Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet : An Autobiography, by Charles Kingsley

Chapter 33.

A Patriot’s Reward.

I never shall forget one evening’s walk, as Crossthwaite and I strode back together from the Convention. We had walked on some way arm in arm in silence, under the crushing and embittering sense of having something to conceal — something, which if those who passed us so carelessly in the street had known —! It makes a villain and a savage of a man, that consciousness of a dark, hateful secret. And it was a hateful one! — a dark and desperate necessity, which we tried to call by noble names, that faltered on our lips as we pronounced them; for the spirit of God was not in us; and instead of bright hope, and the clear fixed lodestar of duty, weltered in our imaginations a wild possible future of tumult, and flame, and blood.

“It must be done! — it shall be done! — it will be done!” burst out John, at last, in that positive, excited tone, which indicated a half disbelief of his own words. “I’ve been reading Macerone on street-warfare; and I see the way as clear as day.”

I felt nothing but the dogged determination of despair. “It must be tried, if the worst comes to the worst — but I have no hope. I read Somerville’s answer to that Colonel Macerone. Ten years ago he showed it was impossible. We cannot stand against artillery; we have no arms.”

“I’ll tell you where to buy plenty. There’s a man, Power, or Bower, he’s sold hundreds in the last few days; and he understands the matter. He tells us we’re certain, safe. There are hundreds of young men in the government offices ready to join, if we do but succeed at first. It all depends on that. The first hour settles the fate of a revolution.”

“If we succeed, yes — the cowardly world will always side with the conquering party; and we shall have every pickpocket and ruffian in our wake, plundering in the name of liberty and order.”

“Then we’ll shoot them like dogs, as the French did! ‘Mort aux voleurs’ shall be the word!”

“Unless they shoot us. The French had a national guard, who had property to lose, and took care of it. The shopkeepers here will be all against us; they’ll all be sworn in special constables, to a man; and between them and the soldiers, we shall have three to one upon us.”

“Oh! that Power assures me the soldiers will fraternize. He says there are three regiments at least have promised solemnly to shoot their officers, and give up their arms to the mob.”

“Very important, if true — and very scoundrelly, too, I’d sooner be shot myself by fair fighting, than see officers shot by cowardly treason.”

“Well, it’s ugly. I like fair play as well as any man. But it can’t be done. There must be a surprise, a coup de main, as the French say” (poor Crossthwaite was always quoting French in those days). “Once show our strength — burst upon the tyrants like a thunderclap; and then! —

“Men of England, heirs of glory,

Heroes of unwritten story,

Rise, shake off the chains like dew

Which in sleep have fallen on you!

Ye are many, they are few!”

“That’s just what I am afraid they are not. Let’s go and find out this man Power, and hear his authority for the soldier-story. Who knows him?”

“Why, Mike Kelly and he had been a deal together of late, Kelly’s a true heart now — a true Irishman ready for anything. Those Irish are the boys, after all — though I don’t deny they do bluster and have their way a little too much in the Convention. But still Ireland’s wrongs are England’s. We have the same oppressors. We must make common cause against the tyrants.”

“I wish to Heaven they would just have stayed at home, and ranted on the other side of the water; they had their own way there, and no Mammonite middle-class to keep them down; and yet they never did an atom of good. Their eloquence is all bombast, and what’s more, Crossthwaite, though there are some fine fellows among them, nine-tenths are liars — liars in grain, and you know it —”

Crossthwaite turned angrily to me. “Why, you are getting as reactionary as old Mackaye himself!”

“I am not — and he is not. I am ready to die on a barricade tomorrow, if it comes to that. I haven’t six months’ lease of life — I am going into consumption; and a bullet is as easy a death as spitting up my lungs piecemeal. But I despise these Irish, because I can’t trust them — they can’t trust each other — they can’t trust themselves. You know as well as I that you can’t get common justice done in Ireland, because you can depend upon no man’s oath. You know as well as I, that in Parliament or out, nine out of ten of them will stick at no lie, even if it has been exposed and refuted fifty times over, provided it serves the purpose of the moment; and I often think that, after all, Mackaye’s right, and what’s the matter with Ireland is just that and nothing else — that from the nobleman in his castle to the beggar on his dunghill, they are a nation of liars, John Crossthwaite!”

“Sandy’s a prejudiced old Scotchman.”

“Sandy’s a wiser man than you or I, and you know it.”

“Oh, I don’t deny that; but he’s getting old, and I think he has been failing in his mind of late.”

“I’m afraid he’s failing in his health; he has never been the same man since they hooted him down in John Street. But he hasn’t altered in his opinions one jot; and I’ll tell you what — I believe he’s right. I’ll die in this matter like a man, because it’s the cause of liberty; but I’ve fearful misgivings about it, just because Irishmen are at the head of it.”

“Of course they are — they have the deepest wrongs; and that makes them most earnest in the cause of right. The sympathy of suffering, as they say themselves, has bound them to the English working man against the same oppressors.”

“Then let them fight those oppressors at home, and we’ll do the same: that’s the true way to show sympathy. Charity begins at home. They are always crying ‘Ireland for the Irish’; why can’t they leave England for the English?”

“You’re envious of O’Connor’s power!”

“Say that again, John Crossthwaite, and we part for ever!” And I threw off his arm indignantly.

“No — but — don’t let’s quarrel, my dear old fellow — now, that perhaps, perhaps we may never meet again — but I can’t bear to hear the Irish abused. They’re noble, enthusiastic, generous fellows. If we English had half as warm hearts, we shouldn’t be as we are now; and O’Connor’s a glorious man, I tell you. Just think of him, the descendant of the ancient kings, throwing away his rank, his name, all he had in the world, for the cause of the suffering millions!”

“That’s a most aristocratic speech, John,” said I, smiling, in spite of my gloom. “So you keep a leader because he’s descended from ancient kings, do you? I should prefer him just because he was not — just because he was a working man, and come of workmen’s blood. We shall see whether he’s stanch after all. To my mind, little Cuffy’s worth a great deal more, as far as earnestness goes.”

“Oh! Cuffy’s a low-bred, uneducated fellow.”

“Aristocrat again, John!” said I, as we went up-stairs to Kelly’s room. And Crossthwaite did not answer.

There was so great a hubbub inside Kelly’s room, of English, French, and Irish, all talking at once, that we knocked at intervals for full five minutes, unheard by the noisy crew; and I, in despair, was trying the handle, which was fast, when, to my astonishment, a heavy blow was struck on the panel from the inside, and the point of a sharp instrument driven right through, close to my knees, with the exclamation —

“What do you think o’ that, now, in a policeman’s bread-basket?”

“I think,” answered I, as loud as I dare, and as near the dangerous door, “if I intended really to use it, I wouldn’t make such a fool’s noise about it.”

There was a dead silence; the door was hastily opened, and Kelly’s nose poked out; while we, in spite of the horribleness of the whole thing, could not help laughing at his face of terror. Seeing who we were he welcomed us in at once, into a miserable apartment, full of pikes and daggers, brandished by some dozen miserable, ragged, half-starved artizans. Three-fourths, I saw at once, were slop-working tailors. There was a bloused and bearded Frenchman or two; but the majority were, as was to have been expected, the oppressed, the starved, the untaught, the despairing, the insane; “the dangerous classes,” which society creates, and then shrinks in horror, like Frankenstein, from the monster her own clumsy ambition has created. Thou Frankenstein Mammon! hast thou not had warnings enough, either to make thy machines like men, or stop thy bungling, and let God make them for Himself?

I will not repeat what I heard there. There is many a frantic ruffian of that night now sitting “in his right mind”— though not yet “clothed”— waiting for God’s deliverance, rather than his own.

We got Kelly out of the room into the street, and began inquiring of him the whereabouts of this said Bower or Power. “He didn’t know,”— the feather-headed Irishman that he was! —“Faix, by-the-by, he’d forgotten — an’ he went to look for him at the place he tould him, and they didn’t know sich a one there —”

“Oh, oh! Mr. Power has an alibi, then? Perhaps an alias too?”

“He didn’t know his name rightly. Some said it was Brown; but he was a broth of a boy — a thrue people’s man. Bedad, he gov’ away arms afthen and afthen to them that couldn’t buy ’em. An’ he’s as free-spoken — och, but he’s put me into the confidence! Come down the street a bit, and I’ll tell yees — I’ll be Lord–Lieutenant o’ Dublin Castle meself, if it succades, as shure as there’s no snakes in ould Ireland, an’ revenge her wrongs ankle deep in the bhlood o’ the Saxon! Whirroo! for the marthyred memory o’ the three hundred thousint vargens o’ Wexford!”

“Hold your tongue, you ass!” said Crossthwaite, as he clapped his hand over his mouth, expecting every moment to find us all three in the Rhadamanthine grasp of a policeman; while I stood laughing, as people will, for mere disgust at the ridiculous, which almost always intermingles with the horrible.

At last, out it came —

“Bedad! we’re going to do it! London’s to be set o’ fire in seventeen places at the same moment, an’ I’m to light two of them to me own self, and make a holycrust — ay, that’s the word — o’ Ireland’s scorpions, to sting themselves to death in circling flame —”

“You would not do such a villanous thing?” cried we, both at once.

“Bedad! but I won’t harm a hair o’ their heads! Shure, we’ll save the women and childer alive, and run for the fire-ingins our blessed selves, and then out with the pikes, and seize the Bank and the Tower —

“An’ av’ I lives, I lives victhorious,

An’ av’ I dies, my soul in glory is;

Love fa — a — are — well!”

I was getting desperate: the whole thing seemed at once so horrible and so impossible. There must be some villanous trap at the bottom of it.

“If you don’t tell me more about this fellow Power, Mike,” said I, “I’ll blow your brains out on the spot: either you or he are villains.” And I valiantly pulled out my only weapon, the door key, and put it to his head.

“Och! are you mad, thin? He’s a broth of a boy; and I’ll tell ye. Shure he knows all about the red-coats, case he’s an arthillery man himself, and that’s the way he’s found out his gran’ combustible.”

“An artilleryman?” said John. “He told me he was a writer for the press.”

“Bedad, thin, he’s mistaken himself intirely; for he tould me with his own mouth. And I’ll show you the thing he sowld me as is to do it. Shure, it’ll set fire to the stones o’ the street, av’ you pour a bit vitriol on it.”

“Set fire to the stones? I must see that before I believe it.”

“Shure an’ ye shall then. Where’ll I buy a bit? Sorra a shop is there open this time o’ night; an’ troth I forgot the name o’ it intirely! Poker o’ Moses, but here’s a bit in my pocket!”

And out of his tattered coat-tail he lugged a flask of powder and a lump of some cheap chemical salt, whose name I have, I am ashamed to say, forgotten.

“You’re a pretty fellow to keep such things in the same pocket with gunpowder!”

“Come along to Mackaye’s,” said Crossthwaite. “I’ll see to the bottom of this. Be hanged, but I think the fellow’s a cursed mouchard— some government spy!”

“Spy is he, thin? Och, the thief o’ the world! I’ll stab him! I’ll murther him! an’ burn the town afterwards, all the same.”

“Unless,” said I, “just as you’ve got your precious combustible to blaze off, up he comes from behind the corner and gives you in charge to a policeman. It’s a villanous trap, you miserable fool, as sure as the moon’s in heaven.”

“Upon my word, I am afraid it is — and I’m trapped too.”

“Blood and turf! thin, it’s he that I’ll trap, thin. There’s two million free and inlightened Irishmen in London, to avenge my marthyrdom wi’ pikes and baggonets like raving salviges, and blood for blood!”

“Like savages, indeed!” said I to Crossthwaite, “And pretty savage company we are keeping. Liberty, like poverty, makes a man acquainted with strange companions!”

“And who’s made ’em savages? Who has left them savages? That the greatest nation of the earth has had Ireland in her hands three hundred years — and her people still to be savages! — if that don’t justify a revolution, what does? Why, it’s just because these poor brutes are what they are, that rebellion becomes a sacred duty. It’s for them — for such fools, brutes, as that there, and the millions more like him, and likely to remain like him, and I’ve made up my mind to do or die tomorrow!”

There was a grand half-truth, distorted, miscoloured in the words, that silenced me for the time.

We entered Mackaye’s door; strangely enough at that time of night, it stood wide open. What could be the matter? I heard loud voices in the inner room, and ran forward calling his name, when, to my astonishment, out past me rushed a tall man, followed by a steaming kettle, which, missing him, took full effect on Kelly’s chest as he stood in the entry, filling his shoes with boiling water, and producing a roar that might have been heard at Temple Bar.

“What’s the matter?”

“Have I hit him?” said the old man, in a state of unusual excitement.

“Bedad! it was the man Power! the cursed spy! An’ just as I was going to slate the villain nately, came the kittle, and kilt me all over!”

“Power? He’s as many names as a pickpocket, and as many callings, too, I’ll warrant. He came sneaking in to tell me the sogers were a’ ready to gie up their arms if I’d come forward to them tomorrow. So I tauld him, sin’ he was so sure o’t, he’d better gang and tak the arms himsel; an’ then he let out he’d been a policeman —”

“A policeman!” said both Crossthwaite and Kelly, with strong expletives.

“A policeman doon in Manchester; I thought I kenned his face fra the first. And when the rascal saw he’d let out too much, he wanted to make out that he’d been a’ along a spy for the Chartists, while he was makin’ believe to be a spy o’ the goovernment’s. Sae when he came that far, I just up wi’ the het water, and bleezed awa at him; an’ noo I maun gang and het some mair for my drap toddy.”

Sandy had a little vitriol in the house, so we took the combustible down into the cellar, and tried it. It blazed up: but burnt the stone as much as the reader may expect. We next tried it on a lump of wood. It just scorched the place where it lay, and then went out; leaving poor Kelly perfectly frantic with rage, terror, and disappointment. He dashed up-stairs, and out into the street, on a wild-goose chase after the rascal, and we saw no more of him that night.

I relate a simple fact. I am afraid — perhaps, for the poor workmen’s sake, I should say I am glad, that it was not an unique one. Villains of this kind, both in April and in June, mixed among the working men, excited their worst passions by bloodthirsty declamations and extravagant promises of success, sold them arms; and then, like the shameless wretch on whose evidence Cuffy and Jones were principally convicted, bore witness against their own victims, unblushingly declaring themselves to have been all along the tools of the government. I entreat all those who disbelieve this apparently prodigious assertion, to read the evidence given on the trial of the John Street conspirators, and judge for themselves.

 

“The petition’s filling faster than ever!” said Crossthwaite, as that evening we returned to Mackaye’s little back room.

“Dirt’s plenty,” grumbled the old man, who had settled himself again to his pipe, with his feet on the fender, and his head half way up the chimney.

“Now, or never!” went on Crossthwaite, without minding him; “now, or never! The manufacturing districts seem more firm than ever.”

“An’ words cheap,” commented Mackaye, sotto voce.

“Well,” I said, “Heaven keep us from the necessity of ulterior measures! But what must be, must.”

“The government expect it, I can tell you. They’re in a pitiable funk, I hear. One regiment is ordered to Uxbridge already, because they daren’t trust it. They’ll find soldiers are men, I do believe, after all.”

“Men they are,” said Sandy; “an’ therefore they’ll no be fools eneugh to stan’ by an’ see ye pu’ down a’ that is, to build up ye yourselves dinna yet rightly ken what. Men? Ay, an’ wi’ mair common sense in them than some that had mair opportunities.”

“I think I’ve settled everything,” went on Crossthwaite, who seemed not to have heard the last speech —“settled everything — for poor Katie, I mean. If anything happens to me, she has friends at Cork — she thinks so at least — and they’d get her out to service somewhere — God knows!” And his face worked fearfully a minute.

“Dulce et decorum est pro patriâ mori!” said I.

“There are twa methods o’ fulfilling that saw, I’m thinkin’. Impreemis, to shoot your neebour; in secundis, to hang yoursel.”

“What do you mean by grumbling at the whole thing in this way, Mr. Mackaye? Are you, too, going to shrink back from The Cause, now that liberty is at the very doors?”

“Ou, then, I’m stanch eneuch. I ha’ laid in my ain stock o’ weapons for the fecht at Armageddon.”

“You don’t mean it? What have you got?”

“A braw new halter, an’ a muckle nail. There’s a gran’ tough beam here ayont the ingle, will haud me a’ crouse and cantie, when the time comes.”

“What on earth do you mean?” asked we both together.

“Ha’ ye looked into the monster-petition?”

“Of course we have, and signed it too!”

“Monster? Ay, ferlie! Monstrum horrendum, informe, ingens, cui lumen ademptum. Desinit in piscem mulier formosa superne. Leeberty, the bonnie lassie, wi’ a sealgh’s fud to her! I’ll no sign it. I dinna consort wi’ shoplifters, an’ idiots, an’ suckin’ bairns — wi’ long nose, an’ short nose, an’ pug nose, an’ seventeen Deuks o’ Wellington, let alone a baker’s dizen o’ Queens. It’s no company, that, for a puir auld patriot!”

“Why, my dear Mackaye,” said I, “you know the Reform Bill petitions were just as bad.”

“And the Anti–Corn-law ones, too, for that matter,” said Crossthwaite. “You know we can’t help accidents; the petition will never be looked through.”

“It’s always been the plan with Whigs and Tories, too!”

“I ken that better than ye, I guess.”

“And isn’t everything fair in a good cause?” said Crossthwaite.

“Desperate men really can’t be so dainty.”

“How lang ha’ ye learnit that deil’s lee, Johnnie? Ye were no o’ that mind five years agone, lad. Ha’ ye been to Exeter Hall the while? A’s fair in the cause o’ Mammon; in the cause o’ cheap bread, that means cheap wages; but in the cause o’ God — wae’s me, that ever I suld see this day ower again! ower again! Like the dog to his vomit — just as it was ten, twenty, fifty year agone. I’ll just ha’ a petition a’ alane to mysel — I, an’ a twa or three honest men. Besides, ye’re just eight days ower time wi’ it.”

“What do you mean?”

“Suld ha’ sent it in the 1st of April, an’ no the 10th; a’ fool’s day wud ha’ suited wi’ it ferlie!”

“Mr. Mackaye,” said Crossthwaite, in a passion, “I shall certainly inform the Convention of your extraordinary language!”

“Do, laddie! do, then! An’ tell ’em this, too”— and, as he rose, his whole face and figure assumed a dignity, an awfulness, which I had never seen before in him —“tell them that ha’ driven out —— and — — an’ every one that daur speak a word o’ common sense, or common humanity — them that stone the prophets, an’ quench the Spirit o’ God, and love a lie, an’ them that mak the same — them that think to bring about the reign o’ love an’ britherhood wi’ pikes an’ vitriol bottles, murther an’ blasphemy — tell ’em that ane o’ fourscore years and mair — ane that has grawn grey in the people’s cause — that sat at the feet o’ Cartwright, an’ knelt by the death-bed o’ Rabbie Burns — ane that cheerit Burdett as he went to the Touer, an’ spent his wee earnings for Hunt an’ Cobbett — ane that beheld the shaking o’ the nations in the Ninety-three, and heard the birth-shriek o’ a newborn world — ane that while he was yet a callant saw Liberty afar off, an’ seeing her was glad, as for a bonny bride, an’ followed her through the wilderness for threescore weary waeful years — sends them the last message that e’er he’ll send on airth: tell ’em that they’re the slaves o’ warse than priests and kings — the slaves o’ their ain lusts an’ passions — the slaves o’ every loud-tongued knave an’ mountebank that’ll pamper them in their self-conceit; and that the gude God’ll smite ’em down, and bring ’em to nought, and scatter ’em abroad, till they repent, an’ get clean hearts and a richt speerit within them, and learn His lesson that he’s been trying to teach ’em this threescore years — that the cause o’ the people is the cause o’ Him that made the people; an’ wae to them that tak’ the deevil’s tools to do his wark wi’! Gude guide us! — What was yon, Alton, laddie?”

“What?”

“But I saw a spunk o’ fire fa’ into your bosom! I’ve na faith in siccan heathen omens; but auld carlins wud say it’s a sign o’ death within the year — save ye from it, my puir misguidit bairn! Aiblins a fire-flaught o’ my een, it might be-I’ve had them unco often, the day —”

And he stooped down to the fire, and began to light his pipe, muttering to himself —

“Saxty years o’ madness! saxty years o’ madness! How lang, O Lord, before thou bring these puir daft bodies to their richt mind again?”

We stood watching him, and interchanging looks — expecting something, we knew not what.

Suddenly he sank forward on his knees, with his hands on the bars of the grate; we rushed forward, and caught him up. He turned his eyes up to me, speechless, with a ghastly expression; one side of his face was all drawn aside — and helpless as a child, he let us lift him to his bed, and there he lay staring at the ceiling.

 

Four weary days passed by — it was the night of the ninth of April. In the evening of that day his speech returned to him on a sudden — he seemed uneasy about something, and several times asked Katie the day of the month.

“Before the tenth — ay, we maun pray for that. I doubt but I’m ower hearty yet — I canna bide to see the shame o’ that day —

 

“Na — I’ll tak no potions nor pills — gin it were na for scruples o’ conscience, I’d apocartereeze a’thegither, after the manner o’ the ancient philosophers. But it’s no’ lawful, I misdoubt, to starve onesel.”

“Here is the doctor,” said Katie.

“Doctor? Wha ca’d for doctors? Canst thou administer to a mind diseased? Can ye tak long nose, an’ short nose, an’ snub nose, an’ seventeen Deuks o’ Wellington out o’ my puddins? Will your castor oil, an’ your calomel, an’ your croton, do that? D’ye ken a medicamentum that’ll put brains into workmen —? Non tribus Anti-cyrus! Tons o’ hellebore — acres o’ strait waistcoats — a hall police-force o’ head-doctors, winna do it. Juvat insanire — this their way is their folly, as auld Benjamin o’ Tudela saith of the heathen. Heigho! ‘Forty years lang was he grevit wi’ this generation, an’ swore in his wrath that they suldna enter into his rest.’ Pulse? tongue? ay, shak your lugs, an’ tak your fee, an’ dinna keep auld folk out o’ their graves. Can ye sing?”

The doctor meekly confessed his inability.

“That’s pity — or I’d gar ye sing Auld-lang-syne —

“We twa hae paidlit in the burn —

“Aweel, aweel, aweel —”

 

Weary and solemn was that long night, as we sat there, with the crushing weight of the morrow on our mind, watching by that death-bed, listening hour after hour to the rambling soliloquies of the old man, as “he babbled of green fields”; yet I verily believe that to all of us, especially to poor little Katie, the active present interest of tending him kept us from going all but mad with anxiety and excitement. But it was weary work:— and yet, too, strangely interesting, as at times there came scraps of old Scotch love-poetry, contrasting sadly with the grim withered lips that uttered them — hints to me of some sorrow long since suffered, but never healed. I had never heard him allude to such an event before but once, on the first day of our acquaintance.

“I went to the kirk,

My luve sat afore me;

I trow my twa een

Tauld him a sweet story.

“Aye wakin o’—

Wakin aye and weary —

I thocht a’ the kirk

Saw me and my deary.

“‘Aye wakin o’!’— Do ye think, noo, we sall ha’ knowledge in the next warld o’ them we loved on earth? I askit that same o’ Rab Burns ance; an’ he said, puir chiel, he ‘didna ken ower well, we maun bide and see’; — bide and see — that’s the gran’ philosophy o’ life, after a’. Aiblins folk’ll ken their true freens there; an’ there’ll be na mair luve coft and sauld for siller —

“Gear and tocher is needit nane

I’ the country whaur my luve is gane.

 

“Gin I had a true freen the noo! to gang down the wynd, an’ find if it war but an auld Abraham o’ a blue-gown, wi’ a bit crowd, or a fizzle-pipe, to play me the Bush aboon Traquair! Na, na, na; it’s singing the Lord’s song in a strange land, that wad be; an’ I hope the application’s no irreverent, for ane that was rearit amang the hills o’ God, an’ the trees o’ the forest which he hath planted.

“Oh the broom, and the bonny yellow broom,

The broom o’ the Cowden-knowes.

“Hech, but she wud lilt that bonnily!

 

“Did ye ever gang listering saumons by nicht? Ou, but it’s braw sport, wi’ the scars an’ the birks a’ glowering out blude-red i’ the torchlight, and the bonnie hizzies skelping an’ skirling on the bank —

 

“There was a gran’ leddy, a bonny leddy, came in and talked like an angel o’ God to puir auld Sandy, anent the salvation o’ his soul. But I tauld her no’ to fash hersel. It’s no my view o’ human life, that a man’s sent into the warld just to save his soul, an’ creep out again. An’ I said I wad leave the savin’ o’ my soul to Him that made my soul; it was in richt gude keepin’ there, I’d warrant. An’ then she was unco fleyed when she found I didna haud wi’ the Athanasian creed. An’ I tauld her, na; if He that died on cross was sic a ane as she and I teuk him to be, there was na that pride nor spite in him, be sure, to send a puir auld sinful, guideless body to eternal fire, because he didna a’thegither understand the honour due to his name.”

“Who was this lady?”

He did not seem to know; and Katie had never heard of her before —“some district visitor” or other.

 

“I sair misdoubt but the auld creeds are in the right anent Him, after a’. I’d gie muckle to think it — there’s na comfort as it is. Aiblins there might be a wee comfort in that, for a poor auld worn-out patriot. But it’s ower late to change. I tauld her that, too, ance. It’s ower late to put new wine into auld bottles. I was unco drawn to the high doctrines ance, when I was a bit laddie, an’ sat in the wee kirk by my minnie an’ my daddie — a richt stern auld Cameronian sort o’ body he was, too; but as I grew, and grew, the bed was ower short for a man to stretch himsel thereon, an’ the plaidie ower strait for a man to fauld himself therein; and so I had to gang my gate a’ naked in the matter o’ formulæ, as Maister Tummas has it.”

“Ah! do send for a priest, or a clergyman!” said Katie, who partly understood his meaning.

“Parson? He canna pit new skin on auld scars. Na bit stickit curate-laddie for me, to gang argumentin’ wi’ ane that’s auld enough to be his gran’father. When the parsons will hear me anent God’s people, then I’ll hear them anent God.

“— Sae I’m wearing awa, Jean,

To the land o’ the leal —

“Gin I ever get thither. Katie, here, hauds wi’ purgatory, ye ken! where souls are burnt clean again — like baccy pipes —

“When Bazor-brigg is ower and past,

Every night and alle;

To Whinny Muir thou comest at last,

And God receive thy sawle.

“Gin hosen an’ shoon thou gavest nane

Every night and alle;

The whins shall pike thee intil the bane,

And God receive thy sawle.

“Amen. There’s mair things aboon, as well as below, than are dreamt o’ in our philosophy. At least, where’er I go, I’ll meet no long nose, nor short nose, nor snub nose patriots there; nor puir gowks stealing the deil’s tools to do God’s wark wi’. Out among the eternities an’ the realities — it’s no that dreary outlook, after a’, to find truth an’ fact — naught but truth an’ fact — e’en beside the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched!”

“God forbid!” said Katie.

“God do whatsoever shall please Him, Katie — an’ that’s aye gude like Himsel’. Shall no the Judge of all the earth do right — right — right?”

And murmuring that word of words to himself, over and over, more and more faintly, he turned slowly over, and seemed to slumber —

Some half hour passed before we tried to stir him. He was dead.

And the candles waned grey, and the great light streamed in through every crack and cranny, and the sun had risen on the Tenth of April. What would be done before the sun had set?

What would be done? Just what we had the might to do; and therefore, according to the formula on which we were about to act, that mights are rights, just what we had a right to do — nothing. Futility, absurdity, vanity, and vexation of spirit. I shall make my next a short chapter. It is a day to be forgotten — and forgiven.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kingsley/charles/alton-locke/chapter33.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 21:44