Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush
Part 2 out of 4
Sarto gave the Master in the Church of the Annunziata, and stretching
out His hands to old folk and little children as He did, before His
death, in Galilee. His voice might be heard any moment, as I have
imagined it in my lonely hours by the winter fire or on the solitary
hills--soft, low, and sweet, penetrating like music to the secret of
the heart, "Come unto Me ... and I will give you rest."
During a pause in the sermon I glanced up the church, and saw the
same spell held the people. Donald Menzies had long ago been caught
into the third heaven, and was now hearing words which it is not
lawful to utter. Campbell in his watch-tower at the back had closed
his eyes, and was praying. The women were weeping quietly, and the
rugged faces of our men were subdued and softened, as when the
evening sun plays on the granite stone.
But what will stand out for ever before my mind was the sight of
Marget Howe. Her face was as white as death, and her wonderful grey
eyes were shining through a mist of tears, so that I caught the
light in the manse pew. She was thinking of George, and had taken
the minister to her heart.
The elders, one by one, gripped the minister's hand in the vestry,
and, though plain, homely men, they were the godliest in the glen;
but no man spoke save Burnbrae.
"I a' but lost ae fairm for the Free Kirk, and I wud hae lost ten
tae be in the Kirk this day."
Donald walked with me homewards, but would only say:
"There was a man sent from God whose name was John." At the cottage
he added, "The friend of the bridegroom rejoiced greatly because of
the bridegroom's voice,"
Beneath the honeysuckle at his garden gate a woman was waiting.
"My name is Marget Howe, and I'm the wife of William Howe of Whinnie
Knowe. My only son wes preparin' for the ministry, but God wanted
him nearly a year syne. When ye preached the Evangel o' Jesus the
day I heard his voice, and I loved you. Ye hev nae mither on earth,
I hear, and I hae nae son, and I wantit tae say that if ye ever wish
tae speak to ony woman as ye wud tae yir mither, come tae Whinnie
Knowe, an' I'll coont it ane of the Lord's consolations."
His aunt could only meet him in the study, and when he looked on her
his lip quivered, for his heart was wrung with one wistful regret.
"Oh, auntie, if she had only been spared to see this day, and her
But his aunt flung her arms round his neck.
"Dinna be cast doon, laddie, nor be unbelievin'. Yir mither has
heard every word, and is satisfied, for ye did it in remembrance o'
her, and yon was yir mither's sermon."
THE TRANSFORMATION OF LACHLAN CAMPBELL
A GRAND INQUISITOR
The Free Kirk of Drumtochty had no gallery, but a section of seats
at the back was raised two feet, and any one in the first pew might
be said to sit in the "briest o' the laft." When Lachlan Campbell
arrived from the privileged parish of Auchindarroch, where the "Men"
ruled with iron hand and no one shaved on Sabbath, he examined the
lie of country with the eye of a strategist, and seized at once a
corner seat on the crest of the hill. From this vantage ground, with
his back to the wall and a clear space left between himself and his
daughter Flora, he had an easy command of the pulpit, and within six
months had been constituted a court of review neither minister nor
people could lightly disregard. It was not that Lachlan spoke hastily
or at length, for his policy was generally a silence pregnant with
judgment, and his deliverances were for the most part in parables,
none the less awful because hard of interpretation. Like every true
Celt, he had the power of reserve, and knew the value of mystery.
His voice must not be heard in irresponsible gossip at the Kirk door,
and he never condescended to the level of Mrs. MacFadyen, our recognised
sermon taster, who criticised everything in the technique of the pulpit,
from the number of heads in a sermon to the air with which a probationer
used his pocket-handkerchief. She lived in the eye of the public, and
gave her opinions with the light heart of a newspaper writer; but
Lachlan kept himself in the shadow and wore a manner of studied humility
as became the administrator of the Holy Office in Drumtochty.
Lachlan was a little man, with a spare, wiry body, iron grey hair
and whiskers carefully arranged, a keen, old-fashioned face
sharpened by much spiritual thinking, and eyes that looked at you
from beneath shaggy eyebrows as from some other world. His face had
an irresistible suggestion of a Skye terrier, the most serious of
animals, with the hair reduced, and Drumsheugh carried us all with
him when, in a moment of inspiration, he declared that "the body
looks as if he hed juist come oot o' the Ark." He was a shepherd to
trade, and very faithful in all his work, but his life business was
theology, from Supralapsarianism in Election to the marks of faith
in a believer's heart. His library consisted of some fifty volumes
of ancient divinity, and lay on an old oak kist close to his hand,
where he sat beside the fire of a winter night. When the sheep were
safe and his day's labour was over, he read by the light of the fire
and the "crusie" (oil-lamp) overhead, Witsius on the Covenants, or
Rutherford's "Christ Dying," or Bunyan's "Grace Abounding," or
Owen's "130th Psalm," while the collies slept at his feet, and Flora
put the finishing stroke to some bit of rustic finery. Worship was
always coloured by the evening's reading, but the old man never
forgot to pray that they both might have a place in the everlasting
covenant, and that the backslidings of Scotland might be healed.
As our inquisitor, Lachlan searched anxiously for sound doctrine and
deep experience, but he was not concerned about learning, and
fluency he regarded with disgust. When a young minister from
Muirtown stamped twice in his prayer at the Drumtochty Fast, and
preached with great eloquence from the words, "And there was no more
sea," repeating the text at the end of each paragraph, and
concluding the sermon with "Lord Ullin's Daughter," the atmosphere
round Lachlan became electric, and no one dared to speak to him
outside. He never expressed his mind on this melancholy exhibition,
but the following Sabbath he explained the principle on which they
elected ministers at Auchindarroch, which was his standard of
"Six young men came, and they did not sing songs in the pulpit. Oh
no, they preached fery well, and I said to Angus Bain, 'They are all
goot lads, and there is nothing wrong with their doctrine.'
"Angus wass one of the 'Men,' and saw what wass hidden from me, and
he will be saying, 'Oh yes, they said their lesson fery pretty, but
I did not see them tremble, Lachlan Campbell. Another iss coming,
and seven is a goot number.'
"It wass next Sabbath that he came, and he wass a white man, giving
out his text, 'Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage
supper of the Lamb,' and I wass thinking that the Lord had laid too
great a burden on the lad, and that he could not be fit for such a
work. It wass not more than ten minutes before he will be trying to
tell us what he wass seeing, and will not hef the words. He had to
go down from the pulpit as a man that had been in the heavenly
places and wass stricken dumb.
"'It iss the Lord that has put me to shame this day,' he said to the
elders, 'and I will nefer show my face again in Auchindarroch, for I
ought not to have meddled with things too high for me.'
"'You will show your face here every Sabbath,' answered Angus Bain,
'for the Lord said unto me, "Wait for the man that trembles at the
Word, and iss not able to speak, and it will be a sign unto you,"'
and a fery goot minister he wass, and made the hypocrites in Zion to
Lachlan dealt tenderly with our young Free Kirk minister, for the
sake of his first day, and passed over some very shallow experience
without remark, but an autumn sermon roused him to a sense of duty.
For some days a storm of wind and rain had been stripping the leaves
from the trees and gathering them in sodden heaps upon the ground.
The minister looked out on the garden where many holy thoughts had
visited him, and his heart sank like lead, for it was desolate, and
of all its beauty there remained but one rose clinging to its stalk,
drenched and faded. It seemed as if youth, with its flower of
promise and hope, had been beaten down, and a sense of loneliness
fell on his soul. He had no heart for work, and crept to bed broken
and dispirited. During the night the rain ceased, and the north wind
began to blow, which cleanses nature in every pore, and braces each
true man for his battle. The morrow was one of those glorious days
which herald winter, and as the minister tramped along the road,
where the dry leaves crackled beneath his feet, and climbed to the
moor with head on high, the despair of yesterday vanished. The wind
had ceased, and the glen lay at his feet, distinct in the cold,
clear air, from the dark mass of pines that closed its upper end to
the swelling woods of oak and beech that cut it off from the great
Strath. He had received a warm welcome from all kinds of people, and
now he marked with human sympathy each little homestead with its
belt of firs against the winter's storms, and its stackyard where
the corn had been gathered safe; the ploughman and his horses
cutting brown ribbons in the bare stubble; dark squares where the
potato stalks have withered to the ground, and women are raising the
roots, and here and there a few cattle still out in the fields. His
eye fell on the great wood through which he had rambled in August,
now one blaze of colour, rich green and light yellow, with patches
of fiery red and dark purple. God seemed to have given him a sermon,
and he wrote that evening, like one inspired, on the same parable of
nature Jesus loved, with its subtle interpretation of our sorrows,
joys, trust, and hope. People told me that it was a "rael bonnie
sermon," and that Netherton had forgotten his after-sermon snuff,
although it was his turn to pass the box to Burnbrae.
The minister returned to his study in a fine glow of body and soul,
to find a severe figure standing motionless in the middle of the
"Wass that what you call a sermon?" said Lachlan Campbell, without
John Carmichael was still so full of joy that he did not catch the
tone, and explained with college pedantry that it was hardly a
sermon, nor yet a lecture.
"You may call it a meditation."
"I will be calling it an essay without one bite of grass for
Then the minister awoke from a pleasant dream, as if one had flung
cold water on his naked body.
"What was wrong?" with an anxious look at the stern little man who
of a sudden had become his judge.
"There wass nothing right, for I am not thinking that trees and
leaves and stubble fields will save our souls, and I did not hear
about sin and repentance and the work of Christ. It iss sound
doctrine that we need, and a great peety you are not giving it."
The minister had been made much of in college circles, and had a
fair idea of himself. He was a kindly lad, but he did not see why he
should be lectured by an old Highlandman who read nothing except
Puritans, and was blind with prejudice. When they parted that
Sabbath afternoon it was the younger man that had lost his temper,
and the other did not offer to shake hands.
Perhaps the minister would have understood Lachlan better if he had
known that the old man could not touch food when he got home, and
spent the evening in a fir wood praying for the lad he had begun to
love. And Lachlan would have had a lighter heart if he had heard the
minister questioning himself whether he had denied the Evangel or
sinned against one of Christ's disciples. They argued together; they
Lachlan was careful to say nothing, but the congregation felt that
his hand was against the minister, and Burnbrae took him to task.
"Ye maunna be ower hard on him, Maister Campbell, for he's but
young, and comin' on fine. He hes a hearty word for ilka body on the
road, and the sicht o' his fresh young face in the poopit is a
"You are wrong, Burnbrae, if you will be thinking that my heart iss
not warm to the minister, for it went out unto him from the day he
preached his first sermon. But the Lord regardeth not the
countenance of man."
"Nae doot, nae doot, but I canna see onything wrang in his doctrine;
it wudna be reasonable tae expect auld-fashioned sermons frae a
young man, and I wud coont them barely honest. A'm no denying that
he gaes far afield, and taks us tae strange lands when he's on his
travels, but ye 'ill acknowledge that he gaithers mony treasures,
and he aye comes back tae Christ."
"No, I will not be saying that John Carmichael does not love Christ,
for I hef seen the Lord in his sermons like a face through a
lattice. Oh yes, and I hef felt the fragrance of the myrrh. But I am
not liking his doctrine, and I wass thinking that some day there
will be no original sin left in the parish of Drumtochty."
It was about this time that the minister made a great mistake,
although he was trying to do his best for the people, and always
obeyed his conscience. He used to come over to the Cottage for a
ramble through my books, and one evening he told me that he had
prepared what he called a "course" on Biblical criticism, and was
going to place Drumtochty on a level with Germany. It was certainly
a strange part for me to advise a minister, but I had grown to like
the lad, because he was full of enthusiasm and too honest for this
world, and I implored him to be cautious. Drumtochty was not anxious
to be enlightened about the authors of the Pentateuch, being quite
satisfied with Moses, and it was possible that certain good men in
Drumtochty might resent any interference with their herditary
notions. Why could he not read this subject for his own pleasure,
and teach it quietly in classes? Why give himself away in the
pulpit? This worldly counsel brought the minister to a white heat,
and he rose to his feet. Had he not been ordained to feed his people
with truth, and was he not bound to tell them all he knew? We were
living in an age of transition, and he must prepare Christ's folk
that they be not taken unawares. If he failed in his duty through
any fear of consequences, men would arise afterwards to condemn him
for cowardice, and lay their unbelief at his door. When he ceased I
was ashamed of my cynical advice, and resolved never again to
interfere with "courses" or other matters above the lay mind. But
greater knowledge of the world had made me a wise prophet.
Within a month the Free Kirk was in an uproar, and when I dropped in
one Sabbath morning the situation seemed to me a very pathetic
tragedy. The minister was offering to the honest country folk a mass
of immature and undigested details about the Bible, and they were
listening with wearied, perplexed faces. Lachlan Campbell sat grim
and watchful, without a sign of flinching, but even from the Manse
pew I could detect the suffering of his heart. When the minister
blazed into polemic against the bigotry of the old school, the iron
face quivered as if a father had been struck by his son. Carmichael
looked thin and nervous in the pulpit, and it came to me that if new
views are to be preached to old-fashioned people it ought not to be
by lads who are always heady and intolerant, but by a stout man of
middle age, with a rich voice and a good-natured manner. Had
Carmichael rasped and girded much longer, one would have believed in
the inspiration of the vowel points, and I left the church with a
low heart, for this was a woeful change from his first sermon.
Lachlan would not be pacified, not even by the plea of the
"Oh yes, I am seeing that he is ill, and I will be as sorry as any
man in Drumtochty. But it iss not too much work, as they are saying;
it iss the judgment of God. It iss not goot to meddle with Moses,
and John Carmichael will be knowing that. His own sister wass not
respectful to Moses, and she will not be feeling fery well next
But Burnbrae added that the "auld man cudna be mair cast doon if he
hed lost his dochter."
The peace of the Free Kirk had been broken, and the minister was
eating out his heart, when he remembered the invitation of Marget
Howe, and went one sweet spring day to Whinnie Knowe.
Marget met him with her quiet welcome at the garden gate.
"Ye hae dune me a great kindness in comin', Maister Carmichael, and
if ye please we 'ill sit in this sunny corner which is dear tae me,
and ye 'ill tell me yir troubles."
So they sat down together beside the brier bush, and after one
glance at Marget's face the minister opened his heart, and told her
the great controversy with Lachlan.
Marget lifted her head as one who had heard of some brave deed, and
there was a ring in her voice.
"It maks me prood before God that there are twa men in Drumtochty
who follow their conscience as king, and coont truth dearer than
their ain freends. It's peetifu' when God's bairns fecht through
greed and envy, but it's hertsome when they are wullin' tae wrestle
aboot the Evangel, for surely the end o' it a' maun be peace.
"A've often thocht that in the auld days baith the man on the rack
and the inqueesitor himself micht be gude men and accepted o' God,
and maybe the inqueesitor suffered mair than the martyr. A'm
thinkin', Maister Carmichael, that it's been hardest on Lachlan."
The minister's head was buried in his hands, but his heart was with
"It's a strange buik the Bible, and no the buik we wud hae made, tae
judge by oor bit creeds and confessions. It's like a head o' aits in
the harvest time. There's the ear that hauds the grain and keeps it
safe, and that's the history, and there's often no mickle nutriment
in it; then there's the corn lying in the ear, which is the Evangel
frae Eden tae Revelation, and that is the bread o' the soul. But the
corn maun be threshed first and the cauf (chaff) cleaned aff. It's a
bonnie sicht tae see the pure grain fallin' like a rinnin' burn on
the corn-room floor, and a glint o' the sun through the window
turning it intae gold. But the stour (dust) o' the cauf room is mair
than onybody can abide, and the cauf's worth naethin' when the
"Ye mean," said the minister, "that my study is the threshin' mill,
and that some of the chaff has got into the pulpit."
"Yir no offended," and Marget's voice trembled.
Then the minister lifted his head and laughed aloud with joy, while
a swift flash of humour lit up Marget's face.
"You've been the voice of God to me this day, Mrs. Howe, but if I
give up my 'course,' the people will misunderstand, for I know
everything I gave was true, and I would give it all again if it were
"Nae fear, Maister Carmichael, naebody misunderstands that luves,
and the fouk all luve ye, and the man that hauds ye dearest is
Lachlan Campbell. I saw the look in his een that canna be mista'en."
"I'll go to him this very day," and the minister leaped to his feet.
"Ye 'ill no regret it," said Marget, "for God will give ye peace."
Lachlan did not see the minister coming, for he was busy with a lamb
that had lost its way and hurt itself. Carmichael marked with a
growing tenderness at his heart how gently the old man washed and
bound up the wounded leg, all the time crooning to the frightened
creature in the sweet Gaelic speech, and also how he must needs give
the lamb a drink of warm milk before he set it free.
When he rose from his work of mercy, he faced the minister.
For an instant Lachlan hesitated, and then at the look on
Carmichael's face he held out both his hands.
"This iss a goot day for me, and I bid you ten thousand welcomes."
But the minister took the first word.
"You and I, Lachlan, have not seen eye to eye about some things
lately, and I am not here to argue which is nearer the truth,
because perhaps we may always differ on some lesser matters. But
once I spoke rudely to you, and often I have spoken unwisely in my
sermons. You are an old man and I am a young, and I ask you to
forgive me and to pray that both of us may be kept near the heart of
our Lord, whom we love, and who loves us."
No man can be so courteous as a Celt, and Lachlan was of the pure
Highland breed, kindest of friends, fiercest of foes.
"You hef done a beautiful deed this day, Maister Carmichael; and the
grace of God must hef been exceeding abundant in your heart. It iss
this man that asks your forgiveness, for I wass full of pride, and
did not speak to you as an old man should; but God iss my witness
that I would hef plucked out my right eye for your sake. You will
say every word God gives you, and I will take as much as God gives
me, and there will be a covenant between us as long as we live."
They knelt together on the earthen floor of that Highland cottage,
the old school and the new, before one Lord, and the only difference
in their prayers was that the young man prayed they might keep the
faith once delivered unto the saints, while the burden of the old
man's prayer was that they might be led into all truth.
Lachlan's portion that evening ought to have been the slaying of
Sisera from the Book of Judges, but instead he read, to Flora's
amazement--it was the night before she left her home--the thirteenth
chapter of I Corinthians, and twice he repeated to himself, "Now we
see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."
HIS BITTER SHAME
The Free Kirk people were very proud of their vestry because the
Established Church had none, and because it was reasonably supposed
to be the smallest in Scotland. When the minister, who touched five
feet eleven, and the beadle, who was three inches taller, assembled
for the procession, with the precentor, a man of fair proportions,
there was no waste ground in that room, and any messenger from the
church door had to be selected with judgment. "Step up, Airchie man,
tae the vestry," Burnbrae would say to the one under-sized man in
Drumtochty, "and tell the minister no tae forget the Jews. Ye can
birse (push) in fine, but it wud beat me to get by the door. It's a
bonnie bit room, but three fouk stannin' maks it contrakit for
It was eight feet by eight, and consisted largely of two doors and a
fireplace, and its chief glory was a portrait of Dr. Chalmers, whose
face, dimly seen in the light of the lamp, was a charter of
authority, and raised the proceedings to the level of history.
Lockers on either side of the mantelpiece contained the church
library, which abounded in the lives of Scottish worthies, and was
never lightly disturbed. Where there was neither grate nor door, a
narrow board ran along the wall, on which it was simply a point of
honour to seat the twelve deacons, who met once a month to raise the
Sustentation Fund by modest, heroic sacrifices of hard-working
people, and to keep the slates on the church roof in winter. When
they had nothing else to do, they talked about the stove which "came
out in '43," and, when it was in good humour, would raise the
temperature in winter one degree above freezing. Seating the court
was a work of art, and could only be achieved by the repression of
the smaller men, who looked out from the loopholes of retreat, the
projection of bigger men on to their neighbours' knees, and the
absolute elimination of Archie Moncur, whose voice made motions on
temperance from the lowest depths. Netherton was always the twelfth
man to arrive, and nothing could be done till he was safely settled.
Only some six inches were reserved at the end of the bench, and he
was a full sitter, but he had discovered a trick of sitting sideways
and screwing his leg against the opposite wall, that secured the
court as well as himself in their places on the principle of a
compressed spring. When this operation was completed, Burnbrae used
to say to the minister, who sat in the middle on a cane chair before
the tiniest of tables--the living was small, and the ministers never
grew fat till they left--
"We're fine and comfortable noo, Moderator, and ye can begin
business as sune as ye like."
As there were only six elders they could sit in state, besides
leaving a vacant space for any penitents who came to confess their
sins and receive absolution, or some catechumen who wished to be
admitted to the sacrament. Carmichael used to say that a meeting of
Session affected his imagination, and would have made an interior
for Rembrandt. On one side of the table sat the men who represented
the piety of the district, and were supposed to be "far ben" in the
Divine fellowship, and on the other some young girl in her
loneliness, who wrung her handkerchief in terror of this dreaded
spiritual court, and hoped within her heart that no elder would ask
her "effectual calling" from the Shorter Catechism; while the little
lamp, hanging from the ceiling, and swinging gently in the wind that
had free access from every airt, cast a fitful light on the fresh,
tearful face of the girl and the hard, weather-beaten countenances
of the elders, composed into a serious gravity not untouched by
tenderness. They were little else than labouring men, but no one was
elected to that court unless he had given pledges of godliness, and
they bore themselves as men who had the charge of souls.
The little Sanhedrim had within it the school of Hillel, which was
swayed by mercy, and its Rabbi was Burnbrae; and the school of
Shammai, whose rule was inflexible justice, and its Rabbi was
Lachlan Campbell. Burnbrae was a big-hearted man, with a fatherly
manner, and had a genius for dealing with "young communicants."
"Weel, Jessie, we're awfu pleased tae think yer gaein' forrit, and
the Dominie wes tellin' me juist last week that ye did yir work at
schule graund, and knew yir Bible frae end tae end.
"It'll no be easy to speir (ask) the like o' you questions, but ye
mind Abraham, Jessie."
"Ou ay," and Jessie is all alert, although she is afraid to look up.
"What was the name o' his wife, noo?"
"Sarah, an' their son was Isaac."
"That's richt, and what aboot Isaac's wife?"
"Isaac mairrit Rebecca, and they hed twa sons, Jacob and Esau," and
the girl takes a shy glance at the honest elder, and begins to feel
"Domsie wesna far wrang, a' see, but it's no possible ye cud tell us
the names o' Jacob's sons; it's maybe no fair tae ask sic a teuch
question," knowing all the while that this was a test case of
When Jessie reached Benjamin, Burnbrae could not contain himself.
"It's nae use trying to stick Jessie wi' the Bible, neeburs; we 'ill
see what she can dae wi' the Carritches (Catechism). Yir no the
lassie that said the questions frae beginning tae end wi' twa
mistaks, are ye?"
Yes, she was, and dared him to come on, for Jessie has forgotten the
minister and all the Session.
"The elders wud like tae hear 'What is the Lord's Supper?'"
"That's it; and, Jessie, ma woman, gie's the 'worthy receiving.'"
Jessie achieves another triumph, and is now ready for anything.
"Ye hae the Word weel stored in yir mind, lassie, and ye maun keep
it in yir life, and dinna forget that Christ's a gude Maister."
"A'll dae ma best," and Jessie declared that Burnbrae had been as
kind as if she had been "his ain bairn," and that she "wasna feared
ava." But her trial is not over; the worst is to come.
Lachlan began where Burnbrae ended, and very soon had Jessie on the
"How old will you be?"
"Auchteen next Martinmas."
"And why will you be coming to the sacrament?"
"Ma mither thocht it was time," with a threatening of tears as she
looked at the face in the corner.
"Ye will maybe tell the Session what hass been your 'lawwork' and
how long ye hef been at Sinai."
"A' dinna ken what yir askin'. I was never oot o' Drumtochty," and
Jessie breaks down utterly.
"A' dinna think, Moderator, we ocht tae ask sic questions," broke in
Burnbrae, who could not see a little one put to confusion; "an' I
canna mind them in the Gospels. There's ae commandment Jessie keeps
weel, as a' can testeefy, and that's the fifth, for there's no a
better dochter in Drumtochty. A' move, Moderator, she get her token;
dinna greet, puir woman, for ye've dune weel, and the Session's rael
"It wass Dr. John's mark I wass trying the girl by," explained
Lachlan after Jessie had gone away comforted. "And it iss a goot
mark, oh yes, and very searching.
"Ye will maybe not know what it iss, Moderator," and Lachlan
regarded the minister with austere superiority, for it was the
winter of the feud.
No, he did not, nor any of the Session, being all douce Scotchmen,
except Donald Menzies who was at home fighting the devil.
"It iss broken bones, and Dr. John did preach three hours upon it at
Auchindarroch Fast, and there wass not many went to the Sacrament on
"Broken bones iss a fine mark to begin with, and the next will be
doubts. But there iss a deeper," continued Lachlan, warming to his
subject, "oh yes, far deeper, and I heard of it when I wass North
for the sheep, and I will not be forgetting that day with Janet
"I knew she wass a professor, and I wass looking for her marks. But
it wass not for me to hef been searching her; it wass that woman
that should hef been trying me."
A profound silence wrapt the Session.
"'Janet,' I said, 'hef ye had many doubts?'
"'Doubts, Lachlan? was that what you asked? I hef had desertions,
and one will be for six months.'
"So I saw she wass far beyond me, for I dare not be speaking about
Two minutes after the minister pronounced the benediction, and no
one had offered any remark in the interval.
It seemed to the elders that Lachlan dealt hardly with young people
and those that had gone astray, but they learned one evening that
his justice had at least no partiality. Burnbrae said afterwards
that Lachlan "looked like a ghaist comin' in at the door," but he
sat in silence in the shadow, and no one marked the agony on his
face till the end.
"If that iss all the business, Moderator, I hef to bring a case of
discipline before the Session, and ask them to do their duty. It iss
known to me that a young woman who hass been a member of this church
hass left her home and gone into the far country. There will be no
use in summoning her to appear before the Session, for she will
never be seen again in this parish. I move that she be cut off from
the roll, and her name iss "--and Lachlan's voice broke, but in an
instant he recovered himself--"her name iss Flora Campbell."
Carmichael confessed to me that he was stricken dumb, and that
Lachlan's ashen face held him with an awful fascination.
It was Burnbrae that first found a voice, and showed that night the
fine delicacy of heart that may be hidden behind a plain exterior.
"Moderator, this is a terrible calamity that hes befaen oor brither,
and a'm feelin' as if a' hed lost a bairn o' my ane, for a sweeter
lassie didna cross oor kirk door. Nane o' us want tae know what hes
happened or where she hes gane, and no a word o' this wull cross oor
lips. Her faither's dune mair than cud be expeckit o' mortal man,
and noo we have oor duty. It's no the way o' this Session tae cut
aff ony member o' the flock at a stroke, and we 'ill no begin with
Flora Campbell. A' move, Moderator, that her case be left tae her
faither and yersel, and oor neebur may depend on it that Flora's
name and his ain will be mentioned in oor prayers, ilka mornin' an'
nicht till the gude Shepherd o' the sheep brings her hame."
Burnbrae paused, and then, with tears in his voice--men do not weep
in Drumtochty--"With the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is
The minister took the old man's arm and led him into the manse, and
set him in the big chair by the study fire. "Thank God, Lachlan, we
are friends now; tell me about it as if I were your son and Flora's
The father took a letter out of an inner pocket with a trembling
hand, and this is what Carmichael read by the light of the lamp:--
"DEAR FATHER,--When this reaches you I will be in London, and not
worthy to cross your door. Do not be always angry with me, and try
to forgive me, for you will not be troubled any more by my dancing
or dressing. Do not think that I will be blaming you, for you have
been a good father to me, and said what you would be considering
right, but it is not easy for a man to understand a girl. Oh, if I
had had my mother, then she would have understood me, and I would
not have crossed you. Forget poor Flora's foolishness, but you will
not forget her, and maybe you will still pray for me. Take care of
the geraniums for my sake, and give milk to the lamb that you called
after me. I will never see you again, in this world or the next nor
my mother ... (here the letter was much blotted). When I think that
there will be no one to look after you, and have the fire burning
for you on winter nights, I will be rising to come back. But it is
too late, too late. Oh, the disgrace I will be bringing on you in
the glen.--Your unworthy daughter,
"This is a fiery trial, Lachlan, and I cannot even imagine what you
are suffering. But do not despair, for that is not the letter of a
bad girl. Perhaps she was impatient, and has been led astray. But
Flora is good at heart, and you must not think she is gone forever."
Lachlan groaned, the first moan he had made, and then he tottered to
"You are fery kind, Maister Carmichael, and so wass Burnbrae, and I
will be thankful you all, but you do not understand. Oh no, you do
not understand." Lachlan caught hold of a chair and looked the
minister in the face.
"She hass gone, and there will be no coming back. You would not take
her name from the roll of the church, and I will not be meddling
with that book. But I hef blotted out her name from my Bible, where
her mother's name iss written and mine. She has wrought confusion in
Israel and in an elder's house, and I ... I hef no danghter. But I
loved her; she nefer knew how I loved her, for her mother would be
looking at me from her eyes."
The minister walked with Lachlan to the foot of the hill on which
his cottage stood, and after they had shaken hands in silence, he
watched the old man's figure in the cold moonlight till he
disappeared into the forsaken home, where the fire had gone out on
the hearth, and neither love nor hope were waiting for a broken
The railway did not think it worth while to come to Drumtochty, and
we, were cut off from the lowlands by miles of forest, so our
manners retained the fashion of the former age. Six elders, besides
the minister, knew the tragedy of Flora Campbell, and never opened
their lips. Mrs. Macfadyen, who was our newspaper, and understood
her duty, refused to pry into this secret. The pity of the glen went
out to Lachlan, but no one even looked a question as he sat alone in
his pew or came down on a Saturday afternoon to the village shop for
his week's provisions. London friends thought me foolish about my
adopted home, but I asked them whether they could find such perfect
good manners in Belgravia, and they were silent. My Drumtochty
neighbours would have played an awkward part in a drawing-room, but
never have I seen in all my wanderings men and women of truer
courtesy or tenderer heart.
"It gars ma hert greet tae see him," Mrs. Macfadyen said to me one
day, "sae booed an' disjackit, him that wes that snod (tidy) and
firm. His hair's turned white in a month, and he's awa' tae naething
in his claithes. But least said is sunest mended. It's no richt tae
interfere wi' another's sorrow, an' it wad be an awfu' sin tae
misca' a young lassie. We maun juist houp that Flora 'll sune come
back, for if she disna Lachlan 'ill no be lang wi's. He's sayin'
naethin', and a' respeck him for't; but onybody can see that his
hert is breakin'."
We were helpless till Marget Howe met Lachlan in the shop and read
his sorrow at a glance. She went home to Whinnie Knowe in great
"It wes waesome tae see the auld man githerin' his bit things wi' a
shakin' hand, and speakin' tae me aboot the weather, and a' the time
his eyes were sayin', 'Flora, Flora.'"
"Whar div ye think the young hizzie is, Marget?"
"Naebody needs tae know, Weelum, an' ye maunna speak that way, for
whatever's come ower her, she's dear to Lachlan and tae God.
"It's laid on me tae veesit Lachlan, for a'm thinking oor Father
didna comfort us withoot expeckin' that we wud comfort other fouk."
When Marget came round the corner of Lachlan's cottage, she found
Flora's plants laid out in the sun, and her father watering them on
his knees. One was ready to die, and for it he had made a shelter
with his plaid.
He was taken unawares, but in a minute he was leading Marget in with
"It iss kind of you to come to an old man's house, Mistress Howe,
and it iss a fery warm day. You will not care for speerits, but I am
fery goot at making tea."
Marget was not as other women, and she spoke at once.
"Maister Campbell, ye will believe that I hev come in the love of
God, and because we hev baith been afflickit. I had ae son, and he
is gone; ye had a dochter, and she is gone. A' ken where George is,
and am sateesfied. A' doot sairly yir sorrow is deeper than mine."
"Would to God that she wass lying in the kirkyard; but I will not
speak of her. She iss not anything to me this day. See, I will show
you what I hef done, for she hass been a black shame to her name."
He opened the Bible, and there was Flora's name scored with wavering
strokes, but the ink had run as if it had been mingled with tears.
Marget's heart burned within her at the sight, and perhaps she could
hardly make allowance for Lachlan's blood and theology.
"This is what ye hev dune, and ye let a woman see yir wark. Ye are
an auld man, and in sore travail, but a' tell ye before God ye hae
the greater shame. Juist twenty years o' age this spring, and her
mither dead. Nae woman to watch over her, and she wandered frae the
fold, and a' ye can dae is to tak her oot o' yir Bible. Waes me if
oor Father had blotted out oor names frae the Book o' Life when we
left His hoose. But He sent His ain Son to seek us, an' a weary road
He cam. A' tell ye, a man wudna leave a sheep tae perish as ye hae
cast aff yir ain bairn. Yir worse than Simon the Pharisee, for Mary
was nae kin tae him. Puir Flora, tae hae sic a father."
"Who will be telling you that I wass a Pharisee?" cried Lachlan,
quivering in every limb, and grasping Marget's arm.
"Forgie me, Lachlan, forgie me. It was the thocht o' the misguided
lassie carried me, for a' didna come tae upbraid ye."
But Lachlan had sunk into a chair and had forgotten her.
"She hass the word, and God will hef smitten the pride of my heart,
for it iss Simon that I am. I wass hard on my child, and I wass hard
on the minister, and there wass none like me. The Lord has laid my
name in the dust, and I will be angry with her. But she iss the
scapegoat for my sins, and hass gone into the desert. God be
merciful to me a sinner." And then Marget understood no more, for
the rest was in Gaelic, but she heard Flora's name with another she
took to be her mother's twined together.
So Marget knew it would be well with Lachlan yet, and she wrote this
"MY DEAR LASSIE,--Ye ken that I wes aye yir freend, and I am writing
this tae say that yir father luves ye mair than ever, and is wearing
oot his hert for the sicht o' yir face. Come back, or he'll dee
thro' want o' his bairn. The glen is bright and bonny noo, for the
purple heather is on the hills, and doon below the gowden corn, wi'
bluebell and poppy flowers between. Naebody 'ill ask ye where ye've
been, or onything else; there's no a bairn in the place that's no
wearying tae see ye; and, Flora, lassie, if there will be sic
gledness in oor wee glen when ye come hame, what think ye o' the joy
in the Father's Hoose? Start the verra meenute that ye get this
letter; yir father bids ye come, and I'm writing this in place o'
Marget went out to tend the flowers while Lachlan read the letter,
and when he gave it back the address was written in his own hand.
He went as far as the crest of the hill with Marget, and watched her
on the way to the post office till she was only a speck upon the
When he entered his cottage the shadows were beginning to fall, and
he remembered it would soon be night.
"It iss in the dark that Flora will be coming, and she must know
that her father iss waiting for her."
He cleaned and trimmed with anxious hand a lamp that was kept for
show, and had never been used. Then he selected from his books
Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an angry God," and "Coles on the
Divine Sovereignty," and on them he laid the large family Bible out
of which Flora's name had been blotted. This was the stand on which
he set the lamp in the window, and every night till Flora returned
its light shone down the steep path that ascended to her home, like
the Divine Love from the open door of our Father's House.
LIKE AS A FATHER
It was only by physical force and a free use of personalities that
the Kildrummie passengers could be entrained at the Junction, and
the Drumtochty men were always the last to capitulate.
They watched the main line train that had brought them from Muirtown
disappear in the distance, and then broke into groups to discuss the
cattle sale at leisure, while Peter, the factotum of the little
Kildrummie branch, drove his way through their midst with offensive
pieces of luggage, and abused them by name without respect of
"It's maist aggravatin', Drumsheugh, 'at ye 'ill stand there girnin'
at the prices, as if ye were a puir cottar body that hed selt her ae
coo, and us twal meenutes late. Man, get intae yer kerridge; he 'ill
no be fat that buys frae you, a'll wager."
"Peter's in an awfu' feery-farry (excitement) the nicht, neeburs,"
Drumsheugh would respond, after a long pause; "ye wud think he wes a
mail gaird tae hear him speak. Mind ye, a'm no gain' tae shove ahint
if the engine sticks, for I hae na time. He needs a bit nip," and
Drumsheugh settles himself in his seat, "or else there wud be nae
leevin' wi' him."
Peter escaped this winged shaft, for he had detected a woman in the
"Keep's a', wumman, what are ye stravagin' about there for out o' a
body's sicht? a' near set aff withoot ye."
Then Peter recognised her face, and his manner softened of a sudden.
"Come awa', lassie, come awa'; a' didna ken ye at the moment, but a'
heard ye hed been veesitin' in the sooth.
"The third is terrible full wi' thae Drumtochty lads, and ye 'ill
hear naething but Drumsheugh's stirks; ye 'ill maybe be as handy in
oor second." And Flora Campbell stepped in unseen.
Between the Junction and Kildrummie Peter was accustomed to wander
along the footboard, collecting tickets and identifying passengers.
He was generally in fine trim on the way up, and took ample revenge
for the insults of the departure. But it was supposed that Peter had
taken Drumsheugh's withering sarcasm to heart, for he attached
himself to the second that night, and was invisible to the expectant
third till the last moment.
"Ye've hed a lang journey, Miss Cammil, and ye maun be nearly dune
wi' tire; juist ye sit still till the fouk get awa', and the guid
wife and me wud be prood if ye took a cup o' tea wi's afore ye
stairted hame. A'll come for ye as sune as a' get the van emptied
and ma little trokes feenished."
Peter hurried up to his cottage in such hot haste that his wife came
out in great alarm.
"Na, their's naethin' wrang; it's the opposite way this nicht. Ye
mind o' Flora Cammil that left her father, and name o' the
Drumtochty fouk wud say onything aboot her. Weel, she's in the
train, and a've asked her up tae rest, and she was gled tae come,
puir thing. Sae gie her a couthy welcome, wumman, and the best in
the hoose, for oors 'ill be the first roof she 'ill be under on her
Our women do not kiss one another like the city ladies; but the
motherly grip of Mary Bruce's hand sent a thrill to Flora's heart.
"Noo a' ca' this rael kind o' ye, Miss Cammil, tae come in withoot
ceremony, and a'd be terrible pleased if ye would dae it ony time
yer traivellin'. The rail is by ordinar' fateegin', and a cup o' tea
'ill set ye up," and Mary had Flora in the best chair, and was
loading her plate with homely dainties.
Peter would speak of nothing but the new engine that was coming, and
was to place the Kildrummie branch beyond ridicule for ever, and on
this great event he continued without intermission till he parted
with Flora on the edge of the pine woods that divided Drumtochty
"Gude nicht tae ye, Miss Cammil, and thank ye again for yir veesit.
Bring the auld man wi' ye next time ye're passing, though a'm feared
ye've been deived (deafened) wi' the engine."
Flora took Peter's hand, that was callous and rough with the turning
of brakes and the coupling of chains.
"It wass not your new engine you wass thinking about this night,
Peter Bruce, but a poor girl that iss in trouble. I hef not the
words, but I will be remembering your house, oh yes, as long as I
Twice Peter stood on his way home; the first time he slapped his leg
"Sall, it was gey clever o' me; a hale kerridge o' Drumtochty lads,
and no ane o' them ever hed a glint o' her."
At the second stoppage he drew his hand across his eyes.
"Puir lassie, a' houp her father 'ill be kind tae her, for she's
sair broken, and looks liker deith than life."
No one can desire a sweeter walk than through a Scottish pine wood
in late September, where you breathe the healing resinous air, and
the ground is crisp and springy beneath your feet, and gentle
animals dart away on every side, and here and there you come on an
open space with a pool, and a brake of gorse. Many a time on market
days Flora had gone singing through these woods, plucking a posy of
wild flowers and finding a mirror in every pool, as young girls
will; but now she trembled and was afraid. The rustling of the trees
in the darkness, the hooting of an owl, the awful purity of the
moonlight in the glades, the cold sheen of the water, were to her
troubled conscience omens of judgment. Had it not been for the
kindness of Peter Bruce, which was a pledge of human forgiveness,
there would have been no heart in her to dare that wood, and it was
with a sob of relief she escaped from the shadow and looked upon the
old glen once more, bathed from end to end in the light of the
harvest moon. Beneath her ran our little river, spanned by its
quaint old bridge; away on the right the Parish Kirk peeped out from
a clump of trees; half way up the glen the clachan lay surrounded by
patches of corn; and beyond were the moors, with a shepherd's
cottage that held her heart. Two hours ago squares of light told of
warmth and welcome within; but now, as Flora passed one house after
another, it seemed as if every one she knew was dead, and she was
forgotten in her misery. Her heart grew cold, and she longed to lie
down and die, when she caught the gleam of a lighted window. Some
one was living still to know she had repented, and she knelt down
among the flowers with her ear to the glass to hear the sound of a
human voice. Archie Moncur had come home late from a far-away job,
but he must needs have worship with his sister before they went to
bed, and well did he choose the psalm that night. Flora's tears
rained upon the mignonette as the two old people sang:
"When Sion's bondage God turned back,
As men that dreamed were we,
Then filled with laughter was our mouth,
Our tongue with melody;"
while the fragrance of the flowers went up as incense unto God.
All the way along the glen the last words of the psalm still rang in
her ears, "Rejoicing shall return," but as she touched the footpath
to her home, courage failed her. Marget had written for her dead
mother, but no one could speak with authority for her father. She
knew the pride of his religion and his iron principles. If he
refused her entrance, then it had been better for her to have died
in London. A turn of the path brought her within sight of the
cottage, and her heart came into her mouth, for the kitchen window
was a blaze of light. One moment she feared Lachlan might be ill,
but in the next she understood, and in the greatness of her joy she
ran the rest of the way. When she reached the door, her strength had
departed, and she was not able to knock. But there was no need, for
the dogs, who never forget nor cast off, were bidding her welcome
with short joyous yelps of delight, and she could hear her father
feeling for the latch, which for once could not be found, and saying
nothing but "Flora, Flora."
She had made up some kind of speech, but the only word she ever said
was "Father," for Lachlan, who had never even kissed her all the
days of her youth, clasped her in his arms and sobbed out blessings
over her head, while the dogs licked her hands with their soft,
"It iss a peety you hef not the Gaelic," Flora said to Marget
afterwards; "it iss the best of all languages for loving. There are
fifty words for darling, and my father would be calling me every one
that night I came home."
Lachlan was so carried with joy, and firelight is so hopeful, that
he had not seen the signs of sore sickness on Flora's face, but the
morning light undeceived him, and he was sadly dashed.
"You will be fery tired after your long journey, Flora, and it iss
good for you to rest. There iss a man in the clachan I am wanting to
see, and he will maybe be comin' back with me."
When Lachlan reached his place of prayer, he lay on the ground and
cried, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, and spare her for Thy servant's
sake, and let me not lose her after Thou hast brought her back and
hast opened my heart.... Take her not till she hass seen that I love
her.... Give me time to do her kindness for the past wherein I
oppressed her.... O, turn away Thy judgment on my hardness, and let
not the child suffer for her father's sins." Then he arose and
hastened for the doctor.
It was afternoon before Dr. MacLure could come, but the very sight
of his face, which was as the sun in its strength, let light into
the room where Lachlan sat at the bedside holding Flora's hand, and
making woful pretence that she was not ill.
"Weel, Flora, yeve got back frae yir veesits, and a' tell ye we've
a' missed ye maist terrible. A' doot thae sooth country fouk haena
been feeding ye ower weel, or maybe it was the toon air. It never
agrees wi' me. A'm half chokit a' the time a'm in Glesgie, and as
for London, there's ower mony fouk tae the square yaird for health."
All the time he was busy at his work, and no man could do it better
or quicker, although the outside of him was not encouraging.
"Lachlan, what are ye traivellin' in and oot there for with a face
that wud sour milk? What ails ye, man? ye're surely no imaginin'
Flora's gaein' to leave ye?
"Lord's sake, it's maist provokin' that if a body hes a bit whup o'
illness in Drumtochty, their freends tak tae propheseein' deith."
Lachlan had crept over to Flora's side, and both were waiting.
"Na, na; ye ken a' never tell lees like the graund ceety doctors,
and a'll warrant Flora 'ill be in kirk afore Martinmas, an' kiltin'
up the braes as hardy as a hielan' sheltie by the new year."
Flora puts an arm round her father's neck, and draws down his face
to hers, but the doctor is looking another way.
"Dinna fash wi' medicine; gie her plenty o' fresh milk and plenty o'
air. There's nae leevin' for a doctor wi' that Drumtochty air; it
hasna a marra in Scotland. It starts frae the Moray Firth and sweeps
doon Badenoch, and comes ower the moor o' Rannoch and across the
Grampians. There's the salt o' the sea, and the caller air o' the
hills, and the smell o' the heather, and the bloom o'mony a flower
in't. If there's nae disease in the organs o' the body, a puff o'
Drumtochty air wud bring back a man frae the gates o' deith."
"You hef made two hearts glad this day, Doctor McLure," said
Lachlan, outside the door, "and I am calling you Barnabas."
"Ye've ca'd me waur names than that in yir time," and the doctor
mounted his horse. "It's dune me a warld o' guid tae see Flora in
her hame again, and I'll gie Marget Howe a cry in passin' and send
her up tae hae a crack, for there's no a wiser wumman in the glen."
When Marget came, Flora told her the history of her letter.
"It wass a beautiful night in London, but I will be thinking that
there iss no living person caring whether I die or live, and I wass
considering how I could die, for there iss nothing so hopeless as to
hef no friend in a great city. It iss often that I hef been alone on
the moor, and no man within miles, but I wass never lonely, oh no, I
had plenty of good company. I would sit down beside a burn, and the
trout will swim out from below a stone, and the cattle will come to
drink, and the muirfowl will be crying to each other, and the sheep
will be bleating, oh yes, and there are the bees all round, and a
string of wild ducks above your head. It iss a busy place a moor,
and a safe place too, for there iss not one of the animals will hurt
you. No, the big highlanders will only look at you and go away to
their pasture. But it iss weary to be in London and no one to speak
a kind word to you, and I will be looking at the crowd that iss
always passing, and I will not see one kent face, and when I looked
in at the lighted windows the people were all sitting round the
table, but there wass no place for me. Millions and millions of
people, and not one to say 'Flora,' and not one sore heart if I died
that night. Then a strange thing happened, as you will be
considering, but it iss good to be a Highlander, for we see visions.
You maybe know that a wounded deer will try to hide herself, and I
crept into the shadow of a church, and wept. Then the people and the
noise and the houses passed away like the mist on the hill, and I
wass walking to the kirk with my father, oh yes, and I saw you all
in your places, and I heard the Psalms, and I could see through the
window the green fields and the trees on the edge of the moor. And I
saw my home, with the dogs before the door, and the flowers that I
planted, and the lamb coming for her mik, and I heard myself singing,
and I awoke. But there wass singing, oh yes, and beautiful too, for
the dark church wass open, and the light wass falling over my head
from the face of the Virgin Mary. When I arose she wass looking down
at me in the darkness, and then I knew that there wass service in
the church, and this wass the hymn--
"'There is a fountain filled with blood.'
"So I went in and sat down at the door. The sermon wass on the
Prodigal Son, but there iss only one word I remember. 'You are not
forgotten or cast off,' the preacher said; 'you are missed,' and
then he will come back to it again, and it wass always 'missed,
missed, missed.' Sometimes he will say, 'If you had a plant, and you
had taken great care of it, and it was stolen, would you not miss
it?' And I will be thinking of my geraniums, and saying 'yes' in my
heart. And then he will go on, 'If a shepherd wass counting his
sheep, and there wass one short, does he not go out to the hill and
seek for it?' and I will see my father coming back with that lamb
that lost its mother. My heart wass melting within me, but he will
still be pleading, 'If a father had a child, and she left her home
and lost herself in the wicked city, she will still be remembered in
the old house, and her chair will be there,' and I will be seeing my
father all alone with the Bible before him, and the dogs will lay
their heads on his knee, but there iss no Flora. So I slipped out
into the darkness and cried 'Father,' but I could not go back, and I
knew not what to do. But this wass ever in my ear, 'missed,' and I
wass wondering if God will be thinking of me. 'Perhaps there may be
a sign,' I said, and I went to my room, and I saw the letter. It
wass not long before I will be in the train, and all the night I
held your letter in my hand, and when I wass afraid I will read
'Your father loves you more than efer,' and I will say, 'This is my
warrant.' Oh yes, and God wass very good to me, and I did not want
for friends all the way home.
"The English guard noticed me cry, and he will take care of me all
the night, and see me off at Muirtown, and this iss what he will say
as the train wass leaving, in his cheery English way, 'Keep up your
heart, lass, there's a good time coming,' and Peter Bruce will be
waiting for me at the Junction, and a gentle man iss Peter Bruce,
and Maister Moncur will be singing a psalm to keep up my heart, and
I will see the light, and then I will know that the Lord hass had
mercy upon me. That iss all I have to tell you, Marget, for the rest
I will be saying to God."
"But there iss something I must be telling," said Lachlan, coming
in, "and it iss not easy."
He brought over the Bible and opened it at the family register where
his daughter's name had been erased; then he laid it down before
Flora, and bowed his head on the bed.
"Will you ever be able to forgive your father?"
"Give me the pen, Marget;" and Flora wrote for a minute, but Lachlan
When he lifted his head, this was what he read in a vacant space:--
Missed April 1873.
Found September 1873.
"Her father fell on her neck and kissed her."
AS A LITTLE CHILD
Drumtochty made up its mind slowly upon any new-comer, and for some
time looked into the far distance when his name was mentioned. He
himself was struck with the studied indifference of the parish, and
lived under the delusion that he had escaped notice. Perhaps he
might have felt uncomfortable if he had suspected that he was under
a microscope, and the keenest eyes in the country were watching
every movement at kirk and market. His knowledge of theology, his
preference in artificial manures, his wife's Sabbath dress, his
skill in cattle, and his manner in the Kildrummie train, went as
evidence in the case, and were duly weighed. Some morning the
floating opinion suddenly crystallized in the kirkyard, and there is
only one historical instance in which judgment was reversed. It was
a strong proof of Lachlan Campbell's individuality that he impressed
himself twice on the parish, and each time with a marked adjective.
Lachlan had been superintending the theology of the glen and
correcting our ignorance from an unapproachable height for two years
before the word went forth, but the glen had been thinking.
"Lachlan is a carefu' shepherd and fine wi' the ewes at the lambing
time, there's nae doot o' that, but a' canna thole (bear) himsel'.
Ye wud think there was nae releegion in the parish till he came frae
Auchindarroch. What say ye, Domsie?"
"Campbell's a censorious body, Drumsheugh," and Domsie shut his
snuff-box lid with a snap.
Drumsheugh nodded to the fathers of our commonwealth, and they went
into kirk with silent satisfaction. Lachlan had been classified, and
Peter Bruce, who prided himself on keeping in touch with Drumtochty,
passed the word round the Kildrummie train next market night.
"Ye haena that censorious body, Lachlan Campbell, wi' ye the nicht,"
thrusting his head in on the thirds.
"There's naething Peter disna ken," Hillocks remarked with
admiration afterwards; "he's as gude as the _Advertiser_."
When Flora had come home, and Drumtochty resumed freedom of
criticism, I noticed for the first time a certain vacillation in its
treatment of Lachlan.
"He's pluckit up his speerit maist extraordinar," Hillocks
explained, "and he whuppit by me like a three year auld laist
"'I'm glad tae hear the Miss is comin' roond fine,' says I.
"'It's the fouk o' Drumtochty hes made her weel. God bless you, for
you hev done good for evil,' and wi' that he was aff afore I cud
fin' a word.
"He's changed, the body, some wy or ither, and there's a kind o'
warmth aboot him ye canna get ower."
Next day I turned into Mrs. Macfadyen's cottage for a cup of tea and
the smack of that wise woman's conversation, but was not able to
pass the inner door for the sight which met my eyes.
Lachlan was sitting on a chair in the middle of the kitchen with
Elsie, Mrs. Macfadyen's pet child, on his knee, and their heads so
close together that his white hair was mingling with her burnished
gold. An odour of peppermint floated out at the door, and Elsie was
explaining to Lachlan, for his guidance at the shop, that the round
drops were a better bargain than the black and white rock.
When Lachlan had departed, with gracious words on his lips and a
very sticky imprint on his right cheek, I settled down in the big
chair, beyond the power of speech, and Mrs. Macfadyen opened the
"Ye may weel look, for twa month syne I wudna hae believed this day,
though a' hed seen him wi' ma ain een.
"It was juist this time laist year that he cam here on his elder's
veesitation, and he catches the bairn in this verra kitchen.
"'Elspeth,' says he--it was Elsie the day, ye mind--'div ye ken that
ye're an oreeginal sinner?'
"It was nichtfa' afore she got over the fricht, and when she saw him
on the road next Sabbath, she cooried in ahint ma goon, and cried
till I thocht her hert wud break.
"'It's meeserable wark for Christ's Elder,' says Jeems, 'tae put the
fear o' death on a bairn, and a'm thinkin' he wudna get muckle
thanks frae his Maister if He wes here,' and Jeems wasna far wrong,
though, of course, a' told him tae keep a quiet sough, and no conter
"Weel, I sees Lachlan comin' up the road the day, and a' ran oot to
catch Elsie and hide her in the byre. But a' micht hae saved mysel'
the trouble: afore I got tae the gairden gate they were comin' up as
chief (friendly) as ye like, and Lachlan wes callin' Elsie his
"If he hadna a pock o' peppermints--but it wesna that wiled Elsie's
hert. Na, na, dogs and bairns can read fouks' faces, and mak nae
mistakes. As sune as a' saw Lachlan's een a' kent he wes a new man.
"Hoo has it come about? That's easy tae guess. Sax months syne
Lachlan didna ken what father meant, and the heart wes wizened in
the breist o' him wi' pride an' diveenity.
"He kens noo, and a'm jalousing that nae man can be a richt father
tae his ain without being sib (akin) tae every bairn he sees. It wes
Flora he was dawting (petting) ye see the day, and he's learned his
trade weel, though it cost him a sair lesson."
Wonderful stories circulated through the glen, and were told in the
kirkyard of a Sabbath morning, concerning the transformation of
"Ane o' ma wee lassies," expatiated Domsie, "fell comin' doon the
near road frae Whinnie Knowe, and cuttit her cheek on the stones,
and if Lachlan didna wash her face and comfort her; an' mair, he
carried her a' the road tae the schule, and says he in his Hieland
way, 'Here iss a brave little woman that hass hurt herself, but she
will not be crying,' and he gave her a kiss and a penny tae buy some
sweeties at the shop. It minded me o' the Gude Samaritan, fouks,"
and everybody understood that Lachlan had captured Domsie for life.
"It beats a' things," said Whinnie; "a' canna mak' oot what's come
ower the cratur. There's a puckle o' the upland bairns pass oor wy
frae schule, and whiles Lachlan 'ill meet them when he's aifter his
sheep, and as sure as a'm stannin' here, he 'ill lay aff stories
aboot battles and fairies, till the laddies 'ill hardly gae hame. I
wes tellin' Marget this verra mornin', and she says, 'Lachlan's
become as a little child.' I dinna haud wi' her there, but a
quieter, mair cautious body ye never saw."
Drumtochty was doing its best to focus Lachlan afresh, and felt the
responsibility lay on Domsie, who accepted it cheerfully.
"Marget's aye richt, neebours, and she's put the word on it noo. His
tribble hes melted Lachlan's heart, an'--it's in the Evangel, ye
ken--he's become as a little child."
This language was too figurative and imposing for the parish, but it
ran henceforward in our modest speech, "He's a cautious body."
Cautious, with us, meant unassuming, kindly obliging, as well as
much more; and I still hear Drumsheugh pronouncing this final
judgment of the glen on Lachlan as we parted at his grave ten years
later, and adding, "He 'ill be sair missed by the bairns."
While the glen was readjusting itself to Lachlan, I came down from a
long tramp on the moor, and intended to inquire for Flora. But I was
arrested on the step by the sound of Lachlan's voice in family
"This my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is
found. And they began to be merry."
Lachlan's voice trembled as he read, but he went on with much
"Now his elder son was in the field."
"You will not be reading more of that chapter, father," interrupted
Flora, with a new note of authority.
"And why not?" said Lachlan, quite humbly.
"Because you will be calling yourself the elder son and many more
bad names, and I will be angry with you."
"But they are true names, and it iss good for me to know myself."
"You hef just one true name, and that iss father.... And now you
will be singing a psalm."
"There iss a book of himes (hymns) here, and maybe you will be
liking one of them."
And Lachlan produced the little book Flora got in that London church
when the preacher told her she was missed.
"We will not sing hymns, father, for I am remembering that you hef a
conscience against hymns, and I did not know that you had that
"My conscience wass sometimes better than the Bible, Flora, and if
God will be sending a hime to bind up your heart when it wass
broken, it iss your father that will be wanting to sing that hime.
"It iss here," continued Lachlan in triumph, "for I hef often been
reading that hime, and I am not seeing much wrong in it."
"But each hymn hass got its own tune, father, and you will not know
the way that it goes, and the doctor will not be wishing me to
"You are a good girl, Flora, but you are not so clever as your
father, oh no, for I hef been trying that hime on the hill, and it
will sing beautiful to a Psalm tune. You will lie still and hear."
Then Lachlan lifted up his voice in "French,"
"There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains."
The singing was fairly good, with a whisper from Flora, till they
came to that verse:
"Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I'll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,"
when Lachlan seemed to lose the tune, and be falling into a
"We must not be singing that to-day, father, for God iss fery good
to us, and I will be stronger every week, and maybe you will be
saying that we are thankful in your prayer."
Then I realised my baseness, and went off on tiptoe (had the dogs
been at home it had not been so easy to escape); but first I heard,
"Our Father." It was a new word for Lachlan; he used to say Jehovah.
The doctor paid his last visit one frosty winter day, and was
merciless on Lachlan.
"What for are ye cockering up this lassie, and no getting her doon
tae the kirk? it's clean disgracefu' in an Elder, and if I were yir
minister a' wud hae ye sessioned. Sall, ye're hard enough on ither
fouk that are no kirk greedy."
"You will not be speaking that way next Sabbath, for it iss in her
pew Flora will be sitting with her father," said Lachlan, in great
Flora caught him studying her closely for some days, as if he were
taking her measure, and he announced that he had business in
Muirtown on Friday.
When he came up in the market train he was carrying a large paper
parcel, and attempted a joke with Peter at a window of the third.
From a critical point of view it was beneath notice, but as
Lachlan's first effort it was much tasted.
"Ye 'ill believe me noo, Peter, since ye've heard him. Did ye ever
see sic a change? it's maist astonishin'."
"Man, Hillocks, div ye no see he's gotten back his dochter, and it's
made him anither man?"
Lachlan showed Flora a new pair of shears he had bought in Muirtown,
and a bottle of sheep embrocation, but she did not know he had
hidden his parcel in the byre, and that he opened it four separate
times on Saturday.
From daybreak on Sabbath Lachlan went in and out till he returned
with Marget Howe.
"Mrs. Howe iss very kind, and she will be coming to help you with
your dresses, Flora, for we will be wanting you to look well this
day, and here iss some small thing to keep you warm," and Lachlan
produced with unspeakable pride a jacket lined with flannel and
trimmed with fur.
So her father and Marget dressed Flora for the kirk, and they went
together down the path on which the light had shone that night of
There were only two dog-carts in the Free Kirk Session, and Burnbrae
was waiting with his for Flora at the foot of the hill.
"I bid ye welcome, Flora, in the name o' oor kirk. It's a gled day
for your father, and for us a' tae see you back again and strong.
And noo ye 'ill just get up aside me in the front, and Mistress Hoo
'ill hap ye round, for we maunna let ye come tae ony ill the first
day yir oot, or we 'ill never hear the end o't." And so the honest
man went on, for he was as near the breaking as Drumtochty nature
"A' body's pleased," said Marget to Lachlan as they sat on the back
seat and caught the faces of the people. "This is the first time I
have seen the fifteenth of Luke in Drumtochty. It's a bonnie sicht,
and a'm thinkin' it's still bonnier in the presence o' the angels."
"Flora Cammil's in the kirk the day," and the precentor looked at
Carmichael with expectation. "The fouk are terrible taen up wi'
Lachlan and her."
"What do you think of the hundred and third Psalm, Robert? It would
go well this morning."
"The verra word that was on my lips, and Lachlan 'ill be lookin' for
Lachlan had put Flora in his old place next the wall (he would not
need it again, having retired from the office of inquisitor), and
sat close beside her, with great contentment on his face. The
manners of Drumtochty were perfect, and no one turned his head by
one inch; but Marget Howe, sitting behind in Burnbrae's pew, saw
Flora's hand go out to Lachlan's as the people sang:
"All thine iniquities who doth
Most graciously forgive,
Who thy diseases all and pains
Doth heal and thee relieve."
The Session met that week, and a young girl broke down utterly in
her examination for the Sacrament, so that not even Burnbrae could
get a correct answer.
She rose in great confusion and sorrow.
"A' see it wudna be fit for the like o' me tae gae forrit, but a'
had set ma hert on't; it wes the last thing He askit o' His
freends," and she left before any one could bid her stay.
"Moderator," said Lachlan, "it iss a great joy for me to move that
Mary Macfarlane get her token, and I will be wishing that we all had
her warrant, oh yes, for there iss no warrant like love. And there
iss something that I must be asking of the elders, and it iss to
forgive me for my pride in this Session. I wass thinking that I knew
more than any man in Drumtochty, and wass judging God's people. But
He hass had mercy upon Simon the Pharisee, and you hef all been been
very good to me and Flora.... The Scripture hass been fulfilled, 'So
the last shall be first, and the first last.'"
Then the minister asked Burnbrae to pray, and the Spirit descended
on that good man, of simple heart:
"Almichty Father, we are a' Thy puir and sinfu' bairns, wha wearied
o' hame and gaed awa' intae the far country. Forgive us, for we
didna ken what we were leavin' or the sair hert we gied oor Father.
It wes weary wark tae live wi' oor sins, but we wud never hev come
back had it no been for oor Elder Brither. He cam' a long road tae
find us, and a sore travail He had afore He set us free. He's been a
gude Brither tae us, and we've been a heavy chairge tae Him. May He
keep a firm haud o' us, and guide us in the richt road, and bring us
back gin we wander, and tell us a' we need tae know till the
gloamin' come. Gither us in then, we pray Thee, and a' we luve, no a
bairn missin', and may we sit doon for ever in oor ain Father's
* * * * *
As Burnbrae said Amen, Carmichael opened his eyes, and had a vision
which will remain with him until the day break and the shadows flee
The six elders--three small farmers, a tailor, a stonemason, and a
shepherd--were standing beneath the lamp, and the light fell like a
halo on their bent heads. That poor little vestry had disappeared,
and this present world was forgotten. The sons of God had come into
their heritage, "for the things which are seen are temporal, but the
things which are not seen are eternal."
THE CUNNING SPEECH OF DRUMTOCHTY
THE CUNNING SPEECH OF DRUMTOCHTY
Speech in Drumtochty distilled slowly, drop by drop, and the faces
of our men were carved in stone. Visitors, without discernment, used
to pity our dulness and lay themselves out for missionary work.
Before their month was over they spoke bitterly of us, as if we had
deceived them, and departed with a grudge in their hearts. When
Hillocks scandalised the Glen by letting his house and living in the
bothie--through sheer greed of money--it was taken by a fussy little
man from the South, whose control over the letter "h" was uncertain,
but whose self-confidence bordered on the miraculous. As a deacon of
the Social Religionists,--a new denomination, which had made an 'it
with Sunday Entertainments,--and Chairman of the Amalgamated Sons of
Rest,--a society of persons with conscientious objections to work
between meals--he was horrified at the primeval simplicity of the
Glen, where no meeting of protest had been held in the memory of
living man, and the ministers preached from the Bible. It was
understood that he was to do his best for us, and there was
curiosity in the kirkyard.
"Whatna like man is that English veesitor ye've got, Hillocks? a'
hear he's fleein' ower the Glen, yammerin' and haverin' like a
"He's a gabby (talkative) body, Drumsheugh, there's nae doot o'
that, but terrible ignorant.
"Says he tae me nae later than yesterday, 'That's a fine field o'
barley ye've there, Maister Harris,' an' as sure as deith a' didna
ken whaur tae luik, for it was a puckle aits."
"Keep's a'," said Whinnie; "he's been awfu' negleckit when he wes a
bairn, or maybe there's a want in the puir cratur."
Next Sabbath Mr. Urijah Hopps appeared in person among the fathers--who
looked at each other over his head--and enlightened them on supply and
demand, the Game Laws, the production of cabbages for towns, the
iniquity of an Established Church, and the bad metre of the Psalms of
"You must 'ave henterprise, or it's hall hup with you farmers."
"Ay, ay," responded Drumsheugh, after a long pause, and then every
man concentrated his attention on the belfry of the kirk.
"Is there onything ava' in the body, think ye, Domsie," as Mr. Hopps
bustled into kirk, "or is't a' wind?"
"Three wechtfu's o' naething, Drumsheugh; a' peety the puir man if
Jamie Soutar gets a haud o' him."
Jamie was the cynic of the Glen--who had pricked many a wind bag--and
there was a general feeling that his meeting with Mr. Hopps would not
be devoid of interest. When he showed himself anxious to learn next
Sabbath, any man outside Drumtochty might have been deceived, for
Jamie could withdraw every sign of intelligence from his face, as
when shutters close upon a shop window. Our visitor fell at once
into the trap, and made things plain to the meanest capacity, until
Jamie elicited from the guileless Southron that he had never heard
of the Act of Union; that Adam Smith was a new book he hoped to buy;
that he did not know the difference between an Arminian and a Calvinist,
and that he supposed the Confession of Faith was invented in Edinburgh.
This in the briefest space of time, and by way of information to
Drumtochty. James was making for general literature, and had still
agriculture in reserve, when Drumsheugh intervened in the humanity of
"A' dinna like tae interrupt yir conversation, Maister Hopps, but
it's no verra safe for ye tae be stannin' here sae lang. Oor air hes
a bit nip in't, and is mair searchin' than doon Sooth. Jamie 'ill be
speirin' a' mornin' gin ye 'ill answer him, but a'm thinkin' ye'ill
be warmer in the kirk."
And Drumsheugh escorted Mr. Hopps to cover, who began to suspect
that he had been turned inside out, and found wanting.
Drumtochty had listened with huge delight, but without a trace of
expression, and, on Mr. Hopps reaching shelter, three boxes were
The group was still lost in admiration when Drumsheugh returned from
his errand of mercy.
"Sall, ye've dune the job this time. Jamie. Ye're an awfu' creetic.
Yon man 'ill keep a quiet cheep till he gets Sooth. It passes me hoo
a body wi' sae little in him hes the face tae open his mooth."
"Ye did it weel, Jamie," Domsie added, "a clean furrow frae end tae
"Toots, fouk, yir makin' ower muckle o' it. It wes licht grund, no
worth puttin' in a ploo."
Mr. Hopps explained to me, before leaving, that he had been much
pleased with the scenery of our Glen, but disappointed in the
"They may not be hignorant," said the little man doubtfully, "but no
man could call them haffable."
It flashed on me for the first time that perhaps there may have been
the faintest want of geniality in the Drumtochty manner, but it was
simply the reticence of a subtle and conscientious people. Intellect
with us had been brought to so fine an edge by the Shorter Catechism
that it could detect endless distinctions, and was ever on the watch
against inaccuracy. Farmers who could state the esoteric doctrine of
"spiritual independence" between the stilts of the plough, and talked
familiarly of "co-ordinate jurisdiction with mutual subordination,"
were not likely to fall into the vice of generalisation. When James
Soutar was in good fettle, he could trace the whole history of Scottish
secession from the beginning, winding his way through the maze of
Original Seceders and Cameronians, Burghers and Anti-Burghers--there
were days when he would include the Glassites,--with unfaltering step;
but this was considered a feat even in Drumtochty, and it was admitted
that Jamie had "a gift o' discreemination." We all had the gift in
measure, and dared not therefore allow ourselves the expansive language
of the South. What right had any human being to fling about superlative
adjectives, seeing what a big place the world is, and how little we
know? Purple adjectives would have been as much out of place in our
conversation as a bird of paradise among our muirfowl.
Mr. Hopps was so inspired by one of our sunsets--to his credit let
that be told--that he tried to drive Jamie into extravagance.
"No bad! I call it glorious, and if it hisn't, then I'd like to know
"Man," replied Soutar austerely, "ye 'ill surely keep ae word for
the twenty-first o' Reevelation."
Had any native used "magnificent," there would have been an uneasy
feeling in the Glen; the man must be suffering from wind in the
head, and might upset the rotation of crops, sowing his young grass
after potatoes, or replacing turnip with beetroot. But nothing of
that sort happened in my time; we kept ourselves well in hand. It
rained in torrents elsewhere, with us it only "threatened tae be
weet"--some provision had to be made for the deluge. Strangers, in
the pride of health, described themselves as "fit for anything," but
Hillocks, who died at ninety-two, and never had an hour's illness,
did not venture, in his prime, beyond "Gaein' aboot, a'm thankfu' to
say, gaein' aboot."
When one was seriously ill, he was said to be "gey an' sober," and
no one died in Drumtochty--"he slippit awa."
Hell and heaven were pulpit words; in private life we spoke of "the
ill place" and "oor lang hame."
When the corn sprouted in the stooks one late wet harvest, and
Burnbrae lost half his capital, he only said, "It's no lichtsome,"
and no congratulations on a good harvest ever extracted more from
Drumsheugh than "A' daurna complain."
Drumsheugh might be led beyond bounds in reviewing a certain potato
transaction, but, as a rule, he was a master of measured speech. After
the privilege of much intercourse with that excellent man, I was able
to draw up his table of equivalents for the three degrees of wickedness.
When there was just a suspicion of trickiness--neglecting the paling
between your cattle and your neighbour's clover field--"He's no juist
the man for an elder." If it deepened into deceit--running a "greasy"
horse for an hour before selling--"He wud be the better o' anither
dip." And in the case of downright fraud--finding out what a man had
offered for his farm and taking it over his head--the offender was "an
ill gettit wratch." The two latter phrases were dark with theology,
and even the positive degree of condemnation had an ecclesiastical
When Drumsheugh approved any one, he was content to say, "He micht
be waur," a position beyond argument. On occasion he ventured upon
bolder assertions: "There's nae mischief in Domsie;" and once I
heard him in a white heat of enthusiasm pronounce Dr. Davidson, our
parish minister, "A graund man ony wy ye tak him." But he seemed
ashamed after this outburst, and "shooed" the crows off the corn
with needless vigour.
No Drumtochty man would commit himself to a positive statement on
any subject if he could find a way of escape, not because his mind
was confused, but because he was usually in despair for an accurate
expression. It was told for years in the Glen, with much relish and
almost funereal solemnity, how a Drumtochty witness had held his own
in an ecclesiastical court.
"You are beadle in the parish of Pitscouric," began the advocate
with a light heart, not knowing the witness's birthplace.
"It's a fac'," after a long pause and a careful review of the whole
"You remember that Sabbath when the minister of Netheraird
"Weel, a'll admit that," making a concession to justice.
"Did ye see him in the vestry?"
"A' canna deny it."
"Was he intoxicated?"
The crudeness of this question took away Drumtochty's breath, and
suggested that something must have been left out in the creation of
that advocate. Our men were not bigoted abstainers, but I never
heard any word so coarse and elementary as intoxicated used in
Drumtochty. Conversation touched this kind of circumstance with
delicacy and caution, for we keenly realised the limitations of
"He hed his mornin'," served all ordinary purposes, and in cases of
emergency, such as Muirtown market:
"Ye cud see he hed been tastin'."
When an advocate forgot himself so far as to say intoxicated, a
Drumtochty man might be excused for being upset.
"Losh, man," when he had recovered, "hoo cud ony richt-thinkin' man
sweer tae sic an awfu' word? Na, na, a' daurna use that kin' o'
langidge; it's no cannie."
The advocate tried again, a humbler, wiser man.
"Was there a smell of drink on him?"
"Noo, since ye press me, a'll juist tell ye the hale truth; it wes
doonricht stupid o' me, but, as sure as a'm livin', a' clean forgot
tae try him."
Then the chastened counsel gathered himself up for his last effort.
"Will you answer one question, sir? you are on your oath. Did you
see anything unusual in Mr. MacOmish's walk? Did he stagger?"
"Na," when he had spent two minutes in recalling the scene. "Na, I
cudna say stagger, but he micht gie a bit trimmil."
"We are coming to the truth now; what did you consider the cause of
the trimmiling, as you call it?" and the innocent young advocate
looked round in triumph.
"Weel," replied Drumtochty, making a clean breast of it, "since ye
maun hae it, a' heard that he wes a very learned man, and it cam
intae ma mind that the Hebrew, which, a'm telt, is a very contrairy
langidge, hed gaen doon and settled in his legs."
The parish of Netheraird was declared vacant, but it was understood
that the beadle of Pitscourie had not contributed to this decision.
His own parish followed the trial with intense interest, and were
much pleased with Andra's appearance.
"Sall," said Hillocks, "Andra has mair gumption than ye wud think,
and yon advocat didna mak muckle o' him. Na, na, Andra wesna brocht
up in the Glen for naethin'. Maister MacOmish may hae taen his gless
atween the Hebrew and the Greek, and it's no verra suitable for a
minister, but that's anither thing frae bein' intoxicat."
"Keep's a', if ye were tae pit me in the box this meenut, a' cudna
sweer a hed ever seen a man intoxicat in ma life, except a puir body
o' an English bag-man at Muirtown Station. A' doot he hed bin
meddlin' wi' speerits, and they were wheelin' him tae his kerridge
in a luggage barrow. It wes a fearsome sicht, and eneugh tae keep
ony man frae speakin' aboot intoxicat in yon louse wy."
Archie Moncur fought the drinking customs of the Glen night and day
with moderate success, and one winter's night he gave me a study in
his subject which, after the lapse of years, I still think admirable
for its reserve power and Dantesque conclusion.
"They a' begin in a sma' wy," explained Archie, almost hidden in the
depths of my reading chair, and emphasising his points with a gentle
motion of his right hand; "naethin' tae mention at first, juist a gless
at an orra time--a beerial or a merridge--and maybe New Year. That's
the first stage; they ca' that moderation. Aifter a whilie they tak a
mornin' wi' a freend, and syne a gless at the public-hoose in the
evenin', and they treat ane anither on market days. That's the second
stage; that's 'tastin'.' Then they need it reg'lar every day, nicht an'
mornin', and they'll sit on at nicht till they're turned oot. They
'ill fecht ower the Confession noo, and laist Sabbath's sermon, in
the Kildrummie train, till it's clean reediklus. That's drammin', and
when they've hed a year or twa at that they hae their first spatie
(spate is a river flood), and that gies them a bit fricht. But aff
they set again, and then comes anither spatie, and the doctor hes tae
bring them roond. They ca' (drive) cannie for a year or sae, but the
feein' market puts the feenishin' titch. They slip aff sudden in the
end, and then they juist gang plunk--ay," said Archie in a tone of
gentle meditation, looking, as it were, over the edge, "juist plunk."
Nothing ever affected my imagination more powerfully than the swift
surprise and gruesome suggestion of that "plunk."
But the literary credit of Drumtochty rested on a broad basis, and
no one could live with us without having his speech braced for life.
You felt equal to any emergency, and were always able to express
your mind with some degree of accuracy, which is one of the luxuries
of life. There is, for instance, a type of idler who exasperates one
to the point of assault, and whom one hungers to describe after a
becoming manner. He was rare in the cold air of the North, but we
had produced one specimen, and it was my luck to be present when he
came back from a distant colony, and Jamie Soutar welcomed him in
"Weel, Chairlie," and Jamie examined the well-dressed prodigal from
top to toe, "this is a prood moment for Drumtochty, and an awfu'
relief tae ken yir safe. Man, ye hevna wanted meat nor claithes; a'
tak it rael neeburly o' ye tae speak ava wi' us auld-fashioned fouk.
"Ye needna look soor nor cock yir nose in the air, for you an' me
are auld freends, and yir puir granny wes na mair anxious aboot ye
than a' wes.
"A'm feared that laddie o' Bell's 'ill kill himsel' oot in Ameriky'
were ma verra words tae Hillocks here; 'he 'ill be slavin' his flesh
aff his banes tae mak a fortune and keep her comfortable'
"It was a rael satisfaction tae read yir letter frae the backwoods--or
was't a public-hoose in New York? ma memory's no what it used to
be--tellin' hoo ye were aye thinkin' o' yer auld granny, and wantin'
tae come hame and be a comfort tae her if she wud send ye out twenty
"The bit that affeckit me maist wes the text frae the Prodigal Son--it
cam in sae natural. Mony a broken hert hes that story bund up, as we
ken weel in this Glen; but it's dune a feck o' mischief tae--that gude
word o' the Maister. Half the wastrels in the warld pay their passage
hame wi' that Parable, and get a bran new outfit for anither start in
the far country.
"Noo dinna turn red, Chairlie, for the neeburs ken ye were tae work
yir wy hame hed it no been for yir health. But there's a pack of
rascals 'ill sorn on their father as lang as he's livin', and they
'ill stairve a weedowed mither, and they 'ill tak a sister's wages,
and if they canna get ony better a dune body o' eighty 'ill serve
"Man, Chairlie, if a' hed ma wull wi' thae wawfies, I wud ship them
aff tae a desert island, wi' ae sack o' seed potatoes and anither o'
seed corn, and let them work or dee. A' ken yir wi' me there, for ye
aye hed an independent spirit, and wesna feared tae bend yir back.
"Noo, if a' cam across ane o' thae meeserable objects in Drumtochty,
div ye ken the advice I wud gie him?
"A wud tell the daidlin', thowless, feckless, fushionless wratch o'
a cratur tae watch for the first spate and droon himsel' in the
"What's he aff through the graves for in sic a hurry?" and Jamie
followed Charlie's retreating figure with a glance of admirable
amazement; "thae's no very gude mainners he's learned in Americky."
"Thank ye, Jeemes, thank ye; we're a' obleeged tae ye," said
Drumsheugh. "A' wes ettlin' tae lay ma hands on the whup-ma-denty
(fop) masel, but ma certes, he's hed his kail het this mornin'. Div
ye think he 'ill tak yir advice?"
"Nae fear o' him; thae neer-dae-weels haena the spunk; but a'm
expeckin' he 'ill flee the pairish."
Which he did. Had you called him indolent or useless he had smiled,
but "daidlin', thowless, feckless, fushionless wratch," drew blood
at every stroke, like a Russian knout.
We had tender words also, that still bring the tears to my eyes, and
chief among them was "couthy." What did it mean? It meant a letter
to some tired townsman, written in homely Scotch, and bidding him
come to get new life from the Drumtochty air; and the grip of an
honest hand on the Kildrummie platform whose warmth lasted till you
reached the Glen; and another welcome at the garden-gate that
mingled with the scent of honeysuckle, and moss-roses, and thyme,
and carnations; and the best of everything that could be given you;
and motherly nursing in illness, with skilly remedies of the olden
time; and wise, cheery talk that spake no ill of man or God; and
loud reproaches if you proposed to leave under a month or two; and
absolute conditions that you must return; and a load of country
dainties for a bachelor's bare commons; and far more, that cannot be
put into words, of hospitality, and kindness, and quietness, and
restfulness, and loyal friendship of hearts now turned to dust in
the old kirkyard.
But the best of all our words were kept for spiritual things, and
the description of a godly man. We did not speak of the "higher
life," nor of a "beautiful Christian," for this way of putting it
would not have been in keeping with the genius of Drumtochty.
Religion there was very lowly and modest--an inward walk with God.
No man boasted of himself, none told the secrets of the soul. But
the Glen took notice of its saints, and did them silent reverence,
which they themselves never knew. Jamie Soutar had a wicked tongue,
and, at a time, it played round Archie's temperance schemes, but
when that good man's back was turned Jamie was the first to do him
"It wud set us better if we did as muckle gude as Archie; he's a
richt livin' man and weel prepared."
Our choicest tribute was paid by general consent to Burnbrae, and it
may be partiality, but it sounds to me the deepest in religious
speech. Every cottage, strangers must understand, had at least two
rooms--the kitchen where the work was done, that we called the
"But," and there all kinds of people came; and the inner chamber
which held the household treasures, that we called the "Ben," and
there none but a few honoured visitors had entrance. So we imagined
an outer court of the religious life where most of us made our home,
and a secret place where only God's nearest friends could enter, and
it was said of Burnbrae, "He's far ben." His neighbours had watched
him, for a generation and more, buying and selling, ploughing and
reaping, going out and in the common ways of a farmer's life, and
had not missed the glory of the soul. The cynic of Drumtochty summed
up his character: "There's a puckle gude fouk in the pairish, and
ane or twa o' the ither kind, and the maist o' us are half and
between," said Jamie Soutar, "but there's ae thing ye may be sure
o', Burnbrae is 'far ben.'"
A WISE WOMAN
OUR SERMON TASTER
A Drumtochty man, standing six feet three in his boots, sat himself
down one day in the study of a West-end minister, and gazed before
him with the countenance of a sphinx.
The sight struck awe into the townsman's heart, and the power of
speech was paralysed within him.
"A'm frae Drumtochty," began a deep solemn voice. "Ye 'ill hae heard
of Drumtochty, of coorse. A've jined the polis; the pay is no that
bad, and the work is naethin' tae an able-bodied man."
When these particulars had been digested by the audience--
"It's a crooded place London, and the fouks aye in a tiravie
(commotion), rinnin' here an' rinnin' there, and the maist feck o'
them dinna ken whar they're gaein.
"It's officer this and officer that frae mornin' till nicht. It's
peetifu' tae see the helplessness o' the bodies in their ain toon.
And they're freevolous," continued the figure, refreshing itself
with a reminiscence.
"It wes this verra mornin' that a man askit me hoo tae get tae the
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