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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832)

A Preaching Match at Tillietudlem

From “Old Mortality”

“I FEAR,” said Morton, “there is very little chance, my good friend Cuddie, of our getting back to our old occupation.”

“Hout, stir—hout, stir,” replied Cuddie, “it’s aye gude to keep up a hardy heart, as broken a ship’s come to land. But what’s that I hear? Never stir, if my auld mither isna at the preaching again! I ken the sough o’ her texts, that sound just like the wind blawing through the spence; and there’s Kettledrummle setting to wark too. Lordsake, if the sodgers anes get angry they’ll murder them baith, and us for company!”

Their further conversation was in fact interrupted by a blatant noise which rose behind them, in which the voice of the preacher emitted, in unison with that of the old woman, tones like the grumble of a bassoon combined with the screaking of a cracked fiddle. At first the aged pair of sufferers had been contented to condole with each other in smothered expressions of complaint and indignation; but the sense of their injuries became more pungently aggravated as they communicated with each other, and they became at length unable to suppress their ire.

“Woe, woe, and a threefold woe unto you, ye bloody and violent persecutors!” exclaimed the Reverend Gabriel Kettledrummle. “Woe, and threefold woe unto you, even to the breaking of seals, the blowing of trumpets, and the pouring forth of vials.”

“Aye, aye; a black cast to a’ their ill-faur’d faces, and the outside o’ the loof to them at the last day!” echoed the shrill counter-tenor of Mause, falling in like the second part of a catch.

“I tell you,” continued the divine, “that your rankings and your ridings, your neighings and your prancings, your bloody, barbarous, and inhuman cruelties, your benumbing, deadening, and debauching the conscience of poor creatures by oaths, soul-damning and self-contradictory, have arisen from earth to heaven like a foul and hideous outcry of perjury for hastening the wrath to come—hugh! hugh! hugh!”

“And I say,” cried Mause in the same tune, and nearly at the same time, “that wi’ this auld breath o’ mine, and it’s sair taen down wi’ the asthmatics and this rough trot——”

“Deil gin they would gallop,” said Cuddie, “wad it but gar her hand her tongue!”

“Wi’ this auld and brief breath,” continued Mause, “will I testify against the backslidings, defections, defalcations, and declinings of the land—against the grievances and the causes of wrath!”

“Peace, I pr’ythee—peace, good woman,” said the preacher, who had just recovered from a violent fit of coughing, and found his own anathema borne down by Mause’s better wind—“peace, and take not the word out of the mouth of a servant of the altar. I say, I uplift my voice and tell you, that before the play is played out—aye, before this very sun gaes down—ye sall learn that neither a desperate Judas, like your prelate Sharp that’s gane to his place; nor a sanctuary-breaking Holofernes, like bloody-minded Claverhouse; nor an ambitious Diotrephes, like the lad Evandale; nor a covetous and warld-following Demas, like him they ca’ Sergeant Bothwell, that makes every wife’s plack and her meal-ark his ain; neither your carabines, nor your pistols, nor your broadswords, nor your horses, nor your saddles, bridles, surcingles, nose-bags, nor martingales, shall resist the arrows that are whetted and the bow that is bent against you!”

“That shall they never, I trow,” echoed Mause. “Castaways are they ilk ane o’ them; besoms of destruction, fit only to be flung into the fire when they have sweepit the filth out o’ the Temple; whips of small cords, knotted for the chastisement of those wha like their warldly gudes and gear better than the Cross or the Covenant, but when that wark’s done, only meet to mak latchets to the deil’s brogues.”

“Fiend hae me,” said Cuddie, addressing himself to Morton, “if I dinna think our mither preaches as weel as the minister! But it’s a sair pity o’ his hoast, for it aye comes on just when he’s at the best o’t, and that lang routing he made air this morning is sair again him too. Deil an I care if he wad roar her dumb, and then he wad hae’t a’ to answer for himsell. It’s lucky the road’s rough, and the troopers are no taking muckle tent to what they say wi’ the rattling o’ the horses’ feet; but an we were anes on saft grund we’ll hear news o’ a’ this.”

Cuddie’s conjectures were but too true. The words of the prisoners had not been much attended to while drowned by the clang of horses’ hoofs on a rough and stony road; but they now entered upon the moorlands, where the testimony of the two zealous captives lacked this saving accompaniment. And, accordingly, no sooner had their steeds begun to tread heath and greensward, and Gabriel Kettledrummle had again raised his voice with, “Also I uplift my voice like that of a pelican in the wilderness——”

“And I mine,” had issued from Mause, “like a sparrow on the house-tops——”

When “Hollo, ho!” cried the corporal from the rear; “rein up your tongues; the devil blister them, or I’ll clap a martingale on them.”

“I will not peace at the commands of the profane,” said Gabriel.

“Nor I neither,” said Mause, “for the bidding of no earthly potsherd, though it be painted as red as a brick from the Tower of Babel, and ca’ itsell a corporal.”

“Halliday,” cried the corporal, “hast got never a gag about thee, man? We must stop their mouths before they talk us all dead.”