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 43: Rain--Mist--The Jaws
To this day we argue in the glen about the sound mistaken by many of us for the firing of the Spittal cannon, some calling it thunder and others the tearing of trees in the torrent. I think it must have been the roll of stones into the Quharity from Silver Hill, of which a corner has been missing since that day. Silver Hill is all stones, as if creation had been riddled there, and in the sun the mica on them shines like many pools of water.
At the roar, as they thought, of the cannon, the farmers looked up from their struggle with the flood to say, "That's Rintoul married," as clocks pause simultaneously to strike the hour. Then every one in the glen save Gavin and myself was done with Rintoul. Before the hills had answered the noise, Gavin was on his way to the Spittal. The dog must have been ten minutes in overtaking him, yet he maintained afterward that it was with him from the start. From this we see that the shock he had got carried him some distance before he knew that he had left the school-house. It also gave him a new strength, that happily lasted longer than his daze of mind.
Gavin moved northward quicker than I came south, climbing over or wading through his obstacles, while I went round mine. After a time, too, the dog proved useful, for on discovering that it was going homeward it took the lead, and several times drew him to the right road to the Spittal by refusing to accompany him on the wrong road. Yet in two hours he had walked perhaps nine miles without being four miles nearer the Spittal. In that flood the glen milestones were three miles apart.
For some time he had been following the dog doubtfully, for it seemed to be going too near the river. When they struck a cart- track, however, he concluded rightly that they were nearing a bridge. His faith in his guide was again tested before they had been many minutes on this sloppy road. The dog stopped, whined, looked irresolute, and then ran to the right, disappearing into the mist in an instant. He shouted to it to come back, and was surprised to hear a whistle in reply. This was sufficient to make him dash after the dog, and in less than a minute he stopped abruptly by the side of a shepherd.
"Have you brocht it?" the man cried almost into Gavin's ear; yet the roar of the water was so tremendous that the words came faintly, as if from a distance. "Wae is me; is it only you, Mr. Dishart?"
"Is it only you!" No one in the glen would have addressed a minister thus except in a matter of life of death, and Gavin knew it.
"He'll be ower late," the shepherd exclaimed, rubbing his hands together in distress. "I'm speaking o' Whinbusses' grieve. He has run for ropes, but he'll be ower late."
"Is there some one in danger?" asked Gavin, who stood, he knew not where, with this man, enveloped in mist.
"Is there no? Look!"
"There is nothing to be seen but mist; where are we?"
"We're on the high bank o' the Quharity. Take care, man; you was stepping ower into the roaring water. Lie down and tell me if he's there yet. Maybe I just think that I see him, for the sicht is painted on my een."
Gavin lay prone and peered at the river, but the mist came up to his eyes. He only knew that the river was below from the sound.
"Is there a man down there?" he asked, shuddering.
"There was a minute syne; on a bit island."
"Why does he not speak?"
"He is senseless. Dinna move; the mist's clearing, and you'll see if he's there syne. The mist has been lifting and falling that way ilka minute since me and the grieve saw him."
The mist did not rise. It only shook like a blanket, and then again remained stationary. But in that movement Gavin had seen twice, first incredulously. and then with conviction.
"Shepherd," he said, rising, "it is Lord Rintoul."
"Ay, it's him; and you saw his feet was in the water. They were dry when the grieve left me. Mr. Dishart, the ground he is on is being washed awa bit by bit. I tell you, the flood's greedy for him, and it'll hae him---Look, did you see him again?"
"Is he living?"
"We saw him move. Hst! Was that a cry?"
It was only the howling of the dog, which had recognized its master and was peering over the bank, the body quivering to jump, but the legs restless with indecision.
"If we were down there," Gavin said, "we could hold him secure till rescue comes. It is no great jump."
"How far would you make it? I saw him again!"
"It looked further that time."
"That's it! Sometimes the ground he is on looks so near that you think you could almost drop on it, and the next time it's yards and yards awa. I've stood ready for the spring, Mr. Dishart, a dozen times, but I aye sickened. I daurna do it. Look at the dog; just when it's starting to jump, it pulls itsel' back."
As if it had heard the shepherd, the dog jumped at that instant.
"It sprang too far," Gavin said.
"It didna spring far enough."
They waited, and presently the mist thinned for a moment, as if it was being drawn out. They saw the earl, but there was no dog.
"Poor brute," said the shepherd, and looked with awe at Gavin.
"Rintotil is slipping into the water," Gavin answered. "You won't jump?"
"No, I'm wae for him, and--"
"Then I will," Gavin was about to say, but the shepherd continued, "And him only married twa hours syne."
That kept the words in Gavin's mouth for half a minute, and then he spoke them.
"Dinna think o't," cried the shepherd, taking him by the coat. "The ground he is on is slippery. I've flung a dozen stanes at it, and them that hit it slithered off. Though you landed in the middle o't, you would slide into the water."
"He shook himsel' free o' me," the shepherd told afterward, "and I saw him bending down and measuring the distance wi' his een as cool as if he was calculating a drill o' tatties. Syne I saw his lips moving in prayer. It wasna spunk he needed to pray for, though. Next minute there was me, my very arms prigging wi' him to think better o't, and him standing ready to loup, has knees bent, and not a tremble in them. The mist lifted, and I---Lads, I couldna gie a look to the earl. Mr. Dishart jumped; I hardly saw him, but I kent, I kent, for I was on the bank alane. What did I do? I flung mysel' down in a sweat, and if een could bore mist mine would hae done it. I thocht I heard the minister's death-cry, and may I be struck if I dinna believe now that it was a skirl o' my ain. After that there was no sound but the jaw o' the water; and I prayed, but no to God, to the mist to rise, and after an awful time it rose, and I saw the minister was safe; he had pulled the earl into the middle o' the bit island and was rubbing him back to consciousness. I sweat when I think o't yet."
The Little Minister's jump is always spoken of as a brave act in the glen, but at such times I am silent. This is not because, being timid myself, I am without admiration for courage. My little maid says that three in every four of my poems are to the praise of prowess, and she has not forgotten how I carried her on my shoulder once to Tilliedrum to see a soldier who had won the Victoria Cross, and made her shake hands with him, though he was very drunk. Only last year one of my scholars declared to me that Nelson never said "England expects every man this day to do his duty," for which I thrashed the boy and sent him to the cooling- stone. But was it brave of Gavin to jump? I have heard some maintain that only misery made him so bold, and others that he jumped because it seemed a fine thing to risk his life for an enemy. But these are really charges of cowardice, and my boy was never a coward. Of the two kinds of courage, however, he did not then show the nobler. I am glad that he was ready for such an act, but he should have remembered Margaret and Babbie. As it was, he may be said to have forced them to jump with him. Not to attempt a gallant deed for which one has the impulse, may be braver than the doing of it.
"Though it seemed as lang time," the shepherd says, "as I could hae run up a hill in, I dinna suppose it was many minutes afore I saw Rintoul opening and shutting his een. The next glint I had o' them they were speaking to ane another; ay, and mair than speaking. They were quarrelling. I couldna hear their words, but there was a moment when I thocht they were to grapple. Lads, the memory o' that'll hing about deathbed. There was twa men, edicated to the highest pitch, ane a lord and the other a minister, and the flood was taking awa a mouthful o' their footing ilka minute, and the jaws o' destruction was gaping for them, and yet they were near fechting. We ken now it was about a woman. Ay, but does that make it less awful?"
No, that did not make it less awful. It was even awful that Gavin's first words when Rintoul opened his eyes and closed them hastily were, "Where is she?" The earl did not answer; indeed, for the moment the words had no meaning to him.
"How did I come here?" he asked feebly.
"You should know better than I. Where is my wife?"