Part 9 out of 13
Hear'st thou the dash of water loud and hoarse
With its perpetual tidings upward climb,
Struggling against the wind? Oh, how sublime!
For not in vain from its portentous source,
Thy heart, wild stream, hath yearned for its full force,
But from thine ice-toothed caverns dark as time
At last thou issuest, dancing to the rhyme
Of thy outvolleying freedom! Lo, thy course
Lies straight before thee as the arrow flies,
Right to the ocean-plains. Away, away!
Thy parent waits thee, and her sunset dyes
Are ruffled for thy coming, and the gray
Of all her glittering borders flashes high
Against the glittering rocks: oh, haste, and fly!
PART III.--HIS MANHOOD.
IN THE DESERT.
A life lay behind Robert Falconer, and a life lay before him. He
stood on a shoal between.
The life behind him was in its grave. He had covered it over and
turned away. But he knew it would rise at night.
The life before him was not yet born; and what should issue from
that dull ghastly unrevealing fog on the horizon, he did not care.
Thither the tide setting eastward would carry him, and his future
must be born. All he cared about was to leave the empty garments of
his dead behind him--the sky and the fields, the houses and the
gardens which those dead had made alive with their presence.
Travel, motion, ever on, ever away, was the sole impulse in his
heart. Nor had the thought of finding his father any share in his
He told his grandmother that he was going back to Aberdeen. She
looked in his face with surprise, but seeing trouble there, asked no
questions. As if walking in a dream, he found himself at Dr.
'Why, Robert,' said the good man, 'what has brought you back? Ah!
I see. Poor Ericson! I am very sorry, my boy. What can I do for
'I can't go on with my studies now, sir,' answered Robert. 'I have
taken a great longing for travel. Will you give me a little money
and let me go?'
'To be sure I will. Where do you want to go?'
'I don't know. Perhaps as I go I shall find myself wanting to go
somewhere. You're not afraid to trust me, are you, sir?'
'Not in the least, Robert. I trust you perfectly. You shall do
just as you please.--Have you any idea, how much money you will
'No. Give me what you are willing I should spend: I will go by
'Come along to the bank then. I will give you enough to start with.
Write at once when you want more. Don't be too saving. Enjoy
yourself as well as you can. I shall not grudge it.'
Robert smiled a wan smile at the idea of enjoying himself. His
friend saw it, but let it pass. There was no good in persuading a
man whose grief was all he had left, that he must ere long part with
that too. That would have been in lowest deeps of sorrow to open a
yet lower deep of horror. But Robert would have refused, and would
have been right in refusing to believe with regard to himself what
might be true in regard to most men. He might rise above his grief;
he might learn to contain his grief; but lose it, forget it?--never.
He went to bid Shargar farewell. As soon as he had a glimpse of
what his friend meant, he burst out in an agony of supplication.
'Tak me wi' ye, Robert,' he cried. 'Ye're a gentleman noo. I'll be
yer man. I'll put on a livery coat, an' gang wi' ye. I'll awa' to
Dr. Anderson. He's sure to lat me gang.'
'No, Shargar,' said Robert, 'I can't have you with me. I've come
into trouble, Shargar, and I must fight it out alone.'
'Ay, ay; I ken. Puir Mr. Ericson!'
'There's nothing the matter with Mr. Ericson. Don't ask me any
questions. I've said more to you now than I've said to anybody
'That is guid o' you, Robert. But am I never to see ye again?'
'I don't know. Perhaps we may meet some day.'
'Perhaps is nae muckle to say, Robert,' protested Shargar.
'It's more than can be said about everything, Shargar,' returned
'Weel, I maun jist tak it as 't comes,' said Shargar, with a
despairing philosophy derived from the days when his mother thrashed
him. 'But, eh! Robert, gin it had only pleased the Almichty to sen'
me into the warl' in a some respectable kin' o' a fashion!'
'Wi' a chance a' gaein' aboot the country like that curst villain
yer brither, I suppose?' retorted Robert, rousing himself for a
'Na, na,' responded Shargar. 'I'll stick to my ain mither. She
never learned me sic tricks.'
'Do ye that. Ye canna compleen o' God. It's a' richt as far 's
ye're concerned. Gin he dinna something o' ye yet, it'll be your
wyte, no his, I'm thinkin'.'
They walked to Dr. Anderson's together, and spent the night there.
In the morning Robert got on the coach for Edinburgh.
I cannot, if I would, follow him on his travels. Only at times,
when the conversation rose in the dead of night, by some Jacob's
ladder of blessed ascent, into regions where the heart of such a man
could open as in its own natural clime, would a few words cause the
clouds that enveloped this period of his history to dispart, and
grant me a peep into the phantasm of his past. I suspect, however,
that much of it left upon his mind no recallable impressions. I
suspect that much of it looked to himself in the retrospect like a
painful dream, with only certain objects and occurrences standing
prominent enough to clear the moonlight mist enwrapping the rest.
What the precise nature of his misery was I shall not even attempt
to conjecture. That would be to intrude within the holy place of a
human heart. One thing alone I will venture to affirm--that
bitterness against either of his friends, whose spirits rushed
together and left his outside, had no place in that noble nature.
His fate lay behind him, like the birth of Shargar, like the death
of Ericson, a decree.
I do not even know in what direction he first went. That he had
seen many cities and many countries was apparent from glimpses of
ancient streets, of mountain-marvels, of strange constellations, of
things in heaven and earth which no one could have seen but himself,
called up by the magic of his words. A silent man in company, he
talked much when his hour of speech arrived. Seldom, however, did
he narrate any incident save in connection with some truth of human
nature, or fact of the universe.
I do know that the first thing he always did on reaching any new
place was to visit the church with the loftiest spire; but he never
looked into the church itself until he had left the earth behind him
as far as that church would afford him the possibility of ascent.
Breathing the air of its highest region, he found himself vaguely
strengthened, yes comforted. One peculiar feeling he had, into
which I could enter only upon happy occasion, of the presence of God
in the wind. He said the wind up there on the heights of human
aspiration always made him long and pray. Asking him one day
something about his going to church so seldom, he answered thus:
'My dear boy, it does me ten times more good to get outside the
spire than to go inside the church. The spire is the most
essential, and consequently the most neglected part of the building.
It symbolizes the aspiration without which no man's faith can hold
its own. But the effort of too many of her priests goes to conceal
from the worshippers the fact that there is such a stair, with a
door to it out of the church. It looks as if they feared their
people would desert them for heaven. But I presume it arises
generally from the fact that they know of such an ascent themselves,
only by hearsay. The knowledge of God is good, but the church is
'Could it be,' I ventured to suggest, 'that, in order to ascend,
they must put off the priests' garments?'
'Good, my boy!' he answered. 'All are priests up there, and must be
clothed in fine linen, clean and white--the righteousness of
saints--not the imputed righteousness of another,--that is a lying
doctrine--but their own righteousness which God has wrought in them
by Christ.' I never knew a man in whom the inward was so constantly
clothed upon by the outward, whose ordinary habits were so symbolic
of his spiritual tastes, or whose enjoyment of the sight of his eyes
and the hearing of his ears was so much informed by his highest
feelings. He regarded all human affairs from the heights of
religion, as from their church-spires he looked down on the red
roofs of Antwerp, on the black roofs of Cologne, on the gray roofs
of Strasburg, or on the brown roofs of Basel--uplifted for the time
above them, not in dissociation from them.
On the base of the missing twin-spire at Strasburg, high over the
roof of the church, stands a little cottage--how strange its white
muslin window-curtains look up there! To the day of his death he
cherished the fancy of writing a book in that cottage, with the
grand city to which London looks a modern mushroom, its thousand
roofs with row upon row of windows in them--often five garret
stories, one above the other, and its thickets of multiform
chimneys, the thrones and procreant cradles of the storks,
marvellous in history, habit, and dignity--all below him.
He was taken ill at Valence and lay there for a fortnight, oppressed
with some kind of low fever. One night he awoke from a refreshing
sleep, but could not sleep again. It seemed to him afterwards as if
he had lain waiting for something. Anyhow something came. As it
were a faint musical rain had invaded his hearing; but the night was
clear, for the moon was shining on his window-blind. The sound came
nearer, and revealed itself a delicate tinkling of bells. It drew
nearer still and nearer, growing in sweet fulness as it came, till
at length a slow torrent of tinklings went past his window in the
street below. It was the flow of a thousand little currents of
sound, a gliding of silvery threads, like the talking of
water-ripples against the side of a barge in a slow canal--all as
soft as the moonlight, as exquisite as an odour, each sound tenderly
truncated and dull. A great multitude of sheep was shifting its
quarters in the night, whence and whither and why he never knew. To
his heart they were the messengers of the Most High. For into that
heart, soothed and attuned by their thin harmony, not on the wind
that floated without breaking their lovely message, but on the
ripples of the wind that bloweth where it listeth, came the words,
unlooked for, their coming unheralded by any mental premonition, 'My
peace I give unto you.' The sounds died slowly away in the
distance, fainting out of the air, even as they had grown upon it,
but the words remained.
In a few moments he was fast asleep, comforted by pleasure into
repose; his dreams were of gentle self-consoling griefs; and when he
awoke in the morning--'My peace I give unto you,' was the first
thought of which he was conscious. It may be that the sound of the
sheep-bells made him think of the shepherds that watched their
flocks by night, and they of the multitude of the heavenly host, and
they of the song--'On earth peace': I do not know. The important
point is not how the words came, but that the words
remained--remained until he understood them, and they became to him
spirit and life.
He soon recovered strength sufficiently to set out again upon his
travels, great part of which he performed on foot. In this way he
reached Avignon. Passing from one of its narrow streets into an
open place in the midst, all at once he beheld, towering above him,
on a height that overlooked the whole city and surrounding country,
a great crucifix. The form of the Lord of Life still hung in the
face of heaven and earth. He bowed his head involuntarily. No
matter that when he drew nearer the power of it vanished. The
memory of it remained with its first impression, and it had a share
in what followed.
He made his way eastward towards the Alps. As he walked one day
about noon over a desolate heath-covered height, reminding him not a
little of the country of his childhood, the silence seized upon him.
In the midst of the silence arose the crucifix, and once more the
words which had often returned upon him sounded in the ears of the
inner hearing, 'My peace I give unto you.' They were words he had
known from the earliest memorial time. He had heard them in
infancy, in childhood, in boyhood, in youth: now first in manhood it
flashed upon him that the Lord did really mean that the peace of his
soul should be the peace of their souls; that the peace wherewith
his own soul was quiet, the peace at the very heart of the universe,
was henceforth theirs--open to them, to all the world, to enter and
be still. He fell upon his knees, bowed down in the birth of a
great hope, held up his hands towards heaven, and cried, 'Lord
Christ, give me thy peace.'
He said no more, but rose, caught up his stick, and strode forward,
He had learned what the sentence meant; what that was of which it
spoke he had not yet learned. The peace he had once sought, the
peace that lay in the smiles and tenderness of a woman, had
'overcome him like a summer cloud,' and had passed away. There was
surely a deeper, a wider, a grander peace for him than that, if
indeed it was the same peace wherewith the king of men regarded his
approaching end, that he had left as a heritage to his brothers.
Suddenly he was aware that the earth had begun to live again. The
hum of insects arose from the heath around him; the odour of its
flowers entered his dulled sense; the wind kissed him on the
forehead; the sky domed up over his head; and the clouds veiled the
distant mountain tops like the smoke of incense ascending from the
altars of the worshipping earth. All Nature began to minister to
one who had begun to lift his head from the baptism of fire. He had
thought that Nature could never more be anything to him; and she was
waiting on him like a mother. The next moment he was offended with
himself for receiving ministrations the reaction of whose loveliness
might no longer gather around the form of Mary St. John. Every
wavelet of scent, every toss of a flower's head in the breeze, came
with a sting in its pleasure--for there was no woman to whom they
belonged. Yet he could not shut them out, for God and not woman is
the heart of the universe. Would the day ever come when the
loveliness of Mary St. John, felt and acknowledged as never before,
would be even to him a joy and a thanksgiving? If ever, then
because God is the heart of all.
I do not think this mood, wherein all forms of beauty sped to his
soul as to their own needful centre, could have lasted over many
miles of his journey. But such delicate inward revelations are none
the less precious that they are evanescent. Many feelings are
simply too good to last--using the phrase not in the unbelieving
sense in which it is generally used, expressing the conviction that
God is a hard father, fond of disappointing his children, but to
express the fact that intensity and endurance cannot yet coexist in
the human economy. But the virtue of a mood depends by no means on
its immediate presence. Like any other experience, it may be
believed in, and, in the absence which leaves the mind free to
contemplate it, work even more good than in its presence.
At length he came in sight of the Alpine regions. Far off, the
heads of the great mountains rose into the upper countries of cloud,
where the snows settled on their stony heads, and the torrents ran
out from beneath the frozen mass to gladden the earth below with the
faith of the lonely hills. The mighty creatures lay like grotesque
animals of a far-off titanic time, whose dead bodies had been first
withered into stone, then worn away by the storms, and covered with
shrouds and palls of snow, till the outlines of their forms were
gone, and only rough shapes remained like those just blocked out in
the sculptor's marble, vaguely suggesting what the creatures had
been, as the corpse under the sheet of death is like a man. He came
amongst the valleys at their feet, with their blue-green waters
hurrying seawards--from stony heights of air into the mass of 'the
restless wavy plain'; with their sides of rock rising in gigantic
terrace after terrace up to the heavens; with their scaling pines,
erect and slight, cone-head aspiring above cone-head, ambitious to
clothe the bare mass with green, till failing at length in their
upward efforts, the savage rock shot away and beyond and above them,
the white and blue glaciers clinging cold and cruel to their ragged
sides, and the dead blank of whiteness covering their final despair.
He drew near to the lower glaciers, to find their awful abysses
tremulous with liquid blue, a blue tender and profound as if fed
from the reservoir of some hidden sky intenser than ours; he
rejoiced over the velvety fields dotted with the toy-like houses of
the mountaineers; he sat for hours listening by the side of their
streams; he grew weary, felt oppressed, longed for a wider outlook,
and began to climb towards a mountain village of which he had heard
from a traveller, to find solitude and freedom in an air as lofty as
if he climbed twelve of his beloved cathedral spires piled up in
After ascending for hours in zigzags through pine woods, where the
only sound was of the little streams trotting down to the valley
below, or the distant hush of some thin waterfall, he reached a
level, and came out of the woods. The path now led along the edge
of a precipice descending sheer to the uppermost terrace of the
valley he had left. The valley was but a cleft in the mass of the
mountain: a little way over sank its other wall, steep as a
plumb-line could have made it, of solid rock. On his right lay
green fields of clover and strange grasses. Ever and anon from the
cleft steamed up great blinding clouds of mist, which now wandered
about over the nations of rocks on the mountain side beyond the
gulf, now wrapt himself in their bewildering folds. In one moment
the whole creation had vanished, and there seemed scarce existence
enough left for more than the following footstep; the next, a mighty
mountain stood in front, crowned with blinding snow, an awful fact;
the lovely heavens were over his head, and the green sod under his
feet; the grasshoppers chirped about him, and the gorgeous
butterflies flew. From regions far beyond came the bells of the
kine and the goats. He reached a little inn, and there took up his
I am able to be a little minute in my description, because I have
since visited the place myself. Great heights rise around it on all
sides. It stands as between heaven and hell, suspended between
peaks and gulfs. The wind must roar awfully there in the winter;
but the mountains stand away with their avalanches, and all the
summer long keep the cold off the grassy fields.
The same evening, he was already weary. The next morning it rained.
It rained fiercely all day. He would leave the place on the
morrow. In the evening it began to clear up. He walked out. The
sun was setting. The snow-peaks were faintly tinged with rose, and
the ragged masses of vapour that hung lazy and leaden-coloured about
the sides of the abyss, were partially dyed a sulky orange red.
Then all faded into gray. But as the sunlight vanished, a veil
sank from the face of the moon, already half-way to the zenith, and
she gathered courage and shone, till the mountain looked lovely as a
ghost in the gleam of its snow and the glimmer of its glaciers.
'Ah!' thought Falconer, 'such a peace at last is all a man can look
for--the repose of a spectral Elysium, a world where passion has
died away, and only the dim ghost of its memory to disturb with a
shadowy sorrow the helpless content of its undreaming years. The
religion that can do but this much is not a very great or very
divine thing. The human heart cannot invent a better it may be, but
it can imagine grander results.
He did not yet know what the religion was of which he spoke. As
well might a man born stone-deaf estimate the power of sweet sounds,
or he who knows not a square from a circle pronounce upon the study
The next morning rose brilliant--an ideal summer day. He would not
go yet; he would spend one day more in the place. He opened his
valise to get some lighter garments. His eye fell on a New
Testament. Dr. Anderson had put it there. He had never opened it
yet, and now he let it lie. Its time had not yet come. He went
Walking up the edge of the valley, he came upon a little stream
whose talk he had heard for some hundred yards. It flowed through a
grassy hollow, with steeply sloping sides. Water is the same all
the world over; but there was more than water here to bring his
childhood back to Falconer. For at the spot where the path led him
down to the burn, a little crag stood out from the bank,--a gray
stone like many he knew on the stream that watered the valley of
Rothieden: on the top of the stone grew a little heather; and beside
it, bending towards the water, was a silver birch. He sat down on
the foot of the rock, shut in by the high grassy banks from the gaze
of the awful mountains. The sole unrest was the run of the water
beside him, and it sounded so homely, that he began to jabber Scotch
to it. He forgot that this stream was born in the clouds, far up
where that peak rose into the air behind him; he did not know that a
couple of hundred yards from where he sat, it tumbled headlong into
the valley below: with his country's birch-tree beside him, and the
rock crowned with its tuft of heather over his head, the quiet as of
a Sabbath afternoon fell upon him--that quiet which is the one
altogether lovely thing in the Scotch Sabbath--and once more the
words arose in his mind, 'My peace I give unto you.'
Now he fell a-thinking what this peace could be. And it came into
his mind as he thought, that Jesus had spoken in another place about
giving rest to those that came to him, while here he spoke about 'my
peace.' Could this my mean a certain kind of peace that the Lord
himself possessed? Perhaps it was in virtue of that peace, whatever
it was, that he was the Prince of Peace. Whatever peace he had must
be the highest and best peace--therefore the one peace for a man to
seek, if indeed, as the words of the Lord seemed to imply, a man was
capable of possessing it. He remembered the New Testament in his
box, and, resolving to try whether he could not make something more
out of it, went back to the inn quieter in heart than since he left
his home. In the evening he returned to the brook, and fell to
searching the story, seeking after the peace of Jesus.
He found that the whole passage stood thus:--
'Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world
giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let
it be afraid.'
He did not leave the place for six weeks. Every day he went to the
burn, as he called it, with his New Testament; every day tried yet
again to make out something more of what the Saviour meant. By the
end of the month it had dawned upon him, he hardly knew how, that
the peace of Jesus (although, of course, he could not know what it
was like till he had it) must have been a peace that came from the
doing of the will of his Father. From the account he gave of the
discoveries he then made, I venture to represent them in the driest
and most exact form that I can find they will admit of. When I use
the word discoveries, I need hardly say that I use it with reference
to Falconer and his previous knowledge. They were these:--that
First,--That a man's business is to do the will of God:
Second,--That God takes upon himself the care of the man:
Third,--Therefore, that a man must never be afraid of anything;
Fourth,--be left free to love God with all his heart, and his
neighbour as himself.
But one day, his thoughts having cleared themselves a little upon
these points, a new set of questions arose with sudden
inundation--comprised in these two:--
'How can I tell for certain that there ever was such a man? How am
I to be sure that such as he says is the mind of the maker of these
glaciers and butterflies?'
All this time he was in the wilderness as much as Moses at the back
of Horeb, or St. Paul when he vanishes in Arabia: and he did nothing
but read the four gospels and ponder over them. Therefore it is not
surprising that he should have already become so familiar with the
gospel story, that the moment these questions appeared, the
following words should dart to the forefront of his consciousness to
'If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether
it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.'
Here was a word of Jesus himself, announcing the one means of
arriving at a conviction of the truth or falsehood of all that he
said, namely, the doing of the will of God by the man who would
arrive at such conviction.
The next question naturally was: What is this will of God of which
Jesus speaks? Here he found himself in difficulty. The theology of
his grandmother rushed in upon him, threatening to overwhelm him
with demands as to feeling and inward action from which his soul
turned with sickness and fainting. That they were repulsive to him,
that they appeared unreal, and contradictory to the nature around
him, was no proof that they were not of God. But on the other hand,
that they demanded what seemed to him unjust,--that these demands
were founded on what seemed to him untruth attributed to God, on
ways of thinking and feeling which are certainly degrading in a
man,--these were reasons of the very highest nature for refusing to
act upon them so long as, from whatever defects it might be in
himself, they bore to him this aspect. He saw that while they
appeared to be such, even though it might turn out that he mistook
them, to acknowledge them would be to wrong God. But this conclusion
left him in no better position for practice than before.
When at length he did see what the will of God was, he wondered, so
simple did it appear, that he had failed to discover it at once.
Yet not less than a fortnight had he been brooding and pondering
over the question, as he wandered up and down that burnside, or sat
at the foot of the heather-crowned stone and the silver-barked
birch, when the light began to dawn upon him. It was thus.
In trying to understand the words of Jesus by searching back, as it
were, for such thoughts and feelings in him as would account for the
words he spoke, the perception awoke that at least he could not have
meant by the will of God any such theological utterances as those
which troubled him. Next it grew plain that what he came to do, was
just to lead his life. That he should do the work, such as
recorded, and much besides, that the Father gave him to do--this was
the will of God concerning him. With this perception arose the
conviction that unto every man whom God had sent into the world, he
had given a work to do in that world. He had to lead the life God
meant him to lead. The will of God was to be found and done in the
world. In seeking a true relation to the world, would he find his
relation to God?
The time for action was come.
He rose up from the stone of his meditation, took his staff in his
hand, and went down the mountain, not knowing whither he went. And
these were some of his thoughts as he went:
'If it was the will of God who made me and her, my will shall not be
set against his. I cannot be happy, but I will bow my head and let
his waves and his billows go over me. If there is such a God, he
knows what a pain I bear. His will be done. Jesus thought it well
that his will should be done to the death. Even if there be no God,
it will be grand to be a disciple of such a man, to do as he says,
think as he thought--perhaps come to feel as he felt.'
My reader may wonder that one so young should have been able to
think so practically--to the one point of action. But he was in
earnest, and what lay at the root of his character, at the root of
all that he did, felt, and became, was childlike simplicity and
purity of nature. If the sins of his father were mercifully visited
upon him, so likewise were the grace and loveliness of his mother.
And between the two, Falconer had fared well.
As he descended the mountain, the one question was--his calling.
With the faintest track to follow, with the clue of a spider's
thread to guide him, he would have known that his business was to
set out at once to find, and save his father. But never since the
day when the hand of that father smote him, and Mary St. John found
him bleeding on the floor, had he heard word or conjecture
concerning him. If he were to set out to find him now, it would be
to search the earth for one who might have vanished from it years
ago. He might as well search the streets of a great city for a lost
jewel. When the time came for him to find his father, if such an
hour was written in the decrees of--I dare not say Fate, for
Falconer hated the word--if such was the will of God, some sign
would be given him--that is, some hint which he could follow with
action. As he thought and thought it became gradually plainer that
he must begin his obedience by getting ready for anything that God
might require of him. Therefore he must go on learning till the
But he shivered at the thought of returning to Aberdeen. Might he
not continue his studies in Germany? Would that not be as
good--possibly, from the variety of the experience, better? But how
was it to be decided? By submitting the matter to the friend who
made either possible. Dr. Anderson had been to him as a father: he
would be guided by his pleasure.
He wrote, therefore, to Dr. Anderson, saying that he would return at
once if he wished it, but that he would greatly prefer going to a
German university for two years. The doctor replied that of course
he would rather have him at home, but that he was confident Robert
knew best what was best for himself; therefore he had only to settle
where he thought proper, and the next summer he would come and see
him, for he was not tied to Aberdeen any more than Robert.
Four years passed before Falconer returned to his native country,
during which period Dr. Anderson had visited him twice, and shown
himself well satisfied with his condition and pursuits. The doctor
had likewise visited Rothieden, and had comforted the heart of the
grandmother with regard to her Robert. From what he learned upon
this visit, he had arrived at a true conjecture, I believe, as to
the cause of the great change which had suddenly taken place in the
youth. But he never asked Robert a question leading in the
direction of the grief which he saw the healthy and earnest nature
of the youth gradually assimilating into his life. He had too much
respect for sorrow to approach it with curiosity. He had learned to
put off his shoes when he drew nigh the burning bush of human pain.
Robert had not settled at any of the universities, but had moved
from one to the other as he saw fit, report guiding him to the men
who spoke with authority. The time of doubt and anxious questioning
was far from over, but the time was long gone by--if in his case it
had ever been--when he could be like a wave of the sea, driven of
the wind and tossed. He had ever one anchor of the soul, and he
found that it held--the faith of Jesus (I say the faith of Jesus,
not his own faith in Jesus), the truth of Jesus, the life of Jesus.
However his intellect might be tossed on the waves of speculation
and criticism, he found that the word the Lord had spoken remained
steadfast; for in doing righteously, in loving mercy, in walking
humbly, the conviction increased that Jesus knew the very secret of
human life. Now and then some great vision gleamed across his soul
of the working of all things towards a far-off goal of simple
obedience to a law of life, which God knew, and which his son had
justified through sorrow and pain. Again and again the words of the
Master gave him a peep into a region where all was explicable, where
all that was crooked might be made straight, where every mountain of
wrong might be made low, and every valley of suffering exalted.
Ever and again some one of the dark perplexities of humanity began
to glimmer with light in its inmost depth. Nor was he without those
moments of communion when the creature is lifted into the secret
place of the Creator.
Looking back to the time when it seemed that he cried and was not
heard, he saw that God had been hearing, had been answering, all the
time; had been making him capable of receiving the gift for which he
prayed. He saw that intellectual difficulty encompassing the
highest operations of harmonizing truth, can no more affect their
reality than the dulness of chaos disprove the motions of the wind
of God over the face of its waters. He saw that any true revelation
must come out of the unknown in God through the unknown in man. He
saw that its truths must rise in the man as powers of life, and that
only as that life grows and unfolds can the ever-lagging intellect
gain glimpses of partial outlines fading away into the
infinite--that, indeed, only in material things and the laws that
belong to them, are outlines possible--even there, only in the
picture of them which the mind that analyzes them makes for itself,
not in the things themselves.
At the close of these four years, with his spirit calm and hopeful,
truth his passion, and music, which again he had resumed and
diligently cultivated, his pleasure, Falconer returned to Aberdeen.
He was received by Dr. Anderson as if he had in truth been his own
son. In the room stood a tall figure, with its back towards them,
pocketing its handkerchief. The next moment the figure turned,
and--could it be?--yes, it was Shargar. Doubt lingered only until
he opened his mouth, and said 'Eh, Robert!' with which exclamation
he threw himself upon him, and after a very undignified fashion
began crying heartily. Tall as he was, Robert's great black head
towered above him, and his shoulders were like a rock against which
Shargar's slight figure leaned. He looked down like a compassionate
mastiff upon a distressed Italian grayhound. His eyes shimmered
with feeling, but Robert's tears, if he ever shed any, were kept for
very solemn occasions. He was more likely to weep for awful joy
than for any sufferings either in himself or others. 'Shargar!'
pronounced in a tone full of a thousand memories, was all the
greeting he returned; but his great manly hand pressed Shargar's
delicate long-fingered one with a grasp which must have satisfied
his friend that everything was as it had been between them, and that
their friendship from henceforth would take a new start. For with
all that Robert had seen, thought, and learned, now that the
bitterness of loss had gone by, the old times and the old friends
were dearer. If there was any truth in the religion of God's will,
in which he was a disciple, every moment of life's history which had
brought soul in contact with soul, must be sacred as a voice from
behind the veil. Therefore he could not now rest until he had gone
to see his grandmother.
'Will you come to Rothieden with me, Shargar? I beg your pardon--I
oughtn't to keep up an old nickname,' said Robert, as they sat that
evening with the doctor, over a tumbler of toddy.
'If you call me anything else, I'll cut my throat, Robert, as I told
you before. If any one else does,' he added, laughing, 'I'll cut
'Can he go with me, doctor?' asked Robert, turning to their host.
'Certainly. He has not been to Rothieden since he took his degree.
He's an A.M. now, and has distinguished himself besides. You'll
see him in his uniform soon, I hope. Let's drink his health,
Robert. Fill your glass.'
The doctor filled his glass slowly and solemnly. He seldom drank
even wine, but this was a rare occasion. He then rose, and with
equal slowness, and a tremor in his voice which rendered it
impossible to imagine the presence of anything but seriousness,
'Robert, my son, let's drink the health of George Moray, Gentleman.
Robert rose, and in his confusion Shargar rose too, and sat down
again, blushing till his red hair looked yellow beside his cheeks.
The men repeated the words, 'George Moray, Gentleman,' emptied
their glasses, and resumed their seats. Shargar rose trembling, and
tried in vain to speak. The reason in part was, that he sought to
utter himself in English.
'Hoots! Damn English!' he broke out at last. 'Gin I be a gentleman,
Dr. Anderson and Robert Falconer, it's you twa 'at's made me ane,
an' God bless ye, an' I'm yer hoomble servant to a' etairnity.'
So saying, Shargar resumed his seat, filled his glass with trembling
hand, emptied it to hide his feelings, but without success, rose
once more, and retreated to the hall for a space.
The next morning Robert and Shargar got on the coach and went to
Rothieden. Robert turned his head aside as they came near the
bridge and the old house of Bogbonnie. But, ashamed of his
weakness, he turned again and looked at the house. There it stood,
all the same,--a thing for the night winds to howl in, and follow
each other in mad gambols through its long passages and rooms, so
empty from the first that not even a ghost had any reason for going
there--a place almost without a history--dreary emblem of so many
empty souls that have hidden their talent in a napkin, and have
nothing to return for it when the Master calls them. Having looked
this one in the face, he felt stronger to meet those other places
before which his heart quailed yet more. He knew that Miss St. John
had left soon after Ericson's death: whether he was sorry or glad
that he should not see her he could not tell. He thought Rothieden
would look like Pompeii, a city buried and disinterred; but when the
coach drove into the long straggling street, he found the old love
revive, and although the blood rushed back to his heart when Captain
Forsyth's house came in view, he did not turn away, but made his
eyes, and through them his heart, familiar with its desolation. He
got down at the corner, and leaving Shargar to go on to The Boar's
Head and look after the luggage, walked into his grandmother's house
and straight into her little parlour. She rose with her old
stateliness when she saw a stranger enter the room, and stood
waiting his address.
'Weel, grannie,' said Robert, and took her in his arms.
'The Lord's name be praised!' faltered she. 'He's ower guid to the
likes o' me.'
And she lifted up her voice and wept.
She had been informed of his coming, but she had not expected him
till the evening; he was much altered, and old age is slow.
He had hardly placed her in her chair, when Betty came in. If she
had shown him respect before, it was reverence now.
'Eh, sir!' she said, 'I didna ken it was you, or I wadna hae come
into the room ohn chappit at the door. I'll awa' back to my
So saying, she turned to leave the room.
'Hoots! Betty,' cried Robert, 'dinna be a gowk. Gie 's a grip o
Betty stood staring and irresolute, overcome at sight of the manly
bulk before her.
'Gin ye dinna behave yersel', Betty, I'll jist awa' ower to
Muckledrum, an' hae a caw (drive) throu the sessions-buik.'
Betty laughed for the first time at the awful threat, and the ice
once broken, things returned to somewhat of their old footing.
I must not linger on these days. The next morning Robert paid a
visit to Bodyfauld, and found that time had there flowed so gently
that it had left but few wrinkles and fewer gray hairs. The fields,
too, had little change to show; and the hill was all the same, save
that its pines had grown. His chief mission was to John Hewson and
his wife. When he left for the continent, he was not so utterly
absorbed in his own griefs as to forget Jessie. He told her story
to Dr. Anderson, and the good man had gone to see her the same day.
In the evening, when he knew he should find them both at home, he
walked into the cottage. They were seated by the fire, with the
same pot hanging on the same crook for their supper. They rose, and
asked him to sit down, but did not know him. When he told them who
he was, they greeted him warmly, and John Hewson smiled something of
the old smile, but only like it, for it had no 'rays proportionately
delivered' from his mouth over his face.
After a little indifferent chat, Robert said,
'I came through Aberdeen yesterday, John.'
At the very mention of Aberdeen, John's head sunk. He gave no
answer, but sat looking in the fire. His wife rose and went to the
other end of the room, busying herself quietly about the supper.
Robert thought it best to plunge into the matter at once.
'I saw Jessie last nicht,' he said.
Still there was no reply. John's face had grown hard as a stone
face, but Robert thought rather from the determination to govern his
feelings than from resentment.
'She's been doin' weel ever sin' syne,' he added.
Still no word from either; and Robert fearing some outburst of
indignation ere he had said his say, now made haste.
'She's been a servant wi' Dr. Anderson for four year noo, an' he's
sair pleased wi' her. She's a fine woman. But her bairnie's deid,
an' that was a sair blow till her.'
He heard a sob from the mother, but still John made no sign.
'It was a bonnie bairnie as ever ye saw. It luikit in her face, she
says, as gin it kent a' aboot it, and had only come to help her
throu the warst o' 't; for it gaed hame 'maist as sune's ever she
was richt able to thank God for sen'in' her sic an angel to lead her
'John,' said his wife, coming behind his chair, and laying her hand
on his shoulder, 'what for dinna ye speyk? Ye hear what Maister
Faukner says.--Ye dinna think a thing's clean useless 'cause there
may be a spot upo' 't?' she added, wiping her eyes with her apron.
'A spot upo' 't?' cried John, starting to his feet. 'What ca' ye a
spot?--Wuman, dinna drive me mad to hear ye lichtlie the glory o'
'That's a' verra weel, John,' interposed Robert quietly; 'but there
was ane thocht as muckle o' 't as ye do, an' wad hae been ashamed to
hear ye speak that gait aboot yer ain dauchter'
'I dinna unnerstan' ye,' returned Hewson, looking raised-like at
'Dinna ye ken, man, that amo' them 'at kent the Lord best whan he
cam frae haiven to luik efter his ain--to seek and to save, ye
ken--amo' them 'at cam roon aboot him to hearken till 'im, was
lasses 'at had gane the wrang gait a'thegither,--no like your bonnie
Jessie 'at fell but ance. Man, ye're jist like Simon the Pharisee,
'at was sae scunnert at oor Lord 'cause he loot the wuman 'at was a
sinner tak her wull o' 's feet--the feet 'at they war gaein' to tak
their wull o' efter anither fashion afore lang. He wad hae shawn
her the door--Simon wad--like you, John; but the Lord tuik her
pairt. An' lat me tell you, John--an' I winna beg yer pardon for
sayin' 't, for it's God's trowth--lat me tell you, 'at gin ye gang
on that gait ye'll be sidin' wi' the Pharisee, an' no wi' oor Lord.
Ye may lippen to yer wife, ay, an' to Jessie hersel', that kens
better nor eyther o' ye, no to mak little o' virginity. Faith! they
think mair o' 't than ye do, I'm thinkin', efter a'; only it's no a
thing to say muckle aboot. An' it's no to stan' for a'thing, efter
Silence followed. John sat down again, and buried his face in his
hands. At length he murmured from between them,
'The lassie's weel?'
'Ay,' answered Robert; and silence followed again.
'What wad ye hae me do?' asked John, lifting his head a little.
'I wad hae ye sen' a kin' word till her. The lassie's hert's jist
longin' efter ye. That's a'. And that's no ower muckle.'
''Deed no,' assented the mother.
John said nothing. But when his visitor rose he bade him a warm
When Robert returned to Aberdeen he was the bearer of such a message
as made poor Jessie glad at heart. This was his first experience of
When he left the cottage, he did not return to the house, but
threaded the little forest of pines, climbing the hill till he came
out on its bare crown, where nothing grew but heather and
blaeberries. There he threw himself down, and gazed into the
heavens. The sun was below the horizon; all the dazzle was gone out
of the gold, and the roses were fast fading; the downy blue of the
sky was trembling into stars over his head; the brown dusk was
gathering in the air; and a wind full of gentleness and peace came
to him from the west. He let his thoughts go where they would, and
they went up into the abyss over his head.
'Lord, come to me,' he cried in his heart, 'for I cannot go to thee.
If I were to go up and up through that awful space for ages and
ages, I should never find thee. Yet there thou art. The tenderness
of thy infinitude looks upon me from those heavens. Thou art in
them and in me. Because thou thinkest, I think. I am thine--all
thine. I abandon myself to thee. Fill me with thyself. When I am
full of thee, my griefs themselves will grow golden in thy sunlight.
Thou holdest them and their cause, and wilt find some nobler
atonement between them than vile forgetfulness and the death of
love. Lord, let me help those that are wretched because they do not
know thee. Let me tell them that thou, the Life, must needs suffer
for and with them, that they may be partakers of thy ineffable
peace. My life is hid in thine: take me in thy hand as Gideon bore
the pitcher to the battle. Let me be broken if need be, that thy
light may shine upon the lies which men tell them in thy name, and
which eat away their hearts.'
Having persuaded Shargar to remain with Mrs. Falconer for a few
days, and thus remove the feeling of offence she still cherished
because of his 'munelicht flittin',' he returned to Dr. Anderson,
who now unfolded his plans for him. These were, that he should
attend the medical classes common to the two universities, and at
the same time accompany him in his visits to the poor. He did not
at all mean, he said, to determine Robert's life as that of a
medical man, but from what he had learned of his feelings, he was
confident that a knowledge of medicine would be invaluable to him.
I think the good doctor must have foreseen the kind of life which
Falconer would at length choose to lead, and with true and admirable
wisdom, sought to prepare him for it. However this may be, Robert
entertained the proposal gladly, went into the scheme with his whole
heart, and began to widen that knowledge of and sympathy with the
poor which were the foundation of all his influence over them.
For a time, therefore, he gave a diligent and careful attendance
upon lectures, read sufficiently, took his rounds with Dr. Anderson,
and performed such duties as he delegated to his greater strength.
Had the healing art been far less of an enjoyment to him than it
was, he could yet hardly have failed of great progress therein; but
seeing that it accorded with his best feelings, profoundest
theories, and loftiest hopes, and that he received it as a work
given him to do, it is not surprising that a certain faculty of
cure, almost partaking of the instinctive, should have been rapidly
developed in him, to the wonder and delight of his friend and
In this labour he again spent about four years, during which time he
gathered much knowledge of human nature, learning especially to
judge it from no stand-point of his own, but in every individual
case to take a new position whence the nature and history of the man
should appear in true relation to the yet uncompleted result. He
who cannot feel the humanity of his neighbour because he is
different from himself in education, habits, opinions, morals,
circumstances, objects, is unfit, if not unworthy, to aid him.
Within this period Shargar had gone out to India, where he had
distinguished himself particularly on a certain harassing march.
Towards the close of the four years he had leave of absence, and
was on his way home. About the same time Robert, in consequence of
a fever brought on by over-fatigue, was in much need of a holiday;
and Dr. Anderson proposed that he should meet Moray at Southampton.
Shargar had no expectation of seeing him, and his delight, not
greater on that account, broke out more wildly. No thinnest film
had grown over his heart, though in all else he was considerably
changed. The army had done everything that was wanted for his
outward show of man. The drawling walk had vanished, and a firm
step and soldierly stride had taken its place; his bearing was free,
yet dignified; his high descent came out in the ease of his carriage
and manners: there could be no doubt that at last Shargar was a
gentleman. His hair had changed to a kind of red chestnut. His
complexion was much darkened with the Indian sun. His eyes, too,
were darker, and no longer rolled slowly from one object to another,
but indicated by their quick glances a mind ready to observe and as
ready to resolve. His whole appearance was more than
prepossessing--it was even striking.
Robert was greatly delighted with the improvement in him, and far
more when he found that his mind's growth had at least kept pace
with his body's change. It would be more correct to say that it had
preceded and occasioned it; for however much the army may be able to
do in that way, it had certainly, in Moray's case, only seconded the
law of inward growth working outward show.
The young men went up to London together, and great was the pleasure
they had in each other's society, after so long a separation in
which their hearts had remained unchanged while their natures had
grown both worthy and capable of more honour and affection. They
had both much to tell; for Robert was naturally open save in regard
to his grief; and Shargar was proud of being able to communicate
with Robert from a nearer level, in virtue of now knowing many
things that Robert could not know. They went together to a hotel in
St. Paul's Churchyard.
A MERE GLIMPSE.
At the close of a fortnight, Falconer thought it time to return to
his duties in Aberdeen. The day before the steamer sailed, they
found themselves, about six o'clock, in Gracechurch Street. It was
a fine summer evening. The street was less crowded than earlier in
the afternoon, although there was a continuous stream of waggons,
omnibuses, and cabs both ways. As they stood on the curbstone, a
little way north of Lombard Street, waiting to cross--
'You see, Shargar,' said Robert, 'Nature will have her way. Not all
the hurry and confusion and roar can keep the shadows out. Look:
wherever a space is for a moment vacant, there falls a shadow, as
grotesque, as strange, as full of unutterable things as any shadow
on a field of grass and daisies.'
'I remember feeling the same kind of thing in India,' returned
Shargar, 'where nothing looked as if it belonged to the world I was
born in, but my own shadow. In such a street as this, however, all
the shadows look as if they belonged to another world, and had no
'I quite feel that,' returned Falconer. 'They come like angels from
the lovely west and the pure air, to show that London cannot hurt
them, for it too is within the Kingdom of God--to teach the lovers
of nature, like the old orthodox Jew, St. Peter, that they must not
call anything common or unclean.'
Shargar made no reply, and Robert glanced round at him. He was
staring with wide eyes into, not at the crowd of vehicles that
filled the street. His face was pale, and strangely like the
Shargar of old days.
'What's the matter with you?' Robert asked in some bewilderment.
Receiving no answer, he followed Shargar's gaze, and saw a strange
sight for London city.
In the middle of the crowd of vehicles, with an omnibus before them,
and a brewer's dray behind them, came a line of three donkey-carts,
heaped high with bundles and articles of gipsy-gear. The foremost
was conducted by a middle-aged woman of tall, commanding aspect, and
expression both cunning and fierce. She walked by the donkey's head
carrying a short stick, with which she struck him now and then, but
which she oftener waved over his head like the truncheon of an
excited marshal on the battle-field, accompanying its movements now
with loud cries to the animal, now with loud response to the chaff
of the omnibus conductor, the dray driver, and the tradesmen in
carts about her. She was followed by a very handsome,
olive-complexioned, wild-looking young woman, with her black hair
done up in a red handkerchief, who conducted her donkey more
quietly. Both seemed as much at home in the roar of Gracechurch
Street as if they had been crossing a wild common. A
loutish-looking young man brought up the rear with the third donkey.
>From the bundles on the foremost cart peeped a lovely, fair-haired,
Robert took all this in in a moment. The same moment Shargar's
spell was broken.
'Lord, it is my mither!' he cried, and darted under a horse's neck
into the middle of the ruck.
He needled his way through till he reached the woman. She was
swearing at a cabman whose wheel had caught the point of her
donkey's shaft, and was hauling him round. Heedless of everything,
Shargar threw his arms about her, crying,
'Nane o' yer blastit humbug!' she exclaimed, as, with a vigorous
throw and a wriggle, she freed herself from his embrace and pushed
The moment she had him at arm's length, however, her hand closed
upon his arm, and her other hand went up to her brow. From
underneath it her eyes shot up and down him from head to foot, and
he could feel her hand closing and relaxing and closing again, as if
she were trying to force her long nails into his flesh. He stood
motionless, waiting the result of her scrutiny, utterly unconscious
that he caused a congestion in the veins of London, for every
vehicle within sight of the pair had stopped. Falconer said a
strange silence fell upon the street, as if all the things in it had
been turned into shadows.
A rough voice, which sounded as if all London must have heard it,
broke the silence. It was the voice of the cabman who had been in
altercation with the woman. Bursting into an insulting laugh, he
used words with regard to her which it is better to leave
unrecorded. The same instant Shargar freed himself from her grasp,
and stood by the fore wheel of the cab.
'Get down!' he said, in a voice that was not the less impressive
that it was low and hoarse.
The fellow saw what he meant, and whipped his horse. Shargar sprung
on the box, and dragged him down all but headlong.
'Now,' he said, 'beg my mother's pardon.'
'Be damned if I do, &c., &c.,' said the cabman.
'Then defend yourself,' said Shargar. 'Robert.'
Falconer was watching it all, and was by his side in a moment.
'Come on, you, &c., &c.,' cried the cabman, plucking up heart and
putting himself in fighting shape. He looked one of those insolent
fellows whom none see discomfited more gladly than the honest men of
his own class. The same moment he lay between his horse's feet.
Shargar turned to Robert, and saying only, 'There, Robert!' turned
again towards the woman. The cabman rose bleeding, and, desiring no
more of the same, climbed on his box, and went off, belabouring his
horse, and pursued by a roar from the street, for the spectators
were delighted at his punishment.
'Now, mother,' said Shargar, panting with excitement.
'What ca' they ye?' she asked, still doubtful, but as proud of being
defended as if the coarse words of her assailant had had no truth in
them. 'Ye canna be my lang-leggit Geordie.'
'What for no?'
'Ye're a gentleman, faith!'
'An' what for no, again?' returned Shargar, beginning to smile.
'Weel, it's weel speired. Yer father was ane ony gait--gin sae be
'at ye are as ye say.'
Moray put his head close to hers, and whispered some words that
nobody heard but herself.
'It's ower lang syne to min' upo' that,' she said in reply, with a
look of cunning consciousness ill settled upon her fine features.
'But ye can be naebody but my Geordie. Haith, man!' she went on,
regarding him once more from head to foot, 'but ye're a credit to
me, I maun alloo. Weel, gie me a sovereign, an' I s' never come
Poor Shargar in his despair turned half mechanically towards Robert.
He felt that it was time to interfere.
'You forget, mother,' said Shargar, turning again to her, and
speaking English now, 'it was I that claimed you, and not you that
She seemed to have no idea of what he meant.
'Come up the road here, to oor public, an' tak a glaiss, wuman,'
said Falconer. 'Dinna haud the fowk luikin' at ye.'
The temptation of a glass of something strong, and the hope of
getting money out of them, caused an instant acquiescence. She said
a few words to the young woman, who proceeded at once to tie her
donkey's head to the tail of the other cart.
'Shaw the gait than,' said the elder, turning again to Falconer.
Shargar and he led the way to St. Paul's Churchyard, and the woman
followed faithfully. The waiter stared when they entered.
'Bring a glass of whisky,' said Falconer, as he passed on to their
private room. When the whisky arrived, she tossed it off, and
looked as if she would like another glass.
'Yer father 'ill hae ta'en ye up, I'm thinkin', laddie?' she said,
turning to her son.
'No,' answered Shargar, gloomily. 'There's the man that took me up.'
'An' wha may ye be?' she asked, turning to Falconer.
'Mr. Falconer,' said Shargar.
'No a son o' Anerew Faukner?' she asked again, with evident
'The same,' answered Robert.
'Well, Geordie,' she said, turning once more to her son, 'it's like
mither, like father to the twa o' ye.'
'Did you know my father?' asked Robert, eagerly.
Instead of answering him she made another remark to her son.
'He needna be ashamed o' your company, ony gait--queer kin' o' a
mither 'at I am.'
'He never was ashamed of my company,' said Shargar, still gloomily.
'Ay, I kent yer father weel eneuch,' she said, now answering
Robert--'mair by token 'at I saw him last nicht. He was luikin' nae
Robert sprung from his seat, and caught her by the arm.
'Ow! ye needna gang into sic a flurry. He'll no come near ye, I s'
'Tell me where he is,' said Robert. 'Where did you see him? I'll
gie ye a' 'at I hae gin ye'll tak me till him.'
'Hooly! hooly! Wha's to gang luikin' for a thrum in a hay-sow?'
returned she, coolly. 'I only said 'at I saw him.'
'But are ye sure it was him?' asked Falconer.
'Ay, sure eneuch,' she answered.
'What maks ye sae sure?'
''Cause I never was vrang yet. Set a man ance atween my twa een,
an' that 'll be twa 'at kens him whan 's ain mither 's forgotten
'Did you speak to him?'
'Maybe ay, an' maybe no. I didna come here to be hecklet afore a
'Tell me what he's like,' said Robert, agitated with eager hope.
'Gin ye dinna ken what he's like, what for suld ye tak the trouble
to speir? But 'deed ye'll ken what he's like whan ye fa' in wi'
him,' she added, with a vindictive laugh--vindictive because he had
given her only one glass of strong drink.
With the laugh she rose, and made for the door. They rose at the
same moment to detain her. Like one who knew at once to fight and
flee, she turned and stunned them as with a blow.
'She's a fine yoong thing, yon sister o' yours, Geordie. She'll be
worth siller by the time she's had a while at the schuil.'
The men looked at each other aghast. When they turned their eyes
she had vanished. They rushed to the door, and, parting, searched
in both directions. But they were soon satisfied that it was of no
use. Probably she had found a back way into Paternoster Row, whence
the outlets are numerous.
THE DOCTOR'S DEATH.
But now that Falconer had a ground, even thus shadowy, for hoping--I
cannot say believing--that his father might be in London, he could
not return to Aberdeen. Moray, who had no heart to hunt for his
mother, left the next day by the steamer. Falconer took to
wandering about the labyrinthine city, and in a couple of months
knew more about the metropolis--the west end excepted--than most
people who had lived their lives in it. The west end is no doubt a
considerable exception to make, but Falconer sought only his father,
and the west end was the place where he was least likely to find
him. Day and night he wandered into all sorts of places: the worse
they looked the more attractive he found them. It became almost a
craze with him. He could not pass a dirty court or low-browed
archway. He might be there. Or he might have been there. Or it
was such a place as he would choose for shelter. He knew to what
such a life as his must have tended.
At first he was attracted only by tall elderly men. Such a man he
would sometimes follow till his following made him turn and demand
his object. If there was no suspicion of Scotch in his tone,
Falconer easily apologized. If there was, he made such replies as
might lead to some betrayal. He could not defend the course he was
adopting: it had not the shadow of probability upon its side. Still
the greatest successes the world has ever beheld had been at one
time the greatest improbabilities! He could not choose but go on,
for as yet he could think of no other way.
Neither could a man like Falconer long confine his interest to this
immediate object, especially after he had, in following it, found
opportunity of being useful. While he still made it his main object
to find his father, that object became a centre from which radiated
a thousand influences upon those who were as sheep that had no
shepherd. He fell back into his old ways at Aberdeen, only with a
boundless sphere to work in, and with the hope of finding his father
to hearten him. He haunted the streets at night, went into all
places of entertainment, often to the disgust of senses and soul,
and made his way into the lowest forms of life without introduction
There was a certain stately air of the hills about him which was
often mistaken for country inexperience, and men thought in
consequence to make gain or game of him. But such found their
mistake, and if not soon, then the more completely. Far from
provoking or even meeting hostility, he soon satisfied those that
persisted, that it was dangerous. In two years he became well known
to the poor of a large district, especially on both sides of
Shoreditch, for whose sake he made the exercise of his profession
though not an object yet a ready accident.
He lived in lodgings in John Street--the same in which I found him
when I came to know him. He made few acquaintances, and they were
chiefly the house-surgeons of hospitals--to which he paid frequent
He always carried a book in his pocket, but did not read much. On
Sundays he generally went to some one of the many lonely heaths or
commons of Surrey with his New Testament. When weary in London, he
would go to the reading-room of the British Museum for an hour or
two. He kept up a regular correspondence with Dr. Anderson.
At length he received a letter from him, which occasioned his
immediate departure for Aberdeen. Until now, his friend, who was
entirely satisfied with his mode of life, and supplied him freely
with money, had not even expressed a wish to recall him, though he
had often spoken of visiting him in London. It now appeared that,
unwilling to cause him any needless anxiety, he had abstained from
mentioning the fact that his health had been declining. He had got
suddenly worse, and Falconer hastened to obey the summons he had
sent him in consequence.
With a heavy heart he walked up to the hospitable door, recalling as
he ascended the steps how he had stood there a helpless youth, in
want of a few pounds to save his hopes, when this friend received
him and bid him God-speed on the path he desired to follow. In a
moment more he was shown into the study, and was passing through it
to go to the cottage-room, when Johnston laid his hand on his arm.
'The maister's no up yet, sir,' he said, with a very solemn look.
'He's been desperate efter seein' ye, and I maun gang an' lat him
ken 'at ye're here at last, for fear it suld be ower muckle for him,
seein' ye a' at ance. But eh, sir!' he added, the tears gathering
in his eyes, 'ye'll hardly ken 'im. He's that changed!'
Johnston left the study by the door to the cottage--Falconer had
never known the doctor sleep there--and returning a moment after,
invited him to enter. In the bed in the recess--the room unchanged,
with its deal table, and its sanded floor--lay the form of his
friend. Falconer hastened to the bedside, kneeled down, and took
his hand speechless. The doctor was silent too, but a smile
overspread his countenance, and revealed his inward satisfaction.
Robert's heart was full, and he could only gaze on the worn face.
At length he was able to speak.
'What for didna ye sen' for me?' he said. 'Ye never tellt me ye was
'Because you were doing good, Robert, my boy; and I who had done so
little had no right to interrupt what you were doing. I wonder if
God will give me another chance. I would fain do better. I don't
think I could sit singing psalms to all eternity,' he added with a
'Whatever good I may do afore my turn comes, I hae you to thank for
't. Eh, doctor, gin it hadna been for you!'
Robert's feelings overcame him. He resumed, brokenly,
'Ye gae me a man to believe in, whan my ain father had forsaken me,
and my frien' was awa to God. Ye hae made me, doctor. Wi' meat an'
drink an' learnin' an' siller, an' a'thing at ance, ye hae made me.'
'Eh, Robert!' said the dying man, half rising on his elbow, 'to
think what God maks us a' to ane anither! My father did ten times
for me what I hae dune for you. As I lie here thinkin' I may see
him afore a week's ower, I'm jist a bairn again.'
As he spoke, the polish of his speech was gone, and the social
refinement of his countenance with it. The face of his ancestors,
the noble, sensitive, heart-full, but rugged, bucolic, and
weather-beaten through centuries of windy ploughing, hail-stormed
sheep-keeping, long-paced seed-sowing, and multiform labour, surely
not less honourable in the sight of the working God than the
fighting of the noble, came back in the face of the dying physician.
>From that hour to his death he spoke the rugged dialect of his
A day or two after this, Robert again sitting by his bedside,
'I dinna ken,' he said, 'whether it's richt--but I hae nae fear o'
deith, an' yet I canna say I'm sure aboot onything. I hae seen mony
a ane dee that cud hae no faith i' the Saviour; but I never saw that
fear that some gude fowk wud hae ye believe maun come at the last.
I wadna like to tak to ony papistry; but I never cud mak oot frae
the Bible--and I read mair at it i' the jungle than maybe ye wad
think--that it's a' ower wi' a body at their deith. I never heard
them bring foret ony text but ane--the maist ridiculous hash 'at
ever ye heard--to justifee 't.'
'I ken the text ye mean--"As the tree falleth so it shall lie," or
something like that--'at they say King Solomon wrote, though better
scholars say his tree had fa'en mony a lang year afore that text saw
the licht. I dinna believe sic a thocht was i' the man's heid when
he wrote it. It is as ye say--ower contemptible to ca' an argument.
I'll read it to ye ance mair.'
Robert got his Bible, and read the following portion from that
wonderful book, so little understood, because it is so full of
wisdom--the Book of Ecclesiastes:--
'Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many
'Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not
what evil shall be upon the earth.
'If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the
earth: and if the tree fall toward the south, or toward the north,
in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.
'He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the
clouds shall not reap.
'As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the
bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou
knowest not the works of God who maketh all.
'In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine
hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or
that, or whether they both shall be alike good.'
'Ay, ay; that's it,' said Dr. Anderson. 'Weel, I maun say again that
they're ill aff for an argument that taks that for ane upo' sic a
momentous subjec'. I prefer to say, wi' the same auld man, that I
know not the works of God who maketh all. But I wish I could say I
believed onything for certain sure. But whan I think aboot it--wad
ye believe 't? the faith o' my father's mair to me nor ony faith o'
my ain. That soonds strange. But it's this: I'm positeeve that
that godly great auld man kent mair aboot a' thae things--I cud see
't i' the face o' 'm--nor ony ither man 'at ever I kent. An' it's
no by comparison only. I'm sure he did ken. There was something
atween God and him. An' I think he wasna likely to be wrang; an'
sae I tak courage to believe as muckle as I can, though maybe no sae
muckle as I fain wad.'
Robert, who from experience of himself, and the observations he had
made by the bedsides of not a few dying men and women, knew well
that nothing but the truth itself can carry its own conviction; that
the words of our Lord are a body as it were in which the spirit of
our Lord dwells, or rather the key to open the heart for the
entrance of that spirit, turned now from all argumentation to the
words of Jesus. He himself had said of them, 'They are spirit and
they are life;' and what folly to buttress life and spirit with
other powers than their own! From that day to the last, as often
and as long as the dying man was able to listen to him, he read from
the glad news just the words of the Lord. As he read thus, one
fading afternoon, the doctor broke out with,
'Eh, Robert, the patience o' him! He didna quench the smokin' flax.
There's little fire aboot me, but surely I ken in my ain hert some
o' the risin' smoke o' the sacrifice. Eh! sic words as they are!
An' he was gaein' doon to the grave himsel', no half my age, as
peacefu', though the road was sae rouch, as gin he had been gaein'
hame till 's father.'
'Sae he was,' returned Robert.
'Ay; but here am I lyin' upo' my bed, slippin' easy awa. An' there
The old man ceased. The sacred story was too sacred for speech.
Robert sat with the New Testament open before him on the bed.
'The mair the words o' Jesus come into me,' the doctor began again,
'the surer I am o' seein' my auld Brahmin frien', Robert. It's true
I thought his religion not only began but ended inside him. It was
a' a booin' doon afore and an aspirin' up into the bosom o' the
infinite God. I dinna mean to say 'at he wasna honourable to them
aboot him. And I never saw in him muckle o' that pride to the lave
(rest) that belangs to the Brahmin. It was raither a stately
kin'ness than that condescension which is the vice o' Christians.
But he had naething to do wi' them. The first comman'ment was a'
he kent. He loved God--nae a God like Jesus Christ, but the God he
kent--and that was a' he could. The second comman'ment--that
glorious recognition o' the divine in humanity makin' 't fit and
needfu' to be loved, that claim o' God upon and for his ain bairns,
that love o' the neebour as yer'sel--he didna ken. Still there was
religion in him; and he who died for the sins o' the whole world has
surely been revealed to him lang er' noo, and throu the knowledge o'
him, he noo dwalls in that God efter whom he aspired.'
Here was the outcome of many talks which Robert and the doctor had
had together, as they laboured amongst the poor.
'Did ye never try,' Robert asked, 'to lat him ken aboot the comin'
o' God to his world in Jesus Christ?'
'I couldna do muckle that way honestly, my ain faith was sae poor
and sma'. But I tellt him what Christians believed. I tellt him
aboot the character and history o' Christ. But it didna seem to tak
muckle hauld o' him. It wasna interesstin' till him. Just ance
whan I tellt him some things he had said aboot his relation to
God--sic as, "I and my Father are one,"--and aboot the relation o'
a' his disciples to God and himsel'--"I in them, and thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one," he said, wi' a smile, "The
man was a good Brahmin."
'It's little,' said Robert, 'the one great commandment can do
withoot the other. It's little we can ken what God to love, or hoo
to love him, withoot "thy neighbour as thyself." Ony ane o' them
withoot the ither stan's like the ae factor o' a multiplication, or
ae wing upo' a laverock (lark).'
Towards the close of the week, he grew much feebler. Falconer
scarcely left his room. He woke one midnight, and murmured as
follows, with many pauses for breath and strength:
'Robert, my time's near, I'm thinkin'; for, wakin' an' sleepin', I'm
a bairn again. I can hardly believe whiles 'at my father hasna a
grup o' my han'. A meenute ago I was traivellin' throu a terrible
driftin' o' snaw--eh, hoo it whustled and sang! and the cauld o' 't
was stingin'; but my father had a grup o' me, an' I jist despised
it, an' was stampin' 't doon wi' my wee bit feet, for I was like
saven year auld or thereaboots. An' syne I thocht I heard my mither
singin', and kent by that that the ither was a dream. I'm thinkin'
a hantle 'ill luik dreamy afore lang. Eh! I wonner what the final
waukin' 'ill be like.'
After a pause he resumed,
'Robert, my dear boy, ye're i' the richt gait. Haud on an' lat
naething turn ye aside. Man, it's a great comfort to me to think
that ye're my ain flesh and blude, an' nae that far aff. My father
an' your great-gran'father upo' the gran'mither's side war ain
brithers. I wonner hoo far doon it wad gang. Ye're the only ane
upo' my father's side, you and yer father, gin he be alive, that I
hae sib to me. My will's i' the bottom drawer upo' the left han' i'
my writin' table i' the leebrary:--I hae left ye ilka plack 'at I
possess. Only there's ae thing that I want ye to do. First o' a',
ye maun gang on as yer doin' in London for ten year mair. Gin
deein' men hae ony o' that foresicht that's been attreebuted to them
in a' ages, it's borne in upo' me that ye wull see yer father again.
At a' events, ye'll be helpin' some ill-faured sowls to a clean
face and a bonny. But gin ye dinna fa' in wi' yer father within ten
year, ye maun behaud a wee, an' jist pack up yer box, an' gang awa'
ower the sea to Calcutta, an' du what I hae tellt ye to do i' that
wull. I bind ye by nae promise, Robert, an' I winna hae nane.
Things micht happen to put ye in a terrible difficulty wi' a
promise. I'm only tellin' ye what I wad like. Especially gin ye
hae fund yer father, ye maun gang by yer ain jeedgment aboot it, for
there 'll be a hantle to do wi' him efter ye hae gotten a grup o'
'im. An' noo, I maun lie still, an' maybe sleep again, for I hae
spoken ower muckle.'
Hoping that he would sleep and wake yet again, Robert sat still.
After an hour, he looked, and saw that, although hitherto much
oppressed, he was now breathing like a child. There was no sign
save of past suffering: his countenance was peaceful as if he had
already entered into his rest. Robert withdrew, and again seated
himself. And the great universe became to him as a bird brooding
over the breaking shell of the dying man.
On either hand we behold a birth, of which, as of the moon, we see
but half. We are outside the one, waiting for a life from the
unknown; we are inside the other, watching the departure of a spirit
from the womb of the world into the unknown. To the region whither
he goes, the man enters newly born. We forget that it is a birth,
and call it a death. The body he leaves behind is but the placenta
by which he drew his nourishment from his mother Earth. And as the
child-bed is watched on earth with anxious expectancy, so the couch
of the dying, as we call them, may be surrounded by the
birth-watchers of the other world, waiting like anxious servants to
open the door to which this world is but the wind-blown porch.
Extremes meet. As a man draws nigh to his second birth, his heart
looks back to his childhood. When Dr. Anderson knew that he was
dying, he retired into the simulacrum of his father's benn end.
As Falconer sat thinking, the doctor spoke. They were low, faint,
murmurous sounds, for the lips were nearly at rest. Wanted no more
for utterance, they were going back to the holy dust, which is God's
'Father, father!' he cried quickly, in the tone and speech of a
Scotch laddie, 'I'm gaein' doon. Haud a grup o' my han'.'
When Robert hurried to the bedside, he found that the last breath
had gone in the words. The thin right hand lay partly closed, as if
it had been grasping a larger hand. On the face lay confidence just
ruffled with apprehension: the latter melted away, and nothing
remained but that awful and beautiful peace which is the farewell of
the soul to its servant.
Robert knelt and thanked God for the noble man.
A TALK WITH GRANNIE.
Dr. Anderson's body was, according to the fine custom of many of the
people of Aberdeen, borne to the grave by twelve stalwart men in
black, with broad round bonnets on their heads, the one-half
relieving the other--a privilege of the company of shore-porters.
Their exequies are thus freed from the artificial, grotesque, and
pagan horror given by obscene mutes, frightful hearse, horses, and
feathers. As soon as, in the beautiful phrase of the Old Testament,
John Anderson was thus gathered to his fathers, Robert went to pay a
visit to his grandmother.
Dressed to a point in the same costume in which he had known her
from childhood, he found her little altered in appearance. She was
one of those who instead of stooping with age, settle downwards: she
was still as erect as ever, though shorter. Her step was feebler,
and when she prayed, her voice quavered more. On her face sat the
same settled, almost hard repose, as ever; but her behaviour was
still more gentle than when he had seen her last. Notwithstanding,
however, that time had wrought so little change in her appearance,
Robert felt that somehow the mist of a separation between her world
and his was gathering; that she was, as it were, fading from his
sight and presence, like the moon towards 'her interlunar cave.'
Her face was gradually turning from him towards the land of light.
'I hae buried my best frien' but yersel', grannie,' he said, as he
took a chair close by her side, where he used to sit when he read
the Bible and Boston to her.
'I trust he's happy. He was a douce and a weel-behaved man; and ye
hae rizzon to respec' his memory. Did he dee the deith o' the
richteous, think ye, laddie?'
'I do think that, grannie. He loved God and his Saviour.'
'The Lord be praised!' said Mrs. Falconer. 'I had guid houps o' 'im
in 's latter days. And fowk says he's made a rich man o' ye,
'He's left me ilka thing, excep' something till 's servan's--wha hae
weel deserved it.'
'Eh, Robert! but it's a terrible snare. Siller 's an awfu' thing.
My puir Anerew never begud to gang the ill gait, till he began to
hae ower muckle siller. But it badena lang wi' 'im.'
'But it's no an ill thing itsel', grannie; for God made siller as
weel 's ither things.'
'He thinksna muckle o' 't, though, or he wad gie mair o' 't to some
fowk. But as ye say, it's his, and gin ye hae grace to use 't
aricht, it may be made a great blessin' to yersel' and ither fowk.
But eh, laddie! tak guid tent 'at ye ride upo' the tap o' 't, an'
no lat it rise like a muckle jaw (billow) ower yer heid; for it's an
awfu' thing to be droont in riches.'
'Them 'at prays no to be led into temptation hae a chance--haena
'That hae they, Robert. And to be plain wi' ye, I haena that muckle
fear o' ye; for I hae heard the kin' o' life 'at ye hae been
leadin'. God's hearkent to my prayers for you; and gin ye gang on
as ye hae begun, my prayers, like them o' David the son o' Jesse,
are endit. Gang on, my dear lad, gang on to pluck brands frae the
burnin'. Haud oot a helpin' han' to ilka son and dauchter o' Adam
'at will tak a grip o' 't. Be a burnin' an' a shinin' licht, that
men may praise, no you, for ye're but clay i' the han's o' the
potter, but yer Father in heaven. Tak the drunkard frae his whusky,
the deboshed frae his debosh, the sweirer frae his aiths, the leear
frae his lees; and giena ony o' them ower muckle o' yer siller at
ance, for fear 'at they grow fat an' kick an' defy God and you.
That's my advice to ye, Robert.'
'And I houp I'll be able to haud gey and near till 't, grannie, for
it's o' the best. But wha tellt ye what I was aboot in Lonnon?'
'Ay, jist himsel'. I hae had letter upo' letter frae 'im aboot you
and a' 'at ye was aboot. He keepit me acquant wi' 't a'.'
This fresh proof of his friend's affection touched Robert deeply.
He had himself written often to his grandmother, but he had never
entered into any detail of his doings, although the thought of her
was ever at hand beside the thought of his father.
'Do ye ken, grannie, what's at the hert o' my houps i' the meesery
an' degradation that I see frae mornin' to nicht, and aftener yet
frae nicht to mornin' i' the back closes and wynds o' the great
'I trust it's the glory o' God, laddie.'
'I houp that's no a'thegither wantin', grannie. For I love God wi'
a' my hert. But I doobt it's aftener the savin' o' my earthly
father nor the glory o' my heavenly ane that I'm thinkin' o'.'
Mrs. Falconer heaved a deep sigh.
'God grant ye success, Robert,' she said. 'But that canna be richt.'
'What canna be richt?'
'No to put the glory o' God first and foremost.'
'Weel, grannie; but a body canna rise to the heicht o' grace a' at
ance, nor yet in ten, or twenty year. Maybe gin I do richt, I may
be able to come to that or a' be dune. An' efter a', I'm sure I
love God mair nor my father. But I canna help thinkin' this, that
gin God heardna ae sang o' glory frae this ill-doin' earth o' his,
he wadna be nane the waur; but--'
'Hoo ken ye that?' interrupted his grandmother.
'Because he wad be as gude and great and grand as ever.'
'But what wad come o' my father wantin' his salvation? He can waur
want that, remainin' the slave o' iniquity, than God can want his
glory. Forby, ye ken there's nae glory to God like the repentin' o'
a sinner, justifeein' God, an' sayin' till him--"Father, ye're a'
richt, an' I'm a' wrang." What greater glory can God hae nor that?'
'It's a' true 'at ye say. But still gin God cares for that same
glory, ye oucht to think o' that first, afore even the salvation o'
'Maybe ye're richt, grannie. An' gin it be as ye say--he's promised
to lead us into a' trowth, an' he'll lead me into that trowth. But
I'm thinkin' it's mair for oor sakes than his ain 'at he cares aboot
his glory. I dinna believe 'at he thinks aboot his glory excep' for
the sake o' the trowth an' men's herts deein' for want o' 't.'
Mrs. Falconer thought for a moment.
'It may be 'at ye're richt, laddie; but ye hae a way o' sayin'
things 'at 's some fearsome.'
'God's nae like a prood man to tak offence, grannie. There's
naething pleases him like the trowth, an' there's naething
displeases him like leein', particularly whan it's by way o'
uphaudin' him. He wants nae sic uphaudin'. Noo, ye say things
aboot him whiles 'at soun's to me fearsome.'
'What kin' o' things are they, laddie?' asked the old lady, with
offence glooming in the background.
'Sic like as whan ye speyk aboot him as gin he was a puir prood
bailey-like body, fu' o' his ain importance, an' ready to be doon
upo' onybody 'at didna ca' him by the name o' 's office--ay
think-thinkin' aboot 's ain glory; in place o' the quaiet, michty,
gran', self-forgettin', a'-creatin', a'-uphaudin', eternal bein',
wha took the form o' man in Christ Jesus, jist that he micht hae 't
in 's pooer to beir and be humblet for oor sakes. Eh, grannie!
think o' the face o' that man o' sorrows, that never said a hard
word till a sinfu' wuman, or a despised publican: was he thinkin'
aboot 's ain glory, think ye? An' we hae no richt to say we ken God
save in the face o' Christ Jesus. Whatever 's no like Christ is no
'But, laddie, he cam to saitisfee God's justice by sufferin' the
punishment due to oor sins; to turn aside his wrath an' curse; to
reconcile him to us. Sae he cudna be a'thegither like God.'
'He did naething o' the kin', grannie. It's a' a lee that. He cam
to saitisfee God's justice by giein' him back his bairns; by garrin'
them see that God was just; by sendin' them greetin' hame to fa' at
his feet, an' grip his knees an' say, "Father, ye're i' the richt."
He cam to lift the weicht o' the sins that God had curst aff o' the
shoothers o' them 'at did them, by makin' them turn agen them, an'
be for God an' no for sin. And there isna a word o' reconceelin'
God till 's in a' the Testament, for there was no need o' that: it
was us that he needed to be reconcilet to him. An' sae he bore oor
sins and carried oor sorrows; for those sins comin' oot in the
multitudes--ay and in his ain disciples as weel, caused him no en'
o' grief o' mind an' pain o' body, as a'body kens. It wasna his ain
sins, for he had nane, but oors, that caused him sufferin'; and he
took them awa'--they're vainishin' even noo frae the earth, though
it doesna luik like it in Rag-fair or Petticoat-lane. An' for oor
sorrows--they jist garred him greit. His richteousness jist
annihilates oor guilt, for it's a great gulf that swallows up and
destroys 't. And sae he gae his life a ransom for us: and he is the
life o' the world. He took oor sins upo' him, for he cam into the
middle o' them an' took them up--by no sleicht o' han', by no
quibblin' o' the lawyers, aboot imputin' his richteousness to us,
and sic like, which is no to be found i' the Bible at a', though I
dinna say that there's no possible meanin' i' the phrase, but he
took them and took them awa'; and here am I, grannie, growin' oot o'
my sins in consequennce, and there are ye, grannie, growin' oot o'
yours in consequennce, an' haein' nearhan' dune wi' them a'thegither
er this time.'
'I wis that may be true, laddie. But I carena hoo ye put it,'
returned his grandmother, bewildered no doubt with this outburst,
'sae be that ye put him first an' last an' i' the mids' o' a' thing,
an' say wi' a' yer hert, "His will be dune!"'
'Wi' a' my hert, "His will be dune," grannie,' responded Robert.
'Amen, amen. And noo, laddie, duv ye think there's ony likliheid
that yer father 's still i' the body? I dream aboot him whiles sae
lifelike that I canna believe him deid. But that's a' freits
'Weel, grannie, I haena the least assurance. But I hae the mair
houp. Wad ye ken him gin ye saw him?'
'Ken him!' she cried; 'I wad ken him gin he had been no to say four,
but forty days i' the sepulchre! My ain Anerew! Hoo cud ye speir
sic a queston, laddie?'
'He maun be sair changed, grannie. He maun be turnin' auld by this
'Auld! Sic like 's yersel, laddie.--Hoots, hoots! ye're richt. I
am forgettin'. But nanetheless wad I ken him.'
'I wis I kent what he was like. I saw him ance--hardly twise, but
a' that I min' upo' wad stan' me in ill stead amo' the streets o'
'I doobt that,' returned Mrs. Falconer--a form of expression rather
oddly indicating sympathetic and somewhat regretful agreement with
what has been said. 'But,' she went on, 'I can lat ye see a pictur'
o' 'im, though I doobt it winna shaw sae muckle to you as to me. He
had it paintit to gie to yer mother upo' their weddin' day. Och
hone! She did the like for him; but what cam o' that ane, I dinna
Mrs. Falconer went into the little closet to the old bureau, and
bringing out the miniature, gave it to Robert. It was the portrait
of a young man in antiquated blue coat and white waistcoat, looking
innocent, and, it must be confessed, dull and uninteresting. It had
been painted by a travelling artist, and probably his skill did not
reach to expression. It brought to Robert's mind no faintest shadow
of recollection. It did not correspond in the smallest degree to
what seemed his vague memory, perhaps half imagination, of the tall
worn man whom he had seen that Sunday. He could not have a hope
that this would give him the slightest aid in finding him of whom it
had once been a shadowy resemblance at least.
'Is 't like him, grannie?' he asked.
As if to satisfy herself once more ere she replied, she took the
miniature, and gazed at it for some time. Then with a deep hopeless
sigh, she answered,
'Ay, it's like him; but it's no himsel'. Eh, the bonny broo, an'
the smilin' een o' him!--smilin' upon a'body, an' upo' her maist o'
a', till he took to the drink, and waur gin waur can be. It was a'
siller an' company--company 'at cudna be merry ohn drunken. Verity
their lauchter was like the cracklin' o' thorns aneath a pot. Het
watter and whusky was aye the cry efter their denner an' efter their
supper, till my puir Anerew tuik till the bare whusky i' the mornin'
to fill the ebb o' the toddy. He wad never hae dune as he did but
for the whusky. It jist drave oot a' gude and loot in a' ill.'
'Wull ye lat me tak this wi' me, grannie?' said Robert; for though
the portrait was useless for identification, it might serve a
'Ow, ay, tak it. I dinna want it. I can see him weel wantin' that.
But I hae nae houp left 'at ye'll ever fa' in wi' him.'
'God's aye doin' unlikly things, grannie,' said Robert, solemnly.
'He's dune a' 'at he can for him, I doobt, already.'
'Duv ye think 'at God cudna save a man gin he liket, than, grannie?'
'God can do a'thing. There's nae doobt but by the gift o' his
speerit he cud save a'body.'
'An' ye think he's no mercifu' eneuch to do 't?'
'It winna do to meddle wi' fowk's free wull. To gar fowk he gude
wad be nae gudeness.'
'But gin God could actually create the free wull, dinna ye think he
cud help it to gang richt, withoot ony garrin'? We ken sae little
aboot it, grannie! Hoo does his speerit help onybody? Does he gar
them 'at accep's the offer o' salvation?'
'Na, I canna think that. But he shaws them the trowth in sic a way
that they jist canna bide themsel's, but maun turn to him for verra
peace an' rist.'
'Weel, that's something as I think. An' until I'm sure that a man
has had the trowth shawn till him in sic a way 's that, I canna
alloo mysel' to think that hooever he may hae sinned, he has finally
rejeckit the trowth. Gin I kent that a man had seen the trowth as I
hae seen 't whiles, and had deleeberately turned his back upo' 't
and said, "I'll nane o' 't," than I doobt I wad be maist compelled
to alloo that there was nae mair salvation for him, but a certain
and fearfu' luikin' for o' judgment and fiery indignation. But I
dinna believe that ever man did sae. But even than, I dinna ken.'
'I did a' for him that I kent hoo to do,' said Mrs. Falconer,
reflectingly. 'Nicht an' mornin' an' aften midday prayin' for an'
'Maybe ye scunnert him at it, grannie.'
She gave a stifled cry of despair.
'Dinna say that, laddie, or ye'll drive me oot o' my min'. God
forgie me, gin that be true. I deserve hell mair nor my Anerew.'
'But, ye see, grannie, supposin' it war sae, that wadna be laid to
your accoont, seein' ye did the best ye kent. Nor wad it be
forgotten to him. It wad mak a hantle difference to his sin; it wad
be a great excuse for him. An' jist think, gin it be fair for ae
human being to influence anither a' 'at they can, and that's nae
interferin' wi' their free wull--it's impossible to measure what God
cud do wi' his speerit winnin' at them frae a' sides, and able to
put sic thouchts an' sic pictures into them as we canna think. It
wad a' be true that he tellt them, and the trowth can never be a
meddlin' wi' the free wull.'
Mrs. Falconer made no reply, but evidently went on thinking.
She was, though not a great reader, yet a good reader. Any book
that was devout and thoughtful she read gladly. Through some one or
other of this sort she must have been instructed concerning free
will, for I do not think such notions could have formed any portion
of the religious teaching she had heard. Men in that part of
Scotland then believed that the free will of man was only exercised
in rejecting--never in accepting the truth; and that men were saved
by the gift of the Spirit, given to some and not to others,
according to the free will of God, in the exercise of which no
reason appreciable by men, or having anything to do with their
notions of love or justice, had any share. In the recognition of
will and choice in the acceptance of the mercy of God, Mrs. Falconer
was then in advance of her time. And it is no wonder if her notions
did not all hang logically together.
'At ony rate, grannie,' resumed her grandson, 'I haena dune a' for
him 'at I can yet; and I'm no gaein' to believe onything that wad
mak me remiss in my endeavour. Houp for mysel', for my father, for
a'body, is what's savin' me, an' garrin' me work. An' gin ye tell
me that I'm no workin' wi' God, that God's no the best an' the
greatest worker aboon a', ye tak the verra hert oot o' my breist,
and I dinna believe in God nae mair, an' my han's drap doon by my
sides, an' my legs winna gang. No,' said Robert, rising, 'God 'ill
gie me my father sometime, grannie; for what man can do wantin' a
father? Human bein' canna win at the hert o' things, canna ken a'
the oots an' ins, a' the sides o' love, excep' he has a father amo'
the lave to love; an' I hae had nane, grannie. An' that God kens.'
She made him no answer. She dared not say that he expected too much
from God. Is it likely that Jesus will say so of any man or woman
when he looks for faith in the earth?
Robert went out to see some of his old friends, and when he returned
it was time for supper and worship. These were the same as of old:
a plate of porridge, and a wooden bowl of milk for the former; a
chapter and a hymn, both read, and a prayer from grannie, and then
from Robert for the latter. And so they went to bed.
But Robert could not sleep. He rose and dressed himself, went up to
the empty garret, looked at the stars through the skylight, knelt
and prayed for his father and for all men to the Father of all, then
softly descended the stairs, and went out into the street.
It was a warm still night in July--moonless but not dark. There is
no night there in the summer--only a long ethereal twilight. He
walked through the sleeping town so full of memories, all quiet in
his mind now--quiet as the air that ever broods over the house where
a friend has dwelt. He left the town behind, and walked--through
the odours of grass and of clover and of the yellow flowers on the
old earthwalls that divided the fields--sweet scents to which the
darkness is friendly, and which, mingling with the smell of the
earth itself, reach the founts of memory sooner than even words or
tones--down to the brink of the river that flowed scarcely murmuring
through the night, itself dark and brown as the night from its
far-off birthplace in the peaty hills. He crossed the footbridge
and turned into the bleachfield. Its houses were desolate, for that
trade too had died away. The machinery stood rotting and rusting.
The wheel gave no answering motion to the flow of the water that
glided away beneath it. The thundering beatles were still. The
huge legs of the wauk-mill took no more seven-leagued strides
nowhither. The rubbing-boards with their thickly-fluted surfaces no
longer frothed the soap from every side, tormenting the web of linen
into a brightness to gladden the heart of the housewife whose hands
had spun the yarn. The terrible boiler that used to send up from
its depths bubbling and boiling spouts and peaks and ridges, lay
empty and cold. The little house behind, where its awful furnace
used to glow, and which the pungent chlorine used to fill with its
fumes, stood open to the wind and the rain: he could see the slow
river through its unglazed window beyond. The water still went
slipping and sliding through the deserted places, a power whose use
had departed. The canal, the delight of his childhood, was nearly
choked with weeds; it went flowing over long grasses that drooped
into it from its edges, giving a faint gurgle once and again in its
flow, as if it feared to speak in the presence of the stars, and
escaped silently into the river far below. The grass was no longer
mown like a lawn, but was long and deep and thick. He climbed to
the place where he had once lain and listened to the sounds of the
belt of fir-trees behind him, hearing the voice of Nature that
whispered God in his ears, and there he threw himself down once
more. All the old things, the old ways, the old glories of
childhood--were they gone? No. Over them all, in them all, was God
still. There is no past with him. An eternal present, He filled
his soul and all that his soul had ever filled. His history was
taken up into God: it had not vanished: his life was hid with Christ
in God. To the God of the human heart nothing that has ever been a
joy, a grief, a passing interest, can ever cease to be what it has
been; there is no fading at the breath of time, no passing away of
fashion, no dimming of old memories in the heart of him whose being
creates time. Falconer's heart rose up to him as to his own deeper
life, his indwelling deepest spirit--above and beyond him as the
heavens are above and beyond the earth, and yet nearer and homelier
than his own most familiar thought. 'As the light fills the earth,'
thought he, 'so God fills what we call life. My sorrows, O God, my
hopes, my joys, the upliftings of my life are with thee, my root, my
life. Thy comfortings, my perfect God, are strength indeed!'
He rose and looked around him. While he lay, the waning, fading
moon had risen, weak and bleared and dull. She brightened and
brightened until at last she lighted up the night with a wan,
forgetful gleam. 'So should I feel,' he thought, 'about the past on
which I am now gazing, were it not that I believe in the God who
forgets nothing. That which has been, is.' His eye fell on
something bright in the field beyond. He would see what it was, and
crossed the earthen dyke. It shone like a little moon in the grass.
By humouring the reflection he reached it. It was only a cutting
of white iron, left by some tinker. He walked on over the field,
thinking of Shargar's mother. If he could but find her! He walked