Изображения страниц

“Weel, Euphie,” said Mrs. Raeburn, un- dreamily, where there is not a cloud to map convinced, but with resignation, " I didna say its course, or anything but the gentlest sumI would take your faither the first time he mer-breath to send it gliding on. In the west askit me, mysel, and there was a lass in An- the rich clouds, all purple and golden, crowd ster that had had the refusing o' him before together and build themselves up in glowing that; but there 's no mony men mair ill-willy masses from the very edge of the water. You or positive about their ain gate than what can fancy them the falling powers and nobiliSamuel Raeburn is this day, though ane ties of some one of the world's great climarmight hae thought he had the pride gey weel times, and that this little silver boat, slowly taken out of him in respect of women-folk ; drawing near to them, contains the child but you see I'm no easy in my mind about born, the bringer-in of the new world. All Nannie. Nae doubt she might be vexed in a unconscious is the infant hero, singing and neighborly way for the loss of the twa Rin- dreaming as he comes ; but the cowering, touls and Andrew Dewar, forby what was nat- fallen glories, whose day is past, are aware, ural for the sloop gaun doun, wi' a' our gear; and here and there a calm spectator-star looks but it's a different thing being vexed for ither out and watches, holding aside the veil of this folk and mourning for ane's ain trouble ; and great evening which encloses all. I'm sure the way she 's been, night and day, But the dreamer of the heavens is silent, ever since, is liker Kirstin Beatoun's daugh- and all this mortal air is full of the voices of ter than mine. I'm no just clear in my ain the sea. It is not laughter now, nor is it mind but what it's a' for Patie Rintoul." music. If you would convey into sound the

Euphie had lifted herself out of the chest, smile of innocent, surprised delight, which and now turned round with some interest to plays upon childish faces often, you could not her mother. “I wouldna say,” said Mrs. give it expression better than by this ripple, Rintoul, after a considerable pause. “I did breaking upon rocks, and beds of sand and tell him ance he was courting our Nanny, and pebbles, and dimpling all over with quiet mirth his face turned as red as scarlet; and she has the pools upon the beach. Accustomed as been awfu' sma' and white and downcast your ear may be, it is impossible to resist an ever sinsyne ;-I wouldna say-poor Nan- answering smile to the fresh, sweet murmur, nie!. I would gie her a' her ain gate, and no so full of wonder and childlike joyousness, fash her, mother, if I was you, till she comes which runs along these creeks and inlets, ever to hersel again; for Nannie's awfu' proud - new, yet ever the same. Another murmur, far prouder than me--and would cut off her faint and distant, bewrays to you what these finger before she would own to caring about low church-steeples and gray mists of smoke onybody that hadnu said plain out that he would do without it, the vicinity of this little cared for her.”

sisterhood of quiet seaports; but the hum of And Mrs. Raeburn received her daughter's life in the Elie is so calm to-night, that you counsel with long sighs and shakings of the only feel your solitude upon the braes, when head, as she had begun the conversation. the low wild rose-bushes look up to you from

“ They say a bad bairn 's a great handfu?," the very borders of the grass, and dew-drops said the perplexed mother, disconsolately, glisten among the leaves — the more absolute “ but I'm sure it canna be onything to the and unbroken. Sometimes a passing footstep care and trouble of lassies ; and twa mair set and passing whistle, or voices pertaining to on their ain will — though I'm no meaning the same, pursue their measured way upon ony blame to you, Euphie - a puir woman the high-road behind the hawthorn hedge : never was trysted with. I'm sure, when I but no one passes here upon the braes, and was Nannie's age, I was at my mother's bid- these two are entirely alone. ding, hand and fit, the haill day through A one-and-twenty years' lease of the Girnel though I was just gaun to be married mysel - farm, with all its fertile slopes and capabut nae doubt you take it frae your faither!”bilities --- a pretty balance in the Cupar bank

to make the same available - a person rigorCHAPTER IX.

ous and young-a face which the Fife belles A weel-stockit mailin, himsel for the laird, have not disdained to turn back and throw a

And marriage off-hand, was his proffer ; second glance upon, and a pleasant consciousBut Agnes Raeburn stands before him with a ness of all these desirable endowments painful flush upon her face, and an uneasy what should make Colin Hunter fear! And inovement in her frame : a host of many-col- he does not fear. In this half light, looking ored thoughts are Aitting through her bewil- lovingly into the full face of Agnes Raeburn, dered mind, and her silence, though it is the he begins to feel himself justified for making silence of painful confusion and perplexity, choice of her. Made choice of her he has, encourages him to go on. It is a July night beyond all question, to his own considerable - soft twilight following close upon a gor- astonishment ; for Colin knows very well that geous sundown — and, up in the pale, clear, " there are maidens in Scotland more lovely languid sky the crescent moon floats softly, I by far ;” but at present, as her eye-lash droops

upon the cheek -- as her eye glances up in Ye may leave my ain een to judge that!” quick arrested looks under it - as the color cried Colin, exultingly; " but if ye were aş comes and goes, like fitting sunshine, the black as Bessie Mouter, instead of just your lover is satisfied. There is a charm in the ain wiselike sel, I'm for you, and nae other, sweet air, which lifts the curls upon her whatever onybody likes to say. cheek

- a charm in the sweet sound which You ’re for me, are you? I dinna ken encircles them on every side, and in the lan- what the lads are turning to,” said Agnes, guid dreamy sky, and the slow floating moon. roused into some of her old pride and pique ; Himself is charmed, his whole soul through," as if we had naething to do but be thankful, with all the fairy influences of new love. and take whaever offered ; but I would have Other flirtations has Colin known, more than folk ken different of me." were good for the freshness of his heart; but " And so do I ken different," said the undis. his heart is fresh at its depths, and answers couraged suitor ; " but I'm no a fisher lad, or now, with a shy warmth and fascinated thrill, an Elie sailor, with naething but a blue jacket to the voice, unheard before, which calls its and a captain's favor, and years to wait for a full affections forth.

house aboon my head. I've a weal-plenished But it is only a shiver, chill and painful, steading to bring ye hame to, Nancy, my which shakes the slight figure of Agnes; and darlin'; and ye 'll no look up into my face, her hand, if she gave it him now, would fall and tell me in earnest that there 's ony other marble-cold into his. Her eyes — those wander- man standing between you and me. ing furtive glances, which he thinks are only He had scarcely spoken the words, when, shy of meeting his earnest look — stray far be- with a low, affrighted cry, Agnes turned from yond him into the vacant air, where they have him and Hed. It was not that her actual eyes almost conjured up a visible forbidding pres- beheld the vision which her fancy was laborence to say nay to his unwelcome suit; and ing to realize. It was not that Patie Rintoul her blushes are fever-gleams of unwilling sub- himself, in the flesh or in the spirit, intermission, flushes of fear and restless discom- posed his reproving face between ber and her fort, and of the generous tenderness which new wooer. She could not tell what it was ; grieves to give another pain. For Agnes, but her strong inagination overpowered her, remembering mournfully that she had vowed and, in sudden dread and terror not to be to reject her earliest wooer, now shrinks from expressed, she turned homeward without a the position which she once dreamed of exult- pause. ing in, and cannot make a heartless triumph Left to himself, young Colin of the Girnel of the true affection which in her grief has stood for a few minutes lost in amazement. come to afflict her, like an added misfortune. Then he followed the flying figure, already far She is grateful for it in her heart - even advanced, before him on the darkening way ; a little proud of it in her most secret and com- but, suddenly drawing back as he saw some punctious consciousness — and would rather one approach in the opposite direction, the delay and temporize a little to soften her young farmer leaped over a convenient stile, denial, than inflict the pain which unawares and made his way into the high-road, whisshe exaggerates, and flatters herself by making tling a loud whistle of defiance greater than it would be. And her mother,

Shall I like a fuil, quo' he, too, plagues her sadly in behalf of this wooer ;

For a haughty hizzio dee? and she herself is aware that even pretty She may gang- to France for me ! Euphie had few such proposals in her power as this, which would make herself mistress of He concluded his song aloud as he went loftily the plentiful homestead at the Girnel ; and upon his way; and next week Colin was deep Agnes, who only wants peace, and to be left in a flirtation with the daughter of his nearest alone to pursue the current of her own sad neighbor, but it would not do ; and he was musings, will rather suffer anything to be im- learning to be sentimental, for the benefit of plied by her silence, than rudely break it with pensive Agnes Raeburn, before another seven the peremptory words which alone would suf days were out. fice to dismiss a wooer so much conscious of his claims.

“ Have you naething to say to me, Nancy “I'm no that ill — no to complain of," Raeburn?' Woman, ye shall keep as mony said Kirstin Beatoun; "I can aye do my maids as ye like, and have a silk gown for day's wark, and that 's a great comfort; and, every month in the year ; for what do I care indeed, when I think o't, I'm better than for silk gowns, or satin either, compared to mony a younger woman – for naething ails my bonnie Nanny?"

me — I have aye my health." *** I 'm no bonnie ; it's Euphie your 're "I'm sure it's a wonder to see you," said meaning,” said Agnes with a sigh; if you the sympathizing neighbor. “Mony a time want me because I'm bonnie, you 're mista'en, I say to my sister Jenny,' Woman, can ye no Mr. Hunter - it's my sister — it's no me. keep up a heart? There's Kirstin Beatoun


[ocr errors]

lost her man and her youngest laddie in ae like of that idle woman to do with a trouble
night - enough to take life or reason, or like ours ?"
maybe baith ; but just see to her how she aye " She meant nae ill — it's just a way they
bears up. It 's a miracle to me every day. 1" have. I mind of doing the same mysel, before

" Ay,” said Kirstin, quietly," so it is, I kent the ills of this life for my ain hand,"
Marget; but the Lord gies a burden to be said Kirstin, who had already begun with her
borne, no to be cast off and rejected ; and I'm usual monotonous steadiness to turn the
waiting on His wiil, whate'er it may be. wheel.
I'm no to gang out of this at my ain hand, Captain Plenderleath was away on a long
though mony a time I may be wearied voyage, and had not been home since his
enough, or have a sair enough heart, to lay brother-in-law's loss. Ailie was quite alone :
down my head with good will; but I'm and moved, as she had been, by the death of
waiting the Lord's pleasure. He'll bid me her nearest and most congenial relative, this
away at His ain time.”

silent daily visit to the silent Kirstin seemed “Eh Kirstin, woman, it's as guid as a almost the only interest of her life. They had sermon to hear ye,” said the reverential nothing to speak of, these two forlorn women; Marget; “ but our Jenny says it's a' the bat Kirstinspan unceasingly, sending a drowsy, difference of folk's feelings, and that ane not uncheerful hum through the still aparttakes a trouble light by what anither does. ment; and Ailie, fronting her brother's vacant But I say to Jenny, - Ye 'll no tell me that chair, played with the folded handkerchief it's because Kirstin Beatoun has lost feeling which she held in her slightly trembling - it's because she's supported, woman;' hands. Many years' use and wont had made and I 'm just the mair convinced after speak- Ailie content with the almost necessary idle ing to yoursel. It's tellt in the toun for a ness - the want of all family industries truth that the auld man said something to which her abundant means and her childawfu' comforting, just as if he kent what was lessness compelled her ; and thus the richer gaun to happen, the night he was lost. Many woman wanted the homely solace which a ane has askit me, thinking ye might have steadied Kirstin Beatoun's heart into daily telled me, being such close neighbors ; but endurance of her greater surrow. ye 're aye sae muckle your lane, and the door “ I have been thinking owre a' he said,” shut; and I hadna the face to chap at a shut said Ailie at last. “Muny 's the day I have door and ask the question plain. "Is it true, gane owre every word, ane by ane, and how he Kirstin?"

lookit, and the tear I saw in his ee. Kirstin, “ Kirstin, can ye no come in and shut the do ye mind what he said ?" door? I hate to hear folk clavering," said a • Do I mind ?" But Kirstin did not raise harsh voice from within.

her head to enforce the distinct emphasis of “ It 's my guidsister, Ailie Rintoul,” said her question. .“ To wait to see what the Kirstin, relieved by the interruption. Lord would bring out of a dark providence

“Eh, it is that awfu' Mrs. Plenderleath," before I let my heart repine. Guid kens I said the inquisitive neighbor ; " but that's little thought that night what providence it my little Tammie greeting. I left him in the was that hung owre me and mine ; and I am cradle just to ask how ye were this lang time, waiting, Ailie, woman ; I'm no complaining ! seeing ye at the door ; but I maun away I'm striving to do my day's duty, and keep noo.'

my heart content before the Lord, and wait And as she went away, Kirstin stood still for His good time. There can come naething on her own threshold for some minutes. The but good out of His will, for a' it's whiles flush of summer was over, and its fervent air hard to haud up your head under the blow; was growing cool. Perhaps it was because but I'm no repining, Ailie ; the Lord forbid she breathed it so seldom that the freshness I should repine. I'm waiting His pleasure of the air was unusually grateful to her night and day.' to-day - perhaps she lingered only to reduce And Kirstỉn hastily put up her hand to inherself into her usual composure ; for the in- tercept a few hot burning, tears; and then, cautious touch of the passing gossip had through the silence that followed, the drowsy raised into wild and vivid life the grief which hum of the wheel resumed its voice hurriedit was her daily work to curb and sub- ly, and went on without a pause. due.

“ I'm looking to earth, and you 're looking Within, seated, as always, by the fireside, to heaven," said Ailie, some time after. opposite the empty arn-chair, Ailie Rintoul “ You 're waiting on to be released and loot was wiping some burning tears from her away out of this world, Kirstin Beatoun ; I'm cheek, when Kirstin entered to resume her marvelling what the Lord meant by the dark seat by the wheel.

word of prophecy He put into his servant's “I wish there was but some lawful con- mouth at such an awfu' time. He didna ken, trivance to shut the mouths of fuils !” ex- puir man, that he was as near heaven then as daiined Ailie, passionately; "what has the Moses when he gaed up the hill to die before

the Lord; but I ken of nae prophet that served romances of her youth with compunction, and God mair constant than your man did, Kirstin, knew no literature but the Bible. The noble and I'll no believe the Lord loot him waste narratives of the Old Testament were her daily his breath and him so little to spend ! fare, read with interest always thrilling and upon words that had nae meaning. You 're vivid ; and, living among Hebrew kings and no to heed me, if I'm like to disturb you with prophets, whose every action was miraculously what I say ; but I've mair faith than to think directed, miraculously rewarded, or punished, that -- I canna think that. There was mair it was not strange that Ailie forgot often how in't than just to subinit, and take humbly God mantles under even a sublimer veil and what God sends. Ye 'll no think I would gang silence the providence, as certain and unfailing, against that, but it has anither meaning, Kirs- which deals with us to-day. But her brother, tin Beatoun ; and though he didna ken himsel always venerated, had taken his place now, in what that was, and you dinna ken, and what's her imagination, among the highest seers and mair, I canna see, I'll no believe, for a'that, sages ; and Ailie waited for the elucidation of but that something will come of what he said, his prophecy with trembling enthusiast faith. for it wouldna be like the Lord to let his serFant's words fall to the ground after putting

CIIAPTER XI. them in his mouth, as if they were but a fuil's I gang and come to the sea and to the idle breath, and no the last testimony of a shore ; and Euphie grows less a lassie, and righteous man."

mair a sober wife, fit for the like of me; and * I never was guid at doctrine, Ailie," said little Johnnie wins to his feet, and cries Daddy Kirstin ; " I never was guid at keeping up a when he sees me at the door; and my mother question the way I've seen him and you. I is used to her burden ; and poor little Nancy have had owre muckle to do with bairns and gets a spark in her ce again ; but there never cares and the troubles of this life, to be clever comes change to you.at arguing or inquiring, or ony such things. And John Rintoul leant his back against And now, if I have even owre muckle time to the wall of his little room in the rool, and turn my thought to the like, I'm feared for contemplated with grave composure the rude beginning, Ailie; for ever since I've striven piece of wood in his hand. sair to tether my mind down to the day's spin-| No; there came no change upon it: there ning or the hour's wark, and never lookit be- they remained, these fatal characters, brandhind or before mair than I could help. I ken ing the name of John Rintoul on the broken my man 's gane, that was my comfort a' surface, as they had branded it on the carver's my best days; and I ken my darlin' laddie's heart a year ago, when he found it on the gane, that was the desire of my heart; and I beach. The rusted nails and jagged edge had ken, forby, that for a' sae dreadfu' a calamity not crumbled or broken ; and still, through it is, it is the Lord's sending, and I maun aye all these peaceful months, a terrible tale bless His name ; and so I'm no for bringing spoke in their voiceless silence ; still they in ony perplexin' thoughts, Ailie, for it would were the sole token of the shipwreck - the be an awful thing for a woman of my years, sole memento upon his mother earth of the that is gane through sae muckle, to lose reason fate of old John Rintoul. and judgment at the last."

The John Rintoul who now looked so sadly And as Kirstin continued her spinning, the on his name was prospering again as his sober wheel trembling with spasmodio motion, as carefulness deserved. A good sailor and a again and again she put up her hand to check trustworthy man, people did not fail to disthe falling tears.

cover him to be, and trusted he was accordBut Ailie, feverish and excited, dried hers ingly. No longer mate, but captain, bis off hastily with her folded handkerchief, and, schooner was to sail again in a day or two ; turning it over and over in her trembling and Euphie, rich with the savings of two prefingers, brooded on her mystery. Ailie Rin- vious voyages, had exhausted her time and toul had lived much and long alone — many industry to make the captain's appearance slow solitary hours, when the little world, which worthy of his exalted rank ; for though the recognized her as by no means either inactive property was lost, it was still impossible to or uninfluential in its concerns, was busied deny that the captain of a schooner “out of with dearer and more private household duties, Leith" was a greater man than the skipper had passed in unbroken quietness over the of a little Elie sloop, even though the sloop childless wife, whose husband was far upon was half his own. the sea, whose little maid was more than able And Captain Rintoul of the Janet and for all her domestic work, and to whom the Mary, with his easy voyages, his increasing cherished china, and far-travelled shells of means, and his pleasant home, was a man to her best room, gave only a very brief occupa- be envied ; and his grief had faded out of tion. Of considerable intellect, too, and a present intensity into a little additional grav"higher strain of mind than the common, Ailie ity, and a general softening of character. remembered the Gentle Shepherd and country Perhaps he was cast at first in a mould less

She is pen

stern, but certainly he was now settling into I could see a sail coming steadily, as out of ana gentler, milder, and less forcible person other world ; and the water came rippling than Elder John.

up, with gentle breaks and hesitations, now Kirstin Beatoun, carefully abstaining from and then crowding back, wave upon wave, mention of this day, as the first melancholy like timid children, before they started for a anniversary of her loss, and sedulously count- long race, flashing up among the rocks to ing, with white and trembling lips, the hanks Agnes Raeburn's feet. of yarn revolving on her wheel, bravely strove And it is true that the light has come to against the long-restrained and gnawing grief Nancy's eyes, the color to her cheek. Youth which almost overpowered her now. Finding and health and daily work have been too it impossible to work, she rose at last hastily, many for her visionary sorrow. and began with considerable bustle to “redd sive to-night, as, full of softening memories, up the house,” already only too well arranged she thinks of the storm which she came here and orderly. Then she went out to the little to see ; pensive, but not afflicted, for autumn yard behind, and did some necessary work in and winter are over and gone : the spring it, shutting her eyes with a strong pang and comes again with all its happier influences, spasm at crossing her threshold; her very and her heart is tender, but her heart is sight at first was blinded with the broad, healed. dazzling sunshine rejoicing over the sea. By Young Colin Hunter has been tracing her and by her son came to her, to take her away steps ; his patience is nearly worn out now a long, fatiguing inland walk to see some with its long stretch of endurance, and the cacountry friends ; and it came to an end at price and waywardness of his lady-love; and last - the longest of all long days — and the in the darkening gloaming he steals after her first year of her widowhood was gone. to the point, a little jenlous of her motive for

Ailie Rintoul in her own house, and in her wandering there, but quite unconscious that own chamber — secretly, with some fear of this is the day on which the sloop was lost. wrong-doing to interrupt its fervent devo Are you gaun to gie me my answer, tions — fasted all day long, and humbled her- Nancy?” says Colin, with a little impatience. self, weeping and crying for some interpreta “Here have I been cast about, like a bairn's tion of her brother's prophecy. Ailie was ba’, from one hand to anither fleeching at not quite convinced that her fusting was law- you – Jeeing to your mother - courting a ful ; but it was a fast kept in secret, unknown body belonging to you, for little less than a even to little Mary, her small serving-maiden, year. Am I gaun to get my answer, Nancy? who was no sufferer thereby ; and when the Will ye take me, or will ye no?" night fell, Mrs. Plenderleath slept with a But Agnes has no inclination to answer so text of promise in her heart. Her heart was blank-point a question. She herself was very true, very earnest and sincere, if not sufficiently explicit at one time, and Colin always perfectly sober in its vehement wishes ; bore all her impatient refusals bravely, and and when these words of holy writ came in held to his suit notwithstanding. Now, his suddenly upon her mind, as the moon came attentions have become a habit to Agnes, and on the sea, who shall say she did wrong to she does not quite like the idea of losing them accept them with a great throb of thankful- at once and suddenly, though still she is very ness and wonder, as a very message from the far from having made up her mind to the heavens ?

terrible Yes which he demands. And Agnes Raeburn stood upon the point, “I wish ye wouldna fash me night and watching the waters under the moonlight as day,” said Agnes. “ I gied ye your answer they rolled in, in soft ripples, over the sands lang ago, if you would only take it and leave of Élie bay. Very different from last year's me at peace.' ghastly gleam and deathlike shadow were the And as she spoke her heart smote her; for moonbeams of to-night. Soft hazy clouds, anything insincere or untrue, in whatever tinted in sober gray and brown, and edged degree, was sadly unsuitable to the solemn with soft white downy borders, Aitted now sentiment connected with this place and and then across the wild young moon, break- time. ing into polished scales of silver sometimes, “Do ye think a spirit can ever come back?" like armor for the hunter goddess of heathen said Agnes, lowering her voice. fables sometimes caught up, as if by fairy think if ane departed by a violent end, and fingers, into wreaths and Apating draperies, wanted to let his friends ken, that he could glistening white like bridal silk; underneath, have means to do it? I saw something ance the sky was blue, pale, and clear and peace- myself”. ful; and the Firth lay under that, looking ** What did ye see ?" asked Colin hastily, up with loving eyes to reflect a kindred color. for she made a sudden pause. No such thing as storm, or prophecy of storm, She was shy of telling - never had told it, troubled the lightened horizon, out of which, indeed, to her nearest friends ; but Agnes now and then the air was so clear - you has her heart softened, opened, and does not

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »