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HOME > Classical Novels > The Little Minister > Chapter Fourteen. THE MINISTER DANCES TO THE WOMAN’S PIPING.
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 Gavin let the doctor’s warnings fall in the grass. In his joy over Nanny’s deliverance he jumped the garden gate, whose hinges were of yarn1, and cleverly caught his hat as it was leaving his head in protest. He then re-entered the mud house staidly. Pleasant was the change. Nanny’s home was as a clock that had been run out, and is set going again. Already the old woman was unpacking2 her box, to increase the distance between herself and the poorhouse. But Gavin only saw her in the background, for the Egyptian, singing at her work, had become the heart of the house. She had flung her shawl over Nanny’s shoulders, and was at the fireplace breaking peats with the leg of a stool. She turned merrily to the minister to ask him to chop up his staff for firewood, and he would have answered wittily3 but could not. Then, as often, the beauty of the Egyptian surprised him into silence. I could never get used to her face myself in the after-days. It has always held me wondering, like my own Glen Quharity on a summer day, when the sun is lingering and the clouds are on the march, and the glen is never the same for two minutes, but always so beautiful as to make me sad. Never will I attempt to picture the Egyptian as she seemed to Gavin while she bent4 over Nanny’s fire, never will I describe my glen. Yet a hundred times have I hankered after trying to picture both.  
An older minister, believing that Nanny’s anguish5 was ended, might have gone on his knees and finished 126 the interrupted prayer, but now Gavin was only doing this girl’s bidding.
“Nanny and I are to have a dish of tea, as soon as we have set things to rights,” she told him. “Do you think we should invite the minister, Nanny?”
“We couldna dare,” Nanny answered quickly. “You’ll excuse her, Mr. Dishart, for the presumption6?”
“Presumption!” said the Egyptian, making a face.
“Lassie,” Nanny said, fearful to offend her new friend, yet horrified7 at this affront8 to the minister, “I ken9 you mean weel, but Mr. Dishart’ll think you’re putting yoursel’ on an equality wi’ him.” She added in a whisper, “Dinna be so free; he’s the Auld10 Licht minister.”
The gypsy bowed with mock awe11, but Gavin let it pass. He had, indeed, forgotten that he was anybody in particular, and was anxious to stay to tea.
“But there is no water,” he remembered, “and is there any tea?”
“I am going out for them and for some other things,” the Egyptian explained. “But no,” she continued, reflectively, “if I go for the tea, you must go for the water.”
“Lassie,” cried Nanny, “mind wha you’re speaking to. To send a minister to the well!”
“I will go,” said Gavin, recklessly lifting the pitcher12. “The well is in the wood, I think?”
“Gie me the pitcher, Mr. Dishart,” said Nanny, in distress13. “What a town there would be if you was seen wi’t!”
“Then he must remain here and keep the house till we come back,” said the Egyptian, and thereupon departed, with a friendly wave of her hand to the minister.
“She’s an awfu’ lassie,” Nanny said, apologetically, “but it’ll just be the way she has been brought up.”
“She has been very good to you, Nanny.”
“She has; leastwise, she promises to be. Mr. Dishart, she’s awa’; what if she doesna come back?”
Nanny spoke14 nervously15, and Gavin drew a long face.
“I think she will,” he said faintly. “I am confident of it,” he added in the same voice.
“And has she the siller?”
“I believe in her,” said Gavin, so doggedly16 that his own words reassured17 him. “She has an excellent heart.”
“Ay,” said Nanny, to whom the minister’s faith was more than the Egyptian’s promise, “and that’s hardly natural in a gaen-aboot body. Yet a gypsy she maun be, for naebody would pretend to be ane that wasna. Tod, she proved she was an Egyptian by dauring to send you to the well.”
This conclusive18 argument brought her prospective19 dower so close to Nanny’s eyes that it hid the poorhouse.
“I suppose she’ll gie you the money,” she said, “and syne20 you’ll gie me the seven shillings a week?”
“That seems the best plan,” Gavin answered.
“And what will you gie it me in?” Nanny asked, with something on her mind. “I would be terrible obliged if you gae it to me in saxpences.”
“Do the smaller coins go farther?” Gavin asked, curiously21.
“Na, it’s no that. But I’ve heard tell o’ folk giving away half-crowns by mistake for twa-shilling bits; ay, and there’s something dizzying in ha’en fower-and-twenty pennies in one piece; it has sic terrible little bulk. Sanders had aince a gold sovereign, and he looked at it so often that it seemed to grow smaller and smaller in his hand till he was feared it micht just be a half after all.”
Her mind relieved on this matter, the old woman set off for the well. A minute afterwards Gavin went to the door to look for the gypsy, and, behold22, Nanny was no further than the gate. Have you who read ever 128 been sick near to death, and then so far recovered that you could once again stand at your window? If so, you have not forgotten how the beauty of the world struck you afresh, so that you looked long and said many times, “How fair a world it is!” like one who had made a discovery. It was such a look that Nanny gave to the hill and Caddam while she stood at her garden gate.
Gavin returned to the fire and watched a girl in it in an officer’s cloak playing at hide and seek with soldiers. After a time he sighed, then looked round sharply to see who had sighed, then, absent-mindedly, lifted the empty kettle and placed it on the glowing peats. He was standing23 glaring at the kettle, his arms folded, when Nanny returned from the well.
“I’ve been thinking,” she said, “o’ something that proves the lassie to be just an Egyptian. Ay, I noticed she wasna nane awed24 when I said you was the Auld Licht minister. Weel, I’se uphaud that came frae her living ower muckle in the open air. Is there no’ a smell o’ burning in the house?”
“I have noticed it,” Gavin answered, sniffing25, “since you came in. I was busy until then, putting on the kettle. The smell is becoming worse.”
Nanny had seen the empty kettle on the fire as he began to speak, and so solved the mystery. Her first thought was to snatch the kettle out of the blaze, but remembering who had put it there, she dared not. She sidled toward the hearth26 instead, and saying craftily27, “Ay, here it is; it’s a clout28 among the peats,” softly laid the kettle on the earthen floor. It was still red with sparks, however, when the gypsy reappeared.
“Who burned the kettle?” she asked, ignoring Nanny’s signs.
“Lassie,” Nanny said, “it was me;” but Gavin, flushing, confessed his guilt29.
“Oh, you stupid!” exclaimed the Egyptian, shaking 129 her two ounces of tea (which then cost six shillings the pound) in his face.
At this Nanny wrung30 her hands, crying, “That’s waur than swearing.”
“If men,” said the gypsy, severely31, “would keep their hands in their pockets all day, the world’s affairs would be more easily managed.”
“Wheesht!” cried Nanny, “if Mr. Dishart cared to set his mind to it, he could make the kettle boil quicker than you or me. But his thochts is on higher things.”
“No higher than this,” retorted the gypsy, holding her hand level with her brow. “Confess, Mr. Dishart, that this is the exact height o............
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