Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Souls of passage .. online

. (page 1 of 17)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrSouls of passage .. → online text (page 1 of 17)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

i if 11

1 1
-.'' =

i fill!





Souls of Passage







Author of "The Bow of Orange Ribbon,"

"I, Thou, and The Other One," "The

Maid of Maiden Lane," etc.

With Illustrations by


Neiv York

Dodd, Mead & Company

Copyright, 1901,

Copyright, 1900,

(In Lippincott's Magazine.)























SENDING YOU,'" . . . . . 98


DER," . . . ... . . . 238





EVERY great city has a pronounced individual
ity, a character which is its own, and which ex
presses its peculiar life with unmistakable power
and eloquence. Manchester is a big market-place ;
its whole atmosphere is that of money making.
Oxford and St. Andrews exhale a stately, schol
arly, ecclesiastical element. Edinburgh is an epic
in stone ; as soon as we enter its precincts, its ro
mance goes to our hearts like wine ; and every one
who has been in Glasgow feels that this city is the
palpable incarnation in gray granite of the Low
land Scotch character of its theology, its pa
triotism, and its enterprise.

To this trinity of the religious, commercial, and
national spirit Glasgow owes its special character ;
and in its provost, Robert Mackenzie, these three
qualities were well mingled. Certainly on the first
day of the week the religious element dominated
him; and he then put his provostship behind his

2 Souls of Passage

eldership ; but for six days, commerce and patriot
ism had their full dues, and there were also many
hours in which the three qualities were so subtly
blended that they became one. And in such hours
Robert Mackenzie was at his very best.

Personally, he had a strongly marked coun
tenance, a commanding stature, a proud port and
an authoritative manner. The inner man in his
case had fashioned its bodily semblance with ex
traordinary power and precision ; and as he stood
among his bailies glorifying their city and its
evident great destiny, they were sure they had
done well in selecting him for their leader.

"We have made the river that made the city!"
he cried, " and this great Glasgow which we have
builded is the monument to our adventurous faith
in God and man." And this recognition of the
Almighty's right to share in their honor and high
emprise was at once unanimously applauded; for
though as Glasgow bailies they were proud men,
they did not forget that Glasgow was a city of
mortals though doubtless mortals of a very
superior order.

Patriotism is not so easily expressed as piety;
it requires some hours of health-drinking and
song-singing to illustrate properly this national
quality; for though the Thistle has worshippers
all over the world, nowhere do Scotsmen hail it
with such songs of praise, or pour out in its honor

Provost Robert Mackenzie 3

such libations of toddy as in this wonderful city
of the Clyde. So that it was growing toward ten
o'clock when Provost Mackenzie and his friend
Bailie Brodie stepped out of their handsome din
ing-room into the wet, dirty streets. They were
shrouded in yellow vapor, yet still in touch with a
sloppy crowd that walked steadily onward with
out heeding their surroundings.

"There are no loungers in Glasgow city," said
the provost with an air of satisfaction ; "we have
none of our own, and we have nothing to attract
them from other places."

"They would get short quarter while you rule
St. Mungo's city," answered Brodie ; and then his
voice became suddenly soft and glad, and he
added, "Oh, man Robert, who would have
thought of this day, when we two laddies slept to
gether in Maggie Stark's garret ?"

"I thought of it, Jamie. It was aye in my head ;
but for all that I looked for you to be provost at
this time ; for you are a born favorite, Jamie, and
you might have had the city and the ruling of it
for a word, if folk had thought you wanted it."

"I was better known and better judged," Brodie
answered. "How would I guide a sedurant of
proud, stiff-necked bailies? No, no! I leave ex
altations and counsellings and rulings to other
men. The high hills to the harts, Robert. I love
the valleys."

4 Souls of Passage

The provost made no answer. Those few
words, "the high hills to the harts," had suddenly
sent him backward to his boyhood. The Glasgow
nightmare of iron and coal and fog, of gray houses
like tombs, and human beings like phantoms, all
vanished away. He saw in their place the old
village of Morandaroch in its solitary beauty of
sea and land ; the high, heathery hills around, and
the harts moving over them in a long, swinging
trot ; and the big stag of a herd lying in the midst
of his comrades, his yellow body glistening in the
sun. He saw the little lochs set like jewels in the
moorlands, and the sounds through which

"by night and day
The great sea water found its way."

He saw the guillemots sailing home in white-
breasted pairs; and the little Highland cattle
hurrying along the beach, to luxuriate upon the
seaweed, and the vision was speechless.

Brodie, however, did not trouble his friend for
an answer. He understood that some unusual
thought "possessed" him ; and he was not a woman
to take offence at silence, or to ask troublesome
questions concerning it. They spoke no more,
and when they reached the handsome house in
which Mackenzie dwelt, they parted at the gate
with a hand grip which explained nothing, but
which satisfied both. Mackenzie had his latch-key

Provost Robert Mackenzie 5

and he entered his home without observation. All
was dark and silent, but a little band of light com
ing from under his chamber door brought a smile
to his lips. "Marian is waiting for me at any
rate," and with the thought he opened the door,
and Marian stood up to meet him. She had a
pleasant face, with a fine open-air color in her
cheeks ; and in her manner and speech the unmis
takable local stamp. As a matter of duty she had
been reading her Bible, but when her husband
entered she closed the book and said with a laugh :

"My certie ! provost, but you keep decent hours.
Alan was saying it would be midnight ere you got
through singing 'Scots Wha Hae' and the like of

"Marian, I can keep elder's hours,* if I am pro
vost, and I would be glad if Alan did the same."

"He was home so early to-night that I be to ask
him for pure wonderment, 'Is that you, Alan ?' and
he said, 'As far as I know it's myself, mother.' He
is a mortal queer lad whiles. Then he got into a
terrivee with his Sister Jessie about the young
minister of St. John's, and the way they argued
about him was just incredible."

"And he got the better of her doubtless ?"

"Him! He could as easily have got the better
of the Bass Rock. Jessie is not a babe in the
Word. She knows all it means, and all that it

*Half past ten.

6 Souls of Passage

does not mean. I was fairly moidered between
them and just at their merciment."

"What has our Jessie to do with the young
minister at St. John's ? Is not the minister in her
own kirk good enough for her ?"

"It seems not. This St. John's minister is a
young man fairly burning to show his light to the
world. He talks to Jessie about Dr. Chalmers and
ragged schools, and all sorts of societies for help
ing the poor to live without working, and Jessie
thinks he is a very apostle. I can see well she is
set on marrying him, and advising him, and so
forth. As she sits sewing, the very thoughts flit
o'er her face and settle round her mouth. Whiles
she smiles the least bit of a smile, and then I know
well she has made up her mind what the young
man ought to do and will have to do. And my
thought is that he might as well buy the wedding
ring. He is coming here two or three nights
every week, and I am not liking him any the bet
ter for it."

"Well, Marian," answered the provost, "if
Jessie has made up her mind to marry the min
ister she will take her will, and we may as well
learn to thole the man. You know it is not pos
sible to affront a minister. And I can tell you
that other folk are as hard set as we are ; there is a
divinity lad after little Annie Brodie, and as far as
I can see the black coats have their fingers in every

Provost Robert Mackenzie 7

one's pie. But, Marian, you may still your heart
with this thought Jessie will do no harm to her

"Alan is not liking him at all."
"What has he said against Alan?"
"Nothing very bad. He does not think Alan
is orthodox. When Jessie said her brother was a
good young man and would be glad to help in the
new kirk work, the minister answered with a
queer drawing in of his lips, 'No doubt, no doubt ;
but he deviates.' And Alan was fairly mad at the
word, and said he was proud of his 'deviations'
mocking the minister and not right to do so, of
course and that it was gey likely he would de
viate a little more, and the like of that. And then
Jessie laying down the law, and the Gospel, too
but what will you, Robert ; for, as the rhyme says :

" 'There's nane exempt from worldly cares,
And few from some domestic jars ;
And whiles we're in, and whiles we're out,
Kissing and quarrelling turn about.' "

"That is just the way, Marian."

"And the observe you made about disapproving
of a minister is quite true. Forbye, Jessie is think
ing heaven and earth of him, and we might disap
prove till we were both of us black in the face, and
she would only be astonished at our blindness, and
maybe put up a bit prayer in our behalf. And

8 Souls of Passage

what could we do or say then? A cross word is
easily given back, but a word or two of prayer is
not always handy."

"You may let Jessie guide herself. She will
not go a step out of the way of the godly and
the prudent. It is our dear lad Alan I am troubled
at my heart for. He is so good and so bad.
Whiles he has more divinity than any D.D. in the
Glasgow pulpits, and then again you would think
the very spirit of doubt and rank impiety had been
given dominion over him for a season. He is
needing something we cannot give him."

"He is needing no earthly good thing. Why
are you troubling yourself about Alan? We'll
say he is not all he should be. What of that ? I
would like you to mention to me a man who is!
Every lad that has the world and flesh to fight
needs enough of the devil in him to keep the devil
out of him."

"Marian, a shadow of the bygone came over me
to-night, and I saw as if I was in a dwam* the
Highland hills and the great North Sea ; and I am
believing that a year up yonder way would be
good for the lad. He has too much of the world
and of its men and women. It might be a kind of
salvation to let him match himself with the men
of the mountains and the fishers on the sea ; with
the harts on the hills and the dumb beasts that
*Trance or second sight.

Provost Robert Mackenzie 9

have a sense of their own, and a very fine sense
in its light and way. It is forty years since my
dog Brian died at Morandaroch, and this night
the very creature himself seemed to be padding at
my side. You will be forced to say that love
which can keep the grip of you for forty years
is wcrth the having; for I would give a thousand
pounds this night to have the honest beast at my

"Well, provost, Alan can have a dog, or two
dogs, right here in Glasgow itself if you think
there is salvation in a dog's love. Keep me,
Robert! What are you havering about? If you
had named the love of some good woman I could
well believe you but dogs and the like of them
creatures ! Perfect nonsense ! And I am not for
Alan going to the Highlands. Goodness only
knows what or who he will foregather with on
the mountains and on the water. There's women
folk, too, wherever you send him, and I'm think
ing, if you will be honest with yourself and with
me, that it is Flora Dunbrack you are feared for ;
and that you are for sending Alan to the High
lands out of her way the smatchet! the saucy
little cutty that she is !"

"Whist! whist! wife! There is not a mite of
harm in the bonnie creature. She is just a little
wild heart, that has had too much of her own
way, and so is ill to guide in the way of other

io Souls of Passage

people. Forbye, she does not care a pinhead for
Alan Mackenzie. Not her ! She is aye measuring
him by some soldier or woodsman and finding him
totally and altogether wanting."

"It sets her to find Alan Mackenzie wanting!
Her ! with her bit fortune of three hundred a year !
What will she be expecting a Highland lord or a
Lowland earl ? I think, provost, we had better be
sleeping than talking nonsense at this hour of the
night I might say of the morning."

"I told you, Marian, that I had a kind of dwam
or backsight as I was coming home ; and it has put
sleep far from me, and set some things in such
clearness before my soul that all the glory and
honor of this day is just as a whiff of smoke."

"It was a great day for you, Robert, and a
happy, proud day for me."

"I know that, wife ; but when we are on the top
most peaks of joy or prosperity we are often made
to feel that their foundation is deep down in some
abyss of sorrow or care ; and to-night I looked for
a moment into one which made my soul tremble,
for in it I saw as it were the shadow of our dear

"Robert ! Robert ! What are you saying? Now
you have sent the sleep far from me, and you be
to tell me all you fear and mean. The lad has no
outstanding vices that I know of."

"Nor yet any outstanding virtues. I wouldn't

Provost Robert Mackenzie 1 1

mind the vices if he had the virtues to keep them
in check. He is so many-sided and so many-
minded. Of Jessie we know everything. All that
Jessie might do she does. There is nothing want
ing and nothing over. But with Alan there is al
ways something over. You think he has said his
say, and that he means what he says, and then at
the last he will out with a few words that leaves
all uncertain and unfinished and you don't know
where you have him."

"I am sure there are few young men more re
ligious. He is a very Pharisee about the ordi
nances and the Sabbath day."

"Yes," answered the father wearily. "Alan is
of the religious temperament. But he has not a
single conviction that could stand a strain. Jessie
would go to the stake for her creed without a
word. Alan would argue the question until he
was uncertain about every creed ; and he can per
suade most people of most things, and himself of
almost anything. I heard him arguing with Mat
thew Laird about Calvinism the other night at the
Thistle. He started out with an extravagant
praise of the dogma, of the fine men it had bred,
and the great deeds it had done ; and when the talk
was over Alan's last word was, 'Well, Matthew,
if Calvinism is what you say it is I think my
opinion ought to have been asked ere I was sent
into the world on any such like terms,' You see,

12 Souls of Passage

Marian, he had sailed quite round the question,
and he went off whistling 'The Laird o' Cockpen.'
What will you say to religion of that kind ?"

"I say nothing at all. God is love, and I build
my faith on that creed. Where do mothers get
their love but from Him ? and I think, Robert, it
would be more wise-like and kind-like in you
sometimes to wink a? well as to see."

"I see one thing clearly : Alan must have other
surroundings, and as soon as I came to this con
viction the way was opened wide for him. For a
week ago I had a letter from Peter McDuff, of
Morandaroch, and he tells me that the old castle
of the Dunbracks is for sale, and at a bargain past
believing. Colonel MacLeod, of the Indian Ser
vice, bought it six years ago, and now he is sick
of the place, and wants to go back to the heat and
sun of Calcutta. Very well ; Dunbrack is only two
miles from Morandaroch, and he has made great
improvements, and nothing asked for them. I am
in a great mind to buy it. McDuff says it is a fine
estate going for a song."

"What would you do with an estate in the
Highlands? You a Glasgow merchant! Thae
proud Highlanders would give you scorn for your

"I am as good as any of them. If a poor gentle
man has to make money in trading, that is not his
fault. They will ask whose son I am, and when

Provost Robert Mackenzie 13

they hear I am Roderick Mackenzie's son, they
will lift their bonnets to me at once. But I was
not thinking of going to Dunbrack. It is to be
for you and for the children as a summer home,
and I may say that few Glasgow ladies will be able
to even you in this respect."

"But it would be a poor estate and a poor house
wanting yourself. I would rather bide where I
could see you. It is maybe just a habit with me to
like your face and your company, but that is my
failing, and there is no estate in Highlands or
Lowlands that could make up for that pleasure if
I had to want it."

"Your words are sweet, Marian, and I am far
from seeking to be rid of your face and company.
I thought of our poor cousin, Thrift Athole; she
will look after the young things, and you need
not be too long away at any time. Forbye, I
might make occasion to run up there myself now
and then."

"My certie! Elder Orr's wife would have to
sing her song about Alderswood a key or two
lower. If she can write herself ' Mistress Orr,
Alderswood House' I would then be what
would I be, Robert?"

"Mistress Mackenzie, Dunbrack Castle, Moran-
daroch, Rosshire."

"I would just put the whole of that on my card,

14 Souls of Passage

"And Alan would, in a way, own the hills, and
the deer, and the birds, and the little bay with the
fishing boats coming and going, and the blue lochs
where the trout lie hid ; and he would be up on the
hills, and away on the sea water, and so the smur
of the market-place and the spirit of the Glasgow
planestones would be blown off his young soul,
and I have faith to believe that he would be in a
way made o'er again."

"He suits me well as he is. I don't want him
changed. Why would I? God made him, and
He knows every slip and fall the lad will have be
fore he walks in the right way without a stumble.
I trust him with God."

"If it was only in matters between him and God,
that would be sufficient ; but the lad is as slippery
and uncertain about business as he is about re
ligion. And that will not do. Men won't put up
with it. His ideas about very important obliga
tions are, to say the least, often loose-ended. I
want to see if a different life will make a different
man of him, and whether you believe me or not, I
will say this a wife like Flora is just what he
needs. She is strong where he is weak. She is
wise where he is foolish. She is clever where he
has not an ounce of common sense."

"And she has a temper that blazes like a pine
knot. Alan with his good nature would be at her
merciment. What do you say to that?"

Provost Robert Mackenzie 15

"I say that Alan has his own temper, and a very
bad one it is at times. I have seen him neither to
hold nor to bind. Patient enough with women, of
course, but if there is any kind of temper to be
afraid of it is the anger of a patient man. Alan
will bear and bear, and then in a moment just
for nothing at all say or do what no one will
bear ; and then the mischief and all to pay. Flora
has a hot temper, but she has it bitted and bridled,
and ever she does give it headway she will be
understanding herself the why and the where

"I would like to know, once for all, what for
you are so set up with that lassie ? There must be
something behind what you have told me, and
how do I know but that it is the lassie's mother. I
can tell you it is not a thing any woman likes to
have a full-grown girl dropped into her home; a
girl, too, that has not a thing in common with any
one of us. Her thoughts and ways are that out
landish that the ladies who come calling look at
her in wonderment; and if the men do go daft
about her beauty, I think that is little to her

"I hope, Marian, you will not count it to her
blame ; for what will you say then about your own
beauty, which bothered the men not a little ere you
chose me from among the lave of your lovers.
And well you know there is no woman behind

1 6 Souls of Passage

Flora; no woman but yourself ever troubled the
heart of Robert Mackenzie."

"Then tell me why Colonel Dunbrack sent her
to you, as if he had a kind of right to send her
not one 'If you please/ or 'Will you, for the sake
of God, take care of my child?' but just, 'Dear
Robert, I send you my little girl.' What for did
he expect you to take charge of his little girl ?"

"I will tell you, Marian. Angus Dunbrack
Flora's father was for many a year heart of my
heart, and soul of my soul. We were constantly
together ; we hunted and fished together, we read
together, we ate and slept together, I think we
mostly dreamed the same dreams. Talk of the
love of brothers, it was not to be named with our
love ; and when at last Angus went to the army, I
felt as if one half of me had died and gone away
forever. Twice over he saved my life ; once when
I was drowning, and once when I was lost cross
ing Ben Trodhu. My own kin had given up the
search, but Flora's father would not give it up,
and at last he found me and my dog Brian starv
ing together. The dog had laid himself down to
die with me, his head close to my face, and I re
member this moment how he tried to comfort me
as long as he had the strength. Well, Angus went
to Canada with his regiment, and poor Brian died
soon after; but I thank God I was able to sit by
him and comfort and help him till I saw his big,

Provost Robert Mackenzie 17

tender eyes grow dark in death. Poor Brian!
Now you will be understanding why I would give
a thousand pounds to have had him at my elbow
this night. For I think he would have known of
the glory and honor that had come to me, and been
glad of it," and the provost's voice trembled, and
he put his hand for a moment before his eyes, for
they were full of tears those ancient tears, whose
source is in the youth of memory, and which only
something subtle and sudden can surprise.

"You should have spoke of these things before,
Robert. I am sorry you were not more trusty
with me."

"I am sorry myself, Marian. I will tell you
why I did not. When I was twenty-one years old
my Uncle Roderick God rest his soul gave me
the five hundred pounds which was all my father
could leave me, and I fancied maybe it was only
fancy that he thought he had done his full duty
and would be glad to be rid of me. So, one day
after a few words I did not like, I turned my back
on Morandaroch, and I vowed to myself never to
let a thought of it come between me and my fu
ture. I tried to put it out of my mind, and I
never even named my life there to Jamie Brodie,
though we have been very close friends from the
first day of my Glasgow life. When I asked your
hand I told your father that I was of a good High
land family, and he said, 'Let that be ; you have a

1 8 Souls of Passage

good name and a good business, and that is more
to the point. I am not asking after your forbears,
I am asking after yourself.' And as the years
went on I forgot Angus, but only in the same way
that we forget the dead whom yet we love. I did
not speak of him, I did not write to him, but he
kept his place in my heart and memory, and no
other man has ever, or will ever, take what is his.
So when I got those few pitiful lines written on
his death-bed, and I knew that he had not forgot
me, my heart went out to the child he loved, and
for his sake I loved her, and syne for her own
sake, for she is well able to win her own love, if
only folks will be a little kind and just to her."

"I had been kinder to her if you had been freer
with me, Robert. I feel a deal different to the

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrSouls of passage .. → online text (page 1 of 17)