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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 31

"Where ne'er was spoke a Scottish word
And ne'er the name of Douglas heard;
An outcast pilgrim will she rove
Than wed the man she cannot love."

PHEMIE went over to Dunblane behind the shaggy pony again. This time she started with a better feeling towards the little animal, but with a less comfortable one herself. She had said good-bye, it might be forever, to Mrs. Wilson and family, and she was sad as she thought of this. Her uncle would see her safe on the ship at Greenock, but she was not at all acquainted with her uncle's family and she was with Mr. Wilson's. Except at her Aunt Fairbairn's, where she had been before, the rest of her stay in Scotland would be among those who, though they might be kin, were yet strangers to her.

She had a score of calls to make on people who had friends on the "Line" and in Lanark. She had promised to take "word" back from "th' fowk 't hame" to those who—because home was not big enough for all—had left scenes and associations that were familiar and had gone away to a new land to make room for the rest. Those who belonged to the "Bridgton Transatlantic," "Muslin Street," "Lesmahago," and "Abercrombie Street" Societies, came in either of the following ships: "George Canning," "Duke of Buckingham," "Commerce," "David." McMillan, Walker, Somerville, Donald, Starke, Caldwell, Armour, Wylie, Galbraith, Munro and Robertson were some of the family names. The families left at home lived not far apart; a few minutes could be spent with each in a day's time, and it was something she could not refuse to do for neighbors. The people on the Line came from Perthshire, all near enough Dunblane for her to have no trouble in finding them. Rev. William Bell came from Airdrie, through which they pass on the route to Lesmahago.

Thus was the remainder of her allotted time laid out, and there would not be many hours requiring to be "killed."

Perhaps all this work was wearing on her spirits; she certainly was very pale and quiet. But her cousins, the Fairbairns, were cheery lassies, and they meant to make the most of this wonderful cousin from Canada. Therefore she was driven here and walked there until she was beginning to long for home and quiet, and faither and mither.

Her uncle Fairbairn was a landowner. Fair-braes had been in the family for generations, in fact they were apt to look patronizingly on peerages of last century's creation. They had a wide circle of acquaintance, so it was with no surprise whatever that Mr. Fairbairn received the announcement that Lord Kinburn, the Hon. Mr. Herries and Lieut. Greenshields had called. Now, Lieut. Greenshields was the son of an old friend of Mr. Fairbairn, and all three had come on some county matter—Lord Kinburn had an estate in Perthshire. It was quite natural for Mr. Fairbairn to ask them to stay for lunch, which proceeding was vastly more satisfactory to the ladies of the house than to Phemie. She had hoped for a cessation of festivities, and the enemy was recruiting.

"Where have you taken Miss McGregor, Mrs. Fairbairn?" asked Lord Kinburn. "You must pardon me if I seem inquisitive, but I am ex-officio a member of the reception committee; a lad named Maxwell is chief, and although he forgot to recommend me as his deputy, having been a sort of attache, I some way, you know, feel responsible."

"I'm sure you'd mak' a very gude guide, aiblins th' lassie 'll no' hae mentioned 't you were in th' pairty,'' said Mrs. Fairbairn.

"Did she not? That was extremely unkind of her," said Lord Kinburn, giving Phemie a comical glance of reproach. "But I think if you ask her she will tell you I certainly did play an humble part in the deep scientific researches in which Mrs. Wilson engaged us."

Thus appealed to, Phemie said politely: "It was not because I had forgotten that on Mrs. Wilson's invitation you frequently made a valuable member of our antiquarian excursions, but because aunt and the girls have found so much for me to see that the present is talked of until I have found no time for reverting to the past."

"I accept your apology Miss McGregor," said Lord Kinburn. "Mrs. Fairbairn must be a capital entertainer. What I was thinking is this : possibly Mrs. Fairbairn would include us, that is, Herries and myself, in her arrangements if she fully understood how well we are up in those things, if she knew what a martinet we had been serving under— that fellow Maxwell I mean—he must be as old as Methuselah, for he knows everything, and he does nag a fellow so."

"What has this Mr. Maxwell done to so offend your lordship," mischievously inquired Jessie Fairbairn, whom he had taken in to dinner.

"It is not what he has done, but what he has not done; that is, leave me to my own devices," answered Lord Kinburn. "I would not ask the smallest thing of him if he would only keep away from where I am enjoying myself."

"Poor child,'' said Jessie, who, as the eldest in the family, was inclined to give herself motherly airs, though she had only seen eighteen summers with somewhere near the same number of winters, "can I be of any service to you in securing justice against this cruel superior officer.''

"Dear me, yes,'' said Lord Kinburn, thinking what a jolly little girl this was, and not half bad looking either, "it would be just reprisals for him to hear by and bye that I had had a skeleton party of my very own."

Jessie was looking mystified, not to say horrified, at this gruesome name for a pleasure excursion, so he hastened to explain.

"If you do not like the name we can change it; it seems very appropriate to me, a party gotten up for the express purpose of digging up the old dried bones of the past."

"I cannot say musty old traditions have much interest for me," remarked Jessie, "but I like the going well enough.''

"If you will not tell Maxwell or Mrs. Wilson or Miss McGregor, I wouldn't mind confiding in you that I do not in the least care about them myself,'' said Lord Kinburn, in a stage whisper, "and, also, that I do very much like the going."

"Lieut. Greenshields had been deputed to take Phemie in to dinner.

"Ye wull, like a' Scotsmen, be prood o' Edin-boro', Miss McGregor,'' he said.

"I am, and I think of all places of interest Queen Margaret's Chapel interests me most," said Phemie.

"I'll like best till see th' Castle," Lieut. Green-shilds said; "then th'll be th' Paillace o' Holyrood whilk King James built in fifteen hunner, th' castle 'll be fower hunner years aulder.'' He had not spent half his years in England, as Lord Kinburn and the Fairbairn lassies had, so had a " braider speech."

"What a strange name for a street, the Cowgate, and High is not much better. I do not mean to be critical, but there were so many pretty Scotch names to select from," said Phemie.

"When 't 'll began back yon in sax hunner 'n something th' wus no' much thinkin' o' beauty; happen when th' King o' Northumbria 'll mad 't his capital, he'll be expectin' a notice to leave frae th' King o' Cambria 'r soom ither chiel, 'n he 'll thocht ony name 'd dae f 'r the wee while he'll hae t' bide."

"And out of compliment to him later generations continued the title," commented Phemie. "I think often, too, about the men of letters who found a home there : Allan Ramsay, David Hume, Adam Smith, John Playfair, and Robert Ferguson. It is a privilege to live in an atmosphere surcharged with high and noble aims and such a wealth of knowledge."

"T 'll be vera gude, nae doot," agreed Lieut. Greenshields; "aiblins I'll forgot th' Latin mysel' sune's I'll got awa frae th' maister—th'll be muckle else t' tak oop a mon's time."

Phemie had no chance to reply, for Mrs. Fairbairn had given the signal to rise.

When the ladies were alone, Jessie interceded for the including of Lord Kinburn, Mr. Herries and Lieut. Greenshields in their party to visit Bannock-burn. Mr., Mrs. and the Misses Ferguson were going, and the three gentlemen would make a desirable addition. Mrs. Fairbairn was quite amenable to persuasion; either of the three would be a desirable addition to her circle for a longer time than a a three days' outing.

Lord Kinburn was made happy in anticipation of a whole day's outing with no "Mr. Maxwell" to interfere, and when the day arrived he constituted himself Phemie's cavalier. Phemie vainly tried to escape this ; the youth was irrepressible, and he was so good-natured and was enjoying himself so thoroughly, what could anyone do.

"You knew, didn't you, that I did not in the least care who was member for Cronmarie?" he said to her when he had induced her to climb a steep rock for the sake of the view.

"I am afraid I did not know enough about Cronmarie to have an opinion," answered Phemie, looking for the view.

"Well, I did not. It was this," gleefully responded Lord Kinburn; "of course I knew you were over here, and I came with the express intention of having just such a good time as this."

"I really do not see-------" began Phemie, rather severely for a young person.

"This may not be the point, after all," quickly returned Lord Kinburn, catching the drift and wilfully misinterpreting; "here are Jack Herries and Miss Fairbairn—perhaps they know."

He was subdued for only about five minutes, however. He was the life of the party, and, after reaching home, everyone voted the day a success— everyone but Phemie, and she was growing so homesick she felt, along at the latter part of the day, that she must see her mother, and sob out a world of unknown grief on her shoulder.

As soon as Mrs. Fairbairn had noticed Lord Kinburn's preference, she had adroitly managed to steer everyone else away. Mr. Ferguson, who was a second edition of Dominie Samson, and knew everything that could be learned from books ; Lieut. Greenshield, who, as a soldier, was supposed to know all about battles ; the Misses Ferguson, who had taken a fancy to study Phemie as they would a rare plant; Mr. Fairbairn, and Mrs. Ferguson, who both liked to be with the popular party ; her own two lassies, and Mr. Herries, were the only people she did not have to watch. It might be supposed from this that her day was a weariness to the flesh. Not so, however; indeed, in exercising her powers of finesse, she entirely forgot that the material part of her consisted in a measure of nerves and muscles subject to aches and pains.

Everyone else was too tired for conversation that night, but, after breakfast, she called Phemie into her boudoir, and bade her sit in a very cosy "easy chair," while she herself occupied another as comfortable.

"Noo, lassie, I'll hae tae congratulate ye," she said.

"For what, Aunt?" asked Phemie, in surprise.

"It's weel tae no' ken," said her aunt; "lassies suldna be ower easy won, aiblins I'll tell ye: ye'll soom day be my Lady Kinburn."

Phemie's face flushed scarlet. "Aunt Janet!'' she cried; "how can you say such a thing to me?"

"An' why suld I no' say it till my ain sister's lassie?" queried Aunt Janet. "Th's ben times when a Douglas micht a had th' King's son, aye 'n times when thae did mairry with ither; ye'll needna look sae rosy; he'll be a Laird, aiblins ye're as gude bluid 's ony Laird o' them a', yet coomin' frae yon wild coontry 't 'll be a gude maitch f'r ye."

"But, Aunt Janet, Lord Kinburn has not asked me to marry him," expostulated Phemie.

"Wha said he'll had," Aunt Janet said; "aiblins he wull, I'm thinkin' he'll happen be ower tae see ye're uncle th' morn."

"I do not think he will be, Aunt Janet, and I hope not, for I would not like to give him pain and I will not marry him."

"Not mairry him!" said Aunt Janet, in the utmost astonishment; "that'll be na way f'r a lassie till talk; your mither's ain sister 'll hae summat till say 'n her mon 'n your faither's brither; tut, tut, lassie, dinna be sae fashious, th' be ithers 'll ken what's best."

"Aunt Janet, when I say I will not marry Lord Kinburn, I mean it. I am sorry to disappoint you, and very sorry to have anything happen to make you think I have not appreciated the welcome you gave me, but I do not care for Lord Kinburn and the Black Douglas himself could not induce me to say yes when my heart says no."

"I'll thocht ye'd been weel pleased 't ye'r ain mither's sister 'd dune sae weel by ye, aiblins 't 'll be th' wildness frae th' new coontry 'n ye'll na can help 't," said Mrs. Fairbairn, rising in offended dignity and leaving Phemie to slip away to her room, wishing more than ever for faither 'n mither 'n hame.

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