Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

Thyra Varrick; a love story online

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f i*







A Love Story



Author of " Trinity Bells," " Tbe

Bow of Orange Ribbon/'








Published April,



I Inscribe This Book

My Dear Children
Mr. and Mrs. Edward A. Munro




I. " The Land of Hills and Glens and Heroes," . i

II. " Lovely Thyra Varrick," 33

III. A Daughter of Concealment, .... 64

IV. Love is Love Forever More, .... 82
V. Paul Varrick Proposes, Thyra Varrick Disposes, 97

VI. The Alternative Robert or India, . . .118

VII. Between Two Lovers, 140

VIII. The Forbidden Marriage, 163

IX. Back to the Old Love, 186

X. Thyra Varrick Runs Away, . . . .213

XI. Welcome Royal Charlie! 241

XII. All is Well with the Child, 266

XIII. Thyra Goes Back to Orkney, .... 291

XIV. Thyra's Marriage, 315

XV. Two-and-Twenty Years, and More, . . . 336


The ashes** * still lying there, . (page 299), Frontispiece
" Children of Clan Argall. There is news," . Page 12

He was spellbound "49

With face uplifted "no

The two went silently to the boat together, . . "136

His hand went to his dirk " 174

The man was in his power, " 192

"Gentlemen! A MacDonald!" " 199

Welcome, Royal Charlie! " 260

The strath was full of shadowy men, ..." 271

She fell on her knees, " 284

Good will and blessings were showered on them, " 335



" The Land of Hills and Glens and Heroes "

THE house of MacArgall stood on the slope
of a mountain overlooking the loneliest valley
in the north of Scotland. A labyrinth of
gigantic hills surrounded it, shutting out the world
more and more at every step, until it seemed
an impossibility either to go further or to go
back. But the barrier once passed, the vista opened
out into a deep valley and wild tracts of moor
land; and then the great gray house standing on
the side of Ben Argall was startlingly distinct. It
was built of the rocks lying abundantly around ; great
blocks of granite mortared together so thoroughly
that the storms of five centuries had left no trace on
its solid masonry. Bare and firm as a rock, it stood ;
a look of defiance on its front, and an air of something
sorrowful and implacable in its aspect.

The mountain rose steeply from the back of the
house ; first a stately belt of firs, terminating in juni
per, and great bowlders edged with heather ; and then
the bare crags where the ravens built ; and still higher


up, the tremendous peaks, where the eagles reared
their young. Not far away from the house were many
small stone huts, built into the clefts of the mountain,
and attracting attention only by the aperture of the
door, or by the smoke ascending from the opening in
their roofs. These were the homes of the clansmen,
and from them, at the sound of MacArgall's horn,
they poured four hundred strong into the great court
which sloped from the front of the house down to the
strath or valley of Argall.

At the time this story opens, the head of Clan Mac-
Argall was Chief Murdo Maximus MacArgall, the
eighth of his name ; a man of great age, but full of
the fire of youth; a ruddy, tall, wrinkled giant, with
something Scythian and restless, drawing him to end
less antagonism with the world around him a fighter
because he loved to fight, and full of that self-appre
ciation which could sincerely say, " I do not know a
better man than myself."

He was walking about the large central hall of his
house one afternoon in the spring of 1745. The land
was lonelier than ruin, but even so, the long strath
wore a halo of dandelions, and on the young grass a
thousand cattle were straying and feeding. So he
rested at the open window watching them, wondering
the while how soon his drovers could start southward
with their lots of beasts. The sunshine fell on his
mighty form, on his white hair and strong face, on the
Jacobite tartan he wore; and glinting on his dirk


showed on its handle the large silver " S," for Stuart,
in the open-work of its hilt. All his garments were
large and free, and his checkered hose bound not his
stride, for they did not reach his knee by a span.

The sight of the spring and the cattle was pleas
ant to him, and his thoughts were vivid and hopeful,
but his molesting temper could not let him be at rest.
In a few minutes he turned impatiently and cast his
eyes upon a young man and a young woman who were
sitting at the upper end of the hall. The woman was
threading a string of beads made of transparent gold
en-brown crystals of the Cairngorm mountains; the
young man was reading a book. Their occupations
were alike trivial and idle in the Chief's estimation, and
he spoke with an imperious sharpness as he turned :

" Revan, this is no reading time. Are you a clerk
or a priest ? You have five fingers on each hand, were
they made to handle bits of paper ? " and he lifted the
claymore that lay upon the table, and let it fall again
with an angry clang.

" Father of my father," answered the young man
respectfully, " do not fret yourself. When it is the
hour of the sword, my five fingers will quiver for the
sword ; then the book will fall from them. I am put
ting the time past with the tale of Conan."

" Humf-f-f ! Then learn a lesson from Conan, and
let your kindness to your enemies be like the kindness
of Conan to the demons cuff for cuff, and claw for


" I am sunwise [ready] for everything."

" You are not sunwise. 'Twere better you were on
the hills counting the herds, than sitting here reading
of the Conan. I was a prince among the beasts at
your age. Lachlan, and Clythe, and Tavis might
teach you something, if you would only listen to

" Do you wish Revan to be a drover, grandfather? "
asked the girl. " Let him alone. He is doing well ; "
and she put her elbows on the arm of her chair and
swung the string of beads to and fro in the sunshine.
As she did so she looked from them to the Chief, and
he caught her glance and smile and grew uncertain
and uneasy, and turning to the open door again, took
out his snuff-box and tapped on its golden lid some
thing he could not bring his tongue to utter. Then
the girl let her beads fall to her lap, and with a glance
of sympathetic intelligence said softly : " Revan ! "
and Revan answered only : " Sara ! " The word was
full of tenderness, and he put aside his book and sat
smiling and looking at his sister.

She was conscious of his admiration and pleased to
look lovely in his eyes. She began to thread her beads
again, and he watched her movements with delight;
for though some might have denied her beauty, none
could ignore her charm. She was small, with an un
commonly slender waist and upright carriage of the
head, and her abundant hair was of that shimmering
brown which has the effect of a halo, and her com-


plexion was delicate and blooming as a rose. She
had the beauty of opening flowers, their softness and
sweetness, but withal a gravity and clear austerity of
mind that was akin to physical light. For Sara Mac-
Argall had a spiritual nature of extreme sensibility,
evidenced by eyes of that weird blue that can see
visions. At times her whole face had this ultra-ter
restrial charm, but usually the mystical aspiration of
her nature was dominated by the passionate directness
of a woman of the world, who regarded daily life and
its duties as matters of imperative importance.

Her brother Revan resembled her in some respects ;
in others he differed widely. He had a towering form
crowned with the same beautiful shining hair; great
mental and physical vigor, blunt speech, and an icy
cold expression, with every now and then a look of
fire. His dress was simple, if compared with the
splendor of the grandfather's; and was remarkable
in that he wore the tartan of his clan, rather than the
Jacobite one assumed by his Chief. But he was not
insensible to fine clothing, for as he looked at Sara,
he recognized a richness in her attire which had also
the added charm of novelty.

" This is a beautiful gown, Sara," he said, drawing
his chair close to her, and touching gently the soft,
rich silk. " Who could have thought that pale green
would have become you so completely? It is like the
tender green sheath of a rose."

" Aunt Athol brought me it ; many other pretty


gowns also a box full of lovely things. But I did
not open the lid until this morning, because aunt was
too weary to help me; and I could not deprive her of
the pleasure of seeing my gratitude."

" That is like you. I wonder what brought our
aunt over the mountains at this time ! It was a great
journey to take."

" I have not been motive hunting. Say that she
wanted to see our grandfather. He is her brother,
and the last of her household that is on the sword-
side ; there are women, but there is no man left of her
father's sons, save her brother Murdo."

" I know, but grandfather goes once every year to
see her."

" I ask not why she came. She is ever welcome for
herself, and she always brings with her a sough of the
great, good world, beyond these mountains."

" Then you think the great world is a good world ? "

" Yes. I shall never forget the four years I spent
with Aunt Athol in Edinburgh. They were a ro
mance, a tale better and stranger than any the clans
men tell of the olden time."

As she spoke she was listening, and she added, with
a smile, " I hear Aunt Athol coming ; rise, Revan ! "

Then the young man went to a door and opened it
and, bowing and offering his hand, led Lady Atholia
Gordon into the room. She was the youngest and
only living sister of the Chief ; a tall, stately woman,
about sixty years old, with a fresh, handsome face


full of good humor and shrewd common-sense. A coif
of white lace covered her hair, her gown was of violet
silk, and she carried a long ivory cane, though she had
not the least real necessity for it.

" Children," she said cheerfully, " a good day to
you ! Brother, is it well with you ? "

" When you are here, it is always well, Athol."
Then he took her to the open door, and pointed out
the drovers urging the cattle closer, and the quick-
springing grass, which would make the southward
journey for them near at hand. And as he said this,
he looked into his sister's face with an intelligence she
understood, for she asked softly:

" Coming from the north and west, will the roads
now be passable? "

" Men who want to pass over them can find a way ;
men not sure of their hearts may have stumbling

" You are still on the same side, Murdo? "

" There is only one side to me."

" Right or unright? "

" Right or unright, I am on the same side for

" You are a good man."

" There are worse than me at times." Then he
left her, and went striding down the strath, and she
watched him a few moments, while a shadow of sad
ness passed over her face. The brooding power of
the great hills, the murmur of running waters, the


silence, and pastoral melancholy filled her soul with

" Bring my chair into the open, Revan," she said ;
" the wind streams out of the mountains like living
water. And oh, children, the mountains themselves!
They are like a great stairway going up to the skies.
You lose sight of the ordinaries of life as you look at
them. I wonder if they did reach as far as heaven,
how many of us would try to win over the heights and
depths of such a fearsome road ! "

" I would try it joyfully, even if I perished in the
effort," said Sara.

" That would be just impossible, my little lambie.
No perishing on that road ; for the good Shepherd
would be everywhere ; both down in the depths and
up on the heights. He is the ' Way.' "

There was no answer to this remark. Sara looked
far off, and far upward to the mystical stairway of
mountains ; and Revan sat with his arms on his knees
and his head dropped thoughtfully forward, putting
his thumbs and forefingers together. The sensitive
pause was broken by Lady Gordon, who asked in a
tone of solicitude :

" When shall we have more news ? I can see the
anxiety of the Chief; he is very near the end of

" Hector MacDonald should have been here five
weeks ago. His delay means evil. Something has
gone wrong, or this house and strath had now been full


of fighting men," said Revan. " The meeting at the
sign of ' The Blue Bell ' was trysted for the twenty-
fourth of last month. The tryst is broken; we can
only wait for the reason."

As he spoke there came down the strath a long,
clear whistle, which they heard the Chief instantly

" Hector has come at last," said Sara joyously.
She stood up and waved her scarf, and Lady Gordon
also rose; but Revan hurried down the steep path to
meet whatever news was coming.

It was not good news. That was plain enough to
the two women before they heard a murmur of it.
The Chief's passionate voice and carriage, and Re-
van's air of reserve or dejection, told some story of
defeat and disappointment. But as the men came
closer it was evident that the messenger was not him
self much troubled. He said afterward, he had had
his fit of despair, and that invincible hope had only
grown stronger in it. Certainly at this hour joy was
the master emotion; he gazed at Sara with a lover's
adoration, and was not then conscious of anything in
life to make him miserable.

Travel-stained and weary with his long tramp
through the mountain passes, he was nevertheless
singularly attractive. He wore the splendid scarlet
and black tartan of the MacDonalds, and on his black
hair the picturesque Glengarry with the noble ensign of
an eagle's feather in it. A soldier every inch of him,


with all his good qualities in evidence: the handsome
face, the cheerful temperament, the aristocratic man
ner of one born to command, the brightness of fiery
youth, the black mustache soft as silk, shading lips
full and tender. His faults were less obvious, for
they were of that negative order held in abeyance,
until circumstances develop them. He was never as
great as he led people to imagine he would be. He
was self-indulgent, and not able to practice any self-
denial. Faithful unto death where his clan's tradi
tions, or his political opinions were concerned ; he was
not faithful to his feelings; and after all has been
said, it is feeling which lies at the foundation of every
man and woman, and which makes them individual.
Male and female friends alike called him fickle, and
very likely with good reason.

But he came into the melancholy old hall like a
shaft of sunshine. He brought movement and speech
with him. Life that had seemed half dead was sud
denly alert, noisy, busy. A score of men were run
ning hither and thither, preparing his room, cleaning
his clothing, hastening the meal, setting the table,
bringing in wood for the fire. Somewhere near, the
pipes began to play; and though the clan quickly
understood that young Hector had not brought good
news, the music was the defiant march of MacDonald,
" Gainsay Who Dare."

As the Chief took his place at the table, Dugald,
the piper of MacArgall, proudly entered with the fa-


mous black chanter of his clan; a pipe whose strains
were said to inspire all who heard them, with more than
mortal courage. Round the table he marched three
times, filling the room with wild, passionate music.
Then Chief Murdo put into his hand a great silver
beaker full of Farintosh, and raising his own glass,
he stood up and cried:

" God save King James! Gainsay who dare! "
The enchanted pipes reiterated in frenzied crescen-
dos the dauntless challenge, until the room was in a
delirious excitement. The Chief was snapping his
fingers, as Highlanders do when under great emotion.
Lady Gordon was weeping. Sara had risen to her
feet, and every strand of her lovely hair seemed in
stinct with an individual life; it waved, it glowed, it
appeared to have luminous emanations, to make a ver
itable glory round the fair oval face, that had grown
white as a lily with feeling. On the contrary, Revan
had utterly lost his cold appearance; his cheeks were
like a flame, his eyes like living furnaces, and his radi
ant hair had the same characteristics as his sister's.
Hector, quivering and noisy in his enthusiasm, urged
on the piper with the untranslatable vehemence of the
Highland battle cry" Sa! Sa! Sa! Sa! Sa! Sa! "
A few moments of such vivid life is all the spirit
will endure and be restrained in its clay tabernacle!
and it was well for the aged Chief that the tumult of
the gathering clan in the court brought a diversion of
feeling. They made no call on him, but he knew they


would wait until he appeared. Unbonneted he went to
the open door, and stretched his hands out over them.
A soft murmur, a perfect silence, followed the action,
and gathering his life forces together he said :

" Children of Clan Argall. There is news, and
some will be saying that it is not very good news. I
tell you that it is very good news. Yes, indeed! the
best news that has come yet. Listen to me. The
French King, as you well know, swore to James the
Seventh, as he lay dying, to stand by his son, and help
him to his rights. Very well ; a promise made to the
dying must be kept, or great ill from the dead to the
living, and King Louis was not caring to have the ill-
will of the dead who would? So to make good his
word, he sent with our Prince Charles the great
Mareschal Saxe, and fifteen thousand French troops.
They were to land in Scotland, and we have been
waiting for them, more than two months. They will
never come. Things went black ill with them from the
first. The devil was in the winds and waves, and ' be
tween the devil and the deep sea,' and the English
navy, they went to wreck and carrion. So far, it
seems to be bad news ; now comes the good of it. One
is here young Hector MacDonald who was with
Prince Charles, and who escaped with him to Paris.
And he brings word that Prince Charles will never
again look for help from the stranger. He will get
more gold and arms, and will come here to his own and
trust to our love and valor, and to no others. Then


he will come to the beginning of fortune, for the
Highland host will bear him on their claymores to
Perth; they will crown him King of Scotland; they
will seat him in old Edina. And then we will have no
* Union ' with England ; not we ! We will have our
own crown and scepter, and our own royal line; and
when I see that day, I will pray to depart in peace,
for I shall have seen the salvation of Scotland."

A suppressed sob, which quickly grew to a pro
longed shout, answered this speech, and the Chief
turned away and went back to his delayed meal.
There was obvious weariness of both flesh and spirit in
all, and it was only fitfully and gradually that con
versation was resumed. MacArgall eat his pea brose
and butter in silence, while Sara and Lady Gordon
drank their tea, and talked softly to each other, and
to Hector, about the appearance of Prince Charles.
But when the Chief had finished his bowl of brose, and
was dipping his oatcake in his toddy, Lady Gordon
said to him :

" Murdo, you spoke well to-night, as well as you
did fifty years ago and how the clan adore you!
Who would be a King, if he could be Chief of his
clan? If I was Prince Charles, I should come back as
Chief of Clan Stuart. But do you really think he
will try again next year ? "

" If I did not think so, I had not said it. To Clan
Argall I speak nothing but the truth if I know it."

" Prince Charles will succeed where his father


failed," said Hector. " He has what his father no
tably lacked conciliating and charming manners."

" His father is your King, Hector MacDonald.
Speak no ill of the King even in your bedchamber.
A man that was wiser than you said that."

" And yet Hector is right," answered Lady Gor
don. " My lord thought a man must love the Stuarts
well, to bear his presence ; and I heard you say your
self, Murdo, that it was hard to fight for such a

" I will give you good-night. Blessing to you, one
and all, but the talk suits me not. He is the King;
King by grace of God I do not put my opinion be
fore the divine will."

Every eye was fixed on the positive old man, and
Revan and Hector stood up, until he closed the door.
After a few moments' silence they drew closer to
gether, and began to talk with a freedom not possible
in the Chief's presence.

" Children," said Lady Gordon, " it is not easy to
make your grandfather listen to a dissenting word;
and yet someone should speak to him. I came here
for that purpose, and I hope my few words will bring
certain things to his remembrance, that he ought not
to forget."

" Concerning the King? " asked Revan.

" Concerning the King. The chiefs * out ' in
Mar's Rising and the break-up in 1716 will be hard to
persuade * out ' again."


" But they will not be asked to come out for King
James, but for his eldest son, Prince Charles. In the
course of thirty years much is forgotten, and, after
all, Lady Gordon, a king can do no wrong," said

" The hatred and scorn King James inspired thirty
years ago have not been forgotten. I am not a ma
licious body, but my disappointment and anger is as
great to-day as it was when my lord went into hiding
after Sheriffmuir. And, Hector MacDonald, the King
can do wrong. From the first hour of his landing in
Scotland, King James made men's hearts faint and
sick. Lord Gordon was in the camp at Perth when he
entered it, on the 6th of January, 1716 ; and as soon
as men looked on him, their enthusiasm for the Stuarts
melted away. You must remember that Highlanders
have no belief in the divine right of kings. They
have always associated power with strength, wisdom,
and courage. Their legends are full of instances
where weak chieftains have been replaced by some
hardy, daring kinsman who could effectively lead their
clans to forage and victory. When King James
showed himself to these little kings of the Highland
clans, his appearance filled them with the coldness of
despair. They could hardly believe him to be a de
scendant of the heroic race of Stuart ; and they asked
each other if this apparition of a king could speak or

" You are very hard on King James the Eighth,


Aunt Athol," said Revan. " Was he indeed so physi
cally wanting in all good qualities ? "

" His body, always weak and shaffling, was shaken
by his dissipations; he had dull, lazy eyes; sallow
cheeks ; an imbecile smile ; slow, listless movements. He
was as haughty and despotic as if he was an acknowl
edged king with unlimited power. He answered all
men, and all bodies of men, in brief, chilling words, as
if assured authority had made the adulation of obse
quious subjects tiresome to him. He surrounded him
self with the most particular etiquette and ceremony,
and the number of his dinner courses created a hearty
contempt for him, among men who, when in arms,
found a little oatmeal and water sufficient."

" But I never heard his courage questioned, Lady
Gordon," said Hector.

" You were not born, Hector, when men's hearts
were burning with the shame and wrong King James
brought them. I was in the middle of the quarrel, for
I was at Perth the whole of that fateful month. I re
member the day this royal James was persuaded to at
tend a council of war ; and Lord Gordon told me after
it, that the King's terror of any warlike preparation
which would put him in danger filled the hearts
of the Highland chiefs with disgust and despair.
Lord Gordon wished, then and there, to send
home his clan; and Mar and other leaders began to
talk of retreat, as ' necessary for the King's safety.'
Then there was almost war in the camp itself. The


clansmen wanted to know what they had been brought
to Perth for? Were they to fight like men, or fly
like cowards? Had their King come among them to
lead them in battle, or only to see how many of his
subjects were ready for the shambles? The grim laird
of Glenbucket proposed to the loyal clans to put the

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrThyra Varrick; a love story → online text (page 1 of 20)