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- The Little Minister - 5/72 -
she answered with a smile, and then, in his boyishness, he jumped over a gooseberry bush. Immediately afterwards he reddened and tried to look venerable, for while in the air he had caught sight of two women and a man watching him from the dyke. He walked severely to the door, and, again forgetting himself, was bounding upstairs to Margaret, when Jean, the servant, stood scandalised in his way.
"I don't think she caught me," was Gavin's reflection, and "The Lord preserves!" was Jean's.
Gavin found his mother wondering how one should set about getting a cup of tea in a house that had a servant in it. He boldly rang the bell, and the willing Jean answered it so promptly (in a rush and jump) that Margaret was as much startled as Aladdin the first time he rubbed his lamp.
Manse servants of the most admired kind move softly, as if constant contact with a minister were goloshes to them; but Jean was new and raw, only having got her place because her father might be an elder any day. She had already conceived a romantic affection for her master; but to say "sir" to him-as she thirsted to do--would have been as difficult to her as to swallow oysters. So anxious was she to please that when Gavin rang she fired herself at the bed-room, but bells were novelties to her as well as to Margaret, and she cried, excitedly, "What is it?" thinking the house must be on fire.
"There's a curran folk at the back door," Jean announced later, "and their respects to you, and would you gie them some water out o' the well? It has been a drouth this aucht days, and the pumps is locked. Na," she said, as Gavin made a too liberal offer, "that would toom the well, and there's jimply enough for oursels. I should tell you, too, that three o' them is no Auld Lichts."
"Let that make no difference," Gavin said grandly, but Jean changed his message to: "A bowlful apiece to Auld Lichts; all other denominations one cupful."
"Ay, ay," said Snecky Hobart, letting down the bucket, "and we'll include atheists among other denominations." The conversation came to Gavin and Margaret through the kitchen doorway.
"Dinna class Jo Cruickshanks wi' me," said Sam'l Langlands the U. P.
"Na, na," said Cruickshanks the atheist, "I'm ower independent to be religious. I dinna gang to the kirk to cry, 'Oh, Lord, gie, gie, gie.'"
"Take tent o' yoursel', my man," said Lang Tammas sternly, "or you'll soon be whaur you would neifer the warld for a cup o' that cauld water."
"Maybe you've ower keen an interest in the devil, Tammas," retorted the atheist; "but, ony way, if it's heaven for climate, it's hell for company."
"Lads," said Snecky, sitting down on the bucket, "we'll send Mr. Dishart to Jo. He'll make another Rob Dow o' him."
"Speak mair reverently o' your minister," said the precentor. "He has the gift."
--I hinna naturally your solemn rasping word, Tammas, but in the heart I speak in all reverence. Lads, the minister has a word! I tell you he prays near like one giving orders."
"At first," Snecky continued, "I thocht yon lang candidate was the earnestest o' them a", and I dinna deny but when I saw him wi' his head bowed-like in prayer during the singing I says to rnysel', 'Thou art the man.' Ay, but Betsy wraxed up her head, and he wasna praying. He was combing his hair wi' his fingers on the sly."
"You ken fine, Sneck," said Cruickshanks, "that you said, 'Thou art the man' to ilka ane o' them, and just voted for Mr. Dishart because he preached hinmost."
"I didna say it to--Mr. Urquhart, the ane that preached second," Sneck said. "That was the lad that gaed through ither."
"Ay," said Susy Tibbits, nicknamed by Haggart "the Timidest Woman" because she once said she was too young to marry, "but I was fell sorry for him, just being over anxious. He began bonny, flinging himself, like ane Inspired, at the pulpit door, but after Hendry Munn pointed at it and cried out, 'Be cautious, the sneck's loose,' he a' gaed to bits. What a coolness Hendry has, though I suppose it was his duty, him being kirk-officer."
"We didna want a man," Lang Tammas said, "that could be put out by sic a sma' thing as that. Mr. Urquhart was in sic a ravel after it that when he gies out the first line o' the hunder and nineteenth psalm for singing, says he, 'And so on to the end.' Ay, that finished his chance."
"The noblest o' them to look at," said Tibbie Birse, "was that ane frae Aberdeen, him that had sic a saft side to Jacob."
"Ay," said Snecky, "and I speired at Dr. McQueen if I should vote for him. 'Looks like a genius, does he?' says the Doctor. 'Weel, then,' says he, 'dinna vote for him, for my experience is that there's no folk sic idiots as them that looks like geniuses.'"
"Sal," Susy said, "it's a guid thing we've settled, for I enjoyed sitting like a judge upon them so muckle that I sair doubt it was a kind o' sport to me."
"It was no sport to them, Susy, I'se uphaud, but it is a blessing we've settled, and ondoubtedly we've got the pick o' them. The only thing Mr. Dishart did that made me oneasy was his saying the word Caesar as if it began wi' a k."
"He'll startle you mair afore you're done wi' him," the atheist said maliciously. "I ken the ways o' thae ministers preaching for kirks. Oh, they're cunning. You was a' pleased that Mr. Dishart spoke about looms and webs, but, lathies, it was a trick. Ilka ane o' thae young ministers has a sermon about looms for weaving congregations, and a second about beating swords into ploughshares for country places, and another on the great catch of fishes for fishing villages. That's their stock-in-trade; and just you wait and see if you dinna get the ploughshares and the fishes afore the month's out. A minister preaching for a kirk is one thing, but a minister placed in't may be a very different berry."
"Joseph Cruickshanks," cried the precentor, passionately, "none o' your d----d blasphemy!"
They all looked at Whamond, and he dug his teeth into his lips in shame.
"Wha's swearing now?" said the atheist.
But Whamond was quick.
"Matthew, twelve and thirty-one," he said.
"Dagont, Tammas," exclaimed the baffled Cruickshanks, "you're aye quoting Scripture. How do you no quote Feargus O'Connor?"
"Lads," said Snecky, "Jo hasna heard Mr. Dishart's sermons. Ay, we get it scalding when he comes to the sermon. I canna thole a minister that preaches as if heaven was round the corner."
"If you're hitting at our minister, Snecky," said James Cochrane, "let me tell you he's a better man than yours."
"A better curler, I dare say."
"A better prayer."
"Ay, he can pray for a black frost as if it was ane o' the Royal Family. I ken his prayers, 'O Lord, let it haud for anither day, and keep the snaw awa'.' Will you pretend, Jeames, that Mr. Duthie could make onything o' Rob Dow?"
"I admit that Rob's awakening was an extraordinary thing, and sufficient to gie Mr. Dishart a name. But Mr. Carfrae was baffled wi' Rob too."
"Jeames, if you had been in our kirk that day Mr. Dishart preached for't you would be wearying the now for Sabbath, to be back in't again. As you ken, that wicked man there, Jo Cruickshanks, got Rob Dow, drucken, cursing, poaching--Rob Dow, to come to the kirk to annoy the minister. Ay, he hadna been at that work for ten minutes when Mr. Dishart stopped in his first prayer and ga'e Rob a look. I couldna see the look, being in the precentor's box, but as sure as death I felt it boring through me. Rob is hard wood, though, and soon he was at his tricks again. Weel, the minister stopped a second time in the sermon, and so awful was the silence that a heap o' the congregation couldna keep their seats. I heard Rob breathing quick and strong. Mr. Dishart had his arm pointed at him a' this time, and at last he says sternly, 'Come forward.' Listen, Joseph Cruickshanks, and tremble. Rob gripped the board to keep himsel' frae obeying, and again Mr. Dishart says, 'Come forward,' and syne Rob rose shaking, and tottered to the pulpit stair like a man suddenly shot into the Day of Judgment. 'You hulking man of sin,' cries Mr. Dishart, not a tick fleid, though Rob's as big as three o' him, 'sit down on the stair and attend to me, or I'll step doun frae the pulpit and run you out of the house of God,'"
"And since that day," said Hobart, "Rob has worshipped Mr. Dishart as a man that has stepped out o' the Bible. When the carriage passed this day we was discussing the minister, and Sam'l Dickie wasna sure but what Mr. Dishart wore his hat rather far back on his head. You should have seen Rob. 'My certie,' he roars, 'there's the shine frae Heaven on that little minister's face, and them as says there's no has me to fecht.'"
"Ay, weel," said the U. P., rising, "we'll see how Rob wears--and how your minister wears too. I wouldna like to sit in a kirk whaur they daurna sing a paraphrase."
"The Psalms of David," retorted Whamond, "mount straight to heaven, but your paraphrases sticks to the ceiling o' the kirk."
"You're a bigoted set, Tammas Whamond, but I tell you this, and it's my last words to you the nicht, the day'll come when you'll hae Mr. Duthie, ay, and even the U. P. minister, preaching in the Auld Licht kirk."
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