Samuel Crockett.

The Standard Bearer





And so I bade them farewell. What I said to them is no mans business but theirs and mine, and shall not be written here. But the tears flowed down and the voice of mourning was heard.

Then, ere I pronounced the benediction, I told them how that one dear to me and well known to them had a certain matter to set before them.

With that uprose Alexander Gordon in the midst, looming great like a hero seen in the morning mist.

I put him to the solemn oath, and then and there he declared before them his innocence of the greater evil, purging himself, as the manner was, by solemn and binding oath, which purgation had been refused him by the Presbytery.

By the grace and kindness of your minister, I, Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, being known to you all, declare myself wholly innocent of the crime laid to my charge by the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright. May the Lord in whom I believe have no mercy on my soul if I speak not the truth.

But as for the lesser shame, so he continued, that I brought on myself and on the cause for which I have been in time past privileged to suffer, in that I was overcome with wine in the change-house of St. Johns, Clachan that much is true. With contrition do I confess it. And I confess also to the unholy and hellish anger that descended on my spirit, from which blackness of darkness I was brought by your minister. For which I, unworthy, shall ever continue to praise the Lord of mercies, who did not cut me off with my sin unconfessed or my innocence unproclaimed.

Alexander Gordon sat down, and there went a sigh and a murmur over all the folk like the wind over ripe wheat in a large field.

Then I told them how that my resolve was taken, and that it was necessary that I should depart from the midst of them in order that there might be peace.

But one and another throughout the kirk cried, Nay, we will not let you go! We have fought for you; desert us not now. The bitterness of the blast is surely over; now they will let us alone!

Thus one and another cried out there in the kirk, but the most part only groaned in spirit and were troubled.

Ye shall not be less my people that another is set in my place. I go indeed to seek a wider ministry. I have been called by the remnant of the Hill-folk that have so long been without a pastor. Whether I am fitted to be their minister I do not know, but in weakness and the acknowledgment of it there is ever the beginning of strength. I have loved your parish and you. Dear dust lies in that kirkyard out there, and when for me the Angel of the Presence comes who calls not twice, that is where I should like to lie, under the blossoming hawthorn trees near by where the waters of Dee flow largely and quietly about the bonny kirk-knowe of Balmaghie.

CHAPTER XXXVIII
I LOVE YOU, QUINTIN!

There was little more to do. The scanty stock of the glebe was, by Hobs intervention, sold in part to Nathan Gemmell, of Drumglass, and the remainder driven along the Kenside by the fords of the Black Water to Ardarroch, where my mother received it with uplifted, querulous hands, and my father calmly as if he had never expected anything else.

To think, cried my mother, that the laddie we sent so proudly to the college should shut himself out of manse and kirk, and tak to the moors and mosses as if the auld persecuting days were back again.

It is in a guid cause, said my father, quieting her as best he could.

I daresay, said my mother, but the lad will get mony a wet fit and weary mile if he ministers to the Hill-folk.

Aye, and mony a sair heart to please them.

Fear ye not for Quintin, said my father, to soothe her, for if it comes to dourness the Lord pity them that try to overcrow our Quintin.

I made no farewell round of the kindly, faithful folk of Balmaghie. My heart would have had too many breakings. Besides, I promised myself that, when I took up the pilgrims staff and ministered to the remnant scattered abroad, seeking no reward, I should often be glad of a nights shelter at Drumglass or Cullenoch.

Nevertheless, for all my brave resolves, it was with an overweighted heart that I passed the Black Water at the Tornorrach fords with my staff in my hand. I had as it were come over in two bands, with Hob driving the beasts for the glebe, and I the house furniture upon a car or trail cart.

Now I left the parish poorer than I entered it. I knew not so much as where I would sleep that night. I had ten pounds in my pocket, and when that was done well, I would surely not be worse off than the Kings Blue Gown. I was to minister to a scattered people, mostly of the poorest. But at the worst I was sure of an inglenook, a bed in the stable-loft, and a porringer of brose at morn and een anywhere in Scotland. And I am sure that ofttimes the Galilean fishermen had not so much.

My mother threw her arms about my neck.

O laddie, laddie, ye are ganging far awa on a rough road and a lonely. Guid kens if your auld mither will ever look on your face again. Quintin, this is a sair heartbreak. But I ken I hae mysel to thank for it. I bred ye to the Hill-folks ways mysel. It was your ain mither that took ye in her arms to the sweet conventicles on the green bosom of Cairnsmuir, that delectable mountain. I, even I, had ye baptized at the Holy Linn by guid Maister Semple, and never a whinge or a greet did ye gae when he stappit ye into the thickest o the jaw.

And the remembrance seemed in part to reconcile my mother to the stern Cameronian ministry I was about to take up.

And what stipend are they promising ye? she said, presently, after she had thought the matter over.

Nothing! I answered, calmly.

Nocht ava no a bawbee and a that siller spent on your colleging.

Then my mothers mind took a new tack.

And what will puir Hob be gaun to do, puir fellow? He has had nae ither thocht than you since ever he was a laddie.

Faith, said I, smiling back at her, I am thinking that now at last he has some other thought in his mind.

My mother fell back a step.

No a lassie! she cried, a laddie like him.

Hob is no week-old bairn chicken, mother, said I; he will be five-and-thirty if he is a day.

But our Hob to be thinking o a lassie!

At what age might ye have been married, mother? I asked, knowing that I could turn her from thinking of Hobs presumption and my own waygoing.

Me? I was married at seventeen, and your father scant a score. Faith, there was spunk in the countryside then. Noo a lass will be four-and-twenty before she gets an offer; aye, and not think hersel ayont the mark for the wedding-ring, when I had sons and dochters man and woman-muckle!

Then, said I, that being so, ye will not be hard on Hob if he marries and settles himself down at Drumglass.

My father clapped me on the shoulder.

God speed ye, he said; I need not tell ye to be noways feared. And if ye come to the bottom of your purse well, your faither is no rich man. But there will be aye a bit of yellow siller for ye in the cupboard of Ardarroch.

I had meant to take my way past Earlstoun without calling. And with that intent it was in my mind to hold directly over the moor past Lochinvar. But when it came to the pinch I simply could not do it.

So to the dear grey tower chin-deep among the woodlands I betook me once more. My eyes had been looking for the first glint of it over the tree tops for miles ere I came within sight of it. There, and there, so I said to myself, under that white cloud, by the nick of that hill, where the woodland curls down, that is the place.

At last I arrived.

Quintin MacClellan, come your ways in. Welcome are ye as the smell o the supper brose, cried Alexander Gordon, coming heartily across from the far angle of the courtyard at sight of me. Whither away so travel-harnessed?

To the Upper Ward, said I, to make a beginning on the widest ministers charge in Scotland.

You are, then, truly bent on leaving all and taking upon you the blue bonnet and the plaid of the minister of the Remnant?

I have already done it, said I, burned my boats, emptied my house, sold my plenishing and bestial. And now with my scrip and staff I go forth, whither I know not perchance to a hole in the hedge-root and the death of a dog.

Tut, man, cried Alexander Gordon, tis not thus that the apostle of the Hill-folk, the bearer of their banner, should go forth. Bide at least this night with me, and I will set you up the waterside, aye, and fit you with a beast to ride on forbye.

I thank you from my heart, Earlstoun. This is spoken like a true man and from the full heart. Only Alexander Gordon would offer as much. But I would begin as I must end if I am to be the poor mans minister. I must not set out on my pilgrimage riding on the back of Earlstouns charger. I must tramp it moss and mountain, dub and mire. Yet, friend of mine, I could not go without bidding you a kindly adieu.

At least bide till the mistress and Mary can shake ye by the hand, cried Alexander Gordon.

And with that he betook him to the nearest window, and without ceremony pushed it open, for the readiest way was ever Sandy Gordons way. Then he roared for his wife and daughter till the noise shook the tower like an earthquake.

In a moment Mary Gordon came out and stood on the doorstep with her fingers in her ears, pretending a pretty anger.

What an unwholesome uproar, father! Well do they call you the Bull of Earlstoun, and say that they hear you over the hill at Ardoch bidding the herd lads to be quiet!

Then seeing me (as it appeared) for the first time, she came forward and took my hand simply, and with a pleasant open frankness.

You will come in and rest, will you not? she said. Are you here on business with my father?

Nay, said I, smiling at her; I have no business save that of bidding you farewell.

Farewell! cried she, dropping the needle-work she held in her hand, why farewell?

I go far away to a new and untried work. I know not when nor how I shall return.

She gave a little quick shivering gasp, as if she had been about to speak.

At the least, come in and see my mother, she said, and led the way within.

But when we had gone into the long oaken chamber naught of the Lady of Earlstoun was to be seen. And the laird himself cried up to Mary to entertain me till he should speak to his grieve over at the cottage.

In the living room of Earlstoun was peace and the abiding pleasant sense of on ordered home. As soon as she had shut the door the lass turned upon me.

You have truly given up your parish? she said, holding her hands before her with the fingers clasped firmly together.

I nodded.

And you are journeying to the west to join the Hill-folk?

I smiled as I looked into her deep and anxious eyes.

Again you have rightly divined, I said.

And what stipend are ye to get from them?

I am to have no stipend. It has not been mentioned between us.

O Quintin! she cried suddenly, her eyes growing ever larger and darker, till the pupil seemed to invade the iris and swallow it up.

But though I waited for her to speak further she said nothing more.

So I went on to tell her how I was going to the west to spend my life among the poor folk there who had been so long without a shepherd.

And would you she paused would you leave us all?

Nay, said I, for this Earlstoun shall ever be a kindly and a beloved spot to me. Often when the ways are long and dreary, the folk unfriendly, will my heart turn in hither. And, whenever I am in Galloway, be sure that I will not pass you by. Your father hath been a good and loving friend to me.

My father! she cried, with a little disdainful outward pout of the lip.

Aye, and you also, Mistress Mary. You have been all too kind to a broken man a man who, when the few coins he carries in his purse are expended, knows not whence he will get his next golden guinea.

I was silent for a while and only looked steadily at her. She moved her feet this way and that on the floor uncertainly. Her grace and favour cried out to me anew.

As for me, Mary, I said, I need not tell you that I love you. I have loved you ever since I met you on the Bennan brae-face. But now more greatly more terribly that I love altogether without hope. I had not meant to speak again, but only to take your hand once thus and get me gone!

Impulsively she held her fingers out to me and I clasped them in mine.

I thought she was ready to bid me farewell, and that she desired not to prolong the pain of the interview.

Fare thee well then, Mary, said I. I have loved the cause because it is the Cause of the Weak. I have striven to raise again the Banner of Blue. I have loved my people. But none of these hath this aching, weary heart loved as it has loved Mary Gordon. I have neither heart nor right to speak of my love, nor house nor home to offer. I can but go!

Speak on, she said, a little breathlessly, but never once taking her eyes from my face.

There is no other word to tell, Mary, said I. I have spoken the word, and now there remains but to turn about and set face forward as bravely as may be, to shut out the pleasant vision, seen for a moment, to leave behind for ever the hearts desire

No! No! No! she interrupted, jerking her clasped hands quickly downward.

To lay aside the deep, unspoken hopes of a man who has never loved woman before

She came a little nearer to me, still exploring my face with her eyes, as I spoke the last words.

Did you not, Quintin? Are you sure?

I have never loved before, said I, because I have loved Mary Gordon from the beginning, yea, every day and every hour since I was a herd boy on the hills. Once I was filled with pride and the security of position. But of these the Lord hath stripped me. I am well-nigh as poor as when I came into the world. I have nothing now to offer you or any woman.

Nay, she cried, speaking very quickly and suddenly, laying her clasped hands on my arm, you are rich rich, Quintin! Listen, lad! There is one that loves you now who has loved you long. Do you not understand? Must I, that am a maid, speak for myself? Must I say, I love you, Quintin?

And then she smiled suddenly, gloriously, like the sun bursting through black and leaden clouds.

Oh, sweet and perilously sweet was her smile!

Mary, I cried, suddenly, you are not playing with me? Ah, for Gods dear sake, do not that! It would break my heart. You cannot love a man broken, penniless, outcast, one of a down-trodden and despised folk. You must not give yourself to one whose future path is lone and desolate!

I love you, Quintin!

One who has nothing to offer, nothing to give, not even the shelter of a roof-tree a wanderer, a beggar!

I love you, Quintin!

And the hands that had been clasped on my arm of their own sweet accord stole upward and rested lovingly about my neck. The eyes that had looked so keenly into mine were satisfied at last, and with a long sobbing sigh of content Mary Gordons head pillowed itself on my breast.

CHAPTER XXXIX
THE LAST ROARING OF THE BULL

Come, she said, after a while, let us go to my father!

And now, the rubicon being passed, there shone a quick and alert gladness upon her face. Her feet scarcely seemed to touch the ground. The mood of sedateness had passed away, and she hummed a gay tune as we went down the stairs.

Alexander Gordon was coming across the yard to speak with his wife as Mary and I appeared hand in hand at the stair foot.

He stopped as it had been suddenly aghast when he caught sight of us.

Mary! he cried.

She nodded and made him a little prim curtesy.

What means this? he said, sternly.

Just that Quintin and I love one another!

And as she spoke I saw the frown gather ominously on Alexander Gordons face. His wife came near and looked at him. I saw him flash a glance at her so quick, so stern, and full of meaning that the ready river of her speech froze on her lips.

This is rank foolishness, Mary! he cried; go indoors this instant and get to your broidering. Let me hear no more of this!

But the spirit of the Gordons was in the daughter as well as in the sire.

I will not, she said; I am of age, and though in all else I have obeyed you, in this I will not.

Glance for glance their eyes encountered, nor could I see that either pair quailed.

The Laird of Earlstoun turned to me.

And you, sir, whom I trusted as my friend, how came you here under pretext of amity, thus to lead away my daughter?

The question was fiercely spoken, the tone sullenly angry. Yet somehow both rang hollow.

I was about to answer when Mary interrupted.

Nay, father, she cried, looking him fearlessly in the face; it was I that proffered my love. He would not ask me, though I tried to make him. I had to tell him that I loved him, and make him ask me to marry him!

Was it fancy that the flicker of a smile passed at that moment over the grim countenance of the Bull?

His wife was again about to speak, but he turned fiercely on her and bade her be silent.

And now, he said, turning to his daughter, what do you propose to do with your man when ye have speered him?

He used the local country expression for a proposal of marriage. I will marry him here and now, she said; adding hastily, that is, if he will have me.

Ye had better speer him that too! said her father, grimly.

I will do better, cried Mary Gordon. I will acknowledge him!

And holding up my hand in hers she cried aloud: I take you for my husband, Quintin MacClellan! She looked up at me with a challenge in her eye.

My wife! was all that I could utter.

Well, said Sandy, that is your bed made, my lassie. You have both said it before witnesses. You must take him now, whether ye will or not!

Hugh, he cried, with a sudden roar towards the servants quarters. And from the haymow in the barn where he had been making a pretence of work a retainer appeared with a scared expression on his face.

Run over to the cot-house at the road-end and tell the minister lad that the Dumfries Presbytery deposed to come to the Earlstoun and that smartly, else I will come down and fetch him myself!

The man was already on his way ere the sentence was ended, and when the Laird roared the last words after him he fairly seemed to jump.

He was out of sight among the trees a moment after.

Now, said Alexander Gordon, Mary and you have proclaimed yourselves man and wife. Ye shall be soundly married by a minister, and then ye shall go your ways forth. Think not that I will give you the worth of a boddle either in gear or land. Ye have asked me no permission. Ye have defied me. I say not that I will disown ye. But, at least, I owe you nothing.

Father, said Mary, did I ask you for aught, or did Quintin?

Nay, said he, grimly, not even for my daughter.

Then, said she, do not refuse that for which you have not been asked!

And how may you propose to live? her father went on triumphantly. Ye would not look at him when he had kirk and glebe, manse and stipend. And now ye take him by force when he is no better than a beggar at the dykeback. That it is to be a woman!

She kindled at the words.

And what a thing to be a man! Ye think that a womans love consists in goods and gear, comfortable beds and fine apparelling!

Comfortable beds are not to be lightlied, said her father; as ye will find, my lass, or a be done.

She did not heed him, but flashed on with her defiance.

You, and those like you, think that the way to win a woman is to bide till ye have made all smooth, so that there be not a curl on the rose-leaves, nor yet a bitter drop in the cup. Even Quintin there thought thus, till he learned better.

She did not so much as pause to smile, though I think her father did but covertly.

No! she cried, I love, and because I love I will (as you say floutingly) be ready to lie at a dykeback like a tinklers wench. I will follow my man through the world because he is my man yes, all the more because he is injured, despised, one who has had little happiness and no satisfaction in life. And now I will give him these things. I I only will make it all up to him. With my love I can do it, and I will!

Her father nodded menacingly.

Ye shall try the dykebacks this very nicht, my lass! And ye shall een see how ye like them, after the fine linen sheets and panelled chambers of the Earlstoun.

But her mother broke out at last.

No, my bairn! she cried. Married or single ye shall not go forth from us thus!

Hold your tongue, woman! roared the Bull, shaking the very firmament with his voice.

Be not feared, my lass; ye shall have your mothers countenance, though your father cast you off, said Janet Gordon, nodding at us with unexpected graciousness.

Hold your peace, I tell you!

Aye, Sandy, when I have done!

Though he turn you to the doorstep I will pray for you, she went on; and for company on the way I will give you a copy of my meditations, which are most meet and precious.

Her husband laughed a quick, mocking laugh.





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