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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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like her."

" It was very like her. She is the most unreliable
of women. I dare say we shall see her by the next
train perhaps we "

" Mother, you are mistaken both about Dora and
the train. Dora can always be depended on, and
I waited for the next train, but she was not on it.
After dinner I must telegraph to Bradford and else
where."

" Perfect nonsense ! Let her alone, and she'll
come home no fear of it. She was, however, keen
enough to get away off before we had breakfast
and without a word to any one."

" Mother," corrected Isabel, " that was our fault.
She came to bid us good-bye, but we neither of us
spoke to her."



A Reconstructed Marriage 287

" Drop the subject," said Robert in a manner too
positive to be disobeyed.

He himself dropped every subject, and finished his
meal in a silence so eloquent, that no one had the
spirit to break it. His mother looked at him in
dignantly, his sister kept her eyes on her plate, and
ate with a noiseless deliberation, that was almost
provoking. It was a most wretched meal.

" And all because that creature missed meeting
him at Crewe," snorted the angry mother as her son
left the room.

" You had better go to the library, mother, and
find out what is the matter. I dare say it is business
and not Dora at all."

" I will go as soon as he has had a ten minutes'
smoke. He is as touchy as tinder yet, Isabel."

But Robert did not go to the library. As he
came out of the dining-room McNab walked up to
him, and he spoke more pleasantly to her than he
had yet done to any one since his return. " Good-
evening, McNab," he replied to her greeting, " I
hope you are well."

" As well as I ever expect to be in this house, sir.
My dear young mistress left these jewels in my
care fearing what happened once before, sir and
I promised to keep them safe till you came home;
the same I've done. And she left this letter like
wise for you, and I hope there is no bad news in it,
sir, for she was breaking her heart the day she was
writing it."

" Breaking her heart ? What about, McNab ? "



288 A Reconstructed Marriage

" They were going to take the bit bonnie bairn
from her and him every night, as like as not, hav
ing a black life-and-death-fight wi' what they ca'
croup. You know, sir? "

" I know, McNab. Thank you ! " and instead of
going to the library, he went into his own parlor,
and locked both doors leading into it. Then he
sat down with the letter in his hand. He looked
at the neatness with which it was folded, addressed,
and sealed, and he had a sudden memory of the
joy and expectation with which he had once been
used to receive such letters. He had no fear of bad
news. He expected only Theodora's usual pleading
for little David, and he thought it likely the removal
of the boy's cot typified a more than common dispute
concerning the child.

When he finally opened the letter, a small parcel
fell out of it, which he laid aside. Then he read
without pause or faltering, the following words:

"Mv DEAR ROBERT: A little while ago, you
told me all that I possessed, that even my wedding
ring, belonged to you. To-day I restore you all that
you have given me, and with my raiment and orna
ments, the dearest ornament of all my wedding
ring. You have broken every pledge it promised.
You have treated me, and permitted others to treat
me, with a sustained, deliberate neglect and cruelty
that is almost incredible. To-day I make you free
from all obligations to me, and my child. Do not
try to find us. You cannot. We shall disappear



A Reconstructed Marriage 289

as completely as a stone thrown into mid-ocean. But
you know well, that I may be fully trusted to do
all my duty to David. Oh, Robert, Robert, I can
not bear to reproach you! I love you, though I
am leaving you forever. My father and mother
go with me, and God and they are a multitude. I
shall want for nothing but your love, and that was
taken from me long ago. My love, my love ! Fare
well forever. THEODORA."

Then he unfolded the bit of tissue paper which
the letter contained, and out of it fell the wedding
ring. He laid it in the hollow of his hand and
looked at it. And as he looked, the storm in his
heart gathered and gathered, until all its waves and
billows went over him.

" Gone! Gone forever! " he said in an awful
whisper a whisper that came from a depth of his
nature never plumbed before; an abyss that only
despair and death know of. He rose and walked
about, he sat down, he re-read the letter, he tried
to think, and could not. He threw off his coat and
vest, his collar and neckerchief; they lay at his feet,
and he kicked them out of his way. " I am choking
dying!" he murmured. "Dora! Dora! Dora!
Where are you? "

The unfortunate man was torn with the most con
trary feelings. He loved the adorable woman who
had cast him off; and he hated her. Remorse for
his own neglect and cruelty alternated with anger at
his wife for the pain she was giving him. And she



290 A Reconstructed Marriage

had robbed him of his child also, his child! Oh,
he would have the child back, if he moved heaven
and earth to compass it. There was no order, no
method in his grief, one dreadful accusation fol
lowed another like actual blows, from a hand
he could neither stay, nor entreat, nor reason
with.

In hoarse mutterings, and fierce imprecations, he
gave voice to a passion of grief and anger so furious,
that ordinary speech utterly failed it. Frequently
he struck the table or the piano frenzied blows with
his hand or he kicked out of his path chairs, stools, .
or whatever came in his raging way. Even Theo
dora's embroidery frame was thus treated, and then
tenderly lifted and straightened, and put in its place.
His restless feet and hands, his distracted walk, his
mad motions, his distorted face and inflamed eyes,
all indicated a -tumult of suffering and despair, ren
dered all the more terrible by the shrill strain of
half-religious oaths, which like flashes of hell-fire made
the blackness of darkness in which he suffered all
the more lurid and awful.

At length his physical nature refused to express
any longer his mad sorrow by motion. He fell prone
upon the sofa, and clasping his hands over his heart,
he sobbed as only strong men in the very exhaustion
of all other expression of feeling can sob. By this
time it was late, the house was dark and still, and
only the miserable man's mother was awake and
watching. She felt that there was sorrow in the
house, and when midnight came she went softly



A Reconstructed Marriage 291

downstairs and stood at her son's door, listening to
the soul in agony, moaning, sobbing, accusing, blam
ing, entreating, defying. She feared to let him
know she was there and she feared to leave him. She
was at a loss to account for a passion so amazing and
uncontrolled. Stepping softly back to her room she
reconsidered herself. In a couple of hours there was
the crash of china falling, and her temper got the
better of her fear. She went hastily and without
attempt at secrecy, to her son's door.

" Robert ! " she called, but there was no answer.

" Robert, Robert Campbell, open this door! " and
she shook the handle violently.

He rose with an oath, flung the door wide, and
stood glaring at her from eyes red and swollen and
fierce with anger. " What do you want? " he asked.
" Can you not let me alone, even at midnight? "

"What is the matter with you? Are you
ill?"

" No."

" Then what for are you sobbing and crying?
I'm fairly ashamed for you. Do you know it's two
o'clock in the morning? "

" I don't care what time it is. Go away."

" I will not go. You are demented or you are
wicked beyond believing."

"Go away!"

" I will not. What, in God's name, is the
matter? "

"Theodora!" he shrieked, as he flung his arms
upward.



292 A Reconstructed Marriage

" O, it is Theodora, is it? I thought so."

"She has left me, left me forever! She has
gone, and taken my little Davie with her."

" Just what I expected."

" Just what you drove her to."

"Has that black-a-visored dandy staying at the
Oliphants' gone with her? "

" Damnation, no! Her father and mother went
with her."

" She says so, no doubt. Do you believe her? "

" Yes."

" Weel, I'm glad she's off and awa'. We'll hae
a bit o' peace now."

" My heart is bleeding, bursting; I cannot listen
to you."

" Such parfect nonsense ! You ought to be thanks
giving. Who broke that vase to smithereens? "

" I did."

" It cost twenty guineas."

" I don't care a tinker's curse, if it cost a hundred
guineas." He walked to the mantlepiece and flung
down on the marble hearth a valuable piece of
Worcester.

" My God, Robert! Have you lost your senses? "

" I have lost my wife and child."

" Good riddance of baith o' them."

" How dare you? "

" Dinna say ' dare ' to me."

"Go away! Go instanter! "

' You will go first. I'll not leave you alane."

" If you don't go, I will call McNab and Jepson,



A Reconstructed Marriage 293

and they will help you to your own room. Do you
hear me? "

" Robert Campbell, go to your decent bed and
sleep, and behave yourself."

"My God, woman!"

" I am your mother."

" God pity me ! I can't throw you down,

but " then he lifted a white marble clock, and

let it crash among the broken china. " Out of
here! " he screamed. His usually deep, strong voice
had been rising with every word he spoke, and his
last order was given in a mad alto which terrified
the woman browbeating him. It was not Robert's
voice; its shrill shriek was the cry of extremity or
insanity. She fled upstairs to McNab's room.

"Waken! waken! McNab," she cried. "Your
master has lost his senses. Run for Dr. Fleming.
Make him come back wi' you."

"What hae ye been doing to the poor man?"
she asked sleepily as she put on her shoes.

" Nothing, nothing at all. Just advising him. It
is that English cutty she "

"Meaning Mrs. Robert Campbell?"

" Call her what you like. It is her, it is her !
She has taken the bairn and gone."

"Gone?"

" Left her husband forever. Be in a hurry,
woman. Don't you hear the man raving like a wild
beast?"

He was not raving when McNab looked at him
in passing. He was lying on the sofa perfectly still,



294 A Reconstructed Marriage

with his hands clasped above his head. So the
doctor found him a quarter-of-an-hour later. ' You
have had a great shock, Campbell," he said.

" A shot in the backbone, doctor. My wife has
left me, and taken my son with her."

"I know! But were you not expecting her to
do so?"

"No, no! Why should I?"

" How much longer did you think your wife could
bear what she had to bear? Come, come, you
must look at this trial like a sensible man ! I sup
pose you want to find her? "

" It is all I shall live for."

" Then you must sleep. I will go with you to
your room, and give you a sedative. You must
sleep, and get yourself together. Then you will
have to make your face iron and brass, for all you
will have to meet advice and pity, blame and sym
pathy, but you will carry your cup of sorrow without
spilling it o'er everybody you meet or I don't know
you. What made you lose your grip to-night? "

" Necessity, doctor. I had to, or "

" I know."

" One towering rage was better than daily and
hourly disputing. The subject is buried now, be
tween my family and myself. It was a necessity."

" Ay, ay, and when Necessity calls, none shall dare
' bring to her feet excuse or prayer.' Your wife's
flight was a necessity also. Keep that in your mind.
You are sleepy, I see; don't look at the newspapers
till the wonder is over."



A Reconstructed Marriage 295

The newspapers easily got hold of the story, and
each related the circumstance in its own way. Some
plainly said domestic misery had driven the ill-used
lady to flight; others spoke of her great beauty and
wonderful voice, and made suspicious allusions to
the temptations always ready to assail beauty and
genius. None of them omitted the world-weary
taunt of the mother-in-law, and some very broad
aspersions were made on Mrs. Campbell's well-
known impossible temper, and her hatred of all mat
rimonial intrusions into her family. The story of
her eldest son's unsatisfactory marriage was recalled,
his banishment and exile and supposed death. Chris
tina's flight from her rich, titled lover to the poor
man she preferred added a romantic touch; and the
final tragedy of the disappearance of Robert Camp
bell's wife and son seemed to the majority proof
positive that the trouble-making element was in the
Campbell family, and rested in the hard, proud,
scornful disposition of the mother, and mother-in-
law. There was not a single paper that did not
take a special delight in blaming Mrs. Traquair
Campbell, but all, without exception, praised ex
travagantly the beauty, the sweet nature, and the
genius of her wronged and terrorized daughter-in-
law.

Robert Campbell took no notice of anything, that
either the newspapers or his mother said. One day
Isabel showed him a remark concerning " the un
happy life of that unfortunate gentleman, the late
amiable Traquair Campbell, Esq." " You ought to



296 A Reconstructed Marriage

stop such shameful allusions, Robert," she said,
" they make mother furious."

He looked at her with eyes sad and suffering, and
answered: "Neither you nor I, Isabel, can gainsay
those words. They describe only too truly our
father's position. He was amiable, and he was un
happy."

" But, Robert, the insinuation is, that mother was
to blame for our father's unhappiness."

" She was. Such accusations are best unanswered.
If we do not talk life into them, they will die in
a few days."

To those who did not know Robert Campbell, he
seemed at this time indifferent and unfeeling. In
reality he was consumed by the two passions that
had taken possession of him the finding of his wife
and son, and the making of money to keep up the
search for them. He spent his days at the works,
his evenings were devoted to interviewing his de
tectives, writing them instructions, or reading their
reports. Shabby-looking men, in various disguises,
haunted the hall and library of Traquair House, and
every single one of them gave Mrs. Campbell a
fresh and separate attack of anger. They were
naturally against her, they believed everything wrong
said of her, they talked slyly to the servants, and
would scarcely answer her questions; they trespassed
on her rights, and disobeyed her orders; and if she
made a complaint of their behavior to her son, he
looked at her indignantly and walked silently away.
Speech, which had been her great weapon, and her



A Reconstructed Marriage 297

great enjoyment, lost its power against the smoulder
ing anger in her son's heart, and the speechless in
solence of his " spying men."

Very soon after his sorrow had found him out
he locked every drawer and closet in the rooms that
had been Theodora's. It was a necessary .action,
but he had a bitter heartache in its performance.
The carefully folded garments, with their faint scent
of lavender, held so many memories of the woman
he longed to see. The knots of pale ribbons, the
neckwear of soft lace ! Oh, how could such things
hurt him so cruelly? In one drawer of her desk
he found the stationery she had begged her own
money to buy. She had not even taken the postage
stamps. That circumstance set him thinking. She
was leaving England, or she would have taken the
stamps perhaps not they might have been left for
the very purpose of inducing this belief. Who could
tell?

Meantime nothing in the life of Traquair House
changed or stopped, because Robert Campbell's life
had been snapped into two parts. Mrs. Campbell
soon recovered her pride and self-confidence. She
told all her callers she " had received measureless
sympathy, and as for her enemies, and what they
said, she just washed her hands of them poor, beg
garly scribblers, and such like."

Isabel's behavior was a nearer and more constant
annoyance. She spent the most of her time in her
own room with maps and guidebooks and writing,
and the pleasure she derived from these sources was



298 A Reconstructed Marriage

a pleasure inconceivable to her mother. ' You are
past reckoning with, Isabel," she said fretfully one
day, " what on earth are you busy about? "

" I am planning routes of travel, mother, putting
down every place to stop at, what hotel to go to,
what is worth seeing, and so on. I have four routes
laid out already. I am hoping some day, when I
have made all clear, you will go with me."

" Me ! Me go with you ! Not while I have one
of my five senses left me."

" I shall surely go some day. I might have been
travelling ere now, but I disliked to leave you alone,
after this trouble about Dora."

" There is no trouble about Dora, none at all.
The running away o' the creature is a great
satisfaction to me. I hate both her and her
child."

" Robert is breaking his heart about them."

" And neglecting his business, and spending more
money than he is making, looking for them. I might
break my heart, too, but thanks be! I have more
sense. Did I tell you the Crawford girls are com
ing to stay a week or two? I thought they would
be a bit company to you. I suppose they can have
the room next yours."

" Christina's room ! Oh, mother, I wish you
would put them somewhere else. You have a spare
room."

" It is o'er near my own room. And they are
apt to come home at night full o' chat and giggle,
and get me wakened up and maybe put by all sleep



A Reconstructed Marriage 299

for that night. What is wrong with the room next
yours? "

" I don't like any one using Christina's room
and they will keep me awake."

" Nobody takes the least thought for my comfort."

"Why did you ask the Crawfords? You know
Robert hates them."

" Robert is forgetting how to behave decently.
He will at least have to be civil to the Crawfords,
and that is a thing he has ceased to be either to
you or me."

" Robert and I understand each other. He gives
me a look, and I give him one. We do not require
to speak."

" I wonder how I ever came to breed such un
feeling, unsocial children. If I get ' yes ' or ' no '
from your brother now, it is the whole of his con
versation; and as for yourself, Isabel, you are at
that wearisome reading or writing the livelong day.
I'll need the Crawfords, or some one, to talk to
me, or I'll forget how to speak. Now where will I
sleep them? "

" I suppose in poor Christina's room."

" Poor Christina! Yes, indeed! I have no man
ner o' doubt it is ' poor Christina ' by this time."

"Mother! mother! do not spae sorrow to your
own child. I can't bear it. I think she is very
happy indeed. If she was not, she would have sent
me word. It is poor Isabel, and it is happy Chris
tina."

" Your way be it."



300 A Reconstructed Marriage

The next day the Crawfords came, and were in
stalled in Christina's room. Mrs. Campbell was
in one of her gayest moods, and she said to Isabel:
" I am not going to live in a Trappist monastery,
because Robert is too sulky to open his mouth to me.
I'll be glad to hear the girls clacking and chattering,
and whiles laughing a bit. God knows, we need
not make life any gloomier than it is."

For two or three days, the Crawfords had the
run of the house. Robert went away, " on another
wild goose chase " his mother said, just before they
arrived; and his mother's words were evidently true,
for he came home with every sign of disappointment
about him. He looked so unhappy, that Isabel,
meeting him in the hall, said: " I am sorry, brother,
very sorry."

" I know you are," he answered. " It was a false
hope nothing in it."

" I would stop looking."

* You are right. I will give it up."

He went into the dining-room with Isabel, said
good-evening to his mother, and bowed civilly to her
guests. The dinner proceeded in a polite, noiseless
manner, until the end of the second course. Then
Robert lifted his eyes, and they fell upon Jean Craw
ford's hand. The next moment he had risen and
was at her side.

" Give me the ring upon your right hand," he
said in a voice that held as much passion as a voice
could hold and be intelligible.

"Why, Cousin Robert!"



A Reconstructed Marriage 301

" I want that ring! "

" Aunt Margaret said "

" Give me the ring. It is not yours. How dare
you wear it? "

"I was bringing it back! Oh, Aunt Mar
garet ! "

" Robert, I am ashamed of you ! "

" Mother, I want Theodora's ring the ring
stolen from my wife years ago. I must have it
I must, I must! "

" Don't cry, Jean. Give him his ring. I'll give
you a far handsomer one."

Then the woman threw it down on the table, and
Robert lifted it and left the room.

Isabel sat until the tearful, protesting meal was
over, and then she did the most remarkable thing
she went to her brother. He was sitting looking at
the ring, recalling its history. He remembered go
ing into Kendal one Saturday night, just after its
receipt, and memory showed him again Theodora's
delight and excitement, her wonder over its beauty,
and her pride in her pupils' affection. He could see
her lovely face, her shining eyes, he could feel her
soft kiss, and the caress of her hand in his. Oh,
what a miracle of love and beauty she was to him
that night! He told Isabel all about it, and then
he spoke of its theft, and of his frequent promises
and failures to recover it for her.

" But, brother," said Isabel, " you have now quite
unexpectedly got it back. It is a good omen. Some
day, when you are not looking for such a thing, you



302 A Reconstructed Marriage

will get its owner back, you will put it on her finger.
I feel sure of it."

" I was a brute, Isabel."

" You were a coward. You were afraid of
mother."

" No man ever had so many opportunities for
happiness as Theodora offered me. I scorned them
all. Why was I so blind, so unjust, so cruel? I
am miserable, and deserve to be miserable. We
can go to hell before we die, Isabel."

" Yes, we can, but we send ourselves there. ' If
I make my bed in hell,' said the great seer and
singer. It is always / that makes that bed, never
God, never any other human being." And it was
Robert Campbell, he himself, and no other, who had
made his bed in that forlorn circle of hell, where
men who have lost their Great Opportunity, weep
and wail over their forfeited happiness. Poor Isa
bel, she remembered, and longed to remind her
brother, that even there God was with him, waiting
to be gracious, ready to help! But she was too
cowardly, she did not like to give religious advice;
she was only a woman he would wonder at her.
So she went away, and did not deliver the gracious
message, and felt poor and mean because of her fear
and her faithlessness.

This conversation, however, made a decided
change in Robert Campbell's life. It had always
been believed by the family, that Isabel, unknown
to herself, had a certain occult, prophesying power;
frequently she had proved that with her insight was



A Reconstructed Marriage 303

foresight. So, though Robert said nothing to her
when she told him the getting back of the ring was
a good omen, he believed her and derived a singular
peace and confidence from the prediction. At that
very hour, he virtually put a stop to all inquiries, and
to all search; he resolved to leave to those behind
him the bringing back of his wife, and their recon
ciliation.

Carrying out this resolve compelled him to take
account of the money he had spent in the quest for
Theodora and his son, and the total gave him a
shock. It had been an absolutely fruitless waste of
money, and he had a fiery impetuous determination
to restore to his estate the full amount. To this
object he devoted himself, and if a man is willing
to lose his heart and soul in money-making, he is
sure to succeed.

So the weeks and the months passed, and he turned
himself, body and soul, into gold and tried to for
get. The loss of his wife and child became a some
thing that had happened long ago an event sorrow
ful, and far off. For there was nothing to keep
their memory alive. No one mentioned their names,
and the very rooms they had inhabited, had lost
all remembrance of them. They were simply empty
rooms now, for every particle of the lovely and lov
ing lives that had once informed them, had been
withdrawn.

Nearly two years had passed since Christina mar
ried, nearly as long since Theodora and David dis
appeared, and the big, silent Traquair House was a



304 ^ Reconstructed Marriage

desolate place. Mrs. Campbell had no one but her
servants to dispute with, for though Isabel's seclusion
was constantly more marked, Robert would not listen


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 17 of 23)