Scottish Sketches by Amelia E. Barr
James Blackie's Revenge.
The next day David came into the bank about noon, and said, "Come wi' me to McLellan's, James, and hae a mutton pie, it's near by lunch-time." While they were eating it David said, "Donald McFarlane is to be wedded next month. He's making a grand marriage."
James bit his lip, but said nothing.
"He's spoken for Miss Margaret Napier; her father was ane o' the Lords o' Session; she's his sole heiress, and that will mean L50,000, foreby the bonnie place and lands o' Ellenshawe."
"Dinna look that way, man. Christine is content; she kens weel enough she isna like her cousin."
"God be thanked she is not. Go away from me, David Cameron, or I shall say words that will make more suffering than you can dream off. Go away, man."
David was shocked and grieved at his companion's passion. "James," he said solemnly, "dinna mak a fool o' yoursel'. I hae long seen your ill-will at Donald. Let it go. Donald's aboon your thumb now, and the anger o' a poor man aye falls on himsel'."
"For God's sake don't tempt me farther. You little know what I could do if I had the ill heart to do it."
"Ow! ay!" said David scornfully, "if the poor cat had only wings it would extirpate the race of sparrows from the world; but when the wings arena there, James lad, it is just as weel to mak no boast o' them."
James had leaned his head in his hands, and was whispering, "Christine! Christine! Christine!" in a rapid inaudible voice. He took no notice of David's remark, and David was instantly sorry for it. "The puir lad is just sorrowful wi' love for Christine, and that's nae sin that I can see," he thought. "James," he said kindly, "I am sorry enough to grieve you. Come as soon as you can like to do it. You'll be welcome."
James slightly nodded his head, but did not move; and David left him alone in the little boarded room where they had eaten. In a few minutes he collected himself, and, like one dazed, walked back to his place in the bank. Never had its hours seemed so long, never had the noise and traffic, the tramping of feet, and the banging of doors seemed so intolerable. As early as possible he was at David's, and David, with that fine instinct that a kind heart teaches, said as he entered, "Gude evening, James. Gae awa ben and keep Christine company. I'm that busy that I'll no shut up for half an hour yet."
James found Christine in her usual place. The hearth had been freshly swept, the fire blazed brightly, and she sat before it with her white seam in her hand. She raised her eyes at James' entrance, and smilingly nodded to a vacant chair near her. He took it silently. Christine seemed annoyed at his silence in a little while, and asked, "Why don't you speak, James? Have you nothing to say?"
"A great deal, Christine. What now do you think of Donald McFarlane?"
"I think well of Donald."
"And of his marriage also?"
"Certainly I do. When he was here I saw how unfit I was to be his wife. I told him so, and bid him seek a mate more suitable to his position and prospects."
"Do you think it right to let yonder lady wed such a man with her eyes shut?"
"Are you going to open them?" Her face was sad and mournful, and she laid her hand gently on James' shoulder.
"I think it is my duty, Christine."
"Think again, James. Be sure it is your duty before you go on such an errand. See if you dare kneel down and ask God to bless you in this duty."
"Christine, you treat me very hardly. You know how I love you, and you use your power over me unmercifully."
"No, no, James, I only want you to keep yourself out of the power of Satan. If indeed I have any share in your heart, do not wrong me by giving Satan a place there also. Let me at least respect you, James."
Christine had never spoken in this way before to him; the majesty and purity of her character lifted him insensibly to higher thoughts, her gentleness soothed and comforted him. When David came in he found them talking in a calm, cheerful tone, and the evening that followed was one of the pleasantest he could remember. Yet James understood that Christine trusted in his forbearance, and he had no heart to grieve her, especially as she did her best to reward him by striving to make his visits to her father unusually happy.
So Donald married Miss Napier, and the newspapers were full of the bridegroom's beauty and talents, and the bride's high lineage and great possessions. After this Donald and Donald's affairs seemed to very little trouble David's humble household. His marriage put him far away from Christine's thoughts, for her delicate conscience would have regarded it as a great sin to remember with any feeling of love another woman's affianced husband; and when the struggle became one between right and wrong, it was ended for Christine. David seldom named him, and so Donald McFarlane gradually passed out of the lives he had so sorely troubled.
Slowly but surely James continued to prosper; he rose to be cashier in the bank, and he won a calm but certain place in Christine's regard. She had never quite recovered the shock of her long illness; she was still very frail, and easily exhausted by the least fatigue or excitement. But in James' eyes she was perfect; he was always at his best in her presence, and he was a very proud and happy man when, after eight years' patient waiting and wooing, he won from her the promise to be his wife; for he knew that with Christine the promise meant all that it ought to mean.
The marriage made few changes in her peaceful life. James left the bank, put his savings in David's business, and became his partner. But they continued to live in the same house, and year after year passed away in that happy calm which leaves no records, and has no fate days for the future to date from.
Sometimes a letter, a newspaper, or some public event, would bring back the memory of the gay, handsome lad that had once made so bright the little back parlor. Such strays from Donald's present life were always pleasant ones. In ten years he had made great strides forward. Every one had a good word for him. His legal skill was quoted as authority, his charities were munificent, his name unblemished by a single mean deed.
Had James forgotten? No, indeed. Donald's success only deepened his hatred of him. Even the silence he was compelled to keep on the subject intensified the feeling. Once after his marriage he attempted to discuss the subject with Christine, but the scene had been so painful he had never attempted it again; and David was swift and positive to dismiss any unfavorable allusion to Donald. Once, on reading that "Advocate McFarlane had joined the Free Kirk of Scotland on open confession of faith," James flung down the paper and said pointedly, "I wonder whether he confessed his wrong-doing before his faith or not."
"There's nane sae weel shod, James, that they mayna slip," answered David, with a stern face. "He has united wi' Dr. Buchan's kirk--there's nane taken into that fellowship unworthily, as far as man can judge."
"He would be a wise minister that got at all Advocate McFarlane's sins, I am thinking."
"Dinna say all ye think, James. They walk too fair for earth that naebody can find fault wi'."
So James nursed the evil passion in his own heart; indeed, he had nursed it so long that he could not of himself resign it, and in all his prayers--and he did pray frequently, and often sincerely--he never named this subject to God, never once asked for his counsel or help in the matter.
Twelve years after his marriage with Christine David died, died as he had often wished to die, very suddenly. He was well at noon; at night he had put on the garments of eternal Sabbath. He had but a few moments of consciousness in which to bid farewell to his children. "Christine," he said cheerfully, "we'll no be lang parted, dear lassie;" and to James a few words on his affairs, and then almost with his last breath, "James, heed what I say: 'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall--obtain mercy.'"
There seemed to have been some prophetic sense in David's parting words to his daughter, for soon after his death she began to fail rapidly. What James suffered as he saw it only those can tell who have watched their beloved slowly dying, and hoped against hope day after day and week after week. Perhaps the hardest part was the knowledge that she had never recovered the health she had previous to the terrible shock which his revelation of Donald's guilt had been to her. He forgot his own share in the shock and threw the whole blame of her early decay on Donald. "And if she dies," he kept saying in his angry heart, "I will make him suffer for it."
And Christine was drawing very near to death, though even when she was confined to her room and bed James would not believe it. And it was at this time that Donald came once more to Glasgow. There was a very exciting general election for a new Parliament, and Donald stood for the Conservative party in the city of Glasgow. Nothing could have so speedily ripened James' evil purpose. Should a forger represent his native city? Should he see the murderer of his Christine win honor upon honor, when he had but to speak and place him among thieves?
During the struggle he worked frantically to defeat him--and failed. That night he came home like a man possessed by some malicious, ungovernable spirit of hell. He would not go to Christine's room, for he was afraid she would discover his purpose in his face, and win him from it. For now he had sworn to himself that he would only wait until the congratulatory dinner. He could get an invitation to it. All the bailies and the great men of the city would be there. The newspaper reporters would be there. His triumph would be complete. Donald would doubtless make a great speech, and after it he would say his few words.
Then he thought of Christine. But she did not move him now, for she was never likely to hear of it. She was confined to her bed; she read nothing but her Bible; she saw no one but her nurse. He would charge the nurse, and he would keep all papers and letters from her. He thought of nothing now but the near gratification of a revengeful purpose for which he had waited twenty years. Oh, how sweet it seemed to him!
The dinner was to be in a week, and during the next few days he was like a man in a bad dream. He neglected his business, and wandered restlessly about the house, and looked so fierce and haggard that Christine began to notice, to watch, and to fear. She knew that Donald was in the city, and her heart told her that it was his presence only that could so alter her husband; and she poured it out in strong supplications for strength and wisdom to avert the calamity she felt approaching.
That night her nurse became sick and could not remain with her, and James, half reluctantly, took her place, for he feared Christine's influence now. She would ask him to read the Bible, to pray with her; she might talk to him of death and heaven; she might name Donald, and extract some promise from him. And he was determined now that nothing should move him. So he pretended great weariness, drew a large chair to her bedside, and said,
"I shall try and sleep a while, darling; if you need me you have only to speak."