Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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constantly. You must follow him to his drinking-haunts and take him
home; if need be, you must follow him to warse places and take him
home. You must watch him as if all depended on your vigilance, and you
must pray for him as if nothing depended on it. You hae to conquer on
your knees before you go into the world to fight your battle, John.
But think, man, what a warfare is set before you - the saving of an
immortal soul! And I'm your friend and helper in the matter; the lad
is one o' my stray lambs; he belongs to my fold. Go your ways in God's
strength, John, for this grief o' yours shall be crowned with

It is impossible to say how this conference strengthened John
Callendar. Naturally a very choleric man, he controlled himself into a
great patience with his erring nephew. He watched for him like a
father; nay, more like a mother's was the thoughtful tenderness of his
care. And David was often so touched by the love and forbearance shown
him, that he made passionate acknowledgments of his sin and earnest
efforts to conquer it. Sometimes for a week together he abstained
entirely, though during these intervals of reason he was very trying.
His remorse, his shame, his physical suffering, were so great that he
needed the most patient tenderness; and yet he frequently resented
this tenderness in a moody, sullen way that was a shocking contrast to
his once bright and affectionate manner.

So things went on until the close of the year. By that time the
affairs of the broken firm had been thoroughly investigated, and it
was found that its liabilities were nearly £20,000 above its assets.
Suddenly, however, bundle wools took an enormous rise, and as the
stock of "Callendar & Leslie" was mainly of this kind, they were
pushed on the market, and sold at a rate which reduced the firm's
debts to about £17,000. This piece of good fortune only irritated
David; he was sure now that if Robert had continued the fight they
would have been in a position to clear themselves. Still, whatever
credit was due the transaction was frankly given to David. It was his
commercial instinct that had divined the opportunity and seized it,
and a short item in the "Glasgow Herald" spoke in a cautiously
flattering way of the affair.

Both John and David were greatly pleased at the circumstance. David
also had been perfectly sober during the few days he had this stroke
of business in hand, and the public acknowledgment of his service to
the firm's creditors was particularly flattering to him. He came down
to breakfast that morning as he had not come for months. It was a
glimpse of the old Davie back again, and John was as happy as a child
in the vision. Into his heart came at once Dr. Morrison's assertion
that David must have some regular duty to keep his life erect. It was
evident that the obligation of a trust had a controlling influence
over him.

"David," he said cheerfully, "you must hae nearly done wi' that first
venture o' yours. The next will hae to redeem it; that is all about
it. Everything is possible to a man under forty years auld."

"We have our final meeting this afternoon, uncle. I shall lock the
doors for ever to-night."

"And your debts are na as much as you expected."

"They will not be over £17,000, and they may be considerably less. I
hope to make another sale this morning. There are yet three thousand
bundles in the stock."

"David, I shall put £20,000 in your ain name and for your ain use,
whatever that use may be, in the Western Bank this morning. I think
you'll do the best thing you can do to set your name clear again. If
you are my boy you will."

"Uncle John, you cannot really mean that I may pay every shilling I
owe, and go back on the Exchange with a white name? O uncle, if you
should mean this, what a man you would make of me!"

"It is just what I mean to do, Davie. Is na all that I have yours and
your children's? But oh, I thank God that you hae still a heart that
counts honor more than gold. David, after this I wont let go one o'
the hopes I have ever had for you."

"You need not, uncle. Please God, and with his help, I will make every
one of them good."

And he meant to do it. He never had felt more certain of himself or
more hopeful for the future than when he went out that morning. He
touched nothing all day, and as the short, dark afternoon closed in,
he went cheerfully towards the mill, with his new check-book in his
pocket and the assurance in his heart that in a few hours he could
stand up among his fellow-citizens free from the stain of debt.

His short speech at the final meeting was so frank and manly, and so
just and honorable to his uncle, that it roused a quiet but deep
enthusiasm. Many of the older men had to wipe the mist from their
glasses, and the heaviest creditor stood up and took David's hand,
saying, "Gentlemen, I hae made money, and I hae saved money, and I hae
had money left me; but I never made, nor saved, nor got money that
gave me such honest pleasure as this siller I hae found in twa honest
men's hearts. Let's hae in the toddy and drink to the twa Callendars."

Alas! alas! how often is it our friends from whom we ought to pray to
be preserved. The man meant kindly; he was a good man, he was a
God-fearing man, and even while he was setting temptation before his
poor, weak brother, he was thinking "that money so clean and fair and
unexpected should be given to some holy purpose." But the best of us
are the slaves of habit and chronic thoughtlessness. All his life he
had signalled every happy event by a libation of toddy; everybody else
did the same; and although he knew David's weakness, he did not think
of it in connection with that wisest of all prayers, "Lead us not into


David ought to have left then, but he did not; and when his uncle's
health was given, and the glass of steaming whiskey stood before him,
he raised it to his lips and drank. It was easy to drink the second
glass and the third, and so on. The men fell into reminiscence and
song, and no one knew how many glasses were mixed; and even when they
stood at the door they turned back for "a thimbleful o' raw speerit to
keep out the cold," for it had begun to snow, and there was a chill,
wet, east wind.

Then they went; and when their forms were lost in the misty gloom, and
even their voices had died away, David turned back to put out the
lights, and lock the mill-door for the last time. Suddenly it struck
him that he had not seen Robert Leslie for an hour at least, and while
he was wondering about it in a vague, drunken way, Robert came out of
an inner room, white with scornful anger, and in a most quarrelsome

"You have made a nice fool of yoursel', David Callendar! Flinging awa
so much gude gold for a speech and a glass o' whiskey! Ugh!"

"You may think so, Robert. The Leslies have always been 'rievers and
thievers;' but the Callendars are of another stock."

"The Callendars are like ither folk - good and bad, and mostly bad.
Money, not honor, rules the warld in these days; and when folk have
turned spinners, what is the use o' talking about honor! Profit is a
word more fitting."

"I count mysel' no less a Callendar than my great-grandfather, Evan
Callendar, who led the last hopeless charge on Culloden. If I am a
spinner, I'll never be the first to smirch the roll o' my house with
debt and dishonesty, if I can help it."

"Fair nonsense! The height of nonsense! Your ancestors indeed! Mules
make a great to-do about their ancestors having been horses!"

David retorted with hot sarcasm on the freebooting Leslies, and their
kin the Armstrongs and Kennedys; and to Scotchmen this is the very
sorest side of a quarrel. They can forgive a bitter word against
themselves perhaps, but against their clan, or their dead, it is an
unpardonable offence. And certainly Robert had an unfair advantage; he
was in a cool, wicked temper of envy and covetousness. He could have
struck himself for not having foreseen that old John Callendar would
be sure to clear the name of dishonor, and thus let David and his
£20,000 slip out of his control.

David had drunk enough to excite all the hereditary fight in his
nature, and not enough to dull the anger and remorse he felt for
having drunk anything at all. The dreary, damp atmosphere and the
cold, sloppy turf of Glasgow Green might have brought them back to the
ordinary cares and troubles of every-day life, but it did not. This
grim oasis in the very centre of the hardest and bitterest existences
was now deserted. The dull, heavy swash of the dirty Clyde and the
distant hum of the sorrowful voices of humanity in the adjacent
streets hardly touched the sharp, cutting accents of the two
quarrelling men. No human ears heard them, and no human eyes saw the
uplifted hands and the sway and fall of Robert Leslie upon the smutty
and half melted snow, except David's.

Yes; David saw him fall, and heard with a strange terror the peculiar
thud and the long moan that followed it. It sobered him at once and
completely. The shock was frightful. He stood for a moment looking at
the upturned face, and then with a fearful horror he stooped and
touched it. There was no response to either entreaties or movement,
and David was sure after five minutes' efforts there never would be.
Then his children, his uncle, his own life, pressed upon him like a
surging crowd. His rapid mind took in the situation at once. There was
no proof. Nobody had seen them leave together. Robert had certainly
left the company an hour before it scattered; none of them could know
that he was waiting in that inner room. With a rapid step he took his
way through Kent street into a region where he was quite unknown, and
by a circuitous route reached the foot of Great George street.

He arrived at home about eight o'clock. John had had his dinner, and
the younger children had gone to bed. Little John sat opposite him on
the hearthrug, but the old man and the child were both lost in
thought. David's face at once terrified his uncle.

"Johnnie," he said, with a weary pathos in his voice, "your father
wants to see me alane. You had best say 'Gude-night,' my wee man."

The child kissed his uncle, and after a glance into his father's face
went quietly out. His little heart had divined that he "must not
disturb papa." David's eyes followed him with an almost overmastering
grief and love, but when John said sternly, "Now, David Callendar,
what is it this time?" he answered with a sullen despair,

"It is the last trouble I can bring you. I have killed Robert Leslie!"

The old man uttered a cry of horror, and stood looking at his nephew
as if he doubted his sanity.

"I am not going to excuse mysel', sir. Robert said some aggravating
things, and he struck me first; but that is neither here nor there. I
struck him and he fell. I think he hit his head in falling; but it was
dark and stormy, I could not see. I don't excuse mysel' at all. I am
as wicked and lost as a man can be. Just help me awa, Uncle John, and
I will trouble you no more for ever."

"Where hae you left Robert?"

"Where he fell, about 300 yards above Rutherglen Bridge."

"You are a maist unmerciful man! I ne'er liked Robert, but had he been
my bitterest enemy I would hae got him help if there was a chance for
life, and if not, I would hae sought a shelter for his corpse."

Then he walked to the parlor door, locked it, and put the key in his

"As for helping you awa, sir, I'll ne'er do it, ne'er; you hae sinned,
and you'll pay the penalty, as a man should do."

"Uncle, have mercy on me."

"Justice has a voice as weel as mercy. O waly, waly!" cried the
wretched old man, going back to the pathetic Gælic of his childhood,
"O waly, waly! to think o' the sin and the shame o' it. Plenty o'
Callendars hae died before their time, but it has been wi' their faces
to their foes and their claymores in their hands. O Davie, Davie! my
lad, my lad! My Davie!"

His agony shook him as a great wind shakes the tree-tops, and David
stood watching him in a misery still keener and more hopeless. For a
few moments neither spoke. Then John rose wearily and said,

"I'll go with you, David, to the proper place. Justice must be
done - yes, yes, it is just and right."

Then he lifted up his eyes, and clasping his hands, cried out,

"But, O my heavenly Father, be merciful, be merciful, for love is the
fulfilling of the law. Come, David, we hae delayed o'er long."

"Where are you going, uncle?"

"You ken where weel enough."

"Dear uncle, be merciful. At least let us go see Dr. Morrison first.
Whatever he says I will do."

"I'll do that; I'll be glad to do that; maybe he'll find me a road out
o' this sair, sair strait. God help us all, for vain is the help o'


When they entered Dr. Morrison's house the doctor entered with them.
He was wet through, and his swarthy face was in a glow of excitement.
A stranger was with him, and this stranger he hastily took into a room
behind the parlor, and then he came back to his visitors.

"Well, John, what is the matter?"

"Murder. Murder is the matter, doctor," and with a strange, quiet
precision he went over David's confession, for David had quite broken
down and was sobbing with all the abandon of a little child. During
the recital the minister's face was wonderful in its changes of
expression, but at the last a kind of adoring hopefulness was the most

"John," he said, "what were you going to do wi' that sorrowfu' lad?"

"I was going to gie him up to justice, minister, as it was right and
just to do; but first we must see about - about the body."

"That has, without doot, been already cared for. On the warst o'
nights there are plenty o' folk passing o'er Glasgow Green after the
tea-hour. It is David we must care for now. Why should we gie him up
to the law? Not but what 'the law is good, if a man use it lawfully.'
But see how the lad is weeping. Dinna mak yoursel' hard to a broken
heart, deacon. God himsel' has promised to listen to it. You must go
back hame and leave him wi' me. And, John," he said, with an air of
triumph, as they stood at the door together, with the snow blowing in
their uplifted faces, "John, my dear old brother John, go hame and
bless God; for, I tell you, this thing shall turn out to be a great

So John went home, praying as he went, and conscious of a strange
hopefulness in the midst of his grief. The minister turned back to the
sobbing criminal, and touching him gently, said,

"Davie, my son, come wi' me."

David rose hopelessly and followed him. They went into the room where
they had seen the minister take the stranger who had entered the house
with them. The stranger was still there, and as they entered he came
gently and on tiptoe to meet them.

"Dr. Fleming," said the minister, "this is David Callendar, your
patient's late partner in business; he wishes to be the poor man's
nurse, and indeed, sir, I ken no one fitter for the duty."

So Dr. Fleming took David's hand, and then in a low voice gave him
directions for the night's watch, though David, in the sudden hope and
relief that had come to him, could scarcely comprehend them. Then the
physician went, and the minister and David sat by the bedside alone.
Robert lay in the very similitude and presence of death, unconscious
both of his sufferings and his friends. Congestion of the brain had
set in, and life was only revealed by the faintest pulsations, and by
the appliances for relief which medical skill thought it worth while
to make.

"'And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death,'" said the
doctor solemnly. "David, there is your work."

"God knows how patiently and willingly I'll do it, minister. Poor
Robert, I never meant to harm him."

"Now listen to me, and wonder at God's merciful ways. Auld Deacon
Galbraith, who lives just beyond Rutherglen Bridge, sent me word this
afternoon that he had gotten a summons from his Lord, and he would
like to see my face ance mair before he went awa for ever. He has been
my right hand in the kirk, and I loved him weel. Sae I went to bid him
a short Gude-by - for we'll meet again in a few years at the maist - and
I found him sae glad and solemnly happy within sight o' the heavenly
shore, that I tarried wi' him a few hours, and we ate and drank his
last sacrament together. He dropped my hand wi' a smile at half-past
six o'clock, and after comforting his wife and children a bit I turned
my face hameward. But I was in that mood that I didna care to sit i' a
crowded omnibus, and I wanted to be moving wi' my thoughts. The
falling snow and the deserted Green seemed good to me, and I walked on
thinking o'er again the deacon's last utterances, for they were wise
and good even beyond the man's nature. That is how I came across
Robert Leslie. I thought he was dead, but I carried him in my arms to
the House o' the Humane Society, which, you ken, isna one hundred
yards from where Robert fell. The officer there said he wasna dead,
sae I brought him here and went for the physician you spoke to. Now,
Davie, it is needless for me to say mair. You ken what I expect o'
you. You'll get no whiskey in this house, not a drop o' it. If the
sick man needs anything o' that kind, I shall gie it wi' my ain hand;
and you wont leave this house, David, until I see whether Robert is to
live or die. You must gie me your word o' honor for that."

"Minister, pray what is my word worth?"

"Everything it promises, David Callendar. I would trust your word
afore I'd trust a couple o' constables, for a' that's come and gane."

"Thank you, thank you, doctor! You shall not trust, and be deceived. I
solemnly promise you to do my best for Robert, and not to leave your
house until I have your permission."

The next morning Dr. Morrison was at John Callendar's before he sat
down to breakfast. He had the morning paper with him, and he pointed
out a paragraph which ran thus: "Robert Leslie, of the late firm of
Callendar & Leslie, was found by the Rev. Dr. Morrison in an
unconscious condition on the Green last night about seven o'clock. It
is supposed the young gentleman slipped and fell, and in the fall
struck his head, as congestion of the brain has taken place. He lies
at Dr. Morrison's house, and is being carefully nursed by his late
partner, though there is but little hope of his recovery."

"Minister, it wasna you surely wha concocted this lie?"

"Nobody has told a lie, John. Don't be overrighteous, man; there is an
unreasonableness o' virtue that savors o' pride. I really thought
Robert had had an accident, until you told me the truth o' the matter.
The people at the Humane Society did the same; sae did Dr. Fleming. I
suppose some reporter got the information from one o' the latter
sources. But if Robert gets well, we may let it stand; and if he
doesna get well, I shall seek counsel o' God before I take a step
farther. In the meantime David is doing his first duty in nursing him;
and David will stay in my house till I see whether it be a case o'
murder or not."

For three weeks there was but the barest possibility of Robert's
recovery. But his youth and fine constitution, aided by the skill of
his physician and the unremitting care of his nurse, were at length,
through God's mercy, permitted to gain a slight advantage. The
discipline of that three weeks was a salutary though a terrible one to
David. Sometimes it became almost intolerable; but always, when it
reached this point, Dr. Morrison seemed, by some fine spiritual
instinct, to discover the danger and hasten to his assistance. Life
has silences more pathetic than death's; and the stillness of that
darkened room, with its white prostrate figure, was a stillness in
which David heard many voices he never would have heard in the crying
out of the noisy world.

What they said to him about his wasted youth and talents, and about
his neglected Saviour, only his own heart knew. But he must have
suffered very much, for, at the end of a month, he looked like a man
who had himself walked through the valley and shadow of death. About
this time Dr. Morrison began to drop in for an hour or two every
evening; sometimes he took his cup of tea with the young men, and then
he always talked with David on passing events in such a way as to
interest without fatiguing the sick man. His first visit of this kind
was marked by a very affecting scene. He stood a moment looking at
Robert and then taking David's hand, he laid it in Robert's. But the
young men had come to a perfect reconciliation one midnight when the
first gleam of consciousness visited the sick man, and Dr. Morrison
was delighted to see them grasp each other with a smile, while David
stooped and lovingly touched his friend's brow.

"Doctor, it was my fault," whispered Robert. "If I die, remember that.
I did my best to anger Davie, and I struck him first. I deserved all I
have had to suffer."

After this, however, Robert recovered rapidly, and in two months he
was quite well.

"David," said the minister to him one morning, "your trial is nearly
over. I have a message from Captain Laird to Robert Leslie. Laird
sails to-night; his ship has dropped down the river a mile, and Robert
must leave when the tide serves; that will be at five o'clock."

For Robert had shrunk from going again into his Glasgow life, and had
determined to sail with his friend Laird at once for New York. There
was no one he loved more dearly than David and Dr. Morrison, and with
them his converse had been constant and very happy and hopeful. He
wished to leave his old life with this conclusion to it unmingled with
any other memories.


So that evening the three men went in a coach to the Broomilaw
together. A boat and two watermen were in waiting at the bridge-stair,
and though the evening was wet and chilly they all embarked. No one
spoke. The black waters washed and heaved beneath them, the myriad
lights shone vaguely through the clammy mist and steady drizzle, and
the roar of the city blended with the stroke of the oars and the
patter of the rain. Only when they lay under the hull of a large ship
was the silence broken. But it was broken by a blessing.

"God bless you, Robert! The Lord Jesus, our Redeemer, make you a gude
man," said Dr. Morrison fervently, and David whispered a few broken
words in his friend's ear. Then Captain Laird's voice was heard, and
in a moment or two more they saw by the light of a lifted lantern
Robert's white face in the middle of a group on deck.

"Farewell!" he shouted feebly, and Dr. Morrison answered it with a
lusty, "God speed you, Robert! God speed the good ship and all on
board of her!"

So they went silently back again, and stepped into the muddy,
dreamlike, misty streets, wet through and quite weary with emotion.

"Now gude-night, David. Your uncle is waiting dinner for you. I hae
learned to love you vera much."

"Is there anything I can do, doctor, to show you how much I love and
respect you?"

"You can be a good man, and you can let me see you every Sabbath in
your place at kirk. Heaven's gate stands wide open on the Sabbath day,
David; sae it is a grand time to offer your petitions."

Yes, the good old uncle was waiting, but with that fine instinct which
is born of a true love he had felt that David would like no fuss made
about his return. He met him as if he had only been a few hours away,
and he had so tutored Jenny that she only betrayed her joy by a look
which David and she understood well.

"The little folks," said John, "have a' gane to their beds; the day
has been that wet and wearisome that they were glad to gae to sleep
and forget a' about it."

David sat down in his old place, and the two men talked of the Russian
war and the probable storming of the Alamo. Then John took his usual
after-dinner nap, and David went up stairs with Jenny and kissed his
children, and said a few words to them and to the old woman, which
made them all very happy.

When he returned to the parlor his uncle was still sleeping, and he
could see how weary and worn he had become.

"So patient, so generous, so honorable, so considerate for my
feelings," said the young man to himself. "I should be an ingrate
indeed if I did not, as soon as he wakes, say what I know he is so
anxious to hear."

With the thought John opened his eyes, and David nodded and smiled
back to him. How alert and gladly he roused himself! How cheerily he

"Why, Davie, I hae been sleeping, I doot. Hech, but it is gude to see
you, lad."

"Please God, uncle, it shall always be gude to see me. Can you give me

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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrScottish sketches → online text (page 10 of 15)