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The Long Glen
Chapter XXVIII - Friends in Council

As soon as the cripple moved away, Iain Og opened his heart to his old friends about a question which had given him more than one sleepless night.

"It is," he said, "fifty years last spring since Eili and I were married. For forty-nine years without a break, as all our children happened to come in the winter months, we have gone to the communion of our parish together. And much reason indeed have we to bow our heads with full hearts in thankfulness to the Lord at His own table, for his goodness and mercy to us all the days of our long married life. Neither Eili nor I want in any manner to join this new Free Kirk, although most of our children are just mad for it. But our Parish Church is a desolation. It has no minister of its own, and it seems to be abandoned by the Presbytery. This year, we are given to understand, there will be no communion there, and next year my head is almost sure to be under the stone with the Iona cross figured on it, which covers the dust of my forefathers. Is it not, then, natural for Eili and me to wish once more to communicate together on earth, seeing it is probable death may separate us for a hantle of years?"

Duncan Ban said, in a husky voice—"Most natural, and most right. You must of course go to the Free Church communion, as there is to be no other; I would go myself, if I were you."

"And would you, indeed ! It is my heart that is lifted up to hear you say so."

"I would go, too," said Calum, "if I had an old wife, and felt the time of short separation drawing near. It is only those of us who, by reason of strength, may hope to see a few more summers, that are bound to stand out, or, I should rather say, stay in."

Duncan Ban—"That's just it. My wife is more opposed to the Free Kirk than myself, and our children and children's children have not, to all appearance, caught the madness of the times. I believe our family will all hold together; so you see we old folk must show firmness, although it is not without soreness, too, that we resolve to part at the separation of the roads, from so many friends and neighbours."

Iain Og—"What do you think Shonnie says? He found out—and whatever is it he does not find out?—that his old-mother and old-father were much troubled about this thing, and that we did not know at all what to do. So this very morning he comes to us with a very bright face, to say he will never be a Free Churchman, no not if he should live twice the age of Methuselah. And he advised us to go to the communion of Kilmachaoide, since, as he heard me often tell, that church was the mother of the whole three parishes. And much also did he want to go with us in the cart, and drive the grey mare."

Duncan Ban—"It is surely your Shonnie that has the old head on the child's shoulders! How did we never think of his plan before! Caoide's church is certainly the mother church of the three parishes; and in my father's youth, not only the communicants of the three parishes, but all the people, young and old, who could go, went to that church, at least once a year, at Easter time."

First Seanair—"And the Kilmachaoide communion will be to-morrow."

Second Seanair—"And we know the minister of Caoide's church, and he had the good father before him."

Third Seanair—"Aye, and the good mother, too. What is to hinder us from sending round the crois-tarra to-night; and from taking horses and carts, and going to Caoide's clachan to-morrow morning?"

Calum—"Nothing on earth'; and it is just the finest plan in the world."

Iain Og—"And if others go, my wife and I will go to. Yea, indeed, it will be a great deliverance, and we'll bother no more about the Free Kirk communion."

Duncan Ban—"You must take Shonnie to drive the grey mare and to take care of the snuff horn. But will not wife and family be opposed to your going such a long journey?"

Iain Og—"Never mind that. I'm sure a drive to Caoide's clachan to-morrow will do me more good than doctor's medicine. My wife said at the time, Shonnie's plan was good ; but it would look strange for us to go alone. It is very glad she will be to go in good company. As you well know, Caoide's clachan is her native place. There were we married, and there her people are buried. Her nephew will be glad to see us, and give stable and bite to our horses. He is the fine, hearty, well-doing fellow is Alastair of Clachmaluag. But was it not real good of Shonnie to make the plan?"

Duncan Ban—"For sure it was that; and when your head will be under the old crossed stone, your name will "bourgeon grandly in that boy. Faith, and he does not hide his light under a bushel already."

Iain Og—"No, indeed, that he does not. How uplifted he will be to-morrow. I'll let him drive the mare, for if he has not, she has sense for two. Aye, and before we use the snuff horn at the clachan, he'll have to take a wee test pinch himself. But sure I am he'll never take to tricks of that kind again, he, he, he!"

Shonnie's idea was carried out promptly. The crois-tarra, or gathering-call, was sent around among the anti-Secessionists with a success that was very mortifying to those who had done their best to get the glen people, by social and ecclesiastical pressure, to go in a solid body into the Disruption Church.

Iain Og found his old wife quite ready to let him go to Caoide's clachan on the morrow, and very willing to accompany him. She thought, however, there would be some difficulty about Shonnie, whose mother, if not an enrolled member among the sisterhood, was a very close associate of their guild. Iain Og would admit no possibility of difficulty whatever. It was not often he felt called upon to assert the authority of head of the house; but this was an occasion on which he was prepared to do so, if need arose.

Rather late that Saturday evening, in a matter-of-course way which precluded facility of objection, Iain Og told his son, in presence of the whole family, to get the newly-painted cart well washed, and to fix the cushioned seat in it, and to lead the grey mare into the stable, and give her a good supper and breakfast, because the old-mother and he and Shonnie were to go to the Kilmachaoide communion next morning. The son opened his eyes rather wide, but promised quietly to do what he was told.

The son's wife was almost petrified. The thing came upon her as an utter surprise. She cleared her throat at once for objection and argument. She squared her lips and lengthened her face in the most orthodox fashion of feminine protest. Still she did not speak. Prudent woman that she was ; when just on the point of exploding, she thought silence golden, and curbed her unruly member. Iain Og disregarded the preliminary cough with which she had too hastily invited attention. He evidently ignored her right to have a say in the matter at all. She knew, partly by experience and perfectly by intuition, that, backed by his old wife, and with Shonnie for shield-bearer, her father-in-law would be invincibly obstinate, and take his own way in a matter on which his mind was set. She could, no doubt, with her husband's assistance, prevent Shonnie from going to Caoide's Clachan, and get mixed up with black Moderates. Indeed, from her point of view, chat was her plain duty. But there was another side of the question also. Her husband was not an enthusiastic Disruptionist. It needed a good deal of management to range him on that side at all. He would not like to thwart his aged father in regard to the boy. And, forsooth ! would it be wise for her to offend the old man either? In addition to the farm stock and plenishing, which, as the other children had received their shares on swarming off, would, of course, pass to her husband on his father's death, and to all intents and purposes were his already, although the old man's name was the name in the lease, she knew very well that a sum of money was lying to Iain Og's credit at the bank. Not a penny of this little hoard had been got out of the farm. It had been left to the old man by a son who died unmarried, and had saved it as an artisan in Glasgow. As Shonnie was the apple of Iain Og's eye, no doubt this bank money was destined for him. But there were outside grandsons and granddaughters ; and if she crossed the old man's whims, who could tell how he would leave his money ? Prudence therefore softened the asperities of zeal; and Shonnie, in kilt, plaid, and stocking-hose, with whip in hand, was permitted to go to Caoide's Clachan, greatly to his own satisfaction, and somewhat to the disgust of the grey mare.

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