P Hay Hunter
A WEEL, no to leeze oot my story--an I dout ye'll be thinkin me as lang-windit as Tamson himsel--aboot the hairst-sermon, an the unco steer it made in the pairish. But afore I come to that, there 's ae thing I maun tell ye, to let ye understaun hoo things fell oot, an that is, the wey I cam to be made an elder. Ye didna ken I wis ane?--mebbe no; I haena ackit for a gey while: but I'm no tellin ye ony lee--Jims Inwick's a rulin elder o the kirk, for aa that.
It wis a whilie efter he 'd been settled, aboot a twal-month or sae, that ae day the minister sent up wird to me to come doun to the manse an see him. I haed nae dreed o what he wanted wi me, but I kent I haedna been in ony faut, an I wis fine pleased to stap doun an gie him a caa, for him an me wis grit in thae days. He wis sittin amang his beuks whan the lassie teuk me ben, wi his lamp lichted, an his papers aa laid oot afore him, howkin his harns for a sermon, for it wis Setturday nicht.
"Come in, Jims," he says to me; "come in by an sit ye doun. I'm blythe to see ye. Hoo's aa wi ye?"
"I daurna complain," says I; "hoo's yersel, sir?"
"Fine, thank ye," says he; "what's daein up at Cauldshiel?"
"Ou, no that vera muckle," says I; "we 're gey thrang singlin neeps; they 're comin awa on us juist fast eneuch in this growin wather, ' an we 're short-handit, ye ken. I 'm thinkin the maister maun be gey near the end o his tether. He canna pit the strength on the place that it wad need," says I.
"I 'm sorry to hear that," says he, an he leukit it, tae; "it 's a peetifu sicht, Jims, an honest man wi his back to the waa at the end o his days."
"Ye 're richt there, sir," says I; "aa body feels for auld Britherston. Yon's the dourest land that ever I wis on; it's aa till thegither."
"Sae they tell me," says he; an syne he sat for a bit leukin at me, an me leukin at him, waitin to hear what he haed to say.
At last he says to me, "Weel, Jims, I daursay ye'll be wonderin what for I 've brocht ye aa the road doun by the nicht. To tell ye the truith, I want to hae a quiet crack wi ye on a maiter o importance. I 'm thinkin o makkin an addeetion to the session, Jims."
"An I 'm shuir it's time," says I. "Archie Howden's but a thieveless, daidlin cratur; an Durie haes an unco conceit o himsel, an no that muckle sense wi t; an as for Liddell, he 's an eldrin man noo, an gettin gey doitit. I'm thinkin they'll no be muckle worth to ye, ony o the three o them. Ay, there's nae dout ye wad be aa the better o ane or twa new elders. Hae ye gotten onybody parteeclar in yer mind, sir, gin I mey speer at ye?"
"Weel, yes, Jims," he says; "I hae gotten somebody in my mind. There 's a man I 've haed my ee on sin I cam to this pairish; a man I dinna think coud be caad thieveless or senseless: as for the conceit, we'll let that flee stick to the waa--I daursay there 's nane o us the waur o a wee bit dose o that same. I'm set on haein that man for an elder, an I'll tell ye wha it is. It's juist yersel, Jims."
"Me!" says I.--Lordsake, ye micht ha cowpit me ower wi a strae! The thocht o sic a thing haed never entered my heid, an I coudna trow my am hearin--"Me an elder!" says I; "g'wa wi ye, minister, ye 're takkin yer nap aff me."
"Deil a bit," says he--no that he uized thae vera wirds, but it wis to the same effeck--"I 'm in deid sober earnest. Ye 're the vera man for the job, Jims; I 'ye been makkin inquiries, an I hae satisfied mysel that yer appintment wad be weel received by the congregation at lairge. I dinna want ye to say aither ay or no the nicht: it 's ower saerious a maiter to be settled aff-hand, at ae doun-sittin. I want ye to think ower't at yer leesure, an leuk at it aa weys, an hear what the wife haes to say til't: ye'll no gang faur aff the road gin ye let yersel be guidit by the wife, Jims, for she 's a maist sensible wumman."
"Deed, she 's aa that," says I; "but na, na,--I'm no fit for the poseetion; an forby that, I 'm thinkin the elders ye hae the noo wadna be ower weel pleased to see me amang them. Durie an me 'grees best separate; an Liddell tell't me to my face, no that vera lang syne, that I wis nae better nor a mischief-makar an an agitawtor."
"Ye needna fash yersel aboot that," says he; "I've made it aa richt wi the session. They're aa willin to let by-ganes be by-ganes, an to gie ye the richt haun o fellowship."
"Weel, minister," says I til him, "there's naebody like ye for castin glaumer ower folk: I wadna ha trowed that gin ye haedna telt me yersel. But na--it'll no dae. I'm muckle obleeged to ye for the offer, but I coudna accep' o't. It's no for the likes o me to be shovin mysel forrat that gait. I aye mind what my auld faither, honest man, uised to tell us--Hew abuin yer heid, an ye'll get a spale in yer ee. I ken fine what some o them wad be sayin--'Him an elder, set him up! A common pleuchman! '"
"Weel, Jims," he says, "that mey be, I'll no say. There's aye a wheen smaa-minded, spitefu craturs that'll cast it up to ye that ye're this an ye're that--I've haed it duin to mysel. But sensible men like you an me dinna need to mind sic clash, nae mair nor the bizzin o a flee at yer lug. An I'll no hear ye lichtly yer callin. It's the maist auncient o aa trades, an the ane the warld canna dae wantin--'the king himsel is saired by the field': that's in the Bible. As lang as ye dae an honest day's wark at the pleuchtail, ye dinna need to think shame o yer glaury buits. Ye're a great Leeberal, I hear, Jims?--what they caa a demmycrat?"
"Weel," says I, "I'm no juist what ye'd caa a Tory."
"Than ye mey be thankfu," says he, "that ye're a member o the freest an maist leeberal kirk that's gaun. In oor kirk, as ye micht ken by this time, Jock's as guid as his maister, an the puir man haes as muckle say as the rich. It's no braid claith an a gowd ring that maks a man respeckit in the kirk, but juist the man himsel; an if the man haes a guid name, an if he's worthy o the eldership, we dinna leuk at his graith or his gear. I want aa clesses representit on my session, an that's ane o my reasons for askin you," says he.
"That's weel said, sir," says I, "an I'll gae in wi every wird o't; but for aa that, I dout I'll hae to refuize. I'll no say ony mair that to be an elder's abuin my station, but I ken fine it's abuin my pouers. Ye'll easy finnd somebody that's mair like the thing nor me, an better able to dae the duties o the office."
"But div ye ken what the duties are, Jims?" says he; "let's hear, noo: what is't an elder haes to dae that ye're fleyed to tackle?"
Weel, whan he pat it to me like that, an I begoud to turn the thing ower in my mind, I fand it wisna that muckle I did ken aboot it, efter aa. I haed aye understuid that an elder teuk up the bawbees, an syne coonted them; an that he offeeciated on sacramental occasions; an sat in juidgment wi the minister whan some lassie haed made a mistak, or some man an his wife haed been to the fore wi the kirk in the wey o mairrage. An forby that, I haed a kind o notion that an elder wisna like ither folk, bein lifted up, in a mainer o speakin, abuin the lave; an tho he wisna expeckit to preach, he micht be caad upon whiles to pit up a bit prayer--no that I haed ever heard tell o Durie or Liddell takkin pairt in ony speeritual exerceese: an that he buid to keep elders' hoors--tho what they micht be I've ne'er been able to mak oot, for I'm shuir I've gaen awa frae a freends hoose on the chap o twal, an left Archie Howden sittin wi a fou tumbler afore him. But as for onything mair, I wis gey hazy.
"Weel, Jims," says the minister to me, "I see ye're no vera clear on the subjeck, an mebbe I'd better pit a fack or twa afore ye, to help ye to mak up yer mind."
"Say awa, sir," says I--tho I kent I haed nae business to be sittin there hearin him if I didna mean to accep', for there wis nae haudin oot against his whilly-whaain: gie him time, an he coud weise a body ony gait he wanted.
"Weel, to begin wi," says he, "we're telt that an elder maun be the husband o ae wife."
"That's aa richt," says I; "ane's eneuch for ony man, let a-be an elder."
"An it's further required," says he, "that an elder maun aye stick up for his minister, richt or wrang; mair especially whan he's wrang, for than he haes maist need o backin." Wi this he gied a lauch, an I saw it wisna meant saerious, sae I e'en gied a lauch tae.
"But here's a beuk that tells ye aa aboot it," says he, an he feshed a muckle auld beuk doun aff the shelf, caad Acks o Assembly; "juist listen for a meenit, an ye'll be able to answer gin onybody speers at ye what an elder ocht to be. He maun be a man o guid life an godly conversation."
"Weel," says I, "it's no for me to say, but I hae aye tried to dae richt, an I've ne'er haed to staun the session, onyway."
"He maun be circumspeck in his walk," says he, aye readin oot the beuk.
"Guid kens I'm aa that," says I; "an the wey folk turn ower what ye say, an clatter ahint yer back noo-a-days, a body haes muckle need to be."
"An he maun be strick in his observation o the Lords day," says he.
"Weel," says I, "ye ken yersel, sir, ye never miss me a day oot the kirk, snaw or blaw."
"An he maun be reg'lar in keepin up worship in his faimily," says he.
"Me an the mistress reads a chapter maist ilka nicht," says I, "afore we gang to oor bed, an aye on the Sabbath e'enin."
"An yet ye wad threep it doun my throat," says he, "that ye're no fit to be an elder! Gang yer weys hame, Jims my man, an hae a bit crack ower't wi the mistress. An gin ye read a chapter the nicht, let it be the third o first Timothy: it's 'deacons' there, but juist you caa't 'elders', an ye'll no be faur aff the bit. An come doun by an see me this nicht week, an if I dinna mak an elder o ye afore vera lang, I'm cheated, that's a. '"
I kent fine hoo it wad be whan I gaed hame an telt the wife. She wis naither to haud nor to bin', an as for gettin in a wird o reason wi her, ye micht as weel ha tried to cog a mill-wheel wi a spurtle. "Did I no say that wis what he wanted wi ye?" says she.
"Weel," says I, "if ye said it, it maun ha been in to yersel, for I didna hear ye."
"An whae's got a better richt to be made an elder nor you, I wad like to ken?" says she; "whae's come o mair dacent folk? whae's conduckit himsel mair respectable? whae's been mair reg'lar in the kirk? whae's duin mair for the minister? Wis't no you that pat him in, as I've heard ye brag aboot mony a time? 'A body shoudna rax abuin his reach, ' say you? Man, Jims, I wonder to hear ye. I thocht ye haed mair sense. Hoo is't abuin your reach? Ye wad fit the place fine--as weel as auld Archie Howden, I'm shuir. An my faither wis an elder o the kirk, an his faither afore him, an eh, but I wad be prood to see my man made ane tae, an leukit up to by aa body, an sittin in coonsel wi the minister himsel!"
"Ay, that's juist whaur it is," says I; "juist like the vanity o weemen-folk. Ye think ye'll be upsides wi yer Auntie Bell, an that's aa ye're heedin aboot."
"Upsides wi my Auntie Bell, forsuith!" says she; "muckle I care for her! D'ye think I wad even Geordie Runciman wi you? G'wa wi ye! What's a deacon in the Free by an elder in the Estaiblished?"
"Wheesht, wumman, wheesht," says I; "hoo's a body to colleck his thochts, an your tongue gaun like a pen gun? Did I no tell ye what the minister said, that this wis a solemn maiter, an no to be caad throu in a hurry? Get doun the Beuk, 'an finnd Timothy: we'll hear what he's got to say on the subjeck, afore we mak up oor minds."
"But this is no aboot elders," says she, efter she'd fand the place; "this is aboot bishops."
"Gang on or ye come to deacons," says I; "that's aa the same as elders, the minister says. Are ye at the bit noo?"
"Ay, I'm at it," says she, an syne she begoud to read: "Likewice the deacons maun be grave, no dooble-tongued--weel, Jims, I'm shuir you're no guilty o licht talk or leein--no gien to muckle wine--he disna say ye're ne'er to tak a dram--no greedy o filthy lucre--there's no muckle o that comes oor wey. An here's a bit aboot their wifes."
"Ay, let's hear that," says I.
"Even sae their wifes maun be grave," says she--"weel, naebody can caa me glaikit--no slanderers--it wis ne'er my wey to miscaa my neebors-sober--there's nae van brings drink to my door--faithfu in a things--weel, tho I say't that shoudna, I've been an eident wumman aa my days. I've made ye a thrifty wife, Jims; I've no hained mysel. I canna see there's onything in what Timothy says to keep ye frae bein an elder."
"Mebbe no," says I, "but we'll hae to sleep on't, guidwife. We hae gotten a hale week to think it ower, an see ye haud yer wheesht aboot it wi the neebors--I'm no wantin to be made the clash o the kintra-side afore there's ony occasion."