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- A Daughter of Fife - 30/35 -
likewise, if he will tak' it."
Allan gratefully ate supper with the elder, but he preferred to occupy his old room in the Promoter cottage. "I have a kind of right there," he said, with a sorrowful smile, "I hired it for two years, and my term is not quite out yet."
"And David told me also, that whenever you came, this year, or any year, to gie you the key o' it. You will find a' your books and pictures untouched; for when Dr. Balmuto heard tell what trouble Maggie had had to keep Janet Caird oot o' it, he daured her to put her foot inside; and Davie cam' himsel' not long after, and took her back to Dron Point in a whiff and a hurry, wi' nae words aboot it."
"I am afraid David is much to blame about his sister. He should have let Maggie stay with him."
"I'll no hear David Promoter blamed. He explained the hale circumstances o' the case to me, and I dinna think the charge o' a grown, handsome girl like Maggie was comformable, or to be thocht o'. A man that is climbing the pu'pit stairs, canna hae any woman hanging on to him. It's no decent, it's no to be expectit. You ken yoursel' what women are, they canna be trusted wi' out bit and bridle, and David Promoter, when he had heard a' that Maggie had to complain o', thocht still that she needed over-sight, and that it was best for her to be among her ain people. He sent her back wi' a letter to Dr. Balmuto, and he told her to bide under the doctor's speech and ken, and the girl ought to hae done what she was bid to do; and so far I dinna excuse her; and I dinna think her brother is to hae a word o' blame. A divinity student has limitations, sir; and womenfolk are clean outside o' them."
The elder was not a man who readily admitted petty faults in his own sex. He thought women had a monopoly of them. He was quite ready to confess that their tongues had been "tongues o' fire;" but then, he said, "Maggie had the 'Ordinances' and the 'Promises,' and she should hae waited wi' mair patience. Davie was doing weel to himsel' and going to be an honor to her, and to the village, and the country, and the hale Kirk o' Scotland, and it was the heighth o' unreason to mak' him accountable for trouble that cam' o' women's tongues."
That night Allan slept again in his old room; but we cannot bring back the old feelings by simply going back to the old places. Besides, nothing was just the same. His room wanted, he knew not what; he could not hear the low murmur of Maggie's voice as she talked to her brother; or the solemn sound of David's, as he read the Exercise. Footfalls, little laughs, slight movements, the rustle of garments, so many inexpressible keys to emotion were silent. He was too tired also to lay any sensible plans for finding Maggie; before he knew it, he had succumbed to his physical and mental weariness, and fallen fast asleep.
He kept the boat waiting two days in Pittenloch, but on the morning of the third sorrowfully turned his back upon the place of his disappointment. He felt that he could see no one, nor yet take any further step until he had spoken with David Promoter; and late the same night he was in the Candleriggs Street of Glasgow. He was so weary and faint that David's sonorous, strong, "come in," startled him. The two men looked steadily at each other a moment, a look on both sides full of suspicion and inquiry. Allan was the first to speak. He had taken in at a glance the tall sombre grandeur of David's appearance, his spiritual look, the clear truthfulness of his piercing eyes, and without reasoning he walked forward and said, somewhat sadly,
"I do not know if it is well or ill, Mr. Campbell, and I will not shake hands on uncertain grounds, sir. Ken you where my sister is?"
"How can you wrong me so, David Promoter? But that would be a small wrong in comparison--how can you shame Maggie by such a question of me? Since we parted in Pittenloch I have neither seen nor heard from her. _Oh, Maggie! Maggie!_"
He could control himself no longer. As he paced the small room, the tears stood in his eyes, and he locked and unlocked his hands in a passionate effort to relieve his emotion. David looked at him with a stern curiosity. "You are mair than needfully anxious, sir. Do you think Maggie Promoter has no brother? What is Maggie to you?"
"Everything! Everything! Life is hopeless, worthless, without Maggie. She is my promised wife. I would give every shilling I have in the world rather than lose her. I would throw the whole of my world behind me, and go into the fishing boats for her. I love her, sir, as you never can love any woman. Do you think I would have given Maggie a heartache, or let Maggie slip beyond my ken, for all the honor and glory in the world, or for a pulpit as high as the Tower of Babel?"
"Dinna confound things, Mr. Campbell. Maggie, and the pulpit, and the Tower o' Babel are a' different. If you love Maggie sae blindly as a' that, whatna for did you leave her then? Why didn't you speak to me anent the matter? Let me tell you, that was your plain duty, and you are noo supping the broo you hae brewed for yoursel'."
David was under powerful emotion, and culture disappeared; "he had got to his Scotch;" for though a man may speak many languages, he has only one mother tongue; and when the heart throbs, and glows, and burns, he goes back to it. "Why didna you speak wi' me?" he asked again, as he let his hand fall upon the table to emphasize the inquiry.
"I will tell you why. Because Maggie loved you, and thought for you, and would not put one dark drop into your cup of happiness. Because she was afraid that if you knew I loved her, you would think I had tried to help you from that motive, and so, refuse the help. Because the dear girl would not wound even your self complacency. Do not think I am ashamed of her, or ashamed of loving her. I told my father, I told the only female relative I have, how dear she was to me. My father asked me to test my love by two years' travel and absence. I did so to convince him, not because I doubted myself. Do you know where Maggie is? If you do, tell me, I have a right to see her."
David went to a big Bible lying on a small table, and took from among its leaves three letters. "I have had these from her at different times. Two you see are posted in Glasgow, the last received was posted three weeks ago, from Portree, in Skye. She says she is with friends, and doing well, and you have but to read the letters to understand she is with those who are more than kind to her. There are few women in Scotland that could write a letter like her last. It shows a mind well opened, and the pen o a ready writer."
"May I have them?"
"Since you make so great a claim on Maggie, you may; but why did she not write to you, if you were trothplighted?"
"Because it was fully understood there was to be no communication of any kind between us for two years. That much I owed to the best of fathers. Also, as you know, Maggie has learned to write since we parted. But I ought to have made surer provision for her happiness. I am only rightly punished for trusting her where I did."
"You trusted her with her ain brother, Mr. Campbell. If Maggie had done as she should hae done--"
"Maggie has done perfectly right. I am sure of that. I could swear to it."
"Sir, we will keep to lawful language. Christian gentlemen don't need oaths. I say Maggie should have gone to Dr. Balmuto when I sent her."
"I do not know the circumstances, but I say she ought not to have gone to Dr. Balmuto. I am sure she only did whatever was wise and womanly."
"There is no use in reasoning with one who talks without knowledge. If I get any information about Maggie, or from her, I will send it to your address. I love Maggie. The lassie aye loved me. She wouldna thank you to speak sae sharply to me. She will tell you some day that I did all that could be expectit of me."
"Forgive me, David. I feel almost broken-hearted. I am irritable also for want of food. I have not eaten since early this morning."
"That is not right, sir. Sit down, in a few minutes you shall have all that is needful."
"No, no; I must go home. Half an hour will take me there. Shake hands, David. Whatever differences we may have, you, at least, understand fully that I never could wrong your sister."
"I am glad to give you my hand, sir. I owe you more than can be told. I had not been where I am to-day but for you."
"And if there is anything more needed?"
"There is nothing more, sir. I have paid back all I borrowed. I have been fortunate above my fellows. I owe you only the gratitude I freely and constantly pay."
Allan scarcely understood him; he grasped the hand David offered him, then walked to Argyle Street and called a cab; in half an hour, he was in his own rooms in the Blytheswood Square house. His advent caused a little sensation; the housekeeper almost felt it to be a wrong. "In the very thick of the cleaning!" she exclaimed; "every bit of furniture under linen, and all the silver put by in flannel. Miss Campbell said she wasna coming until the end o' September; and as for Mr. Allan, every one thought he was at a safe distance. We'll hae to hurry wi' the paint work noo, and if there's one thing mair than anither no to be bided it's hurrying up what should be taken pains wi'."
Generally Allan would have been conscious of the disapproval his visit evoked, and he would have reconciled the servants to any amount of trouble by apologies and regrets; but at this time his mind was full of far more personal and serious affairs. He had been inclined to think the very best of Maggie, to be quite certain that she had been detained by circumstances absolutely uncontrollable by her; but after reading again and again her letters to David, he did think she ought to have had some written explanation of her absence waiting for him. She knew he would certainly see either Willie Johnson or Elder Mackelvine, and he felt that she might --if she wished--have spared him much anxiety and disappointment.
He longed now to see his father; he determined to tell him the truth, and be guided by his advice. But John Campbell's last letter to his son had been dated from Southern Russia, and it was scarcely likely he would be in Glasgow for three weeks. However, Mary Campbell was at Drumloch, and he thought as he sipped his coffee, that it would probably be the best thing to go there, rest for a day or two with his cousin, and if he found her sympathetic, ask her help in his perplexity.
He called at the office on his way to the railway station, and he was met by the manager with an exclamation of peculiar satisfaction. "No one could be more welcome at this hour, Mr. Allan," he said; "we were all longing for you. There is bad news from Russia."
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