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A Knight of the Nets by Amelia E. Barr

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of the whole affair! And then this morning, the first thing she said to
me was, that she wanted to see her cousins Isobel and Christina."

"She asked me also about them, Mother, and really, I think she had
better be humoured in this matter. Our friends are not her friends."

"They ought to be."

"Let us be just. When has she had any opportunity to make them so? She
has seen no one yet,--her health has been so bad--and it did often
look. Mother, as if you encouraged her _not_ to see callers."

"Perhaps I did, Archie. You cannot blame me. Her manners are so crude,
so exigent, so effusive. She is so much pleased, or so indifferent
about people; so glad to see them, or else so careless as to how she
treats them. You have no idea what I suffered when Lady Blair called,
and insisted on meeting your wife. Of course she pretended to fall in
love with her, and kissed, and petted, and flattered Sophy, until the
girl hardly knew what she was doing or saying. And as for 'saying,' she
fell into broad Scotch, as she always does when she is pleased or
excited, and Lady Blair professed herself charmed, and talked broad
Scotch back to her. And I? I sat tingling with shame and annoyance, for
I knew right well what mockeries and laughter Sophy was supplying
Annette Blair with for her future visitors."

"I think you are wrong. Lady Blair is not at all ill-natured. She was
herself a poor minister's daughter, and accustomed to go in and out of
the fishers' cottages. I can imagine that she would really be charmed
with Sophy."

"You can 'imagine' what you like; that will not alter the real state of
the case; and if Sophy is ever to take her position as your wife, she
must be prepared for it. Besides which, it will be a good thing to give
her some new interests in life, for she must drop the old ones. About
that there cannot be two opinions."

"What then do you propose, Mother?"

"I should get proper teachers for her. Her English education has been
frightfully neglected; and she ought to learn music and French."

"She speaks French pretty well. I never saw any one pick up a language
as cleverly as she did the few weeks we were in Paris."

"O, she is clever enough if she wants to be! There is a French woman
teaching at Miss Linley's Seminary. She will perfect her. And I have
heard she also plays well. It would be a good thing to engage her for
Sophy, two or three hours a day. A teacher for grammar, history,
writing, etc., is easily found. I myself will give her lessons in
social etiquette, and in all things pertaining to the dignity and
decorum which your wife ought to exhibit. Depend upon it, Archie, this
routine is absolutely necessary. It will interest and occupy her idle
hours, of which she has far too many; and it will wean her better than
any other thing from her low, uncultivated relations."

"The poor little woman says she wants to be loved; that she is lonely
when I am away; that no one but the servants care for her; that
therefore she wants to see her cousins and kinsfolk."

"She does me a great injustice. I would love her if she would be
reasonable--if she would only trust me. But idle hearts are lonely
hearts, Archie. Tell her you wish her to study, and fit herself for the
position you have raised her to. Surely the desire to please you ought
to be enough. Do you know _who_ this Christina Binnie is that she talks
so continually about?"

"Her fourth or fifth cousin, I believe."

"She is the sister of the man you won Sophy from--the man whom you
struck across the cheek with your whip. Now do you wish her to see
Christina Binnie!"

"Yes, I do! Do you think I am jealous or fearful of my wife? No, by
Heaven! No! Sophy may be unlearned and unfashionable, but she is loyal
and true, and if she wants to see her old lover and his sister, she has
my full permission. As for the fisherman, he behaved very nobly. And I
did not intend to strike him. It was an accident, and I shall apologise
for it the first opportunity I have to do so."

"You are a fool, Archie Braelands."

"I am a husband, who knows his wife's heart and who trusts in it. And
though I think you are quite right in your ideas about Sophy's
education, I do not think you are right in objecting to her seeing her
old friends. Every one in this bound of Fife knows that I married a
fisher-girl. I never intend to be ashamed of the fact. If our social
world will accept her as the representative of my honour and my family,
I shall be obliged to the world. If it will not, I can live without its
approval--having Sophy to love me and live with me. I counted all this
cost before I married; you may be sure of that, Mother."

"You forgot, however, to take my honour and feelings into your
consideration."

"I knew, Mother, that you were well able to protect your own honour and
feelings."

This conversation but indicates the tone of many others which occupied
the hours mother and son passed together during Sophy's convalescence.
And the son, being the weaker character of the two, was insensibly
moved and moulded to all Madame's opinions. Indeed, before Sophy was
well enough to begin the course of study marked out for her, Archie had
become thoroughly convinced that it was his first duty to his wife and
himself to insist upon it.

The weak, loving woman made no objections. Indeed, Archie's evident
enthusiasm sensibly affected her own desires. She listened with
pleasure to the plans for her education, and promised "as soon as she
was able, to do her very best."

And there was a strange pathos in the few words "as soon as I am able,"
which Archie remembered years afterwards, when it was far too late. At
the moment, they touched him but lightly, but _Oh, afterwards!_ Oh,
afterwards! when memory brought back the vision of the small white face
on the white pillow, and the faint golden light of the golden curls
shadowing the large blue eyes that even then had in them that wide gaze
and wistfulness that marks those predestined for sorrow or early death.
Alas! Alas! We see too late, we hear too late, when it is the dead who
open the eyes and the ears of the living!

CHAPTER VIII

A GREAT DELIVERANCE

While these clouds of sorrow were slowly gathering in the splendid
house of Braelands, there was a full tide of grief and anxiety in the
humble cottage of the Binnies. The agony of terror which had changed
Janet Binnie's countenance, and sent Christina flying up the cliff for
help, was well warranted by Andrew's condition. The man was in the most
severe maniacal delirium of brain inflammation, and before the dawning
of the next day, required the united strength of two of his mates to
control him. To leave her mother and brother in this extremity would
have been a cruelty beyond the contemplation of Christina Binnie. Its
possibility never entered her mind. All her anger and sense of wrong
vanished before the pitiful sight of the strong man in the throes of
his mental despair and physical agony. She could not quite ignore her
waiting lover, even in such an hour; but she was not a ready writer, so
her words were few and to the point:--

DEAR JAMIE--Andrew is ill and like to die, and my place, dear lad, is
here, until some change come. I must stand by mother and Andrew now,
and you yourself would bid me do so. Death is in the house and by the
pillow, and there is only God's mercy to trust to. Andrew is clean off
his senses, and ill to manage, so you will know that he was not in
reason when he spoke so wrong to you, and you will be sorry for him and
forgive the words he said, because he did not know what he was saying;
and now he knows nothing at all, not even his mother. Do not forget to
pray for us in our sorrow, dear Jamie, and I will keep ever a prayer
round about you in case of danger on the sea or on land. Your true,
troth-plighted wife,

CHRISTINA BINNIE

This letter was her last selfish act for many a week. After it had been
written, she put all her own affairs out of her mind and set herself
with heart and soul, by day and by night, to the duty before her. She
suffered no shadow of the bygone to darken her calm strong face or to
weaken the hands and heart from which so much was now expected. And she
continually told herself not to doubt in these dark days the mercy of
the Eternal, taking hope and comfort, as she went about her duties,
from a few words Janet had said, even while she was weeping bitterly
over her son's sufferings--

"But I am putting all fear Christina, under my feet, for nothing comes
to pass without helping on some great end."

Now what great end Andrew's severe illness was to help on, Christina
could not divine; but like her brave mother, she put fear under her
feet, and looked confidently for "the end" which she trusted would be
accomplished in God's time and mercy.

So week after week the two women walked with love and courage by the
sick man's side, through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Often his
life lay but within his lips, and they watched with prayer continually,
lest he should slip away to them that had gone before, wanting its
mighty shield in the great perilous journey of the soul. And though
there is no open vision in these days, yet His Presence is ever near to
those who seek him with all the heart. So that wonderful things were
seen and experienced in that humble room, where the man lay at the
point of death.

Andrew had his share of these experiences. Whatever God said to the
waiting, watching women, He kept for His suffering servant some of His
richest consolations, and so made all his bed in his sickness. Andrew
was keenly sensible of these ministrations, and he grew strong in their
heavenly strength; for though the vaults of God are full of wine, the
soul that has drunk of His strong wine of Pain knows that it has tasted
the costliest vintage of all, and asks on this earth no better.

And as our thoughts affect our surroundings, quite as much as rain or
sunshine affect the atmosphere, these two women, with the sick man on
their hearts and hands, were not unhappy women. They did their very
best, and trusted God for the outcome. Thus Heaven helped them, and
their neighbours helped them, and taking turns in their visitation,
they found the Kirk also to be a big, calm friend in the time of their
trouble. And then one morning, before the dawn broke, when life seemed
to be at its lowest point, when hope was nearly gone, and the shadow of
Death fell across the sick man's face, there was suddenly a faint,
strange flutter. Some mighty one went out of the door, as the sunshine
touched the lintel, and the life began to turn back, just as the tide
began to flow.

Then Janet rose up softly and opened the house door, and looking at her
son and at the turning waters, she said solemnly:--

"Thank God, Christina! He has turned with the tide? He is all right
now."

It was April, however, in its last days, before Andrew had strength
sufficient to go down the cliff, and the first news he heard in the
village, was that Mistress Braelands had lain at death's door also.
Doubtless it explained some testimony private to his own experience,
for he let the intelligence pass through his ear-chambers into his
heart, without remark, but it made there a great peace--a peace pure
and loving as that which passeth understanding.

There was, however, no hope or expectation of his resuming work until
the herring fishing in June, and Janet and Christina were now suffering
sorely from a strange dilemma. Never before in all their lives had they
known what it was to be pinched for ready money. It was hard for Janet
to realise that there was no longer "a little bit in the Largo bank to
fall back on." Naturally economical, and always regarding it as a
sacred duty to live within the rim of their shilling, they had never
known either the slow terror of gathering debt, or the acute pinch of
actual necessity. But Andrew's long sickness, with all its attendant
expenses, had used up all Janet's savings, and the day at last dawned
when they must either borrow money, or run into debt.

It was a strange and humiliating position, especially after Janet's
little motherly bragging about her Christina's silken wedding gown, and
brawly furnished floor in Glasgow. Both mother and daughter felt it
sorely; and Christina looked at her brother with some little angry
amazement, for he appeared to be quite oblivious of their cruel strait.
He said little about his work, and never spoke at all about Sophy or
his lost money. In the tremendous furnace of his affliction, these
elements of it appeared to have been utterly consumed.

Neither mother nor sister liked to remind him of them, nor yet to point
out the poverty to which his long sickness had reduced them. It might
be six weeks before the herring fishing roused him to labour, and they
had spent their last sixpence. Janet began seriously to think of
lifting the creel to her shoulders again, and crying "fresh fish" in
Largo streets. It was so many years since she had done this, that the
idea was painful both to Christina and herself. The girl would gladly
have taken her mother's place, but this Janet would not hearken to. As
yet, her daughter had never had to haggle and barter among fish wives,
and house-wives; and she would not have her do it for a passing
necessity. Besides Jamie might not like it; and for many other reasons,
the little downcome would press hardest upon Christina.

There was one other plan by which a little ready money could be
raised--that was, to get a small mortgage on the cottage, and when all
had been said for and against this project, it seemed, after all, to be
the best thing to do.

Griselda Kilgour had money put away, and Christina was very certain she
would be glad to help them on such good security as a house and an acre
or two of land. Certainly Janet and Griselda had parted in bad bread at
their last interview, but in such a time of trouble, Christina did not
believe that her kinswoman would remember ill words that had passed,
especially as they were about Sophy's marriage--a subject on which they
had every right to feel hurt and offended.

Still a mortgage on their home was a dreadful alternative to these
simple-minded women; they looked upon it as something very like a
disgrace. "A lawyer's foot on the threshold," said Janet, "and who or
what is to keep him from putting the key of the cottage in his own
pocket, and sending us into a cold and roofless world? No! No!
Christina. I had better by far lift the creel to my shoulders again.
Thank God, I have the health and strength to do it!"

"And what will folks be saying of me, to let you ware yourself on the
life of that work in your old age? If you turn fish-wife again, then I
be to seek service with some one who can pay me for my hands' work."

"Well, well, my dear lass, to-night we cannot work, but we may sleep;
and many a blessing comes, and us not thinking of it. Lie down a wee,
and God will comfort you; forbye, the pillow often gives us good
counsel. Keep a still heart tonight, and tomorrow is another day."

Janet followed her own advice, and was soon sleeping as soundly and as
sweetly as a play-tired child; but Christina sat in the open doorway,
thinking of the strait they were in, and wondering if it would not be
the kindest and wisest thing to tell Andrew plainly of their necessity.
Sooner or later, he would find out that his mother was making his bread
for him; and she thought such knowledge, coming from strangers, or
through some accident, would wound him more severely than if she
herself explained their hard position to him. As for the mortgage, the
very thought of it made her sick. "It is just giving our home away, bit
by bit--that is what a mortgage is--and whatever we are to do, and
whatever I ought to do, God only knows!"

Yet in spite of the stress of this, to her, terrible question, a
singular serenity possessed her. It was as if she had heard a voice
saying "Peace, be still!" She thought it was the calm of nature,--the
high tide breaking gently on the shingle with a low murmur, the soft
warmth, the full moonshine, the sound of the fishermen's voices calling
faintly on the horizon,--and still more, the sense of divine care and
knowledge, and the sweet conviction that One, mighty to help and to
save, was her Father and her Friend. For a little space she walked
abreast of angels. So many things take place in the soul that are not
revealed, and it is always when we are wrestling _alone_, that the
comforting ones come. Christina looked downward to the village sleeping
at her feet,

"Beneath its little patch of sky,
And little lot of stars,"

and upward, to where innumerable worlds were whirling noiselessly
through the limitless void, and forgot her own clamorous personality
and "the something that infects the world;" and doing this, though she
did not voice her anxiety, it passed from her heart into the Infinite
Heart, and thus she was calmed and comforted. Then, suddenly, the
prayer of her childhood and her girlhood came to her lips, and she
stood up, and clasping her hands, she cast her eyes towards heaven, and
said reverently:--

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

As the words passed her lips, she heard a movement, and softly and
silently as a spirit, her brother Andrew, fully dressed, passed through
the doorway. His arm lightly touched Christina's clothing, but he was
unconscious of her presence. He looked more than mortal, and was
evidently seeing _through_ his eyes, and not _with_ them. She was
afraid to speak to him. She did not dream of touching him, or of
arresting his steps. Without a sign or word, he went rapidly down the
cliff, walking with that indifference to physical obstacles which a
spirit that had cast off its incarnation might manifest.

"He is walking in his sleep, and he may get into danger or find death
itself," thought Christina, and her fear gave strength and fleetness to
her footsteps as she quickly followed her brother. He made no noise of
any kind; he did not even disturb a pebble in his path; but went
forward, with a motion light and rapid, and the very reverse of the
slow, heavy-footed gait of a fisherman. But she kept him in sight as he
glided over the ribbed and water-lined sands, and rounded the rocky
points which jutted into the sea water. After a walk of nearly two
miles, he made direct for a series of bold rocks which were penetrated
by numberless caverns, and into one of these he entered.

Hitherto he had not shown a moment's hesitation, nor did he now though
the path was dangerously narrow and rocky, overhanging unfathomable
abysses of dark water. But Christina was in mortal terror, both for
herself and Andrew. She did not dare to call his name, lest, in the
sudden awakening he might miss his precarious foothold, and fall to
unavoidable death. She found it almost impossible to follow him nor
indeed in her ordinary frame of mind could she have done so. But the
experience, so strange and thrilling, had lifted her in a measure above
the control of the physical and she was conscious of an exaltation of
spirit which defied difficulties that would ordinarily have terrified
her. Still she was so much delayed by the precautions evidently
necessary for her life, that she lost sight of her brother, and her
heart stood still with fright.

Prayers parted her white lips continually, as she slowly climbed the
hollow crags that seemed to close together and forbid her further
progress. But she would not turn back, for she could not believe that
Andrew had perished. She would have heard the fall of his body or its
splash in the water beneath and so she continued to climb and clamber
though every step appeared to make further exploration more and more
impossible.

With a startling unexpectedness, she found herself in a circular
chamber, open to the sky and on one of the large boulders lying around,
Andrew sat. He was still in the depths of a somnambulistic sleep; but
he had his lost box of gold and bank-notes before him, and he was
counting the money. She held her breath. She stood still as a stone.
She was afraid to think. But she divined at once the whole secret.
Motionless she watched him, as he unrolled and rerolled the notes, as
he counted and recounted the gold, and then carefully locked the box,
and hid the key under the edge of the stone on which he sat.

What would he now do with the box? She watched his movements with a
breathless interest. He sat still for a few moments, clasping his
treasure firmly in his large, brown hands; then he rose, and put it in
an aperture above his head, filling the space in front of it with a
stone that exactly fitted. Without hurry, and without hesitation, the
whole transaction was accomplished; and then, with an equal composure
and confidence, he retraced his steps through the cavern and over the
rocks and sands to his own sleeping room.

Christina followed as rapidly as she was able; but her exaltation had
died away, and left her weak and ready to weep; so that when she
reached the open beach, Andrew was so far in advance as to be almost
out of sight. She could not hope to overtake him, and she sat down for
a few minutes to try and realise the great relief that had come to
them--to wonder--to clasp her hands in adoration, to weep tears of joy.
When she reached her home at last, it was quite light. She looked into
her brother's room, and saw that he was lying motionless in the deepest
sleep; but Janet was half-awake, and she asked sleepily:--

"Whatever are you about so early for, Christina? Isn't the day long
enough for the sorrow and the care of it?"

"Oh, Mother! Mother! The day isn't long enough for the joy and the
blessing of it."

"What do you mean, my lass? What is it in your face? What have you
seen? Who has spoken a word to you?" and Janet rose up quickly, and put
her hands on Christina's shoulders; for the girl was swaying and
trembling, and ready to break out into a passion of sobbing.

"I have seen, Mother, the salvation of the Lord! I have found Andrew's
lost money! I have proved that poor Jamie is innocent! We aren't poor
any longer. There is no need to borrow, or mortgage, or to run in debt.
Oh, Mother! Mother! The blessing you bespoke last night, the blessing
we were not thinking of, has come to us."

"The Lord be thanked! I knew He would save us, in His own time, and His
time is never too late."

Then Christina sat down by her mother's side, and in low, intense
tones, told her all she had seen. Janet listened with kindling face and
shining eyes.

"The mercy of God is on His beloved, and His regard is unto His elect,"
she cried, "and I am glad this day, that I never doubted Him, and never
prayed to Him with a grudge at the bottom of my heart." Then she began
to dress herself with her old joyfulness, humming a line of this and
that psalm or paraphrase, and stopping in the middle to ask Christina
another question; until the kettle began to simmer to her happy mood,
and she suddenly sung out joyfully four lines, never very far from her
lips:--

"My heart is dashed with cares and fears,
My song comes fluttering and is gone;
Oh! High above this home of tears.
Eternal Joy sing on!"

How would it feel for the hyssop on the wall to turn cedar, I wonder?
Just about as Janet and Christina felt that morning, eating their
simple breakfast with glad hearts. Poor as the viands were, they had
the flavour of joy and thankfulness, and of a wondrous salvation. "It
is the Lord's doing!" This was the key to which the two women set all
their hopes and rejoicing, and yet even into its noble melody there
stole at last a little of the fret of earth. For suddenly Janet had a
fear--not of God, but of man--and she said anxiously to her daughter:--

"You should have brought the box home with you, Christina. O my lass,
if some other body should have seen what you have seen, then we will be
fairly ruined twice over."

"No, no. Mother! I would not have touched the box for all there is in
it. Andrew must go for it himself. He might never believe it was where
I saw it, if he did not go for it. You know well he suspicioned both
Jamie and me; and indeed, Mother dear, you yourself thought worse of
Jamie than you should have done."

"Let that be now, Christina. God has righted all. We will have no casts
up. If I thought of any one wrongly, I am sorry for it, and I could not
say more than that even to my Maker. If ill news was waiting for
Andrew, it would have shaken him off his pillow ere this."

"Let him sleep. His soul took his body a weary walk this morning. He is
sore needing sleep, no doubt."

"He will have to wake up now, and go about his business. It is high
time."

"You should mind, Mother, what a tempest he has come through; all the
waves and billows of sorrow have gone over him."

"He is a good man, and ought to be the better of the tempest. His ship
may have been sorely beaten and tossed, but his anchor was fast all
through the storm. It is time he lifted anchor now, and faced the brunt
and the buffet again. An idle man, if he is not a sick man, is on a lee
shore, let him put out to sea, why, lassie! A storm is better than a
shipwreck."

"To be sure, Mother. Here the dear lad comes!" and with that Andrew
sauntered slowly into the kitchen. There was no light on his face, no
hope or purpose in his movements. He sat down at the table, and drew
his cup of tea towards him with an air of indifference, almost of
despair. It wounded Janet. She put her hand on his hand, and compelled
him to look into her face. As he did so, his eyes opened wide;
speculation, wonder, something like hope came into them. The very
silence of the two women--a silence full of meaning--arrested his soul.
He looked from one to the other, and saw the same inscrutable joy
answering his gaze.

"What is it, Mother?" he asked. "I can see you have something to tell
me."

"I have that, Andrew! O my dear lad, your money is found! I do not
think a penny-bit of it is missing. Don't mind me! I am greeting for
the very joy of it--but O Andrew, you be to praise God! It is his
doing, and marvellous in our eyes. Ask Christina. She can tell you
better than I can."

But Andrew could not speak. He touched his sister's hand, and dumbly
looked into her happy face. He was white as death, but he sat bending
forward to her, with one hand outstretched, as if to clasp and grasp
the thing she had to tell him. So Christina told him the whole story,
and after he had heard it, he pushed his plate and cup away, and rose
up, and went into his room and shut the door. And Janet said
gratefully:--

"It is all right, Christina. He'll get nothing but good advice in God's
council chamber. We'll not need to worry ourselves again anent either
the lad or the money. The one has come to his senses, and the other
will come to its use. And we will cast nothing up to him; the best boat
loses her rudder once in a while."

It was not long before Andrew joined his mother and sister, and the man
was a changed man. There was grave purpose in his calm face, and a joy,
too deep for words, in the glint of his eyes and in the graciousness of
his manner.

"Come, Christina!" he said. "I want you you to go with me; we will
bring the siller home together. But I forget--it is maybe too far for
you to walk again to-day?"

"I would walk ten times as far to pleasure you, Andrew. Do you know the
place I told you of?"

"Aye, I know it well. I hid the first few shillings there that I ever
saved."

As they walked together over the sands Christina said: "I wonder,
Andrew, when and how you carried the box there? Can you guess at all
the way this trouble came about?"

"I can, but I'm ashamed to tell you, Christina. You see, after I had
shown you the money, I took a fear anent it. I thought maybe you might
tell Jamie Logan, and the possibility of this fretted on my mind until
it became a sure thing with me. So, being troubled in my heart, I
doubtless got up in my sleep and put the box in my oldest and safest
hiding-place."

"But why then did you not remember that you had done so?"

"You see, dearie, I hid it in my sleep, so then it was only in my sleep
I knew where I had put it. There is two of us, I am thinking, lassie,
and the one man does not always tell the other man all he knows. I
ought to have trusted you, Christina; but I doubted you, and, as mother
says, doubt aye fathers sin or sorrow of some kind or other."

"You might have safely trusted me, Andrew."

"I know now I might. But he is lifeless that is faultless; and the
wrong I have done I must put right. I am thinking of Jamie Logan?"

"Poor Jamie! You know now that he never wronged you?"

"I know, and I will let him know as soon as possible. When did you hear
from him? And where is he at all?"

"I don't know just where he is. He sailed away yon time; and when he
got to New York, he left the ship."

"What for did he do that?"

"O Andrew, I cannot tell. He was angry with me for not coming to
Glasgow as I promised him I would."

"You promised him that?"

"Aye, the night you were taken so bad. But how could I leave you in
Dead Man's Dale and mother here lone to help you through it? So I wrote
and told him I be to see you through your trouble, and he went away
from Scotland and said he would never come back again till we found out
how sorely all of us had wronged him."

"Don't cry, Christina! I will seek Jamie over the wide world till I
find him. I wonder at myself I am shamed of myself. However, will you
forgive me for all the sorrow I have brought on you?"

"You were not altogether to blame, Andrew. You were ill to death at the
time. Your brain was on fire, poor laddie, and it would be a sin to
hold you countable for any word you said or did not say. But if you
will seek after Jamie either by letter or your own travel, and say as
much to him as you have said to me I may be happy yet, for all that has
come and gone."

"What else can I do but seek the lad I have wronged so cruelly? What
else can I do for the sister that never deserved ill word or deed from
me? No, I cannot rest until I have made the wrong to both of you as far
right as sorrow and siller can do."

When they reached the cavern, Andrew would not let Christina enter it
with him. He said he knew perfectly well the spot to which he must go,
and he would not have her tread again the dangerous road. So Christina
sat down on the rocks to wait for him, and the water tinkled beneath
her feet, and the sunshine dimpled the water, and the fresh salt wind
blew strength and happiness into her heart and hopes. In a short time,
the last moment of her anxiety was over, and Andrew came back to her,
with the box and its precious contents in his hands. "It is all here!"
he said, and his voice had its old tones, for his heart was ringing to
the music of its happiness, knowing that the door of fortune was now
open to him, and that he could walk up to success, as to a friend, on
his own hearthstone.

That afternoon he put the money in Largo bank, and made arrangements
for his mother's and sister's comfort for some weeks. "For there is
nothing I can do for my own side, until I have found Jamie Logan, and
put Christina's and his affairs right," he said. And Janet was of the
same opinion.

"You cannot bless yourself, laddie, until you bless others," she said,
"and the sooner you go about the business, the better for everybody."

So that night Andrew started for Glasgow, and when he reached that
city, he was fortunate enough to find the very ship in which Jamie had
sailed away, lying at her dock. The first mate recalled the young man
readily.

"The more by token that he had my own name," he said to Andrew. "We are
both of us Fife Logans, and I took a liking to the lad, and he told me
his trouble."

"About some lost money?" asked Andrew.

"Nay, he said nothing about money. It was some love trouble, I take it.
He thought he could better forget the girl if he ran away from his
country and his work. He has found out his mistake by this time, no
doubt."

"You knew he was going to leave 'The Line' then?"

"Yes, we let him go; and I heard say that he had shipped on an American
line, sailing to Cuba, or New Orleans, or somewhere near the equator."

"Well, I shall try and find him."

"I wouldn't, if I was you. He is sure to come back to his home again.
He showed me a lock of the lassie's hair. Man! a single strand of it
would pull him back to Scotland sooner or later."

"But I have wronged him sorely. I did not mean to wrong him, but that
does not alter the case."

"Not a bit. Love sickness is one thing; a wrong against a man's good
name or good fortune, is a different matter. I would find him and right
him."

"That is what I want to do."

And so when the _Circassia_ sailed out of Greenock for New York, Andrew
Binnie sailed in her. "It is not a very convenient journey," he said
rather sadly, as he left Scotland behind him, "but wrong has been done,
and wrong has no warrant, and I'll never have a good day till I put the
wrong right; so the sooner the better, for, as Mother says, 'that which
a fool does at the end a wise man does at the beginning.'"

CHAPTER IX

THE RIGHTING OF A WRONG

So Andrew sailed for New York, and life resumed its long forgotten
happy tenor in the Binnie cottage. Janet sang about her spotless
houseplace, feeling almost as if it was a new gift of God to her; and
Christina regarded their small and simple belongings with that tender
and excessive affection which we are apt to give to whatever has been
all but lost and then unexpectedly recovered. Both women involuntarily
showed this feeling in the extra care they took of everything. Never
had the floors and chairs and tables been scrubbed and rubbed to such
spotless beauty; and every cup and platter and small ornament was
washed and dusted with such care as could only spring from heart-felt
gratitude in its possession. Naturally they had much spare time, for as
Janet said, 'having no man to cook and wash for lifted half the work
from their hands,' but they were busy women for all that. Janet began a
patch-work quilt of a wonderful design as a wedding present for
Christina; and as the whole village contributed "pieces" for its
construction, the whole village felt an interest in its progress. It
was a delightful excuse for Janet's resumption of her old friendly,
gossipy ways; and every afternoon saw her in some crony's house,
spreading out her work, and explaining her design, and receiving the
praises and sometimes the advice of her acquaintances.

Christina also, quietly but yet hopefully, began again her preparations
for her marriage; for Janet laughed at her fears and doubts. "Andrew
was sure to find Jamie, and Jamie was sure to be glad to come home
again. It stands to reason," she said confidently. "The very sight of
Andrew will be a cordial of gladness to him; for he will know, as soon
as he sees the face of him, that the brother will mean the sister and
the wedding ring. If you get the spindle and distaff ready, my lass,
God is sure to send the flax; and by the same token, if you get your
plenishing made and marked, and your bride-clothes finished, God will
certainly send the husband."

"Jamie said in his last letter--the one in which he bid me farewell--'I
will never come back to Scotland.'"

"_Toots! Havers!_ 'I _will_' is for the Lord God Almighty to say. A
sailor-man's 'I will' is just breath, that any wind may blow away. When
Andrew gives him the letter you sent, Jamie will not be able to wait
for the next boat for Scotland."

"He may have taken a fancy to America and want to stop there."

"What are you talking about, Christina Binnie? There is nothing but
scant and want in them foreign countries. Oh! my lass, he will come
home, and be glad to come home; and you will have the hank in your own
hand. See that you spin it cannily and happily."

"I hope Andrew will not make himself sick again looking for the lost."

"I shall have little pity for him, if he does. I told him to make good
days for himself; why not? He is about his duty; the law of kindness is
in his heart, and the purpose of putting right what he put wrong is the
wind that drives him. Well then, his journey--be it short or
long--ought to be a holiday to him, and a body does not deserve a
holiday if he cannot take advantage of one. Them were my last words to
Andrew."

"Jamie may have seen another lass. I have heard say the lassies in
America are gey bonnie."

"I'll just be stepping if you have nothing but frets and fears to say.
When things go wrong, it is mostly because folks will have them wrong
and no other way."

"In this world, Mother, the giffs and the gaffs--"

"In this world, Christina, the giffs and the gaffs generally balance
one another. And if they don't,--mind what I say,--it is because there
is a moral defect on the failing side. Oh! but women are flightersome
and easy frighted."

"Whyles you have fears yourself, Mother."

"Ay, I am that foolish whyles; but I shall be a sick, weak body, when I
can't outmarch the worst of them."

"You are just an oracle, Mother."

"Not I; but if I was a very saint, I would say every morning of my
life: 'Now then, Soul, hope for good and have good.' Many a sad heart
folks get they have no need to have. Take out your needle and thimble
and go to your wedding clothes, lassie; you will need them before the
summer is over. You may take my word for that."

"If Jamie should still love me."

"Love you! He will be that far gone in love with you that there will be
no help for him but standing up before the minister. That will be seen
and heard tell of. Lift your white seam, and be busy at it; there is
nothing else to do till tea time, and I am away for an hour or two to
Maggie Buchans. Her man went to Edinburgh this morning. What for, I
don't know yet, but I'll maybe find out."

It was on this very afternoon that Janet first heard that there was
trouble and a sound of more trouble at Braelands. Sophy had driven down
in her carriage the previous day to see her cousin Isobel Murray, and
some old friends who had gone into Isobel's had found the little
Mistress of Braelands weeping bitterly in her cousin's arms. After this
news Janet did not stay long at Maggie Buchans; she carried her
patch-work to Isobel Murray's, and as Isobel did not voluntarily name
the subject, Janet boldly introduced it herself.

"I heard tell that Sophy Braelands was here yesterday."

"Aye, she was."

"A grand thing for you, Isobel, to have the Braelands's yellow coach
and pair standing before the Murray cottage all of two or three hours."

"It did not stand before my cottage, Janet. The man went to the public
house and gave the horses a drink, and himself one too, or I am much
mistaken, for I had to send little Pete Galloway after him."

"I think Sophy might have called on me."

"No doubt she would have done so, had she known that Andrew was away,
but I never thought to tell her until the last moment."

"Is she well? I was hearing that she looked but poorly."

"You were hearing the truth. She looks bad enough."

"Is she happy, Isobel?"

"I never asked her that question."

"You have eyes and observation. Didn't you ask yourself that question?"

"Maybe I did."

"What then?"

"I have nothing to say anent it."

"What was she talking about? You know, Isobel, that Sophy is kin of
mine, and I loved her mother like my own sister. So I be to feel
anxious about the little body. I'm feared things are not going as well
as they might do. Madame Braelands is but a hard-grained woman."

"She is as cruel a woman and as bad a woman as there is between this
and wherever she may be."

"Isn't she at Braelands?"

"Not for a week or two. She's away to Acker Castle, and her son with
her."

"And why not Sophy also?"

"The poor lassie would not go--she says she could not. Well, Janet, I
may as good confess that there is something wrong that she does not
like to speak of yet. She is just at the crying point now, the reason
why and wherefore will come anon."

"But she be to say something to you."

"I'll tell you. She said she was worn out with learning this and that,
and she was humbled to death to find out how ignorant and full of
faults she was. Madame Braelands is both schoolmistress and
mother-in-law, and there does not seem to be a minute of the day in
which the poor child isn't checked and corrected. She has lost all her
pretty ways, and she says she cannot learn Madame's ways; and she is
feared for herself, and shamed for herself. And when the invitation
came for Acker Castle, Madame told her she must not accept it for her
husband's sake, because all his great friends were to be there, and
they were to discuss his going to Parliament, and she would only shame
and disgrace him. And you may well conceive that Sophy turned obstinate
and said she would bide in her own home. And, someway, her husband did
not urge her to go and this hurt her worst of all; and she felt lonely
and broken-hearted, and so came to see me. That is everything about it,
but keep it to yourself, Janet, it isn't for common clash."

"I know that. But did Madame Braelands and her son really go away and
leave Sophy her lone?"

"They left her with two or three teachers to worry the life out of her.
They went away two days ago; and Madame was in full feather and glory,
with her son at her beck and call, and all her grand airs and manners
about her. Sophy says she watched them away from her bedroom window,
and then she cried her heart out. And she couldn't learn her lessons,
and so sent the man teacher and the woman teacher about their business.
She says she will not try the weary books again to please anybody; they
make her head ache so that she is like to swoon away."

"Sophy was never fond of books; but I thought she would like the
music."

"Aye, if they would let her have her own way about it. She has her
father's little fiddle, and when she was but a bare-footed lassie, she
played on it wonderful."

"I remember. You would have thought there was a linnet living inside of
it."

"Well, she wanted to have some lessons on it, and her husband was
willing enough, but Madame went into hysterics about the idea of
anything so vulgar. There is a constant bitter little quarrel between
the two women, and Sophy says she cannot go to her husband with every
slight and cruelty. Madame laughs at her, or pretends to pet her, or
else gets into passions at what she calls Sophy's unreasonableness; and
Archie Braelands is weary to death of complaining, and just turns sulky
or goes out of the house. Oh, Janet, I can see and feel the bitter,
cruel task-woman over the poor, foolish child! She is killing her, and
Archie Braelands does not see the right and the wrong of it all."

"I'll make him see it."

"You will hold your tongue, Janet. They who stir in muddy water only
make it worse."

"But Archie Braelands loved her, or he would not have married her; and
if he knew the right and the wrong of poor Sophy's position--"

"I tell you, that is nothing to it, Janet."

"It is everything to it. Right is right, in the devil's teeth."

"I'm sorry I said a word to you; it is a dangerous thing to get between
a man and his wife. I would not do it, not even for Sophy; for reason
here or reason there, folks be to take care of themselves; and my man
gets siller from Braelands, more than we can afford to lose."

"You are taken with a fit of the prudentials, Isobel; and it is just
extraordinary how selfish they make folk."

And yet Janet herself, when going over the conversation with Christina,
was quite inclined on second thoughts not to interfere in Sophy's
affairs, though both were anxious and sorrowful about the motherless
little woman.

"She ought to be with her husband wherever he is, court or castle,"
said Christina. "She is a foolish woman to let him go away with her
enemy, and such a clever enemy as Madame Braelands is. I think, Mother,
you ought to call on Sophy, and give her a word of love and a bit of
good advice. Her mother was very close to you."

"I know, Christina; but Isobel was right about the folly of coming
between a man and his wife. I would just get the wyte of it. Many a
sore heart I have had for meddling with what I could not mend."

Yet Janet carried the lonely, sorrowful little wife on her heart
continually; though, after a week or two had passed and nothing new was
heard from Braelands, every one began to give their sympathy to
Christina and her affairs. Janet was ready to talk of them. There were
some things she wished to explain, though she was too proud to do so
until her friends felt interest enough to ask for explanations. And as
soon as it was discovered that Andrew had gone to America, the interest
and curiosity was sufficiently keen and eager to satisfy even Janet.

"It fairly took the breath from me," said Sabrina Roy, "when I was told
the like of that. I cannot think there is a word of truth in such a
report."

Mistress Roy was sitting at Janet's fireside, and so had the privilege
of a guest; but, apart from this, it gave Janet a profound satisfaction
to answer: "Ay, well, Sabrina, the clash is true for once in a
lifetime. Andrew has gone to America, and the Lord knows where else
beside."

"Preserve us all! I wouldn't believe it, only from your own lips,
Janet. Whatever would be the matter that sent him stravaging round the
world, with no ship of his own beneath his feet or above his head?"

"A matter of right and wrong, Sabrina. My Andrew has a strict
conscience and a sense of right that would be ornamental in a very
saint. Not to make a long story of it, he and Jamie Logan had a
quarrel. It was the night Andrew took his inflammation, and it is very
sure his brain was on fire and off its judgment at the time. But we
were none of us thinking of the like of that; and so the bad words
came, and stirred up the bad blood, and if I hadn't been there myself,
there might have been spilled blood to end all with, for they were both
black angry."

"Guide us, woman! What was it all about?"

"Well, Sabrina, it was about siller; that is all I am free to say.
Andrew was sure he was right, and Jamie was sure he was wrong; and they
were going fairly to one another's throats, when I stepped in and flung
them apart."

"And poor Christina had the buff and the buffet to take and to bear for
their tempers?"

"Not just that. Jamie begged her to go away with him, and the lassie
would have gone if I hadn't got between her and the door. I had a hard
few minutes, I can tell you, Sabrina; for when men are beside
themselves with passion, they are in the devil's employ, and it's no
easy work to take a job out of _his_ hands. But I sent Jamie flying
down the cliff, and I locked the door and put the key in my pocket, and
ordered Andrew and Christina off to their beds, and thought I would
leave the rest of the business till the next day; but before midnight
Andrew was raving, and the affair was out of my hands altogether."

"It is a wonder Christina did not go after her lad."

"What are you talking about, Sabrina? It would have been a world's
wonder and a black, burning shame if my girl had gone after her lad in
such a calamitous time. No, no, Christina Binnie isn't the kind of girl
that shrinks in the wetting. When her time of trial came, she did the
whole of her duty, showing herself day by day a witness and a testimony
to her decent, kirk-going forefathers."

"And so Andrew has found out he was wrong and Jamie Logan right?"

"Aye, he has. And the very minute he did so, he made up his mind to
seek the lad far and near and confess his fault."

"And bring him back to Christina?"

"Just so. What for not? He parted them, and he has the right and duty
to bring them together again, though it take the best years of his life
and the last bawbee of his money."

"Folks were saying his money was all spent."

"Folks are far wrong then. Andrew has all the money he ever had. Andrew
isn't a bragger, and his money has been silent so far, but it will
speak ere long."

"With money to the fore, you shouldn't have been so scrimpit with
yourselves in such a time of work and trouble. Folks noticed it."

"I don't believe in wasting anything, Sabrina, even grief. I did not
spend a penny, nor a tear, nor a bit of strength, that was useless.
What for should I? And if folks noticed we were scrimpit, why didn't
they think about helping us? No, thank God! We have enough and a good
bit to spare, for all that has come and gone, and if it pleases the
Maker of Happiness to bring Jamie Logan back again, we will have a
bridal that will make a monumental year in Pittendurie."

"I am glad to hear tell o' that. I never did approve of two or three at
a wedding. The more the merrier."

"That is a very sound observe. My Christina will have a wedding to be
seen and heard tell of from one sacramental occasion to another."

"Well, then, good luck to Andrew Binnie, and may he come soon home and
well home, and sorrow of all kinds keep a day's sail behind him. And
surely he will go back to the boats when he has saved his conscience,
for there is never a better sailor and fisher on the North Sea. The men
were all saying that when he was so ill."

"It is the very truth. Andrew can read the sea as well as the minister
can read the Book. He never turns his back on it; his boat is always
ready to kiss the wind in its teeth. I have been with him when _rip!
rip! rip_! went her canvas; but I hadn't a single fear, I knew the lad
at the helm. I knew he would bring her to her bearings beautifully. He
always did, and then how the gallant bit of a creature would shake
herself and away like a sea-gull. My Andrew is a son of the sea as all
his forbears were. Its salt is in his blood, and when the tide is going
with a race and a roar, and the break of the waves and the howl of the
wind is like a thousand guns, then Andrew Binnie is in the element he
likes best; aye, though his boat be spinning round like a laddie's
top."

"Well, Janet, I will be going."

"Mind this, Sabrina, I have told you all to my heart's keel; and if
folks are saying to you that Jamie has given Christina the slip, or
that the Binnies are scrimpit for poverty's sake, or the like of any
other ill-natured thing, you will be knowing how to answer them."

"'Deed, I will! And I am real glad things are so well with you all,
Janet."

"Well, and like to be better, thank God, as soon as Andrew gets back
from foreign parts."

In the meantime, Andrew, after a pleasant sail, had reached New York.
He made many friends on the ship, and in the few days of bad weather
usually encountered came to the front, as he always did when winds were
blowing and sailor-men had to wear oil skins. The first sight of the
New World made him silent. He was too prudent to hazard an opinion
about any place so remote and so strange, though he cautiously admitted
"the lift was as blue as in Scotland and the sunshine not to speak ill
of." But as his ideas of large towns had been formed upon Edinburgh and
Glasgow, he could hardly admire New York. "It looks," he said to an
acquaintance who was showing him the city, "it looks as if it had been
built in a hurry;" for he was thinking of the granite streets and piers
of Glasgow. "Besides," he added, "there is no romance or beauty about
it; it is all straight lines and squares. Man alive! you should see
Edinburgh the sel of it, the castle, and the links, and the bonnie
terraces, and the Highland men parading the streets, it is just a bit
of poetry made out of builders stones."

With the information he had received from the mate of the "Circassia,"
and his advice and directions, Andrew had little difficulty in locating
Jamie Logan. He found his name in the list of seamen sailing a steamer
between New York and New Orleans; and this steamer was then lying at
her pier on the North River. It was not very hard to obtain permission
to interview Jamie, and armed with this authority, he went to the ship
one very hot afternoon about four o'clock.

Jamie was at the hold, attending to the unshipping of cargo; and as he
lifted himself from the stooping attitude which his work demanded, he
saw Andrew Binnie approaching him. He pretended, however, not to see
him, and became suddenly very deeply interested in the removal of a
certain case of goods. Andrew was quite conscious of the affectation,
but he did not blame Jamie; it only made him the more anxious to atone
for the wrong he had done. He stepped rapidly forward, and with
extended hands said:--

"Jamie Logan, I have come all the way from Scotland to ask you to
forgive me. I thought wrong of you, and I said wrong to you, and I am
sorry for it. Can you pass it by for Christ's sake?"

Jamie looked into the speaker's face, frankly and gravely, but with the
air of a man who has found something he thought lost. He took Andrew's
hands in his own hands and answered:--

"Aye, I can forgive you with all my heart. I knew you would come to
yourself some day, Andrew; but it has seemed a long time waiting. I
have not a word against you now. A man that can come three thousand
miles to own up to a wrong is worth forgiving. How is Christina?"

"Christina is well, but tired-like with the care of me through my long
sickness. She has sent you a letter, and here it is. The poor lass has
suffered more than either of us; but never a word of complaining from
her. Jamie, I have promised her to bring you back with me. Can you
come?"

"I will go back to Scotland with you gladly, if it can be managed. I am
fair sick for the soft gray skies, and the keen, salt wind of the North
Sea. Last Sabbath Day I was in New Orleans--fairly baking with the heat
of the place--and I thought I heard the kirk bells across the sands,
and saw Christina stepping down the cliff with the Book in her hands
and her sweet smile making all hearts but mine happy. Andrew man, I
could not keep the tears out of my een, and my heart was away down to
my feet, and I was fairly sick with longing."

They left the ship together and spent the night in each other's
company. Their room was a small one, in a small river-side hotel, hot
and close smelling; but the two men created their own atmosphere. For
as they talked of their old life, the clean, sharp breezes of
Pittendurie swept through the stifling room; they tasted the brine on
the wind's wings, and felt the wet, firm sands under their feet. Or
they talked of the fishing boats, until they could see their sails
bellying out, as they lay down just enough to show they felt the fresh
wind tossing the spray from their bows and lifting themselves over the
great waves as if they stepped over them.

Before they slept, they had talked themselves into a fever of home
sickness, and the first work of the next day was to make arrangements
for Jamie's release from his obligations. There was some delay and
difficulty about this matter, but it was finally completed to the
satisfaction of all parties, and Andrew and Jamie took the next Anchor
Line steamer for Glasgow.

On the voyage home, the two men got very close to each other, not in
any accidental mood of confidence, but out of a thoughtful and assured
conviction of respect. Andrew told Jamie all about his lost money and
the plans for his future which had been dependent on it, and Jamie
said--

"No wonder you went off your health and senses with the thought of your
loss, Andrew I would have been less sensible than you. It was an awful
experience, man, I cannot tell how you tholed it at all."

"Well, I didn't thole it, Jamie. I just broke down under it, and God
Almighty and my mother and sister had to carry me through the ill time;
but all is right now. I shall have the boat I was promised, and at the
long last be Captain Binnie of the Red-White Fleet. And what for
shouldn't you take a berth with me? I shall have the choosing of my
officers, and we will strike hands together, if you like it, and you
shall be my second mate to start with."

"I should like nothing better than to sail with you and under you,
Andrew. I couldn't find a captain more to my liking."

"Nor I a better second mate. We both know our business, and we shall
manage it cleverly and brotherly."

So Jamie's future was settled before the men reached Pittendurie, and
the new arrangement well talked over, and Andrew and his proposed
brother-in-law were finger and thumb about it. This was a good thing
for Andrew, for his secretive, self-contained disposition was his weak
point, and had been the cause of all his sorrow and loss of time and
suffering.

They had written a letter in New York and posted it the day they left,
advising Janet and Christina of the happy home-coming; but both men
forgot, or else did not know, that the letter came on the very same
ship with themselves, and might therefore or might not reach home
before them. It depended entirely on the postal authority in
Pittendurie. If she happened to be in a mood to sort the letters as
soon as they arrived, and then if she happened to see any one passing
who could carry a letter to Janet Binnie, the chances were that Janet
would receive the intelligence of her son's arrival in time to make
some preparation for it.

As it happened, these favourable circumstances occurred, and about four
o'clock one afternoon, as Janet was returning up the cliff from Isobel
Murray's, she met little Tim Galloway with the letter in his hand.

"It is from America," said the laddie, "and my mother told me to hurry
myself with it. Maybe there is folk coming after it."

"I'll give you a bawbee for the sense of your words, Tim," answered
Janet; and she hastened herself and flung the letter into Christina's
lap, saying:--

"Open it, lassie, it will be full of good news. I shouldn't wonder if
both lads were on their way home again."

"Mother, Mother, they _are_ home; they will be here anon, they will be
here this very night. Oh, Mother, I must put on my best gown and my
gold ear-rings and brush my hair, and you'll be setting forward the tea
and making a white pudding; for Jamie, you know, was always saying none
but you could mix the meal and salt and pepper, and toast it as it
should be done."

"I shall look after the men's eating, Christina, and you make yourself
as braw as you like to. Jamie has been long away, and he must have a
full welcome home again."

They were both as excited as two happy children; perhaps Janet was most
evidently so, for she had never lost her child-heart, and everything
pleasant that happened was a joy and a wonder to her. She took out her
best damask table-cloth, and opened her bride chest for the real china
kept there so carefully; and she made the white pudding with her own
hands, and ran down the cliff for fresh fish and the lamb chops which
were Andrew's special luxury. And Christina made the curds and cream,
and swept the hearth, and set the door wide open for the home-comers.

And as good fortune comes where it is looked for, Andrew and Jamie
entered the cottage just as everything was ready for them. There was no
waiting, no cooled welcome, no spoiled dainties, no disappointment of
any kind. Life was taken up where it had been most pleasantly dropped;
all the interval of doubt and suffering was put out of remembrance, and
when the joyful meal had been eaten, as Janet washed her cups and
saucers and tidied her house, they talked of the happy future before
them.

"And I'll tell you what, bairnies," said the dear old woman as she
stood folding her real china in the tissue paper devoted to that
purpose, "I'll tell you what, bairnies, good will asks for good deeds,
and I'll show my good will by giving Christina the acre of land next my
own. If Jamie is to go with you, Andrew, and your home is to be with
me, lad--"

"Where else would it be, Mother?"

"Well, then, where else need Jamie's home be but in Pittendurie? I'll
give the land for his house, and what will you do, Andrew? Speak for
your best self, my lad."

"I will give my sister Christina one hundred gold sovereigns and the
silk wedding-gown I promised her."

"Oh, Andrew, my dear brother, how will I ever thank you as I ought to?"

"I owe you more, Christina, than I can count."

"No, no, Andrew," said Janet. "What has Christina done that siller can
pay for? You can't buy love with money, and gold isn't in exchange for
it. Your gift is a good-will gift. It isn't a paid debt, God be
thanked!"

The very next day the little family went into Largo, and the acre was
legally transferred, and Jamie made arrangements for the building of
his cottage. But the marriage did not wait on the building; it was
delayed no longer than was necessary for the making of the silk
wedding-gown. This office Griselda Kilgour undertook with much
readiness and an entire oblivion of Janet's unadvised allusions to her
age. And more than this, Griselda dressed the bride with her own hands,
adding to her costume a bonnet of white tulle and orange blossoms that
was the admiration of the whole village, and which certainly had a
bewitching effect above Christina's waving black hair, and shining
eyes, and marvellous colouring.

And, as Janet desired, the wedding was a holiday for the whole of
Pittendurie. Old and young were bid to it, and for two days the dance,
the feast, and the song went gayly on, and for two days not a single
fishing boat left the little port of Pittendurie. Then the men went out
to sea again, and the women paid their bride visits, and the children
finished all the dainties that were else like to be wasted, and life
gradually settled back into its usual grooves.

But though Jamie went to the fishing, pending Andrew's appointment to
his steamboat, Janet and Christina had a never-ceasing interest in the
building and plenishing of Christina's new home. It was not
fashionable, nor indeed hardly permissible, for any one to build a
house on a plan grander than the traditional fisher cottage; but
Christina's, though no larger than her neighbours', had the modern
convenience of many little closets and presses, and these Janet filled
with homespun napery, linseys, and patch-work, so that never a young
lass in Pittendurie began life under such full and happy circumstances.

In the fall of the year the new fire was lit on the new hearth, and
Christina moved into her own home. It was only divided from her
mother's by a strip of garden and a low fence, and the two women could
stand in their open doors and talk to each other. And during the summer
all had gone well. Jamie had been fortunate and made money, and Andrew
had perfected all his arrangements, so that one morning in early
September, the whole village saw "The Falcon" come to anchor in the
bay, and Captain Binnie, in his gold-buttoned coat and gold-banded cap,
take his place on her bridge, with Jamie, less conspicuously attired,
attending him.

It was a proud day for Janet and Christina, though Janet, guided by
some fine instinct, remained in her own home, and made no afternoon
calls. "I don't want to force folk to say either kind or unkind things
to me," she said to her daughter. "You know, Christina, it is a deal
harder to rejoice with them that rejoice than to weep with them that
weep. Sabrina Roy, as soon as she got her eyes on Andrew in his
trimmings, perfectly changed colours with envy; and we have been a
speculation to far and near, more than one body saying we were going
fairly to the mischief with out extravagance. They thought poverty had
us under her black thumb, and they did not think of the hand of God,
which was our surety."

However, that afternoon Janet had a great many callers, and not a few
came up the cliff out of real kindness, for, doubt as we will, there is
a constant inflowing of God into human affairs. And Janet, in her
heart, did not doubt her neighbours readily; she took the homage
rendered in a very pleased and gracious manner, and she made a cup of
tea and a little feast for her company, and the clash and clatter in
the Binnie cottage that afternoon was exceedingly full of good wishes
and compliments. Indeed, as Janet reviewed them afterwards, they
provoked from her a broad smile, and she said with a touch of
good-natured criticism:--

"If we could make compliments into silk gowns, Christina, you and I
would be bonnily clad for the rest of our lives. Nobody said a
nattering word but poor Bella McLean, and she has been soured and sore
kept down in the world by a ne'er-do-weel of a husband."

"She should try and guide him better," said Christina. "If he was my
man, I would put him through his facings."

"_Toots_, Christina. You are over young in the marriage state to offer
opinions about men folk. As far as I can see, every woman can guide a
bad husband but the poor soul that has the ill-luck to have one. Open
the Book now, and let us thank God for the good day He has given us."

CHAPTER X

"TAKE ME IN TO DIE!"

After this, the pleasant months went by with nothing but Andrew's and
Jamie's visits to mark them, and, every now and then, a sough of sorrow
from the big house of Braelands. And now that her own girl was so
happily settled, Janet began to have a longing anxiety about poor
Sophy. She heard all kinds of evil reports concerning the relations
between her and her husband, and twice during the winter there was a
rumour, hardly hushed up, of a separation between them.

Isobel Murray, to whom at first Sophy turned in her sorrow, had not
responded to any later confidences. "My man told me to neither listen
nor speak against Archie Braelands," she said to Janet. "We have our
own boat to guide, and Sophy cannot be a friend to us; while it is very
sure Braelands can be an enemy beyond our 'don't care.' Six little lads
and lassies made folk mind their own business. And I'm no very sure but
what Sophy's troubles are Sophy's own making. At any rate, she isn't
faultless; you be to have both flint and stone to strike fire."

"I'll not hear you say the like of that, Isobel. Sophy may be misguided
and unwise, but there is not a wrong thought in her heart. The bit
vanity of the young thing was her only fault, and I'm thinking she has
paid sorely for it."

All winter, such vague and miserable bits of gossip found their way
into the fishing village, and one morning in the following spring,
Janet met a young girl who frequently went to Braelands House with
fresh fish. She was then on her way home from such an errand, and Janet
fancied there was a look of unusual emotion on her broad, stolid face.

"Maggie-Ann," she said, stopping her, "where have you been this
morning?"

"Up to Braelands." "And what did you see or hear tell of?"

"I saw nothing; but I heard more than I liked to hear."

"About Mistress Braelands? You know, Maggie-Ann, that she is my own
flesh and blood, and I be to feel her wrongs my wrongs."

"Surely, Janet There had been a big stir, and you could feel it in the
very air of the house. The servants were feared to speak or to step,
and when the door opened, the sound of angry words and of somebody
crying was plain to be heard. Jean Craigie, the cook, told me it was
about the Dower House. The mistress wants to get away from her
mother-in-law, and she had been begging her husband to go and live in
the Dower House with her, since Madame would not leave them their own
place."

"She is right," answered Janet boldly. "I wouldn't live with that fine
old sinner myself, and I think there are few women in Fife I couldn't
talk back to if I wanted. Sophy ought never to have bided with her for
a day. They have no business under the same roof. A baby and a popish
inquisitor would be as well matched."

It had, indeed, come at last to Sophy's positive refusal to live longer
with her mother-in-law. In a hundred ways the young wife felt her
inability to cope with a woman so wise and so wicked, and she had
finally begun to entreat Archie to take her away from Braelands. The
man was in a strait which could end only in anger. He was completely
under his mother's influence, while Sophy's influence had been
gradually weakened by Madame's innuendos and complaints, her pity for
Archie, and her tattle of visitors. These things were bad enough; but
Sophy's worst failures came from within herself. She had been snubbed
and laughed at, scolded and corrected, until she had lost all
spontaneity and all the grace and charm of her natural manner. This
condition would not have been so readily brought about, had she
retained her health and her flower-like beauty. But after the birth of
her child she faded slowly away. She had not the strength for a
constant, never-resting assertion of her rights, and nothing less would
have availed her; nor had she the metal brightness to expose or
circumvent the false and foolish positions in which Madame habitually
placed her.

Little by little, the facts of the unhappy case leaked out, and were
warmly commented on by the fisher-families with whom Sophy was
connected either by blood or friendship. Her father's shipmates were
many of them living and she had cousins of every degree among the
nets--men and women who did not forget the motherless, fatherless
lassie who had played with their own children. These people made Archie
feel their antagonism. They would neither take his money, nor give him
their votes, nor lift their bonnets to his greeting. And though such
honest, primitive feelings were proper enough, they did not help Sophy.
On the contrary, they strengthened Madame's continual assertion that
her son's marriage had ruined his public career and political
prospects. Still there is nothing more wonderful than the tugs and
twists the marriage tie will bear. There were still days in which
Archie--either from love, or pity, or contradiction, or perhaps from a
sense of simple justice--took his wife's part so positively that Madame
must have been discouraged if she had been a less understanding woman.
As it was, she only smiled at such fitful affection, and laid her plans
a little more carefully. And as the devil strengthens the hands of
those who do his work, Madame received a potent reinforcement in the
return home of her nearest neighbour, Miss Marion Glamis. As a girl,
she had been Archie's friend and playmate; then she had been sent to
Paris for her education, and afterwards travelled extensively with her
father who was a man of very comfortable fortune. Marion herself had a
private income, and Madame had been accustomed to believe that when
Archie married, he would choose Marion Glamis for his wife.

She was a tall, high-coloured, rather mannish-looking girl, handsome in
form, witty in speech, and disposed towards field sports of every kind.
She disliked Sophy on sight, and Madame perceived it, and easily worked
on the girl's worst feelings. Besides, Marion had no lover at the time,
and she had come home with the idea of Archie Braelands tilling such
imagination as she possessed. To find herself supplanted by a girl of
low birth, "without a single advantage" as she said frankly to Archie's
mother, provoked and humiliated her. "She has not beauty, nor grace,
nor wit, nor money, nor any earthly thing to recommend her to Archie's
notice. Was the man under a spell?" she asked.

"Indeed she had a kind of beauty and grace when Archie married her,"
answered Madame; "I must admit that. But bringing her to Braelands was
like transplanting a hedge flower into a hot-house. She has just wilted
ever since."

"Has she been noticed by Archie's friends at all?"

"I have taken good care she did not see much of Archie's friends, and
her ill health has been a splendid excuse for her seclusion. Yet it was
strange how much the few people she met admired her. Lady Blair goes
into italics every time she comes here about 'The Beauty', and the
Bells, and Curries, and Cupars, have done their best to get her to
visit them. I knew better than permit such folly. She would have told
all sorts of things, and raised the country-side against me; though,
really, no one will ever know what I have gone through in my efforts to
lick the cub into shape!"

Marion laughed, and, Archie coming in at that moment, she launched all
her high spirits and catches and witticisms at him. Her brilliancy and
colour and style were very effective, and there was a sentimental
remembrance for the foundation of a flirtation which Marion very
cleverly took advantage of, and which Archie was not inclined to deny.
His life was monotonous, he was ennuye, and this bold, bright
incarnation, with her half disguised admiration for himself, was an
irresistible new interest.

So their intimacy soon became frequent and friendly. There were
horseback rides together in the mornings, sails in the afternoons, and
duets on the piano in the evenings. Then her Parisian toilets made poor
Sophy's Largo dresses look funnily dowdy, and her sharp questions and
affected ignorances of Sophy's meanings and answers were cleverly aided
by Madame's cold silences, lifted brows, and hopeless acceptance of
such an outside barbarian. Long before a dinner was over, Sophy had
been driven into silence, and it was perhaps impossible for her to
avoid an air of offence and injury, so that Marion had the charming in
her own hands. After dinner, Admiral Glamis and Madame usually played a
game of chess, and Archie sang or played duets with Marion, while
Sophy, sitting sadly unnoticed and unemployed, watched her husband give
to his companion such smiles and careful attentions as he had used to
win her own heart.

What regrets and fears and feelings of wrong troubled her heart during
these unhappy summer evenings, God only knew. Sometimes her presence
seemed to be intolerable to Madame, who would turn to her and say
sharply: "You are worn out, Sophy, and it is hardly fair to impose your
weariness and low spirits on us. Had you not better go to your room?"
Occasionally, Sophy refused to notice this covert order, and she
fancied that there was generally a passing expression of pleasure on
her husband's face at her rebellion. More frequently, she was glad to
escape the slow, long torture, and she would rise, and go through the
formality of shaking hands with each person and bidding each
"good-night" ere she left the room. "Fisher manners," Madame would
whisper impatiently to Marion. "I cannot teach her a decent effacement
of her personality." For this little ceremony always ended in Archie's
escorting her upstairs, and so far he had never neglected this formal
deference due his wife. Sometimes too he came back from the duty very
distrait and unhappy-looking, a circumstance always noted by Madame
with anger and scorn.

To such a situation, any tragedy was a possible culmination, and day by
day there was a more reckless abuse of its opportunities. Madame, when
alone with Sophy, did not now scruple to regret openly the fact that
Marion was not her daughter-in-law, and if Marion happened to be
present, she gave way to her disappointment in such ejaculations as--

"Oh! Marion Glamis, why did you stay away so long? Why did you not come
home before Archie's life was ruined?" And the girl would sigh and
answer: "Is not my life ruined also? Could any one have imagined Archie
Braelands would have an attack of insanity?" Then Sophy, feeling her
impotence between the tongues of her two enemies, would rise and go
away, more or less angrily or sadly, followed through the hall and
half-way upstairs by the snickering, confidential laughter of their
common ridicule.

At the latter end of June, Admiral Glamis proposed an expedition to
Norway. They were to hire a yacht, select a merry party, and spend July
and August sailing and fishing in the cool fiords of that picturesque
land. Archie took charge of all the arrangements. He secured a yacht,
and posted a notice in the Public House of Pittendurie for men to sail
her. He had no doubt of any number of applications; for the work was
light and pleasant, and much better paid than any fishing-job. But not
a man presented himself, and not even when Archie sought out the best
sailors and those accustomed to the cross seas between Scotland and
Norway, could he induce any one to take charge of the yacht and man
her. The Admiral's astonishment at Archie's lack of influence among his
own neighbours and tenants was not very pleasant to bear, and Marion
openly said:--

"They are making cause with your wife, Archie, against you. They
imagine themselves very loyal and unselfish. Fools! a few extra
sovereigns would be much better."

"But why make cause for my wife against me, Marion?" asked Archie.

"You know best; ask Madame, she is my authority," and she shrugged her
shoulders and went laughing from his side.

Nothing in all his married life had so annoyed Archie as this dour
displeasure of men who had always before been glad to serve him. Madame
was indignant, sorrowful, anxious, everything else that could further
irritate her angry son; and poor Sophy might well have prayed in those
days "deliver me from my friends!" But at length the yacht was ready
for sea, and Archie ran upstairs in the middle of one hot afternoon to
bid his wife "goodbye!"

She was resting on her bed, and he never forgot the eager, wistful,
longing look of the wasted white face on the white pillow. He told her
to take care of herself for his sake. He told her not to let any one
worry or annoy her. He kissed her tenderly, and then, after he had
closed the door, he came back and kissed her again; and there were days
coming in which it was some comfort to him to remember this trifling
kindness.

"You will not forget me, Archie?" she asked sadly.

"I will not, sweetheart," he answered.

"You will write me a letter when you can, dear?"

"I will be sure to do so."

"You--you--you will love me best of all?"

"How can I help it? Don't cry now. Send me away with a smile."

"Yes, dear. I will try and be happy, and try and get well."

"I am sorry you cannot go with us, Sophy."

"I am sorry too, Archie; but I could not bear the knocking about, and
the noise and bustle, and the merry-making. I should only spoil your
pleasure. I wouldn't like to do that, dear. Good-bye, and good-bye."

For a few minutes he was very miserable. A sense of shame came over
him. He felt that he was unkind, selfish, and quite unworthy of the
tender love given him. But in half an hour he was out at sea, Marion
was at his side, the Admiral was consulting him about the cooling of
the dinner wines, the skipper was promising them a lively sail with a
fair wind--and the white, loving face went out of his memory, and out
of his consideration.

Yet while he was sipping wine and singing songs with Marion Glamis, and
looking with admiration into her rosy, glowing face, Sophy was
suffering all the slings and arrows of Madame's outrageous hatred. She
complained all dinner-time, even while the servants were present, of
the deprivation she had to endure for Sophy's sake. The fact was she
had not been invited to join the yachting-party, two very desirable
ladies having refused to spend two months in her society. But she
ignored this fact, and insisted on the fiction that she had been
compelled to remain at home to look after Sophy.

"I wish you had gone! Oh, I wish you had gone and left me in peace!"
cried the poor wife at last in a passion. "I could have been happy if I
had been left to myself."

"And your low relations! You have made mischief enough with them for
Archie, poor fellow! Don't tell me that you make no complaints. The
shameful behaviour of those vulgar fishermen, refusing to sail a yacht
for Braelands, is proof positive of your underhand ways."

"My relations are not low. They would scorn to do the low, cruel,
wicked things some people who call themselves 'high born' do all the
time. But low or high, they are mine, and while Archie is away, I
intend to see them as often as I can."

This little bit of rebellion was the one thing in which she could show
herself Mistress of Braelands; for she knew that she could rely on
Thomas to bring the carriage to her order. So the next morning she went
very early to call on Griselda Kilgour. Griselda had not seen her niece
for some time, and she was shocked at the change in her appearance,
indeed, she could hardly refrain the exclamations of pity and fear that
flew to her lips.

"Send the carriage to the _Queens Arms_," she said, "and stay with me
all day, Sophy, my dear."

"Very well, Aunt, I am tired enough. Let me lie down on the sofa, and
take off my bonnet and cloak. My clothes are just a weight and a
weariness."

"Aren't you well, dearie?"

"I must be sick someway, I think. I can't sleep, and I can't eat; and I
am that weak I haven't the strength or spirit to say a word back to
Madame, however ill her words are to me."

"I heard that Braelands had gone away?"

"Aye, for two months."

"With the Glamis crowd?"

"Yes."

"Why didn't you go too?"

"I couldn't thole the sail, nor the company."

"Do you like Miss Glamis?"

"I'm feared I hate her. Oh! Aunt, she makes love to Archie before my
very eyes, and Madame tells me morning, noon, and night, that she was
his first love and ought to have married him."

"I wouldn't stand the like of that. But Archie is not changed to you,
dearie?"

"I cannot say he is; but what man can be aye with a fond woman, bright
and bonnie, and not think of her as he shouldn't think? I'm not blaming
Archie much. It is Madame and Miss Glamis, and above all my own
shortcomings. I can't talk, I can't dress, I can't walk, nor in any way
act, as that set of women do. I am like a fish out of its element. It
is bonnie enough in the water; but it only flops and dies if you take
it out of the water and put it on the dry land. I wish I had never seen
Archie Braelands! If I hadn't, I would have married Andrew Binnie, and
been happy and well enough."

"You were hearing that he is now Captain Binnie of the Red-White
Fleet?"

"Aye, I heard. Madame was reading about it in the Largo paper. Andrew
is a good man, Aunt. I am glad of his good luck."

"Christina is well married too. You were hearing of that?"

"Aye; but tell me all about it."

So Griselda entered into a narration which lasted until Sophy slipped
into a deep slumber. And whether it was simply the slumber of utter
exhaustion, or whether it was the sweet oblivion which results from a
sense of peace long denied, or perhaps the union of both these
conditions, the result was that she lay wrapped in an almost lethargic
sleep for many hours. Twice Thomas came with the carriage, and twice
Griselda sent him away. And the man shook his head sadly and said:--

"Let her alone; I wouldn't be the one to wake her up for all my place
is worth. It may be a health sleep."

"Aye, it may be," answered Griselda, "but I have heard old folk say
that such black, deep sleep is sent to fit the soul for some calamity
lying in wait for it. It won't be lucky to wake her anyway."

"No, and I am thinking nothing worse can come to the little mistress
than the sorrow she is tholing now. I'll be back in an hour, Miss
Kilgour."

Thus it happened that it was late in the afternoon when Sophy returned
to her home, and her rest had so refreshed her that she was more than
usually able to hold her own with Madame. Many unpardonable words were
said on both sides; and the quarrel, thus early inaugurated, raged from
day to-day, either in open recrimination, or in a still more
distressing interference with all Sophy's personal desires and
occupations. The servants were, in a measure, compelled to take part in
the unnatural quarrel; and before three weeks were over, Sophy's
condition was one of such abnormal excitement that she was hardly any
longer accountable for her actions. The final blow was struck while she
was so little able to bear it. A letter from Archie, posted in
Christiania and addressed to his wife, came one morning. As Sophy was
never able to come down to breakfast, Madame at once appropriated the
letter. When she had read it and finished her breakfast, she went to
Sophy's room.

"I have had a letter from Archie," she said.

"Was there none for me?"

"No; but I thought you might like to know that Archie says he never was
so happy in all his life. The Admiral, and Marion, and he, are in
Christiania for a week or two, and enjoying themselves every minute of
the time. Dear Marion! _She_ knows how to make Archie happy. It is a
great shame I could not be with them."

"Is there any message for me?"

"Not a word. I suppose Archie knew I should tell you all that it was
necessary for you to know."

"Please go away; I want to go to sleep."

"You want to cry. You do nothing but sleep and cry, and cry and sleep;
no wonder you have tired Archie's patience out."

"I have not tired Archie out. Oh, I wish he was here! I wish he was
here!"

"He will be back in five or six weeks, unless Marion persuades him to
go to the Mediterranean--and, as the Admiral is so fond of the sea,
that move is not unlikely."

"Please go away."

"I shall be only too happy to do so."

Now it happened that the footman, in taking in the mail, had noticed
the letter for Sophy, and commented on it in the kitchen; and every
servant in the house had been glad for the joy it would bring to the
lonely, sick woman. So there was nothing remarkable in her maid saying,
as she dressed her mistress:--

"I hope Mr. Braelands is well; and though I say it as perhaps I
shouldn't say it, we was all pleased at your getting Master's letter
this morning. We all hope it will make you feel brighter and stronger,
I'm sure."

"The letter was Madame's letter, not mine, Leslie."

"Indeed, it was not, ma'am. Alexander said himself, and I heard him,
'there is a long letter for Mrs. Archibald this morning,' and we were
all that pleased as never was."

"Are you sure, Leslie?"

"Yes, I am sure."

"Go down-stairs and ask Alexander."

Leslie went and came back immediately with Alexander's positive
assertion that the letter was directed to _Mrs. Archibald Braelands,_
Sophy made no answer, but there was a swift and remarkable change in
her appearance and manner. She put her physical weakness out of her
consideration, and with a flush on her cheeks and a flashing light in
her eyes, she went down to the parlour. Madame had a caller with her, a
lady of not very decided position, who was therefore eager to please
her patron; but Sophy was beyond all regard for such conventionalities
as she had been ordered to observe. She took no notice of the visitor,
but going straight to Madame, she said:--

"You took my letter this morning. You had no right to take it; you had
no right to read it; you had no right to make up lies from it and come
to my bedside with them. Give me my letter."

Madame turned to her visitor. "You see this impossible creature!" she
cried. "She demands from me a letter that never came." "It did come.
You have my letter. Give it to me."

"My dear Sophy, go to your room. You are not in a fit state to see any
one."

"Give me my letter. At least, let me see the letter that came."

"I shall do nothing of the kind. If you choose to suspect me, you must
do so. Can I make your husband write to you?"

"He did write to me."

"Mrs. Stirling, do you wonder now at my son's running away from his
home?"

"Indeed I am fairly astonished at what I see and hear."

"Sophy, you foolish woman, do not make any greater exhibit of yourself
that you have done. For heaven's sake, go to your own room. I have only
my own letter, and I told you all of importance in it."

"Every servant in the house knows that the letter was mine."

"What the servants know is nothing to me. Now, Sophy, I will stand no
more of this; either you leave the room, or Mrs. Stirling and I will do
so. Remember that you have betrayed yourself. I am not to blame."

"What do you mean, Madame?"

"I mean that you may have hallucinations, but that you need not exhibit
them to the world. For my son's sake, I demand that you go to your
room."

"I want my letter. For God's sake, have pity on me, and give me my
letter!"

Madame did not answer, but she took her friend by the arm and they left
the room together. In the hall Madame saw a servant, and she said
blandly--

"Go and tell Leslie to look after her mistress, she is in the parlour.
And you may also tell Leslie that if she allows her to come down again
in her present mood, she will be dismissed."

"Poor thing!" said Mrs. Stirling. "You must have your hands full with
her, Madame. Nobody had any idea of such a tragedy as this though I
must say I have heard many wonder about the lady's seclusion."

"You see the necessity for it. However, we do not wish any talk on the
subject."

Slowly it came to Sophy's comprehension that she had been treated like
an insane woman, and her anger, though quiet, was of that kind that
means action of some sort. She went to her room, but it was only to
recall the wrong upon wrong, the insult upon insult she had received.

"I will go away from it all," she said. "I will go away until Archie
returns. I will not sleep another night under the same roof with that
wicked woman. I will stay away till I die, ere I will do it."

Usually she had little strength for much movement, but at this hour she
felt no physical weakness. She made Leslie bring her a street costume
of brown cloth, and she carefully put into her purse all the money she
had. Then she ordered the carriage and rode as far as her aunt
Kilgour's. "Come for me in an hour, Thomas," she said, and then she
entered the shop.

"Aunt, I am come back to you. Will you let me stay with you till Archie
gets home? I can bide yon dreadful old woman no longer."

"Meaning Madame Braelands?"

"She is just beyond all things. This morning she has kept a letter that
Archie wrote me; and she has told me a lot of lies in its place. I'm
not able to thole her another hour."

"I'll tell you what, Sophy, Madame was here since I saw you, and she
says you are neither to be guided nor endured I don't know who to
believe."

"Oh! aunt, aunt, you know well I wouldn't tell you a lie. I am so
miserable! For God's sake, take me in!"

"I'd like to, Sophy, but I'm not free to do so."

"You're putting Madame's bit of siller and the work she's promised you
from the Glamis girl before my heart-break. Oh, how can you?"

"Sophy, you have lived with me, and I saw you often dissatisfied and
unreasonable for nothing at all."

"I was a bit foolish lassie then. I am a poor, miserable, sick woman
now."

"You have no need to be poor, and miserable, and sick. I won't
encourage you to run away from your home and your duty. At any rate,
bide where you are till your husband comes back. I would be wicked to
give you any other advice."

"You mean that you won't let me come and stay with you?"

"No, I won't. I would be your worst enemy if I did."

"Then good-bye. You will maybe be sorry some day for the 'No' you have
just said."

She went slowly out of the store, and Griselda was very unhappy, and
called to her to come back and wait for her carriage. She did not heed
or answer, but walked with evident purpose down a certain street. It
led her to the railway station, and she went in and took a ticket for
Edinburgh. She had hardly done so when the train came thundering into
the station, she stepped into it, and in a few minutes was flying at
express rate to her destination. She had relatives in Edinburgh, and
she thought she knew their dwelling place, having called on them with
her Aunt Kilgour when they were in that city, just previous to her
marriage. But she found that they had removed, and no one in the
vicinity knew to what quarter of the town. She was too tired to pursue
inquiries, or even to think any more that day, and she went to a hotel
and tried to rest and sleep. In the morning she remembered that her
mother's cousin, Jane Anderson, lived in Glasgow at some number in
Monteith Row. The Row was not a long one, even if she had to go from
house to house to find her relative. So she determined to go on to
Glasgow.

She felt ill, strangely ill; she was in a burning fever and did not
know it. Yet she managed to get into the proper train, and to retain
her consciousness for sometime afterwards, ere she succumbed to the
inevitable consequences of her condition. Before the train reached its
destination, however, she was in a desperate state, and the first
action of the guard was to call a carriage and send her to a hospital.

After this kindness had been done, Sophy was dead to herself and the
world for nearly three weeks. She remembered nothing, she knew nothing,
she spoke only in the most disconnected and puzzling manner. For her
speech wandered between the homely fisher life of her childhood and the
splendid social life of Braelands. Her personality was equally
perplexing. The clothing she wore was of the finest quality; her rings,
and brooch, and jewelled watch, indicated wealth and station; yet her
speech, especially during the fever, was that of the people, and as she
began to help herself, she had little natural actions that showed the
want of early polite breeding. No letter or card, no name or address of
any kind, was found on her person; she appeared to be as absolutely
lost as a stone dropped into the deep sea.

And when she came to herself and realised where she was, and found out
from her attendant the circumstances under which she had been brought
to the hospital, she was still more reticent. For her first thought
related to the annoyance Archie would feel at her detention in a public
hospital; her second, to the unmerciful use Madame would make of the
circumstance. She could not reason very clearly, but her idea was to
find her cousin and gain her protection, and then, from that more
respectable covett, to write to her husband. She might admit her
illness--indeed, she would be almost compelled to do that, for she had
fallen away so much, and had had her hair cut short during the height
of the fever--but Archie and Madame must not know that she had been in
a public hospital. For fisher-people have a singular dislike to public
charity of any kind; they help one another. And, to Sophy's
intelligence, the hospital episode was a disgrace that not even her
insensibility could quite excuse.

Several weeks passed in that long, spotless, white room full of
suffering, before Sophy was able to stand upon her feet, before indeed
she began to realise the passage of time, and the consequences which
must have followed her long absence and silence. But all her efforts at
writing were failures. The thought she wished to express slipped off
into darkness as soon as she tried to write it; her vision failed her,
her hands failed her; she could only sink back upon her pillow and lie
inert and almost indifferent for hours afterwards. And as the one
letter she wished to write was to Archie, she could not depute it to
any one else. Besides, the nurse would tell _where_ she was, and that
was a circumstance she must at all hazards keep to herself. It had been
hot July weather when she was first placed on her hard, weary bed of
suffering, it was the end of September when she was able to leave the
hospital. Her purse with its few sovereigns in it was returned to her,
and the doctor told her kindly, if she had any friends in the world, to
go at once to their care.

"You have talked a great deal of the sea and the boats," he said; "get
close to the sea if you can; it is perhaps the best and the only thing
for you."

She thanked him and answered: "I am going to the Fife coast. I have
friends there, I think." She put out a little wasted hand, and he
clasped it with a sigh.

"So young, so pretty, so good," he said to the nurse, as they stood
watching her walk very feebly and unsteadily away.

"I will give her three months at the longest, if she has love and care.
I will give her three weeks--nay, I will say three days, if she has to
care for herself, or if any particular trouble come to her."

Then they turned from the window, and Sophy hired a cab and went to
Monteith Row to try and find her friends. She wanted to write to her
husband and ask him to come for her. She thought she could do this best
from her cousin's home. "I will give her a bonnie ring or two, and I
will tell her the whole truth, and she will be sure to stand by me, for
there is nothing wrong to stand by, and blood is aye thicker than
water." And then her thoughts wandered on to a contingency that brought
a flush of pain to her cheeks. "Besides, maybe Archie might have an ill
thought put into his head, and then the doctors and nurses in the
hospital could tell him what would make all clear." She went through
many of the houses, inquiring for Ellen Montgomery, but could not find
her, and she was finally obliged to go to a hotel and rest. "I will
take the lave of the houses in the morning," she thought, "it is aye
the last thing that is the right thing; everybody finds that out."

That evening, however, something happened which changed all her ideas
and intentions. She went into the hotel parlour and sat down; there
were some newspapers on the table, and she lifted one. It was an
Edinburgh paper, but the first words her eyes fell on was her husband's
name. Her heart leaped up at the sight of it, and she read the
paragraph. Then the paper dropped from her hands. She felt that she was
going to faint, and by a supreme effort of will she recalled her senses
and compelled them to stay and suffer with her. Again, and then again,
she read the paragraph, unable at first to believe what she did read,
for it was a notice, signed by her husband, advising the world in
general that she had voluntarily left his home, and that he would no
longer be responsible for any debt she might contract in his name. To
her childlike, ignorant nature, this public exposure of her was a final
act. She felt that it was all the same as a decree of divorce. "Archie
had cast her off; Madame had at last parted them." For an hour she sat
still in a very stupour of despair.

"But something might yet be done; yes, something must be done. She
would go instantly to Fife; she would tell Archie everything. He could
not blame her for being sick and beyond reason or knowledge. The
doctors and nurses of the hospital would certify to the truth of all
she said." Ah! she had only to look in a mirror to know that her own
wasted face and form would have been testimony enough.

That night she could not move, she had done all that it was possible
for her to do that day; but on the morrow she would be rested and she
might trust herself to the noise and bustle of the street and railway.
The day was well on before she found strength to do this; but at length
she found herself on the direct road to Largo, though she could hardly
tell how it had been managed. As she approached the long chain of Fife
fishing-villages, she bought the newspaper most widely read in them;
and, to her terror and shame, found the same warning to honest folk
against her. She was heartsick. With this barrier between Archie and
herself, how could she go to Braelands? How could she face Madame? What
mockery would be made of her explanations? No, she must see Archie
alone. She must tell him the whole truth, somewhere beyond Madame's
contradiction and influence. Whom should she go to? Her aunt Kilgour
had turned her away, even before this disgrace. Her cousin Isobel's
husband had asked her not to come to his house and make loss and
trouble for him. If she went direct to Braelands, and Archie happened
to be out of the house, Madame would say such things of her before
every one as could never be unsaid. If she went to a hotel, she would
be known, and looked at, and whispered about, and maybe slighted. What
must she do? Where could she see her husband best? She was at her wit's
end. She was almost at the end of her physical strength and
consciousness. And in this condition, two men behind her began to talk
to the rustle of their turning newspapers.

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