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Title: Ann and her Mother
Author: Douglas, O.
Language: English
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  COPYRIGHT, 1922,




  "To whatsoever things are fair
    We know, through you, the road;
  Nor is our grief the less thereby;
  O swift and strong and dear, Good-bye."

"In this age of opulence and refinement whom can such a character
please?  Such as are fond of high life will turn in disdain from the
simplicity of a country fireside.  Such as mistake ribaldry for humour
will find no wit in this harmless conversation: and such as have been
taught to deride religion will laugh at one whose chief stores of
comfort are drawn from futurity."




Mrs. Douglas and her daughter Ann sat together in their living-room one
November night.

It was a wonderfully comfortable room, brightly yet softly lit, and
warmed by a noble fire.  There was a pleasant space and emptiness about
it, an absence of ornaments and irrelevant photographs; each piece of
furniture, each of the few pictures, was of value.

Mrs. Douglas had a book in her lap and in her hand a half-finished
stocking, for she considered that she was wasting time if she did not
knit while reading.

Ann sat on a stool by the fire, poring over a seedsman's catalogue, a
puzzled frown on her brow.

"I wish," she said, without looking up, "I do wish I knew more about
gardening.  I can't make out from this what will grow best with us....
Don't you think, Mother, it is almost _lèse-majesté_ to call a rose
Queen Mary, and describe it as 'a gross feeder?  Oh, and this!  _Mr.
Asquith_, 'very compact in form, rosy in colour.'  What humourists the
compilers of seedsmen's catalogues are!  And what poets!  Where was it
we read that article about catalogues?  It said that the very names
were like a procession of princes--'amber and carmine Queens, and
Princes' Feathers, and Cloth of Gold.'  The names tempt one simply by
the glory of the sound.  'Love-in-a-Mist ... Love-Fire, a rich cream
with a faint suggestion of apricot primrose in petal'--and with a drop
one learns that this beauty can be bought for the sum of tuppence! ...
Delphiniums we must have--dozens of them.  I can picture us next summer
lying on the lawn in deck-chairs on hot, sunny days, looking between
tall, blue delphiniums to green hilltops.  Won't it be lovely, Mother?"

"H'm," said her mother in a dry voice, "at present you have only the
hilltops.  I haven't imagination enough to picture the hot sun and the
lawn and the blue delphiniums."

"_Mother!_" said Ann, wheeling round on her stool and facing her
parent, who was knitting with provoking calm, "there's nothing sporting
about you at all.  It always rains in November, but that's nobody's
fault, and you might at least try to look as if you didn't mind.
Nobody ever said a glen was a cheery place in winter, but, myself, I
like it frightfully.  When Uncle Bob left me the Green Glen for my very
own I determined that somehow or other I would manage to build a house
in it--a little white-faced house among the heather.  Not big, but big
enough to hold us all--six good bedrooms, one big living-room, a hall
we could sit in, a smaller room to feed in.  You all made
objections--all except Charlotte, who encouraged me.  You pointed out
all the disadvantages: six miles from a station, a steep hill road,
carting difficult!  You told me that building in these days was only
the pastime of a millionaire, but--the house is built and, because the
architect was a man of sense and listened to what I wanted, it is
exactly the house I meant it to be in my dreams, so 'Dreams' it will be

"I thought you hated new houses?"

"So I do, except when it is my own house in my own Green Glen.  And you
will admit that it is comfortable."

"It's very bare," Mrs. Douglas said.

"Well, I like it bare.  And your own room is far from bare.  It is more
like a museum than anything else, with so many mementoes of other days
hung on the walls, and photographs of us all at every age and in every
attitude, and shelves and shelves of devotional books, not to speak of
all the little stucco figures you have cherished for years.  Their
heads have been gummed on so often they fall off if you look at them.
Davie was always being entreated by you to mend them, and he found,
finally, that Moses' head (or was it Eli?) would only remain on if
turned the wrong way about--so his beard was down his back! ... To
return to 'Dreams,' I admit the garden is still unmade, and the road a
mere track, but wait and you will see it blossom like the rose.  We
shan't have any fences--there is no need for them among the hills, and
the heather will grow to the edges of our shaven lawns, and we'll have
herbaceous borders as gay as a carnation ribbon, and beds of

Mrs. Douglas laid down her stocking and looked at her daughter.  "No
fences?  And rabbits nibbling the mignonette--it's a thing they have a
particular fancy for; and sheep eating the vegetables..."

"Go on with your stocking, Motherkin, and don't try to be crushing.
We'll have fences then, and wire to keep out the rabbits, and we'll
cover the fences with rambler roses--the bright red single kind; I
don't like Dorothy Perkins.  And there's simply no end to what we can
do with the burn; it would make any garden fairyland, with those
shining brown pools fringed with heather.  _What_ luck to have a burn!
Before the house we are going to have a paved bit, so that you can go
out and take the air without getting your feet wet.  There will be no
'gravel sweep,' and no one will be able to come to our door except on
their own feet, for the road will stop a long way from the house."

Ann clasped her hands round her knees, and rocked herself in joyful

"I remember," she went on, "hearing as a child some one praise a
neighbourhood with the phrase, 'It is full of carriage people.'  I
wondered at the time what kind of people they were, and if they perhaps
had their abode in a carriage, like a snail in its shell!  When 'motor
people' come to Dreams they will have to leave their motors and walk.
We shall say to them, like True Thomas, 'Light down, light down from
your horse o' pride.'  ... But, Mother, is this really going to bore
you terribly?  Do you miss so badly the giddy round of Priorsford?  The
pavements?  The shops?  The tea-parties?"

Mrs. Douglas gave a long sigh.  "I don't want to grumble, but, you
know, I always did say it was rash to attempt to stay a winter in the
Green Glen.  It's well enough in the summer (though even then I would
prefer to be nearer civilisation), and fine for the children, but in
November, with the fields like sponges, and the road a mere Slough of
Despond, and the hills covered with mist most of the time, and the wind
coming down the glen howling like an evil spirit, and the station six
miles away, and only a pony trap between us and complete burial; Mark
and Charlotte in India, and Jim in South Africa, and the children in
Oxfordshire with their other grandmother, I feel like a pelican in the
wilderness.  I told you I would, and I do."

"Poor dear, but..."

"Through the day it isn't so bad.  I admit the mornings are rather
beautiful, and when it happens to be fine I can potter about outside,
and Marget is always a divert.  In the afternoon when it rains (and it
has rained practically every day for three weeks) I sew and write
letters and read, and there is always tea to look forward to.  But in
the evenings--and the curtains have to be drawn now about four
o'clock--when there is no chance of a ring at the bell, no postman, no
telephone-call, no stray callers, and the owls hoot, and my eyes get
tired with reading, and one can't knit for ever even with four wild
grandchildren to knit for, well----"

"But, my dear," said her daughter, "just think how you will appreciate
Priorsford when you get back.  We are very much alone just now--it was
an odd chance that sent Mark and Charlotte to India and Jim to South
Africa the same winter--but don't let's have to remember it as the
winter of our discontent....  We must face facts.  Neighbours we have
almost none.  Mr. Sharp, at the Manse, is practically the only one, and
he is so shy that speaking to him is like trying to carry on a
conversation with a very young rabbit in a trap.  The Scotts aren't so
very far away as the crow flies, only over the other side of the hill,
but it is five miles round by the road.  It's an unpeopled world, but
the great thing to remember is that any moment you please you can have
a case packed, order the pony trap, drive to the station, buy a ticket,
and in about two hours you would be in Glasgow, in the Central Station
Hotel, among all the city gentlemen, feasting your eyes on people,
forgetting the owls in listening to the Glasgow accent, eating large
meals, frequenting picture houses...."

Mrs. Douglas dropped both her book and stocking in her indignation.

"Ann, you know I _never_ enter a picture house, and I haven't the least
desire to go to Glasgow in the meantime."

"I tell you what," Ann cried, "go in for a course of reading and
improve your mind.  It's an opportunity that may not occur again."

"I'm too old to improve my mind; besides, it isn't very nice of you to
suggest that it needs improving."

Ann studied her mother with her head on one side.  "You're sixty,
aren't you?  Sixty's nothing.  The late Mr. Gladstone learned Arabic
when he was eighty.  Besides, you are the most absurd person for sixty
I ever saw.  Your hair is as soft and brown as it was when you were
thirty, and you have a complexion that is the envy of less fortunate
women.  And the odd thing is, I believe you hate to be told so.  I
believe you want to look old."

"Last summer," said Mrs. Douglas, "I overheard Rory say to Alison,
'Alis, Gran is nearly sixty; I heard her say so,' and Alis, with a
depth of pity in her voice, replied, 'Oh, poor Gran!'  But when I think
I'm only sixty I feel like pitying myself.  In the _Times_ last night
there were six people among the 'Deaths' who were over ninety.  It
frightens me to think that I may live to a great age, and, perhaps, see
you all go before me--and I get so wearied sometimes for your father
and the boys...."

Ann laid her hand on her mother's.  "I know," she said, "I know.  But,
Mother, are those who are gone so much more dear to you than we who are
left?  As Pharaoh said to Hadad: 'What hast thou lacked with us, that,
behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country?'"

"Ah, my dear, _nothing_, but..."

"The old answer," said Ann.  "Nothing, nothing--'howbeit let me go in
any wise.'  ... Well, we have wandered from our subject.  What do you
say, Mums, to reading Robert Louis right through?  We have the
Edinburgh edition here.  He will teach you to love the moorlands."

Mrs. Douglas recoiled in horror from the suggestion.

"Oh no!  No.  No.  The very name of R.L.S. makes me think of the
eternal crying of whaups, and we are fairly beset with the creatures
here.  Really to appreciate Robert Louis you must read him immersed in
a town with no hope of a holiday, or on the burning, shining plains of
India, or on the South African veldt.  To read there of 'a great, rooty
sweetness of bogs' and 'the infinite, melancholy piping of hill-birds,'
and 'winds austere and pure' is like water in a thirsty land.  But when
one is seated in the bogs, and deaved by the hill-birds it's only an
irritation.  I'd rather read Ethel M. Dell, and warm myself with the
thought of heroes whose eyes are like slumbering volcanoes, and
heroines who generally manage to get a flogging from some one before
they win through to happiness."

Ann laughed.  "It's quite true.  Here we must read books hot with life,
full of intrigues and sensational developments.  We have all the
simplicity we want in the Green Glen."

Her mother sighed.  "I'm not really discontented, Ann, though I'm
afraid I sound so.  But I seem to lead such a useless life here.  A few
letters to sick and sad people is all I accomplish.  If there were some
people about the doors whom I could visit and, perhaps, help a little.
Once a minister's wife always a minister's wife.  I can't get out of
the habit of trying to help.  But there's only old Geordie's cottage,
and he hasn't even a wife, and he wouldn't thank me for a visit."

"No," laughed Ann.  "He is very proud of being able to fend for
himself, and hopes to die without being beholden to any woman.  He was
telling me a sad tale the other day about an old friend of his who
lived alone until he was eighty, and then fell ill and had to have the
district nurse, who insisted on his remaining in bed.  'To think,' said
Geordie, 'that a man should live to be aichty and be overpowered by a
wumman in the end.'  But I can quite see that the lack of people to
comfort and help is a great lack to you--born minister's wife that you

"Ah, well, I made many mistakes, but my heart was in my job.  It was a
real pleasure to me to know every soul in the church, and to listen to
all they cared to tell me of their trials and their troubles, and to be
asked to share in their merrymakings; to have the right to laugh and
cry with them.  The wives used to say when your father intimated
visiting, 'I wish the mistress wad come wi' the minister, she's a
graund cracker.'  Your father was sometimes ill-off knowing what to
talk about in the different houses; he wasn't one of those glib men
with a fund of easy phrases, but when they got to know him they liked
him the better for his quietness, and valued his few words more than
other people's eloquence.  How he would have enjoyed this, Ann!  He
loved the Green Glen, and the burn, and the whaups crying."

There was a silence, and Mrs. Douglas sat looking into the fire.  She
was far away from the little house among the hills.  She was young
again, and the husband of her youth was once more at her side.
Pictures, softened and beautified by time, unrolled themselves before
her eyes.  Children played in a garden among flowers, their laughter
and shouting came to her ears, she could see their faces lifted to
hers; but no beckoning could bring them to her, for long ago they had
grown up and gone away; they were but dream children who played in that

Ann watched her mother with a soft look in her grey eyes.  "I've been
thinking, Mums, you ought to write your _Life_."

Mrs. Douglas came back to the present with an effort.  "Write my life?
But I did--don't you remember?  On that yachting cruise we went, when
the sea never stayed calm except for a few hours.  There was nothing
much to do, so I wrote my life in a twopenny pass-book, with a pencil,
and none of you were at all encouraging about it.  I read it aloud to
you somewhere about the Azores, when you were lying seasick in your
berth, and you said it made you feel worse; and Charlotte cried from
the next cabin, 'Ann, what is wrong with Gran that she is making that
curious, whining sound?' and Mark printed on the cover, 'The Life of
auld Mistress Douglas written by herself,' and then it got lost."

"I remember," said Ann.  "But this time it must be done properly.
You'll tell it to me and I'll write it down, and we'll have it typed
and perhaps printed, so that the children when they grow up will know
what a queer little grandmother was theirs.  Let me see--we'll be here
alone until the Moncrieffs come about the middle of December; that will
give us a month to work at it.  Two hours every night, perhaps more.
Does that please you, Motherkin?"

"Ann, you are trying to humour an old woman.  I don't suppose the
children would ever trouble to read my _Life_, except perhaps
Alison--that child has a strong sense of duty; but I must say I would
enjoy remembering it all....  Here are Marget and Mysie."

The two servants came into the room accompanied by a large Persian cat,
grey, the colour of a November sky.  This beautiful creature had been
named by Ann the "Tatler," because his genius for falling into
photographic attitudes reminded her, she said, of those ladies, fair
and fashionable, whose pictures adorn the weekly pages of that popular

Marget seated herself majestically.  She was a tall woman, with a
broad, honest face, and hair pulled straight back and covered by a
cap--not the flippant scrap of muslin with a bow generally worn, but an
erection of coffee-coloured lace, with touches of crimson velvet, which
she alluded to as a "kep," and which gave her almost a regal air.

Marget had been thirty-five years with the Douglas family, and was so
thoroughly a Douglas that there was never any thought of keeping her in
her "place."  Mysie, who was her niece, she kept under iron control,
but she allowed herself much latitude.  No one knew Marget's age.  It
was a subject on which she had always been excessively touchy.  When
the Census came round she had said, "I'll no' pit it doon till a' the
bairns are oot, an' naebody but the maister'll ken, an' he'll no' tell."

She met all questions with "I'm as auld as ma little finger an' I'm
aulder than ma teeth."  In revenge the Douglases had intimated to their
friends that they had inside knowledge that Marget was at least eighty.

After prayers Mysie left the room, but Marget generally remained for a
"crack," delighting to bandy words with "Miss Ann"--a diversion which
to-night ended in Ann being called "a daft lassie."

"_Lassie!_" cried Ann.

"Ye'll aye be a lassie to me," Marget told her; "but," turning to her
mistress, "is it true, Mem, that she's gaun to write yer _Life_?  I
never ken when Miss Ann's speakin' the truth and when she's juist
haverin'....  It wad be rale interestin'.  Ye wad need to pit in aboot
thon daft man wha cam' to see the maister and the pollis efter him, an'
that awfu' fricht we got wi' the big fire in the linoleum factory, and
aboot the man wha drooned hissel in the Panny Pond and floatit...."

"Yes, Marget," said Ann, "we'll need your help to decide what is to be
put in.  One thing, of course, must go in--your age."

Marget rose from her chair with a we-are-not-amused look, put the
Bibles back in their proper places, dropped her delightful,
old-fashioned curtsey, walked to the door, and said before she closed
it behind her:

"Ye wadna daur.  An', what's mair, ye _dinna ken it_."


Two nights later, when the stars had come out to look down at the Green
Glen and the curtains were drawn in Dreams, Ann sat down before a small
table on which lay a pile of paper and a fountain-pen, and told her
mother that she was now ready to write her _Life_.

"But how do you begin a _Life_?" Mrs. Douglas asked.  She was sitting
in her favourite low chair, doing what she called her "reading."
Beside her was a pile of devotional books, from each of which she read
the portion for the day.  Nothing would make her miss this ceremony,
and she carted the whole pile about with her wherever she went.

"Shall I give you the date of my birth and say that I was the child of
poor but honest parents?  I seem to remember that beginning."

"No," Ann decided, "we'll leave dates alone; they are 'chiels that
winna ding.'  The point is, what style would you like me to write it
in?  We might begin like _The Arabian Nights_--'It is related (but God
alone is all-knowing, as well as all-wise and all-mighty and
all-bountiful) that there was in ancient times a fair virgin,
Helen....'  But I think, perhaps, your history is too tame and domestic
for such a highly coloured style."

"I should think so, indeed," said her mother, as she laid down _Hours
of Silence_ and took up _Come ye Apart_.

"What about the Russian touch?" Ann asked, waving her pen.  "Like this:
'She turned upon her pillow, tearing at its satin cover with her nails,
then, taking a spoonful of bromide, she continued----'"

"Oh, Ann--don't be ridiculous!"

"Or shall I dispense entirely with commas, inverted and otherwise, and
begin without a beginning at all, as the very best people do?  It does
make Aunt Agatha so angry, that sort of book, where no explanations are
offered, and you suddenly find yourself floundering among a lot of
Christian names.  Anyway, it's much too clever for me to attempt!  I'm
afraid we must confine ourselves to a plain narrative, with no
thoughts, only incidents.  I think I'll begin: 'In my youth I wasna
what you would ca' bonnie, but I was pale, penetratin', and
interestin'.'  How is that?"

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  She had reached _From Day to Day_, and
would soon be at the apex of the pile, _Golden Grain_.  "If you are
going to describe my appearance you might at least be accurate."

"Well," said her daughter, "I only know you from a very old photograph
as a moon-faced child with tight curls, and then, later, with two
babies and a _cap_!  What were you really like?"

Mrs. Douglas sat very upright, with a becoming pink flush on her face
and a little smile at the corners of her mouth.  "I can see myself the
day I met your father for the first time.  I had on my first silk
dress--royal blue it was--and a locket with a black velvet ribbon round
my neck, and my hair most elaborately done in what was called a 'mane,'
some rolled up on the top, some hanging down.  My hair was my best
point.  It was thick and wavy, and as yellow as corn.  Your father
always said he fell in love with the back of my head.  Who would
believe it who saw me now?"

"'Faigs, ye're no' bad,' as Marget would say," Ann comforted her.  "As
one gets older looks are chiefly a matter of dress.  When you take
pains with your clothes no woman of your age looks better; but when you
wander out in a rather seedy black dress, with a dejected face under a
hat that has seen better days, you can't wonder at what my friend Mrs.
Bell said after meeting you one wet day: 'Eh, puir auld buddy; she's an
awfu' worrit-lookin' wumman; it fair makes me no' weel to look at her!'"

"Yes, Ann, but you shouldn't have laughed.  I don't like that Mrs.
Bell.  She's a forward woman, and you spoil her."

"Oh, I told her you weren't really old, but those women are so
surprisingly young.  They have grown-up families and hordes of
grandchildren, and you think they are at least seventy and they turn
out to be fifty.  Of course, it was rather disrespectful of her to call
you 'puir auld buddy,' but the 'awfu' worrit-lookin'' was such an exact
description of you doing good works on a wet day in your old clothes
that I had to laugh.  But we're not getting on."

"It's absurd to talk of writing my life," Mrs. Douglas said.  "There is
nothing worth telling about.  I asked Alison last summer what she was
going to be, and she tossed back that yellow mane of hers, and said
earnestly, 'Well, Gran, I did think of being a poet, but I've decided
just to be an ordinary woman with a baby.'  That's all I ever was.  An
ordinary woman with several babies and a man and a kirk to look
after--a big handful for any woman.  I'd better begin where, for me,
the world first began, at Etterick.  You remember the old house, don't
you, with its white-washed walls and high pointed roof, standing at the
end of the village?  When I think of it it always seems to be summer;
the shadow of the house falling black across the white road, a baker's
van standing in the village, and one of the wives holding out her white
apron for loaves, a hen clucking sleepily, the hum of the bees among
the flowers in the old garden, the _clink-clink_ from the smiddy at the
burnside, my mother in a thin blue dress standing in the doorway with a
basket on her arm--the peace of a summer afternoon!  And the smell of
it!  New-mown grass drying in the sun, indescribable sweet scents from
the flower-thick roadsides, the smiddy smell of hot iron sizzling on
big hoofs, wafts from the roses in the garden--those most fragrant,
red, loose-petalled roses that now I never see.  Inside the house was
cool and dark, with drawn blinds.  D'you remember the parlour?  I can
tell you where every bit of furniture in it stood.  The bureau behind
the door, and along the wall the old, wide sofa.  I've often told you
about the upholsterer from Priorsford, who came to prescribe for it
when its springs began to subside?  He had a lisp, and after the
examination was finished he said simply and finally, 'The thofo's
done.'  How we laughed over that, and the 'thofo' held on for another
twenty years, never getting much worse.  Yes, the piano came next to
the sofa, and then the wide window with all the little panes.  The
tea-table stood there in summer, and one could see all who passed by.
'The day the chaise and pair gaed through Caddonfoot' was a saying in
the countryside, but Etterick boasted carts and carriages in some
profusion.  I wonder if my mother's teas were really better than anyone
else's?  The cream so thick that it had to be helped out of the jug
with a spoon!  And the 'thin' scones coated with fresh-churned butter!
My dear Robbie revelled in them.  He wrote from India, you remember,
that when camping they ran short of bread, and the cook said he would
bake some _chupattis_.  'And,' wrote Robbie, 'by the grace of God the
_chupattis_ turned out to be my grandmother's "thin" scones!'"

"I remember," said Ann.  "He introduced me to them when I went out.
Wasn't the house at Etterick an inn once?"

"Yes, and all the rooms had numbers painted on the doors.  No. 8 was
your nursery when we used to spend the summer there.  And the playroom
was called 'Jenny Berry'--why, I don't know; the reason for the name is
lost in the mists of antiquity.  It was the first place you all rushed
to the moment you arrived, in a fever to see if your treasures were
safe, and you always found them just as you left them.  My mother was a
very understanding woman with children.  She wasn't, perhaps, a very
tender grandmother as grandmothers go now, and you children held her in
some awe; but you valued her good opinions, and you knew her to be
absolutely just.  She seldom praised, but, on the other hand, she never
damped your enthusiasms.  'Never daunton young folk' was one of her
favourite sayings.  Yes.  I'm afraid she was somewhat intolerant, poor
dear.  She had a great contempt for the gossiping, crocheting,
hen-headed female that abounded in her day.  'A frivolous woman,' she
would say after a visit from such a one, 'fit for nothing but fancy
work and novelettes.'  Good looks appealed to her enormously, and she
was glad all you children had what she called 'china' faces; swarthy
people she could not abide.  We took Mrs. Alston to see her when she
was staying with us one summer at Caddonfoot--dear Mrs. Alston, with
her dun skin and projecting teeth and her heart of gold!  Your
grandmother was the frailest little body then, only her indomitable
spirit kept her going, and Mrs. Alston fussed over her and deferred to
her in the kindest way.  But the blandishments were all to no purpose;
she looked coldly at the visitor, and afterwards, when I told her what
a fine woman Mrs. Alston was, and what fine work she had done in the
mission-field, all the answer I got was, 'Oh, I dare say, but I never
took my tea with a worse-looking woman.'"

"I remember that," said Ann.  "I remember how Father shouted when you
told him.  Granny was often very amusing, but what I remember most
about her was her sense of comfort."

"Yes, if I've any notion how to make a house comfortable I got it from
my mother.  She was great in preparing for people.  If we had only gone
to Priorsford for the day she made of our return a sort of festival.
Out on the doorstep to meet us, fires blazing, tea ready, and such a
budget to tell us of the small events of the day.  Some women are so
casual with their children, they don't _thirl_ them to themselves.
They let them go and come, and seem to take very little interest in
their comings and their goings, don't even trouble to be in the house
when the boys come home for the holidays; suppose vaguely that this one
or that one will be home to-day or to-morrow, never think of preparing
a welcome.  And then they wonder that their children have no love for
their home; that when they go out into the world, they don't trouble to
write except at infrequent intervals; that sometimes their lives drift
so far apart that they cannot hear each other speak."

"Mother," said Ann, "you speak wisely, but how much of this is to go
down in your _Life_?  At present I have only got that you had yellow
hair and a royal blue silk dress and a locket.  Oughtn't I to say
something about your childhood and what influenced you and all that
sort of thing?  Do try to remember some thoughts you had; you know the
sort of thing these 'strong' novels are full of--your feelings when you
found they had drowned your kitten--and weren't you ever misunderstood
and driven to weep floods of tears in secret?"

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "No, I never was clever enough to think
the things children think in modern novels.  And I don't remember being
misunderstood, except that I was always considered rather a forward
child when really I suffered much from shyness.  One morning, with a
great effort, I managed to say to old Sibbald, It's a fine morning,' as
I passed him.  'What are ye sayin' noo wi' yer impertinence?' was his
most uncalled-for response.  I think my childhood was too happy to have
any history.  One of a big family, with freedom to roam, and pets in
abundance, I never had a dull minute.  And Etterick was a very
interesting village, full of characters."

"Wasn't there somebody called 'Granny' you used to tell us stories

"My mother's nurse.  She died before you were born.  The very wee-est
woman that ever was--I used to pick her up and carry her about--and so
bonnie, with a white-goffered mutch framing her face.  We all loved
that little old woman.  She lived in a tiny house at the top of the
village with Tam, her husband; all her family were up and married and
away.  'Granny' was our refuge in every kind of storm--indeed, she was
everybody's refuge.  And she had a great heart in her little body.  It
was told of her that when her eldest boy ran away to Edinburgh and
enlisted, she made a pot of broth and baked a baking of scones for the
children left at home, strapped the baby on her back, walked into
Edinburgh, bought the boy off, and walked back again--fifty-six miles
in all!  We have almost lost the use of our legs in these days of
trains and motors.  She never asked anything from anybody.  I can
remember her face when some well-meaning person offered her charity.
'Na, na, thank ye kindly.  I may be sodger-clad, but I'm major-minded.'
And there was old Peggy Leithen, who gave a ha'penny to every beggar
that came to the door, murmuring as she did so, 'Charity covereth a
multitude of sins,' and graphically described her conversion: 'I juist
got the blessin' when ma knee was on the edge o' the bed steppin' in
ahint Geordie.'  And there was Jock Look-Up--but I could go on for
hours.  I think I was thirteen when I went to a boarding-school.  I
enjoyed that, too--all except the getting up to practise on winter
mornings.  I can feel now the chill of the notes on my numb fingers.  I
was going back to school for another year when I met your father and
got married instead."

"Seventeen, weren't you?"

"Seventeen, and childish at that.  I never had my hair up till my
marriage day.  Your father was twenty-six."

"Babes!" said Ann.

"It's odd how things come about," said Mrs. Douglas, as she put the
last of the text-books on the pile, and took off the large, round-eyed
tortoise-shell spectacles that she wore when doing her "reading."  "Dr.
Watts, our own minister, was ordered to the South of France for the
winter, and your father, who had just finished with college, came to
take his place.  We were used to fine ministers in Etterick.  Dr. Watts
was a saint and a scholar, and the parish minister was one of God's
most faithful servants--both were men of dignity and power.  But your
father was so young and ardent; he went through the district like a
flame.  He held meetings in lonely glens where no meeting had ever been
held before.  He kindled zeal in quiet people who had been content to
let things go on as they had always gone; it was a wonderful six
months.  Your Aunt Agatha, who, being older, had left school before I
did, wrote to tell me of this extraordinary young man; indeed, her
letters were so full of him that I made up my mind to dislike him at
sight.  And after I did meet him I pretended to myself and to Agatha
that I thought him a very tiresome young man.  I mimicked the way he
sang hymns and his boyish, off-hand manner, so unlike Dr. Watts' grave,
aloof ways.  I wish I had words, Ann, to give you some idea of the man
your father was in his youth.  As he grew older he grew not less
earnest, but more tolerant--mellower, perhaps, is the word.  As a young
man he was like a sword-blade, pure and keen.  And yet he was such a
boy with it all, or I never would have dared to marry him.  I had
absolutely no training for a minister's wife, but I went into it quite
blithely.  Now, looking back, I wonder at myself.  At the time I was
like the little boy marching bravely into a dark room, his bigger
brother explaining the phenomena with 'He hasna the sense to be feart.'"

"There's a lot in that," said Ann.  "But think what a loss to the world
if you had remained a spinster--it hardly bears thinking of!  Well, we
haven't got very far to-night.  To-morrow you must tell me all about
the wedding.  I know Alison would like to hear about the tiny, white,
kid lacing shoes with pale blue rosettes that I used to look at in a
drawer.  I believe they finished up in a jumble sale."

"Yes," Mrs. Douglas confessed.  "It was the first one we ever had, and
you know the sort of madness that seizes you when you see people eager
to buy.  I rushed home and looked out everything we could do
without--my wedding slippers among the lot.  And poor old Mrs.
Buchanan, in a sort of ecstasy of sacrifice, climbed up to her kitchen
shelf and brought down the copper kettle that in her saner moments she
cherished like saffron, and threw it on the pyre.  The sale was for
Women's Foreign Missions, and when at the end of the most strenuous
evening any of us had ever spent the treasurer and I lugged our takings
home in a cab, her husband met us at the door, and, lifting the heavy
bag, said, 'I doubt it's Alexander the coppersmith.'  But it wasn't; it
was fully £100.  Dear, dear, the excitements of a ministerial life!"


"Now that the visitors are gone," said Ann, "we'll go on with our
wedding number.  Who complained of the dullness of the Green Glen?
Three visitors--the whole neighbourhood you may say--in one afternoon:
first the parson, then the two Miss Scotts.  As I came down the
burnside I saw them go up to the door, and I said to myself in the
words of the old beadle who was asked what sort of congregation was
gathering: 'Graund!  Twa weemen pourin' in.'  Didn't you like them,
Mother?  The Miss Scotts, I mean?  I thought their weather-beaten faces
very attractive, and their voices so surprisingly soft and clear.
Somehow I had expected voices rather loud and strident, to go with
their workman-like clothes and heavy boots.  The younger one specially
attracted me--they way she beamed through her spectacles and said 'Yes'
unexpectedly, whenever a pause occurred in the conversation.  They are
going to help me a lot with the garden; their own place is lovely.
It's a nice happy way to end one's days--living peacefully among
growing flowers!  Think of all the old women who live in hotels and
boarding-houses, quite comfortable, I dare say, so far as fires and
light and a good bed, and well-cooked food go, but so barren of all
interest except a morbid curiosity about their fellow-prisoners!  How
spacious a country life is! ..."

"Oh yes," her mother broke in impatiently; "but hotel life can be very
interesting, and there is nothing I enjoy so much as watching my
neighbours....  I wonder why Mr. Sharp likes telling funny stories?"

"Shyness goads him to it," Ann said.  "It's the same thing that makes
me chatter like a swallow when I am with impressive people and ought to
hold my peace.  He's a decent lad, Mr. Sharp, but I wish that when I
meet him outside he wouldn't treat me like a funeral.  He doesn't look
at me, but removes his hat when passing.  Shyness again, I suppose."

"He has a housekeeper," Mrs. Douglas said, as she picked up a stitch.
"It's a pity he hasn't a wife.  In a quiet place like this the Manse
should be a centre for the district.  Don't you think, Ann, if we asked
Nina Strachen, or----"

"Mother," said Ann solemnly, "I utterly refuse to have anything to do
with your matchmaking efforts.  Just let your mind dwell for a little
on the result of your last."

Mrs. Douglas sighed.  "Poor George Reid!  But it wasn't marrying killed
him.  He couldn't have got a better wife than Jeanie Robb.  The doctors
said the trouble had been going on for a long time, and, anyway, the
last months of his life were as comfortable as they could be made.  If
he hadn't married he would have been dependent on _fremt_ women, for he
hadn't a soul of his own; and Jeanie gets the Widows' Fund, so you
can't regret the marriage having taken place."

"Practical woman!" laughed Ann.  "But we must get on with your own
wedding now--we are making no progress at all.  When I think of what
Hugh Walpole or Compton Mackenzie can make out of somebody's childhood,
I blush for my few bald sentences.  About your wedding--did my
grandmother choose your things?  When I knew her she took very little
interest in clothes, just wore whatever was brought to her."

"Ah, but she wasn't always like that.  I remember Agatha and myself
almost in tears begging her not to get a purple silk dress and bonnet
which she much desired, as we thought them absurdly youthful for her
years.  Poor body!  I don't believe she was more than forty.  Daughters
can be very unfeeling."

"They can," Ann agreed, with a twinkle.  "My poor grandmother!  What a
shame to deprive her of her purple silk!  If you and Aunt Agatha could
have looked forward forty years and seen grandmothers with dresses
almost to their knees, dancing, playing tennis, frivolling, hardly
recognisable from the eighteen-year-olds, I wonder what you would have
thought.  Well, who did buy your trousseau?  Aunt Agatha?"

"No, she was less sophisticated even than I was.  My stand-by was Miss
Ayton.  My mother trusted her judgment and her taste and asked her
help, and Miss Ayton was only too willing to give it; for, spinster of
fifty as she was, she loved a marriage.  She was one of those
delightful women who can be vividly interested in their neighbours'
business without ever being a nuisance, and she presided like a stout,
benign fairy over my nuptials, getting things done, it seemed, by a
wave of her wand."

Mrs. Douglas let her knitting fall on her lap, and lay back in her
chair, smiling.

"First I was whisked off to Edinburgh to have some lessons in cooking
(I knew absolutely nothing about anything).  _High-class_ cooking it
was called, I suppose because nearly every recipe called in the most
casual way for a dozen of eggs and a bottle of sherry.  Not the sort of
cooking required for a manse, you will say...."

Ann looked up from her writing.  "Hadn't you--I seem to remember--a
cookery book from that class, a fat green book?  It stood, for some
reason, on the nursery bookshelf, and was a sort of Aladdin's Cave to
us children.  We pored over it, reading aloud the rich, strange
ingredients, and lay on our faces gazing enraptured at the picture of a
dinner-table laid for about sixty people, where each napkin was folded
in a different way, and pheasants with long tail-feathers sat about in
dishes, and brightly tinted jellies and creams and trifles made it
blossom like a fairy garden.  That picture always made us so hungry
that we had to have 'a piece' all round after looking at it....  Why do
I connect that cookery book with Communions?"

Mrs. Douglas laughed.  "Because at Communion times, when we had strange
ministers assisting we had puddings out of that book, at least
expurgated editions of them.  I have that book in my room now.  It is
too much a bit of my past for me ever to part with it.  It has been
with me since the start.  At first it was all that stood between me and
blank ignorance, and now it is a reminder of the days that seem like a
happy dream.  Well, the book and the cookery lessons were due to Miss
Ayton.  Or, was it Mrs. Watts first suggested I should learn cooking?
I believe it was.  There was never anyone so practical as Mrs. Watts,
dear woman.  I always regret that she was gone before you grew up, Ann;
you would have delighted in her.  She was a daughter of the great Dr.
Grierson--that mighty preacher and statesman--and she had much of the
Grierson charm.  Her husband, Dr. Watts, was laird as well as minister,
and they didn't live at the Manse, but at their own place, Fennanhopes.
It was about the greatest treat we had as children, to be invited to
Fennanhopes, and I can't think why we liked it so much, for whenever we
arrived Mrs. Watts would say, 'Now, friends,' and in a trice she had us
all working hard.  Some picked currants, some went to bring in the
eggs, some weeded--but we all did something.  We wouldn't have done it
for anyone else, but we liked to please Mrs. Watts.  She kept everybody
busy: visitors (the house was always full), village, the whole
countryside, and there is no doubt that the state of being pleasantly
busy is the best we can attain to in this world.  Mrs. Watts was a
noted housewife, and servants trained by her were eagerly sought for.
I remember going, during one Assembly time in Edinburgh, to a meeting
at which Mrs. Watts was to speak.  One knew what to expect as a rule--a
rather gasped-out, tepid little homily from the wife of one or other
well-known divine; but I rather thought Mrs. Watts would be different.
I waited with interest, and presently she stepped on to the platform,
looking so big and fine and of the open air, spoke for a few minutes in
her clear, round voice, and then, looking round the meeting with
friendly eyes she said, 'Now, friends, I am going to tell you how to
make _really good coffee_.'"

Ann laughed.  "What a dear!  I wish I had known her.  I can just
remember Dr. Watts.  It seemed to me, standing somewhere about his
knees, that his head must be dangerously near the clouds, and I
remember his gentle voice saying to me, 'It will take you a long time
to grow as big as I am.' ... Yes, and so between Mrs. Watts and Miss
Ayton you learned something about cooking.  And who chose your
trousseau, and all your 'providing'?"

"Miss Ayton, really, but of course my mother was there too, and I was
there, though I don't think I was supposed to have an opinion.  You
would laugh at my things now, but they were considered very
handsome--the best that could be had at Kennington & Jenner's."

"What!  Was Jenner's in Princes Street in those days?" cried Ann,

"Dear me, why shouldn't Jenner's have been in Princes Street then?
Really, Ann, you talk as if it were before the Flood.  I assure you my
clothes caused something of a sensation in the countryside."

"I'm sure they did.  I knew you had a sealskin coat, for it ended its
long and useful existence as capes for Robbie and me.  I liked mine,
but Robbie wept bitterly, and said only coachmen wore capes.  And you
had a bonnet, hadn't you?  A bonnet at seventeen!"

"A prune-coloured bonnet," said Mrs. Douglas, "high in front, and worn
with a prune-coloured silk dress and the sealskin coat.  Those were my
'going-away' things.  But the dress your father liked best was navy
blue, what was called a Princess dress, buttoned straight down with
small brass buttons.  I had a sort of reefer coat to wear with that,
and a hat with a blue veil.  And I had a black satin for evenings (no
self-respecting bride would have been without a black satin) besides my
bridal white satin."

"You must have looked a duck with those little white kid shoes with the
big rosettes on the toes and the blue silk laces.  I suppose you were
married in the house?"

"Oh yes.  Church weddings were practically unknown then.  I was married
in the drawing-room.  Do you remember it?  Rather a gloomy room, and
not often used.  The partition between the dining-room and the room
next it was taken down, and the luncheon was laid on long tables.
People came from Priorsford the day before and cooked and made ready.
It had been a terrible storm, and the drifts were piled up high, but I
don't think any of the invited guests stayed away, although many of
them had long distances to drive.  The preparations were very exciting.
I remember the great rich cakes from Edinburgh being cut down with a
lavish hand, and big, round, thick cakes of shortbread with white
sweeties on them, so the guests must have had tea as well as luncheon,
and been well warmed and fed.  Rather unlike our modern weddings, with
a crumb of bridescake and a thimbleful of champagne, followed by a cup
of tea and a sandwich.  Hare soup, and roasts of all sorts, and creams
and trifles galore.  I was child enough to enjoy it all."

Ann stopped writing and sat with her fountain-pen poised in her hand,
looking into the fire.

"I can just imagine," she said, "how jolly it must have been.  The
comfortable old house in the village street, all the rooms with blazing
fires, and the kitchen with the flagged, uneven floor, hot and
simmering with good things cooking, and the snow outside, and the
horses stamping in the cold, frosty air, and the guests coming in
laughing and talking.  And Father so young and tall and blue-eyed, and
you such a nice little white and gold bride, blue-eyed, too (no wonder
there is such a lamentable lack of variety in the looks of your
children; I do admire a family where some are dark, and some fair, and
some red-haired--it isn't so dreadfully monotonous), and the
bridesmaids in white with scarlet berries, and your little brothers all
agape for good things.  It must all have been so young and merry.  A
good send-off to a very happy married life, eh, Mother?"

Mrs. Douglas looked at her daughter without speaking, the tears slowly
gathering in her eyes.  Ann bent forward and laid her hand on her
mother's.  "Just say to me as Marget says, 'Oh, lassie, haud yer
tongue!'  I know that is what you are feeling like.  It breaks your
heart to look back.  There has been so much happiness and such great
sorrow; but the sad bits are as precious as the happy bits, and they
all help to make the pattern.  On the whole a gay pattern, Mother."

"Oh yes, yes.  I have had far beyond my deserts.  For many years life
was almost cloudless, except for the clouds I made with my own foolish
fears and forebodings.  Why did nobody shake me for my silliness?
Fussing over trifles, worrying about the congregation, feverishly
trying to lay by for an evil day.  I wonder now how I could ever have
made a trouble of anything when I had your father with me and all my
children about me.  And I knew I was happy, but I daren't say it even
to myself, in case I brought disaster.  What pagans we are at
heart--afraid of envious fates!  And then Rosamund died....  We thought
we could never be happy again--but we were.  It was never quite the
same again; we walked much more softly, for the ground seemed brittle
somehow, and the sorrow of the world came closer to us, and we went
with a different understanding to the house of mourning--but we were
happy.  I think I must often have been very trying to my friends during
those prosperous years.  They talked of 'the Douglas luck,' for
everything the boys tried for they seemed to get.  And the educating
being over we had more money in our hands, and you got about to see the
world, and we could all go abroad at a time, and I could spend some
money on the house--I always made a god of my house.  How proud I was
of my drawing-room when we got the green velvet carpet that was like
moss, and the soft blue walls and hangings, and the big Chesterfield
with the down cushions!  And the tea-table set out with plates and
green knives, while the people round were still handing their visitors
a cup in their hand, and cake and scones on a cake-stand!  I was a
queen and no widow....  Why, Marget, is it nine o'clock already?"

Marget gave her demure, respectful curtsey, which was so oddly at
variance with her frank and fearless comments on things in general, and
sat down on a chair beside Mysie.

"Ay, Mem, it's nine o'clock.  It's juist chappit on the lobby clock."
She directed a suspicious glance towards the table where Ann sat.  "Is
Miss Ann gettin' on wi' yer _Life_?  Dinna let her put in ony lees
aboot us.  How faur has she gotten?  Juist to yer marriage?  Oh, that's
a' richt.  I wasna there then.  But I can keep ye richt aboot what
happened ony time in the last five-and-thirty years."


"No honeymoon!"

Ann's pen was held aloft in amaze, as she looked across at her mother
seated at the other side of the fire in her very own chair that had
stood by the nursery fireside in long past days.  Well did Ann remember
the comfortable squat legs of it from the time when she had lived in
that world of chair-legs and the underside of sofas which we all
inhabit at the beginning of things.

Ann's mother was knitting as usual, a stocking for a long-legged
grandson; but she knitted mechanically, not looking at her work, her
eyes on the dancing flames, a little reminiscent smile turning up the
corners of her mouth.

"No honeymoon!" Ann again ejaculated.  "What was Father thinking of?
Didn't you mind?"

"Mind?  No.  Where would we go in December but to our own little house?
You must remember that I had hardly ever left Etterick except to go to
school, and the journey north seemed a wonderful adventure to me; and
your father was in such a hurry to show me the little Manse and all the
new furniture that the train journey seemed all too long.  We got to
Inchkeld very late, and it was snowing hard.  We looked about for the
cab that had been ordered to meet us, but your father said, 'There's
only a carriage and pair; that can't be for us--let's walk.'  So off we
set, I in my sealskin coat and prune-coloured bonnet!  And the sad
thing was that the carriage and pair was meant for us.  It turned out
that the carriage-hirer came from Priorsford, and when he got the order
he said, 'It's for Mr. Mark and his bride; I'll send a pair.'  And the
pair came, and we walked!"

Ann laughed.  "Too much humility doesn't pay.  There's a parable there
if I had time to think it out.  Well, and did the house come up to your

"It was one of a row of houses," said Mrs. Douglas.  "There was a gate
and a strip of garden, and a gravel-path leading to the front door.  On
your right as you went in at the door was the dining-room--but before
we got to that your father had to show me everything in the little
entrance hall and tell me the price.  Very ugly things you would call
them--you who like crumbling Jacobean chests and gate tables; but I was
very well pleased with the brand new hall table (on which stood a large
brass bell), the hat-stand, and the thing for umbrellas.  I really
liked them much better than the beautiful old things at Etterick; they
were new and they were mine.  The dining-room had a bow window which
held a green wire stand full of growing ferns.  (Isn't it odd that
after forty years I remember every detail?) The room was hardly big
enough to hold the huge mahogany sideboard with the mirrored back, and
all the other furniture."

"I remember the pictures," Ann said, "at least I expect they were the
same as at Kirkcaple and Glasgow--big steel engravings; one of a slave
market which I liked very much, and another that the boys liked better,
of fat priests looking at the provisions brought by the country people
for the Monastery--ducks and fowls, and a large salmon and a slain
deer.  We made up stories about those pictures."

"The drawing-room was the crowning glory of the house," Mrs. Douglas
went on.  She was not listening to her daughter; she was living over
again that first enchanting peep at her own house.  "My father
furnished it for us, and everything he did was well done.  It was
midnight before we had finished supper, but I couldn't have slept
without seeing it.  The wall-paper was pure white with bunches of gilt
flowers; it was your father's choice and I thought I had seldom seen
anything so beautiful.  How dull it must be for women who marry men who
take no interest in the house!  I'm thankful that I had a man who was
interested in every thing.  It made doing things so much more worth
while.  He was so innocent the way he showed his belongings to people,
taking their interest for granted, like a child.  I can see him now
watching my face as the full glory of the room burst on me.  It was lit
by a glittering glass gasalier hung from the ceiling; I had known only
lamps and candles.  The rosewood suite was covered with bright crimson
rep, there were crimson rep curtains at the bow window, a chiffonier
with a marble top stood against one wall, our shining new piano against
another, a round rosewood table in the middle of the room, and an
ottoman covered with bead work in the window.  Really, Ann, I can
hardly forgive you when I think that when you grew up you made me part
with the chiffonier and the rosewood table, and the ottoman, and that
_comfortable_ couch."

"What a vindictive mother!" said Ann.  "But why did you do it?  Surely
my eighteen-year-old yearnings after a high-art drawing-room could have
been quelled."

"Oh, I suppose they could, but I didn't want to 'daunton' you, and you
didn't see how you could live unless you got at least one room in the
house made what you called artistic.  You said our drawing-room walls
were just a network, and perhaps I had too many things hanging from the
picture-rail (it used to be a puzzle to get them all up again at
spring-cleaning times), but they had all a reason for being there--the
plaques framed in plush that Mark painted, your water-colours, and all
the enlarged photographs of people I was fond of.  You put them all
ruthlessly away, and had the walls done with brown paper and hung up a
few dreary-looking pictures in dark frames.  And you chose a dull blue
carpet, and orange cushions, and all my cheerful red rep chairs were
covered with sad-coloured stuffs, and you got green blinds and kept
them pulled down so that the room was almost quite dark, and people who
came to call just stotted over obstacles on their way to shake hands.
And you banished photographs----"

Ann's face wore a guilty look as her mother told of her sins and faults
of youth, and she broke in:

"But own, Mother, that the phase didn't last long.  I know it was
dreadful while it lasted.  I had met some artists and they had fussed
me and my head was turned.  I must have been a sore trial to my family
at that time.  Father, losing patience with me one night, said, 'Oh, go
to bed, girl, and don't sit attitudinising there!'  You should have
beaten me instead of giving in to me when I suggested putting away the
things you were fond of.  Young people are heartless because they don't
think.  I would know better now."

"Well," Mrs. Douglas gave a long sigh, "it's only now I miss my things.
I parted from them light-heartedly--rather proud, I dare say, of being
so modern.  I didn't know that I would live to cherish every relic of
my first married days, because I had lost the one who shared them....
Not that I behaved well that first year in Inchkeld.  Of course, I was
only seventeen, but I might have had more sense.  I cried half the
time.  What a damp and disconsolate companion for any poor man!  No, I
had nothing to cry about!  _Au contraire_, as the seasick Frenchman
said when asked if he had dined (to use Robbie's favourite jest); but I
had never been away from home before, and I missed Agatha, and I missed
the boys, and I missed all the stir of a big family and the cheery
bustle that goes on in a country house.  I loved my little doll's
house, so new and fresh, but the streets, and the houses full of
strangers oppressed me, and I was woefully homesick.  Your grandmother,
my mother-in-law--she died before you were born, and you missed knowing
one of the kindest women that ever lived--sent her cook, Maggie Ann, a
capable girl from the Borders, to be my servant, and she was as
homesick as I was.  One day we saw an old tinker body who visited
Etterick regularly on her rounds walking down the road with her box of
small wares slung on her back.  The sight to us was like cold water to
a thirsty man.  Maggie Ann rushed out and brought her in, and we
feasted the astonished old woman and bought up nearly all her wares.
The thought that she would be seeing Etterick soon, that she would
sleep in our barn, would hear the soft Lowland tongue and see all my
own people made that old beggar-wife a being to be envied by me....
Poor Maggie Ann was very patient with her inefficient mistress, and was
young enough rather to enjoy my effort to housekeep.  She said it
reminded her of when she was a bairn and played at a wee house.  We
tried all sorts of experiments with food, but I don't remember that
anything turned out very well.  I'm afraid we wasted a good deal.  It
was a very long, cold winter, that winter in Inchkeld.  The snow lay on
the ground, and the frost held late into March, and even my sealskin
coat could not keep out the cold.  We grew tired of skating, and I took
to moping in the house----"

"Really, Mother," said Ann, "it sounds frightfully unlike you as I have
always known you--a little bustling hurricane of a woman, waking up all
the dreaming ones, spurring the idle to work, a reproach to the
listless, an example to all--and you tell me you sat in the house and
moped and cried."

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "I wasn't always a bustling hurricane.  I
think I became that because I married such a placid man; just as I
became a Radical because he was such a Tory; just as I had to become
sternly practical because he was such a dreamer.  If we had both been
alike we would have wandered hand-in-hand into the workhouse.  Not that
Mark spent money on himself--bless him--but nobody ever asked him for
help and was refused; and he did like to buy things for me.  I found I
just had to take control of the money.  Not at first, of course; it
came to it by degrees.  And your father was only too glad; money was
never anything but a nuisance to him.  I don't think I'm inordinately
fond of money either, but I had to _hain_ so that for years it had an
undue prominence in my mind.  Well, I sighed for the South Country, and
one day, when I was miserably moping over the fire, your father said to
me: 'Come on, Nell, I'm going to visit a sick girl about your own age.
She's always asking me questions about you, and I said you would go and
see her.'

"I didn't want to go, for I was shy of sick people--the being ill in
bed seemed to put them such a distance away--but I put on my best
clothes to make a good impression, and went....  We were taken into a
clean, bright room, with a dressing-table dressed crisply in white
muslin over pink.  A girl was lying high up on the pillows, and I
thought at first she couldn't be ill, she had such shining blue eyes
and rose-flushed cheeks; her yellow hair hung in two plaits over her
shoulders.  Then I saw that her hands were almost transparent, and that
her breath came in quick gasps between her red, parted lips, and I knew
that this pretty child was dying quickly of consumption.  I couldn't
speak as I took her hand, but I tried hard to keep the tears from my
eyes as she looked at me--two girls about an age, the one beginning
life at its fullest, the other about to leave the world and youth
behind.  I stood there in my wedding braws, hating myself almost for my
health and happiness.  Your father talked to her until I got hold of
myself, and then she seemed to like to hear me tell about the little
house and my attempts to cook.  As we were leaving she held your
father's hand, and said, in her weak, husky voice, 'Mr. Douglas, tell
the folk on Sabbath that _Christ is a Rock_....'  I think I realised
then, for the first time, what religion meant.  A sentence in that book
we were reading, _Green Apple Harvest_, reminded me of that girl....
You know when Robert is dying and his brother Clem says to him:

"'Oh, Bob, it seems unaccountable hard as you should die in the middle
of May!'

"And Robert replies: '.... I've a feeling as if I go to the Lord God
I'll only be going into the middle of all that's alive....  If I'm with
Him I can't never lose the month of May....'

"I went home crying bitterly for the girl who was dying in the May
morning of her days.  I don't think I moped any more."


Inchkeld was a most pleasant place in which to have one's home--a city
set among hills and watered by a broad river; and surely no young and
witless couple ever had a kinder and more indulgent congregation than
we had.

"The first Sunday I appeared in church I was almost dead with fright.
I had to walk through the church to reach the Manse seat, and every eye
seemed to be boring into me like a gimlet.  As if that weren't bad
enough, I was accosted on my way out by a tall, bland elder, who said
he supposed I would want to teach a class in the Sabbath school.  As a
matter of fact, he supposed quite wrong, for it had never entered into
my head that such an awful duty would be required of me.  Think--until
a short time before I myself had been a scholar (and a restless,
impertinent one at that!), and the very thought of trying to control a
class made my brain reel.  But I was as clay in the hands of this suave
Highland potter, who went on to tell me that the last minister's wife
had carried on a most successful class for older girls.  'She, of
course,' he added, 'was a niece of the late Lord Clarke,' as if that
fact explained any amount of talent for teaching the young.  He led me
away--I was now in a state of passive despair--and introduced me to a
class as their new teacher.  There were seven of them, girls about
fifteen--always, I think, the worst and a most impudent age (you were a
brat at fifteen, Ann!), and they fixed me with seven pairs of eyes,
round brown eyes, rather like brandy-balls--I suppose they couldn't all
have had brown eyes, but the general effect was of
brandy-balls--silently taking me in.  I heard the elder telling them
how honoured they were to have the minister's wife as teacher; then I
was left with them.  Later on, when I got to know the girls, I
sometimes laughed at the terror of the first Sunday.  They were the
nicest girls, really, gentle and kind; but that day they seemed to me
inhuman little owls.  They told me the lesson--one of the parables--but
my mind was a blank, and I could think of no comment to make over it.
I stumbled and stuttered, every moment getting more hot and ashamed,
and finally went home, feeling, in spite of my sealskin coat and prune
bonnet, the most miserably inadequate minister's wife that had ever
tried to reign in a manse, scourged as with whips by the thought of the
late Lord Clarke's niece.  What a comfort your father always was!  He
made it seem all right in a twinkling, assured me that I needn't teach
a class unless I liked, but vowed that if I did no one could teach it
half so well; and as for the late Lord Clarke's niece, he had never
seen her, but he was sure she was a long-faced woman, with no sense of

"I know," said Ann.  "Father was always singularly comforting.  When we
hurt ourselves, you and Marget invariably took the gloomiest view,
looked up medical books and prophesied dire results.  Once I got my
thumb badly crushed and the nail torn off while swinging on a see-saw.
Marget at once said 'lock-jaw!'  I hadn't a notion what that was, but
it had an eerily fatal sound, and I crept away to Father's study to try
and lose my fears in a book.  Presently Father came in, and I rolled
out of the arm-chair I had cuddled into and ran to show him my bandaged

"'Oh, Father!' I cried, 'will I take lock-jaw and will I die?'  I can
see him now, all fresh from the cold air, laughing at me, yet sorry for
me, lifting me up in his strong arms, saying, 'Poor wifie, were they
frightening you?  Lock-jaw?  No.  Let's look at it.  Yes, I see the
nail's off.  Had we better get a celluloid one till the new one grows?
Try and keep a cloth on it, like a good lassie, and it will soon be
well.'  And then peace slid into my soul, and I sat on his knee and he
told me a story.  I can quite see what a wonderful minister my father
was.  It was that air of surety, of steadfastness, that gave people
such a lift, and that firm, comforting hand that touched things so
gently.  Robbie had the same; so had the little lad....  But to go back
to Inchkeld and the congregation----"

"Yes.  It was a very flourishing congregation.  Every Sunday it crammed
the little church, and sometimes forms had to be brought in.  The
goodness of the people was almost destroying.  They wanted to share
everything they had with us.  Constantly such things as a hare, or
pheasants, or a 'black bun,' or several cakes of shortbread would
arrive--and we had so few to eat them.  Inchkeld was a sociable place,
and I had lots of callers and no lack of opportunities for wearing my
wedding finery.  Those weren't the days of afternoon tea.  Cake and
wine were served in the drawing-room with the white and gilt wall-paper
and the red rep furniture--neat squares of wedding-cake in the brand
new silver cake-basket."

"Oooh!" groaned Ann.  "Can't I see those squares of wedding-cake!  I
hope no hungry children ever came to see you.  Do you remember taking
me as a small child to call on some newly married people in
Burntisland?--I think I was taken because I was a firebrand at
home--and tea came in on a silver tray, all prinked out with ruffly
d'oyleys--scones about the size of half-crowns and a frightfully newly
married shining cake-basket, holding inches of wedding-cake.  I was
passionately hungry, and could have eaten the whole show and never
known it; but I sat on a stool and nibbled a scone, and tried not to
make any crumbs, and then I was handed the cake-basket.  We had been
taught always to take the bit nearest us, and the bit nearest
me--alas!--was the smallest bit in the basket, with only the minutest
fragment of almond icing and sugar attached.  I would fain have
snatched two bits, but my upbringing was too strong for me, and I took
the fragment.  It was far the most delicious thing I had ever tasted.
Surely, I thought, this must be what angels eat, and for the first time
in my faulty life I wished to be an angel.  It was over in a second,
though I ate it crumb by crumb and kept the sugar for the last; and
then I sat and gazed hungrily for another bit; but no one noticed me,
no one brought the shining cake-basket again within my reach.  I don't
think that newly married wife could ever have come to any good--a woman
who hadn't the sense to feed a hungry child!  You think I spoil our
children, but it's because I remember the awfulness of having a very
little of a good thing."

"I remember that visit to Burntisland," Mrs. Douglas said.  "I had to
take you into a shop on the way home and buy you biscuits.  Your father
wanted some, too--a handed-round tea was no use to him; he liked a
breakfast-cup filled several times.  I don't think I was ever guilty of
starving children of wedding-cake.  I got surfeited with it myself, and
a big family from across the way used to come in to help us away with
all that was left over from our parties.  We were glad to get things
eaten up in those days.  Both my own mother and your father's mother
constantly sent us boxes of eatables as if we had been on a desert
island instead of in a city of shops--great mutton-hams, and haggis,
and noble Selkirk bannocks; I was afraid of them coming to our little
household.  How glad I would have been to see them in later years, when
I had growing children to feed!  But the kind hands that packed them
were still....  We could entertain only in a very small way in our very
small house, but we were asked to quite a lot of dinner-parties.  They
were evenings of dread to me.  I was so shockingly bad at making
conversation.  I blushed fiercely when anyone spoke to me, and must
have presented an appearance of such callowness that I provoked pity in
the hearts of kindly people.  One dear old lady said to me, 'My dear,
have you cut your wisdom teeth yet?' ... In September Mark was born.
It was prayer-meeting night, and Maggie Ann carelessly let the cat eat
my canary.  They didn't tell me about it until I asked why I wasn't
hearing him singing.  Mark was a tiny, delicate baby, but he was
perfect in our eyes.  We looked with distaste at large fat children,
who made poor little Mark look so puny and fragile, and told each other
that they were 'coarse,' and that we were glad our baby wasn't like
that.  When I was able to travel we set off with our precious new
possession to Etterick.  Agatha had been with us most of the summer,
but my mother didn't come; she liked to stay in her own house and
welcome us there."

"A most detached woman, my grandmother," said Ann.

"You are rather like her, Ann," said Mrs. Douglas.

"Yes, I have the same aversion to staying in other people's houses, and
I share her dislike to the casual kissing that so many people indulge
in--people who are mere acquaintances.  You should only kiss really
great friends at really serious times, and then it means something."

Mrs. Douglas laughed.  "Nobody ever took a liberty with your
grandmother.  My father was utterly different, the most approachable of
men.  People were always asking favours from him; he liked them to.  He
didn't care how much he went out of his way to help anyone, and his
hand was never out of his pocket."

"You must be exactly like grandfather.  I think you are one of the very
few people left living in the world who do take trouble about their
fellow-mortals.  The rest of us are too selfish to bother."

"I like to be kind," said Mrs. Douglas, "but I don't take any credit
for being kind.  It's just my nature to want to give.  The people who
hate to give and yet make themselves do it are the ones who ought to be
commended.  It has always been my great desire to add a little to the
happiness of the world, and I would never forgive myself if I thought I
had added by one jot or tittle to the pain."

"I am very sure you haven't done that," Ann assured her.  "You are the
very kindest of funny little bodies, and when I call you 'Ella Wheeler
Wilcox' I don't really mean it.  But you must admit that it is often
very vicarious kindness, and the burden of it falls on your family.
Oh, the deplorable people who have come to us 'for a stop' because you
thought they were lonely and neglected!  Of course, they were, but it
was because it almost killed people to entertain them; there's a reason
for everything in this world.  But what a shame to laugh at your
efforts!  Never mind.  There are those

  'Who, passing through Baca's vale,
  Therein do dig up wells,'

and you are one of them.  But to go on with your _Life_.  Didn't you
leave Inchkeld quite soon after Mark was born?  I know Robbie and Jim
and I thought it very hard lines that he should have been born in a
lovely old historic city, while the rest of us had to see the light
first amid coalpits and linoleum factories.  Mark never let us forget
it, either."

"Mark was two months old when we left Inchkeld.  When the Kirkcaple
congregation called your father he felt he ought to go.  Oh! but we
were a thoughtless couple.  It never gave me a thought to leave the
people who had been so good to us.  I just took everybody's kindness as
a matter of course.  I was too young to realise how rare such kindness
is, and their interest in the baby, and their desire to have us stay in
Inchkeld seemed to me no more than natural.  I was amused and pleased
at the thought of going to a new place and a new house.  You can hardly
get changes enough when you are eighteen.  In middle life one's most
constant prayer is that God will let things remain as they are.  What
was that you were reading me the other night?  I think it was from
Charles Lamb."

Ann leant back in her chair and pulled a little green book from a
bookshelf.  "This, I think it was," she said, and read:

"'I am content to stand still at the age to which I am arrived; I, and
my friends, to be no younger, no richer, no handsomer.  I do not want
to be wearied by age, or drop like mellow fruit, as they say, into the

"Poor Charles Lamb!" said Mrs. Douglas, shaking her head.  "There _are_
times when one would like to stand still, where we seem to reach a
pleasant, rich plain and are at our ease, and friends are many, and
life is full of zest....  I don't know whether it was wise to leave
Inchkeld.  Your grandfather Douglas always regretted it.  When he
visited us at Kirkcaple one remark he always made was: 'A great pity
Mark ever left Inchkeld.'  We used to wait for it and the funny way he
had of clearing his throat after every sentence."


November is a poor time to go to a new place, and Kirkcaple certainly
looked a most unattractive part of the world when we arrived on a cold,
wet afternoon.  'The queer-like smell' from the linoleum factories, the
sea drearily grey and strange to my inland eyes, the drive through
narrow streets and up the steep Path, past great factories and mean
houses, until we reached the road, knee-deep in mud, where the Manse
stood, combined to depress me to the earth.  It might have been
infinitely worse.  I saw that in the light of the next morning.  There
was a field before the Manse, and though there was a factory and a
rope-work and a bleach-field and a coal-pit all in close proximity to
it, there was also the Den, where hyacinths grew in spring, and where
you could dig fern roots for your garden.  The Manse itself stood in a
large garden, and in time we forgot to notice the factories.  The
people were very unlike the courteous Inchkeld people--miners and
factory workers, who gave one as they passed a
Jack's-as-good-as-his-master sort of nod.  We grew to understand them
and to value their staunch friendship, but at first they were as
_fremt_ as the landscape.

"When the cab lurched through the ruts to the Manse gate and I got out
and saw my new home I quailed.  From the front it was a gloomy-looking
house--one window on each side of the front door, and three windows
above, and the kitchen premises on one side.  There was a wide
gravelled space in front, with a small shrubbery to shelter us from the
road.  It was a sombre and threatening place to enter on a dark night,
and when alone I always made a mad rush from the gate to the front
door.  One night when I reached my haven I found a tall man standing
against it.  I had hardly strength to gasp, 'Who are you?' and the man
replied, 'Weelum Dodds.  I cam' to see the minister aboot gettin' the
bairn bapteezed, but the lassie wadna open the door.'  I had told the
servants, who were young girls, to keep the chain on the door at night,
and the poor patient soul had just propped himself up against the door
and awaited developments....  The back of the house, looking to the
garden, was delightful.  You don't remember the garden?"

"_Don't_ I?" said Ann.  "I was only about nine when we left Kirkcaple,
but I remember every detail of it.  Just outside the nursery window
there was a bush of flowering currant.  Do _you_ remember that?  And
jasmine, and all sorts of creepers grew up the house.  There was a big
square lawn before the window, rather sloping, with two long flowerbeds
at the top and herbaceous borders round the high walls.  Our own
especial gardens were at the top of the kitchen garden.  Mark had a
Rose of Sharon tree in his garden about which he boasted; it seemed to
set him a little apart.  I had a white lilac tree in mine; Robbie,
severely practical, grew nothing but vegetables, while Jim, when asked
what his contained, said simply and truthfully, 'Wurrums.'  Rosamond
was a tiny baby when we left Kirkcaple, and the little lad knew only
Glasgow.  It was surely a very large garden, Mother?  The gooseberry
bushes alone seemed to me to extend for miles, and in a far-away corner
there was the pigsty.  Why was it called 'the pigsty'?  In our day
there was never anything in it but two much-loved Russian rabbits with
pink eyes, Fluffy and Pluffy.  I have a small red text-book in which,
on a certain date, is printed in large round hand:

  'This day Fluffy died.
     "   "  Pluffy  "  '

A ferret got in and sucked their blood.  What a day of horror that was!
The roof of the pigsty sloped up to the top of the wall, and we liked
to sit on the wall and say rude things to the children on the road,
they retorting with stones and clods of earth.  We were all bonnie
fighters.  You had no notion, you and Father, when we came down to tea
with well-brushed hair and flannel-polished faces, of the grim battles
we had just emerged from.  The enemy was even then at the gate.  We,
with ears to hear, knew what sundry dull thuds against the front door
meant.  Marget, wrathful but loyal, wiped away the dirt and said
nothing to you--lots to us, though! ... But I'm getting years ahead.
You were just arriving with baby Mark to an empty, echoing Manse,
through ways heavy with November mud.  Sorry I interrupted."

"As to that," said her mother, "I was really just talking to myself.
It is good of you to listen to my maunderings about the past."

"Not at all," Ann said solemnly; and then, "You daft wee mother, now
that courtesies have been exchanged will you go on with that _Life_ of
yours?  It will take us years at this rate.  What happened when you
tottered into the Manse?  Did you regret the little sunny, bow-windowed
Manse in Inchkeld?"

"Regret!  I ached for it.  I couldn't picture us being happy in this
muddy mining place; I couldn't see this bare barracks ever getting
homelike.  But it was a roomy house.  The dining-room was to the right
of the front door, the study to the left, and the nursery was on the
ground floor, too.  They were all big square rooms: the dining-room was
cosy in the evening but rather dark in the day time; the study was a
very cheerful room, with books all round the walls, and a bright red
carpet, and green leather furniture."

"And a little square clock," Ann added, "with an honest sort of face,
and a picture of John Knox, long white beard and all, above the
mantelpiece, and the carpet had a design on it of large squares; I
know, for I used to play a game on it, jumping from one to another.
Some deceased elder had left to the Manse and to each succeeding
minister a tall glass-doored bookcase containing, among other books, a
set of Shakespeare's plays illustrated.  It was funny to see how the
artist had made even Falstaff and Ariel quite early Victorian--and as
for merry Beatrice I think she wore a bustle!  Not that it worried us;
we were delighted with his efforts ... and in that glass-doored
bookcase there stayed also a very little book dressed in fairy green,
with gilt lettering on its cover.  I have tried for years to find
another copy, but I have nothing to go on except that it was a very
tiny book and that it contained fairy tales, translations from the
German I think, for it talked in one of a king lying under the green
lindens!  I thought linden the most lovely word I had ever heard! it
seemed to set all the horns of Elfland blowing for me.  One of the
stories must have been _Lohengrin_, there was a swan in it and 'a frail
scallop.'  How I wept when it appeared for the second time and took the
knight away for ever!  I loved Germany then because it was the home of
green lindens and swans with scallops, and houses with pointed roofs
and wide chimneys where storks nested.  Even in the war I couldn't hate
it as much as I ought to have done, because of that little green
book....  But we're straying again, at least I am....  You got to like
the house, didn't you?"

"Oh dear, yes.  It was terribly gaunt at first, but before we left it I
thought it was pretty nearly perfect.  When we got fresh paper and
paint, and the wide upper landing and staircase carpeted with crimson,
and curtains shading the high staircase window, everyone said how
pretty it was.  The drawing-room was always a pleasant room, with two
sunny windows, and all my treasures (you would call them atrocities) in
the way of gilt and alabaster clocks with glass shades, and
marble-topped chiffonier, and red rep furniture.  But the big night
nursery was the nicest room of all, with its row of little beds, each
with a gay counterpane!  There was a small room opening from it where
your clothes stayed, with a bath and a wash-hand basin--a very handy

"Yes," said Ann; "and in one corner stood a very tall basket for soiled
clothes.  I remember Robbie, after hearing of someone's marriage,
coming to you and saying so earnestly, 'I'll stay with you always,
Mums, and if anyone comes to marry me I'll hide in the dirty-clothes

Robbie's mother looked into the dancing flames.  "That was always his
promise," she said softly, "I'll stay with you always....  It wouldn't
have been so bad beginning in a new place, with a new baby (and me so
utterly new myself!) if Mark hadn't been so fragile.  I daresay he
suffered from my inexperience, I almost smothered him with wraps, and
hardly dared let him out of the warm nursery, but he must have been
naturally delicate as well.  He got bronchitis on the smallest
provocation, and my heart was perpetually in my mouth with the frights
I got.  I spent hours listening to his breathing and touching him to
see if he felt hot, and I kept your father racing for the doctor until
both he and the doctor struck.  I was so wrapped up in my baby that I
simply never turned my head to look at the congregation; but they
understood and were patient.  I really was very absurd.  Some people
gave a dinner-party for us, and your father said I simply must go.  On
the night of the party I was certain Mark was taking croup, and I could
hardly be dragged from him to dress.  I was determined that anyway I
must be home in good time, and I ordered the cab to come back for us at
a quarter to nine!  We had hardly finished dinner when it was
announced, but I rose at once to go.  The hostess, astonished but kind,
said on hearing my excuses, 'Ah, well, experience teaches.'  'Finish
your proverb, Mrs. Smeaton,' my dinner neighbour (a clergyman from a
neighbouring parish) broke in, 'Experience teaches fools.'  Now I
realise that the man was embittered--and little wonder!--by having
tried to make conversation to me for a dreary hour, but at the moment I
hated him.  When we left Kirkcaple he and his wife were our greatest
friends....  There were four houses in our road.  The large one nearest
the Den belonged to one of the linoleum people, we came next, and then
there was a low, bungalow sort of house where the Mestons lived with
their three little girls, and at the end of the road lived one of the
elders in the church--Goskirk was the name--with his wife and eight
sons.  How they all got into that small house I know not, but it was
always comfortable, and there was always a welcome, and Mrs. Goskirk
was the busiest, happiest little woman in Kirkcaple, and a great
stand-by to me.  'How's baby to-day?' she would come in saying, every
word tilted up at the end as is the accent of Fife.  As rich in
experience as I was poor, she could soothe my fears and laugh at my
forebodings.  She prescribed simple, homely remedies and told me not to
fuss.  She gave me a new interest in life, and kept me happily engaged
by teaching me how to make clothes for Mark.  Her little boys trotted
in and out, coming to show me all their treasures, and going away
pleased with a sweetie or a sugar biscuit!  They did much to make me
feel at home....  When I went back to Etterick in summer I thought Mark
was a lovely baby, and that he had a wonderful mother!  He wore a
pelisse I had made him (under Mrs. Goskirk's eye), cream cashmere, with
a wide band of lavender velvet, and a soft, white felt hat with a
lavender feather round it.  I paid fifteen shillings for the feather
and thought it a great price....  For three years we had only Mark,
then you and Robbie quite close together.  But Mark was never put in
the 'stirk's stall'; for you were a healthy, placid baby, and my dear
Robbie was just like you.  I remember his coming so well.  It was a
February morning, and Mrs. Perm, the nurse, said: 'Another deil o' a
laddie.'  She much preferred girls.  Robbie was such a _caller_ baby,
so fat and good-natured and thriving."

"My very first recollection of Robbie," Ann said, "is in the garden.  I
think it must have been an April morning, for I remember daffodils, and
the sun was shining, and the wind tumbling us about, and Mark said to
me that he thought Ellie Robbie meant to run away with Robbie, and that
it behoved us to save him.  As he told me his terrible suspicions
Robbie came down the walk pulling behind him a large rake--a little boy
with an almost white head, very blue eyes, and very chubby, very rosy
cheeks.  I remember we separated him from his rake and Mark dragged us
both into the gooseberry bushes, where we lay hid until Ellie Robbie
(the suspect) came to look for us, bringing us a treat in the shape of
a slice each of brown scone spread with marmalade, and two acid drops.
That closed the incident."


On these winter evenings in the Green Glen, when the wind and the rain
beat upon the house, and Ann by the fireside wrote down her mother's
life, Marget made many errands into the drawing-room to offer advice.

"I think"--said Ann one evening--"I think I must have been horribly
neglected as a baby.  Everyone was so taken up with Mark they hadn't
time to look at me."

Marget was standing in the middle of the room with her hands folded on
her black satin apron; she would have scorned to wear a white apron
after working hours.  She had come in with a list of groceries to be
ordered by post, and stood looking suspiciously at Ann and her writing.

"Ye were never negleckit when I kent ye, an' I cam' to the hoose afore
ye kent yer richt hand frae yer left.  You were a wee white-heided
cratur and Maister Robbie wasna shortened."

"Ah, but were you there when Mark fell out of the carriage and was so
frightfully hurt?  I've been told by Aunt Agatha that no one had time
to attend to me, and I was just shut up in a room with some toys and
fed at intervals.  It's a wonder that the Cruelty to Children people
didn't get you."

"Havers," said Marget.

"That was a terrible time," Mrs. Douglas said.  "Mark was four, and
beginning to get stronger.  You were a year old, Ann.  It was a lovely
day in June, and Mr. Kerr, in the kindness of his heart, sent a
carriage to take us all for a drive."

"I mind fine o' Mr. Kerr," Marget broke in.  "He was fair bigoted on
the kirk.  I dinna think he ever missed a Sabbath's service or a
Wednesday prayer-meeting."

"I mind of him, too," said Ann.  "He had white hair and bushy white
eyebrows, and a fierce expression and an ebony stick with an ivory
handle.  He used to give Mark presents at Christmas time, but he
ignored the existence of the rest of us.  I remember we went to see him
once, and he presented Mark with a book.  Mark took it and said, 'Yes,
and what for Ann?' and Mr. Kerr had to fumble about and produce
something for me while I waited stolidly, quite unabashed by my
brother's unconventional behaviour."

"Mr. Kerr was the best friend the Kirkcaple Church had," Mrs. Douglas
said.  "He 'joyed' in its prosperity--how he struggled to get the
members to increase their givings.  His great desire was that it should
give more largely than the parish kirk of the district.  People may
talk about union and one great Church, but when we are all one I'm
afraid there may be a lack of interest--a falling off in endeavour.
St. Paul knew what he was talking about when he spoke of 'provoking'
one another to love and good works....  At first I couldn't bear Mr.
Kerr.  If I let your father forget an intimation, or if a funeral was
forgotten, or someone was neglected, he came to the Manse in a passion.
I fled at the sight of him.  But gradually I found that his fierceness
wasn't to be feared, and that it was the sheer interest he took that
made him hate things to go wrong--and one is grateful to people who
take a real interest, however oddly they may show it."

"So Mr. Kerr sent his carriage," Ann prompted.

"Mr. Kerr sent his carriage," said her mother, "and we set out to have
a picnic on the Loan.  We were as merry as children.  You were on my
knee, Ann, and Agatha sat beside me, your father and Mark opposite.  We
were about Thornkirk, and Mark, who was always mad about flowers,
pointing to the dusty roadside, cried, 'A bluebell,' and suddenly made
a spring against the door, which, to our horror, opened, and Mark fell
out....  I don't know what happened next.  The first thing I knew I was
in a cottage frantically pulling at a chest of drawers and crying for
something to cover the awful wound.  By great good fortune our own
doctor happened to pass in his dogcart just then.  All he said was,
'Take him home.' ... He stayed with us most of the night, but he could
give us no hope that the child would live, or, living, have his reason.
For days he lay unconscious, sometimes raving, sometimes pitifully
moaning.  Agatha and I knew nothing of nursing, and there were no
trained nurses in those days--at least, not in Kirkcaple.  What would
have happened to us all I know not if Mrs. Peat hadn't appeared like a
good angel on the scene.  It was wonderful of her to come.  A fortnight
before she had got news that her son in India--her idolised only
son--had been killed in some native rising, and she put her own grief
aside and came to us.  'My dear,' she said, 'I've come to take the
nights, if you will let me.  You're young, and you need your sleep.'
So every evening she came and sat up--night after night for four long
weeks.  I used to go into the night nursery on those summer mornings--I
was so young and strong that, anxious as I was I couldn't help
sleeping--and find Mrs. Peat sitting there with her cap ribbons
unruffled, her hair smooth, so serene looking that no one could have
believed that she had kept a weary vigil.  She was a born nurse, and
she possessed a healing touch.  I believe she did more than anyone to
pull Mark through; and all the time we were in Kirkcaple she was a
tower of strength to me.  Always twice a week she came up early in the
afternoon and stayed till evening, her cap in the neatest little basket
in her hand--for she always took off her bonnet.  I think I hear her
saying, 'Eh, my dear,' with a sort of slow emphasis on the 'my.'  She
never made mischief in the congregation by boasting how 'far ben' she
was at the Manse.  She had a mind far above petty things; she dreamed
dreams and saw visions."

Mrs. Douglas stopped and laughed.  "Your father, who admired her very
much, had been telling an old body troubled with sleepless nights how
Mrs. Peat spent her wakeful hours, and she said to me, 'It's an awfu'
job to rowe aboot in this bed a' night; I wisht I had some o' Mrs.
Peat's veesions.'"

"I mind Mistress Peat," said Marget, who had now seated herself; "I
mind her fine.  She was a rale fine buddy.  Miss Peat was a braw
wumman.  D'ye mind her comin' to a pairty we had in a crimson satin
body an' her hair a' crimpit an' pearls aboot as big as bantam's eggs?
Eh, I say!"

"I remember the pearls," said Ann.  "I suppose they were paste, but I
thought the Queen of Sheba couldn't have been much more impressive than
Miss Peat.  She had a velvet coat trimmed with some sort of feather
trimming, and a muff to match--beautiful soft grey feathers.  I used to
lean against her and stroke it and think it was like a dove's breast.
I overheard someone say that it was marvellous to think that the Peats
had no servants and that Miss Peat could clean pots and cook, and then
emerge like Solomon in all his glory.  After that, when we sang the

  'Though ye have lain among the pots
  Like doves ye shall appear...'

I thought of Miss Peat in her velvet coat and her soft feathers....
Was she good to you, too, when Mark was so ill?'

"I should think she was--but everyone was good.  At the time I took it
all as a matter of course, but afterwards I realised it.  For days Mark
lay delirious, and I was distraught with the thought that his brain
might be injured; you see, the wheel passed over the side of his head.
When he became conscious at last, the doctor told me to ask him some
questions.  I could think of nothing, and then I remembered that Mark
had had a special fondness for Crichton, our butcher.  Trembling, I
asked, 'Darling, what is the butcher called?' and in a flash he
answered 'Mr. Cwichton.'  I wept with relief.  But it seemed as if the
poor little chap was never to be given a chance to get well.  Three
times the wound healed and three times it had to be opened again.  No
wonder our thoughts were all for him, and that you were neglected, Ann,
poor child!  And you were so good, so little trouble, it almost seemed
as if you understood.  Mark had a great big wooden box filled with
every kind of dry sweetie, and he would sit propped up with pillows,
and weigh them, and make them up in little 'pokes.'  Sometimes he would
ask for you, and you were brought in, so delighted to play on the bed
and crawl about, but very soon he tired of you (especially if you
touched his sweeties!), and ordered you away.  He could not be allowed
to cry, and we had to devise things to keep him amused.  Opening lucky
bags was a great diversion.  They cost a ha'penny each, and he made
away with dozens in a day.  The great difficulty was getting him to
eat.  At Etterick he was accustomed to going to the milk-house and
getting new milk from the pail into his 'tinny,' and when he was ill he
wouldn't touch milk, because he said it wasn't 'Etterick milk.'  So
your father scoured Kirkcaple until he found a 'tinny,' and a pail as
nearly as possible like the milk-pails at Etterick, and we took them to
the nursery, and said, 'Now, then, Mark, is _this_ real Etterick milk?'
and the poor little man held out his thin hands for the 'tinny' and
drank greedily....  He lay for six months, and when he got up he had to
be taught how to walk!  And even after we got him up and out he was the
most pathetic little figure, with a bandaged head far too big for his
shadow of a body.  But I was so proud of having got him so far on the
way to recovery that I didn't realise how he looked to outsiders, until
a very cruel thing was said to me the very first time I had him out.  A
man we knew slightly stopped to ask for him, and said, 'It seems almost
a pity he pulled through.  I'm afraid he will never be anything but an
object.'  I don't think he meant to hurt me; perhaps it was just sheer
stupidity, but ... It was a man called Temple who said it.  You never
knew him, Ann."

"Temple," said Marget.  "Dauvit Temple the manufacturer?  Eh, the
impident fella'.  Him to ca' onybody, let alone Mr. Mark, an objec'.
Objec' himsel'.  It wad hae been tellin' him if he hed fa'en on his
heid an' gien his brains a bit jumble, but I doot if the puir sowl had
ony to jumble; he hed a heid like a hen.  He was fit for naething but
ridin' in a high dogcart an' tryin' to forget that his dacent auld
mither bleached her claes on the Panny Braes an' his faither worked in
the pit.  But ye needna fash yersel' aboot him and his sayin's noo,
Mem.  He's gone to his reward--such as it is."

"Indeed, Marget, it's a poor thing to bear malice, and I believe that
awful accident was the making of Mark.  He grew up as strong as a
Shetland pony.  He was an extraordinarily clever little boy.  We were
told not to try and teach him till he was seven, but he taught himself
to read from the posters.  He asked endless questions of everyone he
met, and so acquired information.  There was nothing he wasn't
interested in, and every week brought a fresh craze.  At one time it
was fowls, and he spent hours with Mrs. Frew, a specialist on the
subject, and came home with coloured pictures of prize cocks which he
insisted on pinning round the nursery walls.  For a long time it was
ships, and he and Mr. Peat, who was a retired sea-captain, spent most
of their time at the harbour.  Next it was precious stones, and he
accosted every lady (whether known to him or not), and asked her about
the stones she was wearing."

"Yes," said Ann, "he was a wonderful contrast to Robbie and me.  We
never asked for information on any subject, for we wanted none.  We
were ignorant and unashamed, and we used to look with such bored eyes
at Mark and wonder how he could be bothered.  It was really disgusting
for the rest of us to have such a clever eldest brother.  He set a
standard which we couldn't hope--indeed, we never thought of trying--to
attain to.  What a boy he was for falling on his head!  He had been
warned that if he cut open the wound in his head again it would never
heal, so when he fell from a tree, or a cart, or a pony, or whatever he
was on at the moment, we stood afar off and shouted, 'Is it your wound,
Mark?' prepared on hearing it was to run as far as our legs would carry
us.  That is a child's great idea when trouble comes--to run away from
it.  Once Mark--do you remember?--climbed the white lilac tree in my
garden on a Sunday afternoon and, slipping, fell on a spiked branch and
hung there.  Instead of going for help I ran and hid among the
gooseberry bushes, and he wasn't rescued until you came home from

"That was too bad of you," her mother said, "for Mark had always a
great responsibility for you.  One day when there was a bad
thunderstorm I found him dragging you by the hand to the nursery--such
a fat, sulky little thing you looked.

"'I'm going to pray for Ann,' he told me.  'She won't pray for


"I don't know," said Mrs. Douglas, "when I first realised what was
expected of me as a minister's wife.  I suppose I just grew to it.  At
first I visited the people and tried to take an interest in them,
because I felt it to be my duty, and then I found that it had ceased to
be merely duty, and that one couldn't live among people and not go
shares with them.  It was the long anxiety about Mark that really drew
us together and made us friends in a way that years of prosperity would
never have done.  There was hardly a soul in the congregation who
didn't try to do us some little kindness in those dark days.  Fife
people are suspicious of strangers and rather aloof in their manner,
but once you are their friend you are a friend for life.  Ours was a
working-class congregation (with a sprinkling of well-to-do people to
help us along)--miners, and workers in the linoleum factories--decent,
thrifty folk.  Trade was dull all the time we were in Kirkcaple, and
wages were low--ridiculously low when you think of the present-day
standard, and it was a hard struggle for the mothers with big young
families.  Of course, food was cheap--half a loaf and a biscuit for
twopence--and 'penny haddies,' and eggs at ninepence a dozen--and
people hadn't the exalted ideas they have now."

"Well," said Ann, who was busy filling her fountain-pen, "I seem to
remember rather luxurious living about the Mid Street, and the Nether
Street, and the Watery Wynd.  Don't you remember I made friends with
some girls playing 'the pal-lals' in the street, and fetched them home
with me, and when upbraided for so doing by Ellie Robbie in the
nursery, I said, 'But they're _gentry_; they get kippers to their tea.'
My 'bare-footed gentry' became a family jest."

Mrs. Douglas laughed, "I remember.  To save your face we let them stay
to tea, but you were told 'Never again.'"

"It was a way I had," said Ann.  "I was full of hospitable instincts,
and liked to invite people; but as I had seldom the moral courage to
confess what I had done, the results were disastrous.  Once I invited
eight genteel young friends who, thinking it was a pukka invitation,
arrived washed and brushed and dressed for a party, only to find us
tearing about the garden in our old Saturday clothes.  Ellie Robbie was
justly incensed, as she hadn't even a sugar-biscuit to give an air of
festivity to the nursery tea, and you were out.  In private she
addressed me as 'ye little dirt'; but she didn't give me away in
public.  And the dreadful thing was that I repudiated my guests, and
looked as if I wondered what they were doing there."

"Poor Ellie Robbie!" Mrs. Douglas said.  "She was an anxious pilgrim,
and you children worried her horribly.  She came when she was sixteen
to be nursemaid to Mark, and she stayed on till we left Kirkcaple, when
she married the joiner.  Do you remember her much?"

"I remember one evening in the Den.  We were getting fern-roots, and
Ellie Robbie and Marget were both with us, and Marget said to Ellie,
'My, how neat your dress kicks out at the back when you walk!'  Isn't
memory an extraordinary thing?  I've forgotten most of the things I
ought to have remembered, but I can recall every detail of that
scene--the earthy smell of the fern-roots, the trowel sticking out of
Mark's pocket, the sunlight falling through the trees, the pleased
smirk on Ellie Robbie's face.  I suppose I would be about five.  At
that time I was completely lost about my age.  When people asked me how
old I was, I kept on saying, 'Five past,' but to myself I said, 'I must
be far more, but no one has ever told me.' ... What was Ellie Robbie's
real name?"

"Ellen Robinson.  Her father's name was Jack, and he was supposed by
you children to be the original of the saying, 'Before you can say Jack
Robinson.'  Marget and Ellie got on very well together, although they
were as the poles asunder--Ellie so small and neat and gentle, Marget
rather like a benevolent elephant.  She is a much better-looking old
woman than she was a young one."

"Did Marget come when Maggie Ann married?"

"Yes.  No--there was one between--Katie Herd.  She stayed a month and
was doing very well, but she suddenly announced that she was going
home.  When we asked her why, she replied with great candour, 'I dinna
like it verra weel,' and off she went.  Marget was a success from the
first.  We knew it was all right as soon as she began to talk of 'oor
bairns.'  When the work was over she liked to go to the nursery, and
you children welcomed her with enthusiasm, and at once called on her to
say her poem.  Then she would stand up and shuffle her feet, and say:

  'Marget Meikle is ma name,
  Scotland is ma nation,
  Harehope is ma dwelling place--
  A pleasant habitation.'

You delighted in her witticisms.  'Ca' me names, ca' me onything, but
dinna ca' me ower,' was one that had a great success.  Both she and
Ellie were ideal servants for a minister's house; they were both so
discreet.  No tales were ever carried by them to or from the Manse.
There was one noted gossip in the congregation who was a terror to
Ellie.  Her husband had a shop, and of course we dealt at it--he was an
elder in the church--and Ellie dreaded going in, for she knew that if
Mrs. Beaton happened to be there she would be subjected to a fire of
questions.  Marget enjoyed an encounter, and liked to think out ways of
defeating Mrs. Beaton's curiosity.  Not that there was any harm in Mrs.
Beaton and her desire to know all our doings.  I dare say it was only
kindly interest.  I got to like her very much; she was a racy talker
and full of whinstone common sense.  I was sorry for her, too, for no
woman ever worked harder, both in the shop and in the house, and her
husband and family took it all for granted.  She did kind things in an
ungracious way, and was vexed when people failed to appreciate her
kindness.  Across the road from Mrs. Beaton lived another elder's wife,
Mrs. Lister, who, Mrs. Beaton thought, got from life the very things
she had missed.

"'Never toil yourself to death,' she used to tell me, 'for your man and
your bairns; they'll no thank you for it.  Look at the Listers over
there.  Willie Lister goes about with holes like half-crowns in his
heels, but he thinks the world of his Aggie.'  And it was quite true.
I knew that gentle little Mrs. Lister was everybody's favourite, for
she contradicted no one, ruffled no one's feelings, while
rough-tongued, honest, impudent Mrs. Beaton was both feared and
disliked.  And yet there was no doubt which of the two women one would
have chosen to ride the ford with.  Had a tea-meeting to be arranged, a
sale of work to be organised, or a Christmas-tree to be provided for
Sunday school, Mrs. Beaton was in it--purse and person.

"Mrs. Lister always took 'the bile' when anything was expected of her.
Once a year we were invited to tea at the Listers' house, and as sure
as we found ourselves seated before a table groaning with bake-meats
and were being pressed by Mr. Lister to partake of them because they
were all baked by 'Mamaw,' Mrs. Lister would say, 'Ay, and I had a job
baking them--for I was bad with "the bile" all morning.'  As Marget
says, 'The mistress is awfu' easy scunnered,' and after hearing that my
tea was a pretence.  It was worse when Agatha was there, for then we
were apt to wait for the announcement, and when it came give way to
painful, secret laughter.  Agatha always laughed, too, when Mrs. Lister
capped her husband's sayings with 'Ay, that's it, Paw.'  She was a most
agreeable wife, but she was a mother before everything.  She would have
talked all day about her children, bursting out with odd little
disjointed confidences about them in the middle of a conversation about
something else.  'He's an awful nice boy, Johnnie; he's got a fine
voice,' would occur in a conversation about the Sustentation Fund, and
in the middle of a discussion about a series of lectures she would
whisper, 'He's a queer laddie, our Tommy.  When Nettie was born he put
his head round my bedroom door and said, "Is she a richt ane, Maw?"  He
meant not deaf or dumb or anything, you know.'  She sometimes irritated
her husband by her overanxiety about the health of her children.  If
one coughed in the night she always heard and, fearful of waking Mr.
Lister, she would creep out of bed and jump from mat to mat (I can see
her doing it--a sort of anxious little antelope), and listen to their
breathing, and hap them up with extra bedclothes.  Nettie was the
youngest, and the delicate one, and had to be tempted to eat.  'Oh, ma
Nettie,' she would say, 'could you take a taste of haddie to your tea
or a new-laid egg?'

"She was afraid of nearly everything--mice, and wind, and thunder, and
she hated the sea.  One morning I met her almost distraught because her
boys had all gone out in a boat.  'Is their father with them?' I asked.
'No, no,' she said, 'I didna let him go; it was just the more to
drown.'  Poor, anxious little body!  God took her first, and she never
had the anguish of parting with her children....  What an opportunity
ministers and ministers' wives have of getting to know people as they
are--their very hearts!"

"Yes," said Ann; "but it isn't every minister or every minister's wife
who can make anything of the opportunity.  Just think of some we
know--sticks.  Can you think of any poor stricken soul going to them to
be comforted 'as one whom his mother comforteth'?  What would they say?
'Oh, indeed!  How sad!' or 'Really!  I'm very sorry.'  Some little
stilted sentence that would freeze the very fount of tears.  You,
Mother, I don't think you would say anything.  To speak to those who
weep is no use; you must be able in all sincerity to weep with them.
As for Father, his voice was enough.  Isn't it in one of the Elizabeth
books that someone talking of the futility of long, dull sermons, says,
'If only a man with a voice of gold would stand up and say, "Children,
Christ died for you," I would lay down my head and cry and cry...'  Oh,
it's a great life if a minister and his wife are any good at their job,
and, above all, if they have a sense of humour!"

"Well, I don't know about the sense of humour," Mrs. Douglas said
doubtfully.  "I have often envied the people who never seem overcome by
the ludicrous side of things, who don't even seem aware that it is
there.  Do you remember Mrs. Daw?  I dare say not.  My first meeting
with her was in the Path on a hot summer's day.  I saw an enormously
stout woman toiling in front of me with a heavy basket, and as I passed
her she laid down her load, and turning to me a red, perspiring, but
surprisingly bland countenance, said, 'Hech! but it's a sair world for
stout folk.'  There was something so Falstaffian and jocund about the
great figure, and the way she took me into her confidence, that I
simply stood still and laughed, and she laughed with me.  We shared the
basket between us the rest of the way, and after that I often visited
her.  But I could never let your father come with me; Mrs. Daw was too
much for us together.  Only once we tried it, and she told us that the
doctor had advised her to take 'sheriff-wine and Van Houtong's cocoah,'
and her genteel pronunciation was too much for us.  She was never at
her best when your father was there; she didn't care for the clergy.

"'A lazy lot,' she called them.  'No wan o' them does a decent day's
work.  If it was me I wad mak' a' the ministers pollismen as weel, and
that wad save some o' the country's siller.'  She condescended to say
that she rather liked your father's preaching, though her reason for
liking it was not very flattering.  'I like him because he's no what ye
ca' a scholarly preacher.  I dinna like thae scholars, they're michty
dull.  I like the kind o' minister that misca's the deevil for aboot
twenty meenits and then stops.'

"Mrs. Daw had me bogged at once when we started on theological
discussions.  She would ask questions and answer them herself as she
knelt before the kitchen fire, engaged in what she called 'ringein' the

"'Ay,' she would say, 'I'm verra fond o' a clear fire.  Mercy me, it'll
be an awfu' want in heaven--a guid fire.  Ye read aboot golden streets
and pearly gates, but it's cauld comfort to an auld body wha likes her
ain fireside.  Of coorse we'll a' be speerits.'  (It needed a
tremendous effort of imagination to picture Mrs. Daw as a spirit!)
'Wull speerit ken speerit?' and then, as if in scorn at her own
question, 'I daur say no!  It wad be little use if they did.  I could
get sma' enjoyment frae crackin' wi' a neebor, if a' the time I was
lookin' through her, and her through me.  An' what wad we crack aboot?
Nae couthy bits o' gossip up there--juist harps an' angels fleein'

"I would suggest diffidently that when we had gone on to another and
higher life we wouldn't feel the want of the homely things so necessary
to us here, and Mrs. Daw, shaking her head, would say, 'I dinna ken,'
and then with her great laugh (your father used to quote something
about a thousand beeves at pasture when he heard it) she would finish
the profitless discussion with 'Weel, sit ye doun by ma guid fire and
I'll mak' ye a cup o' tea in ma granny's cheeny teapot.  We'll tak' our
comforts so long as we hae them, for think as ye like the next warld's
a queer turn-up onyway....'"


Evening had come again to Dreams, but Ann, instead of being found at
her writing-table, was stretched flat in the largest and softest of the
many comfortable chairs the room contained, with the Tatler, a great,
furry, sleepy mass, curled in her arms.

"Dear me, Ann!" Mrs. Douglas said, looking up from her "reading."  "You
seem very exhausted.  Aren't you going to write to-night?"

Ann looked through half-closed eyes at her mother.

"Can't," she said lazily; "too dog-tired.  A tea-party in the Green
Glen is too much for me.  After such unwonted excitement I must sit all
evening with my hands before me.  Mother, did we ever really entertain
people day after day--relays of them?  I can't believe to-night that we
ever presided at meetings, and read papers, and gave away prizes, and
organised sales of work and cookery classes for the masses, and visited
the sick, and talked for ever and did not faint--such feeble folk as we
have become."

Mrs. Douglas sighed as she laid down _Hours of Silence_.  "I was of
some use in the world then," she said, "not a mere cumberer of the

Ann sat up and laughed at her mother.  "I'm not going to rise to that
fly, Motherkin.  You remind me of the Glasgow woman we met in
Switzerland, who was suffering from some nervous trouble, and who said,
'I would give a thousand pounds to be the Mistress Finlay I once was.'
Perhaps you are not quite the Mistress Douglas you once were, but I can
see very little difference."

Mrs. Douglas sighed again, and shook her head.  "Oh--sic a
worrit-lookin' wumman!" Ann quoted.  Then, "I must say I enjoyed the
tea-party.  Mother, don't you like Mr. Sharp?  I do.  You needn't have
rubbed it in about sermons being no use if they are read.  He sat with
such a guilty look like a scolded dog.  I like his painstaking sermons
and his sincere, difficult little prayers.  He will never make a
preacher, but he is a righteous man.  Miss Ellen Scott cheered him by
saying read sermons were generally more thoughtful.  I do wish we could
see the Scotts oftener.  They have promised to come to luncheon one
day, and go thoroughly into the garden question.  They go south, they
told me, in the early spring, so that the servants may get the
house-cleaning done, and they weary all the time to get back.  I wonder
if they carry about them in London that sort of fragrance of the open

"They are nice women," said Mrs. Douglas, "and good, but they aren't my
kind of people.  We don't care about the same things.  But Mr. Sharp
makes me feel young again; he has the very atmosphere of a manse about

"The atmosphere of Mr. Sharp's Manse is chiefly paraffin oil," said Ann.

At that moment Marget came into the room, ostensibly to remind Ann of
something needed at the village shop the next day, but really to talk
over the tea-party.

"I think the minister enjoyed his tea," she remarked, "for there was an
awfu' wheen scones eaten."

"He did, indeed, Marget," her mistress assured her.  "He said he didn't
know when he had tasted such good scones.  He was asking me what I
thought about him entertaining the office-bearers.  He would like to,
but his housekeeper is delicate and afraid of work; and he's afraid to
suggest anything in case she departs."

"Tets!" said Marget.  "That wumman fair angers me.  She's neither sick
nor sair, an' she's no' that auld aither, but she keeps that puir
laddie in misery a' the time in case she's gaun to break doon.  She
never bakes him a scone, juist loaf breed a' the time, an' she'll no'
bother to mak' him a bit steamed pudden' or a tert, juist aye a
milk-thing, an' a gey watery milk-thing at that.  She boasts that he
carries trays for her and breaks sticks--the wumman should be ashamed
to let the minister demean himsel'.  If he wants to gie an Elders'
Supper, what's to hinder me and Mysie to gang doon and gie a hand?'

"Why, Marget," Ann cried, "I haven't heard that expression since I was
a child.  It was at Kirkcaple we had Elders' Suppers, wasn't it,
Mother--never in Glasgow?'

"Only in Kirkcaple.  They were held after the November Communions to
purge the roll."

"_Purge the roll_," Ann murmured to herself; "of all delicious phrases!"

"If ye'll excuse me, Mem," said Marget, "I'll tak' a seat for a meenit.
Mysie has just gone doon the road a step or two wi' the lassie Ritchie
frae the cottages."

She seated herself primly on a chair and said:

"I think ye should pit in yer _Life_ about the Elders' Suppers."

Ann nodded.  "I think so, Marget.  I can just recall them vaguely.  We
were all in bed before the elders actually came, but I remember the
preparation, and how deeply I envied you and Ellie Robbie staying up,
little dreaming, poor babe, how in after years I would envy the
children who get away to bed before the party begins."

"They were terrifying occasions to me," said her mother.  "Elders in
the mass are difficult to cope with.  When they arrived they were shown
into the study, and when the business part of the proceedings was over
they trooped into the dining-room for supper.  To keep the ball of
conversation going, to compel them to talk and save the party from
being a dismal failure was my job, and it was no light task.  They were
the best of men, our Kirkcaple elders, but they let every subject drop
like a hot potato.  It was from occasions like that I learned to talk
'even on,' as they say.  I simply dared not let a silence fall, for,
from bitter experience, I knew that if I did and caught your father's
eye we would be sure to laugh and bring disgrace on ourselves."

"Don't I know?" said her daughter.  "Will you ever forget that night in
Glasgow, when we invited your class to an evening party, and they all
arrived in a body and in dead silence seated themselves round the room,
and none of us could think of a single word to say, and in an agony we
sat, becoming every moment more petrified, and my tongue got so stiff I
felt that if I spoke it would break off, and Father suddenly broke the
awful silence with 'Quite so,' delivered in a high, meaningless voice,
and we simply fell on each other helpless with laughter?"

Mrs. Douglas laughed at the recollection.  "Once you let a silence
fall," she said, "it's hopeless.  Nothing seems important enough to
break it with....  To go back to the Elders' Suppers--we always had the
same menu.  Hot roast beef, hot beef-steak pie, with vegetables, then
plum-pudding and apple-tart, and coffee.  The oldest elder, Charles
Mitchell was his name, sat on my right hand, and the next eldest, Henry
Petrie, sat on my left.  Charles Mitchell was so deaf that any attempts
to converse were thrown away on him.  Henry Petrie was a man of most
melancholy countenance, and absolutely devoid of light table-talk.  He
was sad, and said nothing, and might as well have been a post.  One
night, having tried him on every subject with no success, I watched him
being helped to vegetables, and said, in desperation, 'Potatoes are
good this year, don't you think?'  He turned on me his mournful eyes,
his knife suspended on its way to his mouth, and said, 'They'll no'
stand a boil.'"

"D'ye mind," said Marget, "thon awfu' nicht when the pie cowpit on the
gravel?  We were gettin' it covered at Wilson's the baker's, for they
made uncommon guid pastry, an' it didna come till the verra last
meenit.  I was oot lookin' for the laddie at the gate, an' when he came
I took it frae him in a hurry, an', eh, mercy! if the whole hypothic
didna slidder oot o' ma hand on to the grund.  I let oot a yell an'
Ellie came runnin' oot, and syne she brocht a lamp, an' we fund that
the pastry wasna muckle the waur, but the meat an' the gravy was a'
amang the gravel.  What could we do but juist scoop up wi' a spoon what
we could get--meat, chuckie-stanes an' a'--an' into the hoose wi' it.
I can tell ye I handit roond the plates gey feared that nicht.  I tried
ma best to get them to choose the guid clean roast beef, but there was
nae takkers.  Juist pie, pie, pie, one after another until I was fair
provokit.  Every meenit I expectit to hear their teeth gang crunch on a
stane.  I can tell ye I was glad when I got their plates whuppit awa'
frae them, an' the puddens plankit doon.  It was a guid thing
appendicitis wasna invented then, or they wad a' ha' been lying wi' it,
for an orange pip's a fule to a chuckie-stane."

"Ay, Marget," said her mistress, "we had many a fright.  As old Mrs.
Melville used to say, 'Folk gets awfu' frichts in this warld.'  Well,
well!"  Mrs. Douglas sighed as was her way.  "We had many a successful
party, too."

"Folk," said Marget complacently, "likit fine to come to oor hoose.
They aye got a graund feed an' a guid lauch forbye.  The maister wasna
mebbe verra divertin' in company, being naitral quiet, but you were a
great hand at the crackin', Mem."

Mrs. Douglas modestly waved away the compliment, while Ann said, "You
must have had some very smart suppers, for I have a distinct
recollection of eating ratafia biscuits and spun sugar from a trifle
one morning after a party."

"The trifle evenings were few and far between," said her mother; "but
we had many a cosy little party among our neighbours."

Marget again broke in.  "No' to mention a' the folk that juist drappit
in.  Oor hoose was a fair thro-gate for folk.  A' the ministers that
lived a bit away kent whaur to come to in Kirkcaple for their tea.
Ye'll mind, Mem, that Mr. and Mrs. Dewar were never muckle away.  When
Mr. Dewar walkit in frae Buckie and fund naebody in, he wad say to me,
'I'll be back for my tea, Marget.  Isn't this baking-day?'"  (Marget
adopted a loud, affected tone when imitating anyone; this she called
"speaking proper.")  "Then Mistress Dewar wad come hoppin' in--'deed
she was often in afore I got to the door, for I wad mebbe be dressin'
when the bell rang.  I wad hae to put on my wrapper again, an' there
she wad be sittin' on a chair in the lobby, knittin' awa' like mad.
'Always busy, you see, Marget,' she would say; 'I belong to the
save-the-moment society.'  Then she wad gie that little lauch o' hers.
Sic a wee bit o' a thing she wis, mair like a bairn than a mairret

"Once," said Ann, "I went somewhere to spend a day with Mrs. Dewar, and
coming home we had to wait awhile for a train.  Mrs. Dewar, of course,
was knitting, and as the light was bad in the waiting-room she calmly
climbed up on the table and stood, picking up a stitch, as near to the
gas-jet as she could get.  She made the oddest spectacle with her
bonnet a little on one side, as it always was, her little blunt face
and childish figure.  And to make matters worse she sang as she knitted:

  'Did you ever put a penny in a missionary box?
  A penny that you might have gone and spent like other folks?'

It was torture to a self-conscious child to hear the giggles of the few
spectators of the scene."

Mrs. Douglas laughed softly as if remembering something precious.
"Little Mrs. Dewar cared who laughed at her.  That was what made her so
unusual and so refreshing.  The queer, dear, wee body!  There was no
one I liked so much to come to the house.  She was so companionable and
so unfussy.  If she could only stay ten minutes she was calm and
settled for that ten minutes, and then went.  I have seen people who
meant to stay for hours keep me restless and unhappy all the time by
their fluttered look.  Whenever I got tired of my house, or my work, or
myself, I went to Buckie to Mrs. Dewar.  They had a delightful old
manse, with a charming garden behind, but in front it faced a blank
wall.  Someone condoled with Mrs. Dewar on the lack of view.  'Tuts,'
she said, 'we've never time to look at a view.''

"Like old Mary Hart at Etterick, when a visitor said to her, 'What a
lovely view you have!'  'An' what aboot it?' was the disconcerting
answer.  I remember the Dewars' manse, Mother.  I once stayed there for
a week.  What a pity Mrs. Dewar had no children of her own!  She was a
wonder with children.  I was only a tiny child, but she taught me so
much, and interested me in so many different things and people.  After
breakfast I had to help her to 'classify' the dishes; put all the
spoons together, and wipe the knives with soft paper and make them all
ready to be washed.  Then we saw that the salts and mustards were tidy,
and the butter and jam in dainty dishes.  Then we would take a bundle
of American papers to a woman who had a son in the United States, and
on our way home she would take me down to the shore and point out the
exact spot on the rocks where she had once found a beautiful coral
comb, and where the next day she had found a mermaid sitting crying for
the loss of it.  It was a long story, but I know it finished with the
grateful mermaid giving a large donation to the Sustentation Fund!
Mrs. Dewar had an extraordinary number of relations, who all seemed to
be generals and admirals, and things like that, and the tales of the
Indian nephews who had come to her as babies were enthralling to me.
They were grown up by that time, and, I suppose, on their way to become
generals, too.  There was always something rather military about Mrs.
Dewar's small, alert figure.  'Mustard to mutton,' she would say to me
at dinner; 'child, you would be expelled from the mess.'  She was
really too funny.  When Mr. Dewar would say, 'My dear, have you seen my
spectacles?' she would reply, 'Seek and ye shall find, not speak and ye
shall find.'  And if the servants worried her she walked about saying
the hymn beginning, 'Calm me, O God, and keep me calm.'"

"I likit Mrs. Dewar," said Marget; "she had queer ways, but she was a
leddy.  She was yin o' the Keiths o' Rathnay--rale gentry.  Eh, Mem,
d'ye mind the black that was preachin' for Maister Dewar, an' they
couldna keep him in the hoose, for there was illness, and he cam' to
us?  Eh, I say!"

"Poor man!  I remember your face, Marget, when I met you on the stairs
the morning he left.  You were holding some towels away from you and
you said, 'I'm no verra sure aboot that black's towels.'"

"Neither I wis," said Marget; "I'm aye feared the black comes off."


"Mother," said Ann one evening, "do you realise that we are not getting
on at all well with your _Life_?  Marget has developed this passion for
coming in and recalling absurd things--last night she wasted the whole
evening with the tale of her grandfather's encounter with a bull; racy,
I admit, but not relevant, and the night before she set me recalling
mad escapades of our childhood, and I didn't write a word.  Where we
are, I don't know, but there are only three of us born--Mark and me and
Robbie.  Jim has got to be worked in somewhere--and Rosamund.  We were
all at Etterick recovering from whooping-cough when Jim was born, so I
don't remember much about him, but Rosamund's coming was a wonderful
event.  She was my birthday present when I was eight."

"In some ways Jim was the nicest of the babies," Mrs. Douglas said.
"He was so pretty and sweet-tempered--quite a show child.  Whenever we
said, 'Sing, Jim,' he dropped on to the floor and began 'Lord, a little
band and lowly,' and he was no age at all."

Ann laughed a sceptical laugh.  "He ceased at an early age his efforts
to entertain; he has no use for company now.  I suppose it might be a
reaction from his precocious childhood.  But he still has the good

"Indeed he has," said Jim's mother fervently.  "The Fife people had a
saying 'born for a blessing,' and Jim has been that.  Rosamund"--she
paused for a moment, then continued--"Rosamund was the most lovely
child I ever saw.  No, it wasn't because I was her mother, unprejudiced
people said the same.  I think, perhaps, it was the happiest time in my
life, those weeks after Rosamund came.  Not that I hadn't always been
happy, but the years before had been rather a mêlée.  Now I had found
my feet, more or less, and church work and housekeeping and baby
rearing no longer appalled me.  It was in March she was born.  We had
got all the spring cleaning done well beforehand, and the Deacons'
Court had papered and painted the stairs and lobbies, and we had
afforded ourselves new stair and landing carpets, and the house was as
fresh as it's possible for a house to be.  I lay there with my baby, so
utterly contented, listening to the voices of you and the boys playing
in the garden in the spring sunlight, with pleasant thoughts going
through my mind about my healthy, happy children and a smooth running
church, and thanking God for the best man that ever woman had.  And all
the kind people came flocking to see the new baby.  Mrs. Dewar came
with a dainty frock made by herself and an armful of books and
magazines.  These are George's choosing,' she said, 'and he says you
will enjoy them all.  I think myself they look rather dull, so I've
brought you one of Annie Swan's--she's _capital_ for a confinement.'
And Mrs. Peat sat by the fire with Rosamund on her knee and said, 'Eh,
my dear, she's a beauty,' and blessed her.  And you children came
running in with celandines from the Den, and grubby treasures which you
tried to thrust into the baby's tiny hand--I often look back on those
days.  It seems to me that my cup of happiness must have been lipping
over.  Rosamund grew like a flower.  There was always something special
about her, and we felt it from the first.  It wasn't only her beauty,
it was something fine, aloof.  You remember her, Ann?"

"Yes, I remember her, Mother.  She was always different, even at the
beginning she wasn't red and puckered and squirming like most babies,
but faintly pink like a rose.  Father worshipped her.  Of course, you
know that you made far more of her than of any of the rest of us, and
we were glad and willing that it should be so.  We were never rough
with her.  She never lived the tumbled puppy-like life that I lived as
a child."

Mrs. Douglas nodded.  Presently she said:

"You had a happy childhood, Ann?"

"Hadn't we just?  No children ever had a happier; we were so free.
When I see children dragging along dreary daily walks with nurses, I do
pity them.  We hated being taken walks by Ellie Robbie, and generally
ran away.  We used to meet the Johnstons with their Ellen, and then we
big ones dashed off together on business of our own, leaving the poor
nurses tethered to the prams.  We were marauders of the worst type.
Having always a great hunger for sweets and being always destitute of
money, we had to devise schemes for getting them.  In Nether Street
there stood a little sweetie shop owned by one Archibald Forbes, a
good-natured man who had once (in an evil moment for himself) given us
a few sweeties for nothing.  With the awful pertinacity of children we
went back continually in the hope that he might do it again!  (What you
and Father would have thought if you had seen us, I know not!)
Sometimes he ordered us away, but, when in a more forthcoming mood, he
would make us say recitations to him, and then reward us.  He must have
been a very patient man, Mr. Archibald Forbes, for I can see him, his
spectacles on the end of his nose, and his bushy eyebrows pulled down,
standing behind his counter, listening without a movement to Mark
relentlessly getting through 'The scene was changed'--you know that
thing about Mary Queen of Scots?"

"Indeed I do.  If Mark was asked to recite when Mrs. Goskirk was
present, and she heard him begin, 'The scene was changed,' she gave a
resigned sigh and took up her knitting; and there was another about
Henry of Navarre that was almost as bad.  The things you did were short
and harmless."

"Oh, quite," said Ann.  "There was one about a little girl called
Fanny, a child for whom we had a deep distaste.  She had a dream about
being in heaven, I remember:

  'I thought to see Papa's estate
  But oh! 'twas far too small, Mamma;
  The whole wide world was not so big
  As William's cricket ball, Mamma.'

And she finished:

  'Your pretty Fanny woke, Mamma,
  And lo! 'twas but a dream.'

We thought the said Fanny was an insufferably sidey child, first of all
for mentioning 'Papa's estate,' then for saying 'And lo!' and, worst of
all, for alluding to herself as 'pretty Fanny'--that was beyond pardon.
Talking about money, someone once gave me a sixpence, which I took,
contrary to rule--we weren't allowed to take money.  Feeling guilty, I
ran into a little shop in the Watery Wynd, a fish shop that sold fruit,
and demanded sixpenny-worth of pears.  Ellie Robbie was hard behind,
so, with great presence of mind, I said, 'Give me one just now and I'll
get the rest another time.'  That sixpennyworth of pears was a regular
widow's cruse to me.  For weeks I called nearly every day at that shop
to demand a pear due to me, until they said if I came again they would
tell my father!  We can't have had any decent pride about us, for I
don't think we minded being snubbed.  When we ran away from Ellie
Robbie the harbour was generally our destination--a fascinating place
where Norwegian sailors strolled about in a friendly way and could
sometimes be persuaded to let us go on board their ships, where they
gave us hot coffee out of gaily painted bowls.  The harbour was the
only romantic thing in Kirkcaple.  Time meant nothing to us in those
days, and, so far as we were concerned, the King still sat in
Dunfermline town calling for a 'skeely skipper' to sail his ship to
'Norroway ower the faem'; and many an hour we stood looking out to sea
and watching for the gallant ship 'that never mair cam' hame.'  Next to
the harbour we loved the coal-pit, and felt that we were indeed greatly
blessed to have one so near the house.  There was no romance about a
coal-pit (except the romance that brings in the nine-fifteen); but
there were glorious opportunities for getting thoroughly dirty.  We had
many friends among the miners, and they gave us rides on trolleys, and
helped us to make seesaws, and admitted us into lovely little outhouses
containing, among other treasures, the yellow grease that trains are
greased with.  And there was the Hyacinth Den only a stone's-throw from
our own door, and the bleach-field beyond, and beyond that again the
Wild Wood.  And our own Manse garden was not to be despised, for did it
not look into a field owned by the Huttons--a clan as wild and lawless
as our own, and many a battle took place between us.  They had a friend
known to us as 'Wild Scott of the Huttons,' a truly great and tireless
fighter, and if he happened to be visiting them we never knew when a
head would pop up over the wall where the big pear tree grew, and
challenge us to mortal combat.  Did you hear that Mark came across a
man in France, tremendously decorated and of high rank, who turned out
to be our old enemy 'Wild Scott of the Huttons'?  Besides the permanent
feud with the Huttons, we had many small vendettas with boys from the
town, who stoned Mark on Sundays because they didn't like his clothes."

Mrs. Douglas laid down her stocking, and said in a bewildered tone:

"I never could understand why you were so pugnacious.  You were a
dreadfully bad example to the other children in the place.  They say
that ministers' children are generally worse than other people's--on
the principle, I suppose, that 'shoemakers' bairns are aye ill shod,'
but I never saw children more naturally bad than you were--well, not
bad, perhaps, but wild and mischievous to a degree.  Your father
sometimes said that no one could doubt the theory of original sin after
seeing our family.  Alison sometimes comes to me in her wheedling way
and says, 'Gran, do tell me about your bad children,' and I have to
tell her of the time when you celebrated the Queen's birthday at the
coal-pit by setting fire to a lot of valuable wood and nearly burned
the whole place, and the day when we lost you and found you all in the
Panny Pond--literally 'in' it you were, for you had made a raft and
sunk with it into the soft, black mud."

"Yes," said Ann, "I was always sorry after that for 'The Girl who trod
on a Loaf,' for I knew the dreadfulness of sinking down, down."

"I think my dear Robbie was the worst of you all.  You others showed
faint signs of improvement, but he never deviated into good behaviour.
He was what is known in Priorsford as 'a notorious ill callant,' and in
Fife as 'an awfu' steerin' bairn.'  When I went away for a day or two I
had always to take him with me, for I knew if I left him at home it
would be sheer 'battleation,' and yet he had the tenderest heart among
you, and Rosamund said, 'Robbie's the one who has never once been cross
to me.'  I remember the first time I took him to church.  He disliked
the look of the woman who sat in front, a prim lady, and he suddenly
tilted her bonnet over her eyes.  Then he shouted to a well-behaved
child in the next seat, 'Bad boy make a face at me,' and before I could
stop him, hurled his shoe at him; and he announced at the top of his
voice, 'Mark and Ann's away to Etterick, but I don't care a wee, wee
button,' and had then to be removed.  'Wheep him,' Mrs. Beaton used to
counsel; but Mrs. Peat always said 'Robbie's a fine laddie.'"

Ann nodded.  "So he was, always.  Though he was so turbulent and noisy
he was so uncunning you couldn't but think nobly of the soul.  Mark and
I thought of the mischievous things to do, and Robbie threw himself
into them so whole-heartedly that generally he was the one caught and
blamed.  The rest of us were better at wriggling out of things.  Father
was never hard on us unless we cheated or told lies.  He wasn't even
angry when the policeman complained of us--do you remember the one, an
elder in our church, who said in despair to his wife, 'I'll hae to jail
thae bairns and leave the kirk'?  One of the few times I ever saw
Father really angry was when he was holding a class for young
communicants, and we crept into the cubby-hole under the stairs, where
the meter was, and _turned off the gas_.  Father emerged from the study
like a lion, and caught poor Jim, who had loitered.  The rest of us had
gained the attics and were in hiding.  It must have been a great day
for the young communicants."

"Ann!  It was a shocking thing to do; it would have roused the
mildest-mannered man."

"Father was very good-natured," said Ann, kneeling on the rug to put a
log on the fire; "but it was never safe to presume too much on his
mildness.  He was subject to sudden and incomprehensible rages.  One
day I innocently remarked that somebody had a 'polly' arm.  I didn't
know that I meant a paralysed arm; I was only repeating what I had
heard others say, but Father grabbed me suddenly and said, 'You
wretched child!  Where do you pick up those abominable expressions?  Go
to the nursery.'  I went weeping, feeling bitterly the injustice with
which I had been treated.  But for every once that Father made us cry,
a hundred times he filled our mouths with laughter.  All our best games
were invented by him.  Whenever he put his head round the nursery door,
we knew we were going to have good times.  There was a glorious game
about India, in which the nursery became a trackless jungle, and Father
was an elephant with a pair of bellows for a trunk.  Sometimes on a
Sunday night, as a great treat, we were allowed to play Bible games.
Then we would march round and round the nursery table, blowing lustily
on trumpets to cause the walls of Jericho to fall, or Robbie as
Jeremiah would be let down by Mark and me into the pit (which was the
back of the old sofa), with 'clouts under his armpits'; or, again, he
and Mark lay prostrate on the sofa (now the flat roof of an Eastern
house), while I, as Rahab, covered them with flax.  I have the nicest
recollections of winter evenings in the study, with the red curtains
drawn, and you sitting mending, when we lay on the hearth-rug, and
Father read to us of Bruce, and Wallace, and that lonely, lovely lady,
Mary of Scotland; but my most cherished memory is of a December day in
Glasgow.  It was a yellow fog that seemed to press down on us and choke
us.  You were out when we came in from our walk, the fire wasn't good,
and everything seemed unspeakably dreary.  We were quarrelling among
ourselves and feeling altogether wretched, when the door opened and
Father looked in on us.  'Alone, folkies?' he said.  'Where's your
mother?'  We told him you were out and that we had nothing to do, and
that everything was beastly.  He laughed and went away, and came back
presently with a book.  It was _The Queen's Wake_, and for the first
time we heard of 'bonnie Kilmeny' who went away to Fairyland.  We
forgot the fog, we forgot our grievances; we were carried away with
Kilmeny.  Then Father got a ballad-book, and that was even better, for
the clash of armies was ever music in our ears.  We sprawled over him
in our excitement as he read how 'in the gryming of a new-fa'en snaw'
Jamie Telfer of the fair Dodhead carried the 'fraye' to Branksome ha'.
Our tea was brought in, but the pile of bread-and-butter was hardly
diminished, for Father read on, sometimes laughing aloud in his delight
at what he read, sometimes stopping for a moment to drink some tea, but
his eyes never leaving the printed page.  How could we eat when we were
hearing for the first time of Johnnie Armstrong going out to meet his
King in all good faith, only to find that death was to be his portion?
We howled like angry wolves when Father read:

  'To seek het water beneath cauld ice,
  Surely it is a great folie--
  I have asked grace at a graceless face,
  But there is nane for my men and me.'

When you came in, we only looked at you vaguely, and said, 'Go on,
Father, go on,' and he explained, These benighted children have never
heard the _Border Ballad_', Nell,' and then you sat down and listened
too....  D'you remember people in Glasgow, who owned big restaurants
all over the place--Webster, I think, was the name, and there was a fat
only son who sometimes came in to play with us?  I don't know what Mr.
Webster was like in his home life, but that fat boy said to me very
feelingly, '_Yours is a jolly kind of father to have_.'  It was
generous of him, for only that morning he had taunted me with the fact
that my father played a penny whistle, and I, deeply affronted, had
replied with a tasteful reference to the restaurants, 'Well, anyway, he
doesn't sell tuppenny pies like your father does.'"

"Oh, that penny whistle!" said Mrs. Douglas, with a laugh and a sigh.
"He made wonderful music on it.  There was always something of the Pied
Piper about your father.  Down in the district the children used to
come up and pull at his coat and look up in his face; they had no fear
of him; and whenever he entered the hall on Band of Hope nights the
place was in an uproar with yells for a story.  He would get up on the
little platform and, leaning over the table, he would tell them 'Jock
and his Mother,' or 'The Bannock that went to see the World,' or
'Maya'--fine stories, but not a moral to one of them."

"That was the best of Father's stories: they never had morals," said
Ann.  "The real secret of his charm was that at heart he was as much a
child as any of them.  Once I was down in the district with him, and we
saw a very dirty little boy sitting on a doorstep.  He greeted Father
with a wide grin, and beckoned to him with a grimy forefinger.  Father
went obediently, and very slowly and mysteriously the little fellow
drew from his ragged pocket a handful of marbles (very chipped and
dirty ones) and said, 'Thae's whit ye ca' _bool_,' and Father, bending
over the small figure, replied, 'So they are, sonny, so they are!'

"Yes, the fat boy was right: he was a jolly kind of father to have!"


"... When Rosamund was six months old we left Kirkcaple.  It was a
great uprooting.  You don't live thirteen years in a place in close
touch with the people without becoming deeply attached both to the
place and people--and in the last year of our stay at Kirkcaple we had
a wonderful experience.  There was a great awakening of interest in
spiritual things--a revival--and we saw many enter into life...."

Mrs. Douglas stopped abruptly and regarded her daughter.

"Ann," she said, "why do you begin to look abashed and miserable if I
mention the word revival?  Does conversion seem to you an improper

Ann screwed her face uncomfortably.  "Oh, I don't know, but I confess I
do dislike to hear people talking glibly about that sort of thing.  It
somehow seems rather indecent.  You didn't realise, you and Father, how
miserable it was for us children going to so many evangelistic
meetings.  We liked shouting Sankey's hymns, and the addresses were all
right, but oh! those 'after-meetings,' when we sat sick with fright,
watching earnest young men working their way down the church to speak
personally to us.  How could we say we were on the road to heaven?  And
we were too honest--at least the boys were too honest--simply to say
Yes, when asked if we were saved.  I shall never think it right or
proper that any casual person should leap on one and ask questions
about one's soul.  I should object to anyone, other than a doctor or
intimate friend, asking me questions about my bodily health, and why
should I be less select about my immortal soul?  And it seemed to us so
dreadful that they should count the converts.  I remember with what
abhorrence we once heard Mrs. Macfarlane tell how she and her husband
had both talked to a young man about his soul.  'And when we had shown
him the light'--you remember the sort of simper she gave--'and he had
gone on his way rejoicing, I said to Mr. Macfarlane, "George dear, is
it your soul or mine?"'  In other words, 'My bird, sir.'  I suppose she
was out for stars in her crown, but I would rather have none than cadge
for them like that."

"Oh, Ann," cried her mother, "you don't know what you are saying.  It
hurts me to hear you talk in that flippant way about----"

"Mother, you needn't make a mournful face at me."  Ann's face was
flushed, and she looked very much in earnest.  "You've simply no idea
how difficult it is for a minister's family to be anything but mere
formalists.  You see, we hear so much about it all.  From our infancy
we are familiar with all the shibboleths, until they almost cease to
have any meaning.  I used to think as a child that it was most unfairly
easy for the heathen.  I pictured myself hearing for the very first
time the story of Jesus Christ, and I thought with what gratitude and
love I would have fallen on my knees to thank Him....  As it was, we
knew the message so well that our attention was chiefly directed to the
messengers, and you must admit, Mother, we had some very queer ones.
You can't have forgotten the big, red-haired evangelist, as rough as
the heather, who told us a story of a pump being 'off the fang,' and
finished remarkably with 'Ah, my friends, God's pump's never off the
fang.'  I think it was the same man who said we were just like faggots,
'fit for the burning.'  Oh, but do you remember the man in Glasgow who
illustrated the shortness of life with a story about 'Gran'papaw' who


Mrs. Douglas had finished her daily reading and sat with the pile of
devotional books on her knee, eyeing her daughter with a mixture of
disapproval and unwilling amusement.  "Ann, you turn everything into

Ann protested.  "There's no ridicule about it.  It is a very good
serious tale.  'Gran'papaw he gae two...'"

Again her mother interrupted her.

"I'm sure your father would be sorry to hear you laughing at
evangelists.  He revelled in evangelistic work."

Ann gave a squeal of rage.  "_Mother_!  D'you know what sort of picture
of Father you would give to anyone who didn't know him?  Someone with a
smug face and a soapy manner, and a way of shaking hands as if he had a
poached egg in the palm.  Could there be anything less like my father?
There was nothing unctuous about him, nothing of the professional
religionist.  He was like a Raeburn portrait to look at...

  'A face filled with a fine old-fashioned grace,
  Fresh-coloured, frank----'

and he never thought that because he was virtuous there should be no
more cakes and ale.  He was a minister simply because the great fact of
his life was Christ, and he desired above everything to bring men to
Him.  I never read of Mr. Standfast but I think of Father, for he, too,
loved to hear his Lord spoken of, and coveted to set his feet in his
Master's footprints...."

Ann stopped and looked in a shamefaced way at her mother.

"And now I'm preaching!  It's in my blood--well, you were beginning to
tell me about the revival in Kirkcaple when I started to blaspheme.
Please go on."

"Well, you may laugh at evangelists..."

"_Who's_ laughing?" cried Ann.

Her mother went on calmly.  "But I assure you that was a wonderful time
in Kirkcaple.  Night after night the church was crowded, and girls and
young men went as blithely to those meetings as ever they went to a
dance.  You may talk as you like of 'emotionalism' and 'the excitement
of the moment,' but remember, this all happened nearly thirty years
ago, and the young people who decided for Christ then are the chief
support of the Church to-day.  I am very certain they have never
regretted staying to the after-meeting and throwing in their lot with
Christ.  How easy the church work was that winter!  The Wednesday
prayer-meeting overflowing from the hall into the church, money
forthcoming for everything--you may know conversion is real when it
touches the pocket.  We had a series of special meetings more or less
all through that winter, and, of course, all the speakers stayed with
us.  Marget never grumbled at the extra work.  One night, at a meeting
where testimonies were asked for, to my utter amazement she got up and
stammered out a few words.  Long afterwards, in Glasgow, when she lost
her temper about something, she said, 'Eh, I say, I'll need to be
speakin' in the kirk again.'  She had evidently found it beneficial.
We had all sorts of ministers and evangelists staying with us, some
delightful, others rather difficult.  One week-end the great Dr.
Bentley came to preach, a very godly but a very austere man.  Your
father was preaching somewhere, and I had to bear the brunt of him
alone.  Immediately he had had tea he suggested that we should have a
little Bible-reading and prayer.  It was a dreadful ordeal for me, for
he kept asking me what passage I should like read, and my mind went
blank and I couldn't think of any!  Finally I managed to slip out of
the room, leaving him to rest, and not noticing that Robbie was playing
quietly behind the sofa.  Shortly after that we heard an uproar in the
study, Dr. Bentley's voice in trumpet notes and yells of rage from
Robbie.  With Ellie Robbie at my heels, I rushed to the rescue....  Dr.
Bentley met me with the words: 'I have had dealings with your son.'  It
turned out that, seeing the old man sitting alone, Robbie had gone to
the bookcase, pulled out as large a volume as he could manage, and
carried it to him.  Dr. Bentley told him to put the book back on the
shelf and bring no more.  Robbie brought another and another, and Dr.
Bentley whipped him.  Full of fury at the results of his well-meant
efforts to entertain him, Robbie kicked Dr. Bentley--kicked the great
Dr. Bentley--and was carried out of the room in Ellie Robbie's arms
quite unrepentant, shouting as he went, 'Abominable gentleman!'"

Ann laughed with much enjoyment.  "It isn't one of the duties of a
guest to beat his host's children, but he met his match in Robbie.  You
must have had a dreadful week-end, poor Mother!"

"Oh, dreadful!  Everything went wrong.  Dr. Bentley told me that he
didn't like a fire in his bedroom, but that he liked a fire in his bed.
This, he explained very solemnly, meant two hot-water cans and six
pairs of blankets.  Marget put in one hot-water can (a 'pig' one) and
had gone to fill an india-rubber one, when Ellie Robbie, wishful to
help, and unaware of one 'pig' in the bed, slapped in another.  They
met, and each halved neatly in two.  The bed was a sea, and we were
looking despairingly at it when Dr. Bentley appeared in the doorway and
announced that he would like to retire for the night! ... Some time
afterwards Dr. Bentley was again in the neighbourhood and called, but
found no one at home.  Marget, telling us about his visit, said, 'It
was thon auld man, I dinna mind his name; the yin the mistress is
fear't for.'"

"With reason, I think," said Ann.  "What an orgy of meetings you must
have had that winter!"

"Yes, but I can't remember that there were any bad effects, or that we
sank into indifference when the stimulus of the meetings was removed.
Rather we went on resolved to do better than we had ever done, for the
Lord had done great things for us....  Then came the call to Glasgow,
and it was very difficult to decide what was for the best.  We didn't
love cities, and we had no friends in the West; on the other hand, we
had to think about the education of you children.  Your father was
going on for forty, and he felt, if he ever meant to take a call, now
was the time.  You children were delighted.  Any change seems a change
for the better to a child; you never gave a thought to the big, sunny
garden you were leaving, or the Den, or the familiar friendly house, or
the kind people.  The day your father and I went to Glasgow to look for
a house you all stood on the doorstep and shouted after us, 'Be sure
and get one near a coal-pit.'"

"Yes," Ann said; "the thought of a flitting enchanted us, and we began
at once to pack.  Where was it Robbie had inflammation of the lungs?
Before we went to Glasgow, wasn't it?"

"The year before--in spring.  He had got hot playing football and stood
in the east wind.  He was very ill, poor darling, and for long he
needed great care.  I got to know my wild boy in a different way in
those days and nights of weakness."

Ann left her writing-table and sat on the fender-stool.  She pushed the
logs together and made them blaze, and, reaching over to the big basket
that stood by the fireplace, she threw on log after log until the whole
room was filled with the dancing light.

"Now, that's something like a fire," she said.  "A dull fire makes one
feel so despairing....  Robbie was so very proud of having had an
illness; he always called it 'my inflammation,' and when he broke his
arm his conceit knew no bounds.  I'm afraid I broke it for him by
falling off the seesaw on to the top of him.  We didn't know what had
happened, but we saw that his arm looked very queer, and Mark and I
brought him home and helped him to take off his boots, and were quite
unusually attentive to him.  He didn't say a word about it hurting
until he heard that it was broken, when he began to yell at once, and
said, 'Will I die?--will I die?'  Reassured on that point, he was very
pleased about his broken arm."

"Two days later," said Robbie's mother, "he escaped from the nursery
and was found on the rafters of an unfinished house (how he managed to
climb with his arm in splints, I know not) singing 'I'm the King of the

Ann laughed softly.  "He never let us forget his achievements, dear
lamb.  If we quarrelled about the possession of anything, Robbie was
sure to say, 'Give it to me, for I've had the inflammation.'  Mark made
a poem about him, which ran:

  'And if in any battle I come to any harm,
  Why, I've had the inflammation, I've had a broken arm.'

It must have been no light task to remove us all from Kirkcaple to

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "A terrible undertaking.  But we were
young and strong.  Mrs. Peat came up one day and found me crying as I
packed.  'Eh, my dear,' she said, 'you're vexed to go, and I'm glad to
see you're vexed to leave us all, but you're taking all your own with
you.  You don't know what it means to leave a grave....'  Everybody
made farewell parties for us, and we departed in a shower of presents
and good wishes.  That was nearly thirty years ago, and only the other
day I met one of our Kirkcaple people in Edinburgh, and she said to me,
with tears in her eyes, 'Hardly a day passes in our house without a
mention of your name, and never a Sabbath comes but we say, "If only we
could hear Mr. Douglas' voice again!"  Who says the ministry is not a
repaying job?'  Well, we got to Glasgow--I think you children all went
to Etterick, didn't you?"

"Only the boys," said Ann.  "I went straight to Glasgow with you and
Baby Rosamund.  It was a great experience for me.  I boasted about it
for long.  I was allowed to attend the Induction Soirée, and heard you
and Father praised by everyone.  It was my first experience of Glasgow
humour, and very funny I thought it.  I remember one old elder who
spoke told us of what a fine speech he had made the night before in his
bed.  'My,' he said, beaming round on the company, 'what grand speeches
ye can make in yer bed!' but it turned out he had forgotten it on the
platform.  I thought the Glasgow accent fascinating, and I liked to be
told that I was a 'good wee Miss.'  I began to like Glasgow people that
night, and I've gone on liking them better and better ever since."


"And now," said Ann, "we're done with Kirkcaple and must tackle
Glasgow.  And the Tatler is sitting on my MS., and that won't improve
its appearance.  Odd the passion that cat has for paper!  Perhaps in a
previous existence it was an editor.  If the soul of my grandam might
haply inhabit a bird, the soul of an editor--now he's done it! ..."
She flew to rescue the sheets that the Tatler had scattered on the
floor, while her mother put on large tortoise-shell spectacles and
knelt down to help.

"Don't you think," Mrs. Douglas said, when the sheets had been
rearranged in order, "that you'd better read me what you've written?"

Ann shook her head.  "I think not.  It's very majestical and not quite
true.  You see, if you're writing a _Life_, it's no good making a bald
narrative of it.  One has to polish it up a bit for the sake of
posterity.  I'm making you a very noble character, I assure you.  As
old Mrs. Buchanan said to me, after seeing me in some _tableaux
vivants_, 'My, you were lovely.  I didna ken ye.'  The children will be
proud to think you were their grandmother."

Mrs. Douglas turned to take up her stocking, with a bored look.

"I wonder," she said, "that you can be bothered talking so much

"I wonder, too," said Ann, "with the world in the state it is in.  But
I do agree, there is nothing so trying as a facetious person!  I wish I
hadn't such high spirits.  No wonder, Mother, that you are such a
depressed wee body: to have had a husband and family who were always in
uproarious spirits was enough to darken anybody's outlook on life.  The
first thing I remember about Glasgow is that you had a curly yellow
coat and a sort of terra-cotta bonnet."

Mrs. Douglas' face lit up with a smile that made her look almost
girlish.  "That coat!  I do remember it well.  It was 'old gold'
trimmed with plush of the same shade.  My father bought it for me.  I
met him one day in Princes Street, and I must have looked very shabby,
for he looked me up and down and said, 'Nell, surely the Sustentation
Fund is very low,' and he took me into Jenner's, and got me that coat
and bonnet.  He got you a coat, too, and a delicious little astrakhan
cap like a Cossack's.  You were the prettiest thing in it, for your
hair curled out under it like pure gold."

"I must have been a picturesque child," said Ann complacently, "for
several times, you remember, artists asked me to sit for them."  Then
she laughed.  "But I needn't boast about that, for my pride once got a
severe fall.  One day, at Etterick, we came on an artist (he turned out
to be someone quite well known) sketching up the burnside.  I
obligingly posed myself in the foreground, and--he gave me sixpence to
go away.  _And I took it!_"

Mrs. Douglas smiled at the reminiscence, but her thoughts were still
with the "old gold coat."

"It always pays to get a good thing.  That coat wore and wore until
everybody got tired of seeing me wear it, and it never really got very
shabby--the bonnet, too."

"I suppose you would be about thirty," Ann said.  "You said to us
walking down to church one day that you were thirty, and then you said
you would need to get a new bonnet.  I looked at you and thought to
myself: 'I shan't say it, but I'm quite sure it isn't worth while for
Mother to get a new bonnet; she _can't_ live much longer.'  I was
shocked to hear that you had attained to such a great age, for I
thought at thirty one was just toppling into the grave.  Wasn't Glasgow
a great change from Kirkcaple?  'East is East and West is West, and
never the twain shall meet.'"

"Oh, we hadn't much time to worry over East and West; we had our work
to do.  We were very fortunate in getting a suitable house in a nice
district.  We might have been miles from a city in that road of decent
grey houses, each in its own quiet garden.  And the gardens all opened
into an avenue of beautiful trees that had once been the entrance to
the big house of the district.  We couldn't have been more happily
situated, and it was a comfortable house with good-sized rooms
and--what your father specially prized--a well-placed staircase with
shallow steps.  It also contained what we had never had before, a
basement flat; but it wasn't as bad as it sounded, for the house was
built on a slope, and the kitchen, though downstairs, was on a level
with the garden."

"We children didn't mind the basement," said Ann; "it was a joy to us,
full of funny corners, excellent for hide-and-seek.  One door had the
legend _Dark Room_ painted on it, and was an endless source of
speculation.  Could the former tenant have been a Nihilist? or a
murderer?  In the bright hours of the morning we liked to dally with
those thoughts, but when the shadows lengthened we told each other that
he was only a man who tried to develop his own negatives.  We never
felt in the least cabined or confined in Glasgow.  It was a joke
against me for long that when we first arrived I reproved Mark and
Robbie for walking on the garden wall, saying, 'We must be very genteel
now that we live in Glasgow.'"

"You didn't live up to that counsel of perfection, my dear.  Anything
less genteel than your behaviour!  One of the first things you and Mark
did was to attend a wedding in the avenue--and when I say 'attend,' I
mean you stood outside the gate of the house with a lot of other
abandoned children and shouted, 'Hard up!' when the bride and
bridegroom left without scattering pennies.  Jeanie Tod nearly wept
with shame when she told me of it."

"I remember Jeanie Tod," said Ann.  "She was small, but very
determined.  She had a brother a sailor, and used to let me read his
letters.  One of them described the writer riding in a rickshaw, and
finished: 'By Jingo, dear sister, you should have seen your Brother
that Day.' ... It must have been difficult for you, Mother, to leave
friendly Kirkcaple and go to a great city where you knew almost no one.
Weren't you lonely at first?"

"Never for a moment; we just seemed to tumble in among friends."

"The church people, you mean?"

"Oh no--well, of course, they were friends--very dear friends--but you
need outside friends, too.  I found three very good ones waiting for me
in Glasgow."

"One was Mrs. Burnett!" said Ann.

"Yes.  Mrs. Burnett was my first friend.  The day we arrived in the
avenue--we were next-door neighbours--was the funeral day of her eldest
daughter.  With most women that would have been an excuse not to come
near us for months, but she came almost at once.  She said that it made
a link between us, and that, in a way, our coming helped a little to
fill the blank left by the dear daughter's death.  Her kindness and
interest were very grateful to me, a stranger in a strange land, or, as
Marget put it, 'a coo on an unco loan.'  It was a great pleasure to run
in for an hour to the Burnetts'; it was such a big, comfortable,
perfectly kept house (the servants had been with them for twenty and
thirty years, and had grown into Mrs. Burnett's dainty ways), and there
was always a welcome awaiting one at any time."

"They had a splendid garden," said Ann, "with a swing and all manner of
amusing things; and I think they really liked having children to tea.
I remember their Hallow-e'en parties!"

"Mrs. Burnett looked like an abbess," Mrs. Douglas said.  "She always
wore a soft black dress--cashmere or silk--and a tiny white lace shawl
turned back over her white hair.  The style of dress suited her
perfectly, for she was very tall and graceful, and glided rather than
walked.  I admired her very much, being so far from dignified myself,
and I used to wonder how she kept so perfectly tidy and unruffled when
I always looked as if I had been in the heart of a whirlwind."

"Oh, Mother!" laughed Ann, "just look at the difference in the two
lives!  Mrs. Burnett with her family grown up, a household running on
well-oiled wheels, and a serenity partly natural and partly gained
through long years' experience; you in the very forefront of the
battle, with an incredibly wild and wicked family, a church to run,
small means, and not an ounce of serenity anywhere in your little
active body."

"Well, but now that I have leisure I'm not any more serene," Mrs.
Douglas complained.  "But it was comfort unspeakable just to see Mrs.
Burnett, to know that she was near.  We used to think that she sat and
wondered what she would send us next, she loved so to give."

"I never smell a hyacinth," said Ann, "but I think of Mrs. Burnett.
She always sent us the very first pot of hyacinths that came out in the

Mrs. Douglas nodded.  "Mrs. Burnett would like to be remembered by
spring flowers.  She loved them as she loved all young things.  Her one
little grandson, Jimmie, was the same age as Davie.  Her great regret
when she was dying was that she wouldn't see the two boys grow up.  Ah,
but if she could have known--they didn't grow up very far.  Jimmie was
killed at the landing in Gallipoli, and Davie at Arras, when they were
still only little boys."

"You have always been well off for friends, Mother," Ann said, breaking
a silence.  "In Inchkeld, in Kirkcaple, Glasgow.  It's because you are
such a friendly person yourself."

"Oh, me!  I often feel myself a poor creature, with little to give in
return for treasure-houses opened to me."

Ann laughed unbelievingly and said, "I'm bound to admit we have had
some wonderful friends--Miss Barbara Stewart for one.  She was one of
your three friends, wasn't she?"

"Indeed she was!  Miss Barbara--to say her name gives me a warm feeling
at my heart."

"Miss Barbara," Ann repeated.  "What a lot the name conjures up!  I
don't know anyone who made more of life.  She might have been a lonely,
soured old woman, for she was the very last of her family, wasn't she?
but to the great family of the poor and the afflicted she said, 'You
are my brothers and my sisters.'  I wonder how many men in Glasgow owe
their start in life to Miss Barbara?  I wonder how many lonely women
died blessing her that it was their own and not a workhouse roof that
covered them at the end?  I wonder how many betrayed souls sinking
hopelessly into hell had a succouring hand held out to them by that
sharp-tongued spinster?  How did you know Miss Barbara so well?  She
didn't belong to the church."

"Not in our time, but all her people had belonged.  Miss Barbara had
gone to the other side of Glasgow, and it was too far for her to come.
She always took a great interest; but what good work was she not
interested in?  She sat there in her vast, early-Victorian dining-room,
wrapped in innumerable shawls and woolly coats, for she suspected
draughts from every quarter, a tall woman, broadly made, with a large,
strong face.  What would I not give now to go into that room and see
those whimsical, shrewd, kind eyes, and feel the wealth of welcome in
those big soft hands as she rose to greet me, with shawls falling from
her like leaves in Vallombrosa.  She generally received me with abuse.
'What d'you mean by coming out on such a day?  You'll go home with a
chill and bother your poor family by lying in bed.  Here--see--sit down
in that chair and hold the soles of your boots to the fire,' all the
time doing things for one's comfort, ringing for tea to be brought in,
kneeling down to make fresh toast.  She hated to trouble anyone; it was
almost an obsession with her, the desire not to be a nuisance.  She had
a very aged cook, who had been in the Stewart family all her life, and
it was said that Miss Barbara, herself nearly eighty, got up every
morning and carried tea to her before she would let her rise to her

"Dear Miss Barbara," Ann said, stroking the Tatler's smoke-grey fur,
"she wasn't only good, she was delightfully funny.  Her passion for
cats!--not for well-fed, comfortable cats, but for poor, lean, homeless
ones.  She used to send me into a butcher's shop to buy a quarter of a
pound of mince-collops, and then down area steps carrying it (the
horrid stuff oozing clammily through the paper) after some terrified
animal that fled from me, paying no attention to my blandishments.  She
was utterly unlike the ordinary rich old woman, flattered and kowtowed
to for her money until she thinks she isn't made of ordinary clay.  I
don't think Miss Barbara ever gave a thought to herself; she hadn't
time, she was so busy looking after other people."

"In her youth," said Mrs. Douglas, "Miss Barbara was a great worker in
the slums of Glasgow, but when I knew her she wasn't able for that, and
people had to go to her.  The clergy waited on her by the dozen, and
everyone else who wanted money for good works, not to speak of many who
were mere cranks and charlatans.  Everyone who came was admitted, and
Miss Barbara wouldn't have listened to a word against any of them."

"No," said Ann; "she would have said with Falstaff, 'Tush, man, mortal
men, mortal men'; or, rather, she wouldn't, for she had probably never
heard of Falstaff, and thought that anyone who could read Shakespeare
for pleasure was eccentric almost to madness.  If you told her of a
book you had enjoyed, she would say, 'Is it true?  No?  Well, then----'
But everyone who went to No. 10 got a hearing."

"Everyone got a hearing," said Mrs. Douglas, "and whatever else they
got, you may be sure a good tea was never wanting.  Many a tired and
hungry voyager on life's ocean found sanctuary at No. 10.  You remember
when I had that bad breakdown, and you were all worn out with me, how
Miss Barbara took me to No. 10 and coaxed and scolded me back to
health!  And I was too miserably ill and weak even to pretend
gratitude, and, driving with her, I used to envy all the happy people
walking on their own feet, and one day she said to me, with an amused
twinkle in her eyes, 'Ay, and you never thought to pity the poor folk
in their carriages before.''

"I think she was funniest at Etterick," said Ann.  "She kept regretting
all the time the street lamps and pavements, and the sight of Tweed
winding in links through the glens vexed her practical soul.  'What a
waste!' she said; 'couldn't it be cut straight like a canal?'  Father's
face!  How Miss Barbara would have hated the Green Glen!"  She jumped
up to open the door for the Tatler.  "He's tired of us.  He wants to
try Marget and Mysie.  Who was your third great friend, Mother?  You
had so many, I'm interested to know which you considered your greatest."

"Mrs. Lang."

"Oh, of course--Mrs. Lang.  She's been dead for a long time now."

Mrs. Douglas sighed.  "Nearly all my friends are dead."

"Because," said Ann, "you always liked old people best, and made your
friends among women much older than yourself.  And now you mourn and
say your friends are nearly all gone, and talk about the elect being
gathered in--but, elect or not, people are apt to be gathered in if
they are over eighty."

Mrs. Douglas sighed more deeply, and, ignoring her daughter's bracing
remarks, said, "I can't care for new friends as I cared for the old;
they can't go back with me.  I'm not interested in their talk....  Mrs.
Lang was a very good friend to me at my busiest time.  What a capable
woman she was.  There was nothing she couldn't do with her hands.  When
the boys went to Oxford she practically made their outfits, and made
them beautifully.  She used to say that it was a kindness to let her
help, for she had had such a busy life, she simply couldn't rest.  I
know now what she meant."

"I remember Mrs. Lang very well," Ann said--"a stately woman who rocked
a little when she walked.  She had crinkly white hair parted in the
middle, and keen, blue eyes in a fresh-coloured face.  I always think
of her as dressed in a seal-skin mantle trimmed with skunk and a Mary
Stuart bonnet."

Mrs. Douglas laid down her stocking.  "Yes.  I remember her best like
that.  I did like to see her come rocking in at the gate, though
sometimes I was a little afraid of her.  Your father used to say she
was a typical Scotswoman of the old school--a type that has almost
disappeared.  There wasn't a trace of sickly sentiment about her.  She
was a stern, God-fearing woman, with a strong brain and a big heart and
an unbending will.  She lived to be nearly ninety, and to the end her
mind was as clear as a bell.  In the last letter she wrote to me: 'I go
out for a walk every day, no matter what the weather is, and I am twice
in church every Sabbath.'"

"Didn't Mrs. Lang come from Fife?" Ann asked.  "I know there was always
an east windy tang about her!  She had nothing of the soft, couthy
Glasgow manner.  I was really very scared of her.  When she discovered
me hopelessly ignorant (as she was always doing) about something she
thought I should have known all about, like jam-making, she had a way
of saying: 'You amuse me very much,' which was utterly crushing.  And
she was very much given to contradicting people flat, generally
prefacing her remarks with 'You will _pardon me_!' delivered like a
sledge-hammer.  Well, it's too late to write anything to-night.  Marget
and Mysie will be in for prayers in a few minutes, and I've an
interesting book to finish.  To-morrow I shall add another stone to the
noble pile I am raising to you--but, no, it can't be to-morrow.
To-morrow I go to Birkshaw for two nights.  Mother, why did I say I
would go?  I can't bear to leave Dreams for two whole nights."


For two days it was as if an enchantment had been thrown over Dreams,
so great a quiet held the house.  Marget and Mysie went about their
work hardly speaking at all; Mrs. Douglas sat alone with her stocking
and her books of devotion; the Tatler slept for hours together on
chairs that he knew well were prohibited; the very fire did not
crackle, but lay in a deep glow; the wind was hushed, and moved softly
round the white-faced house among the heather.

The enchantment lifted when the pony-cart bringing Ann back was seen
coming up the hill.  Mrs. Douglas at once began to pile the fire high
with logs and coal; the Tatler, as if aware of an impending upheaval,
awoke, stretched himself, and stalked out of the room, while in the
kitchen Mysie flew to make hot toast and Marget gave a final polish to
the already glittering silver.

"Hear till her," Marget said to Mysie, with a broad grin on her face,
as Ann's voice was heard greeting her mother.

"She was aye like that; aye lauchin', an' aye fu' o' impudence, the
cratur!  It's like a death in the hoose when she's oot o't.  Awa' ben
wi' the tea, Mysie woman; she'll want it afore she tak's off her

"Well," said Mrs. Douglas, some time later, "it is good to have you

She had got her "reading" over early, the pile of books was put away,
and she was ready to listen to Ann's news.

"After two days!" said Ann, "you remind me of Davie when he was once in
bed with a bilious turn till lunch-time.  The moment he got up he
rushed to the window and said, with a gasp of thankfulness, 'It's good
to see the green grass again.'  You must have enjoyed the rest from my
long tongue.  I needn't ask if anyone called."

"Mr. Sharp came to tea with me yesterday."

"Did he?  Good man!  You've got a very attentive pastor, Motherkin."

"Yes," Mrs. Douglas agreed.  "I must say I'm fond of that young man,
though he does read his sermons and his theology isn't as sound as I
would like.  We had such a nice talk, and he told me all about his
people.  They are evidently not at all well off, and he says they had a
great business getting the Manse furnished.  But everything is paid
for.  His father and mother are coming to visit him about New Year
time.  We must try in every way we can to make their visit enjoyable.
He is so young, and there is something very innocent about him--he
reminds me a little of Davie."

"And were you favoured with much of Marget's conversation?" Ann asked.

"Oh yes.  She came in and out; but Marget is very dull when you are
away.  She used to say, when you were all at Etterick and the house was
peaceful and the work light, 'It's a queer thing: I like faur better
when oor bairns are a' at hame.'  Well, and was Birkshaw nice?  Tell me
all about it."

Ann had seated herself on her favourite stool in front of the fire, and
she now turned round facing her mother, and nodded happily.

"Birkshaw was very nice, and the Miss Scotts are exactly the kind of
hostesses I thought they would be.  When I saw my room I was sure of
it.  Some people's spare rooms are just free-coups full of pictures
that nobody else will allow in their rooms, chairs that are too hard
for anything but a guest to sit on, books that no one can read.  And in
these spare rooms you generally find a corner of the wardrobe reserved
for somebody's parasols, and a fur coat in camphor occupies the only
really good drawer.  My room at Birkshaw was a treasure.  There was a
delicious old four-post bed, with a little vallance of chintz round the
top, and all the rest of the furniture in keeping.  A nosegay on the
dressing-table, a comfortable couch drawn up to a blazing fire, a table
with a pile of most readable-looking books, and absolutely unencumbered
drawers.  There were only three other people staying in the house--a
man and his daughter--Barnes was the name--English.  Mr. Barnes was
very sprightly, and looked about fifty, and so, oddly enough, did his
daughter.  Either she looked very old for her age or her father looked
much too young for his.  She was a dull little lady with protruding
eyes and unbecoming clothes, and she appeared to me rather to have
given up the unequal contest.  I have noticed--haven't you?--that very
vivacious parents have often depressed offspring, and _vice versa_.
Mr. Barnes, though English, was a great lover of Scotland, and an
ardent Jacobite.  He confused me a good deal by talking about Charles
III.  I found him very interesting, but I had the feeling that he
thought poorly of my intelligence.  And, of course," Ann finished
cheerfully, "I am almost entirely illiterate."

Mrs. Douglas looked mildly indignant.  "Ann, when I think of the money
spent on your education----"

"Oh, you spent money all right, but no one could make me learn when I
didn't want to.  I don't know whether I was naturally stupid, or
whether it was sheer wickedness, but, anyway, it doesn't matter now,
except that intelligent people are bored with me sometimes----"

"Who was the other person staying at Birkshaw?  Didn't you say there
were three?"

"Yes, a bachelor nephew of the Miss Scotts'--Mr. Philip Scott."


Ann screwed her face.  "Youngish.  Forty or thereabouts--forty-five, I
should think.  Oh yes, because he told me he was thirty-eight when the
war came.  He looked quite young because he was slim, and he wasn't
bald; rather a good-looking man."

"Did you like him?  Was he nice?"

Ann laughed as if at the remembrance of something pleasant.

"Oh yes, I liked him.  He was very companionable, and it turned out we
had a good many friends in common.  The Miss Scotts are extraordinarily
good company.  There is no need to make conversation at Birkshaw; the
talk was so entertaining that we sat an unconscionable time over our
meals.  And they never worry you to do things.  If you prefer an
arm-chair by the fire and a book--well and good.  You know how I hate
visiting, as a rule, but I really did enjoy my two nights away, and I
learned a lot about gardening."

"Did you wear your new frock?" Mrs. Douglas asked.

"Oh yes.  You were quite right to advise me to take it.  You never know
about people now.  Some have never got over war-habits and still wear
sort of half-and-half things in the evening--rather tired-looking
afternoon dresses or jumpers; but the Miss Scotts came down charming in
lace and jewels and beautifully done hair.  I do like that.  Heaviest
of tweeds and thick boots in the daytime, but in the evening perfect in
every detail--so I was glad I had a pretty fresh frock to do them

Ann stretched out her feet to the blazing fire.  "But it's fine to be
back in this dear room, wearing slippers not quite in their first
youth, and a dress that no amount of lounging will hurt.  Birkshaw
doesn't come up to Dreams, though it is several centuries older, and at
least three times bigger and full of priceless treasures in the way of
pictures and furniture and books----"

Ann stopped to laugh at her own absurdity, and her mother said, "You're
like your father, child.  He never saw anything to equal his own house.
He didn't know the meaning of envy----"

"Ah, but I'm not like that.  Envy!  I'm sometimes chock-full of it----"

The door opened and Marget came in.  She was primed with an excuse for
her appearance, but Ann didn't give her time to make it.

"Come away, Marget, and hear all about Birkshaw, and tell me what has
been happening since I went away.  I've just been saying to Mother that
I'm very glad to be back."

Ann pulled forward a chair, which Marget accepted primly.

"I dare say ye are.  We 'gree fine, the fower o' us."

"And yet, Marget," said Ann, "I have just been reading a book by a very
clever woman in which she says that women cannot live together with any
profit.  They fester.  That is the ugly expression she uses."

Marget gave a disgusted snort.  "Mebbe thae saft scented weemen,
aggravatin' and clawin' at each other like cats, no' weemen wi'
self-respect an' wark to do.  A' the same, I'm no' sayin' I'll no' be
glad when Maister Jimmie comes hame.  I like a man aboot the hoose.
It's kin o' hertless work cookin' for weemen; hauf the time they're no'
heedin' what they're eatin'."

"Ah, Marget," said her mistress, "it's not like the days when the boys
were all home from school and you couldn't make a pudding big enough."

Marget shook her head sadly.  "It is not, Mem," she said, and then,
turning suddenly to Ann, she asked, "Hoo's the _Life_ gettin' on?"

Ann jumped up and went to the writing-table.  "That reminds me I've no
business to be sitting roasting my face at the fire when I haven't
written a word for nights."

She found a notebook and pencil and came back to the fireside.  "The
Moncrieffs will be on us before we are half finished.  We've got to
Glasgow, Marget.  Tell me your first impression of that great city."

Marget sat forward with one hand on each knee.

"Eh, I thocht it was an awfu' place.  D'ye mind, Mem, thon day you took
me awa' into Argyle Street to see the 'Poly'--a place mair like a toun
than a shop?  I was fair fear't."

Mrs. Douglas, picking up a stitch, stopped to laugh.

"That was a great day, Marget.  You suddenly found yourself looking
into a long mirror, and you turned to me and said, 'Eh, I say--there's
a wumman awfu' like ma sister.'"

"Didn't you know yourself, Marget?" Ann asked.

"No' me.  I had never seen the whole o' masel' afore, an' how was I to
ken I was sic a queer-lookin' body?"

"I know," said Ann.  "I've had some shocks myself."  She turned to her
mother.  "I always sympathised with Trudi in _The Benefactress_ when
she looked into a mirror and was disgusted to find that she wasn't
looking as pretty as she felt.  But, Marget, what else struck you
besides the size of the 'Poly' and its mirrors?"

Marget was chuckling to herself.  "I aye mind how affrontit I was in
the 'Poly.'  I wanted to buy something, but the only thing I could mind
I wanted was a yaird o' hat elastic.  A young man, like a lord, leaned
over the counter and says, 'What can I do for you, Madam?'"

Here Marget became convulsed with laughter, and had to wipe her eyes
before going on.  "'Aw,' says I, 'a yaird o' hat elastic,' an' says he,
'One penny, Madam.'  I thocht fair shame to see a braw man like that
servin' me wi' hat elastic.  I telt the mistress I wadna gang back
there till I needed a new goon or something wise-like.  Ay, there was a
heap o' queer things in Glasgae that we hadna in Kirkcaple, but I likit
it fine.  We a' settled doon rale comfortable, an' a'body that cam' to
Glasgae frae Kirkcaple cam' to oor kirk, so we never felt far frae
hame.  Oh, I likit Glasgae rale weel when once I fund ma way aboot."

"It's odd," said Ann, "to think of Glasgow as the 'Scottish Oxford' of
the seventeenth-century traveller.  How pretty it must have been, with
gardens going down to the Clyde, a college in the High Street, an old
cathedral on a hill overlooking the city, and with so clear an air that
a mountain called 'Ben Lomond' could be seen by the shopkeepers of King
Street.  Alack-a-day! the green places have been laid waste....
Mother, do you remember on winter nights as we sat round the fire how
we sometimes used to hear men calling 'Call-er oy-sters?  That is the
most vivid recollection that has remained with me of those Glasgow
days--a November evening with a touch of the fog that frost was apt to
bring, a clear fire burning in the nursery grate, books and games
scattered about, and through the misty stillness outside the cry,
'Call-er oy-sters.'  I used to lift a corner of the blind to look out,
wondering if I would see some wandering sailorman with a pokeful of
oysters on his back--but there was nothing, nothing but the strangely
mournful cry."

"Glasgae folk," said Marget, who had not been listening, but thinking
her own thoughts, "are awfu' easy to ken and rale nice, but they're no'
so hospitable as they get the name for bein'."

"Why, Marget," cried Mrs. Douglas, astonished, "Glasgow people are
considered the very essence of hospitality."

Marget set her mouth obstinately.  "Weel, Mem, it's mebbe as you say,
but I've sat whole nichts in their hooses an' they never so much as
said to me, 'Collie, wull ye lick?'  When ye went into a hoose at
Kirkcaple the first thing they did was to pit on the kettle.  Glasgae
folk made a great fuss aboot ye, but they're no' great at offerin' ye

"This," said Ann, sharpening a pencil, "is quite a new light on Glasgow
people.  They are accused of many things, but seldom of inhospitality."

"Well, I must say," said Mrs. Douglas, "that I missed in Glasgow the
constant interchange of hospitality that we had in Kirkcaple.  For
instance, when your father exchanged with another minister it was
always a question of staying the week-end; and, if the minister who
came to help at the Communion was a friend, his wife (if he had one)
was always invited with him.  And then we had endless parties, and
people dropping in casually all the time, as is the friendly country
way.  In a big city everything is different.  Ministers came to preach,
but we only saw them for a few minutes in the vestry; they had no time
to come out to us for a meal.  Everything was a rush; we had all so
much to do that there was little coming and going between the different
ministers' wives.  Almost our only meeting-place was the house in which
the Clerical Club was held once a month, when papers were read and we
had tea."

"I liked when the Club was at our house," said Ann, "but I thought
ministers had very poor taste in jokes: they laughed so much at such
very poor ones.  I remember one facetious minister saying to me, 'It
would be a grand job ours if it weren't for the Sabbaths,' and looking
startled when I cordially agreed with him.  To a child of twelve the
writing of sermons does seem a waste of time.  But, Mother, you knew
lots of ministers' wives in Glasgow.  Why, Mr. Johnston is still a
bosom friend of yours.  Oh, do you remember how you used to tease
Father by holding up Mr. Johnston as an example of what every minister
should be?"

"I didn't mean it; your father knew that very well, and he didn't care
a scrap who was held up to him--but I wish now I hadn't done it.  But
the Johnstons were really the most exemplary couple in every way,
almost provoking in their perfection.  Their church was quite near
Martyrs, and their house was quite near ours, and we were very good
friends; but sometimes I couldn't help being envious a little.  In
Inchkeld and Kirkcaple we had had prosperous, well-attended churches,
but in Glasgow that was changed.  Our new field, so to speak, was a
difficult one.  Martyrs was in the heart of the town, in a district
full of Jews and Roman Catholics, which meant that we had a very small
population to draw from, and most of our people came from distant
suburbs.  When we came to Glasgow, Martyrs was known as 'the scrapit
kirk' because of its white, unpainted seats.  No hymn had ever been
sung in it; rarely, if ever, a paraphrase.  A precentor in a box led
the people in the Psalms of David.  Everything was as it had been for
the last hundred years.  The congregation looked a mere handful in the
great church, and I must say I quailed in spirit when I saw the
wilderness of empty seats."

"Jeanie Tod, the nursemaid," said Ann, "always let me read not only the
letters she received, but the letters she wrote, and in one I read:
'The church is very _toom_, but Mr. Douglas will soon fill it.'  It was
indeed _toom_, but every Sunday we expected quite suddenly it would
fill up and we would go in and find a crowd.  It did fill up a little,
didn't it Mother?"

"Oh yes, a lot of new people came; but it was never anything like full.
Mr. Johnston, with the very same difficulties to contend with, had his
filled to overflowing.  He was a splendid organiser, and very wise and
prudent; and his wife was just as good in her own way.  She was a
miracle for cutting out--I was no good at that--and her sewing-classes
and Mothers' Meetings, and indeed everything she attempted, were the
best in the district, and she was so pretty and neat that it was a
pleasure to look at her.  If I held Mr. Johnston up to your father, I
held Mrs. Johnston up to myself."

"But Father worked just as hard as Mr. Johnston," Ann said.

"Oh yes, but he hadn't Mr. Johnston's business capacity.  He was the
despair of those who look for the reality of things in minute-books and
financial statements.  A small audience never troubled him.  Every one
was there that the message was meant for, he sometimes told me.  For
what the world calls success he never craved.  I could see that it was
fine, but it was rather annoying, too."

Ann laughed, and Marget said reminiscently, "It was a braw kirk when we
got it a' pentit and the seats widened, and a choir and organ and

"Yes," said Mrs. Douglas; "gradually the service was brought into line
with present-day ideas.  I confess I was rather sorry, and your father
would have been very pleased to leave it as it was.  He infinitely
preferred the Psalms of David to mere 'human' hymns."

"I should think so," said Ann.  "Imagine singing a chirruppy hymn when
one might sing 'O thou, my soul, bless God the Lord,' to the tune of

"'Deed," said Marget, "a buddy never gets tired o' the psalms; they're
wonderfu' comfortin', but some o' the hymns are ower bairnly even for
bairns.  I've a fair ill-will at that yin aboot 'What can little eyes
do?' but I like fine to sing 'There is a happy land far, far away.'  We
aye sung that on Sabbath nichts when ye were a' wee."

"There's a lot in association," Ann said.  "Words you have loved as a
child have always a glamour over them.  I liked the sound of the
psalms, but I got dreadfully tied up in the hymns.  I always sang:

  'Can a woman's tender care
  Cease towards the child she-bear?'

with the picture in my mind of a dear fubsey bear being petted.  D'you
remember Robbie always chose hymns that mentioned Satan?"

"Ay," Marget said seriously.  "Puir Maister Robbie had aye an awfu'
wark wi' Satan, when he was a wee laddie."

Ann laughed, and, getting up from the fender-stool, went over to the

"Mother," she said, "I promised to ask Mr. Scott over to see our funny
little house.  Would luncheon on Thursday be a suitable sort of time?"


Ann had been writing steadily for nearly an hour.

Her mother, watching her, said:

"I'm afraid, if you write so hard, your brain will go."

Ann, as if glad of the interruption, laid her pen in a china dish,
pushed away the sheets of paper, sighed deeply, and, rising, came over
to the fire.

"I know it will," she said.  "I can feel it doing it.  It's that old
_Life_ of yours--I can't make it sound right.  Sir Walter Raleigh talks
somewhere of men whose true selves are almost completely obscured
beneath their ragged and incompetent speech.  I'm afraid I'm concealing
you completely under my 'ragged and incompetent' words.  If you live to
be ninety, as you threaten, it will be all right; the children will be
able to make their own estimate, but, if they have to depend on my
_Life_, I don't quite know what they'll make of you."

Ann began to laugh in a helpless way.  "It's funny.  I know so well
what impression I want to give, but when I try to write it down it's
just nothing--stilted, meaningless sentences.  I want to make a picture
of Dr. Struthers.  I've been trying for the last hour, labouring in
rowing, covering my brow in wrinkles, with no result.  How would you
describe him?"

Mrs. Douglas thought for a minute.  "It would be difficult to make a
true picture of him.  If you simply told of the views that were his,
how he wouldn't sing a paraphrase, let alone a hymn, and held the
Sabbath day as something that must not be broken, you would give an
impression of narrowness and rigid conservatism that wouldn't at all be
the Dr. Struthers that we knew.  When we heard that the Glasgow church
had a senior minister, we thought it was a drawback; your father rather
wondered how he would comport himself as a 'colleague and successor,'
but we didn't know Dr. Struthers then.  Sometimes, in Glasgow, when we
were inclined to regret Kirkcaple and the flourishing congregation, and
the peaceful time we enjoyed there--but when I say peaceful I mean only
comparatively, no minister's wife ever attains to peace in this
world!--your father would say, 'But if we had stayed in Kirkcaple we
would never have known Dr. Struthers,' and that closed the matter.
When I first met him I thought he was more like some fresh, hearty old
country laird than a parson.  But he was really very frail, and to walk
even a short distance was a great effort.  He had a place about fifty
miles from Glasgow, Langlands, and as long as he was able he came to
preach in Martyrs about once a month.  The old congregation adored to
have him come, but the newcomers, who had no romance about the old man,
thought his sermons much too long.  And they were too long as sermons
go now.  We are not the patient listeners our forefathers were.  Dr.
Struthers once said to me that no man could do justice to a subject
under fifty-five minutes, and we used sometimes to think that he was
done before his allotted time, but he just went on."

"We children dearly loved Dr. Struthers," said Ann; "but we did not
appreciate the length of his sermons.  My friend, Mrs. Smail--the
butcher's wife, you remember?--used to sit with a most forlorn face
while he preached; thinking, I expect, that she would be half an hour
late, and that the numerous young Smails would have fallen in the fire.
Dear me, it's a long time since I thought of Mrs. Smail.  I liked her
very much.  There was a sort of bond of sympathy between us, and she
invited me sometimes to tea-parties where we got tea and cookies and
penny cakes and hot roast beef.  I never learned to appreciate the
combination, but the rest of the company seemed to enjoy it.  I sat
beside one gentleman who, after doing full justice to the meal, wiped
his forehead with a red silk handkerchief, and, turning to me, said, 'A
grand house this for flesh.'  After the 'flesh' we all contributed
songs and recitations--great evenings.  Well, what I mean to say is
that Mrs. Smail represented the new people who were impatient of Dr.
Struthers and impatient of all the old traditions of the church which
the original members clung to with such pathetic loyalty."

"But in time," said Mrs. Douglas, "the new-comers got to see how very
fine the old man was, and everybody was sorry when he got too frail to
preach.  It was quite extraordinary how fond you children were of him,
for he never told you stories or played with you."

"No," said Ann thoughtfully, "he never did anything to make himself
popular.  We didn't expect it any more than we would have expected a
god from Mount Olympus to jest with a mortal.  They say we needs must
love the highest when we see it, but that isn't true; often the highest
simply irritates.  I think it was his simple goodness that made us fond
of him, and a certain understanding and sympathy that he had for bad
children.  And he never talked down to us or became facetious."

Mrs. Douglas nodded.  "I know.  Children like to be taken seriously,
and Dr. Struthers was certainly not given to making fun of them."

Ann clasped her hands round her knees and looked into the fire.

"One thing we liked about the Glasgow Sundays was that we stayed down
in the vestry for lunch.  It was our weekly picnic, and the fact that
it was eaten in the church premises gave a touch of solemnity to the
occasion.  When Dr. Struthers was preaching, we had a more elaborate
meal.  Strong beef-tea was made at home and brought down in a bottle to
be heated, for he was often very exhausted after preaching.  One
never-to-be-forgotten day I was told to watch the pan of beef-tea
heating, and I had evidently begun to dream, for the pan fell into the
fire and the contents were lost.  I felt as badly about it as any of
you, but I only made a sulky face.  I knew it was a real deprivation
for the old man, though he made light of it, and said cocoa would be a
nice change, and I felt very unhappy all through lunch.  There was a
particularly fine orange among some apples on a plate, and you asked
Dr. Struthers to take it, but he looked across at my small sullen face
and said, with that most delightful smile of his, 'I think we must give
this orange to Ann.'  I never forgot the way he did it; the 'pretty and
sweet manner' of it quite conquered me and made me far sorrier for my
carelessness than any scolding would have done.  I don't believe
scoldings ever do any good, only harm."

"Some children," said Mrs. Douglas, "are the better of scoldings.  Mark
always 'took a telling,' but the more you and Robbie were scolded, the
worse you got....  Generally Dr. Struthers stayed with his daughter,
but now and again he stayed with us.  We liked having him, but it made
rather an upheaval in our modest establishment.  You see, he had to
bring his man, Samuel Thomson, with him, and Samuel Thomson was such a
very superior, silver-haired, apple-cheeked gentleman's gentleman, we
could hardly ask him to take his meals in the kitchen, so the boys'
study had to be given up to him.  Davie was very fond of sitting with
him, and I once overhead Samuel Thomson reading aloud to him from the
Bible some Old Testament story, and commenting on what he read.  Those
were grand angels, Master David,' he was saying.  It was the time when
Davie cared for nothing but to be like a jockey."

"'Angels!' he said, 'I thought you were talking about horses,' and he
straddled away in deep disgust."

Ann laughed.  "Davie was very much against all things religious at that
time, and he wouldn't even say his prayers.  Marget used to toil up
from the kitchen to reason with him, and when he heard her coming he
would give a wicked wallop in his bed and say, 'That's Marget comin' to
convert me.'  You know, Mother, in some ways Davie was a much more
abandoned character than we were as children.  We reverenced the
Covenanters, but Davie said he preferred Claverhouse, and most
blasphemously said of John Brown, of Priesthill--he must have got the
expression from Marget--'I think John Brown was a _gey lawd_.'
Speaking of conversion, I think Dr. Struthers was the only person we
didn't mind 'speaking personally' to us.  We realised that he, like
Nehemiah, 'feared the Lord above many.'  When Mark told him he meant to
go to Oxford and then to the Bar, he said, 'Look higher than the
Woolsack, Mark.'  He spoke kindly to Jeanie Tod about her home in
Kirkcaple, and said, 'Do you ever think where you are going?' and I
shall always remember how one day he laid his big soft hand on my
unruly head and said, 'Little Ann, _take Jesus_.'  Do you remember one
day when he was preaching I announced that I had a sore throat and
couldn't possibly go to church, and was allowed to remain at home?  Dr.
Struthers missed me, and asked why I wasn't there, and you--not greatly
believing, I daresay, in the excuse--said I had a sore throat.  Mark
rushed home between services to tell me that Dr. Struthers had prayed
for me in church, prayed that my bodily affliction might pass from me!
Guiltily aware of perfect health--my sore throat hadn't kept me from
eating apples and reading a story-book--I didn't know what awful
consequences the prayer might have.  Anyway, I flew upstairs, flung on
my coat and hat, and was in my place for the afternoon service,
determined to ward off any more petitions on my behalf.  But I was
never frightened for Dr. Struthers after I found he liked adventure
books and didn't even mind the swear words.  He was surely a very rich
man, Mother?  Ministers don't as a rule have places like Langlands, and
man-servants and maid-servants.  A house and a wife, and a stranger
within the gates are about all they ever attain to."

"Yes, he was rich, but I never met anyone who gave one so little an
impression of great possessions.  Having his treasure laid up where
thieves cannot break through and steal, he cared little for the gold of
this world.  He gave largely, but so unobtrusively that it wasn't until
his death that we realised the extent of his givings.  He was the
humblest of men, lowly and a peacemaker."

"Once," said Ann, "Robbie and Jim and I went from Etterick to spend the
day at Langlands.  It was after Mrs. Struthers died, and Miss Calder
kept house.  I somehow think we weren't expected.  There was something
queer about it, anyway, and Miss Calder, although she was kind, as she
always was, looked very worried.  She had some engagement in the
village that morning, so she sent us up the hill to play till luncheon.
We went obediently up the hill, but as soon as we saw Miss Calder walk
down the avenue, back we pranced.  Samuel Thomson saw us, and,
conducting us to the croquet lawn, advised us to have a game.  He
helped us to put out the hoops, and we began to play.  Unfortunately
Robbie and I soon fell into a discussion about the right and wrong way
to play, and I regret to say I kicked Robbie, who at once retaliated,
and the next thing the horrified eyes of Samuel Thornton saw was Robbie
and me hitting one another with croquet mallets.  It was only the
beginning of a thoroughly ill-spent day, and if Dr. Struthers and Miss
Calder hadn't been the most patient and forgiving of people we would
never have been asked back."

"It was odd," said Mrs. Douglas; "but you and Robbie could never behave
properly if you were together.  I wonder I was so rash as to let you go
away for a whole day, and to Langlands of all places.  Its beautiful
tidiness seemed to act on you in a pernicious way.  It was always a
treat to me to go to Langlands.  I enjoyed the beauty and the peace of
it, and it seemed exactly the right setting for Dr. Struthers.  I was
thankful that, when the end came, it came at Langlands, suddenly,
painlessly, and most fittingly on the Sabbath day.  'I am going,' he
said to Samuel Thomson, and in a minute he was gone, almost 'translated

"What a beautiful way to die," said Ann.  "His task accomplished and
the long day done.  Without weariness of waiting, with no pain of
parting, suddenly to find his boat in the harbour and to see his Pilot
face to face."


The arrival of the post was almost the only excitement at Dreams, and
on the days that the Indian and South African mails came, Mrs. Douglas
could do nothing but pore over the precious letters.  She pounced on
them when they arrived, and read them anxiously; after luncheon she
read them again, and in the evening she read them aloud in case she or
Ann had missed a word.

One evening she sat with a pile of letters on her lap, her large
tortoise-shell spectacles on the top of the pile, and said, with a
satisfied sigh:

"This has been a good day--news from all quarters.  I am glad Jim is
having this tour.  He does love to see the world, and to be able to
combine business and pleasure makes a holiday ideal.  Charlotte and
Mark seem to be enjoying their trip greatly, but I can see Charlotte's
thoughts are always with the children.  She says she knows they won't
be missing her, but I think she is wrong.  I dare say they are quite
happy, but they must feel a lack.  Charlotte has such pretty ways with
her children, and I think they realise that they have got rather a
special mother, though Rory says, 'Poor Mummy's English, but we're
Scots.'  I do wonder, Ann, when Rory is going to begin to write better.
This letter is a disgrace, both in writing and spelling, and his school
report said that he cared for nothing but cricket and food."

"What does it matter, Mother?" said Ann comfortably; "he is only nine.
I'm glad he isn't precocious, and I like his staggering little letters.
He said to me once, 'P'r'aps you notice that I always say the same
thing in my letters?'  I said that I had noticed a certain lack of
variety in his statements, and he explained, 'You see, those are the
only words I can spell, and I don't like to ask people.'  It isn't in
the least that he lacks brains.  He knows all sorts of things outside
his ordinary lessons: about the ways of birds and beasts you can't
fickle him; and he reads a lot and has his own ideas about things.  He
hates Oliver Cromwell and all his works.  One day at table some one
mentioned that great man, and Rory's face got pink all over, and he
said, 'I hate him, the sieve-headed brute.'  It was funny to see Mark,
whose admiration for Oliver Cromwell is unbounded, surveying his small
son.  A more unjust accusation was never made, but Rory is a born

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "He ought to write better than he does.
I don't think children are taught properly now.  Have they copy-books?
I used to write copperplate; indeed, I got a prize for writing."

"I know," said Ann, "and one for spelling, and one for dictation, and
one for composition, and one for French.  You used to reel them off to
me when I came home without a single one.  The only prize I got was for
needlework, and I fear it was more by way of a consolation prize than
anything else.  No wonder I feel for poor old Rory.  Alis is more of
your school of thought; she is a clever child."

Mrs. Douglas refused to be optimistic.  "Alis picks things up almost
too easily.  I'm afraid she will be a Jack-of-all-trades.  Did you read
Nannie's letter?  Rob and Davie seem to be thriving.  Charlotte will
find a great difference in the little pair."  Mrs. Douglas put on her
spectacles and took up a letter to read extracts, but Ann caught her

"Not now, Mother, please; we must talk of Glasgow now.  I want to
finish your _Life_ this week and get begun to my Christmas presents.
You'll read the letters to us when Marget and Mysie come in to
prayers....  I wish you would give me your advice, for, after all, it
is your affair.  So far I have drawn your portrait as a very efficient,
very painstaking, and, I fear, very dull minister's wife.  You see,
that side of you is so easy to draw.  But the other side is so much
more _you_.  If I could only write about you as I remember you at home
with us, anxiously doing your best for every one, slaving away with
Sales of Work and Mothers' Meetings, incorrigibly hospitable,
pretending deep and abiding pessimism, but liable at any moment to
break into bursts of delightful nonsense and rash talking--the person
who never talks rashly is a weariness to the flesh--a most excellent
mimic--when you came in from visiting, you made us see the people you
had been seeing--with a rare talent for living..."

Mrs. Douglas laid down her stocking and gasped at her daughter:

"_Ann_!  I don't know what you mean.  There never was a more ordinary
woman, and if you try to make me anything else, you are simply
romancing.  I'm sure you have always said that you would know me for a
minister's wife a mile away."

"In appearance, my dear lady, you are a typical minister's wife, but
your conversation is often a pleasing surprise.  And, oh! surely,
Mother, all ministers' wives don't behave to congregations as you did.
_Given to hospitality_ should be your epitaph.  I remember when we left
Glasgow, Mrs. Nicol, bemoaning to me your going away, said, 'Well,
we'll never get another like her.  Who else would have bothered to have
me and my wild boys in her house?' and I, remembering John and
Mackenzie, could have echoed, '_Who, indeed?_'"

Mrs. Douglas was about to speak, but Ann hurried on:

"No, Mother, don't defend them.  You can't have forgotten that black
day when the Nicol family arrived to spend the afternoon--John and
Mackenzie, ripe for any wickedness.  The house had just been spring
cleaned, and was spotless, and those two boys went through it like an
army with banners.  It was wet, and they couldn't go out to the garden,
and they scoffed at the very idea of looking at picture-books.  They
slid down the banisters, they tobogganed down the white enamelled
stairs, they kicked the paint off the doors.  They broke Davie's
cherished air-gun, and their mother, instead of rebuking them, seemed
to admire their high spirits.  Utterly worn out, I left them to work
their wicked will in the box-room--I thought they would be
comparatively harmless there; but presently we smelt burning, and found
them in your bedroom with the towel-horse on fire.  No man knows how
they accomplished it, for a towel-horse isn't a particularly
inflammable thing, but if I hadn't managed to throw it out of the
window, I believe the house might have been burned down."

Mrs. Douglas laughed, and told her daughter not to exaggerate.

"Mrs. Nicol was a particularly nice woman, and there was nothing wrong
with John and Mackenzie except high spirits.  Mackenzie came to see us
at Priorsford--I think you must have been away from home--such a quiet,
well-mannered young fellow.  Both he and his brother are doing very
well.  The Nicols were mild compared to the Wrights--you remember Phil
and Ronald?"

Ann threw up her hands at the mention of the names.

"The Wrights," she said, "were really the frozen edge.  The only thing
Mrs. Wright had ever been able to teach her offspring was to call her
'Mother dear,' which they did religiously.  Davie was no model, but he
sat round-eyed at the performance of the Wrights when they came to tea.
They mounted on the table and pranced among the butter and jam dishes,
and to all their mother's anguished entreaties to desist they replied,
in the broadest of accents, 'We wull not, Mother dear--we wull not.'
They thought Davie's accent rather finicking--Davie's accent which at
that stage was a compound of low Glasgow and broad Linlithgow picked up
from the nursemaid--and asked, 'Is Davie English, Mother dear?'

"'No, no, darlings' (Mrs. Wright's own accent was all that there was of
the most genteel), 'he only speaks nicely.'  Marget used to shake her
head over the Wrights and say, 'Eh, I say, thae bairns need a guid

"Yes," said Mrs. Douglas; "but the last time I saw the Wright boys they
were the most glossy-looking creatures--you know the kind of young men
whose hair looks unnaturally bright and whose clothes fit almost too
well; don't you call them 'knuts'?--with supercilious manners and
Glasgow-English voices, and I rather yearned for the extremely bad but
quite unaffected little boys they once had been."

"I know; one often regrets the 'lad that is gone.'  Boys are like pigs,
they are nicest when they are small.  Talking of the Wrights reminds me
of a children's party we once gave, to which you invited a missionary's
little girl, and two black boys.  You had never seen them and thought
they would be quite tiny, and when they came they were great strong
creatures with _pointed teeth_.  Somebody told us they had teeth like
that because they were cannibals, and, after hearing that, it was a
nightmare evening.  We played hide-and-seek, and every one screamed
with terror when caught by the poor black boys.  It was terrible to see
them eating sandwiches at supper and reflect on what they would have
_liked_ to eat."

"Oh, Ann!  The poor innocents!  They weren't cannibals; they were
rescued by the missionaries when they were babies.  But I must say I
was rather alarmed when I saw how big they were.  They didn't realise
their own strength, and I was afraid they might hurt some of the little
ones.  I spent an anxious evening, too."

"Mother," said Ann, leaning forward with her elbows on her knees and
her face supported in her two hands, "you were dreadfully given to
spoiling the look of my parties.  The boys didn't mind, but I was a
desperate little snob.  It seemed impossible for me to have the kind of
party other girls had, with all the children prettily dressed, and
dancing, and a smart supper.  At the last moment you were always
discovering some child who was crippled and didn't get any fun, or some
one who hadn't a proper party frock and hadn't been asked to any
parties.  You told them it didn't matter what they wore to our house,
and insisted on their coming--'compelled them to come in.'  Oh, you
were a real 'highways and hedges person'!  As a matter of fact, it
wasn't at all kind to ask those children.  They felt out of it and
unhappy, no matter how much one tried.  If you had asked them when
there wasn't a party, and they could have had all the attention, it
would have been infinitely better."

"Oh, I dare say," said Mrs. Douglas.  "I've spent my life doing
impulsive things and regretting them.  But, Ann, though you laugh at me
about having so many people to the house, the trouble we took was
nothing compared to the pleasure it gave.  In our church there were so
many who needed encouragement: single women fighting for a living and
coming home after a long day's work to cook their supper over a
gas-ring were glad at times to get a well-cooked and daintily served
meal, with people to talk to while they ate; and mothers cooped up in
tiny flats with noisy children liked to walk to a green suburb, and get
tea and home-made scones and jam; and it does make a difference to boys
from the country, living in lodgings, if they know there is some house
they can go to whenever they like."

"True, my dear, true, and I don't suppose you ever denied yourself to
anyone, no matter how tired, or ill, or grieved you were feeling.  You
welcomed them all with 'gently smiling jaws.'  Do you remember the only
occasion on which we said 'Not at home'?  We had been at the church
hall all afternoon preparing it for a church 'At Home' and had just
come in for tea and a short rest, with the prospect of three hours'
solid smiling later in the evening.  When I found the housemaid going
to answer the door-bell I hissed at her, 'Say not at home,' and by
sheer bad luck the caller turned out to be a minister's wife from a
distance, who had depended on being warmed and fed at our house.  She
had gone home cold and tealess and, as a consequence, got a bad chill,
and we felt so guilty about it we trailed away to see her, and on
hearing she had a sale of work in prospect--when has a minister's wife
not a sale of work in prospect?--we felt bound to send her a handsome
contribution.  I sadly sacrificed on the altar of remorse some pretty
silver things I had brought from India, feeling it an expensive
pleasure to say 'Not at home.'  But of course you are right.  Now that
it is all over and we have long hours to read and write and think long
thoughts, it is nice to feel that you helped a lot of people over rough
bits of the road and didn't think of how tired it made you."

Mrs. Douglas looked at her daughter with unsmiling eyes.  "Do you know
what I feel?" she asked.  "I feel that I have done nothing--_nothing_.
All the opportunities I was given, I can see now how I missed them;
while I was busy here and there, they were gone.  And I grumbled when I
trudged down to the sewing-class on Monday nights, leaving all you
children.  I used sometimes to envy the mothers who had no kirk, and no
meetings, and could spend their evenings at home.  I had to be out so
many nights of the week.  No wonder poor little Davie said, 'I wish I
had a mother who didn't go to meetings.'  And it was such a long way
home.  Standing shivering in the wind and rain at the corner of Bridge
Street, waiting for a car, I wondered if there would ever come a time
when I would sit at my ease in the evenings with no late meetings to
bother about.  I didn't know how blessed I was.  'The Almighty was
still with me, and my children were about me.'  How could I know when I
yearned for ease and idleness that when I got them I should sit bereft,
and ask nothing better than the old hard-working days back----"

Ann said nothing for a minute, but sat scribbling on a corner of her
paper; then she looked at her mother, and her eyes were half sad, half

"It's an odd thing, Motherkin, that only very good people feel their
own shortcomings.  Now, I, covered as with a garment by sins of
omission and commission, am quite perky and well pleased with myself.
I walk on my heels and think what a noble creature I am, and how much
people must admire me.  Try being complacent, my dear, for a change!
It's much more comfortable.  You know, Mother, you should have been a
Roman Catholic, then you could have worn a hair shirt, and done all
sorts of little penances and kept yourself happy."

"Oh, Ann!"  Mrs. Douglas gave a laugh that was almost a sob.  "You do
talk such utter nonsense, but you look at me with your father's eyes..."

"Well, what I want is to get some information about the Glasgow part of
your life.  You started a lot of new things, didn't you, in connection
with the church?"

"Oh yes, a sewing-class and a mother's meeting, and a fellowship
meeting and a literary society--I forget what else, but they were all
more or less successful.  Martyrs people were delightful to work
with--so appreciative."

"And very amusing," said Ann; "I always enjoyed their remarks about
things.  I overheard one young man say, as he wiped his heated brow
after a thoroughly unventilated evening spent looking at magic-lantern
slides of various mission stations--'My!  I'm fair sweatin' comin'
through thae Tropics.'  We always called him 'Tropics' after that.
What they thoroughly enjoyed was being asked to our house.  It wasn't
till I grew up that I appreciated those parties, but I very distinctly
remember some you gave at the time of your silver wedding to let every
one see the presents.  We tried to assort the people--young men and
women in the evening, and matrons in the afternoon.  It wasn't always
easy to find suitable topics to converse on with the matrons, but one
afternoon some one started the subject of washing clothes, and it
called forth a perfect flood of eloquence.  Every one had something to
say, and we thrashed out the subject from the first stage of soaking
the clothes until they were starched and ironed and put away.  There
didn't seem to be one more word that could be said about it when the
arrival of some newcomers made rearranging the room necessary.  As I
moved about, I saw one woman hitch her chair nearer her neighbour and
heard her say thrillingly, 'Speakin' aboot washing, Mrs. Law, did ye
ever try----'  It became a favourite saying with us.  When Robbie
wanted to change the subject he always began, 'Speakin' aboot washing,
Mistress Law----'"


When Mr. Philip Scott came to lunch at Dreams he stayed a long time--so
long that Marget remarked to Mysie in the kitchen, "That man is surely
het at hame that he's sittin' here so long clatterin'."

He had had a good lunch, had been shown the house and what would be the
garden, had walked with Ann a little way along the hill road and duly
admired the view, and had then returned to the living-room, where he
sat talking and listening till tea was brought in, stayed for an hour
after tea, and even then had seemed loath to go away.

"Well," said Mrs. Douglas, when the guest had at last departed, "it's a
blessing there is a moon--and that he knows the hill road well.  It
will take him all his time to be at Birkshaw in time for dinner."

"You shouldn't have made yourself so agreeable, Mother.  He couldn't
bear to leave your interesting conversation."

"As to that," said Mrs. Douglas, "it does one good to see a man
sometimes and hear a man's talk."

"Mother," laughed Ann, "you dearly love a man, and you have all the
Victorian woman's reliance on a man's opinion.  You love doing things
for their benefit; you positively _pander_ to them."

Mrs. Douglas refused to be abashed by this accusation.

"Well, why not?  I think men are the lords of creation, and I do like
them to have the best of everything.  I like the old-fashioned way of
doing everything for one's men-folk--seeing that their bags are
properly packed and their clothes kept in perfect order.  I can't bear
the modern way of letting a man look after himself; it is so nice to
feel that one's men are dependent on one for their comfort."

Ann groaned and, sitting down on the rug pulled the Tatler into her lap.

"Cat, d'you hear that?  Lords of creation, indeed!  Those are your
sentiments, too, aren't they?"

The Tatler blinked sleepily, and stuck his claws into Ann's arm.

Ann pushed him away and got up.  "Ah yes, Mother, I know you of old.  I
didn't mind running errands for Father when he came in tired, but I did
resent being told: 'Run and pack Mark's bag.'  'Get Robbie a clean
handkerchief----'  That was 'fair ridiculous!''

"Yes, but, on the other hand, the boys were always being told, 'Give it
to Ann; she's the girl.'  You were utterly spoiled, and there's one
thing, Ann, I must ask you.  When I'm asking a blessing for tea, don't
go on filling cups."

"But I don't," Ann said indignantly, "though what you want with a
blessing for tea, I don't know.  Nobody I ever heard of has a blessing
for tea except Miss Barbara, and I generally had taken a large bite out
of a scone before she began, and it lay on my plate and looked at me
reproachfully.  Poor Mr. Scott spoke right through your blessing
to-day; he didn't know what you were doing."

Mrs. Douglas sighed deeply.  "Ah, well, Ann, I don't suppose I'll be
with you very long to worry you with my old-fashioned ways."

"Oh, Mother, that's not fair.  You're hitting below the belt."

"But you may be away first," continued Mrs. Douglas, "and then I shall
be left to regret."

"Well, then," said Ann flippantly, "we'll arrange that neither of us
will regret anything.  You and Mr. Scott made great friends, Mother.
He has very nice manners, hasn't he?"

Mrs. Douglas laid down _Hours of Silence_, which she had taken up to
begin her evening's reading, and removed the large spectacles which
made her look like a little owl.

"I liked him, Ann.  There is something very likeable about him.  He
reminded me just a little of Robbie."

"I wondered if that would strike you," Ann said.  "It isn't that there
is any resemblance, but he has some of Robbie's ways....  He was
tremendously interested about your _Life_, Mother, so I gave him what I
had written to look over.  Oh, you needn't feel hurt about it.  It's
only that he may give me some advice.  He writes himself, you know.  As
you say, it is nice to talk to a man again--one's own kind of man.  Mr.
Sharp is a dear, but it isn't much fun making conversation with him."

There was silence in the room as Mrs. Douglas began to read her evening
portion out of each of her many volumes, and Ann sat watching the
flames leap, and thinking, thinking.

"Mother," she said suddenly, "you said a little while ago that I was
spoiled as a child, but I wasn't.  Dear me, I was a regular burden
bearer, and Mark christened me 'The Patient Cuddy'!  You see, I was
hampered with always having a small brother to lug about; I could never
harden my heart enough to leave them at home.  An only girl in a family
of brothers has really a harassed existence.  It would have been
different if Rosamund had lived.  She was too tiny to come into our
games, though she meant a great deal to us--much more than we realised."

Mrs. Douglas laid down her book.  "She loved being allowed to play with
you," she said, "and you were good about making games that she could
join in.  But, somehow, she was more a companion to her father and me
than your playfellow.  For one thing, she shared your father's love of
gardening.  The rest of you helped sometimes in the garden, but you
always let it be seen that it was a penance.  You hardly knew one
flower from another, and you sped like arrows from a bow whenever you
were released.  But Rosamund trotted about happily for hours, utterly
contented to be with her father and the flowers.  We used often to say
to each other, your father and I, how different she was to you and the
boys.  You were healthy, ordinary children who never thought of saying
pretty things to your parents or anyone else.  You found the world so
full of a number of things that your days were passed in a sort of
breathless investigation.  Rosamund was a revelation to us.  She was
rather dignified and aloof with strangers, but for her own people her
heart was a treasure-house of love.  I never knew of so young a child
having such strong yet discerning affections.  She wasn't in the least
priggish; indeed, she could be naughty in a peculiarly impish way, and
you children were always teaching her rude expressions, which she used
to Marget, who adored her, but all Marget said was, 'D'ye think I'm
gaun to quarrel wi' you, impident little thing that ye are?'  She and
Marget were great friends, and there was nothing she liked better than
to help Marget work, and bake little dough rabbits with currants for
eyes.  The big black cat--christened by Mark, 'William Tweezer, Earl of
Scullery'--superintended operations, and Marget would say to him when
he got in the way, 'Awa' oot and play yersel', Weellum, like a man.'
We had a game that the fairy Whuppetie Stourie hid in the nursery
chimney and when little girls were good laid a present on the
hearth-rug.  I didn't realise it was all real to her until Jeanie Tod
set the chimney on fire, and Rosamund, with a white face, sobbed,
'Jeanie, you forget I've a friend up there.'  I can hear her voice now."

"How you remember, Mother.  I wish I could!  I can see her still, but I
can't hear her voice.  You see, I was only about thirteen when she
died, and children forget so soon.  I can remember looking down into
her face and thinking that her eyes were like violets; and I remember a
little white dress trimmed with 'flowering,' and a blue cloak with a
hood.  I remember at breakfast-time she used to walk round the table
and ask for tops of eggs.  She only got a whole egg on Sundays, and she
never forgot to pray, 'Bless my whole egg next Sabbath day.'  She was a
very happy child.  I think she enjoyed the little short time she had in
the world, but she was very shy and timid, wasn't she?  You remember,
when Mrs. Lang asked her to a tea-party alone, it quite preyed on her
mind?  The day of the party she summoned up courage to ring the Langs'
bell, but when the servant came she had no words.  Three times she rang
the bell without being able to give a message, and the third time Mrs.
Lang came herself and said, 'Now, Rosamund, you are a naughty child,
and you must not ring the bell again until it is time for the party.'
Poor little Rosamund crept away without ever being able to explain that
all she wanted to ask was that I might go with her!  Rather unlike
Robbie, when Mark and I were invited to a party, and he called at the
house to ask if there had been any mistake that he hadn't been invited."

"Dear Robbie," said Mrs. Douglas, then fell silent.  In a little she
spoke again:

"Christmas to me, even now, always seems Rosamund's time.  It is odd to
think that she was only with us for five short years, and she has been
away more than twenty, and yet the thought of her is always with me.
She lives to me so vividly that it seems only yesterday that it all
happened.  As Christmas drew near, you were all excited, but Rosamund
seemed utterly possessed with the spirit of the season.  She wanted to
give presents to every one she knew, and couldn't understand why any
limit should be put to the size of our Christmas party.  She loved
dolls--unlike you, Ann, who never knew how to hold a doll!--and I
dressed her two great big ones for her fourth Christmas, a wax one
called Muriel, and Black Sam.  Old Mrs. Hamilton in the church made her
a wonderful rag-doll, as big as a baby, with arms and legs complete,
only the face had a gruesome lack of profile.  I dressed up like Father
Christmas and brought all the presents into the room in a big basket,
and made speeches as I gave them out, and Rosamund was speechless with
delight.  She could hardly tell me about it when I came into the room a
few minutes later, and her great regret was that I had happened to be
out of the room; she thought it was such bad luck for me.  When she was
dying she said, 'When Father Christmas comes this year, tell him you
have no Rosamund, and ask him to give my presents to Ann.'"

Ann moved quickly in her chair, and busied herself for a little in
putting some papers in order.  Then she burst out, "Why did she die,
Mother?  What made her ill?"

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "Ah, my dear!  We have these treasures in
earthen vessels.  I suppose the time had come for us to give her back.
It began so simply.  She was a very healthy child and rarely ailed
anything, but one day she got her feet wet playing in the snow, and
that brought on a slight chill.  It seemed to be nothing, and passed,
but after that we noticed her droop a little.  I didn't get the doctor
at once, for I had so often got him on false pretences, and I knew he
thought me an absurdly anxious mother, and when he came I was quite
apologetic, expecting to be told I had been fussing again.  But he
didn't make light of it.  He said it was slight gastric fever, and she
must go to bed.  That was in February.  She seemed to get over it
quickly, and was soon up and playing as busily as ever, but we noticed
that she got tired.  We had never heard the child own to being tired
before, and it chilled our hearts to see her go and sit down quietly in
her little chair.  Then we found that her temperature had begun to rise
in the afternoon.  In the morning it was subnormal, but as the day
advanced it crept up.  We got one specialist after another, but no one
seemed able to stop the horrible creeping fever.  It was a very hard
winter; the snow lay on the ground well into March, and I used to sit
with Rosamund on my knee at the window while you children built
snow-men to amuse her.  There were some little wild kittens that had
been turned out of their home in a stable, and Rosamund worried about
them, so you built a little house for them of orange boxes in the
shrubbery and made it very cosy with a bit of old carpet.  She could
watch them creep in and get warm.  On your walks you always went to the
streets so that you might glue your faces to shop windows and decide
what your scraped-together pennies would buy for Rosamund."

"I know," said Ann.  "One day, to my joy, I found in a small grocer's
shop tiny pots of jam and marmalade that cost one penny each, and
Rosamund loved them for her dolls' tea-parties.  If we could find
anything to interest or amuse her, we were so proud.  At first she was
able to have us play quietly with her, then she began not to be able to
walk about, and Mark carried her round the garden to look at the
snowdrops and crocuses.  We never owned to ourselves or each other that
she wouldn't recover.  We said, 'Rosamund will be all right when the
spring comes,' but the spring came----  Mother, it must have been
terrible for you to see the spring flowers come and your little
Rose-of-the-world fade."

Mrs. Douglas covered her eyes for a minute with a hand that shook, but
when she spoke her voice was steady.

"It was the most beautiful spring and summer that I think I ever
remember, and we all went away to Etterick in April.  It seemed that
the sun and the fresh winds and the quiet of the hills must heal, and
at first she did seem to improve.  But it was only for a little.  The
dreaded fever returned, and every Monday, when your father came back
from preaching in Glasgow, he knew her to be losing.  She liked being
out all the time, and our days were spent by the burnside or on the
hills.  We had an old pony and a low basket carriage which she found
comfortable, and we sometimes drove by the banks of the Tweed until we
came to some place which she liked specially, when we would lift her
out into a nest of cushions and she could sit and listen to the voice
of the Tweed as it slipped past.  And we had lunch with us, and the
boys fished, and you read aloud fairy-tales, and we were almost happy
in spite of the cloud that covered us....  She had her 'well days' and
her 'ill days,' but she never complained; indeed, I think her patience
was almost the hardest thing to bear.  One day she said to me, 'I'm
talking to Whuppetie, Mother.  I talk to God when I'm ill and to
Whuppetie when I'm well.'  The year before, her great joy had been to
go to the water meadow, where the banks of the ditch were blue with
forget-me-nots.  I had always avoided the place in her illness, and she
had never asked to be taken; but one day, when we were driving past, we
heard the little Crichton girls say to their mother, 'Come after us
when you're ready, Mummy; we're going down to the water meadow to get
forget-me-nots.'  Rosamund turned and looked at me, and there was such
utter sadness in her eyes that my heart seemed as if it must break....
One very lovely day in June we had been out till quite late, for she
wanted to see the sunset.  It was so wonderful in its rose and gold and
amethyst that Rosamund, looking with wistful eyes into the glory, said
that she thought she could see the twelve gates, every gate a pearl.
The beauty seemed to comfort her, but she said to me: 'Mother, if you
could only go with me!  If there are twelve gates, how shall I know
which one to watch for you at?' ... Mark carried her up to bed that
night, and you all sat about on the floor for a little, talking and
laughing, and she smiled at you happily while she sipped her milk.  It
was a very hot night, and a corn-crake was calling in a hayfield near
the window.  Rosamund slept a little, and woke about three.  I sponged
her face and hands to cool her, and put lavender water on her pillows;
the windows were wide open, but she seemed to be breathless.  Her
father heard us moving, and came in from the dressing-room, and
Rosamund held out her hands to him.  The dawn was beginning to break,
and he said, 'The night has passed, darling; it is morning.'  She
nodded.  'There's that corn-crake corn-craking yet,' she said, and then
she gave a little cry.  I caught her in my arms, and her head fell on
my breast like a dead bird's...."


With the last days of November winter descended with real earnest on
the Green Glen.  For thirty-six hours snow fell, blotting out the
paths, piling great drifts in the hollows, making the high road almost
level with the tops of the hedges.  The carts from the shops, the
butcher, the baker, the grocer, had to remain in the town, the postman
could not come near, Mr. Sharp stayed snugly in his Manse, and Dreams
was entirely cut off from the rest of the world.

When the frost came, hardening the snow, Ann got out her toboggan and
spent glorious hours flying down the hillside and toilful ones dragging
the toboggan up again.  Glowing with health and self-satisfaction, she
came in in the frosty twilight, to drink tea and upbraid her mother for
electing to remain by the fire.

"How can you frowst by the fire, Mother, when you might be out looking
at the most glorious sunset and drinking in great draughts of air that
is like champagne?  What?  Cold?  Not a bit, once you are out; indeed,
I was almost too warm.  The mistake about tobogganing is that the rush
down is so short and the toil up so long.  I must demand, like the
Irishman, that all roads be either level or downhill.  What a delicious
muffin this is!  May I have the jam?"

Ann rose to get herself another cup of tea, and looked out of the
window on the way.  "It's bitter hard to-night--you know the frost is
very severe when the snow creaks.  'Hech, sirs, it's winter fairly.'
Do come and look out, Mother.  It's glorious being in Dreams in
snow--like living in the heart of a crystal."

Mrs. Douglas shivered as she looked out at the waste of snow.  "Draw
the curtains, Ann, and shut it out.  I never did like snow: cold,
unfriendly stuff, making everything uncomfortable, blocking roads and
killing sheep and delaying trains; and when it goes away, burst pipes
and dripping misery.  But you children always loved it.  At Kirkcaple,
when it came, you were out before breakfast snowballing the milkman."

Ann finished her tea and lay back in her chair regarding her mother,
who was finishing her "reading" for the day, taking sips of tea and
reading _Golden Grain_ at the same time.

"Mother," said Ann, "did you ever give yourself good times?  You began
your married life without a honeymoon, and I'm afraid you continued on
the same principle.  I don't seem to remember that you ever got rid of
us all and had a real holiday alone with Father."

Mrs. Douglas finished what she was reading and laid the little book on
the pile before she answered her daughter.  Then she took off her
spectacles and took up her cup of tea, and said:

"Oh yes; when Jim was a baby we went to London for a fortnight to stay
with an uncle and aunt of your father's.  Don't you remember them?
Uncle John and Aunt John, we always called them--why, I don't know.
Uncle John was rather old when he married, and had a weak heart, and
Aunt John warned me that it was safer not to contradict him.  Not that
it would have entered into my head to do such a thing.  I was in too
great awe of them both.  They were a handsome couple, and Uncle John
had a pair of trousers for every day of the week--shepherd-tartan ones
for Sunday.  Aunt was very tall, with a Roman nose, her hair parted at
one side, and was always richly dressed in silks that rustled.

"They were devoted to each other, and made such a touching pair of
middle-aged lovers, coquetting with each other in a way that amazed us,
staid married people that we were--I suppose I was about
five-and-twenty then.  I overheard Aunt say to Uncle one day when she
came in with a new hat: 'How do you like my _chapeau_, Jackie?' and
always at breakfast she greeted him with a resounding kiss, as if she
had never set eyes on him from the night before.  We must have been a
great nuisance to them, such a countrified couple as we were.  Your
father was always fit to go anywhere, but I must have been a quaint
figure, in a lavender dress trimmed with ruching, and a black silk
dolman and a lavender bonnet.  They were the efforts of the little
dressmaker in Kirkcaple, one of our church members, and we had thought
them almost alarmingly smart in the parlour behind the shop; but when I
saw myself reflected in long mirrors and shop windows, I had my doubts."

Ann sat forward in her chair, her eyes alight with interest.

"I had forgotten about the London visit.  Had you a good time?  Were
they kind to you?"

"They were kindness itself.  Every morning Uncle planned out things for
us to do, and arranged that we should lunch somewhere with him--that
was to save our pockets.  And Aunt's housekeeping seemed to me on a
scale nothing short of magnificent.  When I went marketing with her it
thrilled me to see her buy salmon and turbot as I might have bought
'penny haddies,' and she seemed to me to give a dinner-party every
night.  And the servants were such aloof, superior creatures.  It was
all very awe-inspiring to me, a timorous little country mouse."

Ann laughed.  "'Wee modest crimson-tippit beastie,' as Charlotte
renders Burns.  But tell me what you saw, Mother.  All the sights, I am
sure.  But did you do anything exciting?"

"Oh yes.  We went to hear Spurgeon, and one evening Uncle took us to
the Crystal Palace and we saw fireworks."

Ann hooted.  "Mother, you are a pet!  I asked you if you had done
anything exciting--meaning had you seen Ellen Terry and Irving and
heard Patti sing--and you tell me you heard Spurgeon and went to
fireworks at the Crystal Palace!"

"I don't see why you should laugh," Mrs. Douglas said, rather
affronted.  "These were the things we liked to do.  At least, I think
what your father really liked best was to poke about in the old
book-shops, and he did enjoy the good food.  I liked it all, but the
going home was best of all.  I had felt very small and shabby in
London, but when we came off that long night journey and found you all
waiting for us as fresh as the morning, you and Mark and Robbie and
Jim, I felt the richest woman in the world.  I quite sympathised with
the mother of the Gracchi, though before I had always thought her
rather a fool."

"Yes," Ann said profoundly.  "Sometimes things you have read and
thought merely silly suddenly become true--and did the London fortnight
last you a long time?"

"The next summer I had my trunk packed to go with your father to
Switzerland, but at the last moment I found I couldn't leave you, and
he had to go alone.  It was very silly, but, anyway, I always saw that
he had a good holiday, and I was happy with you children at Etterick.
But as you grew older and went away to school I often got away for a
little.  One great ploy was to go to the Assembly; sometimes we stayed
with people, but we greatly preferred to have rooms in a Princes Street
hotel.  I don't mean to _lichtly_ people's hospitality, but it is a
relief when you come in tired not to have to put on a bright,
interested expression and tell your hostess all about it."

"I do so agree," said Ann; "'a bright, interested expression' is far
too often demanded of ministers' wives and families.  What a joy to
scowl and look listless at a time.  You know, Mums, a manse is a
regular school for diplomatists.  It is a splendid training.  One
learns to talk to and understand all sorts of people--just think what
an advantage that gives one over people who have only known intimately
their own class!  And you haven't time to think about yourself; you are
so on the alert to avoid hurting anyone's feelings.  You have to try
and remember the affairs of each different member, how many children
they possess, and all about them, and be careful to ask at the right
moment for the welfare of each.  To say to a very stout lady living
alone, 'Are you all well?' savours of impertinence....  Yes, well, you
went to a hotel to avoid having to look 'bright and interested,' wise
people; and what did you do there?"

"But, Ann," Mrs. Douglas protested, having been struck with her
daughter's remarks on her early training, "you spoke as if you were
brought up to be hypocrites, and I'm sure that is the very last thing
your father and I wanted you to be----"

"Oh, well," said Ann lightly, "the best people are all more or less
hypocrites.  The world would be a most unpleasant place if we had
all--like Lo, the poor Indian--untutored minds and manners.  Honesty is
sometimes almost a crime, and the man who feels it necessary to speak
what he is pleased to call his mind in season and out of season is a
public nuisance.  Hold your peace if you have nothing pleasant to say.
People need encouraging far oftener than you think; even bumptious
people are often only bumptious because they are uncertain of
themselves.  As the White Queen said, 'A little kindness and putting
their hair in curl papers' would work wonders for them.  But I don't
know why I am chattering like a swallow when what I want is to hear
about you and Father at the Assembly."

Mrs. Douglas had taken up her knitting, and with a happy smile on her
face and her fingers working busily she said:

"I remember one particularly happy Assembly.  Davie was about five, and
you were at home to keep things right, so my mind was quite at ease,
and I had got a smart new coat and skirt--black, trimmed with grey
cloth and braided, and a black hat with grey feathers."

"A most ministerial outfit," said Ann, making a face.  "I would rather
have seen you in the lavender and the dolman."

"It was very suitable for a minister's wife, and it must have been
becoming, for almost every one we met said I looked so young, and that
pleased your father, though, of course, it was nonsense.  We were in a
mood to enjoy everything--those May mornings when we came down to
breakfast, hungry and well and eager for a new day, and sat at a little
table in a bow window looking out on the Castle, and ate fresh herring
'new cam' frae the Forth,' and bacon and eggs and hot rolls."

Mrs. Douglas stopped and said solemnly:

"Ann, if I had a lot of money, do you know what I would do?  I would
send fifty pounds anonymously to all the ministers--not, of course, to
those with big stipends, and certainly not to the ones with rich
wives--to let the minister and his wife have a week at the Assembly.
It would pay their fare and hotel bill, and leave something over to
shop with.  Dear me, I wonder rich people don't give themselves a good
time by doing happy things like that."

"It's a game that never palls," Ann said; "planning what you would do
if you got a sudden fortune.  I'm quite sure the real owners of riches
don't get half as much pleasure out of their wealth as the paupers who
have it only in dreams.  And what followed after the large breakfast?
Did you spend the whole day in the assembling of yourselves together?
Attending the Assembly is like some sort of insidious drug: the more
you do it, the more you want to do it.  Since I have been your
companion at its deliberations I have found that I can sit in it quite
happily for hours.  You wouldn't miss the Assembly week for a lot even
now, would you?  It is odd how the sight of ministers in the mass seems
to do you good.  Absolutely you get quite sleek by merely looking at
them.  Do you remember when you were so very ill in London you kept
worrying Sir Armstrong to know if you would be better for the Assembly,
and the poor doctor said to Mark, 'Your mother is very anxious to go to
some assembly; but she _couldn't dance_?'"

Mrs. Douglas laughed and then sighed.  "I enjoy it still," she said;
"but the Assembly Hall is a place of ghosts to me now.  There are so
few of the faces that once I knew.  I look up at my old place in the
Ladies' Gallery--I never aspired to the Moderator's Gallery in those
days.  I always sat in the same seat, and then your father knew where
to look up and smile to me during debates.  I often sat very nervous,
for he had a dreadful way of always being on the wrong side--I mean by
that the unpopular side--and it wasn't nice for me to hear him shouted
at.  I thought he cared far too little for what people thought; he had
no interest in which way the cat was going to jump; he never thought of
taking the safe course simply because it was safe and would pay best.
I remember after one stormy debate in which he had held the most
unpopular view a lady beside me said, 'Can you tell me who that
unpleasant minister is?' and I said, 'I think he comes from Glasgow.'
But my sins found me out almost at once, for, on his way out to vote,
your father stood and grinned up at me, looking like a mischievous
schoolboy who knows he's going to get a row, and I had to smile at
him--and the lady beside me glared at us both suspiciously."

"It was odd," said Ann, "that in public he was such a fighter, for in
his home life, if ever man carried in his right hand gentle peace, it
was my Father.  There was a time, when Mark and I first grew up, that
we thought we knew infinitely more about everything in heaven and earth
than our parents.  There was a time when Father's beliefs filled me
with a kind of tender scorn: they were so hopelessly out of date.  I
used to argue with him in my pert way that Free Will and Election could
not be reconciled, and he would reply, with a twinkle, 'Ann, I
sometimes think you are a very ignorant creature.  Give me another cup
of tea.'  I remember Father's _innocence_ amused us very much.  He was
so far away from the ugliness and the vulgarity and the idiotic
smartness of modern life.  He once heard Robbie singing an absurd song,
and asked him to repeat the words--I forget what they were, something
very silly and rather funny about:

  'How often to myself I've said,
  Cheer up, Cully, you'll soon be dead,
  A short life but a gay one.'

Father listened and said gravely, 'If the wretched fellow had had any
hope of an after life...'

"And we said, 'Isn't Father _quaint_!'"

"And when he was no longer there to stand up for his old-fashioned
beliefs there wasn't one of us but would have died gladly for those
same beliefs because they had been his....  When Robbie got the cable
of his death he wrote from India: 'The best man in Scotland is
gone--now he knows what his beliefs meant to all of us'; and Davie,
that advanced young thinker, once came back from hearing a preacher of
renown, and said fiercely, 'No, I didn't like him.  He _sneered at the
Shorter Catechism_.'"


"Here's a nice state of things," said Ann.

"Is anything wrong?" asked her mother.

"Well, I don't know whether you would call it wrong or right.  Mr.
Philip Scott sends me back my MS., with his criticism of it.  I agree
with most of the things he says: my language is too incorrigibly noble,
my quotations _are_ very frequent----"

"But if they're good quotations," Mrs. Douglas interrupted.

"Oh, they're good quotations.  'It was the best butter,' as the poor
March Hare said.  But what he objects to most is the sweetness of it.
He says, 'Put more acid into it.'"

"Into me, does he mean?"

"I suppose so.  Mr. Scott evidently finds you insipid.  We must change
that at once.  Tell me, now, about all the people you hated and who
hated you."

Mrs. Douglas looked bewildered, and more than a little indignant.
"Nonsense, Ann.  I'm sure I'm very glad to hear you have made me
sweet--anything else would have been most undutiful; and as for hating
people, I never was any good at that.  I couldn't keep up grudges,
though I was sometimes very angry at people.  I dare say it was a
weakness in my nature.  But I think, if Mr. Scott is to be allowed to
criticise, I might be allowed to read my own _Life_."

"It's so _dull_," said Ann, looking discontentedly at the MS.  "And
you're not a dull woman, Mother!  Rather a comic, really.  See, read
for yourself."

Ann plumped the packet on to her mother's lap and retired to the
fender-stool with the _Times_; but she could hardly have done justice
to the leaders, for her eyes often wandered from the printed page to
the expressive face of her mother reading her own _Life_.

For half an hour Ann waited; then her patience gave out, and she leant
forward and put her hand across the page.

"That's enough, Mums.  Surely you can tell me now how you think it

Mrs. Douglas smiled at her daughter.  "Why did you do that?  I'm
enjoying it immensely, and----"

"Oh, if anybody could find it interesting, you would; but don't you
find it rather stilted?"

"Not stilted exactly, but if you would write in a more homely way, it
might be better.  Take the reader more into your confidence.  I'm not
clever enough to explain quite what I mean; but I think you are writing
from the outside, as it were.  Try to be more--is subjective the word I
want?  And don't say too much about me.  After all, my life was my
husband and the children.  Write about your father and the boys.  Never
were brothers more loved by a sister.  As for Davie--you brought him

Ann's eyes filled suddenly with tears, but in a minute she said lightly:

"You see, Mother, Mr. Scott asks what I am working up to in this _Life_
of yours; how am I going to finish it, he wants to know.  I hadn't
thought of that.  I was just going to leave loose ends--like life.  I
suppose there ought to be something--some idea that binds the whole
thing together.  Oh, it is all too difficult.  I'd better burn all that
I've written, and start again in an entirely new way.  How would it do
to put your life into scenes?  The young girl in a royal blue silk
dress and a locket and a black velvet ribbon, meeting her future
husband.  The wedding.  A nursery scene--very effective this!--and then
we might have scenes from your church life--you holding a Mothers'
Meeting or a Girls' Club, or your first address to the Fellowship
meeting.  Do you remember you began (as you begin most things) with a
deep sigh, and it sounded rather like _Hooch_, and Robbie said you
reminded him of Harry Lauder?"  Ann chuckled at the recollection, and
her mother said:

"No wonder I was nervous.  It was a great ordeal to speak before you
scoffing young things.  No; I don't like the idea of 'scenes.'  I
prefer it as it is.  How far are you on?"

"I've got us all at school, and I was going to write about Davie being
born.  It was the summer after Rosamund died, wasn't it?  I was at
school when I got the news, and some of the girls condoled with me, and
said a new baby in the house would be a dreadful nuisance, and I
pretended to be bored by the prospect, when really I could hardly
contain my excitement.  I had to get home for a week-end to see him."

"Poor little baby, to think that we were actually disappointed when he
came.  We had wanted another girl so much, and a fourth boy seemed
rather unnecessary.  Of course that was only at the very beginning.  He
was the plainest looking baby I ever saw, and we would not have had him
in the very least different."

"I thought he was lovely," said Ann.  "When Mark saw him for the first
time, he said, 'Hullo, Peter,' and Peter he was called for years.  When
I came home from school he was about three years, and he became my
special charge.  You were so very busy at that time with the house and
church work, as well as a great scheme that the Member of Parliament
for the district started to teach working women how to make savoury
dinners out of nothing.  You were so keen about it that you tried all
the new dishes on your family, and we nearly perished as a family.  I
can remember some of the dishes.  _Stuffed cod's head_--one glance at
its gruesome countenance was enough.  _Mock kidney soup_, made with
grated liver, which, instead of being the rich brown proper to kidney
soup, was a sort of olive green.  Sea-pie--so-called, Mark said,
because the sea was a handy place when you had eaten it.  I once went
with you to see a demonstration by the principal cooking teacher, a
buxom lady with quantities of glossy black hair coiled round her head.
She showed us first what she called 'a pretty puddin'.'  Instead of
sugar she had grated carrots in it, or something surprisingly like
that.  Then she made shortbread, and when the cakes were finished and
ready to go into the oven she wanted something to prick them with, and
nothing was at hand.  She wasn't easily beaten, for I saw her withdraw
a hairpin from the coils on her head and prick them with that.  When
they were taken from the oven, and I saw that they were to be handed
round and tasted, I unobtrusively withdrew.  You had noticed nothing,
and ate your bit quite happily."

"Oh, Ann, you always saw far too much.  That's all nonsense about the
things we made.  Everything was excellent and very cheap, and the women
in the district enjoyed the lectures amazingly, and constantly asked to
have them repeated.  I enjoyed them myself.  Anything to do with
cooking interests me, and I read every recipe I see."

"You are the sort of guest, Mother, who would appreciate a cookery book
in her bedroom.  It seems an odd taste to me.  I can make porridge,
smooth and soft, with no knots, and fry quite nice bacon and eggs, and
I can make some rather smart meringuey puddings, and there I end.
D'you remember how difficult it was to get Davie to eat when he was
tiny?  I had to feed him with every meal, or I don't think he would
have eaten anything.  He was such a thin little slip of a thing--like
an elf.  At one time I got so desperate about his thinness that I took
to rubbing him all over every night with olive oil.  What a mess it
made of everything!  We took tremendous care of him, didn't we?  He
never went out in his pram with only the nursemaid; I generally went,
too, in case anything happened to him.  It's a wonder to me that we
didn't spoil him utterly."

"He was a dear, ugly wee laddie," Mrs. Douglas said.  "When Mark came
down from Oxford he used to sit and study him from the other side of
the table, and say, 'How has that child acquired such a Mongolian cast
of countenance?''

"It was too bad," said Ann, "and Davie so admiring of Mark and all his
Oxford friends.  He used to amuse them a lot.  I once overheard him
explain to a man how he happened to live with us.  'I was playing quite
quietly in heaven one day when God came up to me and said, "Peter,
you've to go and live with the Douglases."  I said, 'The Douglases!
_Good Lord!_'  The weary boredom in his voice was delightful."

"Many a fright he gave me," said Davie's mother.  "He picked up the
most extraordinary expressions, and seemed to know when to use them
with the most disastrous effect.  By the time Davie was born I had
grown tired of training, besides it was impossible to do anything with
him when you older children, who should have known better, laughed at
and encouraged him.  He was a plaything to you all."

"Yes," said Ann; "there's something about the baby of a family that's
different.  The youngest never grows up, and to each of us Davie seemed
almost more a son than a brother, and we never lost for him--even when
he was grown up and a soldier--the almost passionate tenderness that we
had for the little delicate boy.  He was the delight of our lives,
always.  I remember when I arrived in India almost the first thing
Robbie wanted to be told was Davie's latest sayings.  He had a name for
each of us peculiarly his own.  Nobody ever called me 'Nana' but Davie,
and why he christened Jim 'Ney' no one ever knew.  But, Mother, it was
only as a baby that he was so very plain.  Later he developed a sort of
horsey look, and we dressed him in a 'horsey' way, with a snooty bonnet
and a fawn overcoat.  I remember he got a very neat suit to go to a
party at Anthony's house, his first real party--brown with a corduroy
waistcoat--which he described in imitation of Mark and his friends as
'me blood waistcoat'--and short, tight trousers.  As we dressed him we
noticed that the shirt he was wearing had been patched at the elbow,
but it was clean, and we didn't change it.  When he came home he told
how this one had sung and that one had recited, and 'What,' we asked,
'did you do?'  'Oh, me,' said Davie, 'I only took off my coat and
showed them my patched shirt.'"

"It didn't matter at Anthony's house," Mrs. Douglas said; "the
Cochranes were well accustomed to the vagaries of small boys.  Anthony
and Davie made a funny couple.  Anthony was so solemn and fat, and so
ashamed of Davie's eccentric behaviour.  Davie's way of telling himself
stories 'out loud,' and going round the room gesticulating wildly,
really shocked Anthony, who was a most self-contained child.  He never
showed surprise, indeed he rarely ever showed emotion of any sort.
When he and Davie were very small and met outside, each took off his
hat to the other and made a low bow.  At the first party we gave for
Davie, the child was greatly excited, and talked without ceasing,
jumping up and down in his chair.  Anthony was sitting next him at the
tea-table in a green velvet suit, and he stood this Jack-in-the-box
behaviour as long as he could, then he turned very quietly, slapped
Davie's face and resumed his tea without having said a word.  And Davie
bore him no ill-will; they were fast friends from that moment.  D'you
remember the two going alone to a party in a cab, and they were so
thrilled about it that--we were told afterwards--they refused to do
anything but sit in the hall and wait for the cab coming back?"

"I loved Anthony," said Ann.  "He took things so calmly and was so
speechless.  One afternoon when he was with us people began to flock up
to his front door, carriages and motors arrived, and we called to him
to come and tell us what occasion this was.  Anthony looked at the
commotion for a minute, and then said, 'It must be a party,' and not
another word passed his lips.  One night we said 'Anthony will recite.'
He said neither yea nor nay, and we led him into the middle of the
room.  Still he made no protest, but stood, drooping like a candle in
the sun, while large tears coursed quietly down his face.  It must have
been good for Davie to have such a phlegmatic friend.  But I've seen
Anthony wakened to enthusiasm.  I came home once full of _Cyrano de
Bergerac_, and, of course, told Davie all about it--I was so pleased
when I heard Davie say after he was grown up, 'It was Nana made me like
poetry'--and it became his favourite game.  He and Anthony would crouch
behind the sofa, 'behind the walls at Arras,' and then jump wildly up
shouting, 'Cadets of Gascony are we...'  Mother, I think you and I
could talk for weeks on end about Davie...."

The door opened and Marget came in.  "It's no' nine o'clock yet," she
said; "but Mysie has rin oot doon to the cottages--what wi' the mune
and the snaw it's near as light as day--an' I cam' in to speer about
your _Life_, Mem.  Hoo's Miss Ann gettin' on wi't?"

"Not very well, Marget," Ann answered for herself.  "I'm going to
finish it, but it's a much harder job than I expected."

Marget sniffed.  "I dinna see ony hardness aboot it.  You hev a' the
facts; a' that you've got to dae is write them doon."

"It certainly sounds very easy put in that way," Ann said; "but facts
alone are dull things."

"But ony thing else wad juist be lees."

Ann began to laugh.  "But, Marget," she protested, "I could put all the
facts of Mother's life into one page--born, married, number of
children, and so on; but that wouldn't be any sort of record to hand
down to the children.  You want all sorts of little everyday touches
that will make them see the home that their father was brought up in."

"Everyday touches," Marget repeated; "d'ye mean what we hed for oor
denners an' aboot washin' days?  But thaes no things to write aboot.  I
could tell ye some rale fine things to pit in a book.  One Setterday I
let in a young man to see the maister--a rale weel pit-on young man he
was, an' I showed him into the study, an' what d'ye think was the very
first thing he said to the maister?"

Marget leant forward impressively.  "He said that he had had a veesion
to kill a man an' had been guided to oor Manse.  Eh, I say!  Sic a
fricht I got when I heard aboot it!  It juist lets ye see how carefu'
ye should be aboot lettin' folk in even if they look respectable."

"And how did Father get rid of him?" Ann asked.

"You tell her, Mem."  Marget nodded towards her mistress, and Mrs.
Douglas said:

"He was a poor fellow whose brain had gone from over-study.  Your
father talked quietly to him, and said that Saturday morning was a bad
time to come, and suggested that he should put it off till Monday.  He
went away quite peaceably, and your father went out after him and had
him followed, for he was a dangerous lunatic.  On the Sunday we were
afraid to leave anybody in the house in case he came back, so we all
went to church--even Jim the baby!  On the Monday we heard that he was
in an asylum.  It was a tragic case."

"We got some awfu' frichts in the Kirkcaple Manse," said Marget; "but I
dinna mind nane in Glesgae; we had folk a' round us there.  Eh, Mem,
d'ye mind the day the maister brocht in the auld-claes wife?"

Mrs. Douglas began to laugh, and she and Marget sat and shook in silent
convulsions while Ann demanded to know what they were laughing at.

At last Mrs. Douglas steadied her voice enough to say:

"You know your father was always being accused of not being cordial to
people--he had naturally rather a dry manner.  One day I was standing
at the study window and saw an old-clothes woman--Mrs. Burt was her
name--who came regularly to ask if we had anything for her, standing at
the gate as if hesitating whether or not to come in.  Then I saw your
father approach, raise his hat, saw him go up to the startled woman and
shake her warmly by the hand, and then conduct her into the house.
'Nell,' he shouted, 'here's an old friend to see you--Mrs. Beattie from
Kirkcaple!  She must have some lunch.'"

"Mrs. Burt turned to me a distressed, red face, and I stared at her
wondering which of us had gone mad.

"'Mrs. Burt...' I began, and then it dawned upon your father what he
had done.  There was a faint resemblance between the old-clothes woman
and our old friend Mrs. Beattie, who had been such a help to us in the
Kirkcaple Church.  For a moment he was absolutely nonplussed, and then
he began to laugh, and he and I reeled about while Mrs. Burt looked
more alarmed every minute.  We recovered in time, and begged Mrs.
Burt's pardon for the mistake, and saw that she had a good dinner; but
your father said he had got enough of trying to be 'frank'----"

Marget wiped her eyes.  "Eh, I say," she said, "it was an awfu' set


The thaw came suddenly, and, almost in a night, the snow went, leaving
the moorlands like some vast sponge.  The air was full of the rushing
of a great west wind and the noise of running water, as burns, heavy
with spate, came tumbling down the hillsides.

Ann stood looking out at the wide view, at the hills purple-dark, with
drifts of snow still in the hollows and at the back of dykes.

"'As dull as a great thaw,'" she quoted.  "It's like a giant's washing
day--such a sloppiness and dreariness, and that horrible steamy feeling
that a house gets when the frost goes suddenly and leaves everything
damp, even the walls and the furniture.  A new-made road is no great
treat in a thaw.  I stuck, and nearly left my big boots behind me this
morning.  I wish it would get dark and we could draw the curtains and
have tea."

"I don't want to grumble," Mrs. Douglas said, turning the heel of a
stocking with a resigned air, "but these last few days have been very
long.  No post even!  That was the last straw.  I've knitted a pair of
stockings for little Davie, and I've written a lot of letters, and I've
tried each of the library books in turn, but nowadays nobody writes the
sort of book I like.  No, they don't, Ann."

"But what kind of book pleases you, Mother?  I thought we had rather a
good selection this week.  One or two are quite interesting."

"Interesting!" repeated Mrs. Douglas.  "They seemed to me the very
essence of dullness.  I don't think I'm ill to please, but I do like a
book that is clean and kind.  I put down each of those books in
disgust; they're both dull and indecent.  Is it easier to be clever and
nasty than clever and clean?"

"Oh, much," said Ann promptly.  "It's a very hard thing, I should
think, to write a book that is pleasant without being mawkish, whereas
any fool can be nasty and can earn a reputation of sorts by writing
what Davie used to call 'hot stuff.'"

"Well, I wish some one would arise who would write for the middle-aged
and elderly; there are a great many in the world, and they are
neglected by nearly every one--fashion writers, fiction writers, play
writers--no one caters for them.  I like domestic fiction, gentle but
not drivelling, good character drawing and a love story that ends all

"In other words," said Ann, "good print and happy ending.  What about
me?  Why shouldn't I become the writer for middle-aged women?  I might
almost call myself a writer now that I have wrestled for weeks with
your _Life_, and I believe I would find it easier to write fiction than
biography--to leave what Marget calls 'facs' and take to 'lees.'  Facts
crib and cabin one.  Given a free hand I might develop an imagination."

"Who knows?  Only don't begin anything else until you have finished the
job you are at.  I do hate to leave unfinished work."

"Oh, so do I," said Ann, "and I mean to plod on with the _Life_ to the
bitter end--but I had better take bigger strides and cover the ground.
From Davie's birth--do you remember he used to say when we complained
of his accent, 'Well, you shouldn't have borned me in Glasgow'--on till
you went to South Africa nothing of importance happened."

Mrs. Douglas stared at her daughter.  "Seven years," she said.  "Did
nothing important happen in those years?"

"_Nothing_," Ann said firmly, "except that the boys left school and
went to Oxford----"

"Oh, but Ann, don't hurry on so.  You must put in about the boys doing
so well at school and getting scholarships and almost educating
themselves.  It might spur on that lazy little Rory to hear about them
... and you grew up."

"My growing up wasn't much of an event," said Ann.  "Indeed it was
something of a disaster.  I had been rather attractive-looking as a
schoolgirl because my hair fluffed out round my face, but when I put it
up I dragged it all back into a little tightly hair-pinned bump.  The
change was startling.  I was like a skinned rabbit.  The boys hung
umbrellas on the bump and the church people came to you and asked you
to make me let down my hair again because they couldn't bear the look
of me.  And I wore a thick brown coat and a brown hat with red in it,
and I had no more notion how to dress myself becomingly than a Kaffir
woman.  I was a poor little object and I knew it.  Then one night I
went to a party--an ordinary Glasgow party, full of jokes and good
things to eat--and there I met an artist; I suppose she would be about
thirty--I longed prodigiously to be thirty when I was eighteen; it
seemed to me the ideal age--and she wore a wonderful flowing gown, and
her red hair was parted in the middle and lay in a great knot of gold
at the nape of her neck.  I had never seen anything like this
before--all your friends had their hair tightly and tidily done up and
wore bodices with lots of bones--and I sat and worshipped.  I suppose
she had recognised worship in the eyes of the awkward, ill-dressed
young girl, for she came and sat beside me and talked to me and asked
what I meant to do in the world.  I hadn't thought of doing anything, I
told her; I had a lot of brothers and a busy mother, and I helped at
home.  She told me she would like to paint me, and I was flattered
beyond belief and promised to go to her studio the very next day.
Margot Stronach and everything about her were a revelation to me.  I
thought her flat--which was probably rather tawdry and pinned together:
she confessed to me that she seldom bothered to sew things--the last
word in Art.  Divans made out of discarded feather beds, polished
floors, white walls and blue jars with cape gooseberries--what could
one want more?  I felt my clothes singularly out of place in such
surroundings, and I gave you no peace until I had got a long
straight-hanging white frock with gold embroideries which the boys
called my nightgown and in which I felt perfectly happy.  Margot
certainly did improve my appearance vastly, you must admit that,
Mother.  She made me take a few dozen hairpins out of my poor hair,
part it in the middle and fold it lightly back, and she taught me the
value of line, but she turned me for the time being into a very
affected, posing young person.  It was then that I turned your nice
comfortable Victorian drawing-room upside down and condemned you as a
family to semi-darkness!  I can't think why you were so patient with
me.  The boys hooted at me, but I didn't mind them, and you and Father
meekly stotted about, until Father one afternoon fell over a stool and
spilt all his tea, whereupon he flew into one of his sudden rages,
vowed that this nonsense must cease, and pulled up the blinds to the
very top."

Mrs. Douglas laughed softly.  "Poor Ann, we didn't appreciate your
artist friends much, but----"

"Oh, but Mother," Ann interrupted, "Margot wasn't a real artist--not
like Kathleen and Jim Strang, or any of the serious artists.  She was
only a woman with a certain amount of money and a small talent, good
looks, and a vast amount of conceit.  Even my foolish young eyes saw
that very soon."

"She put me very much about," Mrs. Douglas said; "she had such a
wailing, affected way of talking.  I never could think of anything to
say in reply.  Besides, I knew all the time she was thinking me an
ignorant, frumpish woman, and that didn't inspire me.  You admired her
so much that you even copied her voice...."

Ann began to laugh.  "It must have been terrible, Mother.  I remember
Davie meeting Margot on the stairs, and she knelt down and began to
talk to him in that wailing, affected voice.  Davie was a little fellow
and easily frightened, and he suddenly clutched my dress and burst into
tears, sobbing 'Nana, Nana, it's the _bandarlog_.'  Fortunately Margot
didn't know her 'Jungle Book,' so she missed the allusion."

"What happened to her?" Mrs. Douglas asked.

"Oh, Kathleen told me she had met her somewhere quite lately.  She
married a rich business man, stout and a little deaf--that was all to
the good!--and, Kathleen said, looked very fat and prosperous and
middle-aged.  She said to Kathleen, 'Still painting away?' and
Kathleen, greatly delighted, replied, 'Still painting away.'"

"Oh, yes, Kathleen would appreciate that remark....  What was your next
phase, Ann?"

"I had no more _phases_," said Ann, and got up to get a paper to hold
between her face and the fire.  "I began to go to London for a month in
the spring, and Uncle Bob took me with him when he went abroad, and
Mark took me to Switzerland to climb--that was absolutely the best
holiday of all--and I had a very, very good time."

"Yes," said her mother, "I remember a poor bed-ridden girl in the
church saying to me wistfully, 'Miss Ann's life is just like a fairy

Ann nodded.  "It must have seemed so to her, poor child!  And indeed I
was very fortunate; I had such wonderful brothers.  But I never really
liked going away from home unless we went as a family.  I hated to
leave Davie.  How quickly we all seemed to grow up after we left
Kirkcaple, Mother!--Robbie especially.  It seems to me, looking back,
that he sprang quite suddenly from an incredibly mischievous, rough
little boy into a gentle, silent schoolboy."

Mrs. Douglas stopped knitting and looked thoughtfully into the fire.
"Robbie," she said--how soft, thought Ann, her mother's voice was when
it named her boys--"Robbie changed quite suddenly.  Up to thirteen he
was the firebrand of the household.  Your father alone never lost
patience with his wild laddie.  'Let him alone,' he would say, 'he'll
be the best of the lot yet.'  Marget used to say, 'There's naething for
it but to make him a sodger; the laddie canna get his fill o'
fechtin'.'  I don't know what changed him.  I think he just got sense.
Children do, if you let them alone.  He began to be keen to take a good
place at school.  Robbie had lots of brains, Ann."

"Oh, brains!  He was one of the most capable men I ever knew.  In India
there was no limit to the expectations his friends had for him."

"Oh, Ann, I wish he hadn't gone to India, but his heart was set on it
always.  The Indian Army!  How he used to talk to me about it, and beg
me not to make a fuss about letting him go!  I would have been so
pleased if all my boys had been ministers.  I used to picture to
myself, when you were all little, how I would go from manse to manse,
and what a proud mother I would be.  I never could bear the Army as a
profession; your father and I never saw eye to eye about that----"

"Poor Mother, it was too bad!  You wanted nice little clucking barndoor
fowls, and you found yourself with young eagles!  I know.  It would
have been a lovely life for you to do nothing but visit manses.  I can
see you doing it.  But even you stretched your wings a little.  Was the
South African trip a silver-wedding jaunt?"

"Yes; don't you remember?  The congregation gave us a cheque at your
father's semi-jubilee, and that was how we spent it."

"Oh, the semi-jubilee!" said Ann.  "That was a great occasion.  A
social meeting, with tea and cakes and speakers and presentations.
Eminent men brought from a distance to say complimentary things to you
and Father, and all sorts of old friends from Inchkeld and Kirkcaple
came with offerings, and so many of them stayed with us that the family
had to be boarded out!  We acquired a lot of loot at that time in the
way of fitted dressing-cases and silver things, and we had a gorgeous
silver-wedding cake.  Robbie had thought that you couldn't have a
bridescake unless you were being married, and when he found he had been
mistaken he said the only reason for marrying was gone!  It was a
glorious cake.  The boys were all at home for the Christmas holidays,
and when they got hungry in the forenoon they would go and cut chunks
off it with a pen-knife--until we had to hide it.  You didn't go away
directly, Mums.  It was the next November before you left for South
Africa, and what a business it was getting you away!"

"'There's muckle adae when cadgers ride,'" Mrs. Douglas quoted.  "And
it was a great undertaking.  I didn't in the least want to go, but your
father was as keen as a schoolboy, and I couldn't let him go alone, and
I couldn't leave Davie, so the three of us went.  Mark had gone to
London and was settled in his rooms in the Temple.  Robbie and Jim were
studying, and you had invitations to fill up all the time."

"I only visited between the boys' vacations, then we were all together
at Uncle Bob's.  What angels he and Aunt Katharine were to us!  The
rest of the time I paid visits, and very nearly had a bad nervous
breakdown through having to be consistently pleasant for nine months at
a stretch.  You see, I stayed with such very different people, and the
effort to adjust myself to each in turn was rather wearing.  When the
boys went back for the summer term, Uncle Bob took Aunt Katharine and
me over to Touraine.  We stayed at Tours, and made expeditions all
round to the lovely old châteaux, and came home by Paris and London and
finished up at Oxford for Eights' Week.  Wasn't it kind of Uncle Bob?
Oh, I do wish all the nice people weren't dead!  Each one that goes
takes so much of the light away with him....  You didn't regret taking
the trip, Mother?"

"Not for a minute, except, perhaps, when Davie supped a whole tin of
condensed milk and nearly perished, and your father was poisoned by a
mosquito bite and was blind for two days.  It did me a world of good to
come across people who had never heard of the United Free Church of
Scotland and who had no desire to hear about it, and who interested me
enormously by the way they looked at life.  Mark always used to tell me
that with me journeys ended in Mothers' Meetings, and I was too much
like that.  I hadn't, perhaps, realised that people might be opposed to
everything I thought right and proper and yet be good people.  I
worried a good deal about you children at home--it wouldn't have been
me if I hadn't had a trouble--but your father and Davie were blissfully

"You wrote splendid letters," said Ann, "telling every detail.  Father
hated writing letters--we used to tell him that he would rather walk
five miles than write a p.c.--and his efforts were quite short and
chiefly confined to statements such as: 'What a beautiful blue the
ocean is'; 'the veldt is much what I thought it would be.'  Davie wrote
delicious letters on oily scraps of paper--oily because he was
generally anointed with a lotion for mosquito bites--which invariably
ended: 'Now I must finch up.'  He never ceased to mourn the little
mongoose that died before he could bring it home, but he did fetch a
giant tortoise, which snowked about at Etterick until a specially cold
winter finished it.  And you brought home a gorgeous fur rug and piles
of ostrich feathers.  How did you collect so many presents?"

"Well, you see, part of the time your father was taking services for a
minister home on leave, and the kindness and hospitality of the people
were boundless.  And I felt so mean about doing so little to entertain
them when they turned up in Glasgow.  We had a few to stay, but most of
them were only asked to luncheon, and it sounded so shabby."

"Oh, but it's different out there," Ann said comfortably.  "I felt I
could never repay the hospitality of the people I met in India.  But
Robbie didn't at all take up that attitude.  'It's jolly nice for them
to have you,' was what he said, and I suppose he meant that visitors
from 'home' are sure of a welcome from exiles from 'home.'  You are a
stranger in the land of their adoption, and they want you to see the
best side of things.  It is different when they come back, then we are
all at home together.  Aha, tea at last, and Marget bringing it in!"

"Ay," said Marget, putting the kettle on the spirit-lamp, and carrying
the covered dish of muffins to the brass stool in the fireplace.
"Mysie went awa' doon to the village, seein' it was fresh again.  She's
young, ye ken, and juist deein' for a crack wi' some o' her frien's.
There's a mune, and somebody'll see her hame I've nae doot.  Will I
licht the lichts the noo?"

Mrs. Douglas smiled at the old woman.  "I think we'll have tea in the
firelight, Marget.  I'm glad Mysie has gone out for a little.  It's a
dull life up here for a young girl."

"Oh, her," said Marget, dismissing her niece and her possible dullness
with a gesture.  "D'ye mind, Mem, the maister never likit his tea in
the dark.  He said he couldna see the road to his mooth.  'Marget,' he
would say to me, 'let's have some light on the subject.'  That was aye
what he said."

Marget stood in the firelight and looked at the two women at the

"D'ye ken what I was thinkin' this afternoon when I was ma lane?  I was
thinkin' how queer it was that a' oor men-folk are awa' and three
weemen's a' that's left."

"Marget," said Ann, "what a croaking old raven you are!  We're not
alone for always.  Mr. Mark and Mr. Jim will be back in the spring."

Marget shook her head gloomily.  "I've nae comfort in thinkin' aboot
folk awa' ower the sea.  It's a terrible dangerous thing to travel."

"Yes, Marget," said her mistress, "we've just been talking, Miss Ann
and I, about our trip to South Africa.  You washed your hands of us

"Me!  I never thocht to see ony o' ye again.  An' takin' wee Davie into
sic danger!  A' the sailin' I ever did was from Burntisland to Granton
afore they pit up the Forth Bridge."

"You're as bad as little Tommy Hislop," said Ann.  "I spoke to him the
other day--you know he is going out with his mother to join his father
in South Africa?--and asked him how he would like the big ship.  'I'm
no gaun in a ship,' he said; 'I dinna like them.  I'm gaun roond the
road in a cairt wi' ma Uncle Jake.'"

"He's a wise laddie," said Marget.  "But it was an awfu' set-oot when
you gaed awa' to Africa.  An' we thocht we'd better try and let the
hoose for the winter and keep it fired, an' some queer American folk
cam' aboot it, kin o' missionaries they were, an' the maister said they
were decent folk and let them get it."

"Yes, and we knew nothing about them," said Mrs. Douglas.  "They
belonged to some sort of religious sect in America, and had come over
here to do propaganda work.  They seemed to live like the early
Christians, having all things in common and taking no thought for the
morrow, and they could only offer us a nominal rent; but your father
talked to them and thought them sincere and liked them, so we gave them
the house.  We had a cellar full of coal and a cupboard full of jam,
and we asked them if they would care to take them both over.  They said
they would have to ask the Lord, and they came back and said: The Lord
says we may take the coal, but not the jam,' and we felt so sorry for
the funny little people that we gave them the jam.  They had the
wildest of accents, and we had difficulty in understanding them when
they asked, 'Is there a crack in the door to let the mail through?' and
'Has the yard been spaded over this fall?'"

"Wasn't it like our daft ways," said Ann, as she sipped her tea, "to
let our house at a ridiculously low rent to people we knew absolutely
nothing about?  You know, Mother, they held meetings in the
drawing-room, and the neighbours, watching the people troop in,
shuddered for our carpets.  I think it was some sort of faith-healing
that they did.  When they left, a month before you were expected back,
Aunt Agatha and Jim and I went to see what the house was like, and
arrange about having it thoroughly cleaned.  We found it in perfect
condition.  Two of the women came to see us the night we were there,
and told us something of the work.  I asked them how they had kept the
carpets so fresh, and they said quite simply, 'We asked the Lord.'  I
shall never forget poor Aunt Agatha's face of utter terror--you know
her almost insane horror of infection--when one of those Bible
Christians said, 'Would you believe it, we cured a case of smallpox in
this very room?'  They had replaced everything they had broken, so they
did very well by us.  It's nice not to have to think hardly of
Christians, whatever sect they belong to."

"That's true," said Marget, "but I think the puir bodies had leeved on
cocoa.  Sic a cocoa-tins they left in a press!"

"Ann," said Mrs. Douglas, "I've just been thinking, you should tell
about old Christina in my _Life_.  She was a most interesting

Ann shook her head as she rose from the tea-table.  "I've too many old
women in it already.  Besides, I'm not going to write just now.  I'm
going to lie in the most comfortable chair the room contains and read
an article in the _Times Literary Supplement_ called 'Love and
Shakespeare.'  Does that sound good enough?"


The next evening when Ann sat down with an air of determination at the
writing-table she asked: "Shall I make another stride, Mother?  Go on
another seven years?  It's fine to wear seven-league boots and stride
about as one likes among the years.  What I ought to do, really, before
I write any more, is to read one of the books Mr. Philip Scott sent me
this morning.  They are lives of different people, and he thinks they
might help me a lot with yours."

"It was kind of him to send them," Mrs. Douglas said.

"Oh, thoughtful, right enough, as Glasgow people say.  I shall thank
him in a sentence I found in Montaigne--here it is.  'They who write
lives,' says Montaigne, 'by reason that they take more notice of
counsels than events, more of what proceeds from within doors than of
what happens without ... are the fittest for my perusal.'  Mr. Scott
will be rather impressed, I should think."

Mrs. Douglas appeared to take little interest in Montaigne.  She was
looking over a book that Mr. Sharp had brought her to read that

"Mr. Sharp was telling me," she said presently, "how good the Miss
Scotts are about helping with anything in the village.  He is very keen
about getting up a club for the young men, and he told them about it,
and they at once promised to have that empty house at the top of the
village put in order, and their nephew, Mr. Philip Scott, sent a sum of
money and is going to supply papers and books and magazines.  Mr. Sharp
was quite excited about it, quite boyish and slangy when he told me
about the football and cricket clubs he hoped to start; you would
hardly have known him for the shy, douce young man coming solemnly as a
parson to talk to an old woman.  I hadn't realised how young he was
until to-day."

"I wish I had seen him," said Ann.  "I hadn't thought of him as caring
for football and cricket.  When do his people come?"

"Oh, not till just before New Year.  And the housekeeper has already
begun to hold it over his head that the extra work will probably prove
too much for her, and says that perhaps she ought to go now."

"Better not tell Marget that," Ann warned her mother.  "She is so sorry
for Mr. Sharp that she is quite capable of going to the Manse and
publicly assaulting the woman.  But he would be much better to get rid
of her at once; there shouldn't be much difficulty about getting

Mrs. Douglas looked doubtful.  "Better rue sit than flit," she quoted.
"Unless there happened to be a suitable woman in the district, I'm
afraid it wouldn't be easy to induce one to come to such an out-of-way
place.  And they ask such outrageous wages now.  When Marget came to me
she said, 'I doot ye'll think I've an awfu' big wage.  I've been
gettin' seven pound in the half-year.'  And she said it in a hushed
voice as if the very sound of the sum frightened her."

Ann laughed and quoted:

  "'Times is changed,' said the cat's-meat man.
  'Lights is riz,' said the cat's-meat man.'

The days are over when people could be passing rich on fourteen pounds
in the year.  Mother, are you quite sure you want to stay here over
Christmas?  It is such a deadly time at the best.  Won't you go and
stay with some of the people who have asked us?"

"No, I think not.  I wouldn't like to be with anyone but my very own at
Christmas time, and it would be ridiculous to bring the children so
far--so we shall just stay quietly here."

"Very well," said Ann.  Then, after a pause, "I'm asking you, Mother,
but you won't pay any attention, where shall I begin to-night?  I have
written about the South African trip, shall I go on another seven

"Seven years," her mother repeated.  "That makes Mark thirty-one.  Oh,
a tremendous lot happened in those seven years, Ann.  Robbie went to
India; Jim left Oxford and had just finished his law studies when Uncle
Bob died and he had to take his place; Mark married; you went to India.
And you talk glibly about writing it in one evening."

"It is rather a spate of events," Ann confessed.  "Did they really all
happen in seven years, before Davie was fourteen?  First, Robbie sailed
for India.  One of the church people who deeply deplored his going
said, 'He's far ower bonnie a laddie for India.'"

"So he was," said Robbie's mother.  "It was like cutting off a right
hand to let him go."

"But, Mother," Ann said, "I don't think we need grudge the years he was
in India, for he was never really divided from us, his heart was always
at home.  People there told me that though he loved his work he was
always talking of Scotland, his heart was full of the 'blessed beastly
place' all the time.  D'you remember his first leave?  Long before it
was sanctioned he had engaged a berth and given us elaborate
instructions about writing to every port.  It was only three
months--six weeks at home--but it was enough, he said, to build the
bridge.  He was just the same, the same kind simple boy, eager to spend
his money buying presents for every one; then, of course, his money
went done!  I can see him now, lying on the floor with a bit of paper
and a pencil trying to make out if he had any money to go back with....
I wonder what made Robbie so utterly lovable?  If we could only
recapture the charm and put it into words--but we can only remember it
and miss it.  I think it was partly the way he had of laughing at
himself, and the funny short-sighted way he screwed up his eyes--when
he missed a shot he would call himself a 'blind buffer.'  I always
remember his second leave as being, I think, almost the happiest time
in my life."

"Yes.  It was the last time we were all together--two years after
Mark's marriage.  Mark took Fennanhopes, which held us all comfortably,
and there was good shooting.  Alis was a year old, and the idol of her
uncles.  Davie was about fourteen, I suppose.  Robbie was particularly
pleased that Davie showed signs of being a good shot, and poor Davie
was so anxious to please that he fired at and brought down a snipe, and
then suffered agonies of remorse over killing what he described as
'that wee long-nebbit bird.'"

"I remember that," said Ann.  "Mother, wasn't it odd how like Robbie
and Davie were?  Plain little Davie and Robbie who was so good-looking.
After Robbie was gone, when Davie and I were together in a room, I used
to shut my eyes and make myself almost believe it was Robbie talking to
me--and both were so like Father.  It must have been the way they
moved, and the gentle way they touched things--and the way they fell
over things!  Mark called Davie 'light-footed Ariel,' from his capacity
for taking tosses.  They were such friends, Father and the four boys,
and Father was the youngest of the lot."

Mrs. Douglas sat with her hands clasped in her lap, looking straight
before her.  When she spoke it was as if she were speaking to herself.

"Robbie used to say that it was a mistake for a family to be too
affectionate, for when we were parted we were homesick for each other
all the time.  But he wrote once: 'Foreign service must be a cheerless
business for the unclannish....'"

"Mother," Ann said gently, "I think you can almost say Robbie's letters
by heart.  It wasn't so bad saying good-bye to him, after his first
leave--at least, not for me, for I was going out to him for the next
cold weather.  And Mark's marriage was our next excitement; we were
frightfully unused to marriages in our family, for you had no brothers
or sisters married, and Father had none.  Had you and Father proved
such an awful example?"

"It is odd," Mrs. Douglas agreed; "but some families are like that.
Others flop into matrimony like young ducks into water.  Mark's
engagement gave me a great shock.  It came as a complete surprise, and
we knew nothing about Charlotte, and it seemed to me that it must break
up everything, and that I must lose my boy."

"It might have meant that, Mother, if Charlotte hadn't been Charlotte.
I know young wives who have taken their husbands completely away from
their own people.  I don't think Mark would have allowed himself to be
taken, and I am very sure that Charlotte never tried.  How odd it is to
remember that first visit she paid to us after she got engaged.  None
of us had ever seen her, and we wondered what we would talk to her
about for a whole fortnight.  And if it was bad for us to have a
stranger come in amongst us, how infinitely worse it was for poor
Charlotte to have to face a solid phalanx of--possibly hostile--new
relations!  We have often laughed at it since, and Charlotte has
confessed that she had a subject for each of us.  To you, Mums, she
talked about the poor; to Jim, poetry; to Father, flowers; Davie needed
no conversation, only butter-scotch; my subject was books.  The great
thing about Charlotte was that she could always laugh, always be
trusted to see the funny side if there was one, and as a family we
value that more than anything.  And we are pagans in our love for
beauty, and Charlotte was very good to look at.  We weren't really
formidable, Charlotte says.  Father she loved at once.  Having no
brothers of her own, she was delighted to adopt Robbie and Jim and
Davie.  You and I were the snags, Mother."

"I?" said Mrs. Douglas in a hurt voice.  "I'm sure I tried to be as
kind as----"

"Of course you did, you couldn't be anything else if you tried; but you
had just a little the air of a lioness being robbed of its whelps--and
you sighed a good deal.  Mark and I had been so much to each other
always that it wouldn't have been surprising if Charlotte had disliked
the person that she was, in a way, supplanting--but we both liked Mark
too well to dislike each other, so we became friends.  I never hear a
joke now but I think 'I must remember to tell Charlotte that,' and I
never enjoy a book without thinking 'I wish Charlotte were here that we
might talk it over.'  We have laughed so much together, and we have
cried so much together, that I don't think anything could come between
us.  And she has been so good about letting us share the children--What
an event the wedding was!  D'you remember the hat you chose for it in
the middle of a most tremendous thunderstorm?  It didn't seem to matter
much what hat you took for we expected to be killed any minute, and it
always rather solemnised you to put it on."

"It was too youthful for me," Mrs. Douglas said gloomily.  "Weddings
always depress me, and when it's one of your own it's worse."

"You enjoyed it in spite of yourself," said her daughter.  "I know I
enjoyed it--one of the seven bridesmaids in pink and silver, and I know
Davie enjoyed it, flying about in his kilt.  It was his very first
visit to London, and we took him to _The Scarlet Pimpernel_, to a
_matinée_.  When we came out into the sunny street after three hours'
breathless excitement, he was like an owl at noonday; I think he had
forgotten entirely that he lived in the twentieth century.  It was hard
luck that Robbie couldn't be at the wedding.  He was so amused when we
wrote to him about Father kissing the bride--kissing was an almost
unheard-of thing with us in those days.  He wrote: 'To think of my
elderly, respectable father kissing his daughter-in-law and jaunting
over to Paris!  He'll be losing his job one of these days.'  We went on
to Paris after the wedding and then to the Lakes, and all got more or
less seedy.  Father and I were the only two who kept quite well, and we
had to go and buy hot-water bags for the rest of you.  Davie was in
Jim's room, and in the middle of the night, feeling ill, he thought he
would go and tell me about it, and on his way to my room he saw in the
moonlight a statue on the landing, and in his fright he fell down a
whole flight of stairs.  And none of you could eat the good dinners--it
was all very provoking."

"Yes," said Mrs. Douglas; "it is very provoking to pay for meals you
haven't eaten.  And no sooner did we get home than we were all as
hungry as hunters!  We had to begin after that to get your clothes
ready for going to India."

"That was great fun.  I did enjoy getting all the new frocks and the
hundred and one things I needed.  My bridesmaid's frock made a very
pretty evening-dress, and I had a white satin one for my presentation,
and a pale green satin that was like moonlight.  Robbie was dreadfully
given to walking on my train when we went out to dinner; I was usually
announced to the sound of the rending of gathers.  I wonder if other
people find as much to laugh at in India as Robbie and I did?
Practically everything made us laugh.  I can never be sufficiently
thankful that I was allowed to have that six months alone with him.  It
is something precious to remember all my life....  But the leaving him
was terrible.  By some wangling he managed to get down the river with
me; that gave us a few more hours together.  He had just left me, and I
was standing straining my streaming eyes after the launch, when another
boat came to the side of the ship and a man sprang out and came up to
me.  It was one of Martyrs' young men, Willie Martin, a clerk in a
shipping office, who had watched for my name on the passenger list and
had come to say good-bye.  It was very touching of him.  I expect I
reminded him of home."

"His people were so pleased that you had seen him," Mrs. Douglas said.
"You had to go the minute you came home and tell them all you could
about him.  He never came home, poor boy!  When war broke out he joined
up in India, and was one of the missing."

"I know.  A decent laddie he was.  When we were in Calcutta Robbie and
I invited him to tea one Sunday afternoon, and he came, and was so nice
and modest and shy; Robbie was loud in his praises because he went away
directly after tea.  You see, I had got the names of several young men
from Scotland who were in business in Calcutta, and we asked them to
tea on Sunday afternoons, when they were free, and Robbie didn't like
the ones who sat on and on making no move to go away.  Some we had to
ask to dinner because they hadn't gone away at eight o'clock!"


"... It was our favourite occupation, your father's and mine, when we
had an hour together by the fire, to dream of the good times we would
have when he retired.  When we got very tired of plodding along with
our faces against the wind, when people seemed indifferent about our
efforts and ungrateful, when something we had taken immense pains about
proved a failure, when term-time came and family after family whom we
had learned to count on moved away to outlying suburbs, leaving gaps
that couldn't be filled, your father would say to me, 'Never mind,
Nell; it'll be all over some day and we'll get away to the country,'
and we would talk about and plan what we would do when we had no longer
a congregation to tend.  But, inside me, I was always sceptical about
the dream ever coming true.  I knew he wouldn't leave his work until he
had to; and I had visions of going on and on until we were old and
grey-headed.  One should never let oneself weary in this world, for
everything stops so soon."

Ann sat on the fender stool sharpening a pencil, very absorbed in the
point she was making.  When it was done to her satisfaction she turned
round to her mother.

"Did you really ever weary in well-doing, Mother?  Ah, well!  'Rejoice
that ye have time to weary in.'  But it was a pretty uphill job you and
Father had in that district.  There was one thing, though the
congregation was small it was tremendously appreciative.  You remember
Mr. Gardner, the elder?  I used to like to watch his face when Father
preached--it was a study.  He had the nicest little doggy face, with
honesty written all over it.  And his friend, great big Mr. Law who sat
in the seat behind him--he was exactly my idea of the Village

"Mr. Law should have been put into a book," Mrs. Douglas said.  "Don't
you remember how he used to stand up and square his great shoulders and
speak in broad Lowland Scots?"

"I should think so.  Mr. Law's addresses were our great delight.  He
began one on Evolution with: 'Some folk say that oor great-grandfathers
hoppit aboot on the branches.'  He always talked of 'the Apostle Jims,'
and do you remember the description he gave us of some picture he had
seen of the 'Last Judgment,' by Michael Angelo?  I don't know where
this masterpiece is hung, but Mr. Law said that it depicted 'Michael
Angelo creepin' oot o' a hole aneath the throne and a look o' hesitancy
on the face of God!'  And he told us one day that he was sure the
Apostle Paul had never been to Scotland or he most certainly would have
put on record that Ben Lomond was the finest hill that he had ever set
eyes on."

Mrs. Douglas smiled.  "Mr. Law was a fine man and a most original
speaker, but he felt so strongly on certain things that he was apt to
upset other members."

"Ah," said Ann, shaking her head wisely, "one dreads that class of lad
in a church."

"John Gardner, on the other hand," Mrs. Douglas went on, "was an
undiluted blessing in the church.  He was willing to do--indeed he
liked doing--all the work that brought no kudos, all the dull jobs that
most people try to evade.  And he was always there.  No matter how bad
the night, you were always sure that his 'doggy' face would beam on
you.  'Thank God,' your father used to say, 'thank God for the faithful

"Yes," said Ann.  "I remember I was discussing with the boys, in our
usual rather irreverent way, who of the people we knew would be
'farthest ben' in the next world.  We denied admittance to quite a
number of people famous for their good works; others, we thought, might
just scrape in.  'But,' said Mark, 'I back Father and Dr. Struthers and
wee Gardner to be sitting on the very next steps of the Throne.'"

"Oh, Ann!" her mother expostulated.  "I never did like the way you and
the boys spoke of sacred things; it sounded so flippant.  But 'wee
Gardner,' as you call him, was a great gift to us.  Oh, and there were
others almost as good.  And the young men and women were really rather

"They were," said Ann.  "The books they read and the wideness of their
interests put me to shame.  You know, Mother, it must have been very
interesting for them, for they found their whole social life in the
church.  What fun they had at the social meetings!  I almost envied
them.  At one social a girl said to me that she wished the men would
come up--I suppose they were talking and smoking in the lower hall--and
I said, stupidly, that I thought it was nicer without the men, and the
girl replied with some sagacity, 'you wouldn't say that if they were
your own kind of men.'  A church is a great matchmaker.  Old Mrs.
Buchanan, talking one day of the young men and maidens in the choir,
said, 'They pair _just like doos_.'  There is one good thing about a
small congregation--everybody knows everybody else.  We were like one
big family.  It is touching to hear them talk now about those days;
they look back on them as a sort of Golden Age.  And the presents they
gave us!  And they were so poor.  Each of the boys got a gold watch and
chain when they left home, and when I went to India I had quite a
collection of keepsakes, some very odd, but all greatly valued by me,
their owner.  Mother, why are you sitting 'horn idle,' as Marget would
say?  Have you finished your knitting?"

Mrs. Douglas looked at her idle hands.  "My knitting is like Penelope's
web," she said; "there is no end to it.  I'm simply sitting idle for a
change, sitting thinking about days that are past, and about people I
shall never see again on this side of time.  I think a great deal of
Martyrs, and I feel very humble when I think of the affection and
loyalty given to us."

"But, Mother, you can't have liked everybody in the church.  The
thing's not possible.  Think of Mr. Philip Scott and the 'acid' he
thinks necessary, and say something really unkind....  You know you
never liked Mrs. Marshall, the elder's wife--she was a terrible
tale-bearer, and always making mischief."

"Yes, she was, poor body.  But, Ann, she was kind when Rosamund was
ill, and----"

Ann threw up her hands.  "Mother, you are hopeless.  I'm not going to
try to put any acid into you.  You're just like strawberry jam.  I'm
afraid I've got your share of acid as well as my own, that's why I've
such an 'ill-scrapit tongue.'"

But Mrs. Douglas wasn't listening.  She was looking before her,
dreaming.  Presently she said:

"Ann, it doesn't seem a very complimentary thing to say to you, but I
look back on the winter you were in India with very great pleasure.  We
were quite alone, your father and I, for the first time almost since we
were married, and he often said, laughing, 'We're never better than
when we're alone, Nell.'  The letters were such a pleasure--Mark's
every morning, Jim's every other morning, a curious scrawl from little
Davie once a week, and on Saturday Robbie's letter and your great
budget.  Oh, Ann, Ann, why was I not deliriously happy?  All of you
well, all of you prospering, my man beside me, and life full of

"Ay, Mother, you should have been down on your knees thanking heaven
fasting--and if the truth were known I dare say you were.  But it's
only afterwards you realise how happy you have been!"

"Yes, afterwards," said Mrs. Douglas.  "It was when you came home from
India that you noticed that your father was failing.  Living with him I
had noticed nothing."

"There was hardly anything to notice.  He didn't walk with the same
light step.  He sometimes wondered why his congregation always chose to
live up four flights of stairs, and one night he said to me, half
laughing, half serious: 'I'm beginning to be afraid of that which is
high.'  But he was well for a year or two after that, till he had the
bad heart attack, and the doctor warned us that it was time he was
thinking of giving up his work."

Ann got up and stood with both hands on the mantelshelf looking into
the fire.

"I remember," she went on, "the curious unreal feeling I had, as if the
solid earth had somehow given way beneath my feet when I realised that
Father's life was in danger.  And then, when days and weeks passed, and
he didn't seem to get worse, we just put the thought away from us and
told ourselves that doctors were often mistaken, and that if he took
reasonable care all would be well."

"He was only sixty-one," Mrs. Douglas said, "and the doctors assured us
that if he gave up preaching he might have years of fairly good health.
He had worked himself done.  Twenty-two years in Glasgow had been too
much for him."

Ann nodded.  "He never said a word, but the fact was Father hated
cities.  Rosamund used to call the Park 'the policeman's country,'
because of the notices to keep off the grass, and she called Etterick
'God's country.'  Father longed all the time for 'God's country.'  He
would have been supremely happy as minister of some moorland place,
with time to write, and time to love his books and flowers, and instead
he had to spend his days toiling up and down endless stairs, never
getting away from the sight of squalor and misery, doing the King's
work through the unfeatured years.  And yet he was perfectly content.
He was able to find a Sabbath stillness in the noise, and from some
hidden spring he could draw wells of living water to make in that
dreary place a garden 'bright with dawn and dew' to refresh a haggard
world....  You must have felt very bad about leaving Martyrs,
Mother?--after all those years."

"Oh....  We felt it to be almost treachery on our part to leave some of
those poor people.  They depended on us.  We considered whether we
ought to stay on in Glasgow and still help a little, unofficially, as
it were, but you were all against that, and finally we took a house in
Priorsford to be near Jim.  I was glad when it was settled, and glad
when those last months in Glasgow were over.  It was miserable work
dismantling the house and packing up and saying good-bye."

"Everything has an end," said Ann, "'and a pudden has twa,' to quote
Marget's favourite saying.  But I could hardly believe we were finished
with Martyrs, that we would tramp no more that long road, and sit no
more in that back pew to the side of the pulpit, and look up at Father
Sunday after Sunday--Mother, surely Father was a very good preacher?"

Mrs. Douglas sat up very straight, as if she were challenging anyone to
contradict her, and said proudly: "He was the best preacher I ever
heard.  And if he were here he would laugh at me for saying so."

"He would," said Ann; "but I think I agree with you."

"A communion in Martyrs," her mother went on; "what an occasion it was!
Except for length--our services were always short--I expect it was the
same service that the Covenanters held, fearfully, as hunted men.
'Following the custom of our fathers'--can't you hear him say it?--your
father always 'fenced' the tables and read the warrant.  Then we sung
those most mournful words:

  ''Twas on that night when doomed to know
  The eager rage of every foe';

and your father took his place among the elders round the table in the
choir seat.  He always held a slice of the bread, and, breaking it,
said, 'Mark the breaking of the bread,' and after the tables were
served he said a few concluding words.  I used to listen for his voice
falling on the stillness--'Communicants!'  It seemed to me very

"I know.  But what will always remain with me is the way he said the
Benediction.  He was a very vigorous preacher, my father.  There was no
settling down to sleep 'under' him.  Sometimes he would describe the
fate of those who wilfully refused salvation, very sadly, very
solemnly, and then he would shut the big Bible and, leaning over the
side of the pulpit, he would say, 'But, brethren, I am persuaded better
things of you.'  Then came the Benediction, and I listened for the
swish of the silk of the Geneva gown as he stretched his arms wide over
the people, and his voice came healing, soothing, restful as sleep:
'May the peace of God which passeth all understanding...'  On that last
Sunday--the last time he ever preached--he gave us no farewell words,
and I was thankful, for he had an uncanny gift of pathos; but he
offered us, as he had offered us every time he preached in that pulpit,
Christ and Him crucified.  We sang 'Part in Peace,' and then he looked
round the church, slowly, searchingly, round the wide galleries and
through the area.  Was he seeing again all those brave old figures who
had so loyally held up his hands until they had to step out into the
Unknown?  In twenty-two years one sees many go.  Then he held out his
arms--the swish of the Geneva gown--and for the last time the listeners
heard that golden voice saying, 'May the peace of God which passeth all
understanding keep your hearts and minds.' ..."

There were tears standing in Ann's grey eyes as she said, "I know it's
a ridiculous thing to say, but it seems to me that the people who knew
Father and were blessed by him have a better idea of what that peace
means--oh, Mother, aren't we a couple of foolish women sitting lauding
our own!"

"No," Mrs. Douglas said stoutly; "we're not.  If Martyrs' people were
in the room now I'm sure they would say 'Amen' to all you say of your
father.  And I lived with him for thirty-four years and I couldn't
imagine a better man.  He was a saint, and yet he was human and funny
and most lovable, and that isn't too common a combination.  There can
be nothing more terrible than to be married to a sanctimonious saint.
Imagine being _forgiven_ all the time!  Every time you lost your temper
or spoke maliciously or unadvisedly, to see a pained expression on his

"It would drive one to crime," said Ann solemnly.


Marget stood in the middle of the room pleating her black silk apron
between her fingers.  She wanted to be asked to sit down, for she had
heard Ann and her mother talking of the removal from Glasgow, and she
felt that what she had to say on the subject was of value.

"Cornel and Mrs. Moncrieff 'll be comin' next week," she reminded them.
"I'm airin' the rooms an' pitten' bottles in the beds noo for I'm never
verra sure aboot unused rooms in a new hoose.  Ye'll no' can write when
they're here, Miss Ann.  It'll tak' ye a' yer time to crack wi' the

"Oh, but it's a long time till next week, Marget," Ann said, as she
went over to the bureau to address a parcel she had been wrapping up.
"I'll have finished my writing by then."

"Is that sweeties for the bairns?" Marget asked, eyeing the parcel and
sitting down as if by accident.  "Ye'll file their stomachs."

"It's only Miss Smart's tablet.  I never go to Priorsford without
getting them some tablet at their dear Miss Smart's.  Rory said to me
solemnly the last time he was here, after a very successful visit to
the shop, 'There's nobody in England like Miss Smart.'"

"I dare say not," said Mrs. Douglas.  "London shops don't encourage
small boys to poke in behind the counter.  Miss Smart is so
good-natured that her shop is a sort of Aladdin's Cave to all young
Priorsford--Ann, have you remembered to put in my _Life_ about Alis and
the others being born?"

"Goodness gracious, I have not," cried Ann.  "But I haven't got to that
time yet, have I?  You shouldn't give me unnecessary frights, Mother.
Imagine leaving out Alis!  Davie would have been annoyed.  He was the
proudest young uncle--was he thirteen?--and Alis adored him.  'My saucy
Uncle Boy' she named him, when she could speak; and they were
inseparable.  He was a mixture of playmate and kind old Nannie to her.
If anyone made Alis cry, in a moment Davie appeared and snatched her up
and dried her tears.  'You don't know how I love my Uncle Boy,' I heard
her telling some one.  'He's my favourite of men.'  No, Davie wouldn't
like Alis forgotten."

"I used to hear Alis boast," Mrs. Douglas said, "about her young uncle
to Mary Elizabeth, and when Mary came to stay she warned her, 'He is my
Uncle Boy, you know, Mary, not yours,' and Mary said nothing until she
got Davie alone, then she whispered to him, 'Uncle Boy, will you be my
Daddy,' and thought she had scored off poor Alis completely."

"A' the bairns likit Davie," Marget put in.  "He had sic a cheery face
an' he was aye lauchin'.  I've seen me lauch mysel' in the kitchen when
I heard him lauchin' up the stairs.  He fair hated to be vexed aboot
onything.  Ye mind when you were ill, Mem, he took it awfu' ill-oot."

"All our troubles began after we left Glasgow," Ann said gloomily.
"All those years we had been extraordinary healthy; doctors would have
starved if they had had to depend on us.  I know I used to look
pityingly at sick people and wonder to myself if they wouldn't be quite
well if they only made an effort.  We talked bracingly about never
having people ill in bed in our house.  'We treat our patients on their
feet,' we said, with what must have been an insufferably superior air.
And then we had been so lucky for so long; the boys got everything they
tried for, and everything prospered with us, so I suppose it was time
we got a downing; but that didn't make it any easier when it came.  We
left Glasgow knowing that father's health would always be an anxiety;
but we didn't bargain for your crocking up, Mums."

"I'm sure I didn't want to 'crock up' as you call it," said Mrs.
Douglas, looking aggrieved.

"Of course you didn't," Ann hastened to soothe her mother's ruffled
feelings.  Then she began to laugh.  "But it was rather like you,
Mother, to go and take a most obscure disease!  We can laugh at it now
because you got better, but we put in a terrible year.  First the
removing to Priorsford in May--taking the books alone was like removing
mountains, though we gave away armfuls to anyone who could be induced
to take them--and we were no sooner settled down in our new house than
you began to feel seedy.  It began so gradually that we thought nothing
of it.  You looked oddly yellow, and seemed to lose strength; but you
said it was nothing, and I was only too glad to believe it.  When at
last we got the doctor he said you were very seriously ill, sent you to
bed, and got a trained nurse."

"Eh, I say," Marget began.  "I'll never forget that winter.  We juist
got fricht efter fricht.  It was something awfu'.  It was a guid thing
we left the new hoose and gaed to live wi' Mr. Jim."

"It was," said Ann; "we needed Jim beside us.  Those awful attacks of
fever when you lay delirious for days at a time!  We dragged you
through one turn and got you fairly well, only to see you take another.
It was most disheartening.  No wonder poor Davie stamped with rage.
Doctors and nurses walked in and out of the house, specialists were
summoned from Edinburgh and Glasgow.  All our money was spent on
physicians, and, like the woman in the Bible, you were none the better,
but rather the worse.  None of them gave us any hope that you would
recover.  One evening we were told you couldn't live over the night,
and Mark and Charlotte came flying up from London, only to find you
sitting up knitting a stocking!  I never really believed that you
wouldn't get better.  You weren't patient enough somehow; indeed, my
dear, there was nothing of the story-book touch about you at all when
you were ill.  What a thrawn, resentful little patient you were!  You
occupied your time when you were fairly well upbraiding me for keeping
the house so extravagantly.  You said you were sure there was great
leakage.  I'm sure there was, but I couldn't help it.  It took me all
my time to nurse you and keep things comfortable in the house and see
that Father didn't over-exert himself.  Marget's whole time was taken
up cooking--illness makes such a lot of extra work--and, fortunately,
we had a very good housemaid.  But if you didn't shine as a patient, I
certainly didn't shine as a nurse.  I'm afraid I hadn't the gentle,
womanly touch of the real ministering angel, smoothing pillows and such
like.  I knew nothing about nursing, and you said I heaved hot-water
bags at you."

"So you did; but you were an excellent nurse for all that.  But, oh, I
did feel so guilty keeping you hanging round me.  It was more than a
year out of your life, just when you would have been having such a good

"Oh," said Ann, "I don't grudge the year--I've had heaps of good times.
The only really bad times were when the attacks of high fever came and
you got unconscious; then you wouldn't let a nurse into the room.  Jim
and I had to sit up with you for nights on end.  But you were very
brave, and you never let your illness get on our nerves.  You just
bounded up from an attack like an india-rubber ball.  The doctors
simply gasped at you.  You said good-bye to us so often that we began
to take it quite casually, merely saying, 'Well, have some beef-tea
just now, anyway'; and Father used to laugh and say, 'You'll live and
loup dykes yet.'"

"I'm sure I wasn't at all keen to live, Ann.  When you get very far
down dying seems so simple and easy; but I did want to see Robbie
again.  I think that kept me alive.  When did you take me to London?
In spring, wasn't it?"

"Yes, in March.  You weren't getting a bit better, and some one told
Mark about the vaccine treatment, and he thought it might be worth
trying.  We were told that the journey would certainly kill you, but
you said, 'No such thing,' so off we set, you and I, all on a wild
March morning.  You stood the journey splendidly; but two days after
you arrived you took the worst fever turn of all.  The London doctors
came and told me you wouldn't live over the night, and I really thought
they were going to be right that time.  I telephoned to Priorsford, and
it was Davie answered me, 'Is that you, Nana?'  I was sorry to worry
the boy, but I had to tell you were very ill, and that I thought Jim
should come up by the night train.  But you warstled through again, and
then Mark brought Sir Armstrong Weir to see you.  We had seen several
London doctors, very glossy and well dressed, with beautiful cars, and
we wondered if this great Sir Armstrong would be even smarter.  But the
great man came in a taxi, and wasn't at all well dressed--grey and bent
and very gentle."

"He looked old," Mrs. Douglas said; "but he couldn't have been so very,
for he told me his own mother was living.  He was very kind to me."

"He cured you," said Ann.

"Oh no," said Mrs. Douglas.

"Well, it was partly his vaccine and partly your own marvellous pluck."

"Oh no.  It wasn't pluck or vaccine or anything, but just that I had to
live more days on the earth."

"'Deed ay," said Marget, nodding in agreement with her mistress.  "Ye
never did ony guid until ye had given up doctors a'thegither.  As soon
as we got quat o' them ye began to improve."

"Now, now, Marget," said Ann, "you get carried away by your dislike of
doctors.  We've been very thankful to see them many a time."

"Oh, they're a' richt for some things; but whenever it's ony thing
serious ye canna lippen to them.  When there's onything wrang wi' yer
inside naebody can help ye but yer Maker."

Ann laughed.  "What a gloomy view to take, Marget.  You remind me of
the old lady who said that she gave to Dr. Barnardo's Homes 'because he
has no one to help him but God.'  I won't let you malign doctors.  The
best kind of doctor is about the highest type of human being.  What are
you snorting at, Marget?"

"I could wish them a better job!  Hoo onybody can like clartin' aboot
in folks' insides!  Doctorin's a nesty job, and I'm glad nane o' oor
laddies took up wi't.  They a' got clean, genteel jobs."

"Such as soldiering?"

"Oh, I'm no' heedin' muckle aboot sodgerin' aither," said Marget.
Then, turning to her mistress, she said, "As you say, Mem, nae doctor
can kill ye while there's life in the cup.  D'ye think it was mebbe the
flittin' that brocht on yer trouble?  Ye ken ye washt a' the china

Mrs. Douglas smiled at her.  "All the years you've known me, Marget,
have you ever heard of housework doing me any harm?  No.  It was some
sort of blood-poisoning that went away as mysteriously as it came.
Though what I was spared for I know not.  If I had died, how often you
would have said of me, 'She was taken from the evil to come.'"

"Poor darling!" said Ann.  "Do you think you were spared simply that
you might receive evil things?  Say, rather, that you were spared to
help the rest of us through the terrible times....  Father, mercifully,
had kept wonderfully well through your illness.  He had accepted his
limitations and knew that he must not attempt a hill road, or fight
against a high wind, or move quickly; and really, looking at him, it
was difficult to believe that anything ailed him."

"But it must have been very bad for him, Ann, all the scares he got
with my illness.  It's dreadful for me to think that the last year of
his life was made uncomfortable and distressed by me."

"But you mustn't think that.  Even in those stormy days he seemed to
carry about with him a quiet, sunny peace.  What a blessing we had him
through that time; the sight of him steadied one."

"And I'm sure I couldn't have lived through that time without him,"
Mrs. Douglas said; "although I sometimes got very cross with him
sitting reading with a pleased smile on his face when I felt so

"I think he really enjoyed his restricted life," said Ann.  "To be in
the open air was his delight, and he was able to take two short walks
every day and spend some time pottering in the garden, going lovingly
round his special treasures, those rock plants that he was trying to
persuade to grow on the old wall by the waterside.  We wanted him to
drive, but he hated driving; he liked, he said, to feel the ground
under his feet.  He never looked anything but well with his
fresh-coloured face."

"He got younger lookin'," Marget said.  "I suppose it was no havin' a
kirk to worry aboot, the lines on his face got kind o' smoothed oot.
D'ye mind when he used to come into the room, Mem, you aye said it was
like a breath o' fresh air."

"Yes, Marget, I mind well.  Neil Macdonald said when he was staying
with us once that when Father came into the room he had a look in his
eyes as if he had been on a watch-tower, 'As if--Neil said, in his
soft, Highland voice--'as if he had been looking across Jordan into
Canaan's green and pleasant land.'"

Ann smiled.  "I know what he meant.  D'ye remember Father's little
Baxter's _Saints' Rest_ that he carried about with him in his pocket
and read in quiet moments?  And his passion for adventure books?  I
think Jim got him every 'thriller' that was published.  And the book on
Border Poets that he was writing?  He always wrote a bit after tea.  No
matter who was having tea with us, Father calmly turned when he was
finished to the bureau, pulled forward a chair--generally rumpling up
the rug, and then I cried, 'Oh, _Father_!'--and sat quietly writing
amid all the talk and laughter.  He had nearly finished it when he
died....  That last week he seemed particularly well.  He said his feet
had such a firm grip of the ground now.  I didn't want him to go out
because it was stormy, and he held up one foot and said, 'Dear me,
girl, look at those _splendid_ soles!'"

Marget put her apron up to her eyes.  "Eh, lassie, ye're whiles awfu'
like yer faither."

There was a silence in the room while the three women thought their own

At last Ann said, "What pathetic things we mortals are!  That Saturday
night when we sat round the fire my heart was singing a song of
thankfulness.  You were still frail, Mother, but you were wonderfully
better, and to have you with us again sitting by the fire knitting your
stocking was comfort unspeakable.  Jim had been reading aloud the
_Vailima Letters_, and the letters to Barrie and about Barrie sent us
to _The Little Minister_, and I read to you Waster Luny's inimitable
remarks about ancestors, 'It's a queer thing that you and me his nae
ancestors....  They're as lost to sicht as a flagon-lid that's fa'en
ahint the dresser.'  I forget how it goes, but Father enjoyed it
greatly.  I think anything would have made us laugh that night, for the
mornin's post had brought us a letter from Robbie with the unexpected
news that he had been chosen for some special work and would be home
shortly--he thought in about three months' time.  And as I looked at
you and Father smiling at each other in the firelight I said in my
heart, like Agag, '_Surely the bitterness of death is past!_' and the
next day Father died."

Mrs. Douglas sat silent with her head bowed, but Marget said, "Oh,
lassie! lassie!" and wept openly.

In a little while Ann spoke again:

"It isn't given to many to be 'happy on the occasion of his death,' but
Father was.  His end was as gentle as his life.  He slipped away
suddenly on the Sabbath afternoon, at the hour when his hands had so
often been stretched in benediction.  He died in his boyhood's home.
The November sun was going down behind the solemn round-backed hills,
the familiar sound of the Tweed over its pebbles was in his ears, and
though he had to cross the dark river the waters weren't deep for him.
I think, like Mr. Standfast, he went over 'wellnigh dry shod.' And he
was taken before the storm broke.  Three months later the cable came
that broke our hearts.  Robbie had died after two days' illness on his
way to Bombay to get the steamer for home."


They had been talking of many things, Ann and her mother, and had
fallen silent.

The wind was tearing through the Green Glen, and moaning eerily round
the house of Dreams, throwing at intervals handfuls of hail which
struck against the panes like pistol-shots.

"A wild night," Mrs. Douglas said, looking over her shoulder at the
curtained windows, and drawing her chair nearer the fire.  "This is the
sort of night your father liked to sit by the fireside.  He would lift
his head from his book to listen to the wind outside, look round the
warm, light room and give a contented sigh."

"I know," said Ann; "it was very difficult doing without Father.  He
had always enjoyed the good things of life so frankly there seemed no
pleasure any longer in a good dinner, or a fine morning, or a blazing
fire, or an interesting book, since he wasn't there to say how fine it
was.  Besides his very presence had been a sort of benediction, and it
was almost as if the roof of life had been removed--and it was much
worse for you, poor Mother.  We were afraid you would go, too."

"Oh, Ann," Mrs. Douglas, clasping _Hours of Silence_, raised tearful
eyes to her daughter, "I'm sure I didn't want to live.  I don't know
why I go on living."

Ann caught her mother's hands in her own.  "You funny wee body!  You
remind me of the Paisley woman who told me she had lost all her sons in
the war, and was both surprised and annoyed that she hadn't died of
grief.  'An' ma neebor juist lost the one an' _she_ de'ed, and folk
said she niver liftit her heid efter her laddie went, and here wis me
losin' a' mine and gaun aboot quite healthy!  An' I'm sure I wis as
vext as whit she wis.  It's no want o' grievin' for I'm never dune
greetin'--I begin early i' the mornin' afore I get ma cup o' tea.'"

"Oh, the poor body!" said Mrs. Douglas.  "I know so well what she
meant.  It sounds funny, but it isn't a bit....  Your father's death
was sheer desolation to me.  I remember, a long time ago at Kirkcaple,
going to see a widow who had brought up a most creditable family, and,
looking round her cosy kitchen, I said something about how well she had
done, and that life must be pleasant for her with her children all up
and doing well.  And the brisk, active little woman looked at me, and I
was surprised to see tears in her rather hard eyes.

"The bairns are a' richt," she said; "but it maks an awfu' difference
when ye lose yer pairtner....'  And then I have so many things to

"Regret?" Ann laughed.  "I don't think you have one single thing to
regret.  If ever a man was happy in his home it was my father."

"Ah, but I was bad to him often.  I pretended to be a Radical--a thing
I never was really--simply from contrariness.  If I had him back----"

"Now what would you change if you could?" Ann asked.

"Well, for one thing I would never contradict him, or argue..."

"Oh, how Father would have loathed that.  Arguing was the breath of
life to him, and he hated to be agreed with."

Mrs. Douglas went on.  "And I would never worry him to do things that
went against his judgment.  When people took a _tirravee_ and sent for
their lines he always wanted to give them to them at once, but I used
to beg him to go and reason with them and persuade them to remain.
They generally did, for they only wanted to be made a fuss of, but I
see now I was quite wrong; people so senseless deserved no
consideration.  And I wouldn't worry him to go and ask popular
preachers to come to us for anniversary services and suchlike
occasions!  That was the thing he most hated doing."

"I don't wonder," said Ann.  "To ask favours is never pleasant, and
popular preachers are apt to get a bit above themselves and condescend
a little to the older, less successful men who are living in a day of
small things.  But I don't think any of us, you least of all, need
reproach ourselves with not having appreciated Father.  And yet, when
he went away it seemed quite wrong to mourn for him.  To have pulled
long faces and gone about plunged in grief would have been like an
insult to the happy soul who had finished his day's work and gone home.
It wasn't a case of

  'Better by far you should forget and smile,
  Than that you should remember and be sad.'

It was simply that we had so many happy things to remember we couldn't
but smile.  We wouldn't have had anything changed.  To the very end his
ways were ways of pleasantness and all his paths were peace.  But when
Robbie died----"

Ann stopped, and her mother took up her words:

"When Robbie died we seemed to sink into a black pit of horror.  We
didn't want to see anyone.  We could hardly look at the letters that
poured in; their lamentations seemed to add to our burden.  Only Miss
Barbara's was any use, and all she said was, 'I have prayed for you
that your faith fail not.'"

"It seemed so _unfair_," Ann said slowly.  "In a shop one day the woman
who was serving me asked so kindly for you, and wanted to know how you
were bearing up.  Then she said suddenly: 'When thae awfu' nice folk
dee div ye no juist fair feel that ye could rebel?'  Rebel!  Poor
helpless mortals that we are!"

Mrs. Douglas shook her head.  "If there is one lesson I have learned it
is the folly of kicking against the pricks.  To be bitter and resentful
multiplies the grief a thousandfold.  There is nothing for it but
submission.  Shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord and not
receive evil?  There is an odd text that strikes me every time I come
to it: '_And David was comforted concerning Ammon because he was
dead_.'  I don't know what it means, perhaps that Ammon fought with
David so David was glad he was dead, but it always has a special
meaning for me.  We had to come to it, Ann, you and I, when we tramped
those long walks by Tweedside rather than sit at home and face callers
and sympathy.  It was Robbie himself who helped us most.  The thought
of him, so brave and gay and gentle, simply _made_ us believe that in a
short time he had fulfilled a long time, and that God had taken him
against that day when He shall make up His jewels.  We could only cling
to the fact that God is Love, and that it was to Himself He had taken
the boy who seemed to us so altogether lovely."

Mrs. Douglas took off her spectacles and rubbed them with her
handkerchief, and Ann said:

"Yes, Mother, at moments we felt all that, and were comforted, but
there are so many days when it seems you can't get above the sense of
loss.  Those nights when one dreamed he was with us, and wakened.
There's not much doubt about Death's sting....  But what kept me from
going under altogether was the thought of Davie.  I tried never to let
him see me with a dull face.  All his life the child had dreaded
sadness, and it seemed hard that he should so early become 'acquainted
with grief.'  After Robbie's death, when he came into a room the first
thing he did was to glance quickly at our faces to see if we had been
crying, and if we looked at him happily his face cleared.  If anybody
mentioned Robbie's name he slipped quietly out of the room.  Jim was
the same.  I think men are like that.  Women can talk and find relief,
but to speak about his grief is the last thing an ordinary man can do.
That's why I was sorrier for the fathers in the war than the
mothers....  I was glad Davie was at college and busy all day.  I think
he dreaded coming home that Easter."

"But I don't think he found it bad, Ann.  He had his great friend
Anthony with him, and we all tried our best to give him a good time.
And at seventeen it isn't so hard to rise above trouble."

"Oh no," said Ann; "and Davie was so willing to be happy."  She
laughed.  "I never knew anyone so appreciative of a joke--any sort of
joke.  When he was a tiny boy if I said anything which I meant to be
funny, and which met with no response, Davie would say indignantly:
'Nana's made a joke and nobody laughed.'  He always gave a loud laugh
himself--'Me hearty laugh,' he called it."

"Oh, I'd forgotten that," cried Davie's mother; "'me hearty laugh.'  We
all treated Davie as a joke, and didn't bother much whether his school
reports were good or only fairly good.  He wasn't at all studious
naturally, though he was passionately fond of reading, and I'm afraid
we liked to find excuses to let him play.  Only Robbie took him
seriously.  You remember when he was home on leave he protested against
Davie bounding everywhere and having no fixed hours of study.  'We've
got to think of the chap's future,' he said."

"Robbie and Davie adored each other," Ann said.  "They were so funny
together--Davie a little bashful with the big brother.  I remember
hearing Davie telling Robbie about some Fabian Society that he belonged
to, and what they discussed at it, and Robbie stood looking at him
through his eyeglass with an amused grin on his face, and said, 'Stout
fellow!'  That was always what he said to Davie, 'Stout fellow!'  I can
hear him now....  But the odd thing was that Davie seemed to take no
interest in his own future.  It was almost as if he realised that this
world held no future for him.  Mark, always careful and troubled, used
to worry about a profession for him.  He wanted him to go into the
Navy, but you vetoed that as too dangerous; it mustn't be India,
because we couldn't part with our baby."

Mrs. Douglas leaned forward to push in a falling log.  "I was foolishly
anxious about Davie always; never quite happy if he was away from me.
I worried the boy sometimes, but he was patient with me.  'Poor wee
body,' he always said, and put his arms round me--he learned that
expression from Robbie."

"I have an old exercise book," said Ann, "in which Davie made his first
efforts at keeping accounts--David _Douglas in account with self_.  It
is very much ornamented with funny faces and not very accurate, for
sums are frequently noted as 'lost.'  It stops suddenly, and underneath
is scrawled, 'The war here intervened.'  We didn't need to worry about
his work in the world.  That was decided for him when--

  'God chose His squires, and trained their hands
  For those stern lists of liberty.'"

Mrs. Douglas caught her breath with a sob.  "At once he clamoured to
go, but he was so young, only eighteen, and I said he must only offer
for home defence; and he said, 'All right, wee body, that'll do to
start with,' but in a very short time he was away to train with
Kitchener's first army."

"He was miserable, Mother, until he got away.  Jim was refused
permission from the first, and had to settle down to his job, but for
most of us the bottom seemed to have fallen out of the world, and one
could settle to nothing.  In the crashing of empires the one stable
thing was that fact that the _Scotsman_ continued its 'Nature Notes.'
That amused Davie....  He began an album of war poetry, cutting out and
pasting in verses that appeared in the _Times_ and _Spectator_ and
_Punch_ and other papers.  'Carmina Belli' he printed on the outside.
He charged me to go on with it when he went away, and I finished it
with Mark's poem on himself:

  'You left the line with jest and smile
    And heart that would not bow to pain--
  _I'll lay me downe and bleed awhile,
    And then I'll rise and fight again_.'"

Ann got up and leaned her brow on the mantel-shelf, and looking into
the fire, said:

"D'you know, Mother, I think that first going away was the worst of
all, though he was only going to England to train.  Nothing afterwards
so broke me down as seeing the fresh-faced boy in his grey tweed suit
going off with such a high heart.  I don't know what you felt about it,
but the sword pierced my heart then.  You remember it was the Fair at
Priorsford! and the merry-go-rounds on the Green buzzed round to a tune
he had often sung, some ridiculous words about 'Hold your hand out, you
naughty boy.'  As I stood in my little swallow's-nest of a room and
looked out over the Green, and saw the glare of the naphtha lamps
reflected in the water, and the swing-boats passing backwards and
forwards, through light into darkness, and from darkness into light,
and realised that Davie had been born for the Great War, every chord
seemed to strike at my heart."

"Oh, Ann," Mrs. Douglas cried, "I never let myself think.  It was my
only chance to go on working as hard as ever I was able at whatever
came to my hand.  I left him in God's hands.  I was helpless."

The tears were running down her face as she spoke, and Ann said, "Poor
Mother, it was hardest for you.  Your cry was the old, old cry: 'Joseph
is not, Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away....'  But our
Benjamin was so glad to go.  And he never found anything to grumble at,
not even at Bramshott, where there was nothing fit to eat, and the huts
leaked, and the mud was unspeakable, and his uniform consisted of a red
tunic made for a very large man, and a pair of exceedingly bad blue
breeks.  When he came at Christmas--he made me think of one of Prince
Charlie's men with his shabby uniform and yellow hair--how glad he was
to have a real wallowing hot bath, with bath salts and warm towels, and
get into his own tweeds.  He was just beginning to get clean when he
had to go again!  In a few weeks he got his commission, and in the
autumn of 1915 he went to France--'as gentle and as jocund as to jest
went he to fight.'"

There was a silence in the pleasant room as the two women thought their
own thoughts, and the fire crackled and the winter wind beat upon the

Mrs. Douglas spoke first.  "It was a wonderful oasis in that desert of
anxiety when Davie was wounded and at home.  Those nights when we had
lain awake thinking of him in the trenches, those days when we were
afraid for every ring at the bell, and hardly dared look when we opened
the hall door after being out, in case the orange envelope should be
lying on the table.  To have all that suddenly changed.  To know that
he was lying safe and warm and clean in a white bed in a private
hospital in London, 'lying there with a face like a herd,' Mark wrote,
with nothing much the matter with him but a shrapnel wound in his
leg--it was almost too much relief.  And we had him at Queensferry all
summer.  We were greatly blessed, Ann."

"And it wasn't quite so bad letting him go the second time," Ann said.
"He had been there once and had got out alive and he knew the men he
was going to, and was glad to go back; and Mark wasn't far from him,
and could see him sometimes."

"His letters were so cheery.  From his accounts you would have thought
that living in the trenches was a sort of jolly picnic.  Oh, Ann, do
you remember the letter to me written in the train going up to the
line, when he said he had dreamt he was a small boy again, and 'I
thought I had lost you, wee body, and I woke up shouting "Mother," to
the amusement of the other men in the carriage?'"

"Some people," said Ann, "go through the world afraid all the time that
they are being taken advantage of.  Davie never ceased to be amazed at
the kindness shown him.  He was one of those happy souls whose path
through life is lined with friends, and whose kind eyes meet only
affectionate glances.  His letters were full of the kindness he
received--the 'decent lad' in his platoon who heard him say his dug-out
was draughty, and who made a shutter for the window and stopped up all
the cracks; the two corporals from the Gallowgate who formed his
bodyguard, and every time he fell into a shell-hole or dodged a crump
shouted anxiously, 'Are ye hurt, sirr?'  You remember he wrote: 'These
last two years have been the happiest in my life,' and other men who
were with him told us he never lost his high spirits."

"That was such a terribly long, hard winter," Mrs. Douglas said.  "The
snow was never off the hills for months.  And then spring came, but
such a spring!  Nothing but wild winds and dreary sleet.  We hoped and
hoped that Davie would get leave--he was next on the list for it--but
he wrote and said his leave had gone 'very far West.'  We didn't know
it, but they were getting ready for the big spring offensive.  Then one
day we saw that a battle had begun at Arras, and Davie's letter that
morning read like a farewell.  Things may be happening shortly, but
don't worry about me.  I've just been thinking what a good life I've
had all round, and what a lot of happiness I've had.  Even the sad
parts are a comfort now....'"

"Mother, do you see," said Ann, "there's your text about Ammon.  Out
there, waiting for the big battle, Davie didn't feel it sad any more
than Father and Robbie had gone out of the world--he was _comforted
concerning them because they were dead_.  We were thinking of him and
praying for him every hour of the day, but he felt them nearer to him
than we were."

"To think that when that letter came he was dead!  To think that I was
in Glasgow with Miss Barbara talking of him nearly all the time, for
Miss Barbara loved the boy, and nothing told us he was no longer in the
world.  To think of the child--he was little more--waiting there in the
darkness for the signal to attack.  He must have been so anxious about
leading the company, so afraid----"

"Anxious maybe," said Ann, "but not really afraid.  Don't you remember
what his great friend Captain Shiels wrote and told us, that while they
waited for the dawn Davie spoke 'words of comfort and encouragement to
his men.'  I cry when I think of that...."

"My little boy--my baby.  Away from us all--_alone_...."

"No.  No, Mother, never less alone; 'compassed about with a great cloud
of witnesses.'  I have a notion that all the great army of men who down
through the centuries have given their lives for our country's bright
cause were with our men in that awful fighting, steeling the courage of
those boy-soldiers....  And Father and Robbie were beside him, I am
very sure, and Father would know then that all his prayers were
answered for his boy--the bad little boy who refused to say his
prayers, the timid little boy who was afraid to go into a dark
room--when he saw him stand, with Death tapping him on the shoulder,
speaking 'words of comfort and encouragement to his men.'  I think
Robbie would say, 'Stout fellow.'  That was the 9th.  The telegram came
to us on the afternoon of the 11th.  Jim and I were terribly anxious,
and I had been doing all the jobs I hated most with a sort of lurking,
ashamed feeling in my heart that if we worked our hardest and did our
very best Davie might be spared to us."

Ann stopped, and went on, half-laughing, half-crying:

"Like poor Mrs. Clark, one of my women.  She told me how she had gone
out and helped a sick neighbour, and coming home had seen some
children, whose father was fighting and whose mother was ill, playing
in the rain, and she had taken them in and given them a hot meal.  As
they were leaving the postman brought her a letter saying her son was
dead in Mesopotamia.  She said to me, defiantly, as if she were scoring
off Providence, 'I'm no gaun tae _pray_ nae mair,' and I knew exactly
what she felt."

"Oh, the poor woman," said Mrs. Douglas weeping.

"I thought," Ann went on, "that if no wire came that day it would mean
that Davie had got through--but at tea-time it came.  I went into
Glasgow next morning by the first train to tell you.  Phoebe was
washing the front door steps at No. 10, and she told me you and Miss
Barbara were in the dining-room at breakfast.  I stood in the doorway
and looked at you.  You were laughing and telling Miss Barbara
something funny that had been in one of Davie's letters.  I felt like a
murderer standing there.  When I went into the room your face lit up
for a moment, and then you realised.  'It is the laddie?' you
whispered, and I nodded.  You neither spoke nor cried, but stood
looking before you as if you were thinking very deeply about something,
then 'I would like to go home,' you said...."

"And to think," Mrs. Douglas said, breaking a long silence, "that I am
only one of millions of mothers who will go mourning to their graves."

"I know, Mother.  I know.  But you wouldn't ask him back even if that
were possible.  You wouldn't, if you could, take 'the purple of his
blood out of the cross on the breastplate of England.'  Don't you love
these words of Ruskin?  It's the proudest thing we have to think about,
and, honestly--I'm not just saying this--I believe that the men who lie
out there have the best of it.  The men who came back will, most of
them, have to fight a grim struggle, for living is none too pleasant
just now, and they will grow old, and bald, and ill-tempered, and they
have all to die in the end.  What is twenty more years of life but
twenty more years of fearing death?  But our men whose sacrifice was
accepted, and who were allowed to pour out the sweet, red wine of
youth, passed at one bound from glorious life to glorious life.  'Eld
shall not make a mock of that dear head.'  They know not age or
weariness or defeat."


The December day had run its short and stormy course and the sun was
going down in anger, with streaks of crimson and orange, and great
purple clouds.  Only over the top of the far hills was one long line of
placid pale primrose, like some calm landlocked bay amid seas of
tumbling waters.

Mrs. Douglas, crossing the room to get a paper from the table, paused
at the wide window and looked out.  Desolate the landscape looked, the
stretch of moorland, and the sodden fields, and the empty highroad
running like a ribbon between hills now dark with rain.

She sighed as she looked.

Ann was writing at the bureau, had been writing since luncheon,
absorbed, never lifting her head, but now she blotted vigorously the
last sheet, put the pen back in the tray, shut the lid of the
ink-bottle, and announced:

"Now, then, Mother, that's your _Life_ written!"

Mrs. Douglas looked at the finished pile of manuscript and sighed again.

Ann got up and went over to the window.  "You are sighing like a
furnace, Mother.  What's the matter?  Does it depress you to think that
I've finished my labours?  Oh, look at the sunset!  It bodes ill for
the Moncrieffs ever getting over the door, poor lambs!  Look at that
quiet, shining bit over the Farawa, how far removed it looks from
tempests!  D'you know what that sky reminds me of, Mother?  The story
of your life that I've just finished.  The clouds and the angry red
colour are all you passed through, and that quiet, serene streak is
where you are now, the clear shining after rain.  It may be dull, but
you must admit it is peaceful."

"Oh, we are peaceful enough just now, but think of Jim in South Africa,
and Charlotte and Mark in India--who knows what news we may have of
them any day?  I just live in dread of what may happen next."

"But, Mother, you've always lived in dread.  Mark used to say that the
telegraph boys drew lots among themselves as to who should bring the
telegrams to our house.  You used to rush out with the unopened
envelope and implore the boy to tell you if it were bad news, and when
you did open it your frightened eyes read things that never were on the
paper.  If we happened to be all at home when you were confronted with
a wire you didn't care a bit--utterly callous.  It was only your
husband and your children you cared about--ah, well, you had the
richest, fullest, happiest life for more than thirty years, and that's
not so small a thing to boast of."

"Oh, Ann, I'm not ungrateful, only----"

"Only you're like Davie when we told him to go away and count his
blessings.  'I've done it,' he came back to tell us, 'and I've six
things to be thankful for and nine to be unthankful for.'"

Mrs. Douglas laughed as she went back to her chair by the fire and took
up her knitting.  "No, I've nothing to be unthankful for, only I think
so much of me died with your father and Robbie and Davie that I seem to
be half with you and half with them where they are gone."

Ann nodded.  "That may be so, but you are more alive than most of us
even now.  I don't know anybody who takes so much interest in life, who
has such a capacity for enjoyment, who burdens herself with other
people's burdens as that same Mrs. Douglas who says she is only
half-alive and longs to depart--and here is Mysie with the tea."

Mysie lit the lamp under the kettle and arranged the tea-things.  She
drew the curtains across the windows, shutting out the last gleam of
the stormy sunset, and turned on the lights, then she stood by the door
and, blushing, asked if she might go out for the evening, as she had an

"Now where"--cried Mrs. Douglas as the door closed behind the little
maid--"where in the world can Mysie have an engagement in this
out-of-the-world place on this dark, stormy night?"

Ann smiled.  "She's so pretty, Mother, so soft and round and young, and
have you forgotten:

  'For though the nicht be ne'er sae dark,
    An' I be ne'er sae weary O,
  I'll meet ye by the lea-rig,
    Ma ain kind dearie O.'

I haven't a doubt but that pretty Mysie has got a 'lawd.'  And what for
no?  I do hope Marget isn't too discouraging to the child."

Ann sat on the fender-stool with her cup and saucer, and a pot of jam
on the rug beside her, and a plate with a crumpet on her lap, and ate

"Life is still full of pleasant things, Mums, pretty girls and
crumpets, and strawberry jam, and fender-stools, and blazing fires, and
little moaning mothers who laugh even while they cry.  Your pessimism
is like the bubbles on a glass of champagne--oh, I know you have been a
teetotaller all your days, but that doesn't harm my metaphor."

"Ann, you amaze me.  How you can rattle on as if you hadn't a care in
the world--you who have lost so much!"

Ann looked at her mother in silence for a minute, then she looked into
the dancing flames.  "As you say, it is amazing--I who have lost so
much.  And when you think of it, I haven't much to laugh at.  I've got
the sort of looks that go very fast, so I'll soon be old and ugly--but
what about it"?

  "'I may never live to be old,' says she,
  'For nobody knows their day....'

And I've got work to do, and I've still got brothers, and I've got
Charlotte and the children, and I've more friends than I sometimes know
what to do with.  It's an odd thing, but I do believe, Mother, that I'm
happier now than when I was twenty and had all the world before me.
Youth isn't really a very happy time.  You want and want and you don't
know what you want.  As you get older you realise that you have _no
right to bliss_, and must make the best of what you have got.  Then you
begin to enjoy things in a different way.  Out of almost everything
that happens there is some pleasure to be got if you look for it, and
people are so funny and human and pitiful you can't be dull.  Middle
age brings its compensations, and, anyway, whether it does or not it is
a most miserable business to be obsessed by one's own woes.  The only
thing to do is to stand a bit away from oneself and say, 'You miserable
atom, what are you whining about?  Do you suppose the eternal scheme of
things is going to be altered because _you_ don't like it?'"

Mrs. Douglas laughed rather ruefully.  "You're a terribly bracing
person, Ann; but I'm bound to confess that you practise what you

"But I've really no right to preach at all!" Ann said.  "I always
forget one thing, the most important of all.  I've always been
perfectly well, so I've no right to sit in judgment on people who
struggle all their lives against ill-health.  It is no credit to me--I
who hardly know what it means to have a headache--to be equable and
gay.  When I think of some people we know, fighting all the time
against such uneven odds, asking only for a chance to work and be happy
in working, and knocked down time and again, yet always undefeated, I
could go and bury my head ashamed.  Don't ever listen to me, Mother,
when I preach to you; squash me at once."

"Well, I'll try to--but, Ann, there is one thing that worries me.
Remember, I will not have you sacrifice your life to me."

"No fear of that," said Ann airily.  "There's nothing of the martyr
about me."

"That Mr. Philip Scott----"  Mrs. Douglas hesitated.

"Oh, him!" said Ann, "or, to be more grammatical, oh, he!  I had a
letter from him this morning--did I forget to show it you?  He says he
is to be at Birkshaw for Christmas."

Ann stopped.

"Well, Ann?"

"Well, Mother?"

"Don't be provoking, Ann.  Is Mr. Scott anything to you?"

Ann turned serene grey eyes to her mother.  "Nothing," she said,
"except a pleasant friend.  That's all he wants to be, I'm sure."

"But, Ann, don't you think..."

"I never think, Mother..."

Ann caught the Tatler in her arms and sank with it into the depths of
an arm-chair.

"There's something exceedingly nice about being a spinster.  Here's
Marget.  I shall ask her what she thinks.  Marget, you don't regret
being a spinster, do you?"

Marget came farther into the room and peered suspiciously at Ann in the
arm-chair with the cat in her arm.

"Ye're no' gaun to pit it doon in writin' are ye?  Weel, that's a'
richt.  To tell the truth I hadna muckle encouragement to be onything
else.  I wasna juist a'thegither negleckit, but I never had a richt
offer.  But lookin' roond I've often been thankfu' I wasna trachled wi'
a man.  Ye see, livin' a' ma life wi' kin o' better folk I wad ha'
taken ill wi' a man sittin' in his stockin' feet and spittin' into the
fire.  Genteel service spoils ye; but, of course, a'body's no sae
particlar....  Mysie, the monkey, hes gotten a lawd."

"What did I say," Ann cried.  "Who is he, Marget?"

"His name's Jim Stoddart, a dacent lawd and no sae gawky as maist o'
them.  He was an officer's servant in the war, and learned mainners."

"But, Marget," said Mrs. Douglas, "we're so far away from people
here--how did Mysie meet him?"

"Tuts, Mem, let a lassie alane for that.  If there's a 'come hither' in
the e'e the lawd 'll turn up, though he has to tramp miles o' heather
and hard road.  I never kent hoo lassies did thon.  I used often to
watch them and wonder, but I could niver learn--I was aye a muckle
hoose-end even as a lassie, an' tricks wad hev ill become me."

"It's a wise woman that knows her limitations," said Ann.  "I wish we
were all wise enough to avoid being arch--Marget, I've finished
Mother's _Life_.'"

Marget immediately dropped into a convenient chair.  "Let's hear it,"
she said.

"What!  Now?"

"What for no?  Is't that lang?"

"Long?" said Ann; "like the White Knight's song, but very beautiful!"

"Aw, if ye're gaun to haver."  Marget turned to her mistress.  "What's
it like, Mem?"

"I don't know, Marget, I've hardly seen a word of it, but it will
certainly have to be censored before you get it typed, Ann."

"Oh yes," said Ann.  "You will read it and 'riddle oot the biggest lees
frae ilka page,' and then I'll send it to the typing lady Mark told me
about; if she can make out Mark's handwriting she won't be so aghast at
mine.  One copy for each of ourselves and some for very great

Mrs. Douglas broke in.  "If you begin with friends there will be no end
to it."

"Then, perhaps, we had better have it privately printed and get about a
hundred copies.  Have we a hundred friends?"

"Liker twa hunner," Marget said gloomily.  "To me it seems a queer like
thing to print a body's life when she's still leevin'."

Ann quoted, "That horn is blowen for me," said Balin, "yet I am not
dead," then, laughing at the expression on Marget's face, she said,
"It's often done, Marget, only you call it 'reminiscences.'  Mrs.
Asquith wrote her reminiscences, and you can't accuse her of being

Marget muttered something, and Ann continued, "Mother is very fortunate
to have a daughter to write hers for her."

"Fortunate!" said Mrs. Douglas.  "I'll tell you when I've read it."

"Weel," said Marget, "I hope she made it interestin', Mem, for I'm sure
we hed a rale interestin' time baith in Kirkcaple and Glasgae--an'
Priorsford's no bad aither, though, of course, we're no ministers' folk
there an' that maks a big differ: we havna the same posseetion."

"Marget," said Ann, "I believe you think a minister and his wife are
the very highest in the land, higher even than a Provost and his lady;
infinitely higher than a mere earl."

Marget said "Earls!" and grunted, then she explained, "I yince kent an
earl.  When ma faither was leevin' an' we were at Kinloch we kept yin
o' the lodges for the big hoose, and I used to see the young earl
playin' cricket.  He minded me o' Joseph wi' his coat o' many colours,
but, hech! he was nae Joseph.  I doot Potiphar's wife wad hae got nae
rebuke frae him.  I dinna hold wi' thae loose lords mysel' onyway."
She turned her back on Ann and addressed her mistress.  "It's a queer
thing, Mem, that the folk we have to dae wi' now are no' near as
interestin' as the folk we kent lang syne.  I sit by the fire in the
foresuppers--my eyes are no what they were, an' I get tired o' sewin'
and readin'--an' I think awa' back to the auld days in Kirkcaple.  Thae
were the days!  When the bairns were a' at hame.  Eh, puir things, mony
a skelp I hed at them when they cam' fleein' wi' their lang legs ower
ma new-sanded kitchen!  Thae simmer's afternunes when I went oot to the
Den wi' Ellie Robbie and them a' and we made a fire and hed oor tea;
an' winter nichts when we sat roond the nursery fire and telt stories.
An' the neebors drappin' in: Mistress Peat as neat as if she hed come
oot o' a band-box, and Mistress Goskirk tellin' us hoo to mak'
jeely--we kent fine oorsels--an' hoo to cut oot breeks for the
laddies--we were never guid at cuttin' oot, ye'll mind, Mem?  An'
Mistress Dewar sittin' on the lobby chair knittin' like mad when I got
doon the stair to open the door for her, and Mr. Dewar sayin', 'Is it
bakin' day, Marget?'  An' in Glasgae there was Mistress Burnett comin'
in, aye wi' a present, an aye wi' something kind to say.  Some folk ye
wad think tak' a fair delight in tellin' ye things that chaw ye, they
juist canna help bein' nesty, puir sowls; ye mind Mrs. Lawrie was like
that, she couldna gang awa wi'oot giving ye a bit sting--but Mistress
Burnett cheered up the whole day wi' her veesit.  An' Miss Barbara--she
aye cam' at the maist daft-like time so that she wadna bother us for a
meal, her that wad hae fed a' the earth!  An' Mistress Lang--a braw
wumman thon--she likit to come in efter tea an' hae a guid crack.  An'
Dr. Struthers--my!  He pit us sair aboot when he cam' to stay, but I
was rale pleased, it was like haein' yin o' thae auld prophets bidin'
wi' us.  An' the hoosefu's we had in the holidays when the bairns grew
up, we whiles didna ken whaur to turn....  An' thae times are a' past,
an' here we are sittin' an' a' the folk I've been speakin' aboot are
deid, an' the Moncrieffs are comin' the morn----"

"And if you don't keep the water boiling hot, you'll hear about it,"
Ann warned her.

Marget drew herself up.  "If the Cornel speaks to me as if I were a
black oot in India I'll speir at him..."

"Marget, more and more you remind me of the late Queen Victoria.  You
have the grand manner."

"Havers!" said Marget.

Mrs. Douglas broke in.  "You'll have to be very kind to Colonel and
Mrs. Moncrieff, Marget.  You know since we last saw them they have lost
both their sons, and from what I hear they are very broken."

Marget shook her head.  "It's awfu' hertless work leevin' now that sae
mony o' the young folk are deid.  A' ma life I've been fear't to dee,
an' at meetings I never sang at 'O for the pearly gates o' Heaven' for
fear I'd be taken at ma word, but the ither nicht I hed sic a bonnie
dream.  I thocht I was in an awfu' neat wee hoose, an' it was Johnnie
Johnston's hoose--ye mind him, Mem, at Kirkcaple?--an' I said, 'My,
Johnnie, ye're awfu' comfortable here,' an' he says, 'Ay,' he says,
'Look oot o' the windy.'  An' there was a great sea, a terrible sea wi'
waves an' a' kinds o' wee boats on it, some o' them gettin' an awfu'
whummlin.  An' I says, 'Eh, is that Galilee?' an' he says, 'Na, it's
the Sea of Life.'  An' he says, 'Look oot at the other windy noo,' an'
here was anither sea, but it was a wee narra sea an' awfu' quait, an' I
says, Is that the Jordan?'  'Look ower at the ither side,' he says, an'
I lookit, and there was the Golden City.  It was the bonniest place I
ever saw, the _very bonniest_, an' I said, 'Eh, I wad like awfu' weel
to get ower there, Johnnie Johnston, an' he said, 'No the day, but
there's naething surer than that ye'll get ower some day.'  An' wi'
that I wakened....  I was that vexed I fair grat, but I'll mind ma
dream an' it'll help me when ma time comes to gang."

Marget wiped her eyes and then, as if ashamed of having shown emotion,
stalked majestically from the room.

Ann and her mother, left alone, sat looking into the fire.  For a long
time they sat.  The logs burned through and fell together, but Ann did
not seem to notice that the fire needed mending.  The Tatler playfully
clawed her hand to entice her to a game, but she pushed him away.

Mrs. Douglas was the first to break the silence.  "Dear me, I've never
begun my 'reading,' and it will soon be dinner-time.  Give me my books
over, Ann."

Ann rose and fetched the pile and put them beside her mother.  "Biggest
first," she said, and handed her _Hours of Silence_.

Mrs. Douglas put on her large tortoiseshell spectacles and began at
once to read, but presently her eyes strayed from the printed page to
her daughter's face, and she said, "Why are you sitting looking at me,

"Because you're such a queer little mother sitting there, with your
owlish spectacles and your devotional books."

Mrs. Douglas sighed, and then she smiled.  "Poor Marget with her
'bonnie' dream!  I was sitting thinking just now how well off I am
having her to go back with me to the old days.  As she says, it is
heartless work living now, and yet there is something very heartening
about the continuity of life.  When I stay with Mark and Charlotte and
see Mark rushing, the moment he gets home, to his garden, and watch him
among the flowers, one hand behind his back in his father's very
attitude, it might be my Mark with me again.  And Rory, who came into
the world the day his grandfather went out of it--one Mark Douglas
going and another Mark Douglas taking his place--Rory sidles up to me
and puts his head on my shoulder when he wants something, just as his
father did thirty years ago--I think they should stop calling him Rory
now and call him Mark."

"Well, it's a little confusing for Charlotte to have two Marks in the
house unless she does as Marget suggests, and 'ca's Mr. Mark Papaw.'
But I know what you mean about the feeling of continuity.  Last summer
Alis and Rory, greatly condescending, were allowing young Robbie to
play some game with them.  I came upon them suddenly, and the years
seemed to roll back when I saw the earnest absorbed face of Robbie as
he padded about--it might have been my own Robbie.  He, too, played
with his whole might....  Oh, look at the fire going out rapidly."

Ann knelt down and mended the fire with great care, sweeping in the
ashes and making the hearth clean and tidy.

"I spent my life tidying up this fireside.  I might as well be a vestal
virgin in a temple.  There, that will be a fine fire when we come back.
Have you finished your reading, Mother?  We must go and change.  It's a
good thing the Moncrieffs are coming to-morrow.  You and I have been
living so much in the past that we are like two little grey ghosts."

"I've enjoyed it," said Mrs. Douglas.  "But think a long time before
you decide to print what you've written."

She gathered up her devotional books and built them in a neat pile on a

"I wonder who you think could possibly be interested in such an
uneventful record?  All about nothing, and not even an end----"

"I _wonder_," said Ann.


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