Sunday, April 23, 2017

Luke 10:30-37


"Nothing is so strong as gentleness,
Nothing so gentle as real strength."
(Francis de Sales)

It was a trip William dreaded.  If he could stay in his beloved Highlands, he would be a happy man indeed.  However, he was being sent to the Prince Regent with another petition for the rights of his countrymen.  William had little hope it would be heeded, however.  England though small, was greedy, greedy for Wales, greedy for Ireland, and greedy for Scotland.   The Scotts were a fighting breed, if not against outside forces, then one clan against the other. 

But times were changing in the Highlands.  The 48,000 Highlanders in the British Army who joined to fight Napoleon, of whom he had been one, fought courageously raising their esteem in the eyes of the crown.  In fact, it was a Scotsman who captured the eagle of the 45th regiment of the French at the Battle of Waterloo.  Still, it was what a Scotsman hated the verra most, to put his brogs on English soil almost as much as France's.

However, some landholders like himself were concerned for the newer policy of what some called The Clearing.  The Countess of Scotland, with over a million acres, allowed her factor to burn the fields around her estate, causing thousands of people to be cleared out.  As estates became more costly to hold, the rights of the tenants suffered as rents were raised to impossible levels as another means to run off those who long had depended upon their lairds for their homes and livelihoods.  Many of these impoverished ones were fleeing to Ireland becoming "Scots-Irish."

As any good Scotsman would, William wore his kilt neatly plaited and fastened with a belt while the rest was worn over his shoulder fixed with the broach of his clan.  He preferred to wear a Swallow-tailed jacket, but for a long ride on horseback, he'd chosen the short wool  one over a vest.  The sporran he wore bore the head of a fox.  While riding he wore boots though normally he wore his low-cut brogs with silver buckles.  Of course he had his claymore, a broadsword, his dirk, a pair of pistols--single-barreled muzzle loading--and a powder-horn. 

William's hair, as black as a raven's wing, blew wildly, while his red beard reflected glints of sunshine.  The sturdy horse he rode was stout, strong, and steady in battle.  He wore the tartan plaid of his clan in his kilt.  As soon as he passed the border, his eyes were alert to danger.  A Scotsman would not always be verra welcome on English soil.  It had been decided that he would be better sent alone rather than in a band of countrymen which would appear more threatening than conciliatory to their cause. 

The road was bounded with a thick wood on one side and by natural walls of granite on the other.  In the gloomy shade, he kept his eyes keen swiveling his head almost like an owl's to be wary of his surroundings.  Then he heard the sudden pounding of many horses swooping down upon him as a flock of robbers flew in to attack.  William fought them off as best he could with his pistols, with only time for one shot apiece.  Then drawing his sword, he swung hard slashing.  Finally he grabbed his dirk thrusting and ripping through leather and flesh.  But, he was only one man against  many and was eventually shot out of the saddle and overpowered.  The robbers beat him unmercifully, until he lost consciousness while lying in a pool of his own blood mixed with the blood of the wounds he himself had inflicted on his enemies.  They robbed him cleaner than a hungry man picked a bone.  Gone were his weapons, his silver broach and buckles, his money and his letter to the Prince Regent, as well as his horse.

With one of his eyes swollen nearly shut, William found himself fading in and out of wakefulness.  The pain was unrelenting all over his body.  He had no hope of surviving the brutal attack without a miracle.  He called out in his heart, barely moving swollen and cracked lips in a cry to God.  He was a god-fearing man whether near death or in life.  He had seen the face of death in battle, though God had spared him until now.  But he was all his younger brother and sister and left in the world, and he prayed to live.

Once in the mist, he thought he heard a carriage pass by.  By the sound of it, it had slowed down as if observing him.  A voice called out, "I say, driver, what is that I see over there?"

"'pears to be a man left bloody by a pack of robbers, Archbishop, reverend, sir.  Do you want me to stop?"

"No, hasten on.  Looking through the slits of his eyes, he saw a man in black robes peering out safely from behind the carriage curtains probably an important churchman by the looks of him.  William raised his hand, but dropped it as the driver cracked his whip to urge his team on.  The Scotsman heaved a sigh, barely hanging onto hope.

As dusk fell, once again William could hear a conveyance upon the road.  Instead of a team of horses, he heard just one.  It stopped.  He heard a man climb out speaking to his driver.  "Wait here.  Be on the lookout for robbers, for they are known to prey on the unsuspecting in these woods.  The Prince Regent should do something about it, truly."

"Be careful, sir.  They could still be lurking near to make you their next victim."

"I'll just look and see how badly the man is injured so that I can determine if it's worth the time to send someone back for him." 

William barely opened his eyes and saw indeed, it was a curate, another man of the cloth, though of far less importance.  His hopes were raised.  He tried to speak, but could only manage to grunt.  The man was tsking and shaking his head and careful not to step in the blood spilled on the ground. 

"He's a goner.  He surely won't last long enough for me to send him help.  Just a dirty Scotman anyway, probably up to no good.  Good riddance, I say.  Let's be off, quickly now!"  He heard the footsteps receding and then the giddy-up, and they were gone.  A wolf howled.  It caused him to shiver.  He just hoped he died before the beast smelled blood and found him.

Blackness overtook him once again. Yet he was aroused by the sound of horses for the third time, a team.  William was surprised to hear a woman's voice calling out.  "Wait, stop, Jim!  I believe I see someone injured."

"Best be leaving him there, yer ladyship.  He's probably dead anyway.  It's bad enough to be on this road in the glooming, without becoming bait ourselves for a gang of highwaymen."

"No, I insist.  We can't leave him there if he still has life." 

"Whatever ye say, m'lady.  I'll keep a close lookout with my pistol ready."

William heard the door of the carriage open as the lady stepped out in spite of the protestations of her driver.  He managed to lift the fingers on one hand just to prove he was still alive.

"Jim!  He's not dead.  Come quickly.  Put him in my vehicle.  He's bleeding badly and needs urgent tending."

"Oh, m'lady!  Yer canna be meaning to put him in with you!"

"What else would you have me do?  Abandon him to the creatures of the night?  See the vultures waiting in the trees?  Hurry.  Climb down and help me, I beg of you."

"Whatever you say, m'lady, but I can't help but worry about vile men pouncing upon us while you do this good deed."

"Our lives are in God's hands, Jim.  Surely you know that.  The days that are for us are numbered, already written in His book.  We cannot alter it by a day or an hour.  I have faith that this man's time is not yet nigh, but that we have been sent to his rescue for a purpose."

The driver heaved him up roughly by the shoulders and began dragging him towards the carriage.  After a searing cry of pain, William blacked out and felt no more for a time.  However, in the darkness of night with the moon's full face peaking in the carriage window, he felt more than saw gentle hands pressing cloths to his worst wounds as he was roughly rocked on a bench of the carriage being jarred one moment and tossed another.  Somehow, a woman was tending to his injuries as she knelt on the floor beside him in the cramped quarters of the conveyance. 

He heard the soft murmurings of prayers falling from her lips on his behalf.  His heart beat faster at such compassionate care, even rising above the pain of his injuries.  Hope is a wonderful thing he decided.  Perhaps God was not through with this Scotsman yet after all.

"Thank you," he rasped.

She gasped.  "Oh!  You're awake.  Have courage and hold on.  We are almost there.  An inn is up ahead, not far.  I hope they will be able to tend to you better than I have managed."

William wanted to argue with her, because he was sure no hands could have been kinder to treat his grievous wounds. If he perished, at least he would not be alone and would enter into the next world carried by this woman's soft vespers and tender touch.

As soon as the swaying stopped, voices were heard shouting back and forth.  The last thing he remembered was the kind touch of her hand one last time wiping the blood from his forehead.  His eyes flew open, and he stared at the beautiful woman before him as she was startled and drew back.  As rough hands jostled and dragged him out, William lost consciousness again, but this time with a slight smile on his face.

He woke as the innkeeper rolled him over so as to better wrap his wounds with old torn sheets.  "I'll send for the doctor in the morning if you are still alive, that is.  Only God knows how you've survived so far.  You are nearer death than life, my good man.  I can't believe that Lady Mary of Montrose put you in her carriage and tended to you herself.  I don't know who had more blood on them, you or her by the time you bled all over her.  Well, that's all I can do until morning.  Here's a drink though."

The man lifted William's head and managed to get some of it in his mouth.  He swallowed and was intensely grateful.  The rest of the night, he wove in and out of wakefulness and sleep, fighting against the deep slumber of the dead.

When the moon slipped away, he woke to the light piercing his eyes making his head swim.  Finally they adjusted enough to see a blur of bodies in his small room.  As he focused, his eyes flew open at the sight of the beautiful woman once again.  Her eyes caught on his and stared for a long moment before flying away.  He could hardly believe such as she would take notice and save his life, especially when others had left him for dead.   

A doctor was instructing the innkeeper for his care.  The lady spoke and all in the room listened.  Her voice was almost a whisper as she quietly told the innkeeper that beside the money she took out of her purse and handed him, she promised to pay for any other costs that arose while he was convalescing when she returned.  Mostly, what he clung to as she slipped silently from the room was that she said she would return.  William sank back into a deep sleep.

When he woke, he determined to stay alive.  The pain he could endure.  Just one more look at her face though, and he could die happy.  She was an angel.  There was no other woman in the Isles who would have done what she had done.  At risk to herself, she allowed his bloody mess into her carriage and tended him herself.  Then she paid the innkeeper for his care with a promise to pay him more money , whatever was necessary for his recovery.  She had faith he would recover.  He held on to that faith with the grip of hope.

William was not able to get out of bed for over a week.  He had slept most of the time waking only to take some broth until he was able to eat once again.  Praise be to God, no bones were broken,  just cracked ribs, deep cuts and bruising and a hole where a bullet had passed through his shoulder.  He had lost much blood.  Indeed the physician said he had never seen one who had lost so much blood and lived.  He was weak as much as anything.

The innkeeper was not stingy knowing he would be reimbursed.  William was fed as well as any of those who stayed in the inn.  Soon he was able to hobble out to the dining hall and converse with the  other guests.  He listened for any news of the gang of robbers who had attacked him.  Stories abounded. 

One evening, he was startled to recognize the clergyman who had left him to die as he came in to sit at one of the small tables.  A waitress brought the man a pint while William observed him closely.  When the man noticed him, he breathed sharply through his nose as if he found William still distasteful.  "I never expected to see you alive again, I must say," he sneered.

William ignored him then and kept whittling though he couldn't help but grit his teeth.  No thanks to this man of the cloth from the Church of England that he was still breathing.  William was glad that he himself was a solid member of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland with a soft spot for the work of the reformers like Whitfield and Wesley.  Just to get the proud man's goat, he began to sing one of Charles Wesley's hymns lustily, one the man had written and put to a popular tavern tune.  Soon several others joined in as the rector grimaced before going up to his room with his stiff neck hot under his collar.

William was stranded however, even when he was nearly able to stand on his own two feet.  He had no horse and no coin to his name.  He began asking if there were any odd jobs he could do.  But he was not yet even able to swing an ax to chop wood, and few would be willing to hire a Scotsman even if he were in prime health.  Distrust ran deep.  So, he was stranded.  He sat in the kitchen and pealed potatoes or any menial tasks the good innkeeper would ask him to do.  If he was any healthier, he would not be able to abide this inaction.    His walks outside in the woods wound farther and farther every day.  He leaned heavily on a walking stick he had carved while sitting beside the wide fireplace in the inn of the evenings. 

He had resolved himself that he probably would never see his benefactress again.  It had been nearly six weeks, but his vision of her would never fade.  His strength was nearly back with full vitality.  He had taken it upon himself to greet the guests and help take care of their horses along with the hostler. 

One day he walked out of the stable and came across a man climbing down from his horse, his very own!  His horse nickered at him.  William ran over and jerked the man the rest of the way down off his horse and landed a blow on his chin before others ran out and pulled him off.

"That's my horse.  This man is one of those scallywags who robbed me," William pronounced accusingly. 

The hostler brought some rope from the stable and began tying the man up as the robber loudly proclaimed his innocence yelling, "I don't know what he's talking about!  I bought this horse off another!" 

"Look at his boot.  The one on his right foot.  He has a rip in it where I was able to slash it with me dirk before the others took me down."  Sure enough, it was just as he said.  "Check him to see if my dirk or my silver buckles from my shoes are on his person.  That's one of my pistols in his belt, I see. "  His buckles were not found, but his dirk was in the man's belt.  It had the silver handle with the celtic symbols of his family's crest crafted beautifully embossed upon it.  William treasured it above the rest of his stolen items and was glad to have it restored to his possession once again. 

The men who had held him back let him loose and pounded him on the shoulder, forgetting his injuries until they saw him wince.  William went  and checked over his horse, as it nodded and snuffled at him.  He lifted each hoof to inspect the condition of its shoes and felt down each leg.  Other than showing signs of having been ridden hard, it appeared to be uninjured.   He gladly led it to a stall and gave it an extra heaping of grain.  While it munched, he brushed his horse down thankful to God for returning his beast. 

One problem was solved.  He had a mount to go down the road, but William still had no way to pay his way.  Maybe if he left, he would find someone somewhere who could pay him a small wage for whatever job he could find.  He was humbled enough already as beggars couldn't be choosers.  He had about decided to leave in the morning.  He laughed as he thought of the oft quoted verse, "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride."  At least he had a horse even if he was still a beggar.

He had already written a his message to the palace, the one his countrymen sent him with, and explained his mishap.  William had also written home to let them know what had transpired.  He knew it would take much longer going home than it had coming here.

When he came down the stairs at dawn, he was startled to find his lady sitting drinking her tea in front of the fire. 

"My lady," he said surprised.  "I did not hear anyone come in last night."

She lifted her eyes up to his, and William was lost.  The beauty herself was speechless at first.  "You survived!" she finally breathed.  "I could hardly hope, but I never stopped praying."

"God would most gladly listen to your voice, m'lady.  Grateful I am that you would pray for one such as I."

"Will you be going back to Scotland then?"

"I canna be sure when.  I'm still deciding what I should do.  I fear I have been thwarted on my previous business as a messenger with papers for the Prince Regent which were absconded with as well as my funds.  Speaking of which, I am so deeply grateful for all you did to keep me alive and to provide for my care.  If I know where to send it, I swear to you I will send a repayment when I am able to return to my home.  I am still astonished that you would care for a Scotsman, such as myself, m'lady."

"It is not necessary.  If we had to put a price on being a blessing, then it would not be a blessing but a task, would it not?  I rather think that God is more pleased when the right hand knoweth not what the left hand is doing." She let a glorious smile rise up to him. 

He found himself almost weak-kneed.  William ran a hand through his hair and then bowed.  "Nevertheless, it may be my part to bless ye back.  If ye ever hath need of anything, I would gladly  be at your beck and call.  I hardly think my life is my own now since you gave it back to me."

She laughed softly in a manner that made his heart feel as if a hawk was tethered inside his chest beating its wings. "It is God Himself who gives life.  I was just humbled to be used by Him."

"M'lady!" a young lad came in panting.  "It's yer driver.  He's collapsed in the stable.  One of yer horses kicked him.  It's his head, I'm afeared."

William dashed out at a fast run and found the hostler bent over a man on the ground.  He was closing the driver's eyes in death.  The blow was obviously swift and fatal.  William turned around when he heard her approaching and stopped her.  "Ye donna want to see, m'lady.  He's gone.  Nothing more can be done for the man."

The lady gave a little cry and almost went down, but William grabbed her elbows, helping her to stay standing.  "Here, let me help you to back into the inn.  He put an arm brazenly around her waist with his other at her elbow as he led her back inside.  It was that or pick her up and carry her, which he was sure she would protest.  The crowd that had gathered in the yard, parted and allowed them through.  The men went out to see the dead man while the two ladies staying in the inn saw to his lady after he had helped her into a chair.

"Tea!" he called.  "The lady needs tea." 

She sat with her head in her hands stunned.  Then she looked up at him with tears in her eyes.  "The poor man.  He was set to retire from service this year.  But now  I have no one to drive my carriage."

"I am more than able and willing, m'lady.  It would be my honor to be of service to you."

"You could?  You would?"  She bit her lip.

"Most assuredly," he grinned and was rewarded with one of her glorious smiles again, though through tears. 

"I would be most grateful, sir.  May I ask your name?"

"William Wallace Callander," he bowed.

"Should I venture to ask, are you a relative of the William Wallace of Scottish fame?"

His grin answered for him.  "Of course, and proud to wear the plaid, I am."

The innkeeper's daughter hurried out with a pot of tea and one of the only unmarred china cups left, saved only for the most respected of guests.  He should know.  He had washed it delicately himself more than once. 

"I will go and see what is to be done with the body.  Do you desire to send it home, or would you be satisfied with a burial at the kirk nearby?" William asked.

"Jim didn't often attend the services at home and has no family left, so I don't see why we cannot have a service here for the poor man," she answered in a wavering voice.

"I will see what can be aranged, m'lady."  William forced himself to leave her to the innkeeper's wife and the other women's care and joined the men outside.  The lad was sent to find the curate. 

The innkeeper found William later and said, "So you'll be leaving me to go into the lady's service, I hear."  He winked at him.  "Tis an honor indeed."  He pounded him on the back.

"The Lord works in mysterious ways, to be sure," he grinned.  "This is the door that's opened, so I don't see any need to go out a back door and run off."

"Well, you'll be missed, but I am just glad the good Lord spared you for a purpose."  The man looked at him with sincerity.

"Thank you, friend.  Without you and the lady, I wouldn't have survived.  I am in your debt."

"She's already settled with me, and generously at that," he said.

William shook his head.  "I'll be working the rest of my life for her to pay her back, as my debt of honor."

"Yes, she doesn't travel much to London except for the season, and is rarely seen in these parts.  It was just Providence that she found you that day."

"Verra true," he nodded seriously.  "Well, I best be seeing to her team.  I'm sure she'll want to be off as soon as prayers are said over her man in the church yard."

"Here comes the curate now." He nodded his head to the side saying, "She's inside, reverend."

William went up to his room to gather the little he had left after the robbery.  There was only his emptied sporran and buckle-less brogs as well as his kilt and wool jacket, now cleaned and brushed.  He put them on and went out to see to the horses.  He guessed they would be on the road in less than an hour.  He did not even know where she lived, except that she was Lady Mary of Montrose.  He found the innkeeper to ask directions.

He figured after listening to him that they would still be able to arrive before dark even with this delay.  He would be ready.  The innkeeper's wife made a lunch packed in a basket for their travels, for which he thanked her before taking it out to the carriage.  The curate was still fawning over the lady in the dining room, so much so that it made William grit his teeth.  She did not look any happier.  He hoped at least the reverend had sent men to dig the grave.  He asked him.

"Oh, dear.  I was so busy speaking with the lady about her dearly departed driver, that it slipped my mind."

William saw his lady's eyes grow wide.  She then stood up abruptly saying, "Please excuse me as I must get ready for the rest of my journey today." The clergyman had naught to do be leave.

"I sent after the men who do the digging, have no fear.  It's not an uncommon thing for the man to get his tongue tangled in his cloth and forget the essentials, especially when there is a pretty lady upon which to call," the innkeeper said under his breath.

"Are your bags ready to put on your carriage, m'lady?" William asked when she came back down.  "That way we can be off as soon as you say the word."

"Yes, they are up in my room, if you will."

He nodded and went swiftly to do her bidding.  When he opened the door, the faint fragrance of summer roses lingered.  He shouldered a small trunk and grabbed a smaller bag.

He was holding the horses by the leathers when she came back from the cemetery leaning on the innkeeper's wife's arm.  William handed over the horses lead to the hostler while he assisted the lady up into her carriage.  When she put her gloved hand in his, she turned her eyes upon him. A faint smile bloomed on her lips. "Thank you for stepping in during this crisis to help me, William Wallace Callander.  What should I call you, sir?"

He couldn't help but grin, "While I am in your service, you may call me William."  If he was on more equal footing with her, it would not have been appropriate for her to use his first name, but as far as she knew, he was of no higher rank than as her driver.  He mounted the  carriage's high seat and slapped the horses strong backs with the reigns urging them on. His own horse followed, tied to the back of the carriage.  He saluted to the innkeeper as he drove out of the yard wondering at his glowing happiness rising filling hi chest.  He chuckled at what he could only imagine his sister would say if she only knew how he had taken on the form of a servant. 

Every ten miles or so, they came upon a place to rest and water the horses.  Each time he assisted the lady down out of her carriage and each time, back in.  Each time she looked up and smiled, never failing to say, "Thank you."

After the third such stop, she told him as he opened the carriage door for her, "It is not much farther, five miles or so.  You'll know when the horses pick up their pace anxious to return to their stalls."

When they did arrive at dusk, hands appeared to let Lady Mary out of her carriage before he could jump down while others climbed up top to lift and carry in her luggage.  Yet others led the horses to the stable.  However, before disappearing into the house, she turned to her man and said, "I'm sorry to say that Jim died on the road when a horse kicked him fatally in the head.  This is William Wallace Callander.  He's my new driver.  Please take care of him and show him to his room."  Her eyes had been shining upon him as she spoke, but then the house swallowed her out of his sight.

William looked over to see a man sneering.  She chose a Scotsman?  Mustn't have been many to choose from, I'd wager.  Well, so be it.  We'll see if her brother allows you to stay on the morrow.  Follow me."

He did while gritting his teeth.  Centuries of distrust still linger between the English and the Scottish people.  Knowing it went both ways, he prayed God would give him patience and an open mind and heart to be His instrument in His hand.

It was a room as small as his had been in the inn.  He fingered the few items that her driver Jim had left, a razor and small mirror, a pair of worn boots, a change of clothes much too small to fit William, and a copy of Pilgrim's Progress.  That encouraged him as to the condition of the man's soul when he met his Maker.  William determined to find a moment to tell Lady Mary for it would be a word  of encouragement for her as well. 

He stayed busy helping the stable-master in the meanwhile grooming and exercising horses as well as the most menial of tasks, muck-raking out the horse stalls.   He was only called upon once that first week to drive Sir Henry of Montrose into town for business.  The man had shaken his hand and thanked him for stepping in to help his sister.  At least the gentleman looked him in the eye and met him man to man instead of looking down on him as a servant, a servant in a kilt at that.

However, he did say, "We need to get you a livery.   And lose the beard.  We can't have you driving all over the countryside in your plaid."  He grinned.  "You are sure to be the talk of the town after today.  While I am at my accountant's, high yourself over to the tailor's and tell him I sent you to take over Jim's place.  He'll know what you need.  That way you can save your kilt for the country dances and dazzle all the young ladies."

William took it as it was meant, a hearty jest.  He would wear whatever the master of Montrose chose, as long as he could serve his lady a little longer.  It was harder to give up his beard, but that too would be a small price to pay for her saving his life.  He still had a debt of gratitude to pay.  He grinned back and said, "I'll do as ye say, m'lord. Jest tell me when the country dance is, and I'll be there."

At that, Sir Henry threw back his head and laughed.  "You'll do," he finally said and climbed in.

William was just about to shut the carriage door when he spied Lady Mary stepping lightly down the front steps wearing her bonnet and spencer. She looked up and said, "Good morning, William."

"Good morning to you, m'lady."  He absorbed her smile like a sweet cookie dunked in milk.  He was sopped.  After he helped her in, he kept his smile in check doing his best not to grin too widely as her brother's hard stare was upon him. 

William uncomfortably examined himself on the ride to town though careful to miss the worst of the ruts on the road so as not to jar the precious cargo inside.  He had never had such a reaction to a lady back at home.  It unsettled him.  It was as if he was losing the grip on himself that had kept him disciplined in his responsibilities of his role back home.  He whispered under his breath, "Pull yerself together, William.  It's only a debt of gratitude ye be paying.  That's all."  Yet he could not shake whatever this new feeling was.  He still pondered it though the puzzle was himself.

The tailor measured him from bow to stern, from top of his mast clear down to below deck, and ran the tape over the cross beam of his shoulders.  It made him glad for the ease of a kilt.  It would fit most men without alteration. 

"Tell Sir Henry that I should have it done in a fortnight," he said winding his measuring tape back up.  "There's no way you can fit in Jim's old clothes that's for sure."  William was just glad he made no remark about his kilt as he wound it back over himself pleating it as he went. 

He mounted the driver's seat and assessed the village from that height.  It was almost as old as his own back home with cobblestone streets and thatched roofs.  Flowers bloomed in window boxes and women dawdled around the well in the center of the town's square.  He was being watched as much as he was observing them.  One brazen lassie walked over and gave each of the horses an apple saying, "Good Day, sir.  Are ye new up at the manor?"

He just nodded and looked away.  He wanted no local entanglements here in England, none more than the one lady whom he served.  He knew not how long he would stay, only trusting God to guide.

One surly man came out of the tavern and spit by the carriage.  "Wadda they think they are doing with a Scotsman takin' ol'Jim's seat.  There's plenty of good men here in town who could have done wha' he's done all these years for the master."

William ignored him and smiled up at the sunshine of a beautiful day.  He watched as Lady Mary came out of the apothecary's and slipped into a small bookshop.  She had glanced up at him once again, and a smile budded there almost unfurling its soft petals.  One look was all it took to keep him staying in place.  His time here was not finished.  That much he knew.

It was a few weeks later, with few chances to see his lady's smile when he was told a house party was coming of Sir Henry's friends.  The London season had ended the 12th of August and the time of shooting and fishing were to begin.  It was the gentlemen's attraction to a country estate.  He wondered if it would be a Driven Game shoot with beaters flushing the birds up in the air or if the gentlemen would settle for a regular shoot with their fowling pieces.  He wondered if they would hunt more for ducks or pheasants.  It made his fingers itch to get his gun back.  He did love a good hunt." 

Three carriages had arrived by nightfall, and he was kept busy tending to their teams of horses.  A fourth carriage would arrive in the morning he was told.  As it rumbled in the next day, he had just grabbed the horses leads when he heard his name called.

"William!  I say, what are you doing here?  And what is that you are wearing?  I don't think I've ever seen you wear anything but a kilt!"

He broke into a big grin.  It was his good friend from his university days at Edinburgh, Sir Edward Harper.  "Come to try your hand at shooting, are ye?  I just hope you do better than last season," William laughed.

"What's this?  You two know each other?" Sir Henry asked.  He paused on the stairs as he had come out to greet his guests.

William wiped his hand down his face and felt the stubble of where his beard once grew while Edward burst out, "Why, yes,we've been friends for years now.  His estate is one of the best in the Highlands for hunting.  Plenty of grouse and even stags some years if you're lucky."

Lady Mary's brother looked back and forth between them as William threw his shoulders back,  held his head high and waited.  His ruse was up.

"So I take it you are not a driver, are you?"

"No, your Sir Henry.  I'm William Wallace Callander, the Scottish Marquis of Glamdemoor."

Sir Henry stared at him with his mouth open then snorted.  Then he began chuckling until bent over in hearty laughter gasping for breath.

"Won't my sister be surprised!  Her groom is a Marquis!  This is rich, rich indeed!"

"What?" The other men wanted in on the secret that William, his friend Edward and Sir Henry so humorously shared.  "Pray tell us what's so dastardly funny!"

Finally, Sir Henry stood up and said, "You best get out of your livery, Marquis, and put your kilt back on.  Come in the house and join us!"  He went back in slapping Edward on the back as they tried to explain as much as they could to the others.

After he had changed back into the Scotsman that he was more comfortable being, the butler let William in the door with a slight bow and a distrusting eye.  It was indeed an old manor house, but not as ancient as his on the Glamdemoor estate.  He saw a rich elegance, tastefully done.  The group of men surrounded him in the drawing room wanting to hear the whole story again, letting him fill in the gaps that had not yet been told. 

"And that is how I came to serve Lady Mary of Montrose," he finished.   This gathering was no different than his own house parties as men jostled for chances to come to his hunting lodge.   In fact,  he and his brother were  considering turning it into a financial endeavor since the number of fowl and game were decreasing.  He'd heard that some lairds were selling chances to hunt by lottery.  He hated to do it, but if it helped his estate be sustainable and better able to provide for his tenants, then he might try it.  Perhaps he could talk with Sir Henry and get his perspective on it."

When the ladies joined them before supper, he saw Sir Henry go over and speak to his sister softly.  She turned such a rosebud pink, that he had to look away as he heard her gasp raising a glove over her mouth.  Soon, however, she graciously came over with a smile playing on her lips.  "So, you tricked me, William Wallace Callander, Marquis of Glamdemoor.  Why in heaven's name did you play the part as my driver, may I ask?"

"I wanted to serve you, m'lady.  You saved my life.  I wasn't able to return home as yet anyway, so I thought I would abide here a wee bit.  It would be the right thing to do.  I felt I had to at least try to pay the debt I owe," he answered looking into her wide eyes full of questions.

"I see.  Still, I wish I had known all along.  But then again, I'm only glad to have helped another, regardless of rank or country.  So perhaps it was better that I didn't know," she sighed.  "I'd like to think that I would  have not done anything differently than what I did."

"You were an angel sent to me from God, Lady Mary," he said softly as she blushed again.  "I will ever be at your service, even if I'm no longer your driver," he added grinning.

She hit him in the shoulder playfully with her  closed fan.  "I still can't believe it.  At least you've been found out and can join us now to make a merrier party.  We'll have you put in a guest room tonight and your things moved."  She went over to speak to a maid who looked at him with a puzzled face.

The mornings were leisurely, but the afternoons were spent hunting until dusk.  Then they came back to clean up for dinner joining the ladies.  William saw her every evening.  It was his honor to lead the group to the table with Lady Mary on his arm as he held the highest rank among them.  

Later in the evening as one lady or other played the pianoforte, he sat by his friend Sir Edward and quizzed him on his knowledge of the house.  "Are their parents still alive?" he asked quietly.

"Their father died unexpectedly of cholera during the last epidemic in London five years ago.  Their mother still chooses to reside in their townhouse there and has a great distaste for traveling refusing to come back to the family's country estate.  Lady Mary only goes in for part of the season choosing to stay here in the country the rest of the year.  Her brother even more rarely goes to London as he hasn't found a factor he can fully trust yet to manage his estate.  Personally, I think he likes it that way preferring to keep in touch with his tenants and run the estate as he wishes without interference.   Eventually he will probably find a man and take it easier."

"I see.  So he became an earl at a fairly young age," William mused.

"As you became a marquis before you were shaving.  I guess you could say, you still aren't shaving by the looks of your beard though.  I'm glad to see you're already growing it back out again.  I hardly recognized you without it.  Sir Henry told me how he had ordered you to shave your other one off.  That must have been a sacrifice." They both chuckled. 

"Verra true, my friend.  Soon his eyes found their way back over to Lady Mary.  "I'm surprised that she hasn't been snatched up by some swain by now," William said dropping his eyes to look down at his fingernails that still held some grime from the stable even though he had scrubbed them well.

"Perhaps she is waiting for a marquis to come along," his friend teased.

William glanced up sharply with a clutch in his chest.  His eyes roved over the room and saw her perched on the pianoforte bench playing with a light touch one of Hayden's works.  That was probably more her style than a heavy piece by Beethoven.  He admired her loveliness from afar, but had not sought her out other than to make polite conversation around the dinning table.  She looked up while playing as if she felt his eyes upon her and stumbled in her notes.  Their eyes swiftly ricocheted away.

However, then his  glance caught her brother's who had been watching.  The Earl raised his eyebrows as if questioning his interest.  William gave the slightest of nods.  Of course he was interested. Who wouldn't be?  However, he was a Scotsman from the  Highlands.  Though a marquis, he still would not be held in the highest esteem by all the peerage.  Besides, his home was verra far away.  It would be a rare lady who would choose to leave her family and go to live in his remote Highlands.  He doubted the lovely Lady Mary would ever consider it.

He played cards, but only if no gambling occurred.  William had no taste for it having seen what it had done to bring his uncles low.  He folded his hand and walked away if someone suggested it.  One time when this happened, the Earl caught his eye and nodded for him to follow him.  He wondered what could be of such importance that he would need a private word. 

Leading him into his study, Sir Henry shut the door behind them.  The Earl leaned against his desk but did not sit down, so neither did William.  The man picked up a dry quill and twirled it nervously in his fingers.  But he looked at William carefully.  "Am I correct or misguided in a notion that you might have a tendre for my sister?"

This slammed William in the chest, hard.  He carefully considered his words.  "I confess that I of course admire her above any other lady in my acquaintance.  However, I am well aware that though a marquis, I am a Scotsman first, and not everyone can appreciate that.  I hope I have not made her or you uncomfortable, because I can withdraw from your company if that is the case."  He couldn't help but sigh and look down at his brogs.

"Actually, that is not the case, my Lord."  The Earl of Montrose was laughing.  "Indeed, quite the opposite."

William was startled into looking up and facing him like a man.  "What is it you are saying?"

"My sister left London all of a sudden before I even knew she was traveling.  You must realize that I would never have allowed her to come back alone unescorted.  You yourself know how dangerous that road is."  The Duke had eyes not quite dry as he took in a shaky breath. "She confessed that she had such a bad experience with one of the ton seeking to ill use her that she  became so upset it caused her to leave suddenly, only leaving a note for our mother."

William's pulse was racing and his hands were fisted in anger.  "If anyone touched her..."

"No, she was just made to feel fearful.  I should have been there to protect her, but my mother's brother assured me that he would help oversee her this season with my mother.  He became lax in keeping his word and spent his nights gambling, drinking too much instead of keeping an eye on her.  Then it was revealed that someone bribed a servant to put laudanum  in her drink for some nefarious purpose, I am afraid.  Fortunately, her maid saw what was done and the servant was exposed and confessed but says she did not know who was behind it.  She had only met the man in the dark of night to make the arrangements."

"If you need me to deal with the black-hearted scoundrel, just give me the word, ..." William growled with his hands still in fists.

"Thank you, my Lord.  However, the bow-runners took that dastardly servant into custody and will be questioning her thoroughly as well as looking into it further to solve the crime.  Sadly this was not the first time a young lady was injured.  However, let me ask you again, more plainly.  Do you have feelings for my sister?"

William ran his hand over his face until he tugged on his new growth of beard.  "Yes, hopelessly so, I'm afraid."

"Perhaps not."

He again stared directly at his host.  "Explain yourself, sir.  Please do not toy with me."

The Earl shrugged.  "She had been totally afraid while in London and had not been sleeping."  He chuckled.  "It is no secret that she feels safe now with you here, in part because you are an honorable man as well as a Scotsman.  You realize that Sir Walter Scott has totally romanticized your breed, you know," he said laughing at the way William rolled his eyes.  "She made that judgment even before she knew of your position beyond that of her carriage driver.  I am not looking for a title, nor wealth for her.  I just want her to feel safe.  It's obvious that she respects you.  She will have enough of a dowry to keep that from causing you to doubt me.  She prefers the rustic country life, if you must know."

William laughed under his breath.  "Good because though my estate is solvent, I am hardly verra rich.  It will be an uphill battle to keep it as such as such and provide for my tenants as well.  I refuse to clear them off."

"Good for you," the Earl said smiling briefly before once again sighing.  "But I never expected to have such a conversation asking someone to offer for my dear sister's hand.  She refuses to go back for another season in London decrying all the puffed up roosters there, the fops.  I had hoped by hosting a shooting party, someone among my friends might catch her eye."

"Well, has someone?" He asked his voice nearly cracking.

"Yes.  It is you, my Lord."

William sucked in a sharp breath and looked out the window unseeing.

"Did you ask her?" William asked.

"I don't have to.  I know my sister," Sir Henry grinned.

Does she know you are speaking with me?" William asked.


"Do you think she would be willing to be so far  from her home and family?" he persisted.

"Well, I would expect to be invited to a shooting party at least once every year," the Duke laughed.

William continued thoughtfully, "I still can't help but believe she would refuse my offer."

"Perhaps, we should be more direct.  Would you like me to ask her for you?" the Duke offered?

"No, I am man enough to offer for her myself," he said hoping it was true.  "I've never thought of marriage before having been away at the university, then fighting with my Scottish regiment, and coming back trying to set my estate on solid footing again after having been gone so long.  But I want you to know, I am an honorable man, a Christian and have tried to live a clean life before my Maker."  It was important for him to let that be known.   "I am not a member of the Church of England, however and never will be."

"Good.  She would refuse to set foot in one anyway.  She has a little independent streak that might surprise you," her brother smiled.  "She's quite enthusiastic about Wilberforce's fight to abolish slavery too."

"And rightly so.  I like her all the more for it," William grinned.  "I didn't think she was one to only be able to drink tea with her baby finger crooked just so and put on airs."

"That's another thing.  If she agrees to this match, it would perhaps be easier for you to be married in Scotland.  She could circumvent our mother who has plans of her own for my sister,  match my sister refuses.  As the Earl of Montrose now, it is up to me to have the final say in who she chooses to marry.   I, of course, would want to be there.  Do I understand correctly that banns do not have to be read there prior to a ceremony, and a couple would only have to have two witnesses to be hand-fasted?"

"Oh, we'd do more than jump the broom, sir, as some are want to do in Scotland or to be proclaimed man and wife over the anvil in a blacksmith's shop," William chuckled.  "She could still get married in a kirk if she would be happy with a wee wedding standing before a minister.  I know a good man in Edinbrugh I highly esteem."

"Well, I am satisfied whatever your terms, if she is willing, that is.  I am not the sort to make arrangements and force my sister to do anything against her will."  He put the quill back down on his desk.  "I will truly miss her."  He heaved out a heavy breath.

"Perhaps it is time for you to search out a wife for yourself," William teased.  Then more seriously, "To be truthful, I have never courted any young woman beyond a few innocent flirtations while at the university.  Perhaps I will wait to press my suit until your other houseguests have left."

"I believe she might be more willing if she feels that you are saving her from the unwanted attentions of the other men now, which she abhors.  You could make it clear that you are in serious pursuit, with my permission of course."

"I see."  He did see.  He knew the jealous feelings he had had when the other men had looked too long, some lustfully even, at Lady Mary.  "I will seek her out tonight then."  He put out his hand, and they shook on it, each with a strong grip.

Just as they walked back into the room, Mary had jumped up as one of the so-called gentlemen had tried to kiss her hand before she had time to put her gloves back on after playing the pianoforte.  "Sir, you forget yourself!" 

She said it quietly, but William was so tuned into her the instant he walked into the room that it was as if she had shouted it.  He ground his teeth and strode over to stand beside her. 

Mary glanced over at her brother and saw that he nodded and smiled.

William stared hard at the pansy until he wilted and got up and left her alone. Then he said, "Excuse me, Lady Mary.  It is a lovely evening.  Would you care for a walk in the garden?"

She glanced at her brother and saw that he was still smiling at her in a way she could not interpret.  "Let me get my shawl," she finally answered.

He held the patio door open for her and walked her out in front of all the ladies and gents.  If William could hear the whisperings behind their hands and fans before he could even shut the door behind them, then he was sure she could as well.

They walked silently for a time.  Then he picked her a rose.  William pulled off all the thorns before handing it to her.  Have you ever heard Burn's poem, "A Rose-Bud By My Early Walk,"  m'lady? he asked.

"I believe I have, but can't quite remember all the words," she admitted.

He noticed her eyes looking luminous in the moonlight and almost forgot what he was saying. 

"As any good Scotsman should, I can quote it in part," he smiled.

"A rose-bud by my early walk...
Sae gently bent its thorny stalk,
All on a dewy morning.
Ere twice the shades o' dawn are fled,
In a' its crimson glory spread,
An' drooping rich the dewy head,
It scents the early morning."

"I'm just a Scottish thistle here beside you, my rose.  That is how I feel next to your loveliness, I must confess."  William cleared his throat.  He had no idea that he was going to say this.

Her laugh was so pleasant, that it made his nervousness vanish.  "Do do you miss your home so much that you are thinking of the thistle, the symbol of Scotland?"

"I was thinking more fondly of the rose right now," he smiled at her blushing.

"Tell me about your home, Lord Callander."

"I thought we agreed that you could call me William," he said grinning. 

She continued to blush prettily.  "That was before I found out your identity.  I hope you can forgive me."

William threw back his head and laughed.  "I can't wait to tell my sister.  She will tease me without end, but will love the tale."

"Your sister?" she asked.

"Indeed I have a younger brother at the University of Edinbrough as well as a sister back home.  She is seventeen.  I've been away so long that I was shocked to find that she had had the audacity to grow up while I was away at the University and in the war. Sadly both my mother and my father died before I returned."

"They did? You fought?" she covered her mouth as if shocked.  "You could have been...have been..."

"I believe I was more gravely injured by robbers here in England than over in France, m'lady," he said still grinning.

She smiled, "Go on.  You were telling me about your sister."

She has hair as black as me own.  Wini is a wee bit taller than ye be and has more starch than the King's bedsheets."

Now he was blushing.  "I'm sorry, m'lady, that was rude of me.  I've been away with soldiers too long and have forgotten how to talk with a real lady."

She giggled and waved him on.  "So you were saying that she has more starch than the Bishop's collar," she offered instead.

He threw back his head and laughed again.  "Spoken like a true reformer.  Anyway, her name is Winifred, but you will be her swore enemy until the day you die, if you should slip and call her that instead of Wini like everyone else."

"Oh, you should never have told me her full name.  Now I will be petrified of her in case I would ever slip and call her by the one she was christened by."

"Yes, she would probably refuse to let you sneak down to the kitchen with her and eat cook's tarts if you did so.  She can be fierce when protecting her tarts, at least from me, that is."

She laughed lightly.  "She sounds like fun.  I should like to meet her."

"I hope to have her meet you at the weddin'...."  All of a sudden William turned as red as a beet and began coughing.  Mary was concerned and began patting him hard on the back.

"Are you already, m'lord?" she asked worriedly.

He nodded.  Truly he had choked when he tried to swallow back his words.  He felt as foolish as a pea hen.  "Excuse, me m'lady."

"As you were saying..." she prompted him but his eyes grew so large that she once again was worried.  "You were saying you hoped to have her at the..."

Now Mary's eyes grew large and her lips made a perfect "O." "What were you trying to say, sir?"

He picked up her hand and gently rubbed his thumb over it almost becoming distracted as she still had not put her gloves back on and the feel of her soft skin under his was his undoing.

"I'm afraid I have botched this badly, m'lady.  I had hoped to court you properly, and then I just let my words get ahead of themselves badly.  I'm afraid I went into battle unarmed leaving my wits abandoned on the field.  You have left me helpless at your feet, overwhelmed by your loveliness, in highest regard of your godliness, in awe of your strength of character.  I am in humble adoration of you, Lady Mary of Montrose and have been since I first opened my eyes and saw you tending to my wounds.  I thought you were an angel." In all this speech, his eyes had not left hers searching for a flame of understanding.  "I am yours if you will have me, Mary."

She heaved a breath in and then out.  "Oh my!" She swallowed hard, and William died a thousand deaths waiting for her answer.  "I must tell you, sir,  that I have admired you greatly e're since I saw the battle wounds you suffered and survived from.  I knew you were meant for great things never dreaming that you would see something in me  I am a mere whisper of what lies within you.  I can hardly believe you desire to have me, William."

He leaned over and kissed her gently.  When she grasped his shirt, he allowed himself to pour a little more desire into the kiss to prove that he that he meant every word.  When they broke apart, she laughed a little hanging her head in an adorably embarrassed manner saying "That's it?  So, we are engaged now?  Are we off to Gretna Green?"

William threw back his head and laughed.  "I'll take you to any kirk in Scotland other than Gretna Green, dear heart," he promised. 

So the Marquis William Wallace Callander of Glamdemoor surrendered his heart to Lady Mary of Montrose in a garden, a Scottish thistle and a rose.

Luke 10:30--37

"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho,
and fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him,
and went away leaving him for dead.
And by chance a priest was going down on that road,
and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him,
passed by on the other side.
But a Samaritan, who was on a journey,
came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion,
and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them;
and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
On the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said,
'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend,
when I return I will repay you.'
Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man
who fell into the robbers' hands?
And he said, 'The one  who showed mercy toward him.'
Then Jesus said to him, 'Go and do the same.'"

I had fun retelling this well-known parable adding a little twist.  I hope you enjoyed it as well.

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