The Heather-Moon - novelonlinefull.com
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"Don't defend the fellow. It was both of them. They--and James sending for his wife--drove me into a corner. But I wasn't going to be swept off the board without a struggle. I meant from the beginning to fight for you, if I saw a gleam of interest in your eyes for me, and sometimes I thought I did see it. But thanks to Mrs. Bal MacDonald, they'd got you in their clutches, those two. It suddenly occurred to me when I lost Mrs. James, to go and get your grandmother--bring her by force if she wouldn't come. I knew she had a sneaking kindness for me, as a MacDonald man. There was a queer bond of sympathy between us, which we'd both felt when we met. All our worst faults are alike. I dashed off to Carlisle--quickest way, by train, and threw myself on the old lady's mercy--told her everything. She was a trump, though perhaps her desire to help was as much a wish to thwart her daughter-in-law as anything else. She was too rheumatic to come with me in the car. I suppose it was a wild scheme! But she herself suggested my going to London to invite the MacDonalds. She thought, if I offered inducements--and she was right. It was an inspiration on her part."
"But," I broke in, "isn't it glorious not to have chaperons at all?"
He didn't answer in words. Yet he made me understand in a far more emphatic and satisfactory way, that he agreed.
"You can imagine what I felt when you coolly went off from Ballachulish with Norman and his sister," Ian went on. "Then I _did_ think it was all up--that I had been a fool for my hopes and my pains, till dear old Vedder hummed and hawed and apologized for taking a liberty, and mentioned that Salomon had boasted he was going to get his 'party' to Gretna Green in the shortest time on record. 'It's a plot!' I said to myself, as Mrs. James had warned me. And five minutes later Vedder and I and the Gray Dragon were off at a pace--well, I'm afraid we exceeded the legal limit most of the way; but the G.o.ds looked after us."
"And so did the heather moon!" I added.
Now we are at Dhrum, our own dear purple island set in a sea of gold; but first we went back to Carlisle and visited Grandma; and to please her and Ian, I consented to be married all over again, in church, with a special license and everything such as the conventional bride does, though it seemed treacherous to that happy moment at Gretna Green, which was like heaven after the valley of death. Grandma was wonderful to Ian, and very nearly nice to me. Not an unkind word did she say of Barbara, and she didn't even refer to my running away.
"You have had the sense to choose a real man, and the good fortune to win him. I'd hardly have thought it of you. A MacDonald too!" she remarked. And I almost loved her. Mrs. Muir made us a wedding cake, which she insisted on our taking away, in a large tin box: and when we left Hillard House, Heppie's nose was pinker than I ever saw it, which is saying a good deal.
Aline West was married to Mr. George Vanneck the very day we started from Carlisle for Dhrum. We saw an account of the wedding in the paper.
It was at Glasgow; and she was going to a lovely place called St.
Fillans for her honeymoon. Basil gave her away, and was to return immediately after to Canada, "on business."
It is like a dream to be living in the vast, turreted gray castle of our ancestors, looking out over an endless sea, and to be the mistress of such a house--I, little Barrie MacDonald, the princess rescued from a gla.s.s retort. But it is a true dream. Ian says that he won me by a kind of fraud, as the first Somerled won his Pictish princess; because we weren't really married by that game we played with the photograph people at Gretna Green. Only, he made up his mind even then, that if the wrong man ever got a hold upon me, he would use the episode to frighten him away. How thankful I am that it happened! If it hadn't, perhaps I should have missed my happiness: but Ian says no, he would have s.n.a.t.c.hed me from Basil somehow, if not in one way, then in another. Poor Basil, I can afford to remember him with forgiveness, and even a kind of tenderness now! I think he always hated himself in his heart for doing what he did. But tragedy came so near for a few hours that sometimes, if Ian is separated from me for a moment, we have to rush to find each other, and say "It's true--after all!"
At Dunelin Castle there are all the things I used to wish for: MacDonald tartan on the walls and floors of many rooms; and torn, faded MacDonald banners hanging in the dimness high up on the stone walls of the great dining-hall--where we never dine. Pipers pipe us away in the morning, and the skirl of the pipes mingles with the crying of gulls and the boom of the sea in a thrilling way. The old servants look as if they had never been born and could never die. They are delightfully superst.i.tious and quaint, and not one of them would kill a spider. Neither would I, for the matter of that! I suppose it's my MacDonald blood and my love of Bruce. You ought to see the elaborate precautions that are taken to get rid of a spider in Dunelin Castle without insulting or hurting its feelings!
Ian always wears the kilt; and if I hadn't loved him as much as I possibly could before, I should have fallen in love with him all over again the day I saw him in it first. He is painting my portrait in the Gretna Green costume; and when we are tired, we take long walks together, I in a short tweed, with my hair down my back, Ian in the kilt. Our favourite tramp is to a mysterious, hidden lake, surrounded with rugged black mountains like petrified guardian-dragons watching a treasure. This wild, mountain walled lake is called the "Heart of Dhrum," and Ian says it is no more wild or savage or dark with clouds than _his_ heart used to be every day when he was giving other men their chance with me. He says, too, that if the lady who used to be imprisoned in a fearful dungeon under the dining-hall at Dunelin, and fed only with salt beef, had been Aline West it would have served her right. He would have given her no sympathy, but a great deal of salt and very little beef. But of course he does not mean that. His heart overflows with kindness for all humanity nowadays, and it never was hard really. He finds the world a glorious place with very few faults; but he says it is I who have taught him this lesson, and that I should be able to make a skeleton-ghost, condemned to clank chains in an underground prison through eternity, see his fate in a rose-coloured light. I love him to say foolish things. And I love him when he says nothing at all, but only looks at me.
He has taught me to dance the Highland fling. I do it with my hair down, while the pipers pipe; and Ian cries Hoo! and Ha! and claps his hands, as we dance, like the true Highlander he is. He was splendid in the Games Week; for he could do the great jumps and "put" the stones as well as the best of the Skye men who came over to compete with the men of Dhrum. And here at Dunelin, where we danced reels till morning, on the night of the ball we gave, he danced everybody else down--except me.
This castle, which my fierce ancestors built nearly a thousand years ago, is a fairy castle for me and for Ian. It is all our own now, to have and to hold, because he has bought it, so it will belong to a MacDonald while it and the world lasts--I pray. We shall go to live in America, where I hope Barbara may let me see her sometimes; but we shall have this fairy island of purple and gold to come back to always, the hidden home of our hearts.
I used to ask myself, when the heather moon vanished behind a mountain or into the sea, in what secret place she lurked while she hid from the world? Now I know that the purple island of Dhrum is her fastness, and that because she loved us she brought us safely here, together.
I wonder sometimes if Basil will ever write his romance of our journeyings and adventures under the heather moon--months or years from now, when he has forgotten to be sad, and is only pleasantly romantic, as when I knew him first? Ian says he will never write it, because if he did, he would have to be the villain; and no man ever yet made himself the villain of his own book. Perhaps that is true. But I do not think there ought to be a real villain in a story about a rainbow key and a heather moon.