Salted With Fire

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For some time they had lain silent, thinking about him by no means happily. They were thinking how little had been their satisfaction in their minister-son; and had gone back in their minds to a certain time, long before, when conferring together about him, a boy at school.

Even then the heart of the mother had resented his coldness, his seeming unconsciousness of his parents as having any share or interest in his life or prospects. Scotch parents are seldom demonstrative to each other or to their children; but not the less in them, possibly the hotter because of their outward coldness, burns the causal fire, the central, the deepest-- that eternal fire, without which the world would turn to a frozen clod, the love of the parent for the child. That must burn while the Father lives! that must burn until the universe is the Father and his children, and none beside. That fire, however long held down and crushed together by the weight of unkindled fuel, must go on to gather heat, and, gathering, it must glow, and at last break forth in the scorching, yea devouring flames of a righteous indignation: the Father must and will be supreme, that his children perish not! But as yet The Father endured and was silent; and the child-parents also must endure and be still! In the meantime their son remained hidden from them as by an impervious moral hedge; he never came out from behind it, never stood clear before them, and they were unable to break through to him: within his citadel of indifference there was no angelic traitor to draw back the bolts of its iron gates, and let them in. They had gone on hoping, and hoping in vain, for some holy, lovely change in him; but at last had to confess it a relief when he left the house, and went to Edinburgh.

But the occasion to which I refer was long before that.

The two children were in bed and asleep, and the parents were lying then, as they lay now, sleepless.

"Hoo's Jeemie been gettin on the day?" said his father.

"Well enough, I suppose," answered his mother, who did not then speak Scotch quite so broad as her husband's, although a good deal broader than her mother, the wife of a country doctor, would have permitted when she was a child; "he's always busy at his books. He's a good boy, and a diligent; there's no gainsayin that! But as to hoo he's gettin on, I can beir no testimony. He never lets a word go from him as to what he's doin, one way or anither. 'What can he be thinkin aboot?' I say whiles to mysel-- sometimes ower and ower again. When I gang intil the parlour, where he always sits till he has done his lessons, he never lifts his heid to show that he hears me, or cares wha's there or wha isna. And as soon as he's learnt them, he taks a buik and gangs up til his room, or oot aboot the hoose, or intil the cornyard or the barn, and never comes nigh me!--I sometimes won'er gien he would ever miss me deid!" she ended, with a great sigh.

"Hoot awa, wuman! dinna tak on like that," returned her husband. "The laddie's like the lave o' laddies! They're a' jist like pup-doggies till their een comes oppen, and they ken them 'at broucht them here. He's bun' to mak a guid man in time, and he canna dee that ohn learnt to be a guid son to her 'at bore him!--Ye canna say 'at ever he contert ye! Ye hae tellt me that a hunner times!"

"I have that! But I would hae had no occasion to dwall upo' the fac', gien he had ever gi'en me, noo or than, jist a wee bit sign o' ony affection!"

"Ay, doobtless! but signs are nae preefs! The affection, as ye ca' 't, may be there, and the signs o' 't wantin!--But I ken weel hoo the hert o' ye 's workin, my ain auld dautie!" he added, anxious to comfort her who was dearer to him than son or daughter.

"I dinna think it wad be weel," he resumed after a pause, "for me to say onything til 'im aboot his behaviour til 's mither: I dinna believe he wud ken what I was aimin at! I dinna believe he has a notion o' onything amiss in himsel, and I fear he wad only think I was hard upon him, and no' fair. Ye see, gien a thing disna come o' 'tsel, no cryin upo' 't 'll gar 't lift its heid--sae lang, at least, as the man kens naething aboot it!"

"I dinna doobt ye're right, Peter," answered his wife; "I ken weel that flytin 'ill never gar love spread oot his wings--excep' it be to flee awa'! Naething but shuin can come o' flytin!"

"It micht be even waur nor shuin!" rejoined Peter."--But we better gang til oor sleeps, lass!--We hae ane anither, come what may!"

"That's true, Peter; but aye the mair I hae you, the mair I want my Jeemie!" cried the poor mother.

The father said no more. But, after a while, he rose, and stole softly to his son's room. His wife stole after him, and found him on his knees by the bedside, his face buried in the blankets, where his boy lay asleep with calm, dreamless countenance.

She took his hand, and led him back to bed.

"To think," she moaned as they went, "'at yon's the same bairnie I glowert at till my sowl ran oot at my een! I min' weel hoo I leuch and grat, baith at ance, to think I was the mother o' a man-child! and I thought I kenned weel what was i' the hert o' Mary, whan she claspit the blessed ane til her boasom!"

"May that same bairnie, born for oor remeid, bring oor bairn til his richt min' afore he's ower auld to repent!" responded the father in a broken voice.

"What for," moaned Marion, "was the hert o' a mither put intil me? What for was I made a wuman, whause life is for the beirin o' bairns to the great Father o' a' gien this same was to be my reward?--Na, na, Lord," she went on, checking herself, "I claim naething but thy wull; and weel I ken ye wouldna hae me think siclike thy wull!"

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