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Across The March Dyke
by [?]


Far in the deep of Arden wood it lies;

About it pleasant leaves for ever wave.

Through charmed afternoons we wander on,

And at the sundown reach the seas that lave

The golden isles of blessed Avalon.

When the sweet daylight dies,

Out of the gloom the ferryman doth glide

To take us both into a younger day;

And as the twilight land recedes away,

My lady draweth closer to my side


Thus to a granary for our winter need

We bring these gleanings from the harvest field;

Not the full crop we bring, but only sheaves

At random ta’en from autumn’s golden yield–

One handful from a forest’s fallen leaves;

Yet shall this grain be seed

Wherewith to sow the furrows year by year–

These wither’d leaves of other springs the pledge,

When thou shalt hear, over our hawthorn hedge

The mavis to his own mate calling clear

Memory Harvest.”

There was the brool of war in the valley of Howpaslet. It was a warlike parish. Its strifes were ecclesiastical mainly, barring those of the ice and the channel-stones. The deep voice of the Reverend Doctor Spence Hutchison, minister of the parish, whose lair was on the broomy knowes of Howpaslet beside its ancient kirk, was answered by the keener, more intense tones of the Reverend William Henry Calvin, of the Seceder kirk, whose manse stood defiantly on an opposite hill, and dared the neighbourhood to come on. But the neighbourhood never came, except only the Kers. In fact, the neighbourhood mostly went to Dr. Hutchison’s, for Howpaslet was a great country of the Moderates. Unto whom, as Mr. Calvin said, be peace in this world, for they have small chance of any in the next–at least not to speak of.

Now, ever since the school-board came to Howpaslet its meetings are the great arena of combat. At the first election Dr. Spence Hutchison had the largest number of votes by a very great deal, and carried two colleagues with him to the top of the poll as part of his personal baggage. He did not always remember to consult them, because he knew that they were put there to vote as he wished them, and for no other purpose. And, being honest and modest men, they had no objections. So Dr. Hutchison was chairman of Howpaslet school-board.

But he reigned not without opposition. The forces of revolution had carried the two minority men, and the Doctor knew that at the first meeting of the board he would be met by William Henry Calvin, minister of the Seceder kirk of the Cowdenknowes, and his argumentative elder, Saunders Ker of Howpaslet Mains–one of a family who had laid aside moss-trooping in order to take with the same hereditary birr to psalm-singing and church politics. They were, moreover, great against paraphrases.

That was a great day when the board was formed. There was a word that the Doctor was to move that the meetings of the school-board be private. So the Kers got word of it and sent round the fiery cross. They gathered outside and roosted on the dyke by dozens, all with long faces and cutty pipes. If the proceedings were to be private they would ding down the parish school. So they said, and the parish believed them.

It is moved by the majority farmer, and seconded by the majority publican (whose names do not matter), that the Reverend Dr. Spence Hutchison, minister of the parish, take the chair. It is moved and seconded that the Reverend William Henry Calvin take the chair–moved by Saunders Ker, seconded by himself. So Dr. Hutchison has the casting vote, and he gives it on the way to the chair.