8th February

The Testing of Simon

‘See that Simon Stoblichties,’ the villagers said, ‘he’s aff his heid, a total bampot.’

The carpenter said, ‘Maybe, but he does us no harm, and he’s three miles away. Let him be.’

Some of the village children went to throw stones at Simon. But it was a long walk, and no matter how often or how hard they hit him they could not make him cry out. He received their missiles as he received the weather, almost joyfully. The children grew bored and went home.

Then came the minister. He was not happy having Simon in his parish. He saw him as a rival, a trespasser, a mad vagrant who should be moved on. Or he might not be mad, but a servant of the Devil. The minister consulted with his elders, and they decided to put Simon to the test.

‘We will go out to the peat bog moor,’ the minister said, ‘and I will order him to come down from his perch and acknowledge my authority. And God’s, of course. If he refuses, we will chop down his tree, and drive him from the parish.’

‘What if he obeys?’ one doubter asked.

‘That is unlikely,’ the minister replied. ‘We’ll take an axe anyway.’

So he and five elders picked their way across the moor like six black crows in a line, and when they reached the place where Simon was, the minister called up to him.

‘Simon Stoblichties, in the name of the one true God, I command thee, come down from thy perch and acknowledge my authority. And God’s too.’

To their surprise Simon, having tied a sheepskin around his waist to make himself decent, came down the tree like a squirrel. Without hesitation he said, ‘I acknowledge the one true God and His minister. Will there be anything else?’

‘Oh,’ the minister said. ‘Well, no, that’s grand, thank you very much. Goodbye.’ And the six crows hopped away, confused and disappointed.

However, by the time they were back at the manse, refreshing themselves with tea and whisky, they were congratulating themselves on their triumph.

‘It’s as well he submitted,’ the doubting elder remarked. ‘The blade on this axe wouldn’t chop butter.’

Reader: Matthew Zajac
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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