P Hay Hunter


BY this time we were gettin near Snawdon village, an no muckle mair wis said. I haed my ain thochts, as I gaed into the meetin. It wisna pleesant to see Wullie Herkis, an Robbie Dodds, an Adam Instant, an aa them that haed been uised to seek my opeenion--ay, an tak it, tae--gaun their ain gait, an mindin me nae mair nor if I haed been a last year's tattie-bogle. An it wisna pleesant to hear that gin I didna vote the wey they wanted, I wis to hae a mark set upon me, an be amang them like a keeled hog, aa the rest o my days. Naebody likes to ken that folk can dae fine wantin him, an that he's to be set upon the bink, like a crackit dish, to be leuked at an nae mair. It's aa vera weel to hae the richt on yer side, but for aa that a body disna relish bein left his lee lane. An I wisna shuir forby that I haed the richt on my side: I micht be makkin a mistak, juist as like as them.

I needna gae ower Tod-Lowrie's speech to ye, tho I mind it fine. It wis maist aa aboot his Bill, an he pruived til us, as plain as plain coud be, that the kirk wis to loss next to naethin, an we were to get aa we wanted. He said the ministers haed been muivin heeven an yirth to mak oot that this wis a releegious question, but he no thocht we were sic guffies as to be taen in wi that. He didna blame them that muckle for grabbin their steepen's, for human natur wis the same aa the warld ower, whether a man gaed aboot in a black coat an a white tie, or in clouted moleskins. But they haed nae business to bring in the name o releegion, an trail it throu the stour an glaur o a poleetical contest, an that wis what he blamed them for.

As for this bein a releegious question, ithe suiner we got ony sic claivers oot o oor heids the better. It wis a question o practical politics; mair nor that, the Tories haed made it a question o pairty politics; an there wis nae gettin ower the fack, that ony Leeberal that voted Tory on accoont o the kirk wis juist a traitor to the Leeberal cause. It wis ane o the first principles--what he micht caa the A B C o Leeberalism--that ilka sheep shoud hing by its ain shank: they were pledged to dae awa wi aa preevilege, an hae nae mair makkin fish o ane an flesh o anither. Fine the Tories kent that gin the Estaiblishment gaed, a heap mair things wad gang efter't; an that wis what wey they were makkin sic a sang aboot the kirk. A' thae defence associations were nae better nor Tory clubs, an what they caad the Layman's League wis juist the Primrose League under anither name. But we were ower auld birds to be catched wi ony sic caff. We werena a wheen jeeglers that haed chippit oor shell yestreen. We haed seen ower mony o their dodges in oor time, to let the Tories mak a hunt-'e-gowk o us noo. The ministers haed duin their best to pushion oor minds against him, an haed gaen up an doun the coonty caain him for aathing. Weel, he didna heed muckle for that, tho he wondered whiles to himsel hoo men that caad theirsels ministers o the gospel coud lout sae low as to bear fause witness against their neebor. He thocht he kent himsel a wee bit better nor the ministers kent him, an he thocht we kent him better, tae; an tho mebbe he michtna be as white as camstane, he wisna as black as coal coom. Onyway, he wis content to leave himsel in oor hauns, an he expeckit a braw certeeficate o character frae us on the pollin day.

There wis an unco stampin an thumpin whan Tod-Lowrie sat doun, for aa but twa or three in the room were his ain supporters, an there wis nae dout he haed spoken extraordinar weel. For mysel, I clean forgot aboot bein an elder o the kirk, I wis that cairrit awa wi what he haed said, an his wey o sayin't. It wis like auld times to see him squarin up to the Tories, an daurin them to come on; an withoot ony thocht o what I wis daein, I ruffed an hurrehed him like the lave.

This gaed on for mebbe twa or three meenits, or aince they haed got kind o tired o applaudin, an the uproar begoud to gae doun. Syne I sees Pringle on the platform leukin hard my wey, an makkin signs an wavin to me wi his haun; an whan I no teuk ony notice, but juist sat still, what dis he dae but come to the front o the platform, an cry oot my name as lood as he coud roar: MAISTER INWICK!

There wis a deid silence, an aabody leukit first at Pringle, an syne at me. I wad ha gien a month's wages to ha fand mysel on the tither side o the door; I wushed wi aa my hert I haed duin as the wife wanted me, an ne'er come nigh the meetin ava. It's queer hoo a body's mind works at times. I thocht I saw the inside o my ain hoose up at Cauldshiel, an Jess sittin wi her feet on the fender, darnin my hose an watchin the kettle bile, an aye takkin anither leuk at the auld aucht-day in the corner to see if it wisna time for my hame-comin, an Fanny the wee dowg cockin her ears at ilka soond ootby, an Jess sayin til her, "Houts, ye stupid beast, ye micht ken better; it's no him yet!" I saw't aa like ane o thae picturs they show ye wi a lamp on a white claith: an I wad fain ha be o hame, at my ain fireside. But that wisna possible. I haed run my heid into the halter, an there wis nae wey I coud see aa gettin't oot.

By this time they were aa cryin on me to rise. Ye never heard sic a noise aa yer born days: it wis "Inwick! Inwick!"--"Come on, Jims, up wi ye!"--"Caa yer girr, man!"--"Speech! Speech!"--aa ower the ha. Syne Peffers o Scraemuir, that wis in the chair, got up--I saw Pringle whisperin to him what to say--an, "Order, order, gentlemen," says he; "oor freend Jims Inwick haes a motion to mak. He's aboot to propose a vote o confidence in oor worthy member, Maister Tod-Lowrie!"

What wis I to dae? Wi them aa roarin my name fit to lift the ruif, an Pringle waggin to me in front, an Tam Arnott an An'ra Wabster shovin me ahint--up I got, no kennin vera weel whether my heid or my heels wis buinmaist. What a cheer they gied me!--ye micht ha heard it frae the faur end o the toll green; an I'll no say but it gaed roon' my hert, an inclined me mair for the job, to get sic a braw reception frae them aa; I wadna ha believed I wis that muckle thocht o.

I coudna tell ye what I said, no if ye peyed me; an whan I saw my speech prentit in the Journal I coudna believe it wis mine, there wis that muckle o't, an it hung that weel thegither; I hae aye thocht the reporter laddie--a clever chiel he wis--maun ha made it up oot o his ain heid. Onyway, whatever I said, they appeared to be fine pleased wi't, for the ruffin whan I sat doun wis eneuch to start the geists, an the stour flew up in cloods an set aabody hoastin.

Syne Tod-Lowrie got up, an made a bit speech. He thankit us frae the bottom o his hert for the vote we haed gien him. An he thankit his freend that haed proposed the vote in sic eloquent terms--that wis what he said--his auld an esteemed freend Maister Inwick, that wis, he understuid, a stoop o the kirk, as weel as an ornament to the Leeberal pairty. That wis shuirly a pruif, if ony pruif wis wanted, that his Bill haed been drawn up in nae speerit aa hosteelity to the kirk. He felt confident there were plenty o fair-minded, intelligent, an independent men, like his freend Maister Inwick, that wadna be led by the nose by onybody, but wad think for theirsels an dae what wis richt; an he coonted upon aa sich to rally roon' him, an save the constituency frae the disgrace aa bein representit by a Tory.

I canna tell ye hoo mony o the chaps cam up to me, efter the meetin wis ower, an gruppit me by the haun, an said I wis the boy for them. Wullie Herkis, an Adam Instant, an Robbie Dodds--aa my ain neebors an acquentance--seemed unco pleased; they said they haed ne'er haed ony dout but I wad come oot aa richt at the hinner end, an keep the place I haed aye haed amang them. Pringle cam up to me, tae, an sheuk hauns wi me, unco free an ceevil; an said haed he no been richt in what he telt me, the day we haed oor crack thegither--that aince I haed seen the Bill, an heard oor member explain it, I wad hae nae diffeeculty in makkin up my mind what to dae? An syne he teuk me awa wi him up to the platform, an I got a grup o the haun frae Tod-Lowrie himsel, an he said he wis prood to hae my support, for it wis men like me that wis the rigbane o the Leeberal pairty.

I wad ha gaen awa fine pleased wi mysel an wi aabody else, if it haedna been for Jock Sives the molecatcher, an that camsteerie deevil An'ra Wabster. "I wush ye meyna ha brocht an ill kaim to yer heid the nicht, Jims," says the molecatcher, as we were gaun oot o the ha; "ye mey be richt--I'll no say: but it's a funny-like poseetion for an elder o the kirk to be in, as I leuk at it."--"Weel duin, elder!" says An'ra; "ye've been hingin fire for a gey while, but, my certy, ye gaed aff wi a bang the nicht! Yon wis a shot amang the dous, an nae mistak! But ye'll no need to let on to the wife, Jims: I dout she micht hae a wird or twa to say til ye, gin she cam to hear o't."

They were keen for me to gang ower wi them to Jenny Brockie's, an hae a weet afore takkin the road, for it wanted hauf an hoor o closin time. They said they wad staun me as mony gaes o Jenny's best as I likit, an syne we wad aa gang hame thegither. But I said no thank ye, an stuid til't. I thocht I haed mebbe duin eneuch for ae nicht, withoot feenishin it up in the publichoose; sae I left them, an set aff hame my lane.

There wis a dissle o rain faain, an the air haed a fresh, cool feel aboot it, efter comin oot o the meetin, whaur we haed been aa jammed thegither like herrin in a barrel, an fair scorn fist wi the heat. There wis naebody on the road forby mysel, an no a soond but the wind mirnin amang the firs, an the ouls in the Lang Plantin cryin to ane anither in their eerie wey. I dinna ken hoo it wis, but I begoud to see things different, noo that I wis awa frae aa the noise an steer. A body's no the same whan he's ane o a croud, as whan he's traivellin a lanesome road at nicht aa by himsel. I haed a kind o feelin that mebbe I haedna duin richt efter aa; an whan I cam to think o't, Pringle haed nae business to be roarin oot my name, for I haed never said that I wad mak the motion, but juist that I wad see aboot it. It cam ower me that mebbe I haed been made a fuil o, an at the same time, that I wisna dealin vera fair wi the wife, if I keepit aa this back frae her. I kind o thocht shame o mysel--no that there wis ony reason for't, aither--whan the door opened frae the inside afore I coud draw the sneck, an I saw Jess staunin wi the lamp in her haun.

"Eh, Jims," she says, "but I hae been thinkin lang or ye cam hame! Are ye aa by yersel? Are nane o the chaps wi ye?"

"No," says I, "I left them aa doun by at Snawdon. They pressed me sair to gang ower to Jenny's wi them, but I minded yer wirds, guidwife, an cam straucht awa."

"An that wis weel duin aa ye," says she, "an faur wicer-like to be sittin at yer ain ingle-neuk, nor gilravagin in public-hooses wi the likes o An'ra Wabster. An noo ye'll draw aff yer buits, an come in to the fire, an I'll brew ye a gless o somethin het, for I'm shuir ye maun be tired. An hoo did ye come on at yer meetin?"

"Ou, fine," says I: an thinks I to mysel, "Noo, wull I tell her?" But syne I refleckit that it wad be nae uise, for I coudna mak her understaun aa the oots an ins o the business. The weemen's minds were never made for followin aa the tirly-wirlies o the politics, an that's an argyment, in my opeenion, for no giein them a vote. They maun aye rin brent at a thing; they haena the patience to gae roon' aboot it, an leuk at it baith back an front. They never see but ae side o a question, an whan ye tell them there's twa sides, they'll tell ye that yer een maun be gleyed. An aince they hae taen a notion into their heids, ye'll no drive it oot; richt or wrang, reason or nane, there it is, an there it wull bide. If I haed telt Jess what haed passed at the meetin, she wad maist likely ha bleezed up in a rage, an caad Pringle a cheatry body, an me a puir silly goslin. Sae I said naethin aboot it, no wantin to hae ony disagreement.