P Hay Hunter
THE MINISTER O SNAWDON
THAT wis the wey Broun got the pairish o Snawdon. He haed uphill wark, as ye mey weel believe, for a gey while. Ye ken the sayin--"as the laird bowfs, the loun yaff." The laird teuk the strunt on the heid o't, an gied ower comin to the kirk. Syne Liddell o Wedderlairs an Durie o Boghaa left the session, an Archie Howden haed to cairy roon' the ladle aa by himsel. An some o them were that faur left to theirsels that they lifted their beuks, an gaed awa up the brae to the Frees. Nane o them wad subscribe to gie the new minister his cloak, an they aa bided awa frae his ordination--juist like a wheen dorty bairns.
As I telt ye afore, the minister haes crackit his credit wi me sin syne. But I maun allou that nae man coud ha duin better, for a guid while efter he wis placed. He 's a clever chiel, the minister, an nae mistak. It wis a raivelled hasp he haed to redd, an he did it unco skeely. O coorse, he kent fine what'n a fracaw there haed been in the pairish, an wha wis for him an wha wis against him; but he keepit a calm souch, an never made ony difference atween ane an anither. He tried to be freends wi aabody, an the wey he got on the richt side o the folk wis uncommon.
It wisna sae muckle his preachin that brocht them roon', as his fine, free wey; aye a cheery wird whan he passed ye on the road, an aye somethin to crack aboot whan he gied ye a caa; an he haed aa their names an fore-names, an their trades, an their troubles, an aa aboot them, at his finger-ends in nae time. He haed nae pride in him, but for aa that he aye keepit his ain place, an the folk thocht the mair o him for't. There wisna his maik at waddins an kirsenins, he wis that joky an pleesant; an he wis aye guid to the puir. An he got on wi the maisters juist as weel as wi the workin folk. They aa showed him the cauld shouther to begin wi, but they coudna keep it up; he wis sic grand company, aabody said, an coud sing a sang, or tak a haun at the cartes, or crack aboot the mercats, wi ony o them. They haed to gie in, an suin he wis as chief as ye like wi some o them that haed been caain him for aathing.
Ane efter anither, the silly bodies that haed taen the road up the brae cam dranglin doun again--like laddies efter playin the kip, leukin gey ashamed o theirsels. Syne Durie begoud to atten' the session meetins, an at the neist sacrament, there wis Liddell tae, back in his auld place. An ae day the laird an the minister met on the road, an walked up an doun for mebbe quarter o an hoor, killoguin thegither; an, dod, the neist thing the folk heard wis that the minister haed been up to the big hoose at his denner. He wis suin as faur ben wi the laird as wi aabody else, an it wisna vera lang afore he haed him doun at the kirk again, sittin in his muckle airm-chair in the fore-breest o the sooth laft as if he 'd never been oot o't.
We were raal prood o him, I can tell ye, hiz anes that haed pitten him in. Ae Hirin Friday I met in wi Durie, doun by,--I served wi him for a twal-month at Boghaa, afore I gaed to Cauldshiel; an he uised aye to stop an speer at me hoo I wis, an if I haed ony news, for he wis a cracky body, an no a bad maister aither. Somethin wis said aboot the minister, an I coudna help remarkin, "Weel, Maister Durie, I no think we 've waled sic a puir gnaff efter aa." He gied me a kind o queer leuk, an, "Mebbe no," says he, "but I'm thinkin it 's mair by luck nor guid guidin, Jims, my man." An wi that he gaed awa, no appearin ower weel pleased wi the wipe I haed gien him.
An his preachin--haud yer tongue! The like o't haesna been heard in Snawdon kirk, no sin Pendreigh gaed oot at the Disruption; an the wheen auld folk that minded o Pendreigh said that, for as pouerfu a preacher as he wis, he wisna Broun's equal. As I said afore, I ne'er sat under ane that wis mair exackly to my mind. For ae thing, he no uized the paper--no even notes; an he wisna like some o thae ex-trumpery preachers I've heard in my day, that haena but ae tuin to their pipes, an gie ye't ower an ower again till ye're stawed wi't. He didna juist staun up an haiver in the poupit, like a heap o them; he aye spak sense, an keepit a grup o his subjeck, an ne'er flung awa a text till he'd gien ye the guts o't. He wisna feared to say oot what he thocht aboot onything or onybody, an he pat things awfu plain, whiles; an he haed a braw wale o wirds forby--whan he teuk on haun to descrive some o thae things oot o the Bible, losh, it wis like seein a man pent a pictur o't afore yer een. An whan he got wrocht up into ane o his flichts an rapturs, wi his airms sweein roon', an the sweat dreepin aff him, an the stour fleein oot the poupit cuish'ns, an auld Wattie Hogg cooerin an chitterin doun ablo at the precentor's desk, thinkin ilka meenit the muckle bouk wis gaun to cloit on the tap o him--man, ye micht ha heard a preen drap or a moose cheep in the kirk; the vera weans dursna play peep till he wis duin. There wis nae gantin an doverin in oor kirk, I can tell ye. He can preach yet--I'll no say onything to the contrar. But he's no what he wis: it's an awfu peety ye didna hear him in his young days.
Ay, he wis muckle run efter; folk uised to come to Snawdon kirk frae the ither pairishes roon' aboot, he got sic a name in the kintra-side. O coorse the Frees wadna gie in til't that he wis as guid as their ain man--no that ony o them haed ever heard him, but that didna maiter. Ye ken what the Frees are: it wis juist like them. Weel, weel; ilka chuckie thinks its ain cleckin the bonniest; that's but naiteral. But what wey ye canna haud up yer ain man withoot rinnin doun ither folks', that's what beats me aathegither. I've heard them say mysel Auld Kirk folk were juist a wheen reprobants, an Moderates, an puir lost craturs like the Ninnyvites, that didna ken their richt haun by their left; an as for gettin the Gospel frae an Auld Kirk minister, ye micht as weel expeck to get milk frae a yell coo.
They're aa brunt wi the same burn-airn, aa the Frees. There wis Geordie Runciman the carrier--a freend o my ain, bein mairit on the wife's auntie, an a raal douce, obleegin chiel; but as be-gotted as ony o them. I mind o faain in wi Geordie, ae nicht no lang efter Broun wis settled; he wis staivin doun the street, an I kent fine what airt the wind wis settin wi him. "Chainge yer braith, Geordie?" says I. "WeeI," says he, "I dinna mind if I hae a cawker." Sae in we gaed to Jenny's, whaur we fand a wheen mair o them sittin, haein their smoke an their gless.
Syne Geordie begoud to bleeze awa aboot their man, what a deevil he wis amang the doctrines, an what terrible grand sermons he gied them. It kind o stuck in my crap to hear him gaun on at siccan a rate, an I coudna help pittin in a wird for oor man; but d'ye think Geordie wad listen?--no him; it wis Tamson this, an Tamson that, an as for Broun, his maiter wis juist a blash o wirds, an his deleevery no muckle better nor play-actin.
"Noo, Geordie," says I til him at last, "caa canny; ye've nae richt to sit there an criticeeze a man ye've no heard. See here, I'll mak a bargain wi ye. I'll gae up neist Sabbath day to your kirk, gin ye'll come doun the neist again to oors; an I'll tell ye what I think o Tamson, an ye'll tell me what ye think o Broun. That's fair, is't no?"--I says to them that wis in the room wi us.
They aa said it wis fair, but Geordie swithered; o coorse I kent fine he didna like bein seen in the pairish kirk, maim especially wi bein an office-bearer in the Free, an haein a character to keep up.
"Na, na, Jims, my mannie," says he, "come up wi me an walcome, an ye'll be walkin in the wey o grace if ye dae; but I canna bind mysel to gang wi you. It wadna be seemly, an me a deacon," says he.
"Na, na, Geordie, my mannie," says I, "fair hornie: if I'm to gang up the brae, ye'll hae to come doun, deacon or no deacon. Shuirly they'll no tak awa yer office frae ye, an cast ye oot o the synagogue, for a first faut? Are we no telt in the Beuk aboot the sodger body, I dinna mind his name, that got leave to boo doun in the hoose o Rummun? Are the Frees mair strick nor the Jews?" says I: "c'wa, man-let's hae nae mair argle-bargin; sae 'duin', an gie's yer luif on't!"
Weel, what wi me tormentin him, an the ither fallows aa eggin him on, Geordie chapped hauns; an the neist Sabbath mornin him an me met at the toun cross, an gaed up the brae thegither.
They tak the bawbees in a brod, up at the Free, an ane o their elders wis staunin ahint it at the door. "Is't himsel the day?" says Geordie to the elder, michty consequential, wi his wey o't. "Ay," says the elder, "it's himsel." "That's a guid thing," says Geordie; an in we gaed.
It wis himsel, an nae mistak. An unco screed he gied us, aa aboot oreeginal sin, an the covenant o warks, an circumceesion, an a heap mair o their Free Kirk freets. I thocht he wad ne'er be duin. He said that he wad address hissel to us as puir sinfu worms, faimishin for the Wird; but I can tell ye, lang afore he got near haun his personal application, I wis faimishin for my denner.
"Weel, hoo did ye like him?" says Geordie, as suin as we haed gotten oot; "noo, wisna yon a roosin sermon?"
No to tell ye a lee, I thocht him little better nor an auld haveril; an as for his sermon, it seemed to me puir baugh stuff, juist aboot as wersh as a kail custock. But I didna say that to Geordie, no wantin to set up his birse.
"Hoo did I like him?" says I; "ou, no that ill; but shuirly he's gotten an awfu dose o the cauld, puir body."
"What gars ye think that?" says Geordie, no vera weel pleased, like.
"I thocht he wis gey roupy," says I; "but mebbe I'm wrang"--the fack bein he haed been croupin like a craw, the wey he aye spak, as I kent weel eneuch.
"I didna remark it," says Geordie, gey snippy; an he ask it me nae mair questions.
Weel, he keepit his tryst, an Sabbath come aucht days we met at the cross again, an gaed to the pairish kirk. The minister wis in grand fettle that day, an preached ane o his best sermons. But I wisna gaun to speer at Geordie what he thocht o him; no likely. Efter we'd gotten oot by, an lichtit oor pipes, we stapped awa doun the road thegither, an Geordie wis aye takkin anither leuk at me, but I ne'er lat on.
"I'm sayin," says he, efter a gey while.
"Ay?" says I.
"Ye've smaa need o a soondin-buird in your kirk," says he; "ye've mair need o tow in yer lugs. Gosh, yon man's fit to deave ye!"
"D'ye think sae?" says I; an no a wird mair.
"I'm sayin," says he again, efter we 'd gaen mebbe anither mile an a bittock.
"Ay?" says I.
"D'ye ken your kirk's skailled the best pairt o hauf an hoor afore oors? Yon man gies ye scrimp meesure," says he.
"D'ye think sae?" says I--an thinks I to mysel, "Fegs, we mey weel be prood o oor minister, gin that 's aa the faut ye can finnd wi him!"--I kent braw an weel what Geordie haed it on his tongue to say aa the time--what ye'll hear the Frees aye sayin aboot aa preachers but their ain--that he wis cauld, an wanted unction, an haedna the ruit o the maiter in him. But he thocht shame to say't; his conscience wadna let him, for aa as be-gotted as he wis. He didna blaw sae muckle aboot Tamson for a gey while efter; an whan I telt the chaps, they aa said I wis a fell body, an that I haed come ower Geordie raal fine.