THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XIV. Man’s a strange animal and makes strange use Of his own nature and the various arts, And likes particularly to produce Some new experiments to show his parts; This is the age of oddities let loose. BVRON. Contrary to what might have been expected, Jean Brown’s letter, intimating her expectation of being in Edinburgh within a few days, threw Robin Afleck into a mood of abstraction and anxiety. He was alone when the letter came to hand, and, after sitting for some time in a deep brown study, he arose, and making an errand to his next door neighbor, the smith and farrier, he returned to the little room which he rented jointly with Mr. Duncanson, locked himself in, and drew down the screen. Shortly after this his fellow lodger retutned at rather an early hour from No. 10 Crescent, and was surprised to find matters in the state His surprise increased to something like positive alarm when his landlady mentioned the rather mysterious circumstances under which Robin had shut himself up. She said he had received a letter which contained something that vexed him, for after reading it he had remained thoughtful for a considerable time, and then having gone to the smithy, came back with a razor in his hand and entered the room, since which he had neither been seen nor heard. Mr. Duncanson called more than once without receiving any answer, and was just about to put his shoulder to the door to burst it open, when it was unbolted, and Robin Afleck stood before him with his face and neck smeared with blood. “ What in the world have you been doing Robert ? ” he exclaimed, as soon as his alarm permitted him to speak. “ Pegs, I doot I have haggit the feck o’ my chin awa ! ,” replied Robin ; “but just wait ye awee till I get this blude dichted aff, and I’ll tell ye a’ about it.”
After having washed his face, and had succeeded in some measure in staunching the freely-flowing blood a little, he proceeded —“Ye see, Maister Jimes, though I’m gaun in my ane-and-twenty, I ne’r had a razor on my face afore \ and though this buff-colored baird o’ mind passed weel eneuch withoot shaving for mony a day, it’s groun sae lang noo that I hear folk beginnin’ to speer as if I was ane o’ the LetterDay Sents. It’s groun just undeemously since we cam to Embro’, and when I got word this forenoon that I may expeck to see Jean Broun here in twa three days, I screwed my courage to the shavin’ p’int. But my blude lies at the smith’s door and I’m cutit in a deadly way, for this razor he lent me is liker a saw than onything else.” “And do you say Jean Brown is to be in Edinburgh soon ? ” “ No, I dinna say’t, but she says’t herssl’; at least she says your auntie is cornin’ to see the Queen, and she’s for tryin’ to come wi’ her to see me j and that’s the way I wantit to be quait •o’ my baird.” “ The razor wounds on Robin’s chin and throat w r ere, after all, only skin deep, and when he had got a stop put to the flow of blood, he proceeded to detail to Mr. Duncanson the substance of Jean Brown’s letter. He concluded with the following practical remarks : “As Jean hasna seen me for sae lang, I want to be as spruce-like as possible when she comes 3 for this John Bumplebane, the new plewman, if he’s ought o’ a takin’ chap, as she lets on he is, micht come in atween us if Jean was to see me the least toozielike.”
“Well, you will have an opportunity, if you please to accept it, of showing yourself off before her in great style,” said Mr. Duncanson, and then briefly communicated to him the nature of Mr Bacon’s proposal. When he concluded, Robin for some time made no answer, but at length said—“ What for do you think, Mr. Jimes, that job wad fit me when ye’ll no tak ’ in hand wi’t yersel’ ? ” “ You know, Robert, you and I are very differently situated. A man in my position has to be very guarded in many respects. The clerical profession is hedged in by considerations which don’t apply to people in other walks of life ; and all that I supposed in this case was, that since there are no professional obstacles in your way, you might possibly have no personal objections.”
“Have I no? I can just as ill afford to play the fule as you, Maister Jimes. A ve-veter-veterinary seargeant is no a man to be laucht at ony mair than a minister.”
“ I don’t wish you to make yourself a laughing-stock in this or any other business, and I did not engage for your willingness to accompany Mr. Bacon on his mad errand ; but I thought you might possibly wish to have an opportunity of seeing some of the great people in the Queen’s retinue, and no objections to be a witness of Mr. Bacon’s reception at Court. So just please yourself. If you don’t wish to go you have only to say the word. “ Weel, after a’, I dinna ken but I may tak’ the job. But I’ll ha’e naething to do wi’ the pea-green coat and yellow breeks. I would ne’er hear the end o’ them frae Jean Broun. And as for the cockit hat, I’m no verra shure about eithexens. But, nae doot, if the Provost and Bailies and Toun Councillors wear sic like, I canna weel be laucht at; so I daursay I may risk it. Jean Broun hersel’, though she might lauch a wee at us, wad be kind o’ proud ways for a’ that, to see me just like ane o’ the Maugistreets.” Next day Robin was with all due formality, introduced to Mr. Bacon, and pronounced almost at first sight to be suitable. “Judging from his appearance, Mr. Duncanson,” said the great man. “ I should say at once that this friend of yours will answer my purpose exactly. But it may be well for us to have a rehearsal so as to make sure that we perfectly understand the respective parts we have to perform. Let us suppose that the formalities of introductions are over. I have the Lord-Lieutenant of a northern county in my eye, who will introduce me to Ministers. Well, you, Mr, Duncanson, may represent the Premier; as for Lord Aberdeen, we may leave him out of the question at present—l shall,
speak to him afterwards as to how he should deal with Nicholas and Louis Philippe. You can easily imagine yourself for the time in Sir Robert Peel’s place, and just make any remarks or put any interrogations to m ( e that you may suppose would occur to him. I shan’t pain you by introducing my views on the Church of Scotland, for on that subject you cannot be supposed to feel so impartially as Peel, or to listen with such pleasure as I know_ he will do to details of my ecclesiastical project. So we will waive that at present, and proceed at once to Irish affairs and Free Trade agitation. You, of course, must consider, Mr. Duncanson, how much Peel must be puzzled on these subjects, as he is not a deep thinker, but only a managing, shifty man, while he is surrounded by very perplexing circumstances, and harrassed, no doubt by a host of quack nostrum-mongers and interested partymen. All this, of course, must make his situation very perplexing—-pain-fully so, in fact —so you must realise in your own mind the anxious interest with which he may be expected to listen to the exposition I shall give him of the course he ought to follow. You must do this, and just give expression to the thoughts which you can imagine will naturally arise in his mind as I proceed with my observations, so that this may be as nearly as possible a sort of preenactment of the audience scene. You understand ? ”
“ O yes, sir, I understand what you intend, but I am afraid I shall not be able to represent the Premier in any other sense than as the person to whom you direct your discourse. Your own imagination must supply the rest, for I confess myself incapable of supposing how Sir Robert will respond to your remarks.”
“ Very well, no matter. I shall, of course, address you just on that understanding. As for you Mr. Afleck —you take your place right behind me, with this portfolio in your hand or on any conveniently placed table, and whenever I ask for any paper, you must have it ready to give to me,” “ But hoo am I to ken a’ at ance the paper ye want ? It may tak’ me a gude while to rummage it oot.” “ I shall have them all arranged in the order in which they will be wanted. Such as here now —Census of Ireland, Statistics of the Linen Trade, and Sketch of a Scheme, &c. That’s a simple enough matter. There the papers lie, you see, and the first I shall ask for will be this; the second that one; and so forth. But you must manage all this in silence, for it would never do to let that Scotchified tongue of yours be heard in such company. Well, then, supposing all preliminaries over, and you, Mr. Duncanson, the Premier in the attitude of profound attention, I shall commence thus.” (Here Mr. Bacon stood at his full height, and assumed a pompous senatorial air. After a few coughs he proceeded)— “ Honored Sir, the high position you bold in the Government of the country induces me to lay before you some views which I deem of vital importance to the public welfare. Various subjects of national policy have deeply engaged my attention, but none more than the affairs of Ireland, and it is to this subject that I wish to draw your attention. I go at once to the point, and say there can be no peace for that unhappy country, nor safety for the rest of the empire, till the popular influence of Daniel O'Connell be destroyed. _ You will no doubt, sir, agree with me in this opinion, and it may have perhaps occurred to you before; but now to effect such an object must, I presume, appear to you a very serious difficulty. In fact, you may naturally think it an insumountable one, for nothing but a master-stroke of policy, such as is only struck once in an age, would be sufficient for the purpose. But allow me to say, I can show you how it may be done. The idea is simple, like every other great idea ; indeed, its simplicity affords the surest gaurantee of its value. My expedient is this—give Daniel O'Connell a monopoly of the copper coinage of Ireland, similar to that conferred on William Wood in the reign of the first George. Give him this, and, my word for it, his popularity is gone for ever.” Robin Afleck was so tickled by the absurdity of the scene, that took advantage of his rearward position to indulge in grimances, which almost overset Mr. Duncanson’s gravity. The latter, to conceal his inclination to laugh out-right, remarked in the character of Peel—
“ But, perhaps, Mr. Bacon, O'Connell, would not accept of such a privilege.” “Well, sir, that is a very pertinent remark—just what might be expected from Sir Robert. But hear how I will meet the objection—Take it! yes O’Connell would take it and make the most of it both in profit and infamy. His acceptance of the repeal rent is proof sufficient that he would ; for the repeal rent is but a trifle compared to what he would make of the copper coinage. Wood was rendered odious by his monopoly, but not half so odious as O’Connell would make himself through the same privilege. There, sir, is the solution of your great difficulty with Ireland ! Let but the Arch Agitator provide all the pence, half-pence, and farthings allowed to circulate in that country, and you would soon not need a regiment or a ship there, except to protect him and his accomplices from popular fury. He would deluge the country with brass half-pence for pence, brass farthings for half-pence, and brass buttons for farthings, till the gorge of every Irishman —Catholic or Protestant—would rise against him, to see his ugly phiz on such a worthless coinage.” “ What, you would not let O’Connell put his head on the coinage surely ? ” “ Let him ! ay, I would compel him to do it. It should be a condition in his monopoly ; for don’t you see, sir, the effect it would have in stirring up the people against him ? Ah, Sir Robert, there’s a great deal of statesmanship in attending to points of that nature. You have now before you an effectual plan for crushing the power of this man ; and if you don’t adopt it, you will render yonrself responsible for all the mischief he may yet accomplish. And depend upon it, sir, there is no other way of dealing with O’Connell.” At this point Mr. Bacon was interrupted by the entrance of Neddie with a message. “ Please, sir,” said he, “ the broker is come.”
“ Oh, very well,” replied his master, “ show him in.”
Mr. Phelim Magraith, a broker from ;he Cowgate, was accordingly ushered into the rcom.
“ Well, Mr. Magraith, I have sent for you to see if you have any suits of court or fancy dresses that would fit this young gentleman and the boy there,” said Mr. Bacon, pointing to Robin Afleck and Neddie.
“ Indeed I have, plase yer honor,” said the broker, “ay and plenty ov’em, for it’s not long agone since I bought a fine lot ov theatre togs from Mr. Murray. I have krimshon velvet caots all over with gould and silver lace; black velvet ones with spangles and yallew silk linings; green, blue, and purple ones, with a power ov silk and trimmings about them ; cloaks, gownds, and mantles furred from top to bottom; and breeches ov all the colors ov the rainbow, and made ov everything from plush to buckskin.” “ And have you any cocked hats orSpanish beavers of a large and a small size ?”
“ In trowth I have, plase yer worship, and feathers with them too, if they’re wanted.” “ I should wish to see the whole collection. Could you bring them all here ?”
“ Maybe I could, but it would take some throuble. Does yer honor wish to buy them out-and-out ?” “ Oh, by no means. I. only want to hire two suits for a few days.”. “ Then couldn’t you just step down to the Cowgate and see them ? Or if yer honor don’t wish to be seen agoing there, you might take a shay.” “ Ay, that’s the plan. Neddie, call a coach. I shall go down with you presently Mr. Magrath, and take Mr. Afleck and the boy with me. Mr. Duncanson, you may remain here till we return, and copy out, in a fair hand, my notes on the currency.” As Mr. Bacon was describing how this should be done, the coach came to the door, and he immediately drove off with his retinue to view the fancy “ toggery ”of Magrath. The premises occupied by this gentleman consisted of a front shop and extensive apartments to the back, besides a flat or two above, all crammed to the door with moveables of every description. It was in one of the upper rooms—as confused as any of the rest, but stocked with articles both new and old, of a superior description, such as pictures, mirrors, carpetings, polished grates, pianos and other musical instruments, cabinet and upholstery work, and a variety of well-bound books that Mr. Magrath had stowed away his cast-off theatre “ properties.” Here Mr. Bacon felt himself perfectly at home. The chaotic confusion which reigned around was completely to his taste; not the slightest trace could he perceive of the feminine attempts at arrangement he so much detested. Everything was placed at random, and evidently seldom, if ever, removed or dusted. He sat down with an air of great satisfaction in a stuffed arm-chair, which might be called an easy one, had the seat not been heaped with hearth rugs and a set or two of fire-irons. These, however, gave Mr. Bacon so little concern that he did not think it worth while to remove them. The box of a defunct friendly society stood under a huge pile of miscellaneous articles, and from this repository, as soon as he had uncovered it, Mr. Magrath produced the “ toggery.” The first article exhibited was a Spanish doublet, slashed with red, such as might have graced Pizarro. The next a close-fitting coat of Lincoln green, laced with silver at the cuffs and lappels. Then came a military scarlet coat with tarnished epaulettes ; and afterwards such a variety of showy apparel that it would be tedious to enumerate the various articles. Mr. Bacon caused Robin and Neddie to try on many things before he could make a choice, and Robin, in his usual blunt way, suggested that it would not be amiss for Neddie to “ try on a clean sark.” This motion, however, fell to the ground for want of a seconder, and at length an entire suit of outer clothing was selected both for page and secretary. Robin renewed his solemn protest against the peagreen coat and yellow breeches, and was therefore accommodated with a more sober-colored suit—a crow-black, i silver-laced coat, with inexpressibles to match, a plum-colored figured silk vest, French white silk stockings, and a short Spanish cloak, trimmed with squirrel fur. He was also furnished with a cocked hat, once the property of a deceased magistrate, whose head was so enormous that the chapeau had been made expressly for him, and none of his successors could wear it; but it fitted Robin to a hair. When, thus attired, he viewed himself in a dressingglass which stood near him, his sense of the ridiculous was fairly mastered by his vanity. He lost control of his features altogether, and his mouth being particularly unmanageable, he could not prevent it from relaxing into a silly smile, which he was thankful Jean Brown was not there to see.
(To be continued—commenced on July 26.)
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 146, 31 August 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 146, 31 August 1880
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