Castle and Cottage

by Grace Greenwood

It would seem that little Bertha Blantyre had everything that her heart could wish. She was an only daughter, and a pretty, blooming, petted darling. Her father was a rich lord, and, what was better, a good and kind-hearted man. Her mother was a noble lady, and, what was more, a gentle and loving woman, and even little Bertha had from her cradle the title of "Honorable," which is as much as our great Congressmen can boast. Yet I am sorry to say, this little lady was not always as happy and grateful as she should have been, but was sometimes sadly discontented, believing that other children were far happier than she. All such little girls as had brothers and sisters to play with them, and run about with them in the woods and over the moors, she envied bitterly, even though they were the children of poor peasants,—never thinking it possible that they might be envying her at the same time.

Lord Blantyre resided principally at Blantyre Castle, on a noble estate, among the heathery hills of Scotland. The Castle was very ancient, with towers, and turrets, and a massive gateway, but it had many modern additions which beautified it, and gave it a cheerful, almost home-like look. Through the old moat there slowly ran a bright, clear stream, in which grew hosts of water-lilies, and other aquatic plants. Beyond this were soft, green, close-shaven lawns and shrubberies, and gardens full of fountains and statues and fairy-like bowers; the stables, full of beautiful horses and ponies; the kennels, where a pack of noble stag-hounds was kept; the dairy, the poultry-yard, and the pretty little houses of the gold and silver pheasants. Around all was a great wooded park, filled with fleet spotted deer.

In this park Bertha often walked with her mother, or was whirled along in a small open phaeton, drawn by two lovely white ponies, which Lady Blantyre herself drove.

In the wildest and most remote part of the park lived the gamekeeper, who, with his wife, had been born and bred on the estate, and from childhood had been in the service of the noble family. Lady Blantyre never passed the cottage of Robert MacWillie in her drives without stopping to inquire after the health of his wife, who had once been her maid, and of their fine brood of little ones. During these visits Bertha became acquainted with the young foresters, and as she was of a simple and amiable disposition, and not a bit haughty or conceited, she liked them all heartily. But she especially took to a little girl about her own age, named Lilly, and a boy a year or two older, called Hughie.

One day as Lady Blantyre and Bertha were driving along the shore of a miniature loch or pond, near Robert MacWillie's cottage, they saw Hughie and Lilly playing in a burn, or brook, which emptied into the little loch. Hughie was constructing a dam, with stones and turf and heather-branches cemented with clay, and Lilly was sailing a tiny boat, loaded with pebbles and flowers. Both were barefoot, and plashing fearlessly in the burn. Lady Blantyre checked her ponies, and after watching the children awhile, called them to the side of her phaeton. Hughie took off his Glengary cap, and held it in his hand, and Lilly was about to pull from her head a wild-looking wreath of daisies and purple heather-blooms, when Bertha exclaimed, "Don't take it off! it is so pretty; who made it?"

"Brother Hughie," answered Lilly, blushing.

"How good he must be! Do you like playing and wading in the water and picking wild-flowers?"

"Yes," said Lilly, looking down, and drawing figures in the sand with her rosy little toes. "Hughie is gude. I like playing wi' the burn, and flowers are bonny wee things"; then, looking up timidly, she offered to her friend a bunch of water-lilies, which Hughie had waded far out into the pond up to his short kilt to obtain.

"Thank you," said Bertha. "O how sweet they are, a thousand times sweeter than those that grow in the moat, are n't they, mamma?"

Lady Blantyre smiled, for there was really no difference, the lilies at the Castle having been brought from this very pond.

"How long have you been at your great work there?" she asked of Hughie.

"For maist a week, my Lady; but for the last twa days Domine MacGregor has been down wi' an ill turn, and I hae (have) lost na time at schule (school), so I hae got on weel wi' it. It will soon be done noo."

"And what do you intend to do with it when it is finished?" asked the lady.

"I canna say, but I think we 'll play flood-time wi' it."

"What is that?"

"Your ladyship sees that wee-bit island; weel, we'll put on it some doggies and a cat."

"Not my wee puss, Winkie?" cried Lilly in alarm.

"No, auld black Tammy will do, and a chicken or twa, and we 'll watch the water rise and rise, till the puir creatures huddle togither and greet and cackle and howl, then I 'll loup (leap) intil the burn, and one after anither rescue them a'."

"O, how grand that would be!" exclaimed little Bertha, her eyes flashing with excitement.

"Rather cruel sport," said Lady Blantyre, shaking her head, yet smiling in spite of herself.

"Is it?" said Hughie, his countenance falling, "then I 'll no do it. I 'll but drive a' the duckies and fulish geese down here, and see them gae quacking and skirling over the dam. I hope they'll no object to the sport."

"Probably not," said her ladyship, pleasantly.

"O mamma," said Bertha, looking up wistfully into her face, "how I should love to play so with water and pebbles, and little boats, and ducks and geese, and dams, all day long! How happy they must be!"

"Perhaps little Lilly thinks it would be a very happy thing to be in your place, my daughter," said Lady Blantyre.

"Do you think so?" asked Bertha, wonderingly.

"Ay," answered Lilly, in a low, almost awestruck tone, "I think that to be Miss Bertha, and bide in a braw (fine) Castle, wad be next to being an angel, or a bonnie fairy princess."

All laughed at this, but on the way home Bertha was very thoughtful and sad. Every time she spoke, it was to bewail her hard lot in being allowed to take the air only in walks with her governess, or drives with her mamma, in being obliged to wear fine clothes, to learn music and dancing, "and other tiresome things," and never being free to run wild on the hills and heaths, wade in the ponds, and plash in the burns, like the little MacWillies.

Her mother tried to show her that, as her station was different from theirs, her education and habits should be different, and that she had a great deal to be thankful for, and might be very happy, if she would.

"Well, I think I ought at least to have a little brother to play with me. I think God might have given me that, and kept back some of the other things."

At this little burst of petulance, Lady Blantyre sighed and was silent for some moments. Then she said: "Would my little daughter like to try living at the cottage of the MacWillies for a day or two, just like one of their own?"

"O yes, mamma, and play with Lilly and Hughie?"

"With Hughie and the other children. I must have Lilly with me at the Castle, to make up for the loss of my little Bertha."

"O!" said Bertha, looking a little disappointed; then she added, eagerly, "But, mamma, may I indeed do just like them?—go without a bonnet, take off my shoes and stockings, and wade in the burn, and patter in the nice soft clay?"

"Yes, if Lilly will consent to take your place, and play the little lady at the Castle."

In the afternoon Lady Blantyre sent for Mrs. MacWillie, and between them they arranged that their little daughters should change places on the morrow; and that night both Bertha and Lilly went to bed with their hearts full of happy anticipations, and each pitying the other.

Early in the morning, Lilly was brought to the Castle, and Bertha conveyed to the cottage. Lilly wanted to take with her her pet kitten, but was told that poor little Winkle would be rather too vulgar a visitor for Lady Blantyre's drawing-room. Bertha proposed to take her pretty King Charles spaniel, but was told that the gamekeeper's rough mastiffs and terriers would make nothing of taking him by the neck and shaking the life out of him. So she concluded to leave Frivole behind.

When she reached the cottage, the little MacWillies came around her, full of wonder and shy admiration. They said nothing to her, but they whispered among themselves, and their eyes looked very big and watched her constantly.

"Come here, Sandy and Effie!" she said to a little boy and girl, who stood with their hands behind them, gazing at her as if she really had been a fairy princess. "Do come to me; I am your sister now, don't you know?"

But they only drew back, and as she started toward them, scampered away and hid behind their mother.

"Come, Hughie," said the little lady, "let us go down to the burn. You must make me a wreath like Lilly's, and play with me just as you do with her, won't you?"

Hughie gladly promised, and away they went hand in hand. But the lad could not quite forget that his playmate was the Honorable Miss Bertha Blantyre, so he took the choicest roses from his mother's garden to make a wreath for her, and for the life of him he could not be as free and merry with her as with his sister. However, he was very kind and amusing, and Bertha was in high glee. The first thing she did when they reached the burnside, was to sit down and pull off her shoes and stockings, then she ran up and down the sandy shore of the loch, throwing pebbles and daisies into the water, sailing Lilly's little boat, and laughing and singing like some wild creature. Then she helped Hughie at his dam awhile, patting the soft clay with her dainty little hands.

"O dear!" she exclaimed at last.

"What's the matter, my bonnie leddie?" said Hughie, rather patronizingly.

"My feet smart so! See how big and red they look."

"Sae they do. You hae burned them. The sun is hot this simmer day, and the sand as weel, and ye ken (know) ye are no used to gang without your shoon (shoes); wade a bit, noo, and cool your small saft feet."

Bertha thrust one foot into the water, but drew it out instantly, exclaiming, "Ugh, how cold!"

"Ay, gin (if) ye only dip the tips o' your toes, like a fearsome cat; but gin ye rin bravely intil the water, like a spaniel dog, ye'll no find it cauld," said Hughie, taking her hand and leading her in. But Bertha still thought it cold; she caught her breath, and shrieked at every step, frightened not only at the rising water, but at the tiny fishes within it, and even at the insects skimming along its surface. As Hughie was leading her out, she trod on a stone and cut one of her delicate feet quite severely. Then, when she reached the shore, she found that she could not get on her stockings and shoes, and with her eyes full of tears she said, "Ah me! what shall I do? I can't walk barefoot among the heather, my feet are so sore already."

Hughie and Bertha

Hughie and Bertha

"O, dinna fash yoursel' (don't trouble yourself) about that, I 'll carry you in my twa arms," said Hughie; and the sturdy little fellow took her and carried her to the cottage.

After having had her foot bound up, and her face bathed in cream, for that was also burned, her pretty wreath having proved a very poor protection from the sun, Bertha was invited to share the midday meal of the children. Being very hungry, she gladly sat up to the table and took her share of milk and oatmeal cakes, or bannocks. She liked the milk, but the bannocks scratched her throat and almost brought the tears to her eyes. She wondered how the others could eat them so ravenously.

After dinner the children did their best to amuse their visitor, by playing games, running, leaping, and tumbling about, all very kindly meant, but rough, noisy, and almost terrifying to Bertha, who was not sorry when the younger ones ran out of the house to play under the trees. Hughie sat by her side on the settle, and told her stories, till she fell asleep. She was very weary, and slept a long while, against some cushions which Hughie placed behind her. When she awoke, she looked around wonderingly, and, missing the dear faces of her mother and nurse, burst into tears.

"What's the matter wi' my bonnie bairn?" asked Mrs. MacWillie, tenderly.

"I—want—to—go—home!" sobbed Bertha.

"And ye shall gae hame; sae dinna greet (weep), my lammie," said the good woman.

In a very few minutes the gamekeeper, who, by the way, had watched the children all the morning, from behind some thick bushes by the loch, to see that no harm befell them, came to the door with the family carriage,—a two-wheeled vehicle, called a "dog-cart," drawn by a shaggy old pony. Bertha was helped into this, and, having taken a kind but rather hasty leave of her rustic friends, was driven, in a little lazy, shuffling trot, towards the Castle. About half-way, who should they meet but Lady Blantyre, driving Lilly MacWillie home in her pony-phaeton! She did not seem to see the dog-cart at all, but dashed by it at a furious rate.

Little Lilly had scarcely had a better day than Bertha. From the first hour of her visit to the Castle she had felt ill at ease, and almost homesick. Everything there was so strange and magnificent, that all the kindness she met with failed to make her feel happy and comfortable. Lady Blantyre devoted herself to her amusement; she showed her the conservatories and the aviaries, and led her through the long picture-gallery. This last was an awful place to Lilly; she was frightened at the array of old-time Blantyres,—fierce soldiers in armor, grim judges in enormous wigs, and grand ladies in vast hoops and stupendous head-dresses.

At lunch, Lady Blantyre had her little guest sit beside her, and pressed her to eat of delicate wild-fowl and luscious fruit. But Lilly was scared out of the little appetite she had, not by his lordship, who sat opposite, but by the solemn footman who stood behind her chair. After lunch, Lady Blantyre played and sung for her, and showed her Bertha's books and toys.

At length she left her alone for a time, while she went to dress. When she returned to the drawing-room she could not see the child anywhere; but presently she heard a stifled sob behind the curtain of a window, looking towards the gamekeeper's cottage. She went to Lilly, and put her arms about her, saying, "What are you grieving about, my dear?"

"Let me gae hame! I maun gae hame!" (I must go home) said Lilly.

"So you shall, darling," replied the lady.

When Lady Blantyre returned from the cottage, she found Bertha in the nursery, sitting on the lap of her kind nurse Margery.

"Well, has my little daughter learned content from this day's experience?" said the lady, smiling.

"Yes, mamma," replied Bertha. "I find that one must belong to the MacWillies, to do as they do, and like it; but somehow, I wish I had been used to their ways from the first, that is, if you and papa had been so too. It seems to me that God meant that all people should live nearly alike, and only have houses just big enough to hold them comfortably, like the nests of the birds; and that all children should run among the hills, and play with the brooks. Did n't he?"

"Perhaps he did, my child."

As for Lilly, she spoke her mind that night, to her pet kitten, as she hugged it in her arms before dropping to sleep. "Are ye na glad that we are na fine ladies, eh, Winkie?"