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Oor Ain Folk
Chapter XIV


The Sturdy, Self-reliant Spirit of the Older Generation contrasted with Modern Querulousness—An Unpromising Farm—Geordie Ferrier, the Minister's Man — Co-operative Farming Fifty Years ago—A Farmer-Minister—Geordie's Peculiarities—The Drucken Barber and the Minister—Wattle Dunlop and the Barber—My Father's Fairness—A Grannie's Benediction—My Father's Strong Common-sense—A Disconcerted Fop—Characteristics of my Father and Mother—A Standing Joke—My Mother's Deep Piety and Keen Wit—Her Belief in Direct Answer to Prayer—An Authentic Instance—Her Earnestness and Humour—Her Sense of Duty—Contempt of Meanness— Quaint Criticism on Preaching—Her Farewell Charge to me.

For many years after the great Disruption my father's salary from all official sources, as I have already said, could not have exceeded in the best of years about 130, and the average must have been more nearly 100. This was little enough, in all conscience, to feed, clothe, and educate the large growing family; yet I am not aware that my father ever bemoaned his hard lot, or sought any solace in weak repining and maudlin appeals to the sympathy of friends. He certainly must have had a brave buoyant spirit, not easily daunted; and he was ably seconded in his endeavours to maintain his independence by the self-denying, energetic, and resourceful helpmeet whom he had chosen. I only venture to mention these points of disposition, as they were strongly characteristic of a very large class of Scottish fathers and mothers of the past generation. And surely the example which was set in many such a home as our humble manse has been productive of results such as might put altogether to shame the pitiful repining which, alas ! seems all too common among the degenerate descendants whom one meets with nowadays in many parts. Nothing is more common than to hear well-to-do people, possessed of infinitely greater resources than fell to the lot of their fathers and grandfathers, querulously bemoaning their hard lot, indulging in the mean luxury of morbid self-commiseration, till their moral fibre seems to be reduced to a pulp; and instead of training their children to look upon self-help as the greatest motor, and self-reliance as the supreme economic virtue, they moan and whine and wail over petty difficulties, that would only have nerved the sturdier and braver spirits of the older generation to increased effort. Indeed, one is often almost sickened to see the nerveless, spineless, and spiritless exhibitions which are made by parents nowadays when they are called upon squarely to face the problem of their children's settlement in life; and for the behoof of such I am constrained to put on record what otherwise I might not have touched upon in these recollections, viz. the sturdy, self-reliant spirit in which my good old father and mother set to work to make the best of their poor circumstances. After the persecuting old laird had died, my father succeeded in getting from his successor, the Hon. Fox Maule, a lease of some wild waste moorland, which had never felt the plough, and was covered with gorse and broom, and looked about as bare and uninviting a piece of land as could well be imagined. My father, however, succeeded in securing the services of an honest and efficient man, dear old Geordie Ferrier, who for over thirty years was a faithful and trusty servant, in whom my father found an invaluable and ever-willing co-worker in carrying out all his schemes and agricultural experiments.

A ramshackle collocation of tumble-down huts on the outskirts of the village constituted our farm-steading, consisting of barn, byres, stables, cornyard, courts, and cattle-sheds; and from the furthest date back to which my memory can carry me I remember the ingenuity with which my father and Geordie patched up and repaired these tumble-down structures, for they themselves were too poor and the laird was too stingy ever to provide such steading accommodation as was suitable. The farm in all consisted of perhaps about ninety acres, for the most part stony, whinny moorland of the most unpromising character; but my father, in addition to a brave heart, had a good head and sound judgment, and he was ^thoroughly acquainted with all the latest scientific advances in agriculture. Indeed, by the end of his nineteen years' lease he had turned his unpromising holding into a perfect model farm, which was the admired of all competent beholders. Geordie, and his son 'little Geordie,' worked two pairs of horses with 'an orra horse for the gig and odd jobs.' The gig was a luxury that only came after many weary years of hard work, during which my father trudged on foot through the length and breadth of his wide and scattered parish. 'Jock,' the gig horse, was one of the first presents he got from his attached flock. It may give my readers some idea of the bitterly virulent feelings that raged at the time, when I state that some despicable blackguard went to the length of trying to cripple the poor inoffensive beast by driving a nail into the frog of one of its hoofs right through the quick. On several occasions similar dastardly attempts were made, presumably by those who differed from my father in their opinions, to maim his cattle and destroy his crops. Never once did my father complain. He was too noble-minded; and it is satisfactory to know that in after-years .these feelings must have entirely disappeared. Latterly, he possessed the most loving and affectionate esteem of every one for miles round about, whether they belonged to his own congregation or not

I think my father was one of the first to practise subsoil drainage on a large scale in these northern counties; and by dint of incessant hard work, and the application, for the first time in the Mearns I believe, of lime and other chemical constituents to the soil, he brought his farm into a high state of tillage, so that it returned him a handsome recompense for all the toil he had expended upon it.

Looking back now from the vantage-ground of modern successful experiments, I cannot help feeling proud of the strong earnest faith, the shrewd prescience and practical common sense which characterised my father's methods of working. For instance, we hear a lot nowadays of co-operative farming. Well, more than fifty years ago my father practised it with success. When he had reclaimed a stretch of stony moorland from its pristine unproductiveness, he let it out to any villagers who might wish to cultivate a portion suited to their requirements; but on conditions which, while attractive enough to the villager, were yet ultimately profitable to the tenant-farmer, in this case my father. Thus any weaver, for instance, or cottager in the village was allowed to take a crop of potatoes from the land simply on condition that he thoroughly manured the plot, kept it clean from weeds, and removed the stones. Well, there were dozens of poor people in the village who were very glad to collect dung from the market muir, wheel out their ashes and house refuse, and fertilise their plots with these composts. The children, in their leisure intervals, were set to work to pick up the stones with which they filled the open drains made by Geordie and his assistants; and in this way, by the end of two or three years, the barren whinny muir had been transformed into rich arable fields, from which splendid crops were obtained. Afterwards, the liberal application of lime and bone-dust enabled my father to raise crops that, while they were the envy of all the surrounding farmers, were an object-lesson inspiring them to go and do likewise. In this way the old minister was undoubtedly doing most valuable educative work in the midst of his parish. Every Saturday, too, for many many years, he allowed Geordie or one of his boys to take in the cart to Brechin and bring out coals, or lime, or such heavy bulk goods as could not well be brought out by the parcel cart of the postman. These commodities—coal, slates, manures, etc.—Geordie was allowed to sell, or charge a reasonable freight for their carriage, and if my father got all expenses paid, Geordie was allowed to retain a certain share of the balance. In this way my father supplied a much-felt want in the village, secured the goodwill and affection of a valued servant in Geordie, and set an example of co-operative enterprise which, during the many years in which this kindly system was practised, did much to beget cordial relationships between master and man, the beneficial effects of which extended far beyond the limits of the parish in which this mutually-helpful and considerate system had been inaugurated. My father never thought it beneath the dignity of a clergyman to do as the brave old missionary apostle did, ' work with his own hands to supply his necessities.' I can still see him in my mind's eye, with his brown felt hat and in his shirt-sleeves, holding the plough, driving the cart, wielding the scythe or flail—in fact taking his pleasure in all the daily toil of the farm, and yet never for a moment neglecting his ministerial duties or forgetting that he was a scholarly gentleman. Poor Geordie, with most people, had a most irascible temper, but the affectionate love he bore to my father was really something touching. They had a sincere regard for each other; and though Geordie occasionally (generally about the half-yearly market time) indulged in a wild carouse, I do not suppose that a harsh word ever fell from my father's lips in regard to any of his peccadilloes. My mother was not so patient, and she could not forgo that satisfaction which is so dear to the average good woman of 'improving the occasion' when 'men are overtaken in a fault'; so that after one of Geordie's periodic outbursts there was nothing he had a greater dread of than to undergo the inevitable jobation from my mother, who always got at him when he was 'suffering a recovery/ and made him feel the keen edge of her upbraiding eloquence.

On one such occasion, when my mother had been more than ordinarily indignant with the poor, penitent, unnerved victim of too much whisky and too little self-control, he ventured on a mild remonstrance. Geordie had come down to the manse to get some necessary orders about the farm work, which had been, during the market week, allowed to get sadly in arrears. My mother had already tackled him, and made him feel very much ashamed of himself, but she could not deny herself the luxury of again 'improving the occasion' while Geordie was waiting for my father to come from his study. When the good minister at length appeared, Geordie looked up to his master and said: 'Oh, minister, cud ye no arreenge, for heeven's sake, tae lat the mistress hae the poopit tae hersel' on Sunday, and let's hae a' this oot at aince?'

My mother had always a keen sense of humour, and this pleaded for Geordie now more powerfully than anything else could have done. Shaking her head at him, she just said, ' Ah, Geordie, if the meenister wis only half as hard on ye as I am, ye would be a better character/ And so that particular half-yearly spree was for the time condoned.

This was, however, about Geordie's one fault. In all other respects he was a leal-hearted, faithful, hardworking, noble fellow, and treated us boys just as if we were his own children. If we needed correction he did not hesitate to administer it, and withal he was intensely fond of us, and we always exhibited to him deep affection and unbounded trust. From the farm we were of course supplied with milk, meal, potatoes, and meat. At Martinmas a young 'cattle beast,' as it was called, was generally killed and salted down as part of the winter provender. In one or other of the 'ley parks' as the grazing paddocks were called in that part of Scotland, my father generally had two or three score of sheep fattening, and one of these would be occasionally killed as wanted. But for this welcome addition to the minister's scanty stipend, it would have fared badly many a time and oft with the manse commissariat. All this, of course, was the work of long years, during which my father and mother suffered cruel hardships. Indeed, at times, as I have already indicated, we were but one narrow remove from downright destitution; but there was never a whimper of complaint from the brave-hearted couple. With patient fortitude they performed the daily duties of their hard life, and even when the cupboard and larder were bare indeed, the appeal of those poorer than themselves was never allowed to pass unregarded. When a child, I have known my father and mother go without their dinner themselves, that some poor sick creature in the village might have a meal; but certainly they never let their right hand know what the left hand did.

In speaking of Geordie's periodic sprees, I am reminded of a good story concerning a village barber of like proclivities, which, though it has been already published, may be new to some of my readers. It is one of the finest illustrations of that dry, sleek Scottish humour which we call pawky with which I am acquainted.

The barber had been completely 'on the batter.' The carouse had been heavy and prolonged. At length, with credit exhausted, the unnerved and debilitated shaver had been compelled to betake himself again to the exercise of his calling. Just then the minister, a kindly old man of the paternal school, heard that Tammas had 'sworn off the drink,' and he considered that the opportunity would now be favourable to do as my mother loved to do—that is—'improve the occasion.' Bent on this laudable professional mission, he sallied forth. On entering the humble shaving shop of the remorseful Tammas, however, his kindly heart was smitten with compunction at the sight of the wreck before him. Poor Tammas, indeed, looked a melancholy spectacle. Trembling with unstrung nerves, shaking as if in a palsy, his bleared, bloodshot eyes looked up piteously at the minister, who, inly thinking that it was 'no good pouring water on a drowned rat,' swiftly determined to spare poor Tammas for the nonce, and reserve his sacerdotal censure till the poor 'disjaskit craetur' was in a better condition to profit by a good straight talking-to. He determined, therefore, to make a kindly pretence that he had come in for a shave, and sat down, feeling assured that some opportunity would presently be afforded of saying his ' word in season.'

Now Tammas was not unaware of what was passing in the simple old minister's mind, and if the truth must be told, he was not so repentant as he looked. He was assuming a good deal of the broken-down and battered appearance which he presented. So, with a look of shamefaced penitence, with trembling fingers and in silent contrition (apparent), he proceeded to envelope the minister's neck in the towel, and then began to lather his visitor in approved tonsorial fashion. The minister eyed him with a mildly-reproachful glance, which expressed volumes to Tammas's conscious sense of guilt Now he came to the critical part of the operation. He felt his nerves jumping, but by dint of a strong effort of will, and holding one unsteady hand with the other, he managed to bring the razor pretty deftly down the ample expanse of both the clerical chops. But alas! when the wobbling blade came to the more intricate manipulation of the double chin, the refractory nerves gave a disconcerting jerk, and lo! out gushed the crimson fluid over the snowy napkin.

Now, thought the good minister—now is my time. Here is the opportunity I have been waiting for! So, addressing the abashed-looking Tammas, who expected a torrent of indignant wrath, the simple, kindly man just ventured on a very mild remonstrance. 'Ah, Tammas,' said he, 'ye see what the effects o' strong drink are noo!'

Tammas's spirits at once rose. He knew the worst was past, and his ready humour came to the rescue in a flash of inspiration, as very demurely, but with a spice of lurking drollery, he gravely replied:

'Deed ay, meenister! It mak's the skin unco tender!'

One story of course brings on another. I must, therefore, tell an anecdote, that I am not aware has ever been in print, of the famous Wattie Dunlop and a village barber. This witty and eccentric divine has been the hero of numberless anecdotes, but the scene of the following is in the hamlet of Glencairn, in Dumfriesshire. The village barber there was an original oddity who went generally by the name of Shaver Morton. The Eeverend Wattie had an engagement to preach at Glencairn, and as he arrived late on the Saturday night, after somewhat long and weary travel, some thoughtful soul suggested that Morton should be sent for to shave the tired minister, so that he might get up fresh on Sunday morning and be spared a lot of tedious toilet preparations. The kindly suggestion was acted on at once, and, late as was the hour, Shaver Morton was sent for. Being taken from his Saturday night's toddy, the worthy barber was not in a particularly gracious mood, and he certainly had not provided himself with a properly-prepared razor. The razor, in fact, was direfully blunt. However, he proceeded to operate on Mr. Dunlop's chin, and the first sweep of the weapon drew certain tiny little streaks on the tender flesh, accompanied by an involuntary start and smothered exclamation from the victim. With much assumed solicitude, the shaver asked Wattie, as he bent over him:

'Is't sair, sir?'

'Weel,' responded Wattie, who, now thoroughly apprehended the situation, 'it's sair, an' it's no sair. If it's flayin', it's no sair; but if it's shavin', it's just awfu!'

As an instance of my father's manner with boys, and his sense of fairness, I may narrate an incident which happened one day while he was engaged with Dr. Foote in examining a school The two ministers had taken the Latin class, but for a moment my father's attention had been diverted to something or other taking place in another part of the school Willie Alexander of Brechin, my informant, who was well up in his class, and anxious to get the prize, ventured, by way of mild reminder, to gently touch my father's foot with his own. My brother Jack was in the same class, and about equal in attainments with Willie. My father, feeling the pressure on his foot, became instantly alert, and fancying it was his own boy Jack who had thus tried to engage his attention, turned at once to him, with a humorous shake of the head, and said:

'Ah, Jack, wad ye? Weel, you'll no get the prize; you've no right, sir, to try and take any unfair advantage.' Poor Jack was nonplussed, and it was long after before the pawky Willie enlightened him.

As a companion picture to the parting words addressed to me by my mother, which the reader will find chronicled further on, I might here mention a very characteristic utterance addressed to my friend Jim Alexander by his grannie-, an ancient dame aged ninety-nine at the time she said it. Master Jim had been brought in to receive the dear old lady's parting benediction, which she thus delivered:

'Weel, Jamie, keep yer soul clean, laddie, an' yer nose up, an' there's nae fear o' ye.'

Another instance of my father's sound common sense and contempt of all conventionality is the following. The above-mentioned Willie Alexander met him in the village one day, but he was carrying a long ladder on his shoulder, and although he saw that Willie wished to speak to him, he calmly held on his way until he reached the manse, when, putting down the ladder by the side of the house, he turned to the observant laddie, who had been somewhat surprised at seeing the minister thus engaged, and said, with a merry twinkle in his eye, 'Oh, never mind the ladder, my mannie. If I had stopped to speak or to shak' hands wi' ilka body that wanted to speak to me, or lauched at me, I wad jist hae been a pairfeck nuisance. Na, na, laddie, it's no weel gossipin' wi' a lang ladder on yer shouther.'

He used to tell, with great glee, a story of a certain pompous, pretentious fellow who had left his native place, gone south, and got on pretty well in the world. He bore the patronymic of Smith; and after a considerable absence he took a run down to his native parish to enjoy the sense of his own importance by showing off his airs and graces before his former rural acquaintances. He was dressed in the height of fashion, and allowed himself all sorts of ridiculous affectations. Meeting an old farmer, who had known his very, very humble antecedents, he accosted him in rather a patronising sort of fashion, thus:

'Haw, Mistaw Mollison, and how do you do?'

'Od, sir, ye hae the better o' me,' said the farmer, for the moment nonplussed.

'Aw, don't you remember me? I'm Mistaw George Smith.'

'Ou ay!' said the farmer very drily, 'I behaud ye noo. Wisna yer mither henwife at Dun?'

It must have been seen from the foregoing, and I could multiply instances indefinitely, that both my father and mother had a keen sense of humour and a happy philosophy which led them to look generally on the brighter side of things; and though times must have often been very hard for them, they had such perfect love for and confidence in each other, that I do not believe in all the long course of their married life there was ever a serious difference of opinion between them, and I do not think even a harsh word was said by the one to the other. My mother was active both in mind and body—full of nervous energy—capable of long-sustained effort, and she was a wonderful manager. How could she have been otherwise, to bring up her large family of nine boys and one daughter on the slender stipend of a Free Kirk minister. When I was born my dear father was only in receipt of some 130 per annum, afterwards reduced on account of the appointment of a colleague to 90; and even when the Sustentation Fund—that noble evidence of the liberality and loyalty to conscience of the Scottish Free Churchmen—was in full working order, his annual income could not have exceeded some 150. In all his straits and difficulties he managed to keep up the payments of his Life Insurance policy, the only provision he could make for his life's partner. He managed to keep out of debt, although at the sacrifice of many little comforts, which by most men in his station would be looked on as necessaries. His family were well educated, and, thanks to mother's clever management, we were always well fed—with homely fare, it is true, but meal, potatoes, and herrings have been the provender on which many a good man and true has been nurtured in our Scottish homes.

One favourite joke, which the good old minister never lost a chance of repeating, was in allusion to the number of his family. Any chance visitor coming to the manse and seeing the great noisy troop of boys playing about, would almost to a certainty make some such remark as this: 'Dear me, Mr. Inglis, what a number of fine boys you have. How many are there? To which my father's invariable reply was: 'Well, sir, I have nine boys, and every one of them has a sister.' Of course we only had the one sister between us; but the puzzled visitor would generally manifest his astonished commiseration by holding up his hands and exclaiming, 'Dear, dear me! What a family! nine boys and nine girls.' Presently the laugh would follow at his own expense, when the minister explained the harmless little joke.

My mother was a woman of large faith. She was notably a praying woman. Her faith was of that simple unquestioning kind that is of the essence of real personal piety. To use her own expressive phraseology, and she always used the broad Scotch when under the influence of deep emotion: 'Eh, laddie,' she would say, I'I jist tell the Lord fat I want. I gang straucht till Him, an' lay a' my wants jist doon at His feet; an' He kens best fat's best for me, an' if it's His will I'm sure tae get it: deed ay, laddie. The Lord's no' an ill maister; an' oh He's been guid tae me; deed has He, ay, ay!' Her intense earnest convictions on the subject of prayer, and her belief in direct answers to petitions, were part of her very being. She was conscions of no peculiarity in her matter-of-fact way of expressing herself when she got on to this, one of her favourite themes. Indeed she was one who could treat ridicule with contempt, and her sharp-wittedness proved often quite a match, and more than a match, for the good-humoured sceptical way in which some of her Mends would sometimes affect to treat her experiences. As for the open scoffer, she had a power of rebuke and withering scorn which made her a very dangerous opponent in an argument; and, sooth to say, as a debater and controversialist she was able to hold her own with most even of the learned divines who loomed large in the public eye at that tima On more than one occasion her logic and force, and extensive reading, brought her off triumphantly in an encounter with some of the keenest pulpit wits of the day who happened for the time to be visiting at our manse.

She was hot tempered to a degree; but it was just a blaze for an instant, and then her native humorous temper and punctilious honesty of disposition would lead her to see the absurdity of the situation. Her ebullitions of indignant wrath, or her fulminations against something that had excited her temper, would generally end in a hearty laugh, and the confession that perhaps she was too hasty, and (so and so' was not so bad, perhaps, after all.

One of her favourite illustrations of her belief that God directly answered prayer was the following. It happened not long after the Disruption. I think they had taken possession of the stone cottage that had been built for them by the gifts of friends and the not less loyal services of the attached congregation, the members of which had drawn all the building materials and given 'their labours of love' in erecting a home for their faithful minister.

Well, the good roof was overhead, but alas! the cupboard was bare, bare. My poor father's stipend had been exhausted to the last available shilling, and for some weeks to come there was no prospect of the next quarter's instalment being paid. As I have often heard the dear old lady say, 'There was naething eatable in the hoose ava, laddie, except meal; but there wasna very muckle even o' that, for the girnel was nearly toom. Yer father had been sair forfouchen trampin' through the sna', preachin' three times a week in three different pairts, and three sermons ilka Sawbath day; deed ay, laddie, he did work hard, I'm sure na' Weel, I did not know where oor neist meal was to come from. Yer honest father wad not aloo' me to run up bills, and where to get a good dinner for you a' I did not know. Weel, Jeems, I jist took my trouble to the Lord; deed ay, laddie. I've never kent that to fail yet. I jist retired to my closet and gaed doon on my knees, and opened my hert to my blessed Master, an' I cried for food for yer father and my puir hungry children. Weel, I assure ye, I hadna lang to wait for an answer. As I was prayin' a knock cam' to the door, an' I kent as weel as if I had seen it that the Lord had provided for a' oor wants. I gaed doon stairs an' opened the door—an' there, laddie !—what do you think?—there was the gamekeeper's lathie frae 'The Burn' wi' a pair of the most beeyeutiful white winter hares ye ever set eyes on! He handed them in withoot a word, and oh, laddie, I jist returned thanks upo' my feet, as I stood, and then away I set aff to the kitchen as hard as I could, and it wasna lang I can tell ye before I had the hares skinned and into the pat, and we had a grand brew of hare soup ready for yer father an' the rest o' ye by denner time.'

It may be explained that 'The Burn' was a beautiful quaint old manor-house and estate, lying at the foot of the glen, and belonged to the resident proprietor, Major M'Inroy. Now the Major was an adherent of the Auld Kirk—the Moderate side, and as such did not of course look with favour on my sturdy father's contumacy, as he would probably have called it; and it was the most unlikely thing that could have been thought of, for the Major to send a present of game to the Eev. Robert Inglis. It so happened, however, that the gamekeeper did not share the theological opinions of the worthy Major, but was in fact a warm and strenuous supporter of my father's side in the great controversy of the day. He was, in fact, one of his most devoted adherents. So when the Major had ordered the gamekeeper to send down two of the best hares in the bag, after a successful day's shooting, to the Minister, the gamekeeper very naturally thought of his own minister. My father had been minister of the parish of course before the Disruption, and indeed to the day of his death was always named par excellence 'The Minister.' So in the most natural and innocent way, the boy had been told to take the hares and leave them with The Minister, Mr. Inglis.

But now for the sequel On his way home, it would seem that the luckless boy met the Major himself, as he was driving to the village, and a chance inquiry made the Major aware of the miscarriage of his amiable plans on behalf of Mr. Eadie, the incumbent of the parish church. In tones of thunder he ordered the trembling boy to go back at once, and get possession of the hares, and take them to their proper destination, the manse, and hand them to The right minister this time, without further ado. The wretched, whimpering boy, not at all enamoured of his errand, and little knowing what grave issues had hung on his seemingly careless mistake, arrived back at the cottage just as the family were about to sit down to the savoury soup and stew.

Again the knock came to the door, and again my mother answered the summons. This time the poor little fellow could keep his equanimity no longer, but bursting into tears, sobbed out: 'Oh! Mistress Inglis, it's a clean mistak'!'

Explanations of course ensued. The hares could not be given back—that was plain. The poor lad was taken in and regaled with a plate of the soup he had been the instrument in providing, and then my father, having written a courteous and somewhat humorous letter of explanation to Major M'Inroy, sent off the poor messenger on his homeward way. Now, there must have been something in the letter, or in the lad's telling of the story; or possibly some hint of the straitened circumstances of the good minister's lot may have reached the laird from some outside source. Maybe, as my good old mother said, 'the Lord touched his heart'; but whatever the cause, the result was, that from that time forth many a present of game and other good things began to find its way from the house of the laird to the house of the minister, and never afterwards were my parents' circumstances so straitened as they had been, before my good old mother had laid her case in simple faith before 'a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God.'

Let the cynic sneer as he may. I am honestly thankful to say that I have no difficulty in accepting my dear old mother's version, and sharing in her belief.

Dear simple earnest soul I How imperfectly we valued that noble, confiding trust, that genuine, unaffected piety, till the sweet, loving, gentle mother had left us. But ah! now, after the lapse of years, when we have been through the toil and turmoil, the smoke and dust of life's weary battle, we would give much to have the same calm assured trust that she had.

Sometimes, it must be confessed, the dear old lady's exhortations excited the wicked youngsters to unseemly exhibitions of levity. I am told by my brother George, now a minister in New Zealand, that on one occasion, long after I had left the paternal roof, the class in the Sunday School to which my younger brothers were attached, and which was taught by my mother, had been particularly restless and ill-behaved. She had been making an earnest appeal to the boys to concern themselves more earnestly and diligently about the things of religion. In her fervour, becoming quite oblivious of the mood the boys were manifesting openly, she wound up by passionately exclaiming: 'Eh, boys! I wad do anything to save yer souls.' My younger brother Henry, commonly called 'Hen'—a wicked young wag in his way, but mother's pet—looked up with a comical twinkle in his eye, but with an assumption of lamb-like innocence, and asked, 'Wad you clim' a tree, ma?' Full of earnest feeling, the dear old lady instantly replied, "Deed wad I, laddie—I wad even clim' a tree 1' and then seeing the boys laugh, she gave 'Hen' a smart slap on the cheek, saying: 'Hoots, ye rascal,' but immediately perceiving the humour of the situation, her nose assumed a merry wrinkle, and she heartily joined in the laugh against herself.

As an instance of her keen sense of the duty and obligation to ' give of her substance as God had prospered her,' I may mention an episode which occurred after my father's death. It exemplifies, too, the plain-spokenness and literal matter-of-fact way the older generation had of looking at sacred things, and speaking of them. She had been on a visit to relations in Edinburgh, and had gone to worship in the Free New North Church, where a favourite old friend of her beloved husband's ministered (the Eev. Dr. Charles Brown). She, with her usual keen observation, had seen a gorgeously-attired, fashionable, dowager-looking dame drop a penny in the plate at the door, while she herself, a poor, humble widow, not over-blessed with gear, had, from a sense of duty, given her shilling. She had evidently resented the niggardly meanness of the richly-attired dame, and had been bottling up her indignation during the service. As she came out, however, she gave vent to her feelings by exclaiming to my brother George, who accompanied her:

''Deed no, laddie, I wadna be sae mean. I wadna treat the Lord sae ill. If ye wear silk ye suld gie siller, an' nae less,' and then she explained the cause of her outburst. Comparing the preaching of 'her ain guidman, the minister,' with that of another who was no persona grata with my mother, she said on one occasion to George:

'Ah, laddie! yer father gied's guid pasture—plenty o' clover in't; nae bare pykin like this puir craetur.'

I could not give anything more characteristic of the peculiar bent of her mind than the last words she said to myself when I was leaving for New Zealand. Her heart, I knew, was very full I had been a wild, harum-scarum young student, perhaps not very vicious, but headstrong, rackety, too fond of pleasure, and full of prankish tricks. The dear old lady could not trust herself to come all the way to the station to see me off by the train. She was full of anxiety concerning my future, both for my soul and body. She knew if it was well with me spiritually it could not fail to be well with my prospects for this life in the highest sense; and yet with the anxious concern for my soul's health there mingled that peculiarly Scottish complexity of feeling that gave all its proper value to a fair outward appearance as an index to character, and a means of creating a good impression so as to get on in the world. Perhaps I had not been careful enough of money and clothes, seeing how hard it had been for the self-denying old couple to provide them. At any rate, it was in no spirit of reproach, but in genuine, unaffected, loving concern, that, stopping at the top of Dundas Street, under the shade of an overarching yew tree, placing her thin, worn hands on my broad young shoulders, and kissing me— the last kiss for many weary years—she said: 'Weel, Jamie, fear God, an' tak' care o' yer claes, an' there's nae fear but yell get on.'

Ah me! I have often thought since of the deep pathos in those homely, simple words. I have thought of the worn fingers and weary eyes engaged far into the night many and many a time when all the restless children had been hushed in sleep, busily stitching at the sadly-torn 'claes' which were so hard to get, and so little valued when got by the careless, thoughtless 'laddies.' Ah! many a prayer went up, as the midnight mending went on, that the boys might grow up to be God-fearing men; and it is some satisfaction to think that the gallant, brave old mother's last days were cheered by the evidences of her lads' well-doing, and that she knew that, so far at least as this world is concerned, her prayers on their behalf had been answered.


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