"Breathes there a man, with
soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land;
Whose heart within him ne'er hath burned,
As home his footsteps he hath turned."
THE fall set in early, cold
and rainy. Help was scarce; laborers sought fields of steady employment.
Nearly everyone on the line did their own work, especially during winter;
much was done by bees, but these did not arrange for the regular routine
of farm work, housing and feeding cattle, milking, and getting out wood;
yet these were among the most important items in farming, and branches
that could not be left in abeyance waiting for suitable weather.
Jamie missed Douglas this
fall, more than he had last; he had gone through a hard summer, did not
seem to have as much strength, and tired easier. Jean helped all she
could. They were "packing" butter in firkins now for the Montreal market;
the hens had ceased laying, and Jean did not have to go to town
semi-weekly, as she had done during the summer. Still, she had to "make"
the time she spent out of doors; there was spinning of both wool and flax,
keeping the house clean, and the fires burning, and getting the meals,
besides churning and packing the butter.
Always, in the years now
gone forever, on extra occasions the "chores" of the two families were
divided up, and shared by whichever of the men was left at home, as, after
the boys grew old enough to help, it was always possible to do. Now, with
the boys gone, and each household depending solely on itself, the lack of
the old neighborliness was at times keenly felt. So high had the fence
been built, and so strictly had the families persevered in their
determination to live apart, neither family had known anything of the
movements or affairs of the other, unless from an observation dropped by
one of the more distant neighbors.
means getting the pigs killed and ready for market—Jamie went to
Brockville with the pork, under contract with Mr. Flint. With such a load
the trip could not be made inside of four days. The overnight stop was
made at Franktown, the route from Perth being over the road Captain
Fowler, first Superintendent of Settlers in Upper Canada, had had cut in
eighteen sixteen. Jamie tried, ineffectually, to get someone to stay at
the house with the "wumman bodies," and do the outside work. Most of the
other settlers were also under contract with Mr. Flint to deliver pork at
the same date (when they were under headway, quite a procession filed
along the old road), and no one could be spared from the other houses.
Sandy had gone the day before ; but Rob had insisted on furnishing a man
in his place, so Elspeth and Phemie were well cared for, the man being
thoroughly trusty, and employed by the year.
With many misgivings, Jamie
drove away. "If the lad were only here!" he had said to himself more than
once that raw morning, as, long before daylight, he went round with a
lantern and made sure everything was, then, all right. His load had been
made up the night before, and the first faint glimmer of light was chasing
away the shadows as he drove through the gate. He turned and looked back
until Margaret called sharply to him to "win on," and not bring bad luck
on them all by "gapin' ike a gowk."
The last summer Margaret,
"wearying" for Elspeth—though never a word of this did anyone hear—amused
herself raising some fine calves, half a dozen of them; many an hour—which
would otherwise have been so lonely, even she, Spartan though she was,
could not have borne it—was whiled away tending them and watching their
gambols. At last they proved an expensive luxury.
The first day everything
went well; the sun came out, and Margaret thoroughly enjoyed having once
more the responsibility of the byre. Many little extra touches were given
the work, which the kye duly appreciated.
It took Margaret back to
the days when her bairns were bairns; to the times when, with a blazing
pine knot, she drove the wolves from the sheep-pen; when, through fear of
wolverines, she dare not let the lad and lass out of her sight from the
log shanty to the barn. But these were happy times. The four children
played together while she and Elspeth did the work at both barns when the
men had to be away. It did not take as long then; they were rich when they
had their second cow tied in her stall, two or three piggies, and half a
dozen sheep filled their byre.
After the "chores" were
done the wheels were brought, sometimes to Margaret's kitchen, sometimes
to Elspeth's. When we say "kitchen," we simply mean "ben the hoose," for
there was only one room, lighted by three windows two feet square —but it
was their own.
Margaret was thinking of
this home to-day, and of the companionship, then she thought of Jamie:
"supposing she had to live without him, would she have been just as happy
with some one else; would some one else have made Jamie as happy; would
some one else have caused Jamie as much sorrow?"
It had to come, though
months had rolled by ere the still small voice was heard.
introspection are two great formative agents; for if we look not on the
mistakes of the past, how can we know how to avoid perhaps more serious
ones of a like nature in the future? One of the greatest of life's lessons
is the learning what not to do, and one of the greatest benefits we can
bestow on our surroundings is the study of how we can make the most of
ourselves, for the nearer we come to individual perfection the more
valuable a member of a community we will be.
"Lord forgie me, hae I'll
bin haird wi' the bairns?"
Save He who hears the
faintest cry, there was no one but the cattle—who were contentedly
ruminating—near to hear or answer. Jean had gone back to her spinning; the
work had all been done and Margaret was just looking round—
The awakening had come, and
with Margaret to be aroused was to act. Still she had her own way of
acting, which was different from some other people's way of acting. She
did not go to the girl whose amour propre she had wounded so sorely, nor
to the mother whose daughter she had offended ; there was another way to
undo the past.
The first was as direct and
straightforward as turning back a wheel—she had times out of mind turned
back her wheel to take the kinks out of her yarn—but that was not the way
she thought of doing. Could she go to the lassie, acknowledge herself
wrong and humbly sue for forgiveness? That way, to a Highlander, was
entirely out of the question.
"Jean, lass," she said,
five minutes after confession had been made to her Creator and herself,
"wad ye think th' lad 'd coom hame gin's faither shud write a letter till
'm?" She was busying herself hanging up her hood, and with her back turned
Jean did not see her face, and if there was a wist-fulness in her voice
Jean misinterpreted it.
"I'll no' ken, mither,
he'll b' getting on fine wi' Alek Frazer, he'll happen no' want t' leave;
faither 'll no' likely hae t' gang t' Brockville mair till spring, an'
we'll can min' the chores fer ance." She thought her mother bothered over
the extra work.
Margaret was disappointed ;
this was not at all what she expected, and made saying anything further
very hard, yet she could not wait until Jamie came home.
"Belike 's faither 'd do 's
weel by 'm 's Alek Fraser." The tone was not sharp and Jean began to
understand there was something more than the "haver o' th' chores," but
wise lassie, she did not press for particulars.
"Faither 'll can write 'm
'n happen he'll be gey pleased wi' 'n inveetation till mak' 's a veesit
ony way," she said, as though this was an ordinary every-day matter,
though to her it meant more than Margaret dreamed of.
"I'll hae 'm write we's a'
like t' see th' lad," said Margaret, as though nothing had happened and
the invitation might have been given at any previous time had it been
thought of, and with no existing reason for it being declined.
All day Margaret was
abnormally happy, she and Jean talked together over the far away past like
old friends long absent from each other. Of course Douglas would marry—she
wanted him to marry, and she would have no one here but Phemie.
She remembered Phemie's
soft, cool touch when the fire of fever seemed consuming her; yes, Phemie
should live here and bye-and-bye in the years to come—well, there were
many possibilities. There would be no sacrifice in this, all of these
things would transpire because she was not only willing, but aided and
abetted the "power that shapes our ends " in bringing them about.
In the evening she told
Jean stories of Scotland as she used when the lassie was in pinafores; of
the braes with grass so green; the rippling burns; of the snowy hawthorn
hedges; the hills where the purple heather grows; of the stately castles
with their ramparts and battlements, moats and drawbridges; of ruins
centuries old; tales of border chivalry; of Wallace and of Bruce; of the
Douglas who carried to the Holy Land the heart of his King according to a
promise made to his beloved monarch while he yet lived.
Jean had never been much
impressed with tales of the banks and braes in her childhood, and in the
gorse and the gowan could see no superiority to our own "daisies" and
clover fields. Scotland had nothing sweeter than hepaticas, more luxurious
than trilliums, daintier than babes-in-the-woods. Jean had been to
Westport and had viewed the "Hill;" had rowed on Rideau Lake when there
was just wind enough to wrinkle its surface, as heat does that of a pan of
far-famed Devonshire cream; had sat on the bank and watched while storm
clouds gathered, watched the changing shades of yellow, gray, blue, black
and green, rolling together and away, mingling and separating; the water
meanwhile growing blacker and blacker in resentment at being disturbed—it
quivered too in righteous anger; then white crests appeared and were blown
back and forth, and the water dashed itself against the rocky shores,—of
shores there were many for the lake is island dotted. With a sound of
moaning, a gray atmosphere settled over land and sea and it was time to go
indoors,—then the water of the lake, rushing wildly back and forth, seemed
to rise up and meet half way the water that tumbled from the sky, and the
whole grew white.
Jean knew Scotland produced
nothing grander than this, so she smiled indulgently while her mother
talked of Loch Lomond and the heather. It was natural and right that one
born in Scotland should love the old land best, but she had a strong
feeling of commiseration for anyone who was born anywhere else than in
But to tales of men of
"kingly name, and knightly fame, and chivalrous degree," she listened as
became one whose line went back beyond the days of the "Bruce," She sang
the "March of the Cameron Men," and "Blue Bonnets," with a fire worthy any
Hieland heroine of them a'. And not less than did Cameronian legends stir
her, was she roused by tales of the black Douglas, even to that of the
taking of Edinburgh Castle, and the mother hushing her babe" or th'
Douglas would tak it."
Margaret was a good
story-teller—as what Scotch woman is not? She had also been "anunca bonnie
lassie " (Jean was her counterpart) and much sought after, which was the
reason James McAlpin's mother objected to her son making her his wife. She
had said of her just what Margaret had said of Phemie, and with just as
little reason—for, whatever else Margaret was, she was not that—"she's a
She had made Jamie a good
wife and the bairns a good mother; she was supreme in her own realm, in
this backwoods of Canada, up to its invasion by the lass whom she had
watched grow up, and it was against this—from her standpoint—invasion that
she took up arms; the time when she had felt that lassies had rights was
too far in the past for her to apply the opinions she then held to the
case at issue in her own family circle.
But she had experienced a
change of heart, i. e. a change of inclination, and at the moment of which
we write, nothing would have given her greater pleasure than to look up
and see Phemie in bridal robes leaning on Douglas' arm, and no little
amount of family pride in prospective was incorporated in tales—true and
legendary—of the Douglas.
When Jean's enthusiasm was
sufficiently marked she thus abruptly shifted the scene, and made a long
jump in dates from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century, without pause
or due notice.
"Your faither aye promised
till tak' me back in twenty years. It'll be past thae th' noo; th' fairm's
no' so bad cleared; we hae a bit in th' bank doon yonner 't Pairth, oor
bairns 'r growed oop, 'n th's naething 't hinner's tae gang ae time," she
said in an ordinary tone, though if a bomb shell had exploded under Jean's
feet it would not have startled her more.
But Jean did not read all
that was transpiring in Margaret's mind ; this is the plan which—from its
completeness and the rapidity with which it was formulated—shows
Margaret's executive ability to have been of a high order.
She and Jamie would go on a
visit to Scotland —Douglas would first come home,—he and Jean could very
well take care of house and farm. What more likely to happen than the
lassie and Douglas taking matters into their own hands while she and Jamie
were away? Then she would have only to forgive and bestow her blessing;
any awkward situations would thus be avoided. It was really a brilliant
strategical move, and looking at it as Margaret did, the only doubtful
element was the acceptance or rejection by Douglas of the invitation or
request to return.