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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 133, 31 July 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OF IRVING TIMES. CHAPTER 11—continued. “Oh, Jimes ! Jimes ! are ye really sic a fule as to ha’e serious thoughts o’ that ? I’ve seen a gude deal in the Witness and ither papers about Non-intrusion and sic like havers, but I never dream’d ye were sae daft as to be led awa’ wi’ them. There’s nae sense in them, man ! There was naething o’ the kind spoken o’ sin' I ha’e mind ; and yet the Kirk was aye the Kirk, and will be whan a’ the palaver aboot Non-intrusion is forgotten. Na, na, Jimes ; stick ye fast by the gude auld Kirk, and if Chaumers and Caundlish, and the fules that think as they think, are sae far left to themsel’s as to leave the Kirk, then, Jimes, there will just be the better chance for gude snug places for the like o’you.” “ But you know, aunt, I must act conscientiously. ” “ Hoot, I ken that, man; wha wad bid ye act ony ither way? I’m sure it wad na be me ; only, Jimes, come what will, ye maun never speak o’ leevin’ the Kirk o’ Scotland. To marry for naething but beauty (or love as ye say) would be ill eneuch, bat naething to this ; but to do baith would be red-wud madness. “I’m afraid then, aunt, there is little hope of me, for I feel convinced that, supposing certain circumstances should occur, I will act, notwithstanding ray respect for your feelings, exactly the part you so much condemn. The fact is, I must do it. I cannot do otherwise, consistently with self-respect and a good conscience, unless my opinion change.” “And what for should your opinions no change ? The sooner ye change them the better, if they be the least likely to lead you sic a dance as to leave the Kirk o’ your faither, your grandfaithers, and mony a dacent Duncanson and Renshaw afore them.”
CHAPTER HI. Sanct Mungo was ane jollie sanct — Sa weell he lykit gude ail, Thatte quhyles he staynede hys vesture quhyte Wi’ dribblands o’ ye still.
Mrs. Deborah Eenshaw was a managing woman—very ! Finding her own influence unsuccessful with her nephew, she determined to attempt to influence him, at least in matters ecclesiastical, through the persuasive powers of another. This was no less a personage than the parish minister, the Eev. Dr. Hairtrigger Snapperdudgeon. The Doctor had a very imposing presence, and a very forcible manner. He was portly, rubicund, and grave—even to sternness. A very heavy sense of his own importance at all times oppressed him, which, along with his corpulency, made him puff and blow incessantly in whale-like manner, with much labor to himself and no small effect on others. A stout champion was he of the Church’s rights secured to her by the law, and a bold assertor of ecclesiastical-estab-lishment principles. The honor and glory of the Church (by which he understood the power and wealth of the clergy) concerned him above all things, except his own individual aggrandisement. Personal ambition in him was even paramount over professional sympathy ; but these between them occupied his entire soul, and absorbed all his other feelings. Still Dr. Snapperdudgeon, though every inch a priest, had much also of the brow-beating tricky, pettifogger about him. The constitution of his mind made him revel with delight in quibbles, quirks, and technicalities. He valued the law as an impregnable fortress, that not only protected the interests he most valued, but afforded him many loop-holes and subterraneous passages through which he could effectually assail opponents. He had much knowledge both legal and polemical, and was more than moderately ostentatious of it. It must be conceded that he had a clear head as well as great learning ; for though ardently bent on stretching the powers of the Church to their utmost limits, he perceived, and uniformly asserted, that so long as she was established she never could be independent of the civil government. He was, therefore, a Moderate—a violent Moderate—if the solecism may be allowed. To all these traits of character, we must add that Dr. Snapperdudgeon was a bon vivant,, and enjoyed a coarse joke immensely, especially if he himself was the joker. Such was the man selected by Mrs. Eenshaw to school her nephew into prudence. James Duncanson was expected to defer to his opinion, not only' on account of the Doctor’s undeniable abilities, but also from the relation in which he stood to him as his minister. The young man had been trained under the pastoral care of the Doctor, and been habituated to loop up to him as an immaculate authority. The day chosen for bringing this heavy piece of ordnance to bear on the halfformed resolutions of Mr. Duncanson, regarding the course he should steer in his professional career, was that on which his fellow-student, Mr. M'Quirkie, had agreed to meet him at Whinnyside. The early part of the day was spent by the young men in a fishing excursion, as had been formerly arranged, and in the afternoon they returned to Whinnyside, on a special invitation from the lady of the house to dine with the minister. Dr. Snapperdudgeon arrived before the dinner-hour, and had a long tete a tete with Mrs Eenshaw before the students made their appearance. Along with a little brandy, as a whetter, she treated his reverence to a minute detail of what she deemed her nephew’s follies, and implored the holy man to use his influence to reclaim him to the paths of prudence. The Doctor heard all she had to say without interrupting her often with either question or remark; but kept shaking his head gravely at every pause, and now and then taking a sip of Cognac, and puffing with irrepressible energy. Much did the Doctor promise to do, but not so much as he performed as will be seen anon. The young men arrived, and an excellent dinner was discussed without anything remarkable being said or done, except by the reverend Doctor, who ate incredibly, and complained of his badness of appetite. There was no joke in this, for the Doctor spoke seriously, and had even a touch of pathos in his manner. Mrs. Kenshaw sympathised with him tenderly, and pressed him to take more oftener than once, which he as often did, but uttered a solemn protest that he would much rather not.
But in regard to drinking he affected no such scruples. When the punch-bowl appeared he brightened up amazingly, and plied his neighbors with the steaming liquor without intermission. Whatever might be his success in inducing them to drink, he did not fail to perform his duty by setting them a hearty example. Having led off the proceedings with a series of loyal toasts, commencing with “ The Queen,” concerning whom he made a great many gallant and dutiful observations, he came to the great toast of the evening —“ The Church of Scotland as by law established.” On this theme the Doctor put forth all his strength. He was positively eloquent, and outrageously noisy. Even Mrs. Renshaw began to fear that the dose might prove too strong to be medicinal. “ The Church of Scotland,” said the impassioned, if not inspired preacher, “ is not an institution of yesterday. Ages ago she became what she is now—the purest most efficient and popular establishment in the Empire—ay, in the world. Her horn is exalted above all her enemies, and she has nothing now to fear but from within. Long did she struggle with and black
Prelacy. She spent precious blood in opposing them, but after much tribulation she overcame them both and crushed them both beneath her triumphant heel. In later times she had the many headed hydra of Dissent to contend with, but she proudly and unscathed survived the righthand back-slidings of Burghers and AntiBurghers, and left-hand defections of Relief schismatics. All their combined assaults under the insolent banners of Voluntaryism and infidelity, she has resisted as with a panoply of tripple brass. She is still the bush burning, but unconsumed ; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against her. But restless plotters against her peace have sprung up within her sacred pale ; men who are righteous overmuch, and whom, for her own safety, she must spew out. Who gave Chalmers, or Candlish, or Gordon, or Cunningham a warrant to unsettle her venerable foundations 1 Who authorised them to spurn the alliance of the secular power, which is one of her dearest privileges I—to1 —to disturb the salutary law of patronage, or to question the validity of Acts of Parliament? Nothing but their own presumption. They are dangerous innovators—makers of mischief—meddling, unquiet fools, whom none but fools will follow. May they be thrust forth from the camp and never have successors within the walls of Zion ! The Church of Scotland with all honors ! Hip, hip, hurrah I the venerable Kirk of Scotland as by law established ! ” Dr. Snapperdudgeon puffed and blew with more than his wonted sense of importance at the conclusion of this farago of nonsense ; and as he wiped the profuse perspiration from his broad fat cranium, he turned his eyes from side to side on his auditors with a strange mixed look of complacency and defiance, which seemed to say—“ That’s pretty well, I think; say a word against it if you dare.” There was no opposition ; for Mrs. Renshaw was wrapt up in admiration of the Doctor’s speech, and the students,whatever they might think, said nothing beyond repeating the toast. M'Quirkie had, however, accompanied the Doctor’s display of eloquence with a running commentary of “ hear, hears,” which might mean approbation or the reverse : but James Duncanson sat reserved and silent.
Dr. Snapperdudgeon was not a man to submit to this doubtful state of things. He broadly challenged the young men to say if he had spoken anything amiss.
Mr. M‘Quirkie twisted and turned on his chair, and with a smile, expressed chiefly in the odd kind of pursing of the skin at an outward angle of his cunning little cold blue twinkling eyes, replied, “Well, Doctor, I don’t know; but you have certainly handled the leaders of the Non-intrusion party very severely. Whether you have done so justly or not is another question, and one which you are better qualified to judge of than I can pretend to be.” “Hum, ha—you speak cautiously, young man,” answered the Doctor ; “ mighty cautiously, and perhaps you are right, if you have not examined the subject on which the Church is divided, or have had no opportunity before of hearing it properly discussed. But let me tell you this for your benefit—the sooner you make up your mind the better, and all your chances of success, take my word for it, depend on the decision you may come to. Stand fast by the constitutional rights of the Church, and resist all innovators within, as well as all her enemies without, if you wish to thrive.” M‘ Quirkie received the advice with an equivocal contortion of features, intended for a smile, expressive of neither one thing nor another except crafty reserve and self-satisfaction —so the Doctor, after a keen scrutiny of his manner, set him down as a safe card if not a trump on his own side of the game.
Turning to James Duncanson, he made him the special object of attention. To him he addressed his admonitions, warnings, arguments, and asseverations. “ I understand, James,” said he, “ indeed I am sorry to hear, that you are tinctured with the absurd notions which are now creating anarchy and dissension in the Church. Am Ito believe that I am correctly informed ? ” This was spoken with a degree of sharpness intended to deterthe youth from asserting his conscientious opinions, and make him succumb without resistance to the oracular dictum of his senior.
James Duncanson, however, though naturally diffident, was manly enough tc stand his ground against any flagrant attempt to overbear him. He accordingly replied to the Doctor with spirit, and questioned his insolent assumptions with a freedom which surprised himself and raised his opponent’s temper into a towering passion. “ I cannot admit Doctor,” he said, “ that it is so perfectly evident as you seem to suppose, that the opinions I have formed on matters now in controversy are wrong, and that you are right. ”
“ Indeed!” retorted the Doctor in a fury which made him start as if about to jump over the table. “ Indeed ! you cannot admit, can’t you ! Well, now, you’re a great 'man, a very prudent, experienced man to set yourself up as a judge ! Pray how many years did it take you to master the subject 2 Perhaps you will be kind enough to be very commuicative. A taste of your knowledge would be a favour to a simple person Tike me. Though I used to be your teacher, that’s neither here nor there. You can repay me my lessons with interest, you know. Do ; pray do.” With such taunts and insults did Dr. Snapperdudgeon vent his gathering wrath against the student; but James, nothing daunted, though hardly able to control his indignation, px*oceeded to state some points in which he thought the Doctor was in error, and these, having reference to historical facts, led to an animated discussion in which the doctor succeeded so much to his own satisfaction that he gradually got into good humour, even with his young opponent ; who, not being so well furnished with dates and particulars, could not readily meet all he advanced, and was therefore held by him to be confuted if not convinced.
“Gome, come, young man,” lie said, chuckling with glee as he spoke, “ you see you need not argue with me till you have read a little more, and lived a little longer. Ha, ha ! there’s no man need tell me about Spiritual Independence' and the Act of IG9O. I’m thinking I could make the glibest of your Non-intrusion friends sing small if they met me on legal and historical grounds. So take my advice, James, and don’t run into a scrape before you have time to think of what you are about. I remember when I was a young man at college I was very foolish too.” Here the Doctor launched out into a long description of his youthful follies, at which he laughed inordinately, and spoke of with a fondness which showed that he had not repented of them very deeply. They had all, however, as appeared by his own account, been of a very different sort from the imprudencies against which he warned James Duncanson so earnestly. They had consisted chiefly of delightful little violations of the laws of morality and good manners. How delightful may be guessed from the pleasure which even the recollection of them seemed to afford him. This key once fairly touched, he struck it with repeated and ever-increasing enjoyment, till his excited fancy prompted him to indulge in jocularities so questionable in point of decency, that Mrs. Renshaw was glad to retire on the pretence of getting tea prepared, while her nephew sat still impatiently under the infliction, his lip curled with contempt, and his brow on fire with shame. As forM'Quirkie, he enjoyed the coarse merriment so far as to emit from time to time, a kind of smothered laugh, such as in our expressive vernacular
is called a snifter, but beyond that he gave no vent to his feelings. The Doctor, however, did not fail to remark James Duncanson’s disgust, nor to resent it. The bully in his nature again rose gradually above the buffoon ; and by the time tea was served, he was rather in a surly and captious than a merry mood. When
The cup which cheers, but not inebriates, was removed, Dr. Snapperdudgeon applied himself with new vigor to the more potent contents of the bottle. No increase of stimulus was required to bring out the violent features of his character in marked lines ; for he always manifested his propensities pretty strongly. But excited by the liquor, ancJ touched in his pride by the unapproving demeanor and opposition, expressed orimplied, of Mr. Duncanson, ho waxed more fierce, arrogant, and overbearing than ever. The Non-intrusion controversy again became his leading subject, and on every point he laid down the law with tremendous emphasis, tossing off a bumper every time he reached a climax in his declamation, which was not a rare occurrence. By-and-by his volubility became confused a little, and his countenance began to indicate decided intoxication. He gave evidence of a glimmering consciousness of the fact, and prepared to beat a retreat to save appearances. In scrambling to his feet, however, he determined to make a last assault on the contumacy of young Duncanson, and while he stood with his hat in one hand and his walking stick in the other, he delivered a closing philipic against all agitators, innovators, schismatics, and malcontents who dared to disturb the peace of the Church, and especially against all presumptuous, pragmatical young men w'ho thought themselves better and wiser than their seniors.
At the winding up of this tirade James Duncanson was about to put in a word by way of reply, but the Doctor turned himself to depart, and, in turning, rudely pushed his elbow in the young man’s face with a force that cut his lip and made the blood flow copiously. The Doctor went off as if unconscious of the outrage he had committed, having previously taken a gruff but ceremonious leave of the company. Mrs. Renshaw could hardly believe her eyes when she saw the brutal treatment her nephew had received, and felt so confused and agitated that she knew not what to say or do ; but Mr. M'Quirkie had all his wits about him, and made a point of expressing his surprise and counterfeiting some show of feeling. He immediately, however, took care to say, “ Whatever may be my private opinion on the subject, I beg you, Mr. Duncanson, to observe that I did not see you receive the injury, and therefore cannot give any testimony regarding it. ” “ 0 don’t be afraid,” replied James, “ you are in no danger of being called as a witness. I have no wish to make this a case against the Doctor. He will be tried for it in a court where there will be no lack of evidence, and where legal quibbles will avail him nothing.” But the Doctor was destined to meet with more summary retribution than Mr. Duncanson anticipated; for just as he was concluding his calm reply to M'Quirkie, and wiping the ever-springing blood from his mouth, a loud vociferation was heard from the farm-yard in front of the house, and a little attentive listening made the company aware that Dr. Snapperdudgeon was in some distress, and shouting lustily for help. The disaster which had befallen him is easily explained. As he left the house in the dusk, but a few steps from the door, he encountered a running charge from a pugnacious ram belonging to Mrs. Renshaw, which overset him heels over head into a pool of liquid manure. It was always suspected that Robin Afleck had been an accomplice in the crime, if not the chief criminal, for otherwise it was unacountable how the ram was then and there at liberty. Robin, however, seemed to think the impeachment rather a compliment. Whenever it happened to be brought against him, his only answer was, “ pruve it, and when ye do sae I’ll tell ye whether I’m sorry for’t or no. ” [to be continued.l
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 133, 31 July 1880
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