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Chapter XI. - Sunday.—Golden Eagle.—Scotch Kirk.—Highland Peasantry

A lovely morning, as might have been expected from last evening’s sunset.

I can hardly tell why, but to me Sunday in the country is, perhaps, the pleasantest day of the week. In towns on that day, I confess to having too often a feeling of ennui and restraint; but in the country I have nothing of this: one’s brighter and better thoughts seem to expand, and all nature to wear a fresh and new-born aspect, at once more cheerful and more tranquil than on other days; so fair and quiet that oftentimes one can hardly believe that all in so bounteous and beautiful a world is doomed to decay.

As we sat at breakfast, Archie came in to say that there was an eagle on the hill not far off, and he thought that Mr. Ward would like to see it. We were up at once, and followed the keeper to a shoulder of the hill near the stone seat, and peeped cautiously over the brae. He was still there, perched on a rock about 400 yards oflP, and with Archie’s glass we could see him distinctly. A magnificent golden eagle, and sitting as still as a stone figure, except by an occasional turn of his head to look around.

“Is it not fine?” whispered Ward. “I would not have lost this sight for anything; let us get as near as we can, and start him.” But the great bird was watchful, and the instant we showed above the brae, he launched into the air, rising higher and higher in wide circles, and we gazed till he was lost to view by passing over the nearest hills.

“Oh! what a pity it is Sunday,” exclaimed Fred; “Archie might have shot the eagle.”

“Shoot him! you young miscreant,” said Ward; “shoot you rather. Why one who would kill that noble bird would not scruple to drain the loch, and turn the Lodge into a soap-work.”

“You would not find the sheep-farmers so enthusiastic,” I said. “‘Half a lamb daily, and perhaps a brace of grouse after, is expensive keep.”

“Is he so bad, Archie?” asked Hope.

“Not maybe to grouse, Mr. Ward. But a pair of eagles in lambing-time do a heap o’ mischief; and if no that ill to grouse, as they see him far off, yet when he does rush a covey he maks wild wark among them.”

“Still, I would suffer some loss to see these grand birds about the mountains.”

We now went back, finished breakfast, and set off for a long walk to church, having ordered Dick to have the carriage at the Frasers’ Arms at four o’clock.

There was a good sermon from the parish minister, although not equal to that of last Sunday, and, the day being so fine, the church was well filled with a nice comfortable-looking congregation, here and there showing what art critics call “effective bits of colour” in the shape of tartan shawls and grannies’ scarlet cloaks. Hor was fashion quite neglected by the farmers comely daughters.

We had lunch at the inn, and John Fraser agreed to come over to us early on the great 12th, and see the sport; Fred promised Mrs. Fraser the best brace of grouse of his own shooting, and the good matron was much pleased, as she seems fond of the boy, and makes of him overmuch.

In driving home, every nook and cranny on the hills was scanned and commented on with interest, as the shooting was so close at hand.

When home, books were taken to read on the hill-side, and I gave Fred a copy of the u Pilgrim’s Progress ”which I had picked up in the library', and he was at once fixed with its strange attractiveness, especially to the young, and every now and then had some question or comment on the story.

To-day there was roast kid at dinner—a dish of venerable antiquity, which none but the Major had before seen. This being a regular Eastern plat, Burmah knew well what he had; and roast kid was at once recognised by the government of Ardenmohr.

On going out after dinner, we found the old housekeeper sitting on a bench in the open air, and her daughter reading to her.

Janet Cameron, our housekeeper, is a nice, honest, cheery body, very jealous, and not a little despotic. She keeps her daughter and Dick in excellent order, and even scolds us. The only person who escapes Janet’s reprehension is Burmah, as his silent ways and great black eyes seem to have awed her. She thinks him “uncanny.” Poor Burmah! Dick has more mischief in him than a hundred of “they glowerin’ black craters,” as Janet calls them. But, luckily, Janet does not think so, and Burmah is permitted to pursue the quiet mysteries of his cuisine unmolested.

In the gloamin we had coffee outside, as it was warm; and Ward haying remarked how nice he found the Highland people, and how ready they always were to oblige without the least appearance of cringing or doing a favour—

“Yes,” said Major Duncan, “I always find the Highlanders the same. The truth is, all the Celtic races are quick and self-possessed; one seldom comes across a loutish' Frenchman or Highlander. The Queen takes much to the Highland people.”

“Indeed she does; and it is pleasant to read in her journal of her kindly and humorous dealings with the very humblest.”

“Yes, Hope; and her Majesty (God bless her!) has sense and heart to prefer the real pleasure apparent in their services to that mere deference which high station always commands; besides, the natural tact and loyalty of the Celt make familiarity pleasant and safe.”

“Quite true; but there is no taint of tyrant or bigot in the Queen of England, who worships so modestly in the village kirk.”

“Bravo, Hope! you are not such a Badical after all.” “I a Badical! bless the man. I! game-preserver, Church of England pillar, and most loyal subject! —a bit of a grumbler, it may be, but that is an English habit. Yet, Major, I do not go in with the eternal tinkering spirit of some in Parliament, —their calling for statistics of pen-wipers and sneezes from Irish snuff.”

“Hyperbole—yet virtuous thy instincts, my boy. Still, you must take a definite side by-and-by: individual crotchets don’t work.”

“But would it not be nice if individual feelings were enough?”

“A Christian world, you would say?”

“Yes, if distinguished from a theological. Nothing seems plainer than one’s duties; but men vary infinitely as to what is orthodox.”

“Do you hold no merit in faith, you hetero-doxical trout-slayer?”

“Not quite as some do: for in mere belief conditions are hardly equal; some are soft and credulous, and others as hard and logical.”

“Then whence the virtue of faith?”

“May I think much from its cause, Major, when it comes from belief in a God’s goodness and a sense of our weakness; and, finding in the pure and simple doctrines of Christianity everything to meet our wants, we gratefully hold them as of God— Holy Writ as his gift; and when so believed, it then alters our natures for the better.”

“A theology of induction, Hope; yet not a vicious one : but it is plain you won’t be a bishop.”

“I suspect not. Suppose we have a turn in the glen, before going to bed.”

I enjoyed particularly this quiet stroll; and in the calm conversation there came out now and then glimpses of those finer traits so pleasing to find in one’s friends, and which, even amongst friends, are not always worn on the sleeve. Afterwards, when in bed, I thought of a sentence of Bacon, in his essay on the Unity of Religion, where he says, “That a man of judgment shall sometimes hear ignorant men differ, yet know well enough they mean one thing; and shall not God, who knows the heart, discern that frail men in some of their contradictions intend the same thing, and accept of both?” and I mused on this, and of still higher authority to the same purpose, till I fell asleep.

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