Christine: A Fife Fisher Girl
ñêà÷àòü êíèãó áåñïëàòíî
“I meant nothing to wrong you, Christine. All girls dress to please the men.”
“Men think sae. They are vera mich mista’en. Girls dress to outdress each ither. If you hae any writing to do, I want to gie you an hour’s wark. I’ll hae to leave the rest until morning.”
Then Neil told her the whole of the proposal Angus had made him. He pointed out its benefits, both for the present and the future, and Christine listened thoughtfully to all he said. She saw even further than Neil did, the benefits, and she was the first to name the subject nearest to Neil’s anxieties.
“You see, Neil,” she said, “if you go to Ballister, you be to hae the proper dress for every occasion. The best suit ye hae now will be nane too good for you to wark, and to play in. You must hae a new suit for ordinary wear, forbye a full dress suit. I’ll tell you what to do – David Finlay, wha dresses a’ the men gentry round about here, is an old, old friend o’ Feyther’s. They herded together, and went to school and kirk togither, and Feyther and him have helped each ither across hard places, a’ their life long.”
“I don’t want any favors from David Finlay.”
“Hae a little patience, lad. I’m not asking you to tak’ favors from anyone. I, mysel’, will find the money for you; but I canna tell you how men ought to dress, nor what they require in thae little odds and ends, which are so important.”
“Odds and ends! What do you mean?”
“Neckties, gloves, handkerchiefs, hats, and a proper pocket book for your money. I saw Ballister take his from his pocket, to put the laburnum leaves in, and I had a glint o’ the bank bills in it, and I ken weel it is more genteel-like than a purse. I call things like these ‘odds and ends.’”
“Such things cost a deal of money, Christine.”
“I was coming to that, Neil. I hae nearly ninety-six pounds in the bank. It hes been gathering there, ever since my grandfeyther put five pounds in for me at my baptisement – as a nest egg, ye ken – and all I hae earned, and all that Feyther or Mither hae gien me, has helped it gather; and on my last birthday, when Feyther gave me a pound, and Mither ten shillings, I had ninety-six pounds. Now, Neil, dear lad, you can hae the use o’ it all, if so be you need it. Just let Dave Finlay tell you what to get, and get it, and pay him for it – you can pay me back, when money comes easy to you.”
“Thank you, Christine! You have always been my good angel. I will pay you out o’ my first earnings. I’ll give you good interest, and a regular I. O. U. which will be – ”
“What are you saying, Neil? Interest! Interest! Interest on love? And do you dare to talk to me anent your I. O. U. If I canna trust your love, and your honor, I’ll hae neither interest nor paper from you. Tak my offer wi’ just the word between us, you are vera welcome to the use o’ the money. There’s nae sign o’ my marrying yet, and I’ll not be likely to want it until my plenishing and napery is to buy.You’ll go to Finlay, I hope?”
“I certainly will. He shall give me just what is right.”
“Now then, my time is up. I will be ready to do your copying at five o’clock in the morning. Then, after breakfast, you can go to the town, but you won’t win into the Bank before ten, and maist likely Finlay will be just as late. Leave out the best linen you hae, and I’ll attend to it, wi’ my ain hands.”
“Oh, Christine, how sweet and good you are! I’m afraid I am not worthy o’ your love!”
“Vera likely you are not. Few brothers love their sisters as they ought to. It willna be lang before you’ll do like the lave o’ them, and put some strange lass before me.”
“There’s nae lass living that can ever be to me what you hae been, and are. You hae been mother and sister baith, to me.”
“Dear lad, I love thee with a’ my heart. All that is mine, is thine, for thy use and help, and between thee and me the word and the bond are the same thing.”
Christine was much pleased because Neil unconsciously had fallen into his Scotch dialect. She knew then that his words were spontaneous, not of consideration, but of feeling from his very heart.
In a week the change contemplated had been fully accomplished. Neil had become accustomed to the luxury of his new home, and was making notable progress in the work which had brought him there.
Twice during the week Margot had been made royally happy by large baskets of wonderful flowers and fruit, from the Ballister gardens. They were brought by the Ballister gardener, and came with Neil’s love and name, but Margot had some secret thoughts of her own. She suspected they were the result of a deeper and sweeter reason than a mere admiration for her wonderful little garden among the rocks; but she kept such thoughts silent in her heart. One thing she knew well, that if Christine were twitted on the subject, she would hate Angus Ballister, and utterly refuse to see him. So she referred to the gifts as entirely from Neil, and affected a little anxiety about their influence on Ballister.
“I hope that young man isna thinking,” she said, “that his baskets o’ flowers and fruit is pay enough for Neil’s service.”
“Mither, he promised to pay Neil.”
“To be sure. But I didna hear o’ any fixed sum. Some rich people hae a way o’ giving sma’ favors, and forgetting standing siller.”
“He seemed a nice young man, Mither, and he did admire your garden. I am sure he has told Neil to send the flowers because you loved flowers. When folk love anything, they like others who love as they do. Mebbe they who love flowers hae the same kind and order o’ souls. You ken if a man loves dogs, he is friendly at once wi’ a stranger who loves dogs; and there’s the Domine, who is just silly anent auld coins – copper, siller or gold – he cares not, if they’re only auld enough. Nannie Grant, wha keeps his house, told Katie Tweedie that he took a beggar man into his parlor, and ate his dinner with him, just because he had a siller bit o’ Julius C?sar in his pouch, and wouldna part wi’ it, even when he was wanting bread.”
“Weel then, the Domine doubtless wanted the penny.”
“Vera likely, but he wouldna tak it frae the puir soul, wha thought sae much o’ it; and Nannie was saying that he went away wi’ a guid many Victoria pennies i’ his pouch.”
“The Domine is a queer man.”
“Ay, but a vera guid man.”
“If he had a wife, he would be a’ right.”
“And just as likely a’ wrang. Wha can tell?”
“Weel, that’s an open question. What about your ain marriage?”
“I’ll marry when I find a man who loves the things I love.”
“Weel, the change for Neil, and for the a’ of us has been – in a way – a gude thing. I’ll say that.”
Margot was right. Even if we take change in its widest sense, it is a great and healthy manifestation, and it is only through changes that the best lives are made perfect. For every phase of life requires its own environment, in order to fulfill perfectly its intention and if it does not get it, then the intent, or the issue, loses much of its efficiency. “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God,” is a truth relative to the greatest nations, as well as to the humblest individual.
Neil was benefited in every way by the social uplift of a residence in a gentleman’s home, and the active, curious temperament of Angus stimulated him. Angus was interested in every new thing, in every new idea, in every new book. The world was so large, and so busy, and he wanted to know all about its goings on. So when Neil’s business was over for the day, Angus was eagerly waiting to tell him of something new or strange which he had just read, or heard tell of, and though Neil did not realize the fact, he was actually receiving, in these lively discussions with his friend, the very best training for his future forensic and oratorical efforts.
Indeed he was greatly pleased with himself. He had not dreamed of being the possessor of so much skill in managing an opposite opinion; nor yet of the ready wit, which appeared to flow naturally with his national dialect. But all this clever discussion and disputing was excellent practice, and Neil knew well that his visit to Ballister had been a change full of benefits to him.
One of the results of Neil’s investigations was the discovery that Dr. Magnus Trenabie had been presented to the church of Culraine by the father of Angus, and that his salary had never been more than fifty pounds a year, with the likelihood that it had often been much less. Angus was angry and annoyed.
“I give my gamekeeper a larger salary,” he said. “It is a shame! The doctor’s salary must be doubled at once. If there are any technicalities about it, look to them as quickly as possible. Did my father worship in that old church?”
“He did, and I have heard my father tell very frequently, how the old man stood by the church when the great Free Kirk secession happened. He says that at that burning time everyone left Dr. Trenabie’s church but Ballister and ten o’ his tenants, and that the doctor took no notice of their desertion, but just preached to your father and the ten faithful. He was never heard to blame the lost flock, and he never went into the wilderness after them. Your father would not hear of his doing so.
“Magnus,” he would say, “tak’ time, and bide a wee. The puir wanderers will get hungry and weary in their Free Kirk conventicles, and as the night comes on, they’ll come hame. Nae fear o’ them!”
“Did they come home?”
“Every one of them but three stubborn old men. They died out of its communion, and the old Master pitied them, and told their friends he was feared that it would go a bit hard wi’ them. He said, they had leaped the fence, and he shook his head, and looked down and doubtful anent the outcome, since naebody could tell what ill weeds were in a strange pasture.”
After this discovery Angus went to the old church, where his father had worshiped, and there he saw Christine, and there he fell freshly in love with her every Sabbath day. It did not appear likely that love had much opportunity, in those few minutes in the kirk yard after the service, when Neil and Angus waited for Margot and Christine, to exchange the ordinary greetings and inquiries. James Ruleson, being leading elder, always remained a few minutes after the congregation had left, in order to count the collection and give it to the Domine, and in those few minutes Love found his opportunity.
While Neil talked with his mother of their family affairs, Angus talked with Christine. His eyes rained Love’s influence, his voice was like a caress, the touch of his hand seemed to Christine to draw her in some invisible way closer to him. She never remembered the words he said, she only knew their inarticulate meaning was love, always love. When it was time for Ruleson to appear, Margot turned to Angus and thanked him for some special gift or kindness that had come to the cottage that week, and Angus always laughed, and pointing to Neil, said:
“Neil is the culprit, Mrs. Ruleson. It is Neil’s doing, I assure you.” And of course this statement might be, in several ways, the truth. At any rate, the old proverb which advises us “never to look a gift horse in the mouth,” is a good one. For the motive of the gift is more than the gift itself.
These gifts were all simple enough, but they were such as delighted Margot’s childlike heart – an armful of dahlias or carnations – a basket of nectarines or apricots – two or three dozen fresh eggs – a pot of butter – a pair of guinea fowls, then rare in poultry yards, or a brood of young turkeys to feed and fatten for the New Year’s festival. About these fowls, Neil wrote her elaborate directions. And Margot was more delighted with these simple gifts than many have been with a great estate. And Christine knew, and Angus knew that she knew, and it was a subtle tie between them, made of meeting glances and clasping hands.