Samuel Crockett.

The Standard Bearer





She patted me on the head pacifyingly as if I had been a fractious bairn that needed humouring.

Yes, yes, then, she said, soothingly, we shall be happy, you and I. What was it you said the other Sabbath day? I knew not what it meant then. But methinks I begin to understand now passing the love of woman!

The cough shook her, but she strove to hide it, going on quickly with her words like one who has no time to lose.

That is the way I love you, Quintin, passing the love of women, Why, I do not even grudge you to her.

She smiled again, and said cheerfully, Now we will call them in.

I was going to the door to do it according to her word, for that night we all obeyed her as though she had been the Queen. I was almost at the door when she rose all trembling to her feet and held out her arms entreatingly.

Quintin, Quintin, kiss me once, she said, once before they come.

I ran to her and kissed her on the brow. Oh, not there! On the mouth. It is my right. I have paid for it! she cried. And so I did.

Then she drew down my head and set her lips to my ear. I lied to you, laddie yes, I lied. I do grudge you to her. Oh, I do, I do!

And for the first time one mighty sob caught her by the throat and rent her.

Nevertheless she straightened herself with her hand to her breast, like a wounded soldier who salutes his general ere he dies, and commanded her emotion. Yes, she said, looking upwards and speaking as if to one unseen, I will play the game fairly; I have promised and I will not repine, nor go back on my word!

She turned to me, It is not a time for bairns greeting. We are to be married, you and I, are we not? Call them in.

And she laughed a little bashfully and fitly as the folk came in and smiled to one and the other as they entered.

Then to me she beckoned.

Come and hold my hand all the time. Clasp my fingers firmly. Do not let them go lest I slip away too soon, Quintin. I need your hand in mine for to-night, Quintin, just only for this one night!

Even thus Jean Gemmell and I were married.

And after all was done I laid her on her bed, and she rested there till near the dawning with my hand firmly held in hers. Mostly her eyes were shut, but every now and then she would smile up at me like one that encourages another in a weary wait.

Once she said, Isnt it sweet?

And then again, and near to the gloaming of the morn, she whispered, It will not be long now, laddie mine?

Nor was it, for within an hour the soul of Jean Gemmell went out in one long loving look, and with the faintest murmur of her lips which only my ear could catch Passing the love of women, she said, and again passing the love of women!

And it was my hand alone that spread the fair white cloth over her dead face which still had the smile upon it, and over the pale lips that she had asked me to kiss.

Then, as I stumbled blindly down the hill, I looked beyond the dark and sluggish river rolling beneath over to the Kirk of Crossmichael.

And even as I stood looking, the lights in the windows went out. It was done. I was a man in one day widowed, forsaken, outcast.

But more than kirk or ministry or even Christs own covenant, I thought upon Jean Gemmell.

CHAPTER XXVII
RUMOUR OF WAR

(Connect and Addition by Hob MacClellan.)

The crown had indeed been set upon the work. The business, as said the Right Reverend Presbytery, was finished, and with well-satisfied hearts the brethren went back to their manses.

It was long ere in his private capacity my brother could lift up his head or speak to us that were about him. The dark day and darker night of the 30th of December had sorely changed him. He was like one standing alone, the world ranged against him. Then I that was his brother according to the flesh watched him carefully. Never did he pace by the rivers of waters nor yet climb the heathery steeps of the Dornal without a companion. There were times when almost we feared for his reason. But Quintin MacClellan, the deposed minister of Balmaghie, was not the stuff of which self-slayers are made.

When it chanced that I could not accompany him, I had nothing to do but arrange with Alexander-Jonita, and she would take the hill or the water-edge, silent as a shadow, tireless as a young deer. And with her to guard I knew that my brother was safe.

Never did he know that any watched him, for during these days he was a man walking with shadows. I think he never ceased blaming himself for poor Jeans death. At any rate Quintin MacClellan was a changed man for long after that night.

My mother came down from Ardarroch to bide a while with him, and at orra times he aroused himself somewhat to talk with her. But when she began to speak of the ill-set Presbytery, or even of the more familiar things at home the nowt, the horse, and the kindly kye I, who watched every shade on Quintins face as keenly as if he had been my sweetheart, knew well that his mind was wandering. And sometimes I thought it was set on the dead lass, and sometimes I thought that he mourned for the public misfortune which had befallen him.

To the outer world, the world of the parish and the countryside, he kept ever a brave face. He preached with yet more mighty power and acceptance. The little kirk was crowded Sabbath after Sabbath. Those who had once spoken against him did it no more openly in the parish of Balmaghie.

With calm front and assured carriage he went about his duties, as though there were no Presbyteries nor forces military to carry out his sentence of removal and deposition.

Only the chief landowners wished him away. For mostly they were men of evil life, rough-spoken and darkly tarred with scandal. My brother had been over-faithful with them in reproof. For it was of Quintin that an old wife had said, God gie thee the fear o Himsel, laddie! For faith, ye haena the fear o man aboot ye!

But there were others who could take steps as well as Presbyteries and officers of the law.

Alexander-Jonita rode like a storm-cloud up and down the glen and listed the lads to do her will, as indeed they were ever all too ready to do. Her father, with several of the elders, men grave and reverend, met to concert measures for defending the bounds, lest the enemy should try to oust their minister out of his warm nest, as they called the manse which cowered down under lee of the kirk.

So it came about that there was scarce a man in Balmaghie who was not enrolled to protect the passage perilous of kirk and manse. The parish became almost like a defended city or an entrenched camp. There were watchers upon the hilltops everywhere. Week-day and Sabbath-day they abode there. All the fords were guarded, the river-fronts patrolled, for save on the wild and mountainous side our parish is surrounded by waters deep and broad or else rapid and dangerous.

Did a couple of ministers approach from Crossmichael to preach the kirk vacant their boat was pushed back again into the stream, and a hundred men stood in line to prevent a landing. Yet all was carried out with decency and order, as men do who have taken a great matter in hand and are prepared to stand within their danger.

The elders also held mysterious colloquies with men from a distance, who went and came to their houses under cloud of night. There was discipline and drill by Gideon Henderson and other former officers of the Scotch Dutch regiments. I remember a muster on the meadows of the Duchrae at which a stern-faced man, with his face half muffled, came and put us through our duty. I knew by the tones of his voice that this was none other than the Colonel Sir William Gordon who had marched with us to Edinburgh in the great convention year.

But the climax was yet to come.

It was in July that the Sheriff had first tried in vain to land at the Kirk-Knowe in order to expel my brother from his manse. But a hundred men had started up out of the bushes, and with levelled pistols turned the boat back again to the further shore.

Next there was a gathering of the Presbytery at Cullenoch, under the wing of the Laird of Balmaghie, to concert measures with the other landowners, who in time past had often smarted under Quintins rebuke. It was to be held at the inn, and the debate was to settle many things.

But alas! when the day came every room in the hostel was filled with armed men, so that there was no place for the reverend fathers and their terrified hosts.

So without in the wide spaces where four roads meet, the Presbyters one by one addressed the people, if addresses they could be called, which were interrupted at every other sentence.

It was Warner, the father of the Presbytery, who was speaking when I arrived. He was one of those who had sat safe and snug under the Kings indulgences and agreements in the days of persecution.

People of Balmaghie, he cried, hearken to me. Ye are supporting a man that is no minister, a man outed and deposed. Your children will be unbaptized, your marriages unblessed, yourselves excommunicated, because of this man!

Maister Warner, cried a voice from the crowd, which I knew for that of Drumglass, I am auld eneuch to mind how ye were a member in the Presbytery at Sunday-wall that sat on Richard Cameron in order to depose him. Now ye wad spend your persecuting breath on our young minister. Gang hame, man, and think on your latter end!

But, indeed, as half-a-dozen bare swords were within a yard of his nose, Mr. Warner might quite as well have thought on his latter end where he was.

Then it was Camerons turn. But him the people would not listen to on any protest, because he had been accounted chief agent and mover in the process of law against their minister.

Better ye had died at Ayrsmoss wi you twa brithers, they cried to him; man, yell never win nearer to them than Kirkcudbright town. And Guid kens thats an awesome lang road frae heeven!

To Telfair the Ghost-seer of Rerrick, they cried, when he strove to say a word, What for did ye no bring the deil wi ye in a bag? Man, ye are ower great wi him. But theres neither witch nor warlock can look at MacClellans cup nor come near our minister. Its easy seen Quintin MacClellan wasna in the Presbytery when the deil played sic pliskies doon aboot the Rerrick shores.

Then came Boyd, who in his day had proclaimed King William at Glasgow Cross. But he found that an easier task than to shout down the cause of righteousness at the Four Roads of Pluckemin.

You pay overmuch attention to the words of a man without honour! This was his beginning, heard over all the crowd to the very midst of the street, for he had a great voice, which in a better cause would have been listened to like the voice of an apostle.

Have ye paid back the siller the poor hill-folk spent on your colleging? they asked him. Our minister paid for his ain schooling.

The question was a feathered arrow in the white, but Boyd avoided it.

Your minister is a man that should be ashamed to enter a kirk and preach the Gospel. Who would associate with the like of Quintin MacClellan?

Of a certainty not traitors and turncoats! cried a deep voice in the background, toward which all turned in amazement.

It was that of Sir Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, the reputed head of the Societies, whose boast it had been that he could call seven thousand men to arms in the day of trouble.

I saw Boyd pale to the lips at sight of him.

I do not argue with sectaries! he stammered, turning on his heel.

Nor I with knavish deceivers, cried Alexander Gordon, of whom there are two here Andrew Cameron and William Boyd. With this right hand I paid them the golden money for their education, wrung from the instant needs of poor hill folk who had lost their all, and who depended oftentime on charity for their bite of bread. From men attainted, from men earning in foreign lands the bitter bread of exile, from men and women imprisoned, shilling by shilling, penny by penny, that money came. It was ill-spent on men like these. William Boyd and Andrew Cameron swore solemn oaths. They took upon them the unbreakable and immutable Covenants. In time they became ministers, and we looked for words of light and wisdom and guidance from them. But we of the Faithful Remnant looked in vain. For lo! C?sar sat upon his throne, and right gladly they bowed the knee. They licked the gold from his garments like honey. They mumbled his shoe-string that he might graciously permit them to sit at ease in his high places.

Bah! he cried, so that his voice was heard miles off on the hill-tops, out upon all such cowards and traitors! And now, folk of this parish, will ye let such scurril loons persuade you to give up your true and faithful minister, on whose tongue is the word of truth, and in whose heart is no fear of the face of any man?

The frightened Presbyters melted before him, some of them swarming off with the men of evil life the lairds and heritors of the parish. Others mounted their horses and rode homeward as if the devil of Rerrick himself had been after them.

Thus was ended the Disputation of Cullenoch near to Clachanpluck, in the shaming of those that withstood us.

CHAPTER XXVIII
ALEXANDER-JONITAS VICTORY

But as for my brother, concerning whom was all this pother, he took no hand at all in the matter. If the people wished him to abide with them, they must maintain him there. Contrariwise, if the Master he served had other fields of labour, he would break down dykes and make plain his path before him.

But as it was, he went about as usual with his pilgrim staff in his hand visiting the sick, succouring the poor, lifting up the head of weakness and pain.

On the day when the Sheriff came with his men to the water-edge, Quintin saw from the manse window a little cloud of men running hither and thither upon the river-bank.

There is surely some great ploy of fishing afoot! he said, quietly, and so let his eyes fall again contentedly upon his book.

Faith, tis easy to hoodwink a learned man, cried Alexander-Jonita when I told her.

It was at this time that I grew to love the lass yet more and more. For she flashed hither and thither, and whereas she had been no great one for housework hitherto, now since her sisters death she would be much more indoors. Also, with the old man her father, she was exceedingly patient in his oftentime garrulity. But specially in the defence of the parish on Quintins behalf against the civil arm, she was indefatigable.

Often she would go dressed as a heartsome young callant, with clothes that her own needle had made, her own deft fingers fashioned. And in cavalier attire, I tell you, Alexander-Jonita took the eyes of lass and lady. Once, when we rode by Dee-bridge, a haughty dame sent back her servant to ask of me, whom she took to be a man-in-waiting, the name of the handsome young gentleman I served.

I replied with dignity, Tis the young Lord Alexander Johnstone, which was as near the truth as I could come at a quick venture.

In that crowning ploy of which I have still to tell, it was Alexander-Jonita who played the leading part.

The Sheriff, being admonished for his slackness by his legal superiors, and complained of by the reverend court of the Presbytery, resolved to make a bold push for it, and at one blow to take final possession of kirk and manse.

So he summoned the yeomanry of the province to meet him under arms at the village of Causewayend, which stands near the famous and beautiful loch of Carlinwark, on a certain day, under penalties of fine and imprisonment. And about a hundred men on horseback, all well armed and mounted, drew together on the day appointed. A fine breezy day in August, it was when many of them doubtless came with small good-will from their corn-fields, where a winnowing wind searched the stooks till the ripe grain rustled with the parched well-won sound that is music to the farmers ear.

But if the news of gathering of the yeomanry had been spread by summons, far more wide and impressive had been the counter call sent throughout the parish of Balmaghie.

For farmer and cotter alike knew that matters had come to the perilous pinch with us, and if it should be that the civil powers were not turned aside now, all the past watching and sacrifice would prove in vain.

It was about noon when the sentinels reported that the Sheriff and his hundred horsemen had crossed Dee water, and were advancing by rapid stages.

Now it was Jonitas plan to draw together the women also for what purpose we did not see. But since she had summoned them herself it was not for any of us young men to say her nay.

So by the green roadside, a mile from the manse and kirk, Jonita had her hundred and fifty or more women assembled, old and young, mothers of families and wrinkled grandmothers thereof, young maidens with the blushes on their cheeks and the snood yet unloosed about their hair.

Faith, spite of the grandmothers, many a lad of us would have desired to be of that company that day! But Alexander-Jonita would have none of us. We were to keep the castle, so she commanded, with gun and sword. We were to sit in our trenches about the kirk, and let the women be our advance guard.

So when the trampling of horses was heard from the southward, and the cavalcade came to the narrows of the way, Halt! cried Alexander-Jonita suddenly. And leaping out of the thicket like a young roe of the mountains, she seized the Sheriffs bridle rein. At the same moment her hundred and fifty women trooped out and stood ranked and silent right across the path of the horsemen.

What do ye here? Let go, besom! cried the Sheriff.

Go back to those that sent ye, Sheriff, commanded Alexander-Jonita, for an ye will put out our minister, ye must ride over us and wet the feet of your horses in our womens blood.

Out upon you, lass! Let men do their work! cried the Sheriff, who was a jolly, rollicking man, and, moreover, as all knew, like most sheriffs, not unkindly disposed to the sex.

Leave you our minister alone to do his work. I warrant he will not meddle with you, answered Alexander-Jonita.

Faith, but you are a well-plucked one! cried the Sheriff, looking down with admiration on her, but now out of the way with you, for I must forward with my work.

Sir, said the lass, ye may turn where ye are, and ride back whence ye came, for we will by no means let you proceed one step nearer to the kirk of Balmaghie this day!

Forward! cried the Sheriff, loudly, to his men, thinking to intimidate the women.

Stand firm, lasses! cried Alexander-Jonita, clinging to the Sheriffs bridle-rein.

And the company of yeomanry stood still, for, being mostly householders and fathers of families, they could not bring themselves to charge a company of women, as it might be their own wives and daughters.

Forward! cried the Sheriff again.

Aye, forward, gallant cavaliers! cried Alexander-Jonita, forward, and ye shall have great honour, Sheriff! More famous than my Lord Marlborough shall be ye. Ride us down. Put your horses to their speed. Be assured we will not flinch!

Time and again the Sheriff tried, now threatening and now cajoling; but equally to no purpose.

At last he grew tired.

This is a thankless job, he said, turning him about; let them send their soldiers. I am not obliged to fight for it.

And so with a right about and a wave of the hand he took his valiant horsemen off by the way they came.

And as they went they say that many a youth turned him on his saddle to cast a longing look upon Alexander-Jonita, who stood there tall and straight in the place where she had so boldly confronted the Sheriff.

Then the women sang a psalm, while Alexander-Jonita, leaping on a horse, rode a musket-shot behind the retiring force, till she had seen them safely across the river at the fords of Glenlochar, and so finally out of the parish bounds.

CHAPTER XXIX
THE ELDERS OF THE HILL FOLK

(The Narrative taken up again by Quintin MacClellan.)

It was long before I could see clearly the way I should go, after that dismal day and night of which I have told the tale.

It seemed as if there was no goodness on the earth, no use in my work, no right or excellency in the battle I had fought and the sacrifice I had made. Ought I not even now to give way? Surely God had not meant a man so poor in spirit, so easily cast down to hold aloft the standard of his ancient kirk.

But nevertheless, here before me and around me, a present duty, were my parish and my poor folk, so brave and loyal and steadfast. Could I forsake them? Daily I heard tidings of their struggling with the arm of flesh, though I now judge that Hob, in some fear of my disapproval, would not venture to tell me all.

Yet I misdoubted that I had brought my folk into a trouble which might in the event prove a grievous enough one for them.

But a kind Providence watched over them and me. For even when it came to the stormiest, the wind ceased and there was a blissful breathing time of quietness and peace.

Also there was that happened about this time which brought us at least for a time assurance and security within our borders.





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