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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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entranced him, and he knew all the piety and
amiability of her nature. She was not brilliant
or clever, but he did not like brilliant, clever
women, and Sara Torquil was precisely his ideal
wife, if she had only been as rich as she was



igo The Ministers Interference.

beautiful and good. So he suffered in his way,
also ; not as much as Sara, for he was not
capable of much mental suffering, but quite
enough to make him feel at times as if he
would run all risks of future discomfort rather
than give her up to any other pretender to her
favor.

It was singular that Mr. Maclane, the only
real rival he had, never gave him a moment s
uneasiness. He saw that he was often at Lady
Moidart s, and frequently driving with Sara ;
but he supposed it was only the friendship of an
elderly man for a lovely woman who had been
his hostess and companion during a few pleasant
weeks. Maclane was far too prudent a lover to
make his attentions obtrusive even in Sara s
eyes. She only knew that he divined, as if by
instinct, when he could give her pleasure or do
her service, and also when it was the precise
moment to relieve her of his presence. Insen
sibly she grew to rely upon a love which never
under any circumstances failed her ; which never



The Ministers Interference. 191

demanded anything from her ; which was never
absent when desired, and never present when
unwelcome or mat-apropos. Long before winter
was over it had come to be a question in her
mind between the two men. Lenox gave her so
many anxious hours, so many self-humiliations,
so much of that hope deferred that makes the
heart sick. Maclane never suffered himself to
be associated in her mind with anything unhappy
or unwelcome.

So, beneath the outside triumph, beneath the
songs and the smiles and the beautiful apparel,
and the atmosphere of luxury and pleasure,
there was this constant under-current of the
future ; and Sara knew very well ( that, after all,
it was the real tide in her affairs, and that it was
bearing her on to her life s destiny. At first she
tried to understand and control it, but she soon
discovered that its forces and tides were far
beyond her knowledge or even her imagination.

" We are all the creatures of circumstances, "
Lady Moidart was fond of asserting. " If you



1 92 The Minister s Interference.

could write a letter to them, Sara, what truth
there would be in signing yourself Your
humble arid obedient servant. As for making
circumstances, as Napoleon advised, I consider
it sinful folly. Drift with the tide of events,
Sara, and you are as likely to get into harbor as
if you tied yourself to the wheel of your own
foresight or wisdom."

Sara was too diffident and too personally reti
cent to dispute this position ; but the placid
smile which Lady Moidart took for her assent
was, in reality, the result of that sweet and sud
den inward reliance which the habit of piety
grants. Her soul passed with a thought the
drifting and the turmoil of chance and circum
stance. However hidden the tide ot her life, the
pilot of the Galilean lake knew all its shoals and
currents. However perplexing the events with
which she had to deal, she could go to Mary,
Mother of Mercy, comforter of all anxious and
sorrowful women.

After, then, some weeks of feverish hopes and



The Minister s Interference. 193

uncertainties, she decided to let herself be
guided by circumstances, which she committed
afresh every day to the direction of her guardian
angel. Some of these circumstances were,
indeed, afar off and beyond her control. What
could she say or do to prevent the many-sided
tragedy preparing within the walls of Tasmer ?
She had understood it but very little when she
was there ; the wrong, the misery likely to flow
from it, she had no conception of. Lord Lenox
spoke of the clearances on his own estate as
improvements. The people of Torquil never
concerned her in the same way as they inter
ested Donald. They were not likely to be her
tenants ; she had not the personal knowledge of
them which he had. Her mind had been fully
occupied with the prospects of her visit to
London and her hopes respecting Lord Lenox.
The subject of the Highland clearances, though
she heard gentlemen discussing it, interested her
in about the same manner as the bills before
Parliament or the prospects of the wheat crop.



194 The Ministers Interference.

Yet, little as she thought of the subject, it
was the current setting toward her destiny.
She was watching other currents, hoping from
others, fearing from others. She never thought
of this one. It was out of her sight, almost out
of her hearing ; it was beyond the horizon of
her usual life. Neither did Maclane think it
worth taking into his consideration. It was the
one thing touching Sara s life which he ignored.
Yet, it was the current, the fortunate tide of his
love.

For there had been a whisper among the hills
of Tasmer a soughful and sorrowful whisper
of coming evil, some weeks before that night on
which Father Matthew Contach made his urgent
appeal for the homes of the peasants. After it,
the whisper soon became a great cry of grief
and indignation. The advice which is not taken
irritates ; and Sir Rolfe, after he had shaken off
the personal influence of the priest, resented his
interference. He denied to his own heart the
claim of the people to any share in the Torquil



The Minister s Interference. 195

lands. If King George and the advancing spirit
of the age had broken up the clan system, it was
not his fault. He was compelled to suffer a
certain loss of power and dignity. The people
lost certain privileges. He was about to make
the best of what was left to him. They must do
the same. If they were men, they would be
glad to do it. Even parents came to a time
when they expected their sons to seek a career
for themselves. The tie between himself and
the clan was worn away to a mere sentiment ; it
was an imposition on their part to plead it. The
word imposition always roused him. As soon as
this idea came into his mind, he passionately
assured himself that he would never submit
to it.

The first result of this decision was a decided
estrangement between the Torquil and his son.
He saw that he could expect no effective assist
ance from Donald ; and his first movement was
to send for his factor.

" Mr. Frazer," he said " you will procure



196 The Minister s Interference.

summonses of removal and serve them upon the
tenants of Easter-Torquil."

Frazer was ready to obey such a mandate.
He considered it a sacred duty to the estate, and
spoke so seriously on its undoubted good results,
that Sir Rolfe experienced, after the consulta
tion, a very unusual content.

To Donald, he did not again offer his con
fidence ; he put the young man quite outside his
favor and society. They met only at the dinner
hour, and Donald thought his father contrived
to make it the most uncomfortable hour in the
day. Very naturally, during these bitter weeks,
Donald s thoughts turned continually to Roberta
Balfour; but as the winter went on, the inter
views of the lovers became constantly more and
more uncertain ; still, when it was possible to
take the boat along that dangerous coast, he
followed out the plan devised by Angus Mac
kenzie.

But such meetings were exceedingly rare ; so
rare that even Mr. Balfour, whose suspicions



The Ministers Interference. 197

were constantly on the alert, never surmised
them. They were not entirely happy meetings.
Roberta had too honest a nature to feel satisfied
with any clandestine pleasure. She was humil
iated in her own sight every time they
occurred ; but when Donald had risked his life
to see her she could not resist his entreaties.
For her own gratification she would not have
transgressed her father s will ; for Donald s
comfort she ventured to meet even her own
heart s reproaches.

One day Donald arrived at Rosa Macken
zie s about noon, and Rosa immediately went
to the manse with a few fresh eggs for the
minister. There was not a word said to
Roberta, but Roberta understood without a
word that Donald was waiting to see her. She
was reading aloud to her father, and when Rosa
was gone the book was resumed. Perhaps
there was something in the tone of her voice, in
the forced calm of her manner, or in her flush
ing and paling face which roused Mr. Balfour s



198 The Minister s Interference.

wonder. He watched her as she read, with
keen intentness. He was scarcely aware of a
word in the argument Roberta was reading.
Something seemed to have suddenly opened his
eyes. When Roberta glanced toward the few
cottages on the seashore, he saw in that glance
matter for fears and doubts that troubled him
greatly. After dinner was over, he said :

" You need not read to me this afternooon,
Roberta. You do not look as well as usual.
Are you sick ? Or nervous ? Perhaps a walk
in the fresh air will do you good."

He did not wait for her reply. He was a man
with a tender and scrupulous conscience, and he
would not tempt his child to lie to him. He
only wanted her to feel, if she were deceiving
him, that her efforts had not been entirely suc
cessful. He suspected that Rosa Mackenzie
had brought her a letter. He could not tell
how or why the suspicion had come to him.
Certainly he had neither seen nor heard any
thing to warrant it yet there it was. Up and



The Minister s Interference. 199

down his own room he walked. He was watch
ing his child, but he would not consciously
admit the fact to himself. Still, when he per
ceived that she had dressed in haste and was
going toward Rosa Mackenzie s cottage, his
heart burned with foreboding anger.

For some minutes he stood considering the
circumstance. Should he seek confirmation of
his wrong ? Or should he be content to enjoy
such hours of hope and faith in his child as his
doubts permitted him ? Was not this a case
where ignorance would be better than knowl
edge ? He speedily denied the supposition
vehemently denied it. No, no ; it was better to
have the whole truth. If in pursuit of it he did
Roberta wrong, then he would acknowledge the
wrong and trust her forever afterward. If
Roberta were really deceiving him, the sooner
she was reminded of her sin and made aware of
its uselessness, the better it would be. He deter
mined, in the latter case, to do his duty as kindly
as possible.



2OO The Minister s Interference.

" I will remember my youth," he whispered.
" I will not be hard with her ; for the young
man is her first lover, and he is, also, a very
pleasant young man. Oh, if he had only been
free and frank with me ! I could have loved him
well ; yes, I could have loved him, though he is
of an ill family and a blind faith."

It was with such tolerant thoughts he fol
lowed Roberta. If the lovers had been watch
ing they could have seen him coming. But
they sat together on the hearth, with their
backs to the small window, far too deeply
absorbed in their own sorrowful love to remem
ber such a possibility. Rosa Mackenzie was
kneading oat-cakes at the table. It was her
kindly part to be absorbed in her occupation ;
and so, when the minister opened the door, all
alike were astonished and dismayed. Donald and
Roberta stood up hand in hand. They did not
utter a word, but looked straight at him with sen
sitive faces and shining eyes. Rosa Mackenzie
rubbed the meal off her hands, and as she pushed



The Minister s Interference. 201

forward a small stool, muttered apologies in
mixed Gaelic and English.

Balfour did not notice her at all. He touched
his daughter, and said, sternly:

" Roberta, go home ! This is a tryst I will
keep for you. Go home at once !"

" You are going to be angry with Donald,
father going to say unkind things to him. I
will stay with him, for I am as much in the
wrong as he is."

" I tell you, go home, Roberta. Do not dis
obey me."

" Father, I am to be Donald s wife. T must
stand by Donald if you are angry with him."

"Mr. Balfour, forgive me. I would not have
begged Roberta to see me here if you would
have allowed me to see her in her own home, in
your presence. Upon my honor, sir r

" Your honor, sir ! It is not worth the breath
with which you assert it. As one man writes to
another man, 1 wrote to you. I showed you
that a marriage between yourself and Miss Bal-



202 The Minister s Interference.

four was impossible on every hand. I asked of
your honor so much pity for my girl as would
permit her to pass through the suffering you
have brought upon her without false hopes and
without sympathy, which could only bring more
suffering. For your own selfish pleasure you
come here to encourage her wretchedness, her
futile longings, for you, her ill-starred affection.
There is not on the earth a more distinctly sel
fish creature than a young man who fancies him
self in love."

"Sir"

" I know what I am saying. For your own
personal pleasure, you induce Roberta to break
God s commands, to forfeit her own self-respect,
to stain the stainless purity of her girlhood.
You trouble all her hours. You have given her
sorrow and restlessness for the joy and freedom
of her old content and the glad companionship
of nature. She was happy ; you have made her
miserable. I, too what have I ever done to



The Minister s Interference. 203

you but good ? And how have you repaid
me?"

" Fate has been very cruel to me."

" Fate ! Fate ! What nonsense you are talk
ing ! You have been cruel to yourself ; cruel to
Roberta ; cruel to me. If, as you assert, you
loved Roberta the moment you saw her, then
the first night you slept under my roof you
deceived me ; the first time you broke bread at
my table you were a traitor. Quite well you
understood that there could be no question of a
marriage between a Calvinist and a Romanist ;
between a nobleman s son and heir and the
daughter of a poor Free-Kirk minister."

"Oh, sir! love hopes for impossibilities!
Love has reasons that reason cannot understand.
If you have ever loved surely you have
loved?"

" Sir, my love is a sacred thing. It is not for
discussion. Don t imagine yourself to be the
only man who has felt the sublime frenzy.
Only, if you had been a man, you would have



2O4 The Minister s Interference.

borne the disappointment alone. You would
have thought of your father and of Roberta s
father. You would have shielded from useless
longings the girl you profess to love. You
would have respected the spirit and integrity
of your faith, and never asked yourself no,
not once if it were possible to marry a wife
not of it. For you would have regarded the
misery of a home in which there would be
two altars and a divided worship perhaps
even a divided household. That very first
night you would have worshiped with me as
Naaman bowed himself in the house of
Rimmon, under a protest, and I should have
respected you for it. I vow to you, had you
done this I should have honored you ; 1 should
have felt a sincere sympathy in your suffering,
and all your life long I would have been your
friend."

" I have made a mistake, sir. 1 thought of
none of these things. I thought only of
Roberta. Pardon me, I beg you."



The Minister s Interference. 205

"If I could forgive this selfish thoughtless
ness, this reckless putting of natural craving
before conscience and ordinary consideration of
consequences, how can I forgive a man who
lures my child from truth, from her home and
her duty, and teaches her to deceive her con
science and her father?"

" It is my fault ! It is my fault, father ! I
love Donald. If it be a sin to love him I am
not sorry for the sin. I cannot give up Donald ;
I would rather die than give him up !"

" Dare not to say such wicked words,
Roberta. Do you think the Almighty opens
the gates of death for the puling of a love
sick girl?" Then, addressing Donald, he
asked : " What says Sir Rolfe Torquil on this
matter ?"

" I have not yet named it to him. He is much
occupied with important changes."

" Oh ! You have not named it ! Your
behavior to your father is as bad as it is to me,



206 The Minister s Interference.

sir. Come, Roberta, it is time we were going.
Bid Mr. Torquil farewell."

There were no tears in her eyes when she put
her hand in Donald s hand. But the bitterest
tears are shed inwardly. All her fine color had
fled ; she was as pale as ivory.

"You will not forget me, Roberta?"

" As long as I live I will be faithful to you,
Donald."

So she went from him, and for some minutes
he remained motionless and speechless. He
felt as if the tide of life was ebbing away from
his heart ; he thought he would die of grief ; he
wished to die. Oh, where is the heart that does
not hope to break under its first great sorrow !




CHAPTER XL

THE CLEARANCE.

The summons for the clearing of Easter-Tor-
quil had been served early in March. The
cottages were to be vacated at Whitsuntide, and
the time was at hand. Sir Rolfe had expected
some resistance, for he was well aware that
Macdonald and other Highland chiefs had only
dispossessed their tenants by invoking the aid of
the law, or the sword. But Macdonald s sept
were Calvinists of the straitest kind; men who
had been protesting from the days of Knox to
the days of Chalmers. Resistance to any
encroachment on what they considered their
rights, or their opinions, was a familiar attitude
to them. The Torquils and Mackenzies were
equally familiar with the idea of loyalty and



208 The Clearance.

obedience to their church, and to all constituted
authorities. No people on earth had the law-
abiding spirit more strong than the Catholic
clans of Scotland ; and though the finest
soldiers that ever drew sword, they were incapa
ble of defending themselves, except in an open
and recognized fight. From behind a hedge
they would not have fired a shot, even at the
devil.

At the first mention of a clearance, they felt
that their only hope lay in an appeal to the kind
ness of Sir Rolfe Torquil ; and if that appeal
failed, their homes must inevitably be desolated.
Yet the clan tie was so strong and living in their
own hearts, they could not imagine it less potent
in the heart of the Torquil. The old men and
women, especially, were certain that when the
evil hour came, they would be permitted to end
t neir days in their little cottages. If the young
men and women and the growing children were
removed, death would very quickly dispossess
the few aged tenants, and every year would see



The Clearance. 209

the land clearing itself of its human encum
brances.

Even Father Contach inclined to this opinion;
though after every useless intercession he advised
the people to expect no favor and make their
preparations with all the speed possible. Some
of them had friends in the Lewes ; others in
the Skye ; a few had sons or daughters, uncles
or cousins in North Carolina, where many of the
Mackenzies fled after the bloody settlement of
Culloden. Letters asking help had been sent to
these various sources, and Father Matthew had
also solicited assistance from richer congregations
in various localities. He desired to keep the
unhappy people together, and he thought it pos
sible to collect money sufficient to send the little
colony as one family to their kindred in America.

But letters asking assistance are not usually
answered promptly, and Whitsuntide arrived
and found the doomed exiles without any defi
nite plans or any certain means. There seemed
nothing to be done except to urge upon Sir



2io The Clearance.

Rolfe a stay of proceedings until arrangements
could be completed for the people s future. But
Father Matthew had a strong repugnance to
approach him again upon the subject. Such
interviews had become more and more strained
and painful, and he had found that every appeal
to Sir Rolfe s justice or kindness had only inten
sified his sense of irritation and made him more
determined to carry out his own plans without
let or hindrance.

He took precisely this tone when the father
made his final appeal.

" I am sorry to refuse you, personally, any
favor, Father Contach, but I cannot permit my
business to wait longer upon people notoriously
inclined to procrastinate, and to rely upon any
one but themselves. I have laid out a certain
life-work. I am not a young man. I cannot
wait upon probabilities resting upon some Tor-
quil or Mackenzie in Lewes or America. It is
unjust to ask me."

"But the aged?"



The Clearance. 2 1 1

" Age has nothing to do with a principle. If
I favor the aged, why not the little children ?
Hector Torquil is the oldest man in the clachan.
Suppose I allow him and his wife Sheila to
remain. I know that they will be continually
mourning for their children and grandchildren
and great-grandchildren. I shall never hear the
last of their loneliness and helplessness. Such
half-measures are cruel all around. Do you sup
pose I derive any pleasure from sending these
people away ? I assure you it is a great trouble,
and has been, as you are aware, something also
of a loss ; for I put into your hands fifty pounds
for their assistance, a sum of ready money I can
not very easily spare. The good of the estate
requires that they should be cleared out root
and branch ; and when a trouble requires the
knife of the surgeon, the doctor has no charm
for it, Father. I will have no half-measures in
this matter."

So the flitting was a determined thing, and a
few of the younger people understood it to be



212 The Clearance.

so; and without indulging any further hope, they
departed as quickly and quietly as possible. But
when Whitmonday came there were still over a
hundred souls in Easter-Torquil who knew not
where to lay their heads. Fortunately, it was a
glorious spring day, the corries, hazy with blue
bells, the green, green straths, white with dais
ies ; the wind fresh, but not cold ; the sky blue,
the air full of exhilarating sunshine. Never had
the little clachan looked so fair, so peaceful, so
happy. But, oh ! What anxiety and fears and
sad regrets were at every hearth.

About ten o clock the factor and a body of
men arrived. Immediately they began to raze
the empty cottages. For a short time the
people looked on in bewildered grief, but very
soon affairs were made terribly clear to them.
There was not a shadow of favor to be shown to
any ; even Ann Ross, an aged, bed-ridden
woman, was to be removed to a family in the
village of Torquil, who had agreed to care for
her at Sir Rolfe s charge. The helpless old



T/te Clearance. 2 \ 3

crone filled the air with her cries as the men
lifted her on to a litter and carried her down the
mountains. It was the beginning of a scene of
indescribable hubbub and suffering.

The men were mostly sullen and silent as they
moved out of their homes their household furni
ture ; but the women wailed, as if each separate
woman were at the funeral of her first-born ; and
the children, at first full of wonder, grew cold
and hungry as the day wore on, and added their
cries to the general confusion. In the meantime
the factor and his men went busily on destroy
ing the clachan ; as quickly as a cottage was
cleared it was taken possession of ; and soon
after three o clock every door had been closed.

It was then growing imperative for the ejected
crofters to seek shelter for the night. Most of
them had relatives or friends in Torquil vil
lage ; and so, laden with their most necessary
utensils and clothing, and carrying their young
est children, they went together down the
mountain. They had to pass the church, and



214 The Clearance.

with one impulse they gathered around the
rectory door. Even at this hour they could not
abandon the hope that the good father, who had
always before been sufficient for their sorrow,
would still be able to help them. He had just
returned from Balmacarra, where he had gone to
meet the mail, trusting that it might bring help.

He was very weary and hungry ; but when he
saw the old and the young standing around his
door, uttering no complaint, as the y watched
with a wistful, sad patience, for him, his heart
burned with sorrow and with righteous anger.
He knew not what to do for them ; but in this
extremity of his judgment, he passed rapidly
fronx the rectory to the church, and prostrated
himself before the altar. He did not speak to
the people, but they saw his face, and they
divined for what purpose he had gone into the
immediate presence of God, and they waited
with a touching resignation his will and word.

In a few minutes, they saw him standing in
he open door of the church, his face bright



The Clearance. 215


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