Saunderson’s election to the Free Church of Kilbogie was therefore an event in the ecclesiastical world, and a consistent tradition in the parish explained its inwardness on certain grounds, complimentary both to the judgment of Kilbogie and the gifts of Mr. Saunderson. On Saturday evening he was removed from the train by the merest accident, and left the railway station in such a maze of meditation that he ignored the road to Kilbogie altogether, although its sign-post was staring him in the face, and continued his way to Drumtochty. It was half-past nine when Jamie Soutar met him on the high road through our glen, still travelling steadily west, and being arrested by his appearance, beguiled him into conversation, till he elicited that Saunderson was minded to reach Kilbogie. For an hour did the wanderer rest in Jamie’s kitchen, during which he put Jamie’s ecclesiastical history into a state of thorough repair—making seven distinct parallels between the errors that had afflicted the Scottish Church and the early heretical sects,—and then Jamie gave him in charge of a ploughman who was courting in Kilbogie, and was not averse to a journey that seemed to illustrate the double meaning of charity. Jeremiah was handed over to his anxious hosts at a quarter to one in the morning, covered with mud, somewhat fatigued, but in great peace of soul, having settled the place of election in the prophecy of Habakkuk as he came down with his silent companion through Tochty woods.
[Illustration: He put Jamie’s ecclesiastical history into A state of thorough repair]
Nor was that all he had done. When they came out from the shadow and struck into the parish of Kilbogie—whose fields, now yellow unto harvest, shone in the moonlight—his guide broke silence and enlarged on a plague of field-mice which had quite suddenly appeared, and had sadly devastated the grain of Kilbogie. Saunderson awoke from study and became exceedingly curious, first of all demanding a particular account of the coming of the mice, their multitude, their habits, and their determination. Then he asked many questions about the moral conduct and godliness of the inhabitants of Kilbogie, which his companion, as a native of Drumtochty, painted in gloomy colours, although indicating as became a lover that even in Kilbogie there was a remnant. Next morning the minister rose at daybreak, and was found wandering through the fields in such a state of excitement that he could hardly be induced to look at breakfast. When the “books” were placed before him, he turned promptly to the ten plagues of Egypt, which he expounded in order as preliminary to a full treatment of the visitations of Providence.