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Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald

Part 3 out of 10

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must have forgotten him. He did not know that about him were folded
the everlasting arms of the great, the one Ghost, which is the Death
of death -- the life and soul of all things and all thoughts. The
Presence, indeed, was with him, and he felt it, but he knew it only
as the wind and shadow, the sky and closed daisies: in all these
things and the rest it took shape that it might come near him. Yea,
the Presence was in his very soul, else he could never have rejoiced
in friend, or desired ghost to mother him: still he knew not the
Presence. But it was drawing nearer and nearer to his
knowledge -- even in sun and air and night and cloud, in beast and
flower and herd-boy, until at last it would reveal itself to him, in
him, as Life Himself. Then the man would know that in which the
child had rejoiced. The stars came out, to Gibbie the heavenly
herd, feeding at night, and gathering gold in the blue pastures. He
saw them, looking up from the grass where he had thrown himself to
gaze more closely at the daisies; and the sleep that pressed down
his eyelids seemed to descend from the spaces between the stars.
But it was too cold that night to sleep in the fields, when he knew
where to find warmth. Like a fox into his hole, the child would
creep into the corner where God had stored sleep for him: back he
went to the barn, gently trotting, and wormed himself through the

The straw was gone! But he remembered the hay. And happily, for he
was tired, there stood the ladder against the loft. Up he went, nor
turned aside to the cheese; but sleep was common property still. He
groped his way forward through the dark loft until he found the hay,
when at once he burrowed into it like a sand-fish into the wet sand.
All night the white horse, a glory vanished in the dark, would be
close to him, behind the thin partition of boards. He could hear
his very breath as he slept, and to the music of it, audible sign of
companionship, he fell fast asleep, and slept until the waking
horses woke him.



He scrambled out on the top of the hay, and looked down on the
beautiful creature below him, dawning radiant again with the
morning, as it issued undimmed from the black bosom of the night.
He was not, perhaps, just so well groomed as white steed might be;
it was not a stable where they kept a blue-bag for their grey
horses; but to Gibbie's eyes he was so pure, that he began, for the
first time in his life, to doubt whether he was himself quite as
clean as he ought to be. He did not know, but he would make an
experiment for information when he got down to the burn. Meantime
was there nothing he could do for the splendid creature? From
above, leaning over, he filled his rack with hay; but he had eaten
so much grass the night before, that he would not look at it, and
Gibbie was disappointed. What should he do next? The thing he
would like best would be to look through the ceiling again, and
watch the woman at her work. Then, too, he would again smell the
boiling porridge, and the burning of the little sprinkles of meal
that fell into the fire. He dragged, therefore, the ladder to the
opposite end of the barn, and gradually, with no little effort,
raised it against the wall. Carefully he crept through the hole,
and softly round the shelf, the dangerous part of the pass, and so
on to the ceiling, whence he peeped once more down into the kitchen.
His precautions had been so far unnecessary, for as yet it lay
unvisited, as witnessed by its disorder. Suddenly came to Gibbie
the thought that here was a chance for him -- here a path back to the
world. Rendered daring by the eagerness of his hope, he got again
upon the shelf, and with every precaution lest he should even touch
a milkpan, descended by the lower shelves to the floor. There
finding the door only latched, he entered the kitchen, and proceeded
to do everything he had seen the woman do, as nearly in her style as
he could. He swept the floor, and dusted the seats, the window
sill, the table, with an apron he found left on a chair, then
arranged everything tidily, roused the rested fire, and had just
concluded that the only way to get the great pot full of water upon
it, would be to hang first the pot on the chain, and then fill it
with the water, when his sharp ears caught sounds and then heard
approaching feet. He darted into the dairy, and in a few seconds,
for he was getting used to the thing now, had clambered upon the
ceiling, and was lying flat across the joists, with his eyes to the
most commanding crack he had discovered: he was anxious to know how
his service would be received. When Jean Mavor -- she was the
farmer's half-sister -- opened the door, she stopped short and stared;
the kitchen was not as she had left it the night before! She
concluded she must be mistaken, for who could have touched it? and
entered. Then it became plain beyond dispute that the floor had
been swept, the table wiped, the place redd up, and the fire roused.

"Hoot! I maun hae been walkin' i' my sleep!" said Jean to herself
aloud. "Or maybe that guid laddie Donal Grant's been wullin' to gie
me a helpin' han' for's mither's sake, honest wuman! The laddie's
guid eneuch for onything! -- ay, gien 'twar to mak' a minister o'!"

Eagerly, greedily, Gibbie now watched her every motion, and, bent
upon learning, nothing escaped him: he would do much better next
morning! -- At length the men came in to breakfast, and he thought to
enjoy the sight; but, alas! it wrought so with his hunger as to make
him feel sick, and he crept away to the barn. He would gladly have
lain down in the hay for a while, but that would require the ladder,
and he did not now feel able to move it. On the floor of the barn
he was not safe, and he got out of it into the cornyard, where he
sought the henhouse. But there was no food there yet, and he must
not linger near; for, if he were discovered, they would drive him
away, and he would lose Donal Grant. He had not seen him at
breakfast, for indeed he seldom, during the summer, had a meal
except supper in the house. Gibbie, therefore, as he could not eat,
ran to the burn and drank -- but had no heart that morning for his
projected inquiry into the state of his person. He must go to
Donal. The sight of him would help him to bear his hunger.

The first indication Donal had of his proximity was the rush of
Hornie past him in flight out of the corn. Gibbie was pursuing her
with stones for lack of a stick. Thoroughly ashamed of himself,
Donal threw his book from him, and ran to meet Gibbie.

"Ye maunna fling stanes, cratur," he said. "Haith! it's no for me to
fin' fau't, though," he added, "sittin' readin' buiks like a gowk
'at I am, an' lattin' the beasts rin wull amo' the corn, 'at's weel
peyed to haud them oot o' 't! I'm clean affrontit wi' mysel',

Gibbie's response was to set off at full speed for the place where
Donal had been sitting. He was back in a moment with the book,
which he pressed into Donal's hand, while from the other he withdrew
his club. This he brandished aloft once or twice, then starting at
a steady trot, speedily circled the herd, and returned to his
adopted master -- only to start again, however, and attack Hornie,
whom he drove from the corn-side of the meadow right over to the
other: she was already afraid of him. After watching him for a
time, Donal came to the conclusion that he could not do more than
the cratur if he had as many eyes as Argus, and gave not even one of
them to his book. He therefore left all to Gibbie, and did not once
look up for a whole hour. Everything went just as it should; and
not once, all that day, did Hornie again get a mouthful of the
grain. It was rather a heavy morning for Gibbie, though, who had
eaten nothing, and every time he came near Donal, saw the
handkerchief bulging in the grass, which a little girl had brought
and left for him. But he was a rare one both at waiting and at
going without.

At last, however, Donal either grew hungry of himself, or was moved
by certain understood relations between the sun and the necessities
of his mortal frame; for he laid down his book, called out to
Gibbie, "Cratur, it's denner-time," and took his bundle. Gibbie
drew near with sparkling eyes. There was no selfishness in his
hunger, for, at the worst pass he had ever reached, he would have
shared what he had with another, but he looked so eager, that Donal,
who himself knew nothing of want, perceived that he was ravenous,
and made haste to undo the knots of the handkerchief, which Mistress
Jean appeared that day to have tied with more than ordinary vigour,
ere she intrusted the bundle to the foreman's daughter. When the
last knot yielded, he gazed with astonishment at the amount and
variety of provision disclosed.

"Losh!" he exclaimed, "the mistress maun hae kenned there was two o'

He little thought that what she had given him beyond the usual
supply was an acknowledgment of services rendered by those same
hands into which he now delivered a share, on the ground of other
service altogether. It is not always, even where there is no
mistake as to the person who has deserved it, that the reward
reaches the doer so directly.

Before the day was over, Donal gave his helper more and other pay
for his service. Choosing a fit time, when the cattle were well
together and in good position, Hornie away at the stone dyke, he
took from his pocket a somewhat wasted volume of ballads -- ballants,
he called them -- and said, "Sit ye doon, cratur. Never min' the
nowt. I'm gaein' to read till ye."

Gibbie dropped on his crossed legs like a lark to the ground, and
sat motionless. Donal, after deliberate search, began to read, and
Gibbie to listen; and it would be hard to determine which found the
more pleasure in his part. For Donal had seldom had a listener -- and
never one so utterly absorbed.

When the hour came for the cattle to go home, Gibbie again remained
behind, waiting until all should be still at the farm. He lay on
the dyke, brooding over what he had heard, and wondering how it was
that Donal got all those strange beautiful words and sounds and
stories out of the book.



I must not linger over degrees and phases. Every morning, Gibbie
got into the kitchen in good time; and not only did more and more of
the work, but did it more and more to the satisfaction of Jean,
until, short of the actual making of the porridge, he did everything
antecedent to the men's breakfast. When Jean came in, she had but
to take the lid from the pot, put in the salt, assume the spurtle,
and, grasping the first handful of the meal, which stood ready
waiting in the bossie on the stone cheek of the fire, throw it in,
thus commencing the simple cookery of the best of all dishes to a
true-hearted and healthy Scotsman. Without further question she
attributed all the aid she received to the goodness, "enough for
anything," of Donal Grant, and continued to make acknowledgment of
the same in both sort and quantity of victuals, whence, as has been
shown, the real labourer received his due reward.

Until he had thoroughly mastered his work, Gibbie persisted in
regarding matters economic "from his loophole in the ceiling;" and
having at length learned the art of making butter, soon arrived at
some degree of perfection in it. But when at last one morning he
not only churned, but washed and made it up entirely to Jean's
satisfaction, she did begin to wonder how a mere boy could both have
such perseverance, and be so clever at a woman's work. For now she
entered the kitchen every morning without a question of finding the
fire burning, the water boiling, the place clean and tidy, the
supper dishes well washed and disposed on shelf and rack: her own
part was merely to see that proper cloths were handy to so thorough
a user of them. She took no one into her confidence on the matter:
it was enough, she judged, that she and Donal understood each other.

And now if Gibbie had contented himself with rendering this
house-service in return for the shelter of the barn and its hay, he
might have enjoyed both longer; but from the position of his
night-quarters, he came gradually to understand the work of the
stable also; and before long, the men, who were quite ignorant of
anything similar taking place in the house, began to observe, more
to their wonder than satisfaction, that one or other of their horses
was generally groomed before his man came to him; that often there
was hay in their racks which they had not given them; and that the
master's white horse every morning showed signs of having had some
attention paid him that could not be accounted for. The result was
much talk and speculation, suspicion and offence; for all were
jealous of their rights, their duty, and their dignity, in relation
to their horses: no man was at liberty to do a thing to or for any
but his own pair. Even the brightening of the harness-brass, in
which Gibbie sometimes indulged, was an offence; for did it not
imply a reproach? Many were the useless traps laid for the
offender, many the futile attempts to surprise him: as Gibbie never
did anything except for half an hour or so while the men were sound
asleep or at breakfast, he escaped discovery.

But he could not hold continued intercourse with the splendour of
the white horse, and neglect carrying out the experiment on which he
had resolved with regard to the effect of water upon his own skin;
and having found the result a little surprising, he soon got into
the habit of daily and thorough ablution. But many animals that
never wash are yet cleaner than some that do; and, what with the
scantiness of his clothing, his constant exposure to the atmosphere,
and his generally lying in a fresh lair, Gibbie had always been
comparatively clean. Besides, being nice in his mind, he was
naturally nice in his body.

The new personal regard thus roused by the presence of Snowball, had
its development greatly assisted by the scrupulosity with which most
things in the kitchen, and chief of all in this respect, the churn,
were kept. It required much effort to come up to the nicety
considered by Jean indispensable in the churn; and the croucher on
the ceiling, when he saw the long nose advance to prosecute inquiry
into its condition, mentally trembled lest the next movement should
condemn his endeavour as a failure. With his clothes he could do
nothing, alas! but he bathed every night in the Lorrie as soon as
Donal had gone home with the cattle. Once he got into a deep hole,
but managed to get out again, and so learned that he could swim.

All day he was with Donal, and took from him by much the greater
part of his labour: Donal had never had such time for reading. In
return he gave him his dinner, and Gibbie could do very well upon
one meal a day. He paid him also in poetry. It never came into his
head, seeing he never spoke, to teach him to read. He soon gave up
attempting to learn anything from him as to his place or people or
history, for to all questions in that direction Gibbie only looked
grave and shook his head. As often, on the other hand, as he tried
to learn where he spent the night, he received for answer only one
of his merriest laughs.

Nor was larger time for reading the sole benefit Gibbie conferred
upon Donal. Such was the avidity and growing intelligence with
which the little naked town-savage listened to what Donal read to
him, that his presence was just so much added to Donal's own live
soul of thought and feeling. From listening to his own lips through
Gibbie's ears, he not only understood many things better, but,
perceiving what things must puzzle Gibbie, came sometimes, rather to
his astonishment, to see that in fact he did not understand them
himself. Thus the bond between the boy and the child grew
closer -- far closer, indeed than Donal imagined; for, although still,
now and then, he had a return of the fancy that Gibbie might be a
creature of some speechless race other than human, of whom he was
never to know whence he came or whither he went -- a messenger,
perhaps, come to unveil to him the depths of his own spirit, and
make up for the human teaching denied him, this was only in his more
poetic moods, and his ordinary mental position towards him was one
of kind condescension.

It was not all fine weather up there among the mountains in the
beginning of summer. In the first week of June even, there was
sleet and snow in the wind -- the tears of the vanquished Winter,
blown, as he fled, across the sea, from Norway or Iceland. Then
would Donal's heart be sore for Gibbie, when he saw his poor rags
blown about like streamers in the wind, and the white spots melting
on his bare skin. His own condition would then to many have
appeared pitiful enough, but such an idea Donal would have laughed
to scorn, and justly. Then most, perhaps then only, does the truly
generous nature feel poverty, when he sees another in need and can
do little or nothing to help him. Donal had neither greatcoat,
plaid, nor umbrella, wherewith to shield Gibbie's looped and
windowed raggedness. Once, in great pity, he pulled off his jacket,
and threw it on Gibbie's shoulders. But the shout of laughter that
burst from the boy, as he flung the jacket from him, and rushed away
into the middle of the feeding herd, a shout that came from no cave
of rudeness, but from the very depths of delight, stirred by the
loving kindness of the act, startled Donal out of his pity into
brief anger, and he rushed after him in indignation, with full
purpose to teach him proper behaviour by a box on each ear. But
Gibbie dived under the belly of a favourite cow, and peering out
sideways from under her neck and between her forelegs, his arms
grasping each a leg, while the cow went on twisting her long tongue
round the grass and plucking it undisturbed, showed such an innocent
countenance of holy merriment, that the pride of Donal's hurt
benevolence melted away, and his laughter emulated Gibbie's. That
sort of day was in truth drearier for Donal than for Gibbie, for the
books he had were not his own, and he dared not expose them to the
rain; some of them indeed came from Glashruach -- the Muckle Hoose,
they generally called it! When he left him, it was to wander
disconsolately about the field; while Gibbie, sheltered under a
whole cow, defied the chill and the sleet, and had no books of which
to miss the use. He could not, it is true, shield his legs from the
insidious attacks of such sneaking blasts as will always find out
the undefended spots; but his great heart was so well-to-do in the
inside of him, that, unlike Touchstone, his spirits not being weary,
he cared not for his legs. The worst storm in the world could not
have made that heart quail. For, think! there had just been the
strong, the well-dressed, the learned, the wise, the altogether
mighty and considerable Donal, the cowherd, actually desiring him,
wee Sir Gibbie Galbraith, the cinder of the city furnace, the naked,
and generally the hungry little tramp, to wear his jacket to cover
him from the storm! The idea was one of eternal triumph; and
Gibbie, exulting in the unheard-of devotion and condescension of the
thing, kept on laughing like a blessed cherub under the cow's belly.
Nor was there in his delight the smallest admixture of pride that
he should have drawn forth such kindness; it was simple glorying in
the beauteous fact. As to the cold and the sleet, so far as he knew
they never hurt anybody. They were not altogether pleasant
creatures, but they could not help themselves, and would soon give
over their teasing. By to-morrow they would have wandered away into
other fields, and left the sun free to come back to Donal and the
cattle, when Gibbie, at present shielded like any lord by the
friendliest of cows, would come in for a share of the light and the
warmth. Gibbie was so confident with the animals, that they were
already even more friendly with him than with Donal -- all except
Hornie, who, being of a low spirit, therefore incapable of
obedience, was friendliest with the one who gave her the hardest



Things had gone on in this way for several weeks -- if Gibbie had not
been such a small creature, I hardly see how they could for so
long -- when one morning the men came in to breakfast all out of
temper together, complaining loudly of the person unknown who would
persist in interfering with their work. They were the louder that
their suspicions fluttered about Fergus, who was rather overbearing
with them, and therefore not a favourite. He was in reality not at
all a likely person to bend back or defile hands over such labour,
and their pitching upon him for the object of their suspicion,
showed how much at a loss they were. Their only ground for
suspecting him, beyond the fact that there was no other whom by any
violence of imagination they could suspect, was, that, whatever else
was done or left undone in the stable, Snowball, whom Fergus was
fond of, and rode almost every day, was, as already mentioned, sure
to have something done for him. Had he been in good odour with
them, they would have thought no harm of most of the things they
thought he did, especially as they eased their work; but he carried
himself high, they said, doing nothing but ride over the farm and
pick out every fault he could find -- to show how sharp he was, and
look as if he could do better than any of them; and they fancied
that he carried their evil report to his father, and that this
underhand work in the stable must be part of some sly scheme for
bringing them into disgrace. And now at last had come the worst
thing of all: Gibbie had discovered the corn-bin, and having no
notion but that everything in the stable was for the delectation of
the horses, had been feeding them largely with oats -- a delicacy with
which, in the plenty of other provisions, they were very sparingly
supplied; and the consequences had begun to show themselves in the
increased unruliness of the more wayward amongst them. Gibbie had
long given up resorting to the ceiling, and remained in utter
ignorance of the storm that was brewing because of him.

The same day brought things nearly to a crisis; for the overfed
Snowball, proving too much for Fergus's horsemanship, came rushing
home at a fierce gallop without him, having indeed left him in a
ditch by the roadside. The remark thereupon made by the men in his
hearing, that it was his own fault, led him to ask questions, when
he came gradually to know what they attributed to him, and was
indignant at the imputation of such an employment of his mornings to
one who had his studies to attend to -- scarcely a wise line of
defence where the truth would have been more credible as well as
convincing -- namely, that at the time when those works of
supererogation could alone be effected, he lay as lost a creature as
ever sleep could make of a man.

In the evening, Jean sought a word with Donal, and expressed her
surprise that he should be able to do everybody's work about the
place, warning him it would be said he did it at the expense of his
own. But what could he mean, she said, by wasting the good corn to
put devilry into the horses? Donal stared in utter bewilderment.
He knew perfectly that to the men suspicion of him was as
impossible as of one of themselves. Did he not sleep in the same
chamber with them? Could it be allusion to the way he spent his
time when out with the cattle that Mistress Jean intended? He was
so confused, looked so guilty as well as astray, and answered so far
from any point in Jean's mind, that she at last became altogether
bewildered also, out of which chaos of common void gradually dawned
on her mind the conviction that she had been wasting both thanks and
material recognition of service, where she was under no obligation.
Her first feeling thereupon was, not unnaturally however
unreasonably, one of resentment -- as if Donal, in not doing her the
kindness her fancy had been attributing to him, had all the time
been doing her an injury; but the boy's honest bearing and her own
good sense made her, almost at once, dismiss the absurdity.

Then came anew the question, utterly unanswerable now -- who could it
be that did not only all her morning work, but, with a passion for
labour insatiable, part of that of the men also? She knew her
nephew better than to imagine for a moment, with the men, it could
be he. A good enough lad she judged him, but not good enough for
that. He was too fond of his own comfort to dream of helping other
people! But now, having betrayed herself to Donal, she wisely went
farther, and secured herself by placing full confidence in him. She
laid open the whole matter, confessing that she had imagined her
ministering angel to be Donal himself: now she had not even a
conjecture to throw at random after the person of her secret
servant. Donal, being a Celt, and a poet, would have been a brute
if he had failed of being a gentleman, and answered that he was
ashamed it should be another and not himself who had been her
servant and gained her commendation; but he feared, if he had made
any such attempt, he would but have fared like the husband in the
old ballad who insisted that his wife's work was much easier to do
than his own. But as he spoke, he saw a sudden change come over
Jean's countenance. Was it fear? or what was it? She gazed with
big eyes fixed on his face, heeding neither him nor his words, and
Donal, struck silent, gazed in return. At length, after a pause of
strange import, her soul seemed to return into her deep-set grey
eyes, and in a broken voice, low, and solemn, and fraught with
mystery, she said,

"Donal, it's the broonie!"

Donal's mouth opened wide at the word, but the tenor of his thought
it would have been hard for him to determine. Celtic in kindred and
education, he had listened in his time to a multitude of strange
tales, both indigenous and exotic, and, Celtic in blood, had been
inclined to believe every one of them for which he could find the
least raison d'�tre. But at school he had been taught that such
stories deserved nothing better than mockery, that to believe them
was contrary to religion, and a mark of such weakness as involved
blame. Nevertheless, when he heard the word broonie issue from a
face with such an expression as Jean's then wore, his heart seemed
to give a gape in his bosom, and it rushed back upon his memory how
he had heard certain old people talk of the brownie that used, when
their mothers and grandmothers were young, to haunt the Mains of
Glashruach. His mother did not believe such things, but she
believed nothing but her New Testament! -- and what if there should be
something in them? The idea of service rendered by the hand of a
being too clumsy, awkward, ugly, to consent to be seen by the more
finished race of his fellow-creatures, whom yet he surpassed in
strength and endurance and longevity, had at least in it for Donal
the attraction of a certain grotesque yet homely poetic element. He
remembered too the honour such a type of creature had had in being
lapt around for ever in the airy folds of L'Allegro. And to think
that Mistress Jean, for whom everybody had such a respect, should
speak of the creature in such a tone! -- it sent a thrill of horrific
wonder and delight through the whole frame of the boy: might, could
there be such creatures? And thereupon began to open to his
imagination vista after vista into the realms of might-be
possibility -- where dwelt whole clans and kins of creatures,
differing from us and our kin, yet occasionally, at the cross-roads
of creation, coming into contact with us, and influencing us not
greatly, perhaps, yet strangely and notably. Not once did the real
brownie occur to him -- the small, naked Gibbie, far more marvellous
and admirable than any brownie of legendary fable or fact, whether
celebrated in rude old Scots ballad for his taeless feet, or
designated in noble English poem of perfect art, as lubber fiend of
hairy length.

Jean Mavor came from a valley far withdrawn in the folds of the
Gormgarnet mountains, where in her youth she had heard yet stranger
tales than had ever come to Donal's ears, of which some had perhaps
kept their hold the more firmly that she had never heard them even
alluded to since she left her home. Her brother, a hard-headed
highlander, as canny as any lowland Scot, would have laughed to
scorn the most passing reference to such an existence; and Fergus,
who had had a lowland mother -- and nowhere is there less of so-called
superstition than in most parts of the lowlands of Scotland -- would
have joined heartily in his mockery. For the cowherd, however, as I
say, the idea had no small attraction, and his stare was the
reflection of Mistress Jean's own -- for the soul is a live mirror, at
once receiving into its centre, and reflecting from its surface.

"Div ye railly think it, mem?" said Donal at last.

"Think what?" retorted Jean, sharply, jealous instantly of being
compromised, and perhaps not certain that she had spoken aloud.

"Div ye railly think 'at there is sic craturs as broonies, Mistress
Jean?" said Donal.

"Wha kens what there is an' what there isna?" returned Jean: she was
not going to commit herself either way. Even had she imagined
herself above believing such things, she would not have dared to say
so; for there was a time still near in her memory, though unknown to
any now upon the farm except her brother, when the Mains of
Glashruach was the talk of Daurside because of certain inexplicable
nightly disorders that fell out there; the slang rows, or the Scotch
remishs (a form of the English romage), would perhaps come nearest
to a designation of them, consisting as they did of confused noises,
rumblings, ejaculations; and the fact itself was a reason for
silence, seeing a word might bring the place again into men's mouths
in like fashion, and seriously affect the service of the farm; such
a rumour would certainly be made in the market a ground for
demanding more wages to fee to the Mains. "Ye haud yer tongue,
laddie," she went on; "it's the least ye can efter a' 'at's come an'
gane; an' least said's sunest mendit, Gang to yer wark."

But either Mistress Jean's influx of caution came too late, and
someone had overheard her suggestion, or the idea was already abroad
in the mind bucolic and georgic, for that very night it began to be
reported upon the nearer farms, that the Mains of Glashruach was
haunted by a brownie who did all the work for both men and maids -- a
circumstance productive of different opinions with regard to the
desirableness of a situation there, some asserting they would not
fee to it for any amount of wages, and others averring they could
desire nothing better than a place where the work was all done for

Quick at disappearing as Gibbie was, a very little cunning on the
part of Jean might soon have entrapped the brownie; but a
considerable touch of fear was now added to her other motives for
continuing to spend a couple of hours longer in bed than had
formerly been her custom. So that for yet a few days things went on
much as usual; Gibbie saw no sign that his presence was suspected,
or that his doings were offensive; and life being to him a constant
present, he never troubled himself about anything before it was
there to answer for itself.

One morning the long thick mane of Snowball was found carefully
plaited up in innumerable locks. This was properly elf-work, but no
fairies had been heard of on Daurside for many a long year. The
brownie, on the other hand, was already in every one's mouth -- only a
stray one, probably, that had wandered from some old valley away in
the mountains, where they were still believed in -- but not the less a
brownie; and if it was not the brownie who plaited Snowball's mane,
who or what was it? A phenomenon must be accounted for, and he who
will not accept a theory offered, or even a word applied, is
indebted in a full explanation. The rumour spread in long slow
ripples, till at last one of them struck the membrana tympani of the
laird, where he sat at luncheon in the House of Glashruach.



Thomas Galbraith was by birth Thomas Durrant, but had married an
heiress by whom he came into possession of Glashruach, and had,
according to previous agreement, taken her name. When she died he
mourned her loss as well as he could, but was consoled by feeling
himself now first master of both position and possession, when the
ladder by which he had attained them was removed. It was not that
she had ever given him occasion to feel that marriage and not
inheritance was the source of his distinction in the land, but that
having a soul as keenly sensitive to small material rights as it was
obtuse to great spiritual ones, he never felt the property quite his
own until his wife was no longer within sight. Had he been a little
more sensitive still, he would have felt that the property was then
his daughter's, and his only through her; but this he failed to

Mrs. Galbraith was a gentle sweet woman, who loved her husband, but
was capable of loving a greater man better. Had she lived long
enough to allow of their opinions confronting in the matter of their
child's education, serious differences would probably have arisen
between them; as it was, they had never quarrelled except about the
name she should bear. The father, having for her sake -- so he said
to himself -- sacrificed his patronymic, was anxious that in order to
her retaining some rudimentary trace of himself in the ears of men,
she should be overshadowed with his Christian name, and called
Thomasina. But the mother was herein all the mother, and obdurate
for her daughter's future; and, as was right between the two, she
had her way, and her child a pretty name. Being more sentimental
than artistic, however, she did not perceive how imperfectly the
sweet Italian Ginevra concorded with the strong Scotch Galbraith.
Her father hated the name, therefore invariably abbreviated it
after such fashion as rendered it inoffensive to the most
conservative of Scotish ears; and for his own part, at length, never
said Ginny, without seeing and hearing and meaning Jenny. As Jenny,
indeed, he addressed her in the one or two letters which were all he
ever wrote to her; and thus he perpetuated the one matrimonial
difference across the grave.

Having no natural bent to literature, but having in his youth
studied for and practised at the Scotish bar, he had brought with
him into the country a taste for certain kinds of dry reading,
judged pre-eminently respectable, and for its indulgence had brought
also a not insufficient store of such provender as his soul mildly
hungered after, in the shape of books bound mostly in
yellow-calf -- books of law, history, and divinity. What the books of
law were, I would not foolhardily add to my many risks of blundering
by presuming to recall; the history was mostly Scotish, or connected
with Scotish affairs; the theology was entirely of the New England
type of corrupted Calvinism, with which in Scotland they saddle the
memory of great-souled, hard-hearted Calvin himself. Thoroughly
respectable, and a little devout, Mr. Galbraith was a good deal more
of a Scotchman than a Christian; growth was a doctrine unembodied in
his creed; he turned from everything new, no matter how harmonious
with the old, in freezing disapprobation; he recognized no element
in God or nature which could not be reasoned about after the forms
of the Scotch philosophy. He would not have said an Episcopalian
could not be saved, for at the bar he had known more than one good
lawyer of the episcopal party; but to say a Roman Catholic would not
necessarily be damned, would to his judgment have revealed at once
the impending fate of the rash asserter. In religion he regarded
everything not only as settled but as understood; but seemed aware
of no call in relation to truth, but to bark at anyone who showed
the least anxiety to discover it. What truth he held himself, he
held as a sack holds corn -- not even as a worm holds earth.

To his servants and tenants he was what he thought just -- never
condescending to talk over a thing with any of the former but the
game-keeper, and never making any allowance to the latter for
misfortune. In general expression he looked displeased, but meant
to look dignified. No one had ever seen him wrathful; nor did he
care enough for his fellow-mortals ever to be greatly vexed -- at
least he never manifested vexation otherwise than by a silence that
showed more of contempt than suffering.

In person, he was very tall and very thin, with a head much too
small for his height; a narrow forehead, above which the brown hair
looked like a wig; pale-blue, ill-set eyes, that seemed too large
for their sockets, consequently tumbled about a little, and were
never at once brought to focus; a large, but soft-looking nose; a
loose-lipped mouth, and very little chin. He always looked as if
consciously trying to keep himself together. He wore his
shirt-collar unusually high, yet out of it far shot his long neck,
notwithstanding the smallness of which, his words always seemed to
come from a throat much too big for them. He had greatly the look
of a hen, proud of her maternal experiences, and silent from conceit
of what she could say if she would. So much better would he have
done as an underling than as a ruler -- as a journeyman even, than a
master, that to know him was almost to disbelieve in the good of
what is generally called education. His learning seemed to have
taken the wrong fermentation, and turned to folly instead of wisdom.
But he did not do much harm, for he had a great respect for his
respectability. Perhaps if he had been a craftsman, he might even
have done more harm -- making rickety wheelbarrows, asthmatic pumps,
ill-fitting window-frames, or boots with a lurking divorce in each
welt. He had no turn for farming, and therefore let all his land,
yet liked to interfere, and as much as possible kept a personal

There was one thing, however, which, if it did not throw the laird
into a passion -- nothing, as I have said, did that -- brought him
nearer to the outer verge of displeasure than any other, and that
was, anything whatever to which he could affix the name of
superstition. The indignation of better men than the laird with
even a confessedly harmless superstition, is sometimes very amusing;
and it was a point of Mr. Galbraith's poverty-stricken religion to
denounce all superstitions, however diverse in character, with equal
severity. To believe in the second sight, for instance, or in any
form of life as having the slightest relation to this world, except
that of men, that of animals, and that of vegetables, was with him
wicked, antagonistic to the Church of Scotland, and inconsistent
with her perfect doctrine. The very word ghost would bring upon his
face an expression he meant for withering scorn, and indeed it
withered his face, rendering it yet more unpleasant to behold.
Coming to the benighted country, then, with all the gathered wisdom
of Edinburgh in his gallinaceous cranium, and what he counted a vast
experience of worldly affairs besides, he brought with him also the
firm resolve to be the death of superstition, at least upon his own
property. He was not only unaware, but incapable of becoming aware,
that he professed to believe a number of things, any one of which
was infinitely more hostile to the truth of the universe, than all
the fancies and fables of a countryside, handed down from
grandmother to grandchild. When, therefore, within a year of his
settling at Glashruach, there arose a loud talk of the Mains, his
best farm, as haunted by presences making all kinds of tumultuous
noises, and even throwing utensils bodily about, he was nearer the
borders of a rage, although he kept, as became a gentleman, a calm
exterior, than ever he had been in his life. For were not ignorant
clodhoppers asserting as facts what he knew never could take place!
At once he set himself, with all his experience as a lawyer to aid
him, to discover the buffooning authors of the mischief; where there
were deeds there were doers, and where there were doers they were
discoverable. But his endeavours, uninterrmitted for the space of
three weeks, after which the disturbances ceased, proved so utterly
without result, that he could never bear the smallest allusion to
the hateful business. For he had not only been unhorsed, but by his
dearest hobby.

He was seated with a game pie in front of him, over the top of which
Ginevra was visible. The girl never sat nearer her father at meals
than the whole length of the table, where she occupied her mother's
place. She was a solemn-looking child, of eight or nine, dressed in
a brown merino frock of the plainest description. Her hair, which
was nearly of the same colour as her frock, was done up in two
triple plaits, which hung down her back, and were tied at the tips
with black ribbon. To the first glance she did not look a very
interesting or attractive child; but looked at twice, she was sure
to draw the eyes a third time. She was undeniably like her father,
and that was much against her at first sight; but it required only a
little acquaintance with her face to remove the prejudice; for in
its composed, almost resigned expression, every feature of her
father's seemed comparatively finished, and settled into harmony
with the rest; its chaos was subdued, and not a little of the
original underlying design brought out. The nose was firm, the
mouth modelled, the chin larger, the eyes a little smaller, and full
of life and feeling. The longer it was regarded by any seeing eye,
the child's countenance showed fuller of promise, or at least of
hope. Gradually the look would appear in it of a latent sensitive
anxiety -- then would dawn a glimmer of longing question; and then,
all at once, it would slip back into the original ordinary look,
which, without seeming attractive, had yet attracted. Her father
was never harsh to her, yet she looked rather frightened at him; but
then he was cold, very cold, and most children would rather be
struck and kissed alternately than neither. And the bond cannot be
very close between father and child, when the father has forsaken
his childhood. The bond between any two is the one in the other; it
is the father in the child, and the child in the father, that reach
to each other eternal hands. It troubled Ginevra greatly that, when
she asked herself whether she loved her father better than anybody
else, as she believed she ought, she became immediately doubtful
whether she loved him at all.

She was eating porridge and milk: with spoon arrested in
mid-passage, she stopped suddenly, and said: --

"Papa, what's a broonie?"

"I have told you, Jenny, that you are never to talk broad Scotch in
my presence," returned her father. "I would lay severer commands
upon you, were it not that I fear tempting you to disobey me, but I
will have no vulgarity in the dining-room."

His words came out slowly, and sounded as if each was a bullet
wrapped round with cotton wool to make it fit the barrel. Ginevra
looked perplexed for a moment.

"Should I say brownie, papa?" she asked.

"How can I tell you what you should call a creature that has no
existence?" rejoined her father.

"If it be a creature, papa, it must have a name!" retorted the
little logician, with great solemnity.

Mr. Galbraith was not pleased, for although the logic was good, it
was against him.

"What foolish person has been insinuating such contemptible
superstition into your silly head?" he asked. "Tell me, child," he
continued, "that I may put a stop to it at once."

He was rising to ring the bell, that he might give the orders
consequent on the information he expected: he would have asked
Mammon to dinner in black clothes and a white tie, but on
Superstition in the loveliest garb would have loosed all the dogs of
Glashruach, to hunt her from the property. Her next words, however,
arrested him, and just as she ended, the butler came in with fresh

"They say," said Ginevra, anxious to avoid the forbidden Scotch,
therefore stumbling sadly in her utterance, "there's a
broonie -- brownie -- at the Mains, who dis a' -- does all the work."

"What is the meaning of this, Joseph?" said Mr. Galbraith, turning
from her to the butler, with the air of rebuke, which was almost
habitual to him, a good deal heightened.

"The meanin' o' what, sir?" returned Joseph, nowise abashed, for to
him his master was not the greatest man in the world, or even in the
highlands. "He's no a Galbraith," he used to say, when more than
commonly provoked with him.

"I ask you, Joseph," answered the laird, "what this -- this outbreak
of superstition imports? You must be aware that nothing in the
world could annoy me more than that Miss Galbraith should learn
folly in her father's house. That staid servants, such as I had
supposed mine to be, should use their tongues as if their heads had
no more in them than so many bells hung in a steeple, is to me a
mortifying reflection."

"Tongues as weel's clappers was made to wag, sir; an, wag they wull,
sir, sae lang's the tow (string) hings oot at baith lugs," answered
Joseph. The forms of speech he employed were not unfrequently
obscure to his master, and in that obscurity lay more of Joseph's
impunity than he knew. "Forby (besides), sir," he went on, "gien
tongues didna wag, what w'y wad you, 'at has to set a' thing richt,
come to ken what was wrang?"

"That is not a bad remark, Joseph," replied the laird, with woolly
condescension. "Pray acquaint me with the whole matter."

"I hae naething till acquaint yer honour wi', sir, but the
ting-a-ling o' tongues," replied Joseph; "an' ye'll hae till
arreenge't like, till yer ain settisfaction."

Therewith he proceeded to report what he had heard reported, which
was in the main the truth, considerably exaggerated -- that the work
of the house was done over night by invisible hands -- and the work of
the stables, too; but that in the latter, cantrips were played as
well; that some of the men talked of leaving the place; and that Mr.
Duff's own horse, Snowball, was nearly out of his mind with fear.

The laird clenched his teeth, and for a whole minute said nothing.
Here were either his old enemies again, or some who had heard the
old story, and in their turn were beating the drum of consternation
in the ears of superstition.

"It is one of the men themselves," he said at last, with outward
frigidity. "Or some ill-designed neighbour," he added. "But I shall
soon be at the bottom of it. Go to the Mains at once, Joseph, and
ask young Fergus Duff to be so good as step over, as soon as he
conveniently can."

Fergus was pleased enough to be sent for by the laird, and soon told
him all he knew from his aunt and the men, confessing that he had
himself been too lazy of a morning to take any steps towards
personal acquaintance with the facts, but adding that, as Mr.
Galbraith took an interest in the matter, "he would be only too
happy to carry out any suggestion he might think proper to make on
the subject.

"Fergus," returned the laird, "do you imagine things inanimate can
of themselves change their relations in space? In other words, are
the utensils in your kitchen endowed with powers of locomotion? Can
they take to themselves wings and fly? Or to use a figure more to
the point, are they provided with members necessary to the washing
of their own -- persons, shall I say? Answer me those points,

"Certainly not, sir," answered Fergus solemnly, for the laird's face
was solemn, and his speech was very solemn.

"Then, Fergus, let me assure you, that to discover by what agency
these apparent wonders are effected, you have merely to watch. If
you fail, I will myself come to your assistance. Depend upon it,
the thing when explained will prove simplicity itself."

Fergus at once undertook to watch, but went home not quite so
comfortable as he had gone; for he did not altogether,
notwithstanding his unbelief in the so-called supernatural, relish
the approaching situation. Belief and unbelief are not always quite
plainly distinguishable from each other, and Fear is not always
certain which of them is his mother. He was not the less resolved,
however, to carry out what he had undertaken -- that was, to sit up
all night, if necessary, in order to have an interview with the
extravagant and erring -- spirit, surely, whether embodied or not,
that dared thus wrong "domestic awe, night-rest, and neighbourhood,"
by doing people's work for them unbidden. Not even to himself did
he confess that he felt frightened, for he was a youth of nearly
eighteen; but he could not quite hide from himself the fact that he
anticipated no pleasure in the duty which lay before him.



For more reasons than one, Fergus judged it prudent to tell not even
auntie Jean of his intention; but, waiting until the house was
quiet, stole softly from his room and repaired to the kitchen -- at
the other end of the long straggling house, where he sat down, and
taking his book, an annual of the beginning of the century, began to
read the story of Kathed and Eurelia. Having finished it, he read
another. He read and read, but no brownie came. His candle burned
into the socket. He lighted another, and read again. Still no
brownie appeared, and, hard and straight as was the wooden chair on
which he sat, be began to doze. Presently he started wide awake,
fancying he heard a noise; but nothing was there. He raised his
book once more, and read until he had finished the stories in it:
for the verse he had no inclination that night. As soon as they
were all consumed, he began to feel very eerie: his courage had been
sheltering itself behind his thoughts, which the tales he had been
reading had kept turned away from the object of dread. Still deeper
and deeper grew the night around him, until the bare, soulless waste
of it came at last, when a brave man might welcome any ghost for the
life it would bring. And ever as it came, the tide of fear flowed
more rapidly, until at last it rose over his heart, and threatened
to stifle him. The direst foe of courage is the fear itself, not
the object of it; and the man who can overcome his own terror is a
hero and more. In this Fergus had not yet deserved to be
successful. That kind of victory comes only of faith. Still, he
did not fly the field; he was no coward. At the same time, prizing
courage, scorning fear, and indeed disbelieving in every nocturnal
object of terror except robbers, he came at last to such an all but
abandonment of dread, that he dared not look over his shoulder, lest
he should see the brownie standing at his back; he would rather be
seized from behind and strangled in his hairy grasp, than turn and
die of the seeing. The night was dark -- no moon and many clouds.
Not a sound came from the close. The cattle, the horses, the pigs,
the cocks and hens, the very cats and rats seemed asleep. There was
not a rustle in the thatch, a creak in the couples. It was well,
for the slightest noise would have brought his heart into his mouth,
and he would have been in great danger of scaring the household, and
for ever disgracing himself, with a shriek. Yet he longed to hear
something stir. Oh! for the stamp of a horse from the stable or the
low of a cow from the byre! But they were all under the brownie's
spell, and he was coming -- toeless feet, and thumbed but fingerless
hands! as if he was made with stockings, and hum'le mittens! Was it
the want of toes that made him able to come and go so
quietly? -- Another hour crept by; when lo, a mighty sun-trumpet blew
in the throat of the black cock! Fergus sprang to his feet with the
start it gave him -- but the next moment gladness rushed up in his
heart: the morning was on its way! and, foe to superstition as he
was, and much as he had mocked at Donal for what he counted some of
his tendencies in that direction, he began instantly to comfort
himself with the old belief that all things of the darkness flee
from the crowing of the cock. The same moment his courage began to
return, and the next he was laughing at his terrors, more foolish
than when he felt them, seeing he was the same man of fear as
before, and the same circumstances would wrap him in the same
garment of dire apprehension. In his folly he imagined himself
quite ready to watch the next night without even repugnance -- for it
was the morning, not the night, that came first!

When the grey of the dawn appeared, he said to himself he would lie
down on the bench a while, he was so tired of sitting; he would not
sleep. He lay down, and in a moment was asleep. The light grew and
grew, and the brownie came -- a different brownie indeed from the one
he had pictured -- with the daintiest-shaped hands and feet coming out
of the midst of rags, and with no hair except roughly parted curls
over the face of a cherub -- for the combing of Snowball's mane and
tail had taught Gibbie to use the same comb upon his own thatch.
But as soon as he opened the door of the dairy, he was warned by
the loud breathing of the sleeper, and looking about, espied him on
the bench behind the table, and swiftly retreated. The same instant
Fergus woke, stretched himself, saw it was broad daylight, and, with
his brain muddled by fatigue and sleep combined, crawled shivering
to bed. Then in came the brownie again; and when Jean Mavor
entered, there was her work done as usual.

Fergus was hours late for breakfast, and when he went into the
common room, found his aunt alone there.

"Weel, auntie." he said, "I think I fleggit yer broonie!"

"Did ye that, man? Ay! -- An' syne ye set tee, an' did the wark
yersel to save yer auntie Jean's auld banes?"

"Na, na! I was o'er tiret for that. Sae wad ye hae been yersel',
gien ye had sitten up a' nicht."

"Wha did it, than?"

"Ow, jist yersel', I'm thinkin', auntie."

"Never a finger o' mine was laid till't, Fergus. Gien ye fleggit ae
broonie, anither cam; for there's the wark done, the same's ever.!"

"Damn the cratur!" cried Fergus.

"Whisht, whisht, laddie! he's maybe hearin' ye this meenute. An'
gien he binna, there's ane 'at is, an' likesna sweirin'."

"I beg yer pardon, auntie, but it's jist provokin'!" returned
Fergus, and therewith recounted the tale of his night's watch,
omitting mention only of his feelings throughout the vigil.

As soon as he had had his breakfast, he went to carry his report to

The laird was vexed, and told him he must sleep well before night,
and watch to better purpose.

The next night, Fergus's terror returned in full force; but he
watched thoroughly notwithstanding, and when his aunt entered, she
found him there, and her kitchen in a mess. He had caught no
brownie, it was true, but neither had a stroke of her work been
done. The floor was unswept; not a dish had been washed; it was
churning-day, but the cream stood in the jar in the dairy, not the
butter in the pan on the kitchen-dresser. Jean could not quite see
the good or the gain of it. She had begun to feel like a lady, she
said to herself, and now she must tuck up her sleeves and set to
work as before. It was a come-down in the world, and she did not
like it. She conned her nephew little thanks, and not being in the
habit of dissembling, let him feel the same. He crept to bed rather
mortified. When he woke from a long sleep, he found no meal waiting
him, and had to content himself with cakes1 and milk before setting
out for "the Muckle Hoose."

"You must add cunning to courage, my young friend," said Mr.
Galbraith; and the result of their conference was that Fergus went
home resolved on yet another attempt.

He felt much inclined to associate Donal with him in his watch this
time, but was too desirous of proving his courage both to himself
and to the world, to yield to the suggestion of his fear. He went
to bed with a book immediately after the noon-day meal and rose in
time for supper.

There was a large wooden press in the kitchen, standing out from the
wall; this with the next wall made a little recess, in which there
was just room for a chair; and in that recess Fergus seated himself,
in the easiest chair he could get into it. He then opened wide the
door of the press, and it covered him entirely.

This night would have been the dreariest of all for him, the laird
having insisted that he should watch in the dark, had he not
speedily fallen fast asleep, and slept all night -- so well that he
woke at the first noise Gibbie made.

It was broad clear morning, but his heart beat so loud and fast with
apprehension and curiosity mingled, that for a few moments Fergus
dare not stir, but sat listening breathless to the movement beside
him, none the less appalling that it was so quiet. Recovering
himself a little he cautiously moved the door of the press, and
peeped out.

He saw nothing so frightful as he had, in spite of himself,
anticipated, but was not therefore, perhaps, the less astonished.
The dread brownie of his idea shrunk to a tiny ragged urchin, with
a wonderful head of hair, azure eyes, and deft hands, noiselessly
bustling about on bare feet. He watched him at his leisure, watched
him keenly, assured that any moment he could spring upon him.

As he watched, his wonder sank, and he grew disappointed at the
collapsing of the lubber-fiend into a poor half-naked child upon
whom both his courage and his fear had been wasted. As he continued
to watch, an evil cloud of anger at the presumption of the unknown
minimus began to gather in his mental atmosphere, and was probably
the cause of some movement by which his chair gave a loud creak.
Without even looking round, Gibbie darted into the dairy, and shut
the door. Instantly Fergus was after him, but only in time to see
the vanishing of his last heel through the hole in the wall, and
that way Fergus was much too large to follow him. He rushed from
the house, and across the corner of the yard to the barn-door.
Gibbie, who did not believe he had been seen, stood laughing on the
floor, when suddenly he heard the key entering the lock. He bolted
through the cat-hole -- but again just one moment too late, leaving
behind him on Fergus's retina the light from the soles of two bare
feet. The key of the door to the rick-yard was inside, and Fergus
was after him in a moment, but the ricks came close to the
barn-door, and the next he saw of him was the fluttering of his rags
in the wind, and the flashing of his white skin in the sun, as he
fled across the clover field; and before Fergus was over the wall,
Gibbie was a good way ahead towards the Lorrie. Gibbie was a better
runner for his size than Fergus, and in better training too; but,
alas! Fergus's legs were nearly twice as long as Gibbie's. The
little one reached the Lorrie, first, and dashing across it, ran up
the side of the Glashburn, with a vague idea of Glashgar in his
head. Fergus behind him was growing more and more angry as he
gained upon him but felt his breath failing him. Just at the bridge
to the iron gate to Glashruach, he caught him at last, and sunk on
the parapet exhausted. The smile with which Gibbie, too much out of
breath to laugh, confessed himself vanquished, would have disarmed
one harder-hearted than Fergus, had he not lost his temper in the
dread of losing his labour; and the answer Gibbie received to his
smile was a box on the ear that bewildered him. He looked pitifully
in his captor's face, the smile not yet faded from his, only to
receive a box on the other ear, which, though a contrary and similar
both at once, was not a cure, and the water gathered in his eyes.
Fergus, a little eased in his temper by the infliction, and in his
breath by the wall of the bridge, began to ply him with questions;
but no answer following, his wrath rose again, and again he boxed
both his ears -- without better result.

Then came the question what was he to do with the redoubted brownie,
now that he had him. He was ashamed to show himself as the captor
of such a miserable culprit, but the little rascal deserved
punishment, and the laird would require him at his hands. He turned
upon his prisoner and told him he was an impudent rascal. Gibbie
had recovered again, and was able once more to smile a little. He
had been guilty of burglary, said Fergus; and Gibbie smiled. He
could be sent to prison for it, said Fergus; and Gibbie smiled -- but
this time a very grave smile. Fergus took him by the collar, which
amounted to nearly a third part of the jacket, and shook him till he
had half torn that third from the other two; then opened the gate,
and, holding him by the back of the neck, walked him up the drive,
every now and then giving him a fierce shake that jarred his teeth.
Thus, over the old gravel, mossy and damp and grassy, and cool to
his little bare feet, between rowan and birk and pine and larch,
like a malefactor, and looking every inch the outcast he was, did
Sir Gilbert Galbraith approach the house of his ancestors for the
first time. Individually, wee Gibbie was anything but a prodigal;
it had never been possible to him to be one; but none the less was
he the type and result and representative of his prodigal race, in
him now once more looking upon the house they had lost by their
vices and weaknesses, and in him now beginning to reap the benefits
of punishment. But of vice and loss, of house and fathers and
punishment, Gibbie had no smallest cognition. His history was about
him and in him, yet of it all he suspected nothing. It would have
made little difference to him if he had known it all; he would none
the less have accepted everything that came, just as part of the
story in which he found himself.



The house he was approaching, had a little the look of a prison. Of
the more ancient portion the windows were very small, and every
corner had a turret with a conical cap-roof. That part was all
rough-cast, therefore grey, as if with age. The more modern part
was built of all kinds of hard stone, roughly cloven or blasted from
the mountain and its boulders. Granite red and grey, blue
whinstone, yellow ironstone, were all mingled anyhow, fitness of
size and shape alone regarded in their conjunctions; but the result
as to colour was rather pleasing than otherwise, and Gibbie regarded
it with some admiration. Nor, although he had received from Fergus
such convincing proof that he was regarded as a culprit, had he any
dread of evil awaiting him. The highest embodiment of the law with
which he had acquaintance was the police, and from not one of them
in all the city had he ever had a harsh word; his conscience was as
void of offence as ever it had been, and the law consequently,
notwithstanding the threats of Fergus, had for him no terrors.

The laird was an early riser, and therefore regarded the mere
getting up early as a virtue, altogether irrespective of how the
time, thus redeemed, as he called it, was spent. This morning, as
it turned out, it would have been better spent in sleep. He was
talking to his gamekeeper, a heavy-browed man, by the coach-house
door, when Fergus appeared holding the dwindled brownie by the huge
collar of his tatters. A more innocent-looking malefactor sure
never appeared before awful Justice! Only he was in rags, and there
are others besides dogs whose judgments go by appearance. Mr.
Galbraith was one of them, and smiled a grim, an ugly smile.

"So this is your vaunted brownie, Mr. Duff!" he said, and stood
looking down upon Gibbie, as if in his small person he saw
superstition at the point of death, mocked thither by the arrows of
his contemptuous wit.

"It's all the brownie I could lay hands on, sir," answered Fergus.
"I took him in the act."

"Boy," said the laird, rolling his eyes, more unsteady than usual
with indignation, in the direction of Gibbie, "what have you to say
for yourself?"

Gibbie had no say -- and nothing to say that his questioner could
either have understood or believed; the truth from his lips would
but have presented him a lying hypocrite to the wisdom of his judge.
As it was, he smiled, looking up fearless in the face of the
magistrate, so awful in his own esteem.

"What is your name?" asked the laird, speaking yet more sternly.

Gibbie still smiled and was silent, looking straight in his
questioner's eyes. He dreaded nothing from the laird. Fergus had
beaten him, but Fergus he classed with the bigger boys who had
occasionally treated him roughly; this was a man, and men, except
they were foreign sailors, or drunk, were never unkind. He had no
idea of his silence causing annoyance. Everybody in the city had
known he could not answer; and now when Fergus and the laird
persisted in questioning him, he thought they were making kindly
game of him, and smiled the more. Nor was there much about Mr.
Galbraith to rouse a suspicion of the contrary; for he made a great
virtue of keeping his temper when most he caused other people to
lose theirs.

"I see the young vagabond is as impertinent as he is vicious," he
said at last, finding that to no interrogation could he draw forth
any other response than a smile. "Here Angus," -- and he turned to the
gamekeeper -- "take him into the coach-house, and teach him a little
behaviour. A touch or two of the whip will find his tongue for
Angus seized the little gentleman by the neck, as if he had been a
polecat, and at arm's length walked him unresistingly into the
coach-house. There, with one vigorous tug, he tore the jacket from
his back, and his only other garment, dependent thereupon by some
device known only to Gibbie, fell from him, and he stood in helpless
nakedness, smiling still: he had never done anything shameful,
therefore had no acquaintance with shame. But when the scowling
keeper, to whom poverty was first cousin to poaching, and who hated
tramps as he hated vermin, approached him with a heavy cart whip in
his hand, he cast his eyes down at his white sides, very white
between his brown arms and brown legs, and then lifted them in a
mute appeal, which somehow looked as if it were for somebody else,
against what he could no longer fail to perceive the man's intent.
But he had no notion of what the thing threatened amounted to. He
had had few hard blows in his time, and had never felt a whip.

"Ye deil's glaur!" cried the fellow, clenching the cruel teeth of
one who loved not his brother, "I s' lat ye ken what comes o'
brakin' into honest hooses, an' takin' what's no yer ain!"

A vision of the gnawed cheese, which he had never touched since the
idea of its being property awoke in him, rose before Gibbie's mental
eyes, and inwardly he bowed to the punishment. But the look he had
fixed on Angus was not without effect, for the man was a father,
though a severe one, and was not all a brute: he turned and changed
the cart whip for a gig one with a broken shaft, which lay near. It
was well for himself that he did so, for the other would probably
have killed Gibbie. When the blow fell the child shivered all over,
his face turned white, and without uttering even a moan, he doubled
up and dropped senseless. A swollen cincture, like a red snake, had
risen all round his waist, and from one spot in it the blood was
oozing. It looked as if the lash had cut him in two.

The blow had stung his heart and it had ceased to beat. But the
gamekeeper understood vagrants! the young blackguard was only

"Up wi' ye, ye deevil! or I s' gar ye," he said from between his
teeth, lifting the whip for a second blow.

Just as the stroke fell, marking him from the nape all down the
spine, so that he now bore upon his back in red the sign the ass
carries in black, a piercing shriek assailed Angus's ears, and his
arm, which had mechanically raised itself for a third blow, hung

The same moment, in at the coach-house door shot Ginevra, as white
as Gibbie. She darted to where he lay, and there stood over him,
arms rigid and hands clenched hard, shivering as he had shivered,
and sending from her body shriek after shriek, as if her very soul
were the breath of which her cries were fashioned. It was as if the
woman's heart in her felt its roots torn from their home in the
bosom of God, and quivering in agony, and confronted by the stare of
an eternal impossibility, shrieked against Satan.

"Gang awa, missie," cried Angus, who had respect to this child,
though he had not yet learned to respect childhood; "he's a coorse
cratur, an' maun hae's whups."

But Ginevra was deaf to his evil charming. She stopped her cries,
however, to help Gibbie up, and took one of his hands to raise him.
But his arm hung limp and motionless; she let it go; it dropped
like a stick, and again she began to shriek. Angus laid his hand on
her shoulder. She turned on him, and opening her mouth wide,
screamed at him like a wild animal, with all the hatred of mingled
love and fear; then threw herself on the boy, and covered his body
with her own. Angus, stooping to remove her, saw Gibbie's face, and
became uncomfortable.

"He's deid! he's deid! Ye've killt him, Angus! Ye're an ill man!"
she cried fiercely. "I hate ye. I'll tell on ye. I'll tell my

"Hoot! whisht, missie!" said Angus. "It was by yer papa's ain orders
I gae him the whup, an' he weel deserved it forby. An' gien ye
dinna gang awa, an' be a guid yoong leddy, I'll gie 'im mair yet."

"I'll tell God," shrieked Ginevra with fresh energy of defensive
love and wrath.

Again he sought to remove her, but she clung so, with both legs and
arms, to the insensible Gibbie, that he could but lift both
together, and had to leave her alone.

"Gien ye daur to touch 'im again, Angus, I'll bite ye -- bite ye -- BITE
YE," she screamed, in a passage wildly crescendo.

The laird and Fergus had walked away together, perhaps neither of
them quite comfortable at the orders given, but the one too
self-sufficient to recall them, and the other too submissive to
interfere. They heard the cries, nevertheless, and had they known
them for Ginevra's, would have rushed to the spot; but fierce
emotion had so utterly changed her voice -- and indeed she had never
in her life cried out before -- that they took them for Gibbie's and
supposed the whip had had the desired effect and loosed his tongue.
As to the rest of the household, which would by this time have been
all gathered in the coach-house, the laird had taken his stand where
he could intercept them: he would not have the execution of the
decrees of justice interfered with.

But Ginevra's shrieks brought Gibbie to himself. Faintly he opened
his eyes, and stared, stupid with growing pain, at the tear-blurred
face beside him. In the confusion of his thoughts he fancied the
pain he felt was Ginevra's, not his, and sought to comfort her,
stroking her cheek with feeble hand, and putting up his mouth to
kiss her. But Angus, utterly scandalized at the proceeding, and
restored to energy by seeing that the boy was alive, caught her up
suddenly and carried her off -- struggling, writhing, and scratching
like a cat. Indeed she bit his arm, and that severely, but the man
never even told his wife. Little Missie was a queen, and little
Gibbie was a vermin, but he was ashamed to let the mother of his
children know that the former had bitten him for the sake of the

The moment she thus disappeared, Gibbie began to apprehend that she
was suffering for him, not he for her. His whole body bore
testimony to frightful abuse. This was some horrible place
inhabited by men such as those that killed Sambo! He must fly. But
would they hurt the little girl? He thought not -- she was at home.
He started to spring to his feet, but fell back almost powerless;
then tried more cautiously and got up wearily, for the pain and the
terrible shock seemed to have taken the strength out of every limb.
Once on his feet, he could scarcely stoop to pick up his remnant of
trowsers without again falling, and the effort made him groan with
distress. He was in the act of trying in vain to stand on one foot,
so as to get the other into the garment, when he fancied he heard
the step of his executioner, returning doubtless to resume his
torture. He dropped the rag, and darted out of the door, forgetting
aches and stiffness and agony. All naked as he was, he fled like
the wind, unseen, or at least unrecognized, of any eye. Fergus did
catch a glimpse of something white that flashed across a vista
through the neighbouring wood, but he took it for a white peacock,
of which there were two or three about the place. The three men
were disgusted with the little wretch when they found that he had
actually fled into the open day without his clothes. Poor Gibbie!
it was such a small difference! It needed as little change to make
a savage as an angel of him. All depended on the eyes that saw him.

He ran he knew not whither, feeling nothing but the desire first to
get into some covert, and then to run farther. His first rush was
for the shubbery, his next across the little park to the wood
beyond. He did not feel the wind of his running on his bare skin.
He did not feel the hunger that had made him so unable to bear the
lash. On and on he ran, fancying ever he heard the cruel Angus
behind him. If a dry twig snapped, he thought it was the crack of
the whip; and a small wind that rose suddenly in the top of a pine,
seemed the hiss with which it was about to descend upon him. He ran
and ran, but still there seemed nothing between him and his
persecutors. He felt no safety. At length he came where a high
wall joining some water, formed a boundary. The water was a brook
from the mountain, here widened and deepened into a still pool. He
had been once out of his depth before: he threw himself in, and swam
straight across: ever after that, swimming seemed to him as natural
as walking.

Then first awoke a faint sense of safety; for on the other side he
was knee deep in heather. He was on the wild hill, with miles on
miles of cover! Here the unman could not catch him. It must be the
same that Donal pointed out to him one day at a distance; he had a
gun, and Donal said he had once shot a poacher and killed him. He
did not know what a poacher was: perhaps he was one himself, and the
man would shoot him. They could see him quite well from the other
side! he must cross the knoll first, and then he might lie down and
rest. He would get right into the heather, and lie with it all
around and over him till the night came. Where he would go then, he
did not know. But it was all one; he could go anywhere. Donal must
mind his cows, and the men must mind the horses, and Mistress Jean
must mind her kitchen, but Sir Gibbie could go where he pleased. He
would go up Daurside; but he would not go just at once; that man
might be on the outlook for him, and he wouldn't like to be shot.
People who were shot lay still, and were put into holes in the
earth, and covered up, and he would not like that.

Thus he communed with himself as he went over the knoll. On the
other side he chose a tall patch of heather, and crept under. How
nice and warm and kind the heather felt, though it did hurt the
weals dreadfully sometimes. If he only had something to cover just
them! There seemed to be one down his back as well as round his

And now Sir Gibbie, though not much poorer than he had been, really
possessed nothing separable, except his hair and his nails -- nothing
therefore that he could call his, as distinguished from him. His
sole other possession was a negative quantity -- his hunger, namely,
for he had not even a meal in his body: he had eaten nothing since
the preceding noon. I am wrong -- he had one possession besides,
though hardly a separable one -- a ballad about a fair lady and her
page, which Donal had taught him. That he now began to repeat to
himself, but was disappointed to find it a good deal withered. He
was not nearly reduced to extremity yet though -- this little heir of
the world: in his body he had splendid health, in his heart a great
courage, and in his soul an ever-throbbing love. It was his love to
the very image of man, that made the horror of the treatment he had
received. Angus was and was not a man! After all, Gibbie was still
one to be regarded with holy envy.

Poor Ginny was sent to bed for interfering with her father's orders;
and what with rage and horror and pity, an inexplicable feeling of
hopelessness took possession of her, while her affection for her
father was greatly, perhaps for this world irretrievably, injured by
that morning's experience; a something remained that never passed
from her, and that something, as often as it stirred, rose between
him and her.

Fergus told his aunt what had taken place, and made much game of her
brownie. But the more Jean thought about the affair, the less she
liked it. It was she upon whom it all came! What did it matter who
or what her brownie was? And what had they whipped the creature
for? What harm had he done? If indeed he was a little ragged
urchin, the thing was only the more inexplicable! He had taken
nothing! She had never missed so much as a barley scon! The cream
had always brought her the right quantity of butter! Not even a
bannock, so far as she knew, was ever gone from the press, or an egg
from the bossie where they lay heaped! There was more in it than
she could understand! Her nephew's mighty feat, so far from
explaining anything, had only sealed up the mystery. She could not
help cherishing a shadowy hope that, when things had grown quiet, he
would again reveal his presence by his work, if not by his visible
person. It was mortifying to think that he had gone as he came, and
she had never set eyes upon him. But Fergus's account of his
disappearance had also, in her judgment, a decided element of the
marvellous in it. She was strongly inclined to believe that the
brownie had cast a glamour over him and the laird and Angus, all
three, and had been making game of them for his own amusement.
Indeed Daurside generally refused the explanation of the brownie
presented for its acceptance, and the laird scored nothing against
the arch-enemy Superstition.

Donal Grant, missing his "cratur" that day for the first time, heard
enough when he came home to satisfy him that he had been acting the
brownie in the house and the stable as well as in the field,
incredible as it might well appear that such a child should have had
even mere strength for what he did. Then first also, after he had
thus lost him, he began to understand his worth, and to see how much
he owed him. While he had imagined himself kind to the urchin, the
urchin had been laying him under endless obligation. For he left
him with ever so much more in his brains than when he came. This
book and that, through his aid, he had read thoroughly; and a score
or so of propositions had been added to his stock in Euclid. His
first feeling about the child revived as he pondered -- namely, that
he was not of this world. But even then Donal did not know the best
Gibbie had done for him. He did not know of what far deeper and
better things he had, through his gentleness, his trust, his loving
service, his absolute unselfishness, sown the seeds in his mind. On
the other hand, Donal had in return done more for Gibbie than he
knew, though what he had done for him, namely, shared his dinners
with him, had been less of a gift than he thought, and Donal had
rather been sharing in Gibbie's dinner, than Gibbie in Donal's.



It was a lovely Saturday evening on Glashgar. The few flowers about
the small turf cottage scented the air in the hot western sun. The
heather was not in bloom yet, and there were no trees; but there
were rocks, and stones, and a brawling burn that half surrounded a
little field of oats, one of potatoes, and a small spot with a few
stocks of cabbage and kail, on the borders of which grew some bushes
of double daisies, and primroses, and carnations. These Janet
tended as part of her household, while her husband saw to the oats
and potatoes. Robert had charge of the few sheep on the mountain
which belonged to the farmer at the Mains, and for his trouble had
the cottage and the land, most of which he had himself reclaimed.
He had also a certain allowance of meal, which was paid in
portions, as corn went from the farm to the mill. If they happened
to fall short, the miller would always advance them as much as they
needed, repaying himself -- and not very strictly -- the next time the
corn was sent from the Mains. They were never in any want, and
never had any money, except what their children brought them out of
their small wages. But that was plenty for their every need, nor
had they the faintest feeling that they were persons to be pitied.
It was very cold up there in winter, to be sure, and they both
suffered from rheumatism; but they had no debt, no fear, much love,
and between them, this being mostly Janet's, a large hope for what
lay on the other side of death: as to the rheumatism, that was
necessary, Janet said, to teach them patience, for they had no other
trouble. They were indeed growing old, but neither had begun to
feel age a burden yet, and when it should prove such, they had a
daughter prepared to give up service and go home to help them.
Their thoughts about themselves were nearly lost in their thoughts
about each other, their children, and their friends. Janet's main
care was her old man, and Robert turned to Janet as the one stay of
his life, next to the God in whom he trusted. He did not think so
much about God as she: he was not able; nor did he read so much of
his Bible; but she often read to him; and when any of his children
were there of an evening, he always "took the book." While Janet
prayed at home, his closet was the mountain-side, where he would
kneel in the heather, and pray to Him who saw unseen, the King
eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God. The sheep took no
heed of him, but sometimes when he rose from his knees and saw Oscar
gazing at him with deepest regard, he would feel a little as if he
had not quite entered enough into his closet, and would wonder what
the dog was thinking. All day, from the mountain and sky and
preaching burns, from the sheep and his dog, from winter storms,
spring sun and winds, or summer warmth and glow, but more than all,
when he went home, from the presence and influence of his wife, came
to him somehow -- who can explain how! -- spiritual nourishment and
vital growth. One great thing in it was, that he kept growing wiser
and better without knowing it. If St. Paul had to give up judging
his own self, perhaps Robert Grant might get through without ever
beginning it. He loved life, but if he had been asked why, he might
not have found a ready answer. He loved his wife -- just because she
was Janet. Blithely he left his cottage in the morning, deep
breathing the mountain air, as if it were his first in the blissful
world; and all day the essential bliss of being was his; but the
immediate hope of his heart was not the heavenly city; it was his
home and his old woman, and her talk of what she had found in her
Bible that day. Strangely mingled -- mingled even to confusion with
his faith in God, was his absolute trust in his wife -- a confidence
not very different in kind from the faith which so many Christians
place in the mother of our Lord. To Robert, Janet was one who
knew -- one who was far ben??? with the Father of lights. She perceived
his intentions, understood his words, did his will, dwelt in the
secret place of the Most High. When Janet entered into the kingdom
of her Father, she would see that he was not left outside. He was
as sure of her love to himself, as he was of God's love to her, and
was certain she could never be content without her old man. He was
himself a dull soul, he thought, and could not expect the great God
to take much notice of him, but he would allow Janet to look after
him. He had a vague conviction that he would not be very hard to
save, for he knew himself ready to do whatever was required of him.
None of all this was plain to his consciousness, however, or I
daresay he would have begun at once to combat the feeling.

His sole anxiety, on the other hand, was neither about life nor
death, about this world nor the next, but that his children should
be honest and honourable, fear God and keep his commandments.
Around them, all and each, the thoughts of father and mother were
constantly hovering -- as if to watch them, and ward off evil.

Almost from the day, now many years ago, when, because of distance
and difficulty, she ceased to go to church, Janet had taken to her
New Testament in a new fashion.

She possessed an instinctive power of discriminating character,
which had its root and growth in the simplicity of her own; she had
always been a student of those phases of humanity that came within
her ken; she had a large share of that interest in her fellows and
their affairs which is the very bloom upon ripe humanity: with these
qualifications, and the interpretative light afforded by her own
calm practical way of living, she came to understand men and their
actions, especially where the latter differed from what might
ordinarily have been expected, in a marvellous way: her faculty
amounted almost to sympathetic contact with the very humanity.
When, therefore, she found herself in this remote spot, where she
could see so little of her kind, she began, she hardly knew by what
initiation, to turn her study upon the story of our Lord's life.
Nor was it long before it possessed her utterly, so that she
concentrated upon it all the light and power of vision she had
gathered from her experience of humanity. It ought not therefore to
be wonderful how much she now understood of the true humanity -- with
what simple directness she knew what many of the words of the Son of
Man meant, and perceived many of the germs of his individual
actions. Hence it followed naturally that the thought of him, and
the hope of one day seeing him, became her one informing idea. She
was now such another as those women who ministered to him on the

A certain gentle indifference she allowed to things considered
important, the neighbours attributed to weakness of character, and
called softness; while the honesty, energy, and directness with
which she acted upon insights they did not possess, they attributed
to intellectual derangement. She was "ower easy," they said, when
the talk had been of prudence or worldly prospect; she was "ower
hard," they said, when the question had been of right and wrong.

The same afternoon, a neighbour, on her way over the shoulder of the
hill to the next village, had called upon her and found her brushing
the rafters of her cottage with a broom at the end of a long stick.

"Save 's a', Janet! what are ye efter? I never saw sic a thing!"
she exclaimed.

"I kenna hoo I never thoucht o' sic a thing afore," answered Janet,
leaning her broom against the wall, and dusting a chair for her
visitor; "but this mornin', whan my man an' me was sittin' at oor
brakfast, there cam' sic a clap o' thunner, 'at it jist garred the
bit hoosie trim'le; an' doon fell a snot o' soot intil the very
spune 'at my man was cairryin' till's honest moo. That cudna be as
things war inten'it, ye ken; sae what was to be said but set them

"Ow, weel! but ye micht hae waitit till Donal cam' hame; he wad hae
dune 't in half the time, an' no raxed his jints."

"I cudna pit it aff," answered Janet. "Wha kenned whan the Lord
micht come? -- He canna come at cock-crawin' the day, but he may be
here afore nicht."

"Weel, I's awa," said her visitor rising. "I'm gauin' ower to the
toon to buy a feow hanks o' worset to weyve a pair o' stockins to my
man. Guid day to ye, Janet. -- What neist, I won'er?" she added to
herself as she left the house. "The wuman's clean dementit!"

The moment she was gone, Janet caught up her broom again, and went
spying about over the roof -- ceiling there was none -- after long
tangles of agglomerated cobweb and smoke.

"Ay!" she said to herself, "wha kens whan he may be at the door? an'
I wadna like to hear him say -- 'Janet, ye micht hae had yer hoose a
bit cleaner, whan ye kenned I micht be at han'!'"

With all the cleaning she could give it, her cottage would have
looked but a place of misery to many a benevolent woman, who, if she
had lived there, would not have been so benevolent as Janet, or have
kept the place half so clean. For her soul was alive and rich, and
out of her soul, not education or habit, came the smallest of her
virtues. -- Having finished at last, she took her besom to the door,
and beat it against a stone. That done, she stood looking along the
path down the hill. It was that by which her sons and daughters,
every Saturday, came climbing, one after the other, to her bosom,
from their various labours in the valley below, through the sunset,
through the long twilight, through the moonlight, each urged by a
heart eager to look again upon father and mother.

The sun was now far down his western arc, and nearly on a level with
her eyes; and as she gazed into the darkness of the too much light,
suddenly emerged from it, rose upward, staggered towards her -- was it
an angel? was it a spectre? Did her old eyes deceive her? or was
the second sight born in her now first in her old age? -- It seemed a
child -- reeling, and spreading out hands that groped. She covered
her eyes for a moment, for it might be a vision in the sun, not on
the earth -- and looked again. It was indeed a naked child! and -- was
she still so dazzled by the red sun as to see red where red was
none? -- or were those indeed blood-red streaks on his white skin?
Straight now, though slow, he came towards her. It was the same
child who had come and gone so strangely before! He held out his
hands to her, and fell on his face at her feet like one dead. Then,
with a horror of pitiful amazement, she saw a great cross marked in
two cruel stripes on his back; and the thoughts that thereupon went
coursing through her loving imagination, it would be hard to set
forth. Could it be that the Lord was still, child and man,
suffering for his race, to deliver his brothers and sisters from
their sins? -- wandering, enduring, beaten, blessing still? accepting
the evil, slaying it, and returning none? his patience the one rock
where the evil word finds no echo; his heart the one gulf into which
the dead-sea wave rushes with no recoil -- from which ever flows back
only purest water, sweet and cool; the one abyss of destroying love,
into which all wrong tumbles, and finding no reaction, is lost,
ceases for evermore? there, in its own cradle, the primal order is
still nursed, still restored; thence is still sent forth afresh, to
leaven with new life the world ever ageing! Shadowy and vague they
were -- but vaguely shadowed were thoughts like these in Janet's mind,
as she stood half-stunned, regarding for one moment motionless the
prostrate child and his wrongs. The next she lifted him in her
arms, and holding him tenderly to her mother-heart, carried him into
the house, murmuring over him dove-like sounds of pity and
endearment mingled with indignation. There she laid him on his side
in her bed, covered him gently over, and hastened to the little byre
at the end of the cottage, to get him some warm milk. When she
returned, he had already lifted his heavy eyelids, and was looking
wearily about the place. But when he saw her, did ever so bright a
sun shine as that smile of his! Eyes and mouth and whole face
flashed upon Janet! She set down the milk, and went to the bedside.
Gibbie put up his arms, threw them round her neck, and clung to her
as if she had been his mother. And from that moment she was his
mother: her heart was big enough to mother all the children of
humanity. She was like Charity herself, with her babes innumerable.

"What have they done to ye, my bairn?" she said, in tones pitiful
with the pity of the Shepherd of the sheep himself.

No reply came back -- only another heavenly smile, a smile of absolute
content. For what were stripes and nakedness and hunger to Gibbie,
now that he had a woman to love! Gibbie's necessity was to love;
but here was more; here was Love offering herself to him! Except in
black Sambo he had scarcely caught a good sight of her before. He
had never before been kissed by that might of God's grace, a true
woman. She was an old woman who kissed him; but none who have drunk
of the old wine of love, straightway desire the new, for they know
that the old is better. Match such as hers with thy love, maiden of
twenty, and where wilt thou find the man I say not worthy, but fit
to mate with thee? For hers was love indeed -- not the love of
love -- but the love of Life. Already Gibbie's faintness was gone -- and
all his ills with it. She raised him with one arm, and held the
bowl to his mouth, and he drank; but all the time he drank, his eyes
were fixed upon hers. When she laid him down again, he turned on
his side, off his scored back, and in a moment was fast asleep. She
stood gazing at him. So still was he, that she began to fear he was
dead, and laid her hand on his heart. It was beating steadily, and
she left him, to make some gruel for him against his waking. Her
soul was glad, for she was ministering to her Master, not the less
in his own self, that it was in the person of one of his little
ones. Gruel, as such a one makes it, is no common fare, but
delicate enough for a queen. She set it down by the fire, and
proceeded to lay the supper for her expected children. The clean
yellow-white table of soft smooth fir, needed no cloth -- only horn
spoons and wooden caups.

At length a hand came to the latch, and mother and daughter greeted
as mother and daughter only can; then came a son, and mother and son
greeted as mother and son only can. They kept on arriving singly to
the number of six -- two daughters and four sons, the youngest some
little time after the rest. Each, as he or she came, Janet took to
the bed, and showed her seventh child where he slept. Each time she
showed him, to secure like pity with her own, she turned down the
bedclothes, and revealed the little back, smitten with the eternal
memorial of the divine perfection. The women wept. The young men
were furious, each after his fashion.

"God damn the rascal 'at did it!" cried one of them, clenching his
teeth, and forgetting himself quite in the rage of the moment.

"Laddie, tak back the word," said his mother calmly. "Gien ye dinna
forgie yer enemies, ye'll no be forgi'en yersel'."

"That's some hard, mither," answered the offender, with an attempted

"Hard!" she echoed; "it may weel be hard, for it canna be helpit.
What wad be the use o' forgiein' ye, or hoo cud it win at ye, or
what wad ye care for't, or mak o't, cairryin' a hell o' hate i' yer
verra hert? For gien God be love, hell maun be hate. My bairn,
them 'at winna forgie their enemies, cairries sic a nest o' deevilry
i' their ain boasoms, 'at the verra speerit o' God himsel' canna win
in till't for bein' scomfished wi' smell an' reik. Muckle guid wad
ony pardon dee to sic! But ance lat them un'erstan' 'at he canna
forgie them, an' maybe they'll be fleyt, an' turn again' the Sawtan
'at's i' them."

"Weel, but he's no my enemy," said the youth.

"No your enemy!" returned his mother; " -- no your enemy, an' sair
(serve) a bairn like that! My certy! but he's the enemy o' the
haill race o' mankin'. He trespasses unco sair against me, I'm weel
sure o' that! An' I'm glaid o' 't. I'm glaid 'at he has me for ane
o' 's enemies, for I forgie him for ane; an' wuss him sae affrontit
wi' himsel' er' a' be dune, 'at he wad fain hide his heid in a

"Noo, noo, mither!" said the eldest son, who had not yet spoken, but
whose countenance had been showing a mighty indignation, "that's
surely as sair a bannin' as yon 'at Jock said."

"What, laddie! Wad ye hae a fellow-cratur live to a' eternity ohn
been ashamed o' sic a thing 's that? Wad that be to wuss him weel?
Kenna ye 'at the mair shame the mair grace? My word was the best
beginnin' o' better 'at I cud wuss him. Na, na, laddie! frae my
verra hert, I wuss he may be that affrontit wi' himsel' 'at he canna
sae muckle as lift up's een to h'aven, but maun smite upo' 's breist
an' say, 'God be mercifu' to me a sinner!' That's my curse upo'
him, for I wadna hae 'im a deevil. Whan he comes to think that
shame o' himsel', I'll tak him to my hert, as I tak the bairn he
misguidit. Only I doobt I'll be lang awa afore that, for it taks
time to fess a man like that till's holy senses."

The sixth of the family now entered, and his mother led him up to
the bed.

"The Lord preserve's!" cried Donal Grant, "it's the cratur! -- An' is
that the gait they hae guidit him! The quaietest cratur an' the

Donal began to choke.

"Ye ken him than, laddie?" said his mother.

"Weel that," answered Donal. "He's been wi' me an' the nowt ilka day
for weeks till the day."

With that he hurried into the story of his acquaintance with Gibbie;
and the fable of the brownie would soon have disappeared from
Daurside, had it not been that Janet desired them to say nothing
about the boy, but let him be forgotten by his enemies, till he grew
able to take care of himself. Besides, she said, their father might
get into trouble with the master and the laird, if it were known
they had him.

Donal vowed to himself, that, if Fergus had had a hand in the abuse,
he would never speak civil word to him again.

He turned towards the bed, and there were Gibbie's azure eyes wide
open and fixed upon him.

"Eh, ye cratur!" he cried; and darting to the bed, he took Gibbie's
face between his hands, and said, in a voice to which pity and
sympathy gave a tone like his mother's,

"Whaten a deevil was't 'at lickit ye like that? Eh! I wuss I had
the trimmin' o' him!"

Gibbie smiled.

"Has the ill-guideship ta'en the tongue frae 'im, think ye?" asked
the mother.

"Na, na," answered Donal; "he's been like that sin' ever I kenned
him. I never h'ard word frae the moo' o' 'im."

"He'll be ane o' the deif an' dumb," said Janet.

"He's no deif, mither; that I ken weel; but dumb he maun be, I'm
thinkin'. -- Cratur," he continued, stooping over the boy, "gien ye
hear what I'm sayin', tak haud o' my nose."

Thereupon, with a laugh like that of an amused infant, Gibbie raised
his hand, and with thumb and forefinger gently pinched Donal's large
nose, at which they all burst out laughing with joy. It was as if
they had found an angel's baby in the bushes, and been afraid he was
an idiot, but were now relieved. Away went Janet, and brought him
his gruel. It was with no small difficulty and not without a moan
or two, that Gibbie sat up in the bed to take it. There was
something very pathetic in the full content with which he sat there
in his nakedness, and looked smiling at them all. It was more than
content -- it was bliss that shone in his countenance. He took the
wooden bowl, and began to eat; and the look he cast on Janet seemed
to say he had never tasted such delicious food. Indeed he never
had; and the poor cottage, where once more he was a stranger and
taken in, appeared to Gibbie a place of wondrous wealth. And so it
was -- not only in the best treasures, those of loving kindness, but
in all homely plenty as well for the needs of the body -- a very
temple of the God of simplicity and comfort -- rich in warmth and rest
and food.

Janet went to her kist, whence she brought out a garment of her own,
and aired it at the fire. It had no lace at the neck or cuffs, no
embroidery down the front; but when she put it on him, amid the
tearful laughter of the women, and had tied it round his waist with
a piece of list that had served as a garter, it made a dress most
becoming in their eyes, and gave Gibbie indescribable pleasure from
its whiteness, and its coolness to his inflamed skin.

They had just finished clothing him thus, when the goodman came
home, and the mother's narration had to be given afresh, with
Donal's notes explanatory and completive. As the latter reported
the doings of the imagined brownie, and the commotion they had
caused at the Mains and along Daurside, Gibbie's countenance flashed
with pleasure and fun; and at last he broke into such a peal of
laughter as had never, for pure merriment, been heard before so high
on Glashgar. All joined involuntarily in the laugh -- even the old
man, who had been listening with his grey eyebrows knit, and hanging
like bosky precipices over the tarns of his deepset eyes, taking in
every word, but uttering not one. When at last his wife showed him
the child's back, he lifted his two hands, and moved them slowly up
and down, as in pitiful appeal for man against man to the sire of
the race. But still he said not a word. As to utterance of what
lay in the deep soul of him, the old man, except sometimes to his
wife, was nearly as dumb as Gibbie himself.

They sat down to their homely meal. Simplest things will carry the
result of honest attention as plainly as more elaborate dishes; and,
which it might be well to consider, they will carry no more than
they are worth: of Janet's supper it is enough to say that it was
such as became her heart. In the judgment of all her guests, the
porridge was such as none could make but mother, the milk such as
none but mother's cow could yield, the cakes such as she only could

Gibbie sat in the bed like a king on his throne, gazing on his
kingdom. For he that loves has, as no one else has. It is the
divine possession. Picture the delight of the child, in his passion
for his kind, looking out upon this company of true hearts, honest
faces, human forms -- all strong and healthy, loving each other and
generous to the taking in of the world's outcast! Gibbie could not,
at that period of his history, have invented a heaven more to his
mind, and as often as one of them turned eyes towards the bed, his
face shone up with love and merry gratitude, like a better sun.

It was now almost time for the sons and daughters to go down the
hill again, and leave the cottage and the blessed old parents and
the harboured child to the night, the mountain-silence, and the
living God. The sun had long been down; but far away in the north,
the faint thin fringe of his light-garment was still visible, moving
with the unseen body of his glory softly eastward, dreaming along
the horizon, growing fainter and fainter as it went, but at the
faintest then beginning to revive and grow. Of the northern lands
in summer, it may be said, as of the heaven of heavens, that there
is no night there. And by and by the moon also would attend the
steps of the returning children of labour.

"Noo, lads an' lasses, afore we hae worship, rin, ilk ane o' ye,"
said the mother, "an' pu' heather to mak a bed to the wee man -- i'
the neuk there, at the heid o' oors. He'll sleep there bonny, an'
no ill 'ill come near 'im."

She was obeyed instantly. The heather was pulled, and set together
upright as it grew, only much closer, so that the tops made a dense
surface, and the many stalks, each weak, a strong upbearing whole.
They boxed them in below with a board or two for the purpose, and
bound them together above with a blanket over the top, and a white
sheet over that -- a linen sheet it was, and large enough to be
doubled, and receive Gibbie between its folds. Then another blanket
was added, and the bed, a perfect one, was ready. The eldest of the
daughters took Gibbie in her arms, and, tenderly careful over his
hurts, lifted him from the old folks' bed, and placed him in his
own -- one more luxurious, for heather makes a still better stratum
for repose than oat-chaff -- and Gibbie sank into it with a sigh that
was but a smile grown vocal.

Then Donal, as the youngest, got down the big Bible, and having laid
it before his father, lighted the rush-pith-wick projecting from the
beak of the little iron lamp that hung against the wall, its shape
descended from Roman times. The old man put on his spectacles, took
the book, and found the passage that fell, in continuous process, to
that evening.

Now he was not a very good reader, and, what with blindness and
spectacles, and poor light, would sometimes lose his place. But it
never troubled him, for he always knew the sense of what was coming,
and being no idolater of the letter, used the word that first
suggested itself, and so recovered his place without pausing. It
reminded his sons and daughters of the time when he used to tell
them Bible stories as they crowded about his knees; and sounding
therefore merely like the substitution of a more familiar word to
assist their comprehension, woke no surprise. And even now, the
word supplied, being in the vernacular, was rather to the benefit
than the disadvantage of his hearers. The word of Christ is spirit
and life, and where the heart is aglow, the tongue will follow that
spirit and life fearlessly, and will not err.

On this occasion he was reading of our Lord's cure of the leper; and
having read, "put forth his hand," lost his place, and went straight
on without it, from his memory of the facts.

"He put forth his han' -- an' grippit him, and said, Aw wull -- be

After the reading followed a prayer, very solemn and devout. It was
then only, when before God, with his wife by his side, and his
family around him, that the old man became articulate. He would
scarcely have been so then, and would have floundered greatly in the
marshes of his mental chaos, but for the stepping-stones of certain
theological forms and phrases, which were of endless service to him
in that they helped him to utter what in him was far better, and so
realise more to himself his own feelings. Those forms and phrases
would have shocked any devout Christian who had not been brought up
in the same school; but they did him little harm, for he saw only
the good that was in them, and indeed did not understand them save
in so far as they worded that lifting up of the heart after which he
was ever striving.

By the time the prayer was over, Gibbie was fast asleep again. What
it all meant he had not an idea; and the sound lulled him -- a service
often so rendered in lieu of that intended. When he woke next, from
the aching of his stripes, the cottage was dark. The old people
were fast asleep. A hairy thing lay by his side, which, without the
least fear, he examined by palpation, and found to be a dog,
whereupon he fell fast asleep again, if possible happier than ever.
And while the cottage was thus quiet, the brothers and sisters were
still tramping along the moonlight paths of Daurside. They had all
set out together, but at one point after another there had been a
parting, and now they were on six different roads, each drawing
nearer to the labour of the new week.



The first opportunity Donal had, he questioned Fergus as to his
share in the ill-usage of Gibbie. Fergus treated the inquiry as an
impertinent interference, and mounted his high horse at once. What
right had his father's herd-boy to question him as to his conduct?
He put it so to him and in nearly just as many words. Thereupon
answered Donal --

"It's this, ye see, Fergus: ye hae been unco guid to me, an' I'm
mair obligatit till ye nor I can say. But it wad be a scunnerfu'
thing to tak the len' o' buiks frae ye, an' spier quest'ons at ye
'at I canna mak oot mysel', an' syne gang awa despisin' ye i' my
hert for cruelty an' wrang. What was the cratur punished for? Tell
me that. Accordin' till yer aunt's ain accoont, he had taen
naething, an' had dune naething but guid."

"Why didn't he speak up then, and defend himself, and not be so
damned obstinate?" returned Fergus. "He wouldn't open his mouth to
tell his name, or where he came from even. I couldn't get him to
utter a single word. As for his punishment, it was by the laird's
orders that Angus Mac Pholp took the whip to him. I had nothing to
do with it. -- " Fergus did not consider the punishment he had himself
given him as worth mentioning -- as indeed, except for honesty's sake,
it was not, beside the other.

"Weel, I'll be a man some day, an' Angus 'll hae to sattle wi' me!"
said Donal through his clenched teeth. "Man, Fergus! the cratur's as
dumb's a worum. I dinna believe 'at ever he spak a word in's life."

This cut Fergus to the heart, for he was far from being without
generosity or pity. How many things a man who is not awake to side
strenuously with the good in him against the evil, who is not on his
guard lest himself should mislead himself, may do, of which he will
one day be bitterly ashamed! -- a trite remark, it may be, but,
reader, that will make the thing itself no easier to bear, should
you ever come to know you have done a thing of the sort. I fear,
however, from what I know of Fergus afterwards, that he now, instead
of seeking about to make some amends, turned the strength that
should have gone in that direction, to the justifying of himself to
himself in what he had done. Anyhow, he was far too proud to
confess to Donal that he had done wrong -- too much offended at being
rebuked by one he counted so immeasurably his inferior, to do the
right thing his rebuke set before him. What did the mighty business
matter! The little rascal was nothing but a tramp; and if he didn't
deserve his punishment this time, he had deserved it a hundred times
without having it, and would ten thousand times again. So reasoned
Fergus, while the feeling grew upon Donal that the cratur was of
some superior race -- came from some other and nobler world. I would
remind my reader that Donal was a Celt, with a nature open to every
fancy of love or awe -- one of the same breed with the foolish
Galatians, and like them ready to be bewitched; but bearing a heart
that welcomed the light with glad rebound -- loved the lovely, nor
loved it only, but turned towards it with desire to become like it.
Fergus too was a Celt in the main, but was spoiled by the paltry
ambition of being distinguished. He was not in love with
loveliness, but in love with praise. He saw not a little of what
was good and noble, and would fain be such, but mainly that men
might regard him for his goodness and nobility; hence his practical
notion of the good was weak, and of the noble, paltry. His one
desire in doing anything, was to be approved of or admired in the
same -- approved of in the opinions he held, in the plans he pursued,
in the doctrines he taught; admired in the poems in which he went
halting after Byron, and in the eloquence with which he meant one
day to astonish great congregations. There was nothing original as
yet discoverable in him; nothing to deliver him from the poor
imitative apery in which he imagined himself a poet. He did possess
one invaluable gift -- that of perceiving and admiring more than a
little, certain forms of the beautiful; but it was rendered merely
ridiculous by being conjoined with the miserable ambition -- poor as
that of any mountebank emperor -- to be himself admired for that
admiration. He mistook also sensibility for faculty, nor perceived

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