Witch Wood, by John Buchan

Chapter 17

Woodilee and Calidon

The pricker disappeared from the parish in the night. The dead woman was buried decently in the kirkyard, and her male kin attended the funeral as if there had never been a word against her fair fame. There was indeed a certain revulsion of feeling among plain people in Woodilee. Bessie had been liked; she was regretted and pitied; the downfall of the pricker seemed to invalidate her confession. But there was a party — Chasehope was the leader — who held that solemn things had been trifled with and that the minister had gone far to bring God’s curse on the parish. He had laid his hand to his sword like a malignant, and had made light of an awful confession before the pricker had been discredited. Bessie might have been innocent of witchcraft, but in his plea for her he had shown a discreditable leniency towards the sin. Women might be old and frail, but if they were leagued with Satan it was enough to put them beyond the pale of Christian sympathy. The minister was patently rebellious and self-willed, a scorner of the yoke of Kirk and Word.

But the night’s events caused a notable increase in one reputation. The new tenant of Crossbasket had shown himself an ill man to counter. He had the interests of the parish at heart and had given wise advice, and he had confounded the pricker with a terrible ease. Clearly a man with power; nor was there reason to think that the power was not given him from on high. A hard man to gainsay, as even Chasehope had found. His friendliness had made him popular, and folk were slipping into neighbourly ways with him. Soon he would have been “Mark” to most, and “Glee’d Mark” behind his back. But from that night formality and decorum invested him; he was “Crossbasket” even to the children, and the humbler doffed their bonnets when he drew near.

He came to David one evening when the candle was lit in the study.

“What arts were yon,” the minister asked, “that turned the pricker from a man into a jelly?”

Mark had sat himself in a deep armchair covered with black leather, which had been David’s father’s and had come to the manse from the Pleasance after the roup. He had crossed his legs and let his head lie back while he puffed his tobacco-pipe. He laughed as he answered:

“A simple divertisement, but good enough for such a caddis-worm. A pinch of Greek powder in the lantern, and for the rest a device I learned among the tinklers in Hungary when some of us gentleman~cavaliers had to take to the hills and forests for a season. But the body was easy game. The sight of my een was enough to melt his wits. . . . Chasehope’s another kind of lad — there’s metal there, though it’s maybe of the Devil’s forging. . . . But for the moment we’ve fairly houghed his shelty.”

“You saw how distraught he was,” Mark continued, “ay, and others beside him, when you offered to carry the wife to the manse. The reason wasna ill to seek. When she was being tortured to confession, Chasehope was beside her and mastered her with his een. . . . She was one of the coven, you tell me. But once in your hands he was feared she would tell things of more moment than the blethers they wrung out of her. . . . She didna speak? Ay, I thought she was ower far gone. It was maybe as well that the puir thing died, for after the handling she got there was small bodily comfort left for her.”

“By her death her tormentors are guilty in God’s sight of murder,” said David.

“No doubt. And maybe also in the sight of the Law. That’s why I say we have houghed Chasehope’s mare for him. He canna ride off on a pretended zeal for witch-hunts, for this one has notably miscarried. This pricker business is looked askance at by those that ken best, and it’s certain it has no countenance frae the Justiciar. They’ve killed the wife with it, and their pricker will not show face again in this countryside. What becomes, think you, of the braw commission of the Privy Council that Chasehope had the procuring of? The thing is begowked before it is begun. The ministers of Kirk Aller and Bold, and yon knock-kneed haverel, the laird of Killiequhair, will e’en hae to content themselves at home, and Chasehope, in place of hiding his sins behind his zeal for burning witches, is left with his repute a wee thing touched, like a bad egg. There’s folk in the parish beginning to speir questions that never speired them before.”

“I am convinced that the woman Bessie Todd was a human sacrifice, decided on by the coven, and maybe accepted of her free-will. I have heard that every now and then they must pay such a teind to Hell. . . . She was weak in the mind, remember.”

“I had the same notion myself. No, I wasna there when the pricker was busy, but them that were tell me that he put the feck of the words intil her mouth. That would consort with what I’ve heard of the black business elsewhere. She was doomed to die, as surely as if she had stood in the doomster’s cart. . . . But I have found out another thing. Our neighbour Chasehope is a King–Deil.”

“What in Heaven’s name is that?”

“You may well speir. He is the priest of the coven, but he is more, for he is a kind of Deil on his own account. That is why you saw them in the Wood bowing before him and nozzling him like dogs. There’s been King–Deils before this in Scotland. Francie Stuart was one — him that was Earl of Bothwell in the days of James the Saxt, and he had a braw coven down by Dunbar and the Bass.”

“And the man an elder of the Kirk!” David exclaimed. “The words of Scripture are never off his lips, and more than once he has reproved me for sin.”

“That’s the lad. There’s a holy pleasure to be gotten out of hypocrisy. And yet — and yet! I’ll wager that Chasehope has no doubt but that he is a redeemed soul, and will get an abundant entrance at the hinder end. That Kirk of yours has so cunningly twisted religion that a man can grow fat in his own sins and yet spend his time denouncing the faults of others, for he is elected into grace, as they call it, and has got some kind of a title to Heaven. I’m a plain body that canna see how God and the Devil can be served at the one time, but there’s many a chiel makes a trade of it. They’ve gotten one creel that holds their treasure in Heaven, and one full of the lusts of the flesh, and though they ettle to coup the latter before the day of death, they are confident that it winna canker what’s in the other creel. It’s queer doctrine, and maybe I havena riddled it out right, for I’m loth to believe that an honest man could uphold it, though I’ve heard it often propounded with an unction that made my flesh creep.”

“You speak not of the Christian doctrine of election, but of its perversion,” said David solemnly.

“Weel, it’s the perversion that has gotten the upper hand these days. The Kirk has made the yett of grace ower wide for sinful men, and all ither yetts ower narrow. It has banned innocence and so made a calling of hypocrisy, for human nature is human nature, and if you tell a man that ilka honest pleasure is a sin in God’s sight, he finds a way to get the pleasure and yet keep the name for godliness. And mind you, the pleasures he enjoys with a doubtful conscience will no long be honest. There will be a drop of black ink in the spring water that makes it drumly, and ere he kens he’ll be seeking a stronger brew. The upshot will be that folk who sit under you in the kirk will dance in the Wood on the auld heathen holy-days, and the man whose word gangs furthest with the Presbytery will be hugging lusts to his bosom that would make a common foot-sentinel spew. For they’ve all their sure title, as they call it — they’re all elected into grace, so what for should they fash themselves?”

Mark’s face was smiling, but his voice had a note in it which was not humour.

“You laugh,” David cried, “but I’m nearer weeping.”

“I laugh, but it’s to prevent me cursing.” The other’s jaw had set and there was a smouldering fire in his eyes. “I tell you the Cities of the Plain were less an offence to Almighty God than this demented twist of John Calvin that blasts and rots a man’s heart. For if it makes here and there a saint, it is like a dung-heap to hatch out sinners.”

David was suspended from officiating in the kirk, but he was still a placed minister, and there was no embargo upon his utterances elsewhere. So while every alternate Sabbath Mr. Fordyce came over from Cauldshaw to occupy the pulpit, and in defiance of the Presbytery ate his dinner at the manse, on the others David preached in the kirk-yard. Twenty years later these sermons in the open air were remembered, when Mr. Fordyce, then far advanced in age, was driven from Cauldshaw to hold preachings in the Deer Syke. . . .

There was a novelty in the practice which brought many the first day; and on later Sabbaths the audience increased, for David had never delivered such discourses in the Woodilee pulpit. One famous sermon was on the peril of trifling with salvation. A soul was not saved by an easy miracle, but must mount hardly and painfully to eternal life; to accept grace lightly was to cast scorn upon the atonement of the Cross. But doctrine figured little, nor were there any of the forecasts of hell and judgment which were the common proof of an earnest minister. “He is a guid dowg,” Richie Smail was reported to have said: “he wad wyse folk gently to Christ.” Something of the joy in his own heart revealed itself in a peculiar tenderness; often there were wet eyes among his hearers, and the children, squatted on the grass or on the flat gravestones, forbore to whisper and fidget, and listened with a grave attention. His elders did not attend; indeed, with the exception of Peter Pennecuik, they forbore even to grace the orthodox ministrations of Mr. Fordyce. Chasehope and his friends walked the five moorland miles to Bold to sup on the strong fare of Mr. Ebenezer till such time — early in the New Year, it was believed — as the Presbytery pronounced final judgment on their minister.

Woodilee had split into two factions. There was the party of the Session, who held David to be a malignant, or at best a Laodicean, one who gave a doubtful sound of doctrine, a rebel, a despiser of authority, a preacher of a cold morality. To this side belonged many of undoubted piety, who had been shocked by his defiance and gave ready ear to whispered scandal. Of David’s party were respected professors like Richie Smail and Rab Prentice, several godly women, a decent hind or two, and a tail which was neither godly nor respected. Among his supporters were some whom he suspected of dealings with the Wood, and in general he had with him all that was least esteemed in the parish. To have Reiverslaw — who was again drinking hard — as his prophet, and Daft Gibbie as his fugleman, did not enhance the credit of his cause. Between the Jews and the Samaritans there were no dealings. Isobel, now a hot partisan, had quarrelled on this score with her nearest and dearest, and, encountering Jean of Chasehope-foot in the clachan, and being goaded by her tongue, fell on her tooth and nail and chased her into Peter Pennecuik’s kailyard. Amos Ritchie, too, had declared his colours, and woe be to the man who, in his presence, spoke ill of the minister. He was no longer employed by the farmers around the kirkton, so the smithy fire was mostly unlit, while the smith did odd jobs at Reiverslaw and Calidon. Only the new tenant of Crossbasket mixed amicably with all. On the road he had the same greeting for Chasehope as for the minister, and he would drink a stoup at Lucky Weir’s with Amos or Mirehope, Reiverslaw or the miller, in all good-fellowship. But this popularity rested more perhaps on fear than on affection. Dark whisperings began to spread. “What ken we o’ Crossbasket?” said one. “Nae doot he’s frae Teviotside, but whaur was he afore that? He never learned that glower on Jed Water.” “He’s a pawky carle,” said another, “and ye canna get far ben wi’ him. There’s mair in his heid than the Word ever learned him. I wadna wonder some fine day to see him gang off in a fuff and a lowe. Ye say he has the speech o’ a guid Christian? Weel-a-weel, a soo may whistle, though it has an ill mouth for it.”

By late November winter should have closed in upon the glen with an iron hand. The first frosts should have stripped the trees, and the first snows lain at the dyke-back. But that year it seemed as if the seasons had gone widdershins. November was bright and calm, and the harvest, delayed by October rains, was soon gathered. Oats and bear, flax and rye — the little crops were housed within a week, and since the snows tarried, it was the middle of December before the cattle were in the byres and yards, and the sheep brought down to the infields. The countryside presented a strange spectacle. Heather lingered in bloom, and the leaves were on the ashes and hazels till long after Hallowmass. When they did fall there were no frosts to crumble them, and they lay in great drifts in the woods and by the roadside, and children dived and scrambled among them. There were swallows still in the thatch in November, and Amos Ritchie, when he went out to the moss to intercept the travelling skeins of wild geese, found that the curlews and plovers had not yet flitted to the seashore and that there were no wildfowl to be seen in all the blue heavens. Morning after morning the sun rose clear as in June, the nights were mild and starlit, herbs which should have been snug below the earth sprouted prematurely, the hedgehog and the badger had forgotten to go to sleep, and only the short hours of light showed that it was midwinter. Reiverslaw, always a scorner of precedents, kept his sheep on the hills, where the pasture was as rich as in summer-time.

But the old and the wise frowned and shook their heads. One said it was such a year as ‘71, of which his grandsire had told, when winter did not begin till February, and did not end till June. Another recalled “saxteen fifteen, named the Lown Year, when there was nae frost, and a blight o’ worms and cawterpillars and hairy objects fell on the land.” And every wife in the parish, when at Christmas the grass was still rank and high, and hips and haws still hung on the bushes, quoted dolefully the saw that “a green Yule makes a fat kirkyard.”

But if there was a presage of calamity in it for the thoughtful, it was weather of a rare beauty for those who had the heart to enjoy it. There was no sickness in the parish and as yet no hunger, so David’s pastoral duties were light. He was on the uplands most of the day, and now his feet took him away from the Hill of Deer and the north ridge of Rood and across the glen to the hills between Calidon and Aller, for there he could meet Katrine with no fear of interfering parishioners. The garrison had been withdrawn from Calidon, since Nicholas was known to be out of the country and Mistress Saintserf was regarded as well affected, but David did not go there. So long as the short afternoons were crystal under a canopy of blue, and the sun set behind Herstane Craig in gold and crimson, the place for lovers was the hill, for there the world was narrowed to themselves.

But the minister’s conscience smote him at last, and on New Year’s morning he presented himself at Calidon door. By arrangement Katrine was not there, and from her aunt he got the tempestuous welcome which custom ordained as appropriate to the season.

“Sit ye down, sir, and prie our shortcake and October. Yours is the first stranger foot that has crossed this threshold, and it’s surely propitious that it should be a minister’s. Our ain Mr. James is lyin’ again, for this lown weather doesna ‘gree wi’ him, though it’s hard to say what ‘grees wi’ him, for the creature’s body is sair failed. . . . It’s mony a day since we cast een on ye here, Mr. David, and siccan days as they’ve been for me and mine.”

She descanted on the troubles of the autumn, her success in saving Calidon from being sequestered —“Peter Dobbie, him that’s our doer, is far ben wi’ Wariston, ye maun ken, and worthy Mr. Rintoul in the West Kirk said a word in the right lug”— on the difficulty in getting funds to Nicholas Hawkshaw at Utrecht, on the garrisoning of Calidon —“They punished our yill, but they fashed us little, for they were sair hadden down by Katrine.” But she said nothing of Mark, though in the end she had been made privy to that business, and she did not hint at the trouble in Woodilee which was the talk of the country. Behind all her garrulity lurked a certain embarrassment, and it did not make David’s task the easier.

At last he took his courage in both hands.

“I came here this morn for a purpose,” he said, and with halting voice and a fiery face he made his confession. The old woman regarded him with eyes that strove to express amazement and failed; it was clear that she had had her suspicions.

But her words when she spoke were those of one who had been startled out of all propriety.

“Heard ye ever the like?” she cried. “Man, d’ye ken of whom ye speak? Katrine is a leddy born — there’s nae aulder or prouder stock in the land — and ye’re the oy [grandson] o’ the miller o’ the Roodfoot, and ye seek to make her your marrow [mate]. We ken that the warld is coupit upside-down these days, but this fair cowes a’. Guid faith, ye’re no blate.”

David held his peace, for he had no answer. He felt in the pith of his bones his immense audacity.

“How would the lassie set wi’ a manse, think ye?” she continued. “She’s been brocht up amang papists and prelatists, and though she’s had mony a swatch o’ the Gospel frae honest Mr. James, she’s no muckle wiser than a babe. Forbye, she’s a daft quean that wad never mak’ a ‘sponsible minister’s wife. Think ye that the King’s court and dancin’ and glee-singin’ and ridin’ on a horse is a guid preparation for a moorland parish and a fower-room house? How will ane that’s been used to velvet and pearlins tak’ wi’ linsey-wolsey and drugget?”

“That is for Katrine to decide,” he said humbly. “I have heard that true love can glorify a cot-house.”

“Havers!” she cried. “There’s a decency in a’ things, and ye canna mate a blood-horse wi’ a cadger’s powny. Wedlock, as I weel ken, is nae business o’ kissin’ and rhymin’, but a sober contrack, and if twa folks are gaun to live cantily thegither, they maun see that mair than their hearts are weel agreed. There maun be a chance — there’s nae certainty in this perishin’ world — o’ a bien doun~settin’, and a sufficiency o’ gear, and a life that will be guid for baith. What say ye to that? A minister’s wife! Guidsakes, the Session wad think her a randy, for she’d lauch at their solemnities, and your brither ministers, wha are maistly cotters’ sons, wad be fleyed by her gentrice, and the folk wad be as feared o’ her as a chuckie o’ a pyet. Ye’re a man o’ sense, Mr. David. Ye canna deny that the thing is past a’ reason.”

“Oh, mistress,” said the unhappy David. “There’s truth in what you say — I cannot gainsay it. But I plead that true hearts may break down every obstacle, and Katrine’s and mine are as true to each other as the dial to the sun. There was a time when you were young yourself, mistress — you mind that then there was no rule for lovers but their love.”

“I mind weel,” she said more gently, “but it’s for auld folk to be eident and save the young frae folly. . . . I’ll no deny that I would be blithe to see Katrine provided for. She’s a fine lassie, but forbye mysel’ she has nae near kin to mind her, now that Nicholas is put to the horn and hidin’ amang the Hollanders. Fine I wad like to see her in safe hands. . . . But what can ye offer, Mr. David? It’s no as if ye were on firm ground yoursel’. They tell me ye’ve cast out wi’ your Session and are bickerin’ wi’ the Presbytery, and ony day may be turned out o’ Woodilee and maybe excommunicat by the Kirk. That’s a braw prospect for a wife. Wad ye have Katrine tak’ a creel on her back, like a tinkler quean, her that has in her the bluid o’ the Black Douglas and the auld kings o’ Scots? Ye’ve made a bonny hash o’ things, for ane that’s ettlin’ to be a bridegroom.”

“I am set about with perplexities, and the hands of many are against me. But I have Katrine on my side — and I was in hopes that I might have you, mistress.”

“I’m no against ye,” she said, and there was kindness in her eye. “Never think that. I’ve heard the clash o’ the country and I’ve riddled it out, and by my way o’t ye’ve taken the richt road. I ken nocht about the Wud, but I ken something o’ the tods and foumarts o’ Woodilee, and for the business o’ glee’d Mark Kerr it’s no a Hawkshaw or a Yester or a Saintserf would cast a stone at ye. But it’s solemn truth that ye’ve gotten on the wrang side o’ the Kirk, and the Kirk is your calling, Mr. David. . . . Ye maun ken that I’ve had mony a crack wi’ our Mr. James anent ye, and if it’s the pure Gospel word I’m seekin’ it’s to him I’ll gang and no to Kirk Aller. I’ll tell ye what he said. ‘Mr. David,’ says he, ‘has his plew on the wrang rig. He wad hae made a grand sodger, and if he had been a papist he wad hae made a guid monk. He has the makings o’ a saint and he has the makings o’ a warrior, but a manse is no the place for him. For,’ says Mr. James, ‘he canna, like me, withdraw himsel’ into his closet — he is ower hale o’ body and het in spirit for that — and he canna walk doucely as the Kirk ordains. For if he sees wrang he maun set it richt, though the Kirk tells him to bide still, and he’ll no put his conscience in the keeping o’ ony Presbytery. He’s ower staunch a Presbyterian,’ says he, ‘for the Kirk of Scotland as at present guidit, whilk is a kind o’ Papery wi’ fifty Papes instead o’ ane.’”

“Maybe that’s the truth,” said David.

“Ay, it’s the truth, and I’m blithe to hear ye acknowledge it. . . . But we’ll hae the lassie in, for this crack concerns her maist. The cunnin’ limmer, to keep sae mum and begowk her auld auntie!”

When Katrine appeared, her cheeks a little flushed and her eye bright, she was greeted by Mistress Grizel with surprising gentleness.

“What’s this I hear o’ ye, lassie? Ye’ve gotten a joe and never telled me! . . . Na, na, my lamb, dinna be feared that I’ll flyte on ye. It’s a road we maun a’ travel, and nae doubt wedlock is a holy and blessed state and a hantle better than spinsterhood, for a woman maun either be guidit by a husband or be subject to a’ and sindry. But it’s a serious step, and wants carefu’ and prayerfu’ thocht. I’ve had a word wi’ Davie — for I tak’ the liberty to ca’ him Davie as if he were my ain son — and as in duty bound I’ve set forth the difficulties. I say naething against ye as a man, Davie. Ye’re wise-like and weel-spoken, and ye’ve gentle ways, if ye hae na gentle bluid. But I say muckle against ye as a minister, and I canna picture Katrine as the leddy o’ a manse. Forbye, there’s the solemn fact that ye’ve made Woodilee ower het a bit to bide in, and what ye’ve done there ye’ll dae in ony ither parochine in the land. . . . Sae hearken to me, sir. Ye’ve mista’en your trade, like mony anither honest lad, but the faut can be mended. Ye’re young eneuch to start in a better.”

Katrine had moved to David’s side and laid her hand on his shoulder. “Aunt Grizel would have you forsake the Kirk for the world,” she laughed.

“But I am solemnly vowed to God’s service,” he said.

“Nae doot,” said Mistress Grizel. “But a man serves his Maker as weel in buckskin as in a Geneva gown — better, if a’ tales be true. This is the counsel of ane that wishes ye weel, you and that denty lass at your elbuck. Mak’ your peace wi’ the Kirk — submit yoursel’ to the Presbytery — ye need gie up nane o’ your views, but submit yoursel’ to the lawfu’ authority. Tell them that ye’ll be guidit in your public doings by them that has been set ower ye. . . . Troth, they’ll no be sweir to mak’ a brig for ye, for they dinna want a scandal in the Kirk. They’ll censure ye lichtly for a thochtless callant, and the thing will drap. By that course ye’ll dae nae violence to your conscience — ye’ll just be humblin’ yoursel’ before your elders in the Lord, as we’re commanded.”

“But what of the witchcraft in Woodilee?” he asked.

“Let it gang by the board. It’s no you or ten like you will clean out that dirty nest. Leave it to the Almighty, whose judgments are slow and siccar [sure].”

“You would have me sit silent in Woodilee in the midst of that iniquity?”

“Na, na. I would have ye get out o’ Woodilee as fast as a bird when the thack’s burnin’. We’ve Mr. James’s opinion, whilk ye canna controvert, that ye were never meant for a minister. I’se warrant it will be made easy for ye — the Presbytery will no object, and Calidon’s the chief heritor, and I’ll get a word spoken to Mr. Rintoul. Ye’ll leave wi’ a guid name, at peace wi’ God and man, and there’s a’ braid Scotland for ye to find a habitation. . . . Peter Dobbie tells me that your father, honest man, made a hantle o’ siller and that ye’ve heired the haill o’t. Gang down the water to the auld Yester lands, and buy a bit estate and set up Katrine in her forebears’ countryside. Ye’re young and yauld and there’s muckle guid work to be done in Scotland by ane that lives in the fear o’ God, be he laird or minister.”

David turned to Katrine, but her face was impassive. From her he would get no guidance. Like her aunt, she awaited his answer.

For a moment he wavered. On one side he saw peace, comfort, a new life with his beloved in a new place, the cutting of a tangle which constricted his youth; on the other — a thankless fight, where victory was wellnigh impossible, a sordid struggle which would darken the sunlight for both and taint all the springs of joy. He dropped his head on his breast and suffered for an instant the anguish of indecision. Then he spoke, and his eyes were on Katrine.

“I cannot. I would be going back upon my vows — I would be false to my faith — I would deserve to be cried out upon as a coward — I would be making terms with the Devil.”

“Thank God!” said the girl, and her arms were round his neck.

The old woman stared at him, coughed dryly, and then very deliberately took her seat in the big armchair which had been Nicholas Hawkshaw’s. The two stood before her like prisoners brought to judgment.

“Ye’ll tak’ that puir lassie and expose her to the ill-will o’ the Kirk and the countryside. — Ye’ll set her up as a mark for clash and scandal. — Ye’ll condemn her to a wearifu’ battalation that can have but the one end, for those that are against ye are mair than those that are for ye. A man may fecht stoutly his lee lane, but he is sair trauchled by a wife.”

“I will reply,” Katrine cried. “I am a Yester. What cognizance does Yester bear, Aunt Grizel?”

“Azure a chevron or between three garbs of the same, and for badge a lion guardant, wi’ the ditton ‘Thole feud.’”

“My motto is my answer. Would you have me shame my kin and run from a challenge?”

“But what kind o’ challenge, my lamb? Ye’ll be nae Black Agnes o’ Dunbar — but a minister’s wife, fechtin’ against lees and clypes and fause tongues and ignorance — the cauld law o’ the land and the caulder laws o’ the Kirk. Ye’ll hae to thole and thole wi’ never a back-straik o’ your ain, and keep a smilin’ face and a high heid when your heart is sick. Ye maun bow to them ye scorn and bend the knee to them that your guidsire would have refused for horse-boys, and be servant to the silliest body that summons ye in the name o’ Christ. Have ye made your market for that, my doo? There never was Yester — or Hawkshaw neither — that feared feud, but can ye thole sic dreidfu’ servitude, day in day out, in a wee house in a dreich parochine wi’ nae company but hinds and wabsters?”

The girl looked at David, and there was that in her eyes which made him both exultant and very humble, so that he longed at once to sing and to weep. She turned to the Bible which lay on the great table, ran a finger over its pages and read, and the words were those which Ruth spoke to Naomi:

“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.”

“So that’s the way o’t,” said the old woman. “Weel, I’ve said my say. Ye’re a pair o’ fules, but there’s maybe waur things than fules in God’s sicht. . . . Davie, lad, get down on your hunkers and I’ll gie ye my blessing — the blessing o’ a warldly auld wife that yet has orra glints o’ better things. . . . Man, I kenna where ye got it, but there’s gentle bluid in ye. Your common body would have chosen the saft seat.”

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:32