A Short Coda .....Chapter 11

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A Short Coda .....Chapter 11

Post by AnneM » Tue Sep 20, 2005 10:43 pm

Hi folks

This is really the end of the last episode but it would have been too long. Hereafter I promise we get moving again!

A Short Coda

As the cab jolts over the cobbled streets on her short journey home, Sarah has the chance to reflect on her sudden change of fortune and her new found friends. The Campbells claimed Hugh for the evening. Although the invitation was extended to include Sarah, she politely declined, with some regret, to be drawn into the family party. She felt that she could no longer avoid facing the Kerrs, particularly Ninian, and that her prolonged absence would soon be remarked upon.

Her initial euphoria at having found an unexpectedly pleasant solution to her problem had faded, leaving her feeling flat and slightly melancholy. The manse is the only home she has known for some years now and Ninian’s household her only family. For the second time in her relatively short life she faces leaving everything she holds dear. In addition she is trying not to feel anxious about her longer- term future, what will become of her once she has to leave the Campbells’ protection.

It is indeed not without misgiving that she looks forward to her stay with them. Caroline’s charm, vivacity and gay courage are undoubtedly engaging. However, Sarah has quickly realised that resisting Caroline’s force of will might prove difficult. She also doubts whether the older woman’s values and principles match her own. It would, she thinks, be remarkable if they did. They were brought up in such different circumstances. She was rather taken aback when Caroline drew her aside just before she left and whispered confidentially,

“Sarah, I do hope that you will exercise your influence over Hugh to persuade him to give up this scheme of going to Africa. I know I should not say this, as Mr Campbell is inclined to favour the project and it is very wrong of me to set up my will against my husband’s, but Hugh is so clever and gentle and would be wasted. I can perfectly understand that he wishes to shine outside Scotland and would dearly like to help him. Papa’s old friend Dr Corfe has a very good practice in London and will soon retire. He trained in Scotland and would. I’m sure, be pleased to give Hugh a chance. Although the dear Queen is not as active as she was, all things Scottish are still very popular, especially medical men, and Hugh’s sweet voice and quaint manners would soon make him very fashionable. If he built up a good practice he could soon be quite wealthy.”

Sarah immediately denied any influence over Hugh and privately resolved that, in the unlikely event that she ever acquired any, she would certainly not try to dissuade him from fulfilling his life’s ambition. It seemed to her that Caroline’s attitude to Hugh resembled somewhat her attitude to her pet spaniel. In this, Sarah suspected, she underestimated him. For all his gentle manner and belief in fortune telling, Hugh was a serious minded, determined young man and genuinely devout. Sarah guessed that to sacrifice a mission he believed in for material and social advancement would lead only to regret and frustration. She could have no part in it.

To do Caroline justice, Sarah did not doubt that she was motivated by Hugh’s best interests, however misguided her view of these interests might be. Beneath her frivolous manner and worldly attitudes lay true strength of character, which Sarah could not help but admire. Many over-indulged young women faced with the tragedy Caroline had suffered would have given in to despair and become dependent. Indeed Sarah doubted if she herself could have dealt with such a blow. Caroline, however, endured pain and disability without complaint and was undoubtedly devoted to her family.

The little boys are of course delightful. Master Jack is full of mischief and the people of his Argyllshire estate will one day be fortunate to be in the care of “young Sir Archie”. Thinking of the children reminds Sarah that she must leave Amelia. Away from the Indian heat, which did not suit her, and with Sarah’s careful attention, the child had begun to blossom. Leaving her would feel like a betrayal. Sarah could only hope, somewhat doubtfully, that Adam would soon remarry, a kind woman who would give Amelia the loving mothering enjoyed by the Campbell sons.

While Sarah feels confident of liking Caroline and loving her children, she is not so sure about Mr James Campbell. He certainly seems a pleasant man and gives every impression of devotion to his wife and children. There is no mistaking the love in his eyes when he looks at Caroline. However, as he handed her into the cab, she was surprised by a whiff of the particularly cloying French perfume one of Bella’s brothers had given her following a trip to Paris. The whole household remembered it well. Bella had worn it until Ninian, revolted, had insisted she pour it away. Sarah tries to push this suspicion aside. Surely she was mistaken and the scent was merely the pomade he used on his hair. A gentleman so obviously in love with his wife as Mr Campbell would hardly betray her, regardless of the circumstances. Sarah has to admit that her life thus far has left her ill-equipped to understand the ways of men but, made wise by the disastrous episode with Adam, decides to treat Mr Campbell with caution.

As the cab draws up outside the tall house in the square, Sarah’s spirits sink further. She must pluck up the courage to speak to Ninian as soon as possible, preferably before evening service. Even without Caroline’s prompting, she had made up her mind to apologise to him. She did not lack self knowledge and had to admit that he had had no obligation to take her in. What is more, he had never treated her as a burden but had been kind to her and included her in his family. Now she feels that her own behaviour has been ungrateful. Once in the house, she heads towards his study but is pre-empted by the emergence of Ninian himself.

“Sarah” he says “I’m pleased to see you. I really need to talk to you. Please come into the study”

Once inside, to Sarah’s surprise before she has a chance to say anything, Ninian launches into speech. “Sarah, I must apologise to you. The things I said were harsh and unjustified. I am so sorry to have caused you pain. I know that you meant no harm. It was just inexperience. A decent, well brought up young single woman cannot be expected to understand a man.”

For a moment Sarah’s spirits rise as she indulges the hope that she may not have to leave after all. However her hopes are quickly dashed as Ninian continues;

“I’m hopeful of persuading Adam to stay……the alternative, the effect on his mother is unthinkable. I understand how difficult this makes your own position but I’m sure that we can work something out. Perhaps Mrs Douglas..?”

Wounded again but mustering what dignity she can, Sarah pulls herself up to her not inconsiderable full height and replies, “Don’t trouble yourself, Ninian. I don’t need you to make any arrangements for me. I have been invited to pay an indefinite visit to a friend, a Mrs Campbell, and have accepted her kind invitation.”

An unmistakeable look of relief flickers across Ninian’s face but, recalled to a sense of his responsibilities, he asks, “Who is this woman? How do you know her? Are you sure she is respectable?”

Sarah fights the urge to reply tartly that since Ninian has chosen loyalty to his son over his responsibility to and care for her, he has little right to question her. However she feels that she cannot hold against him his natural fatherly love and desire to see his wife happy. “I can assure you that Mrs Campbell is a very decent, respectable lady. Her father was a general and her husband a Classics master at the Academy. Though she is English, he is the youngest son of a Highland laird and it seems likely that he and his elder son will inherit the estate.”

Ninian’s concerns are somewhat put to rest by the evidence of Mrs Campbell’s social standing. In fact he is rather surprised by the level of society in which Sarah has found herself. “You are fortunate in your friends, Sarah. It sounds as though Mrs Campbell is very well connected. May I ask why she has invited you to stay with her?”

Again Sarah has to swallow a sharp retort to the effect that, just because she is no longer welcome in Ninian’s house, it does not mean that she is not a desirable guest and replies calmly, “Sadly, Mrs Campbell is a cripple because of a riding accident two years ago. She can’t go out much and feels the lack of female company.”

Ninian nods. “That’s understandable. The poor lady is much to be pitied.”

“She would not thank you for your pity. Of all the women I have ever met she is probably the least pitiable but I’m grateful for your concern for me. Why don’t you come to visit Mrs Campbell? She is always delighted to have visitors and has heard of your reputation as a preacher.”

Sarah is rather cynically aware that this last remark will touch Ninian’s vanity and also doubts that he will be any more immune to Caroline’s charm than any other man. She will soon be able to go on her visit with his blessing.

However, she underestimates Ninian’s sense of responsibility and curiosity. Although her plan may be convenient, he is still aware of his duty to protect her. “How did you meet Mrs Campbell? Have you known her long?”

This feels like one of those occasions when telling something approaching the truth is the best policy. “Not very long. I was introduced to her by Mr McCallum, the medical student who lodges with Dr Bell. The Campbells are something in the way of patrons to him.”

Ninian’s interest is now truly aroused. “Mr McCallum?” he asks “Is there affection between you and this young man, then? “

Unusually, Sarah’s pale cheeks acquire some colour. “No, he is only a friend but even if there were, I can’t see how there could be any objection. He is a serious, well brought up young man and will have an honourable profession.”

“Very well, I won’t ask any more. But, Sarah, I would be pleased to see you well settled. You are a good girl and deserve the best husband. If you are beginning to like this young man, I hope he is worthy of you.”

Blushing again, Sarah replies, “And you are a good man. I’m sorry for the things I said. You’ve been kind to me and I’m grateful for everything you’ve done.” Uncharacteristically, she stands on her tip-toes and kisses her brother on the cheek. Turning away quickly to hide a tear she adds, “I must run and see Margaret. I promise I won’t leave until after the wedding.”

With that, she rushes out of the door leaving Ninian standing still, his hand against the cheek she had so unexpectedly kissed.

Climbing the stairs, Sarah is quickly claimed by Margaret who, oblivious to any signs of distress, grabs her and demands, “Where have you been? You’ve been away for ages. Now come to my room. We’ve got so much to discuss.”

Sarah dutifully follows, hoping without much expectation that Margaret’s preoccupation with her imminent nuptials will blunt her inevitable curiosity when Sarah reveals her own plans.

P.S. As always I own up to including 'real' people, I have to admit that Papa's friend Dr Corfe did exist and was possibly/probably (I may die trying to prove the link) a relative of my husband. I've shorn about 10 years off his age as the real Dr Corfe was born in Salisbury in 1809 or 1810, studied medicine at Aberdeen of all places, did indeed practise in London and died in Brighton in 1894. I guess he must have retired there in the 1880s or 1890s.
Researching M(a)cKenzie, McCammond, McLachlan, Kerr, Assur, Renton, Redpath, Ferguson, Shedden, Also Oswald, Le/assels/Lascelles, Bonning just for starters

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Post by CatrionaL » Sat Jul 08, 2006 7:27 pm

A worthwhile read

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