THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CHAPTER XY — continued.
It is here necessary to explain that Mr. Duncanson and his reverend friend, the hero of the experimental dinner, had not long been seated together till the latter put some searching questions to him concerning his intercourse with Dr. Crimp. It was evident that the reverend gentleman expected to hear of something not very different from apostacy, and he kept his eyes keenly fixed on Mr. Duncanson as he touched on the subject. Not a sympton of embarrassment or reservation, however, could he detect in the student’s manner, as he replied to his interrogations by detailing to him the circumstance in which he had got acquainted with Dr. Crimp, and what had taken place between them. When he had concluded, Mr. Aspen, with a voice faltering with disappointment, said—- “ So, then, you have no intention of going over to the Episcopalians ?” “ Most certainly not,” was Mr. Duncanson’s reply f “ how could you suppose I had ?” “ Why, sir, to be plain with you, appearances seemed to favor the opinion, and I w r as not alone in adopting it.” “ Indeed ! lam not conscious of anything in my conduct that can have led you or others to believe me capable of taking such a disgraceful step as that of abandoning the persuasion in which I was bred.” “ Not disgraceful, Mr. Duncanson : don’t call it disgraceful. It might be a very painful step, and yet in a sense excusable, and even praiseworthy.” It was now Mr. Duncanson’s turn to scrutinise. He felt amazed at what he heard, and was puzzled to know what conclusion he ought to draw from it —“ Is it possible that Mr Aspen — lately so high-flying in his zeal against Erastianism in the Church of Scotland, can be veering towards Erastian Prelacy, W’ith all its mummeries and mockeries ? ” While this question was rising into shape in his mind, he was roused from his momentary reverie by hearing a gentle rap at the outer door. He then heard himself enquired for by a female voice, and immediately after, Jean Brown was ushered into the room. Jean, though by no means a timid girl, had a fair share of feminine modesty; and when she found herself at once in the presence of Mr. Duncanson and his friend Mr, Aspen, she blushed deeply, and drew back as if she wished to retire. Mr. Aspen how'ever, had no motive to remain longer after having sounded his young friend’s mind on professional matters and given some indication of the unsettled state of his own. He therefore rose at once and tock his leave, with a look not unmingled with suspicion, at the student and his buxom visitor. After her agitation had subsided a little, Jean briefly related to Mr Duncanson the errand on which she had made bold to call on him. She informed him that Miss Montgomery had contrived to see her that very morning, and told her that her father had made up his mind to take her with him to Edinburgh, but had formed the resolution so suddenly, or concealed it so long, that she had not an opportunity of writing to him on the subject. And further, Jean said that Miss Montgomery would be in Edinburgh by that time, and would be glad to see him about half-past eight, as she would probably have a better opportunity of meeting him then than afterwards, for her father and Mr. Calmsough intended to go to a private . meeting on Church affairs whieh would probably detain them several hours.
This was, indeed important intelligence to the student, and he eagerlyinquired where Miss Montgomery was to be found. On this point, however, Jean’s information was not altogether satisfactory; for though she knew where the Burncrook family intended to take up their quarters, it was very doubtful, from the crowded slate of the of the town, if they could be accommodated there, seeing that they had made no previous arrangements. But at this moment Robin Afleck arrived with precise information on the point. On hearing him approach, Jean Brown slily put her finger to her lip to enjoin secresy on Mr. Duncanson, and withdrew into a corner, where she was completely concealed behind a press door which then stood open. Robin came in quite breathless, and in a high state of excitement. “ I ha’e great news to tell you, Maister Jimes,” he exclaimed—“ great news, man ; Miss Migumerie is in Embro’, as weel as Jean Broun and your auntie.” “ Well, sit down and let me hear all you know about Miss Montgomery’s arrival; but take your time, and don’t put yourself in such a pucker.” “ Don’t pit mysel’ in such a pucker! Is that the way ye tak’ the news? Fegs, if I had kent ye were sae heedless, I wadna hae broken my tryst wi’ Jean Broun to get you word whaur ye rnicht see your jo.” “ I shall be sorry if you have broken any appointment on my account, but very glad to hear your news.” “ Weel, ye see, I’ve been on the look oot the feck o’ the day for the Whinnyside folk, and I’ve seen them, ye may be shure— I saw my Jean but Jean 1 she sawna me. (Sings)—' There’s no a bonny flower that springs By fountain, shaw, or green, Nor yet a bonny bird that sings, But minds me o’ my Jean. Fegs, she’s putten me in a singing mood. She was in the cart wi’ your auntie and Saft Susie fSimperton ; and shure’s ye’re leevin’, Stiffriggs himsel’ was at the horse’s head.” “ But did you see Miss Montgomery ? ” “ Ou ay. I’ll come to them belyve. But ye see the first kent folk I saw was Sir John Baldwin and his wife and dochter; and wha de ye think was in the coach wi’ them but wee Mr, M'Quirkie ? ” “ Well, well, I don’t care about that, but where did you see Agnes ? ” “Gie us time, Maister Jimes, gi’e us time. ‘ Ye loot on ye were in nae sic hurry when I cam’ in. It wasna lang after Sir John’s coach gaed bye till I saw Dr, Snapperdudgeon and M'Cheatrie the lawyer—twa folk that ha’e ta’en the deil’s trade oot o’ his hands as far as I am concerned : for
its no him, that I'm feart for—he may be an ill set thief, and yet no half sae bad as them.”
“Now, Robert, can you'tell me at once where you saw Miss Montgomery, and if you know where she is lodging?”
“ Then, to be plain wi’ ye, Maister Jiraes, I saw her cornin’ intil the toun about sax o’clock wi’ her faither and Mr. and Mrs. Calmsough ; and I did main for you than you seem inclined to gi’e me ony thanks for; for after I saw the Whinnyside cart come in, and though 1 had planned a nice bit snug meetin’ wi’ Jean Brown, I left a’ at the braidside to speer after Miss Migumerie, and I fand her oot at last, but only when the time was past I should hae gane anither gate.” “ That was, indeed, very kind of you, and I hope you will have no cause to repent it. Now, then, if you please, tell me what the result of your inquiries?”
“ Since ye maun ken, then, Miss Migumerie and her faither hae ta’en up their quarters in a hoose in Pitt Street no a stane cast frae Queen Street. It’s a lodging hoose wi’ window screens as red’s a sodger’s coat, and a brass knocker on the door—so ye’ll find it easily. And as for the tryst I had wi’ Jean, though I’m vext eneuch, I’ve missed it I’ll soon get her pleased wi’ some kind o’ nonsense. The breakin’ o’ this tryst is but the loss o’ ae nicht, and I’ll warrant we’ll hae twa or three yet before she leaves the toun. It may tak’ you some trouble to git sicht o’ Miss Migumerie, even noo when ye ken whaur she’s byding ; but I ken _ I can see Jean Broun ony time I like to whussle for her on my fingers.” “ Can ye though, Robin ? Say ye're no sae sure, my man?” exclaimed Jean, as she jumped from her concealment, and made her lover jump as if he had seen the ghost of Dr. Snapperdudgeon. She burst into a fit of laughter on seeing his surprise and embarrassment. But when he had rallied sufficiently to commence an apology on the understanding that she had kept the appointment, she assumed an air of displeasure, and pretended to be greatly offended. While this farce was performing, Mr. Duncanson snatched his hat and left the rustic lovers by themselves and went to meet his own cher ami.
Robin commenced his defence with much stammering and circumlocution. He did not know well how to speak, for he felt his case was ticklish, and saw no way of making it better. It was, however, necessary he should say something, and he began in a soothing vein, “Now, Jean,” said he, “yeneedna tak it amiss that I dinna keep my word, for ye ken it was oot of no want of regard for you.” “ I ken naething o’ the kind.” she replied and here the artful little gipsy feigned to cry. “Atweel, Robin,” she continued, “ it’s no muckle ye care for me, when ye could slight me this way, to rin after ither folk’s business. If this is the luve ye promist me, it’s no what I expeckit it to be.” She simulated another burst of wounded pride, and put poor Robin almost beside himself with vexation.
“ Can ye no, woman,” he said in a piteous tone, “tak’ my excuse for ance, and no vex me wi’ your greetin’ ? ”
“ No, Robin, I’ll tak’ nae sic excuse, but ” —she added with a smile which she was unable to repress when she saw his rueful looks— “ but I’ll clear you this time for a better reason. Ye maun ken, then, I didna keep the tryst mysel. I had a message frae Miss Miggumerie to Mr. Jimes, and I cam’ wi’t instead o’ gaun to the Meadows to meet wi’ you; so we’re even gamesters, Robin. Ye didna slight me a bit mair than I slightit you, for what lass that thinks ought o’ hersel’ wad be seen wi’ you after ye’ve been playing the Merry Andrew through the toun wi’ Mr. dirty Bacon ? ”
This sally was delivered with an arch smile, and succeeded by a peal of laughter which would have been both loud and long, had not Robin had the tact and gallantry to smother it with kisses too many to be counted. When he desisted, it was but to express his admiration of his sweetheart's versatility and address —“Ye’re a real acker Jean,” said he, “ye should be on the stage, if ye werena owre gude for sic a place. It’s the like o’ you should be wi’ Mr. Bacon when he gangs the Queen and the great men she’s bringin’ wi’ her. But I little thocht that i’il-faur’d jaud, Griselda M'Glunchagain, wad ha’e exposed the caper I cut wi’ the crazy gentleman, after I gied her a pock fu’ o’ raisins to say naething aboot it.” “ And did ye mean to keep me in the dark about the cockit hat and the tyet hair and the flunky dress ye’ve been makin’ a fule o’ yoursel’ wi’ ? ” “ I deny the tyet hair and the flunky dress, a’ thegither. There’s no a word o’ truth in’t. The claes might be worn by a Djuke; and as for the cockit hat, ye’ll be prood to see me wi’t on, it’s sae grand like. Bless your heart, woman ! it’s just like the Provost’s hat as ae egg’s like anither. But the way I cam to be conneckit wi’ Mr. Bacon ava was this—” Here Robin entered into a long-winded explanation of the circumstances, which need not be recapitulated ; but he did not succeed in altogether satisfying Jean that he had acted right in allowing himself to be drawn into such a ridiculous situation. Her irrepressible love of fun, however, and her curiosity to see Mr. Bacon, overruled her prudential scruples, and she contented herself with demanding that her lover should make use of his ostensible secretaryship as would enable her to see the illustrious bachelor of Auchterbardie and his extraordinary manner of housekeeping. “And,” continued she, “ye might do whaur than come awa’ just the noo, and let me see whaur he bydes, for I dinna care though it should be a bit aboot. The mistress disna expeck me in this hour yet, for she has Stiffriggs in tow the nicht, and and if he comes awa soon it’ll no be herfaut. She’s courtin’ him briskly, but. he’s unco dreigh to draw. I may no ha’e as muckle time in a hurry, and this droll man’s house is the fiirst thing I wad like to see in Embro’.” “ I wad .like to get some meat first, Jean, for’ ye ken luve makes me desperate hungersome ; and as I have fasted sin’ the raarning, I find the grund o’ my stomach at ony rate; sae if you like to wait a wee, we’ll ha’e a bit o’ supper.”
Jean did not require much pressing to consent to this proposal. Something comfortable was soon produced, and Robin declared that he would go round the world to enjoy such a repast again ; but whether the homely viands were better than common, or only acquired an unwonted relish from the presence of Jean Brown, he could not say. He held it for certain, however, that no such meal was ever eaten before or since by mortal man.
Had we never loved so kindly. Had we never loved so blindly, Never met or'never parted. We*had ne’er been broken hearted,
Following the directions given him by Robin Afleck, Mr. Duncanson had little difficulty in finding the lodgings of Miss Montgomery. He found her not alone, but in the company only of Mrs. Calmsough. The first meeting of the youthful lovers, after a long and harassing separation, was too tender to be witnessed by any third person; and Mrs. Calmsough, feeling this, considerately withdrew just as the student entered the room. Agnes was so '•agitated that it was with difficulty she could advance to meet him, and his emotions were so violent that he could do no more than falteringly pronounce her name, as his own, in a low-breathed tone, escaped her lips. “ You are pale and thin, my Agnes ; I fear you have been unwell since 1 saw you last,” were the first words he uttered after in some measure regaining his composure. “ Yes, James,” she replied, “ I have been ill but not seriously, and I feel quite well again, though thinner than I used to be. But you are pale and thin too, James ; surely you must have been ailing, and yet I always heard you were well.” “ My health has been good enough, Agnes j but I have suffered a good deal of anxiety since we parted last, and, I fear, so have you.” A long conversation ensued concerning the events already narrated, and the lovers were sad almost to tears, and merry almost to laughter, according as they described to each other the painful circumstances which had occurred to blight their happiness, or the amusing characters and incidents they had lately been involved with. Robin Afleck and Jean Brown were spoken of in terms of warm interest and admiration, while their eccentricities were canvassed with much gaiety and good humour. Mr. M’Quirkie, Dr. Snapperdudgeon, Ringan Slimperton, the Rev. Mr. Aspen, Dr. Crimp, and Mr. Bacon, all passed in review, and afforded much diversion to the fond pair whom fate had recently brought into contact with so many oddities. But, as the evening wore on, smiles became fewer and sighs more frequent; for there was a tacit understanding on both sides that much of the most serious importance yet remained to be discussed. Mr. Duncanson had come charged with an intention which hitherto he had not had firmness to intimate, but he gradually mustered resolution to broach the subject, though at a cost of feeling which he was unable to conceal. He could not command ease enough of mind to adopt circuitous expressions, or to slope the way to what he knew would be a startling announcement to his sensitive companion. But, after some spasmodic efforts in which his overpowering feelings shook every fibre in his frame, he at length abruptly said—“ Agnes, I need not tell you how dear you have been, are, and ever will be to me, for I daresay you are well aware of the deep hold you have on my affections ; but it has now become my painful duty to say that I fear we are not destined for each other.” Here he made an ivoluntary pause, for the violence of his feeling paralysed- his utterance. As he spoke, Agnes, trembled and became deadly pale. Then hiding her face with her hands, while the tears fell between her slender fingers, she sobbed convulsively, and said in a voice almost too low to be heard, “ James, do you wish to break off?” (To be continued—commenced on July 26.)
Holloway's Pills. —These Pills are more efficacious in strengthening a debilitated constitution than any other medicine in the world.
Persons of a nervous habit of bod)', and all who are suffering from weak digestive organs, or whose health has become deranged by bilious affection, disordered stomach, or liver complaints, should lose no time in giving these admirable Pills a fair trial. Coughs, colds, asthma, or shortness of breath are also within the range of the sanative powers of this very remarkable medicine. The, cures effected by these Pills are not superficffllor temporary, but complete any permanent. v|rhey are as mild as they are efficacious,’ aud may be given with ■ confidence to delicate females and young children. Their action on the liver, stomach, and bowels is immediate, beneficial, and lasting, restoring order and health in every case.— Advt
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 148, 4 September 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 148, 4 September 1880
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