Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Knight of the Nets by Amelia E. Barr

Part 4 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"This is a queer-like thing about Braelands and his wife," said one.

"It is a very bad thing. If the wife has gane awa', she has been driven
awa' by bad usage. There is an old woman at Braelands that is as
evil-hearted as if she had slipped out o' hell for a few years.
Traill's girl was good and bonnie; she was too good, or she would have
held her ain side better."

"That may be; but there is a reason deeper than that. The man is
wanting to marry the Glamis girl. He has already began a suit for
divorce, I hear. Man, man, there is always a woman at the bottom of
every sin and trouble!"

Then they began to speak of the crops and the shooting, and Sophy
listened in vain for more intelligence. But she had heard enough. Her
soul cried out against the hurry and shame of the steps taken in the
matter. "So cruel as Archie is!" she sighed. "He might have looked for
me! He might have found me even in that awful hospital! He ought to
have done so, and taken me away and nursed me himself! If he had loved
me! If he had loved me, he would have done these things!". Despair
chilled her very blood. She had a thought of going to Braelands, even
if she died on its threshold; and then suddenly she remembered Janet
Binnie.

As Janet's name came to her mind, the train stopped at Largo, and she
slipped out among the hurrying crowd and took the shortest road to
Pittendurie. It was then nearly dark, and the evening quite chill and
damp; but there was now a decisive end before the dying woman. "She
must reach Janet Binnie, and then leave all to her. She would bring
Archie to her side. She would be sufficient for Madame. If this only
could be managed while she had strength to speak, to explain, to put
herself right in Archie's eyes, then she would be willing and glad to
die." Step by step, she stumbled forward, full of unutterable anguish
of heart, and tortured at every movement by an inability to get breath
enough to carry her forward.

At last, at last, she came in sight of Janet's cottage. The cliff
terrified her; but she must get up it, somehow. And as she painfully
made step after step, a light shone through the open door and seemed to
give her strength and welcome. Janet had been spending the evening with
her daughter, and had sat with her until near her bedtime. She was
doing her last household duties, and the last of all was to close the
house-door. When she went to do this, a little figure crouched on the
door-step, two weak hands clasped her round the knees, and the very
shadow of a thin, pitiful voice sobbed:--

"Janet! Take me in, Janet! Take me in to die! I'll not trouble you
long--it is most over, Janet!"

CHAPTER XI

DRIVEN TO HIS DUTY

Toward this culmination of her troubles Archie had indeed contributed
far too much, but yet not as much as Sophy thought. He had taken her
part, he had sought for her, he had very reluctantly come to accept his
mother's opinions. His trip had not been altogether the heaven Madame
represented it. The Admiral had proved himself dictatorial and
sometimes very disagreeable at sea; the other members of the party had
each some unpleasant peculiarities which the cramped quarters and the
monotony of yacht life developed. Some had deserted altogether, others
grumbled more than was agreeable, and Marion's constant high spirits
proved to be at times a great exaction.

Before the close of the pleasure voyage, Archie frequently went alone
to remember the sweet, gentle affection of his wife, her delight in his
smallest attentions, her instant recognition of his desires, her
patient endeavours to please him, her resignation to all his neglect.
Her image grew into his best imagination, and when he left the yacht at
her moorings in Pittendurie Bay, he hastened to Sophy with the
impatience of a lover who is also a husband.

Madame had heard of his arrival and was watching for her son. She met
him at the door and he embraced her affectionately, but his first words
were, "Sophy, I hope she is not ill. Where is she?"

"My dear Archie, no one knows. She left your home three weeks after you
had sailed."

"My God, Mother, what do you mean?"

"No one knows why she left, no one knows or can find out where she went
to. Of course, I have my suspicions."

"Sophy! Sophy! Sophy!" he cried, sinking into a chair and covering his
face, but, whatever Madame's suspicions, she could not but see that
Archie had not a doubt of his wife's honour. After a few minutes'
silence, he turned to his mother and said:--

"You have scolded for once, Mother, more than enough. I am sure it is
your unkindness that has driven my wife from her home. You promised me
not to interfere with her little plans and pleasures."

"If I am to bear the blame of the woman's low tastes, I decline to
discuss the matter," and she left the room with an air of great
offence.

Of course, if Madame would not discuss the matter with him, nothing
remained but the making of such inquiries as the rest of the household
could answer. Thomas readily told all he knew, which was the simple
statement that "he took his mistress to her aunt's and left her there,
and that when he returned for her, Miss Kilgour was much distressed and
said she had already left." Archie then immediately sought Miss
Kilgour, and from her learned the particulars of his wife's
wretchedness, especially those points relating to the appropriated
letter. He flushed crimson at this outrage, but made no remark
concerning it.

"My one desire now," he said, "is to find out where Sophy has taken
refuge. Can you give me any idea?"

"If she is not in Pittendurie,--and I can find no trace of her
there,--then I think she may be in Edinburgh or Glasgow. You will mind
she had cousins in Edinburgh, and she was very kind with them at the
time of her marriage. I thought of them first of all, and I wrote three
letters to them; but there has been no answer to any of the three. She
has friends in Glasgow, but I am sure she had no knowledge as to where
they lived. Besides, I got their address from kin in Aberdeen and wrote
there also, and they answered me and said they had never seen or heard
tell of Sophy. Here is their letter."

Archie read it carefully and was satisfied that Sophy was not in
Glasgow. The silence of the Edinburgh cousins was more promising, and
he resolved to go at once to that city and interview them. He did not
even return to Braelands, but took the next train southward. Of course
his inquiries utterly failed. He found Sophy's relatives, but their air
of amazement and their ready and positive denial of all knowledge of
his lost wife were not to be doubted. Then he returned to Largo. He
assured himself that Sophy was certainly in hiding among the
fisher-folk in Pittendurie, and that he would only have to let it be
known that he had returned for her to appear. Indeed she must have seen
the yacht at anchor, and he fully expected to find her on the door-step
waiting for him. As he approached Braelands, he fancied her arms round
his neck, and saw her small, wistful, flushing face against his breast;
but it was all a dream. The door was closed, and when it admitted him
there was nothing but silence and vacant rooms. He was nearly
distracted with sorrow and anger, and Madame had a worse hour than she
ever remembered when Archie asked her about the fatal letter that had
been the active cause of trouble.

"The letter was Sophy's," he said passionately, "and you knew it was.
How then could you be so shamefully dishonourable as to keep it from
her?"

"If you choose to reproach me on mere servants' gossip, I cannot
prevent you."

"It is not servants' gossip. I know by the date on which Sophy left
home that it must have been the letter I wrote her from Christiania. It
was a disgraceful, cruel thing for you to do. I can never look you in
your face again, Mother. I do not feel that I can speak to you, or even
see you, until my wife has forgiven both you and myself. Oh, if I only
knew where to look for her!"

"She is not far to seek; she is undoubtedly among her kinsfolk at
Pittendurie. You may remember, perhaps, how they felt toward you before
you went away. After you went, she was with them continually."

"Then Thomas lies. He says he never took her anywhere but to her aunt
Kilgour's."

"I think Thomas is more likely to lie than I am. If you have strength
to bear the truth, I will tell you what I am convinced of."

"I have strength for anything but this wretched suspense and fear."

"Very well, then, go to the woman called Janet Binnie; you may
recollect, if you will, that her son Andrew was Sophy's ardent
lover--so much so, that her marriage to you nearly killed him. He has
become a captain lately, wears gold buttons and bands, and is really a
very handsome and important man in the opinion of such people as your
wife. I believe Sophy is either in his mother's house or else she has
gone to--London."

"Why London?"

"Captain Binnie sails continually to London. Really, Archie, there are
none so blind as those who won't see."

"I will not believe such a thing of Sophy. She is as pure and innocent
as a little child."

Madame laughed scornfully. "She is as pure and innocent as those
baby-faced women usually are. As a general rule, the worst creature in
the world is a saint in comparison. What did Sophy steal out at night
for? Tell me that. Why did she walk to Pittendurie so often? Why did
she tell me she was going to walk to her aunt's, and then never go?"

"Mother, Mother, are you telling me the truth?"

"Your inquiry is an insult, Archie. And your blindness to Sophy's real
feelings is one of the most remarkable things I ever saw. Can you not
look back and see that ever since she married you she has regretted and
fretted about the step? Her heart is really with her fisher and sailor
lover. She only married you for what you could give her; and having got
what you could give her, she soon ceased to prize it, and her love went
back to Captain Binnie,--that is, if it had ever left him."

Conversation based on these shameful fabrications was continued for
hours, and Madame, who had thoroughly prepared herself for it, brought
one bit of circumstantial evidence after another to prove her
suspicions. The wretched husband was worked to a fury of jealous anger
not to be controlled. "I will search every cottage in Pittendurie," he
said in a rage. "I will find Sophy, and then kill her and myself."

"Don't be a fool, Archibald Braelands. Find the woman,--that is
necessary,--then get a divorce from her, and marry among your own kind.
Why should you lose your life, or even ruin it, for a fisherman's old
love? In a year or two you will have forgotten her and thrown the whole
affair behind your back."

It is easy to understand how a conversation pursued for hours in this
vein would affect Archie. He was weak and impulsive, ready to suspect
whatever was suggested, jealous of his own rights and honour, and on
the whole of that pliant nature which a strong, positive woman like
Madame could manipulate like wax. He walked his room all night in a
frenzy of jealous love. Sophy lost to him had acquired a sudden charm
and value beyond all else in life; he longed for the morning; for
Madame's positive opinions had thoroughly convinced him, and he felt a
great deal more sure than she did that Sophy was in Pittendurie. And
yet, after every such assurance to himself, his inmost heart asked
coldly, "Why then has she not come back to you?"

He could eat no breakfast, and as soon as he thought the village was
awake, he rode rapidly down to Pittendurie. Janet was alone; Andrew was
somewhere between Fife and London; Christina was preparing her morning
meal in her own cottage. Janet had already eaten hers, and she was
washing her tea-cup and plate and singing as she did so,--

"I cast my line in Largo Bay,
And fishes I caught nine;
There's three to boil, and three to fry,
And three to bait the line,"

when she heard a sharp rap at her door. The rap was not made with the
hand; it was peremptory and unusual, and startled Janet. She put down
the plate she was wiping, ceased singing, and went to the door. The
Master of Braelands was standing there. He had his short riding-whip in
his hand, and Janet understood at once that he had struck her house
door with the handle of it. She was offended at this, and she asked
dourly:--

"Well, sir, your bidding?"

"I came to see my wife. Where is she?"

"You ought to know that better than any other body. It is none of my
business."

"I tell you she has left her home."

"I have no doubt she had the best of good reasons for doing so."

"She had no reason at all."

Janet shrugged her shoulders, smiled with scornful disbelief, and
looked over the tossing black waters.

"Woman, I wish to go through your house, I believe my wife is in it."

"Go through my house? No indeed. Do you think I'll let a man with a
whip in his hand go through my house after a poor frightened bird like
Sophy? No, no, not while my name is Janet Binnie."

"I rode here; my whip is for my horse. Do you think I would use it on
any woman?"

"God knows, I don't."

"I am not a brute."

"You say so yourself."

"Woman, I did not come here to bandy words with you."

"Man, I'm no caring to hear another word you have to say; take yourself
off my door-stone," and Janet would have shut the door in his face, but
he would not permit her.

"Tell Sophy to come and speak to me."

"Sophy is not here."

"She has no reason to be afraid of me."

"I should think not."

"Go and tell her to come to me then."

"She is not in my house. I wish she was."

"She _is_ in your house."

"Do you dare to call me a liar? Man alive! Do it again, and every
fisher-wife in Pittendurie will help me to give you your fairings."

"_Tush!_! Let me see my wife."

"Take yourself off my doorstep, or it will be the worse for you."

"Let me see my wife."

"Coming here and chapping on my door--on Janet Binnie's door!--with a
horsewhip!"

"There is no use trying to deceive me with bad words. Let me pass."

"Off with you! you poor creature, you! Sophy Traill had a bad bargain
with the like of you, you drunken, lying, savage-like, wife-beating
pretence o' a husband!"

"Mother' Mother!" cried Christina, coming hastily forward; "Mother,
what are you saying at all?"

"The God's truth, Christina, that and nothing else. Ask the mean,
perfectly unutterable scoundrel how he got beyond his mother's
apron-strings so far as this?"

Christina turned to Braelands. "Sir," she said, "what's your will?"

"My wife has left her home, and I have been told she is in Mistress
Binnie's house."

"She is not. We know nothing about the poor, miserable lass, God help
her!"

"I cannot believe you."

"Please yourself anent believing me, but you had better be going, sir.
I see Limmer Scott and Mistress Roy and a few more fishwives looking
this way."

"Let them look."

"Well, they have their own fashion of dealing with men who ill use a
fisher lass. Sophy was born among them."

"You are a bad lot! altogether a bad lot!"

"Go now, and go quick, or we'll prove to you that we are a bad lot!"
cried Janet. "I wouldn't myself think anything of putting you in a
blanket and tossing you o'er the cliff into the water." And Janet, with
arms akimbo and eyes blazing with anger, was not a comfortable sight.

So, with a smile of derision, Braelands turned his back on the women,
walking with an affected deliberation which by no means hid the white
feather from the laughing, jeering fisher-wives who came to their door
at Janet's call for them, and whose angry mocking followed him until he
was out of sight and hearing. Then there was a conclave in Janet's
house, and every one told a different version of the Braelands trouble.
In each case, however, Madame was credited with the whole of the
sorrow-making, though Janet stoutly asserted that "a man who was feared
for his mother wasn't fit to be a husband."

"Madame's tongue and temper is kindled from a coal out of hell," she
said, "and that is the God's truth; but she couldn't do ill with them,
if Archie Braelands wasn't a coward--a sneaking, trembling coward, that
hasn't the heart in him to stand between poor little Sophy and the most
spiteful, hateful old sinner this side of the brimstone pit."

But though the birr and first flame of the village anger gradually
cooled down, Janet's and Christina's hearts were hot and heavy within
them, and they could not work, nor eat, nor sleep with any relish, for
thinking of the poor little runaway wife. Indeed, in every cottage
there was one topic of wonder and pity, and one sad lament when two or
three of the women came together: "Poor Sophy! Poor Sophy Braelands!" It
was noticeable, however, that not a single woman had a wrong thought of
Sophy. Madame could easily suspect the worst, but the "worst" was an
incredible thing to a fisher-wife. Some indeed blamed her for not
tholing her grief until her husband came back, but not a single heart
suspected her of a liaison with her old lover.

Archie, however, returned from his ineffectual effort to find her with
every suspicion strengthened. Madame could hardly have hoped for a
visit so completely in her favour, and after it Archie was entirely
under her influence. It is true he was wretchedly despondent, but he
was also furiously angry. He fancied himself the butt of his friends,
he believed every one to be talking about his affairs, and, day by day,
his sense of outrage and dishonour pressed him harder and harder. In a
month he was quite ready to take legal steps to release himself from
such a doubtful tie, and Madame, with his tacit permission, took the
first step towards such a consummation by writing with her own hand the
notice which had driven Sophy to despair.

While events were working towards this end, Sophy was helpless and
senseless in the Glasgow hospital. Archie's anger was grounded on the
fact that she must know of his return, and yet she had neither come
back to her home nor sent him a line of communication. He told himself
that if she had written him one line, he would have gone to the end of
the earth after her. And anon he told himself that if she had been true
to him, she would have written or else come back to her home. Say she
was sick, she could have got some one to use the pen or the telegraph
for her. And this round of reasoning, always led into the same channel
by Madame, finally assumed not the changeable quality of argument, but
the positiveness of fact.

So the notice of her abandonment was sent by the press far and wide,
and yet there came no protest against it; for Sophy had brought to the
hospital nothing by which she could be identified, and as no hint of
her personal appearance was given, it was impossible to connect her
with it. Thus while its cruel words linked suspicion with her name in
every household where they went, she lay ignorantly passive, knowing
nothing at all of the wrong done her and of the unfortunate train of
circumstances which finally forced her husband to doubt her love and
her honour. It was an additional calamity that this angry message of
severance was the first thing that met her consciousness when she was
at all able to act.

Her childish ignorance and her primitive ideas aided only too well the
impression of finality it gave. She put it beside all she had seen and
heard of her husband's love for Marion Glamis, and the miserable
certainty was plain to her. She knew she was dying, and a quiet place
to die in and a little love to help her over the hard hour seemed to be
all she could expect now; the thought of Janet and Christina was her
last hope. Thus it was that Janet found her trembling and weeping on
her doorstep; thus it was she heard that pitiful plaint, "Take me in,
Janet! Take me in to die!"

Never for one moment did Janet think of refusing this sad petition. She
sat down beside her; she laid Sophy's head against her broad loving
breast; she looked with wondering pity at the small, shrunken face, so
wan and ghostlike in the gray light. Then she called Christina, and
Christina lifted Sophy easily in her arms, and carried her into her own
house. "For we'll give Braelands no occasion against either her or
Andrew," she said. Then they undressed the weary woman and made her a
drink of strong tea; and after a little she began to talk in a quick,
excited manner about her past life.

"I ran away from Braelands at the end of July," she said. "I could not
bear the life there another hour; I was treated before folk as if I had
lost my senses; I was treated when I was alone as if I had no right in
the house, and as if my being in it was a mortal wrong and misery to
every one. And at the long last the woman there kept Archie's letter
from me, and I was wild at that, and sick and trembling all over; and I
went to Aunt Griselda, and she took Madame's part and would not let me
stay with her till Archie came back to protect me. What was I to do? I
thought of my cousins in Edinburgh and went there, and could not find
them. Then there was only Ellen Montgomery in Glasgow, and I was ill
and so tired; but I thought I could manage to reach her."

"And didn't you reach her, dearie?"

"No. I got worse and worse; and when I reached Glasgow I knew nothing
at all, and they sent me to the hospital."

"Oh, Sophy! Sophy!"

"Aye, they did. What else could be, Janet? No one knew who I was; I
could not tell any one. They weren't bad to me. I suffered, but they
did what they could to help me. Such dreadful nights, Janet! Such long,
awful days! Week after week in which I knew nothing but pain; I could
not move myself. I could not write to any one, for my thoughts would
not stay with me; and my sight went away, and I had hardly strength to
live."

"Try and forget it, Sophy, darling," said Christina. "We will care for
you now, and the sea-winds will blow health to you."

She shook her head sadly. "Only the winds of heaven will ever blow
health to me, Christina," she answered; "I have had my death blow. I am
going fast to them who have gone before me. I have seen my mother
often, the last wee while. I knew it was my mother, though I do not
remember her; she is waiting for her bit lassie. I shall not have to go
alone; and His rod and staff will comfort me, I will fear no evil."

They kissed and petted and tried to cheer her, and Janet begged her to
sleep; but she was greatly excited and seemed bent on excusing and
explaining what she had done. "For I want you to tell Archie
everything, Janet," she said. "I shall maybe never see him again; but
you must take care, that he has not a wrong thought of me."

"He'll get the truth and the whole truth from me, dearie."

"Don't scold him, Janet. I love him very much. It is not his fault."

"I don't know that."

"No, it is not. I wasn't home to Braelands two days before Madame began
to make fun of my talk, and my manners, and my dress, and of all I did
and said. And she got Archie to tell me I must mind her, and try to
learn how to be a fine lady like her; and I could not--I could not. And
then she set Archie against me, and I was scolded just for nothing at
all. And then I got ill, and she said I was only sulky and awkward; but
I just could not learn the books I be to learn, nor walk as she showed
me how to walk, nor talk like her, nor do anything at all she tried to
make me do. Oh, the weary, weary days that I have fret myself through!
Oh, the long, painful nights! I am thankful they can never, never come
back."

"Then don't think of them now, Sophy. Try and rest yourself a bit, and
to-morrow you shall tell me everything."

"To-morrow will be too late, can't you see that, Janet? I must clear
myself to-night--now--or you won't know what to say to Archie."

"Was Archie kind to you, Sophy?"

"Sometimes he was that kind I thought I must be in the wrong, and then
I tried again harder than ever to understand the weary books and do
what Madame told me. Sometimes they made him cross at me, and I thought
I must die with the shame and heartache from it. But it was not till
Marion Glamis came back that I lost all hope. She was Archie's first
love, you know."

"She was nothing of the kind. I don't believe he ever cared a pin for
her. You had the man's first love; you have it yet, if it is worth
aught. He was here seeking you, dearie, and he was distracted with the
loss of you."

"In the morning you will send for him, Janet, very early; and though
I'll be past talking then, you will talk for me. You will tell him how
Madame tortured me about the Glamis girl, how she kept my letters, and
made Mrs. Stirling think I was not in my right mind," and so between
paroxysms of pain and coughing, she went over and over the sad story of
petty wrongs that had broken her heart, and driven her at last to
rebellion and flight.

"Oh! my poor lassie, why didn't you come to Christina and me?"

"There was aye the thought of Andrew. Archie would have been angry,
maybe, and I could only feel that I must get away from Braelands. When
aunt failed me, something seemed to drive me to Edinburgh, and then on
to Glasgow; but it was all right, you see, I have saved you and
Christina for the last hour," and she clasped Christina's hand and laid
her head closer to Janet's breast.

"And I would like to see the man or woman that will dare to trouble you
now, my bonnie bairn," said Janet. There was a sob in her voice, and
she crooned kind words to the dying girl, who fell asleep at last in
her arms. Then Janet went to the door, and stood almost gasping in the
strong salt breeze; for the shock of Sophy's pitiful return had hurt
her sorely. There was a full moon in the sky, and the cold, gray waters
tossed restlessly under it. "Lord help us, we must bear what's sent!"
she whispered; then she noticed a steamboat with closely reefed sails
lying in the offing; and added thankfully, "There is 'The Falcon,' God
bless her! And it's good to think that Andrew Binnie isn't far away;
maybe he'll be wanted. I wonder if I ought to send a word to him; if
Sophy wants to see him, she shall have her way; dying folk don't make
any mistakes."

Now when Andrew came to anchor at Pittendurie, it was his custom to
swing out a signal light, and if the loving token was seen, Janet and
Christina answered by placing a candle in their windows. This night
Janet put three candles in her window. "Andrew will wonder at them,"
she thought, "and maybe come on shore to find out whatever their
meaning may be." Then she hurriedly closed the door. The night was
cold, but it was more than that,--the air had the peculiar coldness
that gives sense of the supernatural, such coldness as precedes the
advent of a spirit. She was awed, she opened her mouth as if to speak,
but was dumb; she put out her hands--but who can arrest the invisible?

Sleep was now impossible. The very air of the room was sensitive.
Christina sat wide awake on one side of the bed, Janet on the other;
they looked at each other frequently, but did not talk. There was no
sound but the rising moans of the northeast wind, no light but the glow
of the fire and the shining of the full moon looking out from the
firmament as from eternity. Sophy slept restlessly like one in
half-conscious pain, and when she awoke before dawning, she was in a
high fever and delirious; but there was one incessant, gasping cry for
"Andrew!"

"Andrew! Andrew! Andrew!" she called with fast failing breath, "Andrew,
come and go for Archie. Only you can bring him to me." And Janet never
doubted at this hour what love and mercy asked for. "Folks may talk if
they want to," she said to Christina, "I am going down to the village
to get some one to take a message to Andrew. Sophy shall have her will
at this hour if I can compass it."

The men of the village were mostly yet at the fishing, but she found
two old men who willingly put out to "The Falcon" with the message for
her captain. Then she sent a laddie for the nearest doctor, and she
called herself for the minister, and asked him to come and see the sick
woman; "forbye, minister," she added, "I'm thinking you will be the
only person in Pittendurie that will have the needful control o' temper
to go to Braelands with the news." She did not specially hurry any one,
for, sick as Sophy was, she believed it likely Archie Braelands and a
good doctor might give her such hope and relief as would prolong her
life a little while. "She is so young," she thought, "and love and
sea-breezes are often a match for death himself."

The old men who had gone for Andrew were much too infirm to get close
to "The Falcon." For with the daylight her work had begun, and she was
surrounded on all sides by a melee of fishing-boats. Some were
discharging their boxes of fish; others were struggling to get some
point of vantage; others again fighting to escape the uproar. The air
was filled with the roar of the waves and with the voices of men,
blending in shouts, orders, expostulations, words of anger, and words
of jest.

Above all this hubbub, Andrew's figure on the steamer's bridge towered
large and commanding, as he watched the trunks of fish hauled on board,
and then dragged, pushed, thrown, or kicked, as near the mouth of the
hold as the blockade of trunks already shipped would permit. But, sharp
as a crack of thunder, a stentorian voice called out:--

"Captain Binnie wanted! Girl dying in Pittendurie wants him!"

Andrew heard. The meaning of the three lights was now explained. He had
an immediate premonition that it was Sophy, and he instantly deputed
his charge to Jamie, and was at the gunwale before the shouter had
repeated his alarm. To a less prompt and practised man, a way of
reaching the shore would have been a dangerous and tedious
consideration; but Andrew simply selected a point where a great wave
would lift a small boat near to the level of the ship's bulwarks, and
when this occurred, he leaped into her, and was soon going shoreward as
fast as his powerful stroke at the oars could carry him.

When he reached Christina's cottage, Sophy had passed beyond all earthly
care and love. She heeded not the tenderest words of comfort; her life
was inexorably coming to its end; and every one of her muttered words
was mysterious, important, wondrous, though they could make out nothing
she said, save only that she talked about "angels resting in the
hawthorn bowers." Hastily Christina gave Andrew the points of her
sorrowful story, and then she suddenly remembered that a strange man had
brought there that morning some large, important-looking papers which he
had insisted on giving to the dying woman. Andrew, on examination, found
them to be proceedings in the divorce case between Archibald Braelands
and his wife Sophy Traill.

"Some one has recognised her in the train last night and then followed
her here," he said pitifully. They were in a gey hurry with their cruel
work. I hope she knows nothing about it."

"No, no, they didn't come till she was clean beyond the worriments of
this life. She did not see the fellow who put them in her hands; she
heard nothing he said to her."

"Then if she comes to herself at all, say nothing about them. What for
should we tell her? Death will break her marriage very soon without
either judge or jury."

"The doctor says in a few hours at the most."

"Then there is no time to lose. Say a kind 'farewell' for me,
Christina, if you find a minute in which she can understand it. I'm off
to Braelands," and he put the divorce papers in his pocket, and went
down the cliff at a run. When he reached the house, Archie was at the
door on his horse and evidently in a hurry; but Andrew's look struck
him on the heart like a blow. He dismounted without a word, and
motioned to Andrew to follow him. They turned into a small room, and
Archie closed the door. For a moment there was a terrible silence, then
Andrew, with passionate sorrow, threw the divorce papers down on the
table.

"You'll not require, Braelands, to fash folk with the like of them;
your wife is dying. She is at my sister's house. Go to her at once."

"What is that to you? Mind your own business, Captain Binnie."

"It is the business of every decent man to call comfort to the dying.
Go and say the words you ought to say. Go before it is too late."

"Why is my wife at your sister's house?"

"God pity the poor soul, she had no other place to die in! For Christ's
sake, go and say a loving word to her."

"Where has she been all this time? Tell me that, sir."

"Dying slowly in the public hospital at Glasgow."

"_My God_!"

"There is no time for words now; not a moment to spare. Go to your wife
at once."

"She left me of her own free will. Why should I go to her now?"

"She did not leave you; she was driven away by devilish cruelty. And
oh, man, man, go for your own sake then! To-morrow it will be too late
to say the words you will weep to say. Go for your own sake. Go to
spare yourself the black remorse that is sure to come if you don't go.
If you don't care for your poor wife, go for your own sake!"

"I do care for my wife. I wished--"

"Haste you then, don't lose a moment! Haste you! haste you! If it is
but one kind word before you part forever, give it to her. She has
loved you well; she loves you yet; she is calling for you at the
grave's mouth. Haste you, man! haste you!"

His passionate hurry drove like a wind, and Braelands was as straw
before it. His horse stood there ready saddled; Andrew urged him to it,
and saw him flying down the road to Pittendurie before he was conscious
of his own efforts. Then he drew a long sigh, lifted the divorce papers
and threw them into the blazing fire. A moment or two he watched them
pass into smoke, and then he left the house with all the hurry of a
soul anxious unto death. Half-way down the garden path, Madame
Braelands stepped in front of him.

"What have you come here for?" she asked in her haughtiest manner.

"For Braelands."

"Where have you sent him to in such a black hurry?"

"To his wife. She is dying."

"Stuff and nonsense!"

"She is dying."

"No such luck for my house. The creature has been dying ever since he
married her."

"_You_ have been _killing her_ ever since he married her. Give way,
woman, I don't want to speak to you; I don't want to touch the very
clothes of you. I think no better of you than God Almighty does, and He
will ask Sophy's life at your hands."

"I shall tell Braelands of your impertinence. It will be the worse for
you."

"It will be as God wills, and no other way. Let me pass. Don't touch
me, there is blood on your hands, and blood on your skirts; and you are
worse--ten thousand times worse--than any murderer who ever swung on
the gallows-tree for her crime! Out of my way, Madame Braelands!"

She stood before him motionless as a white stone with passion, and yet
terrified by the righteous anger she had provoked. Words would not come
to her, she could not obey his order and move out of his way, so Andrew
turned into another path and left her where she stood, for he was
impatient of delay, and with steps hurried and stumbling, he followed
the husband whom he had driven to his duty.

CHAPTER XII

AMONG HER OWN PEOPLE

Braelands rode like a man possessed, furiously, until he reached the
foot of the cliff on which Janet's and Christina's cottages stood. Then
he flung the reins to a fisher-laddie, and bounded up the rocky
platform. Janet was standing in the door of Christina's cottage talking
to the minister. This time she made no opposition to Braelands's
entrance; indeed, there was an expression of pity on her face as she
moved aside to let him pass.

He went in noiselessly, reverently, suddenly awed by the majesty of
Death's presence. This was so palpable and clear, that all the mere
material work of the house had been set aside. No table had been laid,
no meat cooked; there had been no thought of the usual duties of the
day-time. Life stood still to watch the great mystery transpiring in
the inner room.

The door to it stood wide open, for the day was hot and windless.
Archie went softly in. He fell on his knees by his dying wife, he
folded her to his heart, he whispered into her fast-closing ears the
despairing words of love, reawakened, when all repentance was too late.
He called her back from the very shoal of time to listen to him. With
heart-broken sobs he begged her forgiveness, and she answered him with
a smile that had caught the glory of heaven. At that hour he cared not
who heard the cry of his agonising love and remorse. Sophy was the
whole of his world, and his anguish, so imperative, brought perforce
the response of the dying woman who loved him yet so entirely. A few
tears--the last she was ever to shed--gathered in her eyes; fondest
words of affection were broken on her lips, her last smile was for him,
her sweet blue eyes set in death with their gaze fixed on his
countenance.

When the sun went down, Sophy's little life of twenty years was over.
Her last few hours were very peaceful. The doctor had said she would
suffer much; but she did not. Lying in Archie's arms, she slipped
quietly out of her clay tabernacle, and doubtless took the way nearest
to her Father's House. No one knew the exact moment of her
departure--no one but Andrew. He, standing humbly at the foot of her
bed, divined by some wondrous instinct the mystic flitting, and so he
followed her soul with fervent prayer, and a love which spurned the
grave and which was pure enough to venture into His presence with her.

It was a scene and a moment that Archibald Braelands in his wildest and
most wretched after-days never forgot. The last rays of the setting sun
fell across the death-bed, the wind from the sea came softly through
the open window, the murmur of the waves on the sands made a mournful,
restless undertone to the majestic words of the minister, who, standing
by the bed-side, declared with uplifted hands and in solemnly
triumphant tones the confidence and hope of the departing spirit.

"'Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations.

"'Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the
earth and the world; even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art
God.

"'For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past;
and as a watch in the night.

"'The days of our years are three-score years and ten; and if by reason
of strength, they be four-score years, yet is their strength labor and
sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.'"

Then there was a pause; Andrew said "_It is over!_" and Janet took the
cold form from the distracted husband, and closed the eyes forever.

There was no more now for Archie to do, and he went out of the room
followed by Andrew.

"Thank you for coming for me, Captain," he said, "you did me a kindness
I shall never forget."

"I knew you would be glad. I am grieved to trouble you further,
Braelands, at this hour; but the dead must be waited on. It was Sophy's
wish to be buried with her own folk."

"She is my wife."

"Nay, you had taken steps to cast her off."

"She ought to be brought to Braelands."

"She shall never enter Braelands again. It was a black door to her.
Would you wish hatred and scorn to mock her in her coffin? She bid my
mother see that she was buried in peace and good will and laid with her
own people."

Archie covered his face with his hands and tried to think. Not even
when dead could he force her into the presence of his mother--and it
was true he had begun to cast her off; a funeral from Braelands would
be a wrong and an insult. But all was in confusion in his mind and he
said: "I cannot think. I cannot decide. I am not able for anything
more. Let me go. To-morrow--I will send word--I will come."

"Let it be so then. I am sorry for you, Braelands--but if I hear
nothing further, I will follow out Sophy's wishes."

"You shall hear--but I must have time to think. I am at the last point.
I can bear no more."

Then Andrew went with him down the cliff, and helped him to his saddle;
and afterwards he walked along the beach till he came to a lonely spot
hid in the rocks, and there he threw himself face downward on the
sands, and "communed with his own heart and was still." At this supreme
hour, all that was human flitted and faded away, and the primal essence
of self was overshadowed by the presence of the Infinite. When the
midnight tide flowed, the bitterness of the sorrow was over, and he had
reached that serene depth of the soul which enabled him to rise to his
feet and say "Thy Will be done!"

The next day they looked for some communication from Braelands; yet
they did not suffer this expectation to interfere with Sophy's explicit
wish, and the preparations for her funeral went on without regard to
Archie's promise. It was well so, for there was no redemption of it. He
did not come again to Pittendurie, and if he sent any message, it was
not permitted to reach them. He was notified, however, of the funeral
ceremony, which was set for the Sabbath following her death, and Andrew
was sure he would at least come for one last look at the wife whom he
had loved so much and wronged so deeply. He did not do so.

Shrouded in white, her hands full of white asters, Sophy was laid to
rest in the little wind blown kirkyard of Pittendurie. It was said by
some that Braelands watched the funeral from afar off, others declared
that he lay in his bed raving and tossing with fever, but this or that,
he was not present at her burial. Her own kin--who were fishers--laid
the light coffin on a bier made of oars, and carried it with psalm
singing to the grave. It was Andrew who threw on the coffin the first
earth. It was Andrew who pressed the cover of green turf over the small
mound, and did the last tender offices that love could offer. Oh, so
small a mound! A little child could have stepped over it, and yet, to
Andrew, it was wider than all the starry spaces.

The day was a lovely one, and the kirkyard was crowded to see little
Sophy join the congregation of the dead. After the ceremony was over
the minister had a good thought, he said: "We will not go back to the
kirk, but we will stay here, and around the graves of our friends and
kindred praise God for the 'sweet enlargement' of their death." Then he
sang the first line of the paraphrase, "O God of Bethel by whose hand,"
and the people took it from his lips, and made holy songs and words of
prayer fill the fresh keen atmosphere and mingle with the cries of the
sea-birds and the hushed complaining of the rising waters. And that
afternoon many heard for the first time those noble words from the Book
of Wisdom that, during the more religious days of the middle ages, were
read not only at the grave-side of the beloved, but also at every
anniversary of their death.

"But if the righteous be cut off early by death; she shall be at rest.

"For honor standeth not in length of days; neither is it computed by
number of years.

"She pleased God and was beloved, and she was taken away from living
among sinners.

"Her place was changed, lest evil should mar her understanding or
falsehood beguile her soul.

"She was made perfect in a little while, and finished the work of many
years.

"For her soul pleased God, and therefore He made haste to lead her
forth out of the midst of iniquity.

"And the people saw it and understood it not; neither considered they
this--

"That the grace of God and His mercy are upon His saints, and His
regard unto His Elect."

Chief among the mourners was Sophy's aunt Griselda. She now bitterly
repented the unwise and unkind "No." Sophy was dearer to her than she
thought, and when she had talked over her wrongs with Janet, her
indignation knew no bounds. It showed itself first of all to the author
of these wrongs. Madame came early to her shop on Monday morning, and
presuming on her last confidential talk with Miss Kilgour, began the
conversation on that basis.

"You see, Miss Kilgour," she said with a sigh, "what that poor girl's
folly has led her to."

"I see what she has come to. I'm not blaming Sophy, however."

"Well, whoever is to blame--and I suppose Braelands should have been
more patient with the troubles he called to himself--I shall have to
put on 'blacks' in consequence. It is a great expense, and a very
useless one; but people will talk if I do not go into mourning for my
son's wife."

"I wouldn't do it, if I was you."

"Society obliges. You must make me two gowns at least."

"I will not sew a single stitch for you."

"Not sew for me?"

"Never again; not if you paid me a guinea a stitch."

"What do you mean? Are you in your senses?"

"Just as much as poor Sophy was. And I'll never forgive myself for
listening to your lies about my niece. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself. Your cruelties to her are the talk of the whole
country-side."

"How dare you call me a liar?"

"When I think of wee Sophy in her coffin, I could call you something
far worse."

"You are an impertinent woman."

"Ah well, I never broke the Sixth Command. And if I was you, Madame, I
wouldn't put 'blacks' on about it. But 'blacks' or no 'blacks,' you can
go to some other body to make them for you; for I want none of your
custom, and I'll be obliged to you to get from under my roof. This is a
decent, God-fearing house."

Madame had left before the end of Griselda's orders; but she followed
her to the door, and delivered her last sentence as Madame was stepping
into her carriage. She was furious at the truths so uncompromisingly
told her, and still more so at the woman who had been their mouthpiece.
"A creature whom I have made! actually made!" she almost screamed. "She
would be out at service today but for me! The shameful, impertinent,
ungrateful wretch!" She ordered Thomas to drive her straight back
home, and, quivering with indignation, went to her son's room. He was
dressed, but lying prone upon his bed; his mother's complaining
irritated his mood beyond his endurance. He rose up in a passion; his
white haggard face showed how deeply sorrow and remorse had ploughed
into his very soul.

"Mother!" he cried, "you will have to hear the truth, in one way or
another, from every one. I tell you myself that you are not guiltless
of Sophy's death--neither am I."

"It is a lie."

"Do go out of my room. This morning you are unbearable."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Are you going to permit people to
insult your mother, right and left, without a word? Have you no sense
of honour and decency?"

"No, for I let them insult the sweetest wife ever a man had. I am a
brute, a monster, not fit to live. I wish I was lying by Sophy's side.
I am ashamed to look either men or women in the face."

"You are simply delirious with the fever you have had."

"Then have some mercy on me. I want to be quiet."

"But I have been grossly insulted."

"We shall have to get used to that, and bear it as we can. We deserve
all that can be said of us--or to us." Then he threw himself on his bed
again and refused to say another word. Madame scolded and complained
and pitied herself, and appealed to God and man against the wrongs she
suffered, and finally went into a paroxysm of hysterical weeping. But
Archie took no notice of the wordy tempest, so that Madame was
confounded and frightened, by an indifference so unusual and unnatural.

Weeks of continual sulking or recrimination passed drearily away.
Archie, in the first tide of his remorse, fed himself on the miseries
which had driven Sophy to her grave. He interviewed the servants and
heard all they had to tell him. He had long conversations with Miss
Kilgour, and made her describe over and over Sophy's despairing look
and manner the morning she ran away. For the poor woman found a sort of
comfort in blaming herself and in receiving meekly the hard words
Archie could give her. He visited Mrs. Stirling in regard to Sophy's
sanity, and heard from that lady a truthful report of all that had
passed in her presence. He went frequently to Janet's cottage, and took
all her home thrusts and all her scornful words in a manner so humble,
so contrite, and so heart-broken, that the kind old woman began finally
to forgive and comfort him. And the outcome of all these interviews and
conversations Madame had to bear. Her son, in his great sorrow, threw
off entirely the yoke of her control. He found his own authority and
rather abused it. She had hoped the final catastrophe would draw him
closer to her; hoped the coolness of friends and acquaintances would
make him more dependent on her love and sympathy. It acted in the
opposite direction. The public seldom wants two scapegoats. Madame's
ostracism satisfied its idea of justice. Every one knew Archie was very
much under her control. Every one could see that he suffered dreadfully
after Sophy's death. Every one came promptly to the opinion that Madame
only was to blame in the matter. "The poor husband" shared the popular
sympathy with Sophy.

However, in the long run, he had his penalty to pay, and the penalty
came, as was most just, through Marion Glamis. Madame quickly noticed
that after her loss of public respect, Marion's affection grew colder.
At the first, she listened to the tragedy of Sophy's illness and death
with a decent regard for Madame's feelings on the subject. When Madame
pooh-poohed the idea of Sophy being in an hospital for weeks, unknown,
Marion also thought it "most unlikely;" when Madame was "pretty sure
the girl had been in London during the hospital interlude," Marion also
thought, "it might be so; Captain Binnie was a very taking man." When
Madame said, "Sophy's whole conduct was only excusable on the
supposition of her unaccountability," Marion also thought "she did act
queerly at times."

Even these admissions were not made with the warmth that Madame
expected from Marion, and they gradually grew fainter and more general.
She began to visit Braelands less and less frequently, and, when
reproached for her remissness, said, "Archie was now a widower, and she
did not wish people to think she was running after him;" and her manner
was so cold and conventional that Madame could only look at her in
amazement. She longed to remind her of their former conversations about
Archie, but the words died on her lips. Marion looked quite capable of
denying them, and she did not wish to quarrel with her only visitor.

The truth was that Marion had her own designs regarding Archie, and she
did not intend Madame to interfere with them. She had made up her mind
to marry Braelands, but she was going to have him as the spoil of her
own weapons--not as a gift from his mother. And she was not so blinded
by hatred as to think Archie could ever be won by the abuse of Sophy.
On the contrary, she very cautiously began to talk of her with pity,
and even admiration. She fell into all Archie's opinions and moods on
the subject, and declared with warmth and positiveness that she had
always opposed Madame's extreme measures. In the long run, it came to
pass that Archie could talk comfortably with Marion about Sophy, for
she always reminded him of some little act of kindness to his wife, or
of some instance where he had decidedly taken her part, so that,
gradually, she taught him to believe that, after all, he had not been
so very much to blame.

In these tactics, Miss Glamis was influenced by the most powerful of
motives--self-preservation. She had by no means escaped the public
censure, and in that set of society she most desired to please, had
been decidedly included in the polite ostracism meted out to Madame.
Lovers she had none, and she began to realise, when too late, that the
connection of her name with that of Archie Braelands had been a wrong
to her matrimonial prospects that it would be hard to remedy. In fact,
as the winter went on, she grew hopeless of undoing the odium generated
by her friendship with Madame and her flirtation with Madame's son.

"And I shall make no more efforts at conciliation," she said angrily to
herself one day, after finding her name had been dropped from Lady
Blair's visiting-list; "I will now marry Archie. My fortune and his
combined will enable us to live where and how we please. Father must
speak to him on the subject at once"

That night she happened to find the Admiral in an excellent mood for
her purpose. The Laird of Binin had not "changed hats" with him when
they met on the highway, and he fumed about the circumstance as if it
had been a mortal insult.

"I'll never lift my hat to him again, Marion, let alone open my mouth,"
he cried; "no, not even if we are sitting next to each other at the
club dinner. What wrong have I ever done him? Have I ever done him a
favour that he should insult me?"

"It is that dreadful Braelands's business. That insolent, selfish,
domineering old woman has ruined us socially. I wish I had never seen
her face."

"You seemed to be fond enough of her once."

"I never liked her; I now detest her. The way she treated Archie's wife
was abominable. There is no doubt of that. Father, I am going to take
this situation by the horns of its dilemma. I intend to marry Archie.
No one in the county can afford to snub Braelands. He is popular and
likely to be more so; he is rich and influential, and I also am rich.
Together we may lead public opinion--or defy it. My name has been
injured by my friendship with him. Archie Braelands must give me his
name."

"By St. Andrew, he shall!" answered the irritable old man. "I will see
he does. I ought to have considered this before, Marion. Why did you
not show me my duty?"

"It is early enough; it is now only eight months since his wife died."

The next morning as Archie was riding slowly along the highway, the
Admiral joined him. "Come home to lunch with me," he said, and Archie
turned his horse and went. Marion was particularly sympathetic and
charming. She subdued her spirits to his pitch; she took the greatest
interest in his new political aspirations; she listened to his plans
about the future with smiling approvals, until he said he was thinking
of going to the United States for a few months. He wished to study
Republicanism on its own ground, and to examine, in their working
conditions, several new farming implements and expedients that he
thought of introducing. Then Marion rose and left the room. She looked
at her father as she did so, and he understood her meaning.

"Braelands," he said, when they were alone, "I have something to say
which you must take into your consideration before you leave Scotland.
It is about Marion."

"Nothing ill with Marion, I hope?"

"Nothing but what you can cure. She is suffering very much, socially,
from the constant association of her name with yours."

"Sir?"

"Allow me to explain. At the time of your sweet little wife's death,
Marion was constantly included in the blame laid to Madame Braelands.
You know now how unjustly."

"I would rather not have that subject discussed."

"But, by Heaven, it must be discussed! I have, at Marion's desire, said
nothing hitherto, because we both saw how much you were suffering; but,
sir, if you are going away from Fife, you must remember before you go
that the living have claims as well as the dead."

"If Marion has any claim on me, I am here, willing to redeem it."

"'If,' Braelands; it is not a question of 'if.' Marion's name has been
injured by its connection with your name. You know the remedy. I expect
you to behave like a gentleman in this matter."

"You expect me to marry Marion?"

"Precisely. There is no other effectual way to right her."

"I see Marion in the garden; I will go and speak to her."

"Do, my dear fellow. I should like this affair pleasantly settled."

Marion was sitting on the stone bench round the sun dial. She had a
white silk parasol over her head, and her lap was full of
apple-blossoms. A pensive air softened her handsome face, and as Archie
approached, she looked up with a smile that was very attractive. He sat
down at her side and began to finger the pink and white flowers. He was
quite aware that he was tampering with his fate as well; but at his
very worst, Archie had a certain chivalry about women that only needed
to be stirred by a word or a look indicating injustice. He was not keen
to perceive; but when once his eyes were opened, he was very keen to
feel.

"Marion," he said kindly, taking her hand in his, "have you suffered
much for my fault?"

"I have suffered, Archie."

"Why did you not tell me before?"

"You have been so full of trouble. How could I add to it?"

"You have been blamed?"

"Yes, very much."

"There is only one way to right you, Marion; I offer you my name and my
hand. Will you take it?"

"A woman wants love. If I thought you could ever love me--"

"We are good friends. You have been my comforter in many miserable
hours. I will make no foolish protestations; but you know whether you
can trust me. And that we should come to love one another very
sincerely is more than likely."

"I _do_ love you. Have I not always loved you?"

And this frank avowal was just the incentive Archie required. His heart
was hungry for love; he surrendered himself very easily to the charming
of affection. Before they returned to the house, the compact was made,
and Marion Glamis and Archibald Braelands were definitely betrothed.

As Archie rode home in the gloaming, it astonished him a little to find
that he felt a positive satisfaction in the prospect of telling his
mother of his engagement--a satisfaction he did not analyze, but which
was doubtless compounded of a sense of justice, and of a not very
amiable conviction that the justice would not be more agreeable than
justice usually is. Indeed, the haste with which he threw himself from
his horse and strode into the Braelands's parlour, and the hardly
veiled air of defiance with which he muttered as he went "It's her own
doing; let her be satisfied with her work," showed a heart that had
accepted rather than chosen its destiny, and that rebelled a little
under the constraint.

Madame was sitting alone in the waning light; her son had been away
from her all day, and had sent her no excuse for his detention. She was
both angry and sorrowful; and there had been a time when Archie would
have been all conciliation and regret. That time was past. His mother
had forfeited all his respect; there was nothing now between them but
that wondrous tie of motherhood which a child must be utterly devoid of
grace and feeling to forget. Archie never quite forgot it. In his worst
moods he would tell himself, "after all she is my mother. It was
because she loved me. Her inhumanity was really jealousy, and jealousy
is cruel as the grave." But this purely natural feeling lacked now all
the confidence of mutual respect and trust. It was only a natural
feeling; it had lost all the nobler qualities springing from a
spiritual and intellectual interpretation of their relationship.

"You have been away all day, Archie," Madame complained. "I have been
most unhappy about you."

"I have been doing some important business."

"May I ask what it was?"

"I have been wooing a wife."

"And your first wife not eight months in her grave!"

"It was unavoidable. I was in a manner forced to it."

"Forced? The idea! Are you become a coward?"

"Yes," he answered wearily; "anything before a fresh public discussion
of my poor Sophy's death."

"Oh! Who is the lady?"

"There is only one lady possible."

"Marion Glamis?"

"I thought you could say 'who'."

"I hope to heaven you will never marry that woman! She is false from
head to foot. I would rather see another fisher-girl here than Marion
Glamis."

"You yourself have made it impossible for me to marry any one but
Marion; though, believe me, if I could find another 'fisher-girl' like
Sophy, I would defy everything, and gladly and proudly marry her
to-morrow."

"That is understood; you need not reiterate. I see through Miss Glamis
now, the deceitful, ungrateful creature!"

"Mother, I am going to marry Miss Glamis. You must teach yourself to
speak respectfully of her."

"I hate her worse than I hated Sophy. I am the most wretched of women;"
and her air of misery was so genuine and hopeless that it hurt Archie
very sensibly.

"I am sorry," he said; "but you, and you only, are to blame. I have no
need to go over your plans and plots for this very end; I have no need
to remind you how you seasoned every hour of poor Sophy's life with
your regrets that Marion was _not_ my wife. These circumstances would
not have influenced me, but her name has been mixed up with mine and
smirched in the contact."

"And you will make a woman with a 'smirched' name Mistress of
Braelands? Have you no family pride?"

"I will wrong no woman, if I know it; that is my pride. If I wrong
them, I will right them. However, I give myself no credit about
righting Marion, her father made me do so."

"My humiliation is complete, I shall die of shame."

"Oh, no! You will do as I do--make the best of the affair. You can talk
of Marion's fortune and of her relationship to the Earl of Glamis, and
so on."

"That nasty, bullying old man! And you to be frightened by him! It is
too shameful."

"I was not frightened by him; but I have dragged one poor innocent
woman's name through the dust and dirt of public discussion, and,
before God, Mother, I would rather die than do the same wrong to
another. You know the Admiral's temper; once roused to action, he would
spare no one, not even his own daughter. It was then my duty to protect
her."

"I have nursed a viper, and it has bitten me. To-night I feel as if the
bite would be fatal."

"Marion is not a viper; she is only a woman bent on protecting herself.
However, I wish you would remember that she is to be your
daughter-in-law, and try and meet her on a pleasant basis. Any more
scandal about Braelands will compel me to shut up this house absolutely
and go abroad to live."

The next day Madame put all her pride and hatred out of sight and went
to call on Marion with congratulations; but the girl was not deceived.
She gave her the conventional kiss, and said all that it was proper to
say; but Madame's overtures were not accepted.

"It is only a flag of truce," thought Madame as she drove homeward,
"and after she is married to Archie, it will be war to the knife-hilt
between us. I can feel that, and I would not fear it if I was sure of
Archie. But alas, he is so changed! He is so changed!"

Marion's thoughts were not more friendly, and she did not scruple to
express them in words to her father. "That dreadful old woman was here
this afternoon," she said. "She tried to flatter me; she tried to make
me believe she was glad I was going to marry Archie. What a consummate
old hypocrite she is! I wonder if she thinks I will live in the same
house with her?"

"Of course she thinks so."

"I will not. Archie and I have agreed to marry next Christmas. She will
move into her own house in time to hold her Christmas there."

"I wouldn't insist on that, Marion. She has lived at Braelands nearly
all her life. The Dower House is but a wretched place after it. The
street in which it stands has become not only poor, but busy, and the
big garden that was round it when the home was settled on her was sold
in Archie's father's time, bit by bit, for shops and a preserving
factory. You cannot send her to the Dower House."

"She cannot stay at Braelands. She charges the very air of any house
she is in with hatred and quarrelling. Every one knows she has saved
money; if she does not like the Dower House, she can go to Edinburgh,
or London, or anywhere she likes--the further away from Braelands, the
better."

CHAPTER XIII

THE "LITTLE SOPHY"

Madame did not go to the Dower House. Archie was opposed to such a
humiliation of the proud woman, and a compromise was made by which she
was to occupy the house in Edinburgh which had been the Braelands's
residence during a great part of every winter. It was a handsome
dwelling, and Madame settled herself there in great splendour and
comfort; but she was a wretched woman in spite of her surroundings. She
had only unhappy memories of the past, she had no loving anticipations
for the future. She knew that her son was likely to be ruled by the
woman at his side, and she hoped nothing from Marion Glamis. The big
Edinburgh house with its heavy dark furniture, its shadowy draperies,
and its stately gloom, became a kind of death chamber in which she
slowly went to decay, body and soul.

No one missed her much or long in Largo, and in Edinburgh she found it
impossible to gather round herself the company to which she had been
wont. Unpleasant rumours somehow clung to her name; no one said much
about her, but she was not popular. The fine dwelling in St. George's
Square had seen much gay company in its spacious rooms; but Madame
found it a hopeless task to re-assemble it. She felt this want of
favour keenly, though she need not have altogether blamed herself for
it, had she not been so inordinately conscious of her own personality.
For Archie had undoubtedly, in previous winters, been the great social
attraction. His fine manners, his good nature, his handsome appearance,
his wealth, and his importance as a matrimonial venture, had crowded
the receptions which Madame believed owed their success to her own tact
and influence.

Gradually, however, the truth dawned upon her; and then, in utter
disgust, she retired from a world that hardly missed her, and which had
long only tolerated her for the accidents of her connections and
surroundings. Her disposition for saving grew into a passion; she
became miserly in the extreme, and punished herself night and day in
order that she might add continually to the pile of hoarded money which
Marion afterwards spent with a lavish prodigality. Occasionally her
thin, gray face, and her haggard figure wrapped in a black shawl, were
seen at the dusty windows of the room she occupied. The rest of the
house she closed. The windows were hoarded up and the doors padlocked,
and yet she lived in constant fear of attacks from thieves on her life
for her money. Finally she dismissed her only servant lest she might be
in league with such characters; and thus, haunted by terrors of all
kinds and by memories she could not destroy, she dragged on for twenty
years a life without hope and without love, and died at last with no
one but her lawyer and her physician at her side. She had sent for
Archie, but he was in Italy, and Marion she did not wish to see. Her
last words were uttered to herself. "I have had a poor life!" she
moaned with a desperate calmness that was her only expression of the
vast and terrible desolation of her heart and soul.

"A poor life," said the lawyer, "and yet she has left twenty-six
thousand pounds to her son."

"A poor life, and a most lonely flitting," reiterated her physician
with awe and sadness.

However, she herself had no idea when she removed to Edinburgh of
leading so "poor a life." She expected to make her house the centre of
a certain grave set of her own class and age; she expected Archie to
visit her often; she expected to find many new interests to occupy her
feelings and thoughts. But she was too old to transplant. Sophy's death
and its attending circumstances had taken from her both personally and
socially more than she knew. Archie, after his marriage, led entirely
by Marion and her ways and desires, never went towards Edinburgh. The
wretched old lady soon began to feel herself utterly deserted; and when
her anger at this position had driven love out of her heart, she fell
an easy prey to the most sordid, miserable, and degrading of passions,
the hoarding of money. Nor was it until death opened her eyes that she
perceived she had had "a poor life."

She began this Edinburgh phase of it under a great irritation. Knowing
that Archie would not marry until Christmas, and that after the
marriage he and Marion were going to London until the spring, she saw
no reason for her removal from Braelands until their return. Marion had
different plans. She induced Archie to sell off the old furniture, and
to redecorate and re-furnish Braelands from garret to cellar. It gave
Madame the first profound shock of her new life. The chairs and tables
she had used sold at auction to the tradespeople of Largo and the
farmers of the country-side! She could not understand how Archie could
endure the thought. Under her influence, he never would have endured
it; but Archie Braelands smiled on, and coaxed, and sweetly dictated by
Marion Glamis, was ready enough to do all that Marion wished.

"Of course the old furniture must be sold," she said. "Why not? It will
help to buy the new. We don't keep our old gowns and coats; why then
our old chairs and tables?"

"They have associations."

"Nonsense, Archie! So has my white parasol. Shall I keep it in tissue
paper forever? Such sentimental ideas are awfully behind the times.
Your grandfather's coat and shoes will not dress you to-day; neither,
my dear, can his notions and sentiments direct you."

So Braelands was turned, as the country people said, "out of the
windows," and Madame hastened away from the sight of such desecration.
It made Archie popular, however. The artisans found profitable work in
the big rooms, and the county families looked forward to the
entertainments they were to enjoy in the renovated mansion. It restored
Marion also to general estimation. There was a future before her now
which it would be pleasant to share, and every one considered that her
engagement to Archie exonerated her from all participation in Madame's
cruelty. "She has always declared herself innocent," said the
minister's wife, "and Braelands's marriage to her affirms it in the
most positive manner. Those who have been unjust to Miss Glamis have
now no excuse for their injustice." This authoritative declaration in
Marion's favour had such a decided effect that every invitation to her
marriage was accepted, and the ceremony, though purposely denuded of
everything likely to recall the tragedy now to be forgotten, was really
a very splendid private affair.

On the Sabbath before it, Archie took in the early morning a walk to
the kirkyard at Pittendurie. He was going to bid Sophy a last farewell.
Henceforward he must try and prevent her memory troubling his life and
influencing his moods and motives. It was a cold, chilling morning, and
the great immensity of the ocean spread away to the occult shores of
the poles. The sky was grey and sombre, the sea cloudy and unquiet; and
far off on the eastern horizon, a mysterious portent was slowly rolling
onward.

He crossed the stile and walked slowly forward. On his right hand there
was a large, newly-made grave with an oar standing upright at its head,
and some inscription rudely painted on it. His curiosity was aroused,
and he went closer to read the words: "_Be comforted! Alexander Murray
has prevailed_." The few words so full of hope and triumph, moved him
strangely. He remembered the fisherman Murray, whose victory over death
was so certainly announced; and his soul, disregarding all the
forbidding of priests and synods, instantly sent a prayer after the
departed conqueror. "Wherever he is," he thought, "surely he is closer
to Heaven than I am."

He had been in the kirkyard often when none but God saw him, and his
feet knew well the road to Sophy's grave. There was a slender shaft of
white marble at the head, and Andrew Binnie stood looking at it.
Braelands walked forward till only the little green mound separated
them. Their eyes met and filled with tears. They clasped hands across
her grave and buried every sorrowful memory, every sense of wrong or
blame, in its depth and height. Andrew turned silently away; Braelands
remained there some minutes longer. The secret of that invisible
communion remained forever his own secret. Those only who have had
similar experiences know that souls who love each other may, and can,
exchange impressions across immensity.

He found Andrew sitting on the stile, gazing thoughtfully over the sea
at the pale grey wall of inconceivable height which was drawing nearer
and nearer. "The fog is coming," he said, "we shall soon be going into
cloud after cloud of it."

"They chilled and hurt her once. She is now beyond them."

"She is in Heaven. God be thanked for His great mercy to her!"

"If we only knew something _sure_. Where is Heaven? Who can tell?"

"In Thy presence is fullness of joy, and at Thy right hand pleasures
forevermore. Where God is, there is Heaven."

"Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard."

"But God _hath_ revealed it; not a _future_ revelation, Braelands, but
a _present_ one." And then Andrew slowly, and with pauses full of
feeling and intelligence, went on to make clear to Braelands the
Present Helper in every time of need. He quoted mainly from the Bible,
his one source of all knowledge, and his words had the splendid
vagueness of the Hebrew, and lifted the mind into the illimitable. And
as they talked, the fog enveloped them, one drift after another passing
by in dim majesty, till the whole world seemed a spectacle of
desolation, and a breath of deadly chillness forced them to rise and
wrap their plaids closely round them. So they parted at the kirk yard
gate, and never, never again met in this world.

Braelands turned his face towards Marion and a new life, and Andrew
went back to his ship with a new and splendid interest. It began in
wondering, "whether there was any good in a man abandoning himself to a
noble, but vain regret? Was there no better way to pay a tribute to the
beloved dead?" Braelands's costly monument did not realise his
conception of this possibility; but as he rowed back to his ship in the
gathering storm, a thought came into his mind with all the assertion of
a clang of steel, and he cried out to his Inner Man.

"_That_, oh my soul, is what I will do; _that_ is what will keep my
love's name living and lovely in the hearts of her people."

His project was not one to be accomplished without much labour and
self-denial. It would require a great deal of money, and he would have
to save with conscientious care many years to compass his desire, which
was to build a Mission Ship for the deep sea fishermen Twelve years he
worked and saved, and then the ship was built; a strong steam-launch,
able to buffet and bear the North Sea when its waves were running wild
over everything. She was provided with all appliances for religious
comfort and teaching; she had medicines for the sick and surgical help
for the wounded; she carried every necessary protection against the
agonising "sea blisters" which torture the fishermen in the winter
season. And this vessel of many comforts was called the "Sophy Traill."

She is still busy about her work of mercy. Many other Mission Ships now
traverse the great fishing-fleets of the North Sea, and carry hope and
comfort to the fishermen who people its grey, wild waters; but none is
so well beloved by them as the "Little Sophy." When the boats lie at
their nets on a summer's night, it is on the "Little Sophy" that "Rock
of Ages" is started and then taken up by the whole fleet. And when the
stormy winds of winter blow great guns, then the "Little Sophy," flying
her bright colours in the daytime and showing her many lights at night,
is always rolling about among the boats, blowing her whistle to tell
them she is near by, or sending off help in her lifeboat, or steaming
after a smack in distress.

Fifteen years after Andrew and Archie parted at the kirkyard, Archie
came to the knowledge first of Andrew's living monument to the girl
they had both loved so much. He was coming from Norway in a yacht with
a few friends, and they were caught in a heavy, easterly gale. In a few
hours there was a tremendous sea, and the wind rapidly rose to a
hurricane. The "Little Sophy" steamed after the helpless craft and got
as near to her as possible; but as she lowered her lifeboat, she saw
the yacht stagger, stop, and then founder. The tops of her masts seemed
to meet, she had broken her back, and the seas flew sheer over her.

The lifeboat picked up three men from her, and one of them was Archie
Braelands. He was all but dead from exposure and buffeting; but the
surgeon of the Mission Ship brought him back to life.

It was some hours after he had been taken on board; the storm had gone
away northward as the sun set. There was the sound of an organ and of
psalm-singing in his ears, and yet he knew that he was in a ship on a
tossing sea, and he opened his eyes, and asked weakly:

"Where am I?"

The surgeon stooped to him and answered in a cheery voice: "_On the
'Sophy Traill!'_"

A cry, shrill as that of a fainting woman, parted Archie's lips, and he
kept muttering in a half-delirious stupor all night long, "_The Sophy
Traill! The Sophy Traill!_" In a few days he recovered strength and was
able to leave the boat which had been his salvation; but in those few
days he heard and saw much that greatly influenced for the noblest ends
his future life.

All through the borders of Fife, people talked of Archie's strange
deliverance by this particular ship, and the old story was told over
again in a far gentler spirit. Time had softened ill-feeling, and
Archie's career was touched with the virtue of the tenderly remembered
dead.

"He was but a thoughtless creature before he lost wee Sophy," Janet
said, as she discussed the matter; "and now, where will you find a
better or a busier man? Fife's proud of him, and Scotland's proud of
him, and if England hasn't the sense of discerning _who_ she ought to
make a Prime Minister of, that isn't Braelands's fault."

"For all that," said Christina, sitting among her boys and girls,
"Sophy ought to have married Andrew. She would have been alive to-day
if she had."

"You aren't always an oracle, Christina, and you have a deal to learn
yet; but I'm not saying but what poor Sophy did make a mistake in her
marriage. Folks should marry in their own class, and in their own
faith, and among their own folk, or else ninety-nine times out of a
hundred they marry sorrow; but I'm not so sure that being alive to-day
would have been a miracle of pleasure and good fortune. If she had had
bairns, as ill to bring up and as noisy and fashious as yours are, she
is well spared the trouble of them."

"You have spoiled the bairns yourself, Mother. If I ever check or scold
them, you are aye sure to take their part."

"Because you never know when a bairn is to blame and when its mother is
to blame. I forgot to teach you that lesson."

Christina laughed and said something about it "being a grand thing
Andrew had no lads and lasses," and then Janet held, her head up
proudly, and said with an air of severe admonition:

"It's well enough for you and the like of you to have lads and lasses;
but my boy Andrew has a duty far beyond it, he has the 'Sophy Traill'
to victual and store, and send out to save souls and bodies."

"Lads and lasses aren't bad things, Mother."

"They'll be all the better for the 'Sophy Traill' and the other boats
like her. That laddie o' yours that will be off to sea whether you like
it or not, will give you many a fear and heartache. Andrew's 'boat of
blessing' goes where she is bid to go, and does as she is told to do.
That's the difference."

Difference or not, his "boat of blessing" was Andrew's joy and pride.
She had been his salvation, inasmuch as she had consecrated that
passion for hoarding money which was the weak side of his character.
She had given to his dead love a gracious memory in the hearts of
thousands, and "a name far better than that of sons and daughters."

Book of the day: