Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Fraser's Scottish Annual
MacKenzie - Glenmore


WHEN my father came up into the Highlands from Glasgow and married my mother, he married the heiress of the Mackenzies of Glenmore—heiress of their traditions, their virtues and foibles, their blood - but, alas, of absolutely nothing of a more tangible character. Their marriage was a sudden affair. They met in the minister's house. As it appears to me now, with my wider knowledge of the past, he was no doubt considerably dazzled by her lineage, and not altogether insensible to her personal charms when he proposed to her. Impoverished, utterly unprepared for a struggle with the world, and doubtless urged by the minister's family, she accepted an offer which meant the security of a home, and the protection of one who was, at least, if not a man of family, a man of ambition, integrity and ability.

She made him as good a wife as she was able, that is to say, as good a wife as could one who always walked on a higher plane than her mate, whose hopes, interests and valuations were for things of which he had little ken, and who regarded with coolness, if not contempt, those more mercenary ambitions, the very success of which surrounded her with luxuries. For before I, their only child, had attained the age of fifteen we were wealthy - wealthy enough to desert our Glasgow residence every year in the early summer and take our way to the West Highlands to the enjoyment of a petty estate, at one time a dependency of; and bordering on, that very Glenmore, the abode of all those preceding generations of Mackenzies, whose exalted tastes and extravagant proclivities had resulted in making my mother the wife of a self-made Glasgow merchant.

As far as personal appearance goes, my mother was a woman of exceptional height, hair black and glossy as a raven's wing, dreamy blue eyes and a certain haughtiness of bearing which was not more attributable to lineage than to that isolation of mind which is the doom of the poetic.

I tell you this because I am said to greatly resemble my mother, though in my mirror it seems to me I see these modifications—a lighter, harder eye, a more aquiline nose and a squarer jaw; but perhaps these are only differences ascribable to sex. I take my height from my mother, which is a matter of exultation to my father, who is a man of small stature. Poor father! I am scarcely a son after his own heart, being like my mother a dreamer of dreams, easily depressed, just as easily uplifted, passionate, irrational and proud, in fact, with all the defects of the Celtic temperament, and not an atom of that doggedness of purpose, shrewdness of vision and worldliness of mental grasp which has made my father a very champion in the tilts and jousts of mercantile competition.

Be sure there was nothing connected with the estate of Glen more with which 1 was not as familiar as though we still abode there; though the truth is, the owner was a stout man, Munro by name, some far-off relative of my mother's, who kept us at a distance, for fear, I suppose, of the smell of Glasgow linens. But there were certain things of which neither he nor fortune could divest us—traditions, memories and superstitions, intangible possessions upon which neither sheriff nor auctioneer can put his stamp ; trivialities to the practical, to a woman of my mother's temperament priceless broiderings upon the garment of life.

My dear mother! I lost her when I was nineteen, after which my father and I lived together in a species of amiable disunionpassers-by—in a night of numb uncomprehension.

While he had no part with my mother and myself in the store of legends which made Glenmore for us enchanted ground, my father ever bitterly resented the passing of the estates into the hands of others. Along with his successes in business had grown an almost unconquerable desire to obtain possession of the property.

But all overtures towards a purchase, Munro's solicitors met by the cool statement that he was well pleased with the estate would probably leave it to his adopted daughter, Annabella, but that should he ever make up his mind to part with it, there was man in Canada who would gladly give him the only price for which Munro cared to sell, a sum the very mention of which caused all my father's aptitude for bargaining to rise in horrified protest. But now, for two years or more, my college days being over, my father had been dinging into my ears the profitableness and wisdom of a marriage with Annabella Munro as a means to the much-desired end. I was weary of it. He had been harping on the subject that evening in May as we sat together, just previous to our usual migration northwards.

"McRae," said he, quoting Glenmor's solicitor, "says she will have £15,000 of her own, besides-."

"The dourest face, aye, and the dourest temper, so the maids say, in all Scotland."

"God's sake, man," he said, a world of bitterness in his tone, "there's waur than that. Dour is dour, and ye know where ye are it's no the heights of ecstasy one moment, and the depths o' despond the next. It's no witherin' ye up xvi' disdain one time, an' wearyin' ye xvi' self-reproaches the next!"

I looked at my father in amazement. Was it possible that there had been any flaw in his marital happiness? The birth, the breeding, the beauty, the positive genius of my mother—were not these sufficient for a man's happiness? At the moment naught but a wild rage possessed me, and in the space of ten minutes we had said to one another such words as it took separation, danger, and almost death to wipe out of memory. In ten minutes I was walking the streets of Glasgow with naught to my ac-
count but the clothes in which I stood, and the paltry sum I had won upon the result of the yacht races in my pocket. For a time I tramped about in a fury of bitter mirth, the situation being so ludicrous as to wear one's patience and self-esteem alike threadbare. To think that for a girl with whom I had not in my whole life exchanged twenty sentences, I had been wounded in my most sacred emotions, had in turn been disrespectful to one who was, as far as money went, an indulgent father, and who, aside from this perverse whim, had always been tolerant, even if uncomprehending. I had few friends, having ever, like my mother, been more intimate with nature than with mankind. There was none, therefore, to whom I could go for advice. I trod the streets purposelessly, pulling up at all sorts of unfamiliar windows to gaze in with unseeing eyes. At some such moment the heading of a great chart, printed in red and blue, forced itself by repeated effort into my brain. "To the Klondike! To the Kiondike!" reached my lethargic consciousness, waking it as if with a flashlight. To the Klondike? Well, why not? An alluring vision of a fortune of which I, the incapable, might be the originator instead of that unreasonable little old man whose house I had left, as well as that love of adventure which is the portion of youth, wrought together to bring me to a decision. The window was that of a steamship company. A rapid computation of the means at my command showed me I had sufficient to carry me as far as Montreal. Surely (this was before I knew the magnificence of Canadian distances) a little grit and a great capability for walking should get me finally to the Klondike.

Much of my anger, but none of my independence, had evaporatedby the time I reached Liverpool at noon of the next day. Something of the sorrow of my father's empty life came to me. It occurred to me that it is our habit to give little sympathy to the duck when he marries the swan, to the fieldmouse who falls in love with the lark, and little thought to the discomfort of the barnyard fowl who wakes in the morning to find that his mistress belongs only to the eyrie. Is there no tragedy in it for the duck? Are the heartaches the portion of beauty, genius and charm alone? Under the influence of these thoughts I wrote a line to my father before going aboard, an olive branch of amity which I was glad to remember in the midst of more thrilling circumstances.

"Dear Dad," wrote I, "I'm off to the Klondike by the steamer Northman. We'll have Glenmore yet.—Ronald."

I am not sure whether it was the practical wisdom of such a course, as it left still a pound or two in my pocket, or a romantic desire to put my foot on the very lowest round of the ladder which was to lead to fortune, which prompted me to embark as a steerage passenger. This I did under my mother's maiden name—Mackenzie—having no desire to cast the faintest shadow of discredit, as there might seem to be, upon the respected name of Rose.

The atmosphere of the steerage is not one in which romance flourishes, and although we were hampered by fogs, it was with the hopeful reflection that the discomforts of the journey were nearly over that I retired to rest, for, though I knew it not, the last time on the Northman.

Something appalling, something which flung the blood in my veins in one wild leap from head to foot, something which tingled through every nerve, yet was too shocking to be identified as either noise or concussion, wakened me in the morning. For a moment I was tossed about like a shuttlecock, then a sudden lurch threw me on the floor. A dozen pairs of wildly questioning eyes met mine as I sprang to my feet. A moment we wasted in mute, staring inquiry before we grasped our clothing, and scrambling into it flung ourselves upward—up, up, up to join the questioning, panting throng already welling upward from every quarter of the vessel. And when we reached a vantage ground of vision, within the very circle of knowledge and authority there was nothing to see above and around us—nothing but an impenetrable veil of fog, inscrutable as death itself; below us not even a hint of the treacherous rocks.

The vessel being tilted towards the stern made walking difficult; the scream of escaping steam and the clatter of the screw almost drowned the peremptory commands of the officers. We were mostly men—the women trailing upward with difficulty—yet the all-pervading silence of nature fell upon us with the chill of the grave. A whisper that we were hopelessly wrecked arose, and was stilled as the women approached. The captain looked at us with stern eyes.

"Passengers," he shouted, "there is no immediate danger. Be silent! Be calm! In that way you will help us in the work of getting you to safety."

A sudden gust of wind arose, biting like a lash. I remembered my coat which had been left below, and with it my small fortune. Stealing away from the throng, I took my way back to our quarters, comforting, as best I could, the hysterical questioners who had not yet reached the upper deck. I found my coat with little difficulty, though the steerage was scattered from end to end throughout its dimly-lighted spaces with forgotten articles of apparel. A voice, a sweet and tremulous voice, at my elbow startled me:

"The baby! Have you seen it? Where is it?"

"A baby? Yours? What about it?"

"Oh, no! Somewhere down here—the mother forgot it—she was afraid to come back."

"Forgot it! Good heavens! Can this be it? Yes—no—here it is. Now come on, there's no time to waste!

I pushed the girl ahead of me —the baby tucked under my arm, with little thought for either, heaven knows—helping her only as I should have felt it incumbent to help any woman in the world in a similar situation.

The wind was still rising, tearing the mist into ragged edges, revealing now and then a rocky and unpromising coast-line, but by the time we reached the deck the boats were being lowered with a rapidity which spoke volumes for the desperation of our case. When the baby had been restored to its mother, I turned to the girl to tell her to take her place in order for the boats. Some impulse impelling her to turn in my direction, our glances met. I swear to you, if the boat had gone down with us as we stood there, if the period of our lives had been limited to a moment, for that moment, at least, she was mine. Out of our eyes leaped our familiar souls. The words we would have spoken as strangers died on our lips. "Were you not afraid to go down?" I said, and the tones of my voice rang strange in my ears, for they were tender as those of a mother to her firstborn.

I was terrified," she said simply.

"But you went!" She looked up at me with a sudden quivering of her lips. I saw she was trembling from head to foot. Moving closer to her I drew her unresisting hand within my arm. She came only to the tip of my shoulder, yet was not small. Strands of her nut-brown hair, pinned hastily in the hurry of the moment, fell loose about her face and neck; an olive skin, a tender mouth, clear eyes to which the perfect arch of her brows gave an expression of soft inquiry; a brave chin, hiding its resoluteness behind a dimple—what need to say more. More faultless faces there may have been, none purer, braver or more steadfast. When they called for the women of the second cabin to come forward, she left the fancied protection of my presence with evident reluctance. When I forced my way nearer to the rail that I might see them depart, she was looking upward, scanning the faces of the onlookers with an appearance of expectation. I watched her search the throng with breathless curiosity, the wild beating of my heart almost stifling me as I saw her intent gaze come near to me, waver, come close again and rest, at last satisfied, upon my face. We looked atone another, regardless of distance, as we had looked in the beginning. I struggled to make some little sign of reassurance—and, then, how it happened has not been explained to this day, the boat capsized. I heard the groan that burst from the lips of the onlookers. I tossed them aside like straws. I remember throwing off my coat; all the rest, until I caught her as she sank for the second time, is such a blur that I cannot tell you more about it than you may guess for yourselves. When I had a firm grasp of her I saw that the boat had been righted, but the crew were occupied in rescuing those nearer at hand. She tried to tell me that she could swim if it were not for her heavy skirts. Words were breath wasted. "Do you see that rock?" I said. "Come." When we reached the rock I lifted her with one arm, and throwing her upward pulled myself up only to fall exhausted at her side. When I recovered sufficiently to look at my companion she was unconscious. I wrung the water from her hair, clasped her hands in mine, and drew her close to me that I might rest her cold cheek against the warmth of my shoulder. "Oh, darling, darling," I said in the Gaelic, "my pretty brown-haired maid, open your eyes, my dove." She began at last to sob slowly and heavily, crying over and over again, "Oh, my dear father—oh, my poor, dear father, if you had lost your little Mary."

"Oh, hush thee, Alanna," said I once more in the Gaelic, secure in the remembrance that not one person in thousands understands the language of my fathers, "hush thee, hush thee, heart of my heart."

There must have been something in the tones at least which comforted her, for checking her sobs she seemed to listen a moment, then withdrawing herself, she turned to look for the approaching boat. As the boat drew near we both struggled to our feet; she turned to lay her hand lightly upon my arm. "Sir," she said eagerly, "I do not know your name—I want to say my father —never forgets—and I am my father's daughter."

Now, I am not going to weary you with the tale of the hardships we endured upon the island of Anticostil That you have already from the newspapers. I am going only to tell you what befell after Mary's father arrived in Montreal, as I have it from Mary herself partly, and in part from the lips of Macdonald. There may be portions of it which it will be embarrassing for me to write. I ask you to remember that these are Mary's words, not mine.

It was when she was sitting on his knee the night he arrived in Montreal. This, on account of his accident, of which I have not time to give you particulars, was fully six weeks later. He had asked her to give him particulars of her journey. "You want to hear it all, daddy?" she said, "every word of it from the beginning? Well, then, when I got your letter saying you were going to the Klondike, and that if I wished to go to the coast, I was to sail on the very first steamer, I rushed off to buy my ticket, and behold, sir, there was nothing but one second cabin passage left. I thought, 'Well, miss, if you want to show your father how you can rough it, so that perhaps he'll take you to the Klondike, too, now is your chance.' So I came second cabin, and there was really nothing to complain of until we ran on the rock. I can assure you I did not waste any time over the arrangement of my toilet that morning. I was the first woman to reach the deck, but there was another almost as swift. Only when she did reach there she sank down and began to moan and shriek for her baby. She had left it behind, away down in the steerage. And she was afraid to go back for it. So what could I do but go down for it. Oh, dear, no; not brave, daddy. I was so stiff with fright I could scarcely crawl. When I reached the steerage there was a tall young man trying to find his coat. He found the baby for me and helped me up to the deck again. When I turned to thank him, I saw for the first time what he looked like." A long pause, in which my lady lay thinking, her head upon her father's breast. "Yes, dad," in response to an urgent squeeze; but she began slowly, "Did you ever meet anybody for the first time and yet feel as if you must have known them for a hundred years, feel so much confidence in their friendship for and sympathy with you that you knew, no matter how foolish and vain and weak you knew yourself to be, that person, seeing all your shortcomings, would 1—like you just the same. Well, that's the way I felt the moment I looked at him. I felt so much reliance in him, I was afraid to leave his side when it came our turn to go in the boats. Oh, daddy, daddy, I'll never forget it, never, when the boat capsized. Oh, the horrible sea—the sinking down —the clutching for something where there was nothing to clutch —the roaring in my ears. Daddy, is there anything in the world good enough for the man who saved your Mary!" Macdonald squeezed her tight, but did not open his lips. "When he jumped overboard and caught me before I sank again, those on the ship nearly went wild with joy. Then he swam with me to the rock and I fainted. When I began to recover, I found I was crying and moaning for you, and someone was speaking to me in the Gaelic. At first I thought it was you, because it was as you used to talk to me long ago when I was small. As I became more conscious of my surroundings, I knew the voice was not yours; but it was such a beautiful voice, and it was saying" —here her ladyship gave an embarrassed little giggle—" something about 'my pretty brown-haired maid, open your eyes, my dove,' and more which there's no use repeating. I said to myself, wasn't it well for me that I had been brought up in Glengarry, but I pretended I was not understanding a word. Then the boat came to take us off, and I said to him, 'Mr. Mackenzie'—(no, I didn't know his name then)—I just said, 'Sir, my father never forgets, and I am my father's daughter'—wasn't that right, dad?"

"His name is Mackenzie?"

"N-no—it is really Rose. Oh, daddy, don't look so doubtful; you don't know him. He told me yesterday—"

"You saw him yesterday?" "I've seen him almost every day since he arrived in Montreal." "You have?"

"Why, yes, daddy; he hadn't a friend in all Canada but me, and, of course, I was anxious to hear if he got employment."

"Does he come here?"

"We've generally met on the street "—(faintly)—then with more assurance, "that was a piece of shrewdness on my part. You see, he doesn't know we are—he thinks we are poor. When we were coming to Montreal he told he was on the way to the Klondike, and I told him you were going, too. He seemed to think it was to try your luck. It amused me to let him think so. When we came to Montreal I didn't ask him to come here because he would see—"

"I don't see the necessity for keeping him in the dark. His estimate of your circumstances could only be a matter of indifference to you."

She hung her head, then said in her own brave way, although the happy ring had gone out of her voice, "It was not a matter of indifference to me. I was very glad he thought I was poor, that he did not know who—." Here her voice began to shake, so that she sought a diversion. Putting her hand into the bosom of her dress, she drew forth a fine cord on which hung two rings, one of which she restored to its hiding- place in some confusion. "This ring, daddy, used to be his. I saw it on his hand every day until we came to Montreal, so that I recognized it at once when I saw it in a pawn-shop window. I bought it because I thought you would like to give it back to him some day," she ended with a quivering sigh.

Macdonald examined the ring carefully. It was a signet bearing the Mackenzie crest in gold, surrounded by cairngorms and pearls. He put his daughter off his knee and rose to his feet. "Where does this man live—this man with the plethora of names?" She gave him my address.

"Are you going to see him tonight, father, so late? And I have not told you all yet!"

"You've done pretty well," he said grimly, stalking out of the room and out of the house.

So it was that I was much astonished when a tall, gaunt man was ushered into my small apartment, where I was busy writing to my father, at ten o'clock of the night or later.

"Is it as Mr. Rose or Mr. Mackenzie I should address you, sir. It's hard choosing where a man has a variety of names. For myself I've always found one sufficient for the purposes of an honest man."

Believe me, it was with difficulty I refrained from hurling a chair at him. "My name is Rose," I said stiffly, "and you, I think, are Mr. Macdonald," for there was a great resemblance to his daughter, notwithstanding a certain eccentricity in his appearance and costume.

"Macdonald, yes. As Macdonald I came into this country, and as Macdonald I shall go out of it, though I came steerage as you did."

He rose from the chair I had given him, the only chair in the room, and taking the paper shade on the lamp between his finger and thumb, tossed it into a corner. Grasping the lamp he strode to where I stood with my back against the wall, and thrusting it close to my face surveyed me with piercing keenness. "You don't look like a scoundrel," he said coolly, setting down the lamp. "Mr. Rose, I owe you much. There is only one thing in the world I would grudge you," with emphasis. "Now, if you will give me an idea of how you have been employed since you came here, and, if you can, a satisfactory explanation of your change of name, I may be able to do a little towards your advancement." I pressed my hand upon the packet of papers and letters which I had thrust into my coat pocket on his entrance, and, while I could not restrain a wave of secret exultation, I began with an appearance of modesty which I was far from feeling. "The first three days I worked on the streets."

"Was that necessary for a man of your education?"

"I took what first offered, because along with my coat I lost the funds at my command in the wreck. I had not a farthing the day we landed here. I was paid for the first day I worked on the streets; for the second and third I have never received a cent, the contractor having been enjoined against paying."

"That accounts for this." He pushed my ring across the table. You can imagine my surprise and joy, for I had been bitterly annoyed that it had been snapped up by a purchaser before I could redeem it. Without explanation he interrogated sharply, "What next?"

"I was street car conductor for four weeks. Afterwards for a week I was employed as an extra man at the power-house. Last week, owing to some little knowledge I have of electrical matters I was made manager of the electrical department. In that capacity I am still an employee of theirs. As for my variety of names, sir, if you will read these you will see that I have some claim to either, and may before long have a right to both." I handed him the packet which contained a kind letter from my father, a draft for £200, letters of introduction to prominent Canadians, a notice from my father's solicitors that he had purchased Glenmore, and was applying for the privilege of changing our name to Rose-Mackenzie by letters patent.

"Glenmore! Glenmore!" said Macdonald, thumping the table with his fist. "The devil! I've been after that place for myself for fifteen years."

He rose from his seat. "Then there's not very much that a nobody like myself can do for you, Mr. Rose." There was a twinkle in his eye as he said it, for well he knew as he spoke that he was the wealthiest and best known lumber: man in America.

"Only this, sir, and perhaps you will think it too much. Can you listen with kindness when I tell you that on the strength of these letters, of which she knows nothing as yet, and on the strength of our mutual love, I married your daughter yesterday."

Sometimes I wonder if there was ever any gulf between my father and myself, Mary had bridged it so completely. Sometimes I wonder why the thrift, the enterprise and capability of these two men should have been utilized to place me where I am—I, who could not make a bargain to save my life. Yet the God who made the ant made the butterfly, and perhaps when I have given to the world the book in which I have recorded the beautiful thoughts and superstitions—the wonderful legends in prose and poem, the stories of battles fought and woes endured—of those, my own people, I, too, like the butterfly, may have contributed in some degree to the beauty, if not the virility, of that world.

Return to Book Contents Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus