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Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Part 2 out of 10

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tastes, or habits, will refuse, not only as improbable, but as
inconsistent with human nature, the representation of a man trying
to be merely as noble as is absolutely essential to his
being -- except, indeed, he be at the same time represented as failing
utterly in the attempt, and compelled to fall back upon the
imperfections of humanity, and acknowledge them as its laws. Its
improbability, judged by the experience of most men I admit; its
unreality in fact I deny; and its absolute unity with the true idea
of humanity, I believe and assert.

It is hardly necessary for me now to remark, seeing my narrative
must already have suggested it, that what kept Gibbie pure and
honest was the rarely-developed, ever-active love of his kind. The
human face was the one attraction to him in the universe. In deep
fact, it is so to everyone; I state but the commonest reality in
creation; only in Gibbie the fact had come to the surface; the
common thing was his in uncommon degree and potency. Gibbie knew no
music except the voice of man and woman; at least no other had as
yet affected him. To be sure he had never heard much. Drunken
sea-songs he heard every night almost; and now and then on Sundays
he ran through a zone of psalm-singing; but neither of those could
well be called music. There hung a caged bird here and there at a
door in the poorer streets; but Gibbie's love embraced the lower
creation also, and too tenderly for the enjoyment of its melody.
The human bird loved liberty too dearly to gather anything but pain
from the song of the little feathered brother who had lost it, and
to whom he could not minister as to the drunkard. In general he ran
from the presence of such a prisoner. But sometimes he would stop
and try to comfort the naked little Freedom, disrobed of its space;
and on one occasion was caught in the very act of delivering a
canary that hung outside a little shop. Any other than wee Gibbie
would have been heartily cuffed for the offence, but the owner of
the bird only smiled at the would-be liberator, and hung the cage a
couple of feet higher on the wall. With such a passion of
affection, then, finding vent in constant action, is it any wonder
Gibbie's heart and hands should be too full for evil to occupy them
even a little?

One night in the spring, entering Lucky Croale's common room, he saw
there for the first time a negro sailor, whom the rest called Sambo,
and was at once taken with his big, dark, radiant eyes, and his
white teeth continually uncovering themselves in good-humoured
smiles. Sambo had left the vessel in which he had arrived, was
waiting for another, and had taken up his quarters at Lucky
Croale's. Gibbie's advances he met instantly, and in a few days a
strong mutual affection had sprung up between them. To Gibbie Sambo
speedily became absolutely loving and tender, and Gibbie made him
full return of devotion.

The negro was a man of immense muscular power, like not a few of his
race, and, like most of them, not easily provoked, inheriting not a
little of their hard-learned long-suffering. He bore even with
those who treated him with far worse than the ordinary
superciliousness of white to black; and when the rudest of city boys
mocked him, only showed his teeth by way of smile. The
ill-conditioned among Lucky Croale's customers and lodgers were
constantly taking advantage of his good nature, and presuming upon
his forbearance; but so long as they confined themselves to mere
insolence, or even bare-faced cheating, he endured with marvellous
temper. It was possible, however, to go too far even with him.

One night Sambo was looking on at a game of cards, in which all the
rest in the room were engaged. Happening to laugh at some turn it
took, one of them, a Malay, who was losing, was offended, and abused
him. Others objected to his having fun without risking money, and
required him to join in the game. This for some reason or other he
declined, and when the whole party at length insisted, positively
refused. Thereupon they all took umbrage, nor did most of them make
many steps of the ascent from displeasure to indignation, wrath,
revenge; and then ensued a row. Gibbie had been sitting all the
time on his friend's knee, every now and then stroking his black
face, in which, as insult followed insult, the sunny blood kept
slowly rising, making the balls of his eyes and his teeth look still
whiter. At length a savage from Greenock threw a tumbler at him.
Sambo, quick as a lizard, covered his face with his arm. The
tumbler falling from it, struck Gibbie on the head -- not severely,
but hard enough to make him utter a little cry. At that sound, the
latent fierceness came wide awake in Sambo. Gently as a nursing
mother he set Gibbie down in a corner behind him, then with one rush
sent every Jack of the company sprawling on the floor, with the
table and bottles and glasses atop of them. At the vision of their
plight his good humour instantly returned, he burst into a great
hearty laugh, and proceeded at once to lift the table from off them.
That effected, he caught up Gibbie in his arms, and carried him
with him to bed.

In the middle of the night Gibbie half woke, and, finding himself
alone, sought his father's bosom; then, in the confusion between
sleeping and waking, imagined his father's death come again.
Presently he remembered it was in Sambo's arms he fell asleep, but
where he was now he could not tell: certainly he was not in bed.
Groping, he pushed a door, and a glimmer of light came in. He was
in a closet of the room in which Sambo slept -- and something was to
do about his bed. He rose softly and peeped out, There stood
several men, and a struggle was going on -- nearly noiseless. Gibbie
was half-dazed, and could not understand; but he had little anxiety
about Sambo, in whose prowess he had a triumphant confidence.
Suddenly came the sound of a great gush, and the group parted from
the bed and vanished. Gibbie darted towards it. The words, "O Lord
Jesus!" came to his ears, and he heard no more: they were poor
Sambo's last in this world. The light of a street lamp fell upon
the bed: the blood was welling, in great thick throbs, out of his
huge black throat. They had bent his head back, and the gash gaped

For some moments Gibbie stood in ghastly terror. No sound except a
low gurgle came to his ears, and the horror of the stillness
overmastered him. He never could recall what came next. When he
knew himself again, he was in the street, running like the wind, he
knew not whither. It was not that he dreaded any hurt to himself;
horror, not fear, was behind him.

His next recollection of himself was in the first of the morning, on
the lofty chain-bridge over the river Daur. Before him lay he knew
not what, only escape from what was behind. His faith in men seemed
ruined. The city, his home, was frightful to him. Quarrels and
curses and blows he had been used to, and amidst them life could be
lived. If he did not consciously weave them into his theories, he
unconsciously wrapped them up in his confidence, and was at peace.
But the last night had revealed something unknown before. It was
as if the darkness had been cloven, and through the cleft he saw
into hell. A thing had been done that could not be undone, and he
thought it must be what people called murder. And Sambo was such a
good man! He was almost as good a man as Gibbie's father, and now
he would not breathe any more! Was he gone where Gibbie's father
was gone? Was it the good men that stopped breathing and grew cold?
But it was those wicked men that had deaded Sambo! And with that
his first vague perception of evil and wrong in the world began to

He lifted his head from gazing down on the dark river. A man was
approaching the bridge. He came from the awful city! Perhaps he
wanted him! He fled along the bridge like a low-flying water-bird.
If another man had appeared at the other end, he would have got
through between the rods, and thrown himself into the river. But
there was no one to oppose his escape; and after following the road
a little way up the river, he turned aside into a thicket of shrubs
on the nearly precipitous bank, and sat down to recover the breath
he had lost more from dismay than exertion.

The light grew. All at once he descried, far down the river, the
steeples of the city. Alas! alas! there lay poor black Sambo, so
dear to wee Sir Gibbie, motionless and covered with blood! He had
two red mouths now, but was not able to speak a word with either!
They would carry him to a churchyard and lay him in a hole to lie
there for ever and ever. Would all the good people be laid into
holes and leave Gibbie quite alone? Sitting and brooding thus, he
fell into a dreamy state, in which, brokenly, from here and there,
pictures of his former life grew out upon his memory. Suddenly,
plainer than all the rest, came the last time he stood under
Mistress Croale's window, waiting to help his father home. The same
instant, back to the ear of his mind came his father's two words, as
he had heard them through the window -- "Up Daurside."

"Up Daurside!" -- Here he was upon Daurside -- a little way up too: he
would go farther up. He rose and went on, while the great river
kept flowing the other way, dark and terrible, down to the very door
inside which lay Sambo with the huge gape in his big throat.

Meantime the murder came to the knowledge of the police, Mistress
Croale herself giving the information, and all in the house were
arrested. In the course of their examination, it came out that wee
Sir Gibbie had gone to bed with the murdered man, and was now
nowhere to be found. Either they had murdered him too, or carried
him off. The news spread, and the whole city was in commotion about
his fate. It was credible enough that persons capable of committing
such a crime on such an inoffensive person as the testimony showed
poor Sambo, would be capable also of throwing the life of a child
after that of the man to protect their own. The city was searched
from end to end, from side to side, and from cellar to garret. Not
a trace of him was to be found -- but indeed Gibbie had always been
easier to find than to trace, for he had no belongings of any sort
to betray him. No one dreamed of his having fled straight to the
country, and search was confined to the city.

The murderers were at length discovered, tried, and executed. They
protested their innocence with regard to the child, and therein
nothing appeared against them beyond the fact that he was missing.
The result, so far as concerned Gibbie, was, that the talk of the
city, where almost everyone knew him, was turned, in his absence,
upon his history; and from the confused mass of hearsay that reached
him, Mr. Sclater set himself to discover and verify the facts. For
this purpose he burrowed about in the neighbourhoods Gibbie had
chiefly frequented, and was so far successful as to satisfy himself
that Gibbie, if he was alive, was Sir Gilbert Galbraith, Baronet;
but his own lawyer was able to assure him that not an inch of
property remained anywhere attached to the title. There were indeed
relations of the boy's mother, who were of some small consequence in
a neighbouring county, also one in business in Glasgow, or its
neighbourhood, reported wealthy; but these had entirely disowned her
because of her marriage. All Mr. Sclater discovered besides was, in
a lumber-room next the garret in which Sir George died, a box of
papers -- a glance at whose contents showed that they must at least
prove a great deal of which he was already certain from other
sources. A few of them had to do with the house in which they were
found, still known as the Auld Hoose o' Galbraith; but most of them
referred to property in land, and many were of ancient date. If the
property were in the hands of descendants of the original stock, the
papers would be of value in their eyes; and, in any case, it would
be well to see to their safety. Mr. Sclater therefore had the chest
removed to the garret of the manse, where it stood thereafter,
little regarded, but able to answer for more than itself.



Gibbie was now without a home. He had had a whole city for his
dwelling, every street of which had been to him as another hall in
his own house, every lane as a passage from one set of rooms to
another, every court as a closet, every house as a safe, guarding
the only possessions he had, the only possessions he knew how to
value -- his fellow-mortals, radiant with faces, and friendly with
hands and tongues. Great as was his delight in freedom, a delight
he revelled in from morning to night, and sometimes from night to
morning, he had never had a notion of it that reached beyond the
city, he never longed for larger space, for wider outlook. Space
and outlook he had skyward -- and seaward when he would, but even into
these regions he had never yet desired to go. His world was the
world of men; the presence of many was his greater room; his people
themselves were his world. He had no idea of freedom in
dissociation with human faces and voices and eyes. But now he had
left all these, and as he ran from them a red pall seemed settling
down behind him, wrapping up and hiding away his country, his home.
For the first time in his life, the fatherless, motherless,
brotherless, sisterless stray of the streets felt himself alone.
The sensation was an awful one. He had lost so many, and had not
one left! That gash in Sambo's black throat had slain "a whole
cityful." His loneliness grew upon him, until again he darted aside
from the road into the bush, this time to hide from the Spectre of
the Desert -- the No Man. Deprived of human countenances, the face of
creation was a mask without eyes, and liberty a mere negation. Not
that Gibbie had ever thought about liberty; he had only enjoyed: not
that he had ever thought about human faces; he had only loved them,
and lived upon their smiles. "Gibbie wadna need to gang to h'aven,"
said Mysie, the baker's daughter, to her mother, one night, as they
walked home from a merry-making. "What for that, lassie?" returned
her mother. "Cause he wad be meeserable whaur there was nae drunk
fowk," answered Mysie. And now it seemed to the poor, shocked,
heart-wounded creature, as if the human face were just the one thing
he could no more look upon. One haunted him, the black one, with
the white, staring eyes, the mouth in its throat, and the white
grinning teeth.

It was a cold, fresh morning, cloudy and changeful, towards the end
of April. It had rained, and would rain again; it might snow.
Heavy undefined clouds, with saffron breaks and borders, hung about
the east, but what was going to happen there -- at least he did not
think; he did not know east from west, and I doubt whether, although
he had often seen the sun set, he had ever seen him rise. Yet even
to him, city-creature as he was, it was plain something was going to
happen there. And happen it did presently, and that with a
splendour that for a moment blinded Gibbie. For just at the horizon
there was a long horizontal slip of blue sky, and through that crack
the topmost arc of the rising sun shot suddenly a thousand arrows of
radiance into the brain of the boy. But the too-much light scorched
there a blackness instantly; and to the soul of Gibbie it was the
blackness of the room from which he had fled, and upon it out came
the white eyeballs and the brilliant teeth of his dead Sambo, and
the red burst from his throat that answered the knife of the Malay.
He shrieked, and struck with his hands against the sun from which
came the terrible vision. Had he been a common child, his reason
would have given way; but one result of the overflow of his love
was, that he had never yet known fear for himself. His sweet
confident face, innocent eyes, and caressing ways, had almost always
drawn a response more or less in kind; and that certain some should
not repel him, was a fuller response from them than gifts from
others. Except now and then, rarely, a street boy a little bigger
than himself, no one had ever hurt him, and the hurt upon these
occasions had not gone very deep, for the child was brave and hardy.
So now it was not fear, but the loss of old confidence, a sickness
coming over the heart and brain of his love, that unnerved him. It
was not the horrid cruelty to his friend, and his own grievous loss
thereby, but the recoil of his loving endeavour that, jarring him
out of every groove of thought, every socket of habit, every joint
of action, cast him from the city, and made of him a wanderer
indeed, not a wanderer in a strange country, but a wanderer in a
strange world.

To no traveller could one land well be so different from another, as
to Gibbie the country was from the town. He had seen bushes and
trees before, but only over garden walls, or in one or two of the
churchyards. He had looked from the quay across to the bare shore
on the other side, with its sandy hills, and its tall lighthouse on
the top of the great rocks that bordered the sea; but, so looking,
he had beheld space as one looking from this world into the face of
the moon, as a child looks upon vastness and possible dangers from
his nurse's arms where it cannot come near him; for houses backed
the quay all along; the city was behind him, and spread forth her
protecting arms. He had, once or twice, run out along the pier,
which shot far into the immensity of the sea, like a causeway to
another world -- a stormy thread of granite, beaten upon both sides by
the waves of the German Ocean; but it was with the sea and not the
country he then made the small acquaintance -- and that not without
terror. The sea was as different from the city as the air into
which he had looked up at night -- too different to compare against it
and feel the contrast; on neither could he set foot; in neither
could he be required to live and act -- as now in this waste of
enterable and pervious extent.

Its own horror drove the vision away, and Gibbie saw the world
again -- saw, but did not love it. The sun seemed but to have looked
up to mock him and go down again, for he had crossed the crack, and
was behind a thick mass of cloud; a cold damp wind, spotted with
sparkles of rain, blew fitfully from the east; the low bushes among
which he sat, sent forth a chill sighing all about him, as they
sifted the wind into sound; the smell of the damp earth was strange
to him -- he did not know the freshness, the new birth of which it
breathed; below him the gloomy river, here deep, smooth, moody,
sullen, there puckered with the grey ripples of a shallow laughter
under the cold breeze, went flowing heedless to the city. There
only was -- or had been, friendliness, comfort, home! This was
emptiness -- the abode of things, not beings. Yet never once did
Gibbie think of returning to the city. He rose and wandered up the
wide road along the river bank, farther and farther from it -- his
only guide the words of his father, "Up Daurside;" his sole comfort
the feeling of having once more to do with his father so long
departed, some relation still with the paradise of his old world.
Along cultivated fields and copses on the one side, and on the
other a steep descent to the river, covered here and there with
trees, but mostly with rough grass and bushes and stones, he
followed the king's highway. There were buttercups and plenty of
daisies within his sight -- primroses, too, on the slope beneath; but
he did not know flowers, and his was not now the mood for
discovering what they were. The exercise revived him, and he began
to be hungry. But how could there be anything to eat in the desert,
inhospitable succession of trees and fields and hedges, through
which the road wound endlessly along, like a dead street, having
neither houses nor paving stones? Hunger, however, was far less
enfeebling to Gibbie than to one accustomed to regular meals, and he
was in no anxiety about either when or what he should eat.

The morning advanced, and by-and-by he began to meet a
fellow-creature now and then upon the road; but at sight of everyone
a feeling rose in him such as he had never had towards human being
before: they seemed somehow of a different kind from those in the
town, and they did not look friendly as they passed. He did not
know that he presented to them a very different countenance from
that which his fellow-citizens had always seen him wear; for the
mingled and conflicting emotions of his spirit had sent out upon it
an expression which, accompanied by the misery of his garments,
might well, to the superficial or inexperienced observer, convey the
idea that he was a fugitive and guilty. He was so uncomfortable at
length from the way the people he met scrutinized him that, when he
saw anyone coming, he would instantly turn aside and take the covert
of thicket, or hedge, or stone wall, until the bearer of eyes had
passed. His accustomed trot, which he kept up for several hours,
made him look the more suspicious; but his feet, hardened from very
infancy as they were, soon found the difference between the smooth
flags and the sharp stones of the road, and before noon he was
walking at quite a sober, although still active, pace. Doubtless it
slackened the sooner that he knew no goal, no end to his wandering.
Up Daurside was the one vague notion he had of his calling, his
destiny, and with his short, quick step, his progress was
considerable; he passed house after house, farm after farm; but,
never in the way of asking for anything, though as little in the way
of refusing, he went nearer none of them than the road led him.
Besides, the houses were very unlike those in the city, and not at
all attractive to him. He came at length to a field, sloping to the
road, which was covered with leaves like some he had often seen in
the market. They drew him; and as there was but a low and imperfect
hedge between, he got over, and found it was a crop of small yellow
turnips. He gathered as many as he could carry, and ate them as he
went along. Happily no agricultural person encountered him for some
distance, though Gibbie knew no special cause to congratulate
himself upon that, having not the slightest conscience of offence in
what he did. His notions of property were all associated with
well-known visible or neighbouring owners, and in the city he would
never have dreamed of touching anything that was not given him,
except it lay plainly a lost thing. But here, where everything was
so different, and he saw none of the signs of ownership to which he
was accustomed, the idea of property did not come to him; here
everything looked lost, or on the same category with the chips and
parings and crusts that were thrown out in the city, and became
common property. Besides, the love which had hitherto rendered
covetousness impossible, had here no object whose presence might
have suggested a doubt, to supply in a measure the lack of
knowledge; hunger, instead, was busy in his world. I trust there
were few farmers along the road who would have found fault with him
for taking one or two; but none, I suspect, would have liked to see
him with all the turnips he could carry, eating them like a very
rabbit: they were too near a city to look upon such a spectacle with
indifference. Gibbie made no attempt to hide his spoil; whatever
could have given birth to the sense that caution would be necessary,
would have prevented him from taking it. While yet busy he came
upon a little girl feeding a cow by the roadside. She saw how he
ate the turnips, and offered him a bit of oatmeal bannock. He
received it gladly, and with beaming eyes offered her a turnip. She
refused it with some indignation. Gibbie, disappointed, but not
ungrateful, resumed his tramp, eating his bannock. He came soon
after to a little stream that ran into the great river. For a few
moments he eyed it very doubtfully, thinking it must, like the
kennels along the sides of the streets, be far too dirty to drink
of; but the way it sparkled and sang -- most unscientific
reasons -- soon satisfied him, and he drank and was refreshed. He had
still two turnips left, but, after the bannock, he did not seem to
want them, and stowed them in the ends of the sleeves of his jacket,
folded back into great cuffs.

All day the cold spring weather continued, with more of the past
winter in it than of the coming summer. The sun would shine out for
a few moments, with a grey, weary, old light, then retreat as if he
had tried, but really could not. Once came a slight fall of snow,
which, however, melted the moment it touched the earth. The wind
kept blowing cheerlessly by fits, and the world seemed growing tired
of the same thing over again so often. At length the air began to
grow dusk: then, first, fears of the darkness, to Gibbie utterly
unknown before, and only born of the preceding night, began to make
him aware of their existence in the human world. They seemed to
rise up from his lonely heart; they seemed to descend upon him out
of the thickening air; they seemed to catch at his breath, and
gather behind him as he went. But, happily, before it was quite
dark, and while yet he could distinguish between objects, he came to
the gate of a farmyard; it waked in him the hope of finding some
place where he could sleep warmer than in the road, and he clambered
over it. Nearest of the buildings to the gate, stood an open shed,
and he could see the shafts of carts projecting from it: perhaps in
one of those carts, or under it, he might find a place that would
serve him to sleep in: he did not yet know what facilities for
repose the country affords. But just as he entered the shed, he
spied at the farther corner of it, outside, a wooden structure, like
a small house, and through the arched door of it saw the floor
covered with nice-looking straw. He suspected it to be a dog's
kennel; and presently the chain lying beside it, with a collar at
the end, satisfied him it was. The dog was absent, and it looked
altogether enticing! He crept in, got under as much of the straw as
he could heap over him, and fell fast asleep.

In a few minutes, as it seemed to him, he was roused by the great
voice of a dog in conversation with a boy: the boy seemed, by the
sound of the chain, to be fastening the collar on the dog's neck,
and presently left him. The dog, which had been on the rampage the
whole afternoon, immediately turned to creep in and rest till supper
time, presenting to Gibbie, who had drawn himself up at the back of
the kennel, the intelligent countenance of a large Newfoundland.
Now Gibbie had been honoured with the acquaintance of many dogs,
and the friendship of most of them, for a lover of humanity can
hardly fail to be a lover of caninity. Even among dogs, however,
there are ungracious individuals, and Gibbie had once or twice been
bitten by quadrupedal worshippers of the respectable. Hence, with
the sight of the owner of the dwelling, it dawned upon him that he
must be startled to find a stranger in his house, and might,
regarding him as an intruder rather than a guest, worry him before
he had time to explain himself. He darted forward therefore to get
out, but had scarcely reached the door, when the dog put in his
nose, ready to follow with all he was and had. Gibbie, thereupon,
began a loud barking, as much as to say -- "Here I am: please do
nothing without reflection." The dog started back in extreme
astonishment, his ears erect, and a keen look of question on his
sagacious visage: what strange animal, speaking like, and yet so
unlike, an orthodox dog, could have got into his very chamber?
Gibbie, amused at the dog's fright, and assured by his looks that
he was both a good-natured and reasonable animal, burst into a fit
of merry laughter as loud as his previous barking, and a good deal
more musical. The dog evidently liked it better, and took it as a
challenge to play: after a series of sharp bursts of barking, his
eyes flashing straight in at the door, and his ears lifted up like
two plumes on the top of them, he darted into the kennel, and began
poking his nose into his visitor. Gibbie fell to patting and
kissing and hugging him as if he had been a human -- as who can tell
but he was? -- glad of any companion that belonged to the region of
the light; and they were friends at once. Mankind had disappointed
him, but here was a dog! Gibbie was not the one to refuse mercies
which yet he would not have been content to pray for. Both were
tired, however, for both had been active that day, and a few minutes
of mingled wrestling and endearment, to which, perhaps, the
narrowness of their play-ground gave a speedier conclusion,
contented both, after which they lay side by side in peace, Gibbie
with his head on the dog's back, and the dog every now and then
turning his head over his shoulder to lick Gibbie's face.

Again he was waked by approaching steps, and the same moment the dog
darted from under him, and with much rattle out of the kennel, in
front of which he stood and whined expectant. It was not quite
dark, for the clouds had drifted away, and the stars were shining,
so that, when he put out his head, he was able to see the dim form
of a woman setting down something before the dog -- into which he
instantly plunged his nose, and began gobbling. The sound stirred
up all the latent hunger in Gibbie, and he leaped out, eager to have
a share. A large wooden bowl was on the ground, and the half of its
contents of porridge and milk was already gone; for the poor dog had
not yet had experience enough to be perfect in hospitality, and had
forgotten his guest's wants in his own: it was plain that, if Gibbie
was to have any, he must lose no time in considering the means. Had
he had a long nose and mouth all in one like him, he would have
plunged them in beside the dog's; but the flatness of his mouth
causing the necessity, in the case of such an attempt, of bringing
the whole of his face into contact with the food, there was not room
in the dish for the two to feed together after the same fashion, so
that he was driven to the sole other possible expedient, that of
making a spoon of his hand. The dog neither growled nor pushed away
the spoon, but instantly began to gobble twice as fast as before,
and presently was licking the bottom of the dish. Gibbie's hand,
therefore, made but few journeys to his mouth, but what it carried
him was good food -- better than any he had had that day. When all
was gone he crept again into the kennel; the dog followed, and soon
they were both fast asleep in each other's arms and legs.

Gibbie woke at sunrise and went out. His host came after him, and
stood wagging his tail and looking wistfully up in his face. Gibbie
understood him, and, as the sole return he could make for his
hospitality, undid his collar. Instantly he rushed off, his back
going like a serpent, cleared the gate at a bound, and scouring
madly across a field, vanished from his sight; whereupon Gibbie too
set out to continue his journey up Daurside.

This day was warmer; the spring had come a step nearer; the dog had
been a comforter to him, and the horror had begun to assuage; he
began to grow aware of the things about him, and to open his eyes to
them. Once he saw a primrose in a little dell, and left the road to
look at it. But as he went, he set his foot in the water of a
chalybeate spring, which was trickling through the grass, and dyeing
the ground red about it: filled with horror he fled, and for some
time dared never go near a primrose. And still upon his right hand
was the great river, flowing down towards the home he had left; now
through low meadows, now through upshouldered fields of wheat and
oats, now through rocky heights covered with the graceful
silver-barked birch, the mountain ash, and the fir. Every time
Gibbie, having lost sight of it by some turn of the road or some
interposing eminence, caught its gleam afresh, his first feeling was
that it was hurrying to the city, where the dead man lay, to tell
where Gibbie was. Why he, who had from infancy done just as he
pleased, should now have begun to dread interference with his
liberty, he could not himself have told. Perhaps the fear was but
the shadow of his new-born aversion to the place where he had seen
those best-loved countenances change so suddenly and terribly -- cease
to smile, but not cease to stare.

That second day he fared better, too, than the first; for he came on
a family of mongrel gipsies, who fed him well out of their kettle,
and, taken with his looks, thought to keep him for begging purposes.
But now that Gibbie's confidence in human nature had been so rudely
shaken, he had already begun, with analysis unconscious, to read the
human countenance, questioning it; and he thought he saw something
that would hurt, in the eyes of two of the men and one of the women.
Therefore, in the middle of the night, he slipped silently out of
the tent of rags, in which he had lain down with the gipsy children,
and ere the mothers woke, was a mile up the river.

But I must not attempt the detail of this part of his journey. It
is enough that he got through it. He met with some adventures, and
suffered a good deal from hunger and cold. Had he not been hardy as
well as fearless he must have died. But, now from this quarter, now
from that, he got all that was needful for one of God's birds. Once
he found in a hedge the nest of an errant and secretive hen, and
recognizing the eggs as food authorized by the shop windows and
market of the city, soon qualified himself to have an opinion of
their worth. Another time he came upon a girl milking a cow in a
shed, and his astonishment at the marvels of the process was such,
that he forgot even the hunger that was rendering him faint. He had
often seen cows in the city, but had never suspected what they were
capable of. When the girl caught sight of him, staring with open
mouth, she was taken with such a fit of laughter, that the cow,
which was ill-tempered, kicked out, and overturned the pail. Now
because of her troublesomeness this cow was not milked beside the
rest, and the shed where she stood was used for farm-implements
only. The floor of it was the earth, beaten hard, and worn into
hollows. When the milk settled in one of these, Gibbie saw that it
was lost to the girl, and found to him: undeterred by the astounding
nature of the spring from which he had just seen it flow, he threw
himself down, and drank like a calf. Her laughter ended, the girl
was troubled: she would be scolded for her clumsiness in allowing
Hawkie to kick over the pail, but the eagerness of the boy after the
milk troubled her more. She told him to wait, and running to the
house, returned with two large pieces of oatcake, which she gave

Thus, one way and another, food came to Gibbie. Drink was to be had
in almost any hollow. Sleep was scattered everywhere over the
world. For warmth, only motion and a seasoned skin were necessary:
the latter Gibbie had; the former, already a habit learned in the
streets, had now become almost a passion.



By this time Gibbie had got well up towards the roots of the hills
of Gormgarnet, and the river had dwindled greatly. He was no longer
afraid of it, but would lie for hours listening to its murmurs over
its pebbly bed, and sometimes even sleep in the hollows of its
banks, or below the willows that overhung it. Every here and there,
a brown rivulet from some peat-bog on a hill -- brown and clear, like
smoke-crystals molten together, flowed into it, and when he had lost
it, guided him back to his guide. Farm after farm he passed, here
one widely bordering a valley stream, there another stretching its
skirts up the hillsides till they were lost in mere heather, where
the sheep wandered about, cropping what stray grass-blades and other
eatables they could find. Lower down he had passed through small
towns and large villages: here farms and cottages, with an
occasional country-seat and little village of low thatched houses,
made up the abodes of men. By this time he had become greatly
reconciled to the loneliness of Nature, and no more was afraid in
her solitary presence.

At the same time his heart had begun to ache and long after the
communion of his kind. For not once since he set out -- and that
seemed months where it was only weeks, had he had an opportunity of
doing anything for anybody -- except, indeed, unfastening the dog's
collar; and not to be able to help was to Gibbie like being dead.
Everybody, down to the dogs, had been doing for him, and what was
to become of him! It was a state altogether of servitude into which
he had fallen.

May had now set in, but up here among the hills she was May by
courtesy only: or if she was May, she would never be Might. She
was, indeed, only April, with her showers and sunshine, her tearful,
childish laughter, and again the frown, and the despair
irremediable. Nay, as if she still kept up a secret correspondence
with her cousin March, banished for his rudeness, she would not very
seldom shake from her skirts a snow storm, and oftener the dancing
hail. Then out would come the sun behind her, and laugh, and
say -- "I could not help that; but here I am all the same, coming to
you as fast as I can!" The green crops were growing darker, and the
trees were all getting out their nets to catch carbon. The lambs
were frolicking, and in sheltered places the flowers were turning
the earth into a firmament. And now a mere daisy was enough to
delight the heart of Gibbie. His joy in humanity so suddenly
checked, and his thirst for it left unslaked, he had begun to see
the human look in the face of the commonest flowers, to love the
trusting stare of the daisy, that gold-hearted boy, and the gentle
despondency of the girl harebell, dreaming of her mother, the azure.
The wind, of which he had scarce thought as he met it roaming the
streets like himself, was now a friend of his solitude, bringing him
sweet odours, alive with the souls of bees, and cooling with bliss
the heat of the long walk. Even when it blew cold along the waste
moss, waving the heads of the cotton-grass, the only live thing
visible, it was a lover, and kissed him on the forehead. Not that
Gibbie knew what a kiss was, any more than he knew about the souls
of bees. He did not remember ever having been kissed. In that
granite city, the women were not much given to kissing children,
even their own, but if they had been, who of them would have thought
of kissing Gibbie! The baker's wife, kind as she always was to him,
would have thought it defilement to press her lips to those of the
beggar child. And how is any child to thrive without kisses! The
first caresses Gibbie ever knew as such, were given him by Mother
Nature herself. It was only, however, by degrees, though indeed
rapid degrees, that he became capable of them. In the first part of
his journey he was stunned, stupid, lost in change, distracted
between a suddenly vanished past, and a future slow dawning in the
present. He felt little beyond hunger, and that vague urging up
Daurside, with occasional shoots of pleasure from kindness, mostly
of woman and dog. He was less shy of the country people by this
time, but he did not care to seek them. He thought them not nearly
so friendly and good as the town-people, forgetting that these knew
him and those did not. To Gibbie an introduction was the last thing
necessary for any one who wore a face, and he could not understand
why they looked at him so.

Whatever is capable of aspiring, must be troubled that it may wake
and aspire -- then troubled still, that it may hold fast, be itself,
and aspire still.

One evening his path vanished between twilight and moonrise, and
just as it became dark he found himself at a rough gate, through
which he saw a field. There was a pretty tall hedge on each side of
the gate, and he was now a sufficiently experienced traveller to
conclude that he was not far from some human abode. He climbed the
gate and found himself in a field of clover. It was a splendid big
bed, and even had the night not been warm, he would not have
hesitated to sleep in it. He had never had a cold, and had as
little fear for his health as for his life. He was hungry, it is
true; but although food was doubtless more delicious to such hunger
as his -- that of the whole body, than it can be to the mere palate
and culinary imagination of an epicure, it was not so necessary to
him that he could not go to sleep without it. So down he lay in the
clover, and was at once unconscious.

When he woke, the moon was high in the heavens, and had melted the
veil of the darkness from the scene of still, well-ordered comfort.
A short distance from his couch, stood a little army of ricks,
between twenty and thirty of them, constructed perfectly -- smooth and
upright and round and large, each with its conical top netted in
with straw-rope, and finished off with what the herd-boy called a
toupican -- a neatly tied and trim tuft of the straw with which it was
thatched, answering to the stone-ball on the top of a gable. Like
triangles their summits stood out against the pale blue,
moon-diluted air. They were treasure-caves, hollowed out of space,
and stored with the best of ammunition against the armies of hunger
and want; but Gibbie, though he had seen many of them, did not know
what they were. He had seen straw used for the bedding of cattle
and horses, and supposed that the chief end of such ricks. Nor had
he any clear idea that the cattle themselves were kept for any other
object than to make them comfortable and happy. He had stood behind
their houses in the dark, and heard them munching and grinding away
even in the night. Probably the country was for the cattle, as the
towns for the men; and that would explain why the country-people
were so inferior. While he stood gazing, a wind arose behind the
hills, and came blowing down some glen that opened northwards;
Gibbie felt it cold, and sought the shelter of the ricks.

Great and solemn they looked as he drew nigh -- near each other, yet
enough apart for plenty of air to flow and eddy between. Over a low
wall of unmortared stones, he entered their ranks: above him, as he
looked up from their broad base, they ascended huge as pyramids, and
peopled the waste air with giant forms. How warm it was in the
round-winding paths amongst the fruitful piles -- tombs these, no
cenotaphs! He wandered about them, now in a dusky yellow gloom, and
now in the cold blue moonlight, which they seemed to warm. At
length he discovered that the huge things were flanked on one side
by a long low house, in which there was a door, horizontally divided
into two parts. Gibbie would fain have got in, to try whether the
place was good for sleep; but he found both halves fast. In the
lower half, however, he spied a hole, which, though not so large,
reminded him of the entrance to the kennel of his dog host; but
alas! it had a door too, shut from the inside. There might be some
way of opening it. He felt about, and soon discovered that it was a
sliding valve, which he could push to either side. It was, in fact,
the cat's door, specially constructed for her convenience of
entrance and exit. For the cat is the guardian of the barn; the
grain which tempts the rats and mice is no temptation to her; the
rats and mice themselves are; upon them she executes justice, and
remains herself an incorruptible, because untempted, therefore a
respectable member of the farm-community -- only the dairy door must
be kept shut; that has no cat-wicket in it.

The hole was a small one, but tempting to the wee baronet; he might
perhaps be able to squeeze himself through. He tried and succeeded,
though with some little difficulty. The moon was there before him,
shining through a pane or two of glass over the door, and by her
light on the hard brown clay floor, Gibbie saw where he was, though
if he had been told he was in the barn, he would neither have felt
nor been at all the wiser. It was a very old-fashioned barn. About
a third of it was floored with wood -- dark with age -- almost as brown
as the clay -- for threshing upon with flails. At that labour two men
had been busy during the most of the preceding day, and that was
how, in the same end of the barn, rose a great heap of oat-straw,
showing in the light of the moon like a mound of pale gold. Had
Gibbie had any education in the marvellous, he might now, in the
midnight and moonlight, have well imagined himself in some
treasure-house of the gnomes. What he saw in the other corner was
still liker gold, and was indeed greater than gold, for it was
life -- the heap, namely, of corn threshed from the straw: Gibbie
recognized this as what he had seen given to horses. But now the
temptation to sleep, with such facilities presented, was
overpowering, and took from him all desire to examine further: he
shot into the middle of the loose heap of straw, and vanished from
the glimpses of the moon, burrowing like a mole. In the heart of
the golden warmth, he lay so dry and comfortable that,
notwithstanding his hunger had waked with him, he was presently in a
faster sleep than before. And indeed what more luxurious bed, or
what bed conducive to softer slumber was there in the world to find!

"The moving moon went down the sky," the cold wind softened and grew
still; the stars swelled out larger; the rats came, and then came
puss, and the rats went with a scuffle and patter; the pagan grey
came in like a sleep-walker, and made the barn dreary as a dull
dream; then the horses began to fidget with their big feet, the
cattle to low with their great trombone throats, and the cocks to
crow as if to give warning for the last time against the devil, the
world, and the flesh; the men in the adjoining chamber woke, yawned,
stretched themselves mightily, and rose; the god-like sun rose after
them, and, entering the barn with them, drove out the grey; and
through it all the orphan lay warm in God's keeping and his nest of
straw, like the butterfly of a huge chrysalis.

When at length Gibbie became once more aware of existence, it was
through a stormy invasion of the still realm of sleep; the blows of
two flails fell persistent and quick-following, first on the thick
head of the sheaf of oats untied and cast down before them, then
grew louder and more deafening as the oats flew and the chaff
fluttered, and the straw flattened and broke and thinned and
spread -- until at last they thundered in great hard blows on the
wooden floor. It was the first of these last blows that shook
Gibbie awake. What they were or indicated he could not tell. He
wormed himself softly round in the straw to look out and see.

Now whether it was that sleep was yet heavy upon him, and bewildered
his eyes, or that his imagination had in dreams been busy with
foregone horrors, I cannot tell; but, as he peered through the
meshes of the crossing and blinding straws, what he seemed to see
was the body of an old man with dishevelled hair, whom, prostrate on
the ground, they were beating to death with great sticks. His
tongue clave to the roof of his mouth, not a sound could he utter,
not a finger could he move; he had no choice but to lie still, and
witness the fierce enormity. But it is good that we are compelled
to see some things, life amongst the rest, to what we call the end
of them. By degrees Gibbie's sight cleared; the old man faded away;
and what was left of him he could see to be only an armful of straw.
The next sheaf they threw down, he perceived, under their blows,
the corn flying out of it, and began to understand a little. When
it was finished, the corn that had flown dancing from its home, like
hail from its cloud, was swept aside to the common heap, and the
straw tossed up on the mound that harboured Gibbie. It was well
that the man with the pitchfork did not spy his eyes peering out
from the midst of the straw: he might have taken him for some wild
creature, and driven the prongs into him. As it was, Gibbie did not
altogether like the look of him, and lay still as a stone. Then
another sheaf was unbound and cast on the floor, and the blows of
the flails began again. It went on thus for an hour and a half, and
Gibbie although he dropped asleep several times, was nearly stupid
with the noise. The men at length, however, swept up the corn and
tossed up the straw for the last time, and went out. Gibbie,
judging by his own desires, thought they must have gone to eat, but
did not follow them, having generally been ordered away the moment
he was seen in a farmyard. He crept out, however, and began to look
about him -- first of all for something he could eat. The oats looked
the most likely, and he took a mouthful for a trial. He ground at
them severely, but, hungry as he was, he failed to find oats good
for food. Their hard husks, their dryness, their instability, all
slipping past each other at every attempt to crush them with his
teeth, together foiled him utterly. He must search farther.
Looking round him afresh, he saw an open loft, and climbing on the
heap in which he had slept, managed to reach it. It was at the
height of the walls, and the couples of the roof rose immediately
from it. At the farther end was a heap of hay, which he took for
another kind of straw. Then he spied something he knew; a row of
cheeses lay on a shelf suspended from the rafters, ripening. Gibbie
knew them well from the shop windows -- knew they were cheeses, and
good to eat, though whence and how they came he did not know, his
impression being that they grew in the fields like the turnips. He
had still the notion uncorrected, that things in the country
belonged to nobody in particular, and were mostly for the use of
animals, with which, since he became a wanderer, he had almost come
to class himself. He was very hungry. He pounced upon a cheese and
lifted it between his two hands; it smelled good, but felt very
hard. That was no matter: what else were teeth made strong and
sharp for? He tried them on one of the round edges, and, nibbling
actively, soon got through to the softer body of the cheese. But he
had not got much farther when he heard the men returning, and
desisted, afraid of being discovered by the noise he made. The
readiest way to conceal himself was to lie down flat on the loft,
and he did so just where he could see the threshing-floor over the
edge of it by lifting his head. This, however, he scarcely ventured
to do; and all he could see as he lay was the tip of the swing-bar
of one of the flails, ever as it reached the highest point of its
ascent. But to watch for it very soon ceased to be interesting; and
although he had eaten so little of the cheese, it had yet been
enough to make him dreadfully thirsty, therefore he greatly desired
to get away. But he dared not go down: with their sticks those men
might knock him over in a moment! So he lay there thinking of the
poor little hedgehog he had seen on the road as he came; how he
stood watching it, and wishing he had a suit made all of great pins,
which he could set up when he pleased; and how the driver of a cart,
catching sight of him at the foot of the hedge, gave him a blow with
his whip, and, poor fellow! notwithstanding his clothes of pins,
that one blow of a whip was too much for him! There seemed nothing
in the world but killing!

At length he could, unoccupied with something else, bear his thirst
no longer, and, squirming round on the floor, crept softly towards
the other end of the loft, to see what was to be seen there.

He found that the heap of hay was not in the loft at all. It filled
a small chamber in the stable, in fact; and when Gibbie clambered
upon it, what should he see below him on the other side, but a
beautiful white horse, eating some of the same sort of stuff he was
now lying upon! Beyond he could see the backs of more horses, but
they were very different -- big and clumsy, and not white. They were
all eating, and this was their food on which he lay! He wished he
too could eat it -- and tried, but found it even less satisfactory
than the oats, for it nearly choked him, and set him coughing so
that he was in considerable danger of betraying his presence to the
men in the barn. How did the horses manage to get such dry stuff
down their throats? But the cheese was dry too, and he could eat
that! No doubt the cheese, as well as the fine straw, was there for
the horses! He would like to see the beautiful white creature down
there eat a bit of it; but with all his big teeth he did not think
he could manage a whole cheese, and how to get a piece broken off
for him, with those men there, he could not devise. It would want a
long-handled hammer like those with which he had seen men breaking
stones on the road.

A door opened beyond, and a man came in and led two of the horses
out, leaving the door open. Gibbie clambered down from the top of
the hay into the stall beside the white horse, and ran out. He was
almost in the fields, had not even a fence to cross.

He cast a glance around, and went straight for a neighbouring
hollow, where, taught by experience, he hoped to find water.



Once away, Gibbie had no thought of returning. Up Daurside was the
sole propulsive force whose existence he recognized. But when he
lifted his head from drinking at the stream, which was one of some
size, and, greatly refreshed, looked up its channel, a longing
seized him to know whence came the water of life which had thus
restored him to bliss -- how a burn first appears upon the earth. He
thought it might come from the foot of a great conical mountain
which seemed but a little way off. He would follow it up and see.
So away he went, yielding at once, as was his wont, to the first
desire that came. He had not trotted far along the bank, however,
before, at a sharp turn it took, he saw that its course was a much
longer one than he had imagined, for it turned from the mountain,
and led up among the roots of other hills; while here in front of
him, direct from the mountain, as it seemed, came down a smaller
stream, and tumbled noisily into this. The larger burn would lead
him too far from the Daur; he would follow the smaller one. He
found a wide shallow place, crossed the larger, and went up the side
of the smaller.

Doubly free after his imprisonment of the morning, Gibbie sped
joyously along. Already nature, her largeness, her openness, her
loveliness, her changefulness, her oneness in change, had begun to
heal the child's heart, and comfort him in his disappointment with
his kind. The stream he was now ascending ran along a claw of the
mountain, which claw was covered with almost a forest of pine,
protecting little colonies of less hardy timber. Its heavy green
was varied with the pale delicate fringes of the fresh foliage of
the larches, filling the air with aromatic breath. In the midst of
their soft tufts, each tuft buttoned with a brown spot, hung the
rich brown knobs and tassels of last year's cones. But the trees
were all on the opposite side of the stream, and appeared to be
mostly on the other side of a wall. Where Gibbie was, the
mountain-root was chiefly of rock, interspersed with heather.

A little way up the stream, he came to a bridge over it, closed at
the farther end by iron gates between pillars, each surmounted by a
wolf's head in stone. Over the gate on each side leaned a
rowan-tree, with trunk and branches aged and gnarled amidst their
fresh foliage. He crossed the burn to look through the gate, and
pressed his face between the bars to get a better sight of a tame
rabbit that had got out of its hutch. It sat, like a Druid white
with age, in the midst of a gravel drive, much overgrown with moss,
that led through a young larch wood, with here and there an ancient
tree, lonely amidst the youth of its companions. Suddenly from the
wood a large spaniel came bounding upon the rabbit. Gibbie gave a
shriek, and the rabbit made one white flash into the wood, with the
dog after him. He turned away sad at heart.

"Ilka cratur 'at can," he said to himself, "ates ilka cratur 'at

It was his first generalization, but not many years passed before he
supplemented it with a conclusion:

"But the man 'at wad be a man, he maunna."

Resuming his journey of investigation, he trotted along the bank of
the burn, farther and farther up, until he could trot no more, but
must go clambering over great stones, or sinking to the knees in
bog, patches of it red with iron, from which he would turn away with
a shudder. Sometimes he walked in the water, along the bed of the
burn itself; sometimes he had to scramble up its steep side, to pass
one of the many little cataracts of its descent. Here and there a
small silver birch, or a mountain-ash, or a stunted fir-tree,
looking like a wizard child, hung over the stream. Its banks were
mainly of rock and heather, but now and then a small patch of
cultivation intervened. Gibbie had no thought that he was gradually
leaving the abodes of men behind him; he knew no reason why in
ascending things should change, and be no longer as in plainer ways.
For what he knew, there might be farm after farm, up and up for
ever, to the gates of heaven. But it would no longer have troubled
him greatly to leave all houses behind him for a season. A great
purple foxglove could do much now -- just at this phase of his story,
to make him forget -- not the human face divine, but the loss of it.
A lark aloft in the blue, from whose heart, as from a fountain
whose roots were lost in the air, its natural source, issued, not a
stream, but an ever spreading lake of song, was now more to him than
the memory of any human voice he had ever heard, except his father's
and Sambo's. But he was not yet quite out and away from the
dwellings of his kind.

I may as well now make the attempt to give some idea of Gibbie's
appearance, as he showed after so long wandering. Of dress he had
hardly enough left to carry the name. Shoes, of course, he had
none. Of the shape of trousers there remained nothing, except the
division before and behind in the short petticoat to which they were
reduced; and those rudimentary divisions were lost in the multitude
of rents of equal apparent significance. He had never, so far as he
knew, had a shirt upon his body; and his sole other garment was a
jacket, so much too large for him, that to retain the use of his
hands he had folded back the sleeves quite to his elbows. Thus
reversed they became pockets, the only ones he had, and in them he
stowed whatever provisions were given him of which he could not make
immediate use -- porridge and sowens and mashed potatoes included:
they served him, in fact, like the first of the stomachs of those
animals which have more than one -- concerning which animals, by the
way, I should much like to know what they were in "Pythagoras'
time." His head had plentiful protection in his own natural
crop -- had never either had or required any other. That would have
been of the gold order, had not a great part of its colour been
sunburnt, rained, and frozen out of it. All ways it pointed, as if
surcharged with electric fluid, crowning him with a wildness which
was in amusing contrast with the placidity of his countenance.
Perhaps the resulting queerness in the expression of the little
vagrant, a look as if he had been hunted till his body and soul were
nearly ruffled asunder, and had already parted company in aim and
interest, might have been the first thing to strike a careless
observer. But if the heart was not a careless one, the eye would
look again and discover a stronger stillness than mere placidity -- a
sort of live peace abiding in that weather-beaten little face under
its wild crown of human herbage. The features of it were
well-shaped, and not smaller than proportioned to the small whole of
his person. His eyes -- partly, perhaps, because there was so little
flesh upon his bones -- were large, and in repose had much of a soft
animal expression: there was not in them the look of You and I know.
Frequently, too, when occasion roused the needful instinct, they
had a sharp expression of outlook and readiness, which, without a
trace of fierceness or greed, was yet equally animal. Only all the
time there was present something else, beyond characterization:
behind them something seemed to lie asleep. His hands and feet were
small and childishly dainty, his whole body well-shaped and well put
together -- of which the style of his dress rather quashed the

Such was Gibbie to the eye, as he rose from Daurside to the last
cultivated ground on the borders of the burn, and the highest
dwelling on the mountain. It was the abode of a cottar, and was a
dependency of the farm he had just left. The cottar was an old man
of seventy; his wife was nearly sixty. They had reared stalwart
sons and shapely daughters, now at service here and there in the
valleys below -- all ready to see God in nature, and recognize Him in
providence. They belong to a class now, I fear, extinct, but once,
if my love prejudice not my judgment too far, the glory and strength
of Scotland: their little acres are now swallowed up in the larger

It was a very humble dwelling, built of turf upon a foundation of
stones, and roofed with turf and straw -- warm, and nearly impervious
to the searching airs of the mountain-side. One little window of a
foot and a half square looked out on the universe. At one end stood
a stack of peat, half as big as the cottage itself, All around it
were huge rocks, some of them peaks whose masses went down to the
very central fires, others only fragments that had rolled from
above. Here and there a thin crop was growing in patches amongst
them, the red grey stone lifting its baldness in spots numberless
through the soft waving green. A few of the commonest flowers grew
about the door, but there was no garden. The door-step was live
rock, and a huge projecting rock behind formed the back and a
portion of one of the end walls. This latter rock had been the
attraction to the site, because of a hollow in it, which now served
as a dairy. For up there with them lived the last cow of the
valley -- the cow that breathed the loftiest air on all Daurside -- a
good cow, and gifted in feeding well upon little. Facing the broad
south, and leaning against the hill, as against the bosom of God,
sheltering it from the north and east, the cottage looked so
high-humble, so still, so confident, that it drew Gibbie with the
spell of heart-likeness. He knocked at the old, weather-beaten,
shrunk and rent, but well patched door. A voice, alive with the
soft vibrations of thought and feeling, answered,

"Come yer wa's in, whae'er ye be."

Gibbie pulled the string that came through a hole in the door, so
lifting the latch, and entered.

A woman sat on a creepie, her face turned over her shoulder to see
who came. It was a grey face, with good simple features and clear
grey eyes. The plentiful hair that grew low on her forehead, was
half grey, mostly covered by a white cap with frills. A clean
wrapper and apron, both of blue print, over a blue winsey petticoat,
blue stockings, and strong shoes completed her dress. A book lay on
her lap: always when she had finished her morning's work, and made
her house tidy, she sat down to have her comfort, as she called it.
The moment she saw Gibbie she rose. Had he been the angel Gabriel,
come to tell her she was wanted at the throne, her attention could
not have been more immediate or thorough. She was rather a little
woman, and carried herself straight and light.

"Eh, ye puir ootcast!" she said, in the pitying voice of a mother,
"hoo cam ye here sic a hicht? Cratur, ye hae left the warl' ahin'
ye. What wad ye hae here? I hae naething."

Receiving no answer but one of the child's betwitching smiles, she
stood for a moment regarding him, not in mere silence, but with a
look of dumbness. She was a mother. One who is mother only to her
own children is not a mother; she is only a woman who has borne
children. But here was one of God's mothers.

Loneliness and silence, and constant homely familiarity with the
vast simplicities of nature, assist much in the development of the
deeper and more wonderful faculties of perception. The perceptions
themselves may take this or that shape according to the
education -- may even embody themselves fantastically, yet be no less
perceptions. Now the very moment before Gibbie entered, she had
been reading the words of the Lord: "Inasmuch as ye have done it
unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto
me"; and with her heart full of them, she lifted her eyes and saw
Gibbie. For one moment, with the quick flashing response of the
childlike imagination of the Celt, she fancied she saw the Lord
himself. Another woman might have made a more serious mistake, and
seen there only a child. Often had Janet pondered, as she sat alone
on the great mountain, while Robert was with the sheep, or she lay
awake by his side at night, with the wind howling about the cottage,
whether the Lord might not sometimes take a lonely walk to look
after such solitary sheep of his flock as they, and let them know he
had not lost sight of them, for all the ups and downs of the hills.
There stood the child, and whether he was the Lord or not, he was
evidently hungry. Ah! who could tell but the Lord was actually
hungry in every one of his hungering little ones!

In the mean time -- only it was but thought-time, not
clock-time -- Gibbie stood motionless in the middle of the floor,
smiling his innocent smile, asking for nothing, hinting at nothing,
but resting his wild calm eyes, with a sense of safety and
mother-presence, upon the grey thoughtful face of the gazing woman.
Her awe deepened; it seemed to descend upon her and fold her in as
with a mantle. Involuntarily she bowed her head, and stepping to
him took him by the hand, and led him to the stool she had left.
There she made him sit, while she brought forward her table, white
with scrubbing, took from a hole in the wall and set upon it a
platter of oatcakes, carried a wooden bowl to her dairy in the rock
through a whitewashed door, and bringing it back filled, half with
cream half with milk, set that also on the table. Then she placed a
chair before it, and said --

"Sit ye doon, an' tak. Gin ye war the Lord himsel', my bonny man,
an' ye may be for oucht I ken, for ye luik puir an' despised eneuch,
I cud gie nae better, for it's a' I hae to offer ye -- 'cep it micht
be an egg," she added, correcting herself, and turned and went out.

Presently she came back with a look of success, carrying two eggs,
which, having raked out a quantity, she buried in the hot ashes of
the peats, and left in front of the hearth to roast, while Gibbie
went on eating the thick oatcake, sweet and substantial, and
drinking such milk as the wildest imagination of town-boy could
never suggest. It was indeed angels' food -- food such as would have
pleased the Lord himself after a hard day with axe and saw and
plane, so good and simple and strong was it. Janet resumed her seat
on the low three-legged stool, and took her knitting that he might
feel neither that he was watched as he ate, nor that she was waiting
for him to finish. Every other moment she gave a glance at the
stranger she had taken in; but never a word he spoke, and the sense
of mystery grew upon her.

Presently came a great bounce and scramble; the latch jumped up, the
door flew open, and after a moment's pause, in came a sheep dog -- a
splendid thorough-bred collie, carrying in his mouth a tiny,
long-legged lamb, which he dropped half dead in the woman's lap. It
was a late lamb, born of a mother which had been sold from the hill,
but had found her way back from a great distance, in order that her
coming young one might have the privilege of being yeaned on the
same spot where she had herself awaked to existence. Another
moment, and her mba-a was heard approaching the door. She trotted
in, and going up to Janet, stood contemplating the consequences of
her maternal ambition. Her udder was full, but the lamb was too
weak to suck. Janet rose, and going to the side of the room, opened
the door of what might have seemed an old press, but was a bed.
Folding back the counterpane, she laid the lamb in the bed, and
covered it over. Then she got a caup, a wooden dish like a large
saucer, and into it milked the ewe. Next she carried the caup to
the bed; but what means she there used to enable the lamb to drink,
the boy could not see, though his busy eyes and loving heart would
gladly have taken in all.

In the mean time the collie, having done his duty by the lamb, and
perhaps forgotten it, sat on his tail, and stared with his two brave
trusting eyes at the little beggar that sat in the master's chair,
and ate of the fat of the land. Oscar was a gentleman, and had
never gone to school, therefore neither fancied nor had been taught
that rags make an essential distinction, and ought to be barked at.
Gibbie was a stranger, and therefore as a stranger Oscar gave him
welcome -- now and then stooping to lick the little brown feet that
had wandered so far.

Like all wild creatures, Gibbie ate fast, and had finished
everything set before him ere the woman had done feeding the lamb.
Without a notion of the rudeness of it, his heart full of gentle
gratitude, he rose and left the cottage. When Janet turned from her
shepherding, there sat Oscar looking up at the empty chair.

"What's come o' the laddie?" she said to the dog, who answered with
a low whine, half-regretful, half-interrogative. It may be he was
only asking, like Esau, if there was no residuum of blessing for him
also; but perhaps he too was puzzled what to conclude about the boy.
Janet hastened to the door, but already Gibbie's nimble feet
refreshed to the point of every toe with the food he had just
swallowed, had borne him far up the hill, behind the cottage, so
that she could not get a glimpse of him. Thoughtfully she returned,
and thoughtfully removed the remnants of the meal. She would then
have resumed her Bible, but her hospitality had rendered it
necessary that she should put on her girdle -- not a cincture of
leather upon her body, but a disc of iron on the fire, to bake
thereon cakes ere her husband's return. It was a simple enough
process, for the oat-meal wanted nothing but water and fire; but her
joints had not yet got rid of the winter's rheumatism, and the
labour of the baking was the hardest part of the sacrifice of her
hospitality. To many it is easy to give what they have, but the
offering of weariness and pain is never easy. They are indeed a
true salt to salt sacrifices withal. That it was the last of her
meal till her youngest boy should bring her a bag on his back from
the mill the next Saturday, made no point in her trouble.

When at last she had done, and put the things away, and swept up the
hearth, she milked the ewe, sent her out to nibble, took her Bible,
and sat down once more to read. The lamb lay at her feet, with his
little head projecting from the folds of her new flannel petticoat;
and every time her eye fell from the book upon the lamb, she felt as
if somehow the lamb was the boy that had eaten of her bread and
drunk of her milk. After she had read a while, there came a change,
and the lamb seemed the Lord himself, both lamb and shepherd, who
had come to claim her hospitality. Then, divinely invaded with the
dread lest in the fancy she should forget the reality, she kneeled
down and prayed to the friend of Martha and Mary and Lazarus, to
come as he had said, and sup with her indeed.

Not for years and years had Janet been to church; she had long been
unable to walk so far; and having no book but the best, and no help
to understand it but the highest, her faith was simple, strong,
real, all-pervading. Day by day she pored over the great gospel -- I
mean just the good news according to Matthew and Mark and Luke and
John -- until she had grown to be one of the noble ladies of the
kingdom of heaven -- one of those who inherit the earth, and are
ripening to see God. For the Master, and his mind in hers, was her
teacher. She had little or no theology save what he taught her, or
rather, what he is. And of any other than that, the less the
better; for no theology, except the Theou logos, {compilers
note: spelled in Greek: Theta, Epsilon, Omicron, Upsilon;
Lambda, Omicron with stress, Gamma, Omicron, Sigma} is worth the
learning, no other being true. To know him is to know God. And he
only who obeys him, does or can know him; he who obeys him cannot
fail to know him. To Janet, Jesus Christ was no object of so-called
theological speculation, but a living man, who somehow or other
heard her when she called to him, and sent her the help she needed.



Up and up the hill went Gibbie. The path ceased altogether; but
when up is the word in one's mind -- and up had grown almost a fixed
idea with Gibbie -- he can seldom be in doubt whether he is going
right, even where there is no track. Indeed in all more arduous
ways, men leave no track behind them, no finger-post -- there is
always but the steepness. He climbed and climbed. The mountain
grew steeper and barer as he went, and he became absorbed in his
climbing. All at once he discovered that he had lost the stream,
where or when he could not tell. All below and around him was red
granite rock, scattered over with the chips and splinters detached
by air and wind, water and stream, light and heat and cold.
Glashgar was only about three thousand feet in height, but it was
the steepest of its group -- a huge rock that, even in the midst of
masses, suggested solidity.

Not once while he ascended had the idea come to him that by and by
he should be able to climb no farther. For aught he knew there were
oat-cakes and milk and sheep and collie dogs ever higher and higher
still. Not until he actually stood upon the peak did he know that
there was the earthly hitherto -- the final obstacle of unobstancy,
the everywhere which, from excess of perviousness, was to human foot
impervious. The sun was about two hours towards the west, when
Gibbie, his little legs almost as active as ever, surmounted the
final slope. Running up like a child that would scale heaven he
stood on the bare round, the head of the mountain, and saw, with an
invading shock of amazement, and at first of disappointment, that
there was no going higher: in every direction the slope was
downward. He had never been on the top of anything before. He had
always been in the hollows of things. Now the whole world lay
beneath him. It was cold; in some of the shadows lay snow -- weary
exile from both the sky and the sea and the ways of them -- captive in
the fetters of the cold -- prisoner to the mountain top; but Gibbie
felt no cold. In a glow with the climb, which at the last had been
hard, his lungs filled with the heavenly air, and his soul with the
feeling that he was above everything that was, uplifted on the very
crown of the earth, he stood in his rags, a fluttering scarecrow,
the conqueror of height, the discoverer of immensity, the monarch of
space. Nobody knew of such marvel but him! Gibbie had never even
heard the word poetry, but none the less was he the very stuff out
of which poems grow, and now all the latent poetry in him was set a
swaying and heaving -- an ocean inarticulate because unobstructed -- a
might that could make no music, no thunder of waves, because it had
no shore, no rocks of thought against which to break in speech. He
sat down on the topmost point; and slowly, in the silence and the
loneliness, from the unknown fountains of the eternal consciousness,
the heart of the child filled. Above him towered infinitude,
immensity, potent on his mind through shape to his eye in a soaring
dome of blue -- the one visible symbol informed and insouled of the
eternal, to reveal itself thereby. In it, centre and life, lorded
the great sun, beginning to cast shadows to the south and east from
the endless heaps of the world, that lifted themselves in all
directions. Down their sides ran the streams, down busily, hasting
away through every valley to the Daur, which bore them back to the
ocean-heart -- through woods and meadows, park and waste, rocks and
willowy marsh. Behind the valleys rose mountains; and behind the
mountains, other mountains, more and more, each swathed in its own
mystery; and beyond all hung the curtain-depth of the sky-gulf.
Gibbie sat and gazed, and dreamed and gazed. The mighty city that
had been to him the universe, was dropped and lost, like a thing
that was now nobody's, in far indistinguishable distance; and he who
had lost it had climbed upon the throne of the world. The air was
still; when a breath awoke, it but touched his cheek like the down
of a feather, and the stillness was there again. The stillness grew
great, and slowly descended upon him. It deepened and deepened.
Surely it would deepen to a voice! -- it was about to speak! It was
as if a great single thought was the substance of the silence, and
was all over and around him, and closer to him than his clothes,
than his body, than his hands. I am describing the indescribable,
and compelled to make it too definite for belief. In colder speech,
an experience had come to the child; a link in the chain of his
development glided over the windlass of his uplifting; a change
passed upon him. In after years, when Gibbie had the idea of God,
when he had learned to think about him, to desire his presence, to
believe that a will of love enveloped his will, as the brooding hen
spreads her wings over her eggs -- as often as the thought of God came
to him, it came in the shape of the silence on the top of Glashgar.

As he sat, with his eyes on the peak he had just chosen from the
rest as the loftiest of all within his sight, he saw a cloud begin
to grow upon it. The cloud grew, and gathered, and descended,
covering its sides as it went, until the whole was hidden. Then
swiftly, as he gazed, the cloud opened as it were a round window in
the heart of it, and through that he saw the peak again. The next
moment a flash of blue lightning darted across the opening, and
whether Gibbie really saw what follows, he never could be sure, but
always after, as often as the vision returned, in the flash he saw a
rock rolling down the peak. The clouds swept together, and the
window closed. The next thing which in after years he remembered
was, that the earth, mountains, meadows, and streams, had vanished;
everything was gone from his sight, except a few yards around him of
the rock upon which he sat, and the cloud that hid world and heaven.
Then again burst forth the lightning. He saw no flash, but an
intense cloud-illumination, accompanied by the deafening crack, and
followed by the appalling roar and roll of the thunder. Nor was it
noise alone that surrounded him, for, as if he were in the heart and
nest of the storm, the very wind-waves that made the thunder rushed
in driven bellowing over him, and had nearly swept him away. He
clung to the rock with hands and feet. The cloud writhed and
wrought and billowed and eddied, with all the shapes of the wind,
and seemed itself to be the furnace-womb in which the thunder was
created. Was this then the voice into which the silence had been
all the time deepening? -- had the Presence thus taken form and
declared itself? Gibbie had yet to learn that there is a deeper
voice still into which such a silence may grow -- and the silence not
be broken. He was not dismayed. He had no conscience of wrong, and
scarcely knew fear. It was an awful delight that filled his spirit.
Mount Sinai was not to him a terror. To him there was no wrath in
the thunder any more than in the greeting of the dog that found him
in his kennel. To him there was no being in the sky so righteous as
to be more displeased than pitiful over the wrongness of the
children whom he had not yet got taught their childhood. Gibbie sat
calm, awe-ful, but, I imagine, with a clear forehead and
smile-haunted mouth, while the storm roared and beat and flashed and
ran about him. It was the very fountain of tempest. From the bare
crest of the mountain the water poured down its sides, as if its
springs were in the rock itself, and not in the bosom of the cloud
above. The tumult at last seized Gibbie like an intoxication; he
jumped to his feet, and danced and flung his arms about, as if he
himself were the storm. But the uproar did not last long. Almost
suddenly it was gone, as if, like a bird that had been flapping the
ground in agony, it had at last recovered itself, and taken to its
great wings and flown. The sun shone out clear, and in all the blue
abyss not a cloud was to be seen, except far away to leeward, where
one was spread like a banner in the lonely air, fleeting away, the
ensign of the charging storm -- bearing for its device a segment of
the many-coloured bow.

And now that its fierceness was over, the jubilation in the softer
voices of the storm became audible. As the soul gives thanks for
the sufferings that are overpast, offering the love and faith and
hope which the pain has stung into fresh life, so from the sides of
the mountain ascended the noise of the waters the cloud had left
behind. The sun had kept on his journey; the storm had been no
disaster to him; and now he was a long way down the west, and
Twilight, in her grey cloak, would soon be tracking him from the
east, like sorrow dogging delight. Gibbie, wet and cold, began to
think of the cottage where he had been so kindly received, of the
friendly face of its mistress, and her care of the lamb. It was not
that he wanted to eat. He did not even imagine more eating, for
never in his life had he eaten twice of the same charity in the same
day. What he wanted was to find some dry hole in the mountain, and
sleep as near the cottage as he could. So he rose and set out. But
he lost his way; came upon one precipice after another, down which
only a creeping thing could have gone; was repeatedly turned aside
by torrents and swampy places; and when the twilight came, was still
wandering upon the mountain. At length he found, as he thought, the
burn along whose bank he had ascended in the morning, and followed
it towards the valley, looking out for the friendly cottage. But
the first indication of abode he saw, was the wall of the grounds of
the house through whose gate he had looked in the morning. He was
then a long way from the cottage, and not far from the farm; and the
best thing he could do was to find again the barn where he had slept
so well the night before. This was not very difficult even in the
dusky night. He skirted the wall, came to his first guide, found
and crossed the valley-stream, and descended it until he thought he
recognized the slope of clover down which he had run in the morning.
He ran up the brae, and there were the solemn cones of the
corn-ricks between him and the sky! A minute more and he had crept
through the cat-hole, and was feeling about in the dark barn.
Happily the heap of straw was not yet removed. Gibbie shot into it
like a mole, and burrowed to the very centre, there coiled himself
up, and imagined himself lying in the heart of the rock on which he
sat during the storm, and listening to the thunder winds over his
head. The fancy enticed the sleep which before was ready enough to
come, and he was soon far stiller than Ariel in the cloven pine of



He might have slept longer the next morning, for there was no
threshing to wake him, in spite of the cocks in the yard that made
it their business to rouse sleepers to their work, had it not been
for another kind of cock inside him, which bore the same relation to
food that the others bore to light. He peeped first, then crept
out. All was still except the voices of those same prophet cocks,
crying in the wilderness of the yet sunless world; a moo now and
then from the byres; and the occasional stamp of a great hoof in the
stable. Gibbie clambered up into the loft, and turning the cheeses
about until he came upon the one he had gnawed before, again
attacked it, and enlarged considerably the hole he had already made
in it. Rather dangerous food it was, perhaps, eaten in that
unmitigated way, for it was made of skimmed milk, and was very dry
and hard; but Gibbie was a powerful little animal, all bones and
sinews, small hard muscle, and faultless digestion. The next idea
naturally rising was the burn; he tumbled down over the straw heap
to the floor of the barn, and made for the cat-hole. But the moment
he put his head out, he saw the legs of a man: the farmer was
walking through his ricks, speculating on the money they held. He
drew back, and looked round to see where best he could betake
himself should he come in. He spied thereupon a ladder leaning
against the end-wall of the barn, opposite the loft and the stables,
and near it in the wall a wooden shutter, like the door of a little
cupboard. He got up the ladder, and opening the shutter, which was
fastened only with a button, found a hole in the wall, through which
popping his head too carelessly, he knocked from a shelf some piece
of pottery, which fell with a great crash on a paved floor. Looking
after it, Gibbie beheld below him a rich prospect of yellow-white
pools ranged in order on shelves. They reminded him of milk, but
were of a different colour. As he gazed, a door opened hastily,
with sharp clicking latch, and a woman entered, ejaculating, "Care
what set that cat!" Gibbie drew back, lest in her search for the
cat she might find the culprit. She looked all round, muttering
such truncated imprecations as befitted the mouth of a Scotchwoman;
but as none of her milk was touched, her wrath gradually abated: she
picked up the fragments and withdrew.

Thereupon Gibbie ventured to reconnoitre a little farther, and
popping in his head again, saw that the dairy was open to the roof,
but the door was in a partition which did not run so high. The
place from which the woman entered, was ceiled, and the ceiling
rested on the partition between it and the dairy; so that, from a
shelf level with the hole, he could easily enough get on the top of
the ceiling. This, urged by the instinct of the homeless to
understand their surroundings, he presently effected, by creeping
like a cat along the top shelf.

The ceiling was that of the kitchen, and was merely of boards,
which, being old and shrunken, had here and there a considerable
crack between two, and Gibbie, peeping through one after another of
these cracks, soon saw several things he did not understand. Of
such was a barrel-churn, which he took for a barrel-organ, and
welcomed as a sign of civilization. The woman was sweeping the room
towards the hearth, where the peat fire was already burning, with a
great pot hanging over it, covered with a wooden lid. When the
water in it was hot, she poured it into a large wooden dish, in
which she began to wash other dishes, thus giving the observant
Gibbie his first notion of housekeeping. Then she scoured the deal
table, dusted the bench and the chairs, arranged the dishes on
shelves and rack, except a few which she placed on the table, put
more water on the fire, and disappeared in the dairy. Thence
presently she returned, carrying a great jar, which, to Gibbie's
astonishment, having lifted a lid in the top of the churn, she
emptied into it; he was not, therefore, any farther astonished, when
she began to turn the handle vigorously, that no music issued. As
to what else might be expected, Gibbie had not even a mistaken idea.
But the butter came quickly that morning, and then he did have
another astonishment, for he saw a great mass of something
half-solid tumbled out where he had seen a liquid poured in -- nor
that alone, for the liquid came out again too! But when at length
he saw the mass, after being well washed, moulded into certain
shapes, he recognized it as butter, such as he had seen in the
shops, and had now and then tasted on the piece given him by some
more than usually generous housekeeper. Surely he had wandered into
a region of plenty! Only now, when he saw the woman busy and
careful, the idea of things in the country being a sort of common
property began to fade from his mind, and the perception to wake
that they were as the things in the shops, which must not be touched
without first paying money for them over a counter.

The butter-making, brought to a successful close, the woman
proceeded to make porridge for the men's breakfast, and with hungry
eyes Gibbie watched that process next. The water in the great pot
boiling like a wild volcano, she took handful after handful of meal
from a great wooden dish, called a bossie, and threw it into the
pot, stirring as she threw, until the mess was presently so thick
that she could no more move the spurtle in it; and scarcely had she
emptied it into another great wooden bowl, called a bicker, when
Gibbie heard the heavy tramp of the men crossing the yard to consume

For the last few minutes, Gibbie's nostrils -- alas! not Gibbie -- had
been regaled with the delicious odour of the boiling meal; and now
his eyes had their turn -- but still, alas, not Gibbie! Prostrate on
the ceiling he lay and watched the splendid spoonfuls tumble out of
sight into the capacious throats of four men; all took their
spoonfuls from the same dish, but each dipped his spoonful into his
private caup of milk, ere he carried it to his mouth. A little
apart sat a boy, whom the woman seemed to favour, having provided
him with a plateful of porridge by himself, but the fact was, four
were as many as could bicker comfortably, or with any chance of fair
play. The boy's countenance greatly attracted Gibbie. It was a
long, solemn face, but the eyes were bright-blue and sparkling; and
when he smiled, which was not very often, it was a good and
meaningful smile.

When the meal was over, and he saw the little that was left, with
all the drops of milk from the caups, tumbled into a common
receptacle, to be kept, he thought, for the next meal, poor Gibbie
felt very empty and forsaken. He crawled away sad at heart, with
nothing before him except a drink of water at the burn. He might
have gone to the door of the house, in the hope of a bit of cake,
but now that he had seen something of the doings in the house and of
the people who lived in it -- as soon, that is, as he had looked
embodied ownership in the face -- he began to be aware of its claims,
and the cheese he had eaten to lie heavy upon his spiritual stomach;
he had done that which he would not have done before leaving the
city. Carefully he crept across the ceiling, his head hanging, like
a dog scolded of his master, carefully along the shelf of the dairy,
and through the opening in the wall, quickly down the ladder, and
through the cat-hole in the barn door. There was no one in the
corn-yard now, and he wandered about among the ricks looking, with
little hope, for something to eat. Turning a corner he came upon a
hen-house -- and there was a crowd of hens and half-grown chickens
about the very dish into which he had seen the remnants of the
breakfast thrown, all pecking billfuls out of it. As I may have
said before, he always felt at liberty to share with the animals,
partly, I suppose, because he saw they had no scrupulosity or
ceremony amongst themselves; so he dipped his hand into the dish:
why should not the bird of the air now and then peck with the more
respectable of the barn-door, if only to learn his inferiority?
Greatly refreshed, he got up from among the hens, scrambled over
the dry stone-wall, and trotted away to the burn.



It was now time he should resume his journey up Daurside, and he set
out to follow the burn that he might regain the river. It led him
into a fine meadow, where a number of cattle were feeding. The
meadow was not fenced -- little more than marked off, indeed, upon one
side, from a field of growing corn, by a low wall of earth, covered
with moss and grass and flowers. The cattle were therefore herded
by a boy, whom Gibbie recognized even in the distance as him by
whose countenance he had been so much attracted when, like an old
deity on a cloud, he lay spying through the crack in the ceiling.
The boy was reading a book, from which every now and then he lifted
his eyes to glance around him, and see whether any of the cows or
heifers or stirks were wandering beyond their pasture of rye-grass
and clover. Having them all before him, therefore no occasion to
look behind, he did not see Gibbie approaching. But as soon as he
seemed thoroughly occupied, a certain black cow, with short sharp
horns and a wicked look, which had been gradually, as was her wont,
edging nearer and nearer to the corn, turned suddenly and ran for
it, jumped the dyke, and plunging into a mad revelry of greed, tore
and devoured with all the haste not merely of one insecure, but of
one that knew she was stealing. Now Gibbie had been observant
enough during his travels to learn that this was against the law and
custom of the country -- that it was not permitted to a cow to go into
a field where there were no others -- and like a shot he was after the
black marauder. The same instant the herd boy too, lifting his eyes
from his book, saw her, and springing to his feet, caught up his
great stick, and ran also: he had more than one reason to run, for
he understood only too well the dangerous temper of the cow, and saw
that Gibbie was a mere child, and unarmed -- an object most
provocative of attack to Hornie -- so named, indeed, because of her
readiness to use the weapons with which Nature had provided her.
She was in fact a malicious cow, and but that she was a splendid
milker, would have been long ago fatted up and sent to the butcher.
The boy as he ran full speed to the rescue, kept shouting to warn
Gibbie from his purpose, but Gibbie was too intent to understand the
sounds he uttered, and supposed them addressed to the cow. With the
fearless service that belonged to his very being, he ran straight at
Hornie, and, having nothing to strike her with, flung himself
against her with a great shove towards the dyke. Hornie, absorbed
in her delicious robbery, neither heard nor saw before she felt him,
and, startled by the sudden attack, turned tail. It was but for a
moment. In turning, she caught sight of her ruler, sceptre in hand,
at some little distance, and turned again, either to have another
mouthful, or in the mere instinct to escape him. Then she caught
sight of the insignificant object that had scared her, and in
contemptuous indignation lowered her head between her forefeet, and
was just making a rush at Gibbie, when a stone struck her on a horn,
and the next moment the herd came up, and with a storm of fiercest
blows, delivered with the full might of his arm, drove her in
absolute rout back into the meadow. Drawing himself up in the
unconscious majesty of success, Donal Grant looked down upon Gibbie,
but with eyes of admiration.

"Haith, cratur!" he said, "ye're mair o' a man nor ye'll luik this
saven year! What garred ye rin upo' the deevil's verra horns that

Gibbie stood smiling.

"Gien't hadna been for my club we wad baith be owre the mune 'gain
this time. What ca' they ye, man?"

Still Gibbie only smiled.

"Whaur come ye frae? -- Wha's yer fowk? -- Whaur div ye bide? -- Haena ye
a tongue i' yer heid, ye rascal?"

Gibbie burst out laughing, and his eyes sparkled and shone: he was
delighted with the herd-boy, and it was so long since he had heard
human speech addressed to himself!

"The cratur's feel (foolish)!" concluded Donal to himself pityingly.
"Puir thing! puir thing!" he added aloud, and laid his hand on
Gibbie's head.

It was but the second touch of kindness Gibbie had received since he
was the dog's guest: had he been acquainted with the bastard emotion
of self-pity, he would have wept; as he was unaware of hardship in
his lot, discontent in his heart, or discord in his feeling, his
emotion was one of unmingled delight, and embodied itself in a
perfect smile.

"Come, cratur, an' I'll gie ye a piece: ye'll aiblins un'erstan'
that!" said Donal, as he turned to leave the corn for the grass,
where Hornie was eating with the rest like the most innocent of
hum'le (hornless) animals. Gibbie obeyed, and followed, as, with
slow step and downbent face, Donal led the way. For he had tucked
his club under his arm, and already his greedy eyes were fixed on
the book he had carried all the time, nor did he take them from it
until, followed in full and patient content by Gibbie, he had almost
reached the middle of the field, some distance from Hornie and her
companions, when, stopping abruptly short, he began without lifting
his head to cast glances on this side and that.

"I houp nane o' them's swallowed my nepkin!" he said musingly. "I'm
no sure whaur I was sittin'. I hae my place i' the beuk, but I
doobt I hae tint my place i' the gerse."

Long before he had ended, for he spoke with utter deliberation,
Gibbie was yards away, flitting hither and thither like a butterfly.
A minute more and Donal saw him pounce upon his bundle, which he
brought to him in triumph.

"Fegs! ye're no the gowk I took ye for," said Donal meditatively.

Whether Gibbie took the remark for a compliment, or merely was
gratified that Donal was pleased, the result was a merry laugh.

The bundle had in it a piece of hard cheese, such as Gibbie had
already made acquaintance with, and a few quarters of cakes. One of
these Donal broke in two, gave Gibbie the half, replaced the other,
and sat down again to his book -- this time with his back against the
fell-dyke dividing the grass from the corn. Gibbie seated himself,
like a Turk, with his bare legs crossed under him, a few yards off,
where, in silence and absolute content, he ate his piece, and
gravely regarded him. His human soul had of late been starved, even
more than his body -- and that from no fastidiousness; and it was
paradise again to be in such company. Never since his father's
death had he looked on a face that drew him as Donal's. It was fair
of complexion by nature, but the sun had burned it brown, and it was
covered with freckles. Its forehead was high, with a mass of foxy
hair over it, and under it two keen hazel eyes, in which the green
predominated over the brown. Its nose was long and solemn, over his
well-made mouth, which rarely smiled, but not unfrequently trembled
with emotion -- over his book. For age, Donal was getting towards
fifteen, and was strongly built, and well grown. A general look of
honesty, and an attractive expression of reposeful friendliness
pervaded his whole appearance. Conscientious in regard to his work,
he was yet in danger of forgetting his duty for minutes together in
his book. The chief evil that resulted from it was such an
occasional inroad on the corn as had that morning taken place; and
many were Donal's self-reproaches ere he got to sleep when that had
fallen out during the day. He knew his master would threaten him
with dismissal if he came upon him reading in the field, but he knew
also his master was well aware that he did read, and that it was
possible to read and yet herd well. It was easy enough in this same
meadow: on one side ran the Lorrie; on another was a stone wall; and
on the third a ditch; only the cornfield lay virtually unprotected,
and there he had to be himself the boundary. And now he sat leaning
against the dyke, as if he held so a position of special defence;
but he knew well enough that the dullest calf could outflank him,
and invade, for a few moments at the least, the forbidden
pleasure-ground. He had gained an ally, however, whose faculty and
faithfulness he little knew yet. For Gibbie had begun to comprehend
the situation. He could not comprehend why or how anyone should be
absorbed in a book, for all he knew of books was from his one
morning of dame-schooling; but he could comprehend that, if one's
attention were so occupied, it must be a great vex to be interrupted
continually by the ever-waking desires of his charge after dainties.
Therefore, as Donal watched his book, Gibbie for Donal's sake
watched the herd, and, as he did so, gently possessed himself of
Donal's club. Nor had many minutes passed before Donal, raising his
head to look, saw the curst cow again in the green corn, and Gibbie
manfully encountering her with the club, hitting her hard upon head
and horns, and deftly avoiding every rush she made at him.

"Gie her't upo' the nose," Donal shouted in terror, as he ran full
speed to his aid, abusing Hornie in terms of fiercest vituperation.

But he needed not have been so apprehensive. Gibbie heard and
obeyed, and the next moment Hornie had turned tail and was fleeing
back to the safety of the lawful meadow.

"Hech, cratur! but ye maun be come o' fechtin' fowk!" said Donal,
regarding him with fresh admiration.

Gibbie laughed; but he had been sorely put to it, and the big drops
were coursing fast down his sweet face. Donal took the club from
him, and rushing at Hornie, belaboured her well, and drove her quite
to the other side of the field. He then returned and resumed his
book, while Gibbie again sat down near by, and watched both Donal
and his charge -- the keeper of both herd and cattle. Surely Gibbie
had at last found his vocation on Daurside, with both man and beast
for his special care!

By and by Donal raised his head once more, but this time it was to
regard Gibbie and not the nowt. It had gradually sunk into him that
the appearance and character of the cratur were peculiar. He had
regarded him as a little tramp, whose people were not far off, and
who would soon get tired of herding and rejoin his companions; but
while he read, a strange feeling of the presence of the boy had, in
spite of the witchery of his book, been growing upon him. He seemed
to feel his eyes without seeing them; and when Gibbie rose to look
how the cattle were distributed, he became vaguely uneasy lest the
boy should be going away. For already he had begun to feel him a
humble kind of guardian angel. He had already that day, through
him, enjoyed a longer spell of his book, than any day since he had
been herd at the Mains of Glashruach. And now the desire had come
to regard him more closely.

For a minute or two he sat and gazed at him. Gibbie gazed at him in
return, and in his eyes the herd-boy looked the very type of power
and gentleness. How he admired even his suit of small-ribbed,
greenish-coloured corduroy, the ribs much rubbed and obliterated!
Then his jacket had round brass buttons! his trousers had patches
instead of holes at the knees! their short legs revealed warm
woollen stockings! and his shoes had their soles full of great
broad-headed iron tacks! while on his head he had a small round blue
bonnet with a red tuft! The little outcast, on the other hand, with
his loving face and pure clear eyes, bidding fair to be naked
altogether before long, woke in Donal a divine pity, a tenderness
like that nestling at the heart of womanhood. The neglected
creature could surely have no mother to shield him from frost and
wind and rain. But a strange thing was, that out of this pitiful
tenderness seemed to grow, like its blossom, another unlike
feeling -- namely, that he was in the presence of a being of some
order superior to his own, one to whom he would have to listen if he
spoke, who knew more than he would tell. But then Donal was a Celt,
and might be a poet, and the sweet stillness of the child's
atmosphere made things bud in his imagination.

My reader must think how vastly, in all his poverty, Donal was
Gibbie's superior in the social scale. He earned his own food and
shelter, and nearly four pounds a year besides; lived as well as he
could wish, dressed warm, was able for his work, and imagined it no
hardship. Then he had a father and mother whom he went to see every
Saturday, and of whom he was as proud as son could be -- a father who
was the priest of the family, and fed sheep; a mother who was the
prophetess, and kept the house ever an open refuge for her children.
Poor Gibbie earned nothing -- never had earned more than a penny at a
time in his life, and had never dreamed of having a claim to such
penny. Nobody seemed to care for him, give him anything, do
anything for him. Yet there he sat before Donal's eyes, full of
service, of smiles, of contentment.

Donal took up his book, but laid it down again and gazed at Gibbie.
Several times he tried to return to his reading, but as often
resumed his contemplation of the boy. At length it struck him as
something more than shyness would account for, that he had not yet
heard a word from the lips of the child, even when running after the
cows. He must watch him more closely.

By this it was his dinner time. Again he untied his handkerchief,
and gave Gibbie what he judged a fair share for his bulk -- namely
about a third of the whole. Philosopher as he was, however, he
could not help sighing a little when he got to the end of his
diminished portion. But he was better than comforted when Gibbie
offered him all that yet remained to him; and the smile with which
he refused it made Gibbie as happy as a prince would like to be.
What a day it had been for Gibbie! A whole human being, and some
five and twenty four-legged creatures besides, to take care of!

After their dinner, Donal gravitated to his book, and Gibbie resumed
the executive. Some time had passed when Donal, glancing up, saw
Gibbie lying flat on his chest, staring at something in the grass.
He slid himself quietly nearer, and discovered it was a daisy -- one
by itself alone; there were not many in the field. Like a mother
leaning over her child, he was gazing at it. The daisy was not a
cold white one, neither was it a red one; it was just a perfect
daisy: it looked as if some gentle hand had taken it, while it slept
and its star points were all folded together, and dipped them -- just
a tiny touchy dip, in a molten ruby, so that, when it opened again,
there was its crown of silver pointed with rubies all about its
golden sun-heart.

"He's been readin' Burns!" said Donal. He forgot that the daisies
were before Burns, and that he himself had loved them before ever he
heard of him. Now, he had not heard of Chaucer, who made love to
the daisies four hundred years before Burns. -- God only knows what
gospellers they have been on his middle-earth. All its days his
daisies have been coming and going, and they are not old yet, nor
have worn out yet their lovely garments, though they patch and darn
just as little as they toil and spin.

"Can ye read, cratur?" asked Donal.

Gibbie shook his head.

"Canna ye speyk, man?"

Again Gibbie shook his head.

"Can ye hear?"

Gibbie burst out laughing. He knew that he heard better than other

"Hearken till this than," said Donal.

He took his book from the grass, and read, in a chant, or rather in
a lilt, the Danish ballad of Chyld Dyring, as translated by Sir
Walter Scott. Gibbie's eyes grew wider and wider as he listened;
their pupils dilated, and his lips parted: it seemed as if his soul
were looking out of door and windows at once -- but a puzzled soul
that understood nothing of what it saw. Yet plainly, either the
sounds, or the thought-matter vaguely operative beyond the line
where intelligence begins, or, it may be, the sparkle of individual
word or phrase islanded in a chaos of rhythmic motion, wrought
somehow upon him, for his attention was fixed as by a spell. When
Donal ceased, he remained open-mouthed and motionless for a time;
then, drawing himself slidingly over the grass to Donal's feet, he
raised his head and peeped above his knees at the book. A moment
only he gazed, and drew back with a hungry sigh: he had seen nothing
in the book like what Donal had been drawing from it -- as if one
should look into the well of which he had just drunk, and see there
nothing but dry pebbles and sand! The wind blew gentle, the sun
shone bright, all nature closed softly round the two, and the soul
whose children they were was nearer than the one to the other,
nearer than sun or wind or daisy or Chyld Dyring. To his amazement,
Donal saw the tears gathering in Gibbie's eyes. He was as one who
gazes into the abyss of God's will -- sees only the abyss, cannot see
the will, and weeps. The child in whom neither cold nor hunger nor
nakedness nor loneliness could move a throb of self-pity, was moved
to tears that a loveliness, to him strange and unintelligible, had
passed away, and he had no power to call it back.

"Wad ye like to hear't again?" asked Donal, more than half
understanding him instinctively.

Gibbie's face answered with a flash, and Donal read the poem again,
and Gibbie's delight returned greater than before, for now something
like a dawn began to appear among the cloudy words. Donal read it a
third time, and closed the book, for it was almost the hour for
driving the cattle home. He had never yet seen, and perhaps never
again did see, such a look of thankful devotion on human countenance
as met his lifted eyes.

How much Gibbie even then understood of the lovely eerie old ballad,
it is impossible for me to say. Had he a glimmer of the return of
the buried mother? Did he think of his own? I doubt if he had ever
thought that he had a mother; but he may have associated the tale
with his father, and the boots he was always making for him.
Certainly it was the beginning of much. But the waking up of a
human soul to know itself in the mirror of its thoughts and
feelings, its loves and delights, oppresses me with so heavy a sense
of marvel and inexplicable mystery, that when I imagine myself such
as Gibbie then was, I cannot imagine myself coming awake. I can
hardly believe that, from being such as Gibbie was the hour before
he heard the ballad, I should ever have come awake. Yet here I am,
capable of pleasure unspeakable from that and many another ballad,
old and new! somehow, at one time or another, or at many times in
one, I have at last come awake! When, by slow filmy unveilings,
life grew clearer to Gibbie, and he not only knew, but knew that he
knew, his thoughts always went back to that day in the meadow with
Donal Grant as the beginning of his knowledge of beautiful things in
the world of man. Then first he saw nature reflected,
Narcissus-like, in the mirror of her humanity, her highest self.
But when or how the change in him began, the turn of the balance,
the first push towards life of the evermore invisible germ -- of that
he remained, much as he wondered, often as he searched his
consciousness, as ignorant to the last as I am now. Sometimes he
was inclined to think the glory of the new experience must have
struck him dazed, and that was why he could not recall what went on
in him at the time.

Donal rose and went driving the cattle home, and Gibbie lay where he
had again thrown himself upon the grass. When he lifted his head,
Donal and the cows had vanished.

Donal had looked all round as he left the meadow, and seeing the boy
nowhere, had concluded he had gone to his people. The impression he
had made upon him faded a little during the evening. For when he
reached home, and had watered them, he had to tie up the animals,
each in its stall, and make it comfortable for the night; next, eat
his own supper; then learn a proposition of Euclid, and go to bed.



Hungering minds come of peasant people as often as of any, and have
appeared in Scotland as often, I fancy, as in any nation; not every
Scotsman, therefore, who may not himself have known one like Donal,
will refuse to believe in such a herd-laddie. Besides, there are
still those in Scotland, as well as in other nations, to whom the
simple and noble, not the commonplace and selfish, is the true type
of humanity. Of such as Donal, whether English or Scotch, is the
class coming up to preserve the honour and truth of our Britain, to
be the oil of the lamp of her life, when those who place her glory
in knowledge, or in riches, shall have passed from her history as
the smoke from her chimneys.

Cheap as education then was in Scotland, the parents of Donal Grant
had never dreamed of sending a son to college. It was difficult for
them to save even the few quarterly shillings that paid the fees of
the parish schoolmaster: for Donal, indeed, they would have failed
even in this, but for the help his brothers and sisters afforded.
After he left school, however, and got a place as herd, he fared
better than any of the rest, for at the Mains he found a friend and
helper in Fergus Duff, his master's second son, who was then at home
from college, which he had now attended two winters. Partly that he
was delicate in health, partly that he was something of a fine
gentleman, he took no share with his father and elder brother in the
work of the farm, although he was at the Mains from the beginning of
April to the end of October. He was a human kind of soul
notwithstanding, and would have been much more of a man if he had
thought less of being a gentleman. He had taken a liking to Donal,
and having found in him a strong desire after every kind of
knowledge of which he himself had any share, had sought to enliven
the tedium of an existence rendered not a little flabby from want of
sufficient work, by imparting to him of the treasures he had
gathered. They were not great, and he could never have carried him
far, for he was himself only a respectable student, not a little
lacking in perseverance, and given to dreaming dreams of which he
was himself the hero. Happily, however, Donal was of another sort,
and from the first needed but to have the outermost shell of a thing
broken for him, and that Fergus could do: by and by Donal would
break a shell for himself.

But perhaps the best thing Fergus did for him was the lending him
books. Donal had an altogether unappeasable hunger after every form
of literature with which he had as yet made acquaintance, and this
hunger Fergus fed with the books of the house, and many besides of
such as he purchased or borrowed for his own reading -- these last
chiefly poetry. But Fergus Duff, while he revelled in the writings
of certain of the poets of the age, was incapable of finding poetry
for himself in the things around him: Donal Grant, on the other
hand, while he seized on the poems Fergus lent him, with an avidity
even greater than his, received from the nature around him
influences similar to those which exhaled from the words of the
poet. In some sense, then, Donal was original; that is, he received
at first hand what Fergus required to have "put on" him, to quote
Celia, in As you like it, "as pigeons feed their young." Therefore,
fiercely as it would have harrowed the pride of Fergus to be
informed of the fact, he was in the kingdom of art only as one who
ate of what fell from the table, while his father's herd-boy was one
of the family. This was as far from Donal's thought, however, as
from that of Fergus; the condescension, therefore, of the latter did
not impair the gratitude for which the former had such large reason;
and Donal looked up to Fergus as to one of the lords of the world.

To find himself now in the reversed relation of superior and teacher
to the little outcast, whose whole worldly having might be summed in
the statement that he was not absolutely naked, woke in Donal an
altogether new and strange feeling; yet gratitude to his master had
but turned itself round, and become tenderness to his pupil.

After Donal left him in the field, and while he was ministering,
first to his beasts and then to himself, Gibbie lay on the grass, as
happy as child could well be. A loving hand laid on his feet or
legs would have found them like ice; but where was the matter so
long as he never thought of them? He could have supped a huge
bicker of sowens, and eaten a dozen potatoes; but of what mighty
consequence is hunger, so long as it neither absorbs the thought,
nor causes faintness? The sun, however, was going down behind a
great mountain, and its huge shadow, made of darkness, and haunted
with cold, came sliding across the river, and over valley and field,
nothing staying its silent wave, until it covered Gibbie with the
blanket of the dark, under which he could not long forget that he
was in a body to which cold is unfriendly. At the first breath of
the night-wind that came after the shadow, he shivered, and starting
to his feet, began to trot, increasing his speed until he was
scudding up and down the field like a wild thing of the night, whose
time was at hand, waiting until the world should lie open to him.
Suddenly he perceived that the daisies, which all day long had been
full-facing the sun, like true souls confessing to the father of
them, had folded their petals together to points, and held them like
spear-heads tipped with threatening crimson, against the onset of
the night and her shadows, while within its white cone each folded
in the golden heart of its life, until the great father should
return, and, shaking the wicked out of the folds of the night,
render the world once more safe with another glorious day. Gibbie
gazed and wondered; and while he gazed -- slowly, glidingly, back to
his mind came the ghost-mother of the ballad, and in every daisy he
saw her folding her neglected orphans to her bosom, while the
darkness and the misery rolled by defeated. He wished he knew a
ghost that would put her arms round him. He must have had a mother
once, he supposed, but he could not remember her, and of course she

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