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,
"'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
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
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:
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