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Chapter 45

TALK OF A LITTLE MAID SINCE GROWN TALL.

My scholars have a game they call "The Little Minister," in which
the boys allow the girls as a treat to join. Some of the
characters in the real drama are omitted as of no importance--the
dominie, for instance--and the two best fighters insist on being
Dow and Gavin. I notice that the game is finished when Dow dives
from a haystack, and Gavin and the earl are dragged to the top of
it by a rope. Though there should be another scene, it is only a
marriage, which the girls have, therefore, to go through without
the help of the boys. This warns me that I have come to an end of
my story for all except my little maid. In the days when she sat
on my knee and listened it had no end, for after I told her how
her father and mother were married a second time she would say,
"And then I came, didn't I? Oh, tell me about me!" So it happened
that when she was no higher than my staff she knew more than I
could write in another book, and many a time she solemnly told me
what I had told her, as--

"Would you like me to tell you a story? Well, it's about a
minister, and the people wanted to be bad to him, and then there
was a flood, and a flood is lochs falling instead of rain, and so
of course he was nearly drownded, and he preached to them till
they liked him again, and so they let him marry her, and they like
her awful too, and, just think! it was my father; and that's all.
Now tell me about grandmother when father came home."

I told her once again that Margaret never knew how nearly Gavin
was driven from his kirk. For Margaret was as one who goes to bed
in the daytime and wakes in it, and is not told that there has
been a black night while she slept. She had seen her son leave the
manse the idol of his people, and she saw them rejoicing as they
brought him back. Of what occurred at the Jaws, as the spot where
Dow had saved two lives is now called, she learned, but not that
these Jaws snatched him and her from an ignominy more terrible
than death, for she never knew that the people had meditated
driving him from his kirk. This Thrums is bleak and perhaps
forbidding, but there is a moment of the day when a setting sun
dyes it pink, and the people are like their town. Thrums was never
colder in times of snow than were his congregation to their
minister when the Great Rain began, but his fortitude rekindled
their hearts. He was an obstinate minister, and love had led him a
dance, but in the hour of trial he had proved himself a man.

When Gavin reached the manse, and saw not only his mother but
Babbie, he would have kissed them both; but Babbie could only say,
"She does not know," and then run away crying. Gavin put his arm
round his mother, and drew her into the parlor, where he told her
who Babbie was. Now Margaret had begun to love Babbie already, and
had prayed to see Gavin happily married; but it was a long time
before she went upstairs to look for his wife and kiss her and
bring her down. "Why was it a long time?" my little maid would
ask, and I had to tell her to wait until she was old, and had a
son, when she would find out for herself.

While Gavin and the earl were among the waters, two men were on
their way to Mr. Carfrae's home, to ask him to return with them
and preach the Auld Licht kirk of Thrums vacant; and he came,
though now so done that he had to be wheeled about in a little
coach. He came in sorrow, yet resolved to perform what was asked
of him if it seemed God's will; but, instead of banishing Gavin,
all he had to do was to remarry him and kirk him, both of which
things he did, sitting in his coach, as many can tell. Lang Tammas
spoke no more against Gavin, but he would not go to the marriage,
and he insisted on resigning his eldership for a year and a day. I
think he only once again spoke to Margaret. She was in the manse
garden when he was passing, and she asked him if he would tell her
now why he had been so agitated when he visited her on the day of
the flood. He answered gruffly, "It's no business o' yours." Dr.
McQueen was Gavin's best man. He died long ago of scarlet fever.
So severe was the epidemic that for a week he was never in bed. He
attended fifty cases without suffering, but as soon as he had bent
over Hendry Munn's youngest boys, who both had it, he said, "I'm
smitted," and went home to die. You may be sure that Gavin proved
a good friend to Micah Dow. I have the piece of slate on which Rob
proved himself a good friend to Gavin; it was in his pocket when
we found the body. Lord Rintoul returned to his English estates,
and never revisited the Spittal. The last thing I heard of him was
that he had been offered the Lord-Lieutenantship of a county, and
had accepted it in a long letter, in which he began by pointing
out his unworthiness. This undid him, for the Queen, or her
councillors, thinking from his first page that he had declined the
honor, read no further, and appointed another man. Waster Lunny is
still alive, but has gone to another farm. Sanders Webster, in his
gratitude, wanted Nanny to become an Auld Licht, but she refused,
saying, "Mr. Dishart is worth a dozen o' Mr. Duthie, and I'm
terrible fond o' Mrs. Dishart, but Established I was born and
Established I'll remain till I'm carried out o' this house feet
foremost."

"But Nanny went to Heaven for all that," my little maid told me.
"Jean says people can go to Heaven though they are not Auld
Lichts, but she says it takes them all their time. Would you like
me to tell you a story about my mother putting glass on the manse
dike? Well, my mother and my father is very fond of each other,
and once they was in the garden, and my father kissed my mother,
and there was a woman watching them over the dike, and she cried
out--something naughty."

"It was Tibbie Birse," I said, "and what she cried was, 'Mercy on
us, that's the third time in half an hour!' So your mother, who
heard her, was annoyed, and put glass on the wall."

"But it's me that is telling you the story. You are sure you don't
know it? Well, they asked father to take the glass away, and he
wouldn't; but he once preached at mother for having a white
feather in her bonnet, and another time he preached at her for
being too fond of him. Jean told me. That's all."

No one seeing Babbie going to church demurely on Gavin's arm could
guess her history. Sometimes I wonder whether the desire to be a
gypsy again ever comes over her for a mad hour, and whether, if
so, Gavin takes such measures to cure her as he threatened in
Caddam Wood. I suppose not; but here is another story:

"When I ask mother to tell me about her once being a gypsy she
says I am a bad 'quisitive little girl, and to put on my hat and
come with her to the prayer-meeting; and when I asked father to
let me see mother's gypsy frock he made me learn Psalm forty-eight
by heart. But once I see'd it, and it was a long time ago, as long
as a week ago. Micah Dow gave me rowans to put in my hair, and I
like Micah because he calls me Miss, and so I woke in my bed
because there was noises, and I ran down to the parlor, and there
was my mother in her gypsy frock, and my rowans was in her hair,
and my father was kissing her, and when they saw me they jumped;
and that's all."

"Would you like me to tell you another story? It is about a little
girl. Well, there was once a minister and his wife, and they
hadn't no little girls, but just little boys, and God was sorry
for them, so He put a little girl in a cabbage in the garden, and
when they found her they were glad. Would you like me to tell you
who the little girl was? Well, it was me, and, ugh! I was awful
cold in the cabbage. Do you like that story?"

"Yes; I like it best of all the stories I know."

"So do I like it, too. Couldn't nobody help loving me, 'cause I'm
so nice? Why am I so fearful nice?"

"Because you are like your grandmother."

"It was clever of my father to know when he found me in the
cabbage that my name was Margaret. Are you sorry grandmother is
dead?"

"I am glad your mother and father were so good to her and made her
so happy."

"Are you happy?"

"Yes."

"But when I am happy I laugh."

"I am old, you see, and you are young."

"I am nearly six. Did you love grandmother? Then why did you never
come to see her? Did grandmother know you was here? Why not? Why
didn't I not know about you till after grandmother died?"

"I'll tell you when you are big."

"Shall I be big enough when I am six?"

"No, not till your eighteenth birthday."

"But birthdays comes so slow. Will they come quicker when I am
big?"

"Much quicker."

On her sixth birthday Micah Dow drove my little maid to the
school-house in the doctor's gig, and she crept beneath the table
and whispered--

"Grandfather!"

"Father told me to call you that if I liked, and I like," she said
when I had taken her upon my knee. "I know why you kissed me just
now. It was because I looked like grandmother. Why do you kiss me
when I look like her?"

"Who told you I did that?"

"Nobody didn't tell me. I just found out. I loved grandmother too.
She told me all the stories she knew."

"Did she ever tell you a story about a black dog?"

"No. Did she know one?"

"Yes, she knew it,"

"Perhaps she had forgotten it?"

"No, she remembered it."

"Tell it to me."

"Not till you are eighteen."

"But will you not be dead when I am eighteen? When you go to
Heaven, will you see grandmother?"

"Yes."

"Will she be glad to see you?"

My little maid's eighteenth birthday has come, and I am still in
Thrums, which I love, though it is beautiful to none, perhaps,
save to the very done, who lean on their staves and look long at
it, having nothing else to do till they die. I have lived to
rejoice in the happiness of Gavin and Babbie: and if at times I
have suddenly had to turn away my head after looking upon them in
their home surrounded by their children, it was but a moment's
envy that I could not help. Margaret never knew of the dominie in
the glen. They wanted to tell her of me, but I would not have it.
She has been long gone from this world; but sweet memories of her
still grow, like honeysuckle, up the white walls of the manse,
smiling in at the parlor window and beckoning from the door, and
for some filling all the air with fragrance. It was not she who
raised the barrier between her and me, but God Himself; and to
those who maintain otherwise, I say they do not understand the
purity of a woman's soul. During the years she was lost to me her
face ever came between me and ungenerous thoughts; and now I can
say, all that is carnal in me is my own, and all that is good I
got from her. Only one bitterness remains. When I found Gavin in
the rain, when I was fighting my way through the flood, when I saw
how the hearts of the people were turned against him--above all,
when I found Whamond in the manse--I cried to God, making promises
to Him, if He would spare the lad for Margaret's sake, and He
spared him; but these promises I have not kept.

THE END

James M. Barrie