A Soliloquy and a Song.
accepted the application and the references of Mr. Demetrius Turner,
and that gentleman accordingly took possession of his apartments at
the end of the month.
And so life once more promised to flow in a long, even
current. Rab had matriculated, and at the next term Laurence
was to leave school and take in a bookseller's shop such a post as
Rab had held in a chemist's. He, too, might look forward to a
college education later, but the family income would certainly not
bear two student-members at once; besides, Mr. Farquhar had some
views of his own on these matters, and held that a boy who has been
kept steadily at his work is likely at sixteen to know all that
school can teach him, and will probably apply himself with greater
zeal and receive more real benefit from the higher education when a
little practical life has shown him more of its value, and has
sharpened faculties which scholastic training may leave dormant.
The form of this practical training was chosen with an eye to each
lad's natural bent and probable future. Rab had always turned
to science, Laurence to art. The boyish joy of the one had
been in steam-engines, of the other in old castles. Rab's
pocket-money had gone on batteries and microscopes, and Laurence's
on poetry books. The two brothers had always been cordial and
united in all their wide difference. Rab made Æolian harps,
and Laurence lay awake and listened to their weird music, and would
not feel vexed even when Rab turned uneasily in his sleep and
grumbled something about "a beastly row."
Perhaps it was because they were so different that Margery
could never say, even in her own heart, which brother she loved the
most. They were both younger than she was, but she felt
towards Rab much as she might towards an elder brother. His
opinion was asked and his dictum obeyed; to his tool-box she
appealed in any household disaster; for his strong arm she asked
when any household weight defeated Barby's strength. Laurence
might be consulted in his way. He had always chosen their
resorts on holidays; and a newspaper leader allusion must be very
out of the way indeed if he could not explain it; but practically he
was the one to be taken care of, to be watched in the matter of wet
boots or squeamish appetite. And yet, if he touched the
motherliness of his sister's heart in one way which Rab did not, Rab
stirred it in another. Rab had always seemed in dangers from
which Laurence's studious habits and shrinking sensitiveness might
easily secure him. Rab had had his restive times, his doubtful
boy-companions, his rough-and-ready repudiation of sundry good old
rules and habits. These had all seemed but temporary
aberrations; in the main he was now a frank, kindly, dutiful youth.
But what form might such outbreaks take if they occurred again in
early manhood? Nobody would have laughed more heartily than
Rab if he could have known how, for his sake, poor Margery was
haunted by the remembrance of a student whom she had once seen
dismissed, in drivelling drunkenness, from a public entertainment.
The city was not without its dismal legends of this kind.
There was Will Fraser's story for one. And there was that of
the brilliant student—the pride of his comrades and the hope of his
professors—who suddenly disappeared from the scene of his triumphs,
and was only afterwards heard of, uncertainly, as immersed in
miserable drudgery in far-off lands, living as they live who have
left broken hearts behind them and have endless remorse in front.
Margery was not one of those secure and heedless natures who
think their own ventures must ride safely on rough seas, let whose
will go down. Because of her great love for Rab, she feared
for him, as, without that love, she would never have feared for so
steady and hopeful a lad. She scarcely knew what she feared.
She was only a girl, and did not know the world. She only knew
that wrecks came home from the seas her brothers' lives were
venturing on; she was not so sure of the rocks on which they had
split. And now that they were both out in the world, she began
to be aware of a strange loneliness which she had not felt while
they were all school children, nor even while Laurence remained a
schoolboy. They were forming a new and wider circle of
acquaintance into which she did not enter. If they made new
friends, she would get to know them; but from the mere routine
interests of their fresh life she felt excluded.
We are all apt to have strange suspicions of that from which
we are shut out. A locked closet becomes a skeleton cupboard.
It was now that Margery was in danger of falling into the common
female error of deprecating masculine ways and masculine weaknesses
as something tending to the wild and sinful. The pale monk or
nun, living a useless life in a cloistered cell, could scarcely
believe what an innocent, honest Christian the ploughman might be
whom they heard singing at his work in the sunshine. And the
lives of too many women, supposed to be free to go in and out among
us, are nevertheless cloistered lives. They are free—yes, free
as were the unwilling nuns whom the Reformation turned from their
convents; free, that is, from the peace and security of bodily
imprisonment, but not free from the thraldom of a thousand petty
obligations and rules of will-worship fettered about their very
To such women a man's cigar is a device of the devil instead
of a weakness—useless may be, extravagant perhaps, injurious
possibly, but certainly on no lower moral plane than their own
sweetmeats. A man's interest in politics is "worldly"—the
conflict between the principles of Toryism and Whiggism is not
recognized as involving precisely the same issues as those which lie
between ecclesiastical parties. A man's ready fellowship with
people of all grades is "dangerous." They never speak to "the
poor" save in the disinfecting atmosphere of a soup kitchen or a
There is a weak sort of literature which encourages such
fallacious self-deception. It is always very strong in
warnings to women not to leave their "sphere," nor attempt equality
with men; but somehow it leaves an impression on the reader's mind
that this is not because woman may be the inferior, and certainly
has not yet, in most cases, done the work plainly set before her,
but rather because an angel need not condescend to be a good
citizen, nor the superior to compete with the inferior. And
such arguments have led many a feeble-minded woman, who never had
one high thought nor did one generous deed, to believe herself
capable of being a purifying and exalting influence on energetic men
whose heads, hearts, and hands were all busy serving God through
Miss Fraser of Mannohill's vague hint about the "dangers of
college life," and still more her portentous sigh, and its
suggestion that she could "say more an she would," had hurt Margery
more than she would have owned. And besides, the girl's life
was certainly more still and lonely than it had ever been before.
Though angels may walk unseen beside us in the common ways of men,
hobgoblins and elfs have never been reported visible in
thoroughfares and town-halls, but always in silent and solitary
corners. Interruptions and external calls of all sorts trouble
the stream of life with an healing virtue as did the angel at the
pool of Bethesda.
Early dinner was changed for late dinner to save the boys'
time in the middle of the day, and Mr. Farquhar did not return home
for lunch, but took it at his office. The last to depart went
out at nine in the morning, and the first to come home arrived at
five in the afternoon. Except by the tradespeople calling for
orders, the front door was never touched unless by Margery herself,
save when Mr. Demetrius Turner went out and came in during the
forenoon, which he did so punctually that Barby regulated her
kitchen clock by him. The Farquhars had very few calling
acquaintances. Their friends mostly lived in farms and manses
some miles away; wrote when they were to be expected, came and
whirled Margery off for a day's shopping and sight-seeing, and then
vanished, leaving her for another spell of silence.
Even the evenings were different from what they used to be.
Once there had been games of chess or draughts, and when Laurie's
school tasks were done, long readings aloud or cheerful discussions
of the newspaper and magazines. Now Rab had his studies.
He might have had the dining-room to himself if the parlour had
remained in the family occupation. As it was, he brought in
his books the moment dinner was cleared away. True, there was
his bedroom, but it did not boast a very roomy table, and his
sitting there would have involved the cost and trouble of another
fire. Laurie naturally thought this a capital opportunity for
preparing the classical studies he would enter in his own college
course. Margery knew a little—a very little—Latin, which she
had learned, to cheer and emulate her brothers over its opening
dreariness. But of Greek she was entirely innocent. And
presently Mr. Farquhar himself brought home some arrears of office
work which had long haunted him, but with which he had never had
heart to interrupt the happy family sociality of former days, and
which, had things gone well with him, he would probably have paid
some subaltern to do for him.
Margery was thrown back upon her needle-work, and it is only
the full, refreshed mind and heart which can rest satisfied with
silent sewing and darning. A quaint German couplet has it—
"A millstone and the human heart are ever
If they have nothing else to grind, they must themselves be ground."
Undisturbed, too, by the old-time goings and comings, Margery got
through her daily work more swiftly than she had been used to do,
and was oftener free from what must be done for what she wanted to
do. But her little plans of study and fanciful occupations
seemed so artificial and petty beside the real life-work which had
started up around her. It is seldom that we find leisure the
boon we dream it is while we are busy. And it is no boon at
all unless it succeeds and precedes work; and nothing is true work
which does not absorb every energy of our being.
Margery began to grow morbidly sensitive. Tears came to
her eyes if her brothers turned upon her with those saucy words
which she would once have taken with a laugh. She began to
urge upon them, with nervous insistence, those little duties whose
occasional omission or imperfection she would once have passed over
with a cheery reminder. She laid rules for herself which
nobody ever dreamed of, and which would have been more honoured in
the breach than in the observance—such as that she would never
venture a remark, while her brothers were at their work, or that she
would not allow one penny to be set down under the head of
"sundries" at the balancing of her weekly accounts.
She began to look heavy and unhealthy, and to suffer from
headaches. Sarah Fraser had visited her more than once, and
Margery had been oftener to Mannohill. It is with bad
soul-atmospheres as with bad air—when they begin to injure us, we
cease to suffer in them.
Poor Sarah Fraser, never having risen to the spirit of God's
law of life, nor apprehended the meaning of judgment, mercy, and
faith, was apt to attach too much value to all the little tithings
of duty, and perhaps to impress their necessity upon others far
beyond where she laid them upon herself. Something which she
called economy was the great hobby of the rich man's daughter,
possibly because she thought that on her undoubted wealth it must
shine as a wholly ornamental virtue. And the tone of her
suggestions was always that if she saved in such and such a way—she
who "had no occasion" for such thrift—what should not Margery do?
Barby got a very good idea of the sort of impression Sarah
often produced on her beloved young mistress, and with an indignant
sniff the old servant summed it up with the reflection: "It's a
wonner she doesna say Miss Margery has na richt to sae big a
boot-bill as her ain, seein' her faither, puir body, canna afford
carriage an' horses to save shoe leather!"
The old woman fought over the innovations which Margery was
fain to introduce into the kitchen department.
"Na, na," she said, "dinna spare the eggs an' milk and afford
the doctor. It's na gude speirin' whether anybody spends less
wi' the baker than ye do, till ye find oot if he spends mair wi' the
undertaker. There's na fortune worth sae muckle as health, for
it's what na fortune can buy; but puir folk should mak' a note that
it needs a muckle fortune to mak' ill-health bearable, and sae it's
a luxury they mauna think o'."
And while Margery lamented to herself, and even openly to
Sarah, that "old servants were very obstinate and obstructive, and
that those people who lamented their scarcity did not remember the
drawbacks connected with them," Barby was sorely and secretly
exercised on behalf of her young mistress.
"She's settlin' down into what she'll be for life," said the
worthy woman to herself, as she sat and knitted over the kitchen
fire when her day's work was done. "Ilka body kens that wi'
laddies and their ways, but there's nane, or few, that marks it wi'
the lasses. It's wi' lads and lasses much as it is wi'
bread-making—the dough may be gude enough, but it's getting the
yeast to work richt that's the kittle thing. We a' ken what it
means when a laddie tak's to staying oot late o' nichts, and no
keepin' his ain accoonts, and haein' freends he dinna speak on i'
his ain hoose; but naebody seems to ken that it's the same thing
when a lassie tak's to thinkin' unco muckle o' her ainsel', and
fancyin' hersel a sort o' angel—the feathers o' whose wings blin'
mortals are pluckin' oot, mistaken' her for a barn-door fowl.
An' yet baith wi' ane and the t'ither it means ane thing, which is
that they've got to the corner whaur the bypath frae their ain hame
strikes into the great life-road, and that they've turned roond and
looked aboot till they scarcely ken which way is up and which is
doon. A selfish woman is nae better than a sinful' man; an'
selfishness begins whiles wi' thinkin' owre much o' one's ain duties
and influences and wee bit ways, instead o' living right oot o'
oneself, like the bonnie flowers that smell sweet whether they're
sniffed or not. Wark's a gran' thing; the laddies seldom go
wrang till they neglect theirs, and hoo should the lassies keep
right wi' nane? But I ken fine that having to work doesna help
ye much if ye're no willing. Wholesome food will na raise the
deid, though ye canna live lang wi'out it.
"I know Miss Margery isn't idle; she gets through her sewing
and dustin' and the like; but these quiet days are lang, and the
restlessness that is in babies' legs and arms gets into young
people's hearts and heads, and they maun aye be moving. An'
when I hear the master make his moan over the lassie's white face,
and humour her when she's fractious, instead o' giein' her the plain
word that's like a splint to a broken limb, stiff but kindly, I ken
what's in his mind. I see it in his very een. He's
lookin' over Miss Margery's head at the dree days that may be
following behint her. He's thinkin' that it was the little
lassie's portion, mair than aught else, that went oot o' the house
that weary night.
"I wonner after whether Miss Margery mightn't coin her waste
hours somehow into siller, and sae hae some against she wants it,
and ken, too, whaur to get some more. I see that some folk
write i' the papers that doing ither wark to earn money will put
women aff frae takin' kindly to hoose wark. I dinna ken.
There's many wi' no houses o' their ain to wark for, that I do ken.
An' some ither folk, wha seem to be speakin' on the same side, say
it's no natural for women to do any wark but household wark.
It seems to me those twa sayin's don't fit. If it's so hard
and no natural for women to do ither wark, sure they'll turn quick
enough to house work when they get it, and when it's paid a fair
wage and held in richt honour. I dinna say nothing on that
point to naebody, because I'm a servant mysel', and it's no
oorselves wha hae the richt to bid oorselves 'come up higher.'
But I hae my thoughts; and when I think hoo the servant woman has
the health and comfort and temper o' the whole hoose in her keeping,
I dinna ken ony place whaur a woman can better serve God and man.
An' if the day comes when some great lady o' rank and wealth will
tak' up the wark for pure love, and show what it is, it will be even
a better day than when the like took up wi' hospital nursing; for
sure it's better to keep a flower-bed or a fruit-tree growing than
no to notice it till it's half dead. But there's some women
that could never get their living by household wark, be they ever
sae willin'; an' it's ill bringing up a lassie to bake her ain bread
an' make her ain claes gin ye dinna ken whaur her flour and her
cloth's to come frae.
"The gude Book has nae sic havers as the newspaper speeches.
It doesna seem to mind muckle what ye do, so as it be honest and
wholesome for mind and body. It just says, 'Whatsoever thy
hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;' and there's some
folk—young folk specially—that want real, set, hard work o' head or
hand to bring oot ony might at a'. I'd sooner sew calico than
"Miss Margery used to make hersel' busy wi' her bits o'
drawin's," mused Barby, drawing her cogitations to a practical
issue; "but I haena seen ane to the fore for a lang, lang time; and
when I made bold to say so the ither day, as I saw her sittin'
peakin' and pinin' over the fire i' the gloaming, she answered me
that she had used up maist o' her paints and pencils, and now she
mustn't waste money for naethin', and her drawings werena mair.
Puir lassie! she's soon drookit. An' there was something in
what she said, I'll no gainsay that.
"'Deed, I don't wonner that the lassie's doon-hearted.
I feel the hoose a bit dowie mysel', wi' sic a lang spell wi'out the
laddies. But I hae Mr. Demetrius to luik after, and get a bit
crack wi' him when I take in his meals; an' when they do come home,
the laddies themselves are beginning to sae press forward in life
that they think to-day's worth naething but to bring tomorrow.
An' the maister, he feels sae daunted and defeated like sin' that
robbery that to-day seems just a doon-sitting to look back upon
yesterday! I believe it's me and Mr. Demetrius that'll have to
keep the place astir yet. There's aft a bit o' the gal and boy
left in auld single folk, and Mr. Demetrius and me hae to mak' oor
ain bit pleasures gin we want any, and they say home-made articles
are aye best. We will na turn oot o' oor ain ways to save folk
a smile. There's no owre muckle smilin' i' this warld.
Better lat them laugh at us than lat them watch us cry. But
weel I ken the maister has gotten that sair heaviness in his heart
that maketh it stoop; an' as for young folk, puir bodies, they haena
had time to learn hoo to be happy. It's a lang lesson, and
there's a deal o' heart-break goes to it before it's kenned.
Eh, sirs, but it's sair, sair fightin' in youth, wi' all to learn,
and nae mair wisdom than babes hae when they greet at their mither's
shadow on the wall, and catch at the red-hot poker for a pretty
plaything. It's weel kenned the grass grows greenest whaur
battles hae been fought an' I aye think there's some herbs of
comfort and assurance that dinna grow till the heart itsel' has its
And the old woman's strong rugged face grew soft with that
light of other days which never fades for faithful hearts, and her
knitting dropped on her knee, and all unconsciously Barby, the old
maid-servant, trilled with old-fashioned quavers that sweet song
which is the revelation of the suffering, strong heart of another
Scottish woman, the high-born Lady Nairne:—
"Would you be young again?
So would not I:
One tear to memory given,
Onward I'd hie.
Life's dark flood forded o'er,
All but at rest on shore,
Say, would you plunge once more,
With home so nigh?
"If you might, would you now
Retrace your way?
Wander through thorny wilds
Faint and astray?
Night's gloomy watches fled,
Morning all beaming red,
Hope's smiles around us shed,
"Where are they gone, of yore
My best delight?
Dear, and more dear, though now
Hidden from sight.
Where they rejoice to be,
There is the land for me;
Fly, time! fly speedily;
Come, life and light!"
"Was Barby indulging in a soft and idle sentimentality?
Surely not; for as she ended her song, she suddenly drew herself up
and caught up her needles, with a flourish like one who has seized a
"It's odd how an auld sang will put sense into ane," she
days of early spring had come, and more than once Barby had seen
some things in Mr. Demetrius's rooms which puzzled her. They
were small wooden blocks, with pictures drawn upon them, and
hollowed out in all sorts of queer ways.
"They'd be gey pretty if they weren't chippet sae queerly,"
had been her silent reflection. "It's eno' to spoil them as
pictures, and no eno' to mak' them carvings."
Long had she pondered over them—especially over one, which
seemed strangely familiar to her, though she was quite sure she had
never before seen such things as these mysterious blocks. This
one depicted an old lady in quaint costume, seated under a tree,
overlooking a wide landscape.
"It seems as if I'd dreamed of it in my young days," she
said. "I'm certain sure I'd seen that picture before I looked
my last from the side of Craigendarroch."
And the explanation of this was part of the revelation which
had come to her with Lady Nairne's song. As she crooned it,
what more natural than that there should rise before her the scene
and the surroundings of the day when she first learned it? She
had seen the quaint, low kitchen, with its heavy rafters and huge
blocks of stone; a scent of peat was in the air; and there was she
herself, in short skirt and gay print jacket, seated on a
three-legged stool watching the "cakes," and conning the verses from
an old magazine that had come down from the manse. And there,
opposite the verses and in illustration thereof, was the very
picture which on the block had so haunted her with an intangible
"To think I didna ken it before," she cried. "Then I
reckon that's the way they print that kind of pictures. I've
heard of wood engraving, sure, but seein's aye better than hearing.
An' so puttin' that an' that together, as a woman always can, I
reckon that's the way Mr. Demetrius made some of his money; and an
uncommonly good way it is for clever folk wi' brains in their
fingers as well as in their noddles." And then some other
thought came into Barby's mind sufficiently important to receive her
greatest mark of respect—namely, a declaration that she "would sleep
"There's something up with Barby," said Laurence to Rab next
morning, as the brothers trudged that part of their daily ways which
lay together. Laurence was one of those uncanny people who
know more than you tell them, and bear thoughts.
"What! is she finding the work too much, d'ye think?" asked
practical, kindly Rab. "I must speak to father again about
having a little gas-stove in the kitchen. It needn't cost
much, for I could fit it up myself some Saturday."
"No, no," said Laurie; "if I'm not wrong, instead of finding
her work too much, she's planning some new 'ploy,' as she calls it."
"What a lot of spunk the old lady has!" observed Rab.
"If I saw a girl like her, I'd fall in love straight off. But
one never does. It seems to be the old ones who have all the
"Perhaps it is those with the go who live to be old," said
Laurence; "or perhaps the go grows with years. I wonder what
Barby was like when she was a girl."
"She must have been pretty then," remarked Rab; "for
everybody would look twice at Barby even now."
"Ah, but that's different," said Laurie. "There's a
good deal that's called pretty which does not wear well, and there's
some ugliness that does."
"Ay," answered Rab; "ugly pups turn out handsome dogs."
"I don't know how it is," Laurie went on, "I suppose I'm odd,
but I always seem to see with something besides my eyes—to see what
one knows eyes cannot see. I suppose I'm talking nonsense."
"Either nonsense or uncommon good sense," returned Rab.
"I won't say which, as I don't understand it, unless you're meaning
what poetical people call 'the inner eye."'
"Yes, yes," said Laurie eagerly, "that is just what I do
mean; only, the very people who call it so, generally seem to use
the name as a figure of speech, and it's quite real to me."
"Well, and what does it show you?" asked Rab.
"Why," said Laurie, speaking slowly, and with a boyish
shamefacedness at his own "fancifulness," "it always makes me see
Barby as quite young—ever so much younger than Margery, ever so much
younger than myself. I don't suppose I can make you understand
what I mean. I daresay it only sounds like nonsense."
"I don't profess to understand it, but it need not be
nonsense for all that," said Rab. "And yet—somewhere in the
Bible" (Rab was never very precise in his literary recollections)
"isn't it said that they who would enter the kingdom of God must
become as little children? And I daresay Barby is further in
there than any of us. But what makes you go on fancying
out things in this way, Laurie?" the elder brother asked, with a
forlorn and most unscientific recalling of sundry legends told to
show that those who say and think "out-of-the-way" things generally
Laurie laughed with a quite reassuring gaiety. "I don't
know," he said; "I can't believe you don't all do the same. If
you don't, you must find it precious dull, I should say."
This was such a novel view of the "gifted mind," generally
supposed to be consumed with its own fires, that when the two
brothers parted, Rab went off quite at ease about Laurie and
perfectly unconcerned about his own dulness.
And Barby meanwhile bustled to and fro about the house, more
silent than usual, and, as it seemed to poor Margery, quite
unusually self-absorbed. The girl actually felt hurt when she
heard Barby humming once or twice, "Would you be young again?"
"I would not be young now if I could help it," she broke out
"Losh, Miss Margery," cried Barby, determined not to take her
up in her own spirit, "that's a fulish thing to say; and yet I'm
glad to hear you say it, for I've noticed lately, i' shops an'
places where I've happened to be speakin', that young folks seem to
hug their youth, as if it was the only guide thing i' the earth; and
that's awful', seein' it's got to go, an' will no be lang aboot it.
Better live in a wee bit hoose, wi' doors an' windows opening on God
A'mighty's hills, than in a palace prison, wi' a black ditch below
and a blank wall aboon. Fear o' auld age is just fear o' death
brought nearer han'; and he wha fears death doesna live, he only
gasps a wee in sic misery that it's a wonner he isn't fain to see
the warst o't!"
"I think I should be glad to die," said Margery. "I'm
no use to anybody, and least of all to myself. And I cannot
think why life was given to me at all."
"To mak' it o' use," returned Barby solemnly. "And gin
ye chuse to learn them, Miss Margery, ye're getting lessons noo
which it will do you good to remember frae time to time to the vera
end o' your days. An' dinna ye be afraid, Miss Margery, the learning
time aye comes to an end before ye half ken your lesson."
And Barby marched off with Mr. Demetrius Turner's early
dinner. Barby had something to say to that gentleman, and had
not the least idea how she was "to bring it out." Nor had she
attempted any plan to do so. Her nearest approach to this was
the determination, and faith in her own power of carrying it out—to
"turn his ain first words towards what she wanted. Onything,
frae ane's thimble to ane's shoe, serves for a cup when ane's
But Barby found her way made easy before her, as we generally
do, if we can get over the one great difficulty of making up our own
She found that it was not for nothing that he had lately
brought out those mysterious blocks; for, in the sweet spring
sunlight, he was sitting at a side-table busily working away on one.
"Eh, Mr. Demetrius," she cried, "an' it's only last night
that I puzzled oot what those things are. An' did ye do the
auld anes yoursel'? for if it's so, ye maun ha' been but a callant
when ye began, for I mind seeing that ane o' the auld lady on the
hillside when I was no muckle mair than a lassie mysel'."
Mr. Demetrius sprang up blushing like a boy when he is caught
making love. Surely it must have been but a poor, dried-up
life which could be so stirred by a humble stranger's recognition of
his old work. There is so much patient toil which goes with
such little recognition and reward.
"And did you remember it?" he asked, with none of his usual
"Ay, did I so," Barby answered. "When I saw it
there"—and she pointed to the block—"all chipped oot and queer like,
I kenned I'd seen the auld leddy afore, an' I could not tell whaur,
till last night, sitting idle, I took to lilting the auld sang it
was set to, an' then it a' came back."
"Ah," said Mr. Demetrius, "I always kept that block, because
I tried to make the picture a portrait of my mother."
"And she was a widow," remarked Barby, gazing at the
black-robed, coifed figure.
"Not when I drew that," he answered; "but I'd seen her
dressed so years before. She married again."
He said no word more; but the sentence seemed to close short,
as with a caught-up sigh. A boy's first and holiest ideal had
been broken on that second marriage-day.
"Well, well, well—good!" said Mr. Demetrius presently,
apropos of nothing. And then Barby felt at liberty to speak
"It's real pretty work," she said. "Do any ladies do
Mr. Demetrius drew himself up. "It's no play, let me
tell you," he said. "Seven years I served apprentice before I
earned more than pocket-money. Ladies! ladies!! They
expect to earn an income the minute they want it. I know them
and their ways. They've come to me—'O dear Mr. Turner, look at
my pretty drawing; can't I do something with it? I'll be
satisfied with so little—and we are so well connected—and I've
changed my last sovereign.' Give 'em some work to get rid of
them, I always said, for that's the surest way to do it. Then
what follows? Never having studied or worked, a clever woman
about equals a very stupid man; and she measures her earnings, not
by the worth of her work, but by what she wants to buy flounces.
And she calls you a brute for employing and paying her, and goes off
and lives on her relations. Yes, Mistress Barby, your sex are
worse than the unjust steward—they cannot dig, and to beg they are
Barby shook her head reflectively, and there was no spice of
contradiction in her quiet tone as she remarked: "Wae's me, Mr.
Demetrius; but God Almighty must have had a poor opinion o' man when
he gave him sic a like creetur' as woman for his companion and
helpmeet." Perhaps there was a little mischievous lingering on
the last word.
Mr. Demetrius drew his hand furiously through his hair.
"He did not give her to every man," he retorted; "he only gave men a
chance of making fools of themselves by taking her."
"And there's mair fools than not—we all ken that," said Barby
composedly; "and some that we dinna ken it o' ken it best o'
Mr. Demetrius looked at her, and then burst out laughing.
"Well, well, well," he said, "we're all fools when we're
"That's why the auld sang ye drew the pretty picture to asks
'Wha would be young again?'"
Mr. Demetrius fell into the snare, though whether or not
Barby set it for him she never could remember.
"Ah, I don't know," he said. "There are no days like
those days. The very weather seemed different; I believe it
was milder—only I didn't keep a thermometer then," he added, turning
with mock fierceness to that unoffending piece of furniture.
"No, I didn't keep a thermometer. But it seemed always
sunshiny—or I didn't notice when it wasn't."
"Sir," said Barby, quietly, "there be a beauty o' blossoms in
an orchard in spring, and a beauty o' ripe fruit there in autumn."
"But there's often no fruit where there were plenty of
blossoms," returned Mr. Demetrius, with a seriousness of manner
strangely at variance with the comical confusion into which he had
raked and tumbled his odd, bright boyish hair.
"I saw an orchard once, neglectit and shut up, wi' the bonnie
fruit rottin' an' wastin' on the branches, except when the wild lads
o' the town brak in an' carried aff a few, after they kenned o' the
wastrie. It was the warst boys wha got that fruit," Barby went
on; "the honest bairns werena so owre ready to tak' what wasna
theirs, gin it was naebody's."
Mr. Demetrius stood silent with his lips moving. He
looked dreadfully like a boy at a mental calculation class.
"Sir," said Barby, "whiles I think the blossoms o' youth are
the hopes we ha' frae the warld, and the apples o' age are the hopes
and the helps we can gie to it."
Barby said no more then. She would leave Mr. Demetrius
to think over her words while he ate his solitary dinner. She
only wanted to accomplish her purpose, and did not care whether or
not she got the credit of doing so.
When she went back in about half an hour, she reopened her
fire by saying,—
"It's strange how, going in and out, as one may say, in life,
one hears baith sides o' maist questions. Here's you, wishing
you were young again; an' there's my young leddy, puir lassie,
wishing she wasna young."
"Girls never know what they want," said Mr. Demetrius, as if
that at least was a fact quite beyond dispute.
"And maybe that's a blessing too," Barby answered quite
unruffled; "for it's little likely they'd get it if they did."
"What do you think they can want?" Mr. Demetrius
inquired fiercely. "Aren't they cockered up and fed and
dressed and trimmed and married off without any trouble to
"Losh, sir," said Barby, "isn't it a pity God should ha'
bothered them wi' an immortal soul that canna live by bread alone?
They might ha' been sae comfortable without it!"
"Well, it is a pity," said Mr. Demetrius, looking
Barby full in the face, as if to watch how she liked his prompt
acceptance of her proposition. "I've often thought so myself."
"Only, ye see, there's some women that dinna get the
blessings ye think sae great an' gran'," said Barby; "and then if
they hadna onything everlasting inside 'em, why, they'd lose this
warld an' the next too, d'ye see, sir? I should mysel'.
It mightna ha' mattered much, perhaps, except to the A'mighty himsel',
to whom it wadna be becoming to mak' onything just to break it for
"Well, now," said Mr. Demetrius, "you've been a girl
yourself, though I can hardly believe it any more than I can believe
I was ever that hateful, rampageous, eating, tearing abomination
called a boy. But as it must have been so with both of us,
tell me what you fancy girls can want more than what most of them—I
don't say all —have already."
"They want to feel they are o' some sma' use to their
fellow-creatures," said Barby. "They're no born beggars,
though maistly bred sae. It's the vera spirit o' independence,
sick at heirt and dyin' hard within them, that makes them try to set
themselves off as a blessing when they ask ye for a bawbee."
"A blessing! shades of Eve and Pandora!" ejaculated Mr.
Barby went on without regarding the interruption. "A
man would be thought a doonright sinner if he brought up his lads
like maist faithers bring up their lasses. Women are reared
and expectit to live sic lives as only scoundrels o' men choose for
themselves,—hinging roond, doing odd jobs, and eating ither folk's
bread. Waiting for deid men's shoon is their highest ambition,
Mr. Demetrius passed his hand quickly over his face, but
looked up and said briskly,—
"Well, well; but if women were brought up to earn money, what
would they do with it? Expect the bread from their fathers and
brothers all the same, and spend their own earnings on extra frills
"Mr. Demetrius," said Barby, "mak' a bein' responsible, and
it will be responsible. Tak' it on yoursel', and there it will
"And when you've taught a woman how to earn money, she'll go
and get married," said Mr. Demetrius.
"Then she'll stop no mair wage from the man's hand, and
she'll ken its value when he gies it her to spend," returned Barby.
"An' if you won't teach some girls hoo to earn, that may never want
to do it, then ye maun ha' auld women wanting to earn when it's too
late to learn—as ye were grumbling aboot," said Barby.
"I needn't grumble; it's nothing to do with me; I will never
again trouble myself about any woman, girl, or other female biped
under the sun," observed Mr. Demetrius, with his little fat hands in
"Eh, I'm sorry for that," said Barby. "An' I've just
been wasting my breath; for I was wanting ye to luik at some o' my
Miss Margery's drawings and tell me whether she might ever get to
wark on those bit blockies her ainsel'. For she'll want money
sair enough, puir lassie, though noo she's losing the time when she
might learn hoo to win it."
"What—what! and have you got the drawings with you?" cried
Mr. Demetrius, as Barby made a feint of drawing them from her pocket
and slipping them back again. "Let me have them. I've
always taken a fancy for Miss Margery because I've never seen her."
Barby brought them forth with a becoming reluctance; and Mr.
Demetrius turned them over with such commentaries as,
"Well—well—good! steady hand; firm, light touch." But at one
of them he paused.
"Ha!" he cried, "I know that. That's copied from a very
clever illustration of Crabbe's poem Procrastination.' A very
careful, studied copy too. Yes, Mistress Barby, your Miss
Margery might do something if she has patience to stick at her work
for years and can get good lessons."
"Sir," said Baby, her old heart beating fast with the
assurance of victory within her grasp, "I dinna ken whaur she is to
"I know where she could," answered Mr. Demetrius. "I could
teach her myself."
"They wadna be able to pay much," said Barby; "but ye might
just lat me have an idea what ye wad tak', an' I'd find oot a' aboot
it." And Barby remembered her little store in the bank—the sum
of her savings during her long service with the Farquhars. "It
couldna be better invested than in something that'll keep them on
gieing me wark and paying me wages," she thought; "and I'm owre auld
for a new place. And I've no had sae mony luxuries i' my life
that I need grudge mysel' this."
"I wouldn't be paid at all for the lessons," said Mr.
Demetrius. "I never taught before, and I don't know the value
of such things. I would not be a tutor when I was young.
I quarrelled with my uncle on that very point; so I'll not be goaded
into it now for any woman in the world. But I still do this
sort of work in the summer time; I don't need much, and I won't
spoil my eyes in the dull days. And there's some parts of my
work she could soon help me in, and while doing that she'd learn
more; and so on. And if women won't take a chance when and how
they can get it, it can't be helped;—and I never knew one who would
"Sir," said Baby most deferentially, "Miss Margery knows
nothing of the matter yet, for I've spoken entirely on my ain
account, kennin' what I ken; but she's no the lass I take her for
gin she doesna jump at your kindness."
"And lick my floor and kiss my feet, and then slap my face
and pull my hair, after the fashion of her sex, metaphorically
speaking," said Mr. Demetrius. "No, I don't want to be kind to
her. Don't say so; don't let her imagine such a thing for a
moment. I want somebody to help me in the easy bits of my
work, I tell you. There now—d'ye hear? I'm going to
advertise for somebody. You know that—you quite understand
that. Now go and gossip that over to her—like you women always
do; and set her up to do what you want—like you women always can.
Tell her you won't put up with a lodger if he has a dirty boy coming
rioting in and out to work. Say you weren't engaged for such
things. Threaten to give notice. Now go—avaunt!"
"Sir—Mr. Demetrius," said Barby, "God bless you! A
barking dog guides to the gate on a dark night. I'm not going
to say anither word—I'm avaunting!"
"No, stop," said Mr. Demetrius. "Did you ever read
Crabbe's poems? No. But I'll warrant you're crammed full
of old songs and stuff and rubbish, or you wouldn't be so sensible.
Take that book and read 'Procrastination.' It was written
before I was born; but that's the story—take it altogether—of
Demetrius Turner; only I'm not sitting at the workhouse gate—and she
married somebody else. Broken hearts don't always smash up and
make a mess about the world. Some of them get an iron rivet
where the crack was, and they don't break easily in that place
"I've seen some auld broken bowls planted oot wi' the
bonniest flowers an' mosses," said Barby; "an' I've thought if it
hadna been for their misfortune they'd never ha' come to sic an
honour and beauty. Ye've had sma' cause for thinking muckle o'
women, I wiss, Mr. Demetrius—the bigger blessing on ye gin ye try to
mak' 'em main worth thinking muckle o'."
BARBY did not
lose much time in conveying her news to Margery. She had not
reckoned wrongly on the girl's readiness to avail herself of an
opportunity for carrying on her old beloved art, not only without
expense, but with some hope of future profit. There was no
difficulty with Margery herself; but Margery suggested one which
might arise in another quarter. Her father himself might
oppose the idea. And she brought forward one or two remarks of
his, uttered in years gone by, which made her dread lest he should
discountenance a proceeding for which no precedent could be found in
the histories of great-grandmothers, grandmothers, or great aunts.
She did not realize, as Barby did, that new facts of life had
probably undermined a great deal of Mr. Farquhar's old, easygoing
conservatism, so that it might be wanting only an external blow to
come down with a rush. The young are too apt to think that
their elders are fossils. We are not likely to suspect growth
in that to which we have always looked up.
"I dinna think your father'll object, Miss Margery," Barby
said; "but gin there's ony fear o't, we maun ken a' particulars
afore we speak to him aboot it, an' then ye'll hae your answer ready
for the difficulties he may bring oot. An' aboon a', I maun
ask Mr. Demetrius what ye micht be able to earn in the years to
come, if so as ye did fairly weel an' prospered." The worthy
woman was preparing her arrow for what she felt would be the weakest
part of her master's armour.
Barby went back to Mr. Demetrius, saying that "she took it
upon herself" to inform him that "her young lady" would be delighted
to work for him if she could, and if her father would permit; and as
a means of gaining such permission, she would like to know all
Mr. Demetrius Turner gave the information, with such wide
margins as must be left for the varying possibilities of Margery's
skill and success. Barby herself felt more than satisfied, and
thought that Mr. Farquhar should certainly be the same.
"Wae's me, to think o' the lots o' money that's lying buried
an' wasted in human beings," she said. "Just reflec' on the
single thing o' this makin' o' pictur's. If everybody turned
to an' followed their own trade or wark wi' a will, there'd be no
end to ither folk's wark. There's a' the wee bairnies rinnin'
i' the streets to be made fit to hae pictures, and a' the black
niggers awa' in Africa, and in places man scarcely kens o', sae that
the vera teachers and preachers mak' gude for trade! Eh, it's
real miraculous to see hoo a' things wark thegither for gude, if man
will only do his pairt; and gin he doesna, I'm no sure he hinders
the great wheelies o' Providence muckle, only he's thrown oot himsel',
an' used up in ony way whaur rubbish comes in handy."
Margery felt a good deal of diffidence in speaking to her
father about the matter, but she had caught enough of Barley's
spirit concerning it to realize that this was a false shame, truly
fit to be ashamed of. She told her story as simply as she
could, yet as explicitly, that she might as much as possible save
objections from being raised, even to be combated.
He did not offer the opposition she had dreaded; but neither
did he manifest the interest and pride for which, in spite of her
fears, she had cherished a lurking hope. It might relieve some
of his forebodings, but it hurt him. It came to him as a
necessary evil, not as an unexpected good. Perhaps at the
thought of their daughters' financial independence, fathers may feel
that shade of passing pain and loss with which mothers are often
credited in prospect of their sons' marriage. But nobody ever
says that therefore the sons should not marry, though some are ready
to infer that therefore the daughters should not seek independence.
Love's life is full of growing pains, and it has to feel many before
it can thankfully realize of itself
"God is not only kind through me:
He blesses, though I am not there;
He builds the homes I may not see,
And gives the hopes I cannot share."
The boys' good-natured "chaff" somewhat restored to Margery
the blush of her joy and hope, yet she went off to her bed-chamber
with a strangely chastened and subdued feeling. Her father had
not opposed her. She had got her own way, and she felt sure
that in this instance it was a good and praiseworthy one. Yet
she felt a little of one of life's bitterest experiences,—that dear
hands often slacken from ours when we put our own hands to the
plough, and that to each life comes, in a greater or less degree,
the choice between the easy and the right, between the smooth and
the true; that it is so much sweeter to give than to receive, that
our parents and benefactors often feel aggrieved when it seems
possible that relative positions may be reversed.
And when Barby came into the dining-room in the course of her
nightly duties of smothering the fire, and looking to the fastenings
of doors and windows, she found her master crouching in his
easy-chair, elbows on knees, and face buried in his hands. He
looked up when she entered, and his countenance had the worn haggard
look which men wear when they feel as women do when they cry.
"Ah, Barby," he said, "I never thought it would come to this.
My children will have to do without me, just as if they'd never had
a father. They are no better off than if I'd been a drunkard
or a gambler. After all my efforts, I'm a failed, defeated
"Dinna talk nonsense, sir," answered Barby. "For every
idle word, ye ken, we are to be brought to judgment; an' idle words
is nae fun and daffin' which keep the spirits up, but lamentations
ye needna make, an' prayers ye dinna mean, or willna wark to win."
"Ah, Barby, Barby, you may not own it," said Mr. Farquhar,
"but you know I'm speaking in solemn earnest."
"The mair's the pity, then, sir," she replied. "Is it
the mere want o' the siller an' gowd that mak's ye a failed an'
defeated man? Wae's me, but ye're in gude company in that
particular. The great apostle Paul didna seem to hae ony
warldly gear, except a cloak an' some godly buiks; and I dinna ken
that the last wills an' testaments o' ony o' your favourite
Covenanters are particularly mentioned. An' as for your
children being no better aff than those o' the drunkard and the
gambler, ye'd better fret that they're worse aff; for as for warldly
wealth, many a worthless schemer leaves mair than honest folk.
But I aye thought you believed your Bible, sir, and doesna it say
that a gude name is better than great riches, and arena the sound
bodies and clear heads that come o' righteous upbringing a fair
start in life?"
"Ah, it's easy for you to talk, Barby," said her master.
"And I'll not deny that there is truth in what you say—nay, that it
is all true. But we have natural feelings, Barby. And to
think of my one daughter working for bread in her father's lifetime,
and she looking so pale and fragile that I have been only wishing
lately that I could see my way to send her for change of air and
scene;" and down went his head again—that fast whitening head!
"Oh, fie, Mr. Farquhar, sir!" cried Barby. "And are
you, sic a gude Christian man as I ken you are, na better than the
puir pagan Naaman? Must ye have the Abana and Pharpar of your
ain way, instead o' the wee Jordan o' the Lord's will? There's
na sic tonic as wark. I've tane nane ither a' my days, an' I
think I'm a standing recommendation to Dr. Needcessity.
There's na sic change o' scene an' air as a new thocht i' the heid,
an' a fresh hope i' the heirt. An' while ye're fashing yoursel'
about what ye canna do for Miss Margery, hae a care ye dinna leave
undone what you may do. Wish as well to God's cure as ye wad
hae done to your ain. An', O Mr. Farquhar, sir, never heed the
feelin' o' heart-break! Do you no ken that bairns hae it sair
eno' owre their lessons whiles, but it a' passes awa' when they're
kenned? And what mair are we a' than big bairns, and mair
mistrustfu' and undutiful to our Father than the weans are to us?"
Barby had her reward; for next morning, as she went to and
fro with porridge and toast, she heard the whole family cheerily
discussing the "ins and outs" of Margery's purposed profession;
while Laurie, armed with a "Dictionary of Universal Information,"
was prepared to decide every point that arose, and had discovered
that the rudiments of her new art had been detected among the
antiquities of Egypt and China.
And before Mr. Farquhar went off to his office, he paid a
call at his own drawing-room on Mr. Demetrius Turner, taking Margery
with him for her first introduction to the unknown lodger, who now
was to become her familiar master. Mr. Demetrius fell into a
flutter of deferential ecstasy. Margery was pretty enough to
please his artistic taste, and quiet and modest enough to awaken
those hopes of womanly good sense which he cynically made believe
were always scattered by a feminine speech. Margery thought
from his manner that he would be kind and patient. But perhaps
even her small modicum of vanity would have been wounded had she
known how little of his geniality was attracted by her own pleasant
face and gentle manner, and how much by the fact that, the
revolutions of fashion having brought back the modes of thirty years
back, she was wearing just such a sleeve as that in which he had
last seen the woman he had loved,—or, as he would now have put it,
"whom he had fancied he had loved." Oh, could we always know
the quaint fountains from which kindness flows towards us, it might
quench our vanity and silence our powers of ridicule, but it might
also develop that cheery humour which, like sunshine on dew,
glistens on tears, and then absorbs them.
And now Margery did not find the days too long, but only too
short. A zest, an eagerness of enjoyment thrilled through
leisure, and changed common pleasures into keen delights.
Walks were taken the more regularly when the whole day was not open
for them, but only that sweet hour when nature wiles man from his
labours and his workrooms by leaving her shadows on them, while she
hangs her glories in the western sky. The old fishermen grew
quite familiar with the slight which almost daily might be seen
swiftly speeding round the harbour to rest awhile beneath the
lighthouse, now turning with shaded brow to watch the changing
splendours of red and golden clouds behind her, now gazing forward
with earnest eyes across the gray sea.
It was marvellous how in those days the girl Margery changed
into the woman. For all womanly possibilities, and all the
gracious power of providing and defending, had opened before her.
Do we not all know that "lady" signifies "loaf-giver"? and how can a
woman be a lady if she has no loaf to give—if all her life she is
but a beggar, or one who carries a bag to receive contributions,
willing or unwilling? Who dares say that it is an upstart,
modern, secular invention that woman is made as the "helpmeet" for
man; and that none but a fool could expect her to "work willingly
with her hands" to "consider a field and buy it," to "make fine
linen and sell it," nor fail to imagine she injured her male folk by
letting them hear good things spoken of her, even "at the gates"?
All through that summer and autumn Margery worked steadily
on. She took holidays, of course—priceless holidays, when Rab,
set free in the meantime from college lectures, would accompany her
for day-long rambles. He would take his book and she her
sketch-block, and they would wander away and settle down for hours
near some gray feudal castle among the hills, or beside some little
brawling tributary of the Dee. But best they loved the
coast—the bold, fierce coast to the south of their dear old city.
Margery never wearied of making studies of the huge, quaintly-shapen
rocks, which made one think that Titan babies must have had their
playroom there, and had left their toys behind them. And Rab
took the opportunity of collecting specimens for his botanical and
zoological classes; while his sister, learning wisdom and adroitness
from the bait-gathering women whom she often watched from her
sketching-points, was fain to take off her own shoes, and creep over
the slippery stones in stockinged feet, to give the lad's researches
the benefit of her quick eyes and handy fingers. Once they
found so perfect a skeleton of a rare and beautiful sea-bird, that
Rab bore it home in triumph, set it up, and presented it to his
college museum, where Barby went to see it on two consecutive
Saturdays, once with the old postman, and the second time with the
fishwife who had served the family for fifteen years.
And through that same honest fishwife Rab and Margery learned
to make their way among the fisher-folk, through whose villages
their wanderings led them. If ever they went through her
village, why, of course, they had to go and take a "piece" at her
house. She would have been for ever "affronted" had they
forgotten that civility.
And her village was not a place to be forgotten, nor her
house one to be passed by. The fisher-village straggled up the
side of a great hill, which rose to its full height above the little
bay with its sheltering breakwater. Up this hill-side wended
the little steep paths, here and there alleviated by a few rude
stone steps, on which the fishwives toiled with their heavily laden
creels. A cheery place was that village. The morning sun
smote upon it with its healthful light; and if it turned its back
upon the sunset, it was but to see its etherealized reflection—the
very spirit of its glory—on the face of the waters. Crowds of
sturdy fisher-children ran and shouted on the smooth breakwater and
the shingly beach, and seemed to give no trouble nor anxiety to
anybody. It was a while before Margery's nerve grew accustomed
to see the little urchins swinging their bare legs over the
sea-wall, or leaping heedlessly from boat to boat of the little
fleet rocking in shallow water.
"Are not your children ever afraid of the sea—not even when
they hear it roaring on windy nights?" she once asked of a very agèd
fisher, whom half the village called "gran-dad."
"Afeerd o' the sea!" echoed the old man;" afeerd o' the sea
that fills their platters and clothes their backs! They ken
it's the best freend they hae in this warld, and can never do them a
waur turn than to carry them to a better!"
Sometime when they sought Mrs. Leper's cot they would find
its hospitable door wide set, but its mistress amissing. But,
except on market-days, she was never far to seek. Once they
found her on the beach, sole woman among all the men of the place,
lending her strength (and she had strength to lend) to the hauling
ashore of her husband's boat—that fine, decked boat in which the
worthy couple had invested their lifetime's mutual savings, and
which served as a point of emulation to all the young Leipers'
efforts and aspirations.
"Why, Mrs. Leiper, surely that is scarcely work for you!"
cried the girl, who felt her own limbs oddly inclined to sway in
harmony with the deep musical shout of the men.
"Why not, leddy?" said the good woman, as she turned,
panting, towards her visitor—"why not? A mare can pull as well
as a horse."
There was nothing but new milk and oaten cakes in Mrs.
Leiper's house, but this simple fare was always set before the
visitors with a bounteous heart. There were many wonders in
that long, low abode, from the smouldering peat-fire over which
"fresh haddies" were slowly turning into "yellow fish," to the long
rows of gaudy china bowls upon the wall, the queer bits of lace and
ribbon with which every window was bedecked, and, greatest wonder of
all, the three "case-clocks," all telling slightly different time,
which stood in the ben-end, and were so magnificent and tall, that
one stood in a little pit, and the ceiling had been raised for the
benefit of another!
Margery did not like to ask too many questions about these
curiosities at first, but there was a frankness about the Leipers
family which was very reassuring. The mother called her
attention to the little boys walking about the house with covered
heads, because "they wanted the lady to see their best caps;" and
after she had shown Margery the yellow bonnets and green jackets in
which the young fisher-maidens, her daughters, went to kirk amid the
heavy-skirted, white-capped mothers of the hamlet, Margery ventured
to ask the history of the numerous basins and dishes, of every
colour and age, which lined the walls.
"Ay, there's been ithers have asked that," said Mrs. Leipers
complacently; "and what I say is, you gentry has your pictures, and
just what your pictures is to you those crocks are to us—for
ornament, like. Hech, ano must have something to please anesel'."
"I can't help wondering why you keep three clocks, ma'am,"
said Rab. "Is it the fish or the tide which is so desperately
"You'll have your joke, bless your gay young heart," said the
good woman. "But I must just explain. Amang we folk, if
ye're onybody, ye have a clock. There's no gude family
withouten a clock—d'ye see that? The bed an' the clock's the
first thing we think of. Weel, of course, we had ours; and
when my man's mither died, he was an anely son, sae there was
nawhere but here for her clock, for it's not a thing we'd sell.
And when my eldest brother, wha was a widower, was drowned, and his
puir bairns taken up here an' there, we took the clock to keep till
ane o' them has a home o' his ain. We'd had our ain fitted in
properly, d'ye see? but for the ane we had to make a bit hole, and
for the ither lift the thatch a wee. But what o' that?
It's nae fash to hae sic signs that ane's folk is creditable.
But, wae's me, it's hard keepin' goods richt sae near the sea.
It loosens the joints and it clouds the varnish," and she lifted her
apron and tenderly wiped an old chest of drawers beside her.
"I often say to my man, I'll be prood if, before I die, I'm able to
afford to have that put real richt, wi' new brass handles and French
"Able to afford, Mrs. Leiper!" bantered Rab. "Get it
done to-morrow. You know you're a rich woman."
"Weel, there's many waur off," said she, her weather-beaten
face settling into a contented smile. "We have earned a good
bit siller, Jock an' me. But then, whaur's it gane?
There's an auld lad about here that says, 'Ilka wean costs ye a
whole hander pounds before it earns a penny for itself'.' An'
he doesna put the figure too high, bein' a bacheldore, and reckoning
naething for toys and treats. Sae Jock an' me, we've brought
up nine—leastways we're bringing up the eighth and ninth. Sae
whaur's the siller, sir?"
"And what nice girls your daughters are," put in Margery.
"They're the best-behaved, prettiest lasses in the market."
"An' they're real canny," assented the proud mother.
"They'll be able to keep a man when the time comes. He'd be a
clever fisher wha'd catch mair than they could sell."
And then they all came out and stood at the cottage door, and
looked at the sea, so blue under the sky in the distance, so green
where it crept about the feet of the great, dark rocks.
"Mrs. Leiper," said Margery, "you have a pleasant life."
"I'm no compleening'," she answered; "the creels is heavy
whiles; an' it's no always like this, leddy. When one sits
lanely by the hearth, wi' the gudeman and the lads awa', and the
wind risin', there's a heart-sinking feel sometimes. But I
reckon it's in every one's lot somehow. An' now you're not to
be long before you're back again; and my respects to Mistress Barby,
and she shall have the first pick o' my crabs on Friday morning."
"Well, Margery," said Rab, as they strolled home in the
sunset, "I can't see how any one can feel driven to earn his bread
'by ways that are dark, or by tricks that are vain,' while he can
take a spade or a fishing-net."
And thus through days of steady and absorbing work, and
blinks of rest thankfully snatched in wholesome places, the year
passed by, and winter once more found Margery Farquhar a
bright-eyed, red-lipped girl, fearless of gloom and frost and storm,
because able to recognize in herself those powers of will and energy
which delight in something to contend with, since contest, be it
stern or playful, is the only road to triumph.
A Good Day.
"TIMES go by
turns," as the Elizabethan poet so sweetly sung.
"Thus with succeeding turns God tempereth
That man may hope to rise, yet fear to fall."
There had been pain and bitterness in the Farquhars' house
during the preceding winter, while all around them had been
flourishing; and now that peace and security had been restored to
their dwelling, there was plenty of trouble in their neighbourhood.
Trade had been dull for a long time; now one or two great local
failures brought on a local paralysis; the little stores of the poor
were already low, those of the better-off would be soon encroached
on, and even the rich man could not increase his goods. It is
always when this last point is gained that "distress" and
"stagnation" are openly and widely avowed. Those who are used
to care and privation do not make an outcry over an extra pinch.
And it was at precisely this time that Margery received her
first earnings. On Christmas eve, Mr. Demetrius Turner
presented himself at the Farquhars' parlour door with what he called
an "offering" in the shape of a ten pound note.
"You have earned more than that by the work you have done
under my teaching during the year, Miss Margery," said the little
man; "and henceforth what you do will be worth a small weekly
salary. But you must accept that to clear off the old score
between us; and now we will start fair."
Of course, Mr. Demetrius was invited to take his seat by the
fire; and Margery instantly blamed herself for not remembering that,
as an Englishman, this was a festival of his, though so little
regarded in Scotland. To-morrow, then, would be still more a
festival; and Margery ran off to the kitchen to consult Barby.
Had Mr. Demetrius issued his usual evening orders? or was he going
out? No, he was not going out; for he had ordered his dinner
as usual, and it was to be a mutton chop and a mince-pie.
"He must be asked to dine with us," said Margery; and we must
have what English people would think a proper Christmas dinner.
Do you know what they like best? I have often heard; but I can
think of nothing but the plum-pudding just now."
"There's not time to make that according to right English
notions," said Barby; "but I'll do my best, and bein' a man, it's
like he'll not know the difference. And they have mince-pies,
and some sort of poultry, turkeys or geese stuffed with sausages,
an' a joint of roast beef, and fruit to follow."
"Go out and get a little turkey, and some beef, and some
fruit, and everything that you can think of," said Margery.
"I've got the money;" and then she showed Barby her possession, and
explained whence it had come. "I'll speak to my father before
you go," she added; "but I know this will be pleasing to him, and
he'll only be glad I thought of it."
"Ay," said Barby; "the Farquhars had the open hand ever, an'
that's why it's weel for the warld when they hae something in't."
"And is there anybody else who might care to be invited?"
Margery went on, regardless of the compliment. "I know it is
giving rather short notice, but we might as well share our nice
things when we have them. I'm sure you and I, Barby, don't
want to eat up our dainties afterwards."
"Get at the master and your brithers, and ask them," said
Barby; "and gin they can think of anybody, ye can write the bit
notes, an' I'll carry them roond when I gae to get the bird."
"And you must order some holly, too," said the eager Margery,
as she ran upstairs to scheme for getting private interviews with
the rest of the family; and presently coming to the conclusion that
it was easiest to be quite straightforward, she went boldly back to
the parlour and asked if she might have a word with her father.
The result of that "word" in the hall was, that Mr. Farquhar went
back to his visitor and straightway gave the invitation and got it
accepted; a result which sent out both the boys to search for
Margery, and implore her to remember that an Englishman would not
expect kail-soup, collops, and sago on Christmas day. Margery
teased them a little while by suggesting variations in the way of
haggis and bread-pudding; and then suddenly put them to confusion by
recounting her satisfactory menu, and declaring her readiness
to receive and entertain any other guest they could think of.
Rab instantly remembered two fellow-students, one an English
boy in his first session, the other a middle-aged Irishman come to
college for the perfecting of a degree. He had heard them both
lamenting their friendlessness—the one moodily hinting that it was
enough "to make a fellow go to the dogs," and the other declaring
that "Irish hearts never thus shut out the stranger." He would
run off and seek them himself, knowing their haunts if they should
not be in their lodgings.
Laurie was silent still. "Don't you know anybody?"
pleaded his sister, whose quick sympathy felt some unspoken wish in
"Well," he said, "there is Miss Macqueen, who serves in our
shop. She isn't English, but she belongs to the Episcopal
Church, and they used to keep Christmas in her father's house in the
Highlands; and this afternoon I thought she had been crying."
"Certainly I will invite Miss Macqueen," said Margery
brightly. "I have often thought what a nice girl she looks.
I will write the note to her immediately, and Barby shall leave it
as she goes to the market."
She would not say another word to her brother then. She
knew the subtle reservations and distinctions which lay in his mind,
and she would not emphasize them by even an interrogative
underlining. Since Margery had begun to earn for herself a
place in life, she had also begun to face life's facts; and one of
the sterner was that when we recognize a duty, we have to do it, not
as we might choose, but as we can. God had given her a special
gift, by whose development she would presently secure a safe and
bright path to independence; but she had learned to realize herself
as she might have been without this gift, surrounded by similar
circumstances, and to understand that had she remained the same
honest, helpful woman she hoped now to be, then she must have done
some other work, some which might have lowered her in the social
scale, even as her future art might elevate her. That art
might unite her in the tastes, pursuits, and enjoyments of women far
above her in birth and wealth; but she saw clearly that the simple
duty of working for daily bread should bind her for ever in close
sympathy with the lowliest working woman.
And yet, with all these considerations, Margery was never
haunted by the wild schemes for "liberty, equality, and fraternity"
which often flashed across Laurie's brain. Perhaps her
constant association with sensible Barby had been her best safeguard
from these. She fully realized her own real inferiority to
such women as that faithful servant and strong, brave Mrs. Leiper;
but she felt that theirs was not a supremacy to be honoured by an
invitation to dinner or a formal morning call. One could no
more have them—their real selves—in a drawing-room than one could
have a cataract in a fern-case. There are some prophets whom
one must go out into the wilderness to see!
But with that pretty, gentle, little Miss Macqueen—a girl who
might have been brought up at the same school as Margery, who had
certainly been to one as good—all was different. And she and
Laurie were working together now, though one might be at the desk
and the other behind the counter, and in a year or two he would be
at college, on an open road to the highest distinction, while she
would be toiling on, left behind.
"Can Laurie be fancying himself in love?" she mused.
"Nay, he's only seventeen; that's impossible," decided this discreet
elder sister from the altitude of her few more years. "Miss
Macqueen must be quite as old as I am."
She went back into the parlour to her father and Mr.
Demetrius, and tried her hardest to join them in an animated
discussion on the ins and outs of a famous trial then going on in
the civil courts. The two gentlemen were agreed as to its
proper issue, they only differed as to the relative values of
certain witnesses and evidence, so that the spirit of their argument
was unimbittered by any dash of antagonise. But though Margery
did her best, and even made two or three remarks which Mr. Demetrius
characterized as "sensible and subtle," her mind would wander
elsewhere. Think her not mercenary, but her thoughts dwelt in
her purse with the ten pounds there. Were they a common ten
pounds? Nay, they had a magical power of presenting themselves in
ever fresh aspects and values. Now, they showed themselves as
more than the interest of three hundred pounds at three per cent.
Next, they were a third of the rent of the house. Again, they
were nearly as much as Barb's annual wage. Then, they were
Rab's fees for one session. And what would not they buy?
Oh, that strange sensation of sudden ability to gratify wishes which
have seemed so impossible of fulfilment that one has driven them
from one's mind as temptations to discontent! Those who have
always had as much money as they want have lost one opportunity for
ecstatic joy. And somehow to get this in perfect purity, these
suppressed wishes must not have been for those things which even the
rich regard as luxuries, but for something very nearly
necessary—something without which the car of life goes heavily as
with one broken wheel. Margery did not spend her money for
some days afterwards, but its spending was all planned that
Christmas eve as she sat at her knitting while her father and Mr.
Rab should have his microscope. He "could do without
it" he had told her; only he could do a great deal better with it.
And there should be some new book-shelves, sorely needed now,
especially when, between Rab's studies and Laurie's facilities for
the buying of damaged copies, books were somewhat rapidly on the
increase. And for Barby—oh, happy thought!—for Barby there
should be the gift of a railway return ticket to go and see her
widowed sister among the hills at New Year tide. Margery would
keep house herself, with Rab, who would have a few days' holiday, as
a stand-by. Rab could clean boots,—that was a form in which
the pioneer-like energy excited by the travellers' tales of his
boyhood had always vented itself; and Rab's love of chemistry was
not above the chemistry of cooking, and learnèd talk sometimes went
on in the kitchen over pots and pans. No, Margery did not fear
the whole household burden if Rab was by; and Rab could throw a glow
of romance over the homeliest details by building castles about
migrating to the far, far West, and wrestling with the primeval
forest, and struggling through years of hard self-helpfulness into
great landowner, busy doctor, and general autocrat. Such
dreams, if they were but dreams, were like summer roses, brightening
to-day with their living bloom, and sweetening to-morrow with a
faint fragrance lingering even after the last dried leaf had been
And even after all her loving little gifts were made, Margery
believed there would remain a trifle, to say nothing of the
wonderful vista of a weekly salary. Yes, there was certainly
one rich person in the city that n ight, and that was Margery
Christmas day rose brightly. The frost was keen, to be
sure; but the frost which lives in sunshine, strong as it must
therefore be, is scarcely the frost which strikes to the bones and
the heart—certainly not to young bones and happy hearts. Mr.
Demetrius went off to service at the Episcopal church; but before he
went, he left word with Barby that "he hoped Mr. Farquhar and his
family would freely use his sitting-room in any way that might be
useful to them;" a considerate civility which greatly relieved
Margery's bewilderment as to where she should bestow her guests
while the dinner-table was being spread—a problem which had only
occurred to her after she had issued her invitations, and which she
did not breathe even to Barby, till Mr. Demetrius's politeness
"Ay, but I thocht o't at ance," said Barby; "but gin a
thing's gude, and has got to be done, it's aye best to begin and tak'
the ups and doons as they come. Donna measure a hill afore ye climb
it, nor coont ony milestanes except those ye've passed."
"But what should we have done if Mr. Demetrius had not been
so thoughtful?" reflected Margery, perhaps inclined to exaggerate
the difficulty now it was over.
"Dune!—dune weel eneuch," said Barby. "Set the table an
hour beforehand, and the sicht o' the plates an' dishes wad ha'
given the folk an appetite."
Dinner was to be at four. Margery had few dinner-giving
experiences, and she thought that left time for a nice long evening
without late hours. Little did she know the tribulation into
which this arrangement threw the two students. "Quite a homely
affair. We are very plain people," Rab had informed them in
his flying call the night before.
"But, sure, and there's homely and homely," said the Irish
student to his English friend. "I've heard a Tipperary farmer
use these very words when he's asked me to a hop on an earth floor;
and the archbishop's lady said the same when she asked my sisters to
a grand kettledhrum at the palace. It's an early hour to put
on evening dress."
"And yet it's the proper thing when one's invited to dinner,"
urged the English youth, whose swallow-tail coat was new.
They made a compromise. The Irish student, whose newest
garment was a jaunty velvet jacket, wore it with a necktie of the
palest green, which he flattered himself would look white by
gaslight, and the English student put on his swallow-tail, with the
neatest little gray silk tie scarcely visible beneath his collar;
and the elder cheerily pronouncing them "on the safe side either
way," they started out, not without sundry speculations as to
"Farquhar's sister," which would have half amused and half offended
Miss Mcqueen had undergone no such mental tortures. She
had her best dress—a pure alpaca, made as plainly as if it had been
of the costliest silk—and she rose an hour earlier to iron the
hand-made lace she would wear about her neck and wrists. Like
Mr. Demetrius, she went to service at one of the Episcopal
churches,—a quiet little out-of-the-way place, where most of the
worshippers looked like pensioned old retainers of county families.
Then she returned to her lonely lodging an attic on the top flat of
a huge house, from whose window she could look across other
house-tops to an undulating line of green hills, their verdant
smoothness only broken here and there by clumps of scraggy trees,
and by a church whose tower stood boldly out against the sky, while
its situation looked so lonely from this side that one wondered
whence its congregation came. There she wrote two letters, one
directed to her old town in the Highlands, where she still had
friends though no longer a home, and the other to a foreign address.
The first she wrote rapidly enough. Over the latter she
lingered long. When they were finished, she put on her modest
adornings, and started forth. She did not post her letters
then, being too late for that day's mail.
She was the last to arrive, though she was in good time.
And Laurie took the opportunity to warn his sister—"You'll have to
introduce her to everybody, Margery. She has sold many a book
to Mr. Turner, and Rab, and the other fellows; but she's not the
sort to give them a chance to know her name, pleasant and obliging
as she always is."
Yet Margery liked her all the better when she saw the genial
smile with which she showed that each formal introduction came after
something of prior acquaintance; and she judged her to be both a
true lady and a clever woman when, in a few minutes, she found her
putting the somewhat confused masculine creatures quite at their
ease by referring to Christmas numbers, and criticising their gaudy
prettiness in connection with some fine steel engravings and quaint
etchings in a packet of old-fashioned books which had recently been
sent from London for one of the college magnates. This was the
door between the shop where they had known her and the parlour where
they met her now, and she passed through it gracefully.
They had a lively meal. The Irish student was full of
the wit and fun of his nation, and raised much laughter
intentionally, and perhaps a little when he did not mean it.
Mr. Demetrius took upon himself to make a little speech at dessert.
It was a funny little speech, but there was plenty of pathos in it
for those who had ears to hear.
He had had many Christmas days, he said,—he told them how
many, and the number was fifty-nine,—but be could not remember many
separately, not more than seven or eight. One was in his
school-days, when he was quite a little boy, and he recollected it
because it was the first time he saw the pudding in its burning
brandy. Another was a year or two after;—no, he rather thought
that must have been Twelfth Night; for there was a big cake, and
picture-characters, and he drew the king. Then there were two
Christmases when he was a young man. He paused as he mentioned
them, and said no more about them. And there was a Christmas
on shipboard; and another in an hospital, where he had been carried
after an accident. Since then he'd kept Christmas by going to
service and eating mince-pie, which made monotonous memories.
And now, just as he had never again expected to remember another
special Christmas, here had come to-day.
"And may many similar follow," interrupted cheery Rab.
Whereon Mr. Demetrius turned to him and said he was glad to
see a young man going in for keeping up good habits once begun.
He hoped he'd carry that into everything. He was a living
lesson on that score himself. He'd been brought up at
boarding-school to take a regular walk every day, wet or dry, and
he'd always stuck to it, except when he broke his leg. Even on
shipboard he'd had his regular hour for his regular turn. If
Mr. Rab would advise all his patients to do likewise, they wouldn't
trouble him much; and that might be the worse for him and the better
for them, till people got wise enough to pay their doctors for
telling them how not to be ill, instead of how to recover.
Good habits were like tin tacks—not much in themselves, but they
kept things in their place. Habits were like clothes
too—everybody must have some of some sort, good or bad; and people
should be as ashamed of bad habits as they would be of dirty rags.
It would be curious to collect some data on such subjects. He
was an old-fashioned person, who admired Pope; and though he was not
going to say that "the proper study of mankind is man," in the sense
that this was the only study, still he agreed with him so far as
that it was his best and highest study. "If Science goes on in
the paths she is now on," said the little man, turning fiercely to
the students, "we shall presently know more about crabs and
zoophytes than about each other. I suppose we may become
interesting some day—when we are fossils." He should like some
distinguished men—and he thought a lawyer, a doctor, and a divine
should each have a hand in it—to prepare a paper of questions such
as those which they would like to put to any who came before them as
client, patient, or parishioner; and that such paper should be put
into the hand of every adult who had come to the years of
discretion, to be filled in and sealed and left with some such
functionary as a registrar, to be called for when his certificate of
death should be required. And after the lapse of some years,
such papers could be made subjects of scientific research. It
would be a poor way of coming at some of the facts of life, but it
would be better than nothing. He did not think people would be
unwilling to tell the truth. It would be curious now to find
out what each of the present company had a habit of doing quite
regularly, without being in the least compelled to it. He had
led off—he had told them of his walk.
"Faix," said the Irish student, "and it's nothing I'd do if I
was not compelled, except smoke my pipe after supper."
"Well," said Mr. Farquhar, "for ten years I have gone every
Saturday evening and on the first of every month to the town
reading-room, to look through the journals and magazines."
"I always change the date in that calendar," said Rab,
pointing to one which hung beside the fire-place. "That fell
to be my duty somehow when I was a child, and I've always kept it
"I've written home every Saturday night since I came away,"
observed the English student very timidly, as if he was answering a
question in class and was not quite sure he was right. And
Margery set him down in her judgment as "a dear boy." And so
he was, though she might not have thought so had she heard him "ruffing"
in his class-rooms, or felt the pins which he was in the habit of
sticking into the legs of steadier students.
"I've translated thirty lines of Homer every evening since I
went to business," said Laurie.
"The ladies are holding back," observed Mr. Demetrius.
"Miss Margery, without wishing to be too professional, I cannot help
saying that you do your work so well that you must have a perfect
stock of good habits as a foundation."
"I don't know," Margery answered. "I'm afraid Barby
never leaves me free to follow my good habits uncompelled, for she
reminds me of the silver-cleaning every Saturday afternoon when she
clears away the dinner."
"I cannot think of any especial custom of mine," said Miss
Macqueen, "except that I keep my friends' birthdays marked down in
an almanac, and write them a letter for each anniversary."
"Well, now," observed Mr. Demetrius, with the erudite air of
a statistician summing up, "I consider that this is an assembly
above the average. You will observe that the good habits of
most of us are not only founded on regular lives of our own, but
demand a regular and settled state of society. Our little
virtues are not wilderness virtues, but the product of trim social
parterres. They involve public reading-rooms, the early
closing movement, a plate-basket with a system of police to protect
it, and a postal system."
"Faix," said the Irish student, "but my habit will stand
wherever tobacco goes."
"And where would tobacco go," asked Mr. Demetrius severely,
"if it were not for ships and railroads, young gentleman? And,
sir, with your pipe, store for which you can carry in your pocket,
you are the pioneer of the higher civilization. With your
pipe, sir, you will fumigate the wilderness. Its filthy smell
is enough to frighten away the wild beasts; its abominable smoke may
dry up the morasses; its—"
"Here's Barby!" cried Rab, as that excellent woman came in to
look after the fire; "and Barby's habits will be best of all.—Barby,
have you a habit? did you ever have a habit?"
"Is it a riding-habit you mean, sir?" asked the innocent
Baby, whose thoughts, to tell the truth, had been running on old
New-Years' days, and goings to and fro between her father's house
and those of neighbour crofters. "Na, na; the like o' us had
na habits. We jumped on the mare in our short skirts, just as
we were, two at a time whiles."
In the general laughter this misapprehension evoked, the
diners rose from table and retired to Mr. Demetrius's parlour.
And there they spent a pleasant evening. Mr. Demetrius
had curious stores of his own, the quaint miscellaneous gatherings
of a leisurely man with few claims on time, heart, or purse.
He had a book of queer autographs and ancient valentines, and
similar curiosities, extending to the earliest specimens of
"Christmas cards." He had another, in which he had collected
from ephemeral periodicals such woodcuts as had struck him as having
some beauty strong enough to be a joy for a little while longer than
a week, if not for ever. Better still, he had a portfolio of
engravings from the works of Reynolds, Gainsborough, and other
masters of the English school, and a complete set of Hogarth's
pictures. Hogarth, he persisted, was his favourite artist,
Crabbe his favourite poet, and Defoe his pet novelist. Modern
art and literature he declared to have become but adjuncts to "tea
And yet the odd, old-boyish face looked strangely wistful
while Jessie Mcqueen, who had the rare gift of singing without
accompaniment, sang "Break, break, break." She had a sweet
voice, certainly not highly trained, but with a natural pathos in it
which went well with the tender song. When she sang again, she
gave Kingsley's "Three Fishers."
"Ah, thank you," said Mr. Demetrius; "'tis a fine picture.
But depend on it, in reality all the three widows got married again.
Women always do. They are not faithful angels anywhere outside
"Now, I think the song is scarcely fair to women," pleaded
Miss Macqueen; "for women work as well as weep. I think the
women who do not work seldom weep."
"And the women who do work are kept well employed in weeping
by the men!" rejoined Mr. Demetrius. "Is that so? But
never mind; the world is worth living in, as long as I can walk to
the lighthouse and see the waves break in, or on the high road by
the river and see the sun sink down."
"And can know that God thinks man worthy to see so much
beauty," whispered Margery.
"And can observe that, in a general way, man scarcely thinks
it worthy of his notice," snapped Mr. Demetrius.
But Margery would have her last bright word. She had
learned to see beneath the thin, crabbed cynicism of her master, and
she could not bear that strangers should think him otherwise than
what she knew him.
"Yet, didn't you say the other day, sir," she pleaded, "that
influences which are unconscious are always strongest, and that the
noble beauty of a minster probably more deeply penetrates the spirit
of a young child taken there to daily service by its nurse, than
that of a student who goes prepared to analyze and admire?"
"Miss Margery," said Mr. Demetrius, "I am your professor; you
are my pupil. This lady and these gentlemen stand in no such
relations to me. To you I speak ex cathedra. I
say what ought to be said. With them I stand in a crowd and
say what I cannot help saying. David once said in his haste
that all men were liars. He would not have deliberately
mounted the altar-steps to promulgate that rash judgment. We
have our best and our worst in everything. We brush our hair
and clean our nails, and again our hair needs brushing and our nails
paring. When will you take us? The nobleman would prefer
us in the one condition, and the gipsy would feel more at ease with
us in the other. Our whole lives and characters are apt to
resolve themselves more or less into a question of 'When will you
When Margery was assisting Miss Macqueen to put on her wraps,
that lady very warmly expressed her thanks for the evening's
entertainment. It was odd how much older she seemed than
Margery, though they had found out they were exactly of an age.
There was something of quite a senior's affectionate caressing in
her manner to her young hostess—something of that tenderness which
elder people often feel for those who may yet have hard bits of
life's road before them, of which the others already know the worst.
Margery hoped she would come to see them again.
"And perhaps you will come to see me too," answered Jessie
Macqueen. "It will be such a treat if you can look in any
evening at my lodging. You may know when I shall be there, by
when your brother returns home. I have almost forgotten how to
pour out a cup of tea for anybody but myself," she added, with a sad
While she spoke, she had laid down on the toilet-table two
letters, that she might free her hands for the further securing of
her hood, which had loosened from its first tying. As Margery
stood beside the table, she could not help seeing the superscription
of the upper one, written as it was in Jessie's firm bold hand.
And this superscription was,—
Mr. William Fraser,
"Can that be Sarah's brother?" thought Margery for a moment
and then remembered that William Fraser was no uncommon name, and
was probably almost the commonest name among Miss Macqueen's
And Christmas day was over. And thus, by no stroke of
good fortune, but by simple continuance in well-doing, the Farquhar
household had risen from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a
good day, and had celebrated the change in the kindly old style by
feasting and joy, and sending portions one to another.
THE two girls did
not drop their acquaintanceship; but they were both too busy to let
it flow on in the rambling, desultory way too common in female
companionship. Speaking figuratively, friendship requires
regular hours, regular work, and regular food. Unless we have
constant meeting hours and duties in common, we never enter into
each other's lives, and a thousand occasions for mutual service and
solace pass by unimproved. How often one hears women say,
"Poor Miss So-and-so has had a great blow in the death of a dear
friend;" or, "Poor Mrs. So-and-so has been nearly worn out by the
lonely nursing of her sick child,—and we never knew that anything
was wrong; we had not been calling there lately—the roads were bad,
or the weather was rainy."
But Margery Farquhar and Jessie Mcqueen were so constantly
busy that they were saved from this. To be together at all,
meant to be together at work. Jessie called on the Farquhars
one Thursday, and found Margery in her own room with a
stocking-basket—the deep, huge stocking-basket of a masculine
household. She instantly proposed to share her toils—"It was
like home again to see a basket like that!" And if she helped
on that one evening, why could she not do so every week? And
while their fingers were busy, they would chat over the books they
had read, or one might even read aloud for a little.
Also, they bore each other company to such evening lectures
in churches and schoolrooms as interested and instructed them,
though they might only have bored the busy and learnèd students.
Both the girls earnestly wished they could join in some of the
classes for ladies which certain of the professors were holding;
but, alas that was impossible, for these met in the afternoon hours,
when neither was free. But Jessie could at least easily
procure the synopsis of the lectures, and the list of books
recommended to be studied therewith; and Margery, out of what she
called "her private fortune," could buy some of the latter for their
mutual study under the guidance of the former.
They did not often indulge in what the poet Wordsworth calls
"personal talk." Jessie might have been a very fountain-head
of the town's gossip had she chosen to retail all that went on
before her while she was pursuing her daily business in the shop.
And yet she did not ignore the worthy opportunities of such a
position; for she would remember and repeat scraps of wit or humour
which had merit of their own without any of that spice of
personality which is often used to impart piquancy to otherwise
savourless morsels. She would often speak, too, of her old
home—that vanished home in the Highlands, of which she in her lonely
attic in the university town was the sole representative. As
for Margery, her real life was too actually present with her to gain
much consideration. We seldom look behind us till we miss
Possibly, during that winter and spring Sarah Fraser felt
herself somewhat neglected. The more we have chosen to regard
all the advantages of an intimacy as bestowed by ourselves, the more
bitterly do we resent when we find them easily foregone. It is
very hard to plead excuse for anything which even looks like
fickleness or forgetfulness; but we must remember that those who are
accused of these faults by some are the same whom others prove to be
specially stanch and true. It has been told of a mother dog
that, having her pups untimely taken from her, she endeavoured to
satisfy her maternal yearnings by fondling and licking an old shoe.
There are as pathetic cravings of human hearts, which will put
themselves forth even upon equally unsatisfying dummies, ay, or less
satisfactory—not merely irresponsive and passive, but sour and
prickly. But would we call the poor dog fickle if at last she
kicked away the shoe to welcome a motherless pup, going a-hungered
for exactly what she could supply? Yet such is the judgment we
often pass on human beings.
Once, in the early spring, Margery took the opportunity of a
leisure afternoon and walked out to Mannohill. Sarah was from
home. Sarah did not hasten to return that call. She only
kept on saying to herself that Margery ought to come again: it ought
to be a treat to her to come to such a house as theirs: if she,
Sarah, went through "those dingy streets" to return four or five of
Margery's visits, that should amply suffice. But Margery did
not come. And just as April was passing into May, Sarah made
up her mind to have what she called "a pilgrimage"—all effort being
to her of a penal nature—to the little house behind the harbour.
When not under Mr. Demetrius's own eye, Margery usually
worked in her own chamber. It would have been a large room had
not much of its space been diminished by sloping walls, into whose
angles were fitted all sorts of chests and boxes. It had one
large projecting window, from which one could see the sea. In
its alcove stood Margery's table and tools; and there she sat, too
busy to notice any ringing of the hall bell, till Barby knocked at
her door and told her Miss Fraser was below.
Now Margery was not in parlour costume. She had on a
white apron with a bib, and linen cuffs drawn over her sleeves.
Rab would require the parlour, too, presently, for he was coming
home early to snatch some hasty refreshment before going to a garden
party given by a professor in whose class he had earned
distinguished honours. Sarah had often feigned an affectionate
schoolgirl familiarity in welcoming Margery in the undress of
laziness, so why should Margery hesitate to receive her in her own
"Ask Miss Fraser to come up here, Barby, please," she said
"Ay, ay, missy," said the old woman; "only I'm feared she'll
grudge the extra steps o' the stair. She'll catch no game but
what comes when it's whistled on."
Barby was not pleased to see Miss Fraser. She had
associated her mentally with Margery's fleeting days of
demoralization. But she blamed herself as she went downstairs.
Barby was too sensible a woman for any policies of social quarantine
and isolation. "It's no wise folk that need shut themselves up
wi' their ain wisdom," she reflected; "for that's like the widow's
cruse—it will na waste by giving."
Sarah ushered herself in with some sentimental remark about
feeling that she must be quite forgotten, since out of sight was
always out of mind, with "mere friends," though absence might make
the heart of lovers to grow fonder.
Margery pleaded the stress of work in excuse for her
retirement, and showed the piece on which she was employed at that
time, and told the history of her occupation.
"Dear me," cried Miss Fraser, "how very interesting!
Why, it is exactly what one reads in story-books: how people lose
their money, and then one of the daughters thinks of what she might
do to earn some. I remember a book where the girl went out and
sang in the street till her fine voice was noticed, and she became a
famous vocalist. It is just like a romance. And to think
of you being the heroine!"
Margery's colour was a little heightened. She did not
like Sarah's comparison. And no sensible girl enjoys being
thought a heroine of romance, whether she be one or not. And
Margery was certainly conscious of no heroism whatever.
"I always think what a blessing it is when a woman who has to
earn her bread has some special gift whereby to do it," Miss Fraser
went on. "Of course, other women have the gifts often, though
they do not need to weary themselves with the drudgery required to
bring them to mere marketable standard. I am sure I should
find it quite easy to be an author if only I could flash out my
ideas in some way without the mechanical labour of writing.
Old Dr. Gray—and he was a great man, you know, wonderful in insight
into intellect and character—used to call me 'his little
day-dreamer.' And as for pictures, I can imagine pictures more
beautiful than anything I ever saw, even in nature. But then I
could never have patience to sit down and work away at
dot-and-scratch;" and she bent over Margery's task. "That
would darken all my imagination, and cramp it into the mere ordinary
commonplace kind of thing we see so much of. I expect it
always has that effect. And doesn't it tire your hand?" she
continued, without any change of tone. "Won't you be likely to
get the kind of disease called 'writers' cramp'?"
"I think not," said Margery; "'I am not afraid of it. I
suppose there is some sort of evil possible to every occupation."
"Yes, indeed. Those of us who are not obliged to do
anything are not half thankful enough for our blessings," answered
Sarah Fraser quite serenely. "And you'll have to take care of
your eyes, and, indeed, of your health altogether—of course, I mean
as far as that is possible when it cannot be a first consideration."
"I seldom work by artificial light," said Margery, quietly,
feeling it necessary to say something. "Of course, it may be
occasionally necessary to do so."
"Ah, even that will try your sight. And you must find
the confinement very irksome, poor dear. You must remember to
take plenty of nourishment; you must not forget that there are some
cheap foods which are very nourishing; and though you may think it
an extravagance, you might find it true economy to take a little
wine, perhaps even every day."
"Wine!" echoed Margery, amazed; "we never touch wine in
this house; and whoever may possibly need it, certainly young
and healthy people do not."
Sarah shook her head with an air of superior wisdom.
"Wait a while," she warned. "Two or three years ago I would
never have believed that I should require it; and now I do not think
I could live without it. And yet I am living in the purest air
and on the finest food. But oh, the deadly faintness and
weariness that come over me! It is strange, but I always find
strength for what is required of me. I went to two parties
last week, and danced at both till nearly three in the morning.
And now this week I am fit for nothing. That shows how my
suffering is purely of the nerves. And what can be worse?
I have only crawled here by a supreme effort, and I could never have
made it without a little stimulant. It is quite a providence
that just at this time I should have had such a sensible woman about
me as our new cook."
Margery looked up for an explanation. Sarah went on
with lowered confidential tone. "You know no wine was used in
our house, and not one of the doctors to whom papa took me ever
suggested such a thing; indeed, there was one, in whom my father had
great faith, who asked me the question specially, and congratulated
me when I said I never touched spirituous drink of any sort.
He even wanted me to give up tea and coffee for a while. Of
course, I could not do that, and I never told him that I had a
strong cup of tea brought me every afternoon, for I thought he would
certainly forbid that; and it had done me a great deal of good when
I had first tried it, though as I grew lower and lower it took no
effect. And at last cook said to me, 'Don't you trouble
a bit about what the doctors say, and don't disturb yourself about
your papa. What he wants is that you should get well.
You try a little wine; a glass or two of good old port every day
would make you quite another lady.' Well, I felt so exhausted
that I was glad to catch at any straw. But I said, 'Cook, how
can I get wine? it costs a great deal of money.' And she said,
'Ma'am, it costs a mere trifle to a rich lady like you. I'll
buy it for you out of your pocket-money.' But I said I had no
pocket-money; as indeed I never have had; papa did not think it
proper for girls to have money to spend as they choose, without
anybody knowing where it went, but preferred I should order what I
chose at the shops, and send him in the bills. So then she
said she knew another plan, and that was to get it from our grocer,
and have it set down under some other head—jams or jellies, or the
"O Sarah!" cried Margery with burning cheeks, "of course you
did not do that; it would be worse than a lie. And I think
your cook must be a bad and dangerous woman."
"Ah, my dear," said Sarah, "you are hasty. But I admire
your feeling, for I had it myself, only it passed away when I heard
all she urged, and thought over the whole matter. 'Deceiving
your pa!' she said, when I put it to her so; 'you do what I advise
you, and make haste and get well, and then tell him all about it,
and see what he'll say then!'"
"It cannot be right," pleaded Margery. "It cannot be
right to take his money without his knowledge to do what he would
"My dear," said Sarah, with the specious sophistry she had so
readily learned, "he would approve of anything that would do me
good; only, unfortunately, I fear he is too prejudiced to have an
open mind as to what will do me good."
"And are you sure it does you good?" asked Margery earnestly.
"May it not be with it as it was with the tea—an apparent benefit at
first, and possibly a real injury? And oh, Sarah, I don't like
to speak of such a thing—but this is how people begin to go wrong.
When one glassy fails of its usual effect, you may find that two
restore it, and so on and on."
"It may be so with common people, or weak characters without
any will-power or self-respect," said Sarah negligently, as if such
a remote idea was not worth negligently about. And then there
was a moment's pause.
"Did you go to any of the ladies' classes this winter?" asked
Margery, so shocked at the possibilities which had risen before her
mind that she hastened to change the subject to one of wholesome
interest, as one might put one's head out of the window for an
airing after taking a peep into a skeleton cupboard.
"No," said Sarah; "I did not think of it. I might have
done so; it would have been some sort of amusement for me.
Yet," she added, flaunting as usual her supererogatory virtue of
economy, "I should scarcely have liked to ask papa to incur any
fresh expense in these hard times."
Margery wondered how much she had spent on the mere trifles
of her toilet for those two dancing parties; but she knew Sarah well
enough to understand that she would regard it as the most beneficent
mingling of political economy and public charity to badly pay
half-starved girls for sewing tulle flounces to be worn for one
"Oh, by the way," said Sarah presently, "will you remember to
tell your father that my brother William sent him his kindest
remembrances, and all best New Year wishes. I think that was
the message; at any rate, it was something like that. It
sounds strange now, but it came in a letter which poor Willie wrote
home at the beginning of this year, only I've never seen you since.
I wonder what made him think of Mr. Farquhar? He was the only
one of the townspeople he mentioned,"
"Where is your brother now?" asked Margery, and as she asked
the question that foreign letter of Christmas night suddenly
occurred to her memory.
"In Canada," said Sarah; "and he seems to be doing very well
this time. He did not enter into particulars, but from his
letter we gather that he is settled on a clearing near Lennoxville,
in a beautiful tract of country not far from Montreal."
Margery's heart was beating at a terrible rate, and she bent
closely over her work to hide her sensations. She felt as if
she had received a terrible blow. Perhaps there is little in
life more bitter than to gather from an indifferent or an unloved
tongue something with which we think a beloved one should have
trusted us. Margery was only a girl, and she leaped to the
conclusion that the relation between William Fraser and Jessie
Mcqueen must be one of love. And perhaps there was a sound
philosophy in her intuition, for we seldom guard our friendships
under a seal of silence. And her warm nature was jarred from
head to foot to feel herself shut out from the inner sanctum of that
heart which had seemed to welcome her so frankly.
She would make no remark; she would ask no question.
That resolution was quickly made, but she scarcely guessed in what
an ordeal it would be instantly tested.
"We hope he will really settle there—and marry," Sarah went
on in her half-sentimental drawl. "If he does well, you know,
somebody nice may marry him, after all; and even if not, if he would
only marry somebody out there—it would not matter much who it was.
Few people ask much about William now, and one can easily make
anything at a distance sound well. It was so different when he
was in this town. That was the beginning of the troubles in
our house. It was not likely papa would consent to William
having his own way and marrying just whom he chose, when papa has
spent his life in gaining us a position from which we might expect
anything. And then they got wrangling and quarrelling; and
William took to bad ways, and picked up with a fast set of the
students, and spent his time hanging about the restaurants, and went
to a gaming-house that is to be found somewhere in this place.
And then papa cut him off. And we've always been so afraid he
would come back and really do it; and a man's life is never
hopelessly ruined till he does that."
"Does what?" asked Margery, bewildered.
"Dear me! don't you know anything about it?" asked Sarah, in
her turn. "Why, I thought it was the town's gossip. I've
always believed that the high and mighty people—the poor
gentilities, who go on foot because it is good exercise!—were
talking at me when I've heard them so often saying that people who
have newly made money are the most ashamed of the class they rise
from; as if that is to be wondered at, when they alone know what it
costs them to rise to the class above them, and how even money and
carriage and park will hardly keep the balance with some foolish old
genealogy or stupid college degree. No wonder we want to hold
our own when we can get it.—Do you mean to say you don't know that
my brother William had what is called 'an affair' with the girl who
serves in the shop where I see your brother is clerk now?"
"I never knew it before," faltered Margery; "and I don't
understand now. What do you mean by 'an affair'?"
"Oh, I don't know. Fancied he fell in love with her, or
something of the kind—one does not know what that means with girls
of that sort."
"I am sure she is a good woman, and very sweet looking," said
Sarah laughed. "Rather a scraggy style of beauty," she
sneered. "Perhaps it is artistic; but I never considered
William had any taste. Possibly he liked a thin loveliness.
I think I remember his calling you pretty."
She said all this with a slow, half-suggesting drawl, which
would have put anybody who had shown signs of taking offence
hopelessly in the wrong. But Margery was a woman, and had her
sharp little answer ready.
"I should not mind being called pretty by anybody who admired
"Macqueen!—ah, that's her name. I declare I had
forgotten it," said Sarah. "Are you on speaking terms with her?"
"Yes," said Margery, shortly.
"Well, I daresay she may be respectable enough," was Sarah's
remark. "But William and I never quarrelled over anything
except that girl," she went on. "I forgave him everything
else. As I said to him, if he married a shopwoman, what had I
"And what did he answer to that?" was the irrepressible
inquiry of Margery's feminine curiosity.
"Oh, some impertinence," cried Sarah; "something about papa's
mother having been a dairymaid. What has that to do with it?
Nobody remembers that. And then he went on with some stuff
about education. Education is all very well in its way, but
what can it do by itself? As a great London friend of papa's
says, he can hire a university man cheaper than he can hire a good
horse. I know it sounds coarse, but it's true. I used to
be romantic, even a very little while ago, but one gradually learns
wisdom." She said the last words in a half-apologetic style,
as if she felt she might have gone too far.
And so she had; so far that Margery would not have cared what
else she said any more than she had heeded the railing of two
fishwives who had quarrelled in the street that morning.
"Well, I expect it is all over, however," she said, rising to
take her departure. "When William was about here last time he
never spoke of the girl, and I never asked a question. Only I
watched her, and noticed how miserable she looked."
Margery was quite polite to the very hall door—ceremonious,
as Margery had never been before. But somehow when Miss Fraser
looked in her face she saw something there which suppressed her
half-proffered kiss. And little as either of them dreamed of
it then, that was the last time Sarah Fraser ever crossed that
"Miss Fraser looks queer—there's a strange change coming owre
her whiles," said Barby, whom Margery found in the parlour in
attendance on Rab's dinner. "Has she been ill?"
"She was out dancing twice last week till two or three
o'clock in the morning," was Margery's significant rejoinder.
"Wae's me!" cried Barby; "and wha wad she get for her
partners, sin' men folk hae to be at their day's wark the morn's
"I know she had one partner who is not troubled by his day's
work," said sarcastic Rab, "and that's our handsome chronic
"Oh, weel," observed Barby, with a shrewd humour, "gin he is
not working wi' ye, he's getting ready wark for ye; for whaur wad be
the maist o' yer—what d'ye ca' it?—chronicled patients, if folk wad
live after common sense for twa, three generations?"