Meg knelt by the sofa watching her father's face,
— ^he was a little dull of hearing; as they put it^ but
she thought he must hear now.
** Had Mr Grant any quarrel with WOliet'' asked
<<Na» na," said Eirsty, '<it was naethin' o' that
sort Fa wid quarrel wi' the like o' him? It was
jist a sudden bleese o^ angei: The laddie jist gied
him a dart Qm€t the heid — ^he didna like haein' to
gang oot to's wark sae early like ; he jist did it in a
Ueeze o' anger."
<* Fader, nitellhim to ganc^ Eirsty sudna baud
him speakin' that gait»* said Meg; with vexation,
endeavouring to rise. But the old man caught her
aon. "Lat arbe, Meg— lat a-be ; we're maybe nana
1« TALES FROM "BLACKWOOD."
the waur o' hearin' fat folk think o's, ance in a
" An' how is Mr Grant 1 is he conacious — was he
stunned r' queried the minister.
" Dr Fraser said 'at he was dangerous," answered
Kirsty ; " he was afraid o' fiyver comin' on, and we
mustua lat naebody in tae see him, or else they wad
hae been prood to hae seen ye, sir. Ka, he wasna
exackly stunned ; he cried tae Wullie that he cudna
rise, and Wullie he came rinnin' in to hiz, and tauld
us a' aboot if
''Do you mean that he confessed the crime t"
inquired the minister; and in his tone Meg could
detect that condemnation which he, and doubtless all
the neighbours, would deal out to Willia
"He couldna but tell's," explained Kirsty; "but
it was no what you wad ca' confessin', sir, for he
disna seem to ken he's dune wrang. He helpit us
tae get the maister in. But he's sic a naitral — ^he
forgets a'thing as sune as it's ower. He's no' respon-
sible for it, though it's an awfu' bisness."
" I doubt whether the law will take that view of
it, though," said Mr Sobertson, pompously ; " it's a
murderous assault, any way you look at it"
He was beginning a fresh question, when Meg grew
desperate, and, unable to free her aim, which was
under her father's head, against his will, and while
he held her hand to keep her, she called Kirsty
to come to her in so peremptory a tone, that the
0UOH PITT AS Jl VATHIR HATH. 17
mmifltery with a hasty *' Theie's Miss Grant calling :
Ib he in there t I didn't know; say I just called
to inquiie/' — ^took hiB departnie^ and Eiisty le-
** 6ae ben an gie Wnllie his tea^ and dinna stand
claiyering wi' folk that gait It isna fit," Meg added
sadly, '' fan we hae sick folk i' the hoosei"
Eirsty shut the door and hirpled away to the back-
kitchen, to take her tea with Willie. He was sitting
at the table, dividing his attention between a thick
slice of bread and butter and the box of sweet&
"Isna that rale bonnief" he said, with childish
exultation, to Eirsty, holding out the box for her
'*£h ay ! siccan a bonnie box," she answered, with
the tone of interest one uses to a child. *^ Far got
ye that, WuUier
"Frae M^," he said^ nodding his head in the
direction of the parlour. ** She got it frae Glesgey :
div ye see the wee catties on't t "
Kirsty admired it at due length, and accepted one
of the sweetmeats, which Willie, with an air of im-
portance, chose out fiom the rest with his big fingers,
and placed in her hand.
" Thank ye, Wullie— Fll keep it till IVe hed my
tea," she said ; and then they took their meal in
Kirsty, as an old servant of the family, well ac-
customed to Willie and his ways, had almost come
T.S. — ^V. B
18 TALES FROM ''BLACKWOOD."
to regard him as a child in years as well as sensa
He was " the laddie " or " the boy " when they spoke
of him — strong enough indeed to do a man's work,
though very lazy over it, and not to be trusted to
carry on any task without supervision. But he was
very easily guided, and obedient on the whole, and
had always been accounted harmless. All the neigh-
bours knew his uncouth slouching figure, and had
a kind word ready for him when they met
l^ow, indeed, since his sudden assault on his father
that morning, the news of which had spread like
wildfire through the village, a feeling of uneasiness
had taken possession of the neighbours. That one
wild deed might at any moment be followed by
another, and Willie become a dangerous lunatic,
instead of a harmless " naitral," was their confident
expectation; and the little gathering at the mer-
chant's were still discussing Meg's appearance
among them, and trying to extract from it fresh
light on the situation, long after she reached her
''It stands to rizzon the auld man canna be in
dainger, or she wudna hae left him," said Peter Sim.
" Ah, but she cudna send Kirsty, d'ye see ? — ^she's
that cripple; so she bud to come hersel'. I'm
thinkin' that wud be the wye o't," interposed Mrs
Bae. " It's no varra lang, just a twa-three days ago,
sin' Wullie was doun here a message ; she used aye
to send him for ony little thing — ^puir falla ! "
fitJOH PITT AS A FATHER HATH. 19
''She wadna send him the day, though,'' pat in
Peter Sim; ''wull he be lockit np^ think yel"
This was a new idea, and much debated. Bobbie
Macbeth, as the constable was familiarly called, had
been twice up at Ballendoun in the morning, and
had been seen talking to the doctor on the latter^s
" An' he went awa' to Slirktown by the twal' train,
an' I ken this is no the day 'at he sud gang," added
£ae, with some emphasis.
" He wad be gaun to gie a deposition, or fat is't
they ca' itt" speculated his wife.
'^ He disna do that," said Peter Sim, in a tone of
contempt for her limited knowledge. "That's fat
auld Grant maun do afore he dees ; but Bobbie wad
be gaun to get the shirra to tak it — iJiafa mair
'' Aweel, the shirra canna come the day," remarked
Affleck, " for there's no train frae Kirktown till the
mom; they're unco ill aflf for trains comin' this
"He's bud to come, though, fan a man's deein',
trains or no trains ; and auld Grant's deein', or I'm
much mista'en," said Peter Sim.
" It was an awfu' dart he got," said a stout matron,
who had recently joined the conclave, on the pretext
of an errand to "the shopi" "Bobbie Macbeth's
wife telt me the cut was as tang's yer haun', and
unco deep, richt across the back o's heid ; and neither
90 TALKS VBOK * BULCKWOOD.*^
'wmmei: Wullie's gey atrong, an' he wad hae xiae
control o' himsel' when he was angeit."
" See, fa's this cominT' caUed Peter Sim from the
threshold, where he stood smoking and looking out
There was a general rising, and crowding to the door,
of the group within.
They saw a carriage coming along the winding road
^'Thafs Taira like Macbeth on the box,** said
''An' it's varra like that new machine frae David-
son's at Kirktown," added Affleck. " It maun jist
be the shirra. Hell hae posted a' the wye oot
They'll be comin' to huz. I'll awa'."
He hurried away to the inn to receive the arrivals,
and the rest of the group of idlers slowly dispersed,
some to find a poet of observation near the inn, and
the rest to watch from the doors of their own homes
in the long village street
The carriage stopped at the Inchrye Arms to water
the horses. Macbeth, the constable, climbed down
from the box, stiff and weary after the long, wet
drive. A party of four occupied the inside seats:
Mr Bruce, the sheriff-substitute of the county — a tall
and fine-looking young man, with closely shaven face
and keen eyes; with him the grey-haired old pro-
curator fiscal, and a consequential - looking derk.
They had gone a little out of their way in coming
to pick up Dr Eraser, who lived on the outskirts (d
BVCR TTTY AS A VATHXB HATH. 91
Inchiye pariah. He iros to act as medical officer for
*'DoeB yonr loidahip wish me to accompany
yonf* asked Macbeth lespectfullyy at the carnage
''What do yon say, Doctor!" said Mr Brace.
''You know the son's state of mind. You thought
his arrest would do harm to the father 1 "
''Undoubtedly/' replied the doctor, a red-haired
Scotchman, rather brusque and energetic in his
speech, but thoroughly kind-hearted ; ^' it would kill
him off straight I must protest against it while there
is the least chance of life for the old man."
" But^" said Mr Bruce, slowly, " in a case of this
kind we must consider other peoplei The son aeems
to have been harmless enough hitherto; but when
he has made one savage assaidt of this nature, is
it not highly probable he will soon follow it by
"There is about one chance in a thousand," re-
turned the doctor. "I know the man very welL
I am satisfied it is not a case of brain disease at alL
His sister has complete control over him. The
assault was evidently from sudden irritation, as a
child will strike you in a fit of rage. I saw him
only an hour or so after — ^for they happened to hear
I was in the village, and sent for me — and he was
perfectly quiet, without the least trace of excitement
If you take Macbeth now to arrest him, you very
22 TALES FROM " BLACKWOOD.**
likely will throw him into a state of excitement
very difficult to control, and you most certainly will
hasten the father's death. He is greatly attached to
his son. He calls him * the boy/ though he must be
The fiscal had still to be convinced. " If he has
any sense, he will be aware from the fact of our
coming that his crime is of a very serious nature.
They may help him to escape if we delay the arrest,'*
''He has not sufficient sense for that^" replied
the doctor ; " as you will see at a glance. He had
no intention of injuring his father, and he did not
in the least realise the strength of the blow he
gave. I don't suppose he knows what a prison is,
and if he does he will never dream of being sent
there himself. Leave the constable here till we
come back, and then you can give what orders you
To these arguments they yielded; and ordering
Macbeth to await them at the inn when they returned,
they drove on to Ballendoun.
Willie and Kirsty were still in the back-kitchen,
the former hulking over the fire in comfortable con*
tentment, while Kirsty moved to and fro, washing
the dishes. Suddenly the sound of approaching
wheels on the rough farm-road broke the silence, and
Willie rose to look out " It's a cairriage 1 " he said,
gleefully — ''a twa-horsed oairnage, an' it's comin'
SUCH PITT AS A FATHEB HATH. SS
stnicht tae the hooee. I maun gang oot and see^**
and he huiried out bareheaded to the rou^^y paved
yard. Kinty's heart leapt to her mouth. Macbeth
had said the sheriff would come, but she had thought
not till the morrow, and now this must be he, for no
carriage but the doctor's gig ever came their way.
She stayed but one moment at the window to make
sure : the carriage rumbled over the rough bit of
causeway into the yard, and stopped Willie went
forward to meet it, the doctor's face appeared at the
window, and behind him she could discern other
She hastened to the parlour and knocked at the
door gently, then opened it a little way. ^' Could I
apeak wi' ye. Miss Grant! ''
^ Wheesht 1 come in," returned Meg, almost in a
whisper ; " I canna leave fader."
Eizsty stood hesitating. ''It's some one wantin'
" I think fader's sleepinV whispered Meg, " and I
canna move my airm oot Oh, dinna mak' a noise,
Kirsty, — ^the sleep'll dae him guid"
But her patient had heard
"Na," he said, "ye needna mind, for I wasna
aleepin', jist thinkin', thinkin'. Fat is't, Kirsty 1 "
"It's the doctor," said Kirsty, desperately, "an'
he's wantin' Miss Grant."
"Is there onybody wi' himt" asked the old man
in a hoarse voice.
14 TALES VROM «' BLAGEWOOD.'*
''I dinna ken fa it is," said poor Kiisty, afraid of
the effect of her news. '' It's a close cainiage, and I
cudna see richt"
" It 'ill be the shirra," said the old farmer, with
grim certainty. ''Thej maun think Pm gann tke
Meg gave a choking sound of despair, and Kirsty
put her apron to her eyes.
*' Dinna greet, Meg/' said her father, changing his
tone to cheer her. "I'll maybe cheat them yet"
Then, with greater energy and imperativeness than
he had yet shown, he gave orders to Kirsty. " Grae
ben and say she's comin', Kirsty, but we're no jist
ready to see them yet ; and see fat they'll tak," he
added, with strong hospitable instinct. "You gie
her the key, Meg." Meg obeyed mechanically.
"Bring oot the wine to them; and noo, mind,"
called the old man, as Eirsty hurried away, " they're
not to come or she comes for them."
" Meg," siiid her father, in a strange, dogged tone,
when they were left alone, " I heard a' that chatter-
ing body was sayin' to Eirsty at the door. I'm no
gaun to hae my son spoken o' that gait There was
nane o' ye saw hoo I cam by my fa', and Wullie sail
no be blamit for it I ken hoo tae tell what I hae
to teU — and gin you come in wi' them, ye maunna
Meg did not understand what he would be at, but
she signified assent, being afraid to vex him by any
8T7CH FITT AS A FATHER HATH. 25
question. He seemed greatly agitated, and bis hands
trembled. He watched her as she moved about tidy-
ing the room, but seemed satisfied with the readiness
to acquiesce in his wishes expressed in her face. She
smoothed the bedclothes over him, lit the other
candle, and placed both on the table, and stirred the
fire into greater brightness.
Sounds of heavy footsteps and voices echoed along
the stone passage. Meg paused, and looked round
the room. "Aro ye a' richt^ fader t" she asked.
'<ril bring ben the doctor first, wuU II"
" It disna maitter," said her father absently, ab-
sorbed in arranging his thoughts for the interview.
"Dinna be lang."
She left him, closing the door gently.
The little lobby was dark, but looking along to the
kitchen she saw Kirsty lighting the lamp^ and a man
bending over some papers at the table. The blood,
surging to her head, sang in her ears, and a deadly
faintness benumbed her thoughts: groping for the
wooden railing of the staircase, she sank on the
lowest step for a minute, to recover strongth. Her
heart throbbed as if it wero breaking. It could not
be that her father lay thero with no hope of life ;
that after this strange, swiftly-passing day, she would
hear his voice no more ; that these men had come to
take Willie to prison, to be accused of murder I Was
it she to whom all this had come t
'<0 Godl Oodl" she cried dumbly, rock-
98 TALES FROM ''BLACKWOOD."
ing henelf to and fro ; '' it canna be t it canna
A wail of one of the old Scotch psalms came to
her mind distraught with trouble : —
"Thy breaking wstw ptm otw me,
Yea, and Thy billowB alL"
The mournful old minor air to which she was accus-
tomed to sing the words sounded in her ears, and,
dwelling for an instant on the memories it recalled,
she had a little rest and lull of f oigetf ulness.
*' I should like to see Miss Grant now," she heard
the doctor's voice saying, ''before we go to her
Meg rose, and walked, as one in a dream, along
the dark passage. 8he entered the kitchen, which
seemed crowded. The grey-headed fiscal was talking
in a low voice to Kirsty. The clerk stood at the
table writing headings to some laige sheets of paper
unfolded before him. Dr Eraser greeted her sympa-
"Here is Miss Grant I hope your father has
passed a quiet dayt" he asked.
Mr Bruce came in from the courtyard, closely
followed by Willie, who had taken a fancy to him,
and was asking questions as to where they were
going, and how far they had come.
" There is the sheriff," said Dr Fraaer ; " he wishes
to see your father as soon as possible, Miss Grant.*'
8U0H FITT AS A VATHSR HATH. 27
The sheriff bowed oonrteonaly, and looked it her
with kindly pity. '< I un very sony to disturb Mr
Orant^" he said, ** but it is necessary to have his
eyidence, and we shall take it first Is he ready
to see US t"
Meg tried to answer, bat found she eonld not
speak. Her colourless face attracted the doctor^s
notice, and he pushed her on to a chair. ^'Yon
have overtaxed your strength, Miss Grant," he said ;
<< yon have had much to try yon, but for your father's
and every one's sake yon must keep np now.**
Kirsty had already set forth a bottle of wine and
biscuits, and offered them to the company. The
doctor forced Meg to take some wine. ** I shall go to
your father now," he said, '* and come back for you.
Don't be afraid ; we shall not make him speak mucL"
He disappeared, and when he returned to summon
them, Meg had gathered strength to go too. Willie
was following, but the fiscal stopped him. ^You
wait here, my man; we are coming back again to
talk to you." His hesitated, but a suggestion from
Kirsty that he might help to put up the horses
delighted him, and he hurried out at once.
The doctor led the way along the passage to the
parlour, and they entered in silence. Meg would
have moved forward the heavy horse-hair chairs which
stood against the wall, but the doctor forestalled her.
''We can do that," he said. ''Where will you sit
28 TALKS FROM "^ BLAOKWOOD."
She took her place near the head of the sofa, and
behind it^ within touch of her &ther. Mr Bnioe
drew in a chair in fronts the fiacal and doctor seated
themaelves on either side of the fire, while the derk
airranged his papers with fussy importance at the
table in the centre of the little room.
The candles shed a small circle of wavering light
on the table itself, but the rest of the parlour was
dark, except when a flicker of firelight lit up the
comers and shone on the picture-frames, or revealed
the pile of books above the tall chesV of drawers,
fianked by stuffed birds on little moss -covered
wooden stands. A piece of old-fashioned white net-
ting hung over the top of the drawers, and the
starched window-curtains were of white netting too,
and made glimmering points of light in the general
shadow. The faces of the silent group were all in
shadow except that of the old farmer, who lay looking
towards the fire, the white pillows throwing into
strong relief his weather-beaten, brown feature&
They had always, through a long and hard life, ex-
pressed strong self-reliance, and never more so than
now. There was great and simple dignity in his
manner as he briefly greeted Mr Bruce, and then
waited for him to speak.
*< I have called, Mr Orant," said the sheriff, *' to
receive your own account of the assault committed
this morning. Dr Fraser certifying on soul and con-
science that your injuries are of such a nature as
SUCQB FIT7 AS A. FATHER HATH. 29
to flndflnger your life, we think it advisable to obtain
jooi dedazatioii without delay."
The old man lay stUl, and looked at him in silence.
The solemnity of Mr Brace's tone and of the whole
proceeding gave Meg a strange f eeling, as if she were
present at some religious service.
** Yon understand the nature of an oath t**
The farmer signified assent
** I caution you, in taking this oath, to remember
your position as one, it may be, in prospect of death.
Bepeat after me, 'I swear by Almighty Qodj as I
shall answer to God at the great day of judgment^ I
will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but
Mr Grant slowly repeated the words.
"What is your age 1 "
" Seventy*four, last March."
"Now, will you tell me exactly what happened
this morning t"
The old farmer then gave his evidence in a slow
but dear voice. "We went oot tae wark at six
o'clock, or it micht be a few meenits afore it I led
oot the ae horse, an' Wullie was yokin' the ither. I
had a spade ower my left shouther, an' that micht hae
gien the horse a fricht^ I canna say, but it gied a
starts and I fell doun, an' I kent I was hurt some
wye wi' the spade." He paused, and added emphati-
cally, "There was naebody wi' me &n I felL"
His audience held their breath and looked at each
so TALES FBOM " BLACBHTOOD."
other, the story was so different from their expecta-
tion. The old man looked round at them, almost
defiantly, and went on in the same measured tone,
" There was naebody wi' me fan I fell, and naebody
The silence was only broken by the scratching
sound of the clerk's pen. Meg sat in a whirl of
bewilderment What did her father meant He
had told them, when they ran out to him, that Willie
had done it ; every one knew — ^Willie said so himself.
Mr Bruce spoke. "I have cautioned you, Mr
Grants to remember the solemn nature of your oath.
Do you, on oath, tell us there was no one with you,
that no one struck you 1 Are you sure of it f "
'^ I am sure no one struck me," said the old man,
doggedly ; *^ it was jist an accident."
" How do you explain your injury, then 1 " put in
" I canna explain it — it was jist an accident," ho
"You have told us," said Mr Bruce, "that your
son went out with you to work : where was he when
you fell r
" He was in the stable yokin' the ither horse."
" About how far from you ! "
" It micht be a maitter o' nine or ten yairds," said
the old man.
Again there was silence, and the clerk wrote down
8UCH FITT AS A FATUJS& HATH. 31
"Had you had any quarrel with your sont"
inqoired Mr Brace.
** Na, I neyer had ony quarrel wi' him that I min' o^''
'^Was he angry about anything, thent" asked the
'' He wasna jist yarra weel pleasit to gang oot sae
early; he said there was nae need for us to begin
suner than ithera''
'* And what did you say 1 "
" On, I said little ; I jist said we could stop the
saner at nicht"
** And did that make him angry t" asked Mr Brucei
** Oh, he wasna vana weel pleasit, but he was no to
" When did this conversation take place t "
" A wee whilie afore I got my fa*."
Dr Eraser had leant forward for some minutes
watching the old man's face, and he now whispered
to the fiscal, '* Ask him if he did not complain to any
one that his son had struck him."
The question was put
"Na," was the emphatic answer, "I never said
The doctor rose and stood by the sofa. " Do you
not remember," he asked in a very distinct voice,
** telling me, when I bound up your head this morn-
ing, that your son had struck you with a spade, but
you knew he had not meant any harm 1 "
A dight flicker of hesitation crossed the old man's
52 TALES FBOK ^BLACKWOOD*
face. Here was an easy way of escape from the diffi-
cult task he had set himself, and patting it in that
lights surely the law could not deal hardly with
Willie ; hut it was only for an instant he wavered.
He had made up his mind, and he would not changa
*^ Never 1" he answered, looking steadily up in the
doctor's &ce. '' Ye may hae heard some ither body
say so, but it wasna me. WuUie had nae hauv! in it^
that m sweer taa" Then he turned to his daughter,
— ** Gie me some watter, Meg ; I'm no weeL"
Meg hurried with trembling limbs to the back-
kitchen for the water. Willie and the driver sat
at the fire — the driver eyeing him with an air of dread
and distrust, only allayed by the peaceful presence of
Eirsty. Willie was full of clumsy friendliness in his
way, and was talking in a rambling fashion, quite
unconscious of the feelings he inspired. Kirsty fol-
lowed Meg back to the door.
''I wad gang to the coo," she said, "but thatdriver
body he's that feared, he winna bide alane wi' Wullie
— an' he's sae weet^ I cudna lat him stand oot-bye i'
the cauld. Wull it be lang or they gang, mem t "
''I dinna ken," said M^ distractedly. "Ye
maun jist dae the best ye can." And she returned
to the parlour Her father drank the water thirstily.
'<Eh, that's fine," he said.
Meanwhile Mr Bruce and the doctor had a hasty
consultation. "Do you think his mind is wander-
ingt" whispered the sbetift
fitrCB TTtt AS A tATHXB HATH. 33
«I think not| oertainly not : lie has some feveri
which may increase during the nighty bat he seems
perfectly sound at piesent It is an attempt to screen
the son/' Dr Eraser conduded, '*and he knew he was
telling me a lie just now."
The sheriff looked pozzled and thoughtful as he
returned to his seat by the sofa. The farmer turned