Authors: Marian McBride
Her Rebellious Heart: A Novella
by Marion McBride
All Rights Reserved
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the copyright owner except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, events, business establishments or locales is entirely coincidental.
“Goodbye, Miss Wallace,” Bridget Campbell called as she struggled to pull her pianoforte teacher's front door shut. The wind seemed to wish the door remain open instead.
As she finally managed to close the door, she clutched her music case to her body to block some of the wind from the harbor and joyously considered the news Miss Wallace had told her as she walked. She thought to herself how nice it would be if her mother had a fire burning in the parlor, so she could curl up in front of it with a good book, assuming her father or sisters had not already claimed all of the treasured spots. It was almost impossible for Bridget not to think of music. Reading was one of the things that truly took her imagination away from the endless rehearsing in her mind, transporting her to faraway places she did not wish to see any other way.
Bridget walked slowly and observed a light fog was drifting in from the North Sea as she headed to the grocers to get a few things her mother had asked her to bring home. The notes from Chopin's “Ballad No. 1” played expertly in her head with a skill her fingers soon hoped to match. As the moist air clung to her face she hurried along, pulling her cape and her case as tightly to her body as she could for warmth.
After fetching the requested items, she ran the rest of the way down the wynd to the street where she lived, just a stone’s throw from the harbor. Bridget paused for a moment to gaze out at the sea and thought of all the men in her village that had once looked from their fishing boats back at the spot she was now standing. She wished them as much joy with their chosen profession as she was sure to feel once her teaching career began.
The cold ripped her from her thoughts and she hurried. As she entered her modest home, the heavy door banged shut behind her. She called out,“I’m home, Mother. Here are the things you asked me to get for you. Hope I haven’t forgotten anything.”
Laying the package she was carrying on the kitchen table and her music case on a chair beside it, she began taking off her cape.
Her mother, Alice, entered from the wash house adjoining the kitchen and said quickly, “Oh Bridget, leave your cape on, you have to go over to the castle. Your grandfather wants to talk to you about something. It’s a favor he wants of you, I believe.”
Seeing Bridget's displeased expression, her mother asked, “How was your lesson today?”
“Fine, Mother,” answered Bridget, brightening despite the mention of her reclusive grandfather. “Miss Wallace is very pleased with my progress and has asked me to consider teaching some of her beginning students when she goes on holiday next summer,” she said, announcing her good news matter-of-factly and with quiet pride.
“That’s grand, lassie, but you are ready for that?” asked her mother with a pleased smile.
“I think so, Mum. I’m quite advanced now. In fact, my teacher wants me to study for the London Royal Academy of Music examination, which would be the very last in my musical studies. I don’t think I shall though, it’s not really necessary for becoming a teacher, and it would entail many more hours of practice. I have no desire to move far away and compete for a position with a wealthy family.”
What she did not add, because she did not wish to upset her mother, was that she hoped not to move at all, but her small village did not need two instructors and Miss Wallace would not think of retiring for many years. She would have to move if she wanted to build a clientele of her own.
“Besides, I’d like to start earning some money so I can pay you and Father back for letting me take piano lessons all these years when you could ill afford it,” she added.
“That’s true, lass, but you had such a love for it and have done so well that I’m sure your father won't let you pay anything back.”
Bridget smiled, “We’ll see about that later.” Her smile vanished.”Now what about, Grandfather? Do you know what he wants of me?”
Her mother hesitated for a moment before answering. She then said slowly, “Not exactly, dear. He stopped earlier, but all he said was he wanted to ask you something about being hostess for the club supper he will be giving soon. With your grandmother gone and you quite grown up now he wants someone in his own family for the occasion.”
Bridget could not help but gape at her mother's words. Her grandfather had hardly treated her or any of them as family for as long as she could remember. Although he'd always seemed marginally fonder of her than her sisters, he hardly spoke to her mother and would not look at her father. She had never seen him in their home and only rarely had she been invited to the castle, and even then not since her grandmother had died.
Bridget could see that her mother did not wish to hear her opinions on the matter, so instead she replied, “Oh, Mother, do I have to? It will be mostly older people there and not much fun for me.”
Alice brushed a stray wisp of gray hair from her face before she spoke again. “Maybe not, Bridget, but you know how your grandfather has always favored you over your sisters because of your resemblance to your grandmother, and if this will make him happy, I think you should do it. It’s the first time he has ever asked you to do something like this.”
Bridget became lost in thought for a moment as she sat down at the kitchen table. She rested her arms on the table and clasped her hands in front of her. She had not been to the castle in some time and was curious about how it would look to her now that she was nearly grown. Besides, if her grandfather had been willing to come to the house himself to see her, then maybe he had changed.
She spoke slowly,“I suppose you are right, Mum, maybe I’m just being selfish. I do miss going to the castle to visit him. It is such a lovely place.” Then as an afterthought, she added,“I wish it belonged to you and Father instead of Grandfather. I would like to live there always.”
Alice looked at her daughter with wide eyes, clearly startled. She said softly,“It could very easily be yours someday, Bridget, when my father passes on, if you will be kind to him now and do some of the things he wants of you.”
Bridget recoiled from her mother's words. She would no more manipulate her grandfather into giving her the castle then she would wish to convince a rich man to marry her, even if it meant that she could help support her sisters and spend hours playing the piano to her heart's content.
Alice stopped talking, seeing her daughter's reaction. Bridget in turn observed her mother. A slight woman Alice was, her once dark brown hair now tinged with white was drawn straight back off her pale, tired looking face and pinned in a knot at the nape of her neck. Her gentle hazel eyes appeared apprehensive.
Bridget sat upright in her chair, hands on her knees, and gazed at her mother intently. She tossed her head, red hair falling in ripples below her shoulders, green eyes flashing dangerously. She squinted and said, “Mother, you look guilty. Is there something else I should know?”
“Well, dear,” Alice began nervously, playing with her hands as she spoke, “I don’t want you to be angry, but your grandfather has talked to me about letting you come and live with him at the castle, and I have discussed it with your father. Robert is getting on in years and has his bad days. He would like someone of his own to be near him. You are the logical choice.”
Bridget’s mouth flew open in surprise. She stammered, “Mother, you would never agree to that, would you? You never want any of us out of your sight for very long. How could you think of letting me leave home?”
Her face was ashen. She knew she would have to leave eventually, and travel farther away than her grandfather's castle, but she never considered that her mother would take her leaving so easily.
When Alice answered, Bridget heard exasperation in her voice,“Well my dear, it might not be too bad an idea. You wouldn’t be leaving town you know, and it’s not that far to the castle that you couldn’t see us every day.”
As she spoke, she turned to the table and began putting away the groceries Bridget had brought home.
“You would be the lady of the house and have your own bedroom, which is impossible for you here. You three girls are growing up so fast and our place is just getting too small for us all. We cannot afford a bigger house on what your father makes, and I think you moving in with my father would be a perfect solution.”
Bridget looked at her mother as if she hadn’t heard her right. She exclaimed angrily,“You are really serious aren’t you? I just can’t believe it.”
“Now what’s so bad about it?” snapped Alice. “I honestly think it would be wonderful, and you should be grateful to him for even wanting you to come and live in his grand house. Look at your cousin Margaret, she was raised by her grandparents and they can give her very little. Your grandfather can do much more for you than they could for her.”
Bridget, shaken and pale, stared at her mother as she quietly said, “I just cannot believe what I am hearing. I must be dreaming.”
“You are not dreaming and you better start thinking about it, my girl. In the meantime, go see him and at least tell him that you will be delighted to be his hostess at the supper party he is giving. My father is very rich you know, but I never got much of his money. He never quite forgave me for marrying your father, who he never considered good enough for me. So, you may as well get some of his wealth when he passes on.”
There was a hardness about her mother at that moment that Bridget had never seen before, and she wondered at it. Her mother had told the girls before of her grandfather's disapproval, but she had rarely spoken of it since.
Perhaps she was always angry and just hid it better for us as children?
Bridget thought. Studying the pale, tired face in front of her, Bridget’s anger left her, and she all but whispered,“What did Grandfather have against my father?”
Alice looked like she was trying to hold back her tears as she answered,“Oh, lassie, it goes a way back to the Highland clan wars. Your father is a Campbell, my father is a MacDonald, and you know from your school history books about the massacre of Glencoe. The MacDonalds and Campbells were bitter enemies then, but that was so long ago it should be forgotten. Bu some people never forget and hold a grudge to their death. My father is a proud man and very hard at times, but Bridget, he has a very soft spot in his heart for you.”
Bridget sat quietly for a few moments, mulling things over in his mind, thinking how very complicated life was. Then, looking at her mother she said,“If I do decide to move in with him, what about Besse Stewart
his housekeeper? She might resent it terribly.”
“It’s none of her business,” Alice answered promptly, “She is his servant and you are his family.”
Bridget stubbornly persisted, “Well, what about that young highland lad, Aidan MacLeod, who Grandfather brought down here to live at the castle with him? I've never formally met him, but everyone knows he has been like a son to Grandfather. He depends on him for so much. I’m sure Aidan wouldn’t want an interloper moving into his secure way of life.”
Alice retorted, “He’s not family either. Just the same as Besse, a hired hand. Besides, there is not one thing they can do about it if Robert wants you. You come first.”
She looked at her daughter’s stricken face, and said,“This has all been quite a shock to you hasn’t it, Bridget? The kettle is boiling. Come and have a nice hot cup of tea with me and a fresh scone, and you’ll feel better. I baked some extra for Robert too. You can take them to him when you go.”
Getting cups and saucers from the press, Alice poured the steaming brew in very short order. Still trembling and upset, she sat down at the table with her mother. She buttered and jellied a hot scone and after a few bites, and a sip of the hot tea, she began to feel more relaxed, more like her usual self.
When she finished eating, she got up from the table and put her cape back on. Then, turning to her mother said,“Mum, you look so tired. You really shouldn’t work so hard.”
“I have to, my girl, and this is why I want you to go to your grandfather. I never want to see you work as hard as I have had to. I love your father very much, he is a fine man, but a fisherman’s life is not an easy one, and I want you to have it better than I have had.”