THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALK OK TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXIII. As o’er my palm the silver piece she drew, # And traced the line of life with charming view, How throbbed my fluttering pulse with hopes and fears. To learn the color of my future years ! CRABDI2 Thy spirit. Independence, let me share ! SMOLLETT. Among the multitndes who came to Edinburgh to see the Queen, or to profit by the concourse which the presence of her Majesty attracted was the gipsy fortune-teller, Mother Meredith, formerly spoken of. Jean Brown happened to see her from the window, and was sharp enough witted to imagine at at once how her professional talents might be turned to account. The sorceress was accordingly called up and after being well prompted by Jean, demanded an interview with Mrs. Renshaw. This lady was still a-bed, waiting the coming of her nephew, and hoping also for a visit from Stiffriggs, but not quite - resolved whether to be well or unwell, when the request of Mother Meredith to see her was announced. “ What can the auld roudas ■want wi’ me ? ” she inquired when Jean Brown informed her of the circumstance.
“Ye had better let her explain what she wants hersel’,” answered Jean; “for though she’s a droll body, she’ a neighbor, ye ken, and may ha’c some business to speak aboot.” “ Send her in, then, and we’ll see,” answered the love-sick mistress of Whinnyside, and immediately the fortune teller was in her presence. “And what is’t ye want wi’ me, Luckie ? ” said Mrs. Renshaw, with a tone of peevish asperity. “Nothing,” answered the old woman, “but to tell you something that concerns you.” “Concerns me ! What is’t ye mean? What can ye ken aboot my affairs ? ” “Mair than ye ken yoursel’, I’m thinkin’, mistress.” “ Nonsense! This is some o’ your spacin’ ye want to play aff on me, but I’m nae sic a simpleton as to believe in the black art.”
“ Mine is nae black art, but a fair reading o’ what’s to be; and it’ll happen whether ye believe’t or no. Nane o’ my words ever fa’ to the grund.” “ Plague on your fortune spacin’! What business hae ye wi’ my affairs ? ” “ O nae business—nane ava.” “And what for do ye mak’ onything ado wi' me or my concerns then! ” “ Mrs. Renshaw, if ye dinna want to ken some things that I ken o’ that’s to befa’ ye, there’s nae ill dune. I can gang as I cam’, and carry my secrets wi’ me. But what I ken I ken, and I cam’ by ray knowledge honestly.” “ Tell me this, then —What set ye to spae ray fortune ava ? ” “Ye may weel ask that, for it’s no my custom to do ought o’ the kind without being employed. But this is a partic’lar case. It cam’ to me unsocht, and it’s mair likely to be true; and as ye happen to be a neighbor o’ mine, I thocht it no richt to keep ye in the dark. But since ye hae nae wish to hear what it is, I’ll just be steppin’.”
“ Stop a wee. Ye needna be in sic a fell hurry. Though I dinna believe it can be onything but havers, ye may tell me what it is when ye’re here at ony rate. Ye said it cam’ to ye unsocht. Hoo could it do that ? Dinna ye need to cut the cards before ye can tell onything ? ” “ There’s ae way o’ readin’ by the cards, but that’s no the only way. There’s much can be seen in tea leaves, especially if it be green tea; but as I get nane to drink but the common kind, I ha’ena seen the partic’larest bits o’ your fate, but 1 ha’e gotten insicht intil the feck o’ what is to beta’ ye.” “ Gae way, gae way, wi’ your lees and nonsense. Would anybody in their senses believe ye could read folk’s fortune in a pickle tea leaves ?” “ Believe’t or no believe’t, it’s true, and ye wadna misdoot it if ye kent tho hauf o’ what has come to pass in proof that my readin’ o’ tea leaves is true. But I’m iang eneuch here, for I see ye dinna wa.it to ken what I hae to tell.” “Ye may tell me nevertheless, since ye’ve been at the trouble o’ ca’in’ here for the purpose. I needna believe what ye say unless I like, and I’ll no believe’t if it’s the least unbe-like. Was the fortune gude or ill ye read o’ me?” “ Partly baith, but the gude was to prevail owre the ill, if certain things took place; and the ill owre the gude, suppose some ither things should happen,” “ I dinna understand that, but we maun lown in case onybody overhear us. I say I dinna understand the meaning o’ the certain things and certain ither things that would mak’ the gude or ill prevail.” “ Na, neither do I, but this I ken—there was on the ae haun happiness and marriage, and on the ither a single life and mony sair trials.” “ Hoot, blethers ! I ken it’s a’ an imagination; but which did ye say was the likeliest!” “ That’s what I never could see, for the tea I drink, as I said before, is coarse common stuff, ane disna show partic’lars.” “ Could ye no try’t owre again, even now, if ye had the richt kind ?” “ Nae, doot, nae doot I could, if ye thocht it worth while.” Indeed, I dinna then, for I think it’s nonsense, but ye may just try’t the best way, since ye are here at ony rate.” “Awed, I’ll do my best, if ye’ll order me a bowfu’ o’ strong green tea wi’ the leaves in’t.” The order was immediately given, and Jean Brown proceeded with alacrity to carry it into effect, smiling to herself meanwhile at the success of her stratagem, and the craft with which Mother Meredith had converted it into a means of obtaining a luxurious refreshment. Jean took care to second her views by providing suitable accompaniments for the tea, and soon set before her a repast worthy of the ingenuity with which it had been earned. The spaewife’s grace over it was a mystic incantation, which she finished by putting a ring into the bowl. Mrs. Renshaw lay still and eyed her at her meal with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion, and could not help remarking with het usual bluataess—
“ This’ll just be ane o’ your gipsy tricks now, I jalouse.”
Mother Meredith drained the dish in silence; but after looking attentively into the residuum, she said in an angry tone —“ If ye suspect a trick, tell me, and let me be gone at ance. I see here what it would be gude for you to ken; but, if ye doot my word, the less I say the better.”
“ After drinking the tea, ye may say ony way. As I said afore, I can either believe’t or no, when I hear what it is.”
“ No; if I’m to be treated like a cheat, I’ll keep my knowledge to mysel’. The tea was gude and ye have my thanks for’t; but the mysteries I can read in the grunds, as plain as ye can read a printed book, shall never pass my - lips to them that scorn my skill or doot my word.” “ Whist! speak lower, Luckie, and dinna flee aff that way. ; I’ll pay ye for your trauble—at least, it I get ony satisfaction frae ye—so just sit down and again tell me what ye see in the dish.”
“ Weel, Mrs, Renshaw, this reading is something the same as the ane before, but plainer. I see you here ” “Where? Let me see.” “ There, just as clear as if it were your picture in a looking-glass.”
“ That me ? That’s but a braidshaped tea-leaf.” “ It’s that just to them that can see nae better; but to the skilfu’ e’e, it is just what I say. If ye could see it properly, ye would be as deep-read in the mysteries as mysel’; and ye ken that’s no to be expeckit.” “ Aweel, what mair do ye see ? ” “ I see a gentleman before you.” ■ “ What like is he ? ”
“He is tall and buirdly; no unlike Sanderson o’ Sanderson—only lie’s no splay-fitted like him.” ■ “ Look again, and see if ye canna find oot what he’s like.” “ I would say it was the Southland carrier, Rob Rutherford; but he’s no dressed like Rob. I daursay it’s just him brushed up a thocht, and mair genteel.” “ Look better, Luckie, is there naebody else it’s liker ?” “ Naebody, unless it be Stimperton o’ Stiffriggs. And trowth that’s the vera man, if I ha’e ony skill.” “ Tuts, blethers !” “'Aweel, aweel, if ye think it blethers ye needna hear ony mair. So just say stop, and I’m dune.” “ Na, na ; since ye ha’e begun, mak’ a finish. What mair do ye see ?” “ I see ither twa between you and the gentleman.” “ Ither twa ! What are they ? wha are they ?” “ The ane nearest you is like a young man, and the ane nearest Mr. Stimperton is like a young woman.” “ Ay, and what mak’ ye oot 0’ that ? Are they like to draw thegither and mak’ a match o’t ?” “ I canna say, I’m shure, for I see nae band between them. They may or they may no draw thegither; but I see a band between you and the stout tall gentleman.” “ Div ye ! Let me see’t, then.” “ There it is, and there’s nae mistakin’ o’t.” “ I see naething but a bit shank 0’ a leaf crookit in the middle.” “ That’s just what I tell you, then. It’s a band between you and the gentleman, and ye see it is bow’d awa to the left side o’ the twa mots —the young man and the woman —that staun’ between you.” “ And what is the meaning o’ that ?” “ The meaning is that naething else but thae young folk prevents a match between you and the buirdly gentleman.”
“ And see ye ony signs o’ them gaun oot the gate ?” “ Ay, the mot that stands for the young man is pairtly on the road to something like a kirk or a great house of some kind ; and the mot that stands for the young woman is half floating in melted sugar.” “ And does that signify that she is to gangawa’?” “ Yes, without ony manner o’ doubt.” “ And are ye sure the young man is on the road to a kirk ?” “ Maybe no just a kirk, for I see nae steeple on’t; but something like a kirk, for it’s a large building. But he has like a water to cross, and I see nae stepping-stanes in’t.” “ Na. that beats a’ ! I see a strong o’ meaning in that bit o’ the reading. Your skill is no canny, Luckie, for there’s sae muchle truth in what you say, that I begin to think that it may a’ be true.” “True! ay, as true as ye’re lying there; but it ill sets you to ca’ my skill uncanny, after gettin’ frae me sic perfect insicht intil your fortune.” “ That’s the verra thing that gars me doot if your skill can be canny. But tell me what made you say ye saw on one side o’ me single life and sair trials, and on the ither marriage and great happiness.” “ My meaning was that I saw signs o’ baith conditions in your life. I saw them when I read your fortune before, and I see them here again. “ What are they then ? ” “ The signs o’ singleness and sorrow I see here are, an old shoe, and hawf o’ a pair o’ sheers, a marrowless glove, and a lang teethed heckle.” “ Preserve’s ! that’s awfu’. But what are the gude signs ye see ? ” “ A plain ring, a true-lover’s knot, and a pair of cooing doves.” “A pair o’sookin’ turkeys! What likeness can cooing doves hae to Ringan Stimperton and me ? '’ “ They signify peace and marriage, and are no to be ta’en for likenesses o man or woman.” - “ Weel, that may be a’ true ; but do ye no see onything like siller, as weel as marriage and ither gude things, in my fortune ? ” “ Deed I do, but the siller is like to spoil a’ the rest It is on ae side, and the large building like the kirk on the ither. The band is bended to the siller side, showing that it is there that ony lies. Ye may read your fate yoursel’ now, after what ye’ve heard, and be thankfu’ that it’s a gude ane, and left sae much in your ain haun.” “ But tell me just this one thing mair—wad I need to part wi’ my siller to become a married wife ? ” “ No ; I see naething signifying that, but ye maunna expect to get the braw man I see in the dish here, or ony
ither man, if ye baud owre steive a grip o’ the siller ; for a’ your chance I see is on the ither side.”
“ Weel, aweel, Mother Meredith, I suppose I maun gi’e you a shilling for your pains, but I’m sure I’m affronted to think I’ve harkened sae lang to sic havers.”
“ Mrs. Renshaw, remember what I’ve told you o’ the danger o’ griping money wi’ owre close a baud ! You must gi’e me five shillings. Beware o’ the odd shoe, the heckle, and the marrowless glove.” This injunction produced the desired effect, and the gipsy departed enriched both in purse and stomach, but under strict charges never to reveal to any other the divination for which she had received such handsome payment. Mrs. Renshaw, when left to herself, in spite of her pretended dislike and contempt for the black art, pondered earnestly over all the spaewife’s words, and drew from them, as it was no doubt intended she should do, more sanguine hopes of getting Stiffriggs entangled in the matrimonial net than ever she had entertained before. She, moreover, _ saw now the propriety of again receiving her nephew into favour, and extending to him some assistance to complete his education, whether he should adhere to the Establishment or not; for, as she understood the prediction, he would no longer remain an obstacle to her hopes if enabled to pursue his professional views, whether in the Church or out of it. She now saw her way clearly, and not only got out of bed and forgot all her late half-imagined, half-assumed illness, but set about dressing herself in her showiest style. She was in fact animated with new spirit as by a charm, and the prediction, like every illusion of the kind which is believed, began to operate powerfully towards its own fulfilment, by making the subject of it act in accordance with its spirit. As an old Scotch proverb says —“ The thing we dearly wish we fain would trow.” 'Mrs. Renshaw, instead of being a moping, peevish, would-be invalid, suspicious ot slights and full of petty and palpable manoeuvres, became all at once cheerful, self-satisfied, and confiding. _ Jean Brown spoke truly when she said her mistress was more benefited by her consultation with Mother Meredith than she could have been by the skill of all the doctors in Edinburgh ; and as truly did she add—“ Get Stiffriggs or no, she has a better chance for him now than ever she had before, just by believing she’s shure of him.” When matters were in this hopeful train Mr. Duncanson called in breathless haste and great anxiety. He was no less surprised than glad to find his aunt, so far from being dangerously unwell (as he had been informed by Griselda, who was sent for him), in high spirits and looking better and blyther than usual. On expressing to her how agreeably he was surprised to see her so well, and mentioning the alarming report he had received of her sudden illness, she said it was just a passing dwam she had taken, but that it was now completely away and she had no fears for its return. Before much more was said, honest Stiffriggs was announced. He was half afraid to enter, having vividly in recollection the unpleasant scene of the day before, and being apprehensive it might have left disagreeable if not dangerous effects. was therefore great, and his pleasure not the less, when he saw how matters stood. Mrs. Renshaw welcomed him with a countenance radiant with smiles and very little discomposed by any feeling of shame for her recent extraordinary conduct; for she had too little sensibility to feel how ridiculous she had made herself. It was not so easy for Ringan to shake off his embarrassment; but at length his brow cleared, and he entered into conversation, as if nothing disagreeable had happened, or all had been forgotten. The lady, with many smirks and smiles and looks mysteriously indicating the importance of what she was about to do, went to a drawer and produced a bunch of bank notes from the sum which she had lost and recovered, for she had not yet got it deposited in the bank. Laying the money on the table, she said, “Ye see, Mr. Stimperton, I mean to follow your advice after a’.” And turning to her nephew, she continued, “ This_ is fifty pound that our friend here advises me to put to fifty pound o’ his, to enable you to get through the college decently, and I mak’ ye freely welcome till’t, I’m shure.”
Ringan looked surprise at this proceeding, and not quite so well pleased as she expected. In truth he at once suspected it to be the opening of a new system of tactics directed against his freedom ; and he was not far mistaken. As for Mr. Duncanson, he was struck with amazement, and utterly at a loss to comprehend the motives under which his aunt was acting so much out of her natural character. The suspicion even flashed across her mind, and rendered her for a time non compos mentis. On this supposition alone could he account for her conduct. He therefore, and for other reasons, positively declined to touch the money. Stiffrigs, however, who understood the matter better, strongly reprobated his refusal, and said, for his own part, he would take it very ill if his fifty pounds should not be accepted. T his led to a warm discussion among all three. (To be continued—commenced on Yuly 2 6.)
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