Mrs. Milne Rae
Produced by Miranda van de Heijning and PG Distributed Proofreaders
A TALE OF SCOTTISH LIFE.
[Attributed to Mrs. Milne Rae]
[Illustration: GEORDIE'S HERDING ENDED.]
It was a chilly Scotch spring day. The afternoon sun glistened with
fitful, feeble rays on the windows of the old house of Kirklands, and
unpleasant little gusts of east wind came eddying round its ancient
gables, and sweeping along its broad walks and shrubberies, sending a
chill to the hearts of all the young green things that were struggling
On the time-worn steps of the grey mansion there stood a girl, cloaked
and bonneted for a walk, notwithstanding the uninviting weather.
"It's a fule's errand, I assure ye, Miss Grace, and on such an
afternoon, too. I've been askin' at old Adam the gardener, and he says
there isna one o' the kind left worth mindin' in all the valley o'
Kirklands. So do not go wanderin' on such an errand in this bitter wind,
The speaker was an old woman, standing in the doorway, glancing with an
expression of kindly anxiety towards the girl, who leant on one of the
carved griffins of the old stone railing.
Grace had been looking at the speaker with troubled eyes as she listened
to her remonstrance, and now she said, meditatively, "Does old Adam
really say so, Margery?" Then with a quick gesture she turned to go down
the steps, adding cheerily, "Well, there's no harm in trying, and as for
the wind, that doesn't matter a bit. It's what Walter would call a nice
breezy day. I'm really going, nursie. Shut the door, and keep your old
self warm. I shall be home again by the time aunt has finished her
afternoon's sleep." And Grace turned quickly away, not in the direction
of the sheltered elm avenue, but across the park, by the path which led
most quickly beyond the grounds. Presently she slackened her pace, and
turning for a moment she glanced rather ruefully towards the high walls
of the old garden, as if prudence dictated that she should seek fuller
information there, before she set out on this search, which she had
planned that afternoon. The old nurse's words on the subject seemed to
have sent a chilling gust to her heart, harder to bear than the bitter
spring wind. Old Adam certainly knew the countryside better than anybody
else, she pondered, and he seemed to have given it as his decision that
she would not find her search successful.
Was it a rare plant growing in the valley that Grace was in search of?
Then, surely, the gardener was right; she should wait till the warm
sunshine came, and the south winds wafted sweet scents about, leading to
where the pleasant flowers grow among the cozy moss. Or did she mean to
go to the green velvety haughs of the winding river to get her
fishing-rod and tackle into working order at the little boat-house, and
try to tempt some unwary trout to eat his last supper, as she and her
brother Walter used to do in sunny summer evenings long ago?
These had been very pleasant days, and their lingering memories came
hovering round Grace as she stood once again among the familiar haunts,
after an absence of years. Echoes of merry ringing tones, in which her
own mingled, seemed to resound through the wooded paths, where only the
parching wind whistled shrilly to-day, and a boyish voice seemed still
to call impatiently under the lozenge-paned window of the old
school-room, "Gracie, Gracie, are you not done with lessons yet? Do come
out and play." And how dreary "Noel and Chapsal" used to grow all of a
sudden when that invitation came, and with what relentless slowness the
hands of the old clock dragged through the lesson-hour still to run.
But the quaint old window has the shutters on it now, and the eager face
that used to seek his caged playmate through its bars is looking out on
new lands from his wandering home at sea. The little girl, too, who used
to sit in the dim school-room seems to hear other voices calling to her
And while Grace stands hesitating whether, after all, it might be wise
to go into the garden to hear what old Adam has to say before she
proceeded to the high road, we shall try to find what earnest quest sent
her out this afternoon, in spite of her old nurse's remonstrances and
the east wind.
Grace Campbell's father and mother died when she was very young, and
since then her home had been with her aunt. For the last few years Miss
Hume had been so infirm that she did not feel able to undertake the
journey to Kirklands, a small property in the north of Scotland, which
she inherited from her father. Her winter home was Edinburgh, and Miss
Hume for some years had only ventured on a short journey to the nearest
watering-place, while her country home stood silent and deserted, with
only the ancient gardener and his wife wandering about through the
darkened rooms and the old garden, with its laden fruit-trees and its
flowers run to seed. But, to Grace's great delight, her aunt had
announced some months before that if she felt strong enough for the
journey, she meant to go to Kirklands early in the spring. It seemed as
if in her fading autumnal time she longed to see the familiar woods and
dells of her childhood's home grow green again with returning life. So
the darkened rooms had been opened to the sun again, and on the day
before our story begins, some of the former inmates had taken possession
The three years during which Grace had been absent from Kirklands had
proved very eventful to her in many ways. There had been some changes in
her outer life. Walter, her only brother and playmate, had left home to
go to sea. They had only had one passing visit from him since, so
changed in his midshipman's dress, with his broadened shoulders and
bronzed face, and so full of sailor life and talk, that his playmate had
hardly composure of mind to discover till he was gone that the same
loving heart still beat under the blue dress and bright buttons. And
while she thought of him with a new pride, she felt an undercurrent of
sadness in the consciousness that the pleasant threads of daily
intercourse had been broken, and the old childish playfellow had passed
But as the golden gate of childhood thus closed on Grace Campbell,
another gate opened for her which led to pleasant places. It had,
indeed, been waiting open for her ever since she came into the world,
though she had often passed it by unheeded. But at last there came to
Grace a glimpse of the shining light which still guides the way of
seeking souls to "yonder wicket gate." She began to feel an intense
longing to enter there and begin that new life to which it leads. She
knocked, and found that it was open for her, and entering there she met
the gracious Guide who had beckoned her to come, whispering in the
silence of her heart, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Not long
after Grace had begun to walk in this path, an event happened which
proved to her like the visit to the "Interpreter's House" in the
Pilgrim's story; but in order to explain its full eventfulness, we must
go back to tell of earlier days in her aunt's home.
On Sunday mornings Grace usually drove with her aunt to church in
decorous state. When Walter was at home he made one of the carriage
party, though generally under protest, declaring that it would be "ever
so much jollier to walk than to be bowled along in that horrid old
rumble," as he used irreverently to designate his aunt's rather antique
chariot. When they arrived at church, the children followed their aunt's
slow steps to one of the pews in the gallery, where Miss Hume used to
take the precautionary measure of separating them by sending Grace to
the top of the seat, and placing herself between the vivacious Walter
and his playmate. Notwithstanding this precaution, they generally
contrived to find comfortable recreative resources during the service,
bringing all their inventive energy to bear on creating new diversions
as each Sunday came round. There was always their Aunt Hume's fur cloak
to stroke the wrong way, if there was nothing more diverting within
reach; had it only been the cat, whose sentiments regarding a like
treatment of her fur were too well known to Walter, he felt that the
pleasure would have been greater. Sometimes, indeed, the amusements were
of a strictly mental nature, conducted in the "chambers of imagery."
Miss Hume would feel gratified by the stillness of posture and the
earnest gaze in her nephew's eyes. They were certainly not fixed
directly on the preacher, but surely the boy must be listening, or he
would never be so quiet. Grace, however, was in the secret, and knew
better. Walter had confided to her that he had got such "a jolly
make-believe" to think about in church. The great chandelier which hung
from the centre of the church ceiling, with its poles, and chains, and
brackets, was transformed in his imagination to a ship's mast and
rigging, where he climbed and swung, and performed marvellous feats,
also in imagination, be it understood. And so it happened that Grace
could guess where her brother's thoughts were when he sat gazing
dreamily at the huge gilded chandelier of the city church.
Other imaginings had sometimes grown round it for Grace when it was all
lit up in the short winter days at afternoon service, and queer lights
and shadows fell on the gilded cherubs that decorated it, till their
wings seemed to move and hover over the heads of the congregation. To
Grace's childish mind they had been the embodiment of angels ever since
she could remember; and even long after childish things were put away
there remained a strange link between her conception of angelic beings
and those burnished cherubs whose serene, shining faces looked down
benignantly over the drowsy congregation on dark winter afternoons.
But all these imaginings certainly came under the catalogue of
"wandering thoughts," from which the old minister always prayed at the
opening of the service that they might be delivered. So it is to be
feared that the sermon had not even the chance of the wayside seed in
the parable of sinking into the children's hearts. The words of her
aunt's old minister had as yet proved little more than an outside sound
to Grace, though she was in the habit of listening more observantly than
her brother. But there came a day when, amidst those familiar
surroundings, with the molten cherubs looking serenely down on her, she
heard words which made her heart burn within her, and kindled a flame
which lasted as long as life.
It was on a Sunday afternoon in November, not long after Walter left.
Miss Hume was ailing, and unable to go to church, so it was arranged
that Margery should accompany Grace. The old nurse attended the same
church, and Grace had been in the habit of going under her wing when her
aunt was obliged to remain at home. The walk to church through the
crowded streets was a pleasant change, and Grace was in high spirits
when she ensconced herself at the top of Margery's seat--which was a
much better observatory than her aunt's pew--where every thing could be
seen that was interesting and amusing within the four walls. Besides,
there were small amenities connected with a seat in nurse's pew which
had great attractions for Grace when she was a little girl, and had
still a lingering charm for her. In the pew behind there sat a worthy
couple, friends of Margery, who exchanged friendly salutations with her
on Sunday, always including a kindly nod of recognition to her charges
if they happened to be with her. Then, at a certain juncture in the
service, the worthy tinsmith, for that was his calling, would hand
across the book-board his ancient silver snuff-box, of the contents of
which he himself partook freely and noisily. Of course, Margery only
used it politely, after the manner of a scent-bottle; and then Grace
came in for her turn of it, with a warning glance from nurse to beware
of staining her hat-strings, or any other serious effects from the
odorous powder. If Walter happened to be invited to enjoy the
privilege, he always contrived to secrete a deposit of the snuff between
his finger and thumb, being most anxious to imitate the tinsmith's
accomplishment. He was, however, afraid to make his first essay in
church, in case of sneezing symptoms, and before he had a chance of a
quiet moment to make the experiment when they left the pew, he used
generally to be caught by Margery, and summoned to put on his glove like
a gentleman, and any resistance was sure to end in the discovery and
loss of the precious pinch of snuff. Then the tinsmith's wife had also
her own congenial resources for comfort during service, which she
delighted to share with her neighbours. Grace used to receive a little
tap on the shoulder, and, on looking round, a box of peppermint lozenges
lay waiting her in the old woman's fat palm. These were very homely
little interchanges of friendship, but they made part of the happy
childish world to Grace, and years after, when the old pew knew her no
more, and she asked admittance to it as a stranger, she glanced round in
the vain hope of catching a glimpse of the broad, shining, kindly faces
of the old couple, feeling that to see them in their place would bring
back many pleasanter bygone associations than snuff and peppermint
On this Sunday afternoon Grace perceived that there was something out of
the ordinary routine in prospect. The pews were filling more quickly
than they usually did. Strangers were gathering in the passage, and a
general flutter of excitement and expectation seemed everywhere to
"What is going to happen, I wonder, Margery?" whispered Grace,
impatiently; and presently the tinsmith leant across the book-board and
kindly volunteered the information that they were going to have a
"strange minister the night, and a special collection for some
And then Grace turned towards the pulpit in time to see the "strange
minister," who had just entered it. He was a tall man, of a stately
though easy presence, with grace and life in every gesture. As she
looked at him Grace Campbell was reminded of an historical scene, a
picture of which hung in the old hall at Kirklands, of a mixed group of
Cavaliers and Puritans. This preacher seemed in his appearance curiously
to combine the varied characteristics of both the types of men in these
portraits. That graceful flexibility of tone and movement, the high
forehead and waving locks, surely belong to the gallant old Cavalier,
but there is something of the stern Puritan too. The resoluteness of
the firm though mobile mouth betokens a strength of moral purpose, which
does not belong to the caste of the mere court gentleman; about those
delicately-cut nostrils there dwells a possibility of quivering
indignation, and in the eyes that are looking broodingly down on the
congregation true pathos and keen humour are strangely blended.
Presently the deep, flexible voice, which had the soul of music in its
tones, re-echoed through the church as he called the people to worship
God, and read some verses of an old psalm. Familiar as the words were to
Grace, they seemed as he read them to have a new meaning, to be no
longer seven verses with queer, out-of-the-way expressions, that had
cost her trouble to learn as a Sunday evening's task, but a beautiful,
real prayer to a God that was listening, and would hear, as the "strange
minister's" voice pealed out,--
"Lord, bless and pity us,
Shine on us with Thy face;
That the earth Thy way, and nations all
May know Thy saving grace."
And when the sermon came, and the preacher began to talk in thrilling
words of that saving health which the Great Healer of souls had died to
bring to all nations, Grace felt the reality of those unseen, eternal
things of which he spoke as she had never done before. Then there were
interspersed with those faithful, burning words for God beautiful
illustrations from nature, which fascinated the little girl's
imagination, as she sat gazing, not at the gilded cherubs to-night, but
on the benignant, earnest face of the speaker. He surely must have been
a sailor, or he could never have known so well what a storm at sea was
like, she thought, as she listened, spell-bound, feeling as if she was
looking out on the angry sea, with the helpless wrecking ships tossing
upon the waves; but then in another moment he took them into the thick
of some ancient battle, where the brave-hearted "nobly conquering lived
or conquering died;" or it was to some fair, pastoral scene, and then
the preacher seemed to know so well all the delights of heathery hills
and pleasant mossy glades, that Grace thought he certainly must have
been at Kirklands and wandered among its woods and braes. And into each
of his wonderful photographs he wove many holy, stirring thoughts of
God, and of those "ways" of his that may be known upon the earth, of
which they had been singing.
Presently the preacher began to talk of what the worthy tinsmith had
called the "new-fangled scheme," for which, he said, he stood there to
plead that evening. He had come to ask help for the little outcast city
children. It was before the days when School Boards were born or thought
of that this gallant-hearted man sought to move the feelings and rouse
the consciences of men on behalf of those who seemed to have no helper.
It was for aid to establish schools for those destitute children, where
they might be clothed and fed as well as educated, that he went on to
plead. Grace sat entranced, listening to the preacher, as with the
"flaming swords of living words, he fought for the poor and weak." Never
before in the course of her narrow, sheltered child-life had she, even
in imagination, been brought face to face with the manifold wants and
woes of her poorer brothers and sisters, or understood the service to
which the Son of Man summons all his faithful followers: "Is it not to
deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast
out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and
that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?"
It seemed to Grace, when the preacher had ceased, as if a new world of
loving work and of duty stretched before her; for could she not become
one of that band whom the preacher called in such thrilling words to
enroll themselves in this service of love?
When the eloquent voice paused, and the congregation began to sing
again, Grace still felt the words sounding like trumpet-notes in her
heart. How she longed to ask the minister to take her to those courts
and alleys, and to tell her in what way she might best help those
neglected ones. How many plans coursed through her eager little brain
for their succour. But the preacher had said he wanted money for their
help; a collection was to be made before they left the church.
Grace's store of pocket-money was slender, and, moreover, was not in her
pocket now. How gladly would she have emptied her little silken purse,
if she had only had it with her; but, alas! it lay uselessly in her
drawer at home. Her conventional penny had been put into the plate at
the door, as she came into church, and Grace thought ruefully that she
had nothing--nothing to give to help these poor forsaken ones, whose
hard lot had so touched her heart. Just then, however, she happened to
raise her hand to her neck, and was reminded of an ornament which she
always wore, the only precious thing she possessed. It was an
old-fashioned locket, with rows of pearls round it, and in the centre a
baby lock of her own hair, which her mother used to wear. Her Aunt Hume
had some time ago taken it out of the old jewel-case which awaited her
when Grace was old enough to be trusted with its contents, and given it
to her to wear, so it was her very own. But was not this a worthy
occasion for bringing of one's best and most precious things? Might not
this pearl locket help to bring some little outcast waif into paths of
pleasantness and peace? Yes, the locket should be given to the special
collection, Grace resolved; but it might not be wise, to divulge the
intention to Margery, who had already replied, when she was asked by
Grace if she could lend her any money, that nobody would expect a
collection from such a young lady.
When the crowd moved away from the passage, and began to scatter,
Margery and her charge left the old pew in the highest gallery and
prepared to go down the great staircase which led to the entrance door.
Near the door there stood two elders of the church, with metal plates in
their hands, waiting for the offerings of the congregation. Grace had
been holding hers tightly in her hand, having untied it from her neck
and slipped the ribbon in her pocket, and now she laid it gently among
the silver, and the pennies, and the Scotch bank-notes, hoping that it
might slip unobserved between one of the crumpled notes, and so escape
the detective glance of Margery's quick eyes. But her hope was vain.
Nurse caught sight of the pearls gleaming pure and white among the other
offerings: "Missy, what have you done? Your locket! your mamma's
beautiful pearl locket! Did I ever see the like? It's a mistake, sir.
Miss Campbell could not have meant it," she said, turning to the elder,
with her hand raised to recapture it.
"Stop, Margery, it is not a mistake; I meant to put it there," replied
Grace in an eager whisper, as she pulled her nurse's shawl, glancing
timidly at the elder, as if she feared he was going to conspire with
Margery, and that, after all, her offering would be rejected.
"Missy! are you mad? What will your aunt say? Really, sir, will you be
so kind?"--and Margery did not finish her sentence, but looked piteously
at the elder, who was glancing at the little girl with a kindly, though
questioning expression in his eyes, saying presently:
"You may have your locket back, if you wish it, my child. Perhaps you
have given it hastily, and may regret it afterwards, and we would not
like to have your jewel in these circumstances."
"Oh, thank you, sir," Margery was beginning to say, in a grateful tone,
when Grace interrupted her.
"No, please don't, sir, I will not take it back. It was my very own, and
I have given it to God, to use for these poor, sad boys and girls,"
Grace added, in a tremulous tone.
Then the old elder looked at Margery, and said, "My friend, I cannot
help you further. Neither you nor I have anything to do with this gift;
it is between the giver and the Receiver."
There was something solemn in his tone which kept the still indignant
Margery from saying more, and she prepared to move away with her charge.
But, as she turned to go, she caught a glimpse of her acquaintance the
tinsmith, who was in the act of dropping into the plate a crumpled
Scotch bank-note, which he held in his broad palm.
"Bless me, they're all going daft together," muttered Margery, with
uplifted hands, as she hurried away. "It was a very good discourse, no
doubt, but to think of folk strippin' themselves like that--a pun'-note,
forsooth, near the half of the week's work; the man's gone clean
But the tinsmith's serene, smiling face showed no sign of any aberration
of intellect, and Margery took Grace's hand, and hurried her through the
crowd, resolved that she should not, for another instant, stand by and
countenance such reckless expenditure.
Grace was conscious that her old nurse was still possessed by a strong
feeling of disapproval regarding her donation, so she rather avoided
conversation; besides, she had a great deal to think about as she walked
along the crowded lamp-lit streets by Margery's side.
At last they reached the quiet square where Miss Hume lived, and as they
crossed the grass-grown pavement and went up the steps to the house,
Grace glanced up to the curtained window of her aunt's sitting-room, and
suddenly remembered, with a feeling of discomfort, that Miss Hume must
presently be told of the destination of her locket; if not by herself,
certainly by Margery, who had just heaved a heavy sigh, and was
evidently girding herself up for the painful duty of narrating the
strange behaviour of her charge.
"Now, Margery, I'm going to auntie, to tell her about the locket, this
very minute, so you need not trouble about it," said Grace, as she ran
quickly upstairs to her aunt's room and closed the door.
Margery never knew exactly what passed, nor how Miss Hume's
well-regulated mind was ever reconciled to such an impulsive act on the
part of her niece. But, as she sat at her usual post by the old lady
next day, while she took her afternoon's rest, Miss Hume said rather
unexpectedly, when Margery concluded she was asleep, "Margery, you
remember my sister? Does it not strike you that Miss Campbell is getting
very like her mother? These children are a great responsibility to me; I
wish their mother had been spared," she added, rather irrelevantly, it
seemed to Margery, and then presently she fell asleep without any
reference to the locket question.
But that night, when Grace was going to bed, she told her old nurse that
her aunt had promised that when they went back to Kirklands again she
might try to find some little boys and girls to teach, and that she
would allow her to have one of the old rooms for her class. She did not
tell how eagerly she had asked that, in the meantime, she might be
allowed to try and help the neglected city children, to whose
necessities she had been awakened by such thrilling words that day,
though Miss Hume had thought it wise to restrain her impatience. But
out of that evening's events had grown the cherished plan which sent
Grace on such a chilly afternoon among the woods and braes of Kirklands
to seek any boy or girl who might need her help and friendship.
Miss Hume, Grace's aunt, left the management of Kirklands entirely in
the hands of her business agent. Mr. Graham met the tenants, gathered
the rents, arranged the leases, and directed the improvements without
even a nominal interference on her part. And certainly he
conscientiously performed these duties with a view to his client's
interests. It may be wondered that Miss Hume did not take a more
personal interest in her tenants, but various things had contributed to
this state of matters. Indeed, she was now so infirm that it would have
been difficult for her to take any active interest in things around her,
especially as it had not been the habit of her earlier years to do so.
It was her younger sister, Grace's mother, who used to know all the
dwellers in the valley so well that her white pony could calculate the
distance to the pleasant farmyard at which he would get his next
mouthful of crisp corn; or the muirland cottage, with its delicious bit
of turf, where he would presently graze, as he waited for his young
mistress, while she talked to the inmates. But if the little girl with
her white pony could have come back again to Kirklands, they would have
missed many a familiar face, and searched in vain for many a cottage.
The pleasant little thatched dwellings, with velvety tufts of moss
studding the roof, and pretty creepers climbing till they mingled with
the brown thatch, telling of the inmates' loving fingers, were all swept
away now, and in the place that once knew them, stretched trim drills of
turnips, fenced by grim stone walls, to which time had not yet given a
Mr. Graham had thought it wise for his client's interests to remove
those little "crofts," and merge their kailyards into productive fields;
so the dwellers in the greensward cottages had to wander townwards to
seek shelter and work in city courts and alleys. The land was now
divided into a few farms, on which stood imposing-looking houses, with
knockers and latch-keys to the doors, where the little girl and the
white pony would never have ventured to ask admittance, or cared to gain
it--where "nobody wanted nothin' from nobody," old Adam, the gardener,
had assured Margery, when she made anxious inquiries concerning the
prospect of Grace's search, and who hoped that this circumstantial
information might persuade her young mistress to abandon it.
The prophecy that it was "a fule's errand" rang unpleasantly in Grace's
ear, as she crossed the park and climbed the rustic stiles which led to
the high road. It was true she knew that during the last three years
there had been many a "clearance" at Kirklands, for she remembered
having overheard Mr. Graham congratulating her aunt on the larger
returns owing to these improvements. But surely, she thought, there
might still be found some little cottages like those to which she heard
her mamma was so fond of going when she was a girl. Walter and she used
certainly, she remembered, often to see children with bare, dust-stained
feet on the road, when they happened to go beyond the grounds on a
fishing expedition, or down with their aunt through her lands; but her
brother had been an all-sufficient playmate, and Grace's interest in the
peasant children did not extend beyond a glance of curiosity. But now
how gladly would she gather a little company of them to tell them that
old sweet story, which had come to her own heart with such new strange
sweetness, during these winter days, though she had heard it ever since
she could remember. Grace hurried eagerly along the high road, looking
at every turn for traces of any lowly wayside dwellings. There used to
be a little clump of cottages here, she thought, as she stopped at a
bend of the road where there were traces of recent demolitions, and a
great field of green corn was evidently going to reclaim the waste
place, and presently swallow it up. Behind where the vanished cottages
had stood there stretched a glade of birch-trees, with their low twisted
stems rising from little knolls of turf so mossy and steep, that the
drills of turnips and potatoes could not possibly be ranged there
without destroying their symmetry, even though the crooked birch-trees
were to be swept away.
Grace wandered among the budding trees, and through the soft springy
turf that was growing green again in spite of the bitter spring winds,
but she found no little native lurking among the birches, and was
disappointed to come to the other side of the wood much more quickly
than she expected, without the _detour_ being of any practical use.
The turf sloped away to a little stream that went singing cheerily over
sparkling pebbles, bubbling and foaming round the base of grey lichened
rocks, that reared their heads above the water, as if in angry
remonstrance at their daring to interfere with its progress. On the
opposite bank there stretched a bit of muirland pasture, studded with
little knolls of heather, growing green, in preparation for its richer
autumn tints. The pale spring sunlight began to grow more mellow in its
light at this afternoon hour; it glinted on the little gurgling stream,
lighted up the feathery birch glade, and lay in golden patches on the
opposite bank, where Grace noticed some cattle begin to gather on the
heathery knolls, as if they had come to enjoy the last hour of bright
sunshine. Perhaps some little cottages may be sheltered behind those
hillocks, Grace thought; and she began to examine how the grey rocks lay
among the water, and whether she could possibly find dry footing across
the stream. Presently she came upon a smooth row of stones, that were
evidently used as a thoroughfare. She had already begun to cross them,
keeping her eye cautiously fixed on the stepping-stones as she went
along, when she was startled by a voice which sounded close beside her.
On glancing round she saw on the opposite bank a boy standing with a
huge twisted cudgel in his hand, brandishing it in a warlike attitude.
He seemed to have suddenly appeared round one of the hillocks, and was
now shouting excitedly, in his rough northern dialect, as he waved his
"Hold back, mem; hold back, I tell ye. Blackie is in one o' his ill
moods the day, and he's no safe. Dinna come a foot farther."
Grace stood bewildered, balancing herself on the stepping-stones; the
apparition was so sudden that it almost took away her breath, and the
commands were so peremptory that she did not dare to disregard them by
going forward; but it seemed very hard to beat an ignominious retreat,
for here seemed to be just what she was in search of--a boy as
neglected-looking as any that were to be seen in the courts and alleys
of Edinburgh; of the very type which old Adam declared there was not one
to be found in all the lands of Kirklands. His head was bare, and his
flaxen hair so bleached by the sun that it looked quite white against
his bronzed face. He looked at Grace with a grave interest in his large
blue eyes, as if he would like to know a little more; but he still
brandished his cudgel before her, and shouted resolutely:
"Hold back, or Blackie will be at ye."
"But who is Blackie?" asked Grace, with a gasp, looking furtively round
in the direction of the birch wood, in case the said Blackie might be
approaching from behind.
"Who's Blackie!" said the boy, repeating the question, as if to hold up
to ridicule the absurd ignorance which it implied. "Do ye no ken that
Blackie is Gowrie's bull--the ill-natertest bull in a' the
"And what have you to do with Blackie?" asked Grace, glancing across to
the hillocks, where some cattle grazed inoffensively, in search of the
"I herd him--I'm Gowrie's herd-laddie. They're all terrible easy-managed
beasts but him, and he's full o' ill tricks. He can't bear woman-folks,"
added the boy, with a slight mischievous twinkle in his eye; for he felt
more at his ease now, having assured himself that Blackie was much too
intent on some sweet blades of grass to give any trouble at that moment.
"Gowrie! that's the old farm down in the hollow there, isn't it? And how
long have you been herding?" asked Grace, who still stood on the
stepping-stones, and pursued the conversation with the noisy little
stream babbling round her.
"I was hired to Gowrie two year come Marti'mas, and afore that I herded
some sheep on the hill yonder. We had a hut all to oursels. I slept wi'
them a' night, and liked them terrible weel, a hantle better than the
cattle," and his eye wandered regretfully to a bleak mountain slope,
which had evidently pleasant associations for the little herd-boy.
"Did you ever go to school?" asked Grace, anxious to introduce her
subject, for she thought she would like this boy for a scholar.
"Ay, did I once, when I was a wee laddie. I was in the 'Third Primer,'
and could read pretty big words," and he fumbled in his jacket-pocket
for the collection of dog-eared leaves which represented his store of
"Of course you can't go to school now on week days, when you have to
watch the cows; but perhaps you go to Sunday-school?" Grace asked; and
will it make her desire to do good appear very narrow and small, if it
must be confessed that she hoped to hear that he did not go to any? Her
mind was soon set at rest, however, for he presently replied:
"The school at the kirk, ye mean? No; granny's dreadful deaf, and we
don't go to the kirk. I belong to Gowrie a' the week, but I'm granny's
on Sabbath; there's aye a deal to do, brakin' sticks and mendin' up
things, ye see."
"And you really don't go to a Sunday-school?" exclaimed Grace, hardly
able to restrain her satisfaction at this piece of information. "But,
by-the-by, I have never asked your name. I should like to hear it,
because I hope we are going to be friends."
"They call me Geordie Baxter," he replied, as he ran to check the
wanderings of one of the cows, while Grace stood watching him, as she
pondered how she might best frame an invitation asking him to be her
scholar. He seemed so manly and independent, though he was so young;
and, somehow, it was all so different from how she had planned her
finding of scholars. She had been looking for a cottage where the
tattered children might be crawling about the doorstep, making mudpies
and quarrelling with each other; and then she thought she would knock at
the door, after she had spoken to them for a little, and ask their
mother if she might have them to teach on Sunday. But this boy, ignorant
and neglected as he seemed to be, had certainly a manly dignity which
made Grace's invitations more difficult than she expected; though, after
all, he could only spell words of one syllable, and he went neither to
school nor to church. Surely he was the sort of scholar she had been in
search of. So when he returned to his former position opposite the
stepping-stones, after having admonished the straying cow--
"Well, Geordie, I am going to ask you if you will come to Kirklands,
where I live, on Sunday afternoons; and since you do not go to any
school, I can read a little to you, and perhaps help you to learn
something?" said Grace, not venturing to be more explicit on what she
wished to teach. "Do you think you would like to come?"
"Ay, would I," he replied, eagerly. "I'm terrible anxious to learn to
read the long words without spellin' them." And then he stopped and
looked hesitatingly at Grace. "Would ye take Jean, I wonder?" he said,
coming a few steps on the stones in his eagerness. "She's my sister, and
a good bit littler than me, and she can't read any, but I'm thinkin' she
could learn," he added, in a sanguine tone.
"Oh yes, certainly; I shall be so happy if you will bring your sister,"
replied Grace, looking radiant, for she had; ust been thinking that
though Geordie was certainly a very valuable unit, he could hardly, in
his own person, make the "Sunday class" on which she had set her heart.
"But I thought ye couldn't bear poor folk at Kirklands," said Geordie,
reflectively, glancing at Grace, after he had pondered over the
invitation. "Granny's aye frightened they will be takin' our housie from
us, as they have done from so many puir folk;" and then the boy stopped
suddenly, and a deep red flush rose under his bronzed cheek as he
remembered that he must be speaking to one of those same "Kirklands
"Oh, your grandmother needn't be afraid of that. I am sure my aunt would
not wish to take away her home," replied Grace, hurriedly, also flushing
with vexation, and resolving that she would certainly listen with more
interest, if she happened to be present at the next interview, to Mr.
Graham's narratives concerning the improvements, seeing that they seemed
to involve the improving away of the natives off the face of the
Just then the sound of a horn came across the heather, and Geordie
started off, saying, "There's Gowrie's horn sounding; I must away and
gather home the kye." And he darted off across the hillocks in search of
his scattered charges, giving a succession of whoops and shrieks as he
brandished his cudgel and whirled about in the discharge of his duty,
quite ignoring Grace, who still stood on the stepping-stones, feeling
rather sorry that the interview had terminated so abruptly, for she
remembered a great many questions she would like to have asked.
Presently Geordie, by dint of his exertions, managed to arrange the
cattle, with the formidable Blackie in front, in quite an orderly
procession, and he now prepared to move towards the farm, whose white
gables were visible from the pasture. He never looked back at Grace, or
gave any parting sign of recognition of her presence, and she began to
fear that perhaps after all he might forget about her invitation and
fail to appear on Sunday.
"You won't forget to come to Kirklands on Sunday afternoon, Geordie?"
she called after him, trying to raise her voice above the noisy little
"Didna I say that I would come and bring Jean? and I aye keep my
trysts," he shouted back again, with a look of indignant astonishment
that she should have imagined him capable of forgetting or failing to
keep his promise; and then he trudged away cheerily, swinging his stick,
more full of the idea of this "tryst" than Grace could guess, though his
mind dwelt chiefly on the thought of what a grand thing it would be for
little Jean to get a chance of learning to read. He was painfully
conscious that he had signally failed in his attempts to teach her, and
he was the only teacher she had ever had.
In this little, unkempt, sun-bleached herd-boy there dwelt a very
tender, chivalrous heart, and on his little sister Jean all his wealth,
of affection had as yet been bestowed. Never did faithful knight serve
his lady-love more devotedly than Geordie had this little brown maiden,
since her earliest babyhood.
They were orphans, and ever since they could remember their home had
been with their grandmother, a frail, dreamy old woman, so deaf that the
most active and varied gesticulation was the only means of conveying to
her the remotest idea of what one wished to say. Geordie, indeed, was
the only person sufficiently careless of his lungs to attempt the medium
of speech, and then his conversation was pitched in the same key as when
he performed his herding functions.
To the little Jean, Geordie had been playmate and protector in one, her
absolute slave from the time she sat on her old grandmother's knee, and,
tiring of that position, lisped out, "Deordie, Deordie," holding out her
little brown hands so that he might take her, and then they would sit
together on the earthen floor of the cottage, and the gipsy locks would
intermingle with Geordie's flaxen hair, which yielded meekly to as rough
treatment from the little brown fingers as ever hapless terrier of the
nursery was called on to undergo. But Geordie's sun-bleached locks had
always been at her service, and his head and hands too; though it was
not much that the little herd-boy had been able to do for his sister.
Often as he lay on the heather, watching his cows, he smiled with
delight as he thought of the time when he should be promoted into a farm
servant, with wages enough to send Jean to school, and to buy her a
pretty print dress, all dotted with blue stars, like the one Mistress
Gowrie wore. As yet all his earnings had gone to pay board to his
grandmother, and for present necessities in the shape of shoes and
corduroys. He had in one of his pockets a little chamois bag, containing
a few shillings, which he always carried about with him; and it was one
of his recreations to spread them on one of the flat, grey stones and
count the silver pieces as they glittered in the sun. He knew well what
he meant to do with them when the pile grew large enough; but its growth
was a very slow one, and required much self-denial on Geordie's part,
seeing that the component parts of each shilling were generally gathered
in a stray penny now and then, which he earned by holding a market-going
farmer's cob; and if, by a rare chance, a sixpence happened to be the
unexpected result of one such service, then Geordie felt that he was
really getting rich, and would soon be able to buy what he had wished
for so long. It was not anything for himself, or even for Jean, as
might have been expected. Somebody had once told him that if his
grandmother only had an ear-trumpet she would be able to hear people
when they spoke to her. Geordie had the vaguest idea of what such an
instrument might be like, but decided that probably it bore some
resemblance in size or sound to the horn that summoned his cows home;
and having ascertained how much money it would cost, he resolved that he
would buy one for his granny whenever he could save the sum.
The boy's heart was full of tender pity for the old deaf woman, with her
weird helpless ways, at whose side he had grown since his infancy;
though she could hardly have been said to "bring him up," for Granny
Baxter had been shiftless and unlovable when she was in possession of
her faculties, and her character had not improved under her trying
infirmities. Her grandson, however, always treated her with a tender
patience which no querulousness of the old woman could weary. Not so
little Jean. Only once she could remember her brother looking very grave
and grieved, and it was one day when she had refused to do something
that the old woman wanted, and put her in a white heat of passion by her
rebellion. Having escaped beyond the reach of her poor granny's
tottering feet, and, finding her way to the field where Geordie was
herding, she began to narrate her story in triumph, when her brother's
grave silence made her feel how naughty she had been. After that day
little Jean always tried to "mind" granny more, though she never
attained to the same unwearied service as Geordie.
That Jean's education was being sadly neglected her brother felt
painfully, and he had made various efforts to teach her the little he
knew himself; but the knowledge contained in the "Third Primer" barely
sufficed for teaching purposes, and Geordie found, moreover, that the
little Jean was by no means an apt scholar. Indeed, the most hopeless
confusion continued to prevail in her small mind concerning the letters
of the alphabet, notwithstanding all his efforts. The natural history
lessons, however, had been a greater success; she had learnt from
Geordie the names of most trees and flowers that grew wild in the
valley, and knew the difference between a wagtail and a wren, which some
people who know their alphabet do not. Geordie sometimes thought that it
might be nice for Jean to go to the kirk, for it was from Jean's point
of view that he looked at most things in life. But then there was the
insuperable difficulty about Sunday clothes, so the idea had always
been given up after due consideration each time it presented itself to
his mind, and the church-going was reserved for that golden period when
Jean would be clothed in the blue-starred print frock, and he should
have a suit of Sunday clothes. Perhaps, with the encouragement of the
ear-trumpet, even frail granny might be conducted to church, Geordie
thought, hopefully, for he knew that she had the essentials of
church-going, as they presented themselves to his mind, stowed away in
an ancient chest-of-drawers where she kept her valuables.
But in the interval, and while these happy days of good wages and
schooling for Jean and Sunday clothes still lay in the distance, this
invitation to go to the house of Kirklands to be taught on Sunday
afternoon was very delightful indeed, Geordie thought, as he trudged
home with dust-stained feet, carrying his shoes slung across his
shoulders, to pay an evening visit to his granny, eager to tell Jean
about the interview with the young lady and of the invitation. He knew
the news would be welcome to his grandmother also, for it had been one
of her standing grievances ever since he could remember that next rent
day Mr. Graham would be sure to give her notice to quit. And, indeed, if
the truth must be told, it was owing to Geordie's own useful and
reliable qualities that the little household had not long ago been told
to move on, and to make way for more money-making tenants. Farmer Gowrie
was one of the oldest residents on the estate, and he had frequently, as
he used daily to inform Granny Baxter, put in a good word for her with
the agent, and begged him to let the little cottage stand during the old
woman's lifetime; for where could he get a boy like Geordie at the same
money, as he remarked to his wife, so handy, so careful, so fearless of
Blackie, "the ill-natertest bull in all the country-side," who, under
his guidance, was meek as a lamb.
But notwithstanding Gowrie's assurances that their home was safe,
Geordie knew that his grandmother would be very much pleased to know, if
he could make her understand the fact, that he had, that afternoon,
talked with a lady from the "big hoose" itself. She seemed kind and
"pleasant-spoken," and not at all the terrible ogre that Geordie always
imagined the lady of Kirklands to be. As the rent day came round, and he
went to the inn-parlour where the agent sat to receive the rents, he
used to lay the money on the table and then turn away quickly with a
beating heart, in case granny's oft-repeated prophecy should prove
true, and the dreaded notice to quit should really be coming at last.
But instead of any such terrible communication, after he had stood the
penetrating glance of the bald-headed factor, a kindly nod used
generally to follow, and presently Geordie was galloping home at the top
of his speed to assure his grandmother that there was no word of "a
flittin'" this Martinmas. And now he felt that their home was more
secure than ever, for had not the lady said that she was sure nobody
wanted to turn them out of it?
Geordie's chief source of delight during his walk home was the thought
of what a pleasant outing the walk to Kirklands would be for Jean, for
there were many things within the lodge gates that she had heard of and
would like to see. Perhaps they might get a glimpse of the walled-in
garden as they passed, which Geordie had heard of from his master, who
was a friend of old Adam the gardener, and had been sometimes invited by
him to take a turn through his domain. But the happiest thought of all
was, that, perhaps, Jean might get more interested in her alphabet when
the young lady taught her. He resolved that he must not forget to take
the "Third Primer" with him, for it was possible that the young lady
might not exactly understand what they needed to be taught; for, after
all, she did not look so very old, he pondered, as he compared her
appearance with Mistress Gowrie's, the one grown specimen of the female
sex, except his grandmother, who made up his small world.
THE FIRST SCHOLARS
Grace Campbell hurried home with not less eagerness than her future
scholar, to tell the news of her expedition at Kirklands. Her Aunt Hume
was only half awakened from her afternoon nap, and glanced with dropsy
eyes at the glowing face, as she listened to her niece's description of
how and where she had found Geordie.
"Baxter! I do not remember that name; I must ask Mr. Graham who they
are, and all about them, nest time he comes," said Miss Hume, after
Grace had finished her eager narration, and stood twirling her hat in
her hand, hesitating whether she should tell her aunt Geordie's
impression of what sort of people the "Kirklands folk" were; but just at
that moment tea was brought, and on reflection, Grace resolved that, for
the present, it would be wise to keep silent on that point. Two days
passed quickly, and Sunday afternoon found Grace hovering about the
door of the little room which her aunt had given to her for her class.
She had been seated in state at a table which Margery had placed for
her, at what the old nurse considered a suitable angle of distance from
the form arranged for the scholars; but Grace began to think it felt
rather formidable to be waiting seated there, so she gathered up the
books again, and wandered between the avenue and the little room,
waiting with impatience the arrival of her first scholars, and having a
vague fear lest they might not be forthcoming after all.
Meanwhile, Geordie and his little sister were toiling along the dusty
highway in an excited, expectant state of mind. The shady elm avenue was
a refreshing change after the hot white turnpike road. Geordie looked
keenly about him, noting all the well-kept walks and shrubberies, among
which he saw many plants that were not natives of the valley, and
thought he should like, sometime, to examine them more closely.
At last they came in sight of the grey gables of the old mansion, and
little Jean grasped her brother's hand more closely, and looked up with
a frightened glance at the many windows, which seemed to her like so
many great eyes all staring at her. She began to wish that she was
safe back in her granny's cottage again, but consoled herself by
thinking that as long as she had hold of Geordie's hand nothing very
dreadful could possibly happen. Geordie, too, was somewhat overawed by
the nearer view of the "big hoose," which certainly seemed much more
formidable in its dimensions than it did from the moorland, where he
used to get a glimpse of it while he watched the sheep, and then it
looked no larger than the grey cairn which he made his watch-tower, but
now it seemed to frown above him, and the windows, too, began to create
uncomfortable sensations in his mind as well as Jean's.
With the sight of his friend of the stepping-stones, his flagging
courage returned, for had he not conversed with her on his own domain,
and been invited by her to pay this visit?
"This is Jean," he said, immediately looking up at Grace with his frank
smile, as he gave his sister a little push forward.
"I have kept my tryst, ye see. You thought, maybe, I wouldna mind," he
added, smiling again at the absurdity of the idea that he should forget
such an eventful engagement. "I am so very glad to see you, Geordie,
and Jean, too. I must say I was a little afraid that you might forget
to come," added Grace, quite in a flutter of delight over the arrival of
her scholars, which they little dreamt of. Then she happened to glance
at Jean, who stood clutching her brother's corduroys in a very
frightened attitude, and Grace remembered that this was also a new
experience for the scholars, and perhaps they, too, might be suffering
from the nervousness which had been following her from the lawn to the
class-room for the last hour as she waited for them.
Putting out her hand to Jean, she said, in an encouraging tone, "Come, I
dare say you must be tired after your walk in this hot afternoon. We
shall go to a little room that my aunt has given us to sit in, and see
if we cannot find something nice to read and learn," and Grace led the
way up the old steps and across the hall, then through what appeared to
the children quite a bewildering maze of dark passages, so dim and
sombre after the bright sunshine, that Grace overheard Jean say in an,
abrupt whisper, which was instantly smothered by her brother, "I'm
afraid, Geordie; I'm no gain' farther upon this dark road."
At last the little company reached the room that had been assigned to
them. It was the old still-room, but it had been long in disuse, and
was scarcely less dim than the passages which led to it. The high narrow
window only admitted a few slanting rays of sunlight, that danced on the
white vaulted roof, which was queerly curved and arched by the windings
of a narrow staircase above. It looked, however, none the less an
imposing chamber to Geordie, who instinctively drew off his cap as he
came in from the sunny glare of the fresh spring day to its
Then Jean, who had decided that the best code of manners was to watch
what Geordie did, and follow implicitly, began to pull the strings of
her little bonnet, to remove it from her head. It had been a present
from Mistress Gowrie on New Year's Day, and this was the first occasion
on which Jean had worn it, though it had often been taken from its
resting-place in a red cotton pocket-handkerchief, and viewed with
complacency. To-day, when it came to be-tied, she had to apply to
Geordie, her unfailing help in all extremities; and he in his efforts to
make an imposing bow like the one which decorated Mistress Gowrie's
ample chin, had knotted the strings after the manner of whipcord, so
that they required all Grace's ingenuity to disentangle them.
Presently, after all these preliminaries were satisfactorily
accomplished, the young teacher seated herself at the table, and began,
to fumble nervously among the books which she had brought to use. There
was a little story-book that Walter and she used to like long ago, in
which she thought would be nice to read to them, and her mother's Bible,
in which she had been searching all the morning for what might be best
to choose as the first lesson, having selected and rejected a great many
parables and incidents both in the New and Old Testaments, and was even
now doubtful what they should begin to read.
The sight of the books reminded Geordie of his pocket compendium of
knowledge, and coming to the table he laid the dog-eared "Third Primer"
in Grace's hand, saying, "I've been once through, but I'm thinkin' I've
maybe forgot it some. I doubt Jean doesna know one letter from another,
though I've whiles tried to make her understand," added Geordie, rather
ruefully, as he glanced towards the smiling little maiden, who sat quite
unabashed at this account of her ignorance.
Grace was rather taken aback by the sight of the spelling-book, and also
by Geordie's statement as to the amount of his knowledge, though it was
the same as he had made at their first interview. Grace, however, in her
eagerness, had not understood its full import, so she gasped out in
some dismay, "But you can read the Bible a little, can you not,
"Maybe I might, if I tried," replied Geordie, in a hopeful tone. "They
were just goin' to put me into the Bible when I left the school. I have
heard them reading out some of the stories, and I thought they wouldn't
be that difficult to spell out. Maybe if I read in the primer for a
while, ye'll put me into the Bible," he added, evidently having a strong
idea of the necessity for a good foundation of spelling-book lore before
proceeding to use it.
But Grace thought ruefully of all her high-flown plans for this Sunday
class, and felt that it was a terrible descent to be restricted to the
"Third Primer." But Geordie seemed convinced that through this dog-eared
volume lay the only royal road to learning. He had already opened the
book at one of the little lessons near the end which he seemed to think
he had not sufficiently mastered in the "schoolin' days" already far
away in the distance to the little herd-boy. He still stood by Grace's
side at the table, and his finger travelled slowly along the page as he
read, in the nasal sing-song tone in which the reading functions were
performed at the parish school, one of those meaningless little
paragraphs that are supposed to be best adapted by the compilers of
primers for teaching the young idea how to shoot.
Grace sat listening, rather perplexed as to what course it would be best
to pursue. This certainly was not the kind of ideal Sunday-class which
she had in her mind all these months; indeed, this "Third Primer" was
hardly orthodox food for Sunday at all, according to her ideas; and yet
Geordie was laboriously travelling over the page with a dogged
earnestness which she did not know how to divert into any other channel
without doing harm in some shape or other. But presently help came to
her from a quarter where she had least expected it.
Jean, who had been seated on the form unnoticed for several minutes,
listening to Geordie's earnest but uninteresting sing-song, as he stood
at the table leaning over his lesson-book, got tired of her neglected
situation, and descending from her high seat, she planted her sturdy
little legs on the floor, saying, in a decided tone, as she stumped away
towards the door, "Geordie, I'm tired sittin' here. I'm away home."
Jean's words fell like a thunderbolt both on Geordie and Grace. The
blood mounted to the boy's face, and his earnest blue eyes turned
anxiously towards the young teacher, to see what she was thinking of
such an utter breach of good manners on Jean's part.
[Illustration: THE FIRST LESSON.]
Poor Grace felt bitterly conscious of sudden and terrible failure in
this work which she had so longed to undertake. She had not been able to
interest one scholar for a quarter of an hour, and the other seemed only
to have his heart set on learning to spell. "But it is not quite time to
go home yet, Jean," she faltered, as she watched the little girl's
efforts to open the door, since Geordie did not seem inclined to come
to her assistance. "Indeed, we haven't really begun yet," continued
Grace. "Come, Jean, would you not like to stay a little longer and hear
a story from the Bible before you go? Geordie used to like them at
school, he says;" and then, turning to the boy, who stood looking in
grave reproving silence at Jean, she said, "Besides, Geordie, I think,
perhaps, I did not quite explain to you the other day what I thought we
should try to learn on Sunday afternoons when you come here. I shall be
very glad to help you with spelling, too, you know, but I thought I
should like to tell you something about the Lord Jesus Christ our
Saviour, and to read some of his wonderful words which we find in the
New Testament. You have heard of him, have you not, Geordie?"
"Oh, ay, I'm thinkin' I have. But it was in the Auld Testament they were
readin' when I was at the school. I mind there was a right fine story
about a herd-laddie killin' a big giant, that one o' the laddies telt me
once. You've heard it many a time from me, Jean."
"Ah, yes, I know that story too," Grace replied, brightening, as if a
glimmer of light had come to her in her perplexity. "And if you will
listen, I can tell you another story--about a Shepherd, too. I'm sure
you would like it, if you would only come back for a little and listen,
Jean," said Grace, eagerly.
She did not venture to open the Bible, in case the little girl should
think the book would imply another course of spelling, and be roused
into immediate flight. Abandoning all her carefully arranged plans for
teaching which she had been thinking of for so long, she looked into
Geordie's eyes, which were still wandering hungrily towards the
unconquered pages of the primer, and began to tell of the Shepherd who
watched the hundred sheep in a wilderness far away in a very hot
country, where the burning sun dried up the streams and withered the
pasture, and where it was very difficult to find food for either man or
beast. And then she told of how very wise and tender this Shepherd was
with his flock, looking after their wants day and night, and taking very
special care of the silly, play-loving lambs, who did not guess what
terrible dangers they might fall into; for there were wild beasts
prowling about, ready to pounce upon them, and rushing torrents that
came suddenly from the hillsides in rainy seasons, which would have
drowned them in a minute, if the Shepherd's watchful eye had not been
there. He knew all their names, too, though sheep are so wonderfully
like each other."
"Did he though?" exclaimed Geordie. "He must have more wit than Gowrie's
shepherd, then. He has been wi' them for more than a year now, and I
dinna think he knows the one from the other so well as I do."
Little Jean seemed to have abandoned her design of immediately returning
home, and was gradually edging nearer the table, with her twinkling
black eyes fixed on Grace.
"But I was going to tell you what happened to one of the little lambs in
spite of the Shepherd's watchful care," Grace continued, feeling
inspirited by the growing interest of her audience.
"Eh, but I hope none o' the wild beasts ye spoke o' got hold of it,"
said Geordie, drawing a long breath.
"Well, there's no saying what might have happened, but for the Good
Shepherd. For the little lamb got lost--lost among bleak, sandy hills,
where it could find no green blade to eat, and got very hungry and
footsore. It could hear no kind shepherd's voice that it used to love to
listen to in happier days, but only terrible sounds like the bark of
wolves, coming nearer, and lions prowling about when it began to get
"Puir lambie!" murmured Jean, whose face now rested on her little fat
hands, while, leaning on the table, she looked up in Grace's face; "it
must surely ha'e been very frightened," she added, in a compassionate
tone; for she knew that she did not like to cross the turf in front of
the cottage, after dark, without Geordie's protecting hand.
"Yes, it surely must have been frightened enough, for it was certainly
in great danger, and the Shepherd knew what a terrible plight it must be
in, wandering about tired and hungry, far away from the fold. For what
do you think he did?" Grace continued, looking at Geordie; "he actually
left all the other sheep--the ninety-nine, you know--in the wilderness,
and went away to seek for this poor little silly lost lamb."
"Did he though! He must have been a real fine man," responded Geordie,
warmly. "There's Gowrie's shepherd lost a wee lambie among the hills not
lang syne, and when Gowrie asked him, when he came home, why he didna
look about among the heather for it, he said he couldn't leave the rest,
and that it was a puir sick beastie no' worth much trouble. But it was a
nice wee thing for a' that, and it must have died all alone there, with
nobody to give it a drop of water," said Geordie, regretfully, for he
had a tender heart for all dumb creatures. "I must tell Gowrie's lad
about this Shepaerd the very next time he comes round the hill. But did
he find the lambie?" he asked, turning to Grace.
"Yes, he found it. He looked for it 'till he found it,' the story says.
After wandering along a road full of danger and painfulness, and
sorrowful sights of the terrible ruin the wild beasts had wrought, he
came upon the little strange lamb, just when its heart was beginning to
faint and fail. The story does not say that he punished it for running
away and giving him so much trouble, or even that he spoke some chiding
words and pushed it along in front of him with his crook, as I have
sometimes seen shepherds on the road do when the sheep get footsore and
weary and unwilling to go on with the journey."
"Ay do they. They get their licks many a time when they don't deserve
them," chimed in Geordie, in a pathetic tone.
"Well, but instead of any hard words or beatings, what do you think the
Shepherd did? He took the little lamb into his own weary arms, and it
lay safe and warm there, while he carried it all the way home to the
"Did he though?" exclaimed Geordie, in warmest admiration. "Eh, but the
lambie must surely have been right fond of the Shepherd after that. I'm
thinkin' he would know his voice better than before, and follow him
right close and canny. That's the kind o' shepherd all beasts would
like, for they know fine when a body cares for them," Geordie said, with
a glowing face, as he looked up at Grace, and the "Third Primer" slipped
unheeded on the floor.
Was it a mere chance coincidence that this remark of Geordie's came at a
moment when it made more easy of introduction to Grace that part of the
parable story which she was full of eagerness to tell to her first
scholars? She desired that it might prove to them not merely a pleasant
tale, which had beguiled an hour that had threatened to be a very weary
one, to little Jean, at least; but that, through its homely dress, they
might catch a glimpse of its higher meaning, and be able to trace the
footsteps of the Great Shepherd of souls.
"Yes, Geordie," she continued, "one would certainly imagine that the
sheep would follow such a shepherd very closely, and be very sure that
his way was always best, and that he was leading them by wise safe
paths, even when they seemed thorny and toilsome; but it is not so. I
can tell you of a Shepherd who not only went through many painful dark
desolate places, so that his flock might not stumble and fall when they
came to follow, but ended by laying down his life for his sheep. And yet
these very sheep do not always listen to his voice, nor follow the safe
narrow paths which he has tracked out for them, through the wilderness,
to the happy fold. I think you must both have heard of this Shepherd,
Geordie, and little Jean too."
"I never knew a shepherd except Gowrie's, and he lost the bonnie lambie
with the black face, that used to lick Geordie's hand," replied little
Jean, with a doleful expression in her usually merry black eyes.
"Ah, but this Good Shepherd always searches for the lost sheep till he
finds it, and then he carries it in his arms all the journey through to
his beautiful home among the angels, and there is joy among them over
the little found lamb. For it is the Lord Jesus Christ who calls himself
the Good Shepherd, Jean, and who has told us this story about finding
the lost sheep, that we might understand the better how he came to this
world to save us from dark dangerous paths of sin that go down to death.
For we have all strayed as this poor silly lamb did, and some of us are
straying yet," continued Grace; and then, glancing at Geordie's earnest
face, she said, "You have heard of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came to
save us from our sins, have you not, Geordie?"
"I have heard tell o' him. But I didna just think he was so real-like as
a shepherd with his sheep, or that he would have ta'en that trouble for
_one_," Geordie replied, with a dreamy look in his eyes; but he did not
Just then Margery knocked at the door, and intimated that the hour was
expired, and little Jean again began to show some signs of restlessness,
so Grace felt regretfully that the first afternoon had come to an end,
and she had not followed any part of the programme which she had
previously marked out. There was the hymn-book, with a tune all ready
to sing to one of the hymns, which Grace had practised painstakingly on
the piano the day before. But now she found that neither Jean nor
Geordie could sing, so she thought it might be wise to select something
simpler than she had chosen before, and ended by singing her oldest
childish favourite, "The Happy Land." It was evidently new to the
children; for their poor old deaf granny's was not a musical home.
Geordie's eyes dilated with delight as he listened, and he kept giving
Jean a series of nods across the table, in case she should by any chance
miss the full enjoyment of such beautiful sounds.
A second knock from Margery, this time carrying a plateful of
currant-cake which Miss Hume had sent to the children, fairly broke up
the little gathering. Grace felt with disappointment that this first
class had come sadly short of her ideal, was a complete failure, in
fact, when she remembered all that she had meant to say and do, and all
the hoped-for responses on the part of the scholars.
In thinking of this afternoon long afterwards, when it lay in the clear
rounded distance of the past, Grace used to smile as she remembered her
restless impatience, and compare herself to the little girl who was
always pulling up by the roots the flowers she had planted in her
garden, to see how they were getting on.
When they prepared to leave the little still room, Grace handed Geordie
his precious "Third Primer," which she found lying on the floor, and as
he put it into his jacket pocket, he said with a smile, "I won't bring
it back with me, I'm thinkin'. Ye'll maybe tell us some more about the
Good Shepherd next time, and I can hold at the spellin' when I'm
herdin', and maybe I'll soon be able to get into the Bible itself," he
added, still firm in his belief that the only entrance lay through the
Grace, remembering little Jean's dislike to the exit through the dark
passages, led the way to a door which opened into a path to the garden.
Jean manifested undisguised satisfaction when the dim still-room
precincts were fairly left behind, and they got into the pleasant old
walled-in garden, where the yellow afternoon's sun was lying on the
opening fruit-blossom, and bringing delicious scents out of the
newly-blown lilac and hawthorn. She kept pulling Geordie's corduroys, to
draw his attention to all that captivated her as they walked along the
broad gravel walk. This was certainly a much pleasanter way home than
along the dim passage, and Jean decided that the best part of the
afternoon had come last. Presently Grace opened the door of one of the
greenhouses, and they stood among richer colours and sweeter scents than
before. The children had been surveying with admiring wonder the
dazzling house glittering in the sun, which was making each pane sparkle
like a diamond, but they never dreamt that it would be given to them to
enter it, or indeed that it had an interior which could be reached, so
entirely did it seem to belong to the region of the sun, not to the
world of thatched cottages and grey walls.
"Eh, but surely this will be something like the happy land you were
singin' aboot," Geordie said at last, with a long-drawn breath, after he
had wandered about in silence for some time, revelling in the exotic
delights of the first greenhouse he had ever seen.
"Oh yes, Geordie; there will be all this, and a great deal more; things
so beautiful and, glorious that our poor minds can't even imagine what
they will be like," said Grace, glowingly, feeling a thrill of pleasure
to hear that the hymn had any meaning for the boy, so desponding was she
concerning her efforts. "Look here, I'll just read to you about the
pleasant place where the Good Shepherd leads his flock, after their
journey on earth is over." And leaning against an old orange-tree,
Grace read to her little scholars about that wonderful multitude "which
came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made
them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the
throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that
sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more,
neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any
heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them,
and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe
away all tears from their eyes." They stood quite still for a few
moments after Grace had finished reading, each thinking some new
In the mind of little Jean, to be sure, there certainly prevailed some
confusion of ideas between the happy land of which she had been hearing,
and the beautiful garden in which she stood. Indeed, to the end of her
life, the yellow glitter of the sun on the Kirklands greenhouses brought
to her mind the description of that "city of pure gold, as it were
transparent glass;" and the tall tropical plants which were ranged round
the shining floor were to her the embodiments of the trees whose leaves
were for the "healing of the nations."
But Geordie's thoughts were most about that Shepherd Saviour who seemed
to be able to lead his flock away from bleak, scorching places to such a
blessed land as these words told of.
In spite of old Adam's approaching shadow on the gravel walk, Grace
plucked a few of the rare, beautiful roses and gave them to little Jean,
whose small fat hands were eagerly stretched out to receive the prize.
They spent the remainder of their flourishing existence in a broken
yellow jug on the window-sill of Granny Baxter's cottage, and were a joy
to Jean for many days. And when it was the fate of their companions
still left in their stately glass home to be gathered into Adam's barrow
when their charms had past, and ignominiously flung away, Jean's roses
had a more honourable future. After they had done their duty faithfully
on the window-sill, the dead leaves were tenderly gathered and scattered
in the drawers allotted to Jean in the ancient chest, where they made a
sweet scent in their embalmment for many a day.
The little party arrived at last at the farther end of the garden, where
there was a door in the high, red wall opening on a path which led to
the turnpike-road. Grace turned the rusty key, and the children saw the
familiar face of their native valley again. Giving a lingering backward
glance into the pleasant garden which they had just left, they trotted
away towards the dusty high-road, while Grace stood watching them till
they were out of sight.
"I'll tell you what it is, Grace; that scholar of yours is far too fine
a fellow to be left to tie companionship of old Gowrie's cattle any
The speaker was a bright, breezy-looking lad in midshipman's dress, who
was sauntering up and down the old terrace at Kirklands, in company with
our friend Grace. She is a year older than when we saw her last at the
garden-gate, parting with her two scholars after their first Sunday
together. They have had a great many afternoons in company since then.
Grace had remained in her summer home all through the long Scotch
winter, and now autumn had come, bringing with it her brother Walter on
a delightful holiday of six weeks, after an absence of years.
Miss Hume had got so frail the previous year, that she was unfit for the
return journey to her house in Edinburgh, and the following months had
only brought an increase of weakness. She now lay in her darkened room,
with, her flickering lamp of life burning slowly to its socket, while
some young lives beside her were being kindled by glowing fires which
would cause their hearts to burn long after the "glow of early thought
declines in feeling's dull decay."
The little company in the still-room had somewhat increased, four others
haying been added to the two first scholars. One of them was Elsie Gray,
the forester's daughter, a pretty little girl with a sweet voice, and
able to sing a great many hymns, so that Grace had no longer to perform
solos to the still-room audience, but was accompanied by more than one
voice timidly following Elsie's example, and joining in the singing.
There were three other scholars from the borders of the next parish, and
a very happy party they all made together. But it must be confessed that
the warmest place in Grace's heart was reserved for the first scholar
whom she had found that chilly spring day among the pasture lands which
sloped down to the little stream. Judged by an educational standard,
Geordie was certainly, with the exception of the little Jean, the most
deficient of the company, in spite of his having manfully conquered the
last pages of the "Third Primer," and got at last "intil the Bible."
The other boys and girls still attended the parish school on week days,
and seemed more or less very fairly in possession of the rudiments of
education. Some things, however, which they read and heard in the little
quiet room at Kirklands sank into their hearts as they had never done
when they read them as the stereotyped portion of the Bible-reading
lesson amid the mingled jangle of slates and pencils and pattering feet,
with the hum of rough northern tongues, which prevailed in the parish
To Geordie even this discordant medium of education had been denied.
Grace had set her heart on having him sent to school during the past
winter. She saw what a precious boon such an opportunity appeared in
Geordie's eyes when she suggested it to him. But Farmer Gowrie had to be
consulted, and finding the herd-boy useful in winter as well as during
the summer months, he decided that he could not possibly spare Geordie.
And as for Granny Baxter, she could not understand what anybody could
want with more learning who was, able to earn money. So Geordie had one
day lingered behind the other scholars to tell Grace that the idea of
going to school even during the winter quarter must be given up. There
was always a manly reticence about the boy which made one feel that
words of sympathy would be patronising; but Grace could see what a
bitter disappointment it was, though he appeared quite unalterable in
his decision that he "belonged to Gowrie," when Grace tried to arrange
the matter by an interview with the farmer. He could only claim the boy
week by week, and the young teacher did not see the necessity for such
self-denial on Geordie's part.
Then Grace's store of pocket-money had been devoted to sending little
Jean to school. This arrangement had been a source of great delight to
Geordie--much more of an event to him, indeed, than to the phlegmatic
little Jean, to whom the primer did not contain such precious
possibilities as it did to her brother's eyes. Grace had arranged that
she should go to a girls' school lately opened in the parish. It was the
one to which Elsie Gray, the forester's daughter, went. On her way to
school she had to pass Granny Baxter's cottage, and after Jean was
installed as her fellow-scholar, Elsie used generally to call and see if
the little girl was ready to start, so that they might walk along the
Elsie was a pale, fragile-looking girl, who looked as if she had grown
among crowded streets, rather than blossomed in the open valley, with
its flowing river and breezy hillsides. She was a very silent child,
too, with a meek grace about all her movements; her large grey eyes
shone out of her face with a luminous, dreamy light in them, which
distressed her practical, rosy-faced mother, who used to say that she
did not know where Elsie had come by "those ghaist-like eyes o' hers,"
and as for those washed-out cheeks, "there was no accountin' for them
neither;" and the worthy matron would go on to narrate with what
abundance and amplitude Elsie had been ministered to all her life; and
yet Elsie glided about still and pale, with her large eyes shining like
precious stones, generally hungrily possessed by some book which she
held in her hand. She had an insatiable appetite for reading, and had
long ago exhausted the juvenile library attached to the church, while
the few books which comprised the forester's collection had been read
and re-read by her many times. The farmer librarian, who remained half
an hour after the congregation was dismissed on Sundays to dispense
books for any that might wish them, in the room behind the church, had
been obliged to give Elsie entrance to the shelves reserved for older
people, after she had exhausted the youthful library. It is not to be
supposed, however, that by this admission Elsie was allowed to plunge
chartless into light literature. The shelves contained only books of the
most sober kind, the lightest admixture being narratives of the
persecutions of the Waldenses and stories of the Covenanting struggles.
These Elsie read and pondered with intense interest, interweaving the
scenes in her imagination with the familiar places and people round her,
and living a far-away dreamy life of her own in the forester's cozy
little nest, while her active-minded, busy-fingered mother made her
cheese and butter, and reared her poultry, and was withal so very
capable of performing her own duties, that the forester sometimes
ventured to think, when Mrs. Gray complained of Elsie's "handlessness,"
that seeing the mistress was so well able for "her own turn," it was
fortunate his little daughter chanced to be of a more contemplative
Mrs. Gray had heard from Margery of the Sunday class which her young
mistress had opened at Kirklands, and though, as the forester's wife
remarked, "Elsie had enough and to spare of schoolin' already," yet it
would only be a suitable mark of respect to the lady of Kirklands to
send her there on Sunday afternoons; and so it happened that Elsie
became one of Grace's scholars, sitting in the little still-room on
Sunday afternoons, her large tender eyes answering in sympathetic
flashes as the young teacher talked with the little company of those
wonderful days when the Son o Man lived upon the earth, or told them
some story of the earlier times of the world, when God's voice was heard
in the beautiful garden in the cool of the day, or when he guided his
chosen people by signs and wonders.
In those days, however, the gospel tidings were not more to Elsie than
many another pathetic story which she knew, and served simply as food
for her imagination, though Grace's earnest words did throw a halo round
the familiar incidents which the daily reading of a chapter in the New
Testament had failed to do. Yet it was not till some of the sharp
sorrows of life had fallen upon Elsie that those words which she heard
in the still-room came with living power to her heart, and became to her
a light in dark days, a joy in sorrowful times, which nothing was able
to take away from her.
And this was the little girl who used to knock gently at the door of
Granny Baxter's cottage every morning as she passed along the road to
school, arrayed in her pretty grey stuff frock, and with her snowy linen
tippet and sun-bonnet. Sometimes she found little Jean's round smiling
face peering against the peat-stack at the end of the cottage awaiting
her coming, for a great friendship had sprung up between these two,
though they were certainly very different in character. Elsie seemed to
have a brooding protective care over the little unkempt Jean, exercising
a sort of guardianship of her in the new life at school. She would often
come to her rescue when Jean sat pouting over a blurred slate, en which
she was helplessly trying to reproduce the figures on the blackboard, or
give her timely aid amid the involvements of some question in the
Shorter Catechism. It was Elsie who tied the bonnet-strings now, with
more dexterous fingers than Geordie's, and performed many similar kindly
offices besides; and little Jean was already learning from the
forester's daughter many habits of tidiness which her poor, failing
grandmother had not been capable of teaching her.
Sometimes, on their way from school, the girls would find Geordie
perched on the paling of one of Gowrie's fields, while the cattle grazed
within the fences, watching for their coming to enliven a lonely hour
with their talk and news of school doings. His eye used to glisten with
pride and pleasure as he watched the little Jean appear, carrying her
books and slate, and already bearing many traces of civilising
influences. And it is not to be wondered at if his eye rested with
admiration sometimes on the sweet maiden, who was generally her
companion, and that he learnt to watch eagerly for the first glimpse of
the snowy sun-bonnet along the winding green lane which led from the
girls' school to the high road. Sometimes Elsie used to bring one of her
favourite books in her plaited-cord school-bag, and then the trio would
sit in a shady corner, where Geordie's vigilant eye could still keep
watch over his charge, while the little girl introduced her friends to
some of the favourite scenes of her ideal world. Elsie seemed to
understand, though she had never been told it in so many words, all
about Geordie's intense desire for knowledge, and to appreciate his
self-denial in remaining in his present post. And so it happened there
grew up in her mind a tender sympathy for all that he had missed, side
by side with an admiring belief in his character.
How many thoughts and ideas he surely must have, she used to think,
after one of those meetings, when she took her solitary way home, after
parting with Jean, and remembered Geordie's remarks, which seemed to
throw new light on her favourite histories, and to touch with insight
all that was most beautiful and true in them. Often Elsie used to
delight the unvocal brother and sister by singing one of her hymns,
which for days afterwards would echo in some "odd corner" of the lonely
little herd-boy's brain. Sometimes, too, they discussed what they had
been hearing on the previous Sunday at Kirklands; and Elsie always felt
more interested in the lesson after hearing Geordie's gentle, reverent
talk. And to Elsie, who had neither brother nor sister, there was an
infinite charm in Geordie's devotion to his sister Jean, and his
unwearied anxiety for her happiness. She noticed, too, the tender,
chivalrous care with which he ministered to his old grandmother, never
wearying of her selfish, querulous ways, and sacrificing himself to her
So it happened that a warm friendship sprang up between those three who
sat side by side in Grace Campbell's little school-room; and their daily
lives had become pleasantly interwoven during these past months. To
Jean, Elsie appeared the embodiment of all that was worthy of imitation,
from her snowy sun-bonnet to her gentle voice, both seeming equally
unattainable to the little girl. When Geordie returned to the village on
Saturday night, he used generally to hear from Jean some glowing
narrative in Elsie's praise, to which Geordie's ears were quite wide
open, though he sat bending over his books in the "ingle neuk" of the
When her idea of a winter at school had to be abandoned, Grace gave him
a few helpful class-books, and tried to direct his efforts to learn as
much as was possible; but, during the past year, her aunt's increasing
weakness and dependence on her companionship made it impossible for
Grace to give the boy such practical help as she would fain have done.
But Geordie had been fighting his own battle manfully, and had made more
progress than Grace guessed.
Walter had first been telling her as they walked on the terrace
together, that the day before he had found Geordie busy with a geography
book as he tended his cattle, and how pleased he had been to hear about
the new lands Walter had seen. Like Elsie, Walter felt that, in
Geordie's mind, things seemed to gather a richness and an interest with
which his own impressions had not clothed them.
"You've no idea how many queer questions the fellow asked me about
everything," continued Walter. "Indeed, Grace, I couldn't help thinking
how much more good Geordie would have got out of all the things and
places I've seen since I went away, than I have. And yet he's much too
clever for a sailor's life. What can we do with him, Grace? I really
can't bear to think of his drudging on as a farm servant to old Gowrie,
though he seems quite contented with the prospect," and Walter turned to
Grace, who glanced at her brother's kindly face with pleasure, though
not unmixed with surprise, that he should take such an interest in her
Walter seemed to look on Grace's class rather in a humorous light when
he first heard of its existence on his return to Kirklands. And
presently he had begun to grudge that she should devote herself to it,
and thus deprive him of the pleasure of her society during the long
Sunday afternoons, when they used to be together in the old days. And,
in the midst of all her joy in having her brother with her again, Grace
had been feeling with sadness that there was as yet no response in
Walter's heart to those unseen, eternal things, which, in her efforts to
share them with the little company on Sunday, had become increasingly
vivid to her own mind. He used occasionally to rally her on her new
fancies, which he seemed to think quite harmless and suitable for a
girl, provided they did not cross his plans and fancies.
One day, when he was on his way to fish, he had happened to meet
Geordie, who was herding his cattle near the stepping-stones. Geordie
was a clever angler, and could wile more trout out of the river than
most people, and Walter had been delighted with his information as to
the fishing capabilities of the Kirklands river. Since that day they had
always been friends when they chanced to meet. Walter could never see
the sun-bleached locks gleaming in the distance without crossing
whatever gate or field happened to lie between, and going to have a talk
with him; so the boys had seen much more of each other than Grace knew.
She had often been obliged to leave "Walter to solitary rambles, owing
to her aunt's, increasing dependence on her during her long illness, so
it happened that she felt some surprise when she saw Walter more moved
than was his wont as he eagerly discussed plans for helping Geordie.
"I'll tell you what it is, Gracie," said Walter, in his blunt way, as
his quick eye detected Grace's slight surprise that he should have so
warmly espoused the cause of her Sunday-scholar. "You know I have seen
Geordie a good deal lately. We have had a lot of fishing talk, and all
that, and I like the chap--he's a first-rate fellow. I can't bear to
see a fellow so much better than myself trudging away behind those
beasts of Gowrie's day after day. And, besides, Grace, the fact is I owe
him something more than anything I may be able to do for him can ever
repay. It isn't every fellow, I can tell you, who would have had the
courage to say to me what he did," stammered Walter.
"What did he say, Walter?" asked Grace, more astonished than ever. "I
thought you hardly knew more of Geordie Baxter than his name. You know
he is my favourite scholar. But it is a long time since I have had a
quiet talk with him. I well remember the first conversation we had,
standing on the stepping-stones near that bend of the river where the
"Ah, yes, I know the place. It's curious, it was just about that very
spot I was going to tell you. I met him there, one day, not long ago,
and he happened to say that he had been asking Gowrie to stop sending
the cattle to that bit of pasture, because the stepping-stones made it a
thoroughfare, and that bull had been getting more savage lately, and he
could not always persuade people that it was dangerous to pass near him;
but Gowrie had said it was nonsense, and so forth. Well, you see, I'm
not very fond of old Gowrie, and when I saw how meekly Geordie submitted
to him, I felt provoked, and began to speak a little strongly, as we
middies sometimes do--swore, in fact. And if Geordie didn't make me feel
more ashamed of myself than ever I did in my life. You've tried your
hand on me before now, Gracie, and I'm sure you'll be glad to
hear--well, that I'm going to try to lead a very different life now."
Walter's voice faltered, and Grace looked at him with glistening eyes.
After a few moments' silence, she said, "But Walter, dear, you haven't
told me yet what Geordie said."
"Well, Grace, I hardly think I should like to tell you all he said. But
he came, and laying his hand on my shoulder, looked at me with those
earnest eyes of his. 'You've been very kind to me, Maister Campbell,' he
began, 'and it would be ill-done no to min' ye that ye are giving a sore
heart to your best Friend ye have by takin' his dear name in vain,' and
then he said a little more about it. I was so taken aback, Grace, I
could hardly believe my own ears. It must have required a lot of
downright courage to speak like that; there isn't a mid in all our crew
who would have ventured to do so. And yet I dare say I'm in for
something of the same kind when I go back again to the ship. For you
know I must be a 'good soldier,' Grace," added Walter, with a gentle,
fearless look in his eyes that carried Grace's thoughts back to an early
scene, when she stood in the crowded street in her nurse's hand, and
watched her father's face as he rode alongside his men to his last
battle. And as she looked at Walter's face, she remembered some old
words which say, "He that ruleth his spirit is better than he that
taketh a city;" and she lifted up her heart, and gave God thanks that
this young spirit, so dear and precious to her, had taken him for his
Leader and Lord.
HOW GEORDIE'S HERDING DAYS CAME TO AN END.
It was a lovely autumn evening. The valley of Kirklands lay flooded in
the sunset glow. Its yellowing fields were tinged with warm-crimson and
purple, and the golden light shimmered on the trees and fringed the dark
fir tops. Never had her home looked more beautiful, Grace thought, when,
at last, the brother and sister turned to go indoors, after their
earnest talk. She stood leaning on the old carved railing of the steps,
taking one more glance at the peaceful scene before she followed Walter
into the darkening entrance-hall, when her eye caught sight of a stumpy
figure which she thought she recognised.
It was little Jean Baxter, who hurried along the elm avenue as fast as
her short legs could carry her. She looked breathless and excited, and
when she came nearer Grace saw that she was tearful and dishevelled. She
hastened down the steps to meet her, wondering what childish grief
could be agitating the mind of the usually imperturbable little Jean.
When she caught eight of Grace, she threw up her arms with a loud,
bitter wail that rang among the old elms, echoing through their arching
branches, and startling the birds that had just gone to roost. "Oh, Miss
Cam'ell! Geordie, Geordie!--he's hurt; he's dyin'; Blackie's gotten hold
It was vain to ask anything more. Jean could only repeat her wailing
refrain, so taking the child's hand, Grace quietly asked her to lead the
way to where Geordie was, trying to quiet her bitter weeping by such
soothing words as she could muster in the midst of her own distress at
the possibility of any serious accident having happened to her favourite
scholar. But poor little Jean's sad monotone still rang mournfully
through the soft evening air as she trotted along by Grace's
side--"Geordie's dyin'; Blackie's got hold o' him."
Grace, however, managed to learn from a few incoherent words that the
boy was lying, in whatever state he might be, at the river side, near
the stepping-stones. He had, that afternoon, taken the cattle, along
with the dangerous bull, to the heathery knolls, where Gowrie's careful
soul grudged that any morsel of pasture should remain unused. Geordie
had always been most careful in warning unwary passers-by of their
danger, for, though fearless enough himself, he still held that Blackie
was the "ill-natertest bull in all the country-side," and never felt
easy in his mind except when he had him within the fences of the upland
fields. He had once or twice tried to tether the animal near one of the
hillocks, but he saw that it made his temper more dangerous than ever;
besides, the little patches of green pasture were so scattered through
the heather, and had carefully to be scented out by discriminating
noses, that to have fettered poor Blackie to one spot seemed to him a
crying injustice, uneasy as he felt at his being able to roam at large
so near a thoroughfare. Geordie had never even allowed himself the
luxury of Jean's company when there were no fences to put between
Blackie and her.
But that day the harvest holidays had been given at the girls' school.
There had been prizes distributed and an examination held which lasted
till evening. Elsie Gray had got several trophies of her diligence, but
the great and unexpected event of the day was that little Jean had
actually got a prize. She was nearly beside herself with ecstasy as she
clutched the gay crimson and gilt volume which was presented to her,
and resented that it should even for a moment be absent from her arms to
be admired by her companions. Then Geordie must hear about this
unexpected honour, must see and touch the treasure at once; and Jean
galloped off with the precious volume to the field where he was
generally to be found perched on the paling, awaiting their coming.
Elsie Gray followed, eager enough, too, to show her honours to the
boy-friend, whose golden opinions she dearly loved to win. There was a
pink flush on her usually pale cheek, as she glanced about in search of
Geordie when they reached the field, panting and breathless after their
race. But no Geordie was visible anywhere, and the field was quite empty
and tenantless. Then Jean remembered, what she had forgotten in her
excitement, that Geordie was to be herding at the hillocks to-day, and
so she started off to find him, forgetful that his present post was
The girls were not long in reaching the stepping-stones, and presently
Jean was at Geordie's side, dancing round him with wild cries of
delight, as she flourished her gay prize in his rather bewildered eyes.
He had been lying with his face resting on his hands, on one of the soft
knolls of turf, looking at the sunset, and thinking of the new lands of
which he had lately been hearing from Walter Campbell. He seemed so
possessed by his own thoughts and reveries that he heard no sound of
coming footsteps till he looked up suddenly, and saw little Jean by his
side. He jumped up from the turf, and began to look wistfully towards
the river side to see if there was nobody else besides Jean coming to
enliven a lonely hour.
Elsie had crossed the stepping-stones, and was moving towards the
hillock on which he stood, with her sun-bonnet in one hand, and her
heavy armful of shining prize books in the other with the golden sun's
rays falling on her. Her dusky hair was hanging rather more loosely than
usual, shaken out of its general smoothness by her hot face. The pale
face was all aglow with pleasure, and her large eyes looked radiant with
delight at the thoughts of the pleasure that little Jean's success, as
well as her own, would give to Geordie. The boy stood with his flaxen
hair all gilded by the sun, looking at her with a glad light in his blue
eyes. For a moment only, and then, with a look of terror, he glanced in
the opposite direction, remembering that this was dangerous ground.
Blackie had been roused from his sleepy grazing by little Jean's cry of
delight, and, looking up, his evil eye caught sight of Elsie, with her
bright colours, made more dazzling by the sunset tints. With a toss of
his head, and a few wild plunges, the brute, with his head near to the
ground, and his eyes fixed on his prey, made his way towards her.
Geordie shouted, "Back, Elsie; back on the stepping-stones!" but it was
Elsie lost her presence of mind, and wavered backward and forward for a
moment, till it was impossible to save herself by taking refuge on the
other side of the stream, where Blackie, not knowing the advantage of
stepping-stones, would probably not have troubled himself to follow her.
In an instant Geordie had flung himself between the roused animal and
Elsie. His stick still lay on the hillock, where he had been resting, so
he had no weapon of defence, and Blackie, in his rage, would not spare
the faithful lad, who had spent so many lonely hours by his side. In
another moment, Geordie was lying gored and senseless on the heather.
Elsie had reached the stepping-stones, and stood there transfixed like a
marble statue. Blackie might follow her now if he had a mind to, but he
had not. After a glance at Geordie, he plunged away with his heels in
the air through the heather, having an uneasy consciousness that he had
lost his temper, and treated a good friend rather roughly.
As for little Jean, she had fortunately happened to be beyond Blackie's
range of observation; for it was on Elsie that his sole gaze had been
fixed, and he only vented his baulked fury on Geordie when the vision of
bright colours slipped away. Gowrie's ploughman happened to be passing
near, and had been a witness of the scene, though it was impossible for
him to give timely help. Elsie Gray, he noticed, was now safe on the
stepping-stones, and Geordie lying on the heather, with all the mischief
done to him that Blackie was likely to do. But the enraged animal might
attack somebody else presently, and the man thought the best service he
could render was to secure Blackie against doing further injury. Never
did repentant criminal receive handcuffs with more submission than the
guilt-stricken Blackie the badge of punishment. There was a subdued
pathetic look of almost human remorse and woe in the eye of the brute,
as he was led past the place where Geordie lay low among the heather.
The hands that had so often fed him and made a clean soft bed for him at
night, often stroking his great knotted neck, and never raised in unjust
punishment, lying helpless and shattered now, and the fair locks hung
across his face, all dabbled with blood. Elsie was now kneeling by his
side, but he was quite unconscious of her presence, and heedless of her
low wailing, as she looked wildly round to see if nobody was coming to
help Geordie, who had helped her so bravely. Little Jean had hurried
shrieking to the farm, with the news of the accident, and Mistress
Gowrie presently appeared, to Elsie's intense relief. She was a kindly
woman, and felt conscience-stricken as she kneeled beside the little
herd-boy; for she knew that it was not with his will that Blackie roamed
at large among those knolls. She had happened to hear his last
expostulation with her husband on the point; and this was how it had
ended. But she did not think he was dead. Elsie could hardly restrain a
cry of delight when she heard the whispered word that he lived still.
How joyfully she carried water in her sun-bonnet from the flowing river,
how tenderly she sprinkled it on his face and hands, and wiped the
And then old Farmer Gowrie came and stood with his hands behind his
back, and a shadow on his furrowed face, as he gazed on his young
servant with an uneasy stare. He kept restlessly moving backwards and
forwards to see whether the still motionless figure showed any sign of
life, till his wife reminded him that Granny Baxter was probably
ignorant of the terrible accident which had happened to her grandson,
and asked him to go and break the news to her. Little Jean had been
there before him, however; and Gowrie found the old woman crawling
helplessly along in the direction of the knolls, quite stupefied by the
terrible tidings that Jean had managed to convey to her deaf ears. The
little girl seemed possessed with the idea that Miss Campbell would be
sure to be able to help Geordie in this extremity; and so she left her
old granny to find her way alone, and had hurried away in the direction
of Kirklands to tell her sorrowful tale, meeting Grace, as we know, in
the elm avenue, after her eventful talk with her brother.
They were already half-way to the stepping-stones, when Grace
remembered--feeling it unaccountable that, even in her anxiety, she
should have forgotten for an instant--that Walter must know what had
happened to Geordie--Geordie, to whom he owed so much. She felt that she
could not leave the little weeping girl to go on her way alone; but just
as she was standing hesitating what it might be best to do, she met one
of the dwellers in the valley, who promised to go at once and convey a
message to her brother, and then she and Jean hurried on towards the
fatal pasture lands. Before they crossed the stepping-stones which led
to the knolls, Grace could see a little group bending over a spot in the
heather; but no sound reached them through the calm evening air, except
the rippling of the sunset-tinted river, which rolled between. And so
Geordie was lying there gored, maimed, perhaps dying, as Jean persisted
in saying. Grace felt her heart sink with fear, lest the sorrowful
refrain should be true, as she crept silently near to the place where
the little company was gathered. But Geordie was not dead.
"Here comes Miss Campbell," somebody said, and then the circle opened
up, and Grace caught a glimpse of her scholar lying very quietly among
the heather with his blue eye turned gladly to welcome his friend.
"It was only a faint, after all,--and some bruises that will soon heal,"
Mistress Gowrie said, in a tone of relieved anxiety, as she rose from
the turf where she had been kneeling to make way for Grace, who felt an
intense relief as she bent smilingly over him, and talked gently of the
danger past, with her heart full of thankfulness.
When little Jean saw the happy aspect of matters, her grief gave place
to the wildest ecstasy of delight. Throwing herself down beside her
brother, she shouted gleefully, "Oh, Geordie, Geordie, ye're no dyin'
after all, ye're all right. I'll never greet again all the days o' my
life," was the rash promise which she made in her joy, remembering
Geordie's dislike to tears. Presently her thoughts reverted to her
treasure, which, in her grief, had been forgotten. It had been dropped
on the knoll when the accident happened, and Jean now bounded off
gleefully in search of it.
A doctor had been sent for soon after the accident, but Geordie seemed
so well that old Gowrie already began to regret that they had been in
such haste in sending to fetch him. Presently Mistress Gowrie left the
knolls and returned to her usual evening duties, which she felt were put
sadly in arrear owing to this outbreak of Blackie's, and feeling truly
thankful that it had ended so fortunately. She invited old Granny Baxter
to have a cup of tea with her at the farm, which was a very great mark
of graciousness on the part of "the mistress," and extremely gratifying
to the old woman, to whom attentions of the kind came rarely.
It had been arranged, also, by the farmer's wife that Geordie should be
moved into the "best bedroom" before the doctor came, and Granny
Baxter was filled with pride when she was shown the woodruff-scented
chamber, with its dark shining floor, and among other impressive
decorations from the farmyard, a waving canopy of peacock feathers above
the ancient chimney-piece, where Geordie was to sleep among snowy sheets
that night. But each time that they proposed he should be carried there
from his rough bed among the heather, Geordie pled rather wistfully,
"Just wait a wee while. I'm right comfortable here among the heather,"
and once he added with a sad smile as he glanced at the farmer's wife,
"But I'll no be able to supper the beasts the night, Mistress Gowrie.
Maybe Sandy will look to them. Puir Blackie! give him a good supper; he
didn't mean any ill."
Only Elsie Gray, of all the original group, still sat near Geordie,
where she could watch every movement, though she could not be seen by
him. She kept gazing at him with unutterable anguish in her eyes, and
only she detected the sharp spasms that occasionally crossed his face,
and felt his frame quiver with pain which he tried to conceal.
"Miss Campbell," she whispered to Grace who was seated near her, "he's
very sore hurt, I'm sure of it. Oh, will the doctor no come soon!" and
when Grace looked into Geordie's face she began to share Elsie's fears.
Presently Jean came bounding back in delight with her recovered treasure
to lay it in Geordie's hands. He looked at the gaily-bound book with his
most pleased smile, and then glancing at Jean proudly, he said, "Eh,
Jean, but ye'll be learnin' to be a grand scholar. I'm right glad ye
have got to the school."
Then the eager little girl must needs have the book in her own hands
again, to search among the leaves for the illustrations which were
interspersed, so that Geordie might be introduced to all the beauties of
this wonderful volume. Geordie kept looking at her as she turned the
leaves with a somewhat pitiful gaze, and presently he said in a low
tone, "Jean, come a little nearer. I want to speak to ye, Jeanie. Do ye
ken I'm maybe goin' til the grand school the good Maister keeps waitin'
for us in the heavenly land? And I'll be learnin' a deal o' things there
that we canna learn down here," he added, with a smile; and then he
Jean looked up from her boot with bewildered eyes as she listened to
Geordie's words; a grave expression came into her face, but the shadow
was only caused by her not understanding what he meant, for she knew
that Geordie occasionally went beyond her depth.
"I'll no ever herd Gowrie's cows again, Jean, or wait at the fences for
Elsie and you. I'm dyin' Jeanie," he added in a hoarse whisper, as he
gazed sorrowfully at the little girl.
There was no mistaking the meaning of these words, and little Jean,
dropping her precious book, burst into loud sobbing, as she flung
herself on Geordie.
Grace had been watching the boy with a sinking heart, and a great fear
began to take possession of her that what he said might be true, as a
terrible spasm of agony crossed his face, and a groan of pain escaped
him. She looked anxiously to see if there was any sign of the doctor
coming, and taking little Jean aside, she told her that if she loved
Geordie she must be brave and quiet, even though he was so very ill, as
he seemed to think. Then she tried to speak some soothing words of
comfort, but little Jean wailed out with a fresh burst of sorrow:
"Oh, Miss Cam'ell, why didn't God keep him from Blackie, if he loves him
as ye say? Ye mind how ye read to us in the Bible about him saving the
herd-laddie out o' the jaws o' the bear; oh, but, I think, he might
have taken care of our Geordie;" and poor little Jean would not be
"Where's granny?" Geordie had whispered, and Elsie rose from her post at
Geordie's head and flitted away like a little noiseless ghost to find
the old woman. She met her at the farm, where, having finished her cup
of tea, she was being shown some of Mistress Gowrie's feathered
favourites in the farmyard.
"Mistress Gowrie, he's not better, as ye think; he says he's dyin', and
wants to see granny," Elsie said, with quivering lips, as she reached
"Dying, child, nonsense! what do you mean?" said the farmer's wife,
looking at Elsie to see if she was not dreaming. But Elsie looked
terribly wide-awake and sorrow-stricken, and Mistress Gowrie went off in
search of her husband.
Then Granny Baxter began to perceive that there was something wrong, and
presently Elsie succeeded in making her understand, and began to guide
her slow steps to where her grandson still lay. Oh, how slow they were,
Elsie thought, as she glanced along the straight field path still to be
crossed before they reached the knolls, and thought of what might be
going on there. But had not Geordie wanted to see his grandmother, and
surely she might endure for him who had done so much for her? So the
little girl kept close by the old woman's side, who leant her wrinkled
hand on Elsie's shoulder, while, with the help of her staff in the
other, she hobbled along, with her eyes fixed upon the ground, groaning
and muttering about this terrible blow that seemed likely to fall upon
"Granny, granny, I've been wearyin' for you," said Geordie, holding out
both his hands, when at last Elsie's patience had guided the old woman
to the spot. "Oh, but I'm no able to make her hear. Nae words o' mine
can travel to her ear, and I had much to say to her," Geordie cried,
with a suppressed sob, as some terrible internal pain seemed to seize
The old woman had seated herself by his side, and her withered fingers
wandered trembling among his hair, as she moaned helplessly, "Oh,
laddie, laddie, what's this that's come upon us?"
Suddenly, Geordie seemed to remember something, and, smiling brightly,
he feebly raised his hand to his jacket-pocket, and drew out the little
chamois bag, containing the slowly-gathered store of money with which he
intended to buy the ear-trumpet for his poor deaf granny.
"I gathered the last sixpence yestreen, for holding the minister's
horse," he said, as he laid the bag in her hand, "It's to buy a thing
that makes deaf folk hear, granny. But she can't understand me, Miss
Cam'ell," he murmured, sadly, as he looked at Grace, who was leaning
over him; "and, oh, I would have liked well to tell her before I go away
about the Good Shepherd that you first told me about, Miss Cam'ell. I
dinna think she understands right what a Friend he can be to a body; and
I've always been waitin' till I got that horn for makin her hear to tell
her all about him, for it's no a thing that a body wad just like to roar
at the tap o' their voice. But you'll maybe speak to her some of the
things ye spak' to us, Miss Cam'ell. Ye'll have one less at the school
now, ye see," he added, smiling sadly; and then turning with a look of
tender pity on his grandmother, who watched him with wistful eyes, as if
she knew that his lips were moving for her, he said, "Oh, tell her to
listen to his voice, and let the sound into her heart. He was aye able
to mak' deaf folk hear, wasn't he, Miss Cam'ell?" said Geordie, with a
bright smile as he turned to his young teacher.
They had now got ready a sort of litter, on which they meant to carry
him to the farm; for Mistress Gowrie felt convinced that only more
comfortable surroundings and a visit from the doctor was necessary for
his complete recovery, and was resolved that no care of nursing on her
part should be wanting to atone for any past indifference to the welfare
of the little herd-boy with which she might reproach herself.
Geordie, seeing her anxiety to perform this deed of kindness, at last
consented that they should take him from his lowly heather couch, and
carry him to all the comforts of the best bedroom at Gowrie. But each
time they tried to lift him the boy got so deathly pale, and seemed to
suffer so intensely, that even Mistress Gowrie was obliged to
acknowledge that it might be best to wait till the doctor came. Indeed,
it soon became evident to all that Blackie's blows had touched some
vital part, and Geordie's herding days were done.
He lay for a little while with closed eyes, seeming thankful to be
undisturbed, and a silence fell on the group round him, not broken when
Walter Campbell joined it; for a glance from Grace, and a look at
Geordie's face, told him all. He stood there, in the freshness and
strength of his youth, looking at the ebbing life of the boy whom he
felt then as if he would have died to save. How he longed to tell him
of all the blessing his words had brought to his soul, of the life-long
gratitude which must surround his memory; but it was too late. Walter
felt that he could not disturb the passing soul with anything so
personal; but in the land where Geordie was going they would meet one
day; and he would keep his thanks till then.
The silence had not been broken for several minutes. Poor little Jean
had been trying to keep very brave and quiet, since Grace explained to
her how much her noisy grief would vex Geordie. But Elsie, who had
returned to her post at Geordie's head, and was seated silently there,
now gave a smothered sob, which seemed to fall on Geordie's ear. He
opened his blue eyes, and looking wistfully about, said in a faint
whisper, "Elsie, I didna know ye was here. I saw you on the
stepping-stones just when I was meetin' Blackie, but I thought you had
been away home before now; it surely must be far on in the gloamin'. Eh,
Elsie, but I'll no be able to keep the tryst for the bramble gatherin'
wi' you," he said, in a mournful tone, turning towards her, and
referring to a long-planned holiday, when they were to go together to
search for brambles for Mistress Gowrie and the forester's wife's joint
jam making. "But, Elsie, speak to me," he continued, feebly, holding
out his hand, for he could not see her face where she sat, "We'll keep
our tryst in the bonnie land beside the green pastures and the still
waters ye often read to me about. Will we no', Elsie?"
"Oh, Geordie, I can't bear it. Why did you no let Blackie get hold o'
me? Oh, Geordie, Geordie!" Elsie sobbed, as she crept round within sight
of the boy, and knelt beside him with clasped hands and lines of agony
on her face, that made the fair child look like a suffering woman.
Geordie turned his dying eyes upon her with a look of mingled love and
sorrow, which none who saw it could ever forget; and stretching out both
his hands, he said, "Oh, Elsie, will ye no give me one kiss afore I
And Elsie lifted up her fair face, which had been covered with her
hands, and bending down, kissed the dying lips. Then, with a look of
unutterable gladness and contentment, Geordie closed his eyes as if he
was going to sleep.
Walter Campbell turned away for a moment, for, as he afterwards told one
of his shipmates, "It was more than a fellow could stand, and he didn't
mind confessing that he hadn't stood it." Presently he hurriedly joined
the little group again, determined that Geordie must yet hear before he
went away how his faithful words had, through God's grace burnt
themselves into a wayward heart, and set a dead soul on fire. But he
found that another Voice was falling on Geordie's ear, which was closed
to all earthly sounds now; even that greeting to faithful ones which
bids them enter into the joy of their Lord.
And so the poor bruised body did lie in Mistress Gowrie's
woodruff-scented best bedroom, and among her snowy linen, that night
after all, but Geordie was not there; his home was henceforth in the
many mansions of the Father's house.
AN OLD FRIEND WITH A NEW NAME
"Now, children, here we are at Kirklands, at last," said a lady with a
pleasant voice, to an eager-looking group of boys and girls, who were
clustering round her, in a large open travelling carriage, which had
just drawn up in front of an old gateway, and waited for admittance.
"Kirklands at last," was re-echoed among the little party. The two boys
seated beside the coachman glanced round at the occupants of the inside
seats, feeling sure that, their higher position secured them superior
information, and shouted in chorus, "Mamma, mamma, Kirklands at last."
"As if we didn't know that as well as you do," shouted back Willie, a
curly-headed little fellow, seated beside his mother, who had a secret
hankering after the higher place of his elder brothers, along with a
desire to prove to them that their position was in no way superior to
The old gates closed behind them, and the carriage bowled swiftly along
the smooth avenue, with its branching elms overhead. The pleasant vistas
of green, on all sides, were very grateful to the eyes of the young
travellers, wearied with miles of a white dusty turnpike-road, on a hot
July afternoon. They looked with delighted gaze on the new fair scene,
and thought what happy evenings they would have among those green glades
during the long summer days.
But there was one of the party to whom this scene was not new, but old
and familiar, written over with many memories, some well-nigh overlaid
in the turmoil of life, but which flickered up with new vividness as she
looked on the calm sunlighted scene, and thought of other days. The
years had brought many changes to her, and it was with mingled feelings
that she gazed on this unchanged spot. Each grey-lichened rock stood out
from the mossy floor with a face that was familiar; all the little
winding woodland paths, she knew where they led to, and could take the
children to many a nook where wild flowers and delicate green ferns
still loved to grow, at they did long ago when she used to gather them
in these woods.
"Seventeen years ago! is it possible?" she murmured, as she leaned back
in a corner of the carriage, and thought of the many leaves in the book
of her life which had been folded-down since she took farewell of these
green glades in her girlish days. And as she sits, quietly thinking,
while the little group round her are making the green aisles resound
with their merry laughter, we fancy, as we glance at her face, that it
is one we have seen before in this valley. The "stealthy day by day" has
certainly done its work; the outline of Grace's cheek is sharper than it
used to be, and the eager, speaking eyes have lost somewhat of their
fire, but there is a calm gladness in their gaze as she glances at the
joyous faces round her, that speaks of lessons learnt, and sorrows past,
during chequered days which have lain between the autumn evening, when
we saw her last, and this July afternoon, when she is coming with her
"two bands" to the home of her girlhood.
Miss Hume, Grace's aunt, had passed away from this world during that
autumn seventeen years ago, and Grace had never revisited Kirklands
since. Walter, to whom it belonged, was still a naval officer. His home
on the sea had still more fascination for him than the inland beauties
of Kirklands, which had been left to strangers during the intervening
For some time past it had stood empty and tenantless, and Walter had
suggested that his sister, who had just come from a long sojourn abroad,
should, with her children, take up her abode there. Her husband, Colonel
Foster, was still on foreign service; and Grace, who longed to see the
old home after all her wanderings, had readily agreed to go with her
little flock and introduce them to the spot which was their dreamland of
romance, the historic ground of all the pleasantest stories in their
mother's mental library, often ransacked for their benefit.
Mrs. Foster's servants were already at Kirklands, making preparations
for the arrival. The old rooms were being opened up once again, and
shafts of golden sunlight streamed through the long-darkened windows, on
the dark-panelled walls, as if to herald joyously the good news that
"life and thought" were coming back to the deserted house.
As the carriage followed the windings of the avenue, the grey gables of
the old mansion began to peep through the green boughs, their first
appearance being announced by a jubilant chorus from the elder boys on
the box, which made little Willie feel painfully that his range of
vision was far from satisfactory. Presently, however, the timeworn walls
could be seen by all the party, as the carriage wheeled round the old
terrace, and the travellers reached the end of their journey. Then eager
feet began to trot up and down the grass-grown steps, and climb on the
old carved railing, where the griffins fascinated little Grace by their
stony stare, as they used to do her mother years ago. The long-silent
corridors began to resound with joyous laughter, as the merry party
rambled through the old rooms, wishing to identify each place with
historical recollections, founded on their mother's and Uncle Walter's
stories. And was that really the tree that Uncle Walter made believe to
be the rigging of a ship, and one day fell from one of its highest
boughs? And where used they to keep their rabbits, and in what room did
they learn their lessons? These, and such questions, were generally
asked in chorus, to which their mother had to endeavour to reply, as she
wandered among the familiar rooms with her merry boys and girls.
"Mamma, do you know what I should like to see best of all? Two things,
mamma," whispered little Grace, as she caught hold of her mother's
"And what would my little girl like to see--the toys mamma used to play
with when she was a little girl like Gracie? I believe I've carried the
key of the chest where they lie buried about with me all these years;"
and Mrs. Foster began to look in the little basket she held in her hand
for a shining bunch of keys.
"It wasn't the toys I meant, though I should like to see them very
much," replied the little girl, who was more timid and gentle than her
brothers and sisters, and generally required more encouragement to
unburden her small mind, "it is the room where you taught Geordie that I
want to see--and Geordie's grave among the heather."
Some quick ears had caught a name that seemed to be a household word,
and louder voices said, as the boy's clustered round their mother, "Oh
yes, mamma, do show us where you taught Geordie and little Jean."
So Grace led the way through the dim passages that had once frightened
little Jean, and whose gloom now made the small Grace cling close to her
mother's side. The still-room was dark and unopened, for the servants
had not thought it necessary to include it in their preparations. Grace
went to the window and undid the fastenings, and the yellow afternoon
sun streamed on the dusty wooden bench where Geordie, and Jean, and
Elsie used to sit.
The merry voices were hushed for a moment, and the children looked in
awed silence into the little room, as if it had been a shrine.
After they had gazed long and silently, and their mother went to fasten
the window again, she said, "Children, we will come here and read God's
Word on Sunday afternoons, as the little company you know about used to
do long ago; and I hope you will all listen to the Good Shepherd's
voice, and follow it as Geordie did;" and presently the children trooped
quietly away along the dark vaulted passages.
There was no faithful Margery now to be trusted with everything, and
able to put things straight in the twinkling of an eye, as her young
mistress used to declare she alone was capable of doing, so Mrs. Foster
had some unpacking and arranging preliminaries to superintend before she
could join her eager little party out of doors. But when tea was over,
and the sun had begun to scatter its orange and crimson tints over the
Kirklands valley, Grace thought she would like to take a stroll among
some familiar places before the darkness came.
After lingering on the old terrace for a little, she gathered her boys
and girls round her, and said she was going to take them across the
park. She wanted to visit a place she remembered well, a pleasant angle
of a rising glade of birches, where she once stood mourning over the
traces of an uprooted cottage. But Grace knew that another home had
grown on the ruins of the former dwelling, and to it she bent her steps
now, for there was one of its inmates whom she longed to see. There was
something of the mingled feeling of interest and romance with which her
children wore viewing these now yet familiar scenes, in Grace's desire
to look on a face she had not seen for many years. Its image would rise
before her, chubby, smiling, and childlike, as of old; and then she
remembered the evening when she had first seen it tear-stained and sad,
as she crossed this path with the little fat hand in hers, as her own
Grace's was now.
But Joan had not shed many tears since then. There was no happier home
in all the valley than the white cottage, over which the birch-trees
lovingly stretched their delicate fringes, her husband, the village
carrier, used to think when he came within sight of it, after his day's
journey was over, his parcels all delivered, and his horses "suppered"
for the night. Generally his bright-looking wife was hovering near the
door, waiting his coming with a little group round her as merry as the
one that was now making the woods of Kirklands ring with their
Grace had not told the children that she meant to take them to see
little Jean that evening. She wanted first to go alone to the cottage
and see her quietly there, for she had many things to hear and ask.
Still, Grace had not been altogether a stranger to the home life there.
Sometimes a letter, written and addressed with laborious carefulness,
had followed her to remote foreign stations, and brought pleasant
memories of dewy heather and fragrant birches as she read it among
waving oleanders and palms. During all those years Grace had watched
over Jean's welfare, and many things in her pretty home told of her
thoughtful remembrance of Geordie's sister.
[Illustration: Old Scenes Revisited.]
The arrival of the family at Kirklands had taken place a few days
earlier than was intended, so Jean had not happened to hear the news,
and was all unconscious of the pleasure in store for her. How often she
had longed to see the "young leddy of Kirklands," as she still called
her, how many times she said to her husband that she would be sure to
know her anywhere, though it was so many years since she had looked
into her face. But now, as Jean sat matron-like with her sewing, in
front of her cottage, while her children played near, she wondered what
"strange lady" could be coming along the path. She called her straying
little ones to her, in case they should be in the way, but she noticed
that the stranger did not seem to think so, for she had just stopped
kindly to stroke one little flaxen head, and Jean, with a mother's
pride, felt grateful that "her bairn should be respeckit among the
rest." But when the lady, still holding the little boy's hand, began to
climb the mossy bank, and came towards her, Jean thought she had surely
seen that face before. Though not till Grace had smiled, and said,
holding out her hand, "Jean, is it possible you do not know me?" did she
recognise her old teacher.
"Oh, Miss Cam'ell, Miss Cam'ell!" she said, with a cry of delight as she
dropped her mending and rose to meet her. "Is it really yourself? I
canna believe my verra eyes."
And when Grace gazed questioningly into the serene, beaming face of the
little matron, she saw it had kept all that was best of its childish
lineaments, and felt with thankful gladness that Geordie's Shepherd had
not forgotten little Jean. Meanwhile the little loitering party came
along the road, and seeing their mother engaged in conversation beside
the pretty cottage door, they were eager to know who of all the old
friends she was talking to. Willie was the first to clamber up the mossy
bank and reach the cottage. The others were following, when he joined
them with an expression of mingled interest and disappointment on his
"I say Walter--Grace,--can you guess who mamma is speaking to? Well,
it's Geordie's sister,--little Jean."
Then they all crept shyly near their mother while she talked at the
cottage door, glancing with interest at the inmate. But when little
Grace could find an opportunity she whispered in a tone of
disappointment, "Oh, mamma, is it really true what Willie says?" and
then she added with a sigh, when Willie's news had been confirmed, "Oh,
I'm so sorry; I do wish she could have stayed a little girl."
Her mother smiled at the childish idea; but she presently remembered
that it was as the little herd-boy Geordie's image still lived in her
memory, though nearly twenty summers had come and gone since he entered
on that life in which earthly days and years are merged into eternity,
where the old and feeble renew their strength, and the young grow wiser
than the wisest hero.
Grace's boys and girls had all to be introduced by name to the smiling
little matron, whose eye rested on them more or less appreciatively, as
she recognised a likeness to their mother or their Uncle Walter.
Presently Grace turned to the little group, and said softly, "Children,
would you like to come to the knolls of heather on the other side of the
hill? I am going there now."
"Oh yes, mamma, I want to go," chimed an eager though subdued chorus of
voices; and then the childish feet followed the two mothers as they
wandered slowly through the birch trees and crossed the path which led
to the stepping-stones. The water still splashed and gurgled noisily
round them, and the knolls of heather stretched with unchanged contour
on the other side. Beyond rose the white gables and thatched roof of the
old farm of Gowrie; but the former master and mistress were gone now;
and the young farmer, who had taken the lease, chafed considerably that
he had not been able to include the bit of heathery pasture lands in the
fields, seeing it had been previously secured by another tenant. It was
the only piece of land owned by Grace in the valley, and through all
these years of absence she had jealously guarded any encroachment upon
her territory. Old Gowrie had, at her earnest request, relinquished his
right to that portion of his domain in her favour, for he ceased to
wish to make it one of his economies to have his cattle grazing there.
So it happened that though the pastoral valley had considerably changed
its face, and had much of its ruggedness smoothed away in the course of
years, this stretch of heather remained unreclaimed. It was still a
thoroughfare, but a very safe one now, for its only dwelling was a
On the day after Geordie's death Grace had gone to see the last
resting-place destined for him in the little village churchyard. It was
a dreary patch of ground which looked as if the suns ray's never
penetrated through its high walls on the graves below. Crumbling
grey-lichened headstones peeped dismally from among the long dank grass,
and the little paths were overgrown with weeds. Everywhere there were
traces of unloving carelessness of the dead. And though Grace knew full
well that the silent sleepers below little heeded this selfish
forgetfulness, these surroundings sent a chill to her heart. She thought
she should like all that was left here of her boy-friend to lie in
pleasanter places. Far better he should rest underneath the heathery
sod among the pleasant breezy knolls, consecrated by many a heavenward
thought of the lonely little herd-boy, and by faithful words spoken in
an accepted time to a wayward brother's heart. So Grace made her suit to
the old farmer at a time when his heart was softened, and he was not
unwilling to part with a spot written over with a stinging memory. Miss
Hume, without even consulting Mr. Graham, had agreed to the transfer of
the land; and so it happened that Grace, like the patriarch long ago, a
stranger and sojourner in the land, held as a possession a
The bright summer day had reached its dying hour when the little group
stood on the bank of the river. The yellow sunlight was merging into
deep orange and crimson, tinging with a wonderful variety of tints the
lower landscape. The rippling water looked as if a sudden cross current
of red wine had come flowing into it, and the little hillocks beyond,
golden with gorse, were steeped in the mellow light.
The children followed their mother and Jean, with awed faces and hushed
voices, along the little gleaming sheep-walk, fringed by sweet wild
thyme and dog violets, with tendrils of deerhorn moss flinging their
arms across the path. At length they came on a little marble slab, by
the side of one of the knolls. The last golden shafts of sunlight were
stealing over its memorial words, and the young eyes read in silence:--
IN MEMORY OF
Who went to the Fold above on the
7th of August, 185--.
"The Lord is my Shepherd;
I shall not want."
Presently, the silent group heard footsteps behind, and when Grace
glanced round she saw a woman, with two little boys by her side, coming
along the little path towards the headstone. She stopped suddenly when
she saw the strangers, evidently surprised by the unusual presence of
visitors in that unfrequented spot, and, turning down another path, went
away in the opposite direction. "Who is that, Jean?" asked Mrs. Foster;
"surely I have seen the face before."
"Dear heart, do ye not know her? It's Elsie Gray. We dinna think, John
and me, that her bonnie face is much changed; but then we see it every
day," Jean replied, looking fondly after the retreating figure.
"Ah, is it really Elsie? I was just going to ask about her, Jean. But
who are those children with her? I thought you told me in one of your
letters that she lived quite alone?" asked Grace, stooping down to pluck
a bluebell from Geordie's grave, instead of hurrying after this old
friend, as the little Grace expected her mother to do.
Then the little matron went on to narrate how Elsie's home was still the
forester's pretty cottage, though her father and mother were both dead.
She had never been married, which Jean remarked was a great pity, and
hinted that a good many other people were of her opinion. But how the
parish of Kirklands could ever have got on without her if she had gone
away, or what life would be if she had not Elsie to go to in every joy
and sorrow, Jean could not imagine, as she said she frequently remarked
to "her John." Nobody's hands seemed to be fuller of helpful work, and
nobody did it more cheerily, than Elsie Gray.
Then Jean explained that the two little boys were orphans whom she had
taken to her comfortable home; and "it wasn't the first pair o' laddies
she had made good for something," Jean added, admiringly.
"Oh, mamma, don't you want to speak to her? She has such a nice,
beautiful face. Do let me run after her, and ask her to stop for a
minute," said little Grace, eagerly.
Mrs. Foster glanced musingly across the knolls at Elsie's slender
figure, as she sauntered peacefully home with her charge, and then she
said, "No, my dear, we shall not trouble Elsie to-night; but I shall
take you with me to see her in her own home to-morrow, if you wish it. I
shall be going there."
The cold, grey light was beginning to steal over the woods of Kirklands,
and the rosy tints that still hovered about the knolls would soon give
place to the gloom of night, so Grace gathered her little party, and
turned her steps towards the river.
The merry voices, hushed for a time, began again to resound through the
still evening air, and the children went hurrying on with Jean, who had
told them she must be going home to see after the milking of her cows,
and cordially responded to their wish to join her at the process.
So Grace had been following slowly, and when she crossed the
stepping-stones, she looked lingeringly back, for, with the sound of the
rippling water had come the remembered echoes of Geordie's voice as she
heard it first. Then she called to mind the chilly spring day when she
had started on the search, pronounced so hopeless by old Adam the
gardener, and how gleefully she hailed the unexpected appearance of the
little herd-boy. She smiled as she remembered the childish eagerness
that made her fear that he would not appear at Kirklands, as he had
promised, and his rather reproachful reply that he "Aye keepit his
trysts." And then there rose mingled memories of those trysts, which be
had so faithfully kept in the little still-room, of her own childish
incapacity for the work she had so longed to do, and of the sense of
failure that hung over it so long.
And as she turned to follow her merry boys, who were clambering up the
mossy bank, where the silvery bark of the old birch-trees were still
streaked with rosy sunset hues, she felt how much she had learnt from
the tender, earnest heart of Geordie.
"And comforted, she praised the grace
Which him had led to be,
An early seeker of that Face
Which he should early see."
Back to Full Books