BEADS OF TASMER
AMELIA E. BARR
AUTHOR OF " JAN VEDDEB S WIFE," " A DAUGHTEB OF FIFB,
"THE BOW OF OHANGE BIBBON," "A BOBDEB
SHEPHEBDE88," ETC., ETC.
ROBERT BONNER S SONS,
COPYBIGHT, 1890 and 1891,
BY ROBERT BONNER S SONS.
(All rights reteroed.)
HE NEW YORK LEDOM,
I. The Beads oi Tasmer ... 7
II. Roberta ..... 29
III. Cross Purposes .... 47
IV. Undercurrents 57
V. Sara s Lover .... 93
VI. Sentence Suspended . . 112
VII. A Love Letter . . .125
VIII. Father and Son ... 148
IX. Father Matthew for the People . 166
X. The Minister s Interference . 184
XL The Clearance .... 207
XII. Sara 217
XIII. The Minister Calls on the Baron . 237
XIV. Sara s Request .... 259
XV. Tasmer s Summer . . . 266
XVI. In the Trough of the Sea . . 286
XVII. Farewell, Love .... 301
XVIII. At The Last, Peace . 331
XIX. The Secret of the Beads . . 352
XX. Bringing Home the Bride. . 375
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Sir Ralph Torquil entered . Frontispiece
Donald s Father is a Nobleman . . 84
" You have had a hard time, Angus " . 130
Father Matthew silently prostrated him
self in that silent presence. . . 177
As she took his hand his eye sought hers. 187
Her face, white as death, lay against the
black billows 300
The Baron clasped Roberta s hand. 342
THE BEADS OF TASMER.
THE BEADS OF TASMER.
" Lovest thou Mountains great,
Peaks to the clouds that soar,
Corrie and fell where eagles dwell,
And cataracts dash evermore ?
" Lovest thou green grassy glades,
By the sunshine sweetly kist ;
Murmuring waves, and echoing caves ?
Then go to the Land of Mist."
On the thundering shores of West Ross
stands Tasmer, the old castle of the Torquils.
Its foundations are laid upon that colossal
masonry which the primeval deep piled up
8 The Beads of Tasmer.
when it first began the fashioning of the hills ;
and there are hours of blinding mist, and daz
zling sunshine, when its towers and turrets are
scarcely to be distinguished from the great red
rocks which buttress the coast against the
At the foot of these rocks, the waves roar and
moan through the vast vaults of innumerable
caverns ; surge out again in foaming cataracts,
and then roll through the torn and splintered
fissures with an appalling fury. But above all
this ceaseless battle of earth and water, Tasmer
Castle has stood securely for seven centuries.
Originally it was little else than a square hall
defended by a round tower the walls of both
the hall and the tower being twelve feet thick
but in the sixteenth century, Rolfe Torquil
allied himself to the great family of the Mac
kenzie, and built what is known as " the Lady s
Tower," for his bride.
Other additions were made at intervals ; and
when, at length, the exile of the Stuarts gave a
The Beads of Tasmer.
promise of permanent peace to the Highlands,
the Torquils began to take a pride in their old
home, and to furnish it luxuriously, according
to the Georgian ideas of beauty and splendor.
Even the small rooms within the ancient walls
were made picturesquely habitable ; for the
stone work was covered with tapestry, the
floors and ceilings with light woods ; and dyed
skins, gay chintzes, and soft carpets did much to
beautify and soften the grim, bare strength
which had been the original idea of home. But
nothing could banish the strangely past look of
the older portion of the building. In the
brightest summer day, the twilight of Ossian
lingers about it ; and an imaginative person
would scarcely wonder to see some fierce, bare-
armed Thane of Ross look from the narrow
windows, or walk out from the iron-studded
Behind the castle there is a range of moun
tains, shouldering each other up until their bald
heads are lost in mist and clouds. Half way
io The Beads of Tasmer.
down, the firs begin ; and as they approach
Tasmer, the dense woods embrace it on three
sides. But to the sea it turns an open face, and
looks boldly over " the fractured Caledonian
isles ;" and the innumerable lochs and bays and
sounds through which :
" By night and day,
The great sea-water finds its way
Through long, long windings of the hills."
Among the men of Ross, the Torquils have
always held a certain pre-eminence. They have
usually had the qualities which insure it ; ready
tongues, ready hands, and consciences not over-
tender. They handled a sword as naturally as a
bird uses its wings. They knew their own
minds, and worked out their own wills, often
ruthlessly, but without weakness or indecision.
Also, the Torquils had an immeasurable admira
tion for the Torquils ; that portion of humanity
not connected with them, or serviceable to
them, had, at best, their profound indifference ;
The Beads of Tasmer. 1 1
and so little did they care to conceal this social
contempt that the motto above their door con
stantly asserted it
" They say,
Wat say they ?
Lat them say."
From such ancestors a family is not easily
delivered ; and in the beginning of the nine
teenth century the Torquils were still known as
a race " 111 to themselves and worse to their
foe." After this, however, the progressive
spirit of the time reached even to the lonely
Ross shores. Their next baron was sent to a
French seminary; he traveled and observed,
and learned to partially sacrifice his personal
feelings to the rules of cultured society. He
was nearly fifty years old when he inherited
Tasmer, and had been in active service in
various parts of the world for more than twenty
So he was not averse to sheathe his sword.
The grim old castle, to which he attached the
12 The Beads of Tasmer.
idea of home, had a very warm place in his
heart ; and he cherished a most exalted opinion
of the importance of his own position and
ancestry. It was a proud moment when his
general first addressed him as Sir Rolfe Torquil.
Hitherto he had been very reticent about his
family, but now, as the head of it, he was quite
inclined to be garrulous.
" It is a very ancient barony," he said. " The
Torquils are of the pure Albionic race, with
some slight admixture of Scandinavian blood.
My family were Earls of Ross in the twelfth
This statement was made at mess, where his
brother officers were good-naturedly discussing
the new prospects of their colonel, and Captain
Stafford replied :
" You may restore the title, Sir Rolfe ; a great
deal of favor might be granted you on your
" I am one of those who love an old name
better than a new one, Captain. And the Tor-
The Beads of Tasmer. 13
quils have carved Torquil with their swords
and bayonets all over the English history of the
" We can go a good deal further back than
that," lisped a young lieutenant, with the royal
name of Fitz-Roy.
" You ought to do so, sir. You are Norman-
English. I am a Highland Chief. We fought
for our own side, and were our own masters
until a hundred years ago."
" I beg pardon, Sir Rolfe. I did not know
about the Torquils."
The young man spoke with an air of apology,
but Sir Rolfe answered, with cool contempt :
" That may be ; but we think no less of our
selves for your not knowing us."
This short conversation indicated the sudden
change of manner which his accession to the
estate induced. He had always been haughty,
but he had hitherto been reticent ; and though
manner is a great matter, no one finds it easy to
complain of a silent man.
14 The Beads of Tasmer.
Privately, Sir Rolfe s musings were not
altogether of unmixed satisfaction. The estate
of Tasmer, though of great extent, was unpro
ductive, and the rental roll far below that of the
poorest English barony. Highland lords had
not then begun to slaughter their game for
Covent Garden, nor dreamed ot renting out
their acres as shooting grounds for their far
wealthier southern neighbors. Upon Tasmer s
hills were great flocks of sheep, with scrambling
feet and twisted horns, and droves of little
Highland cattle ; and from these sources the
largest part of Sir Rolfe s income was derived.
Here and there in the narrow straths it was pos
sible to raise cereals, and the wealth of the
ocean was at his doors, but within the castle
walls there had always been a dreary want of
No one but himself knew how this want had
pinched him for thirty years ; and he was by no
means sure that his pecuniary perplexities were
over. This was the more annoying because his
The Beads of Tasmer. 15
son and his daughter had arrived at ages when
they could no longer be supported at economical
" Donald is twenty-two years old," he mused ;
" he ought to be in the army. Sara is twenty,
and is doubtless thinking of fine dresses and
lovers and society."
It was something strange for Sir Rolfe to take
the children into consideration at all. He had
seen very little of them. When their mother
died at a lonely station in the Madras Presi
dency, they were sent to Scotland ; and they had
grown up between the formal discipline of
schools and the liberty of the long vacations at
Tasmer. During these latter periods, they ruled
absolutely the irritable old baron, their grand
father, and lived in a perpetual holiday in each
other s company. Only Donald had any memory
of his mother ; his sister had forgotten her. But
their father had made three long visits to his
native land, and during them they had been his
companions. Since the last visit, five years had
1 6 The Beads of Tasmer.
passed ; they had not forgotten him, but they
had become accustomed to life Without him.
Still, youth always expects change to bring
happiness. They looked forward with pleasant
anticipations to the new life which his coming
home would inaugurate, and they were dis
cussing it together one morning, as they lingered
over a late breakfast.
" There will be a great deal to do," said Sara,
" when father arrives. Donald, read his letter
again. I do not believe I heard a word of it. I
was listening to something old Fergus was tell
ing me. What was said about Tasmer?"
" The principal rooms in the castle must be
refurnished ; for your sake, and for your sister s
sake, we must live more like people of wealth
and position. That is what father says."
" And when does he expect to reach home?"
" After this letter immediately."
" If it were possible for you to meet him on
the way, Donald "
" I think he would not like it, Sara. Father
The Beads of Tasmer. 17
was always annoyed at anything like fuss.
There is no certainty either about the time. He
may be delayed in London, for he is sure to go
to the Army and Navy Club, and so it is likely
he will meet some old comrade. I will take a
good horse to Balmacarra, and leave it at the inn
for him. I think that is the only attention it
will please him to have."
Then they renewed a discussion which was of
more personal interest to them.
" I should think father would like to have the
baron s rooms. The Torquil has always occu
pied them. What do you think, Donald ?"
" I am sure he will keep them, Sara."
" Then there is no reason why you and I
should not at once select the apartments we like
best. I will have a suite that looks upon the fir
forest. O, Donald ! What charming hours we
have had in those woods! What myteries we
have met there ! What pretty nests we set
rocking as we parted the branches in our way !
And how the blackbirds used to sing, just as if
The Beads of Tasmer.
their hearts were not large enough to hold so
much happiness ! And what blue-bells, and
moss, and little daisies ! One never forgets such
"No. Yet I always fancied the firs were full
of sad stories ; that they knew all the dreadful
secrets of those days when the Mackenzies and
Torquils were burning and slaying, and carrying
off miserable women and frightening children.
If I sleep at that side of the house I hear them
crying all night long. I sleep with my beads in
my hands, and wake up in a fright to pray for
them. I will have rooms that look over the sea.
There is nothing secret about the sea. If any
harm was coming the sea way, one could see it
coming. What is lurking in a wood, who can
" Oh, indeed, Donald, you must not say there
is nothing secret about the sea," interrupted
Sara. " How often it covers itself with a thick
mist. Then, how awful and how melancholy
are the mountains, and how far away and sad
The Beads of Tasmer. 19
are the long, low islands ! The birds are so
quiet, and the very surf is muffled on the beach.
Nothing in nature is so full of secrets and ^of
mystery, as the sea."
" But I love the sea, Sara. When I get near
it I feel it in every pulse of my body. I would
rather watch the wind shimmer across it, than
look at the finest picture man ever painted.
And as for blue-bells and daisies, how much
more I love the sea s pale, salt flowers ! Oh,
the sea ! The sea ! Glorious things can be told
of the sea, Sara."
" I know that, Donald. I hope father will get
you a boat. I could trust myself with you and
" I should think you could. Now you have
given me a sea-longing, Sara. I must go and
" Donald, the riding-horse must go to Balma-
" I had forgotten. The horse is certainly the
first thing to be attended to. Still I do not think
20 The Beads of Tasmer.
father will get here to-day. The stages, after
leaving Oban are not to be depended upon."
Indeed, it was nearly a week after this con
versation before the new master of Tasmer
arrived. The feeling of expectation had
expended itself, and the young people were
indulging that not unpleasant sentiment of mak
ing the best of a happy period which must
soon pass away forever. Then, one brilliant
July afternoon, when the windows were all open
to the fir-woods or the sea, when they were eat
ing dinner, and had for the moment forgotten
him, the door quietly opened, and Sir Rolfe
Donald sat in his grandfather s seat, Sara at
his right hand ; they were talking merrily, quite
occupied with the present, forgetful of the past
and the future alike ; and of all things, they had
the least thought of giving offense and yet
when Sir Rolfe saw Donald in the master s
chair, his first feeling though it was evanescent
as a shadow was one of anger. Innocent as
The Beads of Tasmer. 21
the appropriation was, and in spite of the joyful
love that welcomed him, he felt it.
Yet he looked with delight upon the chil
dren who called him "father." Donald had
grown far beyond his hopes. His figure was
tall and erect. He had blue eyes full of pierc
ing light ; eyes that looked straight at every
thing, like the eyes of an eagle ; and that bright
auburn hair which had given the prefix roy, or
red, to so many of his ancestors. It was easy
for Sir Rolfe to imagine him at the head of a
troop of cavalry rushing by, with the light of
battle on his face. And Sara Torquil resembled
her brother in her tall, slender form, her daz
zling complexion, her bright hair, and frank,
For a little while, the joy of their reunion was
almost perfect ; but ever, sooner or later,
humanity finds the pain of reunion as great as
the pain of parting. Some secret disappoint
ment or fear enters into all meetings after long
absence. No one has stood still ; it is uncertain
22 The Beads of Tasmer.
whether the changes will please or displease
us. Some bonds of sympathy are almost certain
to have worn away, and it is to a person, not
quite what was expected, that we have to learn
to adapt ourselves.
After the night s rest and solitude, something
of this feeling was in each heart. Sir Rolfe per
ceived that his son had become a man ; that his
daughter had crossed the line
" Where the brook and river meet."
She was no longer a school-girl to be retired
to a governess or sent out of the parlor if her
society interfered with him. And to the chil
dren, their father was not quite the same. They
missed his uniform ; it had always inspired in
them pride and respect. They missed also that
air of careless relaxation, which was natural in a
soldier on furlough, but not desirable in the
master of a home to be arranged on a permanent
basis. So that Sir Rolfe Torquil was in many
respects unlike the man whom they remembered
as Colonel Torquil.
The Jleads of Tasmer. 23
His return home and his accession to the
estate had made but a slight sensation among
his people. The tenantry of an English baron
would have eaten and drunken, and shouted
themselves hoarse with hurrahs for their new
master. Sir Rolfe expected nothing of the
kind. Such a welcome would have almost
offended him. Torquil was in the very heart of
the old Catholic district of the north, and in its
religious and social aspects a flat contradiction
to every other part of Scotland. Here the
pious, melancholy Celt, cradled in mists and
bringing his daily life into constant sympathy
with the church, was both by nature and educa
tion inclined to a grave and serene seriousness.
He lived in nearly constant danger, either on
the ocean or the wild, precipitous mountains ;
and he lived almost with prayer upon his lips.
Centuries ago, the grand faith of lona, Tyree
and Coll had found among these somber lochs
and dusky hills a fitting refuge, and under the
little black-thatched cottages of Kintail and Tor-
24 The Beads of Tasmer.
quil they had preserved the faith of their fathers.
And not because they had been hidden away
from the world and its trials ; for to the last
hour they stood by the Stuarts, fully compre
hending that their loyalty included their
In social life they remained quite apart. The
names which thrilled the Lowland heart touched
them not. They believed in King Fergus ; they
knew little of Sir William Wallace, and Robert
Burns never sang for them. Duncan Ban Mac-
Intyre and the seraphic psalms of their own
saints touched them far more nearly. They
were, however, neither rude nor ignorant, for
one or two religious sanctuaries had always
lifted their stately domes among these humble
clachans, and pious priests and white-robed
sisters had been their teachers and friends for
So Sir Rolfe expected only the mannerly, kind
greeting which was gladly given him. The men
came to their doors, as they passed, and lifted
The Beads of Tasmer. 25
their bonnets with a pious ejaculation. The
women smiled placidly and dropped him a
modest courtesy a courtesy which expressed
respect without a particle of servility. For they
were all Mackenzies and Torquils ; only Sir
Rolfe was The Torquil, the head of their house,
the chief of their sect, and, as such, entitled to
their affection and respect.
He felt its sincerity, and it warmed his heart,
and brought a mist of tears into his bright, stern
eyes. He was telling himself, as he entered his
children s presence, that no military honor or
disciplined subservience could compare with
regard so personal and so spontaneous. And
their delight and love crowned his satisfaction,
so that he went to his own rooms that night
penetrated with grateful and pleasant emotions.
As Donald had anticipated, he took possession
of the apartments always occupied by the barons
of Tasmer. They were situated in the south
wing, facing the sea, and connected with an
oratory in the old central tower. It was neces-
26 The Beads of Tasmer.
sary that he should visit this oratory, for the
most sacred charge of his father s dying hours
referred to it. He sat for some time thinking,
then he took from his pocket-book the last letter
which he had received from the deceased baron,
and he read the following portion :
" Be careful of the ivory beads you will find in the oratory;
and do not be so foolish, son Rolfe, as to think all beyond
your understanding superstition. I have been told, as I now
tell you, that the fortune of Tasmer is, in some way unknown
to me, influenced by them. They were brought here in A. D.
11 33 by Murdo Torquil, a true knight, who followed Tancred
to Sicily to the conquest of Jerusalem. He it was who built
the church in which we still worship. Forget not to pray for
your ancestors when you kneel before its altar. As he was
dying he put the beads into the Torquil s hand, and with them
a writing which a wise Augustine monk from Feme, wrote
out thus :
" Tellen these trewe wordse :
Whaune Tasmer s fortune shalle wane and faide,
Thaune aske of the beads of Tasmer aide. "
Sir Rolfe read this portion over again, and as
he refolded the letter, there was no doubt on his
face. Slowly, and with a marked solemnity of
The Beads of Tasmer. 27
manner, he turned the key of the oratory door
and closed it behind him. It was one of the
small rooms contained in the walls of the tower ;
but the stone had been covered with hangings
of purple velvet. They were nearly a century
old and frail with age, but the lustrous dye and
strong silk pile of Genoa, even in decay, looked
royal and handsome. The stone floor was
uncovered, and there was only one piece of fur
niture in the room a heavily carved oak lee-
turn, holding an open parchment breviary and a
rosary of large ivory beads, beautifully cut, but
yellow with age.
Light was admitted through a window of
stained glass, and the last rays of the setting sun
tinged with marvelous glory a large white
crucifix standing clearly out against its purple
background. With the holy sign Sir Rolfe
lifted the beads, made rich by centuries of sup
plications, and kneeling at the foot of the cross,
he recited not only the prayers appointed for
the living, but also that solemn litany for the
28 The Beads of Tasmer.
dead whose intercession is by virtue of the
"Give them, O Lord, eternal rest; and let
perpetual light shine upon them."
"All the events of life are materials out of which we may
make what we will." NOVALIS.
" He who loses not his senses in love, has no senses to
" Beneath her eyelids deep
Love lying seems asleep
Love, swift to wake, to weep,
To laugh, to dream."
There was sunshine and clear air, and a good
blow of fresh wind ; and in it the Sea Bird was
dancing- along the pulsing floor of the sea, and
humming a pleasant tune as she went. She had
been northward as far as the Gairloch, and was
making for the little harbor of Torquil in the
morning light; and Angus Mackenzie and a
couple of young lads were the whole of her
crew, and they were as merry a company as
ever journeyed along those storied, cheerless
But this morning the gray Minch was dim
pling all over, and the boat, with a good wind
from the northwest, " went away like a lady."
The comparison was Donald s. He was sitting
with Angus on her deck, drinking their early
cup of coffee. They were talking gayly, for
they were always happy when they were
together ; and it was evident that they had been
much together for some weeks, for Donald s
skin had taken on that red-brown tint, which is
only made by the salted wind of the sea.
Keeping well in shore, they were surrounded
by multitudes of sea-birds, whose shrill cries
mingled not unpleasantly with the ringing
Gaelic of the boys, and the stirring sound of
" What are the lads singing, Angus ?"
Roberta. 3 1
" A song about the Rover of Rochryan. It is a
goot song whateffer. If you will be knowing
it, you will say that it is a goot song."
" How can I know it, when I understand so
" In the English, too, it will be ferry well.
They were saying it would be like this if you
will be hearing it," and Angus rolled out the
last verse of the spirited sea song with all his
own peculiar intonations :
" Unstent and slack each reef and tack,
Gi e her sail, boys, while it may sit ;
She s roar d through a heavier sea before,
An she ll roar through a heavier yet.
When landsmen sleep, or wake and creep,
In the tempest s angry moan,
We dash through the drift, and sing to the lift
Of the wave that heaves us on."
" It is a good song, Angus, but I like Father
Matthew s song better."
" There are other men, ay, there are other
men who will be saying that also ; for there
never was in the world such a boat-song as
Father Matthew s song."
" Then let us sing it together as we are coming
into harbor. Cheerily, Angus, sing with all
your heart, and the birds will listen to us, and