Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale online

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The bonnie lad o Galla Water."

" Whist ! " Agnes, dearie. Your fayther
doesna like thae sangs. I wonder whar you
learnt them at a ? I wonder at your singing
them ! "

" I wonder mysel , mither,sometimes. They re
down i my heart someway, and afore I ken
they are at my lips, and out by them."

" Is the bairn asleep ? "

"Ay, he s o er the border line, God bless
him ! "

" Then lay the supper cloth, and tell Kirsty
to bring in a basket o peat and a bit o bright


wood for the fire. Your fayther will be cold
and hungry when he gets down the fells."

" He is late the night."

** Ay, he is late. There are a good many
ewes and lambs to fold, and he doesna trust
the hired shepherd."

"I ll soon hae a ready, mither. Sit down
and rest yoursel a wee. You are aye working."

" Weel, that is right, Agnes. Folks must
work to-day, for there s nane can tell hoo far
they may be hindered to-morrow. Quick, my
lassie ! I hear your fayther s voice in the barn

In a few minutes Matthew Harribee entered
the house-place. There was a flicker of light
on his grave face as he came within the pleas
ant influence of the cheerful ingle, and the
calm eyes lifted with a silent welcome to meet
him. But he did not speak at once, and no
one dreamed of interfering with his thoughts.

Presently his eyes rested on the sleeping boy
and his face softened. The sweet sense of
human love gave him the desire for human
sympathy, and he said :

" It was vera raw and damp on the fells, and
I am gey tired tramping after the ewes. They re


wilfu , silly creatures the prophet kent us weel
when he eaid, we a went astray like sheep, ilka
ane turning his ain way. It is a true observe.
Isaiah would hae been amang the sheep faulds
himsel , nae doubt, nae doubt."

"You are a gude shepherd, Matthew, and
you are a kind man to the beasts. I heard ye
in the stable and the barn-yard."

" Ay, I like to see they hae their supper.
Evening oats are good morning fodder; and
the servant s hand may do, if the master s eye
is on it. Noo, I ll hae my ain bite and sup, for
I hae a word or twa to say after it. Ca the
lasses in, Maggie. Hae you seen Faith within
the hour? "

" Faith is in the dairy. The wark is late to
night, for she went o er to Kirtle Farm to get
a few cuts o fine yarn for me. She didna get
back as soon as she should hae done, and there ?
a sight o milk now, gudeman. So she is a bf
behind-hand to-night."

" Ay, I thocht that."

" But I hear her footfalls " and with these
words Faith Harribee entered. She had on her
dairy dress, a striped linsey petticoat, and a
calico josey, with the sleeves fastened above


the elbows. But no one who looked at Faith
thought of her dress. Whatever she wore
seemed to be precisely the fitting garment
for her, for her figure was so fine, her counte
nance so brave and bright, her manner so calm,
that she inspired at once a sense of strength,
and pleasure, and sweet fitness for the occa

Yet her mother, who knew every light and
shadow of her daughter s face, perceived, or
perhaps felt, that something unusual was on
Faith s mind. Still she did not connect it with
the " word or twa " Matthew Harribee had
forespoken, until he said,

" If the day s work is o er, sit down, lasses.
Faith, I hae a question to ask you. How lang
hae ye been keeping tryste wi yonder black
lord o Graeme ? "

"Never ance hae I kept tryste with him,
father. He met me to-night on Kirtle brow,
and he lighted from his horse, and spake some
words to me I didna want to hear."

" I thocht that. I was on the Preacher s
Stane aboon you, and though I couldna hear
his words, I kent weel the meaning o Graeme s
doffing his beaver, and bending his proud head


to a bonnie lassie s face. I kent weel wh;.t
lying flatteries and beguiling words he was say
ing ; and his outstretched hand, ringed wi dia
monds, and gloved wi kid-skin, I kent weel
what way it would lead a silly lass that heeded

" I heeded no word he said. And you should
think better of Faith Harribee than to mis
doubt her. Graeme asked me to marry him,
plump and plain, he asked me to marry him,
and I said that was a thing that never could

"It was a great honor to you, Faith," said
the mother timidly, and a little flush of pleasure
stole into her white cheeks.

" You ken naething o* what ye are saying,
gude wife ; " and Matthew turned almost
fiercely on the offending speaker. " If Beelze
bub sought you for a mither-in-law, would you
mince and mou, and say it was a great
honor? Yet diels and bad men are kith and
kin, and they think the same thochts, and do
the same warks. Wha ever kent a gude
Graeme ? The sins o a their generations are
on them. They were fause to baith Scots and
English, Stuart and German, and they keepit


their heads and their lands by lying and brib,
ery. They were with the brutal Dalzell and
Claverhouse against the saints, and their blood
is on the doorstep o Castle Graeme, and on
the hands o its lords ; for the present lord has
justified his fathers in my ain hearing, and said
he would hae done sae, and mair too, had he
lived in their day. I dinna doot it, not a min
ute s space. Sae speak nae mair to him, this
nor that, and gie him neither your hand nor
your good-day."

"You hae been ceevil to him yoursel ,
Matthew, and you hae bought and sold with

" There s a difference, a verg gt-eat difference,
atween selling a few ewes or a bull-calf to a
man, and gieing him your ain daughter, the
bairn you pledged to God in baptism, and
that was saved by the blood o the Holy
One. Faith Harribee is of the seed o the
saints and the martyrs. It would be even down
sin to give her to a Graeme! "

" I wouldna gie mysel to him, fayther;
though maybe I dinna think sae badly o him
as you do."

She spoke with a grave and quiet decision,


and Matthew felt a little shame over his unu.
sual and uncalled-for excitement. His voice fell
into its ordinary tones, and he answered, " I
believe you, Faith ; so there is nae mair to be
said on that head, and we ll settle our hearts
wi a thocht or twa frae God s Book. Gie it to
me, and ca ben the lads an lasses."

They came sleepily in, tired with their hard
outdoor labor, and feeling " the exercise " to be
just a little trial. But as soon as Matthew
opened the volume and said,

" The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not
want, " the familiar illustration went straight to
each comprehension ; and with patient bovine
faces, on which there was a glimmer of expec
tation, they looked straight at the master.

" My shepherd ! " he said, " like as if the
Lord had only one sheep and that sheep was
you, or you, or me." Then he read the whole
psalm through, and added, " Sandy, you and I
and Baldy ken weel what silly things sheep
are, and what a hard time we shepherds do
have wi them. They re always in trouble, the
heat parches them, and the cold freezes them,
and the snow smoors them, and the dogs worry
them, and the flies are death to them. And


just such a worrisome flock the Lord has here
in Harribee Home, but He is a shepherd. He
says we shall not want. We are to lie down in
green pastures and by still waters. You ken
vera weel that sheep dinna lie down if they are
hungry, or if the torrents are roaring down the
fells ; sae you can understan that you are prom
ised baith plenty and safety. Sae gang to your
beds and sleep in peace, for there s naething to
fear you, wi such a shepherd and it willna do
you any harm, my lads, if you ll keep mind hoo
the Lord tak s tent o his sheep, and ever try
to do your ain sma* duties a bit better the
morn. Gude-night, and the Lord be wi you

But though thus pleasantly dismissed to
sleep, Faith and Agnes did not readily feel
able to accept the blessing. Faith perceived
that something unpleasant was influencing her
sister. She sat, almost sullenly combing her
long yellow hair, and there was undoubtedly a
rebellious expression upon her usually happy
face. And as Agnes was ever ready to talk
upon passing events, Faith was astonished at
her silence regarding the Graeme s proposal.
She did not care to open the subject herself,


but she was quite ready to give her confidence
to her sister, if Agnes desired it. And she
could not help glancing with a curiosity in
which there was a slight feeling of offense,
at the companion who affected so little in-
terest in a. circumstance singular and unex

But though Faith lingered somewhat about
her preparations for the night, Agnes sat in the
same dour attitude, mechanically passing the
comb through her loosened hair, but evidently
unmindful of what her hands were about, and
indifferent to every thing but the gloomy and
resentful thoughts she was indulging.

At last Faith said, " I m no caring to wait all
night for you, Agnes. Why dinna you come
awa to your bed ? "

Agnes answered in a low passionate burst of
weeping. She laid her arms upon the small
dressing-table, buried her face in them, and
sobbed with a provoking unreason.

"I ll hae to go for mother, Agnes, if you
willna tell me what is troubling you. You
shouldna be keeping folks waking with a fear
you can lighten by a word. Wha is there that
loves you as I do? And wha would do mair


to pleasure you in a lawfu ways? What ails
yon at a , Agnes?"

She had come to her side, and she stooped
to the weeping girl whispering her name softly
with those little soothing intonations, the
strong involuntarily use toward the weak.

" I am meeserable, Faith. Fayther s words
against the Graeme have maist broken my

Faith s face flushed crimson as she asked,
" has he been saying foolish things to you, also,
Agnes ? Never mind him, dearie, we baith
ken, that he is naught at a but a bad man."

" Oh ! You are aye thinking o yoursel , Faith !
What do I care for the Graeme ? I hate the
vera sight o him. A hard, cauld uncle is he to
poor Roland ! "

" Roland ! Poor Roland ! Agnes, Agnes, I
hope you are na heeding Roland Graeme !
That would be worse than a ."

" Why would it be worse than a ? Roland
has been coming to Harribee ever since he was
ten years auld."

" Tak care o yourself, Agnes, and dinna say
too much. When the lad first came to the
castle, a poor motherless, fatherless, friendless


bairn, and not a welcome nor a bit o love for
him anywhere, our mother s heart was sorry for
him. You ken it was just a mother s pity
made her often gie him a full meal, and mend
his claithes, and listen to his bairnhood s sor
rows. And our fayther had a kind heart, he
didna choose to see what he didna care to hin
der ; but noo Roland is a gay young man, and
there s no very good say-so s anent him coming
frae London."

"Whose say-so s? Only the black-hearted
Graeme s. Roland and I played together
many a long summer-day; and I ken what
Roland is. He has loved me ever since I was
six years auld, and I hae loved him likewise ;
and he is coming this vera summer to ask fay
ther to let him marry me. And then to hear
the way fayther went on at the Graemes. I
dinna think it s Christian to be sae bitter to
dead folk. Roland says, if fayther had been
born a Graeme he would hae done as the
Graemes did."

" You are a wicked lassie to listen to Roland
Graeme putting your ain fayther amang the
warst men that Scotland e er saw, and there s
nae sense either in such reasoning ; Nane at a !


It would be as wise like to say if the angel
Gabriel had been the deil he would hae done as
the deil did. And as for loving a man like
Roland Graeme its no to be thought of."

" What for no ? Mother wasna sae much
opposed to you wedding wi* Roland s uncle.
She said it was a great honor. You heard her,

" It was a moment s thought o the castle
and the title. It was mother-like to be wishing
her child a fine lady, but mother isna ane to
give way to a temptation for mair than a mo
ment : forbye there would be no honor o any
kind in being the wife o Roland Graeme.
You couldna offer a greater insult to your ain
family, and to your forbears."

" I m no caring for my forbears. Why
should I ? They dinna care for me."

41 You are maybe mista en, Agnes, anent that :
but surely you are caring for your fayther and
mother, for mysel and wee Davie. Fayther
would count your marriage with Roland a dis
grace no to be wiped out. It would hurt him
through every generation of the Harribees,
You must hae heard tell o* the shadow on
Roland s birth."


" The puir lad isna to be blamed, nor shamed
for his mother, Faith."

"Perhaps no, but it is a sad thing when a
man does na like to speak of his ain mother.
She was a Roman woman, born under the tem
poral and spiritual power, baith, o the Pope ;
and she was ane o them women that act in
the-a-tres ; and fayther wha thinks bad enough
o the Graeme stock, thinks o Roland as the
fera worst o what was evil to start with.
Agnes, dearie, you ll no dream of such a mar
riage. Naething but shame, and sorrow, and
maybe death can follow it. For a blow like
that would kill mother; you ken she hasna had
a weel day since Davie was born, and her life is
in her bairns. I canna think you d lift your
hand against mother."

I think fayther is the most unreasonable o
mortals. There may be good Graemes, as well
as good Harribees."

" You ll no gather any sweet apples off a
crab tree; I m thinking, Agnes."

" I dinna care. I hae promised Roland, and
I ll not break faith with him."

She stood bravely to this position for a little
vhile, then underpressure of Faith s entreaties,


wavered ; and finally amid many tears prom
ised not to see Roland again. When he came
to the castle, Faith was to explain every thing
to him, and Faith really thought that the tie
was but a youthful fancy, and would be easily


*" Alas ! by some degree of woe

We every bliss must gain,
The heart can ne er a transport know
That never feels a pain."

" The primal duties shine aloft like stars."

"QERHAPS Agnes intended to keep her
X promise, but they must be very wise and
very strong, who can defy surprises that take
the heart by storm. One summer night she
was in the garden. It had been raining; the
roof, and lintels, and the flagged steps were still
wet, and the damp misty air was heavy with
the scent of flowers. There was a great white
rosebush by the stone-wall of the inclosure, and
she stood behind it, though a heavy fog had
risen from the Esk, and the twilight was fast
passing into the dark. She was anxious and
expectant, and had come out into the siknt
place for a few minutes rest.


It had been one of those contrary days when
every household event is out of order. The
mother and babe were both sick, something was
wrong in the byre among the milking cows, the
supper was belated, the servants hurried and
cross, even Faith was worried and unlike her
self. Agnes had felt that for a few moments
she must escape the sense of duty, the cry of
pain, the hurry of the household work. And
if the garden was damp and misty, it was also
sweet and quiet, and full of that inexpressible
sympathy which makes us feel the friendship
of the hills and streams, and the blossoming

She stood by the rose bush quite still, in a
simply receptive mood. Many tangled threads
of thought drifted through her mind, and in
some slightly conscious way she challenged
them, but Roland Graeme was the underlying
sentiment that colored all. She knew that the
time had arrived for his visit ; she wondered
what he would do and say ; and what her
father would do and say, but she did not dare
to question her own heart upon the matter.

Suddenly she looked up. A tall figure was
coming through the mist and mirk, straight and


swiftly toward her. It was too dark to distin
guish any peculiar feature, but she knew the
poise of the haughty head, and the swing of
the rapid tread. Before she could consciously de
cide on her own movements,she had passed from
behind the shadow of the rose bush, Roland
had recognized her, and bending across the low
wall, had lifted her face to his own, and kissed

Then what hurried words of affection fol
lowed ! What passionate avowals of constancy !
What entreaties ! What assurances ! And yet
when all was said, how conscious both were,
that love s sweetest meanings are not to be
spoken. Roland had been coming direct to
Harribee House. He had intended no conceal
ment. But Agnes feared her father. She knew
that if it came to a question between them she
would have to submit. She felt utterly unable
to face the moral opposition to her love, and
she was quite determined not to give up her

Her disposition precisely suited Roland s
views. " I will keep out of sight," he said,
"and to-morrow night at Kirtle Bridge, I will
be waiting." Then he kissed her again, and


stepped back into the misty shadows by Esk-
side, and so up to the castle.

His visit at this time had been looked for-
ward to very anxiously by the lovers. On it
his future depended. He was just of age, and
he was aware that he was to receive some small
sum of money which had been realized for him
by the sale of his father s personal effects. He
had no idea as to its amount, but he under
stood that its receipt would make him the mas
ter of his own destiny, and that he need
expect no further assistance from his rela

He had arrived at Castle Graeme in the after
noon and found his uncle quite prepared to
meet him. Their interview was perfectly cour
teous. If Lord Tilbert had never been arTec*
tionate, neither had he been actively unkind.
Roland Graeme had no complaint to make when
he said " Roland, you are now of age. I claim
no further control over you. When your father
died, I invested all his personal property in
your name and for your benefit. The sum
realized was five thousand two hundred pounds.
I placed it in the funds, and I have never
touched a shilling of it. Your support and


education has been ungrudgingly provided for
by Miss Graeme and myself , so that the
original sum with its accumulated interest, is at
your disposal. I advise you to buy a commis
sion in a good marching regiment. But I claim
no further right to interfere in your life. It is
now in your own hands."

The words were spoken without apparent
feeling of any kind, and with a grave courtesy
Lord Graeme knew well how to assume. They
impressed the young man with a sense of kind
ness and gratitude.

"Lord Graeme," he answered, "you have
done better for me than many in your place
would have done. Vou are not to blame for
the wrong my father did me ; and I do not
blame you, because you receive the advantage
of it. Sometimes I have felt that I was an in
truder here ; but I shall intrude no more, and I
ask your pardon for any annoyance I have in
nocently been the cause of to you."

And Lord Graeme was more moved by the
frank speech than he cared to avow ; but he
said, " Why then, Roland, you are still a Graeme
though your scutcheon be barred by others
fault ; and look you, I like tlie brave way in


which you take your wrong and it may be
that it will be righted."

He said the last words looking downward,
very slowly, and as if they were reluctantly
forced from him. " I think your aunt desires
to see you before you go away ; but you need
not hurry your departure. The red room is
still yours."

" It will be better for me to go at once. I
have my career to make. I have a friend who
will meet me very soon, and we shall return to
London together."

" As you will."

To Roland six thousand pounds, more or less,
was a large sum of money. He was elated with
the propect of controlling it. And his first
thought had been Agnes Harribee. He meant
to ask Matthew for his daughter,.and he thought
the possession of so much money, would remove
all the old Covenanter s scruples. But when
Agnes made him understand how hopeless the
request would be, he was glad to overleap it,
and to take the girlphe loved, without attempting
to satisfy prejudices and ideas with which he
had not a particle of sympathy.

And Agnes had the strength which weak


women who have arrived at a stubborn point
have. She was chided for her long absence,
and scarcely heard or heeded. In another day
she would have escaped from all the petty trials
of her life. It happened to be a very hard day
again. In the gray dawn, before she was well
awake, she heard her father in the yard ; the
boys whistling to the horses, the lowing cows,
the whetstone ringing against the upright
sickles. It was the first day of harvest, and
the light oats trembling on the Esk slopes, were
to fall before the reaper.

Some extra hands had been hired for the field
work, and there were extra meals to prepare
for them the dew-drink or early glass of beer
before going afield, the ten-o-clock of bread and
bacon ; and the bread and cheese for " cheesing
time " in mid afternoon. And there had been
no extra hands hired for the house work, though
the mother was pale and weak from yesterday s
suffering, and the babe was cutting his teeth as
hardly as very healthy children frequently do.

So it was a hard day and very little rest for
any one ; besides which the weather was hot
and exhausting. The men worked until the
dark hour drove them from the field, and


Matthew was so weary that he made no attempt
to apply the few verses of the psalm he read.
Soon after nine all were asleep but Faith and
Agnes, and the fretful babe. Even the mother
had fallen into that dead slumber with which
nature restores the throbbing nerves. So Faith
had brought wee Davie into her own room, and
it seemed to Agnes as if the child never would
shut his eyes. Thinking of Roland waiting for
her on Kirtle Bridge, she grew almost hysterical
when she looked at them, wide open as if the
hour was noon-day.

" Is there naething you ran do, to put that
bairn to sleep, Faith? I m maist beside mysel
for an hour s rest. I ll no be fit for a hand s
turn the morrow."

" He ll no go to sleep till he s worn himsel
oot. The puir wee laddie has a toothache that
would keep men folk waking nae doubt. Tak
your pillow and go and lie down aside Phemie.
She ll never heed you."

" Phemie is worse than Davie. She moans
and talks and mutters, and has such fearsome
dreams, there s no a wink o* sleep where she is."

" Weel then, try the sofa in the best room.
Get your first sleep, and ye ll be the better o


it ; and then you can mind the bairn, and
let me hae an hour or twa afore the day

No proposal could have suited Agnes better.
The latticed window of the best room opened
readily by a handle. It was near the ground.
Escape that way was easy and noiseless. For
a moment she hesitated, then she lifted her

" And I ll tak my plaid to hap mysel ," she
said, "it will be enou this warm night. Faith
maybe it isna vera kind to leave you your lane.
Davie has been in your arms a day."

" Dinna think o that. You are younger than
I am, and you need mair sleep ; forbye, you
were twice to the field to-day. Nae wonder you
are weary."

" You are a kind, kind lassie ! Gie me a kiss,

Oh in the years that followed how often Faith
thought of the pretty child-like face lifted to her
for a moment ! How often she reproached
herself for the touch of impatience with which
she had granted the request. For, somehow,
though the words and action were loving and
sweet, there was in Faith s heart a feeling that


a little help and patience would have been
still more loving and sweet.

But no fear, no presentiment of what the
girl was on the point of doing troubled her.
She walked mechanically about the room with
the child, until suddenly both were so weary
and sleepy that she did not remember when
they sunk down together upon the bed. It was
dawn when she stirred ; the half-wakened birds
were twittering in the cherry-tree that covered
that side of the house, and she heard her
father s voice calling the men to another day s

She left the child asleep and went down stairs,
but she did not think of Agnes. Even when
she remembered the girl it was with a kindly

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale → online text (page 2 of 15)