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- A Daughter of Fife - 10/35 -
like better the idea of economy. Not one word, David. I know all you feel. I am happier than you are; and if the obligation ever becomes a painful one to you, why pay me back when you get a kirk and a good stipend."
"I hear you, sir, and I'm gratefu' as man can be."
"Very likely Professor Laird may wish you to stay a week with him. He will want to find out what you know, and what studies you can be pursuing this summer. If he does so, I shall take that opportunity to visit my friends. Then we can return to Pittenloch until the classes open. I look forward to some calm, happy weeks, David; and perhaps I shall be able to help you with your Latin and Greek. I wasn't a bad scholar two years ago."
"Is your hame far awa', sir?"
"I dare say, David, you think it strange I do not ask you to go with me there."
"It wad ill set me to hae such thochts, sir. I hope you dinna put them to me."
"The truth is, David, I have had a little trouble with my family. If you won't mind my secrecy, I should prefer not to speak of it."
"I hae naething to do wi' your private affairs, sir. I wad think it the height o' dishonor to mak' any inquiry concerning them."
Then the subject was readily turned, for David's mind and imagination was full of the lovely and grand city in which he found himself. He had never been beyond the small fishing towns of Fife, and the ancient castle and palace, the fine terraces of handsome houses, the marching to and fro of soldiers, the streets and kirks made sacred by the sufferings of the Covenanters and the voice of Knox, filled his soul with unspeakable emotions. Glasgow, at first, almost terrified him. "It's the City o' Human Power," he wrote to Maggie. "It is fu' o' hurrying crowds, and harsh alarms, and contentious noises. And the horses and the carriages! They are maist fearsome! Also the drivers o' them are a fierce and insolent race o' men; and I tak' credit to mysel', that I hae not been quite dumfounded wi' the noise o' it."
Allan had a private interview with Professor Laird before he introduced David to him; and doubtless satisfactory arrangements were made, for David received a cordial welcome to his house. He had taken naturally to his black clothes; never for a moment had he felt or appeared out of place in them; and the professor, after a keen look at his new student, said in an aside to Allan--
"A born ecclesiastic, a natural theologian; where did you find him, Mr. Campbell?"
"Where Christ found some apostles, in the fishing boats. He will do, I think."
"Do! He is one of those men who will walk up to fame as they would to a friend in their own home."
OFF WITH THE OLD LOVE.
"There is a change in every hour's recall, And the last cowslip in the fields we see On the same day with the first corn poppy. Alas for hourly change, Alas for all The loves that from his hand proud Youth lets fall, Even as the beads of a told rosary!"
The next day Allan bade David "good-bye," for a week. He went first to his father's office; where he received a glad welcome. Their dispute did not interfere with the courtesies of life; nor indeed, had it in any degree dulled the sincere affection between father and son. As they stood a moment hand-fast, they looked into each other's face, and in the mutual look there was a dumb acknowledgment of a love which could not be easily shadowed, and which no circumstances could altogether extinguish.
"Where have you been so long, Allan? I have wearied to see you."
"I was on the East coast, father."
"Trying to find out what you really wanted?"
"That, and also making some fine studies. I have brought back with me a few pictures which I hope you will like. Shall I take the noon boat to Meriton, or wait for you?"
"Go at noon. I may stop at Largo to see a yacht I think of buying."
"How is Mary?"
"Well and bonnie. She will be glad to see you. She has been glad always to see a letter with the Edinburgh postmark. James Sinclair is waiting for advices, so 'good-bye' until we meet at Meriton. Just tell MacRoy to let us have a bottle of the 'comet' [Footnote: _Comet wine_, that of 1811, the year of the comet, and the best vintage on record; famed for its delicate aroma.] Madeira tonight. The occasion will excuse it." Allan felt grateful, for he knew what the order really meant--it was the wine of homecoming, and rejoicing, and gratitude. And afterall, he had been something of a prodigal, and his father's greeting, so full of regard, so destitute of reproach, had touched him very much. How beautiful was Clyde side! How homelike the heathery hills, the dimpling bays, the luxuriant stretches of wood, the stately dwellings crowning the smooth green, sloping lawns! The bold rocks of Fife, the bellowing waves, the plaintive cries of the fishermen, the salt and sparkle of the great sea, the rocking, bounding boat upon it, all these things slipped from his memory in the charm of the present picture.
He was impatient to reach his home, and glad to see the coachman and a phaeton waiting, when the steamer touched the little jetty. The man raised his hat with a pleasure there was no mistaking. "I came my ways doon on a 'may be,' sir," he said proudly, "I jist had a feeling o' being wanted here. Whiles, thae feelings are as gude as a positive order. You'll be come to stay, Mr. Allan, surely, sir. There'll be a sight o' birds in the heather this year."
"My stay depends on this and that, Archibald. Is there any change round Meriton?"
"Nane worth the praising, sir. We hae a new minister. I dinna think much o' him."
"Not orthodox, I suppose."
"A puir body, sir, a puir body at a sermon. I like a gun and a minister to shoot close. Dr. MacDonald is an awfu' scattering man. He'll be frae Genesis to Revelations in the same discourse, sir."
They were passing between plantations of young larch; the great hills rose behind them, the songs of a multitude of birds filled the warm, sweet air. The horses tossed their heads, and lifted proudly their prancing feet. Allan had a keen sense of the easy, swift motion through the balmy atmosphere. As he leaned back against the comfortably cushioned vehicle, he could not help contrasting the circumstances with the hoary sea-shattering rocks of Fife, the tossing ocean, the tugging oars, and the fisherman's open boat. He did not try to decide upon the merits of the different situations; he simply realized the present, and enjoyed it.
The great doors of Meriton House stood open, and a soft-treading footman met him with bows and smiles, and lifted his cloak and luggage, and made him understand that he had again entered a life in which he was expected to be unable to wait upon himself. It gave him no trouble to accept the conditions; he fell at once into the lofty leisurely way of a man accustomed to being served. He had dismissed his valet in Edinburgh, when he determined to go to Pittenloch, but he watched his father's servant brushing his dinner suit, and preparing his bath and toilet, without one dissenting feeling as to the absolute fitness of the attention. The lofty rooms, the splendor and repose, the unobtrusive but perfect service, were the very antipodes of the life he had just left. He smiled to himself as he lazily made contrasts of them. But Fife and the ways of Fife seemed far away. It was like a dream from which he had awakened, and Meriton was the actual and the present.
He knew that he would meet Mary Campbell very soon, and he was not indifferent to the meeting. He could not help glancing with complaisance at the new evening suit he had brought with him; and looking a little ruefully at his browned and hardened hands, and the tan of wind and weather on his face. He hoped he would meet Mary before his father's arrival; so that he could get accustomed to the situation before he had to exhibit himself in it to those keen and critical observers, the servants.
He went early into the dining-room, and found Mary already there. She had some ferns and roses in her hands, and was mingling them, for the adornment of the dinner table. She put them down, and went to meet him with a smile like sunshine. Her small, slender figure clothed in white India mull had a peculiarly fragile appearance; but Allan watched her, as she glided about the room filling the crystal vases, with a restful content. He thought how intelligent her face is! How graceful her diction, how charming her low, sweet voice!
The dinner was a kind of festival. Mac Roy made every one feel so, when he served with careful and elaborate ceremonies the famous wine. Allan felt almost pained by the significance given to his return. It roused the first feeling of opposition in him. "I will not float with the current unless I wish to do so," was his mental determination; "and I will not have it supposed that my return home is a surrender of my inclinations." Unfortunately John Campbell regarded it as such; and his desire was to adequately show his appreciation of the concession. Before Allan had been at home three days, he perceived that his father was restless and impatient. He had watched and waited so long, he could not help feeling that Allan was unkind to keep a question of such importance in abeyance and uncertainty.
But the week Allan had allowed himself nearly passed and he had not been able to say a word to Mary on the subject pressing him so closely. He felt that he must have more time, and he went into Glasgow to see David. He found him in Professor Laird's study hard at work; and he saw at a glance the easy attitude of the young man among his new surroundings. When the servant said, "Here is a gentleman to call on you, Mr. Promoter," David rose without the slightest embarrassment to welcome his visitor; though when the door was closed, he said with a smile, "I let them call me 'Mister Promoter;' I must consider the office I'm seeking and gie it honor; but it sounds unca strange, sir. Whiles, I feel as if I wad be glad to hear somebody say 'David' to me."
"Well, David, have you had a good week?"
"A week fu' o' grand promises, sir. I hae had a glint inside spacious
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