P Hay Hunter

THE POLITICAL FAITH O AN'RA WABSTER

IT turned oot that Archie wis richt, efter a, an I wis wrang, aboot Tod-Lowrie an the kirk. The first I heard o't wis ae day we haed been to the hill for coals. There wis a hauf-wey hoose at Gammelston, keepit by a man caad Sam'el Vint, whaur the chaps uised to stop in the hame-comin an melt their maggs; an, no bein in oor ain pairish, I didna objeck to gae in wi them an hae some refreshment. An'ra Wabster wis there, an Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish, an mysel; an efter we'd been sittin crackin for a bit, An'ra, he pous a newspaper oot o his pooch, an raxes it ower to me. "Hae, elder, ' says he, pintin oot a place wi his thoum," cast yer een ower that, an let's hear what ye think o't. But I daursay it wull be piper's news to you: ye re at the lug o the law noo, an nae dout ye'll ha heard aa aboot it or syne."

Whan I read the thing ower--a gey lang screed it wis--I'll no say but it gied me a gliff. It wis heidit "Mr. Tod-Lowrie, Q. C. , M. P. , on Scottish Disestaiblishment" ; an appeared to be some speech he haed been makkin, no onywhere near haun, but some gait gey faur sooth. I no mind aa he said, but it cam to this, that estaiblished kirks were no the fashion in thir demmycratic days, an it wisna fair o the state to be favourin ae sec' at the expense o its neebors. The Leeberal pairty wisna like the Tory ane, for aa the Leeberals thocht o wis principle, an aa the Tories cared for wis place an pouer. The Leeberal pairty never pat its haun to the pleuch an syne drew back; they mairched on abreist o the times, an whiles aheid o them: no like the Tories, whae were aye taiglin ahint. They haed made a beginnin wi the Irish kirk, an they wadna rest or aince the ither twa were doun tae. Oor ane wad be the neist to gang, for the folk in Scotland didna care an auld sang for their kirk, an wadna crook a finger to keep it up; no mony o them belanged til't, an them that did were maistly Tories; the pairish ministers were little better nor election agents for the Tory pairty, an a michty puir show they made o't, as onybody micht see by castin up hoo mony Tory members cam frae aa Scotland. There wis to be nae simmerin an winterin wi this question, for the Leeberals were pledged to the grand principle o releegious equality, an the suiner they teuk the job on haun an caad throu wi't, the better pleased the folk in Scotland wad be. That wis the scum o what he said; I coud scarce trow my ain een, an I buid to read it twice ower to mak shuir.

"Weel?" says An'ra, whan I gied him back the paper; "what's yer opeenion o that, Jims?"

"My opeenion is," says I, "that Tod-Lowrie haesna been richt reported. It wad ha been better gin he haed said aa that on his ain side o the border. Thae soothron bodies maun hae taen him doun wrang."

"What gars ye think that?" says he; "is't no true, aa that he says?"

"No," says I, "it's no aa true. It's no true that the minister's a Tory agent; there's no ane o ye ever heard him say politics, aa the time he's been in Snawdon pairish. An it's no true that the maist feck o the folk dinna gang to the pairish kirk, for aabody kens better; the Frees are aye lossin members an we're gettin them. An it's no true that Auld Kirk folk are maist aa Tories. Is Wullie here a Tory, or Dave, or yersel? Wad ye caa me a Tory?--me, that haes been a Leeberal since I wis a laddie at the schuil, an that's voted Leeberal sin ever I haed a vote?"

"An what aboot yer session?" says he; "what aboot Durie, an Liddell, an that glabberin auld fuil Archie Howden that ye're sae chief wi? An as for yersel, Jims, I'm no sae shuir o ye as I aince wis, afore they teuk an made an elder o ye. Ye've been in an ill nest, an it's queer to me if ye haena catched some o the Toryism aff them; it's gey smittle, ye ken. They tell me Archie Howden's gaun aboot aa gaits braggin he's convertit ye."

"That's a dounricht lee," says I.

"Man, An'ra," says Wullie Herkis, "can ye no haud yer tongue aboot Jims bein made an elder? We're aa stawed hearin o't. For ony favour, let that runt stick in the grund, an gie us somethin else for a chainge."

"Weel," says he, "I'll no say ony mair aboot it. But let's hear yer opeenion, Jims, supposin Tod-Lowrie said yon that's prentit in the paper. Hoo wad it gang, think ye, gin he ettled to pou doun the kirk?"

"Hoo wad it gang?" says I; "it wad be an ill day for Tod-Lowrie whan he ettled to dae onything o the sort. He micht as weel pack up his pockmanty an tak the road sooth, for he wad dae nae mair guid here. He wad finnd he haed the wrang sou by the lug, an that afore vera lang. Wha wants the Auld Kirk pou'd doun? Answer me that?"

"Naebody that I ken o," says Wullie Herkis, "if it 's no the Frees."

"Ay, the Frees," says I; "an what wey div they want it doun? It 's because oor kirk's like Awron's rod that turned into a muckle serpent, as we're telt in the Beuk o Exodus, an whan the warlock bodies cuist doun their staves an they turned into serpents tae, Awron's ane stuid up on its hint legs an devoored them aa, an left naethin but their tails. That 's hoo it's like to be wi the Frees; they 're in the deid-thraw, or gey near haun it; an fine they ken that gin they canna get oor thrapple cut, we'll hae them gauped up, stoop an roup."

"That 's weel said," says Wullie Herkis; "man, Jims, it 's an unco gift ye hae, o layin the heid o the sou to the tail o the grice. For my pairt, I canna mak oot the Frees ava. The kirk's nane o their biggin; an if they liked to gae oot, an we like to bide in, what for shoud they want to pou doun the bawks on oor heids, that's what I wad like to ken?"

"Ye mey weel ask that," says I.

"As for hoo it wad gang," says he, "I hae aye voted for Tod-Lowrie; but gin he jines in wi them that wad tak awa oor kirk frae us, I'm duin wi him. He'll get nae mair votes frae me."

"Nor frae me naither," says Dave Daagleish; "I'll ne'er vote for ony man that wad hairm the kirk o oor faithers. There 's naethin in the hale service I like better nor yon prayer the minister aye gies us: Bless the Kirk o Scotland; let naebody say, Pou doun her battlements, for they are no the Lord's; let nae weepon formed against her ever prosper; let peace be within her waas an prosperity within her palaces. I wad gang to the kirk if it wis for naethin mair nor juist to hear yon bonny prayer."

"Ye hear that, An'ra?" says I til him; "it 's kittle shootin at corbies an clergy, as my auld faither, honest man, uised to say; an I'm thinkin Tod-Lowrie wull fin' that oot for himsel, gin he steers up ony sic hurry-burry, an gets aa the ministers doun on the tap o him."

"The ministers!" says An'ra; "muckle Tod-Lowrie heeds for the ministers! Let them mind their ain trade, an that's no the politics; that's no what they draw their steepen's for. Gin they did mair wark theirsels, an meddled less wi ither folk's, it wad be tellin them."

"Leuk here, An'ra Wabster," says I, "I'm no gaun to sit still an hear ye miscaa the ministers. Hae ye ony faut to fin wi oor ain? Wull ye daur to say that he neglec's his wark, aither in the poupit or oot o't?"

"I hae naethin to say against Broun," says he, "forby that he 's ower freendly wi the laird to be a richt freend o the workin man. He 's no ane o the warst o them, but he 's weel peyed for aa he dis. If the hale kit o them wis turned oot to gress thegither, I 'm thinkin we wadna loss muckle: there 's mair weys o layin oot siller nor on keepin up kirks an ministers."

"Man, An'ra," says I, "that 's a heathen-like wey o speakin, an I'm laith to think ye mean what ye say. Div ye heed sae little for the Auld Kirk, that kirsened ye, an mairit ye, an haes preached the Gospel to ye aa yer days, that ye wadna care tho thae enemies o aa releegion got their wey, an disestaiblished her the morn?"

"It wadna cost me a hoast," says he; "your kirk's no like yer kail: ye can dae wantin't. Mind ye, I hae nae ill-will to the Auld Kirk; faur frae't. But I'm no ane o the kind that pits the kirk first, that's aa."

"An what div ye pit first," says I, "gin a body mey speer at ye?"

"Mysel," says he; "ay, that 's the truith--an ye needna sit there, Jims, blinkin like an air-up houlet. You for a politeecian! Man, div ye no ken what's the beginnin an end o the politics?--Grup aa ye can, an haud on by what ye've gruppit! I'm nae waur nor my neebors, but mebbe juist a wee thing mair ootspoken. I dinna ken hoo it mey be wi you, bein an elder, but I'll wad ye what ye like, gin Tod-Lowrie comes doun, an lays the maiter afore us in aa its bearins, he'll get Wullie here, an Dave, to gie him their votes, kirk or nae kirk."

"Deil a fear o him," says I; "man, An'ra, ye shape aabody's shuin bi yer ain shauchled feet. Wad ye vote for ony man that gangs against the kirk, Wullie Herkis?"

"No me," says Wullie.

"Or you, Dave Daagleish?"

"No me," says Dave.

"Ye hear that, An'ra?" says I.

"Ay, I hear," says he; "but I'II wait or aince I see. An noo I'm thinkin we'll hae to be gaun, for we 've left thae beas' staunin ootby lang eneuch. Tak aff yer dram, elder, an dinna leuk sae hangit-like; the lift winna faa, tho the kirk mey!"