Part 5 out of 10
should have her to eat!
Most girls would have screamed, but such was not Ginny's natural
mode of meeting a difficulty. With fear, she was far more likely to
choke than to cry out. So she sat down again and stared at him.
Perhaps he would go away when he found he could not entice her. He
did not move, but kept playing on his curious instrument. Perhaps,
by returning into the hollow, she could make a circuit, and so pass
him, lower down the hill. She rose at once and ran.
Now Gibbie had seen her long before she saw him, but, from
experience, was afraid of frightening her. He had therefore drawn
gradually near, and sat as if unaware of her presence. Treating her
as he would a bird with which he wanted to make better acquaintance,
he would have her get accustomed to the look of him before he made
advances. But when he saw her run in the direction of the swamp,
knowing what a dangerous place it was, he was terrified, sprung to
his feet, and darted off to get between her and the danger. She
heard him coming like the wind at her back, and, whether from
bewilderment, or that she did intend throwing herself into the water
to escape him, instead of pursuing her former design, she made
straight for the swamp. But was the beast-boy ubiquitous? As she
approached the place, there he was, on the edge of a great hole half
full of water, as if he had been sitting there for an hour! Was he
going to drown her in that hole? She turned again, and ran towards
the descent of the mountain. But there Gibbie feared a certain
precipitous spot; and, besides, there was no path in that direction.
So Ginevra had not run far before again she saw him right in her
way. She threw herself on the ground in despair, and hid her face.
After thus hunting her as a cat might a mouse, or a lion a man,
what could she look for but that he would pounce upon her, and tear
her to pieces? Fearfully expectant of the horrible grasp, she lay
breathless. But nothing came. Still she lay, and still nothing
came. Could it be that she was dreaming? In dreams generally the
hideous thing never arrived. But she dared not look up. She lay
and lay, weary and still, with the terror slowly ebbing away out of
her. At length to her ears came a strange sweet voice of
singing -- such a sound as she had never heard before. It seemed to
come from far away: what if it should be an angel God was sending,
in answer after all to her prayer, to deliver her from the
beast-boy! He would of course want some time to come, and certainly
no harm had happened to her yet. The sound grew and grew, and came
nearer and nearer. But although it was song, she could distinguish
no vowel-melody in it, nothing but a tone-melody, a crooning, as it
were, ever upon one vowel in a minor key. It came quite near at
length, and yet even then had something of the far away sound left
in it. It was like the wind of a summer night inside a great church
bell in a deserted tower. It came close, and ceased suddenly, as
if, like a lark, the angel ceased to sing the moment he lighted.
She opened her eyes and looked up. Over her stood the beast-boy,
gazing down upon her! Could it really be the beast-boy? If so,
then he was fascinating her, to devour her the more easily, as she
had read of snakes doing to birds; but she could not believe it.
Still -- she could not take her eyes off him -- that was certain. But
no marvel! From under a great crown of reddish gold, looked out two
eyes of heaven's own blue, and through the eyes looked out something
that dwells behind the sky and every blue thing. What if the angel,
to try her, had taken to himself the form of the beast-boy? No
beast-boy could sing like what she had heard, or look like what she
now saw! She lay motionless, flat on the ground, her face turned
sideways upon her hands, and her eyes fixed on the heavenly vision.
Then a curious feeling began to wake in her of having seen him
before -- somewhere, ever so long ago -- and that sight of him as well
as this had to do with misery -- with something that made a stain that
would not come out. Yes -- it was the very face, only larger, and
still sweeter, of the little naked child whom Angus had so cruelly
lashed! That was ages ago, but she had not forgotten, and never
could forget either the child's back, or the lovely innocent white
face that he turned round upon her. If it was indeed he, perhaps he
would remember her. In any case, she was now certain he would not
While she looked at him thus, Gibbie's face grew grave: seldom was
his grave when fronting the face of a fellow-creature, but now he
too was remembering, and trying to recollect; as through a dream of
sickness and pain he saw a face like the one before him, yet not the
Ginevra recollected first, and a sweet slow diffident smile crept
like a dawn up from the depth of her under-world to the sky of her
face, but settled in her eyes, and made two stars of them. Then
rose the very sun himself in Gibbie's, and flashed a full response
of daylight -- a smile that no woman, girl, or matron, could mistrust.
From brow to chin his face was radiant. The sun of this world had
made his nest in his hair, but the smile below it seemed to dim the
aureole he wore. Timidly yet trustingly Ginevra took one hand from
under her cheek, and stretched it up to him. He clasped it gently.
She moved, and he helped her to rise.
"I've lost Nicie," she said.
Gibbie nodded, but did not look concerned,
"Nicie is my maid," said Ginevra.
Gibbie nodded several times. He knew who Nicie was rather better
than her mistress.
"I left her away back there, a long, long time ago, and she has
never come to me," she said.
Gibbie gave a shrill loud whistle that startled her. In a few
seconds, from somewhere unseen, a dog came bounding to him over
stones and heather. How he spoke to the dog, or what he told him to
do, she had not an idea; but the next instant Oscar was rushing
along the path she had come, and was presently out of sight. So
full of life was Gibbie, so quick and decided was his every motion,
so full of expression his every glance and smile, that she had not
yet begun to wonder he had not spoken; indeed she was hardly yet
aware of the fact. She knew him now for a mortal, but, just as it
had been with Donal and his mother, he continued to affect her as a
creature of some higher world, come down on a mission of good-will
to men. At the same time she had, oddly enough, a feeling as if the
beast-boy were still somewhere not far off, held aloof only by the
presence of the angel who had assumed his shape.
Gibbie took her hand, and led her towards the path she had left; she
yielded without a movement of question. But he did not lead her far
in that direction; he turned to the left up the mountain. It grew
wilder as they ascended. But the air was so thin and invigorating,
the changes so curious and interesting, as now they skirted the edge
of a precipitous rock, now scrambled up the steepest of paths by the
help of the heather that nearly closed over it, and the reaction of
relief from the terror she had suffered so exciting, that she never
for a moment felt tired. Then they went down the side of a little
burn -- a torrent when the snow was dissolving, and even now a good
stream, whose dance and song delighted her: it was the same, as she
learned afterwards, to whose song under her window she listened
every night in bed, trying in vain to make out the melted tune.
Ever after she knew this, it seemed, as she listened, to come
straight from the mountain to her window, with news of the stars and
the heather and the sheep. They crossed the burn and climbed the
opposite bank. Then Gibbie pointed, and there was the cottage, and
there was Nicie coming up the path to it, with Oscar bounding before
her! The dog was merry, but Nicie was weeping bitterly. They were
a good way off, with another larger burn between; but Gibbie
whistled, and Oscar came flying to him. Nicie looked up, gave a
cry, and like a sheep to her lost lamb came running.
"Oh, missie!" she said, breathless, as she reached the opposite bank
of the burn, and her tone had more than a touch of sorrowful
reproach in it, "what garred ye rin awa'?"
"There was a road, Nicie, and I thought you would come after me."
"I was a muckle geese, missie; but eh! I'm glaid I hae gotten ye.
Come awa' an' see my mother."
"Yes, Nicie. We'll tell her all about it. You see I haven't got a
mother to tell, so I will tell yours."
From that hour Nicie's mother was a mother to Ginny as well.
"Anither o' 's lambs to feed!" she said to herself.
If a woman be a mother she may have plenty of children.
Never before had Ginny spent such a happy day, drunk such milk as
Crummie's, or eaten such cakes as Janet's. She saw no more of
Gibbie: the moment she was safe, he and Oscar were off again to the
sheep, for Robert was busy cutting peats that day, and Gibbie was in
sole charge. Eager to know about him, Ginevra gathered all that
Janet could tell of his story, and in return told the little she had
seen of it, which was the one dreadful point.
"Is he a good boy, Mistress Grant?" she asked.
"The best boy ever I kenned -- better nor my ain Donal, an' he was the
best afore him," answered Janet.
Ginny gave a little sigh, and wished she were good.
"Whan saw ye Donal?" asked Janet of Nicie.
"No this lang time -- no sin' I was here last," answered Nicie, who
did not now get home so often as the rest.
"I was thinkin'," returned her mother, "ye sud 'maist see him noo
frae the back o' the muckle hoose; for he was tellin' me he was wi'
the nowt' i' the new meadow upo' the Lorrie bank, 'at missie's papa
boucht frae Jeames Glass."
"Ow, is he there?" said Nicie. "I'll maybe get sicht, gien I dinna
get word o' him. He cam ance to the kitchen-door to see me, but
Mistress Mac Farlane wadna lat him in. She wad hae nae loons comin'
aboot the place she said. I said 'at hoo he was my brither. She
said, says she, that was naething to her, an' she wad hae no
brithers. My sister micht come whiles, she said, gien she camna
ower aften; but lasses had naething to dee wi' brithers. Wha was to
tell wha was or wha wasna my brither? I tellt her 'at a' my
brithers was weel kenned for douce laads; an' she tellt me to haud
my tongue, an' no speyk up; an' I cud hae jist gien her a guid cloot
o' the lug -- I was that angert wi' her."
"She'll be soary for't some day," said Janet, with a quiet smile;
"an' what a body's sure to be soary for, ye may as weel forgie them
"Hoo ken ye, mither, she'll be soary for't?" asked Nicie, not very
willing to forgive Mistress Mac Farlane.
"'Cause the Maister says 'at we'll hae to pey the uttermost fardin'.
There's naebody 'ill be latten aff. We maun dee oor neiper richt."
"But michtna the Maister himsel' forgie her?" suggested Nicie, a
"Lassie," said her mother solemnly, "ye dinna surely think 'at the
Lord's forgifness is to lat fowk aff ohn repentit? That wad be a
strange fawvour to grant them! He winna hurt mair nor he can help;
but the grue (horror) maun mak w'y for the grace. I'm sure it was
sae whan I gied you yer whups, lass. I'll no say aboot some o' the
first o' ye, for at that time I didna ken sae weel what I was aboot,
an' was mair angert whiles nor there was ony occasion for -- tuik my
beam to dang their motes. I hae been sair tribled aboot it, mony's
"Eh, mither!" said Nicie, shocked at the idea of her reproaching
herself about anything concerning her children, "I'm weel sure
there's no ane o' them wad think, no to say say, sic a thing."
"I daursay ye're richt there, lass. I think whiles a woman's bairns
are like the God they cam frae -- aye ready to forgie her onything."
Ginevra went home with a good many things to think about.
THE LORRIE MEADOW.
It was high time, according to agricultural economics, that Donal
Grant should be promoted a step in the ranks of labour. A youth
like him was fit for horses and their work, and looked idle in a
field with cattle. But Donal was not ambitious, at least in that
direction. He was more and more in love with books, and learning
and the music of thought and word; and he knew well that no one
doing a man's work upon a farm could have much time left for
study -- certainly not a quarter of what the herd-boy could command.
Therefore, with his parents approval, he continued to fill the
humbler office, and receive the scantier wages belonging to it.
The day following their adventure on Glashgar, in the afternoon,
Nicie being in the grounds with her little mistress, proposed that
they should look whether they could see her brother down in the
meadow of which her mother had spoken. Ginevra willingly agreed,
and they took their way through the shrubbery to a certain tall
hedge which divided the grounds from a little grove of larches on
the slope of a steep bank descending to the Lorrie, on the other
side of which lay the meadow. It was a hawthorn hedge, very old,
and near the ground very thin, so that they easily found a place to
creep through. But they were no better on the other side, for the
larches hid the meadow. They went down through them, therefore, to
the bank of the little river -- the largest tributary of the Daur from
the roots of Glashgar.
"There he is!" cried Nicie.
"I see him," responded Ginny, " -- with his cows all about the
Donal sat a little way from the river, reading.
"He's aye at 's buik!" said Nicie.
"I wonder what book it is," said Ginny.
"That wad be ill to say," answered Nicie. "Donal reads a hantle o'
buiks -- mair, his mither says, nor she doobts he can weel get the
"Do you think it's Latin, Nicie?"
"Ow! I daursay. But no; it canna be Laitin -- for, leuk! he's
lauchin', an' he cudna dee that gien 'twar Laitin. I'm thinkin'
it'll be a story: there's a heap o' them prentit noo, they tell me.
Or 'deed maybe it may be a sang. He thinks a heap o' sangs. I
h'ard my mither ance say she was some feared Donal micht hae ta'en
to makin' sangs himsel'; no 'at there was ony ill i' that, she said,
gien there wasna ony ill i' the sangs themsel's; but it was jist
some trifflin' like, she said, an' they luikit for better frae
Donal, wi' a' his buik lear, an' his Euclid -- or what ca'
they't? -- nor makin' sangs."
"What's Euclid, Nicie?"
"Ye may weel speir, missie! but I hae ill tellin' ye. It's a
keerious name till a buik, an' min's me o' naething but whan the lid
o' yer e'e yeuks (itches); an' as to what lies atween the twa brods
o' 't, I ken no more nor the man i' the meen."
"I should like to ask Donal what book he has got," said Ginny.
"I'll cry till 'im, an' ye can speir," said Nicie. -- "Donal! -- Donal!"
Donal looked up, and seeing his sister, came running to the bank of
"Canna ye come ower, Donal?" said Nicie. "Here's Miss Galbraith
wants to spier ye a question."
Donal was across in a moment, for here the water was nowhere over a
foot or two in depth.
"Oh, Donal! you've wet your feet!" cried Ginevra.
"What ill 'ill that dee me, mem?"
"None, I hope," said Ginny; "but it might, you know."
"I micht hae been droont," said Donal.
"Nicie," said Ginny, with dignity, "your brother is laughing at me."
"Na, na, mem," said Donal, apologetically. "I was only so glaid to
see you an' Nicie 'at I forgot my mainners."
"Then," returned Ginny, quite satisfied, "would you mind telling me
what book you were reading?"
"It's a buik o' ballants," answered Donal. "I'll read ane o' them
till ye, gien ye like, mem."
"I should like very much," responded Ginny. "I've read all my own
books till I'm tired of them, and I don't like papa's books. -- And,
do you know, Donal!" -- Here the child-woman's voice grew solemn
sad -- " -- I'm very sorry, and I'm frightened to say it; and if you
weren't Nicie's brother, I couldn't say it to you; -- but I am very
tired of the Bible too."
"That's a peety, mem," replied Donal. "I wad hae ye no tell onybody
that; for them 'at likes 't no a hair better themsel's, 'ill tak ye
for waur nor a haithen for sayin' 't. Jist gang ye up to my mither,
an' tell her a' aboot it. She's aye fair to a' body, an' never
thinks ill o' onybody 'at says the trowth -- whan it's no for
contrariness. She says 'at a heap o' ill comes o' fowk no speykin'
oot what they ken, or what they're thinkin', but aye guissin' at
what they dinna ken, an' what ither fowk's thinkin'."
"Ay!" said Nicie, "it wad be a gey cheenged warl' gien fowk gaed to
my mither, an' did as she wad hae them. She says fowk sud never
tell but the ill they ken o' themsel's, an' the guid they ken o'
ither fowk; an' that's jist the contrar', ye ken, missie, to what
fowk maistly dis dee."
A pause naturally followed, which Ginny broke.
"I don't think you told me the name of the book you were reading,
Donal," she said.
"Gien ye wad sit doon a meenute, mem," returned Donal, " -- here's a
bonnie gowany spot -- I wad read a bit till ye, an' see gien ye likit
it, afore I tellt ye the name o' 't."
She dropped at once on the little gowany bed, gathered her frock
about her ankles, and said,
"Sit down, Nicie. It's so kind of Donal to read something to us! I
wonder what it's going to be."
She uttered everything in a deliberate, old-fashioned way, with
precise articulation, and a certain manner that an English mother
would have called priggish, but which was only the outcome of Scotch
stiffness, her father's rebukes, and her own sense of propriety.
Donal read the ballad of Kemp Owen.
"I think -- I think -- I don't think I understand it," said Ginevra. "It
is very dreadful, and -- and -- I don't know what to think. Tell me
about it, Donal. -- Do you know what it means, Nicie?"
"No ae glimp, missie," answered Nicie.
Donal proceeded at once to an exposition. He told them that the
serpent was a lady, enchanted by a wicked witch, who, after she had
changed her, twisted her three times round the tree, so that she
could not undo herself, and laid the spell upon her that she should
never have the shape of a woman, until a knight kissed her as often
as she was twisted round the tree. Then, when the knight did come,
at every kiss a coil of her body unwound itself, until, at the last
kiss, she stood before him the beautiful lady she really was."
"What a good, kind, brave knight!" said Ginevra.
"But it's no true, ye ken, missie," said Nicie, anxious that she
should not be misled. "It's naething but Donal's nonsense."
"Nonsense here, nonsense there!" said Donal, "I see a heap o' sense
intil 't. But nonsense or no, Nicie, its nane o' my nonsense: I
wuss it war. It's hun'ers o' years auld, that ballant, I s'
"It's beautiful," said Ginevra, with decision and dignity. "I hope
he married the lady, and they lived happy ever after."
"I dinna ken, mem. The man 'at made the ballant, I daursay, thoucht
him weel payed gien the bonny leddy said thank ye till him."
"Oh! but, Donal, that wouldn't be enough! -- Would it, Nicie?"
"Weel, ye see, missie," answered Nicie, "he but gae her three
kisses -- that wasna sae muckle to wur (lay out) upon a body."
"But a serpent! -- a serpent's mouth, Nicie!"
Here, unhappily, Donal had to rush through the burn without
leave-taking, for Hornie was attempting a trespass; and the two
girls, thinking it was time to go home, rose, and climbed to the
house at their leisure.
The rest of the day Ginevra talked of little else than the serpent
lady and the brave knight, saying now and then what a nice boy that
Donal of Nicie's was. Nor was more than the gentlest hint necessary
to make Nicie remark, the next morning, that perhaps, if they went
down again to the Lorrie, Donal might come, and bring the book. But
when they reached the bank and looked across, they saw him occupied
with Gibbie. They had their heads close together over a slate, upon
which now the one, now the other, seemed to be drawing. This went
on and on, and they never looked up. Ginny would have gone home,
and come again in the afternoon, but Nicie instantly called Donal.
He sprang to his feet and came to them, followed by Gibbie. Donal
crossed the burn, but Gibbie remained on the other side, and when
presently Donal took his "buik o' ballants" from his pocket, and the
little company seated themselves, stood with his back to them, and
his eyes on the nowt. That morning they were not interrupted.
Donal read to them for a whole hour, concerning which reading, and
Ginevra's reception of it, Nicie declared she could not see what for
they made sic a wark aboot a wheen auld ballants, ane efter
anither. -- "They're no half sae bonnie as the paraphrases, Donal,"
After this, Ginevra went frequently with Nicie to see her mother,
and learned much of the best from her. Often also they went down to
the Lorrie, and had an interview with Donal, which was longer or
shorter as Gibbie was there or not to release him.
Ginny's life was now far happier than it had ever been. New
channels of thought and feeling were opened, new questions were
started, new interests awaked; so that, instead of losing by Miss
Machar's continued inability to teach her, she was learning far more
than she could give her, learning it, too, with the pleasure which
invariably accompanies true learning.
Little more than child as she was, Donal felt from the first the
charm of her society; and she by no means received without giving,
for his mental development was greatly expedited thereby. Few weeks
passed before he was her humble squire, devoted to her with all the
chivalry of a youth for a girl whom he supposes as much his superior
in kind as she is in worldly position; his sole advantage, in his
own judgment, and that which alone procured him the privilege of her
society, being, that he was older, and therefore knew a little more.
So potent and genial was her influence on his imagination, that,
without once thinking of her as their object, he now first found
himself capable of making verses -- such as they were; and one day,
with his book before him -- it was Burns, and he had been reading the
Gowan poem to Ginevra and his sister -- he ventured to repeat, as if
he read them from the book, the following: they halted a little, no
doubt, in rhythm, neither were perfectly rimed, but for a beginning,
they had promise. Gibbie, who had thrown himself down on the other
bank, and lay listening, at once detected the change in the tone of
his utterance, and before he ceased had concluded that he was not
reading them, and that they were his own.
Rin, burnie! clatter;
To the sea win:
Gien I was a watter,
Sae wad I rin.
Blaw, win', caller, clean!
Here an' hyne awa':
Gien I was a win',
Wadna I blaw!
Shine, auld sun,
Shine strang an' fine:
Gien I was the sun's son,
Herty I wad shine.
Hardly had he ended, when Gibbie's pipes began from the opposite
side of the water, and, true to time and cadence and feeling,
followed with just the one air to suit the song -- from which Donal,
to his no small comfort, understood that one at least of his
audience had received his lilt. If the poorest nature in the world
responds with the tune to the mightiest master's song, he knows, if
not another echo should come back, that he has uttered a true cry.
But Ginevra had not received it, and being therefore of her own
mind, and not of the song's, was critical. It is of the true things
it does not, perhaps cannot receive, that human nature is most
"That one is nonsense, Donal," she said. "Isn't it now? How could a
man be a burn, or a wind, or the sun? But poets are silly. Papa
In his mind Donal did not know which way to look; physically, he
regarded the ground. Happily at that very moment Hornie caused a
diversion, and Gibbie understood what Donal was feeling too well to
make even a pretence of going after her. I must, to his praise,
record the fact that, instead of wreaking his mortification upon the
cow, Donal spared her several blows out of gratitude for the
deliverance her misbehaviour had wrought him. He was in no haste to
return to his audience. To have his first poem thus rejected was
killing. She was but a child who had so unkindly criticized it, but
she was the child he wanted to please; and for a few moments life
itself seemed scarcely worth having. He called himself a fool, and
resolved never to read another poem to a girl so long as he lived.
By the time he had again walked through the burn, however, he was
calm and comparatively wise, and knew what to say.
"Div ye hear yon burn efter ye gang to yer bed, mem?" he asked
Genevra, as he climbed the bank, pointing a little lower down the
stream to the mountain brook which there joined it.
"Always," she answered. "It runs right under my window."
"What kin' o' a din dis't mak'?" he asked again.
"It is different at different times," she answered. "It sings and
chatters in summer, and growls and cries and grumbles in winter, or
after rain up in Glashgar."
"Div ye think the burn's ony happier i' the summer, mem?"
"No, Donal; the burn has no life in it, and therefore can't be
happier one time than another."
"Weel, mem, I wad jist like to speir what waur it is to fancy
yersel' a burn, than to fancy the burn a body, ae time singin' an'
chatterin', an' the neist growlin' an' grum'lin'."
"Well, but, Donal, can a man be a burn?"
"Weel, mem, no -- at least no i' this warl', an' at 'is ain wull. But
whan ye're lyin' hearkenin' to the burn, did ye never imagine
yersel' rinnin' doon wi' 't -- doon to the sea?"
"No, Donal; I always fancy myself going up the mountain where it
comes from, and running about wild there in the wind, when all the
time I know I'm safe and warm in bed."
"Weel, maybe that's better yet -- I wadna say," answered Donal; "but
jist the nicht, for a cheenge like, ye turn an' gang doon wi' 't -- i'
yer thouchts, I mean. Lie an' hearken he'rty till 't the nicht,
whan ye're i' yer bed; hearken an' hearken till the soon' rins awa'
wi' ye like, an' ye forget a' aboot yersel', an' think yersel' awa'
wi' the burn, rinnin', rinnin', throu' this an' throu' that, throu'
stanes an' birks an' bracken, throu' heather, an' plooed lan' an'
corn, an' wuds an' gairdens, aye singin', an' aye cheengin' yer tune
accordin', till it wins to the muckle roarin' sea, an' 's a' tint.
An' the first nicht 'at the win' 's up an' awa', dee the same, mem,
wi' the win'. Get up upo' the back o' 't, like, as gien it was yer
muckle horse, an' jist ride him to the deith; an' efter that, gien
ye dinna maybe jist wuss 'at ye was a burn or a blawin' win' -- aither
wad be a sair loss to the universe -- ye wunna, I'm thinkin', be sae
ready to fin' fau't wi' the chield 'at made yon bit sangy."
"Are you vexed with me, Donal? -- I'm so sorry!" said Ginevra, taking
the earnestness of his tone for displeasure.
"Na, na, mem. Ye're ower guid an' ower bonny," answered Donal, "to
be a vex to onybody; but it wad be a vex to hear sic a cratur as you
speykin' like ane o' the fules o' the warl', 'at believe i' naething
but what comes in at the holes i' their heid."
Ginevra was silent. She could not quite understand Donal, but she
felt she must be wrong somehow; and of this she was the more
convinced when she saw the beautiful eyes of Gibbie fixed in
admiration, and brimful of love, upon Donal.
The way Donal kept his vow never to read another poem of his own to
a girl, was to proceed that very night to make another for the
express purpose, as he lay awake in the darkness.
The last one he ever read to her in that meadow was this:
What gars ye sing, said the herd laddie,
What gars ye sing sae lood?
To tice them oot o' the yerd, laddie,
The worms, for my daily food.
An' aye he sang, an' better he sang,
An' the worms creepit in an' oot;
An' ane he tuik, an' twa he loot gang,
But still he carolled stoot.
It's no for the worms, sir, said the herd,
They comena for yer sang.
Think ye sae, sir? answered the bird,
Maybe ye're no i' the wrang.
But aye &c.
Sing ye yoong sorrow to beguile
Or to gie auld fear the flegs?
Na, quo' the mavis; it's but to wile
My wee things oot o' her eggs.
An' aye &c.
The mistress is plenty for that same gear,
Though ye sangna ear' nor late.
It's to draw the deid frae the moul' sae drear,
An' open the kirkyard gate.
An' aye &c.
Na, na; it's a better sang nor yer ain,
Though ye hae o' notes a feck,
'At wad mak auld Barebanes there sae fain
As to lift the muckle sneck!
But aye &c.
Better ye sing nor a burn i' the mune,
Nor a wave ower san' that flows,
Nor a win' wi' the glintin' stars abune,
An' aneth the roses in rows;
An' aye &c.
But I'll speir ye nae mair, sir, said the herd.
I fear what ye micht say neist.
Ye wad but won'er the mair, said the bird,
To see the thouchts i' my breist.
And aye he sang, an' better he sang,
An' the worms creepit in an' oot;
An' ane he tuik, an' twa he loot gang,
But still he carolled stoot.
I doubt whether Ginevra understood this song better than the first,
but she was now more careful of criticizing; and when by degrees it
dawned upon her that he was the maker of these and other verses he
read, she grew half afraid of Donal, and began to regard him with
big eyes; he became, from a herd-boy, an unintelligible person,
therefore a wonder. For, brought thus face to face with the maker
of verses, she could not help trying to think how he did the thing;
and as she felt no possibility of making verses herself, it remained
a mystery and an astonishment, causing a great respect for the poet
to mingle with the kindness she felt towards Nicie's brother.
By degrees Gibbie had come to be well known about the Mains and
Glashruach. Angus's only recognition of him was a scowl in return
for his smile; but, as I have said, he gave him no farther
annoyance, and the tales about the beast-loon were dying out from
Daurside. Jean Mavor was a special friend to him: for she knew now
well enough who had been her brownie, and made him welcome as often
as he showed himself with Donal. Fergus was sometimes at home;
sometimes away; but he was now quite a fine gentleman, a student of
theology, and only condescendingly cognizant of the existence of
Donal Grant. All he said to him when he came home a master of arts,
was, that he had expected better of him: he ought to be something
more than herd by this time. Donal smiled and said nothing. He had
just finished a little song that pleased him, and could afford to be
patronized. I am afraid, however, he was not contented with that,
but in his mind's eye measured Fergus from top to toe.
In the autumn, Mr. Galbraith returned to Glashruach, but did not
remain long. His schemes were promising well, and his
self-importance was screwed yet a little higher in consequence. But
he was kinder than usual to Ginevra. Before he went he said to her
that, as Mr. Machar had sunk into a condition requiring his
daughter's constant attention, he would find her an English
governess as soon as he reached London; meantime she must keep up
her studies by herself as well as she could. Probably he forgot all
about it, for the governess was not heard of at Glashruach, and
things fell into their old way. There was no spiritual traffic
between the father and daughter, consequently Ginevra never said
anything about Donal or Gibbie, or her friendship for Nicie. He had
himself to blame altogether; he had made it impossible for her to
talk to him. But it was well he remained in ignorance, and so did
not put a stop to the best education she could at this time of her
life have been having -- such as neither he nor any friend of his
could have given her.
It was interrupted, however, by the arrival of the winter -- a wild
time in that region, fierce storm alternating with the calm of
death. After howling nights, in which it seemed as if all the
polter-geister of the universe must be out on a disembodied lark,
the mountains stood there in the morning solemn still, each with his
white turban of snow unrumpled on his head, in the profoundest
silence of blue air, as if he had never in his life passed a more
thoughtful, peaceful time than the very last night of all. To such
feet as Ginevra's the cottage on Glashgar was for months almost as
inaccessible as if it had been in Sirius. More than once the Daur
was frozen thick; for weeks every beast was an absolute prisoner to
the byre, and for months was fed with straw and turnips and potatoes
and oilcake. Then was the time for stories; and often in the long
dark, while yet it was hours too early for bed, would Ginevra go
with Nicie, who was not much of a raconteuse, to the kitchen, to get
one of the other servants to tell her an old tale. For even in his
own daughter and his own kitchen, the great laird could not
extinguish the accursed superstition. Not a glimpse did Ginevra get
all this time of Donal or of Gibbie.
At last, like one of its own flowers in its own bosom, the spring
began again to wake in God's thought of his world; and the snow,
like all other deaths, had to melt and run, leaving room for hope;
then the summer woke smiling, as if she knew she had been asleep;
and the two youths and the two maidens met yet again on Lorrie bank,
with the brown water falling over the stones, the gold nuggets of
the broom hanging over the water, and the young larch-wood scenting
the air all up the brae side between them and the house, which the
tall hedge hid from their view. The four were a year older, a year
nearer trouble, and a year nearer getting out of it. Ginevra was
more of a woman, Donal more of a poet, Nicie as nice and much the
same, and Gibbie, if possible, more a foundling of the universe than
ever. He was growing steadily, and showed such freedom and ease,
and his motions were all so rapid and direct, that it was plain at a
glance the beauty of his countenance was in no manner or measure
associated with weakness. The mountain was a grand nursery for him,
and the result, both physical and spiritual, corresponded. Janet,
who, better than anyone else, knew what was in the mind of the boy,
revered him as much as he revered her; the first impression he made
upon her had never worn off -- had only changed its colour a little.
More even than a knowledge of the truth, is a readiness to receive
it; and Janet saw from the first that Gibbie's ignorance at its
worst was but room vacant for the truth: when it came it found bolt
nor bar on door or window, but had immediate entrance. The secret
of this power of reception was, that to see a truth and to do it was
one and the same thing with Gibbie. To know and not do would have
seemed to him an impossibility, as it is in vital idea a
This unity of vision and action was the main cause also of a certain
daring simplicity in the exercise of the imagination, which so far
from misleading him reacted only in obedience -- which is the truth of
the will -- the truth, therefore, of the whole being. He did not do
the less well for his sheep, that he fancied they knew when Jesus
Christ was on the mountain, and always at such times both fed better
and were more frolicsome. He thought Oscar knew it also, and
interpreted a certain look of the dog by the supposition that he had
caught a sign of the bodily presence of his Maker. The direction in
which his imagination ran forward, was always that in which his
reason pointed; and so long as Gibbie's fancies were bud-blooms upon
his obedience, his imagination could not be otherwise than in
harmony with his reason. Imagination is a poor root, but a worthy
blossom, and in a nature like Gibbie's its flowers cannot fail to be
lovely. For no outcome of a man's nature is so like himself as his
imaginations, except it be his fancies, indeed. Perhaps his
imaginations show what he is meant to be, his fancies what he is
making of himself.
In the summer, Mr. Galbraith, all unannounced, reappeared at
Glashruach, but so changed that, startled at the sight of him,
Ginevra stopped midway in her advance to greet him. The long thin
man was now haggard and worn; he looked sourer too, and more
suspicious -- either that experience had made him so, or that he was
less equal to the veiling of his feelings in dignified indifference.
He was annoyed that his daughter should recognize an alteration in
him, and, turning away, leaned his head on the hand whose arm was
already supported by the mantelpiece, and took no further notice of
her presence; but perhaps conscience also had something to do with
this behaviour. Ginevra knew from experience that the sight of
tears would enrage him, and with all her might repressed those she
felt beginning to rise. She went up to him timidly, and took the
hand that hung by his side. He did not repel her -- that is, he did
not push her away, or even withdraw his hand, but he left it hanging
lifeless, and returned with it no pressure upon hers -- which was much
"Is anything the matter, papa?" she asked with trembling voice.
"I am not aware that I have been in the habit of communicating with
you on the subject of my affairs," he answered; "nor am I likely to
begin to do so, where my return after so long an absence seems to
give so little satisfaction."
"Oh, papa! I was frightened to see you looking so ill."
"Such a remark upon my personal appearance is but a poor recognition
of my labours for your benefit, I venture to think, Jenny," he said.
He was at the moment contemplating, as a necessity, the sale of
every foot of the property her mother had brought him. Nothing less
would serve to keep up his credit, and gain time to disguise more
than one failing scheme. Everything had of late been going so
badly, that he had lost a good deal of his confidence and
self-satisfaction; but he had gained no humility instead. It had
not dawned upon him yet that he was not unfortunate, but unworthy.
The gain of such a conviction is to a man enough to outweigh
infinitely any loss that even his unworthiness can have caused him;
for it involves some perception of the worthiness of the truth, and
makes way for the utter consolation which the birth of that truth in
himself will bring. As yet Mr. Galbraith was but overwhelmed with
care for a self which, so far as he had to do with the making of it,
was of small value indeed, although in the possibility, which is the
birthright of every creature, it was, not less than that of the
wretchedest of dog-licked Lazaruses, of a value by himself
unsuspected and inappreciable. That he should behave so cruelly to
his one child, was not unnatural to that self with which he was so
much occupied: failure had weakened that command of behaviour which
so frequently gains the credit belonging only to justice and
kindness, and a temper which never was good, but always feeling the
chain, was ready at once to show its ugly teeth. He was a proud
man, whose pride was always catching cold from his heart. He might
have lived a hundred years in the same house with a child that was
not his own, without feeling for her a single movement of affection.
The servants found more change in him than Ginevra did; his
relations with them, if not better conceived than his paternal ones,
had been less evidently defective. Now he found fault with every
one, so that even Joseph dared hardly open his mouth, and said he
must give warning. The day after his arrival, having spent the
morning with Angus walking over certain fields, much desired, he
knew, of a neighbouring proprietor, inwardly calculating the utmost
he could venture to ask for them with a chance of selling, he
scolded Ginevra severely on his return because she had not had
lunch, but had waited for him; whereas a little reflection might
have shown him she dared not take it without him. Naturally,
therefore, she could not now eat, because of a certain sensation in
her throat. The instant he saw she was not eating, he ordered her
out of the room: he would have no such airs in his family! By the
end of the week -- he arrived on the Tuesday -- such a sense of
estrangement possessed Ginevra, that she would turn on the stair and
run up again, if she heard her father's voice below. Her aversion
to meeting him, he became aware of, and felt relieved in regard to
the wrong he was doing his wife, by reflecting upon her daughter's
behaviour towards him; for he had a strong constitutional sense of
what was fair, and a conscience disobeyed becomes a cancer.
In this evil mood he received from some one -- all his life Donal
believed it was Fergus -- a hint concerning the relations between his
daughter and his tenant's herd-boy. To describe his feelings at the
bare fact that such a hint was possible, would be more labour than
the result would repay. -- What! his own flesh and blood, the heiress
of Glashruach, derive pleasure from the boorish talk of such a
companion! It could not be true, when the mere thought, without the
belief of it, filled him with such indignation! He was overwhelmed
with a righteous disgust. He did himself the justice of making
himself certain before he took measures; but he never thought of
doing them the justice of acquainting himself first with the nature
of the intercourse they held. But it mattered little; for he would
have found nothing in that to give him satisfaction, even if the
thing itself had not been outrageous. He watched and waited, and
more than once pretended to go from home: at last one morning, from
the larch-wood, he saw the unnatural girl seated with her maid on
the bank of the river, the cow-herd reading to them, and on the
other side the dumb idiot lying listening. He was almost beside
himself -- with what, I can hardly define. In a loud voice of bare
command he called to her to come to him. With a glance of terror at
Nicie she rose, and they went up through the larches together.
I will not spend my labour upon a reproduction of the verbal torrent
of wrath, wounded dignity, disgust, and contempt, with which the
father assailed his shrinking, delicate, honest-minded woman-child.
For Nicie, he dismissed her on the spot. Not another night would
he endure her in the house, after her abominable breach of
confidence! She had to depart without even a good-bye from Ginevra,
and went home weeping in great dread of what her mother would say.
"Lassie," said Janet, when she heard her story, "gien onybody be to
blame it's mysel'; for ye loot me ken ye gaed whiles wi' yer bonnie
missie to hae a news wi' Donal, an' I saw an' see noucht 'at's wrang
intill't. But the fowk o' this warl' has ither w'ys o' jeedgin' o'
things, an' I maun bethink mysel' what lesson o' the serpent's
wisdom I hae to learn frae 't. Ye're walcome hame, my bonnie lass.
Ye ken I aye keep the wee closet ready for ony o' ye 'at micht come
Nicie, however, had not long to occupy the closet, for those of her
breed were in demand in the country.
Ever since he became a dweller in the air of Glashgar, Gibbie,
mindful of his first visit thereto, and of his grand experience on
that occasion, had been in the habit, as often as he saw reason to
expect a thunder-storm, and his duties would permit, of ascending
the mountain, and there on the crest of the granite peak, awaiting
the arrival of the tumult. Everything antagonistic in the boy,
everything that could naturally find relief, or pleasure, or simple
outcome, in resistance or contention, debarred as it was by the
exuberance of his loving kindness from obtaining satisfaction or
alleviation in strife with his fellows, found it wherever he could
encounter the forces of Nature, in personal wrestle with them where
possible, and always in wildest sympathy with any uproar of the
elements. The absence of personality in them allowed the
co-existence of sympathy and antagonism in respect of them. Except
those truths awaking delight at once calm and profound, of which so
few know the power, and the direct influence of human relation,
Gibbie's emotional joy was more stirred by storm than by anything
else; and with all forms of it he was so familiar that, young as he
was, he had unconsciously begun to generalize on its phases.
Towards the evening of a wondrously fine day in the beginning of
August -- a perfect day of summer in her matronly beauty, it began to
rain. All the next day the slopes and stairs of Glashgar were
alternately glowing in sunshine, and swept with heavy showers,
driven slanting in strong gusts of wind from the northwest. How
often he was wet through and dried again that day, Gibbie could not
have told. He wore so little that either took but a few moments,
and he was always ready for a change. The wind and the rain
together were cold, but that only served to let the sunshine deeper
into him when it returned.
In the afternoon there was less sun, more rain, and more wind; and
at last the sun seemed to give it up; the wind grew to a hurricane,
and the rain strove with it which should inhabit the space. The
whole upper region was like a huge mortar, in which the wind was the
pestle, and, with innumerable gyres, vainly ground at the rain.
Gibbie drove his sheep to the refuge of a pen on the lower slope of
a valley that ran at right angles to the wind, where they were
sheltered by a rock behind, forming one side of the enclosure, and
dykes of loose stones, forming the others, at a height there was no
tradition of any flood having reached. He then went home, and
having told Robert what he had done, and had his supper, set out in
the early-failing light, to ascend the mountain. A great
thunder-storm was at hand, and was calling him. It was almost dark
before he reached the top, but he knew the surface of Glashgar
nearly as well as the floor of the cottage. Just as he had fought
his way to the crest of the peak in the face of one of the fiercest
of the blasts abroad that night, a sudden rush of fire made the
heavens like the smoke-filled vault of an oven, and at once the
thunder followed, in a succession of single sharp explosions without
any roll between. The mountain shook with the windy shocks, but the
first of the thunder-storm was the worst, and it soon passed. The
wind and the rain continued, and the darkness was filled with the
rush of the water everywhere wildly tearing down the sides of the
mountain. Thus heaven and earth held communication in torrents all
the night. Down the steeps of the limpid air they ran to the hard
sides of the hills, where at once, as if they were no longer at
home, and did not like the change, they began to work mischief. To
the ears and heart of Gibbie their noises were a mass of broken
music. Every spring and autumn the floods came, and he knew them,
and they were welcome to him in their seasons.
It required some care to find his way down through the darkness and
the waters to the cottage, but as he was neither in fear nor in
haste, he was in little danger, and his hands and feet could pick
out the path where his eyes were useless. When at length he reached
his bed, it was not for a long time to sleep, but to lie awake and
listen to the raging of the wind all about and above and below the
cottage, and the rushing of the streams down past it on every side.
To his imagination it was as if he lay in the very bed of the
channel by which the waters of heaven were shooting to the valleys
of the earth; and when he fell asleep at last, his dream was of the
rush of the river of the water of life from under the throne of God;
and he saw men drink thereof, and everyone as he drank straightway
knew that he was one with the Father, and one with every child of
his throughout the infinite universe.
He woke, and what remained of his dream was love in his heart, and
in his ears the sound of many waters. It was morning. He rose,
and, dressing hastily, opened the door. What a picture of grey
storm rose outspread before him! The wind fiercely invaded the
cottage, thick charged with water-drops, and stepping out he shut
the door in haste, lest it should blow upon the old people in bed
and wake them. He could not see far on any side, for the rain that
fell, and the mist and steam that rose, upon which the wind seemed
to have no power; but wherever he did see, there water was running
down. Up the mountain he went -- he could hardly have told why.
Once, for a moment, as he ascended, the veil of the vapour either
rose, or was torn asunder, and he saw the great wet gleam of the
world below. By the time he reached the top, it was as light as it
was all the day; but it was with a dull yellow glare, as if the sun
were obscured by the smoke and vaporous fumes of a burning world
which the rain had been sent to quench. It was a wild, hopeless
scene -- as if God had turned his face away from the world, and all
Nature was therefore drowned in tears -- no Rachel weeping for her
children, but the whole creation crying for the Father, and refusing
to be comforted. Gibbie stood gazing and thinking. Did God like to
look at the storm he made? If Jesus did, would he have left it all
and gone to sleep, when the wind and waves were howling, and
flinging the boat about like a toy between them? He must have been
tired, surely! With what? Then first Gibbie saw that perhaps it
tired Jesus to heal people; that every time what cured man or woman
was life that went out of him, and that he missed it, perhaps -- not
from his heart, but from his body; and if it were so, then it was no
wonder if he slept in the midst of a right splendid storm. And upon
that Gibbie remembered what St. Matthew says just before he tells
about the storm -- that "he cast out the spirits with his word, and
healed all that were sick, that it might be fulfilled which was
spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities,
and bare our sicknesses."
That moment it seemed as if he must be himself in some wave-tossed
boat, and not upon a mountain of stone, for Glashgar gave a great
heave under him, then rocked and shook from side to side a little,
and settled down so still and steady, that motion and the mountain
seemed again two ideas that never could be present together in any
mind. The next instant came an explosion, followed by a frightful
roaring and hurling, as of mingled water and stones; and on the side
of the mountain beneath him he saw what, through the mist, looked
like a cloud of smoke or dust rising to a height. He darted towards
it. As he drew nearer, the cloud seemed to condense, and presently
he saw plainly enough that it was a great column of water shooting
up and out from the face of the mountain. It sank and rose again,
with the alternation of a huge pulse: the mountain was cracked, and
through the crack, with every throb of its heart, the life-blood of
the great hull of the world seemed beating out. Already it had
scattered masses of gravel on all sides, and down the hill a river
was shooting in sheer cataract, raving and tearing, and carrying
stones and rocks with it like foam. Still and still it pulsed and
rushed and ran, born, like another Xanthus, a river full-grown, from
the heart of the mountain.
Suddenly Gibbie, in the midst of his astonishment and awful delight,
noted the path of the new stream, and from his knowledge of the face
of the mountain, perceived that its course was direct for the
cottage. Down the hill he shot after it, as if it were a wild beast
that his fault had freed from its cage. He was not terrified. One
believing like him in the perfect Love and perfect Will of a Father
of men, as the fact of facts, fears nothing. Fear is faithlessness.
But there is so little that is worthy the name of faith, that such
a confidence will appear to most not merely incredible but
heartless. The Lord himself seems not to have been very hopeful
about us, for he said, When the Son of man cometh, shall he find
faith on the earth? A perfect faith would lift us absolutely above
fear. It is in the cracks, crannies, and gulfy faults of our
belief, the gaps that are not faith, that the snow of apprehension
settles, and the ice of unkindness forms.
The torrent had already worn for itself a channel: what earth there
was, it had swept clean away to the rock, and the loose stones it
had thrown up aside, or hurled with it in its headlong course. But
as Gibbie bounded along, following it with a speed almost equal to
its own, he was checked in the midst of his hearty haste by the
sight, a few yards away, of another like terror -- another torrent
issuing from the side of the hill, and rushing to swell the valley
stream. Another and another he saw, with growing wonder, as he ran;
before he reached home he passed some six or eight, and had begun to
think whether a second deluge of the whole world might not be at
hand, commencing this time with Scotland. Two of them joined the
one he was following, and he had to cross them as he could; the
others he saw near and farther off -- one foaming deliverance after
another, issuing from the entrails of the mountain, like imprisoned
demons, that, broken from their bonds, ran to ravage the world with
the accumulated hate of dreariest centuries. Now and then a huge
boulder, loosened from its bed by the trail of this or that watery
serpent, would go rolling, leaping, bounding down the hill before
him, and just in time he escaped one that came springing after him
as if it were a living thing that wanted to devour him. Nor was
Glashgar the only torrent-bearing mountain of Gormgarnet that day,
though the rain prevented Gibbie from seeing anything of what the
rest of them were doing. The fountains of the great deep were
broken up, and seemed rushing together to drown the world. And
still the wind was raging, and the rain tumbling to the earth,
rather in sheets than in streams.
Gibbie at length forsook the bank of the new torrent to take the
nearest way home, and soon reached the point whence first, returning
in that direction, he always looked to see the cottage. For a
moment he was utterly bewildered: no cottage was to be seen. From
the top of the rock against which it was built, shot the whole mass
of the water he had been pursuing, now dark with stones and gravel,
now grey with foam, or glassy in the lurid light.
"O Jesus Christ!" he cried, and darted to the place. When he came
near, to his amazement there stood the little house unharmed, the
very centre of the cataract! For a few yards on the top of the
rock, the torrent had a nearly horizontal channel, along which it
rushed with unabated speed to the edge, and thence shot clean over
the cottage, dropping only a dribble of rain on the roof from the
underside of its half-arch. The garden ground was gone, swept clean
from the bare rock, which made a fine smooth shoot for the water a
long distance in front. He darted through the drizzle and spray,
reached the door, and lifted the hatch. The same moment he heard
Janet's voice in joyful greeting.
"Noo, noo! come awa', laddie," she said. "Wha wad hae thoucht we wad
hae to lea' the rock to win oot o' the water? We're but waitin' you
to gang. -- Come, Robert, we'll awa' doon the hill."
She stood in the middle of the room in her best gown, as if she had
been going to church, her Bible, a good-sized octavo, under her arm,
with a white handkerchief folded round it, and her umbrella in her
"He that believeth shall not make haste," she said, "but he maunna
tempt the Lord, aither. Drink that milk, Gibbie, an' pit a bannock
i' yer pooch, an' come awa'."
Robert rose from the edge of the bed, staff in hand, ready too. He
also was in his Sunday clothes. Oscar, who could make no change of
attire, but was always ready, and had been standing looking up in
his face for the last ten minutes, wagged his tail when he saw him
rise, and got out of his way. On the table were the remains of
their breakfast of oat-cake and milk -- the fire Janet had left on the
hearth was a spongy mass of peat, as wet as the winter before it was
dug from the bog, so they had had no porridge. The water kept
coming in splashes down the lum, the hillocks of the floor were
slimy, and in the hollows little lakes were gathering: the lowest
film of the torrent-water ran down the rock behind, and making its
way between rock and roof, threatened soon to render the place
"What's the eese o' lo'denin' yersel' wi' the umbrell?" said Robert.
"Ye'll get it a' drookit (drenched)."
"Ow, I'll jist tak it," replied Janet, with a laugh in
acknowledgment of her husband's fun; "it'll haud the rain ohn blin't
"That's gien ye be able to haud it up. I doobt the win' 'll be ower
sair upo' 't. I'm thinkin', though, it'll be mair to haud yer beuk
Janet smiled and made no denial.
"Noo, Gibbie," she said, "ye gang an' lowse Crummie. But ye'll hae
to lead her. She winna be to caw in sic a win' 's this, an' no
plain ro'd afore her."
"Whaur div ye think o' gauin'?" asked Robert, who, satisfied as
usual with whatever might be in his wife's mind, had not till this
moment thought of asking her where she meant to take refuge.
"Ow, we'll jist mak for the Mains, gien ye be agreeable, Robert,"
she answered. "It's there we belang till, an' in wather like this
naebody wad refeese bield till a beggar, no to say Mistress Jean
till her ain fowk."
With that she led the way to the door and opened it.
"His v'ice was like the soon' o' mony watters," she said to herself
softly, as the liquid thunder of the torrent came in the louder.
Gibbie shot round the corner to the byre, whence through all the
roar, every now and then they had heard the cavernous mooing of
Crummie, piteous and low. He found a stream a foot deep running
between her fore and hind legs, and did not wonder that she wanted
to be on the move. Speedily he loosed her, and fastening the
chain-tether to her halter, led her out. She was terrified at sight
of the falling water, and they had some trouble in getting her
through behind it, but presently after, she was making the descent
as carefully and successfully as any of them.
It was a heavy undertaking for the two old folk to walk all the way
to the Mains, and in such a state of the elements; but where there
is no choice, we do well to make no difficulty. Janet was half
troubled that her mountain, and her foundation on the rock, should
have failed her; but consoled herself that they were but shadows of
heavenly things and figures of the true; and that a mountain or a
rock was in itself no more to be trusted than a horse or a prince or
the legs of a man. Robert plodded on in contented silence, and
Gibbie was in great glee, singing, after his fashion, all the way,
though now and then half-choked by the fierceness of the wind round
some corner of rock, filled with rain-drops that stung like
By and by Janet stopped and began looking about her. This naturally
seemed to her husband rather odd in the circumstances.
"What are ye efter, Janet?" he said, shouting through the wind from
a few yards off, by no means sorry to stand for a moment, although
any recovering of his breath seemed almost hopeless in such a
"I want to lay my umbrell in safity," answered Janet, " -- gien I cud
but perceive a shuitable spot. Ye was richt, Robert, it's mair
w'alth nor I can get the guid o'."
"Hoots! fling't frae ye, than, lass," he returned. "Is this a day to
be thinkin' o' warl' 's gear?"
"What for no, Robert?" she rejoined. "Ae day's as guid's anither for
thinkin' aboot onything the richt gait."
"What!" retorted Robert, " -- whan we hae ta'en oor lives in oor han',
an' can no more than houp we may cairry them throu' safe!"
"What's that 'at ye ca' oor lives, Robert? The Maister never made
muckle o' the savin' o' sic like's them. It seems to me they're
naething but a kin' o' warl' 's gear themsel's."
"An' yet," argued Robert, "ye'll tak thoucht aboot an auld umbrell?
Whaur's yer consistency, lass?"
"Gien I war tribled aboot my life," said Janet, "I cud ill spare
thoucht for an auld umbrell. But they baith trible me sae little,
'at I may jist as weel luik efter them baith. It's auld an' casten
an' bow-ribbit, it's true, but it wad ill become me to drap it
wi'oot a thoucht, whan him 'at could mak haill loaves, said, 'Gether
up the fragments 'at naething be lost.' -- Na," she continued, still
looking about her, "I maun jist dee my duty by the auld umbrell;
syne come o' 't 'at likes, I carena."
So saying she walked to the lee side of a rock, and laid the
umbrella close under it, then a few large stones upon it to keep it
I may add, that the same umbrella, recovered, and with two new ribs,
served Janet to the day of her death.
They reached at length the valley road. The water that ran in the
bottom was the Lorrie. Three days ago it was a lively little
stream, winding and changing within its grassy banks -- here resting
silent in a deep pool, there running and singing over its pebbles.
Now it had filled and far overflowed its banks, and was a swift
river. It had not yet, so far up the valley, encroached on the
road; but the torrents on the mountain had already in places much
injured it, and with considerable difficulty they crossed some of
the new-made gullies. When they approached the bridge, however, by
which they must cross the Lorrie to reach the Mains, their worst
trouble lay before them. For the enemy, with whose reinforcements
they had all the time been descending, showed himself ever in
greater strength the farther they advanced; and here the road was
flooded for a long way on both sides of the bridge. There was
therefore a good deal of wading to be done; but the road was an
embankment, there was little current, and in safety at last they
ascended the rising ground on which the farm-building stood. When
they reached the yard, they sent Gibbie to find shelter for Crummie,
and themselves went up to the house.
"The Lord preserve 's!" cried Jean Mavor, with uplifted hands, when
she saw them enter the kitchen.
"He'll dee that, mem," returned Janet, with a smile.
"But what can he dee? Gien ye be droont oot o' the hills, what's to
come o' hiz i' the how? I wad ken that!" said Jean.
"The watter's no up to yer door yet," remarked Janet.
"God forbid!" retorted Jean, as if the very mention of such a state
of things was too dreadful to be polite. " -- But, eh, ye're weet!"
"Weet's no the word," said Robert, trying to laugh, but failing from
sheer exhaustion, and the beginnings of an asthmatic attack.
The farmer, hearing their voices, came into the kitchen -- a
middle-sized and middle-aged, rather coarse-looking man, with keen
eyes, who took snuff amazingly. His manner was free, with a touch
of satire. He was proud of driving a hard bargain, but was
thoroughly hospitable. He had little respect for person or thing,
but showed an occasional touch of tenderness.
"Hoot, Rob!" he said roughly as he entered, "I thoucht ye had mair
sense! What's broucht ye here at sic a time?"
But as he spoke he held out his snuff-box to the old man.
"Fell needcessity, sir," answered Robert, taking a good pinch.
"Necessity!" retorted the farmer. "Was ye oot o' meal?"
"Oot o' dry meal, I doobt, by this time, sir," replied Robert.
"Hoots! I wuss we war a' in like necessity -- weel up upo' the hill
i'stead o' doon here upo' the haugh (river-meadow). It's jist clean
ridic'lous. Ye sud hae kenned better at your age, Rob. Ye sud hae
thoucht twise, man."
"'Deed, sir," answered Robert, quietly finishing his pinch of snuff,
"there was sma' need, an' less time to think, an' Glashgar bursten,
an' the watter comin' ower the tap o' the bit hoosie as gien 'twar a
muckle owershot wheel, an' no a place for fowk to bide in. Ye dinna
think Janet an' me wad be twa sic auld fules as pit on oor Sunday
claes to sweem in, gien we thoucht to see things as we left them
whan we gaed back! Ye see, sir, though the hoose be fun't upo' a
rock, it's maist biggit o' fells, an' the foundation's a' I luik
even to see o' 't again. Whan the force o' the watter grows less,
it'll come down upo' the riggin' wi' the haill weicht o' 't."
"Ay!" said Janet, in a low voice, "the live stanes maun come to the
live rock to bigg the hoose 'at'll stan."
"What think ye, Maister Fergus, you 'at's gauin' to be a minister?"
said Robert, referring to his wife's words, as the young man looked
in at the door of the kitchen.
"Lat him be," interposed his father, blowing his nose with
unnecessary violence; "setna him preachin' afore's time. Fess the
whusky, Fergus, an' gie auld Robert a dram. Haith! gien the watter
be rinnin' ower the tap o' yer hoose, man, it was time to flit.
Fess twa or three glaisses, Fergus; we hae a' need o' something
'at's no watter. It's perfeckly ridic'lous!"
Having taken a little of the whisky, the old people went to change
their clothes for some Jean had provided, and in the mean time she
made up her fire, and prepared some breakfast for them.
"An' whaur's yer dummie?" she asked, as they re-entered the kitchen.
"He had puir Crummie to luik efter," answered Janet; "but he micht
hae been in or this time."
"He'll be wi' Donal i' the byre, nae doobt," said Jean: "he's aye
some shy o' comin' in wantin' an inveet." She went to the door, and
called with a loud voice across the yard, through the wind and the
clashing torrents, "Donal, sen' Dummie in till's brakfast."
"He's awa' till's sheep," cried Donal in reply.
"Preserve 's! -- the cratur 'll be lost!" said Jean.
"Less likly nor ony man aboot the place," bawled Donal, half angry
with his mistress for calling his friend dummie. "Gibbie kens better
what he's aboot nor ony twa 'at thinks him a fule 'cause he canna
lat oot sic stuff an' nonsense as they canna haud in."
Jean went back to the kitchen, only half reassured concerning her
brownie, and far from contented with his absence. But she was glad
to find that neither Janet nor Robert appeared alarmed at the news.
"I wuss the cratur had had some brakfast," she said.
"He has a piece in 's pooch," answered Janet. "He's no oonprovidit
wi' what can be made mair o'."
"I dinna richtly un'erstan' ye there," said Jean.
"Ye canna hae failt to remark, mem," answered Janet, "'at whan the
Maister set himsel' to feed the hungerin' thoosan's, he teuk intil's
han' what there was, an' vroucht upo' that to mak mair o' 't. I hae
wussed sometimes 'at the laddie wi' the five barley loaves an' the
twa sma' fishes, hadna been there that day. I wad fain ken hoo the
Maister wad hae managed wantin' onything to begin upo'. As it was,
he aye hang what he did upo' something his Father had dune afore
"Hoots!" returned Jean, who looked upon Janet as a lover of
conundrums, "ye're aye warstlin' wi' run k-nots an' teuch moo'fu's."
"Ow na, no aye," answered Janet; " -- only whiles, whan the speerit o'
speirin' gets the upper han' o' me for a sizon."
"I doobt that same speerit 'll lead ye far frae the still watters
some day, Janet," said Jean, stirring the porridge vehemently.
"Ow, I think not," answered Janet very calmly. "Whan the Maister
says -- what's that to thee? -- I tak care he hasna to say't twise, but
jist get up an' follow him."
This was beyond Jean, but she held her peace, for, though she feared
for Janet's orthodoxy, and had a strong opinion of the superiority
of her own common sense -- in which, as in the case of all who pride
themselves in the same, there was a good deal more of the common
than of the sense -- she had the deepest conviction of Janet's
goodness, and regarded her as a sort of heaven-favoured idiot, whose
utterances were somewhat privileged. Janet, for her part, looked
upon Jean as "an honest wuman, wha 'll get a heap o' licht some
When they had eaten their breakfast, Robert took his pipe to the
barn, saying there was not much danger of fire that day; Janet
washed up the dishes, and sat down to her Book; and Jean went out
and in, attending to many things.
Mean time the rain fell, the wind blew, the water rose. Little
could be done beyond feeding the animals, threshing a little corn in
the barn, and twisting straw ropes for the thatch of the ricks of
the coming harvest -- if indeed there was a harvest on the road, for,
as the day went on, it seemed almost to grow doubtful whether any
ropes would be wanted; while already not a few of last year's ricks,
from farther up the country, were floating past the Mains, down the
Daur to the sea. The sight was a dreadful one -- had an air of the
day of judgment about it to farmers' eyes. From the Mains, to right
and left beyond the rising ground on which the farm buildings stood,
everywhere as far as the bases of the hills, instead of fields was
water, yellow brown, here in still expanse or slow progress, there
sweeping along in fierce current. The quieter parts of it were
dotted with trees, divided by hedges, shaded with ears of corn; upon
the swifter parts floated objects of all kinds.
Mr. Duff went wandering restlessly from one spot to another, finding
nothing to do. In the gloaming, which fell the sooner that a
rain-blanket miles thick wrapt the earth up from the sun, he came
across from the barn, and, entering the kitchen, dropped, weary with
hopelessness, on a chair.
"I can weel un'erstan'," he said, "what for the Lord sud set doon
Bony an' set up Louy, but what for he sud gar corn grow, an' syne
sen' a spate to sweem awa' wi' 't, that's mair nor mortal man can
see the sense o'. -- Haud yer tongue, Janet. I'm no sayin' there's
onything wrang; I'm sayin' naething but the sair trowth, 'at I canna
see the what-for o' 't. I canna see the guid o' 't till onybody.
A'thing 's on the ro'd to the German Ocean. The lan' 's jist
miltin' awa' intill the sea!"
Janet sat silent, knitting hard at a stocking she had got hold of,
that Jean had begun for her brother. She knew argument concerning
the uses of adversity was vain with a man who knew of no life but
that which consisted in eating and drinking, sleeping and rising,
working and getting on in the world: as to such things existing only
that they may subserve a real life, he was almost as ignorant,
notwithstanding he was an elder of the church, as any heathen.
From being nearly in the centre of its own land, the farm-steading
of the Mains was at a considerable distance from any other; but
there were two or three cottages upon the land, and as the evening
drew on, another aged pair, who lived in one only a few hundred
yards from the house, made their appearance, and were soon followed
by the wife of the foreman with her children, who lived farther off.
Quickly the night closed in, and Gibbie was not come. Robert was
growing very uneasy; Janet kept comforting and reassuring him.
"There's ae thing," said the old man: "Oscar's wi' 'im."
"Ay," responded Janet, unwilling, in the hearing of others, to say a
word that might seem to savour of rebuke to her husband, yet pained
that he should go to the dog for comfort -- "Ay; he's a well-made
animal, Oscar! There's been a fowth o' sheep-care pitten intil 'im.
Ye see him 'at made 'im, bein' a shepherd himsel', kens what's
wantit o' the dog." -- None but her husband understood what lay behind
"Oscar's no wi' im," said Donal. "The dog cam to me i' the byre,
lang efter Gibbie was awa', greitin' like, an' luikin' for 'im."
Robert gave a great sigh, but said nothing.
Janet did not sleep a wink that night: she had so many to pray for.
Not Gibbie only, but every one of her family was in perils of
waters, all being employed along the valley of the Daur. It was not,
she said, confessing to her husband her sleeplessness, that she was
afraid. She was only "keepin' them company, an' haudin' the yett
open," she said. The latter phrase was her picture-periphrase for
praying. She never said she prayed; she held the gate open. The
wonder is but small that Donal should have turned out a poet.
The dawn appeared -- but the farm had vanished. Not even heads of
growing corn were anywhere more to be seen. The loss would be
severe, and John Duff's heart sank within him. The sheep which had
been in the mown clover-field that sloped to the burn, were now all
in the corn-yard, and the water was there with them. If the rise
did not soon cease, every rick would be afloat. There was little
current, however, and not half the danger there would have been had
the houses stood a few hundred yards in any direction from where
"Tak yer brakfast, John," said his sister.
"Lat them tak 'at hungers," he answered.
"Tak, or ye'll no hae the wut to save," said Jean.
Thereupon he fell to, and ate, if not with appetite, then with a
will that was wondrous.
The flood still grew, and still the rain poured, and Gibbie did not
come. Indeed no one any longer expected him, whatever might have
become of him: except by boat the Mains was inaccessible now, they
thought. Soon after breakfast, notwithstanding, a strange woman
came to the door. Jean, who opened it to her knock, stood and
stared speechless. It was a greyhaired woman, with a more
disreputable look than her weather-flouted condition would account
"Gran' wither for the deuks!" she said.
"Whaur come ye frae?" returned Jean, who did not relish the freedom
of her address.
"Frae ower by," she answered.
"An' hoo wan ye here?"
"Upo' my twa legs."
Jean looked this way and that over the watery waste, and again
stared at the woman in growing bewilderment. -- They came afterwards
to the conclusion that she had arrived, probably half-drunk, the
night before, and passed it in one of the outhouses.
"Yer legs maun be langer nor they luik than, wuman," said Jean,
glancing at the lower part of the stranger's person.
The woman only laughed -- a laugh without any laughter in it.
"What's yer wull, noo 'at ye are here?" continued Jean with
severity. "Ye camna to the Mains to tell them there what kin' o'
wather it wis!"
"I cam whaur I cud win," answered the woman; "an' for my wull,
that's naething to naebody noo -- it's no as it was ance -- though, gien
I cud get it, there micht be mair nor me the better for't. An' sae
as ye wad gang the len'th o' a glaiss o' whusky -- "
"Ye s' get nae whusky here," interrupted Jean, with determination.
The woman gave a sigh, and half turned away as if she would depart.
But however she might have come, it was plainly impossible she
should depart and live.
"Wuman," said Jean, "ken an' I care naething aboot ye, an' mair, I
dinna like ye, nor the luik o' ye; and gien 't war a fine simmer
nicht 'at a body cud lie thereoot, or gang the farther, I wad steek
the door i' yer face; but that I daurna dee the day again' my
neebour's soo; sae ye can come in an' sit doon' an', my min' spoken,
ye s' get what'll haud the life i' ye, an' a puckle strae i' the
barn. Only ye maun jist hae a quaiet sough, for the gudeman disna
"Tramps here, tramps there!" exclaimed the woman, starting into high
displeasure; "I wad hae ye ken I'm an honest wuman, an' no tramp!"
"Ye sudna luik sae like ane than," said Jean coolly. "But come yer
wa's in, an' I s' say naething sae lang as ye behave."
The woman followed her, took the seat pointed out to her by the
fire, and sullenly ate, without a word of thanks, the cakes and milk
handed her, but seemed to grow better tempered as she ate, though
her black eyes glowed at the food with something of disgust and more
of contempt: she would rather have had a gill of whisky than all the
milk on the Mains. On the other side of the fire sat Janet,
knitting away busily, with a look of ease and leisure. She said
nothing, but now and then cast a kindly glance out of her grey eyes
at the woman: there was an air of the lost sheep about the stranger,
which, in whomsoever she might see it, always drew her affection.
"She maun be ane o' them the Maister cam' to ca'," she said to
herself. But she was careful to suggest no approach, for she knew
the sheep that has left the flock has grown wild, and is more
suspicious and easily startled than one in the midst of its
With the first of the light, some of the men on the farm had set out
to look for Gibbie, well knowing it would be a hard matter to touch
Glashgar. About nine they returned, having found it impossible.
One of them, caught in a current and swept into a hole, had barely
escaped with his life. But they were unanimous that the dummie was
better off in any cave on Glashgar than he would be in the best
bed-room at the Mains, if things went on as they threatened.
Robert had kept on going to the barn, and back again to the kitchen,
all the morning, consumed with anxiety about the son of his old age;
but the barn began to be flooded, and he had to limit his
prayer-walk to the space between the door of the house and the chair
where Janet sat -- knitting busily, and praying with countenance
untroubled, amidst the rush of the seaward torrents, the mad howling
and screeching of the wind, and the lowing of the imprisoned cattle.
"O Lord," she said in her great trusting heart, "gien my bonny man
be droonin' i' the watter, or deein' o' cauld on the hill-side, haud
's han'. Binna far frae him, O Lord; dinna lat him be fleyt."
To Janet, what we call life and death were comparatively small
matters, but she was very tender over suffering and fear. She did
not pray half so much for Gibbie's life as for the presence with him
of him who is at the deathbed of every sparrow. She went on
waiting, and refused to be troubled. True, she was not his bodily
mother, but she loved him far better than the mother who, in such a
dread for her child, would have been mad with terror. The
difference was, that Janet loved up as well as down, loved down so
widely, so intensely, because the Lord of life, who gives his own to
us, was more to her than any child can be to any mother, and she
knew he could not forsake her Gibbie, and that his presence was more
and better than life. She was unnatural, was she? -- inhuman? -- Yes,
if there be no such heart and source of humanity as she believed in;
if there be, then such calmness and courage and content as hers are
the mere human and natural condition to be hungered after by every
aspiring soul. Not until such condition is mine shall I be able to
regard life as a godlike gift, except in the hope that it is drawing
nigh. Let him who understands, understand better; let him not say
the good is less than perfect, or excuse his supineness and
spiritual sloth by saying to himself that a man can go too far in
his search after the divine, can sell too much of what he has to buy
the field of the treasure. Either there is no Christ of God, or my
all is his.
Robert seemed at length to have ceased his caged wandering. For a
quarter of an hour he had been sitting with his face buried in his
hands. Janet rose, went softly to him, and said in a whisper:
"Is Gibbie waur aff, Robert, i' this watter upo' Glashgar, nor the
dissiples i' the boat upo' yon loch o' Galilee, an' the Maister no
come to them? Robert, my ain man! dinna gar the Maister say to you,
O ye o' little faith! Wharfor did ye doobt? Tak hert, man; the
Maister wadna hae his men be cooards."
"Ye're richt, Janet; ye're aye richt," answered Robert, and rose.
She followed him into the passage.
"Whaur are ye gauin', Robert?" she said.
"I wuss I cud tell ye," he answered. "I'm jist hungerin' to be my
lane. I wuss I had never left Glashgar. There's aye room there.
Or gien I cud win oot amo' the rigs! There's nane o' them left,
but there's the rucks -- they're no soomin' yet! I want to gang to
the Lord, but I maunna weet Willie Mackay's claes."
"It's a sair peety," said Janet, "'at the men fowk disna learn to
weyve stockin's, or dee something or ither wi' their han's. Mony's
the time my stockin' 's been maist as guid's a cloaset to me, though
I cudna jist gang intil't. But what maitters 't! A prayer i' the
hert 's sure to fin' the ro'd oot. The hert's the last place 'at
can haud ane in. A prayin' hert has nae reef (roof) till't."
She turned and left him. Comforted by her words, he followed her
back into the kitchen, and sat down beside her.
"Gibbie 'ill be here mayhap whan least ye luik for him," said Janet.
Neither of them caught the wild eager gleam that lighted the face of
the strange woman at those last words of Janet. She looked up at
her with the sharpest of glances, but the same instant compelled her
countenance to resume its former expression of fierce indifference,
and under that became watchful of everything said and done.
Still the rain fell and the wind blew; the torrents came tearing
down from the hills, and shot madly into the rivers; the rivers ran
into the valleys, and deepened the lakes that filled them. On every
side of the Mains, from the foot of Glashgar to Gormdhu, all was one
yellow and red sea, with roaring currents and vortices numberless.
It burrowed holes, it opened long-deserted channels and
water-courses; here it deposited inches of rich mould, there yards
of sand and gravel; here it was carrying away fertile ground,
leaving behind only bare rock or shingle where the corn had been
waving; there it was scooping out the bed of a new lake. Many a
thick soft lawn, of loveliest grass, dotted with fragrant shrubs and
rare trees, vanished, and nothing was there when the waters subsided
but a stony waste, or a gravelly precipice. Woods and copses were
undermined, and trees and soil together swept into the wash:
sometimes the very place was hardly there to say it knew its
children no more. Houses were torn to pieces, and their contents,
as from broken boxes, sent wandering on the brown waste, through the
grey air, to the discoloured sea, whose saltness for a long way out
had vanished with its hue. Haymows were buried to the very top in
sand; others went sailing bodily down the mighty stream -- some of
them followed or surrounded, like big ducks, by a great brood of
ricks for their ducklings. Huge trees went past as if shot down an
Alpine slide, cottages, and bridges of stone, giving way before
them. Wooden mills, thatched roofs, great mill-wheels, went dipping
and swaying and hobbling down. From the upper windows of the Mains,
looking towards the chief current, they saw a drift of everything
belonging to farms and dwelling-houses that would float. Chairs and
tables, chests, carts, saddles, chests of drawers, tubs of linen,
beds and blankets, workbenches, harrows, girnels, planes, cheeses,
churns, spinning-wheels, cradles, iron pots, wheel-barrows -- all
these and many other things hurried past as they gazed. Everybody
was looking, and for a time all had been silent.
"Lord save us!" cried Mr. Duff, with a great start, and ran for his
A four-post bed came rocking down the river, now shooting straight
for a short distance, now slowly wheeling, now shivering, struck by
some swifter thing, now whirling giddily round in some vortex. The
soaked curtains were flacking and flying in the great
wind -- and -- yes, the telescope revealed it! -- there was a figure in
it! dead or alive the farmer could not tell, but it lay still! -- A
cry burst from them all; but on swept the strange boat, bound for
the world beyond the flood, and none could stay its course.
The water was now in the stable and cow-houses and barn. A few
minutes more and it would be creeping into the kitchen. The Daur
and its tributary the Lorrie were about to merge their last
difference on the floor of Jean's parlour. Worst of all, a rapid
current had set in across the farther end of the stable, which no
one had as yet observed.
Jean bustled about her work as usual, nor, although it was so much
augmented, would accept help from any of her guests until it came to
preparing dinner, when she allowed Janet and the foreman's wife to
lend her a hand. "The tramp-wife" she would not permit to touch
plate or spoon, knife or potato. The woman rose in anger at her
exclusion, and leaving the house waded to the barn. There she went
up the ladder to the loft where she had slept, and threw herself on
As there was no doing any work, Donal was out with two of the men,
wading here and there where the water was not too deep, enjoying the
wonder of the strange looks and curious conjunctions of things.
None of them felt much of dismay at the havoc around them: beyond
their chests with their Sunday clothes and at most two clean shirts,
neither of the men had anything to lose worth mentioning; and for
Donal, he would gladly have given even his books for such a ploy.
"There's ae thing, mither," he said, entering the kitchen, covered
with mud, a rabbit in one hand and a large salmon in the other,
"we're no like to sterve, wi' sawmon i' the hedges, an' mappies i'
His master questioned him with no little incredulity. It was easy
to believe in salmon anywhere, but rabbits in trees!
"I catched it i' the brainches o' a lairick (larch)," Donal
answered, "easy eneuch, for it cudna rin far, an' was mair fleyt at
the watter nor at me; but for the sawmon, haith I was ower an' ower
wi' hit i' the watter, efter I gruppit it, er' I cud ca' 't my ain."
Before the flood subsided, not a few rabbits were caught in trees,
mostly spruce-firs and larches. For salmon, they were taken
everywhere -- among grass, corn, and potatoes, in bushes, and hedges,
and cottages. One was caught on a lawn with an umbrella; one was
reported to have been found in a press-bed; another, coiled round in
a pot hanging from the crook -- ready to be boiled, only that he was
alive and undressed.
Donal was still being cross-questioned by his master when the
strange woman re-entered. Lying upon her straw, she had seen,
through the fanlight over the stable door, the swiftness of the
current there passing, and understood the danger.
"I doobt," she said, addressing no one in particular, "the ga'le o'
the stable winna stan' abune anither half-hoor."
"It maun fa' than," said the farmer, taking a pinch of snuff in
hopeless serenity, and turning away.
"Hoots!" said the woman, "dinna speyk that gait, sir. It's no
wice-like. Tak a dram, an' tak hert, an' dinna fling the calf efter
the coo. Whaur's yer boatle, sir?"
John paid no heed to her suggestion, but Jean took it up.
"The boatle's whaur ye s' no lay han' upo' 't," she said.
"Weel, gien ye hae nae mercy upo' yer whusky, ye sud hae some upo'
yer horse-beasts, ony gait," said the woman indignantly.
"What mean ye by that?" returned Jean, with hard voice, and eye of
"Ye might at the leest gie the puir things a chance," the woman
"Hoo wad ye dee that?" said Jean. "Gien ye lowsed them they wad but
tak to the watter wi' fear, an' droon the seener."
"Na, na, Jean," interposed the farmer, "they wad tak care o'
themsel's to the last, an' aye haud to the dryest, jist as ye wad
"Allooin'," said the stranger, replying to Jean, yet speaking rather
as if to herself, while she thought about something else, "I wad
raither droon soomin' nor tied by the heid. -- But what's the guid o'
doctrine whaur there's onything to be dune? -- Ye hae whaur to put
them. -- What kin' 's the fleers (floors) up the stair, sir?" she
asked abruptly, turning full on her host, with a flash in her
deep-set black eyes.
"Ow, guid dale fleers -- what ither?" answered the farmer. " -- It's the
wa's, wuman, no the fleers we hae to be concernt aboot i' this
"Gien the j'ists be strang, an' weel set intil the wa's, what for
sudna ye tak the horse up the stair intil yer bedrooms? It'll be a'
to the guid o' the wa's, for the weicht o' the beasts 'll be upo'
them to haud them doon, an' the haill hoose again' the watter. An'
gien I was you, I wad pit the best o' the kye an' the nowt intil the
parlour an' the kitchen here. I'm thinkin' we'll lowse them a'
else; for the byre wa's 'ill gang afore the hoose."
Mr. Duff broke into a strange laughter.
"Wad ye no tak up the carpets first, wuman?" he said.
"I wad," she answered; "that gangs ohn speirt -- gien there was time;
but I tell ye there's nane; an' ye'll buy twa or three carpets for
the price o' ae horse."
"Haith! the wuman's i' the richt," he cried, suddenly waking up to
the sense of the proposal, and shot from the house.
All the women, Jean making no exception to any help now, rushed to
carry the beds and blankets to the garret.
Just as Mr. Duff entered the stable from the nearer end, the
opposite gable fell out with a great splash, letting in the wide
level vision of turbidly raging waters, fading into the obscurity of
the wind-driven rain. While he stared aghast, a great tree struck
the wall like a battering-ram, so that the stable shook. The
horses, which had been for some time moving uneasily, were now quite
scared. There was not a moment to be lost. Duff shouted for his
men; one or two came running; and in less than a minute more those
in the house heard the iron-shod feet splashing and stamping through
the water, as, one after another, the horses were brought across the
yard to the door of the house. Mr. Duff led by the halter his
favourite Snowball, who was a good deal excited, plunging and
rearing so that it was all he could do to hold him. He had ordered
the men to take the others first, thinking he would follow more
quietly. But the moment Snowball heard the first thundering of
hoofs on the stair, he went out of his senses with terror, broke
from his master, and went plunging back to the stable. Duff darted
after him, but was only in time to see him rush from the further end
into the swift current, where he was at once out of his depth, and
was instantly caught and hurried, rolling over and over, from his
master's sight. He ran back into the house, and up to the highest
window. From that he caught sight of him a long way down, swimming.
Once or twice he saw him turned heels over head -- only to get his
neck up again presently, and swim as well as before. But alas! it
was in the direction of the Daur, which would soon, his master did
not doubt, sweep his carcase into the North Sea. With troubled heart
he strained his sight after him as long as he could distinguish his
lessening head, but it got amongst some wreck, and unable to tell
any more whether he saw it or not, he returned to his men with his
eyes full of tears.
As soon as Gibbie had found a stall for Crummie, and thrown a great
dinner before her, he turned and sped back the way he had come:
there was no time to lose if he would have the bridge to cross the
Lorrie by; and his was indeed the last foot that ever touched it.
Guiding himself by well-known points yet salient, for he knew the
country perhaps better than any man born and bred in it, he made
straight for Glashgar, itself hid in the rain. Now wading, now
swimming, now walking along the top of a wall, now caught and
baffled in a hedge, Gibbie held stoutly on. Again and again he got
into a current, and was swept from his direction, but he soon made
his lee way good, and at length clear of the level water, and with
only the torrents to mind, seated himself on a stone under a rock a
little way up the mountain. There he drew from his pocket the
putty-like mass to which the water had reduced the cakes with which
it was filled, and ate it gladly, eyeing from his shelter the
slanting lines of the rain, and the rushing sea from which he had
just emerged. So lost was the land beneath the water, that he had
to think to be certain under which of the roofs, looking like so
many foundered Noah's arks, he had left his father and mother. Ah!
yonder were cattle! -- a score of heads, listlessly drifting down, all
the swim out of them, their long horns, like bits of dry branches,
knocking together! There was a pig, and there another! And, alas!
yonder floated half a dozen helpless sponges of sheep!
At sight of these last he started to his feet, and set off up the
hill. It was not so hard a struggle as to cross the water, but he
had still to get to the other side of several torrents far more
dangerous than any current he had been in. Again and again he had
to ascend a long distance before he found a possible place to cross
at; but he reached the fold at last.
It was in a little valley opening on that where lay the tarn.
Swollen to a lake, the waters of it were now at the very gate of
the pen. For a moment he regretted he had not brought Oscar, but
the next he saw that not much could with any help have been done for
the sheep, beyond what they could, if at liberty, do for themselves.
Left where they were they would probably be drowned; if not they
would be starved; but if he let them go, they would keep out of the
water, and find for themselves what food and shelter were to be had.
He opened the gate, drove them out, and a little way up the hill
and left them.
By this time it was about two o'clock, and Gibbie was very hungry.
He had had enough of the water for one day, however, and was not
inclined to return to the Mains. Where could he get something to
eat? If the cottage were still standing -- and it might be -- he would
find plenty there. He turned towards it. Great was his pleasure
when, after another long struggle, he perceived that not only was
the cottage there, but the torrent gone: either the flow from the
mountain had ceased, or the course of the water had been diverted.
When he reached the Glashburn, which lay between him and the
cottage, he saw that the torrent had found its way into it, probably
along with others of the same brood, for it was frightfully swollen,
and went shooting down to Glashruach like one long cataract. He had
to go a great way up before he could cross it.
When at length he reached home, he discovered that the overshooting
stream must have turned aside very soon after they left, for the
place was not much worse than then. He swept out the water that lay
on the floor, took the dryest peats he could find, succeeded with
the tinder-box and sulphur-match at the first attempt, lighted a
large fire, and made himself some water-brose -- which is not only the
most easily cooked of dishes, but is as good as any for a youth of
capacity for strong food.
His hunger appeased, he sat resting in Robert's chair, gradually
drying; and falling asleep, slept for an hour or so. When he woke,
he took his New Testament from the crap o' the wa', and began to
Of late he had made a few attempts upon one and another of the
Epistles, but, not understanding what he read, had not found profit,
and was on the point of turning finally from them for the present,
when his eye falling on some of the words of St. John, his attention
was at once caught, and he had soon satisfied himself, to his wonder
and gladness, that his First Epistle was no sealed book any more
than his Gospel. To the third chapter of that Epistle he now
turned, and read until he came to these words: "Hereby perceive we
the love of God, because he laid down his life for us, and we ought
to lay down our lives for the brethren."
"What learned him that?" said Gibbie to himself; Janet had taught
him to search the teaching of the apostles for what the Master had
taught them. He thought and thought, and at last remembered "This
is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you."
"And here am I," said Gibbie to himself, "sittin' here in idleseat,
wi' my fire, an' my brose, an' my Bible, and a' the warl' aneath
Glashgar lyin' in a speat (flood)! I canna lay doon my life to save
their sowls; I maun save for them what I can -- it may be but a hen or
a calf. I maun dee the warks o' him 'at sent me -- he's aye savin' at
The Bible was back in its place, and Gibbie out of the door the same
moment. He had not an idea what he was going to do. All he yet
understood was, that he must go down the hill, to be where things
might have to be done -- and that before the darkness fell. He must
go where there were people. As he went his heart was full of joy,
as if he had already achieved some deliverance. Down the hill he
went singing and dancing. If mere battle with storm was a delight
to the boy, what would not a mortal tussle with the elements for the
love of men be? The thought itself was a heavenly felicity, and
made him "happy as a lover."
His first definitely directive thought was, that his nearest
neighbours were likely enough to be in trouble -- "the fowk at the
muckle hoose." He would go thither straight.
Glashruach, as I have already said, stood on one of the roots of
Glashgar, where the mountain settles down into the valley of the
Daur. Immediately outside its principal gate ran the Glashburn; on
the other side of the house, within the grounds, ran a smaller
hill-stream, already mentioned as passing close under Ginevra's
window. Both these fell into the Lorrie. Between them the mountain
sloped gently up for some little distance, clothed with forest. On
the side of the smaller burn, however, the side opposite the house,
the ground rose abruptly. There also grew firs, but the soil was
shallow, with rock immediately below, and they had not come to much.
Straight from the mountain, between the two streams, Gibbie
approached the house, through larches and pines, raving and roaring
in the wind. As he drew nearer, and saw how high the house stood
above the valley and its waters, he began to think he had been
foolish in coming there to find work; but when he reached a certain
point whence the approach from the gate was visible, he started,
stopped and stared. He rubbed his eyes. No; he was not asleep and
dreaming by the cottage fire; the wind was about him, and the firs
were howling and hissing; there was the cloudy mountain, with the
Glashburn, fifty times its usual size, darting like brown lightning
from it; but where was the iron gate with its two stone pillars,
crested with wolf's-heads? where was the bridge? where was the wall,
and the gravelled road to the house? Had he mistaken his bearings?
was he looking in a wrong direction? Below him was a wide, swift,
fiercely rushing river, where water was none before! No; he made no
mistake: there was the rest of the road, the end of it next the
house! That was a great piece of it that fell frothing into the
river and vanished! Bridge and gate and wall were gone utterly.
The burn had swallowed them, and now, foaming with madness, was
roaring along, a great way within the grounds, and rapidly drawing
nearer to the house, tearing to pieces and devouring all that
defended it. There! what a mouthful of the shrubbery it gobbled up!
Slowly, graciously, the tall trees bowed their heads and sank into
the torrent, but the moment they touched it, shot away like arrows.
Would the foundations of the house outstand it? Were they as
strong as the walls of Babylon, yet if the water undermined them,
down they must! Did the laird know that the enemy was within his
gates? Not with all he had that day seen and gone through, had
Gibbie until now gathered any notion of the force of rushing water.
Rousing himself from his bewildered amazement, he darted down the
hill. If the other burn was behaving in like fashion, then indeed
the fate of the house was sealed. But no; huge and wild as that was
also, it was not able to tear down its banks of rock. From that
side the house did not seem in danger.
Mr. Galbraith had gone again, leaving Ginevra to the care of
Mistress Mac Farlane, with a strict order to both, and full
authority to the latter to enforce it, that she should not set foot
across the threshold on any pretext, or on the smallest expedition,
without the housekeeper's attendance. He must take Joseph with him,
he said, as he was going to the Duke's, but she could send for Angus
upon any emergency.
The laird had of late been so little at home, that the establishment
had been much reduced; Mistress Mac Farlane did most of the cooking
herself; had quarrelled with the housemaid and not yet got another;
and, Nicie dismissed, and the kitchen maid gone to visit her mother,
was left alone in the house with her Mistress, if such we can call
her who was really her prisoner. At this moment, however, she was
not alone, for on the other side of the fire sat Angus, not thither
attracted by any friendship for the housekeeper, but by the glass of
whisky of which he sipped as he talked. Many a flood had Angus
seen, and some that had done frightful damage, but never one that
had caused him anxiety; and although this was worse than any of the
rest, he had not yet a notion how bad it really was. For, as there
was nothing to be done out of doors, and he was not fond of being
idle, he had been busy all the morning in the woodhouse, sawing and
splitting for the winter-store, and working the better that he knew
what honorarium awaited his appearance in the kitchen. In the
woodhouse he only heard the wind and the rain and the roar, he saw
nothing of the flood; when he entered the kitchen, it was by the
back door, and he sat there without the smallest suspicion of what
was going on in front.
Ginevra had had no companion since Nicie left her, and her days had
been very dreary, but this day had been the dreariest in her life.
Mistress Mac Farlane made herself so disagreeable that she kept
away from her as much as she could, spending most of her time in her
own room, with her needlework and some books of poetry she had found
in the library. But the poetry had turned out very dull -- not at all
like what Donal read, and throwing one of them aside for the tenth
time that day, she wandered listlessly to the window, and stood
there gazing out on the wild confusion -- the burn roaring below, the
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