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The Arrears Of Teind






"Mr. Rutherford, of Bowland, a gentleman of landed property in the
Vale of Gala, was prosecuted for a very considerable sum, the
accumulated arrears of teind (or tithe) for which he was said to be
indebted to a noble family, the titulars (lay impropriators of the
tithes). Mr. Rutherford was strongly impressed with the belief that
his father had, by a form of process peculiar to the law of Scotland,
purchased these teinds from the titular, and, therefore, that the
present prosecution was groundless. But, after an industrious search
among his father's papers, an investigation among the public records
and a careful inquiry among all persons who had transacted law
business for his father, no evidence could be recovered to support his
defence. The period was now near at hand, when he conceived the loss
of his law-suit to be inevitable; and he had formed the determination
to ride to Edinburgh next day and make the best bargain he could in
the way of compromise. He went to bed with this resolution, and, with
all the circumstances of the case floating upon his mind, had a dream
to the following purpose. His father, who had been many years dead,
appeared to him, he thought, and asked him why he was disturbed in his
mind. In dreams men are not surprised at such apparitions. Mr.
Rutherford thought that he informed his father of the cause of his
distress, adding that the payment of a considerable sum of money was
the more unpleasant to him because he had a strong consciousness that
it was not due, though he was unable to recover any evidence in
support of his belief. 'You are right, my son,' replied the paternal
shade. 'I did acquire right to these teinds for payment of which you
are now prosecuted. The papers relating to the transaction are in the
hands of Mr. ---, a writer (or attorney), who is now retired from
professional business and resides at Inveresk, near Edinburgh. He was
a person whom I employed on that occasion for a particular reason, but
who never on any other occasion transacted business on my account. It
is very possible,' pursued the vision, 'that Mr. --- may have
forgotten a matter which is now of a very old date; but you may call
it to his recollection by this token, that when I came to pay his
account there was difficulty in getting change for a Portugal piece of
gold and we were forced to drink out the balance at a tavern.'

"Mr. Rutherford awoke in the morning with all the words of the vision
imprinted on his mind, and thought it worth while to walk across the
country to Inveresk instead of going straight to Edinburgh. When he
came there he waited on the gentleman mentioned in the dream--a very
old man. Without saying anything of the vision he inquired whether he
ever remembered having conducted such a matter for his deceased
father. The old gentleman could not at first bring the circumstance
to his recollection, but on mention of the Portugal piece of gold the
whole returned upon his memory. He made an immediate search for the
papers and recovered them, so that Mr. Rutherford carried to Edinburgh
the documents necessary to gain the cause which he was on the verge of
losing."

The story is reproduced because it is clearly one of the tales which
come round in cycles, either because events repeat themselves or
because people will unconsciously localise old legends in new places
and assign old occurrences or fables to new persons. Thus every one
has heard how Lord Westbury called a certain man in the Herald's
office "a foolish old fellow who did not even know his own foolish old
business". Lord Westbury may very well have said this, but long
before his time the remark was attributed to the famous Lord
Chesterfield. Lord Westbury may have quoted it from Chesterfield or
hit on it by accident, or the old story may have been assigned to him.
In the same way Mr. Rutherford may have had his dream or the following
tale of St. Augustine's (also cited by Scott) may have been attributed
to him, with the picturesque addition about the piece of Portuguese
gold. Except for the piece of Portuguese gold St. Augustine
practically tells the anecdote in his De Cura pro Mortuis Habenda,
adding the acute reflection which follows. {16}

"Of a surety, when we were at Milan, we heard tell of a certain person
of whom was demanded payment of a debt, with production of his
deceased father's acknowledgment, which debt, unknown to the son, the
father had paid, whereupon the man began to be very sorrowful, and to
marvel that his father while dying did not tell him what he owed when
he also made his will. Then in this exceeding anxiousness of his, his
said father appeared to him in a dream, and made known to him where
was the counter acknowledgment by which that acknowledgment was
cancelled. Which when the young man had found and showed, he not only
rebutted the wrongful claim of a false debt, but also got back his
father's note of hand, which the father had not got back when the
money was paid.

"Here then the soul of a man is supposed to have had care for his son,
and to have come to him in his sleep, that, teaching him what he did
not know, he might relieve him of a great trouble. But about the very
same time as we heard this, it chanced at Carthage that the
rhetorician Eulogius, who had been my disciple in that art, being (as
he himself, after our return to Africa, told us the story) in course
of lecturing to his disciples on Cicero's rhetorical books, as he
looked over the portion of reading which he was to deliver on the
following day, fell upon a certain passage, and not being able to
understand it, was scarce able to sleep for the trouble of his mind:
in which night, as he dreamed, I expounded to him that which he did
not understand; nay, not I, but my likeness, while I was unconscious
of the thing and far away beyond sea, it might be doing, or it might
be dreaming, some other thing, and not in the least caring for his
cares. In what way these things come about I know not; but in what
way soever they come, why do we not believe it comes in the same way
for a person in a dream to see a dead man, as it comes that he sees a
living man? both, no doubt, neither knowing nor caring who dreams of
their images, or where or when.

"Like dreams, moreover, are some visions of persons awake, who have
had their senses troubled, such as phrenetic persons, or those who are
mad in any way, for they, too, talk to themselves just as though they
were speaking to people verily present, and as well with absent men as
with present, whose images they perceive whether persons living or
dead. But just as they who live are unconscious that they are seen of
them and talk with them (for indeed they are not really themselves
present, or themselves make speeches, but through troubled senses
these persons are wrought upon by such like imaginary visions), just
so they also who have departed this life, to persons thus affected
appear as present while they be absent, and are themselves utterly
unconscious whether any man sees them in regard of their image." {18}

St. Augustine adds a similar story of a trance.





Next: The Two Curmas

Previous: The Lost Securities



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