An Autobiography HTML version

was very popular with the young friends of her youngest brother, who might have
experienced calf love; so very real, but so very ineffectual. One of these said to her:--
"Oh, Miss Mary, you're just a delight, you are so witty." Another, when she spoke of
some man who talked such delightful nonsense, said, "If you would only come to
Branxholme I'd talk nonsense to you the haill (whole) day."
When I arrived at the old home I found Aunt Mary vigorously rubbing her hand and wrist
(she had slipped downstairs in a neighbour's house, and broken her arm, and had to drive
home before she could have it set). No one from the neighbour's house went to
accompany her; no one came to enquire; no message was sent. When she recovered so far
as to be able to be out, she met at Dunbar the gentleman and lady also driving in their
conveyance. They greeted each other, and aunt could not resist the temptation to say:--"I
am so glad to see you, and so glad that you have spoken to me, for I thought you were so
offended at my taking the liberty of breaking my arm in your house that you did not mean
to speak to me again." This little expression of what the French call malice, not the
English meaning, was the only instance I can recollect of Aunt Mary's not putting the
kindest construction on everybody's words and actions. But when I think of the love that
Aunt Mary gathered to herself from brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, cousins, and
friends--it seems as if the happiest wife and mother of a large family could not reckon up
as rich stores of affection. She was the unfailing correspondent of those members of the
family who were separated by land and ocean from the old home, the link that often
bound these together, the most tolerant to their failings, the most liberal in her aid--full of
suggestions, as well as of sympathy. Now, in my Aunt Margaret's enfeebled state, she
was the head of the house and the director of all things. Although she had differed from
the then two single sisters and the family generally at the time of the disruption of the
Church of Scotland, and gone over to the Free Church, the more intensely Calvinistic of
the two, though accepting the same standards--the Westminster Confession and the
Shorter Catechism--all the harsher features fell off the living texture of her faith like cold
water off a duck's back. From natural preference she chose for her devotions those parts
of the Bible which I selected with deliberate intention. She wondered to find so much
spiritual kinship with me, when I built on such a different foundation. When I suggested
that the 109th Psalm, which she read as the allotted portion in "Fletcher's Family
Devotions," was not fit to be read in a Christian household, she said meekly--"You are
quite right, I shall mark it, and never read it again."
My mother always thought me like her sister Mary, and when I asked Mr. Taylor if he
saw any resemblance between us, he said, with cruel candour--"Oh, no. Your Aunt Mary
is a very handsome woman." But in ways and manners, both my sister Mary and myself
had considerable resemblances to our mother's favourite sister; and I can see traces of it
in my own nieces. There can be no direct descent from maiden aunts, though the working
ants and bees do not inherit their industrious habits from either male or female parents,
but from their maiden aunts. Galton's theory, that potentialities not utilized by individuals
or by their direct descendants may miss a generation or two, opens a wide field of
thought, and collaterals may draw from the original source what was never suspected.
And the Brodies intermarried in such a way as to shock modern ideas. When my father
was asked if a certain Mr. Dudgeon, of Leith, was related to him, he said--"He is my