Jeanette Garr Washburn Kelsey.

A diverted inheritance online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryJeanette Garr Washburn KelseyA diverted inheritance → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


929.2 I


1994666 ^-

■ ••■■■mCAL


3 1833 01329 3995

S-< '

A Diverted Inheritance



Printed for Private Circulation
April, 1904

Copyright 1904
Jeannette G. W. Kelsey

Press of

Bdw. Stem & Co., Inc.


















THE month of June in the north of Scotland. The year 1775.
In Olrig Parish Church a little company had assembled
for the baptism of the minister's child. It was the grandmother
who held the baby, the father standing near, while at either
side were the witnesses.

The name was given, the blessing pronounced and the party
retired to the vestry, where the child was entered in the Regis-
ter as

"James, lawful son of the Rev'd Alex. Smith, minister of the
Parish, and Elizabeth Sinclair, his spouse, born 23d June, 1775,
and baptized by Rev'd Alex. Brodie, minister at Denino Fife.

" The witnesses, Mr. James Sinclair (son to Lord Caithness)
and Miss Murray of Castle Hill."

" You must come back to the manse to drink the child's
health," said Dr. Smith, and the party crossed the street to where
the small grey stone house stood in its modest garden. The walls
were overgrown with ivy, and a few early roses showed color in
their opening buds, while the narrow path that led from the gate
to the doorway had trim beds either side, in which were a few
hardy plants, which as yet showed small sign of blossoming.

Everyone went into the little parlor, where, in the open fire-
place, was a cheery blaze ; for, in spite of its being the month of
June, the weather was still cool in that part of the country. On
the table, old Grizzel, the maid-of-all-work, had set forth the
christening cake, of which she was reasonably proud ; and there
was a decanter filled with port from the Castle cellars, besides
Scotch whiskey, and glasses clustered about.

The grandmother went above stairs to see the child's mother,
who was not as strong as could be wished, and she carried the
baby with her.

" Sit down till mother comes back," said the minister. " She
is feeling anxious, but I hardly think there is cause. Yet," he
added, half apologetically, " it is the first grandchild, and, while
it brings joy, it is natural that there should also be anxiety.


Come near tlie fire, Dr. Brodie; it was chilly in the church, and we
must not have you taking cold as the result of your good offices."

" Mary, my lass," he added, turning to the fresh-faced, gentle-
looking girl, who stood in a sort of embarrassed silence beside the
fire, " do not stand," and, drawing a chair towards the fender, he
gently put his hand on her shoulder, urging her to be seated,
while, turning to Mr. Sinclair, he said :

" It is a great kindness you have done us to-day, Mr. Sinclair,
and an honor that we shall not forget."

" It has been a pleasure to me," Mr. Sinclair answered. " I am
only too glad that I could do so small a service in token of the
gratitude I owe to you and yours. I cannot remember the time
when you have not been here;" he continued, "the kindest of
counselors and friends."

" Thank you, Jamie," answered the minister. " I feel that I
may still call you by the familiar name. I have watched you
grow from infancy to manhood, and it has always been a bright
day for the manse when you have entered its doors."

*' The days when I have been here have been happy ones
indeed," Mr. Sinclair replied, " and now that I am to leave home
and hardly likely to see the place again for a long time, the hours
that I have spent here seem even happier in retrospect."

The girl in the chair by the fireside turned pale as he spoke;
she shaded her face with her hand as if to keep off the heat; her
heart beat quickly as she heard him say " Now that I am going
away," and yet she knew that it was foolishness — the little
romance she was cherishing. She had seen the Hon. James
Sinclair many times — at church, or riding along the hillside from
Thurso to Castletown. He had nodded to her — once he had even
got off his horse, and walked beside her for nearly a mile, when
he was passing on the road to the Castle ; and now he had stood
with her as one of the witnesses to the baptism of the minister's
child. Of course, she knew there was nothing to come from it —
nothing could come from it. He was the son, albeit the younger
son, of a noble family, and she the friend of the minister's wife,
the daughter of humble parents. Oh ! she knew, and yet her

heart would beat faster and he was going

away .


There was the sound of footsteps, and Mrs. Smith came in,
looking very contented. " I have left the child with Eliza-
beth," she said. " She seems to feel stronger, she sends you her
regards, Dr. Brodie, and you, Mr. Sinclair, she thanks for your
kindness in standing witness for the child, and she — we all —
wish that you may some time be as happy as we are this day."

Mary Murray and Dr. Brodie had both risen as Mrs. Smith
came into the room.

" We thank Mary Murray also," she continued, " she at least
will be near us hereafter, as she has been before."

And Mary, smiling and blushing, returned, " Indeed I hope
so, Mrs. Smith. I could never be happy away from Castlehill."

The minister went to the table, and beckoning Grizzel to
come forward, poured wine into the glasses, reserving one, how-
ever, as he said, " Dr. Brodie, you, I know, prefer the whiskey."

" You are right, sir. Port is very good in its way, but
ever since I tasted the whiskey brought to Auchencairn by old
John McDougall from the Isle of Man — you remember the time,
when you and I were tramping through Gallowayshire so many
years ago — I have felt that that was the only drink for a strong

" I remember McDougall's whiskey," the parson returned,
" and though this has not the merit of having been smuggled to
the Isle of Man by moonshiners, like that bought of them by our
old acquaintance, I think you will find it above the average."

"Grizzel, hand the glasses," he added, and Mrs. Smith, cut-
ting the cake, offered it to every one, saying, " Grizzel made it
from the receipt she got long ago from the Castle — from Mrs.
Graham. It has been used at christenings for many a long year
— indeed, Mr. Sinclair, it was from the same receipt that the cake
was made for your own christening, I am told."

Grizzel, who stood looking on smilingly, as was her wont
when spoken of and praised, was even more pleased when the
minister said :

" And you, too, Grizzel, must join us in drinking health and
long life to the child up-stairs." She curtsied, and all drank to-
gether, each eating a generous slice of cake, which everyone
praised, Mr. Sinclair even assuring Grizzel that he should have


recognized it anywhere as being the very double of that eaten
in his honor many years before.

" It is getting late, Dr. Smith. I am sorry to leave so soon,
but it is a longish walk to Ratter and I thought I would take
it on foot today. I shall hope to see you again before leaving
for Aberdeen, but in case I do not "

" Oh, don't speak of such a possibility," put in Mrs. Smith.

" Well, let us hope I shall see you again ; yet, in case I do
not, I must wish all good luck and happiness to those from whom
I am parting this afternoon."

"And a speedy and joyous return, Jamie," Mr. Smith added
as, having shaken hands with all in the room, including Grizzel,
and sending his remembrances to Mrs. Smith, James Sinclair left
the hospitable manse and turned his footsteps in the direction of

As he came out of the street leading from the manse into the
path which stretched away over the hills, he saw the figure of a
man standing in the shadow of a building, and recognizing in
the broad shoulders and cropped hair, one of the village lads
whom he had known since childhood, he called out, " Good day,

A surly, gruff voice answered, " Good day, sir," and as Mr.
Sinclair passed on, he said to himself, " What an ill-natured fellow
Sandy McBride has grown. I wonder what's come over him ; he
used to be pleasant enough; perhaps it's too much Scotch
whiskey. This bleak climate of ours works the mischief not
only with the men but the masters, and it's no wonder the poor
people take to drink, leading the hard lives they do."

Sandy McBride stood looking after James Sinclair, who little
guessed, as he strode away, the cause of the former's attitude.
Clenching his fists and pushing them deep into the pockets of

his frieze jacket, he muttered, "Curse you , it's you that are

at the bottom of it all. Mary Murray was kind enough till you
came back from Edinburgh with your fine airs, and began talk-
ing to her ; since then she's had no eyes for the likes o' me, a lad
she's known all her life and who'd be willing to die for her. Now
they've both been witnesses at the baptism of the minister's child
it will turn Mary's head altogether. Oh ! Curse the day you


came back to cas*t a blight over everything ! But the time will
come" — he added fiercely — " some day I'll have my revenge. It
may be I'll have to wait, but it will surely come, and then look
out, Mr. Sinclair. You don't know w^hat it means to have made
an enemy of Sandy McBride."

Quite unconscious of the volcano that was smouldering in
the mind of his enemy, James Sinclair continued on his way.
There were several miles to be covered before he could reach the
castle, and he went over the familiar paths, walking rapidly,
looking from side to side at every object that came within his
range of vision, his thoughts hovering about the dim future
towards which inevitable fate was leading him.

When he reached the top of a hill from which he could com-
mand an extensive view of the surrounding country, he threw
himself down among the heather and gorse, and sat for half an
hour in deep thought. He could see the river with its low-lying
banks as it w^ouud towards the bay, and was lost in the waters
which, at a distance, mingled with the sea. There were no trees
in this barren country — ^just miles of uncultivated land, rocks
and rough crags ; and near the sea, its foundations rising at
hardly more than a stone's throw from the water's edge, the
walls of the Castle stood, its ivy-mantled gables and turrets
outlined against the sky. The south front, with its many high,
narrow windows, overlooked a formal garden, sunk below the
terrace, which came close to the foundations, and there were
graveled walks and glossy-leaved, closely-trimmed hedges. A
fountain sent up a little jet of water that fell back into a moss-
grown basin and was reflected in the tiny pond which surrounded
it, and the marble urns, which were set at equal distance on either
side of the broad walk, would soon be filled with bright flowers.
The ofiices, built at different levels, added to the picturesque
efi'ect of this grim-looking edifice, which stood by itself in lonely
and rather forbidding grandeur, near the end of the curved
shingly beach, doiiiinating a few low grey-stone cottages.

The village itself consisted of a group of rather insignificant
houses — some of them in walled gardens, where an occasional
stunted tree was cherished with fostering care.

How well James Sinclair knew every inch of the Castle, from


the top of the square battlemented tower, to the lowest and darkest
corner of its foundations, and now that he was to leave it, and go,
he knew not whither, he sat and gazed as if trying to engrave
every stone upon his memory. He wished to carry away with
him an indelible picture of the abode of his father, William of
Rattar, who had received the title of tenth Earl of Caithness in
1772, when the claim of David Sinclair, of Broynach, was pro-
nounced invalid.

He thought over all the events of his past life. A younger
son, his welcome into the world had not been of the warmest,
except by his mother, to whom he had always been especially
dear. She was no longer a young woman when he was born, and
she had taken from the first to this child with passionate affection.
When he had been overlooked and subordinated by his father and
brothers, she had held out her arms to him, and would have
shielded him from every chilling glance, from every trial or
trouble. Could only her heart have chosen for him the path
which he was to tread, there would have been no thorns to tear
his feet, no rough stones to cause him to stumble. By his father
he was regarded as an additional responsibility, and, though he
did his duty by him, he had small affection for him.

The Earl was a hard man, inheriting the irascible temper
of generations of men from whom he was descended. A stern
Presbyterian, he believed in the strictest practice of orthodoxy ;
and the Scotch Sabbath had always been a day dreaded by his
children, while the daily morning and evening prayers were
only less of a weight upon their youthful minds.

At the time when this story opens, William, his father's
namesake, and John, the second son, were both in America,
whither they had gone when the call came for troops to cross the
ocean to the Colonies, which were becoming insubordinate to
the rule of King George. Both the elder sons of the Earl of
Caithness held the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. His daughters,
Janet and Isabella, were in Edinburgh, where they preferred to
pass most of their time, though Janet was inclined to make fre-
quent visits to Rattar for reasons of her own. The Earl was
growing old, and ere long the title would pass to the eldest son.

The pittance likely to fall to James would be so small


as to be insignificant, and now, with strong bodily health
and indomitable will power, with ambition to make his way
in the world, regardless of the assistance which his family
could give, he renewed his determination to carve out a future
for himself in which he should be dependent upon no man, and
he cherished a sanguine and earnest belief that in his career he
should be successful.

His one regret in leaving the land of his birth was the part-
ing with his mother, to whom he realized the separation would
be a bitter grief; but he said to himself: "Now is the time, if
ever, for me to make the plunge, and when the parting is over
she will accustom herself to the inevitable. Poor mother ; I hate
to leave her, but there is really no alternative."

He rose from the ground and stood for a few minutes looking
intently at the scene spread before him, then, with hurrying foot-
steps, for it was getting late, he walked in the direction of the

When he arrived at the entrance and lifted the great iron
knocker, it had scarcely time to fall before the door was opened
by the old butler, who had been in the Earl's employ ever since
James could remember. By this time twilight had fallen, and a
wind was blowing, promising a heavy northeast storm.

" You are late, Mr. James," Eric said, as he helped him to
remove his plaid and took the bonnet which was handed him.

" Yes, Eric, I walked back from Olrig by the longest way. I
have been standing witness to the baptism of Dr. Smith's child,
and the good Doctor would have me go back to the manse to
drink its health in some of the Castle port, and also," he added,
kindly, " to eat a slice of the christening cake which Mrs. Smith
told me was made from Alice's receipt, and was the same from
which the cake for my own christening was made so long ago."

Eric's face beamed with pleasure. The housekeeper at the
Castle was his wife, and they both felt the interest in the master's
family of privileged old servants.

" Alice will be glad to hear about it, Mr. James," he said.
" I remember many a cake made from that same receipt myself,
and I think not a better can be found in the length and breadth
of Scotland, or even in the whole United Kingdom."


" This certainly was a famous cake, Eric, every one agreed
as to that." Then, turning towards the great staircase, he saw a
lady slowly descending.

She was dressed in black velvet; the long train which lay
about her feet gave additional height to the tall, slender figure;
old lace ruffles fell down over her hands, on which sparkled sev-
eral handsome rings, and on her head was a cap of the same filmy
lace. As she came down the stairs holding on to the carved bal-
ustrade with one hand, and carrying a lighted candle in the
other, her stately figure was outlined against the old oaken pan-
eling of the hall, and here and there from tarnished gilt frames,
looked down upon her the portraits of men and women who had
inhabited the Castle for many generations, some painted by artists
who had come to be regarded as men of genius, some by hands
less skillful, but all valued as heirlooms and possessions to be
jealously guarded from generation to generation.

As James Sinclair went forward his face lighted up, as it
always did when in the presence of his mother, and Lady Caith-
ness, who had now reached the ground, put out one hand, which
her son took in his own as he bent down and kissed her.

They were wonderfully alike, mother and son ; both had
broad high foreheads and clear blue eyes, which looked out fear-
lessly under long silken lashes. The same light hair which
curled above the temples of James, on his mother's head was
parted and drawn down towards the ears, showing wavy lines,
which were now mixed with grey. There was the same manner
of turning the head, the dimple in the chin, and even more strik-
ing than all these was the shape of the hands of both, which
were small and aristocratic and strong, with a grasp that made
one feel that the owners were fearless and true as steel.

" It is nearly time for supper, my son," Lady Caithness said ;
" you are late to-night."

" Yes, mother, I have been at Olrig. I will tell you about
it later, for I see there is barely time to dress. Will you go to
the drawing-room, or will you wait here? Eric has a famous
fire, and it looks cheerful after coming in from outside."

" I will wait for you here, Jamie," Lady Caithness answered,
smiling, while her son drew towards the fire a carved high-backed


chair, covered with faded tapestry, and seeing his mother com-
fortably seated, hurried away to his own room on the third floor
of the Castle, which looked toward the river.

The staircase in the large square hall, rath its high win-
dows overlooking the garden, had on each stofy a landing in
the tower, under the windows of which were carved seats covered
with old brocaded stuffs. Jamie had delighted as a child, to curl
himself up on the cushions and let his eyes wander out upon the
gardens through the small heavy panes of glass, or standing on
the landing to gaze down into the hall, with its carved chests and
massive tables, the suits of armor and the two curious cabinets,
whose doors were always closed, and in whose depths he fancied
hidden endless treasures.

As he went up the stairs this evening, he turned on the first
landing and looked once more down into the hall. There were
candles lighted on a small table beside the chair on which his
mother sat ; except for their light and that thrown from the fire,
the hall was in deep shadow, so that the picture which James
Sinclair carried away in his memory, was of the graceful figure
of his mother seated in her arm-chair, her head raised, and her
eyes lifted towards the gallery where her son stood smiling down
upon her. When he passed out of sight she sighed, a sensation of
dread coming over her, as it sometimes had in the last year, and
making her shiver and draw near the fire; but she was not
accustomed to give way to feelings of this kind, and her habit
of self-control was too strong to be overcome by a momentary
fancy ; so that when the old Earl joined her a few minutes later,
she was prepared to greet him with her usual serenity.

" What's Jamie been doing that he should be roaming the
country at this hour instead of getting back at the proper time
for supper ? " he asked, querulously.^^. f |i fi^MA

" Oh, he is already back," Lady S*»efe4r answered. " He
has been to Olrig, but he is dressing and will be down almost
immediately ; he has not yet told me of the christening, at which,
I believe, he was witness, but he will give us all the news at

" Oh, no doubt, no doubt," answered the Earl ; " but it's quite
time he found other employment than being witness at christen-


ings. That'll never help him fill a hungry mouth or pay for a
place to lay his head, and that's what he's got to be thinking of
now. He's had his time for eating the bread of idleness; now
he must shi£t fag^im^elf/^

Lady iBtneluir^^yiicd pale as her husband spoke, but
she knew that remonstrance would be in vain, so she only said
in her usual gentle voice, " You know he is going in only a few

" The sooner the better, the sooner the better," and taking a
letter from his pocket, he added, " Here's the letter from the man
at Aberdeen, who will be ready to receive him at any time,
and find out if there's anything in him, anything out of which a
man can be made,"

Just then James came hurrying down the stairs, and old
Eric appeared at the door of the dining-room and announced
that supper was served.

With barely a nod of recognition to his son. Lord Caithness
turned to go towards the dining-room, while James, offering his
arm to his mother, led her to her place at the father end of the

The large room had a long, wide table extending nearly its
entire length, but this was quite bare. In the alcove at one side
of the room, whose broad window looked out towards the water,
a smaller table was laid with covers for three. A well-worn,
carefully darned tablecloth of finest damask hung nearly to the
floor, and the few pieces of old family silver bearing the arms of
Caithness were brilliantly polished.

Eric stood till the family were seated and the Earl had pro-
nounced the long grace, then, as the supper was served, Lord
Caithness asked his son about his afternoon at Olrig.

James ai:^ptered his^ather respectfully, gave an account of
the christening and of the return to the manse, and then told of
his walk back and his pleasure in looking over the view to be
seen from the distant hills.

" You may as well remember it," his father said ; " it's not
often you'll see it hereafter ; there'll be no time for you to waste
looking at views. A younger son's business is to find a way of
gaining a livelihood, and the sooner he sets about it the better."


" You are right, father," James answered, and the supper
being finished, Lord Caithness bowed his head to give thanks.
After a few moments, when only the droning sound of his voice
was heard, every one returned to the hall. But it was not a very
happy party that sat before the fire, and when at last the servants
were summoned to prayers, and the prayers, like all earthly
things, had come to an end, they separated to go to their several
rooms — to sleep, to think of the past, or to dream of days to come.



James Sinclair went to his room and closed the door. This
room liad been his own particular den ever since he could re-
member, and here were collected all his own particular belong-
ings — his books, his guns and fishing rods— all the personal
paraphernalia that a young man gathers about him; and in this
corner of the Castle he felt himself absolute dictator.

It was in the northeast corner of the building, and from its
windows could be seen Pentland Frith, which surged about the
shores of Orkney H03' Island, whose precipitous seagirt moun-
tain seemed to have been placed where the waves could dash and
break at will against its feet. A few miles away was Dunnet
Head, that most northerly point in Scotland, with its stretch of
red sandstone reaching out into the Atlantic; and yonder, across
the river, whose steep banks rose from the water's edge, the vil-
lage of Thurso had for a background the far-away bordering

A little fire burned on the hearthstone, and the curtains

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryJeanette Garr Washburn KelseyA diverted inheritance → online text (page 1 of 10)