abundance of peaches, figs, and grapes. With all these
xxiii. My Uncle's Gift Is Many Times Multiplied
CHAPTER I THE MAN ON THE KIRKCAPLE SHORE
I mind as if it were yesterday my first sight of the man. Little I knew at the time how big the moment was with destiny, or how often that face seen in the fitful moonlight would haunt my sleep and disturb my waking hours. But I mind yet the cold grue of terror I got from it, a terror which was surely more than the due of a few truant lads breaking the Sabbath with their play.
The town of Kirkcaple, of which and its adjacent parish of Portincross my father was the minister, lies on a hillside above the little bay of Caple, and looks squarely out on the North Sea. Round the horns of land which enclose the bay the coast shows on either side a battlement of stark red cliffs through which a burn or two makes a pass to the water's edge. The bay itself is ringed with fine clean sands, where we lads of the burgh school loved to bathe in the warm weather. But on long holidays the sport was to go farther afield among the cliffs; for there there were many deep caves and pools, where podleys might be caught with the line, and hid treasures sought for at the expense of the skin of the knees and the buttons of the trousers. Many a long Saturday I have passed in a crinkle of the cliffs, having lit a fire of driftwood, and made believe that I was a smuggler or a Jacobite new landed from France. There was a band of us in Kirkcaple, lads of my own age, including Archie Leslie, the son of my father's session-clerk, and Tam Dyke, the provost's nephew. We were sealed to silence by the blood oath, and we bore each the name of some historic pirate or sailorman. I was Paul Jones, Tam was Captain Kidd, and Archie, need I say it, was Morgan himself. Our tryst was a cave where a little water called the Dyve Burn had cut its way through the cliffs to the sea. There we forgathered in the summer evenings and of a Saturday afternoon in winter, and told mighty tales of our prowess and flattered our silly hearts. But the sober truth is that our deeds were of the humblest, and a dozen of fish or a handful of apples was all our booty, and our greatest exploit a fight with the roughs at the Dyve tan-work.
My father's spring Communion fell on the last Sabbath of April, and on the particular Sabbath of which I speak the weather was mild and bright for the time of year. I had been surfeited with the Thursday's and Saturday's services, and the two long diets of worship on the Sabbath were hard for a lad of twelve to bear with the spring in his bones and the sun slanting through the gallery window. There still remained the service on the Sabbath evening - a doleful prospect, for the Rev. Mr Murdoch of Kilchristie, noted for the length of his discourses, had exchanged pulpits with my father. So my mind was ripe for the proposal of Archie Leslie, on our way home to tea, that by a little skill we might give the kirk the slip. At our Communion the pews were emptied of their regular occupants and the congregation seated itself as it pleased. The manse seat was full of the Kirkcaple relations of Mr Murdoch, who had been invited there by my mother to hear him, and it was not hard to obtain permission to sit with Archie and Tam Dyke in the cock-loft in the gallery. Word was sent to Tam, and so it happened that three abandoned lads duly passed the plate and took their seats in the cock-loft. But when the bell had done jowing, and we heard by the sounds of their feet that the elders had gone in to the kirk, we slipped down the stairs and out of the side door. We were through the churchyard in a twinkling, and hot-foot on the road to the Dyve Burn. It was the fashion of the genteel in Kirkcaple to put their boys into what were known as Eton suits - long trousers, cut- away jackets, and chimney-pot hats. I had been one of the earliest victims, and well I remember how I fled home from the Sabbath school with the snowballs of the town roughs rattling off my chimney-pot. Archie had followed, his family being in all things imitators of mine. We were now clothed in this wearisome garb, so our first care was to secrete safely our hats in a marked spot under some whin bushes on the links. Tam was free from the bondage of fashion, and wore his ordinary best knickerbockers. From inside his jacket he unfolded his special treasure, which was to light us on our expedition - an evil-smelling old tin lantern with a shutter.
Tam was of the Free Kirk persuasion, and as his Communion fell on a different day from ours, he was spared the bondage of church attendance from which Archie and I had revolted. But notable events had happened that day in his church. A black man, the Rev. John Something-or-other, had been preaching. Tam was full of the portent. 'A nagger,' he said, 'a great black chap as big as your father, Archie.' He seemed to have banged the bookboard with some effect, and had kept Tam, for once in his life, awake. He had preached about the heathen in Africa, and how a black man was as good as a white man in the sight of God, and he had forecast a day when the negroes would have something to teach the British in the way of civilization. So at any rate ran the account of Tam Dyke, who did not share the preacher's views. 'It's all nonsense, Davie. The Bible says that the children of Ham were to be our servants. If I were the minister I wouldn't let a nigger into the pulpit. I wouldn't let him farther than the Sabbath school.'
Night fell as we came to the broomy spaces of the links, and ere we had breasted the slope of the neck which separates Kirkcaple Bay from the cliffs it was as dark as an April evening with a full moon can be. Tam would have had it darker. He got out his lantern, and after a prodigious waste of matches kindled the candle-end inside, turned the dark shutter, and trotted happily on. We had no need of his lighting till the Dyve Burn was reached and the path began to descend steeply through the rift in the crags.
It was here we found that some one had gone before us. Archie was great in those days at tracking, his ambition running in Indian paths. He would walk always with his head bent and his eyes on the ground, whereby he several times found lost coins and once a trinket dropped by the provost's wife. At the edge of the burn, where the path turns downward, there is a patch of shingle washed up by some spate. Archie was on his knees in a second. 'Lads,' he cried, 'there's spoor here;' and then after some nosing, 'it's a man's track, going downward, a big man with flat feet. It's fresh, too, for it crosses the damp bit of gravel, and the water has scarcely filled the holes yet.'
- Three or four inches of water now flooded the cave of the
- growing in me at this time that I really did not want to
- of Galvin and his cheap and coarse methods of ingratiating
- fear into most employees of the road as well as its passengers,
- our tents. They were very civil, and offered us a house;
- The only thing that consoled me, however, as I rode toward
- be done in this way! And, what was worse, he was so gayly
- put to work on the Globe-Democrat. And so my reputation
- solid wall opened before her; it was another masked door.
- know what they’ll do for me if the paper will let them,
- “O-oh, that’s all right—that’s all right,” he
- their first clue. The Wood was searched, without success
- lamp was incapable of penetrating the fog. He groped with
- who had no occasion for risking their lives in defense
- had these appeals from Dunlap, Brady and several others
- more attention to him than to me. They turned to him as
- He strove to peer about him, but the feeble ray of the
- office and let the boys make a picture of him—your friends,
- emotions and ideas which had hitherto been locked up in
- dramatic page, asking me to see plays from time to time;
- a short time we were surrounded by a large group of the
- I smiled and flushed and thanked him, but for the life
- away, a mere hamlet like this one. His plan was to conceal
- some of them on, placing the rest in a jar. There was a
- in which they are here mentioned, expressing their respective
- the ills and pains that had beset us all. We had not always
- in its depths, an ideal place to bury his booty quickly.
- “Yes, sir. Fairly well, sir.” I was as humble in his
- designs to a successful conclusion. One party he moved
- contain myself. I wanted to thank him, to apologize, to
- without success. The death of firemen, engineers, messengers,
- met at her aunt’s home at eight-thirty, because I saw
- and go into permanent camp just beyond the great river
- dreams. She was the be-all and the end-all of my existence.
- had heard of the many money shipments made by the express
- where I managed to keep him by me that time until he became
- that she might honestly give him the answer that he demanded.
- as well as nearly all other trains stopped for water. Beyond
- dictates of conventional society—that is, bear and rear
- from her, and the world was beautiful. A negro in an outlying
- solid wall opened before her; it was another masked door.
- world knew little of strict monogamy, and some countries
- after completing one big assignment or another, I would
- dreamed over before as representing all that was charming
- in all the finer points of big game hunting. Of an evening
- to hunt here and there, early and late, without finding
- let me on, and Galvin will be here any minute!” For the
- joys of which I knew nothing, said he was going also. And
- about the premises by night. He came and went as he saw
- who will swing the censer before our ambitions and desires.