Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

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" Doubtless you think she is a nonsuch, but I call
your case one of lamentable self-pleasing. To the
lures of what you consider a beautiful woman, you
are sacrificing your noblest feelings and traditions.
Don't deceive yourself. Was there not in all Scot
land a girl of your own race and faith, good enough
for you to marry? "

" I never saw one I wanted to marry."

36 A Reconstructed Marriage

" I might mention Jane Dalkeith."
'You need not. I would not marry Jane if she
was the only woman in the world ! "

' You prefer above all others an Englishwoman
and a Methodist? "

" Decidedly."

' You have made up your mind to marry this
doubly objectionable woman?"

" Positively, some time next October."

" And what is to become of me, and your sis

" That is what I wish to understand/'

" I have my dower-house in Saltcoats, but it is
small and uncomfortable. If I go there, I shall have
to leave the Kirk I have sat in for thirty-seven years,
the minister who is dear and profitable to me, all
the friends I have in the world, and the num
erous "

" Mother, I wish you to do none of these things.
This house is large enough for us all. The south
half, which you now occupy, you can retain for your
self and my sisters. I shall refurnish, as Theodora
desires, the northern half, and if you will continue
the management of the house and table, we can all
surely eat in our present dining-room. There will
only be one more to cater for, and I will allow lib
erally for that in the weekly sum for your expendi
ture. Theodora is no housekeeper and does not pre
tend to be. She is immensely clever and intellectual,
and has been a professor in a large Methodist College
for girls."

A Reconstructed Marriage 37

" You will be a speculation to all who know you."

" I am not caring a penny piece. They can specu
late all they choose to. I shall meanwhile be ex
tremely indifferent. I have come at last, mother, to
understand that in a great love there is great happi
ness. The whole soul can take shelter there."

" The soul takes shelter in nothing and in no one
related to this earth. That is some of last Sabbath's
teaching, I suppose."

" Yes," he answered. " I was at Theodora's side
all last Sunday and I learned this lesson in the sweet
est way imaginable."

" I wish you to talk modestly before your sisters,
and I do not like to hear the Sabbath called

Robert laughed and answered: " Well, mother, we
have so little sunshine in Scotland, we really cannot
speak of any day as Sunday."

" You may laugh, Robert, but such things are re
lated to spiritual ordinances, and are not joking mat

" You are right, mother. Let us get back to busi
ness. Will you accept my proposal, or do you pre
fer to go to your own home ? "

" I have been used to consider this bouse my own
home, for thirty-seven years, and if I leave it, I
wonder what kind of housekeeping will go on in it,
with a college woman to superintend things? You
would be left to the servant lasses, and their doings
and not-doings would be enough to turn my hair

38 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Then, mother, you will stay here, as I propose? "

" I cannot do my duty, and leave."

" I thank you, mother." Then, turning to his
sisters, he said: " I hope you are satisfied, girls."

" There is no other course for us," answered Isa
bel. " We must stay where mother stays. It
would be unkind to leave her now when you are
practically leaving her."

" I hope Theodora will be nice," said Christina.
" If she is, we may be happy."

" Do your best, Christina, to make all pleasant,
and you will please me very much," said Robert.
" And, Isabel, I am not leaving any of you. Mar
riage will not alter me in regard to my relationship
to mother, yourself, and Christina. I promise you

" If you intend to make many alterations in the
house, you will have to see about them at once,"
said Mrs. Campbell.

" To-morrow I shall send men to remove all the
old furniture from the rooms I intend to decorate."

"To remove it! Where to?"

" To Bailey's auction rooms."

" Robert Campbell ! Your poor, dear father's
rooms, and he not gone two years yet ! "

" To-morrow will be nine days short of the two
years. Do you wish his rooms to remain untouched
for nine days longer, mother? "

" It is no matter. Let his lounge, and his chair
and his bagatelle board go let all go ! The dead,
as well as the living, must make way for Theodora."

A Reconstructed Marriage 39

u And, mother, as the hall will be entirely changed,
and there will be much traffic through it, you had
better remove early in the morning those huge glass
cases of impaled insects and butterflies. If you wish
to keep them, take them to your rooms; if not, let
them go to Bailey's."

" They may as well go with the rest. Your father
valued them highly in this life, but "

" They are the most lugubrious, sorrowful objects.
They make me shudder. How could any one
imagine they were ornamental? "

" Your father thought them to be very curious
and instructive, and they cost a great deal of money."

" If during the night you remember any changes
you would like to make, we can discuss them in the
morning," said Robert.

He went out gaily, and as he closed the door, be
gan to sing:

" My love Is like a red, red rose,

That's newly blown in June;
My Love is like a melody,

That's sweetly played in tune."

Then the library shut in the singer and the song>
and all was silence.

Mrs. Campbell did not speak, and Isabel looked
at her with a kind of contemptuous pity. She
thought her mother had but lamely defended her
position, and was sure she could have done it more
effectively. Christina was simply interested. There
was really something going to happen, and as far

40 A Reconstructed Marriage

as she could see, the change in the house would bring
other changes still more important. She was satis
fied, and she looked at her silent mother and sister
impatiently. Why did they not say something?

At length Mrs. Campbell rose from the sofa, and
began to walk slowly up and down the room, and
with motion came speech.

" I think, Isabel," she said, " I signified my
opinions and desires plainly enough to your brother."

" You spoke with your usual wisdom and clearness,

" Do you think Robert understood that I consider
this house my house, and that I intend to be mistress
in it? Why, girls, your father made me mistress
here more than thirty-seven years ago. That ought
to be enough for Robert."

" Robert is now in father's place," said Christina.

" Robert cannot take from me what your father
gave me. This house is morally mine, and always
will be, while I choose to urge my claim. I am not
going to be put to the wall by two lovesick fools.
No, indeed!"

" I think Robert showed himself very wise for his
own and Theodora's interests; and he would refute
your moral claim, I assure you, mother, without one
qualm of conscience."

" Refute me 1 He might as well try to refute
the Bass rock. A mother is irrefutable, Isabel !
But his conduct will necessitate us all using a deal
of diplomacy. You do not require to be told why^
or how, at the present time. I have a forecasting

A Reconstructed Marriage 41

mind, and I can see how things are going to happen,
but just now, we must keep a calm sound in all our
observes, for the man is in the burning fever of an
uncontrollable love, and clean off his reason on the
subject of that Englishwoman, he is mad entirely."

" J wonder what Dr. Robertson, and the Kirk, and
people in general, will say?"

" What they will say to our faces is untelling,
Isabel; what they will say when we are not bodily
present, it is easy to surmise. Every one will con
sider Robert Campbell totally beyond his senses. He
is. That creature in a place called Kendal, has
bewitched him. As you well know, the prime and
notable quality of Robert Campbell was, that he
could make money, and especially save money. He
always, in this respect, reminded me of his grand
father, whom every one called ' Old Economy.'
Now, what is he doing? Squandering money on
every hand! Expensive journeys for the sole end
of lovemaking, expensive presents no doubt, half of
Traquair House redecorated and refurnished, wed
ding expenses coming on, honeymoon expenses; good
ness only knows what else will be emptying the
purse. And for whom? An Englishwoman, a
Methodist, a poor school-teacher. She will neither
be to hold nor to bind in her own expenses ; for com
ing to Traquair House will be to her like entering
a superior state of existence, and she won't know how
to carry herself in it. We may take that to be a
certainty. But I think I can teach her! Yes, I
think I can teach her! "

42 A Reconstructed Marriage

"How will you do it, mother?"

" I cannot exactly specify now. She will give me
the points, and opportunities; and correcting, and
advising, come most effectively from the passing
events of daily life. As I said, she will give me
plenty of occasions or I'm no judge of women espe
cially brides."

" You might be flustered if you were in a hurry
and unprepared, mother, and miss points of advan
tage, or get more than you gave, but if you had a
plan thought out "

" No, no, Isabel ! I have lived long enough to
learn the wisdom of building my wall with the stones
I find at the foot of it."

" Many a sore heart the poor thing will get ! "
said Christina, with an air of mock pity.

" We cannot say too much or go too far, while
Robert is as daft in love as he is at present," con
tinued Mrs. Campbell. " We must be cautious, and
that is the good way the bit-by-bitness is what tells ;
now a look, now a word, now a hint, there a suspi
cion, there a worriment, there a hesitation or a
doubt. It is the bit-by-bitness tells ! This is a
forgetful world, so I mention this fact again. And
remember also, that men are the most uncertain part
of creation. I have known Robert Campbell thirty
years and I have just found him out. He is a curious
creature, is Robert. He thinks himself steady as
the hills, but in reality he is just as unstable as water.
Good-night, girls! We will go for our sleep now,
though I'm doubting if we get any."

A Reconstructed Marriage 43

" Theodora won't keep me awake," said Chris
tina. Isabel did not speak then, but as they stood
a moment at their bedroom doors, she said : " Mother
is not to be trifled with. She is going to make Theo
dora trouble enough. I'm telling you."

" I don't care if she does ! Anything for a
change. Good-night ! "

" Good-night! I do not expect to sleep."

" Perfect nonsense ! Why should you keep awake
for a woman in Kendal? Shut your eyes and for
get her. Or dream that she brings you a husband."

" I'll do no such thing. That's a likely story! "
and the two doors shut softly to the denial, and
Christina's low laugh at it.

When the three women came down to breakfast
in the morning, they found a dozen men at work
dismantling the hall and the rooms on the north side
of the house. The glass cases of insects and butter
flies, and the old-fashioned engravings of Sir Robert
Peel, Lord Derby, the Duke of Wellington, and
Queen Victoria's marriage ceremony were just leav
ing the house. Mrs. Campbell, walking in her most
stately manner, approached the foreman and began
to give him some orders. He listened impatiently
a few moments, and then answered with small
courtesy :

" I have my written directions, ma'am, from the
master, and I shall follow them to the letter. There
is no use in you bothering and interfering," and
with the last word on his lips, he turned from her
to address some of his workmen.

44 A Reconstructed Marriage

She looked at him in utter amazement and speech
less anger; then with an apparent haughty indiffer
ence, turned into the breakfast-room bringing the
word " interfering " with her, and flavoring every re
mark she made with it. She was in a white heat of
passion, and really felt herself to have been insulted
beyond all pacification. Isabel had been a little in
advance, and had not seen and heard the affront,
but she was in thorough sympathy with her mother.
Christina was differently affected. The idea of a
workman telling her mother not to interfere in her
own house was so flagrantly impudent, that it was
to Christina flagrantly funny. Every time Mrs.
Campbell imitated the man, she felt that she must
give way, and at length the strain was uncontrollable,
and she burst into a screaming passion of laughter.

" Forgive me, mother! " she said as soon as speech
was possible. " That man's impertinence to you has
made me hysterical, for I never saw you treated so
disrespectfully before. I was very nervous when
I rose this morning."

" You must conquer such absurd feelings, Chris
tina. Observe your sister and myself. We should
be ashamed to exhibit such a total collapse of will

" Excuse me, mother. I will go to my room until
I feel better."

"Very well, Christina. You had better take a
drink of water. Remember, you must learn to meet
annoyance like a sensible woman."

" I will, mother."

A Reconstructed Marriage 45

But after breakfast when Isabel came to her, she
went off into peals of laughter again, burying her
face in the pillows, and only lifting it to ejaculate:
" It was too delicious, Isabel too deliciously funny
for anything! If you had seen that man stare
mother in the face and tell her not to interfere I
I wondered how he dared, but I admired him for
it; he was a big, handsome fellow. Oh, how I
wished I was like him! What privileges men do

" Do you mean to call it a privilege to tell mother
not to interfere? "

" Many a time I would like to have done it; yes,
many a time. I know it is wicked, but mother does
interfere too much. It is her specialty ! " and Chris
tina appeared ready for another fit of laughter.

" If you laugh any more, Christina, I shall feel
it my duty to throw cold water in your face. Mother
told me to do so."

" Such advice comes from her interfering temper.
That handsome fellow was right."

" Behave yourself, Christina. What is the matter
with you? "

" It is the change, Isabel. To see lots of men
in the hall, and that heavy black furniture and the
poor beetles and butterflies, and the great men's pic
tures going away "

" Can't you speak correctly? Are you sick?"

"I must be!"

" Go back to bed, and I will get mother to giv*
you a sleeping powder."

46 A Reconstructed Marriage

" That will be better than cold water. If you
could only have seen mother's face, Isabel, when
that man told her not to interfere. As for him,
he had a wink in his eyes, I know. I hope I shall

never see him again. If I do "

" I trust you will behave decently, as Christina
Campbell ought to do."

" If he winks, I shall laugh. I know I shall/'
" Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself ! "
" I am, but what good does that do? "
" See here, Christina, there are going to be many
changes in this house, and if you intend to meet them
with this idiotic laughter, what pleasure can you ex
pect? Be sensible, Christina."

Poor Christina ! The keenest of all her faculties
was her sense of the ridiculous. On this side of
her nature, her intellect could have been highly de
veloped, but instead it had been ruthlessly depressed
and ignored. The comic page of the newspapers,
the only page she cared for, was generally removed;
she could tell a funny story delightfully, but no one
smiled if she did so; she saw the comical attributes
of every one, and everything, but it was a grave
misdemeanor to point them out; and thus snubbed
and chided for the one thing she could do, she feared
to attempt others which she knew only in a mediocre

At the dinner table she was able to take her place
in a placid, sensible mood. She found the family
deep in the discussion of an immediate removal to
the seashore. It was at any rate about the usual

A Reconstructed Marriage 47

time of their summer migration, and Robert was ad
vising his mother to go to the Isle of Arran. But
Mrs. Campbell had resolved to go to Campbelton,
where she had many relations. " We can stay at
the Argyle Arms," she said, " and then neither the
Lairds nor the Crawfords will have the face to be
dropping in for a few days' change, at my expense."

Christina looked distressed, and touched Isabel's
foot to excite her to rebellion. " Mother," said
Isabel dolorously, " Christina and I hate Campbel
ton ! It smells of whiskey and fish, and not even
the great sea winds can make the place clean and

" It makes me ill," ventured Christina.

" My family have lived there for generations,
Christina, and it never made them ill. They are,
indeed, very robust and healthy."

" There is nothing to see, mother."

" I am ashamed of you, Christina. It is a town
of the greatest antiquity, and was, as you ought to
know, the capital of the Dalriadan kingdom in the
sixth and seventh century."

" I know all about its antiquities, mother. I wish
I didn't."

" Christina, what is the matter with you to-day? "

" I am tired of living, mother."

" Robert, do you hear your sister? "

"Why are you tired of living, Christina? " asked
Robert, not unkindly.

"We do not live, brother; that is the reason."

" What do vou mean? "

48 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Life is variety. To us every day is the same,
except the Sabbath, and that is the worst day of
all. I don't blame you, brother, for a desperate
effort to change your life. If I were a man I should
run away."

" What do you mean by a desperate effort, Chris

" I mean marriage. Sometimes I feel that I
would run away with any man that would marry

" Hush! Such a feeling is shameful. What do
you wish instead of Campbelton? "

The courage of the desperate possessed Christina
and she answered: " I should like to travel. I want
to see Edinburgh and London and Paris like other
girls whose families have money, and Isabel feels
as badly at our restrictions as I do."

"What do you say, mother? Will you go with
the girls to Edinburgh and London? Paris is out
of the question. I will pay all expenses."

" I will do nothing of the kind. I am going to
Campbelton. I suppose the girls can go by them

" You know better, mother."

" English girls go all over the world by them
selves, and some kinds of Scotch girls are beginning
to think mothers an unnecessary institution."

Robert looked at Isabel, and she said: " We might
have a courier. I mean a lady courier."

" I will not permit my daughters to go stravaging
round the world with any strange woman. Robert,

A Tie constructed Marriage 49

I think you have behaved most imprudently to pro
pose any such thing."

" In your company, mother, was my suggestion.
I do think an entire change of people and surround
ings would do both you and my sisters a great deal
of good."

" Changes are plentiful; too many are now in

So the subject died in bad temper, and Robert felt
his proffered kindness to have been very ungraciously
received. But when he rose from the table, Chris
tina touched his arm as he passed her chair. " Thank
you, brother," she said. " You wished to give us
a little pleasure. It is not your fault we are de
prived of it."

He saw that her eyes were full of tears, and her
weary, plaintive voice touched his heart, so he
turned to his mother and said:

" Think of what I have proposed. I will not
stint you in expenses. Give the girls and yourself
a little pleasure do."

" Your own expenses are going to be tremendous,
Robert, furnishing, travelling and what not. I can't
conscientiously increase them."

At these words Christina left the room. Robert
did not answer his mother's remark, but he looked
at Isabel, and she understood the look as en
trusting the further prosecution of the subject to

Mrs. Campbell, however, refused to give up
Campbelton. " I heard," she said, " that Mrs.

50 A Reconstructed Marriage

Walter Galbraith was going to France and
Italy. Perhaps she will allow you to travel with

Isabel looked at her mother with something like
reproach. " You know well, mother, that Mrs. Gal
braith dresses and travels in the most extravagant
fashion. She would not be seen with two old maids
in plain brown merino suits. We should look like
her servants. Even if we got stylish travelling
gowns, we should want dinner dresses, and opera
dresses, and cloaks and changes, and small necessities
innumerable. It would cost a thousand pounds, if
not more, to clothe us both for a three months'
travel with Mrs. Galbraith."

" Then be sensible women and go to Campbelton.
You can take your wheels and on the firm sands of
Macrihanish Bay have a five miles' unbroken spin.
There are boating and fishing and very interesting

" And Christina will find company for her wheel
and walks, mother. The last time we were in Camp
belton, the schoolmaster, James Rathey, was con
stantly with her. He was in love, and Christina
liked him. After we came home he wrote to her,
and I had hard work to prevent her answering his

" You ought to have told me this before."

" I was sorry for her. Poor girl, he was the only
lover she ever had! "

" Such folly! I shall watch the schoolmaster my
self this summer. I have influence enough to get

A Reconstructed Marriage 51

him dismissed. He shall not teach in Campbelton
another year."

" Oh, mother, how cruel and unjust that would
be! I am sorry I told you." And Isabel felt the
case to be hopeless, and did not make another plea.

She went straight to her sister's room. " Mother
is not to be moved, Christina," she said. " We
shall have to go to Campbelton."

" So be it. Jamie Rathey will be having his vaca
tion now, and he can play the fiddle and sing ' The
Laird o' Cockpen ' worth listening to. He prom
ised to buy a wheel before I came again, and then
we will away to Macrihanish sands for a race. I
won't be cheated out of that pleasure, Isabel, and
you need not say a word about it."

" You cannot hide it. Every one but mother
knew about you and James Rathey last year, and
Aunt Laird would have told mother, but I begged
her not. If you begin that foolishness again, I must
attend to the matter."

"You mean you will tell mother?"

11 Yes, decidedly."

" Then you will be an ill-natured sister."

A little later Mrs. Campbell appeared and told
them to pack their trunks, and lock up the clothing
they did not intend to take with them. " The
paperers and painters are coming into the house to
morrow morning," she said. " We shall take the
boat for Campbelton directly after an early break

As neither Isabel nor Christina made any protest,

52 A Reconstructed Marriage

she added: " You may go at once and buy yourselves
a couple of suits, one for church, and a white one
that will be easily laundered. I suppose hats, gloves,
shoes, and some other things will be necessary. You
can each of you spend forty pounds. This is a gift>
I shall not take it from your allowance."

" I cannot see through mother," observed Chris
tina as they were on their shopping expedition.

" Can you see through anything, Christina? I

" She had a great fit of the liberalities this morn
ing. What for?"

" She was buying us. One way or another, she
has us all under her feet."

"Poor Theodora!"

" Keep your pity for poor Christina. If Theo
dora has been a schoolmistress she knows fine how to
hold her own."

" With schoolgirls perhaps. Mother is differ

" The difference is not worth counting. Women,
old and young, are very much alike."

" Do you believe the paperers and painters begin
work to-morrow ? "

" Mother said so. It is one of her virtues to
tell the truth. You know how often she declares
she would not lie even to the devil."

" Yes but was that the truth? "

" It is not right to criticise and question what
your mother says, Christina."

In the morning the arrival of a number of men

A Reconstructed Marriage 53

with pails, and brushes, and paint-pots, justified Mrs.
Campbell's assertion, and the three women were glad
to escape the dirt, noise, and confusion in Traquair
House, even for the Argyle Arms in Campbelton.
Robert went with them to the boat, and Isabel's
pathetic acceptance of what she disliked, and the
tears in Christina's eyes made him a little unhappy.
He slipped some gold into their hands, as he bid
them good-bye, and their silent looks of pleasure
at his remembrance, soothed the uncertain sense of
some unkindness or unfairness which had troubled
him since Christina's rebellious outbreak. He was

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 3 of 23)