Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

more.

to her. Whereupon the old body drew her burden on her back with such haste that she almost lost her balance, and then hobbled away to all appearance greatly terrified. The poor young man's only hope now was, that when the light of morning came, he might be able to leap or clamber down from the gallery (which was the only one in the church) into the body of the house, and make his way out by breaking one of the windows, if no better could be. With this as his best prospect of deliverance, and still very forlorn and unhappy, he groped his way back through the cold clammy marbles of the dead; and getting into the gallery of the church again, he stretched himself along one of the seats, there to spend the night, and fell asleep once

It might be midnight when he awoke. There were echoing steps in the church, and human voices; and by the light of a lantern which one of them carried he saw, when he rose up, the forms of two men. 66 Who's there ?" he demanded. One of the men held up the lantern towards the gallery ; but when he saw the unnaturally yellow face looking down upon him, instead of replying, he took to his heels, followed by his neighbour; and in the excess of their terror, heightened by the midnight skies flashing out sheet lightning, both of them laid hold of the bell-rope at the same time, and began to toll the Kirk bell. They were two villagers whose duty it was for the night to watch the

grave of Andrew Sword's wife, the vile practice of lifting dead bodies for the surgeons being then common. No sooner was the bell heard in the Village than, as already stated, the people rushed to the church-yard, it being well known that the two men were there on the watch, and nobody doubting that the body-snatchers were upon them. But first, from the neighbouring Manse, came the minister's man, Thomas Jeffrey by name, upon the scene of alarm, and demanded the cause of such untimely ringing.

“O! Tam Jaffray, Tam Jaffray, sic a night's in this kirk-yard !” cried one of the terrified watchmen in reply, but still pulling at the bell. “ The yellow dead are rising frae their graves! They're a' in the Kirk! Eh ! look at that lightning! It's the Last Day, Tam! Let's a' to our

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

now

ain places !" So saying, the poor man ran to his family burying-ground, which was not far off, and in his extremity of fear threw himself down on his face beside his father's grave, flinging his arm over it.

Meantime, young Sword, hearing the noise without, had made his way back to the aisle door, and was knocking loudly on it, begging to be let out. The minister's man got the key, and opened it accordingly; the more courageous of the two villagers who had been on the watch holding him by the skirts of his coat with one hand, while he advanced his lantern with the other. Out walked the captive; his two deliverers falling back in horror, and one of them actually doubling down on his knees, on seeing the yellow-visaged being come forth. Wishing to enter into no explanation, Sword had light enough from their lantern to make his way straight to the church-yard wall. They recovered courage, however, as they saw him making off; and “Stop the resurrectionist! stop the resurrectionist,” was their cry as he leapt over the dike. No sooner had he done so than he was smitten with a stick and felled to the earth by the foremost of the alarmed villagers, who came rushing on with a light in his hand : This was his own father. Instantly there was a crowd around the prostrate youth, and they now began to pity his condition, and to be afraid that he was killed. One or two even went the length of muttering through their teeth to this effect—“Somebody shouldna hae been sae rash the day, I think.” By this time the minister was on the spot ; and had the poor lad conveyed into the Manse, several of the villagers going with him. The usual restoratives were tried, and young Sword began to recover. Over him stood his own father, wringing his hands in an agony of remorse and parental affection, for he now saw it was his own son whom he had thus struck to the ground. hand against my own poor boy's life!” he exclaimed, that, too, on the very day when the mother that loved him so has been laid in the dust! But I knew him not! I knew you not, my man! I heard the cry against you, and took you for one of those vile ones who won't let our dead lie in their graves! My bairn, let me wipe away this blood !” And the old man wiped away with his napkin the clots of blood from his child's swollen eyebrow and cheek-bone ; and his sturdy and harsh nature giving way altogether, he ended by falling on his son's neck and kissing him. “It was a just blow, and given on a just night,” said that son meekly. And they retired home in peace together. Young Sword's nature is fairly changed, and father and son promise now to be a comfort to each other.

66 To lift my

66 and

CHAPTER VI.

[ocr errors]

OUR VILLAGE

INNOCENTS." Idiots have often oddities of faculty and accomplishment beyond the reach of the sane. One twirls a barn-door key on his thumb, with a sow-hoof hung to it by a leathern string: And twirling it so--and only while he twirls ithe can tell

you
how
many verses

there are in every chapter of the Bible. A second can crow you as 'twere any cock, so clear and true, he fetches challenge and defiance from every farm-yard within ear-shot round. A third can blow any given time on a cow-horn, and never seem to draw breath. A fourth has a sprig of rue here, and mint there, laid in at every penitential psalm sung at every execution in seven shires round, for the last forty years. And so on.

Every village has its contingent of crazy people. Among the various “poor innocents” of ours, one deserves notice for a singular specialty of accomplishment, such as I have been speaking of. I mean daft Jock Gray. Well known was Jock throughout the Border counties of Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles, for his “wood-notes wild” as a singer; but chiefly for his uncommon powers of mimicking the pulpit elocution of our various clergy. A more peculiar couple than he and old Johnie his father never crossed the Yarrow or the Tweed, or peeled a braxy bone at Williamslee. The father was one of the very smallest of men, but one of the Truest Bluest of Covenanting Scotland's “ True Blue;" and being thus, almost of course, an Old Light Anti-burgher, he was compelled to toddle to the sacraments of this denomination many a weary mile, their congregations being very thin-sown throughout the south of Scotland. As he made it a point of conscience not to miss one of these solemn occasions in the three counties already referred to, he was seen far and wide on his periodical tramps along the Scottish Border; while, moreover, twice a-year, he ascended to the metropolis to sit down under Paxton or M‘Crie, with feelings akin to those of the old Hebrew who went yearly up to the Passover at Jerusalem. In all such pious pilgrimages his son, Jock, was his constant attendant, or rather follower: Here marched the old little Presbyterian in front, often with the Bible in his hand; never failing in his track, but always fifty yards or so behind, daft Jock, bare-headed, brought up the rear: Wherever old Johnie was seen, daft Jock was not far behind : Wherever daft Jock was seen, old Johnie was not far before. If any passing stranger bestowed a penny on the poor idiot, he immediately trotted up to his sire with his unvarying “Father, there's a penny,” and having deposited it with the old man, who never begged himself, but yet never declined any offerings thus vouchsafed to Jock, he immediately fell back again

to his proper place in the rear with the utmost deference. At night, on their way, they drew to stated places of sojourn, where some shepherd Gaius of the hills, or village elder, or most commonly some pious sympathetic matron “had them” (as John Bunyan phrases it) to a decent bed in the “bauks” after supper : But never before the ordinance of family worship was observed, at which little Johnie never failed to act as priest, his spritual gifts being great, and his desire to exercise them not small. Many a knotty argument in the Bostonian divinity, and many a fierce pressing of the Covenant on the lukewarm disciples of these degenerate times, varied throughout the evening the tongue-doughty championship of the tough old Seceder. So moving was the unction of his discourse, in the way of enforcing duty on the careless, that on one occasion a cripple of an old woman, who had listened to his Saturday evening denunciations, broke out against herself with such harrowing outcries of remorse for having too readily found in her lameness an excuse for not attending the Meetinghouse, that the old man was obliged to "change his hand,” and give her some comfort. Nothing, however, would satisfy her but to be at public worship next day; and old Johnie, for lack of better vehicle, had to wheel her in a wheelbarrow to the neighbouring sanctuary. The two as they went thus, with bare-headed Jock not behind as usual, but pulling away in front by a rope attached to the barrow, would make a very curious picture: The “natural” hauling away with many superfluous demonstrations of pith, his wild unsteady eye not untouched with a wicked twinkle of waggery, as if he had a great mind to upset the old wife, contrasted with the forced and pinched gravity of his other features, straitened by the consciousness of his austere father's near presence on the Sabbath-day; the earnest thankful face of the conveyed cripple; and the serious look of uncommon duty in the old mannie staggering along between the trams of the barrow, formed altogether a singular composition of the ludicrous, the solemn, and the pathetic. Though Jock assisted on this occasion in going to public worship, and was certainly kept by his father pretty regular in his attendance, he liked much better to wander about the villages and farm-houses than be confined in the Meeting-house. He generally made his escape,

I am grieved to admit, while his father was debating theology with his nightly entertainers, and was commonly to be found about the nearest smithy, mimicking the ministers of the neighbourhood to a host of rustic admirers. He was always sure, however, to be back for his share of supper, and to turn into bed with his father. Sometimes in their wanderings they did not fare so well, being belated in the fells, where having lost their way, they were obliged to lie all night among the heather. On one occasion, having promised to return for the night to a farm-house on the Leithen, from Peebles, whither they had gone to hear a sermon, a heavy mist came on in the evening, and as they did not make

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »