P Hay Hunter

THE BACKSLIDIN O PATE PEFFERS

YE mind the year whan the Auld Kirk wis dung doun? It wis a late hairst that year, an a michty puir ane. First there cam a muckle daddin wind, juist whan the stuff wis aa staunin deid ripe, an we'd gotten the roads cut an aa ready to start, an it threshed abuin hauf the crap on the grund. An syne it begoud to poor, an it poored on maist o the month o September, wi awfu jaws an skelps o rain, an no a blink o the sun frae the tae end o the week to the tither. There wis a pouther o snaw lyin on the stooks i' the upland fields afore aa wis duin, an the barley wis jimp worth leadin in--whan we cam to pit it throu the mill, there wisna eneuch to mak a dacent sample: it wis juist fit to feed nowt.

I coudna help feelin kind o wae for the maister--auld Britherston, that haed the twa ferms o Tuimbucht an Cauldshiel; ye'll mind o him?--a quait, hermless man he wis, an never spak an ill wird to onybody. He uised to gang up an doun amang the stooks o a mornin, pouin a heid here an a heid there, an leukin gey doun i' the mooth, I can tell ye. We aa kent that he wis ahint wi his rent, an no like to get muckle o a let-aff frae the laird, an wi the shake an the weet thegither, an sic prices as wis gaun, this hairst wis like to brak him. We aa peetied him, for he wis an auld, duin body, an, of coorse, he haedna oor prospecks.

Ye can easy understaun that if it wis an ill back-end for the maister, it wis faur frae pleesant for us workin folk. Oot ilka day an aa day, takkin doun the stooks atween the shouers, an layin them in braid-band, an syne bindin them up, an than haein't aa to dae ower again--never a dry steek on oor backs, an oor vera buits beginnin to let in, an the wind comin reishlin an skreichin ower the muirs snell eneuch to gar ye whustle in yer fingers--it wis a weary hairst, I can tell ye. Mony's the nicht I brocht a sarkfu o sair banes hame wi me.

There wis juist ae thing that keepit us up, like, for there wisna muckle daffin gaun in the hairst-field that back-end. An that wis the thocht o the grand times that were comin for the pleuchman, whan we wad aa be set up in bits o ferms o oor ain, an nae need to dae a day's dairg for ony man but oorsels. An'ra Wabster, that wis first horseman to auld Britherston, uised to tell us aa aboot it, the time we were sittin doun on the bieldy side o the stooks, haein oor baps an yill at the twal-hoors.

"Ye'll suin see the hinner end o this, lads," says he. "Nae mair slavin an swattin at ither folk's wark. Ye'll yoke whan ye like an ye'll lowse whan ye like. Ye'll scoug it whan it's weet, an ye'll tak a cairt an gang an veesit yer freends ony day ye please. Ye'll aa be maisters thegither; ye'll sit ilka ane under his ain vine an his ain feg-tree, an enjoy the fruits o the yirth," says he.

"I'm thinkin," says Dave Daagleish the orraman,--he wisna very gleg o the uptak, Dave, an mony's the lauch we got oot o him,--"I'm thinkin," says he, "that thae craps'll no dae up here-a-wey, sae nigh the hills. I ettled to pit the maist pairt o my land under gress," says he, "wi mebbe twa acres or thereby o aits, an a wheen baggies, an twa-three rowes o tatties. I'm no heedin muckle aboot growin fegs," says he.

"Houts, ye gowk, that's what they caa a feegur o speech," says An'ra; "it juist means that ye'll hae rowth o aa things. Ye'll get yer ain bit land, an ye'll get the siller to stock it, an syne ye can growe ony kind o crap ye like."

"But whaur's the land an the siller to come frae?" says Dave.

"Whaur frae?" says An'ra; "man, Dave, ye've a heid like a neep. Hae ye no read it in the Journal?" Hae ye no heard plenty aboot it frae the poupit? Man, div ye no ken that the Bill's passed an the Kirk's doun? Whaur frae? frae the spiles o the Kirk, o coorse. That's whaur frae."

Weel, the time gaed by, an we haed the stuff aa into the yaird, an the stacks theekit, an syne we started to the pleuchin an the tattie-liftin. An ae Sabbath day the minister gied it oot that on the neist he wad conduck what he caad a hervest thanks-givin service. (That wis the Sabbath afore the Martinmas term--sax weeks ahint his uisual time: sae late the hairst wis that year) . Noo, I maun descrive to ye what 'n a differ the pouin doun o the Kirk haed made in oor pairish. At the ootset, it wisna that muckle, efter aa; no near haun sae muckle as some folk haed expeckit. The Frees haed been crawin undae crouse ower the dounfaa o the Estaiblishment, as wis but naiteral; an it's my belief they thocht on the first Sabbath efter the Bill wan throu, that the Auld Kirk door wad be steekit, an aa oor folk wad come trapezin up the brae to their wee bit tuim kirkie. Geordie Runciman, the carrier, said as muckle to mysel, ae nicht in Jenny Brockie's public. Geordie wis a deacon in the Free, an kent fine what the clash wis amang them, an he lat oot that there wis some o them fair dumbfoonered whan they heard the jow o oor bell, an saw no a saul comin up the brae but juist their ain hearers.

Oor kirk keepit as thrang as afore. Nae dout we lost the laird, that wis mortal offendit at the wey things haed gaen, an whirled past the kirk yett ilka Sabbath mornin wi his neb cockit in the air, awa doun by, to hunker wi the Yepiscopawlians. An forby the laird, there wis twa-three mair o the gentry drappit aff, an mebbe an orra ane here an there o the workin folk, that haed no been kirk-greedy at ony time, an noo gied ower attendin aathegither. But the maist feck juist sat canny, whaur their forbears haed sat afore them, an whaur they haed naethin to pey for bottom-room.

An to mak up for them that gaed, we got a wheen new members--ye'll no guess whaur frae: dod, man, we got them frae the Frees! There wis auld Peter Peffers, that fermed Scraemuir--"Puir Pate," the folk caad him, for he wis aye makkin a puir mooth, an him rowin in walth, as aabody kent. WeeI, Pate said that he wis a man o principle, an that he haed come oot o a Yerastian Estaiblishment at the Disruption, shakin the dust therof aff his shuin. "But noo," says he, "principle's got nae mair to dae wi't; the tae kirk's as guid as the tither, an there's naethin left for a body to testify against ava. An there's me wi a muckle bucht-sate o my ain in the pairish kirk, an no a bawbee to pey for't; an the Frees are aye ruggin at me for subscriptions--priggin siller here an siller there; if it's no sate rents, its Sustentation Fund, an if it's no that it's some ither objeck: their nieve's ne'er oot o my pooch," says he. Sae what dis Pate dae but lift his lines an tak the gait doun the brae, an his hale faimily wi him, an it wisna smaa.

There wis an unco stramash on the heid o't amang the Frees--I got that oot o Geordie Runciman ower a gless; an Geordie Runciman ower a gless; an Tamson, their man, preached a hale hoor aboot the glorious memories o Forty-Three an backsliders, an profane persons like Esau; an aboot Jeroboam the son o Nebat, that gaed stravagin to anither kirk, an made aa Israel to sin; an aboot Demas, that loe'd his gear mair nor his God, an ran awa whan it cam to the bit, an left Paul to fecht wi the wild beas' aa his lane. They said that whiles he wis greetin an whiles he wis sweirin in the poupit, he wis that sair pitten aboot. O coorse, aabody jalouzed wha it wis meant for, but Pate wisna there to hear, an it did him nae hairm. The Scraemuir pew in the wast laft wis filled up wi his lads an lasses for Pate wear'd them aa to the kirk maist reg'lar ilka Sabbath day; an it wis as guid as a play to see the shog he gied the ladle, whan Archie Howden the elder raxed it ower his shouther: as muckle as to say, "Na, na; ye've gotten me, but ye're no gaun to get my siller."

They said that oor ain man wisna fell pleased wi this addeetion to the membership; for Puir Pate haed a maist astonishin memory, an forby that, he aye markit doun the text an whiles the heids on the side o his beuk; an the minister coudna gie an auld sermon ower again at an orra time withoot the hale pairish hearin o't.