There were letters, smelling of the lavender and rue that lay among them. They were tied in little bundles with lavender ribbons. There were little thin books of poetry, a few pressed flowers, a few ribbons that had decked Baby Marcella, a tiny shirt of hers, a little shoe, a Confirmation book. All these they threw into the fire, and read some big crackling papers with seals and stamps upon them. Then Marcella crept away along the passages through which the wind whistled while the rats, hungry as everything else about Lashnagar, scuttled behind the wainscotings.
She opened her mother’s door. A candle was burning on the table by the bedside. A sheet covered the bed. Underneath it she could trace the outline of her mother’s body. As she came across the room, walking softly, as she always did, to avoid the loose board that had so often jerked her mother back to wakefulness and pain, it seemed to her that all the loving kindness of the world had gone from her. From then until her mother was buried she never left her.
After his wife’s death Andrew Lashcairn was harder, colder. Fits of glowering depression took the place of rage, and he never went behind the green baize door, though the barrel stayed there. He seemed to have conceived the idea of making Marcella strong; perhaps he was afraid that she would be frail as her mother had been; perhaps he tried to persuade himself that her mother’s illness and death were constitutional frailty rather than traumatic, and in pursuance of this self-deception he tried to suggest that Marcella had inherited her delicacy and must be hardened. Divorced from his den and his barrel by his own will-power he had to find something to do. And he undertook Marcella as an interest in life.
Things were going a little better at the farm because of Rose Lashcairn’s money: more cows came, and sacks of meal and corn replenished the empty coffers in the granary. Marcella still divided her time when she could between the book-room, Lashnagar and Wullie’s smoking-hut; but every morning Andrew Lashcairn tore her out of bed at five o’clock and went with her through snows and frosts, and, later, through the fresh spring mornings to teach her to swim in the wild breakers of the North Sea. Many a girl would have died; Marcella proved herself more a child of the Lashcairns than of her little English mother by living and thriving on it. Her father sent her to work in the fields with the men, but forbade her to speak to any of the village women who worked there, telling her to remember that her folks were kings when theirs were slaves. One night, when the snow drifted in from Lashnagar on to her bed, she closed her window, and he, with a half return of the old fury, pushed it out, window-frame and all. Ever after that Marcella slept in a cave of winds. It never occurred to her to rebel against her father. She accepted the things done to her body with complete docility. Over the things that happened to her mind her father could have no control.