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The Minister’s Loon
by [?]

Saw ye ae flour in a fair garden,

Where the lilac blossom blooms cheerily;

“Fairest and rarest ever was seen,”

Sing the merle and laverock merrily

Watered o’ dew i’ the earliest morn,

Lilac blossom blooms cheerily;

Bield aboot wi’ a sweet hawthorn,

Where the merle and lark sing merrily

Wha shall pu’ this flour o’ the flours?

Lilac blossom blooms cheerily;

Wha hae for aye to grace their booers,

Where the merle and lark sing merrily

This is the note that came for me this morning. It was the herd of Hanging Shaws that brought it. He had been down at the smiddy getting the horses shod; and Mr. Marchbanks, the minister, handed it to him himself as he was passing the manse on his way home. The herd said that it was “bound to be something pressing, or the minister wadna hae been so soon oot o’ his bed.” So he waited till I had opened it to hear what it was about, for the wife of Hanging Shaws would be sure to be asking. I read it to him, but he did not seem to be much the wiser. Here is the letter, written in an ill, crabbed hand-of-write, like all ministers’ writings:–

Nether Dullarg


“DEAR MR. M’QUHIRR,– I made strict inquiry subsequent to my return from your hospitable dwelling last evening regarding the slight accident which happened to my son, Archibald, whilst I was engaged in suitable converse with your like-minded partner. I am of opinion that there is no necessity for proceeding to extreme measures in the case of your son, Alexander–as in my first natural indignation, I urged somewhat strongly upon your good wife. It may not ultimately be for the worse, that the lads were allowed to settle their own differences without the intervention of their parents. I may say, in conclusion, that the application of a portion of uncooked beef to the protuberance has considerably reduced the swelling upon my son’s nose during the night. I intend (D.V.) to resume the visitation of my congregation on Thursday next, unaccompanied either by my own son or yours.–Believe me, dear sir, to remain your most obedient servant,

July 3rd.


Now, Mr. Marchbanks is not my own minister, but there is not a better respected man in the countryside, nor one whom I would less allow any one belonging to me to make light of. So it behoved me to make inquiry. Of the letter itself I could make neither head nor tail; but two things were clear–that that loon of a boy, my son Alec, was in it, and also that his mother was “accessory after the fact,” as the Kirkcudbright lawyers say. In the latter case it was necessary to act with circumspection. In the other case I should probably have acted instantly with a suitable hazel rod.

I went into the house. “Where’s Alec?” I asked, maybe a kenning sharper than ordinary.

“What may ye be wantin’ wi’ Alec?” said my wife, with a sting in her accent which showed that she was deep in the ploy, whatever it had been. It now came to my mind that I had not seen Alec since the day before, when I sent him out to play with the minister’s son, till Maister Marchbanks had peace to give us his crack before I went out to the hill sheep.

So I mentioned to Mrs. M’Quhirr that I had a letter from the minister about the boy. “Let us hear it,” says she. So I read the letter word for word.