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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 138, 12 August 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER Vll— continued. “Now, ray dear,” said Mrs. Aspen, “ sit down, if you please, and finish your dinner; and pray don’t think that I am unwilling to reconcile myself to such living if you feel it necessary to leave the Church. I am only afraid that you, Charles, are not prepared to make the sacrifices of comfort that will be unavoidable, and I wish you just to see your way plainly before you make any rash step.” She said this with dignity and composure, but it evidently cost her a great effort for she began to sob and shed a tear or two. After a short pause she resumed, but in rather a broken voice—“l hope our friends here will excuse me for taking this way of drawing your attention to domestic considerations, for you know, Charles, how you avoid all private conversation with me on the subject. lam but a woman, to be sure, but I am the mother of your children, and I think my opinion should not be wholly disregarded in what concerns the very subsistence of the family.” “ Really, Rachael,” replied Mr. Aspen, stepping short near her chair when she came to a conclusion, and speaking loudly and with much asperity; “Really, Rachael, I cannot stand this, and, what is more, I won’t stand it. You are affronting yourself and me before my friends, behaving in a very unseemly manner. I tell you there is no fear of our income, and surely that’s enough. ” The unkind manner in which these hasty words were delivered proved too much for the lady’s firmness. She rose and withdrew in tears before any of the company could interpose, and they were left with a very painful sense of the awkwardness of this family scene. Mr. Aspen smoothed over the difference with his wife the best way he could, and made up for the meagreness of the dinner by plying the wine pretty freely. The conversation gradually fell into Church politics, and remarks on the proceedings of the Assembly which had just concluded its sittings. At length Mr. Aspen divulged the matter which was weighing on his mind before the domestic squall disturbed him. He pulled from his pocket a copy of a long document, entitled “A Protest, Claim, and remonstrance of the Church of Scotland,” which had been founded on a series of resolutions passed in the recent Assembly, and was now in course of signature privately among the Non-intrusion party. It set forth in strong language the grievances and pretensions of the Church and virtually committed all its subscribers to withdraw from the Establishment if the claims it advanced should not be conceded. This document was expected to make a powerful impression on Government, should it be extensively signed by office-bearers and members of the Church ; and had been prepared expressly with a view to influence the course of legislation regarding the jarring jurisdictions of the Church and the civil courts. Its existence was not known to the public, for as yet it had only been circulated among the heads of the Non-intrusion party, with a view to obtain their sanction and the signatures of as many of their followers as possible. The Rev. Mr. Aspen was supposed to be one of the influential few, and the copy which he now produced among his friends had only been sent to him in the early part of the same day. He explained in a few words the nature of the document, and proceeded to read it, not aloud, but in a half suppressed voice, and in a manner betoking his intense appreciation of its importance. During the perusual he several times stopped to comment on particular passages, in general approvingly, and sometimes in terms of unmeasured admiration. At its conclusion he laid it on the table and said, ‘ ‘ Now, my friends, what think you of that.” The two clergymen and Mr. Duncanson all agreed in saying it was most ably drawn up, and a manifesto highly proper to be put forth at such a juncture. “Softly, softly,friends,” said Mr. Aspen; “ I have some doubts of its propriety at the present moment. No man can more approve than Ido of the principles here laid down, but I am disposed to think this is not quite the right time to bring ithem out so broadly. The Assembly has taken up strong ground, and passed resolutions which must powerfully impress the Legislature with the necessity of doing something to put an end to our difficulties. The Duke of Argyll and Mr. Campbell of Monzie are co-operating to bring forward a measure which I hope may prove a heal-, ing one, and I think it but prudent to wait a little to see what is to be done. My only objection to this document is, that it pins us down to accept of nothing short of certain strongly marked concessions, which are all just and highly desirable no doubt ; but then Government may not be disposed to concede quite so much, and yet willing to grant enough to be worthy of accepttance. I therefore think it would be rash in us to tie ourselves up to such rigid stipulations as this Claim of Right insists on, till we see the issue of Mr. Campbell’s motion in the House of Commons. At first I felt very much inclined to sign it, but now I hesitate and think I shall not, at least, at present. ” “ Then Mrs. Aspen’s sheep-head lesson has not been lost,” remarked Mr. B. with a sarcastic smile. “ Or rather,” said Mr. C., “ it was not required. ” “Gentlemen, I deny what you in sinuate,” exclaimed Mr. Aspen warmly. “ You speak uncharitably. My resolution has not been shaken by my wife’s exhibition of anxiety, neither was it wavering before. I feel as strongly' as ever the duty of standing firm to the cause of the Church ; but I wish to act with a reasonable degree of cantion. The truth is, I tell you as friends whom I can trust ; Mr. Duncanson, you will observe I speak confidentially—there are some men on our side whose zeal outruns their discretion, and their very eagerness to hurry us in this step makes me pause. There can be nothing gained by precipitation.” “ And is all our boasted firmness to evaporate in mere words 1 ” inquired Mr. O. with indignant earnestness. “I, for one,” said Mr. 8., “will ‘retract, no, not a hair’s breadth.' ” “Who talks of retracting 1” exclaimed Mr Aspen angrily ; adding, with a proud toss of his head,” “I know my duty, I hope, and don’t choose to be schooled by either man or woman,” A keen discussion ensued, which it is not necessary to report; sufiice it to say that it ended in a manner unsatisfactory to all the individuals present, who separated shortly after with dry civilities. _ Mr. Duncanson sought his lodgings with a heavy heart, deeply impressed with the momentous nature of the crisis in Church affairs, and fearful that many professors, like Mr. Aspen, were playing fast and loose with principles, and were in danger of making shipwreck of character.
CHAPTER YIH. Hard luck, alack! when poverty and eild, Weeds out o’ fashion, and a ianeiy bedd, Wi’ a sma’ cast o’ wiles, should in a twitch Gi’e ane the hatefu’ name, a wrinkled witch 1 GENTLE SHEPHERD. The scene must now change to Whinnyside and Burncrook. Jean Brown set about carrying- her plan into effect for obtaining access to Miss Montgomery in a style that secured speedy success. She knew that “ Sourocks,” as she called Mr. Gideon Montgomery’s stingy servant maid, was a credulous creature and avaricious to a degree, and she calculated on throwing her off her guard by working on
these peculiarities of her character. Away then went Jean, as soon as she had an opportunity, to a female fortune-teller, who resided in the neighborhood, to secure her aid in the enterprise. She found the crone in a wretched hovel which was often the resort of gipsies and other vagrants, but at the time had no other inmate but herself. Jean, though a stout-hearted lass, was somewhat afraid to venture in, when her knock at the door was answered by a voice of masculine roughness inviting her to enter. But she had previously ascertained that the spaewife was alone. She found MotherjMeredith, for that was her name, seated by a glimmering fire with a tobacco pipe in her mouth, and seemingly doing nothing but gazing at the scanty embers in the grate. “ And what may you want with Mother Meredith 1 ” she inquired growlingly, and without deigning to turn herself about. “ I want your help,” replied Jean, “ to let me get seein’ a young leddy a hae some business wi’.”
“And what hinders ye frae seein’her and speaking to her baith at your pleasure 1 ” “ Just her camseuch faither and a thrawn auld limmer o’ a servant lass. ”
“ Ay, and ye think I’m a witch and can cast a glaumour owre their een 1 ” “No exactly that, Luckie ; but I ken ye ha’e your ain way o’ managin’ folk, and can help me if yo like. ” “Do ye no want your fortune spaed, then ? ”
“No, no, I dinna want that; I ken what’s before me just as weel, I daresay, as ye could see’t on the carts.” “What do you tell me 1 ” exclaimed the crone, fiercely. ‘ ‘ Have ye come here to mak’ a mock o’ me and my honest callin’. If ye have, I’ll mak’ you repent your errand, ye smooth-faced, wanton slut, ye ! ” “ Keep yersel’ calm, Mistress,” said Jean, in a faltering voice which betrayed her fear ; “I didna come here to ca’ your skill in question, but to get your help as I said at first.”
“ Say then how ye expect me to help
you.” “If ye just could get auld Sourocks, Mr. Migummery o’ Burncrook’s servant, to tell you ony night this week, or next, when her maister would be oot o’ the house for an hour or less, and could get her oot at the same time, and keep her awa’ as lang—that’s a’ I want, and I wad pay ye weel for your pains.” “ Ou ay, I see ; weel, I daresay I can. Sourocks as ye ca’ her, is an auld customer o’ mine. I’ve spaed her fortune mair nor aince, and I hear o’ naething as yet that has happened to her as yet contrar to my words. I’ll see her the morn, and ye can come here again aboot gleamin’, and I’ll tell ye what can be done.” Jean Brown went tripping home with a light heart, proud of having so far succeeded in her project, and determined to steal an hour from sleep that very night to write again to Robin Afleck. But we must anticipate her return to Whinnyside by noticing some proceedings which took place there in her absence. Mr. M'Quirkie had called, and had been as usual remarkably well received by the lady of the house. Blythe, blythe, and merry was she, Blythe was she but ben.
That pawky, plausible gentleman was more pawky and plausible than ever, and was so lavish of his compliments to Mrs. Renshaw that she became fluttered with the conviction that he had come on purpose to make some very particular declaration. She was more and more confirmed in this impression as he proceeded to draw closely around her his matchlessly wellcontrived lines of circumvallation. He pressed every topic he could think of into the service, and among others the Church —above all, the Church. He descanted at great length and with wonderful sagacity on the proceedings of the recent Assembly, and touched with a masterly hand on the points in dispute between the Moderates and the Evangelicals—-the Church and civil courts. On all these points Mrs. Renshaw admired him much, for he always chimed in with her own notions and approved himself a most prudent, far-seeing person. But most of all did she admire him when he began to hint pretty broadly that he had come that evening on rather a delicate errand, and hoped she would excuse his boldness. Her heart now beat audibly as, with flushed face and downcast eyes, she awaited an end to his elaborate prefatory remarks, and anticipated the natural conclusion.
“Well,” thought she, “ men are very modest creatures after a’. If he could but see it, there’s nae need for makin’ sae many round-abouts and excuses. He micht just as weel come to the point at aince, since it is plain enough *,what he would be at. ”
And to the [point Mr. M'Quirkie did come at last, sure enough. But we must give the peroration in his own words—- “ I see, Mrs. Renshaw, that you and I are exactly fitted to understand each other, and indeed it is this which makes me perhaps bolder than I should be.” “Ye needna say that, sir; ye wrang yoursel’, for I dinna think ye’re bold ava’.” “ Well, it’s very kind of you to say so ; but, the truth is, there is one subject ou which I have not yet ventured to speak, and which I know not how to approach, but with your indulgence I shall be quite explicit. Perhaps, however, you will be offended at my freedom when you hear what I have to ask 1 ”
“ Me ! no, I’ll be nane offended,” said Mrs. Renshaw, her words scarcely finding utterance in her agitation, for she felt that now the anxiously expected moment had arrived. “I’ll be nane offended,” she said, “ye may ask what ye like, and ye’ll at least get a ceevil answer.” “ Well, that is indeed very kind. My dear Mrs. Renshaw, you have my destiny in your hands, for on your answer to the question I am about to ask, I feel that all my happiness depends.” “ O what nonsense • ye’re flattering me
noo.” “ Not at all. I have no intention of the kind. In one word, I put it to your goodness if you will favor me with the oan of fifty or a hundred pounds !” The lady sat silent for a moment to make sure that she had heard the words aright. Then she became ashy pale, not with sickness but with rage, and raising her voice to a frantic scream, exclaimed—“ls that what you cam’ here for, ye deceitfu’ villian ? ”
Mr. M’Quirkic stared in astonishment and apprehension at the effect of what he thought a very civil request, and as soon as he had time to collect his faculties, perceived that a precipitate retreat would be most advisable in the circumstances. He accordingly seized his hat and made off, with no other ceremony than a hurried expression of regret for having had the misfortune to give offence where he intended none. He was pursued by a storm of vituperation in which the terms “mean,” “nasty,” “designing,” “dirty little blackguard,” were distinctly articulated, the thunder being accompanied by a copious shower of tears. Just as he left the house he was met in the teeth by Jean Brown, on her return from Mother Meredith. The laughter-loving lass was tickled beyond measure with the denouement of the farce which she thus accidentally witnessed, and she unravelled the whole plot with surprising celerity. Indeed her mistress was perfectly outspoken on the subject, for her anger and disappointment had to find vent, in spite of all considerations which would have dictated reserve.
As ’soon as Jean had a quiet hour to herself she sat down and wrote to her rustic admirer: —
“ Whinnyside 51th June 81042 “deer Bobbin, —it is noe fun to be
Sore with lachin as iam this Nioht i was in a grate Mistake about mr Mac wurkie he wis Not wanting the mistress but Onley a pickle of her siller but their Was no mistaik About the mistress it was a man she Wanted and sheo fairly xpected wan when mr Mac wurkie kame to Coort her she Has just found him out & sent him Away with a flea in His lug that Will n ake him scratch for a While i never Inched so mutch all my lyfie as i did to sea the mistress soe ill About sitch an ugly Wee magpie of a body but i was sorrow for her two for she was very ill And is away a while since to her bedd sabbin like to Breck her heart tell mr jimes hee Has no Chance of getting mr mak wurkie for An uncle After all and he will shurely bee mutch Disappointit but i have something Te tell you that will maik him gled i have found a Way of seaing miss miggumiuerie tho i have Not Seen her yet i Have gott the spaewife Down at the muir dykes to Tak in hand to find Out the first night that Mr Migumerie is to be Out and to get auld Sourocks his servant out at the Same time soe i will get A fine chance of seaing the young leddy And giving her mr jimeses letter i will rite you again when i sea her but Mind you must not Show my letter to mr jimes tho you may tel Him what is in them for He is a skollar and would lach att them now robbin i am going to maik you gelous we have got a New plewman in your place He is a very braw lad And if you dont behave yourselff i may set my kep and Leave you to whussel on your thoom “ i am dear Robbin Yours Jean" Brown.”
Mother Meredith next day muffled herself up in a tattered old cloak, which had once been red, and proceeded to Burncrook where she soon had “ Sourocks” in her toils. She assured this simpleton that she had had a strange dream about her—on the whole a good dream—but that she could not read it without going through some ceremonies in which she would need her assistance.
“Ay, what have you been dreamin’ about me ? ” said Sourocks, astonished and not a little alarmed.
‘ ‘ Dinna be fear’t now : I tell ye it was a good dream—a dream about siller and muckle o’t. But whaur it’s to come frae, or when it’s to come, I canna tell without your help.” “My help, mother! na, na, I’ll do naething uncanny.” ‘ ‘ Uncanny ! Do you think lam a witch ? There’s naething uncanny in reading a dream surely ; and a’ I want you to do is to come, to my house ony nicht ye like before the sun sets, and keep a wisp o’ lint lowin’ till I can see the reading of your dream upon the cards.” “ Oh, I’m fear’d I’m fear’d ; but if ye’ll promise to do naething that’s uncanny. I’ll venture to do as ye bid me. But I canna win oot till Friday nicht, for the maister is to be in the house every nicht till then, and I daurna be awa’ for half an hour at aince when he is in. ”
“Weel, let it be Friday nicht exactly at nine, and in the meantime gi’e me a shilling and the stocking ye ha’e on your left leg to sleep wi’ beneath my head, to gar me dream the dream again ; and, to help me, ye maun sleep with the ither stocking beneath your feet. ” “ And maun I ha’e a shilling in mine 1 ? ” said Sourocks as she promptly drew off the stocking required by the spaewife. “No, that’s o’ nae consequence ; but if ye happen to ha’e twa, it’ll be better for me to get them baith. I’ll be surer_then to dream clear.”
Mother Meredith obtained the stocking and the money, and departed well pleased to have succeeded so well in her errand, and grinning to herself in contempt of the silliness of her dupe. Jean Brown did not fail to keep her appointment in the evening, and was delighted to hear how matters had been arranged. She took her measures accordingly, and when Friday had arrived it found her on her on her way to Burncrook, where she arrived just about the time that “ Sourocks ” reached the hovel of Mother Meridith. Agnes Montgomery herself answered at her father’s door, when it was knocked at by the merry sweetheart of Robin Afleck, and she invited Jean in, with a mixture of surprise and agitation, when she was informed that she had a message for her and wished to speak with her privately. (to be continued.)
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 138, 12 August 1880
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