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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 32


"Time and tide had thus their sway,
Yielding like an April day;
Smiling noon for sullen morrow,
Years of joy for hours of sorrow."
—Scott.

JEAN did not have time to reach dreamland that night, when the clatter of horse's hoofs aroused her and startled her. Hastily throwing on a wrapper she raised the blind and looked out into the moonlight; someone was coming in at Sandy's gate; it looked like—could it be—yes, it was Rob.

It would be three years in raspberry time since Jean had dared think that the future might hold some happiness in store for her; now that she was "no' so bad needed," would it be wrong for her to think for a moment of herself ? Although no word had passed between them she had never doubted Rob, nor did she think anything else than that he understood her as well. She waited at the window to hear if anything was wrong. In the still summer air and with windows open voices in each house could be easily distinguished in the other. She heard Rob say he had come up on the Otter to the Ferry —having a week he could spare—and had borrowed a horse from Duncan Campbell to ride home. Then she went back to sleep and had dreams that for brightness were like noonday in mid-summer.

But Rob had no hopes to lull him to slumber; he came home because he could not, like a coward, desert his father and mother, not because he looked forward to anything for himself coming from such visits. Of course he looked over at the house, he could not prevent himself doing that, and he had asked his father if they were well and gladly heard that they were; then he went upstairs to not break his father's and mother's night's rest.

"What did ye think o' th' lad Maxwell's letter?" asked Sandy at breakfast.

"I'll no' seen a letter frae Maxwell; wha was 't till ?" asked Rob, in surprise.

"Ye'r faither 'n me," answered Elspeth.

"What's 't about? " asked Bob again.

"He'll want ye'r faither's consent till 's askin' Phemie,'' said Elspeth.

Rob laid down his knife and fork and looked at his mother a minute, as though he thought she was not quite awake.

"Did you say, mither, that Maxwell had asked faither's consent to Phemie marrying him?" he said, slowly and deliberately.

"Ay," said Elspeth, "'n he'll sent a vera gude letter ; we'll pit it in wi' ane we'll sent ye; did ye no' get 't?"

"Na," said Rob, with the calmness that is like a calm before a storm; "when 'll a' this be?"

"Th' first o' th' year," answered Sandy, "an' we'll wrote till 'm that, gin th' lassie 'll want 'm, we'll no' say na."

Rob pushed his chair back, not very quietly. "I'll gang oot tae Scotland mysel' on th' next ship," he spoke quietly, though the quietness did not deceive his father.

"What is it, lad ?" asked Sandy, laying his hand on Rob's shoulder.

"Faither, I'll canna tell ye," said Rob; "'t will be between that mon an' me."

Rob drove over to the ferry, leading Duncan Campbell's horse, and inquired about the sailing of a ship, Mr. Campbell always knew the dates. "There might be one in at anytime now, but there would not be one out for three weeks," he said. Three whole weeks to wait, and from six to eight on the ocean; it seemed an eternity, and what might not happen in that time. With the father's and mother's consent they might be married there, and Phemie not come home at all; Phemie, his gentle little sister, bound for life to this man who could so ruthlessly win the affections of her girlhood friend and cast them aside like a broken toy. How could anyone turn from Jean? Jean who was peerless; and how could Jean, with her clear intuition, care for a man so base? But he knew this, that many a good woman's life had been joined with that of a scoundrel. He stayed at the lake all day. In the wild storm of passion that had taken possession of him, he could not meet even his father or mother; he had no dinner or supper, and did not return until as late in the night as he came home the night before.

Late as it was, Elspeth sat up watching for him. It was the first time in his life he had caused her anxiety through remaining away when expected.

"Oh, lad," she said, as he came in, "I'll be feart ye'll ne'er coom back.''

"Dinna be frichted f'r me, mither," he said, passing his hand gently over her once dark hair, which now shewed two silver threads to one of brown; "we'll a' hae muckle sorra till bear in this warld."

Jean was surprised when Rob drove away next morning without coming over, now that everything was at peace ; and more so than at first, when the day wore away and he did not return. As Elspeth could not make a confidant of Margaret in the matter of the letter, she could get no comfort in going over, so remained at home all day, a very unusual thing now; Margaret remarked it, but as it was not Phemie who had come home, she was not specially interested, and concluded Elspeth had been engaged in some unusual household task.

Jean went to bed very much hurt, and with a vague feeling that it might mean the existence of an immovable barrier; the gloom of darkest midnight overshadowed her dreams this night.

"I'm fine an' glad tae see ye sae weel."

Jean looked up from the bread she was kneading; Rob was shaking hands with her mother, but he looked white and stern; something was wrong. He could not shake hands with her, but he came over and stood a minute talking to her, and then asked for Douglas.

"Ye'd think th' lad 'd seen a ghaist," said Margaret; "sic tramplin' roun' 'll no' be gude f'r 'm."

The lads were away all day; they told Jamie they were going, so no one was alarmed. They went over to Glen Tay, stopped at William Olds a while, and followed a mile or two west the creek running through his farm; came back and followed their own burn to "th' muckle rock wi'a loof." This they broke; they had taken a couple of iron mallets with them.

"Th'll be here," said Rob. He had been looking over the splinters that lay on the ground, had risen and was turning over something in the palm of one hand, very small, irregular crystals, rhombo-hedral, a dark, rich red; Douglas had some, too, and the newly exposed portion of the rock showed a smoky, semi-transparent, satiny surface—rubies. Philip Maxwell had searched in vain, and Rob had found them.

"I was sure o' 't," said Rob; "I'll hae followed thae rock frae th' head waters o' th' Madawaska; I'll hae soom blue anes, blue as th' sky in spots, aiblins nane o' them 's perfect, th'll be in streaks like thae red anes, aiblins wi' better tools we'll happen find ane that's perfect."

Tired and hungry they returned; Rob went directly home. Jean had had but little to say in the morning. She must know of Maxwell's perfidy ; he could not see her much until he had settled with Maxwell, then, if—but, no, there was no use hoping, as he had not won her heart up to now, and it had gone to another while he was by, it would never return, still—but how was it that Maxwell had preferred Phemie, who was a bonnie lassie and a dear good sister, but no' like Jean—stop a bit, the 'stane wi' a loof' was on their side the burn ; had Maxwell found something and never told? Who was Maxwell, anyway? Mr. Wilson had said he was a desirable acquisition to a family, but Maxwell might have imposed on him.

Douglas showed his treasures to Margaret, Jamie and Jean.

"Why did ye no' bid th' lad bide 'n hae tea wi' ye?" asked Margaret.

"I'll did, aiblins he'll said he'll hae tae gang hame," said Douglas.

It was just such a night as that on which the four, lads and lassies, came round by Glen Tay because the straight road was too short, "no' but three years syne," yet to-night it seemed to Jean that a lifetime of sorrow had been crowded into those three years.

"I'll no' ken what I'll hae dune," she said to herself; "happen 't 'll be soom ither lass; gin it is, Rob suld ken he'll micht coom 'n tell me; he suld ken I'll aye be happy till see him happy," but she was weeping silently, softly.

The days dragged their slow length along until it wanted just a week of the sailing of the India. The other family knew Rob was going to Scotland, but he was such a man of affairs now no one wondered. Rob somewhat eased Sandy and Elspeth's anxiety by saying he wished to learn more about this man who wanted to be his brother-in-law.

Hammering the rocks down in the "Ruby Mine" offered some relief, and as spring's work was done Rob and Douglas spent a good deal of time down there. One evening they were bringing home a very fair specimen about the size of a small pea and had gotten quite close to the houses before they noticed a livery conveyance from Smith's Falls standing at Sandy's door.

"They'll hae coompany at th' hoose," said Rob.

"'T 'll be Phemie," said Douglas quietly, with ready intuition.

It was Phemie, Uncle Robert McGregor, Aunt Jessie, and Philip Maxwell.

Rob embraced Phemie and made the acquaintance of his relatives before seeing Philip. When Philip stepped forward to meet his prospective brother-in-law, Rob said shortly:

"I'll hae summat I'll say tae ye; coom outside."

Phemie looked surprised and hurt at Rob's tone, but Philip followed readily enough, though wondering all the while how he was going to appease such a peppery relative.

"Noo," said Rob, when he had wiled him away out of sight behind a magnificent clump of cedars, "you'll hae to tell why you coom askin' tae be trusted wi' my sister when ye'll hae broken the hairt o' th' bonniest lassie th' sun ere shone on."

"You will have to speak plainer than that, McGregor," answered Philip; "I am only conscious of possessing one lassie's heart, and please God no deed of mine will ever cause her a tear."

"Ye'll canna get awa wi' words," said Rob, growing wrathier every minute at Philip's cool demeanor: that this man should stand there, half smiling, on the anniversary of the day when he had come into their lives to leave two desolate ! Rob had noticed there was no wedding ring on Phemie's finger—he was in time to save her.

"Ye'll weel ken th' lass I'll mean," he continued, nodding, half unconsciously, toward Jamie's, "an' ye'll answer tae me for it." He had picked up a riding-glove as he passed the hall table. That he was very much in earnest Philip could now see —also that he (Philip) had a man, not a boy, to deal with; but not until Rob's unconscious inclination in the direction of Jamie's did he catch the meaning of it all.

"Stop a minute, McGregor," he said, "and do you come with me," and he started down the "bit path," on which there was little grass this summer. Rob was constrained to follow, not knowing in the least what to expect. Straight to the bleaching-yard, where Jean was turning some linen, Philip went; without waiting for more than a courteous salutation, he said:

"Miss McAlpin, will you tell this irascible young gentleman that I begged of you to share my life and to let me try and make yours happy, and that you kindly, but firmly, refused to become my wife; also," turning away, while Rob stood spellbound, "you might mention to him something else you told me," and he quickly followed the path back to the other house.

Jean's face was scarlet. Rob looked at her flushed cheeks and downcast eyes a minute; he knew now this was for him, not for Maxwell; she had looked at Maxwell fearlessly enough. For a moment he stood, in silent enjoyment, then said only:

"Jean!"

Jean raised her eyes. Rob had taken a step forward, and his arms were oustretched. In that one moment all the sorrows of the past were atoned for.

Rob's lips pressed the gowden head many times, and he murmured fond, foolish words in a delirium of joy.

Presently Jean raised her head from it's resting-place, and, stepping back, looked at him.

"What is 't, Jeanie? " asked Rob.

"Hoo graun ye'll be," she said, admiringly, "tae hae a lad clear frae Scotland till ' ask ' a lassie f'r you!"

Rob could laugh now, and laugh he did, until those in the houses smiled in sympathy; then hand in hand they went, first to Jamie and Marget, then to Elspeth and Sandy, for a blessing that was gladly bestowed.


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