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The Long Glen
Chapter XXII - The Veto


GREGOR and his friend quickly turned out of the smithy, and went on their way without waiting to hear Duncan Ban's offered story. The latter chuckled—" Yon was a bad blow on the nose to the greusaich with the unction of grace and the face of his father. But it was too bad to hit him so hard. Gregor should not have tempted me by bringing up the bad father's name in such a provoking way, just as if I ought to own friendship with the man that stole my hose, and was the worst thief in the Highlands."

"Perhaps," suggested the wright, "Gregor did not know the story about the man's father."

"Pooh-pooh, he knew it fine. His own father was a witness in the sheep-stealing case, and Gregor must have heard him tell the story many a time. Gregor is of good stock, and he is not a bad fellow himself, for all the buzzing of this veto bee that has got into his bonnet. But what is the world coming to when the son of one crochaire * and the grandson of another sets himself up as a teacher of Israel."

"He is a converted man, and has the unction of grace," suggested Diarmad.

Duncan Ban—"Conversion and unction of grace here or there, I would much rather trust a man with three honest forefathers at his back than the best washed convert of the Baptists—biggest sin-washers going—that ever stepped out of the mill dam, if I knew that his forefathers were accustomed to get into branks and prisons."

"The Wright—"There's the first bell. It is almost time to be moving. We are a weak band, only eight communicants and a few adherents. Well, worse-signed calls have been held good ; but, for sure, it will be a poor thing against the veto of a hundred and twenty communicants." Rascal.

Duncan Ban—"They'll not have so many as that. They have failed, as we also have failed, to persuade the old women, aye and many of the younger ones, to come before the Presbytery. The foolish creatures think it something awful to stand up in kirk to say 'yea or nay,' before the cleir in meeting assembled."

Diarmad—"Almost all the old women, and the full half of the young ones, are, in their hearts, on our side. although the elders,she-saints, and prayer-meetings folk have brow-beaten them out of their courage and senses. If the reckoning were to be taken like the Government-numbering of the people by papers left to be filled in at every house, the voting would be very different from what will take place at the church to-day. Aye, and secret voting, or what they call the ballot, would give us a good majority."

Duncan Ban—"It is just astonishing and lamentable to think how the will of the Gaelic people, both men and women, is bending like a willow wand to the bidding of Dunedin intermeddlers, and their fiery-cross emissaries."

Diarmad—"But the Non-Intrusionists both here and everywhere have only too much courage—of a sort."

Duncan Ban—"True for you—of a sort—but it is of the wrong sort whatever. It is not the courage of the man who would stand up alone for the right against all the world. It is not the fealty of kith and kin that taught people to fight shoulder to shoulder because blood is thicker than water' It is just the stupid courage of the Miller Beag's twenty sheep which all got drowned by jumping off the plank bridge into the boiling linn after their leader, the blind old tup."

Calum—"And the worst of it is that the authorities are equally blind."

"Aye," said the farmer from the Braes, "the authorities are just as provoking as Iain Ruadh was at the fair, when he tried all round to get a man to fight with him, and at last knocked down the constable because he wore a japanned hat!"

Diarmad—"Indeed it is God's truth that, by the faults of both sides, things have come to such a pass as to bind the committed men to break up the Church for their own credit, and in a manner for the honour of the Scotch name, unless even yet the Government will extinguish the whole quarrel by abolishing Bolingbroke's unfair Act."

The Wright—"Much as I hate their work, and fear its consequences, I should myself feel it as a disgrace to my country if the Non-Intrusionist ministers should now compress like a bag of tow."

Duncan Ban—"Mille mollachd !1 that is the black truth. A sore disgrace it would be to all Alba if these rampageous Bulls of Bashan were now to go on their knees in the glaur for the sake of keeping their manses and their stipends. But the poke-pudding Saxons will not find them to be so fusionless as their ministers. No, indeed, if they are foolish enough to demand a slice of the moon they have the courage to jump into the linn for its shadow at the risk of limb and life."

Calum—"Yet they will ruin the Kirk all the same, and the Saxons and their bishops will be main glad of that. Are not our mad ministers asking for the same Kirk-power for which the Cuigse asked and fought long ago?"

Diarmad—"Our civil liberties are now safe enough, unless we begin to betray them ourselves. And there are no intruded bishops to be got rid of; but it may be said, upon the whole, that the Non-Intrusionists stand in the brogues of the most intolerant section of the Covenanters."

Duncan Ban—"And brogues of untanned skin they were, whatever. Why don't they, like the Cuigse, take sword and shield to defend the Kirk, instead of making haste to ruin her altogether by running away?"

Calum—"We have got to better times. War and bloodshed are over in our land, thank God."

Duncan Ban—"And again I tell you, Calum, that your thanksgiving is great foolishness. You think there will be "A thousand curses. " Clay—mud. no more wars. That I don't believe, because without wars now and then to clear them off the vermin of Adam's race, boasting all the time perhaps of unction of grace, would eat up the better people. Man, wars without bloodshed are the worst wars of all. Lawyers' pens create more misery and mischief than drawn swords in brave hands fighting for a good cause. This Kirk quarrel is itself a sorry, bloodless war, full of malice, venom, and uncharitableness, in which the mad ministers, amidst the yelping of curs, are about to save themselves from the black disgrace the authorities are forcing on them by ruining the Kirk of their fathers."

Diarmad—"And the Kirk is our last and greatest national institution; the only one left through which we can still raise the voice of an unconquered people."

Duncan Ban—"To my thinking, although some of my forefathers fought on the other side, the Cuigse did far better than running away. They betook themselves to sword and shield, and fought stubbornly for the Kirk and the rights of Alba as they understood them."

The Wright—"However that may be, it is now full time for us to go to the gathering."

When soberly pacing the short distance between the smithy and the church, the stout farmer from the Braes astonished his companions by declaring it to be his firm intention to protest for remead in law if the Presbytery proceeded under the Veto Act, which the Civil Courts had declared illegal. He had got the formula of protest correctly committed to memory from a newspaper, and as he was more stubborn than clear-headed, it needed all the influence and eloquence of the others to dissuade him from his purpose. He gave in, however, when it was shown to him that, from the circumstances of the time, it would avail nothing to make such a protest, since the object of the vetoers was simply to hang up the case till the meeting of Assembly in May, when it was expected the disruptive forces would be let loose.

The bell that day was rung in a most mournful manner by old Hugh the Bellman, who wished much to sign the call, but was under irresistible pressure to go with the majority.

The church was well filled, although many of the female communicants did not put in appearance. The people occupied their usual seats. Fixed resolution was legibly written on their faces, but a shade of sorrow prevailed over all, which on not a few countenances deepened into gloomy darkness.

Before the business of the call was proceeded with, the Moderator went into the pulpit and preached a short sermon. The members of Presbytery, both ministers and elders, found ample accommodation, and the convenience of a table for the clerk, in the square pew of the Session. The sermon, of course, referred to the business of the day, but, considering that the Moderator was a Non-Intrusionist, he succeeded very well in divesting his remarks of party spirit. He was a good-looking, pale-complexioned young man, with a voice that sounded like a silver bell. This clear sounding voice was then and afterwards a great misfortune to him, since it was held to be destitute of the unction of Grace. In very truth, the young man was more gifted with intellect, culture, and business talents than with revival enthusiasm and fanatical intolerance.

After sermon, the Moderator descended from the pulpit, took his seat at the head of the Session table, and the Court was formally constituted. Then the call and relative documents were laid on the table, and the parishioners were invited to come forward and sign. So far nothing was said about the Veto Act—which was the thing uppermost in everybody's mind. The objectors observed with alarm that, owing to the unaccountable absence of two ministers of their party, the Presbytery was equally divided —just as many Moderates as Non-Intrusionists. No doubt the Moderator had a casting vote in case of equality, but in such a situation of difficulty and legal responsibility how could much reliance be placed in a man whose voice lacked the unction of Grace?

As soon as parishioners were invited to come forward to sign the call, the little band of twelve advanced from the nearest pew, where they had been sitting together, and signed one after another in deep silence. Then came the turn of the objectors. But there was a short pause, and it was evident to all that the Moderator hesitated to assume undivided responsibility for defying the declared law of the land, by using his casting vote to give his side the majority for proceeding under the Veto Act. After some conversation, the Moderator seemed very willing to accept a compromise suggested by the leader of the other side, which would enable the opponents of the presentee who were communicants to come forward and get their names recorded as objectors who at a future stage would produce their objections in writing. This plan was on the point of being adopted unanimously when, just in the nick of time, one of the absent ministers—a man of solid build and with a long nose—entered the church, and at once the faces of the objectors relaxed and broadened with smiles. The newcomer would have no compromise, no evasion. Nothing short of a substantive motion to proceed according to the Veto Act would suit his martyr zeal. That motion he instantly made, and carried by a majority of one. Then the objectors, elders, she-saints, effective partisanship young men, and the host of the over-persuaded and morally coerced people, black-balled the presentee of the Crown very thoroughly.

So the parish was kept, vacant until the meeting of the Disruption Assembly, and as it chanced, by what then came to pass, for a long time afterwards ; and thus the sure desolation of the glen church was satisfactorily secured beforehand.

On the 18th of May, while the name of the Moderator with the Graceless voice was found in the list of country ministers who sacrificed cosy manses and comfortable stipends to their sincere, however mistaken, principles of ecclesiastical supremacy, the name of the "substantive motion" man was conspicuous by its absence. A few weeks later his sudden revolution on his own solid axis was thankfully recognised by his being translated to one of the best livings in the gift of the Crown; and for the remainder of his days so far was he from objecting to Patronage that he managed indirectly to exercise a good deal of it himself.


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