Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale online

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speedily to help them. She could go back half
a mile and enter the gorge from that cmd ; or,
she could go forward a mile and enter it from
the village. She chose the latter course At
the village she could get lights and help, and
she felt confident that both were needed.

When the decision was made she followed it
out with a swiftness and strength that was mar
velous to herself. Her soul took complete
possession of all her faculties. She scarcely
felt her own feet ; they were shod with brass>
and the angels who wait upon great emergen-


cies held her up. The darkness was light to
her. She never made a stumble or a false
step. The cold she never felt. It was not
snowing to her. Every pulse of her being was
bent toward one object help ! for the beloved
ones lying helpless and alone in storm and in
mortal agony.

Her head was bent to the whirling flakes,
but her soul was uplifted. She had come to an
hour of life in which she forgot all about creeds
or forms, and just clung to the very robe of her
Saviour. Running, and praying as she ran, she
soon reached the village change-house, and
with white lips and gleaming eyes she pushed
open the door and told her sorrowing need.

In a moment half a dozen men were pulling
their bonnets over their brows and reaching
down their plaids. The change-wife lit their
lanterns, and put into Faith s hands a flask of
whisky. " Tak it, for I m fearing it will be
sair needed," she sobbed. " Oh, the bonnie bit
bairn ! He was that sweet and merry this
afternoon. I ll ne er forget him."

In less than five minutes they were on the
road. They had not far to go. Half-way up
the gorge they found Matthew with his son in


his arms. The horse lay dead in its traces.
The child was motionless and senseless, but the
miserable father, with a broken arm and a ter
ribly crushed ankle, had managed to get his
boy into the neuk of his plaid, and was trying
to hirple homeward with him. And oh, how
great, how wonderful must have been the
human love that could even contemplate such
a walk !

But when Faith and help came, the agony he
was enduring mastered him. He saw her lay
his little Davie against her heart, and then he
too lost all consciousness. His friends made a
hammock of their plaids and carried him
home, but Faith, with her brother in her arms,
far outstripped them. When the men reached
the farm-house, bearing Matthew, Faith had
had little David in a hot bath, and was tenderly
rubbing his small motionless limbs before the
fire. But no sign of consciousness came into
the wide-open eyes, and when the doctor bent
over him he shook his head mournfully and
turned away to attend to the father s more
hopeful injuries.

Alas, what days and nights of agony fol
lowed ! To Matthew s broken limbs were


added acute inflammation of the lungs, and
severe rheumatic pains. He had borne all with
a silent patience which had its foundation on
the rock of his faith the will of God.

" Shall we receive good at the hand of the
Lord, and not evil ? " he said to Phemie
one night when his suffering was very great,
and the old Cameronian answered steadily:

"The evil is gude, if He send it; and
though He slay us, maister, we must e en trust
in Him."

Still Matthew s faith was to be tested by a
far hotter furnace. One day he was told that
David would live ; but the doctor said the
words mournfully, and Faith wept bitterly
behind her apron. Then he looked at old
Phemie, and she could but give him the com
fort she had herself always found sufficient :

" It is the Lord s doing, maister. He must
aye do what seems right in His ain sight."

" Bring Davie to me."

Then they brought the boy in. At the first
glimpse he seemed to be the same bright, lovely
boy whom he had so proudly taken with him to
Hawick that fateful day. But in another
moment Matthew had measured the depth of


his trial. The child would never be more than
a child. The light of intellect was gone from
his large blue eyes.

" Will he always be sae, doctor ? Is there nae

" There is no hope, Matthew."

" Then leave me ! A* you leave me ! Leave
me wi Him whose hand is sae heavy on me."

It was not so much a request as a bitter cry ;
the cry of the wounded human heart to its
maker. What anguish there was in it ! As
long as she lived, Faith remembered its broken
hearted appeal.

For two days the master of Harribee spoke
to no one. He neither ate nor drank, but
remained in solitude and darkness. The struggle
was over then. He had kissed the hand that
smote him, and been comforted above all mor
tal comprehension.

" It is a right, Faith," he said, calmly. " I
am mair than satisfied. My God has proved
me ; but I can say with brave Walter Myln, I
am corn ; I am no chaff. Neither with wind
shall I be blown awa , nor burst by flail ; but I
will baith abide. "

Then he talked long and solemnly with her


about the farm and the boy s future, and she
clasped his hands between her own, and said :

" Before your God, and my God, I promise,
you, fayther, I will never, never leave him. I
will die, ere I see a hair o his dear wee head
wranged. I will put no one s welfare or pleas
ure afore his. It is the truth in God s ain

" Not e en Archie Renwick ? "

" Not e en Archie Renwick."


M How brief Death s darkness ! But one faltering step
Into the night, and the Master s door
Stands wide in joyful welcome."

"Whoever may

Discern true ends here shall grow pure enough
To love them, brave enough to strive for them,
And strong enough to reach them, though the road be rough.*

"rVAJTH S solemn promise had been made in
J_ the exaltation of tenderness and solemnity
of self-abnegation natural to an hour so near
the horizon of the eternal life. But even when
she came to consider all it implied in a more
world-like and practical spirit, she felt no desire
to release herself from any obligation it either
warranted or implied. Her love for Davie had
much of the maternal element in it. From his
very birth she had cradled him in her arms, and
soothed all his baby pains and sorrows. Her


last words to her dying mother had been about
him, and she had stepped beyond the grave
with Faith s tender promises for the babe in
her ears.

The care had been one which had brought
love and joy with it. She had been as proud
of the boy s beauty, and spirit, and promising
intellect, as Matthew himself. Together they
had planned great futures for the child. Even
the university and the pulpit had been thought
of for him. His great calamity had only made
him a thousand-fold dearer. The finger of
God had touched him ; henceforward he was
an object of almost sacred affection.

Matthew was quite satisfied with the promise
Faith had made him. He asked no re-iteration
of it, but made his last testament in accord
with what they had agreed upon. For it was
now evident to all that he would not live long.
Some internal injury, which no physician could
place or relieve, was wasting his large frame

" I m wearin awa , Faith, to the land o the
leal," he said, one Sabbath night, as the house
hold were gathering round his big chair for
"the portion." "I ll put aff my week-day


claithes for the raiment o the eternal Sabbata
vera soon, I m thinkin ."
" Ay, fayther, but

" There s nae sorrow there,
There s neither pain nor care
And the day is aye fair
In the land o the leal ! "

" Nane o its beauties I m forgetting, Faith,
forbye I ll see your mither and the bairns
again. There s mair to go to than to leave.
Come near to me, lads and lasses, for my voice
is sair failed, and I hae a word to say to you
afore I gae a road I sail never return. My
Maister has called me, and I m going to Him.
Tak notice that I bear testimony this night :
He has been a gude Maister to me. Though
He has slain me, my heart loves Him and trusts
in Him. Sae, tak service wi* Him and dinna
put aff your duty. For, if you become the
servants o the diel, you ll find that sin is the
fountain o sorrow, and that punishment will
follow hard upon every sin. And the laws o
God require no constable ; they execute them-
sel s.

" And dinna be telling lies to your ain souls,
and saying wi Armenians and such like,that the
last minute o the twelfth hour is enou for


mercy. They ll be aye speaking to you anent
the penitent thief on the cross. They ll say
mair than they hae any call to say. There s
nae doubt i my mind he was penitent long
afore he met Christ on Calvary. We ken
naething o his previous life, but he knew a*
aboot the life o Christ, or he wouldna hae said,
He hath done naething amiss ; and he be
lieved in His Messiahship, or he wouldna hae
said, Lord, remember me when thou comest
into thy Kingdom . Mind this also : Christ s
ain law was, Not every one that saith Lord,
Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom o Heaven.
But he that doeth the will of my Father who is in
Heaven. Weel, then, Christ wouldna break his
ain law,sae we may be sure he kent a* aboot the
man hanging at his side, kent him to be a doer o
His will. Off the vera brow o Calvary you re
no to be takin a fause lope to yoursel s.

" I m weary, noo. Whiles I hae spoke a bit
sharp to you, and whiles I may hae been a bit
unjust wi* you, forgie me at this hour."

His voice had fallen to a whisper. He was
quite exhausted, but he feebly stretched out
his large, gaunt hand, and they each took it in
silence as they left the room.


He had said more words than he intended to
say, but none of them touched the hearts of
his servants as his steadfast, lingering farewell
gaze into each of their faces did. It had the
same effect upon all it recalled in a moment
their hours of labor together in the fields, and
the threshing-floor, and up the hills among the
sheep ; and it gave to each of them alike a ren
dezvous upon the hills of God, and beside the
still waters of Paradise.

He saw them no more. During the next few
days there was a singular light upon his face,
the light of the rising, not the setting sun, and
one night, when only Faith was watching by
him, he disappeared into the cloud of death.
So he was gathered to his forefathers in the
lonely yard on the windy hill-side, and Faith was
alone with her brother in Harribee Home.

She was in every legal sense the inheritor of
the farm ; but her father s request to Faith had
far more authority than any legal right. She
regarded herself simply as administrator for her
brother. There had been some slight improve
ment in Davie s condition, and Matthew had
built some, perhaps unreasonable, hopes, upon
it. Whatever could be done for the boy, she


had pledged herself to do ; yes, though the last
acre of Harribee was sold for the purpose. All
was hers in trust for Davie s relief or happi
ness ; and the trust appeared to her as a simple
act of justice. Her whole soul accepted it.

It was in the early summer Matthew Harribee
died, just when the blossoms were falling off
the fruit trees, and the meadow grass was
growing long and sweet for the mowers. The
work of the farm went on with little inter
ruption. The servants were well trained, and
Faith had always taken a very large share in
the management of the farm. The men and
women came naturally to her for advice and
direction. She was quiet and positive, and had
the serviceable art of winning the confidence
and liking of those who worked at her bidding.

The house was strangely still, but the daily
life went on. There was an unusually prosper
ous lambing season, and the haymaking and
harvest-time were equally satisfactory. Faith
watched every thing without seeming to watch.
She was up the hills, and in the fields suffi
ciently often to prevent eye-service; and the
dairy and the household were as profitable, and
as spotless, as they had always been.


Everywhere she went, Davie was with her.
To climb the hills and wander among the
sheep and lambs, at her side, was his delight.
He did not readily weary, and his step was
lighter and more rapid than Faith s. In the
dairy, and in the garden, about the house and
at the kirk, he was her constant companion a
beautiful, patient, harmless boy, that every one
pitied and loved.

Every one but Archie Renwick. In his
heart there had long been growing a wretched
anger against the child. He looked upon Faith
as his own, and he resented her devotion to the
motherless boy, even when he was a baby, to be
walked to sleep or dandled upon her knee. If
Faith were tired, or had a headache, he counted
it a fault against the child. If she were too
busy to give him all the time and attention he
wanted he put his own deprivation down
against the same innocent cause. He was
growing straitened in circumstances, and at
every fresh pinch his anger was greater at the
delay in their marriage.

For Faith s portion was in ready money, and
it seemed more and more desirable to him.
During the season preceding Matthew s death


he had been urging her continually for the
redemption of her promise : and Matthew had
reluctantly admitted, that " Davie might, may
be, manage atween Harribee and Shepherd s
Bush." "As for mysel ," he added, "I ll aye
miss you, Faith. There s nane to fill your
place ; but I ll see you whiles."

While affairs were at this point, the fatal
accident occurred. At first Archie s sympathies
had been keenly awakened, but he was essen
tially a selfish man, and he soon began to find
Faith s devotion to her dying father and help
less brother a very serious interference with his
own pleasure and wishes. When Davie s real
condition was made known to him, he was
shocked at the wicked thoughts which came
spontaneously into his heart. He did not
reflect that years of selfish jealousy had already
conceived them, and that they were ready to
spring into life at the first evil opportunity.

For he had long felt Davie s existence to be
altogether unnecessary and inconvenient. In
a vague kind of way he had been in the habit
of thinking, " if Faith had no brother." He
seldom cared, or dared, to follow out the
thought, b"* thr It crouched in some cham-


ber of his soul, a moral poison, slowly perme
ating every kindly and honorable feeling.

After Matthew s death, the regret became a
more tangible one. He found himself as he
walked over the fells, counting the Harribee
flocks, and wishing, " that puir, daft lad didna
stand between him and Faith." He said
Faith, but he meant the flocks and the farm.
When he visited Harribee Home and saw
Davie perched in the master s chair, he was
angry. As Faith s husband he would feel him-
self entitled to the seat. The attitude of the
servants was a vexation to him. He fancied he
had their jealousy and dislike, and that in his
presence they made their attentions to Davie
offensively prominent. He was even irritated
at Faith because she saw none of these things,
and even listened to such complaints as he
ventured to make with a decided lack of sym

One evening in the early part of the Septem
ber, following her father s death, Faith was in
the barleyfield among the reapers. Archie had
promised to help them, but he had fallen into
a temptation the previous night, and lingered
so long over Hawick market dinner that he


had been unable to keep his word. His absence
had troubled Faith, for she divined the cause
of it. But just when she had accepted the dis
appointment she straightened herself from the
sheaf she had been binding, and looking over
the hills saw him coming.

In a moment all her anger was gone ; and
Archie could not help thinking how beautiful
she looked among the yellow corn, with her
broad hat, and bare arms and kilted gown.
" There s vera few men worthy o her," he mut
tered ; but among the few he certainly put
himself first of all. And in mere physical
beauty he was Faith s equal. In all the country
side, his size and strength, his handsome ruddy
face and jovial manner inclined women to smile
upon him. But pleasing as his countenance
was it betrayed a weak soul, and God knows
how easy it is for weakness to become

He believed that he loved Faith, and per
haps in all his best moments he did love her.
He believed that he had never been a moment
influenced in his choice of her by the reputed
ready-money wealth of Matthew Harribee, or
by the thought that after Agnes flight there


was only Faith and the boy to divide all. As
for the darker thought which haunted his soul,
after Davie s accident, it was not until this very
hour he frankly acknowledged its existence to

Yes, he loved Faith, though he often felt her
moral and mental superiority to himself to be
an irritation and an annoyance. But that
evening as he watched her raise her stately
figure among the barley sheaves, and shade her
eyes to see his approach the better, he was
very happy in the sight of her beauty and in
the knowledge of her love.

The pleasant and innocent feeling lasted but
a few moments. A small hand was lifted, and
Faith stooped and kissed the little fellow lying
among the loose grain, and when he saw the
tender act he hated the child as he had nevei
done before.

" Mair than a thousand sheep, moor, and
meadows, and corn land, a gude house and
garden, forbye lying siller and an idiot
between me and them! It s jist ridic lous!
Faith will hae to find her senses or lose her
lad ! That s a aboot it ! "

But he met her smiling with outstretched


hands, and Faith, who loved him with all her
heart, took them with a proud and gracious
gladness. Then he compelled himself to speak
to Davie, but the boy pushed his hand away,
and with a low cry clung closer to Faith s

" He grows queer every day, Faith."

"You re a wrang there, Archie. Folk say
that he s a deal mair noticing than he was.
When the harvest is o er I m in the mind to
tak* him to Edinburgh or maybe to London
itsel . I hae heard tell o some wonderfu doc
tors there."

" And they ll be charging wonderfu prices ;
you may be sure o that."

" Weel, an* if they do, Davie isna poor. His
fayther left siller enough to pay the best o*

The words were not lost on Archie, but he
did not think it prudent to say any more at
that time. And the head man with the loaded
wagon came near, and Davie s delight was to
mount the topmost sheaf and hold the reins
while Sandy led the horses. So there was a
little pleasant excitement in helping him to
climb to his post, and in watching his childish


glee as they started with an hurrah from
the reapers.

Then it was Archie s hour. The soft Sep
tember gloaming was in itself an atmosphere
of enchantment. The robins and thrushes
were trying to recapture their spring songs,
though, alas, they had left their best notes
upon the hawthorn bushes. Brown butterflies
were displaying their velvets on the scarlet
poppies ; there was the ancient, ancient music of
murmuring bees coming laden from the heather.
Every sight and sound was conducive to love,
and to sweet confidence, and to trusting hope.

As they walked slowly home from the har
vest field, Archie pleaded his own rights, and
he pleaded them well. Never had he seemed
to Faith so handsome and so sensible. At the
house door she asked him in to supper, and
while Phemie laid the table she went to her
room, and came back looking wonderfully
handsome in a black gown, and a white neck
erchief and apron. Archie s eyes expressed
his admiration. He went to meet her with a
kiss. Then he led her to the table, and he
took himself the large chair which Matthew
had been wont to occupy.


As he was settling himself comfortably in
it, Phemie entered the room with the tea.
He had never been a favorite with Phemie,
and this act roused in her a deep anger. She
took Davie s hand and led him into the
kitchen, and she was crying over the lad, when
she heard Faith asking for her brother.

" I thocht young maister wad only be in the
the way," she answered sullenly, and with a
pointed emphasis on the word maister.

"You knew better, Phemie. Davie, come
wi me."

But the child took a, stubborn fit, and would
not go back to the house-place. " He s o er
much sense to go ; he bides whar he s welcome
and wanted, * said Phemie; and then there was
an angry scene, which in the end left Phemie
triumphant, and Faith tearful and trembling.
It gave Archie the opportunity he had been

" Faith, my ain dear lassie," he said ten
derly, " you have far too much to do, and to
bear, what wi that crabbit auld woman, and
that weary boy, no to speak of a the charges
anent the farm wark. It is high time you let
me lift the weight o it. There s been changes


that neither o us could foretell or prevent, and
what are we waiting for now, my ain dear one ?"

" Fayther isna cauld in his grave yet, Archie.
You ken I wouldna marry any way till a full
year be come and gane."

" Weel, I must be getting a ready for that
time, then. What s your pleasure in the mat
ter noo, Faith ? The house at Shepherd s
Bush isna much to speak of, and it will need a
deal o siller and wark afore it is fit for your
foot. For, oh, Faith ! I love you dearly, lass.
I love you dearly ! And I hae not a thocht in
my heart, but to make you happy."

"Dinna spend labor and siller you canna
afford, Archie."

" But I m doin weel, Faith. I m doin right
well ; though maybe now you wouldna care to
leave your auld hame. Harribee is a bonnie
and a comfortable place, and you would hae to
rent it to strangers, and if you lighted on an
ill-tenant, that would be waur than nae tenant
at a . Sae you see, there s much to talk of,
and to settle for; and above all, there s this
charge o the boy and the farm they are too
much for you ! "

Faith was a clear-headed woman, if she was


in love. She understood quite well all that
was meant and included in Archie s words. It
was a virtual proposal, that after her year s
mourning was over, she should marry her lover,
bring him to Harribee, and make him its real
master. In some respects the proposal met
her desire. She did not wish to leave her old
home, and she was very averse, indeed, to
remove Davie from it. Its walls not only gave
him the shelter most natural, but also insen
sibly procured for him a certain amount of
respect from the servants of the place, as its
owner. She was determined, then, that if
Archie came to Harribee, he should do so with
the clearest understanding of the terms upon
which his nominal authority rested.

So she answered steadily: "The lad never
wearies me. As for the farm, I hae the vera
best o trained servants. Phemie is auld and a
bit wilfu , but truth and worth hae grown wi
her, and I wouldna ken my ain life wanting her.
When it is right for me to marry, I ll keep my
troth wi you, and I dinna think badly o f your
coming to Harribee if Davie is willing. For
you ken, the house is Davie s, and I am only
here as his guardian and trustee."


u That is fair nonsense, dearie. Davie is just
an incapable. The law would pass him by wi
a maintenance ; and the house, and farm, and
plenishing, and stock are a your ain."

" Not a rap in the house ! Not a foot o
land ! Not a lamb on the hills ! Naething is
mine!" said Faith, positively. "And if my
life were needfu to Davie, my life isna my ain,
either. There are twa blessed souls in heaven
that hae my promise for that much. Archie,
my dear, dear lad, you surely willna be the ane
to ask me to break it ! "

" No, I ll ne er ask you to break it ; but
Faith," and he spoke almost angrily, " it is a
nonsense ! Davie will ne er be any thing but
an innocent, and I dinna like to stand second
to him."

"You stand in your ain place first, and alane.
I never had a lover before you, I shall never
hae any after you. But Davie I took frae my
dying mother s breast wi a solemn charge, and
frae my dying fayther s hand wi a solemn
promise. That charge, and that promise I will
break for nane living. If you can share it wi
me, if you can help me to keep it, I ll be a
happy woman, and a faithful wife to you. If


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale → online text (page 4 of 15)