Grace in Thine Eyes
By Liz Curtis Higgs
Random House Liz Curtis Higgs
All right reserved. ISBN: 1578562597
No doubt they rose up early to observe
The rite of May.
WI L L I A M SHAKESPEARE
Glen of Loch Trool
Davina McKie dropped to her knees on the grassy hillock, letting
her shawl slip past her shoulders despite the sharp chill in the air.
The silent glen stood draped in a pearl gray mist, the rugged peaks of
Mulldonach mere shadows edged in copper, hinting at dawn.
A smile stole across her face. Her brothers were nowhere to be seen.
Davina swept her fingers over the cool, wet grass, then lightly patted
her cheeks and brow, touching her nose for good measure. If the
May dew banished her freckles, as the auld wives promised, she would
gladly wash her face out of doors every morning of the year. Never mind
that the ruddy spots matched her bright mane of hair; ferntickles were
better suited to a child's complexion. After seventeen years, Davina was
quite ready to be done with them.
She sat up and rearranged her drooping crown of daisies, meant to
safeguard her from brownies, bogles, and other uncanny creatures that
roamed the land on Beltane, then started to her feet when a familiar
voice rose from the fog.
"On May Day, in a fairy ring!" Her brother William. There was no
mistaking his baritone. His twin, Sandy--only their mother called him
Alexander--would not be far behind.
Ah, well. Davina spun round to greet them.
Two shaggy heads, black as midnight, emerged from the mist. A
year younger than she, the twins were in every way identical, from their
dark brown eyes to their broad chests and muscular backs. "Like stags,"
their mother had once said, gently teasing them not to be seen on the
moors during hunting season.
As the lads drew near, they finished the May Day rhyme. "We've
seen them round Saint Anthon's spring."
Davina recognized the poet.
"Robert Ferguson," Will answered for her as if he'd read the name
in her eyes. He tugged at her unbound hair, which spilled down her
back, the scarlet ends brushing her waist. "Sandy, I told you we'd spot a
fairy on the braes this morning. See how her ears come to a point?"
The McKie brothers never tired of comparing her to the wee folk
since the crown of her head did not reach their shoulders, and her hands
and feet were no bigger than a young girl's. She snatched her hair from
Will's grasp, only to find his twin plucking at her skirts.
Sandy's eyes gleamed with mischief as he appraised her. "A light
green gown, fair skin, and a wreath of flowers. She only lacks wings."
Will winked at her. "You've not looked hard enough, Brother."
She fluttered her eyelet shawl behind her, making them both laugh.
"I see by her wet cheek our fairy has been bathing in the dew."
Sandy gently tweaked her nose. "Perhaps she thinks she's not bonny
Davina knew he was teasing but turned on her heel nonetheless and
flounced down the hill toward home, taking care not to lose her footing
on the slippery grass and ruin her stageworthy exit. When her brothers called after her, she pretended not to hear them.
"Och!" Will shouted her name, the sharpness of his voice muted by
the moist air. "Sandy meant no offense. You know how daft he is when
it comes to the lasses."
She heard a soft groan as fist connected with flesh, then Sandy's
voice, slightly winded. "He speaks the truth, Davina. You've no need of
the May dew when you're already the fairest maid in Galloway."
An exaggerated claim. South West Scotland boasted dozens of
young women far prettier than she. Still, she'd made her brothers grovel
long enough. Davina slowed her steps, letting the lads catch up.
"There, now." Will wrapped her right hand round the crook of his
elbow, and Sandy the same on her left. "Let us cease any talk of your
beauty. As it is, no gentleman in Monnigaff parish is worthy of you."
She could not clap her hands--her usual means of expressing
amusement--so Davina simply shook her head at Will's foolishness as
they continued downhill together. Perhaps that night when she took to
the heath by the light of a gibbous moon, she'd evade her brothers altogether.
The ritual required absolute silence--something she managed
easily and the twins did not manage at all.
"We've a secret," Will confessed as the threesome reached level
ground. "That's why we came looking for you." He led them away from
the rushing waters of Buchan Burn and headed west toward the McKie
mansion. "Father intends to make an announcement after breakfast. As
usual, he's told us nothing."
"Aye." Sandy grimaced. "'Twill be a revelation to us all."
Davina searched their faces in turn. Was it glad tidings or ill? She
touched her lips, then her heart, knowing they would grasp her meaning:
Can you not tell me more? I will keep your secret.
Will shook his head, stamping the grass a bit harder. "That's all we
know, lass. Father demanded we arrive promptly at table. He wasn't
smiling when he said it."
Bad news, then.
Her earlier joy began to dissipate, like the morning mist giving way
to the sun. The trio walked on in silence broken only by the throaty cry
of a raven gliding above the surface of Loch Trool. When the thick stand
of pines along the loch made continuing arm in arm impossible, Davina
followed behind Will, with Sandy close on her heels, her mind turning
over the possibilities.
Was a wedding in the offing? The twins were only sixteen, far too
young for marriage. Davina's steps slowed. Surely her father did not
have a suitor in mind for her? Not likely, or her mother would have
mentioned something. Was Ian to marry, then? Quite as braw as their
handsome father, her brother would make a fine catch for any lass.
Nineteen years of age come October, he was man enough to take a wife.
Ian was in every way her older brother. Responsible. Trustworthy.
Intelligent. The twins used other words: Predictable. Unimaginative.
Dull. Davina suspected that envy fueled such sentiments: Ian would
inherit all of Glentrool. Still, it was Will and Sandy who'd come looking
for her on the hills, speculating about an announcement. Might
their father not have some favorable word to share with his younger
sons? If so, she would mark this day as a rare and welcome occasion.
As they neared Glentrool, Davina lifted her gaze to its square central
tower and the round turret nestled in the heart of its L-shaped
design. Built of rough granite from the glen, the house was rugged and
imposing, like the Fell of Eschoncan that stood behind it; immovable
and unshakable, like the faith of the great-grandfather who had built it.
After crossing the threshold, they started down the long entrance
hall, the twins' boot heels loud against the hardwood floor. Davina
paused at the mirror to smooth the muslin tucker round her neckline
and pluck the flowers from her hair, now a tangled mess after her early
morning ramble on the hills.
Drawing a steadying breath, she turned away from her reflection
and walked into the dark-beamed dining room where she was greeted
by portraits of McKies from generations past. A single window did little
to brighten the dim interior. The rest of the family was already seated,
with Father at the head of the long table, Ian to his left and Mother on
his right. Though Ian simply said, "Good morning," she saw the wariness
in his gaze, heard his unspoken warning. Something is amiss. A
slight furrow carved her father's brow. More cause for concern.
"I was about to send Rab off to find you." Their mother's tone was
kind, without censure. "You see, my husband?" She touched his sleeve.
"Your sons have joined you at table, just as you requested."
"So they have." Jamie rested his hand on hers, a slight smile softening
Most marriages among the gentry were forged in silver, with little
thought for romance; not so her parents. Davina thought they made a
handsome couple: Leana, with her porcelain skin, silvery blond hair,
and wide, blue gray eyes; and Jamie, his brown hair still thick but shot
through with silver, his dark brows arched over moss green eyes that
missed nothing. Her mother had quietly celebrated her fortieth year in
March and her father the same a few years earlier.
"Dearest?" Leana's voice stirred Davina from her reverie. So did the
sketchbook that she slid toward her. "I found this in your room and
thought you might have need of it."
Davina opened the clothbound volume to a blank page, then fingered
the attached charcoal pencil, carved to a fine point by her father's
horn-handled knife. Whenever facial expressions or hand signals would
not suffice to share her thoughts with others, she scribbled them along
the margins of her sketches. Just now she felt a strong urge to draw
something, to keep hand and mind occupied while the others ate, for
she had little appetite.
Two servants entered from the kitchen, steaming dishes in hand.
Rashers of bacon and a fragrant pot of cooked oats were added to the
sideboard, joining a cold platter of sliced mutton and boiled hens' eggs.
The twins stood to fill their plates, more subdued than Davina had seen
them in many a morning.
She swallowed a bit of dry oatcake, then quietly sipped her tea,
searching her mother's face for some clue of what the morning might
hold. Was that a slight tremor in Leana's chin? a hint of moisture in
All at once her father thrust aside his half-eaten plate of food and
dabbed his mouth, signaling his intentions. "I have important news that
cannot wait any longer."
Davina's breath caught. Please, Father. Let it be good news.
Her brothers turned to the head of the table, their expressions grim,
as Davina found her sketchbook pencil. It seemed their questions were
about to be answered.
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