SHE was a very small, spare woman, in a blue print with little white spots -- straight, not bowed like her husband. Otherwise she seemed at first exactly like him. But ere the evening was over, Donal saw there was no featural resemblance between the two faces, and was puzzled to understand how the two expressions came to be so like: as they sat it seemed in the silence as if they were the same person thinking in two shapes and two places.
Following the old woman, Donal ascended a steep and narrow stair, which soon brought him to a landing where was light, coming mainly through green leaves, for the window in the little passage was filled with plants. His guide led him into what seemed to him an enchanting room -- homely enough it was, but luxurious compared to what he had been accustomed to. He saw white walls and a brown-hued but clean-swept wooden floor, on which shone a keen-eyed little fire from a low grate. Two easy chairs, covered with some party-coloured striped stuff, stood one on each side of the fire. A kettle was singing on the hob. The white deal-table was set for tea -- with a fat brown teapot, and cups of a gorgeous pattern in bronze, that shone in the firelight like red gold. In one of the walls was a box-bed.
|I'll lat ye see what accommodation we hae at yer service, sir,| said Doory, |an' gien that'll shuit ye, ye s' be welcome.|
So saying, she opened what looked like the door of a cupboard at the side of the fireplace. It disclosed a neat little parlour, with a sweet air in it. The floor was sanded, and so much the cleaner than if it had been carpeted. A small mahogany table, black with age, stood in the middle. On a side-table covered with a cloth of faded green, lay a large family bible; behind it were a few books and a tea-caddy. In the side of the wall opposite the window, was again a box-bed. To the eyes of the shepherd-born lad, it looked the most desirable shelter he had ever seen. He turned to his hostess and said,
|I'm feart it's ower guid for me. What could ye lat me hae't for by the week? I wad fain bide wi' ye, but whaur an' whan I may get wark I canna tell; sae I maunna tak it ony gait for mair nor a week.|
|Mak yersel' at ease till the morn be by,| said the old woman. |Ye canna du naething till that be ower. Upo' the Mononday mornin' we s' haud a cooncil thegither -- you an' me an' my man: I can du naething wantin' my man; we aye pu' thegither or no at a'.|
Well content, and with hearty thanks, Donal committed his present fate into the hands of the humble pair, his heaven-sent helpers; and after much washing and brushing, all that was possible to him in the way of dressing, reappeared in the kitchen. Their tea was ready, and the cobbler seated in the window with a book in his hand, leaving for Donal his easy chair.
|I canna tak yer ain cheir frae ye,| said Donal.
|Hoots!| returned the cobbler, |what's onything oors for but to gie the neeper 'at stan's i' need o' 't.|
|But ye hae had a sair day's wark!|
|An' you a sair day's traivel!|
|But I'm yoong!|
|An' I'm auld, an' my labour the nearer ower.|
|But I'm strong!|
|There's nane the less need ye sud be hauden sae. Sit ye doon, an' wastena yer backbane. My business is to luik to the bodies o' men, an' specially to their puir feet 'at has to bide the weicht, an' get sair pressed therein. Life 's as hard upo' the feet o' a man as upo' ony pairt o' 'm! Whan they gang wrang, there isna muckle to be dune till they be set richt again. I'm sair honourt, I say to mysel' whiles, to be set ower the feet o' men. It's a fine ministration! -- full better than bein' a door-keeper i' the hoose o' the Lord! For the feet 'at gang oot an' in at it 's mair nor the door!|
|The Lord be praist!| said Donal to himself; |there's mair i' the warl' like my father an' mither!|
He took the seat appointed him.
|Come to the table, Anerew,| said the old woman, |gien sae be ye can pairt wi' that buik o' yours, an' lat yer sowl gie place to yer boady's richts. -- I doobt, sir, gien he wad ait or drink gien I wasna at his elbuck.|
|Doory,| returned her husband, |ye canna deny I gie ye a bit noo an' than, specially whan I come upo' onything by ord'nar' tasty!|
|That ye du, Anerew, or I dinna ken what wud come o' my sowl ony mair nor o' your boady! Sae ye see, sir, we're like John Sprat an' his wife: -- ye'll ken the bairns' say aboot them?|
|Ay, fine that,| replied Donal. |Ye couldna weel be better fittit.|
|God grant it!| she said. |But we wad fit better yet gien I had but a wheen mair brains.|
|The Lord kenned what brains ye had whan he broucht ye thegither,| said Donal.
|Ye never uttert a truer word,| replied the cobbler. |Gien the Lord be content wi' the brains he's gien ye, an' I be content wi' the brains ye gie me, what richt hae ye to be discontentit wi' the brains ye hae, Doory? -- answer me that. But I s' come to the table. -- Wud ye alloo me to speir efter yer name, sir?|
|My name 's Donal Grant,| replied Donal.
|I thank ye, sir, an' I'll haud it in respec',| returned the cobbler. |Maister Grant, wull ye ask a blessin'?|
|I wad raither j'in i' your askin',| replied Donal.
The cobbler said a little prayer, and then they began to eat -- first of oat-cakes, baked by the old woman, then of loaf-breid, as they called it.
|I'm sorry I hae nae jeally or jam to set afore ye, sir,| said Doory, |we're but semple fowk, ye see -- content to haud oor earthly taibernacles in a haibitable condition till we hae notice to quit.|
|It's a fine thing to ken,| said the cobbler, with a queer look, |'at whan ye lea' 't, yer hoose fa's doon, an' ye haena to think o' ony damages to pey -- forby 'at gien it laistit ony time efter ye was oot o' 't, there micht be a wheen deevils takin' up their abode intil 't.|
|Hoot, Anerew!| interposed his wife, |there's naething like that i' scriptur'!|
|Hoot, Doory!| returned Andrew, |what ken ye aboot what's no i' scriptur'? Ye ken a heap, I alloo, aboot what's in scriptur', but ye ken little aboot what's no intil 't!|
|Weel, isna 't best to ken what's intil 't?|
|'Ayont a doobt.|
|Weel!| she returned in playful triumph.
Donal saw that he had got hold of a pair of originals: it was a joy to his heart: he was himself an original -- one, namely, that lived close to the simplicities of existence!
Andrew Comin, before offering him house-room, would never have asked anyone what he was; but he would have thought it an equal lapse in breeding not to show interest in the history as well as the person of a guest. After a little more talk, so far from commonplace that the common would have found it mirth-provoking, the cobbler said:
|An' what office may ye haud yersel', sir, i' the ministry o' the temple?|
|I think I un'erstan' ye,| replied Donal; |my mother says curious things like you.|
|Curious things is whiles no that curious,| remarked Andrew.
A pause following, he resumed:
|Gien onything gie ye reason to prefar waitin' till ye ken Doory an' me a bit better, sir,| he said, |coont my ill-mainnert queston no speirt.|
|There's naething,| answered Donal. |I'll tell ye onything or a'thing aboot mysel'.|
|Tell what ye wull, sir, an' keep what ye wull,| said the cobbler.
|I was broucht up a herd-laddie,| proceeded Donal, |an' whiles a shepherd ane. For mony a year I kent mair aboot the hill-side nor the ingle-neuk. But it's the same God an' Father upo' the hill-side an' i' the king's pailace.|
|An' ye'll ken a' aboot the win', an' the cloods, an' the w'ys o' God ootside the hoose! I ken something hoo he hauds things gaein' inside the hoose -- in a body's hert, I mean -- in mine an' Doory's there, but I ken little aboot the w'y he gars things work 'at he's no sae far ben in.|
|Ye dinna surely think God fillsna a'thing?| exclaimed Donal.
|Na, na; I ken better nor that,| answered the cobbler; |but ye maun alloo a tod's hole 's no sae deep as the thro't o' a burnin' m'untain! God himsel' canna win sae far ben in a shallow place as in a deep place; he canna be sae far ben i' the win's, though he gars them du as he likes, as he is, or sud be, i' your hert an' mine, sir!|
|I see!| responded Donal. |Could that hae been hoo the Lord had to rebuke the win's an' the wawves, as gien they had been gaein' at their ain free wull, i'stead o' the wull o' him 'at made them an' set them gaein'?|
|Maybe; but I wud hae to think aboot it 'afore I answert,| replied the cobbler.
A silence intervened. Then said Andrew, thoughtfully,
|I thoucht, when I saw ye first, ye was maybe a lad frae a shop i' the muckle toon -- or a clerk, as they ca' them, 'at sits makin' up accoonts.|
|Na, I'm no that, I thank God,| said Donal.
|What for thank ye God for that?| asked Andrew. |A' place is his. I wudna hae ye thank God ye're no a cobbler like me! Ye micht, though, for it's little ye can ken o' the guid o' the callin'!|
|I'll tell ye what for,| answered Donal. |I ken weel toon-fowk think it a heap better to hae to du wi' figures nor wi' sheep, but I'm no o' their min'; an' for ae thing, the sheep's alive. I could weel fancy an angel a shepherd -- an' he wad coont my father guid company! Troth, he wad want wings an' airms an' feet an' a' to luik efter the lambs whiles! But gien sic a ane was a clerk in a coontin' hoose, he wad hae to stow awa the wings; I cannot see what use he wad hae for them there. He micht be an angel a' the time, an' that no a fallen ane, but he bude to lay aside something to fit the place.|
|But ye're no a shepherd the noo?| said the cobbler.
|Na,| replied Donal, | -- 'cep' it be I'm set to luik efter anither grade o' lamb. A freen' -- ye may 'a' h'ard his name -- sir Gilbert Galbraith -- made the beginnin' o' a scholar o' me, an' noo I hae my degree frae the auld university o' Inverdaur.|
|Didna I think as muckle!| cried mistress Comin triumphant. |I hadna time to say 't to ye, Anerew, but I was sure he was frae the college, an' that was hoo his feet war sae muckle waur furnisht nor his heid.|
|I hae a pair o' shune i' my kist, though -- whan that comes!| said Donal, laughing.
|I only houp it winna be ower muckle to win up oor stair!|
|I dinna think it. But we'll lea' 't i' the street afore it s' come 'atween 's!| said Donal. |Gien ye'll hae me, sae lang's I'm i' the toon, I s' gang nae ither gait.|
|An' ye'll doobtless read the Greek like yer mither-tongue?| said the cobbler, with a longing admiration in his tone.
|Na, no like that; but weel eneuch to get guid o' 't.|
|Weel, that's jist the ae thing I grutch ye -- na, no grutch -- I'm glaid ye hae't -- but the ae thing I wud fain be a scholar for mysel'! To think I kenna a cheep o' the word spoken by the Word himsel'!|
|But the letter o' the word he made little o' comparet wi' the speerit!| said Donal.
|Ay, that's true! an' yet it's whaur a man may weel be greedy an' want to hae a'thing: wha has the speerit wad fain hae the letter tu! But it disna maitter; I s' set to learnin' 't the first thing whan I gang up the stair -- that is, gien it be the Lord's wull.|
|Hoots!| said his wife, |what wad ye du wi' Greek up there! I s' warran' the fowk there, ay, an' the maister himsel', speyks plain Scotch! What for no! What wad they du there wi' Greek, 'at a body wad hae to warstle wi' frae mornin' to nicht, an' no mak oot the third pairt o' 't!|
Her husband laughed merrily, but Donal said,
|'Deed maybe ye're na sae far wrang, guidwife! I'm thinkin' there maun be a gran' mither-tongue there, 'at 'll soop up a' the lave, an' be better to un'erstan' nor a body's ain -- for it'll be yet mair his ain.|
|Hear til him!| cried the cobbler, with hearty approbation.
|Ye ken,| Donal went on, |a' the languages o' the earth cam, or luik as gien they had come, frae ane, though we're no jist dogsure o' that. There's my mither's ain Gaelic, for enstance: it's as auld, maybe aulder nor the Greek; onygait, it has mair Greek nor Laitin words intil 't, an' ye ken the Greek 's an aulder tongue nor the Laitin. Weel, gien we could work oor w'y back to the auldest grit-gran'mither-tongue o' a', I'm thinkin' it wad come a kin o' sae easy til 's, 'at, wi' the impruvt faculties o' oor h'avenly condition, we micht be able in a feow days to haud communication wi' ane anither i' that same, ohn stammert or hummt an' hawt.|
|But there's been sic a heap o' things f'un' oot sin' syne, i' the min' o' man, as weel 's i' the warl' ootside,| said Andrew, |that sic a language wad be mair like a bairn's tongue nor a mither's, I'm thinkin', whan set against a' 'at wad be to speyk aboot!|
|Ye're verra richt there, I dinna doobt. But hoo easy wad it be for ilk ane to bring in the new word he wantit, haein' eneuch common afore to explain 't wi'! Afore lang the language wad hae intil 't ilka word 'at was worth haein' in ony language 'at ever was spoken sin' the toor o' Babel.|
|Eh, sirs, but it's dreidfu' to think o' haein' to learn sae muckle!| said the old woman. |I'm ower auld an' dottlet!|
Her husband laughed again.
|I dinna see what ye hae to lauch at!| she said, laughing too. |Ye'll be dottlet yersel' gien ye live lang eneuch!|
|I'm thinkin',| said Andrew, |but I dinna ken -- 'at it maun be a man's ain wyte gien age maks him dottlet. Gien he's aye been haudin' by the trowth, I dinna think he'll fin' the trowth, hasna hauden by him. -- But what I was lauchin' at was the thoucht o' onybody bein' auld up there. We'll a' be yoong there, lass!|
|It sall be as the Lord wulls,| returned his wife.
|It sall. We want nae mair; an' eh, we want nae less!| responded her husband.
So the evening wore away. The talk was to the very mind of Donal, who never loved wisdom so much as when she appeared in peasant-garb. In that garb he had first known her, and in the form of his mother.
|I won'er,| said Doory at length, |'at yoong Eppy 's no puttin' in her appearance! I was sure o' her the nicht: she hasna been near 's a' the week!|
The cobbler turned to Donal to explain. He would not talk of things their guest did not understand; that would be like shutting him out after taking him in!
|Yoong Eppy 's a gran'child, sir -- the only ane we hae. She's a weel behavet lass, though ta'en up wi' the things o' this warl' mair nor her grannie an' me could wuss. She's in a place no far frae here -- no an easy ane, maybe, to gie satisfaction in, but she's duin' no that ill.|
|Hoot, Anerew! she's duin' jist as well as ony lassie o' her years could in justice be expeckit,| interposed the grandmother. |It's seldom the Lord 'at sets auld heid upo' yoong shoothers.|
The words were hardly spoken when a light foot was heard coming up the stair.
| -- But here she comes to answer for hersel'!| she added cheerily.
The door of the room opened, and a good-looking girl of about eighteen came in.
|Weel, yoong Eppy, hoo 's a' wi' ye?| said the old man.
The grandmother's name was Elspeth, the grand-daughter's had therefore always the prefix.
|Brawly, thank ye, gran'father,| she answered. |Hoo 's a' wi' yersel'?|
|Ow, weel cobblet!| he replied.
|Sit ye doon,| said the grandmother, |by the spark o' fire; the nicht 's some airy like.|
|Na, grannie, I want nae fire,| said the girl. |I hae run a' the ro'd to get a glimp' o' ye 'afore the week was oot.|
|Hoo 's things gaein' up at the castel?|
|Ow, sic-like 's usual -- only the hoosekeeper 's some dowy, an' that puts mair upo' the lave o' 's: whan she's weel, she's no ane to spare hersel' -- or ither fowk aither! -- I wadna care, gien she wud but lippen til a body!| concluded young Eppy, with a toss of her head.
|We maunna speyk evil o' dignities, yoong Eppy!| said the cobbler, with a twinkle in his eye.
|Ca' ye mistress Brookes a dignity, gran'father!| said the girl, with a laugh that was nowise rude.
|I do,| he answered. |Isna she ower ye? Haena ye to du as she tells ye? 'Atween her an' you that's eneuch: she's ane o' the dignities spoken o'.|
|I winna dispute it. But, eh, it's queer wark yon'er!|
|Tak ye care, yoong Eppy! we maun haud oor tongues aboot things committit til oor trust. Ane peyt to serve in a hoose maunna tre't the affairs o' that hoose as gien they war her ain.|
|It wad be weel gien a'body about the hoose was as partic'lar as ye wad hae me, gran'father!|
|Hoo's my lord, lass?|
|Ow, muckle the same -- aye up the stair an' doon the stair the forepairt o' the nicht, an' maist inveesible a' day.|
The girl cast a shy glance now and then at Donal, as if she claimed him on her side, though the older people must be humoured. Donal was not too simple to understand her: he gave her look no reception. Bethinking himself that they might have matters to talk about, he rose, and turning to his hostess, said,
|Wi' yer leave, gudewife, I wad gang to my bed. I hae traivelt a maitter o' thirty mile the day upo' my bare feet.|
|Eh, sir!| she answered, |I oucht to hae considert that! -- Come, yoong Eppy, we maun get the gentleman's bed made up for him.|
With a toss of her pretty head, Eppy followed her grandmother to the next room, casting a glance behind her that seemed to ask what she meant by calling a lad without shoes or stockings a gentleman. Not the less readily or actively, however, did she assist her grandmother in preparing the tired wayfarer's couch. In a few minutes they returned, and telling him the room was quite ready for him, Doory added a hope that he would sleep as sound as if his own mother had made the bed.
He heard them talking for a while after the door was closed, but the girl soon took her leave. He was just falling asleep in the luxury of conscious repose, when the sound of the cobbler's hammer for a moment roused him, and he knew the old man was again at work on his behalf. A moment more and he was too fast asleep for any Cyclops' hammer to wake him.