14 A SISTER TO ESAU.
hold so finely and quietly ordered. Her life was likely
to be methodical, but not devoid of interest. On the
previous evening there had been a quiet dinner party,
consisting of Judge Cardiff, and the Rev. Mr. Geddes,
and young Captain Ochiltree, and Dr. McManus, one
of the bright literary lights which illumined the pages
of Blackwood and the young reviews ; and after a
merry dinner they had gone to a military dance, given
by the commander of the castle troops.
To Scotia it had been a very grand and notable
affair ; and she had just spent a couple of hours writ
ing her father and mother an account of both dinner
and dance. She came into the room with the excite
ment of the memory in her glinting eyes and rosy face ;
and took the low chair opposite Lady Yarrow, which
a kindly glance indicated to her, and which placed
her within the direct observation of both Lady Yar
row and Ann.
" I like to see you, my dear. Where have you been
for the past three hours ? "
"Two hours, aunt. I was writing a letter to my
Father, and was telling him all about Mr. Geddes, and
the captain and the judge. It was quite a famous
party for a country girl, Aunt."
" Yes ; the Law and the Gospel, the Sword and the
Pen, crossed knives and forks together. What did
you think of the minister ? He is a descendant of
that Jenny Geddes who threw her cutty stool at the
English preacher's head, when he ' daured ' to read
prayers in a Scotch kirk. Poor Jenny believed read
ing prayers to be nothing less than popery."
" And plenty o' good people think wi' Jenny yet,
and are na that far wrang."
" Yet, Ann, if Jenny had only listened, instead of
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. 141
flying into a fishwife passion, she would have heard
one of the grandest collects in the English service."
" I ken naething o' col-lects," said Ann sourly.
" col-lects are na prayers, and folk hae little sense o'
true religion wha fling a col-lect in the face o' Al
" But a collect is a prayer, Ann."
" I'm doubting it, Miss Rodney. If it be a prayer,
why call it out o' its name ? "
" Ann," said Lady Yarrow, " Ann, do not be a
bigot. The collect Jenny Geddes got into a passion
anent, is one of the grandest prayers in the world ;
and if you will put down your needles, and listen in a
proper spirit, I will say it for you." She stood up
reverently as a little child, and while Scotia and Ann
sat with dropped eyes and still hands, she recited the
prayer which had once raised such a tumult in the
High Kirk of Edinburgh :
Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all
good things, graft in our hearts the love of Thy Name ; increase
in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of Thy great
mercy, keep us in the same, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
" You see," she added, as she resumed her seat,
and returned to her usual voice, " I learned it speci
ally to be ready for her reverend great-great-grand
son. He is very proud of his descent from the
outrageously bigoted old woman, and I was not going
to have Jenny Geddes pushed on my approbation. I
have had the collect ready for the minister for a year,
and he has not yet given me my chance. At the first
of our acquaintance, it was the blue and yellow
wisdom of the Reviews ; and now it is the Free Kirk,
and Dr. Chalmers, and again, the Free Kirk."
I4 2 A SISTER TO ESAU.
" He talked to you of nothing else, Aunt. I heard
him call Dr. Chalmers the Maccabeus of the Scottish
"Yes ; and he got up on his highest horse when I
said Chalmers was prelatic ; and would like nothing
better than to make the world over, after the dispen
sation by Chalmers."
" I have no doubt that Chalmers is a wonderful
orator, and I want to hear him preach. I tried to
listen to what Mr. Geddes was telling you about some
lecture at the university, but I failed to understand.
Captain Ochiltree was describing a garrison festivity
at the same time."
" He was telling me that Dr. Chalmers was lectur
ing on the impossibility of order arising out of chaos,
without the agency of an intelligent Creator ; and he
said, by degrees, not merely the front rows, but the
whole class, rose to their feet as he spoke. Certainly
a wonderful evidence of his power, for if there is an
obstreperous, contumacious, dogged, pragmatical,
opinionative, pertinacious, headstrong, unpolished,
Vandalic, Hunnish, impertinent set of youths, it is an
Edinburgh College class, freshman or sophomore.
However, if they have the faults, they have also the
excellencies of their race ; though they cannot be
ordered or coaxed, they can be reasoned with. A
close logician, a fine orator, makes them as dumb
beasts before him, and anon, he turns them into
" Have you ever heard him speak, Aunt?"
" Once, on ' The Freedom of the Will ' or rather
on its bondage ; for he believes in absolute predesti
nation. He did not move me an inch, for when the
freedom of our will is disproved, then responsibility
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. M3
and future retribution, are also disproved. Tut, tut !
I never yet did wrong, I could not have done right."
" Such points are aboon our wit or wisdom, Lady
Jemima ; we shall hae to wait to another life to hae
" Ann, we do not solve great questions by adjourn
ing them to another life. The Freedom of the Will
is a question of tremendous interest for this life."
Then she said suddenly to Scotia, " My dear, you
have a minister at Rodney Law, I suppose ? "
"Oh, yes ! A very good one." She blushed from
her temples to her ringer tips, and let her thimble
fall, and stooped to look for it, and thus gave Lady
Yarrow and Ann time to exchange an intelligent com
ment on her behavior.
" You have the Free Kirk controversy also,
" Every one has it. Our minister is very decidedly
in favor of a Free Kirk."
" You have not told me anything about your minis
ter. What kind of a man is he ? "
" A very good man."
" Young ? "
"Do you like him?"
" Every one likes him except cousin Blair Rodney.
Blair is in favor of State patronage."
" I wish you would tell me something definite about
the man I mean the minister. As to his appear
ance, now ? "
Scotia dropped her work, and seemed to be men
tally regarding her subject. " He is about twenty-six
144 A SISTER TO ESAU.
years old perhaps more. He has a noble counte
nance, fashioned so by a noble soul ; and when great
words fall from his lips, they flash across his face also.
Father admires him very much, and is always glad to
be in his company."
" And I dare say he is generally respected ? "
" The kirk is now crowded, every service. Mr.
Laing used to preach to about forty of our shepherds
and tenants. Many who are opposed to Mr. Bruce's
views on church government, go gladly to hear him
preach. Some come from a great distance. He is
quite a famous man in our boundaries."
" Can you tell me anything about his sermons ?
What makes them so popular ? "
" He is so much in earnest, so solemnly in earnest
so terribly, so Calvinistically in earnest, that you feel
he believes that it is either heaven or hell for every
one present. His words find you out, and they are
words that burn themselves into the memory. Even
Adam Cowrie, who has his doubts about every Chris
tian man and woman living, admits Mr. Bruce's spirit
uality and orthodoxy."
" He is called Bruce."
" Yes. Angus Bruce."
Her face was vivid again, her needle shook, she felt
her aunt's eyes were upon her, and she made a great
effort to appear indifferent to Angus Bruce, as she
forced herself to continue :
" He is very cheerful, as a rule, though sometimes
melancholy. He dresses handsomely, and has the
finest manners imaginable ; as grand a man alto
gether, Aunt, as is between Edinburgh and wherever
" Married ? "
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES, 145
" No ; nor, I think, like to be. An old man and
woman take care of the manse, but it is a cold, deso
late house, and he must miss many a comfort."
" Does he ever come to Edinburgh ? "
" Well, my dear, I have no doubt he is all you say
an apostle in the gown and bands of the nineteenth
century. Rank exists in the moral, as well as in the
social world. This Angus Bruce must be a spiritual
prince, and I am glad such a fine fellow is not care
less about his dress, which is one of the deadly sins,
my dear, among respectable people. And I am glad
he has the courage of his own opinions. There is a
little Englishman who visits me sometimes one of
those clergymen whom Jenny Geddes waged war on
and he makes me long to be a radical, he is so mon
strously conservative. He has swallowed all the
thirty-nine articles, and would have done so had there
been thirty times as many. At present he has some
project for converting the Jews ; I should like to tell
you what Ann said to him."
" I should like to hear what she said, Aunt."
" He talked a long while, and Ann listened very
doucely till he had finished ; then she said, ' Mr.
Sandford, I'm no clear that we should hurry Provi
dence after any sic fashion. When the Jews are con
verted, the world is to come to an end ; and bad as it
is, I'm no carin" to hae the catastrophe in my day.*
That settled the young priest, and he took his tea and
muffin to more wise-like talk. Now, my dear, what
kind of people does this Mr. Bruce preach to ? Are
his congregation able to appreciate the blessing that
has fallen to their lot ?"
" There are some families of wealth and cultiva-
146 A SISTER TO ESAU.
tion, but the majority of the listeners are shepherds
" Dear me ! "
" But Aunt, it is the shepherds and fishers who
really appreciate a fine sermon best. No milk for
babes for them. They must have the strong meat of
The Word. If Mr. Bruce should drop a link in John
Calvin's close-wedged creed, they would take him to
task about it without scruple especially the fishermen,
who, generally speaking, know the 'Institutes' as well
as they know their own fishing nets."
Then the conversation turned upon the fishing vil
lage and its inhabitants, and on this subject Ann was
singularly interested. " I was born at the seaside,"
she said, after a long conversation, " and whiles I get
land-sick, and hae to go down to the flats near the
tide water, and hear the plovers wailing, and the
shore-larks calling sadly, through the long wet days,
it is a home call to me. I never think it melancholy.
Only last night I stood by the open window, and
minded myself o' the clear frosty nights, when the
boats were like ghosts on the water, and the night was
thick wi' stars, and the long flights o' ducks and geese
went rustling through the frosty air."
" You make me shiver, Ann. Let us have a little
supper, and we will go to sleep and dream of the sea.
It is wonderful how often people do dream of it even
those who never saw it."
But Lady Yarrow did not attempt to go to sleep when
she had dismissed her niece and her friend. She sat
some time thinking, and then went to a desk and wrote
the following message to her lawyer :
Sir: I will have you write at once to the Rev. Angus Bruce,
as I now direct. Say thus, and so the friend who has cared for
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. 147
you all your life, wishes to know how you stand by the kirk of
Scotland, in this, her hour of tribulation ? If all forsake her, are
you faithful ? Are you a follower of John Knox or of Dr. Chal
mers ? Tell him distinct and plain, if he stands by the kirk his
friend will see that he has quick and great advancement in the
kirk ; and that all his future will be placed beyond worldly care.
Tell him just as distinctly, if he deserts the kirk for Dr. Chalmers,
he must look for his bite and sup, his place and portion from Dr.
Chalmers. And you'll give him three days to think over what is
said, and so make his election sure and final.
This letter, written with all the particularity of its
instructions, reached Angus Bruce one evening just
as he was leaving the manse for Rodney House. It
was like a thunder-bolt. He stood some minutes
looking at it, with a face full of indeterminate anxiety
and strange trouble. Slowly he removed his hat and
coat ; then he locked the door of the room, and plac
ing the letter before him, began to consider its
The consideration forced him backward, and com
pelled him to recall the days of his life a retrospect
full of mystery and of unsatisfied longing and curi
osity. His first distinct memory was of the large
school, where he had spent, not unhappily, the second
seven years of his existence. All was clear enough
about those years. He still wrote to his old master ;
in some respects, he remembered this school as other
boys remember their home.
It was the first seven years of his life, which were
like a vaguely splendid drama, the scenes of which
were laid in three different houses. Best of all, he
remembered one house standing in the middle of what
his childish memory had imagined an endless garden.
In his dreams he still wandered there, though never
as a boy, because it is not given to man or woman to
148 A SISTER TO ESAU.
be young again, even in dreams. The great brown
house, with its lofty rooms, and wide halls, and queer
furniture, was yet so real to him that he drew them
on the paper by his side, as he recalled their peculiari
There were two other houses, but they were far
less real ; houses among a great many other houses ;
vast, gloomy, looming through the mists of memory,
like Arabian dreams ; full of uncertain sounds, and
gleaming lights, and the passing of splendidly dressed
men and women ; whom he watched surreptitiously
from some unsuspected hiding place. And from all
the dramatis persona connected with these three
dwellings, only two had any individuality to him.
Both were women. At the feet of one he used to
play. Her splendor and authority affected him yet ;
he was sensitive to a kind of " hush " that fell upon
his spirit whenever he recalled her stately beauty.
The other woman had carried him in her arms, and
held him upon her knees. He still felt her warm
kisses, and awoke from dreams of her, expecting to
see her face smiling above his face, and to feel her
lips upon his lips.
All these things were still vivid in his remembrance ;
they had once been more so. What did they mean ?
Was there any reason why his birth should be hid
den ? For a moment a shameful doubt and fear
came into his heart. Was he the illegitimate child of
some noble family ? He put the thought angrily
away. It was impossible ! There had been a law in
Scotland forbidding such unfortunate children to
enter the ministry; and whether the law had been re
pealed or not, he was sure that the popular feeling on
this subject would have prevented his dedication to
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. 149
holy office. Besides, what son will permit himself to
doubt his mother, even though she be unknown to
him ! Angus Bruce was at that moment ready to de
fend his mother, even against the unbidden sugges
tions of his perplexed imaginations.
Who, then, was the person who had the right to
question his opinions, and the power to advance him
to wealth, or leave him to the fate which freedom of
thought and action might bring him ? As for the
question which was to decide that fate, it was already
answered. Future advancement, or certain wealth,
could not possibly alter the decision he had already
made. The Kirk was right. The State was wrong.
He was on the side of the Kirk, whatever the result
At this point he remembered Scotia. Rapid ad
vancement and a certain income meant a speedy
realization of all his dreams of married bliss. He
drew his brows together, as a man may do for a pass
ing pain ; but the next moment he had put the temp
tation behind him. " No ; not even for Scotia will I
deny the truth that is in me ! Nor would Scotia de
sire me to do it. I know the integrity of her noble
heart. And as for man's promise or man's threats, I
will neither regard nor fear it. Right is right.
Right, whatever befall, and my conscience must be
satisfied, though my heart go hungry, even to the
He put the letter in his pocket and walked rapidly
to Rodney House. They were discussing Scotia's let
ter when he arrived. And there had also been one
from Lady Yarrow, expressing her delight in Scotia's
society. " She is altogether charming, and after I
have shown the civil and military lords of Edinburgh
ISO A SISTER TO ESAU.
what a Fife beauty is, I am going to take her to
Court, and fill the Court with envy and admiration."
The Colonel was quite excited over his favorite's
success and happiness, and Mrs. Rodney looked at
her sister's letter with a new-found pleasure. As for
Bruce, he could easily imagine his love in that robe
of white tulle and silver stars. He could place her
upon the arm of some handsome officer in splendid
tartans, and estimate the temptations to which she
was exposed. He believed that her love for him
would preserve her spotless from all taint of pride, or
vanity, or fashion ; but yet, he would have been glad
if she had not been led into such great temptation.
On the whole, the news he heard did not make easier
the decision forced upon him. Such experiences of
life were not the fit preparation for the wife of a
minister of the Gospel. Might he not lawfully put
aside the public question for the private one ? The
honor of the kirk for the spiritual good of the woman
who was to be his wife ? He did not give a moment's
place to such appeals, but the keen heart conflict af
fected him socially ; he could not sympathize so
cordially with the Colonel's moods, and the visit was
so constrained that he left very early.
" Mr. Bruce did not like to hear of Scotia's going
out so much into the world. I could see how annoyed
he was, at the mention of Castle balls, and Court balls,
and such grand festivities ! " said Bertha.
" The minister was bored to death with conversation
so far away from his own interests. He simply cannot
conceive of people caring for any subject not con
nected with Dr. Chalmers and the Free Kirk."
"You are mistaken, Father. He was dreadfully
annoyed about Scotia."
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. 151
" What has the minister to do with your sister's
affairs ? "
" Perhaps more than you imagine. I think he is in
love with Scotia."
" Bertha, you have one idea at present, that is love.
Do not think that every man in the world is in the
condition of Blair. Mr. Bruce is too much occupied
with the concerns of the kirk, to give any attention to
young girls. I do not suppose he sees them."
The Colonel spoke with great irritation, and to pre
vent further discussion of the subject, rang the bell
for the Exercise.
In spite of Scotia's and Lady Yarrow's letters, the
atmosphere of the house was restless and unhappy.
For as one note out of tune in a key-board can fret
the whole music played on it, so, also, can one heart
out of sympathy in a household fret the whole happi
ness to discord. And Bertha had divined the minis
ter's disapproval by her own envious pain ; her jeal
ousy of Scotia's success and happiness, having some
kinship with the natural jealousy of a lover, who knows
others are basking in the light he is shut away from.
She called her mother to her room, and did not
scruple to express her sense of disappointment and
loss. " Scotia is having so many fine chances. Dear
mother, why did you not think of Aunt Yarrow for
me ? "
" Bertha, your envious temper makes me angry.
You said you wished to marry Blair, and be Mistress
of Rodney. I told you how to accomplish that des
tiny the way was through your sister's heart. You
took it, and reached your desire. Hitherto you have
been satisfied with it, are you sorry because your
sister is happy ?"
15 2 A SISTER TO ESAU.
" You never told me about my Aunt Yarrow until
I had chosen Blair. And Scotia did not give up any-
thing for me. Blair had chosen me when I spoke to
" Blair asked Scotia to marry him, before he asked
you. Scotia refused him for your sake."
" Mother, it is too bad to say such cruel things.
Every one knows Blair fell in love with me the first
hour he came to Rodney."
" You have told every one so."
" Well then, if Blair asked Scotia first, he can marry
Scotia. I will not marry him."
" Do as you wish, my dear."
" Mother, how can you be so unkind ? "
" Bertha, how can you be so selfish and ungenerous ?
To sympathize in Scotia's pleasure is not to lessen
your own. To care only for yourself is to care for a
very mean person. Go away now, and consider your
own heart ; I am tired. I will talk no more to-night."
During this conversation the minister was walking
rapidly through the park. His feeling on leaving the
unaccordant company was one of mental nausea. But
the mere exchanging of the light and warmth of
human life for the cool spaces of the night and the
solemn company of the stars, made him at once a
citizen of a different world, and inverted in a step his
relationships. All that was spiritual in his nature
became dominant. The sober realm of the leafless
trees was full of soft mysterious sounds, that fell as
gently on'his troubled heart as tired eyelids fall upon
He really had no doubts about Scotia. He judged
her as incapable of deceiving him as he was of deceiv
ing her. The vague restlessness of his heart arose
ANGUS BRUCE DECIDES. I$3
from the change in his circumstances. He knew that
one change often brings others, and he peered vainly
into the future to see where change might become
When he came to the little gate that opened into
the kirk-yard he paused a moment, and then passed
through it. On the bare white flags he set his feet
gladly, their clean solidity, in place of the soft muddy
roadside, suited the decided tenor of his thoughts.
He looked up at the plain, granite kirk, devoid of all
material beauty, and with spiritual love clasped it to
his heart. Alone, amid the dead, through storm and
darkness, the building had stood for centuries ; a
sacred symbol of that living church which was the
Bride of Christ.
Would he put king or kaiser, queen or woman,
above Christ in his own church ? He would die joy
fully rather than do it. Gold and advancement, love
and marriage, Scotia and home, these were fair offers ;
but he would not market celestial rights with merchant
measure for them. If he did so, he might indeed live in
fatted comfort, and slide into a cushioned grave, but
what of the after-reckoning ! He could not pay it with
an eternity of remorse.
Nor would he wrong the martyrs whose blood had
glued the sacred stones of his stout mother-kirk.
Walter Myln, Patrick Hamilton, Rullion Green, the
many-wandering Veitch, and all the Covenanting
men-of-war, they called to him out of the past, and
he answered them. And as he did so, he lifted
his pale, rapt face to the lonely, solemn building
a face full of devotion and strength. Then he
breathed with a more ample breath, he looked for
ward with a bolder scope, and without further parley
154 A SISTER TO ESAU.
with himself, walked with firm and rapid step through
sodden turf, and miry road, straight to his manse and
his study. It was now easy to answer the letter which
had at first confounded him, and he took his pen and
Sir : I do not require three "days to consider your letter. I
should be a poor son of Scotland, and a poor son of her noble
kirk, if I was still considering a subject that has stirred every heart
from Shetland to Galloway for weeks and months. I believe the
Kirk of Scotland to be absolutely right in asserting that she can
have no superior in things spiritual, but the Lord Christ. Scots
men will not have their kirk a hanger-on to the State, bound to
her by a golden link, a paltry regiutn donum. Truth is a danger
ous thing to say, but when God lends it a voice, it flies from heart
to heart like fire. The State will find this fire unquenchable !
Say to the friend who has so nobly cared for me all my life, that
I regret he thinks not with me that I love and honor him for the
kindness, wisdom, and generosity which has guided and sheltered
my childhood, youth, and manhood. Whatever tie of kinship or
friendship binds us, he may now lawfully throw off its obligations.
My gratitude is for benefits extending through life and into eter
nity ; it must therefore have a duration equal to its claim. And
this is my sincere and final answer to your communication.