I now take up my story where I broke off to allow o' Colin tellin' his pairt o' the play. Why was I no at the tryst mysel? And what for did Maggie take my place?
The answer is simple eneuch. I didna ken o' Maggie's exploit for a lang time after; and my faither hindered me frae keepin' the tryst. I hae no assured knowledge e'en now, whether the two planned the business atween them, or if each went to work independently. But if my faither did ken o' Maggie's meetin' wi’ Colin, I'll warrant she never let on till him what came o't.
Just as the gloamin' set in, the laird bade me gae ben, tellin' me that he would require my assistance to make up the hair'st accounts, which was nae mair than ordinar', for the same wark aye fell to my lot. But it was a maist by-ordinar’ thing that he should want it done on that nicht aboon a'. I tried to pit it aff' wi’ one excuse an' anither; but my faither would no hear o' ony delay; for he said there were mony special reasons why he maun hae his accounts put in order at once. Sae there was nothing for it, but to submit. Many a seaudin' tear wat my cheek that nicht; but my faither either didna, or wadna see them. I thocht o'puir Colin, as I pented him in my mind, danderin round and round the auld byre, an' wonderin’ what for I didna come till him as I had promised. An' a’ the time he was just happ'd in a plaid, wi' that unconscionable jaud o' a sister o' mine cuddlin' in his airms. Sin syne, when Colin tauld me aboot it, I was gey well pleased she had filed her breath with sybows that e'en. That was page 45 the only pairt o' the play that had ony savin' grace aboot it.
The weary time slippit awa, till at last the hair'stbuiks were quite finished. I still had a mind to rin out to the byre to see if Colin was still there; but the laird stappit me at ance. “Where are ye gaun?” speered he.
“Just but the house,” quo I, “to get a breath o' caller air. I've gotten a sair pain in the heid wi' thae buiks.”
My faither came owre to me, an' pit his hand on my burnin' head—for indeed it was no a pretence. “Puir lassie!” said he. He spake in such a pitiful voice that I cast my een up till his face, an' I saw it was very sorrowfu', an' that the water was risin' in his ain een. A' at ance it dirled through me that he kent a', an' was wae for me that I had gien awa my heart in a wrang quarter, as he thocht. “Puir—puir lassie!” he said again. If he had but thrawed me, or flyted at me, I wad hae had the boldness to hae dared him till his face, on my lover's behalf; but his tenderness melted me. I bowed my heid in my bands an' grat without restraint. My faither was sae silent the while, that I thocht he maun hae gone away; but when I looked up again, he was aye standin' by my side, wi' the same signs o' love an' kindness in his een, an I got sicht o' a big tear tricklin' doun his beard.
He raised me in his airms, and settin me on his knee, wi' my face on his shouther, he said to me, very quietly; ‘Janet ye hae been a gude lassie, an' I'll no say ae word to vex ye, mair than it is my bounden duty to dae. What I am daein is for your ain future comfort an page 46 peace o' mind. Ye winna think sae noo, maybe; but ye will sae in the years to come. lang after I am laid in the groun', an' then ye will thank me in your heart for savin' ye frae yoursel' the day. Colin Davidson is a fine fallow, I allow; I hae no a ill word to cast till him. But he's no fittin' to mate wi' my wee Jenny. Dinna answer me noo—I want nane. It's eneuch that ye ken my mind.”
He paused for a minute or sae, and I could tell by the catching o' his breath, that he was wrastlin' wi’ a sob. Presently he went on again.—
“If it hurts ye, Janet, to be tauld this, the Lord aboon ken's it hurts me far mair in the tellin'. There's no a tear fa's frae your een that disna gie a stang till my heart—no a sob ye gie oot that disna stab my ain soul.”
What could I say to a faither that spake sae tenderly? My heart was bursting wi' grief, an' it seemed as if life wad be very dreary without Colin. But I pit pain an' dool ahint me, as weel's I could, an' kissed the dear hand that gave the unwilling blow.
“Promise me, Jenny,” said my faither, “that ye'll no dae onything in regard o' Colin Davidson without my consent.” And I promised.
“Noo,” quo he, “ye're free to come an' gae as ye will. I will no watch ye, nor allow ye to be spied on by ithers. But I'm bound to lay the burden on your shouthers that ye'll no be ettlin' to meet wi' Colin unkent o' mysel'.”
“Maun I no see the dear laddie?” I cried. “Oh faither! faither!“—And I went doun on my knees an' wi’ a wild passion o' tears I besought him no to be page 47 owre hard on twa young folk wba had done nae ill, but jist to love ane anither very fondly. He lifted me up an' cried—“Child, child! It's far better ye shouldna meet wi' him Ye'll learn to forget him mair easy, and it canna be—it maunna be But,” quo he, “ye shall see him ance mair, an' then ye maun tell him that ye may no lie in his bosom, nor bide in his fauld'.
But I needna weary ye wi' ony mair o' our sad discourse that nicht. It was brought to an end by my faither leadin' me up till my chamber: an' there, baith kneelin' at my bedside, wi' our airms owre each other's shouthers, the dear auld man poured forth a heart-warm prayer for my peace and welfare, an wrastled wi Heaven to comfort me, an' gie me grace in my sair trial.
But afore leavin' the spence he raucht doun the Bible, and read frae Paul's epistle to the Hebrews:—
“No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyons, but grieunis; nerertheless afterward it yiebleth the peaceable fruit o' righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
When my faither left me I opened the window and drank in the caller air, sweet wi' the scent o' new-gathered corn. My een wandered owre the peacefu' strath, Iying bright in the silver licht of the moon, as I had hoped my life wad hae been; and then owre the dark hill o' Craigie Gower, risin up ayont in deep shadow, as I now feart it wad be. The twa burns, singin' sae gaily as they hurried doun to lose themselves in ane anither, minded me o' Colin an' mysel', now pairted for ever, an no' to meet again. A big black dyke seemed to raise itsel' up atween us, an' my thochts ran on our last meetin'. His last words— page 48 “Aye be leal!“—Kept ringin' in my ears. “Aye,” I cried, “leal for life an'death; leal for aye!”
Next mornin' Maggie tauld me she had seen my Colin yestreen (she didna sae how). an' gave me word frae him that he was awa' early and wadna be able to see me for awhile; but I was to keep weel-hearted, for he would be sure to manage the business I kent o'. This gave me some sma' relief, for I shouldna be pit in the way o' breakin’ the word I had gi'en to my faither, nor o' refusing to see Colin, which wad hae been the sairest of a'. But eh! I couldna feel eanty. I just went aboot my work kind o' half-dazed. When my faither forgathered wi' me, he aye gi'ed me a sad smile, that minded me o'sunlicht in a misty lift. Maggie watched me out o' the corner o' her een, in a queer way that I didna' understan'. An' sae the days and nichts hirpled alang.
Mr. Renwick went away the same day. He said he had business in Glasco', but he would be our way again sune, an' wad bring me a gowden brooch an' some braws for Maggie's weddin'. We lassies were aye in a state o' mystification aboot him; but I got a hint o' his special business in an unexpeeted manner. I had gane up to the byre early in the mornin', an' intil the sma' chamber aboon the door for ae thing an' anither wanted down till the house. While I was seekin' them out I heard voices aneath, an' keekin out I spied Mr. Renwick and the laird. They were comin' doun the strath, an' I conldna' but hear some o' their conversation as they passed by.
“Then I'm to understan' that ye'll no move in't?’ quo' Mr. Renwick. And my faither answered back: page 49 “I maun dae as I can, not as I would. Pittin' ither things by, there's Maggie's tocher to be provided for. I hae thocht it owre an' owre, an' sought counsel frae aboen, an' it canna be done without roupin' the auld place, which wad richt-doun kill me wi' vexation.” They went past without my hearing ony mair; but eneuch had been said to make me acquent wi' the fact that my faither was suffering and in trouble, an' that the stranger some way had a hand in't. The thocht o' his tenderness to mysel', an' he, in his auld age, dreein' pain and dool, that he keepit till his ain breast rather than aflliet his bairns, gart me take shame to mysel', that I should hae been the means o' causing him anither sorrow to increase the burden o' his ain.
Just then I entertained a maist unwarrantable dislike o' Mr. Renwick. The puir man had no' wrought any harm that I kent o', but it seemed plain to me that he was wearyin' my faither, an' my faither's unfriends must be mine. It's no far we can see in the licht, an' it's ill seekin' in the mirk. Little did I think that the day was near at hand when I would be proud to acknowledge Mr. Renwick as a true an' leal friend.