The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder

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Author: John Galt

Chapter XVI. Year 1775

The regular course of nature is calm and orderly, and tempests and troubles are but lapses from the accustomed sobriety with which Providence works out the destined end of all things. From Yule till Pace-Monday there had been a gradual subsidence of our personal and parochial tribulations, and the spring, though late, set in bright and beautiful, and was accompanied with the spirit of contentment; so that, excepting the great concern that we all began to take in the American rebellion, especially on account of Charles Malcolm that was in the man-of-war, and of Captain Macadam that had married Kate, we had throughout the better half of the year but little molestation of any sort. I should, however, note the upshot of the marriage.

By some cause that I do not recollect, if I ever had it properly told, the regiment wherein the captain had bought his commission was not sent to the plantations, but only over to Ireland, by which the captain and his lady were allowed to prolong their stay in the parish with his mother; and he, coming of age while he was among us, in making a settlement on his wife, bought the house at the Braehead, which was then just built by Thomas Shivers the mason, and he gave that house, with a judicious income, to Mrs Malcolm, telling her that it was not becoming, he having it in his power to do the contrary, that she should any longer be dependent on her own industry. For this the young man got a name like a sweet odour in all the country side; but that whimsical and prelatic lady his mother, just went out of all bounds, and played such pranks for an old woman, as cannot be told. To her daughter-in-law, however, she was wonderful kind; and, in fitting her out for going with the captain to Dublin, it was extraordinary to hear what a paraphernalia she provided her with. But who could have thought that in this kindness a sore trial was brewing for me!

It happened that Miss Betty Wudrife, the daughter of an heritor, had been on a visit to some of her friends in Edinburgh; and being in at Edinburgh, she came out with a fine mantle, decked and adorned with many a ribbon-knot, such as had never been seen in the parish. The Lady Macadam, hearing of this grand mantle, sent to beg Miss Betty to lend it to her, to make a copy for young Mrs Macadam. But Miss Betty was so vogie with her gay mantle, that she sent back word, it would be making it o’er common; which so nettled the old courtly lady, that she vowed revenge, and said the mantle would not be long seen on Miss Betty. Nobody knew the meaning of her words; but she sent privately for Miss Sabrina, the schoolmistress, who was aye proud of being invited to my lady’s, where she went on the Sabbath night to drink tea, and read Thomson’s SEASONS and Hervey’s MEDITATIONS for her ladyship’s recreation. Between the two, a secret plot was laid against Miss Betty and her Edinburgh mantle; and Miss Sabrina, in a very treacherous manner, for the which I afterwards chided her severely, went to Miss Betty, and got a sight of the mantle, and how it was made, and all about it, until she was in a capacity to make another like it; by which my lady and her, from old silk and satin negligees which her ladyship had worn at the French court, made up two mantles of the selfsame fashion as Miss Betty’s, and, if possible, more sumptuously garnished, but in a flagrant fool way. On the Sunday morning after, her ladyship sent for Jenny Gaffaw, and her daft daughter Meg, and showed them the mantles, and said she would give then half-a-crown if they would go with them to the kirk, and take their place in the bench beside the elders, and, after worship, walk home before Miss Betty Wudrife. The two poor natural things were just transported with the sight of such bravery, and needed no other bribe; so, over their bits of ragged duds, they put on the pageantry, and walked away to the kirk like peacocks, and took their place on the bench, to the great diversion of the whole congregation.

I had no suspicion of this, and had prepared an affecting discourse about the horrors of war, in which I touched, with a tender hand, on the troubles that threatened families and kindred in America; but all the time I was preaching, doing my best, and expatiating till the tears came into my eyes, I could not divine what was the cause of the inattention of my people. But the two vain haverels were on the bench under me, and I could not see them; where they sat, spreading their feathers and picking their wings, stroking down and setting right their finery; with such an air as no living soul could see and withstand; while every eye in the kirk was now on them, and now at Miss Betty Wudrife, who was in a worse situation than if she had been on the stool of repentance.

Greatly grieved with the little heed that was paid to my discourse, I left the pulpit with a heavy heart; but when I came out into the kirkyard, and saw the two antics linking like ladies, and aye keeping in the way before Miss Betty, and looking back and around in their pride and admiration, with high heads and a wonderful pomp, I was really overcome, and could not keep my gravity, but laughed loud out among the graves, and in the face of all my people; who, seeing how I was vanquished in that unguarded moment by my enemy, made a universal and most unreverent breach of all decorum, at which Miss Betty, who had been the cause of all, ran into the first open door, and almost fainted away with mortification.

This affair was regarded by the elders as a sinful trespass on the orderlyness that was needful in the Lord’s house; and they called on me at the manse that night, and said it would be a guilty connivance if I did not rebuke and admonish Lady Macadam of the evil of her way; for they had questioned daft Jenny, and had got at the bottom of the whole plot and mischief. But I, who knew her ladyship’s light way, would fain have had the elders to overlook it, rather than expose myself to her tantrums; but they considered the thing as a great scandal, so I was obligated to conform to their wishes. I might, however, have as well stayed at home, for her ladyship was in one of her jocose humours when I went to speak to her on the subject; and it was so far from my power to make a proper impression on her of the enormity that had been committed, that she made me laugh, in spite of my reason, at the fantastical drollery of her malicious prank on Miss Betty Wudrife.

It, however, did not end here; for the session, knowing that it was profitless to speak to the daft mother and daughter, who had been the instruments, gave orders to Willy Howking, the betheral, not to let them again so far into the kirk; and Willy, having scarcely more sense than them both, thought proper to keep them out next Sunday altogether. The twa said nothing at the time, but the adversary was busy with them; for, on the Wednesday following, there being a meeting of the synod at Ayr, to my utter amazement the mother and daughter made their appearance there in all their finery, and raised a complaint against me and the session, for debarring them from church privileges. No stage play could have produced such an effect. I was perfectly dumfoundered; and every member of the synod might have been tied with a straw, they were so overcome with this new device of that endless woman, when bent on provocation—the Lady Macadam; in whom the saying was verified, that old folk are twice bairns; for in such plays, pranks, and projects, she was as playrife as a very lassie at her sampler; and this is but a swatch to what lengths she would go. The complaint was dismissed, by which the session and me were assoilzied; but I’ll never forget till the day of my death what I suffered on that occasion, to be so put to the wall by two born idiots.

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Chicago: John Galt, "Chapter XVI. Year 1775," The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, trans. Evans, Sebastian in The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2020, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3TBBANPI47NE9W5.

MLA: Galt, John. "Chapter XVI. Year 1775." The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, translted by Evans, Sebastian, in The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2020. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3TBBANPI47NE9W5.

Harvard: Galt, J, 'Chapter XVI. Year 1775' in The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder, trans. . cited in , The Annals of the Parish; , the Chronicle of Dalmailing During the Ministry of the Rev. Micah Balwhidder. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2020, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=3TBBANPI47NE9W5.