But the thunder rolls away, distant and more distant—the day is lost, and won; but, sudden and clear, the melody rings out once more, fuller now, richer, and complete; the silver pipe has become a golden trumpet. And yet, what sorrow, what anguish unspeakable rings through it, the weeping and wailing of a nation! So the melody sinks slowly, to die away in one long-drawn, minor note, and Donald is looking across at me with his grave smile, and I will admit both his face and figure are sadly blurred.
“Donald,” said I, after a little, “Donald, I will never speak against the pipes again; they are indeed the king of all instruments—played as you play them.”
“Ou ay, I’m a bonnie piper, I’ll no deny it!” he answered. “I’m glad ye like it, for, Sassenach though ye be, it proves ye hae the music. ’Tis a bit pibroch I made tae Wullie Wallace—him as the damned Sassenach murtiered—black be their fa’. Aweel! ’twas done afore your time or mine—so—gude-nict tae ye, Southeron!” Saying which, he rose, saluted me stiffly, and stalked majestically to bed.
HOW BLACK GEORGE AND I SHOOK HANDS
The world was full of sunshine, the blithe song of birds, and the sweet, pure breath of waking flowers as I rose next morning, and, coming to the stream, threw myself down beside it and plunged my hands and arms and head into the limpid water whose contact seemed to fill me with a wondrous gladness in keeping with the world about me.
In a little while I rose, with the water dripping from me, and having made shift to dry myself upon my neckcloth, nothing else being available, returned to the cottage.
Above my head I could hear a gentle sound rising and falling with a rhythmic measure, that told me Donald still slept; so, clapping on my hat and coat, I started out to my first day’s work at the forge, breakfastless, for the good and sufficient reason that there was none to be had, but full of the glad pure beauty of the morning. And I bethought me of the old Psalmist’s deathless words:
“Though sorrow endure for a night, yet joy cometh in the morning” (brave, true words which shall go ringing down the ages to bear hope and consolation to many a wearied, troubled soul); for now, as I climbed the steep path where bats had hovered last night, and turned to look back at the pit which had seemed a place of horror—behold! it was become a very paradise of quivering green, spangled with myriad jewels where the dew yet clung.
Indeed, if any man would experience the full ecstasy of being alive—the joi de vivre as the French have it—let him go out into the early morning, when the sun is young, and look about him with a seeing eye.
So, in a little while, with the golden song of a blackbird in my ears, I turned village-wards, very hungry, yet, nevertheless, content.
Long before I reached the smithy I could hear the ring of Black George’s hammer, though the village was not yet astir, and it was with some trepidation as to my reception that I approached the open doorway.