P Hay Hunter
A VILLAGE CASSANDRA
ARCHIE haed a maist awfu ill-will to Tod-Lowrie, oor coonty member. "A braw speaker, ye tell me?" he wad say; "nae dout: speakin 's his trade. Gin a laayer haesna the gift o the gab. he 's no worth caain oot o a kail-yaird. But what for ye send a laayer body to represent ye in the parliament--a Lunnon laayer, a man that disna ken the trams o a cairt frae the back-buird, or dockens frae curly greens--that's what passes my comprehension. What 'n nonsense wis yon he wis blawin ye up wi, the last time he gaed roon', giein ye a glint o his sonsy face, an castin stour in yer een?--yon aboot settin up aa the pleuchmen in bits o ferms o their ain?"
"It wisna nonsense," says I, gey near lossin my temper wi him, for he wis aye nag, naggin at me aboot Tod-Lowrie, the man that haed got my vote sin ever I haed ane to gie--"it wisna nonsense. He telt us we haed been lang eneuch hadden an dung, livin on dowg's wages, an workin the land for the guid o ither folk. He said it wis a black burnin shame to think that the pleuchman shoud be makkin day an wey o't an nae mair aa his life, an no hae as muckle as a coo's gress to caa his ain at the end o't. That wis what he said, an if that's what ye caa nonsense, Archie, I'll juist hae to tell ye to yer face that ye're nae better nor an auld stick in the mud o a Tory."
"That's aa vera weel," says he, "but fine wirds winna fill the firlot. Whaur's the land to come frae, that ye're to get for yer smaa ferms?"
"Frae them that haes't the noo," says I; "the lairds hae haed it aa their ain wey lang eneuch; they'll be nane the waur o haein their horns cowed. Tod-Lowrie says thir's kittle times for property in land, an gin the lairds coud see an inch afore their nose, they wad be gled to cry haavers, raither than tine aa."
"Haes Tod-Lowrie ony property in land o his ain," says he, "forby the bit middensteid that gies him a vote in his ain coonty?"
"No that I ever heard tell o," says I.
"I wis thinkin that," says " he's a braw haun at cuttin muckle whangs oot o ither folk's leather. Ye've heard the auld sayin, Jims--they are free wi their horse that haes nape. But grantin ye haed the ferm, whaur's the siller to come frae to stock it?--did Tod-Lowrie tell ye that? Whae's to pey for biggin ye a hoose an a byre, an fencin, an aa the like o that; an hoo are ye to come by horse an graith for the pleuchin? Nae dout ye hae somethin to the fore, for if ye hae wrocht sair the mistress here haes guidit weel; but hae ye eneuch? Ye canna bring but what's no ben; an gin ye wad learn the eftercome o startin in a ferm wi ower smaa means, or on borrowed siller, speer at yer ain maister, auld Britherston--he can tell ye. '
"Ou, that's aa richt," says I; "Tod-Lowrie says that we're to get the len o the siller for plenishin, an as lang as we like to pey't back. An as for the horse an pleuch, he says we wull get the len o them tae; it wull be a new trade, hirin oot aa thae things as they're wanted, an ae pair o horse micht sair hauf a dizzen o smaa ferms."
"An Tod-Lowrie telt ye that," says he, "an ye trowed it! Aweel, he that lippens to borrowed pleuchs, his land lies lea; an sae ye wad finnd or aa wis duin. It beats me aathegither, hoo aa ye dacent, honest chiels, an no wantin in gumption, naither, canna see throu that sneckdrawer o a Lunnon laayer. Man, it's yer votes he wants, an for onything else he caresna a bress farthin. Ye're juist haudin the ledder for him to speel up by, that's a. Ye gie him the richt to pit M. P. efter his thief-like name, an that's worth mebbe twa thoosand in the year til him, forby his chance o a place an a pension. Ye're juist like a wheen bairns, staunin afore the sweetyman's windy, lickin yer mous, an Tod-Lowrie sayin til ye, 'Bide a wee, hinnies, an ye'll get aa thae bonny-dies for naethin--gie me yer votes, my bonny lambs, an ye'll get a chippy-burdie to play yersels wi some day! ' Ay, he's a raal laayer, an nae 'prentice at his trade, naither. He'll keep the tatty, an gie you the peelins."
"Ye hae nae richt to say that." says I; "Tod-Lowrie's a grand man, an a guid Leeberal: he's aye voted straucht for aa reforms."
"He's like the lave o them," says he; "naither better nor waur nor ither laayers: he'll wag as the buss wags."
"He got oor wages up," says I.
"No a bit o him," says he; "it wis juist the law o supply an demand did that; Tod-Lowrie haed nae mair a-dae wi't nor the man in the muin."
"An he pits the workin man in his richt place," say "that's buinmaist. He says the days o preevilege are gaen by, an a Tory noo-a-days is juist a kind o curiosity, an shoud be keepit in a museum. He says the clesses--that's the Tories--are aa on the tae side, an the masses--that's hiz--aa on the tither, an if ye wad finnd poleetical intelligence, an richt views, an soond juidgment, it's amang the masses ye hae got to seek for't. He telt us, the last time he gaed roon', that the Hoose o Lords wis juist the draff o the kintra--a wheen auld wifes, an lunies, an wastrels, sittin in their gilded chawmer, like clockin hens on cheeny eggs, no able to hatch onything theirsels, an pittin a stop to aa reforms. He said he wadna gie a pinch o snuff for the opeenion o aa the honourables an richt honourables amang them, alangside that o ae hard-heidit, horny-handit pleuchman. He said the raal nobeelity noo wis the nobeelity o labour, an ye shoud ha heard the ruff he got for sayin't--man, it wis grand!"
"Ay," says he, "I ken the stuff by the swatch. That's the wey he cuittles ye aff an flings the glaiks in yer een. Weel, sowens gae glibly ower, but I'm no shuir they're vera hailsome ferm, for aa that. An the wey he splairges ye wi butter--layin't on in clauts an harles, an lauchin in til himsel aa the time--to my mind, it wad gar a sou scunner."
"Ye seem to ken Tod-Lowrie extraordinar weel," says I.
"Ken him!" says he- "ay, as weel as if I'd gaen throu him wi a lichted candle! ... But leuk here, Jims," he says, efter a bit, "you an me wull never 'gree aboot Tod-Lowrie, an we maunna cast oot--it wadna dae for twa elders o the kirk to be fechtin aboot the politics. I'm an auld man, an maun hae my say--a tuithless dowg's fain to gurr, ye ken. Ye maunna tak it ill oot, onything I hae said; it's aa meant for your guid, Jims. I'm no wantin to offend ye."
"Nae offence," says I; "I'm no that saft-skinned. Ye mey jaun'er on as lang as ye like for me; it juist gaes in at the tae lug an oot at the tither."
"That's a kind o peety, tae," says he; "if ye kent mair aboot Tod-Lowrie, ye wad mebbe think less o him: he'll be takkin on haun to pou doun oor kirk, ane o thae days."
"Pou doun the kirk?" says I; "what for wad he dae that? What's pitten that in yer heid, Archie? The kirk's daein naebody ony hairm, an the Leeberals hae aye said that as lang as we didna seek disestaiblishment oorsels, they wadna mell wi't."
"That's aa vera true," says he, "but"--
"But naebody wants the kirk awa," says I, "if it's no the Frees; an aabody kens what wey they hae gotten sic an ill-will til't--they thocht, whan they gaed oot in forty-three, that it wad come to a deid stop wantin them, an insteid o that it's grown an prospered ilka day since. Did ye ever hear tell what the mistress here said to her Auntie Bell,--ye ken, Geordie Runciman the deacon's wife--ae day she wis braggin an bleezin awa aboot their Free Kirk? 'A' the cream gaed oot at the Disruption, ' says Geordie's wife. 'An michty puir butter ye hae kirned wi't', says Jess. Gey guid, wis't no?"
"Maist awfu guid," says he, "but--"
"Ye needna tell me," says I; "if it wis the Hoose o Lords, I wadna say--but the kirk! Na, na: ye're dreamin, Archie."
"Sae ye think," says he, "but tak note o what I'm tellin ye--Tod-Lowrie haes nae guid-will to the Auld Kirk, an the Frees is aye eggin him on, an he thinks he haes yer votes safe in his pooch, dae as he wull; an I'll wad ye onything ye like to name--if I turn oot wrang, Jims, I'll kist ye for naethin--he'll be lettin lowse the hale pack against the kirk, afore ye ken whaur ye are. It mey come in an hoor that winna come in seeven year."
"Hout awa wi ye, Archie," says I, "that's anither o yer molligrants, like yon aboot the folk aa deein o hunger for want o flour breid. Time eneuch to skreich whan ye're strucken. What for wad Tod-Lowrie set himsel against the kirk, whan the tae-hauf o his supporters belang til't? He wad be takkin a stick to brak his ain back. Na, na--that's juist ane o the cries your Tory pairty's aye gettin up, to wyle awa a wheen voters frae the tither side. I ken better; the kirk's no in ony danger."
"I wush ye mey be richt, Jims," says " I raither dout it. Tod-Lowrie's gey ill to grup; he's never faur awa frae his hidie-hole. But if he's no shairpenin his gully against the kirk the noo, I'm cheated. He's gaun mairchin roon' the wa's o oor
naitional Zion, but I'm hopin they'll no tummle doun at the first squaek o his penny whust "s he; an wi that he said guid-nicht, an gaed awa hame.