Now I maun tell ye the cause o' the spate. The thunder storm brought down sic a volume o' rain frae the mountains as filled the loch to overflowin', and loosed the earth that had fa'en intil the burn. Then the big body o' water, pent up back in the glen, burst through, an' sweepin’ a' afore it, came down wi' owre muckle force. When daylicht brak the burn was wimplin' alang in its auld peacefu' manner and the linn was dancin' an’ loupin' in the sunlicht as if it had ne'er done aucht else since it first began to rin its course.
But our end o' the strath was a wide-spread scene o' desolation, what wi' the raxin' an’ rivin' o’ the spate, an' the sand and earth covering the pastures. Ithers had suffered loss, but nane sae muckle as oursels, owin' to our lyin' mair near to the outhurst. The house o' Craigielinn was just a heap o' stanes. The spate had struck the upper side wi' a’ its concentrated fury, and the walls bein' undermined had fa'en doun. Only page 72 the spence an' twa-three rooms were left standin'. Madam's chamber was clean gane. There was no a vestige o't left. “Aye,” quo she, “and I would hae gane tae, only for the braw callant that warsled oot wi' me yon nicht. I canna ea' his name, but it wasna Dunean Maebuist. Hae a pinch, Bailie.”
My puir faither was sair grieved an' wadna be comforted. What would words dae for him when ruin girned in his face? Minister McGelpin minded him o' how his ain life an' the lives o' his dochter an' kins-folk had been mercifully preserved frae destruction. But he only shook his heid. “Wherefore is licht gien to him that is in misery, and life unto the bitter in soul?”—“Aye,” quo the Minister, “Job said that in his tribulation; but wha was it said—‘Gird up now thy loins like a man?'—Dinna lose faith in the Lord's providence, Craigielinn. Nae matter what ither things may be taken awa, be sure that ye haud fast to that faith as a drownin' man wad grapple wi' a tow.” It was sound counsel, but eh! the laird was sair for-foughten, and couldna pit trouble aside wi' as muckle ease as ane might cast awa a pack.
Robin Grant came owre and carried Madam Cranston and mysel' to Gowanbraes. And takin' compassion on the Bailie an' his son—feckless bodies—he brought them awa wi' us. The Minister came on his powney; an' my faither and Mr. Renwick, wha seemed to be ane o' the family noo, stayed to set aboot pittin' things straight as weel's they could, an' came owre in the gloamin'.
And now comes the last seen o' the play.
We were a' assembled in Gowanbraes' parlour that page 73 e'en! an' Bailie Macbuist, after shifting aboot an' aboot mony times in a maist uncomfortable manner, an' blawin’ as muckle as he could grip o' his neb in a wheezy sort o' way, said—” Weel, weel; this is a sair mischance, Craigielinn, an' I maun awa till Ayr the morn's mornin'. Sae I'll be wantin' your answer the nicht. Matters are no the same as they were yestreen; but I hae had a crack wi' Duncan an' he's a wilful laddie. We'll no draw back frae oor offer. What say ye laird? Gie's your answer.”
The laird, who was thrang wi' thochts o' his ain losses, heaved a weary sigh that was amaist a sob, an' liftin’ his head frae his hands he gied me a sorrowfu' glance. “Janet maun answer,” said he.
I kent fine what a' this was aboot. And I plucked up spirit an' spake richt out. “Gin ye want to ken, Bailie,” quo I, “will I wed wi' your Duncan, I'se tell ye ‘No,' an' ‘No,’ an' ‘No'—ance an' for aye.”
“What's this?” ca'd out Madam Cranston. “Wha talks o' weddin'? Speak oot, James Cranston. I demand it o' ye. What is't the Bailie's seekin'?”
“Nae great thing, Meddam,” quo the Bailie, afore my faither could find words.—” Nae great thing. My son, Meddam Cranston, has askit the honour o' Miss Janet's hand in marriage, an' I hae gi'en my consent.”
Madam came up out o' her chair. I never saw sic a fine expression o' scorn on a human countenance as she showed then. Her een darted fire, an' her lips fail quivered wi' wrath. “How daur ye, mon—how daut ye? Ye hae gi'en consent! Then on the pairt of Janet Cranston, since the heid o' the house disna speak, I hae the muckle, honour to refuse consent. page 74 Man! how daur ye even ane o' your kith to Craigielinn's dochter? Oor Jenny to wed wi' sic a thing as yon!” she cried, an' the look she gied Duncan made the puir wee thing shiver in his shoon. “Na, na; when Janet weds, she'll be wantin' a man, an' no a meal-pock. Whaur's the laddie that brought me through the spate? He shall hae my Jenny.”
Grippin’ me by the hand, she glowered defiance at the Bailie and a' his kin. I looked ower till my faither, an' I saw his countenance clear like the lift after a mist. “Bailie,” said he, “I canna dae mair. It's gane oot o' my hands.”
Then up raise Bailie Macbuist, his face evendoun purple wi' rage. “Vera weel,” quo he. “Then ye'll just pay back what ye're owin', Craigielinn. I canna be fash'd wi' folk that dinna ken their ain minds Ye're a fair man to deal wi'; I'll no deny that. But when ye lat a wheen lassies an' auld wives meddle wi' your affairs, ye're tint athegither. I'll say nae mair. There's nae need. Pay me the siller, an' there's an end o't. But tak' tent, Craigielinn—tak’ tent. Gin I haena the bawbees in my hand afore neist Monday I'se be laird o' Craigielinn, an' no ye.”
“Ye! Ye'll be laird o' Craigielinn! I began Madam Cranston, shakin' her cane in the Bailie's face. But just then Mr. Renwick spak' out.—” Ye'll be nae sic thing. Bailie,” quo he. “Folk shouldna threaten till they hae the power—–”
“But I hae the power, I tell ye—–I” cried Mr Macbuist.
“Sit ye doun, man, and dinua make sic a stramash. I'll take a pinch o' the sneeshin, Meddam.—Ye see, page 75 Bailie—mind me noo, Jamie—there's nae wadset or any debt owin' on the lands o'. Craigielinn. Gae back to Ayr, man, an' speer at Maister Mucklegrab, the writer, an' ye'll find it discharged, wi' a’ fees and charges. Sae, ye ken, ye canna hope to buckle oor braw Janet wi' your ain puit wean.”
“Deed then ye maun just picture the seene for yersels. Madam flourishin' her cane, an' denouncin’ the hale tribe o' Macbuist; the Bailie reamin' an’ splutterin' wi’ wrath; Mr. Renwick fair demented wi' pleasure at the Bailie's discomfiture; my faither lookin' on wi' astonishment an' gratification shawin' in every line o' his features; auld Gowanbraes an' Robin soberly sitting out the din; an' Maggie an' mysel haudin' till ane anither for mutual protection.
In the midst o' the tumult young Duncan uplifted his pipin' voice.—” Let there be nae mair o' this,” quo he. “If Miss Janet prefers ony ither man, I'm no desiring to press my claims on her hand. I confess to muckle respect and admiration for the young leddy, and would hae been baith proud and happy to hae made her my wife. But if she'll no take me, I can dae very weel without her. There's as gude fish in the sea as ever cam' out o.t. Come awa, Bailie.”
And wi' the word he led the angry auld man out o' the room, nintterin' as he went aboot the impudence o' cock-lairds an' auld wives.’ “Aye,” quo Minister McGelpin, when they were gane,—” this is a maist satisfactory climax. Craigielinn; and ye should be weel content. The mornin' was a thocht cloudy, but the e'en has set fair. Nae dout the Bailie is a maister o' the art o' vituperation, but he's no equal to Madam page 76 Cranston in logical demonstration. And the young man's no gifted wi' pairts o' a nature to win the affections o' sic a braw lassie as Janet; but I am bound to say that he showed a certain sense o' self-respect in his latter words.”
“‘Deed ye're no far wrang there, Minister,” quo Madam. “I'm thinking there must be a drap bluid frae the mither's side in his veins.”
“And now,” said Mr. Renwick, “I think this is a gude time, Madam, to explain to these lassies and to Gowanbraes, who is now in a manner ane o' the family, who I am.”
Madam nodded her head; and accepting this as a token of approval, he began his story—first takin' my faither's hand intil his ain.