The Man From Glengarry by Ralph Connor
Chapter IX. A Sabbath Day's Work
The Sabbath that followed the sugaring-off was to Maimie the most remarkable Sabbath of her life up to that day. It was totally unlike the Sabbath of her home, which, after the formal "church parade," as Harry called it, in the morning, her father spent in lounging with his magazine and pipe, her aunt in sleeping or in social gossip with such friends as might drop in, and Harry and Maimie as best they could.
The Sabbath in the minister's house, as in the homes of his people, was a day so set apart from other days that it had to be approached. The Saturday afternoon and evening caught something of its atmosphere. No frivolity, indeed no light amusement, was proper on the evening that put a period to the worldly occupations and engagements of the week. That evening was one of preparation. The house, and especially the kitchen, was thoroughly "redd up." Wood, water, and kindlings were brought in, clothes were brushed, boots greased or polished, dinner prepared, and in every way possible the whole house, its dwellers, and its belongings, made ready for the morrow. So, when the Sabbath morning dawned, people awoke with a feeling that old things had passed away and that the whole world was new. The sun shone with a radiance not known on other days. He was shining upon holy things, and lighting men and women to holy duties. Through all the farms the fields lay bathed in his genial glow, at rest, and the very trees stood in silent worship of the bending heavens. Up from stable and from kitchen came no sounds of work. The horses knew that no wheel would turn that day in labor, and the dogs lay sleeping in sunny nooks, knowing as well as any that there was to be no hunting or roaming for them that day, unless they chose to go on a free hunt; which none but light-headed puppies or dissipated and reprobate dogs would care to do.
Over all things rest brooded, and out of the rest grew holy thoughts and hopes. It was a day of beginnings. For the past, broken and stained, there was a new offer of oblivion and healing, and the heart was summoned to look forward to new life and to hope for better things, and to drink in all those soothing, healing influences that memory and faith combine to give; so that when the day was done, weary and discouraged men and women began to feel that, perhaps after all they might be able to endure and even to hope for victory.
The minister rose earlier on Sabbath than on other days, the responsibility of his office pressing hard upon him. Breakfast was more silent than usual, ordinary subjects of conversation being discouraged. The minister was preoccupied and impatient of any interruption of his thoughts. But his wife came to the table with a sweeter serenity than usual, and a calm upon her face that told of hidden strength. Even Maimie could notice the difference, but she could only wonder. The secret of it was hidden from her. Her aunt was like no other woman that she knew, and there were many things about her too deep for Maimie's understanding.
After worship, which was brief but solemn and intense, Lambert hurried to bring round to the front the big black horse, hitched up in the carryall, and they all made speed to pack themselves in, Maimie and her aunt in front, and Hughie on the floor behind with his legs under the seat; for when once the minister was himself quite ready, and had got his great meerschaum pipe going, it was unsafe for any one to delay him a single instant.
The drive to the church was an experience hardly in keeping with the spirit of the day. It was more exciting than restful. Black was a horse with a single aim, which was to devour the space that stretched out before him, with a fine disregard of consequence. The first part of the road up to the church hill and down again to the swamp was to Black, as to the others, an unmixed joy, for he was fresh from his oats and eager to go, and his driver was as eager to let him have his will.
But when the swamp was reached, and the buggy began to leap from log to log of the corduroy, Black began to chafe in impatience of the rein which commanded caution. Indeed, the passage of the swamp was always more or less of an adventure, the result of which no one could foretell, and it took all Mrs. Murray's steadiness of nerve to repress an exclamation of terror at critical moments. The corduroy was Black's abomination. He longed to dash through and be done with it; but, however much the minister sympathized with Black's desire, prudence forbade that his method should be adopted. So from log to log, and from hole to hole, Black plunged and stepped with all the care he could be persuaded to exercise, every lurch of the carryall bringing a scream from Maimie in front and a delighted chuckle from Hughie behind. His delight in the adventure was materially increased by his cousin's terror.
But once the swamp was crossed, and Black found himself on the firm road that wound over the sand-hills and through the open pine woods, he tossed his great mane back from his eyes, and getting his head set off at a pace that foreboded disaster to anything trying to keep before him, and in a short time drew up at the church gates, his flanks steaming and his great chest white with foam.
"My!" said Maimie, when she had recovered her breath sufficiently to speak, "is that the church?" She pointed to a huge wooden building about whose door a group of men were standing.
"Huh-huh, that's it," said Hughie; "but we will soon be done with the ugly old thing."
The most enthusiastic member of the congregation could scarcely call the old church beautiful, and to Maimie's eyes it was positively hideous. No steeple or tower gave any hint of its sacred character. Its weather-beaten clapboard exterior, spotted with black knots, as if stricken with some disfiguring disease, had nothing but its row of uncurtained windows to distinguish it from an ordinary barn.
They entered by the door at the end of the church, and proceeded down the long aisle that ran the full length of the building, till they came to a cross aisle that led them to the minister's pew at the left side of the pulpit, and commanding a view of the whole congregation. The main body of the church was seated with long box pews with hinged doors. But the gallery that ran round three sides was fitted with simple benches. Immediately in front of the pulpit was a square pew which was set apart for the use of the elders, and close up to the pulpit, and indeed as part of this structure, was a precentor's desk. The pulpit was, to Maimie's eyes, a wonder. It was an octagonal box placed high on one side of the church on a level with the gallery, and reached by a spiral staircase. Above it hung the highly ornate and altogether extraordinary sounding- board and canopy. There was no sign of paint anywhere, but the yellow pine, of which seats, gallery, and pulpit were all made, had deepened with age into a rich brown, not unpleasant to the eye.
The church was full, for the Indian Lands people believed in going to church, and there was not a house for many miles around but was represented in the church that day. There they sat, row upon row of men, brawny and brown with wind and sun, a notable company, worthy of their ancestry and worthy of their heritage. Beside them sat their wives, brown, too, and weather-beaten, but strong, deep- bosomed, and with faces of calm content, worthy to be mothers of their husbands' sons. The girls and younger children sat with their parents, modest, shy, and reverent, but the young men, for the most part, filled the back seats under the gallery. And a hardy lot they were, as brown and brawny as their fathers, but tingling with life to their finger-tips, ready for anything, and impossible of control except by one whom they feared as well as reverenced. And such a man was Alexander Murray, for they knew well that, lithe and brawny as they were, there was not a man of them but he could fling out of the door and over the fence if he so wished; and they knew, too, that he would be prompt to do it if occasion arose. Hence they waited for the word of God with all due reverence and fear.
In the square pew in front of the pulpit sat the elders, hoary, massive, and venerable. The Indian Lands Session were worth seeing. Great men they were, every one of them, excepting, perhaps, Kenneth Campbell, "Kenny Crubach," as he was called, from his halting step. Kenny was neither hoary nor massive nor venerable. He was a short, grizzled man with snapping black eyes and a tongue for clever, biting speech; and while he bore a stainless character, no one thought of him as an eminently godly man. In public prayer he never attained any great length, nor did he employ that tone of unction deemed suitable in this sacred exercise. He seldom "spoke to the question," but when he did people leaned forward to listen, and more especially the rows of the careless and ungodly under the gallery. Kenny had not the look of an elder, and indeed, many wondered how he had ever come to be chosen for the office. But the others all had the look of elders, and carried with them the full respect and affection of the congregation. Even the young men under the gallery regarded them with reverence for their godly character, but for other things as well; for these old men had been famous in their day, and tales were still told about the firesides of the people of their prowess in the woods and on the river.
There was, for instance, Finlay McEwen, or McKeowen, as they all pronounced it in that country, who, for a wager, had carried a four-hundred-pound barrel upon each hip across the long bridge over the Scotch River. And next him sat Donald Ross, whose very face, with its halo of white hair, bore benediction with it wherever he went. What a man he must have been in his day! Six feet four inches he stood in his stocking soles, and with "a back like a barn door," as his son Danny, or "Curly," now in the shanty with Macdonald Bhain, used to say, in affectionate pride. Then there was Farquhar McNaughton, big, kindly, and good-natured, a mighty man with the ax in his time. "Kirsty's Farquhar" they called him, for obvious reasons. And a good thing for Farquhar it was that he had had Kirsty at his side during these years to make his bargains for him and to keep him and all others to them, else he would never have become the substantial man he was.
Next to Farquhar was Peter McRae, the chief of a large clan of respectable, and none too respectable, families, whom all alike held in fear, for Peter ruled with a rod of iron, and his word ran as law throughout the clan. Then there was Ian More Macgregor, or "Big John Macgregor," as the younger generation called him, almost as big as Donald Ross and quite as kindly, but with a darker, sadder face. Something from his wilder youth had cast its shadow over his life. No one but his minister and two others knew that story, but the old man knew it himself, and that was enough. One of those who shared his secret was his neighbor and crony, Donald Ross, and it was worth a journey of some length to see these two great old men, one with the sad and the other with the sunny face, stride off together, staff in hand, at the close of the Gaelic service, to Donald's home, where the afternoon would be spent in discourse fitting the Lord's day and in prayer.
The only other elder was Roderick McCuiag, who sat, not in the elders' pew, but in the precentor's box, for he was the Leader of Psalmody. "Straight Rory," as he was called by the irreverent, was tall, spare, and straight as a ramrod. He was devoted to his office, jealous of its dignity, and strenuous in his opposition to all innovations in connection with the Service of Praise. He was especially opposed to the introduction of those "new-fangled ranting" tunes which were being taught the young people by John "Alec" Fraser in the weekly singing-school in the Nineteenth, and which were sung at Mrs. Murray's Sabbath evening Bible class in the Little Church. Straight Rory had been educated for a teacher in Scotland, and was something of a scholar. He loved school examinations, where he was the terror of pupils and teachers alike. His acute mind reveled in the metaphysics of theology, which made him the dread of all candidates who appeared before the session desiring "to come forward." It was to many an impressive sight to see Straight Rory rise in the precentor's box, feel round, with much facial contortion, for the pitch--he despised a tuning-fork-- and then, straightening himself up till he bent over backwards, raise the chant that introduced the tune to the congregation. But to the young men under the gallery he was more humorous than impressive, and it is to be feared that they waited for the precentor's weekly performance with a delighted expectation that never flagged and that was never disappointed. It was only the flash of the minister's blue eye that held their faces rigid in preternatural solemnity, and forced them to content themselves with winks and nudges for the expression of their delight.
As Maimie's eye went wandering shyly over the rows of brown faces that turned in solemn and steadfast regard to the minister's pew, Hughie nudged her and whispered: "There's Don. See, in the back seat by the window, next to Peter Ruagh yonder; the red-headed fellow."
He pointed to Peter McRae, grandson of "Peter the Elder." There was no mistaking that landmark.
"Look," cried Hughie, eagerly, pointing with terrible directness straight at Don, to Maimie's confusion.
"Whisht, Hughie," said his mother softly.
"There's Ranald, mother," said the diplomatic Hughie, knowing well that his mother would rejoice to hear that bit of news. "See, mother, just in front of Don, there."
Again Hughie's terrible finger pointed straight into the face of the gazing congregation.
"Hush, Hughie," said his mother, severely.
Maimie knew a hundred eyes were looking straight at the minister's pew, but for the life of her she could not prevent her eye following the pointing finger, till it found the steady gaze of Ranald fastened upon her. It was only for a moment, but in that moment she felt her heart jump and her face grow hot, and it did not help her that she knew that the people were all wondering at her furious blushes. Of course the story of the sugaring-off had gone the length of the land and had formed the subject of conversation at the church door that morning, where Ranald had to bear a good deal of chaff about the young lady, and her dislike of forfeits, till he was ready to fight if a chance should but offer. With unspeakable rage and confusion, he noticed Hughie's pointing finger. He caught, too, Maimie's quick look, with the vivid blush that followed. Unfortunately, others besides himself had noticed this, and Don and Peter Ruagh, in the seat behind him, made it the subject of congratulatory remarks to Ranald.
At this point the minister rose in the pulpit, and all waited with earnest and reverent mien for the announcing of the psalm.
The Rev. Alexander Murray was a man to be regarded in any company and under any circumstances, but when he stood up in his pulpit and faced his congregation he was truly superb. He was above the average height, of faultless form and bearing, athletic, active, and with a "spring in every muscle." He had coal-black hair and beard, and a flashing blue eye that held his people in utter subjection and put the fear of death upon evil-doers under the gallery. In every movement, tone, and glance there breathed imperial command.
"Let us worship God by singing to His praise in the one hundred and twenty-first psalm:
'I to the hills will lift mine eyes, From whence doth come mine aid.'"
His voice rang out over the congregation like a silver bell, and Maimie thought she had never seen a man of such noble presence.
After the reading of the psalm the minister sat down, and Straight Rory rose in his box, and after his manner, began feeling about for the first note of the chant that would introduce the noble old tune "St. Paul's." A few moments he spent twisting his face and shoulders in a manner that threatened to ruin the solemnity of the worshipers under the gallery, till finally he seemed to hit upon the pitch desired, and throwing back his head and closing one eye, he proceeded on his way. Each line he chanted alone, after the ancient Scottish custom, after which the congregation joined with him in the tune. The custom survived from the time when psalm- books were in the hands of but few and the "lining" of the psalm was therefore necessary.
There was no haste to be done with the psalm. Why should there be? They had only one Sabbath in the week, and the whole day was before them. The people surrendered themselves to the lead of Straight Rory with unmistakable delight in that part of "the exercises" of the day in which they were permitted to audibly join. But of all the congregation, none enjoyed the singing more than the dear old women who sat in the front seats near the pulpit, their quiet old faces looking so sweet and pure under their snow-white "mutches." There they sat and sang and quavered, swaying their bodies with the tune in an ecstasy of restful joy.
Maimie had often heard St. Paul's before, but never as it was chanted by Straight Rory and sung by the Indian Lands congregation that day. The extraordinary slides and slurs almost obliterated the notes of the original tune, and the "little kick," as Maimie called it, at the end of the second line, gave her a little start.
"Auntie," she whispered, "isn't it awfully queer?"
"Isn't it beautiful?" her aunt answered, with an uncertain smile. She was remembering how these winding, sliding, slurring old tunes had affected her when first she heard them in her husband's church years ago. The stately movement, the weird quavers, and the pathetic cadences had in some mysterious way reached the deep places in her heart, and before she knew, she had found the tears coursing down her cheeks and her breath catching in sobs. Indeed, as she listened to-day, remembering these old impressions, the tears began to flow, till Hughie, not understanding, crept over to his mother, and to comfort her, slipped his hand into hers, looking fiercely at Maimie as if she were to blame. Maimie, too, noticed the tears and sat wondering, and as the congregation swung on through the verses of the grand old psalm there crept into her heart a new and deeper emotion than she had ever known.
"Listen to the words, Maimie dear," whispered her aunt. And as Maimie listened, the noble words, borne on the mighty swing of St. Paul's, lifted up by six hundred voices--for men, women, and children were singing with all their hearts--awakened echoes from great deeps within her as yet unsounded. The days for such singing are, alas! long gone. The noble rhythm, the stately movement, the continuous curving stream of melody, that once marked the praise service of the old Scottish church, have given place to the light, staccato tinkle of the revival chorus, or the shorn and mutilated skeleton of the ancient psalm tune.
But while the psalm had been moving on in its solemn and stately way, Ranald had been enduring agony at the hands of Peter Ruagh sitting just behind him. Peter, whose huge, clumsy body was a fitting tabernacle for the soul within, labored under the impression that he was a humorist, and indulged a habit of ponderous joking, trying enough to most people, but to one of Ranald's temperament exasperating to a high degree. His theme was Ranald's rescue of Maimie, and the pauses of the singing he filled in with humorous comments that, outside, would have produced only weariness, but in the church, owing to the strange perversity of human nature, sent a snicker along the seat. Unfortunately for him, Ranald's face was so turned that he could not see it, and so he had no hint of the wrath that was steadily boiling up to the point of overflow.
They were nearing the close of the last verse of the psalm, when Hughie, whose eyes never wandered long from Ranald's direction, uttered a sharp "Oh, my!" There was a shuffling confusion under the gallery, and when Maimie and her aunt looked, Peter Ruagh's place was vacant.
By this time the minister was standing up for prayer. His eye, too, caught the movement in the back seat.
"Young men," he said, sternly, "remember you are in God's house. Let me not have to mention your names before the congregation. Let us pray."
As the congregation rose for prayer, Mrs. Murray noticed Peter Ruagh appear from beneath the book-board and quietly slip out by the back door with his hand to his face and the blood streaming between his fingers; and though Ranald was standing up straight and stiff in his place, Mrs. Murray could read from his rigid look the explanation of Peter's bloody face. She gave her mind to the prayer with a sore heart, for she had learned enough of those wild, hot-headed youths to know that before Peter Ruagh's face would be healed more blood would have to flow.
The prayer proceeded in its leisurely way, indulging here and there in quiet reverie, or in exultant jubilation over the "attributes," embracing in its worldwide sweep "the interests of the kingdom" far and near, and of that part of humanity included therein present and to come, and buttressing its petitions with theological argument, systematic and unassailable. Before the close, however, the minister came to deal with the needs of his own people. Old and young, absent and present, the sick, the weary, the sin-burdened-- all were remembered with a warmth of sympathy, with a directness of petition, and with an earnestness of appeal that thrilled and subdued the hearts of all, and made even the boys, who had borne with difficulty the last half-hour of the long prayer, forget their weariness.
The reading of Scripture followed the prayer. In this the minister excelled. His fine voice and his dramatic instinct combined to make this an impressive and beautiful portion of the service. But to-day much of the beauty and impressiveness of the reading was lost by the frequent interruptions caused by the entrance of late comers, of whom, owing to the bad roads, there were a larger number than usual. The minister was evidently annoyed, not so much by the opening and shutting of the door as by the inattention of his hearers, who kept turning round their heads to see who the new arrivals were. At length the minister could bear it no longer.
"My dear people," he said, pausing in the reading, "never mind those coming in. Give you heed to the reading of God's Word, and if you must know who are entering, I will tell you. Yes," he added, deliberately, "give you heed to me, and I will let you know who these late comers are."
With that startling declaration, he proceeded with the reading, but had not gone more than a few verses when "click" went the door- latch. Not a head turned. It was Malcolm Monroe, slow-going and good-natured, with his quiet little wife following him.
The minister paused, looking toward the door, and announced: "My dear people, here comes our friend Malcolm Monroe, and his good wife with him, and a long walk they have had. Come away, Malcolm; come away; we will just wait for you."
Malcolm's face was a picture. Surprise, astonishment, and confusion followed each other across his stolid countenance; and with quicker pace than he was ever known to use in his life before, he made his way to his seat. No sooner had the reading began again when once more the door clicked. True to his promise, the minister paused and cheerfully announced to his people: "This, my friends, is John Campbell, whom you all know as 'Johnnie Sarah,' and we are very glad to see him, for, indeed, he has not been here for some time. Come away, John; come away, man," he added, impatiently, "for we are all waiting for you."
Johnnie Sarah stood paralyzed with amazement and seemed uncertain whether to advance or to turn and flee. The minister's impatient command, however, decided him, and he dropped into the nearest seat with all speed, and gazed about him as if to discover where he was. He had no sooner taken his seat than the door opened again, and some half-dozen people entered. The minister stood looking at them for some moments and then said, in a voice of resignation: "Friends, these are some of our people from the Island, and there are some strangers with them. But if you want to know who they are, you will just have to look at them yourselves, for I must get on with the reading."
Needless to say, not a soul of the congregation, however consumed with curiosity, dared to look around, and the reading of the chapter went gravely on to the close. To say that Maimie sat in utter astonishment during this extraordinary proceeding would give but a faint idea of her state of mind. Even Mrs. Murray herself, who had become accustomed to her husband's eccentricities, sat in a state of utter bewilderment, not knowing what might happen next; nor did she feel quite safe until the text was announced and the sermon fairly begun.
Important as were the exercises of reading, praise, and prayer, they were only the "opening services," and merely led up to the event of the day, which was the sermon. And it was the event, not only of the day, but of the week. It would form the theme of conversation and afford food for discussion in every gathering of the people until another came to take its place. To-day it lasted a full hour and a half, and was an extraordinary production. Calm, deliberate reasoning, flights of vivid imagination, passionate denunciation, and fervid appeal, marked its course. Its subject was the great doctrine of Justification by Faith, and it contained a complete system of theology arranged with reference to that doctrine. Ancient heresies were attacked and exposed with completeness amounting to annihilation. Modern errors, into which our "friends" of the different denominations had fallen, were deplored and corrected, and all possible misapplications of the doctrine to practical life guarded against. On the positive side the need, the ground, the means, the method, the agent, the results, of Justification, were fully set forth and illustrated. There were no anecdotes and no poetry. The subject was much too massive and tremendous to permit of any such trifling.
As the sermon rolled on its majestic course, the congregation listened with an attentive and discriminating appreciation that testified to their earnestness and intelligence. True, one here and there dropped into a momentary doze, but his slumber was never easy, for he was harassed by the terrible fear of a sudden summons by name from the pulpit to "awake and give heed to the message," which for the next few minutes would have an application so personal and pungent that it would effectually prevent sleep for that and some successive Sabbaths. The only apparent lapse of attention occurred when Donald Ross opened his horn snuff-box, and after tapping solemnly upon its lid, drew forth a huge pinch of snuff and passed it to his neighbor, who, after helping himself in like manner, passed the box on. That the lapse was only apparent was made evident by the air of abstraction with which this operation was carried on, the snuff being held between the thumb and forefinger for some moments, until a suitable resting-place in the sermon was reached.
When the minister had arrived at the middle of the second head, he made the discovery, as was not frequently the case, that the remotest limits of the alloted time had been passed, and announcing that the subject would be concluded on the following Sabbath, he summarily brought the English service to a close, and dismissed the congregation with a brief prayer, two verses of a psalm, and the benediction.
When Maimie realized that the service was really over, she felt as if she had been in church for a week. After the benediction the congregation passed out into the churchyard and disposed themselves in groups about the gate and along the fences discussing the sermon and making brief inquiries as to the "weal and ill" of the members of their families. Mrs. Murray, leaving Hughie and Maimie to wander at will, passed from group to group, welcomed by all with equal respect and affection. Young men and old men, women and girls alike, were glad to get her word. To-day, however, the young men were not at first to be seen, but Mrs. Murray knew them well enough to suspect that they would be found at the back of the church, so she passed slowly around the church, greeting the people as she went, and upon turning the corner she saw a crowd under the big maple, the rendezvous for the younger portion of the congregation before "church went in." In the center of the group stood Ranald and Don, with Murdie, Don's eldest brother, a huge, good-natured man, beside them, and Peter Ruagh, with his cousin Aleck, and others of the clan. Ranald was standing, pale and silent, with his head thrown back, as his manner was when in passion. The talk was mainly between Aleck and Murdie, the others crowding eagerly about and putting in a word as they could. Murdie was reasoning good-humoredly, Aleck replying fiercely.
"It was good enough for him," Mrs. Murray heard Don interject, in a triumphant tone, to Murdie. But Murdie shut him off sternly.
"Whisht, Don, you are not talking just now."
Don was about to reply when he caught sight of Mrs. Murray. "Here's the minister's wife," he said, in a low tone, and at once the group parted in shamefaced confusion. But Murdie kept his face unmoved, and as Mrs. Murray drew slowly near, said, in a quiet voice of easy good-humor, to Aleck, who was standing with a face like that of a detected criminal: "Well, we will see about it to- morrow night, Aleck, at the post-office," and he faced about to meet Mrs. Murray with an easy smile, while Aleck turned away. But Mrs. Murray was not deceived, and she went straight to the point.
"Murdie," she said, quietly, when she had answered his greeting, "will you just come with me a little; I want to ask you about something." And Murdie walked away with her, followed by the winks and nods of the others.
What she said Murdie never told, but he came back to them more determined upon peace than ever. The difficulty lay, not with the good-natured Peter, who was ready enough to settle with Ranald, but with the fiery Aleck, who represented the non-respectable section of the clan McRae, who lived south of the Sixteenth, and had a reputation for wildness. Fighting was their glory, and no one cared to enter upon a feud with any one of them. Murdie had interfered on Ranald's behalf, chiefly because he was Don's friend, but also because he was unwilling that Ranald should be involved in a quarrel with the McRaes, which he knew would be a serious affair for him. But now his strongest reason for desiring peace was that he had pledged himself to the minister's wife to bring it about in some way or other. So he took Peter off by himself, and without much difficulty, persuaded him to act the magnanimous part and drop the quarrel.
With Ranald he had a harder task. That young man was prepared to see his quarrel through at whatever consequences to himself. He knew the McRaes, and knew well their reputation, but that only made it more impossible for him to retreat. But Murdie knew better than to argue with him, so he turned away from him with an indifferent air, saying: "Oh, very well. Peter is willing to let it drop. You can do as you please, only I know the minister's wife expects you to make it up."
"What did she say to you, then?" asked Ranald, fiercely.
"She said a number of things that you don't need to know, but she said this, whatever, 'He will make it up for my sake, I know.'"
Ranald stood a moment silent, then said, suddenly: "I will, too," and walking straight over to Peter, he offered his hand, saying, "I was too quick, Peter, and I am willing to take as much as I gave. You can go on."
But Peter was far too soft-hearted to accept that invitation, and seizing Ranald's hand, said, heartily: "Never mind, Ranald, it was my own fault. We will just say nothing more about it."
"There is the singing, boys," said Murdie. "Come away. Let us go in.
He was all the more anxious to get the boys into the church when he saw Aleck making toward them. He hurried Peter in before him, well pleased with himself and his success as peacemaker, but especially delighted that he could now turn his face toward the minister's pew, without shame. And as he took his place in the back seat, with Peter Ruagh beside him, the glance of pride and gratitude that flashed across the congregation to him from the gray-brown eyes made Murdie feel more than ever pleased at what he had been able to do. But he was somewhat disturbed to notice that neither Ranald nor Don nor Aleck had followed him into the church, and he waited uneasily for their coming.
In the meantime Straight Rory was winding his sinuous way through Coleshill, the Gaelic rhythm of the psalm allowing of quavers and turns impossible in the English.
In the pause following the second verse, Murdie was startled at the sound of angry voices from without. More than Murdie heard that sound. As Murdie glanced toward the pulpit he saw that the minister had risen and was listening intently.
"Behold--the--sparrow--findeth--out--" chanted the precentor.
"You are a liar!" The words, in Aleck's fiery voice outside, fell distinctly upon Murdie's ear, though few in the congregation seemed to have heard. But while Murdie was making up his mind to slip out, the minister was before him. Quickly he stepped down the pulpit stairs, psalm-book in hand, and singing as he went, walked quietly to the back door, and leaving his book on the window-sill, passed out. The singing went calmly on, for the congregation were never surprised at anything their minister did.
The next verse was nearly through, when the door opened, and in came Don, followed by Aleck, looking somewhat disheveled and shaken up, and two or three more. In a few moments the minister came in, took his psalm-book from the window-sill, and striking up with the congregation, "Blest is the man whose strength thou art," marched up to the pulpit again, with only an added flash in his blue eyes and a little more triumphant swing to his coat-tails to indicate that anything had taken place. But Murdie looked in vain for Ranald to appear, and waited, uncertain what to do. He had a wholesome fear of the minister, more especially in his present mood. Instinctively he turned toward the minister's pew, and reading the look of anxious entreaty from the pale face there, he waited till the congregation rose for prayer and then slipped out, and was seen no more in church that day.
On the way home not a word was said about the disturbance. But after the evening worship, when the minister had gone to his study for a smoke, Hughie, who had heard the whole story from Don, told it to his mother and Maimie in his most graphic manner.
"It was not Ranald's fault, mother," he declared. "You know Peter would not let him alone, and Ranald hit him in the nose, and served him right, too. But they made it all up, and they were just going into the church again, when that Aleck McRae pulled Ranald back, and Ranald did not want to fight at all, but he called Ranald a liar, and he could not help it, but just hit him."
"Who hit who?" said Maimie. "You're not making it very clear, Hughie."
"Why, Ranald, of course, hit Aleck, and knocked him over, too," said Hughie, with much satisfaction; "and then Aleck--he is an awful fighter, you know--jumped on Ranald and was pounding him just awful, the great big brute, when out came papa. He stepped up and caught Aleck by the neck and shook him just like a baby, saying, all the time, 'Would ye? I will teach you to fight on the Sabbath day! Here! in with you, every one of you!' and he threw him nearly into the door, and then they all skedaddled into the church, I tell you, Don said. They were pretty badly scart, too, but Don did not know what papa did to Ranald, and he did not know where Ranald went, but he is pretty badly hurted, I am sure. That great big Aleck McRae is old enough to be his father. Wasn't it mean of him, mother?"
Poor Hughie was almost in tears, and his mother, who sat listening too eagerly to correct her little boy's ethics or grammar, was as nearly overcome as he. She wished she knew where Ranald was. He had not appeared at the evening Bible class, and Murdie had reported that he could not find him anywhere.
She put Hughie to bed, and then saw Maimie to her room. But Maimie was very unwilling to go to bed.
"Oh, auntie," she whispered, as her aunt kissed her good night, "I cannot go to sleep!" And then, after a pause, she said, shyly, "Do you think he is badly hurt?"
Then the minister's wife, looking keenly into the girl's face, made light of Ranald's misfortune.
"Oh, he will be all right," she said, "as far as his hurt is concerned. That is the least part of his trouble. You need not worry about that. Good night, my dear." And Maimie, relieved by her aunt's tone, said "good night" with her heart at rest.
Then Mrs. Murray went into the study, determined to find out what had passed between her husband and Ranald. She found him lying on his couch, luxuriating in the satisfaction of a good day's work behind him, and his first pipe nearly done. She at once ventured upon the thing that lay heavy upon her heart. She began by telling all she knew of the trouble from its beginning in the church, and then waited for her husband's story.
For some moments he lay silently smoking.
"Ah, well," he said, at length, knocking out his pipe, "perhaps I was a little severe with the lad. He may not have been so much to blame."
"Oh, papa! What did you do?" said his wife, in an anxious voice.
"Well," said the minister, hesitating, "I found that the young rascal had struck Aleck McRae first, and a very bad blow it was. So I administered a pretty severe rebuke and sent him home."
"Oh, what a shame!" cried his wife, in indignant tears. "It was far more the fault of Peter and Aleck and the rest. Poor Ranald!"
"Now, my dear," said the minister, "you need not fear for Ranald. I do not suppose he cares much. Besides, his face was not fit to be seen, so I sent him home. Well, it--"
"Yes," burst in his wife, "great, brutal fellow, to strike a boy like that!"
"Boy?" said her husband. "Well, he may be, but not many men would dare to face him." Then he added, "I wish I had known--I fear I spoke--perhaps the boy may feel unjustly treated. He is as proud as Lucifer."
"Oh, papa!" said his wife, "what did you say?"
"Nothing but what was true. I just told him that a boy who would break the Lord's Day by fighting, and in the very shadow of the Lord's house, when Christian people were worshiping God, was acting like a savage, and was not fit for the company of decent folk."
To this his wife made no reply, but went out of the study, leaving the minister feeling very uncomfortable indeed. But by the end of the second pipe he began to feel that, after all, Ranald had got no more than was good for him, and that he would be none the worse of it; in which comforting conviction he went to rest, and soon fell into the sleep which is supposed to be the right of the just.
Not so his wife. Wearied though she was with the long day, its excitements and its toils, sleep would not come. Anxious thoughts about the lad she had come to love as if he were her own son or brother kept crowding in upon her. The vision of his fierce, dark, stormy face held her eyes awake and at length drew her from her bed. She went into the study and fell upon her knees. The burden had grown too heavy for her to bear alone. She would share it with Him who knew what it meant to bear the sorrows and the sins of others.
As she rose, she heard Fido bark and whine in the yard below, and going to the window, she saw a man standing at the back door, and Fido fawning upon him. Startled, she was about to waken her husband, when the man turned his face so that the moonlight fell upon it, and she saw Ranald. Hastily she threw on her dressing- gown, put on her warm bedroom slippers and cloak, ran down to the door, and in another moment was standing before him, holding him by the shoulders.
"Ranald!" she cried, breathlessly, "what is it?"
"I am going away," he said, simply. "And I was just passing by-- and--" he could not go on.
"Oh, Ranald!" she cried,, "I am glad you came this way. Now tell me where you are going."
The boy looked at her as if she had started a new idea in his mind, and then said, "I do not know."
"And what are you going to do, Ranald?"
"Work. There is plenty to do. No fear of that."
"But your father, Ranald?"
The boy was silent for a little, and then said, "He will soon be well, and he will not be needing me, and he said I could go." His voice broke with the remembrance of the parting with his father.
"And why are you going, Ranald?" she said, looking into his eyes.
Again the boy stood silent.
"Why do you go away from your home and your father, and--and--all of us who love you?"
"Indeed, there is no one," he replied, bitterly; "and I am not for decent people. I am not for decent people. I know that well enough. There is no one that will care much."
"No one, Ranald?" she asked, sadly. "I thought--" she paused, looking steadily into his face.
Suddenly the boy turned to her, and putting out both his hands, burst forth, his voice coming in dry sobs: "Oh, yes, yes! I do believe you. I do believe you. And that is why I came this way. I wanted to see your door again before I went. Oh, I will never forget you! Never, never, and I am glad I am seeing you, for now you will know--how much--" The boy was unable to proceed. His sobs were shaking his whole frame, and to his shy Highland Scotch nature, words of love and admiration were not easy. "You will not be sending me back home again?" he pleaded, anticipating her. "Indeed, I cannot stay in this place after to-day."
But the minister's wife kept her eyes steadily upon his face without a word, trying in vain to find her voice, and the right words to say. She had no need of words, for in her face, pale, wet with her flowing tears, and illumined with her gray-brown eyes, Ranald read her heart.
"Oh!" he cried again, "you are wanting me to stay, and I will be ashamed before them all, and the minister, too. I cannot stay. I cannot stay."
"And I cannot let you go, Ranald, my boy," she said, commanding her voice to speech. "I want you to be a brave man. I don't want you to be afraid of them."
"Afraid of them!" said the boy, in scornful surprise. "Not if they were twice as more and twice as beeg."
Mrs. Murray saw her advantage, and followed it up.
"And the minister did not know the whole truth, Ranald, and he was sorry he spoke to you as he did."
"Did he say that?" said Ranald, in surprise. It was to him, as to any one in that community, a terrible thing to fall under the displeasure of the minister and to be disgraced in his eyes.
"Yes, indeed, Ranald, and he would be sorry if you should go away. I am sure he would blame himself."
This was quite a new idea to the boy. That the minister should think himself to be in the wrong was hardly credible.
"And how glad we would be," she continued, earnestly, "to see you prove yourself a man before them all."
Ranald shook his head. "I would rather go away."
"Perhaps, but it's braver to stay, and to do your work like a man." And then, allowing him no time for words, she pictured to him the selfish, cowardly part the man plays who marches bravely enough in the front ranks until the battle begins, but who shrinks back and seeks an easy place when the fight comes on, till his face fell before her in shame. And then she showed him what she would like him to do, and what she would like him to be in patience and in courage, till he stood once more erect and steady.
"Now, Ranald," she said, noting the effect of her words upon him, "what is it to be?"
"I will go back," he said, simply; and turning with a single word of farewell, he sprang over the fence and disappeared in the woods. The minister's wife stood looking the way he went long after he had passed out of sight, and then, lifting her eyes to the radiant sky with its shining lights, "He made the stars also," she whispered, and went up to her bed and laid her down and slept in peace. Her Sabbath day's work was done.