AND OTHER STORIES
By Ian Maclaren
IN REMEMBRANCE OF THE DAYS OF LONG AGO AND THE FRIENDS WHO ARE FAR
THE MINISTER OF ST. BEDE'S
AN IMPOSSIBLE MAN
RIGHTEOUS OVER MUCH
A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
THE RIGHT HAND OF SAMUEL DODSON
SAVED BY FAITH
THE LAST SACRIFICE
THE COLLECTOR'S INCONSISTENCY
THE PASSING OF DOMSIE
DR. DAVIDSON'S LAST CHRISTMAS
He received the telegram in a garden where he was gazing on a vision of
blue, set in the fronds of a palm, and listening to the song of the
fishers, as it floated across the bay.
"You look so utterly satisfied," said his hostess, in the high, clear
voice of Englishwomen, "that, I know you are tasting the luxury of a
contrast. The Riviera is charming in December; imagine London, and Cannes,
As he smiled assent in the grateful laziness of a hard-worked man, his
mind was stung with the remembrance of a young wife swathed in the dreary
fog, who, above all things, loved the open air and the shining of the sun.
Her plea was that Bertie would weary alone, and that she hated travelling,
but it came to him quite suddenly that this was always the programme of
their holidays—some Mediterranean villa, full of clever people, for
him, and the awful dulness of that Bloomsbury street for her; or he went
North to a shooting-lodge, where he told his best stories in the
smoking-room, after a long day on the purple heather; and she did her best
for Bertie at some watering-place, much frequented on account of its
railway facilities and economical lodgings. Letters of invitation had
generally a polite reference to his wife—"If Mrs. Trevor can
accompany you I shall be still more delighted"—but it was understood
that she would not accept "We have quite a grudge against Mrs. Trevor,
because she will never come with her husband; there is some beautiful
child who monopolises her," his hostess would explain on his arrival; and
Trevor allowed it to be understood that his wife was quite devoted to
Bertie, and would be miserable without him.
When he left the room, it was explained: "Mrs. Trevor is a hopelessly
quiet person, what is called a 'good wife,' you know."
"The only time she dined with us, Tottie Fribbyl—he was a
Theosophist then, it's two years ago—was too amusing for words, and
told us what incarnation he was going through.
"Mrs. Trevor, I believe, had never heard of Theosophy, and looked quite
horrified at the idea of poor Tottie's incarnation.
"'Isn't it profane to use such words?' she said to me. So I changed to
skirt dancing, and would you believe me, she had never seen it?
"What can you do with a woman like that? Nothing remains but religion and
the nursery. Why do clever men marry those impossible women?"
Trevor was gradually given to understand, as by an atmosphere, that he was
a brilliant man wedded to a dull wife, and there were hours—his
worst hours—when he agreed.
Cara mia, cara mia, sang the sailors; and his wife's face in its
perfect refinement and sweet beauty suddenly replaced the Mediterranean.
Had he belittled his wife, with her wealth of sacrifice and delicate
nature, beside women in spectacles who wrote on the bondage of marriage,
and leaders of fashion who could talk of everything from horse-racing to
He had only glanced at her last letter; now he read it carefully:—
"The flowers were lovely, and it was so mindful of you to send them, just
like my husband. Bertie and I amused ourselves arranging and rearranging
them in glasses, till we had made our tea-table lovely. But I was just one
little bit disappointed not to get a letter—you see how exacting I
am, sir. I waited for every post, and Bertie said, 'Has father's letter
come yet?' When one is on holiday, writing letters is an awful bore; but
please just a line to Bertie and me. We have a map of the Riviera, and
found out all the places you have visited in the yacht; and we tried to
imagine you sailing on that azure sea, and landing among those silver
olives. I am so grateful to every one for being kind to you, and I hope
you will enjoy yourself to the full. Bertie is a little stronger, I'm
sure; his cheeks were quite rosy to-day for him. It was his birthday on
Wednesday, and I gave him a little treat The sun was shining brightly in
the forenoon, and we had a walk in the Gardens, and made believe that it
was Italy! Then we went to Oxford Street, and Bertie chose a regiment of
soldiers for his birthday present He wished some guns so much that I
allowed him to have them as a present from you. They only cost
one-and-sixpence, and I thought you would like him to have something. Jane
and he had a splendid game of hide-and-seek in the evening, and my couch
was the den, so you see we have our own gaiety in Bloomsbury.
"Don't look sulky at this long scribble and say, 'What nonsense women
write!' for it is almost the same as speaking to you, and I shall imagine
the letter all the way till you open it in the sunshine.
"So smile and kiss my name, for this comes with my heart's love from
"Your devoted wife,
"P.S.—Don't be alarmed because I have to rest; the doctor does not
think that there is any danger, and I'll take great care."
"A telegram." It was the shattering of a dream. "How wicked of some horrid
person. Business ought not to be allowed to enter Paradise. Let's hope
it's pleasure; perhaps some one has won a lot of money at Monte Carlo, and
wishes us to celebrate the affair.
"Whom is it for? Oh! Mr. Edward Trevor; then it's a brief by telegraph, I
suppose. Some millionaire's will case, and the Attorney-General can't
manage it alone. What a man he is, to have briefs in holiday time.
"There it is, but remember, before you open it, that you are bound to
remain here over Christmas at any rate, and help us with our theatricals.
My husband declares that a successful barrister must be a born actor."...
An hour later Trevor was in the Paris express, and for thirty hours he
prayed one petition, that she might live till he arrived. He used to have
a berth in the Wagon Lit as a matter of course, and had begun to complain
about the champagne in the dining-car, but the thought of comfort made him
wince on this journey, and he twice changed his carriage, once when an
English party would not cease from badinage that mocked his ears, and
again because a woman had brown eyes with her expression of dog-like
faithfulness. The darkness of the night after that sunlit garden, and the
monotonous roar of the train, and the face of smiling France covered with
snow, and the yeasty waters of the Channel, and the moaning of the wind,
filled his heart with dread.
Will that procession of luggage at Dover never come to an end? A French
seaman—a fellow with earrings and a merry face—appears and
reappears with maddening regularity, each time with a larger trunk. One
had X. Y. on it in big white letters. Why not Z. also? Who could have such
a name? That is a lady's box, black and brown, plastered with hotel
labels. Some bride, perhaps... they are carrying the luggage over his
heart. Have they no mercy?
The last piece is in, and the sailors make a merry group at the top of the
gangway. They look like Bretons, and that fellow is laughing again—some
story about a little child; he can just hear Ma petite....
"Guard, is this train never to start? We're half-an-hour late already."
"Italian mail very heavy, sir; still bringing up bags; so many people at
Riviera in winter, writing home to their friends."...
How cruel every one is! He had not written for ten days. Something always
happened, an engagement of pleasure. There was a half-finished letter; he
had left it to join a Monte Carlo party.
"Writing letters—home, of course, to that idolised wife. It's
beautiful, and you are an example to us all; but Mrs. Trevor will excuse
descriptions of scenery; she knows you are enjoying yourself."
Had she been expecting that letter from post to post, calculating the hour
of each delivery, identifying the postman's feet in that quiet street,
holding her breath when he rang, stretching her hand for a letter, to let
it drop unopened, and bury her face in the pillow? Had she died waiting
for a letter that never came? Those letters that he wrote from the
Northern Circuit in that first sweet year, a letter a day, and one day two—it
had given him a day's advantage over her. Careful letters, too, though
written between cases, with bits of description and amusing scenes.
Some little sameness towards the end, but she never complained of that,
and even said those words were the best And that trick he played—the
thought of the postman must have brought it up—how pleasant it was,
and what a success! He would be his own letter one day, and take her by
surprise. "A letter, ma'am," the girl said—quite a homely girl, who
shared their little joys and anxieties—and then he showed his face
with apologies for intrusion. The flush of love in her face, will it be
like that to-night, or... What can be keeping the train now? Is this a
conspiracy to torment a miserable man?
He thrusts his head out of the window in despair, and sees the guard
trying to find a compartment for a family that had mistaken their train.
The husband is explaining, with English garrulity, all the station
hearing, what an inconvenience it would have been had they gone in the
Holbom Viaduct carriages.
"Half an hour's longer drive, you know, and it's very important we should
get home in time; we are expected...."
For what? Dinner, most likely. What did it matter when they got home,
to-day or next year? Yet he used to be angry if he were made late for
dinner. They come into his compartment, and explain the situation at great
length, while he pretends to listen.
A husband and wife returning from a month in Italy, full of their
experiences: the Corniche Road, the palaces of Genoa, the pictures in the
Pitti, St Peter's at Rome. Her first visit to the Continent, evidently; it
reminded them of a certain tour round the Lakes in '80, and she withdrew
her hand from her husband's as the train came out from the tunnel. They
were not smart people—very pronounced middle-class—but they
were lovers, after fifteen years.
They forgot him, who was staring on the bleak landscape with white,
"How kind to take me this trip. I know how much you denied yourself, but
it has made me young again," and she said "Edward." Were all these
coincidences arranged? had his purgatorio begun already?
"Have you seen the Globe, sir? Bosworth, M.P. for Pedlington, has
been made a judge, and there's to be a keen contest.
"Trevor, I see, is named as the Tory candidate—a clever fellow, I've
heard. Do you know about him? he's got on quicker than any man of his
"Some say that it's his manner; he's such a good sort, the juries cannot
resist him, a man told me—a kind heart goes for something even in a
lawyer. Would you like to look....
"Very sorry; would you take a drop of brandy? No? The passage was a little
rough, and you don't look quite up to the mark."
Then they left him in peace, and he drank his cup to the dregs.
It was for Pedlington he had been working and saving, for a seat meant
society and the bench, perhaps.... What did it matter now?
She was to come and sit within the cage when he made his first speech, and
hear all the remarks.
"Of course it will be a success, for you do everything well, and your
wifie will be the proudest woman in London.
"Sir Edward Trevor, M.P. I know it's foolish, but it's the foolishness of
love, dear, so don't look cross; you are everything to me, and no one
loves you as I do."
What are they slowing for now? There's no station. Did ever train drag
like this one?
Off again, thank God... if she only were conscious, and he could ask her
to forgive his selfishness.
At last, and the train glides into Victoria. No, he had nothing to
declare; would they let him go, or they might keep his luggage altogether.
Some vision was ever coming up, and now he saw her kneeling on the floor
and packing that portmanteau, the droop of her figure, her thin white
He was so busy that she did these offices for him—tried to buckle
the straps even; but he insisted on doing that It gave him half an hour
longer at the Club. What a brute he had been....
"Do anything you like with my things. 'I'll come to-morrow... as fast as
you can drive."
Huddled in a corner of the hansom so that you might have thought he slept,
this man was calculating every foot of the way, gloating over a long
stretch of open, glistening asphalt, hating unto murder the immovable
drivers whose huge vans blocked his passage. If they had known, there was
no living man but would have made room for him... but he had not known
himself.... Only one word to tell her he knew now.
As the hansom turned into the street he bent forward, straining his eyes
to catch the first glimpse of home. Had it been day-time the blinds would
have told their tale; now it was the light he watched.
Dark on the upper floors; no sick light burning... have mercy... then the
blood came back to his heart with a rush. How could he have forgotten?
Their room was at the back for quietness, and it might still be well. Some
one had been watching, for the door was instantly opened, but he could not
see the servant's face.
A doctor came forward and beckoned him to go into the study....
It seemed as if his whole nature had been smitten with insensibility, for
he knew everything without words, and yet he heard the driver demanding
his fare, and noticed that the doctor had been reading the evening paper
while he waited; he saw the paragraph about that seat What work those
doctors have to do....
"It was an hour ago... we were amazed that she lived so long; with any
other woman it would have been this morning; but she was determined to
live till you came home.
"It was not exactly will-power, for she was the gentlest patient I ever
had; it was"—the doctor hesitated—a peremptory Scotchman
hiding a heart of fire beneath a coating of ice—"it was simply
When the doctor had folded up the evening paper, and laid it on a side
table, which took some time, he sat down opposite that fixed, haggard
face, which had not yet been softened by a tear.
"Yes, I'll tell you everything if you desire me; perhaps it will relieve
your mind; and Mrs. Trevor said you would wish to know, and I must be here
to receive you. Her patience and thoughtfulness were marvellous.
"I attend many very clever and charming women, but I tell you, Mr. Trevor,
not one has so impressed me as your wife. Her self-forgetfulness passed
words; she thought of every one except herself; why, one of the last
things she did was to give directions about your room; she was afraid you
might feel the change from the Riviera. But that is by the way, and these
things are not my business.
"From the beginning I was alarmed, and urged that you should be sent for;
but she pledged me not to write; you needed your holiday, she said, and it
must not be darkened with anxiety.
"She spoke every day about your devotion and unselfishness; how you wished
her to go with you, but she had to stay with the boy....
"The turn for the worse? it was yesterday morning, and I had Sir Reginald
at once. We agreed that recovery was hopeless, and I telegraphed to you
"We also consulted whether she ought to be told, and Sir Reginald said,
'Certainly; that woman has no fear, for she never thinks of herself, and
she will want to leave messages.'
"'If we can only keep her alive till to-morrow afternoon,' he said, and
you will like to remember that everything known to the best man in London
was done. Sir Reginald came back himself unasked to-day, because he
remembered a restorative that might sustain the failing strength. She
thanked him so sweetly that he was quite shaken; the fact is, that both of
us would soon have played the fool. But I ought not to trouble you with
these trifles at this time, only as you wanted to know all....
"Yes, she understood what we thought before I spoke, and only asked when
you would arrive. 'I want to say "Good-bye," and then I will be ready,'
"'Tell you everything?' That is what I am trying to do, and I was here
nearly all day, for I had hoped we might manage to fulfil her wish.
"No, she did not speak much, for we enjoined silence and rest as the only
chance; but she had your photograph on her pillow, and some flowers you
"They were withered, and the nurse removed them when she was sleeping; but
she missed them, and we had to put them in her hands. 'My husband was so
"This is too much for you, I see; it is simply torture. Wait till
"Well, if you insist Expecting a letter... yes... let me recollect... No,
I am not hiding anything, but you must not let this get upon your mind.
"We would have deceived her, but she knew the hour of the Continental
mails, and could detect the postman's ring. Once a letter came, and she
insisted upon seeing it in case of any mistake. But it was only an
invitation for you, I think, to some country house.
"It can't be helped now, and you ought not to vex yourself; but I believe
a letter would have done more for her than... What am I saying now?
"As she grew weaker she counted the hours, and I left her at four full of
hope. 'Two hours more and he'll be here,' and by that time she had your
telegram in her hand.
"When I came back the change had come, and she said, 'It's not God's will;
"So she kissed him, and said something to him, but we did not listen.
After the nurse had carried him out—for he was weeping bitterly,
poor little chap—she whispered to me to get a sheet of paper and sit
down by her bedside.... I think it would be better... very well, I will
tell you all.
"I wrote what she dictated with her last breath, and I promised you would
receive it from her own hand, and so you will. She turned her face to the
door and lay quite still till about six, when I heard her say your name
very softly, and a minute afterwards she was gone, without pain or
She lay as she had died, waiting for his coming, and the smile with which
she had said his name was still on her face. It was the first time she did
not colour with joy at his coming, that her hand was cold to his touch. He
kissed her, but his heart was numbed, and he could not weep.
Then he took her letter and read it beside that silence.
"They tell me now that I shall not live to see you come in and to cast my
arms once more round your neck before we part Be kind to Bertie, and
remember that he is delicate and shy. He will miss me, and you will be
patient with him for my sake. Give him my watch, and do not let him forget
me. My locket with your likeness I would like left on my heart. You will
never know how much I have loved you, for I could never speak. You have
been very good to me, and I want you to know that I am grateful; but it is
better perhaps that I should die, for I might hinder you in your future
life. Forgive me because I came short of what your wife should have been.
None can ever love you better. You will take these poor words from a dead
hand, but I shall see you, and I shall never cease to love you, to follow
your life, to pray for you—my first, my only love."
The fountains within him were broken, and he flung himself down by the
bedside in an agony of repentance.
"Oh, if I had known before; but now it is too late, too late!"
For we sin against our dearest not because we do not love, but because we
do not imagine.
Maud Trevor was a genuine woman, and kept her accounts with the aid of six
purses. One was an ancient housewife of her grandmother's, which used to
be equipped with silk and thread and needles and buttons, and from a
secret place yielded to the third generation a bank note of value. This
capacious receptacle was evidently intended for the household exchequer,
whose transactions were innumerable, and whose monthly budget depended for
success on an unfailing supply of copper. Another had come from her
mother, and was of obsolete design—a bag closed at both extremities,
with a long narrow slit in the middle, and two rings which compressed the
gold into one end and the silver into the other. This was marked out by
Providence for charity, since it made no provision for pennies, and laid a
handicap of inconvenience on threepenny bits. It retained a subtle trace
of an old-fashioned scent her mother loved, and recalled her mother going
out on some errand of mercy—a St Clare in her sacrifices and
devotion. Purse three descended from her father, and was an incarnation of
business—made of chamois leather with a steel clasp that closed with
a click, having three compartments within, one of which had its own clasp
and was reserved for gold. In this bank Maud kept the funds of a clothing
society, whose more masterly bargains ran sometimes into farthings, and
she was always haunted with anxiety lest a new farthing and a
half-sovereign should some day change places. A pretty little purse with
ivory sides and silver hinges—a birthday gift of her girlhood—was
large enough to hold her dress allowance, which Trevor had fixed at a most
generous rate when he had barely four hundred a year, and had since
forgotten to increase. One in sealskin had been a gift of engagement days,
and held the savings of the year against birthday and Christmas presents—whose
contents were the subject of many calculations. A cast-off purse of
Trevor's had been devoted to Bertie, and from its resources came one way
or other all he needed; but it happened that number six was constantly
reinforced from the purse with the ivory sides.
Saturday afternoon was sacred to book-keeping, and Maud used her bed as a
table for this critical operation, partly because it was so much larger
than an escritoire, but chiefly because you could empty the purses into
little pools with steep protecting banks. Of course if one sat down
hurriedly there was great danger of amalgamation, with quite hopeless
consequences; and Trevor held over Maud's head the chance of his making
this mistake. It was his way, before he grew too busy, to watch till the
anxious face would suddenly brighten and a rapid change be made in the
pools—the household contributing something to presents and the dress
purse to Bertie, while private and public charity would accommodate each
other with change. Caresses were strictly forbidden in those times of
abstruse calculation, and the Evil One who stands at every man's elbow
once tempted Trevor to roll the counterpane into a bundle—purses,
money, and all—but Maud, when he confessed, said that no human being
would be allowed to fall into such wickedness.
Trevor was obliged to open her wardrobe, fourteen days after the funeral,
and the first thing he lighted upon was the purses. They lay in a row on
an old account-book—a motley set indeed—but so absurd and
tricky a spirit is pathos, they affected him more swiftly than the sight
of a portrait Was ever any one so faithful and conscientious, so
self-forgetful and kind, so capable also and clever in her own sphere?
Latterly he had sneered at the purses, and once, being vexed at something
in a letter, he had told Maud she ought to have done with that folly and
keep her accounts like an educated woman. "A girl of twelve would be
ashamed."... What a merciless power memory wields. She only drooped her
head,... it was on the sealskin purse the tear fell, and at once he saw
the bend of the Wye at Tintern where he had surprised her with the gift of
that purse. He was moved to kiss away that tear, but his heart hardened.
Why could she not be like the women he knew?... Well, he would not be
troubled any longer with her simple ways... he could do as he pleased now
with the purses.... A bitter madness of grief took possession of him, and
he arranged them on the bed.
One was empty, the present purse, and he understood... the dress purse, of
course, a little silver only... the rest had gone that he might have
something beautiful.... He knew that it must be done sooner or later, and
to-day was best, for his heart could be no sorer.... Yes, here they were,
the ungiven gifts. For every person, from himself to the nurse; all
wrapped in soft white paper and ready in good time.... She used to arrange
everything on Christmas Eve... this year he had intended to stay at
Cannes,... there would just have been Bertie and his mother, now... But he
must open it—an inkstand for his study in solid brass, with pens and
other things complete—he noted every detail as if to estimate its
value. It came back to him how she had cunningly questioned him about his
needs before he left for Cannes, till he grew impatient. "Don't bother me
about ink-bottles," Yes, the very words, and others... the secret writing
of memory came out in this fire of sorrow. "Why won't women understand
that a man can't answer questions about trifles when he has work on hand?"
He could swear to the words, and he knew how Maud looked, although he did
"Don't go away; you promised that you would sit beside me when I worked—hinder
me? I suppose you are bidding for a kiss; you know the sight of your face
inspires me."... That was ten years ago... he might have borne with her
presence a little longer.... She never would come again... he would have
no interruptions of that kind....
Her gloves, sixes—what a perfect hand it was (smoothes out the
glove). His memory brings up a dinner table. Mrs. Chatterby gives her
opinion on Meredith's last novel, and helps herself to salt—he sees
a disgusting hand, with stumpy fingers, and, for impudence, a street arab
of a thumb. A vulgar little woman through and through, and yet because she
picked up scraps from the monthlies, and had the trick of catch-words,
people paid her court And he had sometimes thought, but he knew better
to-day... of all things in the world a glove is the surest symbol. Mended,
too, very neatly... that he might have his hansoms.
It was the last thing he ever could have imagined, and yet it must be a
diary—Maud's diary! Turns over the leaves, and catches that woman's
name against whom he has suddenly taken a violent dislike.
"January 25. Was at Mrs. Chatterby's—how strange one does not say
anything of her husband—yet he is the nicer of the two—and I
think it will be better not to go again to dinner. One can always make
some excuse that will not be quite untrue.
"'The dinner is in honour of Mr. Fynical, who is leaving his College and
coming to live in London, to do literary work.' as Mrs. Chatterby has been
explaining for weeks, 'and to give tone to the weeklies.'
"'The younger men are quite devoted to him, and we ought all to be so
thankful that he is to be within reach. His touch reminds one of,'—I
don't know the French writer, but she does not always give the same name.
'We hope to see a great deal of him. So delightfully cynical, you know,
and hates the bourgeoisie.'
"I was terrified lest I should sit next Mr. Fynical, but Mrs. Chatterby
was merciful, and gave me Janie Godfrey's father. Edward says that he is a
very able man, and will be Lord Chancellor some day, but he is so quiet
and modest, that one feels quite at home with him. Last summer he was
yachting on the west coast of Scotland, and he described the sunset over
the Skye hills; and I tried to give him a Devonshire sunrise. We both
forgot where we were, and then Mrs. Chatterby asked me quite loud, so that
every one looked, what I thought of 'Smudges.'
"The dinner-table seemed to wait for my answer, and I wish that the book
had never come from the library, but I said that I had sent it back
because it seemed so bitter and cruel, and one ought to read books which
showed the noble side of life.
"'You are one of the old-fashioned women,' she replied. 'You believe in a
novel for the young person,' with a smile that hurt me, and I told her
that I had been brought up on Sir Walter Scott I was trying to say
something about his purity and chivalry, when I caught Mr. Fynical's eye,
and blushed red. If I had only been silent,—for I'm afraid every one
was laughing, and Edward did not say one word to me all the way home.
"February 20. Another ordeal, but not so unfortunate as the last. The
Browne-Smythes are very kind friends, but I do think they are too much
concerned about having clever people at their house. One evening Mrs.
Browne-Smythe said she was happy because nothing had been talked about
except translations of Homer. A certain guest was so miserable on that
occasion that I begged Edward to leave me at home this time, but he said
it would not be Greek again. It was science, however, and when we came in
Mrs. Browne-Smythe was telling a very learned-looking person that she
simply lived for fossils. A young lady beside me was talking about gases
to a nervous man, who grew quite red, and tried to escape behind a table.
I think she was wrong in her words, and he was too polite to correct her.
To my horror, he was obliged to take me in to dinner, and there never
could have been two people more deserving of pity, for I was terrified of
his knowledge, and he was afraid of my ignorance. We sat in perfect
silence till a fatherly old man, quite like a farmer, on my left, began to
talk to me so pleasantly that I described our country people, and was
really sorry when the ladies had to leave. Edward says that he is one of
the greatest discoverers in the world, and has all kinds of honours. We
became so friendly that he has promised to take tea with me, and I think
he does not despise my simplicity. How I long to be cleverer for Edward's
sake, for I'm sure he must be ashamed of me among those brilliant women. I
cannot blame him: I am proud of my husband.
"May 15. I am quite discouraged, and have resolved never to go to any
charitable committee again. Miss Tabitha Primmer used shameful language at
the Magdalene meeting to-day, and Mrs. Wood-Ruler showed me that I had
broken Law 43 by giving a poor girl personal aid. It seems presumptuous on
my part to criticise such able and diligent workers, but my mother never
spoke about certain subjects, and it is agony for me to discuss them. When
the vicar insisted on Sunday that thoughtful women were required for
Christian service to-day, and that we must read up all kinds of books and
know all kinds of painful things, my heart sank. It does not seem as if
there was any place left for simple folk like me. Perhaps it would be
better to give up going out altogether, and live for Edward and Bertie. I
can always do something for them, and their love will be enough reward.
"Nov. 30 I have not slept all night, for I made a dreadful mistake about a
new book that every one is reading, and Edward was so angry. He did not
mean all he said, but he never called me a fool before. Perhaps he is
right, and it is hard on him, who is so bright Sometimes I wish-" And then
there was no writing, only a tear mark....
Afterwards he opened the letters that had come since her death, and this
is what he read:
"My dear Trevor,—
"The intelligence of Mrs. Trevor's death has given me a great shock of
regret, and you will allow me to express my sympathy. Many men not given
to enthusiasm had told me of her face and goodness, and before I had seen
your wife I knew she was a very perfect type of womanliness The few times
I met her, Mrs. Trevor cast a certain spell over me—the nameless
grace of the former days—and I felt myself unworthy in her presence.
Once when a silly woman referred to one of the most miserable examples of
decadent fiction, your wife spoke so nobly of true literature that I was
moved to thank her, but I gathered from her face that this would not be
acceptable. It seemed to me that the mask had fallen from a beautiful
soul, and one man at least, in whom there is too little reverence, took
the shoes from off his feet. Pardon me if I have exceeded, and
The next was from the F.R.S.
"My dear Sir,—
"It is quite wrong for me, a stranger, to intrude on your grief, but I am
compelled to tell you that an old fellow who only spoke to your wife once,
had to wipe his spectacles over the Times this morning. It came
about this way. The lady I had taken in to dinner at the Browne-Smythes
gabbled about science till I lost my temper, and told her it would be a
good thing if women would keep to their own sphere. Your wife was on the
other side, and I turned to her in despair. She delighted me by confessing
utter ignorance of my subject, and then she won my heart by some of the
loveliest stories of peasant life in Devonshire I ever heard, so full of
insight and delicacy. If the parsons preached like that I would be in
church next Sunday. She put me in mind of a sister I lost long ago—who
had the same low, soft voice and honest, trusty eyes. When she found I was
a lonely man, your wife had pity on me, and asked me to call on her. But I
had to go to America, and only returned two days ago. I intended to wish
her a Happy New Year, but it's too late. I cannot get you out of my mind,
and I thought it might comfort you to know how a fossil like myself was
melted by that kind heart "Believe me, my dear sir,
"Your obedient servant,
The third was also from a man, but this time a lad in rooms whom Trevor
had seen at the house.
"Dear Mr. Trevor,—
"You perhaps know that Mrs. Trevor allowed me to spend an hour with her of
an evening, when I felt downhearted or had any trouble, but no one will
ever know how much she did for me. When I came up to London my faith began
to go, and I saw that in a short time I would be an Agnostic. This did not
trouble me so much on my own account as my mother's, who is dead, and made
me promise something on her death-bed. So I bought books and heard sermons
on unbelief till I was quite sick of the whole business. Mrs. Trevor took
me to hear your own clergyman, who did not help me one bit, for he was too
clever and logical; but you remember I came home with you, and after you
had gone to your study I told Mrs. Trevor my difficulties, and she did me
more good than all the books. She never argued nor preached, but when I
was with her one felt that religion was a reality, and that she knew more
about it than any one I had met since I lost my mother. It is a shame to
trouble you with my story when you are in such sorrow, and no one need
tell you how noble a woman Mrs. Trevor was; but I could not help letting
you know that her goodness has saved one young fellow at least from
infidelity and worse.
"You will not mind my having sent a cross to put on the coffin; it was all
I could do.
There was neither beginning nor end to the fourth letter, but it was
written in a lady's hand.
"I am a clergyman's daughter, who left her father's house, and went
astray. I have been in the Inferno, and have seen what I read in Dante
while I was innocent One day the old rectory rose up before my eyes—the
roses hanging over my bedroom window; the birds flying in and out the ivy;
my father on the lawn, aged and broken through my sin—and I resolved
that my womanhood should no longer be dragged in the mire. My home was
closed years ago, I had no friends, so I went in my desperation to a
certain Institute, and told my case to a matron. She was not unkindly, but
the committee were awful, without either sympathy or manners; and when an
unmarried woman wished to pry into the details of my degradation—but
I can't tell a man the shame they would have put upon me—my heart
turned to flint, and I left the place. I would have gone back to my life
and perished had it not been for one woman who followed me out, and asked
me to go home with her for afternoon tea. Had she said one word about my
past, I had flung myself away; but because she spoke to me as if I were
still in the rectory, I could not refuse. Mrs. Trevor never once mentioned
my sin, and she saved my soul. I am now a nurse in one of the hospitals,
and full of peace. As long as I live I shall lay white flowers on her
grave, who surely was the wisest and tenderest of women." Trevor's
fortitude was failing fast before this weight of unconscious condemnation,
and he was only able to read one more—an amazing production, that
had cost the writer great pains.
"Bill says as it's tyking too much on the likes o' me to be addressing you
on your missus' death, but it's not her husband that will despise a pore
working woman oo's lost her best friend. When Bill 'ad the rumatiks, and
couldn't do no work, and Byby was a-growing that thin you could see thro'
'im, Mrs. Byles says to me, 'Mrs. 'Awkes, you goes to the Society for the
Horganisation of Female Toilers.' Says I, 'Wot is that?' and she declares,
'It's a set of ladies oo wants to'elp women to work, and they 'ill see you
gets it' So I goes, and I saw a set of ladies sitting at a table, and they
looks at me; and one with spectacles, and a vice like an 'and-saw, arsks
me, 'Wot's yer name?' and ''Ow old are you?' and ''Ow many children have
you?' and 'Are your 'abits temperate?' And then she says, 'If you pay a
shilling we 'ill put your nyme down for work has an unskilled worker.' 'I
'avn't got a shilling, and Byby's dyin' for want of food.' 'This ain't a
Poor 'ouse,' says she; 'this is a Booro.' When I wos a-going down the
stairs, a lady comes after me. 'Don't cry, Mrs. 'Awkes,' for she had
picked up my name. 'I've some charring for you, and we'ill go to get
something for Byby.' If ever there wos a hangel in a sealskin jacket and a
plain little bonnet, but the true lady hall hover, 'er name was Mrs.
Trevor. Bill, he looked up from that day, and wos on his keb in a week,
and little Jim is the biggest byby in the court. Mrs. Trevor never rested
till I got three hoffices to clean, to say nothing of 'elping at cleanings
and parties in 'ouses. She wos that kind, too, and free, when she'd come
hin with noos of some hoffice. 'We're horganisin' you, Missus 'Awkes, just
splendid,' with the prettiest bit smile. Bill, he used to say, ''Er
'usband's a proud man, for I never saw the like o' her for a downright
lady in 'er wys'—and 'e knows, does Bill, being a kebman. When I
told 'im he wos that bad that'e never put a match to 'is pipe the'ole
night 'Mariar,' 'e says to me, 'you an' me 'as seen some think of her, but
you bet nobody knew what a saint she wos 'xcept 'er 'usband.'"...
Trevor could read no more, for it had dawned at last upon him that Christ
had lived with him for more than ten years, and his eyes had been holden.
THE MINISTER OF ST. BEDE'S
It was in the sixties that a southern distiller, who had grown rich
through owning many public-houses and much selling of bad gin, bought
Glenalder from its poverty-stricken laird, and cleared out the last of the
Macdonalds from Lochaber. They arose and departed on a fine spring day,
when the buds were bursting on the trees, and the thorn was white as snow,
and the birds were bringing forth their young, and the heather was
beginning to bloom. Early in the morning, while the grass was yet wet with
dew and the sun had not come over the hill, Ian Dhu, at the head of the
Glen, with his brothers and their families, their sons and their sons'
wives, began the procession, which flowed as a stream of sorrow by the
side of the Alder, all the day, gathering its rivulets from every forsaken
home. When it reached the poor little clachan, where were the kirk and the
graveyard, the emigrants halted, and leaving their goods upon the road
went in to worship God for the last time in Glenalder kirk. A very humble
sanctuary, with earthen floor and bare benches, and mightily despised by
the kind of southron who visited the new laird's mansion, but beautiful
and holy to those who had been baptised there, and married there, and sat
with their heart's love there, and who, in that place, but after many
years and in old age, had received the sacrament. When they were all in
their places, the minister of the Glen, who would fain have gone with
them, but was now too old, ascended the pulpit and spake to them from the
words, "He went out, not knowing whither he went," charging them never to
forget their native country nor their fathers' faith, beseeching them to
trust in God and do righteousness, calling them all kinds of tender names
in the warm Gaelic speech, till they fell a-weeping, men and women
together, and the place was full of lamentation. After which Alister
Macdonald, who had been through the Crimean War and the Mutiny, and now
was a catechist great in opening mysteries, committed them to the care of
their fathers' God. They would hardly leave the kirk, and the sun was
westering fast when they came to the elbow of the hill where the traveller
gets his last look of the Glen. There they sang "If I forget thee, O
Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning," but it was Glenalder
they meant, a parcel of whose earth each family carried with them into
exile; and as the pipes played "Lochaber no more" they went away for ever
from the land they loved and which had cast them forth. For an hour the
minister and Alister, with a handful of old people, watched their kinsfolk
till they could see them no more, and then they went back, no one speaking
with his neighbour, to the empty Glen.
Besides the huge staring castle, with its lodges, built by the foreigner,
there are only some twenty houses now in all bonnie Glenalder. Tourists
venturing from the main road come, here and there, across a little heap of
stones and the remains of a garden, with some patches of bright green
still visible among the heather. It is the memorial of a home where
generation after generation of well-built, clean-blooded, God-fearing
Highland folk were raised. From those humble cottages went up morning and
evening the psalm of praise to God. From them also came hardy men to fill
the ranks of the Highland regiments, who had tasted none of the city vices
and did not know what fear was. Nor were they a fierce or morose people,
for the Glen sounded of a summer evening with the sound of the pipes,
playing reels and strathspeys, and in the winter time the minister would
lend his barn for a dance, saying, like the shrewd man he was, "The more
dancing the less drinking." The very names of those desolate homesteads
and the people that lived therein are now passing out of mind in
Glenalder, but away in North-West Canada there is a new Glenalder, where
every name has been reproduced, and the cuttings of the brier roses bloom
every year in memory of the land that is "far awa." And if any man from
Lochaber, or for that matter from any part of Scotland, lights on this
place, it will be hard for him to get away from the warm hearts that are
there, and he must depart a better man after hearing the kindly speech and
seeing the sword dance once more.
While the exiles halted on the elbow of the hill, each man, woman and
child, according to his size and strength, carried a stone from the
hillside and placed it on a heap that grew before their eyes, till it made
a rough pyramid. This was called the Cairn of Remembrance, and as often as
any one of the scanty remnant left the Glen to go south it was a custom
that his friends should accompany him to this spot and bid him farewell,
where the past pledged him to love and faithfulness. It was here therefore
that Henry Rutherford parted from Magdalen Macdonald as he went to his
last session at the Divinity Hall.
"It's four years since I came first to Glenalder to teach the school in
the summer-time, Magdalen, an' little I thought then I would ever be so
near the ministry or win my sweetheart in the Glen." They were sitting on
a heather bank below the cairn, and as he spoke his arm slipped round her
waist He was a typical Scot, with bony frame, broad shoulders, strong
face, deep-set eyes of grey, and the somewhat assertive and
self-sufficient manner of his race. She was of the finest type of Highland
beauty, with an almost perfect Grecian face, fair hair dashed with gold,
eyes of the blue of the Highland lochs, and a queenly carriage of head and
body. Deep-bosomed and unfettered by fashionable city dress, with strong
hand and firm foot, she had the swinging gait and proud independence of
the free hill woman.
"Had it not been for you," he went on, "I had never persevered; it was
your faith put strength in me and hope, and then... the help you gave me;
I can never forget or repay you. To think that you should have slaved that
I should have books and—better food."
"Hush, I command you, for I will not be hearing another word, and if you
are saying more I will be very angry. It is not good that any man should
be a minister and not keep his word. And the day I gave you the purse with
the two or three pieces of gold you made a promise never to speak about
that day again. It is not many quarrels we have had, Henry, and some will
be good quarrels, for afterward we were loving each other more than ever.
But it was not good when you would lay the bits of gold on that very stone
there—for I am seeing them lie in the hollow—and say hot words
"Magdalen, I put the purse itself in my breast, and I loved you more than
ever for your thought of me and your sacrifice, and I wanted to kiss you,
and... you ordered me to stand off, and your eyes were blazing. Lassie,
you looked like a tigress; I was feared of you."
"It was not for me to have my gifts given back, and if I was driving home
the cows and milking the white milk into the pail, and churning the sweet
yellow butter, all that my love should not be wanting anything, it is not
for him to be so proud and mighty."
"But I did take your kindness at last, and it was more than two or three
pounds, and so it was you that sent me to Germany. You gave me my
learning, and some day, when we're in our manse together, I'll show you
all my books and try... to repay your love."
"Henry, it will come over me at times in the twilight, when strange sights
are seen, that we shall never be together in our house. Oh, yes, I have
seen a room with books round the walls, and you will be sitting there, but
I am not seeing any Magdalen. Wait a minute, for there will be another
sight, and I am not understanding it. It is not this land, but where it
will be I do not know; but I will be there in a beautiful room, and I will
be in rich dress, but I am not seeing you.
"Do not speak." She rose up and looked at Rutherford, holding him at arm's
length, with her hand upon his shoulder. "Have you got the broken piece?"
He thrust his hand into his breast, and showed the jagged half of a common
penny hung round his neck by a blue ribbon.
"My half will be here"—Magdalen touched her bosom—"but maybe
it will be better for me to give you it, and then... you will be free;
each of us... must drink the cup that is mixed. The visions will be very
clear, though I have not the second sight."
"What is the meaning of all this talk, Magdalen?" Rutherford's face was
pale, and his voice vibrated. "Are you tired of me because I am not bonnie
of face, but only a plain Scot, or is it that you will not wait till I win
a home for you, or have you seen another man—some glib English
"God forgive you, Henry Rutherford, for saying such words; is it Alister
Macdonald's granddaughter that would play her lover false? Then let him
drive the skean dhu into her heart."
"Then it is me you suspect, and it is not what I have deserved at your
hands, Magdalen. A Scot may seem cold and hard, but he can be 'siccar,'
and if I keep not my troth with you, and deal not by you as you have by
me, then may God be my judge and do unto me as I have done unto you."
They looked into one another's eyes, and then tears put out the fire in
hers, and she spoke with a wail in her voice.
"This is all very foolish talk, and it is this girl that will be sorry
after you are gone and I am sitting lonely, watching the sun go down. But
it was a thought that would be coming over my mind, for you will be
remembering that I am a Highlander; but it is not that you will not be
faithful to me or I to you, oh, no, and I have put it away, my love. Now
may God be keeping you"—and she took his hand—"and prospering
you in all your work, till you have your heart's desire in knowledge and
everything... that would be good for you. This is the prayer Magdalen
Macdonald will be offering for you every morning and night and all the day
when it is winter-time and the snow is heavy in Glenalder." Then she
kissed him full upon the lips as in a sacrament, and looking back he saw
her standing against the evening light, the perfect figure of a woman, and
she waved to him, whom he was not to see again for ten long years.
"Just ventured to look in for a single minute, Mr. Rutherford, at the
close of this eventful day, to say how thankful we all are that you were
so wonderfully sustained. But you are busy—making notes for next
Sabbath, perhaps—and I must not interrupt you. We must keep
ourselves open to the light; in my small way I find there are times when
the thoughts just drop upon one. If we were more lifted above the world
they would come oftener, far oftener."
A very "sleekit" personage indeed, as they say in Scotland, with a suave
manner, a sickly voice, and ways so childish that simple people thought
him almost silly; but those who happened to have had deals with him in
business formed quite another opinion, and expressed it in language
bordering on the libellous.
"Will you be seated?" Rutherford laid aside a letter beginning "Dearest
Magdalen," and telling how it had fared with him on his first Sunday in St
Bede's, Glasgow, W., a kirk which contained many rich people and thought
not a little of itself. "You have a meeting on Sunday evening, I think you
said. I hope it was successful."
"There was blessing to-night, I am sure. I felt the power myself. Lord
Dunderhead was passing through Glasgow and gave the address. It was on
'The Badgers' Skins* of the Tabernacle, and was very helpful. And
afterward we had a delightful little 'sing.*' You know his lordship?"
"No, I never saw him," said Rutherford shortly, with a Scot's democratic
prejudice against religious snobbery, forgetting that people who will not
listen to a reasoned discourse from a clergyman will crowd to the simplest
utterance of a lord.
"You will allow me to introduce you on Tuesday evening; you got Mrs.
Thompson's card. I hope we may have a profitable gathering. Captain
Footyl, the hussar evangelist, will also be present—a truly
delightful and devoted young man." Rutherford had not forgotten the card—
Mr. and Mrs. Thompson
At Home Tuesday, May 2nd,
To meet Lord Dunderhead who will give a Bible Reading.
8 to 10.30 Evening Dress.
And had sent it off to his college friend, Carmichael of Drumtochty, with
a running commentary of a very piquant character.
"Thank you, but I fear that my work will prevent me being with you on
Tuesday; it is no light thing for a man to come straight from college to
St Bede's without even a holiday."
"So sorry, but by-and-bye you will come to one of our little meetings.
Mrs. Thompson greatly enjoyed your sermon to young men this afternoon;
perhaps just a little too much of works and too little of faith. Excuse
the hint—you know the danger of the day—all life, life; but
that's a misleading test By the way, we are all hoping that you may get
settled in a home as well as in your church," continued Mr. Thompson, with
pious waggery, and then chilling at the want of sympathy on the minister's
face; "but that is a serious matter, and we trust you may be wisely
guided. A suitable helpmeet is a precious gift."
"Perhaps you may not have heard, Mr. Thompson, that I am engaged"—and
Rutherford eyed the elder keenly,—"and to a girl of whom any man and
any congregation may be proud. I am going north next week to see her and
to settle our marriage day."
"I am so pleased to hear you say so, and so will all the elders be, for I
must tell you that a rumour came to our ears that gave us great concern;
but I said we must not give heed to gossip, for what Christian has not
suffered in this way at the hand of the world?"
"What was the gossip?" demanded Rutherford, and there was that in his tone
that brooked no trifling.
"You must not take this to heart, dear Mr. Rutherford; it only shows how
we ought to set a watch upon our lips. Well that you were to marry a young
woman in Glen—Glen——"
"Alder. Go on," said Rutherford. "Yes, in Glenalder, where we all rejoice
to know you did so good a work."
"I taught a dozen children in the summer months to eke out my living. But
about the young woman—what did they say of her?"
"Nothing at all, except that she was, perhaps, hardly in that position of
society that a clergyman's wife ought to be, especially one in the west
end of Glasgow. But do not let us say anything more of the matter; it just
shows how the great enemy is ever trying to create dissension and injure
"What you have heard is perfectly true, except that absurd reference to
Glasgow, and I have the honour to inform you, as I intend to inform the
elders on my return next week, that I hope to be married in a month or two
to Magdalen Macdonald, who was brought up by her grandfather, Alister
Macdonald of the Black Watch, and who herself has a little croft in
Glenalder"—and Rutherford challenged Mr. Thompson, expounder of
Scripture and speculator in iron, to come on and do his worst "Will you
allow me, my dear young friend, to say that there is no necessity for
this... heat, and to speak with you as one who has your... best Interests
at heart, and those of St. Bede's. I feel it to be a special providence
that I should have called this evening."
"Well?" insisted Rutherford.
"What I feel, and I have no doubt you will agree with me, is that
Christians must not set themselves against the arrangements of Providence,
and you see we are set in classes for a wise purpose. We are all equal
before God, neither 'bond nor free,' as it runs, but it is expedient that
the minister of St Bede's should marry in his own position. There are many
sacrifices we must make for our work's sake; and, oh, Mr. Rutherford, what
care we have to take lest we cast a stumbling-block in the way of others!
It was only last week that a valued fellow-worker begged me to invite a
young lady to my little drawing-room meeting who was concerned about
spiritual things. 'Nothing would give me greater pleasure,' I said, 'if it
would help her; but it is quite impossible, and you would not have asked
me had you known her history. Her father was a shopkeeper, and in the
present divided state of society I dare not introduce her among the
others, all wholesale without exception.' You will not misunderstand me,
"You have stated the case admirably, Mr. Thompson, and from your
standpoint in religion, I think, conclusively. Perhaps the Sermon on the
Mount might...; but we won't go into that Before deciding, however, what
is my duty, always with your aid, you might like to see the face of my
betrothed. There, in that light."
"Really quite beautiful, and I can easily understand; we were all young
once and... impressionable. As good-looking as any woman in St Bede's?
Excuse me, that is hardly a question to discuss. Grace does not go with
looks. We all know that beauty is deceitful. Knows the poets better than
you do, I dare say. There is a nurse of my sister's, a cabman's daughter—I
beg your pardon for dropping the photograph; you startled me. But you will
excuse me saying that it is not this kind of knowledge... well, culture,
which fits a woman to be a minister's wife. Addressing a mothers' meeting
is far more important than reading poetry. Highland manners more graceful
than Glasgow? That is a very extraordinary comparison, and... can do no
good. Really no one can sympathise with you more than I do, but I am quite
clear as to your duty as a minister of the Gospel."
"You mean"—and Rutherford spoke with much calmness—"that I
ought to break our troth. It is not a light thing to do, sir, and has
exposed both men and women to severe... criticism."
"Certainly, if the matter be mismanaged, but I think, although it's not
for me to boast, that it could be arranged. Now, there was Dr. Drummer—this
is quite between ourselves—he involved himself with a teacher of
quite humble rank during his student days, and it was pointed out to him
very faithfully by his elders that such a union would injure his
prospects. He made it a matter of prayer, and he wrote a beautiful letter
to her, and she saw the matter in the right light, and you know what a
ministry his has been. His present wife has been a real helpmeet; her
means are large and are all consecrated."
"Do you happen to know what became of the teacher? I only ask for
curiosity, for I know what has become of Dr. Drummer."
"She went to England and caught some fever, or maybe it was consumption,
but at any rate she died just before the Doctor married. It was all
ordered for the best, so that there were no complications."
"Exactly; that is evident, and my way seems now much clearer.. There is
just one question more I should like to ask. If you can answer it I shall
have no hesitation about my course. Suppose a woman loved a man and
believed in him, and encouraged him through his hard college days, and
they both were looking forward with one heart to their wedding day, and
then he—did not marry her—what would honourable men think of
him, and what effect would this deed of—prudence have on his
ministry of the Gospel?"
"My dear friend, if it were known that he had taken this step simply and
solely for the good of the cause he had at heart and after prayerful
consideration, there is no earnest man—and we need not care for the
world—who would not appreciate his sacrifice."
"I do not believe one word you say." Mr. Thompson smiled feebly, and began
to retire to the door at the look in Rutherford's eye. "But whether you be
right or wrong about the world in which you move, I do not know. In my
judgment, the man who acted as you describe would have only one rival in
history, and that would be Judas Iscariot."
Southern travellers wandering over Scotland in their simplicity have a dim
perception that the Scot and the Celt are not of one kind, and, as all
racial characteristics go back to the land, they might be helped by
considering the unlikeness between a holding in Fife and a croft in a
western glen. The lowland farm stands amid its neighbours along the
highway, with square fields, trim fences, slated houses, cultivated after
the most scientific method, and to the last inch a very type of a shrewd,
thrifty, utilitarian people. The Highland farm is half a dozen patches of
as many shapes scattered along the hillside, wherever there are fewest
stones and deepest soil and no bog, and those the crofter tills as best he
can—sometimes getting a harvest and sometimes seeing the first snow
cover his oats in the sheaf, sometimes building a rude dyke to keep off
the big, brown, hairy cattle that come down to have a taste of the sweet
green corn, but often finding it best to let his barefooted children be a
fence by day, and at certain seasons to sit up all night himself to guard
his scanty harvest from the forays of the red deer. Somewhere among the
patches he builds his low-roofed house, and thatches it over with straw,
on which, by-and-bye, grass with heather and wild flowers begins to grow,
till it is not easy to tell his home from the hill. His farm is but a
group of tiny islands amid a sea of heather that is ever threatening to
overwhelm them with purple spray. Any one can understand that this man
will be unpractical, dreamy, enthusiastic, the child of the past, the hero
of hopeless causes, the seer of visions.
Magdalen had milked her cows at midday and sent them forth to pasture, and
now was sitting before her cottage among wallflower and spring lilies,
reading for the third time the conclusion of Rutherford's last letter:—
"Here I was interrupted by the coming of an elder, a mighty man in the
religious world, and very powerful in St Bede's. He tells me that
something has been heard of our engagement, and I have taken counsel with
him with the result that it seems best we should be married without delay.
After loving for four years and there being nothing to hinder, why should
you be lonely on your croft in Glenalder and I in my rooms at Glasgow?
Answer me that, 'calf of my heart' (I do not attempt the Gaelic). But you
cannot. You will only kiss the letter, since I am not at your side, and
next week I shall come north, and you will fix the day.
"My head is full of plans, and I do not think that joy will let me sleep
to-night for thinking of you and all that we shall do together. We'll be
married early in the morning in the old kirk of Glenalder, as soon as the
sun has filled the Glen and Nature has just awaked from sleep. Mona
Macdonald will be your bridesmaid, I know, and she will wear white roses
that shall not be whiter than her teeth. Yes, I have learned to notice all
beautiful things since I knew you, Magdalen. My best man will be
Carmichael of Drumtochy, who is of Highland blood himself and a goodly man
to look upon, and he has his own love-story. All the Glen will come to our
wedding, and will grudge that a Lowland Scot has spoiled the Glen of the
Flower of Dalnabreck—yes, I know what they call you. And we shall
have our breakfast in the manse, for the minister has pledged us to that,
and it is he and John Carmichael that will be making the wonderful
speeches! (You see how I've learned the style.) But you and I will leave
them and catch the steamer, and then all the long June day we shall sit on
the deck together and see distant Skye, and the little isles, and pass
Mull and Ardnamurchan, and sail through Oban Bay and down Loch Fyne, and
thread our way by Tighnabruaich, and come into the Firth of Clyde when the
sun is going down away behind Ben Alder. Won't it be a glorious marriage
day, among lochs and hills and islands the like of which travellers say
cannot be found in all the world?
"Then I want to take you to Germany, and to show you the old University
town where I lived one summer, and we will have one good day there, too,
my bride and I. Early in the morning we shall stand in the market-place,
where the women are washing clothes at the fountain and the peasants are
selling butter and fruit, and the high-gabled houses rise on three sides,
and the old Rathhaus, on whose roof the storks build their nests, makes
the fourth. We'll go to my rooms near the Kirche, where I used to write a
letter to you every day, and here is what old Frau Hepzacker will say,
'Mein Gott, der Schottlander und ein wunderschones madchen* (you will
English and Gaelic this for yourself), and we will drink a glass of
(fearfully sour) wine with her, and go out with her blessing echoing down
the street Then we will watch the rafts coming down the Neckar from the
Black Forest, and walk among the trees in the Vorstadt, where I lay and
dreamed of you far away in Glenalder. And we will go to the University
where you sent me... but that is never to be mentioned again; and the
students in their wonderful dress will come and go—red hats and
blue, besides the white, black and gold I used to wear. And in the evening
we will drive through the vines and fruit-trees to Bebenhausen, the king's
hunting-seat. And those will only be two days out of our honeymoon,
Magdalen. It seems too good to be my lot that I should be minister of
Christ's evangel—of which surely I am not worthy—and that you
should be my bride, of which I am as unworthy. Next Monday I shall leave
this smoky town and meet you at the Cairn of Remembrance on Tuesday
"Meanwhile and ever I am your faithful lover,
Magdalen kissed the name passionately and thrust the letter into her
bosom. Then she went to the edge of the heather and looked along the Glen,
where she had been born and lived her twenty-two years in peace, from
which she was so soon to go out on the most adventurous journey of life.
When a pure-bred Highland woman loves, it is once and for ever, and earth
has no more faithful wife, or mother, or daughter. And Magdalen loved
Rutherford with all her heart. But it is not given unto her blood to taste
unmixed joy, and now she was haunted with a sense of calamity. The past
flung its shadow over her, and the people that were gone came back to
their deserted homes. She heard the far-off bleating of the sheep and the
wild cry of the curlew; she crooned to herself a Gaelic song, and was so
carried away that she did not see the stranger come along the track
through the heather till he spoke.
"Good evening; may I ask whether this is eh... Dalnabreck? and have I the
pleasure of addressing Miss Macdonald?"
"Yes, I am Magdalen Macdonald"—and as she faced him in her beauty
the visitor was much abashed. "Would you be wanting to see me, sir?"
"My name is Thompson, and I have the privilege of being an elder in St
Bede's, Glasgow, and as I happened to be passing through Glenalder—just
a few days' rest after the winter's work—how the soul wears the
body!—I thought that it would be... a pleasure to... pay my respects
to one of whom I have... heard from our dear pastor. Perhaps, however,"—this
with some anxiety—"Mr. Rutherford may have mentioned my humble
"There are so many good people in St Bede's, and they are all so kind to
him, that... Henry"—the flush at her lover's name lent the last
attraction to her face and almost overcame the astute iron merchant—"will
not be able to tell me all their names. But I will be knowing them all for
myself soon, and then I will be going to thank every person for all that
has been done to... him. It is very gracious of you to be visiting a poor
Highland girl, and the road to Dalnabreck is very steep; you will come in
and rest in my house, and I will bring you milk to drink. You must be
taking care of the door, for it is low, and the windows are small because
of the winter storms; but there is room inside and a heart welcome for our
friends in our little homes. When I am bringing the milk maybe you will be
looking at the medals on the wall. They are my grandfather's, who was a
brave man and fought well in his day, and two will be my father's, who was
killed very young and had not time to get more honour."
The elder made a hurried survey of the room, with its bits of black oak
and the arms on the wall, and the deer-skins on the floor, and bookshelves
hanging on the wall, and wild flowers everywhere; and, being an operator
so keen that he was said to know a market by scent, he changed his plan.
"I took a hundred pounds with me," he explained afterward to a friend of
like spirit, "for a promising ministry was not to be hindered for a few
pounds! I intended to begin with fifty and expected to bring back
twenty-five, but I saw that it would have been inexpedient to offer money
to the young woman. There was no flavour of spirituality at all about her,
and she was filled with pride about war and such-like vanities. Her manner
might be called taking in worldly circles, but it was not exactly...
gentle, and she might have... been rude, quite unpleasant, if I had tried
to buy her... I mean arrange on a pecuniary basis. Ah, Juitler, how much
we need the wisdom of the serpent in this life!"
"What a position you are to occupy, my dear friend," began the simple man,
seated before the most perfect of meals—rich milk of cows, fed on
meadow grass, yellow butter and white oat cakes set among flowers. "I
doubt not that you are often weighed down by a sense of responsibility,
and are almost afraid of the work before you. After some slight experience
in such matters I am convinced that the position of a minister's wife is
the most... I may say critical in Christian service."
"You will be meaning that she must be taking great care of her man, and
making a beautiful home for him, and keeping away foolish people, and
standing by him when his back will be at the wall. Oh, yes, it is a
minister that needs to be loved very much, or else he will become stupid
and say bitter words, and no one will be wanting to hear him"—and
Magdalen looked across the table with joyful confidence.
"Far more than that, I'm afraid"—and Mr. Thompson's face was full of
pity. "I was thinking of the public work that falls to a minister's wife
in such a church as St Bede's, which is trying and needs much grace. The
receiving of ladies alone—Providence has been very good to our
people, twelve carriages some days at the church door—requires much
experience and wisdom.
"Mrs. Drummer, who has been much used among the better classes, has often
told me that she considered tact in society one of her most precious
talents, and I know that it was largely owing to her social gifts,
sanctified, of course, that the Doctor became such a power. Ah, yes"—and
Mr. Thompson fell into a soliloquy—"it is the wife that makes or
mars the minister."
"Glasgow then will not be like Glenalder"—and Magdalen's face was
much troubled—"for if any woman here will tell the truth and speak
good words of people, and help when the little children are sick, and have
an open door for the stranger, then we will all be loving her, and she
will not hurt her man in anything."
"Be thankful that you do not live in a city, Miss Macdonald, for the world
has much more power there; they that come to work are in the thick of the
battle and need great experience, but you will learn in time and maybe you
could live... quietly for a year or two... you will excuse me speaking
like this... you see it is for our beloved minister I am anxious."
Magdalen's face had grown white, and she once or twice took a long, sad
"As regards the public work expected of a minister's wife—but I am
wearying you, I fear, and it is time to return to the inn. I cannot tell
you how much I have enjoyed this delicious milk..
"Will you tell me about the... the other things... I want to know all."
"Oh, it was the meetings I was thinking of, for of course, as I am sure
you know, our minister's wife is the head of the mothers' meeting. Mrs.
Drummer's addresses there were excellent, and her liberality in giving
treats—gospel treats, I mean, with tea—was eh, in fact,
queenly. And then she had a Bible-class for young ladies that was
mentioned in the religious papers."
Magdalen had now risen and was visibly trembling.
"There is a question I would like to ask, Mister..."
"Mister Thompson—and you will be doing a great kindness to a girl
that has never been outside Glenalder, and... is not wanting to be a
sorrow to the man she loves, if you will answer it Do you know any
minister like... your minister who married a country girl and... what
"Really, my dear friend, I... well, if you insist, our neighbour in St
Thomas's—a very fine young fellow—did, and he was a little
hindered at first; but I am sure, in course of time, if he had waited—yes,
he left, and I hear is in the Colonies, and doing an excellent work among
the squatters, or was it the Chinese?... No, no, this is not good-bye. I
only hope I have not discouraged you.... What a lovely glen! How can we
ever make up to you for this heather?"
For three days no one saw Magdalen, but a shepherd attending to his lambs
noticed that a lamp burned every night in the cottage at Dalnabreck. When
Rutherford arrived at the cairn on Tuesday he looked in vain for Magdalen.
Old Elspeth, Magdalen's foster-mother, was waiting for him and placed a
letter in his hands, which he read in that very place where he had parted
from his betrothed.
"Dearest of my Heart,—
"It is with the tears of my soul that I am writing this letter, and it is
with cruel sorrow you will be reading it, for I must tell you that our
troth is broken and that Magdalen cannot be your wife. Do not be thinking
this day or any day that she is not loving you, for never have you been so
dear to me or been in my eyes so strong and brave and wise and good, and
do not be thinking that I do not trust you, for it is this girl knows that
you would be true to me although all the world turned against me.
"Believe me, my beloved, it is because I love you so much that I am
setting you free that you may not be put to shame because you have married
a Highland girl, who has nothing but two cows, and who does not know the
ways of cities, and who cannot speak in public places, and who can do
nothing except love.
"If it had been possible I would have been waiting for you at the Cairn of
Remembrance, and it is my eyes that ache to see you once more, but then I
would be weak and could not leave you, as is best for you.
"You will not be seeking after me, for I am going far away, and nobody can
tell you where, and this is also best for you and me. But I will be
hearing about you, and will be knowing all you do, and there will be none
so proud of you as your first love.
"And, Henry, if you meet a good woman and she loves you, then you must not
think that I will be angry when you marry her, for this would be selfish
and not right I am going away for your sake, and I will be praying that
the sun be ever shining on you and that you become a great man in the
land. One thing only I ask—that in those days you sometimes give a
thought to Glenalder and your faithful friend,
"It was a first-rate match, and we were fairly beaten; it was their
forward turned the scale. I had two hacks from him myself"—the
captain of the Glasgow Football Club nursed the tender spots. "It's a
mercy to-morrow's Sunday and one can lie in bed."
"Olive oil is not bad for rubbing. You deserve the rest, old man. It was a
stiff fight. By-the-way I saw Rutherford of St Bede's there. He cheered
like a good'un when you got that goal. He's the best parson going in
"Can't bear the tribe nor their ways, Charlie, they're such hypocrites,
always preaching against the world and that kind of thing and feathering
their own nests at every turn. Do you know I calculated that six of them
in Glasgow alone have netted a hundred and twenty thousand pounds by
successful marriages. That's what sickens a fellow at religion."
"Well, you can't say that against Rutherford, Jack, for he's not married,
and works like a coal-heaver. He's the straightest man I've come across
either in the pulpit or out of it, besides being a ripping preacher.
Suppose you look me up to-morrow about six, and we'll hear what he's got
His friends said that Rutherford was only thirty-four years of age, but he
looked as if he were near fifty, for his hair had begun to turn gray, and
he carried the traces of twenty years' work upon his face. No one would
have asked whether he was handsome, for he had about him an air of
sincerity and humanity that at once won your confidence. His subject that
evening was the "Sanctifying power of love," and, as his passion gradually
increased to white heat, he had the men before him at his mercy. Women of
the world complained that he was hard and unsympathetic; some elderly men
considered his statements unguarded and even unsound; but men below thirty
heard him gladly. This evening he was stirred for some reason to the
depths of his being, and was irresistible. When he enlarged on the love of
a mother, and charged every son present to repay it by his life and
loyalty, a hundred men glared fiercely at the roof, and half of them
resolved to write home that very night. As he thundered against lust, the
foul counterfeit of love, men's faces whitened, and twice there was a
distinct murmur of applause. His great passage, however, came at the
close, and concerned the love of a man for a maid: "If it be given to any
man in his fresh youth to love a noble woman with all his heart, then in
that devotion he shall find an unfailing inspiration of holy thoughts and
high endeavours, a strong protection against impure and selfish
temptations, a secret comfort amid the contradictions and adversities of
life. Let him give this passion full play in his life and it will make a
man of him and a good soldier in the great battle. And if it so be that
this woman pass from his sight or be beyond his reach, yet in this love
itself shall he find his exceeding reward." As he spoke in a low, sweet,
intense voice, those in the gallery saw the preacher's left hand tighten
on the side of the pulpit till the bones and sinews could be counted, but
with his right hand he seemed to hold something that lay on his breast
"Look here, Charlie"—as the two men stood in a transept till the
crowd passed down the main aisle—"if you don't mind I would like...
to shake hands with the preacher. When a man takes his coat off and does a
big thing like that he ought to know that he has... helped a fellow."
"I'll go in too, Jack, for he's straightened me, and not for the first
time. You know how I used to live... well, that is over, and it was
Rutherford saved me."
"He looks as if he had been badly hit some time. Do you know his record?"
"There's some story about his being in love with a poor girl and being
determined to marry her, but 'Iron Warrants' got round her and persuaded
her that it would be Rutherford's ruin; so she disappeared, and they say
Rutherford is waiting for her to this day. But I don't give it as a fact."
"You may be sure every word of it is true, old man; it's like one of
Thompson's tricks, for I was in his office once, and it's just what that
man in the pulpit would do; poor chap, he's served his time... I say,
though, suppose that girl turns up some day."
They were near the vestry door and arranging their order of entrance when
a woman came swiftly down the empty aisle as from some distant corner of
the church and stood behind them for an instant.
"Is this Mr. Rutherford's room, gentlemen"—with a delicate flavour
of Highland in the perfect English accent—"and would it be possible
for me to see him... alone?"
They received a shock of delight on the very sight of her and did instant
homage. It was not on account of her magnificent beauty—a woman in
the height of her glory—nor the indescribable manner of good
society, nor the perfection of her dressing, nor a singular dignity of
carriage. They bowed before her for the look in her eyes, the pride of
love, and, although both are becoming each day her more devoted slaves,
yet they agree that she could only look once as she did that night.
It was Charlie that showed her in, playing beadle for the occasion that
this princess might not have to wait one minute, and his honour obliged
him to withdraw instantly, but before the door could be closed he heard
Rutherford cry—"At last, Magdalen, my love!"
"Do you think, Charlie...?"
"Rutherford has got his reward, Jack, and twenty years would not have been
too long to wait."
AN IMPOSSIBLE MAN
We must have Trixy Marsden on the Thursday"—for Mrs. Leslie was
arranging two dinner parties. "She will be in her element that evening;
but what are we to do with Mr. Marsden?"
"Isn't it rather the custom to invite a husband with his wife? he might
even expect to be included," said John Leslie. "Do you know I'm glad we
came to Putney; spring is lovely in the garden."
"Never mind spring just now," as Leslie threatened an exit to the lawn;
"you might have some consideration for an afflicted hostess, and give your
mind to the Marsden problem."
"It was Marsden brought spring into my mind," and Leslie sat down with
that expression of resignation on his face peculiar to husbands consulted
on domestic affairs; "he was telling me this morning in the train that he
had just finished a table of trees in the order of their budding, a sort
of spring priority list; his love for statistics is amazing.
"He is getting to be known on the 9 train; the men keep their eye on him
and bolt into thirds to escape; he gave a morning on the influenza
death-rate lately, and that kind of thing spreads.
"But he's not a bad fellow for all that," concluded Leslie; "he's
perfectly straight in business, and that is saying something; I rather
enjoy half an hour with him."
"Very likely you do," said his wife with impatience, "because your mind
has a squint, and you get amusement out of odd people; but every one has
not your taste for the tiresome. He is enough to devastate a dinner table;
do you remember that escapade of his last year?"
"You mean when he corrected you about the length of the American passage,
and gave the sailings of the Atlantic liners since '80," and Leslie lay
back to enjoy the past: "it seemed to me most instructive, and every one
gave up conversation to listen."
"Because no one could do anything else with that voice booming through the
room. I can still hear him: 'the Columba six days, four hours, five
minutes.' Then I rose and delivered the table."
"It was only human to be a little nettled by his accuracy; but you ought
not to have retreated so soon, for he gave the express trains of England a
little later, and hinted at the American lines. One might almost call such
a memory genius."
"Which is often another name for idiocy, John. Some one was telling me
yesterday that quiet, steady men rush out of the room at the sound of his
voice, and their wives have to tell all sorts of falsehoods about their
"Trixy is one of my oldest and dearest friends, and it would be a shame to
pass her over; but I will not have her husband on any account."
"Perhaps you are right as a hostess; it is a little hard for a frivolous
circle to live up to Marsden, and I hear that he has got up the
temperatures of the health resorts; it's a large subject, and lends itself
"It will not be given in this house. What Trixy must endure with that man!
he's simply possessed by a didactic devil, and ought never to have
married. Statistics don't amount to cruelty, I suppose, as a ground of
"Hardly as yet; by-and-bye incompatibility in politics or fiction will be
admitted; but how do you know, Florence, that Mrs. Marsden does not
appreciate her husband? You never can tell what a woman sees in a man.
Perhaps this woman hungers for statistics as a make-weight She is very
amusing, but a trifle shallow, don't you think?"
"She used to be the brightest and most charming girl in our set, and I
have always believed that she was married to Mr. Marsden by her people.
Trixy has six hundred a year settled on her, and they were afraid of
fortune-hunters. Mothers are apt to feel that a girl is safe with a man of
the Marsden type, and that nothing more can be desired."
"Perhaps they are not far wrong. Marsden is not a romantic figure, and he
is scarcely what you would call a brilliant raconteur; but he
serves his wife like a slave, and he will never give her a sore heart."
"Do you think it nothing, John, that a woman with ideals should be tied to
a bore all her days? What a contrast between her brother and her husband,
for instance. Godfrey is decidedly one of the most charming men I ever
"He has a nice tenor voice, I grant, and his drawing-room comedies are
very amusing. Of course, no one believes a word he says, and I think that
he has never got a discharge from his last bankruptcy; but you can't
expect perfection. Character seems to oscillate between dulness and
"Don't talk nonsense for the sake of alliteration, John. Trixy's brother
was never intended for business; he ought to have been a writer, and I
know he was asked to join the staff of the Boomeller. Happy
thought! I'll ask him to come with his sister instead of Mr. Marsden."
And this was the note:
"My dear Trixy,—
"We are making up a dinner party for the evening of June 2nd, at eight
o'clock, and we simply cannot go on without you and Mr. Mars-den. Write instantly
to say you accept; it is an age since I've seen you, and my husband is
absolutely devoted to Mr. Marsden. He was telling me only a minute ago
that one reason why he goes by the 9 train is to get the benefit of your
husband's conversation. With much love,
"P.S.—It does seem a shame that Mr. Marsden should have to waste an
evening on a set of stupid people, and if he can't tear himself from his
books, then you will take home a scolding to him from me.
"P.S.—If Mr. Marsden will not condescend, bring Godfrey to
take care of you, and tell him that we shall expect some music."
"Come to this corner, Trixy, and let us have a quiet talk before the men
arrive from the dining-room. I hope your husband is duly grateful to me
for allowing him off this social ordeal. Except perhaps John, I don't
think there is a person here fit to discuss things with him."
"Oh, Mr. Marsden does not care one straw whether they know his subjects or
not so long as people will listen to him, and I'm sure he was quite eager
to come, but I wanted Godfrey to have a little pleasure.
"I'm so sorry for poor Godfrey," and Mrs. Marsden settled herself down to
confidences. "You know he lost all his money two years ago through no
fault of his own. It was simply the stupidity of his partner, who was
quite a common man, and could not carry out Godfrey's plans. My husband
might have helped the firm through their difficulty but he was quite
obstinate, and very unkind also. He spoke as if Godfrey had been careless
and lazy, when the poor fellow really injured his health and had to go to
Brighton for two months to recruit."
"Yes, I remember," put in Mrs. Leslie; "we happened to be at the Metropole
one week end, and Godfrey looked utterly jaded."
"You have no idea how much he suffered, Florrie, and how beautifully he
bore the trial. Why, had it not been for me, he would not have had money
to pay his hotel bill, and that was a dreadful change for a man like him.
He has always been very proud, and much petted by people. The poor fellow
has never been able to find a suitable post since, although he spends days
in the city among his old friends, and I can see how it is telling on him.
And—Florrie, I wouldn't mention it to any one except an old friend—Mr.
Marsden has not made our house pleasant to poor Godfrey."
"You don't mean that he... reflects on his misfortunes."
"Doesn't he? It's simply disgusting what he will say at times. Only
yesterday morning—this is absolutely between you and me, one must
have some confidant—Godfrey made some remark in fun about the cut of
Tom's coat; he will not go, you know, do what I like, to a proper tailor."
"Godfrey is certainly much better dressed," said Mrs. Leslie, "than either
of our husbands."
"Perhaps it was that made Tom angry, but at any rate he said quite
shortly, 'I can't afford to dress better,' and of course Godfrey knew what
he meant. It was cruel in the circumstances, for many men spend far more
on their clothes than Godfrey. He simply gives his mind to the matter and
takes care of his things; he will spend any time selecting a colour or
getting a coat fitted."
"Is your brother quite... dependent on... his friends, Trixy?"
"Yes, in the meantime, and that is the reason why we ought to be the more
considerate. I wished to settle half my income on him, but it is only a
third of what it used to be—something to do with investments has
reduced it—and Mr. Marsden would not hear of such a thing; he allows
Godfrey one hundred a year, but that hardly keeps him in clothes and
"Still, don't you think it's all Godfrey could expect?" and Mrs. Leslie
was inclined for once to defend this abused man. "Few husbands would do as
much for a brother-in-law."
"Oh, of course he does it for my sake, and he means to be kind. But,
Florrie, Mr. Marsden is so careful and saving, always speaking as if we
were poor and had to lay up for the future, while I know he has a large
income and a sure business.
"Why, he would not leave that horrid street in Highbury, say what I could;
and I owe it to Godfrey that we have come to Putney. When Tom went out to
Alexandria, my brother simply took our present house and had it furnished
in Mr. Marsden's name, and so when he came home from Alexandria we were
established in The Cottage."
"John is the best of husbands, but I dare not have changed our house in
his absence," and Mrs. Leslie began to get new views on the situation.
"Was not Mr. Marsden rather startled?"
"He was inclined to be angry with Godfrey, but I sent the boy off to
Scarborough for a month; and he is never hasty to me, only tiresome—you
can't imagine how tiresome."
"Is it the statistics?"
"Worse than that. He has begun the Reformation now, and insists on reading
from some stuffy old book every evening, Dumas' History, I think,
till I wish there never had been such a thing, and we were all Roman
"Very likely he would have read about the Popes, then, or the saints. My
dear girl, you don't wish to have your mind improved. You ought to be
proud of your husband; most men sleep after dinner with an evening paper
in their hands, and are quite cross if they're wakened. But there they
come, and we must have Godfrey's last song."
"Nurse will rise at four and bring you a nice cup of tea. Are you sure you
will not weary, being alone for two hours?" and Mrs. Marsden, in charming
outdoor dress, blew eau-de-Cologne about the room. "Don't you love scent?"
"Where are you going?" asked Marsden, following her with fond eyes. "You
told me yesterday, but I forget; this illness has made me stupider than
ever, I think. Wasn't it some charity?"
"It's the new society every one is so interested in, 'The Working Wives'
Culture Union.' What is wanted is happy homes for the working men,"
quoting freely from an eloquent woman orator, "and the women must be
elevated; so the East End is to be divided into districts, and two young
women will be allotted to each. Are you listening?"
"Yes, dear; but it rests me to lie with my eyes closed. Tell me all about
your society. What are the young ladies to do?"
"Oh, they're to visit the wives in the afternoon and read books to them:
solid books, you know, about wages and... all kinds of things working men
like. Then in the evening the wives will be able to talk with their
husbands on equal terms, and the men will not want to go to the
public-houses. Isn't it a capital idea?"
A sad little smile touched Marsden's lips for an instant "And where do you
meet to-day? It's a long way for you to go to Whitechapel."
"Didn't I tell you? The Marchioness of Gloucester Is giving a Drawing Room
at her town house, and Lady Helen wrote an urgent note, Insisting that I
should come, even though it were only for an hour, as her mother depended
on my advice so much.
"Of course I know that's just a way of putting it; but I have taken lots
of trouble about founding the Union, so I think it would hardly do for me
to be absent You're feeling much better, too, to-day, aren't you, Thomas?"
"Yes, much better; the pain has almost ceased; perhaps it will be quite
gone when you return. Can you spare just ten minutes to sit beside me?
There is something I have been wanting to say, and perhaps this is my only
chance. When I am well again I may... be afraid."
Mrs. Marsden sat down wondering, and her husband waited a minute.
"One understands many things that puzzled him before, when he lies in
quietness for weeks and takes an after look. I suspected it at times
before, but I was a coward and put the thought away. It seemed curious
that no one came to spend an hour with me, as men do with friends; and I
noticed that they appeared to avoid me. I thought it was fancy, and that I
had grown self-conscious.
"Everything is quite plain now, and I... am not hurt, dear, and I don't
blame any person; that would be very wrong. People might have been far
more impatient with me, and might have made my life miserable.
"God gave me a dull mind and a slow tongue; it took me a long time to
grasp anything, and no one cared about the subjects that interested me.
Beatrice... I wish now you had told me how I bored our friends; it would
have been a kindness; but never mind that now; you did not like to give me
"What troubles me most is that all these years you should have been tied
to a very tiresome fellow," and Marsden made some poor attempt at a smile.
"Had I thought of what was before you, I would never have asked you to
"Don't cry, dear; I did not wish to hurt you. I wanted to ask your pardon
for... all that martyrdom, and... to thank you for... being my wife; and
there's something else.
"You see when I get well and am not lying in bed here, maybe I could not
tell you, so let me explain everything now, and then we need not speak
about such things again.
"Perhaps you thought me too economical, but I was saving for a purpose.
Your portion has not brought quite so much as it did, and I wished to make
it up to you, and now you can have your six hundred a year as before; if
this illness had gone against me, you would have been quite comfortable—in
money, I mean, dear.
"No, I insist on your going to Lady Gloucester's; the change will do you
good, and I'll lie here digesting the Reformation, you know," and he
smiled, better this time, quite creditably, in fact "Will you give me a
kiss, just to keep till we meet again?"
When the nurse came down at four to take charge, she was horrified to find
her patient alone, and in the death agony, but conscious and able to
"Don't ring... nor send for my wife... I sent... her away knowing the end
was near... made her go, in fact... against her will."
The nurse gave him brandy, and he became stronger for a minute.
"She has had a great deal to bear with me, and I... did not wish her to
see death. My manner has been always so wearisome... I hoped that...
nobody would be here. You are very kind, nurse; no more, if you please.
"Would it trouble you... to hold my hand, nurse? It's a little lonely... I
am not afraid... a wayfaring man though a fool... not err therein..."
He was not nearly so tedious with his dying as he had been with his
living; very shortly afterwards Thomas Marsden had done with statistics
Three days later Leslie came home from the city with tidings on his face,
and he told them to his wife when they were alone that night "Marsden's
lawyer made an appointment after the funeral, and I had an hour with him.
He has asked me to be a trustee with himself in Mrs. Marsden's
"I'm so glad; you must accept, for it will be such a comfort to poor
Beatrice; but I thought Godfrey was her sole trustee."
"So he was," said Leslie grimly, "more's the pity, and he embezzled every
penny of the funds—gambled them away in card-playing and... other
"Godfrey Harrison, Beatrice's brother?"
"Yes, her much-admired, accomplished, ill-used brother, the victim of her
"If that be true, then Godfrey is simply a..."
"You mean an unmitigated scoundrel. Quite so, Florence, and a number of
other words we won't go over. I tell you," and Leslie sprang to his feet,
"there is some use in swearing; if it had not been for one or two
expressions that came to my memory suddenly to-day, I should have been
ill. Curious to say, the lawyer seemed to enjoy them as much as myself, so
it must be a bad case."
"But I don't understand—if Godfrey spent Trixy's money, how is there
anything to manage? Did he pay it back?"
"No, he did not, and could not; he has not enough brains to earn eighteen
pence except by cheating, and if by any chance he came into a fortune,
would grudge his sister a pound."
"Don't you begin to catch a glimpse of the facts? Why, Marsden toiled and
scraped, and in the end, so the doctors say, killed himself to replace the
money, and he had just succeeded before his death."
"How good of him! but I don't see the necessity of all this secrecy on his
part, and all those stories about low interest that he told Trixy."
"There was no necessity; if it had been some of us, we would have let Mrs.
Marsden know what kind of brother she had, and ordered him out of the
country on threat of jail.
"It was Marsden's foolishness, let us call it, to spare his wife the
disgrace of her idol and the loss of his company. So her husband was
despised beside this precious rascal every day."
"Trixy will get a terrible shock when she is told; it would almost have
been kinder to let her know the truth before he died."
"Mrs. Marsden is never to know," said Leslie; "that was his wish; she's
just to be informed that new trustees have been appointed, and we are to
take care that she does not waste her income on the fellow.
"People will send letters of condolence to Mrs. Marsden, but they will say
at afternoon teas that it must be a great relief to her, and that it's
quite beautiful to see her sorrow. In two years she will marry some
well-dressed fool, and they will live on Marsden's money," and Leslie's
voice had an unusual bitterness.
"Did you ever hear of another case like this, John?"
"Never; when old Parchment described Marsden giving him the instructions,
he stopped suddenly.
"'Marsden,' he said, 'was the biggest fool I ever came across in the
course of forty-two years' practice,' and he went over to the window."
"I went to the fireplace; we were both so disgusted with the man that we
couldn't speak for five minutes."
After a short while Mrs. Leslie said, "It appears to me that this slow,
uninteresting man, whom every one counted a bore, was in his own way...
almost a hero."
"Or altogether," replied John Leslie.
RIGHTEOUS OVER MUCH
How do you do, Crashaw? didn't know you condescended to conversaziones at
the Town Hall, at least when there is no dancing. Their Worships will be
satisfied this evening, for the whole world and his wife seem to be here,
and some people that have never been in the world before, one would
"There is just one person I wish particularly to see, and I can't find
her; that is Arkwright's young wife. I passed the old man himself a minute
ago, conversing with Peterson, and lecturing on the effect of the American
tariff on wool. Has he left her at home, Jack, to keep her out of harm and
to tantalise the public?"
"Not he. Jacob is quite proud of her, to do him justice, and worships the
ground on which she treads, although I doubt whether she knows that or
cares. Mrs. Arkwright is very beautiful In my humble judgment, but there
is a wide gulf between twenty-one and seventy. Besides, she has a temper,
and no sympathy with his religious notions. When December weds May, it's
bound to be either a comedy or a tragedy, and this is half and between."
"When you have quite finished your interesting moral reflections, Jack,
and can attend to practical detail, could you do me the pleasure of
pointing Mrs. Arkwright out to me, and, as you seem to have seen a good
deal of her, introducing your unworthy servant? I'll be able then to judge
for myself. We are obliged to Arkwright for creating a piquant situation."
"Come to the next room, where the band is playing; Mrs. Arkwright was
there ten minutes ago. But I don't know whether I can intrude on her at
the present moment, even although provided with so good-looking and
well-dressed an excuse. Yes; there, Crashaw, in the alcove, talking to a
parson, that is Jacob's wife. Was I right?"
"Your taste, Jack, is perfect; but, indeed, a man who admires Mrs.
Arkwright deserves no credit; it is inevitable. There is prettiness, and
there is sweetness, and there is taking-ness, and they are very well, but
this is on another level."
"I thought you would be astonished, and am pleased to notice that even so
blasé a critic of womankind can grow enthusiastic on occasion.
Isn't that a proud head?"
"Why, Jack, that woman ought to have been a duchess, and a leader of
society in town, instead of Mrs. Jacob Arkwright, wife of a self-made
wool-spinner and a deacon. Her face is the most complete piece of Grecian
beauty I ever saw—nose, eyes, chin, mouth, perfect; forehead perhaps
the slightest bit high—a Greek would have worn a ribbon—and
that glorious hair, brown shot with gold."
"She is certainly looking splendid to-night Do you notice how she has put
the other women to confusion?"
"Simply a goddess among a lot of peasants. I say, Jack, how in the world
did that girl, with such a face and such an air, ever marry Arkwright?
Where was she hidden away? Had she no opportunity? Talk about waste, this
is an absolute sin. Do you know her history?"
"Lived with her mother, and got her living by teaching. Arkwright, who has
all his life been busy with wool and religious affairs, saw her in chapel,
and remembered he was human. Fell in love with her on first sight, having
lived scatheless unto threescore years and ten, and got a fellow-deacon to
negotiate the affair; at least, so it is reported."
"Most likely, I should say; but, Jack, what an abandoned criminal that
mother of hers must have been, and what did she herself do this thing for?
She has a will of her own, or else I do not know a woman's face."
"Oh, the old story. Her mother was proud and poor, and considered
Arkwright an excellent suitor. Mrs. Arkwright is not much troubled about
religion, and I fancy has a very different idea of things from her
husband, but she had the chance of a handsome provision for herself and
her mother, and she seized it There could be no romance; but can you blame
the old lady, Crashaw, urging such a marriage, or the daughter escaping
from the dreary governess life?"
"No, I suppose not. The girl took the veil, and obtained a settlement at
the same time, after a sound Protestant fashion; but it does seem a crime
against nature to sacrifice a beautiful young woman to a hard, bloodless
old Puritan like Arkwright, who is, I grant you, very able in wool, and
perfectly straight in character, but who is perfectly uncultured and
hopelessly bigoted. What a life of dreariness she must lead in the
"Well, of course she can't attend concerts, nor dance, nor hunt, nor go
into society, but she has a good home, and a carriage, and as much money
as she can spend. I don't suppose that she cares for Jacob, but she does
her duty as a wife, and does not seem unhappy."
"Certainly Mrs. Arkwright is not unhappy this evening with her present
companion. I will hazard the guess, Jack, without any reflection on her
wifely character, that she never looked at her worthy, but not very
attractive, husband with the same interest which she is bestowing on that
handsome parson. Who is he, Jack?"
"Egerton's his name, and he's Arkwright's minister—a
Congregationalism or Baptist; I can never remember the difference. He is a
very able fellow, they say, and a rattling good preacher, quite broad and
liberal in his views, but a perfect ascetic in his life. He must be very
much in Mrs. Arkwright's company, and he's certainly the decentest man she
"Arkwright is about seventy, and is not so strong as he looks, Jack; his
wife will have time to console herself, and her second husband will be a
very lucky man, for he will have a fortune and her heart."
"You have come quickly, Mr. Egerton, and that was well done," said Jacob
Arkwright, looking very white and worn, propped up with pillows. "I have
much to say, and I'll take a sup o' brandy; them that never touches drink
when they're well get the good when they're ill.
"That gives me the strength I need for the time, and ma work is nearly
done. Don't go away, Laura; I want you to hear what I say to the pastor.
"The doctor says 'at ma days are few, mayhap only to-morrow, and it's best
to speak when a man's head is clear, and I thank God mine is that, though
my body be weakened by this sickness."
His wife stood on one side of the bed, now and then rearranging the
pillows at his back and bathing his forehead with vinegar—for scent
he would not have—and Egerton stood on the other, refusing to sit
down while she stood, and watching her strong white hands at their
service, but only once did he look her straight in the face.
"You're young, Pastor—thirty, did ye say?—and I'm owd,
seventy-two this month, and I havena' known you long, but there's no mon
I've liked better or could trust more." And he looked steadily at Egerton
with a certain softening of expression.
"You've been very kind to me and to the chapel, Mr. Arkwright, and I hope
it may be God's will to spare you and raise you up again," and although
the words were formal, the accent was tender and moving.
"No, no, lad; our times are in His hand, and I have received the summons,
and so we 'ill go to business. And first about ma affairs. I wish ye to
understand everything, that ye may be able to do your duty by ma widow."
Egerton was conscious that Mrs. Arkwright straightened herself, and could
feel the silence in the room; but the dying man was not one to appreciate
"It may be that I was too owd for marrying, and ma ways too old-fashioned.
Ma house has no been very bright for a young wife, and ma conscience did
not allow me liberty in worldly amusements. But according to my nature I
can say before God that I loved ye, Laura, and have tried to do ma part by
"You married me a poor girl, and have been most... kind to me, Jacob. Why
speak of such things?" and her voice was proud and pained.
"You have been a faithful wife to me," he went on, as one fulfilling a
plan, "and have put up with my... peculiarities—for I know you do
not think wi' me in things, and do not like some of the men 'at came to
the house. Oh, I said nowt, but I saw aal."
Mrs. Arkwright laid her hand on her husband's, and it occurred to Egerton
from a slight flush on his face that she had never done this before.
"Ma will has been made for a year"—it was plain that Mr. Arkwright
was to go on to the end, and Egerton could not have lifted his eyes for a
ransom—"and I have left aal to my wife without any condition, with
just one legacy. It is to you, Egerton, and I hope you'ill not refuse it—just
something to remind you of me, and... get you books."
"It was very... good of you, sir, and I am most... grateful, but I...
really can't accept your kindness. It is not likely that I will ever
marry, and I've got enough for myself."
As he spoke, Mrs. Arkwright shook up the pillows hastily, and went to a
side table for a glass.
"Well, if you will not, then there's an end of it; but you will grant me
another favour which may be harder," and for a minute Arkwright seemed to
"Ma wife will be left young and rich, and although I have never said it to
you, ma lass, she is... beautiful."
"Jacob, this is not seemly." Her voice was vibrant with passion.
"Blame me not for saying this once, and if another be present, he is our
friend, and I am coming to my point; the brandy again, and I'll soon be
"You have no brother, and I have no person of my blood to guide you, ma
lass; ye might be persecuted by men 'at would bring you nowt but trouble
and vexation of heart You need an honest man to be your guardian and give
"Ye may never want to marry again, for I doubt ye have had little joy
these years, or again ye may, to taste some joy, and I would count it
unjust to hinder you—peace, lass, till I be done; I was ever rough
and plain—and some one must see that your husband be a right mon.
"So I turned it over in ma mind, and I sought for a friend 'at was sound
o' heart and faithful. This speaking is hard on me, but it 'ill soon be
done." And as Mrs. Arkwright stooped to give him brandy once more, Egerton
saw that her cheeks were burning.
"An older mon might have been better, but ye're old for your years,
Pastor, and have parted wi' the foolishness o' youth. You have some
notions I don't hold with, for I'm the owd sort—believe and be
saved, believe not and be damned—but ye're no a mon to say yea and
do nay. Naa, naa, I have seen more than I said; and though some 'at came
to the house had the true doctrine, they were shoddy stuff.
"George Egerton, as I have done good to you and not ill these years, will
ye count Laura Arkwright as your sister, and do to her a brother's part,
as ye will answer to God at the laast day?"
The wind lifted the blind and rustled in the curtains; the dying man
breathed heavily, and waited for an answer. Egerton looked across the bed,
but Mrs. Arkwright had withdrawn behind the curtain. Arkwright's eyes met
the minister's with an earnest, searching glance.
"I will be as a brother to your wife while I live."
As he spoke, Arkwright grasped his hand and gave a sigh of content; but
when Egerton left the room, Laura refused to touch his hand, and her face
was blazing with anger.
"You have been very generous to the chapel, and we thank you very much for
keeping up all Mr. Arkwright's subscriptions those three years. The work
of God would have been much crippled had it not been for your liberality."
"Do you know, Mr. Egerton, that when you talk in that grave, approving
fashion, as if I were one of your devout women like poor Mrs. Tootle, who
is really a good creature, although her husband is a sanctimonious idiot,
I feel a perfect hypocrite."
"Why do you always depreciate yourself..."
"Do not interrupt me, for I am determined to settle this matter once for
all, and not walk about in a vain show, as if I were a saint You think me
good, and so do the chapel people, I suppose, because I give to foreign
missions and Bible-women, and go to the prayer-meeting, and attend the
special meetings. Do you know why I do those things?"
"Yes, I think so," said the minister; "but I will hear your reason."
"Because Mr. Arkwright believed in missions and evangelists, and he was...
a better husband to me than I was wife to him, and because it would be
dishonourable not to use his money for the objects he approved."
"And the services? Is that the reason you are always present, and set such
a good example?" And it was plain the minister did not take Mrs. Arkwright
at her value of herself.
"Oh, this is because... because..."
"Yes?" And Mr. Egerton smiled as one who is giving checkmate.
"Because you were Jacob's friend, and the only man he... loved, and
because, although we have quarrelled several times, and I have been very
rude to you once or twice, still"—and a smile brought Mrs.
Arkwright's face to perfection—"we are friends also."
"You have been... angry with me," said Egerton, "when I could not
understand the reason, but I never doubted your friendship. If I were in
serious trouble, I would come to you rather than to any man."
"Would you really?" Then her tone changed.
"I don't believe you, for you would go to some snuffy, maundering old
"And you are good," he insisted, taking no notice of her petulance. "You
are honest, and brave, and high-minded, and loyal, and..."
"Pious, with a gift of prayer, you had better add. How blind you are, for
all your knowledge and... other qualities. You forgot to add
sweet-tempered; but perhaps you were coming to that."
"No, I would not say that, and I am rather glad you are not gentle,"—the
minister was very bold,—"for you would not be... yourself."
"You had your suspicions, then, and are not sure that I am ready for
canonising? Do you know I feel immensely relieved; suppose we celebrate
this confession by tea? Would you ring the bell, Mr. Egerton?"
"There is something I want to talk about, and as it's rather important,
would you mind, Mrs. Arkwright, giving me a few minutes first? Tea is
"Composing, I find it—but as you please; is it the District
Visitors, or the Nurses' Home, or the Children's Holiday, and is it
money?" Mrs. Arkwright for some reason was very gracious.
"No, it has nothing to do with the chapel. I wish to speak about...
"Yes?" and she looked curiously at him.
"You remember that day when Mr. Arkwright committed you to my care, and I
gave my word to..
"Do your best to look after a very troublesome woman," Mrs. Arkwright
interposed hurriedly; "it was a... risky task, and I thought you were far
too hasty, and just a little presumptuous, in undertaking it, but you've
been a very lenient guardian for your age. Have I done anything wrong?"
"No, and you could not at any time in my eyes,"—Mrs. Arkwright made
as though she would curtsey,—"but others might do wrong to you, and
I have been anxious for some time.
"Mr. Arkwright was afraid lest some unworthy man should admire you or
desire your wealth, and... marry you, and your life be miserable. And he
wished me to save you from this, and I promised to do my best."
"Well?" and her voice had begun to freeze. "I remember all that."
"It is difficult to speak about such things, but you know that I... would
do anything to save you pain...."
"Go on," and now her eyes were fixed on the minister.
"It came to my ears and I saw for myself that one whom I knew slightly and
did not like was paying you attentions, and it might be, as I also heard,
was favoured by you. So it seemed my duty to make enquiries about Mr.
"There is nothing against his character, and I have heard much good of him—that
he has cultured tastes and is very well liked by those who know him;
personally we could never be friends, for various reasons, but he... is
not unworthy to be the husband of... a good woman. That is all I have to
say"; and the saying of it was plainly very hard to the minister.
"You recommend me to marry Mr. Crashaw, if that gentleman should do me the
honour to ask my hand, or do you propose to suggest this step to him, so
as to complete your duty as guardian?" Mrs. Arkwright was now standing and
regarding Egerton with fierce scorn.
"My information seemed to me reliable"—he was also standing, white
and pained—"and I thought it would help you in that case to know
what I have told you, when you came to decide."
"If I knew who told you such falsehoods, I would never speak to them
again, and I would make them suffer for their words. Mr. Crashaw! and it
was to that cynical, worldly, supercilious tailor's block you were to
marry me. What ill have I done you?"
"God knows I did not desire.... I mean... do you not see that I tried to
do what was right at a cost?... Why be so angry with me?"
"Because I do not really care what any person in this town or all
Yorkshire says about me, but I do care and cannot endure that you should
turn against me, and be content to see me Crashaw's wife or any other
man's." And she drove the minister across the room in her wrath—he
had never seen her so beautiful—till he stood with his back to the
door, and she before him as a lioness robbed of her cubs.
"It has been my mistake, for I understand not women," he said, with proud
humility. "I beg your pardon, and am more than ever... your servant."
She looked at him stormily for ten seconds; then she turned away. "If that
is all you have to say, you need not come again to this house."
"You will excuse me sending a verbal message by the doctor, for, as you
see, I am past writing, and... the time is short I wanted to speak with
you, Mrs. Arkwright, once before... I died." And Egerton thought of the
day she had stood by her husband's deathbed as now she stood by his, only
that the nurse had left the room and there was no third person to be an
embarrassment "Do not suppose I forget your words to me the last time we
met in private," he continued, as she did not speak nor look at him,
beyond one swift glance as she came into the room; "and believe me, I
would not have forced myself on you, nor would I have asked this favour,
had it not been that... I have something of which I must deliver my soul."
"You are not dying; you were a strong man, and a few days' illness
couldn't... be fatal," she burst out, and it seemed as if Mrs. Arkwright
for once was going to lose control and fall a-weeping.
Then she mastered herself, and said almost coldly, "Had I known you were
so ill, I would have called to inquire; but nothing was said of pneumonia,
only a bad cold."
"You forgive me, then, that ill-judged interference, Mrs. Arkwright, and
anything else in which I have offended you or failed in... my brother's
"Do not speak like that to me unless you wish to take revenge; it is I who
ask your pardon for my evil temper and insolence that day, and other
times; but you are too... good, else you would have understood."
"You did not, then, hate me, as I supposed?" and his voice was strained
"When you were prepared to approve my engagement to Mr. Crashaw? Yes, I
did, and I could have struck you as you bore witness to his character—whom
you detested. Conscientious and unselfish... on your part, very. And yet
at the same time I... did not hate you; I could have... you are a dull
man, Mr. Egerton, and I am not a saint. Is it milk you drink?" And when
she raised his head, her hands lingered as they had not done before on her
"Are you really dying?" She sat down and looked at him, her head between
her hands. "You and I are, at least, able to face the situation."
"Yes, without doubt; but I am not a martyr to overwork, or anything else;
my death is not a sentimental tragedy; do not let any one speak of me in
that fashion: I simply caught a cold and did not take care; it's quite
commonplace." When he smiled his face was at its best, the dark blue eyes
having a roguish look as of a boy.
Mrs. Arkwright leant back on her chair and bit her lower lip.
"This is good-bye, then, and our friendship—six years long, isn't
it?—is over. Had I known it was to be so short—well, we had
"Not over," and he looked wistfully at her; "this life does not end all."
"Ah, you have the old romantic faith, and one would like to share it, but
no one knows; this life is the only certainty."
"In a few hours," he went on, "I shall know, and I expect to see my friend
Jacob Arkwright, whom I loved, although we only knew one another for three
years, and he... will ask for you." Mrs. Arkwright regarded Egerton with
"He will ask how I kept my trust, and I... will be ashamed, unless you
hear my confession and forgive me. For I... have sinned against you and
"In what?" she asked, with a hard voice.
"God knows that I had no thought of you he might not have read while he
was here. And afterwards for a year I was in heart your brother; and then—oh,
how can I say it and look you in the face, who thought me a good and
faithful minister of Christ?" and his eyes were large with pain and
"Say it," she whispered, "say it plain; you must," and she stretched out
her hand in commandment.
"I loved you as... a man loves a woman whom he would make his wife, till
it came to pass that I made excuses to visit you, till I watched you on
the street, till I longed for the touch of your hand, till I... oh, the
sin and shame—thought of you in the service and... at my prayers;
yet I had been left your guardian and had promised to be as a brother to
you; besides, nor was this the least of my shame, you were rich."
"And now?" She had risen to her feet "I have finally overcome, but only
within these few months, and my heart is at last single. You are to me
again my friend's wife, and I shall meet him... in peace, if you forgive
For a few seconds nothing was heard but his rapid breathing, and then she
spoke with low, passionate voice.
"Your love needs no forgiveness; your silence... I can never forgive."
He lived for two hours, and he spoke twice. Once he thanked his nurse for
her attentions, and just before he passed away she caught the words,
"through much tribulation... enter the Kingdom... God."
One winter I forsook the cottage at Drumtochty, in spite of the pure white
snow and the snell, bracing wind from Ben Urtach, and took rooms in
Edinburgh. It was a poor exchange, for the talk of professors and
advocates, although good enough in its way, was not to be compared with
the wisdom of James Soutar; but there were more books in Edinburgh than in
the Glen, and it was there that I met my probationer. From time to time we
passed upon the stair, when he would shrink into a landing and apologise
for his obstruction, and if in sheer forgetfulness I said "Fine day," with
the rain beating on the windows, he nervously agreed. With his suspicion
of clerical attire, and his deferential manner, he suggested some helot of
the ecclesiastical world, whose chiefs live in purple and fine linen, and
whose subordinates share with tramway men and sempstresses the honour of
working harder and receiving less pay than any other body in the
commonwealth. By his step I had identified him as the tenant of a single
room above my sitting-room, and one wondered how any man could move so
little and so gently. If he shifted a chair, it was by stealth, and if in
poking his fire a coal dropped on the hearth, he abandoned the audacious
One grew so accustomed to these mouse-like movements that it came as a
shock when my neighbour burst into activity. It was on a Friday afternoon
that he seemed to be rearranging his furniture so as to leave a clear
passage from end to end of the room, and then, after he had adjusted the
chairs and table to his satisfaction, he began a wonderful exercise.
Sometimes he would pace swiftly backwards and forwards with a murmuring
sound as one repeating passages by rote, with occasional sudden pauses,
when he refreshed his memory from some quarter. Sometimes he stood before
the table and spoke aloud, rising to a pitch, when one could catch a word
or two, and then he would strike a book, quite fiercely for him, and once
or twice he stamped his foot almost as hard as a child could. After this
outbreak he would rest a while, and then begin again on the lower key, and
one knew when he reached the height by the refrain, "Abana and Pharpar,
rivers of Damascus." It was an amazing development, and stimulated
"No," explained our excellent landlady, "he's no daft, though ye micht
think sae. He's a minister without a kirk, an' he's juist learnin' his
sermon; but, Losh keep us, he's by ordinar' the day.
"He's my cousin's son, ye see"—and Mrs. Macfarlane settled to
historical detail—"an' his mother's a weedow. She focht to get him
through St. Andrew's, an' hoo she managed passes me. Noo he's what is
called a probationer, an', eh, but he earns his livin' hard.
"His business," continued Mrs. Macfarlane, "is to tak' the pulpit when a
minister is awa' at a Sacrament or on his holiday, and any Sabbath he
micht be at Peterhead and the next at Wigtown. He gets his orders on
Friday, an' he sets aff wi' his bit bag on Saturday, an' a weary body he
is on Monday nicht An' it's little he maks for a' he does, bare twenty
shillin' a week clear; but naebody can stand this colie-shangie,
(disturbance)." For above the landlady's exposition rose the probationer's
voice: "Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus."
What she said to her cousin once removed I know not, but it was not in
vain, for in the evening this was brought by the servant:—
"It affords me sincere regret to learn that you have been disturbed in the
midst of your literary avocations by sounds and movements emanating from
my room. They are unfortunately and unavoidably connected with a new
method of professional work which I have been advised to adopt by
experienced friends. It would, however, be unrighteous that one man should
hinder another in his daily labour, and I would be greatly obliged if you
could indicate any time of absence during which I might be free to speak
aloud and move with energy in my chamber without offence. Apologising for
my unwitting annoyance,
It was written on poor paper and a single sheet, but the handwriting was
that of a scholar, a man accustomed to form Hebrew and Greek characters,
and the very flavour of pedantry was attractive, so that one wanted to
know the writer, and I seized the excuse of a personal answer.
He was quite unprepared for my coming, and upset a Hebrew lexicon and four
German books on the Prophets before he could get a chair in his single
room below the slates; nor had he any small talk to offer, but he was
ready enough to speak about his own work, and seemed anxious to explain
his recent departure. It also occurred to me that he wanted my judgment.
"My work, let me explain," he said, hesitatingly, "is not pastoral or...
devoted to a particular sphere, since my gifts have not yet... commended
themselves to a congregation after such a fashion that they were inclined
to... in short, wished to have me as their minister. Mine is a vagum
ministerium. I am what is called a probationer, that is, I have been duly
educated in profane and sacred learning for the holy ministry, and have
passed certain examinations... without discredit."
"Of that I am sure," I interpolated with sincerity, whereat the
probationer ought to have bowed and replied, "It is very good of you to
say so," but as it was he only blushed and looked as if he had been caught
"And then?" I suggested.
"It remains to discover whether I am... fit for the practical work of my
calling—if it be, indeed, I am called at all.. And here the little
man came to a halt.
"You are examined again," I inquired, tentatively, "or placed under a
chief for a little?"
"Well, no, although the latter would be an excellent way—but it is
not for me to criticise the rules of my Church; if any congregation has
lost its minister, then such as I, that is, persons in a state of
probation, are sent each Sabbath to... preach, and then the people choose
the one who... And again Mr. Clunas came to a stand for want of fitting
"Who comes out first in the preaching competition," I added, and in an
instant was sorry.
"It would ill become me to put the matter... in such a form, and if I have
done so it has been an inadvertence, and indeed I did not mean to
complain, but rather to explain the reason of... the noise."
"Please tell me whatever you please, but it was not noise, for I heard
"The rivers of Damascus? I feared so, sir; that was the climax or point of
repetition—but I will relate the matter in order, with your
"It has been my habit, after I have duly examined a passage in the
original language and the light of competent scholars, and verified its
lessons by my own reason and conscience—collected the raw material,
if I may so say—to commit the same to writing according to my
ability, using language that can be understood of the people, and yet
conforming as far as may be to the Elizabethan standard."
In my opinion, I indicated, he had done well. "I judged that I would have
your approval so far, but hereafter comes in a grave question of
expediency, on which I should like your mind as a neutral person and one
given to literary pursuits. My habit is further to read to the people what
I have written in a clear voice, and with such animation as is natural to
me, in the faith that whatsoever may have been given me by the Spirit of
Truth may be witnessed to the hearers by the same Spirit."
This appeared to me a very reasonable method and a just hope.
"Others, however, acting according to their nature, commit their message
to memory, and deliver it to the people with many lively and engaging
gestures, which pleases the people and wins their hearts."
"And so the groundlings prefer the windbags," I interrupted, "and elect
them to be their minister."
"It is not so that I wished you to infer," and the probationer's voice was
full of reproof, "for I trust my desire is not to obtain a church, but the
confirmation of my calling through the voice of the people; yet who
knoweth his heart?" And the probationer was much distressed.
It was only my foolish thought, I hastened to explain, and besought him to
"A friend of... much shrewdness and, I am sure, of good intention, has
spoken to me at length on my... want of favour with the people, and has
pointed out that the Word must be placed before them after a winsome
"He urged me to choose texts which could be frequently repeated with
effect, and so lodge their idea in the mind of the people, and that I
should not use any manuscript, but should employ certain arts of oratory,
such as beginning low and raising the voice up to a climax where it would
be good to repeat the text with emphasis.
"As an example and... inducement he dwelt upon the case of one probationer
who had taken for his text, 'And there shall be no more sea,' whereon he
composed a single sermon, to which he devoted much pains. This he
delivered daily for some hours in his chamber, and at the end of each
paragraph said in a loud voice, 'And there shall be no more sea.' He was
elected to three churches within a short space," concluded Mr. Clunas.
"You have therefore thought it desirable to amend your habit."
"Well, so far," and the probationer was much embarrassed, "it was
impossible for me to handle what my adviser called 'repeaters,' such as
that I have mentioned, for my mind does not incline to them; but as I had
been labouring the tendency to prefer meretricious and sensational
religion to that which is austere and pure from the text, 'Are not Abana
and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? *
it seemed to me that I might for once... make trial... that is, use the
words Abana and Pharpar as a symbol to... fix the truth, as it were. It is
very laborious and... not grateful to me. Do you think that... I am doing
right?" and my probationer fixed me with an anxious eye.
"Quite so, sir, I understand perfectly," as I was making a blundering
effort to suggest that Providence hardly intended that my probationer
should go round the country like a showman with "repeaters."
"You have confirmed my own idea and... delivered my feet from falling, for
I had come nearly to unreality in a holy thing, besides ridding me from an
irksome task," and he regarded the sheets—the "rivers" standing out
in half text—with strong dislike.
"There is another matter," he continued, "on which I would fain have your
mind, since you have shown so much sympathy. It is now, I regret to say,
the custom for a person in my position, that is, on probation, to print a
number of certificates from influential persons and send them to... the
authorities in a vacant church. This I have refused to do; but there is a
special reason why I strongly desire to be settled... not quite unworthy,
I hope," and a faint flush came to the probationer's face.
"I understand"—for it was natural to suppose that he was engaged, as
many in his circumstances are, which grows into a pathetic tragedy as a
girl waits for long years till her betrothed is approved in his work and
can offer her a home—"and you have got your certificates."
"A few, and it may be that I could secure more; here is one which... I
value deeply... count above gold. It's from Prof. Carphin; you know what
he has done, of course.
"Hebrew scholar"—the probationer rose from his chair and paced the
floor—"that is inadequate, quite inadequate; there are many Hebrew
scholars, thank God, but Prof. Carphin has gone deeper. Why, sir, he has
made a race of scholars, and changed the face of theological thought in
Scotland; he is the modern Erasmus of our land," and the probationer was
"This is what he has written of me, and it is superfluous to say that from
such a man this testimony is the highest praise; I ought hardly to show
such words, but you will not misjudge me."
"I beg to certify that Mr. Hiram Clunas, Master of Arts and Bachelor of
Divinity, late Fellow of this College, is in my judgment fully competent
to expound the Hebrew Scriptures after an accurate and spiritual fashion
to any body of intelligent people.
"Calvin College, Edinburgh."
"Pardon me, it is my foolishness, but you notice 'fully'; this extremity
of language is, I need not say, undeserved, but that Dr. Carphin should
have written it is... a compensation for many little disappointments," and
the probationer's voice trembled.
"No, it will not be of material service in the way of gaining me a
hearing, for it is a... moral disgrace to my Church that the word of this
eminent man carries little weight with... committees and such like, and
that many people in this University city do not know his face when he
walks along Princes Street.
"This is from another kind of man, who is very... acceptable as a
preacher, and has much influence... in vacancies; it was an indiscretion,
I fear, to have asked him for... a certificate, as he has only seen me
once; but when one is pressed he is not always wise."
"I have had the pleasure of knowing the Rev. Hiram Clunas for a
considerable time, and have much satisfaction in recommending him to the
favourable consideration of selection committees of vacant congregations,
He is a ripe scholar, a profound divine, an eloquent preacher, a faithful
pastor, an experienced Christian, with an attractive and popular manner,
and general knowledge of a varied and rich character. Any congregation
securing Mr. Clunas is certain to increase both in number and finance, and
I anticipate for this talented young minister a future of remarkable and
"MacDuff MacLeear, D.D."
"Yes, it is a curious name, and I believe was, so to say, adopted.
Originally he was James MacLeear—MacLeear is his own—and some
years ago he inserted MacDuff, I am credibly informed, and now he has
dropped his Christian name.
"The reason for the change, it is understood, is for purposes of
advertisement in the public prints, where, I am informed, ordinary names
such as James or John are less... striking, so that preachers who desire
to appeal to the people use two surnames, as it were; it seems to me
doubtful in ethics, but one must not be ready to judge his neighbour in
"No, his degree is not from a Scots University, but from a seat of
learning in a Western State of America—Auroraville, I think it is
called, but I am not sure. Yes, he wrote a little book on the Maidens
of the Bible of a popular cast.
"You agree with me that no one could use such a testimony with...
self-respect, and I have resolved to print no certificates or make any
personal appeal; but I do not regret the effort I made, for it has gained
me the Professor's letter," and the probationer folded up the letter
carefully and placed it in his desk.
"I fear that you must think me charged with vain ambition, but... it is
not for my own sake."
From time to time we spent an hour together, and he told me of his
journeys, many and toilsome.
"Of course I am not sent to supply in cities, for they require men of
greater... experience; my allotment is always in the country, and I like
"When my station comes near I begin to look out of the window and see
whether the district is level or hilly—for though climbing tries one
a little, one has a fair view to refresh the soul, and I like woods
because of the mystery and the rustling of the leaves.
"Sometimes a farmer will meet me with a dogcart—and there are no men
so kind as farmers—but mostly I walk, and that is nothing unless the
distance be far and it be raining heavily. No, it may be a weakness of the
flesh, but I do not like a night walk, and yet to see the squares of light
in the cottage windows, flashing across a glen or breaking out of a wood,
is very pleasing."
One snowy morning in February he came into my room in evident excitement,
with a letter in his hand.
"You have taken such an interest in my affairs that I thought you would
like to know... I have received a letter informing me that I am on the
short leet for Tilliegask... just two, and I am one... and I am to preach
next Sabbath... and the farmer with whom I stayed has sent a very
During the week the probationer was much tried on a question of
conscience, whether he ought to act on a suggestion of his friend at
"It happens," he explained to me, "that the people at Tilliegask are very
conservative in their views of the Bible, while, as you are aware, I have
been led to accept certain modern conclusions regarding the history of the
books, and my good friend desires that I should... make no allusion to
them in my discourse.
"Now," went on the probationer, "it was not my intention to do so, but
after this advice am I not bound in conscience to indicate, simply to
indicate, my position, that they may not be deceived, and that I may not
obtain a church by guile?" And he read to me the sentence, which I make no
doubt no one understood, but which was to Mr. Clunas a great relief. He
came home from Tilliegask in high spirits, and speculated every evening on
his chances as against the other man who was to preach on Sabbath.
"No, he was not what you would call a scholar," and then the probationer
laughed aloud—a rare occurrence; "well, it was a translation in the
Latin class; he rendered adhuc juvenis as 'a still youth,' which
was much tasted, and others, too, as remarkable; but it is not generous to
remember such... failings."
The good man was indeed so distressed by this disparaging allusion to his
rival that he searched his heart for the sins of pride and jealousy, which
with envy and worldliness, he confessed to me, constantly beset him. He
also impressed upon me that although Mr. Tosh might not be a scholar in
the academic sense, yet he had such gifts of speech that he would be an
excellent minister for Tilliegask if the choice of that secluded place
should fall on Tosh. But the probationer waited anxiously for the first
post on Tuesday, which would give the result, and I was only less anxious.
When he did not come down with tidings, and only the faintest sound came
from his room as of a chair occasionally shifted before the fire, I went
up, and found my friend very low and two open letters on the table.
"It has not been... God's will," and he signed that I should read the
letters. One was from the ecclesiastical functionary who presides over
elections and church courts, and who is called by the suggestive name of
"moderator"; that the vote had been fifty-two for Mr. Clunas and
ninety-three for Mr. Tosh; that Mr. Tosh had been elected; that on his,
the moderator's appeal, the minority had "fallen in"; that he, the
moderator, was sure that Mr. Clunas would be pleased to know that his
supporters had shown so good a spirit, and that there was no doubt that
the Great Head of the Church had something in store for His servant; and
that in the event of Mr. Clunas applying in another vacancy he, the
moderator, would be willing to give him a strong certificate as to the
impression he, Mr. Clunas, had produced on the congregation of Tilliegask.
The second letter was from Wester Tilliegask, my friend's host, who was
full of genuine regret that Mr. Clunas had not won the poll, who explained
that up to Sabbath his chance was excellent, but that Mr. Tosh had carried
all before him by a sermon on "A Rainbow round about the Throne," with
very fetching illustrations and quotations—Mr. Tosh had also won
several votes by shaking hands with the people at the door, and
ingeniously giving it to be understood that his idea of pastoral duty was
to visit his congregation four times a year; that, notwithstanding all
these Tosh attractions, he, Wester Tilliegask, would have preferred Mr.
Clunas; and that as there was a rumour that the minister of Ballengeich
would soon need a colleague, he would arrange through his, Wester
Tilliegask's, wife's brother that Mr. Clunas should have a hearing. He
added that a certificate from MacDuff MacLeear, placing Mr. Tosh a little
lower than St Paul, had told.
The probationer was very brave and generous, blaming no one, and
acknowledging that Tosh would be a more suitable man for Tilliegask, but
it was evident he was hardly hit.
"It was not to escape the unrest of this life," he said, "nor for the
position, nor even for the sanction of my work; it was for the sake of one
who... has waited long to see me an ordained minister. She may not... be
spared much longer; my mother is now nearly seventy." So it was no
sweetheart, but his mother of whom he thought.
"If I had been elected, I had purposed to start this forenoon and carry
the news myself, and I imagined the scene. I never could reach the cottage
unseen, for there is a window in the gable which commands the road, so
that mother is ever waiting at the garden gate for me.
"Do not count me foolish, but I was to pretend that I had just come to
visit her for a day, and then ask her how she would like to leave the
cottage and live in a manse.
"By this time she would jalouse something—'tis her word—but I
would tell nothing, only expatiate on the manse and her room in it, and...
and... she would suddenly throw her arms round my neck.... Excuse me, sir;
I will come down in the evening, if you please."
Before evening he was hurrying down to the cottage, for after all he had
to go to his mother, and when he came back next Monday she was dead and
"Your sympathy is very grateful," as we sat together, "and it helps me,
but I think my heart is... broken; although I had to live in Edinburgh in
order to accomplish my railway journeys, and we only saw one another at
intervals, we were all in all to one another....
"There were things passed between us I cannot tell, for it seems to me
that a mother's death-bed is a holy place; but she knew that I had lost
Tilliegask, and... she was not cast down, as I was for her sake.
"'Dinna lose heart, Hiram,' she said, her hand in mine, 'for my faith will
be justified; when I gave ye to the Lord the day your father died I was
sure, a' through the fecht o' education I was sure, an' when you got your
honours I was sure, an' when you got no kirk I was still as sure, and now
my eyes are clear, an' I see that God has savit you for a work that hath
not entered into my heart,' and she blessed me...."
From that day he began to fail, and although he struggled to fulfil
preaching engagements, he had at last to give up public work. But he
toiled harder than ever at the Semitic languages.
"It is not that I am deceiving myself with vain hopes," he explained to me
one day, "for I know full well that I am dying, but it seemeth good that
whatsoever talent I have should be cultivated to the end.
"The future life is veiled, and speculation is vain, but language must be
used, and they who have mastered the ancient roots will be of some
service; it is all I can offer, and I must give of my best."
The morning he died I looked over his few affairs and balanced his
accounts, which were kept in a small pass-book, his poor fees on one side
and his slender expenses on the other to a halfpenny.
"The expenditure may seem heavy the last few journeys, but my strength
failed by the way, and I was unable to walk to my destination, but there
may still be enough at the end of the week for what has to be done.
"There will be £9 15s. 6d. when all is paid.
"With the sale of my books it will suffice, for I have carefully enquired,
to buy a grave and defray the cost of burial. It is not possible to be
buried beside my mother, for our ground is full, so let me lie where the
sun is shining on the Grange Cemetery."
Soon after his mind wandered, and I gathered he was in the vestry of
"Lord, be merciful to me and remember my infirmities... deliver Thy
servant from the fear of man and all doubleness of heart... give me grace
to declare Thy truth and to set Thee before me... bless my mother and hear
After a little while he began to preach, but we could make nothing of the
words till he suddenly stopped and raised himself in the bed.
"Thou, Lord," he cried, with great astonishment, "hearing me... Forgive...
I am not worthy to declare Thy Gospel...." What was said by the Master
none of us heard, but the astonishment passed into joy, and the light
thereof still touched and made beautiful his face as the probationer fell
It was a spring day when we laid his body to rest, and any one who cares
can find his grave because a weeping willow hangs over it, and this is the
inscription on the stone:
"It is a very small thing that I should be judged of man's judgment."
A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL
Never had I met any man so methodical in his habits, so neat in his dress,
so accurate in speech, so precise in manner as my fellow-lodger. When he
took his bath in the morning I knew it was half-past seven, and when he
rang for hot water that it was a quarter to eight Until a quarter-past he
moved about the room in his slow, careful dressing, and then everything
was quiet next door till half-past eight, when the low murmur of the
Lord's Prayer concluded his devotions. Two minutes later he went
downstairs—if he met a servant one could hear him say "Good morning"—and
read his newspaper—he seldom had letters—till nine, when he
rang for breakfast. Twenty-past nine he went upstairs and changed his
coat, and he spent five minutes in the lobby selecting a pair of gloves,
brushing his hat, and making a last survey for a speck of dust One glove
he put on opposite the hat-stand, and the second on the doorstep, and when
he touched the pavement you might have set your watch by nine-thirty. Once
he was in the lobby at five and twenty minutes to ten, distressed and
"I cut my chin slightly when shaving," he explained, "and the wound
persists in bleeding. It has an untidy appearance, and a drop of blood
might fall on a letter."
The walk that morning was quite broken, and before reaching the corner, he
had twice examined his chin with a handkerchief, and shaken his head as
one whose position in life was now uncertain.
"It is nothing in itself," he said afterwards, with an apologetic allusion
to his anxiety, "and might not matter to another man. But any little
misadventure—a yesterday's collar or a razor cut, or even an inky
finger—would render me helpless in dealing with people. They would
simply look at the weak spot, and one would lose all authority. Some of
the juniors smile when I impress on them to be very careful about their
dress—quiet, of course, as becomes their situation, but
unobjectionable. With more responsibility they will see the necessity of
such details. I will remember your transparent sticking-plaster—a
most valuable suggestion."
His name was Frederick Augustus Perkins; so ran the card he left on my
table a week after I settled in the next rooms, and the problem of his
calling gradually became a standing vexation. It fell under the class of
conundrums, and one remembered from childhood that it is mean to be told
the answer, so I might not say to Mister Perkins—for it was
characteristic of the prim little man that no properly constituted person
could have said Perkins—"By the way, what is your line of things?"
or any more decorous rendering of my curiosity.
Mrs. Holmes, who was as a mother to Mr. Perkins and myself, as well as two
younger men of literary pursuits and irregular habits, had a gift of
charming irrelevance, and was able to combine allusions to Mr. Perkins'
orderly life and the amatory tendencies of a new cook in a mosaic of
"No, Betsy Jane has 'ad her notice and goes this day week; not that her
cookin's bad, but her brothers don't know when to leave. One was 'ere no
later than last night, though if he was her born brother, 'e 'ad a
different father and mother, or my name ain't 'Olmes. 'Your brother, Betsy
Jane,' says I, 'ought not to talk in a strange 'ouse on family affairs
till eleven o'clock.'
"'E left at 'alf-past ten punctual,' says she, looking as hinnocent as a
child, 'for I 'eard Mr. Perkins go up to 'is room as I was lettin' Jim
"'Betsy Jane,' I says, quite calm, 'where do you expeck to go to as
doesn't know wot truth is?' for Mr. Perkins leaves 'is room has the 'all
clock starts on eleven, and e's in 'is bedroom at the last stroke. If she
'adn't brought in Mr. Perkins she might'ave deceived me, gettin' old and
not bein' so quick in my hearing as I was; but that settled her.
"'Alf-past," went on Mrs. Holmes, scornfully; "and 'im never varied two
minutes the last ten years, except one night 'e fell asleep in 'is chair,
being bad with hinfluenza.
"For a regular single gentleman as rises in the morning and goes out, and
comes in and takes 'is dinner, and goes to bed like the Medes and
Persians, I've never seen 'is equal; an' it's five-and-twenty years since
'Olmes died, 'avin' a bad liver through takin' gin for rheumatics; an'
Liz-beth Peevey says to me, 'Take lodgers, Jemima; not that they pays for
the trouble, but it 'ill keep an 'ouse.'...
"Mr. Perkins' business;" it was shabby, but the temptation came as a way
of escape from the flow of Mrs. Holmes' autobiography; "now that I
couldn't put a name on, for why, 'e never speaks about 'is affairs; just
'Good evening, Mrs.'Olmes; I'll take fish for breakfast to-morrow;' no
more than that, or another blanket on 'is bed on the first of November,
for it's by days, not cold, 'e goes...."
It was evident that I must solve the problem for myself.
Mr. Perkins could not be a city man, for in the hottest June he never wore
a white waistcoat, nor had he the swelling gait of one who made an
occasional coup in mines, and it went without saying that he did
not write; a man who went to bed at eleven, and whose hair made no claim
to distinction. One's mind fell back on the idea of law—conveyancing
seemed probable—but his face lacked sharpness, and the alternative
of confidential clerk to a firm of drysalters was contradicted by an air
of authority that raised observations on the weather to the level of a
state document The truth came upon me—a flash of inspiration—as
I saw Mr. Perkins coming home one evening. The black frock-coat and
waistcoat, dark grey trousers, spotless linen, high, old-fashioned collar,
and stiff stock, were a symbol, and could only mean one profession.
"By the way, Mr. Perkins," for this was all one now required to know, "are
you Income Tax or Stamps?"
"Neither, although my duty makes me familiar with every department in the
Civil Service. I have the honour to be," and he cleared his throat with
dignity, "a first-class clerk in the Schedule Office."
"Our work," he explained to me, "is very important, and in fact... vital
to the administration of affairs. The efficiency of practical government
depends on the accuracy of the forms issued, and every one is composed in
"No, that is a common mistake," in reply to my shallow remark; "the
departments do not draw up their own forms, and in fact they are not fit
for such work. They send us a memorandum of what their officials wish to
ask, and we put it into shape.
"It requires long experience and, I may say, some... ability to compose a
really creditable schedule, one that will bring out every point clearly
and exhaustively—in fact, I have ventured to call it a science"—here
Mr. Perkins allowed himself to smile—"and it might be defined
"Yes, to see a double sheet of foolscap divided up into some twenty-four
compartments, each with a question and a blank, space for the answer, is
pleasing to the eye, very pleasing indeed.
"What annoys one," and Mr. Perkins became quite irritable, "is to examine
a schedule after it has been filled and to discover how it has been
"It is not the public simply who are to blame; they are, of course, quite
hopeless, and have an insane desire to write their names all over the
paper, with family details; but members of the Civil Service abuse the
most admirable forms that ever came out of our office.
"Numerous? Yes, naturally so; and as governmental machinery turns on
schedules they will increase every year. Could you guess, now, the number
of different schedules under our charge?"
"Several hundred, perhaps."
Mr. Perkins smiled with much complacency. "Sixteen thousand four hundred
and four, besides temporary ones that are only used in emergencies. One
department has now reached twelve hundred and two; it has been admirably
organised, and its secretary could tell you the subject of every form.
"Well, it does not become me to boast, but I have had the honour of
contributing two hundred and twenty myself, and have composed forty-two
more that have not yet been accepted.
"Well, yes," he admitted, with much modesty, "I have kept copies of the
original drafts," and he showed me a bound volume of his works.
"An author? It is very good of you to say so," and Mr. Perkins seemed much
pleased with the idea, twice smiling to himself during the evening, and
saying as we parted, "It's my good fortune to have a large and permanent
All November Mr. Perkins was engaged with what he hoped would be one of
his greatest successes.
"It's a sanitation schedule for the Education Department, and is, I dare
to say, nearly perfect It has eighty-three questions on every point, from
temperature to drains, and will present a complete view of the physical
condition of primary schools.
"You have no idea," he continued, "what a fight I have had with our Head
to get it through—eight drafts, each one costing three days' labour—but
now he has passed it.
"'Perkins,' he said, 'this is the most exhaustive schedule you have ever
drawn up, and I'm proud it's come through the hands of the drafting
sub-department Whether I can approve it as Head of the publishing
sub-department is very doubtful.'"
"Do you mean that the same man would approve your paper in one department
"Quite so. It's a little difficult for an outsider to appreciate the
perfect order—perhaps I might say symmetry—of the Civil
Service," and Mr. Perkins spoke with a tone of condescension as to a
little child. "The Head goes himself to the one sub-department in the
morning and to the other in the afternoon, and he acts with absolute
"Why, sir,"—Mr. Perkins began to warm and grow enthusiastic,—"I
have received a letter from the other sub-department, severely criticising
a draft he had highly commended in ours two days before, and I saw his
hand in the letter... distinctly; an able review, too, very able indeed.
"'Very well put, Perkins,' he said to me himself; 'they've found the weak
points; we must send an amended draft;' and so we did, and got a very
satisfactory reply. It was a schedule about swine fever, 972 in the
department of Agriculture. I have had the pleasure of reading it in public
circulation when on my holidays."
"Does your Head sign the letters addressed to himself?"
"Certainly; letters between departments are always signed by the chief
officer." Mr. Perkins seemed to have found another illustration of public
ignorance, and recognised his duty as a missionary of officialism. "It
would afford me much pleasure to give you any information regarding our
excellent system, which has been slowly built up and will repay study; but
you will excuse me this evening, as I am indisposed—a tendency to
shiver which annoyed me in the office to-day."
Next morning I rose half an hour late, as Mr. Perkins did not take his
bath, and was not surprised when Mrs. Holmes came to my room, overflowing
with concern and disconnected speech.
"'E's that regular in 'is ways, that when 'Annah Mariar says 'is water's
at 'is door at eight o'clock, I went up that 'urried that I couldn't
speak; and I 'ears him speaking to 'isself, which is not what you would
expect of him, he being the quietest gentleman as ever..."
"Is Mr. Perkins ill, do you mean?" for Mrs. Holmes seemed now in fair
breath, and was always given to comparative reviews.
"So I knocks and says, 'Mr. Perkins, 'ow are you feeling?' and all I could
'ear was 'temperance'; it's little as he needs of that, for excepting a
glass of wine at his dinner, and it might be something 'ot before going to
bed in winter....
"So I goes in," resumed Mrs. Holmes, "an' there 'e was sittin' up in'is
bed, with 'is face as red as fire, an' not knowing me from Adam. If it
wasn't for 'is 'abits an' a-catching of 'is breath you wud 'ave said
drink, for 'e says, 'How often have the drains been sluiced last year?'"
After which I went up to Mr. Perkins' room without ceremony.
He was explaining, with much cogency, as it seemed to me, that unless the
statistics of temperature embraced the whole year, they would afford no
reliable conclusions regarding the sanitary condition of Board Schools;
but when I addressed him by name with emphasis, he came to himself with a
"Excuse me, sir; I must apologise... I really did not hear... in fact,"
and then, as he realised his situation, Mr. Perkins was greatly
"Did I forget myself so far as... to send for you?... I was not feeling
well. I have a slight difficulty in breathing, but I am quite able to go
to the office... in a cab.
"You are most kind and obliging, but the schedule I am... it just comes
and goes... thank you, no more water... is important and... intricate; no
one... can complete it... except myself.
"With your permission I will rise... in a few minutes... ten o'clock, dear
me... this is most unfortunate... not get down till eleven... I must
really insist..." But the doctor had come, and Mr. Perkins obeyed on one
"Yes, doctor, I prefer, if you please, to know; you see I am not a young
person... nor nervous... thank you very much... quite so; pneumonia is
serious... and double pneumonia dangerous, I understand... no, it is not
that... one is not alarmed at my age, but... yes, I'll lie down... letter
must go to office... dictate it to my friend... certain form... leave of
absence, in fact... trouble you too much... medical certificate."
He was greatly relieved after this letter was sent by special messenger
with the key of his desk, and quite refreshed when a clerk came up with
the chiefs condolences.
"My compliments to Mr. Lighthead... an excellent young official, very
promising indeed... and would he step upstairs for a minute... will excuse
this undress in circumstances... really I will not speak any more.
"Those notes, Mr. Lighthead, will make my idea quite plain... and I hope
to revise final draft... if God will... my dutiful respect to the Board,
and kind regards to the chief clerk... it was kind of you to come, most
This young gentleman came into my room to learn the state of the case, and
was much impressed.
"Really this kind of thing—Perkins gasping in bed and talking in his
old-fashioned way—knocks one out of time, don't you know? If he had
gone on much longer I should have bolted.
"Like him in the office? I should think so. You should have seen the young
fellows to-day when they heard he was so ill. Of course we laugh a bit at
him—Schedule Perkins he's called—because he's so dry and
formal; but that's nothing.
"With all his little cranks, he knows his business better than any man in
the department; and then he's a gentleman, d'y see? could not say a rude
word or do a mean thing to save his life—not made that way, in fact.
"Let me just give you one instance—show you his sort Every one knew
that he ought to have been chief clerk, and that Rodway's appointment was
sheer influence. The staff was mad, and some one said Rodway need not
expect to have a particularly good time.
"Perkins overheard him, and chipped in at once. 'Mr. Rodway'—you
know his dry manner, wagging his eyeglass all the time—'is our
superior officer, and we are bound to render him every assistance in our
power, or,' and then he was splendid, 'resign our commissions.' Rodway,
they say, has retired; but the worst of it is that as Perkins has been
once passed over he 'ill not succeed.
"Perhaps it won't matter, poor chap. I say," said Lighthead, hurriedly,
turning his back and examining a pipe on the mantel-piece, "do you think
he is going to... I mean, has he a chance?"
"Just a chance, I believe. Have you been long with him?"
"That's not it—it's what he's done for a... for fellows. Strangers
don't know Perkins. You might talk to him for a year, and never hear
anything but shop. Then one day you get into a hole, and you would find
out another Perkins.
"Stand by you?" and he wheeled round. "Rather, and no palaver either: with
money and with time and with... other things that do a fellow more good
than the whole concern, and no airs. There's more than one man in our
office has cause to... bless Schedule Perkins.
"Let me tell you how he got... one chap out of the biggest scrape he'll
ever fall into. Do you mind me smoking?" And then he made himself busy
with matches and a pipe that was ever going out for the rest of the story.
"Well, you see, this man, clerk in our office, had not been long up from
the country, and he was young. Wasn't quite bad, but he couldn't hold his
own with older fellows.
"He got among a set that had suppers in their rooms, and gambled a bit,
and he lost and borrowed, and... in fact, was stone broke.
"It's not very pleasant for a fellow to sit in his room a week before
Christmas, and know that he may be cashiered before the holidays, and all
through his own fault.
"If it were only himself, why, he might take his licking and go to the
Colonies; but it was hard... on his mother—it's always going out,
this pipe—when he was her only son, and she rather... believed in
"Didn't sleep much that night—told me himself afterwards—and
he concluded that the best way out was to buy opium in the City next day,
and take it—pretty stiff dose, you know—next night.
"Cowardly rather, of course, but it might be easier for the mater down in
Devon—his mother, I mean—did I say he was Devon?—same
county as myself—affair would be hushed up, and she would have...
his memory clean.
"As it happened, though, he didn't buy any opium next day—didn't get
the chance; for Perkins came round to his desk, and asked this young chap
to have a bit of dinner with him—aye, and made him come.
"He had the jolliest little dinner ready you ever saw, and he insisted on
the fellow smoking, though Perkins hates the very smell of 'baccy, and—well,
he got the whole trouble out of him, except the opium.
"D'y think he lectured and scolded? Not a bit—that's not Perkins—he
left the fool to do his own lecturing, and he did it stiff. I'll tell you
what he said: 'Your health must have been much tried by this anxiety, so
you must go down and spend Christmas with your mother, and I would venture
to suggest that you take her a suitable gift.
"With regard to your debt, you will allow me,' and Perkins spoke as if he
had been explaining a schedule, 'to take it over, on two conditions—that
you repay me by instalments every quarter, and dine with me every Saturday
evening for six months.
"See what he was after? Wanted to keep... the fellow straight, and cheer
him up; and you've no idea how Perkins came out those Saturdays—capital
stories as ever you heard—and he declared that it was a pleasure to
"'I am rather lonely,' he used to say, 'and it is most kind of a young man
to sit with me.' Kind!"
"What was the upshot with your friend? Did he turn over a new leaf?"
"He 'ill never be the man that Perkins expects, but he's doing his level
best, and... is rising in the office. Perkins swears by him, and that's
made a man of the fellow.
"He's paid up the cash now, but... he can never pay up the kindness—confound
those wax matches, they never strike—he told his mother last summer
the whole story.
"She wrote to Perkins—of course I don't know what was in the letter—but
Perkins had the fellow into his room. 'You ought to have regarded our
transaction as confidential. I am grieved you mentioned my name;' and then
as I—I mean, as the fellow—was going out, 'I'll keep that
letter beside my commission,' said Perkins.
"If Perkins dies"—young men don't do that kind of thing, or else one
would have thought—"it'ill be... a beastly shame," which was a
terrible collapse, and Mr. Geoffrey Light-head, of the Schedule
Department, left the house without further remark or even shaking hands..
That was Wednesday, and on Friday morning he appeared, flourishing a large
blue envelope, sealed with an imposing device, marked "On Her Majesty's
Service," and addressed to—
"Frederick Augustus Perkins, Esq.,
"First Class Clerk in the Schedule Department,
An envelope any man might be proud to receive, and try to live up to for a
"Rodway has retired," he shouted, "and we can't be sure in the office, but
the betting is four to one—I'm ten myself—that the Board has
appointed Perkins Chief Clerk," and Lighthead did some steps of a
"The Secretary appeared this morning after the Board had met 'There's a
letter their Honours wish taken at once to Mr. Perkins. Can any of you
deliver it at his residence?' Then the other men looked at me, because—well,
Perkins has been friendly with me; and that hansom came very creditably
"Very low, eh? Doctors afraid not last over the night—that's hard
lines... but I say, they did not reckon on this letter. Could not you read
it to him? You see this was his one ambition. He could never be Secretary,
not able enough, but he was made for Chief Clerk. Now he's got it, or I
would not have been sent out skimming with this letter. Read it to him,
and the dear old chap will be on his legs in a week."
It seemed good advice, and this was what I read, while Perkins lay very
still and did his best to breathe:—
"Dear Mr. Perkins,—
"I have the pleasure to inform you that the Board have appointed you Chief
Clerk in the Schedule Department in succession to Gustavus Rodway, Esq.,
who retires, and their Honours desire me further to express their
appreciation of your long and valuable service, and their earnest hope
that you may be speedily restored to health. I am,
"Your obedient servant,
For a little time it was too much for Mr. Perkins, and then he whispered:—
"The one thing on earth I wished, and... more than I deserved... not
usual, personal references in Board letters... perhaps hardly regular...
but most gratifying... and... strengthening.
"I feel better already... some words I would like to hear again... thank
you, where I can reach it... nurse will be so good as to read it"
Mr. Perkins revived from that hour, having his tonic administered at
intervals, and astonished the doctors. On Christmas Eve he had made such
progress that Lighthead was allowed to see him for five minutes.
"Heard about your calling three times a day... far too kind with all your
work... and the messages from the staff... touched me to heart... never
thought had so many friends... wished been more friendly myself.
"My promotion, too... hope may be fit for duty... can't speak much, but
think I'll be spared... Almighty very good to me... Chief Clerk of
Schedule Department... would you mind saying Lord's Prayer together... it
sums up everything."
So we knelt one on each side of Perkins' bed, and I led with "Our Father"—the
other two being once or twice quite audible. The choir of a neighbouring
church were singing a Christmas carol in the street, and the Christ came
into our hearts as a little child.
THE RIGHT HAND OF SAMUEL DODSON
Smoking, as usual, and wasting your time after luncheon, instead of
hurrying to your offices and coining time into money like old Sam Dodson,
who can give the cash value of every five minutes," and Welsby sat down
beside three other young Liverpool merchants in the club—all men who
had one eye on business and the other on the good of the city.
"Something's happened since I saw you fellows last on 'Change. Guess."
"Cotton up three points? A corn corner at Chicago? A big bear in lard?
Anything to do with fruit?"
"Nothing whatever to do with such prosaic subjects, and I am ashamed to
notice your mercenary tempers; this is a public affair, and is to be a
profound secret for exactly seventy minutes, after which it will appear in
the fourth edition of the Evening Trumpet.
"It's a pity that the early news could not be used for an operation in
cotton, but I'll take it along to the 'Flags,' and tell it under pledge of
silence to half a dozen brokers. If you are really interested in the
matter, this will give it a wider and more certain circulation than any Trumpet
"We're all ears, Welsby."
"Well, to begin at the beginning, you know how our people in Liverpool are
crowded together in courts and rookeries without room or air. It's hard on
the men and women, but it's hardest on the children, who have no place to
play in but the gutter.
"So a man wrote a letter to the papers about a month ago, pleading for a
fund to put down small playgrounds in the crowded districts, where the
little folk could come of an evening, and the mothers could sit, and the
men might smoke a pipe...
"I remember the letter," broke in Cotton; "it was signed 'Philanthropist,'
and was generally supposed to have been composed in a moment of
inspiration by some proprietor of insanitary property; it was an elegant
letter, and affected me very much—to tears, in fact,"
"It was signed 'Charles Welsby,' and you never read a word of it, because
it had no reference to polo nor the Macfarlane Institute for Working Lads,
the only subjects to which you give any attention. Four people read it,
however, and wrote to me at once. One man denounced the scheme as another
instance of the patronage of the rich. He added that it was a sop, and
that the toilers would soon find open places for themselves."
"He would mean your garden, Welsby," suggested Lard. "The Socialist has
two main principles of action: first, to give nothing to any good cause
himself; and second, to appropriate his neighbour's property on the first
opportunity. And your other correspondents?"
"I had a letter from the inventor of a nonintoxicating beer, offering £5
on condition that we advertised his beverage, which he discovered by
supernatural guidance and sold for philanthropic ends."
"All queer beverages and patent medicines are owned by high-class
religious people, as far as I can understand," remarked Com.
"A third letter warned me that such spaces would be abused by bad
characters and sap the morals of the people; the writer also wanted to
know whether they would be closed on the Sabbath."
"A publican evidently," remarked Cotton; "no man is so concerned about
Sabbath observance. And so you got sick of the whole affair?"
"Rather, till I got this letter. I'll read it, and then you can make your
guesses at the enclosure.
"'Liverpool, June 9, 189-.
"'MY DEAR Sir,—Your letter of 7th ult, in the issue of the Morning
Trumpet of May 8, caught my eye and received my most careful
attention. As you appeared to have established a primâ facie case
for what you designate "People's Playgrounds," I have occupied my leisure
time in examining the sanitary and social condition of certain parts of
our city which were more or less distinctly indicated in your letter. As
the result of my investigations, I am thoroughly convinced, in the first
place, that you have proved your case as regards the unfortunate
circumstances of the children in such parts, and, in the second place,
that your plan for their relief is practical and wisely considered,
"'It then became my duty as a citizen of Liverpool to consider what I
could do to further the ends of your scheme, and it seemed to me on the
whole most advisable to place a sum of money at your disposal, on
condition that it be spent with such other sums as may be sent you in
purchasing decaying property and creating playgrounds—said
playgrounds to be vested in the Parks and Gardens Committee of the City
Council—and I would suggest that people interested in each district
be allowed and encouraged to contribute to the furnishing and adornment of
"'I beg therefore to enclose a draft in your favour on Messrs. Goldbeater
& Co., Lombard Street, London, and I have only to add my sincere
approval of the good work you are doing among the poor of Liverpool, and
my wish, which, as a man of honour, you will doubtless carefully respect,
that you will take no steps to discover my name.—I have the honour
to be, your obedient servant,
"Satisfactory, very, although a trifle pedantic and long-winded. And the
sum, Welsby? I say £250."
"£500" said Cotton.
"£1,000," cried Lard.
"What do you say to £10,000?" and the draft was handed round.
"Congratulate you, old man." Com shook hands with Welsby, and so did they
all, for he had worked hard in many a good cause. "You deserve your luck;
think I'll take to writing letters for my pet hospital. Who can he be? Do
you suspect any one?"
"Half a dozen, but I'm bound not to inquire; and I rather think that the
trail is covered at Goldbeater's beyond finding. But I know who did not
give it—Sam Dodson.
"No, of course I did not ask him for help. One does not court refusals;
but you know his meddling, ferreting ways. If he didn't stop me in the
street and ask fifty questions till I hinted at a subscription, when he
was off in a minute."
"Nothing frightens him like a suggestion of that kind. He has raised
meanness to the height of genius. They say that he is worth £200,000, but
I wouldn't change with him," said Lard, "for a million. When he dies,
Dodson will not leave a soul to regret him, and there'll not be six people
at his funeral."
"You can't be sure, gentlemen," said a quiet voice behind; "I've overheard
you on Dodson, and I hope what you say is not true."
The speaker was one of those rare souls God sends forth at a time to
establish our faith in goodness; who are believed in by all parties, and
respected by all creeds, and loved by all classes; who sit on all the
charitable boards, and help on every good cause, and make peace in
quarrels; whom old men consult in their perplexities, and young men turn
to in trouble, and people follow with affectionate glances in the street;
who never suspect their own excellence, always take the lowest seat, and
have to be compelled to accept an honour.
"You have a good word to say for everybody, sir," said Cotton with deep
respect; "but have you, even, ever got a penny from Mr. Dodson far a
"Well, I cannot say that I remember an instance; only I'm sure that he has
his own way of doing good. Every one has, unless he be utterly bad; and
I'm seventy years old, gentle-men, and I never met that kind yet."
"Greatheart is the only man in Liverpool who would say a word for Dodson,"
said Lard a minute later, "and in this case his charity has rather
overshot the mark; but it does one good to hear the old man. He is a
walking Sermon on the Mount, and the best thing about him is that he
believes in everybody; the very sight of his white hair makes me a better
"How tired you must be, Fred, after four hours' begging in offices! I'll
bring you a cup of tea in the study at once, and then you are to have a
nice little dinner all to yourself.
"Oh, no, I've not been extravagant at all, and I've not taken any money
out of our alms-box, and I'm not a wicked parson's wife who gets into
debt; but a hamper came from the country, with lots of good things in it,
and you will have the chicken; the children and I simply rioted in plenty
to-day. Now, I'll not hear a word about your expedition until you have had
"There, I feel a perfect glutton, Ethel. I hope you have sent some of the
h-hamper to the sick."
"I've done nothing of the kind; every single bit is to be eaten in this
Vicarage of St Ambrose; you would starve yourself and your family for the
parish, and I am sure you are the hardest working man in it. Well, have
you got the money to furnish the playground of St Ambrose's?"
"Do you mean have I come home with £54 in my pocket as the result of one
r-raid by a poor, dull, s-stammering parson, who couldn't make an eloquent
appeal to save his life?"
"You don't stammer, Fred, and I wish you wouldn't say such things; you
may... hesitate at a time, and I am sure any one would give you money for
a good cause, because you are... so sincere and..."
"That will do, Ethel; it's a great h-help to an obscure parson in the
poorest of parishes to have a wife who believes in him, and makes four
hundred pounds out of two."
"And now about the money. Was the asking hard?"
"It might have been, but every one was so j-jolly. The first man I went to
was Mr. Welsby, and as soon as I came into his room he cried out, 'Was
just thinking of you: I hope you're on the w-warpath for that playground,
for I've a five-pound note ready for you.'
"He sent me on to a cotton b-broker, and he thanked me several times for
coming on such a good errand, and backed up Welsby with five pounds. Every
person had a kind word, and by five o'clock I had...
"The whole sum?"
"With six p-pounds over, which will get a little sheltered seat for old
people. How good those city fellows are when they fancy a cause."
"And when they fancy the man who pleads it, Fred. Did you not get one
"Well, I was h-hurt by one man, who treated me rather shabbily. He allowed
me to explain the whole scheme—swings, sand-heaps, seats and all—and
he asked me a hundred questions about the parish and my work, till I think
he knew as much about the place as we do ourselves, and then sent me off
without a penny—said he didn't give to subscriptions on
"What a mean, hypocritical wretch!"
"I left rather down, for I had lost h-half an hour with him, and I was
afraid I had offended him by some remark, but when I met Welsby again in
the street and told him, he declared that I ought not to have been sent
there, because D-Dodson—that's his name—was the most
inquisitive and hardest man on 'Change."
"He can't be a gentleman, at any rate, to question you for mere curiosity;
I hope you gave him something to think over."
"No, I didn't; it's no use, and only frets oneself. He had a big c-chance
and lost it What do you say to inviting the subscribers down some evening
when the playground is in full occupation? They will get full value for
their money at the sight of the girls on the swings, and the boys at ball,
and the b-babies scooping up the sand, and the old folks sunning
themselves on their seats."
"It will be splendid; but Fred, it goes to my heart that our own boys can
have no holiday, and when their schoolfellows are away in Wales, will be
sweltering in this close house."
"How much have we in the h-holiday fund?"
"Just two pounds and sixpence. Save as I would, that is all I could
manage... If we had not given so much away we might..."
"You are just as r-ready to give as I am, my little wife, and none of us
regret anything we've done for the poor souls around us; but I'm sorry for
the boys. Did you tell them?"
"No, I hadn't the heart, so I played the coward and said you were thinking
the matter over, and that you would tell them, perhaps, to-morrow
"Do you know I rather s-suspected this would be the end of it, and I was
planning how to make the best of things. I made up a series of cheap
trips, personally conducted, to New Brighton, and Cheshire, and Hale;
you'll give us our l-lunch, and we'll have a regular picnic. I have some
old knick-knacks of my schooldays at Shrewsbury, and I'll offer them as
p-prizes for the best account of the day. You'll come with us, too, and
we'll have a particularly jolly time.
"Letters? The post is late to-night That is about the c-contract for
swings, and this is a diocesan circular, and there is a new company
p-prospectus—rather an irony sending it to me—but here are two
unknown hands; let us see the news.
"Now isn't this good? £3 for the playground from a Dissenter who
c-complains I didn't call on him, and has a kind word about my hard work,
as he calls it; and I've been often annoyed at that man for the things he
said on Disestablishment. He may say anything he pleases now on a
platform; I know there is a kind heart behind the words.
"Will this be more money for the s-swings? Hurrah! here is an enclosure of
some sort But what is this...?"
"What's wrong, Fred? Is any one dead? Are you ill...?"
"Ethel, you are an excellent m-manager."' The Vicar, very white as to his
cheeks, and somewhat wet as to his eyes, stood on the hearthrug and waved
his wife to a distance. "Be g-good enough to secure a commodious farmhouse
in North Wales, somewhere between Bettws-y-Coed and Llanberis, for the
month of August—with a little f-fishing attached, if possible.
"Please sit down, Ethel, and don't interrupt. I'm sane, quite sane; much
p-playground and domestic affliction have not made me mad. Now, where was
I? Yes, and arrange quite a s-series of tours round by Festiniog, and up
Snowdon, and down to Llandudno, and another to the Menai Straits....
"You are an extravagant, d-dressy woman, Ethel, so you may get a n-natty
walking dress and three blouses, but keep a trifle for f-fishing apparatus
and special provisions... you are t-throttling me... then read it
yourself, read it aloud, and... I will p-process round the table. I wish
the boys had not gone to bed."
"'Liverpool, July 16, 189—.
"'Reverend and Dear Sir,—It has come to my knowledge from various
quarters that you and your devoted partner in life are doing a most
beneficent work, both sacred and secular, in a very necessitous district
of our great city, and that you are discharging this duty to your
fellow-creatures at severe cost to yourselves and your family.
"'My observation of life leads me to believe that none of our citizens
live harder lives, or make greater sacrifices, than clergymen of limited
means whose sphere of labour lies in poor parishes, and, without being in
any sense a good man—for my whole life is a struggle with one
besetting sin, which often getteth the victory—I have been filled
with respectful admiration, and have wished to assist, after a humble
fashion, in this Christian service.
"'As you may have some difficulty in securing a suitable holiday for your
family through your notorious charity—for such is the report
concerning you—I venture with much diffidence to enclose a draft on
London, which can be cashed at any bank, for your use, under two
conditions, which I must charge you to observe: (i) that the whole sum be
employed to the last penny in holiday expenses—including such
special outfit as may be judged fit by your wife for you all; and (2) that
you make no effort to discover the name of your unworthy friend. The
endorsement of this draft will be sufficient acknowledgment.
"'Trusting you will all have a health-giving, happy, and long holiday,
"'I have the honour to be,
"'Your humble servant,
"Your voice is a little shaky, Ethel... don't wonder... such nonsense
about me and such c-compliments to you... yes, it will be g-glorious,
another honeymoon, and those rascals of boys, why won't they... Let us
thank God, wife; it came from Him...."
"You will be pleased to hear, mater dear, that corn is up twopence a
cental, and that the market is buoyant; that's the good of new blood being
brought into corn. I would have been lost in medicine.
"I have been studying the career of a corn prince, and it has five
chapters. He begins a poor boy—from the North of Ireland by
preference, but that is not necessary—then he attracts his chiefs
attention, who sends him out to America, where even the Yankees can't hold
their own with him, and he becomes manager of his firm. His next move is
to start in partnership with some young fellow who has money and no
brains; by-and-bye he discovers by instinct that corn is going to rise, so
he buys it ahead by the cargo, and piles up a gorgeous sum—say one
hundred thousand pounds. Afterwards he buys out Emptyhead, and becomes the
chief of a big house with lots of juniors, and he ends by being a Bank
director and moving resolutions at the Town Hall.
"Please don't interrupt, mother, for I have not done yet. Long before the
Town Hall level this rising corn man has gone up by stages from the street
off Princes Road to an avenue near the Park, and then into the Park, and
perhaps into the country, whence he appears as High Sheriff.
"One minute more, you impatient mother. A certain person who will pretend
to be nearly fifty when the corn man comes into his kingdom, but will
remain always at twenty-five exactly, and grow prettier every year, will
have a better set of rooms in each new house, and, at last, will have her
own carriage, and visit whole streets of poor folk, and have all Liverpool
blessing her. This is the complete history of the corn man and his mother,
as it will be expounded to after generations of schoolboys by informing
and moral philanthropists. What do you think of it?"
"I think that you are a brave boy, Jack, and your mother is proud of you
and grateful; if it's any reward for you to know this, I can say that the
way you have taken your disappointment has been one of my chief comforts
in our great sorrow."
"Don't talk as if I were a sort of little tin hero, mater, or else I'll
have to leave the room, for I'm nothing of the sort, really. If you only
saw me at my desk, or fussing round the offices, or passing the time of
day on corn, you would see that I was simply born for business."
"Jack," said Mrs. Laycock solemnly, "you have not been without faults, I'm
thankful to say, for you've been hot-tempered, hot-headed, wilful, and
lots of things, but this is the first time you have been deliberately
"Mother, with all respect to you, I will not stand this insult," and so he
slipped down on the floor and caressed his mother's hand. "You think that
I've no commercial ability. Wait for the event It will be swagger, you
"I think everything that is good of you, Jack, as I ought, and your father
did; but I know that it was very hard that you could not go back to Rugby
this autumn and finish in the sixth, and go to Cambridge and study at
Caius, your father's college, and get your M.D., and take up your father's
profession and the one you loved, the noblest a man can live and... die
in," and there was a break in the widow's voice.
"Of course, mater, that is what I would have preferred, and it was a
bit... stiff when I knew that it would all have to be given up; but that
was nothing to... losing father. And besides, I think that I may get on in
business and... help you, mother."
"Your father had set his heart on your being a doctor, and I don't know
whether he ever spoke to you about it, but he hoped you might become a
specialist—in surgery, I think; he said you had the hands at least
for a good surgeon.
"It was his own heart's desire, you know, to be a surgeon, pure and
simple, and Mr. Holman, the great consultant, considered him to be one of
the best operators in the provinces, but he was obliged to be a general
"Why? Oh, because he had no private means, and he had you and me to
support, so he couldn't run any risks; he had to secure a regular income;
and there is something I wish you to understand, in case you should ever
think hardly of your father."
"Mother—as if I could! The very people in the street admired father;
you know what they said in the Morning Trumpet about his
self-sacrificing life, and his skill being at the disposal of the poorest,
without money and without price."
"Yes, the papers were very kind, and his patients adored your father; but
I am certain some of our neighbours criticised him because he did not make
better provision for his wife and child. As if he had been extravagant or
improvident, who never spent a farthing on himself, and was always
planning for our welfare."
"You are just torturing yourself with delusions, I am sure, mater. Did any
single person ever hint that father had not done... his duty by us? I
can't believe it."
"One man did, at any rate, Jack, and that was our neighbour, Mr. Dodson."
"What did he say, the miserable old curmudgeon? Did he dare to bring a
charge against father? I wish I had been with you."
"No, it was not that he said anything; it was rather what he implied; he
just questioned and questioned in an indirect fashion, all by way of
interest in our affairs, but left the impression on my mind that he
thought the doctor ought to have done better for his family."
"What business had Mr. Dodson to call at all and to ferret into our
affairs, who was never before in our house? If we needed help—which
we don't—he is the last man in this district to give it. Do you know
he's the hardest, meanest creature in Liverpool? He'll leave a cab thirty
yards from his house when he's coming from the station, to keep within the
shilling limit, and he goes down in the penny 'bus with the working-women
to save twopence."
"There is a certain young corn-broker," interpolated Mrs. Laycock, "who
walks all the way to save even that penny, and I don't consider him mean."
"That is economy, and indicates the beginning of a fortune, which will be
shared with a certain sarcastic mater. But Dodson is a millionaire, and
has nobody depending on him but an old housekeeper. Certainly father was
not economical by his standard."
"Your father was most careful and thrifty," said the widow eagerly, "and
that is what I want to explain. He had to borrow money to educate himself,
and that he paid back, every penny, with interest Then, you know, a doctor
cannot keep himself for the first few years of his practice—he only
made £32 10s. 6d. the year he began—and when he reached £200 he did
a... foolish thing."
"Let me guess, mater. Was it not marrying the dearest, sweetest,
"Hush, you stupid boy! And we had to keep up a certain appearance and pay
a high rent, and we were very poor—poorer than the public ever knew.
"Of course, the doctor had a large practice before he died, and people
used to think he made two and three thousand pounds a year; and Mrs.
Tattler-Jones, who knows everything, said our income was £4,000.
"His last year, your father earned £1,800 and got in £1,200; the other
£600 will never be paid; and yet he was so pleased because he had cleared
off the last penny of his debt, and thought he would begin to lay
something aside for your education."
"But why did he not get the other £600? Could the people not pay?"
"They could pay everybody else—wine merchants, jewellers, and
car-owners—but their doctor's bill was left last, and often
altogether, and your father would never prosecute."
"And didn't father attend many people for nothing?"
"No one will ever know how many, for he did not even tell me; he used to
say that if he didn't get often to church, he tried to do as people were
told to do there; his commandment was the eleventh, 'Love one another.'"
"Did father believe the same as clergymen about things, mater?"
"No, not quite, and I suppose some people would call him a heretic; but
you and I know, Jack, that if to do good and to be quite selfless, and to
be high-minded, pure, and true, is to be like Christ, then the doctor was
a Christian, the best I ever saw."
"Very likely he was the same sort of heretic as Christ Himself. I say,
mater, there will be a good lot to speak up for father some day—widows
and orphans and such like. I'm proud to be his son; it's a deal better to
have such a father, of whom every person speaks well, than to come in for
a pot of money. If old Dodson had a son, how ashamed he would be of his
"Money is not a bad thing, all the same, Jack," and Mrs. Laycock sighed.
"If we had had a little more than the insurance policy, then we would not
have had to come to this house, and you would not have been in an office."
"It's a jolly house, I think; and when the Christmas cards are stuck up
the decorations will be complete. I wonder if the advance ones will come
by this post? We'll see who remembers us."
"That's the bell; and see, six, seven, I declare, ten to begin with!
Here's one in a rare old-fashioned hand. I'll take off the envelope and
you will see the name. Why, it's a letter, and a long screed, and a...
"Have some of those thieves paid their account? You are crying, mater. Is
it about father? May I see the letter, or is it private?"
"No, it's about you, too, my son. I wish you would read it aloud; I'm
not... quite able."
"'Liverpool, December 24, 189—.
"'Along with many others in Liverpool, I experienced a feeling of keen
regret that in the inscrutable actings of Providence your respected
husband, Dr. Laycock, was, as it appears, prematurely removed from his
work and family.
"'It must be a sincere consolation for his widow to know that no man could
have rendered more arduous and salutary service to his fellows, many of
whom he relieved in pain, not a few of whom he was instrumental in
restoring to their families from the portals of death. Without curiously
inquiring into the affairs of private life, many persons were persuaded
that Dr. Laycock was in the custom of attending persons of limited means
as an act of charity, whereby he did much good, won much affection, and
doubtless has laid up for himself great riches in the world to come, if we
are to believe the good Book.
"'I have not, however, sent you this letter merely to express my sympathy,
shared with so many who have the privilege, denied to me, of your personal
friendship, or to express the admiration felt by all for the eminent
departed. My object is different, and must be its own excuse. Unless I
have been incorrectly informed—and my authority seemed excellent—the
noble life of Dr. Laycock hindered him from making that complete provision
for his family which he would have desired, and which other men in less
unselfish walks of life could have accomplished. This disability, I am
given to understand, has seriously affected the career of your son, whom
every one describes as a promising lad, so that he has been removed from a
public school, and has been obliged to abandon the hope of entering on the
study of medicine.
"'If my information be correct, it was his father's wish that your son
should follow in his steps, and it is incumbent on those who honoured Dr.
Laycock for his example of humanity, to see that his cherished wish be
fulfilled. Will you, therefore, in the light of the explanation I have
made at some length, accept the draft I have the honour to send—value
£1,000—and use the proceeds in affording to your son a complete
medical education at home and abroad? The thought that the just desire of
a good man has not fallen to the ground, and that a certain burden will be
lifted from his widow's life, will be more than sufficient recompense to
one whom you will never know, but who will, so long as he may be spared,
follow your son's career with sincere interest.—Believe me, my dear
madam, your obliged and grateful servant,
"Hold it up against the light, mater; it's the prettiest Christmas card
we'll ever see.... You ought to be laughing, and not crying.... But I feel
a little—just a tiny wee bit watery myself.
"He might as well have told us his name; but I suppose he was afraid of a
row. Zaccheus? Why, that's the man who gave the playgrounds. He must have
a pile, and he knows how to use it; he's no Dodson, you bet At any rate,
though we don't know him, we can say, 'God bless him,' mater."
"Amen," said Mrs. Laycock. "I hope the father knows."
"How do I know that there is something wrong, Bert? Because we've been
married five years last month, and I can read your face like a book, or
rather a great deal better than most books, for I'm not clever in
following deep books, but I'm quite sure about your face.
"No, I don't imagine, for you may be able to hide what you feel on the
'Flags,' but you let out the secret at home; and that is one reason why I
love you—because you are not cunning and secretive. Now tell me, is
cotton down, and have you lost?
"Oh, yes, Bert, I know your principle, that a man ought to bear the burden
outside, and the woman inside the home; but there are exceptions. You have
acted up to your principle splendidly. You have never said a word all
these years, although I know you've had anxious times, and you've helped
me many a time with my little troubles. Let me help you in yours now."
"Queenie, if you want to put me to utter shame, you have taken the right
way, for it's your thrift and good management which has given us our happy
home, and I..."
"Yes, you, Bert, you have idled your time, I suppose, and spent your money
on dress, and generally neglected your family. For shame, sir, when you
have done so well, and every one says that nobody is so much respected.
Don't look like that if you love me. What is it?"
"It is necessary that you be told, and I was going to speak this evening,
but it is very hard. Queenie, when I kissed the children and looked at you
all so happy, I felt like a... murderer."
"No, on my word of honour, I have done nothing wrong, that I can
say; neither you nor the little ones have any cause to be ashamed of me."
"If you had, I would have stood by your side, Herbert, but I knew disgrace
would never come by you; then what is it? If it's only the loss of some
money, why, I know half a dozen economies."
"It's far worse than that, wife, I fear. This will be our last Christmas
in our dear little home, and it's all my blame, and I feel... the basest
of men. As if you had trusted me when I had deceived you all.
"You are the best wife ever man had.... I feel better, and I'll explain it
all to you. It is not very difficult; it is so easy to be ruined.
"You know we are brokers, and our business is to buy or sell cotton for
other people, and we are responsible for them, so that if they cannot pay
the losses, we have to find the money.
"Two of our firms, which have been very kind to us, were sure cotton would
go up—and so it ought to have done, and will in the end—and
they bought so many bales through us.
"Well, a big house, which can do pretty much as it likes, seized the
opportunity of a fraud to rush in and upset the market, so our friends and
many others have to face declines they cannot meet So unless our poor
little firm can pay £10,000 at least on Monday, we must stop, and... all
our hard work to build up an honourable name is lost.
"We can scrape £4,000, and my partner and I have £1,000 private means to
put in, and... that's all. £5,000 short
"Yes, we have tried the Bank, but they can't do anything there.
Goldsworthy, the manager, is the nicest fellow living, and his 'No' is
almost as good as another's 'Yes'; but of course it was 'No'; we had no
security; the cotton may go lower before it turns, and he has told us we
"But surely, Herbert, if the big firms knew how you were situated, they
would help you, because things would come right in a few weeks, you say."
"Every man has to look after himself in the market But I did go to
Huddleston, because he has given me so much advice, and wanted me to take
an interest in the Church.... I wish my tongue had been burned before I
crossed his room.
"No, he wasn't rude—that's not his sin; he might be better if he
were straighter. He hoped that I was prospering in business, and reminded
me that I must not allow the world to get too much hold, and became
eloquent on money being only a stewardship. But when I opened up my
errand, he explained that he made it a principle never to lend money, and
suggested that this was a chastening because we had hasted to be rich. He
hoped that the issue would be sanctified, and... but I rose and left,
"What a canting old wretch!" Mrs. Ransome was very angry. "I always hated
that man's soft sawder; he's much too pussy to be true."
"He was not bound to help me unless he pleased. But what riled me was his
religious talk; he might have spared me that at least. And if those
operators who have knocked the market to pieces haul in £30,000, they will
likely give £1,000 to missions.
"When a man has done his level best, and been fairly prudent, and has
worked hard, and is getting a fair connection, and everything is taken
away by a big, unscrupulous, speculative firm, which sees a chance of
making a pile at the ruin of half a dozen struggling firms, it's a little
"They ought to be put in jail; but they'll catch it some day;" and it was
evident Mrs. Ransome, like many other people in her circumstances, found
much satisfaction from the belief in future punishment.
"It's apt to make one bitter, too," Ransome went on. "When I sat opposite
old Dodson in the 'bus this afternoon—come to the penny 'bus now,
you see, Queenie—looking out from below his shaggy eyebrows like a
Scotch terrier, with meanness written over his shabby clothes, and almost
heard the gold chinking in his pockets, and thought that he could save our
home and secure my future by a cheque, and never miss the money—suppose
he lost it, which he wouldn't if I lived—I declare, I could have...
well, I did not feel as Christian as Huddleston would desire."
"Bert, have you ever thought what we would do if we became rich—how
we would send flowers to people who were not well off, and let them use
our carriage, and send overworked teachers and clerks for holidays, and...
"Help lame dogs in cotton over stiles, eh wifie? Yes, I've had my dreams
too. I'd go in for the poor children's holiday fund, that would be my
extravagance. But we are no better than other people. And were you never
afraid that we would grow selfish and pompous, and mean and pharisaical,
like Huddleston, and maybe end in being Dodsons?"
"No, no, that is impossible!" cried his wife, "because, for one thing, we
have loved, and, perhaps, Mr. Dodson never was loved, poor soul; and if
things come to the worst, remember there is a good deal left."
"There is something in that, Queenie; run over the inventory, and I'll
"First of all there is you, the truest, kindest, bravest husband in
"Stop; that is your own private property, and we were to go over our
common means; besides, the valuation is ninety per cent too high."
"You be quiet And there are two children whom every one looks at in the
street, and who are the sweetest... Nobody hears us, so it doesn't matter,
and you know they are. Wouldn't it have been far worse if we had lost
Reggie when he had diphtheria? Well, we have him and Maud, and they never
"That's true, wifie; go on; capital is mounting up."
"Then there's your good name, which has never been stained. Nobody says
you are mean, or hypocritical, or unmanly, or... anything bad; and if...
you can't pay that money on Monday, every person will know that it was not
your fault, and that you will repay all you owe some day, if you can."
"Yes, please God, wife, we will... You think too much of me, but go on."
"We have half a dozen friends, and, although they're not rich, they're
true; and if we have to go into a smaller house and live very quietly,
they won't mind; they'll just come closer, won't they?"
"Right again; you are getting on. We've somewhere about £50,000 working
"We have our books and our music, and... five years of love and...
spiritual blessings one doesn't talk about...."
"One piece of property wanting, which is best of all—yourself,
Queenie, surely the cleverest, loyalest..."
"You are talking nonsense now, Bert; and are you aware that it is past
eleven o'clock? I'll turn out the gas in the dining-room if you will see
that the door is fastened."
"Here is a letter which must have come by the last post and been
forgotten; perhaps it's a Christmas card in advance. Let's see. Oh, I say,
you've left me in darkness."
"Come up to our room; we can open it there; very likely it's a bill.
"I say... Queenie... no, it can't be a hoax... nobody would be so cruel...
and here's an enclosure... letter from London bankers confirming... sit
down here beside me; we'll read it together... so, as near as you can, and
your arm round my neck... just a second before we begin... my eyes are...
all right now."
"Liverpool, December 22, 189—.
"Dear Sir,—It has been my practice, as a man engaged for many years
in commercial pursuits, to keep a watchful and, I hope, not unkindly eye
upon young firms beginning their business career in Liverpool. For the
last five years I have observed your progress with much interest, and you
will pardon my presumption and take no offence, when I express my
satisfaction, as an old merchant, with your diligence, caution, ability,
and, most of all, integrity, to which all bear witness.
"I was therefore greatly grieved to learn that your firm may be hardly
pressed next week, and may be in danger of stoppage—all the more
because I find no charge of folly can be brought against you, but that you
are the indirect victims of one firm's speculative operations. There is no
one, I am also informed, from whom you can readily obtain the temporary
assistance you require and are morally entitled to receive.
"The only satisfaction I have in life is using such means as Providence
has been pleased to put into my hands for the succour of people who are in
every way better than myself, but who are in some kind of straits. I have
therefore directed my London bankers to open an account for you and to put
£10,000 to your credit. Upon this account you will be pleased to draw such
a sum as will tide you over the present crisis, and such other sums as
will enable you to extend your business along the safe and honourable
lines you have hitherto followed. I do not doubt that you will repay the
said sum or sums to the same account as you may be able—no interest
will be accepted—and I only lay one other obligation on your honour,
that you make no endeavour to discover my name.
"Be pleased to accept my best wishes of this season for your admirable
wife, your two pleasing children, and my confident hope for your final and
large success in business.—I remain, your faithful friend,
"Let us go and kiss the children, hubbie, and then... we might say the
Lord's Prayer together."
"A respectable, elderly woman, did you say, Marshall?" said Mr. Greatheart
in his room at the office; "certainly, bring her in. Very likely a widow
wishing to get her son admitted to the Bluecoat School, or some poor
householder in trouble about her taxes." For to this man came all sorts
and conditions of people in their distresses, and to each he gave patient
audience and practical succour.
"You don't trouble me. If I can be of any use, nothing will please me
better," he said, placing a chair and making a kindly fuss to cover his
visitor's confusion. "Now sit down and tell me all about it" That was why
the respectable poor loved him, from the Catholic Irish of Scotland Road
to the Orangemen of Toxteth.
"Is it your husband or your son you are so anxious about?"—for she
was much agitated. "I notice that a woman hardly ever comes about herself!
It's we men who are selfish, not the women."
"No, it's neither, for I am an unmarried woman. It's about my master, whom
I believe you know, sir—Mr. Dodson."
"Samuel Dodson, you mean; I should think so! Have known him for fifty
years—since we served our time together in Palmer's shipping office.
What, is he ill?"
"He's dead... this morning. You'll excuse me, I was his housekeeper for
near thirty year, and... I'm a little upset."
"Good gracious! No wonder. Maria Wilkins, did you say?... You may well be
upset And thirty years with him! Tell me how this happened, for we've
heard nothing in the city. He couldn't have been ill long."
"No, sir, he was never ill at all—not what you would say proper; but
I've seen him failin' for some time—gettin' thin like and growin'
down—and last night he was that white and shaky, that I wanted him
to see a doctor. But no, he wouldn't If it had been me or the girl, he
would have had a doctor when there was nothing wrong with us, he was that
concerned about other people; but for himself..."
Mr. Greatheart nodded—indicating that Mr. Dodson's unselfish
character was well known to him.
"'No, no, Maria,' says he, 'a doctor can do no good to me. I'm a tough old
fellow*—speaking that way to me, being long with him—'I'll be
all right to-morrow.' But I made bold to put a glass of brandy in his
room, and pleaded with him to ring the bell if he was unwell—he was
not easily managed—and that was all I could do, sir."
Her hearer was of opinion that from what he knew of Mr. Dodson's native
obstinacy, Maria Wilkins had done all in the power of mortal woman, and
possibly, more, than could have been accomplished by any man.
"Twice during the night I rose and listened at his door—his face,
when he said good-night, lyin' heavy on me, so to say—and I heard
nothing; but when he didn't answer in the mornin' I took it on me to open
the door. Mr. Dodson was a-sittin' up in his bed, and at the sight of his
face I knew how it was, havin' seen death many times. My old master... was
gone," and the housekeeper yielded to her feelings.
"Dear, dear! So Sam Dodson is gone; an able and successful merchant, one
who always met his obligations, and whose word was as good as his bond; he
had a warmer heart than any person knew. I've seen a look in his face at a
time, and am sure that he did good in his own way."
"God bless you for that, sir! but it's what I could have looked for from
you, if I may say it without offence. And you never spoke a truer word,
and that I can testify as has lived with master for a lifetime, and could
tell the difference between the outside and the inside."
"Ah, yes, you saw the real man, Maria; but he was sometimes... well,
hidden from the public."
"He had his peculiarities, and 'oo hasn't, I say? Now, my wages when I
came to him was just fourteen pounds, and they're just fourteen yet; but
every Christmas, for many a year, master slipped a ten-pound note into my
hand. 'Put that into your bank, Maria,' he would say, 'and never tell
anybody you've got it.'
"As for food, he was aggravatin', for he would have nothing as was not
plain, and he would check the books to a ha'penny; but if you was ill,
why, he would bring home grapes with his own hand. We dare not for our
lives give a morsel to beggars at the door, but if he heard of a poor
family, nothin' would serve him but he would go and find out all about
"That's my Dodson, just as I imagined him," cried Mr. Greatheart; "tell me
more, Maria; it's excellent, every word."
"Do you think he would let any person know he was givin' help? Not he; and
he was artful, was master. Why, I've known him send me with money to a
clergyman, that he might give it, and his words were, 'No name, Maria, or
we part; just a citizen of Liverpool.'"
"Dodson all over! shrewd and unassuming, and full of charity. Have you
anything else to tell, Maria?"
"Well, sir, I do not know for certain, and it was not for me to spy on my
master, but I'm much mistaken if many a one in the better class was not
the better of Mr. Dodson in their troubles."
"How do you think that?" inquired Mr. Great-heart in huge delight "I've
seen him read a letter maybe six times, and he would wipe his eyes through
pleasure as I took it You wouldn't believe, maybe, as master could be like
"I do, Maria. I declare it's what I expected. And what then?"
"He would walk up and down the room, and speak to himself, and read
another bit, and rub his hands..."
"I wish I had been there, Maria."
"And he would carry a letter like that in his pocket for days, and then he
would put it carefully in the fire; but I saw him take it out,
half-burned, and read a corner again before he burned that letter."
"Maria, I cannot tell you how much obliged I am to you for coming to me,
and giving me such a touching account of your dear master. Now, is there
anything I can do for you in this loss?"
"Lord bless me, sir, that I should have been taking up your time like
this, and you a magistrate, and never told you what brought me! It's more
than a month past that master said to me, 'Maria, if anything happens to
me, go to Mr. Greatheart's office, and give him my keys, and ask him to
open my desk. He is a good man, and he's sure to come.'"
"Did he say so? That was most generous of him, and I appreciate it highly.
I will come instantly, and shall bring a lawyer with me, a kind-hearted
and able man. Good-bye for the present, Maria; you have fulfilled your
charge, as I believe you have all your duty, excellently... excellently."
"You see, Welsby," as they went up to the house, "Dodson had left his
firm, and had few friends, perhaps none—a reserved man about
himself, but a true man at the bottom."
"So you have always said, Mr. Greatheart Well know now; my experience as a
lawyer proves that, as a rule, a man's papers reveal him, and there are
some curious surprises."
"If you look through that safe, and note the contents, Welsby, I'll read
this letter addressed to me. I gather that I must be executor, and there
seems to be no lawyer; very like Dodson, very—do everything for
"Liverpool, April 15th, 188—.
"Barnabas Greatheart, Esq.
"My dear Sir,—You will peruse this letter after my death, and you
will be pleased to consider it as intended for your eyes alone, since it
is in the nature of a confession.
"My early career was a continuous struggle with narrow and arduous
circumstances, and I suffered certain disappointments at the hands of
friends which I considered undeserved. In consequence of these experiences
I grew penurious, cynical, merciless, hopeless, and, let me say it
plainly, a sour, hard man, hating my neighbours, and despised of them. May
the Almighty forgive me!
"This year in which I write, a great change has come over me, and my heart
has been softened and touched at last with human sympathy. The force which
has affected me is not any book nor sermon, but your example of goodness
and your charity towards all men. In spite of the general judgment on me,
which has been fully merited, I have seen that you do not shun me, but
rather have gone out of your way to countenance me, and I have heard that
you speak kindly of me. It is not my nature to say much; it is not yours
to receive praise; but I wish you to know you have made me a new man.
"It seemed to me, however, dangerous that I should begin to distribute my
means openly among charities, as I was inclined to do, since I might pass
from hardness to pride and be charged with ostentation, as I had been once
with miserliness, with sad justice in both cases.
"So it came to me that, still retaining and maintaining my character for
meanness—as a punishment for my past ill-doing and a check on vanity—I
would gradually use my capital in the private and anonymous aid of
respectable people who are passing through material adversity, and the
help of my native city, so that my left hand should not know what my right
was doing. This plan I have now, at this date, pursued for six months, and
hope to continue to my death, and I did not know so great joy could be
tasted by any human being as God has given to me. And now, to all the
goodness you have shown me, will you add one favour, to wind up my affairs
"(1) Provide for my housekeeper generously.
"(2) Give a liberal donation to the other servant.
"(3) Bury me quietly, without intimation to any one.
"(4) Distribute all that remains, after paying every debt, as you please,
in the help of widows, orphans, and young men.
"(5) Place a packet, marked 'gilt-edged securities,' in my coffin.
"And consider that, among all your good works, this will have a humble
place, that you saved the soul of—Your grateful friend,
"What Dodson has done with his money, Mr. Greatheart I don't know; all the
securities together don't amount to £5,000. He seems to have been living
on an annuity."
"His wealth is here, Welsby, in this packet of cancelled cheques, two
hundred and eighty-seven, which go with him to the other side; and I tell
you, Welsby, I know no man who has invested his money so securely as
Samuel Dodson. See, read that top check."
"To Goldbeater, London, £10,000. Why, the draft I got for playgrounds was
on that bank, and the date corresponds. Curious.
"Eh? What? You don't mean to say that this man we slanged and... looked
down on was...."
"Yes, Zaccheus was Sam Dodson."
SAVED BY FAITH
So you have agreed to accept seven-and-six-pence in the pound from
Hatchard?" Oxley said in his slow, quiet manner, as he smoked with his two
friends after luncheon at the Club. "I could not attend the meeting, but I
hear that the affairs showed badly."
"Yes, we took the sum he offered, and of course it would have done no good
to put him in the Bankruptcy Court, as far as the dividend is concerned:
very likely we should only have netted half-a-crown; but I had a good mind
to refuse a composition." And in his excitement Beazley established
himself for oratorical purposes on the hearthrug,—he had recently
taken to municipal politics.
"You mean that Hatchard has acted foolishly, and ought not to have got
into such a hole. I suppose you are right: Tommy was always a sanguine
"Sanguine has nothing to do with it, Oxley, and I fancy you know that
there's more than want of judgment at Hatchard's door. Of course the
longest-headed men in the corn trade may make a mistake and be caught by a
falling market, but that is no reason why a fellow should take in every
friend he could lay hands on. What do you say, Macfarlane?"
That most phlegmatic and silent of Scots never said anything unless speech
was absolutely necessary; and as the proposition that a man ought not to
cheat his friends was one no person could deny, Macfarlane gave no sign.
"I'm afraid that it is a rather bad case," Oxley admitted with reluctance,
"but I'm sorry for Tommy: when a man is at his wits' end he's apt to...
forget himself, in fact, and do things he would be the first to condemn at
other times. A man loses his moral presence of mind."
Macfarlane indicated, after consideration, his agreement.
"That sounds very fine, Oxley," burst in Beaz-ley, "but it's very
dangerous doctrine and would cover some curious transactions. Hatchard
knew quite well that when he was hopelessly bankrupt he ought not to have
borrowed a thousand from Macfarlane and you and five hundred from me: our
business losses were enough."
"Had none," murmured Macfarlane to himself.
"I was so angry," continued Beazley, "that I got hold of him afterwards in
Fenwick Street and gave him as sound a talking to as ever a man got in
this city: he'll not forget it in a hurry. You see he is a friend, and
that makes me sore."
"Can you give us an idea what you said?" inquired Oxley drily, while
Macfarlane showed that he was listening.
"Well, I said various things; but the gist was that his friends were
ashamed of him—not about the cash, you know, but about the conduct,
and that he was little better than a swindler: yes, I did."
Macfarlane smoked furiously.
"No, Oxley, he made no reply. Not one word of defence: he simply turned
round and walked away. I suppose you think that I ought not to have been
so hard on him?"
"Well, no doubt you did what seemed right, and Hatchard has not been quite
straight; but I now understand what I saw two hours ago, and what gave me
a shock. You favoured him with your mind about eleven, I should guess?
Yes: then at twelve he came out of a restaurant in Dale Street as if he
had been drinking. That is the first time Hatchard ever did that kind of
thing, I believe, but it will not be the last: his face was quite changed—half
woe-begone and half desperate."
"If Thomas takes to tasting"—Macfarlane was much moved—"it's
all over with him: he's such a soft-hearted chap."
"Nonsense, you're making too much of it; but I was a trifle sharp,
perhaps: he's been very provoking, and any other man would have said the
same except you two fellows, and the one of you is so charitable that he
would find an excuse for a pickpocket, and the other is so cannie that he
can't make up his mind to say anything."
After which there was a pause.
"Yes," began Oxley again, falling into ancient history, "he has gone off
form a bit—the best may do so at a time—but Tommy wasn't half
a bad fellow once: he got a study at Soundbergh before me, and he was very
decent with it, letting me do 'prep.' in it before exams.; and I never
counted him sidey, did you, B.?"
"I should think not; I'll say that for him at any rate, there wasn't one
scrap of humbug in Tommy: why, he was a prefect when I was in the fourth,
and he didn't mind although a chap 'ragged' and chaffed him; he was the
jolliest 'pre.' in the whole school. It was perhaps rather hard lines to
slang him to-day,—I half wish I hadn't."
"If Tommy got a grub-box from home every chap in Buttery's house knew,"—Oxley
was bent on reminiscences,—"it was shared round in three days, and
his raspberry jam was not to be despised. I hear him yet: 'All right, Ox.,
dig in, there's lots left' Now there's By les, who makes speeches about
hospitals: he was mean if you please."
"Mean ain't the word for Byles," and in his enthusiasm Freddie Beazley
dropped into school slang, which no public-schoolboy ever forgets, and
which lasts from generation to generation, like the speech of the Gypsies:
"Byles was a beastly gut, and a sneak too; why, for all his cheek now he
isn't fit to black Tommy's shoes. Tommy wasn't what you would call 'pie,'
but he was as straight as a die. I'd give ten pounds not to have called
him that word to-day." Freddie was breaking down.
"Poor old Tommy!" went on Oxley: "one never expected him to come such a
cropper; he was a good all-round man—cricket, football, sports,
Tommy did well for his house; he was a double-colour man."
"Do ye mind the ten miles, lads?" and Macfarlane chuckled.
"Rather," and Freddie could not sit still: "he did it in one hour twelve
minutes and was it fifteen seconds?"
"Thirteen and three-fifths seconds." Macfarlane spoke with decision.
"And he could have walked back to Buttery's, as if he had never run a
yard; but didn't the fellows carry him?"
"I had a leg myself." Macfarlane was growing loquacious.
"Yes, and he didn't swagger or brag about it,"—Oxley took up the
running,—"not he, but was just as civil as if he had won some
footling little race at the low-country schools, where they haven't a hill
within twenty miles, instead of running round Baughfell in the Soundbergh
"What did old Tommy do it for?" and Freddie Beazley almost wept at the
thought that the crack of Soundbergh had played foul: "it couldn't be
money; he was never selfish—as open-handed a chap as ever I saw."
"Wife and kids" answered Macfarlane, smoking thoughtfully.
"The Scot has it," said Oxley. "Tommy doesn't care one straw for himself,
but he wanted, I take it, to keep that dear little wife of his comfortable
and get a good education for his boys, and so he got deeper and deeper,
trying to retrieve himself for their sakes. Mind you, I don't defend him,
but that was his excuse; and now Tommy has gone under."
"Not if I can help it, boys," and Beazley's face flushed. "And I say, here
are three of us: why shouldn't we join and—and—tighten the
rope and haul Tommy on his feet again?" Macfarlane took the briar root out
of his mouth and regarded Freddie with admiration.
"We were all in the same house, and Tommy likes us, and we could do...
that sort of thing when he wouldn't take it from others; and I say, it
would be a jolly decent thing to do."
"You're all right, Freddie,"—Oxley was evidently pleased,—"and
we're with you" ("shoulder to shoulder," said Macfarlane, lighting his
pipe with ostentatious care). "Now the first step is to let Tommy know
that we have not turned our backs on him: my idea is that if he knows we
three are going to stand by him he'll not throw up the sponge."
"Look here," cried Beazley, "I'll go round this minute, and I'll beg his
pardon for what I said, and I'll tell him that we haven't forgotten the
old days among the hills, and that we know he's a white man, and... in
fact he'll take the cup yet."
"That will help mightily; and now let us make up our plans," said Oxley.
And that was how three men joined in a conspiracy for the business and
social and personal salvation of Thomas Hatchard.
"How late you are, Tom—eight o'clock—and how tired you look,
poor fellow! I've been thinking about you all day. Was it very trying this
morning, or were they nice? They ought to have been, for everybody must
know that it wasn't your fault."
"No, I don't think everybody could know that, Amy dear, for I don't know
it myself, and some men have good reason to know the opposite. Well, yes,
I was... rather sick at the meeting, and worse afterwards."
"Did they dare to insult you, Tom? If they had had one spark of
gentlemanly feeling they would have pitied you. Do you mean that they...
said things? Tell me, for I want to share every sorrow with you, darling."
"One man was very hard on me, and I didn't expect it from him—no, I
won't tell you his name, for he behaved very handsomely in the end.
Perhaps I didn't deserve all the sharp words, but I am sure I haven't
deserved any of the kind words that were said before the day was done. But
never mind about me just now: tell me how you got on. Wasn't it your
visiting day? did... any one call?"
"So you were thinking about me in all your troubles!"—his wife put
her arm round Hatch-ard's neck—"and you were afraid I should be
deserted because you were victimised by those speculators! Now confess."
"Well, you know, Amy, society is not very merciful, and I think women are
the crudest of all. What hits a man, if he is unfortunate, or... worse, is
that his poor wife is made to suffer. If her husband has done... I mean
has acted foolishly, well, say, has lost money, his wife is neglected and
cut and made to feel miserable. It's a beastly shame, and I was afraid
"I would be sitting all alone to-day, because we are poor. Do you know,
Tom, I was just a tiny bit nervous too, although I would not have told you
this morning for worlds. And now I have splendid news to give you: our
friends are as true as steel. Now answer a question, Tom, to see whether
you and I agree about the difference between acquaintances and friends.
Mention the names of the three families you would expect to stand by us in
"The Oxleys, of course, wife, and... I would have said the Beazleys, and,
let me see, yes, the Macfarlanes, although their manner doesn't allow them
to show what they feel. Am I right?"
"To a man (and woman), they all called today—the women, I mean: I
daresay the men called on you. And they all said the nicest things, and
what is best, they said the nicest things about you: yes, they did, and if
you doubt my word we shall separate... do you really think I would chaff
"Sit there, just where I can lay my head on your shoulder, and I shall
describe everything. It was half-past two when I began to watch the clock
and wonder whether any one would come: have other people had the same
feeling? About a quarter to three the bell rang, and my heart beat: who
would it be? It was nothing—a tax paper; and I began to think what I
would have done if the same thing had happened to one of our friends—how
I would have simply rushed along and been in the house the first decent
minute after lunch, and how I would..."
"I know you would, Pet, and that is why they did it to you. Well, drive
"Exactly at eight minutes to three—oh, I know the time to-day
without mistake—the door opened, and in came Mrs. Macfarlane; and do
you know what she did?"
"She didn't!" cried Hatchard—"not kissed you?"
"Yes, she did, and a real kiss; and she took me in her arms, and I saw
tears in her eyes, and—and... I cried for a minute; I couldn't help
it, and it was quite a comfort. She hadn't said a word all this time, and
that was just right, wasn't it?"
"I'll never say a word against the Scots' manner again," said Tom huskily.
"But she spoke quite beautifully afterwards, and told me of some trials no
one knows, which they had ten years ago, and how they had never loved one
another so much before. When reticent people give you their confidence it
touches your heart, and we used to think her voice harsh, and to laugh at
"God forgive me!" said Thomas: "I'm a fool."
"She said: 'You know how quiet Ronald is, and how he hardly ever gets
enthusiastic. Well, it would have done you good to have heard him speak
about Mr. Hatchard this morning. He said...'"
"Don't tell me, Amy—it... hurts; but I'm grateful all the same, and
will never forget it. And who came next?"
"Mrs. Oxley; and what do you think? We are to have their house at Hoylake
for August, so the chicks will have their holiday. Mr. Oxley has been
quite cast down, she says, about you, for he has such a respect——"
"It's good of them to think about the children, but never mind about me."
"You are very unfeeling, Tom, to stop me at the best bits, when I had
saved them up and committed them to memory: perhaps you would get vain,
however, and become quite superior. What do you think of your 'kindness.'
and your 'generosity,' and your 'popularity,' and your 'straightness'? You
are shivering: are you cold?"
"No, no; but you haven't told me if Mrs. Beazley was kind to you: did she
call between four and five?"
"Yes: how did you know the hour?"
"Oh, I.. guessed, because she... was last, wasn't she?"
"She apologised for being so late; indeed, she was afraid that she might
not get round at all, but I'm so glad she came, for no one was more
glowing about you: I saw, of course, that she was just repeating Mr.
Beazley's opinion, for every one can see how he admires...
"Tom, you are very ungrateful, and for a punishment I'll not tell you
another word. What is wrong? has any one injured you? Was it Mr. Beazley?"
"Beazley said kinder things in my office to me, in difficult circumstances
too, than I ever got from any man: some day, Amy, I'll tell you what he
said, but not now—I cannot—and he spent two hours canvassing
for business to start me as a corn broker, and he... got it."
"It could not be Mr. Oxley."
"Oxley has given me a cargo to dispose of, and I never had any of his
broking before; and he told me that some of my old friends were going
to... to... in fact, see me through this strait, speaking a good word for
me and putting things in my way.
"Yes, of course Macfarlane came to the office, and said nothing for
fifteen minutes: just gripped my hand and smoked, and then he rose, and as
he was leaving, he merely mentioned that Beazley and Oxley had become
securities for £5,000 at the bank; he is in it, too, you may be sure."
"How grateful we ought to be, Tom dear; and how proud I am of you!—for
it's your character has affected every person, because you are so
honourable and high-minded. Tom, something is wrong; oh, I can't bear it:
don't cry... you are overstrung... lie down on the couch, and I'll bathe
your forehead with eau de Cologne."
"No, I am not ill, and I don't deserve any petting; if you knew how mean I
have been you would never speak to me again. If they had scolded me I
would not have cared; but I can't bear their kindness.
"Amy, you must not send for the doctor, else you will put me to shame; my
mind is quite right, and it isn't overwork: it's... conscience: I am not
worthy to be your husband, or the friend of these men."
"You will break my heart if you talk in this way. You unworthy! when you
are the kindest, truest, noblest man in all the world—don't say a
word—and everybody thinks so, and you must let us judge. Now rest
here, and I'll get a nice little supper for you," and his wife kissed him
again and again.
"It's no use trying to undeceive her," Hatchard said to himself when she
was gone; "she believes in me, and those fellows believe in me—Freddie
more than anybody, after all he said; and please God they will not be
disappointed in the end."
"You've got here before me, Mac.," cried Freddie Beazley, bursting into
Oxley's private room, "and I simply scooted round. Oh, I say, you've
broken every bone in my hand, you great Scotch ruffian: take the ruler out
of his fist, Ox., for heaven's sake, or else he'll brain us.
"Ox., you old scoundrel, read that letter aloud. Mac wasn't a creditor—he
wishes he was this day—and he doesn't know it verbatim, and I'm not
sure about a word or two. Stand up, old man, and do the thing properly.
There now we're ready."
July 7, 1897.
"It will be in your recollection that in July, 1887, I was obliged to make
a composition with my creditors while trading as a corn merchant under the
style of Thomas Hatchard & Co., and that they were good enough to
accept the sum of seven shillings and sixpence in the pound.
"Immediately thereafter, as you may be aware, I began business as a corn
broker, and owing to the kind assistance of certain of my creditors and
other friends, have had considerable success.
"Having made a careful examination of my affairs, I find that I can now
afford to pay the balance of twelve shillings and sixpence which is
morally due to my creditors of 1887, and it affords me much personal
satisfaction to discharge this obligation.
"I therefore beg to enclose a cheque for the amount owing to you, with 5
per cent compound interest, and with sincere gratitude for your
consideration ten years ago.
"I have the honour to remain,
"Your obedient servant,
"Isn't that great, young gentlemen?" and Beazley took a turn round the
room: "it's the finest thing done in Liverpool in our time. Tommy has come
in again an easy first on the ten miles—just skipped round
Baughfell: there's nothing like the old school for rearing hardy fellows
with plenty of puff in them for a big hill."
"Thomas 'ill be a proud man the night," remarked Macfarlane, "and his wife
will be lifted."
"What about the Hatchard securities and encouragement company? isn't it a
booming concern, and aren't the three men lucky dogs who took founders'
shares? Oxley, old chap," and Freddie grew serious, "it was you who put
Tommy on his legs, and helped him on to this big thing."
"Nonsense! we all had a share in the idea; and now that I remember, it was
you, Beazley, who sang his praises that day till Macfarlane allowed his
pipe to go out, and I had to join the chorus. Isn't that so, Mac.?"
Macfarlane was understood to give judgment of strict impartiality—that
the one was as bad as another, and that he had been a victim in their
hands, but that the result had not been destructive of morality in
Liverpool, nor absolutely ruinous to the character of Thomas Hatchard,
beyond which nothing more could be said.
He offered the opinion on his own account that the achievement of Thomas
had been mighty.
"You can put your money on that, Mac.," and Beazley went off again: "to
pay up the balance of that composition and every private loan with
interest, compound too, is simply A1. T. H. has taken the cake. And didn't
he train for it, poor chap!
"No man enjoyed a good cigar more than Tommy—could not take him in
with bad tobacco. Well, I happen to know that he hasn't had one smoke
since July 7th, *87. Of course he could have had as much 'baccy as he
wanted; but no, it was a bit of the training—giving up every luxury,
"I wish I was Thomas the night," remarked Macfarlane. "He 'ill have a
"He rather liked a good lunch, and did justice to his grub, too,"
continued Beazley. "Well, for ten years he's taken his midday meal
standing, on milk and bread—not half bad all the same—at the
Milk-Pail in Fenwick Street, and he wouldn't allow himself a cup of tea.
You saw how he lived at Heswall, Oxley?"
"Yes, he found out that he could get a little house, with a bit of garden,
for forty pounds, taxes included, and so he settled there and cut the
whole concern here. There was one sitting-room for the children and
another for themselves, and the garden was the drawing-room; but I don't
believe Hatchard was ever happier, and Mrs. Hatchard has turned out a
"Tommy played up well," broke in Beazley, "and he never missed a chance.
There has not been any brokerage lying loose in the corn market these ten
years, you bet; and what he got he did well. Do you hear that MacConnell
of Chicago has given him his work to do? Tommy is steaming down the
deep-water channel now, full speed. What's to be done? that's the
question. We simply must celebrate."
"Well," replied Oxley, "I suppose the creditors will be giving him a
dinner at the Adelphi and that sort of thing. But there's something
Hatchard would like far better than fifty dinners. He has never entered
the corn exchange since his failure, and I know he never would till he
could look every man in the face. What do you say to ask Barnabas
Greatheart to call at his office and take him?"
"Oxley, you are inspired, and ought to take to politics: it's just the
thing Greatheart would like to do, and it will please the men
tremendously. I bet you a new hat there will be a cheer, and I see them
shaking hands with Tommy: it will touch up two or three scallawags on the
raw first-rate, too, who have made half a dozen compositions in their
time. But what about ourselves, Ox.?"
"Aye," said Macfarlane; "we're not common shareholders in this concern:
we're founders, that's what we are."
"I was thinking before you men came in that a nice piece of silver for
their dinner-table—they will come up to town now—say a bowl
with some little inscription on it..."
"The very thing: we'll have it this afternoon; and Ox., you draw up the
screed, but for my sake, as well as Tommy's, put in something about
honour, and, old fellow, let it be strong; it'll go down to his boys, and
be worth a fortune to them, for it will remind them that their father was
an honest man."
It is not needful to describe, because everybody in the Liverpool Corn
Market knows, how Barnabas Greatheart came into the room arm in arm with
Thomas Hatchard, and how every single man shook hands with Thomas because
he had gone beyond the law and done a noble deed, and was a credit to the
corn business; and how Tommy tried to return thanks for his health a week
after at the Adelphi, and broke down utterly, but not before he had
explained that he wasn't at all the good man they thought him, but that he
happened to have had better friends than most men.
What is not known is that on the very evening of the great day a special
messenger brought over to the cottage at Heswall a parcel, which, being
opened, contained a massive silver bowl, with this inscription:—
MRS. THOMAS HATCHARD,
From Three Friends,
In Admiration of her Husband's
Business Integrity and Stainless Honour.
July 7, 1897.
and that on the first anniversary of the great day the Hatchards gave a
dinner-party in their new house at Mossley Hill, where six guests were
present, whose names can be easily supplied, and the bowl, filled with
roses, stood in the centre of the table so that all could read the writing
thereon; that without any direct allusion to the circumstances, or any
violation of good taste, the bowl came into conversation eleven times:
once in praise of the roses; once in discussion of the pattern (Queen
Anne); once with reference to the pedestal of Irish bog-oak; once in
verification of the fact that "honour" was spelt with a "u" (it was
Freddie who, with much ingenuity, turned the search-light on honour); and
seven times in ways too subtle and fleeting for detection. When the ladies
left the room there was a look between the host and his wife as he held
the door; and when the other men's cigars were fully lit, Tommy made and
finished, with some pauses, a speech which may not sound very eloquent on
paper, but which the audience will never forget "There's a text somewhere
in the Bible," he said, pretending that his cigar was not drawing—"which
runs something like this, 'saved by faith,' and when I look at that bowl I
remember that I... was saved that way; but it wasn't... my faith: it was
the faith... of you three men."
THE LAST SACRIFICE
Firelight casts a weird enchantment over an old-fashioned room in the
gloaming, and cleanses it from the commonplace. Distant comers are veiled
in a shadow full of mystery; heavy curtains conceal unknown persons in
their folds; a massive cabinet, full of Eastern curios, is flung into
relief, so that one can identify an Indian god, who distinctly grins and
mocks with sardonic humour, although in daylight he be a personage of
awful solemnity; a large arm-chair, curiously embroidered, grows into the
likeness of a stout elderly gentleman of benevolent heart but fierce
political prejudices; the flickering flames sketch on the ceiling scenes
of past days which can never return; and on a huge mirror the whole
interior is reflected as in a phantasmagoria.
"It is, I do honestly believe, the dreariest room in Bloomsbury, and one
can hardly go farther," said a young woman, lying at her ease on the white
bearskin before the fire; "and yet it has a beauty of its own—sober,
of course, but kindly; yes, that is the word, and true. My room at
Kensington, that Reggie and his artist friends have been doing up in their
best style, as Maples say, does not look prettier to-night, nor your
lovely black oak at the Rectory."
"If you had got your will, Frances," answered a sister some six years
older from the couch, "every stick of this furniture would have been sold
long ago, and the walls draped in pale green. You are full of sentiment
"It's the double wedding and the departure from the ancestral mansion
which is casting shadows over my too susceptible heart and a glamour over
this prosaic old room with its solid Philistine furniture," and Frances
pretended to conceal her rising emotion behind a fan. "Your already
matronly staidness, Gerty, is incapable of entering into such moods. It is
a mercy one daughter, at least—I think there are two—reproduces
mother, and can never be accused of sentiment—and such a blessing
for the Rector! It is a rule, one would say from observation, that
clergymen choose matter-of-fact and managing wives, as a check, I suppose,
on their own unworldliness and enthusiasm. As for me, so frivolous and...
affectionate, poor papa must have the entire responsibility," and Frances
"Are you really deceived by mother's composure and reserve?" Gertrude's
quiet tone emphasized the contrast between her refined face and Frances'
Spanish beauty. "Strangers count her cold as marble, and I can excuse
them, for they judge her in society. We ought to know better, and she has
always seemed to me the very type of loyalty and faithfulness."
"Of course she is the dearest mater ever was, and far too unselfish, and
she has been most patient with her wayward youngest daughter; but she is—well,
I could not say that she is a creature of emotion."
"You believe, I suppose,"—Gertrude was slightly nettled—"in
women who kiss frantically on meeting, first one cheek and then the other,
and sign themselves 'with a thousand remembrances and much love, yours
most affectionately,' who adopt a new friend every month, and marry three
times for companionship."
"Gertrude, I am ashamed of you; you are most provoking and unjust; my
particular detestations, as you know very well, are a couple of girls'
arms round each other's waists—studying one another's dresses all
the time—and a widow who marries again for protection,—it's a
widower who says companionship,—but I enjoy your eloquence; it will
be a help to Fred when he is sermon-making. You will collaborate—that
is the correct word, isn't it?"
"None of us will ever know how deep and strong is the mater's love,"
continued Gertrude, giving no heed to her sister's badinage; "she cannot
speak, and so she will always be misunderstood, as quiet people are. Did
you ever notice that she writes her letters on that old desk, instead of
using the escritoire? that is because it was father's; and although she
never mentions his name, I believe mother would rather starve than leave
this house or part with a chair that was in it when he was living.
"Frances, I'll tell you something I once saw and can never forget. When I
slept in mother's room, I woke one night, and found she had risen. She
opened a drawer that was always kept locked, and took out a likeness of
father. After looking at it again and again—can you believe that?—she
laid it on a chair, and, kneeling down, prayed to God for us all, and that
they might meet again; and then she looked at him once more, and put the
picture in its place.
"Pray God, Frances, that you and I, who are to be married on Tuesday, may
love as she has done, once for ever; do you know I've often thought that
Grace is the only one of us that has mother's power of affection, and yet
we are to be married and she is to be left."
"Yes, Grace is like mother, and yet I don't think mother understands her
one bit What a wife she would make to some man, Gerty; only it would be
bad for him. She would serve him like a slave, and he would be
"But there is no fear of that calamity," Frances went on, "for Grace will
never marry. She is beginning to have the airs of an old maid already, a
way of dressing and a certain primness which is alarming."
"It passes me," said Gertrude, "how no man has seen her excellence and
tried to win her; do you know I've sometimes thought that Mr. Lennox
admired her; they would certainly make a perfect pair."
"You are the dearest old stupid, Gertrude. Of course George Lennox adores
Grace, as he would do a saint in a painted window; and Grace appreciates
him because he teaches astronomy or conchology or something to working men
in the East End. Neither of them knows how to make love; their
conversation is a sort of religious exercise," and Frances' eyes danced
with the delight of a mistress in her art "Why, I once did my best with
him just to keep my hand in, and Gertrude, you might as well have flirted
with that wretched god. I would rather have the god, for he winked to me
just now quite distinctly, the reprobate old scoundrel."
"Perhaps you're right, and Grace does not wish to marry. But it will be
lonely in this big, empty house for mother and her when we are gone."
"Dull! Gerty, you do not understand the situation. It will be a relief for
the two of them to have this love traffic over, and no more men about the
house. Grace simply endures it, as a nun might, and the mater resents any
of her daughters being married. They have their programme fixed. Grace
will visit her sick people in the forenoon, and the mater will do her
tradesmen; in the afternoon the two will attend the Committee for the
Relief of Decayed Washerwomen, and after dinner Gracie will read to mother
out of Hallam's Middle Ages.
"I'll box that creature's ears," and Frances jumped to her feet, a very
winsome young woman indeed; "he's grinning from ear to ear on his pedestal
at some wicked joke, or as if he knew a family secret He's an old cynic,
and regards us as a pair of children prattling about life."
"My work at Court was finished a little earlier to-day, and I have done
myself the pleasure of calling to inquire for Mrs. Leconte and you after
the marriage. Will you accept a few roses?" The manner was grave and a
trifle formal, but George Lennox was one in whom any woman might safely
put her trust—tall and well built, with a strong face and kindly
eyes—a modest and courteous gentleman.
"It is good of you to remember us, but, indeed, you have always been most
kind," said Miss Leconte, with the faintest flush on her cheek. "Mother is
out, and will be sorry to have missed you. Will you not sit down, and I'll
The London sun, which labours hard, with many ingenuities, to do his part
by every home and give to each its morsel of brightness, found the right
angle at that moment, and played round Grace's face with soft afternoon
light She was not beautiful like her sisters, but one man out of a
thousand would learn to love her for the loyalty that could be read in the
grey eyes, and the smile, a very revelation of tenderness, as if her soul
had looked at you.
"Yes, mother and I have settled down to our quiet round after the
festivities; mother needs a rest, for you know how little she thinks of
herself; her unselfishness puts one to shame every day."
Mr. Lennox looked as if he knew another unselfish person, and Grace
continued hurriedly: "Every one thought the marriage went off so well, and
the day was certainly perfect Didn't Gertrude and Frances make lovely
brides, each in her own way?"
"So the people said, and I know how they would look; but it happened that
I stood where I could only see the bridesmaids."
"Will you excuse me putting the roses in water? they are the finest I've
seen this summer, and I want to keep them fresh," and she escaped for the
moment He watched her place one dish on the end of the grand piano and
another on a table near her mother's chair, and a yearning look came over
They talked of many things, but both were thinking of one only, and then
it was she, In her kindness, that provoked the catastrophe.
"You will come again and see mother; she misses Gerty and Frances, and it
is very pleasant to have a talk with old friends."
"And you, Grace—Miss Leconte, I mean—may I not come to visit
"You know that I am glad when you come, and always will be; you are my
friend also," and she looked at him with frank, kind eyes.
"Nothing more than friend after all these years—seven now since
first we met Do you not guess what I was thinking as your sisters stood
beside their bridegrooms in church?" But she did not answer.
"Can you give me no hope, Grace? If you told me to come back in five
years, I would count them days for the joy of hearing you call me by my
name at the end, as a woman speaks to the man she loves."
"You ought not to open this matter again" but she was not angry, "for my
mind is made up, and cannot be changed. There is no man living whom I
respect more; none to whom I would rather go in time of trouble; there is
nothing I would not do for you, Mr. Lennox, except one..."
"But it is the one thing I desire;" and then Lennox began to plead. "No
man is worthy of you, Grace, and I least of all. The world counts me proud
and cold, and I regret my manner every day, but I can love, and I love you
with all my heart You know I can give you a house and every comfort of
life—perhaps I may be able to bring you honour and rank some day;
but these are not the arguments I would urge or you would care to hear.
Love is my plea—that I never loved before I saw you, and if you
refuse me that I will not love any other.
"Do not speak yet" His face was white, and he stretched out his hands in
appeal. "Have we not the same... faith and the same ideals? Could not we
work together for a lifetime, and serve the world with our love? Perhaps I
ought to have spoken years ago, but the Bar is an uncertain profession,
and my position was not made. It seemed to me cowardly to ask a woman's
love before one could offer her marriage, so I kept silent till last
spring, when I saw your sisters' lovers and their happiness—and then
I could not help telling you that one man hoped to win your heart Now I
ask for your answer.
"If you love another man," he went on, "or feel that you can never love
me, tell me at once, Grace, for this were better for us both. I would
never cease to love you, for we slow, cold men do not change, and if you
had need I would serve you, but never again would I... trouble you," and
the ablest of the junior counsel at the Chancery Bar broke down before a
girl that had no other attraction than the goodness of her soul.
Grace Leconte was the calmer of the two when she spoke, but her face was
set like a martyr's in his agony.
"I had hoped, Mr. Lennox, that you would not have followed up what you
said in March, but yet so selfish is a woman, I am not sorry to be told
that I... am loved by such a man.
"Believe me, it is I that am unworthy. You have made too much of a very
ordinary woman But I am proud of... your love, and in after years, when I
find the strain too heavy, will often say, 'God has been good to me.
George Lennox loved me."
He was waiting anxiously, not knowing how this would end.
"You have spoken frankly to me, and have laid bare your heart," she went
on. "I do not see why I should be hindered by custom from telling you the
truth also," and then she hesitated, but only for a little. "For years—I
do not know how long—I have... loved you, and have followed your
career as only a woman who loves could—gathering every story of your
success, and rejoicing in it all as if you had been mine. Wait, for I have
not yet done.
"If I could say 'Yes,' I would, George—may I call you this, only
to-day?—without any delay but I must say 'No' instead, although it
may break my heart I can never be your wife."
"What do you mean...?"
"Bear with me, and I will tell you all. You know now it is not because I
do not want to marry you—I do; I also can love, and I do not wish to
be an old maid—no woman does. I will not pretend indifference, but
it is not possible for me to leave my mother."
"Is that all?" cried Lennox, as one who has cast off a great dread. "I
would never ask Mrs. Leconte to part from the last of her daughters. She
will come with you, and we shall strive to make her life peaceful and
"Please do not go on, for this can never be. No power could induce mother
to change her way or live with us. She will live and die alone, or I must
stay with her. My duty is clear, and, George, you must... accept this
decision as final."
"You will let me speak to her and put our case...?"
"No, a thousand times no. She must never know our secret. It would still
be the same between you and me, but mother would fret every year because I
had made this sacrifice. As it is she knows nothing, and will never guess
the truth. Promise me you will say nothing; that is one favour I have to
ask, and there is another, that... you do not call again, for I could not
bear to see you for a little... for some years. You will do so much for
me, will you not?"
He had sat down, his head on his breast, a figure of utter dejection, when
she laid her hand on his arm.
"Things cannot end after this fashion," and Lennox sprang to his feet;
"does not the Book say that a man will forsake father and mother for
love's sake, and should it not be so with a woman also? What right have
you to deny your love and blight two lives?"
"Many would say that I am wrong, but my mind is made up. Do not try me
farther, George; God knows how hard it is to obey my conscience. My duty,
as I see it, and that is all one can go by, is to mother, and if I made it
second even to love, I should be inwardly ashamed, and you... you could
not respect me.
"Say you understand," and her lips trembled; "say that you forgive me for
the sorrow I have brought upon you, and let us say farewell."
He made as though he would have clasped her in his arms and compelled her
to surrender, and then he also conquered.
"God keep and bless you, Grace; if I cannot have you in my home, none can
keep me from carrying you in my heart," and he was gone.
She watched him till he disappeared round the corner of the square, and
noticed that he walked as one stricken with age. One of their windows
commanded a corner of the square garden, where the trees were in their
first summer greenery, and she could hear the birds singing. As she turned
away, the sunlight lingered on the white roses which George Lennox had
brought as the token of his love, and then departed, leaving the faded
room in the shadow.
"This frame seems to have been made for our purpose, Grace," and Mrs.
Leconte arranged in order Gertrude with her two girls and Frances with her
two boys. "It seems only a few months, instead of four years, since the
"They have good husbands and happy homes. I only wish their father..."
This was so unusual that Grace looked at her mother, and Mrs. Leconte
checked herself. "You are going down to the Rectory, I hope, next week;
Gertrude is always anxious to have you, and August in London is very
"Certainly; but on one condition, mother, that you go too; it would be
such a joy to Gerty, and you must have some change."
"Perhaps I will, a little later, but I never leave London in August. I
have always been very strong, and I like a... quiet time then."
"Mother," and Mrs. Leconte turned at the passion in her daughter's voice,
"why will you not allow any of us to share your remembrance and your
grief? We know why you shut yourself up alone in August, and now, when
there are just you and I, it hurts me that I may not be with you, if it
were only to pray... or weep. Would it not be some help?" and Grace took
her mother's hand, a very rare caress.
"You are a good daughter, Grace," she spoke with much difficulty, "but...
God made me to be alone, and silent I was not able to tell either joy or
sorrow even to your father. You spoke of weeping; do you know I've never
shed a tear since I was a child—not often then.
"When he died, my eyes were dry.... Oh, Grace, you are most like me: may
God deliver you from a tearless grief; but it must be so with me to the
"Dearest mother," said Grace, but she did not kiss her.
"You are often in my thoughts, Grace," after a long silence, "and I am
concerned about you, for you have aged beyond your years. Are you...
"What a question, mater; you know that I have the health of a donkey—save
a headache now and then that gives me an interesting pallor. You forget
that I am getting to be an old maid, nearly thirty."
"Is it really that... I mean, do you not feel lonely?—it is a
contrast, your sisters' lot and yours, and a woman's heart was made for
love, but if it be so do not sorrow over-much... I can't explain myself—there
are many in this world to love, and, at any rate... you will never know
the sense of loss."
"That is the postman's ring," and Grace made an errand to obtain the
letters, and lingered a minute on the way.
"Only one letter, and it's for you, mother. I think I know the
"Of course you do; it's from Mrs. Archer, George Lennox's aunt. She is a
capital correspondent, and always sends lots of news. Let me see. Oh,
they've had Gertrude and her husband staying a night with them for a
"'Everything went off well'... 'Gerty looked very distinguished, and has
just the air of a clergyman's wife. Gerty was always suited for that part,
just as Frances does better among the painters.... I wish all the same
they were both here, Grace, but I suppose that's a wrong feeling, for
marriage is a woman's natural lot... that is in most cases, some have
"Do you know who has been staying with the Archers? Why, you might guess
that—George Lennox; he's Jane Archer's favourite nephew, and I don't
wonder; no woman, I mean sensible woman, could help liking him; he's so
reliable and high-toned, as well as able, and do you know, I always
thought Mr. Lennox good-looking.
"What's this? 'You will be sorry to hear that George is looking very ill
indeed, and just like an old man, and he's not forty yet. Are you there,
Grace? Oh, I thought perhaps you had left the room. Isn't that sad about
"Mrs. Archer goes on to say that he overworks shockingly, and that he is
bound to break down soon; he will take no advice, and allows himself no
pleasure. What a pity to see a man throwing away his life, isn't it?"
"Perhaps he finds his... satisfaction in work, mother."
"Nonsense; no man ought to kill himself. Mr. Lennox ought to have married
years ago, and then he would not have been making a wreck of himself; I
don't know any man who would have made a better husband, or of whom a
woman would have been prouder." And Mrs. Leconte compelled a reply.
"He is a good man, and I think you are right, mother." Something in her
tone struck Mrs. Leconte's ear.
"Grace, Mr. Lennox used to come frequently to this house, and now I have
noticed he never calls."
Her daughter said nothing.
"It was after your sisters' wedding that he ceased to call. Do you
think... I mean, was he in love with Gerty? Frances it couldn't be. I
never thought of that before, for I am not very observant. Nothing would
have given me more pleasure, if my daughters were to be married, than to
have George Lennox for a son-in-law. Can it be, Grace, that Gerty refused
him, and we have never known?"
"I am sure she did not, mother;" and again Mrs. Leconte caught a strange
note in her daughter's voice.
"Do you know, I suspect that if you had given him any encouragement,
George Lennox would have been a happy man to-day. Is that so, Grace?
"Pardon me, Grace, perhaps I ought not to ask such a question; it came
suddenly into my mind. Whatever you did was no doubt right; a woman cannot
give her hand without her heart even to the best of men. If it be as I
imagine, I do not blame you, Grace, but... I am sorry for George Lennox."
Grace wept that night over the saddest of all the ironies of life—a
sacrifice which was a mistake and which had no reward.
His private business was lard, which he bought for the rise and sold for
the fall—being a bull or a bear without prejudice—and with a
success so distinguished that his name was mentioned in highly
complimentary terms on the American market When the famous lard corner of
1887 had been wound up, and every man had counted his gains (or losses),
old man Perkins, of Chicago, did justice to his chief opponent, like the
operator of honour that he was.
"No, sir, I ain't a slouch, and the man who says that I don't know lard is
a mining expert; but Elijah Higginbotham, of Victoria Street, Liverpool,
Great Britain, has come out on top: he's a hustler from way back, is
Mr. Perkins' opinion, which was a deduction based on the results of at
least six first-class encounters, was generally accepted on both sides of
the Atlantic, and it was conceded that what Mr. Elijah Higginbotham did
not know about that capricious and volatile instrument of speculation was
not knowledge. As a matter of principle he was opposed to gambling, and
denounced it with much eloquence and perfect sincerity at conferences of a
religious character,—warning his audience, composed mainly of old
ladies, against the Derby,—but if this evil and ruinous spirit
should happen to enter his market, where it seemed quite at home, Elijah
was prepared to overthrow gambling with its own weapons, and on such
occasions it was worldly wisdom to bet on Elijah's side. His ideas
regarding the date of unfulfilled prophecy might be crude, but his
foresight regarding the future of lard was an instinct.
His public business was religion, and especially the work of an
evangelist, and to this Elijah gave himself with incredible courage and
diligence. When he was not manipulating lard or asleep, he was inquiring
into the condition of his neighbour's soul, and none could escape him. It
was freely told on 'Change how he had fallen on an alderman, who had
responded too generously to the loyal toasts at a municipal banquet, and
so impressed him with the shortness of life and the awfulness of the
future, that the worthy man was bathed in tears, and promised if spared to
join the Plymouth Brethren next day. Bishops of the Church, who are awful
beings to ordinary people, and with whom some of us hardly dare to speak
about the weather, were to Elijah a chosen prey in railway carriages, so
that he would hunt a train to travel with one for a long journey, and he
has been known to reduce one pompous prelate to the verge of apoplexy by
showing before a (secretly) delighted company of "firsts" that this
successor to the Apostles did not really know wherein conversion
consisted, and, by not very indirect inference, that the Bishop was
himself still unconverted. Unto Elijah belongeth also the doubtful and
perilous distinction of having been the unwilling and (as he would himself
say) unworthy means of stopping a London express when going at full speed.
It was, of course, an old and perhaps over-nervous gentleman who actually
pulled the cord and waved to the guard, and it was Elijah who offered
immediate and elaborate explanations; but Elijah's fellow-passenger held a
strong position when he laid the blame on the evangelist.
"It's well enough for him to say that he was speaking spiritually, but he
told me plainly that I was going to Hell, and not to London, and I put it
to you, guard,"—by this time there was a large jury of interested
passengers,—"when the only other man in the compartment uses
language of that kind, and he much younger and stronger, whether I wasn't
justified in calling for assistance."
Quiet men, not prone to panics, just breaking upon their luncheon at the
Club, rose and fled when Elijah sat down at the same table, knowing well
that not only would a forbidding silence be no protection, but that even
ingenious and ensnaring allusions to the critical condition of the lard
market would be no protection against personal inquiries of the most
searching character. He was always provided with portable religious
literature of a somewhat startling character, and was in this way able to
supply his fellow-passengers in the evening 'bus; and it was stimulating
to any one with a sense of humour to see commercial magnates handling one
of Elijah's tracts as if it were dynamite, and late-comers taking in the
interior at a glance from the step, and hurriedly climbing to the top—willing
to risk bronchitis rather than twenty minutes of Elijah. His conscientious
opinion was that the limited number of persons who held his particular
opinions would go to heaven, and the large number who did not would go
elsewhere, and in these circumstances no one could blame him for being
urgent No doubt Elijah—for indeed this was almost an official title—was
very insistent, and had no tact; but then when you are pulling people out
of fires, and handing them out of burning houses—these were his
favourite illustrations of the situation—one does not pay much
attention to ceremony or even manners. It was often said that he alienated
people from religion, and so defeated his own ends; but I suppose that his
reply would be that he left them no worse than he found them, and if it
was asserted that he influenced no one, he very likely had some cases of
success among that class of persons who are never utterly persuaded until
they are felled by a blow between the eyes. Very likely he was not
concerned about success or failure, approval or disapproval, but simply
was determined to do his duty, which was to hold back as many of his
neighbours as he could from going to Hell. This duty he discharged with
all his might and with undeniable courage, and Elijah had his reward by
universal consent in that no one accused him of canting, for he never said
anything he did not believe with the marrow of his bones, or of hypocrisy,
for he certainly made no gain of godliness.
When Elijah entered my room one morning—his clean-shaven,
heavy-jawed face more determined than ever—I was certain that he had
not come to talk over the weather, and prepared myself for faithful
"It is not my custom," he began, "to read fiction, and I believe that the
more people read novels the less will they want to read their Bibles; but
I was recommended to read a book of yours, called The Days of Auld Lang
Syne, by a friend, in whose judgment I have usually placed confidence,
and I feel it my duty to call and remonstrate with you about that book."
Was it the literary form that he wished to criticise, or the substance? In
either case I hoped he would speak with all frankness, an encouragement
which Mr. Higginbotham perhaps hardly needed.
"Well, I don't know anything about literature, for I thank God that my
Bible and the Pilgrim's Progress are enough for me; but I did once
read Scott—long ago before I knew the value of time—and your
book is certainly not up to that sample." This, I assured Elijah, was my
own fixed and unalterable opinion, and I ventured to congratulate Elijah
on the acuteness of his literary judgment—which compliment was
passed over without acknowledgment—and then I pressed for his
"What I have to say is just this, that there are characters in the book
who ought not to be introduced to a Christian family, and views which are
sure to injure religion."
Now it happened that I had been reading that morning an interesting and
very caustic review, in which it was pointed out that no people had ever
lived or ever would live so good as the inhabitants of Drumtochty: that I
had confused together the (mythical) garden of Eden with a Scots village;
that the places were really very different in morals and general
environment; that it was a pity that the author did not know the limits of
true art; that what was wanted was reality, not sentimental twaddle, and
that in short—but this is not how the critic put it—let the
writer of fiction stick to the ash-pit in a house, and not attempt the
picture gallery. The critic—a young gentleman, I should say—was
very severe on my London doctor, who had taken a servant girl to his own
house that she might die there in peace, and assured me that such
extravagant unrealities showed my hopeless ignorance, and proved my
unfitness to be an artist in life. Up to this point I had been much
humbled, and had been trying to profit by every word of wisdom; but now I
laid down the paper and had a few moments of sinless enjoyment, for this
incident had been lifted bodily out of life, with only some change in
names, and was the only fact in the book. A poor puling idealist!—yet
even in my most foolish flights I had kept some hold on life—but
here was Elijah Higginbotham sitting calmly in my study and suggesting
that I was a realist of such a pronounced and shameless character that my
books were not fit for family reading.
When I pressed him for some evidence of his charge, he cited "Posty," and
spoke briefly but strongly about that unfortunate man's taste for
"Could I reconcile it with my conscience to introduce such a man to the
Christian public, and was I not aware of the injury which drink was doing
in our country?"
"Mr. Higginbotham," I said, "my business was to represent life in a Scots
parish, within limits, as I had seen it, and although I say it with deep
regret, and hope the matter will never be mentioned outside this room,
every Scot is not a rigid and bigoted abstainer—a few, I hope fewer
every year, do 'taste.'"
"We are all perfectly aware of that, and more than a few,"—which was
not generous on his part,—"but that is not the question. It is
whether you, as a respectable—and I would fain believe in spite of
what I have read—Christian man, ought deliberately to condone and
countenance this conduct."
"Surely, sir, you do not suppose for one moment that I have the slightest
sympathy with intemperance, or that I did not deeply regret the habits
into which Posty had fallen! Had I known that you or any intelligent
person would have imagined such a thing, I would have added footnotes,
whenever Posty forgot himself, such as (1) The author deeply regrets
Posty's conduct; (2) The author repudiates Posty's language with all his
"It might have saved misunderstanding." Elijah regarded me dubiously. "I
would certainly not have judged that you felt so strongly from the book."
"Ah, there you are wrong, for again and again I simply wrestled with Posty
to take the blue ribbon; but you know one should not boast, and it would
have sounded egotistical to obtrude these efforts, unhappily unsuccessful,
in the book.
"It is," I ventured to add with some pathos, "very hard that I should
first of all have had to suffer from my association, even in a literary
sense, with Posty, and then afterwards to be treated by religious and
philanthropic persons as if I had been his boon companion."
"No, no; don't put words in my mouth," broke in Elijah. "I said nothing of
the kind; but you have not been careful to convey your own position."
"Mr. Higginbotham, if I might give you a word of advice, do not meddle
with fiction, for you never can tell into what company you may come. Why,
I may tell you that 'Posty,' before his lamented death, used to haunt this
room—in a literary sense, of course—and some evenings I was
"If he were (comparatively) sober he would confine himself to the news of
the district, and the subject of her Majesty's mails; but if he had been
tasting he always took to theology, as Scots generally do, and then he
grew so profound and eloquent on the doctrine of election that if you had
come in my character would have been worth nothing: you would have jumped
to the conclusion, not without reason, that he had got his refreshments
"You will excuse me," said Elijah, who had lost his customary expression
of cocksureness during the last few minutes, "I am out of touch with the
market: am I not right in understanding that the Postman was never alive?"
"Well, I'm sorry you have thought so, for it would be rather a severe
reflection on his author; but I think he must have had some life, else you
would not have done him (and me) the honour of so much attention."
"He was your manufacture or creation, in fact done for the book; put it as
you please—you know what I mean"—and my visitor grew
impatient. "Then, if that be so, you could make him say and do what you
"In fact, take the blue ribbon and become an example for temperance
"Why not?" replied Elijah stoutly; "it might have done good."
"Mr. Higginbotham," I said with much solemnity, "be thankful that in your
busy and blameless life you have never meddled with fiction, save, I
fancy, in commercial transactions; for you have escaped trials of anxiety
and disappointment beyond anything in the markets. You suppose, I notice,
that because a story-teller creates certain characters, he can do with
them as he pleases, putting words into their mouths and dictating their
"Well, naturally I do."
"Nothing of the kind, sir. Once these characters are fairly started on
their career, and come of age, as it were, they go their own way, and the
whole of their author's time is taken up following them, remonstrating
with them, and trying, generally in vain, to get them to work out his
plan. Now you would say, I fancy, that the poor author could at least
settle their marriages."
"I would do so," said Elijah grimly, "if I were writing."
"Unfortunately that is one of the most difficult and delicate parts of a
poor novelist's work, and he fails as often as he succeeds. The man
marries the wrong woman, and vice versâ, till the author is in
despair, and sometimes wishes he had never called such a set of rebels
Elijah looked incredulous.
"I can assure you, you never know what secret they may have in their past
lives, or what love affairs are going on behind your back. I'll give you
an illustration, if I may quote from very simple fiction. A lady wrote me,
after the publication of the Brier Bush, that she believed
Drumsheugh was in love with Marget Howe, and wished to know whether this
was the case? I replied that this suspicion had crossed my own mind, and
that I was watching events. And as you have done me the honour of reading
Auld Lang Syne, you will remember that Drumsheugh had been a
faithful, although undeclared lover of Marget since early manhood. Yet it
came on me as a surprise; and if any one had said, Why did not you tell
this sooner? my answer would have been, I did not know. If I am not
wearying you, Mr. Higginbotham—I am on my defence, and I should like
to have your good opinion—I may confess that I tried to arrange, in
a book, a girl's love affairs, and she married the wrong man, one quite
unsuited for her, and the result was—although this is again a secret—they
have had many unnecessary trials. No, no, we are helpless creatures, we
so-called authors; poor mother hens, beseeching from the edge of the pond
and lamenting, while the brood of ducklings swim away in all directions."
"That's all very well; and, as writing is not in my line, you may be
right; but I have not come to my most serious ground of complaint, and
that is the Postman's—er—judgment and future lot."
"Yes," I said, and waited for the indictment u Here, according to your own
description, is a man"—and Elijah checked off the list of my poor
gossip's sins on his fingers—"who makes no profession of religion—vital
religion, I mean, for theology is a mere matter of the head—who
indulged in spirituous liquors to excess, who refused tracts, when they
were offered, with contempt, who to all appearance had never known any
saving change. He dies suddenly, and bravely, I admit, but with no sign of
repentance, and this man, dying in his sin, is sent to Heaven as if he
were a saint If that is what happened with the Postman," summed up Elijah
with uncompromising decision, "then I do not know the Gospel. 'He that
believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned,' is
plain enough. He wasn't saved here—no one could say that 'As the
tree falleth, so shall it lie.'
He couldn't be saved there. Yes, it may sound severe, but it is the truth,
and there is no room for sentiment in religion; your story is grossly
misleading, and may do injury to many precious souls."
"By moving people, do you mean, to give their lives for others and to
forget themselves?" I dared to ask.
"I don't deny that it was a gallant deed to jump into the river and save
the girl's life," replied Elijah hastily. "I appreciate that; but it's not
by works that any one can be saved. What right had you to send that man to
"Mr. Higginbotham, you are still making me the scapegoat for other men's
acts. I was only the historian. It was Jamie Soutar and Carmichael, the
Free Kirk minister, who held a council on the road one day, and decided
that it must be well with Posty because he died to save a little child.
Jamie has always been a trial to me, and a ground of criticism, especially
because he used to cloak his good deeds with falsehood to escape praise
instead of proclaiming them at the corners of the streets as the good
people used to do. So little sympathy have I with Jamie, that before the
proof sheets of the book left this room I sent for Jamie (in a literary
sense), and he came (in the same sense), and I placed him just where you
are sitting and spoke to him (always in the same sense) very seriously.
May I tell you—as it will further vindicate me—what I said?
"Thank you, sir, for your patience. 'James,' I said—for if any one
is usually called Jamie and on some occasion you say James, it is very
impressive—'if these sheets are printed as they stand, I'm afraid
both you and I will suffer at the hands of the good people, and, with your
permission, there is one passage at least I would like to amend.'
"'What is it?* said Jamie quickly, but, I felt, unresponsively.
"'It's where you go up to London solely to visit the poor servant lass,
and then say you are in charge of Drumsheugh's cattle; where you assure
Lily that her mistress had been enquiring for her, when you had just rated
her mistress for cruel carelessness; where you give Lily twenty pounds as
from her mistress, while it is your own money: all to cheer a poor dying
lassie, James, I admit, but not true, not true.'
"'What wud ye hev me to say?' enquired Jamie, but very drily indeed.
"'Well, I have written a sentence or two, James, which I hope you will
allow me to insert, and I am sure our critics will be quite satisfied;
it's what they would say themselves.'
"'Read on,' said Jamie, looking very hard.
"'Here I am, Lily, a' the way frae Drumtochty, ane's errand to see ye—a
matter o' five pounds outlay, I reckon, but what's that 'atween friends?
And here's twenty punds o' ma hard-earned savin's a've brocht ye; ye'll
pay me back gin ye be spared; an' gin things come to the worst, yir
grandmother's honest; interest needna be mentioned unless ye insist, and
ye maunna tell onybody what a've done for ye, except a friend or two in
"'Are ye prood o' that passage?' enquired Jamie, and his tone was
distinctly disagreeable; 'd'ye think it a credit to you or me?'
"'It's safe, James, and will be acceptable.'
"Mr. Higginbotham, you will have some idea what sort of men I've had to
deal with, and will be more merciful to me when I tell you that Jamie
walked to the door without a word and then gave me his answer: 'Ye hev ae
Pharisee in yer book; an' gin ye want two, a'm no the man.' You can see
yourself what a man of Jamie Soutar's peculiar disposition would do, if he
had the power, with poor Posty, who gave his life for a little maid."
"More than Jamie Soutar would... in fact, let Posty off"—Elijah
spoke with some feeling—"and it's a mercy that such decisions are
not in our hands. We must just go by Revelation, and I do not see any way
of escape. As regards Jamie, I cannot approve of deliberate falsehood, and
I wish to say so distinctly, but I understand and... appreciate his
As Elijah said this, certain stories came suddenly into my mind: how he
would have a hot altercation with some man on religion, but afterwards
would do him a good turn in business; how a young fellow had insulted him
in a 'bus, and in a great strait, had been helped by some unknown person,
and he always believed himself that the person was Elijah. It seemed to me
as if the evangelist's face had relaxed a little, and that beneath this
casing of doctrine a heart might be beating. So I went on with my defence.
"The other judge who took upon him to reward 'Posty' in the next world was
the Free Kirk minister, and I always regarded Carmichael as a heady young
man, too much inclined to take up with new views, and not sufficiently
respectful to the past But young men have generous impulses and I suppose
Carmichael's heart got the better of his head as he thought of Posty
giving all he had—his life—for the drowning lassie."
"He would have been unworthy the name of a man, let alone a minister,"
broke in Elijah, "if he had not admired that deed. Do you think I don't...
appreciate the devotion of such a man? It was admirable, and Mr.
Carmichael is to be excused if he... did go too far."
So Elijah really was the "Produce Broker" who headed the subscription for
the widows and orphans of the gallant lifeboats-men. Some had laughed the
idea to scorn, saying that he would never give £100 to any object except
tracts or missions. They did not know my evangelist. Whatever he compelled
himself to think the Almighty would do with men, Posty had been very well
off indeed with Elijah as judge.
"Mr. Higginbotham," I said, taking a rapid resolution, "it does not matter
what I think, for a humble story-teller is no theologian, and it matters
as little what my friends of the book thought: let me tell the story over
again in brief, and I shall leave you to pronounce 'Posty's' doom."
"It's far later than I supposed," and Elijah rose hastily, "and I'm afraid
I must go: the market is very sensitive at present. Some other day we can
talk the matter over. I have no wish to be uncharitable, whatever people
may think of me, but we must obey the truth. Well, if you insist—just
ten minutes.... It is not by our feelings, however, that such things are
to be decided." Elijah sat down again, looking just a shade too stern, as
if he were afraid of his own integrity, and not perfectly sure that the
Bible would back him.
"It was Mrs. Macfadyen's youngest daughter, you remember, who fell into
the Tochty, and Elsie was everybody's favourite. She was a healthy and
winsome child, with fair hair and bright laughing eyes...
"Blue?" suddenly enquired Elijah, and then added in some confusion, "I beg
your pardon; I was thinking of a child I once knew, and... loved. Go on."
"Yes, blue, about the colour of a forget-me-not...."
"Hers were darker, like the sea, you know, and in her last illness they
were as deep... I interrupt you."
"People liked Elsie because she was such a merry soul: coming to meet you
on the road, nodding to you over a hedge, or giving you a kiss if you
Elijah nodded as one who understood; yet he was a wifeless, childless man.
Some child friendship most likely; and now, even as I glance at him from
the corner of my eyes, his friend is putting her arms round his neck.
Would they recognise him in the 'bus at this moment?
"Her mother was washing blankets by the edge of the river, which was in
flood, and rising, and the lassie was playing beside her with a doll. She
was singing at the very time in gladness of hear and thinking of no
"Poor little woman!" It gave one a start, for this was a new voice,
unknown in the lard market or the religious meeting. What had become of
"When she either stooped too near the flood, or a larger wave had caught
her where she sat, and at the sound of a scream her mother looked round,
and saw the wee lassie disappear in the black cauldron which whirled round
and round within the rocks."
"Ah!" groaned Elijah, visibly moved, who had spoken calmly of the
everlasting damnation of the greater portion of the human race times
"Her mother, in her agony, cried to God to save Elsie."
"She could not have done better," cried Elijah; "and He answered her
"While she prayed, Posty was coming down the footpath behind, and he heard
"Posty was the instrument," and Elijah rapped the floor with his stick.
"He obeyed the Divine command within, and he cannot go without some
"He tore off his coat in an instant, and then—I suppose if you had
been there you would have besought him to bethink himself: and to remember
that he was a man unfit to die! Is not that so?"
"Sir," said Elijah, "you do me less than justice, and... insult me. What
right have you to ask me such a question? I have preached, and I will
preach again; but there's a time for preaching, and a time to refrain from
preaching. I can swim, and I have saved two lives in my time. I am a fool
for boasting, but I would..."
"I believe you would, Mr. Higginbotham"—I saw an able-bodied man
without fear—"and I beg your pardon..."
Elijah waved his hand. I was to go on to the end without delay.
"It seemed fifteen minutes, it was only one, while the mother hung over
the edge of the black seething whirlpool, and then he came up, bleeding
from a wound in the forehead, without Elsie."
"I take you to witness," declared Elijah solemnly, "that I said he was a
brave man. Yes, he had the natural virtues, and some who make a profession
"For a few seconds he hung on to the edge to get breath, and Mrs.
Macfadyen herself besought him not to risk his life, for he was a husband
and father; but he only answered: 'I'll hae Elsie oot'."
"They forgot themselves,—do you mark that?—both of them,"
cried Elijah. "Whose Spirit was that? Didn't they keep the commandment of
Love, which is the chief commandment? and—answer me—can any
one keep that commandment without grace?"
It was not with me but with himself the evangelist was arguing, and I went
"He came up again, this time with Elsie in one arm, a poor, little limp
bundle of clothes, her yellow hair spread over her face, and her eyes
closed, I was afraid, for ever."
"But she lived, didn't she?" There was no Elijah Higginbotham anywhere to
be found now, only an excited man, concerned about the saving of a little
maid. "Excuse me, I didn't read that part about the saving so carefully as
I ought I was more concerned about... the judgment."
"Yes, Elsie was all right in a day or two, but Posty had not strength to
do more than hand her to her mother, and then, exhausted by the struggle
with the water, he fell back, and was dead when he was found."
"What were you doing that you did not lay hold of Posty and pull him out?"
thundered Elijah; "you seem to have been there."
"Only in a literary sense," I hastened to explain, for it now seemed
likely that the evangelist having come to condemn Posty, was about to take
up the cudgels on his behalf.
"I wish to Heaven you had been there in a physical sense; you would have
been far more useful!" replied Elijah. "And so he died and Elsie was
"Yes, Posty died and went to his account; that was how he lived, and that
was how he died." And I waited.
Elijah sprang out of his seat and stood on the hearthrug, his face
flushed, and his eyes shining.
"It's a pity that he tasted; I wish he hadn't It's a pity he did not think
more about his own soul; I wish he had. But Posty was a hero, and played
the man that day. Posty will have another chance. Posty loved, and God is
Love; if there's such a thing as justice, it's all right with Posty."
We did not look at one another for a full minute—a print of
Perugino's Crucifixion over the mantelpiece interested me, and Elijah's
eye seemed to be arrested by the Encyclopedia Britannica on the
other side of the room—a minute later we shook hands upon the basis
of the Divine Love and our common humanity, and nothing more passed
From my window I could see him go along the street He stopped and slapped
his leg triumphantly. I seemed to hear the evangelist say again with great
joy: "It's all right with Posty!" I said, "And it's all right with Elijah
THE COLLECTOR'S INCONSISTENCY
There were many capable men in the session of the North Free Kirk,
Muirtown—such as Bailie MacCallum, from whom Drumsheugh bought Kate
Carnegie's wedding present after a historical tussle—but they were
all as nothing beside the Collector, and this was so well known in
Muirtown that people spoke freely of the Collector's kirk. When he arrived
in Muirtown, it was understood that he sampled six kirks, three
Established and three Free—the rumour about the Original Seceders
was never authenticated—and that the importance of his visits was
thoroughly appreciated. No unseemly fuss was made on his appearance; but
an ex-bailie, or the Clerk to the Road Trustees, or some such official
person, happened to meet him at the door, and received him into his pew
with quiet, unostentatious respect; and when he left, officious deacons
did not encompass his exit, rubbing their hands and asking how he liked
their place, but an elder journeying in the same direction entered into
general conversation and was able to mention with authority next day what
the Collector had said. Various reasons were canvassed for his settlement
in the North Kirk, where old Dr. Pitten-driegh was then drawing near to
the close of his famous exposition of the Epistle to the Romans, published
after the Doctor's death, and sold to the extent of fifty-seven copies
among the congregation. It was, for one thing, a happy coincidence that on
that occasion the Doctor, having taken an off day from Romans, had
preached from the text "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's,"
and had paid a high tribute to the character of a faithful servant of the
Crown. Some importance, no doubt, also attached to the fact that the
Procurator Fiscal sat in the "North Free," austere and mysterious, whose
power of detecting crime bordered on the miraculous, and whose ways were
veiled in impenetrable darkness, so that any one with a past felt
uncomfortable in his presence; and it was almost synonymous with doom to
say of a man, "The Fiscal has his eye on him." Perhaps it was not without
influence that the Supervisor, who was the Collector's subordinate, with
power also of official life and death, had long sat under Dr. Pittendriegh—the
Doctor and the Collector were indeed the only persons the Supervisor did
sit under. He had admirable opportunities of enlarging to the Collector on
the solid and edifying qualities of Dr. Pittendriegh's ministry, and the
unfortunate defects in the preaching and pastoral gifts of neighbouring
ministers, in the intervals of business, when the two of them were not
investigating into the delinquencies of some officer of excise, who had
levied a tax on the produce of Dunleith Distillery not only in money but
also in kind; or concocting cunning plans for the detection of certain
shepherds who were supposed to be running an entirely unlicensed still in
the recesses of Glen Urtach. It was at least through this official,
himself an elder, that the Collector's decision was intimated to the
Doctor and the other authorities of the North Kirk, and they lost no time
in giving it proper and irrevocable effect The Supervisor set an example
of patriotic sacrifice by surrendering his pew in the centre of the church
and retiring to the modest obscurity of the side seats, so that the
Collector could be properly housed; for it was not to be thought of for a
moment that he should sit anywhere except in the eye of the public, or
that ordinary persons—imagine for instance young children—should
be put in the same pew with him. So he sat there alone, for he had neither
wife nor child, from January to December, except when on his official
leave—which he took not for pleasure but from a sense of duty—and
he gave a calm, judicial attention to all the statements put before him by
the preacher. Very soon after this arrangement the Doctor discovered that
the Deacons' Court required strengthening, and, as a man of affairs, the
Collector was added at the head of the list; and when a year later a happy
necessity compelled an election of elders, the Collector was raised to
this higher degree, and thereafter was "thirled" to the North Free, and
the history of that kirk and of the Collector became one.
What exactly the great man collected, or what functions and powers might
be included in his office, were not matters Muirtown pretended to define
or dared to pry into. It was enough that he was, in the highest and final
sense of the word, Collector—no mere petty official of a local body,
but the representative of the Imperial Government and the commissioned
servant of Her Majesty the Queen, raised above principalities and powers
in the shape of bailies and provosts, and owning no authority save, as was
supposed, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. For any one to confound him
with the collector of, say, water rates was either abysmal ignorance or,
it might be, although one hoped not, a piece of Radical insolence and a
despising of dignities. It was good manners to call him by his title—many
would have had difficulty in mentioning his private name, which was, I
believe, Thomas Richard Thome, just as the Queen's, I believe, is Guelph—and
it was pleasing to hear a porter at the station shout, amid a crowd of
tourists going to the Kilspindie Arms, "Collector's cab"; or Bailie
MacCallum on the street, "Fine morning, Collector"; and one did not wonder
that the session of the "North Free" exalted its head when this kind of
thing went on at its meetings: "Moderator, with your permission, I would
like to have the mind of the Collector"; and then in reply, "Moderator, my
views practically coincide with those of the Fiscal" And there were dinner
tables, such as old Peter MacCash's, the manager of the Muirtown Bank,
where conversation reached a very high level of decoration, and nothing
could be heard save "Sheriff," "Provost," "Collector," "Town Clerk,"
"Fiscal," "Banker," "Doctor," "Dean of Guild," and such like, till an
untitled person hardly dared to defend his most cherished opinion.
As the movements of Government officials were always mysterious, no one
could tell whence the Collector had come, but it was known to a few that
he was not really of Scots blood, and had not been bred in the
Presbyterian Kirk. When his hand in the way of Church rule was heavy on
the "North Free" and certain sought anxiously for grounds of revolt, they
were apt to whisper that, after all, this man, who laid down the
ecclesiastical law with such pedantic accuracy and such inflexible
severity, was but a Gentile who had established himself in the true fold,
or at most a proselyte of the gate. They even dared to ask what, in the
matter of churches, he had been before he was appointed to Muirtown; and
so unscrupulous and virulent are the mongers of sedition, as every student
of history knows, that some insinuated that the Collector had been a
Nonconformist; while others, considering that this violence could only
overreach itself, contented themselves with allusions to Swedenborg. Most
of his brethren treated him as if he had been within the covenant from the
beginning, and had been granted the responsible privilege of Scots birth
either because in course of time they had forgotten the fact of alien
origin in face of every appearance to the contrary, or because, as we all
need mercy, it is not wise to search too curiously into the dark chapters
of a man's past.
Upon his part the Collector had wonderfully adapted himself to the new
environment, and it defied the keenest critic to find in him any trace of
a former home. It is true that he did not use the Scots dialect, merely
employing a peculiarly felicitous word at a time for purposes of effect,
but he had stretched his vowels to the orthodox breadth, and could roll
off the letter "r" with a sense of power. "Dour" he could say in a way
that deceived even the elect Sometimes he startled the Presbytery with a
sound like "Yah, yah," which indicates the shallow sharpness of the
English, instead of "He-e-er, he-e-er," which reveals as in a symbol the
solidity of the Scot; but then one cannot live in London for years—as
an official must—and be quite unscathed; and an acute observer might
mark a subdued smartness in dress—white tie instead of stock on
sacrament Sabbaths—which was not indigenous; but then it must be
allowed that one in his position was obliged to be, to a certain degree, a
man of the world. No one ever caught him quoting a clause from the
Prayer-Book on the rare occasions when he was heard at his family
devotions, or breaking into a riotous "Hallelujah" in the midst of a
sermon. If misfortune had thrown him into Episcopalian or Methodist folds
in earlier years, he had since been thoroughly purged and cleansed. He had
a way of alluding to "the Disruption principles laid down in 1843," or "my
younger brethren will allow me to say that the Disruption," which was very
convincing; and on the solitary occasion when he made a set speech in
public—for his strength lay in silence rather than eloquence—he
had a peroration on our "covenanted forefathers" which left an indelible
impression. It was understood that he spent his holidays in visiting
remote districts of the Highlands where the people took strong peppermints
in church without scruple or apology, and preserved the primeval
simplicity of Presbyterian worship entire; and it was supposed that he was
looking for a birthplace which would finally establish his position as an
elder of the Kirk.
What gave the Collector his supreme influence in the session of the Free
North, and extended his sphere of ecclesiastical influence to the
Presbytery of Muirtown, was an amazing knowledge of Church law and a
devouring love for order. The latter may have been the natural outcome of
his professional training, wherein red-tape has been raised to a science,
but the former was an acquired accomplishment Dr. Pittendriegh remembered
almost painfully that on the day of his election to the eldership the
Collector enquired the names of the most reliable authorities on Church
law, and that he (Dr. Pittendriegh) had not only given him a list, but had
urged him to their study, judging from past experience that no man was
likely to go too far in the pursuit of this branch of knowledge. For a
while the Collector sat silent and observant at the meetings of Session,
and then suddenly one evening, and in the quietest manner, he inquired
whether a certain proceeding was in order.
"Well, at any rate, that is how we have done here for twenty years," said
the Doctor, with just a flavour of indignation, and the startled Fiscal
confirmed the statement.
"That may be so, Moderator, and I am obliged to Mr. Fiscal for his
assurance, but you will pardon me for saying, with much respect, that the
point is not whether this action has been the custom, but whether it is
legal. On that, Moderator, I should like your deliverance."
He took the opportunity, however, of showing that only one deliverance
could be given by long quotations from Church law, supported by references
which extended back to the seventeenth century. Every one knew that,
unlike his distinguished colleague in Muirtown Dr. Dowbiggin, the minister
of the Free North was more at home in Romans than in Canon Law; but, like
every true Scot, he loved a legal point, and he not only announced at next
Session meeting that the Collector was quite right, but expressed his
satisfaction that they had such a valuable addition to their number in the
Collector. His position from that evening was assured beyond dispute; and
when the Clerk of Session resigned on the ground of long service, but
really through terror that there might be a weak place in his minutes, the
Collector succeeded, and made the proceedings of the Free North Session to
be a wonder unto many. It was a disappointment to some that, when the
Collector was sent to the Presbytery, he took no part for several
meetings; but others boldly declared that even in that high place he was
only biding his time, which came when the Presbytery debated for one hour
and ten minutes whether a certain meeting had been pro re nata or
in hunc effectum, while the learned Clerk listened with delight as
one watches the young people at play.
"Moderator," said the Collector, "I have given the most careful attention
to the arguments on both sides, and I venture to suggest that the meeting
was neither pro re nata nor in hunc effectum, but was a
meeting per saltum"; and, after referring to Pardovan's Institutes,
he sat down amid a silence which might be felt Several ministers openly
confessed their ignorance one to another with manifest chagrin, and one
young minister laughed aloud: "Per saltum, I declare—what
next?" as if it were a subject for jesting.
"The Collector is quite right, Moderator," said the Clerk with his
unspeakable air of authority; "the meeting referred to was undoubtedly per
saltum, but I did not wish to interfere prematurely with the debate";
and from that date the Clerk, who used to address his more recondite
deliverances to Dr. Dowbiggin as the only competent audience, was careful
to include the Collector in a very marked and flattering fashion.
While it was only human that his congregation should be proud of the
Collector, and while there is no question that he led them in the paths of
order, they sometimes grumbled—in corners—and grew impatient
under his rule. He was not only not a man given to change himself, but he
bitterly resented and resisted to the uttermost any proposal of change on
the part of other people. What was in the Free North, when he, so to say,
mounted the throne, was right, and any departure therefrom he scented afar
off and opposed as folly and mischief. There are men whom you can convince
by argument; there are others whom you can talk round on trifles; but
whether the matter were great or small—from Biblical criticism, on
which the Collector took a liberal line, to the printing of the
congregational report, where he would not allow a change of type—once
his mind was made up he remained unchangeable and inaccessible. He
prevented the introduction of hymns for ten years, and never consented to
the innovation on the ground of the hold which the metrical psalms had
upon Presbyterians from their earliest days, and he did succeed in
retaining that remarkable custom of the Scots Kirk by which a communicant
cannot receive the Sacrament without first presenting a leaden token, and
his argument was again the sacred associations of the past He did
certainly agree to the recovering of the pulpit cushions, which the
exposition of Romans had worn bare, only however on the assurance of
Bailie MacCallum, given officially, that he had the same cloth in store;
but a scheme for a ventilating chamber in the roof—an improvement
greatly needed in a church which was supposed to have retained the very
air of the Disruption—he denounced as an irresponsible fad.
He gave much watchful attention to the Sabbath schools—"Sunday" was
a word he abhorred—and between the Collector and the younger people
engaged in that work there was almost constant conflict, which extended to
every detail, and came to a head over the matter of entertainments. It was
their belief that once a year it was necessary for the success and
well-being of a Sabbath school that the children should be gathered on an
evening and fed with tea and buns, and afterwards elevated by magic slides
representing various amusing situations in life and concluding with a
vivid picture of rats disappearing into a gaping man's mouth, which opened
to receive them with a jerk. The fact that this festivity was opened and
closed with a hymn in no way sanctified it in the eyes of the Collector,
who declared it to be without any Scripture warrant and injurious to true
religion, as well as—and this was hardly less important—quite
without sanction by the laws of the Kirk. By sheer force of will—the
weight of a silent, obstinate uncompromising nature, he brought the
"treats"—very modest, innocent, if not particularly refined efforts
to give some brightness to the life of the poor children in Muirtown—to
an end, and in place thereof he provided, at his own expense, views of the
mission stations of the world, with a gratuitous distribution of
missionary literature. This was endured for three years with much
discontent and with sudden and disorderly demands for the rats in place of
the interesting although somewhat monotonous faces of Chinese Christians,
and then the rebellion was organized which had so unexpected and
felicitous a result The party of the Juniors, some of them approaching
forty years of age, took a covenant that they would stand by one another,
and they made their plan that upon a certain evening in March they would
gather together their corps of Muirtown Arabs and feed them with dainties
even unto the extent of raisins and oranges. They were not unconscious
that oranges, on account of their pronounced colour, would be an offence
to the Collector, and that that estimable man had already referred to this
fruit, as a refreshment at a religious meeting, in terms of deep contempt;
and there would not only be a magic lantern with scenes of war and sport,
to say nothing of amusement, but also a sacred cantata to be sung by the
children. When the Collector heard of the programme, he grasped the
situation at once, and knew that in the coming battle quarter could not be
given—that the "Reds" would be completely reduced to subordination,
or that a severely constitutional monarchy would be finally closed. This
was indeed the general opinion; and when the Juniors appeared before the
Session to present their ultimatum, nothing but a sense of decency
prevented the Free North attending in a body, and Bailie MacCallum took a
gloomy view of the issue.
"Oranges and the what-ye-call-it," alluding to the cantata, "the Collector
'll never stand, and ye couldna expect him."
Dr. Pittendriegh was now emeritus3, which means that he had retired
from the active duty of the ministry and was engaged in criticising those
who were still in the yoke; and many pitied young Mr. Rutherford, brother
of Rutherford of Glasgow, who had to preside over so critical a meeting.
His prayer was, however, favourably received by both sides, and his few
remarks before calling on the leader of the "Reds" were full of tact and
peace. As for that intrepid man—grocer by trade and full of
affability, but a Radical in politics and indifferent to the past—he
discharged a difficult duty with considerable ability. For himself and his
friends he disclaimed all desire to offend any one, and least of all one
whom every one respected so much for his services both to Church and State—both
the Bailie and Fiscal felt bound to say "hear, hear," and the Collector
bowed stiffly—but they must put the work they had carried on in the
Vennel before any individual: they were dealing with a poor and neglected
class of children very different from the children in grand houses—this
with some teethiness. They must make religion attractive, and show that
they were interested in the children's lives as well as their souls. None
of them could see anything wrong in a cup of tea or a bit of music; and if
the Session was to forbid this small pleasure, he and his friends would
respectfully resign the position they had held for many years, and allow
the elders to carry on the work on any plan they pleased.
There was a faint rustle; the Bailie gave a low whistle, and then the
Collector rose from the table, where he sat as clerk, removed the gold
eyeglass from his nose with much deliberation, coughed slightly, and
waving his eyeglass gently with his left hand, gave his deliverance. He
acknowledged with somewhat cold courtesy the generous expressions
regarding any slight services he had been allowed to render in his dual
capacity, and he desired to express his profound sense of the devotion
with which his friends on the other side, if he might just for the
occasion speak of sides, carried on their important work. His difficulty,
however, was this—and he feared that it was insuperable—Christian
work must be carried on in accordance with sound principles, by the
example of the Bible and according to the spirit of the Scots Kirk. He was
convinced that the entertainments in question, with the accompaniments to
which he would not further allude in this place, were quite contrary to
the sound and solid traditions which were very dear to some of them, and
from which he ventured to hope the Free North Church of Muirtown would
never depart. If the Session should take another view than that of his
humble judgment, then nothing would remain for him but to resign his
position as Session Clerk and Elder. There was general consternation on
the faces of his brethren, and even the Juniors looked uncomfortable, and
the Moderator did wisely in adjourning the meeting for a week.
The idea was some kind of compromise; but no one was particularly hopeful,
and the first essays were not very encouraging. It was laid on the Bailie
to deal with the leader of the insurgents, for the sound reason that, as
every class has its own freemasonry, one tradesman was likely to know how
to deal with another. No man had a more plausible tongue, as was well
known in municipal circles, and the Bailie plied the grocer with the
arguments of expediency: that the Collector was an ornament to the Free
North; that any disruption in their congregation would be a sport to the
Philistines; that if you offended the Collector, you touched the Fiscal
and the other professional dignitaries; that it would be possible to go a
good way in the direction that the insurgents desired without attracting
any notice; and that the Collector... "Well, ye see, Councillor"—for
the grocer had so far attained—"there's bound to be changes; we maun
be prepared for that. He's failin' a wee, an' there's nae use counterin'
him." So, with many shrugs and suggestions, the astute politician advised
that the insurgents should make a nominal submission and wait their time.
Then the Councillor informed the Bailie that he would fight the battle to
the end, although the Collector should join the Established Kirk, and
Bailie MacCallum knew that his labour had been all in vain.
It was the Fiscal who approached the Collector, as was most meet, and he
considered that the best time was after dinner, and when the two were
discussing their second glass of port "That's a sound wine, Collector, and
a credit to a Muirtown firm. Remarkable man, old Sandeman; established a
good port in Scotland and invented a new denomination, when to save my
life I couldn't have thought of another."
"So far as I can judge, I do not think that Sandemanianism is any credit
to Muirtown. How any Scots Kirkman can sink down into that kind of thing
passes me. But the wine is unexceptionable, and I never tasted any but
good wine at your table; yet I suppose young men would prefer claret—not
the rich claret Scots gentlemen used to drink, but that feeble Gladstone
stuff," and the Collector wagged his head in sorrow over the decadent
taste of the day.
"I quite agree with you, Collector, but you know de gustibus; and
when the young fellows do me the honour of dining with me, I let them have
their claret: there must be give and take between the seniors and juniors,
eh, Collector?"—this with some adroitness.
"There I venture to disagree with you, Fiscal," and the Collector's face
hardened at once. "It is the young who ought to yield to the old; I see no
reason why the old should give in to the young; if they do, the end will
be anarchy in Church and State."
"There is a great deal in what you say, Collector; but have you never been
afraid that if we of the old school refuse to make any concessions, we
shall simply lose our influence, and things will be done foolishly, which,
with our help, might have been done wisely?"
"If there be one word I detest, it is 'concessions'; they are ruinous,
both in the Civil Service and in the Church; and it just comes to this,
Fiscal: if you yield an inch, you must yield a yard. Nothing will preserve
order save resistance from the beginning, obsta principiis, yes, obsta
The Fiscal recognised the expression on the Collector's face, and knew
that it was useless to continue the subject, and so his labour was also in
It only now remained that the minister should try his hand upon this
inflexible man, and one of the urgent duties of his pastoral office
hindered him until the evening before the meeting. During the last few
days Rutherford had been trying to get the key to this type of character,
and had been touched by the Collector's loneliness. Without wife or child,
engaged in routine year by year, moving in a narrow set of officials or
ecclesiastics, he had withered and contracted till he had become a mere
pedant. People spoke of his narrowness and obstinacy. They were angry with
him, and would not be sorry to teach him a lesson. The minister's heart
was full of pity and charity; and, so optimistic is youth, he believed
that there must be springs of emotion and romance in the old man; but this
faith he did not mention to the Bailie or the Fiscal, considering, with
some reason, that they would put it down as a foolish dream, and be
inwardly much amused. As he stood before the Collector's residence, as it
was called in the Muirtown Advertiser, his pity deepened, and he
seemed to be confirmed in his compassion. The Collector did not live in
rooms or in a small "house as did other bachelors, for this would be
unworthy of his position, and a reflection on the State; but he must needs
live in a house on the North Meadow. The large drawing-room lay unused and
empty, since no ladies came to the house; and of the bedrooms only three
were furnished—one for his servants, one for himself, and another a
guest-room, which was never occupied save by some Government official from
London on inspection, or a minister attending the Presbytery. The
Collector was eager to secure Rabbi Saunderson, but that learned man, of
absent mind, was apt to forget that he had been invited. The dining-room
was a bare, sombre room, where the Collector took his meals in solitary
state and entertained half a dozen men to simple but well-cooked dinners,
after which the tablecloth was removed from the polished dark mahogany,
and the sound old port coasted round in silver slides. As the minister
entered the dimly lit lobby everything seemed to him significant and
eloquent: the middle-aged housekeeper with her air of severe propriety;
the hat-stand, with no careless, unkempt exuberance of undress hats,
shooting caps country sticks, but with two silk hats only—one for
good weather and Sundays, one for bad and funerals; a bamboo cane, with an
ivory and silver head of straight and unadorned pattern; and two coats—one
for cold, one for milder temperature. His sitting-room, where he spent his
unofficial time, seemed to the minister that evening the very embodiment
of the man—a physical shape, as it were, revealing his character.
There was no comfortable disorder of papers, books, pipes, which sets one
at ease in some rooms. Everything had its place; and the daily paper,
after having been read, was sent down to the kitchen, unless there was
some news of an unedifying description, in which case it was burned.
Instead of a couch whereon one could lie and meditate after dinner on the
problems of existence, there were two straight-backed armchairs, one on
each side of the fireplace. The bookcase had glass doors, and one could
read the titles on one shelf: The Incidence of the Income Tax, The
Abolition of the Malt Duty, Rules for the Collectors of H.M. Inland
Revenue, Practice of the Free Church of Scotland, Abstract of the Acts of
Assembly 1700 to 1840, and The Elders Manual. The Collector was
reading another book of the same genial and exhilarating class, and the
minister noticed its contents with some dismay, The Authority of Kirk
Sessions; but the Collector was quite cordial (for him).
"I am much pleased to see you, Mr. Rutherford, and should be gratified if
your onerous duties allowed you to call more frequently; but I never
forget that while our hours in the service of the Queen are, as a rule,
fixed, yours, in a higher service, have no limit Do not, I pray you, sit
there; that is in the draught between the door and the fire: here, if you
will be so good, opposite me. Well, sir, how is your work prospering?"
The minister explained that he had intended to call sooner, but had been
occupied with various cases of sickness, one of which had touched him
closely. The people were not in the Collector's district; but perhaps he
might have noticed them: they sat before him in church.
"Do you refer to a couple who have come quite recently, within a year, and
who, as I judge, are newly married; they are interesting young people, it
seemed to me, and most attentive, as I can testify to their religious
"Yes, the same. They were engaged for many years—a love affair of
childhood, and they have been married less than eight months. They have a
beautiful little home at Craigie, and they simply lived one for another."
"I can believe that, Mr. Rutherford; for I may mention that on one
occasion, when you touched on love in appropriate and... somewhat moving
terms, I happened to notice, without espionage I trust, that the wife
slipped her hand into her husband's, and so they sat until the close of
the sermon. Has trouble come to them?" and the Collector looked anxiously
at the minister over his spectacles.
"Very dangerous and sudden trouble, I am sorry to say. Last Monday Mrs.
Fortune was prematurely confined, and I... don't understand about these
things; but the doctor considered it a very bad case."
"There had been complications, I fear; that sometimes happens, and, I
don't know why, often with those whose lives are most precious. How is
she? I earnestly hope that she... that he has not lost his bride." And
Rutherford was struck by the anxiety and sadness in the Collector's voice.
"It was feared he might, and I have never seen any man so utterly broken
down; and yet he kept calm for her sake. On Wednesday I stayed with him
all the afternoon, and then I returned for the night after the prayer
"You were never more needed, be sure of that, sir; and is there hope of
her recovery? I pray God, if it be His will, that the young wife be
spared. Sitting before me has given me... an interest in the case." The
Collector felt as if he must apologise for his unusual emotion.
"Their own doctor took a gloomy view, but they called in Dr. Manley. If
there's real danger of death in Muirtown, or a radius of twenty miles,
people must have Manley. And when he came into the parlour—you know
his brusque, decided way—Manley turned to poor Fortune, who couldn't
say one word, only look."
"It is, Mr. Rutherford, I will dare to say, the bitterest hour in all
human sorrow"—the Collector spoke with strong feeling—"and Dr.
"'You thought you were going to lose your wife. No wonder; very bad case;
but you're not, please God you're not. Dr. Gellatly knows his business.
Mrs. Fortune will get better with care, mark me, immense care.' That's his
way, you know, Collector; then Fortune... well, lost command of himself.
So Manley went on,—'with care and skill; and Gellatly will see to
"God be praised!" exclaimed the Collector. "How many Dr. Manley has
comforted in Muirtown! yet all medical skill is of no avail sometimes. But
you have said nothing of the child."
"Manley was very doubtful about it—a girl, I think—and that is
the only danger now with Mrs. Fortune. She is always asking for the child,
which she has not seen; and so long as the news are good she is satisfied;
but if the baby dies, it will go hard with the mother. Collector," cried
Rutherford suddenly, "what mothers suffer, and how they love!"
The Collector took off his spectacles and examined them carefully, and
then he wiped his eyes.
"When can the doctors be certain about the child, Mr. Rutherford?"
"Dr. Manley is going again this evening, and we hope he will be able to
give a good report I intended to call after seeing you; for if all be
well, we would return thanks to God; and if... the child is not to live,
there will be the more need of prayer. You will excuse me, Collector?"
"Go at once, sir, and... do you mind me going with you—just to the
door, you know? I would sleep better to-night if I knew mother and child
were safe." And the Collector was already moving to the door as one in
"It is very good of you, Collector, and Fortune will value your sympathy;
but there is something I called to talk about and in my concern about Mrs.
Fortune I... quite forgot it. It's about that unfortunate Sabbath-school
"It's of no importance beside this trial—none whatever. Let us not
delay, and I'll hear you on the other matter as we cross the South
So Rutherford was hustled out of the house in growing amazement.
"Let me say, first of all, Collector, that we are all much concerned...
"Who could be otherwise, my good sir, if he had a heart in his bosom—only
eight months married, and in danger of being separated. Mother and child
taken, and the husband... left desolate... desolate for life!"
"If you could see your way," resumed Rutherford, after a respectful pause,
and still harking back to the dispute, "to do anything..."
"Why did you not say that before? Only tell me; and if it be in my power,
it shall be done. May I undertake the doctor's fees, or arrange with the
nurse—through you of course, and in any way that will be in keeping
with their feelings? Command me; I shall count it more than a privilege—a
duty of pity and... love."
"It was not the Fortunes I was thinking of," said Rutherford; "but that
can be left over. It is kind of you to offer help; they are not, however,
in need of pecuniary assistance. Fortune has a good post in the railway.
He's a first-rate engineer and a rising man. But if you cared to send
"I am obliged to you for the hint, and I'll attend to this to-morrow
morning." (The invalid had a fresh bouquet every day for a month.) "No, I
will not go in. Just present my compliments and sympathy to Mr. Fortune.
Here is my card, and... I'll just wait for the bulletin, if you would be
so good as to come with it to the door."
"Baby's going to live too, and Manley says she will be a thumping big
child in a few months!"
"Thank God, Mr. Rutherford! You cannot imagine how this incident has
affected me. I'll go home now, and as I cross through the dark-ness of the
Meadow my humble thanksgiving will mingle with yours, that in this home it
has been God's pleasure to turn the darkness... into light." The voice of
the Collector was charged with emotion, and Rutherford was confirmed in
his romantic belief, although it seemed as if he had laboured in vain in
the affair of the Sabbath school.
It was known before the meeting of that evening that no compromise had
been effected; and when the Collector rose to speak, his face and manner
charged with solemnity, it was felt that a crisis in the Free North had
arrived. He began by saying that the subject of last meeting had never
been long out of his thoughts, and that he had now arrived at a decision
which commended itself to his judgment, and which he would submit with all
"Moderator"—for the Collector's historical utterance must be given
in his own words—"if a man lives alone for many years, through the
providence of God, and has come almost to the limit of ordinary human life
as set down by the Psalmist, he is apt to become censorious and to be out
of sympathy with young people; and if I have erred in this respect, you
will kindly assign it to the habits of my life, not to the feelings of my
There was so much gracious tenderness and unaffected humility in the
Collector's tone that the grocer—unless roused, himself the most
generous of men—wished to rise and withdraw the oranges instantly,
and to leave the other details of tea and cantata absolutely to the
Collector's decision, but was checked by the Moderator.
"So far, therefore, as I am concerned, I beg, Moderator, to withdraw all
opposition to the programme of my excellent friends, and I do so with all
my heart; but, with your permission, I must annex one condition, which I
hope my good friends will see their way to grant."
"Whatever the Collector wants shall be done!" burst in the Councillor,
with chorus of applause from his side.
"Mr. Councillor must not be too rash lest he be caught in a snare,"
resumed the Collector facetiously, "for I am contemplating an innovation.
However agreeable an evening entertainment in winter may be to the Vennel
children, it appears to me that it would be even better for them to go to
the country and admire the works of the Creator. There is a beautiful
spot, only some twelve miles from here, which few Muirtown people have
seen. I refer to the Tochty woods, where are the graves of Bessie Bell and
Mary Gray, and my condition is that in the height of summer our poor
Muirtown children be driven there and spend a long summer's day on the
grass and by the river. I have only to add that if this proposal should
meet with my friends' and my colleagues' approval, I shall count it a
privilege and, er... honour to defray the cost." And for the first time in
his public life the Collector sat down covered with confusion as with a
garment The Tochty excursion came off on midsummer day, and is now a
chapter of ancient history, to which what remains of the "Old Guard" turn
back with fond recollection; for though the things reported were almost
incredible in Muirtown, yet were they all less than true. How there had
been preparation in the unsavoury homes of the Vennel for weeks before,
with the result that the children appeared in such spotless cleanliness
and varied gaiety of attire that the Councillor was filled with pride, and
the Collector declared that they looked like ladies and gentlemen. How the
Collector was himself dressed in a light-grey summer suit, with a blue tie
and a soft hat—this was never believed in his "Collection," but
could any one have invented it?—and received many compliments on his
appearance from all sides. How he had provided a barouche from the
Kilspindie Arms for the Councillor and his wife, as chiefs of the school,
and for his guests the Fortunes, whose baby crowed triumphantly half the
way, and smiled in her sleep the other half; but the Collector travelled
on the box-seat of the first break with the children—I tremble while
I write—through the main streets of Muirtown. How the Collector had
arranged with Bumbrae, the Free Kirk elder of Drumtochty, to supply every
one on arrival with a pint of sweet, fresh milk; and how a quarrel arose
in the end of the days between the town and country elders because Bumbrae
gave the bairns a pint and a half at the price of a pint, and was never
brought to a state of repentance. How almost every game known to children
in ancient and modern times was played that day in Tochty woods, and the
Collector patronised them all, from "tig" to "jingo-ring," with great
access of popularity, if not conspicuous proficiency. How they all
gathered together in front of the Lodge before leaving, and the Councillor—he
has since risen to be Lord Provost—made the great speech of his life
in proposing a vote of thanks to the Collector; and the Collector, to save
himself from breaking down, called for three cheers in honour of the
Councillor, and led them himself. And how they drove back past Kilbogie in
the pleasant evening-time, and at the dispersing half the children of the
Vennel shook hands with H.M. Collector of Inland Revenue for Muirtown.
The Collector returned home, his heart full of peace, and went to a
certain closet of his bedroom, wherein was a box he had not opened for
forty years. Within it lay a bridal dress, and an unfinished set of baby
clothes, with a needle still fastened in the hem of a garment And the
Collector wept; but his tears were half sorrow and half joy, and he did
not sorrow as one who had no hope.
When I give him this title, I am perfectly aware that his right to it was
at the best very doubtful, and that the Romans at St. Francis Xavier's
laughed openly at his conceit; but he was always greatly encouraged by any
one calling him "Father"; and now that he is gone I, for one, who knew
both his little eccentricities and his hard sacrifices, will not throw
stones at his grave—plenty were thrown at himself in his lifetime—nor
shall I wound his memory by calling him Mr. Jinks. My opinion, as a
layman, unattached and perhaps not even intelligent, is of very small
account, but it is that of many other laymen; and to us it is of no
importance what the servant of the Master is called, whether, like my dear
old friend Father Pat Reilly, who has brought back more prodigals from the
far country and rescued more waifs from the streets than any man I can
hear of, or after the fashion of that worthy man, Pastor John Jump, as he
delights to describe himself, who attends to business all the week—something
in tinned meats, I think—and on Sunday preaches to a congregation of
"baptized believers" with much force and earnestness, also without money
or price. Both the Father and the Pastor had some doubts about my
salvation—the one because I was not a member of the Anglican
Communion, and the other because I was not a "strait Baptist"; but I never
had any doubt about theirs—much less indeed than they had of one
another's—and of the two I liked... but no, there is no use of
comparisons, especially as the Pastor, as well as the Father, has gone to
the land where, doubtless, many surprises are waiting for us all.
Nor does it seem of grave concern to some of us—but here again we
may only be displaying our own ignorance of ecclesiastical subtleties—how
a minister of religion is set apart to his office, if so be that he is an
educated man and does the work put to his hand faithfully. Jinks was
priested—I think that was what he called it, but he is not
responsible for my mistakes—in a cathedral by a Right Rev. Father in
God, and he used often to insist that only through such a channel could
the grace of Orders come; but when the successor of the apostles advised
Jinks in a most kindly, fatherly spirit to cease from some of his amiable
extravagances—he had added a bran-new chasuble to his other bravery,
which greatly pleased his female devotees—"the dear Father do look
so pretty in his new chalice," one of his admirers said—Jinks repaid
the Episcopal counsel with thinly-veiled scorn, and preached a sermon
which ran to the unwonted length of twenty minutes to show that the bishop
was himself a law-breaker and little better than a Protestant My friend
Carmichael, again, was ordained in the little Free Kirk of Drumtochty by
the Presbytery of Muirtown,—that heavy body of Church Law and
Divinity, Dr. Dowbiggin, being Moderator,—and I cannot recollect
Carmichael once referring to his Orders but he regarded his spiritual
superiors with profound respect, and was very much relieved when his
heresy case was dismissed—knowing very well that if they took it
into their heads he would be turned out of his Church without delay and
deposed from the ministry beyond human remedy. Carmichael was in the
custom of denouncing priestcraft, and explaining that he had no claim to
be a priest; but he administered a ghostly discipline so minute and
elaborate, with sins which could be loosed by him, and reserved sins which
could only be loosed by a higher authority, that the Father would have
regarded it with envy. And Carmichael exercised an unquestioned authority
among the hard-headed and strong-willed people of Drumtochty which Jinks
would have cheerfully given ten years of his life to possess in the parish
of St Agatha's. Between the two there was this difference, that the vicar
of St Agatha's had the form of authority without the power, and the
minister of Drumtochty had the power of authority without the form; and,
as no man could be personally more humble or in heart more sincere than
Jinks, this was the weary pity of the situation for my little Father.
Had St. Agatha's been in the West End, where his ritualism would have been
accepted with graceful enthusiasm because it was fashionable—which
would, however, have caused him much searching of heart: or in the East
End, where it would have been condoned with a wink on account of his
almsgiving, which would have wounded him deeply—Father Jinks had not
been a subject of mockery and reproach. As it was Providence had dealt
severely with the good man in sending him to the obdurate and stiff-necked
parish of St Agatha's, where the people were anything but open soil for
his teaching. The houses ranged from twenty pounds of rent up to forty,
and were inhabited by foremen artisans, clerks, shopkeepers, single women
letting lodgings, and a few people retired on a modest competence. The
district had not one rich man, although it was wonderful what some of the
shopkeepers gave to special efforts at their chapels, nor any person in
the remotest contact with society, but neither were there any evil livers
or wastrels. Every one worked hard, lived frugally—with a special
Sunday dinner—paid his taxes promptly, as well as his other debts,
and lived on fairly good terms with his neighbours. The parish had
certainly no enthusiasms, and would not have known what an ideal was, but
it had a considerable stock of common sense, and most people possessed a
traditional creed which they were prepared to defend with much obstinacy.
St. Agatha's parish was a very home of Philistinism, and, as everybody
knows, the Philistines have always had an instinctive dislike to Catholic
usages and teachings.
The congregation of St Agatha's were a prejudiced people, and had long
been established in their own ways. The previous vicar, who had a certain
fame as an orator of the florid order and rose to be an honorary canon,
was a churchman of the lowest depths, and did things which Father Jinks
used to mention with a shudder. He preached in a black gown, and delighted
to address religious meetings in unlicensed places without any gown at
all; he administered the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper once a month, and
preferred to do so at evening service; he delighted to offer an extempore
prayer before sermon, and never concluded a discourse without witnessing
against the errors of the Church of Rome; he delighted in a three-decker
pulpit, and would occasionally, in visiting the church for a baptism,
leave his hat on the communion table where there was no other ornament. In
his early days the music was led by a barrel organ, which was turned by
the clerk, and later, when a large harmonium was introduced, the Psalms
were read—the clerk leading the congregation with a stentorian voice—and
Moody and Sankey's hymns were freely used. It was understood that the
Canon had received a sudden call to the ministry while engaged in
commercial pursuits, and had not found time for a University education—the
hood which he wore at marriages was an invention of his wife's—and
he was therefore very careful to correct the inaccuracies of the accepted
versions, saying, with much impressiveness, "In the original Hebrew of
this Gospel," or, "The Greek of Isaiah has it," although, in order to
prevent monotony he would next Sunday reverse the order of languages and
again conform to traditional belief. Critical persons, connected by blood
with the families of St Agatha's and attending services there on occasion,
declared openly that the Canon was a preposterous personage and a
wind-bag; but he had without doubt a certain vein of genuine piety, which
unsympathising people were apt to call unctuous, but which was, at any
rate, warm; and a turn for rhetoric—he was of Irish birth—which
might not be heavily charged with thought, but was very appetizing to the
somewhat heavy minds of St Agatha's parish. While he did not allow
excessive charity to interfere with comfortable living, and while he did
not consider it his duty to risk a valuable life by reckless visitation of
persons with contagious diseases, the Canon, by his popular religious
manner—his funeral addresses which he delivered at the grave,
wearing a tall hat and swaying an umbrella, moved all to open grief,—and
by his sermons,—an hour long and rich in anecdotes—held the
parish in his hand and kept St Agatha's full. People still speak of a
course of lectures on "The Antichrists of the Bible," in which Rome was
compared to Egypt, Samaria, Nineveh, and Babylon, and the strangers sat in
the aisles; and there can be no doubt that the Canon convinced the parish
that a High Churchman was a Jesuit in disguise, and that a priest was
(probably) an immoral person. So far as I could gather, the worthy man
believed everything he said—although his way of saying it might
savour of cant—and he was greatly impressed by an anonymous letter
threatening his life and telling him that the eye of Rome was on him. He
had been guided to marry three times—possibly as a protest against
celibacy—with cumulative financial results of a fairly successful
character, and his last wife mourns her loss at Cheltenham, where she
subscribes freely to "escaped nuns," and greedily anticipates the field of
When the new patron, who had bought his position for missionary purposes,
appointed the Rev. John James Jinks to be vicar of St Agatha's, there was
a rebellion in the parish, which, of course, came to nothing, and an
appeal to the Bishop, which called forth a letter exhorting every person
to peace and charity. Various charges were made against the new vicar,
ranging from the fact that he had been curate in a church where the
confessional was in full swing, and that the morals of the matrons of St
Agatha's would be in danger, to the wicked calumny that he was an
ex-Primitive Methodist, and was therefore, as is natural in such
circumstances, very strong on the doctrine of apostolical succession. As
the last insinuation cut Jinks to the quick, and was, indeed, almost the
only attack he really felt, it is due to his memory to state that he was
the son (and only child) of a country rector, whose living was worth £129,
and who brought up his lad in the respectable, if somewhat arid,
principles of the historical High Church school, which in the son
blossomed rapidly into the luxuriance of Ritualism. It was only by the
severest economy at the Rectory that Jinks could be sent to one of the
cheaper Halls at Oxford, and it was the lasting sorrow of his blameless
life that the Rector and his wife both died before he secured his modest
pass degree. His mother used to call him John James, and had dreams that
he would be raised to the Episcopate long after she had been laid to rest;
but he knew very well from the beginning that his intellectual gifts were
limited, and that his career would not be distinguished. While he
magnified his priestly office beyond bounds, and was as bold as a lion for
the Church in all her rights and privileges, he had no ambition for
himself and was the most modest of men. Because he was only five feet four
in height, and measured thirty-two inches round the chest, and had a pink
and white boyish face, and divided his hair down the middle, and blushed
when he was spoken to by women and dons, and stammered slightly in any
excitement, they called him Jinksy at Tommy's Hall, and he answered
cheerfully; and when our big Scots doctor availed himself on occasion of
the same familiar form of address he showed no resentment No one, however,
could say, when he was with us in St Agatha's, that he forgot his
position, not only as a priest with power to bind and loose, but also as
the disciple of his Lord; for if any clergyman ever did, our little Father
adorned the doctrine of Christ by his meekness and lowliness of character,
and by a self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness which knew no limits. He
wore a low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, and in winter a garment resembling
a Highland cloak, which gave him as he imagined a certain resemblance to a
continental abbé; and as he skimmed at all hours along our sombre,
monotonous streets on errands which were often very poorly requited, and
in many cases may have been quite uncalled for, he was, if you pleased to
see him from a certain angle, a rather absurd figure; but as his simple,
boyish face grew thinner and paler every month, and his eyes grew brighter
and more spiritual, one's smile rather passed into the tears of the heart
And now that he is gone, and no one in St Agatha's is vexed either by his
chasuble or his kindness, it comes to us that Father Jinks followed the
light given to him without flinching, and has rendered in a good account.
When Father Jinks read himself into St Agatha's, the church seemed to him
little better than a conventicle, a mere preaching-house, and it was his
business to change it into a place fit for Catholic worship. His success
in this direction was marvellous. Before his death there was a chancel
with screen and choir stalls, a side pulpit of carved stone with scenes
from the Gospels thereon, a reredos, and an altar with cross and
candlesticks, besides other pieces of ecclesiastical furniture of lesser
importance and beyond the lay intelligence. There was also an organ, for
which so many pews were removed, and a font near the door, for which other
pews were removed, and an east window, containing the life and death of
our patron saint, about whom nobody knew anything before, and for which a
magnificent geometrical design in red and blue, greatly admired by the
parish, had to be removed. The very plaster, with ornate pattern of roses,
he had stripped from the roof, and had the oak laid bare; and although the
walls had been tastefully decorated by a local firm with a mixed border on
a ground of green, so fierce and unrelenting was the Vicar's iconoclastic
passion that this also was sacrificed, and nothing was to be seen in St
Agatha's save stone and wood. "It was the 'omeliest church you ever see,"
that excellent woman Mrs. Judkin remarked to me, "in the old Canon's time,
with the bits of colour, and 'im a looking down at you in 'is black gown;
and now it chills your 'art to sit there, let alone that you're hexpected
to bow 'alf the time;" and so Mrs. Judkin, with many of like mind, went
off to Ebenezer, where the firmament was represented on the roof and the
service was decidedly warm. The structural reformation (or deformation, as
it was generally considered) was a very achievement of persevering and
ingenious begging, in which he taxed the patron and all the patron's
friends, as well as every old lady or ecclesiastical layman with the
reputation of highness, obtaining a pulpit from one and a font from
another, picking up crosses, candlesticks, stools, altar-cloths in all
quarters, and being mightily cheered by every addition to the full
equipment of this neglected edifice. Nor did Father Jinks ask from other
people what he would not give himself, for he dispensed with a curate that
he might repair the chancel, and, as appeared afterwards, he expended all
his little patrimony on the apocryphal life of St Agatha, whose doings and
appearance as represented on that window were a subject of derision to the
wits of the parish. When Jinks held his first festival in her honour, and
preached a discourse eleven minutes in length on St Agatha's example and
miracles, an interesting correspondence followed in the local paper, in
which it was asserted that the church, then in the country and a chapel of
ease to the famous church of St Paul's-in-the-Fields, was named in the
evil Laudian times, and ought to have been rechristened by the name of
Wycliffe or Latimer in the days of the late lamented Canon; that St.
Agatha never existed; that if she did, she was a Papist; that if we knew
enough, we should likely find that her antecedents were very doubtful.
This correspondence, in which my friend himself was freely handled, did
not in the least disturb him, for the Festival of St Agatha was a height
to which he had been working for the three years, and it was the last
function of his public ministry. When the procession came out of the
vestry, with a cross-bearer—Jack Storgiss, the grocer, to whose
deformed little boy Jinks had been very kind—the banners of the
Guild of St Agatha, a choir of six men and twelve boys in varied garments,
Father Jinks himself with everything on he knew, attended by acolytes—two
little monkeys on whose ingenuous countenances self-importance struggled
with mischief—and, having marched round the church singing "Onward,
Christian soldiers," re-entered the chancel, so far as outward things
went, the Father's heart was almost satisfied; and as, in his stall, he
thought of the desolation of the past he was as one that dreamed.
If Jinks allowed himself to be proud of anything, it was of his choir; and
when people spoke of my friend as a weakling because he was insignificant
in appearance and a feeble preacher—he himself thanked God daily
that he was a priest, to whom Pastor Jumps' oratorical gifts were
unnecessary—one could always point to the choir, for the qualities
which created and held together that remarkable body were peculiar to
Jinks and were quite wanting in the Pastor. Three years before this
advertisement had appeared in the Anglo-Catholic:—
"Wanted, an organist and choirmaster, who will be prepared, for the glory
of God and the love of sacred music, to assist a priest in affording
Catholic worship to a neglected parish."
This unworldly invitation caught the eye (and fancy) of Harold de Petre—his
original name was Henry Peter—about whom his friends were much
concerned because he had a small competency and would do nothing except
work at music; because he wore a brown velvet coat and a loose red bow,
and three ancient gems on his left hand, and his hair falling over his
ears; and because he practised a certain luxurious softness of life which
might pass any day into positive vice. Two more different men could not
have been found in a day's journey, but they became friends at once. The
priestly instinct detected at-once in Petre a gift whose consecration
would be the salvation of a soul and an assistance to the Church of God;
and the humility and sincerity of the little priest were very attractive
to the aesthete. From that time the curiously assorted pair worked
together in perfect harmony and ever-growing affection, with one common
desire to beautify the worship and edifice of St Agatha's.
In order to secure an organ Petre sacrificed one-third of his means, and
was daily designing some improvement in his loved instrument; for her help
he had even learned some organ handicraft, and could be seen almost any
day toiling in his shirt-sleeves. As he watched the life of the Vicar,
Petre began also to make many personal sacrifices, giving up his wine—used
to spend a good deal on Chateau Lafitte—to defray choir expenses;
teaching the piano in the more ambitious homes of the parish, and with the
proceeds providing two tenors and two basses of distinction for the choir.
One year he took no holiday that the altar might be becomingly dressed
according to the season of the Church year, whether of joy or sorrow.
Working with Jinks, a certain change even came over Petre's outer man;
with every year he shed a gem; black velvet replaced the brown, and his
hair became almost decorous; and one evening, when the two were having a
lemon squash after hard work at the Easter decorations, Petre made a
confession to his friend.
"There is something I wanted to tell you Jinks," lighting his pipe slowly.
"My name is not really Harold de Petre: it's... just Henry Peter. Didn't
sound very artistic, you know, and I just... improved it in fact. Rather
think that I should go back to old signature."
"My own name," said the Vicar with much simplicity, "isn't a high-class
name, and I was once tempted to change it—it lends itself too easily
to abbreviations—but it seemed unreal to do that kind of thing."
"Do you know, Father, I expect that anthem to go well to-morrow; that
little rascal Bags took the high notes magnificently to-night I told him
so, and he was awfully pleased: he's as keen as mustard at practice."
Nothing further was said about fancy pseudonyms, but next time the Father
saw the organist's signature it was Henry Peter.
The boys in St. Agatha's choir were not angels, but they were Jinks'
particular friends, and would do more for him than for their own parents.
He had picked them up one by one in the parish as he visited—for he
had no school—upon the two qualifications that each one had an ear,
and each was an out-and-out boy. Because he was so good himself Jinks
would have nothing to do with prigs and smugs; and because he did nothing
wrong himself he delighted in the scrapes of his boys. It was to him they
went in trouble, and he somehow found a way of escape. Every one knew who
paid for the broken glass in the snowball fight between Thackeray and
Dickens Streets, in which Bags and another chorister, much admired for his
angelic appearance, led their neighbourhood; and it was asserted by the
Protestant party that the Papist Vicar was seen watching the fray from the
corner. When an assistant School Board master bullied his boys beyond
endurance and they brought him to his senses with pain of body, it was the
Vicar of St Agatha's who pled the case of the rebels before the Board, and
saved them from public disgrace and the Police Court The Vicarage and all
its premises were at the disposal of the boys, and they availed themselves
freely of their privileges. Bags kept his rabbits in the yard—his
parents allowed no such tenants at home—and his fellow-warrior of
the snowball fight had a promising family of white mice in one of the
empty rooms, where another chorister had a squirrel, and his friend
housed four dormice. There was a fairly complete collection of pigeons—tumblers,
pouters, fantails; you could usually have your choice in pigeons at the
Vicarage of St Agatha's. The choir did elementary gymnastics in what was
the Canoness's drawing-room, and learned their lessons, if they were moved
that way, in the dining-room. Every Friday evening, after practice, there
was a toothsome supper of sausages and mashed potatoes, with stone ginger.
Ye gods, could any boy or man feed higher than that? On Saturdays in
summer the Vicar took the whole gang to the nearest Park, where, with some
invited friends, they made two elevens and played matches, with Jinks, who
was too short-sighted to play himself, but was the keenest of sportsmen,
as consulting umpire; and on chief holidays they all made excursions into
the country, when Harold de Petre became Henry Peter with a vengeance. And
this was how there was no difficulty in getting boys for the choir, and
people began to come to hear the music at St Agatha's.
It is not to be supposed that Father Jinks achieved his heart's desire
without opposition, and he verified in his experience the fact that a
man's bitterest foes are those of his own household. He was opposed by the
people's churchwarden, who would not go elsewhere, declaring that he had
been in St Agatha's before Jinks was born—which was not the case—and
would be after Jinks had gone, which turned out sadly true. He was
harassed by "aggrieved parishioners," who declared by petitions in all
quarters that they could no longer worship in St Agatha's, and that what
with daily services, fine music, and decorations, the place was little
better than a Papist chapel. His breakfast-table had daily one or two
anonymous letters reminding Jinks of his ordination vows, and accusing him
of perjury, insinuating charges against his moral character and
threatening exposure, quoting texts regarding the condition of the
unconverted and the doom of hypocrites. He was dragged before all kinds of
Courts, this one little man, and received every form of censure and
admonition; he was ordered to prison, and left the Vicarage one evening in
a cab, while the choir boys, led by Bags, wanted to fight the officer. And
when all these measures produced no effect, more forcible measures were
taken to express the mind of the people and to re-establish the
Reformation in the parish of St Agatha's. A leader was raised up in a
gentleman who had earned an uncertain living by canvassing for the Kings
of England in forty-two parts, in selling a new invention in
gas-burners, in replying to infidels in Hyde Park, and in describing the
end of the world with the aid of a magic lantern. This man of varied
talents saw it to be his duty—and who can judge another man's
conscience?—to attend St Agatha's one Sunday forenoon, accompanied
by a number of fellow-Protestants, who, owing to the restriction of the
licensing laws, were out of employment at that hour, and they expressed
their theological views during service in a very frank and animated
fashion. Bigger men than Jinks might have been upset by the turmoil and
menaces; but it shows what a spirit may dwell in small bulk, that this shy
modest man did not stutter once that morning, and seemed indeed
unconscious of the "Modern Luther's" presence; and after the floor of the
church had been washed on Monday no trace remained that a testimony had
been lifted up against the disguised Jesuit who was corrupting St
Agatha's. Once only did Jinks publicly reply to the hurricane of charges
which beat upon him during his short, hard service, and that was when he
was accused of having introduced the confessional, with results which it
was alleged were already well known in the district, and which would soon
reduce its morality to the social level of the south of Ireland. A week
afterwards Jinks explained in a sermon which he had rewritten three times:
(1) That the practice of confession was, in his poor judgment, most
helpful to the spiritual life by reminding us of the sins which do most
easily beset us, and their horrible guilt before God; (2) That it was
really the intention of the Church of England that her children should
have this benefit; and (3) That he, John James Jinks, a duly ordained
priest of the same Church, had power, under conditions, to hear
confessions and declare the forgiveness of sins to all true penitents.
Thereafter, he went on to state that he had not introduced confession as a
practice in St Agatha's, because he had never been trained in confessional
theology, because a confessor required authority from his bishop, and this
the bishop would not give; and, finally, it seemed to him that any
confessor must be a priest with a special knowledge of life, and of
conspicuous holiness; and, as they knew well, he was neither, but only an
ignorant and frail man, who was more conscious of his deficiencies every
day, and who earnestly besought the aid of their prayers. This sermon was
reported in the Islington Mercury, which circulated largely amongst
us, and called forth an ingenious reply from the "Modern Luther," who
pointed out that if Mr. Jinks had not set up a confessional box in St
Agatha's Church, it was only because his (the "Modern Luther's") eye was
upon him; that the confessional could likely be discovered in the
Vicarage; that in so far as Mr. Jinks was not telling the truth he would
receive absolution from the Jesuits, and that he very likely had already
received a licence to tell as many lies as he saw would help his cause.
Men, however, do count for something even in religious controversy, and
the very people who had no belief in Jinks' doctrine could see some
difference between his patient, charitable self-sacrificing life and the
career of a windbag like the "Modern Luther," and no one in the last year
of his life accused Jinks of falsehood.
During all these troubled days he never lost his temper, or said bitter
things: he believed, as he once told me in all modesty, that if he
suffered it was for his sins, and that persecution was only a call to
harder labour; and it appeared afterwards that he had gone out of his way
to do a good turn to certain of his bitterest enemies. Indeed, I am now
certain that they did not injure him at all; but one is also quite as
certain that he was hindered and made ridiculous by certain of his own
supporters. Certain young women of uncertain age who had been district
visitors and carried tracts under the revered Canon, or had been brought
up in various forms of Dissent, responded with enthusiasm to the Catholic
Reformation. They wore large gold (or gilt) crosses, and were careful to
use heavily crossed prayer-books; they attended early celebration, and
were horrified at people taking the sacrament not fasting; they not only
did obeisance to the altar, where there was no sacrament, and bowed at the
name of Jesus, and crossed themselves in a very diligent and comprehensive
fashion, but invented forms of devotion which even Jinks could not
comprehend, and so scandalized the old clerk, who stuck by St. Agatha's,
that he asked them one day during service if they were ill, and suggested
that they should leave the church before things came to the worst
Personally, as a close observer of this drama, I had no sympathy with the
ill-natured suggestion that these devout females were moved by the fact
that the priest of St Agatha's was unmarried, because no man was ever more
careful in his intercourse with the other sex than my friend, and because
this kind of woman—till she marries, and with modifications
afterwards—has a mania for ritual and priests. This band, who called
themselves the Sisters of St Agatha, and severely tried our unsentimental
district, were a constant embarrassment to Jinks. They made the entire
attendance at the daily services; they insisted on cleaning the chancel on
their knees; they fluttered round the confused little man in the street;
they could hardly be kept out of the Vicarage; they talked of nothing but
saints' days and offices and vestments, till Jinks, the simplest and
honestest of men, was tempted, for his sake and their own salvation, to
entreat them to depart and return whence they had come.
The strongest and most honourable opponent the Vicar had was my other
friend, Pastor Jump, who would not condescend to the methods or company of
the "Modern Luther," but who was against both Jinks and Jinks' Church,
whether it was Low, High, Broad, or anything else, on grounds of reason
and conscience. He did not believe in creeds, whether they were made in
Rome or Geneva, and considered a Presbyter just a shade better than a
priest His one book of theology was the Bible, which he knew from Genesis
to Revelation in the English Version (he also knew far more about the
Hebrew and Greek than the Canon did), and he found his ecclesiastical
model in the Acts of the Apostles. It was indeed the Pastor's firm
conviction that the Christian Church had only had two periods of purity in
her history—one under the charge of the Apostle Paul, and the other
under the Puritans; and that if, during her whole history, bishops and
such-like people had been replaced by Puritan ministers, it would have
been much better for Christianity and for the world. His idea of a
Christian was a person who knew the day that he had been converted, and
who afterwards had been baptized; and of the Church, that it was so many
of these people with a pastor to teach them. He detested Established
Churches, priests, and liturgies, as well as the House of Lords,
capitalists, and all privileged persons. His radicalism was however
tempered by a profound belief in himself and his own opinions. He was fond
of insisting on the rights of the masses; but when the working people
wished to have the Park open on Sunday that they might walk there with
their children, the Pastor fought them tooth and nail, and he regarded
their desire to see pictures on Sunday as the inspiration of Satan. No man
was ever more eloquent upon the principles of religious liberty, but he
would have put an infidel into prison without compunction and he drave
forth a deacon from his own congregation with contumely, who held unsound
views on the Atonement The tyranny of the Papacy was a favourite theme at
Ebenezer, as well as the insolence of priests; but every one knew that
Pastor Jump as Pope was infallible without the aid of any Council, and
that his little finger was heavier in personal rule than both Jinks' arms.
When the Pastor, who had the voice of a costermonger and the fist of a
prize-fighter, was carried away at a Liberation Society meeting by his own
undoubted eloquence, and described himself as a conscientious Dissenter,
despised by the proud priests of the Anglican Church, and next day one saw
Jinks, thinner than ever, hurrying along the street, and concealing
beneath his shabby cloak some dainty for a sick child, then one had a
quite convincing illustration of the power and utility of rhetoric.
Upon occasion the Pastor felt it his duty to depart from his usual course
of evangelical doctrine, and to enlighten his people on some historical
subject and the district was once shaken by a discourse on Oliver
Cromwell, whom he compared to Elijah, and whose hatred of the Baal worship
was held up for imitation in our own day. Jinks committed the one big
mistake of his ministry by replying with a sermon on St. Charles the
Blessed Martyr—I think he said St.—which was a very weak
performance, and left the laurels altogether with Ebenezer. It must indeed
be admitted that Jump exactly expressed the mind of an Englishman of the
lower middle class, who understands the Evangelical system and no other,
and likes extempore prayer, with its freedom, variety, warmth, and
surprises, who suspects priests of wishing to meddle with his family
affairs, and dislikes all official pretensions, although willing to be
absolutely ruled by a strong man's personality. Both were extreme men, and
both were needed to express the religious sense of an English parish. Jump
considered the Canon an indefensible humbug, neither one thing nor
another, and the Canon used to pass Jump on the street; but the Sunday
after Jinks' death the Pastor, who had a warm heart in his big body, and
testified of things he had seen, passed a eulogium on the late Vicar of St
Agatha's, so generous and affecting, that beside it the peeping little
sermon preached in St Agatha's by a "Father" of the "Anglican Friars" was
as water to wine. The Pastor declared that although he did not agree with
his doctrine, he knew no man who had lived nearer his Lord, or had done
more good works than the Vicar of St Agatha's; and that if every priest
had been like him, he would never say a word against the class. The people
heard his voice break as he spoke, and two deacons wiped their eyes, and
the angels set down the sermon in that Book where the record of our
controversies is blotted out by their tears, and our deeds of charity are
written in gold.
Perhaps, however, our poor priest suffered most in some ways at the hands
of a handful of Scots who had settled in the parish. They did not oppose
any of his proceedings, for they never condescended to cross the door of
St. Agatha's, and they accepted any extravagances of ritual as things to
be expected of an Episcopalian. Nor had they, like the Pastor, a
hereditary feud with the Anglican Church, for neither they nor their
fathers ever had anything to do with it They were indeed inclined to
believe that the Prayer-Book, where the officiating clergyman is called a
Minister and a Priest alternately, is admirably suited to the English
mind, to which the Almighty has been pleased to deny the gift of logic.
What touched, and (almost) nettled, the little Father was the tacit and
immovable superiority of the Scots, which made conversion impossible, and
even pastoral conversation difficult. It was Jinks' conscientious
conviction that he was responsible for the spiritual charge of all the
people in the parish, and so he visited laboriously among the Scots
schismatics, if haply he might bring them to the true faith, with
mortifying results. Old Andrew MacKittrick seemed to Jinks' innocent mind
a promising case, because Andrew had retired on a pension after keeping
the books of a drysalter's firm for forty years, and now had nothing to do
but argue. In fact, on the Vicar's first visit, the bookkeeper fairly
smacked his lips, seeing whole afternoons of intellectual diversion before
him; and Jinks, who was ever optimistic, already imagined the
responsible-looking figure of the Scot sustaining a procession. It turned
out a lamentable instance of cross-purposes, for Jinks was burning to
prove, with all tenderness, that the Kirk had no Orders; while the idea
that Dr. Chalmers was not a real minister and Archbishop Sharpe was,
seemed to Andrew unworthy of discussion by any sane person; and Andrew, on
his part, was simply longing for some one to attack Jonathan Edward's Freedom
of the Will, while Jinks had never heard of the book, and was quite
blameless of philosophy. After two conferences, Andrew was sadly convinced
of their futility, and would not waste time on a third.
"Jess wumman," he said to his housekeeper, rolling himself hurriedly up in
a plaid and lying down on the sofa, "there's that curate body at the door
again; a've nae satisfaction arguin' wi' him, for he's no fit to tak' up
ony serious subject Just say that a'm no feelin' verra weel the day, and,
see here, slip ten shillings into his hand to gie awa', for he's a fine
bit craturie amang the poor, but he's no head for argument."
With Mrs. Gillespie, who kept lodgings, and was as a mother to two Scots
bank clerks pushing their way up to be managers, Father Jinks was not more
successful, but his discomfiture was of another kind.
"Come in, come in; it's an awfu' day to be oot, an' ye dinna look strong;
na, na, a dinna gang to Saint Agatha's, for ye ken we've a Kirk o' oor
ain, an' a properly ordained minister, but a'm gled to see ye; a'm
thankfu' for my ain preevileges, but a'm no bigoted.
"Sit doon there by the fire an' dry yersel; a cudna manage wi' a
prayer-book masel, but we've had mony advantages in Scotland, and it suits
the English fouk. A hed a cousin' at married an Episcopalian, and she gied
wi' him as long as he lived, though of course it was a deprivation.
"'A schismatic?'—a've heard the word: they used to misca' the
English bishops that way in the North—an' ye called to warn me. Noo
that was kind, and, of coorse, ye did na know that a sit under Mr. McCaw;
but Losh keep us! ye're juist dreeping; a'll get ye a pair o' the lad's
slippers an' mak ye a warm cup o' tea.
"A hed a laddie juist your age, an' ma heart warms to young men that are
na verra strong. Say awa'; a'll hear ye though a'm in the next room. There
noo, drink up your tea, an' that's short-bread frae Edinburgh, Let's hear
noo aboot yer Kirk; somebody was sayin' that ye carried on the same antics
as the Papists; but a'm no believin' that. Are ye feelin' warmer noo, ma
puir wee mannie?" and the good woman encompassed Jinks with motherly
attentions, but refused to take seriously his efforts to convert her from
the Kirk to the Church. Nor did he think it an encouraging sign that Mrs.
Gillespie pressed him to give her "a cry" every time he was in the street,
and sent him three pots of black currant jam for his chest The most
disappointing encounter was with our Scots doctor, who had looked into St
Agatha's one evening in passing and found Jinks warning Dissenters of all
kinds, among whom the Doctor found to his amusement that he was included
of their doom if they died in schism. The Doctor's delight reached its
height when Jinks, standing at his full height of five feet four, and
looking more than ever like a dear little boy, opened his arms and invited
every wandering prodigal to return to the bosom of Mother Church.
"Jinksy"—and the Doctor laid hold of the Father next day on the
street—"what sort of nonsense was yon ye were talking in your kirk
"Hurt my feelings"—as Jinks was explaining that he had only been
declaring the truth, and that he did not wish to offend any one—"it
would take three men of your size to offend me. But I say, Jinksy, do you
ever take a holiday in Scotland? You hope to do some day. Then I'll give
ye a bit of advice: if you ever feel a turr-murring in your inside, take
the first train for Carlisle. Why? Because if you die in Scotland, you'll
die a Dissenter; and then, my little man, you know where you'll go to";
for the Doctor's hand in humour was heavy, and his style was that of an
elephant crashing through a wood.
Next time the Anglican and the Scot met it was in circumstances where
differences of creed are forgotten and good men stand shoulder to
shoulder. In one room of the house a clerk's wife was seriously ill with
influenza, and in another the Doctor was examining her husband—a
patient, hard working, poorly paid drudge, who had come home from the City
very ill. "My wife thinks that it's nothing but a bad 'eadache. Don't tell
'er, Doctor, else it might go bad with 'er, an* she 'asn't much strength;
but I say, tell me, 'aven't I got diphtheria?"
"What makes everybody that gets a sore throat think he has diphtheria?
Well, I believe you have some grit in you, and don't want to be treated
like a child. You have, I'm sorry to say, and pretty bad; but you have the
spirit to make a fight, and I'll do my best.
"Yes, I'll see that no one in this house comes near you, and I'll try to
get a nurse for to-night, but they're hard to get just now. I'll come back
with medicine in half an hour; and, look here, Holmes, mind your wife and
bairns, and keep up your heart.
"No, Jinks, you must not come into this house: it's more than influenza.
Holmes has got diphtheria very bad; ought to have been in bed two days
ago, but the stupid ass stuck to his work. The mischief is that I can't
get a nurse, and he should not be left alone at night."
"You, man alive, you're no fit for such work, and you would maybe catch
it.. I know you're not afraid, but... well, it's real gude o' ye, an' I'll
see ye settled for the night about eight."
"That's the medicine, every three hours"—the doctor was giving his
directions to Nurse Jinks in the sick-room—"and let him have some
brandy and water when he's thirsty. Toots, Holmes, I know you could get a
bottle for yourself, but this is a special brand for sick folk. Oh, yes,
it'll go in the bill, risk me for that: every Scot looks after himself.
The minister is to stay all night with you, and what between the two of us
well see ye through.
"Here's a cordial for yourself, Jinks"—this outside the door—"and
for ony sake keep clear of his breath. If he takes a turn for the worse,
send the servant lass for me. I may be out, but they will know where to
get me. And, Jinks, old man, I withdraw that about Carlisle.... Ye'll go
to Heaven from either side o' the Tweed. God bless you, old man; you're
doin' a good turn the night...
"Yes, he's much worse than he was last morning; but it's not the blame of
your nursing: there's just one chance, and I'll try it. How do you know
about it? Well, yes, if you must know, I am going to use suction. Get
diphtheria myself? Maybe I may, and why should I not run the risk as well
as you, Mr. Jinks?... It's all right, man. I'm not angry. Neither you nor
me are cowards," said the Doctor; "neither is Holmes, and he must have his
chance, poor chap. Yes, I would be glad of your help.
"No, you will not be needed at Holmes's to-night, and you've had enough of
it, Jinks. I've got a nurse, and Holmes is coming round first rate. It's
all right about paying the nurse; I'll see to that Man, ye would pay for
all the nurses in the district, if ye were allowed.
"Me, I'm as fit as a fiddle. Doctors can't afford to be ill; but you're no
the thing, Jinks. Come back to the manse with me this minute, I want to
have a look at ye. Yon were three hard nichts ye had"—the Doctor
dropped into Scots when he was excited....
"Sir Andrew's gone, and I wish we had better news for you and ourselves.
Don't thank me for telling the truth; no man would tell you a lie. ...
You're all right, whatever happens, Jinks," and he dropped his hand within
reach of the Father's, on whose face the shadow was fast falling.
"It will not be for some hours, may be not till morning, and I hope you'll
not suffer much... I'll come back after the minister has left and stay
with you till, till..."
"Daybreak," said Jinks.
"Doctor," Jinks whispered, during the night as they watched by his bed,
the Scot on one side and Peter, who would allow no nurse, on the other,
"the Scots kirk has seemed to me... as Samaria, but the Lord chose... a
Samaritan in His parable, and you are...that Samaritan," and the Father
looked at the Doctor with eyes full of love. Just before sunrise he
glanced at the Doctor enquiringly.
"Yes, it's no far off now, an' the worst's past. Ye'll have an easy
passage." They passed each an arm round his neck, and each took one of his
"Till Jesus comes Himself," whispered Jinks, thanking them with his eyes.
"O Saviour of the world, who by Thy cross and precious blood hast redeemed
us, save us, and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord." This which he
had often offered for others, he now prayed for himself very slowly. The
light stole into the room and woke him from a brief unconsciousness.
"I believe"... he said, "in the Life Everlasting," and the soul of the
faithful servant was with the Lord, Whom, not having seen, he had loved.
When the Doctor left the Vicarage, although still very early, Bags, the
choir-boy, was on the doorstep and was weeping bitterly.
THE PASSING OF DOMSIE
It was an ancient custom that Domsie and Drumsheugh should dine with
Doctor Davidson in the Manse after the distribution of prizes at the
school, and his companions both agreed afterwards that the Dominie was
never more cheerful than on those days. There was always a review of
stories when the Doctor and Domsie brought out their favourites, with
Drumsheugh for an impartial and appreciative audience, and every little
addition or improvement was noted in a spirit of appreciative criticism.
During the active operations of dinner, talk was disjointed and
educational, hinging on the prospects of the calf crop in the school, and
the golden glories of the past, ever better than the present, when the end
of each University session showered medals on Drumtochty. When the Doctor
had smacked his first glass of port, having examined it against the light,
and the others had prepared their toddy in a careful silence, broken only
by wise suggestions from the host, it was understood that genuine
conversation might begin.
"Aye, aye," Domsie would remark, by way of intimating that they, being now
in an open and genial mind, were ready to welcome one of the Doctor's best
stories, and Drumsheugh became insistent, "A'm no wantin' tae tribble ye,
Docter, but ave never got ower that sermon on the turtle. Docter. Ye micht
let's hear it again. A'm no sure gin the Dominie ever herd it" May
Drumsheugh be forgiven!
Whereupon Domsie went on the back trail, and affected to search his memory
for the traces of the turtle, with no satisfaction. May he also be
"Toots, Drumsheugh, you are trying to draw my leg. I know you well, eh? As
for you, Dominie, you've heard the story twenty times. Well, well, just to
please you; but mind you, this is the last time.
"It was the beginning of a sermon that old MacFee, of Glenogil, used to
preach on the Monday after the Sacrament from the text, 'The voice of the
turtle is heard in the land,' and this was the introduction.
"There will be many wonders in the latter day; but this is the greatest of
them all—the voice of the turtle shall be heard in the land. This
marvel falls into two parts, which we shall consider briefly and in order.
"I. A new posture evidently implied, when an animal that has gone upon its
belly for ages shall arise on its hind legs and walk majestically through
the land, and
"II. A new voice distinctly promised, when a creature that has kept
silence from generation to generation will at last open its mouth and sing
melodiously among the people."
"It's michty," summed up Drumsheugh, after the exposition had been fully
relished, "Ye'll no hear the like o' that noo-a-days in a coonty. It's
weel telt also, and that's important, for the best story is no worth
hearin' frae a puir hand The corn needs to be cleaned afore ye tak it tae
"The story is not without merit," and the Doctor's modesty was all the
more striking as he was supposed to have brought the turtle into its
present form out of the slenderest materials, "but the Dominie has some
far neater things." Anything Domsie had was from Aberdeen, and not to be
compared, he explained, with Perthshire work, being very dry and wanting
the fruity flavour of the Midland County; but he could still recall the
divisions of the action sermon given every year before the winter
Sacrament in Bourtrie-Lister:
I. "Let us remember that there is a moral law in the universe."
II. "Let us be thankful there is a way of escape from it"
And then Domsie would chuckle with a keen sense of irony at the theology
underneath. "For the summer Sacrament," he would add after a pause, "we
had a discourse on sin wi' twa heads, 'Original Sin' and 'Actual
Transgressions'; and after Maister Deuchar finished wi' the first, he aye
snuffed, and said with great cheerfulness: 'Now let us proceed to actual
Although Domsie's tales had never in them the body of the Doctor's, yet he
told them with such a pawkie humour, that Drumsheugh was fain between the
two to cry for mercy, being often reduced to the humiliation of open
laughter, of which he was afterwards much ashamed.
On that day, however, when Domsie made his lamentable announcement, it was
evident to his friends that he was cast down, and ill at ease. He only
glanced at a Horace which the Doctor had been fool enough to buy in
Edinburgh, and had treasured up for Domsie's delectation at the close of
the school year—the kind of book he loved to handle, linger over,
return to gaze at, for all the world like a Catholic with a relic.
"Printed, do you see, by Henry Stephen, of Paris; there's his trademark, a
philosopher gathering twigs from the tree of knowledge—and bound by
Boyet—old French morocco. There is a coat of arms—I take it of
a peer of France;" and the Doctor, a born book-collector, showed all its
points, as Drumsheugh would have expatiated on a three-year-old bullock.
Domsie could not quite resist the contagious enthusiasm; putting on his
spectacles to test the printing; running his hand over the gold tooling as
one strokes a horse's glossy skin, and tasting afresh one or two favourite
verses from a Horace printed and bound by the master craftsmen of their
day. But it was only a brief rally, and Domsie sank again into silence,
from which neither kindly jest nor shrewd country talk could draw him,
till at last the Doctor asked him a straight question, which was going far
for us, who thought it the worst of manners to pry into one's secrets:
"What ails you, Dominie? Are any of your laddies going back on you?" and
the Doctor covered the inquiry by reminding Drumsheugh that his glass was
"Na, na; they are fechting hard wi' body and mind, an' daein' their verra
best, accordin' tae their pairts. Some o' the Drumtochty scholars lived
and some dee'd in the war at the University, but there wasna ane disgraced
"They have made it known in every University of Scotland," broke in the
Doctor, "and also their master's name."
"Ye've aye made ower mickle o' my wark, but a'm grateful this nicht an'
content to tak' a' ye say in yir goodness, for a've sent oot ma last
scholar," and Domsie's voice broke.
"Not a bit of it Man alive, you're fit for ten years yet, and as for
laddies, I know four in the school that'll do you credit, or I'm not
minister of Drumtochty."
"If it's the siller for their fees," began Drums-heugh, inwardly overcome
by Domsie's unexpected breakdown.
Domsie waved his hand. "The laddies are there, and the twa or three notes
'ill be gotten as afore, but it 'ill no be me that 'ill feenish them."
"What is the meaning of this, Mister Jamieson?" demanded the Doctor
sternly, for the woeful dejection of Domsie was telling on him also.
"It's been on ma mind for years to retire, an maybe I should hae dune it
lang syne; but it was hard on flesh an' blude. I hev taught ma last class,
and ye will need to get another Dominie," and Domsie, who was determined
to play the man, made a show of filling his glass, with a shaking hand.
"Ye're an Aiberdeenshire man, a ken, though maist fouk hae forgotten that
ye're no ain' o' oorsels, but div ye tell me that ye're gain' tae leave us
after a' thae years an' a' the bairns ye've educat?" and Drumsheugh grew
indignant "Dinna be feared, Drumsheugh, or think me ungrateful. I may gang
north tae see ma birthplace aince mair, an' the graves o' ma fouk, an'
there's another hoose in Aberdeen I would like tae see, and then I'm
comin' back to Drumtochty to live an' dee here among the friends that hev
been kind to me."
"This has come suddenly, Domsie, and is a little upsetting," and
Drumsheugh noticed that the Doctor was shaken. "We have worked side by
side for a long time, church and school, and I was hoping that there would
be no change till—till we both retired altogether; we're about the
same age. Can't you think over it—eh, Dominie?"
"God kens, Doctor, a dinna lik' the thocht o't, but it's for the gude o'
the schule. A'm no hearing sae weel as aince a did, an' ma hands are
shakin' in the writin'. The scholars are gettin' their due, for a'm no
failin' in humanity (Latin), but the ither bairns are losing their share,
and ma day's dune.
"Ye'ill just say that a'm retirin' an' thank a' body for their
consideration, and, Doctor, a've juist a favour tae ask. Gin a new schule
an' maister's hoose be built, will ye lat me get the auld ane; it 'ill no
be worth much, an'... I wud like tae end ma days there."
"Whate'er you want, Domsie, and ye 'ill come to the Manse till it be free,
and we 'ill have many a night among the classics, but... this is bad news
for the Glen, come who may in your place," and then, though each man did
his part bravely, it was a cheerless evening.
Next day Domsie left to make his pious pilgrimage, and on the Sabbath
there was only one subject in the kirkyard.
"Div ye no think, neebours," said Hillocks, after a tribute had been paid
to Domsie's services, "that he oucht tae get some bit testimonial? It
wudna be wiselike tae let him slip oot o' the schule withoot a word frae
Hillocks paused, but the fathers were so much astonished at Hillocks
taking the initiative in expenditure that they waited for further speech.
"Noo, Pitscothrie is no a pairish tae pit beside Drumtochty for ae meenut,
but when their Dominie gied up his post, if the bodies didna gather fifty
pund for him; they ca'd it a purse o' sovereigns in the Advertiser,
but that was juist a genteel name for't.
"A'm no sayin*," continued Hillocks, "that it wud be safe tae trust Domsie
wi' as mickle siller at a time; he wud be off tae Edinburgh an' spend it
on auld bukes, or may be divide it up amang his students. He's careless,
is Domsie, an' inclined to be wastefu'; but we micht gie him somethin' tae
"What wud ye say," suggested Whinnie, when the kirkyard was revolving the
matter, "if we got him a coo 'at wud gie him milk and be a bit troke tae
occupy his time? What he didna need cud be made into butter and sent tae
Muirtown; it wud be a help."
"Ye have an oreeginal mind," said Jamie, who always on those occasions
pitied the woman that was married to Whinnie, "an' a'm sure yir perposal
'll be remembered. Domsie feedin' his coo on the road-side, wi' a Latin
buke in his hand, wud be interestin'."
"It's most aggravatin'," broke in Hillocks, who was much annoyed at the
turn things had taken, "that ye winna gie me time tae feenish, an' 'ill
set Domsie stravaging the roads at the tail o' a coo for his last days."
"It was Jamie," remonstrated Whinnie.
"Haud yir tongue." Hillocks felt the time was short, and he had an idea
that must be ventilated. "A was considerin' that Domsie's snuff-box is gey
far thro' wi't A'm judjin' it has seen thirty years, at on y rate, and it
was naethin tae boast o' at the beginnin'. A've seen fresh hinges pit on
it twice masel.
"Now, gin we bocht a snod bit silver boxie ain pit an inscription on't
MR PATRICK JAMIESON,
Late Schoolmaster Of Drumtochty,
By A Few Friends,
it wud be usefu' for ae thing, it wud be bonnie for anither, aye, an'
something mair," and Hillocks grew mysterious.
"A legacy, div ye mean," inquired Jamie, "or what are ye aifter?"
"Weel, ye see," exclaimed Hillocks with much cunning, "there's a man in
Kildrummie got a box frae his customers, an' it's never oot o' his hand.
When he taps the lid ye can see him reading the inscription, and he's a
way o' passin' it tae ye on the slant that's downricht clever. Ye canna
help seein' the words."
"Gin we were thinkin' aboot a present tae a coal agent or a potato
dealer," said Jamie, "I wud hae the box wi' the words, but Domsie's a
queer body, an' a'm jalousin' that he wud never use yir grand silver box
frae the day he got it, an' a'm dootin' it micht be sold fer some laddie
to get him better keep at the college.
"Besides," continued Jamie thoughtfully, "a'm no sure that ony man can tak
up wi' a new box after fifty. He's got accustomed tae the grip o' the auld
box, and he kens whar tae pit in his thumb and finger. A coont that it
taks aboot fifteen year tae grow into a snuff-box.
"There's juist ae thing Domsie cares aboot, an' it's naither meat nor
drink, nor siller snuffboxes; it's his college laddies, gettin' them
forrit and payin' their fees, an' haudin' them in life till they're dune."
By this time the kirkyard was listening as one man and with both ears, for
it was plain Jamie had an idea.
"Ca' on, Jamie," encouraged Drumsheugh, who had as yet given no sign.
"He's hed his ain time, hes Domsie, gaein' roond Muirtown market
collectin' the bank notes for his scholars an' seein' they hed their
bukes' A'm no denyin* that Domsie was greedy in his ain way, and gin the
Glen cud gither eneuch money tae foond a bit bursary for puir scholars o'
Drumtochty, a wudna say but that he micht be pleased."
The matter was left in Drumsheugh's hands, with Doctor Davidson as
consulting counsel, and he would tell nothing for a fortnight. Then they
saw in the Dunleith train that he was charged with tidings, and a meeting
was held at the junction, Peter being forbidden to mention time, and
commanded to take the outcasts of Kildrummie up by themselves if they
"The first man a mentioned it tae was oor Saunders, an' he said naethin'
at the time, but he cam up in the forenicht, and slippit a note in ma
hand. 'He didna pit mickle intae me,' says he, 'but he's daein' fine wi'
the bairns. Neebur, a kent that meenut that the Glen wud dae something
"Next morning a gied a cry at the Free Manse, and telt Maister Carmichael.
If he was na oot o' the room like a man possessed, and he gied me every
penny he hed in the hoose, ten pund five shilling. And at the gate he
waved his hat in the air, and cries, 'The Jamieson Bursary.'
"It was ae note from one man an' three frae his neebur, an' twa shilling
frae the cottars. Abody has dune his pairt, one hundred an' ninety-two
pounds frae the Glen.
"We sent a bit letter tae the Drumtochty fouk in the Sooth, and they've
sent fifty-eight pounds, wi' mony good wishes, an' what na think ye hev
the auld scholars sent? A hundred and forty pounds. An' last nicht we hed
three hundred and ninety pounds."
"Ma word!" was all Hillocks found himself able to comment; "that wad get a
"Ye hev mair tae tell, Drumsheugh," said Jamie; "feenish the list"
"Ye're a wratch, Jamie," responded the treasurer of the Jamieson Bursary
Fund. "Hoo did ye ken aboot the Doctor? says he tae me laist nicht,
'Here's a letter to Lord Kilspindie. Give it to him at Muirtown, and I
would not say but he might make the sum up to four hundred.' So a saw his
lordship in his room, and he wrote a cheque and pit in a letter, an' says
he, 'Open that in the Bank, Drumsheugh,' an' a did. It was for ten pounds,
wi' a hundred on tae't, making up £500. Twenty pund a year tae a
Drumtochty scholar for ever. Jamie," said Drumsheugh, "ye've gotten yir
It was arranged that the meeting of celebration should be held in the
parish kirk, which in those days was used for nothing except Divine
worship; but the Doctor declared this to be no exception to his rule.
"Kirk and school have been one in Scotland since John Knox's day, and one
they shall be while I live in Drumtochty; we 'ill honour him in the kirk,
for the good the Dominie has done to the bairns, and to pure learning."
The meeting was delayed till Professor Ross had come home from Australia,
with his F.R.S. and all his other honours, for he was marked out to make
the presentation; and every Drumtochty scholar within reach was enjoined
They came from Kildrummie at various hours and in many conveyances, and
Hillocks checked the number at the bridge with evident satisfaction.
"Atween yesterday and the day," he reported to Jamie, in the afternoon,
"aucht and twenty scholars hae passed, no including the Professor, and
there's fower expected by the next train; they'll just be in time," which
they were, to everybody's delight.
"It's a gude thing, Hillocks," said Jamie, "that bridge was mended;
there's been fifty degrees gane over it the day, Hillocks! to say naithin'
o' a wecht o' knowledge."
The Doctor had them all, thirty-three University men, with Domsie and
Carmichael and Weelum MacLure, as good a graduate as any man, to dinner,
and for that end had his barn wonderfully prepared. Some of the guests
have written famous books since then, some are great preachers now, some
are chief authorities to science, some have never been heard of beyond a
little sphere, some are living, and some are dead; but all have done their
part, and each man that night showed, by the grip of his hand, and the
look on his face, that he knew where his debt was due.
Domsie sat on the Doctor's right hand, and the Professor on his left, and
a great effort was made at easy conversation, Domsie asking the Professor
three times whether he had completely recovered from the fever which had
frightened them all so much in the Glen, and the Professor congratulating
the Doctor at intervals on the decorations of the dinner hall. Domsie
pretended to eat, and declared he had never made so hearty a dinner in his
life, but his hands could hardly hold the knife and fork, and he was
plainly going over the story of each man at the table, while the place
rang with reminiscences of the old school among the pines.
Before they left the barn, Doctor Davidson proposed Domsie's health, and
the laddies—all laddies that day—drank it, some in wine, some
in water, every man from the heart, and then one of them—they say it
was a quiet divine—started, In face of Doctor Davidson, "For he's a
jolly good fellow," and there are those who now dare to say that the
Doctor joined in with much gusto, but in these days no man's reputation is
Domsie was not able to say much, but he said more than could have been
expected. He called them his laddies for the last time, and thanked them
for the kindness they were doing their old master. There was not an honour
any one of them had won, from a prize in the junior Humanity to the last
degree, he could not mention.
Before sitting down he said that they all missed George Howe that day, and
that Marget, his mother, had sent her greetings to the scholars.
Then they went to the kirk, where Drumtochty was waiting, and as Domsie
came in with his laddies round him the people rose, and would have cheered
had they been elsewhere and some one had led. The Doctor went into the
precentor's desk and gave out the hundredth psalm, which is ever sung on
great days and can never be sung dry. After which one of the thirty-three
thanked the Almighty for all pure knowledge, all good books, all faithful
teachers, and besought peace and joy for "our dear master in the evening
of his days."
It was the Professor who read the address from the scholars, and this was
the last paragraph:
"Finally, we assure you that none of us can ever forget the parish school
of Drumtochty, or fail to hold in tender remembrance the master who first
opened to us the way of knowledge, and taught us the love thereof.
"We are, so long as we live,
"Your grateful and affectionate
Then came the names with all the degrees, and the congregation held their
breath to the last M.A.
"Now, Drumsheugh," said the Doctor, and that worthy man made the great
speech of his life, expressing the respect of the Glen for Domsie,
assigning the glory of a brilliant idea to Jamie Soutar, relating its
triumphant accomplishment, describing the Jamieson Bursary, and declaring
that while the parish lasted there would be a Jamieson scholar to the
honour of Domsie's work. For a while Domsie's voice was very shaky when he
was speaking about himself, but afterwards it grew strong and began to
vibrate, as he implored the new generation to claim their birthright of
learning and to remember that "the poorest parish, though it have but bare
fields and humble homes, can yet turn out scholars to be a strength and
credit to the commonwealth."
The Professor saw Domsie home, and noticed that he was shaking and did not
wish to speak. He said good-bye at the old schoolhouse, and Ross caught
him repeating to himself:
"Eheu fugaces, Postume, Postume,
but he seemed very content Ross rose at daybreak next morning and wandered
down to the schoolhouse, recalling at every step his boyhood and early
struggles, the goodness of Domsie, and his life of sacrifice, The clearing
looked very peaceful, and the sun touched with beauty the old
weather-beaten building which had been the nursery of so many scholars,
but which would soon be deserted for ever. He pushed the door open and
started to see Domsie seated at the well-known desk, and in his right hand
firmly clasped the address which the scholars had presented to him. His
spectacles were on his forehead, his left elbow was resting on the arm of
the chair, and Ross recognised the old look upon his face. It used to come
like a flash when a difficult passage had suddenly yielded up its hidden
treasure, and Ross knew that Domsie had seen the Great Secret, and was at
last and completely satisfied.
DR. DAVIDSON'S LAST CHRISTMAS
Christmas fell on a Sunday the year Dr. Davidson died, and on the
preceding Monday a groom drove up to the manse from Muirtown Castle.
"A letter, Doctor, from his lordship"—John found his master sitting
before the study fire in a reverie, looking old and sad—"and there's
a bit boxie in the kitchen."
"Will you see, John, that the messenger has such food as we can offer
him?" and the Doctor roused himself at the sight of the familiar
handwriting; "there is that, eh, half-fowl that Rebecca was keeping for my
dinner to-day; perhaps she could do it up for him. I... do not feel hungry
to-day. And, John, will you just say that I'm sorry that... owing to
circumstances, we can't offer him refreshment?" On these occasions the
Doctor felt his straitness greatly, having kept a house in his day where
man and beast had of the best "What dis for the minister of Drumtochty an'
his... hoose 'ill dae for a groom, even though he serve the Earl o'
Kilspindie, an' a ken better than say onything tae Becca aboot the
chuckie;" this he said to himself on his way to the kitchen, where that
able woman had put the messenger from the castle in his own place, and was
treating him with conspicuous and calculated condescension. He was a man
somewhat given to appetite, and critical about his drink, as became a
servant of the Earl; but such was the atmosphere of the manse and the
awfulness of the Doctor's household that he made a hearty dinner off ham
and eggs, with good spring water, and departed declaring his gratitude
"My dear Davidson,—
"Will you distribute the enclosed trifle among your old pensioners in the
Glen as you may see fit, and let it come from you, who would have given
them twice as much had it not been for that confounded bank. The port is
Sandeman's '48—the tipple you and I have tasted together for many a
year. If you hand it over to the liquidators, as you wanted to do with the
few bottles you had in your cellar, I'll have you up before the Sheriff of
Muirtown for breach of trust and embezzlement as sure as my name is "Your
"P.S.—The Countess joins me in Christmas greetings and charges you
to fail us on New Year's Day at your peril. We are anxious about Hay, who
has been ordered to the front."
The Doctor opened the cheque and stroked it gently; then he read the
letter again and snuffed, using his handkerchief vigorously. After which
"It is, without exception, the prettiest cheque I have ever had in my
hands, and it comes from as good a fellow as ever lived. You knew that it
would hurt me not to be able to give my little Christmas gifts, and you
have done this kindness. Best thanks from the people and myself, and as
for the port, the liquidators will not see a drop of it Don't believe any
of those stories about the economies at the manse which I suspect you have
been hearing from Drumtochty. Deliberate falsehoods; we are living like
fighting cocks. I'm a little shaky—hint of gout, I fancy—but
hope to be with you on New Year's Day. God bless you both, and preserve
Hay in the day of battle.
"Don't like that signature, Augusta," said the Earl to his wife; "'yours
affectionately' it's true enough, for no man has a warmer heart, but he
never wrote that way before. Davidson's breaking up, and... he 'ill be
missed. I must get Manley to run out here and overhaul him when Davidson
comes down on New Year's Day. My belief is that he's been starving
himself. Peter Robertson, the land steward, says that he has never touched
a drop of wine since that bank smashed; now that won't do at our age, but
he's an obstinate fellow, Davidson, when he takes a thing into his head."
The Doctor's determination—after the calamity of the bank failure—to
reduce himself to the depths of poverty was wonderful, but Drumtochty was
cunning and full of tact. He might surrender his invested means and
reserve only one hundred pounds a year out of his living, but when he sent
for the Kildrummie auctioneer and instructed him to sell every stick of
furniture, except a bare minimum for one sitting-room and a bedroom, Jock
accepted the commission at once, and proceeded at eleven miles an hour—having
just bought a new horse—to take counsel with Drumsheugh. Next
Friday, as a result thereof, he dropped into the factor's office—successor
to him over whom the Doctor had triumphed gloriously—and amid an
immense variety of rural information, mentioned that he was arranging a
sale of household effects at Drumtochty Manse. Jock was never known to be
so dilatory with an advertisement before, and ere he got it out Lord
Kilspindie had come to terms with the liquidator and settled the Doctor's
belongings on him for life.
The Doctor's next effort was with his household, and for weeks the
minister looked wistfully at John and Rebecca, till at last he called them
in and stated the situation.
"You have both been... good and faithful servants to me, indeed I may
say... friends for many years, and I had hoped you would have remained in
the Manse till... so long as I was spared. And I may mention now that I
had made some slight provision that would have... made you comfortable
after I was gone."
"It wes kind o' ye, sir, an' mindfu'." Rebecca spoke, not John, and her
tone was of one who might have to be firm and must not give herself away
"It is no longer possible for me, through... certain events, to live as I
have been accustomed to do, and I am afraid that I must... do without your
help. A woman coming in to cook and... such like will be all I can
afford." The expression on the housekeeper's face at this point was such
that even the Doctor did not dare to look at her again, but turned to
John, whose countenance was inscrutable.
"Your future, John, has been giving me much anxious thought, and I hope to
be able to do something with Lord Kilspindie next week. There are many
quiet places on the estate which might suit..." then the Doctor weakened,
"although I know well no place will ever be like Drumtochty, and the old
Manse will never be the same... without you. But you see how it is...
"Doctor Davidson," and he knew it was vain to escape her, "wi' yir
permission a wud like tae ask ye ane or twa questions, an' ye 'ill forgie
the leeberty. Dis ony man in the Pairish o' Drumtochty ken yir wys like
John? Wha 'ill tak yir messages, an' prepare the fouk for the veesitation,
an' keep the gairden snod, an' see tae a' yir trokes when John's awa? Wull
ony man ever cairry the bukes afore ye like John?"
"Never," admitted the Doctor, "never."
"Div ye expect the new wumman 'ill ken hoo mickle stairch tae pit in yir
stock, an' hoo mickle butter ye like on yir chicken, an' when ye change
yir flannels tae a day, an' when ye like anither blanket on yir bed, an'
the wy tae mak the currant drink for yir cold?"
"No, no, Rebecca, nobody will ever be so good to me as you've been"—the
Doctor was getting very shaky.
"Then what for wud ye send us awa, and bring in some handless, useless
tawpie that cud neither cook ye a decent meal nor keep the Manse wise
like? Is't for room? The Manse is as big as ever. Is't for meat? We'ill
eat less than she 'ill waste."
"You know better, Rebecca," said the Doctor, attempting to clear his
throat; "it's because... because I cannot afford to..."
"A ken very weel, an' John an' me hev settled that For thirty year ye've
paid us better than ony minister's man an' manse hoosekeeper in
Perthshire, an' ye wantit tae raise oor wages aifter we mairrit. Div ye
ken what John an' me hev in the bank for oor laist days?"
The Doctor only shook his head, being cowed for once in his life.
"Atween us, five hundred and twenty-sax pund."
"Eleven an' sevenpence," added John, steadying his voice with arithmetic.
"It's five year sin we askit ye tae py naethin' mair, but juist gie's oor
keep, an' noo the time's come, an' welcome. Hev John or me ever disobeyed
ye or spoken back a' thae years?"
The Doctor only made a sign with his hand. "We' ill dae't aince, at ony
rate, for ye may gie us notice tae leave an' order us oot o' the manse;
but here we stop till we're no fit tae serve ye or ye hae nae mair need o'
oor service." "A homologate that"—it was a brave word, and one of
which John was justly proud, but he did not quite make the most of it that
"I thank you from my heart, and... I'll never speak of parting again," and
for the first time they saw tears on the Doctor's cheek.
"John," Rebecca turned on her husband—no man would have believed it
of the beadle of Drumtochty, but he was also..."what are ye stoiterin'
roond the table for? it's time tae set the Doctor's denner; as for that
chicken—" and Rebecca retired to the kitchen, having touched her
highest point that day.
The insurrection in the manse oozed out, and encouraged a conspiracy of
rebellion in which even the meekest people were concerned. Jean Baxter, of
Bumbrae, who had grasped greedily at the dairy contract of the manse, when
the glebe was let to Netherton, declined to render any account to Rebecca,
and the Doctor had to take the matter in hand.
"There's a little business, Mrs. Baxter, I would like to settle with you,
as I happen to be here." The Doctor had dropped in on his way back from
Whinny Knowe, where Marget and he had been talking of George for two
hours. "You know that I have to be, eh... careful now, and I... you will
let me pay what we owe for that delicious butter you are good enough to
"Ye 'ill surely tak a 'look roond the fields first, Doctor, an' tell's
what ye think o' the crops;" and after that it was necessary for him to
take tea. Again and again he was foiled, but he took a firm stand by the
hydrangea in the garden, where he had given them Lord Kilspindie's
message, and John Baxter stood aside that the affair might be decided in
"Now, Mrs. Baxter, before leaving I must insist," began the Doctor with
authority, and his stick was in his hand; but Jean saw a geographical
advantage, and seized it instantly.
"Div ye mind, sir, comin' tae this gairden five year syne this month, and
stannin' on that verra spot aside the hydrangy?"
The Doctor scented danger, but he could not retreat.
"Weel, at ony rate, John an' me dinna forget that day, an' never wull, for
we were makin' ready tae leave the home o' the Baxters for mony
generations wi' a heavy heart, an' it wes you that stoppit us. Ye'ill
maybe no mind what ye said tae me."
"We 'ill not talk of that to-day, Mrs. Baxter... that's past and over."
"Aye, it's past, but it's no over, Doctor Davidson; na, na, John an' me
wesna made that wy Ye may lauch at a fulish auld wife, but ilka kirnin'
(churning) day ye veesit us again. When a'm turnin' the kirn a see ye
comin' up the road as ye did that day, an' a gar the handle keep time wi'
yir step; when a tak oot the bonnie yellow butter ye're stannin' in the
gairden, an' then a stamp ae pund wi' buttercups, an' a say, 'You're not
away yet, Bumbrae, you're not away yet'—that wes yir word tae the
gude man; and when the ither stamp comes doon on the second pund and
leaves the bonnie daisies on't, 'Better late than never, Bumbrae; better
late than never, Bumbrae.' Ye said that afore ye left, Doctor." Baxter was
amazed at his wife, and the Doctor saw himself defeated.
"Mony a time hes John an' me sat in the summer-hoose an' brocht back that
day, an' mony a time hev we wantit tae dae somethin' for him that keepit
the auld roof-tree abune oor heads. God forgie me, Doctor, but when a
heard ye hed gien up yir glebe ma hert loupit, an' a said tae John, 'The
'ill no want for butter at the manse sae lang as there's a Baxter in
"Dinna be angry, sir," but the flush that brought the Doctor's face unto a
state of perfection was not anger. "A ken it's a leeberty we're takin* an'
maybe a'm presumin' ower far, but gin ye kent hoo sair oor herts were wi'
gratitude ye wudna deny us this kindness."
"Ye 'ill lat the Doctor come awa noo, gude wife, tae see the young horse,"
and Doctor Davidson was grateful to Burnbrae for covering his retreat.
This spirit spread till Hillocks lifted up his horn, outwitting the Doctor
with his attentions, and reducing him to submission. When the beadle
dropped in upon Hillocks one day, and, after a hasty review of harvest
affairs, mentioned that Doctor Davidson was determined to walk in future
to and from Kildrummie Station, the worthy man rose without a word, and
led the visitor to the shed where his marvellous dog-cart was kept.
"Div ye think that a' cud daur?" studying its general appearance with
"There's nae sayin' hoo it micht look wi' a wash," suggested John.
"Sall, it's fell snod noo," after two hours' honest labour, in which John
condescended to share, "an* the gude wife 'ill cover the cushions. Dinna
lat on, but a'll be at the gate the morn afore the Doctor starts," and
Peter Bruce gave it to be understood that when Hillocks convoyed the
Doctor to the compartment of the third rigidly and unanimously reserved
for him, his manner, both of walk and conversation, was changed, and it is
certain that a visit he made to Piggie Walker on the return journey was
unnecessary save for the purpose of vain boasting. It was not, however, to
be heard of by the Doctor that Hillocks should leave his work at intervals
to drive him to Kildrummie, and so there was a war of tactics, in which
the one endeavoured to escape past the bridge without detection, while the
other swooped down upon him with the dog-cart. On the Wednesday when the
Doctor went to Muirtown to buy his last gifts to Drumtochty, he was very
cunning, and ran the blockade while Hillocks was in the corn room, but the
dog-cart was waiting for him in the evening—Hillocks having been
called to Kildrummie by unexpected business, at least so he said—and
it was a great satisfaction afterwards to Peter Bruce that he placed
fourteen parcels below the seat and fastened eight behind—besides
three which the Doctor held in his hands, being fragile, and two, soft
goods, on which Hillocks sat for security. For there were twenty-seven
humble friends whom the Doctor wished to bless on Christmas Day.
When he bade the minister good-bye at his gate, Hillocks prophesied a
storm, and it was of such a kind that on Sunday morning the snow was
knee-deep on the path from the manse to the kirk, and had drifted up four
feet against the door through which the Doctor was accustomed to enter in
"This is unfortunate, very unfortunate," when John reported the state of
affairs to the Doctor, "and we must just do the best we can in the
"What wud be yir wull, sir?" but John's tone did not encourage any
"Well, it would never do for you to be going down bare-headed on such a
day, and it's plain we can't get in at the front door. What do you say to
taking in the books by the side door, and I'll just come down in my
top-coat, when the people are gathered"; but the Doctor did not show a
firm mind, and it was evident that he was thinking less of himself than of
"All come for ye at the usual 'oor," was all that functionary deigned to
reply, and at a quarter to twelve he brought the gown and bands to the
study—he himself being in full black.
"The drift 'ill no tribble ye, an' ye 'ill no need tae gang roond; na,
na," and John could not quite conceal his satisfaction, "we 'ill no start
on the side door aifter five and thirty years o' the front." So the two
old men—John bare-headed, the Doctor in full canonicals and wearing
his college cap—came down on a fair pathway between two banks of
snow three feet high, which Saunders from Drumsheugh and a dozen plowmen
had piled on either side. The kirk had a severe look that day, with hardly
any women or children to relieve the blackness of the men, and the drifts
reaching to the sills of the windows, while a fringe of snow draped their
The Doctor's subject was the love of God, and it was noticed that he did
not read, but spoke as if he had been in his study. He also dwelt so
affectingly on the gift of Christ, and made so tender an appeal unto his
people, that Drumsheugh blew his nose with vigour, and Hillocks himself
was shaken. After they had sung the paraphrase—
"To Him that lov'd the souls of men,
And washed us in His blood,"
the Doctor charged those present to carry his greetings to the folk at
home, and tell them they were all in his heart After which he looked at
his people as they stood for at least a minute, and then lifting his
hands, according to the ancient fashion of the Scottish Kirk, he blessed
them. His gifts, with a special message to each person, he sent by
faithful messengers, and afterwards he went out through the snow to make
two visits. The first was to blind Marjorie, who was Free Kirk, but to
whom he had shown much kindness all her life. His talk with her was
usually of past days and country affairs, seasoned with wholesome humour
to cheer her heart, but to-day he fell into another vein, to her great
delight, and they spoke of the dispensations of Providence.
"'Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth,' Marjorie, is a very instructive
Scripture, and I was thinking of it last night You have had a long and
hard trial, but you have doubtless been blessed, for if you have not seen
outward things, you have seen the things... of the soul." The Doctor
hesitated once or twice, as one who had not long travelled this road.
"You and I are about the same age, Marjorie, and we must soon... depart My
life was very... prosperous, but lately it has pleased the Almighty to...
chasten me. I have now, therefore, some hope also that I may be one of His
"He wes aye gude grain, the Doctor," Marjorie said to her friend after he
had left, "but he's hed a touch o' the harvest sun, and he's been
Meanwhile the Doctor had gone on to Tochty Lodge, and was standing in the
stone hall, which was stripped and empty of the Camegies for ever. Since
he was a laddie in a much-worn kilt and a glengarry bonnet without tails,
he had gone in and out the Lodge, and himself had seen four generations—faintly
remembering the General's grandfather. Every inch of the house was
familiar to him, and associated with kindly incidents. He identified the
spaces on the walls where the portraits of the cavaliers and their ladies
had hung; he went up to the room where the lairds had died and his friend
had hoped to fall on sleep; he visited the desolate gallery where Kate had
held court and seemed to begin a better day for the old race; then he
returned and stood before the fireplace in which he had sat long ago and
looked up to see the stars in the sky. Round that hearth many a company of
brave men and fair women had gathered, and now there remained of this
ancient stock but two exiles—one eating out his heart in poverty and
city life, and a girl who had for weal or woe, God only knew, passed out
of the line of her traditions. A heap of snow had gathered on the stone,
where the honest wood fire had once burned cheerily, and a gust of wind
coming down the vast open chimney powdered his coat with drift It was to
him a sign that the past was closed, and that he would never again stand
beneath that roof.
He opened the gate of the manse, and then, under a sudden impulse, went on
through deep snow to the village and made a third visit—to Archie
Moncur, whom he found sitting before the fire reading the Temperance
Trumpet. Was there ever a man like Archie?—so gentle and fierce,
so timid and fearless, so modest and persevering. He would stoop to lift a
vagrant caterpillar from the cart track, and yet had not adjectives to
describe the infamy of a publican; he would hardly give an opinion on the
weather, but he fought the drinking customs of the Glen like a lion; he
would only sit in the lowest seat in any place, but every winter he
organised—at great trouble and cost of his slender means—temperance
meetings which were the fond jest of the Glen. From year to year he toiled
on, without encouragement, without success, hopeful, uncomplaining,
resolute, unselfish, with the soul of a saint and the spirit of a hero in
his poor, deformed, suffering little body. He humbled himself before the
very bairns, and allowed an abject like Milton to browbeat him with
Pharisaism, but every man in the Glen knew that Archie would have gone to
the stake for the smallest jot or tittle of his faith.
"Archie," said the Doctor, who would not sit down, and whose coming had
thrown the good man into speechless confusion, "it's the day of our Lord's
birth, and I wish to give you and all my friends of the Free Kirk—as
you have no minister just now—hearty Christmas greeting. May peace
be in your kirk and homes... and hearts.
"My thoughts have been travelling back of late over those years since I
was ordained minister of this parish and the things which have happened,
and it seemed to me that no man has done his duty by his neighbour or
before God with a more single heart than you, Archie."
"God bless you." Then on the doorstep the Doctor shook hands again and
paused for a minute. "You have fought a good fight, Archie—I wish we
could all say the same... a good fight."
For an hour Archie was so dazed that he was not able to say a word, and
could do nothing but look into the fire, and then he turned to his
sisters, with that curious little movement of the hand which seemed to
assist his speech.
"The language wes clean redeeklus, but it wes kindly meant... an' it maks
up for mony things.... The Doctor wes aye a gentleman, an' noo... ye can
see that he's... something mair."
Drumsheugh dined with the Doctor that night, and after dinner John opened
for them a bottle of Lord Kilspindie's wine.
"It is the only drink we have in the house, for I have not been using
anything of that kind lately, and I think we may have a glass together for
the sake of Auld Lang Syne."
They had three toasts, "The Queen," and "The Kirk of Scotland," and "The
friends that are far awa," after which—for the last included both
the living and the dead—they sat in silence. Then the Doctor began
to speak of his ministry, lamenting that he had not done better for his
people, and declaring that if he were spared he intended to preach more
frequently about the Lord Jesus Christ.
"You and I, Drumsheugh, will have to go a long journey soon, and give an
account of our lives in Drumtochty. Perhaps we have done our best as men
can, and I think we have tried; but there are many things we might have
done otherwise, and some we ought not to have done at all.
"It seems to me now, the less we say in that day of the past the
better.... We shall wish for mercy rather than justice, and"—here
the Doctor looked earnestly over his glasses at his elder—"we would
be none the worse, Drums-heugh, of a friend to... say a good word for us
both in the great court."
"A've thocht that masel"—it was an agony for Drumsheugh to speak—"mair
than aince. Weelum MacLure wes... ettlin' (feeling) aifter the same thing
the nicht he slippit awa, an' gin ony man cud hae stude on his ain feet...
yonder, it was... Weelum."
The Doctor read the last chapter of the Revelation of St John at prayers
that evening with much solemnity, and thereafter prayed concerning those
who had lived together in the Glen that they might meet at last in the
"Finally, most merciful Father, we thank Thee for Thy patience with us and
the goodness Thou hast bestowed upon us, and for as much as Thy servants
have sinned against Thee beyond our knowledge, we beseech Thee to judge us
not according to our deserts, but according to the merits and intercession
of Jesus Christ our Lord." He also pronounced the benediction—which
was not his wont at family worship—and he shook hands with his two
retainers; but he went with his guest to the outer door.
"Good-bye, Drumsheugh... you have been... a faithful friend and elder."
When John paid his usual visit to the study before he went to bed, the
Doctor did not hear him enter the room. He was holding converse with Skye,
who was seated on a chair, looking very wise and much interested.
"Ye're a bonnie beastie, Skye"—like all Scots, the Doctor in his
tender moments dropped into dialect—"for a'thing He made is verra
gude. Ye've been true and kind to your master, Skye, and ye 'ill miss him
if he leaves ye. Some day ye 'ill die also, and they 'ill bury ye, and I
doubt that 'ill be the end o' ye, Skye.
"Ye never heard o' God, Skye, or the Saviour, for ye're juist a puir
doggie; but your master is minister of Drumtochty, and... a sinner
saved... by grace."
The Doctor was so much affected as he said the last words slowly to
himself that John went out on tiptoe, and twice during the night listened—fancying
he heard Skye whine. In the morning the Doctor was still sitting in his
big chair, and Skye was fondly licking a hand that would never again
caress him, while a miniature of Daisy—the little maid who had died
in her teens, and whom her brother had loved to his old age—lay on
the table, and the Bible was again open at the description of the New