Copyright
Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

A reconstructed marriage online

. (page 5 of 23)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 5 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" So am I. Thank you for the good things.
They sweetened a disagreeable subject."

" Perhaps she may be better than we expect. One
can never tell what the unknown may turn out to
be. Mother is inclined to be suspicious of all stran
gers," said Isabel.

" If mother's eyes were out, she would see faults
in any one."

" Perhaps, if they were coming into Traquair
House. She does not trouble herself about people
who leave the Campbells alone."

" She spoke of poor brother David to-night. Did
you notice it? "

" Yes."

" It was the first time I have heard her mention
him since he left us."

" She has spoken of him to me, three or four times
a word or two no more."

" Do you know where he is? "

"No."

" Does mother know? "

" No."



A Reconstructed Marriage 71

" Does any one know? "

" No. Mother is sure he is dead. I think so
myself. He would have written to Robert if he
was alive. He was gey fond of Robert."

" I was at school when he went away. I never
heard why he went, for when I came home I was
forbidden to name him. Did he do anything
wrong? "

" No, no ! You must not suppose such a thing.
He was the most loving and honorable of men."

"Then why did he go away? Do you know?"

" Yes, I know all about it."

" Tell me, Isabel. I will never name the sub
ject again. What did he do? "

" Just what Robert has done married a girl not
wanted in the family."

" Who was the girl? Why was she not wanted? "

" Her name was Agnes Symington. She was a
minister's daughter."

"Was she pretty?"

" Very pretty, and good and sweet as a woman
could be."

" Pretty, and good, and sweet, and a minister's
daughter! What more did mother want? "

" Money."

"Was she poor?"

" Yes. Her father was dead, and she had learned
dressmaking to support her mother and herself. She
came to make our winter dresses, and David saw
her and loved her. Though she was a minister's
daughter, mother had always sent her to the servants*



72 A Reconstructed Marriage

table, and she was nearly mad to think David had
married a girl from the servants' table. It was dis
graceful in a way. The servants talked, and so
did every one that knew us. But David loved her,
and when he went he took both Agnes and her
mother with him."

"What did father say?"

" He took David's part. He took it angrily. He
amazed us. He sold David's share in the works
for him, and so let strangers into the company, and
he sent him away with his blessing, and plenty of
money. David was crying when he bid father good
bye; and father was never the same after David left.
We always believed that father knew where he went,
and that he heard from him, through Mr. Oliphant
or Dr. Robertson. But mother could get no words
from him about David, except ' The boy did right.
God pity the man whose wife is chosen for him ! '
I think father had to marry mother to save the
works. I think so; I was not told it as a fact. Do
not breathe a word of what I have told you. It is
a dead story. David and father are both gone, and
I dare say David's wife is married again."

" Thank you for telling me the story, Isabel. I
will keep your confidence. Do not doubt it. I do
not blame David. I think he did right. I wish
I could do the same thing. I "

"Good-night!"

" I would run away to-morrow."



CHAPTER III

THE BRIDE'S HOME-COMING

ROBERT CAMPBELL'S home-coming was after the
fashion Isabel had supposed it would be. On the
eighth of November, Jepson received a telegram
from him before nine in the morning, ordering fires
to be kept burning brightly all day in his rooms.
At eleven there was another telegram, directing Jep
son to have the ferns and plants in the hall renewed,
and flowers in vases put in the parlor and Mrs.
Campbell's dressing-room. At two o'clock Jepson's
message contained the information that Mr. and
Mrs. Campbell would be at the Caledonian Railway
Station at half-past three o'clock, and they would
expect the carriage there for them.

So when Theodora arrived at Traquair House,
she was met by Jepson with obsequious attentions,
the door was wide open to receive her, and the rooms
were shining and glowing with light and warmth
and beauty. Thus far, all her expectations were
realized, but she missed the human welcome which
ought to have vitalized its material symbols. Rob
ert was evidently annoyed at the absence of his
mother and sisters, and he asked sharply after them.

" They went to their rooms after lunch, sir, before
I had time to inform them of the train you speci
fied," Jepson answered.

73



74 A Reconstructed Marriage

Campbell seemed glad of so reasonable an excuse,
and, turning to Theodora, said : " You must have
a cup of tea, dear, and then rest for a couple of
hours. I dare say we shall see no one before dinner.
I suppose dinner is at seven, Jepson?"

" Yes, sir. Seven o'clock exactly, sir."

After her cup of tea Theodora went through
their rooms with her husband and was charmed with
everything that had been done for her comfort.
" Robert," she said, " there is nothing wanting in
these rooms. Everything I could desire is here, ex
cept the smile and the kind words of welcome to them
from your family."

" Those will come later, my sweet Dora. The
Scotch are slow and undemonstrative. My mother
and sisters always retire to their rooms after lunch,
and it is extremely difficult for them to break a
habit. That is their way."

" If habits are kind and good, it is a very good
way in its way. But do you not think, Robert,
that a little spontaneity is sometimes a refreshing and
comforting thing? "

" It may be, but our temperaments are not spon
taneous. Now, try and sleep before you dress. I
will come for you at two minutes before seven. Be
sure you are ready! Mother waits for no one, not
even myself."

But in spite of all the thoughtful care which her
husband had taken for her comfort, Theodora was
invaded by a feeling of melancholy. Her heart
sank fathoms deep, and she could not follow his ad-



A Reconstructed Marriage 75

vice to sleep. She felt chilled and depressed by the
atmosphere she was breathing an atmosphere im
pregnated with the personalities of people inimical
to her. Being conscious of this hostility, she began
to reason about it, a thing in itself unwise ; for happi
ness should never be analyzed.

Very soon she became aware of the futility of her
thoughts. " They lead me to no certain end, for
I am reasoning from premises unknown to me," she
said to herself. " I have heard of these three
women, but I have not seen them. I will wait until
we look at each other face to face."

Then she called her maid, a fresh, honest-hearted
girl from the Westmoreland fells, whom she had
hired in Kendal. " Ducie," she said, " have you
been in the kitchen yet? "

" Oh yes, ma'am. They are a queer lot there.
Only one old man had a good word for any of the
family. They were asking me if you knew that the
Crawfords of Campbelton had been occupying your
rooms for two weeks. ' Plenty of hurrying and
scurrying,' they said, ' to get them away and put the
rooms in order, and the old lady beside herself with
anger, at Mr. Campbell not giving a longer notice
of his coming.' '

" Mr. Campbell gave plenty of time, if the rooms
had not been occupied."

" And, if you please, ma'am, the trunks sent here
from Kendal just after your marriage have all been
opened, and I may say, ma'am ransacked. Every
thing in them is pell-mell, and the dresses not folded



76 A Reconstructed Marriage

straight, and the neckwear and such like, topsy
turvy. And, ma'am, your beautiful ermine furs have
been worn, for they are soiled; other things look
likewise. I don't know what to make of such ways,
I'm sure."

To this information Theodora listened in dismay
and anger. It seemed to her such an incredible
outrage on decency, honor, and even honesty. She
rose instantly and went to look at her trunks. Ducie
had made a very moderate complaint. It was only
necessary to lift the lids to convince herself that the
accusation was a just one. For a moment or two
she stood looking at the disarranged garments; her
face flushed, she locked her fingers together, and was
speechless. Then she sat down to consider the cir
cumstance, and her lovely face had on it an ex
pression half-pleading and half-defiant. It was the
face of a woman you could hurt, but could not
move.

In half-an-hour she called Ducie. " Do not touch
the four trunks that were sent here from Kendal,"
she said. " Open the one we had with us, and
take from it my steel-blue silk costume, and my set
of pearls."

" Will you wear the silk waist, ma'am? "

" No, the lace waist of the same color. And,
Ducie, keep silence concerning all you see and hear
in these rooms. I know you will do so, but it does
no harm to remind you, for you are not used to living
among a crowd of servants, and might fall into some
trap set for you. Just remember, Ducie, that every



A Reconstructed Marriage 77

word you say will likely be repeated, for we
are in a strange country and in a way among
strangers."

" I know, ma'am. New relations are not like old
ones. The old ones feel comfortable like old clothes;
the new ones, like new clothes, need a deal of taking
in and letting out to make them fit."

" That is so, Ducie. I am a little annoyed about
the open trunks, but but, I must dress now, or I
will be late."

" I wouldn't be annoyed, ma'am, for brooding
over annoyances just hatches more; and I will have
little to say to any one. You may trust me. I
will be as good as my word."

Theodora dressed carefully, and when Robert
came for her he was charmed with the quiet beauty
of her costume. " It is just right, Dora," he said,
" perhaps the pearls are a little too much."

" Oh no, Robert. The dress requires them. They
are like moonlight on it, and make each other love
lier."

" Come, then, we have not a moment to lose. It
will strike seven immediately."

They entered the dining-room as it struck the
hour. Mrs. Traquair Campbell had taken her seat
at the foot of the table, and Robert with his bride
on his arm walked to her side and said:

" Mother, this is Theodora. I hope you will give
her your love and welcome."

Mrs. Campbell did not rise, but, looking into
Theodora's face, asked: " Had you a pleasant jour-



78 A Reconstructed Marriage

ney? Are you tired? Railroads are fatiguing kind
of travel."

That was all. She did not say one kind word
of welcome, nor did she offer her hand. In fact, she
had lifted the carving knife as they entered the room,
and she kept it in her grasp. Then Robert took her
to his sisters, and as Isabel sat on one side of the
table, and Christina on the other, the introduction
had to be made three times. In each case it was
about the same, for the girls copied both their
mother's attitude and her words.

But all were frank and friendly with Robert, ask
ing him many questions about the places they had
visited, and as he invariably referred some part of
these queries to Theodora, she was drawn unavoid
ably into the conversation. Very soon the desirt
to conquer these women by the force and magnetism
of love came into her heart, and she smiled into
their dark, cold faces, and discoursed with such
charming grace and social sympathy, that the frost
presently began to thaw, and Isabel found herself
asking the unwelcome bride all kinds of questions
about their travel, and saying at last with a sigh:
" How much I should have liked to have been with
you!"

" I am sorry you were not with us," answered
Theodora, " but we shall go again to the Mediter
ranean for we only got glimpses of places and
things, and must know them better. We shall go
again, shall we not, Robert? "

Then Robert denied all his promises and said:



A Reconstructed Marriage 79

" I fear not, for a long time. Business must be
attended to."

" I am glad you are regaining your senses, Rob
ert," said his mother. " Your business has been
dreadfully neglected for more than half-a-year."

" It has taken no harm, mother, and I shall double
my attention now."

" I hope you will but I doubt it."

" Dora," said Christina, " may I call you Dora? "

" Dora, certainly," interrupted Mrs. Traquair
Campbell. " Theodora is too long a name for con
versation. Do you wish any more ice? Do you,
Isabel?"

Theodora was confounded by such rude and posi
tive ignoring. The question had been addressed
to her, and referred to her Christian name the most
personal of all belongings. Yet it had been per
emptorily decided for her without any regard to her
right or wish. Her cheeks flushed hotly, and she
looked at her husband. Surely he would spare her
the distressing position of denying her mother-in-
law's decision, or affirming her own. But Robert
Campbell was as one that heard not. His eyes were
upon his plate, and he was embarrassed even in the
simple act of eating. At that moment she had
almost a contempt for him. But seeing that he did
not intend to interfere, she smiled at Christina, and
said:

" You will call me Dora, I suppose, as you are
bid to do so, and when I feel like it, I shall answer
to that name. When I do not feel disposed to



80 A Reconstructed Marriage

answer to Dora, I shall be silent. That is, you
know, my privilege." She spoke with a smile
and charming manner, and then, looking at her hus
band, rose from the table. Robert sauntered after
her, making some remark about tea to his mother
as he passed her.

She could not answer him. This leave-taking,
unauthorized by her example, stupefied the elder
woman. " Do you see, Isabel," she cried, " what
I shall have to endure? "

" Dinner was really finished, mother."
" That makes no difference ! No one has a right
to leave the table until I rise. I consider Dora's
behavior a piece of impertinence."

" I do not think she intended it to be impertinent."
" Her intention makes no difference. No one has
a right to leave my table until I set the example.
And if Dora's behavior was not impertinent, then
it was stupid ignorance, and I shall instruct her in
the decencies of respectable life. And I tell you
both to remember that her name is Dora. I will
have no Theodoras here. Fancy people going about
the house calling ' The-o-do-ra.' Ridiculous ! "

" Well, mother, I ask leave to say that I should
not like any one without my permission to call me
Bell, nor do I believe Christina would care to be
called Kirsty. And I really think Robert's wife
wished to be agreeable, and even friendly, if we had
encouraged her. Why not give her a fair trial?
I think she could teach Christina and myself many
things."



A Reconstructed Marriage 81

" I think you are bewitched as well as your brother.
I never knew you, Isabel, to make any exceptions to
my opinions or to see me insulted without feeling
a proper indignation with me."

"Oh, dear mother, you are mistaken! The day
will never come when your daughter Isabel will not
stand shoulder to shoulder with you."

" I am sure of that. I wish Christina had not
asked such an obtrusive question. I had to answer
it as I did, in order to show that woman that we
in our own home here would call her just what we
preferred to call her, without let or hindrance; yet
I wish that Christina had kept her foolish question
for a little longer. I was hardly ready for active
opposition. It is premature. Christina always in
terferes at the wrong moment." So Christina,
snubbed and blamed for her malapropos question,
subsided into sullen indifference externally, while
inwardly passing on the blame for her correction to
Theodora, who, she decided, was going to be un
lucky to her.

In the meantime Robert had walked with his wife
to the parlor door of their own apartments, but he
did not enter with her. " I am going to leave you
half-an-hour, Dora," he said. " I wish to smoke a
cigar in the library."

" I should like to go with you, Robert, as I have
always done. I enjoy good tobacco."

" Walking on some lovely balcony, overlooking
the Mediterranean, it was pleasant; but here it is
not the thing. If you went with me, I might have



82 A Reconstructed Marriage

the whole family, as the library, like the dining-
room, is common ground. Circumstances alter cases,
Dora. You know that, my dear! I will return
in half-an-hour."

She had a slight struggle with herself to answer
pleasantly, but that free and loving thing, the human
soul, was in Theodora's case under kind but positive
control, so she replied with a smile:

" As you wish, dear Robert yet I shall miss you."

She was alone in her splendid rooms, and her
heart fell. The day had been a hard one. From
the moment they left Kendal, Robert had been dis
agreeably silent. He knew that he was going home
to a struggle with his family, and he dreaded the
experience. Had it been a struggle with business
difficulties he would have risen bravely to its de
mands. A dispute with women irritated him. In
his thoughts he called it " trivial." But had he
known all that such a dispute generally involves,
he would have sought out for it the most porten
tous and distracting word in all the languages of
earth.

So Theodora left to herself sat down with a sink
ing heart. The change in her husband's temper
troubled her; the total absence of all human welcome
to her new home troubled her still more. The occu
pation of her rooms by strangers, the rifling of her
trunks, the half-quarrelsome dinner, the despotic
changing of her name might be as compared with
death, accident, or ruin " trivial " troubles, but she
was poignantly wounded in her feelings by them.



A Reconstructed Marriage 83

And their crowning grief was one she hardly dared
to remember her husband's failure to defend the
name he had so often passionately sworn he loved
better than all other names. True, she had per
mitted him to call her Dora, but that was a secret,
sacred, pet name, to be used between themselves,
and by that very understanding denied to all others.

She could not but admit to herself that she was
bitterly disappointed in her home-coming. She had
thought Robert's mother and sisters would meet her
on the threshold with kisses and words of welcome.
She had yet to learn the paucity of kisses and tender
words in a Scotch household. The fact is general,
but the causes for this familiar repression are various,
and may be either good or evil. Theodora felt them
in her case to be altogether unkind. What could
she do about it? There was the perilous luxury of
complaint to her husband and there was her father's
lifelong advice : " Shut up a trouble in your heart,
and you will soon sing over it." Which course
should she take? She was waiting for a true in
stinct, a clear, lawful perception, when Robert en
tered the room.

She looked up with a smile that brought him
swiftly to her side, and when he spoke kindly, all
her fearing discontent slipped away. Very soon
their conversation turned naturally to their apart
ments. Robert was proud of them, not so much
for the money lavished on their adornment, as for
the taste he thought himself to have shown. Going
here and there in them, he happened to find, on a



84 A Reconstructed Marriage

beautiful cabinet, an old curl paper and a couple of
bent hairpins.

" Look here, Dora," he said, and his voice was
so full of displeasure, that she rose hastily and went
to him.

" What kind of maid have you hired? She ought
to know better than to leave these things in your
parlor."

" And you ought to know better, Robert," was
the indignant answer, " than to suppose these things
belong to me. Do I ever put my hair in newspaper
twists? Do I ever fasten it with dirty, rusty, wire
pins like these? "

" Then tell Ducie to keep her pins and curl papers
in her own room."

" They are not Ducie's. She would not put such
dreadful things in her pretty hair."

" How do they come here, then? "

" I suppose the people who have been occupying
these rooms left them."

" No one has occupied these rooms since they were
redecorated and refurnished."

" You are mistaken, Robert. They have been
fully occupied for the last three weeks."

" Dora, what are you saying? "

" The truth ! Call any of your servants, and they
will tell you so."

Without further words he rang the bell, and
Ducie appeared. " Ducie," he asked, " who told
you there had been people staying in these rooms? "

"The kitchen, sir; that is, the men and women



A Reconstructed Marriage 85

in the kitchen. I was taken all aback, for my lady
had told me "

" Do you know who the people were? "

" Mrs. and Miss Crawford, Mrs. Laird and her
granddaughter, Miss Greenhill."

" Oh, they were relations, Dora," he said in a
voice which indicated they had a right there, and
that he was neither grieved nor astonished at their
invasion of his apartments.

" If you please, sir," interposed Ducie, " my lady's
trunks were all opened by Mrs. Crawford and the
rest. It gave me such a turn ! "

" The rest? Who do you mean? "

" Miss Crawford, Mrs. Laird, and Miss Green-
hill."

" Then give the ladies their proper names."

" Yes, sir, Mrs. and Miss Crawford, Mrs. Laird,
and Miss Greenhill have opened and ransacked all
the four trunks belonging to my lady, which were
sent on here directly after her marriage. She had
given me the keys of them, and when I saw them
open it fairly took my breath away. I am afraid
many things are destroyed, and some things that
cost no end of money stolen. Not liking to be
blamed for the same, I wish the matter looked
into."

" Stolen ! You should be careful how you use
such a word."

" Sir, excuse me, but people who open locked
trunks, and use and destroy what is not theirs are
just as likely as not to carry off what they want.



86 A Reconstructed Marriage

My character is in danger, sir. I wish the trunks
examined."

" I suppose you have been through them."

" No, indeed, sir. When my lady went to her
dinner, I called in one of the kitchen girls. I wanted
a witness that I had never touched them."

" How dare you make such charges, then? "

" Ask my lady."

" Dora, is there any truth in this girl's words?"

" I fear she speaks too truly, Robert. I have
only looked cursorily through one trunk, but I found
much fine clothing spoiled, and I fear some jewelry
gone. The ruby and sapphire ring given me by
my college history class as a wedding gift is not in
the jewel case it was packed in, and my turquoise
necklace was scattered among my neckwear. It
ought to have been in the jewel box."

" Perhaps you forgot in the hurry of packing
where you put it."

" I was not hurried. Those four trunks were all
leisurely and carefully packed, and the day we left
Kendal for Paris "

' You mean our wedding-day? "

" Yes."

" Then why do you avoid saying so ! "

" I do not, but on that same day these four trunks
were forwarded here. If you remember, I only took
one trunk on our wedding journey. I supposed
these four would be quite safe in this house. But
look here, Robert," she continued, lifting a set of
valuable ermine furs, " these were given me by Mrs.



A Reconstructed Marriage 87

Priestley. They were of the most exquisite purity,
but they look now as if they had been dipped in a
light solution of Indian ink."

" The Glasgow rain," he answered carelessly.
" Ducie, I do not think we shall blame you."

" Sir, I will take no blame, either about things
spoiled, or stolen."

" There is no question of theft. If the ladies
using these rooms for a day or two "

" For three weeks, sir."

" Used also some clothing found in the
rooms "

" Not found, sir, I beg pardon, but locked trunks
were opened for them, which the men in the kitchen
say is clear burglary perhaps wishing to frighten
me, sir. But this way, or that way, sir, things have
been ruined that cost no end of money, and when
I saw my lady's spoiled gowns and furs, and broken
jewelry, they fairly took my breath away! Yes,
sir, they did."

" You may go now, Ducie."

" I cannot and will not be blamed, sir, and I want
that fact clear."

" You may go, now. I have told you that once
before. If I have to tell you again, you can leave
the house altogether."

" Ducie," said Theodora, " I wish you would look
after clean linen for the beds and dressing tables."

" What is the matter with the linen, Dora? "

" It is not clean. It looks as if it had been used
for two or three weeks."



88 A Reconstructed Marriage

" Are you sure? "

" Look at it ! I can do without many things,
Robert, but I cannot do without clean linen."

" Of course not ! It is awfully provoking. I
tried so hard to have everything spotlessly clean and

comfortable, but " He turned away with an air


1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrA reconstructed marriage → online text (page 5 of 23)