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By Author of

GABRIEL /?o»^< Uriuiari

Sunshine and Haar

SETOUN^ ji^uW . Eu.,Eu.



103 Fifth Avenue

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^ uv

Copyright, 1897,


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I. Strangers in a Strange Land, . . . .

II. John Murdoch, Publican and Pharisee,

III. The Sabbath Day in Cuthil, . . . .

IV. Tracking a French Penny, ....
V. Alias Canmore,

VI. A Good Samaritan,

VII. Making Friends of the Mammon of Unright-

VIII. Colin Webster's Kirk, ....

IX. A Blink of Sunshine, ....

X. Infidel and Elder,

XI. In the Watches of the Night, .

XII. Colin Ta'en ; Canmore Gone, .

XIII. Invercolm, Aristocracy and Gossip, .

XIV. At the Harbour Head, ....
XV. Mary Moultrie Ramage Ross,

XVI. Blending Voices,

XVII. Cuthil, after Invercolm,

XVIII. Flowers and Fairies, ....

XIX. The Son of a Gaol-Bird,

XX. *• Looks the Whole World in the Face,

XXI. Andrew Gemmell's Discomfiture,

XXII. A Joyless Home-Coming, ....

XXIII. A Voice from the Dead,

XXIV. "Out of the Mouth of Babes,"
XXV. The Voice of Invercolm,

XXVI. Conclusion,








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Ayont the seas an' faur awa'

The Prince an' his young oarsmen sailed.
" O how shall laddies try a fa'

Where thrice their f aithers tried an' failed ? "

The graybeards wagged their silver pows :
** Ye winna heed the voice o* eild."

Twal oars swung in the creakin' thows,
An' through the surf the boatie speiled.

They laughed aloud. ** Fu* weel we ken
Auld age's crouse an' cauld advice ;

But bairns may win whaur bearded men
Have tried an' come back beaten thrice."

Their grannies graned, their mithers grat,
Men did their day's darg lookin' glum ;

But aye their sisters, spinnin', sat
An' sang o' blither days to come.

O ower the seas an' hame again

The Prince an* his young oarsmen sailed ;
** Because we're bairns, no' bearded men,

We've won whaur thrice our f aithers failed."

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IT was a long journey through a bleak, uninteresting
country. Mrs. Malcolm and her son had a whole
compartment to themselves all the way from Glasgow,
and George was free to run about the carriage as he
pleased. He was a sturdy little fellow of some eight
years of age, and was all excitement to see everything.
The only drawback was that he could not look out of
both windows at the same time ; so he had to compro-
mise by running from the one to the other, climbing on
to the seat, and flattening his face against the glass. To
help himself in this he had taken off his cap, baring a
head that was abnormally large, and, being covered with
thick, curling, dark brown hair, looked larger than it
actually was. Looking at him sitting on the seat, one
might have imagined that he was merely resting its
unwieldy weight against the window.

By and by he got tired of looking outside. There
was little to be seen beyond an occasional tree, black
and stunted, and every little while tall, smoking chimney-
stalks shooting up beside gray mountains of rubbish.
He turned and looked to his mother, who had been sit-
ting very, very quiet, yawned, and climbing down from
the seat, crossed to where she sat. Then after leaning
for a little by her knee, he got up beside her, nestled to

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her, and fell fast asleep. He did not waken till the
train had stopped at a black, noisy station. But this
was only to let them get into another train, and away
they went again, rattling and jolting past more chimney-
stalks, more rubbish heaps, more dreary leafless trees.
So they went on for half the day, now in one train, now
in another, now resting for a while at a busy station
where hundreds of people bustled about and nobody
knew them. It was all new and strange to George, and
for a time interesting, but he was very tired long before
they reached the little wayside station which, his mother
said, was the end of their journey. But when he got out
all he saw was the barren-looking station-building, partly
of wood, partly of brick. Round and round he looked
on every side: there was not another house to be seen,
only fields and frowning fir woods with a gray streak of
road between, reaching so far that he could not see the
end of it.

"Is this the place, mother?" he asked in a awed
whisper. *' Does uncle live among the trees?"

**No, dear; we are not at Cuthil yet." She was evi-
dently as tired as George, and spoke wearily, yet with
an effort to be cheerful. ** We'll see about our luggage
first, and then we'll drive to the village."

They walked to the end of the platform, George
stumbling as he went ; for his legs were stiff and sore.
An old man, who had already got hold of their luggage,
nodded to them as they approached. " Good-day, mum,"
he said. ** You'll be Mrs. Malcolm? Ay, I was to meet
ye an' gie ye a hurl alang. Is this a* your luggage — a
kist an' a pockmanty? "

**Yes, that is all. And — how is uncle? Was he not
able to come himself? "

" Weel, ye see, mum, he's gettin' frail, and haein' the
shop to mind, he couldna' manage, so I yoket an' cam'
to meet ye. He's gaun to do without auld Kirsty, now

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you're comin' to keep house for him, an' he's ahent the
counter himsel' the day, but he doesna come muckle

Mrs. Malcolm sighed. She saw in a flash the life she
would have to live at Cuthil. Still, she had not come
expecting to lead a life of ease, and she was prepared for
the worst. She had had little or no communication with
her mother's brother for many years, and what she had
seen of him long ago, when she was a child, had not at all
impressed her in his favour. The house he lived in, how-
ever, belonged to her, and her husband had helped him
greatly in setting him up in business. Moreover, he was
the only friend outside of her native village to whom she
could turn now, and to her native village she had deter-
mined not to return. Here, if nothing else, she would
be assured of life and shelter at least, and of a home for
her child.

As she thought of this her eyes sought the face of the
little one at her side, and her hand grasped his more
firmly. Everything would be borne bravely for his sake;
any labour would be light, provided it made life happy for

George was all the while watching the old man with
wondering eyes. "Who is he, mother?" he asked.
** This is not uncle?"

The old fellow heard, and with a smile looked down on
the child. He had a pair of twinkling gray eyes, that lit
up his face when he spoke.

**No, my laddie," he said ; "I'm neither your uncle
nor grand-uncle. An' for that matter I'm no' a bit sorry
that I'm no' him. I'm just drivin* ye till him. I'm
Andrew Graham, the Cuthil carter."

"How do you do, Mr. Graham?" the child said, hold-
ing out his hand. "I like you, and I think the big but-
tons on your jacket are very pretty."

Andrew regarded the serious face with amazement for

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a second ere he knew what to reply. " I'm weel, thank
ye, weel," adding in what was meant to be an aside to
the mother; " he's a droll laddie ; justa wee gentleman."

*' Shall we get into your cab now? " George pursued.

** A cab, laddie? Na; there's no cabs in Cuthil."

"A 'bus?"

"No, nor 'buses either. It's just a cart. But I've
brought a sack o' hay that'll mak' a braw saft seat; just
wait till I fling your luggage inower."
* It was a still October afternoon, with the slightest
suspicion of frost in the air^ when it is a pleasure to be
in the country, and George enjoyed the drive in the cart
so much that for a time he forgot about being worn-out
and sleepy. This was a new experience for him, and
far better than driving in a cab. He could sit up and
see the horse and look far along the road, watching the
trees and bushes coming nearer and nearer until they
passed away behind. It would have been better had
mother got in beside him, but she preferred to walk,
after sitting so long in the train, which was strange.
But George could see her on the footpath, and he kept
her informed of all the wondrous things she should notice.
Andrew let him hold the whip, and he felt himself almost
a man. When he grew up he would be a carter. He
swung the whip about, and flaunted it now and again in
the faces of cattle that came to gaze over the hedge on
them as they passed. But they had great spreading
horns, and they did not mind the whip a bit, only blinked
on him with dreamy indifference and snorted with con-

On and on, and up and down, the cart rumbled and
jolted, till he felt it bump, bump, bumping up to his
shoulders; it was grand. If only he could have sat in
front like Andrew, with his legs dangling outside, his joy
would have been perfect. But Andrew would not allow
that; he was hot big enough yet. Some day, however.

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he resolved, he would come when he was grown up and
sit so, holding the reins in his hands and driving all over
the world. At present he sat as high as he could on the
sack of hay and asked Andrew about everything he could
think of. And Andrew had a great deal to tell him.

He showed him the exact spot where Forbes's horse
fell in the ** winter o* '57, when a' his dishes, plates an'
basins, cups an' saucers, were smashed to pieces. " The
only thing picked up whole had been the lid'of a mustard
pot, and **auld Nance Riddle had it yet." Further along
the road, when they came to the wood, he pointed out
squirrels at play about the branches of the trees, and
George would have liked to stay and play with them.
But the cart rumbled on, and there were many other
wonders waiting to be seen. Close to the end of the
wood Andrew pointed to a tree standing by itself in the
middle of a little glade. "It was on that very tree that
Matthew Home hanged himsel'," he explained.

"Hanged himself!" George did not known what hang-
ing meant, but he caught the solemnity of Andrew's tone,
and was impressed. "Why did he hang himself?" he

Andrew shook his head. "Ye're a droll bairn," he
remarked. "I've often wondered that mysel', for
Charley's Sink is a mile an* a half nearer, an* he bid to
hae passed it on his way here. It's deep enough too, if
he'd ta'en thought; but after buyin' the rope it would
hae been a waste o' siller, no doubt, no' to use it. Still
anon I've often wondered."

Then George found other things to talk about, and
other things still, until he had exhausted his list of ques-
tions, and was reduced to one, which he put again and
again, every time more wearily. Were they far from
Cuthil now? Then he got tired of cracking the whip,
tired of holding it, tired of sitting on the sack of hay,
and creeping down, he stretched himself out on it.

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Andrew flung a sack over him, and the wraps Mrs.
Malcolm had brought with her, and presently George
was sound asleep.

When he awoke he was sitting in a chair by the side of
a fire. The rugs were still wrapped round him, but he
was cold, and he still felt the bumping and jolting of the
cart in his shoulders. On the other side of the fire, and
in the cosiest corner of the dimly-lit room, sat a great
and grim-looking figure in a heavy jacket, green with
age, and wearing a red nightcap that hung down to his
shoulder. George regarded him at first with wonder,
and then with shrinking fear. In the wall behind his
head was a little square window, whose four diminutive
panes he could just count through a faded green curtain.
By the side of this window hung a lamp, that with the
help of the shivering fire struggled against the foggy
darkness of the room. George shivered, partly with
cold, partly with dread, and he tried to draw the rug
closer about him, but the old man opposite did not move,
did not lift his eyes from the fire, only sat smoking a
short clay pipe, which he held to his lips with one hand,
the elbow resting on his knee, while the other hand
stretched towards the fire till the clawing fingers almost
touched the ** ribs." One side of the face was in shadow,
but George could see that it was unwashed, and that the
cheeks were not red but blue, while gray whiskers,
straggling down from the ears, met and tangled under
the chin. The child looked at him, letting his eyes
wander from the beetling eyebrows to the gigantic boots
that birstled inside the fender. Who was he? And how
had he himself come here ? He tried to look round the
room, but it was too dark to see anything. All the light
was gathered round the fire, as if it were struggling
against being chilled into darkness; and his eyes came
back again to the face of the — ogre. Yes, surely this
was an ogre, and George was his prisoner. But why

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had mother brought him here? and where was she

The kettle, hanging from the swing over the fire, began
to sing, and diverted his attention for a second or two;
but it did not sing cheerily like the kettle at home, and
it looked so black that he felt almost afraid of it as well.
** Eh — ah — oh," it croaked, and George sobbed, so loud
that he started and stared terror-sticken on the ogre,
fearing he might have heard and would now turn and rend
him. But the ogre smoked stolidly and did not turn.
Perhaps he was deaf. There was a sense of relief in the
supposition. He would try him and see. "Where's
mother? " he asked, but he spoke in such a whisper that
he hardly heard himself. After a minute's suspense he
tried again, " Where's mother ?"

This time he spoke so loud that the sound of his voice
frightened him, but still there was no answer. He
stared fixedly on the grim face again; then he tried to
count the queer black rings that stained the little table
set between them, until the rings began creeping all
about, up and down and across, melting the one into the
other and separating again, and now he knew he was

"Where's mother?" he wailed. Then he shivered with
fear and heard the beating of his heart, for the ogre had
heard. He turned and stared on him, screwed himself
in his chair, and spat in the fire. That was all. and the
smoking began again. All this time George's eyes were
heavy, and he would certainly have closed them again in
sleep had he not been so interested in this great sombre
figure with the red cap, who seemed to fill half the room
and to take all the warmth out of the fire to himself.
He had never seen a being like this before, and he
watched him with great and growing wonder. Why did
he not speak? Perhaps old men who wore red night-
caps and smoked clay pipes were too old to talk to

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children. And why did his lips say, "Smack, smack,
smack," all the time he was smoking? That was not
the way men smoked in Glasgow.

At last the poor child could bear it no longer. He
flung the rugs from him, stuck his knuckles into his eyes,
and sobbed. ''Mother,'' he shrieked, ** mother, mother! "

Swift steps on the stair and across the floor answered
the summons, and presently George was gathered in his
mother's arms and clinging round her neck. " I'm here,
Doddy," she whispered. "Your mother is here. She
was just upstairs, making your bed for you. You don't
know what a dear little bed you've got to sleep in, with
the stars peeping in on you and the little branches
tapping on the window."

" Did you think I was lost?" she asked, after his out-
burst had ceased. "I left you sleeping sound, and I
don't think you have spoken to uncle yet? "

George looked from her face to the silent figure that
had so terrified him. "Is that uncle?" he asked fear-

"Yes, dearie; now you must go and shake hands with

He slid down, or rather he was gently lifted down
from her knee, and he stepped over to the old man.
Though still trembling, he knew his mother was watch-
ing him, and he tried to be as brave as possible. "How
do you do, uncle?" he said, timidly offering his hand.
" I have come to see you from Glasgow."

The grizzled head screwed round and smiled evilly on
the upturned, pleading face. "Weel, have ye got ower
your tantrums, young girnie?" it asked. '*See that ye
hae no mair o' sic capers, or it '11 be the waur for ye.
Though I'm your mother's uncle, John Murdoch,
licensed grocer, weel kent an weel respected ower a' the
parish o' Cuthil, I'll stand no greetin' bairns. Mind
that. Awa wi' ye ! "

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** Now, Lebe," he said, addressing the mother, '* the
kettle's boilin* ; ye can mak* a cup o' tea. I'll no' bother
wi' ony myscl'. The doctor orders me toddy at nicht — no'
a pleasant dose, and it's a dear, dear medicine forbye."

He resumed his smoking and gloomed at the fire.
"Dear, dear! " he muttered to himself, "an' now another
twa mouths to fill. But though the hand o' the Lord be
heavy, His servant, John Murdoch, '11 be the last to
complain. "

George had crept back to his seat, and his mother
moved about with a heavy heart.

" Ye'll find bread an' milk i' the press," the old man
growled, "an' butter enough if ye' re carcfu' wi' it.
Master Girnie there deserves no better than dry bread;
an* good enough for him. Bread an' water," he mum-
bled, with something that was both a grunt and a chuckle.
" Some that's sib wi' him have no better fare. Put
down a tumbler for me. I'll help mysel'."

As soon as the cups were set, George lifted his chair
to the table. The fare was not inviting — a fragment of
jaundiced butter, bread, and a cup of watery tea. But
he had tasted nothing for hours and was famishing.
Still, he noticed there was something wrong.

"Where's the table-cloth, mother?" he asked, looking
again at the black discs on the table.

The old man turned on him. "What!" he roared;
"set you up wi' a table-cloth! I wonder if your father's
eatin' aff a table-cloth the now? "

"O uncle! " Mrs. Malcolm moaned.

"An' what's that ye're after now?" he went on.
" Doun wi' the bread, this minute. Ye young heathen,
would ye break bread i' this house without thankin* the
Lord for His mercies? What upbringin'! what up-
bringin'! '

"He's tired to-night," the mother explained, "and
very hungry."

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** That's no excuse. The Lord forgi'e ye both! Now,
are ye ready? Doun wi' the bread, will ye? No a bite ! "

He dragged off his nightcap, spread his arms over
the table, and lifted his face to the ceiling. ** O Thou
wha art the Giver — " he began at the top of his voice,
then stopped, opened his eyes, and asked in a whisper,
**Was that onybody chappin*? Bide a wee," he ordered;
*'the mercies '11 keep."

Putting on his cap again, he turned to the little win-
dow behind him, opened it a chink, and, peering
through, held conversation with someone outside.
'* Sevenpence," he said. " Could ye no' ha'e come afore
the shop was shut? An' a penny for the bottle. Ye
have the bottle? Clean? "

From a jar in a little press under the window he filled
a pewter measure, emptied it into the bottle, which he
handed out again. Then he jingled some coppers into
his trouser pocket, and sitting down to table resumed
his grace. A long, rambling, tedious grace it was, full
of parochial information, and soaking in unctuous self-
righteousness, but George did not understand a word of
it, and was glad when it was done. He made as hearty
a meal as a famishing boy could from the paltry fare,
and was hungry after the table was cleared; but he pre-
tended he had had enough, and uncle agreed with him.
It was their first point of agreement, yet young as he
was, the boy was thankful, for he instinctively under-
stood that this was a person to be conciliated at any

After supper he went to his corner of the fire again,
while his mother washed and put away the cups and
saucers. Uncle lighted his pipe, set his feet again
inside the fender, and absorbed the heat of the dying
fire. Before being allowed upstairs to bed, however,
George had to listen to the reading of a chapter, albeit
with nodding head and drowsy understanding, and to

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yawn through another dreary prayer. But at last he
was free, and a quarter of an hour afterwards he was
sound asleep, tucked cosily in his own little bed, which
must have jumped accommodatingly all the way from
Glasgow for him; while his mother knelt at the bedside,
and, with head buried on the pillow, wept and prayed.

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IT is a pleasant thing in the morning to start wide
awake from a dreamless sleep, without the slightest
sense of drowsiness, and to feel before even the eyes are
opened that the room is flooded with sunshine. George
Malcolm wakened all of a sudden this Sunday morning.
The bed was just large enough to fill a corner of the

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Online LibraryGabriel SetounGeorge Malcolm → online text (page 1 of 22)