P Hay Hunter


A WEEL, the neist Setturday nicht I gaed awa doun to the manse, an efter the days an nichts I haed dree'd wi the wife, I kent fine hoo it wad end wi the minister: I wad juist hae to dae like the lasses--say no, an tak it.

"There's juist ae thing I wad like to say to ye, sir," I says to him; "I'm no ane o thae watter-drinkers."

"I no think ony the waur o ye for that," says he.

"I've aye been in the wey o takkin my bit drappie," says I; "I mind what my auld faither uised to say--'I ne'er loe'd watter in my shuin, an my wame's made o better leather. ' But for aa that, he wis a maist temperate man, an I've aye been the same mysel."

"I've aye got that character o ye, Jims," says he.

"Weel, sir," says I, "ye see there's a wheen o us meets, aince or twice in the week, in Jenny Brockie's public. There's nane o us taks ower muckle--juist a gless, an whiles an eke; an we hae oor smoke an oor crack thegither, an syne gang oor weys hame atween nine an ten, as sober as yersel. Noo, I wad like to ken if ye think that's onyways wrang?"

"Weel, Jims," he says to me, "I'm no gaun to preach what I dinna practeese. Whiles I hae a gless mysel in a freends hoose, an a pipe an a crack wi't, an I no think I'm daein wrang, or ens I hope I wadna dae't. I ken what a but an a ben's like, for I wis brocht up in ane mysel. Ye canna weel meet wi yer neebors an acquentance, the time the wife's pittin the weans to their beds an reddin up the hoose; an I've aye said the workin man haes as muckle need o his public as the rich man haes o his club, an mebbe mair. As lang as it disna lead to excess, or negleck o a man's ain fire-side, I'll no condemn it. I only wush, for yer ain sakes, ye got better stuff to drink."

"Ou, the stuffs no that bad," says I. "Ye see, Jenny keeps twa kinds. There's the kind she salls to the Irish an ither gangrel bodies--'pushion-Paddy, ' the folk caat, for they say that aince a Donegal man dee'd wi drinkin a mutchkin o't. An there's the kind she sairs to her reg'lar customers, an there's no muckle wrang wi that, unless mebbe the bung-hole's been raither near the spoot-well whiles... But I wis wantin to speer this at ye, minister," says I; "div ye think, if I wis bein made an elder, I wad hae to bide awa frae the public? Min' ye, it's no the drink I'm heedin aboot; I can dae fine wantin that. But I'll no hide it frae ye, I wad be laith to gie up the bit meetin efter the day's wark, an the chaps drappin in frae the ferm touns roon' aboot, ilka ane wi his crumb o news, an aa body seekin my opeenion on the politics, or the wather, or the chance o wages gaun up, or some pint in yer ain last sermon. There's nae dout it's a cheery wey o pittin in an hoor or twa."

"Weel, Jims," he says, "I'm no gaun to lay doun ony rules for ye, what ye maun dae or what ye maunna dae. Ye'll hae to tak coonsel wi yer ain conscience an common sense. Ye ken as weel as me there's mair expeckit o them that's set apairt to the eldership, an it behoves them to be extrae carefu no to offend."

"I've heard Archie Howden say they're the saut 0' the yirth," says I.

"I wadna gang juist as faur as to say that," says he; "but onyway they're like a city set on a hill-tap, that canna be hid. Ye mind what Paul says--aa things are lawfu for me, but aa things are no expedient. I coudna gie ye ony better guidin nor that, Jims, tho I preached for a month o Sundays."

"Weel, sir," says I, "I'll hae to be daein wi't. An gin ye think I winna shame the place, I'll juist accep', an dae the best I can."

"That's richt," says he; "I'm raal pleased to hear ye say't. We've aye been guid freends, you an me, Jims, an I hope we'll be better yet."

"I'm no feared for that, sir," says I--little thinkin o what wis to come--"you an me'll daiker on thegither fine. But I'll no hae to speak in the kirk, wull I?--I no want to mak a muckle fuil o mysel afore aa the folk, an that's juist what I wad dae gin I haed to speak."

"No a wird ye need to say," says he; "whan I pit the questions to ye, aboot faain in wi the hale Confession o Faith, an aye uphaudin the Presbyterian form, ye'll staun fornent the poupit an gie yer heid a nod. That's aa ye'll hae to dae."

The mistress wis awfu fll whan I gaed hame an telt her. She wis like to dance her lane, an it wis aa I coud dae to stop her frae fleein in to the neebor wifes an tellin them aboot me bein made an elder. "Mercy me, wumman," says I, "shuirly it'll keep! They'll a hae't suin eneuch. For ony sake, haud yer tongue aboot it or aince it's gien oot in the kirk, an let a body hae some peace in his life. I'm no seekin to be a public character."

But it wis nae uise: I micht as weel ha spoken to a stane dyke. The vera neist day, whan I cam hame at denner time, there wis Jess an the kimmers aa staunin wi their boynes an pails at the siver, an her tongue gaun like the clapper o a mill. I kent fine by the leuks they gied me that they haed aa gotten the news, an it wisna lang, as ye mey weel believe, afore it gaed clinkin throu the pairish.

If there's ae thing I canna bide, it's bein kenspeckle, an haein my name in aabody's mooth; an that wis juist what I buid to pit up wi, mornin, nuin an nicht, for a gey while. The maist o the folk, I maun say, teuk it weel eneuch, an said the minister coudna ha waled better. But aabody wisna alike. The wife wis sair pitten aboot wi her Auntie Bell, for aa she wad say, whan she heard o't, wis, "Preserve us! Jims an elder! Weel, weel; the langer we live we see the mair ferlies." But I telt Jess no to fash hersel for an ill-willy auld jaud o a deacon's wife, that wis juist like to burst wi jealousy an vexation at me gettin a lift abuin her ain man.

Geordie Runciman leukit gey soor himsel whan I telt him, tho he said he wis pleased to hear o't, an he hoped I wadna live to rue the day. "Ye'll hae to tak tent to yersel, Jims," says he; "ye'll hae to be like Agag, that walkit delicately. It's a wechty chairge, as I've heard godly Maister Tamson say mony a time. It's an auld byword that glesses an lasses are bruckle ware; an I'm thinkin the same micht be said o ministers an elders. Ye'll hae to tak unco care that ye dinna jaup yersel, as ye gae alang the clarty road o this sinfu warld."

"I no need you to preach at me, Geordie," says I; "ye're no at ane o yer prayer-meetins the noo. The minister kens brawly what he's daein, an he wadna ha askit me gin he haedna thocht me guid eneuch."

"Ay, ay," says he--ye ken their drauntin, grainin wey--"I'm thinkin ye winna be sae parteeclar in your kirk as hiz folk up the brae. Eh, but it's an unco thing to be a Free Kirk elder! There's few coonted worthy, an ony man that gets the place wi hiz disna need to care tho he dees the morn. But I'm thinkin it wadna dae for your minister to be ower pernicketty: nae dout he maun hae a session o some kind, puir body."

"Ye mey think what ye like," says I, "but it's easy seen ye ken naethin aboot it. Oor minister's nane sae scant o clean pipes that he needs to blaw wi a brunt cutty."

"Mebbe no," says he, "but ye needna be in sic a fizz. I'm no sayin onything against you or your minister naither. But aabody kens the Auld Kirk's gey shaky, an nae dout a frail stoop's better nor nane ava."

"Weel, Geordie," says I, "the wey ye speak, a body micht think ye'd ha likit weel gin ye haed gotten the offer o the place yersel."

"Me!" says he; "I wadna fyle my fingers wi't! Me an elder in your kirk? Man, div ye no ken what the Bible says?--'I wad raither keep a door in the Free Kirk than dwall in the tents o the Estaiblishment. ' Na, na; I think ower muckle o the dear-bocht preevileges o Forty-Three. I wadna niffer wi ye, Jims, elder tho ye be."

We haed some mair wirds, an the upshot o't aa wis that Geordie an me pairted no vera freendly. I didna think muckle o that, but I maun say I wis disappinted wi An'ra Wabster. The first time I met in wi An'ra, efter he'd gotten the news, wis ae mornin up at the mains; an afore aa the men an the workers he made believe to kink wi lauchin, an gied a guffaw that ye micht ha heard twa fields aff. "Hoo, hoo!" says he; "here's the new elder! Aff wi yer bannets, lads, an mind ye bink doun an say 'sir' whan ye speak til him, or he'll hae ye up afore the session for want o proper respeck!"

"What's the maiter wi ye, An'ra?" says I, no wantin to loss my temper wi him; "ye've shuirly risen aff yer wrang side the day. What are ye gawfin an bletherin there aboot?"

"Hear til him!" says he; "he downa be spoken to, he's that big! See hoo he hauds up his heid, like a hen drinkin watter! Ay, ay! Sic braw company he's got into--rubbin shouthers wi the maisters, nae less. There's nane o his auld billies guid eneuch for him noo."

"Man, An'ra," says I til him, "that's a daft-like wey to cairy on. I've neebored ye noo for a gey twa-three years, an I'm shuir ye've ne'er fand me upsettin to my aquals or creengin to my betters. I'm naither up nor doun wi bein made an elder o the kirk, an if ye hae onything to say against me takkin the office, I wad like to ken what it is?"

"I hae juist this to say," says he, "that ye'll mak a show an a objeck o yersel to the hale pairish. It's fair rideec'lous; I canna mak oot what Broun wis thinkin o whan he askit ye."

"Mebbe ye think he shoud ha askit some ither body," says I; "an if ye wull tak the dorts, I canna help it. As for makkin a show o mysel, an elder disna need to staun up in the kirk an gie a speech. It's whan a body taks on haun to mak a speech, an syne faas throu't, that he maks himsel maist rideec'lous, to my wey o thinkin."

Ye shoud ha seen the face that An'ra pat on whan I gied him this wipe; his ill natur fair got the better o him, an he girned like a sheep's-heid in a pair o tangs. "Weel, Maister Inwick, ' says he," I needna speer at ye if ye'll be doun at Jenny's the nicht? Nae dout ye'll be hob-nobbin wi the gentry noo, an the public wull be ower low for ye. We'll no hae the plaesur o yer company ony mair doun by, I'm thinkin?"

Noo, thinks I to mysel, mak up yer mind til't, Jims, my man; caa the nail to the heid: it haes to be, an the hetter war the suiner peace. Sae I ups an says til him, "Weel, An'ra, I'll no say but ye're richt. I daursay it wadna leuk bonny for an elder o the kirk to be kent as a frequenter o public-hooses. It's different wi the likes o you, that naebody taks ony notice o; but a man in my poseetion haes mair nor himsel to consider. Sae ye'll no see me doun by, naither the nicht nor the morn's nicht, nor at ony ither time." An wi that I gaed awa an left him, afore he fand braith to say onything mair. I kent it wis nae uise tryin to come ower An'ra Wabster wi fair wirds or flytin, for he haed a maist unceevil tongue, an aince he haed taen the flings, he wis as thrawn as the hint leg o a cuddy.

I no mind o the wife bein sae upliftit wi onything, aa the time we've been thegither, as wi me bein made an elder. I wis made muckle o, thae days, I can tell ye; there wis naethin ower guid for Jims; it minded me o the time whan I wis coortin her, fower-an-thretty year syne. An whan it cam roon' to the Setturday nicht afore the day I wis to be ordained, what I buid to gae throu in the wey o reddin up!--she wis that fiky, ye micht ha thocht I wis some young quean bein buskit for her waddin. First she set tae an stairched an airned my sark an collar, an syne she got my guid-anes oot o the kist, an darned a wee hole in the coat aneath the oxter, an hung them aa afore the fire to tak oot the links. An efter supper-time, in comes Ecky Blair, the herd at Tuimbucht, wi his shears--she haed trysted Ecky withoot ever lettin on to me--to gie me a clip; for she said it wad never dae for me to be staunin up in the transe afore aa the folk, an my heid like a heather cowe. An on the Sabbath mornin she gart me shave mysel till my chafts were like a year-auld bairn's, an creish my pow wi the claggiest pomatum she coud come by; an syne she tied on me a bonny new craig-claith she haed coft doun by, as white as the driven snaw.

"Eh, Jims my man," says she, "but ye leuk fine in yer braws! Gae, ye micht be a minister yersel!"

"But what wey are ye no gettin on yer things, guidwife?" says I; "are ye no gaun to the kirk the day?"

"Me gang to the kirk?" says she; "no likely! The vera thocht o't brings a dwam ower me. Na, na, Jims; gang yer gait an warsle throu the best ye can; I'll hear aa aboot it frae the neebors whan they come hame--they're aa gaun. An see ye keep oot o the dibs an no draible yer buits, efter aa the trouble I've haed to mak them bonny an clean."

Aweel, awa I gaed my lane, feelin gey queer. There wis a by-ordinar congregation that day; aabody that coud win wis there, excep' that thrawn deevil An'ra Wabster. "They'll no see me at their ordination opera"--that wis what he gaed aboot sayin; sae they telt me.

The folk aa said the minister did awfu weel that day; he wis on the duties o office-bearers an kirk members; but as for me, I heard ne'er a wird o't. There I wis, sittin in a chair foment the poupit, wi Durie on the tae side o me, an Liddell an Archie Howden on the tither; an my heid wis in the mirligoes--aathing gaed soomin roon' aboot me, an the minister's vice soonded in my lugs as smaa as the cheepin o a sparrow. But I minded o what my auld faither uised to say--'he that wad eat the kirnel maun crack the nit; ' gin I wis to be an elder, I buid to gae throu wi bein ordained; an efter aa, it wad suin be ower, an I wad be back intil my ilka-day's claes the morn.

Durie gied me a shog whan to staun up; an the neebors telt Jess that I leukit raal snod, an boo'd at the richt bit, an did fine. But I didna gaither my feet or aince it wis aa by, an we got into the session-hoose, whaur I wrote doun my name in a muckle beuk, an syne got a grup o the haun frae the minister an the ither elders. It gied me a kind o queer feelin to finnd mysel cheek by chow wi Durie an Liddell, efter aa that haed come an gaen; I coudna help thinkin I wis amang them somethin like a rotten in a cavie. But they were baith unco ceevil, I maun say; an Archie Howden teuk me awa wi him to his hoose, an gied me a dram. I wis nane the waur o't, I can tell ye, for it's nae joke bein made an elder. An eh, if I haed kent aa that it wis to cost me! But its mebbe juist as weel that we dinna aye see what's afore us.