Scotch Twins - Lucy F. Perkins

The Sabbath

[Illustration] from Scotch Twins by Lucy F. Perkins

The Sabbath morning dawned bright and clear, and the Campbells were all up early and had the chores done before seven o'clock. Then came breakfast, and after breakfast Jean ran "ben the room," and brought the Bible to her father. Then she and Jock sat with folded hands while he read a long chapter about the "begats." Jock thought there seemed to be a very large family of them. This was followed by a prayer as long as the chapter. The prayer was so long that True Tammas went sound asleep on the hearth and had a dream that must have been about the rabbit, for his ears twitched and he made little whiny noises and jerked his legs. It was so long that the kettle boiled clear away and made such alarming, crackling sounds that Jean couldn't help peeking through her fingers just once, because it was their only kettle, and if it should go and burst itself during family prayers, whatever should they do! The moment the Shepherd said "Amen," Jean sprang so quickly to lift it from the fire that she stumbled over Tam and woke him up and almost burned her fingers besides. The kettle wasn't really spoiled, and while the water was heating in it for the dishes, Jean took up the little yellow book and said to Jock,

"Come here now, laddie, and see if you can say your catechism. Do you ken what is the chief end of man?"

"Dod, and I do," answered Jock. "You let me spier the questions."

"No," answered Jean firmly. "I'll spier them first myself."

"You're thinking I can't answer," said Jock. "I'll fool you."

He stood up as straight as a whole row of soldiers and fired off the answer all in one breath.

"The-chief-end-of-man-is-to-glorify-God-and-enjoy-Him-forever," he shouted.

Jean nodded approvingly. "You ken that one all right, but that is the first one in the book and everybody knows that one. Now I'm going to skip around."

"Don't skip," urged Jock. "Take them just the way they come. I can remember 'em better."

But Jean gave no quarter. "What is predestination?" she demanded.

This was a poser, but Jock tackled it bravely.

"Whom he did foreknow he also did predestinate to-to-" he got so far and stuck.

"To what?" asked Jean.

"To be reformed," Jock hazarded, wallowing in difficulties.

"Conformed," corrected Jean. "You don't know that one at all! What is Saving Grace?"

Jock fell down entirely on saving grace. "It's a—It's a—" he began. Then he bit his lip and scowled, and looked up at the ham hanging from the rafters, and out of the windows, but as nothing more about saving grace occurred to him he said, "Aw, Jean, I know, but I can't think."

"If you knew, you wouldn't have to think," Jean retorted, and then she made him take the book and sit down on the stool by the window and learn both answers while she finished the dishes.

It was ten miles to the village and back, and there was no way to get there except by walking, but the Campbells would sooner have thought of going without their food than of staying away from the Kirk, and so by eight o'clock they were all dressed in their best clothes and ready to start. They left True Tammas sitting on the doorstep with his ears drooped and his eyes looking very sorrowful. He wanted to go with them, but he knew well that he must stay at home to guard the sheep from stray dogs.

It was springtime, and the world was so lovely that the troubles the little family had faced the evening before seemed far away and impossible in the morning light. It was as if they had awakened from a bad dream. Who could help being happy on such a morning? The birds were flying about with straw and bits of wool in their bills to weave into their nests, and singing as if they would split their little throats. The river splashed and gurgled and sang as it dashed over its rocky bed on its way to the sea. From the village came the distant music of the church bells. The hawthorn was in bloom, and the river-banks and roadsides were gay with dandelions and violets, daisies and buttercups. Far away the mountains lifted their blue summits to the sky, and on a nearer hill they could see the gray towers of the castle of the Laird of Glen Cairn.

The bell was ringing its final summons and all the people were pouring into the little vestibule as the Campbells reached the steps of the Kirk. Angus Niel pushed past them, looking as puffy as a turkey-cock with its feathers spread, and glaring at the Twins so fiercely that Jock whispered to Jean, "If I poked my finger at him I believe he'd gobble," and made her almost laugh aloud. When they passed Mr. Craigie, who held the plate for people to drop their money in, Jean whispered to Jock, "He looks for all the world like a pair of tongs in his blacks, he's that tall and thin," and then Jock certainly would have laughed outright if he hadn't seen Mrs. Crumpet's eye on him.

The sermon was very long and the seats were hard and high, but the service did come to an end at last, although Jock was sure it was never going to, and afterward the children with their father stood about in the churchyard for a little while talking to their neighbors and friends.

The farm of Andrew Crumpet lay in the same direction as the home of the Campbells, so it was natural that they should walk along together and that the two men should talk about the thing that was uppermost in their minds. Mrs. Crumpet had gone on ahead with another neighbor, and Sandy Crumpet, who was twelve too, and had yellow hair, a snub nose, and freckles like Jock's own, walked with the Twins behind the two fathers. As they turned into the road, the children heard Andrew say, with a heavy sigh: "Aye, Robin, we must just make up our minds to it. The Auld Laird's bent on getting us out."

"Has Mr. Craigie given you notice, too?" asked the Shepherd.

"Aye, has he," Andrew answered with bitterness, "and short work he made of it. It means little to him telling a man to leave his home and go out in the world to seek new work at our time of life."

"He passes for a religious man," said the Shepherd.

"So did the Pharisee in the temple," said Andrew, "but 'by their fruits ye shall know them,' and we're not gathering any figs off of Mr. Craigie, nor grapes from that thorn of an Auld Laird that I can see!"

"Nor from Angus Niel, either," agreed Robin Campbell. "The Auld Laird's servants are of a piece with himself."

"Fine I ken that," answered Andrew.

"Well," sighed the Shepherd, "the toad under the harrow cannot be expected to praise the plowman, and we're just like the toad."

"Very true," said Andrew, "but the toad has the best of it. We are being destroyed; not that some one may till the land, but that it may go to waste, and be kept out of use. We suffer that the rich may be richer and the poor poorer, that less food may be produced instead of more. I tell you, Robin, it is not justice."

"It may be so. It may be so," sighed the Shepherd, "but it is the law, and we must just submit."

The two men walked on in silence to the bridge, where the Crumpets turned, while the Campbells kept on beside the river. The children were silent, too, only calling out "Good-bye" to Sandy as they parted, Jock adding, "Come on by to-morrow if you can," and Sandy, waving his hand, calling back, "Aye, will I."

As the Twins and their father neared the "wee bit hoosie," Tam came bounding down the brae to meet them, and in less time than it takes to tell it Jean had run into the house, taken off her Sabbath dress, and put on her old one, with her kitchen apron over it, had mended the fire and heated the broth, and the little family was seated about the table eating their frugal meal with appetites sharpened by their long walk.

The afternoon seemed endless to the children, for they spent it trying hard not to do any of the things they wanted to do. They studied the catechism while their father sat with his bonnet on his head nodding over the Bible, and the wag-at-the-wall clock ticked the hours solemnly away. Jock whispered to Jean that he didn't see why Sunday was so much longer than any other day, and didn't believe her when she said it wasn't really that it only seemed so.

[Illustration] from Scotch Twins by Lucy F. Perkins