P Hay Hunter

MR INWICK'S DIPLOMACY

A WEEL, as I wis sayin, the minister gied it oot that he wis gaun to preach an extrae sermon aboot the hairst, an we aa leukit forrat til't, for he wis aye by-ordinar grand on thae occasions. Me an the minister's cuist oot, as ye ken: but for aa that, ye'll no hear me finnd ony faut wi his preachin. Faur frae't, I'll allou that I ne'er sat under ane I likit better--I coudna weel say less, for I haed a guid haun mysel in the pittin o him in.

I daursay ye'll ha heard tell hoo that wis? Ye see, there were twa candidates on the short leet for the Pairish o Snawdon--baith birkies new aff the airns, for we haed made up oor minds, richt or wrang, (an hoo faur wrang it wis we fand belyve) , that we wad hae a young, veegorous man for the place. The first ane that preached wis a lang, lout-shouthered callant they caad Gillespie; he haed braw certeeficates frae aa the Embro professors, an they said his heid wis juist pang fou o lair. He did no that ill i' the poupit, aither, but the folk werena muckle taen wi him, aa the mair whan a souch got aboot that he wis the laird's man. This ane said he haed a squaeky vice, an that ane said he haed a mant, an the tither ane that he clippit his wirds; an An'ra Wabster objeckit to him because he haed a gowd ring on his pinkie an his hair shed doon the middle.

But whan the tither ane preached--a weel-farrant lad he wis, straucht an souple, wi an ee like a gled's, an a vice ye micht ha heard frae the cairn on the Whaup Law--we aa said, "Yon's oor man."

There wis a wheen o us foregethered ae nicht at Jenny Brockie's--there wis An'ra Wabster, an Robbie Dodds the grieve at Scraemuir, an Tam Arnott the herd at Wedderlairs, an Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish, an Adam Instant the dry-dyker, an Jock Sives the mole-catcher, an Dan Preacher the miller's man, an mysel, an ane or twa mair. We suin got started on the crack aboot the candidates, an it wis easy seen hoo the thing wad gang gin the puir folk haed their wey.

"Gillespie'll no dae," says Robbie Dodds; "he mey gang doun wi the gentry, but he'll no gang doun wi us. They're aye threepin that he's a terrible grand scholard, but I thocht yon he gied us wis gey fushionless stuff."

"I canna awa wi yon hiech English o his," says Dan Preacher.

"He's a puir, poukit-like cratur," says Tam Arnott; "I got a glisk o him gaun doun the street efter the kirk skailled, an, man, his shanks are nae stooter nor my rung. A waif o wind wad blaw him ower."

"He haed nae heids to his discoorse," says Adam Instant; "it wis juist a mixtie-maxtie--I coudna keep a grup o the threid o't, try as I likit. Noo, the laddie Broun haes some smeddum in him, an they say his faither wis juist a workin-man like oorsels; he's a hamely chiel yon, or I'm cheated."

"I likit him fell weel," says Dave Daagleish; "I likit yon bit awfu aboot the wumman that tint the saxpence, an soupit oot her hoose but an ben, an rakit oot the aiss-hole, an leukit under the dresser, an ahint the beds, an rummilt the kist, an turned aathing tapsie-teerie till she fand it. It minded me o my ain mistress whan she yokes to a cleanin. Man, he laid it aff bonny!"

"Yon's an orawtor," says An'ra; "there's nae dout aboot it; the tither ane canna haud a candle to him. Noo, lads, we're aa o ae wey o thinkin, an we'll hae to pit oor best fit foremaist, if Broun's to hae ony chance. Mind ye, the laird'll be there, an the factor, an aa the gairdeners an foresters, an the servin men an wenches frae the big hoose, forby the fermers an the twa-three bit shopkeeper bodies doun here-a-wey, that live aff the brok o the laird's custom--the hale clamjamfrey o them, aa votin as they're telt; an if we dinna tak tent, they'll hae their man shoved into the pairish ower oor heids. See here, Jims," he says to me--"ye're a gey pawkie chiel; there's no mony can rowe a smoother bool than yersel. We'll lippen to you. Ye maun tak a daunder throu the ferm touns, atween this an the 'lection nicht, an mak shuir o the hinds. The meetin's no till aucht, an they hae time eneuch to dicht their faces an pou on their Sunday breeks, efter they've sorted their horse, an come awa doun by an vote. Tell them the days o patronage are ower, an aa the pouer's in their ain hauns noo, an they maun come forrat, aa them that hae their names on the rowe, an gie their votes for Broun, the pleuchman's candidate. But I needna tell ye what to say: ye ken brawly yersel. Juist you pit the maiter fair afore them, an shoo them the richt airt, an we'll gie the laird an the maisters a bane to pike that'll keep their teeth gaun for a gey while!"

"But wha's to nominate Broun at the meetin?" says I; "ye needna think that I'll dae't. I'm no feared to gie ye my opeenions here, or in the wricht's shop, or doun at the smiddy, but I'm no gaun to staun up in the kirk afore aa the folk an mak a speech. I'm no glib-gabbit eneuch for that," says I.

"Ne'er fash yer thoum aboot that pairt o't," says An'ra; "I'm no blate: get ye the chaps doun to vote, an I'll nominate Broun mysel, an no think twice aboot it. An noo that's aa settled--hae, lassie," says he, "bring us a gill a-piece, for it's drouthy wark crackin aboot meenisters."

Weel, to be gettin on wi my claivers, they aa pressed me an fleeched on me till I buid to tak the job on haun. What I did wis to gang roon' the ferm touns efter lowsin time, an juist pit the maiter fair afore the men, as An'ra haed said. Whiles I spak to them in their hooses, an whiles in the smiddy, whaur there were aye a wheen o them at nicht gettin their pleuchairns shairpent. There were some wadna promise to atten' the meetin, maistly on accoont o aye gettin a gliff o the cauld ilka time they pat on their Sunday's claes. But that wis but an auntern ane here an there. The maist o them said at aince that they wad come doun an vote for ony man the maisters didna want, if it wisna for haein sae faur to traivel, an them wi sair feet efter pleuchin stibble aa day.

Sae ae nicht awa I gaes aince errand up to Scraemuir, an gets a haud o auld Pate Peffers. Pate haed thrawn wi the laird, I no mind what aboot--drains, or fences, or the rabbits spilin his craps: the laird an him were aye bickerin aboot ae thing or anither. There wis nae hingin back wi Puir Pate, I warrant ye, whan he heard what brocht me: no that he cared a preen wha we got for a minister, but onything that wad set the laird's back up wis juist like a dram to him. He wis fine pleased to gie me what I wanted--the len o twa-three lang cairts to bring oor men doun to the votin.

"Is't aa richt?" says An'ra Wabster to me, at the kirk yett, on the nicht o the meetin.

"Ay," says I; "if aa hechts haud, it's aa richt"--an juist than I heard the rummle o the cairts comin doun the brae--"it's as richt's the mail," says I; "they'll be here in a jiffy:" awa ye gang in, an dae yer pairt noo. Hae ye gotten yer speech aa ready?"

"I hae gotten't in my pooch," says An'ra; an I thocht his vice soonded a wee thing shaky.

"Ye'd better ha gotten't in yer heid," says I.

"Nae fear o me," says An'ra; "bide a wee, Jims my man, an ye'll hear somethin guid: I hae wrote doun a wheen things the laird'll no like," says he.

Weel, in we gaed: Simpson o Lempockshaws--him they caad Skelly Simpson, on accoont o his gleyed een--wis in the chair, bein moderawtor durin the vacancy. (Folk said Simpson wadna ha been ill-pleased to get an offer o the place himsel, Lempockshaws bein but a smaa livin) . Syne the laird got up an made a bonny speech, aa aboot Gillespie, an his certeeficates, an his medals, an the letters ahint his name; ye'd ha thocht he wis somethin mair nor mortal, sic a character he got. An up got Durie o Boghaa, ane o the elders, an seconded the laird. "Is there ony ither person to be nominated?" says Simpson. We aa leukit at An'ra, but he juist hotched in his sate, an didna rise. "If there's nae ither person," says Simpson, "than--" here I gied An'ra a dunch wi my elbow, an up he got, but no leukin himsel ava; ye'd ha thocht he haed taen a drappie ower muckle. First he stuid on the tae leg an syne on the tither, fuffin an blawin, an glowerin at Skelly Simpson like a wild cat oot o a whun buss. Syne he begoud to fummle in his pooch, an pou'd oot his cutty pipe, an it fell on the fluir an brak in bits. At this the hizzies frae the big hoose, in the pew ahint, aa nudged ane anither an giggled, an An'ra got awfu reid in the face, an the sweat fair poored aff him--ye never saw a man in sic a state o praspiration aa yer born days.

A' the time he wis warslin wi the things in his pooch, steerin them roon' an makkin grabs for his crumb o paper--like the wey ye've seen the laddies guddlin for troot under the stanes. At the hinner end he got a haud o't, an feshed it oot; but, dod, efter he'd gotten't, he coud mak naither heid nor tail o't, it wis that smaa-written, forby bein aa blobbit an crunkled. There he stuid, like a muckle stucky eemage, gruppin at the beuk-buird, an heezin his sel frae the tae leg on to the tither, an gowpin at Simpson as if he wis a bogle; an ye coud see by the wey his mooth gaed that he wis tryin sair to speak, an mebbe thocht himsel he wis speakin, but no a cheep cam.

"Speak oot, ye donnert eejit!" says Tam Arnott, that wis sittin by him on the tither side frae me; "what are ye fleyed for? Get on wi yer show, an dinna staun there whaizlin like a blastit stink!" At this the folk that wis sittin near haun aa burst oot lauchin; an An'ra at it again, pechin an hawkin, an hoastin like an auld wife, but nae mair able to get oot a wird o sense nor if he haed been tongue-tackit.

"What's the man sayin?" says Simpson at last, oot o aa patience; "I canna hear a single wird."--"He's nominatin Broun," says I, lood oot.--"The Reverend Maister Broun, ye mean," says Simpson, gey short, like; "is that the case, my man?"--he says to An'ra; "am I to understaun that you nominate the Reverend Maister Broun for election to this kirk an pairish?"--"Ay," says An'ra; an that wis aa the speech he ever made yet.

He telt me, efter it wis aa by, that for as gash as he wis amang oorsels, the thocht o staunin up an speakin in the kirk brocht the cauld creep ower him. He kent fine he wad be nervish whan it cam to the bit, an for fear o no mindin aa he meant to say, he scarted doun his heids on the back side o a paper poke, an brocht it wi him. "It wis that mischancy crumb o paper spiled my speech, deil hae't," he said to me; "I coudna dae wantin't an I coudna dae wi't. Man, Jims, yon wis an awfu habble to be in! My wits were fair in a creel--I didna ken whaur I wis, or what I wis daein, nae mair nor a soukin bairn. Fegs I'll ne'er lichtly the meenisters' job again! I wadna staun in their shuin for ony money."

It didna maiter, efter aa, aboot An'ra stickin his speech, for Broun wis nominated an seconded aa richt--I did that mysel; an whan it cam to the coontin, he got in by seeven votes ower the ither man. Gillespie's pairty gaed clean wud an behaved theirsels maist unseemly, hissin an boo-hooin, withoot ony regaird for whaur they were. Simpson, I maun say, spak up middlin sensible; he telt them to respeck the place o worship, if they didna respeck theirsels; an said he haed nae dout we haed gotten an excellent minister, an he hoped the minority wad faa in wi the majority, an mak it what he caad a "hermonious settlement."

There wisna muckle prospeck o that at the meetin, it maun be said; for they raised sic a dust that it teuk Simpson aa his time to get a hearin, an he wis michty weel pleased to skail the byke an shank awa hame to Lempockshaws. I wisna sweer to get oot o the shindy mysel. Some o haed got to ken aboot my trokins wi the pleuchmen, an aboot the len o the lang cairts frae Scraemuir, an they gied me a lot o ill tongue at the kirk yett. But I e'en jouked an lat the jaw gae by. The votin coudna be taen ower again; the proceedins were aa perfeckly reg'lar, as Simpson said; Broun wis in, an naebody coud pit him oot. Sae I didna need to mind their snash, an I ne'er lat on I heard them.