The Little Minister
Chapter 1: The Love-Light
Chapter 2: Runs Alongside the Making of a Minister
Chapter 3: The Night-Watchers
Chapter 4: First Coming of the Egyptian Woman
Chapter 8: 3 A.M.--Monstrous Audacity of the Woman
Chapter 10: First Sermon against Women
Chapter 12: Tragedy of a Mud House
Chapter 13: Second Coming of the Egyptian Woman
Chapter 14: The Minister Dances to the Woman's Piping
Chapter 16: Continued Misbehavior of the Egyptian Woman
Chapter 18: Caddam--Love Leading to a Rupture
Chapter 20: End of the State of Indecision
Chapter 21: Night--Margaret--Flashing of a Lantern
Chapter 22: Lovers
Chapter 25: Beginning of the Twenty-four Hours
Chapter 26: Scene at the Spittal
Chapter 29: Story of the Egyptian
Chapter 30: The Meeting for Rain
Chapter 31: Various Bodies Converging on the Hill
Chapter 32: Leading Swiftly to the Appalling Marriage
Chapter 33: While the Ten o'Clock Bell was Ringing
Chapter 34: The Great Rain
Chapter 35: The Glen at Break of Day
Chapter 36: Story of the Dominie
Chapter 39: How Babbie Spent the Night of August Fourth
Chapter 42: Margaret, the Precentor, and God between
Chapter 43: Rain--Mist--The Jaws
Chapter 44: End of the Twenty-four Hours
Chapter 45: Talk of a Little Maid since Grown Tall
Chapter 8: 3 A.M.--Monstrous Audacity of the Woman
Not till the stroke of three did Gavin turn homeward, with the legs of a ploughman, and eyes rebelling against over-work. Seeking to comfort his dejected people, whose courage lay spilt on the brae, he had been in as many houses as the policemen. The soldiers marching through the wynds came frequently upon him, and found it hard to believe that he was always the same one. They told afterwards that Thrums was remarkable for the ferocity of its women, and the number of its little ministers. The morning was nipping cold, and the streets were deserted, for the people had been ordered within doors. As he crossed the Roods, Gavin saw a gleam of red-coats. In the back wynd he heard a bugle blown. A stir in the Banker's close spoke of another seizure. At the top of the school wynd two policeman, of whom one was Wearyworld, stopped the minister with the flash of a lantern.
"We dauredna let you pass, sir," the Tilliedrum man said, "without a good look at you. That's the orders."
"I hereby swear," said Wearyworld, authoritatively, "that this is no the Egyptian. Signed, Peter Spens, policeman, called by the vulgar, Wearyworld. Mr. Dishart, you can pass, unless you'll bide a wee and gie us your crack."
"You have not found the gypsy, then?" Gavin asked.
"No," the other policeman said, "but we ken she's within cry o' this very spot, and escape she canna."
"What mortal man can do," Wearyworld said, "we're doing: ay, and mair, but she's auld wecht, and may find bilbie in queer places. Mr. Dishart, my official opinion is that this Egyptian is fearsomely like my snuff-spoon. I've kent me drap that spoon on the fender, and be beat to find it in an hour. And yet, a' the time I was sure it was there. This is a gey mysterious world, and women's the uncanniest things in't. It's hardly mous to think how uncanny they are."
"This one deserves to be punished," Gavin said, firmly; "she incited the people to riot."
"She did," agreed Weary world, who was supping ravenously on sociability; "ay, she even tried her tricks on me, so that them that kens no better thinks she fooled me. But she's cracky. To gie her her due, she's cracky, and as for her being a cuttie, you've said yoursel, Mr. Dishart, that we're all desperately wicked, But we're sair tried. Has it ever struck you that the trouts bites best on the Sabbath? God's critturs tempting decent men."
"Come alang," cried the Tilliedrum man, impatiently.
"I'm coming, but I maun give Mr. Dishart permission to pass first. Hae you heard, Mr. Dishart," Wearyworld whispered, "that the Egyptian diddled baith the captain and the shirra? It's my official opinion that she's no better than a roasted onion, the which, if you grip it firm, jumps out o' sicht, leaving its coat in your fingers. Mr. Dishart, you can pass."
The policeman turned down the school wynd, and Gavin, who had already heard exaggerated accounts of the strange woman's escape from the town-house, proceeded along the Tenements. He walked in the black shadows of the houses, though across the way there was the morning light.
In talking of the gypsy, the little minister had, as it were, put on the black cap; but now, even though he shook his head angrily with every thought of her, the scene in Windyghoul glimmered before his eyes. Sometimes when he meant to frown he only sighed, and then having sighed he shook himself. He was unpleasantly conscious of his right hand, which had flung the divit. Ah, she was shameless, and it would be a bright day for Thrums that saw the last of her. He hoped the policemen would succeed in--. It was the gladsomeness of innocence that he had seen dancing in the moonlight. A mere woman could not be like that. How soft--. And she had derided him; he, the Auld Licht minister of Thrums, had been flouted before his people by a hussy. She was without reverence, she knew no difference between an Auld Licht minister, whose duty it was to speak and hers to listen, and herself. This woman deserved to be--. And the look she cast behind her as she danced and sang! It was sweet, so wistful; the presence of purity had silenced him. Purity! Who had made him fling that divit? He would think no more of her. Let it suffice that he knew what she was. He would put her from his thoughts. Was it a ring on her finger?
Fifty yards in front of him Gavin saw the road end in a wall of soldiers. They were between him and the manse, and he was still in darkness. No sound reached him, save the echo of his own feet. But was it an echo? He stopped, and turned round sharply. Now he heard nothing, he saw nothing. Yet was not that a human figure standing motionless in the shadow behind?
He walked on, and again heard the sound. Again he looked behind, but this time without stopping. The figure was following him. He stopped. So did it. He turned back, but it did not move. It was the Egyptian!
Gavin knew her, despite the lane of darkness, despite the long cloak that now concealed even her feet, despite the hood over her head. She was looking quite respectable, but he knew her.
He neither advanced to her nor retreated. Could the unhappy girl not see that she was walking into the arms of the soldiers? But doubtless she had been driven from all her hiding-places. For a moment Gavin had it in his heart to warn her. But it was only for a moment. The nest a sudden horror shot through him. She was stealing toward him, so softly that he had not seen her start. The woman had designs on him! Gavin turned from her. He walked so quickly that judges would have said he ran.
The soldiers, I have said, stood in the dim light. Gavin had almost reached them, when a little hand touched his arm.
"Stop," cried the sergeant, hearing some one approaching, and then Gavin stepped out of the darkness with the gypsy on his arm.
"It is you, Mr. Dishart," said the sergeant, "and your lady?"
"I--." said Gavin.
His lady pinched his arm.
"Yes," she answered, in an elegant English voice that made Gavin stare at her, "but, indeed, I am sorry I ventured into the streets to-night. I thought I might be able to comfort some of these unhappy people, captain, but I could do little, sadly little."
"It is no scene for a lady, ma'am, but your husband has--. Did you speak, Mr. Dishart?"
"Yes, I must inf--"
"My dear," said the Egyptian, "I quite agree witfe you, so we need not detain the captain."
"I'm only a sergeant, ma'am."
"Indeed!" said the Egyptian, raising her pretty eyebrows, "and how long are you to remain in Thrums, sergeant?"
"Only for a few hours, Mrs. Dishart. If this gypsy lassie had not given us so much trouble, we might have been gone by now."
"Ah, yes, I hope you will catch her, sergeant."
"Sergeant," said Gavin, firmly, "I must--"
"You must, indeed, dear," said the Egyptian, "for you are sadly tired. Good-night, sergeant."
"Your servant, Mrs. Dishart. Your servant, sir."
"But--," cried Gavin.
"Come, love," said the Egyptian, and she walked the distracted minister through the soldiers and up the manse road.
The soldiers left behind, Gavin flung her arm from him, and, standing still, shook his fist in her face.
"You--you--woman!" he said.
This, I think, was the last time he called her a woman.
But she was clapping her hands merrily.
"It was beautiful!" she exclaimed.
"It was iniquitous!" he answered. "And I a minister!"
"You can't help that," said the Egyptian, who pitied all ministers heartily.
"No," Gavin said, misunderstanding her, "I could not help it. No blame attaches to me."
"I meant that you could not help being a minister, You could have helped saving me, and I thank you so much."
"Do not dare to thank me. I forbid you to say that I saved you. I did my best to hand you over to the authorities."
"Then why did you not hand me over?"
"All you had to say," continued the merciless Egyptian, "was, 'This is the person you are in search of.' I did not have my hand over your mouth. Why did you not say it?"
"Forbear!" said Gavin, woefully.
"It must have been," the gypsy said, "because you really wanted to help me."
"Then it was against my better judgment," said Gavin.
"I am glad of that," said the gypsy. "Mr. Dishart, I do believe you like me all the time."
"Can a man like a woman against his will?" Gavin blurted out.
"Of course he can," said the Egyptian, speaking as one who knew. "That is the very nicest way to be liked."
Seeing how agitated Gavin was, remorse filled her, and she said in a wheedling voice--
"It is all over, and no one will know."
Passion sat on the minister's brow, but he said nothing, for the gypsy's face had changed with her voice, and the audacious woman was become a child.
"I am very sorry," she said, as if he had caught her stealing jam. The hood had fallen back, and she looked pleadingly at him. She had the appearance of one who was entirely in his hands.
There was a torrent of words in Gavin, but only these trickled forth--
"I don't understand you."
"You are not angry any more?" pleaded the Egyptian.