Scottish Sketches by Amelia E. Barr
Facing His Enemy.
However, sometimes things are not so ill as they look. The new firm obtained favor, and even old, cautious men began to do a little business with it. For Robert introduced some new machinery, and the work it did was allowed, after considerable suspicion, to be "vera satisfactory." A sudden emergency had also discovered to David that he possessed singularly original ideas in designing patterns; and he set himself with enthusiasm to that part of the business. Two years afterwards came the Great Fair of 1851, and Callendar & Leslie took a first prize for their rugs, both design and workmanship being honorably mentioned.
Their success seemed now assured. Orders came in so fast that the mill worked day and night to fill them; and David was so gay and happy that John could hardly help rejoicing with him. Indeed, he was very proud of his nephew, and even inclined to give Robert a little cautious kindness. The winter of 1851 was a very prosperous one, but the spring brought an unlooked-for change.
One evening David came home to dinner in a mood which Jenny characterized as "thrawart." He barely answered her greeting, and shut his room-door with a bang. He did not want any dinner, and he wanted to be let alone. John looked troubled at this behavior. Jenny said, "It is some lass in the matter; naething else could mak a sensible lad like Davie act sae child-like and silly." And Jennie was right. Towards nine o'clock David came to the parlor and sat down beside his uncle. He said he had been "greatly annoyed."
"Annoyances are as certain as the multiplication table," John remarked quietly, "and ye ought to expect them--all the mair after a long run o' prosperity."
"But no man likes to be refused by the girl he loves."
"Eh? Refused, say ye? Wha has refused you?"
"Isabel Strang. I have loved her, as you and Jenny know, since we went to school together, and I was sure that she loved me. Two days ago I had some business with Deacon Strang, and when it was finished I spoke to him anent Isabel. He made me no answer then, one way or the other, but told me he would have a talk with Isabel, and I might call on him this afternoon. When I did so he said he felt obligated to refuse my offer."
"That is all."
"Nonsense! Hae you seen Isabel hersel'?"
"She went to Edinburgh last night."
"And if you were your uncle, lad, you would hae been in Edinburgh too by this time. Your uncle would not stay refused twenty-four hours, if he thought the lass loved him. Tut, tut, you ought to hae left at once; that would hae been mair like a Callendar than ganging to your ain room to sit out a scorning. There is a train at ten o'clock to-night; you hae time to catch it if ye dinna lose a minute, and if you come back wi' Mrs. David Callendar, I'll gie her a warm welcome for your sake."
The old man's face was aglow, and in his excitement he had risen to his feet with the very air of one whom no circumstances could depress or embarrass. David caught his mood and his suggestion, and in five minutes he was on his way to the railway depot. The thing was done so quickly that reflection had formed no part of it. But when Jenny heard the front-door clash impatiently after David, she surmised some imprudence, and hastened to see what was the matter. John told her the "affront" David had received, and looked eagerly into the strong, kindly face for an assurance that he had acted with becoming promptitude and sympathy. Jenny shook her head gravely, and regarded the deacon with a look of pitying disapproval. "To think," she said, "of twa men trying to sort a love affair, when there was a woman within call to seek counsel o'."
"But we couldna hae done better, Jenny."
"Ye couldna hae done warse, deacon. Once the lad asked ye for money, and ye wouldna trust him wi' it; and now ye are in sic a hurry to send him after a wife that he maun neither eat nor sleep. Ye ken which is the maist dangerous. And you, wi' a' your years, to play into auld Strang's hand sae glibly! Deacon, ye hae made a nice mess o' it. Dinna ye see that Strang knew you twa fiery Hielandmen would never tak 'No,' and he sent Isabel awa on purpose for our Davie to run after her. He kens weel they will be sure to marry, but he'll say now that his daughter disobeyed him; sae he'll get off giving her a bawbee o' her fortune, and he'll save a' the plenishing and the wedding expenses. Deacon, I'm ashamed o' you. Sending a love-sick lad on sic a fool's errand. And mair, I'm not going to hae Isabel Strang, or Isabel Callendar here. A young woman wi' bridish ways dawdling about the house, I canna, and I willna stand. You'll hae to choose atween Deacon Strang's daughter and your auld cousin, Jenny Callendar."
John had no answer ready, and indeed Jenny gave him no time to make one: she went off with a sob in her voice, and left the impulsive old matchmaker very unhappy indeed. For he had an unmitigated sense of having acted most imprudently, and moreover, a shrewd suspicion that Jenny's analysis of Deacon Strang's tactics was a correct one. For the first time in many a year, a great tide of hot, passionate anger swept away every other feeling. He longed to meet Strang face to face, and with an hereditary and quite involuntary instinct he put his hand to the place where his forefathers had always carried their dirks. The action terrified and partly calmed him. "My God!" he exclaimed, "forgive thy servant. I hae been guilty in my heart o' murder."
He was very penitent, but still, as he mused the fire burned; and he gave vent to his feelings in odd, disjointed sentences thrown up from the very bottom of his heart, as lava is thrown up by the irrepressible eruption: "Wha shall deliver a man from his ancestors? Black Evan Callendar was never much nearer murder than I hae been this night, only for the grace of God, which put the temptation and the opportunity sae far apart. I'll hae Strang under my thumb yet. God forgie me! what hae I got to do wi' sorting my ain wrongs? What for couldna Davie like some other lass? It's as easy to graft on a good stock as an ill one. I doobt I hae done wrong. I am in a sair swither. The righteous dinna always see the right way. I maun e'en to my Psalms again. It is a wonderfu' comfort that King David was just a weak, sinfu' mortal like mysel'." So he went again to those pathetic, self-accusing laments of the royal singer, and found in them, as he always had done, words for all the great depths of his sin and fear, his hopes and his faith.
In the morning one thing was clear to him; David must have his own house now--David must leave him. He could not help but acknowledge that he helped on this consummation, and it was with something of the feeling of a man doing a just penance that he went to look at a furnished house, whose owner was going to the south of France with a sick daughter. The place was pretty, and handsomely furnished, and John paid down the year's rent. So when David returned with his young bride, he assumed at once the dignity and the cares of a householder.
Jenny was much offended at the marriage of David. She had looked forward to this event as desirable and probable, but she supposed it would have come with solemn religious rites and domestic feasting, and with a great gathering in Blytheswood Square of all the Callendar clan. That it had been "a wedding in a corner," as she contemptuously called it, was a great disappointment to her. But, woman-like, she visited it on her own sex. It was all Isabel's fault, and from the very first day of the return of the new couple she assumed an air of commiseration for the young husband, and always spoke of him as "poor Davie."
This annoyed John, and after his visits to David's house he was perhaps unnecessarily eloquent concerning the happiness of the young people. Jenny received all such information with a dissenting silence. She always spoke of Isabel as "Mistress David," and when John reminded her that David's wife was "Mistress Callendar," she said, "It was weel kent that there were plenty o' folk called Callendar that werna Callendars for a' that." And it soon became evident to her womanly keen-sightedness that John did not always return from his visits to David and Isabel in the most happy of humors. He was frequently too silent and thoughtful for a perfectly satisfied man; but whatever his fears were, he kept them in his own bosom. They were evidently as yet so light that hope frequently banished them altogether; and when at length David had a son and called it after his uncle, the old man enjoyed a real springtime of renewed youth and pleasure. Jenny was partly reconciled also, for the happy parents treated her with special attention, and she began to feel that perhaps David's marriage might turn out better than she had looked for.
Two years after this event Deacon Strang became reconciled to his daughter, and as a proof of it gave her a large mansion situated in the rapidly-growing "West End." It had come into his possession at a bargain in some of the mysterious ways of his trade; but it was, by the very reason of its great size, quite unsuitable for a young manufacturer like David. Indeed, it proved to be a most unfortunate gift in many ways.
"It will cost L5,000 to furnish it," said John fretfully, "and that Davie can ill afford--few men could; but Isabel has set her heart on it."
"And she'll hae her will, deacon. Ye could put L5,000 in the business though, or ye could furnish for them."
"My way o' furnishing wouldna suit them; and as for putting back money that David is set on wasting, I'll no do it. It is a poor well, Jenny, into which you must put water. If David's business wont stand his drafts on it, the sooner he finds it out the better."
So the fine house was finely furnished; but that was only the beginning of expenses. Isabel now wanted dress to suit her new surroundings, and servants to keep the numerous rooms clean. Then she wanted all her friends and acquaintances to see her splendid belongings, so that erelong David found his home turned into a fashionable gathering-place. Lunches, dinners, and balls followed each other quickly, and the result of all this visiting was that Isabel had long lists of calls to make every day, and that she finally persuaded David that it would be cheaper to buy their own carriage than to pay so much hire to livery-stables.
These changes did not take place all at once, nor without much disputing. John Callendar opposed every one of them step by step till opposition was useless. David only submitted to them in order to purchase for himself a delusive peace during the few hours he could afford to be in his fine home; for his increased expenditure was not a thing he could bear lightly. Every extra hundred pounds involved extra planning and work and risks. He gradually lost all the cheerful buoyancy of manner and the brightness of countenance that had been always part and parcel of David Callendar. A look of care and weariness was on his face, and his habits and hours lost all their former regularity. It had once been possible to tell the time of day by the return home of the two Callendars. Now no one could have done that with David. He stayed out late at night; he stayed out all night long. He told Isabel the mill needed him, and she either believed him or pretended to do so.
So that after the first winter of her fashionable existence she generally "entertained" alone. "Mr. Callendar had gone to Stirling, or up to the Highlands to buy wool," or, "he was so busy money-making she could not get him to recognize the claims of society." And society cared not a pin's point whether he presided or not at the expensive entertainments given in his name.