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Perth on the Tay
Chapter 9

"Not the bee upon the blossom,
In the pride o' sinny noon;
Not the little sporting fairy,
All beneath the simmer moon;
Not the minstrel, in the moment
Fancy lightens in his e'e,
Kens the pleasure, feels the rapture,
That thy presence gies to me."

THE next moon after that—in our story first moon—and the last under which the two lassies and two lads ever drove together—Jean and Phemie went with a pail to the edge of the bush for some raspberries. Douglas, missing Rob's companionship, slowly followed them. Margaret called Jean—something had happened one of her goslings; tossing her pail to Douglas, and telling him to pick until she came back, she sped to the scene of the disaster.

"I'll no get a chance at a word wi' ye th' noo," he said to Phemie, after Jean had gone.

"An'for why?" asked Phemie; "I'll be alius here; ye'll can be talkin' at me any time."

"I'll canna, an' ye ken that weel," replied Douglas, "ye're ae listening at that Maxwell chap."

"Aweel, an 's vera gude t' listen at," said Phemie; "aiblins I'll no leave auld friens gin they're wearyin," she continued archly.

"I'll be aye wearyin' for ye, Phemie," returned Douglas, in a tone that drew grave lines on Phemie's forehead. "Phemie," drawing near, "ye'll no like Maxwell better than me?"

Phemie was tender-hearted, and Douglas was feeling very sad indeed, and she did not in any sense care for Maxwell, except, as she said, he was "gude to listen at"; so, as a mother would comfort a jealous child:

"Na, I'll no like 'm better 'n ye, Douglas. I'll hae kenned ye a' my life, an' I'll couldna like any yin else so week"

"Douglas drew still nearer. "We'll be marrit, you an' me, Phemie, an' ye'll coom an' live wi' me, 'n mither 'n Jean 'n faither's aye sae fond o' ye! We'll hae braw times, 'n I'll no fash mysel wi' Maxwell; happen he'll tak Jean awa ower th' sea, but ye'll be aye wi' 's."

"Oh! Douglas, ye suldn't hae sic thochts! I'll ne'er can mairry ye, deed an' deed I'll canna," sobbed Phemie. "I'll no want t' gang frae faither 'n mither 'n Rob; we're haeing braw times th' noo. Ye'll no spier at me sic like questions ony mair. I'll juist gang ben th' hoose th' noo."

Douglas walked slowly behind her, not altogether unsatisfied with his "answer." Lassies ne'er say ay at the first "asking," and he knew his wooing had not been conducted after the finished style of heroes in books; but he was glad Phemie knew what his hopes were—'twould be easier to talk to her next time.

Next morning he lingered after Jamie had gone for the team—Jean being in the milk-house—to enlist his mother's sympathy in this, the most important event in his life, expecting her to intercede for him with Phemie.

Glum and dour Margaret listened to her lad's story of his hopes and his plans.

"Sae it's my lad th' huzzie's aifter, is't?" she said at last, in the sternest tones Douglas had ever heard her use. "Weel, she'll no get 'm!"

"Oh, mither! she'll no be aifter me! she's said me nay: aiblins I'll aye thocht 't 'd be a' richt gin we gied her mair time."

"Yon's ony ain o'r wiles. I tell ye, she'll no get ye!"

Alarmed at the burst of fury his tale had called up, Douglas rushed from the house. He did not fear the opposition would prove an insurmountable barrier, but he liked smooth sailing, and this was an unlooked-for shock. Accustomed to open discussion of every subject, he immediately carried his woes to his father.

"I'll no say but she's a bonnie lass," Jamie began diplomatically, "an' I'll hae na faut t' fin' wi' ye fer bein' a wee bit saft wi'r; ony o's men'll whiles be come ower wi' a wee bit bonnie lassie; but merryin' —that's anither tale; they's muckle to be thocht on; they's ither lassies t' be had."

"But, faither, gin we luve ain anither, an' we'll nane o's hae anither body, ye wuldn't hae's live apairt juist fer naething at a'." Douglas, never quick of speech, lost himself completely.

"Im no sayin' that, lad," said Jamie, soothingly, "but ony juist bide awhile."

"An' hoo can I bide? I'll hae spiered at Phemie wad she mairry me, and for why suld I bide? I'll can fend for her th' noo."

"Ay, ay; aiblin's the's be ither things. Noo, yon mon Campbell, he'll hae na lads, an' ony ane lass; for why suldn't ye gang there wi' yer courtin'? He'll hae a fine fairm, weel stockit."

Douglas hardly believed his ears. He would as soon have expected the clouds to fall as that even the slightest opposition would be made to such a union of the two families. Marriage had not occurred to him until within a few weeks (he was only twenty): it was only a few weeks ago that the possibility of a life without Phemie had been presented to him, and the other thought was the sequence. Eighteen of his twenty years, his life and Phemie's had seemed to him component parts of the same existence. He had not expected Phemie would say yes immediately—it was not a woman's way; but he had counted on aid and comfort from his father and mother. He still hoped that with Phemie he could yet succeed; but he could not now bring her home ; he would go away to the "Shanties" ; Rob would help him. The thoughts tumbled over one another in his brain; his head felt as though it would burst; turning, he left his father, and strode off into the bush ; throwing himself on a cushion of moss, he thought, and thought.

There was something inspiring in the thought of "fending" for Phemie all her life, though, in a way, caring for her was nothing new—hadn't he rocked her when she lay, a helpless baby, in her cradle made from a hollowed log (though then little more than a baby himself); hadn't he watched, and guarded, and helped her ever since, and no one ever objected. This opposition was all very queer. Anyway, he'd have Phemie, and that was really all he wanted of this world. He heard Jean call him, but gave no heed, and by-and-bye brain-weariness superinduced sleep.

In the house there was more disturbance than the four walls had ever before witnessed.

Jean found her mother on the verge of hysterics when she came back from the milk-house. She soon learned the cause of this condition of affairs. Margaret, with hands tightly clasped, was rocking herself back and forth in her chair.

"It's my lad she wants! my bonny, sonsie lad, whilk I'll hae wrought for a' thae years in a strange Ian', wi' my hairt sair for a sicht o' th' heather."

"Wha's wantin' ye're lad, mither?" asked Jean, thinking her mother's mind was wandering.

"Wha suld't be, but th' hizzie ower th' fence!" said Margaret, in a manner and tone that assured Jean her mother, however misguided, was "a' there."

"Wha's told ye aething, mither, 'n what hae they tell't ye that ye say sic like things?" asked Jean.

"It's my lad himsel'! he's askit me tae welcoom thae straipshins as his gudewife, an' I'll no dae't till I dee—I'll no dae't," rocking herself back and forth and shaking her head; "she's coom stealin' roun' like a cat, wi'r saft-like ways: I'll ne'er could abide 'r!"

"Why, mither, ye tauld Mr. Maxwell, no aboon a week syne, ye'll no' kenned whilk o's lassies ye'll like best."

"I'll no kenned o'r sly ways then," said Margaret, unabashed.

"But, mither, gin Douglas's set to mairry Phemie, 'n she's wullin'"-------

"Ay, she'll be fine an' wullin'," interrupted Margaret.

"An' for why suld ye no be wullin'?"

"Bekase I'll na! I'll hae na strapshins o' a lass t' coom atween me 'n the lad I'll ha' raised mysel'."

"Mither, was Granny McAlpin wullin' ye suld hae her lad?"

But Margaret was non-committal. "I'll no' need to tell ye aething aboot 't," she said perversely, "aiblins yon was my Jamie—'twasn't takin' a strange lad frae th' mither wha bore him."

At another time Jean would have laughed at this strange proposition, but now was no time to laugh; yet it might have been better if she had, for just now, when Margaret's unreasonable anger was at its height, Phemie ran in on some little errand, a thing that occurred hourly between the houses.

Margaret gave her a look full of ire.

"It's you, is 't, you trapsin, feckless hizzie! rinnin' ower here aifter my lad! I'll tell 't t' ye: ye'll no get him!—he'll no gang hinging aifter ye, I'se wairant! 'n ye suld tak shame on ye, 'n ye're mither t' let ye; hae ye na shame on ye, ye feckless, ne'er-do-well hizzie?" She stopped for want of breath.

Phemie's face was a blue-white, a burning red spot on each cheek, and her eyes almost emitted sparks.

"Marget McAlpin, I'll no want yer son: I'll ha' said 'm nay—tho' I'll tell't ye now, th' ony thing wrang aboot the puir lad's his rantin' mither! An' noo, I'll ne'er in my life speak ae word, gude 'r bad, t' yer lad agen. So help me God!" Stepping to the table she reverently raised the Bible that lay thereon and touched it to her lips; then, turning to Margaret, "An', Marget McAlpin, gin ye'll keep oot o' my path, we're ne'er like t' meet ither agen."

Before Jean could think, she was gone.

"Oh! mither, what hae ye dune! the wee, winsome lassie, wha luved ye like her ain mither! Ye've said till her what na lassie 'll thole. She'll ne'er coom back," cried Jean.

"Dinna fash yersel, she'll coom back fast eneuch, 'n the lad 'll be fule eneuch t' gang aifter 'r;" but Margaret went into her room and closed tight the door.

Mechanically Jean prepared dinner. At eleven Jamie came in as usual, asking "Where's th' lad?"

"I'll no ken," said Jean, "he's no coom ben since breakfast," but she could not broach the subject of the morning's trouble.

"'N ye'r mither's awa, too! They'll belike havin' what th' bodies doon toun ca' a picnic," chuckled Jamie.

"I'm feart mither's na weel; she's ben the room, 'n th' door's barred."

Jamie stepped to the door, tried it gently, then shook it. At this Margaret called out:

"Ye'll can gang awa. I'll no want ony dinner. I'll be lyin' doon a bit."

Jamie was hungry from a hard morning's work, so did as he was bid, going back to the field immediately after, leaving Jean alone with her first sorrow. What would come of it she did not dare think; the present was bad enough. She alone could "sense" just what Phemie was feeling : her maiden's pride touched, her maidenly dignity and modesty assailed. Jean knew that, for many long months, Phemie would writhe with the smart of it. Their Phemie, the gentle lassie who had loved them all, who had in many ways been a help and comfort, and always a sunbeam in both houses; who had through long night watches sat by Margaret's bedside and given her the tenderest care through a nearly fatal attack of typhoid. If anyone else had done this thing, how they would all have resented it for her!—yet it had come from them, her life-long friends! The horror was too great for tears.

"They'll happen hang th' mon wha focht th' bit duel an' kill't th' ither mon, aiblins he cud fecht th' duel gin he thocht 't was richt, 'n he gied th' ither mon a chance; but a wumman body can pierce anither wumman's vera hairt wi' wards, an' th' ither 'll can do naething but greet."

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