<The Cure of Souls,* and was heard throughout the country as lecturer
and reader from his own works.
1-694 JÂ°"^ WATSON
Dr. Watson's literary plans of early years, when his young, alert
mind was casting around for material to fasten upon for future de-
velopments, had been laid aside, and treated as dreams of a pre-
sumptuous youth. Up to 1894 he was quite unknown to the public
as an author; and yet, in little more than a year after the publication
of his first volume, ^Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush,* the sales had
exceeded in England and America 200,000 copies.
Much curiosity prevailed in England while the stories were ap-
pearing serially in the British Weekly under the pen-name "Ian
Maclaren *' (/aÂ«, Gaelic for John, and Maclaren, his mother's maiden
name); and not until a month after the book had been published,
was the author's identity discovered. A year later, another volume
of Drumtochty sketches, entitled ^ The Days of Auld Lang Syne,*
dealing with the same characters and scenes, was published with
similar success. A small volume of consecutive sermons, applicable
to the communion season, was issued at the beginning of 1896 under
the title *â€¢ The Upper Room * ; and a large volume of discourses on
practical religious themes, called ^The Mind of the Master,* appeared
in the spring of the same year. In his first novel, ^ Kate Carnegie,*
Dr. Watson is wise in keeping to Drumtochty, and introducing a
number of new characters, while bringing his readers into touch with
others pleasantly familiar. In the central character, the young min-
ister Carmichael, who figures already in <His Mother's Sermon,* one
perceives a strong element of spiritual autobiography.
No real person, living or dead, has been drawn in these Drum-
tochty stories. When types have been suggested to the mind of the
author, they have been so idealized as to be beyond recognition in
Ian Maclaren differs from Mr. Barrie and Mr. Crockett in being
more of a sentimentalist. There is a deeper thrill of religious emo-
tion in his work; more of what Matthew Arnold, in his ignorance of
the depths of Scottish nature, termed "intolerable pathos.** The
mission of the preacher is evident in his eclecticism; for while he
has chosen to subject himself to the difficulties in the way of han-
dling simple human nature in the rough, he has preferred the good,
the true, the noble, the suffering and sorrowing of his little commu-
nity. Indeed, as one critic declared, there is an insolence of security
in his attitude toward sorrow and death, which grates harshly when
brought into touch with reality. But this criticism is borne more by
his first than by his second volume, which is less spiritual and there-
fore more human, â€” more real. But Ian Maclaren's power unques-
tionably lies in his large sympathy and enthusiasm of humanity,
which is but another term for religious emotion. The transfiguring
touch in all his characters, commonplace in themselves, takes place
JOHN WATSON 15695
when the light of love and sacrifice falls upon them; "as when the
snn shines on a fallow field, *^ â€” to quote a passage of his own, â€”
<*and the rough furrows melt into warmth and beauty.*' Then his
humor, â€” homely, strong, and flexible as the vernacular in which
much of it is clothed, â€” saves him on the whole from maudlin scenes,
and the excess of an essentially optimistic sentimentalism, as also
does his sturdy, shrewd common-sense. For pure and dry but not
ungenial drollery, there is nothing in the two volumes to match
< Our Sermon Taster * and < A Triumph in Diplomacy * ; unless it be
parts of *A Nippy Tongue,* where Ian Maclaren comes nearer to
Gait than any of his contemporaries, Mr. Barrie himself not excepted.
And it is the introduction of this perfect character, Jamie Soutar,
into *A Servant Lass* which prevents it from becoming too depr^ss-
ingly sad, and gives us Ian Maclaren at his best throughout one
Popular favor however is not always guided by artistic principles;
and for obvious reasons the < Doctor of the Old School * will prob-
ably continue to hold a first place, and in that section of the * Bon-
nie Brier Bush * the chapter entitled * The Doctor's Last Journey *
will always stir the emotions most deeply. The pathos of the clos-
ing scenes is almost unbearable, and no Scotsman can read them
with a dry heart. <A Doctor of the Old School * has been issued
in separate book form, with illustrations from drawings made at Drum-
tochty; and also contains a preface by the author.
A TRIUMPH IN DIPLOMACY
Reprinted by permission, from <Days of Auld Lang Syne,* by Ian Maclaren.
Copyright 1895, by John Watson and Dodd, Mead & Co.
FARMS were held on lease in Dnimtochty, and according to a
good old custom descended from father to son; so that some
of the farmers' forbears had been tenants as long as Lord
Kilspindie's ancestors had been owners. If a family died out,
then a successor from foreign parts had to be introduced; and
it was in this way Milton made his appeara,nce, and scandalized
the Glen with a new religion. It happened also in our time that
Gormack, having quarreled with the factor about a feeding-byre
he wanted built, flung up his lease in a huff; and it was taken at
an enormous increase by a guileless tradesman from Muirtown,
who had made his money by selling "pigs** (crockery- ware), and
believed that agriculture came by inspiration. Optimists expected
15696 JOHN WATSON
that his cash might last for two years, but pessimists declared
their belief that a year would see the end of the ** merchant's *
experiment; and Gormack watched the course of events from a
hired house at Kildrummie.
Jamie Soutar used to give him "a cry*^ on his way to the
station, and brought him the latest news.
" It's maybe juist as weel that ye retired frae business, Gor-
mack, for the auld fairm's that spruced up ye wud hardly ken it
wes the same place.
" The merchant's put ventilators intae the feedin* byre, and
he's speakin' aboot glass windows tae keep the stots frae weary-
in'; an' as for inventions, the place is fair scatted up wi* them.
There's ain that took me awfu': it's for peelin' the neeps tae mak
them tasty for the cattle beasts.
" Ye hed nae method, man ; and a' dinna believe ye hed an
inspection a' the years ye were at Gormack. Noo, the merchant
is up at half eicht, and goes ower the hale steadin' wi' Robbie
Duff at his heels, â€” him 'at he's got for idle grieve, â€” an' he tries
the corners wi' his handkerchief tae see that there's nae stoor**
^* It wud dae ye gude tae see his library : the laist day I saw
him he wes readin' a book on ^ Comparative Agriculture ^ afore
his door, and he explained hoo they grow the maize in Sooth
Ameriky: it wes verra interestin'; 'a never got as muckle in-
formation frae ony fairmer in Drumtochty. '^
"A'm gled ye cam in, Jamie, '^ was all Gormack said, ^^ f or I
wes near takin' this hoose on a three-year lease. Ae year 'ill be
eneuch noo, a'm thinkin'.^^
Within eighteen months of his removal Gormack was again in
possession at the old rent, and with a rebate for the first year to
compensate him for the merchant's improvements.
" It 'ill tak the feck o' twa years, '^ he explained in the kirk-
yard, " tae bring the place roond an' pit the auld face on it.
** The byres are nae better than a pair o' fanners wi' wind,
and if he hesna planted the laighfield wi' berry bushes; an' a've
seen the barley fifty-five pund wecht in that very field.
^' It's a doonricht sin tae abuse the land like yon, but it 'ill be
a lesson, neeburs, an' a'm no expeckin' anither pig merchant 'ill
get a fairm in Drumtochty.*
This incident raised Gormack into a historical personage, and
invested him with an association of humor for the rest of his
JOHN WATSON 1 5697
life; so that when conversation languished in the third, some one
would ask Gormack "what he hed dune wi' his ventilators/^ or
* hoo the berry hairst wes shapin' this year. **
One could not expect a comedy of this kind twice in a gen-
eration; but the arranging of a lease was always an event of
the first order in our commonwealth, and afforded fine play for
every resource of diplomacy. The two contracting parties were
the factor, who spent his days in defending his chief's property
from the predatory instincts of enterprising farmers, and knew
every move of the game, â€” a man of shrewd experience, imper-
turbable good-humor, and many wiles, â€” and on the other side, a
farmer whose wits had been sharpened by the Shorter Catechism
since he was a boy; with the Glen as judges. Farms were not
put in the Advertiser on this estate, and thrown open to the
public from Dan to Beersheba; so that there was little risk of
the tenant losing his home. Neither did the adjustment of rent
give serious trouble; as the fair value of every farm â€” down to
the bit of hill above the arable land and the strips of natural
grass along the burns â€” was known to a pound. There were
skirmishes over the rent, of course; but the battle-ground was
the number of improvements which the tenant could wring from
the landlord at the making of the lease. Had a tenant been in
danger of eviction, then the Glen had risen in arms, as it did in
the case of Burnbrae; but this was a harmless trial of strength,
which the Glen watched with critical impartiality. The game
was played slowly between seedtime and harvest, and each move
was reported in the kirk -yard. Its value was appreciated at once;
and although there was greater satisfaction when a neighbor won,
yet any successful stroke of the factor's was keenly enjoyed, â€”
the beaten party himself conceding its cleverness. When the
factor so manipulated the conditions of draining Netherton's
meadow land that Netherton had to pay for the tiles, the kirk-
yard chuckled; and Netherton admitted next market that the
factor "wes a lad,'^ â€” meaning a compliment to his sharpness, for
all things were fair in this war; and when Drumsheugh involved
the same factor in so many different and unconnected promises
of repairs that it was found cheaper in the end to build him a
new steading, the fathers had no bounds to their delight; and
Whinnie, who took an hour longer than any other man to get a
proper hold of anything, suddenly slapped his leg in the middle
of the sermon.
XXVI â€” 982
15698 JOHN WATSON
No genuine Scotchman ever thought the less of a neighbor
because he could drive a hard bargain; and any sign of weak-
ness in such encounters exposed a man to special contempt in
our community. No mercy was shown to one who did not pay
the last farthing when a bargain had been made, but there was
little respect for the man who did not secure the same farthing
when the bargain was being made. If a Drumtochty farmer had
allowed his potatoes to go to Â« Piggie >^ Walker at that simple-
minded merchant's first offer, instead of keeping Â« Piggie *^ all
day, and screwing him up ten shillings an acre every second
hour, we would have shaken our heads over him as if he had
been drinking; and the well-known fact that Drumsheugh had
worsted dealers from far and near at Muirtown market for a gen-
eration, was not his least solid claim on our respect. When Mrs.
Macfadyen allowed it to ooze out in the Kildrummie train that
she had obtained a penny above the market price for her butter,
she received a tribute of silent admiration, broken only by an
emphatic ^^ Sail ^* from Hillocks ; while Drumsheugh expressed
himself freely on the way up: â€”
** Elspeth's an able wumman: there's no a slack bit aboot her.
She wud get her meat frae among ither fouks' feet.*^
There never lived a more modest or unassuming people; but
the horse couper that tried to play upon their simplicity did not
boast afterwards, and no one was known to grow rich on his deal-
ings with Drumtochty.
This genius for bargaining was of course seen to most advan-
tage in the affair of a lease; and a year ahead, long before lease
had been mentioned, a " cannie * man like Hillocks would be pre-
paring for the campaign. Broken panes of glass in the stable
were stuffed with straw after a very generous fashion; cracks in
a byre door were clouted over with large pieces of white wood;
rickety palings were ostentatiously supported; and the interior
of Hillocks's house suggested hard-working and cleanly poverty
struggling to cover the defects of a hovel. Neighbors dropping
in during those days found Hillocks wandering about with a
hammer, putting in a nail here and a nail there, or on the top
of the barn trying to make it water-tight before winter, with the
air of one stopping leaks in the hope of keeping the ship afloat
till she reaches port. But he made no complaint, and had an air
of forced cheerfulness.
" Na, na, yir no interruptin' me ; a'm rael gled tae see ye ; a'
wes juist doin' what a' cud tae keep things thegither.
JOHN WATSON 15699
^*An auld buildin's a sair trachle, an' yir feared tae meddle
wi' 't, for ye micht bring it doon aboot yir ears.
^* But it's no reasonable tae expeck it tae last for ever : it's
dune weel and served its time; 'a mind it as snod a steadin' as
ye wud wish tae see, when 'a wes a laddie saxty year past.
" Come in tae the hoose, and we 'ill see what the gude wife
hes in her cupboard. Come what may, the 'ill aye be a drop for
a freend as lang as a 'm leevin.
" Dinna put yir hat there, for the plaister's been fallin', an' it
micht white it. Come ower here frae the window: it's no very
fast, and the wind comes in at the holes, Man, it's a pleesure
tae see ye; and here's yir gude health.'^
When Hillocks went abroad to kirk or market he made a
brave endeavor to conceal his depression, but it was less than
" Yon's no a bad show o' aits ye hae in the wast park the
year. Hillocks; a 'm thinkin' the 'ill buke weel."
<* Their lukes are the best o' them, Netherton; they're thin on
the grund an' sma' in the head: but 'a cudna expeck better, for
the land's fair worn oot; it wes a gude farm aince, wi' maybe
thirty stacks in the yaird every hairst, and noo a 'm no lookin'
for mair than twenty the year.'^
^^Weel, there's nae mistak aboot yir neeps, at ony rate: ye
canna see a dreel noo."
" That wes guano, Netherton : 'a hed tae dae something tae
get an ootcome wi' ae crap, at ony rate; we maun get the rent
some road, ye ken, and pay oor just debts."
Hillocks conveyed the impression that he was gaining a bare
existence, but that he could not maintain the fight for more than
a year; and the third became thoughtful.
*^ Div ye mind, Netherton," inquired Drumsheugh on his way
from Muirtown station to the market, ^^hoo mony years Hillocks's
tack (lease) hes tae rin ? "
^^ No abune twa or three at maist ; a 'm no sure if he hes as
* It's oot Martinmas a year, as sure yir stannin' there: he's
an auld f arrant (far-seeing) lad. Hillocks."
It was known within a week that Hillocks was setting things
in order for the battle.
The shrewdest people have some weak point; and Drumtochty
was subject to the delusion that old Peter Robertson, the land
steward, had an immense back-stairs influence with the factor and
jeyoo JOHN WATSON
his Lordship. No one could affirm that Peter had ever said as
much, but he never denied it; not having been born in Drum-
tochty in vain. He had a habit of detaching himself from the
fathers, and looking in an abstracted way over the wall when
they were discussing the factor or the prospects of a lease, which
was more than words, â€” and indeed was equal to a small annual
** Ye ken mair o' this than ony o' us, a 'm thinkin', Peter, if
ye cud open yir mooth : they say naebody's word gaes farther
wi' his Lordship.*^
" There's some fouk say a lot of havers, Drumsheugh, an' it's
no a' true ye hear," and after a pause Peter would purse his lips
and nod. "A 'm no at leeberty tae speak, an' ye maunna press
When he disappeared into the kirk his very gait was full of
mystery; and the fathers seemed to see his Lordship and Peter
sitting in council for nights together.
** Didna 'a tell ye, neeburs ? " said Drumsheugh triumphantly:
*ye 'ill no gae far wrang gin ye hae Peter on yir side."
Hillocks held this faith, and added works also; for he com-
passed Peter with observances all the critical year, although the
word lease never passed between them.
** Ye wud be the better o' new seed, Peter, " Hillocks remarked
casually, as he came on the land steward busy in his potato patch.
**A 've some kidneys 'a dinna ken what tae dae wi'; 'a '11 send
ye up a bag."
^* It's rael kind o' ye. Hillocks; but ye were aye neeburly."
** Dinna speak o't; that's naething atween auld neeburs. Man,
ye micht gie's a look in when yir passin' on yir trokes. The gude
wife hes some graund eggs for setting."
It was considered a happy device to get Peter to the spot,
and Hillocks's management of the visit was a work of art.
" Maister Robertson wud maybe like tae see thae kebbocks
(cheeses) yir sending aff tae Muirtown, gude wife, afore we hae
<< We canna get intae the granary the richt way, for the stair
is no chancy noo, an' it wudna dae tae hae an accident wi' his
Lordship's land steward," and Hillocks exchanged boxes over the
"We 'ill get through the corn-room, but Losh sake, tak care
ye dinna trip in the holes o' the floor. 'A canna mend mair at
it, an' it's scandalous for wastin' the grain.
JOHN WATSON I570I
" It's no sae bad a granary if we hedna tae keep the horses*
hay in it, for want o' a richt loft.
" Man, there's times in winter a 'm at ma wits' end wi' a'
the cattle in aboot, an' naethin' for them but an open reed
(court), an' the wife raging for a calves' byre; â€” but that's no
what we cam here for, tae haver aboot the steadin'.
"Ay, they're bonnie kebbocks; and when yir crops fail, ye 're
gled eneuch tae get a pund or twa oot o' the milk.*^
And if his Lordship had ever dreamt of taking Peter's evi-
dence, it would have gone to show that Hillocks's steading was a
disgrace to the property.
If any one could inveigle Lord Kilspindie himself to visit a
farm within sight of the new lease, he had some reason for con-
gratulation; and his Lordship, who was not ignorant of such de-
vices, used to avoid farms at such times with carefulness. But
he was sometimes off his guard; and when Mrs. Macfadyen met
him by accident at the foot of her garden, and invited him to
rest, he was caught by the lure of her conversation, and turned
aside with a friend to hear again the story of Mr. Pittendriegh's
"Well, how have you been, Mrs. Macfadyen ? â€” as young as
ever, I see, eh ? And how many new stories have you got for
me ? But bless my soul, what's this ? ^^ and his Lordship might
well be astonished at the sight.
Upon the gravel walk outside the door, Elspeth had placed in
a row all her kitchen and parlor chairs; and on each stood a big
dish of milk, while a varied covering for this open-air dairy had
been extemporized out of Jeems's Sabbath umbrella, a tea-tray, a
copy of the Advertiser, and a picture of the battle of Waterloo
Elspeth had bought from a packman. It was an amazing spec-
tacle, and one not lightly to be forgotten.
"A 'm clean ashamed that ye sud hae seen sic an exhibition,
ma lord, and gin a 'd hed time it wud hae been cleared awa'.
" Ye see oor dairy's that sma' and close that *a daurna keep
the mulk in 't a' the het days, an' sae 'a aye gie it an airin'; 'a
wud keep it in anither place, but there's barely room for the
bairns an' oorsels.-**
Then Elspeth apologized for speaking about household affairs
to his Lordship, and delighted him with all the gossip of the dis-
trict, told in her best style, and three new stories, till he prom-
ised to build her a dairy and a bedroom for Elsie, to repair the
byres, and renew the lease at the old terms.
1^702 JOHN WATSON
Elspeth said so at least to the factor; and when he inquired
concerning the truth of this foolish concession, Kilspindie laughed,
and declared that if he had sat longer he might have had to
rebuild the whole place.
As Hillocks could not expect any help from personal fascina-
tions, he had to depend on his own sagacity; and after he had
labored for six months creating an atmosphere, operations began
one day at Muirtown market. The factor and he happened to
meet by the merest accident, and laid the first parallels,
" Man, Hillocks, is that you ? I hevna seen ye since last rent
time. I hear ye 're githering the bawbees thegither as usual: ye
'ill be buying a farm o' yir own soon.^*
"Nae fear o' that, Maister Leslie: it's a' we can dae tae get
a livin'; we're juist fechtin' awa'; but it comes harder on me noo
that a 'm gettin' on in years. *^
<< Toots, nonsense, ye're makin' a hundred clear off that farm
if ye mak a penny;** and then, as a sudden thought, "When is
your tack out ? it canna hae lang tae run. **
" Well, ** said Hillocks, as if the matter had quite escaped him
also, "'a believe ye're richt: it dis rin oot this verra Martinmas.'*
"Ye 'ill need tae be thinkin', Hillocks, what rise ye can offer:
his Lordship 'ill be expeckin' fifty pund at the least.**
Hillocks laughed aloud, as if the factor had made a successful
"Ye wull hae yir fun, Maister Leslie; but ye ken hoo it
maun gae fine. The gude wife an' me were calculatin', juist by
chance, this verra mornin': and we baith settled that we cudna
face a new lease comfortable wi' less than a fifty-pund reduc-
tion; but we micht scrape on wi' forty.**
" You and the wife 'ill hae tae revise yir calculations then ;
an' a'll see ye again when ye're reasonable.**
Three weeks later there was another accidental meeting, when
the factor and Hillocks discussed the price of fat cattle at length,
and then drifted into the lease question before parting.
"Weel, Hillocks, what aboot that rise? will ye manage the
fifty, or must we let ye have it at forty ? **
" Dinna speak like that, for it's no jokin' maitter tae me : we
micht dae wi' five-and-twenty aff, or even twenty, but 'a dinna
believe his Lordship wud like to see ain o' his auldest tenants
" It's no likely his Lordship 'ill take a penny off when he's
been expecting a rise: so I'll just need to put the farm in the
JOHN WATSON 1 5 703
Advertiser â€” *the present tenant not oflEering*; but I'll wait a
month to let ye think over it.**
When they parted, both knew that the rent would be settled,
as it was next Friday, on the old terms.
Opinion in the kirk-yard was divided over this part of the
bargain, â€” a minority speaking of it as a drawn battle, but the
majority deciding that Hillocks had wrested at least ten pounds
from the factor; which on the tack of nineteen years would
come to ^190. So far Hillocks had done well, but the serious
fighting was still to come.
One June day Hillocks sauntered into the factor's office, and
spent half an hour in explaining the condition of the turnip
" breer ** in Drumtochty ; and then reminded the factor that he
had not specified the improvements that would be granted with
the new lease.
^* Improvements ! '* stormed the factor. " Ye 're the most bare-
faced fellow on the estate. Hillocks: with a rent like that ye can
do yir own repairs," â€” roughly calculating all the time what must
Hillocks opened his pocket-book, â€” which contained in its
various divisions a parcel of notes, a sample of oats, a whip-lash,
a bolus for a horse, and a packet of garden seeds, â€” and finally
extricated a scrap of paper.
" Me and the wife juist made a bit note o' the necessaries
that we maun hae, and we're sure ye're no the gentleman tae
<*New windows tae the hoose, an' a bit place for dishes, and
maybe a twenty-pund note for plastering and painting: that's
** Next, a new stable an' twa new byres, as weel as covering
" Ye may as well say a new steadin' at once and save time.
Man, what do you mean by coming and havering here with your
papers ? **
*^ Weel, if ye dinna believe me, ask Peter Robertson, for the
condeetion o' the oot-houses is clean reediklus.**
So it was agreed that the factor should drive out to see for
himself; and the kirk-yard felt that Hillocks was distinctly hold-
ing his own, although no one expected him to get the reed cov-
Hillocks received the great man with obsequious courtesy, and
the gude wife gave him of her best; and then they proceeded
ie'jo4 JOHN WATSON
to business. The factor laughed to scorn the idea that Lord
Kilspindie should do anything for the house; but took the bitter-