Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. V. Nineteenth Century
A Kithing
By John Galt (1779–1839)
From The Provost

I COULD plainly discern that the prudent conduct which I had adopted towards the public was gradually growing into effect. Disputative neighbours made me their referee, and I became, as it were, an oracle that was better than the law, in so much that I settled their controversies without the expense that attends the same. But what convinced me more than any other thing that the line I pursued was verging towards a satisfactory result, was, that the elderly folk that came into the shop to talk over the news of the day, and to rehearse the diverse uncos, both of a national and a domestic nature, used to call me “bailie,” and “my lord”; the which jocular derision was as a symptom and foretaste within ther spirits of what I was ordained to be. Thus was I encouraged, by little and little, together with a sharp remarking of the inclination and bent of men’s minds, to entertain the hope and assurance of rising to the top of all the town, as this book maketh manifest, and the incidents thereof will certificate.
  Nothing particular, however, came to pass, till my wife lay in of her second bairn, our daughter Sarah; at the christening of whom, among divers friends and relations, forbye the minister, we had my father’s cousin, Mr. Alexander Clues, that was then deacon convener, and a man of great potency in his way, and possessed of an influence in the town council of which he was well worthy, being a person of good discernment, and well versed in matters appertaining to the guildry. Mr. Clues, as we were mellowing over the toddy bowl, said, that by and by the council would be looking to me to fill up the first gap that might happen therein; and Dr. Swapkirk, the then minister, who had officiated on the occasion, observed, that it was a thing that, in the course of nature, could not miss to be, for I had all the douce demeanour and sagacity which it behoved a magistrate to possess. But I cannily replied, though I was right contented to hear this, that I had no time for governing, and it would be more for the advantage of the commonwealth to look for the counselling of an older head than mine, happen when a vacancy might in the town council.  2
  In this conjuncture of our discoursing, Mrs. Pawkie, my wife, who was sitting by the fireside in her easy chair, with a cod at her head, for she had what was called “a sore time o’t,” said:—  3
  “Na, na, gudeman, ye need na be sae mim; everybody kens, and I ken too, that ye’re ettling at the magistracy. It’s as plain as a pikestaff, gudeman, and I’ll no let you rest if ye dinna mak me a bailie’s wife or a’ be done.”  4
  I was not ill pleased to hear Mrs. Pawkie so spiritful; but I replied, “Dinna try to stretch your arm, gudewife, further than your sleeve will let you; we maun ca’ canny mony a day yet before we think of dignities.”  5
  The which speech, in a way of implication, made Deacon Clues to understand that I would not absolutely refuse an honour thrust upon me, while it maintained an outward show of humility and moderation.  6
  There was, however, a gleg old carlin among the gossips then present, one Mrs. Sprowl, the widow of a deceased magistrate, and she cried out aloud—  7
  “Deacon Clues, Deacon Clues, I redd you no to believe a word that Mr. Pawkie’s saying, for that was the very way my friend that’s no more laid himself out to be fleeched to tak what he was greenan for; so get him intill the council when ye can: we a’ ken he’ll be a credit to the place,” and “so here’s to the health of Bailie Pawkie, that is to be,” cried Mrs. Sprowl. All present pledged her in the toast, by which we had a wonderful share of diversion. Nothing, however, immediately rose out of this, but it set men’s minds a-barming and working; so that, before there was any vacancy in the council, I was considered in a manner as the natural successor to the first of the councillors that might happen to depart this life.  8

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