Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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rich, gay, handsome, and has little to do with his time, he'll get
well on to Satan's ground before he knows it;" and then some whisper
dim and low in his soul made him blush and pause and defer the
following out of a course which was to begin in such a way.

So Donald and he fell into the habit of meeting at David's two or
three nights every week, and an apparent friendship sprang up between
them. It was only apparent, however. On Donald's side was that
good-natured indifference that finds it easy enough to say smooth
words, and is not ready to think evil or to take offence; on James'
part a wary watchfulness, assuming the rôle of superior wisdom, half
admiring and half condemning Donald's youthful spirits and ways.

David was quite deceived; he dropped at once the authoritative manner
which had marked his displeasure when he perceived James' disposition
to envy and anger; he fell again into his usual pleasant familiar
talks with the young man, for David thought highly of James as of one
likely to do his duty to God and himself.

In these conversations Donald soon began to take a little share, and
when he chose to do so, evinced a thought and shrewdness which greatly
pleased his uncle; more generally, however, he was at Christine's
side, reading her some poem he had copied, or telling her about some
grand party he had been at. Sometimes James could catch a few words of
reproof addressed in a gentle voice to Donald by Christine; more often
he heard only the murmur of an earnest conversation, or Christine's
low laugh at some amusing incident.

The little room meanwhile had gradually become a far brighter place.
Donald kept it sweet and bright with his daily offerings of fresh
flowers; the pet canary he had given Christine twittered and sang to
her all the day through. Over Christine herself had come the same
bright change; her still, calm face often dimpled into smiles, her
pale-gold hair was snooded with a pretty ribbon, and her dress a
little richer. Yet, after all, the change was so slight that none but
a lover would have noticed it. But there was not a smile or a shade of
brighter color that James did not see; and he bore it with an
equanimity which used often to astonish himself, though it would not
have done so if he had dared just once to look down into his heart; he
bore it because he knew that Donald was living two lives - one that
Christine saw, and one that she could not even have imagined.

It was, alas, too true that this gay, good-natured young man, who had
entered the fashionable world without one bad habit, was fast becoming
proficient in all its follies and vices. That kind of negative
goodness which belonged naturally to him, unfortified by strict habits
and strong principles, had not been able to repel the seductions and
temptations that assail young men, rich, handsome, and well-born.
There was an evil triumph in James' heart one night when Donald said
to him, as they walked home after an evening at David's,

"Mr. Blackie, I wish you could lend me £20. I am in a little trouble,
and I cannot ask Uncle David for more, as I have already overdrawn my
father's allowance."

James loaned it with an eager willingness, though he was usually very
cautious and careful of every bawbee of his hard-earned money. He knew
it was but the beginning of confidence, and so it proved; in a very
little while Donald had fallen into the habit of going to James in
every emergency, and of making him the confidant of all his youthful
hopes and follies.

James even schooled himself to listen patiently to Donald's praises of
his cousin Christine. "She is just the wife I shall need when I settle
down in three or four years," Donald would say complacently, "and I
think she loves me. Of course no man is worthy of such a woman, but
when I have seen life a little I mean to try and be so."

"Umph!" answered James scornfully, "do you suppose, Mr. McFarlane,
that ye'll be fit for a pure lassie like Christine Cameron when you
have played the prodigal and consorted with foolish women, and wasted
your substance in riotous living?"

And Donald said with an honest blush, "By the memory of my mother, no,
I do not, James. And I am ashamed when I think of Christine's white
soul and the stained love I have to offer it. But women forgive! Oh,
what mothers and wives and sisters there are in this world!"

"Well, don't try Christine too far, Donald. She is of an old
Covenanting stock; her conscience feels sin afar off. I do not believe
she would marry a bad, worldly man, though it broke her heart to say
'No.' I have known her far longer than you have."

"Tut, man, I love her! I know her better in an hour than you could do
in a lifetime;" and Donald looked rather contemptuously on the plain
man who was watching him with eyes that might have warned any one more
suspicious or less confident and self-satisfied.


The summer brought some changes. Christine went to the seaside for a
few weeks, and Donald went away in Lord Neville's yacht with a party
of gay young men; James and David passed the evenings generally
together. If it was wet, they remained in the shop or parlor; if fine,
they rambled to the "Green," and sitting down by the riverside talked
of business, of Christine, and of Donald. In one of these confidential
rambles James first tried to arouse in David's mind a suspicion as to
his nephew's real character. David himself introduced the subject by
speaking of a letter he had received from Donald.

"He's wi' the great Earl o' Egremont at present," said David proudly,
for he had all a Scotsman's respect for good birth; "and there is wi'
them young Argyle, and Lord Lovat, and ithers o' the same quality. But
our Donald can cock his bonnet wi' ony o' them; there is na better
blood in Scotland than the McFarlanes'. It taks money though to
foregather wi' nobeelity, and Donald is wanting some. So, James, I'll
gie ye the siller to-night, and ye'll send it through your bank as
early as may be in the morn."

"Donald wanting money is an old want, Mr. Cameron."

David glanced quickly at James, and answered almost haughtily, "It's a
common want likewise, James Blackie. But if Donald McFarlane wants
money, he's got kin that can accommodate him, James; wanters arena
always that fortunate."

"He has got friends likewise, Mr. Cameron; and I am sure I was proud
enough to do him a kindness, and he knows it well."

"And how much may Donald be owing you, I wonder?"

"Only a little matter of £20. You see he had got into - "

"Dinna fash yoursel' wi' explanations, James. Dootless Donald has his
faults; but I may weel wink at his small faults, when I hae sae mony
great faults o' my ain."

And David's personal accusation sounded so much like a reproof, that
James did not feel it safe to pursue the subject.

That very night David wrote thus to his nephew:

"Donald, my dear lad, if thou owest James Blackie £20, pay it
immediate. Lying is the second vice, owing money is the first. I
enclose draft for £70 instead o' £50, as per request."

That £70 was a large sum in the eyes of the careful Glasgow trader; in
the young Highlander's eyes it seemed but a small sum. He could not
form any conception of the amount of love it represented, nor of the
struggle it had cost David to "gie awa for nae consideration" the
savings of many days, perhaps weeks, of toil and thought.

In September Christine came back, and towards the end of October,
Donald. He was greatly improved externally by his trip and his
associations - more manly and more handsome - while his manners had
acquired a slight touch of hauteur that both amused and pleased his
uncle. It had been decided that he should remain in Glasgow another
winter, and then select his future profession. But at present Donald
troubled himself little about the future. He had returned to Christine
more in love with the peace and purity of her character than ever; and
besides, his pecuniary embarrassments in Glasgow were such as to
require his personal presence until they were arranged.

This arrangement greatly troubled him. He had only a certain allowance
from his father - a loving but stern man - who having once decided what
sum was sufficient for a young man in Donald's position, would not,
under any ordinary circumstances, increase it. David Cameron had
already advanced him £70. James Blackie was a resource he did not care
again to apply to. In the meantime he was pressed by small debts on
every hand, and was living among a class of young men whose habits led
him into expenses far beyond his modest income. He began to be very
anxious and miserable. In Christine's presence he was indeed still the
same merry-hearted gentleman; but James saw him in other places, and
he knew from long experience the look of care that drew Donald's
handsome brows together.

One night, towards the close of this winter, James went to see an old
man who was a broker or trader in bills and money, doing business in
the Cowcaddens. James also did a little of the same business in a
cautious way, and it was some mutual transaction in gold and silver
that took him that dreary, soaking night into such a locality.

The two men talked for some time in a low and earnest voice, and then
the old man, opening a greasy leather satchel, displayed a quantity of
paper which he had bought. James looked it over with a keen and
practised eye. Suddenly his attitude and expression changed; he read
over and over one piece of paper, and every time he read it he looked
at it more critically and with a greater satisfaction.

"Andrew Starkie," he said, "where did you buy this?"

"Weel, James, I bought it o' Laidlaw - Aleck Laidlaw. Ye wadna think a
big tailoring place like that could hae the wind in their faces; but
folks maun hae their bad weather days, ye ken; but it blew me gude, so
I'll ne'er complain. Ye see it is for £89, due in twenty days now, and
I only gied £79 for it - a good name too, nane better."

"David Cameron! But what would he be owing Laidlaw £89 for clothes

"Tut, tut! The claithes were for his nephew. There was some trouble
anent the bill, but the old man gied a note for the amount at last, at
three months. It's due in twenty days now. As he banks wi' your firm,
ye may collect it for me; it will be an easy-made penny or twa."

"I would like to buy this note. What will you sell it for?"

"I'm no minded to sell it. What for do ye want it?"

"Nothing particular. I'll give you £90 for it."

"If it's worth that to you, it is worth mair. I'm no minded to tak

"I'll give you £95."

"I'm no minded to tak it. It's worth mair to you, I see that. What are
you going to mak by it? I'll sell it for half o' what you are counting
on." "Then you would not make a bawbee. I am going to ware £95 on - on
a bit of revenge. Now will you go shares?"

"Not I. Revenge in cold blood is the deil's own act. I dinna wark wi'
the deil, when it's a losing job to me."

"Will you take £95 then?"

"No. When lads want whistles they maun pay for them."

"I'll give no more. For why? Because in twenty days you will do my
work for me; then it will cost me nothing, and it will cost you £89,
that is all about it, Starkie."

Starkie lifted the note which James had flung carelessly down, and his
skinny hands trembled as he fingered it. "This is David Cameron's note
o' hand, and David Cameron is a gude name."

"Yes, very good. Only that is not David Cameron's writing, it is
a - forgery. Light your pipe with it, Andrew Starkie."

"His nephew gave it himsel' to Aleck Laidlaw - "

"I know. And I hate his nephew. He has come between me and Christine
Cameron. Do you see now?"

"Oh! oh! oh! I see, I see! Well, James, you can have it for £100 - as a

"I don't want it now. He could not have a harder man to deal with than
you are. You suit me very well."

"James, such business wont suit me. I can't afford to be brought into
notice. I would rather lose double the money than prosecute any
gentleman in trouble."

The older man had reasoned right - James dared not risk the note out of
sight, dared not trust to Starkie's prosecution. He longed to have the
bit of paper in his own keeping, and after a wary battle of a full
hour's length Andrew Starkie had his £89 back again, and James had the
note in his pocket-book.

Through the fog, and through the wind, and through the rain he went,
and he knew nothing, and he felt nothing but that little bit of paper
against his breast. Oh, how greedily he remembered Donald's handsome
looks and stately ways, and all the thousand little words and acts by
which he imagined himself wronged and insulted. Now he had his enemy
beneath his feet, and for several days this thought satisfied him, and
he hid his secret morsel of vengeance and found it sweet - sharply,
bitterly sweet - for even yet conscience pleaded hard with him.

As he sat counting his columns of figures, every gentle, forgiving
word of Christ came into his heart. He knew well that Donald would
receive his quarterly allowance before the bill was due, and that he
must have relied on this to meet it. He also knew enough of Donald's
affairs to guess something of the emergency that he must have been in
ere he would have yielded to so dangerous an alternative. There were
times when he determined to send for Donald, show him the frightful
danger in which he stood, and then tear the note before his eyes, and
leave its payment to his honor. He even realized the peace which would
flow from such a deed. Nor were these feelings transitory, his better
nature pleaded so hard with him that he walked his room hour after
hour under their influence, and their power over him was such as
delayed all action in the matter for nearly a week.


At length one morning David Cameron came into the bank, and having
finished his business, walked up to James and said, "I feared ye were
ill, James. Whatna for hae ye stayed awa sae lang? I wanted ye sairly
last night to go o'er wi' me the points in this debate at our kirk. We
are to hae anither session to-night; ye'll come the morn and talk it
o'er wi' me?"

"I will, Mr. Cameron."

But James instantly determined to see Christine that night. Her father
would be at the kirk session, and if Donald was there, he thought he
knew how to whisper him away. He meant to have Christine all to
himself for an hour or two, and if he saw any opportunity he would
tell her all. When he got to David's the store was still open, but the
clerk said, "David has just gone," and James, as was his wont, walked
straight to the parlor.

Donald was there; he had guessed that, because a carriage was in
waiting, and he knew it could belong to no other caller at David
Cameron's. And never had Donald roused in him such an intense
antagonism. He was going to some National Celebration, and he stood
beside Christine in all the splendid picturesque pomp of the McFarlane
tartans. He was holding Christine's hand, and she stood as a white
lily in the glow and color of his dark beauty. Perhaps both of them
felt James' entrance inopportune. At any rate they received him
coldly, Donald drew Christine a little apart, said a few whispered
words to her, and lifting his bonnet slightly to James, he went away.

In the few minutes of this unfortunate meeting the devil entered into
James' heart. Even Christine was struck with the new look on his face.
It was haughty, malicious, and triumphant, and he leaned against the
high oaken chimney-piece in a defiant way that annoyed Christine,
though she could not analyze it.

"Sit down, James," she said with a touch of authority - for his
attitude had unconsciously put her on the defensive. "Donald has gone
to the Caledonian club; there is to be a grand gathering of Highland
gentlemen there to-night."


"Well, yes, _gentlemen!_ And there will be none there more worthy the
name than our Donald."

"The rest of them are much to be scorned at, then."

"James, James, that speech was little like you. Sit down and come to
yourself; I am sure you are not so mean as to grudge Donald the rights
of his good birth."

"Donald McFarlane shall have all the rights he has worked for; and
when he gets his just payment he will be in Glasgow jail."

"James, you are ill. You have not been here for a week, and you look
so unlike yourself. I know you must be ill. Will you let me send for
our doctor?" And she approached him kindly, and looked with anxious
scrutiny into his face.

He put her gently away, and said in a thick, rapid voice,

"Christine, I came to-night to tell you that Donald McFarlane is
unworthy to come into your presence - he has forged your father's

"James, you are mad, or ill, what you say is just impossible!"

"I am neither mad nor ill. I will prove it, if you wish."

At these words every trace of sympathy or feeling vanished from her
face; and she said in a low, hoarse whisper,

"You cannot prove it. I would not believe such a thing possible."

Then with a pitiless particularity he went over all the events
relating to the note, and held it out for her to examine the

"Is that David Cameron's writing?" he cried; "did you ever see such a
weak imitation? The man is a fool as well as a villain."

Christine gazed blankly at the witness of her cousin's guilt, and
James, carried away with the wicked impetuosity of his passionate
accusations of Donald's life, did not see the fair face set in white
despair and the eyes close wearily, as with a piteous cry she fell
prostrate at his feet.

Ah, how short was his triumph! When he saw the ruin that his words had
made he shrieked aloud in his terror and agony. Help was at hand, and
doctors were quickly brought, but she had received a shock from which
it seemed impossible to revive her. David was brought home, and knelt
in speechless distress by the side of his insensible child, but no
hope lightened the long, terrible night, and when the reaction came in
the morning, it came in the form of fever and delirium.

Questioned closely by David, James admitted nothing but that while
talking to him about Donald McFarlane she had fallen at his feet, and
Donald could only say that he had that evening told her he was going
to Edinburgh in two weeks, to study law with his cousin, and that he
had asked her to be his wife.

This acknowledgement bound David and Donald in a closer communion of
sorrow. James and his sufferings were scarcely noticed. Yet, probably
of all that unhappy company, he suffered the most. He loved Christine
with a far deeper affection than Donald had ever dreamed of. He would
have given his life for hers, and yet he had, perhaps, been her
murderer. How he hated Donald in those days! What love and remorse
tortured him! And what availed it that he had bought the power to ruin
the man he hated? He was afraid to use it. If Christine lived, and he
did use it, she would never forgive him; if she died, he would be her

But the business of life cannot be delayed for its sorrows. David must
wait in his shop, and James must be at the bank; and in two weeks
Donald had to leave for Edinburgh, though Christine was lying in a
silent, broken-hearted apathy, so close to the very shoal of Time that
none dared say, "She will live another day."

How James despised Donald for leaving her at all; he desired nothing
beyond the permission to sit by her side, and watch and aid the slow
struggle of life back from the shores and shades of death.

It was almost the end of summer before she was able to resume her
place in the household, but long before that she had asked to see
James. The interview took place one Sabbath afternoon while David was
at church. Christine had been lifted to a couch, but she was unable to
move, and even speech was exhausting and difficult to her. James knelt
down by her side, and, weeping bitterly, said,

"O Christine, forgive me!"

She smiled faintly.

"You - have - not - used - yonder - paper, - James?"

"Oh, no, no."

"It - would - kill - me. You - would - not - kill - me?"

"I would die to make you strong again."

"Don't - hurt - Donald. Forgive - for - Christ's - sake, - James!"

Poor James! It was hard for him to see that still Donald was her first
thought, and, looking on the wreck of Christine's youth and beauty, it
was still harder not to hate him worse than ever.

Nor did the temptation to do so grow less with time. He had to listen
every evening to David's praises of his nephew: how "he had been
entered wi' Advocate Scott, and was going to be a grand lawyer," or
how he had been to some great man's house and won all hearts with his
handsome face and witty tongue. Or, perhaps, he would be shown some
rich token of his love that had come for Christine; or David would
say, "There's the 'Edinbro' News,' James; it cam fra Donald this morn;
tak it hame wi' you. You're welcome." And James feared not to take it,
feared to show the slightest dislike to Donald, lest David's anger at
it should provoke him to say what was in his heart, and Christine only
be the sufferer.

One cold night in early winter, James, as was his wont now, went to
spend the evening in talking with David and in watching Christine.
That was really all it was; for, though she had resumed her house
duties, she took little part in conversation. She had always been
inclined to silence, but now a faint smile and a "Yes" or "No" were
her usual response, even to her father's remarks. This night he found
David out, and he hesitated whether to trouble Christine or not. He
stood for a moment in the open door and looked at her. She was sitting
by the table with a little Testament open in her hand; but she was
rather musing on what she had been reading than continuing her



"May I come in?"

"Yes, surely."

"I hear your father has gone to a town-meeting."


"And he is to be made a bailie."


"I am very glad. It will greatly please him, and there is no citizen
more worthy of the honor."

"I think so also."

"Shall I disturb you if I wait to see him?"

"No, James; sit down."

Then Christine laid aside her book and took her sewing, and James sat
thinking how he could best introduce the subject ever near his heart.
He felt that there was much to say in his own behalf, if he only knew
how to begin. Christine opened the subject for him. She laid down her
work and went and stood before the fire at his side. The faintest
shadow of color was in her face, and her eyes were unspeakably sad and
anxious. He could not bear their eager, searching gaze, and dropped
his own.

"James, have you destroyed yonder paper?"

"Nay, Christine; I am too poor a man to throw away so much hard-won
gold. I am keeping it until I can see Mr. McFarlane and quietly
collect my own."

"You will never use it in any way against him?"

"Will you ever marry him? Tell me that."

"O sir!" she cried indignantly, "you want to make a bargain with my
poor heart. Hear, then. If Donald wants me to marry him I'll never
cast him off. Do you think God will cast him off for one fault? You
dare not say it."

"I do not say but what God will pardon. But we are human beings; we
are not near to God yet."

"But we ought to be trying to get near him; and oh, James, you never
had so grand a chance. See the pitiful face of Christ looking down on
you from the cross. If that face should turn away from you, James - if
it should!"

"You ask a hard thing of me, Christine."

"Yes, I do."

"But if you will only try and love me - "

"Stop, James! I will make no bargain in a matter of right and wrong.
If for Christ's sake, who has forgiven you so much, you can forgive
Donald, for Christ's dear sake do it. If not, I will set no earthly
love before it. Do your worst. God can find out a way. I'll trust

"Christine! dear Christine!"

"Hush! I am Donald's promised wife. May God speak to you for me. I am
very sad and weary. Good-night."

James did not wait for David's return. He went back to his own
lodging, and, taking the note out of his pocket-book, spread it before
him. His first thought was that he had wared £89 on his enemy's fine
clothes, and James loved gold and hated foppish, extravagant dress;
his next that he had saved Andrew Starkie £89, and he knew the old
usurer was quietly laughing at his folly. But worse than all was the
alternative he saw as the result of his sinful purchase: if he used it
to gratify his personal hatred, he deeply wounded, perhaps killed, his
dearest love and his oldest friend. Hour after hour he sat with the
note before him. His good angel stood at his side and wooed him to

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrScottish sketches → online text (page 6 of 15)