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HOME > Classical Novels > The Little Minister > Chapter Ten. FIRST SERMON AGAINST WOMEN.
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 On the afternoon of the following Sabbath, as I have said, something strange happened in the Auld1 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 milestones2. It includes the first of his memorable3 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 vow4 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 benediction5 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 outright6 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 brute7, sit down before it on a stone and thus harangue8: “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 unreasonableness10 of humanity, which treated him graciously when he had a letter for it, but scowled11 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 untoward12 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 gutter14, 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 reverence15 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 gabs16, baith o’ you,” interrupted Elspeth. “You’ve been roaring the story to ane another till you’re hoarse17.”
“In the forenoon,” Waster Lunny went on determinedly18, “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 spoke19 to him after the sermon, and I says, just to see if he was properly humbled20, ‘Ay, Tammas,’ I says, ‘them that discourse21 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 erring22 man, but aside Eve he was respectable.’”
“Ay, but it wasna a’ women he meant,” Elspeth explained, “for when he said that, he pointed23 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 ken9 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 distressed24 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 glowering25 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 canny13 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 weavers26 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
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