An Ontario sun shed a pleasant warmth into the clearing where Elder
Hector McCakeron sat smoking. His gratified consciousness was
pleasantly titillated by sights and sounds of worldly comfort. From the
sty behind the house came fat gruntings; in the barn-yard hens were
shrilly announcing that eggs would be served with the bacon; moreover,
Janet was vigorously agitating a hoe among the potatoes to his left,
while his wife performed similarly in the cabbage-garden. And what
better could a man wish than to see his women profitably employed?
It was a pause in Janet's labors that gave the elder first warning
of an intruder on his peace. A man was coming across the clearing—a
short fellow, thick-set and bow-legged in figure, slow and heavy of
face. The elder observed him with stony eyes.
“It's the Englisher,” he muttered. “What'll he be wanting wi' me?”
His accent was hostile as his glance. Since, thirty years before, a
wave of red-haired Scots inundated western Ontario, no man of Saxon
birth had settled in Zorra, the elder's township. That in peculiar had
been held sealed as a heritage to the Scot, and when Joshua Timmins
bought out Sandy Cruikshanks the township boiled and burned throughout
its length and breadth.
Not that it had expected to suffer the contamination. It was simply
astounded at the man's impudence. “We'll soon drum him oot!” Elder
McCakeron snorted, when he heard of the invasion; to which, on learning
that Timmins was also guilty of Methodism, he added, “Wait till the
meenister lays claws on the beast.”
It was confidently expected that he would be made into a notable
example, a warning to all intruders from beyond the pale; and the first
Sunday after his arrival a full congregation turned out to see the
minister do the trick. Interest was heightened by the presence of the
victim, who, lacking a chapel of his own faith, attended kirk. His
entrance caused a sensation. Forgetting its Sabbath manners, the
congregation turned bodily and stared till recalled to its duty by the
minister's cough. Then it shifted its gaze to him. What thunders were
brewing behind that confident front? What lightnings lurked in the
depths of those steel-gray eyes? Breathlessly Zorra had waited for the
anathema which should wither the hardy intruder and drive him as chaff
from a burning wind.
But it waited in vain. By the most liberal interpretation no phrase
of his could be construed as a reflection on the stranger. Worse! After
kirk-letting the minister hailed Timmins in the door, shook hands in
the scandalized face of the congregation, and hoped that he might see
him regularly at service.
Scandalous? It was irreligious! But if disappointed in its minister,
Zorra had no intention of neglecting its own duty in the premises: the
Englisher was not to be let off while memories of Bruce and Bannockburn
lived in Scottish hearts. Which way he turned that day and in the
months that followed he met dour faces. Excepting Cap'en Donald McKay,
a retired mariner, whose native granite had been somewhat disintegrated
by exposure to other climates, no man gave him a word;—this, of
course, without counting Neil McNab, who called on Timmins three times
a week to offer half-price for the farm.
With one exception, too, the women looked askance upon him,
wondering, doubtless, how he dared to oppose their men-folks' wishes.
Calling the cows of evenings, Janet McCakeron sometimes came on
Timmins, whose farm cornered on her father's, and thus a nodding
acquaintance arose between them. That she should have so demeaned
herself is a matter of reproach with many, but the fair-minded who have
sufficiently weighed the merits of her case are slower with their
blames. For though Zorra can boast maidens who have hung in the wind
till fifty and still, as the vernacular has it, “married on a man,” a
girl was counted well on the way to the shelf at forty-five. Janet, be
it remembered, lacked but two years of the fatal age. Already chits of
thirty-five or seven were generously alluding to her as the prop of her
father's age; so small wonder if she simpered instead of passing with a
nifty air when Timmins spoke one evening.
His remark was simple in tenor—in effect that her bell-cow was “a
wee cat-ham'ed”; but Janet scented its underlying tenderness as a
hungry traveller noses a dinner on a wind, and after that drove her
cows round by the corner which was conveniently veiled by heavy
maple-bush. Indeed, it was to the friendly shadows which shrouded it,
day or dark, that Cap'en McKay—a man wise in affairs of the heart by
reason of much sailing in and out of foreign ports—afterward
attributed the record which Timmins set Zorra in courting.
“He couldna see her bones, nor her his bow-legs,” the mariner
phrased it. But be this as it may, whether or no each made love to a
voice, Cupid ran a swift course with them, steeplechasing over
obstacles that would have taken years for a Zorra lad to plod around.
In less than six months they passed from a bare goodnight to the
exchange of soul thoughts on butter-making, the raising of calves,
fattening of swine, and methods of feeding swedes that they might not
taint cow's milk, and so had progressed by such tender paths through
gentle dusks to the point where Timmins was ready to declare himself in
the light of this present morning.
Assured by one glance that Timmins's courage still hung at the point
to which she had screwed it the preceding evening, Janet drooped again
to her work.
To his remark that the potatoes were looking fine, however, the
elder made no response—unless a gout of tobacco smoke could be so
counted. With eyes screwed up and mouth drawn down, he gazed off into
space—a Highland sphinx, a Gaelic Rhadamanthus.
His manner, however, made no impression on Timmins's stolidity. The
latter's eye followed the elder's in its peregrinations till it came to
rest, when, without further preliminaries, he began to unfold his suit,
which in matter and essence was such as are usually put forward by
those whom love has blinded.
It was really an able plea, lacking perhaps those subtilities of
detail with which a Zorra man would have trimmed it, but good enough
for a man who labored under the disadvantages which accrue to birth
south of the Tweed and Tyne. But it did not stir the elder's sphinxlike
calm. “Ha' ye done?” he inquired, without removing his gaze from the
clouds; and when Timmins assented, he delivered judgment in a cloud of
tobacco smoke. “Weel—ye canna ha' her.” After which he resumed his
pipe and smoked placidly, wearing the air of one who has settled a
difficult question forever.
But if stolid, Timmins had his fair share of a certain slow
“Why?” he demanded.
The elder smoked on.
“Weel,”—the elder spoke slowly to the clouds,—“I'm no obliged to
quote chapter an' verse, but for the sake of argyment—forbye should
Janet marry on an Englisher when there's good Scotchmen running loose?”
This was a “poser.” Born to a full realization of the vast gulf
which providence has fixed between the Highlands and the rest of the
world, Janet recognized it as such. Pausing, she leaned on her hoe,
anxiously waiting, while Timmins chewed a straw and the cud of
“Yes,” he slowly answered, “they've been runnin' from 'er this
twenty year.” Nodding confirmation to the brilliant rejoinder, Janet
fell again to work.
But the elder was in no wise discomposed. Withdrawing one eye from
the clouds, he turned it approvingly upon her hoe practice. “She's
young yet,” he said, “an' a lass o' her pairts wull no go til the
“Call three-an'-forty young?”
“Christy McDonald,” the elder sententiously replied, “marrit on Neil
McNab at fifty. Janet's labor's no going to waste. An' if you were the
on'y man i' Zorra, it wad behoove me to conseeder the lassie's
prospects i' the next world. Ye're a Methodist.”
“Meanin',” said Timmins, when his mind had grappled with the charge,
“as there's no Methodists there?”
Questions of delicacy and certain theological difficulties involved
called for reflection, and the elder smoked a full minute on the
question before be replied: “No, I wadna go so far as that. It stan's
to reason as there's some of 'em there; on'y—I'm no so sure o' their
Timmins thoughtfully scratched his head ere he came back to the
charge. “Meanin' as there's none in 'eaven?”
Again the elder blew a reflective cloud over the merits of the
question. “Weel,” he said, delivering himself with slow caution, “if
so—it's no on record.”
Again Janet looked up, with defeat perching amid her freckles. “He's
got ye this time,” her face said, and the elder's expression of placid
satisfaction affirmed the same opinion. But Timmins rose to a sudden
“In 'eaven,” he answered, “there's neither marriage nor givin' in
“Pish, mon!” the elder snorted. “It's no a question o' marrying;
it's a question o' getting theer, an' Janet's no going to do it wi' a
Methodist hanging til her skirts.”
Silence fell in the clearing—silence that was broken only by the
crash and tinkle of Janet's hoe as she buried Timmins under the clod. A
Scotch daughter, she would bide by her father's word. Unaware of his
funeral, Timmins himself stood scratching his poll.
“So you'll not give her to me?” he futilely repeated.
For the first time the elder looked toward him. “Mon, canna ye see
the impossibility o' it? No, ye canna ha' her till—till”—he cast
about for the limit of inconceivability—“till ye're an elder i' the
Presbyterian Kirk.” He almost cracked a laugh at Timmins's sudden
brightening. He had evolved the condition to drive home and clinch the
ridiculous impossibility of the other's suit, and here he was, the
doddered fule, taking hope! It was difficult to comprehend the workings
of such a mind, and though the elder smoked upon it for half an hour
after Timmins left the clearing, he failed of realization.
“Yon's a gay fule,” he said to Janet, when she answered his call to
hitch the log farther into the cabin. “He was wanting to marry on you.”
“Ay?” she indifferently returned,—adding, without change of
feature, “There's no lack o' fules round here.”
Meanwhile Timmins was making his way through the woods to his own
place. As he walked along, the brightness gradually faded from his
face, and by the time he reached the trysting-corner his mood was more
in harmony with his case. His face would have graced a funeral.
Now Cap'en McKay's farm lay cheek by jowl with the elder's, and as
the mariner happened to be fixing his fence at the corner, he noted
Timmins's signals of distress. “Man!” he greeted, “ye're looking
hipped.” Then, alluding to a heifer of Timmins's which had bloated
on marsh-grass the day before, he added, “The beastie didna die?”
Assured that it was only a wife that Timmins lacked, he sighed relief.
“Ah, weel, that's no so bad; they come cheaper. But tell us o't”
“Hecks, lad!” he commented, on Timmins's dole, “I'd advise ye to
drive your pigs til anither market.”
“Were?” Timmins asked—“w'ere'll I find one?”
“That's so.” The mariner thoughtfully shaved his jaw with a red
forefinger, while his comprehensive glance took in the other's
bow-legs. “There isna anither lass i' Zorra that wad touch ye with a
Reddening, Timmins breathed hard, but the mariner met his stare with
the serene gaze of one who deals in undiluted truth; so Timmins gulped
and went on: “Say! I 'ear that you're mighty clever in these 'ere
affairs. Can't you 'elp a feller out?”
The cap'en modestly bowed to reputation, admitting that he had
assisted “a sight of couples over the broomstick,” adding, however,
that the knack had its drawbacks. There were many door-stones in Zorra
that he dared not cross. And he wagged his head over Timmins's case,
wisely, as a lawyer ponders over the acceptance of a hopeless brief.
Finally he suggested that if Timmins was “no stuck on his
Methodisticals,” he might join the kirk.
“You think that would 'elp?”
The cap'en thought that, but he was not prepared to endorse
Timmins's following generalization that it didn't much matter what name
a man worshipped under. It penetrated down through the aforesaid rubble
of disintegration and touched native granite. Stiffly enough he
returned that Presbyterianism was good enough for him, but it rested on
Timmins to follow the dictates of his own conscience.
Now when bathed in love's elixir conscience becomes very pliable
indeed, and as the promptings of Timmins's inner self were all toward
Janet, his outer man was not long in making up his mind. But though,
following the cap'en's advice, he joined himself to the elect of Zorra,
his change of faith brought him only a change of name.
Elder McCakeron officiated at the “christening” which took place in
the crowded market the day after Timmins's name had been spread on the
kirk register. “An' how is the apoos-tate the morning?” the elder
inquired, meeting Timmins. And the name stuck, and he was no more known
as the “Englisher.”
“Any letters for the Apoos-tate?” The postmaster would mouth the
question, repeating it after Timmins when he called for his mail. Small
boys yelled the obnoxious title as he passed the log school on the
corner; wee girls gazed after him, fascinated, as upon one destined for
a headlong plunge into the lake of fire and brimstone. Summing the
situation at the close of his second month's fellowship in the kirk,
Timmins confessed to himself that it had brought him only a full
realization of the “stiffness” of Elder McCakeron's “condition.” He was
no nearer to Janet, and never would have been but for the sudden
decease of Elder Tammas Duncan.
In view of what followed, many hold that Elder Tammas made a vital
mistake in dying, while a few, less charitable, maintain that his
decease was positively sinful.
But if Elder Tammas be not held altogether blameless in the
premises, what must be said of Saunders McClellan, who loaded himself
with corn-juice and thereby sold himself to the fates? Saunders was a
bachelor of fifty and a misogynist by repute. Twenty years back he had
paid a compliment to Jean Ross, who afterward married on Rab Murray. It
was not a flowery effort; simply to the effect that he, Saunders, would
rather sit by her, Jean, than sup oatmeal brose. But though he did not
soar into the realms of metaphor, the compliment seems to have been a
strain on Saunders's intellect, to have sapped his being of tenderness;
for after paying it he reached for his hat and fled, and never again
placed himself in such jeopardy.
“Man!” he would exclaim, when, at threshing or logging bees,
hairbreadth escapes from matrimony cropped up in the
conversation,—“man! but I was near done for yon time!” And yet, all
told, Saunders's dry bachelorhood seems to have been caused by an
interruption in the flow rather than a drying up of his wells of
feeling, as was proven by his conduct coming home from market the
evening he overloaded with “corn-juice.”
For as he drove by Elder McCakeron's milk-yard, which lay within
easy hailing distance of the gravel road, Saunders bellowed to Janet:
“Hoots, there! Come awa, my bonnie bride! Come awa to the meenister!”
In front of her mother and Sib Sanderson, the cattle-buyer—who was
pricing a fat cow,—Saunders thus committed himself, then drove on,
chuckling over his own daring.
“Ye're a deevil! man, ye're a deevil!” he told himself, giving his
hat a rakish cock. “Ye're a deevil wi' the weemen, a sair deceever.”
He did feel that way—just then. But when, next morning, memory
disentangled itself from a splitting headache, Saunders's red hair
bristled at the thought of his indiscretion. It was terrible! He,
Saunders, the despair of the girls for thirty years, had fallen into a
pit of his own digging! He could but hope it a nightmare; but as doubt
was more horrible than certainty, he dressed and walked down the line
Once again he found Janet at the milking; or rather, she had just
turned the cows into the pasture, and as she waited for him by the
bars, Saunders thought he had never seen her at worse advantage. The
sharp morning air had blued her nose, and he was dimly conscious that
the color did not suit her freckles.
“Why, no!” she said, answering his question as to whether or no he
had not acted a bit foolish the night before. “You just speired me to
marry on you. Said I'd been in your eye this thirty years.”
In a sense this was true. He had cleared from her path like a
bolting rabbit, but gallantry forbade that manifest explanation. “'Twas
the whuskey talking,” he pleaded. “Ye'll no hold me til a drunken
But he saw, even before she spoke, that she would.
“'Deed but I will!” she exclaimed, tossing her head. “An' them says
ye were drunken will ha' to deal wi' me. Ye were sober as a sermon.”
Though disheartened, Saunders tried another tack. “Janet,” he said,
solemnly, “I dinna think as a well-brought lass like you wad care to
marry on a man like me. I'm terrible i' the drink. I might beat ye.”
Janet complacently surveyed an arm that was thick as a club from
heavy choring. “I'll tak chances o' that.”
Saunders's heart sank into his boots; but, wiping the sweat from his
brow, he made one last desperate effort: “But ye're promised to
“I am no. Father broke that off.”
Saunders shot his last bolt. “I believe I'm fickle, Janet. There'll
be a sair heart for the lass that marries me. I wouldna wonder if I
“Then,” she calmly replied, “I'll haul ye into the justice coort for
breach o' promise.”
With this terrible ultimatum dinging in his ears Saunders fled.
Zorra juries were notoriously tender with the woman in the case, and he
saw himself stripped of his worldly goods or tied to the apron of the
homeliest girl in Zorra. One single ray illumined the dark prospect.
That evening be called on Timmins, whom he much astonished by the
extent and quality of his advice and encouragement. He even went so far
as to invite the Englisher to his own cabin, thereby greatly
scandalizing his housekeeper—a maiden sister of fifty-two, who had
forestalled fate by declaring for the shelf at forty-nine.
“What'll he be doing here?” the maiden demanded, indicating Timmins
with accusatory finger on the occasion of his first visit. But his
meekness and the propitiatory manner in which he sat on the very edge
of his chair, hat gripped between his knees, mollified her so much that
she presently produced a bowl of red-cheeked apples for his
But her thawing did not save Saunders after the guest was gone.
“There's always a fule in every family,” she cried, when he had
explained his predicament, “an' you drained the pitcher.”
“But you'll talk Janet to him,” Saunders urged, “an' him to her?
She's that hard put to it for a man that wi' a bit steering she'll
consent to an eelopement.”
But, bridling, Jeannie tossed a high head. “'Deed, then, an' I'll no
do ither folk's love-making.”
“Then,” Saunders groaned, “I'll ha' the pair of ye in this hoose.”
This uncomfortable truth gave Jeannie pause. The position of maiden
sister carried with it more chores than easements, and Jeannie was not
minded to relinquish her present powers. For a while she seriously
studied the stove, then her face cleared; she started as one who
suddenly sees her clear path, and giving Saunders a queer look, she
said: “Ah, weel, you're my brother, after all. I'll do my best wi'
both. Tell the Englisher as I'll be pleased to see him any time in the
Matters were at this stage when Elder McCakeron's cows committed
their dire trespass on Neil McNab's turnips.
Who would imagine that such unlike events as Saunders McClellan's
lapse from sobriety, the death of Elder Duncan, and the trespass of
McCakeron's cows could have any bearing upon one another? Yet from
their concurrence was born the most astounding hap in the Zorra
chronicles. Even if Elder McCakeron had paid Neil's bill of damage
instead of remarking that he “didna see as the turnips had hurt his
cows,” the thing would have addled in the egg; and his recalcitrancy,
so necessary to the hatching, has caused many a wise pow to shake over
the inscrutability of Providence. But the elder did not pay, and in
revenge Neil placed Peter Dunlop, the elder's ancient enemy, in
nomination for Tammas Duncan's eldership.
It was Saunders McClellan who carried the news to the McCakeron
homestead. According to her promise, Jeannie had visited early and late
with Janet; and dropping in one evening to check up her report of
progress, Saunders found the elder perched on a stump.
Saunders discharged him of his news, which dissipated the elder's
calm as thunder shatters silence.
“What?” he roared. “Yon scunner? Imph! I'd as lief ... as lief ...
elect”—the devil quivered back of his teeth, but as that
savored of irreverence, he substituted “the Apoostate!”
Right here a devil entered in unto Saunders McClellan—the mocking
devil whose mission it was to abase Zorra to the dust. But it did not
make its presence known until, next day, Saunders carried the news of
Elder McCakeron's retaliation to Cap'en McKay's pig-killing.
“He's going,” Saunders informed the cap'en and Neil McNab between
pigs,—“he's going to run Sandy 'Twenty-One' against your candidate.”
Now between Neil and Sandy lay a feud which had its beginnings what
time the latter doctored a spavined mare and sold her for a
price to the former's cousin Rab.
“Yon scunner?” Neil exclaimed, using the very form of the elder's
words, “yon scunner? I'd as lief ... as lief ... elect ...”
“... the Apoos-tate,” said the Devil, though Neil thought that
Saunders was talking.
“Ay, the Apoos-tate,” he agreed.
“It wad be a fine joke,” the Devil went on by the mouth of Saunders,
“to run the Apoos-tate agin' his candidate. McCakeron canna thole the
“But what if he was elected?” the mariner objected.
The Devil was charged with glib argument. “We couldna very weel.
It's to be a three-cornered fight, an' Robert Duncan, brother to
Tammas, has it sure.”
“'Twad be a good one on McCakeron,” Neil mused. “To talk up Dunlop,
who doesna care a cent for the eldership, an' then spring the
Apoos-tate on him.”
“'Twould be bitter on 'Twenty-One,'“ the cap'en added. He had been
diddled by Sandy on a deal of seed-wheat.
“It wad hit the pair of 'em,” McNab chuckled, and with that word the
So far, as aforesaid, Saunders had been unconscious of the Devil,
but going home the latter revealed himself in a heart-to-heart talk.
“Ye're no pretty to look at,” Saunders said. “I'm minded to throw ye
The Devil chuckled. “Janet's so bonny. Fancy her on the pillow
beside, ye—scraggy—bones—freckles. Hoots, man! a nightmare!”
Shuddering, Saunders reconsidered proceedings of ejectment. “But the
thing is no posseeble?”
“You know your men,” the Devil answered. “Close in the mouth as they
are in the fist. McCakeron will never get wind o' the business till
they spring it on him in meeting.”
“That is so,” Saunders acknowledged. “'Tis surely so-a.”
“Then why,” the Devil urged,—“then why not rig the same game on
“Bosh! He wouldna think o't.”
“Loving Dunlop as himself?” The Devil was apt at paraphrasing
“It would let me out?” Saunders mused.
“Ye can but fail,” argued the Devil. “Try it.”
“This very night!” It is a wonder that the sparks did not fly, the
Devil struck so hard on the hot iron. “To-night! Ye ken the election
comes off next week.”
“To-night,” Saunders agreed.
Throughout that week the din of contending factions resounded
beneath brazen harvest skies; for if there was a wink behind the clamor
of any faction, it made no difference in the volume of its noise.
Wherever two men foregathered, there the spirit of strife was in their
midst; the burr of hot Scot's speech travelled like the murmur of
robbed bees along the Side Lines, up the Concession roads, and even
raised an echo in the hallowed seclusion of the minister's study. And
harking back to certain eldership elections in which the breaking of
heads had taken the place of “anointing with oil,” Elder McIntosh
quietly evolved a plan whereby the turmoil should be left outside the
kirk on election night.
But while it lasted no voice rang louder than that of Saunders
McClellan's devil. Not a bit particular in choice of candidates, he
roared against Dunlop, Duncan, or “Twenty-One” according to the company
which Saunders kept. “Ye havna the ghaist of a show!” he assured Cap'en
McKay, chief of the Dunlopers. “McCakeron drew three mair to him last
night.” While to the elder he exclaimed the same day: “Yon crazy
sailorman's got all the Duncanites o' the run. He has ye spanked,
Elder. Scunner the deil!” So the Devil blew, hot and cold, with
Saunders's mouth, until the very night before the election.
The morning of the election the sun heaved up on a brassy sky. It
was intensely hot through the day, but towards evening gray clouds
scudded out of the east, veiling the sun with their twisting masses; at
twilight heavy rain-blots were splashing the dust. At eight o'clock,
meeting-time, rain flew in glistening sheets against the kirk windows
and forced its way under the floor. There was but a scant
attendance—twoscore men, perhaps, and half a dozen women, who sat, in
decent Scotch fashion, apart from the men—that is, apart from all but
Joshua Timmins. Not having been raised in the decencies as observed in
Zorra, he had drifted over to the woman's side and sat with Janet
McCakeron and Jean McClellan, one on either side.
But if few in number, the gathering was decidedly formidable in
appearance. As the rain had weeded out the feeble, infirm, and
pacifically inclined, it was distinctly belligerent in character. Grim,
dour, silent, it waited for the beginning of hostilities.
Nor did the service of praise which preceded the election induce a
milder spirit. When the precentor led off, “Howl, ye Sinners, Howl! Let
the Heathen Rage and Cry!” each man's look told that he knew well whom
the psalmist was hitting at; and when the minister invoked the “blind,
stubborn, and stony-hearted” to “depart from the midst,” one-half of
his hearers looked their astonishment that the other half did not
immediately step out in the rain. A heavy inspiration, a hard sigh,
told that all were bracing for battle when the minister stepped down
from the pulpit, and noting it, he congratulated himself on his
precautions against disturbance.
“For greater convenience in voting,” he said, reaching paper slips
and a box of pencils from behind the communion rail, “we will depart
from the oral method and elect by written ballot”
He had expected a protest against such a radical departure from
ancestral precedent, but in some mysterious way the innovation seemed
to jibe with the people's inclination.
“Saunders McClellan,” the minister went on, “will distribute and
collect balloting-papers on the other aisle.”
“Give it to him, Cap'en!” Saunders whispered, as he handed him a
slip. “He's glowering at ye.”
The elder was indeed surveying the mariner, McNab, and Dunlop with a
glance of comprehensive hostility over the top of his ballot. “See what
I'm aboot!” his look said, as he folded the paper and tossed it into
“The auld deevil!” McNab whispered, as the minister unfolded the
first ballot. “He'll soon slacken his gills.”
“That'll be one of oor ballots,” the cap'en hoarsely confided.
The minister was vigorously rubbing his glasses for a second perusal
of the ballot, but when the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth were added
to the first, his face became a study in astonishment. And presently
his surprise was reflected by the congregation. For whereas three
candidates were in nomination, the ballots were forming but two piles.
Whispers ran through the kirk; the cap'en nudged McNab.
“McCakeron must ha' swung all the Duncanites?”
“Ah,” Neil muttered. “An' that wad account for the stiff look o' the
reptile. See the glare o't.”
They would have stiffened in astonishment could they have translated
the “glare.” “Got the Duncanites, did ye?” the elder was thinking.
“Bide a wee, bide a wee! He laughs best that laughs last.”
Saunders McClellan and his Devil alone sensed the inwardness of
those two piles, and they held modest communion over it in the back of
the kirk. “You may be ugly, but ye've served me well,” Saunders began.
The Devil answered with extreme politeness: “You are welcome to all
ye get through me. If no honored, ye are at least aboot to become
famous in your ain country.”
“Infamous, I doobt, ye mean,” Saunders corrected. Then, glancing
uneasily toward the door, he added, “I think as we'd better be
“Pish!” the Devil snorted. “They are undone by their ain malignancy.
See it oot.”
“That's so,” Saunders agreed. “That is surely so-a. Hist! The
meenister's risen. Man, but he's tickled to death over the result. His
face is fair shining.”
The minister did indeed look pleased. Stepping down to the floor
that he might be closer to these his people, he beamed benevolently
upon them while he made a little speech. “People of Scottish birth,” he
said, closing, “are often accused of being hard and uncharitable to the
stranger in their gates, but this can never be said of you who have
extended the highest honor in your gift to a stranger; who have elected
Brother Joshua Timmins elder in your kirk by a two-thirds majority.”
The benediction dissolved the paralysis which held all but Saunders
McClellan; but stupefaction remained. Astounding crises are generally
attended with little fuss, from the inability of the human intellect to
grasp their enormous significance. As John “Death” McKay afterward put
it, “Man, 'twas so extraordin'ry as to seem ordin'ry.” Of course
neither Dunlopers nor “Twenty-One's” were in a position to challenge
the election, and if the Duncanites growled as they pawed over the
ballots, their grumbling was presently silenced by a greater
For out of such evenings history is made. While the minister had
held forth on the rights and duties of eldership, Saunders McClellan's
gaze had wandered over to Margaret McDonald—a healthy, red-cheeked
girl—and he had done a little moralizing on his own account. In the
presence of such an enterprising spinsterhood, bachelorhood had become
an exceedingly hazardous existence, and if a man must marry, be might
as weel ha' something young an' fresh! Margaret, too, was reputed
industrious as pretty! Of Janet's decision, Saunders had no doubts.
Between himself and Jeannie, and Timmins—meek, mild, and
unencumbered—there could be no choice. Still there was nothing like
certainty; 'twas always best to be off wi' the old, an' so forth!
Rising, he headed for Janet, who, with her father, Jeannie, Timmins,
and the minister, stood talking at the vestry door. As he made his way
forward, he reaped a portion of the Devil's promised fame. As they
filed sheepishly down the aisle, the Dunlopers gave him the cold
shoulder, and when he joined the group, Elder McCakeron returned a
stony stare to his greeting.
“But ye needna mind that,” the Devil encouraged. “He daurna tell,
for his own share i' the business.”
So Saunders brazened it out. “Ye ha' my congratulations, Mr.
McCakeron. I hear you're to get a son-in-law oot o' this?”
If Elder McCakeron had given Saunders the tempter the glare which he
now bestowed on Saunders the successfully wicked, he had not been in
such lamentable case.
“Why, what is this?” the minister exclaimed. “Cause for further
congratulation, Brother Timmins?”
Saunders now shone as Cupid's assistant. “He was to ha' Janet on
condeetion that he made the eldership,” he fulsomely explained.
The minister's glance questioned the elder.
“Well,” he growled, “I'm no going back on my word.”
Saunders glowed all over, and in exuberance of spirit actually
winked at Margaret McDonald across the kirk. Man, but she was pretty!
“It's to your credit, Mr. McCakeron, that you should hold til a
promise,” Jeannie was saying. “But ye'll no be held. A man may change
his mind, and since you refused Joshua, he's decided to marry on me.”
Saunders blenched. He half turned to flee, but Janet's strong
fingers closed on his sleeve; and as her lips moved to claim him before
minister and meeting, he thought that he heard the Devil chuckling, a
great way off.