Two or three days ago we noted an unusual though subdued air of excitement at 22 Breadalbane Terrace, where for a week we have been the sole lodgers. Mrs. Mingess has returned to Kinyukkar ; Miss Coburn-Sinkler has purchased her wedding outfit and gone back to Inverness; the Hebburn-Sheens will be leaving to-morrow ; and the sound of the scrubbing-brush is heard in the land. In corners where all was clean and spotless before, Mrs. M’Collop is digging with the broom, and the maiden Boots is following her with a damp cloth. The stair carpets are hanging on lines in the back garden, and Susanna, with her cap rakishly on one side, is always to be seen polishing the stair rods. Whenever we traverse the halls we are obliged to leap over pails of suds, and Miss Diggity-Dalgety has given us two dinners which bore a curious resemblance to washing-day repasts in suburban America.
“Is it spring house-cleaning?” I ask the M’Collop.
“ Na, na,” she replies hurriedly ; “ it’s the meenisters.”
On the 19th of May we are a maiden castle no longer. Black coats and hats ring at the bell, and pass in and out of the different apartments. The hall table is sprinkled with letters, visiting-cards, and programmes which seem to have had the alphabet shaken out upon them, for they bear the names of professors, doctors, reverends, and very reverends, and fairly bristle with A. M.’s. M. A.’s, A. B.’s, D. D.’s, and LL. D.’s. The voice of prayer is lifted up from the dining-room floor, and paraphrases of the Psalms float down the stairs from above. Their Graces the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness of Heatherdale will arrive to-day at Holyrood Palace, there to reside during the sittings of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, and to-morrow the Royal Standard will be hoisted at Edinburgh Castle from reveille to retreat. His Grace will hold a levee at eleven. Directly His Grace leaves the palace after the levee, the guard of honor will proceed by the Canongate to receive him on his arrival at St. Giles’ Church, and will then proceed to Assembly Hall to receive him on his arrival there. The 6th Inniskilling Dragoons and the 1st Battalion Royal Scots will be in attendance, and there will be unicorns, carricks, pursuivants, heralds, mace-bearers, ushers, and pages, together with the Purse - Bearer and the Lyon King-of-Arms and the national anthem and the royal salute ; for the palace has awakened and is “ mimicking its past.”
In such manner enters His Grace the Lord High Commissioner to open the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland ; and on the same day there arrives by the railway (but traveling first class) the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Free, to convene its separate Supreme Courts in Edinburgh. He will have no Union Jacks, Royal Standards, Dragoons, bands, or pipers ; he will bear his own purse and stay at a hotel; but when the final procession of all comes, he will probably march beside His Grace the Lord High Commissioner, and they will talk together, not of dead-and-gone kingdoms, but of the one at hand, where there are no more divisions in the ranks, and where all the soldiers are simply “ king’s men,” marching to victory under the inspiration of a common watchword.
It is a matter of regret to us that the U. P.’s, the third branch of Scottish Presbyterianism, could not be holding an Assembly during this same week, so that we could the more easily decide in which flock we really belong. 22 Breadalbane Terrace now represents all shades of religious opinion within the bounds of Presbyterianism. We have an Elder, a Professor of Biblical Criticism, a Majesty’s Chaplain, and even an ex-Moderator under our roof, and they are equally divided between the Free and the Established bodies.
Mrs. M’Collop herself is a pillar of the Free Kirk, but she has no prejudice in lodgers, and says so long as she “ mak’s her rent she doesna care aboot their releegious principles.” Miss Diggity-Dalgety is the sole representative of United Presbyterianism in the household, and she is somewhat gloomy in Assembly time. To belong to a dissenting body, and yet to cook early and late for the purpose of fattening one’s religious rivals, is doubtless trying to the temper; and then she asserts that “ meenisters are aye toom [empty].”
“ You must put away your Scottish ballads and histories now, Salemina, and keep your Concordance and your umbrella constantly at hand.”
This I said as we stood on George IV. Bridge and saw the ministers glooming down from the Mound in a dense Assembly fog. As the presence of any considerable number of priests on an ocean steamer is supposed to bring rough weather, so the addition of a few hundred parsons to the population of Edinburgh is believed to induce rain,—or perhaps I should say, more rain.
“ Our first duty, both to ourselves and to the community,” I continued to Salemina, “ is to learn how there can be three distinct kinds of proper Presbyterianism. Perhaps it would be a graceful act on our part if we should each espouse a different kind; then there would be no feeling among our Edinburgh friends. And again, what is the Union of which we hear murmurs? Is it religious or political ? Is it an echo of the 1707 Union you explained to us last week, or is it a new one ? What is Disestablishment ? What is Disruption ? Are they the same thing ? What is the Sustentation Fund ? What was the Nonintrusion Party? What was the Dundas Despotism ? What is the argument at present going on about taking the Shorter Catechism out of the schools ? What is the Shorter Catechism, anyway, — or at least, what have they left out of the Longer Catechism to make it shorter, — and is the length of the Catechism one of the points of difference ? Then when we have looked up Chalmers and Candlish, we can ask the ex-Moderator and the Professor of Biblical Criticism to tea; separately, of course, lest there should be ecclesiastical quarrels.”
Salemina and Francesca both incline to the Established Church, I lean instinctively toward the Free ; but that does not mean that we have any knowledge of the differences that separate them. Salemina is a conservative in all things ; she loves law, order, historic associations, old customs ; and so when there is a regularly established national church, — or for that matter, a regularly established anything,— she gravitates to it by the law of her being. Francesca’s religious convictions, when she is away from her own minister and native land, are inclined to be flexible. The church that enters Edinburgh with a marquis and a marchioness representing the Crown, the church that opens its Assembly with splendid processions and dignified pageants, the church that dispenses generous hospitality from Holyrood Palace, — above all, the church that escorts its Lord High Commissioner from place to place with bands and pipers, — that is the church to which she pledges her constant presence and enthusiastic support.
As for me, I believe I am a born protestant, or “come-outer,” as they used to call dissenters in the early days of New England. I have not yet had time to study the question, but as I lack all knowledge of the other two branches of Presbyterianism, I am enabled to say unhesitatingly that I belong to the Free Kirk. To begin with, the very word “ free ” has a fascination for the citizen of a republic; and then my theological training was begun this morning by a certain gifted young minister of Edinburgh whom we call the Friar, because the first time we saw him in his gown and bands (the little spot of sheer whiteness beneath the chin that lends such added spirituality to a spiritual face) we fancied that he looked like some pale brother of the Church in the olden time. His pallor, in a land of rosy redness and milky whiteness; his smooth, fair hair, which in the light from the stained-glass window above the pulpit looked reddish gold; the Southern heat of passionate conviction that colored his slow Northern speech; the remoteness of his personality ; the weariness of his deep-set eyes, that bespoke such fastings and vigils as he probably never practiced, — all this led to our choice of the name.
As we walked toward St. Andrew’s Church and Tanfield Hall, where he insisted on taking me to get the “proper historical background,” he told me about the great Disruption movement. He was extremely eloquent, — so eloquent that the image of Willie Beresford tottered continually on its throne, and I found not the slightest difficulty in giving an unswerving allegiance to the principles such an orator represents.
We went first to St. Andrew’s, where the General Assembly met in 1843, and where the famous exodus of the Free Protesting Church took place, — one of the most important events in the modern history of the United Kingdom.
The movement was mainly promoted by the great Dr. Chalmers to put an end to the connection of church and state ; and as I am not accustomed to seeing them united, I could sympathize the more cordially with the tale of their disruption. The Friar took me into a particularly chilly historic corner, and, leaning against a damp stone pillar, painted the scene in St. Andrew’s when the Assembly met in the presence of a great body of spectators, while a vast throng gathered without, breathlessly awaiting the result. No one believed that any large number of ministers would relinquish livings and stipends and cast their bread upon the waters for what many thought a “ fantastic principle.” Yet when the Moderator left his place, after reading a formal protest signed by one hundred and twenty ministers and seventy-two elders, he was followed first by Dr. Chalmers, and then by four hundred and seventy men, who marched in a body to Tanfield Hall, where they formed themselves into the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Free. When Lord Jeffrey was told of it an hour later, he exclaimed, “ Thank God for Scotland! There is not another country on earth where such a deed could be done ! ” And the Friar reminded me proudly of Macaulay’s saying that the Scots had made sacrifices for the sake of religious opinion for which there was no parallel in the annals of England. I said “ Yea ” most heartily, for the spirit of Jenny Geddes stirred within me that morning, and I positively gloried in the valiant achievements of the Free Church, under the spell of the Friar’s kindling eye and eloquent voice. When he left me in Breadalbane Terrace, I was at heart a member of his parish in good (and irregular) standing, ready to teach in his Sunday-school, sing in his choir, visit his aged and sick poor, and especially to stand between him and a too admiring feminine constituency.
When I entered the drawing-room, I found that Salemina had just enjoyed an hour’s conversation with the ex-Moderator of the opposite church wing.
“ Oh, my dear,” she sighed, “ you have missed such a treat! You have no conception of these Scottish ministers of the Establishment, — such culture, such courtliness of manner, such scholarship, such spirituality, such wise benignity of opinion! I asked the doctor to explain the Disruption movement to me, and he was most interesting and lucid, and most affecting, too, when he described the misunderstandings and misconceptions that the Church suffered in those terrible days of 1843, when its very life-blood, as well as its integrity and unity, was threatened by the foes in its own household ; when breaches of faith and trust occurred on all sides, and dissents and disloyalties shook it to its very foundation! You see, Penelope, I have never fully understood the disagreement about the matter of state control before, but here is the whole matter in a nut-sh— ”
“My dear Salemina,” I interposed, with dignity, “ you will pardon me, I am sure, when I tell you that any discussion on this point would be intensely painful to me, as I now belong to the Free Kirk.”
“ Where have you been this morning ? ” she asked, with a piercing glance.
“ To St. Andrew’s and Tanfield Hall.'’
“ With whom ? ”
“ With the Friar.”
“ I see ! Happy the missionary to whom you incline your ear, first ! ” — which I thought rather inconsistent of Salemina, as she had been converted by precisely the same methods and in precisely the same length of time as had I, the only difference being in the ages of our respective missionaries, one being about five and thirty, the other five and sixty.
Religion in Edinburgh is a theory, a convention, a fashion (both humble and aristocratic), a sensation, an intellectual conviction, an emotion, a dissipation, a sweet habit of the blood ; in fact, it is, it seems to me, every sort of thing it can be to the human spirit.
When we had finished our church toilettes, and came into the drawing-room, on the first Sunday morning, I remember that we found Francesca at the window.
“There is a battle, murder, or sudden death going on in the square below,” she said. “ I am going to ask Susanna to ask Mrs. M’Collop what it means. Never have I seen such a crowd moving peacefully, with no excitement or confusion, in one direction. Where can the people be going? Do you suppose it is a fire ? Why, I believe ... it cannot be possible . . . yes, they certainly are disappearing in that big church on the corner; and millions, simply millions and trillions, are coming in the other direction, — toward St. Knox’s.”
Impressive as was this morning churchgoing, a still greater surprise awaited us at seven o’clock in the evening, when the crowd blocked the streets on two sides of a church near Breadalbane Terrace ; and though it was quite ten minutes before service when we entered, Salemina and I only secured the last two seats in the aisle, and Francesca was obliged to sit on the steps of the pulpit or seek a sermon elsewhere.
It amused me greatly to see Francesca sitting on pulpit steps, her Redfern gown and smart toque in close juxtaposition to the rusty bonnet and bombazine dress of a respectable elderly tradeswoman. The church officer entered first, bearing the great Bible and hymn-book, which he reverently placed on the pulpit cushions; and close behind him, to our entire astonishment, came the Reverend Ronald Macdonald, who was exchanging with the regular minister of the parish, whom we had come especially to hear. I pitied Francesca’s confusion and embarrassment, but I was too far from her to offer an exchange of seats, and through the long service she sat there at the feet of her foe, so near that she could have touched the hem of his gown as he knelt devoutly for his first silent prayer.
Perhaps she was thinking of her last interview with him, when she descanted at length on that superfluity of naughtiness and Biblical pedantry which, she asserted, made Scottish ministers preach from out-of-the-way texts.
“ I’ve never been able to find my place in the Bible since I arrived,” she complained to Salemina, when she was quite sure that Mr. Macdonald was listening to her; and this he generally was, in my opinion, no matter who chanced to be talking. “ What with their skipping and hopping about from Haggai to Philemon, Habakkuk to Jude, and Micah to Titus, in their readings, and then settling on seventh Nahum, sixth Zephaniah, or second Calathumpians for the sermon, I do nothing but search the Scriptures in the Edinburgh churches, —search, search, search, until some Christian by my side or in the pew behind me notices my hapless plight, and hands me a Bible opened at the text. Last Sunday it was Obadiah first, fifteenth, ‘ For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen.’ It chanced to be a returned missionary who was preaching on that occasion ; but the Bible is full of heathen, and why need he have chosen a text from Obadiah, poor little Obadiah one page long, slipped in between Amos and Jonah where nobody but a deacon could find him?” If Francesca had not seen with delight the Reverend Ronald’s expression of anxiety, she would never have spoken of second Calathumpians ; but of course he has no means of knowing how unlike herself she is when in his company.
To go back to our first Sunday worship in Edinburgh. The church officer closed the door of the pulpit on the Reverend Ronald, and I thought I heard the clicking of a lock ; at all events, he returned at the close of the services to liberate him and escort him back to the vestry ; for the entrances and exits of this beadle, or “ minister’s man,” as the church officer is called in the country districts, form an impressive part of the ceremonies. If he did lock the minister into the pulpit, it is probably only another national custom like the occasional locking in of the passengers in a railway train, and may be positively necessary in the case of such magnetic and popular preachers as Mr. Macdonald or the Friar.
I have never seen such attention, such concentration, as in these great congregations of the Edinburgh churches. As nearly as I can judge, it is intellectual rather than emotional ; but it is not a tribute paid to eloquence alone; it is habitual and universal, and is yielded loyally to insufferable dullness when occasion demands.
When the text is announced, there is an indescribable rhythmic movement forward, followed by a concerted rustle of Bible leaves ; not the rustle of a few Bibles in a few pious pews, but the rustle of all the Bibles in all the pews, — and there are more Bibles in an Edinburgh Presbyterian church than one ever sees anywhere else, unless it be in the warehouses of the Bible Societies.
The text is read twice clearly, and another rhythmic movement follows when the Bibles are replaced on the shelves. Then there is a delightful settling back of the entire congregation, a snuggling comfortably into corners and a fitting of shoulders to the pews, — not to sleep, however ; an older generation may have done that under the strain of a two-hour “ wearifu’ dreich ” sermon, but these church-goers are not to be caught napping. They wear, on the contrary, a keen, expectant, critical look, which must be inexpressibly encouraging to the minister, if he has anything to say. If he has not (and this is a possibility in Edinburgh as it is everywhere else), then I am sure it is wisdom for the beadle to lock him in, lest he flee when he meets those searching eyes.
The organ is finding its way rapidly into the Scottish kirks (how can the shade of John Knox endure a “ kist. o’ whistles ” in old St. Giles’ ?), but it is not used yet in some of those we attend most frequently. There is a certain quaint solemnity, a beautiful austerity, in the unaccompanied singing of hymns that touches me profoundly. I am often carried very high on the waves of splendid church music, when the organ’s thunder rolls “ through vaulted aisles " and the angelic voices of a trained choir chant the aspirations of my soul for me ; but when an Edinburgh congregation stands, and the precentor leads in the second paraphrase of the Psalms, that splendid
Of their succeeding race,”:
there is a certain ascetic fervor in it that seems to me the perfection of worship. It may be that my Puritan ancestors are mainly responsible for this feeling, or perhaps my recently adopted Jenny Geddes is a factor in it; of course, if she were in the habit of flinging fauldstules at Deans, she was probably the friend of truth and the foe of beauty so far as it was in her power to separate them.
There is no music during the offertory in these churches, and this too pleases my sense of the fitness of things. It cannot soften the woe of the people who are disinclined to the giving away of money, and the cheerful givers need no encouragement. For my part, I like to sit, quite undistracted by soprano solos, and listen to the refined tinkle of the sixpences and shillings, and the vulgar chink of the pennies and ha’pennies, in the contribution-boxes. Country ministers, I am told, develop such an acute sense of hearing that they can estimate the amount of the collection before it is counted. There is often a huge pewter plate just within the church door, in which the offerings are placed as the worshipers enter or leave; and one always notes the preponderance of silver at the morning, and of copper at the evening services. It is perhaps needless to say that before Francesca had been in Edinburgh a fortnight she asked Mr. Macdonald if it were true that the Scots continued coining the farthing for years and years, merely to have a coin serviceable for church offerings !
As to social differences in the congregations we are somewhat at sea. We tried to arrive at a conclusion by the hats and bonnets, than which there is usually no more infallible test. On our first Sunday we attended the Free Kirk in the morning, and the Established in the evening. The bonnets of the Free Kirk were so much the more elegant that we said to one another, “ This is evidently the church of society, though the adjective ‘ Free ’ should by rights attract the masses.” On the second Sunday we reversed the order of things, and found the Established bonnets much finer than the Free bonnets, which was a source of mystification to us, until we discovered that it was a question of morning or evening service, not of the form of Presbyterianism. We think, on the whole, that, taking town and country congregations together, millinery has not flourished under Presbyterianism, — it seems to thrive better in the Romish atmosphere of France; but the Disruption, at least, has had nothing to answer for in the matter, as it seems simply to have parted the bonnets of Scotland in twain, as Moses divided the Red Sea, and left good and evil on both sides.
I can never forget our first military service at St. Giles’. We left Breadalbane Terrace before nine in the morning, and walked along the beautiful curve of street that sweeps around the base of Castle Rock, — walked on through the poverty and squalor of the High Street, keeping in view the beautiful lantern tower as a guiding star, till we heard “ The murmur of the city crowd ;
And, from his steeple, jingling loud,
St. Giles’s mingling din.”
We joined the throng outside the venerable church, and awaited the approach of the soldiers from the Castle paradeground ; for it is from there they march in detachments to the church of their choice. A religion they must have, and if, when called up and questioned about it, they have forgotten to provide themselves, or have no preference as to form of worship, they are assigned to one by the person in authority. When the regiments are assembled on the paradeground of a Sunday morning, the officer’s first command is, “ Church of Scotland, right about face, quick march ! ” — the bodies of men belonging to other denominations standing fast until their turn comes to move. It is said that a new sergeant once gave the command, “ Church of Scotland, right about face, quick march! Fancy releegions stay where ye are ! ”
Just as we were being told this story by an attendant squire, there was a burst of scarlet and a blare of music, and down into Parliament Square marched hundreds of redcoats, the Highland pipers (otherwise the Olympian gods) swinging in front, leaving the American female heart prostrate beneath their victorious tread. The strains of music that in the distance sounded so martial and triumphant we recognized in a moment as “ Abide with me,” and never did the fine old tune seem more majestic than when it marked a measure for the steady tramp, tramp, tramp, of those soldierly feet. As The March of the Cameron Men, piped from the green steeps of Castle Hill, had aroused in us thoughts of splendid victories on the battlefield, so did this simple hymn seem to breathe the spirit of the church militant; a no less stern, but more spiritual soldiership, in which “ the fruit, of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.”
Even at this time of Assemblies, when the atmosphere is almost exclusively clerical and ecclesiastical, the two great church armies represented here certainly conceal from the casual observer all rivalries and jealousies, if indeed they cherish any. As for the two dissenting bodies, the Church of the Disruption and the Church of the Secession have been keeping company, so to speak, for some years, with a distant eye to an eventual union.
Since Scottish hospitality is well-nigh inexhaustible, it is not strange that from the moment Edinburgh streets began to be crowded with ministers, our drawingroom table began to bear shoals of engraved invitations of every conceivable sort, all equally unfamiliar to our American eyes.
“ The Purse-Bearer is commanded by the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness of Heatherdale to invite Miss Hamilton to a Garden Party at the Palace of Holyrood House, on the 27th of May. Weather permitting.”
“ The General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland admits Miss Hamilton to any gallery on any day.”
“ The Marchioness of Heatherdale is At Home on the 26th of May from a quarter past nine in the evening. Palace of Holyrood House.”
“ The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland is At Home in the Library of the New College on Saturday, the 22d May, from eight to ten in the evening.”
“ The Moderator asks the pleasure of Miss Hamilton’s presence at a Breakfast to be given on the morning of the 25th of May at Dunedin Hotel.”
We determined to go to all these functions impartially, tracking thus the Presbyterian lion to its very lair, and observing its home as well as its company manners. In everything that related to the distinctively religious side of the proceedings we sought advice from Mrs. M’Collop, while we went to Lady Baird for definite information on secular matters. We also found an unexpected ally in the person of our own ex-Moderator’s niece, Miss Jean Dalziel (Deeyell). She had been educated in Paris, but she must always have been a delightfully breezy person, quite too irrepressible to be affected by Scottish haar or theology. “ Go to the Assemblies, by all means,” she said, “ and be sure and get places for the heresy case. These are no longer what they once were, — we are getting lamentably weak and gelatinous in our beliefs, —but there is an unusually nice one this year; the heretic is very young and handsome, and quite wicked, as ministers go. Don’t fail to be presented at the Marchioness’s court at Holyrood, for it is a capital preparation for the ordeal of Her Majesty and Buckingham Palace. ‘ Nothing fit to wear ’ ? You have never seen the people who go, or you would n’t say that! I even advise you to attend one of the breakfasts ; it can’t do you any serious or permanent injury so long as you eat something before yon go. Oh no, it does n’t matter, — whichever one you choose, you will cheerfully omit the other ; for I avow as a Scottish spinster, and the niece of an ex-Moderator, that to a stranger and a foreigner the breakfasts are worse than Arctic explorations.”
It is to Mrs. M’Collop that we owe our chief insight into technical church matters, although we seldom agree with her “ opeenions ” after we gain our own experience. She never misses hearing one sermon on a Sabbath, and oftener she listens to two or three. Neither does she confine herself to the ministrations of a single preacher, but roves from one sanctuary to another, seeking the bread of life; often, however, according to her own account, getting a particularly indigestible “ stane.”
She is thus a complete guide to the Edinburgh pulpit, and when she is making a bed in the morning she dispenses criticism in so large and impartial a manner that it would make the flesh of the “ meenistry ” creep did they overhear it. I used to think Ian Maclaren’s sermon-taster a possible exaggeration of an existent type, but I now see that she is truth itself.
“ Ye ’ll be tryin’ anither kirk the morn? ” suggests Mrs. M’Collop, spreading the clean Sunday sheet over the mattress. “ Wha did ye hear the Sawbath that’s bye? Dr. A ? Ay, I ken him ower weel; he ’s been there for fifteen years an’ mair. Ay, he’s a gifted mon — off an’ on ! ” with an emphasis showing clearly that, in her estimation, the times when he is “off” outnumber those when he is “ on.” . . . “ Ye have na heard auld Dr. B yet ? ” (Here she tucks in the upper sheet tidily at the foot.) “ He ’s a grand strachtforrit mon, is Dr. B, forbye he’s growin’ maist awfu’ dreich in his sermons, though when he’s that wearisome a body canna heed him wi’oot takin’ peppermints to the kirk, he ’s nane the less, at seeventy-sax, a better mon than the new asseestant. Div ye ken the new asseestant ? He ’s a wee-bit, finger-fed mannie, too sma’ maist to wear a goon ! I canna thole him. wi’ his lang-nebbit words, explainin’ an’ expoundin’ the gude Book as if it had jist come oot! The auld doctor gies us fu’ meesure, pressed doun an’ rinnin’ over, nae bit-pickings like the haverin’ asseestant; it’s my opeenion he ’s no soond ! . . . Mr. C?” (Now comes the shaking and straightening and smoothing of the first blanket.) “ Ay, he’s weel eneuch ! I mind ance he prayed for our Free Assembly, an’ then he turned roun’ an’ prayed for the Established, maist in the same breath,—he ’s a broad, leeberal mon is Mr. C ! . . . Mr. D ? Ay, I ken him fine; he micht be waur, but he reads his sermon from the paper, an’ it’s an auld sayin’, ‘ If a meenister canna mind [remember] his ain discourse, nae mair can the congregation be expectit to mind it.’ . . . Mr. E? He’s my ain meenister.” (She has a pillow in her mouth now, but though she is shaking it as a terrier would a rat, and drawing on the linen slip at the same time, she is still intelligible between the jerks.) “ Susanna says his sermon is like claith made o’ soond ’oo [wool] wi’ a gude twined thread, an’ wairpit an’ weftit wi’ doctrine. Susanna kens her Bible weel, but she’s never gaed forrit.” (To “ gang forrit ” is to take the communion.) “ Dr. F? I ca’ him the greetin’ doctor! He’s aye dingin’the dust oot o’ the poopit cushions, an’ greetin’ ower the sins o’ the human race, an’ eespecially of his congregation. He’s waur syne his last wife sickened an’ slippit awa’. ’T was a chastenin’ he’d put up wi’ twice afore, but he grat nane the less. She was a bonnie bit-body, was the thurd Mistress F! E’nbro could ’a’ better spared the greetin’ doctor than her, I’m thinkin’.”
“ The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, according to his good will and pleasure,” I ventured piously, as Mrs. M’Collop beat the bolster and laid it in place.
“ Ou ay,” responded that good woman, as she spread the counterpane over the pillows in the way I particularly dislike, — “ou ay, but I sometimes think it’s a peety he couldna be guided ! ”
We were to make our bow to the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness of Heatherdale in the evening, and we were in a state of republican excitement at 22 Breadalbane Terrace.
Francesca had surprised us by refusing to be presented at this semi-royal Scottish court. “ Not I,” she said. “The Marchioness represents the Queen; we may discover, when we arrive, that she has raised the standards of admission, and requires us to ‘ back out ’ of the throne-room. I don’t propose to do that without London training. Besides, I hate crowds, and I never go to my own President’s receptions ; and I have a headache, anyway, and don’t feel like coping with the Reverend Ronald tonight ! ” (Lady Baird was to take us under her wing, and her nephew was to escort us, Sir Robert being in Inveraray.)
“Sally, my dear,” I said, as Francesca left the room with a bottle of smelling-salts somewhat ostentatiously in evidence, “ methinks the damsel doth protest too much. In other words, she devotes a good deal of time and discussion to a gentleman whom she heartily dislikes. As she is under your care, I will direct your attention to the following points:—
“ Ronald Macdonald is a Scotsman ; Francesca disapproves of international alliances.
“ He is a Presbyterian ; she is a Swedenborgian.
“ His father was a famous old school doctor; Francesca is a homœopathist.
“ He is serious ; Francesca is gay.
“ I think, under all the circumstances, their acquaintance will bear watching. Two persons so utterly dissimilar, and, so far as superficial observation goes, so entirely unsuited to each other, are quite liable to drift into marriage unless diverted by watchful philanthropists.”
“ Nonsense ! ” returned Salemina brusquely. “You think because you are under the spell of the tender passion yourself that other people are in constant danger. Francesca detests him.’
“ Who told you so ? ”
“ She herself,” triumphantly.
“Salemina,” I said pityingly, “ I have always believed you a spinster from choice ; don’t lead me to think that you have never had any experience in these matters! The Reverend Ronald has also intimated to me as plainly as he dared that he cannot bear the sight of Francesca. What do I gather from this statement ? The general conclusion that if it be true, it, is curious that he looks at her incessantly.”
“ Francesca would never live in Scotland,” remarked Salemina feebly.
“ Not unless she were asked, of course,” I replied.
“ He would never ask her.”
“Not unless he thought he had a chance of an affirmative answer.”
“Her father would never allow it.”
“ Her father allows what she permits him to allow. You know that perfectly well.”
“ What shall I do about it, then ? ”
“ Consult me.”
“What shall we do about it ? ”
“ Let Nature have her own way.”
“I don’t believe in Nature.”
“ Don’t be profane, Salemina, and don’t be unromantic, which is worse; but if you insist, trust in Providence.”
“ I would rather trust Francesca’s hard heart.”
“ The hardest hearts melt if sufficient heat be applied. I think Mr. Macdonald is a volcano.”
“ I wish he were extinct,” said Salemina petulantly, “and I wish you would n’t make me nervous.”
“ If you had any faculty of premonition, you would n’t have waited for me to make you nervous.”
“ Some people are singularly omniscient.”
“Others are singularly deficient ” — And at this moment Susanna came in to announce Miss Jean Deeyell, who had come to see sights with us.
It was our almost daily practice to walk through the Old Town, and we were now familiar with every street and close in that densely crowded quarter. Our quest for the sites of ancient landmarks never grew monotonous, and we were always reconstructing, in imagination, the Cowgate, the Canongate, the Lawnmarket, and the High Street, until we could see Auld Reekie as it was in bygone centuries. Every corner bristles with memories. Here is the Stamp Office Close, from which the lovely Susanna, Countess of Eglinton, was wont to issue on Assembly nights; she, six feet in height, with a brilliantly fair complexion and a “face of the maist bewitching loveliness.” Her seven daughters and stepdaughters were all conspicuously handsome, and it was deemed a goodly sight to watch the long procession of eight gilded sedan-chairs pass from the Stamp Office Close, bearing her and her stately brood to the Assembly Room, amid a crowd that was “ hushed with respect and admiration to behold their lofty and graceful figures step from the chairs on the pavement.”
Here itself is the site of those old Assemblies presided over at one time by the famous Miss Nicky Murray, a directress of society affairs, who seems to have been a feminine premonition of Count d’Orsay and our own McAllister. Rather dull they must have been, those old Scotch balls, where Goldsmith saw the ladies and gentlemen in two dismal groups divided by the length of the room.
Order and elegance presided there —
Each gay Right Honourable had her place.
To walk a minuet with becoming grace.
No racing to the dance with rival hurry,
Such was thy sway, O famed Miss Nicky Murray ! ”
It was half past nine in the evening when Salemina and I drove to Holyrood, our humble cab-horse jogging faithfully behind Lady Baird’s brougham, and it was the new experience of seeing Auld Reekie by lamplight that called up these gay visions of other days, — visions and days so thoroughly our mental property that we resented the fact that women were hanging washing from the Countess of Eglinton’s former windows, and popping their unkempt heads out of the Duchess of Gordon’s old doorway.
The Reverend Ronald is so kind! He enters so fully into our spirit of inquiry, and takes such pleasure in our enthusiasms ! He even sprang lightly out of Lady Baird’s carriage and called to our " lāmiter ” to halt while he showed us the site of the Black Turnpike, from whose windows Queen Mary saw the last of her kingdom’s capital.
“ Here was the Black Turnpike, Miss Hamilton ! ” he cried ; " and from here Mary went to Loch Leven, where you Hamiltons and the Setons came gallantly to her help. Don’t you remember the ‘ far ride to the Solway sands ' ? ”
I looked with interest, though I was in such a state of delicious excitement that I could scarce keep my seat.
“ Only a few minutes more, Salemina,” I sighed, " and we shall be in the palace courtyard; then a probable half-hour in crowded dressing-rooms, with another half-hour in line, and then, then we shall be making our best republican bow in the Gallery of the Kings ! How I wish Mr. Beresford and Francesca were with us ! What do you suppose was her real reason for staying away ? Some petty disagreement with our young minister, I am sure. Do you think the dampness is taking the curl out of our hair? Do you suppose our gowns will be torn to ribbons before the Marchioness sees them ? Do you believe we shall look as well as anybody? Privately, I think we must look better than anybody ; but I always think that on my way to a party, never after I arrive.”
Mrs. M’Collop had asserted that I was " bonnie eneuch for ony court,” and I could not help wishing that " mine ain dear Somebody ” might see me in my French frock embroidered with silver thistles, and my " shower bouquet” of Scottish bluebells tied loosely together. Salemina wore pinky-purple velvet; a real heather color it was, though the Lord High Commissioner would probably never note the fact.
When we had presented our cards of invitation at the palace doors, we joined the throng and patiently made our way up the splendid staircases, past powdered lackeys without number, and, divested of our wraps, joined another throng on our way to the throne-room, Salemina and I pressing those cards with our names " legibly written on them ” close to our palpitating breasts.
At last the moment came when, Lady Baird having preceded me, I handed my bit of pasteboard to the usher ; and hearing " Miss Hamilton ” called in stentorian accents, I went forward in my turn, and executed a graceful and elegant but not too profound curtsy, carefully arranged to suit the semi-royal, semi-ecclesiastical occasion. I had not divulged the fact even to Salemina, but I had worn Mrs. M’Collop’s carpet quite threadbare in front of the long mirror, and had curtsied to myself so many times in its crystal surface that I had developed a sort of fictitious reverence for my reflected image. I had only begun my well-practiced obeisance when Her Grace the Marchioness, to my mingled surprise and embarrassment, extended a gracious hand and murmured my name in a particularly kind voice. She is fond of Lady Baird, and perhaps chose this method of showing her friendship ; or it may be that she noticed my silver thistles and Salemina’s heather - colored velvet, — they certainly deserved special recognition ; or it may be that I was too beautiful to pass over in silence, — in my state of exaltation I was quite equal to the belief.
The presentation over, we wandered through the beautiful apartments ; leaning from the open windows to hear the music of the band playing in the courtyard below, looking at the royal portraits, and chatting with groups of friends who appeared and reappeared in the throng. Finally Lady Baird sent for us to join her in a knot of personages more and less distinguished, who had dined at the palace, and who were standing behind the receiving party in a sort of sacred group. This indeed was a ground of vantage, and one could have stood there for hours, watching all sorts and conditions of men and women bowing before the Lord High Commissioner and the Marchioness, who, with her Cleopatra-like beauty and scarlet gown, looked like a gorgeous cardinal-flower.
Salemina and I watched the curtsying narrowly, with the view at first of improving our own obeisances for Buckingham Palace; but truth to say we got no added light, and plainly most of the people had not worn threadbare the carpets in front of their dressing-mirrors.
Suddenly we heard a familiar name announced, “ Lord Colquhoun,” a distinguished judge who had lately been raised to the peerage, and whom we often met at dinners; then “ Miss Rowena Colquhoun ; " and then, in the midst, we fancied, of an unusual stir at the entrance door — " Miss Francesca Van Buren Monroe.” I almost fainted against the Reverend Ronald’s shoulder in my astonishment, while Salemina lifted her tortoise-shell lorgnette, and we gazed silently at our recreant charge.
After presentation, each person has fifteen or twenty feet of awful space to traverse in solitary and defenseless majesty; scanned meanwhile by the maids of honor (who, if they were truly honorable, would turn their eyes another way), ladies-in-waiting, Purse-Bearer (who, be it known, bears no trace of purse in public, but keeps it in his upper bureau drawer at home), and the sacred group in the rear. Some of the victims waddle, some hurry; some look up and down nervously, others glance over the shoulder as if dreading to be apprehended ; some turn red, others pale, according to complexion and temperament; some swing their arms, others trip on their gowns; some twitch the buttons of a glove, or tweak a flower or a jewel. Francesca rose superior to all these weaknesses, and I doubt if the Gallery of the Kings ever served as a background for anything lovelier or more high-bred than that untitled slip of a girl from “ the States.” Her trailing gown of dead white satin fell in unbroken lustrous folds behind her. Her beautiful throat and shoulders rose in statuesque whiteness from the shimmering drapery that encircled them. Her dark hair showed a moonbeam parting that rested the eye, weary from the contemplation of waves and frizzes. Her mother’s pearls hung in ropes from neck to waist, and the one spot of color about her was the single American Beauty rose she carried. There is a patriotic florist in Paris who grows this long - stemmed empress of the rose - garden, and Mr. Beresford sends one to me every week. Francesca had taken the flower without permission, and I must say she was as worthy of it as it was of her.
She curtsied deeply, with no exaggerated ceremony, but with a sort of innocent and childlike gravity, while the satin of her gown spread itself like a great lily over the floor. Her head was bowed until the dark lashes swept her crimson cheeks ; then she rose again from the heart of the satin lily, with the one splendid flower glowing against all her dazzling whiteness, and floated slowly across the dreaded space to the door of exit as if she were preceded by invisible heralds and followed by invisible train-bearers.
“ Who is she ? ” we heard whispered here and there. " Look at the rose ! ” “ Look at the pearls ! Is she a princess or only an American ? ”
I glanced at the Reverend Ronald. I imagined he looked pale ; at any rate, he was gnawing his mustache, and I believe he was in fancy laying his serious, Scottish, allopathic, Presbyterian heart at Francesca’s gay, American, hom339;opathic, Swedenborgian feet.
“ It is a pity Miss Monroe is such an ardent republican,” he said ; “ otherwise she ought to be a duchess. I never saw a head that better suited a coronet, nor one that contained more caprices.”
“ It is true she flatly refused to accompany us here.” I allowed, “ but perhaps she has some explanation more or less silly and serviceable ; meantime, I defy you to say she is n’t a beauty, and I implore you to say nothing about its being only skin-deep. Give me a beautiful exterior, say I, and I will spend my life in making the hidden things of mind and soul conform with it; but deliver me from all forlorn attempts to make my beauty of character speak through a large mouth, breathe through a fat nose, and look at my neighbor through crossed eyes ! ”
Mr. Macdonald agreed with me, with some few ministerial reservations. He always agrees with me, and why he is not tortured at the thought of my being the promised bride of another, but continues to squander his affections upon a quarrelsome girl, is more than I can comprehend.
Francesca appeared presently in our group, and Salemina did not even attempt to scold her. One cannot scold an imperious young beauty in white satin and ropes of pearls.
It seems that shortly after our departure (we had dined with Lady Baird) Lord Colquhoun had sent a note to me, requiring an answer. Francesca had opened it, and found that he offered an extra card of invitation to one of us, and said that he and his sister would gladly serve as escort to Holyrood, if desired. She had had an hour or two of solitude by this time, and was well weary of it, and the last vestige of headache disappeared under the temptation of appearing at court with all the éclat of unexpectedness. She dispatched a note of acceptance to Lord Colquhoun, called Mrs. M’Collop, Susanna, and the maiden Boots to her assistance, spread the trays of her Saratoga trunks about our three bedrooms, grouped all our candles on her dressingtable, and borrowed any little elegance of toilette which we chanced to have left behind. Her own store of adornments was much greater than ours, but we possessed certain articles for which she had a childlike admiration: my white satin slippers embroidered with seed pearls, Salemina’s pearl-topped comb, my rose, Salemina’s Valenciennes handkerchief and diamond belt-clasp, my pearl frog with ruby eyes. We identified our property on her impertinent young person, and the list of her borrowings so amused the Reverend Ronald that he forgot his injuries.
“ It is really an ordeal, that presentation, no matter how strong one’s sense of humor may be, nor how well rooted one’s democracy,” chattered Francesca to a serried rank of officers who surrounded her to the total routing of the ministry. “ It is especially trying if one has come unexpectedly and has no idea of what is to happen. I was flustered at the most supreme moment, because, at the entrance of the throne-room, I had just shaken hands reverently with a splendid person who proved to be a footman. I took him for the Commander of the Queen’s Guards, or the Keeper of the Dungeon Keys, or the Most Noble Custodian of the Royal Moats, Drawbridges, and Portcullises. When he put out his hand I had no idea it was simply to waft me onward, and so naturally I shook it,—it’s a mercy that I did n’t kiss it! Then I curtsied to the Royal Usher, and overlooked the Lord High Commissioner, having no eyes for any one but the beautiful scarlet Marchioness ; I hope they were too busy to notice my mistakes ! Did you see the child of ten who was next to me in line ? She is Mrs. Macstronachlacher ; at least that was the name on the card she carried, and she was thus announced. As they tell us the Purse-Bearer is most rigorous in arranging these functions and issuing the invitations, I presume she must be Mrs. Macstronachlacher ; but if so, they marry very young in Scotland, and her skirts should really have been longer! ”
Kate Douglas Wiggin.
(To be continued.)