P Hay Hunter


EFTER this, things keepit unco quiet in the pairish for a gey while. Aince I haed gotten ower the novelty o't, I likit fine bein an elder; there's nae dout ye're mair leukit up to, an yer wird cairies mair wecht, whan ye're on the session; an if the poseetion haes its drawbacks, whaur wull ye finnd ane that's withoot them?--there's aye a somethin, as the wife said to her dochter whan she cam wheengin aboot her drucken man.

I'll no say my hert gaed the same gait as my legs whan I passed by Jenny's door on a Setturday nicht, an saw the windaes aa lichted up, wi their reid blinnds, sae bricht an couthie like; an I kent, if I keekit in, I wad see An'ra Wabster, an Tam Arnott, an Adam Instant, an a heap mair o my auld cronies, aa sittin roon', haein their freendly gless an passin their remerks on aabody an aathing. Whiles ane o them wad speer at me if I wisna comin in, for they were missin me sair. But I wisna gaun back on my wird to An'ra Wabster. A fine hair in my neck it wad ha been to him, gin I haed speeled doun at the first biddin efter settin mysel sae hie abuin him!

What wi bein bainished frae the auld howf, an no haein An'ra to crack wi--it wis nae mair nor fair guid-day an fair guid-e'en atween us for a gey while, efter him bein sae ill-natur'd aboot the eldership--I fell into the wey o passin an hoor or twa gey aften wi Archie Howden. It kind o brocht us thegither, him an me bein baith on the session, an haein the affairs o the kirk to converse aboot.

Archie wis a bien body, an keepit a guid, rouch hoose, an he wis aye gled to see me; an whiles, on a fine nicht wi a muin, he wad yoke the auld powny in his spring-cairt, an come awa up to Cauldshiel, an gie us a caa. The wife wis aye raal prood to see him, an whan I wad say, "Hae a bit tastin o the Auld Kirk, Archie?" an Archie wad say, "Weel, Jims, I no think it wad dae aither you or me ony hairm"--she wis ready eneuch to get the bottle an the glesses oot o the press: no like the wey she haed wi ither veesitors, or wi mysel whan I socht a dram at an orra time.

Archie wis auld by me, but a hale carle yit; he haed no been sair wrocht, ye coud see. He wis a wricht to his trade, but wha haed kent him aa his days said that he haed ne'er stressed himsel wi wark; he wis ane o the kind that are better wi the rake nor wi the shool, as the sayin is. Ye micht finnd him ony day staunin at his shop door or pappin aboot his yaird, wi a fit-rule in his haun, an his sark-sleeves rowed up; but I never heard tell o onybody that haed seen him caa in a nail. He left that pairt o the business to his son, young Archie--no that he wis vera young, but that wis the name he gaed by: an aboot aa that he ever set haun to himsel wis the undertakkin.

He uised to brag that he did aa the kistin for three pairishes, an there's nae dout he wis a grand haun at it. Whan there wis a daith, as suin as the corp wis streekit, they gaed straucht awa for Archie Howden; he haed weys o daein that pleased the folk uncommon, an he coud pit up a prayer at the kistin as weel as ony minister. "I kisted the auld laird," he uised to say, "in the year forty-twa; first we pat him in leid, an syne we pat him in aik; it wis a bonny job--it teuk fower-an-twenty men wi haun-spaiks to lift him doun the avenue. An I hae kisted aa the paupers that's dee'd in the pairish, to the orders o the Buird. But it didna maiter whether the kist wis aik or deal, an whether it haed bress munts or nane ava, I hae aye ettled to dae my best for the corp, an to show respeck for the feelins o the freends."

He wis a keen politeecian, Archie, an a maist notor'ous reader o the papers. I dinna ken hoo mony he read in the week, o aa sorts an sizes. He haed ae son in Americae, an anither in Lunnon, an a brither in Austreelae, an a dochter mairit at the Cape, an a wheen mair freends ither airts, an he got papers frae them aa, forby what he bocht or borrowed for himsel. He appeared to tak in what he read, an minded a heap o't. He coud tell ye aa aboot the Parliament, an whae wis. in this office an whae wis in that, an hoo muckle o the public siller they pooched for juist sittin in their chairs an writin their names; an he gaed throu aa their speeches an haivers, an leuch an rubbit his hauns whan they caad ane anither leears, an cheat-the-wuddies, an muckle fules, an aa mainer o ill names. He wis a nacky body, an braw company, aince ye got him fairly started.

He haed juist ae faut--a gey bad ane, I maun allou: he wis a maist tremenjis Tory. What haed made him ane I never richtly understuid, an I'm no shuir he understuid himsel. He didna get it frae his faither, for auld Hughie, that lived to be ower ninety, wis a soon' Leeberal; nor yet frae his mither, for she wis a dochter o Sandie Gair the soutar in Gurlyneuk, that haed been a Chartist in his day. Some folk wad hae't that Archie turned Tory efter he got the kistin o the auld laird; an ithers said it wis wi readin ower mony papers.

O coorse I didna gae in wi his opeenions, but I maun say he telt me a heap o things I no kent afore, for he wis like the fuil in the Beuk o Proverbs--his een were in the ends o the yirth; an, no to be a man o yeddication, the wey he rappit aff aa thae lang-nebbit names o faur-a-wey places an frem folk wadna ha shamed the dominie himsel. He kent what gait the Rooshians were like to be daein us hairm, an hoo we wad hae the French on oor hauns at the same time, an fechtin gaun on ower the hale warld. "Whaur wull ye be than," says he, "wi yer Leeberal Government? A' thae muckle airn ships rammin ane anither or ens blawn up wi torpedies--no a freend to lippen to, an the Irish haun-for-nieve wi oor enemies, an oor ports aa blockaded, an no a bushel o wheat comm in frae Americae? Whaur's yer flour breid to come frae? Hoo lang div ye think it wull tak for oor thretty millions o folk aa to dee o stairvation?" I likit weel to hear him propheseein the ruin o the kintra: he reeled it aff like a prentit beuk.

To hear him, the Tories haed aye been the best freends o the workin man, an the Leeberals haed ne'en duin onything but promise fair to win in, an syne mak a hash o the national business. "Ye hae a Leeberal Government in the noo," says he, "an ye think it's gaun to rain kail, an ye're aa oot wi yer cogies, haudin them up to kep the draps--puir fuilish craturs!"

"It wis the Leeberals gied us oor vote, onyway," says I.

"Gied ye yer vote!" says he; "ay, nae dout they gied ye yer vote, an syne ye gied it to them, an muckle guid it haes duin ye! Ye've been thirled to them a gey while noo, an what the better are ye for't? Nae dout ye hae gotten a vote for the Parliament, an anither for the Schuil Buird, an noo ye're gaun to get anither yit for a Painish Cooncil--ou, ay; gin votes wad dae't, ye'd ha been set up in the warld lang syne. Ye're a man o sense, Jims, for aa ye're a Leeberal. Answer me that: Wull his votes fill the wame o the workin man in the time o faimine an war? Wull they keep a ruif ower his heid an pit duds on his weans? They say, bile jadstanes in butter, the bree'll be guid; but what wull ye bile yer votes in, I wad like to ken, whan the ships canna win ower frae the tither side, an the wheaten laif brings its wecht in gowd?"

"Houts man, Archie," says I, "ye're rinnin awa wi the harrows noo. Ye're feared for the day ye never saw. I'm no gaun to tak doun aa that stuff that ye get oot o yer Tony papers. I'm ower auld-farrant to be fleyed for wirrycows."

"Mebbe ye are," says he, "I'll no say. But I wad hae mair respeck for yer opeenion on the politics, Jims, gin ye coud tell me o ony mortal guid that even cam to ye frae yer vote, that ye're sae prood o. That's ae thing aboot yer Leeberal Government that I canna awa wi; they're aye fangin the well--giein votes here, an votes there--but foul a drap o watter e'er comes oot o't. Ye've got the francheese gey low noo," says he; "I'm thinkin daft folk an paupers wull be settin up a cry for't neist. Weel, weel: fules shoudna hae chappin-sticks, an there's a gey wheen o them that haes votes wad be better wantin them, for the credit o the kintra."

Whiles we got on the subjeck o Hame Rule. "Ye'll be a Hame Ruler, Jims, I'm thinkin?" he wad say to me.

"Weel," says I, "ye ken I hae aye voted for Tod-Lowrie, an he's ane, or caas himsel ane, onyway."

"An what for, noo, wad ye gie thae Irish a parliament o their ain?" says he; "d' ye no think they're weel eneuch aff as they are, an aiblins a hantle better nor they deserve?"

"I'll no say," says I.

"Leuk here," says he; "what'll come ower yer ain maister, up here at Cauldshiel, aince his tack's oot?"

"He'll be roupit," says I.

"An div ye ken what wad happen til him," says he, "gin he haed the luck to be an Irish fermer insteid o a Scots ane? A' the rent that he's ahint wi wad be wipit clean aff the sclate, an he wad get the len o siller oot o the public funds to buy his ferm; nae maiter whether the laird wanted to selt or no, he wad juist hae to dae't; an syne Britherston wad be laird himsel, insteid o haein to staun the shirra, puir body."

"D'ye tell me?" says I.

"Ay, I tell ye," says he, "an I'll tell ye somethin mair, tae. Hoo muckle div ye think I hae to pey in taxes for my spring-cairt?--ane an twenty shillins in the year. Noo, gin I wis in Ireland, hoo muckle d'ye think I wad hae to pey? Juist fifteen shillins."

"D'ye tell me?" says I.

"Ay," says he, "an I'll tell ye mair. Hoo muckle div ye pey in taxes for that wee dowg o yours?"--a bit messan we'd haed aboot the hoose for a gey while, that the wife made unco wark wi.

"Seeven an saxpence in the year," says I, "no that she's warth it, the uiseless beast."

"Weel," says he, "gin ye were in Ireland, ye wad hae to pey juist hauf-a-croon for't--no a bawbee mair. An yet ye wad gie thae spil't bairns o Irish a parliament o their ain! Man, Jims, I wonder at ye!"

"I hae nae parteeclar likin for the Irish," says I; "they're unco guid at beckin an beengin, an that gangs doun wi some maisters: awfu fair to yer face, but mebbe the wark's no sae weel duin efter aa as oor ain folk wad dae't, tho we haena siccan a smooth tongue or sae muckle to say wi't."

"Ay, I ken them," says he; "rub yer heid wi an ily stick, an cut yer throat ahint yer back."

"But here's the wey I leuk at it," says I; "they've been yatterin an craikin for guid kens hoo lang to hae this parliament o their's, an Tod-Lowrie says we'll hae nae peace or aince they get it, an nae chance o onything bein duin for oorsels. An ye ken we hae faur ower mony o them here already, an ay mair comin in, keepin doun wages, an shovin better men oot o a job. They mind me o thae insec's the minister wis readin oot aboot the tither Sunday--thae locus' beas' that cam up in a michty swarm, sae that the face o the sky wis darkened wi them, an herried the hale land o Israel. Noo, the wey I leuk at it is, gin they haed a parliament o their ain, they wad bide at hame, an mebbe a wheen o them that's here the noo micht gang back to their am kintra, an a guid riddance."

"An what gars ye think that, Jims?" says he.

"Weel," says I, "Tod-Lowrie says that their parliament wad start aa kind o mills an factories, an syne there wad be plenty o wark for the craturs, an they wadna need to come ower here, sornin on honest Scots folk."

"An did Tod-Lowrie tell ye hoo they were gaun to drive their mills an their factories?" says he; "ye ken there's nae coal in Ireland."

"Nae coal? Are ye shuir o that?" says I.

"No eneuch to bile a parritch-pat in the hale kintra," says he.

"Weel," says I, "but they maun hae some kind o stuff to ken'le a fire wi. They'll hae nae lack o peat, onyway, for they tell me it's maist aa bog-land ower there."

"Peat!" says he; "muckle guid that wull dae for their mills an factories! You try feedin the injine o yer threshin-mill up here wi peat, an see what speed ye come."

"But they hae watters," says I; "watter-pouer dis fine for caain machinery, an it 's a hantle cheaper nor coal, forby."

"Ay, they hae watters," says he; "but they 're no like oor burns here, that come lowpin an bickerin doun frae the hills, an nae mair a-dae nor big a bit dam, an cairy a lade ony gait ye want it. The watters ower there are mair like ditches or canawls; there 's nae faa in them. A' the watter-pouer in Ireland wadna grind a peck o aits. I dinna see hoo yer mills an factories is to be set a-gaun, Jims, unless mebbe ye coud mak uise o the tides, an caa them wi electreecity--I wis readin a lang screed aboot that in ane o the papers the tither day."

"Ye'll be tellin me neist there's nae tides in Ireland," says I.

"Na, na, I'm tellin ye nae lees, believe me or no," says he; "an as for the Irish bidin at hame, gin they haed a parliament o their ain, juist think for yersel for aince--exerceese yer ain juidgment--hoo wad it be? They mak no sic bad servants, the Irish, but aabody that kens them kens they 're no fit to be maisters; an gin ye set them up to rule theirsels, they wad be fechtin like deevils wi ane anither, pouin aa weys at aince, an drivin capital oot o the kintra; an syne they wad come croodin ower waur nor in forty-sax--an a black year that wis for puir auld Scotland. Gie them their ploy, if ye wull; but dinna complain if ye 're keepit hingin aboot a gey while on the causey at the feein market... An noo ye hae a wheen questions to pit to Tod-Lowrie, the neist time he comes palauverin roon' here. He 'd be nane the waur o a bit hecklin on thae pints, I'm thinkin."