Many years have come and gone since I, Alan Gray, bade farewell to bonny
Glenconan, in which I spent the happy days of my childhood; during these
years I have feasted my eyes on some of the loveliest scenery in the
Empire; my lot has been a most varied one, bringing me in contact with
all sorts and conditions of men; yet in spite of these things I have
never forgotten, and never can forget, the quiet sylvan beauty of my
native glen, or the quaint old-world characters, who then lived in it,
all now, alas, gone over to the great majority.

The other day I had occasion to make a long and tedious journey across
the snow-covered, frost-bound prairie. There was no wind to speak of;
the air, though keen, was not too cold for comfort; my sleigh was well
equipped, my horses strong and willing; my Jehu, a French Canadian,
could speak very little English, and my French was very rusty; and so as
conversation was denied me, I lay back among the fur robes, and fell
into a reverie. On the previous evening I had been in the company of a
very dear friend, the Rev. Harold Courtney, one of the most devoted and
enthusiastic clergymen in the great Northwest. In the course of
conversation he happened to remark; “I have often wondered, Gray, what
led you, the son of Presbyterian parents, to become an Anglican. You are
not the sort of man that would act in a matter like this without the
strongest convictions. How did it all come about?”

“Well, Courtney, it is too long a story to tell to-night. You are right,
however, in supposing that I could not have made the change without
being fully convinced of the superior claims of the Anglican branch of
the Church. It took me a long time to unlearn what had been so carefully
taught me in my younger days, and to see the defects of the system in
which I had been reared. It meant the severing of many associations that
were very dear to me. Some day, perhaps, I’ll tell you the whole story.”

Doubtless it was the memory of this chat that set my wits awandering,
and called up before my mental vision scenes and incidents of long ago
that had made lasting impressions upon my impressionable nature. How
vividly I could realize those scenes: I can see them clearly still. Let
me tell you all I saw as I dozed in my sleigh that fine January day.

I saw myself again a boy in my native town of St. Conan’s on the
northeast of Scotland. The country was clad in the russet mellow robes
of harvest. I could see the Conan Water pursuing its quiet journey to
the sea between finely wooded banks. On the north bank there was the
Craig, a little hamlet consisting of St. Conan’s Episcopal Church, the
Parsonage, the Craig inn, where the “Defiance” coach used to stop and
change horses on its way to and from the city, and a few cottages; on
the opposite bank the long straggling village of St. Conan’s. St.
Conan’s had for many centuries been a place of considerable importance;
its Moot Hill, where in olden days the Earl of Buchan held his Court and
where justice was executed, was still pointed out to the curious. A fine
old one-arched bridge spanned the river and formed the bond of union
between Craig and St. Conan’s. The main street of the village ran
parallel with the river and ended eastward in the market square, where
stood the old Presbyterian parish church, the old parish school and the
principal places of business. On this day which stood out so clearly in
my vision, the school was deserted and the whole village was more than
usually quiet. The flag on the tall staff in the square was floating at
half-mast; the shutters were on every shop window, and the blinds were
down in every house. At intervals the tolling of a bell resounded
through the air. Groups of men in their best Sunday “blacks” were
wending their way towards the great entrance gate of the castle. The
school children were all on the qui vive for what was about to happen. I
could see myself among the rest, a lad of twelve, comfortably clad in
homespun, eagerly watching for the funeral cortege that would soon
appear. At last it came. No hideous hearse was there; but relays of the
local volunteer company, in their picturesque tartan trews and scarlet
tunics, took turns in bearing the body to its last resting-place.
Colonel Forbes, the brother of our “auld laird” had been a famous
soldier, and the men who loved his family and name were carrying him to
his burial after the manner that belonged to the Forbeses of Glenconan.
In front of all strode a stalwart piper, in kilt and plaid of the same
dark green tartan, that of the Clan Forbes, playing a weird and mournful
coronach. In my vision I could see the long procession take its way by
the main street bridge towards St. Conan’s church on the Craig. At the
gate it was met by a little white-robed company of men and boys, who
turned and led the way through the churchyard, the clergyman reciting
the introductory sentences of the Anglican burial service. When they
reached the church door, six of the oldest tenants on the Glenconan
estate took the casket from the bearers and carried it up the nave to
the chancel steps, where the first part of the office was said.

Shall I ever forget the beauty and solemnity of that service? It was so
different from any service I had ever seen. All was so orderly and so
void of anything like gloom.

There was undoubtedly a great deal that to my boyish mind was
unintelligible, but the general impression produced on me was so
profound that I was thrilled to the heart in a way I had never been

Following the cortege out from the chancel to the east end of the
churchyard, I heard the words of Christian hope in a glorious
resurrection spoken by an old and venerable man of commanding
appearance, when the casket had been lowered into the grave, which was
lined with moss and flowers; I listened entranced while the choir sang
the beautiful hymn:

“Father, in Thy gracious keeping
Leave we now Thy servant sleeping.”

and then, when all was over, I crept away out of the crowd, to ponder
over what I had seen and heard.

Brought up on the Shorter Catechism, explained, or I should say
distorted, by stern and unbending teachers, I actually believed there
was nothing good in any other faith. But here I had been brought face to
face with a new phase of Christian belief, and one which to my boyish
mind was far more beautiful than that to which I had been accustomed.
Young as I was, I had thought a good deal about such matters. Were I to
go to my father, he would give me no sympathy, but tell me to mind my
lessons, and leave such things for older heads to consider. There was,
however, one man in the village with whom my fondness for books made me
a great favorite. This was old Mr. Lindsay, who had himself been a
probationer of the “Auld Kirk”, but who, because of inability to sign
the Confession of Faith, had never been received into the ministry. For
many years he had been a teacher of a semi-private school in another
parish; but ever since I could remember he had been living near our
home, retired from professional life, and spending most of his time
among his books. To him I would go for advice and instruction.

As soon as our frugal supper was over, I said to my mother, “Mother, I
am going to see the auld dominie, and get him to help me wi’ a gey hard
Latin version that I have to do for the morn.”

“Weel, weel, Alan, do ye sae, but see ye dinna bide ower late, else your
father’ll no be pleased.”

In a few minutes I had knocked at the old man’s door and had been
admitted into the sanctum, where I had spent many a happy evening among
the books.

“Come awa, laddie, and sit you doon. What’s the difficulty the nicht? I
haena seen ye for twa or three days. Are they all weel at hame?”

“Yes, thank ye, Mr. Lindsay, a’body’s fine, I hae a question or twa I
wad like to speir at ye, if you please, about the use of the ablative
absolute; but,” and I hesitated, “It was something else I wantit maistly
to speak to you aboot. I gaed to the colonel’s burial the day.”

“Aye, weel, we’ll take the Latin first, syne we’ll hear aboot the ither
maitter. My leg was gey troublesome the day, else I wad hae gone to the
funeral. He was a good man was the auld colonel, ane o’ the ‘gentle
persuasion,’ in the richt sense o’ the word, an’ deserved a’ the respect
that could be shown him.”

In a few minutes I had told my difficulty in the Latin version and had
the construction fully explained; and you may be sure, my books were
very speedily replaced in my schoolbag.

“Noo,” said Mr. Lindsay, taking a pinch of snuff from his silver box and
leaning back in his arm chair. “Ye was at the funeral, ye wis saying.
What thocht ye o’ that? There would be a lot of folk there, I’ll
warrant. I heard the pipes playing the coronach and I couldna help
thinking of the many times that the sound of the pipes had sounded in
the old colonel’s ear as he led his Highlanders to victory.”

In my simple Scotch way I tried to tell my old friend all I had seen and

“It wasna like ony ither burial I ever saw. They didna hae a black
mortcloth ower the coffin, but a purple ane. Wasna that queer?”

In ordinary conversation the dominie used the broad Doric Scotch of our
part of the country; when he had any instructions to give or any
important thing to communicate he spoke in good colloquial English,
although sometimes a Scotch word might creep in.

“Weel, you see, Alan, the Episcopalians have a meaning in their use of
colors. They teach through the eye as well as through the ear, just as
our Master did. For several hundreds of years purple has been used as
the emblem of penitence and sorrow; and as penitence and sorrow for sin,
if genuine, will bring peace, so this color teaches that mourning for
one who is dead in Christ is not without hope, but will end in the joy
of the resurrection morning.”

“What a beautiful idea, Mr. Lindsay, I never thought they had any
meaning in it at all, but just used that color because it was pretty.
And they had, oh! such lovely flowers made up in wreaths and crosses,
laid on the coffin. Oor folk never hae onything o’ that kind.”

“No, the auld kirk likes to make death as gloomy as possible. In fact
they look on death as if he were always an enemy. Now the Episcopalians
teach that if a man is seeking first the Kingdom of Christ he has nae
need to fear at death. To hear some Presbyterians speak you would think
that death meant an end o’ a’ thing; whereas the English Prayer Book
teaches that it is only the beginning of another stage of life. In a
book I have here, by a great man called Tertullian, who lived in the
fourth century, it is said that the Christian Church of the first days
turned the gloom of the funeral into a triumph, and that between the
death and the burial their religious exercises were expressive of peace
and hope. They felt that death could not and did not separate them from
the love of their heavenly Father or from the fellowship of the saints;
and so they made use of palms and flowers to give expression to their
hope and trust.”

“Now I hope I understand better the meanin’ o’ what I saw to-day. But,
there wis ae day nae long ago I heard auld Willie Scott the mason–and
ye ken he’s great on religious matters–say to a man in Jamie Reith’s
smiddy that there wis only a tissue paper wall between the English Kirk
and Roman Catholics. He said that their white gowns, an’ organs, an’
chantin’ an’ hymns, were a’ relics of popery. It wis jist a kirk for the
‘gentle persuasion,’ he said; they dinna want ony poor folk there.”

“Dinna ye heed ony o’ auld Willie’s havers; he’s only a poor
narrow-minded body, an’ disna think anybody will be saved except the
‘Auld light’ folk. The white gowns were used in the oldest and purest
ages of the Church, more than a thousand years before the black Geneva
gown was heard of, an’ as to organs, weel, King David himsel’ played on
a harp, an’ I’m thinking if the Almighty was pleased wi’ that, he
wouldna hae ony objection to a grand instrument like the organ. As for
the chantin’ there was plenty o’ that in the temple when the Maister
Himsel’ was worshipping there, and gin He had thocht there wis onything
wrang He wad sune hae let them hear aboot it. If Willie thinks the
English version o’ the Psalms is inspired, he’s awfu’ sair mista’en.
Some of the metre Psalms are perfect doggerel.”

“But I’ll tell you Alan, he spak’ a true word when he said that the
Episcopalian kirk was the kirk o’ the gentle persuasion; for there is
something in it, as a system, that helps to make a man gentle, and kind,
and unselfish. No doubt there may be many imperfect characters among
them, but the teaching of their Church, the use of their Prayer Book,
their ordinances and Sacraments, all help to make them o’ ‘the gentle
persuasion.’ Why, laddie, the very service ye heard the day is a proof
o’ the perfect democracy of her system. It is the same burial service
that she uses for the poorest of her people as for the most exalted in
rank. So you see in the way Willie meant she’s not the kirk o’ ‘the
gentle persuasion’.”

“Thank ye very much for takin’ the trouble to explain all this to me. I
wis wonderin’ if ye could lend me an auld Prayer Book for a day or two;
I would like to read a bit o’ ’t.”

“Surely I’ll dae that, Alan;” and with that he went to his book-shelves,
took down a copy of the Book of Common Prayer and handed it to me.

Putting the precious volume in my pocket, I set out for home, arriving
there in time for family worship, which, according to the custom of his
people, my father conducted every evening.

Such was my day dream. So was the first seed sown many years ago; but to
me it sometimes seems as yesterday, so vividly can I recall it all. My
reverie was a pleasant one. By and by I may go back in spirit to those
old days and tell you something more of the way by which God led me, and
some of the difficulties which I had to overcome, before I could throw
in my lot with the great Anglican Communion.

“Alan Gray, come to my desk.”

At the sound of these ominous words, thundered out by the master, every
pupil in Glenconan School cast a furtive look at the spot whence the
summons came, and another at poor luckless me as I made my way to the
dread tribunal, carrying in my hand the tawse which had been flung at my

“Is this your book, boy?” he said sternly, holding up gingerly a
well-thumbed copy of Scott’s “Monastery.”

“No, sir, it does not belong to me.”

“Yet it was found in your desk. Have you been reading it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Um, just so; and where do you get such books, pray?”

So long as my answers would only involve myself, I was quite prepared to
reply; but now I was silent.

“Did you hear my question, Alan Gray? I said–Where did you get such

Not a word came from me to break the dread silence. Many years have
flown since that day, but I can yet see the storm of passion that swept
over the master’s face as he spoke. A volcano slumbered within him,
which he tried to suppress. He was a hard, severe man, was The Reverend
Archibald Angus. A Presbyterian of the old school, he had no sympathy
with the natural love of a boy for all that was legendary and romantic,
and could not brook the idea of any pupil of his daring to read such
unhallowed literature, as he believed all novels to be. A strict
disciplinarian, he demanded the most abject submission to his authority,
and had no mercy for anyone who dared to thwart his will. Theologically
and socially he was narrow and crabbed, and his system of teaching, if
system it could be called, was tyrannical in the extreme.

During the mid-day recess a tell-tale had volunteered the information
that I had been reading a book which was not a class book. Mr. Angus had
gone to my desk and, on ransacking it, had found a copy of “The
Monastery,” which he had promptly confiscated.

“Have I not forbidden you to read novels? And yet you persist in even
bringing your fictitious rubbish here! But you shall not defy my
authority. You must be made an example of. Hold up your hand.”

I obeyed. He stood to his feet and rained blow after blow, first on one
hand, and then on the other. His face was livid with passion and he went
on as if he altogether forgot that it was a thin, white-faced slip of a
boy, and not a man, he was punishing. I bore the pain as long as I
could; at last I gave one big sob and burst into a fit of weeping. The
master ceased and, taking a step or two from his place, he hurled the
forbidden book on the peats that were smouldering on the hearthstone.

I watched my chance; when he returned to resume his seat I made a dash
for the fireplace, snatched the volume from the flames that were already
beginning to curl its boards, made for the door with the fleetness of a
deer, and was down the road towards the river ere anyone could intercept
me. I made for the “Pinkie” well which had a nice stone seat beside it,
rested for a moment to recover my breath and review the situation, and
was about to move on when I heard a gruff voice near me exclaim:

“Hallo, ye scoonril, what mischief hae ye been aifter noo?”

The voice was that of old Willie Scott, the stonemason, who was engaged
in mending a gap in Miss Milne’s garden wall. He was an “Auld Licht” of
the sternest kind, and was disliked by many of the young folks. To those
who only knew him casually he was sarcastic and seemingly uncivil; but
to his intimates Willie had many redeeming qualities. He and I were good
friends, and so I was rather glad to see him at this juncture. I

“Oh, nae very muckle, Willie. The maister gae me a lickin’ for having
ane o’ Walter Scott’s novels in my desk. He put it into the fire, but I
snapped it out and ran off wi’t. The book wasna mine, Willie, sae I
couldna let it burn.”

“Aye, aye, and that’s the set o’t, is it? An’ what business had ye to be
readin’ sic’ a book when ye should hae been at your tasks? I sair doot
ye’re an ill loon, Alan. What’ll happen to ye the morn, think ye?”

“Oh, I suppose I’ll get anither lickin’, but I can stand that sae lang
as he doesna get a hand o’ George Graham’s book. Man, Willie, you should
see Mrs. Graham’s library! She has all the Waverley Novels, as well as
Dickens and Thackeray. George often let’s me hae a book to read.”

Willie opened his eyes a bit wider and gave a low, prolonged whistle.

“Aye, aye, and sae ye’re takin’ up wi’ that Prelatist, are ye? Ye micht
as well turn Papist at ance when ye’re aboot it. I wonder what yer
mither’ll think when she kens of her laddie keeping such company.”

“Oh, ye needna complain, at ony rate. My mither kens that I often go to
the Hilltown to see George, and she’s well enough pleased. Man, if ye
only saw Mrs. Graham’s books! The sicht wad mak yer mooth water.”

“Perfect trash–a lot o’ lees,” burst forth the old man.

“Aye, but just look at some o’ thae pictures in the ‘Monastery,’

The mason, in spite of his narrow views, was really fond of books, and
in his own way was a hard student; but his reading was mainly confined
to Puritan theology and to such church histories as Calderwood and
Wodrow. The perusal of any work of a lighter character he would deem a
waste of time. Still, he laid down his trowel, seated himself beside me,
wiped his hands on his coarse linen apron, and carefully turned over the
leaves of the little volume. The first picture that turned up was the
interior of a mediaeval church. I could see that he was impressed with
the beauty of the architecture. There was the great east window, filled
with stained glass, intersected with delicate stone tracery; below it
the altar, surmounted by a stone reredos, with a series of bas-reliefs
depicting scenes in our Lord’s ministry. On the super-altar stood a
cross, flanked by two tall candlesticks. In the foreground of the
picture was the chancel-arch, Norman with dogtooth ornaments, while
between that and the Holy Table were the choir stalls with richly carved
canopies, on either side of the central passage. To me the whole was a
thing of beauty. I could not understand the meaning of it all but, taken
along with the narrative, it had cast quite a glamor over me. The old
man gazed intently on the picture for a few moments, then pushed it
towards me with a gesture which said plainly: “Yes, these old churches
are very fine, but I must not admire them too much. The ‘Auld Licht’
notion of a church as plain as a barn, without any pretentions to
architectural beauty, must be right. We must not think of these things
at all. God can surely be, perhaps better, worshipped in a plain barn
than in a magnificent cathedral.” Willie was by no means an unreasonable
man, but his attachment to the Seceder Kirk, of which he was an elder,
kept him from giving vent to his own personal impressions in this

The reading of Scott may have sometimes interfered with my studies when
it should not have done so, but it gave me an idea of the Church’s
corporate life, that had never been set before me, at school or in
church. Without any intention on Walter Scott’s part, he was doing then,
and he certainly is doing still, an excellent work as an exponent of the
religious life of the past. The perusal of his works has done for many
what it did for me, that is, it has implanted a certain knowledge
respecting church matters, and men have felt constrained to study the
Book of Common Prayer and to compare its usages with those of the
various ages described in the novels and metrical romances.

I could not go to school again that day, and so I slipped home by a back
road and found our mother knitting busily, but quite ready for a chat.

“You’ve surely got out sooner this afternoon, Alan,” said she as I
entered the cottage. One look at my mother’s face showed me she knew
something was wrong. I sat down beside her, showed her the wales on my
hands, and told her the whole story. No matter what trouble I might get
into, I could always go to her in the full assurance of receiving the
sympathy that my case needed, and perhaps more than it deserved. If I
was in the wrong, who could point out the fault, so gently and yet so
convincingly, as she!

“Preserve me, laddie,” she said, “the master’s been ower sair on ye the
day. We’ll say as little aboot it as possible, for ye see ye were in the
wrang, and ye ken, Alan, I wad be the last to approve of your disobeying
Mr. Angus, even if he is a bit narrow-minded and tyrannical. I’ll call
in and see him this evening, and we’ll get a’thing made right.”

And so she did. The harshness and severity of the master could not stand
against my mother’s gentle persuasiveness. I never heard what she said
to Mr. Angus, but I can remember, many years afterwards when I went to
visit him, he asked for my mother and said: “Ye were blessed in a good
mother, Alan; I never was in her presence yet but I felt a better man
for it. No one could be merrier than she; and yet with it all there was
an atmosphere of unconscious saintliness ever about her that had a
wonderful influence upon everyone who knew her.”

When I returned to school on the following day nothing was said of my
escapade. In the playground there were some who would have liked to
lionize me as a bit of a hero, but somehow or other I shrank from any
reference to the subject.

I never again took any such books to school, but I continued to read the
Waverley Novels–very often aloud for the benefit of others. In the long
winter evenings we would sit around a blazing peat fire, in our
stone-flagged kitchen, and listen while father and Mr. Lindsay discussed
current topics of the day. An old college friend used regularly to send
his copy of the Edinburgh “Courant” to the dominie, and the news it
contained formed the subject of many a warm discussion. One matter which
at this time was causing considerable disturbance, in certain circles,
was the movement for the final extinction of the disabilities against
Episcopalians. On this the two took opposite sides. Mr. Lindsay,
although not actually an Anglican, was fully in sympathy with the
movement; my father, on the other hand, had been brought up a rigid
Presbyterian and knew nothing of any other faith. He saw no need, he
said, for the existence of the “English Kirk” in Scotland. The Reformers
had abolished prelacy and all that appertained thereto, root and branch.
The voice of Scotland for over three hundred years had been in favor of
the Presbyterian faith and the Presbyterian form of worship. Why could
not everybody be content to worship as the godly followers of the
Covenant had done, without all the outward show and ceremony, and read
prayers, that were considered necessary in England? Like many of his
fellow-countrymen, my father held in the greatest abhorrence any
cringing to English customs. To imitate the people of the south seemed
to him a giving up of the independence that Scotland had striven so hard
to maintain. In our home I never dared to join in the discussion of my
elders, but, when Mr. Lindsay and I were in his study one evening, I
broached this subject and asked him to tell me how and when the “English
Kirk” came to Scotland.

“Well, you see, Alan,” said he, “what you call the ‘English’ Church is
not the English Church at all; the Episcopalians are really and truly
the representatives of the Christians of long ago who first brought the
gospel into this country. You’ve read in your school history about St.
Columba coming over from the north of Ireland in his ‘curragh’ and
settling with his followers on the island of Iona, haven’t you?”

“Oh, yes, Mr. Lindsay, but the maister told us that he was exactly like
oor ain ministers, and that he had nae bishops in his kirk, and nane o’
the forms and ceremonies that the Papists and Prelatists hae nooadays.”

“Weel, I canna juist speak as decidedly and dogmatically as Mr. Angus
does; but I am sure o’ one thing–Columba and his Culdees used the same
kind o’ prayer book that was used at that time all over Europe, and ony
reader of church history kens that it spak’ o’ a three-fold ministry of
bishops, priests and deacons; and they used the same kind of forms for
baptisms, marriages, burials, and for the Sacrament of the Lord’s
Supper; and a’ the records that hae come down frae these Culdees show
that they kept Christmas, and Easter, and a’ the rest of the great
festivals, just as the Episcopalians do. So you see, the original form
of Christianity in this country was the same as in England.”

“Weel, but why do they ca’ the Presbyterian the ‘Auld Kirk’? Surely the
kirk which had bishops was the auldest kirk!”

“Aye, noo ye’ve hit the mark–that’s just what it is. For a lang time
the Christianity planted by St. Columba and his followers was simple and
primitive and pure, but sometime before what we call the ‘Middle Ages’
the church began to get a great deal of power, even in civil matters;
abuses crept in. The Bishop of Rome was allowed to usurp authority in
this land, which never belonged to him. In the sixteenth century the
papal power ruled everywhere–and in Scotland the corruptions in
discipline which it brought about were worse than in any other part of
the west. The bishops and clergy came actually to be held in contempt
among the people, who really tried to be religious. Then came what we
call the Protestant ‘Reformation.’ Things were so bad in Scotland that
it seemed to the reformers of no use to try and purify the old system;
they resolved to bring in a new order of things altogether; and so by an
act of parliament passed in Edinburgh in 1560 they destroyed the old
church and in its place put an entirely new church, invented by
themselves, and established by themselves. The bishops who were put down
must have been poor successors of the Apostles, for they submitted with
a feeble show of protest. For more than a hundred years those who still
clung to the old ways had to do without bishops, and it is to the credit
of many that they kept their allegiance to the ways of the Primitive
Church, as individuals and small communities, when there was so much to
tempt them to go with the crowd.”

In the rural districts of Scotland, forty years ago, the parish schools
had no summer vacation; autumn was the holiday season. We schoolboys
envied the lot of the lads who had returned from college and were
enjoying all the fishing and fun of the first summer days; eagerly we
watched the ripening of the fields of oats and barley, and when Jeemes
Dewar, the village oracle, proclaimed to the worthies in smithy
assembled that Hillton would begin reaping on the following Monday, you
may be sure we spread the news like wildfire. When school prayers were
over on Wednesday morning we waited breathlessly for the announcement of
the vacation. And we were not disappointed.

“You may tell your parents that the holidays will begin on Monday, and
the closing exercise will take place on Friday of this week.”

As Mr. Angus uttered the authoritative fiat, every eye glistened and all
sorts of glorious “ploys” loomed in anticipation.

We got our holidays in autumn that we might be free to lend a helping
hand at home or in the harvest-field during the busy season. How
different are things nowadays! The twentieth-century boy must on no
account be subjected to any work during his holiday time; he needs not
only to have all his vacation for rest and amusement–he even looks to
have amusement provided for him. The boys of our day were cast in a
hardier mould. Harvest-time, while it brought to most of us lots of
hard work, brought also lots of fun. Certainly, when we returned to our
school tasks our appearance gave the impression that harvest work and
harvest fare agreed with us marvellously well.

Many an Aberdeenshire lad, eager to secure a college education, earned
enough during harvest to buy his class books and leave a few shillings
for pocket money. If he managed to get into the scholarship list his
bursary would pay matriculation and class fees; and with an occasional
box of supplies from home, he was able to get along comfortably during
the winter session.

Well, as soon as the date of closing was announced, the “buskin” of the
school was the theme of conversation. Every spare moment was given up to
that. Bands of boys scoured the woods for the nicest evergreens, which
the girls made up into wreaths and festoons; contributions of fruit and
flowers were solicited from all who had gardens, and no one was so
churlish as to refuse. Is there a Glenconan laddie who does not remember
with love and gratitude the kindly receptions given by some of the old
people–how Mrs. Blair would strip her apple trees and rose bushes that
we might have a “braw buskin”? And how old Hillton would choose out the
ripest and neatest sheaves of grain to help us in our harvest

No one was late for school on Friday morning. Just on the stroke of
nine, prayers were said by the dominie, and we commenced the work of
adorning the classrooms. By noon everything was done and the rubbish
swept away. Boys and girls hurried home to snatch a hasty meal and don
Sunday attire for the afternoon function. By three o’clock all were in
their places in school; precisely at a quarter past the hour the parish
minister and his elders entered, and we all stood respectfully to
receive them. Prayers was offered and a Psalm or paraphrase was sung.
The minister called up the bigger pupils to say the Shorter Catechism
and answer questions on the portion of scripture history studied during
the year. (Religious knowledge formed the first and most important task
of every day when I was a boy.) The little ones, too, had a chance of
showing their acquaintance with the rudiments of the Christian faith,
even if it was only to the extent of that contained in the “Mother’s
catechism.” Then came the presentation of prizes and the reading out of
the names of Glenconan boys who had won bursaries or college honors
during the previous university session.

How the old school rang with shouts as lame Jamie Wilson stepped forward
to get the silver medal for Latin prose composition, or when Geordie
Sangster was complimented by the minister for his progress in Euclid and
presented with several handsomely bound volumes as prizes. There was no
jealousy or discontent among us, for we knew that though Mr. Angus was a
hard man he was scrupulously just.

The giving out of tasks to be learned during the holidays was always
left to the minister. Sometimes it was the Sermon on the Mount we had to
commit to memory; at other times it was a certain number of Psalms or
paraphrases, or one of the shorter Epistles. The wiseacres of today will
probably sneer at such simple ways, but I could tell of many a man who,
in his old age, thanked God and the minister that he learned those grand
passages in his youth.

A few words of fatherly advice from the good man–and to know the Rev.
Dr. Orr was to love him–then a parting benediction and the great
function was over.

A very simple state of things it was undoubtedly; yet it produced the
men and women who have made for Scotland her splendid reputation among
Christian nations.

Our harvest vacation–it was my last before I went to Sandy Jamieson’s
carpenter’s shop to learn my trade–stands out before me in bold relief.

Our mother had an uncle, William Leslie by name, who with his wife
tenanted the old farmhouse of Braeside of Darvel. Uncle William, as my
brother Ronald and I called him, was a splendid specimen of the Scottish
tenant farmer of a past day. His sterling uprightness and more than
average intelligence commanded the respect of all who knew him, while
his genial nature and his great fund of old stories caused him to be
beloved by us boys. Nothing delighted us more than a visit to Braeside,
and when my mother told us of the proposed trip we were in great glee.

On a lovely harvest morning father saw us three–mother, Ronald and me!
safely bestowed on the “Defiance” coach, and off we went to the sound of
the guard’s horn. At noon we reached the Darvel toll house, where Uncle
William sat in his shanrydan phaeton waiting to convey us the last two
miles of our journey. I need not descant on the heartiness of our
welcome, or of all that was done to make us happy. I have lived that
week over again many times since then. The farmhouse at the Braeside had
at one time been a dower-house of the Forbeses of Darvel, but for
several generations it had been occupied by our forebears. It formed two
sides of a quadrangle, the other two sides of which were stables and
farm buildings. The dwelling house was full of all sorts of odd little
apartments, and had just that mysterious something about it which awoke
in an impressionable boy a desire for the romantic and legendary.

One evening during our visit the wind was whistling shrilly in the old
wide chimneys, and we had all gathered around a blazing peat fire in the
room which Uncle William used as his study and business room. On either
side of the broad open fireplace stood two large easy chairs
upholstered in quaintly-embossed leather. They were so different from
all the other furniture that my boyish curiosity was aroused, and I
asked the old man whence they had come. My mother, who sat in one of
them, smiled at my eagerness.

“If you would like a story to while away the evening, I’ll tell you how
these chairs came to the Braeside,” said Uncle William, and of course we
were at once all attention. Generally he spoke in good colloquial
English, with a strong north-country accent, but when he waxed
enthusiastic over anything he would fall into the broad Doric Scotch.

“It was in the spring of 1746, just after Prince Charlie and his men had
been defeated at Culloden. The Duke of Cumberland’s redcoats were
scouring the country far and wide in search of the luckless Jacobites,
who fell on all sorts of devices to avoid capture. One evening, just
about bedtime, my grandfather and his wife were sitting around this very
fireplace when they heard a gentle tap on the window. At first they were
a little alarmed and did not move from their seats, but when a second
tapping was heard my grandfather, taking a candle in his hand, went to
the door opening into the front garden, and unlocked it. Two men, weary
and footsore, stood there. One, whom he at once recognized, was the
Laird of Darvel.

“‘We are in great danger, William,’ said he. ‘Can you take us in for an
hour or two? We need food and rest. This is my friend Mr. Oliphant, of
Gask, a faithful follower of our prince and a loyal member of our poor

“‘Say nae mair, sir; come in baith o’ ye; ye are welcome to onything
that William Leslie can do or gie.’

“They stepped quietly into this room, where in a very short space of
time an abundant table was spread. An earnest discussion took place as
to what had best be done to protect them from their pursuers, who, they
said, were not far away. The night was dark, so there was little chance
of annoyance before morning. In that wee room there the two noble
Jacobites slept till daybreak, while my grandfather kept careful watch.
When the first signs of daybreak began to appear my grandmother emptied
yonder aumrie of its store of cheese and oatcakes; she folded a blanket
so as to make a rug wide enough for one to lie upon, placed it far back
on the broad bottom shelf of the aumrie, while a similar arrangement
converted the upper shelf into a bed. On these two shelves the two
wanderers placed themselves, and in front of them, to screen them from
observation, she placed the provisions that had been removed. Nothing
needed to be said to any of the other members of the household, for no
one save my grandmother ever interfered with anything in this room.
Everything about the place went on as usual till breakfast time, when
one of the servant lassies came in and said that a company of soldiers
were in the courtyard.

“William Leslie at once went out and was accosted by the officer in

“‘We are seeking two rebels who we have reason to believe are in hiding

“‘There’s nae rebel aboot this toon sae far as I ken, but ye are welcome
to search and see,’ said my grandfather.

“But and ben the house did these rough soldiers go, high and low and
into every nook and cranny did they peer, but all without avail. Nor
were the men who searched the stables and outhouses any more successful.
They came as they went. For many days did the poor fugitives keep in
hiding, only coming out at night when all was dark and still to stretch
their wearied and cramped limbs.

“When he had ascertained that the soldiers had left the neighborhood, my
grandfather conveyed the laird and his friend to the sea-coast by night;
arranged with a friend of Jacobite tendencies, who was the skipper of a
fishing smack, to take them on board as deck hands, and in this way they
escaped to the continent.

“Many years elapsed ere they could return to Scotland in safety, but
when Darvel did return he marked his gratitude by giving to my
grandfather a deed entitling him and his descendants for three
generations to sit rent-free in Braeside, and at the same time he sent
thae two armchairs from his ain study in Darvel House for the use and
comfort of the faithful couple in their old age.”

I had listened to the old man’s tale with breathless interest, and when
it was finished not a word was spoken by one of the little company. The
old man again broke the silence.

“Aye, Alan, laddie, this house has seen mony strange sichts. Ye maun ken
that a great number of the Jacobites were Episcopalians and, as they
persistently refused to pray for the Elector of Hanover, whom they
regarded as a usurper of the crown of Great Britain so long as there was
a single royal Stuart to claim the throne, the most tyrannical and
unjust laws were enacted against them. No more then eight Episcopalians
could assemble for worship at one time, and even then it was only
regarded as family worship.

“But for all that, mony a time did the good priest of Linshart meet his
poor persecuted people in this very room at the midnight hour. The auld
aumrie is very precious to me, for mony a time did Mr. Skinner use it
as the altar from which he dispensed the bread of life to the faithful.
Sae careful did they need to be that sentinels were posted all round the
hoose to give warning in case of a sudden visit from the emissaries of
the Government.”

“Surely there was something in their faith very precious in their eyes
to cause them to be so much in earnest.”

“Aye, laddie, so ye may say. They were upholding an apostolic ministry,
apostolic worship and apostolic sacraments which, with the teaching of
the apostolic faith had came down to them through the ages, sometimes
much disfigured by unapostolic legends and superstitions, but still
there in all their fulness.”

“Mr. Lindsay lent me a book full of bonnie poems, Uncle William, and in
ane o’ them there’s a stanza that says:

‘In Scotland’s altar service
All churches must unite.’

“That’s ane o’ Bishop Coxe’s ‘Christian Ballads,’ and it’s gaun to come
true yet.”

“Is he no an American bishop, Uncle William?”

“Aye, thae words o’ his express the loving gratitude of the great
American church to the poor disestablished Scottish church for her gift
of an apostolic ministry and an apostolic form of worship. The Scottish
Episcopal church has a noble history, and although so long as there was
a Stuart left many of her members were true to the old family, they are
now most loyal subjects of the Hanover dynasty. They are doing a grand
work for God and the church, and if they will only ‘bide their time in
patience’ God will bring unity and order out of the trials and disorders
of the past.”

We sat long by the ingle nook, and the old man glowed with enthusiasm as
he gave me just the information I craved.

I was gradually gaining an insight into the cause of religious division
in Scotland, and the more I heard about the “Gentle Persuasion” the more
was I drawn to admire their constancy and devotion.