P Hay Hunter


THE nicht o Tod-Lowrie's meetin, whan I cam hame frae my wark, an telt the wife I wis thinkin o gaun doun by, she wisna ower weel pleased. "What for wad ye gang an listen to a man like yon?" says she; "a man that's as fou o tricks as the pedlar's puggy, an that never lees but whan the holyn's green? I thocht ye haed fand him oot by this time, an that he haed seekened ye aince for aa wi his fleechin an flethers. Ye wad be better sittin at yer ain fire-side, giein a body yer crack, to my wey o thinkin, nor trampin aa that road, on a mirk wat nicht, to get yer wits daivert at a poleetical meetin."

"That's no a wey to speak, wumman," says I; "whan a man haes the richt to vote, he maun exerceese it for the guid o the kintra; an hoo can he dae that if he disna atten' the meetins on baith sides, an hear what the candidates hae to say? I'll be gaun to the Tory meetin ane o thae days, maist likely, an what wey shoud I no gang to the Leeberal ane the nicht?"

"Weel," says she, "he that wull to Cupar maun to Cupar. But see ye come straucht hame efter it 's by, an no let that deil's buckle An'ra Wabster wyle ye awa to the public hoose wi him. It wad be better for him an his bairns baith gin he pat mair meat doun their throats, an less drink doun his ain."

Weel, aff I gaed to the meetin, in company wi An'ra Wabster, an Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish; an at the cross-roads we met in wi Robbie Dodds frae Scraemuir, an Tam Arnott frae Wedderlairs; an a bit further yont, at the end o the Lang Plantin, Jock Sives the molecatcher an Adam Instant the dyker jined us. The election wis on us by this time, an an awfu steer it haed raised ower the hale kintra: ye heard naethin but the politics frae mornin till nicht. In oor pairts, the question that aabody wis speerin wis whether Tod-Lowrie wad haud the sate or no; an frae the things they let drap, I coud see that his ain supporters werena by ony means shuir o't: they thocht he wad win in, but no wi ony votes to spare. It wisna that he haed a popular candidate against him--a laird's son, he wis: ane o thae Tory kind that gae guisin aboot as Unionists, an nae great shakes o a speaker. An it wisna Hame Rule that the election wis gaun to turn on, for the folk didna heed that muckle aboot it, aither the tae wey or the tither. It wis the kirk that Tod-Lowrie haed to battle wi, for say what he likit, there were a gey wheen Leeberals whae coudna see that disestaiblishment wis to dae the kirk a heap o guid, an they said they wad aither hae to vote for the Tory, or ens no vote at aa. It wis true that the Bill haed taen effeck on some o them, an airted them roon' again, as I coud mak oot frae the things they said.

"It 's a bonny bit o legislation," says Tam Arnott; "the kintra haesna seen the like o't, no sin the Reform Bill o Thirty-Twa. Efter this, wha wull daur to say that Tod-Lowrie haesna the welfare o the workin-clesses at hert?"

"I dinna ken whether it wull be guid for the kirk," says Robbie Dodds, "but I ken it wull be guid for oorsels. An a body haes hinisel to leuk to. If ye dinna leuk to yersel, whae 's gaun to dae't for ye?"

"What div you think o't, Jock Sives?" says An'ra Wabster to the molecatcher; "ye're no gaun to vote Tory, are ye? Ye're no like Jims here, that haes sae mony fikes an whee-gees there's nae pleasin him. A body can reason wi you. Ye see what ye're to get, set doun in black an white: an it's noo or never, tak it or want it--I'm tellin ye."

"Ay, I see't," says Jock--he wis ane o your kind, Jock, that think twice afore they speak aince, an wull no pit oot their haun further nor they can draw it back--"ay, I see't," says he, "but I canna juist say that I hae riddled oot the richts an the wrangs o't in my ain mind. I canna get ower what the minister haes aye said til us, that the teinds belang the kirk, an ye micht juist as weel rin awa wi the collection as help yersel to the teinds."

"Are we no telt that Dauvid teuk the vera breid aff the altar," says Robbie Dodds, "an naethin wis ever said til him?"

"Ay, but we haena the same excuise," says he, "for we 're no perishin o hunger."

"Ye needna come ower to me what the minister says," says An'ra Wabster; "the minister's juist gruppin aa he can for himsel. They 're aye preachin til us no to heed aboot this warld an its gear, but they 're unco guid at leukin efter their ain; an ye'll no get me to believe that I haena the same richt as ony minister to mak mysel as snug as I can the wee whilie I 'm here."

"A' vera true," says Jock; "but ye ken hoo the teinds cam to be there? It wis godly men lang syne that gied their lands an siller to the kirk, for the uise o the folk in aa time comin; an hae we ony richt to tak them awa frae future generations, that wull mebbe finnd the want o them, an turn roon' an curse oor memories, efter we 're aa deid an gaen?"

"Let them care that come ahint," says An'ra; "we've got oorsels to leuk to, as Tam Arnott says. For my pairt, I mak nae fine professions, no bein an elder. I'm juist a hungry tyke, an whan I see the bane hingin afore my nose, I canna but gansh at it!"

"Weel," says the molecatcher, "if there's mony o ye o the same mind, it's awa wi the kirk: we'll juist hae to spit an gie ower. But ye'll mebbe finnd ye're lossin mair nor ye're gettin, afore aas duin. Mony a ane tines the hauf-merk whinger for the haapenny whang."

"Leuk here, Jims," says Wullie Herkis to me, "ye've been sweein on the yett for a gey while, but ye'll hae to jump aither on the tae side or the tither noo. Ye canna mak but ae cross on the ballot-paper, ye ken, an we wad like to hear what ye mean to dae? Are ye gaun to vote for Tod-Lowrie, or are ye no?"

"I haena made up my mind yet," says I.

"Weel," says he, "if that's the wey aat, I'll juist tell ye what Robbie, an Adam, an Dave here, an a wheen mair o us were sayin the tither day. We hae aye coonted ye a faur-seein chiel, that kent hoo mony lippies gae to the peck; an we hae socht yer opeenion on the politics, an let oorsels be guidit in maist things by what ye said. But it's plain that if ye canna mak up yer ain mind, ye'll no help us muckle to mak up oors. Sae we've laid oor heids thegither, an gaen ower the Bill for oorsels, an we hae come to a deceesion wantin ye."

"Ay?" says I; "an what micht yer deceesion be, Wullie?"

"We'll no vote for the Tory," says he; "he's but a cuif, ony wey ye like to leuk at him."

"Ay," says Adam Instant, "he's a saft dud, yon; he haes nae grup o the politics ava."

"He's a puir weed," says Wullie; "an it's a tuim spuin he pits to oor mooth--no a single sowp o aa thae reforms we've been waitin for wull we ever get frae him. A' the maisters are for him, an that's reason eneuch an mair for us to gang the tither wey. We no want ony landlord to represent us; ye micht juist as weel set the tod to herd the lambs."

"That's awfu true," says Dave Daagleish.

"But what aboot the kirk, Wullie?" say " I no hear ye say mysel that naethin wad tempt ye to vote for ony man that wad pou doun the kirk?"

"An whae's gaun to pou doun the kirk?" says he; "no Tod-Lowrie. Man, hae ye no read his Bill? D'ye mean to tell me the kirk wull cam to an end for the want o a puckle siller? Leuk at the Frees: if they're able to pey their ministers, shuirly oor folk can dae as muckle? An we'll be a hantle better aff nor them, for we're to get the kirks an manses far naethin. That's aa in the Bill."

"I hae aye understuid," says I, "that it teuk the Frees aa their time to mak ends meet, an it wis the big congregations in the touns that keepit up the wee anes in the kintra."

"An what aboot that?" says he; "what's the odds whaur the silIer comes frae, sae lang as it comes? The kirk wull tak nae scaith. An see what we're to get--oor bit o land, an oor plenishin; the vera things we hae been waitin an wearyin on aa this time. Wad ye hae us loss the chance, an mebbe no see't again the langest day we live?"

"Ye needna speak to the elder, Wullie," says An'ra Wabster; "ye're juist wastin yer wind. Jims haes got to vote the wey the wife tells him. It's the hen that dis the crawin in Jims's roost."

"D'ye think sae?" says I; "weel, An'ra, if ye peyed mair heed to yer ain wife whiles, it micht be better for baith the twa o ye. My mistress ne'er needed to hide my buits, onyway, to keep me frae gaun to the public hoose."

"Let's hae nae wirds amang freends," says Adam Instant; "man, Jims, ye micht ken An'ra Wabster better by this time nor tak ony notice o his ill tongue."

"Sae ye micht, Jims," says Tam Arnott; "an as for what Wullie here wis sayin, it seems to me unco sensible. It 's a poleetical question, aa this aboot the kirk, let the ministers say what they like. An noo that the Leeberals hae taen it up, are ye gaun to split frae yer pairty for juist this ae thing?--are ye gaun to eat the coo an worry on the tail? If ye dae, see whaur ye'll be. Yer vote'll no save the kirk, an ye'll ha left yer auld freends--yer brither pleuchmen--an gaen awa an taen up wi the tither side. I no say ye'll be boycotted, for Scots folk are no like thae Irish, bethankit. But ye canna expeck to be coonted ane o oorsels' like, if ye turn yer coat an vote for the Tory."