I never set up to be speeritual; I never did. I'm a plain, canty creature; godliness is cheerfulness, says I; give me my fiddle and a dram, and I wouldna hairm a flee.'
'And I repeat my question,' said M'Brair: 'Are you fit--fit for this great charge? fit to carry and save souls?'
'Fit? Blethers! As fit's yoursel',' cried Haddo.
'Are you so great a self-deceiver?' said M'Brair. 'Wretched man, trampler upon God's covenants, crucifier of your Lord afresh. I will ding you to the earth with one word: How about the young woman, Janet M'Clour?'
'Weel, what about her? what do I ken?' cries Haddo. 'M'Brair, ye daft auld wife, I tell ye as true's truth, I never meddled her. It was just daffing, I tell ye: daffing, and nae mair: a piece of fun, like! I'm no denying but what I'm fond of fun, sma' blame to me! But for onything sarious--hout, man, it might come to a deposeetion! I'll sweir it to ye. Where's a Bible, till you hear me sweir?'
'There is nae Bible in your study,' said M'Brair severely.
And Haddo, after a few distracted turns, was constrained to accept the fact.
'Weel, and suppose there isna?' he cried, stamping. 'What mair can ye say of us, but just that I'm fond of my joke, and so's she? I declare to God, by what I ken, she might be the Virgin Mary--if she would just keep clear of the dragoons. But me! na, deil haet o' me!'
'She is penitent at least,' says M'Brair.
'Do you mean to actually up and tell me to my face that she accused me?' cried the curate.
'I canna just say that,' replied M'Brair. 'But I rebuked her in the name of God, and she repented before me on her bended knees.'
'Weel, I daursay she's been ower far wi' the dragoons,' said Haddo. 'I never denied that. I ken naething by it.'
'Man, you but show your nakedness the more plainly,' said M'Brair. 'Poor, blind, besotted creature--and I see you stoytering on the brink of dissolution: your light out, and your hours numbered. Awake, man!' he shouted with a formidable voice, 'awake, or it be ower late.'
'Be damned if I stand this!' exclaimed Haddo, casting his tobacco- pipe violently on the table, where it was smashed in pieces. 'Out of my house with ye, or I'll call for the dragoons.'
'The speerit of the Lord is upon me,' said M'Brair with solemn ecstasy. 'I sist you to compear before the Great White Throne, and I warn you the summons shall be bloody and sudden.'
And at this, with more agility than could have been expected, he got clear of the room and slammed the door behind him in the face of the pursuing curate. The next Lord's day the curate was ill, and the kirk closed, but for all his ill words, Mr. M'Brair abode unmolested in the house of Montroymont.
CHAPTER III--THE HILL-END OF DRUMLOWE
This was a bit of a steep broken hill that overlooked upon the west a moorish valley, full of ink-black pools. These presently drained into a burn that made off, with little noise and no celerity of pace, about the corner of the hill. On the far side the ground swelled into a bare heath, black with junipers, and spotted with the presence of the standing stones for which the place was famous. They were many in that part, shapeless, white with lichen--you would have said with age: and had made their abode there for untold centuries, since first the heathens shouted for their installation. The ancients had hallowed them to some ill religion, and their neighbourhood had long been avoided by the prudent before the fall of day; but of late, on the upspringing of new requirements, these lonely stones on the moor had again become a place of assembly. A watchful picket on the Hill-end commanded all the northern and eastern approaches; and such was the disposition of the ground, that by certain cunningly posted sentries the west also could be made secure against surprise: there was no place in the country where a conventicle could meet with more quiet of mind or a more certain retreat open, in the case of interference from the dragoons. The minister spoke from a knowe close to the edge of the ring, and poured out the words God gave him on the very threshold of the devils of yore.