But on the present occasion he went too far with Peter.
"And it's weel kent your dochter Bauby's no better nor she sud be; for—"
Peter's face flushed crimson, though where the blood could have come from was an anatomical mystery; he held up his hands with the fingers crooked like the claws of an animal, for the poor creature had no notion of striking; and, dancing backwards and forwards from one foot to the other, and grinning with set teeth in an agony of impotent rage, cried out:
"Tam Crann, gin ye daur to say anither word against my Bauby wi' that foul mou' o' yours, I'll—I'll—I'll—worry ye like a mad dog-ye ill-tongued scoonrel!"
His Bawby had already had two children—one to the rich manufacturer, the other to the strong horse-doctor.
Thomas turned in silence and went away rebuked and ashamed. Next day he sent Peter a pair of old corduroy trowsers, into either leg of which he might have been buttoned like one of Paddy's twins.
In the midst of this commotion of mind and speech, good Mr Cowie died. He had taken no particular interest in what was going on, nor even in the prophecies themselves. Ever since Annie's petition for counsel, he had been thinking, as he had never thought before, about his own relation to God; and had found this enough without the prophecies. Now he had carried his thoughts into another world. While Thomas Crann was bending his spiritual artillery upon the poor crazy tub in which floated the earthly presence of Peter Peterson, Mr Cowie's bark was lying stranded upon that shore whither the tide of time is slowly drifting each of us.
He was gently regretted by all—even by Thomas.
"Ay! ay!" he said, with slow emphasis, 'long drawn out'; "he's gane, is he, honest man? Weel, maybe he had the root o' the maitter in him, although it made unco little show aboon the yird. There was sma' flower and less fruit. But jeedgment disna belang to us, ye see, Jean, lass."
Thomas would judge the living from morning to night; but the dead—he would leave them alone in the better hands.
"I'm thinkin'," he added, "he's been taen awa' frae the evil to come—frae seein' the terrible consequences o' sic a saft way o' dealin' wi' eternal trowth and wi' perishin' men—taen awa' like Eli, whan he brak his neck at the ill news. For the fire and brimstane that overthrew Sodom and Gomorrha, is, I doobt, hingin' ower this toon, ready to fa' and smore us a'."
"Hoot! hoot! dinna speyk sic awfu' words, Thamas, Ye're nae the prophet Jonah, ye ken."
"Are ye the whaul than, to swallow me and my words thegither, Jean? I tell ye the wrath o' God maun be roused against this toon, for it's been growin' waur and waur for mony a year; till the verra lasses are no to be lippent oot them-lanes (alone)."
"What ken ye aboot the lasses, Thamas? Haud ye to the men. The lasses are nae waur nor in ither pairts. I wat I can come and gang whan and whaur I like. Never a body says a word to me."
This was true but hardly significant; seeing Jean had one shoulder and one eye twice the size of the others, to say nothing of various obliquities and their compensations. But, rude as Thomas was, he was gentleman enough to confine his reply to a snort and a silence. For had he not chosen his housekeeper upon the strength of those personal recommendations of the defensive importance of which she was herself unaware?
Except his own daughters there was no one who mourned so deeply for the loss of Mr Cowie as Annie Anderson. She had left his church and gone to the missionars, and there found more spiritual nourishment than Mr Cowie's sermons could supply, but she could not forget his kisses, or his gentle words, or his shilling, for by their means, although she did not know it, Mr Cowie's self had given her a more confiding notion of God, a better feeling of his tenderness, than she could have had from all Mr Turnbull's sermons together. What equal gift could a man give? Was it not worth bookfuls of sound doctrine? Yet the good man, not knowing this, had often looked back to that interview, and reproached himself bitterly that he, so long a clergyman of that parish, had no help to give the only child who ever came to him to ask such help. So, when he lay on his death-bed, he sent for Annie, the only soul, out of all his pariah, over which he felt that he had any pastoral cure.
When, with pale, tearful face, she entered his chamber, she found him supported with pillows in his bed. He stretched out his arms to her feebly, but held her close to his bosom, and wept.
"I'm going to die, Annie," he said.
"And go to heaven, sir, to the face o' God," said Annie, not sobbing, but with the tears streaming silently down her face.
"I don't know, Annie. I've been of no use; and I'm afraid God does not care much for me."
"If God loves you half as much as I do, sir, ye'll be well off in heaven. And I'm thinkin' he maun love ye mair nor me. For, ye see, sir, God's love itsel'."
"I don't know, Annie. But if ever I win there, which'll be more than I deserve, I'll tell him about you, and ask him to give you the help that I couldn't give you."
Love and Death make us all children.—Can Old Age be an evil thing, which does the same?
The old clergyman had thought himself a good Protestant at least, but even his Protestantism was in danger now. Happily Protestantism was nothing to him now. Nothing but God would do now.
Annie had no answer but what lay in her tears. He called his daughter, who stood weeping in the room. She came near.
"Bring my study Bible," he said to her feebly.
She went and brought it—a large quarto Bible.
"Here, Annie," said the dying man, "here's my Bible that I've made but ower little use o' mysel'. Promise me, if ever ye have a house o' your own, that ye'll read out o' that book every day at worship. I want you not to forget me, as, if all's well, I shall never forget you."
"That will I, sir," responded Annie earnestly.
"And ye'll find a new five-pound note between the leaves. Take it, for my sake."
Money! Ah, well! Love can turn gold into grace.
"Yes, sir," answered Annie, feeling this was no time for objecting to anything.
"And good-bye, Annie. I can't speak more."
He drew her to him again, and kissed her for the last time. Then he turned his face to the wall, and Annie went home weeping, with the great Bible in her arms.
In the inadvertence of grief, she ran into the shop.
"What hae ye gotten there, lassie?" said Bruce, as sharply as if she might have stolen it.
"Mr Cowie gave me his Bible, 'cause he's dein' himsel', and doesna want it ony langer," answered Annie.
"Lat's luik at it."
Annie gave it up with reluctance.
"It's a braw buik, and bonnie buirds—though gowd an' purple maitters little to the Bible. We'll jist lay't upo' the room-table, an' we'll hae worship oot o' 't whan ony body's wi' 's, ye ken."
"I want it mysel'," objected Annie, in dismay, for although she did not think of the money at the moment, she had better reasons for not liking to part with the book.
"Ye can hae't when ye want it. That's eneuch, surely."
Annie could hardly think his saying so enough, however, seeing the door of the room was kept locked, and Mrs Bruce, patient woman as she was, would have boxed any one's ears whom she met coming from within the sacred precincts.
Before the next Sunday Mr Cowie was dead; and, through some mistake or mismanagement, there was no one to preach. So the congregation did each as seemed right in his own eyes; and Mrs Forbes went to the missionar kirk in the evening to hear Mr Turnbull. Kate and Alec accompanied her.
By this time Robert Bruce had become a great man in the community—after his own judgment at least; for although, with a few exceptions, the missionars yielded him the influence he sought, nobody respected him; they only respected his money. He had managed to secure one of the most fashionable pews in the chapel; and now when Mrs Forbes's party entered, and a little commotion arose in consequence, they being more of gentlefolk than the place was accustomed to entertain, Bruce was the first to walk from his seat, and request them to occupy his pew. Alec would have passed on, for he disliked the man, but Mrs Forbes having reasons for being complaisant, accepted his offer. Colds kept the rest of the Bruces at home, and Annie was the only other occupant of the pew. She crept up to the top of it, like a little shy mouse, to be as far out of the way as possible.
"Come oot, Annie," said Bruce, in a loud whisper.
Annie came out, with a warm flush over her pale face, and Mrs Forbes entered, then Kate, and last of all, Alec, much against his will. Then Annie re-entered, and Bruce resumed his place as Cerberus of the pew-door. So Annie was seated next to Alec, as she had never been, in church or chapel, or even in school, before, except on that memorable day when they were both kept in for the Shorter Catechism. But Annie had no feeling of delight and awe like that with which Alec sat close to his beautiful cousin. She had a feeling of pleasure, no doubt, but the essence of the pleasure was faith. She trusted him and believed in him as much as she had ever done. In the end, those who trust most will find they are nearest the truth. But Annie had no philosophy, either worldly or divine. She had only common sense, gentleness, and faithfulness. She was very glad, though, that Alec had come to hear Mr Turnbull, who knew the right way better than anybody else, and could show it quite as well as Evangelist in the Pilgrim's Progress.
Nor was she far wrong in her judgment of the height of Mr Turnbull's star, calculated from the horizon of Glamerton. He was a good man who ventured to think for himself—as far as that may be possible for one upon whose spirit have converged, even before he was born, the influences of a thousand theological ancestors.
After reading the curses on Mount Ebal, he preached an eloquent sermon from the text:
"Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way; yet saidst thou not 'there is no hope.'"
He showed his hearers that they had all been seeking satisfaction in their own pursuits, in the pride of their own way; that they had been disappointed, even to weariness; and that yet, such was their perversity, they would not acknowledge the hopelessness of the pursuit, and turn to that God who was ready to pardon, and in whose courts a day would give them more delight than a thousand in the tents of wickedness. And opening his peroration by presumptuously appropriating the words of the Saviour, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha, in that day, than for you," the preacher concluded with a terrible denunciation of wrath upon the sinners who had been called and would not come. "Woe unto you, for ye would not be warned! Woe unto you, for ye knew your Lord's will, and yet committed things worthy of stripes! Therefore your whip shall be one of scorpions! Woe unto you! I say; for, when the bridegroom cometh, ye shall knock in vain at the closed door; ye shall stand without, and listen for a brief moment to the music and dancing within—listen with longing hearts, till the rush of coming wings overpowers the blissful sounds, and the angels of vengeance sweep upon you, and bearing you afar through waste regions, cast you into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, to the endless ages of a divine eternity."
With these words the preacher burst into impassioned prayer for the souls which he saw exposed to a hell of which he himself knew not the horrors, else he dared not have preached it; a hell the smoke of whose torments would arise and choke the elect themselves about the throne of God—the hell of Exhausted Mercy.
As long as the stream of eloquence flowed the eyes of the congregation were fixed upon the preacher in breathless silence. When it ceased they sank, and a sigh of exhaustion and relief arose. In that ugly building, amidst that weary praying and inharmonious singing, with that blatant tone, and, worse than all, that merciless doctrine, there was yet preaching—that rare speech of a man to his fellow-men whereby in their inmost hearts they know that he in his inmost heart believes. There was hardly an indifferent countenance in all that wide space beneath, in all those far-sloping galleries above. Every conscience hung out the red or pale flag.
When Alec ventured to look up, as he sat down after the prayer, he saw the eyes of Thomas Crann, far away in the crowd, fixed on him. And he felt their force, though not in the way Thomas intended. Thomas never meant to dart personal reproaches across the house of God; but Alec's conscience told him nevertheless, stung by that glance, that he had behaved ill to his old friend. Nor did this lessen the general feeling which the sermon had awakened in his mind, un-self-conscious as it was, that something ought to be done; that something was wrong in him somewhere; that it ought to be set right somehow—a feeling which every one in the pew shared, except one. His heart was so moth-eaten and rusty, with the moths and the rust which Mammon brings with him when he comes in to abide with a man, that there was not enough of it left to make the terrible discovery that the rest of it was gone. Its owner did not know that there was anything amiss with it. What power can empty, sweep, and garnish such a heart? Or what seven devils entering in, can make the last state of that man worse than the first?
A special prayer-meeting having been appointed, to be held after the sermon, Robert Bruce remained, to join in the intercession for the wicked town and its wicked neighbourhood. He even "engaged in prayer," for the first time in public, and astonished some of the older members by his gift in devotion. He had been received into the church only a week or two before, upon profession of faith in the merits of Christ, not in Christ himself—that would not have been definite enough for them. But it would have been all the same to Robert Bruce, for he was ready to believe that he believed anything advantageous.
There had been one or two murmurs against his reception, and he had been several times visited and talked with, before the Church was satisfied as to his conversion. But nothing was known against him beyond the fact that "he luikit at baith sides o' a bawbee;" and having learned many of their idioms, he had succeeded in persuading his examiners, and had possibly persuaded himself at the same time, that he had passed through all the phases of conversion, including conviction, repentance, and final acceptance of offered mercy on the terms proposed, and was now undergoing the slow and troublesome process of sanctification; in corroboration of which he went on to produce talk, and coppers at the chapel-door. Good people as many of those were who thus admitted him to their communion, in the full belief that none but conscious Christians should enjoy that privilege, his reputation for wealth had yet something to do with it. Probably they thought that if the gospel proved mighty in this new disciple, more of his money might be accessible by and by for good purposes: amongst the rest, for sending missionaries to the heathen, teaching them to divorce their wives and wear trowsers. And now he had been asked to pray, and had prayed with much propriety and considerable unction. To be sure Tibbie Dyster did sniff a good deal during the performance; but then that was a way she had of relieving her feelings, next best to that of speaking her mind.
When the meeting was over, Robert Bruce, Thomas Crann, and James Johnstone, who was one of the deacons, walked away together. Very little conversation took place between them, for no subject but a religious one was admissible; and the religious feelings of those who had any were pretty nearly exhausted. Bruce's, however, were not in the least exhausted. On the contrary, he was so pleased to find that he could pray as well as any of them, and the excitement of doing so before judges had been so new and pleasant to him, that he thought he should like to try it again. He thought, too, of the grand Bible lying up there on the room-table.
"Come in, sirs," he said, as they approached his door, "and tak' a pairt in our faimily worship; and sae the day'll gang oot wi' prayer, as it cam in wi' prayer. And the Lord'll maybe hae mercy upo' 's, and no destroy the place, shops an' a', for the sins o' the inhaibitants—them 'at sees, for them 'at 's blin'."
Neither of his companions felt much inclined to accede to his request: they both yielded notwithstanding. He conducted them up-stairs, unlocked the musty room, pulled up the blinds, and admitted enough of lingering light for the concluding devotions of the day. He then proceeded to gather his family together, calling them one by one.
"Mother!" he cried, from the top of the stair, meaning his wife.
"Tea, father," answered Mrs Bruce.
"Come to worship.—Robert!"
"Come to worship.—Johnnie!"
And so he went through the family roll-call, as if it were a part of some strange liturgy. When all had entered and seated themselves, the head of the house went slowly to the side-table, took from it reverentially the late minister's study Bible, sat down by the window, laid the book on his knees, and solemnly opened it.
Now a five-pound note is not thick enough to make a big Bible open between the pages where it is laid; but the note might very well have been laid in at a place where the Bible was in the habit of opening. "Without an instant's hesitation, Robert slipped it away, and crumpling it up in his hand, gave out the twenty-third psalm, over which it had lain, and read it through. Finding it too short, however, for the respectability of worship, he went on with the twenty-fourth, turning the leaf with thumb and forefinger, while the rest of the fingers clasped the note tight in his palm, and reading as he turned,
"He that hath clean hands and a pure heart—"
As soon as he had finished this psalm, he closed the book with a snap; feeling which to have been improper, he put an additional compensating solemnity into the tone in which he said:
"Thomas Crann, will you engage in prayer?"
"Pray yersel'," answered Thomas gruffly.
Whereupon Robert rose, and, kneeling down, did pray himself.
But Thomas, instead of leaning forward on his chair when he knelt, glanced sharply round at Bruce. He had seen him take something from the Bible, and crumple it up in his hand but would not have felt any inclination to speculate about it, had it not been for the peculiarly keen expression of eager surprise and happy greed which came over his face in the act. Having seen that, and being always more or less suspicious of Bruce, he wanted to know more; and was thus led into an action of which he would not have believed it possible he should ever be guilty.
He saw Bruce take advantage of the posture of devotion which he had assumed, to put something into his pocket unseen of his guests, as he believed.
When worship was over, Bruce did not ask them to slay to supper. Prayers did not involve expense; supper did. But Thomas at least could not have stayed longer.
He left his friends and went home pondering. The devotions of the day were not to be concluded for him with any social act of worship. He had many anxious prayers yet to offer before his heart would be quiet in sleep. Especially there was Alec to be prayed for, and his dawtie, Annie; and in truth the whole town of Glamerton, and the surrounding parishes—and Scotland, and the world. Indeed sometimes Thomas went further, and although it is not reported of him that he ever prayed for the devil, as that worthiest of Scotch clergymen prayed, he yet did something very like it once or twice, when he prayed for "the haill universe o' God, an' a' the bein's in't, up and doon, that we ken unco little about."
The next morning Kate and Alec rose early, to walk before breakfast to the top of one of the hills, through a young larch-wood which covered it from head to foot. The morning was cool, and the sun exultant as a good child. The dew-diamonds were flashing everywhere, none the less lovely that they were fresh-made that morning. The lark's song was a cantata with the sun and the wind and the larch-odours, in short, the whole morning for the words. How the larks did sing that morning! The only clouds were long pale delicate streaks of lovely gradations in gray; here mottled, there swept into curves. It was just the morning to rouse a wild longing for motion, for the sea and its shore, for endless travel through an endless region of grace and favour, the sun rising no higher, the dew lingering on every blade, and the lark never wearying for his nest. Kate longed for some infinitude of change without vicissitude—ceaseless progress towards a goal endlessly removed! She did not know that the door into that life might have been easier to find in that ugly chapel than even here in the vestibule of heaven.
"My nurse used to call the lark 'Our Lady's hen,'" said Kate.
"How pretty!" answered Alec, and had no more to say.
"Are the people of Glamerton very wicked, Alec?" asked Kate, making another attempt to rouse a conversation.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Alec. "I suppose they're no worse than other people."
"I thought from Mr Turnbull's sermon that they must be a great deal worse."
"Oh! they all preach like that—except good Mr Cowie, and he's dead."
"Do you think he knew better than the rest of them?"
"I don't know that. But the missionars do know something that other people don't know. And that Mr Turnbull always speaks as if he were in earnest."
"Yes, he does."
"But there's that fellow Bruce!"
"Do you mean the man that put us into his seat?"
"Yes. I can't think what makes my mother so civil to him."
"Why shouldn't she be?"
"Well, you see—I can't bear him. And I can't understand my mother. It's not like her."
In a moment more they were in a gentle twilight of green, flashed with streaks of gold. A forest of delicate young larches crowded them in, their rich brown cones hanging like the knops that looped up their dark garments fringed with paler green.
And the scent! What a thing to invent—the smell of a larch wood! It is the essence of the earth-odour, distilled in the thousand-fold alembics of those feathery trees. And the light winds that awoke blew murmurous music, so sharply and sweetly did that keen foliage divide the air.
Having gazed their fill on the morning around them, they returned to breakfast, and after breakfast they went down to the river. They stood on the bank, over one of the deepest pools, in the bottom of which the pebbles glimmered brown. Kate gazed into it abstracted, fascinated, swinging her neckerchief in her hand. Something fell into the water.
"Oh!" she cried, "what shall I do? It was my mother's."
The words were scarcely out of her mouth when Alec was in the water. Bubbles rose and broke as he vanished. Kate did not scream, but stood, pale, with parted lips, staring into the pool. With a boiling and heaving of the water, he rose triumphant, holding up the brooch. Kate gave a cry and threw herself on the grass. When Alec reached her, she lay sobbing, and would not lift her head.
"You are very unkind, Alec," she said at last, looking up. "What will your mother say?"
And she hid her face and began to sob afresh.
"It was your mother's brooch," answered Alec.
"Yes, yes; but we could have got it out somehow."
"No other how.—I would have done that for any girl. You don't know what I would do for you, Kate."
"You shouldn't have frightened me. I had been thinking how greedy the pool looked," said Kate, rising now, as if she dared not remain longer beside it.
"I didn't mean to frighten you, Kate. I never thought of it. I am almost a water-rat."
"And now you'll get your death of cold. Come along."
Alec laughed. He was in no hurry to go home. But she seized his hand and half-dragged him all the way. He had never been so happy in his life.
Kate had cried because he had jumped into the water!
That night they had a walk in the moonlight. It was all moon—the air with the mooncore in it; the trees confused into each other by the sleep of her light; the bits of water, so many moons over again; the flowers, all pale phantoms of flowers: the whole earth, transfused with reflex light, was changed into a moon-ghost of its former self. They were walking in the moon-world.
The silence and the dimness sank into Alec's soul, and it became silent and dim too. The only sound was the noise of the river, quenched in that light to the sleepy hush of moon-haunted streams.
Kate felt that she had more room now. And yet the scope of her vision was less, for the dusk had closed in around her.
She had ampler room because the Material had retired as behind a veil, leaving the Immaterial less burdened, and the imagination more free to work its will. The Spiritual is ever putting on material garments; but in the moonlight, the Material puts on spiritual garments.
Kate sat down at the foot of an old tree which stood alone in one of the fields. Alec threw himself on the grass, and looked up in her face, which was the spirit-moon shining into his world, and drowning it in dreams.—The Arabs always call their beautiful women moons.—Kate sat as silent as the moon in heaven, which rained down silence. And Alec lay gazing at Kate, till silence gave birth to speech:
"Oh Kate! How I love you!" he said.
Kate started. She was frightened. Her mind had been full of gentle thoughts. Yet she laid her hand on his arm and accepted the love.—But how?
"You dear boy!" she said.
Perhaps Kate's answer was the best she could have given. But it stung Alec to the heart, and they went home in a changed silence.—The resolution she came to upon the way was not so good as her answer.
She did not love Alec so. He could not understand her; she could not look up to him. But he was only a boy, and therefore would not suffer much. He would forget her as soon as she was out of his sight. So as he was a very dear boy, she would be as kind to him as ever she could, for she was going away soon.
She did not see that Alec would either take what she gave for more than she gave, or else turn from it as no gift at all.
When they reached the house, Alec, recovering himself a little, requested her to sing. She complied at once, and was foolish enough to sing the following
It is May, and the moon leans down all night Over a blossomy land. By her window sits the lady white, With her chin upon her hand.
"O sing to me, dear nightingale, The song of a year ago; I have had enough of longing and wail, Enough of heart-break and woe.
O glimmer on me, my apple-tree, Like living flakes of snow; Let odour and moonlight and melody In the old rich harmony flow."
The dull odours stream; the cold blossoms gleam; And the bird will not be glad. The dead never speak when the living dream— They are too weak and sad.
She listened and sate, till night grew late, Bound by a weary spell. Then a face came in at the garden-gate, And a wondrous thing befell.
Up rose the joy as well as the love, In the song, in the scent, in the show! The moon grew glad in the sky above, The blossom grew rosy below.
The blossom and moon, the scent and the tune, In ecstasy rise and fall. But they had no thanks for the granted boon, For the lady forgot them all.
There was no light in the room except that of the shining air. Alec sat listening, as if Kate were making and meaning the song. But notwithstanding the enchantment of the night, all rosy in the red glow of Alec's heart; notwithstanding that scent of gilly-flowers and sweet-peas stealing like love through every open door and window; notwithstanding the radiance of her own beauty, Kate was only singing a song. It is sad to have all the love and all the mystery to oneself—the other being the centre of the glory, and yet far beyond its outmost ring, sitting on a music-stool at a common piano old-fashioned and jingling, not in fairyland at all in fact, or even believing in its presence.
But that night the moon was in a very genial humour, and gave her light plentiful and golden. She would even dazzle a little, if one looked at her too hard. Sho could not dazzle Tibbie though, who was seated with Annie on the pale green grass, with the moon about them in the air and beneath them in the water.
"Ye say it's a fine munelicht nicht, Annie."
"Ay, 'deed is't. As bonnie a nicht as ever I saw."
"Weel, it jist passes my comprehension—hoo ye can see, whan the air's like this. I' the winter ye canna see, for it's aye cauld whan the sun's awa; and though it's no cauld the nicht, I fin' that there's no licht i' the air—there's a differ; it's deid-like. But the soun' o' the water's a' the same, and the smell o' some o' the flowers is bonnier i' the nicht nor i' the day. That's a' verra weel. But hoo ye can see whan the sun's awa, I say again, jist passes my comprehension."
"It's the mune, ye ken, Tibbie."
"Weel, what's the mune? I dinna fin' 't. It mak's no impress upo' me.—Ye canna see sae weel's ye say, lass!" exclaimed Tibbie, at length, in a triumph of incredulity and self assertion.
"Weel, gin ye winna believe me o' yer ain free will, Tibbie, I maun jist gar ye," said Annie. And she rose, and running into the cottage, fetched from it a small pocket Bible.
"Noo, ye jist hearken, Tibbie," she said, as she returned. And, opening the Bible, she read one of Tibbie's favourite chapters, rather slowly no doubt, but with perfect correctness.
"Weel, lassie, I canna mak heid or tail o' 't."
"I'll tell ye, Tibbie, what the mune aye minds me o'. The face o' God's like the sun, as ye hae tellt me; for no man cud see him and live."
"That's no sayin', ye ken," interposed Tibbie, "that we canna see him efter we're deid."
"But the mune," continued Annie, disregarding Tibbie's interruption, "maun be like the face o' Christ, for it gies licht and ye can luik at it notwithstandin'. The mune's jist like the sun wi' the ower-muckle taen oot o' 't. Or like Moses wi' the veil ower's face, ye ken. The fowk cudna luik at him till he pat the veil on."
"Na, na, lass; that winna do; for ye ken his coontenance was as the sun shineth in his strenth."
"Ay, but that was efter the resurrection, ye ken. I'm thinkin' there had been a kin' o' a veil ower his face a' the time he was upo' the earth; and syne whan he gaed whaur there war only heavenly een to luik at him, een that could bide it, he took it aff."
"Weel, I wadna wonner. Maybe ye're richt. And gin ye be richt, that accounts for the Transfiguration. He jist lifted the veil aff o' 'm a wee, and the glory aneath it lap oot wi' a leme like the lichtnin'. But that munelicht! I can mak naething o' 't."
"Weel, Tibbie, I canna mak you oot ony mair nor ye can the munelicht. Whiles ye appear to ken a' thing aboot the licht, an' ither whiles ye're clean i' the dark."
"Never ye min' me, lass. I s' be i' the licht some day. Noo we'll gang in to the hoose."
Murdoch Malison, the schoolmaster, was appointed to preach in the parish church the following Sunday. He had never preached there, for he had been no favourite with Mr Cowie. Now, however, that the good man was out of the way, they gave him a chance, and he caught at it, though not without some misgivings. In the school-desk, "he was like a maister or a pope;" but the pulpit—how would he fill that? Two resolutions he came to; the first that he would not read his sermon, but commit it and deliver it as like the extempore utterance of which he was incapable as might be—a piece of falsehood entirely understood, and justified by Scotch custom; the second, to take rather more than a hint from the fashion of preaching now so much in favour amongst the seceders and missionars: he would be a Jupiter tonans, wielding the forked lightnings of the law against the sins of Glamerton.
So, on the appointed day, having put on a new suit of black, and the gown over it, he ascended the pulpit stairs, and, conscious of a strange timidity, gave out the psalm. He cast one furtive glance around, as he took his seat for the singing, and saw a number of former as well as present pupils gathered to hear him, amongst whom were the two Truffeys, with their grandfather seated between them. He got through the prayer very well, for he was accustomed to that kind of thing in the school. But when he came to the sermon, he found that to hear boys repeat their lessons and punish them for failure, did not necessarily stimulate the master's own memory.
He gave out his text: The Book of the Prophet Joel, first chapter, fourth verse. Joel, first and fourth. "That which the palmer-worm hath left, hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left, hath the canker-worm eaten; and that which the canker-worm hath left, hath the caterpillar eaten."
Now if he could have read his sermon, it would have shown itself a most creditable invention. It had a general introduction upon the temporal punishment of sin; one head entitled, "The completeness of the infliction;" and another, "The punishment of which this is the type;" the latter showing that those little creeping things were not to be compared to the great creeping thing, namely, the worm that never dies. These two heads had a number of horns called particulars; and a tail called an application, in which the sins of his hearers were duly chastised, with vague and awful threats of some vengeance not confined to the life to come, but ready to take present form in such a judgment as that described in the text.
But he had resolved not to read his sermon. So he began to repeat it, with sweeps of the hands, pointings of the fingers, and other such tricks of second-rate actors, to aid the self-delusion of his hearers that it was a genuine present outburst from the soul of Murdoch Malison. For they all knew as well as he did, that his sermon was only "cauld kail het again." But some family dishes—Irish stew, for example, or Scotch broth—may be better the second day than the first; and where was the harm? All concerned would have been perfectly content, if he had only gone on as he began. But, as he approached the second head, the fear suddenly flashed through his own that he would not be able to recall it; and that moment all the future of his sermon was a blank. He stammered, stared, did nothing, thought nothing—only felt himself in hell. Roused by the sight of the faces of his hearers growing suddenly expectant at the very moment when he had nothing more to give them, he gathered his seven fragmentary wits, and as a last resort, to which he had had a vague regard in putting his manuscript in his pocket, resolved to read the remainder. But in order to give the change of mode an appearance of the natural and suitable, he managed with a struggle to bring out the words:
"But, my brethren, let us betake ourselves to the written testimony."
Every one concluded he was going to quote from Scripture; but instead of turning over the leaves of the Bible, he plunged his hand into the abysses of his coat. Horror of horrors for the poor autocrat!—the pocket was as empty as his own memory; in fact it was a mere typical pocket, typical of the brains of its owner. The cold dew of agony broke over him; he turned deadly pale; his knees smote one another; but he made yet, for he was a man of strong will, a final frantic effort to bring his discourse down the inclined plane of a conclusion.
"In fine," he stammered "my beloved brethren, if you do not repent and be converted and return to the Lord, you will—you will—you will have a very bad harvest."
Having uttered this solemn prediction, of the import of which he, like some other prophets, knew nothing before he uttered it, Murdoch Malison sat down, a stickit minister. His brain was a vacuum; and the thought of standing up again to pray was intolerable. No more could he sit there; for if he sat, the people would sit too. Something must be done, and there was nobody to do anything. He must get out and then the people would go home. But how could he escape? He durst not go down that pulpit stair in the sight of the congregation.—He cared no more for his vanished reputation. His only thought was how to get out.
Meantime the congregation was variously affected. Some held down their heads and laughed immoderately. These were mostly of Mr Malison's scholars, the fine edge of whose nature, if it ever had any, had vanished under the rasp of his tortures. Even Alec, who, with others of the assembly, held down his head from sympathetic shame, could not help remembering how the master had made Annie Anderson stand upon the form, and believing for the time in a general retribution in kind.
Andrew Truffey was crying bitterly. His sobs were heard through the church, and some took them for the sobs of Murdoch Malison, who had shrunk into the pulpit like a snail into its shell, so that not an atom of his form was to be seen except from the side-galleries. The maiden daughter of the late schoolmaster gave a shriek, and went into a small fit; after which an awful, quite sepulchral silence reigned for a few moments, broken only by those quivering sobs from Truffey, whom his grandfather was feebly and ineffectually shaking.
At length the precentor, George Macwha, who had for some time been turning over the leaves of his psalm-book, came to the rescue. He rose in the lectern and gave out The hundred and fifty-first psalm. The congregation could only find a hundred and fifty, and took the last of the psalms for the one meant. But George, either from old spite against the tormentor of boys and girls, or from mere coincidence—he never revealed which—had chosen in reality a part of the fifty-first psalm.
"The hunner an' fifty-first psalm," repeated George, "from the fifteent verse. An' syne we'll gang hame.
My closed lips, O Lord, by thee, Let them be opened."
As soon as the singing was over, George left the desk, and the congregation following his example, went straggling out of the church, and home, to wait with doubtful patience for the broth which as yet could taste only of onions and the stone that scoured the pot.
As soon as the sounds of retiring footsteps were heard no more in the great echoing church, uprose, like one of Dante's damned out of a torture-tomb, the form of Murdoch Malison, above the edge of the pulpit. With face livid as that of a corpse, he gave a scared look around, and not seeing little Truffey concealed behind one of the pillars, concluded the place empty, and half crawled, half tumbled down the stair to the vestry, where the sexton was waiting him. It did not restore his lost composure to discover, in searching for his handkerchief, that the encumbrance of the gown had made him put his hand ten times into the same pocket, instead of five times into each, and that in the other his manuscript lay as safe as it had been useless.
But he took his gown off very quietly, put on his coat and forgot the bands, bade the old sexton a gentle good day, and stole away home through the streets. He had wanted to get out, and now he wanted to get in; for he felt very much as Lady Godiva would have felt if her hair or her heroism had proved unworthy of confidence.
Poor Murdoch had no mother and no wife; he could not go home and be comforted. Nor was he a youth, to whom a first failure might be of small consequence. He was five and forty, and his head was sprinkled with grey; he was schoolmaster, and everybody knew him; he had boys under him. As he walked along the deserted streets, he felt that he was running the gauntlet of scorn; but every one who saw him coming along with his head sunk on his bosom, drew back from the window till he had gone by. Returning to the window to look after him, they saw, about twenty yards behind him, a solitary little figure, with the tears running down its face, stumping slowly step by step, and keeping the same distance, after the dejected master.
When Mr Malison went into the vestry, Truffey had gone into the porch, and there staid till he passed on his way home. Then with stealthily set crutch, putting it down as the wild beast sets down his miching paw, out sprang Truffey and after the master. But however silently Truffey might use his third leg, the master heard the stump stump behind him, and felt that he was followed home every foot of the way by the boy whom he had crippled. He felt, too, in some dim degree which yet had practical results, that the boy was taking divine vengeance upon him, heaping on his head the coals of that consuming fire which is love, which is our God. And when the first shame was over, the thought of Truffey came back with healing on his lonely heart.
When he reached his own door, he darted in and closed it behind, as if to shut out the whole world through which he had passed with that burden of contempt upon his degraded shoulders. He was more ashamed of his failure than he had been sorry for laming Truffey. But the shame would pass; the sorrow would endure.
Meantime two of his congregation, sisters, poor old mutched wifies, were going home together. They were distantly related to the schoolmaster, whom they regarded as the honour of the family, as their bond of relation with the world above them in general and with the priesthood in particular. So when Elspeth addressed Meg with reference to the sermon in a manner which showed her determination to acknowledge no failure, Meg took her cue directly.
"Eh! woman; it's a sair ootluik for puir fowk like us, gin things be gaein that gait!"
"And 'deed it's that, lass! Gin the hairst be gaein to the moles and the bats, it's time we war awa hame; for it'll be a cauld winter."
"Ay, that it will! The minister was sair owercome at the prospec', honest man. It was a' he cud do, to win at the en' o' his discoorse ohn grutten ootricht."
"He sees into the will o' the Almichty. He's far ben wi' Him—that's verra clear."
"Ay, lass, ay."
And hence, by slow degrees, in the middle of the vague prophecies of vengeance gathered a more definite kernel of prediction, believed by some, disbelieved, yet feared, by others—that the harvest would be so eaten of worms and blasted with smut, that bread would be up to famine prices, and the poor would die of starvation.
But still the flowers came out and looked men in the face and went in again; and still the sun shone on the evil and on the good, and still the rain fell on the just and on the unjust.
And still the denunciations from the pulpits went on; but the human souls thus exposed to the fires seemed only to harden under their influences.
Before the period of Kate's visit arrived, a letter from Professor Fraser, to the purport that if Mrs Forbes did not mind keeping Kate a little longer he would be greatly indebted to her, came to Alec like a reprieve from execution. And the little longer lengthened into the late harvest of that country.
The summer shone on, and the corn grew, green and bonnie. And Alec's love grew with the corn; and Kate liked him better and better, but was not a whit more inclined to fall in love with him.
One night, after the house was quiet, Alec, finding he could not sleep, rose and went out to play the ghost a while. It was a sultry night. Great piles of cloud were heaped up in the heavens. The moon gleamed and vanished by fits, looking old and troubled when she sighed herself out of a cloud.
"There's a storm coming," said Alec to himself; and watched and waited. There was no wind below. The leaves of the black poplar, so ready to tremble, hung motionless; and not a bat came startling on its unheard skinny wing. But ere long a writhing began in the clouds overhead, and they were twisted and torn about the moon. Then came a blinding flash, and a roar of thunder, followed by a bellowing, as if the air were a great dram, on which Titanic hands were beating and rolling. Then the rain poured down, and the scent of the earth rose into the air. Alec ran to look up at Kate's window. His heart bounded when he saw a white figure looking out into the stormy dark.
"Kate! Kate!" he cried, in a loud whisper, "come out—do come out. It's so splendid!"
She started and drew back. Presently she reappeared, and opening the window, said,
"Alec! do come in."
"No, no. You come out, Kate. You don't know what it's like. You have only to get into bed again."
Kate hesitated. But in a moment more she withdrew. Alec saw she meant to come, and flew round to the door. In a few minutes she glided silently out, and fronted the black sky. The same moment another flash, in which her spirit seemed to her to be universal, flung the darkness aside. She could have counted the houses of Glamerton. The hills rose up within her very soul. The Glamour shone in silver. The harvest gleamed in green. The larch-forest hung like a cloud on the horizon. Then the blank dark folded again its scared wings over the world; and the trees rustled their leaves with one wavy sweep, and were still. And again the rain came down in a tumult—warm, genial summer rain, full of the life of lightning. Alec stood staring through the dull dark, as if he would see Kate by the force of his will alone. The tempest in the heavens had awaked a like tempest in his bosom: would the bosom beside his receive his lightning and calm his pent-up storm by giving it space to rave? His hand took hers beseechingly. Another flash came, and he saw her face. The whole glory of the night gloomed and flashed and flowed in that face. But alas! its response was to the stormy heaven alone, not to the stormy human soul. As the earth answers the heaven with lightning of her own, so Kate, herself a woman-storm, responded to the elemental cry.
Her shawl had fallen back, and he saw a white arm uplifted, bare to the shoulder, gleaming through the night, and an eye flashing through the flood that filled it. He could not mistake her passion. He knew that it was not for him; that she was a harp played upon by the elements; yet, passioned still more with her passion, he cried aloud,
"Oh, Kate! if you do not love me I shall die."
Kate started, and sought to take her hand from his, but she could not.
"Let me go, Alec," she said, pleadingly.
His fingers relaxed, and she sped into the house like a bird, leaving him standing in the night.
There was no more lightning. The rain fell heavy and persistent. The wind rose. And when the dawn came, the clouds were drifting over the sky; and the day was a wet gray fringy mass of wind and rain and cloud, tossing trees, and corn hard bested.
He rose and dragged himself away. He had thrown himself upon the grass, and had burned there till his exhausted feelings lay like smouldering fire under the pale ashes of the dawn.
When Kate made her appearance at breakfast she looked bright and cold. She had told his mother about last night, though how much he could only guess. When he asked her whether he might not read to her, she only said,
"If you like."
Whereupon he did not like.
It was a dreary day. He crept about the house like a child in disgrace, and the darkness seemed an age in coming. When the candles were brought, he went to bed; and when his mother went up, she found him asleep, but feverish. When he woke he was delirious.
For a week there was nothing but wet and windy weather. Alec was in bed. Kate was unhappy. Mrs Forbes was anxious.
The corn was badly lodged. Patches lay prone, tangled, spiky, and rough; and it was evident that if sunshine, strong, healthy sunshine, did not soon break out, the wretched mooncalf-prediction of Murdoch Malison would come true, for the corn, instead of ripening, would start a fresh growth, and the harvest would be a very bad one indeed, whether the people of Glamerton repented or not.
But after a grievous week, that blessed sunshine did come. The corn rose up from its low estate, looked at the sun, gathered heart, and began to ripen diligently.
But Alec was very ill, and did not see Kate for weeks.
Through his wanderings—so strangely does the thousand times o'erwritten palimpsest of the brain befool the mind and even the passions by the redawning of old traces—he talked on about Annie and their schooldays with Mr Malison, and never mentioned Kate.
Annie went often to inquire after him, and Mrs Forbes behaved to her with her old kindness—just a little diluted by anxiety and the possession of Kate.
When Annie thought with herself what she could do for him, she could never think of anything except saying sangs to him. But the time for that was long gone by. So, like many other devotions, hers found no outlet but in asking how he was.
At length, one day, he was brought down to the dining-room and laid upon the sofa. Then for the first time since his illness he saw Kate, He looked in her face pitifully and kissed her hand. She put her face down to his. The blood surged up into his cheek, and the light into his eyes, and he murmured:
"That is worth being ill for, Kate. I would be ill again for that."
She could only say hush, and then kiss him again, lest he should be hurt, thinking with a soundless sigh:
"I shall be forced to marry him some day."
And he was neither her own virgin-born ideal; nor had his presence the power to beget another and truer ideal in her brain.
From that day he made rapid progress. Kate would read to him for hours; and when for love and weakness—an ill-matched pair—he could not look in her face any more, he would yet lie and listen, till her voice filled him with repose, and he slept in music.
On the Monday morning after his terrible failure Mr Malison felt almost too ill to go to the school. But he knew that if he gave in he must leave the place. And he had a good deal of that courage which enables a man to front the inevitable, and reap, against his liking, the benefits that spring from every fate steadfastly encountered. So he went, keeping a calm exterior over the shame and mortification that burned and writhed within him. He prayed the morning prayer, falteringly but fluently; called up the Bible-class; corrected their blunders with an effort over himself which imparted its sternness to the tone of the correction and made him seem oblivious of his own, though in truth the hardest task he had ever had was to find fault that Monday; in short, did everything as usual, except bring out the tag. How could he punish failure who had himself so shamefully failed in the sight of them all? And, to the praise of Glamerton be it recorded, never had there been a quieter day, one of less defiance of law, than that day of the master's humiliation. In the afternoon Andrew Truffey laid a splendid bunch of cottage-flowers on his desk, and the next morning it was so crowded with offerings of the same sort that he had quite a screen behind which to conceal his emotion.
Wonderful, let me say once more, is the divine revenge! The children would wipe away the humiliation of their tyrant. His desk, the symbol of merciless law, the ark containing no pot of manna, only the rod that never budded, became an altar heaped with offerings, behind which the shamed divinity bowed his head and acknowledged a power greater than that of stripes—overcome by his boys, who hated spelling and figures, hated yet more the Shorter Catechism, could hardly be brought to read the book of Leviticus with decency, and hated to make bricks without straw; and yet, forgetting it all, loved the man beneath whose lashes they had writhed in torture. In his heart the master vowed, with a new love which loosed the millstone of many offences against the little ones, that had for years been hanging about his neck—vowed that, be the shame what it might, he would never leave them, but spend his days in making up for the hardness of his heart and hand; vowed that he would himself be good, and so make them good; that he would henceforth be their friend, and let them know it. Blessed failure ending in such a victory! Blessed purgatorial pulpit! into which he entered full of self and self-ends; and from which he came down disgusted with that paltry self as well as its deserved defeat. The gates of its evil fortress were now undefended, for Pride had left them open in scorn; and Love, in the form of flower-bearing children, rushed into the citadel. The heart of the master was forced to yield, and the last state of that man was better than the first.
"Swift Summer into the Autumn flowed," and yet there was no sign of the coming vengeance of heaven. The green corn turned pale at last before the gaze of the sun. The life within had done its best and now shrunk back to the earth, leaving the isolated life of its children to the ripening of the heavens. Anxious farmers watched their fields, and joyfully noted every shade of progress. All day the sun shone strong; and all night the moon leaned down from heaven to see how things were going on, and keep the work gently moving, till the sun should return to take it up again. Before he came, a shadowy frost would just breathe on the earth, which, although there was only death in its chill, yet furthered the goings on of life in repelling the now useless sap, and so helping the sun to dry the ripening ears. At length the new revelation of ancient life was complete, and the corn stood in living gold, and men began to put in the sickle, because the time of the harvest was come.
And with it came the hairst-play, the event of school-life both to master and scholars. But the feelings with which the master watched and longed for it were sadly different from those of the boys. It was delight itself to the latter to think of having nothing to do on those glorious hot days but gather blaeberries, or lie on the grass, or bathe in the Glamour and dry themselves in the sun ten times a day. For the master, he only hoped to get away from the six thousand eyes of Glamerton. Not one allusion had been made in his hearing to his dismal degradation, but he knew that that was only because it was too dreadful to be alluded to. Every time he passed a woman with a baby in her arms at a cottage door, the blind eyes in the back of his head saw her cuddling her child, and the ears that are always hearing what never was said, heard her hope that he would never bring such disgrace upon himself and upon her. The tone of additional kindness and consideraton with which many addressed him, only made him think of what lay behind, and refuse every invitation given him. But if he were once "in secret shadow far from all men's sight," his oppressed heart would begin to revive, and he might gather strength enough to face with calmness what he would continue to face somehow, in the performance of his arrears of duty to the boys and girls of Glamerton.
Can one ever bring up arrears of duty? Can one ever make up for wrong done? Will not heaven be an endless repentance?
It would need a book to answer the first two of these questions. To the last of them I answer, "Yes—but a glad repentance."
At length the slow hour arrived. Longing thoughts had almost obliterated the figures upon Time's dial, and made it look a hopeless undivided circle of eternity. But at length twelve o'clock on Saturday came; and the delight would have been almost unendurable to some, had it not been calmed by the dreary proximity of the Sabbath lying between them and freedom. To add to their joy, there was no catechism that day. The prayer, although a little longer than usual, was yet over within a minute after the hour. And almost as soon as the Amen was out of the master's mouth, the first boys were shouting jubilantly in the open air. Truffey, who was always the last, was crutching it out after the rest, when he heard the master's voice calling him back. He obeyed it with misgiving—so much had fear become a habit.
"Ask your grandfather, Andrew, if he will allow you to go down to the seaside with me for a fortnight or three weeks," said the master.
"Yes, sir," Truffey meant to say, but the attempt produced in reality an unearthly screech of delight, with which he went off on a series of bounds worthy of a kangaroo, lasting all the way to his grandfather's, and taking him there in half the usual time.
And the master and Truffey did go down to the sea together. The master borrowed a gig and hired a horse and driver; and they sat all three in the space meant for two, and their boxes went by the carrier. To happy Truffey a lame leg or two was not to be compared with the exultant glory of that day. Was he not the master's friend henceforth? And was he not riding in a gig—bliss supreme? And was not the harvest around them, the blue tent of the sun over their heads, and the sea somewhere before them? Truffey was prouder than Mr Malison could have been if, instead of the result of that disastrous Sunday, he had been judged to surpass Mr Turnbull in pulpit gifts, as he did in scholastic acquirements. And if there be as much joy in the universe, what matter how it be divided!—whether the master be raised from the desk to the pulpit, or Truffey have a ride in a gig!
About this time Tibbie, sitting too late one evening upon the grass, caught a bad cold and cough, and was for a fortnight confined to bed. Within two days Annie became her constant companion—that is, from the moment the play commenced.
"I tell't ye I wad hae the licht afore lang," she said the first time Annie came to her.
"Hoots, Tibbie! It's only an ill caud an' a host," said Annie, who from being so much with her and Thomas had caught the modes of an elderly woman. "Ye maunna be doonhertit."
"Doonhertit! The lassie's haverin'! Wha daured to say that I was doonhertit within sicht o' the New Jerusalem? Order yer words better, lassie, or else haud yer tongue."
"I beg yer pardon, Tibbie. It was ill-considered. But ye see hooever willin' ye may be to gang, we're nane sae willin' to lat gang the grip o' ye."
"Ye'll be a hantle better withoot me, lass. Oh, my heid! And the host's jist like to rive me in bits, as the prophets rave their claes whan the fowk contred them ower sair to bide. Aweel! This body's nothing but a wheen claes to my sowl; and no verra weel made either, for the holes for my een war forgotten i' the makin'.—I'm bit jokin', lassie; for it was the Lord's han' that made and mismade my claes; and I'm weel willin' to wear them as lang's he likes. Jist mak a drappy o' stoorum to me. Maybe it'll ile my thrapple a bit. I winna be lang ahin Eppie Shawn."
That was the woman who had occupied the other end of the cottage and had died in the spring.
So Annie waited on Tibbie day and night. And that year, for the first time since she came to Glamerton, the harvest began without her. But when Tibbie got a little better, she used to run out now and then to see what progress the reapers were making.
One bright forenoon Tibbie, feeling better, said to her,
"Noo, bairn, I'm a hantle better the day, and ye maun jist rin oot and play yersel'. Ye're but a bairn, though ye hae the wit o' a wumman. Ye'll be laid up yersel' gin ye dinna get a stammachfu' o' the caller air noo and than. Sae jist rin awa', an' dinna lat me see ye afore denner-time."
At Howglen, there happened, this year, to be a field of oats not far from the house, the reaping of which was to begin that day. It was very warm, and glorious with sunshine. So, after a few stooks had been set up, Alec crawled out with the help of his mother and Kate, and lay down on some sheaves, sheltered from the sun by a stook, and watched. The men and women and corn leaned all one way. The oats hung their curved heads of little pendulous bells, and gave out a low murmuring sibilation—its only lament that its day was over, and sun and wind no more for it. Through the high stalks gleamed now and then the lowly corn flower, and he watched for the next blue star that would shine out as they cut the golden cloud away. But the sun rose till the stook could shelter him no more. First came a flickering of the shadows of the longest heads athwart his face, and then the sun shone full upon him. His mother and Kate had left him for a while, and, too weak or too lazy to move, he lay with closed eyes, wishing that some one would come to his help. Nor had he to wait long. A sudden shadow came over him. When he looked up to find the source of the grateful relief, he could see nothing but an apron held up in two little hands behind the stook—hiding both the sun and the face of the helper.
"Who's there?" he asked.
"It's me—Annie Anderson," came from behind the un-moving apron.
Now why would not Alec accept this attention from Annie?
"Dinna stan' there, Annie," he said. "I dinna want it. My mother will be here in a minute. I see her comin'."
Annie dropped her arms, and turned away in silence. If Alec could have seen her face, he would have been sorry that he had refused her service. She vanished in a moment, so that Mrs Forbes and Kate never saw her. They sat down beside him so as to shelter him, and he fell fast asleep. When he woke, he found his head in Kate's lap, and her parasol casting a cool green shadow over him. His mother had gone again. Having made these discoveries, he closed his eyes, and pretending to be still asleep, lay in a waking dream. But dreams themselves must come to an end. Kate soon saw that his face was awake, although his eyes were closed.
"I think it is time we went into the house, Alec," she said. "You have been asleep nearly an hour."
"Happy so long, and not know it?" returned he, looking up at her from where he lay.
Kate blushed a little. I think she began to feel that he was not quite a boy. But he obeyed her like a child, and they went in together.
When Annie vanished among the stooks after the rejection of her offered shadow, a throbbing pain at her heart kept her from returning to the reapers. She wandered away up the field towards a little old cottage, in which some of the farm servants resided. She knew that Thomas Crann was at work there, and found him busy rough-casting the outside of it.
"Ye're busy harlin', Thomas," said Annie, for the sake of saying something.
"Ay, jist helpin' to mak' a heepocreet," answered Thomas, with a nod and a grim smile, as he threw a trowelful of mortar mixed with small pebbles against the wall.
"What mean ye by that?" rejoined Annie.
"Gin ye kent this auld bothie as weel as I do, ye wadna need to spier that question. It sud hae been pu'ed doon fra the riggin to the fundation a century afore noo. And here we're pittin a clean face upo' 't, garrin' 't luik as gin it micht stan' anither century, and nobody had a richt to luik asclent at it."
"It luiks weel eneuch."
"I tell't ye that I was makin' a heepocreet. There's no a sowl wants this hoose to stan' but the mistress doon there, that doesna want to waur the siller, and the rottans inside the wa's o' 't, that doesna want to fa' into the cluiks o' Bawdrins and Colley—wha lie in wait for sic like jist as the deevil does for the sowl o' the heepocreet.—Come oot o' the sun, lassie. This auld hoose is no a'thegither a heepocreet: it can haud the sun aff o' ye yet."
Thomas had seen Annie holding her hand to her head, an action occasioned partly by the heat and partly by the rebuff Alec had given her. She stepped into the shadow beside him.
"Isna the warl' fu' o' bonnie things cheap?" Thomas went on. "The sun's fine and het the day. And syne whan he's mair nor we can bide, there's lots o' shaidows lyin' aboot upo' the face o' the warl'; though they say there's some countries whaur they're scarce, and the shaidow o' a great rock's thought something o' in a weary lan'? But we sudna think less o' a thing 'cause there's plenty o' 't. We hae a heap o' the gospel, but we dinna think the less o' 't for that. Because ye see it's no whether shaidows be dear or no that we think muckle or little o' them, but whether we be richt het and tired whan we win till ane o' them. It's that 'at maks the differ."
Sorrow herself will reveal one day that she was only the beneficent shadow of Joy.
Will Evil ever show herself the beneficent shadow of Good?
"Whaur got Robert Bruce that gran' Bible, Annie, do ye ken?" resumed Thomas, after whitening his hypocrite in silence for a few moments.
"That's my Bible, Thomas. Auld Mr Cowie gae't to me whan he was lyin' near-han' deith."
"Hm! hm! ay! ay! And hoo cam' 't that ye didna tak' it and pit it i' yer ain kist?"
"Maister Bruce tuik it and laid it i' the room as sune's I brocht it hame."
"Did Maister Cowie say onything to ye aboot onything that was in't, no?"
"Ay, did he. He spak' o' a five-poun' note that he had pitten in't. But whan I luikit for't, I cudna fin' 't."
"Ay! ay! Whan did ye luik for't?"
"I forgot it for twa or three days—maybe a week."
"Do ye min' that Sunday nicht that twa or three o' 's cam hame wi' Bruce, and had worship wi' him an' you?"
"Ay, weel eneuch. It was the first time he read oot o' my Bible."
"Was't afore or efter that 'at ye luikit for the nott?"
"It was the neist day; for the sicht o' the Bible pat it i' my min'. I oughtna to hae thocht aboot it o' the Sawbath; but it cam' o' 'tsel'; and I didna luik till the Mononday mornin', afore they war up. I reckon Mr Cowie forgot to pit it in efter a'."
"Hm! hm! Ay! ay!—Weel, ye see, riches taks to themsels wings and flees awa'; and sae we maunna set oor herts upo' them, for it's no manner o' use. We get nothing by 't. The warst bank that a man can lay up his siller in is his ain hert. And I'll tell ye hoo that is. Ye ken whan meal's laid up ower lang it breeds worms, and they eat the meal. But they do little hairm forbye, for they're saft craters, and their teeth canna do muckle ill to the girnell. But there's a kin' o' roost that gathers and a kin' o' moth that breeds i' the gowd and siller whan they're laid up i' the hert; and the roost's an awfu' thing for eatin' awa', and the moth-craters hae teeth as hard's the siller that breeds them; and instead o' eatin' the siller, like the meal-worms, they fa' upo' the girnel itsel'—that's the heart; and afore lang the hert itsel's roostit awa' wi' the roost, and riddlet through and through wi' the moths, till it's a naisty fushionless thing, o' no use to God or man, not even to mak' muck o'. Sic a crater's hardly worth damnin'."
And Thomas threw trowelful after trowelful of rough-cast upon the wall, making his hypocrite in all the composure of holy thoughts. And Annie forgot her trouble in his presence. For Thomas was one of those whom the prophet foresaw when he said: "And a man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as a shadow of a great rock in a weary land." I do not mean that Thomas was felt to be such by all whom he encountered; for his ambition was to rouse men from the sleep of sin; to set them face to face with the terrors of Mount Sinai; to "shak' them ower the mou' o' the pit," till they were all but choked with the fumes of the brimstone. But he was a shelter to Annie—and to Tibbie also, although she and he were too much of a sort to appear to the best advantage in their intercourse.
"Hoo's Tibbie the day?" said Thomas.
"She's a wee bit better the day," answered Annie.
"It's a great preevileege, lassie, and ane that ye'll hae to answer for, to be sae muckle wi' ane o' the Lord's elec' as ye are wi' Tibbie Dyster. She's some thrawn (twisted) whiles, but she's a good honest woman, wha has the glory o' God sair at her hert. And she's tellt me my duty and my sins in a mainner worthy o' Debohrah the prophetess; and I aye set mysel' to owercome them as gin they had been the airmy o' Sisera, wham Jael, the wife o' Heber, the Kenite, killed efter a weel-deserved but some cooardly faushion."
Annie did not return to the harvest-field that day. She did not want to go near Alec again. So, after lingering a while with Thomas, she wandered slowly across some fields of barley-stubble through which the fresh young clover was already spreading its soft green. She then went over the Glamour by the bridge with the three arches, down the path at the other end, over the single great stone that crossed the dyer's dam, and so into Tibbie's cottage.
Had Annie been Robert Bruce's own, she would have had to mind the baby, to do part of the house work, and, being a wise child, to attend in the shop during meals, and so expedite the feeding-process which followed the grace. But Robert Bruce was ignorant of how little Annie knew about the investment of her property. He took her freedom of action for the result of the knowledge that she paid her way, whereas Annie followed her own impulse, and never thought about the matter. Indeed, with the reticence of Scotch people, none of her friends had given her any information about her little fortune. Had Bruce known this, there would have been no work too constant for her, and no liberty too small.
Thomas did not doubt that Robert Bruce had stolen the note. But he did not see yet what he ought to do about it. The thing would be hard to prove, and the man who would steal would lie. But he bitterly regretted that such a man should have found his way into their communion.
At length the corn was gathered in, all over the valley of the two rivers. The wool of the sheep grows again after they are shorn, to keep them warm in the winter: when the dry stubble sticks up short and bristly over the fields, to keep them warm "He scattereth his snows like wool."
The master returned from the sea-coast, bringing Truffey with him, radiant with life. Nothing could lengthen that shrunken limb, but in the other and the crutch together he had more than the function of two.
And the master was his idol.
And the master was a happier man. The scene of his late failure had begun to fade a little from his brain. The expanse of the church and the waiting people was no longer a vision certain to arise in the darkness that surrounds sleep. He had been loving and helping; and love and help had turned into a great joy, whose tide washed from out his heart the bitterness of his remembered sin. When we love truly, all oppression of past sin will be swept away. Love is the final atonement, of which and for which the sacrifice of the atonement was made. And till this atonement is made in every man, sin holds its own, and God is not all in all.
So the earth and all that was therein did the master good. And he came back able to look people in the face—humble still, but no longer humiliated. And when the children gathered once more on a Monday morning, with the sad feeling that the holidays were over, the master's prayer was different from what it used to be, and the work was less irksome than before, and school was not so very hateful after all. Even the Shorter Catechism was not the instrument of torture which it had been wont to be. The cords of the rack were not strained so tight as heretofore.
But the cool bright mornings, and the frosty evenings, with the pale green sky after sundown, spoke to the heart of Alec of a coming loss. Not that Kate had ever shown that she loved him, so that he even felt a restless trouble in her presence which had not been favourable to his recovery. Yet as he lay in the gloaming, and watched those crows flying home, they seemed to be bearing something away with them on their black wings; and as the light sank and paled on the horizon, and the stars began to condense themselves into sparks amid the sea of green, like those that fleet phosphorescent when the prow of the vessel troubles the summer sea, and then the falling stars of September shot across the darkening sky, he felt that a change was near, that for him winter was coming before its time. And the trees saw from their high watch-tower the white robe of winter already drifting up above the far horizon on the wind that followed his footsteps, and knew what that wind would be when it howled tormenting over those naked fields. So their leaves turned yellow and gray, and the frosty red of age was fixed upon them, and they fell, and lay.
On one of those bright mornings, which make the head feel so clear, the limbs so strong, and the heart so sad, the doom fell in the expected form, that of a letter from the Professor. He was at home at last, and wanted his niece to mix his toddy, and scold his servants for him, from both of which enjoyments he said he desired to wean himself in time. Alec's heart sank within him.
"Don't go yet, Kate," he said. But he felt that she must go.
An early day was fixed for her return; and his summer would go with her.
The day before her departure they were walking together along one of the rough parish-roads leading to the hills.
"Oh, Kate!" exclaimed Alec, all at once, in an outburst of despair, "what shall I do when you are gone? Everything will look so hateful!"
"Oh, Alec!" rejoined Kate, in a tone of expostulation.
"They will all look the same as if you had not gone away!—so heartless, so selfish!"
"But I shall see you in November again."
"Oh, yes. You will see me. But shall I see you?—this very you? Oh, Kate! Kate! I feel that you will be different then. You will not look at me as you do now. You are kind to me because I have been ill. You pity me for my white face. It is very good of you. But won't you love me, Kate? I don't deserve it. But I've read so often of beautiful women loving men who did not deserve it. Perhaps I may be worthy of it some day. And by that time you will have loved somebody else!"
He turned involuntarily, and walked towards home. He recovered himself instantly, however, and returning put his hand on Kate's arm, who was frightened and anxious. Like a child praying to his mother, he repeated:
"Won't you love me, Kate?—Just a little?—How can I go into that room after you are gone—and all your things out of it? I am not good enough ever to sleep there again. Won't you love me, Kate? A little?"
"I do love you dearly. You know that, Alec. Why do you always press me to say more?"
"Because I do not like the way you say it."
"You want me to speak your way, not my own, and be a hypocrite?"
"Kate! Kate! I understand you too well."
They walked home in silence.
Now, although this was sad enough for Alec, yet there was room for hope. But she was going away, and he would not know what she was doing or thinking. It was as if she were going to die. Nor was that all;—for—to misuse the quotation—
"For, in that sleep of death, what dreams might come!"
She might dream of some one, love some one—yes, marry some one, and so drive him mad.
When the last night arrived, he followed her up-stairs, and knocked at her room door, to see her once again, and make one more appeal. Now an appeal has only to do with justice or pity. With love it is of no use. With love it is as unavailing as wisdom or gold or beauty. But no lover believes this.
There was no answer to the first, the inarticulate appeal. He lost his courage, and dared not knock again; and while Kate was standing with her head on one side, and her dress half off, wondering if any one had knocked, he crept away to his bed ashamed. There was only a partition of lath and plaster between the two, neither of whom could sleep, but neither of whom could have given the other any comfort. Not even another thunder-storm could have brought them together again that night.
At length the pitiless dawn, which will come, awoke Alec, and he saw the last few aged stars wither away as the great young star came up the hill, the despot who, crowned with day, drives men up and abroad, be the weather, inside or out, what it may. It was the dreariest dawn Alec had ever known.
Kate appeared at breakfast with indescribable signs of preparation about her. The breakfast was dull and cheerless. The autumn sun was brilliant. The inevitable gig appeared at the door. Alec was not even to drive it. He could only help her into it, kiss her gloved hand on the rail, and see her vanish behind the shrubbery.
He then turned in stern endurance, rushed up into the very room he had thought it impossible ever to enter again, caught up a handkerchief she had left behind her, pressed it to his face, threw himself on her bed, and—well, he fell fast asleep.
He woke not so miserable as he had expected. Of this he was so much ashamed that he tried hard to make himself more miserable, by going over all the miseries in store for him. But his thoughts would not obey him. They would take their own way, fly where they pleased, and alight where they would. And the meeting in November was the most attractive object in sight.—So easily is Hope born, when the time of her birth is come!
But he soon found that Grief is like some maidens: she will not come when she is called; but if you leave her alone, she will come of herself. Before the day was over he had sacrificed griefs enough upon the altar of Love. All at once the whole vacant region rushed in upon him with a ghostly sense of emptiness and desolation. He wandered about the dreary house like a phantom about a cenotaph. The flowers having nothing to say, because they had ceased to mean anything, looked ashamed of themselves. The sunshine was hastening to have done with it, and let the winter come as soon as he liked, for there was no more use in shining like this. And Alec being in love, could feel all this, although he had not much imagination. For the poetic element has its share in the most common pug-faced man in creation; and when he is in love, what of that sort there is in him, as well as what there is of any sort of good thing, will come to the surface, as the trout do in the balmy summer evenings. Therefore let every gentle maiden be warned how she takes such a manifestation of what is in the man for the man himself. It is the deepest, it is the best in him, but it may not be in the least his own yet. It is one thing to have a mine of gold in one's ground, know it, and work it; and another to have the mine still but regard the story as a fable, throw the aureal hints that find their way to the surface as playthings to the woman who herself is but a plaything in the owner's eyes, and mock her when she takes them for precious. In a word, every man in love shows better than he is, though, thank God, not better than he is meant to become.
After Kate's departure, Alec's health improved much more rapidly. Hope, supplied by his own heart, was the sunlight in which he revived. He had one advantage over some lovers—that he was no metaphysician. He did not torture himself with vain attempts to hold his brain as a mirror to his heart, that he might read his heart there. The heart is deaf and dumb and blind, but it has more in it—more life and blessedness, more torture and death—than any poor knowledge-machine of a brain can understand, or even delude itself into the fancy of understanding.
From the first, Kate's presence had not been favourable to his recovery, irrespectively of the excitement and restlessness which it occasioned; for she was an absorbent rather than a diffuser of life. Her own unsatisfied nature, her excitableness, her openness to all influences from the external world, and her incapacity for supplying her needs in any approximate degree from inward resources; her consequent changeableness, moodiness, and dependency—were all unfavourable influences upon an invalid who loved her.
The first thing he did was to superintend the painting and laying up of his boat for the winter. It was placed across the rafters of the barn, wrapt in tarpaulin.
The light grew shorter and shorter. A few rough rainy days stripped the trees of their foliage; and although the sun shone out again and made lovely weather,
Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days,
it was plain to all the senses that the autumn was drawing to a close.
All the prophetic rumours of a bad harvest had proved themselves false. Never a better harvest had been gathered in the strath, nor had one ever been carried home in superior condition. But the passion for prophecy had not abated in Glamerton. It was a spiritual epidemic over the whole district.
Now a certain wily pedler had turned the matter over and resolved to make something of it.
One day there appeared in the streets of Glamerton a man carrying in his hand a bundle of papers as a sample of what he had in the pack upon his shoulders. He bore a burden of wrath. They were all hymns and ballads of a minacious description, now one and now another of which he kept repeating in lugubrious recitative. Amongst them some of Watts's, quite unknown to Glamerton worshippers, carried the palm of horror. But there were others which equalled them in absurdity, although their most ludicrous portions affected the populace only as a powerful realization of the vague and awful. One of these had the following stanzas:
"The dragon's tail shall be the whip Of scorpions foretold, With which to lash them thigh and hip That wander from the fold. And when their wool is burnt away— Their garments gay, I mean— Then this same whip they'll feel, I say, Upon their naked skin."
The probability seems to be that, besides collecting from all sources known to him, the pedler had hired an able artist for the production of original poems of commination. His scheme succeeded; for great was the sale of these hymns and ballads at a halfpenny a piece in the streets of Glamerton. Even those who bought to laugh, could not help feeling an occasional anticipatory sting of which, being sermon-seared, they were never conscious under pulpit denunciation.
The pedler having emptied his wallet—not like that of Chaucer's Pardoner,
"Bretful of pardon brought from Rome all hot,"
but crammed with damnation brought all hot from a different place—vanished; and another wonder appeared in the streets of Glamerton—a man who cried with a loud voice, borrowing the cry of the ill-tempered prophet: "Yet forty days, and Glamerton shall be destroyed."
This cry he repeated at awful intervals of about a minute, walking slowly through every street, lane, and close of the town. The children followed him in staring silence; the women gazed from their doors in awe as he passed. The insanity which gleamed in his eyes, and his pale long-drawn countenance, heightened the effect of the terrible prediction. His belief took theirs by storm.
The men smiled to each other, but could not keep it up in the presence of their wives and sisters. They said truly that he was only a madman. But as prophets have always been taken for madmen, so madmen often pass for prophets; and even Stumpin' Steenie, the town-constable, had too much respect either to his prophetic claims, or his lunacy, perhaps both, to take him into custody. So through the streets of Glamerton he went on his bare feet, with tattered garments, proclaiming aloud the coming destruction, He walked in the middle of the street, and turned aside for nothing. The coachman of the Royal Mail had to pull up his four greys on their haunches to keep them off the defiant prophet, and leave him to pursue the straight line of his mission. The ministers warned the people on the following Sunday against false prophets, but did not say that man was a false prophet, while with their own denunciations they went on all the same. The chief effects of it all were excitement and fear. There was little sign of repentance. But the spiritual physicians did not therefore doubt their exhibition. They only increased the dose. The prophet appeared one day. He had vanished the next.
But within a few days, a still more awful prediction rose, cloud-like, on the spiritual sky. A placard was found affixed to the doors of every place of worship in the town, setting forth in large letters that, according to certain irrefragable calculations from "the number of a man" and other such of the more definite utterances of Daniel and St John, the day of judgment must without fail fall upon the next Sunday week. Whence this announcement came no one knew. But the truth is, every one was willing it should remain shrouded in the mystery congenial to such things. On the door of the parish-church, it found an especially suitable place; for that, not having been painted for many years, still retained the mourning into which it had been put on occasion of the death of the great man of the neighbourhood, the owner of all Glamerton, and miles around it—this mourning consisting of a ground of dingy black, over which at small regular distances had been painted a multitude of white spots with tails, rather more like commas than tadpoles, intended to represent the falling tears of lamenting tenants and humble servants generally. Curly's grandfather had been the artist of the occasion. In the middle of this door stood the awful prophecy, surrounded on every side by the fall of the faded tears; and for anything anybody knew, it might have been a supernatural exudation from the damp old church, full of decay for many a dreary winter. Dreadful places, those churches, hollow and echoing all the week! I wonder if the souls of idle parsons are condemned to haunt them, and that is what gives them that musty odour and that exhausting air.
Glamerton was variously affected by this condensation of the vapour of prophecy into a definite prediction.
"What think ye o' 't, Thomas Crann?" said Andrew Constable. "The calcleation seems to be a' correck. Yet somehoo I canna believe in't."
"Dinna fash yer heid aboot it, Anerew. There's a heep o' judgments atween this an' the hinner en'. The Lord'll come whan naebody's luikin' for him. And sae we maun be aye ready. Ilka year's an anno dominy. But I dinna think the man that made that calcleation as ye ca' 't 's jist a'thegeether infallible. An' for ae thing, he's forgotten to mak' allooance for the laip years."
"The day's by, than!" exclaimed Andrew, in a tone contrasting pretty strongly with his previous expressions of unbelief.
"Or else it's nae comin' sae sune as the prophet thocht. I'm no clear at this moment aboot that. But it's a sma' maitter that."
Andrew's face fell, and he looked thoughtful.
"Hoo mak' ye that oot?" said he.
"Hoots man!" answered Thomas; "dinna ye see 'at gin the man was cawpable o' makin' sic a mistak's that, i' the mids o' his perfec confidence in his ain knowledge an' jeedgment, he cud hardly hae been intendit by Providence for an interpreter o' dark sayings of old?"
Andrew burst into a laugh.
"Wha cud hae thocht, Thomas, 'at ye cud hae pickit sic gumption oot o' stanes!"
And so they parted, Andrew laughing, and Thomas with a curious smile.
Towards the middle of the following week the sky grew gloomy, and a thick small incessant rain brought the dreariest weather in the world. There was no wind, and miles of mist were gathered in the air. After a day or two the heavens grew lighter, but the rain fell as steadily as before, and in heavier drops. Still there was little rise in either the Glamour or the Wan Water, and the weather could not be said to be anything but seasonable.
On the Saturday afternoon, weary of some poor attempts at Greek and Latin, weary of the wretched rain, and weary with wishing to be with Kate, Alec could stay in the house no longer, and went out for a walk. Along the bank of the river he wandered, through the rain above and the wet grass below, to the high road, stood for a moment on the bridge gazing at the muddy Glamour, which came down bank-full,—Annie saw him from Tibbie's window as he stood,—and then turned and followed its course below the bridge through a wild, and now dismal country, to where the waters met. It was getting dusk when he reached the place. With what a roar the Wan Water came down its rocks, rushing from its steeper course into the slow incline of the Glamour! A terrible country they came from—those two ocean-bound rivers—up among the hill-tops. There on the desolate peat-mosses, spongy, black, and cold, the rain was pouring into the awful holes whence generations had dug their fuel, and into the natural chasms of the earth, soaking the soil, and sending torrents, like the flaxen hair of a Titanic Naiad, rolling into the bosom of the rising river-god below. The mist hung there, darkening everything with its whiteness, ever sinking in slow fall upon the slippery peat and the heather and the gray old stones. By and by the pools would be filled, and the hidden caves; their sides would give way; the waters would rush from the one into the other, and from all down the hill-sides, and the earth-sponge would be drained off.
"Gin this hauds, we'll hae a spate," said Alec to himself, when he saw how the waters met, flooding the invers, and beginning to invade the trees upon the steep banks below. The scene was in harmony with his feelings. The delight of the sweeping waters entered his soul, and filled him with joy and strength. As he took his way back through the stunted trees, each swathed in its own mist, and dripping as if it were a separate rain-cloud; and through the bushes that wetted him like pools; and through the streams that poured down the steep bank into the Glamour; he thought how different it was when he walked there with Kate, when the sun was bright, and the trees were covered with green, and the heather was in patches of blossom, and the river went clear-hearted and singing over its stony channel below. But he would rather have it thus, now that Kate was gone.
The floods then were slower in rising, and rose to a much greater height than now. In the present day, the numerous drains provide a rapid and steady escape, so that there is no accumulation of waters, and no bursting of the walls of natural or accidental reservoirs. And I presume that from slow changes produced in the climate by cultivation, there may be a less fall of water now than there used to be; for in some parts of that country the rivers have, within the memory of middle-aged men, considerably decreased in volume.
That evening, in the schoolmaster's lodgings. Truffey sat at the tea-table triumphant. The master had been so pleased with an exercise which he had written for him—written in verse too—that he had taken the boy home to tea with him, dried him well at his fire, and given him as much buttered toast as he could eat. Truffey had often had a like privilege, but never for an ovation, as now. How he loved the master!
"Truffey," said Mr Malison, after a long pause, during which he had been staring into the fire, "how's your leg?"
"Quite weel, thank ye, sir," answered Truffey, unconsciously putting out the foot of the wrong leg on the fender. "There wasna onything the maitter wi' 't."
"I mean the other leg, Truffey—the one that I—that I—hurt."
"Perfectly weel, sir. It's no worth speirin' efter. I wonner that ye tak sic pains wi' me, sir, whan I was sic a nickum."
The master could not reply. But he was more grateful for Truffey's generous forgiveness than he would have been for the richest living in Scotland. Such forgiveness is just giving us back ourselves—clean and happy. And for what gift can we be more grateful? He vowed over again to do all he could for Truffey. Perhaps a sticket minister might have a hand in making a minister that would not stick.
Then the master read Truffey's queer composition aloud, and notwithstanding all his conscientious criticism, Truffey was delighted with his own work when removed to an objective distance by the master's reading. At length Mr Malison said:
"It's time to go home, Andrew Truffey. Put on my cloak—there. And keep out of the puddles as much as you can."
"I'll pit the sma' fit in," said Truffey, holding up the end of his crutch, as he stretched it forward to make one bound out of the door. For he delighted in showing off his agility to the master.
When Alec looked out of his window the next morning, he saw a broad yellow expanse below. The Glamour was rolling, a mighty river, through the land. A wild waste foamy water, looking cold and torn and troubled, it swept along the fields where late the corn had bowed to the autumn winds. But he had often seen it as high. And all the corn was safe in the yard.