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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 27


"The powers aboon will tent thee,
Misfortune shanna steer thee;
Thou'rt themselves sae lovely,
That ill they'll not let near thee."
—Burns.

FOR many weeks in Stratheldy a coming event of more than usual importance had occupied all the spare time, and some that was not spare, of the younger members of the county set. Lord Kin-burn reached his majority on an August day; it was half a century since the last "coming of age," making all who participated in the festivities of that date now staid middle aged and elderly men and matrons. Over and over again the story was being told of the wonderful doings on the "auld Laird's day," while conjecture was rife as to what character the celebration would take this time. There would be a ball, that of course; marquees on the lawn, where refreshments would be dispensed all day long, and games—also of course; but, what else? Dandy Dinmont might have these, on a less magnificent scale, but still a ball, marquees and games: and this was Lord Kinburn. The officers of Lord Kinburn's regiment would be there; this was something Dandy could not have, but for Lord Kinburn it was only another of course. Finally— because the elephant could not be steered through the village without being seen—the day before the " great day," the whole gorgeous truth leaked out, "it'' was to be a circus, a real, live circus. Their wildest flights had not carried them half so far; they might have thought of a Punch and Judy, or even a dancing bear, but this!—why, it was like the stories in the Arabian Nights. The younger members of the community slept with one eye open that night, lest his elephantship should take French leave, trusting thereby to catch him at it. They were much relieved when just at daybreak a faint, half-hearted "trumpet" assured them that he was still there.

Philip was at the manse the day before and announced himself one of the bidden guests.

"My father and the old lord were very warm friends," he said; "I am glad to be here when the young lord makes his bow to the world."

Phemie was feeling a slight flutter of excitement ; like the lads and lassies and the circus, this ball far exceeded her wildest expectations of pleasures this visit to Scotland might have in store for her. And she was not—like Flora McFlimsey— troubled about something to wear; had she not the lovely gown Rob had thoughtfully sent her ? Mrs. Wilson was revelling in the prospect of chaperoning this gown. In the daytime she wore her favorite shade of brown, and looked quietly pretty.

Philip attached himself to the party from the Manse immediately he caught sight of them. Phemie had already met Lord Kinburn, whom she spoke of to Philip as a very "fresh, pleasant young gentleman;" her awe of lords was wearing off in this country where they grow.

"Did the Duke of Kilmarnock pay Perth the promised visit, Miss McGregor?" Philip asked.

"Oh! no, Mr. Maxwell; he slighted us, after leading us to expect him, too," answered Phemie.

"This was certainly very reprehensible in a peer of the realm," said Philip, solemnly, "but we must not be too severe in our judgments; you know even peers are sometimes disappointed themselves."

"Yes, I doubt not there will be many things money and influence cannot obtain," Phemie said.

"That is very true, Miss McGregor. I have seen the Duke since returning, and can speak authoritatively when I say, what he wanted most of anything on earth was denied him."

"I am very sorry for him," Phemie said, feeling that health was what he was deprived of, as surely there couldn't, after all—though she had just said "many things"—be anything else out of reach of the wearer of a coronet. "Someway, because we talked of him so much, he almost seems like an old friend—or," correcting herself, "at least, that we feel an especial interest in all that concerns him."

"I think he would be pleased to hear your first expression, Miss McGregor. Friends are not so plentiful in this world but that a man would deeply appreciate finding a village full of them," Philip said, earnestly.

He took them to see the circus, and, as at the castle, the children made numerous diversions by way of thrusting themselves into places never intended for children. Mrs. Wilson, good soul, enjoyed herself so much that, without realizing it, she left the care of them to Phemie—or, rather, she left them without care, trusting to someone else looking after them, as they always had in Perth—and Phemie assumed the responsibility, while Philip, seeing Phemie thus handicapped, took upon himself to share this.

The duties, however, did not prove so onerous but that both Phemie and Philip extracted no little entertainment for themselves, while the children were loud in their commendations of the jolly times Miss McGregor and Mr. Maxwell had helped them have.

They went home at five o'clock, to rest before the ball—which, for Phemie's sake, we are glad to say, the children did not attend.

"It has been a perfect day, Kinburn," Philip said, shortly after the Manse party had gone. "If it be a sample day, you are truly to be congratulated; you have made many people very happy."

Lord Kinburn looked at him searchingly a moment, then said audaciously:

"I never realized before how entertaining juvenile society can be."

Philip did not catch the full drift of this, which was, perhaps, as well, as untimely observations are often provocative of mischief.

When the Manse party arrived at night, Philip looked for Phemie, and missed her, but saw instead a radiant maiden in a dainty gown that was like the first pale rose-and-pearl tints of sunrise. Crossing to inquire of Mrs. Wilson why Miss McGregor had not come, he found her he sought. A trifle pale she was, from the day's cares and pleasures, but with a smile for her co-laborer of the afternoon.

"Is it too much to ask for the first dance, Miss McGregor?" he said. "Then I would like to bring you, if I may, some of those young sons of Mars, who are now looking daggers at me."

There was no occasion for Phemie consulting her tablets—she had only just came in; but Philip took them and wrote opposite two others beside the first dance, then returned them. "I am as much a stranger here as yourself, Miss McGregor, therefore I shall expect a fellow feeling will make you especially kind. Do not let those youngsters monopolize you."

"I am not at all sure that they have any such intention, Mr. Maxwell; in fact, four or five dances are quite as many as I expect."

Philip looked and was pleased at this self-unconsciousness. She did not in the least realize that she was the cynosure of all eyes; even Lord Kinburn was scowling good-naturedly at him, while the ladies were looking at her gown, then each at the other's, and mentally drawing comparisons. Elspeth's object-lesson was proving instructive.

"She is a Canadian, but a daughter of Elspeth Douglas, of Lanarkshire," the Honorable Claudia Hemes is saying,—the Honorable Claudia knows everyone.

"But McGregor?" said old Lady Menteith; "I knew a Col. McGregor when I was a lassie, a very proper man, my dears; he was all through the war with the colonies-------"

"This is his granddaughter," broke in Claudia Herries, impatient of reminiscences.

"Then I must ask Mr. Wilson to introduce her," said Lady Menteith; "Col. McGregor and my brother were in the same regiment, and very warm friends—and that nice Mr. Maxwell, who is dancing with her?—I seem to be very well acquainted with him, yet I cannot tell where I may have seen him before."

"I have been trying very hard to place him myself, and cannot. His face seems as familiar as one I would meet every day, yet I cannot say I have ever met him ; in fact, I am sure I have not," Claudia said.

Lord Kinburn came up as Philip led Phemie to a seat. He, too, claimed three dances, because— "It is my birthday, you know, Miss McGregor, and I will never be twenty-one again as long as I live."

After one dance he led her away to look at his conservatories. He was a daring youngster, and I fancy would have liked could he have kept her past one of Philip's dances; but Philip had watched the conservatory from the time they entered it, and the minute he could, with propriety, he went to establish his claim to the next dance.

Lord Kinburn was down for one after this, so was Jack Herries and Willie Rintoul. Philip felt that the length of his acquaintance warranted him in assuming a sort of elder brother position, and elder brothers are never willing that their sisters should overtax their strength in a ball room or on a tennis court, therefore we presume that brother Philip was not unlike other brothers, for a pucker was visible on his brow when—as brothers will—he glanced over Phemie's tablets as they stood in a pause between figures.

"Are you enjoying all this, Miss McGregor?" he asked.

"Very much," replied Phemie, beaming; "it is a delightful party, and every one is so kind."

"They could not help being kind," said Philip, looking down on her with a brother's satisfaction; "is Scotland better than Canada?"

"I would not like to say that," replied Phemie, "and yet I am not sure but, if they were all here, I would prefer it. I am afraid I would not have made as good a pioneer as mither did." Phemie had laid aside all of her Scotch speech but this: she still said "faither" and "mither" in the auld tongue.

Philip scarcely knew why he asked her this question, or why he was pleased with her reply. Later, after she had danced again with Lord Kinburn and Jack Herries and Willie Rintoul, a brother's solicitude was not misplaced; she was beginning to show that even pleasure, when taken in allopathic doses, is apt to have a depressing effect, visible both physically and mentally.

Philip looked closely at Phemie as she rose when he came for his dance.

"You are too tired to dance any more," he said; "there is a cosy corner under those palms; would you rather sit over there while I regale you with some gossip about our neighbors, and wait for the next dance?"

"Very much rather, Mr. Maxwell, thank you. I will not dance any more," she said; "I am beginning to feel a little fatigued, and I must confess to being curious as to the names and histories of all those people."

Mr. Wilson came to say that Mrs. Wilson thought of going home while Philip was relating a very interesting legend of Kinburn Castle. He was sorry for the interruption, Phemie was quite interested; but there was no help for it, all he could do was escort her to the chaise. However, it was a bit of satisfaction to come back and find the other fellows looking disappointed.

When he returned Lady Menteith sent for him, and he was closely questioned as to Canada in general and Perth in particular.

"There must be something by ordinar there to produce sic lassies," she said; "blood will tell, I know, but there are her cousins, the Fairbairns, weel eneuch lassies, but not to be compared with her."

"It is the influence of the new surroundings on the old blood," answered Philip; "roaming in the shadows of the primeval forest, clambering over the outcropping Laurentian rocks, sailing in a skiff on the broad, blue St. Lawrence, lifts one above the commonplace." He looked around the room; "Scotland's lassies are no' to be despised," he said, smilingly dropping into his native tongue, "and Scotland's lassies raised in the new land, where they are not cramped by modelling after worn-out traditions, but develop in natural lines all that made Scotland's womanhood a boast centuries ago —well, earth produces nothing fairer."

"You are a true Scot, yourself, Mr. Maxwell. I seem to know you very well, and yet I cannot bring to mind any occasion when I might have seen you before," Lady Menteith said.

"You have not seen me before, Lady Mentieth," replied Philip, "it is a fancied resemblance that deceives you; since my Oxford days I have spent most of my time in America, between the United States and our own Colony.''

She would like to have questioned him further, but Lord Kinburn just then came to speak to him, and she had no further opportunity.

On inquiry, he found a pretty brown mare in McKay's stables; then he rode over to ask if Phemie would ride the next excursion they made, he promising to provide a coachman for the rest of the party. These people who had been in Canada were forming a clique by themselves; a little less conventional they were, and they seemed to gather honey all the day from many opening flowers.

Philip and Mr. Wilson's family had been very good friends in Perth, and he had known Phemie so well at her home, where he was always well received by her father and mother, that at first there did not seem to be anything to be commented on when he was constituted a sort of official escort-in-chief for the Manse party, Mr. Wilson included. Mr. Wilson was much disinclined to extended physical exertion, or such mental exertion as is required in organizing and carrying through sightseeing expeditions. Philip planned and successfully carried through many excursions into the surrounding country. Sometimes Lord Kinburn and Claudia and Jack Hemes accompanied them, " those who knew " expected to next year address the Honorable Claudia as Lady Kinburn, though neither of the above-mentioned principals had any such step in contemplation.

In fact, the escort-in-chief was very often nettled at the persistency with which Lord Kinburn, before-mentioned, upset his arrangements, and left him (the escort-in-chief) to see that the Honorable Claudia was entertained ; it was really quite insufferable the way that youth behaved.

And the time of Phemie's visit with Mrs. Wilson was drawing to a close; Christmas was to be spent with her Aunt Janet, who was a Douglas; in January she would go to Edinburgh, where lived Robert McGregor, her father's brother, a well-to-do canny Scot; in April she would sail for Canada.

At none of these places was Philip acquainted. His mind was running on this a good deal of late, how would it be with him when Phemie had gone? The more he thought of it the less cheerful the prospect looked, until presently it came to look gloomy. Since coming from Canada he had wandered to and fro, finding little worth living for, and had been making up his mind to another extended tour of America. But the late summer and autumn of this year had brought a pleasure in living, and this, too, would soon be removed.

One day this had been very strongly impressed on him, and, too, Lord Kinburn had been particularly aggravating; it was very strange this whim of his to break up the plans Philip had lain awake to evolve.

That night Philip paced the floor until the wee sma' hours, and the next morning he went down to the Manse, and was closeted an hour with Mr. Wilson in an interview from which even the children were excluded.

When Mr. Wilson came out he looked as though he had seen a vision. Coming into the pleasant morning-room, where the ladies were sitting, he announced that Mr. Maxwell had come to make his adieux, as he was going up to London for an indefinite period. Everybody was sorry. Phemie was a trifle pale when her turn came to wish him bon voyage, which she did very quietly and very earnestly. As for the unusual pallor, I am afraid he was wicked enough to secretly rejoice at that; association with Lord Kinburn and Jack Hemes was evidently souring his once very amiable disposition.


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