up, and for the first time in your life. For one thing, you will
see far better then than any of us do now."
But poor Duncan could not catch the idea; his mind was filled with
a preventing fancy.
"Yes; I know; at ta tay of chutchment," he said. "Put what 'll pe
ta use of ketting her eyes open pefore she 'll pe up? How should
she pe seeing with all ta earth apove her - and ta cravestone
too tat I know my poy Malcolm will pe laying on ta top of his old
cranfather to keep him waarm, and let peoples pe know tat ta plind
piper will be lying town pelow wite awake and fery uncomfortable?"
"Excuse me, Mr MacPhail, but that's all a mistake," said Mr Graham
positively. "The body is but a sort of shell that we cast off when
we die, as the corn casts off its husk when it begins to grow. The
life of the seed comes up out of the earth in a new body, as St
"Ten," interrupted .Duncan, "she'll pe crowing up out of her crave
like a seed crowing up to pe a corn or a parley?"
The schoolmaster began to despair of ever conveying to the piper
the idea that the living man is the seed sown, and that when the
body of this seed dies, then the new body, with the man in it,
springs alive out of the old one - that the death of the one is
the birth of the other. Far more enlightened people than Duncan
never imagine, and would find it hard to believe, that the sowing
of the seed spoken of might mean something else than the burying
of the body; not perceiving what yet surely is plain enough, that
that would be the sowing of a seed already dead, and incapable of
giving birth to anything whatever.
"No, no," he said, almost impatiently, "you will never be in the
grave: it is only your body that will go there, with nothing like
life about it except the smile the glad soul has left on it. The
poor body when thus forsaken is so dead that it can't even stop
smiling. Get Malcolm to read to you out of the book of the Revelation
how there were multitudes even then standing before the throne.
They had died in this world, yet there they were, well and happy."
"Oh, yes!" said Duncan, with no small touch of spitefulness in his
tone, " - twang twanging at teir fine colden herps! She'll not be
thinking much of ta herp for a music maker! And peoples tells her
she'll not pe hafing her pipes tere! Och hone! Och hone! - She'll
chust pe lying still and not pe ketting up, and when ta work is ofer,
and eferypody cone away, she'll chust pe ketting up, and taking a
look apout her, to see if she'll pe finding a stand o' pipes that
some coot highlandman has peen left pehint him when he tied lately."
"You'll find it rather lonely - won't you?"
"Yes; no toubt, for they'll aal be cone up. Well, she'll haf her
pipes; and she could not co where ta pipes was looked town upon by
all ta creat people - and all ta smaal ones too."
They had now reached the foot of the promontory, and turned
northwards, each of his companions taking an arm of the piper to
help him over the rocks that lay between them and the mouth of the
cave, which soon yawned before them like a section of the mouth of
a great fish. Its floor of smooth rock had been swept out clean,
and sprinkled with dry sea sand. There were many hollows and
projections along its sides rudely fit for serving as seats, to
which had been added a number of forms extemporized of planks and
thwarts. No one had yet arrived when they entered, and they went at
once to the further end of the cave, that Duncan, who was a little
hard of hearing, might be close to the speakers. There his companions
turned and looked behind them: an exclamation, followed by a full
glance at each other, broke from each.
The sun, just clearing the end of the opposite promontory, shone
right into the mouth of the cave, from the midst of a tumult of gold,
in which all the other colours of his approach had been swallowed
up. The triumph strode splendent over sea and shore, subduing waves
and rocks to a path for its mighty entrance into that dark cave
on the human coast. With his back to the light stood Duncan in the
bottom of the cave, his white hair gleaming argentine, as if his
poor blind head were the very goal of the heavenly progress. He
"Will it pe a fire? She feels something warm on her head," he
said, rolling his sightless orbs, upon which the splendour broke
waveless, casting a grim shadow of him on the jagged rock behind.
"No," answered Mr Graham; "it is the sun you feel. He's just out
of his grave."
The old man gave a grunt.
"I often think," said the schoolmaster to Malcolm, "that possibly
the reason why we are told so little about the world we are going
to, is, that no description of it would enter our minds any more
than a description of that sunrise would carry a notion of its
reality into the mind of your grandfather."
"She's obleeched to you, Mr Craham!" said the piper with offence.
"You take her fery stupid. You're so proud of your eyes, you think
a plind man cannot see at aall! Chm!"
But the folk began to assemble. By twos and threes, now from the
one side, now from the other, they came dropping in as if out of the
rush of the blinding sunshine, till the seats were nearly filled,
while a goodly company gathered about the mouth of the cave, there
to await the arrival of those who had called the meeting. Presently
MacLeod, a small thin man, with iron gray hair, keen, shrewd
features, large head, and brown complexion, appeared, and made his
way to the further end of the cave, followed by three or four of
the men of Scaurnose, amongst whom walked a pale faced, consumptive
lad, with bowed shoulders and eyes on the ground: he it was who,
feebly clambering on a ledge of rock, proceeded to conduct the worship
of the assembly. His parents were fisher people of Scaurnose, who
to make a minister of him had been half starving the rest of their
family; but he had broken down at length under the hardships of
endless work and wretched food. From the close of the session in
March, he had been teaching in Aberdeen until a few days before,
when he came home, aware that he was dying, and full of a fervour
betraying anxiety concerning himself rather than indicating the
possession of good news for others. The sun had now so far changed
his position, that, although he still shone into the cave, the preacher
stood in the shadow, out of which gleamed his wasted countenance,
pallid and sombre and solemn, as first he poured forth an abject
prayer for mercy, conceived in the spirit of a slave supplicating
the indulgence of a hard master, and couched in words and tones that
bore not a trace of the filial; then read the chapter containing
the curses of Mount Ebal, and gave the congregation one of Duncan's
favourite psalms to sing; and at length began a sermon on what he
called the divine justice. Not one word was there in it, however,
concerning God's love of fair dealing, either as betwixt himself
and man, or as betwixt man and his fellow; the preacher's whole
notion of justice was the punishment of sin; and that punishment
was hell, and hell only; so that the whole sermon was about hell
from beginning to end - hell appalling, lurid, hopeless. And the
eyes of all were fixed upon him with that glow from within which
manifests the listening spirit. Some of the women were as pale as
himself from sympathetic horror, doubtless also from a vague stirring
of the conscience, which, without accusing them of crime, yet told
them that all was not right between them and their God; while the
working of the faces of some of the men betrayed a mind not at all
at ease concerning their prospects. It was an eloquent and powerful
utterance, and might doubtless claim its place in the economy of
human education; but it was at best a pagan embodiment of truths
such as a righteous pagan might have discovered, and breathed
nothing of the spirit of Christianity, being as unjust towards God
as it represented him to be towards men: the God of the preacher
was utterly unlike the father of Jesus. Urging his hearers to flee
from the wrath to come, he drew such a picture of an angry Deity
as in nothing resembled the revelation in the Son.
"Fellow sinners," he said in conclusion, "haste ye and flee from
the wrath to come. Now is God waiting to be gracious - but only
so long as his Son holds back the indignation ready to burst forth
and devour you. He sprinkles its flames with the scarlet wool and
the hyssop of atonement; he stands between you and justice, and
pleads with his incensed Father for his rebellious creatures. Well
for you that he so stands and so pleads! Yet even he could not
prevail for ever against such righteous anger; and it is but for a
season he will thus entreat; the day will come when he will stand
aside and let the fiery furnace break forth and slay you. Then,
with howling and anguish, with weeping and wailing and gnashing of
teeth, ye shall know that God is a God of justice, that his wrath
is one with his omnipotence, and his hate everlasting as the fires
of hell. But do as ye will, ye cannot thwart his decrees, for to
whom he will he showeth mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth."
Scarcely had he ceased, when a loud cry, clear and keen, rang through
every corner of the cave. Well might the preacher start and gaze
around him! for the cry was articulate, sharply modelled into the
three words - "Father o' lichts!" Some of the men gave a scared
groan, and some of the women shrieked. None could tell whence the
cry had come, and Malcolm alone could guess who must have uttered
"Yes," said the preacher, recovering himself, and replying to the
voice, "he is the Father of lights, but only to them that are in
Christ Jesus; - he is no father, but an avenging deity, to them
over whom the robe of his imputed righteousness is not cast. Jesus
Christ himself will not be gracious for ever. Kiss ye the Son,
lest even he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath
is kindled but a little."
"Father o' lichts!" rang the cry again, and louder than before.
To Malcolm it seemed close behind him, but he had the self possession
not to turn his head. The preacher took no farther notice. MacLeod
stood up, and having, in a few simple remarks, attempted to smooth
some of the asperities of the youth's address, announced another
meeting in the evening, and dismissed the assembly with a prayer.
Malcolm went home with his grandfather. He was certain it was the
laird's voice he had heard, but he would attempt no search after his
refuge that day, for dread of leading to its discovery by others.
That evening most of the boats of the Seaton set out for the fishing
ground as usual, but not many went from Scaurnose. Blue Peter would
go no more of a Sunday, hence Malcolm was free for the night, and
again with his grandfather walked along the sands in the evening
towards the cave.
The sun was going down on the other side of the promontory before
them, and the sky was gorgeous in rose and blue, in peach and
violet, in purple and green, barred and fretted, heaped and broken,
scattered and massed - every colour edged and tinged and harmonized
with a glory as of gold, molten with heat, and glowing with fire.
The thought that his grandfather could not see, and had never
seen such splendour, made Malcolm sad, and very little was spoken
between them as they went.
When they arrived, the service had already commenced, but room was
made for them to pass, and a seat was found for Duncan where he
could hear. Just as they entered, Malcolm spied, amongst those who
preferred the open air at the mouth of the cavern, a face which he
was all but certain was that of one of the three men from whom he
had rescued the laird.
MacLeod was to address them. He took for his text the words of the
Saviour, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest," and founded upon them a simple, gracious,
and all but eloquent discourse, very different in tone and influence
from that of the young student. It must be confessed that the
Christ he presented was very far off, and wrapped in a hazy nimbus
of abstraction; that the toil of his revelation was forgotten, the
life he lived being only alluded to, and that not for the sake of
showing what he was, and hence what God is, but to illustrate the
conclusions of men concerning him; and yet there was that heart of
reality in the whole thing which no moral vulgarity of theory, no
injustice towards God, no tyranny of stupid logic over childlike
intuitions, could so obscure as to render it inoperative. From the
form of the Son of Man, thus beheld from afar, came a warmth like
the warmth from the first approach of the far off sun in spring,
sufficing to rouse the earth from the sleep of winter - in which
all the time the same sun has been its warmth and has kept it from
sleeping unto death.
MacLeod was a thinker - aware of the movements of his own heart,
and able to reflect on others the movements of their hearts; hence,
although in the main he treated the weariness and oppression from
which Jesus offered to set them free, as arising from a sense of
guilt and the fear of coming misery, he could not help alluding to
more ordinary troubles, and depicting other phases of the heart's
restlessness with such truth and sympathy that many listened with
a vague feeling of exposure to a supernatural insight. The sermon
soon began to show its influence; for a sense of the need of help
is so present to every simple mind, that, of all messages, the offer
of help is of easiest reception; some of the women were sobbing,
and the silent tears were flowing down the faces of others; while
of the men many were looking grave and thoughtful, and kept their
eyes fixed on the speaker. At length, towards the close, MacLeod
judged it needful to give a word of warning.
"But, my friends," he said, and his voice grew low and solemn, "I
dare not make an end without reminding you that, if you stop your
ears against the gracious call, a day will come when not even the
merits of the Son of God will avail you, but the wrath of the - "
"Father o' Lichts!" once more burst ringing out, like the sudden
cry of a trumpet in the night.
MacLeod took no notice of it, but brought his sermon at once to a
close, and specified the night of the following Saturday for next
meeting. They sung a psalm, and after a slow, solemn, thoughtful
prayer, the congregation dispersed.
But Malcolm, who, anxious because of the face he had seen as he
entered, had been laying his plans, after begging his grandfather
in a whisper to go home without him for a reason he would afterwards
explain, withdrew into a recess whence he could watch the cave,
without being readily discovered.
Scarcely had the last voices of the retreating congregation died
away, when the same ill favoured face peeped round the corner of the
entrance, gave a quick glance about, and the man came in. Like a
snuffing terrier, he went peering in the dimness into every hollow,
and behind every projection, until he suddenly caught sight of
Malcolm, probably by a glimmering of his eyes.
"Hillo, Humpy!" he cried in a tone of exultation, and sprang up
the rough ascent of a step or two to where he sat.
Malcolm half rose, and met him with a well delivered blow between
the eyes. He fell, and lay for a moment stunned. Malcolm sat down
again and watched him. When he came to himself, he crept out,
muttering imprecations. He knew it was not Humpy who dealt that
As soon as he was gone, Malcolm in his turn began searching.
He thought he knew every hole and corner of the cave, and there
was but one where the laird, who, for as near him as he heard his
voice the first time, certainly had not formed one of the visible
congregation, might have concealed himself: if that was his covert,
there he must be still, for he had assuredly not issued from it.
Immediately behind where he had sat in the morning, was a projection
of rock, with a narrow cleft between it and the wall of the cavern,
visible only from the very back of the cave, where the roof came
down low. But when he thought of it, he saw that even here he could
not have been hidden in the full light of the morning from the eyes
of some urchins who had seated themselves as far back as the roof
would allow them, and they had never looked as if they saw anything
more than other people. Still, if he was to search at all, here he
must begin. The cleft had scarcely more width than sufficed to admit
his body, and his hands told him at once that there was no laird
there. Could there be any opening further? If there was, it could
only be somewhere above. Was advance in that direction possible?
He felt about, and finding two or three footholds, began to climb
in the dark, and had reached the height of six feet or so, when he
came to a horizontal projection, which, for a moment only, barred
his further progress. Having literally surmounted this, that is,
got on the top of it, he found there a narrow vertical opening:
was it but a shallow recess, or did it lead into the heart of the
Carefully feeling his way both with hands and feet, he advanced a
step or two, and came to a place where the passage widened a little,
and then took a sharp turn and became so narrow that it was with
difficulty he forced himself through. It was, however, but one close
pinch, and he found himself, as his feet told him, at the top of
a steep descent. He stood for a moment hesitating, for prudence
demanded a light. The sound of the sea was behind him, but all
in front was still as the darkness of the grave. Suddenly up from
unknown depths of gloom, came the tones of a sweet childish voice,
singing The Lord's my Shepherd.
Malcolm waited until the psalm was finished, and then called out:
"Mr Stewart! I'm here - Malcolm MacPhail. I want to see ye. Tell
him it's me, Phemy."
A brief pause followed; then Phemy's voice answered:
"Come awa' doon. He says ye s' be welcome."
"Canna ye shaw a licht than; for I dinna ken a fit o' the ro'd,"
The next moment a light appeared at some little distance below,
and presently began to ascend, borne by Phemy, towards the place
where he stood. She took him by the hand without a word, and led
him down a slope, apparently formed of material fallen from the
roof, to the cave already described. The moment he entered it, he
marked the water in its side, the smooth floor, the walls hollowed
into a thousand fantastic cavities, and knew he had come upon the
cave in which his great grandfather had found refuge so many years
before. Changes in its mouth had rendered entrance difficult, and
it had slipped by degrees from the knowledge of men.
At the bottom of the slope, by the side of the well, sat the laird.
Phemy set the little lantern she carried on its edge. The laird
rose and shook hands with Malcolm and asked him to be seated.
"I'm sorry to say they're efter ye again, laird," said Malcolm
after a little ordinary chat.
Mr Stewart was on his feet instantly.
"I maun awa'. Tak care o' Phemy," he said hurriedly.
"Na, na, sir," said Malcolm, laying his hand on his arm; "there's
nae sic hurry. As lang's I'm here ye may sit still; an', as far's
I ken, naebody's fun' the w'y in but mysel', an' that was yer am
wyte (blame), laird. But ye hae garred mair fowk nor me luik, an'
that's the pity o' 't."
"I tauld ye, sir, ye sudna cry oot," said Phemy.
"I couldna help it," said Stewart apologetically.
"Weel, ye sudna ha' gane near them again," persisted the little
"Wha kent but they kent whaur I cam frae?" persisted the laird.
"Sit ye doon, sir, an' lat's hae a word aboot it," said Malcolm
The laird cast a doubting look at Phemy.
"Ay, sit doon," said Phemy.
Mr Stewart yielded, but nervous starts and sudden twitches of the
muscles betrayed his uneasiness: it looked as if his body would
jump up and run without his mind's consent.
"Hae ye ony w'y o' winnin' oot o' this, forbye (besides) the mou'
o' the cave there?" asked Malcolm.
"Nane 'at I ken o'," answered Phemy. "But there's heaps o' hidy
holes i' the inside o' 't."
"That's a' very weel; but gien they keppit the mou' an' took their
time till 't, they bude to grip ye."
"There may be, though," resumed Phemy. "It gangs back a lang road.
I hae never been in sicht o' the cud o' 't. It comes doon verra
laich in some places, and gangs up heich again in ithers, but nae
sign o' an en' till 't."
"Is there ony soon' o' watter intill 't?" asked Malcolm.
"Na, nane at ever I hard. But I'll tell ye what I hae hard: I hae
hard the flails gaein' thud, thud, abune my heid."
"Hoot toot, Phemy!" said Malcolm; "we're a guid mile an' a half frae
the nearest ferm toon, an' that I reckon, 'll be the Hoose ferm."
"I canna help that," persisted Phemy. "Gien 't wasna the flails,
whiles ane, an' whiles twa, I dinna ken what it cud hae been. Hoo
far it was I canna say, for it's ill measurin' i' the dark, or wi'
naething but a bowat (lantern) i' yer han'; but gien ye ca'd it
mair, I wadna won'er."
"It's a michty howkin!" said Malcolm; "but for a' that it wadna
haud ye frae the grip o' thae scoonrels: wharever ye ran they cud
rin efter ye."
"I think we cud sort them," said Phemy. "There's ae place, a guid
bit farrer in, whaur the rufe comes doon to the flure, leavin' jist
ae sma' hole to creep throu': it wad be fine to hae a gey muckle
stane handy, jist to row (roll) athort it, an' gar't luik as gien
't was the en' o' a'thing. But the hole's sae sma' at the laird
has ill gettin' his puir hack throu' 't."
"I couldna help won'erin' hoo he wan throu' at the tap there," said
At this the laird laughed almost merrily, and rising, took Malcolm
by the hand and led him to the spot, where he made him feel a rough
groove in the wall of the rocky strait: into this hollow he laid
his hump, and so slid sideways through.
Malcolm squeezed himself through after him, saying, -
"Noo ye're oot, laird, hadna ye better come wi' me hame to Miss
Horn's, whaur ye wad be as safe's gien ye war in h'aven itsel'?"
"Na, I canna gang to Miss Horn's," he replied.
"What for no, laird?"
Pulling Malcolm down towards him, the laird whispered in his ear,
"'Cause she's fleyt at my back."
A moment or two passed ere Malcolm could think of a reply both true
and fitting. When at length he spoke again there was no answer,
and he knew that he was alone.
He left the cave and set out for the Seaton; but, unable to feel
at peace about his friends, resolved, on the way, to return after
seeing his grandfather, and spend the night in the outer cave.
CHAPTER XXXI: WANDERING STARS
He had not been gone many minutes, when the laird passed once more
through the strait, and stood a moment waiting for Phemy; she had
persuaded him to go home to her father's for the night.
But the next instant he darted back, with trembling hands, caught
hold of Phemy, who was following him with the lantern, and stammered
in her ear, -
"There's somebody there! I dinna ken whaur they come frae."
Phemy went to the front of the passage and listened, but could hear
nothing, and returned.
"Bide ye whaur ye are, laird," she said; "I'll gang doon, an' gien
I hear or see naething, I'll come back for ye."
With careful descent, placing her feet on the well known points
unerringly, she reached the bottom, and peeped into the outer cave.
The place was quite dark. Through its jaws the sea glimmered faint
in the low light that skirted the northern horizon; and the slow
pulse of the tide upon the rocks, was the sole sound to be heard.
No: another in the cave close beside her! - one small solitary
noise, as of shingle yielding under the pressure of a standing
foot! She held her breath and listened, her heart beating so loud
that she feared it would deafen her to what would come next. A good
many minutes, half an hour it seemed to her, passed, during which
she heard nothing more; but as she peeped out for the twentieth
time, a figure glided into the field of vision bounded by the
cave's mouth. It was that of a dumpy woman. She entered the cave,
tumbled over one of the forms, and gave a cry coupled with an
"The deevil roast them 'at laid me sic a trap!" she said. "I hae
broken the shins the auld markis laudit!"
"Hold your wicked tongue!" hissed a voice in return, almost in
Phemy's very ear.
"Ow! ye 're there, are ye, mem!" rejoined the other, in a voice that
held internal communication with her wounded shins.
"Coupit ye the crans like me?"
The question, Englished, was, "Did you fall heels over head like