Part 3 out of 4
arrives at the next grievance. Whenever we hear this, which is
whenever we are in the sitting-room, we amuse ourselves by chanting
lines of melancholy poetry which correspond to the sentiments she
seems to be uttering. It is the only way the infliction can be
endured, for the sitting-room is so small that we cannot keep the
door closed habitually. The effect of this plan is something like
She. "The range has sic a bad draft I canna mak' the fire draw!"
We. `But I'm ower auld for the tears to start,
An' sae the sighs maun blaw!'
She. "The clock i' the hall doesna strike. I have to get oot o' my
bed to see the time."
We. `The broken hairt it kens
Nae second spring again!'
She. "There's no' eneuch jugs i' the hoose."
We. `I'm downright dizzy wi' the thought--
In troth I'm like to greet!'
She. "The sink drain isna recht."
We. `An' it's oh! to win awa', awa',
An' it's oh! to win awa'!'
She. "I canna thole a box-bed!"
We. `Ay waukin O
Waukin O an' weary.
Sleep I can get nane,
Ay waukin O!'
She. "It's fair insultin' to rent a hoose wi' so few convenience."
We. `An' I'm ower auld to fish ony mair,
An' I hinna the chance to droon.'
She. "The work is fair sickenin' i' this hoose, an' a' for ane puir
body to do by her lane."
We. `How can ye chant, ye little birds,
An' I sae weary, fu' o' care?'
She. "Ah, but that was a fine family I lived wi' in Glasgy; an' it's
a wearifu' day's work I've had the day."
We. `Oh why was I spared to cry, Wae's me!'
She. "Why dinna they leave floo'rs i' the garden makin' a mess i'
the hoose wi' `em? It's not for the knowin' what they will be after
We. `Oh, waly waly up the bank,
And waly waly doon the brae!'
Miss Grieve's plaints never grow less, though we are sometimes at a
loss for appropriate quotations to match them. The poetic
interpolations are introduced merely to show the general spirit of
her conversation. They take the place of her sighs, which are by
their nature unprintable. Many times each day she is wont to sink
into one low chair, and, extending her feet in another, close her
eyes and murmur undistinguishable plaints which come to us in a kind
of rhythmic way. She has such a shaking right hand we have been
obliged to give up coffee and have tea, as the former beverage
became too unsettled on its journey from the kitchen to the
breakfast-table. She says she kens she is a guid cook, though salf-
praise is sma' racommendation (sma' as it is she will get nae
ither!); but we have little opportunity to test her skill, as she
prepares only our breakfasts of eggs and porridge. Visions of home-
made goodies had danced before our eyes, but as the hall clock
doesna strike she is unable to rise at any exact hour, and as the
range draft is bad, and the coals too hard to batter up wi' a
hatchet, we naturally have to content ourselves with the baker's
And this is a truthful portrait of `Calamity Jane,' our one Pettybaw
Chapter XVI. The path that led to Crummylowe.
`Gae farer up the burn to Habbie's Howe,
Where a' the sweets o' spring an' simmer grow:
Between twa birks, out o'er a little lin,
The water fa's an' mak's a singan din;
A pool breast-deep, beneath as clear as glass,
Kisses, wi' easy whirls, the bord'ring grass.'
The Gentle Shepherd.
That is what Peggy says to Jenny in Allan Ramsay's poem, and if you
substitute `Crummylowe' for `Habbie's Howe' in the first line, you
will have a lovely picture of the farm-steadin'.
You come to it by turning the corner from the inn, first passing the
cottage where the lady wishes to rent two rooms for fifteen
shillings a week, but will not give much attendance, as she is
slightly asthmatic, and the house is always as clean as it is this
minute, and the view from the window looking out on Pettybaw Bay
canna be surpassed at ony money. Then comes the little house where
Will'am Beattie's sister Mary died in May, and there wasna a bonnier
woman in Fife. Next is the cottage with the pansy-garden, where the
lady in the widow's cap takes five-o'clock tea in the bay-window,
and a snug little supper at eight. She has for the first, scones
and marmalade, and her tea is in a small black teapot under a red
cosy with a white muslin cover drawn over it. At eight she has more
tea, and generally a kippered herring, or a bit of cold mutton left
from the noon dinner. We note the changes in her bill of fare as we
pass hastily by, and feel admitted quite into the family secrets.
Beyond this bay-window, which is so redolent of simple peace and
comfort that we long to go in and sit down, is the cottage with the
double white tulips, the cottage with the collie on the front steps,
the doctor's house with the yellow laburnum tree, and then the house
where the Disagreeable Woman lives. She has a lovely baby, which,
to begin with, is somewhat remarkable, as disagreeable women rarely
have babies; or else, having had them, rapidly lose their
disagreeableness--so rapidly that one has not time to notice it.
The Disagreeable Woman's house is at the end of the row, and across
the road is a wicket-gate leading-- Where did it lead?--that was
the very point. Along the left, as you lean wistfully over the
gate, there runs a stone wall topped by a green hedge; and on the
right, first furrows of pale fawn, then below, furrows of deeper
brown, and mulberry, and red ploughed earth stretching down to
waving fields of green, and thence to the sea, grey, misty,
opalescent, melting into the pearly white clouds, so that one cannot
tell where sea ends and sky begins.
There is a path between the green hedge and the ploughed field, and
it leads seductively to the farm-steadin'; or we felt that it might
thus lead, if we dared unlatch the wicket gate. Seeing no sign
`Private Way,' `Trespassers Not Allowed,' or other printed defiance
to the stranger, we were considering the opening of the gate, when
we observed two female figures coming toward us along the path, and
paused until they should come through. It was the Disagreeable
Woman (although we knew it not) and an elderly friend. We accosted
the friend, feeling instinctively that she was framed of softer
stuff, and asked her if the path were a private one. It was a
question that had never met her ear before, and she was too dull or
too discreet to deal with it on the instant. To our amazement, she
did not even manage to falter, `I couldna say.'
"Is the path private?" I repeated.
"It is certainly the idea to keep it a little private," said the
Disagreeable Woman, coming into the conversation without being
addressed. "Where do you wish to go?"
"Nowhere in particular. The walk looks so inviting we should like
to see the end."
"It goes only to the Farm, and you can reach that by the highroad;
it is only a half-mile further. Do you wish to call at the Farm?"
"No, oh no; the path is so very pretty that--"
"Yes, I see; well, I should call it rather private." And with this
she departed, leaving us to stand on the outskirts of paradise,
while she went into her house and stared at us from the window as
she played with the lovely undeserved baby. But that was not the
end of the matter.
We found ourselves there next day, Francesca and I--Salemina was too
proud--drawn by an insatiable longing to view the beloved and
forbidden scene. We did not dare to glance at the Disagreeable
Woman's windows, lest our courage should ooze away, so we opened the
gate and stole through into the rather private path.
It was a most lovely path; even if it had not been in a sense
prohibited, it would still have been lovely, simply on its own
merits. There were little gaps in the hedge and the wall, through
which we peered into a daisy-starred pasture, where a white bossy
and a herd of flaxen-haired cows fed on the sweet green grass. The
mellow ploughed earth on the right hand stretched down to the shore-
line, and a plough-boy walked up and down the long, straight furrows
whistling `My Nannie's awa'.' Pettybaw is so far removed from the
music-halls that their cheap songs and strident echoes never reach
its sylvan shades, and the herd-laddies and plough-boys still
sweeten their labours with the old classic melodies.
We walked on and on, determined to come every day; and we settled
that if we were accosted by any one, or if our innocent business
were demanded, Francesca should ask, `Does Mrs. Macstronachlacher
live here, and has she any new-laid eggs?'
Soon the gates of the Farm appeared in sight. There was a cluster
of buildings, with doves huddling and cooing on the red-tiled
roofs,--dairy houses, workmen's cottages, comely rows of haystacks
(towering yellow things with peaked tops); a little pond with ducks
and geese chattering together as they paddled about, and for
additional music the trickling of two tiny burns making `a singan
din,' as they wimpled through the bushes. A speckle-breasted thrush
perched on a corner of the grey wall and poured his heart out.
Overhead there was a chorus of rooks in the tall trees, but there
was no sound of human voice save that of the plough-laddie whistling
`My Nannie's awa'.'
We turned our backs on this darling solitude, and retraced our steps
lingeringly. As we neared the wicket gate again we stood upon a bit
of jutting rock and peered over the wall, sniffing the hawthorn buds
with ecstasy. The white bossy drew closer, treading softly on its
daisy carpet; the wondering cows looked up at us as they peacefully
chewed their cuds; a man in corduroy breeches came from a corner of
the pasture, and with a sharp, narrow hoe rooted out a thistle or
two that had found their way into this sweet feeding-ground.
Suddenly we heard the swish of a dress behind, and turned,
conscience-stricken, though we had in nothing sinned.
"Does Mrs. Macstronachlacher live here?" stammered Francesca like a
It was an idiotic time and place for the question. We had certainly
arranged that she should ask it, but something must be left to the
judgment in such cases. Francesca was hanging over a stone wall
regarding a herd of cows in a pasture, and there was no possible
shelter for a Mrs. Macstronachlacher within a quarter of a mile.
What made the remark more unfortunate was the fact that, although
she had on a different dress and bonnet, the person interrogated was
the Disagreeable Woman; but Francesca is particularly slow in
discerning resemblances. She would have gone on mechanically asking
for new-laid eggs, had I not caught her eye and held it sternly.
The foe looked at us suspiciously for a moment (Francesca's hats are
not easily forgotten), and then vanished up the path, to tell the
people at Crummylowe, I suppose, that their grounds were invested by
marauding strangers whose curiosity was manifestly the outgrowth of
a republican government.
As she disappeared in one direction, we walked slowly in the other;
and just as we reached the corner of the pasture where two stone
walls meet, and where a group of oaks gives grateful shade, we heard
"No, no!" cried somebody; "it must be still higher at this end, for
the tower--this is where the king will sit. Help me with this heavy
one, Rafe. Dandie, mind your foot. Why don't you be making the
flag for the ship?--and do keep the Wrig away from us till we finish
Chapter XVII. Playing Sir Patrick Spens.
`O lang, lang may the ladyes sit
Wi' their face into their hand,
Before they see Sir Patrick Spens
Come sailing to the strand.'
Sir Patrick Spens.
We forced our toes into the crevices of the wall and peeped
stealthily over the top. Two boys of eight or ten years, with two
younger children, were busily engaged in building a castle. A great
pile of stones had been hauled to the spot, evidently for the
purpose of mending the wall, and these were serving as rich material
for sport. The oldest of the company, a bright-eyed, rosy-cheeked
boy in an Eton jacket and broad white collar, was obviously
commander-in-chief; and the next in size, whom he called Rafe, was a
laddie of eight, in kilts. These two looked as if they might be
scions of the aristocracy, while Dandie and the Wrig were fat little
yokels of another sort. The miniature castle must have been the
work of several mornings, and was worthy of the respectful but
silent admiration with which we gazed upon it; but as the last stone
was placed in the tower, the master builder looked up and spied our
interested eyes peering at him over the wall. We were properly
abashed, and ducked our heads discreetly at once, but were reassured
by hearing him run rapidly towards us, calling, "Stop, if you
please! Have you anything on just now--are you busy?"
We answered that we were quite at leisure.
"Then would you mind coming in to help us play `Sir Patrick Spens'?
There aren't enough of us to do it nicely."
This confidence was touching, and luckily it was not in the least
misplaced. Playing `Sir Patrick Spens' was exactly in our line,
little as he suspected it.
"Come and help?" I said. "Simply delighted! Do come, Fanny dear.
How can we get over the wall?"
"I'll show you the good broken place!" cried Sir Apple-Cheek; and
following his directions we scrambled through, while Rafe took off
his Highland bonnet ceremoniously and handed us down to earth.
"Hurrah! now it will be something like fun! Do you know `Sir
"Every word of it. Don't you want us to pass an examination before
you allow us in the game?"
"No," he answered gravely; "it's a great help, of course, to know
it, but it isn't necessary. I keep the words in my pocket to prompt
Dandie, and the Wrig can only say two lines, she's so little."
(Here he produced some tattered leaves torn from a book of ballads.)
"We've done it many a time, but this is a new Dunfermline Castle,
and we are trying the play in a different way. Rafe is the king,
and Dandie is the `eldern knight,'--you remember him?"
"Certainly; he sat at the king's right knee."
"Yes, yes, that's the one! Then Rafe is Sir Patrick part of the
time, and I the other part, because everybody likes to be him; but
there's nobody left for the `lords o' Noroway' or the sailors, and
the Wrig is the only maiden to sit on the shore, and she always
forgets to comb her hair and weep at the right time."
The forgetful and placid Wrig (I afterwards learned that this is a
Scots word for the youngest bird in the nest) was seated on the
grass, with her fat hands full of pink thyme and white wild
woodruff. The sun shone on her curly flaxen head. She wore a dark
blue cotton frock with white dots, and a short-sleeved pinafore; and
though she was utterly useless from a dramatic point of view, she
was the sweetest little Scotch dumpling I ever looked upon. She had
been tried and found wanting in most of the principal parts of the
ballad, but when left out of the performance altogether she was wont
to scream so lustily that all Crummylowe rushed to her assistance.
"Now let us practise a bit to see if we know what we are going to
do," said Sir Apple-Cheek. "Rafe, you can be Sir Patrick this time.
The reason why we all like to be Sir Patrick," he explained, turning
to me, "is that the lords o' Noroway say to him--
`Ye Scottishmen spend a' our King's gowd,
And a' our Queenis fee';
and then he answers,--
`"Ye lee! ye lee! ye leers loud,
Fu' loudly do ye lee!"'
and a lot of splendid things like that. Well, I'll be the king,"
and accordingly he began:-
`The King sits in Dunfermline tower,
Drinking the bluid-red wine.
"O whaur will I get a skeely skipper
To sail this new ship o' mine?"'
A dead silence ensued, whereupon the king said testily, "Now,
Dandie, you never remember you're the eldern knight; go on!"
Thus reminded, Dandie recited:-
`O up and spake an eldern knight,
Sat at the King's right knee:
"Sir Patrick Spens is the best sailor
That ever sailed the sea."'
"Now I'll write my letter," said the king, who was endeavouring to
make himself comfortable in his somewhat contracted tower.
`The King has written a braid letter
And sealed it with his hand;
And sent it to Sir Patrick Spens,
Was walking on the strand.'
"Read the letter out loud, Rafe, and then you'll remember what to
`"To Noroway! to Noroway!
To Noroway o'er the faem!
The King's daughter of Noroway,
`Tis thou maun bring her hame,"'
"Now do the next part!"
"I can't; I'm going to chuck up that next part. I wish you'd do Sir
Patrick until it comes to `Ye lee! `ye lee!'"
"No, that won't do, Rafe. We have to mix up everybody else, but
it's too bad to spoil Sir Patrick."
"Well, I'll give him to you, then, and be the king. I don't mind so
much now that we've got such a good tower; and why can't I stop up
there even after the ship sets sail and look out over the sea with a
telescope? That's the way Elizabeth did the time she was king."
"You can stay till you have to come down and be a dead Scots lord.
I'm not going to lie there as I did last time, with nobody but the
Wrig for a Scots lord, and her forgetting to be dead!"
Sir Apple-Cheek then essayed the hard part `chucked up' by Rafe. It
was rather difficult, I confess, as the first four lines were in
pantomime, and required great versatility:-
`The first word that Sir Patrick read,
Fu' loud, loud laughed he:
The neist word that Sir Patrick read,
The tear blinded his e'e.'
These conflicting emotions successfully simulated, Sir Patrick
`"O wha is he has done this deed,
And tauld the King o' me,--
To send us out, at this time o' the year,
To sail upon the sea?"'
Then the king stood up in the unstable tower and shouted his own
`"Be it wind, be it weet, be it hail, be it sleet,
Our ship maun sail the faem;
The King's daughter o' Noroway,
`Tis we maun fetch her hame."'
"Can't we rig the ship a little better?" demanded our stage-manager
at this juncture. "It isn't half as good as the tower."
Ten minutes' hard work, in which we assisted, produced something a
trifle more nautical and seaworthy than the first craft. The ground
with a few boards spread upon it was the deck. Tarpaulin sheets
were arranged on sticks to represent sails, and we located the
vessel so cleverly that two slender trees shot out of the middle of
it and served as the tall topmasts.
"Now let us make believe that we've hoisted our sails on `Mononday
morn' and been in Noroway `weeks but only twae,'" said our leading
man; "and your time has come now,"--turning to us.
We felt indeed that it had; but plucking up sufficient courage for
the lords o' Noroway, we cried accusingly,--
`"Ye Scottishmen spend a' our King's gowd,
And a' our Queenis fee!"'
Oh but Sir Apple-Cheek was glorious as he roared virtuously:-
`"Ye lee! ye lee! ye leers loud,
Fu' loudly do you lee!
"For I brocht as much white monie
As gane my men and me,
An' I brocht a half-fou o' gude red gowd
Out ower the sea wi' me.
"But betide me well, betide me wae,
This day I'se leave the shore;
And never spend my King's monie
`Mong Noroway dogs no more.
"Make ready, make ready, my merry men a',
Our gude ship sails the morn."'
"Now you be the sailors, please!"
Glad to be anything but Noroway dogs, we recited obediently--
`"Now, ever alake, my master dear,
I fear a deadly storm?
. . . . . . .
And if ye gang to sea, master,
I fear we'll come to harm."'
We added much to the effect of this stanza by flinging ourselves on
the turf and embracing Sir Patrick's knees, with which touch of
melodrama he was enchanted.
Then came a storm so terrible that I can hardly trust myself to
describe its fury. The entire corps dramatique personated the
elements, and tore the gallant ship in twain, while Sir Patrick
shouted in the teeth of the gale--
`"O whaur will I get a gude sailor
To tak' my helm in hand,
Till I get up to the tall topmast
To see if I can spy land?"'
I knew the words a trifle better than Francesca, and thus succeeded
in forestalling her as the fortunate hero--
`"O here I am, a sailor gude,
To tak' the helm in hand,
Till you go up to the tall topmast;
But I fear ye'll ne'er spy land."'
And the heroic sailor was right, for
`He hadna gone a step, a step,
A step but only ane,
When a bout flew out o' our goodly ship,
And the saut sea it came in.'
Then we fetched a web o' the silken claith, and anither o' the
twine, as our captain bade us; we wapped them into our ship's side
and letna the sea come in; but in vain, in vain. Laith were the
gude Scots lords to weet their cork-heeled shune, but they did, and
wat their hats abune; for the ship sank in spite of their despairing
`And mony was the gude lord's son
That never mair cam' hame.'
Francesca and I were now obliged to creep from under the tarpaulins
and personate the dishevelled ladies on the strand.
"Will your hair come down?" asked the manager gravely.
"It will and shall," we rejoined; and it did.
`The ladies wrang their fingers white,
The maidens tore their hair.'
"Do tear your hair, Jessie! It's the only thing you have to do, and
you never do it on time!"
The Wrig made ready to howl with offended pride, but we soothed her,
and she tore her yellow curls with her chubby hands.
`And lang, lang may the maidens sit
Wi' there gowd kaims i' the hair,
A' waitin' for their ain dear luves,
For them they'll see nae mair.'
I did a bit of sobbing here that would have been a credit to Sarah
"Splendid! Grand!" cried Sir Patrick, as he stretched himself fifty
fathoms below the imaginary surface of the water, and gave explicit
ante-mortem directions to the other Scots lords to spread themselves
out in like manner.
`Half ower, half ower to Aberdour,
`Tis fifty fathoms deep,
And there lies gude Sir Patrick Spens,
Wi' the Scots lords at his feet.'
"Oh, it is grand!" he repeated jubilantly. "If I could only be the
king and see it all from Dunfermline tower! Could you be Sir
Patrick once, do you think, now that I have shown you how?" he asked
"Indeed I could!" she replied, glowing with excitement (and small
wonder) at being chosen for the principal role.
"The only trouble is that you do look awfully like a girl in that
Francesca appeared rather ashamed at her natural disqualifications
for the part of Sir Patrick. "If I had only worn my long black
cloak!" she sighed.
"Oh, I have an idea!" cried the boy. "Hand her the minister's gown
from the hedge, Rafe. You see, Mistress Ogilvie of Crummylowe lent
us this old gown for a sail; she's doing something to a new one, and
this was her pattern."
Francesca slipped it on over her white serge, and the Pettybaw
parson should have seen her with the long veil of her dark locks
floating over his ministerial garment.
"It seems a pity to put up your hair," said the stage manager
critically, "because you look so jolly and wild with it down, but I
suppose you must; and will you have Rafe's bonnet?"
Yes, she would have Rafe's bonnet; and when she perched it on the
side of her head and paced the deck restlessly, while the black gown
floated behind in the breeze, we all cheered with enthusiasm, and,
having rebuilt the ship, began the play again from the moment of the
gale. The wreck was more horribly realistic than ever, this time,
because of our rehearsal; and when I crawled from under the masts
and sails to seat myself on the beach with the Wrig, I had scarcely
strength enough to remove the cooky from her hand and set her a-
combing her curly locks.
When our new Sir Patrick stretched herself on the ocean bed, she
fell with a despairing wail; her gown spread like a pall over the
earth, the Highland bonnet came off, and her hair floated over a
haphazard pillow of Jessie's wildflowers.
"Oh, it is fine, that part; but from here is where it always goes
wrong!" cried the king from the castle tower. "It's too bad to take
the maidens away from the strand where they look so bonnie, and Rafe
is splendid as the gude sailor, but Dandie looks so silly as one
little dead Scots lord; if we only had one more person, young or
old, if he was ever so stupid!"
"WOULD I DO?"
This unexpected offer came from behind one of the trees that served
as topmasts, and at the same moment there issued from that
delightfully secluded retreat Ronald Macdonald, in knickerbockers
and a golf-cap.
Suddenly as this apparition came, there was no lack of welcome on
the children's part. They shouted his name in glee, embraced his
legs, and pulled him about like affectionate young bears. Confusion
reigned for a moment, while Sir Patrick rose from her sea grave all
in a mist of floating hair, from which hung impromptu garlands of
pink thyme and green grasses.
"Allow me to do the honours, please, Jamie," said Mr. Macdonald,
when he could escape from the children's clutches. "Have you been
properly presented? I suppose not. Ladies, the young Master of
Rowardennan. Jamie, Miss Hamilton and Miss Monroe from the United
States of America." Sir Apple-Cheek bowed respectfully. "Let me
present the Honourable Ralph Ardmore, also from the castle, together
with Dandie Dinmont and the Wrig from Crummylowe. Sir Patrick, it
is indeed a pleasure to see you again. Must you take off my gown?
I had thought it was past use, but it never looked so well before."
The counterfeit presentment of Sir Patrick vanished as the long
drapery flew to the hedge whence it came, and there remained only an
offended young goddess, who swung her dark mane tempestuously to one
side, plaited it in a thick braid, tossed it back again over her
white serge shoulder, and crowded on her sailor hat with unnecessary
"Yes, MY gown; whose else could you more appropriately borrow, pray?
Mistress Ogilvie of Crummylowe presses, sponges, and darns my
bachelor wardrobe, but I confess I never suspected that she rented
it out for theatrical purposes. I have been calling upon you in
Pettybaw; Lady Ardmore was there at the same time. Finding but one
of the three American Graces at home, I stayed a few moments only,
and am now returning to Inchcaldy by way of Crummylowe." Here he
plucked the gown off the hedge and folded it carefully.
"Can't we keep it for a sail, Mr. Macdonald?" pleaded Jamie.
"Mistress Ogilvie said it wasn't any more good."
"When Mistress Ogilvie made that remark," replied the Reverend
Ronald, "she had no idea that it would ever touch the shoulders of
the martyred Sir Patrick Spens. Now, I happen to love--"
Francesca hung out a scarlet flag in each cheek, and I was about to
say, `Don't mind me!' when he continued--
"As I was saying, I happen to love `Sir Patrick Spens,'--it is my
favourite ballad; so, with your permission, I will take the gown,
and you can find something less valuable for a sail!"
I could never understand just why Francesca was so annoyed at being
discovered in our innocent game. Of course she was prone on Mother
Earth and her tresses were much dishevelled, but she looked lovely
after all, in comparison with me, the humble `supe' and lightning-
change artist; yet I kept my temper,--at least I kept it until the
Reverend Ronald observed, after escorting us through the gap in the
wall, "By the way, Miss Hamilton, there was a gentleman from Paris
at your cottage, and he is walking down the road to meet you."
Walking down the road to meet me, forsooth! Have ministers no
brains? The Reverend Mr. Macdonald had wasted five good minutes
with his observations, introductions, explanations, felicitations,
and adorations, and meantime, regardez-moi, messieurs et mesdames,
s'il vous plait! I have been a Noroway dog, a shipbuilder, and a
gallant sailorman; I have been a gurly sea and a towering gale; I
have crawled from beneath broken anchors, topsails, and mizzenmasts
to a strand where I have been a suffering lady plying a gowd kaim.
My skirt of blue drill has been twisted about my person until it
trails in front; my collar is wilted, my cravat untied; I have lost
a stud and a sleeve-link; my hair is in a tangled mass, my face is
scarlet and dusty--and a gentleman from Paris is walking down the
road to meet me!
Chapter XVIII. Paris comes to Pettybaw.
`There were three ladies in a hall--
With a heigh-ho! and a lily gay,
There came a lord among them all--
As the primrose spreads so sweetly.'
The Cruel Brother.
Willie Beresford has come to Pettybaw, and that Arcadian village has
received the last touch that makes it Paradise.
We are exploring the neighbourhood together, and whichever path we
take we think it lovelier than the one before. This morning we
drove to Pettybaw Sands, Francesca and Salemina following by the
footpath and meeting us on the shore. It is all so enchantingly
fresh and green on one of these rare bright days: the trig lass
bleaching her `claes' on the grass by the burn near the little stone
bridge; the wild partridges whirring about in pairs; the farm-boy
seated on the clean straw in the bottom of his cart, and cracking
his whip in mere wanton joy at the sunshine; the pretty cottages;
and the gardens with rows of currant and gooseberry bushes hanging
thick with fruit that suggests jam and tart in every delicious
globule. It is a love-coloured landscape, we know it full well; and
nothing in the fair world about us is half as beautiful as what we
see in each other's eyes. Ah, the memories of these first golden
mornings together after our long separation. I shall sprinkle them
with lavender and lay them away in that dim chamber of the heart
where we keep precious things. We all know the chamber. It is
fragrant with other hidden treasures, for all of them are sweet,
though some are sad. That is the reason why we put a finger on the
lip and say `Hush,' if we open the door and allow any one to peep
We tied the pony by the wayside and alighted: Willie to gather some
sprays of the pink veronica and blue speedwell, I to sit on an old
bench and watch him in happy idleness. The `white-blossomed slaes'
sweetened the air, and the distant hills were gay with golden whin
and broom, or flushed with the purply-red of the bell heather.
We heard the note of the cushats from a neighbouring bush. They
used to build their nests on the ground, so the story goes, but the
cows trampled them. Now they are wiser and build higher, and their
cry is supposed to be a derisive one, directed to their ancient
enemies. `Come noo, Coo, Coo! Come noo!'
A hedgehog crept stealthily along the ground, and at a sudden sound
curled himself up like a wee brown bear. There were women working
in the fields near by,--a strange sight to our eyes at first, but
nothing unusual here, where many of them are employed on the farms
all the year round, sowing weeding, planting, even ploughing in the
spring, and in winter working at threshing or in the granary.
An old man, leaning on his staff, came tottering feebly along, and
sank down on the bench beside me. He was dirty, ragged, unkempt,
and feeble, but quite sober, and pathetically anxious for human
"I'm achty-sax year auld,' he maundered, apropos of nothing, "achty-
sax year auld. I've seen five lairds o' Pettybaw, sax placed
meenisters, an' seeven doctors. I was a mason, an' a stoot mon i'
thae days, but it's a meeserable life noo. Wife deid, bairns deid!
I sit by my lane, an' smoke my pipe, wi' naebody to gi'e me a sup o'
water. Achty-sax is ower auld for a mon,--ower auld."
These are the sharp contrasts of life one cannot bear to face when
one is young and happy. Willie gave him a half-crown and some
tobacco for his pipe, and when the pony trotted off briskly, and we
left the shrunken figure alone on his bench as he was lonely in his
life, we kissed each other and pledged ourselves to look after him
as long as we remain in Pettybaw; for what is love worth if it does
not kindle the flames of spirit, open the gates of feeling, and
widen the heart to shelter all the little loves and great loves that
As we neared the tiny fishing-village on the sands we met a fishwife
brave in her short skirt and eight petticoats, the basket with its
two hundred pound weight on her head, and the auld wife herself
knitting placidly as she walked along. They look superbly strong,
these women; but, to be sure, the `weak anes dee,' as one of them
There was an air of bustle about the little quay,--
`That joyfu' din when the boats come in,
When the boats come in sae early;
When the lift is blue an' the herring-nets fu',
And the sun glints in a' things rarely.'
The silvery shoals of fish no longer come so near the shore as they
used in the olden time, for then the kirk bell of St. Monan's had
its tongue tied when the `draive' was off the coast, lest its knell
should frighten away the shining myriads of the deep.
We climbed the shoulder of a great green cliff until we could sit on
the rugged rocks at the top and overlook the sea. The bluff is well
named Nirly Scaur, and a wild desolate spot it is, with grey lichen-
clad boulders and stunted heather on its summit. In a storm here,
the wind buffets and slashes and scourges one like invisible whips,
and below the sea churns itself into foaming waves, driving its
`infinite squadrons of wild white horses' eternally toward the
shore. It was calm and blue to-day, and no sound disturbed the
quiet save the incessant shriek and scream of the rock birds, the
kittiwakes, black-headed gulls, and guillemots that live on the
sides of these high sheer craigs. Here the mother guillemot lays
her single egg, and here, on these narrow shelves of precipitous
rock, she holds it in place with her foot until the warmth of her
leg and overhanging body hatches it into life, when she takes it on
her back and flies down to the sea. Motherhood under difficulties,
it would seem, and the education of the baby guillemot is carried
forward on Spartan principles; for the moment he is out of the shell
he is swept downward hundreds of feet and plunged into a cold ocean,
where he can sink or swim as instinct serves him. In a life so
fraught with anxieties, exposures, and dangers, it is not strange
that the guillemots keeps up a ceaseless clang of excited
conversation, a very riot and wrangle of altercation and argument
which the circumstances seem to warrant. The prospective father is
obliged to take turns with the prospective mother, and hold the one
precious egg on the rock while she goes for a fly, a swim, a bite,
and a sup. As there are five hundred other parents on the same
rock, and the eggs look to be only a couple of inches apart, the
scene must be distracting, and I have no doubt we should find, if
statistics were gathered, that thousands of guillemots die of
Willie and I interpreted the clamour somewhat as follows:-
[Between parent birds.]
"I am going to take my foot off. Are you ready to put yours on?
Don't be clumsy! Wait a minute, I'm not ready. I'M NOT READY, I
TELL YOU! NOW!!"
[Between rival mothers.]
"Your egg is so close to mine that I can't breathe---"
"Move your egg, then, I can't move mine!"
"You're sitting so close, I can't stretch my wings."
"Neither can I. You've got as much room as I have."
"I shall tumble if you crowd me."
"Go ahead and tumble, then! There is plenty of room in the sea."
[From one father to another ceremoniously.]
"Pardon me, but I'm afraid I shoved your wife off the rock last
"Don't mention it. I remember I shoved off your wife's mother last
We walked among the tiny whitewashed low-roofed cots, each with its
silver-skinned fishes tacked invitingly against the door-frame to
dry, until we came to my favourite, the corner cottage in the row.
It has beautiful narrow garden strips in front,--solid patches of
colour in sweet gillyflower bushes, from which the kindly housewife
plucked a nosegay for us. Her white columbines she calls `granny's
mutches'; and indeed they are not unlike those fresh white caps.
Dear Robbie Burns, ten inches high in plaster, stands in the sunny
window in a tiny box of blossoming plants surrounded by a miniature
green picket fence. Outside, looming white among the gillyflowers,
is Sir Walter, and near him is still another and a larger bust on a
cracked pedestal a foot high, perhaps. We did not recognise the
head at once, and asked the little woman who it was.
"Homer, the graund Greek poet," she answered cheerily; "an' I'm to
have anither o' Burns, as tall as Homer, when my daughter comes hame
If the shade of Homer keeps account of his earthly triumphs, I think
he is proud of his place in that humble Scotchwoman's gillyflower
garden, with his head under the drooping petals of granny's white
What do you think her `mon' is called in the village! John o' Mary!
But he is not alone in his meekness, for there are Jock o' Meg,
Willie o' Janet, Jem o' Tibby, and a dozen others. These primitive
fishing-villages are the places where all the advanced women ought
to congregate, for the wife is head of the house; the accountant,
the treasurer, the auditor, the chancellor of the exchequer; and
though her husband does catch the fish for her to sell, that is
accounted apparently as a detail too trivial for notice.
When we passed Mary's cottage on our way to the sands next day,
Burns's head had been accidentally broken off by the children, and
we felt as though we had lost a friend; but Scotch thrift, and
loyalty to the dear Ploughman Poet, came to the rescue, and when we
returned, Robert's plaster head had been glued to his body. He
smiled at us again from between the two scarlet geraniums, and a
tendril of ivy had been gently curled about his neck to hide the
After such long, lovely mornings as this, there is a late luncheon
under the shadow of a rock with Salemina and Francesca, an idle
chat, or the chapter of a book, and presently Lady Ardmore and her
daughter Elizabeth drive down to the sands. They are followed by
Robin Anstruther, Jamie, and Ralph on bicycles, and before long the
stalwart figure of Ronald Macdonald appears in the distance, just in
time for a cup of tea, which we brew in Lady Ardmore's bath-house on
Chapter XIX. Fowk o' Fife.
`To you I sing, in simple Scottish lays,
The lowly train in life's sequester'd scene;
The native feelings strong, the guileless ways.'
The Cotter's Saturday Night.
We have lived in Pettybaw a very short time, but I see that we have
already made an impression upon all grades of society. This was not
our intention. We gave Edinburgh as our last place of residence,
with the view of concealing our nationality, until such time as we
should choose to declare it; that is, when public excitement with
regard to our rental of the house in the loaning should have lapsed
into a state of indifference. And yet, modest, economical, and
commonplace as has been the administration of our affairs, our
method of life has evidently been thought unusual, and our conduct
not precisely the conduct of other summer visitors. Even our daily
purchases, in manner, in number, and in character, seem to be looked
upon as eccentric, for whenever we leave a shop, the relatives of
the greengrocer, flesher, draper, whoever it may be, bound
downstairs, surround him in an eager circle, and inquire the latest
In an unwise moment we begged the draper's wife to honour us with a
visit and explain the obliquities of the kitchen range and the
tortuosities of the sink-spout to Miss Grieve. While our landlady
was on the premises, I took occasion to invite her up to my own
room, with a view of seeing whether my mattress of pebbles and iron-
filings could be supplemented by another of shavings or straw, or
some material less provocative of bodily injuries. She was most
sympathetic, persuasive, logical and after the manner of her kind
proved to me conclusively that the trouble lay with the too-saft
occupant of the bed, not with the bed itself, and gave me statistics
with regard to the latter which established its reputation and at
the same moment destroyed my own.
She looked in at the various doors casually as she passed up and
down the stairs,--all save that of the dining-room, which Francesca
had prudently locked to conceal the fact that we had covered the
family portraits,--and I noticed at the time that her face wore an
expression of mingled grief and astonishment. It seemed to us
afterward that there was a good deal more passing up and down the
loaning than when we first arrived. At dusk especially, small
processions of children and young people walked by our cottage and
gave shy glances at the windows.
Finding Miss Grieve in an unusually amiable mood, I inquired the
probable cause of this phenomenon. She would not go so far as to
give any judicial opinion, but offered a few conjectures.
It might be the tirling-pin; it might be the white satin ribbons on
the curtains; it might be the guitars and banjos; it might be the
bicycle crate; it might be the profusion of plants; it might be the
continual feasting and revelry; it might be the blazing fires in a
Pettybaw summer. She thought a much more likely reason, however,
was because it had become known in the village that we had moved
every stick of furniture in the house out of its accustomed place
and taken the dressing-tables away from the windows,--'the windys,'
she called them.
I discussed this matter fully with Mr. Macdonald later on. He
laughed heartily, but confessed, with an amused relish of his
national conservatism, that to his mind there certainly was
something radical, advanced, and courageous in taking a dressing-
table away from its place, back to the window, and putting it
anywhere else in a room. He would be frank, he said, and
acknowledge that it suggested an undisciplined and lawless habit of
thought, a disregard for authority, a lack of reverence for
tradition, and a riotous and unbridled imagination.
This view of the matter gave us exquisite enjoyment.
"But why?" I asked laughingly. "The dressing-table is not a sacred
object, even to a woman. Why treat it with such veneration? Where
there is but one good light, and that immediately in front of the
window, there is every excuse for the British custom, but when the
light is well diffused, why not place the table where-ever it looks
"Ah, but it doesn't look well anywhere but back to the window," said
Mr. Macdonald artlessly. "It belongs there, you see; it has
probably been there since the time of Malcolm Canmore, unless
Margaret was too pious to look in a mirror. With your national love
of change, you cannot conceive how soothing it is to know that
whenever you enter your gate and glance upward, you will always see
the curtains parted, and between them, like an idol in a shrine, the
ugly wooden back of a little oval or oblong looking-glass. It gives
one a sense of permanence in a world where all is fleeting."
The public interest in our doings seems to be entirely of a friendly
nature, and if our neighbours find a hundredth part of the charm and
novelty in us that we find in them, they are fortunate indeed, and
we cheerfully sacrifice our privacy on the altar of the public good.
A village in Scotland is the only place I can fancy where
housekeeping becomes an enthralling occupation. All drudgery
disappears in a rosy glow of unexpected, unique, and stimulating
conditions. I would rather superintend Miss Grieve, and cause the
light of amazement to gleam ten times daily in her humid eye, than
lead a cotillion with Willie Beresford. I would rather do the
marketing for our humble breakfasts and teas, or talk over the day's
luncheons and dinners with Mistress Brodie of the Pettybaw Inn and
Posting Establishment, than go to the opera.
Salemina and Francesca do not enjoy it all quite as intensely as I,
so they considerately give me the lion's share. Every morning,
after an exhilarating interview with the Niobe of our kitchen (who
thinks me irresponsible, and prays Heaven in her heart I be no
worse), I put on my goloshes, take my umbrella, and trudge up and
down the little streets and lanes on real and, if need be, imaginary
errands. The Duke of Wellington said, `When fair in Scotland,
always carry an umbrella; when it rains, please yourself,' and I
sometimes agree with Stevenson's shivering statement, `Life does not
seem to me to be an amusement adapted to this climate.' I quoted
this to the doctor yesterday, but he remarked with some surprise
that he had not missed a day's golfing for weeks. The chemist
observed as he handed me a cake of soap, `Won'erful blest in
weather, we are, mam,' simply because, the rain being unaccompanied
with high wind, one was enabled to hold up an umbrella without
having it turned inside out. When it ceased dripping for an hour at
noon, the greengrocer said cheerily, `Another grand day, mam!' I
assented, though I could not for the life of me remember when the
last one occurred. However, dreary as the weather may be, one
cannot be dull when doing one's morning round of shopping in
Pettybaw or Strathdee. I have only to give you thumb-nail sketches
of our favourite tradespeople to convince you of that fact.
. . . .
We bought our first groceries of Mrs. Robert Phin, of Strathdee,
simply because she is an inimitable conversationalist. She is
expansive, too, about family matters, and tells us certain of her
`mon's' faults which it would be more seemly to keep in the safe
shelter of her own bosom.
Rab takes a wee drappie too much, it appears, and takes it so often
that he has little time to earn an honest penny for his family.
This is bad enough; but the fact that Mrs. Phin has been twice wed
before, and that in each case she innocently chose a ne'er-do-weel
for a mate, makes her a trifle cynical. She told me that she had
laid twa husbands in the kirk-yard near which her little shop
stands, and added cheerfully, as I made some sympathetic response,
`An' I hope it'll no' be lang afore I box Rab!'
Salemina objects to the shop because it is so disorderly. Soap and
sugar, tea and bloaters, starch and gingham, lead pencils and
sausages, lie side by side cosily. Boxes of pins are kept on top of
kegs of herrings. Tins of coffee are distributed impartially
anywhere and everywhere, and the bacon sometimes reposes in a glass
case with small-wares and findings, out of the reach of Alexander's
Alexander is one of a brood, or perhaps I should say three broods,
of children which wander among the barrels and boxes and hams and
winceys seeking what they may devour,--a handful of sugar, a prune,
or a sweetie.
We often see the bairns at their luncheon or dinner in a little room
just off the shop, Alexander the Small always sitting or kneeling on
a `creepie,' holding his plate down firmly with the left hand and
eating with the right, whether the food be fish, porridge, or broth.
In the Phin family the person who does not hold his plate down runs
the risk of losing it to one of the other children or to the dogs,
who, with eager eye and reminding paw, gather round the hospitable
board, licking their chops hopefully.
I enjoy these scenes very much, but, alas! I can no longer witness
them as often as formerly.
This morning Mrs. Phin greeted me with some embarrassment.
"Maybe ye'll no' ken me," she said, her usually clear speech a
little blurred. "It's the teeth. I've mislaid `em somewhere. I
paid far too much siller for `em to wear `em ilka day. Sometimes I
rest `em in the teabox to keep `em awa' frae the bairns, but I canna
find `em theer. I'm thinkin' maybe they'll be in the rice, but I've
been ower thrang to luik!"
This anecdote was too rich to keep to myself, but its unconscious
humour made no impression upon Salemina, who insisted upon the
withdrawal of our patronage. I have tried to persuade her that,
whatever may be said of tea and rice, we run no risk in buying eggs;
but she is relentless.
. . . .
The kirkyard where Rab's two predecessors have been laid, and where
Rab will lie when Mrs. Phin has `boxed' him, is a sleepy little
place set on a gentle slope of ground, softly shaded by willow and
yew trees. It is enclosed by a stone wall, into which an occasional
ancient tombstone is built, its name and date almost obliterated by
stress of time and weather.
We often walk through its quiet, myrtle-bordered paths on our way to
the other end of the village, where Mrs. Bruce, the flesher, keeps
an unrivalled assortment of beef and mutton. The headstones, many
of them laid flat upon the graves, are interesting to us because of
their quaint inscriptions, in which the occupation of the deceased
is often stated with modest pride and candour. One expects to see
the achievements of the soldier, the sailor, or the statesman carved
in the stone that marks his resting-place, but to our eyes it is
strange enough to read that the subject of eulogy was a plumber,
tobacconist, maker of golf-balls, or a golf champion; in which
latter case there is a spirited etching or bas-relief of the dead
hero, with knickerbockers, cap, and clubs complete.
There, too, lies Thomas Loughead, Hairdresser, a profession far too
little celebrated in song and story. His stone is a simple one, and
bears merely the touching tribute:-
He was lovely and pleasant in his life,
the inference being, to one who knows a line of Scripture, that in
his death he was not divided.
These kirkyard personalities almost lead one to believe in the
authenticity of the British tradesman's epitaph, wherein his
practical-minded relict stated that the `bereaved widow would
continue to carry on the tripe and trotter business at the old
. . . .
One day when we were walking through the little village of Strathdee
we turned the corner of a quiet side street and came suddenly upon
something altogether strange and unexpected.
A stone cottage of the everyday sort stood a trifle back from the
road and bore over its front door a sign announcing that Mrs. Bruce,
Flesher, carried on her business within; and indeed one could look
through the windows and see ruddy joints hanging from beams, and
piles of pink-and-white steaks and chops lying neatly on the
counter, crying, `Come, eat me!' Nevertheless, one's first glance
would be arrested neither by Mrs Bruce's black-and-gold sign, nor by
the enticements of her stock-in-trade, because one's attention is
rapped squarely between the eyes by an astonishing shape that arises
from the patch of lawn in front of the cottage, and completely
dominates the scene. Imagine yourself face to face with the last
thing you would expect to see in a modest front dooryard,--the
figurehead of a ship, heroic in size, gorgeous in colour, majestic
in pose! A female personage it appears to be from the drapery,
which is the only key the artist furnishes as to sex, and a queenly
female withal, for she wears a crown at least a foot high, and
brandishes a forbidding sceptre. All this seen from the front, but
the rear view discloses the fact that the lady terminates in the
tail of a fish which wriggles artistically in mid-air and is of a
brittle sort, as it has evidently been thrice broken and glued
Mrs Bruce did not leave us long in suspense, but obligingly came
out, partly to comment on the low price of mutton and partly to tell
the tale of the mammoth mermaid. By rights, of course, Mrs. Bruce's
husband should have been the gallant captain of a bark which
foundered at sea and sent every man to his grave on the ocean-bed.
The ship's figurehead should have been discovered by some miracle,
brought to the sorrowing widow, and set up in the garden in eternal
remembrance of the dear departed. This was the story in my mind,
but as a matter of fact the rude effigy was wrought by Mrs. Bruce's
father for a ship to be called the Sea Queen, but by some mischance,
ship and figurehead never came together, and the old wood-carver
left it to his daughter, in lieu of other property. It has not been
wholly unproductive, Mrs. Bruce fancies, for the casual passers-by,
like those who came to scoff and remained to pray, go into the shop
to ask questions about the Sea Queen and buy chops out of courtesy
. . . .
On our way to the bakery, which is a daily walk with us, we always
glance at a little cot in a grassy lane just off the fore street.
In one half of this humble dwelling Mrs. Davidson keeps a slender
stock of shop-worn articles,--pins, needles, threads, sealing-wax,
pencils, and sweeties for the children, all disposed attractively
upon a single shelf behind the window.
Across the passage, close to the other window, sits day after day an
old woman of eight-six summers who has lost her kinship with the
present and gone back to dwell for ever in the past. A small table
stands in front of her rush-bottomed chair, the old family Bible
rests upon it, and in front of the Bible are always four tiny dolls,
with which the trembling old fingers play from morning till night.
They are cheap, common little puppets, but she robes and disrobes
them with tenderest care. They are put to bed upon the Bible, take
their walks along its time-worn pages, are married on it, buried on
it, and the direst punishment they ever receive is to be removed
from its sacred covers and temporarily hidden beneath the dear old
soul's black alpaca apron. She is quite happy with her treasures on
week-days; but on Sundays--alas and alas! the poor old dame sits in
her lonely chair with the furtive tears dropping on her wrinkled
cheeks, for it is a God-fearing household, and it is neither lawful
nor seemly to play with dolls on the Sawbath!
. . . .
Mrs. Nicolson is the presiding genius of the bakery, she is more--
she is the bakery itself. A Mr. Nicolson there is, and he is known
to be the baker, but he dwells in the regions below the shop and
only issues at rare intervals, beneath the friendly shelter of a
huge tin tray filled with scones and baps.
If you saw Mrs. Nicolson's kitchen with the firelight gleaming on
its bright copper, its polished candlesticks, and its snowy floor,
you would think her an admirable housewife, but you would get no
clue to those shrewd and masterful traits of character which reveal
themselves chiefly behind the counter.
Miss Grieve had purchased of Mrs. Nicolson a quarter section of very
appetising ginger-cake to eat with our afternoon tea, and I stepped
in to buy more. She showed me a large round loaf for two shillings.
"No," I objected, "I cannot use a whole loaf, thank you. We eat
very little at a time, and like it perfectly fresh. I wish a small
piece such as my maid bought the other day."
Then ensued a discourse which I cannot render in the vernacular,
more's the pity, though I understood it all too well for my comfort.
The substance of it was this: that she couldna and wouldna tak' it
in hand to give me a quarter section of cake when the other three-
quarters might gae dry in the bakery; that the reason she sold the
small piece on the former occasion was that her daughter, her son-
in-law, and their three children came from Ballahoolish to visit
her, and she gave them a high tea with no expense spared; that at
this function they devoured three-fourths of a ginger-cake, and just
as she was mournfully regarding the remainder my servant came in and
took it off her hands; that she had kept a bakery for thirty years
and her mother before her, and never had a two-shilling ginger-cake
been sold in pieces before, nor was it likely ever to occur again;
that if I, under Providence, so to speak, had been the fortunate
gainer by the transaction, why not eat my six penny-worth in solemn
gratitude once for all, and not expect a like miracle to happen the
next week? And finally, that two-shilling ginger-cakes were, in the
very nature of things, designed for large families; and it was the
part of wisdom for small families to fix their affections on
something else, for she couldna and wouldna tak' it in hand to cut a
rare and expensive article for a small customer.
The torrent of logic was over, and I said humbly that I would take
the whole loaf.
"Verra weel, mam," she responded more affably, "thank you kindly;
no, I couldna tak' it in hand to sell six pennyworth of that ginger-
cake and let one-and-sixpence worth gae dry in the bakery.--A
beautiful day, mam! Won'erful blest in weather ye are! Let me open
your umbrella for you, mam!"
. . . .
David Robb is the weaver of Pettybaw. All day long he sits at his
old-fashioned hand-loom, which, like the fruit of his toil and the
dear old greybeard himself, belongs to a day that is past and gone.
He might have work enough to keep an apprentice busy, but where
would he find a lad sufficiently behind the times to learn a humble
trade now banished to the limbo of superseded, almost forgotten
His home is but a poor place, but the rough room in which he works
is big enough to hold a deal of sweet content. It is cheery enough,
too, to attract the Pettybaw weans, who steal in on wet days and sit
on the floor playing with the thrums, or with bits of coloured
ravellings. Sometimes when they have proved themselves wise and
prudent little virgins, they are even allowed to touch the hanks of
pink and yellow and blue yarn that lie in rainbow-hued confusion on
the long deal table.
All this time the `heddles' go up and down, up and down, with their
ceaseless clatter, and David throws the shuttle back and forth as he
weaves his old-fashioned winceys.
We have grown to be good friends, David and I, and I have been
permitted the signal honour of painting him at his work.
The loom stands by an eastern window, and the rare Pettybaw sunshine
filters through the branches of a tree, shines upon the dusty
window-panes, and throws a halo round David's head that he well
deserves and little suspects. In my foreground sit Meg and Jean and
Elspeth playing with thrums and wearing the fruit of David's loom in
their gingham frocks. David himself sits on his wooden bench behind
the maze of cords that form the `loom harness.'
The snows of seventy winters powder his hair and beard. His
spectacles are often pushed back on his kindly brow, but no glass
could wholly obscure the clear integrity and steadfast purity of his
eyes; and as for his smile, I have not the art to paint that! It
holds in solution so many sweet though humble virtues of patience,
temperance, self-denial, honest endeavour, that my brush falters in
the attempt to fix the radiant whole upon the canvas. Fashions come
and go, modern improvements transform the arts and trades, manual
skill gives way to the cunning of the machine, but old David Robb,
after more than fifty years of toil, still sits at his hand-loom and
weaves his winceys for the Pettybaw bairnies.
David has small book-learning, so he tells me; and indeed he had
need to tell me, for I should never have discovered it myself,--one
misses it so little when the larger things are all present!
A certain summer visitor in Pettybaw (a compatriot of ours, by the
way) bought a quantity of David's orange-coloured wincey, and
finding that it wore like iron, wished to order more. She used the
word `reproduce' in her telegram, as there was one pattern and one
colour she specially liked. Perhaps the context was not
illuminating, but at any rate the word `reproduce' was not in
David's vocabulary, and putting back his spectacles he told me his
difficulty in deciphering the exact meaning of his fine-lady patron.
He called at the Free Kirk manse,--the meenister was no' at hame;
then to the library,--it was closed; then to the Estaiblished
manse,--the meenister was awa'. At last he obtained a glance at the
schoolmaster's dictionary, and turning to `reproduce' found that it
meant `nought but mak' ower again';--and with an amused smile at the
bedevilments of language he turned once more to his loom and I to my
Notwithstanding his unfamiliarity with `langnebbit' words, David has
absorbed a deal of wisdom in his quiet life; though so far as I can
see, his only books have been the green tree outside his window, a
glimpse of the distant ocean, and the toil of his hands.
But I sometimes question if as many scholars are not made as marred
in this wise, for--to the seeing eye--the waving leaf and the far
sea, the daily task, one's own heart-beats, and one's neighbour's,--
these teach us in good time to interpret Nature's secrets, and
man's, and God's as well.
Chapter XX. A Fifeshire tea-party.
`The knights they harpit in their bow'r,
The ladyes sew'd and sang;
The mirth that was in that chamber
Through all the place it rang.'
Rose the Red and White Lily.
Tea at Rowardennan Castle is an impressive and a delightful
function. It is served by a ministerial-looking butler and a just-
ready-to-be-ordained footman. They both look as if they had been
nourished on the Thirty-Nine Articles, but they know their business
as well as if they had been trained in heathen lands,--which is
saying a good deal, for everybody knows that heathen servants wait
upon one with idolatrous solicitude. However, from the quality of
the cheering beverage itself down to the thickness of the cream, the
thinness of the china, the crispness of the toast, and the
plummyness of the cake, tea at Rowardennan Castle is perfect in
The scones are of unusual lightness, also. I should think they
would scarcely weigh more than four, perhaps even five, to a pound;
but I am aware that the casual traveller, who eats only at hotels,
and never has the privilege of entering feudal castles, will be slow
to believe this estimate, particularly just after breakfast.
Salemina always describes a Scotch scone as an aspiring but
unsuccessful soda-biscuit of the New England sort. Stevenson, in
writing of that dense black substance, inimical to life, called
Scotch bun, says that the patriotism that leads a Scotsman to eat it
will hardly desert him in any emergency. Salemina thinks that the
scone should be bracketed with the bun (in description, of course,
never in the human stomach), and says that, as a matter of fact,
`th' unconquer'd Scot' of old was not only clad in a shirt of mail,
but well fortified within when he went forth to warfare after a meal
of oatmeal and scones. She insists that the spear which would
pierce the shirt of mail would be turned aside and blunted by the
ordinary scone of commerce; but what signifies the opinion of a
woman who eats sugar on her porridge?
Considering the air of liberal hospitality that hangs about the
castle tea-table, I wonder that our friends do not oftener avail
themselves of its privileges and allow us to do so; but on all dark,
foggy, or inclement days, or whenever they tire of the sands,
everybody persists in taking tea at Bide-a-Wee Cottage.
We buy our tea of the Pettybaw grocer, some of our cups are cracked,
the teapot is of earthenware, Miss Grieve disapproves of all social
tea-fuddles, and shows it plainly when she brings in the tray, and
the room is so small that some of us overflow into the hall or the
garden; it matters not; there is some fatal charm in our humble
hospitality. At four o'clock one of us is obliged to be, like
Sister Anne, on the housetop; and if company approaches, she must
descend and speed to the plumber's for six pennyworth extra of
cream. In most well-ordered British households Miss Grieve would be
requested to do this speeding, but both her mind and her body move
too slowly for such domestic crises; and then, too, her temper has
to be kept as unruffled as possible, so that she will cut the bread
and butter thin. This she generally does if she has not been `fair
doun-hadden wi' wark'; but the washing of her own spinster cup and
plate, together with the incident sighs and groans, occupies her
till so late an hour that she is not always dressed for callers.
Willie and I were reading The Lady of the Lake the other day, in the
back garden, surrounded by the verdant leafage of our own kale-yard.
It is a pretty spot when the sun shines, a trifle domestic in its
air, perhaps, but restful: Miss Grieve's dish-towels and aprons
drying on the currant bushes, the cat playing with a mutton-bone or
a fish-tail on the grass, and the little birds perching on the rims
of our wash-boiler and water-buckets. It can be reached only by way
of the kitchen, which somewhat lessens its value as a pleasure-
ground or a rustic retreat, but Willie and I retire there now and
then for a quiet chat.
On this particular occasion Willie was declaiming the exciting
verses where Fitz-James and Murdoch are crossing the stream
`That joins Loch Katrine to Achray,'
where the crazed Blanche of Devan first appears:-
`All in the Trosachs' glen was still,
Noontide was sleeping on the hill:
Sudden his guide whoop'd loud and high--
"Murdoch! was that a signal cry?"'
"It was indeed," said Francesca, appearing suddenly at an upper
window overhanging the garden. "Pardon this intrusion, but the
Castle people are here," she continued in what is known as a stage
whisper,--that is, one that can be easily heard by a thousand
persons,--"the Castle people and the ladies from Pettybaw House; and
Mr. Macdonald is coming down the loaning; but Calamity Jane is
making her toilet in the kitchen, and you cannot take Mr. Beresford
through into the sitting-room at present. She says this hoose has
so few conveniences that it's `fair sickenin'.'"
"How long will she be?" queried Mr. Beresford anxiously, putting The
Lady of the Lake in his pocket, and pacing up and down between the
rows of cabbages.
"She has just begun. Whatever you do, don't unsettle her temper,
for she will have to prepare for eight to-day. I will send Mr.
Macdonald and Miss Macrae to the bakery for gingerbread, to gain
time, and possibly I can think of a way to rescue you. If I can't,
are you tolerably comfortable? Perhaps Miss Grieve won't mind
Penelope, and she can come through the kitchen any time and join us;
but naturally you don't want to be separated, that's the worst of
being engaged. Of course I can lower your tea in a tin bucket, and
if it should rain I can throw out umbrellas. Would you like your
golf-caps, Pen? `Won'erful blest in weather ye are, mam!' The
situation is not so bad as it might be," she added consolingly,
"because in case Miss Grieve's toilet should last longer than usual,
your wedding need not be indefinitely postponed, for Mr. Macdonald
can marry you from this window."
Here she disappeared, and we had scarcely time to take in the full
humour of the affair before Robin Anstruther's laughing eyes
appeared over the top of the high brick wall that protects our
garden on three sides.
"Do not shoot," said he. "I am not come to steal the fruit, but to
succour humanity in distress. Miss Monroe insisted that I should
borrow the inn ladder. She thought a rescue would be much more
romantic than waiting for Miss Grieve. Everybody is coming out to
witness it, at least all your guests,--there are no strangers
present,--and Miss Monroe is already collecting sixpence a head for
the entertainment, to be given, she says, for your dear Friar's
He was now astride of the wall, and speedily lifted the ladder to
our side, where it leaned comfortably against the stout branches of
the draper's peach vine. Willie ran nimbly up the ladder and
bestrode the wall. I followed, first standing, and then decorously
sitting down on the top of it. Mr. Anstruther pulled up the ladder,
and replaced it on the side of liberty; then he descended, then
Willie, and I last of all, amidst the acclamations of the onlookers,
a select company of six or eight persons.
When Miss Grieve formally entered the sitting-room bearing the tea-
tray, she was buskit braw in black stuff gown, clean apron, and
fresh cap trimmed with purple ribbons, under which her white locks
were neatly dressed.
She deplored the coolness of the tea, but accounted for it to me in
an aside by the sickening quality of Mrs. Sinkler's coals and Mr.
Macbrose's kindling-wood, to say nothing of the insulting draft in
the draper's range. When she left the room, I suppose she was
unable to explain the peals of laughter that rang through our
Lady Ardmore insists that the rescue was the most unique episode she
ever witnessed, and says that she never understood America until she
made our acquaintance. I persuaded her that this was fallacious
reasoning; that while she might understand us by knowing America,
she could not possibly reverse this mental operation and be sure of
the result. The ladies of Pettybaw House said that the occurrence
was as Fifish as anything that ever happened in Fife. The kingdom
of Fife is noted, it seems, for its `doocots [dovecots] and its daft
lairds,' and to be eccentric and Fifish are one and the same thing.
Thereupon Francesca told Mr. Macdonald a story she heard in
Edinburgh, to the effect that when a certain committee or council
was quarrelling as to which of certain Fifeshire towns should be the
seat of a projected lunatic asylum, a new resident arose and
suggested that the building of a wall round the kingdom of Fife
would solve the difficulty, settle all disputes, and give sufficient
room for the lunatics to exercise properly.
This is the sort of tale that a native can tell with a genial
chuckle, but it comes with poor grace from an American lady
sojourning in Fife. Francesca does not mind this, however, as she
is at present avenging fresh insults to her own beloved country.
Chapter XXI. International bickering.
With mimic din of stroke and ward
The broadsword upon target jarr'd.
The Lady of the Lake.
Robin Anstruther was telling stories at the tea-table.
"I got acquainted with an American girl in rather a queer sort of
way," he said, between cups. "It was in London, on the Duke of
York's wedding-day. I'm rather a tall chap, you see, and in the
crowd somebody touched me on the shoulder, and a plaintive voice
behind me said, `You're such a big man, and I am so little, will you
please help me to save my life? My mother was separated from me in
the crowd somewhere as we were trying to reach the Berkeley, and I
don't know what to do.' I was a trifle nonplussed, but I did the
best I could. She was a tiny thing, in a marvellous frock and a
flowery hat and a silver girdle and chatelaine. In another minute
she spied a second man, an officer, a full head taller than I am,
broad shoulders, splendidly put up altogether. Bless me! if she
didn't turn to him and say, `Oh, you're so nice and big, you're even
bigger than this other gentleman, and I need you both in this
dreadful crush. If you'll be good enough to stand on either side of
me, I shall be awfully obliged.' We exchanged amused glances of
embarrassment over her blonde head, but there was no resisting the
irresistible. She was a small person, but she had the soul of a
general, and we obeyed orders. We stood guard over her little
ladyship for nearly an hour, and I must say she entertained us
thoroughly, for she was as clever as she was pretty. Then I got her
a seat in one of the windows of my club, while the other man, armed
with a full description, went out to hunt up the mother; and, by
Jove! he found her, too. She would have her mother, and her mother
she had. They were awfully jolly people; they came to luncheon in
my chambers at the Albany afterwards, and we grew to be great
"I dare say she was an English girl masquerading," I remarked
facetiously. "What made you think her an American?"
"Oh, her general appearance and accent, I suppose."
"Probably she didn't say Barkley," observed Francesca cuttingly;
"she would have been sure to commit that sort of solecism."
"Why, don't you say Barkley in the States?"
"Certainly not; we never call them the States, and with us c-l-e-r-k
spells clerk, and B-e-r-k Berk."
"How very odd!" remarked Mr. Anstruther.
"No odder than you saying Bark, and not half as odd as your calling
it Albany," I interpolated, to help Francesca.
"Quite so," said Mr. Anstruther; "but how do you say Albany in
"Penelope and I always call it Allbany," responded Francesca
nonsensically, "but Salemina, who has been much in England, always
calls it Albany."
This anecdote was the signal for Miss Ardmore to remark (apropos of
her own discrimination and the American accent) that hearing a lady
ask for a certain med'cine in a chemist's shop, she noted the
intonation, and inquired of the chemist, when the fair stranger had
retired, if she were not an American. "And she was!" exclaimed the
Honourable Elizabeth triumphantly. "And what makes it the more
curious, she had been over here twenty years, and of course, spoke
English quite properly."
In avenging fancied insults, it is certainly more just to heap
punishment on the head of the real offender than upon his neighbour,
and it is a trifle difficult to decide why Francesca should chastise
Mr. Macdonald for the good-humoured sins of Mr. Anstruther and Miss
Ardmore; yet she does so, nevertheless.
The history of these chastisements she recounts in the nightly half-
hour which she spends with me when I am endeavouring to compose
myself for sleep. Francesca is fluent at all times, but once seated
on the foot of my bed she becomes eloquent!
"It all began with his saying--"
This is her perennial introduction, and I respond as invariably,
"Oh, to-day's argument with Mr. Macdonald. It was a literary
quarrel this afternoon."
"'Fools rush in--'" I quoted.
"There is a good deal of nonsense in that old saw," she interrupted;
"at all events, the most foolish fools I have ever known stayed
still and didn't do anything. Rushing shows a certain movement of
the mind, even if it is in the wrong direction. However, Mr.
Macdonald is both opinionated and dogmatic, but his worst enemy
could never call him a fool."
"I didn't allude to Mr. Macdonald."
"Don't you suppose I know to whom you alluded, dear? Is not your
style so simple, frank, and direct that a wayfaring girl can read it
and not err therein? No, I am not sitting on your feet, and it is
not time to go to sleep; I wonder you do not tire of making those
futile protests. As a matter of fact, we began this literary
discussion yesterday morning, but were interrupted; and knowing that
it was sure to come up again, I prepared for it with Salemina. She
furnished the ammunition, so to speak, and I fired the guns."
"You always make so much noise with blank cartridges I wonder you
ever bother about real shot," I remarked.
"Penelope, how can you abuse me when I am in trouble? Well, Mr.
Macdonald was prating, as usual, about the antiquity of Scotland and
its aeons of stirring history. I am so weary of the venerableness
of this country. How old will it have to be, I wonder, before it
gets used to it? If it's the province of art to conceal art, it
ought to be the province of age to conceal age, and it generally is.
`Everything doesn't improve with years,' I observed sententiously.
"'For instance?' he inquired.
"Of course you know how that question affected me! How I do dislike
an appetite for specific details! It is simply paralysing to a good
conversation. Do you remember that silly game in which some one
points a stick at you and says, `Beast, bird, or fish,--BEAST!' and
you have to name one while he counts ten? If a beast has been
requested, you can think of one fish and two birds, but no beast.
If he says `FISH,' all the beasts in the universe stalk through your
memory, but not one finny, sealy, swimming thing! Well, that is the
effect of `For instance?' on my faculties. So I stumbled a bit, and
succeeded in recalling, as objects which do not improve with age,
mushrooms, women, and chickens, and he was obliged to agree with me,
which nearly killed him. Then I said that although America is so
fresh and blooming that people persist in calling it young, it is
much older than it appears to the superficial eye. There is no real
propriety in dating us as a nation from the Declaration of
Independence in 1776, I said, nor even from the landing of the
Pilgrims in 1620; nor, for that matter, from Columbus's discovery in
1492. It's my opinion, I asserted, that some of us had been there
thousands of years before, but nobody had had the sense to discover
us. We couldn't discover ourselves,--though if we could have
foreseen how the sere and yellow nations of the earth would taunt us
with youth and inexperience, we should have had to do something
"That theory must have been very convincing to the philosophic Scots
mind," I interjected.
"It was; even Mr. Macdonald thought it ingenious. `And so,' I went
on, `we were alive and awake and beginning to make history when you
Scots were only bare-legged savages roaming over the hills and
stealing cattle. It was a very bad habit of yours, that cattle-
stealing, and one which you kept up too long.'
"'No worse a sin than your stealing land from the Indians,' he said.
"'Oh yes,' I answered, `because it was a smaller one! Yours was a
vice, and ours a sin; or I mean it would have been a sin had we done
it; but in reality we didn't steal land; we just TOOK it, reserving
plenty for the Indians to play about on; and for every hunting-
ground we took away we gave them in exchange a serviceable plough,
or a school, or a nice Indian agent, or something. That was land-
grabbing, if you like, but it is a habit you Britishers have still,
while we gave it up when we reached years of discretion.'"
"This is very illuminating," I interrupted, now thoroughly wide
awake, "but it isn't my idea of a literary discussion."
"I am coming to that," she responded. "It was just at this point
that, goaded into secret fury by my innocent speech about cattle-
stealing, he began to belittle American literature, the poetry
especially. Of course he waxed eloquent about the royal line of
poet-kings that had made his country famous, and said the people who
could claim Shakespeare had reason to be the proudest nation on
earth. `Doubtless,' I said. `But do you mean to say that Scotland
has any nearer claim upon Shakespeare than we have? I do not now
allude to the fact that in the large sense he is the common property
of the English-speaking world' (Salemina told me to say that), `but
Shakespeare died in 1616, and the union of Scotland with England
didn't come about till 1707, nearly a century afterwards. You
really haven't anything to do with him! But as for us, we didn't
leave England until 1620, when Shakespeare had been perfectly dead
four years. We took very good care not to come away too soon.
Chaucer and Spenser were dead too, and we had nothing to stay for!'"
I was obliged to relax here and give vent to a burst of merriment at
"I could see that he had never regarded the matter in that light
before," she went on gaily, encouraged by my laughter, "but he
braced himself for the conflict, and said `I wonder that you didn't
stay a little longer while you were about it. Milton and Ben Jonson
were still alive; Bacon's Novum Organum was just coming out; and in
thirty or forty years you could have had L'Allegro, Il Penseroso and
Paradise Lost; Newton's Principia, too, in 1687. Perhaps these were
all too serious and heavy for your national taste; still one
sometimes likes to claim things one cannot fully appreciate. And
then, too, if you had once begun to stay, waiting for the great
things to happen and the great books to be written, you would never
have gone, for there would still have been Browning, Tennyson, and
Swinburne to delay you.'
"'If we couldn't stay to see out your great bards, we certainly
couldn't afford to remain and welcome your minor ones,' I answered
frigidly; `but we wanted to be well out of the way before England
united with Scotland, knowing that if we were uncomfortable as
things were, it would be a good deal worse after the Union; and we
had to come home anyway, and start our own poets. Emerson,
Whittier, Longfellow, Holmes, and Lowell had to be born.'
"'I suppose they had to be if you had set your mind on it,' he said,
`though personally I could have spared one or two on that roll of
"'Very probably,' I remarked, as thoroughly angry now as he intended
I should be. `We cannot expect you to appreciate all the American
poets; indeed, you cannot appreciate all of your own, for the same
nation doesn't always furnish the writers and the readers. Take
your precious Browning, for example! There are hundreds of Browning
Clubs in America, and I never heard of a single one in Scotland.'
"'No,' he retorted, `I dare say; but there is a good deal in
belonging to a people who can understand him without clubs!'"
"O Francesca!" I exclaimed, sitting bolt upright among my pillows.
"How could you give him that chance! How COULD you! What did you
"I said nothing," she replied mysteriously. "I did something much
more to the point,--I cried!"
"Yes, cried; not rivers and freshets of woe, but small brooks and
streamlets of helpless mortification."
"What did he do then?"
"Why do you say `do'?"
"Oh, I mean `say,' of course. Don't trifle; go on. What did he say
"There are some things too dreadful to describe," she answered, and
wrapping her Italian blanket majestically about her she retired to
her own apartment, shooting one enigmatical glance at me as she
closed the door.
That glance puzzled me for some time after she left the room. It
was as expressive and interesting a beam as ever darted from a
woman's eye. The combination of elements involved in it, if an
abstract thing may be conceived as existing in component parts, was
something like this:-
One-sixteenth, desire to confess.
One-sixteenth, determination to conceal.
And all these delicate, complex emotions played together in a circle
of arching eyebrow, curving lip, and tremulous chin,--played
together, mingling and melting into one another like fire and snow;
bewildering, mystifying, enchanting the beholder!
If Ronald Macdonald did--I am a woman, but, for one, I can hardly
Chapter XXII. Francesca entertains the green-eyed monster.
`"O has he chosen a bonny bride,
An' has he clean forgotten me?"
An' sighing said that gay ladye,
"I would I were in my ain countrie!"'
It rained in torrents; Salemina was darning stockings in the
inglenook at Bide-a-Wee Cottage, and I was reading her a Scotch
letter which Francesca and I had concocted the evening before. I
proposed sending the document to certain chosen spirits in our own
country, who were pleased to be facetious concerning our devotion to
Scotland. It contained, in sooth, little that was new, and still
less that was true, for we were confined to a very small vocabulary
which we were obliged to supplement now and then by a dip into Burns
and Allan Ramsay.
Here is the letter:-
East Neuk o' Fife.
To my trusty fieres,
Mony's the time I hae ettled to send ye a screed, but there was aye
something that cam' i' the gait. It wisna that I couldna be fashed,
for aften hae I thocht o' ye and my hairt has been wi' ye mony's the
day. There's no' muckle fowk frae Ameriky hereawa; they're a' jist
Fife bodies, and a lass canna get her tongue roun' their thrapple-
taxin' words ava', so it's like I may een drap a' the sweetness o'
my good mither-tongue.
`Tis a dulefu' nicht, and an awfu' blash is ragin' wi'oot. Fanny's
awa' at the gowff rinnin' aboot wi' a bag o' sticks after a wee bit
ba', and Sally and I are hame by oor lane. Laith will the lassie be
to weet her bonny shoon, but lang ere the play'll be ower she'll wat
her hat aboon. A gust o' win' is skirlin' the noo, and as we luik
ower the faem, the haar is risin', weetin' the green swaird wi'
Yestreen was a calm simmer gloamin', sae sweet an' bonnie that when
the sun was sinkin' doon ower Pettybaw Sands we daundered ower the
muir. As we cam' through the scented birks, we saw a trottin'
burnie wimplin' `neath the white-blossomed slaes and hirplin' doon
the hillside; an' while a herd-laddie lilted ower the fernie brae, a
cushat cooed leesomely doon i' the dale. We pit aff oor shoon, sae
blithe were we, kilted oor coats a little aboon the knee, and
paidilt i' the burn, gettin' geyan weet the while. Then Sally pu'd
the gowans wat wi' dew an' twined her bree wi' tasselled broom,
while I had a wee crackie wi' Tibby Buchan, the flesher's dochter
frae Auld Reekie. Tibby's nae giglet gawky like the lave, ye ken,--
she's a sonsie maid, as sweet as ony hinny pear, wi' her twa pawky
een an' her cockernony snooded up fu' sleek.
We were unco gleg to win hame when a' this was dune, an' after
steekin' the door, to sit an' birsle oor taes at the bit blaze.
Mickle thocht we o' the gentles ayont the sea, an' sair grat we for
a' frien's we kent lang syne in oor ain countree.
Late at nicht, Fanny, the bonny gypsy, cam' ben the hoose an' tirled
at the pin of oor bigly bower door, speirin' for baps and bannocks.
"Hoots, lassie!" cried oot Sally, "th' auld carline i' the kitchen
is i' her box-bed, an' weel aneuch ye ken is lang syne cuddled
"Oo ay!" said Fanny, strikin' her curly pow, "then fetch me
parritch, an' dinna be lang wi' them, for I've lickit a Pettybaw lad
at the gowff, an' I could eat twa guid jints o' beef gin I had
"Losh girl," said I, "gie ower makin' sic a mickle din. Ye ken
verra weel ye'll get nae parritch the nicht. I'll rin and fetch ye
a `piece' to stap awee the soun'."
"Blethers an' havers!" cried Fanny, but she blinkit bonnily the
while, an' when the tea was weel maskit, she smoored her wrath an'
stappit her mooth wi' a bit o' oaten cake. We aye keep that i' the
hoose, for th' auld servant-body is geyan bad at the cookin', an'
she's sae dour an' dowie that to speak but till her we daur hardly
In sic divairsions pass the lang simmer days in braid Scotland, but
I canna write mair the nicht, for `tis the wee sma' hours ayont the
Like th' auld wife's parrot, `we dinna speak muckle, but we're
deevils to think,' an' we're aye thinkin' aboot ye. An' noo I maun
leave ye to mak' what ye can oot o' this, for I jalouse it'll pass
ye to untaukle the whole hypothec.
Fair fa' ye a'! Lang may yer lum reek, an' may prosperity attend
Aye your gude frien',
"It may be very fine," remarked Salemina judicially, "though I
cannot understand more than half of it."
"That would also be true of Browning," I replied. "Don't you love
to see great ideas looming through a mist of words?"
"The words are misty enough in this case," she said, "and I do wish
you would not tell the world that I paddle in the burn, or `twine my
bree wi' tasselled broom.' I'm too old to be made ridiculous."
"Nobody will believe it," said Francesca, appearing in the doorway.
"They will know it is only Penelope's havering," and with this
undeserved scoff, she took her mashie and went golfing--not on the
links, on this occasion, but in our microscopic sitting-room. It is
twelve feet square, and holds a tiny piano, desk, centre-table,
sofa, and chairs, but the spot between the fire-place and the table
is Francesca's favourite `putting-green.' She wishes to become more
deadly in the matter of approaches, and thinks her tee-shots weak;
so these two deficiencies she is trying to make good by home
practice in inclement weather. She turns a tumbler on its side on
the floor, and `putts' the ball into it, or at it, as the case may
be, from the opposite side of the room. It is excellent discipline,
and as the tumblers are inexpensive the breakage really does not
matter. Whenever Miss Grieve hears the shivering of glass, she
murmurs, not without reason, `It is not for the knowing what they
will be doing next.'
"Penelope, has it ever occurred to you that Elizabeth Ardmore is
seriously interested in Mr. Macdonald?"
Salemina propounded this question to me with the same innocence that
a babe would display in placing a lighted fuse beside a dynamite
Francesca naturally heard the remark,--although it was addressed to
me,--pricked up her ears, and missed the tumbler by several feet.
It was a simple inquiry, but as I look back upon it from the safe
ground of subsequent knowledge I perceive that it had a certain
amount of influence upon Francesca's history. The suggestion would
have carried no weight with me for two reasons. In the first place,
Salemina is far-sighted. If objects are located at some distance
from her, she sees them clearly; but if they are under her very nose
she overlooks them altogether, unless they are sufficiently fragrant
or audible to address other senses. This physical peculiarity she
carries over into her mental processes. Her impression of the
Disruption movement, for example, would be lively and distinct, but
her perception of a contemporary lover's quarrel (particularly if it
were fought at her own apron-strings) would be singularly vague. If
she suggested, therefore, that Elizabeth Ardmore was interested in
Mr. Beresford, who is the rightful captive of my bow and spear, I
should be perfectly calm.
My second reason for comfortable indifference is that frequently in
novels, and always in plays, the heroine is instigated to violent
jealousy by insinuations of this sort, usually conveyed by the
villain of the piece, male or female. I have seen this happen so
often in the modern drama that it has long since ceased to be
convincing; but though Francesca has witnessed scores of plays and
read hundreds of novels, it did not apparently strike her as a
theatrical or literary suggestion that Lady Ardmore's daughter
should be in love with Mr. Macdonald. The effect of the new point
of view was most salutary, on the whole. She had come to think
herself the only prominent figure in the Reverend Ronald's
landscape, and anything more impertinent than her tone with him
(unless it is his with her) I certainly never heard. This
criticism, however, relates only to their public performances, and I
have long suspected that their private conversations are of a
kindlier character. When it occurred to her that he might simply be
sharpening his mental sword on her steel, but that his heart had at
last wandered into a more genial climate than she had ever provided
for it, she softened unconsciously; the Scotsman and the American
receded into a truer perspective, and the man and the woman
approached each other with dangerous nearness.
"What shall we do if Francesca and Mr. Macdonald really fall in love
with each other?" asked Salemina, when Francesca had gone into the
hall to try long drives. (There is a good deal of excitement in
this, as Miss Grieve has to cross the passage on her way from the
kitchen to the china-closet, and thus often serves as a reluctant
`hazard' or `bunker.')
"Do you mean what should we have done?" I queried.
"Nonsense, don't be captious! It can't be too late yet. They have
known each other only a little over two months; when would you have
had me interfere, pray?"
"It depends upon what you expect to accomplish. If you wish to stop
the marriage, interfere in a fortnight or so; if you wish to prevent
an engagement, speak--well, say to-morrow; if, however, you didn't
wish them to fall in love with each other, you should have kept one
of them away from Lady Baird's dinner."
"I could have waited a trifle longer than that," argued Salemina,
"for you remember how badly they got on at first."
"I remember you thought so," I responded dryly; "but I believe Mr.
Macdonald has been interested in Francesca from the outset, partly
because her beauty and vivacity attracted him, partly because he
could keep her in order only by putting his whole mind upon her. On
his side, he has succeeded in piquing her into thinking of him
continually, though solely, as she fancies, for the purpose of
crossing swords with him. If they ever drop their weapons for an
instant, and allow the din of warfare to subside so that they can
listen to their own heart-beats, they will discover that they love
each other to distraction."
"Ye ken mair than's in the catecheesm," remarked Salemina, yawning a
little as she put away her darning-ball. "It is pathetic to see you
waste your time painting mediocre pictures, when as a lecturer upon
love you could instruct your thousands."
"The thousands would never satisfy me," I retorted, "so long as you
remained uninstructed, for in your single person you would so swell
the sum of human ignorance on that subject that my teaching would be
for ever in vain."
"Very clever indeed! Well, what will Mr. Monroe say to me when I
return to New York without his daughter, or with his son-in-law?"
"He has never denied Francesca anything in her life; why should he