페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

From The St. James' Magazine.
ISABELL CARR.

A SCOTTISH STORY IN TWO PARTS.

By the Author of "Margaret Maitland," etc. etc.

PART L-CHAPTER I.

"I'm glad to see you hame," said the old

man.

"And I'm glad to win hame, faither," said Bell.

ined changed under the subliming touch of grief, was not changed, but the same. His loss had not made both father and mother of him. He was just as he had been when Bell went to service, more to relieve herself from his strict and critical rule than for any other motive. She sighed to herself, after she was done crying, and went slowly down the narrow staircase. The house was a homely little poor farmhouse, such as are Such was the sober expression of feeling still to be met with in the pastoral wilds of which passed between the father and daugh- Dumfriesshire-scarcely deserving the name ter. The girl's color was high, and her eyes of a farm. A few acres of "arable" land full of tears; and the old man, while he and a hillside for "the beasts" was the exspoke, did not venture to look at her, but tent of its domain; and a laborer and his fumbled about his snuff-box, and was evi- wife, who lived in a thatched cottage near dently relieved when that salutation, slight and were of Andrew Carr's kindred, were all as it was, was over. They had shaken the adherents of the house. Their eldest hands with each other when Bell came: now every thing went on as if they had parted yesterday, though the young woman had been away from home for two years.

son herded the sheep, their small fry of children weeded the scanty turnips and potatoes, and lived in wild primitive liberty between the cottage and the hill. Such And home had changed in that time. The were all the human settlers at Whinnyrig. mother, the sun of the domestic place, was The farmhouse was only thatched, like its gone; gone-buried a year ago in the hered- little dependency, but had an attic story, itary churchyard five miles off with all her with windows rising out of its thatched roof, kindred yet she stood there between them, and a kitchen big enough to have taken in hushing them to silence, making words im- the entire cottage; a rude, undecorated possible. Bell, you may suppose, would place-not a flower about it on one side or have spoken and wept, and poured out her the other, though the cabbages were not heart, had it been possible; but the old man contemptible. Neglected, dreary, half-savdurst not trust himself to say words which age, it lay in the evening light, speaking might let loose that long-retained voiceless with a certain stern reticence, like that of its sorrow. What could words have done to it ? master, to the heart of the motherless young Deeper than language was that mute recog-woman. Andrew Carr himself had been nition of their loss. She was gone! There heard to acknowledge, that "A' things had was nobody to ask the anxious, oft-repeated questions-nobody to give ear to all the interrupted answers-nobody to speak the welcome, or surround the stranger with all that joyful surprise and curiosity, and eagerness, which is the soul of a return home. What is home when the mother is gone? Bell was glad to take her box up into her attic-room, and cry over it in a violent access of grief and disappointment. She knew it, but she did not know it, before; for it is hard to believe in death at a distance, and almost impossible to think that, though we know they are dead, they are no longer there.

gaen wrang since the wife was away.,' Bell's accustomed eyes saw the difference with even stronger perception than her father's; and it was to supply that vacant place that she had come home.

She went and sat down beside the old man in the great earthen-floored kitchen. Though it was summer, the fire was glowing red as turf-fires do burn; filling the place with aromatic odors. The father sat close by in the high-backed wooden chair rudely cushioned, and covered with checked blue and white linen. He sat within the glow, not much enlightened by it, twisting his thumbs and gazing into the fire. Bell sat Poor Bell had found it out—the word had down too, at a distance from him, with her attained its real translation; her mother was hands crossed on her lap, in punctilious obnot, anywhere to be found on that earth, and servance of the old-fashioned notion, that, her father, whom her heart had imag-" coming off a journey," it was a necessary

homage to propriety to do nothing. It was was more touching than any lamentations. getting dark; the horse and the cows were They had no heart to speak to each other. "suppered," and all was quiet about Whinnyrig; but Bell, who was near the window, could see those long lucid stretches of evening sky, the breaks of primrose light, the green-blue wistful horizon, and latitudes of cloud. Such stillness ! You could hear the breathing of these two in their hushed house. It was quite necessary to break this hush by some attempt at conversation. But what was poor Bell to talk of? When she essayed to speak, the hysterica passio climbed into her throat.

"Have ye had ony trouble wi' the beasts the year, faither?" at last faltered Bell. It was the subject most congenial to that locality; and Bell saw no absurdity in the contrast between her question and her thoughts.

"There never was a year but there was fash with the beasts," said the old man; "and this aboon a', as was to be expected, I a' but lost my best cow."

The link between them, without that mother whose presence had put a certain amount of inevitable warmth into it, was not much more than an arbitrary bond; for the old farmer of Whinnyrig had never either interested himself in his daughter, or cared to recognize the wonderful difference between life as it appeared to her and life as he knew it. So there was a dead wall between them when no living heart was there to bring them together. Poor Bell sat tearless, trying vainly to think what she could saymaking plans within her ardent youthful mind how she would soften and subdue him by her tenderness, and impatient that she could not begin this moment-but was, like himself, voiceless and spell-bound. She could not have told any one how long this silence lasted; but it was only when in the darkness she saw a figure approaching the house that Bell sprang to her feet, with an impatience which could not be longer restrained. She knew the very shape and gait of that figure, as it came slowly through the

"That's Lillie," said Bell, with a little eagerness. "Bonnie beast! she sall aye be milkit with my ain hand while I'm at twilight-knew it by that sharp-sightedness hame."

"Whisht with your haivers ! Lillie's sell't!" said her father, with some irritation.

of dislike and repugnance which is as undeceivable as love. She made haste to light the little oil-lamp which stood high up on the mantel-shelf, and threw a dim, smoky light from that elevation upon the homely apartment. She even made an unnecessary noise and bustle as she did so, as if to draw her father's attention. Her own frame was tingling with sudden vexation and impatience, and her heart within her demanding utterance. But Andrew Carr took no notice: he did not even raise his head when she "You didna tell me when you wrote," she bustled about the hearth and stretched up to said, apologetically.

"Sell't!" echoed Bell. The tears came fairly rushing to her eyes in the dark. She turned her head away from the chimneycorner, and looked straight out of the window into the wistful sky. Her heart filled: it was all her self-command could do to keep down a fit of tears; but she regained her self-possession at last.

"And if I had, what wad hae been the guid ?" said Andrew Carr. "It's no in my way writing letters. I wrote to you when when it happened; and I wrote you afore the term to come hame; and what could be expected from me mair?"

Another long silence fell upon the father and daughter. Bell, with her hands in her lap, in that unusual solemn Sabbath-day idleness, looked away into the wistful summer evening sky, and watched it change and darken without perceiving what it was she saw. Her father sat looking down into the red glow of the peat fire. Their silence

place the lamp in its usual position. He shifted his chair a little, to give her room, without saying a word. Bell's patience was almost exhausted.

"There's James Lowther coming up the brae," she said at last, in a restrained voice.

"Ay?" said the old man, without sur

prise.

"You're aye friends yet, I suppose?" said Bell.

"Ou, ay-aye friends," said her father, in the same indifferent tone.

Bell was beside herself: her hand trembled, as she fastened the lamp. The irrita

the prospects of the hay; how the turnips were looking; and whether any disease had yet been heard of among the potatoes. Andrew Carr spoke with great deliberation, and required little answer; Bell darned rapidly,

tion of grief and disappointment, and solitude, seized upon her. "Eh me! and it was for this I left my guid place?" she said to herself under her breath, as she put fresh peats on the fire. "What are ye saying, Bell?" asked An- without ever raising her head; and James drew Carr.

"I'm saying nae doubt he's a married man and doing weel, that ye're aye friends with him, faither," said Bell.

"He's just as muckle marriet as ye are," cried the old man ; "and if ye're no ceevil to the decent lad, ye'll get little comfort here. She said it hersel' before she was ta'en, and I'll hae naebody ill-used in my house."

Lowther sat by, saying little, uneasy under the full glow of the fire. Behind the group the evening sky was still darkening through the uncurtained windows, and opening out a streak of wistful light in the blue perspective. It was a very still, placid, homely scene, but, had these human creatures been visible to the eye in the real sentiments which possessed them, how speedily would the group have risen into the world of passion. That old man, slowly droning there about his fields, was as sternly determined to bend his daughter's will to his own as if he had been a powerful despot, and she a rebellious kingdom: behind the rustic lover's embarrassed looks, fierce love and jealousy were hidden: while Bell, all innocent in her domestic occupation, tingled to her very finger-points with such excitement, irritation, and obstinate resolve, such restrained indignation and grief, as might have made a passionate heroine of the humble young woman. But, to see their homely ways and words, who could have imagined the little drama secretly going on under this homely

Bell's pent-up feelings relieved themselves in a long, heavy, impatient sigh: she saw in a moment the whole course that lay before her the domestic persecution, the loathed love, all those assaults of rustic courtship which from the wrong person are hard inflictions even to a country beauty. She went hastily to the great aumrie at one end of the kitchen, and took from a corner a large bundle of stockings put there to be mended. It was not very dainty work; but Bell was only a country girl, and had no pretensions to be a young lady. She took her seat near the fire, within reach of the light, and drew one of the stockings over her arm to darn it. She was seated thus, her face bent over her work, when the un-roof? welcome visitor entered.

"There's no mony would take to their wark so industrious the very night they came hame," said Lowther, at last-speaking at, as he dared not directly address, the lady of his love.

"Ou, ay-Bell's grand at her wark; she'll make a guid wife when her time comes," said Andrew Carr.

"And that'll never come," exclaimed Bell, with sudden bitterness, surprised out of her self-control.

His personal appearance did not explain the secret of his bad reception. He was well-enough looking, a brown-haired, ruddy, stalwart man of Annandale, lifting his feet high as he walked, as if he felt himself still among the heather; and not without a gleam of real eagerness and lover-like anxiety in his sunburnt face. He looked wistfully in at the door, and lingered for the invitation, "Come in bye! Jamie, come in bye!" which after all only came from the gruff voice of Andrew Carr; and, when he had obeyed, removed his cap and scratched his head, and looked at Bell, longing to speak. Bell took no notice of his bashful looks; she gave him a little dry nod without turning Bell did not condescend to answer; but her eyes towards him, and with great devo- she raised her head, and gave her unlucky tion went on with her stocking. The em- admirer a look which made him pause in barrassing silence was only broken by the sudden discomfiture. For she was Andrew old man, who after awhile began the ordi- Carr's daughter, though she was not like nary topics of rural conversation: what were him. She was good and honest, but not

"The lasses aye say sae," said James Lowther; "but it's weel they're no sae ill as their word, or what would become of us a'? They say, when ane's mair positive than anither, that's a guid sign."

[ocr errors]

"Broomlees maun be pleasant the noo," said the old man; “it's a bonnie bit. I mind upon't in your grandfather's time, Jamie. You and yours have been lang on that land."

Her Her

meek, by nature. Did they think to over-speech, Bell dropped on her chair again för come her by such poor artifices? A thou- a moment, and wept some hot, angry tears; sand times, no! then rising, wiped them indignantly away with her apron, took a candlestick from the shelf, lighted the candle at the fire, and went away with hasty, excited steps, holding her head high, and looking at nobody. admirer sat and stared discomfited. father said nothing. They kept silent when they were left alone till Bell's steps, echoing her anger, had sounded up the wooden, resounding stair, and were lost in the stillness of her own room. Then at last the old man spoke,—

name.

"Far langer than the laird," said James, with a laugh. "The Ha' house has changed hands twice since Broomlees was in my But there's great need of a womanbody about the place. It's no what it was when you kent it first, nor what we'll have it again, in time, if I get my will." "Ay, ay; I dare to say ye'll do weel, if farmer of Whinnyrig. ye get a guid wife," said Andrew Carr.

"Ye'll take nae notice, Jamie ?" said the

"No the noo," said Lowther, vindictively; then, changing his tone, "I'm meaning the women maun hae their spite out," he added. "No, I'll never heed."

Bell listened to this conversation with a perfect fever in her veins. Knowing what they meant, and knowing how well they knew certain past events which were fresh "I'm nae sae sure ye ken the crater after in her memory, it was intolerable to the a'," said Andrew Carr, with a movement of high-spirited girl to hear herself so spoken compunction. "She's like the wife in out

at. But a certain natural sense of dignity acted as a curb upon her, and restrained her tongue.

"I'm thinking ye'll be glad to be in your ain house," said the adventurous suitor, after another pause; "a strange house can never be like ane's ain place, though it may be grander; and to you, that might be your ain mistress, not to say have servants at your ca'

[ocr errors]

"That's impossible!" " cried Bell; "I dinna ca' Marget Brown a servant, nor never will. Her man's our second cousin, as everybody kens."

ward appearance, but she's a rael Carr in her spirit. If it was for her advantage to have her ain way—but, it canna be that—it canna be that! Do you ever hear ony thing o' yon ne'er-do-weel, now ?"

"It's no likely," said Lowther, with a little contempt; "if he's living he's at the other end o' the world, and I canna say I'm so great in his favor as to make him write letters to me."

"Aweel, weel; time tries a'; but I'll no keep you ony later the night, Jamie, my man," said Bell's father. "Come back soon, but no ower-soon, and let bygones be by"But weel ye ken I wasna meaning Mar-gones; it'll a' come about in time, if ye have get Brown," said the emboldened lover.

"I ken nothing about what ye mean," cried Bell, rising up with angry haste," nor I care nothing, that's mair; but ye might have had the sense to let a poor lass alane the first night she's come hame, and her mither away. If ye had held your peace and respected a person, I might have forgiven ye, Jamie Lowther. But eh, man, ye make me mind; ye bring it a' back to me as clear as yesterday. I wouldna say there was anither man in Annandale but would have had the sense to leave the poor auld man and me to ourselves the first night, kenning a' the changes that hae been in this house since I gaed away.”

but patience a bit."

66

"Patience!" echoed Lowther to himself, as he stood on the broken moorland ground below, and looked back at the thatched house of Whinnyrig and the light which streamed from the attic window ; aye, patience! But if I aince hae ye, I'll mak ye pay for this, ye witch," he muttered, shaking his fist at the window-and with this virtuous sentiment strode slowly home from his lover's journey, leaving the father and daughter still further apart than when he came.

CHAPTER II.

THE light shone faintly out of that attic window long after all the neighborhood was When she had uttered this indignant hushed to sleep. The little room inside had

few attractions, and little to distinguish it as That was four long years ago. It was a maiden's bower. The sloping roof, the James Lowther, of Broomlees, that had put bare walls, the uncarpeted floor, and Bell's that stigma on his sailor cousin. He said great box standing under the window, were the boy had been trained, and loved, and set unlovely surroundings. But the farmer's out in life by old Broomlees, his uncle and daughter of Whinnyrig was not fastidious guardian, and that Bell's lover had not only nor fanciful. She sat at the little table with used his uncle with the basest ingratitude, her Bible open before her, vainly trying to but had appropriated to his own purposes fix her thoughts to what she had been read-money entrusted to him, and brought the ing, while, instead of the sacred words, a old man into trouble. Some circumstances phantasmagoria of past scenes kept gliding of dissipation and fickleness had not been before her eyes, and drew her mind astray. She clasped her hard but comely hands over her forehead, and shut out the light from her eyes, suffering those visions which would not be forbidden-homely pictures, no way sublimated out of that homely scene, yet full of the deepest primitive emotion. She saw herself come into that same apartment all dewy-eyed and blushing, half afraid of her own beauty and happiness, the beaming face that caught her eye in the little glass; and following her came the mother, quick to mark that crisis, to hear the half-told tale, and shelter the girl from her own secret, shamefaced terror. Oh, hour of tenderest gladness! almost sweeter than the trothplight which preceded it. But darker were the scenes that followed. She saw the doubtful household looks, the mother's hasty glance in at her chamber-door, not waiting except to say good-night, afraid of conference. Then the tender, troubled, suggestive speeches, the hints about sailors and their temptations, the father's angry preference of "a decent lad at hame," all the slowly accumulating distrust, dislike, and doubt which rose like a mist round the figure of her sailor-lover-then, unaware of his secret enemies, far off at sea. Then, when the clouds had gathered to their darkest, that storm that at last had violently rent the two asunder. But the sobs broke poor Bell's heart as she remembered herself fallen upon that bed in her despair, and her mother silent, thinking nothing was to be said, stroking the poor cheek from which that tempest had taken all the youthful color. "Willie thankless! Willie a traitor! Tell me I'm dead, and I'll believe you sooner," sobbed out Bell, repeating in imagination her own very words, and thinking she felt her mother's hand, hopeless of all other comfort, stroking with a pathetic, silent caress her eighteen-yearold colorless cheek.

wanting to increase the force of the picture. Andrew Carr, entirely convinced, had forbidden Bell ever to see the culprit, or let him know the reason of his dismissal. Her mother, wiser in her humility, would not yield implicit credit to the tale-bearer, and yet would not justify the accused. All that the good woman could do was to stroke with her kind hand that passionate young cheek, and "wait for Providence," as she said. But Bell was too young, too impatient, too hotblooded to wait for Providence. She wrote a passionate, appealing letter to Willie at sea, calling on him to come forward and clear himself. She denounced James Lowther with all the fiery vehemence of a woman and a Carr. Things came to a violent crisis, and threatened disruption of all the peace and union of the household. Day by day poor Bell, with dry eyes burning with anxiety, looked for Willie's letter; day by day her father stalked about his little farm, with outbursts of impatient wrath and indignation against the drooping girl; day by day her mother soothed her compassionately, looked on and prayed, and said nothing; and night by night James Lowther disturbed the household with his hateful presence, and sought the heart in its rebound that changeable female heart of which so many a song and story is told; but which was no more like the strong-beating, passionate, honest heart of Isabell Carr than midnight is like noon.

Such things could have been borne; but a harder agony followed the unexplainable mystery and anguish of Bell's life. Willie's letter did not come, Willie did not writeeven more, did not return-never was heard of-disappeared totally into that blank, aching, dreadful darkness which everywhere encompasses the little bit of the world we see. If his ship had been lost, the dreadful secret might have been explained. But his

« 이전계속 »