Scottish Sketches by Amelia E. Barr
Crawford's Sair Strait.
At the very time this conversation was in progress, one strangely dissimilar was being carried on between George Selwyn and Helen Crawford. They were sitting in the sweet, old-fashioned garden and Selwyn had been talking of the work so dear to his heart, but a silence had fallen between them. Then softly and almost hesitatingly Helen said "Mr. Selwyn, I cannot help in this grand evangel, except with money and prayers. May I offer you L300? It is entirely my own, and it lies useless in my desk. Will you take it?"
"I have no power to refuse it. 'You give it to God, durst I say no?' But as I do not return at once, you had better send it in a check to our treasurer." Then he gave her the necessary business directions, and was writing the address of the treasurer when the laird stopped in front of them.
"Helen, you are needed in the house," he said abruptly; and then turning to Selwyn, he asked him to take a walk up the hill. The young man complied. He was quite unconscious of the anger in the tone of the request. For a few yards neither spoke; then the laird, with an irritable glance at his placid companion, said, "Mr. Selwyn, fore-speaking saves after-speaking. Helen Crawford is bespoke for young Farquharson of Blair, and if you have any hopes o' wiving in my house--"
"Crawford, thank you for your warning, but I have no thoughts of marrying any one. Helen Crawford is a pearl among women; but even if I wanted a wife, she is unfit for my helpmate. When I took my curacy in the East End of London I counted the cost. Not for the fairest of the daughters of men would I desert my first love--the Christ-work to which I have solemnly dedicated my life."
His voice fell almost to a whisper, but the outward, upward glance of the inspired eyes completely disconcerted the aggressive old chieftain. His supposed enemy, in some intangible way, had escaped him, and he felt keenly his own mistake. He was glad to see Colin coming; it gave him an opportunity of escaping honorably from a conversation which had been very humiliating to him. He had a habit when annoyed of seeking the sea-beach. The chafing, complaining waves suited his fretful mood, and leaving the young men, he turned to the sea, taking the hillside with such mighty strides that Selwyn watched him with admiration and astonishment.
"Four miles of that walking will bring him home in the most amiable of moods," said Colin. And perhaps it would, if he had been left to the sole companionship of nature. But when he was half way home he met Dominie Tallisker, a man of as lofty a spirit as any Crawford who ever lived. The two men were close friends, though they seldom met without disagreeing on some point.
"Weel met, dominie! Are you going to the Keep?"
"Just so, I am for an hour's talk wi' that fine young English clergyman you hae staying wi' you."
"Tallisker, let me tell you, man, you hae been seen o'er much wi' him lately. Why, dominie! he is an Episcopal, and an Arminian o' the vera warst kind."
"Hout, laird! Arminianism isna a contagious disease. I'll no mair tak Arminianism from the Rev. George Selwyn than I'll tak Toryism fra Laird Alexander Crawford. My theology and my politics are far beyond inoculation. Let me tell you that, laird."
"Hae ye gotten an argument up wi' him, Tallisker? I would like weel to hear ye twa at it."
"Na, na; he isna one o' them that argues. He maks downright assertions; every one o' them hits a body's conscience like a sledge-hammer. He said that to me as we walked the moor last night that didna let me sleep a wink."
"He is a vera disagreeable young man. What could he say to you? You have aye done your duty."
"I thought sae once, Crawford. I taught the bairns their catechism; I looked weel to the spiritual life o' young and old; I had aye a word in season for all. But maybe this I ought to hae done, and not left the other undone."
"You are talking foolishness, Tallisker, and that's a thing no usual wi' you."
"No oftener wi' me nor other folk. But, laird, I feel there must be a change. I hae gotten my orders, and I am going to obey them. You may be certain o' that."
"I didna think I would ever see Dominie Tallisker taking orders from a disciple o' Arminius--and an Englishman forbye!"
"I'll tak my orders, Crawford, from any messenger the Lord chooses to send them by. And I'll do this messenger justice; he laid down no law to me, he only spak o' the duty laid on his own conscience; but my conscience said 'Amen' to his--that's about it. There has been a breath o' the Holy Ghost through the Church o' England lately, and the dry bones o' its ceremonials are being clothed upon wi' a new and wonderfu' life."
"Humff!" said the laird with a scornful laugh as he kicked a pebble out of his way.
"There is a great outpouring at Oxford among the young men, and though I dinna agree wi' them in a' things, I can see that they hae gotten a revelation."
"Ou, ay, the young ken a' things. It is aye young men that are for turning the warld upside down. Naething is good enough for them."
The dominie took no notice of the petulant interruption. "Laird," he said excitedly, "it is like a fresh Epiphany, what this young Mr. Selwyn says--the hungry are fed, the naked clothed, the prisoners comforted, the puir wee, ragged, ignorant bairns gathered into homes and schools, and it is the gospel wi' bread and meat and shelter and schooling in its hand. That was Christ's ain way, you'll admit that. And while he was talking, my heart burned, and I bethought me of a night-school for the little herd laddies and lasses. They could study their lessons on the hillside all day, and I'll gather them for an hour at night, and gie them a basin o' porridge and milk after their lessons. And we ought not to send the orphan weans o' the kirk to the warkhouse; we ought to hae a hame for them, and our sick ought to be better looked to. There is many another good thing to do, but we'll begin wi' these, and the rest will follow."
The laird had listened thus far in speechless indignation. He now stood still, and said,
"I'll hae you to understand, Dominie Tallisker, that I am laird o' Crawford and Traquare, and I'll hae nae such pliskies played in either o' my clachans."
"If you are laird, I am dominie. You ken me weel enough to be sure if this thing is a matter o' conscience to me, neither king nor kaiser can stop me. I'd snap my fingers in King George's face if he bid me 'stay,' when my conscience said 'go,'" and the dominie accompanied the threat with that sharp, resonant fillip of the fingers that is a Scotchman's natural expression of intense excitement of any kind.
"King George!" cried the laird, in an ungovernable temper, "there is the whole trouble. If we had only a Charles Stuart on the throne there would be nane o' this Whiggery."
"There would be in its place masses, and popish priests, and a few private torture-chambers, and whiles a Presbyterian heretic or twa burned at the Grass-market. Whiggery is a grand thing when it keeps the Scarlet Woman on her ain seven hills. Scotland's hills and braes can do weel, weel without her."
This speech gave the laird time to think. It would never do to quarrel with Tallisker. If he should set himself positively against his scheme of sending his clan to Canada it would be almost a hopeless one; and then he loved and respected his friend. His tall, powerful frame and his dark, handsome face, all aglow with a passionate conviction of right, and an invincible determination to do it, commanded his thorough admiration. He clasped his hands behind his back and said calmly,
"Tallisker, you'll be sorry enough for your temper erelong. You hae gien way mair than I did. Ye ken how you feel about it."
"I feel ashamed o' mysel', laird. You'll no lay the blame o' it to my office, but to Dugald Tallisker his ain sel'. There's a deal o' Dugald Tallisker in me yet, laird; and whiles he is o'er much for Dominie Tallisker."
They were at the gate by this time, and Crawford held out his hand and said,
"Come in, dominie."
"No; I'll go hame, laird, and gie mysel' a talking to. Tell Mr. Selwyn I want to see him."