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My Father’s Memoir
by [?]

“She had another morn than ours.”

Then were seen in full action his keen, passionate nature, his sense of mental pain, and his supreme will, instant and unsparing, making himself and his terrified household give thanks in the midst of such a desolation,–and for it. Her warfare was accomplished, her iniquities were pardoned: she had already received from her Lord’s hand double for all her sins; this was his supreme and over-mastering thought, and he gave it utterance.

[Footnote 1: A year ago, I found an elderly countrywoman, a widow, waiting for me. Rising up, she said, “D’ye mind me?” I looked at her, but could get nothing from her face; but the voice remained in my ear, as if coming from “the fields of sleep,” and I said by a sort of instinct, “Tibbie Meek!” I had not seen her or heard her voice for more than forty years. She had come to get some medical advice. Voices are often like the smells of flowers and leaves, the tastes of wild fruits–they touch and awaken memory in a strange way. “Tibbie” is now living at Thankerton.]

[Footnote 2: This sofa, which was henceforward sacred in the house, he had always beside him. He used to tell us he set her down upon it when he brought her home to the manse.]

No man was happier in his wives. My mother was modest, calm, thrifty, reasonable, tender, happy-hearted. She was his student-love, and is even now remembered in that pastoral region, for “her sweet gentleness and wife-like government.” Her death and his sorrow and loss, settled down deep into the heart of the countryside. He was so young and bright, so full of fire, so unlike any one else, so devoted to his work, so chivalrous in his look and manner, so fearless, and yet so sensitive and self-contained. She was so wise, good and gentle, gracious and frank.

His subtlety of affection, and his almost cruel self-command, were shown on the day of the funeral. It was to Symington, four miles off,–a quiet little churchyard, lying in the shadow of Tinto; a place where she herself had wished to be laid. The funeral was chiefly on horseback. We, the family, were in coaches. I had been since the death in a sort of stupid musing and wonder, not making out what it all meant. I knew my mother was said to be dead. I saw she was still, and laid out, and then shut up, and didn’t move; but I did not know that when she was carried out in that long black box, and we all went with her, she alone was never to return.

When we got to the village all the people were at their doors. One woman, the blacksmith Thomas Spence’s wife, had a nursing baby in her arms, and he leapt up and crowed with joy at the strange sight, the crowding horsemen, the coaches, and the nodding plumes of the hearse. This was my brother William, then nine months old, and Margaret Spence was his foster-mother. Those with me were overcome at this sight; he of all the world whose, in some ways, was the greatest loss, the least conscious, turning it to his own childish glee.

We got to the churchyard and stood round the open grave. My dear old grandfather was asked by my father to pray; he did. I don’t remember his words; I believe he, through his tears and sobs, repeated the Divine words, “All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the word of the Lord endureth forever;” adding, in his homely and pathetic way, that the flower would again bloom, never again to fade; that what was now sown in dishonor and weakness, would be raised in glory and power, like unto His own glorious body. Then to my surprise and alarm, the coffin, resting on its bearers, was placed over that dark hole, and I watched with curious eye the unrolling of those neat black bunches of cords, which I have often enough seen since. My father took the one at the head, and also another much smaller springing from the same point as his, which he had caused to be put there, and unrolling it, put it into my hand. I twisted it firmly round my fingers, and awaited the result; the burial men with their real ropes lowered the coffin, and when it rested at the bottom, it was too far down for me to see it–the grave was made very deep, as he used afterwards to tell us, that it might hold us all–my father first and abruptly let his cord drop, followed by the rest. This was too much. I now saw what was meant, and held on and fixed my fist and feet, and I believe my father had some difficulty in forcing open my small fingers; he let the little black cord drop, and I remember, in my misery and anger, seeing its open end disappearing in the gloom.