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Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe
Chapter II — Introductory



German Band of 1739:
With Piper in the Foreground.
From an old Engraving presented to the Author by Mr W. K. Gair, The Kilns, Falkirk.

I HAVE no wish to pose as an authority on the Bagpipe, nor is this book meant to be authoritative in any way.

It is but a beginning; a groping for the light in dark places. If I correct some very palpable errors, which through constant repetition have gained currency among a certain section of the public, I also lay myself open to correction, and will welcome such. I have avoided conjecture as much as possible, but it is impossible to avoid it altogether when writing of a subject whose history reaches back to the remote and misty past—to “an axe age, a spear age, a wolf age, a war age.”

I have lectured on this subject for many years, but always as a student; always with the hope of improving my own knowledge.

And to-day, in the light of such knowledge as I have been able to pick up, I proclaim myself to be one of the “unwary,” as Mr MacBain of Inverness calls them, “who postulate for the Bagpipe a hoary antiquity ” in the Highlands and elsewhere. This book is the result of accident rather than of design. When President of the Falkirk Highland Society,

I was one night impressing upon the members the necessity of each doing something for the Society and not leaving the burden of the work on two or three shoulders, as had been done in the past, if it were to be a permanent success. Among other subjects suitable for short papers I named the Bagpipe, and at the mention of the word an audible smile rippled along the benches. I was somewhat annoyed at this, and although I did not myself know anything of its history at the time, I promptly accepted the challenge to write a paper on it. This was the beginning of my book.

One month later I gave my first lecture on the Bagpipe to a crowded house, the largest gathering ever held under the auspices of the Society, and one of the most successful.

The great enthusiasm displayed during the evening by the Highlanders present was the highest compliment which could be paid to the choice of a subject which, as I have said, was in a manner forced upon me, and also shewed that the dear old “ Pipes ” could still delight and enthuse as in days of old. Pipe-Major Bulloch and Pipe-Major Simpson gave selections on the Bagpipe illustrative of the lecture ; both shewed themselves masters of the instrument, and their delightful playing added largely to the success of this, the first lecture, I believe, ever delivered on the Bagpipe.

During the month of preparation not a saleroom or bric-a-brac shop in Glasgow or Edinburgh but was visited in search of old “Pipes,” and the joy in each new find still remains for me a sunny memory.

I need hardly remind my readers that it was in Falkirk that the revival of the Bagpipe took place after its suppression by the Government in 1747: here was held the first competition promoted by the Highland Society of London in 1779; and here too it seems only fitting that the first lecture on the Bagpipe, one hundred and odd years later, should have been delivered.

For this reason, too, if any “kudos” should happen to follow upon this venture, I would like the good old town of Falkirk to share in it.

My book has been thought out while walking through its streets, or cycling in the country round about, or wandering over its old battlefields, or seated in the cosy corner waiting upon some case or other while the rest of the world slumbered.

A chapter has been written, now here, on a plain deal table, almost the only piece of furniture in a one-roomed house ; now there, on a table of beautiful ormolu design, one of half-a-dozen decorating the drawing-room of some wealthy citizen; and in this way the book has become “part and parcel” of my every-day life and work in Falkirk during the past few years.

I am therefore having it published in Falkirk, and printed by a Falkirk “Bairn,” so that everything about it may be redolent of the town which has been for so many years my abiding place.

I know that my qualifications for the task of writing a History of the Bagpipe are few, and it was therefore rather tantalizing some years ago to have the one qualification, my Celtic blood, on which I prided myself the most, ruthlessly trampled upon by Dr MacPherson, now one of His Majesty’s Commissioners in Lunacy. The Doctor lectured one evening to the Falkirk Highlanders on “The Celt in History,” and his conclusion of the whole matter, which was received in grim silence by his hearers, each of whom had hitherto considered himself as The Celt—I had almost said the salt—of the earth, was that there is no such thing as a pure Celt in the Highlands to-day.

My Celtic qualification was thus discredited. “But,” added the lecturer, and the fine words that night did not butter the parsnips for his audience, “you who have been born in the Highlands, and are of Highland parentage, can call yourselves instead, and with greater truth, pure Highlanders.”

There was a searching of hearts and of genealogies after the meeting broke up, and I felt some consolation in dropping the Celt to know that I could lay claim to the title of Highlander with some credit. I was born in Argyleshire ; my father was a Fraser, which goes without saying ! My mother was a MacLachlan, my grandmother a Gunn ; my cousins in order of merit were Frasers, Macintoshes, Grants, Shaws, MacLachlans, and MacNicols.

My father was born in the Parish of Avoch, in the Black Isle, opposite to Inverness, in the beginning of last century, at a time when the name of the “bloody” Cumberland was used as a bogey to frighten the children with.

He learned the story of the ’45 at first hand from his grandfather, who was out in the “Rebellion,” and many a time and oft his heart burned with indignation at the recital of the many cruelties perpetrated by “The Butcher’s” orders.

The story of the murder of Charles Fraser, jun., of Inverallochy, in cold blood after the battle of Culloden was often repeated in his hearing. He was a distant kinsman of ours, and the horror of the tale would lose nothing through this to the listening boy. The tale, which is a true one, and which was recorded at the time by more observers of the incident than one, will bear repetition here.

The Duke, while riding over the battle-field after the short but sharp tussle was over, saw a young Highland officer lying wounded on the ground. He was resting on his elbow, and looked up at the Duke as he was riding by. “To what party do you belong?” said the ‘Butcher.’ The answer came back proudly, “To the Prince.” “Shoot me that Highland scoundrel who thus dares to look on us with so insolent a stare,” shouted Cumberland. This command was addressed to Wolfe, then an ensign, the General who afterwards died so gloriously on the Heights of Abraham. He refused to obey, as did the other officers one by one, and placed their commissions at His Grace’s disposal, rather than carry out so degrading an order. His Royal Highness, who, it was said, never forgave the brave Wolfe for this, commanded one of the common soldiers to shoot this lad, not yet turned twenty years of age, and the cowardly deed was at length done.

Is it to be wondered at that the nicknames of “The Bloody Duke” and “The Butcher” were given to him by the old Highlanders and are still recalled by us their children?

This story, along with others of the same kind, made so strong an impression on my father that he found it impossible to take up arms after the manner of his forefathers, more especially in defence of a Government which he believed encouraged such cruelties. He accordingly turned his attention to ways of peace, and became a trader.

He soon owned a fleet of small sloops, with which he traded among the Western Islands, but ultimately, tempted by the beauty of the country, settled in business at Lochgilphead. Here he lived the best part of his life; was elected and re-elected more than once chief magistrate; and here he died and was buried at the ripe age of eighty-one. He was a good Gaelic scholar, and was said to be a very eloquent speaker both in Gaelic and in English.

He was successful in business, and made a fortune, as fortunes went in the days before the advent of the millionaire.

He was a very muscular man, with never an ounce of fat about him; he stood 5 ft. 11½ ins. in his stockings, and girthed round the bare chest some 48 inches.

He was of great strength, but seldom if ever used it; peace with honour was his motto; and when called in to settle a quarrel he always tried peaceful methods first.

For two years or so, after the bursting of the Crinan Canal, an event which I shall never forget, nor the fearful night of wind and rain which preceded the disastrous flood, an army of several hundred navvies was engaged in mending it.

When pay day came round, the village of Lochgilphead, in which the pay office was situated, became a veritable battlefield; a succession of fights, in which we boys took an unholy delight, went on from morn to night. Old Dugald, the policeman, wisely shut himself into his house on these occasions, and there was none to say the fighters nay.

One pay Saturday a little Highlander was getting the worst of it in a boxing-match with a big Irish navvy. Our sympathies were with the little Highlander, who, although he took his punishment like a man, was getting fairly mauled, and I remember well how I shivered with terror each time he went down before the powerful blows of his antagonist. The crowd, feeling quite sure that there would be murder before the fight was over, asked me to run for my father.

He came at once, not even waiting to put his hat on, and taking in the situation at a glance, he suddenly seized the Highlander from behind with one hand and carried him off the field, the small man struggling in the air the while like a little child ; shoved him into a house near at hand, and shut out the Irishman, whom he faced up to and was prepared to tackle, but who, I must say, for reasons best known to himself, did not make any very serious objections to the Chief Magistrate’s original method of stopping an unfair fight. This was done without any seeming exertion on my father’s part. Twice, however, I did see him exert himself, and the two feats of strength—both also shewing great bravery— were the talk of the town for many a long day after.

Once a mad Highland bullock—mad because it had been struck badly by an incapable butcher at the killing stone in Menzies’ yard—broke away and charged wildly at a group of people, including my brother and myself, who were looking on. The men and all who could run away bolted from the infuriated animal, but my brother and I, holding each other’s hands tightly, stood rooted to the spot in terror.

As the huge beast charged down upon us my father appeared on the scene, and, quick as thought, threw himself in the way of the angry bullock, drawing its attention away from us to himself. The ruse was successful, and after a moment’s indecision the enraged animal, with the red foam flying from mouth and nostrils, and madness in its eye, charged away from us to the spot where father stood expectant. By a quick movement, more like legerdemain than anything else, he stepped to one side on its approach, thus avoiding the charging horns, which in the twinkling of an eye he seized from behind, and standing close up to the neck of the animal, and planting his foot firmly against a projecting stone in the yard, which was known as the small killing stone, he held the struggling brute as in a vice until the frightened men returned with new ropes and secured it once more, when he himself, by request, and to avoid any further mistake, gave it the death-dealing blow, and all was over.

On another occasion, the partition wall between two houses in a large three-storied building was being removed from the basement floor. The methods then in vogue were very primitive, and incurred much more danger to the masons engaged in the operation than in these days. The great wooden beam, which was already fixed into a niche in the wall by one end, and which was to take the place of the removed wall, was being supported on the backs of a dozen or more strong men, ready to be slipped into its place the moment the centre prop, which was really a piece of the wall itself, was knocked away.

But the moment this last support was removed, the wall was heard and seen to crack in an ugly manner, and it was evident that the partition was coming down before the beam could be got into place. The unusual operation had drawn a great crowd of villagers to the spot, and these began to clear out in a hurry when it was believed that the house was falling about their ears ; but my father, who was also looking on, shouting encouragement to those above, swarmed up on to the platform beside the men whose lives were now in serious danger, and, putting his back under the end of the beam, he cried out cheerily, “Now, men, heave! ho!”—and all putting forth their best strength, the great beam slowly rose against the descending wall, and was shoved into place, but not a moment too soon.

A sigh of relief, which was almost a sob, rose from the crowd below when it saw that the danger was past, and the tension of feeling found vent in a spontaneous outburst of cheering, renewed again and again. My father, his assistance no longer required, stepped down from the platform and went quietly home to breakfast, himself the only one of the crowd who saw nothing heroic in a deed which won for him, on that still summer’s morning, the hearts of the people.

His quiet courage and his manliness on all occasions made us feel that he was a grand soldier lost to his country, and that the sword, not the ell wand, would have best graced his side.

My grandfather was a soldier, and served for many years with the first regiment of the Sutherland Highlanders. His father and grandfather before him were soldiers ; and soldiers my people were as far back as tradition goes. And before that? Well! as the Book of Books says, “In those days Noah made unto himself an ark of Gopher wood.”

I should like here to pay a passing tribute to the memory of an old aunt who lived with us for the best part of her life, not because I loved her, but on account of the great love which she bore to the Highlands. She was my father’s sister, and each was the antithesis of the other. They may have been one at heart, but father was not the sort of man who wears his affections on his sleeve, and if he had any predilections for the old life, he was remarkably successful in concealing them from us. Aunt, on the other hand, was wholly and frankly Highland. Inverness was the county of counties ; and its people were the brave ones, the true and loyal and hospitable ones. There you would always find the open hand and the open heart ; the spirit of hospitality was as rampant in the poorest crofter’s hut as in the chiefs castle. When a visitor arrived—a stranger it might be, and utterly unexpected—the fatted calf, or the fatted kid, or the fatted hen, was killed in his honour, and not unfrequently the family starved that he should have plenty. The best chair in the cosy corner was his during the day, and when he retired at night it was to the “best” bed covered with the finest linen.

For gentle and simple, it was the land of unfailing welcome, the land of “the open door.” Aunt always maintained that the door was never locked in her old home ; seldom even did it stand on the sneck; but, open all day long, it smiled a kindly welcome upon every passer-by.

And, I remember well, that she carried out this welcome of “the open door” to a certain extent at least in the old home at Lochgilphead, where the kitchen door, with my father’s consent, was never locked; and in the winter months she always saw to it that a good fire was left banked up, so that no poor waif or stray passing by should want for warmth or shelter when the weather was inclement. Father, however, always took good care to see that the door between the kitchen and the house was fastened : his trust in the stranger was not so implicit and child-like.

My aunt was a capital teller of stories, of which she had a great store, and nothing was more delightful than to sit round the fire at night and in its cheery red glow listen to her ever-fresh tales. Her tales of wolves were many and weird, and were founded on stories handed down from the days when wolves infested the Highlands : of wolves driven desperate by hunger in the hard winter months, coming down from their dens in the mountains, and attacking men in the open : of wolves making a sudden dash in at the door, in the dusk of the evening, and carrying off the sleeping child before its mother’s eyes : of wolves— and how creepy this used to make us feel—climbing on to the roofs at night and eating their silent way through the soft thatch while the unsuspecting household slumbered.

Or, again, she would tell of the perils of the chase : of the wild boar at bay turning upon the hunter and gashing his body with its terrible tusks ; or of the deer-stalker, in the excitement of the chase, missing his foothold and slipping over the edge of the treacherous precipice, and falling “down, down, down,” into empty black space. The grey hag of the single tooth and grisly paw, was a favourite story of hers ; and many of her tales of fairies and witches were worthy to rank beside Hans Andersen’s best. In talking of the dead, which she always did with reverence, she had an eerie trick of looking over her shoulder, as if the spirits of the departed hovered near. At such times I often fancied that a breath of ice-cold wind—cold as the grave from which it came—swept down my back: an eerie sensation to have. But in one way or another, when in the humour, she used to thrill us with a delightful sense of fear and terror, so that we could not go to bed alone. Aunt was also great in folk-lore, and believed firmly in the potency of healing crystals, and other Highland charms. She dabbled in medicine continually, and her advice was valued, and much sought after by the sick poor.

All the old medicinal herbs were known to her by their Gaelic names, with their several virtues ; and from these she occasionally made most horrible decoctions, which, however, I must admit, she mostly drank herself, when B—’s pills, her favourite remedy, failed to rise to the occasion, and through this, or in spite of this—it will always be a debatable point!— she lived to be well over the allotted span of threescore years and ten.

But aunt’s strong point was genealogy. She could trace the history of every family of distinction in the North, including our own, from its remotest branches back to the fountain head.

I remember once coming home from school somewhat crestfallen and depressed, because some of the boys had shouted after me in chorus “Frishelach Fraser, Fresh Herring! Frishelach Fraser, Fresh Herring!” to which I could but feebly reply, “ Better fresh herring (Scattan Ur) than rotten herring” (Scattan gorst). Now, my knowledge of Gaelic at that time was so poor that I believed the word Frishelach, which really means Fraser, meant fresh herring. But when I told my aunt of my troubles, she explained the word to me, and said “You shouldn’t listen to what these ill-bred boys say; it is just because you are a Frishelach that they are jealous of you; you have got better blood in your veins than any of them.” Whether the boys who shouted after me understood the words used by them any better than I did is uncertain, but this I know, that they tapped the nose of a Frishelach with the same unconcern as they tapped the nose of a common Smith, and saw no difference in the “claret” drawn. This trifling incident gave aunt an opportunity when evening came on, to lecture to us on the genealogy of our branch of the Fraser family, which lecture was interrupted at the most interesting point by the advent of father, who, I believe must have been listening at the door for some time, and said:—the while looking very sternly at aunt,—“ How often have I told you to give up stuffing the children’s heads with all that nonsense : much your fine relations will do for you. As for you,”turning to us,“ I’ll have you holding on to no one’s coat-tails, remember that. You have got your own way to make in the world, so off to bed with you and forget your aunt’s stories.” Aunt, however, stuck to her grand relations, in spite of my father’s ridicule ; and although damped down for a time by one of his attacks, she was sure sooner or later to break out again on the forbidden subject, which was not altogether good for us. She always maintained, and we were sharp enough to notice that father never actually denied the truthfulness of her statement, that we were descended from one of the most distinguished branches of the family, and that but for the loss of some papers, which had mysteriously disappeared, we should have been landed proprietors in the North to-day, and the stigma of trade, as she called it, would never have fallen upon us. She never indeed forgave my father for becoming a tradesman, and, I am sorry to say, made us at times ashamed of his calling. A “parvenu” she could not stand, and the small “gentry,” of one or two generations only, she sniffed at. When one of these latter put some real or fancied slight upon her, she would come home furious. “This is what I have to stand from these people whose grandfathers were nobodies, because I am your father’s sister.”

It was on these occasions that, taking out her geneological tree, she would climb to the topmost branches, and, perching us around her, she would, from this coign of vantage, pour out the viols of her wrath upon the head of the unsuspecting offender below. But if father appeared by any chance on such occasions, which he had a trick of doing, aunt climbed down the tree much more quickly than she had climbed up. She certainly stood in awe of the head of the house—but she was not peculiar in this. Once, however, when death, for the first time, visited our hitherto unbroken circle, she asserted herself in strangest fashion, much to our astonishment, and forcibly seizing hold of the reins of government, she ordered the household about—including father and mother—in regal fashion. She would have her mother buried in the old Highland way ; and would herself arrange everything : she dared interference. All the invitations — and they were very numerous — were issued by her. To the principal relations, she wrote herself, in a cramped hand, and with many a painful effort : the ordinary invitation was printed. Whether any of our “fine” relations came to the funeral I do not know : if they did, so far as I can remember, we small boys were overlooked by them in the bustle and excitement of the day.

Now, my father was an abstainer all his life, and no strong drink of any kind was allowed in the house; but on this occasion, aunt brushing aside his scruples with slightly veiled contempt, ordered in quantities of wine and whisky, to which he made no demur. Huge kebbocks of cheese also, and delicacies of all sorts were provided for the coming guests, and the maids were busy night and day baking cakes and scones ; while the country side was scoured for hens with which to make a dish, much in demand on state occasions, a kind of Highland soup,—the most delicious dish in the world—a single whiff of which would have made hungry Esau sell his birthright ten times over.

The body of the little lady upstairs, who was in her 79th year when she died, and was only 4 ft. ii| inches in height, lay in state for ten days. This was to allow the friends from far off Inverness and Ross-shire to get to the funeral ; and as some of the arrivals were earlier than others, the house became, during the last few days of waiting, like a hotel; and with each new arrival aunt’s importance grew.

In this way, for several days before the funeral, feasting, such as we had never seen before, and mourning, which we did not quite comprehend, walked the house arm in arm from morn till night.

It is somewhat amusing to look back on the old life of fifty years ago. Everything was so different then from now. On the Greenock and Glasgow line I have travelled on an open truck to and from college. Habits of thrift were inculcated week in week out, with a wearisome monotony, and, worse still, were put into practice, with the result that we seldom or ever had pocket money given us. A single toy or book would last the year, and holidays, which were looked upon by our parents as a nuisance, were spent at home. Children were taught to respect their elders more, which was a good thing, and the fear of the parent was greater than the “fear of the Lord,” which was not perhaps so good.

While my father was plain Donald Fraser to the public—a big, burly, smiling, good-natured man—he was the Grand Seigneur in his own house, whose slightest word was law. We always addressed him hat in hand, and prefaced all requests with “Sir.” He kept up a dignity and a state before us that never slacked, although for politic reasons these were laid aside during business hours. His bedroom was a terra incognita to the last. We were never allowed to take our meals with him ; he always dined alone, while we passed the time outside,—on the landing opposite the dining-room—with marbles, teetotum, and such like games, until the command to enter the sacred presence was given, when we invariably marched in according to seniority. The pleasure of the game outside, however, more than compensated for the cold meal inside. The drawing-room was always kept locked, and opened only when guests of quality arrived. When, by special invitation, we did enter its sacred precincts— which was but seldom—it was with bated breath and whispered humbleness. Now, being a professing Christian, my father had some difficulty in squaring this exclusiveness with the lesson in the Book which teaches us that “All men are equal in the sight of God.” And so he tried to get out of the difficulty in this way. Every Sunday morning we were allowed to breakfast along with him: but in order to keep our pride within bounds, which otherwise might o’erleap itself at such graciousness, he had the maid-servants in to table also : this latter being a survival possibly of some old and kindly custom.

This he did regularly, year in year out, and so eased his conscience, and at the same time squared his dignity with his religion ; but the equality disappeared with the meal until the next Sunday morning, and if in the interval any of us dared to presume upon it, woe betide him.

He had some curious methods of dealing with children. One, I can never forget. He always insisted on our going to bed in the dark. This was to harden us, he said, and to strengthen our nerves. It nearly broke mine altogether. For a child of five or six years old to go up two long stairs in the dark all alone, and along a narrow dark passage to the sleeping room, which was situated at the furthest end of the lobby from the stairs, especially after some wild beast storv with the blood-curdling details in which she revelled had been told by aunt, was a mighty severe strain on that child’s nerves. My mode of progression along the passage in question, off which several doors opened, was as follows:—I knew or believed that the unseen danger was greatest when passing one or other of the open doors. I also felt that I was within the danger zone when I reached the top of the last stair, and kept a sharp lookout, as I tried to pierce the gloom for what it contained. I then opened the nightly campaign with a sudden dash for the opposite wall, in which were the doors, and putting my back to it, and clinging to it with all my might, I began to sidle along cautiously to the first door. Instinct, I suppose, taught me that with my back to the wall I could only be attacked from the front, and should be able to make a better fight with my unseen foe. But when crossing the open doors I was exposed to attack from all sides, and it was always in one dark room or another I imagined the hidden monster—the creature of my own imagination, it is true, but all too real notwithstanding— lay in wait. I swear even now, that I often heard in the black darkness of these rooms, the cruel crunching jaws at work, and often saw the baneful light of the fierce green eyes, as the brute crouched low, making ready for the spring. And so for moments, which seemed hours, I stood close to the first door, listening and shivering with terror. Then would I, in desperation, make one wild spring past it : when again working cautiously up to the next door, there was the same hesitation before crossing it, the same straining of ears, the same holding of the breath. And now, between two doors, I had to watch on both sides, and my fears thus grew as I neared the goal; the chances of an attack I calculated increased with each door safely passed, until the strain on my nerves became all but intolerable, and reason itself tottered on its throne. Sometimes in my anxiety to get into the nursery when reached, I missed the door handle in the dark ; and oh ! the dread of those miserable moments, when open to attack from behind, and not daring to look back, I fumbled and fumbled with nerveless fingers, feeling the while the hot breath of the evil thing on my neck! The dread of those trying moments visits me still in my dreams.

I well remember the night of the day on which grandmother died, although I was too young to know what death meant. My brothers and I were sitting up much later than usual, there being no one seemingly to order us off to bed ; but the liberty thus secured, and which was at first delightful, soon palled upon us, and I was the first to set off upstairs upon that nightly lonesome journey. I had just reached the first landing, when I noticed a light coming from under the drawing-room door. This was in itself such an unusual thing- that my curiosity was aroused. Surely some guests had arrived, and we knew it not! I crept forward on tiptoe and listened for voices ; there were none. The stillness of the house was oppressive. The fresh odour of pine wood assailed my nostrils.

As the door stood slightly ajar, after again listening, I gently pushed it open and looked in. The sight which I saw fairly took away my breath. The room was a blaze of glorious light ; but where were the guests? I noticed that both windows, with blinds drawn up, were open, as well as the door. From two paintings on the wall, father and mother looked down upon the gay scene in silence, smiling. Nobody else was there, not even aunt. In the centre of the room was a large table which I had never seen before, dressed in spotless white, and covered with flowers, and upon it a long black box surrounded by numerous tall white wax candles, all burning, and flooding the room with a brillant glow. Little puffs of wind coming in at the open windows, made the lights flicker and toss their heads: and with every movement, the tall shapely candles threw long, black, dancing shadows upon floor and wall. Immediately overhead was a large and very handsome crystal chandelier, which flashed back, reflected in a thousand hues, the light below. The old-fashioned wall paper of glistening pearly white, covered with a thick dark crimson fluff, and the black “papier mache” furniture, each piece inlaid with irridescent mother-of-pearl, formed fitting surroundings to the crowning glory of the white flower-laden table in the middle of the room, with its black burden. What could it all mean? It was to my childish mind like a beautiful bit out of Fairyland.

I knew well that I had no right to be where I was: I knew well what the consequences would be were I discovered ; but the strange sight fascinated me : it held me spellbound. What was in that black box? Why was it there? Unsatiable childish curiosity prompting me, I drew a chair—one of the chairs forbidden us even to sit upon—close to the table, and stepped lightly up on to it, and, looking down into the box, who should I see lying there quietly sleeping but “little grandmother.” She was dressed all in white: her little face looked no bigger than a child’s. She smiled in her sleep, and all the wrinkles, which I had often tried to count, but in vain, were gone. Between her little hands, which were clasped in front, a little flower was pressed : on her breast was a saucer full of salt, and lower down another of the red-brown earth. The mystery was solved. Here lay the honoured guest of the drawing-room, and all the lighted candles, and beautiful flowers, and sweet fresh airs from outside, were for ‘little grandmother’ : and she must have fallen asleep in the midst of all this grandeur, like a tired child in the midst of its toys. And at the thought I could have clapped my hands and cried aloud for joy, but I might waken “little grandmother,” so, slipping softly off the precious chair, which I carefully replaced, I crept quietly out of the room, leaving the door ajar as I found it. For me that night the lonely journey to bed had no fears: the light of the tall wax candles dispelled the gloom: the peace and calm of the sleeper down stairs filled my heart, leaving there no room for terrors: no fierce, eyes glared at me out of the doorways: no hot breath lapped my cheek that night; and if they had, what did it matter so long as “little grandmother,” whom we all loved, was honoured and happy.

I do not know that I yet understand all that aunt meant by these arrangements. The open window and open door, the lighted candles, the saucer of salt, every Highlander understands. But what of the dish of red brown earth?

The funeral, when it came off. was, I need hardly say, under aunt’s skilful management, a Highland success. This is not the correct expression to use of a funeral, I know, but it is a true one; for more than one old Highlander that day, whose napless hat and threadbare clothes proclaimed him an experienced judge in such matters, was heard to say that “It was a ferry fine funeral whateffer.”


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