Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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hopeful. She told herself this detached life was
all that was required to secure Robert's affection,
and that six months of it would make him impatient
of any intrusion into the sacredness of his home.
And she was full of sweet, innocent plans to increase
and settle certainly and firmly the treasure of his
love. They kept her waking, so she rose long be
fore morning, and, opening a casement, looked out
into the dusky night full of stars. She sat there,
watching Nature in those ineffable moments when
she is dreaming, until the cold white light of the
dawning showed her the waning moon blue in the

The next day Robert went fishing, and Theodora
put in order the china, crystal, and fine damask, and
the books and ornaments she had brought down to
Inverkip. Robert praised what she had done, vow
ing she would make the best of housekeepers; and

162 A Reconstructed Marriage

the evening and the next day were altogether full
of love and sweet content.

Then Robert went back to Glasgow and business,
and Mr. and Mrs. Oliphant and Dr. Robertson's
family arrived. The young wife visited and helped
her friends, and they spent long, pleasant evenings
at each other's houses. Theodora said to herself:
" Things are not going as badly with me as I
thought, and I wonder if we ever know if bad is
bad, or good is good."

Many happy weeks followed this initial one and
Theodora was grateful for every pleasant hour, for
she was facing the trial and the glory of maternity
and she wished her child's prenatal influences to be
favorable on every side. The social life of Inverkip
could not in its present conditions be called fashion
able, and that was a good thing, for few women
can go into fashionable society without catching its
fashionable insanity, whatever it may be at the time.
Theodora spent many quiet, delightful hours with
her friends the Oliphants and Robertsons, but her
chief pleasure she took from the hand of Nature.

Every fine day she was up among the great hills,
and it is a bad heart that is not purified by walking
on them. She was passionately fond of birds, and
had the power to attract them to her. Morning
and evening she fed at her dining-room window

" The bird that man loves best,
The pious bird with scarlet breast,
The little English robin."

A Reconstructed Marriage 163

They crowded the sweet briar bush that grew be
side the window, and praised and thanked her in
the sweetest songs mortal ever heard. The blue
cushat's " croodle " and its mournful love mono
logue moved her to sympathetic tears. She was sure
the pretty faithful creature had a forgetful, or un
kind mate. The swallows cradling themselves in
the air, and chattering so amiably; the tiny wren's
quick, short song; the fond and faithful bullfinch
couples; the honest, respectable thrushes; the pilfer
ing blackbirds; the nightingale's solemn music in the
night; the lark's velvety, supple, indefatigable song
in the early morning these, and many more of the
winged voices of the firmament, she understood; but
to the humble, poorly-clad lark, she gave an ardent
affection. To her it was a bird of heaven, living
on love and light, singing for half-an-hour without
a second's pause, rising vertically a thousand yards
as she sang, without losing a note, and sending earth
ward exquisite waterfalls of song.

In this sane and peaceful life, month after month
went onward delightfully, while she waited in the
fulness of health and hope for the child which God
would give her. During these months Robert also
had been happy. Now and then there had been
invasions of the lower man, but in the main he was
joyous and amiable, thoughtful for her comfort, and
delighted to share all her hopes and pleasures. He
had insisted on his mother and sisters going to the
Bridge of Allan for the summer months, had given
Jepson and Mrs. McNab holiday, and practically

164 A Reconstructed Marriage

closed the Glasgow house until September. And
he had found Inverkip so pleasant, that he was even
more with Theodora than his promise demanded.

One day near the end of July Mrs. McNab came
to Inverkip and called on Theodora, who was de
lighted to see her. In a few minutes she began to
take off her bonnet and shawl. " I hae been think
ing things o'er," she said, " and I hae made up my
mind to stay wi' you the next four weeks for there's
nane that I can see about this house fit to take my
place a wheen lilting lasses, tee-heeing and giggling
as if life was a dance-hall."

" They are nice, good girls, McNab."

" They may be, but they are flighty and nervous,
and they hae no experience. I am going to take
care o' you and the house mysel'. When you are
sick "

" McNab, I am in splendid health."

" That's a' right. Splendid health you have, and
splendid health you will require, and some one to
keep people out o' the house that arena wanted near
it. I am not going awa', so you needna speak the
word. Is your ain mother coming to you? "

" She cannot. They will have to move next

" Weel, then, you arena to be fretted wi' any
other mother, and it will take an extraordinar' woman
like mysel' to be all you want, and to fend off
all you don't want. I am gey fond o' newborn
babies poor wee things, shipwrecked on a cold, bad
world and if there isna some sensible kind-hearted

A Reconstructed Marriage 165

body wi' your bairn, they will be trying their auld
world tricks wi' it. I shall stay here and see the
bonnie wee thing isna left to their mercy."

"What do you mean? You frighten me, Mc-

" I mean, that if the bairn is left to any auld-
farrant nurse, she will wash it in whiskey as soon
as it comes into the world, and there is nae doubt
in my mind, that the spirit isna pleasant to the tender
skin o' the poor wean."

" Oh, McNab 1 what a dreadful custom ! "

" Weel, it is an auld, auld custom, and though
some are giving it up, there are mair that stick to
it. If Mrs. Traquair Campbell should be here, I'm
feared the whiskey bottle would be gey close to the
washbowl. And you wouldna like it."

" I would not permit it."

"How would you help it? Tell me that. The
only time you managed that woman you had to
nearly die to do it, and I'm not clear that you got
the better o' her then."

" She will not be here, McNab. She will not be

McNab snapped her fingers. "'Asked,' is it?
She will walk into this house as if it was her ain.
' It is my son's house,' she will say, and then she'll
proceed to use her son's house as if the de'il had sent
her to destroy everything that belongs to other folk;
and day and night she'll make quarrelling and mis
ery. That's Mrs. Traquair Campbell's way, and
the hale o' her brood is like her."

1 66 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Now, McNab, you know Mr. Robert Campbell
is very different. You must not speak ill of my

" No, ma'am. There's two Robert Campbells.
Ane o' them is weel worth the love you're giving
him; the other is like the auld man that tormented
the Saints themsel's. He'll get kicked out some day,
nae doubt o' it."

" Mr. Campbell told me he had given you a holi
day until the first of September. He spoke very
well of you."

" I have had mair holiday than I want now."

"Where were you?"

" I was in Edinburgh, seeing the world and the
ways o' it."

" What did you think of the world and its ways? "

" I dinna think them fit to talk about. I'll go
now, and give things a bit sort up. I'll warrant
them requiring the same."

So McNab got or rather took her way, and
soon after appeared in the kitchen in her large white
mutch and apron. " Now, lasses," she said in her
most commanding manner, " I am come here on a
special invite to keep you and the house in order
during the tribulation o' the mistress. But you'll
find me a pleasant body to live wi', if you behave
yoursel's and let the lads alane. If you don't, you
will find you have got to do wi' the Mischief."

"The lads, ma'am?" said a smart young lassie;
" the lads ! We have not a particle o' use for them
auld or young."

A Reconstructed Marriage 167

"What's your name?"

" Maggie."

" Weel, Maggie, you are a sensible lass, and you
may now make Mistress McNab that's mysel' a
cup o' tea, and if there's a slice o' cold beef or a
bit o' meat pie in the house "

" There's neither meat nor pie in the house."

" Then, Maggie, gie me a rizzard haddie wi' my
tea. I'm easy pleased except wi' dinner. A good
dinner is a fixed fact wi' me, and when I've had a
cup o' tea I'll feel mair like Flora McNab. At
the present hour, I'm fagged and wastered, and re
quiring a refreshment. That's sure ! "

At first Theodora did not feel satisfied with Mc-
Nab's gratuitous offer of service, but Robert quickly
made her so. " I am delighted," he said. " I have
known the woman ever since I can remember. She
stood by my father in his long sickness as faithfully
as she stands by you. I can never be uneasy about
my wife if McNab is with her."

So McNab took the place she had chosen, and the
house was soon aware of her presence. There were
more economy, better meals, perfect discipline, and
a refreshing sense of peace and order. For she had
a rare power of ruling, and also of making those
ruled pleased to be so. Thus, for two weeks, Theo
dora had a sense of pause and rest that was strength
ening both to the inner and outer woman. Then
in the secret silence of the midnight, her fear was
turned into joy, for McNab laid her first-born son
in her arms and Robert knelt at her side, his heart

1 68 A Reconstructed Marriage

brimming with love and thanksgiving. And had he
fully realized the blessing given, he would have
known it was, Thy Kingdom come, from the cradle.

Surely this great event would make all things new !
This was Theodora's constant thought and hope, and
for a while it seemed to do so. But the readiness
with which we come to accept rare and great bless
ings as customary is one of the most common and
ungrateful of our blasphemies against the Father
from whom all blessings flow. And very soon the
beautiful babe became as usual as the other everyday
incidents of life, to all excepting his mother and Mc-
Nab. Robert, indeed, was fond and proud of him,
and as long as they remained in Inverkip the little
fellow was something new that belonged to himself
in a manner wonderful and satisfying.

But with the return of the family to Glasgow,
the child lost the charm of the Inverkip environment.
In Traquair House he received even from his father
only the Campbell affection, which had no enthusi
asms, no baby talk, no petting, no foolish admira
tions. It was almost impossible for the mother to
accept this change of attitude with nonchalance, or
even cheerfulness. She could not withstand the in
fluence of the dull, gray house, and the toiling, moil
ing, money-grabbing city, though she felt intuitively
that the influence of both was inimical to her domes
tic happiness. For the house was impregnated with
the Campbell personality, so much so that the very
apparatus of their daily life had become eloquent
of the moods of those they ministered to ; and Theo-

A Reconstructed Marriage 169

dora often felt as if the sofas and chairs in their
rooms resented her use of them.

A prepossession of this kind was an unhappy one,
and easily affiliated itself with the spirit of the house,
which was markedly a quarrelsome spirit. Nurtured
and indulged for more than two generations, it had
become an inflexible, almost an invincible one. All
Theodora's smiling efforts, all her charms and en
treaties had failed to conciliate, or even appease its
grudging resentment. It was a piteous thing that
the first trouble after her return to Glasgow, should
be concerning the child. Robert had been pleased
by the assurance of his friends in Inverkip that his
son resembled him in an extraordinary manner. He
was himself sure of this resemblance, though Theo
dora could only see " that difference in sameness "
often enough pronounced between fathers and

Mrs. Campbell scouted the idea. She said:
" The child had not a single Campbell feature or
trait. He did not even suck his tongue, a trick all
the Campbell babies had, as McNab knew right well.
And she understood there had not been a single
Campbell in the room when he was born an im
portant and significant mistake that never could be
rectified. She could only say, and she always would
say, that the boy was Theodora's child."

" I hope he is," answered Robert, who was nettled
by the criticism. " He cannot do better than take
after his mother in every way."

" And I am fairly shocked, Robert," she con-

170 A Reconstructed Marriage

tinued, " that the child who's ever it is hasna yet
been baptized. Seven weeks old and not baptized!
I never heard the like. My children were cove
nanted Christians before they were two weeks old.
It was my first thought for them."

" Well, mother, we wanted to be quite sure of the
name. A boy's name means much to him when he
becomes a man."

" There is but one name proper for the child, that
is his grandfather's."

"Do you mean Traquair?" asked Robert.

" Yes, Traquair a fine family name."

Theodora looked entreatingly at Robert, and he
understood her dissent and shared it.

" Mother," he answered, " I have a great objec
tion to Traquair."

' ' Ob j ection 1 Pray, why ? ' '

" It was not a fortunate name for my father.
It is not a good business name."

" My father was a Traquair, and he made a great
deal of money."

" Your father was called Donald Traquair. That
is different. Traquair is a good family name, but
it is not a good Christian name."

" We could call him Donald," said Theodora.
" Donald is a good name, though I think Robert
likes David best of all."

" David! " ejaculated Mrs. Campbell with anger.
" I will have no David Campbells in this house !
I will not suffer my grandson to be called David.
It was like you to propose it."

A Reconstructed Marriage 171

" I thought it would please you. I am quite will
ing my son should be called David."

" I think David is a very good name," said Rob
ert, but his opinion was given with that over-decision
which cowardice assumes when it forces itself to

" To have a David Campbell in the house will be
a great annoyance to me," continued Mrs. Campbell.
" It will be enough to make me hate the child."

Then Theodora left the room. She felt that the
argument had gone as far as it was likely to be
reasonable. In a short time Robert followed her
and his face wore a look of vexation and perplexity.

"Have you decided on the name yet, Robert?"
she asked.

" No."

" Why not call him after yourself? "

" Because in the course of time I should likely be
compelled to write ' senior ' after my own name. I
do not care to look forward to that. Mother has
set her mind on Traquair."

"It is the only Scotch name I object to. It has
not one noble association. If you say Robert, you
think of Robert Bruce, and Robert Burns, and a
score of other great men. Call him Donald, or
Dugald, or Duncan, or Angus, or Hector, or Alex
ander, they are all Christian names and will not
subject the little lad when he goes among the boys
and men, to mockery. Traquair will give them two
objectionable nicknames Tray, which is a dog's
name, and Quair will easily slip into queer. Think

172 A Reconstructed Marriage

of it Tray Campbell, or Queer Campbell. It will
not do, Robert."

" No. Traquair will not do. It will not

" There is one good reason for not calling the
child Robert, not the ' senior ' reason at all. I want
you to keep and make famous your own name. You
are really a good natural orator. I noticed your
speech, and its delivery at Dr. Robertson's dinner,
when we were at Inverkip. It was the best speech
made. It was finely delivered. You are rich and
going to be richer; why not cultivate your gift, and
run for Parliament? No one can put political views
into a more sensible and eloquent speech than Robert

" I think you overrate my abilities, Dora," replied
Robert, but he spoke with a kind of musing satis

" No, you could become a good speaker, and if
you wish, I am sure you may write M. P. after your
name. Why not decide on David? You love your
big brother yet. You never speak of him without
emotion. He will come back to you, I am sure.
And how proud you will be to say: ' I never forgot
you, David. I called my first-born son after
you.' "

' You are right, Dora, you are right. The boy's
name is David. I have said it and it shall be so.
Mother must give way. She must remember for
once, that we have some feelings and prejudices as
well as herself."

A Reconstructed Marriage 173

At that moment Ducie entered with the child, and
Theodora took him in her arms and said: " Ducie,
the baby is to be called David." Then she kissed
the name on his lips and he opened his blue eyes
and smiled at her.

The next Sabbath the child was solemnly baptized
David, and Robert entered his name in the large
family Bible, which had been the first purchase he
made for his home after Theodora had accepted

But in neither ceremony did Mrs. Traquair Camp
bell take any part. She did not go to church, and
when Robert asked her to come into his parlor and
see the entry of her grandson's name in the Book,
she refused. All of the household were present but
the infant's grandmother and aunts; and all blessed
the child as Theodora put him a moment into the
arms of the women present. McNab kissed him,
and made a kind of apology for the act, saying she
" never could help kissing a boy baby, since she was
a baby hersel', and even if it were a girl baby a
bit bonnie, she whiles fell easy into the same in

In this case Theodora gained her desire, and some
will say she gained it by flattering her husband. It
would be fairer to say by admiring her husband. A
wise wife knows that in domestic diplomacies, ad
miration is a puissant weapon. In a great many
cases it is better than love. Men are not always
in the mood to be loved, their minds may be busy
with things naturally antagonistic to love; and to

174 ^ Reconstructed Marriage

show a warmth that is not shared is a grave mistake.
But all men are responsive to admiration. It suc
ceeds where reasoning and arguing and endearments
fail. For the person admired feels that he is be
lieved in, and trusted. He has nothing to explain
and nothing to justify, and this attitude makes the
wheels of the household run smoothly.

Is then Theodora to be blamed? If so, there are
an unaccountable number of women, yesterday, to
day, and forever, in the same fault. It would be
safe to say there is not a happy household in the
land where the wives and mothers do not use many
such small hypocrisies. Is there any wife reading
this sentence, who has not often made a pleasant
evening for her whole family, by a few admiring
or sympathizing words? For though a woman will
go through hard work and distracting events with
out praise or sympathy, a man cannot. If admira
tion and kindness fail him, he flies to the black door
of oblivion by drink, or drugs, or a pistol shot. A
man with a wife whose sympathy and admiration
can be relied on, is never guilty of that sin. Is there
a good wife living who has not pretended interest
in subjects she really cares nothing about; who has
not listened to the same stories a hundred times, and
laughed every time; who does not in some way or
other, violate her own likes or dislikes, tastes or
opinions every day in the week in order to induce
a household atmosphere which it will be pleasant to
live in?

This is not the place to discuss the ethics of this

A Reconstructed Marriage 175

universal custom. Women, with reckless waste have
always flung themselves into the domestic gulf.
They choose to throw away their own happiness in
order to make others happy, forgetting too often
that they who injure themselves shall not be counted



HOME is not ruined in a day, and it is wonderful
what rack and strain and tugging the marriage tie
will bear ere it snaps asunder. For three years and
a half after the birth of the child, Theodora was
subjected to an unwearying hostility, always finding
fresh reasons for complaint and injustice. And it
was a cruel symptom of this intentional malice, that
it took as its usual vehicle, little David. He could
do nothing right. Baby as he was, his grandmother
found him to be a child of many sinful proclivities.
She was never weary of pointing out his faults. " He
looked so vulgarly English, he had no Scotch burr
in his speech; he walked wrong, he made her peace
ful home a Bedlam of crying and shouting. He
was naturally rude, he would scarcely answer his
aunts if they spoke to him; and if she herself but
came near him, he ran away and hid himself in his
mother's arms. He was also shockingly fond of
low company. He could not be coaxed into her
room, but was never out of the kitchen; and one
day she had found him sitting on the pastry table,
watching McNab make the tarts." At this charge
Robert smiled and asked:

" Why does not Ducie keep him out of the
kitchen? She ought to do so."


A Reconstructed Marriage 177

" She likes to be there herself. I think it would
be well to send her back to Kendal at once. There
is no necessity for a nurse now, and the boy ought
to be learning how to care for himself you did so
before you were his age. And really, Robert, keep
ing a maid for Dora is a most unnecessary expense;
it also makes a great deal of trouble among the
house-servants. The girl is always quarrelling with
them about her mistress, and pitying them about their
mistress. I fancy Dora makes an equal of her."

" That is not Dora's way, mother. And the girl
is not only a nurse, she attends to our rooms also."

" The house chambermaid could do that."

" Could she do it the first thing in the morning? "

" Do you think Dora's rooms ought to be attended
to before mine? "

" Dora likes them to be put in order early, and
I am willing to pay for her wish."

" More fool you ! I dare be bound, she cleaned
her own room before you married her."

" If she had married Lord Thurson, instead of
me, he would have given her a dozen maids had she
wished them."

" Do you think I believe that romancing about
Lord Thurson? I am not such a born idiot. You
cannot persuade me, that two men in the world
wanted to marry Dora Newton. Hout, tout! Men
are feckless enough, but not that crazy."

Such conversations as this occurred usually in the
library after dinner where Mrs. Campbell now made
a point of visiting her son. For this end, she had

178 A Reconstructed Marriage

conquered her dislike both of the room and his to
bacco, and there she carried all the small gossip
and worries of the household. And Robert soon
began to enjoy this visit, and the tale-bearing suspi
cions and arguments that enlivened it. It pleased
him to feel that he knew all that was going on in
the house, and he also liked to know whether Theo
dora had been out or not, whether she had dressed
for calling or walking, and, if she had not left the
house, how she had been occupied, what callers she
had had, and how many letters she had received.
He was not even averse to knowing the post-office
stamps of these letters.

And when men indulge this petty weakness, they
soon learn to enjoy its humbling cruelties and its
mean triumphs, hardly considering that under such
a disintegrating process all domestic happiness
crumbles inwardly away. Thus Robert grew in
different to the woman he so pitilessly analyzed, and
fell gradually into the godless, thankless quiescence
of getting used to happiness. It was then easy to
regard what had once been a miraculous blessing as
a thing monotonous and commonplace.

With Theodora, he had now little companionship.
He had ceased to consult her about anything, they
neither wept nor rejoiced together, they did not even
quarrel, and no legal bill of divorce could have more
effectually separated them than did this moral di
vorce, in which there was neither disputing nor for
giveness. But though Theodora consented to this
evil condition outwardly, as a form of sacrifice for

A Reconstructed Marriage 179

David's sake, inwardly she knew it to be overcome.
She bore it cheerfully, despised its power, and
ignored as much as possible its presence.

Had she been left to herself she must have broken
down under the unceasing tension, but constantly
visited by the not herself, she lifted up her head, and
when urged too fiercely, walked her lonely room with

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 10 of 23)