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The Long Glen
Chapter XX - A Scorner among Saints


DlARMAD followed hard upon Trotag's heels, but in her hurry she did not seem to notice he was close at her back. On entering the house, remembering her duty to religion and her audience, she cried, while sitting down on the nearest empty chair—"Oh what a scandal! "

The house-wife, who was placing dinner on the table for the two young men from the hill, turned sharply round, but when she saw Diarmad's face behind Trotag she did not put the intended question. The holy women were having a sewing bee with one side of the cearna all to themselves, and old Seumas and the elder were on the other side talking about wool and market prices, and shaking heads over the snowstorm. Diarmad joined them, and, facing round upon Trotag and the pious women, said sternly— "Say what was the scandal."

"What is wrong with thee, Diarmad?" asked the house-wife.

"What is the matter, Ealag?" asked one of the sisterhood.

"They were singing profane songs, and at cliath tossing and kissing when I looked in ; and I am sure it was no thanks I got from them."

"And what hast thou to say, Diarmad?" asked the elder in his session manner, but with a suspicion of a smile round the corners of his mouth.

The sisters looked solemnly from the accuser to the accused.

"What I say is that all men and women must be young before being old, and that when young they are perfectly entitled to enjoy innocent amusements. Ealag comes saying ' Oh, what a scandal!' and you all look as if something horrible must have happened. Well, I'll tell you all there is to tell, and, although it is very little, yet it is more than Ealag saw. About an hour ago, and just at the mouth of the night, Ewan and I, coming down from the hill, entered the luadhadh shed. The women folk in a moment carried me off my legs, and laid me on the cliath. They then commenced to sing the luinneag of Duncan Ban of the songs, which I have no doubt everyone here knows quite well. I caught Marie Chiar, and got her on the cliath, but she slipped out of my fingers like a ball of soap. (Here the house-wife, house-man, and the elder's wife broke out laughing, nor could the elder refrain from joining). I daresay she was angular and graspable when the elder and she were young (more laughter), but there is no keeping, holding, or kissing her now on a rough cliath and rolling web. (This was said in a mournful, injured tone, which quite upset the elder, and rather demoralised Anne of Dalmore, the least stiffly-starched of the sisters). Well, then, when I lost Marie, by great good luck, Jessie happened for a moment to come within the longest reach of my arm. I was not such a claodhaire 1 (looking the house-wife in the face, and seeing no sign of displeasure^ as to lose the chance. So, by a great stretch, dart, and pull, I grasped her fairly by the waist, dragged her on to the cliath, kissed her, and earned my liberty. They then seized on Ewan, and he was being put through the same process, and had not yet caught a hostage, when Ealag popped her head through the screen —and if you don't mind, Ealag, it is the sharp stone will be under that head at last—and began to preach like the Domhnullach Mor from the North, when his voice issuing from the hillside tent is powerful enough to be heard on the other side of Loch Tay. But, look you now, was not the preaching foolishness when there was no occasion for it at all? Why, if you come out to the shed now, Ealag and all of you, we will go through the whole performance again with the greatest pleasure, and the luadhadh custom will be properly kept up."

The house-man seemed stunned at the young man's audacity, and the house-wife and the elder's wife showed manifest approval, while the sisters were too troubled about the weakness exhibited by Anne of Dalmore to lift their testimony as they ought to have done. When Ewan was got in to his delayed dinner the atmosphere was quite serene, and quite a different subject was under discussion.

Trotag, having done her duty conscientiously, felt herself wounded in the house of her friends at first, but, whether it was the threat of that sharp stone or an unregenerated weakness that did it, the fact was certain that in the end she laughed with the laughers, and slapped Diarmad on the back in pretended reproof, but real approbation.

Ewan ate his dinner most contentedly in solemn silence, but Diarmad had to eat and talk as best he could because he was forced to be the opposition on the new subject started by the man of the house, just to change the conversation at a suitable break.

"And hast thou heard, Diarmad, about the new minister the Queen's advisers are sending us?" asked old Seumas.

"Not a word. And who is the man?"

"It is all in the papers" answered the elder, "and a letter has come to the session saying the presentee is coming to preach to us the Sunday after next. His name is Charles Stuart, and they say he comes from Arran."

"Well, there can be no objection at anyrate to the man's name, and the place of his birth."

Kirsty of Strone—"And why should there not? The Arran Gaelic is not so like ours, and I daresay the man was a smuggler."

Diarmad—"You are thinking of the minister'we once got from Arran, and who was a smuggler when a boy, but was he not the good man and minister."

Anne of Dalmore—"A brand snatched from the burning."

Meg of Camus—"A proof of the power of redeeming grace."

Kirsty of Strone—"A burning and a shining light. But who is this man that he should be compared to such a servant of God ? This man is just a Black Moderate."

Anne of Dalmore—"And it is the black worldly heart he must have to take, like a hungry wolf, the place refused to the man chosen by the people."

Meg of Camus—"A man you may be sure who will not lift his nose from the paper."

Kirsty of Strone—"And, as that blessed man, Mr Logie, said of the Achterarder presentee, a thief and a robber, who does not come into the fold through the door, but steals over the wall by the ladder of patronage."

Diarmad—"And pray by what ladder did Mr Logie himself and mostly all the Non-Intrusion ministers climb over the walls of their churches?"

The Elder —"Well, no doubt by the ladder of patronage; but it is only through the late encroachments on the liberties of the Kirk that the full evil of the system has come to be revealed."

Diarmad—"The encroachments were not first began by the State, and they are not all on one side yet."

The Elder—"Was not Bolingbroke's Act restoring patronage, an encroachment by the State, and a wrong to Scotland."

Diarmad—"Granted; but I was speaking of the present quarrels."

The Eider—"They arose out of Bolingbroke's Act."

Diarmad—"True; but here was the mistake that the rulers of the Kirk, instead of going to Parliament to get Bolingbroke's Act repealed, began themselves to do what was not in their power, and to encroach on Caesar's proper domain."

The Elder — "Dost thou think Parliament would abolish Bolingbroke's Act?

Diarmad—"Yes of course if we worked and waited. Indeed, if the thing had rightly been gone about, it might have been accomplished by this time. It is work for the electors of Scotland, and not for the General Assembly."

Kirsty of Strone—"That is the way you all talk at the Seat of the Scorners."

Meg of Camus—"You Black Moderates should have gone to hear Mr Logie expounding the rights of the Kirk."

Diarmad—"But Mr Logie did not object to patronage when he was presented to a parish."

Anne of Dalmore—"And if the people had the free right of choice it is Mr Logie that would have the refusal of many parishes."

Meg of Camus—"Aye, for sure. And what a wonderful gift he has for soul-refreshing samhlachan (similes and parables), by which he makes the darkest texts of the Word so plain that a child can understand their deep meaning."

Anne of Dalmore—"For sure, I think of the rod of Moses striking the rock in Horeb when Mr Logie is explaining by samhlachan the deep meaning of a text that yielded to me only a surface meaning before."

Diarmad—"He has certainly an extraordinary gift for ingenious similes and comparisons ; but he lets his gift lead him into shaking bogs too often."

Meg of Camus—"Art thou not afraid to be finding fault with such a man of God?"

Diarmad—"Not in the least. Truth is truth, earth is firm, and Heaven is just. Fault-finding! Why, indeed, if the sheep should choose the shepherds they must certainly judge them too. It would do Mr Logie a vast deal of good if he wrote out his sermons from beginning to end and carefully kept his nose to the paper until he learned to bridle his weakness for improper comparisons."

Chorus—"Improper. Oh!"

Diarmad—"Yes, improper, unedifying, and sometimes laughable."

Anne of Dalmore—"Prove thy words."

The other sisters—"Yes, prove them."

Ealag watched quietly, and looked very much as if she secretely sided with the scoffer, who was the young chief of her kith and kin, and threatened to put her head on a sharp stone amidst ancestral dust.
The elder said nothing. The Ciotach smoked his pipe, and clearly the elder's wife and the housewife enjoyed the Scorner's audacity. The two, in fact, had unfavourable private opinions anent some of Mr Logie's samhlachan, and they turned with unconcealed approval to hear Diarmad's reply. It came at once :—

"You ask me to prove a thing which is openly and notoriously known. I daresay all of you heard the sermon he preached from our tent at last communion. I ask you if his comparisons about mother's love and mother's milk were not indelicate and scandalous. Why, he scarcely stopped short of going into matters that should belong to doctors, howdies, and nurses. Then, at the Kilfaolain communion a really clever comparison led him into the eye of a quagmire." Here the elder, who, as well as Diarmad heard the sermon in which Mr Logie stepped into a verbal trap of impropriety on the back of a comparison between St Peter's faith when he denied his Master and the weights of a clock, stopped the narrative by admitting that Diarmad on that matter was right.


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