P Hay Hunter

DIVIDIN THE SPYLE

WHAT a roar o walcome they gied me, whan I gaed into Jenny's! The place wis packed as fou as it coud haud, an ye coud scarce see across it for tobaccae reek, or hear yersel speakin for the noise o sae mony tongues aa gaun at aince. Somebody cries oot, "It's never Jims, is't? It's no the elder? Weel, that cowes aa!"--an An'ra says, "Ay, it's him, sum eneuch; an he's aa richt, lads--he's voted for Tod-Lowrie!" At this they aa gied a hurreh, an aabody wanted to shake hauns wi me, an staun me somethin to drink. It wis, "Come awa in by, Jims; man, ye hae been an awfu strainger!"--"Here's room for ye, elder, yont here; man, a sicht o you's guid for sair een!"--"Man, Jims, ye maun hae a fell drouth! Come awa, an see if we canna slocken ye!"--"Come ower to yer auld place, Jims, an crook yer hoch, an say what ye'Il tak!" They were aa that pleased to see me back amang them, an to hear I haedna voted for the Tory efter a, ' that they coudna mak eneuch o me. "Here's to the company!" says I, takkin doun my gless, an feelin a heap the better o't.

Syne they begoud to crack aboot the election, an hoo it wis like to gang. They aa thocht the Leeberals wad hae a big majority, an we micht leuk for some braw [egislation inside the next twa years. They askit me my opeenion, an I said, as faur as I coud mak oot the signs o the times, that the workin folk haed the whup haun noo; an if they agreed amang theirsels, there wis nae reform on the list they 'wad need to ask for twice. I said this wis an age o democracy, an baith land an capital wad ken an awfu odds frae the days whan they got leave to ride on the riggin, an dae exackly what they likit.

"The first Bill they tak up," says An'ra Wabster, "maun be Disestaiblishment. They maun tak it up at aince, an caa it throu."

"I'm no sae shuir o that, An'ra," says Dan Preacher the miller's man; "there's a wheen ither things we want fűlly mair nor Disestaiblishment. The kirk's no daein ony great hairm, an tho it wull hae to gang, nae dout, there are ither reforms that seem to me mair pressin, sic as the land."

"Man, Dan," says An'ra, "div ye no see that if we mak a beginnin wi the kirk, aa the rest wull come in its ain time, an that afore lang? If ye tak awa the minister's glebe frae him, div ye think the laird wull get leave to keep his gress parks an his policies? Ye micht see, if ye haed a heid on yer shouthers an no a fozy peat, that the tae thing leads to the tither. Am I no richt, Jims?" he says to me.

"Perfeckly richt, An'ra," says I; "an that's what wey the lairds hae been fechtin tith an nail for the kirk, tho there's no mony o them ever crosses its doors."

"What a grand time it wull be, lads," says An'ra, "whan aa thae reforms are cairrit! Ye'll hae to licht a muckle bonfire that day on the tap o the Whaup Law! What a grand thing whan ye get yer smaa haudins oot o the laird's land, an the siller to stock them oot o the teinds! Weel, we hae slaved plenty for bit an brat, an it's but richt that we shoud hae a taste o somethin better, afore we dee!"

"That's weel said, An'ra," says Tam Arnott; "the Tories mey caa it robbery, or what they please, but I caa it juistice. We're no like thae chaps that gae aboot flingin bomb-shells, an blawin folk up--what is't ye caa them, Jims?"

"Anchorists," says I.

"Ay, Anchorists," says he; "weel, we're no like them; we're dacent, quaint, hard-workin folk; but we mean to hae oor richts, aa the same! My forbears were here afore the laird's. There's ten generations o Arnotts lyin, some o them here in Snawdon, an some in the tither kirk-yairds roon' aboot. An I'm saxty-twa year auld, an to say that I haena as muckle as a hen's gress to caa my ain!--an the laird wi the maiter o forty to fifty thoosand acre! Is that juistice? Is that a fair diveesion? Is that the kind o thing we're gaun to pit up wi, noo that we hae the government o this kintra in oor ain hauns?"

"No likely," says An'ra; "dinna pit yersel aboot, Tam--ye'll get yer ain in the guid time that's comin. An there's a wheen tidy bits o fields, forby the glebe, lyin fine an handy to the village here. A body micht hae his hoose in the village, an no ower faur to traivel to his wark; an it wad be mair cheerier nor bidin aa bi yersel, up at the hill fits. We'll hae to be thinkin hoo we'll pairt them amang us, lads, aince the Bill wins throu."

"I'll hae Ower Fauld an Nether Fauld," says Tam Arnott; "I hae aye haed an unco notion o thae twa fields."

"A' richt," says An'ra, "we'll coont them yours. An what micht you ha cuist yer een on, Jims?"

"I coud be daein fine wi yon field atween the Lang Plantin an the Gammelston road end," says I; "I dinna mind the name o't, but it's in lea the noo."

"That's Windlestraes he means," says somebody in the room.

"A' richt," says An'ra, "we'II gie Jims Windlestraes. Ye 're weel aff, Jims; it's a forty acre field: ye'll no want ony mair. An we'll gie Adam Instant Happergaw."

"Ye'll hae to gie me mair nor that," says Adam; "it's unco dowf land, Happergaw. I coudna mak a livin oot o't. If ye throw in Barebreeks wi't, it micht dae."

"Houts, Adam," says An'ra, "the deil's greedy, but you're misleared! Wull naethin less nor the twa content ye, man?"

"No," says he, "I maun hae the twa, an I mean to hae them, that 's mair!"

"Weel, weel," says An'ra, "we'll no cast oot aboot Barebreeks: we'll throw in Barebreeks, sin ye've set yer hert on't. But we maun dail smaa an sair aa, ye ken. Here's Dave Daagleish--we'll gie Dave Quarryholes; an Robbie Dodds--hae ye ony choice, Robbie?"

"I'll hae Priest's Dean," says Robbie Dodds.

"An I'll hae Crummieside an Burnywind," says Wullie Herkis.

"An I'll hae Junky's Acre," says Dod Imrie the roadman.

"An I'll hae Muckle Whippie an Little Whippie," says Ecky Blair; "it's soor land an gey foggy, some bits o't, but no that bad for grazin, aither."

"I wis thinkin I wad tak Tam's Croft an Whunny for my faa-share," says Dan Preacher the miller's man.

"Ay, wis ye?" says An'ra; "but ye maunna be in ower big a hurry, Dannie, my man! We'll hae to see whether or no ye hae ony richt to a faa-share at aa. Ye 're but an incomer, ye ken. Ye haena been abuin fower year in the pairish."

"But I wis brocht up here," says Dan; "ye aa ken this pairish wis my cawf-grund. I gaed to Snawdon schuil whan I wis a laddie."

"But ye werena born in the pairish, were ye?" says An'ra.

"No," says Dan, "I wis born in Gammelston, but that disna maiter. Robbie Dodds wisna born in the pairish, aither."

"But ye hae been oot o't aa yer life, till juist the tither day," says An'ra.

"But aa my forbears belanged to Snawdon," says he. "Gang up to the kirk-yaird, an ye'll see aa their heid-stanes, atween the thorn tree an the sooth dyke. Ye'll see my grandfaither's stane: 'Daniel Preacher, Feuar in Snawdon '--an his faither's stane, wi twa crooks an a daith's-heid on't: 'Jeremiah Preacher, Shepherd at Scraemuir in this Pairish. ' What mair wad ye hae, I wad like to ken?"

"Weel, we canna settle that the noo," says An'ra; "we no want to be ower hard on ye, Dan, but the pareeshioners maun be saired first. The mair the merrier, the fewer the better cheer, ye ken."

"If Dan Preacher's no to get Tam's Croft am' Whunny," says Geordie Runciman, "I daursay l micht tak them. There's a guid stance for a bit hoose on the hiech grund, an if the land wis limed, an fenced, an drained, it wad mak a denty bit mailin, an keep a body fine. I think I'll juist settle to tak thae twa fields."

"Wull ye?" says An'ra; "an whae's to pey for pittin up yer bit hoose, an drainin an limin yer land, deacon? Hae ye settled that, tae?"

"Whae's to pey for't?" says Geordie; "it wull be peyed for oot o the teinds, o coorse, the same 's yer ain."

"Weel," says An'ra, "that's as guid a ane as I hae heard for a gey while! Oot o the teinds, qo he! Man, div ye think we hae gaen an disestaiblished oor kirk for the benefit o you Frees? Div ye think we're sae simple as to let your folk pit their hauns in oor pooch, an help theirsels to oor siller? Na, na, we'll keep oor ain fish guts for oor ain sea maws! We maun see to this. If it's no in the Bill already, we'll hae to mak shuir that it's pitten in, an made as ticht as thack an raip can mak it. We're no gaun to let the Frees lick oot o oor dish, no likely! Are we, lads?"

A'body in the room said no likely, excep' Geordie himsel, an twa-three mair o the Free Kirk folk, that wis inclined to grummle a bit, an say it wisna fair. But: naebody heeded them. Some ither ane got Tam's Croft an Whunny, an sae the diveesion gaed on. An aye mair drinks were caad for--the lassie wis keepit rinnin that nicht, I can tell ye--an wi aabody lauchin an speakin at aince at the tap o their vice, there wis an unco din. Jenny Brockie haed to come ben aince or twice, an beseek us no to mak sic a noise, or we wad hae the poliss in to us, an she micht loss her licence.

At last somebody says to An'ra Wabster, "What are ye gaun to tak yersel, An'ra? Ye hae dealt oot the maist feck o the land roon' Snawdon noo, but ye haena forgotten yersel, shuirly? That wadna be like ye!"

"No," says An'ra; "I hae been mindin mysel, as weel as ither folk. I hae markit aff a bit o land in my ain mind, that I think wad fit me fine. There's no that muckle o't, mebbe, but--"

But afore An'ra got time to tell us what'n bit o land he haed waled for himsel, he wis brocht to a stop in a maist extraordinar mainer. Wi aabody wantin to hear what he wis sayin, there wis a kind o quietness in the room; whan aa at aince cam a vice frae the faur corner:--"I'LL TAK THE GLABE!"

A'body gied a kind o start, an leukit to whaur the vice cam frae, to see whae haed spoken. It wis Thad M'Manus, the cattleman up at Boghaa; an Irishman, but a quait eneuch chap. He haed been a guid wheen years wi Durie, an wis weel kent aboot the place for a steedy, hard-workin, sober man.

We were aa mair nor astonished, I maun say, to hear Thad pit in a claim for the glebe; but as for An'ra Wabster, his face got white wi passion, an he gruppit the watter-joug at his elbow as if he wis gaun to fling it at the man's heid. I mey as weel tell ye that bi this time An'ra haed taen mair nor wis guid for him; he wisna what ye micht caa fou, but three sheets in the wind.

"Wis that you, Thad M'Manus?" says he, tryin to speak unco slow an distinck--"what did I hear ye say?"

"I said I'll tak the glabe," says Thad; "I have a notion av it, an bein a parishioner, shuir I have as much roight to it as anny av yez!"

"Ou, ye're wantin the glebe, are ye?" says An'ra; an up he got to his feet, an spak across the room, ower the heids o the folk, straucht at the Irishman, that stuid up tae--"ye re wantin the glebe, are ye? Noo, ye'll listen to me, Thad M'Manus, an I'll tell ye what ye are, an what ye mey leuk for. Ye hae come ower here, an ye hae gotten wark to dae that no mony Scotsmen care aboot, for it's nesty, cloitery wark, an haes to be duin on the Sundays. But div ye think we want to keep ye?--no a bit o't! What for are we gaun to gie ye a parliament o yer ain, if it's no to gar ye bide at hame? You'll tak the glebe, wull ye? We'll see aboot that! Ye mey get leave to feed oor nowt, but ye'll no get leave to steal oor land! There's ower mony o your kind here already, an the suiner ye get awa back to yer ain peat-haggs, the blyther we wull be. You'll tak the glebe, wull ye?--Awa hame wi ye to yer ain kintra, an shute ane o yer neebors, an tak his pitaty-patch, gin ye want land o yer ain! Oot o here wi ye!--to the door this meenit! Ye lousy landlowper--ye puir worshipper o graven eemages--ye stinkin brock o an Irish byreman!"

Ye never saw in yer life sic a face as Thad M'Manus pat on, whan An'ra gied him this abuize. He got whiter nor An'ra himsel, an his een bleezed, an he bit his lip till ye'd ha thocht the bluid wad spring. Never a wird he spak, but he gied An'ra a leuk that wad ha strucken him deid, gin leuks coud kill; an made for the door, an dadded it tae ahint him, an wis gaen.

There wis a wheen o us thocht An'ra haed mebbe been raither a wee hard on the Irishman, but he said no, that wis the wey to speak to sic swine; an wis it no sense what he haed said?--were we gaun to sit still an let a Papist help himsel to the lands o oor Protestant Kirk? O coorse we aa agreed that sic a thing wisna to be thocht o; an syne An'ra telt us that he ettled to tak the glebe to himsel, an that wis what he wis gaun to say to us whan. Thad interrupted him. There wis some o them wad fain ha gotten the chance o the glebe, for it wis a bit o guid land, an in guid hert; but naebody cared to cross An'ra Wabster, sae they said naethin, an he got leave to tak it.

Suin efter this it chappit ten--it's at the tail-end o sic merry meetins that a body wad fain hae auld Forbes-Mackenzie back again--an Jenny coudna get the hoose clear o us quick eneuch. An'ra gaed awa wi some o his Snawdon cronies to keep it up for anither hoor or twa. It wis nae uise speakin til him, an advisin him to come hame wi us, for the drink wis in his heid, an it made him unco dour. Sae we buid to leave him, an Wullie, an Dave, an mysel, an twa-three mair, teuk the road thegither for Cauldshiel.

Jess didna speer at me whaur I haed been; nae dout, she kent withoot askin. An she no said onything to me aboot the votin, aither. I coud see that she wis gey doun i' the mooth, an at ony ither time I wad maist likely ha blamed mysel, an felt as if I haed been daein somethin wrang. But there's naethin like a drap o the Auld Kirk, an a meetin o freends, for makkin a body feel crouse an content wi himsel. What it micht be the morn wis anither thing, but for that nicht I coud think o naethin but my guid luck in gettin Windlestraes, an what wad be the best wey o crappin it.

Aboot twa o'clock in the mornin we were rouzed oot o oor bed bi An'ra Wabster's wife, that cam reelin on the door in a dreidfu state o mind, an telt us her man haed never made his appearance, an she wis feared some mishanter maun ha come ower him. We aa kent that, nae maiter hoo bad An'ra micht be, he coud aye keep his legs, an finnd his road hame; an there wis nae dout it leukit queer, it bein sae faur on, an nae wird o him. Weel, I pou'd on my claes, an got Wullie Herkis, an Dave, an Ecky Blair, oot o their beds; an we teuk stable lanterns wi us, for it wis a dark nicht, an gaed awa doun the Snawdon road leukin oot for him.

Puir An'ra! We fand him lyin in the ditch, at the back side o the Lang Plantin, wi his heid an his face aa bluid, a maist waesome objeck. We got an awfu gliff whan we saw him first, for we thocht he maun be deid, he wis lyin that still. But syne we saw that the life wis in him. an that he haed been knockit stupid wi a blaw on the heid. Sae we teuk a yett aff its hinges, an Dave Daagleish gaed doun to Snawdon as fast as he coud rin for the doctor, an the tither three o us cairrit him hame. He wis nae licht wecht, I can tell ye.

What a skin his wife gied whan we cam to the door, an she saw her man brocht hame to her in siccan a state! She wisna o muckle uise, puir thing; but Jess cam yont an sorted him up, for she haed baith a heid an a pair o hauns, an kent what to dae as weel as ony doctor. Syne the doctor cam an dressed the wound; he said it maun ha been inflickit wi some blunt instrument, an leukit gey ugly, but he thocht wi care An'ra wad win throu. He said it wis a bash on the heid o nae common kind, an he didna think there wis anither harn-pan in the pairish wad ha stuid it; ony ordinary ane wad ha crackit like an egg-shell. He said it wis a guid thing for An'ra that he haed a thick skull an a teuch constitution, but he maun be keepit unco quait, an he wadna be able for his wark for a gey while.

An nae mair he wis. It teuk him a fortnicht afore he wis able to win atour the bed, an anither week afore he crossed the door. An what a like sicht he wis, whan he got oot! They haed shaved his heid, for he haed kind o fevered; an it wis plaistered a ower an rowed in bandages; an his face wis aa faan in, an he haed nae mair colour nor a dish-clout. He said himsel that sax men haed rushed oot upon him frae the Lang Plantin, an said, "Yer money or yer life!" an aa attackit him at aince; an syne, he said, the hale warld gaed fleein roon' him, an he no minded ony mair till he cam to himsel in his ain bed at Cauldshiel. Some folk said that he haed juist been the waur o drink, an faan in the ditch, an hit his heid against a stane. Onyway, it wis a dear ploy for An'ra, an he haed guid reason to mind the nicht o the pollin at Snawdon.