WHILE expecting a Crown presentation, backed by a unanimous Call
to his northern parish, the minister was innocently led into a
scrape, which caused him a great deal of vexation.
On a misty
autumnal morning, when potato shaws were turning yellow, and the
drowsy bees were murmuring among the red and white blossoms of
clover foggage, an elopement party of three women and two men
came to the manse, asking that one pair of them should be
forthwith joined in matrimony with the blessing of the Kirk. One
of the men was advanced in years—an old shepherd from the other
side of the hills, who was pretty well known in the Glen. The
others were the bride and her sister—nieces of the old
shepherd—and the bridegroom and his sister. They had come twenty
miles, and so had been during most of the night on the path of
Now, on getting to the manse, they were much
disappointed to be told that the minister was not just then at
home, because he had gone early to his little farm on the further side of the river, to see about the
thatching of his haystack, and other things needing
supervision—for a very good farmer was the minister. They were
invited to sit down and wait his return; and, indeed, all about
the manse, the minister's wife included, were much impressed by
the good looks of the bride and bridegroom, and not at all
shocked by what they had done. And in the old-fashioned way, the
hospitality of the manse was pressed on them, but they frankly
said they feared pursuit and interruption, and they were
accordingly sent on their way to find the minister, with the
manse herd boy to guide them.
They found the minister on his
farm field, and there and then the runaway couple were married
in presence of the minister's man, the herd boy, and a few
persons from the nearest houses.
Elopements were not
uncommon. Nor were they condemned by public opinion. Usually a
girl that made up her mind to run away to get married broke some
chain of unduly exercised authority which ought to be broken. It
was so in this case also, but the broken chain had a twist of
its own, which was quite exceptional, and which, on being
discovered when too late, much troubled the minister. Once upon
a time, and that not long before this time either, the old
minister of Kilmachaoide, whenever he or his elders knew the
runaways, would marry them without "lines," on their promising
to pay the proclamation fees afterwards to the Session-Clerk,
and a fine to the Session for the Poors' Fund. This practice was
peremptorily forbidden by the Presbytery ; but the old minister,
who had made a runaway marriage himself, would now and then,
when he knew the runaways, brave the wrath of the Presbytery to
the last day of his life.
Our couple from the mist had their "lines" right enough, showing that their purpose of marriage had
been duly proclaimed in their own Parish Church, for the first,
second, and third times, on the preceding Sunday—this being
Wednesday morning. And the preceding Sm clay was one of the stormy, wet days on which a runaway
proclamation -would be likely to pass quietly in a large parish,
since the weather, aided by other means, would keep the person
or persons who were to be kept "dark" away from Kirk. It was
wonderful with what zest and co-operation the keeping dark
process was sometimes effected. When it could not be trusted,
the bride had no choice but to compromise herself irretrievably,
by running off with her man first, and getting the banns then
defiantly proclaimed, in face of her indignant parents or
guardians. Since the old minister of Kilmachaoide's death, there
was no escape from the "banns."
But the couple from the mist
had their "lines" all right, and the old shepherd uncle,
although not well known to the minister, was a tower of
strength, because he was known to the minister's man, and to the
people of the Glen generally. Well, the old shepherd's bonnie
niece was married to the "hero of her heart," and the party of
five turned their faces at once to the hills, and disappeared in
the white mist.
They disappeared in the white mist, following
the pass that led back to their own country. But they did not
follow it long. When they came to the top of the range they
slanted away in another direction to the lonely house of that
respectable shepherd, far up the heather, where they were
welcomed by a piper and a band of lasses and shepherds, who had
gathered to make a night of it, and see the young couple wedded
and bedded. It was, in fact, necessary in their case that the
marriage should be perfected by the avowal of contract before
witnesses; for certainly there was a most unusual hitch in the
ecclesiastical proceedings, as intimated in the following song,
made (in Gaelic of course) by one of the wedding guests, before
.the night ended, on
One lover was
dark, one lover was fair:
And whom to choose was the puzzle sair
To Crombie's daughter.
Sheep, home, and cows had the lover fair,
Than his plaid the
dark had naething mair
For Crombie's daughter.
"Take the fair,
The poor gillie-dubh I must never
With Crombie's daughter."
They're cried at the kirk,
betrothed and a',
"I'll get me new gouns to mak me braw,''
Said Crombie's daughter.
"Bedding and airneis
I'll get them
But faith, the contract's not worth a straw,"
"Sure I'll make me a hole in the wa',
the lines, be off and awa,"
Said Crombie's daughter.
gillie-dubh was the true love still,
She kilted her goun, and
off to the hill,
Did Crombie's daughter.
The heath she did
take with right good-will,
And the fair man's lines did deftly
Did Crombie's daughter.
She cheats the Kirk her wish
"To lie for my love is nothing ill,"
The minister was tricked by the "lines"
or certificate of proclamation of banns given by the
Session-Clerk of the parish to which the runaways belonged. The
"lines" were genuine enough, but the gillie-dubh was not the
man whose purpose of marriage with Crombie's daughter had been
regularly proclaimed on the preceding Sunday. The girl got the "lines" from her fair betrothed, and next night ran off with her
gillie-dubh. In other respects, too, she managed matters so
artfully that her indignant parents and deceived lover went in
pursuit in the wrong direction.
When the faulty religious
ceremony—faulty because the gillie-dubh was married in the
gillie-ban's name—was made good by promise and consummation, the
bride and bridegroom re-appeared professing contrition, and
readiness to be rebuked by the Kirk-Session of their parish. But
their sin sat lightly on them, and public opinion
readily condoned their misdemeanour. The young woman had schemed
the whole affair, and who could be hard on a vivacious,
good-looking girl of twenty-two, who had risked all for "the
hero of her heart?"