While the chief went on in his humble way, enjoying life and his
lowly position; seeming, in the society of his brother, to walk the
outer courts of heaven; and, unsuspicious of the fact, growing more
and more in love with the ill educated, but simple, open, and wise
Mercy, a trouble was gathering for him of which he had no
presentiment. We have to be delivered from the evils of which we are
unaware as well as from those we hate; and the chief had to be set
free from his unconscious worship of Mammon. He did not worship
Mammon by yielding homage to riches; he did not make a man's money
his pedestal; had he been himself a millionaire, he would not have
connived at being therefore held in honour; but, ever consciously
aware of the deteriorating condition of the country, and pitifully
regarding the hundred and fifty souls who yet looked to him as their
head, often turning it over in his mind how to shepherd them should
things come to a crisis, his abiding, ever-recurring comfort was the
money from the last sale of the property, accumulating ever since,
and now to be his in a very few years: he always thought, I say,
first of this money and not first of God. He imagined it an
inexhaustible force, a power with which for his clan he could work
wonders. It is the common human mistake to think of money as a force
and not as a mere tool. But he never thought of it otherwise than as
belonging to the clan; never imagined the least liberty to use it
save in the direct service of his people. And all the time, the very
shadow of this money was disappearing from the face of the earth!
It had scarcely been deposited where the old laird judged it as safe
as in the Bank of England, when schemes and speculations were
initiated by the intrusted company which brought into jeopardy
everything it held, and things had been going from bad to worse ever
since. Nothing of this was yet known, for the directors had from the
first carefully muffled up the truth, avoiding the least economy
lest it should be interpreted as hinting at any need of prudence;
living in false show with the very money they were thus lying away,
warming and banqueting their innocent neighbours with fuel and wine
stolen from their own cellars; and working worse wrong and more
misery under the robe of imputed righteousness, that is,
respectability, than could a little army of burglars. Unawares to a
trusting multitude, the vacant eyes of loss were drawing near to
stare them out of hope and comfort; and annihilation had long closed
in upon the fund which the chief regarded as the sheet-anchor of his
clan: he trusted in Mammon, and Mammon had played him one of his
rogue's-tricks. The most degrading wrong to ourselves, and the worst
eventual wrong to others, is to trust in any thing or person but the
living God: it was an evil thing from which the chief had sore need
to be delivered. Even those who help us we must regard as the loving
hands of the great heart of the universe, else we do God wrong, and
will come to do them wrong also.
And there was more yet of what we call mischief brewing in another
quarter to like hurt.
Mr. Peregrine Palmer was not now so rich a man as when he bought
his highland property; also he was involved in affairs of doubtful
result. It was natural, therefore, that he should begin to think of
the said property not merely as an ornament of life, but as
something to fall back upon. He feared nothing, however, more
unpleasant than a temporary embarrassment. Had not his family been
in the front for three generations! Had he not a vested right in
success! Had he not a claim for the desire of his heart on whatever
power it was that he pictured to himself as throned in the heavens!
It never came into his head that, seeing there were now daughters in
the family, it might he worth the while of that Power to make a poor
man of him for their sakes; or that neither he, his predecessors,
nor his sons, had ever come near enough to anything human to be fit
for having their pleasures taken from them. But what I have to do
with is the new aspect his Scotch acres now put on: he must see to
making the best of them! and that best would be a deer-forest! He
and his next neighbour might together effect something worth doing!
Therefore all crofters or villagers likely to trespass must be got
rid of--and first and foremost the shepherds, for they had endless
opportunities of helping themselves to a deer. Where there were
sheep there must be shepherds: they would make a clearance of both!
The neighbour referred to, a certain Mr. Brander, who had made his
money by sharp dealing in connection with a great Russian railway,
and whom Mr. Peregrine Palmer knew before in London, had enlightened
him on many things, and amongst others on the shepherds' passion for
deer-stalking. Being in the company of the deer, he said, the whole
day, and the whole year through, they were thoroughly acquainted
with their habits, and were altogether too much both for the deer
and for their owners. A shepherd would take the barrel of his gun
from the stock, and thrust it down his back, or put it in a hollow
crook, and so convey it to the vicinity of some spot frequented by a
particular animal, to lie hidden there for his opportunity. In the
hills it was impossible to tell with certainty whence came the sound
of a shot; and no rascal of them would give information concerning
another! In short, there was no protecting the deer without
uprooting and expelling the peasantry!
The village of the Clanruadh was on Mr. Brander's land, and was
dependent in part on the produce of small pieces of ground, the
cultivators of which were mostly men with other employment as well.
Some made shoes of the hides, others cloth and clothes of the wool
of the country. Some were hinds on neighbouring farms, but most were
shepherds, for there was now very little tillage. Almost all the
land formerly cultivated had been given up to grass and sheep, and
not a little of it was steadily returning to that state of nature
from which it had been reclaimed, producing heather, ling,
blueberries, cnowperts, and cranberries. The hamlet was too far from
the sea for much fishing, but some of its inhabitants would join
relatives on the coast and go fishing with them, when there was
nothing else to be done. But many of those who looked to the sea for
help had lately come through a hard time, in which they would have
died but for the sea-weed and shellfish the shore afforded them; yet
such was their spirit of independence that a commission appointed to
inquire into their necessity, found scarcely one willing to
acknowledge any want: such was the class of men and women now
doomed, at the will of two common-minded, greedy men, to expulsion
from the houses and land they had held for generations, and loved
with a love unintelligible to their mean-souled oppressors.
Ian, having himself learned the lesson that, so long as a man is
dependent on anything earthly, he is not a free man, was very
desirous to have his brother free also. He could not be satisfied to
leave the matter where, on their way home that night from THE TOMB,
as they called their cave-house, their talk had left it. Alister's
love of the material world, of the soil of his ancestral acres, was,
Ian plainly saw, not yet one with the meaning and will of God: he
was not yet content that the home of his fathers should fare as the
father of fathers pleased. He was therefore on the outlook for the
right opportunity of having another talk with him on the subject.
That those who are trying to be good are more continuously troubled
than the indifferent, has for ages been a puzzle. "I saw the wicked
spreading like a green bay tree," says king David; and he was far
from having fathomed the mystery when he got his mind at rest about
it. Is it not simply that the righteous are worth troubling? that
they are capable of receiving good from being troubled? As a man
advances, more and more is required of him. A wrong thing in the
good man becomes more and more wrong as he draws nearer to freedom
from it. His friends may say how seldom he offends; but every time
he offends, he is the more to blame. Some are allowed to go on
because it would be of no use to stop them yet; nothing would yet
make them listen to wisdom. There must be many who, like Dives, need
the bitter contrast between the good things of this life and the
evil things of the next, to wake them up. In this life they are not
only fools, and insist on being treated as fools, but would have God
consent to treat them as if he too had no wisdom! The laird was one
in whom was no guile, but he was far from perfect: any man is far
from perfect whose sense of well-being could be altered by any
change of circumstance. A man unable to do without this thing or
that, is not yet in sight of his perfection, therefore not out of
sight of suffering. They who do not know suffering, may well doubt
if they have yet started on the way TO BE. If clouds were gathering
to burst in fierce hail on the head of the chief, it was that he
might be set free from yet another of the cords that bound him. He
was like a soaring eagle from whose foot hung, trailing on the
earth, the line by which his tyrant could at his will pull him back
to his inglorious perch.
To worship truly is to treat according to indwelling worth. The
highest worship of Nature is to worship toward it, as David and
Daniel worshipped toward the holy place. But even the worship of
Nature herself might be an ennobling idolatry, so much is the divine
present in her. There is an intense, almost sensuous love of Nature,
such as the chief confessed to his brother, which is not only one
with love to the soul of Nature, but tends to lift the soul of man
up to the lord of Nature. To love the soul of Nature, however, does
not secure a man from loving the body of Nature in the low
Mammon-way of possession. A man who loves the earth even as the meek
love it, may also love it in a way hostile to such possession of it
as is theirs. The love of possessing as property, must, unchecked,
come in time to annihilate in a man the inheritance of the meek.
A few acres of good valley-land, with a small upland pasturage, and
a space of barren hill-country, had developed in the chief a greater
love of the land as a possession than would have come of entrance
upon an undiminished inheritance. He clave to the ground remaining
to him, as to the last remnant of a vanishing good.
One day the brothers were lying on the westward slope of the ridge,
in front of the cottage. A few sheep, small, active, black-faced,
were feeding around them: it was no use running away, for the
chief's colley was lying beside him! The laird every now and then
buried his face in the short sweet mountain-grass-like that of the
clowns in England, not like the rich sown grass on the cultivated
bank of the burn.
"I believe I love the grass," he said, "as much, Ian, as your
Chaucer loved the daisy!"
"Hardly so much, I should think!" returned Ian.
"Why do you think so?"
"I doubt if grass can be loved so much as a flower."
"Because the one is a mass, the other an individual."
"I have a fear, Alister, that you are in danger of avarice," said
Ian, after a pause.
"Avarice, Ian! What can you mean?"
"You are as free, Alister, from the love of money, as any man I ever
knew, but that is not enough. Did you ever think of the origin of
the word AVARICE?"
"It comes--at least it seems to me to come--from the same root as
the verb HAVE. It is the desire to call THINGS ours--the desire of
company which is not of our kind--company such as, if small enough,
you would put in your pocket and carry about with you. We call the
holding in the hand, or the house, or the pocket, or the power,
HAVING; but things so held cannot really be HAD; HAVING is but an
illusion in regard to THINGS. It is only what we can be WITH that we
can really possess--that is, what is of our kind, from God to the
lowest animal partaking of humanity. A love can never be lost; it is
a possession; but who can take his diamond ring into the somewhere
beyond?--it is not a possession. God only can be ours perfectly;
nothing called property can be ours at all."
"I know it--with my head at least," said Alister; "but I am not sure
how you apply it to me."
"You love your country--don't you, Alister?"
"What do you mean by LOVING YOUR COUNTRY?"
"It is hard to say all at once. The first thing that comes to me is,
that I would rather live in it than in any other."
"Would you care to vaunt your country at the expense of any other?"
"Not if it did not plainly excel--and even then it might be neither
modest nor polite!"
"Would you feel bound to love a man more because he was a
"Other things being equal, I could not help it."
"Other things not being equal,--?"
"I should love the best man best--Scotsman or negro."
"That is as I thought of you. For my part, my love for my own people
has taught me to love every man, be his colour or country what it
may. The man whose patriotism is not leading him in that direction
has not yet begun to be a true patriot. Let him go to St. Paul and
learn, or stay in his own cellar and be an idiot.--But now, from
loving our country, let us go down the other way:--Do you love the
highlands or the lowlands best? You love the highlands, of course,
you say. And what district do you like best? Our own. What parish?
Your father's. What part of the parish? Why this, where at this
moment we are lying. Now let me ask, have you, by your love for this
piece of the world, which you will allow me to call ours, learned to
love the whole world in like fashion?"
"I cannot say so. I do not think we can love the whole world in the
same way as our own part of it--the part where we were born and
bred! It is a portion of our very being."
"If your love to what we call our own land is a love that cannot
spread, it seems to me of a questionable kind--of a kind involving
the false notion of HAVING? The love that is eternal is alone true,
and that is the love of the essential, which is the universal. We
love indeed individuals, even to their peculiarities, but only
BECAUSE of what lies under and is the life of them--what they share
with every other, the eternal God-born humanity WHICH IS THE PERSON.
Without this humanity where were your friend? Mind, I mean no
abstraction, but the live individual humanity. Do you see what I am
driving at? I would extend my love of the world to all the worlds;
my love of humanity to all that inhabit them. I want, from being a
Scotsman, to be a Briton, then a European, then a cosmopolitan,
then a dweller of the universe, a lover of all the worlds I see, and
shall one day know. In the face of such a hope, I find my love for
this ground of my father's--not indeed less than before, but very
small. It has served its purpose in having begun in me love of the
revelation of God. Wherever I see the beauty of the Lord, that shall
be to me his holy temple. Our Lord was sent first to the lost sheep
of the house of Israel:-how would you bear to be told that he loved
them more than Africans or Scotsmen?"
"I could not bear it."
"Then, Alister, do you not see that the love of our mother earth is
meant to be but a beginning; and that such love as yours for the
land belongs to that love of things which must perish? You seem to
me not to allow it to blossom, but to keep it a hard bud; and a bud
that will not blossom is a coffin. A flower is a completed idea, a
thought of God, a creature whose body is most perishable, bat whose
soul, its idea, cannot die. With the idea of it in you, the
withering of the flower you can bear. The God in it is yours always.
Every spring you welcome the daisy anew; every time the primrose
departs, it grows more dear by its death. I say there must be a
better way of loving the ground on which we were born, than that
whence the loss of it would cause us torture."
Alister listened as to a prophecy of evil.
"Rather than that cottage and those fields should pass into the
hands of others," he said, almost fiercely, "I would see them sunk
in a roaring tide!"
Ian rose, and walked slowly away.
Alister lay clutching the ground with his hands. For a passing
moment Ian felt as if he had lost him.
"Lord, save him from this demon-love," he said, and sat down among
In a few minutes, Alister came to him.
"You cannot mean, Ian," he said-and his face was white through all
its brown, "that I am to think no more of the fields of my fathers
than of any other ground on the face of the earth!" "Think of them
as the ground God gave to our fathers, which God may see fit to take
from us again, and I shall be content--for the present," answered
"Do not be vexed with me," cried Alister. "I want to think as well
as do what is right; but you cannot know how I feel or you would
spare me. I love the very stones and clods of the land! The place is
to me as Jerusalem to the Jews:--you know what the psalm says:--
Thy saints take pleasure in her stones,
Her very dust to them is dear!"
"They loved their land as theirs," said Ian, "and have lost it!"
"I know I must be cast out of it! I know I must die and go from it;
but I shall come back and wander about the fields and the hills with
you and our father and mother!"
"And how about horse and dog?" asked Ian, willing to divert his
thoughts for a moment,
"Well! Daoimean and Luath are so good that I'don't see why I should
not have them!"
"No more do I!" responded Ian. "We may be sure God will either let
you have them, or show you reason to content you for not having
them. No love of any thing is to be put in the same thought-pocket
with love for the poorest creature that has life. But I am sometimes
not a little afraid lest your love for the soil get right in to your
soul. We are here but pilgrims and strangers. God did not make the
world to be dwelt in, but to be journeyed through. We must not love
it as he did not mean we should. If we do, he may have great trouble
and we much hurt ere we are set free from that love. Alister, would
you willingly walk out of the house to follow him up and down for
"I don't know about willingly," replied Alister, "but if I were sure
it was he calling me, I am sure I would walk out and follow him."
"What if your love of house and lands prevented you from being sure,
when he called you, that it was he?"
"That would be terrible! But he would not leave me so. He would not
forsake me in my ignorance!"
"No. Having to take you from everything, he would take everything
Alister went into the house.
He did not know how much of the worldly mingled with the true in
him. He loved his people, and was unselfishly intent on helping them
to the utmost; but the thought that he was their chief was no small
satisfaction to him; and if the relation between them was a grand
one, self had there the more soil wherein to spread its creeping
choke-grass roots. In like manner, his love of nature nourished the
parasite possession. He had but those bare hill-sides, and those few
rich acres, yet when, from his ejrry on the hill-top, he looked down
among the valleys, his heart would murmur within him, "From my feet
the brook flows gurgling to water my fields! The wild moors around
me feed my sheep! Yon glen is full of my people! "Even with the pure
smell of the earth, mingled the sense of its possession. When,
stepping from his cave-house, he saw the sun rise on the out-
stretched grandeur of the mountain-world, and felt the earth a new
creation as truly as when Adam first opened his eyes on its glory,
his heart would give one little heave more at the thought that a
portion of it was his own. But all is man's only because it is
God's. The true possession of anything is to see and feel in it what
God made it for; and the uplifting of the soul by that knowledge,
is the joy of true having. The Lord had no land of his own. He did
not care to have it, any more than the twelve legions of angels he
would not pray for: his pupils must not care for things he did not
care for. He had no place to lay his head in-had not even a grave of
his own. For want of a boat he had once to walk the rough Galilean
sea. True, he might have gone with the rest, but he had to stop
behind to pray: he could not do without that. Once he sent a fish to
fetch him money, but only to pay a tax. He had even to borrow the
few loaves and little fishes from a boy, to feed his five thousand
The half-hour which Alister spent in the silence of his chamber,
served him well: a ray as of light polarized entered his soul in its
gloom. He returned to Ian, who had been all the time walking up and
down the ridge.
"You are right, Ian!" he said. "I do love the world! If I were
deprived of what I hold, I should doubt God! I fear, oh, I fear,
Ian, he is going to take the land from me!"
"We must never fear the will of God, Alister! We are not right until
we can pray heartily, not say submissively, 'Thy will be done!' We
have not one interest, and God another. When we wish what he does
not wish, we are not more against him than against our real selves.
We are traitors to the human when we think anything but the will
of God desirable, when we fear our very life."
It was getting toward summer, and the days were growing longer.
"Let us spend a night in the tomb!" said Ian; and they fixed a day
in the following week.