Scottish Sketches by Amelia E. Barr
Andrew Cargill's Confession.
The confidence that came after this plain speaking was very sweet and comforting to both, although in their isolation and ignorance they knew not what steps to take in order to find Davie. Ten years had elapsed since he had hung for one heart-breaking moment on his mother's neck, and bid, as he told her, a farewell for ever to the miserable scenes of his hard, bare childhood. Mysie had not been able to make herself believe that he was very wrong; dancing at pretty Mary Halliday's bridal and singing two or three love-songs did not seem to the fond mother such awful transgressions as the stern, strict Covenanter really believed them to be, though even Mysie was willing to allow that Davie, in being beguiled into such sinful folly, "had made a sair tumble."
However, Davie and his father had both said things that neither could win over, and the lad had gone proudly down the hill with but a few shillings in his pocket. Since then there had been ten years of anxious, longing grief that had remained unconfessed until this night. Now the hearts of both yearned for their lost son. But how should they find him? Andrew read nothing but his Bible and almanac; he had no conception of the world beyond Kendal and Keswick. He could scarcely imagine David going beyond these places, or, at any rate, the coast of Scotland. Should he make a pilgrimage round about all those parts?
Mysie shook her head. She thought Andrew had better go to Keswick and see the Methodist preacher there. She had heard they travelled all over the world, and if so, it was more than likely they had seen Davie Cargill; "at ony rate, he would gie advice worth speiring after."
Andrew had but a light opinion of Methodists, and had never been inside the little chapel at Sinverness; but Mysie's advice, he allowed, "had a savor o' sense in it," and so the next day he rode over to Keswick and opened his heart to John Sugden, the superintendent of the Derwent Circuit. He had assured himself on the road that he would only tell John just as much as was necessary for his quest; but he was quite unable to resist the preacher's hearty sympathy. There never were two men more unlike than Andrew Cargill and John Sugden, and yet they loved each other at once.
"He is a son o' consolation, and dootless ane o' God's chosen," said Andrew to Mysie on his return.
"He is a far nobler old fellow than he thinks he is," said John to his wife when he told her of Andrew's visit.
John had advised advertising for Davie in "The Watchman;" for John really thought this organ of the Methodist creed was the greatest paper in existence, and honestly believed that if Davie was anywhere in the civilized world "The Watchman" would find him out. He was so sure of it that both Mysie and Andrew caught his hopeful tone, and began to tell each other what should be done when Davie came home.
Poor Mysie was now doubly kind to wee Andrew. She accused herself bitterly of "grudging the bit lammie his story-books," and persuaded her husband to bring back from Keswick for the child the "Pilgrim's Progress" and "The Young Christian." John Sugden, too, visited them often, not only staying at Cargill during his regular appointments, but often riding over to take a day's recreation with the old Cameronian. True, they disputed the whole time. John said very positive things and Andrew very contemptuous ones; but as they each kept their own opinions intact, and were quite sure of their grounds for doing so, no words that were uttered ever slackened the grip of their hands at parting.
One day, as John was on the way to Cargill, he perceived a man sitting among the Druids' stones. The stranger was a pleasant fellow, and after a few words with the preacher he proposed that they should ride to Sinverness together. John soon got to talking of Andrew and his lost son, and the stranger became greatly interested. He said he should like to go up to Andrew's and get a description of Davie, adding that he travelled far and wide, and might happen to come across him.
The old man met them at the door.
"My sight fails, John," he said, "but I'd hae kent your step i' a thousand. You too are welcome, sir, though I ken you not, and doubly welcome if you bring God's blessing wi' you."
The stranger lifted his hat, and Andrew led the way into the house. John had been expected, for haver bread and potted shrimps were on the table, and he helped himself without ceremony, taking up at the same time their last argument just where he had dropped it at the gate of the lower croft. But it had a singular interruption. The sheep-dogs who had been quietly sleeping under the settle began to be strangely uneasy. Keeper could scarcely be kept down, even by Andrew's command, and Sandy bounded towards the stranger with low, rapid barks that made John lose the sense of the argument in a new thought. But before he could frame it into words Mysie came in.
"See here, John," she cried, and then she stopped and looked with wide-open eyes at the man coming towards her. With one long, thrilling cry she threw herself into his arms.
"Mother! mother! darling mother, forgive me!"
John had instantly gone to Andrew's side, but Andrew had risen at once to the occasion. "I'm no a woman to skirl or swoon," he said, almost petulantly, "and it's right and fit the lad should gie his mither the first greeting."
But he stretched out both hands, and his cheeks were flushed and his eyes full when Davie flung himself on his knees beside him.
"My lad! my ain dear lad!" he cried, "I'll see nae better day than this until I see His face."
No one can tell the joy of that hour. The cheese curds were left in the dairy and the wool was left at the wheel, and Mysie forget her household, and Andrew forgot his argument, and the preacher at last said,
"You shall tell us, Davie, what the Lord has done for you since you left your father's house."
"He has been gude to me, vera gude. I had a broad Scot's tongue in my head, and I determined to go northward. I had little siller and I had to walk, and by the time I reached Ecclefechan I had reason enough to be sorry for the step I had taken. As I was sitting by the fireside o' the little inn there a man came in who said he was going to Carlisle to hire a shepherd. I did not like the man, but I was tired and had not plack nor bawbee, so I e'en asked him for the place. When he heard I was Cumberland born, and had been among sheep all my life, he was fain enough, and we soon 'greed about the fee.
"He was a harder master than Laban, but he had a daughter who was as bonnie as Rachel, and I loved the lass wi' my whole soul, and she loved me. I ne'er thought about being her father's hired man. I was aye Davie Cargill to mysel', and I had soon enough told Bessie all about my father and mither and hame. I spoke to her father at last, but he wouldna listen to me. He just ordered me off his place, and Bessie went wi' me.
"I know now that we did wrang, but we thought then that we were right. We had a few pounds between us and we gaed to Carlisle. But naething went as it should hae done. I could get nae wark, and Bessie fell into vera bad health; but she had a brave spirit, and she begged me to leave her in Carlisle and go my lane to Glasgow. 'For when wark an' siller arena i' one place, Davie,' she said, 'then they're safe to be in another.'
"I swithered lang about leaving her, but a good opportunity came, and Bessie promised me to go back to her father until I could come after her. It was July then, and when Christmas came round I had saved money enough, and I started wi' a blithe heart to Ecclefechan. I hadna any fear o' harm to my bonnie bit wifie, for she had promised to go to her hame, and I was sure she would be mair than welcome when she went without me. I didna expect any letters, because Bessie couldna write, and, indeed, I was poor enough wi' my pen at that time, and only wrote once to tell her I had good wark and would be for her a New Year.
"But when I went I found that Bessie had gane, and none knew where. I traced her to Keswick poor-house, where she had a little lad; the matron said she went away in a very weak condition when the child was three weeks old, declaring that she was going to her friends. Puir, bonnie, loving Bessie; that was the last I ever heard o' my wife and bairn."
Mysie had left the room, and as she returnee with a little bundle Andrew was anxiously asking, "What was the lassie's maiden name, Davie?"
"Bessie Dunbar, father."
"Then this is a wun'erful day; we are blessed and twice blessed, for I found your wife and bairn, Davie, just where John Sugden found you, 'mang the Druids' stanes; and the lad has my ain honest name and is weel worthy o' it."
"See here, Davie," and Mysie tenderly touched the poor faded dress and shawl, and laid the wedding-ring in his palm. As she spoke wee Andrew came across the yard, walking slowly, reading as he walked. "Look at him, Davie! He's a bonnie lad, and a gude are; and oh, my ain dear lad, he has had a' things that thy youth wanted."
It pleased the old man no little that, in spite of his father's loving greeting, wee Andrew stole away to his side.
"You see, Davie," he urged in apology, "he's mair at hame like wi' me."
And then he drew the child to him, and let his whole heart go out now, without check or reproach, to "Davie's bairn."
"But you have not finished your story, Mr. Cargill," said John, and David sighed as he answered,
"There is naething by the ordinar in it. I went back to the warks I had got a footing in, the Glencart Iron Warks, and gradually won my way to the topmost rungs o' the ladder. I am head buyer now, hae a gude share i' the concern, and i' money matters there's plenty folk waur off than David Cargill. When I put my father's forgiveness, my mither's love, and my Bessie's bonnie lad to the lave, I may weel say that 'they are weel guided that God guides.' A week ago I went into the editor's room o' the Glasgow Herald,' and the man no being in I lifted a paper and saw in it my father's message to me. It's sma' credit that I left a' and answered it."
"What paper, Mr. Cargill, what paper?"
"They ca' it 'The Watchman.' I hae it in my pocket."
"I thought so," said John triumphantly. "It's a grand paper; every one ought to have it."
"It is welcome evermore in my house," said Davie.
"It means weel, it means weel," said Andrew, with a great stretch of charity, "but I dinna approve o' its doctrines at a', and--"
"It found David for you, Andrew."
"Ay, ay, God uses a' kinds o' instruments. 'The Watchman' isna as auld as the Bible yet, John, and it's ill praising green barley."
"Now, Andrew, I think--"
"Tut, tut, John, I'se no sit i' Rome and strive wi' the pope; there's naething ill said, you ken, if it's no ill taken."
John smiled tolerantly, and indeed there was no longer time for further discussion, for the shepherds from the hills and the farmers from the glen had heard of David's return, and were hurrying to Cargill to see him. Mysie saw that there would be a goodly company, and the long harvest-table was brought in and a feast of thanksgiving spread. Conversation in that house could only set one way, and after all had eaten and David had told his story again, one old man after another spoke of the dangers they had encountered and the spiritual foes they had conquered.
Whether it was the speaking, or the sympathy of numbers, or some special influence of the Holy Ghost, I know not; but suddenly Andrew lifted his noble old head and spoke thus:
"Frien's, ye hae some o' you said ill things o' yoursel's, but to the sons o' God there is nae condemnation; not that I hae been althegither faultless, but I meant weel, an' the lad was a wilfu' lad, and ye ken what the wisest o' men said anent such. Just and right has been my walk before you, but--still--" Then, with a sudden passion, and rising to his feet, he cried out, "Frien's, I'm a poor sinfu' man, but I'll play no mair pliskies wi' my conscience. I hae dootless been a hard master, hard and stern, and loving Sinai far beyond Bethlehem. Hard was I to my lad, and hard hae I been to the wife o' my bosom, and hard hae I been to my ain heart. It has been my ain will and my ain way all my life lang. God forgie me! God forgie me! for this night he has brought my sins to my remembrance. I hae been your elder for mair than forty years, but I hae ne'er been worthy to carry his holy vessels. I'll e'en sit i' the lowest seat henceforward."
"Not so," said John. And there was such eager praise, and such warm love rose from every mouth, that words began to fail, and as the old man sat down smiling, happier than he had ever been before, song took up the burden speech laid down; for John started one of those old triumphant Methodist hymns, and the rafters shook to the melody, and the stars heard it, and the angels in heaven knew a deeper joy. Singing, the company departed, and Andrew, standing in the moonlight between David and John, watched the groups scatter hither and thither, and heard, far up the hills and down the glen, that sweet, sweet refrain,
"Canaan, bright Canaan! Will you go to the land of Canaan?"
After this David stayed a week at Glenmora, and then it became necessary for him to return to Glasgow. But wee Andrew was to have a tutor and remain with his grandparents for some years at least. Andrew himself determined to "tak a trip" and see Scotland and the wonderful iron works of which he was never weary of hearing David talk.
When he reached Kendal, however, and saw for the first time the Caledonian Railway and its locomotives, nothing could induce him to go farther.
"It's ower like the deil and the place he bides in, Davie," he said, with a kind of horror. "Fire and smoke and iron bands! I'll no ride at the deil's tail-end, not e'en to see the land o' the Covenant."
So he went back to Glenmora, and was well content when he stood again at his own door and looked over the bonny braes of Sinverness, its simmering becks and fruitful vales. "These are the warks o' His hands, Mysie," he said, reverently lifting his bonnet and looking up to Creffel and away to Solway, "and you'd ken that, woman, if you had seen Satan as I saw him rampaging roun' far waur than any roaring lion."
After this Andrew never left Sinverness; but, the past unsighed for and the future sure, passed through
"----an old age serene and bright, And lovely as a Lapland night,"
until, one summer evening, he gently fell on that sleep which God giveth his beloved.
"For such Death's portal opens not in gloom, But its pure crystal, hinged on solid gold, Shows avenues interminable--shows Amaranth and palm quivering in sweet accord Of human mingled with angelic song."