The Little Minister

Джеймс Барри
The Little Minister

Chapter Nine.
THE WOMAN CONSIDERED IN ABSENCE – ADVENTURES OF A MILITARY CLOAK

About six o’clock Margaret sat up suddenly in bed, with the conviction that she had slept in. To her this was to ravel the day: a dire thing. The last time it happened Gavin, softened by her distress, had condensed morning worship into a sentence that she might make up on the clock.

Her part on waking was merely to ring her bell, and so rouse Jean, for Margaret had given Gavin a promise to breakfast in bed, and remain there till her fire was lit. Accustomed all her life, however, to early rising, her feet were usually on the floor before she remembered her vow, and then it was but a step to the window to survey the morning. To Margaret, who seldom went out, the weather was not of great moment, while it mattered much to Gavin, yet she always thought of it the first thing, and he not at all until he had to decide whether his companion should be an umbrella or a staff.

On this morning Margaret only noticed that there had been rain since Gavin came in. Forgetting that the water obscuring the outlook was on the other side of the panes, she tried to brush it away with her fist. It was of the soldiers she was thinking. They might have been awaiting her appearance at the window as their signal to depart, for hardly had she raised the blind when they began their march out of Thrums. From the manse she could not see them, but she heard them, and she saw some people at the Tenements run 80 to their houses at sound of the drum. Other persons, less timid, followed the enemy with execrations halfway to Tilliedrum. Margaret, the only person, as it happened, then awake in the manse, stood listening for some time. In the summer-seat of the garden, however, there was another listener protected from her sight by thin spars.

Despite the lateness of the hour Margaret was too soft-hearted to rouse Jean, who had lain down in her clothes, trembling for her father. She went instead into Gavin’s room to look admiringly at him as he slept. Often Gavin woke to find that his mother had slipped in to save him the enormous trouble of opening a drawer for a clean collar, or of pouring the water into the basin with his own hand. Sometimes he caught her in the act of putting thick socks in the place of thin ones, and it must be admitted that her passion for keeping his belongings in boxes, and the boxes in secret places, and the secret places at the back of drawers, occasionally led to their being lost when wanted. “They are safe, at any rate, for I put them away some gait,” was then Margaret’s comfort, but less soothing to Gavin. Yet if he upbraided her in his hurry, it was to repent bitterly his temper the next instant, and to feel its effects more than she, temper being a weapon that we hold by the blade. When he awoke and saw her in his room he would pretend, unless he felt called upon to rage at her for self-neglect, to be still asleep, and then be filled with tenderness for her. A great writer has spoken sadly of the shock it would be to a mother to know her boy as he really is, but I think she often knows him better than he is known to cynical friends. We should be slower to think that the man at his worst is the real man, and certain that the better we are ourselves the less likely is he to be at his worst in our company. Every time he talks away his own character before us he is signifying contempt for ours.

On this morning Margaret only opened Gavin’s door to stand and look, for she was fearful of awakening him after his heavy night. Even before she saw that he still slept she noticed with surprise that, for the first time since he came to Thrums, he had put on his shutters. She concluded that he had done this lest the light should rouse him. He was not sleeping pleasantly, for now he put his open hand before his face, as if to guard himself, and again he frowned and seemed to draw back from something. He pointed his finger sternly to the north, ordering the weavers, his mother thought, to return to their homes, and then he muttered to himself so that she heard the words, “And if thy right hand offend thee cut it off, and cast it from thee, for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” Then suddenly he bent forward, his eyes open and fixed on the window. Thus he sat, for the space of half a minute, like one listening with painful intentness. When he lay back Margaret slipped away. She knew he was living the night over again, but not of the divit his right hand had cast, nor of the woman in the garden.

Gavin was roused presently by the sound of voices from Margaret’s room, where Jean, who had now gathered much news, was giving it to her mistress. Jean’s cheerfulness would have told him that her father was safe had he not wakened to thoughts of the Egyptian. I suppose he was at the window in an instant, unsnibbing the shutters and looking out as cautiously as a burglar might have looked in. The Egyptian was gone from the summer-seat. He drew a great breath.

But his troubles were not over. He had just lifted his ewer of water when these words from the kitchen capsized it: —

“Ay, an Egyptian. That’s what the auld folk call a gypsy. Weel, Mrs. Dishart, she led police and sojers sic a dance through Thrums as would baffle description, 82 though I kent the fits and fors o’t as I dinna. Ay, but they gripped her in the end, and the queer thing is – ”

Gavin listened to no more. He suddenly sat down. The queer thing, of course, was that she had been caught in his garden. Yes, and doubtless queerer things about this hussy and her “husband” were being bawled from door to door. To the girl’s probable sufferings he gave no heed. What kind of man had he been a few hours ago to yield to the machinations of a woman who was so obviously the devil? Now he saw his folly in the face.

The tray in Jean’s hands clattered against the dresser, and Gavin sprang from his chair. He thought it was his elders at the front door.

In the parlour he found Margaret sorrowing for those whose mates had been torn from them, and Jean with a face flushed by talk. On ordinary occasions the majesty of the minister still cowed Jean, so that she could only gaze at him without shaking when in church, and then because she wore a veil. In the manse he was for taking a glance at sideways and then going away comforted, as a respectable woman may once or twice in a day look at her brooch in the pasteboard box as a means of helping her with her work. But with such a to-do in Thrums, and she the possessor of exclusive information, Jean’s reverence for Gavin only took her to-day as far as the door, where she lingered half in the parlour and half in the lobby, her eyes turned politely from the minister, but her ears his entirely.

“I thought I heard Jean telling you about the capture of the – of an Egyptian woman,” Gavin said to his mother, nervously.

“Did you cry to me?” Jean asked, turning round longingly. “But maybe the mistress will tell you about the Egyptian hersel.”

“Has she been taken to Tilliedrum?” Gavin asked in a hollow voice.

“Sup up your porridge, Gavin,” Margaret said. “I’ll have no speaking about this terrible night till you’ve eaten something.”

“I have no appetite,” the minister replied, pushing his plate from him. “Jean, answer me.”

“’Deed, then,” said Jean willingly, “they hinna ta’en her to Tilliedrum.”

“For what reason?” asked Gavin, his dread increasing.

“For the reason that they couldna catch her,” Jean answered. “She spirited hersel awa’, the magerful crittur.”

“What! But I heard you say – ”

“Ay, they had her aince, but they couldna keep her. It’s like a witch story. They had her safe in the town-house, and baith shirra and captain guarding her, and syne in a clink she wasna there. A’ nicht they looked for her, but she hadna left so muckle as a foot-print ahint her, and in the tail of the day they had to up wi’ their tap in their lap and march awa without her.”

Gavin’s appetite returned.

“Has she been seen since the soldiers went away?” he asked, laying down his spoon with a new fear. “Where is she now?”

“No human eye has seen her,” Jean answered impressively. “Whaur is she now? Whaur does the flies vanish to in winter? We ken they’re some gait, but whaur?”

“But what are the people saying about her?”

“Daft things,” said Jean. “Old Charles Yuill gangs the length o’ hinting that she’s dead and buried.”

“She could not have buried herself, Jean,” Margaret said, mildly.

“I dinna ken. Charles says she’s even capable o’ that.”

Then Jean retired reluctantly (but leaving the door ajar) and Gavin fell to on his porridge. He was now so cheerful that Margaret wondered.

“If half the stories about this gypsy be true,” she said, “she must be more than a mere woman.”

“Less, you mean, mother,” Gavin said, with conviction. “She is a woman, and a sinful one.”

“Did you see her, Gavin?”

“I saw her. Mother, she flouted me!”

“The daring tawpie!” exclaimed Margaret.

“She is all that,” said the minister.

“Was she dressed just like an ordinary gypsy body? But you don’t notice clothes much, Gavin.”

“I noticed hers,” Gavin said, slowly, “she was in a green and red, I think, and barefooted.”

“Ay,” shouted Jean from the kitchen, startling both of them; “but she had a lang grey-like cloak too. She was seen jouking up closes in’t.”

Gavin rose, considerably annoyed, and shut the parlour door.

“Was she as bonny as folks say?” asked Margaret. “Jean says they speak of her beauty as unearthly.”

“Beauty of her kind,” Gavin explained learnedly, “is neither earthly nor heavenly.” He was seeing things as they are very clearly now. “What,” he said, “is mere physical beauty? Pooh!”

 

“And yet,” said Margaret, “the soul surely does speak through the face to some extent.”

“Do you really think so, mother?” Gavin asked, a little uneasily.

“I have always noticed it,” Margaret said, and then her son sighed.

“But I would let no face influence me a jot,” he said, recovering.

“Ah, Gavin, I’m thinking I’m the reason you pay so little regard to women’s faces. It’s no natural.”

“You’ve spoilt me, you see, mother, for ever caring for another woman. I would compare her to you, and then where would she be?”

“Sometime,” Margaret said, “you’ll think differently.”

“Never,” answered Gavin, with a violence that ended the conversation.

Soon afterwards he set off for the town, and in passing down the garden walk cast a guilty glance at the summer-seat. Something black was lying in one corner of it. He stopped irresolutely, for his mother was nodding to him from her window. Then he disappeared into the little arbour. What had caught his eye was a Bible. On the previous day, as he now remembered, he had been called away while studying in the garden, and had left his Bible on the summer-seat, a pencil between its pages. Not often probably had the Egyptian passed a night in such company.

But what was this? Gavin had not to ask himself the question. The gypsy’s cloak was lying neatly folded at the other end of the seat. Why had the woman not taken it with her? Hardly had he put this question when another stood in front of it. What was to be done with the cloak? He dared not leave it there for Jean to discover. He could not take it into the manse in daylight. Beneath the seat was a tool-chest without a lid, and into this he crammed the cloak. Then, having turned the box face downwards, he went about his duties. But many a time during the day he shivered to the marrow, reflecting suddenly that at this very moment Jean might be carrying the accursed thing (at arms’ length, like a dog in disgrace) to his mother.

Now let those who think that Gavin has not yet paid toll for taking the road with the Egyptian, follow the adventures of the cloak. Shortly after gloaming fell that night Jean encountered her master in the lobby of the manse. He was carrying something, and when he saw her he slipped it behind his back. Had he passed her openly she would have suspected nothing, but this made her look at him.

“Why do you stare so, Jean?” Gavin asked, conscience-stricken, and he stood with his back to the wall until she had retired in bewilderment.

“I have noticed her watching me sharply all day,” he said to himself, though it was only he who had been watching her.

Gavin carried the cloak to his bedroom, thinking to lock it away in his chest, but it looked so wicked lying there that he seemed to see it after the lid was shut.

The garret was the best place for it. He took it out of the chest and was opening his door gently, when there was Jean again. She had been employed very innocently in his mother’s room, but he said tartly —

“Jean, I really cannot have this,” which sent Jean to the kitchen with her apron at her eyes.

Gavin stowed the cloak beneath the garret bed, and an hour afterwards was engaged on his sermon, when he distinctly heard some one in the garret. He ran up the ladder with a terrible brow for Jean, but it was not Jean; it was Margaret.

“Mother,” he said in alarm, “what are you doing here?”

“I am only tidying up the garret, Gavin.”

“Yes, but – it is too cold for you. Did Jean – did Jean ask you to come up here?”

“Jean? She knows her place better.”

Gavin took Margaret down to the parlour, but his confidence in the garret had gone. He stole up the ladder again, dragged the cloak from its lurking place, and took it into the garden. He very nearly met Jean in the lobby again, but hearing him coming she fled precipitately, which he thought very suspicious.

In the garden he dug a hole, and there buried the cloak, but even now he was not done with it. He was wakened early by a noise of scraping in the garden, and his first thought was “Jean!” But peering from the 87 window, he saw that the resurrectionist was a dog, which already had its teeth in the cloak.

That forenoon Gavin left the manse unostentatiously carrying a brown-paper parcel. He proceeded to the hill, and having dropped the parcel there, retired hurriedly. On his way home, nevertheless, he was over-taken by D. Fittis, who had been cutting down whins. Fittis had seen the parcel fall, and running after Gavin, returned it to him. Gavin thanked D. Fittis, and then sat down gloomily on the cemetery dyke. Half an hour afterwards he flung the parcel into a Tillyloss garden.

In the evening Margaret had news for him, got from Jean.

“Do you remember, Gavin, that the Egyptian every one is still speaking of, wore a long cloak? Well, would you believe it, the cloak was Captain Halliwell’s, and she took it from the town-house when she escaped. She is supposed to have worn it inside out. He did not discover that it was gone until he was leaving Thrums.”

“Mother, is this possible?” Gavin said.

“The policeman, Wearyworld, has told it. He was ordered, it seems, to look for the cloak quietly, and to take any one into custody in whose possession it was found.”

“Has it been found?”

“No.”

The minister walked out of the parlour, for he could not trust his face. What was to be done now? The cloak was lying in mason Baxter’s garden, and Baxter was therefore, in all probability, within four-and-twenty hours of the Tilliedrum gaol.

“Does Mr. Dishart ever wear a cap at nichts?” Femie Wilkie asked Sam’l Fairweather three hours later.

“Na, na, he has ower muckle respect for his lum 88 hat,” answered Sam’l; “and richtly, for it’s the crowning stone o’ the edifice.”

“Then it couldna hae been him I met at the back o’ Tillyloss the now,” said Femie, “though like him it was. He joukit back when he saw me.”

While Femie was telling her story in the Tenements, mason Baxter, standing at the window which looked into his garden, was shouting, “Wha’s that in my yard?” There was no answer, and Baxter closed his window, under the impression that he had been speaking to a cat. The man in the cap then emerged from the corner where he had been crouching, and stealthily felt for something among the cabbages and pea sticks. It was no longer there, however, and by-and-by he retired empty-handed.

“The Egyptian’s cloak has been found,” Margaret was able to tell Gavin next day. “Mason Baxter found it yesterday afternoon.”

“In his garden?” Gavin asked hurriedly.

“No; in the quarry, he says, but according to Jean he is known not to have been at the quarry to-day. Some seem to think that the gypsy gave him the cloak for helping her to escape, and that he has delivered it up lest he should get into difficulties.”

“Whom has he given it to, mother?” Gavin asked.

“To the policeman.”

“And has Wearyworld sent it back to Halliwell?”

“Yes. He told Jean he sent it off at once, with the information that the masons had found it in the quarry.”

The next day was Sabbath, when a new trial, now to be told, awaited Gavin in the pulpit; but it had nothing to do with the cloak, of which I may here record the end. Wearyworld had not forwarded it to its owner; Meggy, his wife, took care of that. It made its reappearance in Thrums, several months after the riot, as two pairs of Sabbath breeks for her sons, James and Andrew.

Chapter Ten.
FIRST SERMON AGAINST WOMEN

On the afternoon of the following Sabbath, as I have said, something strange happened in the Auld Licht pulpit. The congregation, despite their troubles, turned it over and peered at it for days, but had they seen into the inside of it they would have weaved few webs until the session had sat on the minister. The affair baffled me at the time, and for the Egyptian’s sake I would avoid mentioning it now, were it not one of Gavin’s milestones. It includes the first of his memorable sermons against Woman.

I was not in the Auld Licht church that day, but I heard of the sermon before night, and this, I think, is as good an opportunity as another for showing how the gossip about Gavin reached me up here in the Glen school-house. Since Margaret and her son came to the manse I had kept the vow made to myself and avoided Thrums. Only once had I ventured to the kirk, and then, instead of taking my old seat, the fourth from the pulpit, I sat down near the plate, where I could look at Margaret without her seeing me. To spare her that agony I even stole away as the last word of the benediction was pronounced, and my haste scandalised many, for with Auld Lichts it is not customary to retire quickly from the church after the manner of the godless U. P.’s (and the Free Kirk is little better), who have their hats in their hand when they rise for the benediction, so that they may at once pour out like a burst dam. We resume our seats, look straight before us, clear our throats and stretch out our hands for our 90 womenfolk to put our hats into them. In time we do get out, but I am never sure how.

One may gossip in a glen on Sabbaths, though not in a town, without losing his character, and I used to await the return of my neighbour, the farmer of Waster Lunny, and of Silva Birse, the Glen Quharity post, at the end of the school-house path. Waster Lunny was a man whose care in his leisure hours was to keep from his wife his great pride in her. His horse, Catlaw, on the other hand, he told outright what he thought of it, praising it to its face and blackguarding it as it deserved, and I have seen him when completely baffled by the brute, sit down before it on a stone and thus harangue: “You think you’re clever, Catlaw, my lass, but you’re mista’en. You’re a thrawn limmer, that’s what you are. You think you have blood in you. You hae blood! Gae away, and dinna blether. I tell you what, Catlaw, I met a man yestreen that kent your mither, and he says she was a feikie fushionless besom. What do you say to that?”

As for the post, I will say no more of him than that his bitter topic was the unreasonableness of humanity, which treated him graciously when he had a letter for it, but scowled at him when he had none, “aye implying that I hae a letter, but keep it back.”

On the Sabbath evening after the riot, I stood at the usual place awaiting my friends, and saw before they reached me that they had something untoward to tell. The farmer, his wife and three children, holding each other’s hands, stretched across the road. Birse was a little behind, but a conversation was being kept up by shouting. All were walking the Sabbath pace, and the family having started half a minute in advance, the post had not yet made up on them.

“It’s sitting to snaw,” Waster Lunny said, drawing near, and just as I was to reply, “It is so,” Silva slipped in the words before me.

“You wasna at the kirk,” was Elspeth’s salutation. I had been at the Glen church, but did not contradict her, for it is Established, and so neither here nor there. I was anxious, too, to know what their long faces meant, and so asked at once —

“Was Mr. Dishart on the riot?”

“Forenoon, ay; afternoon, no,” replied Waster Lunny, walking round his wife to get nearer me. “Dominie, a queery thing happened in the kirk this day, sic as – ”

“Waster Lunny,” interrupted Elspeth sharply; “have you on your Sabbath shoon or have you no on your Sabbath shoon?”

“Guid care you took I should hae the dagont oncanny things on,” retorted the farmer.

“Keep out o’ the gutter, then,” said Elspeth, “on the Lord’s day.”

“Him,” said her man, “that is forced by a foolish woman to wear genteel ’lastic-sided boots canna forget them till he takes them aff. Whaur’s the extra reverence in wearing shoon twa sizes ower sma?”

“It mayna be mair reverent,” suggested Birse, to whom Elspeth’s kitchen was a pleasant place, “but it’s grand, and you canna expect to be baith grand and comfortable.”

I reminded them that they were speaking of Mr. Dishart.

“We was saying,” began the post briskly, “that – ”

“It was me that was saying it,” said Waster Lunny. “So, dominie – ”

“Haud your gabs, baith o’ you,” interrupted Elspeth. “You’ve been roaring the story to ane another till you’re hoarse.”

“In the forenoon,” Waster Lunny went on determinedly, “Mr. Dishart preached on the riot, and fine he was. Oh, dominie, you should hae heard him ladling it on to Lang Tammas, no by name but in sic a way 92 that there was no mistaking wha he was preaching at, Sal! oh losh! Tammas got it strong.”

“But he’s dull in the uptake,” broke in the post, “by what I expected. I spoke to him after the sermon, and I says, just to see if he was properly humbled, ‘Ay, Tammas,’ I says, ‘them that discourse was preached against, winna think themselves seven feet men for a while again.’ ‘Ay, Birse,’ he answers, ‘and glad I am to hear you admit it, for he had you in his eye.’ I was fair scunnered at Tammas the day.”

 

“Mr. Dishart was preaching at the whole clanjamfray o’ you,” said Elspeth.

“Maybe he was,” said her husband, leering; “but you needna cast it at us, for, my certie, if the men got it frae him in the forenoon, the women got it in the afternoon.”

“He redd them up most michty,” said the post. “Thae was his very words or something like them. ‘Adam,’ says he, ‘was an erring man, but aside Eve he was respectable.’”

“Ay, but it wasna a’ women he meant,” Elspeth explained, “for when he said that, he pointed his finger direct at T’nowhead’s lassie, and I hope it’ll do her good.”

“But I wonder,” I said, “that Mr. Dishart chose such a subject to-day. I thought he would be on the riot at both services.”

“You’ll wonder mair,” said Elspeth, “when you hear what happened afore he began the afternoon sermon. But I canna get in a word wi’ that man o’ mine.”

“We’ve been speaking about it,” said Birse, “ever since we left the kirk door. Tod, we’ve been sawing it like seed a’ alang the glen.”

“And we meant to tell you about it at once,” said Waster Lunny; “but there’s aye so muckle to say about a minister. Dagont, to hae ane keeps a body out o’ langour. Ay, but this breaks the drum. Dominie, 93 either Mr. Dishart wasna weel, or he was in the devil’s grip.”

This startled me, for the farmer was looking serious.

“He was weel eneuch,” said Birse, “for a heap o’ fowk speired at Jean if he had ta’en his porridge as usual, and she admitted he had. But the lassie was skeered hersel’, and said it was a mercy Mrs. Dishart wasna in the kirk.”

“Why was she not there?” I asked anxiously.

“Oh, he winna let her out in sic weather.”

“I wish you would tell me what happened,” I said to Elspeth.

“So I will,” she answered, “if Waster Lunny would haud his wheesht for a minute. You see the afternoon diet began in the ordinary way, and a’ was richt until we came to the sermon. ‘You will find my text,’ he says, in his piercing voice, ‘in the eighth chapter of Ezra.’”

“And at thae words,” said Waster Lunny, “my heart gae a loup, for Ezra is an unca ill book to find; ay, and so is Ruth.”

“I kent the books o’ the Bible by heart,” said Elspeth, scornfully, “when I was a sax year auld.”

“So did I,” said Waster Lunny, “and I ken them yet, except when I’m hurried. When Mr. Dishart gave out Ezra he a sort o’ keeked round the kirk to find out if he had puzzled onybody, and so there was a kind o’ a competition among the congregation wha would lay hand on it first. That was what doited me. Ay, there was Ruth when she wasna wanted, but Ezra, dagont, it looked as if Ezra had jumped clean out o’ the Bible.”

“You wasna the only distressed crittur,” said his wife. “I was ashamed to see Eppie McLaren looking up the order o’ the books at the beginning o’ the Bible.”

“Tibbie Birse was even mair brazen,” said the post, “for the sly cuttie opened at Kings and pretended it was Ezra.”

“None o’ thae things would I do,” said Waster Lunny, “and sal, I dauredna, for Davit Lunan was glowering over my shuther. Ay, you may scrowl at me, Elspeth Proctor, but as far back as I can mind, Ezra has done me. Mony a time afore I start for the kirk I take my Bible to a quiet place and look Ezra up. In the very pew I says canny to mysel’, ‘Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job,’ the which should be a help, but the moment the minister gi’es out that awfu’ book, away goes Ezra like the Egyptian.”

“And you after her,” said Elspeth, “like the weavers that wouldna fecht. You make a windmill of your Bible.”

“Oh, I winna admit I’m beat. Never mind, there’s queer things in the world forby Ezra. How is cripples aye so puffed up mair than other folk? How does flour-bread aye fall on the buttered side?”

“I will mind,” Elspeth said, “for I was terrified the minister would admonish you frae the pulpit.”

“He couldna hae done that, for was he no baffled to find Ezra himsel’?”

“Him no find Ezra!” cried Elspeth. “I hae telled you a dozen times he found it as easy as you could yoke a horse.”

“The thing can be explained in no other way,” said her husband, doggedly, “if he was weel and in sound mind.”

“Maybe the dominie can clear it up,” suggested the post, “him being a scholar.”

“Then tell me what happened,” I asked.

“Godsake, hae we no telled you?” Birse said. “I thocht we had.”

“It was a terrible scene,” said Elspeth, giving her husband a shove. “As I said, Mr. Dishart gave out Ezra eighth. Weel, I turned it up in a jiffy, and syne looked cautiously to see how Eppie McLaren was getting on. Just at that minute I heard a groan frae the 95 pulpit. It didna stop short o’ a groan. Ay, you may be sure I looked quick at the minister, and there I saw a sicht that would hae made the grandest gape. His face was as white as a baker’s, and he had a sort of fallen against the back o’ the pulpit, staring demented-like at his open Bible.”

“And I saw him,” said Birse, “put up his hand atween him and the Book, as if he thocht it was to jump at him.”

“Twice,” said Elspeth, “he tried to speak, and twice he let the words fall.”

“That,” says Waster Lunny, “the whole congregation admits, but I didna see it mysel’, for a’ this time you may picture me hunting savage-like for Ezra. I thocht the minister was waiting till I found it.”

“Hendry Munn,” said Birse, “stood upon one leg, wondering whether he should run to the session-house for a glass of water.”

“But by that time,” said Elspeth, “the fit had left Mr. Dishart, or rather it had ta’en a new turn. He grew red, and it’s gospel that he stamped his foot.”

“He had the face of one using bad words,” said the post. “He didna swear, of course, but that was the face he had on.”

“I missed it,” said Waster Lunny, “for I was in full cry after Ezra, with the sweat running down my face.”

“But the most astounding thing has yet to be telled,” went on Elspeth. “The minister shook himsel’ like one wakening frae a nasty dream, and he cries in a voice of thunder, just as if he was shaking his fist at somebody – ”

“He cries,” Birse interposed, cleverly, “he cries, ‘You will find the text in Genesis, chapter three, verse six.’”

“Yes,” said Elspeth, “first he gave out one text, and then he gave out another, being the most amazing thing to my mind that ever happened in the town of Thrums. 96 What will our children’s children think o’t? I wouldna hae missed it for a pound note.”

“Nor me,” said Waster Lunny, “though I only got the tail o’t. Dominie, no sooner had he said Genesis third and sixth, than I laid my finger on Ezra. Was it no provoking? Onybody can turn up Genesis, but it needs an able-bodied man to find Ezra.”

“He preached on the Fall,” Elspeth said, “for an hour and twenty-five minutes, but powerful though he was I would rather he had telled us what made him gie the go-by to Ezra.”

“All I can say,” said Waster Lunny, “is that I never heard him mair awe-inspiring. Whaur has he got sic a knowledge of women? He riddled them, he fair riddled them, till I was ashamed o’ being married.”

“It’s easy kent whaur he got his knowledge of women,” Birse explained, “it’s a’ in the original Hebrew. You can howk ony mortal thing out o’ the original Hebrew, the which all ministers hae at their finger ends. What else makes them ken to jump a verse now and then when giving out a psalm?”

“It wasna women like me he denounced,” Elspeth insisted, “but young lassies that leads men astray wi’ their abominable wheedling ways.”

“Tod,” said her husband, “if they try their hands on Mr. Dishart they’ll meet their match.”

“They will,” chuckled the post. “The Hebrew’s a grand thing, though teuch, I’m telled, michty teuch.”

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