Soon after supper was over, it was time for him to go; so, after kind hand-shakings and good nights, David accompanied him to the road, where he left him to find his way home by the star-light. As he went, he could not help pondering a little over the fact that a labouring man had discovered a difficulty, perhaps a fault, in one of his favourite poems, which had never suggested itself to him. He soon satisfied himself, however, by coming to the conclusion that the poet had not cared about the matter at all, having had no further intention in the poem than Hugh himself had found in it, namely, witchery and loveliness. But it seemed to the young student a wonderful fact, that the intercourse which was denied him in the laird’s family, simply from their utter incapacity of yielding it, should be afforded him in the family of a man who had followed the plough himself once, perhaps did so still, having risen only to be the overseer and superior assistant of labourers. He certainly felt, on his way home, much more reconciled to the prospect of his sojourn at Turriepuffit, than he would have thought it possible he ever should.
David lingered a few moments, looking up at the stars, before he re-entered his cottage. When he rejoined his wife and child, he found the Bible already open on the table for their evening devotions. I will close this chapter, as I began the first, with something like his prayer. David’s prayers were characteristic of the whole man; but they also partook, in far more than ordinary, of the mood of the moment. His last occupation had been star-gazing:
“O thou, wha keeps the stars alicht, an’ our souls burnin’ wi’ a licht aboon that o’ the stars, grant that they may shine afore thee as the stars for ever and ever. An’ as thou hauds the stars burnin’ a’ the nicht, whan there’s no man to see, so haud thou the licht burnin’ in our souls, whan we see neither thee nor it, but are buried in the grave o’ sleep an’ forgetfu’ness. Be thou by us, even as a mother sits by the bedside o’ her ailin’ wean a’ the lang nicht; only be thou nearer to us, even in our verra souls, an’ watch ower the warl’ o’ dreams that they mak’ for themsels. Grant that more an’ more thochts o’ thy thinkin’ may come into our herts day by day, till there shall be at last an open road atween thee an’ us, an’ thy angels may ascend and descend upon us, so that we may be in thy heaven, e’en while we are upo’ thy earth: Amen.”
In wood and stone, not the softest, but hardest, be always aptest for portraiture, both fairest for pleasure, and most durable for profit. Hard wits be hard to receive, but sure to keep; painful without weariness, heedful without wavering, constant without new-fangleness; bearing heavy things, though not lightly, yet willingly; entering hard things, though not easily, yet deeply; and so come to that perfectness of learning in the end, that quick wits seem in hope but do not in deed, or else very seldom ever attain unto.—Roger Ascham.—The Schoolmaster.