The strict observance of the Sabbath Day in Scotland was to us a most pleasing feature in Scottish life, and one to which we had been accustomed from early childhood, so we had no desire to depart from it now. We were, therefore, very pleased when Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie invited us to accompany them to the Free Kirk service, and, as half-past ten o'clock was the time fixed for our departure from the inn, we concluded that the kirk could not be far away, as that was the hour that service began in our village church in Cheshire, but we could not remember seeing any kirk in the neighbourhood of the "Huna Inn." We continued walking one mile after another for more than an hour, and must have walked quite four miles before we came in sight of the kirk, and we were then informed that the service did not commence until twelve o'clock! The country through which we passed was very bare, there being a total absence of hedges and trees, so we could see people coming towards the kirk from every direction.
Everybody seemed to know everybody else, and, as they came nearer the sacred enclosure, they formed themselves into small groups and stood conversing with each other, chiefly on religious matters, until the minister arrived to take charge of his flock. He was a quaintly dressed and rather elderly man, evidently well known, as he had a nod or a smile of recognition and a friendly word for all. We followed him into the kirk, where we found ourselves in the presence of quite a large congregation, and sat with Mr. and Mrs. Mackenzie in their own pew in the rear of the kirk. The form of the service was quite different from that to which we had been accustomed. The congregation stood up while they prayed and sat down while they sang the Psalms, with the exception of one man, who remained standing in what we thought was the clerk's desk immediately below the pulpit. This man acted as leader of the singing, but he failed to get much assistance from the people, and had great difficulty in keeping the singing going. Possibly the failure of the congregational singing might be accounted for by the absence of an organ or other instrument of music to assist and encourage the people to sing, the nearest approach to anything of the kind being the tuning-fork which the conductor held in his hand. There was also the fact that the sitting posture was not the best position for bringing out the powers of the human voice; but we came to the conclusion that music was not looked upon favourably in that remote part of Scotland.
In front of the pulpit there was an enclosure, fenced in by the communion rail, and inside this were seated the elders, or deacons of the church. These were very old men with bent heads and white hair, and had the appearance of centenarians; they were indeed the queerest-looking group of old men we had ever seen assembled together. But it was their noses that chiefly attracted our attention, as they were so very long and crooked, and the strange feature about them was that they were all of the same pattern. Their only rival, as far as we could see, in length of nose was the minister, but we thought he had enlarged his by artificial means, as we found to our surprise that he was addicted to snuff-taking, a habit very prevalent in Scotland in those days.
Then came the sermon. On the pulpit was the Bible, and beside it a substantial box of snuff, to which the minister resorted occasionally in the course of his long discourse. His pinches must have been considerable, for every sniff lasted from two to three seconds, and could be heard distinctly all over the kirk. This had a tendency to distract our attention from his sermon, which, by the way, was a very good one; but, owing to his rather slow delivery, we experienced a feeling of relief when he reached the end, for it had lasted quite an hour.
There was now a slight movement amongst the congregation, which we interpreted as a sign that the service was at an end, and we rose to leave; but, imagine our consternation when our friends told us that what we had listened to was only the first part of the service, and that we must on no account leave, as the second part was to follow immediately. We therefore remained not altogether unwillingly, for we were curious to know what the next service was like. It proved to be almost exactly the same as the first, and we could not distinguish much difference between the two sermons; but we listened attentively, and were convinced that the preacher was a thoroughly conscientious man in spite of his occasional long sniffs of snuff, which were continued as before, but what astonished us was that the old gentleman never once sneezed! It was the most remarkable service we had ever attended, and it concluded exactly at three o'clock, having lasted three hours.
We had then to retrace our four-mile walk to "Huna Inn," but the miles seemed rather longer, as Mrs. Mackenzie could only walk in a leisurely manner and we were feeling very hungry. We whiled away the time by talking about the sermons and the snuff, but chiefly about the deacons and their wonderful noses, and why they were all alike and so strangely crooked. Mr. Mackenzie suggested that they were crooked because if they had grown straight they would have projected over their mouths and prevented them from eating, the crook in them being a provision of nature to avoid this; or, they might have descended from the Romans or some other ancient race who had formerly inhabited the coast of that part of Scotland. Books had been written and sermons preached about noses, and the longer the nose the greater the intellect of the owner was supposed to be. We told our host that there was only one-sixteenth part of an inch between the length of Napoleon's nose and that of Wellington's. We had forgotten which was the longer, but as Wellington's was so conspicuous that he was nicknamed "Nosey" by his troops, and as he had won the great battle of Waterloo, we concluded that it was his, and gave him the benefit of the doubt. We quoted the following lines:
Knows he, that never took a pinch,
Nosey, the pleasure thence that flows?
Knows he the titillating joy
Which my nose knows?
O Nose, I am as proud of thee
As any mountain of its snows;
I gaze on thee, and feel that pride
A Roman knows.
Our host confided to us the reason why he was so anxious that we should not leave in the middle of the service. The second service was originally intended for those who had to come long distances to reach the kirk, some of whom came from a place seven miles away, but in late years the two services had become continuous. A few Sundays before our visit some persons had left the kirk at the end of the first part, and in his second sermon the minister had plainly described them as followers of the Devil! so we supposed our host was anxious that we should not be denounced in the same way.
We found our tea-dinner waiting our arrival at the inn. We sat down to it at half-past four, and, as we rose from what was left of it at five o'clock, having worked hard meanwhile, we may safely be credited with having done our duty.
We had a walk with our host along the shore, and had not proceeded far before we saw a dark-looking object some distance away in the sea. We thought it looked like a man in a boat, rising and falling with the waves, but Mr. Mackenzie told us that it was two whales following the herrings that were travelling in shoals round the coasts. We were very much interested in their strange movements, as they were the only whales we ever saw alive, but we could not help feeling sorry for the fish. Evening was coming on as we re-entered "Huna Inn," and when we were again seated before our turf fire, joined by our host and hostess, our conversation was chiefly on the adventures we had already had, the great walk we were to begin on the morrow, and the pleasure it had given us to see the manifest and steadfast determination of the people at the kirk to observe the Commandment of the God of the Sabbath, "REMEMBER THAT THOU KEEP HOLY THE SABBATH DAY." We wondered how much the prosperity of the Scottish nation and its representatives in every part of the "wide, wide world" was attributable to their strict observance of the Sabbath. Who knows?
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