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The Starling, A Scotch Story
Chapter XXX. - "A Man's A Man For A' That"


IT would only weary the reader to give a narrative of the events which happened during the period of the Sergeant's tedious recovery. Dr. Scott watched by him many a night, feeling his pulse, and muttering to himself about the twitching of the muscles of the fingers, as indicating the state of the brain. Often did he warn Katie, when too hopeful, that "he was not yet out of the wood," and often encouraged her, when desponding, by assuring her that he "had seen brokener ships come to land." And just as the captain steers his ship in a hurricane, adjusting every rag of sail, and directing her carefully by the wind and compass, according to the laws of storms, so did the Doctor guide his patient. What a quantity of snuff he consumed during those long and dreary days! What whisky toddy- No! he had not once taken a single tumbler until the night when bending over the Sergeant he heard the joyful question put by him, "Is that you, Dr. Scott? What are you doing here?" and when, almost kissing Katie, he said, it is oot o' the wood at last, thank God!"

"'The Almighty bless you!" replied Katie, a she, too, bent over her husband and heard him once more in calmness and with love utter her name. remarking, "This has surely been a lang and sair fecht!" He then asked, "Hoo's wee Mary? is the bird leevin'?" Seeing Jock Hall at his bedside, he looked at his wife as if questioning whether he was not still under the influence of a delirious dream. Katie interpreting his look said, "It was Jock that nursed ye a' through." "I'm yer nurse yet, Sergeant," said Jock, "an' ye maun haud yer tongue and sleep." The Sergeant gazed around him, turned his face away, and shutting his eyes passed from silent prayer into refreshing sleep.

One evening soon after this, Adam, pale and weak, was seated, propped up with pillows, in his old arm-chair, near the window in his kitchen. The birds and the streams were singing their old songs, and the trees were in full glory, bending under the rich foliage of July; white fleecy clouds were sailing across the blue expanse of the sky; the sun in the west was displaying its glory, ever varying since creation ; and all was calm and peaceful in the heavens above, and, as far as man could see, on the earth beneath.

Jock Hall was seated beside Adam, looking up with a smile into his face, and saying little except such expressions of happiness as, "I'm real prood to see you this length, Sergeant! Yere lookin' unco' brawl It's the wifie did it, and maybe the Doctor, wi' that by ordinar' lassock, wee Mary;—but keep in your haun's, or ye'll get cauld and be as bad as ever." Jock never alluded to the noble part he himself had taken in the battle between life and death.

Katie was knitting on the other side of her husband. Why interpret her quiet thoughts of deepest peace? Little Mary sat on her chair by the fire.

This was the first day in which Adam, weak and tottering, had been brought, by the Doctor's advice, out of the sick room.

Mr. Porteous unexpectedly rapped at the door, - and, on being admitted, gazed with a kindly expression on the group before him. Approaching them he shook hands with each, not omitting even Jock Hall, and then sat down. After saying a few suitable words of comfort and of thanksgiving, he remarked, pointing to Jock, that "he was snatched as a brand from the burning." Jock, as he bent down, and counted his fingers, replied that the minister "wasna maybe far wrang It was him that did it;" but added, as he pointed his thumb over his shoulder, "an' though he wasna frichted for the lowe, I'm thinkin' he maybe got his fingers burned takin' me oot o't."

"Eh, Mr. Porteous," said Katie, "ye dinna ken what the puir fallow has been tae us a' in our affliction! As lang as I leeve I'll never forget-"

"As sure's I'm leevin," interrupted Jock, " I'll rin oot the hoose if ye gang on that way. It's really inakin' a fule o' a bodie." And Jock seemed thoroughly annoyed.

Katie only smiled, and looking at him said, "Ye're a guid, kind cratur, Jock."

"Amen," said Adam.

After a minute of silence, Mr. Porteous cleared his throat and said, "I am glad to tell you, Mr. Mercer, that the Session have unanimously restored you to the office of elder."

The Sergeant started, and looked puzzled and pained, as if remembering "a dream within a dream."

"Unanimously and heartily," continued Mr. Porteous; "and when you are better, we shall talk over this business as friends, though it need never be mentioned more. Hitherto, in your weakness, I requested those who could have communicated the news to you not to do so in case it might agitate you: besides, I wished to have the pleasure of telling it to you myself I shall say no more, except that I give you full credit for acting up to your light, or, let me. say, according to the feelings of your kind heart,. which I respect. Let inc give you the right hand of fellowship."

A few quiet drops trickled down Adam's pale cheek, as in silence he stretched out his feeble and trembling hand, accepting that of his minister. The minister grasped it cordially, and then gazed up to the roof, his shaggy eyebrows working up and down as if they were pumping tears out of his eyes, and sending them back again to his heart. Katie sat with covered face, not in sorrow as of yore, but in gratitude too deep for words.

"Will ye tak' a snuff, sir?" said Jock Hall, as with flushed face he offered his tin box to the minister. "When I fish the Eastwater, I'll sen' ye as bonnie a basketfu' as ever ye seed, for yer kindness to the Sergeant; and ye needna wunner muckle if ye see me in the kirk wi' him sune."

The staling, for some unaccountable reason, was hopping from spar to spar of his cage, as if leaping for a wager.

Mary, attracted by the bird, and supposing him to be hungry, mounted a chair, and noiselessly opened the door of the cage. But in her eager and suppressed excitement she forgot the food. As she descended for it, the starling found the door open, and stood at it for a moment bowing to the company. He then flew out, and, lighting on the shoulder of the Sergeant, looked round the happy group, fluttered his feathers gazed on the minister steadily, and uttered in his clearest tones, "I'm Charlie's bairn—'A man's a man for a' that!"'

* * * * * *

Perhaps some of the readers of this village story, in their summer holidays, may have fished the streams flowing through the wide domain of Castle Bennock, under the guidance of the sedate yet original under-keeper, John Hall and may have "put up" at the neat and comfortable country inn, the "Bennock Arms" kept by John Spence and his comely wife Mary Semple—the one working the farm, and the other managing the house and her numerous and happy family. If so, they cannot fail to have noticed the glass case in the parlour, enclosing a stuffed Starling, with this inscriptions under it:

"I'm Charlie's Bairn"


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