Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The beads of Tasmer online

. (page 13 of 16)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe beads of Tasmer → online text (page 13 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

proved by such long and severe suffering his

318 Farewell, Love.

love for Roberta Balfour that he felt that he
had, at least, a right to have that love recog
nized. A sense of injustice made him resent his
father s prejudice ; a sense of honor made him
impatient of any longer delay as regarded
Roberta. Angus thought it possible to take the
boat to Ellerloch, and he believed himself able
to take the journey.

During the weeks of his convalescence there
had been such a pleasant confidence between
himself and Sir Rolfe, that he felt keenly his
father s relapse into sympathetic silence.
Before leaving him for the night he made an
effort to break it.

" Dear father," he said, " I must go to Eller
loch to-morrow ; do not let me go with your
anger. I made a promise to Miss Balfour last
September ; do you think that my sickness and
the lapse of time have absolved me from it ?"
" What promise did you make her ?"
" I promised to make her my wife."
" Then do so. As a gentleman, you can do no

Farewell, Love. 319

less. The wrong was in the promise. If it
affected only yourself, I should say break it,
though you broke your heart, also ; but a
promise made to a woman who loves you is
inviolable. Go to Ellerloch and marry the girl,
if you wish, and make much of her love ; it will
be all that is left you."

" My dear father"

" If I be dear, where is your obedience ?"

He rose with the question, and passed into
the oratory ; and Donald, trembling with
physical weakness and mental trouble, fell upon
the nearest couch and shut in the heavy tears
behind his closed eyelids, and his clasped hands
above them.

In the morning, with the early tide, he started
for Ellerloch. Angus came up to the castle for
him ; and leaning upon his strong arm, Donald
walked through the firs and out of their dewy
stillness into the keen salt breeze of the gray
Minch water-way. The dawn was just edging
the gneiss with pinkish, pallid hues, and on the

320 Farewell, Love.

desolate ancient hills the delicate green of thin
grass dyed the tint of the rock. A heavy rain
in the night had deadened the breeze, and, as it
often does in the Minch, had swung it away
round to the southeast.

Donald looked lovingly at the sky and the
sea, and the white streaks of foam and the spent
swell breaking among the boulders. He bent
over the boat s nose, to see how she was rising
and falling in the water, and felt quite satisfied
with her trend forward. The peace, xhe lulling,
cradling motion, the fresh, life-laden wind,
soothed him inexpressibly. He lay down in his
sea-blankets at the stern, and idly watching the
forlorn headlands and the vapory edges of the
fells, he let the swing of the boat lull him into
the soundest, sweetest, deepest, longest sleep he
had ever known.

Angus had the patience and wisdom of love.
He pushed forward the Sea Bird and let Donald
sleep. Hour after hour passed, and the young
man never moved. It was near sunset when he

Farewell, Love. 321

lifted his head and looked at the old treeless
coast, and the black hills lining it. The boat
was luffiing under them, to keep the failing
breeze ; and the very sadness of their ragged
edges, draped in mist, touched and comforted
him. It was the same somber look which
charmed the early saints, and girded these
solitary headlands with their cells. He looked
at them with something of awe in his face, for
the Sea Bird was rippling their very shadows.

The next day, with a fair wind, they reached
Ellerloch in the afternoon, and Donald went at
once to David Balfour s house. The little maid
servant let him enter with a frightened look.
She said the minister was in the parlor, and as
she spoke, softly opened the door.

Balfour was alone. He was sitting by the fire
lost in thought. His right hand lay upon his
knee, his left upon an open book at his side.
When Donald spoke, he rose to his feet, his
stern face softened and flushed, he went forward

322 Farewell, Love.

a step or two, and offered his hand to the young

" I am glad to see you once more, Torquil, in
the land of the living."

" Sir, I am glad to see you. I wish first of all
to say, forgive me."

" When I forgave Roberta, I forgave you also.
Shall I be less merciful than He who said : Go
in peace, and sin no more. "

" Sir, we truly sinned against your father-love
and authority ; but wherein else have we done
wrong ? Can it be sin to love as I love
Roberta? Oh, no, sir! Give me Roberta for
my wife. In the face of God and man, give her
to me ; and then "

" Has Baron Torquil given you permission to
ask for my daughter ?"

" Alas, no, sir ! but "

" Neither do I."

"Roberta loves me. Do not force us to a
clandestine marriage. I wish to deal honorably
with you, sir."

Farewell, Love. 323

" I do not fear Roberta. Her lesson has been
a sufficient one. Sir, I will deal honorably and
kindly with you, and for this end, I will speak
plainly. I will not give you Roberta. I will
never sanction a marriage between you. I think
Roberta is so much my daughter as to refuse a
marriage which God himself interfered to
prevent. He separated you with His wind and
His waves. You had planned for yourselves a
dwelling in the Land of Love. He took you
both to the Land of the Shadow of Death. If
you did not learn there how dreadful a thing a
disobedient and unequally yoked marriage is,
Roberta learned the lesson. She comes. Let
her speak both for herself and for you."

As he ceased, Roberta opened the door. She
entered with a swift movement, holding her
level palms and raised face toward Donald. He
stretched out his arms, trembling almost sob
bing with emotion and she fled to them, as a
brooding bird to its nest. Balfour glanced at
their meeting faces ; both so beautiful, both so

324 Farewell, Love.

full of love and sorrow ; and instead of separat
ing the lovers, he left them alone. He pitied
their suffering; he had no wish to be a witness
to it.

He went into his study, and walked restlessly
about. He could hear the murmur of their
voices Donald s passionate pleading, Roberta s
sad, dissenting tones, and low, distressful weep
ing. He would not interfere. Whatever was
their decision, they must reach it alone. Cer
tainly, he suffered with them. In spite of the
trouble Donald had caused him, he liked the
young man ; and though he called this liking "a
weakness," and reproved himself for indulging in
it, it enabled him to understand his daughter s
great love for Donald Torquil, and to pity her
for it.

He had told himself that he would give the
lovers half an hour in which to comfort each
other for their hard fate. When it was over, he
went back to them. His glance fell first upon
Donald. Never had the youth looked so bril-

Farewell, Love. . 325

liantly beautiful. His long- sickness had given
to his fine, fair face a singular delicacy, and the
tide of life beneath shone through it, as a light
through a Parian vase. He leaned against a tall
black cabinet ; he was trembling with eagerness
and feeling ; his hands were holding Roberta s
hands ; his eyes were fixed upon her ; he was
pleading as men plead for the one true love that
is granted them in this life.

And if ever a woman is beautiful, it is in the
presence of such an adorer. Balf our now under
stood his daughter s marvelous charm. In that
momentary glance he saw it all the superbly
tall, slender figure, in its straight, long robe of
dark tartan ; the exquisitely formed and tinted
face ; the large, dark, soulful eyes, drawing like
a spiritual magnet the soul they looked into ; the
shadowing cloud of black hair, falling in innu
merable waves and tendrils about her temples,
throat and shoulders. It was an instantaneous
picture of human loveliness, never to be forgot

326 Farewell, Love.

He came toward them, and Donald turned
pleadingly to him.

"Speak for me, sir!" he cried. "Alas! I
have no advocate but you. By the love of our
dear, common God, have pity upon me !"

" Torquil, I have most pity on you when I say,
what I see Roberta has already said : There
can be no question of love between Donald Tor
quil and Roberta Balfour. "

" Father, I said not that. There is love, undy
ing love, between Donald and myself. I said
only that there could be no question of marriage
between us."

"But the reason, sir? The reason? Is not
true love the foundation of marriage ? Is there
any other foundation but love ? I love Roberta,
and she loves me."

" There is the difference in your faith."

" What have creeds to do with love ? Love is
above them. Whenever did love ask of any man
or woman : What church do you worship in ?

" True. It is faith that must ask what church

Farewell, Love. 327

love worships in. There is also the difference of

" My love touches not such a small question.
Race is for the body. I love Roberta with my
soul. Our souls have one parentage the
Father of Spirits."

" Donald ! Donald Torquil! Reason not with
me. Conscience is above reason. Conscience is
not to be moved either by pity or reason or favor.
My conscience forbids this marriage. My God
himself punished you both for its intention.
Will He always remember mercy in His judg
ments ? We have no right to expect it. Do not
dare again to provoke Him to anger."

" Think you that God Almighty ordered the
storm specially for our reproof ?"

" Yea ; I am sure of it."

" I think kinder and nobler things of my God.
I read in my Bible that Love and the way of
good works are from Him. * True love is of
the nature of God, pure and eternal."

*Eccle. II.: 1 5.

328 Farewell, Love.

" Roberta, my child, say farewell to Donald
Torquil. I forbid you to speak longer with him.
Even now I have let a foolish tenderness pro
long an inevitable parting."

" I will never resign Roberta. She is my own
beloved wife. She was born for me. No man
can rob me of her and be innocent. My Roberta !
You will never forget me?"

"Never! Never! Never, Donald! Never
in life or eternity !"

" I am going to Canada. I know not for how
long. Be sure, however, that sooner or later, I
will come to claim you."

He drew her to his breast and kissed her pale
face and wet eyes kissed her with the heart
breaking, holy tenderness with which we kiss
the dead ; and resigning her to her father s con
solation, left her so, without a word of farewell
to him. But Balfour took no offense at the
omission. He set his lips firmly, as he held
Roberta in his arms, and watched Donald going
with swinging, rapid steps to the Sea Bird.

Farewell, Love. 329

Suddenly Roberta disengaged herself from
her father s embrace. She left the room and
hastily fled up-stairs. In a few minutes she left
the house. Balfour did not attempt to stay her.
He divined her motive and understood that it
would give an active finality to the parting.

She followed Donald s footsteps very quickly ;
but the young man was in that frenzy of feeling
which demands rapidity of action. When she
reached the little pier, Angus was getting the
canvas aloft, and the boat was going like a race
horse before the wind. Donald stood at the
bow, with his face southward. A cry from
Roberta made him quickly turn. He saw her
on the very verge of the slip. Her arm was
extended and in her hand there was a flutter of
lawn, like the beating of a bird s white wing.
Her face, in the grayness of all around her,
showed white as light. For the rain beat upon
her blowing garments, and the wind blew back
her hood and scattered her dark hair. She
heeded nothing and she saw nothing but the

330 Farewell, Love.

swiftly vanishing boat and the tall figure stand
ing bareheaded watching her.

With an inexorable rapidity the boat drove on
till she passed the point near by the rocky coast
where Roberta had once faced death in Donald s
arms. The thought made the girl cry out in
an agony of remorseful memory. How could
she give him up? Her heart bitterly reproached
her, as she went slowly homeward, weeping
under her close-drawn hood and whispering to
the wet, wild wind :

" Farewell, love ! Farewell, love /"



" Sweet Mercy ! to the gates of Heaven,
This mortal lead, his sins forgiven ;
The rueful conflict, the heart riven,

With vain endeavor ;
And memory of earth s bitter leaven,

Effaced forever."

" O ! fading honors of the dead I
O ! high ambition lowly laid."

Time is a sword. It smites everything mortal
youth, beauty, delights of all kinds. And
when a man has passed sixty years of age, how
dark is the angle of life which remains to him !
And this, not because he has few joys, but
because he has ceased to hope. He can no

33 2 At the Last Peace.

longer delude himself with a future which lies in
the shadow of the grave.

Sir Rolfe stood mournfully one day at the
gates of Tasmer, feeling the full force of this
truth. He had not realized his expectations,
and he did not anticipate their more perfect ful
fillment. The men and the women of Torquil
bens and Tasmer braes had disappeared. There
were no barelegged children running about the
straths, and no picturesque cottages overgrown
with mosses and stonewort in the sheltered cran
nies; and there were thousands of sheep, and
many perfectly built and symmetrical sheep-
folds, but the change had brought him neither
the wealth nor the satisfaction he had hoped.

Lady Moidart had judged wisely that the
clearance policy at Tasmer would be weakened
by counteracting principles. Besides which, Sir
Rolfe s health undermined by long residence in
India was unable to endure the cold of the
mountains. In a large measure he had to leave
everything to the supervision of shepherds and

At the Last Peace. 333

gamekeepers, who had no salutary fear of his
personal inspection.

And now there had come a sudden and
critical change in his personal condition. He
knew that morning, as he stood watching the
gray old sea, that his days were numbered, and
gravely solemn thoughts passed through the old
knight s mind. He looked over the Minch
dimpling in the sunshine, and a swift and irresis
tible desire to feel the swell and motion of the
ocean came to him.

There had been for some years a growing
hatred between the Torquil and the Melvich
fishermen, and in the last season it had
assumed a dangerous character. Melvich had
just sold his estate ; what if he sailed as far as
Melvich loch and saw the new proprietor ?
It would be wiser and kinder than to leave
to Donald the inheritance of an unsettled

As these thoughts passed through his mind,
Angus approached, and his unusual presence

334 At the Last Peace.

decided the baron. He bade the young fisher
get the Sea Bird ready and go up the coast
with him. Angus feared the Sea Bird was
" too long at anchor to be safe at aal ;" and
Sir Rolfe, who was easily made positive by a
little opposition, sent him for his own fishing

As they sailed northward a handsome shoot
ing lodge, perched among the heather of Ben
Sana, attracted Sir Rolfe s notice, and he asked
Angus, with a faint curiosity, if the new owner
of Melvich had built it?

" They were saying it wass Lord Lenox
built the lodge," answered Angus ; " and they
were saying, mirover, that it iss aal the Mel
vich landt he hass peen puying ; for he iss a rich
man, a rael rich man, and mirover, a mean man
iss he. He hass the goldt, and he has the landt,
put there iss not in aal Scotlandt so poor a
man ass he iss ! For he will not pe spending
anything at aal, and the rich wife he wass
marrit on, she wass soon leafing him, and there

At the Last Peace. 335

were many padt wordts about it. Yes, inteet !
Have you peen hearing of the trouble, sir ?"

" No one has spoken to me of it, Angus."

" They were saying and it is the God s truth,
sir they were saying that he wass a rael miser.
He cleared hiss place, and then when the people
were aal sent away he began to safe money, and
the more he was safing then the more he wass
wanting to safe. So it was house after house,
acre after acre, as I haf peen toldt. Tis a poor
way to pe spending one s life, sir ! Tis a poor
way, whateffer."

" It is, indeed, Angus. Such men are the
devil s scorn and mockery, for they neither get
this world nor yet escape the second death."

" I am a ferry poor man myself, but I will not
pe so poor a man as Lord Lenox is. No inteet,
thank God !"

" There is a great difference between you and
Lord Lenox, Angus. You are poor, and
poverty is in want of some things. He is avari
cious, and avarice is in want of everything."

336 At the Last Peace.

This conversation turned the baron s thoughts
back to the young man he had known seven
years before. The events of that time looked
far past. He remembered Lenox, full of ambi
tions, to which gold was to be only the stepping-
stone. When they met he found that gold had
become his god and the goal of all his aims.
His finer qualities had evaporated in the strug
gle for it. He had forgotten all his enthusiasms
and dissipated all his illusions. The sunrise for
Lenox had melted into the light of common
day ; the air was emptied of wonder ; his soul
had fallen to the quality of the thing it
worked in.

He drove a hard bargain with Torquil. No
memory of the baron s hospitality or of the
beautiful Sara, whom he had once loved as well
as he could love any woman, softened it. Tor
quil left Melvich humbled and sad and full of
vague regrets. When he got fairly out to
sea a strang desire came to him. He wished to
go to Ellerloch, and he bid Angus take the boat

At the Last Peace. 337

there. He wondered, indeed, over the strange
impulse ; but, then, a man has very little knowl
edge of himself who does not often regard his
own thoughts and actions with wonder and

No distinct purpose was in his mind ; but as
they voyaged onward in the calm of the summer
day, in the starlight and the moonlight, listen
ing for miles and miles to the endless crash of
the Alantic swell, the purpose formed itself
clearly enough. He was sure of it when the
boat ran into the little harbor in an afternoon
rain-storm. Grim and lonely looked the small
stone cabins, with their slate roofs shining in the
heavy shower. But he took small note of the
village. He left Angus with the boat, and
walked straight to the minister s house. Bal-
four was out, and it was Roberta who welcomed
their visitor. The tall, soldierly figure, though
wan and much shrunken, struck her with admir
ation. When he spoke, his voice had tones and
inflections which stirred her heart to tears. She

338 At the Last Peace.

insisted that he should take off his wet cloak \
she had the fire replenished ; she made him a
cup of most refreshing tea.

Sir Rolfe watched her movements with the
greatest interest. He admired her beauty, and
wondered a little over its uncommon type. For,
if Roberta, at nineteen years of age, had been a
lovely girl, she was, at twenty-three, a superbly
perfect woman. A great, kind soul looked
through her fathomless eyes ; her ways were
exquisitely womanly ; her voice low and sweet ;
her hands white and beautifully formed hands
made to help and caress.

She had no idea of his identity and she talked
to him with the utmost freedom. He admired
her intelligence ; perhaps he admired still more
the elegance and propriety of her dress. For
Roberta had a native taste which always fitted
itself to times and circumstances. The long,
straying tresses, which had been so suitable to
her girlhood, were now picturesquely braided
and coiled, and added much to her stature and

At the Last Peace. 339

dignity. The dark tartan of her dress was of
more ample length ; her collar was closed with
a massive brooch of gold ; her manner was
grave and gentle, and her movements very
graceful. She seemed to the baron the ideal of
an exquisite womanhood, and she involuntarily
stamped the purpose which had brought him to
Ellerloch as desirable and excellent.

He was sipping his tea and talking to her
when the minister entered. Balfour s face
flushed at the sight, but his finer and nobler
instincts instantly ruled.

" You are most welcome, Baron," he said, and
he frankly put his hand into the one offered him.
Perhaps he was conscious of a slight reluctance,
but it was instantly conquered. And in a few
moments the two men sat together upon the
same hearth; the minister expectant, cautious,
desirous of good will ; the baron conciliating,
anticipative of the next world, careless ol the
petty animosities of this one.

The minister spoke first.

34-Q At the Last Peace.

" Torquil, you have taken a long journey ?"

" I am about to take a much longer one, sir
even to the Land very far off. I desired to
speak to you before my departure."

There was a moment s silence, and Sir Rolfe s
thin, wan face reddened vividly, as he con
tinued :

" I I I wish to say pardon my ill words to
you and of you. This confession alone can give
me ease ; it is the only adequate penance. A
good Christian ought not to have spoken as I
have done about you and yours."

" I have been equally guilty, Baron. I ask
your pardon, also."

The two men leaned toward each other ; they
clasped hands, and the minister said some words,
sacred, secret, confidential no more to be
spoken of than was that mysterious acknowl
edgment and pardon that must have taken
place when the repentant Peter met the risen
Christ by the Lake of Tiberius.

in a short time Roberta entered with refresh-

At the Last Peace. 341

ments, and the conversation became more gen
eral. And never had Sir Rolfe been more lov
ing and charming. He told them incidents of
his youth in India tales of forlorn and desperate
valor stubborn fights with adverse circum
stances or desperate foes ; and with the light of
victory on his face, kindled the cheeks of those
who listened to him. Then he spoke of Tasmer,
and of the deeds of his fierce ancestors the
bare-armed thanes of Ross, who had piled its
massive masonry, and watched from its high
walls the incursions of the great clans by which
they were surrounded.

Roberta rose as he finished ; she opened the
piano, and, with a quick, nervous touch, struck
from its keys the pibroch of his clan. No earthly
music could have so deeply moved the old
knight. He murmured the gathering song to it
a few words too fierce for any melody the
invocation of arming men to the bloody com
panies of the birds of prey.

When the music ceased, both player and singer

34 2 At the Last Peace.

had said everything to each other s hearts that
could be said. With a kindly, kindling glance,
the baron clasped Roberta s hand in his own, and
then bowed his head to kiss it. Roberta, with a
quick divination of his intention, lifted her face
and kissed him. She kissed him for that he was
Donald s father. She kissed him for his own
charming lovableness. For, whatever the baron
had been in the stress and struggle of life, he
was now, when at the threshold of the grave,
wonderfully childlike and Christlike.

Roberta then left the two men alone. She
could not but speculate on the purport of the
baron s visit to Ellerloch, and she could not
avoid believing that it was a kind one to Donald
and herself. Surely her father would be tender
and reasonable with a dying man. Balfour
wished to be so, but, even while Roberta was
speculating about his attitude, the minister was
assuring his conscience that he would not wrong
it a tittle for any plea of mere human kindness.

The baron sat silent, until the last vibrations

At the Last Peace. 343

of the stirring, war-like pibroch had died out of
the atmosphere, then his first remark was a
reflection upon the sympathy between music and

" Balfour," he said, " our life is very like music
in one respect ; there is a constant wandering
from the key-note in a thousand harmonies and
combinations ; but the player always returns to
the key-note at last."

" And the key-note of a good life is God."

" Even so, Balfour. Let me carry out the
simile. Quick melodies, without great devia
tions from the key-note, are like our pibrochs,
joyous or stirring; slow melodies, which only
reach it after painful dissonances and frequent
changes, are sad. Do you understand ?"

" You mean that lives that never wander far
from God are joyous and strong? You mean
that those which only reach Him after long
deviations into paths leading nowhere, and paths
leading in wrong directions, are full of sadness
and of many fears ?"

344 At the Last Peace.

" That is what 1 mean. I have been a great
wanderer, but I have reached the key-note

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 15 16

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe beads of Tasmer → online text (page 13 of 16)