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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 156, 23 September 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TAUE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXIII— -co7itinued. “Why should either of you,” said the student, insist on laying me under obligations which I do not ask for ? ” “Ye need help, Jimes,” replied his aunt; “ye need help to get decently through " the college, and what for should ye refuse’t when it’s freely offered to ye ? ” “ I cannot accept it, aunt, and feel myself as free as I do at present. I will not forgo the liberty to act according to my convictions, for the sake of any other advantage.” “ I wish to help you,” said Stiffriggs, “just for that very reason. If I didna think you a conscientious lad, I wad rather pay fifty pounds to keep you back frae the ministry than lay oot a brown bawbee to help you on.” “You have my best thanks for your kindness, but I beg you will allow me to decline the favor you intend, and not take offence at ray refusal, for I assure you I am not in need of assistance.” “ Now, Jimes,” said Mrs. Renshaw, “ that must be nonsense. Ye have naetbing to keep you that I can hear o’, except what ye get frae that daft man, Mr. Dirty Bacon; and that’s but a sma’ matter. Besides, ye canna get justice dune to your learnin’ when ye have to spend sae much time wi’ him.” “ You know, aunt, the understanding we parted on at Whinnyside. For the sake of being free to follow a course of which you did not approve, I renounced my dependence on you, and made up my mind never more to be burdensome to you or any other friend, as long as Providence should vouchsafe to me health and strength to earn a living for myself.” “ But what is to come o’ your learnin’, though?” said the lady, pertinaciously bent on being kind. “ My learning may go to the dogs if I cannot use it without sinking ray independence.’ “ Hear him noo, hear him ! It’ll never do for your learnin’ to be lost, and ye needna boggle at taking the help that’s offered to ye, for ye see Mr. Stiraperton thinks your way is the richt way, and I’m sure I’ll never try to drive you aff’t again. No but that I think ye’re wrang, after a’; and no but I would rather see ye a parish minister than onything else; but if ye’ll no be’t, just be what ye like, and tak’ the siller withoot mair ado.”
“No. not a penny will I take on that score, Mr. Stimperton. I already owe to my aunt much more than I can clear by doing a service for her that any honest person would have done in my place.” “Trowth it’s the like o’ you they should ca’ Stiffriggs, my man,” said Stiffriggs, “ for ye’r stiffer in the birse than me a hantle. But if ye’ll no tak’ a present o’ the siller, ye may tak’ the lend o’t shurely, and pay’t back whenever it answers ye.” After some further discussion, Mr. Duncanson was prevailed on to accept of the money on this footing ; and honest Stiffriggs, when he had succeeded in effecting his arrangement, shook the student and Mrs. Renshaw heartily by the hand, as if he had received rather than conferred a favor. As he shook hands with the lady, however, he could not resist the temptation of whispering into her ear—“Od, mistress, I ne’er saw onybody mair the better o’ ought than ye’ve been o’ yon flee-water.”
CHAPTER XXIV. Old Edina’s heart beats high. Youthful vigour lights her eye. And her welcome fills the sky. Welcome to Victoria 1 R. L. MALONE. Robin Afleck allowed none of the absurdity of Mr. Bacon’s message to Miss Stimperton to be lost in the delivery. Ye are to be ready,” said he, “to gang wi’ him to the Queen’s show at Dalkeith, on Monday at eleven o’clock, and ye’re to be dressed in a long trailing gown and to have naething on your head but a bunch o’ peacock’s feathers.” “ Saft Shusie ” heard these directions with perfect composure, and was not even startled by the peacock’s feathers; but her brother listened with surprise and not a little indignation. u What nonsense is this, Robin?” he inquired in an angry tone. ** Ou, nae nonsense ava, Mr. Stimperton; only Miss Shusie, ye see, is gaun wi’ Mr. Bacon to see the Queen, and I’m just lettin’ her ken the kind o’ style he wants her to appear in.” “ Trowth, Shusie shall gang nae sic gate, wi’ my consent at least, wi’ a daft man like this Mr. Bacon.” “ Fegs, sir, she maun though, for she has promised already, and Mr. Bacon canna gang withoot her; he’s nae mair daft than me after a’, but only a wee thocht droll in his way.” “ Daft or no daft, he’s ne’er get a sister o’ mine to carry oot his capers wi’, if I can help it. And, Shusie, I think the least ye conld ha’e dune was to speak to me on the subject before ye entered intil sic a ploy.”
Shusie made no reply to this rebuke but by a few tears, which might be either expressive of regret for having acted so foolishly, or of vexation at the prospect of being prevented from gratifying almost the only strong wish she had —the desire to witness the pageantry and splendors of the royal court. Mrs. Renshaw interceded for her, or rather for herself, for she had a purpose to serve in the matter. She had not given up her project of sending homely presents to the Queen which were before alluded to, and hoped to get Mr. Bacon to take charge of them. It must be confessed that the idea was a good one, for such a charge was certainly very appropriate to the man, both being somewhat uncommon. It was to be feared,- however, that the prevention of Miss Stimperton from accompanying him would prove a serious obstacle. Mr. Bacon, in that case, might not go at all to the Drawing-Room, or, if he did, would not be likely to undertake the presentation of Mrs. Renshaw’s oat cakes and jam. She therefore plead strongly that Miss Shusie might be allowed to go; but Stiffrigs was inexorable. Robin Afleck was completely taken aback by this unexpected turn of affairs. With a disappointed expression of countenance, he called Mr.
Duncanson aside to request him to use his influence with Stiffriggs to relax his opposition to his sister’s intended display with Mr. Bacon. But the student refused, point-blank, to undertake the task. “I cannot,” said he, “advise Mr. Stimperton to permit anything of the kind. And you know, Robert—” “ Mr. A fleck, if you please.” “ Well, Mr. Afleck, you are aware I have always set my face against this foolery. 1 don’t wish to see Mr. Bacon make himself ridiculous, and far less can I consent to have a hand in leading any simple young woman like Miss Stimperton to take part in his absurdities.” “If it be sae daft like as ye seem to think for folk to gang to the Queen’s Drawing-Room, I dinna see but Mr. Bacon and Miss Stimperton have just as gude a richt to get making fules o’ themsel’s as ony o’ the gentlemen and ladies that’s to be there. And mair than that, sir, if Mr. Bacon be disappointed in this business, I’m dootious ye may loss your place as his secretary, for he’ll be ill pleased in the hale bilin’ o’ us.” ■ • “ As for that, Robert—” “ Mr. Robert, if ye please, Jimes. Man, it’s strange ye ne’er can mind to gi’e me the mister as well as ony ither stewdent.” “ I beg your pardon; I shall try to mind hereafter. But as for the motive you speak of, I would be ashamed to allow it to bias me in the least in such a matter, whatever my circumstances might be. At any rate, I do not intend to continue any longer in Mr. Bacon’s employment, for luckily I shall no longer need.” Robin stared interrogatively, but before he had time to put any question Mr. Duncanson added, “I will-tell you-the Reason of this when we are more at leisure, but in the meantime you may rest assured that what I have told you is true.” “ Weel,” : said the honest-hearted-rustic, “ I’m glad to hear it Mr. Jimes; but if ye be dune wi’ Mr. Bacon, I’m no just dune wi’ him yet; and rather than see him disappointed, I’ll try to get Jean Broun persuaded to be his companion at the Queen’s DrawingRoom —and fegs Jean can ack the grand lady fifty times belter, than Saft Susie Simperton. I reckon ye’ll no think there’s ony harm in letting her gang ? ” “No, if Jean herself or her mistress have no objections; but I daresay, Mr. Robert, your sweetheart has too much sense to play the fool in public with Mr. Bacon.”
“ Sense ! ay, she has plenty o’ sense ; rather muckle for me maybe ; but, man ! she’s desperate fond o’ fun, and I think she wad risk being laucht at for the sake o’ gettin’ a lauch hersel’. Then the mistress, she’ll be glad to let her, for the sake o’ gettin’ her presents to the Queen sent by a safe haund.” “ But would Mr. Bacon be pleased with the exchange ? ” “ Pleased ! he would be delightit; for d’ye ken he has ta’en the rue already about Shusie. He is deep in luve wi’ her yet (the auld sumph that he is); but he has ta’en a fricht about marrying that makes him half unwilling to risk himsel’-again within sicht o’ her; and he says he’ll never venture to look at her excep through green specks.” H ere Robin related hurriedly the substance of Mr. Bacon’s Malthusian dreams.
While this was passing, Mrs. Renshaw had contrived to induce Stiffriggs to propose that he and Mr. Duncanson should accompany her and Miss Stimperton on a walk through the town to see the illumination. This was immediately agreed to, and as the windows were already lighted up, the little party sallied out at once and mingled with the multitude with which Ihe streets were crowded. After they had visited the most remarkable points in a scene which was all like enchantment to the simple country people, who were almost blinded by the excess of light and deafened with the continual explosion of gunpowder, they they were about to turn up the North Bridge on their return to Nicholson Street, when they got fairly jambed in the mass of people who stood admiring the brilliant display. in front of the register office, the Theatre, and other buildings in that vicinity. Unable either to proceed or go back, they remained some minutes almost on the same spot, but swayed to and fro as the pressure became greater on one side or the other. While they stood here, a number of burning squibs were thrown among the crowd, which increased the confusion. One of them fell on the shoulder of a lady who stood at no great distance from Mr.* Duncanson, with her back to him, and seemed to be in company with another lady and two elderly gentlemen. Immediately her shawl was in a blaze. The student, by a vigorous effort, forced his way to her and succeeded in extinguishing the flames before she was fully aware of her danger, or he had discovered her to be his own Agnes Montgomery. The surprise of both was great; but they had no time for words, for a gang of pickpockets took advantage of the accident to close around them for the purpose of doing a little business. Stiffriggs, however, observed the movement, and struck in with his enormous fists just in time to knock down several of the thieves, and to save old Mr. Montgomery and Mr. Calmsough, for these were the companions of Agnes, from being rudely hustled and most probably robbed. Of course, Mr. Duncanson and his stalwart friend could not leave the little party they had so opportunely met, till they saw them fairly out of danger; and accordingly Stiffriggs, with Mrs. Calmsough “at one arm and Mrs. Eenshaw at the other, the student taking charge of Miss Montgomery and Miss Stimperton, and the two old gentlemen assisting each other as well as they could, urged their way through the living torrent to Pitt Street, Arrived there, the good people of Burncrook could not do less than invite their protectors and escort into their lodgings. Mr. Calmsough and the ladies did so; but Mr. Montgomery, just at this point, was so overcome by a fit of coughing that he could not, or at least did not, join in the polite request. The invitation was, however, accepted and Mr. Duncanson found himself once more happy in the presence of her from whom, but the night before, he thought himself banished for ever. Agnes was so overcome by her feelings, and so apprehensive of her father’s displeasure, that she could hardly venture to look up or speak; and there would have
been a painful feeling of restraint on the company had it not been carried off by the boisterous frankness of Stiffriggs and Mrs. Renshaw, neither of whom knew the circumstances which had disturbed the same scene the previous evening, or were of a temper to be much put about though they had. While this unsophisticated couple were keeping up a hillarious feeling by giving blunt and free expression to all that came uppermost in their minds, the company received an accession in the persons of Sir John Baldwin and Mr. Simon M‘Quirkie. Sir John had heard of Mr, Montgomery’s sudden illness,' and a brother Moderate as well as a neighbour, had called to see hi in. Mr. M'Quirkie, who was now almost as constantly with him as his shadow, and studied to comply with every wish the great man chose to express, accompanied him as a matter of course: Simon, however, remembering keenly the ludicrous upshot of his wooing at Burncrook, felt some reluctance to appear again before Miss Montgomery, but he mustered up courage enough to do that,, though not enough to face Mrs. Renshaw, whom he little thought of meeting on this occasion. Accordingly he became quite crestfallen when he found what company he was ushered into. His natural assurance (a precious gift of which he had a pretty liberal stock) for the time forsook him, and after making awkward obeisance to all around, he shrunk cowed and abashed into a corner. When tire conversation began, as it soon did, to turn on his favourite subject—the Church question —he had not a word to say. There was, however, no lack of argument. Sir John Baldwin rallied his burly tenant on his Non-intrusionism, and Stiffriggs retorted unsparingly on the Laird’s Erastian principles. Mr. Duncanson kept himself, on this occasion, almost as reserved as his chum M'Quirkie, but for a very different reason. He was apprehensive of irritating old Mr. Montgomery, and for the sake of Agnes he refrained from joining in the debate. He made several attempts to change the subject but all in vain. The two laymen had tackled to it with irrepressible ardour, and turned every other topic, no matter how foreign or untoward, into the same channel. Even the Queen’s visit was treated as a Church question. Both admitted its bearings on the controversy, and agreed that it was intended to allay the prevailing ferment in matters ecclesiastic; but they differed widely as to its probable effect. Sir John declared his conviction that her Majesty’s presence in the country would have a soothing influence on the public mind, and lead people to forget their ecclesiastical bickerings. “ Trowth, Laird,” said Stiffriggs, “ I see nae muckle appearance o’ that. There’s yoursel and me—ha’e we forgotten our differences the mair o’ this gallantin’ o’ the Queen amang us, this pluffin’ of poother, this bleezin’ o’ gas, this ringin o’ bell and firing o’ cannon ? I trow no, Sir John; for beggin’ your pardon, ye’re just as far wrang aboot the Kirk question as e’er I saw ye, and as little like to gi’e up your Eraustianism as I’m to forget that it’s a heart-deadenin’, soul destroyin’ principle.” “ Pooh 1 Ringan,” replied the Baronet, “ this is all fudge and balderdash. It would be far wiser of you to look after tile-draining and guano than to trouble yourself about things altogether out of your line.”
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 156, 23 September 1880
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