P Hay Hunter

THE PROMISED LAND

I NEEDNA tell ye hoo the Leeberals got in, an efter a while the Bill cam on an wan throu. As I said at the beginnin o my story, Disestaiblishment left the Auld Kirk gey near whaur it wis, as faur as ane coud see. There wis a terrible commotion aa owen the kintra, nae dout; but whan ye gaed into Snawdon kirk on a Sunday, ye wad never ha kent ony difference. But what we coudna mak oot at first, an what fashed us sair whan we did mak it oot, wis, that Disestaiblishment made unco little difference to oorsels.

It turned oot that nae pairish got a bawbee o the siller, or aince the pairish minister aither dee'd or gied up his chairge. They said that this proveesion wis in Tod-Lowrie's Bill frae the vera first, but if it wis, we aither haedna notticed it or haedna understuid it richt; an I canna explain it yet, what wey the ministers shoud ha gaen on fechtin against Disestaiblishment, whan aa the time nane o them were gaun to loss a ha'penny bi it. I'll no say it wisna in the Bill; an ifs juist possible oor een mey ha been ower fast set on the bit aboot gettin the siller, to see what cam in atween. Onyway, nane o us haed taen it in, an it wis a sair disappintment.

It wis in the fore-end o hairst that the Bill wan throu, an bi the time the stuff wis in the yaird, we haed come to understaun that we coudna touch the siller, or aince the minister wis oot o the wey. An wad ye believe it?--An'ra Wabster, an Tam Arnott, an Adam Instant, an the lave o them, aa turned an yokit on me, an gied me aa the blame for Broun gettin the pairish! They said it wis me that haed threepit we maun hae a young, veegorous man for the place; an if it haedna been for me, they micht ha pitten in Simpson o Lempockshaws, that wis moderawtor durin the vacancy, an haed gien the folk to understaun that if he got a caa he wadna refuize it; an Simpson wis wearin on to be an auld man. An they said it wis me that wadna let them eleck Gillespie, the tither candidate on the short leet, that, as onybody coud see, leukit unco wakely, an wis noo, as we heard, awa some foreign airt on accoont o his health, an no like to last lang. But no, they said, I buid to hae Broun: a man that didna ken what it wis to hae a sair heid, an that, bi aa appearance, wad offeeciate at aa oor buryins. I thocht it onything but fair uisage, the wey they gaed on; for it's easy to be wice ahint the haun, an they haed aa been for Broun juist as muckle as mysel.

On the back o this, the minister preached the hairst sermon that I hae telt ye o. It wis frae the text, "Whatsoever a man saweth, that shall he also reap;" an he begoud bi readin a chapter oot o ane o the wee prophets, aboot some unco puir hairst the Jews haed haed lang syne. Whether it wis that they haed been brunt up wi drouth or drooned wi weet, I dinna mind, but they were aa grummlin aboot the wather; an the prophet, he ups an says to them, "What are ye grummlin at? Nae dout it haes been an ill hairst, an meeserable wark oot in the fields, an aa the wages ye hae earned ye micht as weel ha pitten in a bag wi holes. Ye leukit for muckle, an lo, it cam to little, an what wey?--because ye hae been thinkin mair o yer bodies nor o yer sauls, an mair aboot yer ain hooses nor aboot the hoose o the Lord."

An syne he telt us that gin the prophet wis in Scotland the day, he micht staun up an cry the same thing ower again, an it wad be true. He telt us we haed been sawin to the flesh, an o the flesh we wad reap naethin but disappintment. He gied us some unco plain speakin. He as guid as telt us that he cam o a lang-lived race, an didna ken what it wis to hae an ache or a pain; an he ettled to tak unco guid care o himsel, an, if it wis the wull o Providence, to conteenue minister o Snawdon for mony a lang year to come. He said we wad finnd that hankerin an hingin on is a puir trade, an that the man gaes lang barefit that wears deid men's shuin. He said the ill we haed duin coud never be unduin, but he hopit we wad come to see oor mistak, an hae the grace to be sorry for't.

Tam Arnott, I mind, wis no pleased ava wi this sermon, an said what business haed the minister to be evenin us wi the like o the Jews?--an An'ra Wabster wis in sic a rage at it, that he gaed to the session clerk an lifted his lines: no that he teuk them ony ither where. But as for Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish, an Adam Instant, an Dan Preacher, an a gey twa-three mair, the sermon teuk an unco effeck upon them; they said they were feared we haed gaen faur wrang, an if the thing wis to dae ower again they wad dae different.

I mind ae Fast Day I haed gaen doun to the kirk, for I aye attendit maist reg'lar, tho I haed gien ower gaun to the meetins o session. An efter the sermon, Tam Arnott, an mysel, an ane or twa mair, were takkin a daunder roon' the place, an we gaed doun the Tinkler's Loan, that rins by the side o the minister's glebe. An there we fand An'ra Wabster, staunin leukin ower the palin at the giebe, for he aye coonted it his ain.

"He's no keepin it as he shoud," says An'ra; "whaever comes efter him wull hae his wark, to bring things nicht. It's a shame to see guid land ill guidit."

"Houts, An'ra," says Tam Arnott, "there's no that rnuckle wrang wi't the noo. What coud ye wush better nor to hae thae twa upper fields under gress? Ye ken the sayin--fermers' fauch gats lairds lauch. Ye're the laird, ye ken, an the incomin tenant forby, an ye haena muckle reason to complain!"

"But juist leuk at that under field!" says An'ra; "see what he's growin on' t--strawberries! The filthiest crap ye can growe! See at the thisties, an the dockens, an the skellochs an rack! A man haes nae richt to be raisin sic dirty craps on ither folk's grund. It'll tak guid kens hoo lang to get the land clean again."

At this pint whae shoud we see comin up the Loan but the minister himsel. He gied us guid-day, an we aa touched oor bannets to him: aa but An'ra Wabster. An'ra made believe no to see him. He teuk his pipe, an begoud to rummil it oot, an syne filled it an pat back the dottie; an aa the time never lat on he kent the minister wis there.

"Fine day, lads," says the minister.

"Fine day, sir," we aa said back.

"Fine day, An'ra," says he, leukin ower at An'ra Wabster; an syne he gied a queer kind o nicher o a lauch, an--"Viewin the promised land, An'ra?" says he, an awa he gaed. We coudna but lauch, but An'ra lost his temper, an said if it wis a joke it wis a michty puir ane.

Weel, a guid wheen years hae passed sin syne, an they hae brocht unco chainges. I'm past wark noo, an Jess an me hae a bit hoose doun in Snawdon; oor sons an dochters are aa mindfu o us, an wi oor ain bit savins, we want for naethin. Jess never says Kirk to me. She never says "I telt ye," or casts up to me that I micht ha duin itherways. Whiles I think to mysel that mebbe the weemen's wey o jumpin at a thing is shuirer efter aa nor oor wey o gropin at it. An aye the langer I live, the mair I see that a guid wife is the croun o aa blessins. As the Beuk tells us, her price is abuin rubies.

There's juist ae thing she wad fain hae me dae--I ken it fine, for aa she never says--an that is, to mak it up wi the minister an gae back to the session. It's no the minister's faut, I maun allou, that I haena duin it or syne. An auld Wedderlairs is awa, an Archie Howden tae. I whiles think I micht dae waur, an say to mysel that I'll hae to see aboot it. Efter aa, it's no fair to blame the minister for no wantin to dee.

As I said, there hae been sair chainges in the pairish sin syne. Tam Arnott's awa in the heid, puir fallow, an spen's his days in his chair at the chimley-lugs, knittin stockins. An Robbie Dodds got tired o waitin, an gaed awa ower the sea to Manitobae, to bide wi his guidson an his dochter. An Dave Daagleish is on the railway, an Wullie Herkis is drivin a lorry in the toun. An An'ra Wabster's deid. Puir An'ra! A' the grund o his ain that he ever got in the pairish wis juist a lair in the kirk-yaird.

An there's me: as fou o the pains as I can haud. It's aa I can dae to hirple doun the street wi a muckle staff under my oxter; an I'm juist a leevin wather-gless--there's no a chainge o the wind but I finnd it in my banes. I'm gey dull o hearin, an my sicht's failin me, an my teeth's maist aa oot: I'll suin hae to stey my stamack wi sappy meat, like a spained wean.

An there's the minister: leevin an life-like; no a grey hair on his heid, nor a crawtae at his een; awa to the curlin in winter an the gowfin in simmer, as hale an feir as ye like.

An there's Tod-Lowrie: he's a Juidge noo, an a Lord forby. He uised to tell us that the Hoose o Lords wis juist a tuim for aa the rubbish o the kintra; but he maun ha chainged his opeenion, I'm thinkin, for noo he sits in the gilded chawmer himsel, wi a reid cloak on his back an a gowd croun on his heid, for what I ken.

Weel, weel: it's a reel-rall warld!