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That was a great thing for Andrew Cargill to say; Mysie hardly knew
how to believe it. Such a confession was a kind of miracle, for she
judged things by results and was not given to any consideration of the
events that led up to them. She could not know, and did not suspect,
that all the bitter truths she had spoken had been gradually forcing
themselves on her husband's mind. She did not know that wee Andrew's
happy face over his story-books, and his eager claim for sympathy, had
been an accusation and a reproach which the old man had already humbly
and sorrowfully accepted. Therefore his confession and his promise
were a wonder to the woman, who had never before dared to admit that
it was possible Andrew Cargill should do wrong in his own household.



CHAPTER II.


The confidence that came after this plain speaking was very sweet and
comforting to both, although in their isolation and ignorance they
knew not what steps to take in order to find Davie. Ten years had
elapsed since he had hung for one heart-breaking moment on his
mother's neck, and bid, as he told her, a farewell for ever to the
miserable scenes of his hard, bare childhood. Mysie had not been able
to make herself believe that he was very wrong; dancing at pretty Mary
Halliday's bridal and singing two or three love-songs did not seem to
the fond mother such awful transgressions as the stern, strict
Covenanter really believed them to be, though even Mysie was willing
to allow that Davie, in being beguiled into such sinful folly, "had
made a sair tumble."

However, Davie and his father had both said things that neither could
win over, and the lad had gone proudly down the hill with but a few
shillings in his pocket. Since then there had been ten years of
anxious, longing grief that had remained unconfessed until this night.
Now the hearts of both yearned for their lost son. But how should they
find him? Andrew read nothing but his Bible and almanac; he had no
conception of the world beyond Kendal and Keswick. He could scarcely
imagine David going beyond these places, or, at any rate, the coast of
Scotland. Should he make a pilgrimage round about all those parts?

Mysie shook her head. She thought Andrew had better go to Keswick and
see the Methodist preacher there. She had heard they travelled all
over the world, and if so, it was more than likely they had seen Davie
Cargill; "at ony rate, he would gie advice worth speiring after."

Andrew had but a light opinion of Methodists, and had never been
inside the little chapel at Sinverness; but Mysie's advice, he
allowed, "had a savor o' sense in it," and so the next day he rode
over to Keswick and opened his heart to John Sugden, the
superintendent of the Derwent Circuit. He had assured himself on the
road that he would only tell John just as much as was necessary for
his quest; but he was quite unable to resist the preacher's hearty
sympathy. There never were two men more unlike than Andrew Cargill and
John Sugden, and yet they loved each other at once.

"He is a son o' consolation, and dootless ane o' God's chosen," said
Andrew to Mysie on his return.

"He is a far nobler old fellow than he thinks he is," said John to his
wife when he told her of Andrew's visit.

John had advised advertising for Davie in "The Watchman;" for John
really thought this organ of the Methodist creed was the greatest
paper in existence, and honestly believed that if Davie was anywhere
in the civilized world "The Watchman" would find him out. He was so
sure of it that both Mysie and Andrew caught his hopeful tone, and
began to tell each other what should be done when Davie came home.

Poor Mysie was now doubly kind to wee Andrew. She accused herself
bitterly of "grudging the bit lammie his story-books," and persuaded
her husband to bring back from Keswick for the child the "Pilgrim's
Progress" and "The Young Christian." John Sugden, too, visited them
often, not only staying at Cargill during his regular appointments,
but often riding over to take a day's recreation with the old
Cameronian. True, they disputed the whole time. John said very
positive things and Andrew very contemptuous ones; but as they each
kept their own opinions intact, and were quite sure of their grounds
for doing so, no words that were uttered ever slackened the grip of
their hands at parting.

One day, as John was on the way to Cargill, he perceived a man sitting
among the Druids' stones. The stranger was a pleasant fellow, and
after a few words with the preacher he proposed that they should ride
to Sinverness together. John soon got to talking of Andrew and his
lost son, and the stranger became greatly interested. He said he
should like to go up to Andrew's and get a description of Davie,
adding that he travelled far and wide, and might happen to come across
him.

The old man met them at the door.

"My sight fails, John," he said, "but I'd hae kent your step i' a
thousand. You too are welcome, sir, though I ken you not, and doubly
welcome if you bring God's blessing wi' you."

The stranger lifted his hat, and Andrew led the way into the house.
John had been expected, for haver bread and potted shrimps were on the
table, and he helped himself without ceremony, taking up at the same
time their last argument just where he had dropped it at the gate of
the lower croft. But it had a singular interruption. The sheep-dogs
who had been quietly sleeping under the settle began to be strangely
uneasy. Keeper could scarcely be kept down, even by Andrew's command,
and Sandy bounded towards the stranger with low, rapid barks that made
John lose the sense of the argument in a new thought. But before he
could frame it into words Mysie came in.

"See here, John," she cried, and then she stopped and looked with
wide-open eyes at the man coming towards her. With one long, thrilling
cry she threw herself into his arms.

"Mother! mother! darling mother, forgive me!"

John had instantly gone to Andrew's side, but Andrew had risen at once
to the occasion. "I'm no a woman to skirl or swoon," he said, almost
petulantly, "and it's right and fit the lad should gie his mither the
first greeting."

But he stretched out both hands, and his cheeks were flushed and his
eyes full when Davie flung himself on his knees beside him.

"My lad! my ain dear lad!" he cried, "I'll see nae better day than
this until I see His face."

No one can tell the joy of that hour. The cheese curds were left in
the dairy and the wool was left at the wheel, and Mysie forget her
household, and Andrew forgot his argument, and the preacher at last
said,

"You shall tell us, Davie, what the Lord has done for you since you
left your father's house."

"He has been gude to me, vera gude. I had a broad Scot's tongue in my
head, and I determined to go northward. I had little siller and I had
to walk, and by the time I reached Ecclefechan I had reason enough to
be sorry for the step I had taken. As I was sitting by the fireside o'
the little inn there a man came in who said he was going to Carlisle
to hire a shepherd. I did not like the man, but I was tired and had
not plack nor bawbee, so I e'en asked him for the place. When he heard
I was Cumberland born, and had been among sheep all my life, he was
fain enough, and we soon 'greed about the fee.

"He was a harder master than Laban, but he had a daughter who was as
bonnie as Rachel, and I loved the lass wi' my whole soul, and she
loved me. I ne'er thought about being her father's hired man. I was
aye Davie Cargill to mysel', and I had soon enough told Bessie all
about my father and mither and hame. I spoke to her father at last,
but he wouldna listen to me. He just ordered me off his place, and
Bessie went wi' me.

"I know now that we did wrang, but we thought then that we were right.
We had a few pounds between us and we gaed to Carlisle. But naething
went as it should hae done. I could get nae wark, and Bessie fell into
vera bad health; but she had a brave spirit, and she begged me to
leave her in Carlisle and go my lane to Glasgow. 'For when wark an'
siller arena i' one place, Davie,' she said, 'then they're safe to be
in another.'

"I swithered lang about leaving her, but a good opportunity came, and
Bessie promised me to go back to her father until I could come after
her. It was July then, and when Christmas came round I had saved money
enough, and I started wi' a blithe heart to Ecclefechan. I hadna any
fear o' harm to my bonnie bit wifie, for she had promised to go to her
hame, and I was sure she would be mair than welcome when she went
without me. I didna expect any letters, because Bessie couldna write,
and, indeed, I was poor enough wi' my pen at that time, and only wrote
once to tell her I had good wark and would be for her a New Year.

"But when I went I found that Bessie had gane, and none knew where. I
traced her to Keswick poor-house, where she had a little lad; the
matron said she went away in a very weak condition when the child was
three weeks old, declaring that she was going to her friends. Puir,
bonnie, loving Bessie; that was the last I ever heard o' my wife and
bairn."

Mysie had left the room, and as she returnee with a little bundle
Andrew was anxiously asking, "What was the lassie's maiden name,
Davie?"

"Bessie Dunbar, father."

"Then this is a wun'erful day; we are blessed and twice blessed, for I
found your wife and bairn, Davie, just where John Sugden found you,
'mang the Druids' stanes; and the lad has my ain honest name and is
weel worthy o' it."

"See here, Davie," and Mysie tenderly touched the poor faded dress and
shawl, and laid the wedding-ring in his palm. As she spoke wee Andrew
came across the yard, walking slowly, reading as he walked. "Look at
him, Davie! He's a bonnie lad, and a gude are; and oh, my ain dear
lad, he has had a' things that thy youth wanted."

It pleased the old man no little that, in spite of his father's loving
greeting, wee Andrew stole away to his side.

"You see, Davie," he urged in apology, "he's mair at hame like wi'
me."

And then he drew the child to him, and let his whole heart go out now,
without check or reproach, to "Davie's bairn."

"But you have not finished your story, Mr. Cargill," said John, and
David sighed as he answered,

"There is naething by the ordinar in it. I went back to the warks I
had got a footing in, the Glencart Iron Warks, and gradually won my
way to the topmost rungs o' the ladder. I am head buyer now, hae a
gude share i' the concern, and i' money matters there's plenty folk
waur off than David Cargill. When I put my father's forgiveness, my
mither's love, and my Bessie's bonnie lad to the lave, I may weel say
that 'they are weel guided that God guides.' A week ago I went into
the editor's room o' the Glasgow Herald,' and the man no being in I
lifted a paper and saw in it my father's message to me. It's sma'
credit that I left a' and answered it."

"What paper, Mr. Cargill, what paper?"

"They ca' it 'The Watchman.' I hae it in my pocket."

"I thought so," said John triumphantly. "It's a grand paper; every one
ought to have it."

"It is welcome evermore in my house," said Davie.

"It means weel, it means weel," said Andrew, with a great stretch of
charity, "but I dinna approve o' its doctrines at a', and - "

"It found David for you, Andrew."

"Ay, ay, God uses a' kinds o' instruments. 'The Watchman' isna as auld
as the Bible yet, John, and it's ill praising green barley."

"Now, Andrew, I think - "

"Tut, tut, John, I'se no sit i' Rome and strive wi' the pope; there's
naething ill said, you ken, if it's no ill taken."

John smiled tolerantly, and indeed there was no longer time for
further discussion, for the shepherds from the hills and the farmers
from the glen had heard of David's return, and were hurrying to
Cargill to see him. Mysie saw that there would be a goodly company,
and the long harvest-table was brought in and a feast of
thanksgiving spread. Conversation in that house could only set one
way, and after all had eaten and David had told his story again, one
old man after another spoke of the dangers they had encountered and
the spiritual foes they had conquered.

Whether it was the speaking, or the sympathy of numbers, or some
special influence of the Holy Ghost, I know not; but suddenly Andrew
lifted his noble old head and spoke thus:

"Frien's, ye hae some o' you said ill things o' yoursel's, but to the
sons o' God there is nae condemnation; not that I hae been althegither
faultless, but I meant weel, an' the lad was a wilfu' lad, and ye ken
what the wisest o' men said anent such. Just and right has been my
walk before you, but - still - " Then, with a sudden passion, and rising
to his feet, he cried out, "Frien's, I'm a poor sinfu' man, but I'll
play no mair pliskies wi' my conscience. I hae dootless been a hard
master, hard and stern, and loving Sinai far beyond Bethlehem. Hard
was I to my lad, and hard hae I been to the wife o' my bosom, and hard
hae I been to my ain heart. It has been my ain will and my ain way all
my life lang. God forgie me! God forgie me! for this night he has
brought my sins to my remembrance. I hae been your elder for mair than
forty years, but I hae ne'er been worthy to carry his holy vessels.
I'll e'en sit i' the lowest seat henceforward."

"Not so," said John. And there was such eager praise, and such warm
love rose from every mouth, that words began to fail, and as the old
man sat down smiling, happier than he had ever been before, song took
up the burden speech laid down; for John started one of those old
triumphant Methodist hymns, and the rafters shook to the melody, and
the stars heard it, and the angels in heaven knew a deeper joy.
Singing, the company departed, and Andrew, standing in the moonlight
between David and John, watched the groups scatter hither and thither,
and heard, far up the hills and down the glen, that sweet, sweet
refrain,

"Canaan, bright Canaan!
Will you go to the land of Canaan?"

After this David stayed a week at Glenmora, and then it became
necessary for him to return to Glasgow. But wee Andrew was to have a
tutor and remain with his grandparents for some years at least. Andrew
himself determined to "tak a trip" and see Scotland and the wonderful
iron works of which he was never weary of hearing David talk.

When he reached Kendal, however, and saw for the first time the
Caledonian Railway and its locomotives, nothing could induce him to go
farther.

"It's ower like the deil and the place he bides in, Davie," he said,
with a kind of horror. "Fire and smoke and iron bands! I'll no ride at
the deil's tail-end, not e'en to see the land o' the Covenant."

So he went back to Glenmora, and was well content when he stood again
at his own door and looked over the bonny braes of Sinverness, its
simmering becks and fruitful vales. "These are the warks o' His hands,
Mysie," he said, reverently lifting his bonnet and looking up to
Creffel and away to Solway, "and you'd ken that, woman, if you had
seen Satan as I saw him rampaging roun' far waur than any roaring
lion."

After this Andrew never left Sinverness; but, the past unsighed for
and the future sure, passed through

" - - an old age serene and bright,
And lovely as a Lapland night,"

until, one summer evening, he gently fell on that sleep which God
giveth his beloved.

"For such Death's portal opens not in gloom,
But its pure crystal, hinged on solid gold,
Shows avenues interminable - shows
Amaranth and palm quivering in sweet accord
Of human mingled with angelic song."




One Wrong Step.




ONE WRONG STEP.


CHAPTER I.


"There's few folk ken Ragon Torr as I do, mother. He is better at
heart than thou wad think; indeed he is!"

"If better were within, better wad come out, John. He's been drunk or
dovering i' the chimney-corner these past three weeks. Hech! but he'd
do weel i' Fool's Land, where they get half a crown a day for
sleeping."

"There's nane can hunt a seal or spear a whale like Ragon; thou saw
him theesel', mother, among the last school i' Stromness Bay."

"I saw a raving, ranting heathen, wi' the bonnie blue bay a sea o'
blood around him, an' he shouting an' slaying like an old pagan
sea-king. Decent, God-fearing fisher-folk do their needful wark ither
gate than yon. Now there is but one thing for thee to do: thou must
break wi' Ragon Torr, an' that quick an' soon."

"Know this, my mother, a friend is to be taken wi' his faults."

"Thou knows this, John: I hae forty years mair than thou hast, an'
years ken mair than books. An' wi' a' thy book skill hast thou ne'er
read that 'Evil communications corrupt gude manners'? Mak up thy mind
that I shall tak it vera ill if thou sail again this year wi' that
born heathen;" and with these words Dame Alison Sabay rose up from the
stone bench at her cottage door and went dourly into the houseplace.

John stood on the little jetty which ran from the very doorstep into
the bay, and looked thoughtfully over towards the sweet green isle of
Graemsay; but neither the beauty of land or sea, nor the splendor of
skies bright with the rosy banners of the Aurora gave him any answer
to the thoughts which troubled him. "I'll hae to talk it o'er wi'
Christine," he said decidedly, and he also turned into the house.

Christine was ten years older than her brother John. She had known
much sorrow, but she had lived through and lived down all her trials
and come out into the peace on the other side. She was sitting by the
peat fire knitting, and softly crooning an old Scotch psalm to the
click of her needles. She answered John's look with a sweet, grave
smile, and a slight nod towards the little round table, upon which
there was a plate of smoked goose and some oaten cake for his supper.

"I carena to eat a bite, Christine; this is what I want o' thee: the
skiff is under the window; step into it, an' do thou go on the bay wi'
me an hour."

"I havena any mind to go, John. It is nine by the clock, an' to-morrow
the peat is to coil an' the herring to kipper; yes, indeed."

"Well an' good. But here is matter o' mair account than peat an'
herring. Wilt thou come?"

"At the end I ken weel thou wilt hae thy way. Mother, here is John,
an' he is for my going on the bay wi' him."

"Then thou go. If John kept aye as gude company he wouldna be like to
bring my gray hairs wi' sorrow to the grave."

John did not answer this remark until they had pushed well off from
the sleeping town, then he replied fretfully, "Yes, what mother says
is true enough; but a man goes into the warld. A' the fingers are not
alike, much less one's friends. How can a' be gude?"

"To speak from the heart, John, wha is it?"

"Ragon Torr. Thou knows we hae sat i' the same boat an' drawn the same
nets for three years; he is gude an' bad, like ither folk."

"Keep gude company, my brother, an' thou wilt aye be counted ane o'
them. When Ragon is gude he is ower gude, and when he is bad he is
just beyont kenning."

"Can a man help the kin he comes o'? Have not his forbears done for
centuries the vera same way? Naething takes a Norseman frae his bed or
his cup but some great deed o' danger or profit; but then wha can
fight or wark like them?"

"Christ doesna ask a man whether he be Norse or Scot. If Ragon went
mair to the kirk an' less to the change-house, he wouldna need to
differ. Were not our ain folk cattle-lifting Hieland thieves lang
after the days o' the Covenant?"

"Christine, ye'll speak nae wrang o' the Sabays. It's an ill bird
'files its ain nest."

"Weel, weel, John! The gude name o' the Sabays is i' thy hands now.
But to speak from the heart, this thing touches thee nearer than Ragon
Torr. Thou did not bring me out to speak only o' him."

"Thou art a wise woman, Christine, an' thou art right. It touches
Margaret Fae, an' when it does that, it touches what is dearer to me
than life."

"I see it not."

"Do not Ragon an' I sail i' Peter Fae's boats? Do we not eat at his
table, an' bide round his house during the whole fishing season? If I
sail no more wi' Ragon, I must quit Peter's employ; for he loves Ragon
as he loves no ither lad i' Stromness or Kirkwall. The Norse blood we
think little o', Peter glories in; an' the twa men count thegither
o'er their glasses the races o' the Vikings, an' their ain generations
up to Snorro an' Thorso."

"Is there no ither master but Peter Fae? ask theesel' that question,
John."

"I hae done that, Christine. Plenty o' masters, but nane o' them hae
Margaret for a daughter. Christine, I love Margaret, an' she loves me
weel. Thou hast loved theesel', my sister."

"I ken that, John," she said tenderly; "I hae loved, therefore I hae
got beyont doots, an' learned something holier than my ain way. Thou
trust Margaret now. Thou say 'Yes' to thy mother, an' fear not."

"Christine thou speaks hard words."

"Was it to speak easy anes thou brought me here? An' if I said, 'I
counsel thee to tak thy ain will i' the matter,' wad my counsel mak
bad gude, or wrang right? Paul Calder's fleet sails i' twa days; seek
a place i' his boats."

"Then I shall see next to naught o' Margaret, an' Ragon will see her
every day."

"If Margaret loves thee, that can do thee nae harm."

"But her father favors Ragon, an' of me he thinks nae mair than o' the
nets, or aught else that finds his boats for sea."

"Well an' good; but no talking can alter facts. Thou must now choose
atween thy mother an' Margaret Fae, atween right an' wrang. God doesna
leave that choice i' the dark; thy way may be narrow an' unpleasant,
but it is clear enough. Dost thou fear to walk i' it?"

"There hae been words mair than plenty, Christine. Let us go hame."

Silently the little boat drifted across the smooth bay, and silently
the brother and sister stood a moment looking up the empty, flagged
street of the sleeping town. The strange light, which was neither
gloaming nor dawning, but a mixture of both, the waving boreal
banners, the queer houses, gray with the storms of centuries, the
brown undulating heaths, and the phosphorescent sea, made a strangely
solemn picture which sank deep into their hearts. After a pause,
Christine went into the house, but John sat down on the stone bench to
think over the alternatives before him.

Now the power of training up a child in the way it should go asserted
itself. It became at once a fortification against self-will. John
never had positively disobeyed his mother's explicit commands; he
found it impossible to do so. He must offer his services to Paul
Calder in the morning, and try to trust Margaret Fae's love for him.

He had determined now to do right, but he did not do it very
pleasantly - it is a rare soul that grows sweeter in disappointments.
Both mother and sister knew from John's stern, silent ways that he had
chosen the path of duty, and they expected that he would make it a
valley of Baca. This Dame Alison accepted as in some sort her desert.
"I ought to hae forbid the lad three years syne," she said
regretfully; "aft ill an' sorrow come o' sich sinfu' putting aff.
There's nae half-way house atween right an' wrang."

Certainly the determination involved some unpleasant explanations to
John. He must first see old Peter Fae and withdraw himself from his
service. He found him busy in loading a small vessel with smoked geese
and kippered fish, and he was apparently in a very great passion.
Before John could mention his own matters, Peter burst into a torrent
of invectives against another of his sailors, who, he said, had given
some information to the Excise which had cost him a whole cargo of
Dutch specialties. The culprit was leaning against a hogshead, and was
listening to Peter's intemperate words with a very evil smile.

"How much did ye sell yoursel' for, Sandy Beg? It took the son of a
Hieland robber like you to tell tales of a honest man's cargo. It was
an ill day when the Scots cam to Orkney, I trow."

"She'll hae petter right to say tat same 'fore lang time." And Sandy's
face was dark with a subdued passion that Peter might have known to be
dangerous, but which he continued to aggravate by contemptuous
expressions regarding Scotchmen in general.

This John Sabay was in no mood to bear; he very soon took offence at
Peter's sweeping abuse, and said he would relieve him at any rate of
one Scot. "He didna care to sail again wi' such a crowd as Peter
gathered round him."

It was a very unadvised speech. Ragon lifted it at once, and in the
words which followed John unavoidably found himself associated with
Sandy Beg, a man whose character was of the lowest order. And he had


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Online LibraryAmelia Edith Huddleston BarrScottish sketches → online text (page 12 of 15)