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- A Daughter of Fife - 1/35 -
A DAUGHTER OF FIFE
AMELIA E. BARR
AUTHOR OF "JAN VEDDER'S WIFE"
CHAPTER I.--THE BEACHED BOAT
CHAPTER II.--THE UNKNOWN GUEST
CHAPTER III.--THE CAMPBELLS OF MERITON
CHAPTER IV.--MAGGIE AND ANGUS
CHAPTER VI.--OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE
CHAPTER VIII.--THE BROKEN SIXPENCE
CHAPTER IX.--SEVERED SELVES AND SHADOWS
CHAPTER X.--MAGGIE'S FLIGHT
CHAPTER XII.--TO THE HEBRIDES
CHAPTER XIII.--THE BROKEN TRYST
CHAPTER XIV.--THE MEETING PLACE
CHAPTER XV.--WOO'D AN' MARRIED AND A'
THE BEACHING OF THE BOAT.
"Thou old gray sea, Thou broad briny water, With thy ripple and thy plash, And thy waves as they lash The old gray rocks on the shore. With thy tempests as they roar, And thy crested billows hoar, And thy tide evermore Fresh and free."
On the shore of a little land-locked haven, into which the gulls and terns bring tidings of the sea, stands the fishing hamlet of Pittenloch. It is in the "East Neuk o' Fife," that bit of old Scotland "fronted with a girdle of little towns," of which Pittenloch is one of the smallest and the most characteristic. Some of the cottages stand upon the sands, others are grouped in a steep glen, and a few surmount the lofty sea-washed rocks.
To their inhabitants the sea is every thing. Their hopes and fears, their gains and losses, their joys and sorrows, are linked with it; and the largeness of the ocean has moulded their feelings and their characters. They are in a measure partakers of its immensity and its mystery. The commonest of their men have wrestled with the powers of the air, and the might of wind, and wave, and icy cold. The weakest of their women have felt the hallowing touch of sudden calamity, and of long, lonely, life-and-death, watches. They are intensely religious, they hold tenaciously to the modes of thought and speech, to the manner of living and dressing, and to all the household traditions which they have cherished for centuries.
Two voices only have had the power to move them from the even spirit of their life--the voice of Knox, and the voice of Chalmers. It was among the fishers of Fife that Knox began his crusade against popery; and from their very midst, in later days, sprang the champion of the Free Kirk. Otherwise rebellions and revolutions troubled them little. Whether Scotland's king sat in Edinburgh or London--whether Prince Charles or George of Hanover reigned, was to them of small importance. They lived apart from the battle of life, and only the things relating to their eternal salvation, or their daily bread, moved them.
Forty-two years ago there was no landward road to Pittenloch, unless you followed the goats down the steep rocks. There was not a horse or cart in the place; probably there was not a man in it who had ever seen a haymaking. If you went to Pittenloch, you went by the sea; if you left it, there was the same grand highway. And the great, bearded, sinewy men, bending to the oars, and sending the boat spinning through clouds of spindrift, made it, after all, a right royal road.
Forty-two years ago, one wild March afternoon, a young woman was standing on the beach of Pittenloch. There was an ominous wail in the sea, telling of the fierce tide yet to come; and all around her whirling wraiths of vapor sweeping across the level sands. From a little distance, she appeared like a woman standing amid gray clouds--a sombre, solid, figure; whose attitude was one of grave thoughtfulness. Approaching nearer, it was evident that her gaze was fixed upon a fishing boat which had been drawn high upon the shingle; and from which a party of heavy-footed fishermen were slowly retreating.
She was a beautiful woman; tall, supple, erect; with a positive splendor of health and color. Her dress was that of the Fife fisher-girl; a blue flannel jacket, a very short white and yellow petticoat, and a white cap drawn over her hair, and tied down with a lilac kerchief knotted under the chin. This kerchief outlined the superb oval of her face; and made more remarkable the large gray eyes, the red curved mouth, and the wide white brow. She was barefooted, and she tapped one foot restlessly upon the wet sands, to relieve, by physical motion, her mental tension and sorrow.
It was Maggie Promoter, and the boat which had just been so solemnly "beached" had been her father's. It was a good boat, strong in every timber, an old world Buckie skiff, notorious for fending in foundering seas; but it had failed Promoter in the last storm, and three days after he and his sons had gone to the bottom had been found floating in Largo Bay.
If it had been a conscious criminal, a boat which had wilfully and carelessly sacrificed life, it could hardly have been touched with more dislike; and in accordance with the ancient law of the Buchan and Fife fishers, it was "_put from the sea_." Never again might it toss on the salt free waves, and be trusted with fishermen's lives. Silently it was drawn high up on the desolate shingle, and left to its long and shameful decay.
Maggie had watched the ceremony from a little distance; but when the fishers had disappeared in the gathering mist, she slowly approached the boat. There it lay, upside down, black and lonely, far beyond the highest mark of any pitying tide. She fancied that the insensate timber had a look of shame and suffering, and she spoke to it, as if it had a soul to comprehend her:--
"Lizzie! Lizzie! What cam' o'er you no to bide right side up? Four gude men to your keeping, Lizzie, and you lost them a'. Think shame o' yersel', think shame o' yersel', for the sorrow you hae brought! You'll be a heart grief to me as long as you lie there; for I named you mysel', little thinking o' what would come o' it."
For a few minutes she stood looking at the condemned and unfortunate boat in silence; then she turned and began to walk rapidly toward the nearest cluster of cottages. The sea fog was rolling in thick, with the tide, and the air was cold and keen. A voice called her through it, and she answered the long-drawn "Maggie" with three cheerful words, "I'm coming, Davie." Very soon Davie loomed through the fog, and throwing a plaid about her, said, "What for did you go near the boat, Maggie? When you ken where ill luck is, you should keep far from it."
"A better looking or a bonnier boat I ne'er saw, Davie."
"It's wi' boats, as it is wi' men and women; some for destruction, some for salvation. The Powers above hae the ordering o' it, and it's a' right, Maggie."
"That's what folks say. I'm dooting it mysel'. It's our ain fault some way. Noo there would be a false plumb in yonder boat, though we didna ken it."
"Weel, weel, she failed in what was expected o' her, and she's got her deserts. We must tak' care o' our ain job. But I hae news for you, and if you'll mak' a cup o' tea, and toast a Finnin haddie, we'll talk it o'er."
The Promoter cottage was in a bend of the hills, but so near the sea that the full tide broke almost at its door, and then drew the tinkling pebbles down the beach after it. It was a low stone dwelling, white-washed, and heather-roofed, and containing only three rooms. David and Maggie entered the principal one together. Its deal furniture was spotless, its floor cleanly sanded, and a bright turf fire was burning on the brick hearth. Some oars and creels were hung against the wall, and on a pile of nets in the warmest corner, a little laddie belonging to a neighbor's household was fast asleep.
Maggie quickly threw on more turf, and drew the crane above the fire, and hung the kettle upon it. Then with a light and active step she set about toasting the oat cake and the haddie, and making the tea, and setting the little round table. But her heart was heavy enough. Scarcely a week before her father and three eldest brothers had gone out to the fishing, and perished in a sudden storm; and the house place, so lately busy and noisy with the stir of nearly half-a-dozen menfolk, was now strangely still and lonely.
Maggie was a year older than her brother David, but she never thought of assuming any authority over him. In the first place, he had the privilege of sex; in the next, David Promoter was generally allowed to be
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