Amelia Barr.

Christine: A Fife Fisher Girl





My ain! My wife! he said, and gave her his arm, and Christine with her father and Andersons two friends followed. All were very silent. The bride and bridegroom were too happy to talk, and their friends understood and sympathized with the feeling.

The day was fine and clear, and the walk back to Rulesons was still and sweet, and in spite of its silence, very pleasant; and they had no sooner opened Rulesons door, than their senses were refreshed by the sight of the festal table, and the odor of delicious foods. For Margot had made a wedding dinner after her own heart. One of her precious turkeys had been sacrificed, and there was that wealth of pudding and cakes and pastry which no man loves and appreciates more than the fisherman. It was an excellent dinner, well cooked, and well enjoyed, and happily prolonged with pleasant conversation, until Christine reminded them they were probably keeping the crowd asked to the Fishers Hall waiting.

In a pleasant haste they left all in James care, and went in a body to the hall. There was quite a large company there, very well employed in practicing the steps of a new strathspey, and others in exhibiting their special bits of splendor. The whole room was flashing with Roman colors, and Judith Macphersons Protestantism was angered by it. She said with her usual striking eloquence, that, in her opinion, they were nothing but emblems of popery. They came frae Rome. Why not? If we had elders in the kirk, worth the name o elders, they wad ca a session anent such a shamefu exhibition o the popes vera signs and symbols. Indeed, she told Ruleson that she would stand up in the kirk on the next Sabbath day, if he, or someone, didna tak the proper steps in the matter, and Ill tell you, James Ruleson, Im minded to go my ways to the manse right now, and bring the Domine himsel here, to see the wicked testimonies.

Then the bridal dance began, and Ruleson drew Judith aside, and told her he would himself speak anent the colors, if she thought they were sinfu.

Sinfu! she screamed. Why Ruleson, man, they come frae the pope, and thae men they ca socialists. I hae heard tell o the tricolor, and of a the misery and sin that cam frae it in France. Isna France i the popes dominions?

Oh no, Judith, they arena the same countries.

James Ruleson, they may be different countries, but that tricolor sin is the same everywhere, even if it get into a godly place like Culraine. You must put a stop to our lasses wearing the popes colors, James Ruleson. Thats a fact!

James promised to do so. In reality he would have promised anything she asked, rather than have her go to the manse and disturb the Domine. He was only too grateful to observe that the wearers of the sinful colors were not disturbed by Judiths suspicions, and that the sailormen and fishermen were apparently most in love with the girls who wore the greatest quantity of the offensive emblems.

At three oclock the dance was over, the greetings were all said and Willie Anderson anxious to carry off his bride on the tide top.

The waters are fu at four oclock, he said to Ruleson, and I want to lift anchor and spread sails at the same moment. Then well hae wind and tide wi us, and well win hame on the tide top. That would be a lucky thing, you ken, Ruleson.

The ways o a good man are a lucky, Anderson, for they are ordered of the Lord, but a man must hae his way on his wedding day maybe hell neer get it again!

So Ruleson said a few words to the chattering groups, and they instantly formed into line. The violins went first, then the bride and bridegroom. Then Ruleson and Margot, Christine and her brother Norman, and the rest as fancy led them in the selection of partners.

Willie Andersons brand-new boat lay at the pier, and he had rigged up a little gangway trimmed with ivy between it and the shore. Every boat in harbor was flying its flag, except Andersons boat she was waiting for the bride, but as soon as the crowd had settled itself, Anderson went to the gangway, and a little lad waiting there for that purpose handed him a parcel. It contained the new flag for the new boat, and it was blue as the sea, and had three white words in its center, Mine and Thine.

And while cheering filled the air, Willie wrapped it round his brides slim form, and then lifting her in his strong arms, he leaped into the boat with her. In a few minutes the flag was flying at the masthead, the anchor lifted, and the Mine and Thine began her home journeying.

And as they watched her, the tide turned, the sails filled, and she danced out of harbor, for the tide ran with her, and she was timed to reach home on the tide top.

CHAPTER VII
NEIL AND A LITTLE CHILD


Fearful commenting
Is leaden servitor to dull delay.


How sharper than a serpents tooth it is
To have a thankless child.

Neil did not find it convenient on his return northward, to call again at the home in Culraine. His mother was disappointed, and fretted to Christine about the neglect. His father was silent, but James Rulesons silence often said far more than words. When all hope of a call was over, Christine wrote to her brother, telling him in plain words what desire and hope and disappointment had filled the two days previous to the re-commencement of the Maraschal classes.

Neil, dear lad, you must know that Mither was watching the road up the hill, for the past two or three days, and for the same time feyther didna go near the boats. He was watching the road likewise, for he didna want to miss you again. They were, both o them, sairly disappointed, when you neither came, nor sent word as to what was keeping you from sae evident a duty. Ye be to remember that Mither isna as well as she should be; and you must not neglect her now, Neil. You might neer be able to make it up to her in the future, if you do. Im telling you, dear lad, for your ain hearts ease. Yesterday morning, she put on a clean cap and apron and sat down by the fireside to knit, and watch and listen. By and by, the cat began to wash her face, and Mither was weel pleased wi the circumstance, for she said it was a sure sign company was coming. So she went often to the door, and watched and listened, but no company came, till sun down, when the Domine called. Mither was so disappointed she couldna steady her voice, her eyes were full o angry tears, and she drove poor old Sandy off the hearth, and into the cold, calling him a lying prophet, and ither hard names, to which Sandy is not accustomed. Forbye, she hasna gien him a drop o milk since. Do write Mither a long letter, full o love and hope o better days, and make some good excuses to her, for your neglect. Christine can make them out o her ain loving heart.

Christine.

Indeed, Christine in this letter did small justice to Margots indignant disappointment, and now that hope was over, she made no pretense of hiding her wrong and her sorrow. The Domine saw as soon as he entered the cottage, that Margot was in great trouble, and he more than guessed the reason, for he had been called to the town very early in the day, to meet an old friend on his way to the Maraschal College, where he filled a Professors Chair in the medical department. Passing with this friend down the High Street, he had seen Neil with Roberta Rath on his arm, examining leisurely the attractive shop windows, while Reginald trailed at speaking distance behind them.

He kept still further behind. He had no desire to interfere. Neil had never sought his confidence, and he did not know except through Christines partial remarks what the young mans private hopes and plans might be. So he listened to Margots passionate complaints a little coldly, and she was quick to perceive it.

You canna understand, Domine, what I suffer. Ye hae never had an ungratefu bairn. And Im feeling for his feyther too the dear auld man, hell be clean heart-broken!

No, no, Margot! A good heart that trusts in God, never breaks. It has no cause to break.

It is eleven years, Domine, we hae all o us been keepin oursels poor, for Neils sake.

The last eleven years, Margot, you have missed no good thing. God has been good to you, and to yours. I have seen! I have not forgotten!

Just a few kind words would hae paid for a we hae pinched and wanted.

There has been neither pinch nor want in your home, Margot.

Ye dont ken a things, Sir. My man has worked harder than he ought to hae worked.

I think you may be mistaken, Margot. James Ruleson trusts in God. Why should he overwork himself?

To keep the roof oer our heads, and find food for the bairns.

Nay, nay, Margot! Prayer, and lawful work, keep the door safe, and the table spread.

Oh Domine! If you feel that your love is slighted that the bairn you love mair than yoursel lightlies ye; if you feel that hes shamed o you! And Margot covered her face, and her words were lost in heart-breaking sobs.

Margot, you must cease weeping. Will it do you any good to kill yourself? What will you say to your Maker in such case?

I willna be feared to say all that is in my heart to Him. He knows a mithers heart, and the griefs it tholes and carries. I canna expect you to know how love feels when it is scorned, and made little o.

I know something of that same sorrow, Margot. I gave the love of my life to one who scorned it. Only God knew my sorrow, but He was sufficient for my comfort. There is only one way of conquering wrongs against love, Margot.

Margot did not speak, and after a moments pause, he asked, Do you want to know that way?

No, Sir. If it is your way, Im no able to follow it.

Suppose you try. You think your youngest son has treated you badly?

Ay, Im sure o it, and hes treated his feyther and his brothers badly, and his one sister worse than a. How can folk forget injuries that tread love under feet? They canna do it.

They can. Do you want to know how? Do you want to know how I did it?

I couldna walk in your shoon, Sir. Theyre oer big for me.

Tell Mither, Sir. Tell her, shell maybe find it easier than she thinks; and maybe I could help her; and Christine went and stood by her mothers chair, and drew her mothers head close to her breast, and kissed her softly, as she whispered, Ask the Domine what to do wi wrangs ye canna bear, and canna pay back?

Thats the sair part, Sir. Christine has touched the raw. If any man or woman in the village scorns or wrangs me, I can gie them as gude as they send words or blows and I wad do it! Yes, I would!

Have you given up your kirk membership, Margot?

No, Sir, I hae done naething yet, requiring me to do sae; but its hard saying what I might be driven to, if somebody doesna mak Jess Morrison quit meddling wi my family affairs the lying hizzy!

Margot! Margot! My friend Margot! You astonish me, you trouble me!

Weel, Domine, Im very sorry to trouble you. I wad rather trouble the hale village than you. What do you want me to do?

Just to try for one month, my plan of treating any injustice, or injury, I receive.

Weel then, what is your plan? Im no promising to do what Im vera sure is far oot o my way, but if you had been injured on every side o your heart, as I hae been, what would you do?

When I receive an injury, Margot, I think it calmly over, and I am sure to find some excuse for part of it the rest I forgive.

Theres nae excuse in Neils case, Sir.

Yes, there are several. These Raths promise much for his future. He may even be in love with Miss Rath, and a man in love isna a responsible creature. You hae told me, in the course of years, how much Normans wife troubled you, and Norman could not prevent her. I have heard the same kind of story about Roberts and Allans, and Alexanders wives. Men do not seem to be responsible, when they are seeking some woman for a wife. Take this into your thoughts, anent Neil. There were also unhappy money considerations. Evidently Neil is not ready to pay Christines ninety pounds back, and he does not like to be questioned about it. He would rather keep out of the way. In both these cases, it is not Neil. It is first the girl, then the money. He does not despise you, he is only too considerate about Miss Rath. In the case of the money, he is perhaps counting on its use for his advancement in life, and he would rather not talk about it. He does not hate or scorn his own people, he is only looking out for his future love, and his future living. That is such a common and natural feeling, we need not wonder and weep over it. There must be other excuses to make, if I knew all about Neils life and hopes, and for the rest of the faults against him forgive them, as God forgives your faults against His long suffering love and patience.

Mebbe that is the right way, but

Right! Say that word to yourself, Margot. Say it till it rings like a shout in your soul, till you feel it in your hand like a drawn sword. It is a conquering word. Say it till your weak heart grows strong.

Mither will feel better in a few days, Sir.

To be sure she will. Neither joy nor sorrow leaves us where it found us. Poor Neil!

Why poor Neil, Sir?

Because he cannot see beyond his limit, and his limit is self, and selfishness is utter loss. They conquer who endure. Live it down. Deserting our own is a cruel, silent treason even if they deserve it. It is a sin that our souls are ashamed of. Margot, your weakness tonight came oer you in a moment when you were slack in Faith. You are naturally and spiritually a brave woman, Margot. What have you to fear?

I dinna want the lad I hae nursed at my breast to be ashamed o me that is my fear, Domine. I dinna want to lose his love.

Does a man ever forget the mother who bore him? I cant believe it. When all other loves fade, that is green. It is nearly fifty years since I bid my mother good-by for ever in this life. She is the dearest and sweetest mother to me yet. I remember her eyes, the touch of her lips, the soft caress of her hands, as if I had seen her yesterday. A man, however wicked, is not beyond hope, who yet loves his mother. Neil is not a bad boy. He will love you to the end.

I fear, I fear, Domine, that

No! You do not fear. You have nothing to fear. There was a noted preacher and poet, who shall tell you what your fear is. His name was Crashaw, and he was an Englishman, who died just about two hundred years ago and he says to a fearful soul:


There is no storm but this
Of your own cowardice,
That braves you out.
You are the storm that mocks
Yourself, you are the rocks
Of your own doubt.
Besides this fear of danger, theres
No danger here,
And they that here fear danger,
Do deserve their fear.

Ay, thats what you ca poetry. I dinna understand a word o it, but I can mind that David said, he didna fear, even in the dead-mirk-dale; but its a far-back thought to King David, and when a mither is angry at her bairn, she feels as if the Lord, too, was like to lose sight o her, and that earth and heaven are baith a wrang.

Well, then, Margot, when you feel as if the Lord was like to lose sight o you, then you canna lose sight o the Lord. Then, in the words of your Covenanters Psalms, you be to cry out: How lang, O Lord! Will ye mind me nae mair? How long will ye hap yer face frae me? And then, Margot, you mind how the few verses of doubt and fear, end the Lord hes wrought a things neiborlie for me. Now, Margot, I am not going to preach to you. Your own leal heart can do that. I will just say goodnight with one verse from that same dear old book o psalms Let the words o my mouth, an the thought o my heart, be for pleasure in yer sight, O Lord, my strength, and my hame bringer. I leave blessing with you.

You werna as kind as you should hae been to the Domine, Mither. He tried to comfort you, said Christine.

That was in the way o his duty. What does he know, puir fellow! anent a mithers love or sorrow?

Im glad feyther hes wee Jamie for his comfort.

Ay, but Jamie doesna comfort me, in the place o Neil.

You hae me, Mither. Dinna forget Christine.

Would I do that? Never! Christine is worth a the lads in Scotland. They marry and forget.

The Domine says he loves his mother today, better than ever, and her dead near fifty years.

The Domine is a wonder, and he neer put a wife in her place. I hope your feyther didna go to the toun today. Where has Jamie been?

He went out with feyther, this morning. I think they went to the boats, but I canna weel say. They ought to be hame by this hour. I wonder what is keeping them sae late?

Weel, Christine, the trouble hes gone by, this time, and we willna ca it back. If your feyther didna come across the lad i the town, it will mebbe be best to let him get back to the Maraschal without remark or recollection.

To be sure, Mither.

I wonder whats keeping your feyther? It is too late, and too cold, for Jamie to be out.

I hear their voices, Mither. Theyre coming up the hill. Stir the fire into a blaze o welcome. Just listen to the laddie laughing and feyther laughing too. Whatever has happened to them?

James Ruleson and the lad at his side came into the cottage the next moment. The light of the laugh was yet on their faces, and oh, what a happy stir their advent made in the cozy, firelit room! Margot forgot she had been crying and complaining, she was helping her man take off his heavy coat, and Christine was helping the child, who was in a state of great excitement:

I hae been to the circus! he cried. Christine! Granmither! I hae been to the circus! It was wonderful! I did not want to leave it. I wanted to stay always there. I want to go tomorrow. Granfeyther! Will you take me tomorrow? Say yes! Do say yes!

Why, James! cried Margot, I never heard tell o the like! Hae ye lost your senses, gudeman?

No, I think I hae just found them. I am sair-hearted, because I didna send all the lads there. Let us hae a cup o tea, and we will tell you how we spent the day.

Then there was a ten minutes hurry, and at the end a well spread table, and four happy faces round it; and as Margot handed Ruleson his big tea cup, she said, Now, James Ruleson, tell us what you and the lad hae been after today, that took you into such a sinfu place as a circus. Youll hae to face the Domine on the matter. You, a ruling elder, in a circus! Im mair than astonished! Im fairly shocked at ye! And Im feared it was a premeditated sin. And ye ken what the Domine thinks o premeditated sins.

It was far from a sin o any kind, gudewife. Jamie and I were on our way to the boat, for a few hours fishing, when we met a lad wi a note from Finlay, saying he wanted a few words o advice from me, and I took a sudden thought o a days rest, and a bit o pleasure wi little Jamie. Sae, to the town we went, and first o all to Finlays, and I had a long talk wi him, about some railway shares he owns, on my advice; and they hae turned out sae weel, he wanted me to tak part o the profit. I wouldna do that, but I let him gie twenty pounds towards the school fund.

You might hae put that twenty in your ain pouch, gudeman, and nae fault in the same. You are too liberal anent the school. Our ain lads get naething from it.

Jamie will hae the gude o it, and lots o Culraine lads and lasses until they get a better one. Weel, so be it! After Finlay and I had finished our crack, I took Jamie to Molly Starks, and we had a holiday dinner.

Chicken pie! Custard pudding! Strawberry tarts! Nuts and raisins! And a big orange! Grandmither! Oh, it was beautiful! Beautiful!

Then we walked about the town a bit, and I saw a big tent, and men playing music before it, and when we got close pictures of animals and of horses, and men riding. And Jamie saw many little lads going in, especially one big school, and he said, Grandfeyther, tak me in too! And I took counsel wi my ain heart for a minute, and it said to me, Tak the lad in, and so I did.

And now youre blaming yoursel?

I am not. I think I did right. There was neither sound nor sight o wrang, and the little laddie went wild wi pleasure; and to tell the vera truth, I was pleased mysel beyond a my thoughts and expectations. I would like to tak you, Margot, and Christine too. I would like it weel. Let us a go the morns night.

I hae not lost my senses yet, James. Me go to a circus! Culraine wad neer get oer the fact. It wad be a standing libel against Margot Ruleson. As for Christine!

I wad like weel to go wi Feyther.

Im fairly astonished at you, Christine! Lassie, the women here would neer see you again, they wad feel sae far above ye. Im not the keeper o your feythers gude name, but I hae a charge oer yours, and it is clear and clean impossible, for you to go to a circus.

If Feyther goes

Your feyther hasna heard the last o his spree yet. To think o him leaving the narrow road. Him, near saxty years old! The kirk session on the matter will be a notable one. Elders through the length and breadth o Scotland will be takin sides. Dear me, James Ruleson, that you, in your auld age, should come to this! and then Margot laughed merrily and her husband and Christine understood she was only joking.





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