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Title: His Majesty Baby and Some Common People
Author: Maclaren, Ian, 1850-1907
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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HIS MAJESTY BABY AND SOME COMMON PEOPLE

By Ian MacLaren

1902

To Andrew Carnegie,

The Munificent Benefactor Of

Scots Students



I.--HIS MAJESTY BABY

UNTIL the a'bus stopped and the old gentleman entered, we had been a
contented and genial company, travelling from a suburb into the city in
high, good fellowship, and our absolute monarch was Baby. His mother
was evidently the wife of a well-doing artisan, a wise-looking, capable,
bonnie young woman; and Baby was not a marvel of attire, nor could he
be called beautiful. He was dressed after a careful, tidy, comfortable
fashion, and he was a clear-skinned, healthy child; that is all you
would have noticed had you met the two on the street. In a'bus where
there is nothing to do for forty minutes except stare into one another's
faces, a baby has the great chance of his life, and this baby was
made to seize it. He was not hungry, and there were no pins about his
clothes, and nobody had made him afraid, and he was by nature a human
soul. So he took us in hand one by one, till he had reduced us all to a
state of delighted subjection, to the pretended scandal and secret
pride of his mother. His first conquest was easy, and might have been
discounted, for against such an onset there was no power of resistance
in the elderly woman opposite--one of the lower middles, fearfully
stout, and of course a grandmother. He simply looked at her--if he
smiled, that was thrown in--for, without her knowledge, her arms had
begun to shape for his reception--so often had children lain on that
ample resting-place. "Bless 'is little 'eart; it do me good to see him."
No one cared to criticize the words, and we remarked to ourselves how
the expression changes the countenance. Not heavy and red, far less
dull, the proper adjective for the face is motherly. The next passenger,
just above Grannie, is a lady, young and pretty, and a mother? Of
course; did you not see her look Baby over, as an expert at her
sharpest, before she grows old and is too easily satisfied? Will she
approve, or is there something wrong which male persons and grandmothers
cannot detect? The mother is conscious of inspection, and adjusts a
ribbon His Majesty had tossed aside--one of his few decorations which
he wore on parade for the good of the public and his own glory--and then
she meekly awaited approval. For a moment we were anxious, but that was
our foolishness, for in half a minute the lady's face relaxed, and she
passed Baby. She leant forward and asked questions, and we overheard
scraps of technical detail: "My first... fourteen months... six teeth...
always well." Baby was bored, and apologised to the'bus. "Mothers, you
know--this is the way they go on; but what a lot they do for us! so we
must be patient." Although rank outsiders--excluded from the rites of
the nursery--yet we made no complaint, but were rather pleased at this
conference. One was a lady, the other a working woman; they had not
met before, they were not likely to meet again, but they had forgotten
strangeness and differences in the common bond of motherhood. Opposite
me a priest was sitting and saying his office, but at this point his
eye fell on the mothers, and I thought his lips shaped the words "Sancta
Maria" before he went on with the appointed portion, but that may have
been my fancy. The'bus will soon be dropping into poetry. Let us be
serious and stare before us, as becometh well-bred English people.

Baby has wearied of inaction, and has begun another campaign, and
my heart sinks, for this time he courts defeat; On the other side of
Grannie and within Baby's sphere of influence was a man about whose
profession there could be little doubt, even if he had not a bag on his
knee and were not reading from a parchment document. After a long and
serious consideration of the lawyer's clear-cut, clean-shaven, bloodless
face, Baby leant forward and tapped gently on the deed, and then, when
the keen face looked up in quick inquiry, Baby replied with a smile
of roguish intelligence, as if to say, "Full of big words as long as
myself, but quite useless; it could all have been said in a sentence,
as you and I know quite well; by the way, that parchment would make an
excellent drum; do you mind me? A tune has just come into my head."

The lawyer, of course, drew away the deed, and frowned at the insolence
of the thing? No, he did not--there is a soul in lawyers, if you know
how to find it. He smiled. Well, it was not a first-rate smile, but
I swear that it was genuine, and the next time he did it better, and
afterwards it spread all over his face and lighted up his eyes. He had
never been exposed in such a genial, irresistible way before, and so he
held the drum, and Baby played a variation on "Rule Britannia" with much
spirit, while grannie appealed for applause.

"If 'e don't play as well as the band in 'yde Park of a Sunday."

After a well deserved rest of forty seconds, during which we wagged our
heads in wonder, Baby turned his attention to his right-hand neighbour,
and for the balance of the minute examined her with compassion. An old
maid without question, with her disposition written on the thin, tightly
drawn lips, and the hard, grey eyes. None of us would care to trifle
with... Will he dare?... if he has not! That was his chief stroke of
genius, and it deserved success--when, with an expression of unaffected
pity, he put out his soft, dimpled hand and gently stroked her cheek.
"Poor thing, all alone,'lone,'lone," he cooed in her ear, as if to say
with liquid baby speech, "I'm so solly, solly, solly, so velly, velly,
velly solly." Did I say that her eyes were tender and true enough to
win a man's heart and keep it, and that her lips spoke of patience and
gentleness? If I did not, I repair my neglect. She must have been a
beautiful woman in her youth--no, no, to-day, just when she inclines
her head ever so slightly, and Baby strokes her cheek again, and cooes,
"Pretty, pretty, pretty, and so velly, velly, velly good." Was not that
a lovely flush on her cheek?--oh, the fool of a man who might have had
that love. She opens a neat little bag, and as this was an imperial
incident we watched without shame. Quite so; she is to be away all
day, and has got a frugal luncheon, and--it's all she can do in return.
Perhaps he cannot eat it. I don't know, nor does she; that's the pity of
it, poor soul, baby-ways are a mystery to her; but would he refuse that
biscuit? Not he; he makes an immense to do over it, and shows it to his
mother and all his loyal subjects; and he was ready to be kissed, but
she did not like to kiss him. Peace be with thy shy, modest soul, the
Christ-child come into thine heart!

Two passengers on Baby's left had endured these escapades with patient
and suffering dignity. When a boy is profoundly conscious that he
is--well, a man--and yet a blind and unfeeling world conspires to treat
him as--well, a child--he must protect himself and assert his position.
Which he does, to the delight of everybody with any sense of humour, by
refusing indignantly to be kissed by his mother--or at least sisters--in
public, by severely checking any natural tendency to enthusiasm about
anything except sport, by allowing it to be understood that he has
exhausted the last remaining pleasure and is fairly burnt out. Dear boy,
and all the time ready to run a mile to see a cavalry regiment drill,
and tormented by a secret hankering after the Zoological Gardens. These
two had been nice little chaps two years ago, and would be manly
fellows two years hence. Meanwhile they were provoking, and required
chastisement or regeneration. Baby was to them a "kid," to be treated
with contempt, and when in a paroxysm of delight over the folly of a
law paper he had tilted one of the young men's hats, that blase ancient
replaced it in position with a bored and weary air. How Baby had taken
in the situation I cannot guess, but he had his mind on the lads, and
suddenly, while they were sustaining an elaborate unconcern, he flung
himself back and crowed--yes, joyfully crowed--with rosy, jocund
countenance in the whites of the eyes of the two solemnities. One raised
his eyebrows, and the other looked at the roof in despair; but I had
hopes, and who could resist this bubbling, chortling mirth? Next minute
one chuckles joyfully, and the other tickles Baby just at the right spot
below the chin--has a baby at home after all, and loves it--declaring
aloud that he is "a jolly little beggar." Those boys are all right;
there is a sound heart below the little affectations, and they are going
to be men.

This outburst of His Majesty cheered us all mightily, and a young woman
at the top of the'bus catching his eye, waved her hand to him, with
a happy smile. Brown glove, size six and a quarter, perhaps six, much
worn, and jacket also not of yesterday; but everything is well made,
and in perfect taste. Milk-white teeth, hazel eyes. Grecian nose, what a
winsome girl!--and let me see, she takes off a glove--yes, is wearing
an engagement ring: a lucky fellow, for she must be good with those eyes
and that merry smile. Daughter of a doctor or clergyman who died before
he could provide for his family; a teacher, one guesses, and to-day
off duty, going to meet her fiancé in the city; and then the three--her
mother, that dear woman with hair turning grey--will go upon the river,
and come home in the sweet summer evening, full of content. As soon as
he gets a rise in the office they will marry, and she will also have her
gift, as every woman should. But where am I now?--let that Baby bear the
blame.

We had one vacant place, and that was how the old gentleman intruded on
our peace; but let me make every excuse for him. It is aggravating to
stand on the edge of the pavement and wave your umbrella ostentatiously
to a'bus which passes you and draws up fifteen yards ahead, to make your
dangerous way along a slippery street with hansoms bent upon your life,
to be ordered to "hurry up," by an impatient conductor and ignominiously
hauled on to a moving 'bus. For an elderly man of military appearance and
short temper it was not soothing, and he might have been excused a word
or two, but he distinctly exceeded.

He insisted in language of great directness and simplicity that the
conductor had seen him all the time; that if he didn't he ought to have
been looking; that he--the Colonel--was not a fox-terrier to run after
a'bus in the mud; that the conductor was an impertinent scoundrel, and
that he would have him dismissed, with other things and words unworthy
even of a retired Anglo-Indian. The sympathy of the'bus did not go out
to him, and when he forced himself in between the lawyer and Grannie,
and, leaning forward with his hands on his cane, glared at us
impartially, relations were strained. A cut on his left cheek and a
bristly white moustache, half hiding, half concealing a cruel mouth, did
not commend the new passenger to a peaceable company. Baby regarded the
old man with sad attention, pained at his unlicensed talk, but full
of charity, and at last he indicates that his fancy is to examine the
silver head of the Colonel's cane. The Colonel, after two moments'
hesitation, removes his hands and gives full liberty. On second
thoughts, he must have got that cut in some stiff fight; wonder whether
he is a V.G. Baby moves the cane back and forwards to a march of his own
devising--the Colonel actively assisting. Now that I see it in a proper
light, his moustache is soft and sets off the face excellently. Had it
not been the cut puckering the corner of the upper lip, that would have
been a very sweet mouth for a man, or even for a woman. Baby is not
lifted above all human weaknesses--preserve us from perfect people--and
he indicates a desire to taste as well as handle the silver head. The
Colonel is quite agreeable--the most good-natured man you could meet in
a day's journey. But Baby's guardian objects, and history warns us of
the dangers which beset a collision between an absolute monarch and his
faithful Commons. We were all concerned, but the crisis is safe in
the Colonel's hands. He thrusts his hand within the tightly-buttoned
frock-coat and produces a gold hunting-watch--crested, did you notice,
and... yes, just what every father has done for his baby since watches
were invented--before that a fist served the purpose--he blew, the lid
flew open. Baby blew, and the lid flew open faster and farther. Grannie
would like to know whether any baby could have done the trick better,
but there was no use asking us. "Reminds me of my boy at that age...
Bailed on frontier last year." Is much ashamed of this confidence, and
we all look unconscious. What a fine, simple old fellow he is!

"Saved up, has he"--the Colonel is speaking to the mother--"to give Baby
and you a week at Ramsgate?... he's the right sort, your husband... it's
for Baby, not for you, to get him some fol-de-rol, you know... he's done
a lot of good to a crusty old chap."... The conductor has taken in the
scene with huge delight, and closes it just at the right point. "Your
club, General; just wait till the'bus stops.... Can ye get near the
kerb, Bill? Now, that's right, take care, sir, plenty of time... Oh,
that was nothing, might'ave seen you sooner... thank ye, I do smoke at a
time... Mornin', General; all right, Bill." The Colonel was standing
on the broad top step of the "Veteran's" smiling and waving his hand;
the'bus waved back, and the conductor touched his cap. "A gentleman
every inch; cads ain't mide that wy," and Baby danced for sheer
Christian joy, since there is no victory like Love.



II.--NEWS OF A FAMOUS VICTORY


HE had been talking that morning at the Office of the siege of
Ladysmith, for six relatives of the family were at the front, three
with Sir George White in the besieged place, and three with Sir Redvers
Buller, fighting for their deliverance. Word had come to the house the
night before that Ladysmith might be relieved any hour, and every
one knew that unless help came speedily, the garrison would have to
surrender. Duty took me to Cambridge that day, and I had gone upstairs
to get ready, and coming down again I heard a shout in the hall as
if something had happened, but it did not occur to me what it was. My
hostess was speaking excitedly somewhere, and I could not catch what she
was saying. Servants had rushed out from bedrooms and other places, and
were standing on the breakfast-table in a house near the War landings.
As I reached the hall the butler, a most stately personage, broke forth
from his quarters and rushed past me carrying his coat on his arm, and
then in his shirt sleeves, having forgotten to put on his coat, and
without a hat--he will likely deny this, but he was a spectacle for gods
and men--he ran, yes, he who was intended by nature to be an archbishop,
ran across the square. Then I understood, and turned to a footman, who
looked as if he would like to follow the butler.

"Ladysmith," was all I said.

"Yes," he cried; "word come, War Office, sent here, butler gone, make
sure"; then he went out to the doorstep to catch the first sight of the
returning butler. Meanwhile my hostess had come down to the hall, and
there had gathered the household of all kinds and degrees--my host and
the other guests had gone out--housemaids, ladies' maids, kitchen-maids,
footmen, her majesty the cook, and every other person beneath the roof,
high and low, and we were all trembling lest there had been some mistake
in the message, and the news was not true. The butler came across St.
James's Square, and when he saw us standing--forgetting himself again,
but now he had his coat on--he waved triumphantly, and then we knew
that Ladysmith was saved. We gave some sort of cheer and shook hands
indiscriminately, each one with his neighbour, and with two or three
neighbours, and talked together, mingling names of Generals and
relatives, and places, and battles, while the butler, who had arrived
and regained his breath, but not yet his unapproachable dignity, assured
us that the siege was lifted, and that White, and what remained of his
gallant men, were unconquered.

It was time for me to start, and I told the hansom man to drive round by
the War Office, that I might see this great thing. When we got down
the Press were just leaving with the intelligence, and the first of the
public were reading the news. Each man took the news in his own fashion,
one laughing and slapping his legs, another crying and speaking
to himself, a third rushing out to cheer, and I, why I, being an
unemotional Scot, remembered that if I fooled away any more time,
reading news of victories, I might lose my train, so I rushed back to
the hansom.

"Is't all correct?" the driver leant down from his perch, determined
not to let himself go till he was perfectly certain that, not only the
straight tip had been given, but that at last the event had come off.

"All right," I said; "Buller's army have driven back the Boers, and the
advance guard has entered Ladysmith."

Whereupon he whipped off his hat, and standing up in his place, a stout,
red-faced Englishman in sporting dress, he gave a cheer all on his own
account, and then when I got in he opened the trap and shouted down,
"Old Buller's done it; he had a bloomin' tough job, but he's a game
sportsman, and I said he'd do it. And old Buller's done it." Again he
celebrated the event with a cheer, and we started for Charing Cross.

Something occurred to me, and I pushed the trap open. "Look here," I
said, "the people near the War Office have heard the news, but after we
pass Piccadilly Circus you'll be the first man to tell that the siege is
raised."

"Right, sir, I'm on the job. Old Buller's done it." By the time we
reached Bloomsbury he had the whole country to himself, and he did his
duty manfully. As we crossed a thoroughfare, he would shout to the'bus
drivers on either side, "Ladysmith relieved; just come from the War
Office. Old Buller's done it." Then in an instant, before we plunged
into the opposite street, one could see the tidings run both ways,
from 'bus to 'bus, from cab to cab, and the hats waving in the air, and
hear, "Ladysmith and Buller." Bloomsbury is a fearfully decorous and
immovable district, inhabited by professors and British Museum students,
and solid merchants, and professional men, but my driver for once
stirred up Bloomsbury. A householder would be standing on his doorstep
in tall hat and frock coat, well brushed, and with a daintily folded
umbrella under his left arm, fastening the left button of the second
glove, and looking out upon the world from the serene superiority of a
single eyeglass. Then he would catch sight of us, and the sound of
something my driver was flinging to the men on a furniture van.

"What's that?" he would cry in a sharp, excited, insistent voice;
"anything about Ladysmith?"

"Relieved," from the hansom top. "War Office news. Old Buller's done
it."

Down fell the umbrella on the step, and down came the eyeglass from
the eye, and with an answering cheer the unstarched, enthusiastic,
triumphant, transformed householder bolted into his home to make it
known from attic to kitchen that White and his men had not fought in
vain.

Round the dustbin at the corner of a street half a dozen street boys were
gathered, and the driver in his glory passed a word to them also. They
did not know where they would get their dinner, and they had not had
much breakfast, their whole stock of clothes would not have been worth
1s. 9d., and not one of them had a cap, but they also were a bit of
England, and this victory was theirs, and the last I saw of them they
were standing each one upon his head and waving joyfully with his feet.

"See, sir, how the kids took it," for my driver was getting more
magnificent every minute; "said all along old Buller would do it."

Coming down Euston Road was one blaze of glory, and when we swept into
King's Cross Station at the gallop, and my driver saw the crowd of
waiting porters and other hangers-on, an audience as yet unspoiled and
waiting, ready for such news, it was, I take it, the greatest moment in
his life. He pulled up the horse on his haunches, and again stood up on
his high place.

"Straight from the War Office, as hard as we could drive; it's all right
at Ladysmith--the siege is lifted, and old Buller's done it"; and then,
to crown the occasion, "Three cheers for General Buller."

He led from the top, and they joined from below, and so great was the
excitement that when I offered the usual tip to the porter to carry my
things to the carriage, he flatly refused to take it.

"Hexcuse me, sir, not to-day; I ain't that sort. You brought the news of
Ladysmith." Which indeed was all my share of the glory of the passage:
the rest belonged to my driver, who was indeed a Mercury fit for the
work of the gods.

Just as the train was starting a man arrived with a pile of newspapers
to sell them on the downward journey, for the special editions with the
relief of Ladysmith had been got out with vast celerity. It was a pretty
sight when the train stopped at some country station to see the man jump
out and hear him shout the news, while the people, a moment ago stolid
and indifferent, crowded round him to buy the paper. And then the train
went on its way, followed by a cheer, because Ladysmith was safe. At one
station two respectable country women got into the compartment where I
had been alone, and they had been so eager, as their kind is, to secure
their places, that they had not caught the news before the train left
the station. By-and-by they began talking together, and it appeared that
the elderly woman had a son at the front, a reservist in an infantry
regiment with General Buller, while the other was the wife of a
reservist who was with the cavalry under General French. It was hard
lines, one could not but feel, for those women to have a son and a
husband taken away from their homes and peaceful employment, and sent
out to hardship and danger. And it would not have been wonderful if they
had complained of their lot. But no, my heart swelled with pride as in
a corner of the carriage, and behind my newspaper, I heard the mother and
the wife exchanging news from the seat of campaign, and talking cheerily
of critical affairs. Till at last, and quite suddenly, trouble arose,
and there might have been a hot quarrel in that compartment.

"My man's all right," said the wife; "he's with French, you know, and
French looks after his men, 'e does. Jim says as 'ow 'is General won't
let 'is men into any traps."

"Who are ye getting hat may I ask?" said the elderly lady, flushing
purple with indignation--"talking about traps. If it's General Buller
ye're meanin', hexcuse me telling you, 'e don't get 'is men into traps. My
boy says that he 'ad the hardest job of them hall, 'ad General Buller, and
George, 'e writes and says to me in 'is last letter, 'you just wait and
see if General Buller don't do it'--them's 'is very words, 'you just
wait and see if General Buller don't do it.'"

The younger woman explained she had been making no reflections on
General Buller, but only had been telling how proud her husband was of
his Commander, but nothing would appease the old lady.

"I know nothing about French, and I say nothing against French, but I
wish you to understand that Buller is a good old sort, and, as sure as
you're sitting there in this carriage,'e'll do the job."

Then I laid down my newspaper, and addressed the reservist's mother.

"Madam," I said, "your son was right, and Buller is a good old sort;
he's done the job, and Ladysmith is safe."

We all shook hands, two women wept, but not for sorrow, and a man looked
out of the window, intent upon the scenery.



III.--A MODEST SCHOLAR


BEING a household of moderate attainments, and not being at all superior
people, we were gravely concerned on learning that it was our duty to
entertain the distinguished scholar, for our pride was chastened by
anxiety and we had once received moderators. His name was carried far
and wide on the wings of fame, and even learned people referred to him
with a reverence in the tone, because it was supposed there was almost
nothing within the range of languages and philosophy and theology which
he did not know, and that if there happened to be any obscure department
he had not yet overtaken, he would likely be on the way to its conquest.
We speculated what like he would be--having only heard rumours--and
whether he would be strangely clothed, we discussed what kind of company
we could gather to meet such a man, and whether we ought, that is the
two trembling heads of the household, to read up some subject beforehand
that we might be able at least to know where he was if we could not
follow him. And we were haunted with the remembrance of a literary
woman who once condescended to live with us for two days, and whose
conversation was so exhausting that we took it in turns like the
watch on board ship, one standing on the bridge with the spin-drift of
quotations flying over his head, and the other snatching a few minutes'
sleep to strengthen her for the storm. That overwhelming lady was only
the oracle of a circle after all, but our coming visitor was known to
the ends of the earth.

It was my place to receive him at the station, and pacing up and
down the platform, I turned over in my mind appropriate subjects for
conversation in the cab, and determined to lure the great man into a
discussion of the work of an eminent Oxford philosopher which had just
been published, and which I knew something about. I had just arranged
a question which I intended to submit for his consideration, when
the express came in, and I hastened down the first-class carriages to
identify the great man. High and mighty people, clothed in purple and
fine linen, or what corresponds to such garments in our country, were
descending in troops with servants and porters waiting upon them, but
there was no person that suggested a scholar. Had he, in the multitude
of his thoughts, forgotten his engagement altogether, or had he left the
train at some stopping-place and allowed it to go without him--anything
is possible with such a learned man.

Then I saw a tall and venerable figure descend from a third-class
compartment and a whole company of genuine "third classers" handing
out his luggage while he took the most affectionate farewell of them.
A working man got out to deposit the scholar's Gladstone bag upon the
platform while his wife passed out his umbrella, and another working man
handled delicately a parcel of books. The scholar shook hands with every
one of his fellow-passengers including children, and then I presented
myself, and looked him in the face. He was rather over six feet in
height, and erect as a sapling, dressed in old-fashioned and well
brushed black clothes, and his face placed me immediately at ease, for
though it was massive and grave, with deep lines and crowned with
thick white hair, his eyes were so friendly and sincere, had such an
expression of modesty and affection, that even then, and on the first
experience, I forgot the gulf between us. Next instant, and almost
before I had mentioned my name he seized me by the hand, and thanked me
for my coming.

"This, my good sir," he said with his old-fashioned courtesy, "is a
kindness which I never for an instant anticipated, and when I remember
your many important engagements (important!) and the sacrifice which
this gracious act (gracious!) must have entailed upon you, I feel this
to be an honour, sir, for which you will accept this expression of
gratitude." It seemed as if there must have been something wrong in our
imagination of a great man's manner, and when he insisted, beyond my
preventing, in carrying his bag himself, and would only allow me with
many remonstrances to relieve him of the books; when I had difficulty
in persuading him to enter a cab because he was anxious to walk to our
house, our fancy portrait had almost disappeared. Before leaving the
platform he had interviewed the guard and thanked him by both word and
deed for certain "gracious and mindful attentions in the course of the
journey."

My wife acknowledged that she had been waiting to give the great man
afternoon tea in fear and trembling, but there was something about him
so winsome that she did not need even to study my face, but felt at once
that however trying writing-women and dilletante critics might be, one
could be at home with a chief scholar. When I described the guests who
were coming--to meet him at dinner--such eminent persons as I could
gather--he was overcome by the trouble we had taken, but also alarmed
lest he should be hardly fit for their company, being, as he explained
himself, a man much restricted in knowledge through the just burden of
professional studies. And before he went to his room to dress he had
struck up an acquaintance with the youngest member of the family, who
seemed to have forgotten that our guest was a very great man, and had
visited a family of Japanese mice with evident satisfaction. During
dinner he was so conscious of his poverty of attainment in the presence
of so many distinguished people that he would say very little, but
listened greedily to everything that fell from the lips of a young
Oxford man who had taken a fair degree and was omniscient. After dinner
we wiled him into a field where very few men have gone, and where he
was supposed to know everything that could be known, and then being once
started he spoke for forty minutes to our huge delight with such
fulness and accuracy of knowledge, with such lucidity and purity of
speech--allowing for the old-fashioned style--that even the Oxford man
was silent and admired.

Once and again he stopped to qualify his statement of some other
scholar's position lest he should have done him injustice, and in the
end he became suddenly conscious of the time he had spoken and implored
every one's pardon, seeing, as he explained "that the gentlemen present
will likely have far more intimate knowledge of this subject than I can
ever hope to attain." He then asked whether any person present had ever
seen a family of Japanese mice, and especially whether they had ever
seen them waltzing, or as he described it "performing their circular
motions of the most graceful and intricate nature, with almost
incredible continuance." And when no one had, he insisted on the
company going to visit the menagerie, which was conduct not unbecoming a
gentleman, but very unbecoming a scholar.

Next morning, as he was a clergyman, I asked him to take family worship,
and in the course of the prayer he made most tender supplication for the
sick relative of "one who serves in this household," and we learned
that he had been conversing with the housemaid who attended to his room,
having traced some expression of sorrow on her face, and found out that
her mother was ill; while we, the heads of the household, had known
nothing about the matter, and while we imagined that a scholar would be
only distantly aware that a housemaid had a mother. It was plainer than
ever that we knew nothing whatever about great scholars. The public
function for which he came was an overwhelming success, and after
the lapse of now many years people still remember that man of amazing
erudition and grandeur of speech. But we, being simple people, and
especially a certain lad, who is rapidly coming now to manhood, remember
with keen delight how this absurd scholar had hardly finished afternoon
tea before he demanded to see the mice, who were good enough to turn
out of their nest, a mother and four children, and having rotated, the
mother by herself, and the children by themselves, and each one having
rotated by itself, all whirled round together in one delirium of
delight, partly the delight of the mice and partly of the scholar.

Having moved us all to the tears of the heart by his prayer next
morning, for it was as the supplication of a little child, so simple,
so confiding, so reverent and affectionate, he bade the whole household
farewell, from the oldest to the youngest with a suitable word for each,
and he shook hands with the servants, making special inquiry for the
housemaid's mother, and--there is no use concealing a scholar's disgrace
any more than another man's--he made his last call upon the Japanese
mice, and departed bowing at the door, and bowing at the gate of the
garden, and bowing before he entered the cab, and bowing his last
farewell from the window, while he loaded us all with expressions
of gratitude for our "gracious and unbounded hospitality, which had
refreshed him alike both in body and mind." And he declared that
he would have both that hospitality and ourselves in "continual
remembrance."

Before we retired to rest I had approached the question of his expenses,
although I had an instinct that our scholar would be difficult to
handle, and he had waived the whole matter as unworthy of attention. On
the way to the station I insisted upon a settlement with the result that
he refused to charge any fee, being thankful if his "remarks," for he
refused to give them the name of lecture, had been of any use for the
furtherance of knowledge, and as regards expenses they were limited to
a third-class return fare. He also explained that there were no other
charges, as he travelled in cars and not in cabs, and any gifts he
bestowed (by which I understood the most generous tips to every human
being that served him in any fashion) were simply a private pleasure
of his own. When I established him in the corner seat of a third-class
compartment, with his humble luggage above his head, and an Arabic book
in his hand, and some slight luncheon for the way in his pocket, he
declared that he was going to travel as a prince. Before the train left
an old lady opposite him in the carriage--I should say a tradesman's
widow--was already explaining the reason of her journey, and he was
listening with benignant interest. Three days later he returned the
fee which was sent him, having deducted the third-class return fare,
thanking us for our undeserved generosity, but explaining that he would
count it a shame to grow rich through his services to knowledge. Some
years afterwards I saw him in the distance, at a great public meeting,
and when he mounted the platform the huge audience burst into prolonged
applause, and were all the more delighted when he, who never had
the remotest idea that people were honouring him, looked round,
and discovering a pompous nonentity who followed him, clapped
enthusiastically. And the only other time and the last that I saw him
was on the street of a famous city, when he caught sight of a country
woman dazed amid the people and the traffic, and afraid to cross to the
other side. Whereupon our scholar gave the old woman his arm and led her
carefully over, then he bowed to her, and shook hands with her, and I
watched his tall form and white hair till he was lost in the distance.
I never saw him again, for shortly after he had also passed over to the
other side.



IV.--MY FRIEND THE TRAMP


ONE of the memorable and pitiable sights of the West, as the traveller
journeys across the prairies, is the little group of Indians hanging
round the lonely railway station. They are not dangerous now, nor are
they dignified; they are harmless, poor, abject, shiftless, ready to
beg or ready to steal, or to do anything else except work, and the one
possession of the past which they still retain is the inventive and
instinctive cunning of the savage, who can read the faintest sign like
a written language, and knows the surest way of capturing his prey. One
never forgets the squalid figure with some remains of former grandeur
in his dress, and the gulf between us and this being of another race,
unchanged amid the modern civilization. And then one comes home and
suddenly recognizes our savages at our own doors.

Our savage tramps along our country roads, and loafs along our busy
streets, he stops us with his whine when no policeman is near, and
presents himself upon our doorstep, and when he is a master of his
business he will make his way into our house. He has his own dress,
combining many styles and various periods, though reduced to a
harmony by his vagabond personality. He has his own language, which is
unintelligible to strangers, and a complete system of communication by
pictures. He marries and lives and dies outside civilization, sharing
neither our habits nor our ideas, nor our labours, nor our religion, and
the one infallible and universal badge of his tribe is that our savage
will not work. He will hunger and thirst, he will sweat and suffer, he
will go without shelter and without comfort, he will starve and die, but
one thing he will not do, not even to get bread, and that is work; not
even for tobacco, his dearest treasure and kindliest support, will he do
fifteen minutes' honest labour. The first and last article in his creed,
for which he is prepared to be a martyr and which makes him part of
a community, is "I believe in idleness." He has in him the blood of
generations of nomads, and if taken off the roads, and compelled to earn
his living would likely die. A general law of compulsory industry would
bring the race to an end.

Besides his idleness he has many faults, for he is a liar to the bone,
he is a drunkard whenever he can get the chance, he steals in small ways
when it is safe, he bullies women if they are alone in a country house,
he has not a speaking acquaintance with soap and water, and if he
has any virtue it is not of a domestic character. He is ungrateful,
treacherous, uncleanly, and vicious, to whom it is really wrong to give
food, far more money, and to whom it is barely safe to give the shelter
of an outhouse, far less one's roof. And yet he is an adroit, shrewd,
clever, entertaining rascal. He carries the geography of counties in his
head down to the minutest details which you can find on no map, knowing
every mountain track, and forgotten footpath, every spring where he can
get water, and the warmest corner in a wood where he can sleep. He has
also another map in his memory of the houses with the people that dwell
therein; which he ought to pass by, which it were a sin to neglect,
which are worth trying, and which have changed hands. And he is ever
carrying on his ordnance survey, and bringing information up to date;
and as he and his fellows make a note of their experiences for those who
follow after, it may be safely said that no one knows better either
a country-side or its inhabitants from his own point of view than our
friend the vagrant.

Perhaps the struggle for existence has quickened his wits beyond those
of his race, but at any rate our vagabond is not fettered by that solid
and conventional English intellect which persists in doing things as
our fathers used to do them, and will not accommodate itself to changing
conditions. Our vagabond has certain old lines which he has long
practised and which he is always willing to use, in suitable
circumstances, such as the workman out of employment and tramping to
another city to get a job because he has not money enough to pay his
railway fare, or a convalescent just discharged from hospital and making
his way home to his wife and children, or a high-spirited man too proud
to beg, and only anxious for a day's work (in some employment which
cannot be found within twenty miles). And when he plays any of these
rôles he is able to assume an air of interesting weariness as if he
could not drag one leg after the other, and on occasion will cough with
such skill as to suggest galloping consumption. And poor (but proud) he
only allows the truth to be dragged from him after much hesitation. But
when those lines fail and new inventions are needed for new times he
rises to the occasion. If there be a great miner's strike he goes
from town to town begging money for his wife and children at home, and
explaining the hardships of a miner's life, which he has diligently,
although superficially, learned; and after a war he is a reservist who
threw up a profitable job at his country's call, and is now penniless
and starving, but still unwaveringly patriotic; and if there be any
interest in the sea through recent storm and shipwrecks, he also, this
man of many trials and many journeys, has been saved with difficulty
from the waves and lost his little all. If he calls upon a priest, he is
careful to call him "Father," and to pose as a faithful Catholic; and if
he be an Irishman, his brogue then becomes a fortune, but if he drops
in upon a Minister of the Kirk he recalls the good which he got when
sitting in the West Kirk of Paisley; and if he be so fortunate as to be
really Scots in blood, and therefore acquainted with theology, he will
not only deceive that minister, but even the elect themselves, I mean
the Caledonian Society. When the vagabond comes upon a home of simple
lay piety, he allows it to be understood that he has led a life of
fearful wickedness but is now a genuine penitent, asking only for the
means of gaining an honest livelihood. He is fertile in devices and
brilliant in execution, without any prejudices against the past
or present, but ever bringing forth from his treasury of unabashed
falsehood and ingenious impudence things new and old.

Our savage has also got, what I believe the Red Indians have not,
an agreeable sense of humour, which no doubt is limited by practical
details, but is in its way very captivating. What a stroke of delightful
irony it was for a pair of our savages to take a long street between
them, the man begging down the right-hand side, and the woman the left,
while the man told a mournful tale of his wife's death, and asked money
to get her a coffin that she might be respectably buried--he being poor
(but proud) and a broken-hearted widower--as well as to clothe their two
mourning little ones in black for the funerals, and for the woman to tell
exactly the same story as she went down the opposite side of the street,
except that it was her husband she was burying, and she poor (but proud)
and a broken-hearted widow. They took no notice of one another across
the street, and none when they completed their work at the further
end, but a few minutes later they were sitting in the same public-house
together, both wonderfully comforted and affording a remarkable
illustration of the dead burying their dead.

Our vagabond is a superb actor within his own province, and greatly
enjoys a triumph in any conflict with the enemy. He was one day singing
the "Sweet By-and-By" with such a voice and so much unctuous emotion
that I lost patience, and broke out on him for his laziness and
profanity. For a moment he was almost confounded, and then he assumed an
air of meek martyrdom suggestive of a good man who had been trying to do
his little best for the salvation of his fellow-creatures, and was
being persecuted for righteousness sake. This was for the benefit of a
simple-minded old gentleman who had been greatly shocked at my remarks,
and now, as a rebuke to an ungodly and unsympathetic clergyman and an
encouragement to humble piety, gave the vagabond a shilling. "God bless
you," he said with much feeling to the philanthropist, and started again
the "Sweet By-and-By"! but before we parted he tipped me a wink over his
victory, charged with inexpressible humour.

When one of the savages honoured our humble home by calling one day
as an incapacitated member of the Mercantile Marine and obtained
half-a-crown from my tender-hearted wife, partly through sympathy, but
also through alarm, because the suffering sailor proposed to exhibit the
sores upon his legs, I knew that the tidings would be carried far and
wide throughout the nearest tribe, our local Black-feet as it were, and
that we would be much favoured in days to come. So we were, by other
sailors, also with sores, by persons who had been greatly helped by my
preaching in the years of long ago, by widow women full of sorrow and
gin, by countrymen stranded helpless in a big unsympathetic city, till
our house was little better than a casual ward. Then I took the matter
in hand and interviewed the next caller, who had been long out of
employment, but had now obtained a job and only wanted the means of
living till Monday when he would be independent of everybody. He had
spent his last penny the day before on a piece of bread, and had tasted
nothing since. "Not even drink," I ventured to inquire, for by this time
the air round me was charged with alcohol, when he replied with severe
dignity that he had been a teetotaller since his boyhood. Then I
addressed him briefly but clearly, explaining that the half-crown had
been given by mistake, that we were greatly obliged for the visit of his
friends, that I had enjoyed his own call, but that it would save a
great deal of trouble to both sides if he would only intimate to his
fellow-tribesmen and women when they gathered round the camp fire in
the evening that there was no more spoil to be obtained at our house. He
looked at me, and I looked at him, and a smile came over his face. "I'm
fly," he said. And then as he went out at the door he turned for a last
shot, "Look here, sir, if you give me a bob, I'll join your church, and
be an elder in a month." A fellow of infinite jest, and I gave him a
shilling, but without conditions.

The humour of our nomad is always practical, and when it masters him
it sweeps all professional hypocrisy before it like a water-flood,
and reveals the real man. Certainly quite unclothed, but also quite
unashamed. He had told his story so artfully, with such care in detail
and such conviction in tone, that I did believe for the moment that he
was a poor Scot trying to get home by sea to Glasgow, together with his
wife and four children, that he had obtained his passage-money from the
Caledonian Society, and that he only needed a little money for food and
such like expenses. This money I gave him somewhat lavishly, and yet
not quite without suspicion, and he left full of gratitude and national
enthusiasm. Three years later a man got entrance to my study on the
grounds of Christianity and nationality, and before he addressed me
directly I thought that I knew his voice. When he explained that he had
got his passage to Glasgow from that noble institution, the Caledonian
Society, but that as he had a wife and four children... I was sure we
had met before, and I offered to do the rest of the story myself,
which I did with such an accurate memory that he listened with keen
appreciation like a composer to the playing of his own piece, and only
added when I had finished, "So I did it here afore. Well, sir, ye may
take my word for it, it's the first mistake I've made in my business."
And he departed with the self-conceit of the Scots only slightly
chastened.



V.--OUR BOY


THE boy must have had a father, and some day he may be a father himself,
but in the meantime he is absolutely different from anything else on
the face of the earth. He is a race by himself, a special creation
that cannot be traced, for who would venture to liken his ways to the
respectability of his father, or who would ever connect him with the
grave and decorous man which he is to be. By-and-by, say in thirty
years, he will preside at a meeting for the prevention of cruelty to
animals, or make enthusiastic speeches for the conversion of black
people, or get in a white heat about the danger of explosives in the
house, or be exceedingly careful about the rate of driving. Meanwhile he
watches two dogs settle their political differences with keen interest,
and would consider it unsportsmanlike to interfere if they were fairly
matched, and the sight of a black man is to him a subject of unfailing
and practical amusement, if he can blow himself and a brother up with
gunpowder, he feels that time has not been lost, and it is to him a
chief delight--although stolen--to travel round at early morn with the
milkman, and being foolishly allowed to drive, to take every corner
on one wheel. He is skilful in arranging a waterfall which comes into
operation by the opening of a door; he keeps a menagerie of pets,
unsightly in appearance, and extremely offensive in smell in his
bedroom. He has an inexhaustible repertory of tricks for any servant
with whom he has quarrelled, and it is his pleasure to come downstairs
on the bannisters, and if any one is looking to make believe that he is
going to fall off and dash himself to destruction three floors below.
His father is aghast at him, and uses the strongest language regarding
his escapades; he wonders how it came to pass that such a boy should
turn up in his home, and considers him what gardeners would call "a
sport" or unaccountable eccentricity in the family. He is sure that he
never did such things when he was a boy, and would be very indignant if
you insinuated he had simply been a prophecy of his son. According
to his conversation you would imagine that his early life had been
distinguished by unbroken and spotless propriety, and his son himself
would not believe for a moment that the pater had ever been guilty of
his own exploits. The Boy is therefore lonely in his home, cut off from
the past and the future; he is apt to be misunderstood and even (in an
extreme case) censured, and his sufferings as a creature of a foreign
race with all the powers of government against him would be intolerable
had he not such a joy in living, and were he not sustained in everything
he does by a quite unaffected sense of innocence, and the proud
consciousness of honourable martyrdom.

As wild animals are best studied in their native states, and are much
restricted in the captivity of a cage, so the Boy is not seen at his
best in a middle-class home where he is sadly fettered by vain customs
(although it is wonderful how even there he can realize himself). When
you want to understand what manner of creature he is, you must see him
on the street. And the boy _in exedsis_, and _de profundis_ too, is a
message-boy.

Concluding that his son has had enough of the Board School, and learning
from his master that there was not the remotest chance he would ever
reach a higher standard, his father brings him some morning to a
respectable tradesman, and persuades the unsuspecting man to take him as
message-boy. Nothing could exceed the modesty and demure appearance of
the Boy, and the only fear is that he be too timid and too simple for
his duty--that he may be run over by a cab or bullied upon the streets.
Carefully washed by his mother, and with his hair nicely brushed, in a
plain but untorn suit of clothes, and a cap set decently on his head, he
is a beautiful sight, and he listens to his father's instructions to do
what he is told, and his master's commandment that he is not to meddle
with anything in the shop, in respectful and engaging silence. His
father departs with a warning look, and his master gives him an easy
errand, and the Boy goes out to begin life in a hard, unfriendly world,
while one pities his tender youth.

The Boy has started with a considerable capital of knowledge, gathered
at school, and in a few weeks he is free of the streets--a full-grown
citizen in his own kingdom, and, if you please, we will watch him for an
hour. His master has given him some fish, and charged him as he values
his life to deliver them at once at No. 29, Rose Terrace, and the boy
departs with conscientious purpose. Half way to his destination he sees
in the far distance the butcher's boy, who also has been sent in hot
haste to some house where the cook is demanding the raw material
for luncheon. They signal to one another with clear, penetrating,
unintelligible cries like savages across a desert, and the result is
that the two messengers rendezvous at the corner of Rose Terrace. What
they talk about no person can tell, for their speech is their own, but
by-and-by under the influence of, no doubt informing, conversation, they
relax from there austere labours and lay down their baskets. A minute
later they are playing marbles with undivided minds, and might be
playing pitch and toss were they not afraid of a policeman coming round
the corner. It is nothing to them, gay, irresponsible children of
nature, that two cooks are making two kitchens unbearable with their
indignation, for the boy has learned to receive complaints with
imperturbable gravity and ingenious falsehood. Life for him is a
succession of pleasures, slightly chastened by work and foolish
impatience. As they play, a dog who has been watching them from afar
with keen interest, and thoroughly understands their ways, creeps near
with cautious cunning, and seizing the chance of a moment when the
butcher's boy has won a "streaky" from the fishmonger, dashes in and
seizes the leg of mutton. If he had been less ambitious and taken a
chop, he would have succeeded, and then the boy would have explained
that the chop had been lost in a street accident in which he was almost
killed, but a leg of mutton is heavy to lift and a boy is only less
alert than a dog. The spoil is barely over the edge of the basket, and
the dog has not yet tasted its sweetness, before the boy gives a yell so
shrill and fearsome that it raises the very hair on the dog's back, and
the thief bolts in terror without his prey. The boy picks up the
mutton, dusts it on his trousers, puts it back in the basket, gives the
fishmonger a playful punch on the side of the head, to which that worthy
responds with an attempted kick, and the two friends depart in opposite
directions, whistling, with a light heart and an undisturbed conscience.

If any one imagines that the boy will now hurry with his fish, he does
not understand the nature of the race and its freedom from enslaving
rule. A few yards down Rose Terrace he comes upon the grocer's boy and
the two unearth a chemist's boy, and our boy produces a penny dreadful,
much tom and very fishy, but which contains the picture of a battle
swimming in blood, and the three sit down for its enjoyment. When they
have fairly exhausted their literature the boy receives his fee, as
the keeper of a circulating library, by being allowed to dip his finger
carefully wetted before into a bag of moist sugar, and to keep all that
he can take out, and the grocer's boy is able to close up the bag so
skilfully that the cook will never know that it has been opened.
From the chemist he receives a still more enjoyable because much more
perilous reward, for he is allowed to put his mouth to the spout of a
syphon and, if he can endure, to take what comes--and that is the reason
why syphons are never perfectly full. It occurs to the chemist at this
moment that he was told to lose no time in delivering some medicines,
and so he departs reluctantly; the conference breaks up, and it seems as
if nothing remained for the boy but to deliver the fish. Still you
never know what may happen, and as at that moment he catches sight of a
motor-car, it seems a mere duty to hurry back to the top of the terrace
to see whether it will break down. It does of course, for otherwise one
could hardly believe it to be a motor-car, and the boy under what he
would consider a call of providence, hastens to offer assistance. Other
boys arrive from different quarters, interested, sympathetic, obliging,
willing to co-operate with the irritated motor-man in every possible
way. They remain with him twenty-five minutes till he starts again, and
then three of them accompany him on a back seat, not because they were
invited, but because they feel they are needed. And then the boy goes
back to Rose Terrace and delivers the fish, stating with calm dignity,
that he had just been sent from the shop and had run all the way.

Things are said to him at the house by the cook, who is not an absolute
fool, and things may be said to him by his master at the shop, who has
some knowledge of boys, but no injurious reflection of any kind affects
the boy. With a mind at leisure from itself he is able to send his empty
basket spinning along the street after a lady's poodle, and to accompany
this attention with a yell that will keep the pampered pet on the run
for a couple of streets to the fierce indignation of its mistress. And
the chances are that he will foregather with an Italian monkey boy, and
although the one knows no Italian and the other knows no English, they
will have pleasant fellowship together, because both are boys, and in
return for being allowed to have the monkey on his shoulder, and seeing
it run up a waterpipe, he will give the Italian half an apple which
comes out of his pocket with two marbles and a knife attached to it. If
he be overtaken by a drenching shower, he covers his head and shoulders
with his empty basket, sticks his hands in his pockets, and goes on his
way singing in the highest of spirits, but if the day be warm he travels
on the steps of a'bus when the conductor is on the roof, or on a lorry,
if the driver be not surly. If it be winter time, and there be ice on
the streets, he does his best, with the assistance of his friends, to
make a slide, and if the police interfere, with whom he is on terms
of honourable warfare, he contents himself with snowballing some
prudish-looking youth, who is out for a walk with his mother. All the
same he is not without his ambitions in the world, and he carries
sacred ideals in the secret of his heart. He would give all that he
possesses,--five lurid and very tattered books, a penknife with four
blades (two broken), nineteen marbles (three glass), and a pair of white
mice--to be the driver of a butcher's cart. The boy is a savage, and
although you may cover him with a thin veneer of civilization he remains
a savage. There is a high-class school for little boys in my district,
and those at a distance are driven home in cabs that they may not get
wet in winter weather and may not be over-fatigued. A cab is passing at
this moment with four boys, who have invited two friends to join them,
and it is raining heavily. Two boys are on the box seat with the driver,
and have thoughtfully left their topcoats inside in case they might get
spoiled. There is a boy with his head out at either window addressing
opprobrious remarks to those on the box-seat, for which insults one of
them has just lost his cap, the other two are fighting furiously in the
bottom of the cab, and will come out an abject spectacle. For you may
train a dog to walk on its hind legs, and you may tame a tiger, but you
cannot take the boyness out of a boy.



VI.--A RESIDUARY


I

EXCEPTIONS may be allowed in theory, at least, but the rule stands
impregnable in reason and practice, that a wife should have the absolute
control of the household, and that no male person should meddle, even as
an irresponsible critic, with the servant department. There are limits
to the subjection of the gentler sex which reserves the right to choose
its acts of homage to the titular head of the family. Can anything
be prettier, for instance, than the deference which women of very
pronounced character will show to their husbands in some affairs?
"Nothing would have given me greater pleasure than to have taken a stall
at your charming bazaar, but my husband absolutely forbids me, and you
know what a tyrant he is about my health," or "You really must not ask
my opinion about the Eastern Question, for I am shockingly ignorant of
politics, but my husband knows everything, and I have heard him say that
the Government has been very weak." It would not, however, be wise for
this favoured man to trespass too far on the almost Oriental deference
of his wife, or hastily to suppose that because his word was useful in
saving her from the drudgery of an unfashionable bazaar or the weary
drone of a conversational bore, his was a universal infallibility. This
sweet spirit of passive obedience will not continue if a rash man should
differ from the house manager on the technical merits of a servant, for
he will then be told that his views on all such matters are less than
nothing and vanity.

No man knows, nor ever expects to know, what women talk about after they
have left the dining-room in stately procession and secluded themselves
in the parliament of the drawing-room; but it may be guessed that the
conference, among other things, reviews the incredible folly of mankind
in the sphere of household affairs. How it will not give the head of
the family one minute's serious concern that the cook feeds her kinsfolk
with tit-bits in the kitchen, provided that his toast be crisp and his
favourite dish well cooked. How he would any day give a certificate of
character to the housemaid, if he were allowed to perpetrate such an
absurdity, simply and solely on the ground that his bath was ready every
morning, and his shaving-water hot, while he did not know, nor seem
to care, that the dust was lying thick in hidden corners. How he would
excuse the waitress having a miscellaneous circle of admirers, provided
she did not loiter at the table and was ingenious in saving him from
unwelcome callers. They compare notes on the trials of household
government; they comfort one another with sympathy; they revel in tales
of male innocence and helplessness, till they are amazed that men should
be capable of even such light duties as fall on them in their daily
callings, and are prepared to receive them kindly as they enter the room
with much diffidence and make an appeal by their very simplicity to a
woman's protecting care.

John Leslie was devoted to his very pretty and very managing wife, and
had learned wisdom, so that he never meddled, but always waited till his
advice was invited. Like other wise husbands, he could read his wife's
face, and he saw that afternoon, two days before Christmas, as soon
as he entered the drawing-room, that there had been trouble in the
household. His kiss was received without response; her cheeks had the
suggestion of a flush; her lips were tightly drawn; and there was a
light in her eyes which meant defiance. She stated with emphasis,
in reply to a daily inquiry, that she was perfectly well, and that
everything had gone well that day. When she inquired why he should
suppose that anything was wrong, he knew that it had been a black storm,
and that the end thereof was not yet.

"By the way, Flo,"--and Leslie congratulated himself on avoiding every
hidden rock,--"I've completed my list of Christmas presents, and I
flatter myself on one downright success, which suggests that I have
original genius."

"Do you mean the picture of Soundbergh School for Jack?" said Mrs.
Leslie coldly. "I daresay he will be pleased, although I don't believe
that boys care very much for anything except for games and gingerbread
cakes; they are simply barbarians"; and as Leslie knew that his wife
had been ransacking London to get a natty portable camera wherewith
Jack might take bits of scenery, his worst-weather guess seemed to be
confirmed.

"No, no, that was obvious, and I believe Jack will be fearfully proud of
his picture," replied Leslie bravely; "but I was at my wit's end to know
what to get for old Margaret. You see, I used to give her pincushions
and works of art from the Thames Tunnel when I was a little chap, and
I bought her boas and gay-coloured handkerchiefs when I came up at
Christmas from Oxford, and you know since she left the old home
and settled with us eighteen years ago we have exhausted the whole
catalogue."

"You have, at least"; and having no clue, Leslie was amazed at his
wife's indifference to the factotum and ruler of the household, whom the
junior servants were obliged to call Mrs. Hoskins--"Mrs." being a title
of dignity, not of marriage--or Cook at the lowest, and who was called
everything by her old boy John Leslie and his son Jack, from Maggie to
Magsibus, and answered to anything by which her two masters chose to
name her.

"Oh, you have been as keen as any one in the family about Magsy's
present,"--and Leslie still clung to hope,--"but I've walked out before
you all. What do you think of a first-class likeness of Spurgeon in an
oak frame, with his autograph? You know how she goes on about him,
and reads his sermons. It 'ill be hung in the place of honour in the
kitchen, with burnished tin and brass dishes on either side. Now,
confess, haven't I scored?"

"If you propose to put your picture on her table on Christmas morning,
I fear you will be a day late, for Margaret has given up her place, and
asked to be allowed to leave to-morrow: she wants to bid Jack good-bye
before she goes," and Mrs. Leslie's voice was iced to twenty degrees
below freezing.

"What do you mean?" cried Leslie, aghast, for in all his dark
imaginations he had never anticipated this catastrophe. "Maggie!
our Meg! leaving at a day's notice! It's too absurd! You've... had a
quarrel, I suppose, but that won't, come to anything. Christmas is
the time for... making up."

"You do not know much about household management, John," Mrs. Leslie
explained with much dignity. "Mistresses don't quarrel with servants,
however much provoked they may be. If I have to find fault, I make a
rule of doing so quickly and civilly, and I allow no reply. It was
Margaret flung up her place with very unbecoming language; and you may
be sure this time there will be no 'making up,' as you call it.

"What happened, Florence?" said John Leslie, with a note in his voice
which a woman never treats with disrespect. "You know I do not interfere
between you and the young servants, but Margaret has been with us since
we married, and before that was for sixteen years in my father's house.
We cannot part lightly; did she speak discourteously to you?"

"I do not know what a man may call discourtesy, but Margaret informed
me that either she or the housemaid must leave, and that the sooner the
housemaid went the better for the house."

"But I thought that the housemaid was a Baptist too, and that Margaret
and she got on capitally, and rather looked down on the waitress because
she was a Methodist."

"So they did for a time, till they found out that they were different
kinds of Baptists, just imagine! They had such arguments in the kitchen
that Lucy has had to sit in her pantry, and last evening Margaret called
the housemaid a 'contracted Baptist,' and she said Margaret was a 'loose
Baptist.' So Margaret told me that if she was a 'loose Baptist,' it
was not good for the housemaid to stay in the house with her; and if I
preferred a woman like that, she would go at once, and so she is going."
"When men break on theology in the smoking-room," remarked Leslie, "the
wise go to bed at once, and two women--and one of them old Margaret--on
the distinctions among the Baptist denomination must be beyond words
and endurance. It is natural that places should be given up, but
not necessary that the offer should be accepted. What did you say to
Margaret, Florence?"

"That she had secured the dismissal of five servants already within
three years: one because she was High Church; a second because she was
no Church; that big housemaid from Devon for no reason I could discover
except that she ate too much, as if we grudged food; the last waitress
because she did not work enough, as if that concerned her; and the one
before because she had a lover Margaret did not approve, and that I did
not propose to lose a good housemaid because she was not the same sort
of Baptist as Margaret.

"It is very nice and romantic to talk about the old family servant,"
continued Mrs. Leslie with a vibrant voice, "and I hope that I have not
been ungrateful to Margaret, but people forget what a mistress has to
suffer from the 'old family servant,' and I tell you, John, that I can
endure Margaret's dictation no longer. She must leave, or... I must";
and when his wife swept out of the room to dress for dinner, Leslie knew
that they had come to a crisis in family life.


II

"How are you, mummy?" and Jack burst in upon the delighted household
gathered in the hall with a trail of loosely packed luggage behind him,
and a pair of skates he had forgotten to pack altogether, round his
neck. "I say, that's a ripping dress you have on. Cusack, our house
'pre,' says yours is the prettiest photo he ever saw. You're looking
fit, pater, but you must come a trot with me, or you'll have a pot soon.
Jolly journey? Should rather think so! dressed old Swallow up in a
rug, and laid him out on a seat; people thought he had small-pox, and
wouldn't come in; four of us had the place to ourselves all the way:
foxey, wasn't it? Cold, not a bit. We shoved every hot-water pan in
below the seats, and the chaps put more in at every stop, till we had
eight in full blast.

"Look out, cabby, and be kind to that hamper with my best china. What is
it? Oh, that's some really decent booze for the festivities--three dozen
Ripon stone ginger; and there's a dozen among my shirts. Can't get that
tipple in the South. How are you, Lucy and Mary? I've got a pair of
spiffing caps for you; do for church if you like. But where is the
youthful Marguerite? She used to be always dodging round, pretending
that she was just passing by accident. Dinner ready? All right; I'm
pretty keen, too. Tell Magsibus I'll be down after dessert with a
brimming bowl of stone ginger.

"Hello, old lady! As you didn't come up to welcome the returning
prodigal at the door, he's come down to give you his blessing. It's all
right, Mag, I was only fooling. You daren't have taken your eye off that
pudding one minute, I know. It was A 1; best thing you ever did, and
awfully good to have it for the first night.

"That gingerbread you sent took the cup this term, and no second.
Fellows offered to do my lines for me, and sucked up to me no end just
to get a slice. Ain't that the tin up there you make it in? Chap
next study had a thing he called gingerbread--feeblest show you ever
saw--burnt crust outside and wet dough inside.

"There's the old brass jam-pan, Peg, ain't it? Do you remember when
Billy Poole and I used to help at the boiling, and get the skim for our
share? Billy's won a scholarship at Cambridge; youngest chap to take it,
and is a howling Greek swell, but you bet he hasn't forgot that hot
jam. Not he; was asking for you last week. I'll get him here next autumn
before he goes up, and we'll have a jam blow-out.... What's wrong,
Magsy?

"Don't blub. Tell me who's been hitting you. Is it those two young
fools? The mater will soon settle their hash. Here's my handkerchief.
There, now you're all right, ar'n't you?"

"It's really silly of me, Master Jack, and I ought to be ashamed of
myself, at my age too, but it was you speaking of next year. I thought
perhaps your mother had told you that... I am leaving tomorrow."

"Going to leave us and your home?" and Jack sat down on the kitchen
table in stark amazement. "Where would you go to, Magsy? Why, you nursed
me when I was a kid, and you knew the pater when he was a fellow at
school. Why, you couldn't get on without us, and, look here, this circus
can't be worked without you.

"If you don't feel fit for the cooking,--and it must be a beastly stew
over the fire,--mother'ill get another hand, and you'll just order her
round and have a good time." But Margaret sat with sad, despairing eyes,
looking straight before her, and making no sign.

"You couldn't do it, Magsibus," and the lad came over and put his arm
round her; "it would be too mean. Didn't you promise to wait and start
house with me, the same as you did with father? and now you calmly
announce that you are going to set up for yourself, and be a lady. Oh,
you treacherous, wicked woman!"

"Master Jack, I have not a relative living, and I couldn't go to another
place--I've been too long with one family--four-and-thirty years--and I
don't know what I'll do without the sight of you, for my heart has no
portion outside this house on earth; but I must go, I cannot do
otherwise, I must go.

"You see, I'm getting old, dear, and I've been so long here that
I forget it's not my own house--God knows that I would die for you
all--and I have a temper, and I shall be... a trouble and not a help.
Your mother has been a good mistress to me, and been kinder to me than
I have been to her. I'll pray for you all as long as I live, and I would
like to... see you sometimes; but I must go, Master Jack, I must go."


III

"It seems to me, Flo," and Leslie stretched out his legs in the warmth,
"the chief good of easy circumstances is being able to afford a
wood fire in one's bedroom,--that and books. Do you remember that
evil-smelling oil-stove in our little house at Islington? By the way,
did I tell you that I ran out one afternoon last week, when I had an
hour to spare, and paid an outside visit to our first home. It looked
rather forlorn, and so small and shabby."

"It was the dearest little house when we lived in it, John," and Mrs.
Leslie saw wonderful things in the firelight; "and when you were at
the office I used to go from room to room, arranging and dusting and
admiring."

"Yes, but you also had the most toothsome evening meals ready at eight
p.m. for a struggling colonial broker, and used to dress perfectly, and
did it all on next to nothing."

"Two hundred and twenty-two pounds five shillings and threepence--that,
sir, was the first year's income. Don't you remember making up the book,
and finding we had thirty pounds over; but, then, Jack, we had... a
perfect servant."

"Poor Margaret! what an interest she took in our daring enterprise! By
the way, your memory is better than mine, wife: didn't we tell her how
the balance stood, and she was the best pleased of the three?"

"'Praise God!' she cried, 'I knew, Mr. John, you did right to trust and
to marry, and some day I'll see you in a big house, if God will'; and
then you told her to bring up her missionary box and you gave her a
sovereign, and when she put it in, her hand was shaking for joy. Her
temper has got masterful since she grew old, and she is aggravating; but
I know she's a good woman."

"Yes, Meg wouldn't have left us if we had been down on our luck: I
believe she would have seen us through and gone without wages"; and
Leslie spoke with the tone of one hazarding a wild speculation.

"You believe, John!" clever women are sometimes befooled. "Why, have you
forgotten that winter when you lost so heavily, and it looked as if we
would have to go into rooms, how Margaret wanted to go out cooking to
help the family, and she would have done it had not things taken a turn?
Whatever be her faults,--and she has been provoking,--she is a loyal
soul."

"Well, we only had one bad illness, Flo, and I'll never forget the
mornings when I came from my lodgings and stood on the street, and you
told me what kind of night Jack had had, and the days when I toiled
at the office, and you fought scarlet fever at home. You were a brave
woman--without a nurse, too."

"Without what--for shame, John!--when Maggie sat up all night and worked
all day, and was so clever that the doctor said she had saved Jack's
life--well, perhaps be admitted that I helped, but she did more than
I could--I would rather have let twenty housemaids go than see Maggie
leave, John, if she had given me the chance."

"Margaret always had a temper, Flo, even in the old days when I was a
boy, and now she's fairly roused."

"It isn't temper at all now, John, or I would not be so vexed: it's her
goodness which will drive her out in the end, and she'll never know
one day of happiness again. She told me to-night that she was sure that
there would always be trouble between her and the other servants, and as
she had tried to serve us well when she was younger she would not make
our home unhappy in her old age. Jack pleaded with her, and I--I nearly
cried; she was quite affected, too, but she is immovable."

"Well, we can do no more, and you mustn't blame yourself, Flo: it has
just been a smash; and if she does go, we must see that she be made
comfortable in her last years. But I wish old Margaret were not leaving
us on Christmas Eve. Jack is very sick about it, and I rather suspect
that he was crying when I looked into his room just now; but he
pretended to be asleep, and I couldn't insult a fellow in the fifth form
with remarks."


IV

When the Leslies set up house, eighteen years before, Margaret received
them on their return from their ten days' wedding tour in the Lake
District, and she was careful to ask in the evening whether Mr. John
would like prayers before or after breakfast next morning. She
also produced a book of family prayers, which she had purchased in
anticipation of the sole difficulty which is understood to prevent the
majority of male householders from having worship in their homes, and
asked her young master and mistress to accept it from her. So it came
to pass that owing to Margaret there were always morning prayers at the
Leslies'; and in observance of a custom begun when there were just the
three in the little house of Islington, fighting the battle of life
together, the chapter was read round, each person taking one verse in
turn. To-night Leslie divided his time between short snatches of sleep,
when he dreamt of funerals in which Margaret departed sitting beside the
driver of the hearse, while a mourning coach followed with her luggage
on the roof, and long periods of wakefulness when he regarded next
morning's prayers with dismay. Was there a special prayer for a servant
leaving her household after eighteen--no, thirty-four years' faithful
duty; and if there was not, could he weave in a couple of sentences
among the petitions? At half-past six he was certain that he could not,
and was ashamed at the thought that with that well worn prayer-book
of Margaret's before him he would allow her to depart without a
benediction, when he was visited quite suddenly, he declares, with the
most brilliant inspiration of his life. He leaped from bed and lit the
gas in hot haste, as poets are said to do when the missing word to rhyme
with Timbuctoo flashes upon the mind.

"Florence, please tell me something"; and Mrs. Leslie saw her husband
standing by her bed in poorly concealed excitement. "Where are those
words that were sung at the sacred concert: 'Intreat me not to leave
thee'? I want to know at once; never mind why. Ruth? Thanks so much," and
the noise he made in his bath was audible through the wall, and was that
of a man in hot haste.

When Mrs. Leslie came down, her husband had a marker in the Bible
projecting six inches, and was checking certain calculations on a sheet
of paper with much care.

"Morning, Jack--slept well--not very? That's right, I mean I'm very
sorry, must have been the pudding. Not there, for any sake; sit here,
and, let me see--Florence, where are you wandering to? Take this chair.
Six, seven, eight... seventeen, yes, that's Margaret. Now ring the
bell." And Mrs. Leslie could only look at Leslie in silence, while Jack
felt that the firmament was being shaken that day, and one catastrophe
more did not matter.

"We shall read," said the head of the household in a shaky voice,
"from--eh--the--eh--Book of Ruth, the first chapter and the sixth
verse"; and as soon as his wife saw the passage she understood, and so
did Margaret.

Round the circle went the verses--Leslie very nervous lest he should
have miscalculated--till Jack read:

"'And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from
following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou
lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my
God.'"

Then it came to Margaret, and she began bravely, but soon weakened:
"Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried... the Lord do
so to me, and more also, if ought but death... part..."

"Let us pray," said Leslie; and it is his fixed belief that, having lost
the place, he read the prayer for the close of the year and making an
attempt to right himself landed in a thanksgiving for the gift of a
new-born child; but nobody is certain and nobody cared.

"I ought to go," said Margaret, standing very white by the sideboard
after the other servants had left the room, "and it would be better for
you all, whom I love, that I should go; but... I cannot, I can..."

"Dear old Magsibus," and Jack had her round the waist before she could
say "not" again, or even explain, as she did afterwards, how good a
woman the housemaid was, and how much she would miss her; and as Mrs.
Leslie thought of the days they had been together, the saving the lad
from death and many another deed of loyal, ungrudging service, she
did that which was contrary to every rule of household discipline. But
Leslie could not have seen his wife kiss Margaret, for his back was
turned, and he was studying the snow-covered garden with rapt attention.



VII.--A RACONTEUR

"You must excuse me the gaucherie of a compliment," I said to Bevan in
the smoking-room, after a very pleasant dinner, "but you have never been
more brilliant. Five stories, and each a success, is surely a record
even in your experience."

"It is very good of you to appreciate my poor efforts so highly. I felt
it a distinct risk to attempt five in one evening--six is the farthest
limit sanctioned by any raconteur of standing. You can always
distinguish an artist from a mere amateur by his severe reserve. He
knows that an anecdote is a liqueur, and he offers it seldom; but the
other pours out his stuff like vin ordinaire, which it is, as a rule,
the mere dregs of the vine. Did you ever notice how a man will come back
from Scotland in autumn, and bore companies of unoffending people with a
flood of what he considers humorous Scottish stories? It is one of the
brutalities of conversation. What irritates me is not that the material
is Scottish, for there are many northern stories with a fine flavour; it
is the fellow's utter ignorance of the two great principles of our art."

"Which are?"

"Selection and preparation," said Bevan, with decision. "One must first
get good stuff, and then work it into shape. It is amazing how much is
offered and how little is of any use. People are constantly bringing me
situations that they think excellent, and are quite disappointed when
I tell them they are impossible for the purposes of art. Nothing can be
done with them, although of course another artist in a different line
might use them. Now I have passed several 'bits' on to Brown-Johnes,
who delivers popular lectures. The platform story is scene-painting, the
after-dinner miniature."

"May I ask whether you are ever taken in, as it were, with your
material, and find it 'give' after it has been manufactured, like rotten
yarn or unseasoned wood?"

"Rarely; one's eye gets to be trained so that you know a promising
subject at sight, but then comes the labour. I've heard a man bore a
dinner-table to the yawning point with a story that had some excellent
points in it, but he had taken no trouble, perhaps had no insight."

"And you succeeded with it...?"

"It is, in my humble judgment, as good a story of its kind now as you
would wish to hear, and it bears improvement, which is a good sign. A
really high-class story will take years to perfect, just as I am told
by clergymen that a sermon only begins to go after it has been preached
twenty times."

"You have been working on that Shakespeare bit, by the way; I noticed at
least one new touch this evening which was excellent."

"Now that is very gratifying," and Bevan was evidently pleased; "it is
a great satisfaction to have one's work appreciated in an intelligent
manner; perhaps you are the only one present who saw any difference.

"What I think I like best"--and he tapped his snuff-box in a meditative
way--"is to get an old, decayed, hopeless story, and restore it.
Breaking out a window here, adding a porch there, opening up a room, and
touching up the walls--it is marvellous what can be done. Besides new
drains," he added, with significance, "the sanitary state of some of
those old stories is awful. You feel the atmosphere at the door--quite
intolerable, and indeed dangerous."

"Then you do not think that indecency...?"

"No, nor profanity. Both are bad art; they are cheap expedients, like
strong sauces to cover bad cooking. It sounds like boasting, but I have
redeemed one or two very unpleasant tales, which otherwise had been
uninhabitable, if I may trifle again with my little figure, and now are
charming."

"You rather lean, one would gather, to old tales, while some of the
younger men are terrified of telling a 'chestnut,' always prefacing,
'This must be well known, but it is new to me; say at once if you have
heard it.'"

"Most humiliating, and quite unworthy of an artist. Heard it before!"
and the old gentleman was full of scorn. "Imagine a painter apologizing
for having taken a bend of the Thames or a Highland glen some man had
used before. Of course, if one makes a copy of a picture and exhibits it
as his own, that is fraud, and the work is certain to be poor. One must
respect another artist's labour, which is the ground of his copyright.
But if one makes a 'bit' of life as old as Aristophanes or Horace his
own, by passing it through his own fancy and turning it out in his
own style, then it is ever new. Then there is the telling! There are
musicians who can compose, but who cannot play, and _vice versâ_. So
with our art, there are story-tellers and story-makers. The former can
suffer no wrong, for they are self-protected, but the latter have never
been protected as they deserve in the fruit of their brains. You will
see at once that, if I am right, the ownership of an anecdote is quite
beyond dispute. The original material is really for the most part
common property, and usually very poor property--prairie land, in fact.
Personal rights come in when one has put capital into the land, has
cleared and ploughed and sown it; then it's his own, and he is entitled
to fence it, and he cannot be dispossessed except on fair terms."

"Which would be?"

"Well, that depends. He might sell to an editor, or he might give the
use of it to a friend. Personally, as an artist of now thirty years'
standing, I do not part with my work; it may be an old-fashioned
prejudice, but I don't like to let it go to the public."

"But to a friend?"

"Of course that is different; still, how few can be trusted. Now I once
gave Higginbotham a very nice little thing of French extraction, but not
too subtle, with just enough body to suit our palate. He beard me tell
it three times in exactly the same form, and I pledged him to make no
changes, for his hand is heavy. Would you believe me?"--and my friend
sat up in his indignation--"he gave it in my presence--but that did
not matter--and left out the best point, which I now think he had never
seen. Life has various trials in store for us as times go on," and Bevan
leant back again. "Some are greater, some are less, but among our minor
vexations I know none like sitting at one end of a table and making talk
with your partner, while a rank amateur at the other end mangles one of
your pet anecdotes."

"Torture, I should think; but isn't it rather trying when people miss
the point altogether or ask stupid questions?"

"Artists must take their chance of that, and one is careful; besides,
I've distinctly enjoyed such remarks," and he looked quite genial. "It's
like a painter hearing the people criticize the pictures on a free day.
Once or twice I've got a very happy addition to a story in that way.
After all, the main end of a raconteur must be to give pleasure.
Yes"--and he began to glow--"no art is wholesome which lives for itself
or for a professional class. Art must be a criticism of life and an aid
to better living. No one can tell how much story-telling has contributed
to the brightness and elevation of life. How? By correcting foibles, by
explaining human nature, by destroying cant, by infusing good humour,
by diminishing scandal, by--but I remind myself that a raconteur ought
never to be excited or eloquent. He may, however, be a philanthropist,
as it would appear. Do you know," with a tone of great delight, "that I
was once asked by a physician to call upon one of his patients, a mutual
friend, and spend an hour with him, as a... tonic, in fact. It was
after influenza, and the convalescent began by asking me whether I would
distribute a sum of money among the poor. 'I'm not sure what I'm dying
of; either peritonitis or pneumonia, but I'm glad to see you, Bevan,
and you will do this little kindness for me'--those were his affecting
words. 'Certainly,' I said, and that led me to give him a trifle from
Devonshire--excellent place for stories--which seemed to interest him.
I only told four stories--for he was rather weak, having had a slight
touch of bronchitis--and he is pleased still to thank me," and Bevan
nodded with much satisfaction.

As I looked at him, so filled with the pride of his art, the time seemed
to have come for a question that had long been in my mind. But it was
necessary to be careful.

"What, may I ask, Mr. Bevan, do you feel about the matter of... well,
you won't misunderstand me... of accuracy?"

"You mean whether is there any difference between giving evidence in
a witness-box and relating an anecdote. Everything. The one is a land
surveyor's plan, and must be correct to an inch. The other is a picture,
and must interpret nature. The one is a matter of fact, the other a work
of art. Imagine the folly"--and the good man rose to his feet--"if one
should demand to know whether the figures in a historical painting stood
exactly so and were dressed in those particular colours; we should think
the man mad. A story is a miniature novel, shot through with humour, a
morsel of the irony of things, a tiny comedy, and for it there is but
one rule of judgment--does it represent the spirit of life?"

"What then do you think of one who should certify an anecdote as a
fact?"

"That he did not know his craft, for if the tale has no merit, then it
is little compensation to tell us it happened; if it has merit, we are
sure it ought to have happened."

"And if one should interrupt a raconteur as he approached his point, and
should inquire whether the thing be true?"

"I am a merciful man," said the venerable artist, "but my conviction is
that he ought to be shot."



VIII.--WITH UNLEAVENED BREAD


RABBI SAUNDERSON, minister of Kilbogie, had been the preacher on the
fast day before Carmichaele's first sacrament in the Glen, and, under the
full conviction that he had only been searching out his own sins, the
old man had gone through the hearts of the congregation as with the
candle of the Lord, till Donald Menzies, who had all along suspected
that he was little better than a hypocrite, was now fully persuaded that
for him to take the sacrament would be to eat and drink condemnation
to himself, and Lauchlan Campbell was amazed to discover that a mere
Lowland Scot like the rabbi was as mighty a preacher of the law as the
chief of the Highland host. The rabbi had been very tender withal, so
that the people were not only humbled, but also moved with the honest
desire after better things.

Although it was a bitter day, and the snow was deep upon the ground, the
rabbi would not remain over-night with Carmichael. Down in Kilbogie an
old man near fourscore years of age was dying, and was not assured of
the way everlasting, and the rabbi must needs go back through the snow
that he might sit by his bedside and guide his feet into the paths of
peace. All that night the rabbi wrestled with God that it might be His
good pleasure to save this man even at the eleventh hour; and it was one
of the few joys that visited the rabbi in his anxious ministry, that,
before the grey light of a winter morning came into that lowly room,
this aged sinner of Kilbogie had placed himself within the covenant of
grace.

While he was ministering the promises in that cottage, and fighting a
strong battle for an immortal soul, Carmichael had sent away his dogs,
and was sitting alone in the low-roofed study of the Free Kirk manse,
with the curtains drawn and the wood fire lighting up the room--for he
had put out the lamp--but leaving shadows in the corners where there
were no books, and where occasionally the red paper loomed forth like
blood.

As the rabbi preached that day, the buoyancy and self-confidence of
youth had been severely chastened, and sitting in the manse pew,
curtained off from the congregation, the conscience of the young
minister had grown tender. It was a fearful charge to lay on any man,
and he only four-and-twenty years of age, the care of human souls; and
what manner of man must he be who should minister unto them after a
spiritual sort the body and blood of Jesus Christ? How true must be his
soul, and how clean his hands! For surely, if any man would be damned
in this world, and in that which is to come, it would be the man who
dispensed the sacrament unworthily.

As he sat in the firelight the room seemed to turn into a place of
judgment. Round the walls were the saints of the Church Catholic, and
St. Augustine questioned him closely regarding the evil imagination
of youthful days, and Thomas à Kempis reproached him because he had so
often flinched in the way of the holy cross. Scottish worthies whose
lives he had often read, and whose sayings had been often quoted from
the pulpit, sat in judgment upon him as to his own personal faith and
to his own ends in the ministry. Samuel Rutherford, with his passionate
letters, reproached him for his coldness towards Christ; and MacCheyne's
life, closed in early manhood, and filled with an unceasing hunger
for the salvation of human souls, condemned him for his easy walk and
conversation; and Leighton, the gentlest of all the Scotch saints, made
him ashamed of bitter words and resentful feelings. And from the walls
the face of his mother's minister regarded him with wistful regret, and
seemed to plead with him to return to his first love and the simplicity
of his mother's faith.

The roof hung heavy over his head, and the walls took a deeper red,
while the burning logs reminded him of the consuming fire. An owl
hooted outside--a weird and mournful cry--and to the mind of a Celt
like Carmichael it seemed to be a warning to set his house in order. He
crossed to the window, which faced west, and commanded a long stretch
of Glen, and, standing within the curtain, he looked out upon the clear
winter night. How pure was the snow, putting all other white to shame!
How merciless the cold light of the moon, that flung into relief the
tiniest branches of the trees! "Holiness be-cometh thine house, O Lord,
for ever." And he was a minister of the Word and sacrament! The people
had been called unto repentance, but he needed most of all the contrite
heart. The people had been commanded to confess their sins; it were time
that he began.

He knelt at his table, bending his head over the very place where he
wrote his sermons, and as he prayed before God the sins of early years
came up before him, and passed as in a woful procession--ghosts which
had risen from their graves, in which they had long been hid beneath
the green grass and the flowers. There remained nothing for him but
to acknowledge them one by one with shame and confusion of face, and
behold! as he did so, and humbled himself before the Lord, they vanished
from his sight till he hoped that the last of them had come and gone.
When it seemed to him as if one had lingered behind the rest, and
desired to see him quite alone, and when the shroud fell down, he looked
into the face of one who had been his friend in college days, and then
he knew that all which had gone before was only a preparation, and this
was now his testing time.

It was a mighty college to which Carmichael had belonged, and the men
thereof had been lifted high above their fellows, and among them all
there had been none so superior as this man who was once his friend.
Some he looked down upon because they were uncouth in manner; and some
because they were deficient in scholarship; and others, who were neither
ill-bred nor unlearned, he would have nothing to do with because they
had not the note of culture, but were Philistine in their ideas of art
and in their ignorance of "precious" literature.

In spite of all this foolishness, the root of the matter was in
Frederick Harris. No man had a keener sense of honour, no man was more
ready to help a fellow-student, none worked harder in the mission of the
college, none lived a simpler life. Yet because he was without doubt a
superior person, even beyond all other superior persons--and the college
was greatly blessed with this high order of beings--certain men were
blind to his excellences, and cherished a dull feeling of resentment
against him; and there were times when Carmichael dared to laugh at
him, whereat Harris was very indignant, and reproached him for vulgar
frivolity.

One day a leaflet was found in every class-room of the college, and in
the dining-hall, and in the gymnasium, and in every other room--even, it
is said, in the Senate-room itself. Its title was, _A Mighty Young Man_,
and it was a merciless description of Harris in verse, from the crown of
his head to the sole of his foot, in all his ways and words--coarse and
insulting, but incisive and clever. He was late in entering the Hebrew
class-room that morning, and was soon conscious that the students were
interested in other things besides the authorship of the Pentateuch.
Opposite him lay the poem, and, after he had read the first verse, his
face turned to a fiery red, and then he left the class-room with much
dignity.

It had been better for himself, and it would have saved much sorrow to
Carmichael, if Harris had treated the poem with indifference; but, like
many other people who allow themselves the luxury of despising their
fellow-creatures, he was morbidly sensitive when his fellow-creatures
turned on him. For some reason, known only to himself, he concluded that
Carmichael had written the poem, and demanded an apology with threats;
and Carmichael, who had thought the thing in very poor taste, and would
have been willing to laugh at it along with Harris, was furious that
he should have been supposed guilty of such a breach of friendship. So,
being a Celt, who acts by impulse rather than by reason, he told Harris
in the Common Hall that, if he supposed that he had written the sheet,
he was at liberty to do so, and need not expect either a denial or an
apology.

They never spoke again, nor met except in a public place, and when
Carmichael was ordained minister in the Glen, Harris joined a mission
settlement in one of the lowest quarters of a southern city.

From time to time Carmichael read greedily of his heroic service, and
the power which he was acquiring--for he had never been haughty with
poor people, but ever with them most gentle and humble. Again and again
it had been laid on Carmichael to write to his old friend, and express
regret for his pride, and assure him of his innocence in the matter of
the squib, but he thought that Harris ought first to write to him, and
then, if he did, Carmichael meant to telegraph, and invite his friend
to come up to the Glen, where they would renew the fellowship of former
days. But Harris gave no sign, and Carmichael had no need to telegraph.

Carmichael rose from his knees, and opened a drawer in his
writing-table, and from below a mass of college papers took out a
photograph. The firelight was enough to show the features, and
memory did the rest. They had once shared rooms together, and a more
considerate chum no man could have. They had gone on more than one
walking tour together, and never once had Harris lost his temper; they
had done work together in a mission school, and on occasion Harris had
been ready to do Carmichael's as well as his own; they had also prayed
together, and there was no pride in Harris when he prayed.

What were his faults, after all? A certain fastidiousness of
intellect, and an unfortunate mannerism, and a very innocent form of
self-approbation, and an instinctive shrinking from rough-mannered
men--nothing more. There was in him no impurity, nor selfishness, nor
meanness, nor trickiness, nor jealousy, nor evil temper. And this
was the man--his friend also--to whom he had refused to give the
satisfaction of an explanation, and whom he had made to suffer bitterly
during his last college term. And just because Harris was of porcelain
ware, and not common delf, would he suffer the more.

He had refused to forgive this man his trespass, which was his first
transgression against him, and now that he thought of it, hardly to
be called a transgression. How could he ask God to forgive him his own
trespasses? and if he neither forgave nor was forgiven, how dare he
minister the sacrament unto his people? He would write that night, and
humble himself before his friend, and beseech him for a message, however
brief, that would lift the load from off his heart before he broke bread
in the sacrament.

Then it came to his mind that no letter could reach that southern town
till Saturday morning, and therefore no answer come to him till Monday,
and meanwhile who would give the people the sacrament, and how could
he communicate himself? For his own sin, his foolish pride and fiery
temper, would fence the holy table and hinder his approach. He must
telegraph, and an impression took hold upon his heart that there must be
no delay. The clock in the lobby--an eight-day clock that had come
from his mother's house, and seemed to him a kind of censor of his
doings--struck three, for the hours had flown in the place of judgment,
and now the impression began to deepen that there was not an hour to be
lost. He must telegraph, and as the office at Kilbogie would be open
at five o'clock to dispatch a mail, they would send a wire for him. It
would be heavy walking through the snow, but the moon was still up, and
two hours were more than enough.

As he picked his way carefully where the snow had covered the ditches,
or turned the flank of a drift, he was ever grudging the lost time, and
ever the foreboding was deeper in his heart that he might be too late,
not for the opening of Kilbogie post-office, but for something else--he
knew not what. So bravely had he struggled through the snow that it was
still a quarter to five when he passed along sleeping Kilbogie; and so
eager was he by this time that he roused the friendly postmaster, and
induced him by all kinds of pleas, speaking as if it were life and
death, to open communication with Muirtown, where there was always a
clerk on duty, and to send on to that southern city the message he had
been composing as he came down through the snow and the woods:

"It was not I. I could not have done it. Forgive my silence, and send a
message before Sunday, for it is my first sacrament in Drumtochty.

"Your affectionate friend,

"John Carmichael."

It was still dark when he reached the manse again, and before he fell
asleep he prayed that the telegram might not be too late, but as he
prayed, he asked himself what he meant, and could not answer. For the
Celt has warnings other men do not receive, and hears sounds they do not
hear.

It was noon next day, the Saturday before the sacrament, and almost time
for the arrival of the preacher, before he awoke, and then he had
not awaked unless the housekeeper had brought him this telegram from
"Mistress Harris, St. Andrew's Settlement, Mutford, E.":

"My son Frederick died this morning at eight o'clock of malignant fever.
He was conscious at the end, and we read your telegram to him. He sent
this message: 'Long ago I knew it was not you, and I ought to have
written. Forgive me, as I have forgiven you. My last prayer is for a
blessing upon you and your people in the sacrament to-morrow. God be
with you till we meet at the marriage supper of the Lamb!'"

The text which Carmichael took for his action sermon on the morrow was,
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespass against us,"
and he declared the forgiveness of sins with such irresistible grace
that Donald Menzies twice said "Amen" aloud, and there are people who
will remember that day unto the ages of ages.



IX.--OUR FOREIGN MANNERS


IF a student of life will only take his stand in the hall of one of
those Swiss caravansaras which receives a trainful of Britons about
six o'clock some evening in August and despatches them on their way by
Diligence next morning, he will not lose his time, for he will have an
opportunity of studying the foreign manners of his nation. The arrival
of an Englishman of the John Bull type is indeed an event, and the place
is shaken as by a whirlwind. A loud, clear, strident voice is heard
sounding in the English tongue to the extremities of the hall, demanding
that its owner be instantly taken to the rooms--"First floor," I said,
"with best view, according to the telegram sent yesterday," refusing
every explanation as to there being none disengaged, insisting that,
somehow or other, rooms of that very kind be offered, and then grumbling
its way upstairs, with an accompaniment in the minor key from a
deprecating landlord, till a distant rumble dying away into the silence
closes the incident. The landlord has reluctantly admitted that he has
rooms on the second floor, better than any other in the house, which are
being kept for a Russian prince, and if Monsieur will accept them for
the night--and then Monsieur calls his wife's attention to the fact
that when he put his foot down he gets his way. One does not, of course,
believe that the landlord said what was absolutely true, and one would
have been delighted had he plucked up courage and shown our compatriot
to the door. But nothing is easier (and more enjoyable) than to point
out how other people ought to conduct their affairs, and no doubt,
were we Swiss innkeepers, needing to make a year's profit out of three
months, we also would have taken rampant Englishmen by guile, as bulls
are lassoed with ropes. Your heart would be adamant if you did not
pardon the poor little device when our national voice is again raised in
the dining-room ordering away a plate on account of an invisible smut,
complaining of the wine because of a bit of cork, comparing the beef
with the home roasts, and enlarging on a dozen defects in bedroom
service to sympathetic spirits right and left, and, for that matter,
as far as the voice can reach. In England that voice will give it to
be understood that it could not be heard amid the chatter of noisy
foreigners "gabbling away goodness knows what," but as a matter of
fact no combination of German, French, and Italian could resist the
penetrating, domineering, unflinching accent. When that host bows the
voice into an omnibus next morning with great politeness, then one
has an illustration of the spread of the Christian spirit enough to
reinforce the heart in the hours of blackest pessimism.

Would a foreigner believe that the owner of this terrible voice is
really one of the best? He is the soul of honour, and would cut off his
hand rather than do a mean deed; his servants adore him, though he gives
them what he calls a round of the guns once a week; and the last thing
he did before leaving home was to visit an old gamekeeper who taught
him to shoot the year he went to Harrow. When a good man preaches the
charity sermon, this unsympathetic Englishman is quite helpless, and
invariably doubles the sum set aside in his waistcoat pocket. Upon
the bench he is merciless on poachers and tramps; in private he is the
chosen prey of all kinds of beggars. In fact, he is in one way just what
he specially detests--a sham--being the most overbearing, prejudiced,
bigoted, the most modest, simple-minded, kind-hearted of men; and, in
spite of that unchastened voice, a gentleman from the crown of his head
to the sole of his foot. Certainly he ordereth over much, but he will
take care that every servant has a reward before he leaves--going back
from the omnibus to tip "that fellow with the green apron" who did
some trifle for him last night--and if the landlord had only had the
discernment to have described that accident to him, the driver's widow
would have been richer by fifty francs.

The blame of our foreign manners is partly geographical. We happen to
be bom in an island, and our amazing ideas about continentals are being
very slowly worn away by travel. It is just breaking on the average
Briton that, although a foreigner does not splash in his bath of
a morning so that neighbouring rooms can follow the details of his
toilette, he may not be quite uncleanly; that one need not hide all
his valuables beneath his pillow because the other three men in his
compartment of the wagon lit do not speak English; that an Italian
prince is not always a swindler, but may have as long a pedigree as
certain members of the House of Lords; and that the men who constructed
the Mont Cenis and St. Gothard tunnels must at least have understood
the rudiments of engineering science. The puzzled expression on our
countryman's face when he discovers that the foreigner can give us
points--in conveyance of luggage, for instance, or the making of coffee,
or in the small agriculture--goes to your heart. It seems to him a
surprise on the part of Providence, and a violation of the favoured
nation's clause.

Perhaps it ought also to be said in our defence that we are afflicted by
the infirmities of a ruling people. We are not only profoundly conscious
that we are an invincible nation ourselves, but also are saturated
with the belief that we have a commission to govern other nations. Our
talents are mostly exercised in India and Africa, but if one reigns
absolutely anywhere, he carries himself as a king everywhere, and the
ordinary Englishman annexes any place he fancies in holiday time because
his fathers have been appropriating provinces from time immemorial. One
sometimes falls a prey to the Philistine that is in us all, and begins
also to despise what our friend pleasantly calls "all this scraping and
bowing," by which he means a Frenchman's politeness in little things,
and is tempted to think that it would be better if local government on
the Continent were relieved of a burden of petty rules and a host
of gorgeous officials, and were reinforced by a strong infusion of
downright common sense. One means, in plain words, that if a foreign
district were handed over to an English stipendiary magistrate and a
score of London policemen, its people would learn for the first time the
scope and meaning of good government.

Many well-doing Englishmen cannot unto this day achieve a single
grammatical sentence in any language except their own, and are free
from all pretensions. Our rector stoutly declares that in his popular
lecture, "To Paris and back, or a Glimpse of French Life," he did not
cite the familiarity of Parisian children with French as a proof of
the precocity of foreigners, but he can never watch two Frenchmen
in conversation without innocent enjoyment. The sounds they make are
marvellous, but it is beyond question that they mean something, and it
is pleasant to know that persons who cannot speak English are not left
without means of communication. Foreigners, an Englishman remembers,
labour under hopeless disabilities. Little can be expected from a people
whose language permits a sentence--in a scientific book too--to end with
"zu, ab," and one may not be Pharisaic and yet have gloomy views--this
illustration can be used in the pulpit--about a nation that has no word
for home. One of our French class at school, a stout gentleman now, and
worth £100,000, declares he would never demean himself by any attempt
at foreign tongues, and demands that foreigners should learn English,
"which will yet be the language of the world." He was recently boasting
that he had travelled a month by the aid of signs, although he does
himself less than justice, for on sight of the railway station he will
say "Bannhof, eh?" to the driver in quite a jocular way, as one by way
of pleasing a four-footed pet.

Tittups, on the other hand, who reached the confines of the future tense
with Moossy, and who affects culture, is understood to have an easy
acquaintance with at least three Continental tongues in their more
literary forms--colloquialisms he firmly refuses--and is worth hearing
in a Florentine shop. "Avete voi" (Tittups is a little man, with a
single eyeglass, and a voice three sizes too large for him); "ah... what
you call... ah, papier und... ah, ein, that is eine Feder," goes through
a panto-mine of writing, and finally obtains what he wants by pointing
it out with his stick. He is fond of enlarging on the advantage of
reading Italian, and insists that no translation has ever conveyed the
grander ideas of Dante, although Tittups admits that the ancient Italian
tries him. "Have to work at it, you know; but the modern, a boy who knows
his grammar can manage it. Seen the _Giomate di Roma_ to-day?" Italians
have a keener insight into character than any people in Europe, and
one could almost pardon the attendant in the Mediterranean sleeper who
insisted that Tittups must be a native-born Tuscan from the way he said
"baga-glia."

"Gli," Tittups mentioned casually to a friend, is a test in Italian
pronunciation, and he presented the discerning critic with a five-franc
piece at Calais.

But why should the average man laugh at Tittups, as if he had never had
experiences? Has he never been asked by his companion, to whom he has
been an oracle on German literature, to translate some utterly absurd
and unnecessary piece of information posted on the carriage, and been
humbled in the dust?

"Oh," he said, quite carelessly, "something about not leaving the train
when it is in motion--zug, you know."

"Pardon, mein Herr" (voice from the opposite side--what business had he
to interfere?) "but the rule, when it has into English been translated,
shall read------" and it turns out to be a warning not to stop the
train without "plausible" reasons. Nothing is more disconcerting (and
offensive) than to discover that the two imperturbable Germans in your
carriage understand English perfectly, after you have been expressing
your mind on German habits with that courtesy and freedom which are the
prerogative of the Briton abroad. And can anything be more irritating
and inexplicable than to find one's painfully accumulated store of
foreign words ooze away in the crisis of travel, so that a respectable
British matron, eager to be driven by the sea road at Cannes, is
reduced to punching cocher in the small of the back with her parasol and
shouting "eau de vie"--"and he drew up at a low public-house, as if we
had been wanting a drink"--while her husband just escapes an apoplectic
seizure, utilizing the remnants of three languages to explain his
feelings as a Custom-house officer turns the contents of his portmanteau
upside down.

It is not wise, however, for avaricious foreigners to trade upon our
simplicity, for there is always a chance that they may catch a Tartar.
Never have I seen a more ingenuous youth (in appearance) than one who
travelled with me one night from Geneva to Paris. His unbroken ignorance
of Continental ways, which opposed (successfully) the introduction of
more than four persons into our second; his impenetrable stupidity,
which at last saved him from the Customs; his unparalleled atrocities
on the French language, seemed to precede him on the line and suggest
opportunities of brigandage. They charged him eighteen francs for his
supper at a place where we stopped for nearly twenty minutes, and would
likely have appropriated the remaining two francs out of the Napoleon
he offered, but the bell sounded, and he bolted, forgetting in his
nervousness that he had not paid. The garçon followed, whom he failed to
understand, and three officials could not make the matter plainer.
When the public meeting outside our door reached its height there were
present the station-master, seven minor officials, two gendarmes
in great glory, a deputation of four persons from the buffet, an
interpreter whose English was miraculous, and a fringe of loafers.
Just as the police were about to do their duty our fellow passenger
condescended on French--he had preferred English words with foreign
terminations up to that point. His speech could not have exceeded three
minutes, but it left nothing to be desired. It contained a succinct
statement of facts--what he had eaten, and how much each dish cost;
what he was charged, and the exact difference between the debt and the
demand; an appeal to the chef de gare to investigate the conduct of the
buffet where such iniquities were perpetrated on guileless Englishmen;
and lastly a fancy sketch of the garçon's life, with a selection
of Parisian terms of abuse any two of which were enough to confer
distinction for a lifetime. He concluded by offering three francs,
forty-five cents, as his just due to the manager of the buffet, and his
thanks to the audience for their courteous attention.

"I am an Englishman by birth," he explained to a delighted compartment,
"but Parisian by education, and I think this incident may do good."

Certainly it has often done one man good, and goes excellently with
another where imagination reinforces memory with happy effect. One had
a presentiment something was going to happen when two devout ladies
secured their places in the Paris express at Lourdes, and before they
entered placed the tin vessel with water from the sacred well on the
floor of the compartment. It was certainly unfortunate that they did not
keep it in their arms till the precious treasure could be deposited in
the rack. Lourdes pilgrims would recognize the vessel even in its state
of temporary humiliation, but there was a distinct suggestion of humbler
uses, and an excited Englishman must not be hardly judged.

"Here you are, dear," he shouts to his wife, guarding the rugs; "plenty
of room, and a hot water pan for your feet."

They all got in together--two Parisian ladies, who (likely) could not
speak a word of English, and our fellow patriot, who was (likely) as
ignorant of French. And the tin vessel.

Did they lift it with reverence and fold it in many wraps, and did he
fight for its possession? Are they still describing the wanton impiety
of this heretic? and has he a conclusive illustration of the incredible
folly of our neighbours? Perhaps, after all, they knew each other's
tongues, and then nothing happened; but surely there must have been
circumstances, and I, with a spare moment at my disposal occasionally,
refused to be robbed of that interior.



X.--NILE VIEWS


IF one has only three weeks' holiday, and desires sunshine for his body,
let him spend the time upon the Riviera, where he will get a few degrees
higher temperature and a little more sunshine than in Cornwall--with
worse food and a more treacherous climate--and if he rather desires
inspiration for his mind, let him go to Florence; but in any case let
him understand that there is no place in Europe where one can get equal
good both for mind and body, and no place where one can escape winter.
Upon this matter doctors dream dreams and invalids fondly talk against
facts, for the cold in Florence, say, in the month of February, is quite
monumental for its piercing quality, and bad weather on the Riviera is
more cheerless than a wet day in the West Highlands, since in the latter
case you can get a decent fire during the day, and in the evening
you may have a sunset to remember for life. If, however, through any
conjunction of favourable circumstances, a man has six weeks at his
disposal in winter time (it is not likely he will have this very often
in the present vale of tears), then let him take his courage in both his
hands, and go to the Nile. Suppose he had three months, and were a good
sailor, then he ought to join a P. and O. liner at London, and go the
long sea voyage, for there is a chance, even in December or January,
that he might have summer weather on the fickle Mediterranean, and--such
things have happened--across the Bay. But with half that, time his plan
is to go by the special boat express to Marseilles, and join his steamer
there for Port Said; or, if he be hopelessly in fear of the sea, and
wishes to save every hour for Egypt, to take the Brindisi mail, and
cross to Port Said by one of the two passenger torpedo boats which make
the passage between Italy and Egypt in about forty-eight hours either
over the sea or through it.

Until it has been completely rebuilt after Western fashions, and
electric trolley cars are running down a widened Mooskee, and the men
have given up the tarboosh and the women their veil, Cairo will always
fascinate a European by its Eastern atmosphere. Sitting on the verandah
before his hotel, and looking over the heads of a herd of dragomen,
guides, pedlars, and beggars, he will see a panorama pass. A Pasha's
carriage, with a running footman in front, and the great man within,
mourning the restraints of European government; a camel from the
outlands laden with fresh green grass; a water-seller with his
leather barrel upon his back; a company of Egyptian soldiers, marching
admirably, and looking as if they could go anywhere; working women in
dark blue, with only their eyes visible, which are said to be the single
beautiful feature they possess; a closed carriage, with two ladies of
a great man's harem; a miscellaneous crowd of sellers of many articles,
shouting their goods, and workmen of many trades carrying things they
have made; a Bedouin from the desert in his white flowing robes, tall
and stately, and a Nubian as black as ebony from up country, with people
of all shades between white and black, and in all colours; here and
there a European tourist looking very much out of place in his unsightly
garments, and a couple of Highland soldiers looking as if the whole
place belonged to them. And if one desires to bathe in the life of
the place, then he can spend a day drifting up and down the Mooskee,
plunging down side alleys, attending native auctions, watching street
dramas, bargaining in bazaars, and visiting mosques; but the wise man
who is seeking for rest will not abide long in Cairo. Its air is close
and not invigorating, its smells innumerable and overpowering, its
social occupations wearisome and exacting, and its fleas larger,
hungrier, more impudent, and more insinuating than those of any other
place I have ever known. When the visitor has seen the citadel--and
sunset from the citadel is worth the journey to Cairo--and half a
dozen of the grander mosques, and the Pyramids and the great Museum of
Egyptian Antiquities, then, although it may be difficult to resist the
delightful hospitality of the English community, military and civil, the
traveller had better start by the Nile for Upper Egypt.

Nothing surely can be so restful as life on a Nile boat, where one lies
at his ease upon the deck with some book like _Pyramids in Progress_ in
his hand, and watches the procession along the banks of men, women, and
children, donkeys, camels, cattle, and occasionally horses, which
goes on from Cairo to Assouan, and, so far as I know, to Khartoum, and
looking into the far distances of the desert, across the strip of green
on either side of the river, and listening to the friendly sound of the
water wheels which distribute the Nile through the parched ground, and
then standing to see the blood-red sunset fade into orange and green
and violet, while the river turns into that delicate and indescribable
colour which, for want of some other word, is known as water-of-Nile.
The river itself takes hold of the imagination, whose origin has been
a historical mystery, on whose rise and fall the welfare of a country
depends, which carries the fertility of Egypt in its bosom, and on which
nations depend for their very life. No wonder it runs as a blue streak
through the frescoes in the tombs, and is never away from the thoughts
of the painters, for the Nile runs also through the life of the people.
It is the great highway up which the native boats sail their skilful
course driven by the north wind, down which they drop laden with produce
or pottery. It gives them the soil they till, which is rich enough to
bear twelve harvests a year, if crops could be ripened in a month. Upon
its banks the people sit as at their club; they bring down their
cattle to water at it, they wash in the Nile, both themselves and their
clothes, they swim and dive in the Nile as if they had been bom in it,
and they drink its thick, brown, sweet water with such relish that a
native Egyptian resents the idea of a filter because it takes away from
him the very joy of taste, and laughs at the idea of danger from his
loved Nile, which may give typhoid fever to Western tourists, but will
never do any injury to its own children.

After sugar cane and doora, the chief product of the steaming, prolific
Nile valley is the Fellaheen, who are not the descendants of the ancient
Egyptians, a lineage justly claimed by the Copts, but who are the
Egyptian people of to-day. The Fellah is the absolute creature of his
environment, an offspring of Nile mud, and when he is working on his
field, in the garments nature gave him, can hardly be distinguished
from the soil. He is brown, well-built, enduring, with perfect teeth and
excellent health. His home is a mud hut, with one room where he and his
family eat, and another where they sleep, and a courtyard inhabited by
the livestock of goats, donkeys, cocks and hens, pigeons, and a dog. It
is thatched with palm branches or doora straw, and on the roof the dog
will promenade in the daytime with great dignity, and from the roof,
when the moon is shining, and thoughts occur to his mind, he will
express himself to the other seventy-six dogs of the village who are
on their roofs, and are also moved to speech, with the result that no
European can sleep in the vicinity. Add a few vessels and mats by way
of furniture to the inside of the hut, and build a mud jar on the top
of the courtyard wall where the baby of the family can be put in safety,
and the household equipment of the Fellah is complete. He is very
ignorant, is not very keen about his religion, has no principles, except
a habit of industry and a keen sense of property, and he has not one
comfort or luxury of civilization, and not one political or national
ambition. But he has all the clothes he needs, which certainly is not
very much; he has plenty to eat, and for drink the endlessly delightful
Nile water; he is very seldom cold, and he has sunshine from January to
December, and from morning to night. Thanks to England, he is no longer
dragged away to work upon canals and public enterprises without wages
and without food, and to perish through toil and disease as his father
did, but is now paid and cared for when working for the community. He is
no longer in terror of the lash, and he is not robbed by his rulers; he
gets justice at the courts, and is now being delivered from the hands
of the money-lender, that terror of the East, by the excellent national
bank which has been recently established, and which advances him money
on reasonable terms. We pity him as we pass, toiling at his shadoof,
or coming like a rabbit out of his burrow, because he works so hard
and lives so plainly, and has no books and no vote, and no glass in his
windows, and no cheap trips. But perhaps we had better reserve our pity
for the home land. One does not see in the Arab village the ignoble
squalor of a town slum, nor the dreary, hopeless poverty, nor the evil
look of degraded people, nor the miserable intemperance. The Fellah does
not stand very high in the evolution of society, and neither his wife
nor his child is particularly fortunate; one would not wish to be a
Fellah, but, at any rate, he does not know the pinch of want, he is
on good terms with everybody, he has a ready joke, which perhaps it is
better you do not understand, and a quick smile; he is a well-fed and
contented animal.

The Fellah can be studied near at hand in your donkey boy, who is simply
a Nile peasant quickened by contact with Europeans. Within five minutes
he sizes you up with unerring judgment, and knows whether he can get
baksheesh from you by annoyance, or will fare better by leaving you in
peace; whether he can do as he pleases with you in the matter of speed,
or whether it will be better to do as you tell him. Once you are on
good terms with him--have learned the name of the donkey, approved the
donkey's excellence and his own, and settled whether you are going to
race or not--he settles down to make the journey agreeable both for
himself and you. He will make jests about every little incident, join
in the chorus of English songs, give information, such as he can, on
antiquities, and delight to teach you Arabic. Suppose you have a long
wait somewhere, and time is dragging, two of the junior donkey boys
will improvise a play. They will get up a fight, and after cuffing one
another in a way that would almost deceive you into the belief that they
were serious, one will knock the other down, and the fallen hero will
look as dead as Rames es the Great. A crowd will gather round him,
lifting a leg or an arm, which falls heavily to the ground, raising his
head, which rolls helplessly to the side. Horrified, they will then look
at one another, and shake their heads; they will cover the dead man's
face, and proceed to carry him home. By-and-by they will have a funeral,
and convey the corpse to the cemetery with wailing and weeping, and
after it has been solemnly laid to rest there will be a rapid and
delightful resurrection. The mourners will turn a set of somersaults
with extraordinary rapidity, the murderer and his victim will give
a gymnastic exhibition, and then the whole company, having raised an
enthusiastic hip, hip, hurrah! in applause for their own drama and as
a genial tribute to the Anglo-Saxon race, will stand opposite you in a
body with the most solemn countenance and demand baksheesh.

Like other folk, the donkey boys have their own trials, and I am still
sorry for Hassan, who attended me for four days at Luxor, and with whom
I became very friendly. His donkey was called Telephone, and was very
strong, handsome, and well caparisoned, and had, indeed, only one vice,
and that was that he would not go slowly, although the thermometer
stood at 130 degrees in the sun, but insisted on leading the procession.
Hassan had just married, and was never weary of describing the beauty
and goodness of his sixteen-year-old bride, and he was greatly lifted
when I sent home to her by his own hand a present of a silk headdress--I
think at least that was what the silk would be used for--such as I was
assured by a native friend the young women of that ilk greatly loved.
Hassan parted with me in high spirits when I went up the river, and I
promised that, on my third visit to Egypt, which will likely never take
place, I would ride no other donkey but "Telephone," and have no other
footman but Hassan. And then tidings reached me at Assouan that the poor
bridegroom had been drawn for the army. For thirteen years he would have
to serve, partly in the regular forces, partly in the police, and for
half the time he would be entirely separated from his wife, and perhaps
for it all, and at the thought thereof and the terror of the army, and
the unknown places and duties before him, there was great lamentation in
Hassan's little home. So Hassan is by this time being drilled at Cairo,
and soon will be a smart soldier in the Egyptian army; but up at Luxor
his young wife will be mourning for him, and, alas! for an Eastern
woman, she will be aged before Hassan returns. This is the shadow which
hangs over the life of a Fellah.



XI.--THE RESTLESS AMERICAN

MANY Americans were good enough to call upon me before I had the
pleasure of visiting their country, and many Americans have called
since, and no American ever does me this honour without charging the
very atmosphere of my study with oxygen, and leaving an impression of
activity which quickens my slow pulses and almost reduces me to despair.

It is now several years ago that a tall, thin, alert man followed his
card into my study with such rapidity that I had barely time to read it
before my visitor was in the room.

"My name is Elijah K. Higgins, and I am a busy man. You are also busy
and have no time to fool away. Four days is all I can give to the United
Kingdom, and I wished to shake hands with you. Good-bye, I am off to
Drumtochty."

I calculate that Mr. Higgins spent thirty seconds in my study, and left
the room so swiftly that I overtook him only at the front door. When I
asked him if he knew where Drumtochty was, "Guess I do!" he said. "Got
the route in my pocket, north-west from Perth, N.B.," and in two seconds
more he was whirling away in a fast hansom. As I returned to my study
and imagined my visitor compassing Great Britain (I think he excluded
Ireland, but I am not certain) in four days, I was for a moment roused
from the state of comparative lethargy which we, in England, call work,
and added six more engagements to my afternoon's programme. For days
afterwards, and as often as I was tempted to rest in my chair, the
remembrance of that whirlwind gave me a shock of new vigour. Sometimes
a reaction would follow, and I humbly thanked Providence, although that
was to write myself a weakling and a sluggard, that I was not bom in the
country where Mr. Higgins lived and was at home.

Such lively experiences, which I often recall in jaded moments, prepare
one for a visit or a re-visit to America, as a tonic gives a sluggish
person an appetite for dinner, and it is bare justice to say that
one's expectations of American energy in its own home have not been
disappointed. If Americans, depressed by our heavy climate and our
leisurely life, could yet maintain such a level of thought and motion,
what might not be possible to them in their own country, where the
atmosphere is charged with electricity, and every second man is a
"hustler from way-back." The stir of the New World affects the visitor
and quickens his pulses as he goes up the Hudson and gets his first
glimpse of New York. Your steamer had waited four hours at Queenstown
for the mails, but the same mails were transferred to the United States
tender as the steamer steams up the bay. Little tugs dart about on all
sides with feverish speed, and larger steamers pass with their upper
machinery indecently exposed, as if there had not been time, or it had
not been worth while, to cover it. Buildings of incredible height line
the shores, and suggest that the American nation, besides utilizing the
ground, proposes also to employ the heavens for commercial purposes. It
was, I think, a Texas paper which translated the austere saying, "_Per
aspera ad astra_," into "the hustler gets to heaven," and certain New
York builders seem now to be on the way. Whetted by this overture on the
river, one is ready for the full music of the city; and I wish to
pay the compliment with all honesty that New York, with the possible
exception of Chicago, is the activest and noisiest place I have ever
seen, or expect to see, in this present world. While an English merchant
saunters down to his office between nine and ten, a New York man rises
at half-past six in his suburb and is busy at work at eight o'clock. The
Englishman takes off an hour during the day for luncheon at his club,
while the American eats his meal in fifteen minutes. The Englishman
spends more than another hour at afternoon tea, and gossip with friends,
and sauntering about between his club and his office, while the American
packs every minute with work. The very walk of an English merchant,
slow, dignified, self-satisfied, and that of the American, rapid,
eager, anxious--the one looking as if time were of no importance nor
circumstances, and the other as if the loss of a minute might mean
ruin--are the visible indices to the character of the nations. It
is only yesterday that elevators were introduced into English city
buildings, and there are many London offices to which you still have to
make an Alpine ascent of four stairs; but a New Yorker regards a stair
as a survival of barbarism, and hardly knows how to use it. The higher
buildings have several sets of elevators, like the four tracks which
railways lay down to work the swift and slow traffic.

"Don't go in there," my friend said, with whom I was going to lunch at
a club on the top floor of a many-storied New York building. "That's an
accommodation elevator; stops, you know, at every station. This is the
express for the top floor."

"Would it have made much difference?" I said.

"Very nearly a minute," as if the loss of the minute would have thrown
us back for the rest of the day.

No man goes slow if he has the chance of going fast, no man stops to
talk if he can talk walking, no man walks if he can ride in a trolley
car, no one goes in a trolley car if he can get a convenient railway,
and by-and-by no one will go by railway car if he can be shot through a
pneumatic tube. No one writes with his own hand if he can dictate to a
stenographer, no one dictates if he can telegraph, no one telegraphs if
he can telephone, and by-and-by, when the spirit of American invention
has brought wireless telegraphy into thorough condition, a man will
simply sit with his mouth at one hole and his ear at another, and do
business with the ends of the earth in a few seconds, which the same
machine will copy and preserve in letter books and ledgers. It is the
American's regret that at present he can do nothing with his feet while
he is listening at the telephone, but doubtless some employment will be
found for them in the coming age.

If a slow-witted and slow-moving Englishman desires a liberal education,
let him take a journey of a month on the steam cars in the United
States. No train in Europe travels as fast as certain American
expresses, and if other trains go slower it is a matter of thankfulness,
because they are less likely to kill passengers on level crossings, or
in the main streets of the city along which they take their way, and
cattle have more time to get off the unprotected tracks. As trains have
also a trick of jumping the rails, either through the rails spreading
or the eccentricity of the engine, both being instances of exuberant
national vitality, it is just as well that every express does not go at
the rate of the Empire State Express on the New York Central. Nowhere
in Europe can a traveller find stronger or handsomer cars, and they are
marvels of adaptability and convenience. There is a dining car, in
order that you may not lose time at a station, and also, which is not
unimportant, in order that you may be able to occupy your time with
something practical on the train. Of course, there is a smoking
compartment, where men can compare notes upon politics and business, and
be able to escape from idleness and themselves. The best expresses
have a reading car, where the American can pick up such morsels of
information from the magazines as he can contain between the interstices
of business. There is a desk where he can read his letters, and
a typewriter to answer them, for this train is the American's
sleep-ing-place and dining-place, and his home and his office. One thing
only he regrets; the train, as it flies along, is not connected with
the telegraph and the telephone, so that, as an idea occurs to him or
he obtains a hint from a man in the smoking car, he might be able to do
business with his correspondents in Chicago or San Francisco. While
an Englishman on a railway journey is generally dressed in roughly and
loosely fitting tweeds, suggestive of a country life and of sport,
the coat of his American cousin is of dark material and has not a
superfluous inch of cloth. From his collar to his neat little boot the
American is prim, spick-and-span, and looks as if he had come out of a
band-box and were ready to appear in the principal room of any office.
He is dressed in fact for business, and looks like business from
the crown of his head to the sole of his feet, while an Englishman's
appearance suggests that he is going to see a cricket match or that he
has retired to live upon a farm.

My countryman arrives at the station with two and a half minutes to
spare, and laden with small baggage. A porter carries his rug and an
ulster, very likely also a hat-box and a bag with books, papers, and
such like in it, to say nothing of an umbrella and a mackintosh, and he
secures his seat at the last moment. He fastens his hat above his head,
puts on a travelling cap, changes into an ulster, if it be winter time,
and throws a rug over his knee; he puts on travelling gloves, and gets
out the Times, and he will sit without budging and read his _Times_
without intermission for fifty minutes. Besides these trifles with him
in the carriage, he has a portmanteau in the van, which he hopes has
been addressed, and which the porter promised to see put in, and he will
scramble for it at his terminus along with a hundred other passengers,
who are all trying to identify and extricate their luggage from a huge
heap on the platform.

The American reaches the dépôt by a trolley car ten minutes at least
before the hour of departure, having sent his heavy luggage, if he
has any--which is not likely--by baggage express. His only personal
equipment is a slim and compact valise, which, in regard to opening and
shutting, is a marvel of convenience. This he carries in his hand, and
places beneath or beside the seat which he has secured two days before.
He does not carry a rug because the cars are heated, nor an umbrella
because it is not the rainy season. His top coat he hangs up beside his
seat, as if he were in his own house; and his hat if he so please. He
does not wear a travelling-cap any more than in his own drawing-room,
nor gloves in the train any more than in his own office. Should his
hands be soiled, he goes to the lavatory where there are large basins
and an ample supply of water, and if his coat be dusty, there is a
negro porter in every car to brush it. The immense repose of the English
traveller is quite impossible for this mercurial man, whose blood and
whose brain are ever on a stir. Very rarely will you see him reading a
book, because he is not accustomed to read, and the demands of a book
would lessen his time for business meditation. Boys with newspapers
circulate through the cars, and he buys each new paper as it appears
at the different towns. Whether it be Republican, or Democratic, or a
family paper or a yellow journal, does not matter to him; he glances at
the startling headings, takes an accident or a political scandal at
a mouthful, skims over the business news, sees whether anything has
happened at the Philippines, notes that the canard of the morning has
been contradicted in the afternoon, and flings paper after paper on
the floor. Three minutes or, in cases of extreme interest, five minutes
suffice for each paper, and by-and-by this omnivorous reader, who
consumes a paper even more quickly than his food, is knee deep in
printed information or sensation. For two minutes he is almost quiet,
and seems to be digesting some piece of commercial information. He then
rises hurriedly, as if he had been called on the telephone, and makes
for the smoking-car, where he will discuss "Expansion" with vivid,
picturesque speech, and get through a cigar with incredible celerity.
Within fifteen minutes he is in his place again; and, a little
afterwards, wearying of idleness, he is chewing the end of a cigar,
which is a substitute for smoking and saves him from being wearied with
his own company. Half an hour before the train is due at his station,
he is being brushed, and getting ready to alight. Before the train
has reached the outskirts of the town, he has secured his place in a
procession which stands in single file in the narrow exit passage from
the Pullman. Each man is ready dressed for business and has his valise
in his hand; he is counting the minutes before he can alight, and is
envying the man at the head of the procession, who will have a start of
about two seconds. This will give him a great advantage in business, and
he may never be overtaken by his competitors till evening.

Suppose he lands at 6 a.m., he will find breakfast ready in a hotel,
and half a dozen men eating as if their lives depended upon finishing
by 6.15 a.m. Before seven he will have disposed of a pile of letters,
dictating answers to a typist attached to the hotel, he will have
telegraphed in all directions, and made half a dozen appointments in the
town by telephone. Within the forenoon he will finish his business and
depart for some neighbouring town, lunching on the cars. The second town
he will dispose of in the afternoon, and that evening go on board
the sleeper to travel 400 miles to a third town, where he is going to
negotiate a contract at 8 o'clock next morning. If you sympathize with
him, and wonder how flesh and blood can stand the speed, he accepts your
sympathy as a compliment, and assures you that he never sleeps so well
as on the cars. He never seems to be out of sorts or out of temper: he
is always thoroughly alive and quite good-natured. Sometimes he may
seem for a moment annoyed, when he cannot telegraph as often as he wants
along the line, or when the train is not on time, that he may make a
connection. Nothing would wound him so deeply as to "get left," and he
can only affect to be unconscious when some one declares that he is "no
slouch, and that there are no flies on him." If he is obliged to spend
two hours doing nothing in a hotel, when business is over, then he rocks
himself and smokes, and it is a wonderful spectacle for an indolent
Englishman to look down from the gallery that commands the hall of the
hotel, and to see fifty able-bodied fellow-men who have worked already
twelve hours, at least, and put eighteen hours' work into the time,
all in motion. (One wonders why this motion is not utilized to drive
something.) He discovers how unlike cousins may be, for an Englishman
never moves unless he is obliged to or unless he wants to shoot
something, and these remarkable men never rest unless when they are
asleep. About that even, I am not sure, and I was often tempted to draw
aside the curtain from a berth in a sleeping-car, and, had I done so, I
should not have been at all surprised to find our friend wide awake
with a cold cigar in his cheek, and rocking his knees for want of more
extensive accommodation. He has always rebelled against the ancient
custom of sleep, which he regards as a loss of time and an anachronism.
All that he can do is to spend the night in a sleeping car, which, as he
will tell you, annihilates time and space.

Foreigners travelling in the States in their innocence are amazed that
a delicate-minded nation, like the Americans, should be willing to sleep
after the fashion of the Pullman cars, and should not insist upon the
Continental cabin-car. The reason for the Arcadian simplicity of the
sections is not really economy, for no American would ever think twice
of spending a dollar; it is simply their abounding and dominant energy.
If you sleep in cabins at night, you must sit in cabins by day; and
this would mean a seclusion and repose which are very distasteful to
the high-strung American temperament. It would be like bottling up a
volatile gas; and one imagines that it might lead to an explosion, which
some day would break down the partitions and break up the car from end
to end. The American must see everything in his car and hear everything,
for which he depends upon the peculiar quality of the local voice;
and he must be at liberty to prowl about his car, and to sit with his
friends here and there. The car is his little world for the time, and he
is not going to live in a backwater.

There seems no doubt that an American workman will do from twenty-five
to thirty-three per cent, more than an Englishman in the same time, and
that the higher wages of the American have their compensation for
the capitalist in a workman's quickness of mind and sleight of hand.
Everything goes at an accelerated speed, with wonderful inventions in
labour-saving machinery and devices to economize time. If the great end
of a nation be to do as much as possible in as short a time as possible,
then the American climate has been practically arranged for that end. An
Englishwoman living in the States becomes effervescent, and the native
American is the brightest woman on the face of the earth. While the
English atmosphere is heavy and soothing, and lends itself to thought
and quietness, the American climate is exciting and exhilarating, and
quickens both mind and body to the highest activity. It is an electric
climate, and the electricity has passed into the people, who are simply
vessels charged up to a certain number of volts. These vessels as
sources of motive power can then be attached to pulpits, or offices, or
workshops or politics. Of course, a day is apt to come when the vessels
will have been completely discharged, and it arrives very frequently
without warning. A little confusion in the head, and a slight numbness
in the limbs, and the man has to go away a year to Colorado Springs
or to Los Angeles. If he is fortunate, he can be recharged and run for
another five or ten years; then nature does not give any warning, but
simply stops the heart or darkens the brain, and you must get another
man.

No one, unless he leaves the country or becomes a crank, can escape from
this despotism of activity; he is part of the regiment and must march
with his fellows. The idea of making a competency and then retiring,
say, into the country, never crosses a man's mind. When you urge economy
upon a man for this end, you have injured your case, and are pleading
on the other side. With such a prospect before him, he is more than
ever resolved to be a spendthrift. To seclude an active American in an
old-fashioned country house, with ivy climbing round its Tudor windows,
even although there should be a library of black oak inside and a rose
garden outside, would be cruelty; it would be to imprison a squirrel in
a golden cage. What greatly impresses the traveller in the United States
is that the rich men work as hard and as long as the poor, and that
they cannot even give attention to the affairs of their country, but
are willing to leave them to the very doubtful management of the "Boss,"
because it would not pay them to leave their business and go into
politics. If the end of life be riches, then the clever American is a
successful man, for in no country does a respectable man become so very
rich, or rich so soon, and if not respectable he still may do fairly
well. You cannot have everything, however, and one notes that the
average rich man has paid a price for his dollars. He has read very
little--his wife reads for him; he has travelled very little--his
daughters travel for him. He has no voice in the State--professional
politicians speak for him; he has no amusements, unless you include
speculation; and he has no pleasant periods of rest, unless you accept
as an equivalent comparatively early and sudden death, which often
arises from acute indigestion. He has not time to stop and realize
himself, unless, but this is a large exception, when he has dyspepsia.
One reason, perhaps, why Americans do not rest is that given to me by a
bright woman: "We are all so tired," and the American is the victim of
his own qualities.

One, of course, acknowledges the advantages of this amazing energy, and
there are times when a stolid Englishman grows envious. A university in
America is created in ten years and endowed to the extent of millions
sterling, and equipped with chairs of which a European never dreamt, and
laboratories which border upon palaces. Libraries and picture galleries
are rising in every city, for which the treasuries of Europe have been
ransacked; and, were it not for the restriction of governments, the Old
Masters would have to be sought, not in Italy and England, but in New
York and Chicago. New towns are designed upon a scale of magnificence,
as if each were to be the capital of an empire, and are at least
outlined in building within a few years. Should it be necessary, an army
can be created within a few months, and in a couple of years a new
trade can be established which will kill its European rivals. An English
farmer with fifteen hundred acres is a considerable man, but an American
can have fifteen thousand acres and his different farm buildings will be
connected by telephone. A self-made man in England marries his daughter
to a baronet and is much lifted; but the daughter of a self-made man
in America will marry an English duke, and consider she has conferred
a benefit. When you go to a Western town, you may be taken to see a
university; if not, you are taken to a dry-goods store; each, in its own
way, is the largest of its kind. Certainly, there are stores in America
which have no rival in the Old World, and which you are expected to
visit with the same appreciation as the Duomo of Florence.

There is almost nothing that the United States does not possess, except
political purity, and nothing which an American cannot do, except rest;
and in the conflict with foreign competition, he has almost discounted
victory. Whether he be able, that is, patient and thorough in the
discovery of principles, may be a question; that he is clever, by which
one means bright and ingenious in turning principles to account, is
beyond all question. If America has not yet had time to produce a
Lord Kelvin, it has given us telephones; and if Professor Dewar has
astonished the world with his liquid air, an American trust is, it
is said, being formed to handle it for commercial purposes. If we are
thought to be dull and slow, as we travel among the most stimulating and
hospitable people on the face of the earth, let some excuse be made for
us and let our hosts share the blame. An Englishman in the United States
is half dazed, like one moving amid the ceaseless din and whirling
wheels of a huge manufactory, where the voice has to be raised to a
shriek, and a sentence compressed into a single word. He goes home
greatly humbled in his estimation of himself, and in low spirits about
the commercial future of his country. He has no bitterness, however,
within his heart, for are not these people of his own blood, and are not
their triumphs his, even if they threaten to outrun his own nation in
the race of productive commerce? And when he comes back to England, has
he not his compensations, Stratford-on-Avon, and Westminster Abbey, and
the greenery of the Home Counties, and the lights and shadows of the
Scots Lochs, and the musical voices of the English women, and the quiet,
contented, cultured English homes?



XII.--A SCOT INDEED


HE had demanded that afternoon to be told the truth, and the doctor,
himself a young Scot, had told him plainly that he could not recover,
and then he had asked, as one man speaking to another, both being brave
and honest men, when he would die, and the doctor thought early next
morning.

"Aboot daybreak," said the Scot, with much satisfaction, as if, on
the whole, he were content to die, and much pleased it would be at the
rising of the sun. He was a characteristic type of his nation, rugged
in face and dry of manner, an old man, who had drifted somehow to this
English city and was living there alone, and now he was about to die
alone, without friends and in a strange land. The nurse was very kind to
him, and her heart went out to the quiet, self-contained man. She asked
him whether he would like to see a clergyman, and explained that the
chaplain of the infirmary was a good man.

"A've nae doubt he is," said the Scot, "and that his meenistrations
would be verra acceptable to English fouk, but a've never had ony
dealin's wi' Episcopalians. He micht want to read a prayer, and I
couldna abide that, and mebbe I couldna follow the texts in his English
tongue."

The nurse still lingered by his bed. He looked up to her and assured
her he was in no need of consolation. "Saxty year ago my mither made me
learn the wale (choice portions) o' the Bible, and they're cornin' up
ane by ane to my memory, but I thank ye kindly."

As the nurse went back and forward on her duties she heard her patient
saying at intervals to himself, "I know whom I have believed."

"I am persuaded that neither life nor death." Once again she heard him,
"Although the mountains depart and the hills be removed," but the rest
she did not catch.

During the afternoon a lady came into the ward whose service to the Lord
was the visitation of the sick, a woman after the type of Barnabas
and Mary of Bethany. When she heard of the old man's illness and his
loneliness, whom no friend came to see or comfort, she went to his
bedside. "You are very ill," she said, "my friend."

"A'm deein'," he replied, with the exactness of his nation, which
somewhat fails to understand the use of graceful circumlocution and
gentle phrases.

"Is there anything I can do for you? Would you wish me to sing a few
verses of a hymn? Some sick people feel much comforted and soothed by
singing; you would like, I think, to hear 'Rock of Ages,'" and she sat
down by his bedside and opened her book, while a patient beyond, who had
caught what she said, raised his head to enjoy the singing.

"Ye're verra kind, mem, and a'm muckle obleeged to ye, but a'm a Scot
and ye're English, and ye dinna understand. A' my days have I been
protestin' against the use o' human hymns in the praise o' God; a've
left three kirks on that account, and raised my testimony in public
places, and noo would ye send me into eternity wi' the sough of a hymn
in my ears?"

For a moment the visitor had no reply, for in the course of all her
experiences, during which she had come across many kinds of men and
women, she had never yet chanced upon this kind of Scot. The patients in
the infirmary were not distinguished by their religious scruples, and if
they had scruples of such a kind they turned on large and full-blooded
distinctions between Protestant and Catholic, and never entered into
subtleties of doctrine.

"You'll excuse me, mem, for a'm no ungratefu'," he continued, "and I
would like to meet yir wishes when ye've been so kind to me. The doctor
says I canna live long, and it's possible that my strength may sune give
way, but a'll tell ye what a'm willin' to do."

The visitor waited anxiously to know what service he was going to render
her and what comfort she might offer to him, but both were beyond her
guessing.

"Sae lang as a've got strength and my reason continues clear, a'm
prepared to argue with you concerning the lawfulness of using onything
except the Psalms of David in the praise of God either in public or in
private."

Dear old Scot, the heir of many a covenanting tradition and the worthy
son of covenanting martyrs, it was a strange subject of discussion for
a man's last hour, but the man who could be true to the jots and tittles
of his faith in pain of body and in face of death was the stuff out
of which heroes and saints are made. He belonged to a nation who might
sometimes be narrow and over-concerned with scruples, but which knew
that a stand must be taken somewhere, and where it took a stand was
prepared to die.

The visitor was a wise as well as gracious woman, and grasped the heart
of the situation. "No, no," she said, "we will not speak about the
things wherein we differ, and I did not know the feeling of the Scots
about the singing of the hymns. But I can understand how you love the
Psalms and how dear to you is your metrical version. Do you know I have
been in the Highlands of Scotland and have heard the Psalms sung, and
the tears came into my eyes at the sound of the grave, sweet melody, for
it was the music of a strong and pious people."

As she spoke the hard old Scot's face began to soften, and one hand
which was lying outside the bedclothes repeated the time of a Scots
Psalm tune. He was again in the country church of his boyhood, and
saw his father and mother going into the table seats, and heard them
singing:

     "O thou, my soul, bless God the Lord,
     And all that in me is
     Be stirred up His holy name
     To magnify and bless."

"More than that, I know some of your psalm tunes, and I have the words
in my hymn book; perhaps I have one of the Psalms which you would like
to hear."

"Div ye think that ye could sing the Twenty-third Psalm--

     'The Lord's my Shepherd, I'll not want'?

for I would count it verra comfortin'."

"Yes," she said, "I can, and it will please me very much to sing it, for
I think I love that psalm more than any hymn."

"It never runs dry," murmured the Scot.

So she sang it from beginning to end in a low, sweet voice, slowly and
reverently, as she had heard it sung in Scotland. He joined in no word,
but ever he kept time with his hand and with his heart, while his eyes
looked into the things which were far away.

After she ceased he repeated to himself the last two lines:

     "And in God's house for evermore
     My dwelling place shall be."

"Thank ye, thank ye," he said, after a little pause, and then both
were silent for a few minutes, because she saw that he was in his own
country, and did not wish to bring him back by her foreign accent.

"Mem, ye've dune me the greatest kindness ony Christian could do for
anither as he stands on the banks of the Jordan."

For a minute he was silent again, and then he said: "A'm gaein' to tell
ye somethin', and I think ye'll understand. My wife and me wes married
thirty-five years, and ilka nicht of oor married life we sang a psalm
afore we gaed to rest. She took the air and I took the bass, and we sang
the Psalms through frae beginning to end twal times. She was taken frae
me ten year ago, and the nicht afore she dee'd we sang the Twenty-third
Psalm. A've never sung the psalm since, and I didna join wi' ye when ye
sang it, for a'm waitin' to sing it wi' her new in oor Father's hoose
the momin's momin', where there'll be nae nicht nor partin' evermore."

And this is how one Englishwoman found out that the Scot is at once the
dourest and the tenderest of men.



XIII.--HIS CROWNING DAY


WE will leave the main road which runs through the Glen between oak
trees which were planted fifty years ago, but are only now beginning to
join their branches, and take our way up the hillside till we come to
the purple sea of heather whose billows rise and fall, broken only here
and there by an oasis of green or a running burm. Our goal is this little
cottage which is so low that its roof merges into the hill behind,
and upon whose thatch the wild flowers have encroached. Stoop, if you
please, for it is not wise to have high doorways where the winter storm
beats so fiercely, and being respectable people, we shall be taken into
the inner room, where strangers of high degree are received and the
treasures of the family are kept. It will not take long to give an
inventory of the furniture, and the value will not run to two figures. A
box bed, a small table, four ancient chairs, what they called a chest
of drawers, and on the mantelpiece some peacocks' feathers by way of
decoration, and certain china ornaments representing animals which never
have been seen in this creation, and are never likely to emerge in any
process of evolution. Were this all, I should not have troubled you to
climb so far, or to leave even for five minutes the glory of the open
moor. There is something else in the lowly room which you might well
take a journey to see, for it is a rare sight in shepherds' cottages.
Here is a bookshelf, and on it, I declare, some dozen volumes bound in
full calf, and bearing on one side the arms of a University. You must
revise your judgment of this house, and find another measure than the
height of the walls and the cubic space in the rooms. It matters not
although a house have thirty chambers, with lofty ceilings and soft
carpets and carved furniture; if there be no books which belong to
literature within its walls it is a poor and narrow home, and the souls
therein are apt to be mean and earthly.

While you are looking at the books the shepherd's wife is looking at
you. From the moment you crossed the threshold she has been thinking of
that bookshelf, and hoping you would take notice thereof, but not for
the world would she have mentioned it by word or sign. We had our own
code of manners in the Glen, and one of our cardinal sins was "blowing,"
by which we meant boasting; and while a man though perhaps not a woman,
could be forgiven for "tasting," there was no mercy shown to the person
who allowed himself to brag. When, for instance, old David Ross's son
became a professor, his father and mother simply allowed the glorious
fact to ooze out through Domsie, who certainly had no scruple in making
the most of it, and neither the father nor mother ever said Professor in
public, although we believe they called their son nothing else between
themselves; but the Glen made up for their reticence by decorating
every second sentence about him with the word. All the same, Mistress
McPherson is watching us keenly, and she would be utterly disappointed
if we had overlooked the shelf; and now, in answer to our inquiry, she
will take us into the kitchen and place us by the fireside, that we may
hear the story of her scholar son, which, indeed, is the one romance in
the history of this humble family.

One morning John left the cottage to go to school, a shepherd's boy, and
likely, as it appeared, to herd sheep and live in the Glen all the
days of his life as his father had done before him. In the evening the
schoolmaster, who is the judge of letters in the Glen, with the minister
as a court of confirmation, came up and told the father and mother that
in the purposes of the Eternal their son was evidently destined to be
a scholar, and that upon them lay the duty of seeing that John made his
calling and election sure. Had tidings come to those two people, whose
wage in money would not amount to ten shillings a week, that they were
heirs to a fortune, it would not have brought such pleasure to their
souls as the good hope that their lowly stock would once at least in
a generation produce the white flower of a scholar's life. The whole
family, father and mother, with their grown-up sons and daughters in
service, will now unite in one labour--to save and to sacrifice, that by
hook or crook their brother may reach a university, and be sustained
in his study there till he has reached its reward. Four years from that
evening, had you been standing under the great arch by which students
enter the quadrangle of Edinburgh University, you had seen the
shepherd's son pass in, plainly dressed and shy in manner, but strong
of body and brave in soul, and charged with all the knowledge that
his schoolmaster and his minister could impart by patient, ungrudging
labour. The lad before him is a noble's son, and the one following is a
merchant's, and so sons of the rich and of the poor, of the high and
of the low, they go together, into the one Republic on the face of the
earth, the Republic of Letters, where money does not count, nor rank,
nor influence, nor intrigue, but where every man stands equal and the
best man wins.

Another four years and John has obtained his degree, a double first, and
he writes to the cottage on the side of the hill that the two old people
must come up to see him crowned. For six weeks before the day his mother
has just one consuming anxiety, and that is what she should wear on
the occasion, and it is only after fifteen long deliberations with her
gossips in the Glen that the great affair is settled, while the father's
mind is wholly taken up on Sundays with the effort to look as if he were
not the father of a graduate.

When the shepherd and his wife enter the gates of the University,
they are not to be thought of as two illiterate peasants who cannot
distinguish between a University and a dry-goods store. Although they
had never themselves expected to see so high a place, and had only
cherished it as a secret hope that perhaps one of their boys might
attain so far, they have learned by the tradition of their nation, and
by the speech of Domsie in the kirk-yard on Sabbath, to enter into
the greatness of a university. It is to them the home of the highest
knowledge, and a sacred place to which reverend people might well go
up as a pious Moslem to Mecca or a Jew to Jerusalem. As they cross the
quadrangle, the shepherd touches his wife, and points to an elderly
gentleman in the distance. They follow him with respectful attention as
he shambles along, half a dozen books under his arm, his shabby cloak
held by a single button, a hat as old as Jamie Soutar's resting on the
back of his head.

"Keep's a', Jeems," whispers Janet respectfully "Div ye really think
that he's a professor?"

"We canna be sure, woman; he micht juist be a scholar, but I am judgin'
that he's a professor--he hes a' the appearance."

And the two old people stand still in the bit till he disappears, and
then they go on their way much lifted. Outside religion there is no word
in Scots speech so sacred as "professor." It means a semi-heavenly
body charged with Latin and Greek philosophy and mathematics. It was
something to see such a man, and to be in his company was living in an
atmosphere where you might catch the infection of his learning. When a
glensman, to whom Domsie had spoken of professors with bated breath for
more than a generation, learned that in southern parts the title was
assumed by hairdressers and ventriloquists, and that they were not sent
to gaol for profanity, then Drumtochty discovered another argument for
its favourite doctrine of original sin.

As the two go down the half-lit passage to the hall of graduation, they
are met by a majestic figure--a young man in evening dress, and over
it the gown of an M.A., with its white silk hood, and on his head the
Master's cap.

"Are you coming, may I ask," said he, with quite a nice English accent,
to the graduation ceremony, "and can I be of any service?"

"We are, sir; and as we are strangers frae the country, we would be
muckle obleeged if ye could shew us the door. We dinna want to go where
the gentry are sittin', but if ye would juist tak' us where we could
see, we'd be content and terrible pleased. There's a... friend to get
his degree to-day, and my man and me would like to see him."

"Mither," said the figure, "and ye dinna ken yir ain son," for he had
taken them in well, and played his little trick with much success. They
had never seen him in evening dress, nor in his Master's robe, and the
light was as darkness; besides, he had dropped the accent of the Glen.
The father and the son laughed together joyfully at Janet, but she
declared that she had known him all the time, and put it to them if a
mother could be mistaken about her son. But she didn't know him all the
same, and as long as she lived it was a pleasant jest between them when
he came north to visit them, and she met him at the garden gate. "Well,
mither," he would say, "div ye ken yir son the day?"

Janet was well pleased that one should tease her in after times about
this ploy of John's, for it always gave her an opportunity of describing
how handsome he looked in his black and white silk, and of stating that
she. Mistress McPherson, wife of James McPherson, shepherd at Camashach,
considered the dress of a Master of Arts the handsomest that a man could
wear.

John took his father and mother into the hall, and placed them in the
seats reserved for the friends of graduates, and while a man has various
moments of pure joy in his life, there is none sweeter than when he
brings his mother to see him crowned at the close of his university
career. For in this matter he owes everything to two people--the
schoolmaster who taught him and the mother who inspired him.

"Now, mither, you watch that door yonder, for through it the procession
will come; and when ye see the men wi' the white silk hoods, ye'll ken
that I'm there, and ye'll surely no mistake me again."

He was so provoking, and he looked so handsome with the flush of the day
upon his cheek, that, as he stooped over her, she was about to give him
a little shove and tell him not to give "any more impi-dence to his auld
mither," when she remembered where she was sitting, and the grand folk
round her, and so she only answered with a demure nod of intelligence.

She brought out her glasses, and the shepherd polished them carefully
for her because her hands were trembling, and for that matter he had
almost to put them on her nose, so shaken was she on this great day; and
then she watched the door, as if there was nothing else in all the hall
except that door. It seemed to her twelve hours before it opened and the
procession streamed through with many a famous man and many a coloured
garment. Janet had no eyes for the Chancellor in his purple and gold,
nor for the robes of red and the hoods of lemon silk bordered with white
fur, for there was nothing beautiful in her eyes that day except black
gowns with white silk upon them. When at last the Masters of Arts
appeared, she told me afterwards many and many a time in the Glen that
they were a body of very respectable-looking young men, but that among
them all there was only one outstanding and handsome man, and that, by a
curious accident which mothers only can explain, happened to be her
son. She followed him as he came down the passage, and was a little
disappointed that he was now carrying his trencher in his hand instead
of wearing it-on his head, and she saw him take his seat, and could
hardly forgive some great lady in front of her, whose bonnet, coming in
the line of vision, prevented her catching anything except a little bit
of John's shoulder with the white silk upon it. A little later, and she
watched him rise and go forward and kneel before the Chancellor, and
then there was said over him Latin words so magical that after they were
spoken a student was changed from a common man into a Master of Arts.
We used to say in our jesting that the Latin could not be translated, it
was so mysterious and awful, but the shepherd's wife and John's mother
was an accomplished Latin scholar that day, and she heard the Chancellor
say, as distinctly as ever man spoke--

"John McPherson, you are the tallest, strongest, handsomest, ablest,
kindest-hearted son whom this University ever made Master of Arts."
That was a free translation, but it was true in spirit, and the letter
killeth.

Standing behind the Chancellor, and looking down upon the hall, I saw
the faces of the shepherd and his wife, and I knew that they would never
taste such perfect joy again till they entered through the gates into
the city, and then I longed to be lifted above all circumstances, and to
have the power of the fairy world, where you do what you please. For I
should have gone down into the hall, and held a special and unheard-of
graduation ceremony, conferring a degree of a new kind altogether upon
that shepherd and his wife, because without their unworldly ideals, and
their hard sacrifices, and their holy prayers, John McPherson had never
knelt there that day in his white silk glory, Master of Arts with the
highest honours.



XIV.--"DINNA FORGET SPURGEON"


IS varied charge was given to the good man on the morning of market day
as he brought the mare out from the stable, as he harnessed her into the
dogcart, as he packed the butter basket below the seat, as he wrestled
into his top coat, worn for ceremony's sake, and as he made the
start--line upon line and precept upon precept as he was able to receive
it; but the conclusion of the matter and its crown was ever the same,
"Dinna forget Spurgeon."

"There's twal pund o' butter for the grocer, the best ever left this
dairy, and he maun gie a shillin,' or it's the laist Andra Davie'ill get
frae me; but begin by askin' fourteenpence, else it's eleven ye'll bring
back. He's a lad, is Andra, an' terrible grippy.

"For ony sake tak' care o' the eggs, and mind they're no turnips ye're
handlin'--it's a fair temptin' o' Providence to see the basket in yir
hands--ninepence a dozen, mind, and tell him they're new laid an' no
frae Ireland; there's a handfu' o' flowers for the wife, and a bit o'
honey for their sick laddie, but say naethin' o' that till the bargain's
made.

"The tea and sugar a've markit on a bit paper, for it's nae use bringin'
a bag o' grass-seed, as ye did fower weeks ago; an' there's ae thing
mair I micht mention, for ony sake dinna pit the paraffin oil in the
same basket wi' the loaf sugar; they may fit fine, as ye said, but
otherwise they're no gude neeburs. And, John, dinna forget Spurgeon."

Again and again during the day, and in the midst of many practical
operations, the good wife predicted to her handmaidens what would
happen, and told them, as she had done weekly, that she had no hope.

"It's maist awfu' hoo the maister'ill gae wanderin' and dodderin' thro'
the market a' day, pricing cattle he's no gaein' tae buy, an' arguin'
aboot the rent o' farms he's no gaein' to tak', an' never gie a thocht
tae the errands till the laist meenut.

"He may bring hame some oil," she would continue, gloomily, as if that
were the one necessity of life to which a male person might be expected
to give attention; "but ye needna expect ony tea next week"--as if there
was not a week's stock in the house--"and ye may tak' ma word for it
there'ill be nae Spurgeon's sermon for Sabbath."

As the provident woman had written every requirement--except the oil,
which was obtained at the ironmonger's, and the Spurgeon, which was
sold at the draper's--on a sheet of paper, and pinned it on the topmost
cabbage leaf which covered the butter, the risk was not great; but that
week the discriminating prophecy of the good man's capabilities seemed
to be justified, for the oil was there, but Spurgeon could not be found.
It was not in the bottom of the dogcart, nor below the cushion,
nor attached to a piece of saddlery, nor even in the good man's
trouser-pocket--all familiar resting-places--and when it was at last
extricated from the inner pocket of his top coat--a garment with which
he had no intimate acquaintance--he received no credit, for it was
pointed out with force that to have purchased the sermon and then to
have mislaid it, was worse than forgetting it altogether.

"The Salvation of Manasseh," read the good wife; "it would have been a
fine like business to have missed that; a'll warrant this 'ill be ane
o' his sappiest, but they're a' gude": and then Manasseh was put in a
prominent and honourable place, behind the basket of wax flowers in the
best parlour till Sabbath.

It was the good custom in that kindly home to ask the "lads" from the
bothie into the kitchen on the Sabbath evening, who came in their
best clothes and in much confusion, sitting on the edge of chairs and
refusing to speak on any consideration. They made an admirable meal,
however, and were understood to express gratitude by an attempt at "gude
nicht," while the foreman stated often with the weight of his authority
that they were both "extraordinar' lifted" by the tea and "awfu' ta'en
up" with the sermon. For after tea the "maister" came "but," and having
seen that every person had a Bible, he gave out a Psalm, which was
sung usually either to Coleshill or Martyrdom--the musical taste of the
household being limited and conservative to a degree. The good man then
read the chapter mentioned on the face of the sermon, and remarked by
way of friendly introduction:

"Noo we'ill see what Mr. Spurgeon has to say the nicht."

Perhaps the glamour of the past is on me, perhaps a lad was but a
poor judge, but it seemed to me good reading--slow, well pronounced,
reverent, charged with tenderness and pathos. No one slept or moved, and
the firelight falling on the serious faces of the stalwart men, and the
shining of the lamp on the good grey heads, as the gospel came, sentence
by sentence, to every heart, is a sacred memory, and I count that Mr.
Spurgeon would have been mightily pleased to have been in such meetings
of homely folk.

It was harvest-time, however, when Manasseh was read, and there being
extra men with us, our little gathering was held in the loft, where they
store the com which is to be threshed in the mill. It was full of wheat
in heavy, rich, ripe, golden sheaves, save a wide space in front of the
machinery, and the congregation seated themselves in a semi-circle on
the sheaves. The door through which the com is forked into the loft
was open and, with a skylight in the low dusty roof, gave us, that fine
August evening, all the light we needed. Through that wide window we
could look out on some stacks already safely built, and on fields,
stretching for miles, of grain cut and ready for the gathering and,
beyond, to woods and sloping hills towards which the sun was westering
fast. That evening, I remember, we sang

     "I to the hills will lift mine eyes."

and sang it to French, and it was laid on me as an honour to read
"Manasseh." Whether the sermon is called by this name I do not know, and
whether it be one of the greatest of Mr. Spurgeon's I do not know, nor
have I a copy of it; but it was mighty unto salvation in that loft, and
I make no doubt that good grain was garnered unto eternity. There is
a passage in it when, after the mercy of God has rested on this chief
sinner, an angel flies through the length and breadth of Heaven, crying,
"Manasseh is saved, Manasseh is saved." Up to that point the lad read,
and further he did not read. You know, because you have been told, how
insensible and careless is a schoolboy, how destitute of all sentiment
and emotion... and therefore I do not ask you to believe me. You know
how dull and stupid is a plowman, because you have been told... and
therefore I do not ask you to believe me.

It was the light which got into the lad's eyes, and the dust which
choked his voice, and it must have been for the same reasons that a
plowman passed the back of his hand across his eyes.

"Ye'ill be tired noo," said the good man; "let me feenish the sermon,"
but the sermon is not yet finished, and never shall be, for it has been
unto life everlasting.

Who of all preachers you can mention of our day could have held such
companies save Spurgeon? What is to take their place, when the last
of those well-known sermons disappears from village shops and cottage
shelves? Is there any other gospel which will ever be so understanded of
the people, or so move human hearts as that which Spurgeon preached in
the best words of our own tongue? The good man and his wife have entered
into rest long ago, and of all that company I know not one now; but
I see them as I write, against that setting of gold, and I hear the
angel's voice, "Manasseh is saved," and for that evening and others very
sacred to my heart I cannot forget Spurgeon.



XV.--THEIR FULL RIGHTS


THE departure of a minister of the Scots Kirk from his congregation is,
of course, a subject of regret if he has the heart of the people, but
this regret is tempered by the satisfaction of knowing that there
will be an election. While a free-born Scot is careful to exercise
his political suffrage, he takes an even keener interest in his
ecclesiastical vote, and the whole congregation now constitutes itself
into a constituency. Every preacher is a candidate, and everything about
him is criticised, from his appearance--in one district they would not
have a red-headed man; and his dress--in another district they objected
to grey trousers, up to his voice and to his doctrine; but, of course,
the keenest criticism bears upon his doctrine, which is searched as with
a microscope. As a rule there is no desire to close the poll early,
for a year's vacancy is a year's enjoyment to the congregation giving
endless opportunity for argument and debate for strategy and party
management. One congregation had been ruled so firmly by the retiring
pastor, who was a little man and therefore full of authority, that they
hardly dared to call their souls their own.

If any one ventured to disagree with this ecclesiastical Napoleon he
was ordered to the door and told to betake himself to some church where
freedom of action was allowed. This magnificent autocracy might have
emptied another church, but it secured a Scots kirk, because to tell a
Scot to go is to make, him stay. As a matter of course, no person did
leave, for that would have been giving in, and the consequence was that
the whole congregation was knit together by the iron bonds of rebellion.

When Napoleon retired the congregation smacked its lips, for now at
least every one had found his voice and could go his own way. There
never was such a vacancy known in the district. They heard thirty
candidates and rejected them all: they held a meeting every week, which
lasted till midnight, and there were six motions proposed, and no one
dreamed of agreement. It was like the emancipation of the slaves, and
the whole of Scotch cantankerousness came to a height. Every obscure
law was hunted up in order to be used against the other side, and every
well-known law they endeavoured to break. Not because they did not
know the law, but because they wanted to find out whether the presiding
minister knew it. This poor man had the duty of conducting the meetings
of the congregation, and was utterly unfitted for the position by his
exceeding goodness. He was a pious and soft-hearted man, who used to
address them as "dear brethren," and appealed to them on the grounds of
harmony and charity. "You will wish to be at one," he used to say, when
they all really wished to be at sixes and sevens, or, "I am sure," he
would say, "you didn't mean to oppose our dear brother who has just
spoken," when that had been the speaker's intention for twenty-four
hours. One party was led by a tall, raw-boned Scot, with a voice like a
handsaw, who opposed everything, and the other was really managed by the
wife of one of the elders, who could be heard giving directions _sotto
voce_ how to meet the handsaw. They finally drew the wretched acting
moderator to distraction, so that his head, which was never so good as
his heart, gave way, and he required six months' rest in a hydropathic.

The Presbytery then sent down a minister of another kind, fairly
equipped in law and with no bowels of mercy; a civil, courteous,
determined, fighting man, and there was a royal evening. This minister
explained that they had held many meetings, most of which were
unnecessary, and that they had proposed fifty motions, all of which he
believed were illegal. It was his own conviction he freely stated that
they knew perfectly well that they had been wrong, and that they had
simply been amusing themselves, and he concluded by intimating that they
had met for business on this occasion, that a minister must be elected
before departing, and it was his business to see that he was elected
unanimously. He stood facing the congregation, who were now in a high
state of delight, feeling that there was going to be a real battle, and
that there would be some glory in contending with an able-bodied man,
who would not speak about charity, and say "dear brethren"--words which
always excite a secret feeling of disgust in a Scot. The minister stood
up opposite the congregation, tall, square and alert. "Will you pay
attention and I'll lay down the law; if any one breaks the law he must
sit down at once, and if he does not, I shall not allow him to vote. You
can propose any candidate who is legally qualified, and I will allow one
man to propose him and another to second him, and I will give each five
minutes in which to speak to the excellence of his candidate, and the
moment any person refers to another candidate he must stop. When the
candidates have been proposed we shall take the vote, and we shall go on
voting until we settle upon the candidate who has the majority, and we
will do all this in an hour, and then we will sing a Psalm and go home."

During this address several stalwart fighters were seen to nod to one
another, and one went the length of slapping his leg, and already the
moderator had acquired the respect of his turbulent congregation.
The handsaw arose and proposed his candidate, and almost immediately
attacked the other party. "Sit down, sir," said the moderator, "you're
out of order," and after a brief stare of amazement and a measuring of
the force against him, the handsaw gave a glance around and collapsed.
A candidate was proposed from the other side, but his name was hardly
mentioned before the mover commenced to refer to the handsaw. "You are
out of order," said the moderator; "not another word," and, although the
female leader of that side nodded to him to go on, he thought better,
and also collapsed. Then an astute old strategist at the back, who had
embroiled many a meeting, and who was sitting with a law book in
his hand, proposed that they should delay the election until another
meeting. "That motion," said the moderator, "I shall not receive. We
have not met to delay; we have met to vote." Whereupon another Scot
arose and stated that he had risen to a point of order, which is always
the excuse by which the proceedings can be interrupted. "What," he said,
"I want to know is this: Is it regular to vote when there was no notice
given that the voting was to take place?" "There was notice given," said
the moderator; "sit down in your place." "Can I not object?" he said.
"No," he said, "you can't." He looked around the meeting. "What," he
said, "is the use of being a Presbyterian if I am not allowed to object?
I might as well be an Episcopalian." The moderator, still standing, eyed
him, and said: "Are you going to sit down or are you not?" "Do you order
me to sit down in your private or in your public capacity?" said the
recalcitrant. "As a man or as a moderator?" For nothing delights a Scot
more than to make this contrast between public and private capacity,
like the Scotch magistrate, who said, "In my public capacity I fine you
five shillings for the assault; in my private capacity I would have done
the same myself." "As moderator," said the minister, "I command you to
take your place." "I consent--I consent," said the Scot, with infinite
relish, like a man who had had a wrestling match and had been fairly
beaten, and he leant back to a friend behind, saying, "Sall, he's a lad,
the moderator," for this is the way in which a man wins respect from
Scots. In a moment he had risen again. "Moderator," he said, "ye
commanded me in yir official capacity to sit doon, and I obeyed,
but"--and there was a silence through the church--"I'll no sit down
for that woman," indicating the elder's wife. "She would turn round and
order me to sit down as if I had been her husband, but, moderator," he
said, "I thank the Almichty I'm not."

Greatly cheered by this episode, the congregation proceeded to vote, the
leaders taking objections to different voters, which were all overruled
by the moderator, who was now going from strength to strength. And then
at last a minister was elected by a large majority. "Now," said the
moderator, "you've had a fair fight and a year's argument, and there is
not a privilege you have not used, and you have done a thousand things
you had no right to do, and I appeal to the minority to agree with
the majority, as Scots ought to do when they have had their rights."
Whereupon the handsaw arose and declared that he was never prouder of
the Scotch Church than he had been during the last year, and that in all
his life he had never spent a happier time. "We've had a grand argument
and richt stand up fecht, and now," he said, "I'm willing, for masel,
and I speak for my friends, to accept the minister that's been elected,
for I consider him to be a soond preacher and vary spiritual in the
exercises. The fact is," he added, "I would have been content with him
at ony time, but it would have been a peety to have had an immediate
election and to have missed this year. When he comes he'll have my
hearty support, and I'm willing to agree that he should have a proper
stipend, and that the manse be papered and painted and put in order for
his coming." As he sat down he could be heard over all the church saying
to himself with immense satisfaction, "It's been a michty time, and the
law's been well laid down this nicht." The minister gave out the Psalm--

     "How good a thing it is, and
     How becoming well,
     To gather such as brethren are
     In unity to dwell!"

Which was sung with immense spirit, and, after the benediction, every
man whom the minister had ordered to sit down came up and shook hands
with him, assuring him that they knew all the time that he was right,
and that they respected him for his ability. They also entreated him
to come and administer the sacrament before the new minister arrived,
believing that a man who could rule with so firm a hand would be an
acceptable preacher of the gospel.



XVI.--AN EXPERT IN HERESY


EVERY country has its own sports, and Scotland has golf, but golf only
satisfies the lighter side of the Scots; the graver side of the Scot
finds its exercise in the prosecution of a heretic. Nothing so delights
this theological and argumentative people as a heresy hunt, and they
have no more ill-will to a heretic than sportsmen have to a fox. It
sometimes occurs to me that they dally with cases in order that they may
be prolonged, and that the sportsmen may have a good run after the
fox. I have even dared to think that they would be willing to preserve
heretics as foxes are preserved in hunting counties in order that they
might have a good time now and again. Every one throws himself into a
heresy case, from the highest to the lowest, from the Duke in his castle
to the shepherd on the hills, from the lawyer in his office to the
railway guard in his van. They all read about it and form their opinion,
and take sides and watch the event, and the issue of the case is a
national incident. From the conflict of wits, in which the hardest heads
have tried conclusions on the deepest subjects, the people return to
business shrewder than ever, more confident and self-satisfied.

We had missed the connexion, and the North train had gone fifteen
minutes ago, and how I was to reach the station of Pitrodie that night
was a question beyond solution. The station master could give no help,
and only suggested that I might sleep at the inn and take the morning
train, but in that case I would have been too late for the funeral to
which I was going. When he heard the nature of my errand he bestirred
himself with much more zeal, for, although a Scot may not facilitate
your journey for a marriage, which he regards as an event of very
doubtful utility, and associated with little geniality, he is always
ready to assist you to a funeral to which the heart of the Scotch people
goes out with pathetic interest.

"Would you mind travelling in the guard's van of a luggage train and ye
would be in fine time?"

On the contrary, I would be delighted, for I had never travelled in such
circumstances, and the guard's van would be a pleasant variety upon a
third-class carriage.

The guard received me with considerable cordiality and gave me his
seat in the van, which was decorated with pictures of kirks and eminent
divines. For a while he was engaged with various duties, shunting trucks
and making up his train, but after we had started and were out upon the
line he came and placed himself opposite.

"Now," he said, "we've a run of twenty miles, and it's not likely we'll
be interrupted, for the rails are clear at this time of night, and we're
an express goods. I regard it," he said, "as a providence that ye lost
yer train, for if I'd been asked what I would like this very nicht I
would ha said, 'Gie me a minister.'"

When I expressed my pleasure at his respect for the cloth, and my
willingness to be of any service to him, he waved his hand as one
does who has been misunderstood. "It's no," he said, "releegious
conversation that I'm wantin', although I'm willing enough to have that
at a time, but there's a point in the Robertson-Smith heresy case that I
would like to have cleared up to my satisfaction."

A tall and grey-bearded man, about fifty years of age, with a keen eye
and a shrewd face, he leant forward from his place, and, with the light
of the lamp shining on his face, he began: "Now, ye see, the first
article in the libel against Prof. Robertson-Smith has to do with the
construction of the Book of Deuteronomy," but I will not inflict what he
said, for it took ten miles of the railway to open up his point. As we
rattled along the birling of the heavy break van was like music to words
of sonorous sound--"Pentateuch," "Mosaic Authorship," "Confession of
Faith."

For another ten miles we discussed the length and breadth of the eminent
Hebrew scholar's views till we reached a crisis, which happened also to
be a junction on the railway. "One minute," he said, "and we maun stop,
for we're coming to the junction." The point we were at was the place
of the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament. "Now, I contend," he
continued, "that it hes to be read spiritually, and I've given three
reasons. I've three mair, but I maun shunt the trucks. I'll be back in
ten minutes, and ye'll not forget that the discussion is no closed
but just adjourned, and I've the richt to give the other three reasons
before ye reply." And then, after the three had been given and thirty
more, we parted as the day was breaking. At Pitrodie station he crossed
the platform with me, and shook hands till my bones were almost broken.

"It's been a very edifying nicht, and I'll gie fair consideration to all
your arguments. Mind ye, I'm proud o' the Professor, for he's a michty
scholar, and I wouldna like to see him put out o' the kirk, but I'm
jalousing that he's a heretic." I stood at a turn of the road and saw
the train pass, and my friend waved his hand to me from the back of the
van, but I could see him sadly shake his head. He was still jalousing
(suspecting) that Prof. Robertson-Smith was a heretic.



XVII.--THE SCOT AT AN ARGUMENT


IT is difficult for one nation to perfectly understand another, and
there is a certain quality of the Scots' intellect which is apt to try
the patience of an Englishman. It is said that an Englishman was once
so exasperated by the arguing by a Scot, who took the opposite side on
every subject from the weather to politics, that at last he cried out in
despair: "You will admit at least that two and two make four," to which
the delighted Scot replied with celerity, "I'll admit naething, but I'm
willing to argue the proposition." It is not recorded whether the Scot
escaped alive, but it is hardly possible to believe that he was not
assaulted. You may be the most conciliatory of people, and may even be
cleansed from all positive opinions--one of those people who are said to
be agreeable because they agree with everybody; and yet a thoroughbred
Scot will in ten minutes or less have you into a tangle of prickly
arguments, and hold you at his mercy, although afterwards you cannot
remember how you were drawn from the main road into the bramble patch,
and you are sure that the only result was the destruction of your peace
of mind for an afternoon. But the Scot enjoyed himself immensely, and
goes on with keen zest to ambush some other passenger. What evil
spirit of logic has possessed this race? an English person cannot
help complaining, and why should any person find his pleasure in wordy
debate?

From his side of the Tweed and of human nature the Scot is puzzled and
pained by the inconsequence and opportunism of the English mind. After
a Scot, for instance, has proved to his Southern opponent that some
institution is absolutely illogical, that it ought never to have
existed, and ought at once to be abolished, and after the Scot pursuing
his victorious way of pure reason, has almost persuaded himself that
a thing so absurd never has existed, the Englishman, who has been
very much bored by the elaborate argument, will ask with a monstrous
callousness whether the institution does not work well, and put forward
with brazen effrontery the plea that if an institution works well, it
does not matter whether it be logical or not. Then it is that a Scot
will look at an Englishman in mournful silence and wonder upon what
principle he was created.

The traveller no sooner crosses the border from the genial and
irresponsible South than he finds himself in a land where a nation forms
one huge debating society, and there is a note of interrogation in the
very accent of speech. When an English tourist asked his driver what
was the reason of so many religious denominations in Scotland, and the
driver, looking down upon a village with six different kirks, answered,
"Juist bad temper, naething else," he was indulging his cynicism and
knew very well that he was misinforming the stranger.

While it is absolutely impossible to make plain to an average Englishman
the difference between one kirk and another in Scotland, yet every one
has its own logical basis, and indeed when one considers the subtlety
and restlessness of the Scots intellect he wonders, not that there
have been so many divisions, but that there have been so few in Scots
religion. By preference a Scot discusses Theology, because it is the
deepest subject and gives him the widest sphere for his dialectic
powers, but in default of Theology he is ready to discuss anything else,
from the Game Laws to the character of Mary, Queen of Scots. He is the
guardian of correct speech and will not allow any inaccuracy to pass,
and therefore you never know when in the hurry of life you may not
be caught and rebuked. When I asked a porter in Stirling Station one
afternoon at what hour the train for Aberfoyle left I made a mistake
of which I speedily repented. _The_ train for Aberfoyle--I had assumed
there was only one train that afternoon, for this beautiful but remote
little place. Very good, that was then the position I had taken up and
must defend. The porter licked his lips with anticipation of victory,
for he held another view. "_The_ train for Aberfoyle," he repeated
triumphantly. "Whatna train div ye mean?"--then severely as one exposing
a hasty assumption--"there's a train at 3.10, there's another at 3.60,
there's another at 6.30" (or some such hours). He challenged me to reply
or withdraw, and his voice was ringing with controversy. When I made an
abject surrender he was not satisfied, but pursued me and gained another
victory. "Very good," I said, "then what train should I take?" He was
now regarding me with something like contempt, an adversary whom it was
hardly worth fighting with. That depended on circumstances he did not
know and purposes which I had not told him. He could only pity me. "How
can I tell," he said, "what train ye should go by, ye can go by ony
train that suits ye, but yir luggage, being booked through, will travel
by the 3.10." During our conversation my portmanteau which I had placed
under his charge was twice removed from its barrow in the shifting of
the luggage, and as my friend watched its goings (without interfering)
he relaxed from his intellectual severity and allowed himself a jest
suitable to my capacity. "That's a lively portmanteau o' yours. I'm
judging that if ye set it on the road it would go Aberfoyle itsel'."
When we parted on a basis of free silver he still implied a reproach,
"so ye did conclude to go by the 3.10, but" (showing how poor were my
reasoning faculties even after I had used them) "ye would have been as
soon by the 3.50." For a sustained and satisfying bout of argument one
must visit a Scot in his home and have an evening to spare. Was it not
Carlyle's father who wrote to Tom that a man had come to the village
with a fine ability for argument, and that he only wished his son were
with them and then he would set Tom on one side of the table and this
man on the other place, and "a proposeetion" between them, and hear them
argue for the night? But one may get pleasant glimpses of the national
sport on railway journeys and by the roadside. A farmer came into the
carriage one summer afternoon, as I was travelling through Ayrshire, who
had been attending market and had evidently dined. He had attended to
the lighter affairs of life in the sale of stock and the buying of a
reaping machine, and now he was ready for the more serious business of
theological discussion. He examined me curiously but did not judge
me worthy, and after one or two remarks on the weather with which I
hastened to agree, he fell into a regretful silence as of one losing
his time. Next station a minister entered, and the moment my
fellow-passenger saw the white tie his eyes glistened, and in about
three minutes they were actively engaged, the farmer and the Minister,
discussing the doctrine of justification. The Minister, as in duty
bound, took the side of justification by faith, and the farmer, simply I
suppose to make debate and certainly with a noble disregard of personal
interests--for he had evidently dined--took the side of works. Perhaps
it may seem as if it was an unequal match between the Minister and the
farmer, since the one was a professional scholar and the other a
rustic amateur. But the difference was not so great as a stranger might
imagine, for if a minister be as it were a theological specialist every
man in Scotland is a general practitioner. And if the latter had his
own difficulties in pronouncing words he was always right in the text
he intended. They conducted their controversy with much ability till we
came to the farmer's station, and then he left still arguing, and with
my last glimpse of that admirable Scot he was steadying himself against
a post at the extremity of the platform, and this was his final
fling: "I grant ye Paul and the Romans, but I take my stand on James."
Wonderful country where the farmers, even after they have dined, take
to theology as a pastime. What could that man not have done before he
dined.

In earlier days, the far back days of youth, I knew a rustic whose
square and thick-set figure was a picture of his sturdy and indomitable
mind. He was slow of speech and slow also of mind, but what he knew he
held with the grip of a vice and he would yield nothing in conversation.
If you said it was raining (when it might be pouring) he would reply
that it was showery. If you declared a field of com to be fine he said
that he had seen "waur" (worse), and if you praised a sermon he
granted that it wasna bad; and in referring to a minister distinguished
throughout the land for his saintliness he volunteered the judgment that
there was "naething positively veecious in him." Many a time did I try,
sometimes to browbeat him, and sometimes to beguile him into a positive
statement and to get him to take up a position from which he could
not withdraw. I was always beaten, and yet once I was within an ace of
success. We had bought a horse on the strength of a good character
from a dealer, and were learning the vanity of speech in all horse
transactions, for there was nothing that beast did not do of the things
no horse ought to do, and one morning after it had tried to get at James
with its hind legs, and then tried to bring him down with its fore legs,
had done its best to bite him, and also manoeuvred to crush him against
a wall, I hazarded the suggestion that our new purchase was a vicious
brute. He caught the note of assurance in my voice, and saw that he had
been trapped; he cast an almost pathetic look at me as if I was inviting
him to deny his national character and betray a historic part of
unbroken resistance. He hesitated and looked for a way of escape while
he skilfully warded off another attack, this time with the teeth, and
his face brightened. "Na!" he replied, "I'll no admit that the horse
is veecious, we maun hae more experience o' him afore we can pass sic a
judgment, but"--and now he just escaped a playful tap from the horse's
fore-leg--"I'm prepared to admit that this momin' he is a wee thingie
liteegious." And so victory was snatched from my hand, and I was again
worsted.

If the endless arguing of the Scot be wearisome to strangers and one
would guess is a burden to himself, yet it has its advantages. It has
been a discipline for the Scots mind, and the endless disputations on
doctrine and kirks as well as more trifling matters like history and
politics has toughened the Scots brain and brought it to a fine edge.
When I hear a successful Scot speak lightly of the Shorter Catechism,
then I am amazed and tempted to despise him, for it was by that means
that he was sent forth so acute and enterprising a man, and any fortune
he has made he owes to its training. He has been trained to think and
to reason, to separate what is true from what is false, to use the
principles of speech and test the subtlest meaning of words, and
therefore, if he be in business, he is a banker by preference, because
that is the science of commerce, and if he be an artizan, he becomes an
engineer because that is the most skilful trade, and as a doctor he is
spread all over the world. Wherever hard thinking and a determined will
tell in the world's work this self-reliant and uncompromising man is
sure to succeed, and if his mind has not the geniality and flexibility
of the English, if it secretly hates the English principle of
compromise, and suspects the English standard of commonsense, if it be
too unbending and even unreasonably logical, this only proves that no
one nation, not even the Scots, can possess the whole earth.



XVIII.--UPON THE LECTURE PLATFORM


THERE are four places where a man may lecture, exclusive of the open
air, which is reserved for political demonstrations and religious
meetings, and I arrange the four in order of demerit. The worst is,
beyond question, a church, because ecclesiastical architects have no
regard for acoustics, and a lecturer is apt to crack his voice yelling
into the corners of churches.

People come to a church, also, in a chastened mood, and sit as if they
were listening to a sermon, so that the unhappy lecturer receives little
encouragement of applause or laughter, and, if he happens to be himself
a clergyman, is hindered from doing anything to enliven the audience.
Besides, the minister of the church will feel it his duty to introduce
the leading members of his congregation after the lecture, and a
reception of this kind in the vestry is the last straw on a weary
lecturer's back. He cannot, however, refuse because he is a fellow
professional, and knows that his discourtesy may be set to the debit of
the minister. Next in badness is a public hall, because it is so bare
and cheerless, and on account of its size is difficult to fill with
an audience, and still more difficult with the voice. Drill halls,
especially, are heart-breaking places, because they are constructed
for the voices of commanding officers shouting "right wheel," "march,"
"fire," and such like martial exhortations.

There is also another objection to halls from the lecturer's standpoint,
and that is the accessibility of the platform. Usually there are two
sets of steps, which the audience consider have been constructed in
order that they may come on the platform in a body and shake hands with
the lecturer. If a lecturer be a human being, he is always glad to see
two or three of his fellow-creatures, especially if they say something
encouraging, but just because he is a human being and has spoken for an
hour and a half, he is apt to lose heart when he sees half of his large
audience, say seven hundred people, processing in his direction.

It is on such an occasion that he is full of gratitude to a manager who
will come in with his travelling coat and march the lecturer out at
the back door, as a man in haste to catch his train or on any other
pretence.

A lecturer may count himself fortunate, and need have no anxiety about
circumstances, who speaks from the stage of a theatre, because he will
have his whole audience within convenient compass, and focussed upon
him, and although he comes down to a whisper he will still be heard.
When you lecture at a theatre you are known as the "star," and as you
cross the dark and mysterious under-world behind the stage you hear some
one crying: "This way to the star's room," which generally turns out to
be the room of the leading actress, where you may spend a quarter of an
hour in seeing yourself in the innumerable mirrors, and examining the
long array of toilet instruments on the table.

Theatrical people are most sympathetic and good-natured, and although
they may not have the faintest idea who you are or what you are going to
do, they always wish you well, and congratulate you if there is a good
house. Their own house may not have been good last night, but they are
glad if yours is good to-day.

The crowning advantage of a theatre to a nervous and hard-wrought
lecturer is its seclusion. You get in and out by the stage door, and
there is not one person in a hundred of your audience could find that
door, and if he did he would not get admittance. From the floor to the
stage there is no way, and when you pass behind the curtain you are
beyond reach even of an interviewer.

When I become an impresario I shall never allow my "star" to be seen,
except on the platform, and after he has done his work I will remove him
swiftly in a closed conveyance. In this way I shall lay him under a debt
of gratitude, and keep him in good humour, and get out of him a third
more work. As I have no idea of entering on this business at present,
I offer the hint to all impresarios everywhere, with my respectful
compliments.

If a lecturer could always choose--which practically he never can do
at all--he would prefer to lecture to a club of men and women in their
club-room, or in the large drawing-room of a private house. He will then
address a limited number of bright people who are at their best; he can
talk as at a dinner-table and make his point easily; he can venture on
an aside, or stop to tell an anecdote, and after an hour or so he will
be as little fatigued as when he began. When the lecture is over he
mixes with his audience and in a minute is a private individual. This
is the very refinement and luxury of lecturing, which a lecturer enjoys
only on rare occasions.

Local arrangements differ very much, and some of them are rather trying
to a lecturer. There are places where a regular procession is formed
and marches to the platform, headed by a local dignitary, and made up
of clergymen, magistrates, little millionaires, and public characters
of all kinds and degrees. In midst thereof the lecturer marches like a
criminal being taken to the scaffold.

Once I discovered in the ante-room a magnificent embroidered robe, and
the insane idea took possession of my mind that it was intended for the
lecturer. Had it been put upon me there would have been no lecture, for
I should have been smothered with its greatness and its grandeur. I
was still regarding it with horror and perspiring freely when the chief
magistrate of the city came in, and it was put on his shoulders by two
liveried servants, who then decorated us all, from the chief magistrate
down to myself, with flowers. The servants marched first into the hall,
the great man followed, and I crept, following behind his majestic
figure (which was received with frantic howls of applause), and this was
the grandest entry I ever made upon the lecture platform.

In some places there is a chairman--I shall have something to say
about chairmen--and votes of thanks, first to the lecturer, then to the
chairman and to other people who have had some connexion or other with
the matter, till a third of the time is taken up by local talk and the
lecturer is put to confusion.

For votes of thanks I have personally an intense dislike, because the
movers refer to one in terms which might suitably apply to William
Shakespeare (one enthusiastic admirer preferred me to Shakespeare,
because, although he classed us together as occupying a solitary
position, I had the advantage of being more sentimental). As a lecturer
on Scots subjects I have a horror of other speakers, because they feel
it necessary to tell Scots stories without knowing the dialect, and
generally without knowing the story.

Certain places are very business-like in their arrangements, and the
smartest in this respect is, curious to say, not in America, but in
England. You are brought to the place of operation five minutes before
the hour, and at two minutes to eight placed upon the platform. When the
hand of the clock points to eight you begin to speak, and when the hand
stands at nine you close. If you are one minute late in beginning, the
audience grows restless, and if you are five minutes late in closing,
they leave. There are no preliminaries and no after-talk, and you do
your best with one of the most intelligent audiences any lecturer could
address in sixty minutes.

The most risky audience in my experience is afforded by the free
lectures given in an English city, which is made up by men who have
dropped in from the streets because the hall is open and because
something is going on. If they are interested they will listen eagerly
and reward the lecturer with enthusiastic applause, besides giving an
irrelevant cheer occasionally for Old Ireland or Lord Roberts. If the
audience is not interested they leave in solid blocks of fifty, without
any regard to the lecturer's feelings, or the disturbance of their
neighbours.

The most sympathetic and encouraging audience a man can have are the
students of an American ladies' college, because if he is nervous, as
an Englishman is bound to be before three hundred bright American young
women, they will catch his first point, and they will smile upon him and
show that they believe there is something in him if he could only get it
out, and create such a kindly atmosphere that he will rise to his height
and do his best.

This was how the students of a delightful college not very far from
Philadelphia treated myself when I was almost ready to sink through
the floor from sheer terror of facing so many young women, being a
sisterless and daughterless man, and I wish to thank one young lady who
sat in the front and smiled encouragement upon me until I lifted up my
head and took heart.

I have never utterly collapsed, and have never fled from the platform,
but I was reduced to confusion and incoherence of speech when I opened
a clubhouse for a company of women students at a certain American
University, and my whole audience suddenly flopped down upon the floor
as I began my little speech. As the floor had a beautiful carpet and
there were no chairs, the young ladies no doubt did well for themselves,
but as I looked down upon that fair flower-garden all my thoughts
vanished, and I do not think that I uttered a grammatical sentence.

American young women do not know that an Englishman is the most bashful
creature on the face of the earth, and that he would rather face an
audience of two thousand men from the streets than address twenty young
women, every one as sharp as a needle and as pretty as a flower.

My experience of chairmen is wide and varied, and I have lectured under
the Presidency of some very distinguished and able men, but on the whole
I would rather be without a chairman. There was one who introduced me in
a single sentence of five minutes' length, in which he stated that as he
would treasure every word I said more than pure gold he did not wish to
curtail my time by a single minute. He then fell fast asleep, and I had
the honour of wakening him at the close of the lecture. Had he slept
anywhere else I should not have had the smallest objection, but his
restful attitude in the high estate of the chair had an unedifying and
discomposing effect on the audience.

On the whole, I preferred that chairman to another who introduced me to
the extent of twenty-five minutes, and occupied the time in commending
to the exasperated audience the claims of a foundling asylum with which
he had some charitable connexion. This time it was the lecturer who fell
asleep and had to be wakened when the audience drove the chairman to his
seat.

A lecturer is also much refreshed amid his labour by the assurance of
the chairman that he has simply lived upon his books for years, and has
been looking forward to this evening for the last three months with high
expectation, when after these flattering remarks he does not know
your name, and can only put it before the audience after a hurried
consultation with the secretary of the lecture course.

My memory returns also with delight to a chairman who insisted that one
object had brought them together, and that I was no stranger in that
town because the whole audience before him were my friends, and then
having called me Doctor Maclaren and Ian Watson, besides having hinted
more than once at Mr. Barrie, introduced me to an uproarious audience as
Mr. Ian John Maclaren Watson.

It is, of course, my gain, and the loss of two more distinguished
fellow-countrymen, that I should be hopelessly associated in the minds
of many people with Mr. Crockett and Mr. Barrie. But when one speaker
declared that I would be remembered by grateful posterity as the Stickit
Minister, I was inclined to protest, for whatever have been my defects
as a preacher, I still have succeeded in obtaining a church; and when
another speaker explained he had gone three times to see my "Little
Minister," I felt obliged to deny myself the authorship of that
delightful play.

Allusions on the part of the audience, when they shook hands with me
afterwards, I allowed to paas because there was not time to put things
right; merely smiling at the mention of "A Window in Thrums," and
looking modest at the adjectives heaped upon "The Raiders." My cynical
humour was greatly tickled with the chairman, who had been very cordial
with me in private, and who was understood by the public to have been
closely identified with my visit to his city, when he not only escaped
from the stage after he had introduced me, but also immediately left the
theatre and cheerfully betook himself to his office without hearing one
word of the lecture. Perhaps he had discovered from some casual remark
of mine that I was not Mr. Barrie, and was at a loss to make out who I
could be.

With mayors and other public functionaries who have to speak six times a
day on six different subjects, and who get a little confused as to which
meeting they are attending, I have the utmost sympathy, and never have
been discomposed by any reference to the management of hospitals or
the fallacy of bimetallism, even though the references were very
indifferently connected with the lecturer and his subjects.

The labour of shaking hands afterwards with a considerable proportion
of your audience is not only lightened by their kindness, but also much
cheered by their conversation. After a few evenings in the United States
I arrived at the rooted conviction that the majority of the American
people belonged to the Scots race, and that America was the real
Scotland. It was not only that native-born Scots came forward to welcome
a fellow-countryman with an accent which was beyond all dispute and
could be heard six yards off, and with allusions to Auchterarder which
warmed your heart, but that every person seemed to be connected with
Scotland.

One belonged to a family which had emigrated from Scotland in the
seventeenth century, and was anxious to know whether I could give him
any information on the family tree. Another had married a Scots wife,
and believed he owed his prosperity to her; a third was an admirer
of Sir Walter Scott, and looked forward to visiting Scotland as the
ambition of his life. And one lady, full of despair as she heard the
Scots claims of the people around her, came and confessed frankly: "I am
not Scots, and I have no relative a Scot, and none of our family married
a Scot, but my sister has a Scots nurse: will that do?" I assured her it
would, and that I was glad at last to meet a genuine American, because I
had come to see the American people.

I have a vivid recollection of one place where a clan had turned out
to receive me, and I was escorted to the platform by a band of plaided
warriors, who, headed by a piper, marched me in and ranged themselves
round me on the platform. When the lecture was over, one clansman met me
in the anteroom, and I hardly recognized him; he was about three inches
taller and six inches bigger round the chest than before the lecture,
and was as a man intoxicated, though not with strong drink.

"Mr. Maclaren," he said to me, "eh, but we are a michty people," and he
slapped his chest vigorously. I hinted that we had one or two faults to
modify our perfection, but he was not in a mood for such consideration.
"No worth mentioning," he said, and departed in glory. The national
prayer of our people is understood to be: "Lord, give us a good
conceit of ourselves," and this prayer in my compatriot's case had been
wonderfully fulfilled.

Audiences vary very much in excellence, and it is difficult to
understand the reason, because you may have the most delightful and
the most difficult from the same class of people. Audiences are like
horses--some of them so hard in the mouth and spiritless that they
almost pull your arm out of the socket, and others so bright and
high-spirited that you hardly feel the reins in your hands, and
driving--that is to say, speaking--is a delight.

The ideal audience is not one which accompanies you from beginning
to end with applause and laughter, but one that takes every point and
enjoys it with intelligent reserve, so that your illustrations may be
condensed into allusions, and a word conveys your humour. One of my
pleasures as a lecturer was to test every audience by a certain passage
which divided the sheep from the goats, and I think my enjoyment was
even greater when they were all goats.

It came into a reading from the _Briar-Bush_ where the word
"intoxication" occurs. My custom was to stop and apologise for the
appearance of such a word in my book, and to explain that the word is
not known in Scots speech. There are, I used to say, two reasons why a
Scotsman does not employ the word. The first is that he is imperfectly
acquainted with the painful circumstances to which this word is supposed
to allude, and the second that a Scotsman considers that no one with
a limited human intellect can know enough about the conditions of his
fellow-creatures to make such a statement.

When an audience took in the situation at once, then one could rest
for a moment, since they required that time to appreciate the rigid
temperance and conscientious literary accuracy of the Scotch people.
When they took the statement in perfect seriousness, and one or two
solemn reformers nodded their heads in high approval, then I wanted to
go behind the curtain and shake hands with myself. More than once it was
with difficulty I could continue in face of this unbroken seriousness,
and once I broke down utterly, although I hope the audience only
supposed I was laughing at some poor humour of my own.

The cause of my collapse was not the faces of the audience, but the
conduct of a brother Scot, whose head went down below the seat as
he learned the two reasons why the word intoxicated is not used in
Scotland. When he emerged from the depths he cast a glance of delight in
my direction as to one who was true in all circumstances of his nation,
and then he was composing himself to listen with fresh confidence to a
lecturer who had given such pledges of patriotism, when he caught sight
of the faces of the audience.

As it dawned upon him that the audience had taken the statement
literally, he was again obliged to go into retirement. Twice he made a
brave effort to regain possession of himself, but as often the sight of
the audience shook him to his foundation. At last he rose and left the
theatre, but at the door he lingered to take one look at the unconscious
audience, and then shaking his head in my direction with patriotic joy,
he departed from the building, and I was obliged to imagine an execution
in order to continue my lecture.

The lecturer's nerves ought to be made of wire, for he never knows what
may happen. There is one town in the United States where the
express trains run down the main street, and you lecture there to an
accompaniment of engine bells and the blowing-off of steam. When the
music rises too high for the human voice, the lecturer in that town
ought to abandon the contest and offer between the whistles a few
remarks on the legislative power of American railways. These remarks
will be vastly enjoyed by the audience.

Behind the platform of one large hall is the lift of the next building,
which is used at regular intervals of a minute, and you have your
sentences punctuated by the whoop of the unseen lift till at last you
can calculate the time and know that you have spoken ninety whoops, and
it is nearly time to stop.

One night I was arrested by the sound of steady snoring which could be
heard over the larger part of the theatre, but although every one was
in search for the offender, he could not be found. At last the sound
was traced to the stage, and, as there was no one on the stage except
myself, to be behind the curtain. One of the servants of the theatre
had laid himself down there in order to enjoy the lecture, and that
had proved of such a solid character that he had fallen into a fit of
meditation, from which he was very rudely awakened.

One evening in a Canadian town a fox terrier came in, and owing to some
difference of opinion with a gentleman in the stalls, expressed himself
in public. As there was to be a dog story in the lecture, I thought it
well to explain that the terrier had been engaged to take part, but had
broken in too soon. For a while the dog behaved with much propriety, and
then there was a second outbreak.

Six gentlemen combined to get that dog out of the theatre, but not
without difficulty and danger. The terrier retired fighting.

The platform does many good things for a lecturer; for one thing, it
strengthens his voice; it brings him into contact with large bodies of
his fellow-men, and it inspires him with humanity. Upon the platform
he learns to command himself; to take disappointments like a man; and,
above all, he gains a new conviction of the kindness and goodwill of
large bodies of people whom he has never seen before and may never see
again, and of whom he will ever think with a grateful heart.



XIX.--FOR THE SAKE OF A HORSE


IN the days of long ago I used to live in the summer-time upon a farm in
one of the rich plains of Scotland, where the soil was deep and we could
grow everything, from the fragrant red clover to the strong, upstanding
wheat. One reason why our farm bore such abundant crops was its
situation; for it lay, in the shape of the letter V, between two rivers
which met upon our ground. One of the rivers was broad and shallow, and
its clear water ran over gravel, brawling and fretting when it came upon
a large stone, and making here and there a pleasant little fall. This
river in the winter-time could rise high and run with a strong current,
and there were days and sometimes weeks when we could not send our men
and horses across its ford. We never hated this river, because, although
it could be angry and proud when the snow was melting on the distant
hill or a big thunder-cloud burst in the glens above us, it was never
treacherous and sullen; it had no unexpected depths into which a man and
horse might fall, but was open as the day, and its water was as bright.
Wherefore I have kindly thoughts of that stream, and when the sun is hot
in the city, and there is no unused air to breathe, I wish I were again
upon its banks and could see it gleaming underneath the bushes as it
sings its way past my feet.

The other river was narrow, and ran in silence between its banks; or
rather it did not run, but trailed itself along like a serpent, deep,
black, and smooth. There was no end to its wicked cunning, for it
pretended to be only three feet deep and it was twelve, and sometimes it
hollowed out to itself a hole where a twenty-foot line would not touch
the bottom. One of its worst tricks was to undermine the bank so that
the green turf on which you stood became a trap, and, yielding beneath
your feet, unless you were very dexterous, shot you into the river. Then
unless you could swim, the river would drown you in its black water as
if with fiendish delight.

Over this river, also, we required to have a ford; but in this case it
was not natural, for the bottom of this river was far below the surface
of the water, and it was soft, deep clay. Across the river, therefore,
the ford had to be built up with stones; and it was made in the shape
of a horseshoe, so that any one crossing must follow a rough half-circle
from bank to bank, and he had to keep to the line of the ford, for below
it the water poured into a depth of thirty feet. When the river was low
one could easily trace the ford, and there was no excuse for getting
into danger; but if the river had been fed by the upland rains, then
every sign of the ford was lost, and a man had to be very careful how
he picked his horse's way. And all the time the wicked water would be
bringing its weight to bear on him, in the hope of carrying him and his
horse and everything else that was with him over the edge.

This river we loathed, and at the thought of its wickedness and its
tragedies--for twice I nearly lost my life in it--I still shudder, here
in my study.

One afternoon I went down to the ford in order to warn a plowman that
he must not cross. That morning he had taken a load of grain to the
railway-, station, and now he was coming back with the empty cart and
two horses. During the day there had been rain upon the mountains, and
the river was swollen so that every sign of the ford was lost.

I stood high up upon the bank, and when he came down the road on
the other side I shouted across the river--which was rising every
minute--that he must not on any account attempt it, but must turn back
and go round by the bridge. Of course he ought to have obeyed this
order, and I am not going to say that he was wise in what he did; but
safety would mean a détour of ten miles, and he knew not fear. It was
from his breed that our Highland regiment got their recruits and more
than one of our men had gone into the "Black Watch."

"I'll risk it," he cried from the other side; and he made his
preparations for the daring enterprise, while I, on my side, could say
and do nothing more. All that remained for me was to watch, and, if it
were possible, in case of things coming to the worst, to give such help
as I could from the bank.

It was a heavy two-wheeled cart he had, with one horse in the shafts and
another before, tandem-wise, and this kind of team could not be driven
from the cart. The driver must walk, holding the reins of the tandem
horse in his right hand, and, if necessary, guiding the horse in the
shafts with his left; and so they entered the stream.

After the horses had gone a few yards into the water they wished to
stop; for they had an instinct of danger, all the more because they
were not free, but were strapped and chained, so that it would be almost
impossible for them to save their lives by swimming. Jock chided and
encouraged them, calling them by name, and they went in without any
more hesitation; for horses are full of faith, and trust their driver
absolutely if they know his voice and love him. Each of our men had a
pair of horses under his charge; and so close was the tie between the
men and their horses that the pair would come to their driver in the
field when he called them by name, and would allow another plowman to
handle them only under protest.

Very carefully did Jock guide his team round the farther bend of the
horseshoe, but when they reached the middle of the stream the water
reached his waist and was lapping round his chest. Of course he could
not have stood had it not been that he was on the upper side, and had
the support of the shaft, to which he clung, still holding the reins of
the foremost horse and the bridle of the other.

"Take care, Jock! for any sake, take care, man!" I yelled from my bank.
It was poor advice, but one had to say something as he looked on the
man and the horses, more than half covered by the stream, so lonely and
helpless. "You are at the turn now"; for we knew that the bend of the
shoe was at the middle of the stream.

"It's a' richt," came back the brave, honest voice. "We'll win through";
and now Jock turned the leader's head up-stream, and the cart began
to move round on the nearer turn of the horseshoe. Yes, they would win
through, for surely the worst was past, and I jumped upon the bank for
very joy, but ever watched the slightest movement, while every inch
seemed a mile and every moment an hour.

Alas! there was no end to the deceit and wickedness of that river; for,
owing to some slight bend at a little distance higher up on the opposite
bank, the current ran with its main strength, not in the middle of the
channel, but toward the place where I was standing, and into a black
deep just at my feet. It beat upon the cart, and as I looked I could see
the cart begin to yield, and to be carried sidewise off the track of the
ford. I shouted--I know not what now; I think the plowman's name--but
Jock already had felt himself going with the cart as it turned round. He
called upon his horses: "Pull up, Star! Steady, lass!"--this to the mare
in his hand.

The intelligent creatures answered to his voice and made a valiant
effort, Star plunging forward, and the mare--a wise old beast--straining
herself to recover the cart. For an instant the cart's further wheel was
pulled on to the track, and I saw the cart once more level in the water;
and again I shouted, calling both man and horses by their names. Then
the river, afraid that she was to be spoiled of her prey, put out all
her strength. The cart yields and sinks on the lower side and begins to
turn over. It is off the ford now, and will pull the horses after it,
and all that can be done is for Jock to let go the horses, who are now
struggling in desperation, and to save his own life. He could swim, and
was a powerful man, forty inches and more round the chest, and a fellow,
if you please, to toss the hammer on a summer evening.

"For God's sake, let go the horses, Jock, and make for the bank!" And
I went to the edge where he was likely to come, and lying down upon my
chest, I twisted one arm round a sturdy bush, and was ready with the
other hand to catch Jock if he should be fighting his way through the
current and come within reach of shore.

By this time the horse in the shaft was fighting on the edge of the
abyss, and only the top of one side-board of the cart could be seen, and
the upper shaft, which was standing straight out of the water. Star was
screaming with terror--and a horse's scream is a fearful sound--for if
only he could be free of the two chains that fastened him to the shaft,
he, a powerful young horse, would soon reach safety where the road came
out from the ford through the banks, up the slope, to dry land. And
Jock, forgetful of himself, was determined to give Star his chance
for life--Star, whom he had broken in as a colt, and taught to take an
oatmeal cake out of his pocket, of whom he boasted in the markets, and
for whom he had bought little brass ornaments to wear on his forehead
and chest. The mare was beyond redemption, and must perish with the
cart; she was old, and had done her work. But Star must not be drowned.
Already he has loosened the near chain and on one side Star is free,
and now, in the midst of that wild hurly-burly of plunging horses, Jock,
holding on to the projecting shaft with one hand, is reaching with the
other underneath the neck of the mare, to free the other chain from the
farther shaft.

He succeeded, as I took it, at the very last moment; for Star, now on
the brink, made a desperate effort, and, shaking himself free of all
entanglement, swam into the quieter water, just above where I had hoped
to meet his driver.

In another minute Star was standing on the road, shaking in every limb,
and hanging his head between his fore legs, with all the strength and
bravery taken out of him.

Before he reached the bank, the cart and the mare, and poor Jock with
them, had been swept over the edge of the unseen ford into the deep
water below. Had Jock been free of the cart and horse he might have made
some fight for his life, even in that caldron; but, from the marks upon
his body, we judged that he had been struck, just when he loosed the
chain, by the iron hoofs of the mare in her agony, and had been rendered
unconscious.

Within a second, horse and cart and man had disappeared, and the cruel
river had triumphed and was satisfied.

Three days afterward we rescued his body from her grasp; and when we
carried it up to the bothy where he and his mates had lived together,
the roughest of them felt that this man had been a hero.

No doubt he ought not to have dared so much; but having dared, he did
not flinch. His duty was that of every driver--to stick to the last by
his horses--and he did it to the uttermost.

He was a rough man, Jock, who never read anything except the stories in
the weekly newspaper which used to circulate in the bothies. There were
times when Jock took a glass too much on a fair-day at Muirtown, and
then he was inclined to fight. His language, also, was not suited for
polite society, and his temper was not always under perfect control.

Let me say it plainly: Jock was nothing but a Scots plowman, and all he
did that day was to save the life, not of a child or of a man, but of
a cart-horse worth about £50. It was, however, his bit of duty as Jock
understood it; all he had to give was his life, and he gave it without
hesitation and without fear.



XX.--NO RELEVANT OBJECTION


NEXT to the election of a minister nothing stirred the parish of
Thomgreen like an election of elders, and it may be truthfully said that
the people were far more concerned about the men whom they appointed to
this sacred office than about the man whom they sent to represent them
in Parliament. The people had also a keen sense of the kind of man who
was fit to be an elder, and there was many a farmer whom they would
have cheerfully elected to any board, and in whose hands they would have
trusted any amount of money, but whom they would never have dreamt of
making an elder. Persons who were by no means careful about their own
life, and one would not have supposed had any great concern about the
character of the officers of the Christian Church, had yet a fixed idea,
and a very sound one, about the qualifications for an elder; and if
one of themselves had been proposed would have regarded the idea as
an insult, not to them but to the Church. "Me an elder," he would have
said; "for ony sake be quiet; there maun be nae jokin' on sich subjects.
When you and me are made elders the kirk had better be closed." For
the word elder was synonymous in Thorngreen, and, indeed, in every
right-thinking parish, not only with morality and integrity, but with
gravity and spirituality.

No parish could expect to have many men who filled the conditions, and
Thorngreen had a standing grievance that one man who was evidently an
elder by arrangement of providence would not accept the office. Andrew
Harris, of Rochally, as he was commonly called, after the name of his
farm, was of ancient Thorngreen blood, since his forbears had worked
land in the parish for many generations, and he himself had succeeded
his father, who was also an elder for thirty years. There was no sounder
farmer than Rochally, and what he had done by draining, limeing, and
skilful seeding was known unto all men; no straighter man in a bargain,
for the character of a young horse from Rochally was better than a
written document; no friendlier man in the kirkyard on a Sunday or at
Muirtown markets, and no more regular and attentive hearer in kirk.
Beyond all that, the parish knew, although it never said such things,
that Rochally was a religious man, who not only had worship in his
house, with his men servants and his women servants present, but also
worshipped God in all Christian living from year to year. He was also a
man of substance, and if that could be got with other things, the parish
preferred it in an elder, and he gave liberally to the Free Kirk, of
which, indeed, he was the mainstay. If he was not married, and was never
likely now to marry, it could not be helped, but there was nothing else
wanting to make him the perfect model of an elder.

As regularly as there was a meeting for the election of elders, which
happened about every five years, the name of Mr. Andrew Harris, farmer
of Rochally, was proposed and seconded, and about to be placed on the
nomination form, when Rochally himself rose, and quietly but very firmly
requested that his name be dropped, "for reasons which are sufficient
to my own conscience." And although three ministers in succession, and a
generation of elders, had pleaded privately with Rochally, and had used
every kind of argument, they could not move him from his position. His
nomination was felt on each occasion to be a debt due to his character
and to the spiritual judgment of the congregation; but the people had
long ago despaired of his consent. Had they consulted his wishes they
would never have mentioned his name; but, at any rate, he made a point
of attending, and at once withdrawing. They were obstinate, and he was
obstinate, and the event had become a custom at the election of elders
in the Free Kirk.

No one could even guess why Rochally refused office, and every one in
the Free Kirk was a little sore that the best and most respected member
on their roll should sit in his back seat Sunday after Sunday, and
attend every week meeting, and give the largest subscriptions, and also
gamer the utmost respect from without, and yet not be an elder. It was
also felt that if his name could only be printed on the nomination paper
and placed before the people, and the people unanimously elected him,
as they would do, then it would be hard for him to refuse, and if he did
refuse he would have to do what he had not done yet--give his reasons.
If they could only hold the meeting without his being present, or if,
by any innocent ruse, he could be kept from the meeting, then half the
battle would be won; and that is how it came to pass that the minister
and elders of Thomgreen Free Kirk stole a march upon Rochally. They had
been thinking for some time of adding to the eldership, for Essendy, the
father of the Session, had "won awa'" at eighty-seven, and Wester Mains
could only sit on sunny days in the garden; and while they were turning
the matter over in their minds--for nothing was done hurriedly in
Thomgreen--it spread abroad that Rochally was going away for the
unprecedented period of four weeks, partly to visit a sister's son who
had risen to high position in England, and partly to try some baths for
the mild rheumatism which was his only illness. It seemed a providential
arrangement, and one which they must use wisely, and if anything could
have been read on the severe countenances of Thomgreen, Rochally might
have guessed that some conspiracy was afoot when he bade his brethren
good-bye after Kirk one Sabbath.

As soon as it was known that he had fairly departed, and as it was
perfectly certain there could be no communication with him from his
home except a weekly report of the briefest and most prosaic kind by the
foreman, the Session (that is, the Court of Elders) was called together,
and on two successive Sundays the people were summoned to a meeting for
the nomination of elders. It was held on the Monday following the second
Sunday, and was attended by almost the whole congregation. Six names
were proposed for three vacancies, but, of course, the climax of the
proceedings was the nomination of Mr. Andrew Harris, farmer at Rochally,
and the insertion of his name on the paper of nomination. The nomination
papers were given out on the following Sunday, and on the fourth and
last Sunday of Rochally's absence were returned into the hands of the
Session. Before he came home the Session had met, and as every single
communicant, without exception, had voted for Mr. Andrew Harris, farmer
at Rochally, the Session declared him elected, and when he sat in his
pew on the following Sunday he heard the edict for the ordination of
three elders on that day fortnight, and the first name was his own.

It was creditable to the good manners of the people that though they
held their breath at the critical moment, none of them looked even
sideways to the pew where Rochally sat alone; but the minister's eye
fell on him from the pulpit, and as he noticed Rochally start and flush,
and grow pale, while a look of pain came over his face, the minister
became anxious, and began to regret their well-intentioned plot.
And when, according to the custom of the kirk, he announced that the
aforesaid persons would be ordained this day fortnight, unless "some
valid objection to their life and doctrine be stated to the Kirk Session
at a meeting to be held for that purpose before the service on Wednesday
evening," and when, even at that distance, he could see Rochally's hand
tighten upon the door of his pew and his head fall forward upon his
breast for an instant, as if he were in pain, he almost wished that they
had not meddled with the secret affairs of a man's life. The minister
was not surprised when Rochally did not call at the manse on Monday or
Tuesday to say that he could not accept the election, although that was
within his power, and he was not surprised, although much grieved, when
he saw Rochally standing in the shadow of the trees not far from the
vestry where the Kirk Session met. Although he had not the faintest idea
of the reason, he was now afraid of what was going to happen, and the
elders, as they came in one by one, having passed Rochally, who stood
apart among the trees, and gave no sign of recognition, were uneasy,
and had a sense of calamity. They knew nothing either, and were not able
even to imagine anything; but they also, having seen Rochally and caught
a faint glimpse of his face, would fain have burned the nomination
papers, and cancelled the whole election.

The court was opened with prayer, in which the minister was very earnest
that they should be all guided by the Spirit of God and know His will.
And then the minutes were read, wherein the names of those elected were
mentioned, after which the minister declared the time had arrived for
receiving objections to the life and doctrine of the aforesaid persons,
and the beadle, being summoned from the dark kirk where he had been
sitting, was commanded to do his duty. Thereupon, having opened the
outer door of the vestry, as being a public place, he looked into the
darkness, and called upon any persons who could make valid objection
to the life or doctrine of Andrew Harris, farmer at Rochally, that he
should not be ordained an elder, to come forward and declare the same.
Many a time had the beadle made this challenge, and never before had it
been answered, but now, out from the darkness, came Rochally himself,
and entered the vestry. For a moment he was dazzled by the light of the
lamp, though it was never very bright, and as he stood before the
Session he passed his hand over his face. Then he stepped forward to the
table, and, leaning heavily on it with one hand, Rochally unveiled his
secret.

"Moderator and Elders of the Kirk, I stand here in answer to your
commandment, and in obedience to my own conscience, to give you strong
reasons why Andrew Harris should never be ordained an elder in Christ's
Kirk, and why he is not worthy even to take the sacrament.

"I ken well that my brethren have often wondered why I wouldna allow
my name to be mentioned for the eldership, and I have often feared that
they judged me as one who despised the call of the kirk, and wouldna put
his hand to the plough. If they did so, they were wrang, for God knows
how I have honoured and loved the Church, and He knows how glad and
proud a man I would have been to carry the vessels of the Lord. But I
dauma, I dauma.

"It micht have been better if I had told the reason years ago, and saved
mysel' and the brethren much trouble; but it is hard for the Scots heart
to open itsel', and a man is jealous of his secret.' Maybe I sinned in
not confessing to the kirk in this place as I did elsewhere, and as I
confessed to my God. Gin it be so, I have suffered, and now the Lord's
hand is heavy upon me.

"Lang years ago," and the strong man trembled, but no elder so much as
lifted his eyes, "I lived for a year, although none here will mind of
it, in another parish, where my father had a farm, and there, when I was
a young man, though no one here knows of it, being careless in my walk
and conversation, and resisting the Grace of God, I fell, and sinned
against the law of Moses and of Christ.

"What the sin was it matters not now; but it was a great sin, such as
nothing but the blude o' Christ can cleanse away, and the guilt of it
was heavy upon my soul. God was merciful unto me, and His Spirit
moved me to that repentance which needeth not to be repented of.
Sic reparation as I could make I made, and them that were injured I
satisfied; but I have never been satisfied. They're all dead now that
had to do with it, long before they died they had forgotten it; but I
have never forgotten it, and the long years have never wiped it from my
memory.

"There's ae man I envy every day, and mair the nicht than ever; no the
man who is rich and powerful, na, na, it is the man whose life is clean
and white fra his boyhood until this hour, who can turn over the pages
and let every man look on. One chapter o' my life I read alone every
day, and it canna be blotted out from before my eyes. Their hands maun
be dean which bear the vessels of the Lord, and my hands arena clean;
wherefore I take objection, being a true witness against the life of
Andrew Harris, and declare he is not fit to be an elder of the kirk."

While Rochally was still standing, the minister knelt down, and the
elders with him; but Rochally stood, and the minister began to pray.
First of all, he confessed the sins of their youth and of later years
till every man's soul lay bare before his own eyes and the eyes of God,
then he carried them all, their lives and their sins, unto the Cross of
Calvary, and magnified before God the sacrifice for sin and the dying
love of the Saviour, and then he lifted up their souls in supplication
unto God upon His Throne, and besought the Judge of all, for Christ's
sake, to cast their transgressions behind His back and into the depths
of the sea; and, finally, he besought God to grant unto them all the
assurance of His mercy and the peace which passeth all understanding to
possess their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. But he made no mention
of Rochally or Rochally's sin, so that one would have supposed it was
the minister and the elders, and not Andrew Harris, who were at the Bar.

When they rose from their knees more than one elder was weeping, and
every man's face was white and serious, and still Rochally stood as if
he desired to go, but was not able till the minister gave the decision
of the court. The Spirit of the Holy Ministry, which is the most awful
office upon earth, and the most solemn, descended in special measure
upon the minister, a man still young and inexperienced, but who was now
coming out from the holy place of the Most High.

"Andrew Harris, I ask you, in the name of the Kirk whom the Lord loved
and washed from her sins in His own blood, lovest thou the Lord Jesus
Christ?" Then the minister and the elders faded from before Rochally's
eyes, and the faithful, honest man who had sinned so long ago, and wept
so bitterly, stood face to face with the Master.

"Lord," said he, for the first time lifting up his head, "Thou knowest
all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee."

It was after midnight when the minister wrote out the minute of that
meeting, and it states that an objection was taken to the life of Andrew
Harris; but the Session ruled that it was not relevant, in which ruling
the objector acquiesced, and the Session therefore appointed that Andrew
Harris, farmer at Rochally, be ordained on the day appointed to the
office of elder in the Free Kirk of Thomgreen.



XXI.--WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN

WHEN Carmichael was Free Kirk minister of Dramtochty, and in the days of
his youth, he had casual ways, and went at his own free will. He never
came across the moor behind his manse on a summer day, and entered
the cool pine wood which separated it from the ploughed land, without
sitting down beside a certain pool of a burn which ran through the
fringe of the wood. Because the water broke over a little rock and then
gathered in a cup of gravel, and there was a heather bank where he could
he as comfortably as in his favourite study chair, which had seen the
Rebellion, but had changed its covering as well as its creed more than
once since then; because the Highland cattle came to drink at that pool
if you were not fussy and suspicious; and because all the sounds of the
moor--the bleating of the sheep, the cry of the grouse, and the wail
of the whaup and the drone of the bees--mingled in one music, and fell
pleasantly upon your ear. "For five minutes only," he said to himself,
and then some Highland cows, with their absurd little calves, arrived,
and would have considered it ill-mannered for him to rise; and he fell
a-thinking while time flew. He rose with a start and hurried down to
the main road, and made for the bridge over the Tochty, fearful lest he
should be too late when the messenger came with momentous tidings from
the telegraph office at Kildrummie.

For two years the Glen had been in the most delightful state of
intellectual ferment, and it was freely said by those who could remember
that conversation had not risen to such a high level for fifty years,
not even during '43. It goes without saying that the subject which
exercised the minds and tongues of the Glen had to do, not with markets,
but with Kirks; and while many had feared that the golden age of the
Disruption would never be repeated in Drumtochty, when children were
taught the doctrine of spiritual independence as they were supping their
porridge, and women spoke freely about the principle of "Coordinate
Jurisdiction with Mutual Subordination" as they hoed turnips in the
fields, even Jamie Soutar was compelled to allow that the present
debate had points of excellence altogether its own. While the spirit of
disruption had wonderfully sharpened the edge of the intellect, the new
spirit of concord which was abroad had still more powerfully quickened
the feelings of the heart. By the fireside, where the guidwife darned
the stockings and the guidman read the _Muirtown Advertiser_ from the
first word of the advertisements to the last word of the printer's name,
out at work where they were planting potatoes or reaping the com, on
the way to market as they walked down to Kildrummie station on Friday
morning or crammed themselves by fives and sixes into Hillocks'
dog-cart, but most of all in the kirkyard or at the Free Kirk door,
men and women had been discussing with unswerving honesty and amazing
subtlety, but with great goodwill and eager longing, how the differences
between the Free Kirk and the Established could be reconciled, and upon
what terms of honour and self-respect they could be united so that there
should be again one Kirk in Scotland, as in the former days. According
to the light which Providence had been pleased to give to other
parishes, which was as twilight to the sunlight of Drum-tochty, they
also argued this great affair, till even Kildrummie had pronounced ideas
on the subject; and Rabbi Saunderson, the minister of Kilbogie, had
announced a course of twenty-five sermons on the "Principle of Unity
in the Christian Church, considered biblically, theologically,
historically, and experimentally." The ecclesiastics on both sides had
not regarded the movement with conspicuous favour, and, while stating
that the end in view was not only admirable but one they had always
desired, they felt it their duty to point out difficulties. They
mentioned so many, indeed, and expounded them so faithfully, that it
would not have been wonderful if the people had lost heart and abandoned
a hopeless enterprise; for as a rule it had been the ecclesiastics who
spoke and the people who kept silence; the ecclesiastics who passed
measures and the people who paid for them. This time, however, the
younger ministers had taken the matter into their own hands, and refused
to serve themselves heirs to past controversies or to bind themselves to
perpetuate ancient divisions; they were men of another age, and intended
to face the new situation. There had been enough dividing in Scotland
since the days of the Covenanters; it was time there should be some
uniting, and when they were at it they wanted thorough-going and final
union. And the people, who in every country parish had, Sabbath after
Sabbath for more than a generation, passed one another in opposite
directions going to their kirks, began to inquire why they should not
all go in one direction and meet under one roof as their fathers had
done; and when people began to ask that question, both with their heads
and with their hearts, it was bound to be answered in one way.

The ecclesiastics had yielded under pressure, and as Carmichael went
down to the bridge he recalled, with a keen sense of humour, their
marvellous proceedings and the masterly game which had been played by
the diplomatists of the Kirks, their suave expressions of brotherly
love, their shrewd foresight of every move, their sleepless watchfulness
of one another, their adroit concessions which yielded nothing, their
childlike proposals which would have gained everything, and their
cheerful acquiescence in every delay. But the temper of the people was
not to be trifled with, and if the young party among the clergy were not
skilled in the wiles of Church Courts, they had considerable vigour of
speech, and the managers of affairs were given to understand that they
must bring things quickly to a head. Early last spring the leader of
the Free Kirk had submitted his terms, which the Established Kirk men
studied together for three days and then read in seven different ways,
and they in turn submitted their proposals, which were so simple and
direct that the great Free Kirk man was genuinely disappointed, and
wished that it had been his lot to negotiate with a Roman cardinal. But
the people were getting impatient, and when the Assemblies met in the
end of May, the pleasant spring-time, the terms had been adjusted, and
Carmichael ran over them as he came down the near road through Hillocks'
farm and pronounced them good. That the Free Church and the Established
should unite together; that its legal title should be the Church of
Scotland; that it should retain the ancient endowments and all
the accumulated funds of both the former Churches; that the
newly-constituted Church of Scotland should cease its legal connexion
with the State, but maintain the old parochial system; that the new
Church should re-arrange its resources so as to meet every religious and
moral want in Scotland, and work with the State for the well-being of
the Scots Commonwealth. The motions were proposed about the same time
in the two Assemblies, in speeches worthy of the occasion: in the
Established Kirk by a Scots noble; in the Free Kirk by the ablest
ecclesiastical statesman of his day; Carmichael was thankful that he was
in the Free Kirk Assembly when the motion was carried, with tears
and cheers, none objecting, and that he was in time, with a fearful
struggle, to get his head within the door of the Tolbooth, when the
ministers and elders of the Established Kirk stood up as one man at
the bidding of their moderator, and before Her Majesty's Lord High
Commissioner, and declared for union; and thankful that he was one
of the crowd that poured out of both Assemblies in the High Street of
Edinburgh and heard the bells of St. Giles, which had been the witness
of many a fierce conflict, ringing out the news of peace and concord
through the grey capital of the nation.

There was still one risk to be run and one barrier to be surmounted, for
the concordat of the Church required the sanction of Parliament. Through
the summer days the battle had been fought in the lobbies and committee
rooms of the House of Commons, and that afternoon it was to be decided;
and up to the last there was a chance that the bill might be thrown out,
and the heart's desire of Scotland once more refused at Westminster. For
there were cross-currents which no man could calculate; there were stiff
old Tories who hated the idea of the Church being disestablished; keen
Radicals who were determined that the Church should be also disendowed;
Episcopalians who were eager that the title of the Church of Scotland
should be left open to be claimed by that respectable, though limited,
dissenting community, which traces its descent through Archbishop Sharpe
and John Graham of Claverhouse; and a balance of men who disliked all
Churches equally, and were always ready to hinder religion, when they
could get an opportunity. If the bill were thrown out it would be a sad
calamity, and Lord Kilspindie had promised to telegraph to Dr. Davidson
the moment the bill passed the Commons; for it had been taken first in
the Lords (and carried with a brisk fight), and Carmichael proposed to
meet the messenger at Tochty bridge, and escort him to the manse.

It did not, however, surprise Carmichael to find the minister of the
parish of Drumtochty walking to and fro on the level ground from which
the wonderful arch of the ancient bridge sprang, and talking affably
with Hillocks on the prospects of harvest, but keeping all the time a
watchful eye on the distant point on the other side of the Glen where
the road emerged from the pine woods and the Kildrummie messenger would
first be seen.

"Glad to see you, Carmichael," said the doctor, with just the faintest
suggestion of excitement in his manner; "I left a message at the manse
that if you called they were to send you down to the bridge, but I
rather suspected you would be here. For myself, I frankly confess
I could neither sit nor read, so I just turned out to wait for the
messenger. It's a historical day, Carmichael, charged with great issues
for Scotland."

They climbed the stiff ascent, and stood on the arch through which the
Tochty ran, clear and sparkling, that summer evening.

"More than a century of Scots history has run since this bridge was
built, some of it sad enough; but, please God, we shall see good days
before they build the new bridge. What hinders the messenger? Kilspindie
expected to telegraph by five at latest, and now it's six o'clock." The
doctor snuffed uneasily and wiped his eye-glasses. "I wish I had gone
down to Kildrummie. What's that, Carmichael, on the crest of the hill?
Your eyes are quicker than mine."

"It's a man on horseback, and we'll soon know who he is, for he's riding
hard. I should recognize that horse. Why, it's Macfarlane's chestnut
that brings me up from the station in forty minutes and something to
spare, and Macfarlane's riding her himself. If the old chap hasn't
saddled a horse and ridden up to bring us the news post-haste! Isn't he
going! He would never come that speed if it were bad news. They've let
it out at the post office, as sure as we're standing here; and, look,
Macfarlane has seen us. He's waving his hat, doctor; the bill has
passed, and the Kirks are one." They went down the other side of the
bridge, and Carmichael did not look at Dr. Davidson, for the doctor's
stately step was broken, and he was again polishing his eyeglasses.
The chestnut was covered with dust, and so was Macfarlane, and the mare
herself seemed to be triumphant when Macfarlane reined her in on the
other side of the bridge.

"Half expeckit to see you here, gentlemen," for even Macfarlane, dealer
in horses, in coals, in manure, and hirer of carriages, was discomposed.
"Message came in at 6.48; had the mare ready; left at 6.60; done the
three miles in thirteen and a half minutes"--all this in one breath;
then, jumping off his horse and taking off his hat, "A telegram for you,
Dr. Davidson."

He patted the chestnut on the neck for her good going, and tried to look
as if he did not know what was in the envelope. Dr. Davidson handed the
envelope to Carmichael, who understood the reason, and, stripping it
off, handed him the message.

"Quiet, lass, quiet!" said Macfarlane. Carmichael straightened himself,
and raised his hand to that weather-beaten soft hat of his, which was
the scandal of the Presbytery; the doctor unfolded the paper with a
shaking hand, a flush passed over his face, the tears--which already
were in his eyes--broke and rolled down his face, and he read out with
a trembling voice--"Bill carried by a majority of two hundred and
thirty-three. God bless the Kirk of Scotland, one again and for
ever!--Kilspindie."

"Hip, hip, hurrah!" Carmichael was very young, but Macfarlane might
have known better, who was waving his cap with one hand and holding the
dancing mare with the other; while Hillocks was a spectacle of glory,
standing on the summit of the bridge and throwing in a hoarse shout.
Dr. Davidson took no part in the cheer, for he had turned aside and was
looking to the hill where the Parish Kirk peeped out from the trees, and
there were many thoughts in his mind.

"Dr. Davidson," said Carmichael, still holding his hat in his hand, and
tuning his voice to affectionate respect, "you are minister this day
unto every man in the parish of Drumtochty, and you will add to all your
past kindnesses by letting me be your faithful assistant."

The old man took Carmichael's hand in both his own, but for once he
could find no words.

"Ye saw them gang oot, doctor, and ye'll see them come back," said
Hillocks, descending from the top of the bridge.

"I honoured them when they went out," replied the doctor, finding speech
again, "and I love them coming back to their old Kirk." It was agreed
between Carmichael and the doctor that half an hour from that time the
bells of the two kirks should be rung, and though neither bell dominated
more than the distance of three fields, Dr. Davidson declared that the
Free Church bell was distinctly audible in the kirkyard; while a group
of Free Kirk men gathered round their door remarked to one another that
they had never noticed before how sweet was the sound of the Old Kirk
bell. And they were speaking true, for the bells were ringing in their
hearts. While Parliament had been deliberating on the bill, the two
Kirks had been making their arrangements in faith for the uniting of
congregations, and it had already been determined that Dr. Davidson and
Carmichael should be joint ministers of the parish of Drumtochty, and
that the congregations should worship in the Parish Kirk. When there
was a will in Drumtochty there was always a way, and arrangements
were quickly made that the parish should gather again on the following
Sabbath into the kirk where their fathers had worshipped, and round
which the dust of generations lay. At eleven o'clock the Free Church
congregation met for the last time as a separate flock, in the building
which they had erected with great sacrifice, and which was sanctified by
many sacred memories; and then, after Carmichael had conducted a short
service, and Donald Menzies, one of the elders, had offered up a prayer
of thanksgiving wherein he carried the congregation with him to
the Mercy Seat, and moved even the stiffest, they sang the second
Paraphrase, "O God of Bethel! by whose hand," and Carmichael pronounced
the benediction, with more than one pause between the words. Then they
went out through the door by which, more than a generation ago, the
congregation had entered, obeying their conscience, and testifying for
the freedom of Christ's Kirk. Without any marshalling or vain ceremony
they fell into a procession, and this was the order in which they went.
First came Carmichael in his gown and bands, his M.A. hood and college
cap, carrying in his hand his mother's Bible, and beside him Bumbrae,
Donald Menzies, Lauchlan Campbell, and the other elders, all dressed as
for the Sacrament. Behind them followed the choir, and then the people
as they pleased, family by family, parents and children together. Thrice
on the road they broke into singing, and these were the Psalms they
sang--the xcviii.--

     "O sing a new song to the Lord,
     For wonders He hath done:
     His right hand and His holy arm
     Him victory hath won";

and the lxxxiv.--

     "How lovely is Thy dwelling-place,
     O Lord of hosts, to me!
     The tabernacles of Thy grace
     How pleasant, Lord, they be!"

and the cxxxiii.--

     "Behold, how good a thing it is,
     And how becoming well,
     Together such as brethren are
     In unity to dwell!"

They began to sing this Psalm as they were ascending the height on which
the Parish Kirk stood, and when they reached the top of the hill the
sound of the Psalm was still in the air. Then Carmichael and the elders
beheld a heartening spectacle. Dr. Davidson and, his people had also
met for worship in their kirk, and, being told by a swift messenger that
their brethren were at hand, they had come out through the kirkyard and
ranged themselves in two rows along the roadside; while in the centre
of the high road, and in front of his people, stood the parish minister,
with his ruling elder, Drum-sheugh, by his side. The two ministers faced
one another, and the people stood perfectly still; the glorious sunshine
poured down upon their heads, and on either side the fields were golden
unto the harvest. Clear but tender was Dr. Davidson's voice. "Reverend
and dearly-beloved brother, I greet you, your elders, and your
congregation in the name of the Lord, and, as senior minister of this
parish, I bid you welcome to the Kirk of Drumtochty."

And then Carmichael--"Reverend and honoured father in the Gospel of
our Lord Jesus Christ, my people and I thank God that there is now one
congregation in Drumtochty, and that you are our minister."

Drumsheugh grasped Bumbrae's hand, but what passed between those two
worthy men no one heard, and then Dr. Davidson and Carmichael headed the
united procession, with the elders behind them; and as they moved down
the sideway between the hedges, the Old Kirk folk fell in with the Free
Kirk, so that they passed through the kirkyard one united company, and
as they went they sang the Psalm cxxii.--

     "I joy'd when to the house of God,
     Go up, they said to me.
     Jerusalem, within thy gates
     Our feet shall standing be."

And by a happy coincidence they were singing the last words as the
ministers and elders went in through the door--

     "Now, for my friends' and brethren's sakes,
     Peace be in thee, I'll say.
     And for the house of God our Lord,
     I'll seek thy good alway."

It had been arranged between them, who were indeed as father and son,
that Dr. Davidson should take the service and Carmichael should preach
the sermon, and when the people were all seated, neither Established nor
Free now, but all Scots Kirk men with one heart, one faith, one love,
Dr. Davidson gave out another of the glorious Psalms, whose ancient
traditions and wealth of spiritual emotion had served the people so well
that day.

"Let us worship God this day, and sing unto the praise of His glorious
name Psalm cxxvi."

     "When Sion's bondage God turn'd back,
     As men that dream'd were we."

But he was not able to read further, and the congregation, who
understood, and whose own hearts were full, broke into the singing; and
at the noise thereof Carmichael awoke, for it was only a dream.

"What might have been," he said to himself, with wistful regret, as he
descended the hill, and then his heart lifted, "and, please God, what is
going to be before my day is done."



XXII.--THE VISION OF THE SOUL


THERE were many modest homes in the Glen, but the humblest of them all
was that of Bell Robb, where she lived with Jean, her sister, and blind
Marjorie. It had only one room, and that had only one window. A tall man
could stand upright only in the centre, and the hearth was so near the
top of the chimney that it was a fight in the winter time between the
fire and the snow, and the snow used to win the battle before morning.
There was a box bed at the back of the room where Bell and Jean
slept, and the lowliest of little beds just below the window had been
Marjorie's home night and day for many a long year, because she had
not only been blind from her birth, but since middle age had also been
paralyzed. There was a table and two chairs, and a dresser on which
the humble stock of crockery was carefully displayed. From above the
fireplace the humblest of oil lamps, called a cruizie, projected, but
the cottage had two brass candlesticks which were never used, but were
polished like unto fine gold and were the glory of the home.

If providence had been unkind to any person in the Glen it was to
Marjorie, for her birth had been a tragedy, and the helpless child,
blind and feeble, had been flung upon the world. She had never known
father or mother, she had never seen the primroses in the Tochty woods
when spring made her first visit, nor the purple of the heather in
autumn time, nor the golden com in the field before her door, nor the
sunshine upon the Burn down below. She had no kinsfolk to take charge of
her, she had no claim upon any one except the poor law authorities, and
had she been bom into a parish like Kilbogie the workhouse had been her
only asylum. But it was a kindly little world into which this poor waif
and stray had come--a world which had not many words nor much money,
whose ways were curious and whose manner was austere, but whose heart
was big and warm. Drumtochty had its laws of public policy which
Government itself was never able to over-ride, which every man and woman
in the Glen set themselves to enforce. And one was that no native of
the Glen should ever be sent to the coldness and bondage of a workhouse;
that however poor he might be and however long he lived, he must be kept
in the shelter of our pine woods where he could see the Tochty run. As
a matter of fact, this was not so great a burden on the neighbours, for
Drumtochty folk had a rooted objection, which not even the modern spirit
creeping up into the Glen could overcome, against being paupers or
depending on any person save on themselves and God. Drumtochty had no
pity for wastrels and very little sympathy with shiftless people, but
Marjorie, poor Marjorie, she had the spirit to work--we judged she had
about the highest spirit in the Glen--but what could she do without
sight and with her trembling hands? So the Glen adopted Marjorie, and
declared in wayside talk and many a kirkyard conference that she had
given them more than they had ever given to her.

Bell Robb and Jean, her sister, earned their living by hoeing turnips,
lifting potatoes, binding at harvest and gathering the stones off
the field--which were ever coming up to the surface in our poor thin
soil--and they made between them on an average from January to December
nearly twelve shillings a week. They declared that being two solitary
women providence had intended they should have Marjorie, and now for
thirty years she had been with them, and they spent upon her twice as
much as they received in grants from the parish inspector, and declared
with brazen effrontery that they were making a little fortune out of
her. They also gave sixpence a month to the sustentation fund of the
Free Kirk, and a shilling at a great collection, and if there was any
little presentation in the Glen they had a shilling for that also. How
they did those things was only known to God. Their faces were lined by
labour and burned brown by the sun, but they looked well in the light of
the Sacrament, for they were partakers of the Lord's Cross; their hands
were rough and hard with field labour, but very gentle and kindly
when they waited upon Marjorie. And when Marjorie began to relate the
catalogue of her blessings, she always put next to her Saviour Bell and
her sister Jean. The two sisters have had their humble funeral years
ago, and their tired bodies with Marjorie's body of humiliation were
laid to rest in the old kirkyard, and theirs was then the reward of Him
who said, "I was a stranger and ye took me in." Drumsheugh, returning
from Muirtown market one afternoon by road, dropped in to pass the time
o' day with Marjorie--leaving half a pound of tea upon the dresser--and
was arrested by the humility of her bed. He was overheard saying "Sall"
to himself as he returned to the main road with the tone of a man who
had come to a resolution, and next Friday he drove up from Muirtown with
a small iron bedstead, arranged in parts over his dogcart, while he sat
with dignity upon the mattress. The installation of Marjorie into her
new couch was the event of her life, and for weeks the Glen dropped in,
partly to see Drumsheugh's amazing gift, but chiefly to hear Marjorie on
his unparalleled kindness and its unparalleled splendour. She had
felt it over inch by inch, and knew the pattern to a turn, but she
was chiefly concerned that her visitors should observe and rightly
appreciate the brass knobs at the four corners.

"Drumsheugh micht have got an ordinary bed for half the money, but
naething wud sateesfy him but brass knobs. Ye may say that I canna
see them, but I can feel them, and I ken that they're there, and the
neighbours see them, and to think o't that I'm lying here like a queen
on a spring bed with four brass knobs. And me that has no claim on
Drumsheugh or ony other body, juist crowned wi' loving kindness. I'll
need to ask grace to be kept humble."

According to Marjorie indeed her whole life had been arranged on the
principle of Drumsheugh's giving: instead of iron she had received
brass, yea, much fine gold, and all things had worked together for her
good. When her minister Carmichael forgot himself one day and pitied her
for her afflictions she was amazed, and had to remind herself that he
had only come to the Glen. For was it not her helplessness that had won
her so much love, so that from high Glen Urtarch down to the borders of
Kilbogie every man, woman and child was her friend, dropping in to see
her, bringing her all the news, and making her so many little presents
that she was "fair ashamed"? And she reminded John Carmichael that if
she, Marjorie, had been an able-bodied woman, he would not have paid her
so many visits, nor told her so many "bonny stories."

"Mr. Carmichael, I'll have much to answer for, for I've been greatly
blessed. I judge masel' the maist priveeleged woman in Drumtochty." And
then Carmichael, who had his own troubles and discontentments, used to
go away a wiser and a better man.

Marjorie saw the hand of an all,-wise and all-loving Providence in the
arrangements of her home. For one thing it faced south, and she got the
warmth and the shining of the sun through her little window, and there
was an advantage in the door opening straight from the garden into the
room, for the scent of the flowers came in to her bed, and she knew when
the wallflowers had begun to bloom and when the first rosebud above the
doorway had opened. She would have liked very well to have gone to the
Kirk with a goodly company, but lying alone on her bed through the hours
of service she had time for prayer, and I have heard her declare that
the time was too short for her petitions. "For, ye see, I have sae mony
friends to remember, and my plan is to begin at the top of the Glen and
tak' them family by family till I come to the end of the parish. And wud
ye believe it, I judge that it takes me four complete days to bring a'
the fowk I love before the Throne of Grace."

As for her darkness of earthly sight, this, she insisted, was the chief
good which God had bestowed upon her, and she made out her case with the
ingenuity of a faithful and contented heart.

"If I dinna see"--and she spoke as if this was a matter of doubt and she
were making a concession for argument's sake--"there's naebody in the
Glen can hear like me. There's no a footstep of a Drum-tochty man comes
to the door but I ken his name, and there's no a voice oot on the road
that I canna tell. The birds sing sweeter to me than to onybody else,
and I can hear them cheeping to one another in the bushes before they
go to sleep. And the flowers smell sweeter to me--the roses and the
carnations and the bonny moss rose--and I judge that the oatcake and
milk taste the richer because I dinna see them. Na, na, ye're no to
think that I've been ill treated by my God, for if He didna give me ae
thing, He gave me mony things instead.

"And mind ye, it's no as if I'd seen once and lost my sight; that micht
ha' been a trial, and my faith micht have failed. I've lost naething; my
life has been all getting."

And she said confidentially one day to her elder, Donald Menzies--

"There's a mercy waitin' for me that'll crown a' His goodness, and I'm
feared when I think o't, for I'm no worthy."

"What iss that that you will be meaning, Marjorie," said the elder.

"He has covered my face with His hand as a father plays with his bairn,
but some day sune He will lift His hand, and the first thing that
Marjorie sees in a' her life will be His ain face."

And Donald Menzies declared to Bumbrae on the way home that he would
gladly go blind all the days of his life if he were as sure of that
sight when the day broke and the shadows fled away.





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