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The Minister Of Dour
by [?]

This window looketh towards the west,

And o’er the meadows grey

Glimmer the snows that coldly crest

The hills of Galloway

The winter broods on all between–

In every furrow lies;

Nor is there aught of summer green,

Nor blue of summer skies

Athwart the dark grey rain-clouds flash

The seabird’s sweeping wings,

And through the stark and ghostly ash

The wind of winter sings

The purple woods are dim with rain,

The cornfields dank and bare;

And eyes that look for golden grain

Find only stubble there

And while I write, behold the night

Comes slowly blotting all,

And o’er grey waste and meadow bright

The gloaming shadows fall

From Two Windows.”

The wide frith lay under the manse windows of the parish of Dour. The village of Dour straggled, a score of white-washed cottages, along four hundred yards of rocky shore. There was a little port, to attempt which in a south-west wind was to risk an abrupt change of condition. This was what made half of the men in the parish of Dour God-fearing men. The other half feared the minister.

Abraham Ligartwood was the minister. He also feared God exceedingly, but he made up for it by not regarding man in the slightest. The manse of Dour was conspicuously set like a watch-tower on a hill–or like a baron’s castle above the huts of his retainers. The fishermen out on the water made it their lighthouse. The lamp burned in the minister’s study half the night, and was alight long ere the winter sun had reached the horizon.

Abraham Ligartwood would have been a better man had he been less painfully good. When he came to the parish of Dour he found that he had to succeed a man who had allowed his people to run wild. Dour was a garden filled with the degenerate fruit of a strange vine.

The minister said so in the pulpit. Dour smiled complacently, and considered that its hoary wickednesses would beat the minister in the long-run. But Dour did not at that time know the minister. It was the day of the free-traders. The traffic with the Isle of Man, whence the hardy fishermen ran their cargoes of Holland gin and ankers of French brandy, put good gear on the back of many a burgher’s wife, and porridge into the belly of many a fisherman’s bairn.

The new minister found all this out when he came. He did not greatly object. It was, he said, no part of his business to collect King George’s dues. But he did object when the running of a vessel’s cargo became the signal for half his parishioners settling themselves to a fortnight of black, solemn, evil-hearted drinking. He said that he would break up these colloguings. He would not have half the wives in the parish coming to his kirk with black eyes upon the Lord’s Sabbath day.

The parish of Dour laughed. But the parish of Dour was to get news of the minister, for Abraham Ligartwood was not a man to trifle with.

One night there was a fine cargo cleanly run at Port Saint Johnston, the village next to Dour. It was got as safely off. The “lingtowmen” went out, and there was the jangling of hooked chains along all the shores; then the troll of the smugglers’ song as the cavalcade struck inwards through the low shore-hills for the main free-trade route to Edinburgh and Glasgow. The king’s preventive men had notice, and came down as usual three hours late. Then they seized ten casks of the best Bordeaux, which had been left for the purpose on the sand. They were able and intelligent officers–in especial the latter. And they had an acute perception of the fact that if their bread was to be buttered on both sides, it were indeed well not to let it fall.