« VorigeDoorgaan »
lashes blacker than Robert's own, and all | dow — it was my father's window then — the ripeness of her lips and throat show- and caused us to rise all together, knowing ing in the sunlight.
that something very important must acHe took a crown-piece from his pocket, count for such a precise man going out of passed through the brown arms still his order. Mr. Tosh shook hands with arched to throw him, and pressed the my father first, as his way was ever. coin between her fingers as, well apart, There were some folks who said that my they clasped her burden. With that he mother, being Mr. Tosh's sister, might looked through the warm haze of her face have looked higher than plain Mr. Shirra into her eyes, and held them for a second, in the excise. Mr. Tosh never showed without saying a word, so far as they could that that was in his mind, although I besee. I suppose she did not hate him, lieve it was there. Being a proud man, even then, nor had cause to. But it has with a shrewd eye, he knew that that kind always seemed to me that a woman's self- of pride looked best when it was saddled protection is a cruel business at the best. and ridden. The ammunition of her defence differs That morning he said to me, passing from that of men as dynamite differs from over these civilities with something of gunpowder; his leaving no more than the perfunctoriness, dirt of battle at the most; hers often “ Put on your shoes, David. I'll want shattering herself. She dropped her load; ye this forenoon. It's an errand o'neceshe could see a squall of anger sweep across sity if not o' mercy,” he said, turning to her face; and even as he thought it won my father, who was very particular in the derful — that change in her - the silver ways of keeping the Sabbath, “an' the piece stung him, flung full on his cheek kirk maun hang in the head o't, this day." with all the force of the country girl's When we got out on the road, wrath. Stooping to hide the shot of pain " There's news come with the coach in his eyes, he picked up the crown, to this morning that Robert Learmont's have pocketed it with a compliment, no killed at the Redan,” he said.
“ The doubt; but Kate, when he looked for her, guard's blowing it about like a blast on was striding across the field to Row’tilly. This tooter, an' we maun break it up at He spun the coin high in the air -- an ac- Hawfield before it gets there on coarse tion like a sneer — and with his face tongues." burning round the inflamed spot, as it It was easy to see that it was against seemed to the workers, he turned on his the grain in him, this errand, and that my heel to Denbrae.
company was just for company's sake. Among the farm servants it was the It's a sore business dealing out fortune's talk of days how the "maister's dochter” blows, even if you know your stroke will had served young Learmont; and many, be lighter than most. Old Michael knew when they passed him on the road, were what the blow would be to the woman the curious enough to hold to the right and roots of whose life were dug into that look for the red spot still visible on his body that maybe by this time was long left cheek. By the time the tale was old shuffled underground. But he was not a on their lips, Robert had held Kate in his man to shirk his duty. arms and she had kissed that scar. How, We reached Denbrae when the bells when, where they met, no one ever told were ringing in, and saw the folks popping me, and I believe no one ever knew. But into the kirk, for all the world like rabbits there was no lack of occasion, with the into their burrows. We had passed into harvest carried on under the moon, and the Hawfield road when the Hawfield dogKate going to and fro between the farm- cart came rattling along it, and Mathie house and the field, and Robert with such Oliver, the coachman, looking in a terrible a way with women, as every one knew. way. He was back again in spring; and in the Good-morning, Matthew," said Mr.
a flying visit (to see Kate, he Tosh, holding up his hand no higher than said) before he set out for the front; and his waist-belt, as if that was high enough Kate – the proud, reticent girl whom to stop a coachman. But Mathie's words Tam Sturrock worshipped from afar - tossed up the old man's gentleness as yielded to him with the wonderful yield- you've seen wind toss the fallen leaves. ing of women.
“ Heist ye, Mister Tosh," said he. “I'm awa' for the doctor. There's news come
o' young Robert's death in the Crimee, I will remember that Sunday morn- and the auld lady is taking on something ing when Michael Tosh passed the win. awfu'.”
I could see disgust at the turn of affairs | gossipiog people, and were even more so creeping up to Mr. Tosh's eyes like a in those days; so that when all had come sickness.
and gone, many remembered what Lear. “Who — who was it carried the news mont said, and what Kate, and what Tam to Hawfield ?” he asked.
Sturrock; and told the sayings again. “ Mister Hendry Anderson cam running When the congregation gathered in out an hour syne, and tell't 's
Denbrae kirkyard for the afternoon ser“Oh, yes ! Matthew Oliver," replied vice the bits of the morning's news were Mr. Tosh, very precisely, turning on his put together. Some declared that Mrs. heel. “Oh, yes! Hairy Anderson was Learmont had it by word of mouth passed always such a particular demned ass !” on from the coast by the coach, others
With that he set his feet again into the that it came by letter. Both were right. Riverton road, leaving me to follow. And We know the amount of truth that was in at the bend where the Row'tilly pathway the word-o'-mouth story, and Mrs. Learruns into it, I could see Kate Coulter hur-mont did get a letter. But of all the intrirying down it, late for the kirk. I looked cate things in life this is the saddest: to have walked the few steps to the kirk- that it is not the truth of a thing that is gate with her. Most lads round about going to be of much use to you, but the were drawn to the Row'tilly girl, less for knowing it true.
The Denbrae gossips her beauty than because of her holding had learned nothing when they had not back, proud ways; but Kate hung in the learned that the word in the letter canroad — because she saw my company, Icelled Henry Anderson's, and told how said to myself, with what would have been Robert Learmont had a wound indeed, but vanity had I believed it. And Michael not a deadly one. We found that out Tosh calling me alongside of him, I fell when it was too late. What we shall never into his short steps again, and so went find out (although I have no doubt on the home thinking of how the day's business point) is, when Mrs. Learmont learned it; had fallen out, and never dreaming that I whether or not she had read that letter was turning my back on the end of it. before she saw Kate.
But it was so, as you shall hear pres- It was the habit of the Row'tilly family ently. So far, I have told what I can to spend the interval between sermons at vouch for with my own eyes and ears. Dave Sturrock's, supping their broth there The rest is a tale patched like these new- instead of at the farm; a good arrangement fangled counterpanes; pieced out of the for people who had no leisure for visiting odds and ends of folk's talk, and remnants on week-days. It gave time for Kate and of gossip, without any very certain pat- her mother to inspect Nell's bairn, and tern, but with the suggestion of many for Row'tilly to advise Dave on his game There's a very brisk lad that brings his bantams — occupations full of digestive paint-box down the burnside every sum- restfulness and not likely to drive away mer, who says that that's the kernel of the afternoon's sleep. This day, however, art, and calls himself a Whistlerite, what. Mr. Coulter and his wife being absent, ever that may be. Perhaps it pleases Dave got through his pipe sooner than some folk to pay their money and take usual; and he and Nell and Kate arrived their choice. For my part I would not at the kirk in plenty of time to join the buy a picture like a pig in a pock, and groups that gathered to talk of crops and have one man say it was the sun that hung cattle, and the dead on whose flat grave. in the heaven, and another that it was the stones they were sitting. Tam Sturrock moon; or worse, as I have seen happen was never behind in seeing Kate's arrival; with this young birkie's own canvases, and it was he who told her the news of have whole five men examine it, and not Robert's death. one of them with more than an opinion “Wha had ye this from?” she said which was the right end on. I have nothing quietly. to do with art, which seems to me a high- She was gone all pale below her dark falutin' title taken by a thing that's not skin, as Tam might have seen if he had very sure of its own merit. I have only a not been the honestest man that ever story to tell as plainly as it is to be known stepped, with the dullest eye that ever on this side of the grave. And, if, when worked in an honest man's face.
He was you have heard them, you wonder how so not like his brother Dave, who was born many things could come within one man's pawky. ken, remember I have attended at many " It was Jeems Patton's wife telld me," deathbeds. Besides, we are a simple, he said; "and she got it from her guidman, who met Sandy Milne as he was haste and the farmer's absence. They comiog from mending the coke-fire at his thought it strange, too, that the darkness maut baros."
should fall so quickly that they did not “I daursay that's enough voucher for see her round the farther bend. But Kate the truth o't,” said Kate, the catch in her never rounded it. She struck across throat making a chirrup in her voice, country for Hawfield. She was still runwhich Tam, with the pitiful conceit of ning when Rab Cuick saw her at the Silver men, mistook for the mirth of a woman, Wood. So he said. He is a disinterested who is not ill-pleased to be talking to a liar, I admit, and would have made her man. With that she walked into the kirk run although her walking would not have and forward to the Row'tilly pew.
told against his own ends. But on this Denbrae church is old and dingy, with occasion I could well believe him. When very deep seats, from which to see the Christian Baxter opened the Hawfield door preacher is to strain the neck over the to Kate, the hall clock was striking four, book-boards. The occupants of neighbor- and before she had closed it she heard ing pews are hid from one another. Tam, the far-off Denbrae bell sounding across who sat with his brother at the back of the fields. Therefore the girl must have the kirk — a position full of all advantage, covered those two miles and three-quarters except that of having a sight of the clock, of field-ridge and stubble in less than half whose old, yellow face beamed from the an hour. I have had dealings with Chris. front of the gallery benignant with hope tian Baxter since then, and have often - gazed at the Bibles before him as if at probed her memory; but if there was any moment they might fade from sight anything more hidden there I never hit it. and display to his rapturous eyes the She let Kate in because there was urgency flower in Kate's bonnet. That was all of in her tones. She carried her to Mrs. her that peeped above the Row'tilly pew. Learmont's room, and Mrs. Learmont was Jean's bonnet-crown was never so fasci- as calm as a pie. These are Christian's nating as on that day; and so Tam thought own words; and she said, moreover, that as the preacher thumped his Bible in the for the hour the two women were together, interests of an overruling Providence. although she was hovering in the neighThat is a doctrine the truth of which va boring room, she never heard a word ries a great deal with how the world is raised higher than ordinarily, nor ever, using the hearer of it. Tam, if he heard even on the two occasions when she had it at all, was doubtless seeing in the two to go in beside them, observed so much miles of hill and bracken that was Kate's as a crack in Kate's voice. road home, and in the want of her father's “They were sittin' close thegither, and and her mother's company, an illustration Mrs. Learmont had the lassie's hand in of it; and wondering if he had the cour- hers. I tell ye Kate's hand that was as age to apply it. But the sermon was not red as a haw looked white below thae finished when the gloaming clouded the black fing'rs. But it wasna' Kate Coulter little windows; and the minister, pausing, I lot oot that night. It was a girl that said,
wasn't going, but was being sent; it " It's time the upland folk were getting minded me o' the stories of folks that had away home; it's falling dark.”
seen a sicht." It was a usual enough intimation on Mrs. Learmont's calmness would seem winter Sunday afternoons; and scarce a to show that she had read that letter. sleeper was disturbed by the silence as You may ask why, if that were so, she did Kate, and here and there a ploughman or not relieve the whole house with its mesa cottager from the hills, emerged from sage. I tell you she had no world outside their pews. But Tam, bis afternoon's of Robert; the rest was dirt. On the ambitions at all the portholes of his sense, other hand, when Kate came in, all sick was for stealing out too, when Dave caught with fear, and hope, and shame, drawn to his coat-tails, and pulled him down. the only other heart in the world that beat
“Sit quiet, ye nowt!” he whispered. to Robert's, why was not the later news, “ It's just the Row'tilly fowk." And he if Mrs. Learmont had it, clapped like a held him fast as Kate and his opportunity comfortable plaster to her sore? Bah! passed by.
Why should I beat about the bush? I Clear of the village, Kate was running. have not a point of evidence to go to a The ploughmen in her wake on the Row jury with. A sheriff would not listen to tilly road saw her run up the first brae, and my story. Yet I know, as well as I know said, “ Has Row'tilly à cow in calf the that from the time it flashed upon me I now?” trying thus to account for the girl's have looked on women differently, that Mrs. Learmont damned her soul in that against her husband's return, with similar hour for her son's sake. She may have fragrances that issued from every couthy had an inkling before that of what Kate fireside in the village. had to tell; she did not require it. With- " Dave." The voice was not so muout that great love in her, her cuoning sical as when she was Nell Coulter. and nimbleness of wits would have taken “Comin',” he replied, continuing his in at a flash what steadier people needed talk with Tam. long looking for. Was there no great “Man, Dave,”. Tam was saying, “ I've hate for the girl battened down under her felt lonesome sin’ye went and got merrit." hatches ? Yet she sat there playing on “I believe't,” replied Dave. Kate as on a harp with the most delicate “And that cannot be helpit." touch possible; making believe that it was “ No. It cannot be helpit," acquiesced the woman in her that was drawn to the Dave, with the gusto of conviction. woman in the other; disparaging her color " And I'se warrant Kate's the same that she might exalt the sacrifice demanded without Nell?” from a girl of her husband's race; fanning “Maybe.” the mad flame of Kate's resolve ; never There was a pause ; then Tam again, disturbing the girl's assurance of Robert's “ What's to hinder me makin' up to love, yet gently broaching it so that it Kate ?" leaked away. It was the sight of these “ Ha'e ye considered her worldly standblack fingers on the honest brown, called ing, Tam? up by Christian's words, that sent a sus. * Huis!” said Tam with a great deal picion through me that has been verified of spirit. “Nell was ready enough to tak' since then — to my satisfaction at least, you." although, to be sure, some folks think “Tam," replied Dave, stung with the otherwise.
truth, and finding it rather pleasant, “if
I hadna' behaved myself at Row'tilly you III.
wouldoa' daur to show face there." MEANWHILE the neighbors whom Kate All the world - all the world of Denhad left behind, ceasing from their slum- brae, that is - knew how humbly Dave berous worship and tumbling out of had mounted the Row'tilly road to woo church as from their beds, had never a Nell; and Tam acknowledged the fact, as thought of the life and honor hanging in Nell's voice sounded through the night the balance at Hawfield. Already Nell once more. Sturrock was back in her own house; “ Could she put in a word for me?” he Dave and Tam, as was their wont, lingered said doubtfully, nodding in Nell's direcat the end of the road.
tion. “I canna' think what they twa get to Dave shook his head. “ That would be crack about,” Nell said to herself. • They asking a vote o' confidence,” he said at would stand a moon."
length; and evidently he could not risk But I dare say she could think very it."" Na, na, Tam, laad," he said ; "we'll well; women are clever. The lawyer let sleepin' dowgs lie." trade is a royal road to knowing them, and “But tak' your will o't, Tam," he said I tell you that most of them that I have at parting. “I'm no saying a word against met have the heels of a man in the con- naebody; but mind, it's the verra deevil duct of affairs, any day. Depend upon it, when your wife casts her former estate a woman knows what happens to her when in your teeth." she marries. She may twirl a husband That night Tam went up the Row'tilly round her little finger. Nell did. I sup- road, whistling, Sabbath though it was, 10 pose if I denied ability to cite an instance keep his courage hot. When he reached nearer home, it would not be believed. the steading he saw a light in the byre, No doubt she does it the more viciously and, going inside, found Kate, as he had because she knows quite well it does not hoped, alone, milking her cows. entail any hold on his inclinations. When started to her feet when she saw him. you see men very happy hobnobbing to. * What brings you here, Tam Sturrock? gether, be it in clubs or at street corners, Have you any ill word from Dave's folk?” and yet going home to their wives, find she cried, with a frightened look. what consolation you can in the thought He had expected a mischievous glance, that the grey mare is the better horse al- a saucy word; but when he shook his ways.
head, the scared, white face -- Kate's face Nell opened her door, mixing the fra- - turned wearily away from him. grance of the tea and bacon, prepared i “ It's not with an ill word from Nell,
but for a good word from you, I cam,” he When
Denbrae body tells the story blurted out boldly. But Kate said not a of Kate Coulter he finishes here; as if it word as, with her back to him, she con- “ Puir lassie ; and there's an end tinued with her milking.
of't.' But I recall the story because in “ Kate — Katie,” he said, in desperation, course of time Robert Learmont came fumbling with a paper in his hand, “I back to Hawfield. Tam Sturrock and brought a bit o' poetry to you, Katie. I John Coulter waited for a word with him. made it up in the kirk."
It would have been a hot one even if, as I I dare say he made it up quickly enough. contend, Robert Learmont could have It had no merit, and trash comes as read- pled an honest intention in the end; for ily as the words of genius. It is medioc. there is plenty room to be selfish in this rity that takes time.
world without reaching to the bounds of “I'll read it to you," he went on. “Ye'll selfishness. But they never had that not laugh at me, Kate ?" Poor Tam! word. Mixed blood, like Learmont's, has
As Kate said nothing he drew nearer, no stamina ; and after that wound Robert and bending beside her at the lamp deliv- had to pass the short remainder of his ered himself of his doggerel :
days in warm countries. Denbrae lasses are plump and fair,
And this is what I know. He had not And ilka ane has her billie, o
long returned when Mrs. Learmont had a There's nane with mine that can compare
tale to tell him, exultantly, cunningly; and Kate Coulter of Row'tilly, 01
when she finished he spoke a word, and
the light faded from her eyes. It is true But when he looked up, sheepishly, from that at the end she was by his bedside. his reading, Kate sat with her face in her Nature knows her own business, and she bands, and he could hear her sobs. would see to that. But from the time
“For your ain sake, for my sake, go that word was spoken until the very end, away home," she cried; but, awed as he there was little that was lovely passed was, he would have put his arms around between them. her.
DAVID S. MELDRUM. She started to her feet and threw him off, and would not have him near her.
“ Don't touch me ; don't come near me," she sobbed out piteously, shrinking from him. Then, I believe, she felt that
From The Liverpool Journal of Commerce. he guessed the shame that all too clearly
THE DRAINING OF THE ZUIDER ZEE. that day had revealed to her.
The draining of the Zuider Zee is proI know Tam better than you who know gressing with even better success than him only in love, which, whatever we was expected — that is, the preliminary may say, is not a condition to be proud of. work of erecting a dam, for the actual I believe it of him that he was no ten- draining comes after. It is strictly a war derer, no sterner than the rest of us would of revenge, for it is not very maný centu. have been.
ries since the Zuider Zee was an inland “ They all come with fine words. lake with a small outlet. The Dutch are, There's no poetry in the end of it,” was therefore, recovering a province lost to the last thing he heard Kate say; and as their ancestors by the invasion of the sea. he listened to it, it seemed to him it was A good, solid, broad foundation has ala charge no son of Adam could plead ready been laid, extending from the north guiltless to. Standing there, his love upon point of north Holland across to the a broken wing, there stole into his un-island of Wieringen, and thence straight tutored, boyish mind as he has told me across the Zee to the nearest point of the himself, some insight into the mystery of opposite coast of Friesland - a distance one bearing the sins of many. Then he of eighteen miles only. It has been found stumbled down the Row'tilly road, his that as the work proceeds the sea itself hope on the wape as Jupiter was in the assists by depositing enormous quantities sky before him.
of sand and silt every tide on both the That night Dave and Tam were suin- outside and inside of the dam, which is moned from their beds to Row'tilly. being gradually raised in its whole length "From down in the valley dim figures with simultaneously. When the project of torches could be seen in the steading and draining the sea - not a new one at all among the uplands. By the grey light of took shape some forty years ago, the arst the morning the brothers found the girl's idea was to join by dams the great islands body in the pond among the hills. of the Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, and