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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 7

"We twa ha' paidl'd in th' burn,
Frae morning's sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae rolled
Sin' auld lang syne."
—Scotch Ballad.

NEXT morning Rob started for the Lanark Settlement. He had made some ventures in lumbering, and possessed considerable aptitude in that direction. To-day, an excuse to see some of the other men about some rafts which had been sent to Montreal, was sufficient excuse for him going up. Douglas had not joined in these ventures—in fact, he was constitutionally anything but venturesome —though he had always before accompanied Rob on necessary trips. This morning Rob called to him as he passed:

"I'm gaun oop t' Archie's, tae see hoo th' logs went."

Sandy said, at breakfast, Rob had only taken a snack. "He's fair destrakit wi' that jury maitter."

"It's waesome thet oor lads, what's dune na hairm, suld be harried tae death wi' ither bodies' sins," grumbled Elspeth.

"It's ain o' the penalties o' leevin' in a ceevilized country. We's a' o's tae bear oor share o' th' burden. A wrang 's like a peeble thrawn in th' water: it'll happen be no sae muckle in itsel', an' 'ill fa' dune till the sand at th' bottom, an', like th' beginnin' o' a sin, be lost sight o', but the pure water'll be dis-turb'd, rings 'n rings o't."

Phemie was yet drowsy, from the effects of the festivities the night before, so did not give any heed to Rob's early and hasty departure. The opinion that Sandy had advanced prevailed in the McAlpin household, and at both houses a week's grace was cheerfully given him for the wearing-off process. There was much surprise felt when, at the end of that time, he announced his intention of going with a gang up the Opeongo. Spring's work was done, and the harvest would not come on for some weeks yet.

Elspeth murmured when this decision was communicated to her, but Sandy said:

"We'll canna alius keep 'm wi' a string. Yon's a muckle warld till see, 'n gin th' lad see's th' half o't he'll hae t' begin soon."

Jean had not forgotten the episode at the logging-bee, but she had attached no importance whatever to it. Rob had treated her exactly as he did the rest since, he had been grave and silent with all, and the one—certainly very plausible—reason was assigned in view of this. Jean was, if possible, a little more sisterly than she had ever been, and at this Rob was—also if possible—a little graver.

Although none of them thought for a moment of being glad when Rob had gone, still there was a relief that he was undergoing supposed efficacious treatment for melancholia, and would return from the shanties restored to his normal mental condition.

The girls were busy evolving a quilt of wondrous pattern from some infinitessimal pieces of red and white cotton, so had occupation for brain and hands, and a week passed in quite a usual way; then Philip Maxwell came again. There was no logging-bee to-day to distract Jean's attention. She and Phemie sat out under the trees with their bits of cloth. His bag of specimens was thrown over his shoulder; the hand that held the bag-string held also the hammer, in the other was a stout walking stick. Not having yet properly introduced him, we will at once proceed to do so. He had dark, straight hair; eyes, also dark, keen but kindly; clear-cut features, naturally pale, but now browned by some weeks of outdoor life; he was erect as to carriage, and precise rather than otherwise. Lowering his bag of specimens, he lifted his hat to the lassies, and Jean welcomed him with cheery badinage.

"Ye'll be a maister haun t' wark, Mr. Maxwell. I'll wunner whilk 's th' hairdest, cairrying roun' wee bit stanes 'n a pack, or drivin' kye hame frae the braes."

"You seem to hint that the curse of our first parents has fallen lightly on me," quoth Philip. "I can assure you there are times when the dampness on my brow, superinduced by great mental exertion, is all that strictest justice could require. This is my holiday time, and the Fates, who are ever spinning webs for us, have been very kind to me. I think I have found Acadia."

"I'll no ken what like place yon is, but 't will be no muckle better 'n oor Canada," answered Jean.

"I am beginning to think that Canada is Acadia, or Acadia Canada, which in the long run is all the same thing," gravely said Philip.

"Oh! gin ye're spiering riddles at 's, for why did ye no say so, 'n happen we'll wad hae spaed them oorsels."

"I am not asking riddles," said Philip, "and,'' most incautiously continuing, "I am saying I never was so happy in my life."

"It's a vera gude condeetion tae be in. I'm glad it's naething waesome like th' toothache that ails ye," said Jean, holding a block of her patchwork off to note its effect.

Philip had thrown himself on the ground in front of the lassies, his head resting on his hand. At Jean's speech he half raised himself, his face flushed a dull red; the compliment—regarded only as a compliment—was rather broad, but in his world beyond the sea, ladies looked for and rewarded these pretty speeches with a tap of a fan, a carefully prepared smile, and playfully called the perpetrator a "naughty man." This little lady, born and reared in the backwoods of Canada, was simply ignoring the gallantry—which, however, as is not always the rule, was sincere—and graciously informing the gallant.

"It'll be a chain o' roses; ye'll can see th' wee bit red pieces mak th' chain, and gin ye don't set them right, 'twould mak the hail wrang."

"I understand, a broken chain," said Philip Maxwell, rather sadly for one who, just a minute before, had announced himself as being perfectly happy. "Do you ever think, Miss McAlpin, how many links are broken in the chain which forms the social part of our lives, how many are lost to us forever? A link in the center of the chain will fail us, a link tried and true, that has helped us pull many a bark freighted with hopes to shore; one pull too many has severed it; again, a new link is added, fresh, and bright, and strong, scarcely yet a part of the chain—a sudden wrench, and it is gone."

"I'll ken it a'," said Jean soberly, "but think ye not that, wi' a Smithy wha unnerstauns His wark, th' auld chain 'll be welded thegither, an' be weel able to haud oor barks frae driftin'; an' happen th' links 'll na be lost—the Maister Smithy 'll hae need for thae in anither chain he's makin'."

"But it will not be our chain!" cried Philip Maxwell, as hearts have always done, and as hearts will do until " the heavens shall roll back like a scroll."

"Th' Maister Smithy 'll might hae pit back oor ain links, gin he'd no wanted thae an' wanted 's tae do wi'out them. He kens richtly whilk link 'll mak th' best chain for th' pu'ing in o' each bark."

Phemie was getting very restless for a mild-mannered bit wummany, and she could not comprehend how Jean dare sit and calmly cross words with this young man frae th' toun, therefore she was almost demonstrative in her welcome of Douglas' who had just come back from Perth on horseback.

He could hardly wait for a "gude mornin'" to Philip to declare his news.

"Wad ye think 't! His Grace the Duke o' Kilmarnock 's coming tae Perth! "

Philip started, though only slightly.

"Captain Leslie's had ward o't at th' bank. There'll be fine doin's doon toun in 's honor."

"There'll like be a procession, 'n airches built, 'n he'll be in a carriage, 'n graun wi' gold lace!" Phemie is so excited she has to stop.

"Ay there'll be that, 'n speech-makin', 'n he'll get the keys o' th' toun."

"Not if there is any good way of preventing it," Philip Maxwell is saying strictly to himself; aloud he asked, "You would like to see the Duke, Miss McGregor?"

"'Deed would I! a mon wi' so much pooer in 's hauns, 'n sae mony people lookin' oop tae him, he'll hae a graun coontenance t' do aebody gude juist t' hae a glint at 'm."

"The possession of power does not always induce a kingly countenance, Miss McGregor, nor is it always used that any sort of good may come from propinquity. Now that the sun is hastening to the place from which he came, my staff and I must hasten our departure. Perhaps I may myself see this lucky individual who has such a staunch unknown friend in this glorious country of yours."

Phemie was quite overcome by the bright, cordial smile she received as he shook hands in parting.

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