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A Knight of the Nets by Amelia E. Barr

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A KNIGHT OF THE NETS

BY

AMELIA E. BARR

1896

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER

I THE WORLD SHE LIVED IN.

II CHRISTINA AND ANDREW.

III THE AILING HEART.

IV THE LASH OF THE WHIP.

V THE LOST BRIDE.

VI WHERE IS MY MONEY?

VII THE BEGINNING OF THE END.

VIII A GREAT DELIVERANCE.

IX THE RIGHTING OF A WRONG.

X TAKE ME IN TO DIE.

XI DRIVEN TO HIS DUTY.

XII AMONG HER OWN PEOPLE.

XIII THE "LITTLE SOPHY".

_Grey sky, brown waters: as a bird that flies
My heart flits forth to these;
Back to the winter rose of Northern skies,
Back to the Northern seas_.

CHAPTER I

THE WORLD SHE LIVED IN

It would be easy to walk many a time through "Fife and all the lands
about it" and never once find the little fishing village of
Pittendurie. Indeed, it would be a singular thing if it was found,
unless some special business or direction led to it. For clearly it was
never intended that human beings should build homes where these
cottages cling together, between sea and sky,--a few here, and a few
there, hidden away in every bend of the rocks where a little ground
could be levelled, so that the tides in stormy weather break with
threat and fury on the very doorstones of the lowest cottages. Yet as
the lofty semicircle of hills bend inward, the sea follows; and there
is a fair harbour, where the fishing boats ride together while their
sails dry in the afternoon sun. Then the hamlet is very still; for the
men are sleeping off the weariness of their night work, while the
children play quietly among the tangle, and the women mend the nets or
bait the lines for the next fishing. A lonely little spot, shut in by
sea and land, and yet life is there in all its passionate variety--love
and hate, jealousy and avarice, youth, with its ideal sorrows and
infinite expectations, age, with its memories and regrets, and "sure
and certain hope."

The cottages also have their individualities. Although they are much of
the same size and pattern, an observing eye would have picked out the
Binnie cottage as distinctive and prepossessing. Its outside walls were
as white as lime could make them; its small windows brightened with
geraniums and a white muslin curtain; and the litter of ropes and nets
and drying fish which encumbered the majority of thatches, was
pleasantly absent. Standing on a little level, thirty feet above the
shingle, it faced the open sea, and was constantly filled with the
confused tones of its sighing surges, and penetrated by its pulsating,
tremendous vitality.

It had been the home of many generations of Binnies, and the very old,
and the very young, had usually shared its comforts together; but at
the time of my story, there remained of the family only the widow of
the last proprietor, her son Andrew, and her daughter Christina.
Christina was twenty years old, and still unmarried,--a strange thing
in Pittendurie, where early marriages are the rule. Some said she was
vain of her beauty and could find no lad whom she thought good enough;
others thought she was a selfish, cold-hearted girl, feared for the
cares and the labours of a fisherman's wife.

On this July afternoon, the girl had been some hours mending the pile
of nets at her feet; but at length they were in perfect order, and she
threw her arms upward and outward to relieve their weariness, and then
went to the open door. The tide was coming in, but the children were
still paddling in the salt pools and on the cold bladder rack, and she
stepped forward to the edge of the cliff, and threw them some wild
geranium and ragwort. Then she stood motionless in the bright sunlight,
looking down the shingle towards the pier and the little tavern, from
which came, in drowsy tones, the rough monotonous songs which seamen
delight to sing--songs, full of the complaining of the sea, interpreted
by the hoarse, melancholy voices of sea faring men.

Standing thus in the clear light, her great beauty was not to be
denied. She was tall and not too slender; and at this moment, the set
of her head was like that of a thoroughbred horse, when it pricks its
ears to listen. She had soft brown eyes, with long lashes and heavy
eyebrows--eyes, reflecting the lances of light that darted in and out
of the shifting clouds--an open air complexion, dazzling, even teeth,
an abundance of dark, rippling hair, and a flush of ardent life opening
her wide nostrils, and stirring gently the exquisite mould of her
throat and bust. The moral impression she gave was that of a pure,
strong, compassionate woman; cool-headed, but not cold; capable of
vigorous joys and griefs.

After a few minutes' investigation, she went back to the cottage, and
stood in the open doorway, with her head leaning against the lintel.
Her mother had begun to prepare the evening meal; fresh fish were
frying on the fire, and the oat cakes toasting before it. Yet, as she
moved rapidly about, she was watching her daughter and very soon she
gave words to the thoughts troubling and perplexing her motherly
speculations.

"Christina," she said, "you'll not require to be looking for Andrew.
The lad is ben the house; he has been asleep ever since he eat his
dinner."

"I know that, Mother."

"Well then, if it is Jamie Logan, let me tell you it is a poor
business. I have a fear and an inward down-sinking anent that young
man."

"Perfect nonsense, Mother! There is nothing to fear you about Jamie."

"What good ever came through folk saved from the sea? Tell me that,
Christina! They bring sorrow back with them. That is a fact none will
deny."

"What could Andrew do but save the lad?"

"Why was the lad running before such a sea? He should have got into
harbour; there was time enough. And if it was Andrew's duty to save
him, it is not your duty to be loving him. You may take that much sense
from me, anyway."

"_Whist, Mother_! He has not said a word of love to me."

"He perfectly changes colours every time he sees you, and why so, if it
be not for love of you? I am not liking the look of the thing,
Christina, and your brother is not liking it; and if you don't take
care of yourself, you'll be in a burning fever of first love, and
beyond all reasoning. Even now, you are making yourself a speculation
to the whole village."

"Jamie is a straight-forward lad. I'm thinking he would lay his life
down for me."

"I thought he had not said a word of love to you."

"A girl knows some things that are not told her."

"Very fine; but it will not be the fashion now to lie down and die for
Annie Laurie, or any other lass. A young man who wants a wife must
bustle around and get siller to keep her with. Getting married, these
days is not a thing to make a song about. You are but a young thing
yet, Christina, and you have much to learn."

"Would you not like to be young again, Mother?"

"No, I would not! I would not risk it. Besides, it would be going back;
and I want to go forward and upward. But you need not try to turn the
talk from Jamie Logan that way. I'll say again what I said before, you
will be in a fever of first love, and not to be reasoned with, if you
don't take care of yourself."

The girl flushed hotly, came into the house, and began to re-arrange
the teacups with a nervous haste; for she heard Jamie's steps on the
rocky road, and his voice, clear as a blackbird's, whistling gayly "In
the Bay of Biscay O!"

"The teacups are all right, Christina. I am talking anent Jamie Logan.
The lad is just a temptation to you; and you will require to ask for
strength to be kept out of temptation; for the Lord knows, the best of
us don't expect strength to resist it."

Christina turned her face to her mother, and then left her answer to
Jamie Logan. For he came in at the moment with a little tartan shawl in
his hand, which he gallantly threw across the shoulders of Mistress
Binnie.

"I have just bought it from a peddler loon," he said. "It is bonnie and
soft, and it sets you well, and I hope you will pleasure me by wearing
it."

His face was so bright, his manner so charming, that it was impossible
for Janet Binnie to resist him. "You are a fleeching, flattering
laddie," she answered; but she stroked and fingered the gay kerchief,
while Christina made her observe how bright were the colours of it, and
how neatly the soft folds fell around her. Then the door of the inner
room opened, and Andrew came sleepily out.

"The fish is burning," he said, "and the oat cakes too; for I am
smelling them ben the house;" and Janet ran to her fireside, and
hastily turned her herring and cakes.

"I'm feared you won't think much of your meat to-night," she said
regretfully; "the tea is fairly ruined."

"Never mind the meat, Mother," said Andrew. "We don't live to eat."

"Never mind the meat, indeed! What perfect nonsense! There is something
wrong with folk that don't mind their meat."

"Well then, you shouldn't be so vain of yourself, Mother. You were
preening like a young girl when I first got sight of you--and the meat
taking care of itself."

"Me, vain! No! No! Nobody that knows Janet Binnie can ever say she is
vain. I wot well that I am a frail, miserable creature, with little
need of being vain, either for myself or my children. You are a great
hand at arguing, Andrew, but you are always in the wrong. But draw to
the table and eat. I'll warrant the fish will prove better than it is
bonnie."

They sat down with a pleasant content that soon broadened into mirth
and laughter, as Jamie Logan began to tell and to show how the peddler
lad had fleeched and flethered the fisher wives out of their bawbees;
adding at the last "that he could not come within sight of their fine
words, they were that civil to him."

"Senselessly civil, no doubt of it," answered Janet. "A peddler aye
gives the whole village a fit of the liberalities. The like of Jean
Robertson spending a crown on him! Foolish woman, the words are not to
seek that she'll get from me in the morning."

Then Jamie took a letter from his pocket, and showed it to Andrew
Binnie. "Robert Toddy brought it this morning," he said, "and, as you
may see, it is from the firm of Henderson Brothers, Glasgow; and they
say there will be a berth for me very soon now in one of their ships.
And their boats are good, and their captains good, and there is chances
for a fine sailor on that line. I may be a captain myself one of these
days!" and he laughed so gayly, and looked so bravely into the face of
such a bold idea, that he persuaded every one else to expect it for
him. Janet pulled her new shawl a little closer and smiled, and her
thought was: "After all, Christina may wait longer, and fare worse; for
she is turned twenty." Yet she showed a little reserve as she asked:--

"Are you then Glasgow-born, Jamie?"

"Me! Glasgow-born! What are you thinking of? I am from the auld East
Neuk; and I am glad and proud of being a Fifer. All my common sense
comes from Fife. There is none loves the 'Kingdom' more than I, Jamie
Logan. We are all Fife together. I thought you knew it."

At these words there was a momentary shadow across the door, and a
little lassie slipped in; and when she did so, all put down their cups
to welcome her. Andrew reddened to the roots of his hair, his eyes
filled with light, a tender smile softened his firm mouth, and he put
out his hand and drew the girl to the chair which Christina had pushed
close to his own.

"You are welcome, and more than welcome, Sophy," said the Mistress; but
for all that, she gave Sophy a glance in which there was much
speculation not unmixed, with fear and disapproval. For it was easy to
see that Andrew Binnie loved her, and that she was not at all like him,
nor yet like any of the fisher-girls of Pittendurie. Sophy, however,
was not responsible for this difference; for early orphanage had placed
her in the care of an aunt who carried on a dress and bonnet making
business in Largo, and she had turned the little fisher-maid into a
girl after her own heart and wishes.

Sophy, indeed, came frequently to visit her people in Pittendurie; but
she had gradually grown less and less like them, and there was no
wonder Mistress Binnie asked herself fearfully, "what kind of a wife at
all Sophy would make for a Fife fisherman?" She was so small and genty,
she had such a lovely face, such fair rippling hair, and her gown was
of blue muslin made in the fashion of the day, and finished with a lace
collar round her throat, and a ribbon belt round her slender waist.

"A bonnie lass for a carriage and pair," thought Janet Binnie; "but
whatever will she do with the creel and the nets? not to speak of the
bairns and the housework?"

Andrew was too much in love to consider these questions. When he was
six years old, he had carried Sophy in his arms all day long; when he
was twelve, they had paddled on the sands, and fished, and played, and
learned their lessons together. She had promised then to be his wife as
soon as he had a house and a boat of his own; and never for one moment
since had Andrew doubted the validity and certainty of this promise. To
Andrew, and to Andrew's family, and to the whole village of
Pittendurie, the marriage of Andrew Binnie and Sophy Traill was a fact
beyond disputing. Some said "it was the right thing," and more said "it
was the foolish thing," and among the latter was Andrew's mother;
though as yet she had said it very cautiously to Andrew, whom she
regarded as "clean daft and senselessly touchy about the girl."

But she sent the young people out of the house while she redd up the
disorder made by the evening meal; though, as she wiped her teacups,
she went frequently to the little window, and looked at the four
sitting together on the bit of turf which carpeted the top of the cliff
before the cottage. Andrew, as a privileged lover, held Sophy's hand;
Christina sat next her brother, and facing Jamie Logan, so it was easy
to see how her face kindled, and her manner softened to the charm of
his merry conversation, his snatches of breezy sea-song, and his clever
bits of mimicry. And as Janet walked to and fro, setting her cups and
plates in the rack, and putting in place the tables and chairs she did
what we might all do more frequently and be the wiser for it--she
talked to herself, to the real woman within her, and thus got to the
bottom of things.

In less than an hour there began to be a movement about the pier, and
then Andrew and Jamie went away to their night's work; and the girls
sat still and watched the men across the level sands, and the boats
hurrying out to the fishing grounds. Then they went back to the
cottage, and found that Mistress Binnie had taken her knitting and gone
to chat with a crony who lived higher up the cliff.

"We are alone, Sophy" said Christina; "but women folk are often that."
She spoke a little sadly, the sweet melancholy of conscious, but
unacknowledged love being heavy in her heart, and she would not have
been sorry, had she been quite alone with her vaguely happy dreams.
Neither of the girls was inclined to talk, but Christina wondered at
Sophy's silence, for she had been unusually merry while the young men
were present.

Now she sat quiet on the door step, clasping her left knee with little
white hands that had no sign of labour on them but the mark of the
needle on the left forefinger. At her side, Christina stood, her tall
straight figure fittingly clad in a striped blue and white linsey
petticoat, and a little josey of lilac print, cut low enough to show
the white, firm throat above it. Her fine face radiated thought and
feeling; she was on the verge of that experience which glorifies the
simplest life. The exquisite glooming, the tender sky, the full heaving
sea, were all in sweetest sympathy; they were sufficient; and Sophy's
thin, fretful voice broke the charm and almost offended her.

"It is a weary life, Christina. How do you thole it?"

"You are just talking, Sophy. You were happy enough half an hour
since."

"I wasn't happy at all."

"You let on like you were. I should think you would be as fear'd to act
a lie, as to tell one."

"I'll be going away from Pittendurie in the morning."

"What for?"

"I have my reasons."

"No doubt you have a 'because' of your own. But what will Andrew say?
He is not expecting you to leave to-morrow."

"I don't care what Andrew says."

"Sophy Traill!"

"I don't. Andrew Binnie is not the whole of life to me."

"Whatever is the matter with you?"

"Nothing."

Then there was a pause, and Christina's thoughts flew seaward. In a few
minutes, however, Sophy began talking again. "Do you go often into
Largo, Christina?" she asked.

"Whiles, I take myself that far. You may count me up for the last year;
for I sought you every time."

"Ay! Do you mind on the road a real grand house, fine and old, with a
beautiful garden and peacocks in it--trailing their long feathers over
the grass and gravel?"

"You will be meaning Braelands? Folks could not miss the place, even if
they tried to."

"Well then, did you ever notice a young man around? He is always
dressed for the saddle, or else he is in the saddle, and so most sure
to have a whip in his hand."

"What are you talking about? What is the young man to you?"

"He is brawly handsome. They call him Archie Braelands."

"I have heard tell of him. And by what is said, I should not think he
was an improving friend for any good girl to have."

"This, or that, he likes me. He likes me beyond everything."

"Do you know what you are saying, Sophy Traill?"

"I do, fine."

"Are you liking him?"

"It would not be hard to do."

"Has he ever spoke to you?"

"Well, he is not as shy as a fisher-lad. I find him in my way when I'm
not thinking. And see here, Christina; I got a letter from him this
afternoon. A real love letter! Such lovely words! They are like poetry;
they are as sweet as singing."

"Did you tell Andrew this?"

"Why would I do that?"

"You are a false little cutty, then. I would tell Andrew myself, but I
am loath to hurt his true heart. Now you are to let Archie Braelands
alone, or I will know the reason why."

"Preserve us all! What a blazing passion for nothing at all! Can't a
lassie chat with a lad for a half hour without calling a court of
sessions about it?" and she rose and shook out her dress, saying with
an air of offence:--

"You may tell Andrew, if you like to. It would be a very poor thing if
a girl is to be miscalled every time a man told her she was pretty."

"I'm not saying any woman can help men making fools of themselves; but
you should have told Braelands that you were all the same as married,
being promised so long to Andrew Binnie. And you ought to have told
Andrew about the letter."

"Everybody can't live in Pittendurie, Christina. And if you live with a
town full of folk, you cannot go up and down, saying to every man you
meet, 'please, sir, I have a lad of my own, and you are not to cast a
look at me, for Andrew Binnie would not like it."

"Hold your tongue, Sophy, or else know what you are yattering about. I
would think shame to talk so scornful of the man I was going to marry."

"You can let it go for a passing remark. And if I have said anything to
vex you, we are old friends, Christina, and it is not a lad that will
part us. Sophy requires a deal of forgiving."

"She does," said Christina with a smile; "so I just forgive her as I go
along, for she is still doing something out of the way. But you must
not treat Andrew ill. I could not love you, Sophy, if you did the like
of that. And you must always tell me everything about yourself, and
then nothing will go far wrong."

"Even that. I am not given to lying unless it is worth my while. I'll
tell you aught there is to tell. And there is a kiss for Andrew, and
you may say to him that I would have told him I was going back to Largo
in the morning, only that I cannot bear to see him unhappy. That a
message to set him on the mast-head of pride and pleasure."

"I will give Andrew the kiss and the message, Sophy. And you take my
advice, and keep yourself clear of that young Braelands. I am
particular about my own good name, and I mean to be particular about
yours."

"I have had your advice already, Christina."

"Well, this is a forgetful world, so I just mention the fact again."

"All the same, you might remember, Christina, that there was once a
woman who got rich by minding her own business;" and with a laugh, the
girl tied her bonnet under her chin, and went swiftly down the cliff
towards the village.

CHAPTER II

CHRISTINA AND ANDREW

This confidence greatly troubled Christina; and as Sophy crossed the
sands and vanished into the shadows beyond, a strange, sad presentiment
of calamity oppressed her heart. Being herself in the enthusiasm of a
first love, she could not conceive such treachery possible as Sophy's
word seemed to imply. The girl had always been petted, and yet
discontented with her situation; and had often made complaints which
had no real foundation, and which in brighter moods she was likely to
repudiate. And this night Andrew, instead of her Aunt Kilgour, was the
object of her dissatisfaction--that would be all. To-morrow she would
be complaining to Andrew of her aunt's hard treatment of her, and
Andrew would be whispering of future happiness in her ears.

Upon the whole, therefore, Christina thought it would be cruel and
foolish to tell her brother a word of what Sophy had said. Why should
she disturb his serene faith in the girl so dear to him, until there
was some more evident reason to do so? He was, as his mother said,
"very touchy" about Sophy, being well aware that the village did not
approve of the changes in her dress, and of those little reluctances
and reserves in her behaviour, which had sprung up inevitably amid the
refinements and wider acquaintances of town life.

"And so many things happen as the clock goes round," she thought.
"Braelands may say or do something that will put him out of favour. Or
he may take himself off to a foreign country--he is gey fond of France
and Germany too--and Goodness knows he will never be missed in
Fifeshire. Or _them behind_ may sort what flesh and blood cannot
manage; so I will keep a close mouth anent the matter. One may think
what one dare not say; for words, once spoken, cannot be wiped out with
a sponge--and more's the pity!"

Christina had also reached a crisis in her own life,--a crisis so
important, that it quite excused the apparent readiness with which she
dismissed Sophy's strange confidence. For the feeling between Jamie
Logan and herself had grown to expression, and she was well aware that
what had hitherto been in a large measure secret and private to
themselves, had this night become evident to others. And she was not
sure how Jamie would be received. Andrew had saved his life in a sudden
storm, and brought him to the Binnie cottage until he should be able to
return to his own place. But instead of going away, he had hired his
time for the herring season to a Pittendurie fisherman; and every spare
hour had found him at the Binnie cottage, wooing the handsome
Christina.

The village was not unanimously in his favour. No one could say
anything against Jamie Logan; but he was a stranger, and that fact was
hard to get over. A man must serve a very strict and long probation to
be adopted into a Fife fishing community, and it was considered "very
upsetting" for an unkent man to be looking up to the like of Christina
Binnie,--a lass whose forbears had been in Pittendurie beyond the
memory or the tradition of its inhabitants.

Janet also was not quite satisfied; and Christina knew this. She
expected her daughter to marry a fisherman, but at least one who owned
his share in a good boat, and who had a house to take a wife to. This
strange lad was handsome and good-tempered; but, as she reflected, and
not unfrequently said, "good looks and a laugh and a song, are not
things to lippen to for housekeeping." So, on the whole, Christina had
just the same doubts and anxieties as might trouble a fine lady of
family and wealth, who had fallen in love with some handsome fellow
whom her relatives were uncertain about favouring.

A week after Sophy's visit, however, Jamie found the unconquerable hour
in which every true love comes to its blossoming. It was the Sabbath
night, and a great peace was over the village. The men sat at their
doors talking in monosyllables to their wives and mates; the children
were asleep; and the full ocean breaking and tinkling upon the shingly
coast. They had been at kirk together in the afternoon, and Jamie had
taken tea with the Binnies after the service. Then Andrew had gone to
see Sophy, and Janet to help a neighbour with a sick husband; so Jamie,
left with Christina, had seized gladly his opportunity to teach her the
secret of her own heart.

Sitting on the lonely rocks, with the moonlit sea at their feet, they
had confessed to each other how sweet it was to love. And the plans
growing out of this confession, though humble enough, were full of
strange hope and happy dreaming to Christina. For Jamie had begged her
to become his wife as soon as he got his promised berth on the great
Scotch line, and this event would compel her to leave Pittendurie and
make her home in Glasgow,--two facts, simply stupendous to the
fisher-girl, who had never been twenty miles from her home, and to whom
all life outside the elementary customs of Pittendurie was wonderful
and a little frightsome.

But she put her hand in Jamie's hand, and felt his love sufficient for
whatever love might bring or demand. Any spot on earth would be heaven
to her with him, and for him; and she told him so, and was answered as
women love to be answered, with a kiss that was the sweetness and
confidence of all vows and promises. Among these simple,
straight-forward people, there are no secrecies in love affairs; and
the first thing Jamie did was to return to the cottage with Christina
to make known the engagement they had entered into.

They met Andrew on the sands. He had been disappointed. Sophy had gone
out with a friend, and her aunt had seemed annoyed and had not asked
him to wait. He was counting up in his mind how often this thing had
happened lately, and was conscious of an unhappy sense of doubt and
unkindness which was entirely new to him. But when Christina stepped to
his side, and Jamie said frankly, "Andrew, your dear sweet sister loves
me, and has promised to be my wife, and I hope you will give us the
love and favour we are seeking," Andrew looked tenderly into his
sister's face, and their smiles met and seemed to kiss each other. And
he took her hand between his own hands, and then put it into Jamie's.

"You shall be a brother to me, Jamie," he said; "and we will stand
together always, for the sake of our bonnie Christina." And Jamie could
not speak for happiness; but the three went forward with shining eyes
and linked hands, and Andrew forgot his own fret and disappointment, in
the joy of his sister's betrothal.

Janet came home as they sat in the moonlight outside the cottage. "Come
into the house," she cried, with a pretense of anger. "It is high time
for folk who have honest work for the morn to be sleeping. What hour
will you get to the week's work, I wonder, Christina? If I leave the
fireside for a minute or two, everything stops but daffing till I get
back again. What for are you sitting so late?"

"There is a good reason, Mother!" said Andrew, as he rose and with
Jamie and Christina went into the cottage. "Here is our Christina been
trysting herself to Jamie, and I have been giving them some good
advice."

"Good advice!" laughed Janet. "Between you and Jamie Logan, it is the
blind leading the blind, and nothing better. One would think there was
no other duty in life than trysting and marrying. I have just heard
tell of Flora Thompson and George Buchan, and now it is Christina
Binnie and Jamie Logan. The world is given up, I think, to this weary
lad and lass business."

But Janet's words belied her voice and her benign face. She was really
one of those delightful women who are "easily persuaded," and who
readily accept whatever is, as right. For she had naturally one of the
healthiest of human souls; besides which, years had brought her that
tender sagacity and gentleness, which does not often come until the
head is gray and the brow furrowed. So, though her words were fretful,
they were negatived by her beaming smile, and by the motherly fashion
in which she drew Christina to her side and held out her hand to Jamie.

"You are a pair of foolish bairns," she said; "and you little know what
will betide you both."

"Nothing but love and happiness, Mother," answered Jamie.

"Well, well! look for good, and have good. I will not be one to ask
after evil for you. But mind one thing, Jamie, you are marrying a
woman, and not an angel. And, Christina, if you trust to any man, don't
expect over much of him; the very best of them will stumble once in a
while."

Then she drew forward the table, and put on the kettle and brewed some
toddy, and set it out with toasted cake and cheese, and so drank, with
cheerful moderation, to the health and happiness of the newly-promised
lovers. And afterwards "the books" were opened, and Andrew, who was the
priest of the family, asked the blessing of the Infinite One on all its
relationships. Then the happiness that had been full of smiles and
words became too deep for such expression, and they clasped hands and
kissed each other "good night" in a silence, that was too sweetly
solemn and full of feeling for the translation of mere language.

Before the morning light, Mistress Binnie had fully persuaded herself
that Christina was going to make an unusually prosperous marriage. All
her doubts had fled. Jamie had spoken out like a man, he had the best
of prospects, and the wedding was likely to be something beyond a
simple fisherman's bridal. She could hardly wait until the day's work
was over, and the evening far enough advanced for a gossiping call on
her crony, Marget Roy. Last night she had fancied Marget told her of
Flora Thompson's betrothal with an air of pity for Christina; there was
now a delightful retaliation in her power. But she put on an expression
of dignified resignation, rather than one of pleasure, when she made
known the fact of Christina's approaching marriage.

"I am glad to hear tell of it," said Marget frankly. "Christina will
make a good wife, and she will keep a tidy house, I'll warrant her."

"She will, Marget. And it is a very important thing; far more so than
folks sometimes think. You may put godliness into a woman after she is
a wife, but you can not put cleanliness; it will have to be born in
her."

"And so Jamie Logan is to have a berth from the Hendersons? That is far
beyond a place in Lowrie's herring boats."

"I'm thinking he just stopped with Lowrie for the sake of being near-by
to Christina. A lad like him need not have spent good time like that."

"Well, Janet, it is a good thing for your Christina, and I am glad of
it."

"It is;" answered Janet, with a sigh and a smile. "The lad is sure to
get on; and he's a respectable lad--a Fifer from Kirkcaldy--handsome
and well-spoken of; and I am thinking the _Line_ has a big bargain in
him, and is proud of it. Still, I'm feared for my lassie, in such an
awful, big, wicked-like town as Glasgow."

"She'll not require to take the whole town in. She will have her Bible,
and her kirk, and her own man. There is nothing to fear you. Christina
has her five senses."

"No doubt. And she is to have a floor of her own and all things
convenient; so there is comfort and safety in the like of that."

"What for are you worrying yourself then?"

"There's contingencies, Marget,--contingencies. And you know Christina
is my one lassie, and I am sore to lose her. But 'lack a day! we cannot
stop the clock. And marriage is like death--it is what we must all come
to."

"Well Janet, your Christina has been long spared from it. She'll be
past twenty, I'm thinking."

"Christina has had her offers, Marget. But what will you? We must all
wait for the right man, or go to the de'il with the wrong one."

Thus the conversation went on, until Janet had exhausted all the
advantages and possibilities that were incident to Christina's good
fortune. And perhaps it was out of a little feeling of weariness of the
theme, that Marget finally reminded her friend that she would be
"lonely enough wanting her daughter," adding, "I was hearing too, that
Andrew is not to be kept single much longer; and it will be what no one
expects if Sophy Traill ever fills Christina's shoes."

"Sophy is well enough," answered Janet with a touch of pride. "She
suits Andrew, and it is Andrew that has to live with her."

"And you too, Janet?"

"Not I! Andrew is to build his own bigging. I have the life rent of
mine. But I shall be a deal in Glasgow myself. Jamie has his heart
fairly set on that."

She made this statement with an air of prideful satisfaction that was
irritating to Mistress Roy; and she was not inclined to let Janet enter
anew into a description of all the fine sights she was to see, the
grand guns of preachers she was to hear, and the trips to Greenock and
Rothesay, which Jamie said "would just fall naturally in the way of
their ordinary life." So Marget showed such a hurry about her household
affairs as made Janet uncomfortable, and she rose with a little offence
and said abruptly:--

"I must be going. I have the kirkyard to pass; and between the day and
the dark it is but a mournful spot"

"It is that," answered Marget. "Folks should not be on the road when
the bodiless walk. They might be in their way, and so get ill to
themselves."

"Then good night, and good befall you;" but in spite of the
benediction, Janet felt nettled at her friend's sudden lack of
interest.

"It was a spat of envy no doubt," she thought; "but Lord's sake! envy
is the most insinuating vice of the lot of them. It cannot behave
itself for an hour at a time. But I'm not caring! it is better to be
envied than pitied."

These reflections kept away the thought and fear of the "bodiless," and
she passed the kirkyard without being mindful of their proximity; the
coming wedding, and the inevitable changes it would bring, filling her
heart with all kinds of maternal anxieties, which in solitude would not
be put aside for all the promised pride and _eclat_ of the event. As
she approached the cottage, she met Jamie and Christina coming down the
cliff-side together, and she cried, "Is that you, Jamie?"

"As far as I know, it's myself, Mother," answered Jamie.

"Then turn back, and I'll get you a mouthful of bread and cheese.
You'll be wanting it, no doubt; for love is but cold porridge to a man
that has to pull on the nets all night."

"You have spoken the day after the fair, Mother," answered Jamie.
"Christina has looked well to me, and I am bound for the boats."

"Well, well, your way be it."

Then Christina turned back with her mother, and they went silently back
to the cottage, their hearts being busy with the new hopes and
happiness that had come into their hitherto uneventful lives. But
reticence between this mother and daughter was not long possible; they
were too much one to have reserves; and neither being sleepy, they soon
began to talk over again what they had discussed a hundred times
before--the wedding dress, and the wedding feast, and the napery and
plenishing Christina was to have for her own home. They sat on the
hearth, before the bit of fire which was always necessary in that
exposed and windy situation; but the door stood open, and the moon
filled the little room with its placid and confidential light. So it is
no wonder, as they sat talking and vaguely wondering at Andrew's
absence, Christina should tell her mother what Sophy had said about
Archie Braelands.

Janet listened with a dour face. For a moment she was glad; then she
lifted the poker, and struck a block of coal into a score of pieces,
and with the blow scattered the unkind, selfish thoughts which had
sprung up in her heart.

"It is what I expected," she answered. "Just what I expected,
Christina. A lassie dressed up in muslin, and ribbons, and artificial
roses, isn't the kind of a wife a fisherman wants--and sooner or
later, like goes to like. I am not blaming Sophy. She has tried hard to
be faithful to Andrew, but what then? Nothing happens for nothing; and
it will be a good thing for Andrew if Sophy leaves him; a good thing
for Sophy too, I'm thinking; and better _is_ better, whatever comes or
goes."

"But Andrew will fret himself sorely."

"He will; no doubt of that. But Andrew has a good heart, and a good
heart breaks bad fortune. Say nothing at all to him. He is wise enough
to guide himself; though God knows! even the wisest of men will have a
fool in his sleeve sometimes."

"Would there be any good in a word of warning? Just to prepare him for
the sorrow that is on the road."

"There would be no sense in the like of it. If Andrew is to get the
fling and the buffet, he will take it better from Sophy than from any
other body. Let be, Christina. And maybe things will take a turn for
the dear lad yet. Hope for it anyhow. Hope is as cheap as despair."

"Folks will be talking anon."

"They are talking already. Do you think that I did not hear all this
clash and clavers before? Lucky Sims, and Marget Roy, and every
fish-wife in Pittendurie, know both the beginning and the end of it.
They have seen this, and they have heard that, and they think the very
worst that can be; you may be sure of that."

"I'm thinking no wrong of Sophy."

"Nor I. The first calamity is to be born a woman; it sets the door open
for every other sorrow--and the more so, if the poor lassie is bonnie
and alone in the world. Sophy is not to blame; it is Andrew that is in
the fault."

"How can you say such a thing as that, Mother?"

"I'll tell you how. Andrew has been that set on having a house for his
wife, that he has just lost the wife while he was saving the siller for
the house. I have told him, and better told him to bring Sophy here;
but nothing but having her all to himself will he hear tell of. It is
pure, wicked selfishness in the lad! He simply cannot thole her to give
look or word to any one but himself. Perfect scand'lous selfishness!
That is where all the trouble has come from."

"_Whist, Mother_! He is most at the doorstep. That is Andrew's foot, or
I am much mista'en."

"Then I'll away to Lizzie Robertson's for an hour. My heart is knocking
at my lips, and I'll be saying what I would give my last bawbee to
unsay. Keep a calm sough, Christina."

"You need not tell me that, Mother."

"Just let Andrew do the talking, and you'll be all right. It is easy to
put him out about Sophy, and then to come to words. Better keep peace
than make peace."

She lifted the stocking she was knitting, and passed out of one door as
Andrew came in at the other. He entered with that air of strength and
capability so dear to the women of a household. He had on his kirk
suit, and Christina thought, as he sat down by the open window, how
much handsomer he looked in his blue guernsey and fishing cap.

"You'll be needing a mouthful and a cup of tea, Andrew?" she asked.

Andrew shook his head and answered pleasantly, "Not I, Christina. I had
my tea with Sophy. Where is mother?"

"She is gone to Lizzie Robertson's for an hour. Her man is yet very
badly off. She said she would sit with him till the night turned.
Lizzie is most worn out, I'm sure, by this time."

"Where is Jamie?"

"He said he was going to the fishing. He will have caught his boat, or
he would have been back here again by this hour."

"Then we are alone? And like to be for an hour? eh, Christina?"

"There will be no one here till mother comes at the turn of the night.
What for are you asking the like of them questions, Andrew?"

"Because I have been seeking this hour. I have things to tell you,
Christina, that must never go beyond yourself; no, not even to mother,
unless the time comes for it. I am not going to ask you to give me your
word or promise. You are Christina Binnie, and that is enough."

"I should say so. The man or woman who promises with an oath is not to
be trusted. There is you and me, and God for our witness. What ever you
have to say, the hearer and the witness is sufficient."

"I know that. Christina, I have been this day to Edinburgh, and I have
brought home from the bank six hundred pounds."

"Six hundred pounds, Andrew! It is not believable."

"_Whist, woman!_ I have six hundred pounds in my breast pocket, and I
have siller in the house beside. I have sold my share in the
'_Sure-Giver_,' and I have been saving money ever since I put on my
first sea-boots."

"I have always thought that saving money was your great fault, Andrew."

"I know. I know it myself only too well. Many's the Sabbath day I have
been only a bawbee Christian, when I ought to have put a shilling in
the plate. But I just could not help it."

"Yes, you could."

"Tell me how, then."

"Just try and believe that you are putting your collection into the
hand of God Almighty, and not into a siller plate. Then you will put
the shilling down and not the bawbee."

"Perhaps. The thought is not a new one to me, and often I have forced
myself to give a white shilling instead of a penny-bit at the kirk
door, just to get the better of the de'il once in a while. But for all
that I know right well that saving siller is my besetting sin. However,
I have been saving for a purpose, and now I am most ready to take the
desire of my heart."

"It is a good desire; I am sure of that, Andrew."

"I think it is; a very good one. What do you say to this? I am going to
put all my siller in a carrying steamer--one of the Red-White fleet.
And more to it. I am to be skipper, and sail her from the North Sea to
London."

"Will she be a big boat, Andrew?"

"She will carry three thousand 'trunks' of fish in her ice chambers.
What do you think of that?"

"I am perfectly dazzled and dumbfoundered with the thought of it. You
will be a man of some weight in the world, when that comes to pass."

"I will be Captain Binnie, of the North Sea fleet, and Sophy will have
reason enough for her muslins, and ribbons, and trinkum-trankums--God
bless her!"

"You are a far forecasting man, Andrew."

"I have been able to clear my day and my way, by the help of
Providence, so far," said Andrew, with a pious reservation; "just as my
decent kirk-going father was before me. But that is neither here nor
there, and please God, this will be a monumental year in my life."

"It will that. To get the ship and the wife you want, within its twelve
bounds, is a blessing beyond ordinary. I am proud to hear tell of such
good fortune coming your way, Andrew."

"Ay; I knew you would. But I have the siller, and I have the skill, and
why shouldn't I lift myself a bit?"

"And Sophy with you? Sophy will be an ornament to any place you lift
her to. And you may come to own a fishing fleet yourself some day,
Andrew!"

"I am thinking of it," he answered, with the air of a man who feels
himself master of his destiny. "But come ben the house with me,
Christina. I have something to show you."

So they went together into an inner room, and Andrew moved aside a
heavy chest of drawers which stood against the wall. Then he lifted a
short plank beneath them, and putting his arm far under the flooring,
he pulled forth a tin box.

The key to it was in the leather purse in his breast pocket, and there
was a little tantalizing delay in its opening. But when the lid was
lifted, Christina saw a hoard of golden sovereigns, and a large roll of
Bank of England bills. Without a word Andrew added the money in his
pocket to this treasured store, and in an equal silence the flooring
and drawers were replaced, and then, without a word, the brother and
sister left the room together.

There was however a look of exultation on Christina's face, and when
Andrew said "You understand now, Christina?" she answered in a voice
full of tender pride.

"I have seen. And I am sure that Andrew Binnie is not the man to be
moving without knowing the way he is going to take."

"I am not moving at all, Christina, for three months or perhaps longer.
The ship I want is in dry dock until the winter, and it is all this
wealth of siller that I am anxious about. If I should go to the fishing
some night, and never come back, it would be the same as if it went to
the bottom of the sea with me, not a soul but myself knowing it was
there."

"But not now, Andrew. You be to tell me what I am to do if the like of
that should happen, and your wish will be as the law of God to me."

"I am sure of that, Christina. Take heed then. If I should go out some
night and the sea should get me, as it gets many better men, then you
will lift the flooring, and take the money out of hiding. And you will
give Sophy Traill one half of all there is. The other half is for
mother and yourself. And you will do no other way with a single bawbee,
or the Lord will set His face against it."

"I will do just what you tell me."

"I know it. To think different, would be just incredible nonsense. That
is for the possibilities, Christina. For the days that are coming and
going, I charge you, Christina Binnie, never to name to mortal creature
the whereabouts of the money I have shown you."

"Your words are in my heart, Andrew. They will never pass my lips."

"Then that is enough of the siller. I have had a happy day with Sophy,
and O the grace of the lassie! And the sweet innocence and lovesomeness
of her pretty ways! She is budding into a very rose of beauty! I bought
her a ring with a shining stone in it, and a gold brooch, and a bonnie
piece of white muslin with the lace for the trimming of it; and the joy
of the little beauty set me laughing with delight. I would not call the
Queen my cousin, this night."

"Sophy ought to love you with all her heart and soul, Andrew."

"She does. She has arled her heart and hand to me. I thank _The Best_
for this great mercy."

"And you can trust her without a doubt, dear lad?"

"I have as much faith in Sophy Traill, as I have in my Bible."

"That is the way to trust. It is the way I trust Jamie. But you'll mind
how ready bad hearts and ill tongues are to give you a sense of
suspicion. So you'll not heed a word of that kind, Andrew?"

"Not one. The like of such folk cannot give me a moment's
trouble--there was Kirsty Johnston--"

"You may put Kirsty Johnston, and all she says to the wall."

"I'm doing it; but she called after me this very evening, 'take care of
yourself, Andrew Binnie.' 'And what for, Mistress?' I asked. 'A beauty
is hard to catch and worse to keep,' she answered; and then the laugh
of her! But I didn't mind it, not I; and I didn't give her word or look
in reply; for well I know that women's tongues cannot be stopped, not
even by the Fourth Commandment."

Then Andrew sat down and was silent, for a happiness like his is felt,
and not expressed. And Christina moved softly about, preparing the
frugal supper, and thinking about her lover in the fishing boats,
until, the table being spread, Andrew drew his chair close to his
sister's chair, and spreading forth his hands ere he sat down, said
solemnly;--

_"This is the change of Thy Right Hand, O Thou Most High! Thou art
strong to strengthen; gracious to help; ready to better; mighty to
save, Amen!"_

It was the prayer of his fathers for centuries--the prayer they had
used in all times of their joy and sorrow; the prayer that had grown in
his own heart from his birth, and been recorded for ever in the sagas
of his mother's people.

CHAPTER III

THE AILING HEART

Not often in her life had Christina felt so happy as she did at this
fortunate hour. Two things especially made her heart sing for joy; one
was the fact that Jamie had never been so tender, so full of joyful
anticipation, so proud of his love and his future, as in their
interview of that evening. The very thought of his beauty and goodness
made her walk unconsciously to the door, and look over the sea towards
the fishing-grounds, where he was doubtless working at the nets, and
thinking of her. And next to this intensely personal cause of
happiness, was the fact that of all his mates, and even before his
mother or Sophy, Andrew had chosen _her_ for his confidant. She loved
her brother very much, and she respected him with an equal fervour. Few
men, in Christina's opinion, were able to stand in Andrew Binnie's
shoes, and she felt, as she glanced at his strong, thoughtful face,
that he was a brother to be very proud of.

He sat on the hearth with his arms crossed above his head, and a sweet,
grave smile irradiating his strong countenance, Christina knew that he
was thinking of Sophy, and as soon as she had spread the frugal meal,
and they had sat down to their cakes and cheese, Andrew began to talk
of her. He seemed to have dismissed absolutely the thought of the
hidden money, and to be wholly occupied with memories of his love. And
as he talked of her, his face grew vivid and tender, and he spoke like
a poet, though he knew it not.

"She is that sweet, Christina, it is like kissing roses to kiss her.
Her wee white hand on my red face is like a lily leaf. I saw it in the
looking-glass, as we sat at tea. And the ring, with the shining stone,
set it finely. I am the happiest man in the world, Christina!"

"I am glad with all my heart for you, Andrew, and for Sophy too. It is
a grand thing to be loved as you love her."

"She is the sweetness of all the years that are gone, and of all that
are to come."

"And Sophy loves you as you love her? I hope she does that, my dear
Andrew."

"She will do. She will do! no doubt of it, Christina! She is shy now,
and a bit frighted at the thought of marriage--she is such a gentle
little thing--but I will make her love me; yes I will! I will make her
love me as I love her. What for not?"

"To be sure. Love must give and take equal, to be satisfied. I know
that myself. I am loving Jamie just as he loves me."

"He is a brawly fine lad. Peddie was saying there wasn't a better
worker, nor a merrier one, in the whole fleet."

"A good heart is always a merry one, Andrew."

"I'm not doubting it."

Thus they talked with kind mutual sympathy and confidence; and a
certain sweet serenity and glad composure spread through the little
room, and the very atmosphere was full of the peace and hope of
innocent love. But some divine necessity of life ever joins joy and
sorrow together; and even as the brother and sister sat speaking of
their happiness, Christina heard a footstep that gave her heart a
shock. Andrew was talking of Sophy, and he was not conscious of Jamie's
approach until the lad entered the house. His face was flushed, and
there was an air of excitement about him which Andrew regarded with an
instant displeasure and suspicion. He did not answer Jamie's greeting,
but said dourly:--

"You promised to take my place in the boat to-night, Jamie Logan; then
what for are you here, at this hour? I see one thing, and that is, you
cannot be trusted to."

"I deserve a reproof, Andrew, for I have earned it," answered Jamie;
and there was an air of candid regret in his manner which struck
Christina, but which was not obvious to Andrew as he added, "I'll not
lie to you, anent the matter."

"You needn't. Nothing in life is worth a lie."

"That may be, or not be. But it was just this way. I met an old friend
as I was on my way to the boat, and he was poor, and hungry, and
thirsty, and I be to take him to the 'public,' and give him a bite and
a sup. Then the whiskey set us talking of old times and old
acquaintances, and I clean forgot the fishing; and the boats went away
without me. And that is all there is to it."

"Far too much! Far too much! A nice lad you will be to trust to in a
big ship full of men and women and children! A glass of whiskey, and a
crack in the public house, set before your promised word and your duty!
How will I trust Christina to you? When you make Andrew Binnie a
promise, he expects you to keep it. Don't forget that! It may be of
some consequence to you if you are wanting his sister for a wife."

With these words Andrew rose, went into his own room without a word of
good-night, and with considerable show of annoyance, closed and bolted
the door behind him. Jamie sat down by Christina, and waited for her to
speak.

But it was not easy for her to do so. Try as she would, she could not
show him the love she really felt. She was troubled at his neglect of
duty, and so sorry that he, of all others, should have been the one to
cast the first shadow across the bright future which she had been
anticipating before his ill-timed arrival. It was love out of time and
season, and lacked the savour and spontaneity which are the result of
proper conditions. Jamie felt the unhappy atmosphere, and was offended.

"I'm not wanted here, it seems," he said in a tone of injury.

"You are wanted in the boat, Jamie; that is where the fault lies. You
should have been there. There is no outgait from that fact."

"Well then, I have said I was sorry. Is not that enough?"

"For me, yes. But Andrew likes a man to be prompt and sure in business.
It is the only way to make money."

"Make money! I can make money among Andrew Binnie's feet, for all he
thinks so much of himself. A friend's claims are before money-making.
I'll stand to that, till all the seas go dry."

"Andrew has very strict ideas; you must have found that out, Jamie, and
you should not go against them."

"Andrew is headstrong as the north-wind. He goes clear o'er the bounds
both sides. Everything is the very worst, or the very best. I'm not
denying I was a bit wrong; but I consider I had a good excuse for it."

"Is there ever a good excuse for doing wrong, Jamie? But we will let
the affair drop out of mind and talk. There are pleasanter things to
speak of, I'm sure."

But the interview was a disappointment. Jamie went continually back to
Andrew's reproof, and Christina herself seemed to be under a spell. She
could not find the gentle words that would have soothed her lover, her
manner became chill and silent; and Jamie finally went away, much hurt
and offended. Yet she followed him to the door, and watched him kicking
the stones out of his path as he went rapidly down the cliff-side. And
if she had been near enough, she would have heard him muttering
angrily:--

"I'm not caring! I'm not caring! The moral pride of they Binnies is
ridic'lus! One would require to be a very saint to come within sight of
them."

Such a wretched ending to an evening that had begun with so much hope
and love! Christina stood sadly at the open door and watched her lover
across the lonely sands, and felt the natural disappointment of the
circumstances. Then the moon began to rise, and when she noticed this,
she remembered how late her mother was away from home, and a slight
uneasiness crept into her heart. She threw a plaid around her head, and
was going to the neighbour's where she expected to find her, when Janet
appeared.

She came up to the cliff slowly, and her face was far graver than
ordinary when she entered the cottage, and with a pious ejaculation
threw off her shawl.

"What kept you at all, Mother? I was just going to seek you."

"Watty Robertson has won away at last."

"When did he die?"

"He went away with the tide. He was called just at the turn. Ah,
Christina, it is loving and dying all the time! Life is love and death;
for what is our life? It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little
time, and then vanisheth away."

"But Watty was well ready for the change, Mother?"

"He went away with a smile. And I staid by poor Lizzie, for I have
drank of the same cup, and I know how bitter was the taste of it. Old
Elspeth McDonald stretched the corpse, and her and I had a change of
words; but Lizzie was with me."

"What for did you clash at such a like time?"

"She covered up his face, and I said: 'Stop your hand, Elspeth. Don't
you go to cover Watty's face now. He never did ill to any one while he
lived, and there's no need to hide his face when he is dead.' And we
had a bit stramash about it, for I can't abide to hide up the face that
is honest and well loved, and Lizzie said I was right, and so Elspeth
went off in a tiff."

"I think there must be 'tiffs' floating about in the air to-night.
Jamie and Andrew have had a falling out, and Jamie went away far less
than pleased with me."

"What's to do between them?"

"Jamie met with an old friend who was hungry and thirsty, and he went
with him to the 'public' instead of going to the boat for Andrew, as he
promised to do. You know how Andrew feels about a word broken."

"_Toots_! Andrew Binnie has a deal to learn yet. You should have told
him it was better to show mercy, than to stick at a mouthful of words.
Had you never a soft answer to throw at the two fractious fools?"

"How could I interfere?"

"Finely! If you don't know the right way to throw with a thrawn man,
like Andrew, and to come round a soft man, like Jamie, I'm sorry for
you! A woman with a thimble-full of woman-wit could ravel them both
up--ravel them up like a cut of worsteds."

"Well, the day is near over. The clock will chap twelve in ten minutes,
and I'm going to my bed. I'm feared you won't sleep much, Mother. You
look awake to your instep."

"Never mind. I have some good thoughts for the sleepless. Folks don't
sleep well after seeing a man with wife and bairns round him look death
and judgment in the face."

"But Watty looked at them smiling, you said?"

"He did. Watty's religion went to the bottom and extremity of things.
I'll be asking this night for grace to live with, and then I'll get
grace to die with when my hour comes. You needn't fash your heart about
me. Sleeping or waking, I am in His charge. Nor about Jamie; he'll be
all right the morn. Nor about Andrew, for I'll tell him not to make a
Pharisee of himself--he has his own failing, and it isn't far to seek."

And it is likely Janet had her intended talk with her son, for nothing
more was said to Jamie about his neglect of duty; and the little cloud
was but a passing one, and soon blew over. Circumstances favoured
oblivion. Christina's love encompassed both her brother and her lover,
and Janet's womanly tact turned every shadow into sunshine, and
disarmed all suspicious or doubtful words. Also, the fishing season was
an unusually good one; every man was of price, and few men were better
worth their price than Jamie Logan. So an air of prosperity and
happiness filled each little cottage, and Andrew Binnie was certainly
saving money--a condition of affairs that always made him easy to live
with.

As for the women of the village, they were in the early day up to their
shoulders in work, and in the more leisurely evenings, they had
Christina's marriage and marriage presents to talk about. The girl had
many friends and relatives far and near, and every one remembered her.
It was a set of china from an aunt in Crail, or napery from some
cousins in Kirkcaldy, or quilts from her father's folk in Largo, and so
on, in a very charming monotony. Now and then a bit of silver came, and
once a very pretty American clock. And there was not a quilt or a
tablecloth, a bit of china or silver, a petticoat or a ribbon, that the
whole village did not examine, and discuss, and offer their
congratulations over.

Christina and her mother quite enjoyed this popular manifestation of
interest, and Jamie was not at all averse to the good-natured
familiarity. And though Andrew withdrew from such occasions, and
appeared to be rather annoyed than pleased by the frequent intrusion of
strange women, neither Janet nor Christina heeded his attitude very
much.

"What for would we be caring?" queried the mother. "There is just one
woman in the world to Andrew. If it was Sophy's wedding-presents now,
he would be in a wonder over them! But he is not wanting you to marry
at all, Christina. Men are a selfish lot. Somehow, I think he has taken
a doubt or a dislike to Jamie. He thinks he isn't good enough for you."

"He is as good as I want him. I'm feared for men as particular as
Andrew. They are whiles gey ill to live with. Andrew has not had a
smile for a body for a long time, and he has been making money. I
wonder if there is aught wrong between Sophy and himself."

"You might away to Largo and ask after the girl. She hasn't been here
in a good while. And I'm thinking yonder talk she had with you anent
Archie Braelands wasn't all out of her own head."

So that afternoon Christina put on her kirk dress, and went to Largo to
see Sophy. Her walk took her over a lonely stretch of country, though,
as she left the coast, she came to a lovely land of meadows, with here
and there waving plantations of young spruce or fir trees. Passing the
entrance to one of these sheltered spots, she saw a servant driving
leisurely back and forward a stylish dog-cart; and she had a sudden
intuition that it belonged to Braelands. She looked keenly into the
green shadows, but saw no trace of any human being; yet she had not
gone far, ere she was aware of light footsteps hurrying behind her, and
before she could realise the fact, Sophy called her in a breathless,
fretful way "to wait a minute for her." The girl came up flushed and
angry-looking, and asked Christina, "whatever brought her that far?"

"I was going to Largo to see you. Mother was getting worried about you.
It's long since you were near us." "I am glad I met you. For I was
wearied with the sewing to-day, and I asked Aunt to let me have a
holiday to go and see you; and now we can go home together, and she
will never know the differ. You must not tell her but what I have been
to Pittendurie. My goodness! It is lucky I met you."

"But where have you been, Sophy?"

"I have been with a friend, who gave me a long drive."

"Who would that be?"

"Never you mind. There is nothing wrong to it. You may trust me for
that, Christina. I was fairly worn out, and Aunt hasn't a morsel of
pity. She thinks I ought to be glad to sew from Monday morning to
Saturday night, and I tell you it hurts me, and gives me a cough, and I
had to get a breath of sea-air or die for it. So a friend gave me what
I wanted."

"But if you had come to our house, you could have got the sea-air
finely. Sophy! Sophy! I am misdoubting what you tell me. How came you
in the wood?"

"We were taking a bit walk by ourselves there. I love the smell of the
pines, and the peace, and the silence. It rests me; and I didn't want
folks spying, and talking, and going with tales to Aunt. She ties me up
shorter than needs be now."

"He was a mean fellow to leave you here all by yourself."

"I made him do it. Goodness knows, he is fain enough to be seen by high
and low with me. But Andrew would not like it; he is that
jealous-natured--and I just _be_ to have some rest and fresh air."

"Andrew would gladly give you both."

"Not he! He is away to the fishing, or about his business, one way or
another, all the time. And I am that weary of stitch, stitch,
stitching, I could cry at the thought of it."

"Was it Archie Braelands that gave you the drive?"

"Ay, it was. Archie is just my friend, nothing more. I have told him,
and better told him, that I am to marry Andrew."

"He is a scoundrel then to take you out."

"He is nothing of the kind. He is just a friend. I am doing Andrew no
wrong, and myself a deal of good."

"Then why are you feared for people seeing you?"

"I am not feared. But I don't want to be the wonder and the talk of
every idle body. And I am not able to bear my aunt's nag, nag, nag at
me. I wish I was married. It isn't right of Andrew to leave me so much
to myself. It will be his own fault if he loses me altogether. I am
worn out with Aunt Kilgour, and my life is a fair weariness to me."

"Andrew is getting everything brawly ready for you. I wish I could tell
you what grand plans he has for your happiness. Be true to Andrew,
Sophy, and you will be the happiest bride, and the best loved wife in
all Scotland."

"Plans! What plans? What has he told you?"

"I am not free to speak, Sophy. I should not have said a word at all. I
hope you will just forget I have."

"Indeed I will not! I will make Andrew tell me his plans. Why should he
tell you, and not me? It is a shame to treat me that way, and he shall
hear tell of it."

"Sophy! Sophy! I would as lief you killed me as told Andrew I had given
you a hint of his doings. He would never forgive me. I can no forgive
myself. Oh what a foolish, wicked woman I have been to say a word to
you!" and Christina burst into passionate weeping.

"_Whist_! Christina; I'll never tell him, not I! I know well you
slipped the words to pleasure me. But giff-gaff makes us good friends,
and so you must just walk to the door with me and pass a word with my
aunt, and say neither this nor that about me, and I will forget you
ever said Andrew had such a thing as a 'plan' about me."

The proposal was not to Christina's mind, but she was ready to face any
contingency rather than let Andrew know she had given the slightest
hint of his intentions. She understood what joy he had in the thought
of telling his great news to Sophy at its full time, and how angry he
would naturally feel at any one who interfered with his designs. In a
moment, without intention, with the very kindest of motives, she had
broken her word to her brother, and she was as miserable as a woman
could be over the unhappy slip. And Sophy's proposal added to her
remorse. It made her virtually connive at Sophy's intercourse with
Archie Braelands, and she felt herself to be in a great strait. In
order to favour her brother she had spoken hastily, and the swift
punishment of her folly was that she must now either confess her fault
or tacitly sanction a wrong against him.

For the present, she could see no way out of the difficulty. To tell
Andrew would be to make him suspicious on every point. He would then
doubtless find some other hiding place for his money, and if any
accident did happen, her mother, and Sophy, and all Andrew loved, would
suffer for her indiscretion. She took Sophy's reiterated promise, and
then walked with the girl to her aunt's house. It was a neat stone
dwelling, with some bonnets and caps in the front window, and when the
door was opened, a bell rang, and Mistress Kilgour came hastily from an
inner room. She looked pleased when she saw Sophy and Christina, and
said:--

"Come in, Christina. I am glad you brought Sophy home in such good
time. For I'm in a state of perfect frustration this afternoon. Here's
a bride gown and bonnet to make, and a sound of more work coming."

"Who is to be married, Miss Kilgour?"

"Madame Kilrin of Silverhawes--a second affair, Christina, and she more
than middle-aged."

"She is rich, though?"

"That's it! rich, but made up of odds and ends, and but one eye to see
with: a prelatic woman, too, seeking all things her own way."

"And the man? Who is he?"

"He is a lawyer. Them gentry have their fingers in every pie, hot or
cold. However, I'm wishing them nothing but good. Madame is a constant
customer. Come, come, Christina, you are not going already?"

"I am hurried to-night. Mistress Kilgour. Mother is alone. Andrew is
away to Greenock on business."

"So you came back with Sophy. I am glad you did. There are some folks
that are o'er ready to take charge of the girl, and some that seem to
think she can take charge of herself. Oh, she knows fine what I mean!"
And Miss Kilgour pointed her fore-finger at Sophy and shook her head
until all the flowers in her cap and all the ringlets on her front hair
dangled in unison.

Sophy had turned suddenly sulky and made no reply, and Miss Kilgour
continued: "It is her way always, when she has been to your house,
Christina. Whatever do you say to her? Is there anything agec between
Andrew and herself? Last week and the week before, she came back from
Pittendurie in a temper no saint could live with."

"I'm so miserable. Aunt. I am miserable every hour of my life."

"And you wouldn't be happy unless you were miserable, Sophy. Don't mind
her talk, Christina. Young things in love don't know what they want."

"I am sick, Aunt."

"You are in love, Sophy, and that is all there is to it. Don't go,
Christina. Have a cup of tea first?"

"I cannot stop any longer. Good-bye, Sophy. I'll tell Andrew to come
and give you a walk to-morrow. Shall I?"

"If you like to. He will not come until Sunday, though; and then he
will be troubled about walking on the Sabbath day. I'm not caring to go
out."

"That is a lie, Sophy Traill!" cried her aunt. "It is the only thing
you do care about."

"You had better go home, Christina," said Sophy, with a sarcastic
smile, "or you will be getting a share of temper that does not belong
to you. I am well used to it."

Christina made an effort to consider this remark as a joke, and under
this cover took her leave. She was thankful to be alone with herself.
Her thoughts and feelings were in a tumult; she could not bring any
kind of reason out of their chaos. Her chagrin at her own folly was
sharp and bitter. It made her cry out against herself as she trod
rapidly her homeward road. Almost inadvertently, because it was the
shortest and most usual way, she took the route that led her past
Braelands. The great house was thrown open, and on the lawns was a
crowd of handsomely dressed men and women, drinking tea at little
tables set under the trees and among the shrubbery. Christina merely
glanced at the brave show of shifting colour, and passed more quickly
onward, the murmur of conversation and the ripple of laughter pursuing
her a little way, for the evening was warm and quiet.

She thought of Sophy among this gay crowd, and felt the incongruity of
the situation, and a sense of anger sprung up in her breast at the
girl's wicked impatience and unfaithfulness. It had caused her also to
err, for she had been tempted by it to speak words which had been a
violation of her own promise, and yet which had really done no good.

"She was always one of those girls that led others into trouble," she
reflected. "Many a scolding she has got me when I was a wee thing, and
to think that now! with the promise to Andrew warm on my lips, I have
put myself in her power! It is too bad! It is not believable!"

She was glad when she came within sight of the sea; it was like a
glimpse of home. The damp, fresh wind with its strong flavour of brine
put heart into her, and the few sailors and fishers she met, with their
sweethearts on their arms and their blue shirts open at their throats,
had all a merry word or two to say to her. When she reached her home,
she found Andrew sitting at a little table looking over some papers
full of strange marks and columns of figures. His quick glance, and the
quiet assurance of his love contained in it, went sorely to her heart.
She would have fallen at his feet and confessed her unadvised admission
to Sophy gladly, but she doubted, whether it would be the kindest and
wisest thing to do.

And then Janet joined them, and she had any number of questions to ask
about Sophy, and Christina, to escape being pressed on this subject,
began to talk with forced interest of Madame Kilrin's marriage. So,
between this and that, the evening got over without suspicion, and
Christina carried her miserable sense of disloyalty to bed and to sleep
with her--literally to sleep, for she dreamed all night of the
circumstance, and awakened in the morning with a heart as heavy as
lead.

"But it is just what I deserve!" she said crossly to herself, as she
laced her shoes, "what need had I to be caring about Sophy Traill and
her whims? She is a dissatisfied lass at the best, and her love affairs
are beyond my sorting. Serves you right, Christina Binnie! You might
know, if anybody might, that they who put their oar into another's boat
are sure to get their fingers rapped. They deserve it too."

However, Christina could not willingly dwell long on sorrowful
subjects. She was always inclined to subdue trouble swiftly, or else to
shake it away from her. For she lived by intuition, rather than by
reason; and intuition is born of, and fed by, home affection and devout
religion. Something too of that insight which changes faith into
knowledge, and which is the birthright of primitive natures, was hers,
and she divined, she knew not how, that Sophy would be true to her
promise, and not say a word which would lead Andrew to doubt her. And
so far she was right. Sophy had many faults, but the idea of breaking
her contract with Christina did not even occur to her.

She wondered what plans Andrew had, and what good surprise he was
preparing for her, but she was in no special hurry to find it out. The
knowledge might bring affairs to a permanent crisis between her and
Andrew,--might mean marriage--and Sophy dreaded to face this question,
with all its isolating demands. Her "friendship" with Archie Braelands
was very sweet to her; she could not endure to think of any event which
must put a stop to it. She enjoyed Archie's regrets and pleadings. She
liked to sigh a little and cry a little over her hard fate; to be
sympathised with for it; to treat it as if she could not escape from
it; and yet to be nursing in her heart a passionate hope to do so.

And after all, the process of reflection is unnatural and uncommon to
nine tenths of humanity; and so Christina lifted her daily work and
interests, and tried to forget her fault. And indeed, as the weeks went
on, she tried to believe it had been no fault, for Sophy was much
kinder to Andrew for some time; this fact being readily discernible in
Andrew's cheerful moods, and in the more kindly interest which he then
took in his home matters.

"For it is well with us, when it is well with Sophy Traill, and we have
the home weather she lets us have," Janet often remarked. The assertion
had a great deal of truth in it. Sophy, from her chair in Mistress
Kilgour's workroom, greatly influenced the domestic happiness of the
Binnie cottage, even though they neither saw her, nor spoke her name.
But her moods made Andrew happy or miserable, and Andrew's moods made
Janet and Christina happy or miserable; so sure and so wonderful a
thing is human solidarity. Yes indeed! For what one of us has not known
some man or woman, never seen, who holds the thread of a destiny and
yet has no knowledge concerning it. This thought would make life a
desperate tangle if we did not also know that One, infinite in power
and mercy, guides every event to its predestined and its wisest end.

For a little while after Christina's visit, Sophy was particularly kind
to Andrew; then there came a sudden change, and Christina noticed that
her brother returned from Largo constantly with a heavy step and a
gloomy face. Occasionally he admitted to her that he had been "sorely
disappointed," but as a general thing he shut himself in his room and
sulked as only men know how to sulk, till the atmosphere of the house
was tingling with suppressed temper, and every one was on the edge of
words that the tongue meant to be sharp as a sword.

One morning in October, Christina met her brother on the sands, and he
said, "I will take the boat and give you a sail, if you like,
Christina. There is only a pleasant breeze."

"I wish you would, Andrew," she answered. "This little northwester will
blow every weariful thought away."

"I'm feared I have been somewhat cross and ill to do for, lately.
Mother says so."

"Mother does not say far wrong. You have lost your temper often,
Andrew, and consequent your common sense. And it is not like you to be
unfair, not to say unkind; you have been that more than once, and to
two who love you dearly."

Andrew said no more until they were on the bay, then he let the oars
drift, and asked:--

"What did you think of Sophy the last time you saw her? Tell me truly,
Christina."

"Who knows aught about Sophy? She hardly knows her own mind. You cannot
tell what she is thinking about by her face, any more than you can tell
what she is going to do by her words. She is as uncertain as the wind,
and it has changed since you lifted the oars. Is there anything new to
fret yourself over?"

"Ay, there is. I cannot get sight of her."

"Are you twenty-seven years old, and of such a beggary of capacity as
not to be able to concert time and place to see her?"

"But if she herself is against seeing me, then how am I going to
manage?"

"What way did you find out that she was against seeing you?"

"Whatever else could I think, when I get no other thing but excuses?
First, she was gone away for a week's rest, and Mistress Kilgour said I
had better not trouble her--she was that nervous."

"Where did she go to?"

"I don't believe she was out of her aunt's house. I am sure the postman
was astonished when I told him she was away, and her aunt's face was
very confused-like. Then when I went again she had a headache, and
could hardly speak a word to me; and she never named about the week's
holiday. And the next time there was a ball dress making; and the next
she had gone to the minister's for her 'token,' and when I said I would
go there and meet her, I was told not to think of such a thing; and so
on, and so on, Christina. There is nothing but put-offs and put-bys,
and my heart is full of sadness and fearful wonder."

"And if you do see her, what then, Andrew?"

"She is that low-spirited I do not know how to talk to her. She has
little to say, and sits with her seam, and her eyes cast down, and all
her pretty, merry ways are gone far away. I wonder where! Do you think
she is ill, Christina?" he asked drearily.

"No, I do not, Andrew."

"Her mother died of a consumption, when she was only a young thing, you
know."

"That is no reason why Sophy should die of a consumption. Andrew, have
you ever told her what your plans are? Have you told her she may be a
lady and live in London if it pleases her? Have you told her that you
will soon be _Captain Binnie_ of the North Sea fleet?"

"No, no! What for would I bribe the girl? I want her free given love. I
want her to marry plain Andrew Binnie. I will tell her everything the
very hour she is my wife. That is the joy I look forward to. And it is
right, is it not?"

"No. It is all wrong. It is all wrong. Girls like men that have the
spirit to win siller and push their way in the world."

"I cannot thole the thought of Sophy marrying me for my money."

"You think o'er much of your money. Ask yourself whether in getting
money you have got good, or only gold. And about marrying Sophy, it is
not in your hand. Marriages are made in heaven, and unless there has
been a booking of your two names above, I am feared all your courting
below will come to little. Yet it is your duty to do all you can to win
the girl you want; and I can tell you what will win Sophy Traill, if
anything on earth will win her." Then she pointed out to him how fond
Sophy was of fine dress and delicate living; how she loved roses, and
violets, and the flowers of the garden, so much better than the pale,
salt blossoms of the sea rack, however brilliant their colours; how she
admired such a house as Braelands, and praised the glory of the
peacock's trailing feathers. "The girl is not born for a poor man's
wife," she continued, "her heart cries out for gold, and all that gold
can buy; and if you are set on Sophy, and none but Sophy, you will have
to win her with what she likes best, or else see some other man do so."

"Then I will be buying her, and not winning her."

"Oh you unspeakable man! Your conceit is just extraordinary! If you
wanted any other good thing in life, from a big ship to a gold ring,
would you not expect to buy it? Would your loving it, and wanting it,
be sufficient? Jamie Logan knew well what he was about, when he brought
us the letter from the Hendersons' firm. I love Jamie very dearly; but
I'm free to confess the letter came into my consideration."

Talking thus, with the good wind blowing the words into his heart,
Christina soon inspired Andrew with her own ideas and confidence His
face cleared; he began to row with his natural energy; and as they
stepped on the wet sands together, he said almost joyfully:--

"I will take your advice, Christina. I will go and tell Sophy
everything."

"Then she will smile in your face, she will put her hand in your hand;
maybe, she will give you a kiss, for she will be thinking in her heart,
'how brave and how clever my Andrew is.' And he will be taking me to
London and making me a lady!' and such thoughts breed love, Andrew. You
are well enough, and few men handsomer or better--unless it be Jamie
Logan--but it isn't altogether the man; it is what the man _can do_."

"I'll go and see Sophy to-morrow."

"Why not to-day?"

"She is going to Mariton House to fit a dress and do some sewing. Her
aunt told me so."

"If I was you, I would not let her sew for strangers any longer. Go and
ask her to marry you at once, and do not take 'no' from her."

"Your words stir my heart to the bottom of it, and I will do as you
say, Christina; for Sophy has grown into my life, like my own folk, and
the sea, and the stars, and my boat, and my home. And if she will love
me the better for the news I have to tell her, I am that far gone in
love with her I must even put wedding on that ground. Win her I must;
or else die for her."

"Win her, surely; die for her, nonsense! No man worth the name of man
would die because a woman wouldn't marry him. God has made more than
one good woman, more than one fair woman."

"Only one woman for Andrew Binnie."

"To be sure, if you choose to limit yourself in that way. I think
better of you. And as for dying for a woman, I don't believe in it."

"Poor Matt Ballantyne broke his heart about Jessie Graham."

"It was a very poor heart then. Nothing mends so soon as a good heart.
It trusts in the Omnipotent, and gets strength for its need, and then
begins to look around for good it can do, or make for others, or take
to itself. If Matt broke his heart for Jessie, Jessie would have been
poorly cared for by such a weak kind of a heart. She is better off with
Neil McAllister, no doubt."

"You have done me good, Christina. I have not heard so many sound
observes in a long time."

And with that Janet came to the cliff-top and called to them to hurry.
"Step out!" she cried, "here is Jamie Logan with a pocket full of great
news; and the fish is frying itself black, while you two are
daundering, as if it was your very business and duty to keep hungry
folk waiting their dinner for you."

CHAPTER IV

THE LAST OF THE WHIP

With a joyful haste Christina went forward, leaving her brother to
follow in more sober fashion. Jamie came to the cliff-top to meet her,
and Janet from the cottage door beamed congratulations and radiant
sympathy.

"I have got my berth on the Line, Christina! I am to sail next Friday
from Greenock, so I'll start at once, my dearie! And I am the happiest
lad in Fife to-day!"

He had his arms around her as he spoke, and he kissed her smiles and
glad exclamations off her lips before she could put them into words.
Then Andrew joined them, and after clasping hands with Jamie and
Christina, he went slowly into the cottage, leaving the lovers alone
outside. Janet was all excitement.

"I'm like to greet with the good news, Andrew," she said, "it came so
unexpected Jamie was just daundering over the sands, kind of
down-hearted, he said, and wondering if he would stay through the
winter and fish with Peddle or not, when little Maggie Johnston cried
out, 'there is a big letter for you, Jamie Logan,' and he went and got
it, and, lo and behold! it was from the Hendersons themselves! And they
are needing Jamie now, and he'll just go at once, he says. There's luck
for you! I am both laughing and crying with the pride and the pleasure
of it!"

"I wouldn't make such a fuss, anyway, Mother. It is what Jamie has been
looking for and expecting, and I am glad he has won to it at last."

"Fuss indeed! Plenty of 'fuss' made over sorrow; why not over joy? And
if you think me a fool for it, I'm not sure but I might call you my
neighbour, if it was only Sophy Traill or her affairs to be 'fussed'
over."

"Never mind Sophy, Mother. It is Jamie and Christina now, and Christina
knows her happiness is dear to me as my own."

"Well then, show it, Andrew. Show it, my lad! We must do what we can to
put heart into poor Jamie; for when all is said and done, he is going
to foreign parts and leaving love and home behind." And she walked to
the door and looked at Jamie and Christina, who were standing on the
cliff-edge together, deeply engaged in a conversation that was of the
highest interest to themselves. "I have fancied you have been a bit shy
with Jamie since yon time he set an old friend before his promise to
you, Andrew; but what then?"

"I wish Christina had married among our own folk. I have no wrong to
say in particular of Jamie Logan, but I think my sister might have made
her life with some good man a bit closer to her."

"I thought, Andrew, that you were able to look sensibly at what comes
and goes. If it was a matter of business, you would be the first to see
the advantage of building your dyke with the stones you could get at.
And you may believe me or not, but there's a deal of the successful
work of this life carried through on that principle. Well, in marrying
it is just as wise. The lad you _can get_, is happen better than the
lad you _want_. Anyhow Christina is going to marry Jamie; and I'm sure
he is that loving and pleasant, and that fond of her, that I have no
doubt she will be happy as the day is long."

"I hope it is the truth, Mother, that you are saying."

"It is; but some folks won't see the truth, though they are dashing
their noses against it. None so blind as they who won't see."

"Well, it isn't within my right to speak to-day."

"Yes, it is. It is your right and place to speak all the good and
hopeful words you can think of. Don't be dour, Andrew. Man! man! how
hard it is to rejoice with them that do rejoice! It takes more
Christianity to do that than most folks carry around with them."

"Mother, you are a perfectly unreasonable woman. You flyte at me, as if
I was a laddie of ten years old--but I'll not dare to say but what you
do me a deal of good;" and Andrew's face brightened as he looked at
her.

"You would hardly do the right thing, if I didn't flyte at you, Andrew.
And maybe I wouldn't do it myself, if I was not watching you; having
nobody to scold and advise is very like trying to fly a kite without
wind. Go to the door and call in Jamie and Christina. We ought to take
an interest in their bit plans and schemes; and if we take it, we ought
to show we take it."

Then Andrew rose and went to the open door, and as he went he laid his
big hand on his mother's shoulder, and a smile flew from face to face,
and in its light every little shadow vanished. And Jamie was glad to
bring in his promised bride, and among her own people as they eat
together, talk over the good that had come to them, and the changes
that were incident to it. And thus an hour passed swiftly away, and
then "farewells" full of love and hope, and laughter and tears, and
hand-clasping, and good words, were said; and Jamie went off to his new
life, leaving a thousand pleasant hopes and expectations behind him.

After he was fairly out of sight, and Christina stood looking tearfully
into the vacancy where his image still lingered, Andrew led her to the
top of the cliff, and they sat down together. It was an exquisite
afternoon, full of the salt and sparkle of the sea; and for awhile both
remained silent, looking down on the cottages, and the creels, and the
drying nets. The whole village seemed to be out, and the sands were
covered with picturesque figures in sea-boots and striped hanging caps,
and with the no less picturesque companion figures in striped
petticoats. Some of the latter were old women, and these wore
high-crowned, unbordered caps of white linen; others were young women,
and these had no covering at all on their exuberant hair; but most of
them displayed long gold rings in their ears, and bright scarlet or
blue kerchiefs round their necks. Andrew glanced from these figures to
his sister; and touching her striped petticoat, he said:--

"You'll be changing this for what they call a gown, when you go to
Glasgow! How soon is that to be, Christina?"

"When Jamie has got well settled in his place. It wouldn't be prudent
before."

"About the New Year, say?"

"Ay; about the New Year."

"I am thinking of giving you a silk gown for your wedding."

"O Andrew! if you would! A silk gown would set me up above every thing!
I'll never forget such a favour as that."

"I'll do it."

"And Sophy will see to the making of it. Sophy has a wonderful taste
about trimming, and the like of that. Sophy will stand up with me, and
you will be Jamie's best man; won't you, Andrew?"

"Ay, Sophy will see to the making of it. Few can make a gown look as
she can. She is a clever bit thing"--then after a pause he added sadly,
"there was one thing I did not tell you this morning; but it is a
circumstance I feel very badly about."

"What is it? You know well that I shall feel with you."

"It is the way folks keep hinting this and that to me; but more, that I
am mistrusting Mistress Kilgour. I saw a young fellow standing at the
shop door talking to her the other morning very confidential-like--a
young fellow that could not have any lawful business with her."

"What kind of a person was he?"

"A large, dark man, dressed like a picture in a tailor's window. His
servant-man, in a livery of brown and yellow, was holding the horses in
a fine dog-cart. I asked Jimmy Faulds what his name was and he laughed
and said it was Braelands of Braelands, and he should think I knew it
and then he looked at me that queer, that I felt as if his eyes had
told me of some calamity. 'What is he doing at Mistress Kilgour's?' I
asked as soon as I could get myself together, and Jimmy answered, 'I
suppose he is ordering Madame Braelands' millinery,' and then he
snickered and laughed again, and I had hard lines to keep my hands from
striking him.'

"What for at all?"

"I don't know. I wish I did."

"If I give you my advice, will you take it?"

"I will."

"Then for once--if you don't want Braelands to win Sophy from you--put
your lover's fears and shamefacedness behind your back. Just remember
who and what you are, and what you are like to be, and go and tell
Sophy everything, and ask her to marry you next Monday morning. Take
gold in your pocket, and buy her a wedding gift--a ring, or a brooch,
or some bonnie thing or other; and promise her a trip to Edinburgh or
London, or any other thing she fancies."

"We have not been 'cried' yet. And the names must be read in the kirk
for three Sundays."

"Oh man! Cannot you get a licence? It will cost you a few shillings,
but what of that? You are too slow, Andrew. If you don't take care, and
make haste, Braelands will run away with your wife before your very
eyes."

"I'll not believe it. It could not be. The thing is unspeakable, and
unbearable. I'll face my fate the morn, and I'll know the best--or the
worst of what is coming to me."

"Look for good, and have good, that is, if you don't let the good hour
go by. You, Andrew Binnie! that can manage a boat when the north wind
is doing its mightiest, are you going to be one of the cony kind, when
it comes to a slip of a girl like Sophy? I can not think it, for you
know what Solomon said of such--'Oh Son, it is a feeble folk.'"

"I don't come of feeble folk, body nor soul; and as I have said, I will
have the whole matter out with Sophy to-morrow."

"Good--but better _do_ than say."

The next morning a swift look of intelligence passed between Andrew and
Christina at breakfast, and about eleven o'clock Andrew said, "I'll
away now to Largo, and settle the business we were speaking of,
Christina." She looked up at him critically, and thought she had never
seen a handsomer man. Though only a fisherman, he was too much a force
of nature to be vulgar. He was the incarnation of the grey, old
village, and of the North Sea, and of its stormy winds and waters.
Standing in his boots he was over six feet, full of pluck and fibre, a
man not made for the town and its narrow doorways, but for the great
spaces of the tossing ocean. His face was strong and finely formed; his
eyes grey and open--as eyes might be that had so often searched the
thickest of the storm with unquailing glance. A sensitive flush
overspread his brow and cheeks as Christina gazed at him, and he said
nervously:--

"I will require to put on my best clothes; won't I, Christina?"

She laid her hand on his arm, and shook her head with a pleasant smile.
She was regarding with pride and satisfaction her brother's fine
figure, admirably shown in the elastic grace of his blue Guernsey. She
turned the collar low enough to leave his round throat a little bare,
and put his blue flannel _Tam o' Shanter_ over his close, clustering
curls. "Go as you are," she said. "In that dress you feel at home, and
at ease, and you look ten times the man you do in your broadcloth. And

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