Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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works. Political life was open to his son, and if money and influence
could put him in the House of Peers, money should not be spared.

The offer was so stupendous, the future it looked forward to so great,
Crawford never doubted Colin's proud, acquiescence. That much he owed
to a long line of glorious ancestors; it was one of the obligations of
noble birth; he would not dare to, neglect it.

Impatiently he waited Colin's answer. Indeed, he felt sure Colin would
answer such a call in person. He was disappointed when a letter came;
he had not known, till then, how sure he had felt of seeing his son.
And the letter was a simple blow to him. Very respectfully, but very
firmly, the proposition was declined. Colin said he knew little of
parties and cabals, and was certain, at least, that nothing could
induce him to serve under the Marquis of B - - . He could not see his
obligations to the dead Crawfords as his father did. He considered his
life his own. It had come to him with certain tastes, which he meant
to improve and gratify, for only in that way was life of any value to

The laird laid the letter in Tallisker's hands without a word. He was
almost broken-hearted. He had not yet got to that point where
money-making for money's sake was enough. Family aggrandizement and
political ambition are not the loftiest motives of a man's life, but
still they lift money-making a little above the dirty drudgery of mere
accumulation. Hitherto Crawford had worked for an object, and the
object, at least in his own eyes, had dignified the labor.

In his secret heart he was angry at Colin's calm respectability. A
spendthrift prodigal, wasting his substance in riotous living, would
have been easier to manage than this young man of æsthetic tastes,
whose greatest extravagance was a statuette or a picture. Tallisker,
too, was more uneasy than he would confess. He had hoped that Colin
would answer his father's summons, because he believed now that the
life he was leading was unmanning him. The poetical element in his
character was usurping an undue mastery. He wrote to Colin very
sternly, and told him plainly that a poetic pantheism was not a whit
less sinful than the most vulgar infidelity.

Still he advised the laird to be patient, and by no means to answer
Colin's letter in a hurry. But only fixed more firmly the angry
father's determination. Colin must come home and fulfil his wish, or
he must time remain away until he returned as master. As his son, he
would know him no more; as the heir of Crawford, he would receive at
intervals such information as pertained to that position. For the old
man was just in his anger; it never seemed possible to him to deprive
Colin of the right of his heritage. To be the 13th Laird of Crawford
was Colin's birthright; he fully recognized his title to the honor,
and, as the future head of the house, rendered him a definite respect.

Of course a letter written in such a spirit did no good whatever.
Nothing after it could have induced Colin to come home. He wrote and
declined to receive even the allowance due to him as heir of Crawford.
The letter was perfectly respectful, but cruelly cold and polite, and
every word cut the old man like a sword.

For some weeks he really seemed to lose all interest in life. Then the
result Tallisker feared was arrived at. He let ambition go, and
settled down to the simple toil of accumulation.


But Crawford had not a miser's nature. His house, his name, his
children were dearer, after all, to him than gold. Hope springs
eternal in the breast; in a little while he had provided himself with
a new motive: he would marry Helen to young Farquharson, and endow her
so royally that Farquharson would gladly take her name. There should
be another house of Crawford of which Helen should be the root.

Helen had been long accustomed to consider Hugh Farquharson as her
future husband. The young people, if not very eager lovers, were at
least very warm and loyal friends. They had been in no hurry to finish
the arrangement. Farquharson was in the Scot's Greys; it was
understood that at his marriage he should resign his commission, so,
though he greatly admired Helen, he was in no hurry to leave the
delights of metropolitan and military life.

But suddenly Crawford became urgent for the fulfilment of the
contract, and Helen, seeing how anxious he was, and knowing how sorely
Colin had disappointed him, could no longer plead for a delay. And yet
a strange sadness fell over her; some inexplicable symptoms as to her
health led her to fear she would never be Farquharson's wife; the gay
wedding attire that came from Edinburgh filled her with a still
sorrow; she could not appropriate any part of it as her own.

One day when the preparations were nearly finished, Tallisker came up
to the Keep. Helen saw at once that he was moved by some intense
feeling, and there was a red spot on his cheeks which she had been
accustomed to associate with the dominie's anger. The laird was
sitting placidly smoking, and drinking toddy. He had been telling
Helen of the grand house he was going to build on the new estate he
had just bought; and he was now calmly considering how to carry out
his plans on the most magnificent scale, for he had firmly determined
there should be neither Keep nor Castle in the North Country as
splendid as the new Crawfords' Home.

He greeted Tallisker with a peculiar kindness, and held his hand
almost lovingly. His friendship for the dominie - if he had known
it - was a grain of salt in his fast deteriorating life. He did not
notice the dominie's stern preoccupation, he was so full of his own
new plans. He began at once to lay them before his old friend; he had
that very day got the estimates from the Edinburgh architect.

Tallisker looked at them a moment with a gathering anger. Then he
pushed them passionately away, saying in a voice that was almost a
sob, "I darena look at them, laird; I darena look at them! Do you ken
that there are fourteen cases o' typhus in them colliers' cottages you
built? Do you remember what Mr. Selwyn said about the right o'
laborers to pure air and pure water? I knew he was right then, and
yet, God forgive me! I let you tak your ain way. Six little bits o'
bairns, twa women, and six o' your pit men! You must awa to Athol
instanter for doctors and medicines and brandy and such things as are
needfu'. There isna a minute to lose, laird."

Helen had risen while he was speaking with a calm determination that
frightened her father. He did not answer Tallisker, he spoke to her:
"Where are you going, Helen?"

"Down to the village; I can do something till better help is got."

"Helen Crawford, you'll bide where you are! Sit still, and I'll do
whatever Tallisker bids me."

Then he turned angrily to the dominie.

"You are aye bringing me ill tidings. Am I to blame if death comes?"

"Am I my brother's keeper? It's an auld question, laird. The first
murderer of a' asked it. I'm bound to say you are to blame. When you
gie fever an invite to your cotters' homes, you darena lay the blame
on the Almighty. You should hae built as Mr. Selwyn advised."

"Dominie, be quiet. I'm no a bairn, to be hectored o'er in this way.
Say what I must do and I'll do it - anything in reason - only Helen.
I'll no hae her leave the Keep; that's as sure as deathe. Sit down,
Helen. Send a' the wine and dainties you like to, but don't you stir a
foot o'er the threshold."

His anger was, in its way, as authoritative as the dominie's. Helen
did as she was bid, more especially as Tallisker in this seconded the

"There is naething she could do in the village that some old crone
could not do better."

It was a bitterly annoying interruption to Crawford's pleasant dreams
and plans. He got up and went over to the works. He found things very
bad there. Three more of the men had left sick, and there was an
unusual depression in the village. The next day the tidings were
worse. He foresaw that he would have to work the men half time, and
there had never been so many large and peremptory orders on hand. It
was all very unfortunate to him.

Tallisker's self-reproaches were his own; he resented them, even while
he acknowledged their truth. He wished he had built as Selwyn advised;
he wished Tallisker had urged him more. It was not likely he would
have listened to any urging, but it soothed him to think he would. And
he greatly aggravated the dominie's trouble by saying,

"Why did ye na mak me do right, Tallisker? You should hae been mair
determined wi' me, dominie."

During the next six weeks the dominie's efforts were almost
superhuman. He saw every cottage whitewashed; he was nurse and doctor
and cook. The laird saw him carrying wailing babies and holding raving
men in his strong arms. He watched over the sick till the last ray of
hope fled; he buried them tenderly when all was over. The splendor of
the man's humanity had never shown itself until it stood erect and
feared not, while the pestilence that walked in darkness and the
destruction that wasted at noon-day dogged his every step.

The laird, too, tried to do his duty. Plenty of people are willing to
play the Samaritan without the oil and the twopence, but that was not
Crawford's way. Tallisker's outspoken blame had really made him
tremble at his new responsibilities; he had put his hand liberally in
his pocket to aid the sufferers. Perhaps at the foundation of all lay
one haunting thought - Helen! If he did what he could for others, Helen
would safer. He never audibly admitted that Helen was in any danger,
but - but - if there should be danger, he was, he hoped, paying a ransom
for her safety.

In six weeks the epidemic appeared to have spent itself. There was a
talk of resuming full hours at the works. Twenty new hands had been
sent for to fill vacant places. Still there was a shadow on the
dominie's face, and he knew himself there was a shadow on his heart.
Was it the still solemnity of death in which he had lately lived so
much? Or was it the shadow of a coming instead of a departing sorrow?

One afternoon he thought he would go and sit with Helen a little
while. During his close intimacy with the colliers he had learned many
things which would change his methods of working for their welfare;
and of these changes he wished to speak with Helen. She was just going
for a walk on the moor, and he went with her. It was on such a
September evening she had walked last with Colin. As they sauntered
slowly, almost solemnly home, she remembered it. Some impulse far
beyond her control or understanding urged her to say, "Dominie, when I
am gone I leave Colin to you."

He looked at her with a sudden enlightenment. Her face had for a
moment a far-away death-like predestination over it. His heart sank
like lead as he looked at her.

"Are you ill, Helen?"

"I have not been well for two weeks."

He felt her hands; they were burning with fever.

"Let us go home," she said, and then she turned and gave one long,
mournful look at the mountains and the sea and the great stretch of
moorland. Tallisker knew in his heart she was bidding farewell to
them. He had no word to say. There are moods of the soul beyond all
human intermeddling.

The silence was broken by Helen. She pointed to the mountains. "How
steadfast they are, how familiar with forgotten years! How small we
are beside them!"

"I don't think so," said Tallisker stoutly. "Mountains are naething to
men. How small is Sinai when the man Moses stands upon it!"

Then they were at the Keep garden. Helen pulled a handful of white and
golden asters, and the laird, who had seen them coming, opened the
door wide to welcome them. Alas! Alas! Though he saw it not, death
entered with them. At midnight there was the old, old cry of despair
and anguish, the hurrying for help, where no help was of avail, the
desolation of a terror creeping hour by hour closer to the

The laird was stricken with a stony grief which was deaf to all
consolation. He wandered up and down wringing his hands, and crying
out at intervals like a man in mortal agony. Helen lay in a stupor
while the fever burned her young life away. She muttered constantly
the word "Colin;" and Tallisker, though he had no hope that Colin
would ever reach his sister, wrote for the young laird.

Just before the last she became clearly, almost radiantly conscious.
She would be alone with her father, and the old man, struggling
bravely with his grief, knelt down beside her. She whispered to him
that there was a paper in the jewel-box on her table. He went and got
it. It was a tiny scrap folded crosswise. "Read it, father, when I am
beyond all pain and grief. I shall trust you, dear." He could only bow
his head upon her hands and weep.

"Tallisker!" she whispered, and he rose softly and called him. The two
men stood together by her side.

"Is it well, my daughter?" said the dominie, with a tone of tender
triumph in his voice. "You fear not, Helen, the bonds of death?"

"I trust in those pierced hands which have broken the bonds of death.
Oh! the unspeakable riches!"

These were her last words. Tallisker prayed softly as the mystical
gray shadow stole over the fair, tranquil face. It was soon all over.

"She had outsoared the shadow of our night,
And that unrest which men misname delight."

The bridal robes were folded away, the bridegroom went back to his
regiment, the heartsore father tried to take up his life again. But it
seemed to him to have been broken in two by the blow; and besides
this, there was a little strip of paper which lay like a load upon his
heart. It was the paper he had taken from Helen's dying fingers, and
it contained her last request:

"Father, dear, dear father, whatever you intended to give me - I pray
you - give it to God's poor.



The dominie had felt certain that Colin would answer his letter in
person, but after a long silence he received it back again. Colin had
left Rome, and left no trace behind him. The laird knew that Tallisker
had written, and he too had been hoping and expecting. But he received
the news of his son's disappearance without remark. Life for some time
was a dreary weight to him, he scarce felt as if he could lift it
again. Hope after hope had failed him. He had longed so to be a rich
man, had God in his anger granted him his wish? And was no other thing
to prosper with him? All the same he clung to his gold with a deeper
affection. When all other vices are old avarice is still young. As
ambition and other motives died out, avarice usurped their places, and
Tallisker saw with a feeling half angry, and half pitiful, the laird's
life dwindling down to this most contemptible of all aims. He kept his
duty as proprietor constantly before the laird, but he no longer
seemed to care that people should say, "Crawford's men have the best
laborers' cottages in Scotland."

"I hae made up my mind, Tallisker," said fretfully, "the warld thinks
more o' the who mak money than o' those who gie it awa." Certainly
this change was not a sudden one; for two years after Helen's death it
was coming slowly forward, yet there were often times when Tallisker
hoped that it was but a temptation, and would be finally conquered.
Men do not lose the noble savor of humanity in a moment. Even on the
downward road good angels wait anxiously, and whisper in every better
moment to the lapsing soul, "Return!"

But there was a seed of bitterness in Crawford's heart, that was
poisoning the man's spiritual life - a little bit of paper, yet it lay
like a great stone over his noblest feelings, and sealed them up as in
a sepulchre. Oh, if some angel would come and roll it away! He had
never told the dominie of Helen's bequest. He did not dare to destroy
the slip of paper, but he hid it in the most secret drawer of his
secretary. He told himself that it was only a dying sentiment in Helen
to wish it, and that it would be a foolish superstition in him to
regard it. Perhaps in those last moments she had not understood what
she was asking.

For a little while he found relief in this suggestion; then he
remembered that the request must have been dictated before the fever
had conquered her strength or judgment. The words were clearly written
in Helen's neat, precise manner; there was not a hesitating line in
the whole. She had evidently written it with care and consideration.
No one could tell how that slip of paper haunted him. Even in the
darkness of its secret hiding-place his spiritual eyes saw it clearly
day and night.

To give to the poor all he had intended to give to Helen! He could
not! He could not! He could not do it! Helen could not have known what
she was asking. He had meant, in one way or another, to give her, as
the founder of the new line of Crawfords, at least one hundred
thousand pounds. Was it reasonable to scatter hither and yon such a
large sum, earned, as he told himself pitifully, "by his ain wisdom
and enterprise!"

The dominie knew nothing of this terrible struggle going on ever in
the man's soul who sat by his side. He saw that Crawford was irritable
and moody, but he laid the blame of it on Colin. Oh, if the lad would
only write, he would go himself and bring him back to his father,
though he should have to seek him at the ends of the earth. But four
years passed away, and the prodigal sent no backward, homeward sign.
Every night, then, the laird looked a moment into the dominie's face,
and always the dominie shook his head. Ah, life has silences that are
far more pathetic than death's.

One night Crawford said, almost in a whisper,

"He'll be dead, Tallisker."

And Tallisker answered promptly,

"He'll come hame, laird."

No other words about Colin passed between the two men in four years.
But destiny loves surprises. One night Tallisker laid a letter on the

"It is for you, laird; read it."

It was a singular letter to come after so long a silence, and the
laird's anger was almost excusable.

"Listen, Tallisker; did e'er you hear the like?

"'DEAR FATHER: I want, for a very laudable purpose, £4,000. It is not
for myself in any way. If you will let me have it, I will trouble you
with the proper explanations. If not, they will not be necessary. I
have heard that you are well. I pray God to continue his mercy to you.

"'Your dutiful son,


"'Laudable purpose!'" cried the unhappy father, in a passion. "The lad
is altogether too laudable. The letter is an insult, Tallisker. I'll
ne'er forgive him for it. Oh, what a miserable father I am!"

And the dominie was moved to tears at the sight of his old friend's
bitter anguish.

Still he asserted that Colin had meant it to be a kind letter.

"Dinna tak want o' sense for want o' affection laird. The lad is a
conceited prig. He's set up wi' himsel' about something he is going to
do. Let him hae the money. I would show him you can gie as grandly as
he can ask loftily."

And, somehow, the idea pleased the laird. It was something that Colin
had been obliged to ask him for money at all. He sat down and wrote
out a check for the amount. Then he enclosed it with these words:

"SON COLIN CRAWFORD: I send you what you desire. I am glad your
prospects are sae laudable; maybe it may enter your heart, some day,
to consider it laudable to keep the Fifth Command. Your sister is
dead. Life is lonely, but I thole it. I want nae explanations.

"Your father,


"What's the address, Tallisker?"

"Regent's Place, London."

The answer arrived in due time. It was as proper as a letter could be.
Colin said he was just leaving for America, but did not expect to be
more than six months there. But he never said a word about coming to
Crawford. Tallisker was downright angry at the young man. It was true
his father had told him he did not wish to see him again, but that had
been said under a keen sense of family wrong and of bitter
disappointment. Colin ought to have taken his father's ready response
to his request as an overture of reconciliation. For a moment he was
provoked with both of them.

"You are a dour lot, you Crawfords; ane o' you is prouder than the

"The Crawfords are as God made them, dominie."

"And some o' them a little warse."

Yet, after all, it was Colin Tallisker was really angry at. For the
present he had to let his anger lie by. Colin had gone, and given him
no address in America.

"He is feared I will be telling him his duty, and when he comes back
that is what I shall do, if I go to London to mak him hear me."

For a moment the laird looked hopefully into the dominie's face, but
the hope was yet so far off he could not grasp it. Yet, in a dim,
unacknowledged way it influenced him. He returned to his money-making
with renewed vigor. It was evident he had let the hope of Colin's
return steal into his heart. And the giving of that £4,000 Tallisker
considered almost a sign of grace. It had not been given from any
particularly noble motive; but any motive, not sinful, roused in
opposition to simple avarice, was a gain. He was quite determined now
to find Colin as soon as he returned from America.

In rather less than six months there were a few lines from Colin,
saying that the money sent had been applied to the proper purpose, and
had nobly fulfilled it. The laird had said he wanted no explanations,
and Colin gave him none.

Tallisker read the letter with a half smile.

"He is just the maist contrary, conceited young man I e'er heard tell
o'. Laird, as he wont come to us, I am going to him."

The laird said nothing. Any grief is better than a grief not sure. It
would be a relief to know all, even if that "all" were painful.


Tallisker was a man as quick in action as in resolve; the next night
he left for London, it was no light journey in those days for a man of
his years, and who had never in all his life been farther away from
Perthshire than Edinburgh. But he feared nothing. He was going into
the wilderness after his own stray sheep, and he had a conviction that
any path of duty is a safe path. He said little to any one. The people
looked strangely on him. He almost fancied himself to be Christian
going through Vanity Fair.

He went first to Colin's old address in Regent's Place. He did not
expect to find him there, but it might lead him to the right place.
Number 34 Regent's Place proved to be a very grand house. As he went
up to the door, an open carriage, containing a lady and a child, left
it. A man dressed in the Crawford tartan opened the door.

"Crawford?" inquired Tallisker, "is he at home?"

"Yes, he is at home;" and the servant ushered him into, a
carefully-shaded room, where marble statues gleamed in dusk corners
and great flowering plants made the air fresh and cool. It as the
first time Tallisker had ever seen a calla lily and he looked with
wonder and delight at the gleaming flowers. And somehow he thought of
Helen. Colin sat in a great leathern chair reading. He did not lift
his head until the door closed and he was sensible the servant had
left some one behind. Then for a moment he could hardly realize who it
was; but when he did, he came forward with a glad cry.

"Dominie! O Tallisker!"

"Just so, Colin, my dear lad. O Colin, you are the warst man I ever
kenned. You had a good share o' original sin to start wi', but what
wi' pride and self-will and ill-will, the old trouble is sairly

Colin smiled gravely. "I think you misjudge me, dominie." Then
refreshments were sent for, and the two men sat down for a long mutual

Colin's life had not been uneventful. He told it frankly, without
reserve and without pride. When he quarrelled with his father about
entering Parliament, he left Rome at once, and went to Canada. He had
some idea of joining his lot with his own people there. But he found
them in a state of suffering destitution. They had been unfortunate in
their choice of location, and were enduring an existence barer than
the one they had left, without any of its redeeming features. Colin
gave them all he had, and left them with promises of future aid.

Then he went to New York. When he arrived, there was an intense
excitement over the struggle then going on in the little republic of
Texas. He found out something about the country; as for the struggle,
it was the old struggle of freedom against papal and priestly
dominion. That was a quarrel for which Scotchmen have always been
ready to draw the sword. It was Scotland's old quarrel in the New
World, and Colin went into it heart and soul. His reward had been an

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrScottish sketches → online text (page 3 of 15)