What's Mine's Mind - vol.1

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It was agreed between mother and son to submit the matter to Ian, and if he should, be of the same mind, at once to negotiate the sale of the land, in order to carry the clan to Canada. They wrote therefore to Ian, and composed themselves to await his answer.

It was a sorrowful thing to Alister to seem for a moment to follow the example of the recreant chiefs whose defection to feudalism was the prelude to their treachery toward their people, and whose faithlessness had ruined the highlands. But unlike Glengarry or "Esau" Reay, he desired to sell his land that he might keep his people, care for them, and share with them: his people safe, what mattered the acres!

Reflecting on the thing, he saw, in the case of Ian's approval of the sale, no reason why he should not show friendliness where none was expected, and give Mr. Peregrine Palmer the first chance of purchase. He thought also, with his usual hopefulness, that the time might come when the clan, laying its savings together, would be able to redeem its ancient homesteads, and then it might be an advantage that they were all in the possession of one man. Such things had been, and might be again! The Lord could bring again the captivity of Clanruahd as well as that of Zion!

Two months passed, and they had Ian's answer--when it was well on into the spring, and weather good for a sea-voyage was upon its way. Because of the loss of their uncle's money, and the good prospect of comfort in return for labour, hard but not killing, Ian entirely approved of the proposal. From that moment the thing was no longer discussed, but how best to carry it out. The chief assembled the clan in the barn, read his brother's letter, and in a simple speech acquainted them with the situation. He told them of the loss of the money to which he had looked for the power to aid them; reminded them that there was neither employment nor subsistence enough on the land--not even if his mother and he were to live like the rest of them, which if necessary they were quite prepared to do; and stated his resolve to part with the remnant of it in order to provide the means of their migrating in a body to Canada, where not a few old friends were eager to welcome them. There they would buy land, he said, of which every man that would cultivate it should have a portion enough to live upon, while those with trades should have every facility for following them. All, he believed, would fare well in return for hard work, and they would be in the power of no man. There was even a possibility, he hoped, that, if they lived and laboured well, they might one day buy back the home they had left; or if not they, their sons and daughters might return from their captivity, and restore the house of their fathers. If anyone would not go, he would do for him what seemed fair.

Donal shoemaker rose, unpuckered his face, slackened the purse-strings of his mouth, and said,

"Where my chief goes, I will go; where my chief lives, I will live; and where my chief is buried, God grant I may be buried also, with all my family!"

He sat down, covered his face with his hands, and wept and sobbed.

One voice rose from all present:

"We'll go, Macruadh! We'll go! Our chief is our home!"

The chief's heart swelled with mingled gladness and grief, but he answered quietly,

"Then you must at once begin your preparations; we ought not to be in a hurry at the last."

An immediate stir, movement, bustle, followed. There was much talking, and many sunny faces, over which kept sweeping the clouds of sorrow.

The next morning the chief went to the New House, and desired to see Mr. Palmer. He was shown into what the new laird called his study. Mr. Palmer's first thought was that he had come to call him to account for firing at him. He neither spoke nor advanced a step to meet him. The chief stood still some yards from him, and said as pleasantly as he could,--

"You are surprised to see me, Mr. Palmer!"

"I am."

"I come to ask if you would like to buy my land?"

"Already!" said Mr. Palmer, cast on his enemy a glare of victory, and so stood regarding him. The chief did not reply.

"Well!" said Mr. Palmer.

"I wait your answer," returned the chief.

"Did it never strike you that insolence might be carried too far?"

"I came for your sake more than my own," rejoined the chief, without even a shadow of anger. "I have no particular desire you should take the land, but thought it reasonable you should have the first offer."

"What a dull ox the fellow must take me for!" remarked the new laird to himself. "It's all a dodge to get into the house! As if he would sell ME his land! Or could think I would hold any communication with him! Buy his land! It's some trick, I'll lay my soul! The infernal scoundrel! Such a mean-spirited wretch too! Takes an ounce of shot in the stomach, and never says 'What the devil do you mean by it?' I don't believe the savage ever felt it!"

Something like this passed with thought's own swiftness through the mind of Mr. Palmer, as he stood looking the chief from head to foot, yet in his inmost person feeling small before him.

"If you cannot at once make up your mind," said Alister, "I will give you till to-morrow to think it over."

"When you have learned to behave like a gentleman," answered the new laird, "let me know, and I will refer you to my factor."

He turned and rang the hell. Alister bowed, and did not wait for the servant.

It must be said for Mr. Palmer, however, that that morning Christina had positively refused to listen to a word more from Mr. Sercombe.

In the afternoon, Alister set out for London.

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