BY GEORGINA FRASER NEWHALL
Or did misfortune's bitter storms
Around thee blaw, around thee blaw;
Thy bield should be my bosom,
To share it a', to share it a'."
OUR first knowledge of the new girl in
the kitchen was the unwelcome news that as she had displaced her
kneecap, we, the boarders, would have to accept with resignation any
diminution in the quality of attendance, or the quantity of the menu
which our landlady might consider necessary under the circumstances. I
have called her the new girl, I should have said new woman but that I
feared the reader might think I meant the new woman who is going the
round of the newspapers. The girl in the kitchen as I became aware later
was probably sixty and certainly Scotch :also a dauntless old woman,
which last named characteristic is a quality not only indisseverably
connected with the names of Baroness Nairne, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jennie
Geddes, Janet Hamilton and Flora Macdonald, but with that more
insignificant host who are only Scottish mothers. And when one remembers
the value which Scottish women have always placed upon education, their
appreciation of the vast responsibilities and exaltitude of the maternal
privilege,—their perfect confidence in their right to have a finger in
the political—which was almost always the religious— pie of their
country, the conviction arises that the newness of the new woman is
after all only an attempt to attain that strength of character which
seems to be inherent in the native born Scotchwoman.
To return to the point, after only
three days' trial the new girl fell and displaced her kneecap.
Knowing how little time and. sympathy
the somewhat shrewish head of the house had at her disposal I tapped at
the new girl's door to ask if there was anything I could do. It was then
I first became aware that the girl was quite an elderly woman. Her grey
hair brushed smoothly back under her plain nightcap—decently apparelled
in every particular she lay there amid the most forlorn surroundings - a
sonsy, motherly, patient old soul.
"Is there anything I can do?" I asked.
"Naething, thank ye, mem, I'm no what
ye cud ca' ill. I hae slipt ma kneecap and there's naething to be dune
but tae lie here till't mends."
"Have you had a doctor?"
"Aye, Maistress Pairsons (one of the
boarders) insistit on sendin' her doctor. He's been attendin' the wee
fellow that's doon wi' the croup. So she said t'wad be nae trouble for'm
to luik at ma knee. I thocht I'd juist glen it a bit twest but he tells
me I've slipt the kneecap."
"That is too bad."
"It micht hae been waur," she
responded cheerfully. "Hooaiver I wiz juist thinkin' Dauvit wad be
distractit if he knew I viz lyin' in a strange place, no able to pit a
foot aneath me. Dauvit—yon's my man."
"Oh?" If I pumped her it was with only
the faintest rising inflection.
"Aye. I left him on the fairmaway up
in Muskokay—did ye hear tell o' a place call't Bracebridgefar away ayont
My surprise being visible she vent on,
by no means garrulously, but as if under the pressure of some motive
which drove her to explanations and confidences she would not, in other
circumstances, have entered into with a mere stranger.
"Ye see, mistress, I didna expaict to
wark whan I cam' to Toronto. I expcctit to stay vi friends. But losh! I
hadna been in the ceety for years nor baird tell o' the Jaicksons for
mony a day. Sae whan I gat off the train an' gaed to the hoose they used
to occupy, the neebors tell't me they movet away bag an' baggitch tae
Weenipeg mair nor six months ago. Sae I asket ma way to th' Intailigence
Office an' got the vark here. An' here I am laid oot on ma back as
helpless as a bairn."
When I offered to rub her knee with
the liniment she consented gratefully, confessing that the effort to do
so for herself only resulted in a further displacement. She lay quietly
submitting to the process subjecting me, in the meantime, to a keen
scrutiny. At last she broke the silence, " Mistress, the verra meenit I
set eyes on ye all, yon fairst evening—I cud see ye a' at the table frae
the kitchen- I said to masel',—yon's the only Scotch yin amang the lot."
She took nonotice of my remark that I was merely of Scotch descent, more
than to say "Ah, wed, as St. Paul says to the Galatians, as ye'll no
doubt mind, 'a little leaven, leaveneth the hale lump.' Its the cheek
banes, Mistress, ye can ne'er mistake the cheek banes. Noo, Mistress
Pairsons, she's Englishy. Still," with an air of overlooking a serious
objection, "she's a kind cratur."
On further acquaintance she proved to
be a winsome old woman, wearing the common jewels of her experiences
with blithe reminiscent enjoyment. In our journey through life, fate,
with impartial hands, bestows upon all of us the rough jewels of varied
experience, jewels which the majority of us accept with disdain or
resentment, holding them with lax fingers in utter unconsciousness of
their decorative merits. But the wiser minority finding in each of these
experiences, the flash of a gem, whether it be the gay though common ray
of the garnet or the sombre splendor of the sapphire, grasp them firmly,
cherish them carefully, polish them to their full beauty with much
pondering, and arrayed in them pass through life radiant figures
gladdening even the listless and ready with their garnered jewels to
enter upon the building of that great mosaic of infinity which lies
before us all.
Of this wise minority was my sonsy
Scotch woman. An opulence of quaint phrases, personal experiences,
shrewd deductions, fragments of song and verse which would have put the
girl in the fairy tale to shame fell from her lips.
"Ma feyther," she said, "viz a verra
specelatif man at one time, aye findin' doobtfu' pairts o' the Bible an'
stayin' away frae the kirk rale frequent because, he said, he cud na
endorse a' the doctrines o' the kirk. Ye'll can guess, mistress, what ma
mither's feelins wiz when I tell ye I've haird her call ma fcyther 'doubtin'
Tammas' monys the time, and she a wumman wi' a grand commando' hersel'.
But what diz she an' the Raiverent Mr. Dishart "-
"Aye, what diz Mr. Dishart dae but
gets ma feyther appointet beadle. He viz a maist ambeetious man, ma
feyther. An' what became then, think ye, o' his doots an' the doctrines
o' the kirk. Lash, Mistress, he never missed a day for twenty-two years
he wiz sae tceckelt tae be placet in a poseetion of sae mitch
importance. An' he lairnt what maist 0'S lairns in time that doctrine's
o' nae mair importance to the truth o' God than the spume o' the tide is
tae the deeps o' the ocean. But I tell ye, mistress, its a grand thing
to hae sae mitch seempathy for a man's weak p'ints that ye can mak' them
the verra ladder tae help him up tae righteousness. Yon viz Mr. Dishart
tae a T.* * * *
We were na weavers, mistress. Dauvit
had a bit smiddy doon on Duchess street, an' I keepit a few boorders. We
were dam' rale wed. An' Dauvit's awn tie, twiz her at gat us oat frac
the auld country,—her man viz dead—an' I've nae doot she viz lanesome,
an' the puir cratur wiz gettin' fond o' the drink an' Dauvit an' me cud
na bear the thocht o'er gaun doon tae a drunk- art's grave—she viz an
awfu' kind cratur—sae Dauvit tauld her we'd be willin' to gi' up
everything to tak her oat o' taimptation if she'd come wi's tae Muskokay.
Yon'sthe way, we went to Muskokay. An' mind ye, mistress, she never
tastit liquor frae the day we left Toronto til her deeth. An she left
sair, sair hairts at oor fireside the day she set oat an yon journey we
maun a' tak. Manys the time Dauvit an' me hae said we were weel repaid
for a' we'd gien up, for there's mair jay in heaven over ae sinner that
repainteth. * * But there's sae many gaun yon ro'd afore us it must be
avfu' weel beaten—that's ae comfort. No like yon ro'ds up into Muskokay—losh
I'll ne'er forget it! It viz bonnie mind ye, mistress, but the stillness
viz fearsome. * * I mind weel I kneadit ma fairst bread on a clean towel
on the ground wi pegs in the corners to haud it doon, an' I wheetlet the
spunes for oor parritch oat a' the lags the men were cuttin' for oor
hoose; the box xvi' ma silver spunes an' ma bed linen viz lyin' mair nor
a mile away whaur it fell off as we foordit the stream, an' we just left
it there twa three days, for there viz nane to steal it. * * Did ye hear
tell a wild cat, mistress? vVeel, ane a' they beasts got up on the roof
ae nicht an' yowit an' yowit for mair nor an' hour—an' me all alone,
mind ye, vi' ma bairn at ma breist —Dauvit an' awntie away tae the
nearest toan. Ae pairt o' the roof viz na sae secure at yon time, an' I
expaictet the beast to drop on me every meenit. But I'd Dauvit's gun on
the table aside me an' the puir beast went off an'never hairmed onything.
* * * D'ye think the swellin's gaun daon, mistress. It's weary work lyin'
here." A few slow tears stale warily out of her brave eyes, and ashamed
of such a revelation of weakness crept stealthily to a hiding place in
"Mistress," in carefully careless
tones, "did ye e'er hear tell o' a gir-ri ca'd Miriam Anderson?"
"Miriam Anderson? No, I don't think I
ever did," my slow tongue out run by quicker conjecture. It occurred to
me that I had heard the name Miriam recently; it is a sufficiently
uncommon name to make an impression.
"Its her I cam' to the ceety to luik
for. She's ma youngest. We've lost traick o'er for a time back. She used
to write sac reg'lar an' then juist drapt off by degrees until it stopt
a'thegither. An' I said to Dauvit 'at I'd come doon here masel'. An' he
said I should hac nane o' his money to gae huntin' an ungratefu' hizzy
'at cud treat her mither in yon way. If I e'er had a fau't xvi' Dauvit
it viz this— he aye hauldit me up sac high abune the balms. T'wiz aye 'ye'r
mither first,' 'honor ye'r mither,' ye'11 ne'er can repay ye'r mither
for a' her care.' After a' mistress, what did I e'er do for they bairns
that wiz na pure pleesure. I gat ma pay as I went along. At ony rate
Dauvit an' me had some maist bitter wairds, an' then I hauldit ma tongue
an' pit by the money frae ma butter an' eggs until I'd ma fare to the
cecty an' then I said, 'Wed, Dauvit, I'm gaun to the ceety. Ye've been a
guid husband tae me I will say that, but nae bit better than I've been
wife tae you. My conveection is that oor responsibilities is tae oor
children. We a' settle vi oor ain consciences. Do the best ye can vi
yours but I'll no gie up the child I brocht intae a wand o' temptation
for the best man that ever leevt.' Sae 1 laifthim, no' in anger,
mistress, but in conveection—an' I wiz in such haste to come that I had
na ower mutch in ma poket an' whan I found the Jaicksons wiz aff to
Weenipeg, there was naething but to luik for work.
"Could she have gone with the Jacksons?"
Na; they laift mair nor six months
ago; an' I've haird frae Miriam until fower months ago."
"What did she look like, Mrs.
Anderson? Your name is Anderson?"
"Janet Anderson. Black hair an' black
eyes, and an' awfu' bonnie skin—wi' fraickles." The tears stole faster
from one hiding-place to another.
"Well," said I as hopefully as I
could, "I'll be looking for her until you are able, Mrs. Anderson,"
after which I smoothed her hair back under her nightcap, pulled the bed-
clothing over her, patted her shoulders, and was greatly prompted to
kiss her. Sometimes, when I recall that obvious sin of omission, I
wonder if the Recording Angel made this foot-note in my behalf:
"A fault of character probably due to
An invalid myself in those days,
walking very close to the junction of the finite and the infinite, I was
one of the ever-varying throng which congregated day after day in the
waiting-room of the kindest and most skilful of physicians for his
verdict of doom or deliverance. After leaving Mrs. Anderson's room I
recalled more fully a circumstance which had flashed into my mind when
she mentioned her daughter's name. Fully a month previous to Mrs.
Anderson's appearance, among my companions in waiting at the Doctor's
was a slim girl, who sat in a moody attitude as far from the remainder
of the patients as she could withdraw. A plainly dressed, respectable
looking girl, with nothing out of the common but her unquiet eyes and
worn appearance. Shortly before her turn came for admittance to the
Doctor's presence our melancholy assemblage was augmented by the
entrance of an over-dressed woman of—to her own ideas—considerable
importance. Her slow survey of her surroundings brought her at last to a
surprised recognition of the girl. "W'y, Miriam 'Ave you come to see the
Doctor ?" "Yes, Mrs. Pearse." "Hit isn't your 'cad that's troublin' you
yet, Miriam?" "Yes, ma'am." " W'y, you foolish girl! you ain't lettin'
them silly idears trouble you still ?" The girl wept in a nerveless,
passionless fashion, more distressing than the wildest grief. "Nobody
h'ever thought of blaming you, Miriam." "1 could hear them whispering
wherever I went." "W'y, Miriam, that's nothing but a foolish notion. You
make me h'owt of patience with you." Thus the dreary contention went on
—the feeble-minded persistence of the younger surpassed by the teasing
insistence of the elder woman. The Doctor's appearance was a welcome
interruption. At his signal the girl left the room. We heard him dismiss
her with an oft-repeated injunction to give his note to Dr. C—. Beyond
noticing that this injunction was a confirmation of my suspicions as to
the girl's condition I gave no further thought to the matter, the
proverbial selfishness of invalidism, I suppose; having warped my
Piecing these recollections together
and trying not to attach to them too great value, I was glad to remember
that I was due next day at the Doctor's. Sure of his sympathy, I told
him of Janet Anderson's misfortunes, her quest, and my surmises. "It
seems to me that was the girl's name," he said. "Yes, I have it here,
Miriam Anderson. I remember her, poor thing—a nervous wreck—melancholia,
in fact, from overwork and —there wis another trouble. What are you
going to do about it?"
"I shall have to tell the mother," the
painfulness of the task dawning on me. "I think she has been
dreading-what was the other trouble?"
He looked at me irresolutely. Then
concluded the facts justified him. "Oh, is it love which makes the world
go round," he said, ironically. "Upon my word, it seems to me quite the
most clogging article in the world's machinery. The girl was, and is,
quite respectable. The man, for there was a man in the case, had a wife
in Quebec, of which fact he kept everyone in ignorance until the girl
was deeply attached to him. When the shock of discovery came, being in a
run-down condition, she became mentally unbalanced. Imagined herself the
butt of scandalous tongues. I had the story from her former mistress—the
hatchet-faced woman who was in the same morning. The girl was broken
down in her house. Then when the girl became queer the woman sent her
off. She knocked about from one place to another until, realizing that
she was losing her grip, she came to me. I sent her to C—., and beyond a
telephone message saying she had been admitted for treatment I have not
heard of her since."
"What shall I say to the poor mother?"
"While there's life there's hope."
So, hugging this brief phrase, and
trying to give to it a weight it does not actually possess, I hastened
home. It was a shock to find my patient had been dismissed to the
hospital. When I went there, which I did immediately, she read me like
an open book.
"Ye've gotten word o'er?"
Beyond an uncontrollable paling and
trembling, I saw that, whatever of shattered joy or pride she
apprehended from my news, neither to me nor to anyone else would she
bare her bosom for either scrutiny or sympathy. She clutched more firmly
the arms of the chair in which she sat.
"She has been ill—very, very ill."
"For lower months?'.'
For really longer. She was breaking
down from over-work, and a great trouble, from no fault of hers in the
least, came upon her, and, being in such a weak condition, it—affected
her head. But she was very wise; she went to a doctor for advice. Wasn't
that very sensible to take it in time—and she is under treatment. I have
not had time to find out if she is improved—I came right away, because I
wanted you to know that it was only illness which had come between you
and your daughter, Mrs. Anderson."
"Whaur is she?"
"Up at the asylum."
We ignored the tears which plashed on
the bosom of her "lellac" gown.
"I am going up to-morrow to ask the
doctor about her." "Thank ye, mem."
"The very first thing in the morning."
She did not dare to speak.
"I'll bring the news to you right
She wrung the arms of the chair until
the insensate thing found voice and groaned for the weight of human
anguish it upheld. I took her hands gently off the chair and rubbed
them, for they were frightfully cold. "There is quite a chill in the
air," I said; "I feel it myself," when her hands were warm. "Your
dress," said I, nonchalantly, in a queer hard voice which cracked, "is
unbuttoned," and I swear I should not have buttoned the dress to this
day, for the buttons bobbed about so in my fingers, and the buttonholes
were so large and watery, that first I buttoned it too high, and then
again too low, until, taking them out of my hand, she said, "Hoots,
wumman !" in a voice whose bravery told me that out of the bitterness of
death she had come again with a heart for any fray. * * *
She was well enough to go to the
asylum in a few days. I had seen the doctor, and surprised him with the
intelligence that Miriam's mother was looking for her. "She told me she
had lost her parents," he said, with a puzzled smile. "The regulations,
of course;" but here the doctor was interrupted by a telephone call, and
I never was enlightened as to the regulations. I had written to Dauvit,
whose conscience, combined with a heart that was fond at bottom,
prompted him to telegraph that he was coming to take them home.
"Remember, Mrs. Anderson," I said,
"the doctor says a pleasurable shock will be the best thing in the
world—that she is very much improved. You will not forget "she looked at
me with eyes of quiet scorn, so I said nothing further. Though she
shivered as if with ague all the way to the asylum, she rallied
heroically as, accompanied by the doctor, we followed an attendant to
where her daughter sat, gazing gloomily into space, the broom and
duster, which had been allowed her as a diversion, lying on the floor
"Ma leddy," said the mother in atone
of raillery born of that same invincible spirit which animated a Bruce
or a Wallace, "ye'll ne'er mak salt for your kail yon way."
The girl sprang from her seat. "Mother
!" she said, wonderingly. A smile, which is to the dark night of
insanity as the dawning of morn, trembled into her eyes. Her slim figure
drooped to the sturdy bosom which throbbed beneath the "lellac" gown.
"Oh, mother, mother, where have you been. I have lost you for so long."
And the only one with voice to speak was the doctor, who said, "Good!