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´╗┐Title: Auld Licht Idylls
Author: Barrie, J. M. (James Matthew), 1860-1937
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Auld Licht Idylls" ***

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Transcriber's note:

      The volume from which this e-book was created contained two books,
      _Auld Licht Idylls_ and _Better Dead_.  The Introduction discusses
      both.



The Novels, Tales and Sketches of J. M. Barrie

AULD LICHT IDYLLS



[Frontispiece: Photograph of J. M. Barrie]



Published in New York by
Charles Scribner's Sons
1896

Author's Edition
Copyright, 1896, by Charles Scribner's Sons.



TO

FREDERICK GREENWOOD



INTRODUCTION

This is the only American edition of my books produced with my
sanction, and I have special reasons for thanking Messrs. Scribner for
its publication; they let it be seen, by this edition, what are my
books, for I know not how many volumes purporting to be by me, are in
circulation in America which are no books of mine.  I have seen several
of these, bearing such titles as "Two of Them," "An Auld Licht Manse,"
"A Tillyloss Scandal," and some of them announce themselves as author's
editions, or published by arrangement with the author.  They consist of
scraps collected and published without my knowledge, and I entirely
disown them.  I have written no books save those that appear in this
edition.

I am asked to write a few lines on the front page of each of these
volumes, to say something, as I take it, about how they came into
being.  Well, they were written mainly to please one woman who is now
dead, but as I am writing a little book about my mother I shall say no
more of her here.

Many of the chapters in "Auld Licht Idylls" first appeared in a
different form in the _St. James's Gazette_, and there is little doubt
that they would never have appeared anywhere but for the encouragement
given to me by the editor of that paper.  It was pressure from him that
induced me to write a second "Idyll" and a third after I thought the
first completed the picture, he set me thinking seriously of these
people, and though he knew nothing of them himself, may be said to have
led me back to them.  It seems odd, and yet I am not the first nor the
fiftieth who has left Thrums at sunrise to seek the life-work that was
all the time awaiting him at home.  And we seldom sally forth a second
time.  I had always meant to be a novelist, but London, I thought, was
the quarry.

For long I had an uneasy feeling that no one save the editor read my
contributions, for I was leading a lonely life in London, and not
another editor could I find in the land willing to print the Scotch
dialect.  The magazines, Scotch and English, would have nothing to say
to me--I think I tried them all with "The Courting of T'nowhead's
Bell," but it never found shelter until it got within book-covers.  In
time, however, I found another paper, the _British Weekly_, with an
editor as bold as my first (or shall we say he suffered from the same
infirmity?).  He revived my drooping hopes, and I was again able to
turn to the only kind of literary work I now seemed to have much
interest in.  He let me sign my articles, which was a big step for me
and led to my having requests for work from elsewhere, but always the
invitations said "not Scotch--the public will not read dialect."  By
this time I had put together from these two sources and from my
drawerful of rejected stories this book of "Auld Licht Idylls," and in
its collected form it again went the rounds.  I offered it to certain
firms as a gift, but they would not have it even at that.  And then, on
a day came actually an offer for it from Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton.
For this, and for many another kindness, I had the editor of the
_British Weekly_ to thank.  Thus the book was published at last, and as
for Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton I simply dare not say what a generous
firm I found them, lest it send too many aspirants to their doors.
But, indeed, I have had the pleasantest relations with all my
publishers.

"Better Dead" is, by my wish, no longer on sale in Great Britain, and I
should have preferred not to see it here, for it is in no way worthy of
the beautiful clothes Messrs. Scribner have given it.  Weighted with
"An Edinburgh Eleven" it would rest very comfortably in the mill dam,
but the publishers have reasons for its inclusion; among them, I
suspect, is a well-grounded fear that if I once began to hack and hew,
I should not stop until I had reduced the edition to two volumes.  This
juvenile effort is a field of prickles into which none may be advised
to penetrate--I made the attempt lately in cold blood and came back
shuddering, but I had read enough to have the profoundest reason for
declining to tell what the book is about.  And yet I have a sentimental
interest in "Better Dead," for it was my first--published when I had
small hope of getting any one to accept the Scotch--and there was a
week when I loved to carry it in my pocket and did not think it dead
weight.  Once I almost saw it find a purchaser.  She was a pretty girl
and it lay on a bookstall, and she read some pages and smiled, and then
retired, and came back and began another chapter.  Several times she
did this, and I stood in the background trembling with hope and fear.
At last she went away without the book, but I am still of opinion that,
had it been just a little bit better, she would have bought it.



CONTENTS

    I. THE SCHOOLHOUSE
   II. THRUMS
  III. THE AULD LICHT KIRK
   IV. LADS AND LASSES
    V. THE AULD LICHTS IN ARMS
   VI. THE OLD DOMINIE
  VII. CREE QUEERY AND MYSY DROLLY
 VIII. THE COURTING OF T'NOWHEAD'S BELL
   IX. DAVIT LUNAN'S POLITICAL REMINISCENCES
    X. A VERY OLD FAMILY
   XI. LITTLE RATHIE'S "BURAL"
  XII. A LITERARY CLUB



ILLUSTRATIONS


   J. M. BARRIE . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

   Sabbath at T'nowhead



AULD LIGHT IDYLLS


CHAPTER I

THE SCHOOLHOUSE

Early this morning I opened a window in my schoolhouse in the glen of
Quharity, awakened by the shivering of a starving sparrow against the
frosted glass.  As the snowy sash creaked in my hand, he made off to
the water-spout that suspends its "tangles" of ice over a gaping tank,
and, rebounding from that, with a quiver of his little black breast,
bobbed through the network of wire and joined a few of his fellows in a
forlorn hop round the henhouse in search of food.  Two days ago my
hilarious bantam-cock, saucy to the last, my cheeriest companion, was
found frozen in his own water-trough, the corn-saucer in three pieces
by his side.  Since then I have taken the hens into the house.  At
meal-times they litter the hearth with each other's feathers; but for
the most part they give little trouble, roosting on the rafters of the
low-roofed kitchen among staves and fishing-rods.

Another white blanket has been spread upon the glen since I looked out
last night; for over the same wilderness of snow that has met my gaze
for a week, I see the steading of Waster Lunny sunk deeper into the
waste.  The schoolhouse, I suppose, serves similarly as a snowmark for
the people at the farm.  Unless that is Waster Lunny's grieve foddering
the cattle in the snow, not a living thing is visible.  The ghostlike
hills that pen in the glen have ceased to echo to the sharp crack of
the sportsman's gun (so clear in the frosty air as to be a warning to
every rabbit and partridge in the valley); and only giant Catlaw shows
here and there a black ridge, rearing its head at the entrance to the
glen and struggling ineffectually to cast off his shroud.  Most wintry
sign of all, I think as I close the window hastily, is the open
farm-stile, its poles lying embedded in the snow where they were last
flung by Waster Lunny's herd.  Through the still air comes from a
distance a vibration as of a tuning-fork: a robin, perhaps, alighting
on the wire of a broken fence.

In the warm kitchen, where I dawdle over my breakfast, the widowed
bantam-hen has perched on the back of my drowsy cat.  It is needless to
go through the form of opening the school to-day; for, with the
exception of Waster Lunny's girl, I have had no scholars for nine days.
Yesterday she announced that there would be no more schooling till it
was fresh, "as she wasna comin';" and indeed, though the smoke from the
farm chimneys is a pretty prospect for a snowed-up schoolmaster, the
trudge between the two houses must be weary work for a bairn.  As for
the other children, who have to come from all parts of the hills and
glen, I may not see them for weeks.  Last year the school was
practically deserted for a month.  A pleasant outlook, with the March
examinations staring me in the face, and an inspector fresh from
Oxford.  I wonder what he would say if he saw me to-day digging myself
out of the schoolhouse with the spade I now keep for the purpose in my
bedroom.

The kail grows brittle from the snow in my dank and cheerless garden.
A crust of bread gathers timid pheasants round me.  The robins, I see,
have made the coalhouse their home.  Waster Lunny's dog never barks
without rousing my sluggish cat to a joyful response.  It is Dutch
courage with the birds and beasts of the glen, hard driven for food;
but I look attentively for them in these long forenoons, and they have
begun to regard me as one of themselves.  My breath freezes, despite my
pipe, as I peer from the door; and with a fortnight-old newspaper I
retire to the ingle-nook.  The friendliest thing I have seen to-day is
the well-smoked ham suspended from my kitchen rafters.  It was a gift
from the farm of Tullin, with a load of peats, the day before the snow
began to fall.  I doubt if I have seen a cart since.

This afternoon I was the not altogether passive spectator of a curious
scene in natural history.  My feet encased in stout "tackety" boots, I
had waded down two of Waster Lunny's fields to the glen burn: in summer
the never-failing larder from which, with wriggling worm or garish fly,
I can any morning whip a savoury breakfast; in the winter-time the only
thing in the valley that defies the ice-king's chloroform.  I watched
the water twisting black and solemn through the snow, the ragged ice on
its edge proof of the toughness of the struggle with the frost, from
which it has, after all, crept only half victorious.  A bare wild
rosebush on the further bank was violently agitated, and then there ran
from its root a black-headed rat with wings.  Such was the general
effect.  I was not less interested when my startled eyes divided this
phenomenon into its component parts, and recognized in the disturbance
on the opposite bank only another fierce struggle among the hungry
animals for existence: they need no professor to teach them the
doctrine of the survival of the fittest.  A weasel had gripped a
water-hen (whit-rit and beltie they are called in these parts) cowering
at the root of the rose-bush, and was being dragged down the bank by
the terrified bird, which made for the water as its only chance of
escape.  In less disadvantageous circumstances the weasel would have
made short work of his victim; but as he only had the bird by the tail,
the prospects of the combatants were equalized.  It was the tug-of-war
being played with a life as the stakes.  "If I do not reach the water,"
was the argument that went on in the heaving little breast of the one,
"I am a dead bird."  "If this water-hen," reasoned the other, "reaches
the burn, my supper vanishes with her."  Down the sloping bank the hen
had distinctly the best of it, but after that came a yard of level
snow, and here she tugged and screamed in vain.  I had so far been an
unobserved spectator; but my sympathies were with the beltie, and,
thinking it high time to interfere, I jumped into the water.  The
water-hen gave one mighty final tug and toppled into the burn; while
the weasel viciously showed me his teeth, and then stole slowly up the
bank to the rose-bush, whence, "girning," he watched me lift his
exhausted victim from the water, and set off with her for the
schoolhouse.  Except for her draggled tail, she already looks
wonderfully composed, and so long as the frost holds I shall have
little difficulty in keeping her with me.  On Sunday I found a frozen
sparrow, whose heart had almost ceased to beat, in the disused pig-sty,
and put him for warmth into my breast-pocket.  The ungrateful little
scrub bolted without a word of thanks about ten minutes afterwards to
the alarm of my cat, which had not known his whereabouts.

I am alone in the schoolhouse.  On just such an evening as this last
year my desolation drove me to Waster Lunny, where I was storm-stayed
for the night.  The recollection decides me to court my own warm
hearth, to challenge my right hand again to a game at the "dambrod"
against my left.  I do not lock the schoolhouse door at nights; for
even a highwayman (there is no such luck) would be received with open
arms, and I doubt if there be a barred door in all the glen.  But it is
cosier to put on the shutters.  The road to Thrums has lost itself
miles down the valley.  I wonder what they are doing out in the world.
Though I am the Free Church precentor in Thrums (ten pounds a year, and
the little town is five miles away), they have not seen me for three
weeks.  A packman whom I thawed yesterday at my kitchen fire tells me,
that last Sabbath only the Auld Lichts held service.  Other people
realized that they were snowed up.  Far up the glen, after it twists
out of view, a manse and half a dozen thatched cottages that are there
may still show a candle light, and the crumbling gravestones keep cold
vigil round the grey old kirk.  Heavy shadows fade into the sky to the
north.  A flake trembles against the window; but it is too cold for
much snow to-night.  The shutter bars the outer world from the
schoolhouse.



CHAPTER II

THRUMS

Thrums is the name I give here to the handful of houses jumbled
together in a cup, which is the town nearest the schoolhouse.  Until
twenty years ago its every other room, earthen-floored and showing the
rafters overhead, had a handloom, and hundreds of weavers lived and
died Thoreaus "ben the hoose" without knowing it.  In those days the
cup overflowed and left several houses on the top of the hill, where
their cold skeletons still stand.  The road that climbs from the
square, which is Thrums's heart, to the north is so steep and straight,
that in a sharp frost children hunker at the top and are blown down
with a roar and a rush on rails of ice.  At such times, when viewed
from the cemetery where the traveller from the schoolhouse gets his
first glimpse of the little town, Thrums is but two church steeples and
a dozen red stone patches standing out of a snow-heap.  One of the
steeples belongs to the new Free Kirk, and the other to the parish
church, both of which the first Auld Licht minister I knew ran past
when he had not time to avoid them by taking a back wynd.  He was but a
pocket edition of a man, who grew two inches after he was called; but
he was so full of the cure of souls, that he usually scudded to it with
his coattails quarrelling behind him.  His successor, whom I knew
better, was a greater scholar, and said, "Let us see what this is in
the original Greek," as an ordinary man might invite a friend to
dinner; but he never wrestled as Mr. Dishart, his successor, did with
the pulpit cushions, nor flung himself at the pulpit door.  Nor was he
so "hard on the Book," as Lang Tammas, the precentor, expressed it,
meaning that he did not bang the Bible with his fist as much as might
have been wished.

Thrums had been known to me for years before I succeeded the captious
dominie at the schoolhouse in the glen.  The dear old soul who
originally induced me to enter the Auld Licht kirk by lamenting the
"want of Christ" in the minister's discourses was my first landlady.
For the last ten years of her life she was bedridden, and only her
interest in the kirk kept her alive.  Her case against the minister was
that he did not call to denounce her sufficiently often for her sins,
her pleasure being to hear him bewailing her on his knees as one who
was probably past praying for.  She was as sweet and pure a woman as I
ever knew, and had her wishes been horses, she would have sold them and
kept (and looked after) a minister herself.

There are few Auld Licht communities in Scotland nowadays--perhaps
because people are now so well off, for the most devout Auld Lichts
were always poor, and their last years were generally a grim struggle
with the workhouse.  Many a heavy-eyed, back-bent weaver has won his
Waterloo in Thrums fighting on his stumps.  There are a score or two of
them left still, for, though there are now two factories in the town,
the clatter of the handloom can yet be heard, and they have been
starving themselves of late until they have saved up enough money to
get another minister.

The square is packed away in the centre of Thrums, and irregularly
built little houses squeeze close to it like chickens clustering round
a hen.  Once the Auld Lichts held property in the square, but other
denominations have bought them out of it, and now few of them are even
to be found in the main streets that make for the rim of the cup.  They
live in the kirk-wynd, or in retiring little houses the builder of
which does not seem to have remembered that it is a good plan to have a
road leading to houses until after they were finished.  Narrow paths
straggling round gardens, some of them with stunted gates, which it is
commoner to step over than to open, have been formed to reach these
dwellings, but in winter they are running streams, and then the best
way to reach a house such as that of Tammy Mealmaker the wright,
pronounced wir-icht, is over a broken dyke and a pig-sty.  Tammy, who
died a bachelor, had been soured in his youth by a disappointment in
love, of which he spoke but seldom.  She lived far away in a town to
which he had wandered in the days when his blood ran hot, and they
became engaged.  Unfortunately, however, Tammy forgot her name, and he
never knew the address; so there the affair ended, to his silent grief.
He admitted himself, over his snuff-mull of an evening, that he was a
very ordinary character, but a certain halo of horror was cast over the
whole family by their connection with little Joey Sutie, who was
pointed at in Thrums as the laddie that whistled when he went past the
minister.  Joey became a pedlar, and was found dead one raw morning
dangling over a high wall within a few miles of Thrums.  When climbing
the dyke his pack had slipped back, the strap round his neck, and
choked him.

You could generally tell an Auld Licht in Thrums when you passed him,
his dull vacant face wrinkled over a heavy wob.  He wore tags of yarn
round his trousers beneath the knee, that looked like ostentatious
garters, and frequently his jacket of corduroy was put on beneath his
waistcoat.  If he was too old to carry his load on his back, he wheeled
it on a creaking barrow, and when he met a friend they said, "Ay,
Jeames," and "Ay, Davit," and then could think of nothing else.  At
long intervals they passed through the square, disappearing or coming
into sight round the town-house which stands on the south side of it,
and guards the entrance to a steep brae that leads down and then twists
up on its lonely way to the county town.  I like to linger over the
square, for it was from an upper window in it that I got to know
Thrums.  On Saturday nights, when the Auld Licht young men came into
the square dressed and washed to look at the young women errand-going,
and to laugh sometime afterwards to each other, it presented a glare of
light; and here even came the cheap jacks and the Fair Circassian, and
the showman, who, besides playing "The Mountain Maid and the Shepherd's
Bride," exhibited part of the tail of Balaam's ass, the helm of Noah's
ark, and the tartan plaid in which Flora McDonald wrapped Prince
Charlie.  More select entertainment, such as Shuffle Kitty's waxwork,
whose motto was, "A rag to pay, and in you go," were given in a hall
whose approach was by an outside stair.  On the Muckle Friday, the fair
for which children storing their pocket money would accumulate
sevenpence-half-penny in less than six months, the square was crammed
with gingerbread stalls, bag-pipers, fiddlers, and monstrosities who
were gifted with second sight.  There was a bearded man, who had
neither legs nor arms, and was drawn through the streets in a small
cart by four dogs.  By looking at you he could see all the clockwork
inside, as could a boy who was led about by his mother at the end of a
string.  Every Friday there was the market, when a dozen ramshackle
carts containing vegetables and cheap crockery filled the centre of the
square, resting in line on their shafts.  A score of farmers' wives or
daughters in old-world garments squatted against the town-house within
walls of butter on cabbage-leaves, eggs and chickens.  Towards evening
the voice of the buckie-man shook the square, and rival fish-cadgers,
terrible characters who ran races on horseback, screamed libels at each
other over a fruiterer's barrow.  Then it was time for douce Auld
Lichts to go home, draw their stools near the fire, spread their red
handkerchiefs over their legs to prevent their trousers getting singed,
and read their "Pilgrim's Progress."

In my schoolhouse, however, I seem to see the square most readily in
the Scotch mist which so often filled it, loosening the stones and
choking the drains.  There was then no rattle of rain against my
window-sill, nor dancing of diamond drops on the roofs, but blobs of
water grew on the panes of glass to reel heavily down them.  Then the
sodden square would have shed abundant tears if you could have taken it
in your hands and wrung it like a dripping cloth.  At such a time the
square would be empty but for one vegetable cart left in the care of a
lean collie, which, tied to the wheel, whined and shivered underneath.
Pools of water gather in the coarse sacks, that have been spread over
the potatoes and bundles of greens, which turn to manure in their
lidless barrels.  The eyes of the whimpering dog never leave a black
close over which hangs the sign of the Bull, probably the refuge of the
hawker.  At long intervals a farmer's gig rumbles over the bumpy,
ill-paved square, or a native, with his head buried in his coat, peeps
out of doors, skurries across the way, and vanishes.  Most of the
leading shops are here, and the decorous draper ventures a few yards
from the pavement to scan the sky, or note the effect of his new
arrangement in scarves.  Planted against his door is the butcher,
Henders Todd, white-aproned, and with a knife in his hand, gazing
interestedly at the draper, for a mere man may look at an elder.  The
tinsmith brings out his steps, and, mounting them, stealthily removes
the saucepans and pepper-pots that dangle on a wire above his
sign-board.  Pulling to his door he shuts out the foggy light that
showed in his solder-strewn workshop.  The square is deserted again.  A
bundle of sloppy parsley slips from the hawker's cart and topples over
the wheel in driblets.  The puddles in the sacks overflow and run
together.  The dog has twisted his chain round a barrel and yelps
sharply.  As if in response comes a rush of other dogs.  A terrified
fox-terrier tears across the square with half a score of mongrels, the
butcher's mastiff and some collies at his heels; he is doubtless a
stranger who has insulted them by his glossy coat.  For two seconds the
square shakes to an invasion of dogs, and then, again, there is only
one dog in sight.

No one will admit the Scotch mist.  It "looks saft."  The tinsmith
"wudna wonder but what it was makkin for rain."  Tammas Haggart and
Pete Lunan dander into sight bareheaded, and have to stretch out their
hands to discover what the weather is like.  By and by they come to a
standstill to discuss the immortality of the soul, and then they are
looking silently at the Bull.  Neither speaks, but they begin to move
toward the inn at the same time, and its door closes on them before
they know what they are doing.  A few minutes afterwards Jinny Dundas,
who is Pete's wife, runs straight for the Bull in her short gown, which
is tucked up very high, and emerges with her husband soon afterwards.
Jinny is voluble, but Pete says nothing.  Tammas follows later, putting
his head out at the door first, and looking cautiously about him to see
if any one is in sight.  Pete is a U. P., and may be left to his fate,
but the Auld Licht minister thinks that though it be hard work, Tammas
is worth saving.

To the Auld Licht of the past there were three degrees of
damnation--auld kirk, play-acting, chapel.  Chapel was the name always
given to the English Church, of which I am too much an Auld Licht
myself to care to write even now.  To belong to the chapel was, in
Thrums, to be a Roman Catholic, and the boy who flung a clod of earth
at the English minister--who called the Sabbath Sunday--or dropped a
"divet" down his chimney was held to be in the right way.  The only
pleasant story Thrums could tell of the chapel was that its steeple
once fell.  It is surprising that an English church was ever suffered
to be built in such a place; though probably the county gentry had
something to do with it.  They travelled about too much to be good men.
Small though Thrums used to be, it had four kirks in all before the
Disruption, and then another, which split into two immediately
afterwards.  The spire of the parish church, known as the auld kirk,
commands a view of the square, from which the entrance to the kirkyard
would be visible, if it were not hidden by the town-house.  The
kirkyard has long been crammed, and is not now in use, but the church
is sufficiently large to hold nearly all the congregations in Thrums.
Just at the gate lived Pete Todd, the father of Sam'l, a man of whom
the Auld Lichts had reason to be proud.  Pete was an every-day man at
ordinary times, and was even said, when his wife, who had been long
ill, died, to have clapped his hands and exclaimed, "Hip, hip, hurrah!"
adding only as an afterthought, "The Lord's will be done."  But
midsummer was his great opportunity.  Then took place the rouping of
the seats in the parish church.  The scene was the kirk itself, and the
seats being put up to auction were knocked down to the highest bidder.
This sometimes led to the breaking of the peace.  Every person was
present who was at all particular as to where he sat, and an auctioneer
was engaged for the day.  He rouped the kirk-seats like potato-drills,
beginning by asking for a bid.  Every seat was put up to auction
separately; for some were much more run after than others, and the men
were instructed by their wives what to bid for.  Often the women joined
in, and as they bid excitedly against each other the church rang with
opprobrious epithets.  A man would come to the roup late, and learn
that the seat he wanted had been knocked down.  He maintained that he
had been unfairly treated, or denounced the local laird to whom the
seat-rents went.  If he did not get the seat he would leave the kirk.
Then the woman who had forestalled him wanted to know what he meant by
glaring at her so, and the auction was interrupted.  Another member
would "thrip down the throat" of the auctioneer that he had a right to
his former seat if he continued to pay the same price for it.  The
auctioneer was screamed at for favouring his friends, and at times the
roup became so noisy that men and women had to be forcibly ejected.
Then was Pete's chance.  Hovering at the gate, he caught the angry
people on their way home and took them into his workshop by an outside
stair.  There he assisted them in denouncing the parish kirk, with the
view of getting them to forswear it.  Pete made a good many Auld Lichts
in his time out of unpromising material.

Sights were to be witnessed in the parish church at times that could
not have been made more impressive by the Auld Lichts themselves.  Here
sinful women were grimly taken to task by the minister, who, having
thundered for a time against adultery in general, called upon one
sinner in particular to stand forth.  She had to step forward into a
pew near the pulpit, where, alone and friendless, and stared at by the
congregation, she cowered in tears beneath his denunciations.  In that
seat she had to remain during the forenoon service.  She returned home
alone, and had to come back alone to her solitary seat in the
afternoon.  All day no one dared speak to her.  She was as much an
object of contumely as the thieves and smugglers whom, in the end of
last century, it was the privilege of Feudal Bailie Wood (as he was
called) to whip round the square.

It is nearly twenty years since the gardeners had their last "walk" in
Thrums, and they survived all the other benefit societies that walked
once every summer.  There was a "weavers' walk" and five or six others,
the "women's walk" being the most picturesque.  These were processions
of the members of benefit societies through the square and wynds, and
all the women walked in white, to the number of a hundred or more,
behind the Tilliedrum band, Thrums having in those days no band of its
own.

From the north-west corner of the square a narrow street sets off,
jerking this way and that as if uncertain what point to make for.  Here
lurks the post-office, which had once the reputation of being as
crooked in its ways as the street itself.

A railway line runs into Thrums now.  The sensational days of the
post-office were when the letters were conveyed officially in a
creaking old cart from Tilliedrum.  The "pony" had seen better days
than the cart, and always looked as if he were just on the point of
succeeding in running away from it.  Hooky Crewe was driver; so-called
because an iron hook was his substitute for a right arm: Robbie
Proctor, the blacksmith, made the hook and fixed it in.  Crewe suffered
from rheumatism, and when he felt it coming on he stayed at home.
Sometimes his cart came undone in a snowdrift; when Hooky, extricated
from the fragments by some chance wayfarer, was deposited with his
mail-bag (of which he always kept a grip by the hook) in a farm-house.
It was his boast that his letters always reached their destination
eventually.  They might be a long time about it, but "slow and sure"
was his motto.  Hooky emphasized his "slow and sure" by taking a snuff.
He was a godsend to the post-mistress, for to his failings or the
infirmities of his gig were charged all delays.

At the time I write of, the posting of the letter took as long and was
as serious an undertaking as the writing.  That means a good deal, for
many of the letters were written to dictation by the Thrums
schoolmaster, Mr. Fleemister, who belonged to the Auld Kirk.  He was
one of the few persons in the community who looked upon the despatch of
his letters by the postmistress as his right, and not a favour on her
part; there was a long-standing feud between them accordingly.  After a
few tumblers of Widow Stables's treacle-beer--in the concoction of
which she was the acknowledged mistress for miles around--the
schoolmaster would sometimes go the length of hinting that he could get
the postmistress dismissed any day.  This mighty power seemed to rest
on a knowledge of "steamed" letters.  Thrums had a high respect for the
schoolmaster; but among themselves the weavers agreed that, even if he
did write to the Government, Lizzie Harrison, the postmistress, would
refuse to transmit the letter.  The more shrewd ones among us kept
friends with both parties; for, unless you could write "writ-hand," you
could not compose a letter without the schoolmaster's assistance; and,
unless Lizzie was so courteous as to send it to its destination, it
might lie--or so it was thought---much too long in the box.  A letter
addressed by the schoolmaster found great disfavour in Lizzie's eyes.
You might explain to her that you had merely called in his assistance
because you were a poor hand at writing yourself, but that was held no
excuse.  Some addressed their own envelopes with much labour, and
sought to palm off the whole as their handiwork.  It reflects on the
postmistress somewhat that she had generally found them out by next
day, when, if in a specially vixenish mood, she did not hesitate to
upbraid them for their perfidy.

To post a letter you did not merely saunter to the post-office and drop
it into the box.  The cautious correspondent first went into the shop
and explained to Lizzie how matters stood.  She kept what she called a
bookseller's shop as well as the post-office; but the supply of books
corresponded exactly to the lack of demand for them, and her chief
trade was in nicknacks, from marbles and money-boxes up to concertinas.
If he found the postmistress in an amiable mood, which was only now and
then, the caller led up craftily to the object of his visit.  Having
discussed the weather and the potato-disease, he explained that his
sister Mary, whom Lizzie would remember, had married a fishmonger in
Dundee.  The fishmonger had lately started on himself and was doing
well.  They had four children.  The youngest had had a severe attack of
measles.  No news had been got of Mary for twelve months; and Annie,
his other sister, who lived in Thrums, had been at him of late for not
writing.  So he had written a few lines; and, in fact, he had the
letter with him.  The letter was then produced, and examined by the
postmistress.  If the address was in the schoolmaster's handwriting,
she professed her inability to read it.  Was this a _t_ or an _l_ or an
_i_? was that a _b_ or a _d_?  This was a cruel revenge on Lizzie's
part; for the sender of the letter was completely at her mercy.  The
schoolmaster's name being tabooed in her presence, he was unable to
explain that the writing was not his own; and as for deciding between
the _t_'s and _l_'s, he could not do it.  Eventually he would be
directed to put the letter into the box.  They would do their best with
it, Lizzie said, but in a voice that suggested how little hope she had
of her efforts to decipher it proving successful.

There was an opinion among some of the people that the letter should
not be stamped by the sender.  The proper thing to do was to drop a
penny for the stamp into the box along with the letter, and then Lizzie
would see that it was all right.  Lizzie's acquaintance with the
handwriting of every person in the place who could write gave her a
great advantage.  You would perhaps drop into her shop some day to make
a purchase, when she would calmly produce a letter you had posted
several days before.  In explanation she would tell you that you had
not put a stamp on it, or that she suspected there was money in it, or
that you had addressed it to the wrong place.  I remember an old man, a
relative of my own, who happened for once in his life to have several
letters to post at one time.  The circumstance was so out of the common
that he considered it only reasonable to make Lizzie a small present.

Perhaps the postmistress was belled; but if she did not "steam" the
letters and confide their titbits to favoured friends of her own sex,
it is difficult to see how all the gossip got out.  The schoolmaster
once played an unmanly trick on her, with the view of catching her in
the act.  He was a bachelor who had long been given up by all the maids
in the town.  One day, however, he wrote a letter to an imaginary lady
in the county-town, asking her to be his, and going into full
particulars about his income, his age, and his prospects.  A male
friend in the secret, at the other end, was to reply, in a lady's
handwriting, accepting him, and also giving personal particulars.  The
first letter was written; and an answer arrived in due course--two
days, the schoolmaster said, after date.  No other person knew of this
scheme for the undoing of the postmistress, yet in a very short time
the schoolmaster's coming marriage was the talk of Thrums.  Everybody
became suddenly aware of the lady's name, of her abode, and of the sum
of money she was to bring her husband.  It was even noised abroad that
the schoolmaster had represented his age as a good ten years less than
it was.  Then the schoolmaster divulged everything.  To his
mortification, he was not quite believed.  All the proof he could bring
forward to support his story was this: that time would show whether he
got married or not.  Foolish man! this argument was met by another,
which was accepted at once.  The lady had jilted the schoolmaster.
Whether this explanation came from the post-office, who shall say?  But
so long as he lived the schoolmaster was twitted about the lady who
threw him over.  He took his revenge in two ways.  He wrote and posted
letters exceedingly abusive of the postmistress.  The matter might be
libellous; but then, as he pointed out, she would incriminate herself
if she "brought him up" about it.  Probably Lizzie felt his other
insult more.  By publishing his suspicions of her on every possible
occasion he got a few people to seal their letters.  So bitter was his
feeling against her that he was even willing to supply the wax.

They know all about post-offices in Thrums now, and even jeer at the
telegraph-boy's uniform.  In the old days they gathered round him when
he was seen in the street, and escorted him to his destination in
triumph.  That, too, was after Lizzie had gone the way of all the
earth.  But perhaps they are not even yet as knowing as they think
themselves.  I was told the other day that one of them took out a
postal order, meaning to send the money to a relative, and kept the
order as a receipt.

I have said that the town is sometimes full of snow.  One frosty
Saturday, seven years ago, I trudged into it from the schoolhouse, and
on the Monday morning we could not see Thrums anywhere.

I was in one of the proud two-storied houses in the place, and could
have shaken hands with my friends without from the upper windows.  To
get out of doors you had to walk upstairs.  The outlook was a sea of
snow fading into white hills and sky with the quarry standing out red
and ragged to the right like a rock in the ocean.  The Auld Licht manse
was gone, but had left its garden-trees behind, their lean branches
soft with snow.  Roofs were humps in the white blanket.  The spire of
the Established Kirk stood up cold and stiff, like a monument to the
buried inhabitants.

Those of the natives who had taken the precaution of conveying spades
into their houses the night before, which is my plan at the
schoolhouse, dug themselves out.  They hobbled cautiously over the
snow, sometimes sinking into it to their knees, when they stood still
and slowly took in the situation.  It had been snowing more or less for
a week, but in a commonplace kind of way, and they had gone to bed
thinking all was well.  This night the snow must have fallen as if the
heavens had opened up, determined to shake themselves free of it for
ever.

The man who first came to himself and saw what was to be done was young
Henders Ramsay.  Henders had no fixed occupation, being but an "orra
man" about the place, and the best thing known of him is that his
mother's sister was a Baptist.  He feared God, man, nor the minister;
and all the learning he had was obtained from assiduous study of a
grocer's window.  But for one brief day he had things his own way in
the town, or, speaking strictly, on the top of it.  With a spade, a
broom, and a pickaxe, which sat lightly on his broad shoulders (he was
not even back-bent, and that showed him no respectable weaver), Henders
delved his way to the nearest house, which formed one of a row, and
addressed the inmates down the chimney.  They had already been clearing
it at the other end, or his words would have been choked.  "You're
snawed up, Davit," cried Henders, in a voice that was entirely
businesslike; "hae ye a spade?"  A conversation ensued up and down this
unusual channel of communication.  The unlucky householder, taking no
thought of the morrow, was without a spade.  But if Henders would clear
away the snow from his door he would be "varra obleeged."  Henders,
however, had to come to terms first.  "The chairge is saxpence, Davit,"
he shouted.  Then a haggling ensued.  Henders must be neighbourly.  A
plate of broth, now--or, say, twopence.  But Henders was obdurate.
"I'se nae time to argy-bargy wi' ye, Davit.  Gin ye're no willin' to
say saxpence, I'm aff to Will'um Pyatt's.  He's buried too."  So the
victim had to make up his mind to one of two things; he must either say
saxpence or remain where he was.

If Henders was "promised," he took good care that no snowed-up
inhabitant should perjure himself.  He made his way to a window first,
and, clearing the snow from the top of it, pointed out that he could
not conscientiously proceed further until the debt had been paid.
"Money doon," he cried, as soon as he reached a pane of glass; or,
"Come awa wi' my saxpence noo."

The belief that this day had not come to Henders unexpectedly was borne
out by the method of the crafty callant.  His charges varied from
sixpence to half-a-crown, according to the wealth and status of his
victims; and when, later on, there were rivals in the snow, he had the
discrimination to reduce his minimum fee to threepence.  He had the
honour of digging out three ministers at one shilling, one and
threepence, and two shillings respectively.

Half a dozen times within the next fortnight the town was reburied in
snow.  This generally happened in the night-time; but the inhabitants
were not to be caught unprepared again.  Spades stood ready to their
hands in the morning, and they fought their way above ground without
Henders Ramsay's assistance.  To clear the snow from the narrow wynds
and pends, however, was a task not to be attempted; and the Auld
Lichts, at least, rested content when enough light got into their
workshops to let them see where their looms stood.  Wading through beds
of snow they did not much mind; but they wondered what would happen to
their houses when the thaw came.

The thaw was slow in coming.  Snow during the night and several degrees
of frost by day were what Thrums began to accept as a revised order of
nature.  Vainly the Thrums doctor, whose practice extends into the
glens, made repeated attempts to reach his distant patients, twice
driving so far into the dreary waste that he could neither go on nor
turn back.  A ploughman who contrived to gallop ten miles for him did
not get home for a week.  Between the town, which is nowadays an
agricultural centre of some importance, and the outlying farms
communication was cut off for a month; and I heard subsequently of one
farmer who did not see a human being, unconnected with his own farm,
for seven weeks.  The schoolhouse, which I managed to reach only two
days behind time, was closed for a fortnight, and even in Thrums there
was only a sprinkling of scholars.

On Sundays the feeling between the different denominations ran high,
and the middling good folk who did not go to church counted those who
did.  In the Established Church there was a sparse gathering, who
waited in vain for the minister.  After a time it got abroad that a
flag of distress was flying from the manse, and then they saw that the
minister was storm-stayed.  An office-bearer offered to conduct
service; but the others present thought they had done their duty and
went home.  The U. P. bell did not ring at all, and the kirk gates were
not opened.  The Free Kirk did bravely, however.  The attendance in the
forenoon amounted to seven, including the minister; but in the
afternoon there was a turn-out of upwards of fifty.  How much
denominational competition had to do with this, none can say; but the
general opinion was that this muster to afternoon service was a piece
of vainglory.  Next Sunday all the kirks were on their mettle, and,
though the snow was drifting the whole day, services were general.  It
was felt that after the action of the Free Kirk the Establisheds and
the U. P.'s must show what they too were capable of.  So, when the
bells rang at eleven o'clock and two, church-goers began to pour out of
every close.  If I remember aright, the victory lay with the U. P.'s by
two women and a boy.  Of course the Auld Lichts mustered in as great
force as ever.  The other kirks never dreamt of competing with them.
What was regarded as a judgment on the Free Kirk for its boastfulness
of spirit on the preceding Sunday happened during the forenoon.  While
the service was taking place a huge clod of snow slipped from the roof
and fell right against the church door.  It was some time before the
prisoners could make up their minds to leave by the windows.  What the
Auld Lichts would have done in a similar predicament I cannot even
conjecture.

That was the first warning of the thaw.  It froze again; there was more
snow; the thaw began in earnest; and then the streets were a sight to
see.  There was no traffic to turn the snow to slush, and, where it had
not been piled up in walls a few feet from the houses, it remained in
the narrow ways till it became a lake.  It tried to escape through
doorways, when it sank slowly into the floors.  Gentle breezes created
a ripple on its surface, and strong winds lifted it into the air and
flung it against the houses.  It undermined the heaps of clotted snow
till they tottered like icebergs and fell to pieces.  Men made their
way through it on stilts.  Had a frost followed, the result would have
been appalling; but there was no more frost that winter.  A fortnight
passed before the place looked itself again, and even then congealed
snow stood doggedly in the streets, while the country roads were like
newly ploughed fields after rain.  The heat from large fires soon
penetrated through roofs of slate and thatch; and it was quite a common
thing for a man to be flattened to the ground by a slithering of snow
from above just as he opened his door.  But it had seldom more than ten
feet to fall.  Most interesting of all was the novel sensation
experienced as Thrums began to assume its familiar aspect, and objects
so long buried that they had been half forgotten came back to view and
use.

Storm-stayed shows used to emphasize the severity of a Thrums winter.
As the name indicates, these were gatherings of travelling booths in
the winter-time.  Half a century ago the country was overrun by
itinerant showmen, who went their different ways in summer, but formed
little colonies in the cold weather, when they pitched their tents in
any empty field or disused quarry and huddled together for the sake of
warmth: not that they got much of it.  Not more than five winters ago
we had a storm-stayed show on a small scale; but nowadays the farmers
are less willing to give these wanderers a camping-place, and the
people are less easily drawn to the entertainments provided, by fife
and drum.  The colony hung together until it was starved out, when it
trailed itself elsewhere.  I have often seen it forming.  The first
arrival would be what was popularly known as "Sam'l Mann's
Tumbling-Booth," with its tumblers, jugglers, sword-swallowers, and
balancers.  This travelling show visited us regularly twice a year:
once in summer for the Muckle Friday, when the performers were gay and
stout, and even the horses had flesh on their bones; and again in the
"back-end" of the year, when cold and hunger had taken the blood from
their faces, and the scraggy dogs that whined at their side were lashed
for licking the paint off the caravans.  While the storm-stayed show
was in the vicinity the villages suffered from an invasion of these
dogs.  Nothing told more truly the dreadful tale of the showman's life
in winter.  Sam'l Mann's was a big show, and half a dozen smaller ones,
most of which were familiar to us, crawled in its wake.  Others heard
of its whereabouts and came in from distant parts.  There was the
well-known Gubbins with his "A' the World in a Box:" a halfpenny
peepshow, in which all the world was represented by Joseph and his
Brethren (with pit and coat), the bombardment of Copenhagen, the Battle
of the Nile, Daniel in the Den of Lions, and Mount Etna in eruption.
"Aunt Maggy's Whirligig" could be enjoyed on payment of an old pair of
boots, a collection of rags, or the like.  Besides these and other
shows, there were the wandering minstrels, most of whom were "Waterloo
veterans" wanting arms or a leg.  I remember one whose arms had been
"smashed by a thunderbolt at Jamaica."  Queer bent old dames, who
superintended "lucky bags" or told fortunes, supplied the uncanny
element, but hesitated to call themselves witches, for there can still
be seen near Thrums the pool where these unfortunates used to be
drowned, and in the session book of the Glen Quharity kirk can be read
an old minute announcing that on a certain Sabbath there was no
preaching because "the minister was away at the burning of a witch."
To the storm-stayed shows came the gypsies in great numbers.  Claypots
(which is a corruption of Claypits) was their headquarters near Thrums,
and it is still sacred to their memory.  It was a clachan of miserable
little huts built entirely of clay from the dreary and sticky pit in
which they had been flung together.  A shapeless hole on one side was
the doorway, and a little hole, stuffed with straw in winter, the
window.  Some of the remnants of these hovels still stand.  Their
occupants, though they went by the name of gypsies among themselves,
were known to the weavers as the Claypots beggars; and their King was
Jimmy Pawse.  His regal dignity gave Jimmy the right to seek alms first
when he chose to do so; thus he got the cream of a place before his
subjects set to work.  He was rather foppish in his dress; generally
affecting a suit of grey cloth with showy metal buttons on it, and a
broad blue bonnet.  His wife was a little body like himself; and when
they went a-begging, Jimmy with a meal-bag for alms on his back, she
always took her husband's arm.  Jimmy was the legal adviser of his
subjects; his decision was considered final on all questions, and he
guided them in their courtships as well as on their deathbeds.  He
christened their children and officiated at their weddings, marrying
them over the tongs.

The storm-stayed show attracted old and young--to looking on from the
outside.  In the daytime the wagons and tents presented a dreary
appearance, sunk in snow, the dogs shivering between the wheels, and
but little other sign of life visible.  When dusk came the lights were
lit, and the drummer and fifer from the booth of tumblers were sent
into the town to entice an audience.  They marched quickly through the
nipping, windy streets, and then returned with two or three score of
men, women, and children, plunging through the snow or mud at their
heavy heels.  It was Orpheus fallen from his high estate.  What a
mockery the glare of the lamps and the capers of the mountebanks were,
and how satisfied were we to enjoy it all without going inside.  I hear
the "Waterloo veterans" still, and remember their patriotic outbursts:

  On the sixteenth day of June, brave boys,
      while cannon loud did roar,
  We being short of cavalry they pressed on us full sore;
  But British steel soon made them yield,
      though our numbers was but few,
  And death or victory was the word on the plains of Waterloo.


The storm-stayed shows often found it easier to sink to rest in a field
than to leave it.  For weeks at a time they were snowed up,
sufficiently to prevent any one from Thrums going near them, though not
sufficiently to keep the pallid mummers indoors.  That would in many
cases have meant starvation.  They managed to fight their way through
storm and snowdrift to the high road and thence to the town, where they
got meal and sometimes broth.  The tumblers and jugglers used
occasionally to hire an out-house in the town at these times--you may
be sure they did not pay for it in advance--and give performances
there.  It is a curious thing, but true, that our herd-boys and others
were sometimes struck with the stage-fever.  Thrums lost boys to the
showmen even in winter.

On the whole, the farmers and the people generally were wonderfully
long-suffering with these wanderers, who I believe were more honest
than was to be expected.  They stole, certainly; but seldom did they
steal anything more valuable than turnips.  Sam'l Mann himself flushed
proudly over the effect his show once had on an irate farmer.  The
farmer appeared in the encampment, whip in hand and furious.  They must
get off his land before nightfall.  The crafty showman, however,
prevailed upon him to take a look at the acrobats, and he enjoyed the
performance so much that he offered to let them stay until the end of
the week.  Before that time came there was such a fall of snow that
departure was out of the question; and it is to the farmer's credit
that he sent Sam'l a bag of meal to tide him and his actors over the
storm.

There were times when the showmen made a tour of the bothies, where
they slung their poles and ropes and gave their poor performances to
audiences that were not critical.  The bothy being strictly the "man's"
castle, the farmer never interfered; indeed, he was sometimes glad to
see the show.  Every other weaver in Thrums used to have a son a
ploughman, and it was the men from the bothies who filled the square on
the muckly.  "Hands" are not huddled together nowadays in squalid barns
more like cattle than men and women, but bothies in the neighbourhood
of Thrums are not yet things of the past.  Many a ploughman delves his
way to and from them still in all weathers, when the snow is on the
ground; at the time of "hairst," and when the turnip "shaws" have just
forced themselves through the earth, looking like straight rows of
green needles.  Here is a picture of a bothy of to-day that I visited
recently.  Over the door there is a waterspout that has given way, and
as I entered I got a rush of rain down my neck.  The passage was so
small that one could easily have stepped from the doorway on to the
ladder standing against the wall, which was there in lieu of a
staircase.  "Upstairs" was a mere garret, where a man could not stand
erect even in the centre.  It was entered by a square hole in the
ceiling, at present closed by a clap-door in no way dissimilar to the
trap-doors on a theatre stage.  I climbed into this garret, which is at
present used as a store-room for agricultural odds and ends.  At
harvest-time, however, it is inhabited--full to overflowing.  A few
decades ago as many as fifty labourers engaged for the harvest had to
be housed in the farm out-houses on beds of straw.  There was no help
for it, and men and women had to congregate in these barns together.
Up as early as five in the morning, they were generally dead tired by
night; and, miserable though this system of herding them together was,
they took it like stoics, and their very number served as a moral
safeguard.  Nowadays the harvest is gathered in so quickly, and
machinery does so much that used to be done by hand, that this crowding
of labourers together, which was the bothy system at its worst, is
nothing like what it was.  As many as six or eight men, however, are
put up in the garret referred to during "hairst"-time, and the female
labourers have to make the best of it in the barn.  There is no doubt
that on many farms the two sexes have still at this busy time to herd
together even at night.

The bothy was but scantily furnished, though it consisted of two rooms.
In the one, which was used almost solely as a sleeping apartment, there
was no furniture to speak of, beyond two closet beds, and its bumpy
earthen floor gave it a cheerless look.  The other, which had a single
bed, was floored with wood.  It was not badly lit by two very small
windows that faced each other, and, besides several stools, there was a
long form against one of the walls.  A bright fire of peat and
coal--nothing in the world makes such a cheerful red fire as this
combination--burned beneath a big kettle ("boiler" they called it), and
there was a "press" or cupboard containing a fair assortment of cooking
utensils.  Of these some belonged to the bothy, while others were the
private property of the tenants.  A tin "pan" and "pitcher" of water
stood near the door, and the table in the middle of the room was
covered with oilcloth.

Four men and a boy inhabited this bothy, and the rain had driven them
all indoors.  In better weather they spend the leisure of the evening
at the game of quoits, which is the standard pastime among Scottish
ploughmen.  They fish the neighbouring streams, too, and have
burn-trout for supper several times a week.  When I entered, two of
them were sitting by the fire playing draughts, or, as they called it,
"the dam-brod."  The dam-brod is the Scottish labourer's billiards; and
he often attains to a remarkable proficiency at the game.  Wylie, the
champion draught-player, was once a herd-boy; and wonderful stories are
current in all bothies of the times when his master called him into the
farm-parlour to show his skill.  A third man, who seemed the elder by
quite twenty years, was at the window reading a newspaper; and I got no
shock when I saw that it was the _Saturday Review_, which he and a
labourer on an adjoining farm took in weekly between them.  There was a
copy of a local newspaper--the _People's Journal_--also lying about,
and some books, including one of Darwin's.  These were all the property
of this man, however, who did the reading for the bothy.

They did all the cooking for themselves, living largely on milk.  In
the old days, which the senior could remember, porridge was so
universally the morning meal that they called it by that name instead
of breakfast.  They still breakfast on porridge, but often take tea
"above it."  Generally milk is taken with the porridge; but "porter" or
stout in a bowl is no uncommon substitute.  Potatoes at twelve
o'clock--seldom "brose" nowadays--are the staple dinner dish, and the
tinned meats have become very popular.  There are bothies where each
man makes his own food; but of course the more satisfactory plan is for
them to club together.  Sometimes they get their food in the
farm-kitchen; but this is only when there are few of them and the
farmer and his family do not think it beneath them to dine with the
men.  Broth, too, may be made in the kitchen and sent down to the
bothy.  At harvest-time the workers take their food in the fields, when
great quantities of milk are provided.  There is very little beer
drunk, and whisky is only consumed in privacy.

Life in the bothies is not, I should say, so lonely as life at the
schoolhouse, for the hands have at least each other's company.  The
hawker visits them frequently still, though the itinerant tailor, once
a familiar figure, has almost vanished.  Their great place of
congregating is still some country smiddy, which is also their frequent
meeting-place when bent on black-fishing.  The flare of the
black-fisher's torch still attracts salmon to their death in the rivers
near Thrums; and you may hear in the glens on a dark night the rattle
of the spears on the wet stones.  Twenty or thirty years ago, however,
the sport was much more common.  After the farmer had gone to bed, some
half-dozen ploughmen and a few other poachers from Thrums would set out
for the meeting-place.

The smithy on these occasions must have been a weird sight; though one
did not mark that at the time.  The poacher crept from the darkness.
into the glaring smithy light; for in country parts the anvil might
sometimes be heard clanging at all hours of the night.  As a rule,
every face was blackened; and it was this, I suppose, rather than the
fact that dark nights were chosen that gave the gangs the name of
black-fishers.  Other disguises were resorted to; one of the commonest
being to change clothes or to turn your corduroys outside in.  The
country-folk of those days were more superstitious than they are now,
and it did not take much to turn the black-fishers back.  There was not
a barn or byre in the district that had not its horseshoe over the
door.  Another popular device for frightening away witches and fairies
was to hang bunches of garlic about the farms.  I have known a
black-fishing expedition stopped because a "yellow yite," or
yellowhammer, hovered round the gang when they were setting out.  Still
more ominous was the "peat" when it appeared with one or three
companions.  An old rhyme about this bird runs--"One is joy, two is
grief, three's a bridal, four is death."  Such snatches of superstition
are still to be heard amidst the gossip of a north-country smithy.

Each black-fisher brought his own spear and torch, both more or less
home-made.  The spears were in many cases "gully-knives," fastened to
staves with twine and resin, called "rozet."  The torches were very
rough-and-ready things--rope and tar, or even rotten roots dug from
broken trees--in fact, anything that would flare.  The black-fishers
seldom journeyed far from home, confining themselves to the rivers
within a radius of three or four miles.  There were many reasons for
this; one of them being that the hands had to be at their work on the
farm by five o'clock in the morning; another, that so they poached and
let poach.  Except when in spate, the river I specially refer to
offered no attractions to the black-fishers.  Heavy rains, however,
swell it much more quickly than most rivers into a turbulent rush of
water; the part of it affected by the black-fishers being banked in
with rocks that prevent the water's spreading.  Above these rocks,
again, are heavy green banks, from which stunted trees grow aslant
across the river.  The effect is fearsome at some points where the
trees run into each other, as it were, from opposite banks.  However,
the black-fishers thought nothing of these things.  They took a turnip
lantern with them--that is, a lantern hollowed out of a turnip, with a
piece of candle inside--but no lights were shown on the road.  Every
one knew his way to the river blindfold; so that the darker the night
the better.  On reaching the water there was a pause.  One or two of
the gang climbed the banks to discover if any bailiffs were on the
watch; while the others sat down, and with the help of the turnip
lantern "busked" their spears; in other words, fastened on the
steel--or, it might be, merely pieces of rusty iron sharpened into a
point at home--to the staves.  Some had them busked before they set
out, but that was not considered prudent; for of course there was
always a risk of meeting spoil-sports on the way, to whom the spears
would tell a tale that could not be learned from ordinary staves.
Nevertheless little time was lost.  Five or six of the gang waded into
the water, torch in one hand and spear in the other; and the object now
was to catch some salmon with the least possible delay, and hurry away.
Windy nights were good for the sport, and I can still see the river lit
up with the lumps of light that a torch makes in a high wind.  The
torches, of course, were used to attract the fish, which came swimming
to the sheen, and were then speared.  As little noise as possible was
made; but though the men bit their lips instead of crying out when they
missed their fish, there was a continuous ring of their weapons on the
stones, and every irrepressible imprecation was echoed up and down the
black glen.  Two or three of the gang were told off to land the salmon,
and they had to work smartly and deftly.  They kept by the side of the
spearsman, and the moment he struck a fish they grabbed at it with
their hands.  When the spear had a barb there was less chance of the
fish's being lost; but often this was not the case, and probably not
more than two-thirds of the salmon speared were got safely to the bank.
The takes of course varied; sometimes, indeed, the black-fishers
returned home empty-handed.

Encounters with the bailiffs were not infrequent, though they seldom
took place at the water's edge.  When the poachers were caught in the
act, and had their blood up with the excitement of the sport, they were
ugly customers.  Spears were used and heads were broken.  Struggles
even took place in the water, when there was always a chance of
somebody's being drowned.  Where the bailiffs gave the black-fishers an
opportunity of escaping without a fight it was nearly always taken; the
booty being left behind.  As a rule, when the "water-watchers," as the
bailiffs were sometimes called, had an inkling of what was to take
place, they reinforced themselves with a constable or two and waited on
the road to catch the poachers on their way home.  One black-fisher, a
noted character, was nicknamed the "Deil o' Glen Quharity."  He was
said to have gone to the houses of the bailiffs and offered to sell
them the fish stolen from the streams over which they kept guard.  The
"Deil" was never imprisoned--partly, perhaps, because he was too
eccentric to be taken seriously.



CHAPTER III

THE AULD LICHT KIRK

One Sabbath day in the beginning of the century the Auld Licht minister
at Thrums walked out of his battered, ramshackle, earthen-floored kirk
with a following and never returned.  The last words he uttered in it
were: "Follow me to the commonty, all you persons who want to hear the
Word of God properly preached; and James Duphie and his two sons will
answer for this on the Day of Judgment."  The congregation, which
belonged to the body who seceded from the Established Church a hundred
and fifty years ago, had split, and as the New Lights (now the U. P.'s)
were in the majority, the Old Lights, with the minister at their head,
had to retire to the commonty (or common) and hold service in the open
air until they had saved up money for a church.  They kept possession,
however, of the white manse among the trees.  Their kirk has but a
cluster of members now, most of them old and done, but each is equal to
a dozen ordinary church-goers, and there have been men and women among
them on whom the memory loves to linger.  For forty years they have
been dying out, but their cold, stiff pews still echo the Psalms of
David, and, the Auld Licht kirk will remain open so long as it has one
member and a minister.

The church stands round the corner from the square, with only a large
door to distinguish it from the other building in the short street.
Children who want to do a brave thing hit this door with their fists,
when there is no one near, and then run away scared.  The door,
however, is sacred to the memory of a white-haired old lady who, not so
long ago, used to march out of the kirk and remain on the pavement
until the psalm which had just been given out was sung.  Of Thrums's
pavement it may here be said that when you come, even to this day, to a
level slab you feel reluctant to leave it.  The old lady was Mistress
(which is Miss) Tibbie McQuhatty, and she nearly split the Auld Licht
kirk over "run line."  This conspicuous innovation was introduced by
Mr. Dishart, the minister, when he was young and audacious.  The old,
reverent custom in the kirk was for the precentor to read out the psalm
a line at a time.  Having then sung that line he read out the next one,
led the singing of it, and so worked his way on to line three.  Where
run line holds, however, the psalm is read out first, and forthwith
sung.  This is not only a flighty way of doing things, which may lead
to greater scandals, but has its practical disadvantages, for the
precentor always starts singing in advance of the congregation (Auld
Lichts never being able to begin to do anything all at once), and,
increasing the distance with every line, leaves them hopelessly behind
at the finish.  Miss McQuhatty protested against this change, as
meeting the devil halfway, but the minister carried his point, and ever
after that she rushed ostentatiously from the church the moment a psalm
was given out, and remained behind the door until the singing was
finished, when she returned, with a rustle, to her seat.  Run line had
on her the effect of the reading of the Riot Act.  Once some men,
capable of anything, held the door from the outside, and the
congregation heard Tibbie rampaging in the passage.  Bursting into the
kirk she called the office-bearers to her assistance, whereupon the
minister in miniature raised his voice and demanded the why and
wherefore of the ungodly disturbance.  Great was the hubbub, but the
door was fast, and a compromise had to be arrived at.  The old lady
consented for once to stand in the passage, but not without pressing
her hands to her ears.  You may smile at Tibbie, but ah! I know what
she was at a sick bedside.  I have seen her when the hard look had gone
from her eyes, and it would ill become me to smile too.

As with all the churches in Thrums, care had been taken to make the
Auld Licht one much too large.  The stair to the "laft" or gallery,
which was originally little more than a ladder, is ready for you as
soon as you enter the doorway, but it is best to sit in the body of the
kirk.  The plate for collections is inside the church, so that the
whole congregation can give a guess at what you give.  If it is
something very stingy or very liberal, all Thrums knows of it within a
few hours; indeed, this holds good of all the churches, especially
perhaps of the Free one, which has been called the bawbee kirk, because
so many halfpennies find their way into the plate.  On Saturday nights
the Thrums shops are besieged for coppers by housewives of all
denominations, who would as soon think of dropping a threepenny bit
into the plate as of giving nothing.  Tammy Todd had a curious way of
tipping his penny into the Auld Licht plate while still keeping his
hand to his side.  He did it much as a boy fires a marble, and there
was quite a talk in the congregation the first time he missed.  A
devout plan was to carry your penny in your hand all the way to church,
but to appear to take it out of your pocket on entering, and some
plumped it down noisily like men paying their way.  I believe old
Snecky Hobart, who was a canty stock but obstinate, once dropped a
penny into the plate and took out a halfpenny as change, but the only
untoward thing that happened to the plate was once when the lassie from
the farm of Curly Bog capsized it in passing.  Mr. Dishart, who was
always a ready man, introduced something into his sermon that day about
women's dress, which every one hoped Chirsty Lundy, the lassie in
question, would remember.  Nevertheless, the minister sometimes came to
a sudden stop himself when passing from the vestry to the pulpit.  The
passage being narrow, his rigging would catch in a pew as he sailed
down the aisle.  Even then, however, Mr. Dishart remembered that he was
not as other men.

White is not a religious colour, and the walls of the kirk were of a
dull grey.  A cushion was allowed to the manse pew, but merely as a
symbol of office, and this was the only pew in the church that had a
door.  It was and is the pew nearest to the pulpit on the minister's
right, and one day it contained a bonnet which Mr. Dishart's
predecessor preached at for one hour and ten minutes.  From the pulpit,
which was swaddled in black, the minister had a fine sweep of all the
congregation except those in the back pews downstairs, who were lost in
the shadow of the laft.  Here sat Whinny Webster, so called because,
having an inexplicable passion against them, he devoted his life to the
extermination of whins.  Whinny for years ate peppermint lozenges with
impunity in his back seat, safe in the certainty that the minister,
however much he might try, could not possibly see him.  But his day
came.  One afternoon the kirk smelt of peppermints, and Mr. Dishart
could rebuke no one, for the defaulter was not in sight.  Whinny's
cheek was working up and down in quiet enjoyment of its lozenge, when
he started, noticing that the preaching had stopped.  Then he heard a
sepulchral voice say "Charles Webster!"  Whinny's eyes turned to the
pulpit, only part of which was visible to him, and to his horror they
encountered the minister's head coming down the stairs.  This took
place after I had ceased to attend the Auld Licht kirk regularly; but I
am told that as Whinny gave one wild scream the peppermint dropped from
his mouth.  The minister had got him by leaning over the pulpit door
until, had he given himself only another inch, his feet would have gone
into the air.  As for Whinny he became a Godfearing man.

The most uncanny thing about the kirk was the precentor's box beneath
the pulpit.  Three Auld Licht ministers I have known, but I can only
conceive one precentor.  Lang Tammas's box was much too small for him.
Since his disappearance from Thrums I believe they have paid him the
compliment of enlarging it for a smaller man--no doubt with the feeling
that Tammas alone could look like a Christian in it.  Like the whole
congregation, of course, he had to stand during the prayers--the first
of which averaged half an hour in length.  If he stood erect his head
and shoulders vanished beneath funereal trappings, when he seemed
decapitated, and if he stretched his neck the pulpit tottered.  He
looked like the pillar on which it rested, or he balanced it on his
head like a baker's tray.  Sometimes he leaned forward as reverently as
he could, and then, with his long lean arms dangling over the side of
his box, he might have been a suit of "blacks" hung up to dry.  Once I
was talking with Cree Queery in a sober, respectable manner, when all
at once a light broke out on his face.  I asked him what he was
laughing at, and he said it was at Lang Tammas.  He got grave again
when I asked him what there was in Lang Tammas to smile at, and
admitted that he could not tell me.  However, I have always been of
opinion that the thought of the precentor in his box gave Cree a
fleeting sense of humour.

Tammas and Hendry Munn were the two paid officials of the church,
Hendry being kirk-officer; but poverty was among the few points they
had in common.  The precentor was a cobbler, though he never knew it,
shoemaker being the name in those parts, and his dwelling-room was also
his workshop.  There he sat in his "brot," or apron, from early morning
to far on to midnight, and contrived to make his six or eight shillings
a week.  I have often sat with him in the darkness that his "cruizey"
lamp could not pierce, while his mutterings to himself of "ay, ay, yes,
umpha, oh ay, ay man," came as regularly and monotonously as the tick
of his "wag-at-the-wa'" clock.  Hendry and he were paid no fixed sum
for their services in the Auld Licht kirk, but once a year there was a
collection for each of them, and so they jogged along.  Though not the
only kirk-officer of my time Hendry made the most lasting impression.
He was, I think, the only man in Thrums who did not quake when the
minister looked at him.  A wild story, never authenticated, says that
Hendry once offered Mr. Dishart a snuff from his mull.  In the streets
Lang Tammas was more stern and dreaded by evildoers, but Hendry had
first place in the kirk.  One of his duties was to precede the minister
from the session-house to the pulpit and open the door for him.  Having
shut Mr. Dishart in he strolled away to his seat.  When a strange
minister preached, Hendry was, if possible, still more at his ease.
This will not be believed, but I have seen him give the pulpit-door on
these occasions a fling-to with his feet.  However ill an ordinary
member of the congregation might become in the kirk, he sat on till the
service ended, but Hendry would wander to the door and shut it if he
noticed that the wind was playing irreverent tricks with the pages of
Bibles, and proof could still be brought forward that he would stop
deliberately in the aisle to lift up a piece of paper, say, that had
floated there.  After the first psalm had been sung it was Hendry's
part to lift up the plate and carry its tinkling contents to the
session-house.  On the greatest occasions he remained so calm, so
indifferent, so expressionless, that he might have been present the
night before at a rehearsal.

When there was preaching at night the church was lit by tallow candles,
which also gave out all the artificial heat provided.  Two candles
stood on each side of the pulpit, and others were scattered over the
church, some of them fixed into holes on rough brackets, and some
merely sticking in their own grease on the pews.  Hendry superintended
the lighting of the candles, and frequently hobbled through the church
to snuff them.  Mr. Dishart was a man who could do anything except
snuff a candle, but when he stopped in his sermon to do that he as
often as not knocked the candle over.  In vain he sought to refix it in
its proper place, and then all eyes turned to Hendry.  As coolly as
though he were in a public hall or place of entertainment, the
kirk-officer arose and, mounting the stair, took the candle from the
minister's reluctant hands and put it right.  Then he returned to his
seat, not apparently puffed up, yet perhaps satisfied with himself;
while Mr. Dishart, glaring after him to see if he was carrying his head
high, resumed his wordy way.

Never was there a man more uncomfortably loved than Mr. Dishart.  Easie
Haggart, his maid-servant, reproved him at the breakfast-table.  Lang
Tammas and Sam'l Mealmaker crouched for five successive Sabbath nights
on his manse wall to catch him smoking (and got him).  Old wives
grumbled by their hearths when he did not look in to despair of their
salvation.  He told the maidens of his congregation not to make an idol
of him.  His session saw him (from behind a haystack) in conversation
with a strange woman, and asked grimly if he remembered that he had a
wife.  Twenty were his years when he came to Thrums, and on the very
first Sabbath he knocked a board out of the pulpit.  Before beginning
his trial sermon he handed down the big Bible to the precentor, to give
his arms freer swing.  The congregation, trembling with exhilaration,
probed his meaning.  Not a square inch of paper, they saw, could be
concealed there.  Mr. Dishart had scarcely any hope for the Auld
Lichts; he had none for any other denomination.  Davit Lunan got behind
his handkerchief to think for a moment, and the minister was on him
like a tiger.  The call was unanimous.  Davit proposed him.

Every few years, as one might say, the Auld Licht kirk gave way and
burled its minister.  The congregation turned their empty pockets
inside out, and the minister departed in a farmer's cart.  The scene
was not an amusing one to those who looked on at it.  To the Auld
Lichts was then the humiliation of seeing their pulpit "supplied" on
alternate Sabbaths by itinerant probationers or stickit ministers.
When they were not starving themselves to support a pastor the Auld
Lichts were saving up for a stipend.  They retired with compressed lips
to their looms, and weaved and weaved till they weaved another
minister.  Without the grief of parting with one minister there could
not have been the transport of choosing another.  To have had a pastor
always might have made them vainglorious.

They were seldom longer than twelve months in making a selection, and
in their haste they would have passed over Mr. Dishart and mated with a
monster.  Many years have elapsed since Providence flung Mr. Watts out
of the Auld Licht kirk.  Mr. Watts was a probationer who was tried
before Mr. Dishart, and, though not so young as might have been wished,
he found favour in many eyes.  "Sluggard in the laft, awake!" he cried
to Bell Whamond, who had forgotten herself, and it was felt that there
must be good stuff in him.  A breeze from Heaven exposed him on
Communion Sabbath.

On the evening of this solemn day the door of the Auld Licht kirk was
sometimes locked, and the congregation repaired, Bible in hand, to the
commonty.  They had a right to this common on the Communion Sabbath,
but only took advantage of it when it was believed that more persons
intended witnessing the evening service than the kirk would hold.  On
this day the attendance was always very great.

It was the Covenanters come back to life.  To the summit of the slope a
wooden box was slowly hurled by Hendry Munn and others, and round this
the congregation quietly grouped to the tinkle of the cracked Auld
Licht bell.  With slow majestic tread the session advanced up the steep
common with the little minister in their midst.  He had the people in
his hands now, and the more he squeezed them the better they were
pleased.  The travelling pulpit consisted of two compartments, the one
for the minister and the other for Lang Tammas, but no Auld Licht
thought that it looked like a Punch and Judy puppet show.  This service
on the common was known as the "tent preaching," owing to a tent's
being frequently used instead of the box.

Mr. Watts was conducting the service on the commonty.  It was a fine,
still summer evening, and loud above the whisper of the burn from which
the common climbs, and the laboured "pechs" of the listeners rose the
preacher's voice.  The Auld Lichts in their rusty blacks (they must
have been a more artistic sight in the olden days of blue bonnets and
knee-breeches) nodded their heads in sharp approval, for though they
could swoop down on a heretic like an eagle on carrion, they scented no
prey.  Even Lang Tammas, on whose nose a drop of water gathered when he
was in his greatest fettle, thought that all was fair and above-board.
Suddenly a rush of wind tore up the common, and ran straight at the
pulpit.  It formed in a sieve, and passed over the heads of the
congregation, who felt it as a fan, and looked up in awe.  Lang Tammas,
feeling himself all at once grow clammy, distinctly heard the leaves of
the pulpit Bible shiver.  Mr. Watts's hands, outstretched to prevent a
catastrophe, were blown against his side, and then some twenty sheets
of closely-written paper floated into the air.  There was a horrible,
dead silence.  The burn was roaring now.  The minister, if such he can
be called, shrunk back in his box, and, as if they had seen it printed
in letters of fire on the heavens, the congregation realized that Mr.
Watts, whom they had been on the point of calling, read his sermon.  He
wrote it out on pages the exact size of those in the Bible, and did not
scruple to fasten these into the Holy Book itself.  At theatres a
sullen thunder of angry voices behind the scene represents a crowd in a
rage, and such a low, long-drawn howl swept the common when Mr. Watts
was found out.  To follow a pastor who "read" seemed to the Auld Lichts
like claiming heaven on false pretences.  In ten minutes the session
alone, with Lang Tammas and Hendry, were on the common.  They were
watched by many from afar off, and (when one comes to think of it now)
looked a little curious jumping, like trout at flies, at the damning
papers still fluttering in the air.  The minister was never seen in our
parts again, but he is still remembered as "Paper Watts."

Mr. Dishart in the pulpit was the reward of his upbringing.  At ten he
had entered the university.  Before he was in his teens he was
practising the art of gesticulation in his father's gallery pew.  From
distant congregations people came to marvel at him.  He was never more
than comparatively young.  So long as the pulpit trappings of the kirk
at Thrums lasted he could be seen, once he was fairly under weigh with
his sermon, but dimly in a cloud of dust.  He introduced headaches.  In
a grand transport of enthusiasm he once flung his arms over the pulpit
and caught Lang Tammas on the forehead.  Leaning forward, with his
chest on the cushions, he would pommel the Evil One with both hands,
and then, whirling round to the left, shake his fist at Bell Whamond's
neckerchief.  With a sudden jump he would fix Pete Todd's youngest boy
catching flies at the laft window.  Stiffening unexpectedly, he would
leap three times in the air, and then gather himself in a corner for a
fearsome spring.  When he wept he seemed to be laughing, and he laughed
in a paroxysm of tears.  He tried to tear the devil out of the pulpit
rails.  When he was not a teetotum he was a windmill.  His pump
position was the most appalling.  Then he glared motionless at his
admiring listeners, as if he had fallen into a trance with his arm
upraised.  The hurricane broke next moment.  Nanny Sutie bore up under
the shadow of the windmill--which would have been heavier had Auld
Licht ministers worn gowns--but the pump affected her to tears.  She
was stone-deaf.

For the first year or more of his ministry an Auld Licht minister was a
mouse among cats.  Both in the pulpit and out of it they watched for
unsound doctrine, and when he strayed they took him by the neck.  Mr.
Dishart, however, had been brought up in the true way, and seldom gave
his people a chance.  In time, it may be said, they grew despondent,
and settled in their uncomfortable pews with all suspicion of lurking
heresy allayed.  It was only on such Sabbaths as Mr. Dishart changed
pulpits with another minister that they cocked their ears and leant
forward eagerly to snap the preacher up.

Mr. Dishart had his trials.  There was the split in the kirk, too, that
comes once at least to every Auld Licht minister.  He was long in
marrying.  The congregation were thinking of approaching him, through
the medium of his servant, Easie Haggart, on the subject of matrimony;
for a bachelor coming on for twenty-two, with an income of eighty
pounds per annum, seemed an anomaly, when one day he took the canal for
Edinburgh and returned with his bride.  His people nodded their heads,
but said nothing to the minister.  If he did not choose to take them
into his confidence, it was no affair of theirs.  That there was
something queer about the marriage, however, seemed certain.  Sandy
Whamond, who was a soured man after losing his eldership, said that he
believed she had been an "Englishy"--in other words, had belonged to
the English Church; but it is not probable that Mr. Dishart would have
gone the length of that.  The secret is buried in his grave.  Easie
Haggart jagged the minister sorely.  She grew loquacious with years,
and when he had company would stand at the door joining in the
conversation.  If the company was another minister, she would take a
chair and discuss Mr. Dishart's infirmities with him.  The Auld Lichts
loved their minister, but they saw even more clearly than himself the
necessity for his humiliation.  His wife made all her children's
clothes, but Sanders Gow complained that she looked too like their
sister.  In one week three of the children died, and on the Sabbath
following it rained.  Mr. Dishart preached, twice breaking down
altogether and gaping strangely round the kirk (there was no dust
flying that day), and spoke of the rain as angels' tears for three
little girls.  The Auld Lichts let it pass, but, as Lang Tammas said in
private (for, of course, the thing was much discussed at the looms), if
you materialize angels in that way, where are you going to stop?

It was on the Fast Days that the Auld Licht kirk showed what it was
capable of, and, so to speak, left all the other churches in Thrums far
behind.  The Fast came round once every summer, beginning on a
Thursday, when all the looms were hushed, and two services were held in
the kirk of about three hours' length each.  A minister from another
town assisted at these times, and when the service ended the members
filed in at one door and out at another, passing on their way Mr.
Dishart and his elders, who dispensed "tokens" at the foot of the
pulpit.  Without a token, which was a metal lozenge, no one could take
the sacrament on the coming Sabbath, and many a member has Mr. Dishart
made miserable by refusing him his token for gathering wild flowers,
say, on a Lord's Day (as testified to by another member).  Women were
lost who cooked dinners on the Sabbath, or took to coloured ribbons, or
absented themselves from church without sufficient cause.  On the Fast
Day fists were shaken at Mr. Dishart as he walked sternly homewards,
but he was undismayed.  Next day there were no services in the kirk,
for Auld Lichts could not afford many holidays, but they weaved
solemnly, with Saturday and the Sabbath and Monday to think of.  On
Saturday service began at two and lasted until nearly seven.  Two
sermons were preached, but there was no interval.  The sacrament was
dispensed on the Sabbath.  Nowadays the "tables" in the Auld Licht kirk
are soon "served," for the attendance has decayed, and most of the pews
in the body of the church are made use of.  In the days of which I
speak, however, the front pews alone were hung with white, and it was
in them only that the sacrament was administered.  As many members as
could get into them delivered up their tokens and took the first table.
Then they made room for others, who sat in their pews awaiting their
turn.  What with tables, the preaching, and unusually long prayers, the
service lasted from eleven to six.  At half-past six a two hours'
service began, either in the kirk or on the common, from which no one
who thought much about his immortal soul would have dared (or cared) to
absent himself.  A four hours' service on the Monday, which, like that
of the Saturday, consisted of two services in one, but began at eleven
instead of two, completed the programme.

On those days, if you were a poor creature and wanted to acknowledge
it, you could leave the church for a few minutes and return to it, but
the creditable thing was to sit on.  Even among the children there was
a keen competition, fostered by their parents, to sit each other out,
and be in at the death.

The other Thrums kirks held the sacrament at the same time, but not
with the same vehemence.  As far north from the schoolhouse as Thrums
is south of it, nestles the little village of Quharity, and there the
Fast Day was not a day of fasting.  In most cases the people had to go
many miles to church.  They drove or rode (two on a horse), or walked
in from other glens.  Without "the tents," therefore, the congregation,
with a long day before them, would have been badly off.  Sometimes one
tent sufficed; at other times rival publicans were on the ground.  The
tents were those in use at the feeing and other markets, and you could
get anything inside them, from broth made in a "boiler" to the fieriest
whisky.  They were planted just outside the kirk-gate--long, low tents
of dirty white canvas--so that when passing into the church or out of
it you inhaled their odours.  The congregation emerged austerely from
the church, shaking their heads solemnly over the minister's remarks,
and their feet carried them into the tent.  There was no mirth, no
unseemly revelry, but there was a great deal of hard drinking.
Eventually the tents were done away with, but not until the services on
the Fast Days were shortened.  The Auld Licht ministers were the only
ones who preached against the tents with any heart, and since the old
dominie, my predecessor at the schoolhouse, died, there has not been an
Auld Licht permanently resident in the glen of Quharity.

Perhaps nothing took it out of the Auld Licht males so much as a
christening.  Then alone they showed symptoms of nervousness, more
especially after the remarkable baptism of Eppie Whamond.  I could tell
of several scandals in connection with the kirk.  There was, for
instance, the time when Easie Haggart saved the minister.  In a fit of
temporary mental derangement the misguided man had one Sabbath day,
despite the entreaties of his affrighted spouse, called at the
post-office, and was on the point of reading the letter there received,
when Easie, who had slipped on her bonnet and followed him, snatched
the secular thing from his hands.  There was the story that ran like
fire through Thrums and crushed an innocent man to the effect that Pete
Todd had been in an Edinburgh theatre countenancing the play-actors.
Something could be made, too, of the retribution that came to Chairlie
Ramsay, who woke in his pew to discover that its other occupant, his
little son Jamie, was standing on the seat divesting himself of his
clothes in presence of a horrified congregation.  Jamie had begun
stealthily, and had very little on when Chairlie seized him.  But
having my choice of scandals I prefer the christening one--the unique
case of Eppie Whamond, who was born late on Saturday night and baptized
in the kirk on the following forenoon.

To the casual observer the Auld Licht always looked as if he were
returning from burying a near relative.  Yet when I met him hobbling
down the street, preternaturally grave and occupied, experience taught
me that he was preparing for a christening.  How the minister would
have borne himself in the event of a member of his congregation's
wanting the baptism to take place at home it is not easy to say; but I
shudder to think of the public prayers for the parents that would
certainly have followed.  The child was carried to the kirk through
rain, or snow, or sleet, or wind, the father took his seat alone in the
front pew, under the minister's eye, and the service was prolonged far
on into the afternoon.  But though the references in the sermon to that
unhappy object of interest in the front pew were many and pointed, his
time had not really come until the minister signed to him to advance as
far as the second step of the pulpit stairs.  The nervous father
clenched the railing in a daze, and cowered before the ministerial
heckling.  From warning the minister passed to exhortation, from
exhortation to admonition, from admonition to searching questioning,
from questioning to prayer and wailing.  When the father glanced up,
there was the radiant boy in the pulpit looking as if he would like to
jump down his throat.  If he hung his head the minister would ask, with
a groan, whether he was unprepared; and the whole congregation would
sigh out the response that Mr. Dishart had hit it.  When he replied
audibly to the minister's uncomfortable questions, a pained look at his
flippancy travelled from the pulpit all round the pews; and when he
only bowed his head in answer, the minister paused sternly, and the
congregation wondered what the man meant.  Little wonder that Davie
Haggart took to drinking when his turn came for occupying that front
pew.

If wee Eppie Whamond's birth had been deferred until the beginning of
the week, or humility had shown more prominently among her mother's
virtues, the kirk would have been saved a painful scandal, and Sandy
Whamond might have retained his eldership.  Yet it was a foolish but
wifely pride in her husband's official position that turned Bell
Dundas's head--a wild ambition to beat all baptismal record.

Among the wives she was esteemed a poor body whose infant did not see
the inside of the kirk within a fortnight of its birth.  Forty years
ago it was an accepted superstition in Thrums that the ghosts of
children who had died before they were baptized went wailing and
wringing their hands round the kirkyard at nights, and that they would
continue to do this until the crack of doom.  When the Auld Licht
children grew up, too, they crowed over those of their fellows whose
christening had been deferred until a comparatively late date, and the
mothers who had needlessly missed a Sabbath for long afterwards hung
their heads.  That was a good and creditable birth which took place
early in the week, thus allowing time for suitable christening
preparations; while to be born on a Friday or a Saturday was to
humiliate your parents, besides being an extremely ominous beginning
for yourself.  Without seeking to vindicate Bell Dundas's behaviour, I
may note, as an act of ordinary fairness, that being the leading
elder's wife, she was sorely tempted.  Eppie made her appearance at
9.45 on a Saturday night.

In the hurry and scurry that ensued, Sandy escaped sadly to the square.
His infant would be baptized eight days old, one of the
longest-deferred christenings of the year.  Sandy was shivering under
the clock when I met him accidentally, and took him home.  But by that
time the harm had been done.  Several of the congregation had been
roused from their beds to hear his lamentations, of whom the men
sympathized with him, while the wives triumphed austerely over Bell
Dundas.  As I wrung poor Sandy's hand, I hardly noticed that a bright
light showed distinctly between the shutters of his kitchen-window; but
the elder himself turned pale and breathed quickly.  It was then
fourteen minutes past twelve.

My heart sank within me on the following forenoon, when Sandy Whamond
walked, with a queer twitching face, into the front pew under a glare
of eyes from the body of the kirk and the laft.  An amazed buzz went
round the church, followed by a pursing up of lips and hurried
whisperings.  Evidently Sandy had been driven to it against his own
judgment.  The scene is still vivid before me: the minister suspecting
no guile, and omitting the admonitory stage out of compliment to the
elder's standing; Sandy's ghastly face; the proud godmother (aged
twelve) with the squalling baby in her arms; the horror of the
congregation to a man and woman.  A slate fell from Sandy's house even
as he held up the babe to the minister to receive a "droukin'" of
water, and Eppie cried so vigorously that her shamed godmother had to
rush with her to the vestry.  Now things are not as they should be when
an Auld Licht infant does not quietly sit out her first service.

Bell tried for a time to carry her head high; but Sandy ceased to
whistle at his loom, and the scandal was a rolling stone that soon
passed over him.  Briefly it amounted to this: that a bairn born within
two hours of midnight on Saturday could not have been ready for
christening at the kirk next day without the breaking of the Sabbath.
Had the secret of the nocturnal light been mine alone all might have
been well; but Betsy Munn's evidence was irrefutable.  Great had been
Bell's cunning, but Betsy had outwitted her.  Passing the house on the
eventful night, Betsy had observed Marget Dundas, Bell's sister, open
the door and creep cautiously to the window, the chinks in the outside
shutters of which she cunningly closed up with "tow."  As in a flash
the disgusted Betsy saw what Bell was up to, and, removing the tow,
planted herself behind the dilapidated dyke opposite, and awaited
events.  Questioned at a special meeting of the office-bearers in the
vestry, she admitted that the lamp was extinguished soon after twelve
o'clock, though the fire burned brightly all night.  There had been
unnecessary feasting during the night, and six eggs were consumed
before breakfast-time.  Asked how she knew this, she admitted having
counted the egg-shells that Marget had thrown out of doors in the
morning.  This, with the testimony of the persons from whom Sandy had
sought condolence on the Saturday night, was the case for the
prosecution.  For the defence, Bell maintained that all preparations
stopped when the clock struck twelve, and even hinted that the bairn
had been born on Saturday afternoon.  But Sandy knew that he and his
had got a fall.  In the forenoon of the following Sabbath the minister
preached from the text, "Be sure your sin will find you out;" and in
the afternoon from "Pride goeth before a fall."  He was grand.  In the
evening Sandy tendered his resignation of office, which was at once
accepted.  Wobs were behindhand for a week owing to the length of the
prayers offered up for Bell; and Lang Tammas ruled in Sandy's stead.



CHAPTER IV

LADS AND LASSES

With the severe Auld Lichts the Sabbath began at six o'clock on
Saturday evening.  By that time the gleaming shuttle was at rest, Davie
Haggart had strolled into the village from his pile of stones on the
Whunny road; Hendry Robb, the "dummy," had sold his last barrowful of
"rozetty (resiny) roots" for firewood; and the people, having
tranquilly supped and soused their faces in their water-pails, slowly
donned their Sunday clothes.  This ceremony was common to all; but here
divergence set in.  The grey Auld Licht, to whom love was not even a
name, sat in his high-backed arm-chair by the hearth, Bible or
"Pilgrim's Progress" in hand, occasionally lapsing into slumber.
But--though, when they got the chance, they went willingly three times
to the kirk--there were young men in the community so flighty that,
instead of dozing at home on Saturday night, they dandered casually
into the square, and, forming into knots at the corners, talked
solemnly and mysteriously of women.

Not even on the night preceding his wedding was an Auld Licht ever
known to stay out after ten o'clock.  So weekly conclaves at
street-corners came to an end at a comparatively early hour, one
Coelebs after another shuffling silently from the square until it
echoed, deserted, to the town-house clock.  The last of the gallants,
gradually discovering that he was alone, would look around him
musingly, and, taking in the situation, slowly wend his way home.  On
no other night of the week was frivolous talk about the softer sex
indulged in, the Auld Lichts being creatures of habit who never thought
of smiling on a Monday.  Long before they reached their teens they were
earning their keep as herds in the surrounding glens or filling "pirns"
for their parents; but they were generally on the brink of twenty
before they thought seriously of matrimony.  Up to that time they only
trifled with the other sex's affections at a distance--filling a maid's
water-pails, perhaps, when no one was looking, or carrying her wob; at
the recollection of which they would slap their knees almost jovially
on Saturday night.  A wife was expected to assist at the loom as well
as to be cunning in the making of marmalade and the firing of bannocks,
and there was consequently some heartburning among the lads for maids
of skill and muscle.  The Auld Licht, however, who meant marriage
seldom loitered in the streets.  By and by there came a time when the
clock looked down through its cracked glass upon the hemmed in square
and saw him not.  His companions, gazing at each other's boots, felt
that something was going on, but made no remark.

A month ago, passing through the shabby familiar square, I brushed
against a withered old man tottering down the street under a load of
yarn.  It was piled on a wheelbarrow which his feeble hands could not
have raised but for the rope of yarn that supported it from his
shoulders; and though Auld Licht was written on his patient eyes, I did
not immediately recognize Jamie Whamond.  Years ago Jamie was a sturdy
weaver and fervent lover whom I had the right to call my friend.  Turn
back the century a few decades, and we are together on a moonlight
night, taking a short cut through the fields from the farm of
Craigiebuckle.  Buxom were Craigiebuckle's "dochters," and Jamie was
Janet's accepted suitor.  It was a muddy road through damp grass, and
we picked our way silently over its ruts and pools.  "I'm thinkin',"
Jamie said at last, a little wistfully, "that I micht hae been as weel
wi' Chirsty."  Chirsty was Janet's sister, and Jamie had first thought
of her.  Craigiebuckle, however, strongly advised him to take Janet
instead, and he consented.  Alack! heavy wobs have taken all the grace
from Janet's shoulders this many a year, though she and Jamie go
bravely down the hill together.  Unless they pass the allotted span of
life, the "poorshouse" will never know them.  As for bonny Chirsty, she
proved a flighty thing, and married a deacon in the Established Church.
The Auld Lichts groaned over her fall, Craigiebuckle hung his head, and
the minister told her sternly to go her way.  But a few weeks
afterwards Lang Tammas, the chief elder, was observed talking with her
for an hour in Gowrie's close; and the very next Sabbath Chirsty pushed
her husband in triumph into her father's pew.  The minister, though
completely taken by surprise, at once referred to the stranger, in a
prayer of great length, as a brand that might yet be plucked from the
burning.  Changing his text, he preached at him; Lang Tammas, the
precentor, and the whole congregation (Chirsty included), sang at him;
and before he exactly realized his position he had become an Auld Licht
for life.  Chirsty's triumph was complete when, next week, in broad
daylight, too, the minister's wife called, and (in the presence of
Betsy Munn, who vouches for the truth of the story) graciously asked
her to come up to the manse on Thursday, at 4 p. m., and drink a dish
of tea.  Chirsty, who knew her position, of course begged modestly to
be excused; but a coolness arose over the invitation between her and
Janet--who felt slighted--that was only made up at the laying-out of
Chirsty's father-in-law, to which Janet was pleasantly invited.

When they had red up the house, the Auld Licht lassies sat in the
gloaming at their doors on three-legged stools, patiently knitting
stockings.  To them came stiff-limbed youths who, with a "Blawy nicht,
Jeanie" (to which the inevitable answer was, "It is so, Cha-rles"),
rested their shoulders on the doorpost, and silently followed with
their eyes the flashing needles.  Thus the courtship began--often to
ripen promptly into marriage, at other times to go no further.  The
smooth-haired maids, neat in their simple wrappers, knew they were on
their trial and that it behoved them to be wary.  They had not
compassed twenty winters without knowing that Marget Todd lost Davie
Haggart because she "fittit" a black stocking with brown worsted, and
that Finny's grieve turned from Bell Whamond on account of the
frivolous flowers in her bonnet: and yet Bell's prospects, as I happen
to know, at one time looked bright and promising.  Sitting over her
father's peat-fire one night gossiping with him about fishing-flies and
tackle, I noticed the grieve, who had dropped in by appointment with
some ducks' eggs on which Bell's clockin hen was to sit, performing
some sleight-of-hand trick with his coat-sleeve.  Craftily he jerked
and twisted it, till his own photograph (a black smudge on white)
gradually appeared to view.  This he gravely slipped into the hands of
the maid of his choice, and then took his departure, apparently much
relieved.  Had not Bell's light-headedness driven him away, the grieve
would have soon followed up his gift with an offer of his hand.  Some
night Bell would have "seen him to the door," and they would have
stared sheepishly at each other before saying good-night.  The parting
salutation given, the grieve would still have stood his ground, and
Bell would have waited with him.  At last, "Will ye hae's, Bell?" would
have dropped from his half-reluctant lips; and Bell would have mumbled
"Ay," with her thumb in her mouth.  "Guid nicht to ye, Bell," would be
the next remark--"Guid nicht to ye, Jeames," the answer; the humble
door would close softly, and Bell and her lad would have been engaged.
But, as it was, their attachment never got beyond the silhouette stage,
from which, in the ethics of the Auld Lichts, a man can draw back in
certain circumstances, without loss of honour.  The only really tender
thing I ever heard an Auld Licht lover say to his sweetheart was when
Gowrie's brother looked softly into Easie Tamson's eyes and whispered,
"Do you swite (sweat)?"  Even then the effect was produced more by the
loving cast in Gowrie's eye than by the tenderness of the words
themselves.

The courtships were sometimes of long duration, but as soon as the
young man realized that he was courting he proposed.  Cases were not
wanting in which he realized this for himself, but as a rule he had to
be told of it.

There were a few instances of weddings among the Auld Lichts that did
not take place on Friday.  Betsy Munn's brother thought to assert his
two coal-carts, about which he was sinfully puffed up, by getting
married early in the week; but he was a pragmatical feckless body,
Jamie.  The foreigner from York that Finny's grieve after disappointing
Bell Whamond took, sought to sow the seeds of strife by urging that
Friday was an unlucky day; and I remember how the minister, who was
always great in a crisis, nipped the bickering in the bud by adducing
the conclusive fact that he had been married on the sixth day of the
week himself.  It was a judicious policy on Mr. Dishart's part to take
vigorous action at once and insist on the solemnization of the marriage
on a Friday or not at all, for he best kept superstition out of the
congregation by branding it as heresy.  Perhaps the Auld Lichts were
only ignorant of the grieve's lass's theory because they had not
thought of it.  Friday's claims, too, were incontrovertible; for the
Saturday's being a slack day gave the couple an opportunity to put
their but and ben in order, and on Sabbath they had a gay day of it,
three times at the kirk.  The honeymoon over, the racket of the loom
began again on the Monday.

The natural politeness of the Allardice family gave me my invitation to
Tibbie's wedding.  I was taking tea and cheese early one wintry
afternoon with the smith and his wife, when little Joey Todd in his
Sabbath clothes peered in at the passage, and then knocked primly at
the door.  Andra forgot himself, and called out to him to come in by;
but Jess frowned him into silence, and hastily donning her black mutch,
received Willie on the threshold.  Both halves of the door were open,
and the visitor had looked us over carefully before knocking; but he
had come with the compliments of Tibbie's mother, requesting the
pleasure of Jess and her man that evening to the lassie's marriage with
Sam'l Todd, and the knocking at the door was part of the ceremony.
Five minutes afterwards Joey returned to beg a moment of me in the
passage; when I, too, got my invitation.  The lad had just received,
with an expression of polite surprise, though he knew he could claim it
as his right, a slice of crumbling shortbread, and taken his staid
departure, when Jess cleared the tea-things off the table, remarking
simply that it was a mercy we had not got beyond the first cup.  We
then retired to dress.

About six o'clock, the time announced for the ceremony, I elbowed my
way through the expectant throng of men, women, and children that
already besieged the smith's door.  Shrill demands of "Toss, toss!"
rent the air every time Jess's head showed on the window-blind, and
Andra hoped, as I pushed open the door, "that I hadna forgotten my
bawbees."  Weddings were celebrated among the Auld Lichts by showers of
ha'pence, and the guests on their way to the bride's house had to
scatter to the hungry rabble like housewives feeding poultry.  Willie
Todd, the best man, who had never come out so strong in his life
before, slipped through the back window, while the crowd, led on by
Kitty McQueen, seethed in front, and making a bolt for it to the
"'Sosh," was back in a moment with a handful of small change.  "Dinna
toss ower lavishly at first," the smith whispered me nervously, as we
followed Jess and Willie into the darkening wynd.

The guests were packed hot and solemn in Johnny Allardice's "room:" the
men anxious to surrender their seats to the ladies who happened to be
standing, but too bashful to propose it; the ham and the fish frizzling
noisily side by side but the house, and hissing out every now and then
to let all whom it might concern know that Janet Craik was adding more
water to the gravy.  A better woman never lived; but, oh, the hypocrisy
of the face that beamed greeting to the guests as if it had nothing to
do but politely show them in, and gasped next moment with upraised
arms, over what was nearly a fall in crockery.  When Janet sped to the
door her "spleet new" merino dress fell, to the pulling of a string,
over her home-made petticoat, like the drop-scene in a theatre, and
rose as promptly when she returned to slice the bacon.  The murmur of
admiration that filled the room when she entered with the minister was
an involuntary tribute to the spotlessness of her wrapper and a great
triumph for Janet.  If there is an impression that the dress of the
Auld Lichts was on all occasions as sombre as their faces, let it be
known that the bride was but one of several in "whites," and that Mag
Munn had only at the last moment been dissuaded from wearing flowers.
The minister, the Auld Lichts congratulated themselves, disapproved of
all such decking of the person and bowing of the head to idols; but on
such an occasion he was not expected to observe it.  Bell Whamond,
however, has reason for knowing that, marriages or no marriages, he
drew the line at curls.

By and by Sam'l Todd, looking a little dazed, was pushed into the
middle of the room to Tibbie's side, and the minister raised his voice
in prayer.  All eyes closed reverently, except perhaps the
bridegroom's, which seemed glazed and vacant.  It was an open question
in the community whether Mr. Dishart did not miss his chance at
weddings; the men shaking their heads over the comparative brevity of
the ceremony, the women worshipping him (though he never hesitated to
rebuke them when they showed it too openly) for the urbanity of his
manners.  At that time, however, only a minister of such experience as
Mr. Dishart's predecessor could lead up to a marriage in prayer without
inadvertently joining the couple; and the catechizing was mercifully
brief.  Another prayer followed the union; the minister waived his
right to kiss the bride; every one looked at every other one, as if he
had for the moment forgotten what he was on the point of saying and
found it very annoying; and Janet signed frantically to Willie Todd,
who nodded intelligently in reply, but evidently had no idea what she
meant.  In time Johnny Allardice, our host, who became more and more
doited as the night proceeded, remembered his instructions, and led the
way to the kitchen, where the guests, having politely informed their
hostess that they were not hungry, partook of a hearty tea.  Mr.
Dishart presided with the bride and bridegroom near him; but though he
tried to give an agreeable turn to the conversation by describing the
extensions at the cemetery, his personality oppressed us, and we only
breathed freely when he rose to go.  Yet we marvelled at his
versatility.  In shaking hands with the newly-married couple the
minister reminded them that it was leap-year, and wished them "three
hundred and sixty-six happy and God-fearing days."

Sam'l's station being too high for it, Tibbie did not have a penny
wedding, which her thrifty mother bewailed, penny weddings starting a
couple in life.  I can recall nothing more characteristic of the nation
from which the Auld Lichts sprung than the penny wedding, where the
only revellers that were not out of pocket by it, were the couple who
gave the entertainment.  The more the guests ate and drank the better,
pecuniarily, for their hosts.  The charge for admission to the penny
wedding (practically to the feast that followed it) varied in different
districts, but with us it was generally a shilling.  Perhaps the penny
extra to the fiddler accounts for the name penny wedding.  The ceremony
having been gone through in the bride's house, there was an adjournment
to a barn or other convenient place of meeting, where was held the
nuptial feast; long white boards from Rob Angus's sawmill, supported on
trestles, stood in lieu of tables; and those of the company who could
not find a seat waited patiently against the wall for a vacancy.  The
shilling gave every guest the free run of the groaning board, but
though fowls were plentiful, and even white bread too, little had been
spent on them.  The farmers of the neighbourhood, who looked forward to
providing the young people with drills of potatoes for the coming
winter, made a bid for their custom by sending them a fowl gratis for
the marriage supper.  It was popularly understood to be the oldest cock
of the farmyard, but for all that it made a brave appearance in a
shallow sea of soup.  The fowls were always boiled--without exception,
so far as my memory carries me; the guid-wife never having the heart to
roast them, and so lose the broth.  One round of whisky-and-water was
all the drink to which his shilling entitled the guest.  If he wanted
more he had to pay for it.  There was much revelry, with song and
dance, that no stranger could have thought those stiff-limbed weavers
capable of; and the more they shouted and whirled through the barn, the
more their host smiled and rubbed his hands.  He presided at the bar
improvised for the occasion, and if the thing was conducted with
spirit, his bride flung an apron over her gown and helped him.  I
remember one elderly bridegroom, who, having married a blind woman, had
to do double work at his penny wedding.  It was a sight to see him
flitting about the torch-lit barn, with a kettle of hot water in one
hand and a besom to sweep up crumbs in the other.

Though Sam'l had no penny wedding, however, we made a night of it at
his marriage.

Wedding chariots were not in those days, though I know of Auld Lichts
being conveyed to marriages nowadays by horses with white ears.  The
tea over, we formed in couples, and--the best man with the bride, the
bridegroom with the best maid, leading the way--marched in slow
procession in the moonlight night to Tibbie's new home, between lines
of hoarse and eager onlookers.  An attempt was made by an itinerant
musician to head the company with his fiddle; but instrumental music,
even in the streets, was abhorrent to sound Auld Lichts, and the
minister had spoken privately to Willie Todd on the subject.  As a
consequence, Peter was driven from the ranks.  The last thing I saw
that night, as we filed, bare-headed and solemn, into the newly-married
couple's house, was Kitty McQueen's vigorous arm, in a dishevelled
sleeve, pounding a pair of urchins who had got between her and a muddy
ha'penny.

That night there was revelry and boisterous mirth (or what the Auld
Lichts took for such) in Tibbie's kitchen.  At eleven o'clock Davit
Lunan cracked a joke.  Davie Haggart, in reply to Bell Dundas's
request, gave a song of distinctly secular tendencies.  The bride (who
had carefully taken off her wedding gown on getting home and donned a
wrapper) coquettishly let the bridegroom's father hold her hand.  In
Auld Licht circles, when one of the company was offered whisky and
refused it, the others, as if pained even at the offer, pushed it from
them as a thing abhorred.  But Davie Haggart set another example on
this occasion, and no one had the courage to refuse to follow it.  We
sat late round the dying fire, and it was only Willie Todd's scandalous
assertion (he was but a boy) about his being able to dance that induced
us to think of moving.  In the community, I understand, this marriage
is still memorable as the occasion on which Bell Whamond laughed in the
minister's face.



CHAPTER V

THE AULD LICHTS IN ARMS

Arms and men I sing: douce Jeemsy Todd, rushing from his loom, armed
with a bed-post; Lisbeth Whamond, an avenging whirlwind; Neil Haggart,
pausing in his thanks-offerings to smite and slay; the impious foe
scudding up the bleeding Brae-head with Nemesis at their flashing
heels; the minister holding it a nice question whether the carnage was
not justified.  Then came the two hours' sermons of the following
Sabbath, when Mr. Dishart, revolving like a teetotum in the pulpit,
damned every bandaged person present, individually and collectively;
and Lang Tammas, in the precentor's box with a plaster on his cheek,
included any one the minister might have by chance omitted, and the
congregation, with most of their eyes bunged up, burst into psalms of
praise.

Twice a year the Auld Lichts went demented.  The occasion was the Fast
Day at Tilliedrum; when its inhabitants, instead of crowding reverently
to the kirk, swooped profanely down in their scores and tens of scores
on our God-fearing town, intent on making a day of it.  Then did the
weavers rise as one man, and go forth to show the ribald crew the
errors of their way.  All denominations were represented, but Auld
Lichts led.  An Auld Licht would have taken no man's blood without the
conviction that he would be the better morally for the bleeding; and if
Tammas Lunan's case gave an impetus to the blows, it can only have been
because it opened wider Auld Licht eyes to Tilliedrum's desperate
condition.  Mr. Dishart's predecessor more than once remarked, that at
the Creation the devil put forward a claim for Thrums, but said he
would take his chance of Tilliedrum; and the statement was generally
understood to be made on the authority of the original Hebrew.

The mustard-seed of a feud between the two parishes shot into a tall
tree in a single night, when Davit Lunan's father went to a tattie roup
at Tilliedrum and thoughtlessly died there.  Twenty-four hours
afterwards a small party of staid Auld Lichts, carrying long white
poles, stepped out of various wynds and closes and picked their solemn
way to the house of mourning.  Nanny Low, the widow, received them
dejectedly, as one oppressed by the knowledge that her man's death at
such an inopportune place did not fulfil the promise of his youth; and
her guests admitted bluntly that they were disappointed in Tammas.
Snecky Hobart's father's unusually long and impressive prayer was an
official intimation that the deceased, in the opinion of the session,
sorely needed everything of the kind he could get; and then the silent
driblet of Auld Lichts in black stalked off in the direction of
Tilliedrum.  Women left their spinning-wheels and pirns to follow them
with their eyes along the Tenements, and the minister was known to be
holding an extra service at the manse.  When the little procession
reached the boundary-line between the two parishes, they sat down on a
dyke and waited.

By and by half a dozen men drew near from the opposite direction,
bearing on poles the remains of Tammas Lunan in a closed coffin.  The
coffin was brought to within thirty yards of those who awaited it, and
then roughly lowered to the ground.  Its bearers rested morosely on
their poles.  In conveying Lunan's remains to the borders of his own
parish they were only conforming to custom; but Thrums and Tilliedrum
differed as to where the boundary-line was drawn, and not a foot would
either advance into the other's territory.  For half a day the coffin
lay unclaimed, and the two parties sat scowling at each other.  Neither
dared move.  Gloaming had stolen into the valley when Dite Deuchars of
Tilliedrum rose to his feet and deliberately spat upon the coffin.  A
stone whizzed through the air; and then the ugly spectacle was
presented, in the grey night, of a dozen mutes fighting with their
poles over a coffin.  There was blood on the shoulders that bore
Tammas's remains to Thrums.

After that meeting Tilliedrum lived for the Fast Day.  Never, perhaps,
was there a community more given up to sin, and Thrums felt "called" to
its chastisement.  The insult to Lunan's coffin, however, dispirited
their weavers for a time, and not until the suicide of Pitlums did they
put much fervour into their prayers.  It made new men of them.
Tilliedrum's sins had found it out.  Pitlums was a farmer in the parish
of Thrums, but he had been born at Tilliedrum; and Thrums thanked
Providence for that, when it saw him suspended between two hams from
his kitchen rafters.  The custom was to cart suicides to the quarry at
the Galla pond and bury them near the cairn that had supported the
gallows; but on this occasion not a farmer in the parish would lend a
cart, and for a week the corpse lay on the sanded floor as it had been
cut down--an object of awe-struck interest to boys who knew no better
than to peep through the darkened window.  Tilliedrum bit its lips at
home.  The Auld Licht minister, it was said, had been approached on the
subject; but, after serious consideration, did not see his way to
offering up a prayer.  Finally old Hobart and two others tied a rope
round the body, and dragged it from the farm to the cairn, a distance
of four miles.  Instead of this incident's humbling Tilliedrum into
attending church, the next Fast Day saw its streets deserted.  As for
the Thrums Auld Lichts, only heavy wobs prevented their walking erect
like men who had done their duty.  If no prayer was volunteered for
Pitlums before his burial, there was a great deal of psalm-singing
after it.

By early morn on their Fast Day the Tilliedrummers were straggling into
Thrums, and the weavers, already at their looms, read the clattering of
feet and carts aright.  To convince themselves, all they had to do was
to raise their eyes; but the first triumph would have been to
Tilliedrum if they had done that.  The invaders--the men in Aberdeen
blue serge coats, velvet knee-breeches, and broad blue bonnets, and the
wincey gowns of the women set off with hooded cloaks of red or
tartan--tapped at the windows and shouted insultingly as they passed;
but, with pursed lips, Thrums bent fiercely over its wobs, and not an
Auld Licht showed outside his door.  The day wore on to noon, and still
ribaldry was master of the wynds.  But there was a change inside the
houses.  The minister had pulled down his blinds; moody men had left
their looms for stools by the fire; there were rumours of a conflict in
Andra Gowrie's close, from which Kitty McQueen had emerged with her
short gown in rags; and Lang Tammas was going from door to door.  The
austere precentor admonished fiery youth to beware of giving way to
passion; and it was a proud day for the Auld Lichts to find their
leading elder so conversant with apt Scripture texts.  They bowed their
heads reverently while he thundered forth that those who lived by the
sword would perish by the sword; and when he had finished they took him
ben to inspect their bludgeons.  I have a vivid recollection of going
the round of the Auld Licht and other houses to see the sticks and the
wrists in coils of wire.

A stranger in the Tenements in the afternoon would have noted more than
one draggled youth, in holiday attire, sitting on a doorstep with a wet
cloth to his nose; and, passing down the Commonty, he would have had to
step over prostrate lumps of humanity from which all shape had
departed.  Gavin Ogilvy limped heavily after his encounter with Thrummy
Tosh--a struggle that was looked forward to eagerly as a bi-yearly
event; Chirsty Davie's development of muscle had not prevented her
going down before the terrible onslaught of Joe the miller, and Lang
Tammas's plasters told a tale.  It was in the square that the two
parties, leading their maimed and blind, formed in force; Tilliedrum
thirsting for its opponents' blood, and Thrums humbly accepting the
responsibility of punching the Fast Day breakers into the ways of
rectitude.  In the small ill-kept square the invaders, to the number of
about a hundred, were wedged together at its upper end, while the
Thrums people formed in a thick line at the foot.  For its inhabitants
the way to Tilliedrum lay through this threatening mass of armed
weavers.  No words were bandied between the two forces; the centre of
the square was left open, and nearly every eye was fixed on the
town-house clock.  It directed operations and gave the signal to
charge.  The moment six o'clock struck, the upper mass broke its bonds
and flung itself on the living barricade.  There was a clatter of heads
and sticks, a yelling and a groaning, and then the invaders, bursting
through the opposing ranks, fled for Tilliedrum.  Down the Tanage brae
and up the Braehead they skurried, half a hundred avenging spirits in
pursuit.  On the Tilliedrum Fast Day I have tasted blood myself.  In
the godless place there is no Auld Licht kirk, but there are two Auld
Lichts in it now who walk to Thrums to church every Sabbath, blow or
rain as it lists.  They are making their influence felt in Tilliedrum.

The Auld Lichts also did valorous deeds at the Battle of Cabbylatch.
The farm land so named lies a mile or more to the south of Thrums.  You
have to go over the rim of the cup to reach it.  It is low-lying and
uninteresting to the eye, except for some giant stones scattered cold
and naked through the fields.  No human hands reared these boulders,
but they might be looked upon as tombstones to the heroes who fell (to
rise hurriedly) on the plain of Cabbylatch.

The fight of Cabbylatch belongs to the days of what are now but dimly
remembered as the Meal Mobs.  Then there was a wild cry all over the
country for bread (not the fine loaves that we know, but something very
much coarser), and hungry men and women, prematurely shrunken, began to
forget the taste of meal.  Potatoes were their chief sustenance, and,
when the crop failed, starvation gripped them.  At that time the
farmers, having control of the meal, had the small towns at their
mercy, and they increased its cost.  The price of the meal went up and
up, until the famishing people swarmed up the sides of the carts in
which it was conveyed to the towns, and, tearing open the sacks,
devoured it in handfuls.  In Thrums they had a stern sense of justice,
and for a time, after taking possession of the meal, they carried it to
the square and sold it at what they considered a reasonable price.  The
money was handed over to the farmers.  The honesty of this is worth
thinking about, but it seems to have only incensed the farmers the
more; and when they saw that to send their meal to the town was not to
get high prices for it, they laid their heads together and then gave
notice that the people who wanted meal and were able to pay for it must
come to the farms.  In Thrums no one who cared to live on porridge and
bannocks had money to satisfy the farmers; but, on the other hand, none
of them grudged going for it, and go they did.  They went in numbers
from farm to farm, like bands of hungry rats, and throttled the
opposition they not infrequently encountered.  The raging farmers at
last met in council and, noting that they were lusty men and brave,
resolved to march in armed force upon the erring people and burn their
town.  Now we come to the Battle of Cabbylatch.

The farmers were not less than eighty strong, and chiefly consisted of
cavalry.  Armed with pitchforks and cumbrous scythes where they were
not able to lay their hands on the more orthodox weapons of war, they
presented a determined appearance; the few foot-soldiers who had no
cart-horses at their disposal bearing in their arms bundles of
fire-wood.  One memorable morning they set out to avenge their losses;
and by and by a halt was called, when each man bowed his head to
listen.  In Thrums, pipe and drum were calling the inhabitants to arms.
Scouts rushed in with the news that the farmers were advancing rapidly
upon the town, and soon the streets were clattering with feet.  At that
time Thrums had its piper and drummer (the bellman of a later and more
degenerate age); and on this occasion they marched together through the
narrow wynds, firing the blood of haggard men and summoning them to the
square.  According to my informant's father, the gathering of these
angry and startled weavers, when he thrust his blue bonnet on his head
and rushed out to join them, was an impressive and solemn spectacle.
That bloodshed was meant there can be no doubt; for starving men do not
see the ludicrous side of things.  The difference between the farmers
and the town had resolved itself into an ugly and sullen hate, and the
wealthier townsmen who would have come between the people and the bread
were fiercely pushed aside.  There was no nominal leader, but every man
in the ranks meant to fight for himself and his belongings; and they
are said to have sallied out to meet the foe in no disorder.  The women
they would fain have left behind them; but these had their own injuries
to redress, and they followed in their husbands' wake carrying bags of
stones.  The men, who were of various denominations, were armed with
sticks, blunderbusses, anything they could snatch up at a moment's
notice; and some of them were not unacquainted with fighting.  Dire
silence prevailed among the men, but the women shouted as they ran, and
the curious army moved forward to the drone and squall of drum and
pipe.  The enemy was sighted on the level land of Cabbylatch; and here,
while the intending combatants glared at each other, a well-known local
magnate galloped his horse between them and ordered them in the name of
the King to return to their homes.  But for the farmers that meant
further depredation at the people's hands, and the townsmen would not
go back to their gloomy homes to sit down and wait for sunshine.  Soon
stones (the first, it is said, cast by a woman) darkened the air.  The
farmers got the word to charge, but their horses, with the best
intentions, did not know the way.  There was a stampeding in different
directions, a blind rushing of one frightened steed against another;
and then the townspeople, breaking any ranks they had hitherto managed
to keep, rushed vindictively forward.  The struggle at Cabbylatch
itself was not of long duration; for their own horses proved the
farmers' worst enemies, except in the cases where these sagacious
animals took matters into their own ordering and bolted judiciously for
their stables.  The day was to Thrums.

Individual deeds of prowess were done that day.  Of these not the least
fondly remembered by her descendants were those of the gallant matron
who pursued the most obnoxious farmer in the district even to his very
porch with heavy stones and opprobrious epithets.  Once when he thought
he had left her far behind did he alight to draw breath and take a
pinch of snuff, and she was upon him like a flail.  With a
terror-stricken cry he leapt once more upon his horse and fled, but not
without leaving his snuff-box in the hands of the derisive enemy.
Meggy has long gone to the kirkyard, but the snuff-mull is still
preserved.

Some ugly cuts were given and received, and heads as well as ribs were
broken; but the townsmen's triumph was short-lived.  The ringleaders
were whipped through the streets of Perth, as a warning to persons
thinking of taking the law into their own hands; and all the lasting
consolation they got was that, some time afterwards, the chief witness
against them, the parish minister, met with a mysterious death.  They
said it was evidently the hand of God; but some people looked
suspiciously at them when they said it.



CHAPTER VI

THE OLD DOMINIE

From the new cemetery, which is the highest point in Thrums, you just
fail to catch sight of the red schoolhouse that nestles between two
bare trees, some five miles up the glen of Quharity.  This was proved
by Davit Lunan, tinsmith, whom I have heard tell the story.  It was in
the time when the cemetery gates were locked to keep the bodies of
suicides out, but men who cared to risk the consequences could get the
coffin over the high dyke and bury it themselves.  Peter Lundy's coffin
broke, as one might say, into the churchyard in this way, Peter having
hanged himself in the Whunny wood when he saw that work he must.  The
general feeling among the intimates of the deceased was expressed by
Davit when he said:

"It may do the crittur nae guid i' the tail o' the day, but he paid
for's bit o' ground, an' he's in's richt to occupy it."

The custom was to push the coffin on to the wall up a plank, and then
let it drop less carefully into the cemetery.  Some of the mourners
were dragging the plank over the wall, with Davit Lunan on the top
directing them, when they seem to have let go and sent the tinsmith
suddenly into the air.  A week afterwards it struck Davit, when in the
act of soldering a hole in Leeby Wheens's flagon (here he branched off
to explain that he had made the flagon years before, and that Leeby was
sister to Tammas Wheens, and married one Baker Robbie, who died of
chicken-pox in his forty-fourth year), that when "up there" he had a
view of Quharity schoolhouse.  Davit was as truthful as a man who tells
the same story more than once can be expected to be, and it is far from
a suspicious circumstance that he did not remember seeing the
schoolhouse all at once.  In Thrums things only struck them gradually.
The new cemetery, for instance, was only so called because it had been
new once.

In this red stone school, full of the modern improvements that he
detested, the old dominie whom I succeeded taught, and sometimes slept,
during the last five years of his cantankerous life.  It was in a
little thatched school, consisting of but one room, that he did his
best work, some five hundred yards away from the edifice that was
reared in its stead.  Now dismally fallen into disrepute, often indeed
a domicile for cattle, the ragged academy of Glen Quharity, where he
held despotic sway for nearly half a century, is falling to pieces
slowly in a howe that conceals it from the high road.  Even in its best
scholastic days, when it sent barefooted lads to college who helped to
hasten the Disruption, it was but a pile of ungainly stones, such as
Scott's Black Dwarf flung together in a night, with holes in its broken
roof of thatch where the rain trickled through, and never with less
than two of its knotted little window-panes stopped with brown paper.
The twelve or twenty pupils of both sexes who constituted the
attendance sat at the two loose desks, which never fell unless you
leaned on them, with an eye on the corner of the earthen floor where
the worms came out, and on cold days they liked the wind to turn the
peat smoke into the room.  One boy, who was supposed to wash it out,
got his education free for keeping the schoolhouse dirty, and the
others paid their way with peats, which they brought in their hands,
just as wealthier school-children carry books, and with pence which the
dominie collected regularly every Monday morning.  The attendance on
Monday mornings was often small.

Once a year the dominie added to his income by holding cockfights in
the old school.  This was at Yule, and the same practice held in the
parish school of Thrums.  It must have been a strange sight.  Every
male scholar was expected to bring a cock to the school, and to pay a
shilling to the dominie for the privilege of seeing it killed there.
The dominie was the master of the sports, assisted by the neighbouring
farmers, some of whom might be elders of the church.  Three rounds were
fought.  By the end of the first round all the cocks had fought, and
the victors were then pitted against each other.  The cocks that
survived the second round were eligible for the third, and the dominie,
besides his shilling, got every cock killed.  Sometimes, if all stories
be true, the spectators were fighting with each other before the third
round concluded.

The glen was but sparsely dotted with houses even in those days; a
number of them inhabited by farmer-weavers, who combined two trades and
just managed to live.  One would have a plough, another a horse, and so
in Glen Quharity they helped each other.  Without a loom in addition
many of them would have starved, and on Saturdays the big farmer and
his wife, driving home in a gig, would pass the little farmer carrying
or wheeling his wob to Thrums.  When there was no longer a market for
the produce of the hand-loom these farms had to be given up, and thus
it is that the old school is not the only house in our weary glen
around which gooseberry and currant bushes, once tended by careful
hands, now grow wild.

In heavy spates the children were conveyed to the old school, as they
are still to the new one, in carts, and between it and the dominie's
whitewashed dwelling-house swirled in winter a torrent of water that
often carried lumps of the land along with it.  This burn he had at
times to ford on stilts.

Before the Education Act passed the dominie was not much troubled by
the school inspector, who appeared in great splendour every year at
Thrums.  Fifteen years ago, however, Glen Quharity resolved itself into
a School Board, and marched down the glen, with the minister at its
head, to condemn the school.  When the dominie, who had heard of their
design, saw the Board approaching, he sent one of his scholars, who
enjoyed making a mess of himself, wading across the burn to bring over
the stilts which were lying on the other side.  The Board were thus
unable to send across a spokesman, and after they had harangued the
dominie, who was in the best of tempers, from the wrong side of the
stream, the siege was raised by their returning home, this time with
the minister in the rear.  So far as is known this was the only
occasion on which the dominie ever lifted his hat to the minister.  He
was the Established Church minister at the top of the glen, but the
dominie was an Auld Licht, and trudged into Thrums to church nearly
every Sunday with his daughter.

The farm of Little Tilly lay so close to the dominie's house that from
one window he could see through a telescope whether the farmer was
going to church, owing to Little Tilly's habit of never shaving except
with that intention, and of always doing it at a looking-glass which he
hung on a nail in his door.  The farmer was Established Church, and
when the dominie saw him in his shirt-sleeves with a razor in his hand,
he called for his black clothes.  If he did not see him it is
undeniable that the dominie sent his daughter to Thrums, but remained
at home himself.  Possibly, therefore, the dominie sometimes went to
church, because he did not want to give Little Tilly and the
Established minister the satisfaction of knowing that he was not devout
to-day, and it is even conceivable that had Little Tilly had a
telescope and an intellect as well as his neighbour, he would have
spied on the dominie in return.  He sent the teacher a load of potatoes
every year, and the recipient rated him soundly if they did not turn
out as well as the ones he had got the autumn before.  Little Tilly was
rather in awe of the dominie, and had an idea that he was a
Freethinker, because he played the fiddle and wore a black cap.

The dominie was a wizened-looking little man, with sharp eyes that
pierced you when they thought they were unobserved, and if any visitor
drew near who might be a member of the Board, he disappeared into his
house much as a startled weasel makes for its hole.  The most striking
thing about him was his walk, which to the casual observer seemed a
limp.  The glen in our part is marshy, and to progress along it you
have to jump from one little island of grass or heather to another.
Perhaps it was this that made the dominie take the main road and even
the streets of Thrums in leaps, as if there were boulders or puddles in
the way.  It is, however, currently believed among those who knew him
best that he jerked himself along in that way when he applied for the
vacancy in Glen Quharity school, and that he was therefore chosen from
among the candidates by the committee of farmers, who saw that he was
specially constructed for the district.

In the spring the inspector was sent to report on the school, and, of
course, he said, with a wave of his hand, that this would never do.  So
a new school was built, and the ramshackle little academy that had done
good service in its day was closed for the last time.  For years it had
been without a lock; ever since a blatter of wind and rain drove the
door against the fireplace.  After that it was the dominie's custom, on
seeing the room cleared, to send in a smart boy--a dux was always
chosen--who wedged a clod of earth or peat between doorpost and door.
Thus the school was locked up for the night.  The boy came out by the
window, where he entered to open the door next morning.  In time grass
hid the little path from view that led to the old school, and a dozen
years ago every particle of wood about the building, including the door
and the framework of the windows, had been burned by travelling tinkers.

The Board would have liked to leave the dominie in his white-washed
dwelling-house to enjoy his old age comfortably, and until he learned
that he had intended to retire.  Then he changed his tactics and
removed his beard.  Instead of railing at the new school, he began to
approve of it, and it soon came to the ears of the horrified
Established minister, who had a man (Established) in his eye for the
appointment, that the dominie was looking ten years younger.  As he
spurned a pension he had to get the place, and then began a warfare of
bickerings between the Board and him, that lasted until within a few
weeks of his death.  In his scholastic barn the dominie had thumped the
Latin grammar into his scholars till they became university bursars to
escape him.  In the new school, with maps (which he hid in the
hen-house) and every other modern appliance for making teaching easy,
he was the scandal of the glen.  He snapped at the clerk of the Board's
throat, and barred his door in the minister's face.  It was one of his
favourite relaxations to peregrinate the district, telling the farmers
who were not on the Board themselves, but were given to gossiping with
those who were, that though he could slumber pleasantly in the school
so long as the hum of the standards was kept up, he immediately woke if
it ceased.

Having settled himself in his new quarters, the dominie seems to have
read over the code, and come at once to the conclusion that it would be
idle to think of straightforwardly fulfilling its requirements.  The
inspector he regarded as a natural enemy, who was to be circumvented by
much guile.  One year that admirable Oxford don arrived at the school,
to find that all the children, except two girls--one of whom had her
face tied up with red flannel--were away for the harvest.  On another
occasion the dominie met the inspector's trap some distance from the
school, and explained that he would guide him by a short cut, leaving
the driver to take the dog-cart to a farm where it could be put up.
The unsuspecting inspector agreed, and they set off, the obsequious
dominie carrying his bag.  He led his victim into another glen, the
hills round which had hidden their heads in mist, and then slyly
remarked that he was afraid they had lost their way.  The minister, who
liked to attend the examination, reproved the dominie for providing no
luncheon, but turned pale when his enemy suggested that he should
examine the boys in Latin.

For some reason that I could never discover, the dominie had all his
life refused to teach his scholars geography.  The Inspector and many
others asked him why there was no geography class, and his invariable
answer was to point to his pupils collectively, and reply in an
impressive whisper--

"They winna hae her."

This story, too, seems to reflect against the dominie's views on
cleanliness.  One examination day the minister attended to open the
inspection with prayer.  Just as he was finishing, a scholar entered
who had a reputation for dirt.

"Michty!" cried a little pupil, as his opening eyes fell on the
apparition at the door, "there's Jocky Tamson wi' his face washed!"

When the dominie was a younger man he had first clashed with the
minister during Mr. Rattray's attempts to do away with some old customs
that were already dying by inches.  One was the selection of a queen of
beauty from among the young women at the annual Thrums fair.  The
judges, who were selected from the better-known farmers as a rule, sat
at the door of a tent that reeked of whisky, and regarded the
competitors filing by much as they selected prize sheep, with a stolid
stare.  There was much giggling and blushing on these occasions among
the maidens, and shouts from their relatives and friends to "Haud yer
head up, Jean," and "Lat them see yer een, Jess."  The dominie enjoyed
this, and was one time chosen a judge, when he insisted on the prize's
being bestowed on his own daughter, Marget.  The other judges demurred,
but the dominie remained firm and won the day.

"She wasna the best-faured amon them," he admitted afterwards, "but a
man maun mak the maist o' his ain."

The dominie, too, would not shake his head with Mr. Rattray over the
apple and loaf bread raffles in the smithy, nor even at the Daft Days,
the black week of glum debauch that ushered in the year, a period when
the whole countryside rumbled to the farmer's "kebec"-laden cart.

For the great part of his career the dominie had not made forty pounds
a year, but he "died worth" about three hundred pounds.  The moral of
his life came in just as he was leaving it, for he rose from his
deathbed to hide a whisky bottle from his wife.



CHAPTER VII

CREE QUEERY AND MYSY DROLLY

The children used to fling stones at Grinder Queery because he loved
his mother.  I never heard the Grinder's real name.  He and his mother
were Queery and Drolly, contemptuously so called, and they answered to
these names.  I remember Cree best as a battered old weaver, who bent
forward as he walked, with his arms hanging limp as if ready to grasp
the shafts of the barrow behind which it was his life to totter uphill
and downhill, a rope of yarn suspended round his shaking neck, and
fastened to the shafts, assisting him to bear the yoke and slowly
strangling him.  By and by there came a time when the barrow and the
weaver seemed both palsy-stricken, and Cree, gasping for breath, would
stop in the middle of a brae, unable to push his load over a stone.
Then he laid himself down behind it to prevent the barrow's slipping
back.  On those occasions only the barefooted boys who jeered at the
panting weaver could put new strength into his shrivelled arms.  They
did it by telling him that he and Mysy would have to go to the
"poorshouse" after all, at which the grey old man would wince, as if
"joukin" from a blow, and, shuddering, rise and, with a desperate
effort, gain the top of the incline.  Small blame perhaps attached to
Cree if, as he neared his grave, he grew a little dottle.  His loads of
yarn frequently took him past the workhouse, and his eyelids quivered
as he drew near.  Boys used to gather round the gate in anticipation of
his coming, and make a feint of driving him inside.  Cree, when he
observed them, sat down on his barrow-shafts terrified to approach, and
I see them now pointing to the workhouse till he left his barrow on the
road and hobbled away, his legs cracking as he ran.

It is strange to know that there was once a time when Cree was young
and straight, a callant who wore a flower in his buttonhole, and tried
to be a hero for a maiden's sake.

Before Cree settled down as a weaver, he was knife and scissor-grinder
for three counties, and Mysy, his mother, accompanied him wherever he
went.  Mysy trudged alongside him till her eyes grew dim and her limbs
failed her, and then Cree was told that she must be sent to the
pauper's home.  After that a pitiable and beautiful sight was to be
seen.  Grinder Queery, already a feeble man, would wheel his grindstone
along the long high road, leaving Mysy behind.  He took the stone on a
few hundred yards, and then, hiding it by the roadside in a ditch or
behind a paling, returned for his mother.  Her he led--sometimes he
almost carried her--to the place where the grindstone lay, and thus by
double journeys kept her with him.  Every one said that Mysy's death
would be a merciful release--every one but Cree.

Cree had been a grinder from his youth, having learned the trade from
his father, but he gave it up when Mysy became almost blind.  For a
time he had to leave her in Thrums with Dan'l Wilkie's wife, and find
employment himself in Tilliedrum.  Mysy got me to write several letters
for her to Cree, and she cried while telling me what to say.  I never
heard either of them use a term of endearment to the other, but all
Mysy could tell me to put in writing was--"Oh, my son Cree; oh, my
beloved son; oh, I have no one but you; oh, thou God watch over my
Cree!"  On one of these occasions Mysy put into my hands a paper,
which, she said, would perhaps help me to write the letter.  It had
been drawn up by Cree many years before, when he and his mother had
been compelled to part for a time, and I saw from it that he had been
trying to teach Mysy to write.  The paper consisted of phrases such as
"Dear son Cree," "Loving mother," "I am takin' my food weel,"
"Yesterday," "Blankets," "The peats is near done," "Mr. Dishart," "Come
home, Cree."  The Grinder had left this paper with his mother, and she
had written letters to him from it.

When Dan'l Wilkie objected to keeping a cranky old body like Mysy in
his house Cree came back to Thrums and took a single room with a
hand-loom in it.  The flooring was only lumpy earth, with sacks spread
over it to protect Mysy's feet.  The room contained two dilapidated old
coffin-beds, a dresser, a high-backed arm-chair, several three-legged
stools, and two tables, of which one could be packed away beneath the
other.  In one corner stood the wheel at which Cree had to fill his own
pirns.  There was a plate-rack on one wall, and near the chimney-piece
hung the wag-at-the-wall clock, the timepiece that was commonest in
Thrums at that time, and that got this name because its exposed
pendulum swung along the wall.  The two windows in the room faced each
other on opposite walls, and were so small that even a child might have
stuck in trying to crawl through them.  They opened on hinges, like a
door.  In the wall of the dark passage leading from the outer door into
the room was a recess where a pan and pitcher of water always stood
wedded, as it were, and a little hole, known as the "bole," in the wall
opposite the fireplace contained Cree's library.  It consisted of
Baxter's "Saints' Rest," Harvey's "Meditations," the "Pilgrim's
Progress," a work on folk-lore, and several Bibles.  The saut-backet,
or salt-bucket, stood at the end of the fender, which was half of an
old cart-wheel.  Here Cree worked, whistling "Ower the watter for
Chairlie" to make Mysy think that he was as gay as a mavis.  Mysy grew
querulous in her old age, and up to the end she thought of poor, done
Cree as a handsome gallant.  Only by weaving far on into the night
could Cree earn as much as six shillings a week.  He began at six
o'clock in the morning, and worked until midnight by the light of his
cruizey.  The cruizey was all the lamp Thrums had in those days, though
it is only to be seen in use now in a few old-world houses in the
glens.  It is an ungainly thing in iron, the size of a man's palm, and
shaped not unlike the palm when contracted, and deepened to hold a
liquid.  Whale-oil, lying open in the mould, was used, and the wick was
a rash with the green skin peeled off.  These rashes were sold by
herd-boys at a halfpenny the bundle, but Cree gathered his own wicks.
The rashes skin readily when you know how to do it.  The iron mould was
placed inside another of the same shape, but slightly larger, for in
time the oil dripped through the iron, and the whole was then hung by a
deck or hook close to the person using it.  Even with three wicks it
gave but a stime of light, and never allowed the weaver to see more
than the half of his loom at a time.  Sometimes Cree used threads for
wicks.  He was too dull a man to have many visitors, but Mr. Dishart
called occasionally and reproved him for telling his mother lies.  The
lies Cree told Mysy were that he was sharing the meals he won for her,
and that he wore the overcoat which he had exchanged years before for a
blanket to keep her warm.

There was a terrible want of spirit about Grinder Queery.  Boys used to
climb on to his stone roof with clods of damp earth in their hands,
which they dropped down the chimney.  Mysy was bed-ridden by this time,
and the smoke threatened to choke her; so Cree, instead of chasing his
persecutors, bargained with them.  He gave them fly-hooks which he had
busked himself, and when he had nothing left to give he tried to
flatter them into dealing gently with Mysy by talking to them as men.
One night it went through the town that Mysy now lay in bed all day
listening for her summons to depart.  According to her ideas this would
come in the form of a tapping at the window, and their intention was to
forestall the spirit.  Dite Gow's boy, who is now a grown man, was
hoisted up to one of the little windows, and he has always thought of
Mysy since as he saw her then for the last time.  She lay sleeping, so
far as he could see, and Cree sat by the fireside looking at her.

Every one knew that there was seldom a fire in that house unless Mysy
was cold.  Cree seemed to think that the fire was getting low.  In the
little closet, which, with the kitchen, made up his house, was a corner
shut off from the rest of the room by a few boards, and behind this he
kept his peats.  There was a similar receptacle for potatoes in the
kitchen.  Cree wanted to get another peat for the fire without
disturbing Mysy.  First he took off his boots, and made for the peats
on tiptoe.  His shadow was cast on the bed, however, so he next got
down on his knees and crawled softly into the closet.  With the peat in
his hands, he returned in the same way, glancing every moment at the
bed where Mysy lay.  Though Tammy Gow's face was pressed against a
broken window he did not hear Cree putting that peat on the fire.  Some
say that Mysy heard, but pretended not to do so for her son's sake,
that she realized the deception he played on her, and had not the heart
to undeceive him.  But it would be too sad to believe that.  The boys
left Cree alone that night.

The old weaver lived on alone in that solitary house after Mysy left
him, and by and by the story went abroad that he was saving money.  At
first no one believed this except the man who told it, but there seemed
after all to be something in it.  You had only to hit Cree's trouser
pocket to hear the money chinking, for he was afraid to let it out of
his clutch.  Those who sat on dykes with him when his day's labour was
over said that the weaver kept his hand all the time in his pocket, and
that they saw his lips move as he counted his hoard by letting it slip
through his fingers.  So there were boys who called "Miser Queery"
after him instead of Grinder, and asked him whether he was saving up to
keep himself from the workhouse.

But we had all done Cree wrong.  It came out on his deathbed what he
had been storing up his money for.  Grinder, according to the doctor,
died of getting a good meal from a friend of his earlier days after
being accustomed to starve on potatoes and a very little oatmeal
indeed.  The day before he died this friend sent him half a sovereign,
and when Grinder saw it he sat up excitedly in his bed and pulled his
corduroys from beneath his pillow.  The woman who, out of kindness,
attended him in his last illness, looked on curiously, while Cree added
the sixpences and coppers in his pocket to the half-sovereign.  After
all they only made some two pounds, but a look of peace came into
Cree's eyes as he told the woman to take it all to a shop in the town.
Nearly twelve years previously Jamie Lownie had lent him two pounds,
and though the money was never asked for, it preyed on Cree's mind that
he was in debt.  He payed off all he owed, and so Cree's life was not,
I think, a failure.



CHAPTER VIII

THE COURTING OF T'NOWHEAD'S BELL

For two years it had been notorious in the square that Sam'l Dickie was
thinking of courting T'nowhead's Bell, and that if little Sanders
Elshioner (which is the Thrums pronunciation of Alexander Alexander)
went in for her he might prove a formidable rival.  Sam'l was a weaver
in the Tenements, and Sanders a coal-carter whose trade mark was a bell
on his horse's neck that told when coals were coming.  Being something
of a public man, Sanders had not perhaps so high a social position as
Sam'l, but he had succeeded his father on the coal-cart, while the
weaver had already tried several trades.  It had always been against
Sam'l, too, that once when the kirk was vacant he had advised the
selection of the third minister who preached for it on the ground that
it came expensive to pay a large number of candidates.  The scandal of
the thing was hushed up, out of respect for his father, who was a
God-fearing man, but Sam'l was known by it in Lang Tammas's circle.
The coal-carter was called Little Sanders to distinguish him from his
father, who was not much more than half his size.  He had grown up with
the name, and its inapplicability now came home to nobody.  Sam'l's
mother had been more far-seeing than Sanders's.  Her man had been
called Sammy all his life because it was the name he got as a boy, so
when their eldest son was born she spoke of him as Sam'l while still in
his cradle.  The neighbours imitated her, and thus the young man had a
better start in life than had been granted to Sammy, his father.

It was Saturday evening--the night in the week when Auld Licht young
men fell in love.  Sam'l Dickie, wearing a blue glengarry bonnet with a
red ball on the top, came to the door of a one-storey house in the
Tenements and stood there wriggling, for he was in a suit of tweed for
the first time that week, and did not feel at one with them.  When his
feeling of being a stranger to himself wore off he looked up and down
the road, which straggles between houses and gardens, and then, picking
his way over the puddles, crossed to his father's hen-house and sat
down on it.  He was now on his way to the square.

Eppie Fargus was sitting on an adjoining dyke knitting stockings, and
Sam'l looked at her for a time.

"Is't yersel, Eppie?" he said at last

"It's a' that," said Eppie.

"Hoo's a' wi' ye?" asked Sam'l.

"We're juist aff an' on," replied Eppie, cautiously.

There was not much more to say, but as Sam'l sidled off the henhouse he
murmured politely, "Ay, ay."  In another minute he would have been
fairly started, but Eppie resumed the conversation.

"Sam'l," she said, with a twinkle in her eye, "ye can tell Lisbeth
Fargus I'll likely be drappin' in on her aboot Mununday or Teisday."

Lisbeth was sister to Eppie, and wife of Tammas McQuhatty, better known
as T'nowhead, which was the name of his farm.  She was thus Bell's
mistress.

Sam'l leant against the henhouse as if all his desire to depart had
gone.

"Hoo d'ye kin I'll be at the T'nowhead the nicht?" he asked, grinning
in anticipation.

"Ou, I'se warrant ye'll be after Bell," said Eppie.

"Am no sae sure o' that," said Sam'l, trying to leer.  He was enjoying
himself now.

"Am no sure o' that," he repeated, for Eppie seemed lost in stitches.

"Sam'l?"

"Ay."

"Ye'll be speirin' her sune noo, I dinna doot?"

This took Sam'l, who had only been courting Bell for a year or two, a
little aback.

"Hoo d'ye mean, Eppie?" he asked.

"Maybe ye'll do't the nicht."

"Na, there's nae hurry," said Sam'l.

"Weel, we're a' coontin' on't, Sam'l."

"Gae wa wi' ye."

"What for no'?"

"Gae wa wi' ye," said Sam'l again.

"Bell's get an' fond o' ye, Sam'l."

"Ay," said Sam'l.

"But am dootin' ye're a fell billy wi' the lasses."

"Ay, oh, I d'na kin, moderate, moderate," said Sam'l, in high delight.

"I saw ye," said Eppie, speaking with a wire in her mouth, "gae'in on
terr'ble wi Mysy Haggart at the pump last Saturday."

"We was juist amoosin' oorsels," said Sam'l.

"It'll be nae amoosement to Mysy," said Eppie, "gin ye brak her heart."

"Losh, Eppie," said Sam'l, "I didna think o' that."

"Ye maun kin weel, Sam'l, 'at there's mony a lass wid jump at ye."

"Ou, weel," said Sam'l, implying that a man must take these things as
they come.

"For ye're a dainty chield to look at, Sam'l."

"Do ye think so, Eppie?  Ay, ay; oh, I d'na kin am onything by the
ordinar."

"Ye mayna be," said Eppie, "but lasses doesna do to be ower partikler."

Sam'l resented this, and prepared to depart again.

"Ye'll no tell Bell that?" he asked, anxiously.

"Tell her what?"

"Aboot me an' Mysy."

"We'll see hoo ye behave yersel, Sam'l."

"No 'at I care, Eppie; ye can tell her gin ye like.  I widna think
twice o' tellin her mysel."

"The Lord forgie ye for leein', Sam'l," said Eppie, as he disappeared
down Tammy Tosh's close.  Here he came upon Henders Webster.

"Ye're late, Sam'l," said Henders.

"What for?"

"Ou, I was thinkin' ye wid be gaen the length o' T'nowhead the nicht,
an' I saw Sanders Elshioner makkin's wy there an oor syne."

"Did ye?" cried Sam'l, adding craftily, "but it's naething to me."

"Tod, lad," said Henders, "gin ye dinna buckle to, Sanders'll be
carryin' her off."

Sam'l flung back his head and passed on.

"Sam'l!" cried Henders after him.

"Ay," said Sam'l, wheeling round.

"Gie Bell a kiss frae me."

The full force of this joke struck neither all at once.  Sam'l began to
smile at it as he turned down the school-wynd, and it came upon Henders
while he was in his garden feeding his ferret.  Then he slapped his
legs gleefully, and explained the conceit to Will'um Byars, who went
into the house and thought it over.

There were twelve or twenty little groups of men in the square, which
was lit by a flare of oil suspended over a cadger's cart.  Now and
again a staid young woman passed through the square with a basket on
her arm, and if she had lingered long enough to give them time, some of
the idlers would have addressed her.  As it was, they gazed after her,
and then grinned to each other.

"Ay, Sam'l," said two or three young men, as Sam'l joined them beneath
the town clock.

"Ay, Davit," replied Sam'l.

This group was composed of some of the sharpest wits in Thrums, and it
was not to be expected that they would let this opportunity pass.
Perhaps when Sam'l joined them he knew what was in store for him.

"Was ye lookin' for T'nowhead's Bell, Sam'l?" asked one.

"Or mebbe ye was wantin' the minister?" suggested another, the same who
had walked out twice with Chirsty Duff and not married her after all.

Sam'l could not think of a good reply at the moment, so he laughed
good-naturedly.

"Ondoobtedly she's a snod bit crittur," said Davit, archly.

"An' michty clever wi' her fingers," added Jamie Deuchars.

"Man, I've thocht o' makkin' up to Bell mysel," said Pete Ogle.  "Wid
there be ony chance, think ye, Sam'l?"

"I'm thinkin' she widna hae ye for her first, Pete," replied Sam'l, in
one of those happy flashes that come to some men, "but there's nae
sayin' but what she micht tak ye to finish up wi.'"

The unexpectedness of this sally startled every one.  Though Sam'l did
not set up for a wit, however, like Davit, it was notorious that he
could say a cutting thing once in a way.

"Did ye ever see Bell reddin up?" asked Pete, recovering from his
overthrow.  He was a man who bore no malice.

"It's a sicht," said Sam'l, solemnly.

"Hoo will that be?" asked Jamie Deuchars.

"It's weel worth yer while," said Pete, "to ging atower to the
T'nowhead an' see.  Ye'll mind the closed-in beds i' the kitchen?  Ay,
weel, they're a fell spoilt crew, T'nowhead's litlins, an' no that aisy
to manage.  Th' ither lasses Lisbeth's hae'n had a michty trouble wi'
them.  When they war i' the middle o' their reddin up the bairns wid
come tumlin' about the floor, but, sal, I assure ye, Bell didna fash
lang wi' them.  Did she, Sam'l?"

"She did not," said Sam'l, dropping into a fine mode of speech to add
emphasis to his remark.

"I'll tell ye what she did," said Pete to the others.  "She juist
lifted up the litlins, twa at a time, an' flung them into the
coffin-beds.  Syne she snibbit the doors on them, an' keepit them there
till the floor was dry."

"Ay, man, did she so?" said Davit, admiringly.

"I've seen her do't mysel," said Sam'l.

"There's no a lassie maks better bannocks this side o' Fetter Lums,"
continued Pete.

"Her mither tocht her that," said Sam'l; "she was a gran' han' at the
bakin', Kitty Ogilvy."

"I've heard say," remarked Jamie, putting it this way so as not to tie
himself down to anything, "'at Bell's scones is equal to Mag Lunan's."

"So they are," said Sam'l, almost fiercely.

"I kin she's a neat han' at singein' a hen," said Pete.

"An' wi't a'," said Davit, "she's a snod, canty bit stocky in her
Sabbath claes."

"If onything, thick in the waist," suggested Jamie.

"I dinna see that," said Sam'l.

"I d'na care for her hair either," continued Jamie, who was very nice
in his tastes; "something mair yallowchy wid be an improvement."

"A'body kins," growled Sam'l, "'at black hair's the bonniest."

The others chuckled.

"Puir Sam'l!" Pete said.

Sam'l not being certain whether this should be received with a smile or
a frown, opened his mouth wide as a kind of compromise.  This was
position one with him for thinking things over.

Few Auld Lichts, as I have said, went the length of choosing a helpmate
for themselves.  One day a young man's friends would see him mending
the washing tub of a maiden's mother.  They kept the joke until
Saturday night, and then he learned from them what he had been after.
It dazed him for a time, but in a year or so he grew accustomed to the
idea, and they were then married.  With a little help he fell in love
just like other people.

Sam'l was going the way of the others, but he found it difficult to
come to the point.  He only went courting once a week, and he could
never take up the running at the place where he left off the Saturday
before.  Thus he had not, so far, made great headway.  His method of
making up to Bell had been to drop in at T'nowhead on Saturday nights
and talk with the farmer about the rinderpest.

The farm kitchen was Bell's testimonial.  Its chairs, tables, and
stools were scoured by her to the whiteness of Rob Angus's sawmill
boards, and the muslin blind on the window was starched like a child's
pinafore.  Bell was brave, too, as well as energetic.  Once Thrums had
been overrun with thieves.  It is now thought that there may have been
only one, but he had the wicked cleverness of a gang.  Such was his
repute that there were weavers who spoke of locking their doors when
they went from home.  He was not very skilful, however, being generally
caught, and when they said they knew he was a robber he gave them their
things back and went away.  If they had given him time there is no
doubt that he would have gone off with his plunder.  One night he went
to T'nowhead, and Bell, who slept in the kitchen, was wakened by the
noise.  She knew who it would be, so she rose and dressed herself, and
went to look for him with a candle.  The thief had not known what to do
when he got in, and as it was very lonely he was glad to see Bell.  She
told him he ought to be ashamed of himself, and would not let him out
by the door until he had taken off his boots so as not to soil the
carpet.

On this Saturday evening Sam'l stood his ground in the square, until by
and by he found himself alone.  There were other groups there still,
but his circle had melted away.  They went separately, and no one said
good-night.  Each took himself off slowly, backing out of the group
until he was fairly started.

Sam'l looked about him, and then, seeing that the others had gone,
walked round the townhouse into the darkness of the brae that leads
down and then up to the farm of T'nowhead.

To get into the good graces of Lisbeth Fargus you had to know her ways
and humour them.  Sam'l, who was a student of women, knew this, and so,
instead of pushing the door open and walking in, he went through the
rather ridiculous ceremony of knocking.  Sanders Elshioner was also
aware of this weakness of Lisbeth's, but, though he often made up his
mind to knock, the absurdity of the thing prevented his doing so when
he reached the door.  T'nowhead himself had never got used to his
wife's refined notions, and when any one knocked he always started to
his feet, thinking there must be something wrong.

Lisbeth came to the door, her expansive figure blocking the way in.

"Sam'l," she said.

"Lisbeth," said Sam'l.

He shook hands with the farmer's wife, knowing that she liked it, but
only said, "Ay, Bell," to his sweetheart, "Ay, T'nowhead," to
McQuhatty, and "It's yersel, Sanders," to his rival.

They were all sitting round the fire, T'nowhead, with his feet on the
ribs, wondering why he felt so warm, and Bell darned a stocking, while
Lisbeth kept an eye on a goblet full of potatoes.

"Sit into the fire, Sam'l," said the farmer, not, however, making way
for him.

"Na, na," said Sam'l, "I'm to bide nae time."  Then he sat into the
fire.  His face was turned away from Bell, and when she spoke he
answered her without looking round.  Sam'l felt a little anxious.
Sanders Elshioner, who had one leg shorter than the other, but looked
well when sitting, seemed suspiciously at home.  He asked Bell
questions out of his own head, which was beyond Sam'l, and once he said
something to her in such a low voice that the others could not catch
it.  T'nowhead asked curiously what it was, and Sanders explained that
he had only said, "Ay, Bell, the morn's the Sabbath."  There was
nothing startling in this, but Sam'l did not like it.  He began to
wonder if he was too late, and had he seen his opportunity would have
told Bell of a nasty rumour that Sanders intended to go over to the
Free Church if they would make him kirk-officer.

[Illustration: Sabbath at T'Nowhead.  From a photograph by G. W.
Wilson.]

Sam'l had the good-will of T'nowhead's wife, who liked a polite man.
Sanders did his best, but from want of practice he constantly made
mistakes.  To-night, for instance, he wore his hat in the house because
he did not like to put up his hand and take it off.  T'nowhead had not
taken his off either, but that was because he meant to go out by and by
and lock the byre door.  It was impossible to say which of her lovers
Bell preferred.  The proper course with an Auld Licht lassie was to
prefer the man who proposed to her.

"Ye'll bide a wee, an' hae something to eat?" Lisbeth asked Sam'l, with
her eyes on the goblet.

"No, I thank ye," said Sam'l, with true genteelity.

"Ye'll better?"

"I dinna think it."

"Hoots aye; what's to hender ye?"

"Weel, since ye're sae pressin', I'll bide."

No one asked Sanders to stay.  Bell could not, for she was but the
servant, and T'nowhead knew that the kick his wife had given him meant
that he was not to do so either.  Sanders whistled to show that he was
not uncomfortable.

"Ay, then, I'll be stappin' ower the brae," he said at last.

He did not go, however.  There was sufficient pride in him to get him
off his chair, but only slowly, for he had to get accustomed to the
notion of going.  At intervals of two or three minutes he remarked that
he must now be going.  In the same circumstances Sam'l would have acted
similarly.  For a Thrums man it is one of the hardest things in life to
get away from anywhere.

At last Lisbeth saw that something must be done.  The potatoes were
burning, and T'nowhead had an invitation on his tongue.

"Yes, I'll hae to be movin'," said Sanders, hopelessly, for the fifth
time.

"Guid nicht to ye, then, Sanders," said Lisbeth.  "Gie the door a
fling-to, ahent ye."

Sanders, with a mighty effort, pulled himself together.  He looked
boldly at Bell, and then took off his hat carefully.  Sam'l saw with
misgivings that there was something in it which was not a handkerchief.
It was a paper bag glittering with gold braid, and contained such an
assortment of sweets as lads bought for their lasses on the Muckle
Friday.

"Hae, Bell," said Sanders, handing the bag to Bell in an off-hand way
as if it were but a trifle.  Nevertheless he was a little excited, for
he went off without saying good-night.

No one spoke.  Bell's face was crimson.  T'nowhead fidgetted on his
chair, and Lisbeth looked at Sam'l.  The weaver was strangely calm and
collected, though he would have liked to know whether this was a
proposal.

"Sit in by to the table, Sam'l," said Lisbeth, trying to look as if
things were as they had been before.

She put a saucerful of butter, salt, and pepper near the fire to melt,
for melted butter is the shoeing-horn that helps over a meal of
potatoes.  Sam'l, however, saw what the hour required, and jumping up,
he seized his bonnet.

"Hing the tatties higher up the joist, Lisbeth," he said with dignity;
"I'se be back in ten meenits."

He hurried out of the house, leaving the others looking at each other.

"What do ye think?" asked Lisbeth.

"I d'na kin," faltered Bell.

"Thae tatties is lang o' comin' to the boil," said T'nowhead.

In some circles a lover who behaved like Sam'l would have been
suspected of intent upon his rival's life, but neither Bell nor Lisbeth
did the weaver that injustice.  In a case of this kind it does not much
matter what T'nowhead thought.

The ten minutes had barely passed when Sam'l was back in the farm
kitchen.  He was too flurried to knock this time, and, indeed, Lisbeth
did not expect it of him.

"Bell, hae!" he cried, handing his sweetheart a tinsel bag twice the
size of Sanders's gift.

"Losh preserve's!" exclaimed Lisbeth; "I'se warrant there's a shillin's
worth."

"There's a' that, Lisbeth--an' mair," said Sam'l, firmly.

"I thank ye, Sam'l," said Bell, feeling an unwonted elation as she
gazed at the two paper bags in her lap.

"Ye're ower extravegint, Sam'l," Lisbeth said.

"Not at all," said Sam'l; "not at all.  But I widna advise ye to eat
thae ither anes, Bell--they're second quality."

Bell drew back a step from Sam'l.

"How do ye kin?" asked the farmer shortly, for he liked Sanders.

"I spiered i' the shop," said Sam'l.

The goblet was placed on a broken plate on the table with the saucer
beside it, and Sam'l, like the others, helped himself.  What he did was
to take potatoes from the pot with his fingers, peel off their coats,
and then dip them into the butter.  Lisbeth would have liked to provide
knives and forks, but she knew that beyond a certain point T'nowhead
was master in his own house.  As for Sam'l, he felt victory in his
hands, and began to think that he had gone too far.

In the meantime Sanders, little witting that Sam'l had trumped his
trick, was sauntering along the kirk-wynd, with his hat on the side of
his head.  Fortunately he did not meet the minister.

The courting of T'nowhead's Bell reached its crisis one Sabbath about a
month after the events above recorded.  The minister was in great force
that day, but it is no part of mine to tell how he bore himself.  I was
there, and am not likely to forget the scene.  It was a fateful Sabbath
for T'nowhead's Bell and her swains, and destined to be remembered for
the painful scandal which they perpetrated in their passion.

Bell was not in the kirk.  There being an infant of six months in the
house it was a question of either Lisbeth or the lassie's staying at
home with him, and though Lisbeth was unselfish in a general way, she
could not resist the delight of going to church.  She had nine children
besides the baby, and being but a woman, it was the pride of her life
to march them into the T'nowhead pew, so well watched that they dared
not misbehave, and so tightly packed that they could not fall.  The
congregation looked at that pew, the mothers enviously, when they sang
the lines--

  "Jerusalem like a city is
  Compactly built together."


The first half of the service had been gone through on this particular
Sunday without anything remarkable happening.  It was at the end of the
psalm which preceded the sermon that Sanders Elshioner, who sat near
the door, lowered his head until it was no higher than the pews, and in
that attitude, looking almost like a four-footed animal, slipped out of
the church.  In their eagerness to be at the sermon many of the
congregation did not notice him, and those who did put the matter by in
their minds for future investigation.  Sam'l, however, could not take
it so coolly.  From his seat in the gallery he saw Sanders disappear,
and his mind misgave him.  With the true lover's instinct he understood
it all.  Sanders had been struck by the fine turn-out in the T'nowhead
pew.  Bell was alone at the farm.  What an opportunity to work one's
way up to a proposal.  T'nowhead was so overrun with children that such
a chance seldom occurred, except on a Sabbath.  Sanders, doubtless, was
off to propose, and he, Sam'l, was left behind.

The suspense was terrible.  Sam'l and Sanders had both known all along
that Bell would take the first of the two who asked her.  Even those
who thought her proud admitted that she was modest.  Bitterly the
weaver repented having waited so long.  Now it was too late.  In ten
minutes Sanders would be at T'nowhead; in an hour all would be over.
Sam'l rose to his feet in a daze.  His mother pulled him down by the
coat-tail, and his father shook him, thinking he was walking in his
sleep.  He tottered past them, however, hurried up the aisle, which was
so narrow that Dan'l Ross could only reach his seat by walking
sideways, and was gone before the minister could do more than stop in
the middle of a whirl and gape in horror after him.

A number of the congregation felt that day the advantage of sitting in
the laft.  What was a mystery to those downstairs was revealed to them.
From the gallery windows they had a fine open view to the south; and as
Sam'l took the common, which was a short cut though a steep ascent, to
T'nowhead, he was never out of their line of vision.  Sanders was not
to be seen, but they guessed rightly the reason why.  Thinking he had
ample time, he had gone round by the main road to save his
boots--perhaps a little scared by what was coming.  Sam'l's design was
to forestall him by taking the shorter path over the burn and up the
commonty.

It was a race for a wife, and several on-lookers in the gallery braved
the minister's displeasure to see who won.  Those who favoured Sam'l's
suit exultingly saw him leap the stream, while the friends of Sanders
fixed their eyes on the top of the common where it ran into the road.
Sanders must come into sight there, and the one who reached this point
first would get Bell.

As Auld Lichts do not walk abroad on the Sabbath, Sanders would
probably not be delayed.  The chances were in his favour.  Had it been
any other day in the week Sam'l might have run.  So some of the
congregation in the gallery were thinking, when suddenly they saw him
bend low and then take to his heels.  He had caught sight of Sanders's
head bobbing over the hedge that separated the road from the common,
and feared that Sanders might see him.  The congregation who could
crane their necks sufficiently saw a black object, which they guessed
to be the carter's hat, crawling along the hedge-top.  For a moment it
was motionless, and then it shot ahead.  The rivals had seen each
other.  It was now a hot race.  Sam'l, dissembling no longer, clattered
up the common, becoming smaller and smaller to the onlookers as he
neared the top.  More than one person in the gallery almost rose to
their feet in their excitement.  Sam'l had it.  No, Sanders was in
front.  Then the two figures disappeared from view.  They seemed to run
into each other at the top of the brae, and no one could say who was
first.  The congregation looked at one another.  Some of them
perspired.  But the minister held on his course.

Sam'l had just been in time to cut Sanders out.  It was the weaver's
saving that Sanders saw this when his rival turned the corner; for
Sam'l was sadly blown.  Sanders took in the situation and gave in at
once.  The last hundred yards of the distance he covered at his
leisure, and when he arrived at his destination he did not go in.  It
was a fine afternoon for the time of year, and he went round to have a
look at the pig, about which T'nowhead was a little sinfully puffed up.

"Ay," said Sanders, digging his fingers critically into the grunting
animal; "quite so."

"Grumph," said the pig, getting reluctantly to his feet.

"Ou ay; yes," said Sanders, thoughtfully.

Then he sat down on the edge of the sty, and looked long and silently
at an empty bucket.  But whether his thoughts were of T'nowhead's Bell,
whom he had lost for ever, or of the food the farmer fed his pig on, is
not known.

"Lord preserve's!  Are ye no at the kirk?" cried Bell, nearly dropping
the baby as Sam'l broke into the room.

"Bell!" cried Sam'l.

Then T'nowhead's Bell knew that her hour had come.

"Sam'l," she faltered.

"Will ye hae's Bell?" demanded Sam'l, glaring at her sheepishly.

"Ay," answered Bell.

Sam'l fell into a chair.

"Bring's a drink o' water, Bell," he said.

But Bell thought the occasion required milk, and there was none in the
kitchen.  She went out to the byre, still with the baby in her arms,
and saw Sanders Elshioner sitting gloomily on the pigsty.

"Weel, Bell," said Sanders.

"I thocht ye'd been at the kirk, Sanders," said Bell.

Then there was a silence between them.

"Has Sam'l spiered ye, Bell?" asked Sanders, stolidly.

"Ay," said Bell again, and this time there was a tear in her eye.
Sanders was little better than an "orra man," and Sam'l was a weaver,
and yet----  But it was too late now.  Sanders gave the pig a vicious
poke with a stick, and when it had ceased to grunt, Bell was back in
the kitchen.  She had forgotten about the milk, however, and Sam'l only
got water after all.

In after days, when the story of Bell's wooing was told, there were
some who held that the circumstances would have almost justified the
lassie in giving Sam'l the go-by.  But these perhaps forgot that her
other lover was in the same predicament as the accepted one--that of
the two, indeed, he was the more to blame, for he set off to T'nowhead
on the Sabbath of his own accord, while Sam'l only ran after him.  And
then there is no one to say for certain whether Bell heard of her
suitors' delinquencies until Lisbeth's return from the kirk.  Sam'l
could never remember whether he told her, and Bell was not sure
whether, if he did, she took it in.  Sanders was greatly in demand for
weeks after to tell what he knew of the affair, but though he was twice
asked to tea to the manse among the trees, and subjected thereafter to
ministerial cross-examinations, this is all he told.  He remained at
the pigsty until Sam'l left the farm, when he joined him at the top of
the brae, and they went home together.

"It's yersel, Sanders," said Sam'l.

"It is so, Sam'l," said Sanders.

"Very cauld," said Sam'l.

"Blawy," assented Sanders.

After a pause--

"Sam'l," said Sanders.

"Ay."

"I'm hearin' yer to be mairit."

"Ay."

"Weel, Sam'l, she's a snod bit lassie."

"Thank ye," said Sam'l.

"I had ance a kin' o' notion o' Bell mysel," continued Sanders.

"Ye had?"

"Yes, Sam'l; but I thocht better o't."

"Hoo d'ye mean?" asked Sam'l, a little anxiously.

"Weel, Sam'l, mairitch is a terrible responsibeelity."

"It is so," said Sam'l, wincing.

"An' no the thing to tak up withoot conseederation."

"But it's a blessed and honourable state, Sanders; ye've heard the
minister on't."

"They say," continued the relentless Sanders, "'at the minister doesna
get on sair wi' the wife himsel."

"So they do," cried Sam'l, with a sinking at the heart.

"I've been telt," Sanders went on, "'at gin ye can get the upper han'
o' the wife for a while at first, there's the mair chance o' a
harmonious exeestence."

"Bell's no the lassie," said Sam'l, appealingly, "to thwart her man."

Sanders smiled.

"D' ye think she is, Sanders?"

"Weel, Sam'l, I d'na want to fluster ye, but she's been ower lang wi'
Lisbeth Fargus no to hae learnt her ways.  An a'body kins what a life
T'nowhead has wi' her."

"Guid sake, Sanders, hoo did ye no speak o' this afore?"

"I thocht ye kent o't, Sam'l."

They had now reached the square, and the U. P. kirk was coming out.
The Auld Licht kirk would be half an hour yet.

"But, Sanders," said Sam'l, brightening up, "ye was on yer way to spier
her yersel."

"I was, Sam'l," said Sanders, "and I canna but be thankfu ye was ower
quick for's."

"Gin't hadna been you," said Sam'l, "I wid never hae thocht o't."

"I'm sayin' naething agin Bell," pursued the other, "but, man Sam'l, a
body should be mair deleeberate in a thing o' the kind."

"It was michty hurried," said Sam'l, woefully.

"It's a serious thing to spier a lassie," said Sanders.

"It's an awfu thing," said Sam'l.

"But we'll hope for the best," added Sanders, in a hopeless voice.

They were close to the Tenements now, and Sam'l looked as if he were on
his way to be hanged.

"Sam'l?"

"Ay, Sanders."

"Did ye--did ye kiss her, Sam'l?"

"Na."

"Hoo?"

"There's was varra little time, Sanders."

"Half an 'oor," said Sanders.

"Was there?  Man Sanders, to tell ye the truth, I never thocht o't."

Then the soul of Sanders Elshioner was filled with contempt for Sam'l
Dickie.

The scandal blew over.  At first it was expected that the minister
would interfere to prevent the union, but beyond intimating from the
pulpit that the souls of Sabbath-breakers were beyond praying for, and
then praying for Sam'l and Sanders at great length, with a word thrown
in for Bell, he let things take their course.  Some said it was because
he was always frightened lest his young men should intermarry with
other denominations, but Sanders explained it differently to Sam'l.

"I hav'na a word to say agin the minister," he said; "they're gran'
prayers, but Sam'l, he's a mairit man himsel."

"He's a' the better for that, Sanders, is'na he?"

"Do ye no see," asked Sanders, compassionately, "'at he's tryin' to mak
the best o't?"

"Oh, Sanders, man!" said Sam'l.

"Cheer up, Sam'l," said Sanders, "it'll sune be ower."

Their having been rival suitors had not interfered with their
friendship.  On the contrary, while they had hitherto been mere
acquaintances, they became inseparables as the wedding-day drew near.
It was noticed that they had much to say to each other, and that when
they could not get a room to themselves they wandered about together in
the churchyard.  When Sam'l had anything to tell Bell he sent Sanders
to tell it, and Sanders did as he was bid.  There was nothing that he
would not have done for Sam'l.

The more obliging Sanders was, however, the sadder Sam'l grew.  He
never laughed now on Saturdays, and sometimes his loom was silent half
the day.  Sam'l felt that Sanders's was the kindness of a friend for a
dying man.

It was to be a penny wedding, and Lisbeth Fargus said it was delicacy
that made Sam'l superintend the fitting-up of the barn by deputy.  Once
he came to see it in person, but he looked so ill that Sanders had to
see him home.  This was on the Thursday afternoon, and the wedding was
fixed for Friday.

"Sanders, Sanders," said Sam'l, in a voice strangely unlike his own,
"it'll a' be ower by this time the morn."

"It will," said Sanders.

"If I had only kent her langer," continued Sam'l.

"It wid hae been safer," said Sanders.

"Did ye see the yallow floor in Bell's bonnet?" asked the accepted
swain.

"Ay," said Sanders, reluctantly.

"I'm dootin'--I'm sair dootin' she's but a flichty, licht-hearted
crittur after a'."

"I had ay my suspeecions o't," said Sanders.

"Ye hae kent her langer than me," said Sam'l.

"Yes," said Sanders, "but there's nae gettin' at the heart o' women.
Man, Sam'l, they're desperate cunnin'."

"I'm dootin't; I'm sair dootin't."

"It'll be a warnin' to ye, Sam'l, no to be in sic a hurry i' the
futur," said Sanders.

Sam'l groaned.

"Ye'll be gaein up to the manse to arrange wi' the minister the morn's
mornin'," continued Sanders in a subdued voice.

Sam'l looked wistfully at his friend.

"I canna do't, Sanders," he said, "I canna do't."

"Ye maun," said Sanders.

"It's aisy to speak," retorted Sam'l, bitterly.

"We have a' oor troubles, Sam'l," said Sanders, soothingly, "an' every
man maun bear his ain burdens.  Johnny Davie's wife's dead, an' he's no
repinin'."

"Ay," said Sam'l, "but a death's no a mairitch.  We hae haen deaths in
our family too."

"It may a' be for the best," added Sanders, "an' there wid be a michty
talk i' the hale country-side gin ye didna ging to the minister like a
man."

"I maun hae langer to think o't," said Sam'l.

"Bell's mairitch is the morn," said Sanders, decisively.

Sam'l glanced up with a wild look in his eyes.

"Sanders," he cried.

"Sam'l?"

"Ye hae been a guid friend to me, Sanders, in this sair affliction."

"Nothing ava," said Sanders; "dount mention'd."

"But, Sanders, ye canna deny but what your rinnin oot o' the kirk that
awfu' day was at the bottom o'd a'."

"It was so," said Sanders, bravely.

"An' ye used to be fond o' Bell, Sanders."

"I dinna deny't."

"Sanders, laddie," said Sam'l, bending forward and speaking in a
wheedling voice, "I aye thocht it was you she likeit."

"I had some sic idea mysel," said Sanders.

"Sanders, I canna think to pairt twa fowk sae weel suited to ane
anither as you an' Bell."

"Canna ye, Sam'l?"

"She wid mak ye a guid wife, Sanders.  I hae studied her weel, and
she's a thrifty, douce, clever lassie.  Sanders, there's no the like o'
her.  Mony a time, Sanders, I hae said to mysel, There's a lass ony man
micht be prood to tak.  A'body says the same, Sanders.  There's nae
risk ava, man: nane to speak o'.  Tak her, laddie, tak her, Sanders;
it's a grand chance, Sanders.  She's yours for the spierin.  I'll gie
her up, Sanders."

"Will ye, though?" said Sanders.

"What d'ye think?" asked Sam'l.

"If ye wid rayther," said Sanders, politely.

"There's my han' on't," said Sam'l.  "Bless ye, Sanders; ye've been a
true frien' to me."

Then they shook hands for the first time in their lives; and soon
afterwards Sanders struck up the brae to T'nowhead.

Next morning Sanders Elshioner, who had been very busy the night
before, put on his Sabbath clothes and strolled up to the manse.

"But--but where is Sam'l?" asked the minister; "I must see himself."

"It's a new arrangement," said Sanders.

"What do you mean, Sanders?"

"Bell's to marry me," explained Sanders.

"But--but what does Sam'l say?"

"He's willin'," said Sanders.

"And Bell?"

"She's willin', too.  She prefers't."

"It is unusual," said the minister.

"It's a' richt," said Sanders.

"Well, you know best," said the minister.

"You see the hoose was taen, at ony rate," continued Sanders.  "An I'll
juist ging in til't instead o' Sam'l."

"Quite so."

"An' I cudna think to disappoint the lassie."

"Your sentiments do you credit, Sanders," said the minister; "but I
hope you do not enter upon the blessed state of matrimony without full
consideration of its responsibilities.  It is a serious business,
marriage."

"It's a' that," said Sanders, "but I'm willin' to stan' the risk."

So, as soon as it could be done, Sanders Elshioner took to wife
T'nowhead's Bell, and I remember seeing Sam'l Dickie trying to dance at
the penny wedding.

Years afterwards it was said in Thrums that Sam'l had treated Bell
badly, but he was never sure about it himself.

"It was a near thing--a michty near thing," he admitted in the square.

"They say," some other weaver would remark, "'at it was you Bell liked
best."

"I d'na kin," Sam'l would reply, "but there's nae doot the lassie was
fell fond o' me.  Ou, a mere passin' fancy's ye micht say."



CHAPTER IX

DAVIT LUNAN'S POLITICAL REMINISCENCES

When an election-day comes round now, it takes me back to the time of
1832.  I would be eight or ten year old at the time.  James Strachan
was at the door by five o'clock in the morning in his Sabbath clothes,
by arrangement.  We was to go up to the hill to see them building the
bonfire.  Moreover, there was word that Mr. Scrimgour was to be there
tossing pennies, just like at a marriage.  I was wakened before that by
my mother at the pans and bowls.  I have always associated elections
since that time with jelly-making; for just as my mother would fill the
cups and tankers and bowls with jelly to save cans, she was emptying
the pots and pans to make way for the ale and porter.  James and me was
to help to carry it home from the square--him in the pitcher and me in
a flagon, because I was silly for my age and not strong in the arms.

It was a very blowy morning, though the rain kept off, and what part of
the bonfire had been built already was found scattered to the winds.
Before we rose a great mass of folk was getting the barrels and things
together again; but some of them was never recovered, and suspicion
pointed to William Geddes, it being well known that William would not
hesitate to carry off anything if unobserved.  More by token Chirsty
Lamby had seen him rolling home a barrowful of firewood early in the
morning, her having risen to hold cold water in her mouth, being down
with the toothache.  When we got up to the hill everybody was making
for the quarry, which being more sheltered was now thought to be a
better place for the bonfire.  The masons had struck work, it being a
general holiday in the whole country-side.  There was a great commotion
of people, all fine dressed and mostly with glengarry bonnets; and me
and James was well acquaint with them, though mostly weavers and the
like and not my father's equal.  Mr. Scrimgour was not there himself;
but there was a small active body in his room as tossed the money for
him fair enough; though not so liberally as was expected, being mostly
ha'pence where pennies was looked for.  Such was not my father's
opinion, and him and a few others only had a vote.  He considered it
was a waste of money giving to them that had no vote and so taking out
of other folks' mouths, but the little man said it kept everybody in
good-humour and made Mr. Scrimgour popular.  He was an extraordinary
affable man and very spirity, running about to waste no time in
walking, and gave me a shilling, saying to me to be a truthful boy and
tell my father.  He did not give James anything, him being an orphan,
but clapped his head and said he was a fine boy.

The Captain was to vote for the Bill if he got in, the which he did.
It was the Captain was to give the ale and porter in the square like a
true gentleman.  My father gave a kind of laugh when I let him see my
shilling, and said he would keep care of it for me; and sorry I was I
let him get it, me never seeing the face of it again to this day.  Me
and James was much annoyed with the women, especially Kitty Davie,
always pushing in when there was tossing, and tearing the very ha'pence
out of our hands: us not caring so much about the money, but humiliated
to see women mixing up in politics.  By the time the topmost barrel was
on the bonfire there was a great smell of whisky in the quarry, it
being a confined place.  My father had been against the bonfire being
in the quarry, arguing that the wind on the hill would have carried off
the smell of the whisky; but Peter Tosh said they did not want the
smell carried off; it would be agreeable to the masons for weeks to
come.  Except among the women there was no fighting nor wrangling at
the quarry but all in fine spirits.

I misremember now whether it was Mr. Scrimgour or the Captain that took
the fancy to my father's pigs; but it was this day, at any rate, that
the Captain sent him the gamecock.  Whichever one it was that fancied
the litter of pigs, nothing would content him but to buy them, which he
did at thirty shillings each, being the best bargain ever my father
made.  Nevertheless I'm thinking he was windier of the cock.  The
Captain, who was a local man when not with his regiment, had the
grandest collection of fighting-cocks in the county, and sometimes came
into the town to try them against the town cocks.  I mind well the
large wicker cage in which they were conveyed from place to place, and
never without the Captain near at hand.  My father had a cock that beat
all the other town cocks at the cock fight at our school, which was
superintended by the elder of the kirk to see fair play; but the which
died of its wounds the next day but one.  This was a great grief to my
father, it having been challenged to fight the Captain's cock.
Therefore it was very considerate of the Captain to make my father a
present of his bird; father, in compliment to him, changing its name
from the "Deil" to the "Captain."

During the forenoon, and I think until well on in the day, James and me
was busy with the pitcher and the flagon.  The proceedings in the
square, however, was not so well conducted as in the quarry, many of
the folk there assembled showing a mean and grasping spirit.  The
Captain had given orders that there was to be no stint of ale and
porter, and neither there was; but much of it lost through hastiness.
Great barrels was hurled into the middle of the square, where the
country wives sat with their eggs and butter on market-day, and was
quickly stove in with an axe or paving-stone or whatever came handy.
Sometimes they would break into the barrel at different points; and
then, when they tilted it up to get the ale out at one hole, it gushed
out at the bottom till the square was flooded.  My mother was fair
disgusted when told by me and James of the waste of good liquor.  It is
gospel truth I speak when I say I mind well of seeing Singer Davie
catching the porter in a pan as it ran down the sire, and, when the pan
was full to overflowing, putting his mouth to the stream and drinking
till he was as full as the pan.  Most of the men, however, stuck to the
barrels, the drink running in the street being ale and porter mixed,
and left it to the women and the young folk to do the carrying.  Susy
M'Queen brought as many pans as she could collect on a barrow, and was
filling them all with porter, rejecting the ale; but indignation was
aroused against her, and as fast as she filled, the others emptied.

My father scorned to go to the square to drink ale and porter with the
crowd, having the election on his mind and him to vote.  Nevertheless
he instructed me and James to keep up a brisk trade with the pans, and
run back across the gardens in case we met dishonest folk in the
streets who might drink the ale.  Also, said my father, we was to let
the excesses of our neighbours be a warning in sobriety to us; enough
being as good as a feast, except when you can store it up for the
winter.  By and by my mother thought it was not safe me being in the
streets with so many wild men about, and would have sent James himself,
him being an orphan and hardier; but this I did not like, but, running
out, did not come back for long enough.  There is no doubt that the
music was to blame for firing the men's blood, and the result most
disgraceful fighting with no object in view.  There was three fiddlers
and two at the flute, most of them blind, but not the less dangerous on
that account; and they kept the town in a ferment, even playing the
countryfolk home to the farms, followed by bands of townsfolk.  They
were a quarrelsome set, the ploughmen and others; and it was generally
admitted in the town that their overbearing behaviour was responsible
for the fights.  I mind them being driven out of the square, stones
flying thick; also some stand-up fights with sticks, and others fair
enough with fists.  The worst fight I did not see.  It took place in a
field.  At first it was only between two who had been miscalling one
another; but there was many looking on, and when the town man was like
getting the worst of it the others set to, and a most heathenish fray
with no sense in it ensued.  One man had his arm broken.  I mind Hobart
the bellman going about ringing his bell and telling all persons to get
within doors; but little attention was paid to him, it being notorious
that Snecky had had a fight earlier in the day himself.

When James was fighting in the field, according to his own account, I
had the honour of dining with the electors who voted for the Captain,
him paying all expenses.  It was a lucky accident my mother sending me
to the town-house, where the dinner came off, to try to get my father
home at a decent hour, me having a remarkable power over him when in
liquor but at no other time.  They were very jolly, however, and
insisted on my drinking the Captain's health and eating more than was
safe.  My father got it next day from my mother for this; and so would
I myself, but it was several days before I left my bed, completely
knocked up as I was with the excitement and one thing or another.  The
bonfire, which was built to celebrate the election of Mr. Scrimgour,
was set ablaze, though I did not see it, in honour of the election of
the Captain; it being thought a pity to lose it, as no doubt it would
have been.  That is about all I remember of the celebrated election of
'32 when the Reform Bill was passed.



CHAPTER X

A VERY OLD FAMILY

They were a very old family with whom Snecky Hobart, the bellman,
lodged.  Their favourite dissipation, when their looms had come to
rest, was a dander through the kirkyard.  They dressed for it: the
three young ones in their rusty black; the patriarch in his old blue
coat, velvet knee-breeches, and broad blue bonnet; and often of an
evening I have met them moving from grave to grave.  By this time the
old man was nearly ninety, and the young ones averaged sixty.  They
read out the inscriptions on the tombstones in a solemn drone, and
their father added his reminiscences.  He never failed them.  Since the
beginning of the century he had not missed a funeral, and his children
felt that he was a great example.  Sire and sons returned from the
cemetery invigorated for their dally labours.  If one of them happened
to start a dozen yards behind the others, he never thought of making up
the distance.  If his foot struck against a stone, he came to a
dead-stop; when he discovered that he had stopped, he set off again.

A high wall shut off this old family's house and garden from the
clatter of Thrums, a wall that gave Snecky some trouble before he went
to live within it.  I speak from personal knowledge.  One spring
morning, before the schoolhouse was built, I was assisting the
patriarch to divest the gaunt garden pump of its winter suit of straw.
I was taking a drink, I remember, my palm over the mouth of the wooden
spout and my mouth at the gimlet hole above, when a leg appeared above
the corner of the wall against which the henhouse was built.  Two hands
followed, clutching desperately at the uneven stones.  Then the leg
worked as if it were turning a grind-stone, and next moment Snecky was
sitting breathlessly on the dyke.  From this to the henhouse, whose
roof was of "divets," the descent was comparatively easy, and a
slanting board allowed the daring bellman to slide thence to the
ground.  He had come on business, and having talked it over slowly with
the old man he turned to depart.  Though he was a genteel man, I heard
him sigh heavily as, with the remark, "Ay, weel, I'll be movin' again,"
he began to rescale the wall.  The patriarch, twisted round the pump,
made no reply, so I ventured to suggest to the bellman that he might
find the gate easier.  "Is there a gate?" said Snecky, in surprise at
the resources of civilization.  I pointed it out to him, and he went
his way chuckling.  The old man told me that he had sometimes wondered
at Snecky's mode of approach, but it had not struck him to say
anything.  Afterwards, when the bellman took up his abode there, they
discussed the matter heavily.

Hobart inherited both his bell and his nickname from his father, who
was not a native of Thrums.  He came from some distant part where the
people speak of snecking the door, meaning shut it.  In Thrums the word
used is steek, and sneck seemed to the inhabitants so droll and
ridiculous that Hobart got the name of Snecky.  His son left Thrums at
the age of ten for the distant farm of Tirl, and did not return until
the old bellman's death, twenty years afterwards; but the first remark
he overheard on entering the kirkwynd was a conjecture flung across the
street by a grey-haired crone, that he would be "little Snecky come to
bury auld Snecky."

The father had a reputation in his day for "crying" crimes he was
suspected of having committed himself, but the Snecky I knew had too
high a sense of his own importance for that.  On great occasions, such
as the loss of little Davy Dundas, or when a tattie roup had to be
cried, he was even offensively inflated; but ordinary announcements,
such as the approach of a flying stationer, the roup of a deceased
weaver's loom, or the arrival in Thrums of a cart-load of fine "kebec"
cheeses, he treated as the merest trifles.  I see still the bent legs
of the snuffy old man straightening to the tinkle of his bell, and the
smirk with which he let the curious populace gather round him.  In one
hand he ostentatiously displayed the paper on which what he had to cry
was written, but, like the minister, he scorned to "read."  With the
bell carefully tucked under his oxter he gave forth his news in a
rasping voice that broke now and again into a squeal.  Though Scotch in
his unofficial conversation, he was believed to deliver himself on
public occasions in the finest English.  When trotting from place to
place with his news he carried his bell by the tongue as cautiously as
if it were a flagon of milk.

Snecky never allowed himself to degenerate into a mere machine.  His
proclamations were provided by those who employed him, but his soul was
his own.  Having cried a potato roup he would sometimes add a word of
warning, such as, "I wudna advise ye, lads, to hae onything to do wi'
thae tatties; they're diseased."  Once, just before the cattle market,
he was sent round by a local laird to announce that any drover found
taking the short cut to the hill through the grounds of Muckle Plowy
would be prosecuted to the utmost limits of the law.  The people were
aghast.  "Hoots, lads," Snecky said; "dinna fash yoursels.  It's juist
a haver o' the grieve's."  One of Hobart's ways of striking terror into
evil-doers was to announce, when crying a crime, that he himself knew
perfectly well who the culprit was.  "I see him brawly," he would say,
"standing afore me, an' if he disna instantly mak retribution, I am
determined this very day to mak a public example of him."

Before the time of the Burke and Hare murders Snecky's father was sent
round Thrums to proclaim the startling news that a grave in the
kirkyard had been tampered with.  The "resurrectionist" scare was at
its height then, and the patriarch, who was one of the men in Thrums
paid to watch new graves in the night-time, has often told the story.
The town was in a ferment as the news spread, and there were fierce
suspicious men among Hobart's hearers who already had the rifler of
graves in their eye.

He was a man who worked for the farmers when they required an extra
hand, and loafed about the square when they could do without him.  No
one had a good word for him, and lately he had been flush of money.
That was sufficient.  There was a rush of angry men through the "pend"
that led to his habitation, and he was dragged, panting and terrified,
to the kirkyard before he understood what it all meant.  To the grave
they hurried him, and almost without a word handed him a spade.  The
whole town gathered round the spot--a sullen crowd, the women only
breaking the silence with their sobs, and te children clinging to their
gowns.  The suspected resurrectionist understood what was wanted of
him, and, flinging off his jacket, began to reopen the grave.
Presently the spade struck upon wood, and by and by part of the coffin
came in view.  That was nothing, for the resurrectionists had a way of
breaking the coffin at one end and drawing out the body with tongs.
The digger knew this.  He broke the boards with the spade and revealed
an arm.  The people convinced, he dropped the arm savagely, leapt out
of the grave and went his way, leaving them to shovel back the earth
themselves.  There was humour in the old family as well as in their
lodger.  I found this out slowly.  They used to gather round their peat
fire in the evening, after the poultry had gone to sleep on the kitchen
rafters, and take off their neighbours.  None of them ever laughed; but
their neighbours did afford them subject for gossip, and the old man
was very sarcastic over other people's old-fashioned ways.  When one of
the family wanted to go out he did it gradually.  He would be sitting
"into the fire" browning his corduroy trousers, and he would get up
slowly.  Then he gazed solemnly before him for a time, and after that,
if you watched him narrowly, you would see that he was really moving to
the door.  Another member of the family took the vacant seat with the
same precautions.  Will'um, the eldest, has a gun, which customarily
stands behind the old eight-day clock; and he takes it with him to the
garden to shoot the blackbirds.  Long before Will'um is ready to let
fly, the blackbirds have gone away; and so the gun is never, never
fired: but there is a determined look on Will'um's face when he returns
from the garden.

In the stormy days of his youth the old man had been a "Black Nib."
The Black Nibs were the persons who agitated against the French war;
and the public feeling against them ran strong and deep.  In Thrums the
local Black Nibs were burned in effigy, and whenever they put their
heads out of doors they risked being stoned.  Even where the
authorities were unprejudiced they were helpless to interfere; and as a
rule they were as bitter against the Black Nibs as the populace
themselves.  Once the patriarch was running through the street with a
score of the enemy at his heels, and the bailie, opening his window,
shouted to them, "Stane the Black Nib oot o' the toon!"

When the patriarch was a young man he was a follower of pleasure.  This
is the one thing about him that his family have never been able to
understand.  A solemn stroll through the kirkyard was not sufficient
relaxation in those riotous times, after a hard day at the loom; and he
rarely lost a chance of going to see a man hanged.  There was a good
deal of hanging in those days; and yet the authorities had an ugly way
of reprieving condemned men on whom the sightseers had been counting.
An air of gloom would gather on my old friend's countenance when he
told how he and his contemporaries in Thrums trudged every Saturday for
six weeks to the county town, many miles distant, to witness the
execution of some criminal in whom they had a local interest, and who,
after disappointing them again and again, was said to have been bought
off by a friend.  His crime had been stolen entrance into a house in
Thrums by the chimney, with intent to rob; and, though this
old-fashioned family did not see it, not the least noticeable incident
in the scrimmage that followed was the prudence of the canny housewife.
When she saw the legs coming down the lum, she rushed to the kail-pot
which was on the fire and put on the lid.  She confessed that this was
not done to prevent the visitor's scalding himself, but to save the
broth.

The old man was repeated in his three sons.  They told his stories
precisely as he did himself, taking as long in the telling, and making
the points in exactly the same way.  By and by they will come to think
that they themselves were of those past times.  Already the young ones
look like contemporaries of their father.



CHAPTER XI

LITTLE RATHIE'S "BURAL"

Devout-under-difficulties would have been the name of Lang Tammas had
he been of Covenanting times.  So I thought one wintry afternoon, years
before I went to the schoolhouse, when he dropped in to ask the
pleasure of my company to the farmer of Little Rathie's "bural."  As a
good Auld Licht, Tammas reserved his swallow-tail coat and "lum hat"
(chimney pot) for the kirk and funerals; but the coat would have
flapped villainously, to Tammas's eternal ignominy, had he for one rash
moment relaxed his hold on the bottom button, and it was only by
walking sideways, as horses sometimes try to do, that the hat could be
kept at the angle of decorum.  Let it not be thought that Tammas had
asked me to Little Rathie's funeral on his own responsibility.  Burals
were among the few events to break the monotony of an Auld Licht
winter, and invitations were as much sought after as cards to my lady's
dances in the south.  This had been a fair average season for Tammas,
though of his four burials one had been a bairn's--a mere bagatelle;
but had it not been for the death of Little Rathie I would probably not
have been out that year at all.

The small farm of Little Rathie lies two miles from Thrums, and Tammas
and I trudged manfully through the snow, adding to our numbers as we
went.  The dress of none differed materially from the precentor's, and
the general effect was of septuagenarians in each other's best clothes,
though living in low-roofed houses had bent most of them before their
time.  By a rearrangement of garments, such as making Tammas change
coat, hat, and trousers with Cragiebuckle, Silva McQueen, and Sam'l
Wilkie respectively, a dexterous tailor might perhaps have supplied
each with a "fit."  The talk was chiefly of Little Rathie, and
sometimes threatened to become animated, when another mourner would
fall in and restore the more fitting gloom.

"Ay, ay," the new comer would say, by way of responding to the sober
salutation, "Ay, Johnny."  Then there was silence, but for the "gluck"
with which we lifted our feet from the slush.

"So Little Rathie's been ta'en awa'," Johnny would venture to say, by
and by.

"He's gone, Johnny; ay, man, he is so."

"Death must come to all," some one would waken up to murmur.

"Ay," Lang Tammas would reply, putting on the coping-stone, "in the
morning we are strong, and in the evening we are cut down."

"We are so, Tammas; ou ay, we are so; we're here the wan day an' gone
the neist."

"Little Rathie wasna a crittur I took till; no, I canna say he was,"
said Bowie Haggart, so called because his legs described a parabola,
"but he maks a very creeditable corp (corpse).  I will say that for
him.  It's wonderfu' hoo death improves a body.  Ye cudna hae said as
Little Rathie was a weelfaured man when he was i' the flesh."

Bowie was the wright, and attended burials in his official capacity.
He had the gift of words to an uncommon degree, and I do not forget his
crushing blow at the reputation of the poet Burns, as delivered under
the auspices of the Thrums Literary Society.  "I am of opeenion," said
Bowie, "that the works of Burns is of an immoral tendency.  I have not
read them myself, but such is my opeenion."

"He was a queer stock, Little Rathie, michty queer," said Tammas
Haggart, Bowie's brother, who was a queer stock himself, but was not
aware of it; "but, ou, I'm thinkin' the wife had something to do wi't.
She was ill to manage, an' Little Rathie hadna the way o' the women.
He hadna the knack o' managin' them 's ye micht say--no, Little Rathie
hadna the knack."

"They're kittle cattle, the women," said the farmer of
Craigiebuckle--son of the Craigiebuckle mentioned elsewhere--a little
gloomily.  "I've often thocht maiterimony is no onlike the lucky bags
th' auld wines has at the muckly.  There's prizes an' blanks baith
inside, but, losh, ye're far frae sure what ye'll draw oot when ye put
in yer han'."

"Ou, weel," said Tammas, complacently, "there's truth in what ye say,
but the women can be managed if we have the knack."

"Some o' them," said Cragiebuckle, woefully.

"Ye had yer wark wi' the wife yersel, Tammas, so ye had," observed Lang
Tammas, unbending to suit his company.

"Ye're speakin' aboot the bit wife's bural," said Tammas Haggart, with
a chuckle, "ay, ay, that brocht her to reason."

Without much pressure Haggart retold a story known to the majority of
his hearers.  He had not the "knack" of managing women apparently when
he married, for he and his gipsy wife "agreed ill thegither" at first.
Once Chirsty left him and took up her abode in a house just across the
wynd.  Instead of routing her out, Tammas, without taking any one into
his confidence, determined to treat Chirsty as dead, and celebrate her
decease in a "lyke wake"--a last wake.  These wakes were very general
in Thrums in the old days, though they had ceased to be common by the
date of Little Rathie's death.  For three days before the burial the
friends and neighbours of the mourners were invited into the house to
partake of food and drink by the side of the corpse.  The dead lay on
chairs covered with a white sheet.  Dirges were sung, and the deceased
was extolled, but when night came the lights were extinguished, and the
corpse was left alone.  On the morning of the funeral tables were
spread with a white cloth outside the house, and food and drink were
placed upon them.  No neighbour could pass the tables without paying
his respects to the dead; and even when the house was in a busy, narrow
thoroughfare, this part of the ceremony was never omitted.  Tammas did
not give Chirsty a wake inside the house; but one Friday morning--it
was market-day, and the square was consequently full--it went through
the town that the tables were spread before his door.  Young and old
collected, wandering round the house, and Tammas stood at the tables in
his blacks inviting every one to eat and drink.  He was pressed to tell
what it meant; but nothing could be got from him except that his wife
was dead.  At times he pressed his hands to his heart, and then he
would make wry faces, trying hard to cry.  Chirsty watched from a
window across the street, until she perhaps began to fear that she
really was dead.  Unable to stand it any longer, she rushed out into
her husband's arms, and shortly afterwards she could have been seen
dismantling the tables.

"She's gone this fower year," Tammas said, when he had finished his
story, "but up to the end I had no more trouble wi' Chirsty.  No, I had
the knack o' her."

"I've heard tell, though," said the sceptical Craigiebuckle, "as
Chirsty only cam back to ye because she cudna bear to see the fowk
makkin' sae free wi' the whisky."

"I mind hoo she bottled it up at ance, and drove the laddies awa',"
said Bowie, "an' I hae seen her after that, Tammas, giein' ye up yer
fut an' you no sayin' a word."

"Ou, ay," said the wife-tamer, in the tone of a man who could afford to
be generous in trifles, "women maun talk, an' a man hasna aye time to
conterdick them, but frae that day I had the knack o' Chirsty."

"Donal Elshioner's was a very seemilar case," broke in Snecky Hobart,
shrilly.  "Maist o' ye'll mind 'at Donal was michty plague't wi' a
drucken wife.  Ay, weel, wan day Bowie's man was carryin' a coffin past
Donal's door, and Donal an' the wife was there.  Says Donal, 'Put doon
yer coffin, my man, an' tell's wha it's for.'  The laddie rests the
coffin on its end, an' says he, 'It's for Davie Fairbrother's
guid-wife.'  'Ay, then,' says Donal, 'tak it awa', tak it awa' to
Davie, an' tell 'im as ye kin a man wi' a wife 'at wid be glad to
neifer (exchange) wi' him.'  Man, that terrified Donal's wife; it did
so."

As we delved up the twisting road between two fields, that leads to the
farm of Little Rathie, the talk became less general, and another
mourner who joined us there was told that the farmer was gone.

"We must all fade as a leaf," said Lang Tammas.

"So we maun, so we maun," admitted the newcomer.  "They say," he added,
solemnly, "as Little Rathie has left a full teapot."

The reference was to the safe in which the old people in the district
stored their gains.

"He was thrifty," said Tammas Haggart, "an' shrewd, too, was Little
Rathie.  I mind Mr. Dishart admonishin' him for no attendin' a special
weather service i' the kirk, when Finny an' Lintool, the twa adjoinin'
farmers, baith attendit.  'Ou,' says Little Rathie, 'I thocht to mysel,
thinks I, if they get rain for prayin' for't on Finny an' Lintool,
we're bound to get the benefit o't on Little Rathie.'"

"Tod," said Snecky, "there's some sense in that; an' what says the
minister?"

"I d'na kin what he said," admitted Haggart; "but he took Little Rathie
up to the manse, an' if ever I saw a man lookin' sma', it was Little
Rathie when he cam oot."

The deceased had left behind him a daughter (herself now known as
Little Rathie), quite capable of attending to the ramshackle "but and
ben"; and I remember how she nipped off Tammas's consolations to go out
and feed the hens.  To the number of about twenty we assembled round
the end of the house to escape the bitter wind, and here I lost the
precentor, who, as an Auld Licht elder, joined the chief mourners
inside.  The post of distinction at a funeral is near the coffin; but
it is not given to every one to be a relative of the deceased, and
there is always much competition and genteelly concealed disappointment
over the few open vacancies.  The window of the room was decently
veiled, but the mourners outside knew what was happening within, and
that it was not all prayer, neither mourning.  A few of the more
reverent uncovered their heads at intervals; but it would be idle to
deny that there was a feeling that Little Rathie's daughter was
favouring Tammas and others somewhat invidiously.  Indeed, Robbie
Gibruth did not scruple to remark that she had made "an inauspeecious
beginning."  Tammas Haggart, who was melancholy when not sarcastic,
though he brightened up wonderfully at funerals, reminded Robbie that
disappointment is the lot of man on his earthly pilgrimage; but Haggart
knew who were to be invited back after the burial to the farm, and was
inclined to make much of his position.  The secret would doubtless have
been wormed from him had not public attention been directed into
another channel.  A prayer was certainly being offered up inside; but
the voice was not the voice of the minister.

Lang Tammas told me afterwards that it had seemed at one time "very
questionable" whether Little Rathie would be buried that day at all.
The incomprehensible absence of Mr. Dishart (afterwards satisfactorily
explained) had raised the unexpected question of the legality of a
burial in a case where the minister had not prayed over the "corp."
There had even been an indulgence in hot words, and the Reverend
Alexander Kewans, a "stickit minister," but not of the Auld Licht
persuasion, had withdrawn in dudgeon on hearing Tammas asked to conduct
the ceremony instead of himself.  But, great as Tammas was on religious
questions, a pillar of the Auld Licht kirk, the Shorter Catechism at
his finger-ends, a sad want of words at the very time when he needed
them most, incapacitated him for prayer in public, and it was
providential that Bowie proved himself a man of parts.  But Tammas
tells me that the wright grossly abused his position, by praying at
such length that Craigiebuckle fell asleep, and the mistress had to
rise and hang the pot on the fire higher up the joist, lest its
contents should burn before the return from the funeral.  Loury grew
the sky, and more and more anxious the face of Little Rathie's
daughter, and still Bowie prayed on.  Had it not been for the
impatience of the precentor and the grumbling of the mourners outside,
there is no saying when the remains would have been lifted through the
"bole," or little window.

Hearses had hardly come in at this time and the coffin was carried by
the mourners on long stakes.  The straggling procession of pedestrians
behind wound its slow way in the waning light to the kirkyard, showing
startlingly black against the dazzling snow; and it was not until the
earth rattled on the coffin-lid that Little Rathie's nearest male
relative seemed to remember his last mournful duty to the dead.
Sidling up to the favoured mourners, he remarked casually and in the
most emotionless tone he could assume: "They're expec'in ye to stap
doon the length o' Little Rathie noo.  Aye, aye, he's gone.  Na, na,
nae refoosal, Da-avit; ye was aye a guid friend till him, an' it's
onything a body can do for him noo."

Though the uninvited slunk away sorrowfully, the entertainment provided
at Auld Licht houses of mourning was characteristic of a stern and
sober sect.  They got to eat and to drink to the extent, as a rule, of
a "lippy" of shortbread and a "brew" of toddy; but open Bibles lay on
the table, and the eyes of each were on his neighbours to catch them
transgressing, and offer up a prayer for them on the spot.  Ay me!
there is no Bowie nowadays to fill an absent minister's shoes.



CHAPTER XII

A LITERARY CLUB

The ministers in the town did not hold with literature.  When the most
notorious of the clubs met in the town-house under the presidentship of
Gavin Ogilvy, who was no better than a poacher, and was troubled in his
mind because writers called Pope a poet, there was frequently a wrangle
over the question, Is literature necessarily immoral?  It was a
fighting club, and on Friday nights the few respectable, god-fearing
members dandered to the town-house, as if merely curious to have
another look at the building.  If Lang Tammas, who was dead against
letters, was in sight they wandered off, but when there were no spies
abroad they slunk up the stair.  The attendance was greatest on dark
nights, though Gavin himself and some other characters would have
marched straight to the meeting in broad daylight.  Tammas Haggart, who
did not think much of Milton's devil, had married a gypsy woman for an
experiment, and the Coat of Many Colours did not know where his wife
was.  As a rule, however, the members were wild bachelors.  When they
married they had to settle down.

Gavin's essay on Will'um Pitt, the Father of the Taxes, led to the
club's being bundled out of the town-house, where people said it should
never have been allowed to meet.  There was a terrible town when Tammas
Haggart then disclosed the secret of Mr. Byars's supposed approval of
the club.  Mr. Byars was the Auld Licht minister whom Mr. Dishart
succeeded, and it was well known that he had advised the authorities to
grant the use of the little town-house to the club on Friday evenings.
As he solemnly warned his congregation against attending the meetings
the position he had taken up created talk, and Lang Tammas called at
the manse with Sanders Whamond to remonstrate.  The minister, however,
harangued them on their sinfulness in daring to question the like of
him, and they had to retire vanquished though dissatisfied.  Then came
the disclosures of Tammas Haggart, who was never properly secured by
the Auld Lichts until Mr. Dishart took him in hand.  It was Tammas who
wrote anonymous letters to Mr. Byars about the scarlet woman, and,
strange to say, this led to the club's being allowed to meet in the
town-house.  The minister, after many days, discovered who his
correspondent was, and succeeded in inveigling the stone-breaker to the
manse.  There, with the door snibbed, he opened out on Tammas, who,
after his usual manner when hard pressed, pretended to be deaf.  This
sudden fit of deafness so exasperated the minister that he flung a book
at Tammas.  The scene that followed was one that few Auld Licht manses
can have witnessed.  According to Tammas the book had hardly reached
the floor when the minister turned white.  Tammas picked up the
missile.  It was a Bible.  The two men looked at each other.  Beneath
the window Mr. Byars's children were prattling.  His wife was moving
about in the next room, little thinking what had happened.  The
minister held out his hand for the Bible, but Tammas shook his head,
and then Mr. Byars shrank into a chair.  Finally, it was arranged that
if Tammas kept the affair to himself the minister would say a good word
to the Bailie about the literary club.  After that the stone-breaker
used to go from house to house, twisting his mouth to the side and
remarking that he could tell such a tale of Mr. Byars as would lead to
a split in the kirk.  When the town-house was locked on the club Tammas
spoke out, but though the scandal ran from door to door, as I have seen
a pig in a fluster do, the minister did not lose his place.  Tammas
preserved the Bible, and showed it complacently to visitors as the
present he got from Mr. Byars.  The minister knew this, and it turned
his temper sour.  Tammas's proud moments, after that, were when he
passed the minister.

Driven from the town-house, literature found a table with forms round
it in a tavern hard by, where the club, lopped of its most respectable
members, kept the blinds down and talked openly of Shakspeare.  It was
a low-roofed room, with pieces of lime hanging from the ceiling and
peeling walls.  The floor had a slope that tended to fling the debater
forward, and its boards, lying loose on an uneven foundation, rose and
looked at you as you crossed the room.  In winter, when the meetings
were held regularly every fortnight, a fire of peat, sod, and dross lit
up the curious company who sat round the table shaking their heads over
Shelley's mysticism, or requiring to be called to order because they
would not wait their turn to deny an essayist's assertion that
Berkeley's style was superior to David Hume's.  Davit Hume, they said,
and Watty Scott.  Burns was simply referred to as Rob or Robbie.

There was little drinking at these meetings, for the members knew what
they were talking about, and your mind had to gallop to keep up with
the flow of reasoning.  Thrums is rather a remarkable town.  There are
scores and scores of houses in it that have sent their sons to college
(by what a struggle!), some to make their way to the front in their
professions, and others, perhaps, despite their broadcloth, never to be
a patch on their parents.  In that literary club there were men of a
reading so wide and catholic that it might put some graduates of the
universities to shame, and of an intellect so keen that had it not had
a crook in it their fame would have crossed the county.  Most of them
had but a thread-bare existence, for you weave slowly with a Wordsworth
open before you, and some were strange Bohemians (which does not do in
Thrums), yet others wandered into the world and compelled it to
recognize them.  There is a London barrister whose father belonged to
the club.  Not many years ago a man died on the staff of the _Times_,
who, when he was a weaver near Thrums, was one of the club's prominent
members.  He taught himself shorthand by the light of a cruizey, and
got a post on a Perth paper, afterwards on the _Scotsman_ and the
_Witness_, and finally on the _Times_.  Several other men of his type
had a history worth reading, but it is not for me to write.  Yet I may
say that there is still at least one of the original members of the
club left behind in Thrums to whom some of the literary dandies might
lift their hats.

Gavin Ogilvy I only knew as a weaver and a poacher; a lank, long-armed
man, much bent from crouching in ditches whence he watched his snares.
To the young he was a romantic figure, because they saw him frequently
in the fields with his call-birds tempting siskins, yellow yites, and
linties to twigs which he had previously smeared with lime.  He made
the lime from the tough roots of holly; sometimes from linseed oil,
which is boiled until thick, when it is taken out of the pot and drawn
and stretched with the hands like elastic.  Gavin was also a famous
hare-snarer at a time when the ploughman looked upon this form of
poaching as his perquisite.  The snare was of wire, so constructed that
the hare entangled itself the more when trying to escape, and it was
placed across the little roads through the fields to which hares
confine themselves, with a heavy stone attached to it by a string.
Once Gavin caught a toad (fox) instead of a hare, and did not discover
his mistake until it had him by the teeth.  He was not able to weave
for two months.  The grouse-netting was more lucrative and more
exciting, and women engaged in it with their husbands.  It is told of
Gavin that he was on one occasion chased by a gamekeeper over moor and
hill for twenty miles, and that by and by when the one sank down
exhausted so did the other.  They would sit fifty yards apart, glaring
at each other.  The poacher eventually escaped.  This, curious as it
may seem, is the man whose eloquence at the club has not been forgotten
in fifty years.  "Thus did he stand," I have been told recently,
"exclaiming in language sublime that the soul shall bloom in immortal
youth through the ruin and wrack of time."

Another member read to the club an account of his journey to Lochnagar,
which was afterwards published in _Chambers's Journal_.  He was
celebrated for his descriptions of scenery, and was not the only member
of the club whose essays got into print.  More memorable perhaps was an
itinerant match-seller known to Thrums and the surrounding towns as the
literary spunk-seller.  He was a wizened, shivering old man, often
bare-footed, wearing at the best a thin ragged coat that had been black
but was green-brown with age, and he made his spunks as well as sold
them.  He brought Bacon and Adam Smith into Thrums, and he loved to
recite long screeds from Spenser, with a running commentary on the
versification and the luxuriance of the diction.  Of Jamie's death I do
not care to write.  He went without many a dinner in order to buy a
book.

The Coat of Many Colours and Silva Robbie were two street preachers who
gave the Thrums ministers some work.  They occasionally appeared at the
club.  The Coat of Many Colours was so called because he wore a garment
consisting of patches of cloth of various colours sewed together.  It
hung down to his heels.  He may have been cracked rather than inspired,
but he was a power in the square where he preached, the women declaring
that he was gifted by God.  An awe filled even the men, when he
admonished them for using strong language, for at such a time he would
remind them of the woe which fell upon Tibbie Mason.  Tibbie had been
notorious in her day for evil-speaking, especially for her free use of
the word handless, which she flung a hundred times in a week at her
man, and even at her old mother.  Her punishment was to have a son born
without hands.  The Coat of Many Colours also told of the liar who
exclaimed, "If this is not gospel true may I stand here for ever," and
who is standing on that spot still, only nobody knows where it is.
George Wishart was the Coat's hero, and often he has told in the Square
how Wishart saved Dundee.  It was the time when the plague lay over
Scotland, and in Dundee they saw it approaching from the West in the
form of a great black cloud.  They fell on their knees and prayed,
crying to the cloud to pass them by, and while they prayed it came
nearer.  Then they looked around for the most holy man among them, to
intervene with God on their behalf.  All eyes turned to George Wishart,
and he stood up, stretching his arms to the cloud and prayed, and it
rolled back.  Thus Dundee was saved from the plague, but when Wishart
ended his prayer he was alone, for the people had all returned to their
homes.  Less of a genuine man than the Coat of Many Colours was Silva
Robbie, who had horrid fits of laughing in the middle of his prayers,
and even fell in a paroxysm of laughter from the chair on which he
stood.  In the club he said things not to be borne, though logical up
to a certain point.

Tammas Haggart was the most sarcastic member of the club, being
celebrated for his sarcasm far and wide.  It was a remarkable thing
about him, often spoken of, that if you went to Tammas with a stranger
and asked him to say a sarcastic thing that the man might take away as
a specimen, he could not do it.  "Na, na," Tammas would say, after a
few trials, referring to sarcasm, "she's no a critter to force.  Ye
maun lat her tak her ain time.  Sometimes she's dry like the pump, an'
syne, again, oot she comes in a gush."  The most sarcastic thing the
stone-breaker ever said was frequently marvelled over in Thrums, both
before and behind his face, but unfortunately no one could ever
remember what it was.  The subject, however, was Cha Tamson's potato
pit.  There is little doubt that it was a fit of sarcasm that induced
Tammas to marry a gypsy lassie.  Mr. Byars would not join them, so
Tammas had himself married by Jimmy Pawse, the gay little gypsy king,
and after that the minister re-married them.  The marriage over the
tongs is a thing to scandalise any well-brought-up person, for before
he joined the couple's hands, Jimmy jumped about in a startling way,
uttering wild gibberish, and after the ceremony was over there was
rough work, with incantations and blowing on pipes.  Tammas always held
that this marriage turned out better than he had expected, though he
had his trials like other married men.  Among them was Chirsty's way of
climbing on to the dresser to get at the higher part of the plate-rack.
One evening I called in to have a smoke with the stone-breaker, and
while we were talking Chirsty climbed the dresser.  The next moment she
was on the floor on her back, wailing, but Tammas smoked on
imperturbably.  "Do you not see what has happened, man?" I cried.
"Ou," said Tammas, "she's aye fa'in aff the dresser."

Of the schoolmasters who were at times members of the club, Mr. Dickie
was the ripest scholar, but my predecessor at the school-house had a
way of sneering at him that was as good as sarcasm.  When they were on
their legs at the same time, asking each other passionately to be calm,
and rolling out lines from Homer, that made the inn-keeper look
fearfully to the fastenings of the door, their heads very nearly came
together although the table was between them.  The old dominie had an
advantage in being the shorter man, for he could hammer on the table as
he spoke, while gaunt Mr. Dickie had to stoop to it.  Mr. McRittie's
arguments were a series of nails that he knocked into the table, and he
did it in a workmanlike manner.  Mr. Dickie, though he kept firm on his
feet, swayed his body until by and by his head was rotating in a large
circle.  The mathematical figure he made was a cone revolving on its
apex.  Gavin's reinstalment in the chair year after year was made by
the disappointed dominie the subject of some tart verses which he
called an epode, but Gavin crushed him when they were read before the
club.  "Satire," he said, "is a legitimate weapon, used with michty
effect by Swift, Sammy Butler, and others, and I dount object to being
made the subject of creeticism.  It has often been called a t'nife
(knife), but them as is not used to t'nives cuts their hands, and ye'll
a' observe that Mr. McRittie's fingers is bleedin'."  All eyes were
turned upon the dominie's hand, and though he pocketed it smartly
several members had seen the blood.  The dominie was a rare visitor at
the club after that, though he outlived poor Mr. Dickie by many years.
Mr. Dickie was a teacher in Tilliedrum, but he was ruined by drink.  He
wandered from town to town, reciting Greek and Latin poetry to any one
who would give him a dram, and sometimes he wept and moaned aloud in
the street, crying, "Poor Mr. Dickie! poor Mr. Dickie!"

The leading poet in a club of poets was Dite Walls, who kept a school
when there were scholars, and weaved when there were none.  He had a
song that was published in a half-penny leaflet about the famous
lawsuit instituted by the farmer of Teuchbusses against the Laird of
Drumlee.  The laird was alleged to have taken from the land of
Teuchbusses sufficient broom to make a besom thereof, and I am not
certain that the case is settled to this day.  It was Dite or another
member of the club who wrote, "The Wife o' Deeside," of all the songs
of the period the one that had the greatest vogue in the county at a
time when Lord Jeffrey was cursed at every fireside in Thrums.  The
wife of Deeside was tried for the murder of her servant who had
infatuated the young laird, and had it not been that Jeffrey defended
her she would, in the words of the song, have "hung like a troot."  It
is not easy now to conceive the rage against Jeffrey when the woman was
acquitted.  The song was sung and recited in the streets, at the
smiddy, in bothies, and by firesides, to the shaking of fists and the
grinding of teeth.  It began--

  "Ye'll a' hae hear tell o' the wife o' Deeside,
  Ye'll a' hae hear tell o' the wife o' Deeside,
  She poisoned her maid for to keep up her pride,
  Ye'll a' hae hear tell o' the wife o' Deeside."


Before the excitement had abated, Jeffrey was in Tilliedrum for
electioneering purposes, and he was mobbed in the streets.  Angry
crowds pressed close to howl, "Wife o' Deeside!" at him.  A contingent
from Thrums was there, and it was long afterwards told of Sam'l Todd,
by himself, that he hit Jeffrey on the back of the head with a clod of
earth.

Johnny McQuhatty, a brother of the T'nowhead farmer, was the one
taciturn member of the club, and you had only to look at him to know
that he had a secret.  He was a great genius at the hand-loom, and
invented a loom for the weaving of linen such as has not been seen
before or since.  In the day-time he kept guard over his "shop," into
which no one was allowed to enter, and the fame of his loom was so
great that he had to watch over it with a gun.  At night he weaved, and
when the result at last pleased him he made the linen into shirts, all
of which he stitched together with his own hands, even to the
buttonholes.  He sent one shirt to the Queen, and another to the
Duchess of Athole, mentioning a very large price for them, which he
got.  Then he destroyed his wonderful loom, and how it was made no one
will ever know.  Johnny only took to literature after he had made his
name, and he seldom spoke at the club except when ghosts and the like
were the subject of debate, as they tended to be when the farmer of
Muckle Haws could get in a word.  Muckle Haws was fascinated by
Johnny's sneers at superstition, and sometimes on dark nights the
inventor had to make his courage good by seeing the farmer past the
doulie yates (ghost gates), which Muckle Haws had to go perilously near
on his way home.  Johnny was a small man, but it was the burly farmer
who shook at sight of the gates standing out white in the night.  White
gates have an evil name still, and Muckle Haws was full of horrors as
he drew near them, clinging to Johnny's arm.  It was on such a night,
he would remember, that he saw the White Lady go through the gates
greeting sorely, with a dead bairn in her arms, while water kelpies
laughed and splashed in the pools, and the witches danced in a ring
round Broken Buss.  That very night twelve months ago the packman was
murdered at Broken Buss, and Easie Pettie hanged herself on the stump
of a tree.  Last night there were ugly sounds from the quarry of Croup,
where the bairn lies buried, and it's not mous (canny) to be out at
such a time.  The farmer had seen spectre maidens walking round the
ruined castle of Darg, and the castle all lit up with flaring torches,
and dead knights and ladies sitting in the halls at the wine-cup, and
the devil himself flapping his wings on the ramparts.

When the debates were political, two members with the gift of song
fired the blood with their own poems about taxation and the
depopulation of the Highlands, and by selling these songs from door to
door they made their livelihood.

Books and pamphlets were brought into the town by the flying
stationers, as they were called, who visited the square periodically
carrying their wares on their backs, except at the Muckly, when they
had their stall and even sold books by auction.  The flying stationer
best known to Thrums was Sandersy Riach, who was stricken from head to
foot with the palsy, and could only speak with a quaver in consequence.
Sandersy brought to the members of the club all the great books he
could get second hand, but his stock-in-trade was Thrummy Cap and
Akenstaff, the Fishwives of Buckhaven, the Devil upon Two Sticks,
Gilderoy, Sir James the Rose, the Brownie of Badenoch, the Ghaist of
Firenden, and the like.  It was from Sandersy that Tammas Haggart
bought his copy of Shakspeare, whom Mr. Dishart could never abide.
Tammas kept what he had done from his wife, but Chirsty saw a
deterioration setting in and told the minister of her suspicions.  Mr.
Dishart was newly placed at the time and very vigorous, and the way he
shook the truth out of Tammas was grand.  The minister pulled Tammas
the one way and Gavin pulled him the other, but Mr. Dishart was not the
man to be beaten, and he landed Tammas in the Auld Licht kirk before
the year was out.  Chirsty buried Shakspeare in the yard.





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