Scottish Sketches by Amelia E. Barr
Facing His Enemy.
The arrangement had been a very pleasant one, every way, but somehow John did not feel as if David had as much outside help as he needed. The young man was not imaginative; an ideal, however high, was a far less real thing to David than to old John. He pondered during many sleepless hours the advisability of having David sign the pledge. David had always refused to do it hitherto. He had a keen sense of shame in breaking a verbal promise on this subject; but he had an almost superstitious feeling regarding the obligation of anything he put his name to; and this very feeling made John hesitate to press the matter. For, he argued, and not unwisely, "if David should break this written obligation, his condition would seem to himself irremediable, and he would become quite reckless."
In the morning this anxiety was solved. When John came down to breakfast, he found David walking about the room with a newspaper in his hand, and in a fever heat of martial enthusiasm. "Uncle," he cried, "O Uncle John, such glorious news! The Alamo is taken. Colin Campbell and his Highlanders were first at the ramparts, and Roy and Hector Callendar were with them. Listen?" and he threw the passion and fervor of all his military instincts into the glowing words which told, how in a storm of fire and shot, Sir Colin and his Highland regiment had pushed up the hill; and how when the Life Guards were struggling to reach their side, the brave old commander turned round and shouted, "We'll hae nane but Hieland bonnets here!" "O Uncle John, what would I not have given to have marched with Roy and Hector behind him? With such a leader I would not turn my back on any foe."
"David, you have a far harder fight before you, and a far grander Captain."
"Uncle, uncle, if I could see my foe; if I could meet him face to face in a real fight; but he steals into my heart, even by my nostrils, and unmans me, before I am aware."
John rang the bell sharply, and when Jenny came, he amazed her by saying, "Bring me here from the cellar three bottles of whiskey." He spoke so curt and determined that for once Jenny only wondered, and obeyed.
"That will do, my woman." Then he turned to David, and putting one bottle on the table said, "There is your foe! Face your enemy, sir! Sit down before him morning, noon, and night. Dare him to master you! Put this bottle on the table in your ain room; carry this in your hand to your office, and stand it before your eyes upon your desk. If you want a foe to face and to conquer, a foe that you can see and touch, here is one mighty enough to stir the bravest soul. And, if you turn your back on him you are a coward; a mean, poor-hearted coward, sir. And there ne'er was a coward yet, o' the Callendar blood, nor o' the Campbell line! Your Captain is nane less than the Son o' God. Hear what he says to you! 'To him that overcometh! To him that overcometh!' O Davie, you ken the rest!" and the old man was so lifted out of and above himself, that his face shone and his keen gray eyes scintillated with a light that no market-place ever saw in them.
David caught the holy enthusiasm; he seized the idea like a visible hand of God for his help. The black bottle became to him the materialization of all his crime and misery. It was a foe he could see, and touch, and defy. It seemed to mock him, to tempt him, to beg him just to open the cork, if only to test the strength of his resolutions.
Thank God he never did it. He faced his enemy the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night. He kept him in sight through the temptations of a business day. He faced him most steadily in the solitude of his own room. There, indeed, his most dangerous struggles took place, and one night John heard him after two hours of restless hurried walking up and down, throw open his window, and dash the bottle upon the pavement beneath it. That was the last of his hard struggles; the bottle which replaced the one flung beyond his reach stands to-day where it has stood for nearly a quarter of a century, and David feels now no more inclination to open it than if it contained strychnine.
This is no fancy story. It is a fact. It is the true history of a soul's struggle, and I write it--God knows I do--in the strong hope that some brave fellow, who is mastered by a foe that steals upon him in the guise of good fellowship, or pleasure, or hospitality, may locate his enemy, and then face and conquer him in the name of Him who delivers his people from their sins. I do not say that all natures could do this. Some may find safety and final victory in flight, or in hiding from their foe; but I believe that the majority of souls would rise to a warfare in which the enemy was confronting them to face and fight, and would conquer.
I have little more to say of David Callendar. It was the story of his fall and his redemption I intended to write. But we cannot separate our spiritual and mortal life; they are the warp and woof which we weave together for eternity. Therefore David's struggle, though a palpable one in some respects, was, after all, an intensely spiritual one; for it was in the constant recognition of Christ as the Captain of his salvation, and in the constant use of such spiritual aids as his Bible and his minister gave him, that he was enabled to fight a good fight and to come off more than conqueror in a contest wherein so many strive and fail.
David's reformation had also a very sensible influence on his business prosperity. He has won back again now all, and far more than all, he lost, and in all good and great works for the welfare of humanity David Callendar is a willing worker and a noble giver. The new firm of John and David Callendar acquired a world-wide reputation. It is still John and David Callendar, for when the dear old deacon died he left his interest in it to David's eldest son, a pious, steady young fellow for whom nobody ever mixed a first glass. But God was very kind to John in allowing him to see the full harvest of his tender love, his patience, and his unselfishness. Out of his large fortune he left a noble endowment for a church and college in his native town, making only two requests concerning its management: first, that no whiskey should ever go within the college walls: second, that all the children in the town might have a holiday on the anniversary of his death; "for," said he, "I have aye loved children, and I would fain connect the happiness of childhood with the peace o' the dead."
Dr. Morrison lived long enough to assist in filling in the grave of his old friend and helper, but attained unto the beginning of peace and glory soon afterwards. And I have often pictured to myself the meeting of those two upon the hills of God. The minister anticipated it, though upon his dying bed his great soul forgot all individualities, and thought only of the church universal, and his last glowing words were, "For Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all."
Robert Leslie has done well in America, and no man is a more warm and earnest advocate of "the faith once delivered to the saints." I read a little speech of his some time ago at the dedication of a church, and it greatly pleased me.
"Many things," he said, "have doubtless been improved in this age, for man's works are progressive and require improvement; but who," he asked, "can improve the sunshine and the flowers, the wheat and the corn? And who will give us anything worthy to take the place of the religion of our fathers and mothers? And what teachers have come comparable to Christ, to David, Isaiah, and Paul?"
Jenny only died a year ago. She brought up David's children admirably, and saw, to her great delight, the marriage of Flora and young Captain Callendar. For it had long been her wish to go back to Argyleshire "among her ain folk and die among the mountains," and this marriage satisfied all her longings. One evening they found her sitting in her open door with her face turned towards the cloud-cleaving hills. Her knitting had fallen upon her lap, her earthly work was done for ever, and she had put on the garments of the eternal Sabbath. But there was a wonderful smile on her simple, kindly face. Soul and body had parted with a smile. Oh, how happy are those whom the Master finds waiting for him, and who, when he calls, pass gently away!
"Up to the golden citadel they fare, And as they go their limbs grow full of might; And One awaits them at the topmost stair, One whom they had not seen, but knew at sight."