A Servant Woman.
IT was the sunset
hour of a wild, windy autumn day. The city smoke rose up
glorified by the golden light in the west behind it, which slept
along the green hills by the river side, and faded into a soft
grayness upon the eastern sea, only here and there still lingering
with a touch of brightness on tall foundry chimney or flag-decked
mast. When one looked down from the glow of the sky, the
quaint old streets seemed bathed in cool violet shadows, which
brought out strongly whatever was picturesque and suggestive in
gable and tower, and such were not wanting in any of the older parts
of that city by the sea, whether in the tall dark byways that
clustered together behind the harbour, or in the long highway that
skirted the wild beach and had an historic and scholastic reputation
of its own.
In the eastern quarter of the town an elderly woman stood
watching at the door of a long, low-roofed cottage, which, with its
quaint leafy garden, made such a sudden and pretty home-picture
among the surrounding dreary walls of factory and foundry, that it
won the notice and approving word of nearly every passer-by.
Clearly she was but a servant in that household, and a servant of
the old-world type which disdains any disguise of service.
There was no compromise in her short, dark woollen skirt, the gray
shawl neatly pinned across her breast, or the snowy cap of thick
white muslin. But the fact was, these were no badges of
servitude in the eyes of Barbara Craig. Her mother and her
grandmother had worn the like, and probably had she been a
prosperous married woman, instead of an elderly spinster earning her
own daily bread, she would have done the same.
Barbara Craig was one of that species of women which we are
always inclined to fear will die out of the world. They are
generally spoken of as "old-fashioned folk," but we suspect that in
reality they were never much in the fashion. Barby was the
daughter of a family which for generations had scraped a hard living
from a few sterile fields near the source of the Dee.
Character and wisdom had grown there better than crops and fortune.
In her youth, Barby had done the roughest work on her father's
croft, faring and toiling as hardly as any of the tramps whom her
people were sometimes fain to hire for "a day's darg." Yet
Barby's inner life had been lived in a world as high and pure as any
possible to the highest lady in the land—a world whose atmosphere
was made of the devotion of David's Psalms, the heroism of the
"Scots Worthies," and the romance of antique ballads. She was
not ignorant of the evil around her,—of the coarse frivolity and
base sin of feeing-market and bothy; but from her youth up, Barby
Craig had been clothed in that armour of light which keeps evil
things away by revealing their true nature and tendency.
Without calculation, one might almost say without reflection,
she had given up her youth and early womanhood for others. Her
father's death had left her the sole prop of the old home.
Before that time, one brother, bright and strong, had been laid in
his grave among the graves of his forbears, in the ancient
burial-place surrounding the ruined chapel. Her only sister
was married and widowed, and lived with her boy in a
poverty-stricken northern town, having, as Barby put it, "to fight
sair for her ain hand."
There was nobody to stand beside Barby, as she toiled on,
pouring out her strength and skill to keep the old roof over the
heads of her agèd mother, and her remaining brother, a cripple.
Barby knew that the battle she was fighting with life was a losing
one. She was but holding out the siege till relief came, and
she knew the only reliever would be death. Her one prayer was
that the little garrison might keep together at its stand against
ruin and exile till she alone remained to confront defeat.
Even that prayer was not fully granted. The sick brother died
before the day of utter failure, but the old mother lived to know
that the ruinous steading and sterile acres, to which she clung with
the passionate love of a Highland woman, were to pass into other
"Whiles I think it killed her," Barby would say in after
years. "Weel, we must a' dee o' something. An' she'd
wearied sair to gang to my father for mony a lang day, though she'd
aye seemed to be turned back wi' her clinging to the place he'd
worked and warstled for. I mind her last words: 'Oor lass has
done mair than maist folk's lads.' 'Oh think o' ither things,
mither,' said I; 'dinna think o' me.' 'I'm just lovin' ye,
bairn,' she said. 'God kens I canna do better than that.'
An' sae she deed; and I aiblins thocht I'd dee too, for it seemed no
possible to live in any ither place. But we dinna ken what's
possible till we ha' to do it; and when oor hame is a' in heaven,
onywhere under the blue lift seems hamely, and ane honest wark is as
gude as anither to wile awa' the biding time."
And so, when her mother died, Barbara Craig, at forty years
of age, without a pound in her purse, and with a very meagre store
of clothing in her "kist," hired herself as servant to the Farquhar
They had rented a farm near Barby's paternal croft, and when
her master, Mr. James Farquhar, had been "the lad Jamie," he and
Barby had attended the parish school together. She had gone
with bare head and foot, while he had been comfortably clad; and she
had been called off to "the herdin'" when he passed on to the town
grammar school. But she had been the sharper scholar of the
two; and James Farquhar had remembered that on the day when the
gaunt, strong-faced woman stood before him and professed her
willingness to wash and scrub and cook for a servant's simple wage.
Since the time when James Farquhar had left the old farm for
the city grammar school, he had never returned except for fleeting
visits. His home had been in the town. There he had
married. There he had buried his young wife, under the old
steeple, which, in the heart of the city, guarded the city dead.
It was for the keeping of his widowed home that Barby was hired.
But it was to do servant's work at servant's wage and fare.
James Farquhar knew his old neighbour well enough to realize that he
had secured a leal heart and busy hands. But he presently
found he had gained something not in the bond, and not to be bought
with any price,—a sterling and wise friend and adviser for himself,
and a tender and patient guardian for his motherless children.
Mr. Farquhar's official duties lay about the harbour and the
docks, and his snug little house hard by seemed a palace to Barby,
accustomed all her life to uneven earth floors and reeking peat
fires. The simple kitchen held comforts and conveniences far
beyond those of the "ben end" of her dear old home. It is hard
to believe how heavily the china closet and the linen press and the
"polished furniture" lay on Barby's mind during the first days of
her new responsibilities, and how anxiously she inquired of Mr.
Farquhar whether he thought she was "doing justice" to his
possessions. His assurances of satisfaction were not
reassuring to Barby, but threw her back upon still severer
self-criticism, since, in her opinion, "men folk would aye say
things would do, and would do, till they fall to bits, and then it
comes out they'd thought they should last for ever."
Mr. Farquhar soon found that he could give undistracted
attention to his office work, assured that the reins of household
discipline were in hands which would not unwisely relax. Barby
stretched herself beyond the scant borders of her own experience for
the benefit of "the bairns." She watched the ways and apparel
of the "minister's dochters," that she might have a fitting standard
for the manners and appearance of her "wee Miss Margery;" and she
had a wonderfully true instinct to discriminate between the
essential and the accidental—that fine line which divides noble
following of example from servile imitation. She kept "the
lads" up to diligence in studies whose very names she did not
understand; and they had a standing joke—how far it was exaggeration
it was hard to say—that one fine holiday morning she had exhorted
them to "take their wee bit hammers and gang to the bonnie rocks o'
Muchalls and chop awa' at their logic."
And when the young people had wanted books, or extra classes
or materials, they always found an aid and an abetter in Barby, the
woman who had never been able to buy ten books for herself in her
whole life. Mr. Farquhar sometimes demurred a little over such
things. His income was not large, and he had the future to
remember, and knew, perhaps better than Barby, that hankering after
the appliances of knowledge is not necessarily zeal for knowledge
itself. But Barby generally won the day.
"It's a gude way o' wastrie," she would plead, "even if there
be a bit wastrie. There maun be aff-fain's frae ilka table;
better that dogs get them than that they go to the midden. And
folks canna put money safer than into theirselves. If that
bank break, its customer breaks wi' it. Your head and your
hands are the last things ye can lose in this losing warld.
There was a wife ance that went hungry to bed to save her supper for
her breakfast, and she was deid before morning."
But of late there had been many consultations in the Farquhar
family, for a crisis in its history had come, as it always comes to
households when the young people are fast growing up. Margery
Farquhar was now twenty. The youngest boy was sixteen, and
ought to be leaving school; and his brother Robert had already
served two years in a chemist's shop, as an employment useful and
profitable in itself, and also leading up to and practically testing
his fitness for the great ambition of his boyhood, the medical
profession. Mr. Farquhar's modest income had sufficed for the
family hitherto. The question was, could it in any way be made
to suffice for three or four years longer, with such extra charges
as college fees and expenses laid upon it in lieu of the less costly
"schooling"? Mr. Farquhar's small savings were not very well
invested. He had a slight interest in the old family farm,
which his brother, the present tenant, was willing to pay off; and
he owned two or three old cottages, which needed such constant
repair that no landlord but a mason was likely to make much profit
by them. Mr. Farquhar thought himself rather fortunate when,
on inquiry and investigation, he found that these dubious pieces of
property would bring him in five hundred pounds.
He talked the matter over with his children, and he talked it
over also with Barby. She was but his maidservant, and during
the consultation she was busy, with turned-up sleeves, washing the
parlour ornaments in a bowl of steaming water. Barby was never
reluctant to have her "say" on money matters. She had had
costly experiences on that line. "I ken whaur siller is best
saved," she would say, "by glowerin' for years at the hole whaur
ours rin awa'. Neist to him that wins, him that loses is aye
"The money would carry on the boys, doling it out for their
expenses, till they were able to do something for themselves," mused
Mr. Farquhar. "But then it would be gone, and what share would
remain for poor Margery? True, she may marry. I should
think Margery is sure to marry. She is good and she is bonnie.
I would not die easy if I was called before Margery gets married."
Barby gave a sniff. "Ye think unco weel o' the warld,
sir," she said, "gin ye think it's the gude lasses it rins after;
and unco ill o' the warld, gin ye think it's such a dreidfu' place
for an auld maid to bide in!"—
"I hope I could always trust the boys to look after Margery
in any case," observed the father.
"Ay; but perhaps Miss Margery'd rather need no luikin'
after," retorted Barby. "Perhaps she'd rather ha' something o'
her ain to gie than be aye tak—taking. Dinna mak' the lads
like the ruck o' men. They tak' a woman's ain, and gie it her
back for pity's sake."
"Whatever I have, I should like each to share and share,"
said Mr. Farquhar; "and yet one third of five hundred pounds would
not be much good to anybody. What I should like to manage is,
that the boys should get so much good out of the money while we are
all together, that they would feel it quite fair to leave the
capital to Margery when the parting day comes, as it comes to all.
But I do not see how this can be managed."
"Wadna it be weel to buy your ain hoose, sir?" suggested
Barby. "That wad be aye under your ain e'e; and if ever a
pinched year come, it's far easier to pu' thro' on a place o' your
ain, whaur ye can mak' a shift, and no be ca'ed on to paint or
plaster just at the wrang time. Ye could aye let, gin ye were
forced to move; and if ye had a wheen spare siller whiles, ye micht
build a bit hoosie on the far end o' the back garden, and tak' a
tenant wi'out bein' ony the waur yoursel'."
"That is not a bad idea," mused Mr. Farquhar. "The
saving of the rent would about pay the extra outgoings of Rab's
college; and I'll be working, and maybe saving a little, for years
to come. And Laurie's turn would follow after Rab's. And
there'd be a home for Margery to keep up for her brothers to come
to; and whatever she did for herself, she'd have a safe shelter
"Ay," said Barby, with something like a suppressed sigh "it's
owre muckle the way o' the warld to gar a woman do a' or naething.
It's seldom she gets a fair start like the loons. If a lass
doesna choose to be a gentle beggar, she has to be a giant Goliath
o' sense an' courage. And that isn't in a' o' us, no more than
in a' the men!"
"But should I do well to buy this house?" reflected Mr.
Farquhar. "I like it for old association's sake, and it is
very comfortable within. But its situation is out of the way,
and its approaches are very humble and rather dingy. Shouldn't
I do better to get a neat little villa in the west end?"
"Na," said Barby with emphasis. "D'ye want to buy a
housefu' o' new plenishing? It's ill pulling doun nests; the
wind and weather do that sune enough. Auld freends dinna ken
the road to a new hoose. Dinna open the door to Change till
it's chappin'. It's better to wish yoursel' awa' whiles than
aye to wish yoursel' back again. I'm no sayin' ye live cheaper
here than ye could in a braw place. Folks can live cheap whaur
they like; but it's easier liking it in some places than in ithers.
There's no sae mony frippery shops this gait, nor frippery wearers
either, for the distraction of Miss Margery. An' the lads
pairt frae their class freends wi'out haein' to pass a' the baited
traps whaur the ithers turn in and waste their siller and
theirselves. Tak' this hoose, if ye can get it, Mr. Farquhar.
An' as Mr. Fraser is laying land to land amang those new fashionable
terraces, aiblins he'll no mak' muckle ploy about selling it to
And it came to pass that, after due consideration, Mr.
Farquhar found every reason for following Barbara Craig's advice.
She was looking out for him, now, this autumn evening, to return
from Deeside after completing his sales there, and probably also
after completing his purchase in Mr. Fraser's office, where the
legal documents were lying waiting to be exchanged for the cash.
Robert Farquhar was away at his work in the chemist's shop; and
Margery and Laurie had gone out to take tea with some friends.
In her innermost heart, Barby had felt this as a want of respect for
the greatness of the occasion. To the young people these money
matters meant only "business;" to poor Barby's hard experiences they
were fraught with all the significance and solemnity of life.
The spirit of her own fruitless struggles stirred within her this
afternoon, and she felt possessed by a restless anxiety which drove
her out of her kitchen and her accustomed methodical ways. It
was not like Barby Craig to stand watching at a door, and when at
last her master appeared in sight, she drew back abashed.
"Well, Barby," he said cheerily, "for once it has been easier
to get money than to pay it away. For I got in all my cash on
Deeside this morning; and when I came back to Mr. Fraser's office
just now, he had gone away, and the place was all locked up.
There it is," he went on, laying a roll of notes on the parlour
table. "They look very like Margery's old curl-papers, don't
Barbara stood and gazed. She had never seen such a
large sum of money in her life before, and it awed her, not with a
miser's greed, but with a patient woman's thought of all the pain
and struggle, the very life and death, which might be involved in
its loss and gain. There had been a time when one of those
hundred pound notes might have been her earthly redemption from toil
and loneliness. They were nothing to her now—no more than to
an angel from heaven. They could do nothing for her. But
she gazed at them wistfully, as the glorified spirit of one who had
died of thirst might gaze at a crystal stream.
"Well," said Mr. Farquhar, dropping back in his old dropping
easy-chair, "it's a great thing to feel that the Lord has blessed
one and prospered one's ways, and given one to see of the works of
"Ay, sae it is, sir," answered Barby, rallying. "If so
as ye'd be able to say as weel that the Lord had blessed ye though
he had crossed ye in each o' your paths, and hadna left ye ane
bawbee o' a' your sair earnin's. He's ta'en the ane way
wi' the ane o' us, and the tither wi' the tane; but I'll no believe
He hasna blessed us baith alike, and I'll no give in that He cares
mair for you than for me, nor for me than for you!"
"Whisht, Barby," said her master. "You must not take me
up so ill. You needn't judge that I was thanking the Lord for
His goodness in the spirit of the self-satisfied Pharisee."
"I'm no takin' you up ill, if you're thankin' the Lord for
His goodness," returned Barby, with a strong emphasis on the last
word. "But if you're thankin' Him for the five hundred pounds
ye're makin' sae muckle aboot, ye micht as weel thank Him that ye
had nae pair relations to wear it oot on. Only that praise
micht nae sound sae seemly."
"It tak's a' sort o' climates to mak' up a warld," Barby went
on presently, as if she desired to apologize for the warmth with
which she had justified the ways of Providence with herself—"It
tak's a' sort o' climates to mak' up a warld, and what will not grow
in ane will grow in t'ither; and there's the blessèd sea between to
let them pass to and fro. It's weel for you to ha' been able
to save your bit siller; and it's been weel for me to hae an auld
mither and a lame brither to hand me back frae savin' mine.
An' sae ye've got wage to gie me, and I'm at your service. An'
that's the way God's warld fa's in, and rubs along and manages itsel'
a deal better than if you got a committee to organize it, as one is
always reading in the papers."
"Barby, Barby," said her master, "I believe you'd have been a
great woman if you'd got an education."
Barby gave an ominous grunt. "Na," she said; "I'd best
bide as I am. A bit rock wi' the bonnie heather on it catches
the eye whiles; but ye'd best leave it as 'tis, for ye'd never mak'
a corn-field or a flower-garden of it."
"But there are some people who are like neither bonnie
heather nor corn nor flower," said Mr. Farquhar musingly.
"That scapegrace Willie Fraser is back in Scotland again; for I saw
him hanging about outside his father's locked door, like the
prodigal son, only this father's door was locked. It was a sad
sight. It must be a perpetual thorn in the midst of Mr.
Fraser's own great success. And yet one's heart softened to
"Ay, because ye dinna love him," cried Barby. "There's
an awfu' wrath in downright love. God himsel' doesna save folk
in their sins, but frae their sins. There's a time for doors
to stand open, an' there's a time for doors to be steekit.
It's the only way to gar some folk ken that they're ootside.
If the prodigal son had come home once or twice, an' worn oot the
brave clothes an' ate the fatted calf, an' gone back to the swine,
maybe when at last he cam' home to stay, his father wicht have let
him work amang the hired servants, an' ta'en no notice o' him
whiles, an' garred him fear that he'd worn out his love as well as
his dainties. Love's a kittle thing, an' it's aboon a'."
"Ay, Barby, so it is. And there's truth in many of your
words," said the, kind-hearted man. "But when I saw the poor
lad, I could not help thinking of the days hen he used to come
playing about among the shipping, and asking what is this and what
is that; and I could not keep from putting my hand on his shoulder,
and saying a neighbourly word to him. That could do no harm."
"Ay, nor no gude either, it's likely," retorted Barby,
"except maybe to yoursel'. But one canna tell."
In the Dead of Nighty.
IT is almost
useless to say that next morning Barby was the earliest astir.
She was always so. Rab Farquhar used to say she was "the first
idea of an alarm." The man who invented that must have lived
in the house with exactly such a woman, and so recognized what a
blessing a mechanical substitute would be for those poor mortals who
could not secure a living original. It was great fun to Rab to
watch Barby "setting herself," as he called it, on those occasions
when an early train was to be caught. "Half-past five have ye
got to be off, sir?" she would say; "then I'll waken at half-past
three." And she had never failed. Poor Barby!
There was no mystery about it. What we are apt to regard as
the "involuntary" workings of our organisms are very apt, in time,
to follow the workings of our wills; and after years of devotion to
duty, our very muscles and nerves grow dutiful, too, in their humble
way, and loyally follow the immortal soul in service to the eternal
On this particular morning there was no especial reason for
rising early. But somehow this was a kind of gala-day in
Barby's mind. By the time the family sat down to dinner, their
house—the dear little home—be their very own. It must,
therefore, be looking its best, as a bride should on her
wedding-day. It should be swept down from top to bottom before
the ordinary working-hours should have passed, and the first dinner
to be enjoyed in that sense of proud proprietorship should be eaten
off the best service,—that service which was only used on New Year's
day, having belonged to Mr. Farquhar's grandmother, and being,
according to family tradition, of the same pattern as a service
which Mr. Wedgwood had presented to Queen Charlotte. A few of
the plates might be a little cracked or discoloured, but it remained
the best service, years only adding to its honour, as years always
should. Barby knew all about it. In happy days gone by,
she, a little bare-legged girl, had stood in watchful wonder while
her present master's mother, old "Mistress Farquhar," had washed
these same plates and dishes with her own hands for the New Year's
feast, throwing out, the while, many a notable observation upon the
carelessness and thoughtlessness of serving-maids, which Barby had
remembered as beacons warning from rocks to be avoided. Yes,
the best service should certainly come out this day, and none should
suspect its appearance till they should see it on the table.
"Ay, it's odd," she said to herself, "the brittle crocks
still to the fore, and the auld leddy awa'. Frae some things
ane reads i' the papers, ane wad think that God A'mighty's best wark
was the easiest thing broken ava'. But those that set up for
kenning a' things dinna ken e'en their ain foolerie," said Barby,
quite innocent that a wise Greek had remarked the same thing nearly
two thousand years before. "But there must have been some
noise in this hoose the nicht," she went on, with a ready return
from philosophy to practical life. "For I dreamt. An' I
never dream unless there's a noise, save whiles o' my faither an'
mither, an' what gars me tak' that dream I've never found oot.
When I dream I aye find something stirred—maybe a broom fallen, or
the cupboard opened by the cat. Ye'd get rid o' mony ghaists
if ye kept your e'e on the cat an' the rottans i' the wa'. I
think it's been the cat this time, for it was a queer dream I had,—a
bit beastie creeping through the hoose. I'd know the creatur'
gin I saw it; but I dinna ken what it was ava'—a frightened, savage,
starved-like creatur', like Master Laurie says the tigers grow after
they've eaten men an' lost a' relish for wholesome food. Eh
me! but I dinna wonner that the Master taught in parables, for His
Father did it afore Him, in the making o' the wide warld."
But Barby found her kitchen just as she had left it,—the
brooms upright, the doors closed, not even a stocking fallen from
the "clothes horse" thriftily extended upon the hearth at night to
absorb the last warmth of the dying fire. "Some o' them
upstairs maun ha' moved," she said, and then dismissed the trifling
matter from her mind.
"Weel," she went on, as she passed up into the little hall—"weel,
gin the lads' faither is buying himsel' a hoose, they needna bring
in a' the soil o' the shire besides. Ane wad think it maun ha'
been an awfu' trouble to find a' that mud i' the clean streets in
the bonnie weather it was yestreen. Wae's me!"—and Barby stood
still, with a low bitter cry—"the muddy feet won in by the back
door; and there's been somebody into this hoose sin' the heavy
downpour there was at midnight! The siller! the siller!
Whaur did the maister put it?"
Robbery was not very vigilantly guarded against in that town.
It might have its own types of roguery, but there was little or none
of that professional vice against which society must arm itself to
the teeth, so that everybody who indulges himself with a silver
spoon must invest in an iron railing to protect it. People
bolted and barred their front doors rather for a decent appearance
of doing their duty to their property than from any sense of actual
necessity. Back walls and back doors and side windows were
left unguarded enough.
A moment's reflection revealed to Barby the way by which the
intruder had come.
At the back of the hall, and opening into it by a door which
was never secured, was a small out-building with a stone floor.
In summer it was used for such purposes as storing meat or keeping
vegetables. In winter the washing was hung there, when open
air exposure would mean rather more dampness than drying. It
had a window and a door opening upon the low-walled back-green,
which is such a feature in modest Scotch dwellings. This door
was generally on the latch through the day, but Barby always bolted
it before she went to bed. And being a woman more careful than
many of her fellow-citizens, she also hasped the window. It
had often struck her that by the careful removing of a pane of glass
the hasp could be unfastened and the whole house opened to an
invader. But then invasion had seemed so unlikely.
Theoretically, Barby had a very bad opinion of the city as compared
with the country; but, as a matter of fact, she was always
astonished when she found that one could not do as one did on
Dee-side—leave one's door open, or, at most, secrete the key in some
nook well known to any neighbour who might happen "to want
A hasty glance around convinced her she was right.
There lay the glass and the wrenched hasp. And there across
the stone floor stretched the trail of wet mud,—here a clot and
there a streak, but not one defined foot mark. The nearest
approach to that was the outline of a boot toe pointing towards the
window. Whoever had entered had retreated by the same way that
"Wae's me!" said Barby, "I should have thocht to ask the
maister whaur he meant to put the siller. Gin he left it i'
the desk in the parlour, it's sma' use blaming him. If a woman
doesna think, a man canna. Eh, but I'm feared it's a sad
waukening he'll hae this morn."
The good woman's heart sank to hear the cheerful tone of her
master's answer to her heavy knock upon his chamber door; though it
rose again when, to her eager question, "Mister Farquhar, Mister
Farquhar, whaur did ye put your siller?" he promptly replied,
"In the drawer of the black press."
Now the black press was a very ancient article of furniture
which stood in a small closet opening only from the master's own
bed-chamber. Its roomy shelves were stocked with the family
archives and relics. There, folded away, was the bridal dress
of the dead wife; there the little packet of her love-letters.
Here stood a black-letter Bible, and there a bundle of soft old
muslins and laces, which Barby and Margery would now and then
reverently turn over, sometimes taking out a trifle, but generally
folding all away again. There was but one drawer among the
shelves, and there Mr. Farquhar kept his wife's rings and watch (to
which Margery had not yet been promoted), his birth and marriage
certificates, and his own will. "The siller" had been deemed
worthy of a temporary lodgment in this sacred receptacle.
"It's weel ye did that, Mister Farquhar," said Barby,
immensely relieved, "for there's been a thief or waur in the hoose
to-night. There's a window broken, and a hasp aff, and
footmarks all owre the place. My heart was i' my mou' wi'
thocht o' the siller."
Barby heard that Mr. Farquhar needed no more rousing.
There was a leap, a sound of scuffling on of wraps, then a drawer
opened sharply, and there was a whole minute's silence.
"The siller's away," said what seemed like a strange voice.
And Barby rushed in and saw her master in his dressing-gown, with
the drawer in his hands, pulled completely from its shelf.
"The siller's awa'!" repeated the staid, strong man, in the
accent and voice of the boy whom Barby remembered. Once, when
he had chanced to relieve the herd-boy, during their school days,
she had heard him cry, in sore bewilderment and defeat, "The kye's
awa'! the kye's awa'!" She had joined then in driving back the
kye." Now she said, in the same spirit,—
"Weel, ye've still got them for whom ye wanted the siller.
And it may not be far to find. Noo, ye may hae some gude o'
your police rates. And if naebody else kens the thief, God
does; an' if naebody else finds him, He wull. But you've got
to luik, ony gait."
This may not sound like sympathy. But it was what was
needed, and that is sympathy. The stunned head needs vinegar,
and not sugar. James Farquhar was himself again.
Then followed two or three hours of confusion and amazement
and running about. The police came up from their office, and
the neighbours came in from the houses around, and the stereotyped
questions and innuendoes were whispered about.
"It couldn't be done by anybody in the house, d'ye think, Mr.
Farquhar? There's more burglaries from inside than from
outside, ye ken."
"It's a strange thing for a sober man to sleep sae heavy as
no to hear whan his ain room door opens."
"There's mony ane drinks that doesna get drunk."
"Was it only yersel' an' the woman Craig who saw the notes
when you came home?"
"Ye'll have given receipts for these moneys, of course?"
To all of which inquiries and suggestions there were —as
there well might be—straightforward answers. Barby ruthlessly
despatched the two Farquhar lads, the one to his shop and the other
to his school. She had to summon her master's authority to
"Is the warld to come to an end because a blackguard has
broken into the hoose?" she asked. "There'd be no comfort in
wark ava' if it wasna the ane thing that maun gae on, come what may.
Ye canna help the police, Master Robert. Ye canna rin wi' the
hounds, lad; and if ye interfere at a', ye're like to be the red
herrin' trailed across their scent—as I've seen done in my day.
An' it's no man's wark to stand here a' day showin' a wheen dubs o'
mud to a' comers. An auld wife like me can do that weel eno'.
An' as for you, Master Laurie, the mair ye've lost your gear, the
mair need to stick to your learnin'."
"They're weel awa'," she said, as at last they both hurriedly
obeyed their father's imperative command to depart. "Master
Rab was burnin' to knock somebody down, and Master Laurie was
shrinkin' into himsel' like a wounded bird into its nest. An'
nae wonder! It was on my tongue's end twenty times to up and
tell them that I wasna sure but it was muckle waur to walk into a
man's character the back way than into his hoose by the back window,
and it might be ill tellin' but those who'd do the ane might ha'
done the ither. I did answer ane fule according to his folly.
It was that fawnin' Wylie, the grocer, who has been sae weel aff
ever sin' he was bankrupt. 'Did onybody but you and the master
see the notes, Mrs. Craig?' says he, and I could see in his e'e he
meant, Had we seen them oorsel's at a'? 'Na, Mr. Wylie,' says
I, 'we didna ca' in the neebours; for there's some folks who pass
for honest wha might ha' been tempted for sic a sum as that, an' I
should na mind tellin' themselves sae, mysel', Mr. Wylie,' says I.
And that settled him. Eh, but sin stirs up sin! To think
o' the mony unneighbourly thoughts and mean words that have followed
that creatur' through the window to rob and defile this house."
The house was quiet again by this time. Mr. Farquhar
had followed his sons out. Nobody remained at home but Barby
and Margery. The poor girl followed the faithful woman about;
for the whole house felt haunted by an evil presence, and she could
not bear to let Barby out of sight. They were in the kitchen
now, where Barby had retired to put away the festal dinner service
which she had got out, in the joy of her heart, that morning.
Margery sat down on the broad edge of the old-fashioned
kitchen fender, and watched Barby dusting and stacking away the
plates and dishes. She could do nothing herself, and the elder
woman's industry seemed to reproach her.
"How can you trouble yourself about that china, Barby?" she
said, almost fretfully. "I wonder you can remember such things
"The mair one's lost, the mair need to tak' care o' what's
left," said Barby. "But young things aye think the first
thunderstorm is the end o' the warld. The Book doesna say
we're to let crosses knock us down; it bids us tak' 'em up, an'
"Ah, Barby, Barby," wailed the girl, "perhaps you scarcely
think how different this may make all our lives. I don't think
I ever thought what money means before."
"Na, Miss Margery," said Barby quietly, "that's true.
But there's some who have learned what it means, no by losing, but
by never ha'ing."
"Rab will not be able to go to college now, I suppose,"
sighed his sister.
"Rab maun gae to college," said Barby, in her earnestness
forgetful of the formal titles with which she always scrupulously
prefaced her "bairns"' names. "Gin the twa ends will na meet
easy, pull the harder. Your father expected to save thirty
pounds a year in his rent, and to hae a hoose to leave some o' you.
Now ye've got to save thirty pounds a year some ither gait, and to
get a hoose for yersel's. That's no sic hard lines, noo.
But gin ye dinna do it at ance life'll rin doon like the leg o' a
stockin' when ye've dropped a stitch. It'll soon be beyont
"I'm sure I will do anything I can," said Margery, lifting up
her clear gray eyes. "Only I don't see—"
"The wull's the thing," interrupted Barby sententiously.
"But then there's wull in words, and wull in deeds. There need
be little change noo, if ye pleased so; only there's such a thing as
haein' a better breakfast by putting your supper on the table.
But when you were a wee lassie, Miss Margery, you aye saved your
sweeties till ye'd done your bread. You an' Master Rab aye did
so. Master Laurie, puir lammie, had such a sma' appetite, he
couldna tak' baith aften, and he whiles left his bread."
"It would be grand if we could still manage to get Rab to
college!" said Margery. "I don't think father would mind
losing the money so much then. O Barby, how old and ill he
looked before he went out!"
"Weel," said Barby, coming round to the front of the kitchen
table and standing between it and the fire, and speaking slowly and
softly, like one who wishes the hearer to receive an idea slowly and
to pause before replying to it, "if the master could be anywise
agreeable to it—and I dinna think he'd be the ane to mak' a splore—then
I ken a way ye could mak' up the thirty pounds a year."
"O Barby!" said Margery, eagerly.
"Ay," returned the old servant. "Could the master and
a' of you mak' up your minds to let the parlour and the spare
bedroom? Ance ye got a guid tenant, that wad bring in nae less
rent, maybe mair."
Margery sat gazing into the fire. She did not meet
Barby's eyes watching her. Her lip trembled a little.
"It would be awkward to have no spare room," she said
"Ye'd find room for ony visitor ye loved and really wanted,
Miss Margery," returned the old woman. "The sma'est hoose is
big eno' for love."
"Mrs. Walker would not come any more then!" said Margery.
Barby's heart lightened, for though the girl's eyes were
still fixed on the fire, the trembling of her lip nearly changed
into a smile. Mrs. Walker was no favourite, being a miserly,
grumbling old country lady, who thought that city friends had
nothing to do but to harbour her, when she wanted to tell them what
an intolerable place a city was, and how she wondered anybody could
live in such a place except for a few days.
"That will no brak oor hearts," said Barby; "and an hottle
bill will no brak her bank."
"Aunt Mary could always sleep with me," observed the girl.
That was her father's only sister.
"O' course she wad," said Barby; "that wad save ye rinnin' in
an' oot o' each ither's rooms, as ye aye did, catching your deiths
"But oh, Barby," the girl went on, gazing more intently than
ever into the red heart of the fire, while something which was not
its glow mounted to her soft young cheeks,—"Barby, if we should do
this, should not we—should not we—lose caste?"
"Caste, Miss Margery!" cried Barby,—"caste! Did my ears
hear richt? for I ken what the word means frae the missionar' buiks.
An' is it a sensible thing, or a seemly thing, for a Christian
lassie to be pickin' up the words the vera heathen are lettin' drop?
What 'caste' did Jesus Christ belang to? And did He 'lose
caste,' as ye ca' it, whan He died on the cross?"
"Oh but, Barby, Barby," pleaded Margery, "one cannot only
look at things so always. One may for a minute or two—for an
hour or two perhaps; but day after day, and year after year, it
"Ay, it do," said Barby. "It had need so, for it's that
teaches us the differ' atween heaven and hell. Heaven is just
feeling aye like we do whiles, noo, and acting up to it wi'out ony
"And the parlour is mamma's own pretty room," cried Margery,
"all standing just as she left it!"
She lo'ed you a' better than her braws," said Barby quietly.
"Wad ye turn your mither's memory into a mummy, and waste a room to
keep it in? That's no God's way, Miss Margery."
But their further conversation was interrupted by Mr.
Farquhar's knock. They both ran to the door in a half hopeless
hope that he might have good tidings. But no; he had only been
to Mr. Fraser's to tell him that for the present, at least, he could
not complete the purchase of the house. And then, with a
masculine and fatherly yearning to break the gloom for these hours
for the bright young eyes which had looked on so little trouble yet,
he went on chatting to Margery, telling her how Mr. Fraser had said
she must soon come up to Mannohill House and spend a day with his
daughter, and enjoy some of his beautiful grapes. But when at
last Margery went upstairs for some trifling errand, he had
something in reserve for Barby, who was hastening to spread the
"Willie Fraser is gone off again."
Barby saw that her master had some hidden thought in his
mind, as he looked significantly at her and uttered this piece of
"The place is little the waur," said Barby.
"Barby," Mr. Farquhar went on in a lower tone, "God forgive
me if I am suspecting an innocent man, but Willie Fraser was the
only one in this city who knew I had that money with me."
"Hoo did he ken it?" asked Barby.
"I told him myself," said Mr. Farquhar.
"Trust a man to do a fule thing," observed the plainspoken
Barby. "But hoo i' the name o' wonner cam' ye to do that?
It's no manners for a fu' purse to shake itsel' at a toom pouch."
"I never can think of Willie Fraser as poor," said Mr.
Farquhar rather testily. "He's always the only son of Fraser
of the Foundries and of Mannohill with me. Well, I said two or
three kind words to him—never mind what they were. And he
looked downright kind for a minute—just the face he used to have
when he was a lad. But then he gave a sudden laugh and a
scoff, and said he, 'Mr. Farquhar, are you thinking that perhaps
some day you'll be paying rent to me, that you can afford to say a
pleasant thing to such a ne'er-do-well as I am?' And then I
couldn't help saying, 'I'm hoping to pay rent to no man, Willie; for
I've just been selling all my little places up Dee-side, and my
business with your father this afternoon was to pay over the money
for his house that I live in.' And I'm sure I did not do it
out of pride, but because I was sorry he tried to harden his heart
by making believe I was speaking out of self-interest. And now
one of the workmen told me he had seen him go off to London by the
early train this morning—off like a cadger with no luggage at all,
not even a little bag, as far as he could see. What do you
think of it, Barby?"
"It luiks black," she said; "but so does everything i' the
"Don't tell the boys or Margery," Mr. Farquhar instructed
eagerly. "They could not suspect; they would feel sure, and
begin grudging and hating."
OF course, the
police did not hastily drop their "inquiries." But when those
inquiries lead to nothing in the course of a few days, it is safest
to reckon that they will not lead to anything at all. They had
no clue to start with. All they could do was to hunt up the
few notoriously doubtful characters in the town, investigate their
proceedings for the last few days, and "keep an eye on them" for a
while. Nothing resulted. As for Mr. Farquhar's
suspicions of William Fraser, he kept them to himself and Barby.
He had no real grounds for them. The young man had come and
gone as suddenly and surreptitiously at other times. His mere
knowledge of the money being in the house would never have made Mr.
Farquhar suspect him, but for the circumstances of his reckless
character and impecunious position; and Mr. Farquhar shrank from
making these accidents an excuse for an investigation, which,
whether the young man was guilty or not, must come to his father's
ears, and reveal to him to what depths people could imagine his
prodigal had descended. Barby and her master had some
discussions over the matter.
"I'd be for going to his father mysel', and telling him the
whole story, gin I was you," she said. "Maybe, I'd state a
case, like as Nathan did to David. Aiblins it wad be a blow.
But gie me a blow i' the face rather than a stab i' the back—oor twa
hands face forward to fecht for oorsel's, gin we know wha we're
fightin' with, and what we're fightin' for."
"But I'm not giving a stab in the back, Barby," said her
master. "I shall never speak about this to anybody but you.
I shall simply wait and see what time brings."
Barby shook her head. "King Solomon kenned what he was
saying," she said, "when he gied us a hint that secrets are no kept
just by no speaking aboot them. What's i' the heart will oot,
gude or bad. When anes been eatin' onions, he doesna need to
tell us sae."
"But what is it likely his father could say to prove either
Willie's guilt or innocence?" asked Mr. Farquhar.
"That's no oor business," returned Barby. "Ye dinna ken
but he might say, Mr. Fraser, I ca'ed Willie to me that night, and
gied him siller to go owre the sea and try his fortune ance mair.'"
"In that case, he'd never forgive my suspicion," said Mr.
"Maybe no, and maybe yes," answered Barby; "it wadna be as if
he'd heard o' ye talkin' it owre wi' itherfolk, or pryin' aboot
himsel' to see if you could pick up anything, or bringing it up,
maybe, some day when Master Willie has taken the gude turn and
settled doon like an honest man. It micht come some hard on
him, I doot; but whan decent folk shut oot their ain, they dinna
adverteeze them as angels. Ye canna think Mr. Fraser turned
against his son for naught."
"Then why should I burden him with any more trouble about his
son?" asked Mr. Farquhar. "He has resigned a father's pride
and pleasure; why should I force on him a father's pain and care?"
"There's something in that," said Barby. "But a
father's a father still—at least a gude father is; and Mr. Fraser is
a decent man, though a wee taken up wi' his ain consequence, puir
body,—an' a man's likely to be that if his children are no fain to
uphaud him. An' folk like aye to hae the skelpin' o' their ain
bairns, be it to see they hae no owre muckle or muckle eno'."
"How should I like anybody to come to me with such a
suggestion about Rab or Laurie?" asked Mr. Farquhar.
"Hoo should ye like onybody to hae sic a thought aboot Mr.
Rab or Master Laurie?" asked Darby.
But though Barby thus had the last word on the matter, Mr.
Farquhar did not accept her advice, but took his own way. Only
from that day he never alluded to the subject to her, and Barby
herself relegated it to that silent limbo into which she thrust all
And so the nine days' wonder of the burglary at the
Farquhars' house ended, and the weeks passed on, and the little
world around rolled forward as it always does, never mind whose
fortune is lost, or whose heart is broken.
If Barby's advice concerning Mr. Farquhar's suspicion was
disregarded, her suggestion about letting the best parlour and the
spare bedroom met with more favour. Margery's countenance fell
whenever the matter was mentioned, and at first it always made her
silent and inclined to retire from the scene of discussion.
But gradually she began to enter into the subject, and to give out
her own notions as to how such a thing could be done, and what
arrangements must be made in preparation for a new inmate. To
the boys it was simply a splendid idea—the house would be but the
more lively! Their father cordially sympathized in their
approbation of the scheme, though he could not join them when they
declared that now everything was all right again, and that, while it
was no use crying over spilt milk, here was no spilt milk to cry
over. He knew better. What would there be for Margery in
the years to come? What would become of them all if his life
or health failed before the boys were fairly started? He had
had so little to lose, and yet he felt bitterly that it had been
just enough to make all the difference between penury, struggling
over the brink of destitution, and wholesome economy, treading
narrow paths towards the broad meadows of prosperity. He began
to feel old in those days. He drew himself up consciously as
he went to and from his office. A man on whose daily health
depends the daily bread of his family must not begin to stoop.
His work seemed heavier than before. He experienced that
curious weariness which is of the spirit and not of the body, and an
accidental shabbiness of coat or shininess of hat worried the man
who once would not have heeded such things.
Barby said nothing. There was nothing to say. But
she watchfully availed herself of any little household nicety which
involved no cost. The little pieces of family silver were
brighter than ever. The china and glass were varied as far as
the modest resources of the china closet would allow, and everything
cracked or torn was carefully put out of sight before "the master"
The winter session at the college was close at hand, and on
the same day that Rab went up for his matriculation examination the
advertisement of the lodgings at his father's house appeared in the
local newspaper. Perhaps, had the business been Barby's, she
would have withheld the lad from his professional studies until she
had secured the lodger who was to eke out their expenses. Yet
such a course might have been rather prudent than wise; but the hard
lessons of Barby's life had instilled into her that tenacious
holding of the bird in the hand rather than pursuing the two in the
bush which the poor learn only by experience, but which is generally
an instinct with incipient millionaires. Barby rightly
recognized this hopelessness of hers as a weakness to be endured in
silence, not a virtue to be urged upon others.
"I'll no be like the fox who'd lost his ain tail, and tried
to set a fashion so," mused Barby. "If I'd broken a tooth owre
a nut, I'd no pu' out my neebor's teeth; better tell them a' teeth
arena made for cracking nuts. It's a true word, 'Nothing
venture, nothing ha';' only I've had to learn it back'ards—Nothing
ha', nothing venture. It's no as if the maister wad rin into
debt if nae lodger cam'. For that matter, he needna pay my
wages for a year or twa. I could trust him, or the lads after
him. An' since I've been in his service, I've gotten claithes
enough to last me a wee whilie."
"You've never paid your visit to Mannohill yet, Margery,"
said Mr. Farquhar suddenly at the breakfast table. Laurie had
just pointed out to him the first advertisement of their rooms, and
this was how he broke the silence with which he read it.
"No," Margery answered. She had been to school with
Sarah Fraser, though Sarah was her senior by several years, and had
been one of the "big girls" while Margery was still a "tiny."
The two had always been friendly. They had never become
friends. Occasional visits had always passed between the
little house and the big one, and these visits were ever going to be
more frequent and longer; but they never became so.
"Then why not?" said her father, rather testily. "You
have a standing invitation; and I should think you two girls, each
alone in her own house, might be very glad to pass a little time in
each other's society."
"I will go this afternoon," said Margery meekly. "I
know it is a long time since I have been to Mannohill; but Sarah has
never been here since."
"And is that the way you mean to stand on ceremony with an
old acquaintance?" asked her father. "Is that what young
ladies learn at their schools now-a-days?"
Margery wondered. Her father had never before
interfered with her visiting. The truth was, the poor man had
begun to think that it would be well to become as intimate as
possible with a few wealthy and influential people while yet his
family could meet them on something like social equality. His
death, or any other fresh and sudden disaster, might end that
possibility any day. For himself, most of his acquaintances
hitherto had been among people to whom his friendliness was somewhat
of an advantage; for he had been an unworldly man in the even tenor
of his life between "riches and poverty," which both alike, though
in such different ways, teach hard truths of society and the world.
Now he asked himself, "Why should not one have some friends whose
friendship might be an advantage to oneself?" The idea
revolted him, and so he put it differently to his own Mind: "Why
should not one be friendly wherever one could?"—a fair enough
question, which it vexed him that he could not keep sufficiently
apart from sundry haunting reflections; such as that rich people
would never let their own personal friends drop into utter
destitution—would never permit a nice little girl like his Margery,
if left an orphan, to pine in utter neglect, or perhaps even to be
driven into coarsest drudgery—would surely be willing to give a hand
to the struggles of such lads as Rab and Laurie. When rich
people were always so nobly eager to rush forward with largess for
every charitable scheme, however remote, complicated, or
incomprehensible, then surely how ready and how happy they would be
to extend, not alms, but simply the warm grasp of their upholding,
to those whom they knew and respected and loved! Poor Mr.
Farquhar! if the wolf he saw prowling at his door should ever spring
upon him, he would soon learn differently. From time
immemorial, the poor man at the gate, whether independent Mordecai
or uncomplaining Lazarus, has been no source of delight to the rich
man in the mansion. If the poor man is to gain anything, he
must first get away from the gate, and hide himself and his
unbending back and his ugly sores. Barby had a saying which
might have helped her master at this juncture, had he remembered it.
It was—"Borrow your neist neebor's blanket, and dinna wait for the
It jarred him, too, to think of cultivating the friendship of
some of the Frasers, while he secretly laid his loss at the door of
another. But then he argued with himself, that if through his
suspicion he acted differently from what he otherwise would have
done, then he was allowing that suspicion to take an undue hold on
his mind. No, no; let Margery go.
And Margery went, true to her promise. She would not
have gone of her own free will; but she did not understand her own
feelings, as youth never does. And youth longs for change and
pleasure and excitement, and has to seek them vainly in certain
directions many times before it is quite sure they are not to be
It was a glorious afternoon. The bracing tonic of
winter was already in the air, and old people might be beginning to
shiver at thought of the bitter chill they did not yet feel.
But a girl like Margery only felt the blood fly swifter through her
young veins, and her cheeks but glowed the more freshly, when at
open corners the wild wind hastily kissed her before she could avert
her face. Margery was a true daughter of the north, and
answered to its voices. On those bleak moors she felt as if
she could have wrestled with giants and conquered them. As she
went along, she laughed aloud to remember her silly prejudice about
the lodgings; and then, in the exhilaration of the bright sky and
the wide, empty landscape, her walking pace quickened to a run, and
she broke into one of the queer little songs which reveal a heart
happy, it knows not why. And in that true light of nature and
natural joyousness, all loss and trouble and toil looked only like
the rough material for noble lives.
Mannohill stood about three miles from the last straggling
street at the northern end of the town. It was not far from
the sea, little more than a quarter of a mile back from the long
yellow shore, with whose fine sand the boisterous wind would powder
the coarse and scanty grass which tufted the barren acres behind it.
There was no house between Mannohill and the sea; and it stood high,
and looked down on the red roofs of the tiny farms which nestled
among the low hills to its right and to its left. Scarcely a
chimney of the house could be seen from any point of view. It
was approached by a long, narrow avenue, cut through a thick wood of
larch and pine. The wind might roar and romp outside, but it
could only enter there like a schoolboy on his good behaviour.
This same wood closed around and behind the house, which stood in a
semicircular clearing at its very heart.
It was a tall building—tall at least in a country where most
of the houses consisted only of two low stories—and of considerable
antiquity, as was in part attested by the thick growth of its ivy in
a climate where everything grows but slowly. Better witness
was borne by the huge beams visible in its kitchen roof, and by the
rude massiveness and strength of all its domestic appointments.
But these, of course, were not patent to a casual eye.
Probably all its casements had once been narrow and deep, like those
which remained still in its higher divisions. But at either
side its portal, broad bay windows had been thrown out, commanding
the smooth lawn with its bright flower-beds, the avenue, and the
On this autumn day the scene was probably at its extreme of
stately sombreness. Winter, with a frosty sun resplendent on
icy ground and snowy bough, would make it a fairyland. Summer,
with its soft lights and shades, its scents and songs, its horizon
of blue sea dotted with white-winged boats, would make it a
paradise. Not that it lacked colour even now. The sea
might lie gray and misty, losing itself in a gray and misty sky, but
the country around was broken up into patches of more varied hue
than in earlier seasons. The wood, though distinctively of
pine, did not lack many of those trees whose leaves flush or whiten
at the approach of death; and still nearer to the house, gorgeous
autumn flowers bedecked the borders. But all the brightest
hues of autumn are those of decay, and carry their own associations
with them, be they those of loss and warning to the short-sighted
earthly glance, or of solemn hope and trust to those who have lifted
up their eyes to the everlasting hills, where the endings of earth
are the beginnings of heaven.
Margery was ushered into the drawing-room. Miss Sarah
was at home. A bright fire was burning, reflecting itself in
the long mirrors and polished furniture. Yet the room felt
oddly cold. The fire had not warmed it, because there was
nobody there to enjoy the warmth. Not a displaced book nor a
scrap of work gave token of human presence. Altogether the
room was a little dreary in its grandeur. The few
pictures—very few—were all of that class which are described in
catalogues as "important works of art." There were no simple
etchings or slight sketches, suggestive of those private values
conferred by personal taste or love. The only volumes on the
table were costly illustrated editions too heavy to lift. The
ornaments, too, were all ponderous and costly—of the kind which one
buys with intent and deliberation at some outfitting crisis of one's
history. There was not a whim or an impulse among them.
Sarah Fraser did not keep Margery long in waiting.
Certainly, she had not delayed to put any of those finishing touches
to her appearance which untidy ladies sometimes require when
suddenly called to a visitor. This was not that such were
unneeded, except, perhaps, in Sarah's own opinion. She might
hold herself superior to appearances.
"And so this is you, Margery," she said, as she came in; "and
as bright and blooming as ever. And I have been fancying you
grown quite pale and thin, broken-hearted by your loss. And so
all my sympathies have been wasted!"
Margery felt the room bigger and colder than ever.
Sarah took a seat close beside her, and Margery instantly felt
lonely. Miss Fraser was a large woman, though not particularly
tall; and she gave one the idea of being too much for her clothes,
since there was more than one button either amissing or unfastened.
Her silk dress, though tumbled and dusty, was fashionably made, and
of a richness of texture rather unnecessary to propriety in one who
was fond of including herself among "we girls," and of dwelling on
all the disabilities and helplessness of her youth. About her
shoulders she wore a coarse knitted shawl, not particularly fresh,
and her really pretty hair was looped up loosely round a comb stuck
"You have caught me in undress," she said; I am always so
busy, Margery; I am doing something from morning till night.
To-day I have tidied my wardrobe, and arranged the music-stand, and
looked after the poultry, and made up the table-flowers, and had a
drive. Does that not sound a morning's work? You have no
idea how much there is to do about a great house like this.
Your dear little miniature home is so easily kept nice; it is no
wonder you can come out so trim and bright. I should think you
will not mind having to take a lodger. It will give you a
little more to occupy yourself with. We saw the advertisement
in the paper. Papa said it showed what sensible people you
What had she thought and—said? And one doesn't
like to be openly praised for common sense. It is too like
being complimented on not being deformed. And did not
Margery's "morning's work" include dusting and rubbing and cooking,
while Barby scrubbed and washed? Were not she and that
faithful old servant the two women in a household of three men, with
everything upon their hands, except the absolute tailors' everything
work, and with stringent necessity for getting full worth out of
every penny and full wear out of every garment. Margery
suddenly felt over-driven and imbittered. Life was hard.
Necessity was cruel. The earth beneath her was iron; the
heaven over her was brass. Did she notice that she only felt
thus now, sitting idly beside this idle woman in her sumptuous
chamber? She never felt so at home, in the bare kitchen, with
the company of busy Barby.
"How beautiful those flowers are!" said poor Margery, letting
her eyes, suddenly grown so hot and aching, rest on a china basket
filled with chrysanthemums.
"Do you care for them? They are only some of our common
garden ones. I did not think you cared for flowers. I
have never noticed any at your place," observed Miss Fraser.
She might have noticed what there was to notice,—the few
straggling, hardy things which would grow in a stony town-garden.
Should Margery let her think she did not love flowers? or should she
remind her that even love sometimes has to go lacking? Margery
held her peace. Either speech was too much for the proud,
throbbing young heart.
"And how are the boys?" asked Sarah. Margery always
shrank from speaking much of her brothers at Mannohill; to praise
them, or to display her love for them, seemed to her like throwing
stones at the missing son of the house, whose absence always haunted
the girl during her visits, as an unhappy ghostly presence might be
supposed to do. She had known and liked William Fraser.
She knew he was counted a scapegrace now, one who would be nobody's
welcome guest, nobody's esteemed friend. She knew that he
would not "settle," that he wandered hither and thither, and had
strange ways, and mixed with strange people; but she was too young
and innocent to realize that darker threads must always mingle with
these before the full pattern of reprobate is developed. And
so she thought of him with the simple charity of gentle innocence,
always so much wiser than the crude judgments of half knowledge.
Suppose it had been Laurie or Rab? Thus she thought of William
Fraser as she answered his sister concerning them.
"They are both quite well. Rab has gone up for his
matriculation examination to-day."
"And is he likely to pass? How it will worry your
father if he does not," said Miss Fraser.
"I think Rab is quite sure to pass," observed Margery.
"Don't you think it is almost a pity he should have gone in
for a profession?" asked the lady of the house. "The
professions are overcrowded. Money and influence are both
needed to make way in them now-a-days."
"And yet the greatest men are generally those who have had
neither," said Margery, a little roused.
"Ah, the greatest men, perhaps,—genius, you know, does
anything. But mere mediocrity? Well, poor Rab! he may be
a genius too. Who knows? But College life is so full of
temptations and dangers;" and here she sighed sentimentally, and
gazed into space. "And more money is made outside professions
than within them; and so I think that people whose position doesn't
demand that they should enter professional life would do well to
think of other things."
"I think people should try to be what they are best fitted
for," said Margery.
"Ah, that is ideal," returned Sarah Fraser; "and this world
is real, my dear. And a great many of us are really fit for
nothing. I wonder what I am fit for? It is a great
blessing to be well provided for, so that one isn't forced to think
about it. And yet there are advantages in being like you,
Margery dear. One's heart is freer. If any well-doing
young man loved you, now, he could ask for you at once; your family,
of course, would only feel what a blessing it was to gain a strong
hand to fight and work for you. But with me it is not so.
There is one—I think you have seen him—such a mind, Margery!
But he has no fortune; he will have to begin life quite humbly.
Papa would not think him worthy of me; he would esteem his offer an
"Is it Hamish MacPhaden?" asked Margery quite timidly.
Love was to her a sacred thing. She had never fancied herself
loving or beloved, and her sympathy was neither cynical nor feigned.
"Yes; it is Hamish MacPhaden," answered Miss Fraser, taking
Margery's hand, and looking into her frank eyes with a gaze intended
to convey the intensity of hidden feeling.
"But are you quite sure?" faltered Margery; "perhaps Mr.
Fraser only thought you ought to wait a little while. Hamish
is quite young. You may put too much stress on something your
"My dear," said Miss Fraser, rising and folding her woollen
shawl about her,—"my dear, do you imagine he has said anything?
Do you imagine Hamish has dared to speak? He would never dream
of such presumption. He knows his fate too well."
In that curious mental background which we all keep, one of
Barby's homely proverbs would rise to Margery's memory, "Better a
finger off than aye wagging." But she said, with simple
sincerity, "I can't help thinking it is a pity not to try."
"Ah, you can't be expected to understand," sighed Sarah.
"But how could the only daughter of William Fraser of Mannohill
marry on two hundred a year? And yet, oh, I can imagine no
higher bliss than fighting your way up by your loved one's side,
sparing, caring, conquering at last. It is the true poetry of
life. You may not feel this as I do. It is not everybody
who inclines to the poetic side of things. I am not sure that
it is for one's happiness to do so;" and Sarah Fraser sighed.
"And must you be going now?" she said, when, after a little
more talk, Margery rose to depart. "Ah yes. I should
have remembered that it is a long journey, and that you have to make
it on foot before dark. What a wonderful walker you are!
If I performed such a pedestrian feat as you have done to-day, I
should make it a red-letter festival, and date from it. It is
a good thing to be so strong. But when one has a carriage it
does not matter much. I might have driven you part of the way
home, but it is too late to order the carriage now. Will you
do a little commission for me in the town?—Oh, but I'm afraid it
will take you further out of your way, for it is at the west end."
Margery assured her it should be done either that evening or next
morning; and after a few protestations she accepted the promise.
"Well, then, it is to leave this list at my mercer's. I
daresay you don't know the shop, but you'll see the number. I
suppose you deal at some of the good old shops in the old-fashioned
quarter; excellent value is to be got there when style and fashion
need not be considered. Of course, I can never shop east of
Market Street. Well, good-bye, dear; come again soon.
Don't wait till I come to you. I seldom need to be in your
district; and it must do you good to come up here. I might
have gathered you some flowers, if I'd thought of it in time.
The sunshine had left the sky, and the sunshine had left
Margery's heart. "Sarah Fraser is a vulgar woman," she said to
herself. But the power to recognize this did not involve power
to neutralize her influence. We may say, "This is a foggy
night;" but that does not save us from taking bronchitis.
The homeward journey felt a toil. "Let me in," she
said, as Barby appeared at the door. "I'm worn out, and I'm
naughty, and all the world seems upside down."
"The world's where it always was," said Barby. "It is
only you who are standing on your head."
Mr. Demetrius Turner.
Margery," said Barby, "I had some news for you last night that I
would not tell you when I saw you were a bit put oot, and strokit
the wrang way. It's ill trying fresh food when ye've a bad
taste i' your mouth; and the gudeness o' tidings is aye half i' the
ear that hears them. I've had somebody looking after the
"Oh, who were they? and what did they say?" asked Margery
eagerly. Since she had buried her first prejudice against
room-letting at all, she had begun to build castles in the air upon
it. The highly-strung, imaginative girl was often a little
lonely in her home with her busy father, her heedless brothers, and
blunt, practical Barby. Her life-longing had been for the
sister she could never have; and since she had entertained the
thought of new inmates, she had indulged in dreams of possible
women, perhaps young and well-educated, who might be seeking a
city-home to shelter them while they either taught or studied.
She had even another vision,—that of some student, a toiling lonely
genius, to whom she and Barby might minister, and in whose history,
after he had become a great man and a world benefactor, they might
receive a humble place; such as, in the lives of the famous, she had
often seen assigned to lowly women who had tended their lamp of life
before it kindled to its perfect brightness. That and no more
was poor Margery's vision. She was a pure, fresh-hearted girl,
to whom every man was not a possible lover, and she had the womanly
yearning for self-devotion instead of the coarse and vulgar craving
for conquest. And so she asked eagerly, "Who were they?"
Barby answered with deliberation, smoothing out some clothes
she was preparing for the "mangle,"—"There was but ane, and he's an
auld bachelor gentleman, wi' plenty o' money o' his ain, and na
freends. Sae he said himsel'. And that looks as if he
wasna just unco easy to get on wi', someways. He tell't me o'
his habits: his eating' and drinkin' are simple eno', and he has na
visitors ava', an' wants a quiet hoose, and little mair. He
said na a word against the rent I asked; an' he's coming again the
day wi' his mind made up."
Margery's heart felt chilled. The old bachelor's
precision seemed to draw the line between landlord and tenant so
hard and firm. The pretty parlour and the best bedroom would
be virtually lost to them all. There would be none of that
interchange of visits, that sense of a common household, which she
felt sure would have been soon established between herself and
student girls or young teachers.
"Perhaps he is one of the strange old gentlemen I have heard
about," said she, "who go looking over lodgings when they want none
"Na," said Barby; "for he left me his address, so that if I
got another offer for the rooms before he came back, he might get
the first refusal. An' he'll come back."
"Of course, unless we think he will suit us, we needn't take
him," observed Margery.
"Na, na," said Barby. "But it's no aye the worst fish
that bites first."
"When we have got one offer so quickly, we are sure to get
more," Margery went on; "so we can surely wait and choose the most
"I ken what you mean, though I dinna ken the soond of that
last gran' word," said Barby. "On ay—just so! but the first
hour o' the market is aye the briskest."
"Or the last, Barby," said Margery.
"Ay, that's true too; there's a many will come to buy when
you'll sooner sell for naething than break your arm wi' carrying
hame your stock," rejoined Barby composedly.
"You have made up your mind he's to come," said Margery, with
a little bitterness.
"Hoots! why should I do that?" retorted Barby. "It's
your father that'll tak' his rent, an' I that will do his work, and
maybe thole his temper."
"Did he like the rooms?" asked Margery. She felt her
own unfairness, and was the more inclined to propitiate because
Barby did not seem offended.
"Ay, he liked them fine," said Barby. "Real gude auld
furniture, he said, nane o' your new-fangled gimcracks, that turn
over if ye look at them. But he said, if he tak's the place a'
the china maun be cleared oot; he canna put up wi'—noo, what was the
dispareeging name he ca'ed it?—brick on the bracket!"
"Bric-a-brac, I suppose he said," said Margery, who could not
help laughing at Barby's version, though the colour flushed into her
clear skin and the tears started to her eyes. "What can be
done with it? And it has always stood there since mamma
arranged it just as it is! And it is so hard to have strangers
coming in and saying 'must' this and 'must' that about one's own old
"My dear missy," said Barby, who was more than ever
punctilious in her titles since her master's losses—"my dear missy,
there's ane way, and but ane, to keep ither folks 'musts' frame
hurting us, and that's to say bigger 'musts' to oor ainsel's.
The auld gentleman couldna say the china must be moved till you and
the master and the rest have said the rooms must be let, and that's
just because Master Rab must not lose his college education.
The queen on her throne has her own 'musts' and 'mustn'ts;' and sae
does ilka bodie, save, maybe, those who hear at the end that they
must gang to the poor's-house or mount the gallows."
Barby had spoken with emphasis. She went on in a
lighter tone, "An' I wasna sorry to hear he didna want the china.
If ye have it into the dining-room, it'll seem as if ye had gotten
the twa rooms in ane. There's some auld shelves i' the attic
that a clever lassie like you can soon rig out wi' bits of cloth and
fringe, and mak' a real gran' affair, like that oor auld laird's
lady used to hae in her ain chamber. I'd tak' the auld
gentleman's hint, Miss Margery, whether he comes or not, and clear
awa', and no gie anther lodger the chance o' the china. Sic
things are no considered i' the rent; and gin ye tried ye couldna
let the best pairt o' them—the thocht o' your mither and o' her
"That's a new word, Barby," said Margery, with restored
spirits. "We always say forefathers, and explain that the
greater includes the less. Are you going in for woman's rights
and feminine equality?"
"I dinna fash my heid," answered Barby. "Equal is that
equal does; and gin there were five foolish virgins i' the
Scripture, maist o' the sons i' the parables were naething to boast
"And would you like a vote, Barby?" asked Margery, who, with
the mercurialness of youth, now felt quite sportive, and as ready to
pursue any fun as is a kitten to run after a rolling ball.
"Ay," said the imperturbable Barby, "gin there was a man
worth voting for. But while we're havering, the dust is lying
on the rooms, and the beds arena made. Twa have aye sae muckle
clash wi' their tongues that they ne'er do twice the work of ane; "
and Margery felt herself dismissed from the kitchen.
She went straight to the best parlour. As she looked at
its pretty decorations, she certainly felt a sharp pang to think of
removing arrangements made by the dead young mother she could not
remember. But uplifted by the bracing atmosphere which always
surrounded Barby, the girl felt that, after all, love lives in the
region of character and aspiration rather than of relics and
remembrance. The angels' resurrection greeting, "Why seek ye
the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen,"
sounded in her heart with a sweet human distinctness. Through
the realities of life we hear the voice of revelation, no longer as
of one "crying in the wilderness," but responsive to the call of our
She resolved to clear the room at once. If the old
gentleman came back, he should have no further chance of cavilling
at the pretty toys. It was not a very long task. Then
she went into the dining-room and planned where the shelves should
hang, and conjured up such a pleasant picture of the improvement
which would be wrought in the room, that she threw her whole heart
into the change, and ran upstairs to rummage the stores of the
lumber-room, fired with enthusiasm for her humble art decorations.
Barby had infused a high sense of duty and a pleasant thought into
the change. It is what so many forget to do. And yet who
seals a curse and a worm in a foundation?—wise custom has declared
that to be fit place for gold and good words.
She was down on her knees comparing the values and beauties
of some strips of old scarlet cloth, which had probably been saved
for a rag-rug, and some pieces of dark blue serge, when she heard
the door-bell ring. She sprang out upon the staircase; for
looking over the balustrade of the landing, she could see whoever
entered the front door, and yet remain herself unseen. Barby
came leisurely from the kitchen, tying on a clean holland apron,
which she always kept at hand in case of early callers; for Barby
was wont to say "that if the hoose was to be clean the servant maun
be dirty, whiles."
"Ha! you see I've come back. I wonder if you expected
me, now!" said a high-pitched, peculiar, but not disagreeable voice,
as a little man with flaxen hair, and a round, florid, flabby face,
stepped into the passage in a jaunty, jerky fashion. He wore a
very high, narrow hat, and a coat of very thick cloth, made somewhat
in the style of a boy's cut-away jacket. He also wore yellow
gloves, and carried an umbrella done up in a shiny case; and he
suggested the idea that he had looked so and dressed so when he
first left school, and had grown old without any other change.
There was something of boyish malice, too, in the way in which he
repeated, "I wonder, now, if you expected me back again!"
"Yes, sir," said Barby. "I didna' think ye'd have told
me ye aye used Cayenne pepper instead of common pepper, unless you
expected I should get the filling of your cruet-stand."
"Ha! ha! you noticed that?" The little man stood still
in the hall, laid down his hat, put his umbrella across it, and his
gloves, elaborately smoothed out, beside it. "There!" he said;
"folks say that people who live alone grow slovenly and piggish.
They needn't unless they choose. You won't find me so.
I'm very particular. It is because I'm so very particular that
I live alone. If you don't expect to find me very particular,
and to treat me as very particular, don't take me at all.
Think it over; say your mind."
"Sir," said Barby, "those who are particular in doing their
work like to work for particular people."
"Ha! ha! well said. And this is the parlour again!
Ha! all the tomfoolery gone! Good! And now, tell me,
what's the family here?"
"The maister, two sons, one daughter, and mysel'," answered
Barby, with brevity to match his own.
"Phew! two women!—one to make work, and t'other to do it!—one
"It was the young mistress who cleared away the china," was
Barby's only protest against this misogynist.
"And she seems to clear away herself too, for this is my
second call, and I haven't seen her," said the queer old gentleman.
"Good! good! And the two sons—what and where are they?"
"Master Laurence is still at the schule," said Barby, "and
Mister Rab is just up to the college."
"Divinity, law, or medicine?" pursued the ruthless inquirer.
"He'll be a doctor gin he passes," said the cautious Barby.
"Good!—best profession; sets fools out of the way sooner than
they'd go of their own accord."
"But it helps ither fools into the world, too," Barby
"Good!" said the little man, turning about and facing Barby.
"Make no further remark, please. I want to have a good
impression of you, and no woman can keep on talking sense."
"We canna find those that care to keep on hearing it, sir,"
"Good! good! good!" cried the little man. I'll take the
rooms. Tell me where I can find your master, and I'll go to
his office and speak with him at once. My name is Mr.
Demetrius Turner. I know you'll wonder how I got it, so I'll
save your time and trouble. Look up Acts nineteen and
twenty-four. My father was a silversmith. No mystery
about it. Never give me letters addressed 'Demetrius Turner,
Esq.' Burn them. They can't be written by anybody who
knows me. I'm plain Mister. I'd rather be Master.
They should have kept the 'Master' for old bachelors when they kept
the 'Miss' for old maids."
"Ay," said Barby; "only ye won't mind burnin' your ain
letters yersel', will you? I'll light the fire for ye, gin
it's the hottest day o' July, sir."
"Good! good! I mean what I say, and you won't say what
you don't mean. Good!"
And as soon as, with an infinitesimal pencil, he had written
clown Mr. Farquhar's office address in a miniature note-book, the
odd little man bustled away, and the half-bewildered Margery
"What a character he is!" she, cried.
"No a bad character," said Barby. "It's aften gude
stuff that this warld twists into queer shapes."
"I heard what he said about me," remarked Margery, tossing
"Weel, an' I've heard yersel' say hard eno' things aboot
ither lasses; an' of course he thinks ye're like the rest—whether ye
are or no," added Barby, slyly.