Jamie's Faith by Grace Greenwood

Margaret Grey was a widow, who, with three young children, lived in a small cottage on the estate of Lord Dundale, in Scotland. When her husband died, Margaret had been compelled to give up the land he had farmed, with the exception of a little garden, and a patch of pasturage on which she supported a cow and a shaggy Highland pony, called Rab.

This last was a very important member of the family, as without him the widow could not have conveyed to market the butter and eggs, on the proceeds of which the frugal little household subsisted. For his part, Rab seemed fully conscious of his own important and responsible position in the widow's family, gave up all frisking and frolicking ways, and conducted himself in a staid and sober manner on his way to and from the market-town, and assumed towards the children in their little rides a sort of protecting, patronizing, paternal character, which was really edifying to behold.

Lord Dundale was a young man, very handsome and stately, but gentle and gracious, and much beloved by his family and tenants. The children on his estate looked up to him with loving reverence, as to a superior being, from whom nothing but good and happiness were to be expected by the deserving. For them his youth, beauty, and elegance had especial poetic charms; their sweet, simple affection, their timid, grateful devotion, were laid at his feet,—so that when moving among them he trod on unseen flowers. They loved to hear and to tell of the grand and beautiful things at that fairy palace, the Castle,—a noble old edifice, with massive towers, a moat, a lofty gateway, and an ancient drawbridge and portcullis, which stood high in the midst of great forest-trees.

Lord Dundale, being in delicate health, was able to spend but a few months of each year in Scotland, the climate being too severe for him; but he loved the place of his birth, and was never so happy as when, like Rob Roy, he could say, "My foot is on my native heath."

To his tenants his yearly visit to his Scottish estate was always a season of festivity: they hailed the signal of his return, the running up of a flag on the highest tower of the Castle, with shouts of hearty rejoicing.

The cottage of the Grey was on a shady lane, through which the young lord often rode in the pleasant autumn mornings or evenings, sometimes with a gay party of ladies and gentlemen, guests at the Castle, sometimes, when the hour was early, quite alone, and sometimes with one beautiful dark-eyed lady, fresh as a rose and proud as a lily, who it was said was one day to be the mistress of Dundale Castle. The Grey children, little Effie and Jamie, noticed that when the young lord rode by himself, or with ever so large a party of riders, he never failed to acknowledge their bows and courtesies with a nod and a pleasant word and smile; but that when he and the dark-eyed lady together ambled slowly past, he did not seem to see their wistful little faces at all. So, in their secret hearts, they took something very like a spite against the beautiful Lady Evelyn, and hoped their young lord would change his mind.

One autumn evening, as Margaret Grey rode homeward from the market-town, she noticed that Rab, the pony, was languid and slow, that he hung his head dejectedly, and made no effort to browse along the hedge-rows as usual. She supposed that he was tired with his day's work, but trusted that he would be well in the morning. Alas! when the morning came, poor, faithful old Rab was found dead, stretched out stiff and cold in his paddock!

Effie and Jamie grieved passionately over their lost friend and playfellow. They sat down beside him on the grass, and, looking at his poor, helpless feet, worn in their service, wept bitterly that they would carry them along the lane and up the hillside no more; they patted half fearfully the shaggy neck; which would arch to their caresses never again; they drew back with a shudder, after touching the cold lips which had so often eaten the sweet clover from their hands, and turned with a sense of strange wonder and awfulness from the death-misted eyes, which had always shone upon them with an almost human affection.

Margaret Grey wept also,—fewer tears than her children, but sadder. She had many sweet and mournful memories connected with poor Rab. Her dear old father gave him to her on her eighteenth birthday. She remembered many a joyful gallop on his back, through the lanes and over the moors. She remembered how sometimes she rode him slowly, with his rein on his neck; for young Angus Grey walked by her side and told her pleasant news,—always pleasant and interesting, though always about the same thing. She remembered how once he checked Rab's rein under the shade of a hawthorn-tree, and asked her to be his wife. She remembered, too, how Rab had borne her to the Kirk, to be married to Angus Grey; and she thought of three other Sundays when he had carried her and her baby to the christening; and of yet one other time, when he had drawn slowly away from her door a hearse, whereon lay the beloved husband and father. She thought, too, with tender anxiety, that now the last help of the widow, her humble fellow-laborer, was taken from her; and the grim wolf of want and hunger seemed to stand in poor dead Rab's place. Even the baby seemed to feel something of her anxiety and distress, and put up its pretty lip to cry; so to comfort it and to calm herself by her usual household labor, she returned to the cottage, leaving Effie and Jamie still sitting beside old Rab. Their grief had somewhat moderated; yet they sobbed as they talked of the virtues of the deceased, and wondered what life would be without him.

"Ah, Jamie," said Effie, "inna you wish the Lord was here now? You ken mither told us how He cured sick folk, and how He once made a mon alive again that had been dead four days. He could make our Rab alive wi' a touch of His finger, gin (if) He would try, Jamie."

Wee Jamie was a simple-hearted child, scarcely four summers old: his little brain was easily bewildered. For him there was but one Lord, the good and generous young nobleman at the Castle. Of his power and goodness Jamie could believe anything, and though he opened his eyes wide at his sister's story, his face grew radiant with joy, as just at that moment he caught sight of Lord Dundale trotting slowly down the lane on his beautiful thoroughbred bay mare. In a moment he was over the fence, in the road, in the very path of the rider, crying out in an agony of entreaty, "Stop, stop, my lord! our Rab is dead; ye maun (must) make him alive again!"

Lord Dundale checked his horse, and looked down on his little petitioner in silent astonishment, while Mrs. Grey ran out of the cottage, with baby in her arms, and, catching hold of Jamie, strove to lift him out of the way. But the little fellow resisted sturdily, crying still, "Let him make Rab alive! He maun make him alive!"

"But, my little fellow," said the Earl, smiling, "if Rab is really dead,—and I am very sorry to hear it,—I cannot make him alive: how could you think of such a thing?"

But Jamie stood his ground, answering, "My mither says you once made a big mon alive after he had been dead four days. Rab is only a sma' pony, and he's been dead but a wee bit while; so it's na a hard job for you. Dinna say you will na do it."

"What can the little lad mean, Mrs. Grey?" asked Lord Dundale, utterly bewildered.

"I dinna ken (do not know), my lord," she replied, "unless, Heaven save us! he takes you for the Lord of lords. I didna think the bairn was so heathenish and so daft (foolish). You maun forgie (must forgive) the poor child."

Lord Dundale dismounted, and, taking the little fellow by the hand, by a few simple questions, soon found that this was indeed Jamie's strange delusion.

"My poor little laddie," he said, "you are wofully mistaken. I cannot bring your dear old pony back to life. You can never play with him, or feed him, or ride him among the heather or along the burnside again. Rab's work is done, and it is time he should rest. But, Jamie, I can give you another pony in his place, one that I hope may serve your good mother as well as Rab, and that you and Effie must love for my sake. And now good by. I hope Jamie will yet know well the Lord most great and good and loving, the only true Lord of life and death."

Taking a kindly leave of Mrs. Grey, the young Earl then rode on, but in the course of the day the groom of the Castle galloped down to the widow's cottage, leading the new pony, a handsome, sturdy little animal, and so gentle and docile that not only Jamie but timid little Effie could ride him with safety; and even the baby, when set on his back, played with his mane and answered his whinny with a triumphant crow.

So Jamie's faith, though mistaken, was rewarded; and his innocent, fervent little prayer was answered, not by a Divine miracle, but by a generous human heart, which also found its reward in proving the truth of the Master's words,—"It is more blessed to give than to receive."