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- Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush - 3/34 -



Domsie was an artist, and prepared the way for George's University achievement with much cunning. Once every Sabbath in the kirk-yard, where he laid down the law beneath an old elm tree, and twice between Sabbaths, at the post-office and by the wayside, he adjured us not to expect beyond measure, and gave us reasons.

"Ye see, he has a natural talent for learning, and took to Latin like a duck to water. What could be done in Drumtochty was done for him, and he's working night and day, but he'll have a sore fight with the lads from the town schools. Na, na, neighbours," said the Dominie, lapsing into dialect, "we daurna luik for a prize. No the first year, at ony rate."

"Man, Dominie. A'm clean astonished at ye," Drumsheugh used to break in, who, since he had given to George's support, outran us all in his faith, and had no patience with Domsie's devices, "a' tell ye if Geordie disna get a first in every class he's entered for, the judges 'ill be a puir lot," with a fine confusion of circumstances.

"Losh, Drumsheugh, be quiet, or ye'll dae the laddie an injury," said Domsie, with genuine alarm. "We maunna mention prizes, and first is fair madness, A certificate of honour now, that will be aboot it, may be next to the prizemen."

Coming home from market he might open his heart. "George 'ill be amang the first sax, or my name is no Jamieson," but generally he prophesied a moderate success. There were times when he affected indifference, and talked cattle. We then regarded him with awe, because this was more than mortal.

It was my luck to carry the bulletin to Domsie, and I learned what he had been enduring. It was good manners in Drumtochty to feign amazement at the sight of a letter, and to insist that it must be intended for some other person. When it was finally forced upon one, you examined the handwriting at various angles and speculated about the writer. Some felt emboldened, after these precautions, to open the letter, but this haste was considered indecent. When Posty handed Drumsheugh the factor's letter, with the answer to his offer for the farm, he only remarked, "It'll be frae the factor," and harked back to a polled Angus bull he had seen at the show. "Sall," said Posty in the kirkyard with keen relish, "ye'll never flurry Drumsheugh." Ordinary letters were read in leisurely retirement, and, in case of urgency, answered within the week.

Domsie clutched the letter, and would have torn off the envelope. But he could not; his hand was shaking like an aspen. He could only look, and I read:

"Dear Mr. Jamieson,--The class honour lists are just out, and you will be pleased to know that I have got the medal both in the Humanity and the Greek."

There was something about telling his mother, and his gratitude to his schoolmaster, but Domsie heard no more. He tried to speak and could not, for a rain of tears was on his hard old face. Domsie was far more a pagan than a saint, but somehow he seemed to me that day as Simeon, who had at last seen his heart's desire, and was satisfied.

When the school had dispersed with a joyful shout, and disappeared in the pine woods, he said, "Ye'll come too," and I knew he was going to Whinnie Knowe. He did not speak one word upon the way, but twice he stood and read the letter which he held fast in his hand. His face was set as he climbed the cart track. I saw it set again as we came down that road one day, but it was well that we could not pierce beyond the present.

Whinnie left his plough in the furrow, and came to meet us, taking two drills at a stride, and shouting remarks on the weather yards off.

Domsie only lifted the letter. "Frae George."

"Ay, ay, and what's he gotten noo?"

Domsie solemnly unfolded the letter, and brought down his spectacles. "Edinburgh, April 7th." Then he looked at Whinnie, and closed his mouth.

"We'll tell it first to his mither."

"Yer richt, Dominie. She weel deserves it. A'm thinking she's seen us by this time." So we fell into a procession, Dominie leading by two yards; and then a strange thing happened. For the first and last time in his life Domsie whistled, and the tune was "A hundred pipers and a' and a'," and as he whistled he seemed to dilate before our eyes, and he struck down thistles with his stick--a thistle at every stroke.

"Domsie's fair carried," whispered Whinnie, "it cowes a'."

Marget met us at the end of the house beside the brier bush, where George was to sit on summer afternoons before he died, and a flash passed between Domsie and the lad's mother. Then she knew that it was well, and fixed her eyes on the letter, but Whinnie, his thumbs in his armholes, watched the wife.

Domsie now essayed to read the news, but between the shaking of his hands and his voice he could not.

"It's nae use," he cried, "he's first in the Humanity oot o' a hundred and seeventy lads, first o' them a', and he's first in the Greek too; the like o' this is hardly known, and it has na been seen in Drumtochty since there was a schule. That's the word he's sent, and he bade me tell his mother without delay, and I am here as fast as my old feet could carry me."

I glanced round, although I did not myself see very clearly.

Marget was silent for the space of five seconds; she was a good woman, and I knew that better afterwards. She took the Dominie's hand, and said to him, "Under God this was your doing, Maister Jamieson, and for your reward ye'ill get naither silver nor gold, but ye hae a mither's gratitude."

Whinnie gave a hoarse chuckle and said to his wife, "It was frae you, Marget, he got it a'."

When we settled in the parlour Domsie's tongue was loosed, and he lifted up his voice and sang the victory of Geordie Hoo.

"It's ten years ago at the brak up o' the winter ye brought him down to me, Mrs. Hoo, and ye said at the schule-hoose door, 'Dinna be hard on him, Maister Jamieson, he's my only bairn, and a wee thingie quiet.' Div ye mind what I said, 'There's something ahint that face,' and my heart warmed to George that hour. Two years after the Doctor examined the schule, and he looks at George. 'That's a likely lad, Dominie. What think ye?' And he was only eight years auld, and no big for his size. 'Doctor, I daurna prophesy till we turn him into the Latin, but a've my thoughts.' So I had a' the time, but I never boasted, na, na, that's dangerous. Didna I say, 'Ye hev a promisin' laddie, Whinnie,' ae day in the market?"

"It's a fac'," said Whinnie, "it wes the day I bocht the white coo." But Domsie swept on.

"The first year o' Latin was enough for me. He juist nippet up his verbs. Csar could na keep him going; he wes into Virgil afore he wes eleven, and the Latin prose, man, as sure as a'm living, it tasted o' Cicero frae the beginning."

Whinnie wagged his head in amazement.

"It was the verra nicht o' the Latin prose I cam up to speak aboot the college, and ye thocht Geordie hed been playing truant."

Whinnie laughed uproariously, but Domsie heeded not.

"It was awfu' work the next twa years, but the Doctor stood in weel wi' the Greek. Ye mind hoo Geordie tramped ower the muir to the manse thro' the weet an' the snaw, and there wes aye dry stockings for him in the kitchen afore he had his Greek in the Doctor's study."

"And a warm drink tae," put in Marget, "and that's the window I pit the licht in to guide him hame in the dark winter nichts, and mony a time when the sleet played swish on the glass I wes near wishin'--" Domsie waved his hand.

"But that's dune wi' noo, and he was worth a' the toil and trouble. First in the Humanity and first in the Greek, sweepit the field, Lord preserve us. A' can hardly believe it. Eh, I was feared o' thae High School lads. They had terrible advantages. Maisters frae England, and tutors, and whatna', but Drumtochty carried aff the croon. It'll be fine reading in the papers--

_Humanity_.--First Prize (and Medal), George Howe, Drumtochty, Perthshire.

_Greek_.--First Prize (and Medal), George Howe, Drumtochty, Perthshire."

"It'll be michty," cried Whinnie, now fairly on fire.

"And Philosophy and Mathematics to come. Geordie's no bad at Euclid, I'll wager he'll be first there too. When he gets his hand in there's naething he's no fit for wi' time. My ain laddie--and the Doctor's--we maunna forget him--it's his classics he hes, every book o' them. The Doctor 'ill be lifted when he comes back on Saturday. A'm thinkin' we'll hear o't on Sabbath. And Drumsheugh, he'll be naither to had nor bind in the kirk-yard. As for me, I wad na change places wi' the Duke o' Athole," and Domsie shook the table to its foundation.

Then he awoke, as from a dream, and the shame of boasting that shuts the mouths of self-respecting Scots descended upon him.

"But this is fair nonsense. Ye'll no mind the havers o' an auld dominie."

He fell back on a recent roup, and would not again break away, although sorely tempted by certain of Whinnie's speculations.

When I saw him last, his coat-tails were waving victoriously as he leaped a dyke on his way to tell our Drumtochty Maecenas that the

Beside the Bonnie Brier Bush - 3/34

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