Conversation akin to this sweetened the simple meal, and after it Robertand Theodora walked up and down the pretty lane running past the ChapelCroft. It had a hedge of sweet-briar which perfumed the warm, still air,and the full moon made everything beautiful, and Theodora loveliest ofall. And though it was near the Sabbath, Robert did not hold hissisters' creed regarding love-making at that time. He could no more helptelling Theodora how beautiful she was, and how he loved herexcellencies and her beauty, than he could help breathing.
He was singularly happy in them, and really glad to be rid of all adviceand interference. Men who had known him for many years, wondered at hisboyish joyfulness. He was a different Robert Campbell, but then it wasgenerally known he was in love, and all the world loves a lover. No onewas cruel or malicious enough to warn, or advise, or shadow the glory ofhis expectations by any doubt of their full accomplishment. Theinitiated gossiped among themselves, and some said: "Campbell is a foolto be making such a fuss about any woman;" and others spoke of Mrs.Traquair Campbell, and "wondered how the English girl would manage her."
"My dear mother, you are all a woman and a mother should be. Yourepresent the finest ladies of your generation. Theodora is the fruitand flower of a later one, different, but no better than your own. Youare everything I want. I would not have you changed in any respect." Helooked into her face with eyes full of love, and gently pressed her armagainst his side.
"Walking on some lovely balcony, overlooking the Mediterranean, it waspleasant; but here it is not the thing. If you went with me, I mighthave the whole family, as the library, like the dining-room, is commonground. Circumstances alter cases, Dora. You know that, my dear! I willreturn in half-an-hour."
"Quite right, seeing the people were our own kindred. It was not rightto spend all the time and money you spent on those rooms for a stranger.You ought to be glad some of your own family got a little pleasure inthem first of all."
When Robert left it, he was followed so quickly by Christina that shehad an opportunity of speaking to him as he was putting on his overcoatand gloves, and thus to thank him for his invitation of the previousevening. "I never had such a happy time in all my life, Robert," shesaid, "and Theodora does play and sing wonderfully. It is a joy tolisten to her."
It was also a wearisome experience to be constantly exchangingsuspicious courtesies with her husband's family, and by no effort oflove or patience could she get beyond these. Their want of response madeher sad, and checked her affectionate and spontaneous advances, but sheknew that in the trials of domestic life all plans must come at last tothe give and take, bear and forbear theory. So after some reflection,she said softly to herself: "These women are the samples of humanitygiven me with my husband, and I must make the best of them. I can choosemy friends, but I must take my relations as I find them. They are notwhat I wish, not what I expected, but I fear nothing comes up to ourexpectations. The real thing always lacks the color of the thing hopedfor."
For even during the few days they had been at home, it was evident thatboth he and his family were resolved on her surrendering her faith, andher individuality. She was to be made over by the Campbells in their ownimage and likeness. Robert had loved and married Theodora Newton; wasshe to change her character with her name? She had made no such promise,and, without the slightest egotism, she could see that such a denial ofherself would compel from her mental and spiritual nature a downward,backward movement, so deep and wide she dared not contemplate it.
It was now getting near to Christmas, but none of the family had yetventured to tell Mrs. Campbell the truth concerning the singing in thechurch although she frequently spoke of it. In fact, ever since thatSabbath she had made a point of sending a note to Theodora whenever sheheard the piano. "I know practising from music," she said in every note,"and I do not like practising." Only Christina being present at thepractising interfered with the message, and many times it had been sentwhen it was the caller who was doing the practising. The order wasalways obeyed, lest it should be more offensively repeated, and to noone but Mrs. Oliphant did Theodora confide her reason for closing theinstrument so promptly. The message elicited from Mrs. Oliphant scornfullaughter, and the three women listening for the manner of its receptionwere not surprised.
But even Robert was now ashamed of his enthusiasms as a lover, as amarried man he considered them quite out of place. They had served theirpurpose and ought to be retired from the sensible atmosphere of dailylife. So he allowed the noblest and tenderest symbols of love to die ofcruel neglect, and his occasional breakfasts with Theodora were the onlyremnant of his once passionate personal love. He was quite willing toconsider Dora as belonging to the whole family, and he smiled grimly ifhe remembered the days in which he was intensely jealous even of her ownfather and mother's claim on her affection.
Yes, she had been abundantly counselled, and she remembered especiallythe last warning that she received before her marriage. She was at theSalutation Hotel on Lake Windermere, standing at the window of her roomlooking over the lovely scene. All Nature was calm as a resting wheel,the sky full of stars; all the mystery and majesty of earth, the lake,the woods, the mountains encompassed her. And as she stood there musingon the past, and on the future as connected with Robert Campbell, thevoice she knew so well pleaded with her for the last time.
At the same moment Robert Campbell was stepping proudly upstairs with aheart full of racial pride. He had forgotten the ironworks. He was aCampbell of the Argyle clan, he was kin to all the Breadalbanes, andCawdors, and Loudons. He was a Campbell, and all the glory of the largeand powerful family was his glory. At that moment he heard the dirl ofthe bagpipes and felt the rough beauty of the thistle, and knew in hisheart of hearts, that he was a son of Scotland, an inheritor of all herpassions and traditions, her loves and her hatreds, and glad and proudto be so favored.
That night her heart was too full of hope and sweet content to let hersleep. She had not been as happy for many months. She had not been ashopeful. She told herself this detached life was all that was requiredto secure Robert's affection, and that six months of it would make himimpatient of any intrusion into the sacredness of his home. And she wasfull of sweet, innocent plans to increase and settle certainly andfirmly the treasure of his love. They kept her waking, so she rose longbefore morning, and, opening a casement, looked out into the dusky nightfull of stars. She sat there, watching Nature in those ineffable momentswhen she is dreaming, until the cold white light of the dawning showedher the waning moon blue in the west.
The next day Robert went fishing, and Theodora put in order the china,crystal, and fine damask, and the books and ornaments she had broughtdown to Inverkip. Robert praised what she had done, vowing she wouldmake the best of housekeepers; and the evening and the next day werealtogether full of love and sweet content.
So McNab took the place she had chosen, and the house was soon aware ofher presence. There were more economy, better meals, perfect discipline,and a refreshing sense of peace and order. For she had a rare power ofruling, and also of making those ruled pleased to be so. Thus, for twoweeks, Theodora had a sense of pause and rest that was strengtheningboth to the inner and outer woman. Then in the secret silence of themidnight, her fear was turned into joy, for McNab laid her first-bornson in her arms and Robert knelt at her side, his heart brimming withlove and thanksgiving. And had he fully realized the blessing given, hewould have known it was, Thy Kingdom come, from the cradle.
At first the middle of June had been named for the marriage, but beforelong the date was forwarded to the eighteenth of April, for Sir Thomaswas an ardent lover and would hear of no delaying. Then the house was ina kind of joyful hurry from morning to night, and Christina spent herdays between the shops and her dressmaker, and not even Sir Thomas couldget a glimpse of her until the day's pleasant labor was over. At firstMrs. Campbell went with her daughter on these shopping expeditions, andsometimes Isabel accompanied them, but soon the various demands of thecoming event gave the elder ladies abundant cares, and Christina waspermitted to manage her shopping and fitting as she thought best. Sothen she gained daily in self-assertion, and soon submitted to nodictation even from her brother. But Sir Thomas was a lover sure to makeany woman authoritative, for he submitted gladly to all his mistress'swhims, obeyed all her orders, and grew every hour more and moreinfatuated with his charming Christina. The most expensive flowers andfruits were sent to her daily, the Wynton jewels were being reset forher use, and Wynton Castle elaborately decorated and furnished for itsnew mistress. Christina, indeed, was now drinking a full cup oflong-delayed happiness, and late as it was, finding the dew of herlong-lost youth.
Theodora smiled understandingly, and McNab left the room, but leftbehind her a strong sense of guardianship and love. Yet just then McNabwas rather in the dark, for her foster-son had not had time to tell herof his journey to Yorkshire. But uncertainty did not dash McNab, she hadone of those blessed dispositions that are always sure no news is goodnews; and who always expect the "something" that may have happened, tobe something wonderfully auspicious.
The newspapers easily got hold of the story, and each related thecircumstance in its own way. Some plainly said domestic misery haddriven the ill-used lady to flight; others spoke of her great beauty andwonderful voice, and made suspicious allusions to the temptations alwaysready to assail beauty and genius. None of them omitted the world-wearytaunt of the mother-in-law, and some very broad aspersions were made onMrs. Campbell's well-known impossible temper, and her hatred of allmatrimonial intrusions into her family. The story of her eldest son'sunsatisfactory marriage was recalled, his banishment and exile andsupposed death. Christina's flight from her rich, titled lover to thepoor man she preferred added a romantic touch; and the final tragedy ofthe disappearance of Robert Campbell's wife and son seemed to themajority proof positive that the trouble-making element was in theCampbell family, and rested in the hard, proud, scornful disposition ofthe mother, and mother-in-law. There was not a single paper that did nottake a special delight in blaming Mrs. Traquair Campbell, but all,without exception, praised extravagantly the beauty, the sweet nature,and the genius of her wronged and terrorized daughter-in-law. 2b1af7f3a8