Cottagers of Glenburnie Chapter XIII.
The Force of Prejudice
appeared extraordinary to Mrs Mason that she should
have been so long forgotten by her friends at Gowan
Brae. Nearly a fortnight had now elapsed since Mr
Stewart's last visit; and though he had been invited
to the funeral he had neither come nor sent any
apology for his absence, which appeared the more
unaccountable from the circumstance of his having
been seen that very day riding full speed on the
road to the market town. Certain that neither Mr
Stewart nor Mary could be actuated by caprice, she
feared that some misfortune had befallen them; but
though every day added to her anxiety she had no
means of relieving it, all hands being now engaged
in getting in the harvest, and she was too wise to
torment herself by shaping the form of uncertain
evils. She had indeed no leisure for such
unprofitable work: every moment of her time being
fully occupied in managing the business of the
family, or in attendance on the invalids, who,
though now recovering rapidly, were still so weak as
to require her constant care.
The business of the family had never been so well
conducted as since its mistress had been incapacited
from attending to it By the effects of forethought,
order, and regularity, the labour was so much
diminished to the servant, that she willingly
resigned herself to Mrs Mason's directions, and
entered into all her plans. The girls, though at
first refractory, and often inclined to rebel, were
gradually brought to order; and finding that they
had no one to make excuses for their disobedience,
quietly performed their allotted tasks. They began
to taste the pleasure of praise, and, encouraged by
approbation, endeavoured to deserve it; so that,
though their tempers had been too far spoiled to be
brought at once into subjection, Mrs Mason hoped
that by steadiness she should succeed in reforming
Mrs MacClarty, who was not so changed by sickness or
so absorbed in grief, as to be indifferent to the
world and its concerns, fretted at the length of her
confinement, which was rendered doubly grievous to
her from the hints she occasionally received of the
new methods of management introduced by Mrs Mason,
which she could on no account believe equal to her
own. Her friend and benefactress became the object
of her jealousy and aversion. The neighbours, with
whom she had cultivated the greatest intimacy,
encouraged this dislike; and on all their visits of
condolence, expressed in feeling terms their sense
of the sad change that had taken place in the
appearance of the house, which they said was ' now
sae uncoy they wad scarcely ken it for the same
'Aye!' exclaimed the wife of auld John Smith, who
happened to visit the widow the first evening she
was able to sit up to tea, 4 aye, alake! its weel
seen that whar there's new lairds there's new laws.
But how can your woman and your bairns put up wi' a'
'1 kenna, truly,' replied the widow : but Mrs Mason
has just sic a way wi' them, she gars them do ony
thing she likes. Ye may think it is an eery thing to
me to see my poor bairns submittin' that way to
pleasure a stranger in a' her nonsense.'
'An eery thing, indeed !' said Mrs Smith ; ' gif ye
had but seen how she gar'd your dochter Meg clean
out the kirn ! outside and inside ! ye wad hae been
wae for the poor lassie. I trow, said I, Meg, it wad
ha' been lang before your mither had set you to sic
a turn ? Aye, says she, we have new gaits now, and
she looket up and leugh.'
'New gaits, I trow !' cried Sandy Johnstone's
mother, who had just taken her place at the
tea-table; 4 I ne'er ken'd gude come o' new gaits in
a' my days. There was Tibby Bell at the head o' the
Glen, she fell to cleaning her kirn ae day, and the
very first kirning after her butter was burstet, and
gude for naething. I'm sure it gangs to my heart to
see your wark sae managed. It was but the day before
yesterday that I came upon Madam as she was haddin'
the strainer, as she called it, to Grizzy, desiring
her a' the time she poured the milk, to beware of
letting in ane o' the cow's hairs that were on her
goon. Hoot! says I, cow's hairs are canny, they'll
never choak ye.' 4 The fewer of them that are in the
butter the better,' says she. 4 Twa or three hairs
are better than the blink o' an ill ee,' says I.
'The best charm against witchcraft is cleanliness,'
says she. 'I doubt it muckle,' says I, 4 auld ways
are aye the best!'
'Weel done !' cried Mrs Smith. '1 trow ye gae her a
screed o' yer mind ! But here comes Grizzy frae the
market let us hear what she says to it.'
Grizzel advanced to her mistress, and with alacrity
poured into her lap the money she had got for her
cheese and butter; proudly at the same time
observing that it was more by some shillings than
they had ever got for the produce of one week before
that lucky day.
'What say ye?' cried the wife of auld John Smith :
are the markets sae muckle risen? That's gude news
'I didna say that the markets were risen,' returned
the maid; ' but we never got sae muckle for our
butter nor our cheese by a penny i' the pound
weight, as I got the day. A' the best folks in the
town were striving for it. I could ha' sell'd twice
as muckle at the same price.'
'Ye had need to be weel paid for it,' said Sandy
Johnstone's mother, ' for I fear ye had but sma'
quantity to sell.'
'We never had sae muckle in ae week before,' said
Grizzy; 1 for ye see,' continued she, 1 the milk
used aye to sour before it had stood half its time ;
but noo the milk dishes are a' sae clean that it
keeps sweet to the last!'
'And dinna ye think muckle o' the fash ?' said Mrs
'I thought muckle o't at first,' returned Grizzy ; '
but when I got into the way o't I fand it nae
trouble at a'.'
'But hoo do you find time to get thro' sae muckle
wark ?' said the widow Johnstone.
'I never,' answered Grizzy, ' got thro' my wark sae
easy in my life;for ye see Mrs Mason has just a set
time for ilka turn; so that folk are never rinning
in ane anither's gait; and everything is set by
clean, ye see, so that it's just ready for use.'
'She maun hae an unco airt,' said Mrs MacClarty, '
to gar ye do sae muckle and think sae little o't.
I'm sure ye ken hoo you used to grumble at being put
to do far less. But 1 didna bribe ye \vi' halff-croon
pieces, as she does.'
'It's no the half-crown she gae me, that gars me
speak,' cried Grizzy; ' but I sal always say that
she is a most discreet and civil person, ay, and ane
that taks a pleesure in doing gude. I am sure,
mistress, she has done mair gude to you than ye can
ere repay, gif you were to live this hunder year.'
'I sal ne'er say that she hasna been very kind,'
returned Mrs MacClarty ; ' but thank the Lord, a'
body has shewn kindness as weel as her. It's no'
lessening o' her to say that we hae other freends
'Freends !' repeated Grizzy; ' what hae a' your
freends done for you in comparison wi' what she has
done, and is e'now doin' for you ! Aye, just e'now,
while I am speaking.But I forget that she charged
me no' to tell.'
'Isna' she gane to Gowan Brae?' said Mrs MacClarty ;
'what good can she do by that?'
'Aye,' cried Mrs Smith, ' what gude can the poor
widow get by her gaen to visit amang the gentles!
Didna I see her ride by upon the minister's black
horse, behind the minister's man, and the minister
himsel' ridin' by her side?'
'She's no' gane to Gowan Brae, tho',' returned
Grizzy, ' nor the minister neither; I ken whaur
they're gane to weel eneugh.'
'But what are they gane about?' asked Mrs MacClarty,
alarmed ; ' is ony thing the matter wi' my puir
Sandy? for my heart aye misgi'es me about his no'
comin' to see me.'
Grizzy made no answer. The question was again
repeated in an anxious and tremulous voice by her
mistress, but still she remained silent.
'Alake !' cried Mrs Smith, ' I dread that the sough
that gaed through o' his having deserted had some
truth in't, tho' William Morison wadna let a word be
said at the burial.'
'O woman ! for pity's sake speak,' said the widow; '
is na' my bairn already lost to me? Wharfore then
will ye not tell me what has happened, seeing it
canna' be waur than what has already befa'an me !'
'I promised no to tell,' said Grizzy; ' but since ye
will ha' it, I maun let ye ken, that if Sandy be not
doomed to death this very day, it will be through
the exertions of Mrs Mason.'
'Doomed to death!' repeated the widow; 'my Sandy
doomed to death ! my bairn, that was just the very
pride o' my heart! Alake ! alake ! his poor father!'
A kindly shower of tears came to the relief of the
poor mother's heart, as she uttered the name of her
husband; and as she was too much weakened by
sickness to struggle against the violence of her
emotions, they produced an hysterical affection,
which alarmed those about her for her life. Her life
was however in no danger. Soon after being put to
bed she became quite composed ; and then so strongly
insisted upon being informed of every particular
relative to her son that Grizzy was compelled to
give a faithful account of all she knew.
'Ye have thought,' said she,' that your seein' Sandy
while you were in the fever was but a dream ; and
Mrs Mason thinking it best that ye should continue
in the delusion, has never contradickit ye. But it
was nae dream ; your son was here the very day his
father died ; and ye saw him, and faintet awa' in
'Wharefore then did he leave me?' exclaimed the
widow ; ' what for did he na stay to close his
father's eyes, and to lay his father's head i' the
grave, as becam' the duty o' a first-born son?'
'Alake !' returned the damsel, ' ye little ken how
sair the struggle was ere he could be brought to
part frae the lifeless corpse ! Had ye seen how he
graspet the clay-cauld hand ! Had ye heard how he
sobbet over it, and how he begget and prayed but for
another moment to gaze on the altered face, it wad
hae gane near to break your heart. I'm sure mine was
sair for the poor lad. And then to see him dragget
awa' as a prisoner by the sodgers ! O it was mair
pitifu' than your heart can think !'
'The sogers !' repeated Mrs MacClarty, ' what had
the vile loons to do wi' my bairn ! the cruel
miscreants ! was there nane to rescue him out of
their bluidy hands?'
'Na, na,' returned Grizzy; ' the minister gaed his
word that he shou'dna be rescued. And, to say the
truth, the sogers behaved wi' great discretion. They
shewed nae signs of cruelty; but only said it would
na be consistent wi' their duty to let their
'And what had my bairn done to be made a prisoner
o'?' cried the widow.
'Why ye ken,' returned Grizzy, ' that Sandy was ay a
wilfu' lad; so it's no to be wondered at that when
he was ordered to stand this gait, and that gait,
and had his hair tugget till it was ready to crack,
and his neck made sair wi' standing ajee, he should
tak it but unco ill. So he disobeyed orders; and
then they lashed him, and his proud stamack cou'dna
get o'er the disgrace; and than he ran aff, and hade
himsel three days in the muirs. On the fourt day he
cam' here; and then the sogers got haud o' him; and
they took him awa' to be tried for a deserter. So ye
see Mrs Mason then got the minister to apply to the
captains and the coronels about him; but they said
they had resolved to mak' an example o' him, and
naething cou'd mak' them relent. So a' that the
minister said, just gaed for naething; for they
said, that by the law of court marshall he maun be
shot. Weel, a' houp was at an end; when by chance
Mrs Mason fand oot that the major of the regiment
was the son of an auld freend o' hers, ane that she
had kent and been kind to when he was a bairn ; and
so she wrate a lang letter to him, and had an
answer, and wrate another; and by his appointment,
she and the minister are gane this very day to bear
witness in Sandy's favour, and I wad fain houp they
winna miss o' their errand.'
The suspense in which poor Mrs MacClarty was now
involved, with respect to her son's destiny,
appeared more insupportable than the most dreadful
certainty. The stream of consolation that was poured
upon her by her loquacious friends only seemed to
add to her distress. She made no answer to their
observations, but, with her eyes eagerly bent
towards the door, she fearfully listened to the
sound of every passing footstep. At length the
approach of horses was distinctly heard. Her maid
hastily ran to the door for intelligence; and the
old women, whose curiosity was no less eager, as
hastily followed. The poor mother's heart grew
faint. Her head drooped upon her hands, and a sort
of stupor came over her senses. She sat motionless
and silent; nor did the entrance of the minister and
Mrs Mason seem to be observed. Mrs Mason, who at a
glance perceived that the sickness was the sickness
of the mind, kindly took her hand, and bid her be of
good cheer, for that if she would recover all her
family would do well.
'Is he to live?' said Mrs MacClarty, in a low and
hollow voice, fixing her eyes on Mrs Mason's, as if
expecting to read in them the doom of her son.
'Give thanks to God' returned the minister, ' your
son lives; God and his judges have dealt mercifully
with him and you.'
On hearing these blessed words, the poor agitated
mother grasped Mrs Mason's hand, and burst into a
flood of tears. The spectators were little less
affected ; a considerable time elapsed before the
silence that ensued was broken. At length, in
faltering accents, the widow asked, whether she
might hope to see her son again.'
'Is he no' to come hame,' said she, ' to fill his
father's place, and to take possession o' his
inheritance? If they have granted this, I will say
that they have been mercifu' indeed, but if no'
'Though they have not granted this,' returned the
minister, ' still they have been merciful, aye most
merciful. For your son's offences were aggravated,
his life was in their hands, it was most justly
forfeited, yet they took pity on him, and spared
him, and are you not grateful for this? if you are
not, I must tell you your ingratitude is sinful.'
Oh ! you kenna' what it is to hae a bairn ? returned
Mrs MacClarty, in a doleful tone. 4 My poor Sandy !
I never had the heart to contradick him sin' he was
born, and now to think what command he maun be under
! but I ken he'll ne'er submit to it, nor will I
ever submit to it either. We have eneugh o'
substance to buy him aff, and if we sell to the last
rag, he shall never gang wi' these sogers; he never
'You speak weakly, and without consideration,'
rejoined the minister. 4 Your duty, as a parent, is
to teach your children to obey the laws of God and
their country. By nourishing them in disobedience
you have prepared their hearts to rebel against the
one, and to disrespect the other. And now that you
see what the consequence has been to this son, whom
ungoverned self-will has brought to the very brink
of destruction, instead of being convinced of your
error you persist in it, and would glory in
repeating it. Happily your son is wiser; he has
profited by his misfortunes, and has no regret but
for the conduct that led to them.'
'He was enticed to it,' cried Mrs MacClarty. ' He
never wad have listed in his sober senses.'
'Who enticed him to disobey his father by going to
the fair?' returned the minister. 'It is the first
error that is the fatal cause of all that follows ;
so true it is, that when we leave the path of duty
but a single step, we may by that step be involved
in a labyrinth from which there is no returning. Be
thankful that your son has seen his error, and that
he has repented of it, as becomes a Christian ; and
let it be your business to confirm these sentiments,
and to exhort him, by his future conduct, to
retrieve the past; so shall the blessing of God
attend him wherever it may be his destiny to go.'
'And where is he to go?' said Mrs MacClarty. ' To
the East Indies,' returned the minister. ' Tomorrow
he will be on his way for that fine country, from
which he may yet return to gladden your heart.'
'Alake, my heart will never be gladdened mair!' said
the poor widow, weeping as she spoke.
Mrs Mason was moved by her tears, though vexed by
her folly; and therefore spoke to her only in the
strain of consolation. But Mr Gourlay, incensed at
the little gratitude she expressed for her son's
deliverance, could not forbear reminding her of the
predicament in which he so lately stood, and from
which he had been rescued by Providence, through the
agency of Mrs Mason. In conclusion, he exhorted her
to be thankful to God for having given her such a
'The Lord will bless her for what she has done !'
cried Mrs MacClarty.
'The Lord has already blessed her,' returned the
minister; ' for a heart filled with benevolence is
the first of blessings. But,' continued he, ' she
lias it still in her power to render you more
essential service than any she has yet performed.'
'Say you sae?' cried Mrs MacClarty, eagerly.
'Yes,' returned Mr Gourlay; ' for if you will listen
to her advice, she will instruct you in the art of
governing your children's passions, and of teaching
them to govern themselves; and thus, by the blessing
of God, she may eventually be the means of rescuing
them from a sentence of condemnationmore awful than
the most awful that any human tribunal can
The widow felt too much respect for her pastor to
dispute the truth of his observation, though she
probably entered a silent protest against its
obvious inference. She, however, thanked him for his
kind intentions; and he immediately after took his
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