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- A Daughter of Fife - 6/35 -
Where there is plenty of money, events do not lag. In a couple of months the Promoters' cottage was apparently as settled to its new life as ever it had been to the old one. The "Allan Campbell" was a recognized craft in the fishing fleet, and generally Allan sailed with her as faithfully as if his life depended upon the catching of the gray fish. And when the sea-mood was not on him, he had another all-sufficing occupation. For he was a good amateur painter, and he was surrounded by studies almost irresistible to an artistic soul.
The simple folk of Pittenloch looked dubiously at him when he stood before his easel. There was to them something wonderful, mysterious, almost uncanny, in the life-like reproduction of themselves and their boats, their bits of cottages, and their bare-footed bairns--in the painted glimpses of the broad-billowed ocean; and the desolate old hills, with such forlorn lights on their scarps, as the gloom of primeval tempests might have cast.
The controversy about these bits of painted canvas interested every one in the village; for though Allan talked beautifully about "looking up" through nature unto nature's God, it was a new doctrine to the Fife fishers; who had always looked for God in their Bibles, and their consciences. Except in rare cases, it was impossible for them to conceive how painting might be a Gate Beautiful to the temple.
Indeed Elder John Mackelvine, a dour, stern, old Calvinist, was of opinion that every picture was a breaking of the second commandment--"A makin' o' an image and likeness o' the warks o' God, and sae, neither mair nor less than idolatry. Forbye, pictur's are pairfectly ridic'lus," he continued; "what for, will you want the image o' a thing, when you hae the thing itsel'? John Knox kent weel what he was doing when he dinged doon a' the pictur's and images in thae auld kirks. He kent men were aye mair pleased to worship their ain handywark, than the Creator's."
David listened with many misgivings, but he ventured to say that, "there was nae thocht o' idolatry in Allan Campbell's heart."
"You'll dootless ken a' aboot it, Davie," answered Mackelvine scornfully; "but you'll no deny that he was sae set up wi' the pictur' he made o' Largo Bay, that he might just as weel hae bowed doon to it. The Everlasting hills! The everlasting seas!" said the old fisher, man, rising And stretching upward and outward his bare, brown arm, "put them in a paintin'! Pairfect nonsense! Even-down sin!"
From this conversation David went directly home. It was Saturday night and the boats all in harbor for the Sabbath day. The house place was spotlessly clean, the evening meal waiting. As soon as David spoke to his sister, Allan opened his door and called him. "Come here, David Promoter, I want to show you something."
David guessed that it was a new picture, and he went a little reluctantly.
"This is an 'interior', David," he said excitedly; "it is the first I have ever tried, and I am so pleased with the result;--what do you think of it?"
David slowly approached the easel. The picture represented faithfully the living room of his own cottage. All its breadths of light and shade, all its telling contrasts, were used skilfully as a background for Maggie. She was gazing with a white anxious face out of the little window seaward, watching the gathering storm, and the fishing boats trying to make the harbor through it.
"What do you think of it, David?"
"It is wonderfu', sir; but I dinna approve o' it. I think you will hae nae right to put the fear o' death and dool, and the breaking hearts o' women into a pictur'. Forbye, you might sell it, and I wouldna like my sister--no to speak o' my hame--to be turned into siller. And there's mair to say, sir. Some o' oor folk think it isna lawfu' in the sight o' God to mak' the image o' anything; and seeing, sir, that I humbly hope some day to stand upon the altar steps, it would ill become me to hurt the conscience o' auld or young. I must walk circumspect for the vera hope's sake."
"I never thought of selling a picture, David; I would not sell one with your sister in it, for all the gold in Scotland. And this is the first time I have heard of your intention regarding the ministry. Why did you not tell me before? How gladly I would have helped you!"
"It is a hope I dinna let mysel' think o' just yet, sir. Dr. Balmuto bid me bide in the boats for a twelve months, and, you ken, I couldna leave Maggie her lane, here."
"Perhaps Maggie will marry." He dropped each word slowly, as if it gave him pain.
"Ay; I hope she will. There was mair than one word spoken aboot a lad in the village; but after oor great loss, she wouldna hear tell o' any lad; and the minister thocht we might weel wait thegither for one year onyway. He'd be right, dootless."
"David, after tea let us take a walk on the beach together. I have something to say to you."
MAGGIE AND ANGUS.
"What thing thou doest, bravely do; When Heaven's clear call hath found thee"
"All thoughts, all passions, all delights Whatever stirs this mortal frame, All are but ministers of Love, And feed his sacred flame."
It was an exquisite evening toward the end of May; with a purple sunset brightening the seaward stretches, and the gathering herring fleet slowly drifting in the placid harbor. They walked silently toward a little rocky promontory, and there sat down. Allan's face was turned full toward his companion.
"David," he said, "I have lived with you ten weeks; slept under your roof, and eaten of your bread. I want you to remember how many happy hours we have spent together. At your fireside, where I have read aloud, and Maggie and you have listened--"
"Ay, sir. We hae had some fine company there. Poets, preachers, great thinkers and warkers o' all kinds. I'll ne'er forget thae hours."
"Happy hours also, David, when we have drifted together through starlight and moonlight, on the calm sea; and happy hours when we have made harbor together in the very teeth of death. I owe to you, David, some of the purest, healthiest and best moments of my life. I like to owe them to you. I don't mind the obligation at all. But I would be glad to show you that I am grateful. Let me pay your university fees. Borrow them of me. I am a rich man. I waste upon trifles and foolishness every year more than enough. You can give me this great honor and pleasure, David; don't let any false pride stand between us." He laid his hand upon David's hand, and looked steadily in his face for the answer.
"God, dootless, put the thocht in your heart. I gie Him and you thanks for it. And I'll be glad o' your help. Dr. Balmuto spake o' a year in the boats; when it is gane I'll tak' your offer, sir."
"You must not wait a year, David. You must try and be ready to go to Aberdeen, or Edinburgh, or Glasgow in the autumn. What do you think of Glasgow? The dear gray old college in the High Street! I went there myself, David, and I have many friends among its professors."
"I'd like Glasca',--fine."
"Then it shall be Glasgow; and I will see Dr. Balmuto. He will not oppose your going, I am sure."
"Aboot Maggie, sir? I couldna seek my ain pleasure or profit at her loss. She doesna tak', like other lasses do, to the thocht o' marriage; and I canna bear to say a cross word to her. She is a' I have."
"There must be some way of arranging that matter. Tell Maggie what I have said, and talk affairs over with her. She will be sure to find out a way."
The conversation was continued for hours. Every contingency was fully discussed, and Allan was much pleased with David's prudence and unselfishness. "I think you will make a good minister," he said, "and we will all yet be very proud of you."
"I sall do my duty, sir, all o' it. I sall neither spare sin nor sinner. My ain right eye sall nae be dear to me, if it wad win a thocht frae His wark."
His pale face was lit as by some interior light, his eyes full of enthusiasm. He sat asking questions concerning the manners and methods of universities, the professors and lectures, and books and students, until the late moon rose red and solemn, above the sea and sky line, and Allan knew then it was almost midnight.
"We must go home, David. Maggie will wonder what has happened. We should have thought of her before this hour."
Indeed when they came near the cottage they saw Maggie standing at the door watching for them. She went in and closed it as soon as she perceived that all was well, and when the laggards would have explained their delay, she was too cross to listen to them.
"It's maist the Sabbath day," she said, hiding her fretfulness behind conscientious scruples, as all of us are ready to do. "I hope it wasna your ain thouchts and words you were sae ta'en up wi'; but I'm feared it was. You wadna hae staid sae lang, wi' better anes."
She would not look at Allan, and it pained him to see upon her face the traces of anxiety and disappointment.
Far through the night he sat at his open window, gazing out upon the sea, which was breaking almost below it. The unshed tears in Maggie's eyes, and her evident trouble at his absence, had given him a heart pain that he could not misunderstand. He knew that night that he loved the woman. Not with that low, earthy affection, which is satisfied with youth, or beauty of form or color. His soul clave unto her soul. He longed to kiss her heavy eyes and troubled mouth, not because they were lovely, but because his heart ached to soothe the sorrow he had given her, and longed to comfort her with happy hopes for the future.
But he had seen enough of these honest-hearted fisher-women, to know that the smallest act of tenderness was regarded by them as a promise. Of that frivolous abuse of the sweetest things which is called flirtation, Maggie
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