Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale online

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pity. " She ll hae the weight o the run
ning to-day. I ll let her sleep till Davie

When Davie awoke she was busy with a pan
of milk in the dairy. She put down the horn
skimmer and went to the best room. It had an
air as empty and desolate as a forsaken nest.
There had not been an article disturbed, and the
window was wide open. She stood speechless
a moment, she could not bear to admit to her-


self the calamity she feared. Then she thought
of her mother.

Before any thing else she felt that she must
assure herself of the girl s flight. Cautiously she
made inquiries of the servant-women and men,
but none of them had seen Agnes since the pre
vious day. It was quite certain that she was
not on the place. Faith let her father eat his
breakfast, and give the orders for the day s
work, and then she called him into the best
room. It was such an unusual proceeding, that
he asked querulously : " What are you needing
me for, the day, Faith ? Is your mother or the
little lad waur?"

" It s no them, fayther. It s Agnes."

"What s the matter wi Agnes?"

" I canna find her high or low, up or down.
I m feared she s gane awa* wi somebody."

Matthew stared blankly at her a moment,
then asked, " Did you see Roland Graeme hera-
aboot, yesterday?"

" I never saw a sight o him."

But he was at the castle, and likewise at
Mosskirtle. Ane o the men met him on the
hill-side. Why dinna you speak?"

" I daurna say what I m fearing."


" Do you think she has gane wi him ?"
" Ay, I think sae. Oh Agnes! Agnes! "
" If that s your thocht, you ll no dare to be
greeting after her. Let her gae. She s a
wicked lass, and I ll ware neither tears nor care
on her."

But ah what a wretched heart he carried to
the harvest field that day ! He tried to work
in vain. Before noon he was compelled to put
down his sickle. The uncertainty made him
sick, besides there was a whisper of his trouble
among the reapers, and he could not bear the
looks of inquiry <^ast at him. He took a horse
and went into Mosskirtle. When near the
village he met a group of boys hunting black
berries, and one of them ran to him with a

" I was coming out to Harribee, master, wi
it ; but I foregathered wi Dick Musgrave and
the lave, and I forgot a aboot it, till I saw your
braid bonnet at the brig foot."

Matthew heeded not the apology, he was
reading the few lines Roland Graeme had
written him. Such letters are in spirit all alike.
However they may be worded they amount to
the same thing " we wanted our own way and


we have taken it," in defiance of every claim, of
every loving tie, of every duty. As usual also
there was a hope of pardon and an offer of any
obedience but just the one that included the

The boy had joined his companions again,
and Matthew heard their shouts and laughter
through his hard mental struggle. A homely
commonplace figure he made, sitting motion
less on his shaggy pony in the white stony
road ; but all the same, within his soul he was
doing battle with some of the fiercest griefs and
shames that assail humanity.

He thought of his honorable name, of his
spotless kirk record, of the men who would
privately rejoice o er his dovvncome, of what
his neighbors, and his servants, and his friends
and enemies, would say. And though he was
only a border shepherd, his good name was
dearer to him than gold, and these things were
of vital importance besides, he hated the
Graemes. The bitterest part of the trial was,
that he did not feel as if God had stood by his
cause with them. He had been very jealous
for the Lord, and for his saints ; and the seed
of the wicked, the very men whom his soul


despised, had been permitted to humble

He would say nothing about the matter.
To his wife he gave Roland s note, but he
would not listen either to her entreaties or
her laments. Faith was ordered to remove
everything out of his sight that could recall
a child so selfish and disobedent, or which
in any way implied that she had once been a
beloved daughter of his household.

Lord Tilbert took the news in a very differ
ent fashion. He had stopped at the black
smith s to have a nail fastened in his horse s
shoe, and a foolish fellow told him the story.
He felled him to the ground, and then turned
to the smith, and asked if it was true.

"True enough, my lord."

" Which daughter was it ? "

" The bonnie ane. Maister Roland has aye
been riningwild aboot her."

" Agnes Harribee ? "

" Just sae."

Then he put down the horse s foot, and
Graeme mounted, and galloped away " like
the diel," said the loungers around the anvil.

It was to Terres he went first in his wrath.


She listened to his intemperate words with
scorn, she mocked at his passion, she irritated
him to fury by praising the " do and dare "
spirit of Roland who had carried off one of old
Harribee s daughters while he, himself, had
been hanging around the skirts of the other,
like a love-sick school-boy.

" Upon my word this beardless stripling is a
true Graeme," she cried. I always liked the
spirit of the young cock-farthing. I am glad I
gave him five hundred pounds."

" Terres, are you mad? Gave him five hun
dred pounds?"

" I gave it. Why not ? The money is my
own. A man that can carry off his bride !
Indeed I have a great respect for him. I wish
I had given him a thousand."

" You are only trying to anger me. When
you have exhausted every other human being,
you try to torment me."

"Perhaps so ; quarreling with you after ordi.
nary people, is like aqua-fortis after brandy.
Sometimes I like the aqua-fortis."

" Did you give him five hundred pounds ? "

" I have said so."

"You had no right to."


" I think we had better not discuss either his
or my rights."

"Will you give me five hundred pounds?"

" If you dare run away with Faith Harri-

"I will do it."

" I defy you. My five hundred is quite safe.
Bah ! Keep your temper, Tilbert, if you want
to keep your good looks. You are positively
ugly this morning."

Then he flung himself out of the room with
a mouthful of such words as can only be print
ed with their first and last letters ; and Terres
met them with a laugh which echoed in his
angry heart long after he was out of the reach
of her voice.

But most men get more love than they de
serve, and when Graeme spoke to his sister in
the evening on the same subject, but in a more
reasonable manner, he found her just as sympa
thetic to its mood.

" Don t you think I ought to see Harribee
and acquit myself of any blame in Roland s
conduct ; I feel as if it were my duty, Terres."

" Have you at length made the acquaintance
of duty ? Why should you see Harribee ? "


"The Harribees have been the Graeme s
neighbors for nearly a thousand years. Matthew
Harribee and I have never been unfriends.
All our intercourse has been civil and honor

" Depend upon it, he thinks as badly of you
as he can do and I should judge he was able
to think very badly indeed of any one not cut
on his own pattern. I would not interfere with
the old whig. He is sure to regard your sym
pathy as an impertinence, and answer you ac
cording to your folly."

" I don t think so."

" Of course you don t. When a man asks
advice, it is not advice he wants, but approba-
bation. Let old Harribee and his troubles
alone. Why should you meddle or make in
the affairs of a man clearly heart-set against
you ? "

" Our land and lot has been cast among a
dour, stern set. It had been good for the
borders if the preachers had never seen them,
a sour ill-willy have their own way lot."

" There are many crooked sticks in this
world, and tempers. When a man is not
naturally amiable and conciliating, he ought to


be thankful if he can do his quarrelling at

Nevertheless, in spite of his sister s advice,
when Graeme next met Matthew Harribee he
stumbled into the mistake of expressing in a
blundering fashion his disapproval of Roland s
conduct. Matthew listened to him with a face
resentful and dark.

" There s nae need o words," he said. " If
the lass hadna been a wicked lass, she wouldna
hae foregathered hersel* wi ane o your name
and kind. She has gane to her ain. I hae
naething further to say anent it."

But Harribee s home was a dismal place dur
ing the weeks and months following this event.
The name of Agnes had been dropped from
the family speech, and the family prayers, but
it was not so easy to banish the memory of the
girl from the hearts of those who still loved her.
One day Faith found her mother in a passion of
grief before the big bible.

" See here, Faith ! " she sobbed, " my bairfl s
name has been crossed oot o The Book ! Oh
but your fayther is a hard man ! I wonder if
God hasna mair pity on us ! "

The poor woman sobbed all the night after


this discovery. She had been growing daily
weaker and weaker and less able to hide emo
tions which she had hitherto kept between God
and her own soul. But she made no complaint,
and the household had grown familiar with her
pale face, and silence, and weakness. One
Sunday she sat in her place at the family table
as usual, but she fainted during the long even
ing worship, and Matthew carried her up-stairs
in his arms.

She never came down them again. When
the first snow of the season was whitening the
fells and moors, she touched Matthew early one
morning and said " wake up, gudeman, and gie
me your farewell. I m going hame ! I m going
hame !"

It was a great shock to him. He had not
thought of her death. He was almost angry
at her eager anticipation of the change. Nor
was his grief untinged with remorse. He re
membered, when too late, how, in the satisfac
tion of his own anger, he had quite neglected
to share her sorrow for her lost daughter.

" You hae dropped my puir Agnes frae your
prayers, gudeman," she had said on her last
earthly sabbath, " but I ll soon be whar I can


pray for her, e en on the vera steps o the altar."
And he had seen the large tears roll down her
wan cheeks, and not heeded them. Now God
had wiped them away. She would need a com
forter no more.

He suffered very much, but it was not Mat
thew s way to complain of suffering. It was
God s will. In the end that always sufficed
for him. And there was still the little lad and
the farm to live for, and Faith. Faith was an
afterthought, for Faith had never needed
thought ; she was always the one to take it for
others. She had been her mother s right hand
and also her father s strength and counselor,
although Matthew never thought of her in that
light and would have been offended if any one
had dared to say so.

But it was in Faith s ear the dying mother
whispered her last desires. "You ll keep a
prayer in your heart for Agnes ; and you ll be
gude to your fayther, dear, and never let him
want any o his comforts and likings ; and Oh,
Faith ! I ll hae to leave my wee Davie wi
you ! "

"You can do it safely, mother. I ll ne er
say a cross word to him. He sail want nae


glide thing, nor any bit o pleasuring I can get
for him. Clasp my hand on the promise,
mother! Dear mother! sweet mother! Never
fear but Faith will do her duty."

And the dying woman fixed her gaze upon
her daughter s brave, true face, and so gazing
and smiling, she passed

"Above the smoke and stir of this dim spot
Which men call earth,"

into " the palace of eternity."



" Not as we will ! " the sound grows sweet
Each time our lips the words repeat ;
" Not as we will ! " the darkness feels
More safe than light when this thought steals
Like whispered voice to calm and bless
All unrest, and all loneliness.
" Not as we will ! " because the One
Who loved us first and best has gone
Before us on the road, and still
For us must all His love fulfill
" Not as we will !"


THE incurable ills are the imaginary ones.
Matthew s sorrow was now a real sorrow,
and he bore it with a grand and patient resigna
tion. Hearts take a deal of breaking that have
their help in God Almighty, and the inevita
ble loss was borne with submissive fortitude
because it was His will. Very quietly the
house settled itself into the new order of its
depleted number. And no one is indispensa
ble. This is one of the saddest and most humili-


ating of all natural reflections, but the heart
must admit its truth. The husband, the wife,
the father, the mother, the lover is taken away,
and the broken home-ranks draw closer together,
and the vacant place is in some way filled.

So the spring came again and the shepherd
went to the fells and folded his ewes and lambs.
He plowed the head-rig on his fields, and
flung the seed-grain over them. When the
summer was over the land, he swept the scythe
from right to left, and cut cleanly through the
full swath while it was yet wet with dew. In
the autumn he was first in the harvest-field,
and though he cared not for the in-coming rev
elry, when all were beating time with cadence
and the house was ringing around with the har
vest song,

"We have plowed ! we have sowed !
We have reaped I we have mowed !
We have brought home every load
With a hip! hip! Hurrah!"

he had his own song of gratitude, and was
happy in his increase.

And the child became more and more to his
heart. For he was a bold, loving little fellow,
with a nature like his sister Faith s, sweet and


strong. Every hope was centered in him. Mat
thew had always been a close man, watchful
over his outgo and income, but he now looked
with a double care after his flocks and crops.
On Harribee land and farm no slip-string
ways were tolerated. He knew the value of
every thing he possessed to a half-penny, and
he began to be regarded as an able man, one,
who if there were a fine cow or a drove of sheep
for sale, was certain to have the wherewith to

Faith heartily seconded his plans for her
brother ; though she did not tie her heart down
to this one object. Agnes was still in all her
thoughts. Anxiously she watched for a letter
from her ; but as weeks passed into months
and years, she ceased gradually to expect what
never came. Privately, Matthew had shared
her hope, but he never admitted it, even to his
own heart, and perhaps was only conscious of
how really a vital part of his life it had been,
by the keen pang with which he finally put the
girl forever out of his memory.

Faith also had her lover. She did not make
the circumstance one to which the whole house
hold pleasure and economy was to give place,


but, nevertheless, he was very dear to her. She
had loved Archie Renwick in her calm, stead
fast way, ever since she had thought of a lover ;
he only, had received from her any maidenly
encouragement. Archie was a distant cousin of
her mother s ; a jaunty, handsome young farm
er who was perhaps less deserving of her favor
than she supposed. But there appears to be a
perverse tendency in the best and strongest
women toward those men who are morally and
mentally weaker than themselves.

There had been no objection made to the
proposed match. Whatever Matthew thought
of the young man, he had no fault to find with
his family. The Renwicks, like the Harribees
had been great "riders," and also great saints;
and their present representative was inclined to
be boastful according to the mood he was in
about the men of both spirits. It was said
quietly that he liked to be chief of the young
chaps in the change-house, and that when he
was in that peculiar condition called market-
merry, he was equally ready to troll out a good
rieving song, or thrill the smoky rafters with
the solemn passion of a Covenanting battle-


But of these things Faith heard nothing ;
and she saw no danger in the rather riotous
good-nature which was partly real, and partly
affected. She never thought of his fine voice
and mettlesome violin playing leading him
astray. She was rather attracted than warned
by qualities so different from the sombre vir
tues of her father. Archie s father had left him
a few thousand pounds, and the running lease
of a good farm belonging to Lord Graeme. In
worldly matter he was well-to-do when he first
sought Faith for his wife ; but he had not even
held his own ; and border men had begun to
look dubiously on any business transaction
which involved a risk with Archie Renwick.

Matthew was quickly sensitive to this feeling,
and he began to consider how best to tie safely
in Faith s own power the sum of money he
intended to leave her. But he made no undue
haste in the matter. Faith had promised to
remain with David, until the child was well
over all the dangerous places of infantile years,
and sturdy and strong enough to take his way
over the fells to the parish school at Mosskirtle,
every day.

But years in which nothing particular happens


go by very rapidly ; and almost before either
the father or the sister realized the fact, the
child was in his seventh year, and talking with
eager enthusiasm of the wonderful times before
him the tramp every morning and evening to
and from Mosskirtle, with Gibby Foster and
Dick Musgrave, and the collie dogs which each
boy particularly cared for. It was evident the
children had their confidences, and plans, and
expectations, and Matthew and Faith smiled
at each other as they listened to them. They
were so innocent, so bright with hope, so full
of brave intentions.

" As soon as the snow is gone, I may start
for school, eh, fayther ? " he asked one stormy
night in February.

" You may that, Davie. And you sail hae
the bible, and the spelling-book, and the shorter
carritch I used mysel saxty years syne. I
hae them in a kist up-stairs."

" The spring willna be lang now, Dick says."

" Ay, though we re in the hole o* the winte)
yet, spring is na far a hint. And if its weather-like,
you sail gae wi me next market day to Hawick,
and I ll buy you a new slate, and some pencils,
and the like o thae things ; forbye a gude braid


bonnet, and a plaidie to hap yoursel in for
it s aye cauld-like on Kirtle brow."

The boy talked continually of this trip to
Hawick, and he looked forward impatiently for
the day. Often, during the night before it,
Faith heard him steal quietly from his bed, and
lift the curtain and peep out. " The stars are
a bright, and the lift clear," she heard him tell
himself, and then with a little sigh of content
ment in the knowledge, he laid him down, and
tried to sleep again.

The morning was fair, and not very cold.
He was full of excitement, and Matthew could
not help catching a ray or two from the boy s
sunny temper. They went off in the tax-cart
together, Faith and Phemie, and the too young
lassies, all standing in the open door to watch
them away Davie, rosy and noisy with delight,
and Matthew half-ashamed, and yet pleased
with the unusual atmosphere of a holiday.
And all the long morning Faith thought of
them with a smile, as she went about her

Early in the afternoon all was in spotless
order and she took out her big wheel and began
to spin. Never had Harribee house-place


looked more bright and attractive. It s great
oak rafters were full of goodly hams, and
flitches, and of bunches of sweet herbs. Its
walls were gay with copper and pewter utensils,
and with old delft and showy earthenware. Over
the high chimney-piece among the tall brass
candlesticks there were many rosettes of vari
ously-colored satin ribbons, framed and glazed
Matthew s market prizes for fine sheep and
cattle, and highly valued by him. A bright
fire of coal and peat blazed in the wide fire
place, and the spotless sanded floor was bright
ened by a rtrip of carpet, and a large hearthrug
of white sheep skins.

On this strip of carpet Faith stood beside
her spinning wheel, stepping to and fro with a
strong, alert grace, and singing as she did so
one of the most plaintive of all Scotch La

" There s nae Cov nant noo lassie,
There s nae Cov nant noo ;
The holy League and Cov nant,
Is a broken through.
There s nae Renwick noo, lassie ;
There s nae gude Cargill,
Nor holy Sabbath preaching
Upon the martyr s hill."

She was not at all conscious of the complain-


ing pathos in her voice. She was not thinking
of the Covenanters ; but her nature being seri
ous and poetic, she was rendering an old hymn
of her people with all the passionate regret
which inspired it.

Nor did she know how in her grand Doric
simplicity she suggested some household deity
of Homeric days ; for her dress was but a plain
gray winsey with a white lawn kerchief crossed
over her breast. She was now in her twenty-
seventh year, a perfect woman nobly planned.
Her face, though large and brown, was very
handsome, her stature tall and finely formed,
and her beautiful arms long, and strong, and
rapid in all their movements, were the very
embodiment of the cherishing idea the arms
to cradle helpless infancy, to bear up the weak,
and to pillow the sick a woman altogether
of ample being, such as are ordained for help
and consolation.

As she stepped backward and forward before
the big wheel, she glanced frequently out of
the window. The day had clouded after the
noon hour. She began to fear snow, and to
watch anxiously for her father and Davie s
return. The clock struck three. She walked


to the door and looked with wistful solicitude
over the hills. Then she resumed her work,
but without the song. In an hour she hurriedly
set her wheel aside and again looked out.
The air was very still, the sky low and gray ;
a feeling of alarm mastered all her facul

She went into the kitchen, and she saw that
the milking girls who were just leaving for the
byre, had their shawls over their heads ; so she
understood that they also expected a storm.
An old woman was smoking at the fireside,
Phemie, a servant who had been in Harribee
Home more than forty years, and in whom
Faith trusted with all her heart.

" Phemie, I see naught at a of fayther and
wee Davie ; and I m feared there s a storm
brewing. The dogs are fauldingthe sheep, and
they are ne er mista en."

Phemie rose and went to the door. Slowly
she turned her brown, wrinkled face to the
hills, and then to the moss. " There s a storm
coming up frae auiJ Solway, lass. There ll be
snaw and plenty o* it, in half an hour. I wish
the maister was by Johnstone s Scaur. It s a
vera bad bit, and his sight isna what it ance


was, though you daurna say the like o that to
him. He ll no hear tell o it."

Faith had turned away ere the sentence was
finished. In a few minutes she appeared with
her dress kilted and her plaid tightly folded
over her head and breast. "I m awa* to look
for them, Phemie. I hae a sickness at my heart
anent them. You ll keep the fires and a* else
as they should be and, oh Phemie ! Phemie !
think o .wee Davie, and pray God for their

" I se do my duty, Faith, but the purposes o
God canna be changed by an auld wife s tears.
Come woe, or come weal, we hae but to say,
His will be done !

Faith shook her head sorrowfully, and with
a heart sunk below all reasoning with, and which
would only answer her forebodings, she went
hurrying over the moor amid the first flakes of
the coming snow. Happily there was no wind,
and she knew her way without doubt or hesi
tation. It soon became dark, but yet all was
so still that she was sure if her father had been
upon the moor he must have heard and an
swered her repeated calls.

A rapid walk of two miles brought her to


Johnstone s Scaur, a narrow pass overhanging
a stony ravine nearly one hundred feet deep ;
and here she frequently paused, cautiously felt
her way to its extreme edge, and peering over,
loudly called her father s and brother s names.
There was a sort of sighing wind in this narrow
gorge, but Faith s ears detected upon it a
mournful tone of humar agony.

" Oh, my dear God They are at the Scaur
bottom ? "

She never reasoned with herself as to the
probability. She knew it with that certainty
with which we realize a dreaded presentiment.
Then she stood a moment to consider how most

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale → online text (page 3 of 15)