The Minister of St. Bede's by Ian Maclaren
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."