P Hay Hunter
MR TOD-LOWRIE, Q. C. , M. P.
I wisna vera lang efter this or Tod-Lowrie cam roon', haudin meetins up an doun the coonty; an a heap o the folk gaed to hear him, for it haed gotten aboot that he wis gaun to gie his reasons for pouin doun the kirk. Ye never saw Tod-Lowrie?--no, he wis afore your time. Weel, he wis a muckle-boukit chiel, wi chuffie cheeks, an a roon' gawsy face, like a Selkirk bannie or a hairst muin; ower sleekit-leukin for some folk's taste, but we haed nae faut to finnd wi him; we thocht an awfu heap o him than.
Naebody coud say, no his worst enemy, that Tod-Lowrie wisna clever: he wis as gleg as a razor, an as ill to grup as a flae. He wis a fine speaker, forby. Ye wadna ha guessed he wis Scots by his tongue; but for aa his knappit English, an his queer kind o sing-sang wey o speakin, no like onybody else I ever heard, I likit weel to listen til him. Folk said that wis the wey they learned them to speak at some o their English colleges, but as to that I canna say. Naethin ever angered him or pat him oot; ye never saw him loss his temper; an he haed a wey o speakin aboot them that differed frae him, as if they were wee bairns at the schuil, or puir feckless craturs frae the Coonty 'Sylum, that uised to gar them sweir maist dreidfu, an say they wad tak saxty days wi plaesur juist to gie him ane ower the cantle wi a palin stab.
Ye micht be shuir, if Tod-Lowrie teuk up ony question, that there wis somethin to be made oot o't. The Tories uised to say that he wis nae better nor a greedy gled o a laayer, that wad hire himsel to Auld Nick for a fee; an that he haed nae honour or principle in him, an didna ken what truith meant; if a lee coud ha worried him, he'd ha been chokit lang syne. O coorse, he wisna as bad as that; but I maun allou--no that I wad ha said it to Archie Howden--that Tod-Lowrie wis worth watchin. There's nae dout he kent his groats in ither folk's kail; he wisna the kind to sell his hen on a rainy day; an if he keepit ae ee on the guid o the workin clesses, he keepit the ither gey steedy on his ain. We aa understuid that he buid to fecht for his ain haun; he haedna been born wi a siller spuin in his mooth, as he aften telt us, an haed nae influence at his back to shove him on; he wis a plain, hard-workin man, juist like ony o oorsels. But we ne'er haed ony reason to dout that he wis a soond Radical; an gin he saired himsel at the same time he saired hiz, whaur wis the hairm?--I'm shuir nane o us grudged him ony bit pickins he got wi bein oor coonty member. An no haein ony land o his ain, he wis the mair free to gae in for fair dealin whan land reform, an smaa haudins, an sic like questions, cam up in the Parliament.
Weel, whan Tod-Lowrie cam oor wey, I made a pint o gaun to his meetin. Pate Peffers o Scraemuir wis in the chair, an he haed the hale platform to himsel, for the gentry an the tither fermers roon' aboot were aa on the wrang side o the politics. Afore the meetin began, Pringle the writer, Tod-Lowrie's agent, cam awa ower to whaur I wis sittin, an askit me to saicont the vote o confidence in the honourable member. But I said, if it wis aa the same to him, I wad raither no; an whan he askit me what wey, I juist telt him, straucht oot, that I wis an elder o the kirk noo, an I wad hae to be satisfied that the honourable member meant nae ill to the kirk, afore he got ony support frae me. Wi that Pringle gaed awa back to Tod-Lowrie, an the twa. o them killogued thegither for a bit; an syne he gaed ower to An'ra Wabster, an got him to tak the job on haun, there bein nae need o ony speech: nae mair nor to say, "I saicont that."
I wush I coud gie ye a notion o what Tod-Lowrie's speech wis like. But it's no possible; ye haena heard him for yersel, an ye canna understaun the wey he haed o takkin a subjeck, an pittin't afore ye in the vera licht ye haed never thocht o. It wis like takkin a pair o auld breeks, an turnin them inside oot, an pruivin til ye that ye haed been wearin the best o them neist yer skin, oot o sicht, an aa the time kennin naethin aboot it.
First he haunled the question o Hame Rule. He said gin the Irish got Hame Rule, they wad hae to eleck members to this hoose, an that hoose, an the tither hoose; an they wad be that thrang votin, they wad hae nae time to come ower here, cuttin doun wages, an takkin the bit oot o oor mooths. An as for lettin their members bide amang oor ain, an vote on oor affairs, he said it wis juist a case o giff-gaff, or claw my back an I'll claw yours; for gin we gied them their bit parliament that they were sae keen o, they wad gie us ony mortal thing we likit; an there wis smaa chance o the Tories gettin office, wi aa the wecht o saxty Irish votes cowped into the scale against them.
Syne he teuk up the question o smaa haudins, an what he caad the naiteral richt o the tiller o the sile to hae a share o't for himsel. It wisna that muckle we socht, he said; the laird wad aye hae his braid acres: but Scottish pleuchmen werena like Rooshian serfs or Aufrican neegurs, an somethin wad hae to be duin to meet their juist deman's.
An syne he cam on to the bit I haed been waitin for, an mony a ane forby mysel; an the wey he drappit his vice an rowed his een wis sign eneuch that he wis on gleg ice, an kent it. There wis anither question, he said, that he coudna wind up his speech withoot referrin til: the question o the kirk. Some folk micht mebbe blame him for steerin up the question, an no lettin sleepin dowgs lie. But it wisna his blame. It wisna him that haed steered it up: it wis the speerit o the age. The Leeberals were aa for progress, baith in kirk an state; an it wis in the name o progress, whilk wis juist anither name for Leeberalism, that he caad upon us to face this question o the kirk. There were faur ower mony kirks in Scotland for the wants o the folk; twa men in ilka pairish, an whiles three, daein the wark that ane micht dae, an no be ower hard driven; an whaur wis the sense o that?--it wis juist a waste baith o guid men an guid siller. If the state kirk wis duin awa wi, than aa the Presbyterian bodies wad come thegither; an in place o three kirks cuttin ane anither's throats, we wad hae ae Kirk o Scotland, worthy o the name, an syne aa body wad dwall in peace an guid will.
He haed been sair misrepresentit on this question. He kent fine--he haed guid reason to ken--that some staunch freends o his ain in the pairish o Snawdon, no a hunder mile frae whaur he wis staunin the noo--men that haed stuid by him in fair wather an foul, throu guid report an ill report--leukit upon him noo wi jealous een, as if he wis an enemy o the kirk. There coudna be a greater mistak. Faur frae bein an enemy o the kirk, he wis its best freend. Suppose ye teuk a soond man, hale an feery o the feet, an gart him aye walk aboot wi a pair o crutches, what wad happen til him?--ye wad mak a puir lamiter, a helpless crupple, o that soond man. That wis what state pey wis to the Kirk o Scotland--a pair o crutches, naither mair nor less. Wis he no the true freend o the kirk that wad kick awa the crutches, an say til her, What needs ye gang hauchlin an hirplin alang, like crupple Dick upon a stick?--haud up yer heid, an walk on yer ain peens! Wad disestaiblishment dae ony ill to the kirk?--aa that they wad tak awa wis juist a name: it wadna mak a preen's pint o difference. Wad disendowment dae her ony ill?--he haed mair respeck for her ministers an members nor to think sae; for if the Free Kirk an the U. P. Kirk coud pey their ain wey, what wis to hinner the Estaiblished frae daein the same? Wad ony man in that meetin get up an tell him that the Auld Kirk coudna haud her ain an mair, withoot gettin an awmus frae the State? Wis oor ain minister (an he kent fine the respeck his parishioners haed for him, an nae dout he weel desairved it) , no fit to gaither a congregation an keep things gaun, wantin the teinds? It wis a michty puir compliment the Tories peyed the kirk whan they said that disestaiblishment wad be her destruction. For his pairt he wis convinced that it wis the vera thing she needed to gie her new life, an mak her mair o a pouer in the land nor she haed been sin the days o John Knox an An'ra Melville. But we didna need to mind what the Tories said. They were aye at their auld tricks. A' this hillibaloo they were raisin aboot the kirk bein in danger wis juist anither o their dodges to cab a wheen Leeberal votes. A laddie wi a burstit gun micht frichten the craws for a while, but the craws suin got to ken; an the Tories haed been pintin their rusty auld weepon ower lang, withoot it ever gaun aff, for us to heed muckle aboot it.
He haed been telt, afore he cam to that meetin, that it wad be better for him to gie this subjeck a wide berth: to steek his mou, an let the kirk a-be, or he micht loss votes. He wisna feared that he wad loss mony votes. He didna think that mony o the stalwart men he saw afore him wad rat frae their pairty, an gang awa an vote for a Tory, on ony sic question as this o the kirk. We aa minded ower weel o the days whan Toryism haed the upper haun--whan this coonty wis nae better nor a Tory gamepreserve, an the lairds invitit ane o theirsels to contest the coonty, juist as they micht ha invitit him to shute their covers. It wisna likely, efter we haed been brocht throu the wilderness, to the vera borders o the land o promise, that we wad turn tail an desert him noo, whan he wis wullin an able to dae faur mair for us nor even he haed duin yet--an gang awa back to the land o bondage.
But even supposin some o his freends michtna see their wey to staun by him ony mair--tho it wad be a sair trial to him to loss the support o a single ane o the true-herted intelligent men, whase confidence an kindness aa thae years haed been his proodest possession--even supposin't, there wis ae thing he thocht mair o nor even the honour o bein oor representative, an that wis bein true to his principles. Whan a thing cam afore him, he never thocht o askin himsel hoo it wad pey: he aye askit himsel if it wis richt an juist, an let that settle't. It wis his firm, honest conviction that a state kirk noo-a-days haed nae business to be there--an anchorism, or some sic wird, he caad it: it wisna juistice to be taxin folk for the upkeep o a kirk they didna gang til, an the Leeberal pairty coudna coontenance ony sic thing. We coudna cry "up wi the Kirk" an "doun wi the Hoose o Lords" in ae braith, for the tane wis a case o preevilege juist as muckle as the tither; an whan the election cam on--an it wis gettin gey near haun--the main pint for us to keep in mind wis this, no whether the kirk wis to staun or faa, but whether the affairs o the kintra, an the coorse o future legislation, wis to be taen oot the hauns o the pairty that wrocht for the guid o the people an gaed forrat, an gien ower to the pairty that wrocht for the guid o the landlords an stuid still.
Wi that Tod-Lowrie got a muckle roon' o applause, an doun he sat, wipin his fat chafts an leukin fine pleased wi himsel. There wis an awfu stampin o feet in the raw ahint me, an turnin roon', there I sees Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish, an Adam Instant the dry-dyker, an Dan Preacher the miller's man, an a wheen mair o oor members, kickin like daft on the fluir, an seeminly in a state o hie delyte wi aa they haed heard. I no wondered muckle at Dave, for he wis but a kae-witted cratur at the best, an aye teuk his opeenions frae the last speaker; but I maun say I didna expeck it o Wullie Herkis, that haed some mind o his ain. An I coudna help thinkin to mysel what a clever, fair-spoken chiel Tod-Lowrie wis, an what a skill he haed o Iiftin ye aff yer feet an airtin ye roon' frae north to sooth afore ye kent whaur ye were. For tho I wad ha thocht shame to ruff what he haed said aboot the kirk, like Wulile Herkis, I'll no deny but he left me in a kind o swither. I wisna by ony means convinced, but I coud see noo that there were twa sides to the question, an mair weys nor ane o leukin at them baith; an the prospeck o haein to vote for a Tory wis mair nor I coud thole: the vera thocht o't upset my stamack.
I wad ha been weel pleased to hae slippit awa by mysel whan the meetin skailled, withoot haein ony wirds wi An'ra Wabster; but he wis watchin for me, an afore I coud win oot, he haed gruppit me, an cleekit his airm in mine
"Weel, elder," says he, "hoo were ye pleased wi yon?"
"No awfu weel," says I.
"I daursay no," says he; "I'm thinkin it wad be ower stark meat for your wake disjastion. But to my mind, Tod-Lowrie ne'er did better nor he did the nicht. Yon's speakin. Yon's the wey to dress the Tories. Ay, there's nae dout he haes a fell tongue in his heid!"
"There's nae dout o that," says I.
"He's set the kiln a-bleeze noo," says he; "he's raised the deil in the pairish, an nae mistak! The Tories are aye miscaain him for his joukry-pawkry, an hiddlin weys, but they canna say he didna mak his meanin plain the nicht!"
"Ay, he made it plain eneuch," says I.
"Ye'll hae to mak up yer mind, Jims," says he, "an that afore vera lang. There's nae dout ye're in a queer babble. Man, I peety ye."
"Ye mey keep yer peety or aince ye're askit for't," says I.
"Yer kirk chuggin ye the tae road," says he, no heedin me, "an yer pairty the tither, an you atween the twa like a hen on a het girdle! Ye see noo it's no sic ebb pleuchin as ye coonted. Ye thocht ye haed nae mair a-dae nor speak the wird, an ye wad get Wullie Herkis, an Dave Daagleish, an Robbie Dodds, an aa the likes o them, to tak the gait efter ye, an vote for the kirk throu thick an thin."
"I thocht naethin o the kind," says I.
"Ye did," says he; "ye said as muckle, yon day in Sam'el Vint's at Gammelston. Ye thocht ye haed but to lowp the dyke yersel, an syne aa the lave wad lowp efter ye. Ye'll finnd oot yer mistak or lang, if ye haena fand it oot already. They'll no vote Tory, Jims, my man, an if ye turn blackneb, ye'll dae't yer lane."
"We'll see aboot that," says I, no wantin to gie him't aa his ain wey; "ye haena gotten their votes yet. suin eneuch to say chuck whan it's oot o the shell. The kirk's no doun yet, An'ra, my man. Tod-Lowrie haes haed his say the nicht, but the minister wull hae his the morn."
"The minister haed better mind what he's daein," says he; "we'll hae nae politics in the poupit. That mey dae wi Irish folk, but it winna gae doun here. Gin the minister tries it on, I'm gemme to staun up in the kirk, an rebuke him afore the hale congregation, as bauld as a lion!"
"Ay, a Lammermuir lion," says I; "the last time ye ettled to staun up in Snawdon kirk, An'ra, ye didna mak sic a braw job o't. Ye ken the sayin--ilka cock craws crouse on his ain midden heid. I'm thinkin ye'd better no interfere wi the minister whan he's in the poupit, whatever ye mey dae whan he's oot o't. I'll back him against Tod-Lowrie himsel, let a-be the likes o you; an if ye think he's gaun to haud his tongue, an lay himsel doun like a bass for the disestaibIishers to dicht their feet on, ye dinna ken yer man, that's aa! An noo I'll awa hame, for it's gettin late; sae guid-nicht to ye"--an awa I gaed, no sweer to get quit o him, an be oot o reach o his ill-scrapit tongue.