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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 12


"Will ye gang to the Hielan's, Leezy Lindsay,
Will ye gang to the Hielan's wi' me;
Will ye gang to the Hielan's, Leezy Lindsay,
My bride and my darling to be."
—Old Ballad.

IN after days that winter was to Jean a hideous nightmare. Like Douglas she could not have borne to see Phemie and not speak to and with her, and, like Phemie, thought it best to let sleeping giants lie. A feeling had been engendered that kept stirred up might lead to worse things. She and Phemie would never refuse to speak to each other, but what satisfaction would speaking at an occasional meeting outside be ; therefore, dreading such meetings Jean stayed at home, the weekly trips to church at Smith's Falls being the only break in the monotony.

That, is the only break since winter had fairly set in.

Early in the winter Philip Maxwell had put his fate to the test and lost, and this was only another grief for Jean to bear.

Philip generously disclaimed any blame being attached to Jean, although long, long ago everyone else had known why he came to James McAlpin's. She had laughed when he laughed, laughed at him when he didn't, had treated him to pages of philosophy and pages of nonsense. But through all she was perfectly independent and did not in the slightest show any effort or even desire to please him; yet she had always seemed glad when he came, took a lively interest in everything that interested him: botony, geology, mineralogy, anthropology, and so on ad infinitum. The tomes that found their way into the back of that buckboard at Perth, and out of it on the Ninth line, could hardly be numbered with two figures. And the pile of "rubbishy stuff" that Jean gathered between whiles and littered the house with, was enough to make Margaret wax sarcastic, which she occasionally did, but on the whole bore it all very patiently. Not being blind she saw what was going on and had no sort of objection; marrying of a son is one thing, marrying of a daughter another story.

It was the day but one before Christmas when he told her ; they stood by the wee gate philosphising on decay and resurrection. Jean was stunned when he said his say. White as the snow that should have been here for Christmas but had not yet come, she raised very misty blue eyes to his.

"Oh, Mr. Maxwell, ye'll no' mean't, I'll ne'er kenned; I'll aye liket t' hae ye coom an' syne Douglas' gane, ye'll cheered mither 'n da, but I'll ne'er thocht o' this!"

"I knew you did not, Jean," said Philip, softly, "but at the same time I hoped. I thought your heart was untried, I feared untouched, but hoped when you came to know of my deep love for you, you would sometime give it me to cherish 'till death did us part. Oh, my darling, let me still hope, if you cannot now say yes, let me wait, just let me wait and watch you, I will know when I may claim you."

Jean's quick wit forsook her, her head drooped to the gate post.

With tense muscles and scarcely beating heart Philip stood. Was it his Scotch lassie Jean who stood with him at the gate this gray December day, or-------

Then the "gowden" head was raised and the tear-dimmed sad eyes told him before she spoke.

"Is there no hope, Jean," he asked, hoarsely.

She shook her head and again sought support from the silent post; she was trembling. To Philip this was like a stab.

"Jean," he said, trying to steady his voice, "look up, dear, do not grieve for me. I wanted you, oh, so much, for all my life, and it is not to be, but for the boon of having known you I shall always be grateful to the Giver of all good. I accept your decision and treat it as I would any of your wishes. You have honored me by letting me feel that we were good comrades; if you are never to be more to me, let me not lose your friendship in presuming to hope for a closer title."

"Philip Maxwell," said Jean, lifting her head, "we hae been frien's, I'm prood 'n happy to ca' ye that; ye'll hae taught me mony things o' the wun-ners o' the earth, an' I'll miss ye when ye're gane, but I hae nae hairt t' gie an' I'll be nae mon's wife wi'out my hairt's gane before."

"Yes, Jean, in after months you will remember what I tell you now. I knew that no man could hope to call you his wife unless your heart was wholly his, that wealth and high station would have no more weight than a feather, that if Philip Maxwell failed to win you, had he come as—as—" making a wild flight for comparison, "the Duke of Kilmarnock, he would have been no more successful."

"I'll thank ye for this, Philip Maxwell, the warld's gear 'n high position's a graun thing gin it's made gude use o', aiblins 'tis only a trappin' aifter a' au't will mony times fa' into bad hands; gin I'd ony hairt to gie, I'd muckle raither gie't t' my frien' Philip Maxwell than tae ony duke in th' peerage."

A spasm of pain shook Philip Maxwell, that this girl with soul so white could not walk by his side down the hill of time.

"For Philip Maxwell, for anything and everything else I am, I am grateful to have you tell me this, Jean, though I have studied you until I knew it weeks ago. In pity for my disappointment you have also told me something else, that your heart was another's ere I sought it. It does comfort me to feel that it is because I was too late, not altogether because I am unworthy. That it will be cherished I do not doubt, for it could never have gone to any but worthy keeping. I may not take it with me over the sea, but the memory of its radiance will lighten many a dark hour."

More Philip could not say; he silently clasped the hand Jean held out to him—for shades of night were falling—and swiftly opening the gate, mounted his brown horse Caesar, which stood, without halter, patiently waiting his master's bidding, and rode out of Jean's sight into the gathering darkness.

Solemn thoughts of broken links were uppermost in Jean's mind as she turned slowly toward the house. It is a simple thing to generalize, to utter wise thoughts which mean anything and nothing, but in the proving poor human nature bends like a reed.

"I'll said to 'm the Maister Smithy kens juist whilk links 'll mak' th' best chains for the pu'in in ilka bark, aiblins I'll whiles wunner why He's ae fittin' 'n changin', addin' 'n takin' awa."


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