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THE STARLING.

BY NORMAN MACLEOD, D.D., EDITOR OF GOOD WORDB.

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CHAPTER I. — ADAM MERCER, POACHER come a soldier, and to show how one, “meek AND SOLDIER.

as a sheathed sword” in his later years, had

in his earlier ones been possessed of a very “The man was ance a poacher!” So keen and ardent temperament, whose rulsaid, or rather breathed, Peter Smellie, gro- ing passion was the love of excitement, in cer and elder, with his hard wheezing breath, the shape of battle with game and keepers. into the ears of Robert Menzies, a brother We accidentally heard the whole story, truly elder, who was possessed of a more humane told, and, on account of other circumstances disposition. They were conversing in great in the Sergeant's later history, it interested confidence about the important of us more than we fear it can do our readers. Sergeant Adam Mercer. What that case Mercer did not care for money, nor seek was, the reader will learn by and by.. The to make a trade of the unlawful pleasure of only reply of Robert Menzies was, “ Is't pos- shooting without a license. Nor in the dissible !” aecompanied by a start and a steady trict in which he lived was the offence then gaze at bis well-informed brother. " It's a looked upon in a light so very disreputable fac' I tell ye,” continued Smellie,“ but ye'll as it is now; neither was it pursued by the keep it to yersel' — keep it to yersel', for it same disreputable class. The sport itself doesna do to injure a brither wi'oot cause ; was what Mercer loved for its own sake. yet its richt ye should ken what a bad be- and it had become to bim quite a passion, ginding our freen bas bad. Pit your thumb For two or three years he had frequently on't, however, in the mean time -keep it, transgressed, but he was at last caught on the as the minister says, in retentis, which I sup- early dawn of a summer's morning by the pose means, till needed.”

well-known John Spence,who for many years Smellie went on his way to attend to protected the game on the lands of Lordsome parochial duty, nodding and smiling, John had many assistant keepers, from whom and again admonishing his brother to “ keep he received reports every now and again of it to himsel'.” He seemed unwilling to part some unknown and mysterious poacher who with the copyright of such a spicy bit of gos- had hitherto eluded every attempt to seize sip. Menzies repeated to himself, “A poach- bim. Though rather old for active service, er! wba would have thocht it? Yet- Spence resolved to concentrate all his expeWe shall not record the harmonies, real or rience for, like many a thoroughbred imaginary, which Mr. Menzies so intuitively keeper, he had himself been a poacher in discovered between the early and latter hab- his youth — on the securing of Adam Merits of the Sergeant.

cer; but how he did so it would take pages And yet the gossiping Smellie, whose to tell

. Adam never suspected John of nose had tracked out the history of many troubling himself

about such details as watchpeople in the parish of Drumsylie, was in ing poachers, and John never suspected that this, as in most cases, accurately informed. Adam was the poacher; for the keeper was The Sergeant of whom he spoke had been cousin-german to Mercer's mother, and he a poacher some thirty years before, in a dis- therefore felt his own credit and honor intrict many miles away. The wonder is how volved in the capture. The capture itself Smellie had found the fact out, or how, if was not difficult; for John having lain in true, it could affect the present character wait suddenly confronted Adam, who, scornor position of one of the best men in the ing the idea of flying, much more of strugparish ; yet true it was, and it is as well to gling with his old cousin, quietly accosted confess it, not with the view of excusing it, him with, “ Weel, John, ye hae catched me but only to account for Mercer's having be-l at last."

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“ Adam Mercer !” exclaimed the keeper, I spring up and grasp the gun, and I'm

! with a look of horror. “It canna be you! aff !” It's no' possible!”

The reformed poacher and keeper listen“ It's just me, John, and no mistako,” said ed with a poorly-concealed smile, and said, Adam, quietly throwing himself down on “Nae doot, nae doot, Adam; it's a' natural the heather and twisting a bit about his fin- I'm no denying that ; it's a glorious busiger.

“For better or waur, I'm in yer power; ness; in fac', it's jist pairt o' every man but had I been a ne'er-do-weel, like Willy that has a steady han' and a guid e'e and a Steel, or Tam McGrath, I'd have blackened feelin' heart. Ay, ay. But, Adam, were my face and whammeld ye ower and pit ye no frichtened ?” your

head in a well-ee afore ye could cheep " For what?as loud as a stane-chucker ; but when I saw “For the keepers !”. wha ye war, I gied in.”

“ The keepers! Eh, John, that's half the “I wad raither than a five-pun-note I sport! The thocht o'dodgin' keepers, jinkhad never seen yer face! Keep us! what's in' them roon hills, and doon glens, and lyin' to be dune! What wull yer mither say ? amang the muir-bags, and nickin' a brace and his Lordship? Na, what wullony body or twa, and then fleein' like mad doon aen say wi' a spark o' decency when they brae and up anither; and keekin' here and hear

creepin' there, and cowerin' alang a fail “ Dinna fash yer thoomb, John; tak' me dyke, and scuddin' thro' the wood — that's and send me to the jail.”

mair than half the life o't, John! I'm no “ The jaill What gude will that do to sure if I could shoot the birds if they were you or me, laddie ? I'm clean donnered a' in my ain kail-yaird, and my ain property, about the business. Let me sit down aside and if I paid for them!” ye; keep laigh, in case the keepers see ye, " I' faith,” said John, taking a snuff and and tell me by what misshanter ye ever took handing the box to Adam,“ it's human nato this wicked business, and under my nose, tur'! But, ye ken, human natur’s wicked, as if I couldna fin' ye oot!”

desperately wicked! and afore I was a keep“Sport, sport!” was Mercer's reply. “Ye er my natur' was fully as wicked as yours, ken, John, I'm a shoemaker, and it's a dull fully, Adam, if no waur.

But I hae repenttrade, and squeezing the clams against the ed ever since I was made keeper; and I wame is ill, they tell me, for digestion ; and wadna like to hinder your repentance. Na, when that fails, ane's speerits fail

, and the na. We mauna, be ower prood ! Sae I'll warld gets black and dull; and when things Wait a bit, man, be canny till I see if ony wad be thus gaun wrang wi' me, I couldna o' the lads are in sicht; and John peeped flee to drink : but I thocht o' the moors that over a knoll, and cautiously looked around I kent sae weel when my faither was a keep- in every direction until satisfied that he was er to Murray o'Cultrain. Ye mind my faith- alone. “— - I'll no mention this job,” he coner ? was he no a ban? at a gun!”

tinued, "if ye'll promise me, Adam, never to “ He was that the verra best,” said John. try this wark again ; for it's no respectable;

“ Aweel,"continued Adam, “I used, when and, warst o'a', it's no' safe, and ye wad doon in the mouth and dowie, to ponder get me into a habble as weel as yersel; sae ower the braw days o' health and life I had promise me, like a guid cousin, as I may say, when carrying his bag, and getting a shot and then just creep doon the burn, and noos and thans as a reward; and it's a truth along the plantin', and ower the wa’, till ye I tell ye, that the whirr kick-ic-ic o’a covey get intil the peat road, and be aff; but I o'muirfowl aye pits my bluid in a tingle. canna wi' conscience let ye tak the birds It's a sort o' madness that I canna accoont wi' ye.for; but I think I'm no responsible for't. Adam thought a little, and said, “Ye're a Paitricks are maist as bad, though turnips gude sowl, John, and I'll no' betray ye." and stubble are no to be compared wi’ the After a while he added, gravely, “But I heather, nor walkin' amang them like the maun kill something. It's no in my heart far-aff braes, the win'y taps o' the hills, or as wickedness; but my fingers maun draw the lown glens. Mony a time I bae promised a trigger.” After a pause, he continued, to-drap the gun and stick to the last, but " Gie's yer hand, John; ye hae been a frien' when I'm no' weel and wauken and see the to me, and I'll be a man o' honor to you. gun glintin', and think o' the wide bleak I'll never poach mair, but I'll 'list and be a muirs, and the fresh caller air o' the bill, sodger !” wi' the scent o' the braes, and hear thae "A sodger !” exclaimed John. whirrin' cratures man, I canna help it! But Adam, after seizing John by the

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hand and saying, “ Good-bye !” suddenly and when a cask of wine or spirits fell in started off down the glen, leaving two brace our way, I don't believe that you, sir, or the of grouse, with his gun, at John's feet; as justices of the peace, or, with reverence be much as to say, Tell my lord how you caught it spoken, the ministers themselves, would the wicked poacher, and how he fled the have said . No,' to a drop, and perhaps to country.

more than was good for them. You'll exJohn told how he had caught a poacher, cuse me, sir; I'm free with you.” but never gave his name, nor ever hinted “ I didn't mean to lecture you, or to blame that Adam was the man.

you, Dick, for I know the army is not the It was thus Adam Mercer poached and place for Christians.” enlisted.

Begging your honor's pardon, sir,” said

Dick, " the best Christians I ever koowed One evening I was at the house of a mag- were in the army, men who would do their istrate with whom I was acquainted, when a dooty to their king, their country, and their man named Andrew Dick called to get my God." friend's signature to his pension paper.

I * You have known such?” I asked, breakam fond of old soldiers, and never fail when ing into the conversation to turn it aside from an opportunity offers to have a talk with what threatened to be a dispute. them about the wars.” Dick had been “ I have, sir! There's one Adam Merthrough the whole Peninsular campaign, cer, in your own town, an elder of your witb what credit I cannot tell. But on the Church excuse me, sir, I'm a dissenter on evening in question, my friend Findlay, the principle--for I consider” magistrate, happened to say in a bluff kindly “ Go on, Dick, about Mercer ; never mind way, “Don't spend your pension in drink.” your church principles.”

Dick replied, saluting him, “It's very “ Well, sir, as I was saying — though, bard, sir, that after fighting the battles of mind you, I'm not ashamed of being a disour country, we should be looked upon as senter Adam was our sergeant; and a worthless, by gentlemen like you." '

worthier man never shouldered a bayonet. “No, no, Dick, I never said you were He was no great speaker, and was quiet as worthless,” was the reply.

his gun when piled; but when he shot-he * Please, yer honor,” said Dick, “ye did shot! short and pithy, a crack, and right not say it, but I consider any man who into the argument. He was well respeckit, spends bis money in drink is worthless, and, for he was just and mercifu'- never bothwhat is mair, a fool — that's to say, he has ered the men, and never picked oot fauts, no recovery in him, no supports to fall back but covered them; never preached, but on, but is in full retreat, as we would say, could gie an advice in two or three words from decency

that gripped firm aboot the heart and took “But you know," said my friend, looking the breath frae ye. He was extraordinar' kindly on Dick, " the bravest soldiers, and brave! If there was any work to do by ornone were braver than those who served in dinar', up to leading a forlorn hope, Adam the Peninsula, often exceeded fearfully - was sure to be on't; and them that kent shamefully, and were a disgrace to human-him, even better than me, said that he nevity."

er got courage frae brandy - altho' that Well,” replied Dick, “it's no easy to has its ain gude in my opinion but, as make evil good; but yet ye forget our difficul- they assured me, though ye'll maybe no beties and temptations. Consider only, sir, that lieve it, his preparation was a prayer! I canthere we were, not in bed for months and na tell how they found this oot, for Adam months; marching at all hours; ill-fed, ill. was unco quiet; but they say a drummer clothed, and uncertain of life - which I catched him on his knees afore he mounted assure your honor makes men indifferent to the ladder wi’ Cansh at the siege of Badait; and we had often to get our mess as į joz, and that Adam telt him no to say a word we best could, — sometimes a tough steak aboot it, but yet to tak his advice and seek out of a dead horse or dead mule, for when God's help mair than man's.” the beast was skirned and dead it was diffi- This narrative interested me much, so cult to make out its kind; and after toiling that I remembered its facts, and connected and moiling, up and down, here and there them with what I afterwards heard about and everywhere, summer and winter, when Adam Mercer many years ago, when on a at last we took a town with blood and wounds, visit to Drumsylie.

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CHAPTER II. -THE ELDER AND HIS

STARLING.

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head and soldierlike face. Never was there a more sedate or attentive listener.

There were few week days, and no SunWHEN Adam Mercer returned from the day evenings, on which the Sergeant did wars, nearly half a century ago, be settled not pay a visit to some neighbor confined to in the village of Drumsylie, situated in a bed from sickness, or suffering from distress remote district in the northern parts of Scot- of some kind. He manifested rare tact land, and about twenty miles from the scene made up of common sense and genuine beof his poaching habits, of which he had long nevolence - on such occasions. His strong ago repented.

His hot young blood had sympathies put bim instantly en rapport been cooled down by hard service, and his with those whom he visited, enabling him at vehement temperament subdued by military once to meet them on some common ground. discipline; but there remained an admira- Yet in whatever way the Sergeant began ble mixture in him of deepest feeling, regu- his intercourse, whether by listening palated by habitual self-restraint, and express- tiently—and what a comfort such listening ed in a manner outwardly calm but not silence is !— to the history of the sickness cold, undemonstrative but not unkind. His or the sorrow which had induced him to enwhole bearing was that of a man accustom- ter the house, or by telling some of his own ed at once to command and to obey. Corpo adventures, or by reading aloud the newsral Dick had not formed a wrong estimate paper – he in the end ma

managed with perof his Christianity. The lessons taught by fect naturalness to convey truths of weighhis mother, whom he fondly loved, and whom tiest import, and fraught with enduring he had in her widowhood supported to the good and comfort — all backed up by a utmost of his means from pay and prize- humanity, an unselfishness, and a gentlemoney, and her example of a simple, cheer- manlike respect for others, which made him ful, and true life, had sunk deeper than he a most welcome guest. The humble were knew into his heart, and, taking root, had made glad, and the proud were subdued sprung up amidst the stormy scenes of war, they knew not how, nor probably did the bringing forth the fruits of stern self-denial Sergeant himself, for he but felt aright and and moral courage tempered by strong so- acted as he felt, rather than endeavored to cial affections.

devise a plan as to how he should speak or Adam had resumed his old trade of shoe- act in order to produce some definite result. maker, occupying a small cottage, which, He numbered many true friends, but it with the aid of a poor old woman in the was not possible for him to avoid being seneighborhood, who for an hour morning and cretly disliked by those with whom, from evening did the work of a servant, he kept their character, he would not associate, or with singular neatness, His little parlor whom he tacitly rebuked by his orderly life was ornamented with several memorials of and good manners. the war — a sword or two_picked up on Two events, in no way connected, but memorable battlefields; a French cuirass both of some consequence to the Sergeant, from Waterloo, with a gaudy print of Wel- turned the current of his life after he had lington, and one also of the meeting with resided a few years in Drumsylie. One Blucher at La Belle Alliance.

was, that by the unanimous choice of the The Sergeant attended the parish church congregation, to whom the power was comas regularly as he used to do parade. Any (mitted by the minister and his Kirk Session, one could have set his watch by the regu- Mercer was elected to the office of elder in larity of his movements on Sunday morn- the parish.* This was a most unexpected ings. At the same minute on each succeed- compliment, but one which the Sergeant for ing day of holy rest and worship, the tall, a time declined ; indeed, accepted it only erect figure, with well-braced shoulders, after many arguments addressed to his sense might be seen stepping out of the cottage door - where he stood erect for a moment

* Every congregation in the Church of Scotland to survey the weather

dressed in the same is goverued by a court, recognized by civil law, suit of black trousers, brown surtout, buff composed of the minister, who acts as Modera

tor,

, and has only a casting vote, and elders ordain. waistcoat, black stock, white cotton gloves, ed to the office, which is for life. This court

deterwith a yellow cane under his arm every:

mines, subject to appeals to higher courts, who are

to receive the Sacrament, and all cases of church thing so neat and clean, from the polished discipline. No lawyer is allowed to plead in it. Its boots to the polished hat, from the well- freedom from civil consequences is secured by law. brushed grey whiskers to the well-arranged The eldership has been an unspeakable blessing to

In many cases it also takes charge of the poor. locks that met in a peak over his high fore- Scotland.

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of duty, and enforced by pressing personal we call such tastes a weakness, and not reasons brought to bear on bis kind heart rather a minor part of his religion, which by his minister, Mr. Porteous.

included within its scope a love of domestic The other event, of equal — may we not animals, in whom he saw, in their willing safely say of greater importance to him ? dependence on himself, a reflection of more was his marriage! We shall not weary the than they could ever know, or himself fully reader by telling him how this came about; understand? At the time we write, a staror by tracing out all the subtle magic ways ling was his friend, but one peither deaf nor by which a woman worthy to be loved un- dumb. This starling had been caught and twined the cords that had hitherto bound tamed for his boy Charlie. He had taught the Sergeant's heart; or how she alone tap- the creature with greatest care to speak ped the deep well of his affections into which with precision. It's first, and most importhe purest drops bad for years been falling, tant lesson, was, “ I'm Charlie's bairn.” And until it gushed out with a freshness, fulness, one can picture the delight with which the and strength, which are, perhaps, oftenest child heard this innocent confession, as the to be found in an old heart, when it is touch- bird put his head askance, looked at him ed by one whom it dares to love, as that old with his round full eye, and in clear accents heart of Adam Mercer's required to do if it acknowledged his parentage; " I'm Charlie's loved at all.

bairn !” The boy fully appreciated his Katie Mitchell was out of her teens when feathered confidant, and soon began to look Adam, in a bappy moment of his life, met to him as essential to bis daily enjoyment. her in the house of her widowed mother, The Sergeant had also taught the starling who was confined to a bed of feebleness and to repeat the words, " A man's a man for a pain for years, and whom she had attended, that,” and to sing a bar or two of the ditty, with a patience, cheerfulness, and unwearied “Wha'll be king but Charlie." goodness which makes many a humble and Katie had more than once confessed that unknown home a very Eden of beauty and she “wasna unco fond o' this kind o' diverpeace. Her father had been a leading mem- sion;" had pronounced it to be “neither ber of a very strict Presbyterian body, call- natural nor canny,” and had earnestly reed the “Old Light,” in which he shone with monstrated with the Sergeant for what she a brightness which no church on earth could called his “idle, foolish, and even profane of itself either kindle or extinguish; and painstaking in teaching the bird. But onewhen it passed out of the earthly dwelling, night, when the Sergeant announced that it left a subdued glory behind it which never the education of the starling was complete, passed away. “Faither” was always an she became more vehement than usual on: authority with Katie and her mother, his this assumed perversion of the will of Provi.. ways a constant teaching, and his words dence. · Nothing," he said, “could be more an enduring strength, for they were echoes beautiful than his · A man's a man for a'from the Rock of Ages.

that.' Katie said “The mair's the pity,. The marriage took place after the death Adam! Its wrang - clean wrang - Itell. of Katie's mother, and soon after Adam had ye; and ye'll live to rue it. What right has been ordained to the eldership.

he to speak ? cock him up wi' his impu-. A boy was born to the worthy couple, and dence ! There's many a bairn aulder than named Charles, after the Sergeant's father. bim canna speak sae weel. It's no a safe..

It was a sight to banish bachelorship from business, I can tell you, Adam." the world, to watch the joy of the Sergeant “Gi’ower, gi' ower, woman,” said the with Charlie, from the day he experienced Sergeant;" the cratur' has its ain gifts, as we the new and indescribable feelings of be- hae ours, and I'm thankfu' for them. It does ing a father, until the flaxen-haired blue me mair gude than ye can see when I tak”. eyed boy was able to loddle to him, be re- the boy on my lap, and see hoo his e’e blinks, ceived into his waiting arms, and then and his bit feet gang, and hoo ire laughs mounted on bis shoulders, while he stepped when he hears the bird say, “ I'm Charlie's round the room to the tune of the old famil- bairn.' It's a real blessing to me, for it iar regimental march, performed by him makes our bonnie bairn happy. And when with half whistle half trumpet tones, which I'm cutting, and stitching, and hammering, vainly expressed the roll of the band that at the window, and dreaming o' auld langcrashed harmoniously in memory's ear. Ka- syne, and fechting my battles ower again, tie. didna let on” her motherly pride and and when I think o' this and that awfu’time delight at the spectacle, which never became that I have seen wi' brave comrades poo stale or common place.

lying in some neuk in Spain ; and when I Adam had a weakness for pets. Dare I hear the roar o' the big guns, and the splute.

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129.

FOURTH SERIES.

LIVING AGE.

VOL. V.

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