"I wad be laith," answered Malcolm; "she wad be ower bonny a dream
to miss. - Are they a' like that?" he added, speaking under his
"Na, 'deed no!" replied Miss Horn, with mild indignation. "Wad ye
expec' Bawby Cat'nach to luik like that, no? - I beg yer pardon for
mentionin' the wuman, my dear," she added with sudden divergence,
bending towards the still face, and speaking in a tenderly apologetic
tone; "I ken weel ye canna bide the verra name o' her; but it s' be
the last time ye s' hear 't to a' eternity, my doo." Then turning
again to Malcolm. - "Lay yer han' upon her broo, I tell ye," she
"I daurna," replied the youth, still under his breath; "my han's
are no clean. I wadna for the warl' touch her wi' fishy han's."
The same moment, moved by a sudden impulse, whose irresistibleness
was veiled in his unconsciousness, he bent down, and put his lips
to the forehead.
As suddenly he started back erect with dismay on every feature.
"Eh, mem!" he cried in an agonised whisper, "she's dooms cauld!"
"What sud she be?" retorted Miss Horn. "Wad ye hae her beeried
He followed her from the room in silence, with the sense of a faint
sting on his lips. She led him into her parlour, and gave him a
glass of wine.
"Ye'll come to the beerial upo' Setterday?" she asked, half inviting,
"I'm sorry to say, mem, 'at I canna," he answered. "I promised
Maister Graham to tak the schule for him, an' lat him gang."
"Weel, weel! Mr Graham's obleeged to ye, nae doobt, an' we canna
help it. Gie my compliments to yer gran'father."
"I'll du that, mem. He'll be sair pleased, for he's unco gratefu'
for ony sic attention," said Malcolm, and with the words took his
CHAPTER X: THE FUNERAL
That night the weather changed, and grew cloudy and cold. Saturday
morning broke drizzly and dismal. A northeast wind tore off the
tops of the drearily tossing billows. All was gray - enduring,
hopeless gray. Along the coast the waves kept roaring on the sands,
persistent and fateful; the Scaurnose was one mass of foaming white:
and in the caves still haunted by the tide, the bellowing was like
that of thunder.
Through the drizzle shot wind and the fog blown in shreds from the
sea, a large number of the most respectable of the male population
of the burgh, clothed in Sunday gloom deepened by the crape on
their hats, made their way to Miss Horn's, for, despite her rough
manners, she was held in high repute. It was only such as had reason
to dread the secret communication between closet and housetop that
feared her tongue; if she spoke loud, she never spoke false, or
backbit in the dark. What chiefly conduced however to the respect
in which she was held, was that she was one of their own people,
her father having died minister of the parish some twenty years
Comparatively little was known of her deceased cousin, who had been
much of an invalid, and had mostly kept to the house, but all had
understood that Miss Horn was greatly attached to her; and it was
for the sake of the living mainly that the dead was thus honoured.
As the prayer drew to a close, the sounds of trampling and scuffling
feet bore witness that Watty Witherspail and his assistants were
carrying the coffin down the stair. Soon the company rose to follow
it, and trooping out, arranged themselves behind the hearse, which,
horrid with nodding plumes and gold and black panelling, drew away
from the door to make room for them.
Just as they were about to move off, to the amazement of the company
and the few onlookers who, notwithstanding the weather, stood
around to represent the commonalty, Miss Horn herself, solitary,
in a long black cloak and somewhat awful bonnet, issued, and made
her way through the mourners until she stood immediately behind
the hearse, by the side of Mr Cairns, the parish minister. The next
moment, Watty Witherspail, who had his station at the further side
of the hearse, arriving somehow at a knowledge of the apparition,
came round by the horses' heads, and with a look of positive alarm
at the glaring infringement of time honoured customs, addressed
her in half whispered tones expostulatory:
"Ye'll never be thinkin' o' gauin' yersel', mem!" he said.
"What for no, Watty, I wad like to ken," growled Miss Horn from
the vaulted depths of her bonnet.
"The like was never hard tell o'!" returned Watty, with the dismay
of an orthodox undertaker, righteously jealous of all innovation.
"It'll be to tell o' hencefurth," rejoined Miss Horn, who in her
risen anger spoke aloud, caring nothing who heard her. "Daur ye
preshume, Watty Witherspaill," she went on, "for no rizzon but that
I ga'e you the job, an' unnertook to pay ye for't - an' that far
abune its market value, - daur ye preshume, I say, to dictate to
me what I'm to du an' what I'm no to du anent the maitter in han'?
Think ye I hae been a mither to the puir yoong thing for sae mony
a year to lat her gang awa' her lane at the last wi' the likes o'
you for company!"
"Hoot, mem! there's the minister at yer elbuck."
"I tell ye, ye're but a wheen rouch men fowk! There's no a wuman
amon' ye to haud things dacent, 'cep I gang mysel'. I'm no beggin'
the minister's pardon ather. I'll gang. I maun see my puir Grizel
till her last bed."
"I dread it may be too much for your feelings, Miss Horn," said
the minister, who being an ambitious young man of lowly origin, and
very shy of the ridiculous, did not in the least wish her company.
"Feelin's!" exclaimed Miss Horn, in a tone of indignant repudiation;
"I'm gauin' to du what's richt. I s' gang, and gien ye dinna like
my company, Mr Cairns, ye can gang hame, an' I s' gang withoot ye.
Gien she sud happen to be luikin doon, she sanna see me wantin'
at the last o' her. But I s' mak' no wark aboot it. I s' no putt
mysel' ower forret."
And. ere the minister could utter another syllable, she had left
her place to go to the rear. The same instant the procession began
to move, corpse marshalled, towards the grave; and stepping aside,
she stood erect, sternly eyeing the irregular ranks of two and
three and four as they passed her, intending to bring up the rear
alone. But already there was one in that solitary position: with
bowed head, Alexander Graham walked last and single. The moment he
caught sight of Miss Horn, he perceived her design, and, lifting
his hat, offered his arm. She took it almost eagerly, and together
they followed in silence, through the gusty wind and monotonous
The school house was close to the churchyard. An instant hush fell
upon the scholars when the hearse darkened the windows, lasting
while the horrible thing slowly turned to enter the iron gates, -
a deep hush, as if a wave of the eternal silence which rounds all
our noises had broken across its barriers. The mad laird, who had
been present all the morning, trembled from head to foot; yet rose
and went to the door with a look of strange, subdued eagerness. When
Miss Horn and Mr Graham had passed into the churchyard, he followed.
With the bending of uncovered heads, in a final gaze of leave
taking, over the coffin at rest in the bottom of the grave, all
that belonged to the ceremony of burial was fulfilled; but the two
facts that no one left the churchyard, although the wind blew and
the rain fell, until the mound of sheltering earth was heaped high
over the dead, and that the hands of many friends assisted with
spade and shovel, did much to compensate for the lack of a service.
As soon as this labour was ended, Mr Graham again offered his arm
to Miss Horn, who had stood in perfect calmness watching the whole
with her eagle's eyes. But although she accepted his offer, instead
of moving towards the gate, she kept her position in the attitude
of a hostess who will follow her friends. They were the last to go
from the churchyard. When they reached the schoolhouse she would
have had Mr Graham leave her, but he insisted on seeing her home.
Contrary to her habit she yielded, and they slowly followed the
"Safe at last!" half sighed Miss Horn, as they entered the town -
her sole remark on the way.
Rounding a corner, they came upon Mrs Catanach standing at a
neighbour's door, gazing out upon nothing, as was her wont at times,
but talking to some one in the house behind her. Miss Horn turned
her head aside as she passed. A look of low, malicious, half triumphant
cunning lightened across the puffy face of the howdy. She cocked
one bushy eyebrow, setting one eye wide open, drew down the other
eyebrow, nearly closing the eye under it, and stood looking after
them until they were out of sight. Then turning her head over her
shoulder, she burst into a laugh, softly husky with the general
flabbiness of her corporeal conditions.
"What ails ye, Mistress Catanach?" cried a voice from within.
"Sic a couple 's yon twasum wad mak!" she replied, again bursting
into gelatinous laughter.
"Wha, than? I canna lea' my milk parritch to come an' luik."
"Ow! jist Meg Horn, the auld kail runt, an' Sanny Graham, the
stickit minister. I wad like weel to be at the beddin' o' them.
Eh! the twa heids o' them upon ae bowster!"
And chuckling a low chuckle, Mrs Catanach moved for her own door.
As soon as the churchyard was clear of the funeral train, the mad
laird peeped from behind a tall stone, gazed cautiously around him,
and then with slow steps came and stood over the new made grave,
where the sexton was now laying the turf, "to mak a' snod (trim)
for the Sawbath."
"Whaur is she gane till?" he murmured to himself - He could generally
speak better when merely uttering his thoughts without attempt at
communication. - "I dinna ken whaur I cam frae, an' I dinna ken
whaur she's gane till; but whan I gang mysel', maybe I'll ken baith.
- I dinna ken, I dinna ken, I dinna ken whaur I cam frae."
Thus muttering, so lost in the thoughts that originated them
that he spoke the words mechanically, he left the churchyard and
returned to the school, where, under the superintendence of Malcolm,
everything had been going on in the usual Saturday fashion - the
work of the day which closed the week's labours, being to repeat a
certain number of questions of the Shorter Catechism (which term,
alas! included the answers), and next to buttress them with a number
of suffering caryatids, as it were - texts of Scripture, I mean,
first petrified and then dragged into the service. Before Mr
Graham returned, every one had done his part except Sheltie, who,
excellent at asking questions for himself, had a very poor memory
for the answers to those of other people, and was in consequence
often a keepie in. He did not generally heed it much, however, for
the master was not angry with him on such occasions, and they gave
him an opportunity of asking in his turn a multitude of questions
of his own.
When he entered, he found Malcolm reading The Tempest and Sheltie
sitting in the middle of the waste schoolroom, with his elbows on
the desk before him, and his head and the Shorter Catechism between
them; while in the farthest corner sat Mr Stewart, with his eyes
fixed on the ground, murmuring his answerless questions to himself.
"Come up, Sheltie," said Mr Graham, anxious to let the boy go.
"Which of the questions did you break down in today?"
"Please, sir, I cudna rest i' my grave till the resurrection,"
answered Sheltie, with but a dim sense of the humour involved in
"'What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death?'" said
Mr Graham, putting the question with a smile.
"'The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness,
and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still
united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection,'"
replied Sheltie, now with perfect accuracy; whereupon the master,
fearing the outbreak of a torrent of counter questions, made haste
to dismiss him.
"That'll do, Sheltie," he said. "Run home to your dinner."
Sheltie shot from the room like a shell from a mortar.
He had barely vanished when Mr Stewart rose and came slowly from
his corner, his legs appearing to tremble under the weight of his
hump, which moved fitfully up and down in his futile attempts to
utter the word resurrection. As he advanced, he kept heaving one
shoulder forward, as if he would fain bring his huge burden to
the front, and hold it out in mute appeal to his instructor; but
before reaching him he suddenly stopped, lay down on the floor on
his back, and commenced rolling from side to side, with moans and
complaints. Mr Graham interpreted the action into the question -
How was such a body as his to rest in its grave till the resurrection
- perched thus on its own back in the coffin? All the answer he
could think of was to lay hold of his hand, lift him, and point
upwards. The poor fellow shook his head, glanced over his shoulder
at his hump, and murmured "Heavy, heavy!" seeming to imply that it
would be hard for him to rise and ascend at the last day.
He had doubtless a dim notion that all his trouble had to do with
CHAPTER XI: THE OLD CHURCH
The next day, the day of the Resurrection, rose glorious from its
sepulchre of sea fog and drizzle. It had poured all night long,
but at sunrise the clouds had broken and scattered, and the air was
the purer for the cleansing rain, while the earth shone with that
peculiar lustre which follows the weeping which has endured its
appointed night. The larks were at it again, singing as if their
hearts would break for joy as they hovered in brooding exultation
over the song of the future; for their nests beneath hoarded a wealth
of larks for summers to come. Especially about the old church -
half buried in the ancient trees of Lossie House, the birds that
day were jubilant; their throats seemed too narrow to let out the
joyful air that filled all their hollow bones and quills: they sang
as if they must sing, or choke with too much gladness. Beyond the
short spire and its shining cock, rose the balls and stars and
arrowy vanes of the House, glittering in gold and sunshine.
The inward hush of the Resurrection, broken only by the prophetic
birds, the poets of the groaning and travailing creation, held time
and space as in a trance; and the centre from which radiated both
the hush and the carolling expectation seemed to Alexander Graham
to be the churchyard in which he was now walking in the cool of the
morning. It was more carefully kept than most Scottish churchyards,
and yet was not too trim. Nature had a word in the affair -
was allowed her part of mourning, in long grass and moss and the
crumbling away of stone. The wholesomeness of decay, which both
in nature and humanity is but the miry road back to life, was not
unrecognized here; there was nothing of the hideous attempt to hide
death in the garments of life. The master walked about gently, now
stopping to read some well known inscription and ponder for a moment
over the words; and now wandering across the stoneless mounds,
content to be forgotten by all but those who loved the departed. At
length he seated himself on a slab by the side of the mound that
rose but yesterday: it was sculptured with symbols of decay -
needless surely where the originals lay about the mouth of every
newly opened grave, and as surely ill befitting the precincts of
a church whose indwelling gospel is of life victorious over death!
"What are these stones," he said to himself, "but monuments to
oblivion? They are not memorials of the dead, but memorials of the
forgetfulness of the living. How vain it is to send a poor forsaken
name, like the title page of a lost book, down the careless stream
of time! Let me serve my generation, and let God remember me!"
The morning wore on; the sun rose higher and higher. He drew from
his pocket the Nosce Teipsum. of Sir John Davies, and was still
reading, in quiet enjoyment of the fine logic of the lawyer poet,
when he heard the church key, in the trembling hand of Jonathan Auld,
the sexton, jar feebly battling with the reluctant lock. Soon the
people began to gather, mostly in groups and couples. At length
came solitary Miss Horn, whom the neighbours, from respect to her
sorrow, had left to walk alone. But Mr Graham went to meet her,
and accompanied her into the church.
It was a cruciform building, as old as the vanished monastery, and
the burial place of generations of noble blood; the dust of royalty
even lay under its floor. A knight of stone reclined cross legged
in a niche with an arched Norman canopy in one of the walls, the
rest of which was nearly encased in large tablets of white marble,
for at his foot lay the ashes of barons and earls whose title was
extinct, and whose lands had been inherited by the family of Lossie.
Inside as well as outside of the church the ground had risen with
the dust of generations, so that the walls were low; and heavy
galleries having been erected in parts, the place was filled with
shadowy recesses and haunted with glooms. From a window in the
square pew where he sat, so small and low that he had to bend his
head to look out of it, the schoolmaster could see a rivulet of
sunshine, streaming through between two upright gravestones, and
glorifying the long grass of a neglected mound that lay close to
the wall under the wintry drip from the eaves: when he raised his
head, the church looked very dark. The best way there to preach
the Resurrection, he thought, would be to contrast the sepulchral
gloom of the church, its dreary psalms and drearier sermons, with
the sunlight on the graves, the lark filled sky, and the wind blowing
where it listed. But although the minister was a young man of the
commonest order, educated to the church that he might eat bread,
hence a mere willing slave to the beck of his lord and master, the
patron, and but a parrot in the pulpit, the schoolmaster not only
endeavoured to pour his feelings and desires into the mould of his
prayers, but listened to the sermon with a countenance that revealed
no distaste for the weak and unsavoury broth ladled out him to
nourish his soul withal. When however the service - though whose
purposes the affair could be supposed to serve except those of Mr
Cairns himself, would have been a curious question - was over,
he did breathe a sigh of relief; and when he stepped out into the
sun and wind which had been shining and blowing all the time of
the dreary ceremony, he wondered whether the larks might not have
had the best of it in the God praising that had been going on for
two slow paced hours. Yet, having been so long used to the sort of
thing, he did not mind it half so much as his friend Malcolm, who
found the Sunday observances an unspeakable weariness to both flesh
On the present occasion, however, Malcolm did not find the said
observances dreary, for he observed nothing but the vision which
radiated from the dusk of the small gallery forming Lossie pew,
directly opposite the Norman canopy and stone crusader. Unconventional,
careless girl as Lady Florimel had hitherto shown herself to him,
he saw her sit that morning like the proudest of her race, alone,
and, to all appearance, unaware of a single other person's being
in the church besides herself. She manifested no interest in what
was going on, nor indeed felt any - how could she? never parted
her lips to sing; sat during the prayer; and throughout the
sermon seemed to Malcolm not once to move her eyes from the carved
crusader. When all was over, she still sat motionless - sat until
the last old woman had hobbled out. Then she rose, walked slowly from
the gloom of the church, flashed into the glow of the churchyard,
gleamed across it to a private door in the wall, which a servant
held for her, and vanished. If a moment after, the notes of a merry
song invaded the ears of those who yet lingered, who could dare
suspect that proudly sedate damsel thus suddenly breaking the ice
of her public behaviour?
For a mere school girl she had certainly done the lady's part well.
What she wore I do not exactly know; nor would it perhaps be well
to describe what might seem grotesque to such prejudiced readers
as have no judgment beyond the fashions of the day. But I will not
let pass the opportunity of reminding them how sadly old fashioned
we of the present hour also look in the eyes of those equally
infallible judges who have been in dread procession towards us ever
since we began to be - our posterity - judges who perhaps will
doubt with a smile whether we even knew what love was, or ever had
a dream of the grandeur they are on the point of grasping. But at
least bethink yourselves, dear posterity: we have not ceased because
you have begun.
Out of the church the blind Duncan strode with long, confident
strides. He had no staff to aid him, for he never carried one when
in his best clothes; but he leaned proudly on Malcolm's arm, if
one who walked so erect could be said to lean. He had adorned his
bonnet the autumn before with a sprig of the large purple heather,
but every bell had fallen from it, leaving only the naked spray,
pitiful analogue of the whole withered exterior of which it formed
part. His sporran, however, hid the stained front of his kilt,
and his Sunday coat had been new within ten years - the gift of
certain ladies of Portlossie, some of whom, to whose lowland eyes
the kilt was obnoxious, would have added a pair of trowsers, had
not Miss Horn stoutly opposed them, confident that Duncan would
regard the present as an insult. And she was right; for rather than
wear anything instead of the philibeg, Duncan would have plaited
himself one with his own blind fingers out of an old sack. Indeed,
although the trews were never at any time unknown in the Highlands,
Duncan had always regarded them as effeminate, and especially in
his lowland exile would have looked upon the wearing of them as a
disgrace to his highland birth.
"Tat wass a fery coot sairmon today, Malcolm," he said, as they
stepped from the churchyard upon the road.
Malcolm, knowing well whither conversation on the subject would
lead, made no reply. His grandfather, finding him silent, iterated
his remark, with the addition - "Put how could it pe a paad one,
you'll pe thinking, my poy, when he'd pe hafing such a text to keep
Malcolm continued silent, for a good many people were within hearing,
whom he did not wish to see amused with the remarks certain to follow
any he could make. But Mr Graham, who happened to be walking near
the old man on the other side, out of pure politeness made a partial
"Yes, Mr MacPhail," he said, "it was a grand text."
"Yes, and it wass'll pe a cran' sairmon," persisted Duncan.
"'Fenchence is mine - I will repay.' Ta Lord loves fenchence.
It's a fine thing, fenchence. To make ta wicked know tat tey'll pe
peing put men! Yes; ta Lord will slay ta wicked. Ta Lord will gif
ta honest man fenchence upon his enemies. It wass a cran' sairmon!"
"Don't you think vengeance a very dreadful thing, Mr MacPhail?"
said the schoolmaster.
"Yes, for ta von tat'll pe in ta wrong - I wish ta fenchence was
mine!" he added with a loud sigh.
"But the Lord doesn't think any of us fit to be trusted with it,
and so keeps it to himself, you see."
"Yes, and tat'll pe pecause it 'll pe too coot to be gifing to
another. And some people would be waik of heart, and be letting
teir enemies co."
"I suspect it's for the opposite reason, Mr MacPhail: - we would
go much too far, making no allowances, causing the innocent to
suffer along with the guilty, neither giving fair play nor avoiding
cruelty, - and indeed"
"No fear!" interrupted Duncan eagerly, - "no fear, when ta wrong
wass as larch as Morven!"
In the sermon there had not been one word as to St Paul's design
in quoting the text. It had been but a theatrical setting forth
of the vengeance of God upon sin, illustrated with several common
tales of the discovery of murder by strange means - a sermon
after Duncan's own heart; and nothing but the way in which he now
snuffed the wind with head thrown back and nostrils dilated, could
have given an adequate idea of how much he enjoyed the recollection
Mr Graham had for many years believed that he must have some
personal wrongs to brood over, - wrongs, probably, to which were
to be attributed his loneliness and exile; but of such Duncan had
never spoken, uttering no maledictions except against the real or
imagined foes of his family.*
*[What added to the likelihood of Mr Graham's conjecture was the
fact, well enough known to him, though to few lowlanders besides,