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of the subjects on which he dilated, and showed not only a power of will and strength of purpose, but a certain rugged, clenching, slashing kind of Doric eloquence that seldom failed to arouse, if it did not convince, those whom he addressed. Divinity, however, was his chief and ever favourite topic. He could split hairs on Arianism and Calvinism, free-will and election, on the covenants of works and the covenants of grace, with the most astute and subtle debater of the day. Instead of going off, like the Miller, into a state of somnambulism during the delivery of the village sermon, he kept the eyes of his mind and body awake even more keenly than on other days, if perchance some slip of the tongue, or false stated proposition, might afford him subject-matter of discussion during the ensuing week. Yet the Smith had strong natural affections, a fine perception of the true and the beautiful, elevated aspirations and aims, and a good, kind, generous heart withal. The smithy was the centre from which radiated all the current news of politics and literature, as well as the silly gossip and scandal of the parish. There, amidst the showers of crackling sparks which flew upwards and around, and the swift, sharp cracks of the ever-descending hammer on the ponderous anvil, would the brawny, giant Smith propound the mysteries of Calvinism, the political creeds of Charles James Fox and William Pitt, or the newly fledged principles of Political Economy of Adam Smith. While this high converse proceeded in the inner sanctum, would brainless hinds and clownish gossips of the village lounge lazily around the door, indulging in all the tittle-tattle of the parish, prying into the secrets of the domestic hearth, exposing with boisterous gusto the sins and failures of their unsuspecting neighbours, and rejoicing with a deeper relish in the downfall or punishment of supposed delinquents, or abettors of crime, till, having reached their pitiful climax, they rejoicingly sang in chorus:How fop Tam Langlands jilted clean
Baith handsome Bess and bonnie Jean,
Who'd neither beauty, sense, nor siller!
So much for the dramatis persona of the village club of Glamis. There is just one other oddity to be noticed before the reader's formal introduction to the Club, which in many respects, is certainly the oddest feature of all. Strange to say,
the members all fancied themselves to be poets. To test their individual excellences, or pretensions rather, it had, therefore, been resolved at the last assembly of the Club, that, as their next meeting would fall to be held on the evening of Auld Yule, each member should compose, and bring with him to the gathering, an original song or poem on subjects connected specially with the Howe of Strathmore, which he would be required to sing or recite for the benefit and decision of the meeting.
The appointed evening had at last come round. Auld Yule once so dear to, and so heartily celebrated by, every dweller in the Howe, again appeared in appropriate costume, attended by his satellites of frost and snow and hail, and heralded as was his wont by the sweet, soft notes of robin red-breast, who on that day welcomed himself into every household, hopping and twittering in the porch or on the floor, wishing all a merry Christmas and many returns of the season, and picking gratefully in return the numerous dainty crumbs which were lavishingly showered around him.
For three days previous a severe and blinding snow-storm had ruthlessly swept over the Strath, obscuring every familiar landmark, and foreboding a long continued "feeding" storm. To the intense delight of every one in the Howe, however, the morning of Auld Yule broke out bright and beautiful, the cheering rays of the sun tinging with a saffron and orange radiance the summits of the Sidlaw and Grampian Hills, and crowning with a jewelled diadem of purple and gold the faroff snow-capped Cairn-a-Month and Mount Blair, scattering with prodigal beauty around the upheaving lofty peak of the still more remote Schiehallion the concentrated effulgence of their united glory and splendour. Many a fat brose breakfast was cheerfully, yet speedily discussed that morning in the
Strath and Glen, and many a happy group of lads and lasses erewhile went on their several ways to spend a happy Christmas with their distant friends forming truly a redletter day in, to them, the calendar of life.
Towards afternoon, however, unmistakable symptoms appeared in the heavens of a fresh outbreak of the storm. The sky grew troubled and gloomy; dark, murky, leaden clouds obscured the lustre of the sun's cold yet genial rays; and the feathery snowflakes began silently and steadily to fall, until the whole Strath was again enveloped in winter's livery of spotless white. As evening advanced the mysterious winds, erewhile asleep in their unknown caves, suddenly awoke in all their howling wrath, whirling the snow-wreathes with maddening strength along the plain, and fiercely drifting the thickly-falling snow in blinding eddies of resist less fury.
A terrible storm, Mrs Hendry," said our friend the Smith, who was the first to arrive at the village hostelrie. "I'm thinkin' the Dominie will hae a gey warsall wi' the drift atween the hedges o' Brigton afore he tastes your haggis the nicht." "An awfu' storm, indeed," replied our buxom hostess; "but I've nae fear o' Maister Robertson gettin' safely through the drift, forfor"
"For what?" cried the Miller, who next abruptly entered, shaking off the snow from his brawny shoulders, for he scorned to wear a greatcoat, be the storm however severe-" for what?" he repeated, as he whirled his north-wester to its usual nag in the lobby.
"For he's sae very wee," pawkilly replied our hostess. "Little bodies are the teuchest at ony time, but teuchest ava in a storm."
"My certie" laughingly rejoined the miller, "it's just as weel for ye Maister Daniel's no here for naething offends his dignity so much as to be ca'd leetle. But here come our friends from the glen-the laird and the young minister-as white as if they'd been smoored in ane o' my sacks o' flour."
"You're aye sae white wi' meal yoursel', Miller," quietly
retorted the laird, "that ye think it odd fin ither folk appear in your favourite livery-eh?"
"Come now," coaxingly said the miller to the bashful student, "lat me help you aff wi' that Puritan-lookin' cloak o' yours; and when you're a minister, I chap to be the minister's man, for in that case I wid hae nae fear, o' you acquittin' yoursel' to my entire satisfaction."
"Did ye ever here sic vanity?" interruptingly cried the smith. "Man"-addressing the miller-"ye ken nae mair about prechin' than daft Geordie, that never darkens a kirk door; and as for predestination
"Stop, stop," said the student, smilingly; "it is quite out of place to debate such knotty points of divinity on Old Christmas night. This is the season of innocent amusement and good cheer, and the learned debate must for once give way to the generous sentiment and cheerful song."
"Capital, Maister Student!" exultingly said the miller. "That's my mind to a hair; and until the dominie mak's his appearance, we'll carry out the suggestion in a practical manner. Mrs Hendry, this is Auld Yule nicht, ye ken, an' we'll just tak' a dram oot o' yer ain bottle to begin wi' for the praise-worthy purpose, as the Glasgow bodies would say, of sharpening oor appetites a wee bit for the proper enjoyment o' yer excellent haggis."
"That's not exactly what I meant, however," said the student, quietly, aside to the laird; "but the miller must have his own way for one night at least.”
"When I spoke of predestination," chimed in the smith, "I didna at a' mean to pursue the subject to its logical and legitimate conclusion; but the allusion to the Puritan cloak went richt into my very heart, just as if I'd seen the black banner o' the Covenant flutterin' i' the breeze at the battle o' Bothwell Brig. The fac' is, there are very few divines even in our day who really ken the difference, if any, atween predestination, free will, or election, or
"I wish you all a merry Christmas, my friends, and many
happy returns of the season," shiveringly exclaimed a voice, issuing from what at first sight appeared to be a round living snow-ball, which, like a ghostly apparition, noiselessly appeared in their midst.
"It's Maister Robertson, upon my word!" excitedly cried the miller, and in a twinkling he had eased him of his hat and greatcoat, unfolding in propria persona the veritable dominie. of Kinnettles, who, pleased to see the attention and deference paid to him, smiled one of his pawkiest smiles, and condescendingly shook them all very heartily by the hand, expressing at the same time his high appreciation of, and grateful thanks for, their kindly greeting.
"Supper's ready, gentlemen," said the worthy hostess, and immediately led the way to the principal room upstairs, where, on the hospitable board, already smoked the favourite national haggis, flanked by some dainty barnyard fowls and reaming bickers of Edinburgh ale.
The dominie, as President of the Club, took the chair amidst loud applause, and, after he had said grace the demolishment of the tempting viands was begun in good earnest, each helping the other with the utmost cordiality and good feeling.
"What a fine haggis, though," at last breaking the silence of speech, half-chokingly, said the miller. "I think our national bard was never more richt than when he christened the haggis, chieftain o' the puddin' race
"His knife see rustic labour dight,
And then, oh, what a glorious sight,
A leg o' that chuckie, laird, if you please "-adding, after a good long swill at the bicker-" and you may send me a wee bit o' that nice ham beside you, Maister Robertson. Thank ye, that will do," immediately resuming his masticating