Just over the line of the Grampians, near
the head-waters of the Spey, a glen, small and secluded, lies bedded
deep among the hills,—a glen that when filled with sunlight on a summer
day lies like a cup of gold; the gold all liquid and flowing over the
cup's rim. And hence they call the glen "The Cuagh Oir," The Glen of the
Cup of Gold.
At the bottom of the Cuagh, far down, a
little loch gleams, an oval of emerald or of sapphire, according to the
sky above that smiles into its depths. On dark days the loch can gloom,
and in storm it can rage, white-lipped, just like the people of the
Around the emerald or sapphire loch
farmlands lie sunny and warm, set about their steadings, and are on this
spring day vivid with green, or rich in their red-browns where the soil
lies waiting for the seed. Beyond the sunny fields the muirs of brown
heather and bracken climb abruptly up to the dark-massed firs, and they
to the Cuagh's rim. But from loch to rim, over field and muir and
forest, the golden, liquid light ever flows on a sunny day and fills the
Cuagh Oir till it runs over.
On the east side of the loch, among some
ragged firs, a rambling Manor House, ivy-covered and ancient, stood; and
behind it, some distance away, the red tiling of a farm-cottage, with
its steading clustering near, could be seen. About the old Manor House
the lawn and garden told of neglect and decay, but at the farmhouse
order reigned. The trim little garden plot, the trim lawn, the trim
walks and hedges, the trim thatch of the roof, the trim do'-cote above
it, the trim stables, byres, barns and yard of the steading, proclaimed
the prudent, thrifty care of a prudent, thrifty soul.
And there in the steading quadrangle,
amidst the feathered creatures, hens, cocks and chicks, ducks, geese,
turkeys and bubbly-jocks, stood the mistress of the Manor and prudent,
thrifty manager of the farm,—a girl of nineteen, small, well-made, and
trim as the farmhouse and its surroundings, with sunny locks and sunny
face and sunny brown eyes. Her shapely hands were tanned and coarsened
by the weather; her little feet were laced in stout country-made
brogues; her dress was a plain brown winsey, kilted and belted open at
the full round neck; the kerchief that had fallen from her sunny,
tangled hair was of simple lawn, spotless and fresh; among her fowls she
stood, a country lass in habit and occupation, but in face and form, in
look and poise, a lady every inch of her. Dainty and daunty, sweet and
strong, she stood, "the bonny like o' her bonny mither," as said the
South Country nurse, Nannie, who had always lived at the Glen Cuagh
House from the time that that mother was a baby; "but no' sae fine
like," the nurse would add with a sigh. For she remembered ever the
gentle airs and the high-bred, stately grace of Mary Robertson,—for
though married to Captain Cameron of Erracht, Mary Robertson she
continued to be to the Glen folk,—the lady of her ancestral manor, now
for five years lain under the birch trees yonder by the church tower
that looked out from its clustering firs and birches on the slope beyond
the loch. Five years ago the gentle lady had passed from them, but like
the liquid, golden sunlight, and like the perfume of the heather and the
firs, the aroma of her saintly life still filled the Glen.
A year after that grief had fallen, Moira,
her one daughter, "the bonny like o' her bonny mither, though no' sae
fine," had somehow slipped into command of the House Farm, the only
remaining portion of the wide demesne of farmlands once tributary to the
House. And by the thrift which she learned from her South Country nurse
in the care of her poultry and her pigs, and by her shrewd oversight of
the thriftless, doddling Highland farmer and his more thriftless and
more doddling womenfolk, she brought the farm to order and to a basis of
profitable returns. And this, too, with so little "clash and claver"
that her father only knew that somehow things were more comfortable
about the place, and that there were fewer calls than formerly upon his
purse for the upkeep of the House and home. Indeed, the less appeared
Moira's management, both in the routine of the House and in the care of
the farm, the more peacefully flowed the current of their life. It
seriously annoyed the Captain at intervals when he came upon his
daughter directing operations in barnyard or byre. That her directing
meant anything more than a girlish meddling in matters that were his
entire concern and about which he had already given or was about to give
orders, the Captain never dreamed. That things about the House were
somehow prospering in late years he set down to his own skill and
management and his own knowledge of scientific farming; a knowledge
which, moreover, he delighted to display at the annual dinners of the
Society for the Improvement of Agriculture in the Glen, of which he was
honourary secretary; a knowledge which he aired in lengthy articles in
local agricultural and other periodicals; a knowledge which, however, at
times became the occasion of dismay to his thrifty daughter and her
Highland farmer, and not seldom the occasion of much useless expenditure
of guineas hard won from pigs and poultry. True, more serious loss was
often averted by the facility with which the Captain turned from one
scheme to another, happily forgetful of orders he had given and which
were never carried out; and by the invincible fabianism of the Highland
farmer, who, listening with gravest attention to the Captain's orders
delivered in the most definite and impressive terms, would make reply,
"Yess, yess indeed, I know; she will be attending to it
immediately—tomorrow, or fery soon whateffer." It cannot be said that
this capacity for indefinite procrastination rendered the Highlander any
less valuable to his "tear young leddy."
The days on which Postie appeared with a
large bundle of mail were accounted good days by the young mistress, for
on these and succeeding days her father would be "busy with his
correspondence." And these days were not few, for the Captain held many
honourary offices in county and other associations for the promotion and
encouragement of various activities, industrial, social, and
philanthropic. Of the importance of these activities to the county and
national welfare, the Captain had no manner of doubt, as his voluminous
correspondence testified. As to the worth of his correspondence his
daughter, too, held the highest opinion, estimating her father, as do
all dutiful daughters, at his own valuation. For the Captain held
himself in high esteem; not simply for his breeding, which was of the
Camerons of Erracht; nor for his manners, which were of the most
courtly, if occasionally marred by fretfulness; nor for his dress, which
was that of a Highland gentleman, perfect in detail and immaculate, but
for his many and public services rendered to the people, the county, and
the nation. Indeed his mere membership dues to the various associations,
societies and committees with which he was connected, and his dining
expenses contingent upon their annual meetings, together with the
amounts expended upon the equipment and adornment of his person proper
to such festive occasions, cut so deep into the slender resources of the
family as to give his prudent daughter some considerable concern; though
it is safe to say that such concern her father would have regarded not
only as unnecessary but almost as impertinent.
The Captain's correspondence, however
extensive, was on the whole regarded by his daughter as a good rather
than an evil, in that it secured her domestic and farm activities from
disturbing incursions. This spring morning Moira's apprehensions
awakened by an extremely light mail, were realized, as she beheld her
father bearing down upon her with an open letter in his hand. His
handsome face was set in a fretful frown.
"Moira, my daughter!" he exclaimed, "how
often have I spoke to you about this—this—unseemly—ah—mussing and
meddling in the servants' duties!"
"But, Papa," cried his daughter, "look at
these dear things! I love them and they all know me, and they behave so
much better when I feed them myself. Do they not, Janet?" she added,
turning to the stout and sonsy farmer's daughter standing by.
"Indeed, then, they are clever at knowing
you," replied the maid, whose particular duty was to hold a reserve
supply of food for the fowls that clamoured and scrambled about her
"Look at that vain bubbly-jock there,
Papa," cried Moira, "he loves to have me notice him. Conceited creature!
Look out, Papa, he does not like your kilts!" The bubbly-jock, drumming
and scraping and sidling ever nearer to the Captain's naked knees,
finally with great outcry flew straight at the affronting kilts.
"Get off with you, you beast!" cried the
Captain, kicking vainly at the wrathful bird, and at the same time
beating a wise retreat before his onset.
Moira rushed to his rescue. "Hoot, Jock!
Shame on ye!" she cried. "There now, you proud thing, be off! He's just
jealous of your fine appearance, Papa." With her kerchief she flipped
into submission the haughty bubbly-jock and drew her father out of the
steading. "Come away, Papa, and see my pigs."
But the Captain was in no humour for pigs.
"Nonsense, child," he cried, "let us get out of this mess! Besides, I
wish to speak to you on a matter of importance." They passed through the
gate. "It is about Allan," he continued, "and I'm really vexed.
Something terrible has happened."
"Allan!" the girl's voice was faint and
her sunny cheek grew white. "About Allan!" she said again. "And what is
wrong with Allan, Papa?"
"That's what I do not know," replied her
father fretfully; "but I must away to Edinburgh this very day, so you'll
need to hasten with my packing. And bid Donald bring round the cart at
But Moira stood dazed. "But, Papa, you
have not told me what is wrong with Allan." Her voice was quiet, but
with a certain insistence in it that at once irritated her father and
compelled his attention.
"Tut, tut, Moira, I have just said I do
"Is he ill, Papa?" Again the girl's voice
"No, no, not ill. I wish he were! I mean
it is some business matter you cannot understand. But it must be serious
if Mr. Rae asks my presence immediately. So you must hasten, child."
In less than half an hour Donald and the
cart were waiting at the door, and Moira stood in the hall with her
father's bag ready packed. "Oh, I am glad," she said, as she helped her
father with his coat, "that Allan is not ill. There can't be much
"Wrong! Read that, child!" cried the
She took the letter and read, her face
reflecting her changing emotions, perplexity, surprise, finally
indignation. "'A matter for the police,'" she quoted, scornfully,
handing her father the letter. "'A matter for the police' indeed! My but
that Mr. Rae is the clever man! The police! Does he think my brother
Allan would cheat?—or steal, perhaps!" she panted, in her indignant
"Mr. Rae is a careful man and a very able
lawyer," replied her father.
"Able! Careful! He's an auld wife, and
that's what he is! You can tell him so for me." She was trembling and
white with a wrath her father had never before seen in her. He stood
gazing at her in silent surprise.
"Papa," cried Moira passionately,
answering his look, "do you think what he is saying? I know my brother
Allan clean through to the heart. He is wild at times, and might rage
perhaps and—and—break things, but he will not lie nor cheat. He will die
first, and that I warrant you."
Still her father stood gazing upon her as
she stood proudly erect, her pale face alight with lofty faith in her
brother and scorn of his traducer. "My child, my child," he said,
huskily, "how like you are to your mother! Thank God! Indeed it may be
you're right! God grant it!" He drew her closely to him.
"Papa, Papa," she whispered, clinging to
him, while her voice broke in a sob, "you know Allan will not lie. You
know it, don't you, Papa?"
"I hope not, dear child, I hope not," he
replied, still holding her to him.
"Papa," she cried wildly, "say you believe
"Yes, yes, I do believe you. Thank God, I
do believe you. The boy is straight."
At that word she let him go. That her
father should not believe in Allan was to her loyal heart an intolerable
pain. Now Allan would have someone to stand for him against "that
lawyer" and all others who might seek to do him harm. At the House door
she stood watching her father drive down through the ragged firs to the
highroad, and long after he had passed out of sight she still stood
gazing. Upon the church tower rising out of its birches and its firs her
eyes were resting, but her heart was with the little mound at the
tower's foot, and as she gazed, the tears gathered and fell.
"Oh, Mother!" she whispered. "Mother,
Mother! You know Allan would not lie!"
A sudden storm was gathering. In a brief
moment the world and the Glen had changed. But half an hour ago and the
Cuagh Oir was lying glorious with its flowing gold. Now, from the Cuagh
as from her world, the flowing gold was gone.