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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 147, 2 September 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XlV— continued. Neddie was, equipped in a more showy style, for he made no objection to the brightest hues. In a suit in which, according to* his master’s taste, pea-green and yellow predominated, he looked not unlike some of the gayplurnaged specimens of the parrot tribe. Though Mr. Bacon had resolved to appear at Court in his usual plain attire, he could not resist the temptation, now that he had so much finery before him, of selecting for his own use a splendid, though somewhat faded, crimson velvet surtout, lined with silk and edged with ermine. It was an article in which mimic kings had trod the stage; and the sight of himself arrayed in it elevated the vanity of our philosopher to the highest pitch of extravagance. After strutting for some time up and down the floor like a peacock, and taking a peep of his appearance in every mirror in the room as be passed, he came to the conclusion that it would be very proper for him to assume a little pageantry on fthe important occasion which was at hand. “Now then,” said he, “we shall move. I think, Mr. Magrath, we have got all we need from you.” “ Does your honour mane to return in the shay with them things on?” inquired the broker, not a little astonished at his apparent intention of
doing so. “To be sure,” replied Mr, Bacon, 11 it will just be as well since we have them on at any rate. Besides, I wish the young gentleman I left at my house to see us just as we are. He may have some improvement to propose.”
Robin Afleck felt a little uneasy at this announcement, but raised no formal objection, as he considered the absurd display might pass without much observation, and that the carriage would be driven fast enough to prevent him from being personally recognised. The Fates, however, had otherwise decreed.
It will be recollected that Mr. Magrath, on his arrival at No, 10 —— Crescent, had interrupted Mr. Bacon in his oration on Irish affairs. The broker, just on entering the door, had overheard the name of O’Connell pronounced in a loud voice, and being'an ardent repealer as well as an Irishman, he felt an irrepressible curiosity to know Mr. Bacon’s opinion of the Liberator. In order to sound him on the subject he now directed his attention to a subscription box which he kept for collecting contributions to the repeal rent, and said—“ Will yer honor plase to give a thrifle for the tribute to O’Connell. ? ”
“ No,” replied Mr, Bacon, “ but I would cheerfully subscribe for a rope to hang him with.” Saying so, our philosopher bolted out of the shop and entered the carriage, followed by Robin Afleck and Neddie in all their borrowed finery, and carrying their own clothes in a bundle. But Mr. Magrath had his revenge. He went out among the crowd which had collected before the coach could start, and hinted pretty plainly to the gaping quidnuncs that his customer was a great man from foreign parts, better worth seeing than the Queen; but whether he was Prince Hohenloe, the Wandering Jew, or Prince Esterhazy he could not exactly say. The hint was enough. It spread like wildfire, and the crowd increased so rapidly that it was with difficulty the coach could get along. The most persevering attempts were made by individuals to see the illustrious stranger, and more than one managed, by obtaining a momentary footing on a commanding position, to gratify their curiosity. Among them was Mrs. M'Glunchagain’s servant-maid, Griselda. This gossip at once recognised Pobin Afleck, and raised a shout of merriment as she pronounced his name. But the wonder was just the more increased when it was rumored that the foreign prince was attended by one bearing such a homely cognomen. Onward perseveringly rushed the crowd till Mr. Bacon’s house was reached, and there the pressure was so great that he found it impossible to get from the vehicle to his own door, till he had dissolved the multitude in a titter of merriment, by informing them in a stentorian voice that they were laboring under a gross mistake, for he was neither the Wandering Jew, Prince Esterhazy, nor Prince Hohenloe, but simply Horace Wykin Bacon, of Auchterbardie. This announcement was received with a derisive hurrah, and Mr. Bacon and his attendants were allowed, amid much laughter, to escape into No. xo.
CHAPTER XV. That day the doors of parish-school were shut. And every scholar got his leave to play ; Down rush they light of heart and light of foot, Big ploughmen in their coats of hodden grey. Weavers despising now both web and treadle, Collier and collier’s wife, and minister and beadle. And bare-foot lasses, on whose ruddy face Unfurl’d is health’s rejoicing banner seen. Tricked in their Sunday mutches edged with lace, Tippets of white, and frocks of red and green. Come tripping o’er the road with jocund pace. Gay as May morning, tidy, gim, and clean. Whilst, jogging at each wench's side her joe Cracks many a rustic joke, his pow’r of wit to show. tennant’s “anster fajr.” On the last Monday of August, 1842, Edinburgh presented an unwonted lively appearance. Strangers poured into the city in crowds from every directions and in all sorts of convey ances. The streets were literally swarming. The entire Scottish people seemed assembled in “ Auld Reekie ” to see the Queen ; such a harvest for porters and hackney coachmen, and such a demand for lodgings, had not occured for at least twenty years before. The weather was propitious, and everybody seemed in spirits and full of expectation. Edinburgh for once wore what might have been her ordinary aspect, had the spirit ot centralisation not deprived her of all the attributes of a metropolis for the aggrandisement of London. Robin Afleck, not from any informa tion he had received but from a shrewd calculation of probabilities, anticipated the arrival of the Whinnyside people on the evening of the day just mentioned He took his measures accordingly. Watching an opportunity of meeting Griselda M'Glunchagain on the street, he bribed her with a trifling present to oblige him in three particulars—first, to
inform Jean Brown, should she come along with Mrs. Renshaw, that he would be waiting for her that evening at a certain hour in the broad walk of the Meadows; second, to contrive
matters so that Jean would have an excuse for going out at the time; and, lastly, to keep silence to her about the ridiculous display she had seen him make along with Mr. Bacon. These matters being arranged, Robin had done all that could be done to obtain a meeting with his sweetheart, that evening, in case of her arrival any time during the course of the day. But he was not content with this. His impatience to see her urged him to stroll out on the great road leading to Edinburgh from the south, by which he knew the Whinnyside party must come. The road was crowded with people on foot, on horseback, and in carriages of every kind, all hurrying into the city. Robin was almost the only person going towards the country, and as he had particular reasons for wishing to see all and not be seen himself, he displayed some generalship in taking up a favorable position. He placed himself behind a dry stone dyke, shaded by a plantation of stunted trees, which bounded the road where it ascended a considerable acclivity. Here by stooping he could completely conceal himself from observation, while, through an opening in the loose-built fence, he had a perfect view of all who passed. From this commanding station, the road was seen a great way southward, winding among corn fields and pasture land—not of a rich or romantic character, but wearing the mellow hues of autumn, and glowing under a bright sun.. A waving, wreath of dust, raised by the unwonted traffic going on, indicated the course of the road where it was itself unseen, and along the whole line to a remote distance, Robin strained his eyes in the hope of descrying among the numerous approaching vehicles, the “ dear-meal-cart ” of Whinnyside. This sort of vehicle came first into use among farmers when they were enriched by the prevalence of the high “ war prices.” Hence it derived its name.
For a long time he saw no carriage of any kind familiar to his eye, but at length, and only when it was pretty nigh, he observed a green-colored open carriage, drawn by two fine greys, which he at once recognised as the family coach of Sir John Baldwin. When it came near, he saw in it Sir John Baldwin himself, his lady and daughter, and, strange to say —-the redoubtable Mr. Simon M'Quirkie !
The steep ascent of the road at the place where Robin was ensconsed, caused the carriage to proceed very slowly, so that he had time to observe well both with eyes and ears. A brisk conversation was going on between Sir John and M‘Quirkie, in which the latter as usual seemed the chief speaker and in a most uncommonly loquacious mood; while Lady Baldwin frowned and Miss Baldwin pouted in evident displeasure. Robin had hardly time to recover from his surprise when another coach came in view. It was also open, and there sat the Rev, Mr., Calmsough and his wife, with old Gideon Montgomery and the lovely Agnes. This was a happy looking group. Mr. Calmsough was doing his best to render the journey pleasant to his companions ; and he was evidently successful, for his worthy lady and Miss Montgomery seemed delighted, and even old Mr. Montgomery’s habitual sternness of countenance had relaxed into a placid smile.
After a considerable interval, filled up by passengers, in whom the vigilant watcher took no interest, he noticed the approach of two gentlemen in a gig, the first glance of whom made him stoop out of sight as if he had been shot. These were no other than Dr. Snapperdudgeon and a neighboring pettyfogger who was his local agent in his continual litigations. * Robin allowed this couple to be fairly out of sight before he ventured again to raise his head. In fact the sight of their approach to Edinburgh raised qualms of fear in his mind, and threw a shade over the pleasure he anticipated from the ,other arrival he waited for impatiently. He, however, turned his eyes again to the south, and after long watching and many disappointments, when the sun had got near the horizon he perceived a spring-cart which he felt pretty sure was the “dear-meal-cart” of Whinnyside. There were several circumstances, however, which puzzled him. The horse was not familiar to his eye, and the driver was not Jean Broun as he expected, but a man—a man of large proportions and stately bearing. Could he possibly be John Ruraplebane? Then the cart contained no less than threeTemales. Supposing Mrs. Renshaw to be one, and Jean another, who was the third ? All conjecture was set at rest, when on nearer approach, Ringan Stimperton of Stiffriggs was discovered to be the driver, and Robin recognised, as Mrs. Renshaw’s female companions, his own Jean Broun and the eldest of Mr. Stimperton’s sisters. This young woman was of the kind of beauties termed blondes. Her hair and skin were extremely fair, and she had a flush of color in her face more partaking of the peony than the rose. She was an incessant laugher, and good-natured even to softness. So soft, indeed, was she, that it was common, in speaking of her, to omit the first T in her name, and call her Miss Simperton. Between her and Jean Brown, who was the soul of fun, there was, as may be supposed, enough merriment going on ; but in this Mrs. Renshaw took little share. She was intent on keeping up conversation with the honest farmer, who divided his discourse somewhat equally between her and his horse. This animal was his own, and had been less habituated to obey the whip than his master’s voice, so that he only did his best when encouraged by constant coaxing and admonitory exclamations. ■ The homely vehicle was packed as full of boxes, bandboxes, trunks, and baskets as if the party it belonged to had been emigrating to a distant country and taking with them provisions and other necessaries calulated to last a twelvemonth; for Mrs. Renshaw had little faith in being able to obtain proper articles of any sort in Edinburgh, beyond 'things of trifling bulk which she called “ giggery.” Besides changes of raiment, including all her most showy dresses, she had with her
butter, cheese, eggs, fowls, honey, flour and meal, all the produce of her own farm. Of the last named article she had brought a firlot, selected with great care for its superior quality, which she had made up her mind to cause Jean Brown to bake into cakes to be presented to the Queen along with the jar of gooseberry jam alluded to in one of Jean’s letters. She conscientiously believed that the cakes, as well as the jam, would be a treat of no ordinary description to her Majesty, and she had put herself to considerable trouble to carry her purpose into effect. In order that they might be “short and crurapy” when (placed on the royal table, she resolved that the cakes should be baked in Edinburgh, just before being sent to the palace; and, to manage this, she thought it necessary to bring with her all her baking apparatus from Whinnyside, since it was not probable that there would be either a “ kneading rower ” or a “ firing girdle ”in Edinburgh. Jean Brown had been cunning enough to encourage all these notions, for she knew that, but for them, her chance of getting to Edinburgh was small.
The sight of this comely nymph, and the sound of her cheerful, merryringing voice, so electrified her rustic lover, that he could with difficulty let her pass without discovering himself. Almost immediately afterwards, he sprang over the fence at a bound, and followed the Whinnyside cart into the town, keeping Jean Brown’s blue ribbons steadily in view, but at such distance as to avoid being seen by her or any of the party. As he went on, his thoughts reverted from his own to Mr. Duncanson’s affaire de occur. He could not help wondering how it happened that Miss Montgomery had come to Edinburgh without previously apprising Mr, Duncanson of her inttention; yet he was sure she had sent him no intimation of the kind, otherwise he should either have heard of it or discovered it indirectly. He knew too that Mr. Duncanson, being on leave of absence from Mr. Bacon’s service, had invited the Rev. Mr. Aspen to his lodgings that very evening, to discuss certain points of Church politics on which the latter had not yet made up his mind ; and this he was not likely to have done, had he expected Miss Montgomery’s arrival in the city. Robin Afleck, though not a sentimentalist, was generous and self-deny-ing. He therefore resolved to risk missing his own dulcinea that evening, in order to find out where Miss Montgomery and her father had taken up their quarters, and to give her lover timely information. Accordingly, after entering the town and seeing the Whinnyside party making directly for Mrs. Glunchagain’s lodgings, he went about from one hotel to another, inquiring of the waiters if they had received any visitors answering his description of the little party from Burnbrook. In this pursuit he was fruit lessly engaged till long after the hour of his own appointment, but at length he was successful. He discovered that the objects of his search had gone to private lodgings in Pitt Street; and when he had ascertained this point, he hastened to communicate this information to Mr, Duncanson. (To be continued—commenced on July 26. )
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 147, 2 September 1880
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