Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

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Copyright, 1910, by

Published, October, 1910


























As it was Saturday morning, Mrs. Traquair Camp
bell was examining her weekly accounts and clear
ing off her week's correspondence; for she found it
necessary to her enjoyment of the Sabbath Day that
her mind should be free from all worldly obliga
tions. This was one of the inviolable laws of Tra
quair House, enunciated so frequently and so posi
tively by its mistress, that it was seldom violated
in any way.

It was therefore with fear and uncertainty that
Miss Campbell ventured to break this rule, and to
open softly the door of her mother's room. No
notice was taken of the intruder for a few moments,
but her presence proving disastrous to the total of
a line of figures which Mrs. Campbell was adding,
she looked up with visible annoyance and asked:

"What do you want, Isabel? You are disturb
ing me very much, and you know it."

" I beg pardon, mother, but I think the occasion
will excuse me."

"What is the occasion?"

2 A Reconstructed Marriage

" There is something in my brother's room that
I feel sure you ought to see."

" Could you not have waited until I had finished
my work here? "

" No, mother. It is Saturday, and Robert may
be home by an early train. I think he will, for
he is apparently going to England."

"Going to England, so near the Sabbath? Im
possible! What set your thoughts on that track? "

"His valise is packed, and directed to Sheffield;
but I think he will stop at a town called Kendal.
He may go to Sheffield afterwards, of course."

" Kendal! Where is Kendal? I never heard of
the place. What do you know about it?"

" Nothing at all. But in going over the mail, I
noticed that four letters with the Kendal post-office
stamp came to Robert this week. They were all
addressed in the same handwriting a woman's."

"Isabel Campbell!"

" It is the truth, mother."

" Why did you not name this singular circum
stance before? "

" It was not 'my affair. Robert would likely have
been angry at my noticing his letters. I have no
right to interfere in his life. You have if it seems
best to do so."

" Have you told me all? "

" No, mother."

"What else?"

' There is on his dressing table, loosely folded in
tissue paper, an exquisite Bible."

A Reconstructed Marriage 3

" Very good. Robert cannot have The Word too
exquisitely bound."

" I do not think Robert intends this copy of the
Word for his own use. No, indeed! "

"Why should you think different?"

" It is bound in purple velvet. The corner pieces
are of gold, and a little gold plate on the cover has
engraved upon it the word Theodora. Can you
imagine Robert Traquair Campbell using a Bible
like that? It would be remarked by every one in
the church. I am sure of it."

Mrs. Campbell had dropped her pencil and had
quite forgotten her accounts and letters. Her hard,
handsome face was flushed with anger, her tawny-
colored eyes full of calculating mischief, as she de
manded with scornful passion :

"What is your opinion, Isabel?"

" I can only have one opinion, mother. You
know on what occasion a young man gives such a
Bible. I am compelled to believe that Robert is
engaged to marry some woman called Theodora, who
lives probably at Kendal."

"He can not! He shall not! He must marry
Jane Dalkeith, Jane, and no other woman. I will
not permit him to bring a stranger here, and an
Englishwoman is out of all consideration. Theo
dora, indeed! Theodora! " and she flung the three
words from her with a scorn no language could

" It is not a Scotch name, mother. I never knew
any one called Theodora."

4 A Reconstructed Marriage

"Scotch? the idea! Does it sound like Scotch?
No, not a letter of it. There were never any Theo
doras among the Traquairs, or the Campbells, and
I will not have any. Robert will find that out very
quickly. Why, Isabel, Honor is before Love, and
Honor compels Robert to marry Jane Dalkeith. Her
father saved Robert's father from utter ruin, and
I believe Jane holds some claim yet upon the Camp
bell furnaces. It has always been understood that
Robert and Jane would marry, and I am sure the
poor, dear girl loves Robert."

" I do not believe, mother, that Jane could love
any one but herself; and I feel sure that if the Camp
bells owed her money, she would have collected it
long ago. Why do you not ask Robert about the
money? He will know if anything is owing."

" Because Scotch men resent women asking ques
tions about their business. They will not answer
them truly; often they will not answer them at all."

" Ask Jane Dalkeith herself."

" Indeed, I will not. When you are as old as I
am, you will have learned to let sleeping dogs lie."

" Will you go and look at the Bible? "

"It is not likely I will be so foolish. Surely you
do not require to be told that Robert left it there
for that purpose. He has his defence ready on the
supposition that I will ask him about this Theodora.
On the contrary, he shall bring the whole tale to me,
beginning and end, and I shall make the telling of
it as difficult and disagreeable as possible."

" I am afraid I have interfered with your Satur-

A Reconstructed Marriage 5

day's duties, mother; but I thought you ought to

" As mother and mistress I ought to know all that
concerns either the family or Traquair House. I
will now finish my examinations and correspondence.
And Isabel, when Robert comes home, ask him no
questions, and give him no hint as to what has been
discovered. I am very angry at him. He ought to
have told me about the woman at the very begin
ning of the affair; and I should have put a stop to
it at once. It might have been more easily managed
then than it will be now."

" Can you put a stop to it at all, mother? "

" Can I put a stop to it?" she cried scornfully.
"I can, and I will!"

" Robert is a very determined man."

" And I am a very positive woman. At the last
and the long, in any dispute, the woman wins."

" Sometimes the man wins."

" Nonsense ! If he does win now and then, it is
always a barren victory. He loses more than he

" I don't wish to discourage you, mother, but Rob
ert is gey stubborn, and I feel sure that in this case
he will take his own way, and no other person's

" I desire you not to contradict me, Isabel." She
turned to her papers, lifted her pencil, and to all
appearance was entirely occupied by her bills and
letters. Isabel gave her one strange, inexplicable
look ere she left the room, shutting the door this

6 A Reconstructed Marriage

time without regard to noise and with something
very like temper.

In the corridor she hesitated, standing with one
foot ready to descend the stairs, but urged by a
variety of feelings to take the upward flight which
led to her own and her sister Christina's rooms. At
present she was " out " with Christina, and they had
not spoken to each other, when alone, for three days.
But now the pleasure of having something new and
unusual to tell, the desire to talk it over, and per
haps also a modest little wish to be friends with her
sister, who was her chief confidant and ally, in
duced her to seek Christina in her room.

She knocked gently at the door, and Christina said
in an imperative voice, " Come in." She thought
it was one of the maids, and Christina wasted no
politeness on any one, unless manifestly to her own
interest or pleasure. But Isabel understood the curt
permission was not intended for her, and, opening the
door, went into the room. Christina, who was read
ing, lifted her eyes and then dropped them again
to the book. For she was amazed at her sister's
visit, and knew not what to say, priority of birth
being in English and Scotch families of some con
sequence. In their numerous disagreements Chris
tina had never expected Isabel to make the first ad
vances towards reconciliation. Almost without ex
ception she had been the one to apologize, and she
had been thinking about ending their present trouble
when Isabel visited her.

For a few minutes she was undecided, but as Isa-

A Reconstructed Marriage 7

bel took a comfortable chair and was evidently going
to remain, Christina realized that her elder sister
had made a silent advance, and that she was expected
to speak first. So she laid down her book, and push
ing a stool under Isabel's feet, said in a fretful, wor
ried voice :

" I am so glad to see you, sister. I have been
very unhappy without your company. You know I
have no friend but you. I am sorry I spoke rudely
to you. Forgive me ! "

" Christina, we are the world to each other. No
one else seems to care anything about us, and it is
foolish to quarrel."

" It was my fault, Isabel. I ought to have known
you were not wearing my collar intentionally."

"Why should I? I have plenty of collars of
my own. But we will not go into explanations. It
is better to agree to forget the circumstance."

" Life is so lonely without you, and our little
chats with each other are the only pleasure I have.
I wonder if there is, in all Glasgow, a house so dull
as this house is."

" It will soon be busy and gay enough. Things
are going to be very different in Traquair House.
They may not effect our lives much it is too late
for that, Christina but we shall have the fun of
watching the rows there are sure to be with mother.
Bring your chair near to me. I have a great secret
to tell you."

As they sat down together it was impossible to
avoid noticing how much they resembled each other

8 A Reconstructed Marriage

personally. Nature had intended both of them to
be beautiful, but their obtuse, grieved faces had been
marred in early years by the disappointments, sor
rows, and tragic mistakes of the children of long
ago ; and later by their pathetic acquiescence in their
ill-assorted fates, and the cruel certainty of youth
gone forever, without the knowledge of youth's de
lights. Isabel was now thirty-three years old, and
Christina twenty-eight, and on their dark faces, and
in their sombre, black eyes, there was a resentful
gloom; the shadow of lives that felt themselves to
be blighted beyond the power of any good fortune
to redeem.

The two sisters had lost hope early, and for this
weakness they were partly excusable, since they had
the most crushing and unsympathetic of mothers.
Mrs. Campbell was a woman of iron constitution,
iron nerves, and principles of steel. She was never
sick, and she was angry if her children were sick;
she met every trouble with fight, she was contemp
tuous to those who wept; she was never weary, but
she made life a burden to all under her sway.

In another way their father had been still more
unfortunate to them. Intensely vain and arrogant,
he had inherited a large business which he had not
had the ability or the intelligence to manage. When
he had nearly ruined it, the generosity of a distant
relative jealous for the honor of the name came
to the rescue; but he placed over all other authority
a manager who knew what he was doing, and who
was amenable to advice. Then Traquair Campbell,

A Reconstructed Marriage 9

unwilling to acknowledge any superior, became a
semi-invalid; and retired to a seclusion which had
no other duty than the indulgence of his every whim
and desire, making his two daughters the handmaids
of his idle, self-centred hours. Year after year this
slavery continued, and their youth, beauty, and edu
cation, their hopes, pleasures, and even their friends,
were all demanded in sacrifice to that dreadful in
carnation of Self, who made filial duty his claim on
them. It was scarcely two years since they had been
emancipated by his death, and the terror of the past
and the shadow of it was yet over them.

Such treatment would have soured even good dis
positions, but the nature of both these girls was as
awry by inheritance, as their destiny in regard to
parental influence and environment had been tragic
ally unfortunate. Only the loftiest or the sweetest
of spirits could have dominated the evil influences
by which they were surrounded, and turned them
into healthy and happy ones. And neither Isabel
nor Christina knew the uplifting of a lofty ideal,
nor yet the gentle power of the soft word and the
loving smile.

Sitting close together and moved by the same feel
ings, their physical resemblance was remarkable. As
before said, Nature had intended them to be beau
tiful. Their features were regular, their hair abun
dant, their eyes dark and well formed, their figures
tall and slender, but they lacked those small acces
sories to beauty without which it appears crude and
undeveloped. Their faces were dull and uninterest-

io A Reconstructed Marriage

ing for want of that interior light of the soul and
intellect without which " the human face divine " is
not divine is indeed only flesh and blood. Their
abundant hair was badly cared for, and not becom
ingly arranged; their figures, in spite of tight lacing,
badly managed and ungracefully clothed; their eyes,
though dark and long-lashed, carried no illumination
and were only expressive of evil or bitter emotions;
they knew not either the languors or the sweet lights
of love or pity. Isabel and Christina had slipped
about sick rooms too much; and they had been too
little in the busy world to estimate themselves by
comparison with others, and so find out their defi

This morning their likeness to each other was
accentuated by the fact that they were dressed ex
actly alike in dark brown merino, with a narrow
band of white linen round their throats. Each had
fastened the linen band with a gold brooch of the
same pattern, and both wore a small Swiss watch
pinned on her plain, tight waist.

Isabel reclined in her chair, and as she knew all
there was to know at present, a faint smile of satis
faction was on her face. Christina sat upright, with
an almost childish expression of expectation.

"What do you know, Isabel?" she asked im
patiently. " How, or why, are things going to be
different in Traquair House? "

" Because there is to be a marriage in the family."

"A marriage! Is it mother? Old lawyer Gait
has been very attentive lately."

A Reconstructed Marriage n

" No, it is not mother."

"Then it is Robert?"

Isabel nodded assent.

Christina's eyes filled with a dull, angry glow, and
there were tears in her voice, as she cried :

" If that is so, Isabel, I will leave Traquair House.
I will not live with Jane Dalkeith. She is worse
than mother. She would count every mouthful we
ate, and make remarks as nasty as herself."

" Exactly. That would be Jane's way; but I am
led to believe Robert will never marry Jane Dal

" Who then is he going to marry? I never heard
of Robert paying attention to any girl."

" I have found out the person he is paying atten
tion to."

"Who is it, Isabel? Tell me. I will never men
tion the circumstance."

" Her name is Theodora."

" What a queer name Miss Theodora. Do you
know, it sounds like a Christian name; it surely can
not be a surname."

" You are right. I do not know her surname."

" How did you find it out I mean Robert's love

Isabel described the discovery of the velvet-bound
Bible while Christina listened with greedy interest.
" You know, Christina," she added, " that a young
man on his engagement always gives the girl a

" Yes, I know; even servant girls get a Bible when

12 A Reconstructed Marriage

they are engaged. Our Maggie and Kitty did; they
showed them to me. Do the men swear their love
and promises on them? "

" I should not wonder. If so, a great many are
soon forsworn ! "

" Is that all you know, Isabel? "

" Four times this week she has written to Robert.
I saw the letters in the mail."

"Love letters, I suppose?"

" No doubt of it."

" How immodest ! Do you know where she

"At a town called Kendal."

" I never heard of the place. Is it near Mother-
well? Robert often goes to Motherwell."

" It is in England."

" Oh, Isabel, you frighten me ! An Englishwoman !
Whatever will mother say? How could Robert
think of such a dreadful thing ! What shall we do? "

" I see no occasion for us either to say or to do.
There will be some grand set-tos between mother and
Robert. We may get some amusement out of them."

" Mother will insist on Robert giving up the Eng
lishwoman. She will make him do it."

" I do not think she will be able. Mind what I

" Robert has been under mother all his life."

'' That is so, but he will make a stand about this
Theodora, and mother will have to give in. He is
now master of the works, and you will see that he
will be master of the house also. He will take pos-

A Reconstructed Marriage 13

session of himself, and everything else. I fancy we
shall all find more changes than we can imagine."

" I don't care if we do ! Anything for a change.
I am almost weary of my life. Nothing ever hap
pens in it."

" Plenty will happen soon. Robert has a way of
his own, and that will be seen and heard tell of."

" He will not dare to counter mother very much.
She will talk strict and positive, and hold her head
as high as a hen drinking water. You know how she
talks and acts."

" I know also how Robert will take her talking.
I have seen Robert's way twice lately."

"What is his way?"

" A dour, cold silence, worse than any words a
silence that minds you of a black frost."

Having finished her story Isabel looked at her
watch, and said : " I'll be going now, Christina, and
you can think over what is coming. We be to con
sider ourselves in any change. I am almost sure
Robert will be home to-day at one o'clock, for if I
am not mistaken, it will be the Caledonian Railway
Station at three o'clock. That train will land him
in Kendal about eight o'clock, just in time to drink
a cup of tea with Theodora, and have a stroll after
it. There is a full moon to-night."

" How did you find out about Kendal? "

" Bradshaw; I suppose he knows."

" Of course, but it will be late Saturday night
when Robert arrives, and surely he will not think of
making love so near the Sabbath Day. I would not

14 A Reconstructed Marriage

believe that of him, however much he likes Theo

" A handsome young Master of Iron Works can
make love any day he pleases; even Scotchwomen
would listen gladly to what he had to say. I think
I would myself."

" I would, but it might be wrong, Isabel."

" I don't believe it would; anyway I would risk it."

"So would I; but neither of us will be led into
the temptation."

" I fear not. Now I will be stepping downstairs.
I have no more to say at present and I should not
like to miss Robert."

" We are friends again, Isabel?"

" We are aye friends, Christina. Whiles, there is
a shadow between us, but it is only a shadow noth
ing to it but what a word puts right. There is the
lunch bell."

" I had no idea it was so late."

" Let us go down together. I hate the servants
to be whispering and snickering anent our little ter-

They had scarcely seated themselves at the table
when Robert entered the room. He was a typical
Scot of his order tall, blonde, and very erect. His
eyes were his most noticeable feature; they were
modern eyes with that steely point of electric light
in them never seen in the older time. The lids,
drawn horizontally over them, spoke for the man's
acuteness and dexterity of mind, and perhaps also
for his superior cunning. He was arrogant in man-

A Reconstructed Marriage 15

ner, a trait either inherited or assumed from his
mother. In disposition he was kindly disposed to
all who had claims on him, but these claims required
to be brought to his notice, for he did not volun
tarily seek after them. He certainly had humanity
of feeling, but of the delicacies and small considera
tions of life he was very ignorant.

As yet he was commonplace, because nothing had
happened to him. He had neither lost money, nor
broken down in health, nor been unfairly treated or
unjustly blamed. He had never known the want of
money, nor the necessity for work; he had lost noth
ing by death and was only beginning to gain by
loving. In the eyes of all who knew him his con
duct was blameless. He was very righteous, and a
great stickler for morality and all respectable con
ventions; so much so, that even if he should sin, it
would be done with a certain decorum. But spirit
ually his soul lived in a lane the narrow lane of a
bigoted Calvinism.

This morning he was in high spirits, and inclined
to be unusually talkative. But it was not until the
meal was nearly over that he said: "There will
be a new preacher in our church to-morrow morn
ing. I am sorry I shall not be able to hear him.
Dr. Robertson says he has a wonderful gift in ex
pounding the Word."

"When did you see the doctor?" asked Mrs.

" This morning. He called at my office on a little
matter of business."

16 A Reconstructed Marriage

" And why will you not hear the new preacher? "

" I am going to England by the three o'clock
train, mother."

At this answer Isabel looked at Christina, and
Mrs. Campbell said: "I suppose you are going to

" Yes, I shall go to Sheffield."

' You go there a great deal."

" It belongs to my duty to go there."

With these words he suddenly became not ex
actly cross but reserved and ungracious. His
mother's words had betrayed her. As soon as she
remarked on the frequency of his visits to Sheffield,
he knew that she was aware of the facts that she had
positively asserted she would not name, and he di
vined her intention to put him in the position of one
who confesses a fault or acknowledges a weakness.
He retired immediately into the fortress of his manly
superiority. He was not going to be put to cate
chism by a cabal of women, so he hastily finished
his lunch and rose from the table.

"When will you return, Robert?" asked his

" In a few days. You had better give liberally
to the church collection to-morrow paper or gold
silver from you will be remarked on." He opened
the door to these words, and, turning a moment,
said " good-bye " with a glance which included every
one in the room.

Silence followed his exit. Mrs. Campbell cut her
veal chop into minute strips, which she did not in-

A Reconstructed Marriage 17

tend to eat; Isabel crumbled her bread on her plate,
lifted her scornful eyes a moment, and then began
to fold her napkin; Christina took the opportunity
to help herself to another tartlet. It was an uncom
fortable pause, not to be relieved until Mrs. Camp
bell chose to speak or rise. She continued the pur
poseless cutting of her food, until Isabel's patience
was worn out, and she asked : " Shall I ring the bell,

" No, I have not finished my lunch; you can safely
bide my time. Christina, pass me a tart."

" Take two, mother. McNab makes them smaller
every day. There is only a mouthful in two of

Mrs. Campbell took no notice of the criticism.

" Isabel," she said, " what do you think of Rob
ert's behavior? "

" Do you mean the sudden change in his man


" He had his own ' because ' for it. I do not
rightly comprehend what it could be, unless he
suspected from your remark that you had seen the
Bible, and were trying to lure him on to talk of

" That is uncommonly likely, but I'm not caring
if he did."

" Robert is very shrewd, and he sees through

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 1 of 23)