WHEN my father came up
into the Highlands from Glasgow and married my mother, he married the
heiress of the Mackenzies of Glenmore—heiress of their traditions, their
virtues and foibles, their blood - but, alas, of absolutely nothing of a
more tangible character. Their marriage was a sudden affair. They met in
the minister's house. As it appears to me now, with my wider knowledge
of the past, he was no doubt considerably dazzled by her lineage, and
not altogether insensible to her personal charms when he proposed to
her. Impoverished, utterly unprepared for a struggle with the world, and
doubtless urged by the minister's family, she accepted an offer which
meant the security of a home, and the protection of one who was, at
least, if not a man of family, a man of ambition, integrity and ability.
She made him as good a
wife as she was able, that is to say, as good a wife as could one who
always walked on a higher plane than her mate, whose hopes, interests
and valuations were for things of which he had little ken, and who
regarded with coolness, if not contempt, those more mercenary ambitions,
the very success of which surrounded her with luxuries. For before I,
their only child, had attained the age of fifteen we were wealthy -
wealthy enough to desert our Glasgow residence every year in the early
summer and take our way to the West Highlands to the enjoyment of a
petty estate, at one time a dependency of; and bordering on, that very
Glenmore, the abode of all those preceding generations of Mackenzies,
whose exalted tastes and extravagant proclivities had resulted in making
my mother the wife of a self-made Glasgow merchant.
As far as personal
appearance goes, my mother was a woman of exceptional height, hair black
and glossy as a raven's wing, dreamy blue eyes and a certain haughtiness
of bearing which was not more attributable to lineage than to that
isolation of mind which is the doom of the poetic.
I tell you this because I
am said to greatly resemble my mother, though in my mirror it seems to
me I see these modifications—a lighter, harder eye, a more aquiline nose
and a squarer jaw; but perhaps these are only differences ascribable to
sex. I take my height from my mother, which is a matter of exultation to
my father, who is a man of small stature. Poor father! I am scarcely a
son after his own heart, being like my mother a dreamer of dreams,
easily depressed, just as easily uplifted, passionate, irrational and
proud, in fact, with all the defects of the Celtic temperament, and not
an atom of that doggedness of purpose, shrewdness of vision and
worldliness of mental grasp which has made my father a very champion in
the tilts and jousts of mercantile competition.
Be sure there was nothing
connected with the estate of Glen more with which 1 was not as familiar
as though we still abode there; though the truth is, the owner was a
stout man, Munro by name, some far-off relative of my mother's, who kept
us at a distance, for fear, I suppose, of the smell of Glasgow linens.
But there were certain things of which neither he nor fortune could
divest us—traditions, memories and superstitions, intangible possessions
upon which neither sheriff nor auctioneer can put his stamp ;
trivialities to the practical, to a woman of my mother's temperament
priceless broiderings upon the garment of life.
My dear mother! I lost
her when I was nineteen, after which my father and I lived together in a
species of amiable disunionpassers-by—in a night of numb uncomprehension.
While he had no part with
my mother and myself in the store of legends which made Glenmore for us
enchanted ground, my father ever bitterly resented the passing of the
estates into the hands of others. Along with his successes in business
had grown an almost unconquerable desire to obtain possession of the
But all overtures towards
a purchase, Munro's solicitors met by the cool statement that he was
well pleased with the estate would probably leave it to his adopted
daughter, Annabella, but that should he ever make up his mind to part
with it, there was man in Canada who would gladly give him the only
price for which Munro cared to sell, a sum the very mention of which
caused all my father's aptitude for bargaining to rise in horrified
protest. But now, for two years or more, my college days being over, my
father had been dinging into my ears the profitableness and wisdom of a
marriage with Annabella Munro as a means to the much-desired end. I was
weary of it. He had been harping on the subject that evening in May as
we sat together, just previous to our usual migration northwards.
"McRae," said he, quoting
Glenmor's solicitor, "says she will have £15,000 of her own, besides-."
"The dourest face, aye,
and the dourest temper, so the maids say, in all Scotland."
"God's sake, man," he
said, a world of bitterness in his tone, "there's waur than that. Dour
is dour, and ye know where ye are it's no the heights of ecstasy one
moment, and the depths o' despond the next. It's no witherin' ye up xvi'
disdain one time, an' wearyin' ye xvi' self-reproaches the next!"
I looked at my father in
amazement. Was it possible that there had been any flaw in his marital
happiness? The birth, the breeding, the beauty, the positive genius of
my mother—were not these sufficient for a man's happiness? At the moment
naught but a wild rage possessed me, and in the space of ten minutes we
had said to one another such words as it took separation, danger, and
almost death to wipe out of memory. In ten minutes I was walking the
streets of Glasgow with naught to my ac-
count but the clothes in which I stood, and the paltry sum I had won
upon the result of the yacht races in my pocket. For a time I tramped
about in a fury of bitter mirth, the situation being so ludicrous as to
wear one's patience and self-esteem alike threadbare. To think that for
a girl with whom I had not in my whole life exchanged twenty sentences,
I had been wounded in my most sacred emotions, had in turn been
disrespectful to one who was, as far as money went, an indulgent father,
and who, aside from this perverse whim, had always been tolerant, even
if uncomprehending. I had few friends, having ever, like my mother, been
more intimate with nature than with mankind. There was none, therefore,
to whom I could go for advice. I trod the streets purposelessly, pulling
up at all sorts of unfamiliar windows to gaze in with unseeing eyes. At
some such moment the heading of a great chart, printed in red and blue,
forced itself by repeated effort into my brain. "To the Klondike! To the
Kiondike!" reached my lethargic consciousness, waking it as if with a
flashlight. To the Klondike? Well, why not? An alluring vision of a
fortune of which I, the incapable, might be the originator instead of
that unreasonable little old man whose house I had left, as well as that
love of adventure which is the portion of youth, wrought together to
bring me to a decision. The window was that of a steamship company. A
rapid computation of the means at my command showed me I had sufficient
to carry me as far as Montreal. Surely (this was before I knew the
magnificence of Canadian distances) a little grit and a great capability
for walking should get me finally to the Klondike.
Much of my anger, but
none of my independence, had evaporatedby the time I reached Liverpool
at noon of the next day. Something of the sorrow of my father's empty
life came to me. It occurred to me that it is our habit to give little
sympathy to the duck when he marries the swan, to the fieldmouse who
falls in love with the lark, and little thought to the discomfort of the
barnyard fowl who wakes in the morning to find that his mistress belongs
only to the eyrie. Is there no tragedy in it for the duck? Are the
heartaches the portion of beauty, genius and charm alone? Under the
influence of these thoughts I wrote a line to my father before going
aboard, an olive branch of amity which I was glad to remember in the
midst of more thrilling circumstances.
"Dear Dad," wrote I, "I'm
off to the Klondike by the steamer Northman. We'll have Glenmore
I am not sure whether it
was the practical wisdom of such a course, as it left still a pound or
two in my pocket, or a romantic desire to put my foot on the very lowest
round of the ladder which was to lead to fortune, which prompted me to
embark as a steerage passenger. This I did under my mother's maiden
name—Mackenzie—having no desire to cast the faintest shadow of
discredit, as there might seem to be, upon the respected name of Rose.
The atmosphere of the
steerage is not one in which romance flourishes, and although we were
hampered by fogs, it was with the hopeful reflection that the
discomforts of the journey were nearly over that I retired to rest, for,
though I knew it not, the last time on the Northman.
something which flung the blood in my veins in one wild leap from head
to foot, something which tingled through every nerve, yet was too
shocking to be identified as either noise or concussion, wakened me in
the morning. For a moment I was tossed about like a shuttlecock, then a
sudden lurch threw me on the floor. A dozen pairs of wildly questioning
eyes met mine as I sprang to my feet. A moment we wasted in mute,
staring inquiry before we grasped our clothing, and scrambling into it
flung ourselves upward—up, up, up to join the questioning, panting
throng already welling upward from every quarter of the vessel. And when
we reached a vantage ground of vision, within the very circle of
knowledge and authority there was nothing to see above and around
us—nothing but an impenetrable veil of fog, inscrutable as death itself;
below us not even a hint of the treacherous rocks.
The vessel being tilted
towards the stern made walking difficult; the scream of escaping steam
and the clatter of the screw almost drowned the peremptory commands of
the officers. We were mostly men—the women trailing upward with
difficulty—yet the all-pervading silence of nature fell upon us with the
chill of the grave. A whisper that we were hopelessly wrecked arose, and
was stilled as the women approached. The captain looked at us with stern
"Passengers," he shouted,
"there is no immediate danger. Be silent! Be calm! In that way you will
help us in the work of getting you to safety."
A sudden gust of wind
arose, biting like a lash. I remembered my coat which had been left
below, and with it my small fortune. Stealing away from the throng, I
took my way back to our quarters, comforting, as best I could, the
hysterical questioners who had not yet reached the upper deck. I found
my coat with little difficulty, though the steerage was scattered from
end to end throughout its dimly-lighted spaces with forgotten articles
of apparel. A voice, a sweet and tremulous voice, at my elbow startled
"The baby! Have you seen
it? Where is it?"
"A baby? Yours? What
"Oh, no! Somewhere down
here—the mother forgot it—she was afraid to come back."
"Forgot it! Good heavens!
Can this be it? Yes—no—here it is. Now come on, there's no time to
I pushed the girl ahead
of me —the baby tucked under my arm, with little thought for either,
heaven knows—helping her only as I should have felt it incumbent to help
any woman in the world in a similar situation.
The wind was still
rising, tearing the mist into ragged edges, revealing now and then a
rocky and unpromising coast-line, but by the time we reached the deck
the boats were being lowered with a rapidity which spoke volumes for the
desperation of our case. When the baby had been restored to its mother,
I turned to the girl to tell her to take her place in order for the
boats. Some impulse impelling her to turn in my direction, our glances
met. I swear to you, if the boat had gone down with us as we stood
there, if the period of our lives had been limited to a moment, for that
moment, at least, she was mine. Out of our eyes leaped our familiar
souls. The words we would have spoken as strangers died on our lips.
"Were you not afraid to go down?" I said, and the tones of my voice rang
strange in my ears, for they were tender as those of a mother to her
I was terrified," she
"But you went!" She
looked up at me with a sudden quivering of her lips. I saw she was
trembling from head to foot. Moving closer to her I drew her unresisting
hand within my arm. She came only to the tip of my shoulder, yet was not
small. Strands of her nut-brown hair, pinned hastily in the hurry of the
moment, fell loose about her face and neck; an olive skin, a tender
mouth, clear eyes to which the perfect arch of her brows gave an
expression of soft inquiry; a brave chin, hiding its resoluteness behind
a dimple—what need to say more. More faultless faces there may have
been, none purer, braver or more steadfast. When they called for the
women of the second cabin to come forward, she left the fancied
protection of my presence with evident reluctance. When I forced my way
nearer to the rail that I might see them depart, she was looking upward,
scanning the faces of the onlookers with an appearance of expectation. I
watched her search the throng with breathless curiosity, the wild
beating of my heart almost stifling me as I saw her intent gaze come
near to me, waver, come close again and rest, at last satisfied, upon my
face. We looked atone another, regardless of distance, as we had looked
in the beginning. I struggled to make some little sign of
reassurance—and, then, how it happened has not been explained to this
day, the boat capsized. I heard the groan that burst from the lips of
the onlookers. I tossed them aside like straws. I remember throwing off
my coat; all the rest, until I caught her as she sank for the second
time, is such a blur that I cannot tell you more about it than you may
guess for yourselves. When I had a firm grasp of her I saw that the boat
had been righted, but the crew were occupied in rescuing those nearer at
hand. She tried to tell me that she could swim if it were not for her
heavy skirts. Words were breath wasted. "Do you see that rock?" I said.
"Come." When we reached the rock I lifted her with one arm, and throwing
her upward pulled myself up only to fall exhausted at her side. When I
recovered sufficiently to look at my companion she was unconscious. I
wrung the water from her hair, clasped her hands in mine, and drew her
close to me that I might rest her cold cheek against the warmth of my
shoulder. "Oh, darling, darling," I said in the Gaelic, "my pretty
brown-haired maid, open your eyes, my dove." She began at last to sob
slowly and heavily, crying over and over again, "Oh, my dear father—oh,
my poor, dear father, if you had lost your little Mary."
"Oh, hush thee, Alanna,"
said I once more in the Gaelic, secure in the remembrance that not one
person in thousands understands the language of my fathers, "hush thee,
hush thee, heart of my heart."
There must have been
something in the tones at least which comforted her, for checking her
sobs she seemed to listen a moment, then withdrawing herself, she turned
to look for the approaching boat. As the boat drew near we both
struggled to our feet; she turned to lay her hand lightly upon my arm.
"Sir," she said eagerly, "I do not know your name—I want to say my
father —never forgets—and I am my father's daughter."
Now, I am not going to
weary you with the tale of the hardships we endured upon the island of
Anticostil That you have already from the newspapers. I am going only to
tell you what befell after Mary's father arrived in Montreal, as I have
it from Mary herself partly, and in part from the lips of Macdonald.
There may be portions of it which it will be embarrassing for me to
write. I ask you to remember that these are Mary's words, not mine.
It was when she was
sitting on his knee the night he arrived in Montreal. This, on account
of his accident, of which I have not time to give you particulars, was
fully six weeks later. He had asked her to give him particulars of her
journey. "You want to hear it all, daddy?" she said, "every word of it
from the beginning? Well, then, when I got your letter saying you were
going to the Klondike, and that if I wished to go to the coast, I was to
sail on the very first steamer, I rushed off to buy my ticket, and
behold, sir, there was nothing but one second cabin passage left. I
thought, 'Well, miss, if you want to show your father how you can rough
it, so that perhaps he'll take you to the Klondike, too, now is your
chance.' So I came second cabin, and there was really nothing to
complain of until we ran on the rock. I can assure you I did not waste
any time over the arrangement of my toilet that morning. I was the first
woman to reach the deck, but there was another almost as swift. Only
when she did reach there she sank down and began to moan and shriek for
her baby. She had left it behind, away down in the steerage. And she was
afraid to go back for it. So what could I do but go down for it. Oh,
dear, no; not brave, daddy. I was so stiff with fright I could scarcely
crawl. When I reached the steerage there was a tall young man trying to
find his coat. He found the baby for me and helped me up to the deck
again. When I turned to thank him, I saw for the first time what he
looked like." A long pause, in which my lady lay thinking, her head upon
her father's breast. "Yes, dad," in response to an urgent squeeze; but
she began slowly, "Did you ever meet anybody for the first time and yet
feel as if you must have known them for a hundred years, feel so much
confidence in their friendship for and sympathy with you that you knew,
no matter how foolish and vain and weak you knew yourself to be, that
person, seeing all your shortcomings, would 1—like you just the same.
Well, that's the way I felt the moment I looked at him. I felt so much
reliance in him, I was afraid to leave his side when it came our turn to
go in the boats. Oh, daddy, daddy, I'll never forget it, never, when the
boat capsized. Oh, the horrible sea—the sinking down —the clutching for
something where there was nothing to clutch —the roaring in my ears.
Daddy, is there anything in the world good enough for the man who saved
your Mary!" Macdonald squeezed her tight, but did not open his lips.
"When he jumped overboard and caught me before I sank again, those on
the ship nearly went wild with joy. Then he swam with me to the rock and
I fainted. When I began to recover, I found I was crying and moaning for
you, and someone was speaking to me in the Gaelic. At first I thought it
was you, because it was as you used to talk to me long ago when I was
small. As I became more conscious of my surroundings, I knew the voice
was not yours; but it was such a beautiful voice, and it was saying"
—here her ladyship gave an embarrassed little giggle—" something about
'my pretty brown-haired maid, open your eyes, my dove,' and more which
there's no use repeating. I said to myself, wasn't it well for me that I
had been brought up in Glengarry, but I pretended I was not
understanding a word. Then the boat came to take us off, and I said to
him, 'Mr. Mackenzie'—(no, I didn't know his name then)—I just said,
'Sir, my father never forgets, and I am my father's daughter'—wasn't
that right, dad?"
"His name is Mackenzie?"
"N-no—it is really Rose.
Oh, daddy, don't look so doubtful; you don't know him. He told me
"You saw him yesterday?"
"I've seen him almost every day since he arrived in Montreal." "You
"Why, yes, daddy; he
hadn't a friend in all Canada but me, and, of course, I was anxious to
hear if he got employment."
"Does he come here?"
"We've generally met on
the street "—(faintly)—then with more assurance, "that was a piece of
shrewdness on my part. You see, he doesn't know we are—he thinks we are
poor. When we were coming to Montreal he told he was on the way to the
Klondike, and I told him you were going, too. He seemed to think it was
to try your luck. It amused me to let him think so. When we came to
Montreal I didn't ask him to come here because he would see—"
"I don't see the
necessity for keeping him in the dark. His estimate of your
circumstances could only be a matter of indifference to you."
She hung her head, then
said in her own brave way, although the happy ring had gone out of her
voice, "It was not a matter of indifference to me. I was very glad he
thought I was poor, that he did not know who—." Here her voice began to
shake, so that she sought a diversion. Putting her hand into the bosom
of her dress, she drew forth a fine cord on which hung two rings, one of
which she restored to its hiding- place in some confusion. "This ring,
daddy, used to be his. I saw it on his hand every day until we came to
Montreal, so that I recognized it at once when I saw it in a pawn-shop
window. I bought it because I thought you would like to give it back to
him some day," she ended with a quivering sigh.
Macdonald examined the
ring carefully. It was a signet bearing the Mackenzie crest in gold,
surrounded by cairngorms and pearls. He put his daughter off his knee
and rose to his feet. "Where does this man live—this man with the
plethora of names?" She gave him my address.
"Are you going to see him
tonight, father, so late? And I have not told you all yet!"
"You've done pretty
well," he said grimly, stalking out of the room and out of the house.
So it was that I was much
astonished when a tall, gaunt man was ushered into my small apartment,
where I was busy writing to my father, at ten o'clock of the night or
"Is it as Mr. Rose or Mr.
Mackenzie I should address you, sir. It's hard choosing where a man has
a variety of names. For myself I've always found one sufficient for the
purposes of an honest man."
Believe me, it was with
difficulty I refrained from hurling a chair at him. "My name is Rose," I
said stiffly, "and you, I think, are Mr. Macdonald," for there was a
great resemblance to his daughter, notwithstanding a certain
eccentricity in his appearance and costume.
"Macdonald, yes. As
Macdonald I came into this country, and as Macdonald I shall go out of
it, though I came steerage as you did."
He rose from the chair I
had given him, the only chair in the room, and taking the paper shade on
the lamp between his finger and thumb, tossed it into a corner. Grasping
the lamp he strode to where I stood with my back against the wall, and
thrusting it close to my face surveyed me with piercing keenness. "You
don't look like a scoundrel," he said coolly, setting down the lamp.
"Mr. Rose, I owe you much. There is only one thing in the world I would
grudge you," with emphasis. "Now, if you will give me an idea of how you
have been employed since you came here, and, if you can, a satisfactory
explanation of your change of name, I may be able to do a little towards
your advancement." I pressed my hand upon the packet of papers and
letters which I had thrust into my coat pocket on his entrance, and,
while I could not restrain a wave of secret exultation, I began with an
appearance of modesty which I was far from feeling. "The first three
days I worked on the streets."
"Was that necessary for a
man of your education?"
"I took what first
offered, because along with my coat I lost the funds at my command in
the wreck. I had not a farthing the day we landed here. I was paid for
the first day I worked on the streets; for the second and third I have
never received a cent, the contractor having been enjoined against
"That accounts for this."
He pushed my ring across the table. You can imagine my surprise and joy,
for I had been bitterly annoyed that it had been snapped up by a
purchaser before I could redeem it. Without explanation he interrogated
sharply, "What next?"
"I was street car
conductor for four weeks. Afterwards for a week I was employed as an
extra man at the power-house. Last week, owing to some little knowledge
I have of electrical matters I was made manager of the electrical
department. In that capacity I am still an employee of theirs. As for my
variety of names, sir, if you will read these you will see that I have
some claim to either, and may before long have a right to both." I
handed him the packet which contained a kind letter from my father, a
draft for £200, letters of introduction to prominent Canadians, a notice
from my father's solicitors that he had purchased Glenmore, and was
applying for the privilege of changing our name to Rose-Mackenzie by
said Macdonald, thumping the table with his fist. "The devil! I've been
after that place for myself for fifteen years."
He rose from his seat.
"Then there's not very much that a nobody like myself can do for you,
Mr. Rose." There was a twinkle in his eye as he said it, for well he
knew as he spoke that he was the wealthiest and best known lumber: man
"Only this, sir, and
perhaps you will think it too much. Can you listen with kindness when I
tell you that on the strength of these letters, of which she knows
nothing as yet, and on the strength of our mutual love, I married your
Sometimes I wonder if
there was ever any gulf between my father and myself, Mary had bridged
it so completely. Sometimes I wonder why the thrift, the enterprise and
capability of these two men should have been utilized to place me where
I am—I, who could not make a bargain to save my life. Yet the God who
made the ant made the butterfly, and perhaps when I have given to the
world the book in which I have recorded the beautiful thoughts and
superstitions—the wonderful legends in prose and poem, the stories of
battles fought and woes endured—of those, my own people, I, too, like
the butterfly, may have contributed in some degree to the beauty, if not
the virility, of that world.
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.