Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

. (page 12 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 12 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

thwart Destiny. She at least was not to blame
for the wrongs of Destiny. She sat dourly still
and silent, the very image of resentful disappoint
ment. The silence was indeed so profound, that
one could hear the passage of Isabel's needle through
the silk she was sewing, and for ten minutes both
women maintained the attitude they had taken.

Then Isabel holding her needle poised ready for
the next stitch looked at her mother. Her expres
sion of hopeless defeat was pathetic, and her silent,
motionless endurance of it, touched Isabel's heart
as tears and complaints never could have done. She
rose and, taking her mother's dropped hand, said :

A Reconstructed Marriage 197

" Never mind, mother. You will often see Chris
tina wearing her fineries in her grand new home.
That will be far better than taking them out of a
trunk to look at."

" Isabel, I care nothing about seeing them. I
wanted to show them. People will never believe
she got all I said she did."

" Why should you care whether they believe it
or not? And why not pay the newspapers to make
a notice of them. They will send some youngster
here to item them, and you can give him a
sovereign, and a glass of wine, and then you
can give Christina all the wonderfuls you like even
to the half, or the whole, of Sir Thomas Wynton's

" That is the plan, Isabel. I'm glad you thought
of it."

" Robert is gey fond of a newspaper notice.
He'll pay the sovereign without a grumble."

" I'm sure you are an extraordinar' comfort,

" And I thought you were going to order the
wedding cake this morning. There is really no
time to lose, mother."

" You are right, Isabel, and I must just put back
my own sair heartache and look after the ungrate
ful, thrawart woman's wedding cake. It's untelling
what I have done for Christina, and the upsetting
ways o' her this morning and the words she said,
I'll never forget. I shall come o'er them in my
mind as long as I live; and I'll tell her what I think

198 A Reconstructed Marriage

of her behavior, whenever I find a proper oppor

" Very well, mother. Tell her flatly your last
thought; it will be the best way."

" I will."

" But do go about the cake at once. It is im
portant, and there's none but yourself will be

Then with a long, deep sigh, she went slowly
out of the room, and Isabel watched her affected
weakness and indifference with a kind of scornful
pity. For women see through women, know in
tuitively their little tricks and make-beliefs, and for
this very reason a daughter's love for her mother
however devoted and self-sacrificing lacks that
something of mystical worship which a son feels for
his mother. The daughter knows she wears false
hair and false teeth and pink and white powder;
the son simply takes her as she looks and thinks
"what a lovely mother I have!" The daughter
has watched her mother's little schemes for happy
household management, and probably helped her in
them; the son knows only their completed comfort
and their personal pleasure. He never dreams of
any policy or management in his mother's words
and deeds, and hence he believes in her just as he
sees and hears her. And her wisdom and love seem
to him so great and so unusual, that an element of
reverence the highest feeling of which man is capa
ble blends itself with all his conceptions of mother.
And the wonder is, that a daughter's love exists,

A Reconstructed Marriage 199

and persists, without it. Knowing all her mother's
feminine weaknesses, she loves her devotedly in spite
of them nay, perhaps loves her the more profoundly
because of them. And if she is not capable of this
affection she does not love her at all.

Isabel watched her mother leave the house on the
wedding cake business and then she went to her
sister's room. She found her dressing to go out.
" I have an appointment at eleven, Isabel," she said,
" and I am so glad you have come to sit beside me
while I dress. The days are going so fast, and
very soon now you will come to my room, and
Christina will not be here, any more in this

" You will surely come back to your own home
sometimes, Christina?"

" No. I shall never enter Traquair House again,
unless you are sick and need me then I would come.
I have just been going through my top drawer,
Isabel; it was full of old gifts and keepsakes, and
I declare they brought tears to my eyes."

"Why? I dare say the givers have forgotten
you they were mostly school friends, and the
Campbelton crowd."

" Do you think I had a tear for any of them?
No, no ! I was nearly crying for myself, for it
was really piteous to see the trash a woman of my
age thought worth preserving. I sent the whole
contents of the drawer to the kitchen the servant
lasses may quarrel about them."

" Was there nothing worth taking to your new

2OO A Reconstructed Marriage

home? No single thing that had a loving, or a
pleasant memory? "

" Not one. The whole mess of needlework, and
painted cards, toilet toys, and sham trinkets repre
sented my existence until Dora came. It was just
as useless and unsatisfying as the trash flung into
the kitchen. Dora opened the gates of life for me.
Poor Dora ! "

" Why do you say ' poor Dora ' ? "

" She is unhappy, disappointed, I have some
times thought almost frightened. She is much
changed. Robert is not kind to her, and he ought
to be ashamed of himself. I wonder if my intended
husband will act as Robert has done?"

" Sir Thomas is much in love with you."

" Robert was much in love with Dora. See how
it ends. He sits reading, or he lies asleep on the
sofa the evenings he is with her and he used to
feel as if the day was not long enough to tell her
how lovely and how dear she was. I suppose Sir
Thomas will act in the same way."

" I do not think he will."

" He had better not."

" Oh, Christina, do not talk do not even think
of such contingencies. Women should never

"Pray, why not?"

" Because it is dangerous to themselves to show
their teeth if they cannot bite, and they cannot.
Women in this country are helpless as babies."

" Then there are other countries."

A Reconstructed Marriage 201

" Hush! This is uncanny talk. What a pretty
suit! Are you going to wear it to-day? "

" Yes, it is a spring suit, and this is a lovely spring
morning. I heard the robins singing as you came

" Mother has gone to order the wedding cake
you ought to be a happy woman, Christina."

" I am and yet, Isabel, life will be bare without
you. All my life long you have been my comfort,
and I love you, yes, I love you dearly, Isabel."

" And I love you, Christina. I shall miss you
every hour of the day."

Then they were both silent, they had said all they
could say, and much more than was usual. Chris
tina finished her toilet, and Isabel sat watching her,
then they clasped hands and walked downstairs to
gether, and so to the front door, which Jepson opened
as Christina approached it. For a few moments
Isabel stood there and watched her sister enter the
waiting carriage, and felt well repaid when Chris
tina, as the horses moved, fluttered her white hand
kerchief in a parting salute.

Mrs. Campbell returned in time for lunch. She
had quite recovered her dignity, and was indeed
more than usually vaunting and exultant. " I have
ordered a cake twice the ordinary size," she said,
" and the small boxes, and the narrow white ribbon,
in which to send friends not present at the ceremony
a portion. It will be a labor to tie them up, and
direct them, but there will be a house full to help
you. When will your dress be done, Isabel?"

2O2 A Reconstructed Marriage

" To-night, mother."

" And Christina's comes to-morrow night. Mine
is finished. I called at Dalmeny's to examine it.
The lace is particularly effective, and it fits which
is a wonder. Will Sir Thomas be here to dinner? "

" He has gone to Edinburgh for the Wynton dia
monds. He has set his heart on Chritsina wearing
them at the marriage ceremony."

" I do not approve his determination. A bride,
in my opinion, ought to be dressed with great sim
plicity. I was. A few orange blossoms, or the
like of them, are enough."

" Not always. A young girl looks well enough
with a few flowers, but a woman in the prime of
life, like Christina, can wear diamonds even on her
wedding-day, and look grander and lovelier for

" Well, well ! Your way be it. I do not expect
my opinions to be regarded, but can tell you one
thing if Sir Thomas goes on giving her gems at
the rate he has done, the Wynton baronage will be
in a state of perfect beggary, before the end of
their lives. I was just telling Mrs. Malcolm that
I verily believed the sum-total o' Sir Thomas Wyn-
ton's gifts to my daughter might reach all o' a ten
thousand pounds, and she was that astonished, she
could barely keep her composure."

" That is just like yourself, mother. I do wish
you would not boast so much about Sir Thomas.
He is not any kind of a miraculous godsend, for
Christina is quite as good as he is."

A Reconstructed Marriage 203

" Isabel, if my family has been honored with
extraordinar' mercies, I am not the woman to deny
them, or even hide them in a napkin, as it were. I
am going to be thankful for them and speak well
of them to all and sundry. I am going to rejoice
day and night over the circumstance. I think it
just and right to testify my gratitude so far; and
I would think shame o' myself if I did not do

" Very well, mother. Christina had a new spring
suit on to-day. She looked exceedingly handsome
in it."

" Bailie Littlejohn remarked to me lately, that
my daughter Christina was the very picture o' my
self, when I was about her age. And he remem
bered me ever since we were in the dancing class
together that is forty years maybe forty-one, or
two, or perhaps as many as forty "

" Never mind the years, mother. It is very nice
of the Bailie to remember so long."

" I always made long I may say lasting impres
sions, Isabel. It was my way or gift a kind of
power I had. People who once know me, never
forget me. It is rather a peculiar power, I think."

" Christina seems very happy, mother."

"Of course she is happy! It would be a black,
burning shame if she were not. Sir Thomas is
all she deserves, and more too, yet I am glad he
has withdrawn himself to-night, for I am fairly
fagged out with fine dinners, and I shall tell Mc-
Nab to give us some mutton broth and collops to-

204 A Reconstructed Marriage

night. It will be a thanksgiving to have the plainest
dinner she can cook."

" Christina may not like it."

" Then she can dislike it. I am not fearing Chris
tina. I wish you would ask Dora what she is going
to wear."

"Tell Robert to do so."

" I have heard tell of no new dress, and it would
be just like her to wear her own wedding dress."

" Is there anything against her doing so? "

" Is there anything against it? Certainly there
is. We do not want any one in white satin but

"Oh! I see. Robert must explain that to her.
Tell him so to-night. You had better take a sleep
this afternoon, mother. You look tired."

" I will rest until seven. What time will Chris
tina be home? "

" She did not tell me."

" Where was she going? "

" To Marion Brodie's. She spoke of Flora Mc-
Leod being with Marion to-day, and of the necessity
of making each of them understand their duties."


" As chief bride-maidens."

" Yes, yes, of course ! But she will be home to
dinner? "

" Oh, certainly; and Marion may come back with
her. If so, how will the plain dinner do? "

"Well enough! Marion's mother was brought
up on mutton broth and haggis; and the wealth

A Reconstructed Marriage 205

o' the Brodies is o'er young to be in the fashions
yet awhile. I will be down at seven, and mean
while you may speak to Christina anent her duty.
I do think her wedding dress ought to be home even
the now."

" Mother, it will not come until the day before
the marriage. She is afraid of it being handled."

"Preserve us! Why shouldn't it be handled?
It is pure selfishness. She is against sharing her
pleasure with any other soul. That is the because
of her ill-natured conduct. See that dinner is ready
punctual. Your brother was in one of his north
easter tempers this morning, and the day's work isn't
likely to have sorted him any better."

Then half-reluctantly she went upstairs. She
would rather have remained with Isabel and talked
affairs over again; but Isabel was depressed and not
inclined to conversation. The old lady wondered,
as she slowly climbed the stairs, " What the young
people of this generation were made of?" She
felt that she had more enthusiasm than either of
her daughters, and then sighed deeply, because it
received so little sympathy.



Ax seven precisely Mrs. Campbell re-entered the din
ing-room. Isabel was already there, and Jepson was
bringing in the broth. Neither Robert nor Christina
was present, and she wondered a little, but asked no
questions. In a few moments Theodora took her
place, and without remark permitted Jepson to serve
her. But she was evidently in trouble, and she did
not touch the food before her. At length Mrs.
Campbell asked :

" Where is Robert ? Is he not ready for dinner? "

" He is asleep. I suppose he is not ready for

" What time did he return home? "

" Very early. He said he was sleepy. He is
always sleepy. I fear he is ill, a healthy man cannot
always be needing sleep."

" The Campbells, all of them, are famous for their
ability to sleep. They can sleep at all hours, and
in any place a four-inch-wide plank would suffice
them for a sofa. They can order a sleep whenever
they desire, and it comes. It is very remarkable."

' Very," answered Theodora, in a tone of unavoid
able contempt.


A Reconstructed Marriage 207

" I have heard people say it was a great gift, and
it is quite a family gift."

" I hope my little David will not inherit it," said

" There is nothing of the Campbell family about
the boy," replied Mrs. Campbell.

Theodora did not say she was glad, but she
looked the words, and her expression of satisfaction
was annoying to both Isabel and her mother. The
former said with petulant decision:

" I can sleep at any time I wish. I think this fam
ily trait is a great and peculiar blessing."

" Circumstances may sometimes make it so, Isabel,"
answered Theodora, " but I would rather wake and
suffer, than sink into animal unconsciousness half
my life. Robert has slept, or pretended to sleep,
twelve hours out of the last twenty-four, and he
does not even dream."

" Dream ! " cried Mrs. Campbell in disgust,
" dream, I hope not! Only fools dream. My chil
dren go to bed for the purpose of sleeping. Dream
indeed! The Campbells have good sense, and they
don't lose it when they sleep."

" Oh, but I think dreaming is one of the most
sensible things we do. The soul is comforted by
dreaming, instructed and warned by dreaming. I
should feel spiritually dead, if the blessed, prophesy
ing dreams failed to visit me."

" I wonder where Christina is taking dinner," said
Mrs. Campbell. She refused to continue a conver
sation so senseless and disagreeable, and her way of

208 A Reconstructed Marriage

doing so, was not only to ignore Theodora's topic,
but also to introduce a subject which she considered
important and interesting. And of course Christina's
dinner was a matter that put dreaming out of court
and question."

Isabel thought she was dining with the Brodies,
and Mrs. Campbell said, " In that case she ought
to have sent a message to her family."

" She is so occupied, mother, she forgets. We
must make some allowances at this time."

" Of course, Isabel. I expect to do so."

Then the door was suddenly thrown open and
Robert entered. His face was dark, he was biting
his thumbnail, and his eyes were full of a dull fire.
He had not a word for any one but Jepson, whom
he ordered to remove the broth. " The house smells
of it," he said with an air of disgust. He ate what
dinner he took without speaking, an act Gothic, al
most brutal, when it can be avoided, but none of the
three women cared to break the silence, lest they
might turn silence into visible, audible anger.

Theodora made a pretence of eating, but it was
only a pretence and she left the room as soon as the
cloth was drawn. Robert did not in any way notice
her departure, but he began a grumbling kind of
conversation with his mother, as soon as the three
Campbells were alone. He said he was worn out
with the expense and rioting anent Christina's mar
riage. It had been fine dinners, and suppers, and
fooleries of all kinds for weeks, and more weeks, and
money wasting away like water running into sand.

A Reconstructed Marriage 209

He saw no good coming of it. He was glad the
end was in sight, etc., etc. grumble, grumble,
grumble, his voice never lifted above a deep, sulky
monotone, his face dark with frowns and discontent.

He was so ill-tempered Mrs. Campbell thought it
best to leave him alone with his cigar. It seemed
better to worry out her anxieties with Isabel, who,
however, was not in a mood to talk them away.
" I am so depressed, mother," she complained. " I
hardly know what I am saying. I feel as if I had
a great sorrow. The room is dark, the air heavy,
the whole house feels full of trouble. It is crowded,
too. With a little effort I feel that I could see the
crowd. Do you understand ?"

" My God ! Isabel, control yourself. We want
no Second Sight here. The Argyle Campbells are
great seers, and you must close your ears to their
whisperings, and whatever sights are under your eye
balls, deny them vision. You must, you must ! For,
as your grandfather, Ivan Campbell, used to say, ' the
Second Sight, children, isna a blessing, it is aye dool
and sorrow, or ill chance it shows you.' '

" Mother, I must tell you the truth. I am un
happy about Christina."

" So am I."

" She ought to have sent us a message. She would,
had it been possible. Oh, mother, what or who pre
vented her? "

" Perhaps she did. Have you asked Scot? "

" No, but if any message had been sent by him
he would have told Jepson at once, and Jepson heard

2io A Reconstructed Marriage

our conversation about her absence at the dinner
table, yet he made no remark."

"What do you fear?"

" My fear has no form. That is what frightens
me. If I knew "

" You are nervous, Isabel, very nervous. She left
home well, and in good spirits."

" I never saw her in better health, or finer

" Do you not remember, that she once stayed at
Colonel Allison's till near midnight, without sending
us any message? We were in a fright about her
at that time."

" But you commanded her never to do the like

Christina has not obeyed my commands very par
ticularly of late. They do not seem important to

" She has had so much to do, and she knew Sir
Thomas would not be in Glasgow to-night. If I
knew she was well and safe, I should be glad she
was not here, for this is an unhappy house with
Robert in the devil's own temper, and Dora looking
like the grave."

" Dora makes Robert ill-tempered. It is all her
fault, and we have to suffer for it."

" She evidently suffers also."

u She deserves to suffer."

" Suppose we send for Scot. He must be in the
stable yet."

" As you like."

A Reconstructed Marriage 211

In a quarter of an hour Scot stood within the
dining-room door respectfully indignant at the sum
mons and the delay it would cause him. He was
rather glad the ladies were anxious and quite in the
mood to tell anything he thought might be disagree

" Where did you take Miss Christina first of all
this morning, Scot? " asked Mrs. Campbell.

" To the florist's shop on Buchanan Street. She
bought a posy of daffy-down-dillys and came out with
them in her hand."

"Where next?"

" To Madame Barnard's. She didna stop five
minutes there, but Madame cam' to the doorstep
wi' her, and bid Miss Christina good-bye and wished
her a' the good luck in the round world itsel'."


" She told me then to go back to the stable, but
to be sure and come for her at four o'clock. I asked
where I was to come, and she laughed pleasantly
and said, ' Come to Bailie Brodie's,' and gave
me the Crescent, and the number o' the house

" Did you go to Bailie Brodie's at four

" I did that same thing, ma'am."


" A servant lass told me Miss Campbell hadna
been there that day, nor that week. So I drove
home again, and at half after five I went to
the train for Mr. Campbell, but I missed him.

212 A Reconstructed Marriage

He had come by an early train, while I was at

" Did you notice any one speak to Miss Camp

" No one."

" Did she take the right way to Brodies'? "

" She took the best way up Sauchiehall Street."

" That will do, Scot." "

Scot shut the door, and the two women looked
with troubled eyes into each other's faces. Mrs.
Campbell then turned to the clock and said, " It is
on the stroke of nine, Isabel. We will wait until
ten; then I shall speak to your brother."

The hour went miserably, almost silently away,
and then Mrs. Campbell went to her son. He
treated her fears with contemptuous indifference.
" It is like you women," he said, " you always make
a mountain out of a molehill. If any one of the
women in this house knows how to take care of
herself, it is Christina Campbell ! Go to your beds,
and tell Jepson to sit up for her."

" Robert, do you understand that she said
she was going to the Brodies', and then did
not go? "

" Who said she was not there? "

" One of the Brodie servant lasses."

" Tush! She went there, no doubt, but did not
stay long enough to acquaint that particular servant
with her visit. I have no doubt Marion Brodie and
Christina went off somewhere together, and they are
likely together at this hour."

A Reconstructed Marriage 213

" I never thought of that, Robert. Indeed it is
very likely they went to Netta Galbraith, who is to
be second bridesmaid."

" Of course, and they are having a mock marriage
in order to practise their parts. I hope we shall
have no more marriages in the family, they are
ruinously expensive, and make nothing but misery
and anxiety."

Mrs. Campbell sighed, and lifted her eyes heaven
ward, but she did not remain with her son. She was
really afraid to leave Isabel, for she looked almost
distracted, and on the point of vision. " And I will
not have it," she whispered to herself, " no, I will
not. There shall be no prophecy of calamity in
this house, whether from the dead or the living
not if mortal woman can help it."

She opened the dining-room door to this thought,
and Isabel stayed her rapid walk and asked anxiously,
"Well, mother?"

" Your brother says there is no occasion to worry.
He made out a very clear case of the circumstance,"
and she explained his supposition concerning Chris
tina's and Marion Brodie's visit together to Netta

Isabel shook her head. " That is not it," she
answered positively.

" He advised us to go to bed."

" I will not until Christina returns, or Rob
ert does something to clear up her failure to

"How do you feel?"

214 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Unquiet and unhappy. Mother, something ex
traordinary has happened."

" I hope you are not seeing things."

" No. The ' visiting ' is past but it will come

" It must not ! It must not ! Deny it every time !
Oh, Isabel if anything should happen to put off the
marriage, whatever should we do? "

" Bear it."

" The talk of it! The wonder of it! The mor
tification of it! "

" Mother, why are you fearing such a misfor
tune? Robert says all is right. You have always
believed Robert's word."

" Yes, yes ! Robert knows, Robert feels, when he
is in the right mood, but to-night he is in a bad
mood cross and evil as Satan."

Dismally they talked together for another hour,
and then Robert joined them. He had caught fear
from some source, and he asked for a list of such
places as Christina was likely to visit. Then he
called a cab and went first to Glover's Theatre. He
was just in time to see the exit of the Box crowd,
but Christina was not among them. Suddenly the
consequences of a delayed marriage struck him like
a buffet in his face. The loss of money the loss of
prestige the talk the newspapers! Oh, the thing
was impossible, and he tried to put the apprehension
of it away with a stamp of his foot. He was equally
unsuccessful wherever he called. No one had seen

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 12 of 23)