Sandy had an aversion to commit himself to definite statements on any subject not theological. If you asked him how long the morning’s tramp would be, it was “no verra long, juist a bit ayant the hull yonner.” And if, at the end of the seventh mile, you complained that it was much too far, he would never do more than admit that “it micht be shorter.” If you called him to rejoice over a trout that weighed close upon two pounds, he allowed that it was “no bad—but there’s bigger anes i’ the loch gin we cud but wile them oot.” And at lunch-time, when we turned out a full basket of shining fish on the heather, the most that he would say, while his eyes snapped with joy and pride, was, “Aweel, we canna complain, the day.”
Then he would gather an armful of dried heather-stems for kindling, and dig out a few roots and crooked limbs of the long-vanished forest from the dry, brown, peaty soil, and make our campfire of prehistoric wood—just for the pleasant, homelike look of the blaze—and sit down beside it to eat our lunch. Heat is the least of the benefits that man gets from fire. It is the sign of cheerfulness and good comradeship. I would not willingly satisfy my hunger, even in a summer nooning, without a little flame burning on a rustic altar to consecrate and enliven the feast. When the bread and cheese were finished and the pipes were filled with Virginia tobacco, Sandy would begin to tell me, very solemnly and respectfully, about the mistakes I had made in the fishing that day, and mourn over the fact that the largest fish had not been hooked. There was a strong strain of pessimism in Sandy, and he enjoyed this part of the sport immensely.
But he was at his best in the walk home through the lingering twilight, when the murmur of the sea trembled through the air, and the incense of burning peat floated up from the cottages, and the stars blossomed one by one in the pale-green sky. Then Sandy dandered on at his ease down the hills, and discoursed of things in heaven and earth. He was an unconscious follower of the theology of the Reverend John Jasper, of Richmond, Virginia, and rejected the Copernican theory of the universe as inconsistent with the history of Joshua. “Gin the sun doesna muve,” said he, “what for wad Joshua be tellin’ him to stond steel? ’A wad suner beleeve there was a mistak’ in the veesible heevens than ae fault in the Guid Buik.” Whereupon we held long discourse of astronomy and inspiration; but Sandy concluded it with a philosophic word which left little to be said: “Aweel, yon teelescope is a wonnerful deescovery; but ‘a dinna think the less o’ the Baible.”
Memory is a capricious and arbitrary creature. You never can tell what pebble she will pick up from the shore of life to keep among her treasures, or what inconspicuous flower of the field she will preserve as the symbol of