of
the time. Dear Marion! _She_ knows how to make Archie happy. It is a
great shame I could not be with them."

"Is there any message for me?"

"Not a word. I suppose Archie knew I should tell you all that it was
necessary for you to know."

"Please go away; I want to go to sleep."

"You want to cry. You do nothing but sleep and cry, and cry and sleep;
no wonder you have tired Archie's patience out."

"I have not tired Archie out. Oh, I wish he was here! I wish he was
here!"

"He will be back in five or six weeks, unless Marion persuades him to
go to the Mediterranean--and, as the Admiral is so fond of the sea,
that move is not unlikely."

"Please go away."

"I shall be only too happy to do so."

Now it happened that the footman, in taking in the mail, had noticed
the letter for Sophy, and commented on it in the kitchen; and every
servant in the house had been glad for the joy it would bring to the
lonely, sick woman. So there was nothing remarkable in her maid saying,
as she dressed her mistress:--

"I hope Mr. Braelands is well; and though I say it as perhaps I
shouldn't say it, we was all pleased at your getting Master's letter
this morning. We all hope it will make you feel brighter and stronger,
I'm sure."

"The letter was Madame's letter, not mine, Leslie."

"Indeed, it was not, ma'am. Alexander said himself, and I heard him,
'there is a long letter for Mrs. Archibald this morning,' and we were
all that pleased as never was."

"Are you sure, Leslie?"

"Yes, I am sure."

"Go down-stairs and ask Alexander."

Leslie went and came back immediately with Alexander's positive
assertion that the letter was directed to _Mrs. Archibald Braelands,_
Sophy made no answer, but there was a swift and remarkable change in
her appearance and manner. She put her physical weakness out of her
consideration, and with a flush on her cheeks and a flashing light in
her eyes, she went down to the parlour. Madame had a caller with her, a
lady of not very decided position, who was therefore eager to please
her patron; but Sophy was beyond all regard for such conventionalities
as she had been ordered to observe. She took no notice of the visitor,
but going straight to Madame, she said:--

"You took my letter this morning. You had no right to take it; you had
no right to read it; you had no right to make up lies from it and come
to my bedside with them. Give me my letter."

Madame turned to her visitor. "You see this impossible creature!" she
cried. "She demands from me a letter that never came."  "It did come.
You have my letter. Give it to me."

"My dear Sophy, go to your room. You are not in a fit state to see any
one."

"Give me my letter. At least, let me see the letter that came."

"I shall do nothing of the kind. If you choose to suspect me, you must
do so. Can I make your husband write to you?"

"He did write to me."

"Mrs. Stirling, do you wonder now at my son's running away from his
home?"

"Indeed I am fairly astonished at what I see and hear."

"Sophy, you foolish woman, do not make any greater exhibit of yourself
that you have done. For heaven's sake, go to your own room. I have only
my own letter, and I told you all of importance in it."

"Every servant in the house knows that the letter was mine."

"What the servants know is nothing to me. Now, Sophy, I will stand no
more of this; either you leave the room, or Mrs. Stirling and I will do
so. Remember that you have betrayed yourself. I am not to blame."

"What do you mean, Madame?"

"I mean that you may have hallucinations, but that you need not exhibit
them to the world. For my son's sake, I demand that you go to your
room."

"I want my letter. For God's sake, have pity on me, and give me my
letter!"

Madame did not answer, but she took her friend by the arm and they left
the room together. In the hall Madame saw a servant, and she said
blandly--

"Go and tell Leslie to look after her mistress, she is in the parlour.
And you may also tell Leslie that if she allows her to come down again
in her present mood, she will be dismissed."

"Poor thing!" said Mrs. Stirling. "You must have your hands full with
her, Madame. Nobody had any idea of such a tragedy as this though I
must say I have heard many wonder about the lady's seclusion."

"You see the necessity for it. However, we do not wish any talk on the
subject."

Slowly it came to Sophy's comprehension that she had been treated like
an insane woman, and her anger, though quiet, was of that kind that
means action of some sort. She went to her room, but it was only to
recall the wrong upon wrong, the insult upon insult she had received.

"I will go away from it all," she said. "I will go away until Archie
returns. I will not sleep another night under the same roof with that
wicked woman. I will stay away till I die, ere I will do it."

Usually she had little strength for much movement, but at this hour she
felt no physical weakness. She made Leslie bring her a street costume
of brown cloth, and she carefully put into her purse all the money she
had. Then she ordered the carriage and rode as far as her aunt
Kilgour's. "Come for me in an hour, Thomas," she said, and then she
entered the shop.

"Aunt, I am come back to you. Will you let me stay with you till Archie
gets home? I can bide yon dreadful old woman no longer."

"Meaning Madame Braelands?"

"She is just beyond all things. This morning she has kept a letter that
Archie wrote me; and she has told me a lot of lies in its place. I'm
not able to thole her another hour."

"I'll tell you what, Sophy, Madame was here since I saw you, and she
says you are neither to be guided nor endured I don't know who to
believe."

"Oh! aunt, aunt, you know well I wouldn't tell you a lie. I am so
miserable! For God's sake, take me in!"

"I'd like to, Sophy, but I'm not free to do so."

"You're putting Madame's bit of siller and the work she's promised you
from the Glamis girl before my heart-break. Oh, how can you?"

"Sophy, you have lived with me, and I saw you often dissatisfied and
unreasonable for nothing at all."

"I was a bit foolish lassie then. I am a poor, miserable, sick woman
now."

"You have no need to be poor, and miserable, and sick. I won't
encourage you to run away from your home and your duty. At any rate,
bide where you are till your husband comes back. I would be wicked to
give you any other advice."

"You mean that you won't let me come and stay with you?"

"No, I won't. I would be your worst enemy if I did."

"Then good-bye. You will maybe be sorry some day for the 'No' you have
just said."

She went slowly out of the store, and Griselda was very unhappy, and
called to her to come back and wait for her carriage. She did not heed
or answer, but walked with evident purpose down a certain street. It
led her to the railway station, and she went in and took a ticket for
Edinburgh. She had hardly done so when the train came thundering into
the station, she stepped into it, and in a few minutes was flying at
express rate to her destination. She had relatives in Edinburgh, and
she thought she knew their dwelling place, having called on them with
her Aunt Kilgour when they were in that city, just previous to her
marriage. But she found that they had removed, and no one in the
vicinity knew to what quarter of the town. She was too tired to pursue
inquiries, or even to think any more that day, and she went to a hotel
and tried to rest and sleep. In the morning she remembered that her
mother's cousin, Jane Anderson, lived in Glasgow at some number in
Monteith Row. The Row was not a long one, even if she had to go from
house to house to find her relative. So she determined to go on to
Glasgow.

She felt ill, strangely ill; she was in a burning fever and did not
know it. Yet she managed to get into the proper train, and to retain
her consciousness for sometime afterwards, ere she succumbed to the
inevitable consequences of her condition. Before the train reached its
destination, however, she was in a desperate state, and the first
action of the guard was to call a carriage and send her to a hospital.

After this kindness had been done, Sophy was dead to herself and the
world for nearly three weeks. She remembered nothing, she knew nothing,
she spoke only in the most disconnected and puzzling manner. For her
speech wandered between the homely fisher life of her childhood and the
splendid social life of Braelands. Her personality was equally
perplexing. The clothing she wore was of the finest quality; her rings,
and brooch, and jewelled watch, indicated wealth and station; yet her
speech, especially during the fever, was that of the people, and as she
began to help herself, she had little natural actions that showed the
want of early polite breeding. No letter or card, no name or address of
any kind, was found on her person; she appeared to be as absolutely
lost as a stone dropped into the deep sea.

And when she came to herself and realised where she was, and found out
from her attendant the circumstances under which she had been brought
to the hospital, she was still more reticent. For her first thought
related to the annoyance Archie would feel at her detention in a public
hospital; her second, to the unmerciful use Madame would make of the
circumstance. She could not reason very clearly, but her idea was to
find her cousin and gain her protection, and then, from that more
respectable covett, to write to her husband. She might admit her
illness--indeed, she would be almost compelled to do that, for she had
fallen away so much, and had had her hair cut short during the height
of the fever--but Archie and Madame must not know that she had been in
a public hospital. For fisher-people have a singular dislike to public
charity of any kind; they help one another. And, to Sophy's
intelligence, the hospital episode was a disgrace that not even her
insensibility could quite excuse.

Several weeks passed in that long, spotless, white room full of
suffering, before Sophy was able to stand upon her feet, before indeed
she began to realise the passage of time, and the consequences which
must have followed her long absence and silence. But all her efforts at
writing were failures. The thought she wished to express slipped off
into darkness as soon as she tried to write it; her vision failed her,
her hands failed her; she could only sink back upon her pillow and lie
inert and almost indifferent for hours afterwards. And as the one
letter she wished to write was to Archie, she could not depute it to
any one else. Besides, the nurse would tell _where_ she was, and that
was a circumstance she must at all hazards keep to herself. It had been
hot July weather when she was first placed on her hard, weary bed of
suffering, it was the end of September when she was able to leave the
hospital. Her purse with its few sovereigns in it was returned to her,
and the doctor told her kindly, if she had any friends in the world, to
go at once to their care.

"You have talked a great deal of the sea and the boats," he said; "get
close to the sea if you can; it is perhaps the best and the only thing
for you."

She thanked him and answered: "I am going to the Fife coast. I have
friends there, I think." She put out a little wasted hand, and he
clasped it with a sigh.

"So young, so pretty, so good," he said to the nurse, as they stood
watching her walk very feebly and unsteadily away.

"I will give her three months at the longest, if she has love and care.
I will give her three weeks--nay, I will say three days, if she has to
care for herself, or if any particular trouble come to her."

Then they turned from the window, and Sophy hired a cab and went to
Monteith Row to try and find her friends. She wanted to write to her
husband and ask him to come for her. She thought she could do this best
from her cousin's home. "I will give her a bonnie ring or two, and I
will tell her the whole truth, and she will be sure to stand by me, for
there is nothing wrong to stand by, and blood is aye thicker than
water." And then her thoughts wandered on to a contingency that brought
a flush of pain to her cheeks. "Besides, maybe Archie might have an ill
thought put into his head, and then the doctors and nurses in the
hospital could tell him what would make all clear." She went through
many of the houses, inquiring for Ellen Montgomery, but could not find
her, and she was finally obliged to go to a hotel and rest. "I will
take the lave of the houses in the morning," she thought, "it is aye
the last thing that is the right thing; everybody finds that out."

That evening, however, something happened which changed all her ideas
and intentions. She went into the hotel parlour and sat down; there
were some newspapers on the table, and she lifted one. It was an
Edinburgh paper, but the first words her eyes fell on was her husband's
name. Her heart leaped up at the sight of it, and she read the
paragraph. Then the paper dropped from her hands. She felt that she was
going to faint, and by a supreme effort of will she recalled her senses
and compelled them to stay and suffer with her. Again, and then again,
she read the paragraph, unable at first to believe what she did read,
for it was a notice, signed by her husband, advising the world in
general that she had voluntarily left his home, and that he would no
longer be responsible for any debt she might contract in his name. To
her childlike, ignorant nature, this public exposure of her was a final
act. She felt that it was all the same as a decree of divorce. "Archie
had cast her off; Madame had at last parted them." For an hour she sat
still in a very stupour of despair.

"But something might yet be done; yes, something must be done. She
would go instantly to Fife; she would tell Archie everything. He could
not blame her for being sick and beyond reason or knowledge. The
doctors and nurses of the hospital would certify to the truth of all
she said." Ah! she had only to look in a mirror to know that her own
wasted face and form would have been testimony enough.

That night she could not move, she had done all that it was possible
for her to do that day; but on the morrow she would be rested and she
might trust herself to the noise and bustle of the street and railway.
The day was well on before she found strength to do this; but at length
she found herself on the direct road to Largo, though she could hardly
tell how it had been managed. As she approached the long chain of Fife
fishing-villages, she bought the newspaper most widely read in them;
and, to her terror and shame, found the same warning to honest folk
against her. She was heartsick. With this barrier between Archie and
herself, how could she go to Braelands? How could she face Madame? What
mockery would be made of her explanations? No, she must see Archie
alone. She must tell him the whole truth, somewhere beyond Madame's
contradiction and influence. Whom should she go to? Her aunt Kilgour
had turned her away, even before this disgrace. Her cousin Isobel's
husband had asked her not to come to his house and make loss and
trouble for him. If she went direct to Braelands, and Archie happened
to be out of the house, Madame would say such things of her before
every one as could never be unsaid. If she went to a hotel, she would
be known, and looked at, and whispered about, and maybe slighted. What
must she do? Where could she see her husband best? She was at her wit's
end. She was almost at the end of her physical strength and
consciousness. And in this condition, two men behind her began to talk
to the rustle of their turning newspapers.

"This is a queer-like thing about Braelands and his wife," said one.

"It is a very bad thing. If the wife has gane awa', she has been driven
awa' by bad usage. There is an old woman at Braelands that is as
evil-hearted as if she had slipped out o' hell for a few years.
Traill's girl was good and bonnie; she was too good, or she would have
held her ain side better."

"That may be; but there is a reason deeper than that. The man is
wanting to marry the Glamis girl. He has already began a suit for
divorce, I hear. Man, man, there is always a woman at the bottom of
every sin and trouble!"

Then they began to speak of the crops and the shooting, and Sophy
listened in vain for more intelligence. But she had heard enough. Her
soul cried out against the hurry and shame of the steps taken in the
matter. "So cruel as Archie is!" she sighed. "He might have looked for
me! He might have found me even in that awful hospital! He ought to
have done so, and taken me away and nursed me himself! If he had loved
me! If he had loved me, he would have done these things!". Despair
chilled her very blood. She had a thought of going to Braelands, even
if she died on its threshold; and then suddenly she remembered Janet
Binnie.

As Janet's name came to her mind, the train stopped at Largo, and she
slipped out among the hurrying crowd and took the shortest road to
Pittendurie. It was then nearly dark, and the evening quite chill and
damp; but there was now a decisive end before the dying woman. "She
must reach Janet Binnie, and then leave all to her. She would bring
Archie to her side. She would be sufficient for Madame. If this only
could be managed while she had strength to speak, to explain, to put
herself right in Archie's eyes, then she would be willing and glad to
die." Step by step, she stumbled forward, full of unutterable anguish
of heart, and tortured at every movement by an inability to get breath
enough to carry her forward.

At last, at last, she came in sight of Janet's cottage. The cliff
terrified her; but she must get up it, somehow. And as she painfully
made step after step, a light shone through the open door and seemed to
give her strength and welcome. Janet had been spending the evening with
her daughter, and had sat with her until near her bedtime. She was
doing her last household duties, and the last of all was to close the
house-door. When she went to do this, a little figure crouched on the
door-step, two weak hands clasped her round the knees, and the very
shadow of a thin, pitiful voice sobbed:--

"Janet! Take me in, Janet! Take me in to die! I'll not trouble you
long--it is most over, Janet!"



CHAPTER XI

DRIVEN TO HIS DUTY


Toward this culmination of her troubles Archie had indeed contributed
far too much, but yet not as much as Sophy thought. He had taken her
part, he had sought for her, he had very reluctantly come to accept his
mother's opinions. His trip had not been altogether the heaven Madame
represented it. The Admiral had proved himself dictatorial and
sometimes very disagreeable at sea; the other members of the party had
each some unpleasant peculiarities which the cramped quarters and the
monotony of yacht life developed. Some had deserted altogether, others
grumbled more than was agreeable, and Marion's constant high spirits
proved to be at times a great exaction.

Before the close of the pleasure voyage, Archie frequently went alone
to remember the sweet, gentle affection of his wife, her delight in his
smallest attentions, her instant recognition of his desires, her
patient endeavours to please him, her resignation to all his neglect.
Her image grew into his best imagination, and when he left the yacht at
her moorings in Pittendurie Bay, he hastened to Sophy with the
impatience of a lover who is also a husband.

Madame had heard of his arrival and was watching for her son. She met
him at the door and he embraced her affectionately, but his first words
were, "Sophy, I hope she is not ill. Where is she?"

"My dear Archie, no one knows. She left your home three weeks after you
had sailed."

"My God, Mother, what do you mean?"

"No one knows why she left, no one knows or can find out where she went
to. Of course, I have my suspicions."

"Sophy! Sophy! Sophy!" he cried, sinking into a chair and covering his
face, but, whatever Madame's suspicions, she could not but see that
Archie had not a doubt of his wife's honour. After a few minutes'
silence, he turned to his mother and said:--

"You have scolded for once, Mother, more than enough. I am sure it is
your unkindness that has driven my wife from her home. You promised me
not to interfere with her little plans and pleasures."

"If I am to bear the blame of the woman's low tastes, I decline to
discuss the matter," and she left the room with an air of great
offence.

Of course, if Madame would not discuss the matter with him, nothing
remained but the making of such inquiries as the rest of the household
could answer. Thomas readily told all he knew, which was the simple
statement that "he took his mistress to her aunt's and left her there,
and that when he returned for her, Miss Kilgour was much distressed and
said she had already left." Archie then immediately sought Miss
Kilgour, and from her learned the particulars of his wife's
wretchedness, especially those points relating to the appropriated
letter. He flushed crimson at this outrage, but made no remark
concerning it.

"My one desire now," he said, "is to find out where Sophy has taken
refuge. Can you give me any idea?"

"If she is not in Pittendurie,--and I can find no trace of her
there,--then I think she may be in Edinburgh or Glasgow. You will mind
she had cousins in Edinburgh, and she was very kind with them at the
time of her marriage. I thought of them first of all, and I wrote three
letters to them; but there has been no answer to any of the three. She
has friends in Glasgow, but I am sure she had no knowledge as to where
they lived. Besides, I got their address from kin in Aberdeen and wrote
there also, and they answered me and said they had never seen or heard
tell of Sophy. Here is their letter."

Archie read it carefully and was satisfied that Sophy was not in
Glasgow. The silence of the Edinburgh cousins was more promising, and
he resolved to go at once to that city and interview them. He did not
even return to Braelands, but took the next train southward. Of course
his inquiries utterly failed. He found Sophy's relatives, but their air
of amazement and their ready and positive denial of all knowledge of
his lost wife were not to be doubted. Then he returned to Largo. He
assured himself that Sophy was certainly in hiding among the
fisher-folk in Pittendurie, and that he would only have to let it be
known that he had returned for her to appear. Indeed she must have seen
the yacht at anchor, and he fully expected to find her on the door-step
waiting for him. As he approached Braelands, he fancied her arms round
his neck, and saw her small, wistful, flushing face against his breast;
but it was all a dream. The door was closed, and when it admitted him
there was nothing but silence and vacant rooms. He was nearly
distracted with sorrow and anger, and Madame had a worse hour than she
ever remembered when Archie asked her about the fatal letter that had
been the active cause of trouble.

"The letter was Sophy's," he said passionately, "and you knew it was.
How then could you be so shamefully dishonourable as to keep it from
her?"

"If you choose to reproach me on mere servants' gossip, I cannot
prevent you."

"It is not servants' gossip. I know by the date on which Sophy left
home that it must have been the letter I wrote her from Christiania. It
was a disgraceful, cruel thing for you to do. I can never look you in
your face again, Mother. I do not feel that I can speak to you, or even
see you, until my wife has forgiven both you and myself. Oh, if I only
knew where to look for her!"

"She is not far to seek; she is undoubtedly among her kinsfolk at
Pittendurie. You may remember, perhaps, how they felt toward you before
you went away. After you went, she was with them continually."

"Then Thomas lies. He says he never took her anywhere but to her aunt
Kilgour's."

"I think Thomas is more likely to lie than I am. If you have strength
to bear the truth, I will tell you what I am convinced of."

"I have strength for anything but this wretched suspense and fear."

"Very well, then, go to the woman called Janet Binnie; you may
recollect, if you will, that her son Andrew was Sophy's ardent
lover--so much so, that her marriage to you nearly killed him. He has
become a captain lately, wears gold buttons and bands, and is really a
very handsome and important man in the opinion of such people as your
wife. I believe Sophy is either in his mother's house or else she has
gone to--London."

"Why London?"

"Captain Binnie sails continually to London. Really, Archie, there are
none so blind as those who won't see."

"I will not believe such a thing of Sophy. She is as pure and innocent
as a little child."

Madame laughed scornfully. "She is as pure and innocent as those
baby-faced women usually are. As a general rule, the worst creature in
the world is a saint in comparison. What did Sophy steal out at night
for? Tell me that. Why did she walk to Pittendurie so often? Why did
she tell me she was going to walk to her aunt's, and then never go?"

"Mother, Mother, are you telling me the truth?"

"Your inquiry is an insult, Archie. And your blindness to Sophy's real
feelings is one of the most remarkable things I ever saw. Can you not
look back and see that ever since she married you she has regretted and
fretted about the step? Her heart is really with her fisher and sailor
lover. She only married you for what you could give her; and having got
what you could give her, she soon ceased to prize it, and her love went
back to Captain Binnie,--that is, if it had ever left him."

Conversation based on these shameful fabrications was continued for
hours, and Madame, who had thoroughly prepared herself for it, brought
one bit of circumstantial evidence after another to prove her
suspicions. The wretched husband was worked to a fury of jealous anger
not to be controlled. "I will search every cottage in Pittendurie," he
said in a rage. "I will find Sophy, and then kill her and myself."

"Don't be a fool, Archibald Braelands. Find the woman,--that is
necessary,--then get a divorce from her, and marry among your own kind.
Why should you lose your life, or even ruin it, for a fisherman's old
love? In a year or two you will have forgotten her and thrown the whole
affair behind your back."

It is easy to understand how a conversation pursued for hours in this
vein would affect Archie. He was weak and impulsive, ready to suspect
whatever was suggested, jealous of his own rights and honour, and on
the whole of that pliant nature which a strong, positive woman like
Madame could manipulate like wax. He walked his room all night in a
frenzy of jealous love. Sophy lost to him had acquired a sudden charm
and value beyond all else in life; he longed for the morning; for
Madame's positive opinions had thoroughly convinced him, and he felt a
great deal more sure than she did that Sophy was in Pittendurie. And
yet, after every such assurance to himself, his inmost heart asked
coldly, "Why then has she not come back to you?"

He could eat no breakfast, and as soon as he thought the village was
awake, he rode rapidly down to Pittendurie. Janet was alone; Andrew was
somewhere between Fife and London; Christina was preparing her morning
meal in her own cottage. Janet had already eaten hers, and she was
washing her tea-cup and plate and singing as she did so,--

  "I cast my line in Largo Bay,
     And fishes I caught nine;
   There's three to boil, and three to fry,
     And three to bait the line,"

when she heard a sharp rap at her door. The rap was not made with the
hand; it was peremptory and unusual, and startled Janet. She put down
the plate she was wiping, ceased singing, and went to the door. The
Master of Braelands was standing there. He had his short riding-whip in
his hand, and Janet understood at once that he had struck her house
door with the handle of it. She was offended at this, and she asked
dourly:--

"Well, sir, your bidding?"

"I came to see my wife. Where is she?"

"You ought to know that better than any other body. It is none of my
business."

"I tell you she has left her home."

"I have no doubt she had the best of good reasons for doing so."

"She had no reason at all."

Janet shrugged her shoulders, smiled with scornful disbelief, and
looked over the tossing black waters.

"Woman, I wish to go through your house, I believe my wife is in it."

"Go through my house? No indeed. Do you think I'll let a man with a
whip in his hand go through my house after a poor frightened bird like
Sophy? No, no, not while my name is Janet Binnie."

"I rode here; my whip is for my horse. Do you think I would use it on
any woman?"

"God knows, I don't."

"I am not a brute."

"You say so yourself."

"Woman, I did not come here to bandy words with you."

"Man, I'm no caring to hear another word you have to say; take yourself
off my door-stone," and Janet would have shut the door in his face, but
he would not permit her.

"Tell Sophy to come and speak to me."

"Sophy is not here."

"She has no reason to be afraid of me."

"I should think not."

"Go and tell her to come to me then."

"She is not in my house. I wish she was."

"She _is_ in your house."

"Do you dare to call me a liar? Man alive! Do it again, and every
fisher-wife in Pittendurie will help me to give you your fairings."

"_Tush!_! Let me see my wife."

"Take yourself off my doorstep, or it will be the worse for you."

"Let me see my wife."

"Coming here and chapping on my door--on Janet Binnie's door!--with a
horsewhip!"

"There is no use trying to deceive me with bad words. Let me pass."

"Off with you! you poor creature, you! Sophy Traill had a bad bargain
with the like of you, you drunken, lying, savage-like, wife-beating
pretence o' a husband!"

"Mother' Mother!" cried Christina, coming hastily forward; "Mother,
what are you saying at all?"

"The God's truth, Christina, that and nothing else. Ask the mean,
perfectly unutterable scoundrel how he got beyond his mother's
apron-strings so far as this?"

Christina turned to Braelands. "Sir," she said, "what's your will?"

"My wife has left her home, and I have been told she is in Mistress
Binnie's house."

"She is not. We know nothing about the poor, miserable lass, God help
her!"

"I cannot believe you."

"Please yourself anent believing me, but you had better be going, sir.
I see Limmer Scott and Mistress Roy and a few more fishwives looking
this way."

"Let them look."

"Well, they have their own fashion of dealing with men who ill use a
fisher lass. Sophy was born among them."

"You are a bad lot! altogether a bad lot!"

"Go now, and go quick, or we'll prove to you that we are a bad lot!"
cried Janet. "I wouldn't myself think anything of putting you in a
blanket and tossing you o'er the cliff into the water." And Janet, with
arms akimbo and eyes blazing with anger, was not a comfortable sight.

So, with a smile of derision, Braelands turned his back on the women,
walking with an affected deliberation which by no means hid the white
feather from the laughing, jeering fisher-wives who came to their door
at Janet's call for them, and whose angry mocking followed him until he
was out of sight and hearing. Then there was a conclave in Janet's
house, and every one told a different version of the Braelands trouble.
In each case, however, Madame was credited with the whole of the
sorrow-making, though Janet stoutly asserted that "a man who was feared
for his mother wasn't fit to be a husband."

"Madame's tongue and temper is kindled from a coal out of hell," she
said, "and that is the God's truth; but she couldn't do ill with them,
if Archie Braelands wasn't a coward--a sneaking, trembling coward, that
hasn't the heart in him to stand between poor little Sophy and the most
spiteful, hateful old sinner this side of the brimstone pit."

But though the birr and first flame of the village anger gradually
cooled down, Janet's and Christina's hearts were hot and heavy within
them, and they could not work, nor eat, nor sleep with any relish, for
thinking of the poor little runaway wife. Indeed, in every cottage
there was one topic of wonder and pity, and one sad lament when two or
three of the women came together: "Poor Sophy! Poor Sophy Braelands!" It
was noticeable, however, that not a single woman had a wrong thought of
Sophy. Madame could easily suspect the worst, but the "worst" was an
incredible thing to a fisher-wife. Some indeed blamed her for not
tholing her grief until her husband came back, but not a single heart
suspected her of a liaison with her old lover.

Archie, however, returned from his ineffectual effort to find her with
every suspicion strengthened. Madame could hardly have hoped for a
visit so completely in her favour, and after it Archie was entirely
under her influence. It is true he was wretchedly despondent, but he
was also furiously angry. He fancied himself the butt of his friends,
he believed every one to be talking about his affairs, and, day by day,
his sense of outrage and dishonour pressed him harder and harder. In a
month he was quite ready to take legal steps to release himself from
such a doubtful tie, and Madame, with his tacit permission, took the
first step towards such a consummation by writing with her own hand the
notice which had driven Sophy to despair.

While events were working towards this end, Sophy was helpless and
senseless in the Glasgow hospital. Archie's anger was grounded on the
fact that she must know of his return, and yet she had neither come
back to her home nor sent him a line of communication. He told himself
that if she had written him one line, he would have gone to the end of
the earth after her. And anon he told himself that if she had been true
to him, she would have written or else come back to her home. Say she
was sick, she could have got some one to use the pen or the telegraph
for her. And this round of reasoning, always led into the same channel
by Madame, finally assumed not the changeable quality of argument, but
the positiveness of fact.

So the notice of her abandonment was sent by the press far and wide,
and yet there came no protest against it; for Sophy had brought to the
hospital nothing by which she could be identified, and as no hint of
her personal appearance was given, it was impossible to connect her
with it. Thus while its cruel words linked suspicion with her name in
every household where they went, she lay ignorantly passive, knowing
nothing at all of the wrong done her and of the unfortunate train of
circumstances which finally forced her husband to doubt her love and
her honour. It was an additional calamity that this angry message of
severance was the first thing that met her consciousness when she was
at all able to act.

Her childish ignorance and her primitive ideas aided only too well the
impression of finality it gave. She put it beside all she had seen and
heard of her husband's love for Marion Glamis, and the miserable
certainty was plain to her. She knew she was dying, and a quiet place
to die in and a little love to help her over the hard hour seemed to be
all she could expect now; the thought of Janet and Christina was her
last hope. Thus it was that Janet found her trembling and weeping on
her doorstep; thus it was she heard that pitiful plaint, "Take me in,
Janet! Take me in to die!"

Never for one moment did Janet think of refusing this sad petition. She
sat down beside her; she laid Sophy's head against her broad loving
breast; she looked with wondering pity at the small, shrunken face, so
wan and ghostlike in the gray light. Then she called Christina, and
Christina lifted Sophy easily in her arms, and carried her into her own
house. "For we'll give Braelands no occasion against either her or
Andrew," she said. Then they undressed the weary woman and made her a
drink of strong tea; and after a little she began to talk in a quick,
excited manner about her past life.

"I ran away from Braelands at the end of July," she said. "I could not
bear the life there another hour; I was treated before folk as if I had
lost my senses; I was treated when I was alone as if I had no right in
the house, and as if my being in it was a mortal wrong and misery to
every one. And at the long last the woman there kept Archie's letter
from me, and I was wild at that, and sick and trembling all over; and I
went to Aunt Griselda, and she took Madame's part and would not let me
stay with her till Archie came back to protect me. What was I to do? I
thought of my cousins in Edinburgh and went there, and could not find
them. Then there was only Ellen Montgomery in Glasgow, and I was ill
and so tired; but I thought I could manage to reach her."

"And didn't you reach her, dearie?"

"No. I got worse and worse; and when I reached Glasgow I knew nothing
at all, and they sent me to the hospital."

"Oh, Sophy! Sophy!"

"Aye, they did. What else could be, Janet? No one knew who I was; I
could not tell any one. They weren't bad to me. I suffered, but they
did what they could to help me. Such dreadful nights, Janet! Such long,
awful days! Week after week in which I knew nothing but pain; I could
not move myself. I could not write to any one, for my thoughts would
not stay with me; and my sight went away, and I had hardly strength to
live."

"Try and forget it, Sophy, darling," said Christina. "We will care for
you now, and the sea-winds will blow health to you."

She shook her head sadly. "Only the winds of heaven will ever blow
health to me, Christina," she answered; "I have had my death blow. I am
going fast to them who have gone before me. I have seen my mother
often, the last wee while. I knew it was my mother, though I do not
remember her; she is waiting for her bit lassie. I shall not have to go
alone; and His rod and staff will comfort me, I will fear no evil."

They kissed and petted and tried to cheer her, and Janet begged her to
sleep; but she was greatly excited and seemed bent on excusing and
explaining what she had done. "For I want you to tell Archie
everything, Janet," she said. "I shall maybe never see him again; but
you must take care, that he has not a wrong thought of me."

"He'll get the truth and the whole truth from me, dearie."

"Don't scold him, Janet. I love him very much. It is not his fault."

"I don't know that."

"No, it is not. I wasn't home to Braelands two days before Madame began
to make fun of my talk, and my manners, and my dress, and of all I did
and said. And she got Archie to tell me I must mind her, and try to
learn how to be a fine lady like her; and I could not--I could not. And
then she set Archie against me, and I was scolded just for nothing at
all. And then I got ill, and she said I was only sulky and awkward; but
I just could not learn the books I be to learn, nor walk as she showed
me how to walk, nor talk like her, nor do anything at all she tried to
make me do. Oh, the weary, weary days that I have fret myself through!
Oh, the long, painful nights! I am thankful they can never, never come
back."

"Then don't think of them now, Sophy. Try and rest yourself a bit, and
to-morrow you shall tell me everything."

"To-morrow will be too late, can't you see that, Janet? I must clear
myself to-night--now--or you won't know what to say to Archie."

"Was Archie kind to you, Sophy?"

"Sometimes he was that kind I thought I must be in the wrong, and then
I tried again harder than ever to understand the weary books and do
what Madame told me. Sometimes they made him cross at me, and I thought
I must die with the shame and heartache from it. But it was not till
Marion Glamis came back that I lost all hope. She was Archie's first
love, you know."

"She was nothing of the kind. I don't believe he ever cared a pin for
her. You had the man's first love; you have it yet, if it is worth
aught. He was here seeking you, dearie, and he was distracted with the
loss of you."

"In the morning you will send for him, Janet, very early; and though
I'll be past talking then, you will talk for me. You will tell him how
Madame tortured me about the Glamis girl, how she kept my letters, and
made Mrs. Stirling think I was not in my right mind," and so between
paroxysms of pain and coughing, she went over and over the sad story of
petty wrongs that had broken her heart, and driven her at last to
rebellion and flight.

"Oh! my poor lassie, why didn't you come to Christina and me?"

"There was aye the thought of Andrew. Archie would have been angry,
maybe, and I could only feel that I must get away from Braelands. When
aunt failed me, something seemed to drive me to Edinburgh, and then on
to Glasgow; but it was all right, you see, I have saved you and
Christina for the last hour," and she clasped Christina's hand and laid
her head closer to Janet's breast.

"And I would like to see the man or woman that will dare to trouble you
now, my bonnie bairn," said Janet. There was a sob in her voice, and
she crooned kind words to the dying girl, who fell asleep at last in
her arms. Then Janet went to the door, and stood almost gasping in the
strong salt breeze; for the shock of Sophy's pitiful return had hurt
her sorely. There was a full moon in the sky, and the cold, gray waters
tossed restlessly under it. "Lord help us, we must bear what's sent!"
she whispered; then she noticed a steamboat with closely reefed sails
lying in the offing; and added thankfully, "There is 'The Falcon,' God
bless her! And it's good to think that Andrew Binnie isn't far away;
maybe he'll be wanted. I wonder if I ought to send a word to him; if
Sophy wants to see him, she shall have her way; dying folk don't make
any mistakes."

Now when Andrew came to anchor at Pittendurie, it was his custom to
swing out a signal light, and if the loving token was seen, Janet and
Christina answered by placing a candle in their windows. This night
Janet put three candles in her window. "Andrew will wonder at them,"
she thought, "and maybe come on shore to find out whatever their
meaning may be." Then she hurriedly closed the door. The night was
cold, but it was more than that,--the air had the peculiar coldness
that gives sense of the supernatural, such coldness as precedes the
advent of a spirit. She was awed, she opened her mouth as if to speak,
but was dumb; she put out her hands--but who can arrest the invisible?

Sleep was now impossible. The very air of the room was sensitive.
Christina sat wide awake on one side of the bed, Janet on the other;
they looked at each other frequently, but did not talk. There was no
sound but the rising moans of the northeast wind, no light but the glow
of the fire and the shining of the full moon looking out from the
firmament as from eternity. Sophy slept restlessly like one in
half-conscious pain, and when she awoke before dawning, she was in a
high fever and delirious; but there was one incessant, gasping cry for
"Andrew!"

"Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!" she called with fast failing breath, "Andrew,
come and go for Archie. Only you can bring him to me." And Janet never
doubted at this hour what love and mercy asked for. "Folks may talk if
they want to," she said to Christina, "I am going down to the village
to get some one to take a message to Andrew. Sophy shall have her will
at this hour if I can compass it."

The men of the village were mostly yet at the fishing, but she found
two old men who willingly put out to "The Falcon" with the message for
her captain. Then she sent a laddie for the nearest doctor, and she
called herself for the minister, and asked him to come and see the sick
woman; "forbye, minister," she added, "I'm thinking you will be the
only person in Pittendurie that will have the needful control o' temper
to go to Braelands with the news." She did not specially hurry any one,
for, sick as Sophy was, she believed it likely Archie Braelands and a
good doctor might give her such hope and relief as would prolong her
life a little while. "She is so young," she thought, "and love and
sea-breezes are often a match for death himself."

The old men who had gone for Andrew were much too infirm to get close
to "The Falcon." For with the daylight her work had begun, and she was
surrounded on all sides by a melee of fishing-boats. Some were
discharging their boxes of fish; others were struggling to get some
point of vantage; others again fighting to escape the uproar. The air
was filled with the roar of the waves and with the voices of men,
blending in shouts, orders, expostulations, words of anger, and words
of jest.

Above all this hubbub, Andrew's figure on the steamer's bridge towered
large and commanding, as he watched the trunks of fish hauled on board,
and then dragged, pushed, thrown, or kicked, as near the mouth of the
hold as the blockade of trunks already shipped would permit. But, sharp
as a crack of thunder, a stentorian voice called out:--

"Captain Binnie wanted! Girl dying in Pittendurie wants him!"

Andrew heard. The meaning of the three lights was now explained. He had
an immediate premonition that it was Sophy, and he instantly deputed
his charge to Jamie, and was at the gunwale before the shouter had
repeated his alarm. To a less prompt and practised man, a way of
reaching the shore would have been a dangerous and tedious
consideration; but Andrew simply selected a point where a great wave
would lift a small boat near to the level of the ship's bulwarks, and
when this occurred, he leaped into her, and was soon going shoreward as
fast as his powerful stroke at the oars could carry him.

When he reached Christina's cottage, Sophy had passed beyond all earthly
care and love. She heeded not the tenderest words of comfort; her life
was inexorably coming to its end; and every one of her muttered words
was mysterious, important, wondrous, though they could make out nothing
she said, save only that she talked about "angels resting in the
hawthorn bowers." Hastily Christina gave Andrew the points of her
sorrowful story, and then she suddenly remembered that a strange man had
brought there that morning some large, important-looking papers which he
had insisted on giving to the dying woman. Andrew, on examination, found
them to be proceedings in the divorce case between Archibald Braelands
and his wife Sophy Traill.

"Some one has recognised her in the train last night and then followed
her here," he said pitifully. "They were in a gey hurry with their cruel
work. I hope she knows nothing about it."

"No, no, they didn't come till she was clean beyond the worriments of
this life. She did not see the fellow who put them in her hands; she
heard nothing he said to her."

"Then if she comes to herself at all, say nothing about them. What for
should we tell her? Death will break her marriage very soon without
either judge or jury."

"The doctor says in a few hours at the most."

"Then there is no time to lose. Say a kind 'farewell' for me,
Christina, if you find a minute in which she can understand it. I'm off
to Braelands," and he put the divorce papers in his pocket, and went
down the cliff at a run. When he reached the house, Archie was at the
door on his horse and evidently in a hurry; but Andrew's look struck
him on the heart like a blow. He dismounted without a word, and
motioned to Andrew to follow him. They turned into a small room, and
Archie closed the door. For a moment there was a terrible silence, then
Andrew, with passionate sorrow, threw the divorce papers down on the
table.

"You'll not require, Braelands, to fash folk with the like of them;
your wife is dying. She is at my sister's house. Go to her at once."

"What is that to you? Mind your own business, Captain Binnie."

"It is the business of every decent man to call comfort to the dying.
Go and say the words you ought to say. Go before it is too late."

"Why is my wife at your sister's house?"

"God pity the poor soul, she had no other place to die in! For Christ's
sake, go and say a loving word to her."

"Where has she been all this time? Tell me that, sir."

"Dying slowly in the public hospital at Glasgow."

"_My God_!"

"There is no time for words now; not a moment to spare. Go to your wife
at once."

"She left me of her own free will. Why should I go to her now?"

"She did not leave you; she was driven away by devilish cruelty. And
oh, man, man, go for your own sake then! To-morrow it will be too late
to say the words you will weep to say. Go for your own sake. Go to
spare yourself the black remorse that is sure to come if you don't go.
If you don't care for your poor wife, go for your own sake!"

"I do care for my wife. I wished--"

"Haste you then, don't lose a moment! Haste you! haste you! If it is
but one kind word before you part forever, give it to her. She has
loved you well; she loves you yet; she is calling for you at the
grave's mouth. Haste you, man! haste you!"

His passionate hurry drove like a wind, and Braelands was as straw
before it. His horse stood there ready saddled; Andrew urged him to it,
and saw him flying down the road to Pittendurie before he was conscious
of his own efforts. Then he drew a long sigh, lifted the divorce papers
and threw them into the blazing fire. A moment or two he watched them
pass into smoke, and then he left the house with all the hurry of a
soul anxious unto death. Half-way down the garden path, Madame
Braelands stepped in front of him.

"What have you come here for?" she asked in her haughtiest manner.

"For Braelands."

"Where have you sent him to in such a black hurry?"

"To his wife. She is dying."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"She is dying."

"No such luck for my house. The creature has been dying ever since he
married her."

"_You_ have been _killing her_ ever since he married her. Give way,
woman, I don't want to speak to you; I don't want to touch the very
clothes of you. I think no better of you than God Almighty does, and He
will ask Sophy's life at your hands."

"I shall tell Braelands of your impertinence. It will be the worse for
you."

"It will be as God wills, and no other way. Let me pass. Don't touch
me, there is blood on your hands, and blood on your skirts; and you are
worse--ten thousand times worse--than any murderer who ever swung on
the gallows-tree for her crime! Out of my way, Madame Braelands!"

She stood before him motionless as a white stone with passion, and yet
terrified by the righteous anger she had provoked. Words would not come
to her, she could not obey his order and move out of his way, so Andrew
turned into another path and left her where she stood, for he was
impatient of delay, and with steps hurried and stumbling, he followed
the husband whom he had driven to his duty.



CHAPTER XII

AMONG HER OWN PEOPLE


Braelands rode like a man possessed, furiously, until he reached the
foot of the cliff on which Janet's and Christina's cottages stood. Then
he flung the reins to a fisher-laddie, and bounded up the rocky
platform. Janet was standing in the door of Christina's cottage talking
to the minister. This time she made no opposition to Braelands's
entrance; indeed, there was an expression of pity on her face as she
moved aside to let him pass.

He went in noiselessly, reverently, suddenly awed by the majesty of
Death's presence. This was so palpable and clear, that all the mere
material work of the house had been set aside. No table had been laid,
no meat cooked; there had been no thought of the usual duties of the
day-time. Life stood still to watch the great mystery transpiring in
the inner room.

The door to it stood wide open, for the day was hot and windless.
Archie went softly in. He fell on his knees by his dying wife, he
folded her to his heart, he whispered into her fast-closing ears the
despairing words of love, reawakened, when all repentance was too late.
He called her back from the very shoal of time to listen to him. With
heart-broken sobs he begged her forgiveness, and she answered him with
a smile that had caught the glory of heaven. At that hour he cared not
who heard the cry of his agonising love and remorse. Sophy was the
whole of his world, and his anguish, so imperative, brought perforce
the response of the dying woman who loved him yet so entirely. A few
tears--the last she was ever to shed--gathered in her eyes; fondest
words of affection were broken on her lips, her last smile was for him,
her sweet blue eyes set in death with their gaze fixed on his
countenance.

When the sun went down, Sophy's little life of twenty years was over.
Her last few hours were very peaceful. The doctor had said she would
suffer much; but she did not. Lying in Archie's arms, she slipped
quietly out of her clay tabernacle, and doubtless took the way nearest
to her Father's House. No one knew the exact moment of her
departure--no one but Andrew. He, standing humbly at the foot of her
bed, divined by some wondrous instinct the mystic flitting, and so he
followed her soul with fervent prayer, and a love which spurned the
grave and which was pure enough to venture into His presence with her.

It was a scene and a moment that Archibald Braelands in his wildest and
most wretched after-days never forgot. The last rays of the setting sun
fell across the death-bed, the wind from the sea came softly through
the open window, the murmur of the waves on the sands made a mournful,
restless undertone to the majestic words of the minister, who, standing
by the bed-side, declared with uplifted hands and in solemnly
triumphant tones the confidence and hope of the departing spirit.

"'Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

"'Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the
earth and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art
God.

"'For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past;
and as a watch in the night.

"'The days of our years are three-score years and ten; and if by reason
of strength, they be four-score years, yet is their strength labor and
sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.'"

Then there was a pause; Andrew said "_It is over!_" and Janet took the
cold form from the distracted husband, and closed the eyes forever.

There was no more now for Archie to do, and he went out of the room
followed by Andrew.

"Thank you for coming for me, Captain," he said, "you did me a kindness
I shall never forget."

"I knew you would be glad. I am grieved to trouble you further,
Braelands, at this hour; but the dead must be waited on. It was Sophy's
wish to be buried with her own folk."

"She is my wife."

"Nay, you had taken steps to cast her off."

"She ought to be brought to Braelands."

"She shall never enter Braelands again. It was a black door to her.
Would you wish hatred and scorn to mock her in her coffin? She bid my
mother see that she was buried in peace and good will and laid with her
own people."

Archie covered his face with his hands and tried to think. Not even
when dead could he force her into the presence of his mother--and it
was true he had begun to cast her off; a funeral from Braelands would
be a wrong and an insult. But all was in confusion in his mind and he
said: "I cannot think. I cannot decide. I am not able for anything
more. Let me go. To-morrow--I will send word--I will come."

"Let it be so then. I am sorry for you, Braelands--but if I hear
nothing further, I will follow out Sophy's wishes."

"You shall hear--but I must have time to think. I am at the last point.
I can bear no more."

Then Andrew went with him down the cliff, and helped him to his saddle;
and afterwards he walked along the beach till he came to a lonely spot
hid in the rocks, and there he threw himself face downward on the
sands, and "communed with his own heart and was still." At this supreme
hour, all that was human flitted and faded away, and the primal essence
of self was overshadowed by the presence of the Infinite. When the
midnight tide flowed, the bitterness of the sorrow was over, and he had
reached that serene depth of the soul which enabled him to rise to his
feet and say "Thy Will be done!"

The next day they looked for some communication from Braelands; yet
they did not suffer this expectation to interfere with Sophy's explicit
wish, and the preparations for her funeral went on without regard to
Archie's promise. It was well so, for there was no redemption of it. He
did not come again to Pittendurie, and if he sent any message, it was
not permitted to reach them. He was notified, however, of the funeral
ceremony, which was set for the Sabbath following her death, and Andrew
was sure he would at least come for one last look at the wife whom he
had loved so much and wronged so deeply. He did not do so.

Shrouded in white, her hands full of white asters, Sophy was laid to
rest in the little wind blown kirkyard of Pittendurie. It was said by
some that Braelands watched the funeral from afar off, others declared
that he lay in his bed raving and tossing with fever, but this or that,
he was not present at her burial. Her own kin--who were fishers--laid
the light coffin on a bier made of oars, and carried it with psalm
singing to the grave. It was Andrew who threw on the coffin the first
earth. It was Andrew who pressed the cover of green turf over the small
mound, and did the last tender offices that love could offer. Oh, so
small a mound! A little child could have stepped over it, and yet, to
Andrew, it was wider than all the starry spaces.

The day was a lovely one, and the kirkyard was crowded to see little
Sophy join the congregation of the dead. After the ceremony was over
the minister had a good thought, he said: "We will not go back to the
kirk, but we will stay here, and around the graves of our friends and
kindred praise God for the 'sweet enlargement' of their death." Then he
sang the first line of the paraphrase, "O God of Bethel by whose hand,"
and the people took it from his lips, and made holy songs and words of
prayer fill the fresh keen atmosphere and mingle with the cries of the
sea-birds and the hushed complaining of the rising waters. And that
afternoon many heard for the first time those noble words from the Book
of Wisdom that, during the more religious days of the middle ages, were
read not only at the grave-side of the beloved, but also at every
anniversary of their death.

"But if the righteous be cut off early by death; she shall be at rest.

"For honor standeth not in length of days; neither is it computed by
number of years.

"She pleased God and was beloved, and she was taken away from living
among sinners.

"Her place was changed, lest evil should mar her understanding or
falsehood beguile her soul.

"She was made perfect in a little while, and finished the work of many
years.

"For her soul pleased God, and therefore He made haste to lead her
forth out of the midst of iniquity.

"And the people saw it and understood it not; neither considered they
this--

"That the grace of God and His mercy are upon His saints, and His
regard unto His Elect."

Chief among the mourners was Sophy's aunt Griselda. She now bitterly
repented the unwise and unkind "No." Sophy was dearer to her than she
thought, and when she had talked over her wrongs with Janet, her
indignation knew no bounds. It showed itself first of all to the author
of these wrongs. Madame came early to her shop on Monday morning, and
presuming on her last confidential talk with Miss Kilgour, began the
conversation on that basis.

"You see, Miss Kilgour," she said with a sigh, "what that poor girl's
folly has led her to."

"I see what she has come to. I'm not blaming Sophy, however."

"Well, whoever is to blame--and I suppose Braelands should have been
more patient with the troubles he called to himself--I shall have to
put on 'blacks' in consequence. It is a great expense, and a very
useless one; but people will talk if I do not go into mourning for my
son's wife."

"I wouldn't do it, if I was you."

"Society obliges. You must make me two gowns at least."

"I will not sew a single stitch for you."

"Not sew for me?"

"Never again; not if you paid me a guinea a stitch."

"What do you mean? Are you in your senses?"

"Just as much as poor Sophy was. And I'll never forgive myself for
listening to your lies about my niece. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. Your cruelties to her are the talk of the whole
country-side."

"How dare you call me a liar?"

"When I think of wee Sophy in her coffin, I could call you something
far worse."

"You are an impertinent woman."

"Ah well, I never broke the Sixth Command. And if I was you, Madame, I
wouldn't put 'blacks' on about it. But 'blacks' or no 'blacks,' you can
go to some other body to make them for you; for I want none of your
custom, and I'll be obliged to you to get from under my roof. This is a
decent, God-fearing house."

Madame had left before the end of Griselda's orders; but she followed
her to the door, and delivered her last sentence as Madame was stepping
into her carriage. She was furious at the truths so uncompromisingly
told her, and still more so at the woman who had been their mouthpiece.
"A creature whom I have made! actually made!" she almost screamed. "She
would be out at service today but for me! The shameful, impertinent,
ungrateful wretch!"  She ordered Thomas to drive her straight back
home, and, quivering with indignation, went to her son's room. He was
dressed, but lying prone upon his bed; his mother's complaining
irritated his mood beyond his endurance. He rose up in a passion; his
white haggard face showed how deeply sorrow and remorse had ploughed
into his very soul.

"Mother!" he cried, "you will have to hear the truth, in one way or
another, from every one. I tell you myself that you are not guiltless
of Sophy's death--neither am I."

"It is a lie."

"Do go out of my room. This morning you are unbearable."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Are you going to permit people to
insult your mother, right and left, without a word? Have you no sense
of honour and decency?"

"No, for I let them insult the sweetest wife ever a man had. I am a
brute, a monster, not fit to live. I wish I was lying by Sophy's side.
I am ashamed to look either men or women in the face."

"You are simply delirious with the fever you have had."

"Then have some mercy on me. I want to be quiet."

"But I have been grossly insulted."

"We shall have to get used to that, and bear it as we can. We deserve
all that can be said of us--or to us." Then he threw himself on his bed
again and refused to say another word. Madame scolded and complained
and pitied herself, and appealed to God and man against the wrongs she
suffered, and finally went into a paroxysm of hysterical weeping. But
Archie took no notice of the wordy tempest, so that Madame was
confounded and frightened, by an indifference so unusual and unnatural.

Weeks of continual sulking or recrimination passed drearily away.
Archie, in the first tide of his remorse, fed himself on the miseries
which had driven Sophy to her grave. He interviewed the servants and
heard all they had to tell him. He had long conversations with Miss
Kilgour, and made her describe over and over Sophy's despairing look
and manner the morning she ran away. For the poor woman found a sort of
comfort in blaming herself and in receiving meekly the hard words
Archie could give her. He visited Mrs. Stirling in regard to Sophy's
sanity, and heard from that lady a truthful report of all that had
passed in her presence. He went frequently to Janet's cottage, and took
all her home thrusts and all her scornful words in a manner so humble,
so contrite, and so heart-broken, that the kind old woman began finally
to forgive and comfort him. And the outcome of all these interviews and
conversations Madame had to bear. Her son, in his great sorrow, threw
off entirely the yoke of her control. He found his own authority and
rather abused it. She had hoped the final catastrophe would draw him
closer to her; hoped the coolness of friends and acquaintances would
make him more dependent on her love and sympathy. It acted in the
opposite direction. The public seldom wants two scapegoats. Madame's
ostracism satisfied its idea of justice. Every one knew Archie was very
much under her control. Every one could see that he suffered dreadfully
after Sophy's death. Every one came promptly to the opinion that Madame
only was to blame in the matter. "The poor husband" shared the popular
sympathy with Sophy.

However, in the long run, he had his penalty to pay, and the penalty
came, as was most just, through Marion Glamis. Madame quickly noticed
that after her loss of public respect, Marion's affection grew colder.
At the first, she listened to the tragedy of Sophy's illness and death
with a decent regard for Madame's feelings on the subject. When Madame
pooh-poohed the idea of Sophy being in an hospital for weeks, unknown,
Marion also thought it "most unlikely;" when Madame was "pretty sure
the girl had been in London during the hospital interlude," Marion also
thought, "it might be so; Captain Binnie was a very taking man." When
Madame said, "Sophy's whole conduct was only excusable on the
supposition of her unaccountability," Marion also thought "she did act
queerly at times."

Even these admissions were not made with the warmth that Madame
expected from Marion, and they gradually grew fainter and more general.
She began to visit Braelands less and less frequently, and, when
reproached for her remissness, said, "Archie was now a widower, and she
did not wish people to think she was running after him;" and her manner
was so cold and conventional that Madame could only look at her in
amazement. She longed to remind her of their former conversations about
Archie, but the words died on her lips. Marion looked quite capable of
denying them, and she did not wish to quarrel with her only visitor.

The truth was that Marion had her own designs regarding Archie, and she
did not intend Madame to interfere with them. She had made up her mind
to marry Braelands, but she was going to have him as the spoil of her
own weapons--not as a gift from his mother. And she was not so blinded
by hatred as to think Archie could ever be won by the abuse of Sophy.
On the contrary, she very cautiously began to talk of her with pity,
and even admiration. She fell into all Archie's opinions and moods on
the subject, and declared with warmth and positiveness that she had
always opposed Madame's extreme measures. In the long run, it came to
pass that Archie could talk comfortably with Marion about Sophy, for
she always reminded him of some little act of kindness to his wife, or
of some instance where he had decidedly taken her part, so that,
gradually, she taught him to believe that, after all, he had not been
so very much to blame.

In these tactics, Miss Glamis was influenced by the most powerful of
motives--self-preservation. She had by no means escaped the public
censure, and in that set of society she most desired to please, had
been decidedly included in the polite ostracism meted out to Madame.
Lovers she had none, and she began to realise, when too late, that the
connection of her name with that of Archie Braelands had been a wrong
to her matrimonial prospects that it would be hard to remedy. In fact,
as the winter went on, she grew hopeless of undoing the odium generated
by her friendship with Madame and her flirtation with Madame's son.

"And I shall make no more efforts at conciliation," she said angrily to
herself one day, after finding her name had been dropped from Lady
Blair's visiting-list; "I will now marry Archie. My fortune and his
combined will enable us to live where and how we please. Father must
speak to him on the subject at once."

That night she happened to find the Admiral in an excellent mood for
her purpose. The Laird of Binin had not "changed hats" with him when
they met on the highway, and he fumed about the circumstance as if it
had been a mortal insult.

"I'll never lift my hat to him again, Marion, let alone open my mouth,"
he cried; "no, not even if we are sitting next to each other at the
club dinner. What wrong have I ever done him? Have I ever done him a
favour that he should insult me?"

"It is that dreadful Braelands's business. That insolent, selfish,
domineering old woman has ruined us socially. I wish I had never seen
her face."

"You seemed to be fond enough of her once."

"I never liked her; I now detest her. The way she treated Archie's wife
was abominable. There is no doubt of that. Father, I am going to take
this situation by the horns of its dilemma. I intend to marry Archie.
No one in the county can afford to snub Braelands. He is popular and
likely to be more so; he is rich and influential, and I also am rich.
Together we may lead public opinion--or defy it. My name has been
injured by my friendship with him. Archie Braelands must give me his
name."

"By St. Andrew, he shall!" answered the irritable old man. "I will see
he does. I ought to have considered this before, Marion. Why did you
not show me my duty?"

"It is early enough; it is now only eight months since his wife died."

The next morning as Archie was riding slowly along the highway, the
Admiral joined him. "Come home to lunch with me," he said, and Archie
turned his horse and went. Marion was particularly sympathetic and
charming. She subdued her spirits to his pitch; she took the greatest
interest in his new political aspirations; she listened to his plans
about the future with smiling approvals, until he said he was thinking
of going to the United States for a few months. He wished to study
Republicanism on its own ground, and to examine, in their working
conditions, several new farming implements and expedients that he
thought of introducing. Then Marion rose and left the room. She looked
at her father as she did so, and he understood her meaning.

"Braelands," he said, when they were alone, "I have something to say
which you must take into your consideration before you leave Scotland.
It is about Marion."

"Nothing ill with Marion, I hope?"

"Nothing but what you can cure. She is suffering very much, socially,
from the constant association of her name with yours."

"Sir?"

"Allow me to explain. At the time of your sweet little wife's death,
Marion was constantly included in the blame laid to Madame Braelands.
You know now how unjustly."

"I would rather not have that subject discussed."

"But, by Heaven, it must be discussed! I have, at Marion's desire, said
nothing hitherto, because we both saw how much you were suffering; but,
sir, if you are going away from Fife, you must remember before you go
that the living have claims as well as the dead."

"If Marion has any claim on me, I am here, willing to redeem it."

"'If,' Braelands; it is not a question of 'if.' Marion's name has been
injured by its connection with your name. You know the remedy. I expect
you to behave like a gentleman in this matter."

"You expect me to marry Marion?"

"Precisely. There is no other effectual way to right her."

"I see Marion in the garden; I will go and speak to her."

"Do, my dear fellow. I should like this affair pleasantly settled."

Marion was sitting on the stone bench round the sun dial. She had a
white silk parasol over her head, and her lap was full of
apple-blossoms. A pensive air softened her handsome face, and as Archie
approached, she looked up with a smile that was very attractive. He sat
down at her side and began to finger the pink and white flowers. He was
quite aware that he was tampering with his fate as well; but at his
very worst, Archie had a certain chivalry about women that only needed
to be stirred by a word or a look indicating injustice. He was not keen
to perceive; but when once his eyes were opened, he was very keen to
feel.

"Marion," he said kindly, taking her hand in his, "have you suffered
much for my fault?"

"I have suffered, Archie."

"Why did you not tell me before?"

"You have been so full of trouble. How could I add to it?"

"You have been blamed?"

"Yes, very much."

"There is only one way to right you, Marion; I offer you my name and my
hand. Will you take it?"

"A woman wants love. If I thought you could ever love me--"

"We are good friends. You have been my comforter in many miserable
hours. I will make no foolish protestations; but you know whether you
can trust me. And that we should come to love one another very
sincerely is more than likely."

"I _do_ love you. Have I not always loved you?"

And this frank avowal was just the incentive Archie required. His heart
was hungry for love; he surrendered himself very easily to the charming
of affection. Before they returned to the house, the compact was made,
and Marion Glamis and Archibald Braelands were definitely betrothed.

As Archie rode home in the gloaming, it astonished him a little to find
that he felt a positive satisfaction in the prospect of telling his
mother of his engagement--a satisfaction he did not analyze, but which
was doubtless compounded of a sense of justice, and of a not very
amiable conviction that the justice would not be more agreeable than
justice usually is. Indeed, the haste with which he threw himself from
his horse and strode into the Braelands's parlour, and the hardly
veiled air of defiance with which he muttered as he went "It's her own
doing; let her be satisfied with her work," showed a heart that had
accepted rather than chosen its destiny, and that rebelled a little
under the constraint.

Madame was sitting alone in the waning light; her son had been away
from her all day, and had sent her no excuse for his detention. She was
both angry and sorrowful; and there had been a time when Archie would
have been all conciliation and regret. That time was past. His mother
had forfeited all his respect; there was nothing now between them but
that wondrous tie of motherhood which a child must be utterly devoid of
grace and feeling to forget. Archie never quite forgot it. In his worst
moods he would tell himself, "after all she is my mother. It was
because she loved me. Her inhumanity was really jealousy, and jealousy
is cruel as the grave." But this purely natural feeling lacked now all
the confidence of mutual respect and trust. It was only a natural
feeling; it had lost all the nobler qualities springing from a
spiritual and intellectual interpretation of their relationship.

"You have been away all day, Archie," Madame complained. "I have been
most unhappy about you."

"I have been doing some important business."

"May I ask what it was?"

"I have been wooing a wife."

"And your first wife not eight months in her grave!"

"It was unavoidable. I was in a manner forced to it."

"Forced? The idea! Are you become a coward?"

"Yes," he answered wearily; "anything before a fresh public discussion
of my poor Sophy's death."

"Oh! Who is the lady?"

"There is only one lady possible."

"Marion Glamis?"

"I thought you could say 'who'."

"I hope to heaven you will never marry that woman! She is false from
head to foot. I would rather see another fisher-girl here than Marion
Glamis."

"You yourself have made it impossible for me to marry any one but
Marion; though, believe me, if I could find another 'fisher-girl' like
Sophy, I would defy everything, and gladly and proudly marry her
to-morrow."

"That is understood; you need not reiterate. I see through Miss Glamis
now, the deceitful, ungrateful creature!"

"Mother, I am going to marry Miss Glamis. You must teach yourself to
speak respectfully of her."

"I hate her worse than I hated Sophy. I am the most wretched of women;"
and her air of misery was so genuine and hopeless that it hurt Archie
very sensibly.

"I am sorry," he said; "but you, and you only, are to blame. I have no
need to go over your plans and plots for this very end; I have no need
to remind you how you seasoned every hour of poor Sophy's life with
your regrets that Marion was _not_ my wife. These circumstances would
not have influenced me, but her name has been mixed up with mine and
smirched in the contact."

"And you will make a woman with a 'smirched' name Mistress of
Braelands? Have you no family pride?"

"I will wrong no woman, if I know it; that is my pride. If I wrong
them, I will right them. However, I give myself no credit about
righting Marion, her father made me do so."

"My humiliation is complete, I shall die of shame."

"Oh, no! You will do as I do--make the best of the affair. You can talk
of Marion's fortune and of her relationship to the Earl of Glamis, and
so on."

"That nasty, bullying old man! And you to be frightened by him! It is
too shameful."

"I was not frightened by him; but I have dragged one poor innocent
woman's name through the dust and dirt of public discussion, and,
before God, Mother, I would rather die than do the same wrong to
another. You know the Admiral's temper; once roused to action, he would
spare no one, not even his own daughter. It was then my duty to protect
her."

"I have nursed a viper, and it has bitten me. To-night I feel as if the
bite would be fatal."

"Marion is not a viper; she is only a woman bent on protecting herself.
However, I wish you would remember that she is to be your
daughter-in-law, and try and meet her on a pleasant basis. Any more
scandal about Braelands will compel me to shut up this house absolutely
and go abroad to live."

The next day Madame put all her pride and hatred out of sight and went
to call on Marion with congratulations; but the girl was not deceived.
She gave her the conventional kiss, and said all that it was proper to
say; but Madame's overtures were not accepted.

"It is only a flag of truce," thought Madame as she drove homeward,
"and after she is married to Archie, it will be war to the knife-hilt
between us. I can feel that, and I would not fear it if I was sure of
Archie. But alas, he is so changed! He is so changed!"

Marion's thoughts were not more friendly, and she did not scruple to
express them in words to her father. "That dreadful old woman was here
this afternoon," she said. "She tried to flatter me; she tried to make
me believe she was glad I was going to marry Archie. What a consummate
old hypocrite she is! I wonder if she thinks I will live in the same
house with her?"

"Of course she thinks so."

"I will not. Archie and I have agreed to marry next Christmas. She will
move into her own house in time to hold her Christmas there."

"I wouldn't insist on that, Marion. She has lived at Braelands nearly
all her life. The Dower House is but a wretched place after it. The
street in which it stands has become not only poor, but busy, and the
big garden that was round it when the home was settled on her was sold
in Archie's father's time, bit by bit, for shops and a preserving
factory. You cannot send her to the Dower House."

"She cannot stay at Braelands. She charges the very air of any house
she is in with hatred and quarrelling. Every one knows she has saved
money; if she does not like the Dower House, she can go to Edinburgh,
or London, or anywhere she likes--the further away from Braelands, the
better."



CHAPTER XIII

THE "LITTLE SOPHY"


Madame did not go to the Dower House. Archie was opposed to such a
humiliation of the proud woman, and a compromise was made by which she
was to occupy the house in Edinburgh which had been the Braelands's
residence during a great part of every winter. It was a handsome
dwelling, and Madame settled herself there in great splendour and
comfort; but she was a wretched woman in spite of her surroundings. She
had only unhappy memories of the past, she had no loving anticipations
for the future. She knew that her son was likely to be ruled by the
woman at his side, and she hoped nothing from Marion Glamis. The big
Edinburgh house with its heavy dark furniture, its shadowy draperies,
and its stately gloom, became a kind of death chamber in which she
slowly went to decay, body and soul.

No one missed her much or long in Largo, and in Edinburgh she found it
impossible to gather round herself the company to which she had been
wont. Unpleasant rumours somehow clung to her name; no one said much
about her, but she was not popular. The fine dwelling in St. George's
Square had seen much gay company in its spacious rooms; but Madame
found it a hopeless task to re-assemble it. She felt this want of
favour keenly, though she need not have altogether blamed herself for
it, had she not been so inordinately conscious of her own personality.
For Archie had undoubtedly, in previous winters, been the great social
attraction. His fine manners, his good nature, his handsome appearance,
his wealth, and his importance as a matrimonial venture, had crowded
the receptions which Madame believed owed their success to her own tact
and influence.

Gradually, however, the truth dawned upon her; and then, in utter
disgust, she retired from a world that hardly missed her, and which had
long only tolerated her for the accidents of her connections and
surroundings. Her disposition for saving grew into a passion; she
became miserly in the extreme, and punished herself night and day in
order that she might add continually to the pile of hoarded money which
Marion afterwards spent with a lavish prodigality. Occasionally her
thin, gray face, and her haggard figure wrapped in a black shawl, were
seen at the dusty windows of the room she occupied. The rest of the
house she closed. The windows were hoarded up and the doors padlocked,
and yet she lived in constant fear of attacks from thieves on her life
for her money. Finally she dismissed her only servant lest she might be
in league with such characters; and thus, haunted by terrors of all
kinds and by memories she could not destroy, she dragged on for twenty
years a life without hope and without love, and died at last with no
one but her lawyer and her physician at her side. She had sent for
Archie, but he was in Italy, and Marion she did not wish to see. Her
last words were uttered to herself. "I have had a poor life!" she
moaned with a desperate calmness that was her only expression of the
vast and terrible desolation of her heart and soul.

"A poor life," said the lawyer, "and yet she has left twenty-six
thousand pounds to her son."

"A poor life, and a most lonely flitting," reiterated her physician
with awe and sadness.

However, she herself had no idea when she removed to Edinburgh of
leading so "poor a life." She expected to make her house the centre of
a certain grave set of her own class and age; she expected Archie to
visit her often; she expected to find many new interests to occupy her
feelings and thoughts. But she was too old to transplant. Sophy's death
and its attending circumstances had taken from her both personally and
socially more than she knew. Archie, after his marriage, led entirely
by Marion and her ways and desires, never went towards Edinburgh. The
wretched old lady soon began to feel herself utterly deserted; and when
her anger at this position had driven love out of her heart, she fell
an easy prey to the most sordid, miserable, and degrading of passions,
the hoarding of money. Nor was it until death opened her eyes that she
perceived she had had "a poor life."

She began this Edinburgh phase of it under a great irritation. Knowing
that Archie would not marry until Christmas, and that after the
marriage he and Marion were going to London until the spring, she saw
no reason for her removal from Braelands until their return. Marion had
different plans. She induced Archie to sell off the old furniture, and
to redecorate and re-furnish Braelands from garret to cellar. It gave
Madame the first profound shock of her new life. The chairs and tables
she had used sold at auction to the tradespeople of Largo and the
farmers of the country-side! She could not understand how Archie could
endure the thought. Under her influence, he never would have endured
it; but Archie Braelands smiled on, and coaxed, and sweetly dictated by
Marion Glamis, was ready enough to do all that Marion wished.

"Of course the old furniture must be sold," she said. "Why not? It will
help to buy the new. We don't keep our old gowns and coats; why then
our old chairs and tables?"

"They have associations."

"Nonsense, Archie! So has my white parasol. Shall I keep it in tissue
paper forever? Such sentimental ideas are awfully behind the times.
Your grandfather's coat and shoes will not dress you to-day; neither,
my dear, can his notions and sentiments direct you."

So Braelands was turned, as the country people said, "out of the
windows," and Madame hastened away from the sight of such desecration.
It made Archie popular, however. The artisans found profitable work in
the big rooms, and the county families looked forward to the
entertainments they were to enjoy in the renovated mansion. It restored
Marion also to general estimation. There was a future before her now
which it would be pleasant to share, and every one considered that her
engagement to Archie exonerated her from all participation in Madame's
cruelty. "She has always declared herself innocent," said the
minister's wife, "and Braelands's marriage to her affirms it in the
most positive manner. Those who have been unjust to Miss Glamis have
now no excuse for their injustice." This authoritative declaration in
Marion's favour had such a decided effect that every invitation to her
marriage was accepted, and the ceremony, though purposely denuded of
everything likely to recall the tragedy now to be forgotten, was really
a very splendid private affair.

On the Sabbath before it, Archie took in the early morning a walk to
the kirkyard at Pittendurie. He was going to bid Sophy a last farewell.
Henceforward he must try and prevent her memory troubling his life and
influencing his moods and motives. It was a cold, chilling morning, and
the great immensity of the ocean spread away to the occult shores of
the poles. The sky was grey and sombre, the sea cloudy and unquiet; and
far off on the eastern horizon, a mysterious portent was slowly rolling
onward.

He crossed the stile and walked slowly forward. On his right hand there
was a large, newly-made grave with an oar standing upright at its head,
and some inscription rudely painted on it. His curiosity was aroused,
and he went closer to read the words: "_Be comforted! Alexander Murray
has prevailed_." The few words so full of hope and triumph, moved him
strangely. He remembered the fisherman Murray, whose victory over death
was so certainly announced; and his soul, disregarding all the
forbidding of priests and synods, instantly sent a prayer after the
departed conqueror. "Wherever he is," he thought, "surely he is closer
to Heaven than I am."

He had been in the kirkyard often when none but God saw him, and his
feet knew well the road to Sophy's grave. There was a slender shaft of
white marble at the head, and Andrew Binnie stood looking at it.
Braelands walked forward till only the little green mound separated
them. Their eyes met and filled with tears. They clasped hands across
her grave and buried every sorrowful memory, every sense of wrong or
blame, in its depth and height. Andrew turned silently away; Braelands
remained there some minutes longer. The secret of that invisible
communion remained forever his own secret. Those only who have had
similar experiences know that souls who love each other may, and can,
exchange impressions across immensity.

He found Andrew sitting on the stile, gazing thoughtfully over the sea
at the pale grey wall of inconceivable height which was drawing nearer
and nearer. "The fog is coming," he said, "we shall soon be going into
cloud after cloud of it."

"They chilled and hurt her once. She is now beyond them."

"She is in Heaven. God be thanked for His great mercy to her!"

"If we only knew something _sure_. Where is Heaven? Who can tell?"

"In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand pleasures
forevermore. Where God is, there is Heaven."

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard."

"But God _hath_ revealed it; not a _future_ revelation, Braelands, but
a _present_ one." And then Andrew slowly, and with pauses full of
feeling and intelligence, went on to make clear to Braelands the
Present Helper in every time of need. He quoted mainly from the Bible,
his one source of all knowledge, and his words had the splendid
vagueness of the Hebrew, and lifted the mind into the illimitable. And
as they talked, the fog enveloped them, one drift after another passing
by in dim majesty, till the whole world seemed a spectacle of
desolation, and a breath of deadly chillness forced them to rise and
wrap their plaids closely round them. So they parted at the kirk yard
gate, and never, never again met in this world.

Braelands turned his face towards Marion and a new life, and Andrew
went back to his ship with a new and splendid interest. It began in
wondering, "whether there was any good in a man abandoning himself to a
noble, but vain regret? Was there no better way to pay a tribute to the
beloved dead?" Braelands's costly monument did not realise his
conception of this possibility; but as he rowed back to his ship in the
gathering storm, a thought came into his mind with all the assertion of
a clang of steel, and he cried out to his Inner Man.

"_That_, oh my soul, is what I will do; _that_ is what will keep my
love's name living and lovely in the hearts of her people."

His project was not one to be accomplished without much labour and
self-denial. It would require a great deal of money, and he would have
to save with conscientious care many years to compass his desire, which
was to build a Mission Ship for the deep sea fishermen Twelve years he
worked and saved, and then the ship was built; a strong steam-launch,
able to buffet and bear the North Sea when its waves were running wild
over everything. She was provided with all appliances for religious
comfort and teaching; she had medicines for the sick and surgical help
for the wounded; she carried every necessary protection against the
agonising "sea blisters" which torture the fishermen in the winter
season. And this vessel of many comforts was called the "Sophy Traill."

She is still busy about her work of mercy. Many other Mission Ships now
traverse the great fishing-fleets of the North Sea, and carry hope and
comfort to the fishermen who people its grey, wild waters; but none is
so well beloved by them as the "Little Sophy." When the boats lie at
their nets on a summer's night, it is on the "Little Sophy" that "Rock
of Ages" is started and then taken up by the whole fleet. And when the
stormy winds of winter blow great guns, then the "Little Sophy," flying
her bright colours in the daytime and showing her many lights at night,
is always rolling about among the boats, blowing her whistle to tell
them she is near by, or sending off help in her lifeboat, or steaming
after a smack in distress.

Fifteen years after Andrew and Archie parted at the kirkyard, Archie
came to the knowledge first of Andrew's living monument to the girl
they had both loved so much. He was coming from Norway in a yacht with
a few friends, and they were caught in a heavy, easterly gale. In a few
hours there was a tremendous sea, and the wind rapidly rose to a
hurricane. The "Little Sophy" steamed after the helpless craft and got
as near to her as possible; but as she lowered her lifeboat, she saw
the yacht stagger, stop, and then founder. The tops of her masts seemed
to meet, she had broken her back, and the seas flew sheer over her.

The lifeboat picked up three men from her, and one of them was Archie
Braelands. He was all but dead from exposure and buffeting; but the
surgeon of the Mission Ship brought him back to life.

It was some hours after he had been taken on board; the storm had gone
away northward as the sun set. There was the sound of an organ and of
psalm-singing in his ears, and yet he knew that he was in a ship on a
tossing sea, and he opened his eyes, and asked weakly:

"Where am I?"

The surgeon stooped to him and answered in a cheery voice: "_On the
'Sophy Traill!'_"

A cry, shrill as that of a fainting woman, parted Archie's lips, and he
kept muttering in a half-delirious stupor all night long, "_The Sophy
Traill! The Sophy Traill!_" In a few days he recovered strength and was
able to leave the boat which had been his salvation; but in those few
days he heard and saw much that greatly influenced for the noblest ends
his future life.

All through the borders of Fife, people talked of Archie's strange
deliverance by this particular ship, and the old story was told over
again in a far gentler spirit. Time had softened ill-feeling, and
Archie's career was touched with the virtue of the tenderly remembered
dead.

"He was but a thoughtless creature before he lost wee Sophy," Janet
said, as she discussed the matter; "and now, where will you find a
better or a busier man? Fife's proud of him, and Scotland's proud of
him, and if England hasn't the sense of discerning _who_ she ought to
make a Prime Minister of, that isn't Braelands's fault."

"For all that," said Christina, sitting among her boys and girls,
"Sophy ought to have married Andrew. She would have been alive to-day
if she had."

"You aren't always an oracle, Christina, and you have a deal to learn
yet; but I'm not saying but what poor Sophy did make a mistake in her
marriage. Folks should marry in their own class, and in their own
faith, and among their own folk, or else ninety-nine times out of a
hundred they marry sorrow; but I'm not so sure that being alive to-day
would have been a miracle of pleasure and good fortune. If she had had
bairns, as ill to bring up and as noisy and fashious as yours are, she
is well spared the trouble of them."

"You have spoiled the bairns yourself, Mother. If I ever check or scold
them, you are aye sure to take their part."

"Because you never know when a bairn is to blame and when its mother is
to blame. I forgot to teach you that lesson."

Christina laughed and said something about it "being a grand thing
Andrew had no lads and lasses," and then Janet held, her head up
proudly, and said with an air of severe admonition:

"It's well enough for you and the like of you to have lads and lasses;
but my boy Andrew has a duty far beyond it, he has the 'Sophy Traill'
to victual and store, and send out to save souls and bodies."

"Lads and lasses aren't bad things, Mother."

"They'll be all the better for the 'Sophy Traill' and the other boats
like her. That laddie o' yours that will be off to sea whether you like
it or not, will give you many a fear and heartache. Andrew's 'boat of
blessing' goes where she is bid to go, and does as she is told to do.
That's the difference."

Difference or not, his "boat of blessing" was Andrew's joy and pride.
She had been his salvation, inasmuch as she had consecrated that
passion for hoarding money which was the weak side of his character.
She had given to his dead love a gracious memory in the hearts of
thousands, and "a name far better than that of sons and daughters."





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