if I have offended you."
"You have offended me, and very deeply. You
have been unkind and indeed cruel to a good woman
who has done her best for you for many years ! "
I was not too much abashed to take notice that the
Kelpie bridled at this.
" I can't say I 'm sorry for what I 've done to her,"
"Really, Ranald, you are impertinent. I would
send you out of the room at once, but you must beg
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 22*,
Mrs. Mitchell's pardon first, and after that there will
be something more to say, I fear."
" But, father, you have not heard my story yet."
" Well go on. It is fair, I suppose, to hear both
sides. But nothing can justify such conduct"
I began with trembling voice. I had gone over in
my mind the night before all I would say, knowing it
better to tell the tale from the beginning circumstan-
tially. Before I had ended, Turkey made his appear-
ance, ushered in by Allister. Both were out of breath
My father stopped me, and ordered Turkey away
until I should have finished. I ventured to look up
at the Kelpie once or twice. She had grown white,
and grew whiter. When Turkey left the room, she
would have gone too. But my father told her she
must stay and hear me to the end. Several times she
broke out, accusing me of telling a pack of wicked
lies, but my father told her she should have an oppor-
tunity of defending herself, and she must not interrupt
me. When I had done, he called Turkey, and made
him tell the story. I need hardly say that, although
he questioned us closely, he found no discrepancy
between our accounts. He turned at last to Mrs.
Mitchell, who, but for her rage, would have been in
an abject condition.
" Now, Mrs. Mitchell ! " he said.
She had nothing to reply beyond asserting that
Turkey and I had always hated and persecuted her,
226 RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD.
and had now told a pack of lies which we had agreed
upon, to ruin her, a poor lone woman, with no friends
to take her part.
" i do not think it likely they could be so wicked,"
said my father.
" So I "m to be the only wicked person in the world !
Very well, sir ! I will leave the house this very day."
" No, no, Mrs. Mitchell ; that won't do. One party
r the other is very wicked that is clear ; and it is of
the greatest consequence to me to find out which. If
you go, I shall know it is you, and have you taken up
and tried for stealing. Meantime I shall go the round
of the parish. I do not think all the poor people will
have combined to lie against you."
" They all hate me," said the Kelpie.
" And why ? " asked my father.
She made no answer.
" I must get at the truth of it," said my father. " You
can go now."
She left the room without another word, and my
father turned to Turkey.
" I am surprised at you, Turkey, lending yourself to
such silly pranks. Why did you not come and tell
" I am very sorry, sir. I was afraid you would be
troubled at finding how wicked she was, and I thought
we might frighten her away somehow. But Ranald
began his tricks without letting me know, and then I
saw that mine could be of no use, for she would sus-
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 227
pect them after his. Mine would have been better.
" I have no doubt of it, but equally unjustifiable.
And you as well as he acted the part of a four-footed
animal last night"
" I confess I yielded to temptation then, for I knew
it could do no good. It was all for the pleasure of
frightening her. It was very foolish of me, and I beg
your pardon, sir."
" Well, Turkey, I confess you have vexed me, not
by trying to find out the wrong she was doing me and
the whole parish, but by taking the whole thing into
your own hands. It is worse of you, inasmuch as you
are older and far wiser than Ranald. It is worse of
Ranald, because I was his father. I will try to show
you the wrong you have done. Had you told me,
without doing anything yourselves, then I might have
succeeded in bringing Mrs. Mitchell to repentance. I
could have reasoned with her on the matter, and shown
her that she was not merely a thief, but a thief of the
worst kind, a Judas who robbed the poor, and so
robbed God. I could have shown her how cruel she
"Please, sir," interrupted Turkey, "I don't think
after all she did it for herself. I do believe," he went
on, and my father listened, " that Wandering Willie is
some relation of hers. He is the only poor person,
almost the only person except Davie, I ever saw her
behave kindly to. He was there last night, and also,
228 RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD.
I fancy, that other time, when Ranald got such a
fright She has poor relations somewhere, and sends
the meal to them by Willie. You remember, sir, there
were no old clothes of Allister's to be found when you
wanted them for Jamie Duff."
"You may be right, Turkey I daresay you are
right. I hope you are, for though bad enough, that
would not be quite so bad as doing it for herself."
"I am very sorry, father," I said; "I beg your
" I hope it will be a lesson to you, my boy. After
what you have done, rousing every bad and angry
passion in her, I fear it will be of no use to try to
make her be sorry and repent. It is to her, not to
me, you have done the wrong. I have nothing to
complain of for myself quite the contrary. But it is
a very dreadful thing to throw difficulties in the way
of repentance and turning from evil works."
" What can I do to make up for it ? M I sobbed.
" I don't see at this moment what you can do. I
will turn it over in my mind. You may go now."
Thereupon Turkey and I walked away, I to school,
he to his cattle. The lecture my father had given us
was not to be forgotten. Turkey looked sad, and I
felt subdued and concerned
Everything my father heard confirmed the tale we
had told him. But the Kelpie frustrated whatever he
may have resolved upon with regard to her : before he
returned she had disappeared. How she managed to
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 229
get her chest away, I cannot tell. I think she must
have hid it in some outhouse, and fetched it the next
night. Many little things were missed from the house
afterwards, but nothing of great value, and neither she
nor Wandering Willie ever appeared again. We were
all satisfied that poor old Betty knew nothing of her
conduct It was easy enough to deceive her, for she
was alone in her cottage, only waited upon by a neigh-
bour who visited her at certain times of the day.
My father, I heard afterwards, gave five shillings out
of his own pocket to every one of the poor people
whom the Kelpie had defrauded. Her place in the
house was, to our endless happiness, taken by Kirsty,
and faithfully she carried out my father's instructions
that, along with the sacred handful of meal, a penny
should be given to every one of the parish poor from
that time forward, so long as he lived at the manse.
Not even little Davie cried when he found that
Mrs. Mitchell was really gone. It was more his own
affection than her kindness that had attached him to
Thus were we at last delivered from our Kelpie.
230 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
K FTER the expul-
sion of the Kel
pie, and the
accession of Kir
sty, things went
on so peaceably,
that the whole
time rests in my
memory like a
I have therefore
little more to say
two schools in
the little town
the first, the
parish school, the master of which was appointed by
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 231
the presbytery ; the second, one chiefly upheld by the
dissenters of the place, the master of which was ap-
pointed by the parents of the scholars. This difference,
however, indicated very little of the distinction and
separation which it would have involved in England.
The masters of both were licentiates of the established
church, an order having a vague resemblance to that
of deacons in the English church ; there were at both
of them scholars whose fees were paid by the parish,
while others at both were preparing for the University ;
there were many pupils at the second school whose
parents took them to the established church on Sun-
days, and both were yearly examined by the presbytery
that is, the clergymen of a certain district ; while
my father was on friendly terms with all the parents,
some of whom did not come to his church because
they thought the expenses of religion should be met
by the offerings of those who prized its ministrations,
while others regarded the unity of the nation, and
thought that religion, like any other of its necessities,
ought to be the care of its chosen government. I do
not think the second school would ever have come
into existence at all except for the requirements of the
population, one school being insufficient. There was
little real schism in the matter, except between the
boys themselves. They made far more of it than their
parents, and an occasional outbreak was the conse
At this time there was at the second school a cer-
?32 RANALD BANNERAfAN'S BOYHOOD.
tain very rough lad, the least developed beyond the
brute, perhaps, of all the scholars of the village. It
is more amazing to see how close to the brute a man
may remain than it is to see how far he may leave the
brute behind. How it began I cannot recall ; but this
youth, a lad of seventeen, whether moved by dislike
or the mere fascination of injury, was in the habit of
teasing me beyond the verge of endurance as often as
he had the chance. I did not like to complain to my
father, though that would have been better than to
hate him as I did. I was ashamed of my own im-
potence for self-defence ; but therein I was little to
blame, for I was not more than half his size, and cer-
tainly had not half his strength. My pride forbidding
flight, the probability was, when we met in an out-of-
the-way quarter, that he would block my path for half
an hour at least, pull my hair, pinch my cheeks, and
do everything to annoy me, short of leaving marks of
violence upon me. If we met in a street, or other
people were in sight, he would pass me with a wink
and a grin, as much as to say Wait.
One of the short but fierce wars between the rival
schools broke out. What originated the individual
quarrel I cannot tell. I doubt if any one knew. It
had not endured a day, however, before it came to a
pitched battle after school hours. The second school
was considerably the smaller, but it had the advantage
of being perched on the top of the low, steep hill at the
bottom of which lay ours. Our battles always began
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 233
with missiles ; and I wonder, as often as I recall the
fact, that so few serious accidents were the consequence.
From the disadvantages of the ground, we had little
chance against the stone-showers which descended
upon us like hail, except we charged right up the hill,
in the face of the inferior but well-posted enemy.
When this was not in favour at the moment, I em-
ployed myself in collecting stones and supplying them
to my companions, for it seemed to me that every boy,
down to the smallest in either school, was skilful in
throwing them, except myself : I could not throw half-
way up the hill. On this occasion, however, I began
to fancy it an unworthy exercise of my fighting powers,
and made my first attempt at organizing a troop for
an up-hill charge. I was now a tall boy, and of some
influence amongst those about my own age. Whether
the enemy saw our intent and proceeded to forestall
it, I cannot say, but certainly that charge never took
A house of some importance was then building, just
on the top of the hill, and a sort of hand-waggon, or
lurry on low wheels, was in use for moving the large
stones employed, the chips from the dressing of which
were then for us most formidable missiles. Our adver-
saries laid hold of this chariot, and turned it into an
engine of war. They dragged it to the top of the hill,
jumped upon it, as many as it would hold, and, drawn
by their own weight, came thundering down upon our
troops. Vain was the storm of stones which assailed
234 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
their advance : they could not have stopped if they
would. My company had to open and make way for
the advancing prodigy, conspicuous upon which towered
my personal enemy Scroggie.
" Now," I called to my men, " as soon as the thing
stops, rush in and seize them : they 're not half our
number. It will be an endless disgrace to let them go."
Whether we should have had the courage to carry
out the design had not fortune favoured us, I cannot
tell. But as soon as the chariot reached a part of the
hill where the slope was less, it turned a little to one
side, and Scroggie fell off, drawing half of the load
after him. My men rushed in with shouts of defiant
onset, but were arrested by the non-resistance of the
foe. I sprung to seize Scroggie, He tried to get
up, but fell back with a groan. The moment I saw
his face, my mood changed. My hatred, without will
or wish or effort of mine, turned all at once into pity
or something better. In a moment I was down on
my knees beside him. His face was white, and drops
stood upon his forehead. He lay half upon his side,
and with one hand he scooped handfuls of dirt from
the road and threw them down again. His leg was
broken. I got him to lean his head against me, and
tried to make him lie more comfortably ; but the
moment I sought to move the leg he shrieked out
I sent one of our swiftest runners for the doctor, and
in the meantime did the best I could for him. He
took it as a matter of course, and did not even thank
RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 235
me. When the doctor came, we got a mattress from
a neighbouring house, laid it on the waggon, lifted
Scroggie on the top, and dragged him up the hill and
home to his mother.
I have said a little, but only a little, concerning our
master, Mr. Wilson. At the last examination, I had,
in compliance with the request of one of the clergy-
men, read aloud a metrical composition of my own,
sent in by way of essay on the given subject, Patriotism,
and after this he had shown me a great increase of
favour. Perhaps he recognized in me some germ of
a literary faculty I cannot tell : it has never come to
much if he did, and he must be greatly disappointed
in me, seeing I labour not in living words, but in dead
stones. I am certain, though, that whether I build
good or bad houses, I should have built worse had I
not had the insight he gave me into literature and the
nature of literary utterance. I read Virgil and Horace
with him, and scanned every doubtful line we came
across. I sometimes think now, that what certain
successful men want to make them real artists, is
simply a knowledge of the literature which is the
essence of the possible art of the country.
My brother Tom had left the school, and gone to
the county town, to receive some final preparation for-
the University ; consequently, so far as the school was
concerned, I was no longer in the position of a younger
brother. Also Mr. Wilson had discovered that I had
some faculty for imparting what knowledge I possessed,
J3& RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD.
and had begun to make use of me in teaching the
others. A good deal was done in this way in the
Scotch schools. Not that there was the least attempt
at system in it : the master, at any moment, would
choose the one he thought fit, and set him to teach
a class, while he attended to individuals, or taught
another class himself. Nothing can be better for the
verification of knowledge, or for the discovery of igno-
rance, than the attempt to teach. In my case it led
to other and unforeseen results as well.
The increasing trust the master reposed in me, and
the increasing favour which openly accompanied it, so
stimulated the growth of my natural vanity, that at
length it appeared in the form of presumption, and, I
have little doubt, although I was unaware of it at the
time, influenced my whole behaviour to my school-
fellows. Hence arose the complaint that I was a
favourite with the master, and the accusation that I
used underhand means to recommend myself to him,
of which I am not yet aware that I was ever guilty.
My presumption I confess, and wonder that the master
did not take earlier measures to check it. When teach-
ing a class, I would not unfrequently, if Mr. Wilson
had vacated his chair, climb into it, and sit there as if
I were the master of the school I even went so far
as to deposit some of my books in the master's desk,
instead of in my own recess. But I had not the least
suspicion of the indignation I was thus rousing against
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 237
One afternoon I had a class of history. They read
very badly, with what seemed wilful blundering; but
when it came to the questioning on the subject of the
lesson, I soon saw there had been a conspiracy. The
answers they gave were invariably wrong, generally ab-
surd, sometimes utterly grotesque. I ought to except
those of a few girls, who did their best, and apparently
knew nothing of the design of the others. One or
two girls, however, infected with the spirit of the game,
soon outdid the whole class in the wildness of their
replies. This at last got the better of me ; I lost my
temper, threw down my book, and retired to my seat,
leaving the class where it stood. The master called
me and asked the reason. I told him the truth of the
matter. He got very angry, and called out several of
the bigger boys and punished them severely. Whether
these supposed that I had mentioned them in particu-
lar, as I had not, I do not know ; but I could read in
their faces that they vowed vengeance in their hearts.
When the school broke up, I lingered to the last, in
the hope they would all go home as usual ; but when
I came out with the master, and saw the silent waiting
groups, it was evident there was more thunder in the
moral atmosphere than would admit of easy discharge.
The master had come to the same conclusion, for in-
stead of turning towards his own house, he walked
with me part of the way home, without alluding how-
ever to the reason. Allister was with us, and I led
Davie by the hand : it was his first week of school life.
138 RANALD BANNEKAfAJVS BOYHOOD.
When we had got about half the distance, believing
me now quite safe, he turned into a footpath and went
through the fields back towards the town ; while we,
delivered from all immediate apprehension, jogged
When we had gone some distance farther, I hap-
pened to look about why, I could not tell. A crowd
was following us at full speed. As soon as they saw
that we had discovered them, they broke the silence
with a shout, which was followed by the patter of their
41 Run, Allister ! " I cried ; and kneeling, I caught
up Davie on my back, and ran with the feet of fear.
Burdened thus, Allister was soon far ahead of me.
" Bring Turkey ! " I cried after him. " Run to the
farm as hard as you can pelt, and bring Turkey to
"Yes, yes, Ranald," shouted Allister, and ran yet
They were not getting up with us quite so fast as
they wished ; they began therefore to pick up stones
as they ran, and we soon heard them hailing on the
road behind us. A little farther, and the stones began
to go bounding past us, so that I dared no longer
carry Davie on my back. I had to stop, which lost us
time, and to shift him into my arms, which made run-
ning much harder. Uavie kept calling, "Run, Ranald !
here they come !" and jumping so, half in fear, half
in pleasure, that I found it very hard work indeed.
RANALD BANNERMAWS BOYHOOD. 239
Their taunting voices reached me at length, loaded
with all sorts of taunting and opprobrious words
some of them, I dare say, deserved, but not all. Next
a stone struck me, but not in a dangerous place,
though it crippled my running still more. The bridge
was now in sight, however, and there I could get rid
of Davie and turn at bay, for it was a small wooden
bridge, with rails and a narrow gate at the end to keep
horsemen from riding over it. The foremost of our
pursuers were within a few yards of my heels, when,
with a last effort, I bounded on it ; and I had just
time to set Davie down and turn and bar their way by
shutting the gate, before they reached it. I had no
breath left but just enough to cry, " Run, Davie ! "
Davie, however, had no notion of the state of affairs,
and did not run, but stood behind me staring. So I
was not much better off yet. If he had only run, and
I had seen him far enough on the way home, I would
have taken to the water, which was here pretty deep,
before I would have run any further risk of their get-
ting hold of me. If I could have reached the mill on
the opposite bank, a shout would have brought the
miller to my aid. But so long as I could prevent them
from opening the gate, I thought I could hold the
position. There was only a latch to secure it, but 1
pulled a thin knife from my pocket, and just as I re-
ceived a blow in the face from the first arrival which
knocked me backwards, I had jammed it over the latch
through the iron staple in which it worked. Before
*4Q RANALD MANNESMAN'S BOYHOOD.
the first attempt to open it had been followed by the
discovery of the obstacle, I was up, and the next mo-
ment, with a well-directed kick, disabled a few of the
fingers which were fumbling to remove it To protect
the latch was now my main object, but my efforts
would have been quite useless, for twenty of them
would have been over the top in an instant. Help,
however, although unrecognized as such, was making
its way through the ranks of the enemy.
They parted asunder, and Scroggie, still lame, strode
heavily up to the gate. Recalling nothing but his old
enmity, I turned once more and implored Davie. "Do
run, Davie, dear! it's all up," I said; but my entreaties
were lost upon Davie. Turning again in despair, I
saw the lame leg being hoisted over the gate. A
shudder ran through me : I could not kick that leg ;
but I sprang up and hit Scroggie hard in the face. I
might as well have hit a block of granite. He swore
at me, caught hold of my hand, and turning to the
assailants said :
" Now, you be off ! This is my little business. I '11
do for him ! "
Although they were far enough from obeying his or-
ders, they were not willing to turn him into an enemy,
and so hung back expectant Meantime the lame leg
was on one side of the gate, the splints of which were
sharpened at the points, and the sound leg was upon
the other. I, on the one side for he had let go my
hand in order to support himself retreated a little,
RANALD RANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD. 241
and stood upon the defensive, trembling, I must con-
fess ; while my enemies on the other side could not
reach me so long as Scroggie was upon the top of the
The lame leg went searching gently about, but could
find no rest for the sole of its foot, for there was no
projecting cross bar upon this side; the repose upon
the top was anything but perfect, and the leg sus-
pended behind was useless. The long and the short,
both in legs and results, was, that there Scroggie stuck ;
and so long as he stuck, I was safe. As soon as I saw
this, I turned and caught up Davie, thinking to make
for home once more. But that very instant there was
a rush at the gate ; Scroggie was hoisted over, the
knife was taken out, and on poured the assailants,
before I had quite reached the other end of the bridge.
" At them, Oscar ! " cried a voice.
The dog rushed past me on to the bridge, followed
by Turkey. I set Davie down, and, holding his hand,
breathed again. There was a scurry and a rush, a
splash or two in the water, and then back came Oscar
with his innocent tongue hanging out like a blood-red
banner of victory. He was followed by Scroggie, who
was exploding with laughter.
Oscar came up wagging his tail, and looking as
pleased as if he had restored obedience to a flock of
unruly sheep. I shrank back from Scroggie, wishing
Turkey, who was still at the other end of the bridge,
would make haste.
242 RANALD BANNERMAN'S BOYHOOD.
" Wasn't it fun, Ranald ? " said Scroggie. " Yon
don't think I was so lame that I couldn't get over that
gate? I stuck on purpose."
Turkey joined us with an inquiring look, for he
knew how Scroggie had been in the habit of treating
" It 's all right, Turkey," I said. " Scroggie stuck
on the gate on purpose."
" A good thing for you, Ranald ! " said Turkey.
Didn't you see Peter Mason amongst them ? "