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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 16

"We twa hae run aboot the braes,
And pu'd the gowans fine,
But we've wandered many a weary mile
Sin auld lang syne."
—Scotch Ballad.

ROB wrote he would be able to spend a few days at home on his way up from Montreal, and Elspeth and Phemie made elaborate preparations in his honor. All his boyish likes were to be indulged. It is sometimes worth going away for, this finding out how much our nearest of kin do remember us and our penchants.

Sandy went to Oliver's Ferry for him—he came from Montreal to Bytown, thence up on the Beaver. Only one man, whom Sandy did not know, got off at the Ferry. Sandy was turning away, disappointed, when a manly voice called "Faither!"

"Rob, lad!" cried Sandy, turning with outstretched hand; "I'll ne'er kenned 't was ye, 'n I was weary t' think o' ganging back till yer mither 'n th' lass wi'out ye."

"Hoo 'r they a'?" asked Rob.

"Th' lass 'n yer mither's weel," answered Sandy; "aiblins fer a mon till eat a' the wee bit cakes they've wrought oot o' butter 'n sugar 'n floor 'd happen mak 'm wish he'd ne'er set foot t' hame."

"Ne'er be feart fer me wi' thae, faither," said Rob, laughing, "ye'll ken the shanty gies a mon na fears o' dyspepsy."

He wanted to ask after the other family, but someway the words stuck in his throat. Presently Sandy said,—

"Jamie's lass 's awa till Merrickville wi' Abel Ward's gudewife; puir bit body, she's nanet' blame fer her mither's whimmies. That lad Maxwell suld hae ta'en her awa wi' 'im."

"He'll be gaun awa?" asked Rob.

"'Deed ay, near by the year last Januar'. Did we no write ye?"

"Ye'll did no', in any letter that reached me," said Rob, who was feeling his fingers clinch;—had Maxwell stood between him and Jean, only to leave her when the fit took him ? But he couldn't talk to his father of this, so put his troubles away until alone, and interested himself in what Sandy was saying.

"Ye'll no ken th' lass Phemie, ony mair 'n I did yersel'," said Sandy; "she's aye got sae Englishy, yer mither 'n I hae wark to keep track o' 'r."

And it was so. Phemie, always gentle and winning, had quickly assumed the dignity of years and the graciousness of a "fine lady," which really was hers by hereditary right.

"I am very glad to see you brother," she greeted Rob with offering her cheek for a kiss.

"Why Phemie, lass, whaur's yer ain tongue gane?" asked Rob, as he kissed her with an energy that long lost brothers feel privileged to.

"Yon's richt, lad! th's aye times when I'm feart she'll be t' no' unnerstaun her mither 'n me," said Sandy.

"You know better, father," said Phemie, smiling affectionately on Sandy; "but why should I try to be different from everyone else? I love the auld tongue, so did you the auld land—but you left it."

"Ay, lass," said Sandy, "ye're maist sure t' be richt. I'll no fash ye gin ye talk Spaneesh."

Rob went one day to Perth, and there surprised those who had known him a year and a half ago more than he had surprised his father. He was not a shy, growing country lad, making an infrequent visit to town, and not all sure of the board-walks ; but a man who was confident both the walks and limbs would be equal to the occasion ; a man master of the situation, whatever the situation might be. He was really well received, and obliged to decline several invitations to "call at the house," given by men of weight.

He had thought himself stronger than he was: the town stifled him—Jean was with him the last trip he made to Perth (except through on his way to Lanark the morning after the logging-bee). He got away as soon as he could, and back home.

Had Phemie only told him what she knew, that Jean had sent Philip Maxwell away. But this was Jean's secret and Philip's secret, she felt she had no more right to disclose what had thus come to her by intuition than if it had been confided to her. Then not the faintest suspicion dawned on her that Rob cared, beyond a brotherly liking for Jean, and had that sort of an interest in her welfare.

In Rob's disappointment—and he was disappointed in spite of having spent months schooling himself to manfully bear what he had felt sure since the night of the logging bee would take place —he did not stop to consider the chances were not good for Jean knowing of his expected return; he tormented himself thinking she did know and had gone away to avoid giving him pain. For one thing Phemie did tell him, speaking of mining operations, Philip Maxwell would return again some time. Then, and notwithstanding the stern task-taking of the past months, not till then, did he give up hope, and repeat to himself, with emphasis, that he must give this up and begin forgetting, not Jean, but himself.

Yet Jean had stood on the river-front gallery of the old Mirick house when the Beaver steamed past and turned off to enter the locks; and Jean had told Philip Maxwell she "had na hairt t' gie him." The links were needed "tae keep ither barks frae driftin'."

In a day or two Rob said good-bye; he could not tell how long he would be away, he would go to Boston again in the spring.

Elspeth was "sair t' pairt wi' 'm." "Ay," she said, "a lad bairn 'll whiles bring sorrow t' ye're hairt gin they're like gauld tried in th' fire wi' gude-ness, e'en th' man Jesus caused his mither tae greet; I'll whiles wunner 'll th' be oors in th' laun ayont thae bit cloods, where th'se na pairtin', 'r will a' o' 's, mithers 'n lads, juist be th' Laird's."

"We will surely know each other, mither, when this body is raised ' an incorruptible body,' but I think earthly affections will have no place, we will all be ' as the angels'," said Phemie.

"I'll no thocht th' Laird 'd dae that wi' 's, gie's oor bairns juist lang eneuch tae twine roun' oor hairts 'n then snatch them awa' for baith time and eternity," said Elspeth, rather rebelliously.

"Don't you think, mither, that'll be the way we bear the sins o' oor first parents; change came into the world when death came and it fell on all alike, father, mother, son, and daughter. Did you ever think how sair 't is for the care-free happy bairn to assume the responsibilities of manhood and womanhood."

"I'll no can see hoo ye'll think o' a' these things; is't at th' toun ye learn them?'' said Elspeth, half grumbling, yet wholly proud of Phemie's acquirements.

"I have learned much from Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, and in the teachers' meetings," replied Phemie, " an' now I must tell you the word from town— Mr. Wilson's called before the Presbytery for his sermon of two weeks ago."

"I'll see naething in thae sermon t' ca' 'm before th' Presbytery," said Elspeth in surprise, "happen there'll be those whilk 'r wantin' tae get awa' frae th' kirk.

"No one here can charge Mr. Wilson with being a stumbling block very long," said Phemie; "he's had a call back to Scotland and he's for going hame."

"Ye'll miss them sair, lass," said Elspeth, "an' I'll be fu' weary tae hae them gang awa' frae ye, the've aye been like a brither 'n sister till ye."

"Yes, mither, I'll miss them, and I'll miss the lessons, and the long talks; I seemed to have lived half a lifetime in the short two years I have known Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, but after all, mither, they are not Jean, nobody else is Jean."

"Phemie, lass, hae ye no' got ower yon?" said Elspeth in anxious surprise; "I'll no' kenned ye'll thocht so much on it."

But Phemie had slipped away to hide the tears that would fall in spite of efforts to restrain them.

"It's vera strange th' whimsies we'll hae, noo a' day: I hae been thinkin' o' Marget Cameron, 'n I soomway forgi'e a' she'll said tae my wee lass, 'n I'd like weel tae tell her soom things I ken o'," commented Elspeth when she found herself alone.

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