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Scottish Sketches


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Crawford's Sair Strait.



Alexander Crawford sat reading a book which he studied frequently with
a profound interest. Not the Bible: that volume had indeed its place
of honor in the room, but the book Crawford read was a smaller one; it
was stoutly bound and secured by a brass lock, and it was all in
manuscript. It was his private ledger, and it contained his bank
account. Its contents seemed to give him much solid satisfaction; and
when at last he locked the volume and replaced it in his secretary, it
was with that careful respect which he considered due to the
representative of so many thousand pounds.

He was in a placid mood, and strangely inclined to retrospection.
Thoughtfully fingering the key which locked up the record of his
wealth, he walked to the window and looked out. It was a dreary
prospect of brown moor and gray sea, but Crawford loved it. The bare
land and the barren mountains was the country of the Crawfords. He had
a fixed idea that it always had been theirs, and whenever he told
himself - as he did this night - that so many acres of old Scotland were
actually his own, he was aggressively a Scotchman.

"It is a bonnie bit o' land," he murmured, "and I hae done as my
father Laird Archibald told me. If we should meet in another warld
I'll be able to gie a good account o' Crawford and Traquare. It is
thirty years to-night since he gave me the ring off his finger, and
said, 'Alexander, I am going the way o' all flesh; be a good man, and
_grip tight_.' I hae done as he bid me; there is £80,000 in the
Bank o' Scotland, and every mortgage lifted. I am vera weel pleased
wi' mysel' to-night. I hae been a good holder o' Crawford and

His self-complacent reflections were cut short by the entrance of his
daughter. She stood beside him, and laid her hand upon his arm with a
caressing gesture. No other living creature durst have taken that
liberty with him; but to Crawford his daughter Helen was a being apart
from common humanity. She was small, but very lovely, with something
almost Puritanical in her dainty, precise dress and carefully snooded
golden hair.


"Helen, my bird."

"Colin is coming home. I have just had a letter from him. He has taken
high honors in Glasgow. We'll both be proud of Colin, father."

"What has he done?"

"He has written a prize poem in Latin and Greek, and he is second in

"Latin and Greek! Poor ghostlike languages that hae put off flesh and
blood lang syne. Poetry! Warse than nonsense! David and Solomon hae
gien us such sacred poetry as is good and necessary; and for sinfu'
love verses and such vanities, if Scotland must hae them, Robert Burns
is mair than enough. As to mathematics, there's naething against them.
A study that is founded on figures is to be depended upon; it has nae
flights and fancies. You ken what you are doing wi' figures. When is
this clever fellow to be here?"

"He is coming by the afternoon packet to-morrow. We must send the
carriage to meet it, for Colin is bringing a stranger with him. I came
to ask you if I must have the best guest-room made ready."

"Wha for?"

"He is an English gentleman, from London, father."

"And you would put an Englishman in the room where the twa last
Stuarts slept? I'll not hear tell o' it. I'm not the man to lift a
quarrel my fathers dropped, but I'll hae no English body in Prince
Charlie's room. Mind that, noo! What is the man's name?"

"Mr. George Selwyn."

"George Selwyn! There's nae Scotch Selwyns that I ken o'. He'll be
Saxon altogether. Put him in the East room."

Crawford was not pleased at his son bringing any visitor. In the first
place, he had important plans to discuss and carry out, and he was
impatient of further delay. In the second, he was intensely jealous of
Helen. Every young man was a probable suitor, and he had quite decided
that Farquharson of Blair was the proper husband for her. Crawford and
Blair had stood shoulder to shoulder in every national quarrel, and a
marriage would put the two estates almost in a ring fence.

But he went the next day to meet the young men. He had not seen his
son for three years, and the lad was an object very near and dear to
his heart. He loved him tenderly as his son, he respected him highly
as the future heir of Crawford and Traquare. The Crawfords were a very
handsome race; he was anxious that this, their thirteenth
representative, should be worthy, even physically, of his ancestors.
He drew a long sigh of gratification as young Colin, with open hands,
came up to him. The future laird was a noble-looking fellow, a dark,
swarthy Highlandman, with glowing eyes, and a frame which promised in
a few years to fill up splendidly.

His companion was singularly unlike him. Old Crawford had judged
rightly. He was a pure Saxon, and showed it in his clear, fresh
complexion, pale brown hair, and clear, wide-open blue eyes. But there
was something about this young man which struck a deeper and wider
sympathy than race - he had a heart beating for all humanity. Crawford
looked at him physically only, and he decided at once, "There is no
fear of Helen." He told himself that young Farquharson was six inches
taller and every way a far "prettier man." Helen was not of this
opinion. No hero is so fascinating to a woman as the man mentally and
spiritually above her, and whom she must love from a distance; and if
Crawford could have known how dangerous were those walks over the
springy heather and through the still pine woods, Mr. Selwyn would
have taken them far more frequently alone than he did.

But Crawford had other things to employ his attention at that time,
and indeed the young English clergyman was far beyond his mental and
spiritual horizon; he could not judge him fairly. So these young
people walked and rode and sailed together, and Selwyn talked like an
apostle of the wrongs that were to be righted and the poor perishing
souls that were to be redeemed. The spiritual warfare in which he was
enlisted had taken possession of him, and he spoke with the martial
enthusiasm of a young soldier buckling on his armor.

Helen and Colin listened in glowing silence, Helen showing her
sympathy by her flushing cheeks and wet eyes, and Colin by the
impatient way in which he struck down with his stick the thistles by
the path side, as if they were the demons of sin and ignorance and
dirt Selwyn was warring against. But after three weeks of this
intercourse Crawford became sensible of some change in the atmosphere
of his home. When Selwyn first arrived, and Crawford learned that he
was a clergyman in orders, he had, out of respect to the office,
delegated to him the conduct of family worship. Gradually Selwyn had
begun to illustrate the gospel text with short, earnest remarks, which
were a revelation of Bible truth to the thoughtful men and women who
heard them.

The laird's "exercises" had often been slipped away from, excuses had
been frequent, absentees usual; but they came to listen to Selwyn with
an eagerness which irritated him. In our day, the gospel of Christ has
brought forth its last beautiful blossom - the gospel of humanity. Free
schools, free Bibles, Tract and City Missions, Hospitals and Clothing
Societies, loving helps of all kinds are a part of every church
organization. But in the time of which I am writing they were unknown
in country parishes, they struggled even in great cities for a feeble

The laird and his servants heard some startling truths, and the laird
began to rebel against them. A religion of intellectual faith, and
which had certain well-recognized claims on his pocket, he was willing
to support, and to defend, if need were; but he considered one which
made him on every hand his brother's keeper a dangerously democratic

"I'll hae no socialism in my religion, any more than I'll hae it in my
politics, Colin," he said angrily. "And if yon Mr. Selwyn belongs to
what they call the Church o' England, I'm mair set up than ever wi'
the Kirk o' Scotland! God bless her!"

They were sitting in the room sacred to business and to the memory of
the late Laird Archibald. Colin was accustomed to receive his father's
opinions in silence, and he made no answer to this remark. This time,
however, the laird was not satisfied with the presumed assent of
silence; he asked sharply, "What say ye to that, son Colin?"

"I say God bless the Kirk of Scotland, father, and I say it the more
heartily because I would like to have a place among those who serve

"What are ye saying now?"

"That I should like to be a minister. I suppose you have no

"I hae vera great objections. I'll no hear tell o' such a thing.
Ministers canna mak money, and they canna save it. If you should mak
it, that would be an offence to your congregation; if ye should save
it, they would say ye ought to hae gien it to the poor. There will be
nae Dominie Crawford o' my kin, Colin. Will naething but looking down
on the warld from a pulpit sarve you?"

"I like art, father. I can paint a little, and I love music."

"Art! Painting! Music! Is the lad gane daft? God has gien to some men
wisdom and understanding, to ithers the art o' playing on the fiddle
and painting pictures. There shall be no painting, fiddling Crawford
among my kin, Colin."

The young fellow bit his lip, and his eyes flashed dangerously beneath
their dropped lids. But he said calmly enough,

"What is your own idea, father? I am twenty-two, I ought to be doing a
man's work of some kind."

"Just sae. That is warld-like talk. Now I'll speak wi' you anent a
grand plan I hae had for a long time." With these words he rose, and
took from his secretary a piece of parchment containing the plan of
the estate. "Sit down, son Colin, and I'll show you your inheritance."
Then he went carefully over every acre of moor and wood, of moss and
water, growing enthusiastic as he pointed out how many sheep could be
grazed on the hills, what shooting and fishing privileges were worth,
etc. "And the best is to come, my lad. There is coal on the estate,
and I am going to open it up, for I hae the ready siller to do it."

Colin sat silent; his cold, dissenting air irritated the excited laird
very much.

"What hae ye got to say to a' this, Colin?" he asked proudly, "for
you'll hae the management o' everything with me. Why, my dear son, if
a' goes weel - and it's sure to - we'll be rich enough in a few years to
put in our claim for the old Earldom o' Crawford, and you may tak your
seat in the House o' Peers yet. The old chevalier promised us a
Dukedom," he said sadly, "but I'm feared that will be aboon our
thumb - "

"Father, what are you going to do with the clansmen? Do you think
Highlandmen who have lived on the mountains are going to dig coal? Do
you imagine that these men, who, until a generation or two ago, never
handled anything but a claymore, and who even now scorn to do aught
but stalk deer or spear salmon, will take a shovel and a pickaxe and
labor as coal-miners? There is not a Crawford among them who would do
it. I would despise him if he did."

"There is a glimmer o' good sense in what you say, Colin. I dinna
intend any Crawford to work in my coal mine. Little use they would be
there. I'll send to Glasgow for some Irish bodies."

"And then you will have more fighting than working on the place; and
you'll have to build a Roman-catholic chapel, and have a Roman priest
in Crawford, and you ken whether the Crawfords will thole _that_ or

"As to the fighting, I'll gie them no chance. I'm going to send the
Crawfords to Canada. I hae thought it all out. The sheilings will do
for the others; the land I want for sheep grazing. They are doing
naething for themsel's, and they are just a burden to me. It will be
better for them to gang to Canada. I'll pay their passage, and I'll
gie them a few pounds each to start them. You must stand by me in this
matter, for they'll hae to go sooner or later."

"That is a thing I cannot do, father. There is not a Laird of Crawford
that was not nursed on some clanswoman's breast. We are all kin. Do
you think I would like to see Rory and Jean Crawford packed off to
Canada? And there is young Hector, my foster-brother! And old Ailsa,
your own foster-sister! Every Crawford has a right to a bite and a sup
from the Crawford land."

"That is a' bygane nonsense. Your great-grandfather, if he wanted
cattle or meal, could just take the clan and go and harry some
Southern body out o' them. That is beyond our power, and it's an unca
charge to hae every Crawford looking to you when hunting and fishing
fails. They'll do fine in Canada. There is grand hunting, and if they
want fighting, doubtless there will be Indians. They will hae to go,
and you will hae to stand by me in this matter."

"It is against my conscience, sir. I had also plans about these poor,
half-civilized, loving kinsmen of ours. You should hear Selwyn talk of
what we might do with them. There is land enough to give all who want
it a few acres, and the rest could be set up with boats and nets as
fishers. They would like that."

"Nae doubt. But I don't like it, and I wont hae it. Mr. Selwyn may hae
a big parish in London, but the Crawfords arena in his congregation. I
am king and bishop within my ain estate, Colin." Then he rose in a
decided passion and locked up again the precious parchment, and Colin
understood that, for the present, the subject was dismissed.


At the very time this conversation was in progress, one strangely
dissimilar was being carried on between George Selwyn and Helen
Crawford. They were sitting in the sweet, old-fashioned garden and
Selwyn had been talking of the work so dear to his heart, but a
silence had fallen between them. Then softly and almost hesitatingly
Helen said "Mr. Selwyn, I cannot help in this grand evangel, except
with money and prayers. May I offer you £300? It is entirely my own,
and it lies useless in my desk. Will you take it?"

"I have no power to refuse it. 'You give it to God, durst I say no?'
But as I do not return at once, you had better send it in a check to
our treasurer." Then he gave her the necessary business directions,
and was writing the address of the treasurer when the laird stopped in
front of them.

"Helen, you are needed in the house," he said abruptly; and then
turning to Selwyn, he asked him to take a walk up the hill. The young
man complied. He was quite unconscious of the anger in the tone of the
request. For a few yards neither spoke; then the laird, with an
irritable glance at his placid companion, said, "Mr. Selwyn,
fore-speaking saves after-speaking. Helen Crawford is bespoke for
young Farquharson of Blair, and if you have any hopes o' wiving in my
house - "

"Crawford, thank you for your warning, but I have no thoughts of
marrying any one. Helen Crawford is a pearl among women; but even if I
wanted a wife, she is unfit for my helpmate. When I took my curacy in
the East End of London I counted the cost. Not for the fairest of the
daughters of men would I desert my first love - the Christ-work to
which I have solemnly dedicated my life."

His voice fell almost to a whisper, but the outward, upward glance of
the inspired eyes completely disconcerted the aggressive old
chieftain. His supposed enemy, in some intangible way, had escaped
him, and he felt keenly his own mistake. He was glad to see Colin
coming; it gave him an opportunity of escaping honorably from a
conversation which had been very humiliating to him. He had a habit
when annoyed of seeking the sea-beach. The chafing, complaining waves
suited his fretful mood, and leaving the young men, he turned to the
sea, taking the hillside with such mighty strides that Selwyn watched
him with admiration and astonishment.

"Four miles of that walking will bring him home in the most amiable of
moods," said Colin. And perhaps it would, if he had been left to the
sole companionship of nature. But when he was half way home he met
Dominie Tallisker, a man of as lofty a spirit as any Crawford who ever
lived. The two men were close friends, though they seldom met without
disagreeing on some point.

"Weel met, dominie! Are you going to the Keep?"

"Just so, I am for an hour's talk wi' that fine young English
clergyman you hae staying wi' you."

"Tallisker, let me tell you, man, you hae been seen o'er much wi' him
lately. Why, dominie! he is an Episcopal, and an Arminian o' the vera
warst kind."

"Hout, laird! Arminianism isna a contagious disease. I'll no mair tak
Arminianism from the Rev. George Selwyn than I'll tak Toryism fra
Laird Alexander Crawford. My theology and my politics are far beyond
inoculation. Let me tell you that, laird."

"Hae ye gotten an argument up wi' him, Tallisker? I would like weel to
hear ye twa at it."

"Na, na; he isna one o' them that argues. He maks downright
assertions; every one o' them hits a body's conscience like a
sledge-hammer. He said that to me as we walked the moor last night
that didna let me sleep a wink."

"He is a vera disagreeable young man. What could he say to you? You
have aye done your duty."

"I thought sae once, Crawford. I taught the bairns their catechism; I
looked weel to the spiritual life o' young and old; I had aye a word
in season for all. But maybe this I ought to hae done, and not left
the other undone."

"You are talking foolishness, Tallisker, and that's a thing no usual
wi' you."

"No oftener wi' me nor other folk. But, laird, I feel there must be a
change. I hae gotten my orders, and I am going to obey them. You may
be certain o' that."

"I didna think I would ever see Dominie Tallisker taking orders from a
disciple o' Arminius - and an Englishman forbye!"

"I'll tak my orders, Crawford, from any messenger the Lord chooses to
send them by. And I'll do this messenger justice; he laid down no law
to me, he only spak o' the duty laid on his own conscience; but my
conscience said 'Amen' to his - that's about it. There has been a
breath o' the Holy Ghost through the Church o' England lately, and the
dry bones o' its ceremonials are being clothed upon wi' a new and
wonderfu' life."

"Humff!" said the laird with a scornful laugh as he kicked a pebble
out of his way.

"There is a great outpouring at Oxford among the young men, and though
I dinna agree wi' them in a' things, I can see that they hae gotten a

"Ou, ay, the young ken a' things. It is aye young men that are for
turning the warld upside down. Naething is good enough for them."

The dominie took no notice of the petulant interruption. "Laird," he
said excitedly, "it is like a fresh Epiphany, what this young Mr.
Selwyn says - the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the prisoners
comforted, the puir wee, ragged, ignorant bairns gathered into homes
and schools, and it is the gospel wi' bread and meat and shelter and
schooling in its hand. That was Christ's ain way, you'll admit that.
And while he was talking, my heart burned, and I bethought me of a
night-school for the little herd laddies and lasses. They could study
their lessons on the hillside all day, and I'll gather them for an
hour at night, and gie them a basin o' porridge and milk after their
lessons. And we ought not to send the orphan weans o' the kirk to the
warkhouse; we ought to hae a hame for them, and our sick ought to be
better looked to. There is many another good thing to do, but we'll
begin wi' these, and the rest will follow."

The laird had listened thus far in speechless indignation. He now
stood still, and said,

"I'll hae you to understand, Dominie Tallisker, that I am laird o'
Crawford and Traquare, and I'll hae nae such pliskies played in either
o' my clachans."

"If you are laird, I am dominie. You ken me weel enough to be sure if
this thing is a matter o' conscience to me, neither king nor kaiser
can stop me. I'd snap my fingers in King George's face if he bid me
'stay,' when my conscience said 'go,'" and the dominie accompanied the
threat with that sharp, resonant fillip of the fingers that is a
Scotchman's natural expression of intense excitement of any kind.

"King George!" cried the laird, in an ungovernable temper, "there is
the whole trouble. If we had only a Charles Stuart on the throne there
would be nane o' this Whiggery."

"There would be in its place masses, and popish priests, and a few
private torture-chambers, and whiles a Presbyterian heretic or twa
burned at the Grass-market. Whiggery is a grand thing when it keeps
the Scarlet Woman on her ain seven hills. Scotland's hills and braes
can do weel, weel without her."

This speech gave the laird time to think. It would never do to quarrel
with Tallisker. If he should set himself positively against his scheme
of sending his clan to Canada it would be almost a hopeless one; and
then he loved and respected his friend. His tall, powerful frame and
his dark, handsome face, all aglow with a passionate conviction of
right, and an invincible determination to do it, commanded his
thorough admiration. He clasped his hands behind his back and said

"Tallisker, you'll be sorry enough for your temper erelong. You hae
gien way mair than I did. Ye ken how you feel about it."

"I feel ashamed o' mysel', laird. You'll no lay the blame o' it to my
office, but to Dugald Tallisker his ain sel'. There's a deal o'
Dugald Tallisker in me yet, laird; and whiles he is o'er much for
Dominie Tallisker."

They were at the gate by this time, and Crawford held out his hand and

"Come in, dominie."

"No; I'll go hame, laird, and gie mysel' a talking to. Tell Mr. Selwyn
I want to see him."


Alas, how often do Christ's words, "I come not to bring peace, but a
sword," prove true. George Selwyn went away, but the seed he had
dropped in this far-off corner of Scotland did not bring forth
altogether the peaceable fruits of righteousness. In fact, as we have
seen, it had scarcely begun to germinate before the laird and the
dominie felt it to be a root of bitterness between them. For if
Crawford knew anything he knew that Tallisker would never relinquish
his new work, and perhaps if he yielded to any reasonable object
Tallisker would stand by him in his project.

He did not force the emigration plan upon his notice. The summer was
far advanced; it would be unjustifiable to send the clan to Canada at
the beginning of winter. And, as it happened, the subject was opened
with the dominie in a very favorable manner. They were returning from
the moors one day and met a party of six men. They were evidently
greatly depressed, but they lifted their bonnets readily to the chief.
There was a hopeless, unhappy look about them that was very painful.

"You have been unsuccessful on the hills, Archie, I fear."

"There's few red deer left," said the man gloomily. "It used to be
deer and men; it is sheep and dogs now."

After a painful silence the dominie said,

"Something ought to be done for those braw fellows. They canna ditch
and delve like an Irish peasant. It would be like harnessing stags in
a plough."

Then Crawford spoke cautiously of his intention, and to his delight
the dominie approved it.

"I'll send them out in Read & Murray's best ships. I'll gie each head
o' a family what you think right, Tallisker, and I'll put £100 in your
hands for special cases o' help. And you will speak to the men and
their wives for me, for it is a thing I canna bear to do."

But the men too listened eagerly to the proposition. They trusted the
dominie, and they were weary of picking up a precarious living in
hunting and fishing, and relying on the chief in emergencies. Their
old feudal love and reverence still remained in a large measure, but
they were quite sensible that everything had changed in their little
world, and that they were out of tune with it. Some few of their
number had made their way to India or Canada, and there was a vague
dissatisfaction which only required a prospect of change to develop.
As time went on, and the laird's plan for opening the coal beds on his

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrScottish sketches → online text (page 1 of 15)