Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale online

. (page 8 of 15)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale → online text (page 8 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ows. And they could only have been slices of
the golden cake ; the offer for Shepherd s Bush
presuppcsed a handsome capital for stocking
and working the land.

These thoughts kept Renwick in a constant
state of irritation. Every month since his mar
riage he had slipped lower and lower, and he
was now dependent in a great measure on his
wife s skill as a dressmaker. The poor woman
worked hard for small thanks. When Archie
was drunk he openly regretted his folly ; and
Archie was very often drunk. He never had a
penny, but he had two-pence worth of thirst
with it ; and over his whisky he cursed his ill

" Some one," he said, " has aye stood be
tween me and gude fortune a silly lad,
and then a silly lass dang the baith o*
them ! "

Faith heard how things were going with him.
No one came to Harribee to buy butter or eggs,
but they had a story to tell of Renwick. They
thought it would please Faith to hear of his
down come, and she was sorry that they thought
so badly of her. She held her peace on the


subject, even from good, and neither blamed
nor pitied him. " Under no circumstances,"
she said to herself, " will I interfere in his life
again, either by word or deed."

But how little do we know of the future !
Five years after Archie s marriage, there was
one of those epidemics of fever which fifty
years ago frequently devastated Scotch villages.
We call them preventable fevers now, but at
that day, and much later, they were undoubt-
ingly laid to the charge of a merciful God.
Mosskirtle suffered in nearly all its households.
In this season of trouble and poverty, Faith
was the mainstay of the village. Her scrupu
lously clean house upon its breezy height
escaped, as it had always done ; and when the
fever had run its course there were five orphan
boys and girls at Harribee Home. They had
been ill, too, and Faith had brought them there
for pure air, and good food.

Then there was a fresh outbreak in a valley
settlement a mile from the village, and Archie
Renwick and his wife were among the stricken.
The news came to Faith in that casual way
which, in spite of its commonplace atmosphere,
is often striking and dramatic. Her head shep-


herd came into the outer kitchen where she was
directing the churning, and said :

"Annie and Archie Renwick hae the fever.
They are baith oot o their senses ; and there is
neither bite nor sup in their house." Then
he lifted the wooden pail for which he
had come, and went out without another

Neither did Faith make any remark. Yet
every word had fallen with a strange distinct
ness upon her ear and heart. As she stood still
and silent among the churning-women, she was
considering what she ought to do for in this
world, even the best of motives need consid
eration, and the best of actions need some

" Out of their senses, and not a bite or sup
in the house ! Surely I didna get that mes
sage for naething whatever folk say, I must do
the thing I ought to do."

For her duty was clear to her, though it was
a very painful one. She called Phemie and
told her what she had heard, and what she
intended to do ; and the old woman answered,
"you will tak your own way, Faith. You will
get trouble and ware gude siller, and at the end,


you will find that doing a kindness to ill folk is
like throwing water in the sea."

" Ay weel, Phemie, we must keep mind o*
Christ ; he did good to the evil and the un-
thankfu ."

" Even sae. But he was Christ ; and you are
just Faith Harribee. I m never against you
helping the Lord s ain, and the little children
that ken neither right nor wrang, but if I was
a vera saint which the Searcher o* Hearts kens
I m far from thinking mysel I wouldna lift a
feather weight o His displeasure from Archie
Renwick. It s gude and right for the sinner to
feel the hand o the smiter ; and I hae seen folk
get a part o the trouble they were o er keen to
ward aff from whar it was sent. Sae, you
needna be asking me to do this or that for
Renwick. I m no caring to bear any share o his

" I think it is my duty to help the Renwicks,
Phemie, and I shall do so."

" To be sure you will. I kent that at the first
sough o your duty. Folks mistak their will
for their duty, whiles."

Then Phemie went off to the churning, and
Faith went for the doctor, and the old woman


who had helped her in previous cases; and she
took with her in her tax-cart, whatever she
thought was needful. But she did not remain
herself. She reflected that when Archie and
Annie became conscious, it would doubtless be
very painful for them to see her.

One morning, however, when they were nearly
well, she went purposely to visit them ; and
purposely also, she avoided any display of the
prosperity that had so steadily followed her.
In the plain winsey dress and plaid which she
wore when on the fells among the sheep, she
entered Archie s small cottage. It was a poor,
a pitifully poor place, nearly destitute of furni
ture, quite destitute of every comfort.

Archie sat cowering over a few smouldering
peats. Annie s arms were across the bare table,
and her pale, wasted face was buried in them.
" Faith ! " said Archie, coloring painfully and
stumbling to his feet " Faith ! Faith ! Miss

" Gude morning, Annie. Gude morning,
Archie. I am come to see you as a sister
might come. I hae heard how ill you hae been,
and what trouble of a kinds you hae come
through, and I want to help you if you ll let


me " and then she drew a chair to Annie s
side, and laid her hand upon the poor woman s

Archie kept his eyes fixed upon the smoking
peats, Annie cried softly and clasped Faith s
hand. " You hae worn out your chance here,
Archie, but there are braw lands beyond the
sea, and braw chances in them for a lad like
you. You will do fine yet. I know you will.
Sae, I hae brought wi me two hundred pounds.
If you will tak the loan o it, and just begin
life o er again in a new world, you will make
me a very happy woman. Look up, Renwick \
You used to hae a brave heart. Will you
tak your bonnie wife and go to America?
You ll win back a you hae lost, and mair

" Oh, Archie, say you ll gae ! Archie, we ll
be happy and weel-to-do yet ! " and the poor
woman went to his side, and whispered en
treaties into his ear.

" It s a sair downcome tome, Faith. I ne er
thocht to tak your charity, lass."

" Dinna pain me by talking sae foolish-like,
Archie. It is only a loan I am offering you.
When you can weel spare it, I ll no refuse to


tak it back again. Annie, tak the silver, my
dear lass ! I ll leave it wi you."

"Na, na; I ll tak it from your ain hand,
Faith. It is luck, silver from your hand. And
wi God s help it will mak a new man o me."

" Thank you, Archie."

She offered him her hand, and with a shamed-
faced reluctance he took it. Then some con
versation followed, in which it was decided
that Archie should start at once for Liverpool
and make all necessary investigations.

" For the sea voyage will do you baith a
world o gude after the fever," said Faith," and
while you are awa, Archie, I ll take Annie to
Harribee wi me.

In about a week, there was a very sanguine
letter from Archie. He had fallen in with some
men from Ohio. He had listened with wonder
to their descriptions of western life. He was
certain that he had found the very place
suitable for the new opportunity he was to

And Faith though her heart was pained by
the selfish complacency of the letter encour
aged and strengthened Annie at every point
for the strange experiences she was likely to


meet with. Above all, she filled two boxes
from her own abundant stores of linen and
winsey ; and sent her away to her new life,
full-handed, happy, and hopeful."



" The only way in this world to get peace is to make it out of

" The trifles of our daily lives,

The common things scarce worth recall,
Whereof no visible trace survives,
These are the mainsprings after all."

THOSE who have ever spent a day in the
Border uplands, when there has been
" clear shining after rain," can never forget the
ineffable sense of freshness and purity, of some
rarer and diviner atmosphere, of some nearer
intelligence with nature that was its special
attribute. Faith Harribee had been familiar
with the condition all her conscious life, yet
every such day was a fresh revelation to her.
She had never heard the jargon of the present
generation about nature and fine scenery;
Wordsworth was not even a name to her, but
she had David s glowing words in her heart,
and she needed no better interpreter.

She had felt "the wings of the morning " in


the fresh winnowing winds. She had seen ol(?
earth laugh with the incalculable laughter of a
spring-day, until she understood how Israel s
singer said, "the hills clapped their hands with
joy." She knew too, how he had felt when he
sang of the marching cattle and sheep upon a
thousand hills ; and she was recalling this very
passage one exquisite morning in June, as she
stood upon The Preacher s Stone, and looked
down and away, over the billowy hills where
the great flocks of ewes and lambs were feeding.

There was a fresh, merry wind, and she
watched it blowing little white hollowc in the
dun fleeces of the cheep. It fluttered her own
dress, and got into the nooks of her plaid, and
blew backward her gipsy bonnet ; and she
stood there, as glad in it, as if she were some
young tree feeling the joyful presence in all
its branches.

It was seldom she climbed as high as the
Preacher s Stone. There, she was in one of
earth s sweet unplanted places, and knee-deep
in brackens she stood. It was mainly her own
land she overlooked. The flocks and cattle
upon it were her own. The ripening grain
was hers, and the long meadow grass. In the


hollow, far down, she could see the gray walls
of Harribee, standing amid a blowing drift of
white fruit blossoms. Oh how beautiful ! how
happy ! how wealthy ! was the whole fair pic
ture. " The earth is full o the goodness o
the Lord," She said the words with all her
soul, and the wind carried them joyfully with
it, through space.

She was about to descend, when she heard a
rustling behind her, and with a rush and a
bound two fine dogs came dashing through the
long brackens. She spoke to them, and they ran
to her side, suffering her caresses, but looking
restlessly behind them, until in a few moments
Terres Graeme appeared. Then with quick
barks of joy they ran backward to meet her.

She was looking extremely handsome in a
short dark dress of fine merino, and a black
satin scarf across her shoulders. The wind
had given her cheeks a color which it was a
joy to see, and the walk a brilliancy to her
eyes which made them singularly attractive.

" Why, Faith Harribee ! " she cried, "what a
pleasure to meet you up here ! I thought I
had the world to myself up at this height."

" I was beguiled wi the fine air : climbing is


easy this morning, and whiles I like to come
up here. I can see things no to be seen in
any other place, I think."

" You see your own share of earth all to-
gether house and land, and flocks."

" That is a vera pleasant sight, but I hope
I see mair than that. From where we are
now, I can look back twa hundred years, and
see Richard Cameron standing here, and a
around him, the hill sides thick wi men and
women listening to the word they had ne er
heard before."

" Oh but there were plenty of chapels all
through the dales."

" Papist chapels ? Yes, and the service o
them in Latin, and the priest as fond o rid
ing as any riever in their congregation, and the
hale thing just a farce o religion. Hundreds
stood around, and below this stone that kent
nae mair anent Calvary and the great sacri
fice, than they kent anent the Druids and
their rings o standing stones. I like to think
o* that great preacher telling the wonderfu*
news to the rough men booted and spurred
wha stood near by him. He must hae told the
story weel to make them give up the things


that were not only their hale living, but
their greatest pleasure. My fayther had a
picture o him ; a big man in a black gown wi
a face that folks be to mind. He preached
righteousness to them and they lifted nae mair
cattle, and went nae mair raiding over the bor
der. He gied them the bible in a life-like
tongue, and the swords that had been sharp
against decent farming men, holding their ain,
he turned against the enemies o the Lord, and
the Solemn League and Covenant."
" He must have been a great man."
" Ay, and he slept in caves, and preached on
the bleak hill-sides to the brave border folks ;
sae then, he was a true brother" o Him wha
had not whar to lay his head."

They stood for a few moments in silence,
then Terres said, " I see some children among
the sheep."

" Ay, they are Ral and Tim Gibson, and
Janet Maxwell. Their faythers and mothers
died in the fever ; and they too came vera near
dying. But they are braw and strong now, and
doing weel."

" You took two other girls also ? "

The widow Lariston s gir-ls, Puir things \


They had a sair tussle back to life again ; but
they are like to get the upper hand o their
sickness now."

" Have you adopted them, Faith ? My
brother heard so, and he thought it was so
noble-hearted of you."

"Adopted them ! Na, na. What for would
I adopt them ? The Harribees arena noble,
like the Graemes, but they hae a gude back
count, and they hae been aye their own land
lords ; weel-born, and weel-to-do, under bidding
to no man. These lads and lasses are cotter s
bairns. I couldna mak gentle folks o them,
even if I wanted to do sae foolish a thing, and
I ll no spoil gude working men and women.
There is plenty in Harribee to gie them shel
ter and food, and clothes suitable, and I sail
see that the lads are made gude farmers or
shepherds, and the lasses gude housewives and
spinners. Forbye they sail a learn how to
read their bible, and write a letter, and cast
their ain bit counts. That is the hale o my
plan for them. What for would I be adopting
bairns of whose forbears I ken naething ? The
Harribees are fine old stock ; I m no the woman
to risk poorer grafts on it."


"You are wise, and kind, both ; besides if
you will allow me to name the subject you
have a sister and she may have children. I feel
some interest in her rights, seeing that she
married into my family."

" You hae touched a subject that is never far
awa from my ain thochts. I would to God
I knew whar my bonnie Agnes is ! If I had
any hope of finding her in London, I would go
and seek her, and bring her to her ain home

" If she would come. You must take that
into your thoughts also, Faith. For my own
part, I do not think she would."

Faith looked anxiously into Miss Graeme s
face. " What do you ken anent her ? " she
asked. "You be to speak plainly now."

They had begun to walk slowly down the
fell, and Terres took advantage of the rough
road to delay her answer. But when she spoke,
it was with a decision that left no doubt be
hind it.

" I know nothing whatever of Agnes Graeme.
I will tell you all I know of Roland Graeme.
He is the natural son of my eldest brother, Wil.
Ham. William was engaged to marry Lady


Ann Lenox. He was to marry her at Christ
mas ; he went abroad in the summer, and he
never came home again. Shortly before Christ
mas he wrote to me, declaring he could not
keep his troth to Lady Ann, and asking me to
give her a letter which he inclosed.

" But he must haehad a gude reason ? "
" He had become infatuated with an Italian
singer and actress. He refused to give her up ;
yet he was well aware that the brothers Lenox
would hold him to account for their sister s
wrong. So he vanished from life as far
as we are concerned, with the woman he had
chosen. For ten years we heard nothing of
him, excepting an assurance from his lawyer at
intervals that he was well and contented. Then
one day, Tilbert got a letter. It was dated
from an obscure Greek town. William said
he was ill, and he urged his brother not to lose
a moment in coming to him. But though he
hasted night and day, he was too late. Wil
liam was dead. Roland s mother had been
dead a year, and the house and effects were in
charge of a very honest old priest. He had
taken good care of Roland also, and he gave
up with him all the papers and personal prop-


erty of his father. Many people would have
left the boy where he was."

" Oh, that would have been cruel ! "

" Lord Graeme thought so. He brought him
on to Castle Graeme. He invested every shil
ling that his father s personal effects realized,
for him. He gave him a good education, and
if Roland had taken his advice and gone into
the army, it would always have been possible
for us to have given him a certain degree of
countenance and help. For he is a Graeme,
though on the sinister side of the escutcheon;
and I was rather fond of the lad. He had no
need to run away with Agnes Harribee. We
thought the marriage a very suitable one for

" But my fayther was dead set against it. I
never in a my life saw fayther sae dour and
set anent any thing. Agnes kent he would
never forgive her, living or dying, and she ne er
sought his favor puir lass! puirbonnie lass! "

"We have only heard of Roland once since
he left us, and that in a casual and unexpected
way. My brother went one night to a fine theater
in London, and he was singing and acting. He
said Roland certainly did both in a most


wonderful way, and the court and the city
were all wild about him. After the perform
ance was over, Tilbert waited to speak to him.
He would not see his uncle s offered hand, and
when he called him Graeme, he answered, You
mistake me, sir, I have abandoned the name, and
forgotten all that it binds me to. He had in
deed taken, in public at least, his mother s name,
an Italian one, which I have forgotten. That
is all I know about Roland, Agnes was not
spoken of at all. But she has doubtless lived
in that peculiar circle all these years. It is one
of constant change and excitement. She can
not now have one feeling in sympathy with her
old life. I think you would be hurt and disap
pointed if you should see her."

I am vera certain that I should not. You
must na say one word o suspicion anent Agnes.
I care na where she has been living, nor among
what kind o people, Agnes is of the seed of
the righteous, born in the household of faith,
an inheritor of all the promises He makes, even
unto the fourth generation of those that love
and serve Him. If she has wandered to the
ends o the earth she will come back hame as
surely as the wandering son in the parable came


hame. And mind this, he was always the son;
in the far country, in rioting and in hunger,
never less than the son. I m no feared for
Agnes. She is always God s daughter. If a
around her were doing wrang, Agnes would do
right ; she couldna help it, she wouldna want
to help it. David, and mair gude folks than
David, hae had whiles to dwell among sons o*
Belial, but I would not believe ane o the seed
o Adam man or woman who said Agnes
had done aught against her fayther s God, or
her ain womanhood."

" Oh, Faith, what a grand thing it must be
to have love like yours ! If your face would
flush, and your eyes shine for me, as they do
this moment for Agnes, I would count myself
a happy woman. No wonder Tilbert is willing
to spend his life trying to win you."

" Come into Harribee and take a glint at
Agnes. I hae her picture. You canna look at
it and hae one ill thocht o her." She quite
ignored the remark about Lord Graeme, and
Terres did not think it prudent to continue the

After their breezy walk they were both a
little weary, and when Faith said, " take oft


your bonnet, Miss Graeme, and I ll hae a cup
o tea made, and there s new cakes and fresh
butter, and as much thick cream as it likes you
to drink," Terres answered, " That is just what
I desire. I am hungry, and I long for the tea.
And oh how pleasant is this sunny room ! "

Then Faith doffed her plaid and bonnet, and
set the tray with her best china, and brought
out all her dainties. And the two women en-
joyed the good things and talked over again
the probabilities of Roland s career and the
life of Agnes.

When the entertainment was over, Terres sat
still. She had something to say to Faith, and
she had not yet found her opportunity. While
she was considering how to introduce the sub
ject one of the orphan children came to Faith
for some directions. When she had left the
room Miss Graeme said, " that fever in Mosskir-
tle cost you something, Faith."

" I shall get back mair than the cost some
way or other. The bairns are industrious and

"I was thinking of something else some-
thing I heard. May I ask you if it is true ? "

" Surely."


" Did you really give Archie Renwick two
hundred pounds? Did you really take care of
him and Annie while they had the fever?"

" I sent Gammer Jariston to take care of
them. I never said to mortal kind that I had
given them two hundred pounds."

" But Renwick went up and down the coun
try side bragging of how much you yet thought
of him ; yes, and the night before he left with
his wife for Liverpool, he met my brother and
he flung the same boast in his face, and Til-
bert, only that the boor was so white and weak,
would have horsewhipped him for it."

" I was mista en in Archie Renwick. I am
vera sorry he had sae little care for my name,
and for what bad-hearted folks would say. I
am sorry, sorry to hear tell o this. Puir weak
lad ! He was aye fain to be boasting o some
thing or ither."

" Faith, did you love him ? "

" Ay wi a* my heart."

" How is it then that you do not regret him ?
That you are so happy ? "

" Because, I kent that naething could hap
pen me but what God ordered. If it had been
His will that I should hae married Renwick,


naething, nor any body on earth, could hae hin
dered me doing sae. If it wasna His will, I
didna want my ain will and sorrow wi it."

" But you must have suffered ? "

"Ay, I suffered. But I had nae time to think
o my suffering. If I did my duty every day I
was that tired at night I hadna the power to
keep awake and fret myself. And by and by
the weary ache all went, and I was comforted
though I scarcely knew how."

" I had a lover once, Faith. It is twenty
years ago. My brother made me give him up
because he was poor. Do you remember the
night Lord Graeme saved you from the quak
ing moss ? That very night I met him in Kir-
tie Wood and spoke to him, and he passed me
without a word. I have been tormented ever
since with love and chagrin, and a great long
ing to see him, and yet a terror of meeting one
so indifferent. He is rich now, and of course
thinks that because I am still unmarried, I wish
to renew the old tie. Alas ! he does not
know that I have remained unmarried for his

" You should hae put that trouble behind you
lang syne. Troubles are like medicines, they


arena intended to live upon. Puir living they

" How can I put it behind me ? "

" Just tell your ain soul that if it isna God s
will for you to marry the man, you dinna want
him. And get some work for your hands. And
go out in the sunshine. And try and find a
bit of loving-kindness to do to some other un
happy woman."

" What work can I do ? I have tried to sew
flowers on canvass with colored wools. The
result was dreadful. I have tried painting, and
I never could make a picture that looked like
either sea or strand, river, mountain or meadow.
I had to give up music. It was too full of
memories. I tried beautifying the grim, mel
ancholy, old castle ; even fresh flowers looked
sad in it. I might, perhaps, write a romance "

" Na, na, ma am ; you be to try and find hon-
ester work than that ! Romances are maistly
lies, I m doubting. Get a spinning-wheel, a
big wheel or a little one, and spin your ain flax.
There isna a mair comfortable kind o wark in
life. It is sae calmsome, and your thochts gac

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA border shepherdess; a romance of Eskdale → online text (page 8 of 15)