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Sandy;" and she gazed anxiously at him. "I'll never ask ye for another
thing till the day o' my death, Sandy, if ye'll gie me that."

Sandy shouted in delight. For a brief space a fear had seized him - of
which he now felt shame indeed - that his sweet lassie might be about to
ask for jewels or rich attire; and it would have sorely hurt Sandy's
pride in her had this been so.

"A piano!" he shouted. "An' did ye not think I'd that a'ready in my
mind? O' coorse, a piano, an' every other instrument under the skies
that ye'll wish, my lass, ye shall have. The more music ye make, the
gladder the house'll be. Is there nothin' else ye want, lass, - nothin'?"

"Nothing in all this world, Sandy, but you and a piano," replied Little
Bel.

The other picture was on a New Year's Day, just a twelvemonth from the
day of Little Bel's exhibition in the Wissan Bridge school-house. It is
a bright day; the sleighing is superb all over the island, and the
Charlottetown streets are full of gay sleighs and jingling bells, - none
so gay, however, as Sandy Bruce's, and no bells so merry as the silver
ones on his fierce little Norwegian ponies, that curvet and prance, and
are all their driver can hold. Rolled up in furs to her chin, how rosy
and handsome looks Little Bel by her husband's side, and how full of
proud content is his face as he sees the people all turning to look at
her beauty! And who is this driving the Norwegian ponies? Who but
Archie, - Archie McLeod, who has followed his young teacher to her new
home, and is to grow up, under Sandy Bruce's teachings, into a sharp and
successful man of the shipping business.

And as they turn a corner they come near running into another fur-piled,
swift-gliding sleigh, with a grizzled old head looking out of a tartan
hood, and eyes like hawks', - Dalgetty himself; and as they pass the head
nods and the eyes laugh, and a sharp voice cries, "Guineas it is!"

"Better than guineas!" answered back Mrs. Sandy Bruce, quick as a flash;
and in the same second cries Archie, from the front seat, with a saucy
laugh, "And as long as she lives, Mr. Dalgetty!"




The Captain of the "Heather Bell".



You might have known he was a Scotchman by the name of his little
steamer; and if you had not known it by that, you would have known it as
soon as you looked at him. Scotch, pure, unmitigated, unmistakable
Scotch, was Donald Mackintosh, from the crown of his auburn head down to
the soles of his big awkward feet. Six feet two inches in his stockings
he stood, and so straight that he looked taller even than that;
blue-gray eyes full of a canny twinkle; freckles, - yes, freckles that
were really past the bounds of belief, for up into his hair they ran,
and to the rims of his eyes, - no pale, dull, equivocal freckles, such as
might be mistaken for dingy spots of anything else, but brilliant,
golden-brown freckles, almost auburn like his hair. Once seen, never to
be forgotten were Donald Mackintosh's freckles. All this does not sound
like the description of a handsome man; but we are not through yet with
what is to be said about Donald Mackintosh's looks. We have said nothing
of his straight massive nose, his tawny curling beard, which shaded up
to yellow around a broad and laughing mouth, where were perpetually
flashing teeth of an even ivory whiteness a woman might have coveted.
No, not handsome, but better than handsome, was Donald Mackintosh; he
was superb. Everybody said so: nobody could have been found to dispute
it, - nobody but Donald himself; he thought, honestly thought, he was
hideous. All that he could see on the rare occasions when he looked in a
glass was an expanse of fiery red freckles, topped off with what he
would have called a shock of red hair. Uglier than anything he had ever
seen in his life, he said to himself many a time, and grew shyer and
shyer and more afraid of women each time he said it; and all this while
there was not a girl in Charlottetown that did not know him in her
thoughts, if indeed she did not openly speak of him, as that "splendid
Donald Mackintosh," or "the handsome 'Heather Bell' captain."

But nothing could have made Donald believe this, which was in one way a
pity, though in another way not. If he had known how women admired him,
he would have inevitably been more or less spoiled by it, wasted his
time, and not have been so good a sailor. On the other hand, it was a
pity to see him, - forty years old, and alone in the world, - not a chick
nor a child of his own, nor any home except such miserable makeshifts as
a sailor finds in inns or boarding-houses.

It was a wonder that the warm-hearted fellow had kept a cheery nature
and face all these years living thus. But the "Heather Bell" stood to
him in place of wife, children, home. There is no passion in life so
like the passion of a man for a woman as the passion of a sailor for his
craft; and this passion Donald had to the full. It was odd how he came
to be a born sailor. His father and his father's fathers, as far back as
they knew, had been farmers - three generations of them - on the Prince
Edward Island farm where Donald was born; and still more generations of
them in old Scotland. Pure Scotch on both sides of the house for
hundreds of years were the Mackintoshes, and the Gaelic tongue was
to-day freer spoken in their houses than English.

The Mackintosh farm on Prince Edward Island was in the parish of Orwell
Head, and Donald's earliest transgressions and earliest pleasures were
runaway excursions to the wharves of that sleepy shore. To him Spruce
Wharf was a centre of glorious maritime adventure. The small sloops that
plied up and down the coast of the island, running in at the inlets, and
stopping to gather up the farmers' produce and take it to Charlottetown
markets, seemed to him as grand as Indiamen; and when, in his twelfth
year, he found himself launched in life as a boy-of-all-work on one of
these sloops, whose captain was a friend of his father's, he felt that
his fortune was made. And so it was. He was in the line of promotion by
virtue of his own enthusiasm. No plank too small for the born sailor to
swim by. Before Donald was twenty-five he himself commanded one of these
little coasting-vessels. From this he took a great stride forward, and
became first officer on the iron-clad steamer plying between
Charlottetown and the mainland. The winter service on this boat was
terrible, - ploughing and cutting through nearly solid ice for long days
and nights of storm. Donald did not like it. He felt himself lost out in
the wild channel. His love was for the water near shore, - for the bays,
inlets, and river-mouths he had known since he was a child.

He began to think he was not so much of a sailor as he had supposed, - so
great a shrinking grew up in him winter after winter from the perils and
hardships of the mail-steamer's route. But he persevered and bided his
time, and in ten years had the luck to become owner and master of a trim
little coasting-steamer which had been known for years as the "Sally
Wright," making two trips a week from Charlottetown to Orwell
Head, - known as the "Sally Wright" no longer, however; for the first
thing Donald did was to repaint her, from stem to stern, white, with
green and pink stripes, on her prow a cluster of pink heather blossoms,
and "Heather Bell" in big letters on the side.

When he was asked where he got this fancy name, he said, lightly, he
did not know; it was a good Scotch name. This was not true. Donald knew
very well. On the window-sill in his mother's kitchen had stood always a
pot of pink heather. Come summer, come winter, the place was never
without a young heather growing; and the dainty pink bells were still to
Donald the man, as they had been to Donald the child, the loveliest
flowers in the world. But he would not for the profits of many a trip
have told his comrade captains why he had named his boat the "Heather
Bell." He had a sentiment about the name which he himself hardly
understood. It seemed out of all proportion to the occasion; but a day
was coming when it would seem more like a prophecy than a mere
sentiment. He had builded better than he knew when he chose that name
for the thing nearest his heart.

Charlottetown is not a gay place; its standards and methods of amusement
are simple and primitive. Among the summer pleasures of the young people
picnics still rank high, and picnic excursions by steamboat or sloop
highest of all. Through June and July hardly a daily newspaper can be
found which does not contain the advertisement of one or more of these
excursions. After Donald made his little boat so fresh and gay with the
pink and green colors, and gave her the winning new name, she came to be
in great demand for these occasions.

How much the captain's good looks had to do with the "Heather Bell's"
popularity as a pleasure-boat it would not do to ask; but there was
reason enough for her being liked aside from that. Sweet and fresh in
and out, with white deck, the chairs and settees all painted green, and
a gay streamer flying, - white, with three green bars, - and "Donald
Mackintosh, Captain," in green letters, and below these a spray of pink
heather, she looked more like a craft for festive sailing than for
cruising about from one farm-landing to another, picking up odds and
ends of farm produce, - eggs and butter, and oats and wool, - with now and
then a passenger. Donald liked this slow cruising and the market-work
best; but the picnic parties were profitable, and he took them whenever
he could. He kept apart, however, from the merry-makers as much as
possible, and was always glad at night when he had landed his noisy
cargo safe back at the Charlottetown piers.

This disposition on his part to hold himself aloof was greatly
irritating to the Charlottetown girls, and to no one of them so much as
to pretty Katie McCloud, who, because she was his second cousin and had
known him all her life, felt, and not without reason, that he ought to
pay her something in the shape or semblance of attention when she was on
board his boat, even if she were a member of a large and gay party, most
of whom were strangers to him. There was another reason, too; but Katie
had kept it so long locked in the bottom of her heart that she hardly
realized its force and cogency, and, if she had, would have laughed, and
put it as far from her thoughts as she could.

The truth was, Katie had been in love with Donald ever since she was ten
years old and he was twenty, - a long time, seeing that she was now
thirty and he forty; and never once, either in their youth or their
middle age, had there been a word of love-making between them. All the
same, deep in her heart the good little Katie had kept the image of
Donald in sacred tenderness by itself. No other man's love-making,
however earnest, - and Katie had been by no means without lovers, - had so
much as touched this sentiment. She judged them all by this secret
standard, and found them all wanting. She did not pine, neither did she
take a step of forwardness, or even coquettish advance, to Donald. She
was too full of Scotch reticence for that. The only step she did take,
in hope of bringing him nearer to her, was the going to Charlottetown to
learn the milliner's trade.

Poor Katie! if she had but known she threw away her last chance when she
did it. She reasoned that Donald was in Charlottetown far more than he
was anywhere else; that if she stayed at home on the farm she could see
him only by glimpses, when the "Heather Bell" ran in at their
landing, - in and out and off again in an hour. What was that? And maybe
a Sunday once or twice a year, and at a Christmas gathering. No wonder
Katie thought that in the town where his business lay and he slept
three nights a week she would have a far better chance; that he would be
glad to come and see her in her tidy little shop. But when Donald heard
what she had done, he said gruffly: "Just like the rest; all for ribbons
and laces and silly gear. I thought Katie'd more sense. Why didn't she
stay at home on the farm?" And he said as much to her when he first saw
her in her new quarters. She tried to explain to him that she wanted to
support herself, and she could not do it on the farm.

"No need, - no need," said her relentless cousin; "there was plenty for
all on the farm." And all the while he stood glowering at the counter
spread with gay ribbons and artificial flowers, and Katie was ready to
cry. This was in the first year of her life in Charlottetown. She was
only twenty-two then. In the eight years since then matters had quieted
down with Katie. It seemed certain that Donald would never marry.
Everybody said so. And if a man had lived till forty without it, what
else could be expected? If Katie had seen him seeking other women, her
quiet and unrewarded devotion would no doubt have flamed up in jealous
pain. But she knew that he gave to her as much as he gave to
any, - occasional and kindly courtesy, no less, no more.

So the years slipped by, and in her patient industry Katie forgot how
old she was growing, until suddenly, on her thirtieth birthday,
something - the sight of a deepened line on her face, perhaps, or a pang
of memory of the old childish past, such as birthdays always
bring - something smote her with a sudden consciousness that life itself
was slipping away, and she was alone. No husband, no child, no home,
except as she earned each month, by fashioning bonnets and caps for the
Charlottetown women, money enough to pay the rent of the two small rooms
in which she slept, cooked, and plied her trade. Some tears rolled down
Katie's face as she sat before her looking-glass thinking these
unwelcome thoughts.

"I'll go to the Orwell Head picnic to-morrow," she said to herself.
"It's so near the old place perhaps Donald'll walk over home with me.
It's long since he's seen the farm, I'll be bound."

Now, Katie did not say to herself in so many words, "It will be like
old times when we were young, and it may be something will stir in
Donald's heart for me at the sight of the fields." Not only did she not
say this; she did not know that she thought it; but it was there, all
the same, a lurking, newly revived, vague, despairing sort of hope. And
because it was there she spent half the day retrimming a bonnet and
washing and ironing a gown to wear to the picnic; and after long and
anxious pondering of the matter, she deliberately took out of her best
box of artificial flowers a bunch of white heather, and added it to the
bonnet trimming. It did not look overmuch like heather, and it did not
suit the bonnet, of which Katie was dimly aware; but she wanted to say
to Donald, "See, I put a sprig of heather in my bonnet in honor of your
boat to-day." Simple little Katie!

It was a large and noisy picnic, of the very sort Donald most disliked,
and he kept himself out of sight until the last moment, just before they
swung round at Spruce Wharf. Then, as he stood on the upper deck giving
orders about the flinging out of the ropes, Katie looked up at him from
below, and called, in a half-whisper: "Oh, Donald, I was thinking I'd
walk over home instead of staying here to the dance. Wouldn't ye be
goin' with me, Donald? They'd be glad to see ye."

"Ay, Katie," answered Donald; "that will I, and be glad to be out of
this." And as soon as the boat was safely moored, he gave his orders to
his mate for the day, and leaping down joined the glad Katie; and before
the picnickers had even missed them they were well out of sight, walking
away briskly over the brown fields.

Katie was full of happiness. As she glanced up into Donald's face she
found it handsomer and kinder than she had seen it, she thought, for
many years.

"It was for this I came, Donald," she said merrily. "When I heard the
dance was to be in the Spruce Grove I made up my mind to come and
surprise the folks. It's nigh six months since I've been home."

"Pity ye ever left it, my girl," said Donald, gravely. "The home's the
place for women." But he said it in a pleasant tone, and his eyes rested
affectionately on Katie's face.

"Eh, but ye're bonny to-day, Katie; do ye know it?" he continued, his
glance lingering on her fresh color and her smiling face. In his heart
he was saying: "An' what is it makes her so young-looking to-day? It was
an old face she had on the last time I saw her."

Happiness, Donald, happiness! Even those few minutes of it had worked
the change.

Encouraged by this praise, Katie said, pointing to the flowers in her
bonnet, "It's the heather ye're meanin', maybe, Donald, an' not me?"

"An' it's not," he replied earnestly, almost angrily, with a scornful
glance at the flowers. "Ye'll not be callin' that heather. Did ye never
see true heather, Katie? It's no more like the stalks ye've on yer head
than a barrow's like my boat yonder."

Which was not true: the flowers were of the very best ever imported into
Charlottetown, and were a better representation of heather than most
artificial flowers are of the blossoms whose names they bear. Donald was
not a judge; and if he had been, it was a cruel thing to say. Katie's
eyes drooped: she had made a serious sacrifice in putting so dear a
bunch of flowers on her bonnet, - a bunch that she had, in her own mind,
been sure Lady Gownas, of Gownas House, would buy for her summer bonnet.
She had made this sacrifice purely to please Donald, and this was what
had come of it. Poor Katie! However, nothing could trouble her long
to-day, with Donald by her side in the sunny, bright fields; and she
would have him to herself till four in the afternoon.

As they drew near the farm-house a strange sound fell on their ears; it
was as if a million of beehives were in full blast of buzzing in the
air. At the same second both Donald and Katie paused, listening. "What
can that be, now?" exclaimed Donald. Before the words had left his lips,
Katie cried, "It's a bee! - Elspie's spinning-bee."

The spinning-bees are great fêtes among the industrious maidens of
Prince Edward Island. After the spring shearings are over, the wool
washed and carded and made into rolls, there begin to circulate
invitations to spinning-bees at the different farm-houses. Each girl
carries her spinning-wheel on her shoulder. By eight o'clock in the
morning all are gathered and at work: some of them have walked ten miles
or more, and barefoot too, their shoes slung over the shoulder with the
wheel. Once arrived, they waste no time. The rolls of wool are piled
high in the corners of the rooms, and it is the ambition of each one to
spin all she can before dark. At ten o'clock cakes and lemonade are
served; at twelve, the dinner, - thick soup, roast meat, vegetables,
coffee and tea, and a pudding. All are seated at a long table, and the
hostesses serve; at six o'clock comes supper, and then the day's work is
done; after that a little chat or a ramble over the farm, and at eight
o'clock all are off for home. No young men, no games, no dances; yet the
girls look forward to the bees as their greatest spring pleasures, and
no one grudges the time or the strength they take.

It was, indeed, a big bee that Elspie McCloud was having this June
morning. Twenty young girls, all in long white aprons, were spinning
away as if on a wager when Donald and Katie appeared at the door. The
door opened directly into the large room where they were. Katie went
first, Donald hanging back behind. "I think I'll not go in," he was
shamefacedly saying, and halting on the step, when above all the
wheel-whirring and yarn-singing came a glad cry, -

"Why, there's Katie - Katie McCloud! and Donald Mackintosh! For pity's
sake!" (the Prince Edward Islander's strongest ejaculation.) "Come in!
come in!" And in a second more a vision, it seemed to the dazed
Donald, - but it was not a vision at all, only a buxom young girl in a
blue homespun gown, - had seized him with one hand and Katie with the
other, and drawn them both into the room, into the general whir and
_mêlée_ of wheels, merry faces, and still merrier voices.

It was Elspie, Katie's youngest sister, - Katie's special charge and care
when she was a baby, and now her special pet. The greatest desire of
Katie's heart was to have Elspie with her in Charlottetown, but the
father and mother would not consent.

Donald stood like a man in a dream. He did not know it; but from the
moment his eyes first fell on Elspie's face they had followed it as iron
follows the magnet. Were there ever such sweet gray eyes in the world?
and such a pink and white skin? and hair yellow as gold? And what, oh,
what did she wear tucked in at the belt of her white apron but a sprig
of heather! Pink heather, - true, genuine, actual pink heather, such as
Donald had not seen for many a year. No wonder the eyes of the captain
of the "Heather Bell" followed that spray of pink heather wherever it
went flitting about from place to place, never long in one, - for it was
now time for dinner, and Donald and the old people were soon seated at a
small table by themselves, not to embarrass the young girls, and Elspie
and Katie together served the dinner; and though Elspie never once came
to the small table, yet did Donald see every motion she made and hear
every note of her lark's voice. He did not mistake what had happened to
him. Middle-aged, inexperienced, sober-souled man as he was, he knew
that at last he had got a wound, - a life wound, if it were not
healed, - and the consciousness of it struck him more and more dumb, till
his presence was like a damper on the festivities; so much so, that when
at three in the afternoon he and Katie took their departure, the door
had no more than closed on them before Elspie exclaimed pettishly: "An'
indeed I wish Katie'd left Cousin Donald behind. I don't know what it is
she thinks so much of him for. She's always sayin' there's none like
him; an' it's lucky it's true. The great glowerin' steeple o' a man,
with no word in his mouth!" And the young maidens all agreed with her.
It was a strange thing for a man to come and go like that, with nothing
to say for himself, they said, and he so handsome too.

"Handsome!" cried Elspie; "is it handsome, - the face all a spatter with
the color of the hair? He's nice eyes of his own, but his skin's
deesgustin'." Which speech, if Donald had overheard it, would have
caused that there should never have been this story to tell. But luckily
Donald did not. All that he bore away from the McCloud farm-house that
June morning was a picture of a face and flitting figure, and the sound
in his ears of a voice, - a picture and a sound which he was destined to
see and hear all his life.

He scarcely spoke on his way back to the boat, and Katie perplexed
herself vainly trying to account for his silence. It must be, she
thought, that he had been vexed by the sight of so many girls and the
sound of their idle chatter. He would have liked it better if nobody but
the family had been at home. What a shame for a man to live alone as he
did, and get into such unsocial ways! He grew more and more averse to
society each year. Now, if he were only married, and had a bright home,
where people came and went, with a bit of a tea now and then, how good
it would be for him, - take the stiffness out of his ways, and make him
more as he used to be fifteen, or even ten years ago! And so the good
Katie went on in her placid mind, trotting along silently by his side,
waiting for him to speak.

"Where did she get the heather?"

"What!" exclaimed Katie. The irrelevant question sounded like the speech
of one talking in his sleep. "Oh," she continued, "ye mean Elspie!"

"Ay," said Donald. "She'd a bit of heather in her belt, - the true
heather, not sticks like yon," pointing a contemptuous finger toward
Katie's bonnet. "Where did she get it?"

"Mother's always the heather growing in the house," answered Katie. "She
says she's homesick unless she sees it. It was grandmother brought it
over in the first, and it's never been let die out."

"My mother the same," said Donald. "It's the first blossom I remember,
an' I'm thinking it will be the last," he continued, gazing at Katie
absently; but his face did not look as if it were absently he gazed.
There was a glow on his cheeks, and an intense expression in his eyes
which Katie had never seen there. They warmed her heart.

"Yes," she said, "one can never forget what one has loved in the youth."

"True, Katie, true. There's nothing like one's own and earliest,"
replied Donald, full of his new and thrilling emotion; and as he said it
he reached out his hand and took hold of Katie's, as if they were boy


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