Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

The beads of Tasmer online

. (page 5 of 16)
Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe beads of Tasmer → online text (page 5 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

that you understand this ; love, such as mine,
must have been divined by its object."

" I have seen that you think very highly of
me. To deny it would be affectation."

" I love you. I can say no stronger words, if
you believe them. I know that I am twenty
years older than you are ; but, sincerely, I do not
think mere youth is the advantage people affect

Sara s Lover. 1 1 1

to consider it in a lover. Your great beauty
and honorable descent deserve a high social
position. I can give it to you. No one shall
have a more splendid home and retinue in
London ; and there are few country houses in all
England to compare with Sarum Court, my resi
dence in Lancashire. I will settle ten thousand
pounds upon you, to be entirely in your own
will and pleasure. I will be a true, honorable
and devoted husband to you. If my pleading
seems mercenary, remember I must say all that
I can for my own cause. I have not youth nor
beauty to offer ; love, wealth, honor, high social
position, I can give. Will you think over what
I have said, Miss Torquil ?"



Sara had listened with glowing cheeks and
little nervous movements of her hands, occasion
ally lifting her eyes to the earnest face regard
ing her with such tender entreaty. The honesty
and warmth of her lover s appeal were beyond
doubt ; and she was far from being insensible to
the social advantages Mr. Maclane could give
her. Even while he was speaking, she had
imagined herself at the head of a splendid
London establishment, and a leader in that
world of fashion and gayety which environs
royalty and political power. She knew, only
too well, the miseries of proud poverty, and the
compelled acts of shabbiness and meanness that
are the results of a want of read} money.

Sentence Suspended. 113

Donald could have his troop ; her father could
make Tasmer all that he dreamed of making it.
The restoration of the old church ; the new rec
tory for Father Contach ; oh, so many good things
were included in the offer she was listening to!

And Maclane was pleasant-looking, a gentle
man, clever ; with a good heart and a generous
hand. It was not as if money was all he had to
give her. She looked up once, almost with
acceptance in her eyes ; but ere the feeling was
distinct enough to reveal itself, she remembered
the dark, handsome face of Lord Lenox. Not
two hours previously, he had said to her : " Do
you know why I asked you to ride with me to
the Black Cairn? Because I wish to leave my
image in every one of your usual haunts. I
want you to think of me wherever you are "
and the words had been invested with a far
tenderer meaning by the way in which he had
leaned forward to catch her eyes, by the glow
in his own eyes, and by the caressing manner in
which he had touched her hand.

JI4 Sentence Suspended.

Indeed, during his whole visit, Lord Lenox
had been hinting in a variety of ways the devo
tion which Maclane had expressed so plainly.
Lenox was young, noble, fascinating ; she sup
posed he was wooing her as gentlemen of his
order were accustomed to woo ; and that Mr.
Maclane s undisguised statements were equally
the natural method of a man accustomed to
business, and methodical, straightforward ar

So, when he ceased speaking, Sara Torquil
met his eyes with a frank yet grave assent to
the request he made :

" I will certainly think of what you have said,
Mr. Maclane," she answered. " I do not love
you ; I have never thought of marrying you :
so much I ought to tell you."

" But you do not dislike me ?"

" That would be impossible."

" And you respect my character as tar as you
know and understand it ?"

" I should do you a great injustice if I did not."

Sentence Suspended. 115

. " Then I will dare to hope. I am seeking so
great a favor that I expect to seek it with
patient diligence, and to wait until time brings
me the propitious hour."

" But I have not promised that time will ever
bring it. Remember that, Mr. Maclane."

"As long as you remain Miss Torquil, I shall
dare to hope for and to look for it."

She had risen and gathered her habit over her
arm, and as he said the words, he was walking
with her to the door of the room. As he opened
it, Donald entered.

" Oh, Sara !" he Cried, hurriedly, " I was look
ing for you. They told me you were riding
with Lenox, and I was scolding you in my

" But why, Donald ?"

" Because, whenever I want you you are rid
ing with Lenox."

" Then, why do you not stay at home and ride
with me ? Off to sea you go ; you play truant
from all hospitable duties ; and not only are you

1 1 6 Sentence Suspended.

recreant yourself, you make Mr. Maclane quite
as bad. I only am left to entertain Lenox ; for
father has given himself as a bond-slave to Simon
Lovat, I think. What can I do for you ?"

" Nothing particularly. I wanted to look at
you. Do you think I should go to Sir Rolfe s
room ? and, oh ! Has he said anything about
the Sea Bird? I mean about the usual course
she sails ?"

" You are as bad as a woman, Donald. You
put your principal question as a post-query.
Now you do not want to see me particularly,
nor yet, father ; but you do want most particu
larly to know if he suspects you of any love-
affair somewhere in the neighborhood of the Gair-
loch. I do ! I do not believe father does. At
present, he cannot understand how a man can
care for anything but sheep and birds and red

" Then I had better see him at once?"

" I think you had."

" What are you going to do, Maclane ?"

Sentence Suspended. 117

" I thought of walking- down to the village and
talking with the Mackenzies about a boat."

" I am glad of that. If you see Angus, tell
him to come up to the castle tell him to leave
the fishing and every other thing, and come
without fail."

To Donald s knock, Sir Rolfe, in the half-
conscious way of a thoroughly engrossed man,
gave the word to enter. He was sitting at a
table loaded with papers old parchment deeds,
and modern legal cap covered with figures or
with one kind of angular, aggressive-looking
writing. Simon Lovat sat by his side ; their
heads were together over a large map of the
estate ; Torquil s fine soldierly figure contrasting
in the most marked manner with the keen, puck
ered, fox-like face of Lovat, his lean, small form
and absorbed manner.

" Good-morning, Donald ;" and Sir Rolfe lifted
from the map his long, finely-shaped white hand,
and offered it to his son in an absent manner.
" You have been at sea again ?"

1 1 8 Sentence Suspended.

" I took Mr. Maclane, sir. Maclane likes the
sea ; he has just gone to order a boat for him
self. As for Lord Lenox, he has the whole moor
to range, and he does not seem to care for any
other pleasure."

" Well, well, make the most of your holiday.
It will end in a few days. Then you and I have
our work laid out for some years ; have we not,
Lovat ?"

" A great work, a very great work, Mr.

" Much greater and better, Donald, than
idling about barracks and dawdling after royal
parades. I know the full value of that life, I am
sorry to say."

" In all you desire I shall be glad to help you,

" By the bye, what direction were you and
Maclane sailing ?"

" Northward, sir, toward Torridon."

" Did you see anything of the fishers around
Melvich ? They have been molesting the Tor-

Sentence Suspended. 119

quil fishers fighting them on our own waters.
Have you heard who this Melvich is ?"

"No, sir. He is a stranger; he bought the
Assynt out. That is all I know of him."

" Keep your eyes open when you sail north
again. If there is more quarreling, I want you
to witness it. The Torquils have fished the
Ross coast for a thousand years. We will say
* by your leave to no one ; more in particular
to a man like this Melvich, whom nobody knows.
Excuse me now, Donald. I must make the
most of Mr. Lovat s time. He is obliged to
leave Tasmer to-morrow."

Thus dismissed, Donald found himself quite
at leisure, and he gladly employed the next few
hours in thinking of Roberta and in writing to
her. Although unaware of the extent of Mr.
Balfour s anger, he understood from his abrupt
relinquishment of ordinary courtesy that it was
extreme. He was anxious to justify himself to
Roberta and to explain to her anew the proba
bility of a sudden temporary cessation of his

1 20 Sentence Suspended.

visits. The winter storms were imminent ; any
day, the blustering winds and roaring seas of
that rock-bound coast might be an insurmount
able barrier between them.

It is always hard to defend one s self against
charges not definite, but only suspected. For
his want of candor regarding his true position
and his religion, Donald was compelled to
blame himself, and thus in a manner excuse Mr.
Balfour. After two hours writing, he was very
much dissatisfied with the presentation he had
made of his own case ; indeed, he felt that the
best thing he could do was to throw himself
upon Roberta s love and forgiveness. But
although his letter was far from pleasing him,
he gave it to Angus with many verbal additions
and directions, in case he should be so fortunate
as to see Roberta.

They had gone into the firs to talk over the
matter, for it was only at this hour Donald
made Angus a confidant. Certainly he had
understood why the Sea Bird always set her sail

Sentence Suspended. 1 2 1

for Ellerloch, and both he and the two boys had
frequently seen Roberta Balfour ; but their
devotion and respect were so entire that Donald
had fully trusted to them. Until he chose to
speak, he knew they would all be blind and deaf
and dumb ; explanation was now, however,
imperative, and Donald made it Ircely, taking
his humble friend completely into his hopes and

" And you will be one with me, I know,
Angus," he concluded ; " for she is a noble girl,
and she loves me, and you have seen, also, how
beautiful she is."

" I haf seen her, and I haf not seen her,
Maistir Tonalt," Angus answered, with modest
courtesy ; " twas not for the like of me to be
lifting my eyes whateffer to the laaty yourself
waas thinking apout. She iss a ferry fine laaty,
and I waas hearing, mirover, that she can man
age a poat as well as she can manage her father s
house. Yes, I haf heardt that. It iss a great

122 Sentence Suspended.

thing for a young laaty to manage a poat.
Inteet it is, praise God !"

" You must try and give this letter into her
own hand, Angus even if you wait a little to
do so. And you will mind every word she says
and every word the minister says "

" I will care nothing, I will care nothing at all
for what the minister will be saying. He iss
not of the Ross men. He iss a stranger, and he
iss a Protestant mirover, and he is a ferry stern
man with his sermons and his reproofs, where
there is no needt whateffer. They re saying
that ; yes, they are saying that of the minister ;
and he iss a Protestant mirover."

"His daughter is a Protestant also, Angus.
There may be good Protestants, you know."

" Ou, ay ; it iss not the young laaty s fault no
inteet ! It waas her father wouldt be teaching
her from the cradle ; and they are saying her
father is a great scholar, and so he wouldt be
knowing what iss the right way, if he wouldt be
walking in it. Tis his fault ; you will pe saying

Sentence Suspended. 123

yourself tis his fault, sir. And when you are
marrit on Miss Balfour, it iss a goot Catholic
Father Contach will be makin of the laaty,
praise God ; for it is an awful thing for people -
to be marrit together when they are not both
goot Catholics ; and iss it not, sir ?"

" I do not know, Angus," and Donald looked
very blankly in his counselor s face.

During this conversation they had passed to
the outskirts of the firs, and were standing
together facing the sea.

" It is very rough, Angus. I do not think you
can manage a boat on such a sea," said Donald.

" The windt is fair, and I will not be carin
for the sea."

" You will try and give the letter into Miss
Balfour s own hands ?"

" Yes, I will give it into her own hands ; and I
will see aal and I will hear aal, and I will say
nothing to anger the minister ; and the tefil him
self cannot be finding fault with a dumb man. I
will be going ; even now 1 will be going."


Sentence Suspended.

" I shall be miserable until you get back,

" There is no needt, there is no needt what-
- effer. If you will pe lookin for goot, then goot
will pe comin to you. Yes, inteet, praise
God !"



" Love s reason s without reason."

" Let determined things to destiny
Hold unbewail d their way."

" A woman s thought runs before her actions."

" Spirits are not finely
Touched but to fine issues."

All at once, the usually delayed winter settled
down upon the desolate land and sea. Scarcely
a week had passed since Donald sent Angus to
Ellerloch, and Tasmer had almost the air of
some enchanted castle, so lonely and silent so
shut off from the world of thought and action
was it. Mr. Maclane and Lord Lenox, with

126 A Love-Letter.

their servants, and also the additional servants
their presence made necessary at Tasmer, were
all gone. The halls were silent, and many of
the rooms closed, for Sir Rolfe had resolutely
cut down the regular expenses to the barest
demands of anything like a comfortable life.

To Sara he had excused his economy on the
ground of her own anticipated visit to her aunt,
Lady Moidart.

" The expenses of a short season in London
will be very great," he said ; " for if you go with
Lady Moidart you must have everything requis
ite for your position. I desire you to be inde
pendent of all favors from the Moidart family,
whom I always disliked."

" Lady Moidart is my mother s sister, father."

" True ; and equally true, that she was never
tired of reproaching your mother for marrying
a poor soldier with a shadowy baronetcy. But
you must see London life, and she is the natural
and proper person to introduce you to it."

If economy were necessary for this purpose,

A Love-Letter, 127

Sara was willing to be economical. She had
the natural desire of a young and beautiful
woman, for society, and she wished to see if
society were indeed the fascinating thing she
had imagined it, from such remarks as had
fallen from their late visitors. Also, she was
anxious to see Lord Lenox again. Although he
had made her no distinct profession of love, he
had told her in a way no woman ever misinter
prets, that she was beautiful in his eyes, and
dear to his heart. She could not forget, espe
cially, how tenderly he had held her hand at
parting, and how his dark eyes had sought in
her eyes some answering sign of her affection.
At that time there had been no word spoken
regarding her visit with Lady Moid art to
London the invitation having arrived after his
departure and she pleased herself with a
thousand fancies of their meeting in society, and
of Lenox s proud and happy surprise.

She was even glad that he did not know
she was so soon to make a part of his own

128 A Love-Letter.

world. She thought, with smiles, of meeting
him suddenly in some triumph of the ball
room; or when riding in the Row; or in her
box at the opera. She arranged the meeting to
suit her own desires, in every possible way, and
under every conceivable circumstance, and she
was happier in such dreaming than in any of the
actual events of life around her.

It is true, none of them were very exciting.
The household had been reduced to a couple of
women in the kitchen, a chambermaid and a
laundress ; Fergus, as usual, acting as steward
and attending to the table. Tasmer was
environed by great white moors and a black
tossing ocean. Visiting was impossible, and to
keep warm and pass the time as comfortably as
might be, seemed the only visible object of life.
Donald was moody and restless and inclined to
solitude. He told Sara he was anxious about
his future, which was a true enough statement,
though Sara thought of it in one way, and
Donald in another. She imagined his anxiety

A Love-Letter. 129

referred to the plans which Sir Rolfe was per
fecting in the seclusion of his own room, and
which Donald was expected to assist in carry
ing out. Donald knew that his main care
referred to the success of the mission on which
he had sent Angus Mackenzie.

Angus had been nearly a week away, and
every day had been a separate week to Donald.
He was angry at the wind and the waves and
the black sky ; he felt as if nature herself were
hostile to him. Sometimes he was angry at
Angus, and the unreason of his anger made it no
easier to control. On the afternoon of the sixth
day, however, he saw the returning boat, and he
went down to the village to meet it. It was
hard for the sturdy little craft to make the
harbor, for the wind was about southeast, and a
good blow of it. But Angus kept her broad,
square stern at right angles to the traveling
wave, and fighting his way slowly, lunged
forward into smooth water. But it was a nasty
day ; a waste of gray below, and a waste of

1 30 A Love-Letter.

gray above, and a thick smurr of rain between.
" A little shoory," as Angus said, throwing off
his oil-skins, and turning his kind, handsome
face to Donald, who was sitting on Helen
Mackenzie s hearth-stone. She was hurrying
forward a cup of tea and a bannock and herring
for her hungry, wet son ; but she understood
that there were " whisht words " between the
young men, and as soon as the meal was ready,
she took her knitting and went into a neighbor s

Then Donald said : " You have had a hard
time, I fear, Angus."

" I haf had a hard time, sir. The windt wass
never steady ; it wass sweeping the sea in heavy
squalls, with but ferry little rest between them ;
the poat herself wass glat when we got under
the landt. There was a man wrapped up in oil
skins on the pier, and he said to me : You was
hafing a hardt fight whateffer, and I was waiting
here to see if you would be wanting help ; and
where will you be coming from in such

A Love-Letter* 131

weather? he says, ferry kindly. Then I saw it
wass the minister, and he wass knowing me also,
and when he was speaking again it wass not so
kindt. And what are you coming here for,
Angus Mackenzie? he asked me. I saidt :
There is no shame in my coming here whateffer,
Maistir Balfour. I haf brought a letter from the
young Laird of Torquil to your daughter, sir."
And iss that it ? he asked. Then come with
me. And were you seeing anything of Mr.
Maclane since a few days ? Ferry sifil he wass,
and I said I wass not seeing nothing apout him
for a week, nor more than that ; and I wass hear
ing he hadt gone back to the south whateffer ;
and he saidt no more till we were in the house,
and it was in my oil-skins he took me into the

" Then you saw Miss Balfour ?"

" She was sitting in the parlor, and she wass
sewing her white seam, mirover, and when the
minister saidt : Here is Angus Mackenzie with
a letter from young Torquil, she lifted her head

132 A Love-Letter.

as quick as a flash of lightning. And I took the
letter from my pocket, and wass going to gif it
to her, but the minister, he stept forward more
quick than I can tell you, and he took the letter
from me and he put it in the blazing fire ; and he
stoodt before the fire and he lookedtat Miss Bal-
four with his lips tight shut and his face as white
as a mortal corpse."

" Oh, Angus ! Angus !"

" And it wass not my fault ; no, it wass not my

" What did Miss Balfour say ?"

" She let her work fall down, and she stoodt
up with her face blazing, and she wass in a
tremple all ofer ; and it wass almost in a whisper
she saidt : Father! How cruel, how wicket
that iss ! Ferry angry he spoke up : It iss kindt,
it iss goot, it iss right, what I haf done, and I
haf done it pefore your eyes. 1 might have got
the letter from the man, and nefer told you that
a letter came ; but 1 will be honest with you, and
I will show you and him, too, that I will not haf

A Love-Letter. 133

you no, nor myself readt any letter that Ton-
alt Torquil writes. Now, Angus Mackenzie, you
go to the kitchen and they will gif you meat and
trink. "

" And did Miss Balfour manage to see you in
the kitchen ?"

" It wass not in his house, sir, I wass going to
stay, after the insult ; and ferry quick I wass
telling him that. I will not set in your house
whateffer sir, nor take a trink of coldt water in
it. No, inteet ! for I am the Torquil s poor
cousin, and his insult iss my insult; and it iss
your white hairs and your plack coat will be
safin you this morning. And what else couldt
I pe saying ? There was nothing else. You
will be knowing that fine yourself, sir."

" Oh, Angus, I wanted a word from her ! I
wanted a word so much !"

" Wass you thinking, sir, I wouldt be coming
with no word in my mouth or in my hand ? No,
inteet! Praise God, Angus Mackenzie can
make a new way, if the olt way will not pe a goot

134 A Love-Letter.

way ;" and with a beaming face he took from
his pocket the desired letter.

Donald was too happy to speak. The white
message in his open hand thrilled him with
delight. He anticipated the happy hour when
he should be able to read it, and there was even
a kind of luxury in postponing the joy until soli
tude could give it the last and sweetest charm.
And for the present he held it fast in his hand
and saw his own name in the free, clear writing
he knew so well. It was in pencil, however, and
as he looked at it he perceived that it was
unsealed. Angus saw the flitting shadow of
surprise on Donald s face, and he answered it :

" She wass saying some ferry pretty wordts
about the seal : Tell Angus Mackenzie I haf
no wax, but it will pe sealed safe with his honor.
And you will be knowing, sir, that them are the
true wordts whateffer?"

" True as truth, Angus. Wax might be
broken ; your honor is beyond doubt. But how
did you get the letter ?"

A Love-Letter. 135

" A man is not carin to be treated thon way.
I wass mat at the minister, and I thought, as I
left his house at my pack, there will pe a Mac
kenzie somewhere in the village ; for, praise
God, the Mackenzies are all ofer Ross whateffer ;
and the ierry first cottage I came to wass Rose
Mackenzie s ; and she was glat to see me. What
for no, when I came from Torquil, and she wass
porn and pred in the place whateffer ? And I
wass welcome on her hearth, and she gave me
pread and a cup of tea, and I toldt her how the
young Torquil hadt peen insulted py the strange
man from the south, and she wass mat, too, and
she saidt : I will pe taking the stockings I haf
peen knitting, to the minister, and I will pe see
ing Miss Balfour, and if you haf a wordt to send
her, it will pe going safe and secret in my mouth.
So I toldt her to tell the young laaty that my
poat woutdt leafe that day, and yet it wouldt not
leafe that day. I was going down the coast for
eight miles to Locherrol, and there I wouldt
leafe the boat and walk pack to Rose Mac-

136 A Love-Letter.

kenzie s for the letter, if she wouldt pe hafing one
for me to carry to the Torquil. That wass the
way I got the letter. It wass by Rose she sent
it, also the pretty wordts apout my honor ; and
I will nefer pe forgetting them, nefer."

"What do you think of Mr. Balfour, Angus?
If I go and see him, will he listen to me?"

" They are saying he is a shentleman, and so
he will listen to you, if you will pe speaking to
him ; put he will not pe doing anything you
will pe asking him. Oh, tis sure as the tide
flowing ! He will not pe doing anything at all.
And he will not pe trusting his daughter, for
it wass neither pen nor ink she couldt findt in
the house, and the wax was in his own pocket ;
but, praise God, he had not mindt of the laaty s
drawing-pencils, and the pencils and the honor
of Angus Mackenzie wass enough. They are
saying that he iss a ferry goot man, and a ferry
powerful preacher, whateffer, and he has written
some goot pooks ; but he will standt between

A Love-Letter. 137

you and his daughter till the day nefer come
nefer that iss what I am thinking."

Donald would have gladly prolonged the con
versation ; he was ready to ask over and over
how Roberta looked, what she wore, and what
she was doing. As to the few words she spoke,
he made Angus repeat them many times. But
Angus was very tired. He had had but little
sleep for a week, and the comfort of the fire
and the sense of being at last off watch, was too
much for the exhausted youth. He was soon
fast asleep, and Donald, with the precious letter

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThe beads of Tasmer → online text (page 5 of 16)