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without it. would the law be satisfied with that? He doubted it.
"it is a poor thing," he said bitterly to his sister, "when there is law among friends."
But the poor woman was inconsolable. Never in her memory, she said, was any man or woman from the parish taken to court on such a charge. Since the days of her great-grandmother, indeed, when the famous murder took place, there had been no real criminal charge against the parish. Young lads were taken to court for rows and assaults at New Year time, or for poaching and such things, but never for breaking one of the commandments. The serving of such a summons in the house of Murdo, the son of the catechist, was as much an affront as it would be on the breakfasttable of a respectable clergyman.
Murdo did not sleep much that night, and next day he put the summons in his pocket and went to see the minister. Now the minister was a man who was fond of a joke, and not only that, but he had been a good deal annoyed on several occasions by the habit in the place of making common property, as it were, of certain things. Often when he or his household were in need of the manse barrow or spade or whitewash brush, it was found that these things were doing duty at the house of a neighbor. It was true that the "lad" or "girl" had usually been informed of their whereabouts, and requested to "send word" when they were needed, and it was true also that they borrowed other things in return; but, at the same time, the thing was inconvenient occasionally, and now when the old gentleman heard Murdo's story he was, though very indignant, not quite so lavish with his sympathy as Murdo had expected.
"It is a serious matter," he said, after they had talked it over. "There is no doubt of that. I am sure you had
no evil intention, but as you say you took the wood, and 'a criminal charge' —" He paused and took snuff.
"At the same time," he continued, "I wouldn't be too down-hearted over the matter, Murdo. I have a young friend at Aldarn—a lawyer—to whom I shall write at once about you. He will do his best for you, and i am sure the sheriff will be made to understand how the thing happened. I will write a character for you myself.
"It was most unfeeling of Alastair and Nell to act in this way," he added, his indignation getting the better of him.
He wrote an excellent character for Murdo, which he said he would enclose in the letter to the lawyer, and with this and such comfort as he could get from the thought of the able defence he was likely to have, the anxious old man was forced to content himself. He went home still very down-hearted.
As the days passed, however, Murdo received a good deal of sympathy— some of it from very unexpected quarters. Many of the followers of the shoemaker felt that Alastair and Nell had brought disgrace upon the parish by laying such a charge against one of themselves. They ought to have remembered, it was said, that Murdo was the son of the catechist . and should never have been brought in any disgraceful fashion before the law courts. As for the people who were not followers of the shoemaker, they were of course furious.
One day the minister had a visit from the two plaintiffs in the case. They said they felt they had been hasty, being annoyed about the wood, which they had found useful, and they wished to know whether it was possible to "take back" the case.
The minister told them that being a criminal case it could not be withdrawn, but must go on to the end. He took the opportunity of telling them also what he thought of them.
At last the time arrived for the case to come on. Alastair Mackenzie, Nell Maclean, and the policeman went away "like gentle folks" on the mail-coach, but poor Murdo, not having the money to spare, had to set off walking to the court, which was forty-five miles away. He had gone a little more than half that distance, and was crossing a bleak tract of moorland many miles from any human habitation, and feeling very weary and down-hearted, when a great piece of good fortune befell him. He heard the noise of carriage-wheels, and presently was overtaken by a waggonette in which two or three young gentlemen were sitting. Hardly had it passed than it drew up, and one of the young men called to Murdo and asked him if he would like a drive.
"l would like it indeed," said Murdo thankfully. "lt's the first thing l would wish for."
"Come along, then," said the gentleman, and Murdo put his stick and small red bundle into the carriage before him, and climbed up after them very gladly.
The young fellows seemed in very good spirits, and were laughing and talking a great deal. They asked him where he was going, and being a simple old man, he told them the whole story of his journey and the reason he had to make it. They were extraordinarily interested in everything he said, and every now and then they gave a little shout of laughter.
"l am very backward with the English," said Murdo, not without some dignity. "But l am speaking with the best words l have, though there may be comicality in them."
The young men apologized in a very gentlemanly way for their mirth. "You are a queer criminal," said one of them, smiling. "Going on to jail on
}our own account like this. ls there no policeman where you come from?"
Murdo said he hoped he had not come so low yet as to be taken in charge by a policeman. "He went away on the mail," he explained, "with Alastair Mackenzie and Neil Maclean." At this the young men seemed to have some ado again to keep sober faces.
They were very kind to Murdo. When they came to an inn they gave him a fine dinner with themselves, and at Aldarn they brought him to nice quiet lodgings, where they said he need not pay anything, as the landlady was a friend of their own. Murdo was quite overcome by all this, and was much cheered, and felt strong to face the ordeal that was before him. As for the young gentlemen, they all lived in Aldarn, and one of them was a lawyer, and that night they told the story of Murdo to such purpose that next day the court was quite packed with people who came to hear the case.
The lawyer who was the minister's friend met the old man there and told him to keep up a good courage, and that he would do everything for him that could be done. He talked to him for a little, and said that he had received a long letter about him from the minister, and that in it a very good character had been given him.
"l would like to keep that character," Murdo said solemnly. He had never been away from home before, and the whole place seemed very strange and imposing to him,—the judge on the bench, and the lawyers and clerks, and the clever busy look of everything. His case did not come on at once, so he sat listening to some others, and as he listened his confidence oozed away. The judge was very severe, and the whole thing—taking the oath and so on—was very formal and awful. He saw Alastair Mackenzie and Neil Maclean looking at everything with interest and curiosity. He thought they did not appear very easy either.
At last Murdo's own case came on. Everything was against him at first. The young lawyer beside him did not say a word except one that surprised him very much.
"Guilty or not guilty;" said the judge, and Murdo, who had been waiting for that, shook all over and was about to say "Guilty" (seeing that he could not prove he had not taken the wood, and thinking the truth would be best), when, before he could get the word out, the young lawyer beside him cried out, "Not guilty, my lord!"
Murdo did not know what to make of it . He thought it very friendly of the gentleman, but he could not think it very wise.
The case went on against him, and the old man saw that things looked very black. It was brought out in a very clear way that on the evening of the sixteenth day of the previous month he, Murdo, had taken from the quarry where Alastair Mackenzie and Neil Maclean had been at work a large piece of wood belonging to them, and had used it for making a bridge to his own house.
Murdo did not see how he could overturn that, and he was trying to collect his thoughts so that he might make the best explanation he could of what he had done, when the witnesses for the defence were called. "None," said poor Murdo to himself,—"none at all but the minister's letter." But all at once the young lawyer called out that his witnesses were Alastair Mackenzie and Neil Maclean and James Kerr the policeman, and he asked that the policeman should be called first.
Alastair and Nell were then put out of the court, and it would be difficult to say whether they or Murdo was the more astonished. Murdo stared at the
lawyer as if he thought he could not be quite sane.
He soon changed his mind, however, about that.
There were not many questions put to the policeman, and they were chiefly about Murdo's character and reputation for honesty in his native place; also they brought out how Alastair and Nell had broken down the old bridge before Murdo's house, and instead of beginning to build the new one, had been busy ever since at their own harvest-work.
Alastair Mackenzie was then called in, and he felt himself in a very strange position as a witness for the defence. He was very sure he would not be that. The lawyer asked him a few questions that did not seem very important one way or another.
"What was the value," he asked then, "of the piece of wood that is in dispute?"
Alastair hesitated. Put in that way, he did not really think there was any value in the wood, for it was old and worm-eaten. He thought for a while, and then said there would not be any great value in it .
"Would it be worth fifteen shillings?" said the lawyer.
"No," said Alastair slowly, "it would not be worth that." "Would it be worth ten shillings?" Alastair admitted with reluctance that it would not.
"Now," said the lawyer, leaning forward, "you are upon your oath, remember. Would you say upon oath that the piece of wood was worth five shillings or—nothing?"
Alastair looked very uneasy. He was an honest kind of man, and he was very much afraid of saying the wrong thing "upon oath." After waiting awhile the lawyer repeated the question.
Alastair replied that he could not say.
There was a little titter through the court at this. Alastalr was very much put out.
"Did this piece of wood belong to you?" the lawyer asked then. He had received a good deal of information from his friend the minister.
"No," said Alastalr, who had not set eyes on the wood till he saw Neil using it.
"To whom did it belong?"
"To Nell, my neighbor."
"That will do," said the lawyer; and now Neil was called in, and he too did not feel very comfortable as a witness for the defence.
The young lawyer put to Nell the same question about the value of the wood that he had just put to Alastalr, and Neil, not knowing what the other had said and being very well aware of the worm-eaten condition of the block, declined, after some beating about the bush, to say on oath that it was worth anything. He, too, was very much put out, and he thought this kind of questioning very queer and unfair.
"Did this piece of wood belong to you?" said the lawyer, speaking very sternly and solemnly. "Remember you are upon oath."
Nell was silent, thinking what answer he should give. As a matter of fact, the wood was driftwood, and some boys had taken it up to him from the shore about a year previously. He had found it useful all summer when making the road. He could not be certain, but he thought it was Alastair's boys who had brought it to him. He made up his mind to this hastily, for
there was something in the lawyer's voice that warned him to be cautious. He was willing enough also to shift responsibility.
"No," be said; "it did not belong to me."
"To whom, then, did it belong?"
"To Alastalr—my neighbor."
And now there were roars of laughter all over the court. Order was called, and Nell was told that would do. He did not understand at first what the joke could be, and how the people semed quite overcome with mirth.
"You go home without a stain upon your character," said the judge to Murdo.
Murdo did not know what to say. He was quite overcome. The next day was beautiful and warm. The policeman, Alastalr, Nell and Murdo all went home together on the mall. lf anything-consoled the plaintiffs for the way things had turned out, it was the thought of the unpleasant reception they would have got in their native parish if they had left Murdo in jail. They put the best face they could upon the matter, but the conversation on the mall was chiefly about the weather.
And so ended the famous criminal case against Murdo, the son of the catechist .
As for the piece of wood, someone picked it up after the new bridge was made and used it in making a hen-roost . And the people of the parish are still a good deal like the ancient Christians about having things in common.
Lydia Miller Mackay.
THE CHARM OF AUTUMN.
With the shortening days and the great cloud-islanded skies of August and early September comes a world so different to the summer world that it
LlVlNG AGE. VOL. XLl. 2132
scarcely seems its heir. All nature is awake once more with something of the way of Spring. The birds that the late Summer touched with the heavy mace
of silence are again full of music. But there is neither the wistfuiness nor the unrest of Spring in the air. A sense of accomplishment attunes everything, the music, the landscape, the field, the fold, the flowers and the fruits, all is ripe to harvest and all creatures are harvesting. A certain freshness in the air proclaims the evening and the morning of the first day of Autumn. The Autumn harvests are at hand and all things are now ready. The translators of the psalms must have had in their minds an English landscape as they wrote: "Thou visitest the earth, and blessest it; thou makest it very plenteous. . . . Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy clouds drop fatness. They shall drop upon the dwellings of the wilderness; and the little hills shall rejoice on every side. The folds shall be full of sheep; the - valleys also shall stand so thick with corn that they shall laugh and sing." These Autumn harvests differ so entirely from the Summer harvests that we feel in a different land. The Summer fields cocked with hay give one no sense of Autumn with the long Winter to follow. The lustiness of growth is still apparent on all sides and the groaning, creaking wagon with its sweet-scented burden seems an accomplishment of the Spring that all the birds can welcome. The completed stack, shapely and golden. is a serene monument in the Autumn landscape, but the piling up of the green-brown newly made hay is the work of late June in southern England, when there is a thrush trilling from every bush, when the skylark mounts the illimitable blue with tireless aspiration, when the dogrose glorifies the hedges whose green is quick with life, when the nightingale bridges with melody the quiet . brief pause between glowing sunset and glowing sunrise.
Every season has its own peculiar charm, its own subtle relation to the
life of every beholder. The harshness of Winter does not hide its charm. There are days in Winter when the sense of preparation is almost overwhelming, when the mystic elder tree, which is never done with life, puts forth tiny sprays of unexpected green, when we feel the world is sleeping and not dead, when the watchful lark. soar-ing in the brief sunlight, makes a melody for nature's dreams, when the plough, with steaming horses, cleaves its ridges on the upland fields and draws the robin, the field-fare and the rook to unfamiliar feasts. The charm of Spring is the sense of the awakening for which we and all nature have been waiting for so long, the sense that even in mid-winter stirred the little aconite to push its golden flower into an inclement world, and has made the elder tree and the bramble and many a woodland flower try conclusions with the old enemy, Time. As the day lengthens the cold strengthens, but with it strengthens the sense of new life, the passion for resurrection, for lm.mortality. The oak may be wise in closing his buds so long and keeping them warm with the dull golden dead leaves of last year. But who would be wise in Spring? Let the life-blood beat, if it be but once a year.
ln country meadows pearl'd with dew. And set about with llllles.
There, filling maunds with cowslips. you May find your Amaryllis.
And Summer's charm! No one writes about Summer; it is best to live it. But when all the charms of all the seasons are counted and reckoned somehow the mind turns to the Autumn with a sense of love that belongs to no other season. We are so soon to lose it, lose it and its infinite range of color, its deep rich drapery of green, its blaze of imperial purple in leaf and flower and fruit, its gold from innumerable