"To see her is to love her,
And love but her forever,
For Nature made her what she is,
And never made anither."
JAMIE thought he recognized
the horses coming up the road, but so much did the completed work surpass
his wildest expectations, he was beginning to think they had been
"pressed" into Her Majesty's service; one little thought of the Duke of
Kilmarnock popped into his head and popped out again just as quick, for
now the horses were turning into the yard.
"Wow, lad! but ye did weel!
" he ejaculated.
Jean came out to see it. "Ye'll
hae mad' a paillace oot o't," she said, peeping inside. "Mither 'll be gey
Next morning was clear and
crisp. The doctor came out and helped fix the bed inside, and he, too, was
loud in its praises.
"She could stand fifty
miles a day in this better than the often lifting out and in," he said;
"could not you get relays of horses and drive through in three days,
making only two nights' halt, at Iroquois and Cornwall?"
"I'll thocht on 't, aiblins
was feart 'twouldna be richt," answered Jamie.
"With a bed like that to
lie on, she's as well travelling' as in a house, and a deal more
comfortable than she would be in some," said the doctor; "drive right
through, if you can get the horses; we are sure of three days of good
weather, and we might not be of more."
While the doctor and Jamie
were talking, Jean and Douglas were having a few parting words.
"Tell me summat aboot
Phemie afore ye gang, Jeanie lass; I'll hae 't till think ower th' lang
winter whiles ye're awa'," Douglas said, quietly.
Jean looked at him sadly. "Wull ye no' try
till see her yersel', Douglas? " she asked.
"Na," answered Douglas, "'twould ony fash 'r,
'n I'd no' dae that. She'll said me nay; whiles she'll micht hae minded
me, gin aething 'd been a' richt; noo 't 'll ne'er be. I'll hae pit it a'
past me, an' I'll be content gin she's no' wearyin' for aething." This was
said in the tone of a man to whom hope would no more return.
Jean, looking at him as he spoke, felt that
for him there was nothing to look forward to; but she saw, too, that the
struggle was over—he had ceased to care for a future for himself: he would
never make a future for himself: he would not bend to the blast and "rise
again to greater heights": the spirit was broken like a reed. He had not
Rob's recuperative powers, or earnest, sanguine temperament, which could
through disappointment yet make something worth living for. In the past
twenty months his own entity had been completely effaced ; he answered to
the name Douglas McAlpin, and felt in a sort of half-dazed way that he was
responsible for that individual, but where or in what company Douglas
McAlpin might find himself next year did not concern him. He would never
take a downward path; the spirit of his covenanting ancestors was too
strong in him for that; neither would his love for Phemie let him do
anything that she would condemn. The kind, loving heart was yet there, and
the devotion that would only expire with his last sigh.
It cut Jean to the quick to note this—to see
how ready he was to do for others, and how skilful; and to know that for
himself the story had been told. There was no good speaking a word of
hope; it would fall on deaf ears; so, choking back her sobs, she told him
what to do about the house, where to find everything to make himself
comfortable, advised him to have one or another of the neighbor boys with
him whenever he could get them to come, told him about the books Philip
Maxwell had brought, and that he must go down every week for a letter from
her arms round his neck and kissed him, over and over again, when he
stooped to bid her good-bye, as she lay in the sleigh.
"Ye'll no' be wearyin', Douglas," she said;
"ye 'll gang oot; ye'll find gude company no' sae far awa'."
"Ay, mither, dinna be fretted," he replied;
"I'll find muckle tae please me no' far frae hame."
Margaret smiled in perfect content as they
drove off. The Rideau was frozen over, so they crossed the ice at the
Ferry. At Toledo they offered to help carry Margaret in, but Jean and
Jamie understood how best to work together and not hurt her. At
Unionville, Jamie got a relay of horses, again at Iroquois, Cornwall, and
Lancaster ; the evening of the third day they were at Montreal.
Douglas went quietly back into the house,
freshened up the fires, and, leaving everything safe, went down to the
bush to chop. Phemie could see him from her window, and the bent head and
drooping shoulders told her a story of suffering that hurt her cruelly.
This was the first time she had seen him; she had purposely kept out of
the way, lest it would seem that she was watching for him. Her eyes showed
traces of tears when she came down, leading to anxious inquiry by Elspeth.
"What'll be the maitter, lassie, that ye'll
hae been greetin'; is 't the lass gaun awa'?"
"I'm sorry for all of them, mither; if, after
all, they should be disappointed, and the doctors in Montreal not be able
to help Margaret, what a blow it will be to them, they were so hopeful.
But that is not all, mither, have you seen Douglas?"
"Ay, your faither 'n I saw 'm yest'reen,"
replied Elspeth; "he's no' the same lad at a'; his head 'll be a wee
affeckit wi' th' shock he got that ither morn."
"Mither,he will no' lose his mind?" cried
na fear o' that th' noo," answered Elspeth; "ye're faither speired at Dr.
Thorn; the's a' clackin' aboot 'm doon 't William Rutherfords' shop, 'n
aboot th' differ' in 'm, an' nane o' them kenned what for; yer faither
speired at Dr. Thorn wad 's heid be ganging awa' frae 'm."
"'Losing 's mind? ' sed Dr. Thorn, sharp-like,
'na, the's na fear o' thae, he's got mair gude common sense 'n his heid
than hauf o' th' village a' pit thegither, aiblins there'll be something
wrang wi' 'm 't I'll canna mak' oot.' "
"I wish I had not said I would never speak to
him," said Phemie.
"Lassie!" cried Elspeth, in alarm, "you would n't-------"
"Na, mither, I said in the beginning what I
meant, and if there had been nothing more said, Douglas would have gotten
over it. I have prayed for it this morning, but I cannot yet feel the
sympathy for Marget I would like to."
"Dinna be too haird, lassie, a mither 'll hae
feelings ye'll no understaun', an' 't 'ill aye coom haird till 'r t' fin'
th' bairn she'll raised hae'n a wull o' 's ain. Marget Cameron was as
bonnie a lassie as ere crumpled th' heather wi' 'r fut, aiblins Jeems Mc-Alpins
mither wrought wi' a' 'r might tae keepit Jeems awa' frae Marget; it'll
happen mad' 'r no' sae tender 'n th' hairt."
"Oh, mither, was I too hasty?" asked Phemie.
"Na, lassie, ye couldna hae dune differ; gin
ye'd lo'ed th' lad, ye'd been richt t' bide wi' 'm agen a' Scotland; an'
ye didna, na lassie suld thole bein' flouted ower a lad. Th' hairm that's
coom 's Mar-get's ain wark, 'n 't 'ill fa' th' hairdest on her, aiblins I
mysel' 'll greet mony times for 'r an' th' sorra' she'll wrought hersel'."
"Here are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson," exclaimed
Phemie, who stood near the window.
Not until dinner was over did the guests
broach the particular errand on which they came.
"Mrs. Wilson has a request to prefer, Mrs.
McGregor; she sits there in fear and trembling lest it be denied, and
trying by delays and in divers other mischievous ways to make me
at all afraid," retorted Mrs. Wilson, "I was waiting for a propitious
hour, and as I find with you this is always just after you have dined, I
have applied the same rule to Mr. McGregor's case, and, like any canny
Scot, have bided my time."
"What is 't that 'll need sae muckle care in
th' tellin' o' 't?" asked Sandy jocosely; "will ye be wantin' t' tak' th'
lassie back tae Scotland wi' ye?"
"How did you guess it, Mr. McGregor?"
exclaimed Mrs. Wilson in surprise. "You must have the Highland gift of
second sight." Mrs. Wilson was lowland Scotch.
To tell the truth Sandy had not guessed it, in
fact he had picked that—as the most unlikely thing to happen—to make a
joke of; now, being too polite to tell Mrs. Wilson that he was making a
joke of a pet project of her building, he accepted credit for the Highland
attribute, though he confessed to Elspeth that night that he was fair "dunnered"
when Mrs. Wilson announced the correctness of his guess.
So the project was launched, and with rather
Phemie sat hushed; this was something she had never dreamed of in her
wildest flights of fancy, and she was addicted to "biggin' castles in the
air." Of a harmless sort was this foolishness she indulged in, and since
she had been so much alone, much gratification of an ephemeral sort had
come from those "Chateaux d'Espagne," peopled with all who were near and
dear to her.
spoke first: "We'll thank you both for sae kin' a thought, but it's a
muckle road for a lassie tae gang frae her faither 'n mither."
"I will admit that, Mrs. McGregor," said Mr.
Wilson, "and it is something that, as a rule, I am opposed to, but Mrs.
Wilson has set her heart on this. I would very much like to have Phemie go
myself, there would be a fine opportunity for study during the voyage; I
would like to act as her cicerone through the classics."
"I would like to show the folk in Perthshire a
lassie from the Line," Mrs. Wilson said.
This was one of Elspeth's weak points: she was
as thoroughly Canadian as Rob and Jean. She was also proud of her lassie,
she would willingly endure a year of loneliness for the sake of giving
this object lesson. Phemie was beginning to look eager, and this had its
effect on Sandy; neither was Elspeth loath—if the lassie wanted to go—to
whole arrangements were discussed, and the more they thought of it, the
simpler it all seemed. Phemie demurred at leaving her father and mother
alone, but Sandy, seeing the self-sacrifice which lay behind the
objection, thus waived it: This was just the opportunity he and Elspeth
needed to get acquainted with each other; the first few years of their
married life had been spent in keeping the wolf from the door, both
literally and figuratively ; since then there was a house full of bairns.
"Wi' thae a' awa' th' gudewife 'n me 'll juist
sit by th' aise 'n get acquaint a' ower again." Everybody laughed at this,
and everybody saw through the ruse, but this way of looking at the matter
settled it. Phemie would go with Mrs. and Mr. Wilson.
That night Sandy and Elspeth discussed the
necessary preparations; Sandy felt with Elspeth that Phemie must go well
gowned, the object lesson must be given in the choicest tints. This was
the last of January; the first boat that came down the Rideau must find
them in readiness. The "kist" that Elspeth brought over wouldna do at all,
at all, to carry Phemie's wardrobe. Mr. Meighen had once in a heedless
moment "stocked up" with a huge hair trunk. We say heedless, because
people had come to Perth to remain, and there were many things more
saleable than trunks, but—more by good luck than good management—this
purchase found an appreciative customer. Then the rest of the stock was
taxed to fill in. And the girls in town and on the Line invited themselves
out to sewing bees, which furnished an excuse for the lads to come in the
evening. Many a staid elderly couple of the seventies were proud to point
to that winter, and Sandy's house, as the time and place when they got
"first acquaint". It was, in truth, the first introduction of the Line to
there came a box, by stage from Brock-ville, to Phernie. It was not very
large—but "Valuable, handle with care," was marked on it. Sandy could
hardly wait until he got it home to have its contents investigated. At the
post office they said it came from Toronto. When the cover was thrown
back, the contents almost took their breath away.
In folds and folds of tissue paper lay a
dress, the palest blush rose and pearly white "changeable" soft, lustrous
silk; with it a "bertha" of Duchesse point; when these were, amid wondrous
exclamations, lifted, in one corner lay a jewel case. With fingers
trembling with delight, Phemie touched the spring: they were pearls—a
necklace, bracelets, and bands to fasten on the shoulders the loops in her
Phemie at once taxed her father with being the fairy godmother; he stoutly
denied it, and when she saw he was as much surprised and delighted as she
was, she saw it must have been Rob, but how could he have known just
exactly what would fit her, and how well he remembered that pearls were
her favorite gems—but could he afford it? for she knew these had cost no
in Perth knew of the arrival of the box, so all who came had to see its
contents, and many sighs from many maidens' hearts were uttered in
consequence; not that anyone would have deprived Phemie of her gift or the
pleasure it gave her, but they would have liked a shower of fairy benefits
to fall on their heads.
Phemie was surprised to receive, in the first
mail after she reached Strathkennis, a letter from Rob, enclosing a draft
for fifty pounds, saying as he was not where he could purchase anything,
and did not know what would please her best, he sent the money, and she
could make her own selection. She replied by return mail:
"Nothing could have pleased me better than the
selection you did make; and, while I am very grateful, I am afraid I am
receiving more than my deserts,"
The limit of her sojourn in Scotland had been
extended from a year to fifteen months, and she had worn more than once
her beautiful fairy gifts, ere she learned that Rob knew no more about the
sending of them than she and Elspeth and Sandy had.
Years afterwards, one of the village boys,
then grown to manhood and married, told his wife how "That quare Mr.
McAlpin once gimme a dollar to go over to Mr. McGregor's and stale a dress
belonging to the young leddy; he tould me, 'fore I'd go, he just wanted to
look at it; so I got two and sixpence for getting it, and two an' sixpence
for lavin' it back. Thim Highlanders is quare people."