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A Son of the Soil

A Son of the Soil
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Title: A Son of the Soil
Release Date: 2018-09-28
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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A

SON OF THE SOIL.

A
SON OF THE SOIL.

BY
MRS. OLIPHANT.

NEW EDITION.

London:
MACMILLAN AND CO.
1872.
The Right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved.
LONDON:
R. CLAY, SONS, AND TAYLOR, PRINTERS,
BREAD STREET HILL

{1}

A SON OF THE SOIL.

CHAPTER I., II., III., IV., V., VI., VII., VIII., IX., X., XI., XII., XIII., XIV., XV., XVI., XVII., XVIII., XIX., XX., XXI., XXII., XXIII., XXIV., XXV., XXVI., XXVII., XXVIII., XXIX., XXX., XXXI., XXXII., XXXIII., XXXIV., XXXV., XXXVI., XXXVII., XXXVIII., XXXIX., XL., XLI., XLII., XLIII., XLIV., XLV., XLVI., XLVII., XLVIII., XLIX., L., LI., LII., LIII.

CHAPTER I.

“I say, you boy, it always rains here, doesn’t it?—or ‘whilessnaws’—as the aborigines say. You’re a native, ar’nt you? When do youthink the rain will go off?—do you ever have any fine weather here? Idon’t see the good of a fine country when it rains for ever and ever!What do you do with yourselves, you people, all the year round in such amelancholy place?”

“You see we know no better”—said the farmer of Ramore, who came in atthis moment to the porch of his house, where the young gentleman wasstanding, confronted by young Colin, who would have exploded in boyishrage before now, if he had not been restrained by the knowledge that hismother was within hearing—“and, wet or dry, the country-side comesnatural to them it belongs to. If it werena for a twinge o’ therheumatics noo and then—and my lads are ower young for that—it’s agrand country. If it’s nae great comfort to the purse, it’s aye apleasure to the e’e. Come in to the fire, and take a seat till the rainblows by. My lads,” said Colin of Ramore, with a twinkle ofapprobation in his eye, “take little heed whether it’s rain or shine.”

“I’m of a different opinion,” said the stranger, “I don’t like walkingup to the ankles in those filthy roads.” He was a boy of fifteen or so,the same age as young Colin, who stood opposite him breathing hard withopposition and natural enmity; but the smart Etonian considered himselfmuch more a man of the world and of experience than Colin the elder, andlooked on the boy with calm contempt. “I’ll be glad to dry my boots ifyou’ll let me,” he said, holding up a foot which beside young Colin’ssturdy hoof looked preternaturally small and dainty.

“A fit like a lassie’s!” the country boy said to himself{2} withresponsive disdain. Young Colin laughed half aloud as his natural enemyfollowed his father into the house.

“He’s feared to wet his feet,” said the lad, with a chuckle of mockery,holding forth his own, which to his consciousness were never dry. Anymoralist, who had happened to be at hand, might have suggested to Colinthat a faculty for acquiring and keeping up wet feet during every hourof the twenty-four which he did not spend in bed was no great matter tobrag of: but then moralists did not flourish at Ramore. The boy made arush out through the soft-falling incessant rain, dashed down upon theshingly beach with an impetuosity which dispersed the wet pebbles on allsides of him, and jumping into the boat, pushed out upon the loch, notfor any particular purpose, but to relieve a little his indignation andboyish discomfiture. The boat was clumsy enough, and young Colin’s“style” in rowing was not of a high order, but it caught the quick eyeof the Eton lad, as he glanced out from the window.

“That fellow can row,” he said to himself, but aloud, with thenonchalance of his race, as he went forward, passing the great cradlewhich stood on one side of the fire, to the chair which the farmer’swife had placed for him. She received with many kindly homelyinvitations and welcomes the serene young potentate as he approached herfireside throne.

“Come awa—come in to the fire. The roads are past speaking o’ in thissoft weather. Maybe the young gentleman would like to change his feet,”said the soft-voiced woman, who sat in a wicker-work easy chair, with avery small baby, and cheeks still pale from its recent arrival. She hadsoft, dark, beaming eyes, and the softest pink flush coming and goingover her face, and was wrapped in a shawl, and evidently considered aninvalid—which, for the mother of five or six children, and the mistressof Ramore Farm, was an honourable but inconvenient luxury. “I couldbring you a pair of my Colin’s stockings in a moment. I dare say they’reabout your size—or if you would like to gang ben the house into thespare room, and change them——”

“Oh, thanks; but there is no need for that,” said the visitor, with aslight blush, being conscious, as even an Eton boy could not help being,of the humorous observation of the farmer, who had come in behind him,and in whose eyes it was evident the experienced “man” of the fifth formwas a less sublime personage than he gave himself credit for being. “Iam living down at the Castle,” he added, hastily; “I lost my way on thehills, and got dreadfully wet; otherwise I don’t mind the rain.{3}” And heheld the dainty boots, which steamed in the heat, to the fire.

“But you maunna gang out to the hills in such slight things again,” saidMrs. Campbell, looking at them compassionately; “I’ll get you a pair ofmy Colin’s strong shoes and stockings that’ll keep your feet warm. I’lljust lay the wean in the cradle, and you can slip them off the time I’maway,” said the good woman, with a passing thought for the boy’sbashfulness. But the farmer caught her by the arm and kept her in herchair.

“I suppose there’s mair folk than you about the house, Jeannie?” saidher husband, “though you’re so positive about doing everything yoursel’.I’ll tell the lass; and I advise you, young gentleman, not to beshamefaced, but take the wife’s advice. It’s a great quality o’ hers token what’s good for other folk.”

“I ken by mysel’,” said the gentle-voiced wife, with a smile—and shegot up and went softly to the window, while the young stranger took hercounsel. “There’s Colin out in the boat again, in a perfect pour ofrain,” she said to herself, with a gentle sigh—“he’ll get his death o’cauld; but, to be sure, if he had been to get his death that gate, itwould have come afore now. There’s a great deal of rain in this country,you’ll be thinking?—a’ the strangers say sae; but I canna see that theybide away for a’ that, though they’re aye grumbling. And if you’re fondo’ the hills, you’ll get reconciled to the rain. I’ve seen mony anafternoon when there was scarce an hour without two or three rainbows,and the mist liftin’ and droppin’ again, as if it was set to music. Icanna say I have any experience mysel’, but so far as ane can imagine, aclear sky and a shining sun, day after day, would be awfu’monotonous—like a face wi’ a set smile. I tell the bairns it’s as guidas a fairy-tale to watch the clouds—and it’s no common sunshine when itdoes come, but a kind o’ wistful light, as if he couldna tell whether heever might see you again; but it’s awfu’ when the crops are out, as theyare the noo—the Lord forgive me for speaking as if I liked the rain!”

And by this time her boy-visitor, having succeeded, much to his comfortand disgust, in replacing his wet chaussures by Colin’s dry, warmstockings and monstrous shoes, Mrs. Campbell came back to her seat andlifted her baby again on her knee. The baby was of angelic disposition,and perfectly disposed to make itself comfortable in its cradle, but theusually active mother evidently made it a kind of excuse to herself forher compulsory repose.

“The wife gets easy to her poetry,” said the farmer, with a{4} smile,“which is pleasant enough to hear, though it doesn’t keep the grain fromsprouting. You’re fond o’ the hills, you Southland folk? You’ll be fromlevel land yoursel’, I reckon?—where a’ the craps were safe housedafore the weather broke? We have nae particular reason to complain yet,if we could but make sure o’ a week or twa’s dry weather. It’ll be theholidays still with you?”

“Yes,” said young Frankland, slightly disgusted at being so calmly setdown as a schoolboy.

“I hear there’s some grand schools in England,” said Mrs. Campbell; “no’that they’re to compare wi’ Edinburgh, I suppose? Colin, there’s somesherry wine in the press; I think a glass wouldna’ harm the younggentleman after his wetting. He’ll take something any-way, if you wouldtell Jess. It’s hungry work climbing our hills for a laddie like you—atleast if I may reckon by my ain laddies that are aye ready at mealtimes,” said the farmer’s wife, with a gracious smile that would nothave misbecome a duchess. “You’ll be at ane o’ the great schools, Isuppose? I aye like to learn what I can when there’s ony opportunity. Iwould like my Colin to get a’ the advantages, for he’s well worthy o’ agood education, though we’re rather out of the way of it here.”

“I am at Eton,” said the English boy, who could scarcely refrain from alittle ridicule at the idea of sharing “a’ the advantages” of thatdistinguished foundation with a colt like young Colin; “but I shouldthink you would find it too far off to send your son there,” he added,all his good breeding being unable to smother a slight laugh as helooked round the homely apartment, and wondered what “all the fellows”would say to a schoolfellow from Ramore.

“Nae occasion to laugh, young gentleman,” said Colin the elder; “there’sbeen Lord Chancellors o’ England, and generals o’ a’ the forces, thathave come out of houses nae better than this. I am just as ye find me,but I wouldna’ say what might befall our Colin. In this country there’snae law to bind a man, to the same line o’ life as his fathers. Despisenaebody, my man, or you may live to be despised in your turn.”

“I beg your pardon,” said young Frankland, blushing hotly, and feelingColin’s shoes weigh upon his feet like lead; “I did not intend——”

“No, no,” said Mrs. Campbell, soothingly; “it’s the maister that takesup fancies; but nae doubt Eton is far ower expensive for the like of us,and a bit callant like you may laugh without{5} ony offence. When Colincomes to be a man he’ll make his ain company, or I’m mista’en; but I’veno wish to pit him amang lords and gentlemen’s sons that would jeer athis homely ways. And they tell me there’s schules in Edinburgh far aforeonything that’s kent in England—besides the college,” said the mother,with a little pride; “our Colin’s done with his schuling. Educationtakes longer wi’ the like of you. After Martinmas he’s gaun in toGlasgow to begin his course.”

To this proud intimation the young visitor listened in silence, notbeing able to connect the roughshod lad in the boat with a University,whatever might be its form. He addressed himself instead to the sconesand butter which Jess the servant, a handsome, powerful woman of fivefeet eight or so, had set before him on the table. Jess lingered alittle, ere she left the room, to pinch the baby’s cheeks, and say,“Bless the lamb! eh, what a guid bairn!” with patriarchal friendlyfamiliarity. Meanwhile the farmer sat down, with a thump which made itcreak, upon the large old haircloth sofa which filled up one end of theroom.

“I’ve heard there’s a great difference between our colleges and thecolleges in England,” said Colin. “Wi’ you they dinna train a lad toonything in particular; wi’ us it’s a’ for a profession,—the kirk, orthe law, or physic, as it may be,—a far mair sensible system. I’m

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