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Of Mr. John Heritage And The Difference In Points Of
Dickson McCunn was never to forget the first stage in that pilgrimage. A little after
midday he descended from a grimy third-class carriage at a little station whose name I
have forgotten. In the village nearby he purchased some new-baked buns and ginger
biscuits, to which he was partial, and followed by the shouts of urchins, who admired his
pack--"Look at the auld man gaun to the schule"--he emerged into open country. The late
April noon gleamed like a frosty morning, but the air, though tonic, was kind. The road
ran over sweeps of moorland where curlews wailed, and into lowland pastures dotted
with very white, very vocal lambs. The young grass had the warm fragrance of new milk.
As he went he munched his buns, for he had resolved to have no plethoric midday meal,
and presently he found the burnside nook of his fancy, and halted to smoke. On a patch of
turf close to a grey stone bridge he had out his Walton and read the chapter on "The
Chavender or Chub." The collocation of words delighted him and inspired him to verse.
"Lavender or Lub"--"Pavender or Pub"- "Gravender or Grub"--but the monosyllables
proved too vulgar for poetry. Regretfully he desisted.
The rest of the road was as idyllic as the start. He would tramp steadily for a mile or so
and then saunter, leaning over bridges to watch the trout in the pools, admiring from a
dry-stone dyke the unsteady gambols of new-born lambs, kicking up dust from strips of
moor-burn on the heather. Once by a fir-wood he was privileged to surprise three lunatic
hares waltzing. His cheeks glowed with the sun; he moved in an atmosphere of pastoral,
serene and contented. When the shadows began to lengthen he arrived at the village of
Cloncae, where he proposed to lie. The inn looked dirty, but he found a decent widow,
above whose door ran the legend in home-made lettering, "Mrs. brockie tea and Coffee,"
and who was willing to give him quarters. There he supped handsomely off ham and
eggs, and dipped into a work called Covenanting Worthies, which garnished a table
decorated with sea-shells. At half-past nine precisely he retired to bed and unhesitating
Next morning he awoke to a changed world. The sky was grey and so low that his
outlook was bounded by a cabbage garden, while a surly wind prophesied rain. It was
chilly, too, and he had his breakfast beside the kitchen fire. Mrs. Brockie could not spare
a capital letter for her surname on the signboard, but she exalted it in her talk. He heard of
a multitude of Brockies, ascendant, descendant, and collateral, who seemed to be in a fair
way to inherit the earth. Dickson listened sympathetically, and lingered by the fire. He
felt stiff from yesterday's exercise, and the edge was off his spirit.
The start was not quite what he had pictured. His pack seemed heavier, his boots tighter,
and his pipe drew badly. The first miles were all uphill, with a wind tingling his ears, and
no colours in the landscape but brown and grey. Suddenly he awoke to the fact that he
was dismal, and thrust the notion behind him. He expanded his chest and drew in long
draughts of air. He told himself that this sharp weather was better than sunshine. He
remembered that all travellers in romances battled with mist and rain. Presently his body
recovered comfort and vigour, and his mind worked itself into cheerfulness.