It would have been something, in the monotony of one of the most trying of positions, to meet one who snatched at the offered means of spiritual growth, even if that disciple had not been a lovely girl, with the woman waking in her eyes. He commenced the duties of the day with considerably more of energy than he had yet brought to bear on his uninteresting pupils; and this energy did not flag before its effects upon the boys began to react in fresh impulse upon itself.
O little Bethlem! poor in walls,
But rich in furniture.
John mason’s Spiritual Songs.
There was one great alleviation to the various discomforts of Sutherland’s tutor-life. It was, that, except during school-hours, he was expected to take no charge whatever of his pupils. They ran wild all other times; which was far better, in every way, both for them and for him. Consequently, he was entirely his own master beyond the fixed margin of scholastic duties; and he soon found that his absence, even from the table, was a matter of no interest to the family. To be sure, it involved his own fasting till the next meal-time came round—for the lady was quite a household martinet; but that was his own concern.
That very evening, he made his way to David’s cottage, about the country supper-time, when he thought he should most likely find him at home. It was a clear, still, moonlit night, with just an air of frost. There was light enough for him to see that the cottage was very neat and tidy, looking, in the midst of its little forest, more like an English than a Scotch habitation. He had had the advantage of a few months’ residence in a leafy region on the other side of the Tweed, and so was able to make the comparison. But what a different leafage that was from this! That was soft, floating, billowy; this hard, stiff, and straight-lined, interfering so little with the skeleton form, that it needed not to be put off in the wintry season of death, to make the trees in harmony with the landscape. A light was burning in the cottage, visible through the inner curtain of muslin, and the outer one of frost. As he approached the door, he heard the sound of a voice; and from the even pitch of the tone, he concluded at once that its owner was reading aloud. The measured cadence soon convinced him that it was verse that was being read; and the voice was evidently that of David, and not of Margaret. He knocked at the door. The voice ceased, chairs were pushed back, and a heavy step approached. David opened the door himself.
“Eh! Maister Sutherlan’,” said he, “I thocht it micht aiblins be yersel. Ye’re welcome, sir. Come butt the hoose. Our place is but sma’, but ye’ll no min’ sitttin’ doon wi’ our ain sels. Janet, ooman, this is Maister Sutherlan’. Maggy, my doo, he’s a frien’ o’ yours, o’ a day auld, already. Ye’re kindly welcome, Maister Sutherlan’. I’m sure it’s verra kin’ o’ you to come an’ see the like o’ huz.”