THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXVI. Horrid confusion heap’d Upon confusion rose. MILTON. Acting under an impulse too powerful to permit him to see obstacles, or calculate consequences, Mr. Duncanson, as soon as his senses rallied, darted across the street, and sprang over the garden railing with the speed of thought. He was on the spot where the accident occurred almost as the cry of distress began to rise from the sufferers and surrounding crowd, and the next moment was exerting all his strength to extricate the individuals next to him from their perilous position. The screams and groans which issued from the struggling mass were heartrending, and, on all sides was seen terrific evidence that many serious and even some fatal casualties had occurred. The raw, new-sawn timber, of which the gallery had been constructed, was stained with blood, and lay in broken planks over and among the unfortunate people with whose weight it had given way ; and many a gay dress and fair face bore hideous stains, which made the scene like a hideous battle-field. The confusion was too great for the student to distinguish one person from another among the sufferers; and his mind became so frenzied with anxiety for the safety of Miss Montgomery and his other friends, that he made efforts far beyond his natural strength ' for the relief of all within his reach. But he was not alone in his work. Several others were similarly engaged; and, just as he was exerting himself to lift a heavy plank, he found his efforts seconded by one more powerful than himself, whom he immediately recognised as his good friend, Stimperton of Stiffriggs. The honest farmer, on seeing him, exclaimed —“ Gude preserve us, Mr. Jimes ! helping here, and needing help yoursel’, I think. Dear me, man ! ye’ve been hurt, I see. Are ye sair hurt?” As he put this question, he looked concernedly in the young man’s face, which was deadly pale, and caught him in his arms just as he was about to fall. Stiffriggs supported him till Mrs. Renshaw, Miss Stimperton, and the Burncrook party gathered round ; for they had all escaped - uninjured. They naturally supposed that Mr, Duncanson, though unseen by them, had also been on it, and had sustained some serious injury by the fall; and it was not for a considerable time that he was able to explain that this was a mistake. Indeed, he was puzzled himself to account for his sudden illness, but when he had time to collect his thoughts, he remembered that he had hurt his side rather severely on the spikes of the iron railing in hurriedly getting into the garden. This injury, with his over-exertion among the ruins of the gallery, might account for that sudden faintness that overcame him and alarmed his friends. Miss Montgomery, when she saw his pallid hue and sunk condition, imagining he had received some fatal injury, trembled violently, and became as pale as her lover. Even the stern old man, her father, was melted into momentary compassion and concern. Mrs. Renshaw was loud in her grief; Mr. and Mrs Calmsough were tenderly sympathising ; and “ Saft Shusie ” shook off her usual apathy, and manifested much feeling. A coach was called; but, before its arrival, there was some discussion among the friends where the sick student should be taken, for he had fainted, and was unable to decide for himself. As he continued alarmingly long in this state, it was thought hazardous to remove him so far as his lodgings. The rooms occupied by his aunt were almost equally distant, and therefore Mr. and Mrs. Calmsough considerately proposed that he should be taken to their quarters in Pitt Street, that place being comparatively near at hand. This proposal was by no means agreeable to old Gideon Montgomery; but, in the circumstances, he could not decently oppose it. Thither, therefore, Mr. Duncanson was conveyed. The hurt which he had suffered, though severe, was not considered dangerous. The fleshy part of his right side, beneath the arm-pit was considerably lacerated, and bled profusely, but there was no deep wound. The surgeon expressed some apprehension that the strain which the young gentleman had received by over-exerting himself, would prove a more serious matter than the wound, and might possibly disable him for a considerable time.
Robin Afleck, who had heard of the accident almost as soon as it occurred, and lost no time in seeking out his suffering friend, and condoling with him in his misfortune in his own homely fashion, went next directly to Jean Brown to apprise her of what had happened. He also wished to take the opportunity of Mrs. Renshaw’s absence to arrange with Jean some other matters —more anon. Robin expressed far less regret for Mr. Duncanson’s accident than admiration of his good luck in being laid up in such comfortable quarters. “ I think, Robin,” said his sweetheart, “ Mr. Jimes gets but little pity frae you.” “ Pity ! no. What for should I pity him ?” said Robin ; “ I envie him rather; for though he’s sick, I’m sure he’s far from being sorry himsel’. Just consider, woman what a catch it is to ha’e Agnes Migummerie at his bedside, and like to break her heart aboot him.”
“ Muckle gude that’ll do him, I’m sure, or else no.” “ Muckle gude, ay just that muckle gude that I would risk some hard knocks mysel’, and a month’s doctoring, to be in his place.” “ Wad ye though, Robin ? ” “Wad I no. Just think what a treat it maun be to ha’e yon nice mitherly body, Mrs. Calmsough for a nurse, seeing everything right about him; and his ain lass slipping in and oot the room, neither able to byde still nor stay awa, keeking owre folk’s shouther every ither minute to see him again, and ready wi’ everything that’s gude for him the very moment it’s needed.”
“ Ay, man, I think ye’ve been using a’ the een in your aught glowerin’ at the young leddy.”
“IV ha could help it? A body canna be blind to a sicht like yon.” “ I think ye’ve been mair ta’en up looking at Miss Miggummerie than wi’ concern for Mr. Jimes.” “Ye’re perfectly straucht there, Jean, for after what the doctor said, I kend there was no fear o’ Mr. Jimes. He’ll soon mend, ’specially in yon billet; so I dinna see ony need to vex mysel’ aboot him. But I wad ha’e been as great a sumph as ye whiles ca’ me, if I could ha’e keepit my een aff his Agnes. Pegs, Jean, it’s worth Mr. Jimes’ while to gang within an inch o’ deeing for a lass like yon. They talk about queens and angels; but if she bena baith a queen and an angel, I’m mista’en.”
“ Robin ! I never heard ye say the like o’ that aboot me, for a’ the luve ye let on ye bear me.” “Ye wadna ha’e me to tell ye big lees, wad ye, Jean? But don’t be jealous. Ye’re neither a angel nor a queen, to be shure, but ye’re what’s far better—at least for me.”
“ Ay ; what am I ? ” “ Ye’re a sonsy, clean-shankit, mettlesome, saucy, little gipsy.” “ And ye’re an ill-bred, out-speaking, gomeral.” “ Now, Jean, that’s mair than I can stand, withoot being weel paid for’t; so tak’ ye that, and that.” It is needless to say that Robin indemnified himself pretty well for the disparaging terras he had to bear. Jean, however, was, or at least pretended to be, not quite pleased with his comparative appreciation of herself and Miss Montgomery, and said in rather a pettish way —“ But, Robin, withoot a word o’ fun, since ye admire Miss Migummery sae much, ye maun look oot for some fine leddy like her, and gi’e up your thochts o’ me.” “ I tell you, Jean, I wadna niffer you for fifty Miss Migummeries. I’ll no say but I would like you to be as genty, and meek, and light-set on your foot as her, in the next work ; and then I wad like mysel’ to tak’ after Mr. Duncanson awee, and be as douce and genteel as him. Or the case micht be the same if it was aye fair weather, and peace and plenty here, and we had naething ado but to Go, lassie, go, To the braes o’ 15alquhidder, Where the blackberries grow ’Mang the bormic blooming heather. But as laug as we’re here, and ha’e to battle for day and way, among folk fechting for a leevin’ like oorsel’s, in a woiT fu’ o’ hardships, often dirty wi’ foul weather, blashy wi’ snaw broo, cauld wi’ snell winds, and caulder whyles wi’ fause frien’s and misfortunes —I think, Jean, we’re far better as we are. Miss Migummerie is a genteel, sweet-faced creature; but in the complowther o’ care, and trouble, and mony a thing forby that this work is made up o’, she is as far oot o’ place as a silver trout in a quarry hole, or a butterflee in a hail-shower. But genteel, or no geneel, the lass for this life, and heartsoraest companion for me, is ane that can set a stout heart to a stay brae —can put mettle in me to do the same—-gar the bleakest day and the mirkest nicht be cheery—mak’ the heaviest task a flaebite, baith to hersel’ and me —and wha can do a’ that but you, Jean Broun, but you?” “ But suppose ye wad be content to gang through the rough bits o’ life wi’ me, I jalouse if ever ye should get up in the work ye wad begin to rue that ye hadna a leddy for a wife.” “ And wad ye no be leddy enough then yoursel’ ? I trow, lass, if ye e’er ha’e the luck, like the Gentle Shepherd’s Peggy, to Change your plaiden coat for silk, ye’ll set the silk as we’ll es e’er ye’ve dune the plaiden. At ony rate, ye may be sure that I think ye can ack the leddy to perfection when ye like, or I wadna propose to you something I ha’e come just on purpose to propose.” “ Ay, what can that be ?” “ It’s just that ye should gang, instead o’ Saft Shusie, wi’ Mr. Bacon to the levee.” “ Never speak o’ that, for it canna be.” “ But it maun be though, Jean ; for ye see Stiffriggs has forbidden Shusie, and if ye dinna tak’ her place Mr. Bacon will miss his mark, and he’ll be niether to baud nor bin’.” “ And wha cares for a daft man like Mr. Bacon ?” “ I care for him, Jean, and so wad ye if ye saw the matter richt. Nae doot it’s needless noo to humor him for the sake o’ Jimes Duncanson, for Jimes seems to ha’e gotten something (I suspect frae Stiffriggs or the mistress) to help him through the College ” “ Ay, something, and a gude trifle frae them baith ; 1 ken that for mistress mak’s it nae secret.”
“ Aweel, its just as I was thinkin’; and glad I’m o’t, for he’ll need to ha’e his purse weel lined if he be laid up lang in yon grand ludging and ha’e doctor’s fees to pay—no to speak o’ the College ava. But, as I was saying, though there’s nae need noo to study to please Mr. Bacon on Jimes D uncanson’s account, I ha’e a gude guess that it’ll be worth while baith for your sake, Jean, and mine, to try to please him as far as possible.” “ I canna say I see your drift, Robin.”
“ Ou, my drift’s just this—to get mysel’ in to be a kind o’ factor to Mr. Bacon. That wad be a better job than the vet-veter-veterinary doctrine yet; for Mr. Bacon, I understaund, lias a heap o’ property in laun’, and I wad seek naething better than to get managin’t for him.” “ You manage landed property, Robin ! ”
“Ay, me, Jean. Mind ye I’ve been gettin’ schulin’ sin’ I cam' till Embro’ and was a gude judge o’ laun’ and a’ aboot laun’ before, though I say’t mysel’. And fegs, lass, I can tell you it’s baith easier and mair profit to step aboot and play the master amang farmers and cottar bodies, than to ram ane’s arm up to the elbow intill the stomachs o’ kye and horses.” “ But maybe Mr. Bacon has a factor already.” “ Deed has he ; but he’s no pleased wi’ him ; I’ve faund oot that, and if I can play my cards weel, I may get the place mysel’. And if I do, just consider hoo cozey you and me could mak’ oorsel’s. Bless you, Jean, ye may be Mrs. Afleck; leevin’ in your bein-hoose, wi’ jucks and hens before the door, a kail-yard at the back, and a grumphy at the gavle, before anither twelve ; month gae by. Ye’ll shurely think it worth while to gang wi’ Mr.
Bacon to the levee for sic a prospect as that.”
“ No, Robin, I’ll no gang a step wi’ Mr. Bacon even for the sake o’ the grumphy. But I’ll do better. I’ll try to get leave for Shusie, and though Stiffrigs is stiff stiff, I think I ken hoo to work him.”
Just as Jean said this, Mr. Bacon’s message-boy came to the door with a letter from that gentleman to “ Saft Shusie.” The letter was in a large fold, bound round in the ancient fashion with a skein of floss silk, and sealed with the family arms of Auchterbardie. _ It was addressed, with many curious flourishes of penmanship, to “ Mademoiselle Shusannah Stimperton of Stiffriggs.” Jean Brown inherited her full share of Eve’s curiosity, and was all impatience to know the contents of a billet deux which was probably the first of the kind ever written by Mr. Bacon or addressed to Miss Stimperton ; but the silk and the sealing wax kept the mystery inviolable in spite of all attempts to pry between the folds. Mr. Bacon’s caution induced him to think oral, much safer than written, communication with the fair sex, particularly after his • ominously significant dreams had terrified him with the fears of having his glory shorn by matrimony ; and for this reason he had sent a viva voce instead of a written message to Miss Stimperton the day before ; but after hearing of the refusal of Stiffriggs to permit his sister to play the fool with him, the philosophic bachelor concluded that he had made a mistake and given offence by appearing to trea her with less than due respect Hence, he now tried to repair the error by sending _ an ample apology and renewing his request in what he deemed the most respectful form. He, however, took pretty good care to be guarded in his expressions and to confine himself to the business in hand, for he was determined that not a word should escape his pen that could be construed into any meaning hazardous to his freedom.
Jean’s curiosity did not remain long ungratified, for Miss Stimperton, along with Stiffriggs and Mrs. Renshaw, soon came in, and the letter was immediately opened and read without reserve. Ringan declared it to be a very sensible production, and not in the least like what he would ex pect a crack-brained man to write. This remark at once gave Jean Brown her cue, and she was not slow in turning it fully to account. She said, to be sure Mr. Bacon was “ a very sensible man, and no to ca’ daft ava ; but only a wee odd in his way.” Shusie protested he was a very fine gentleman and she saw nothing either daft or odd about him, and renewed her pleading to be allowed to comply with his request. Jean Brown adroitly suggested that in such a case, perhaps her mistress would allow her to go as Miss Shusie’s waiting maid, which she would be glad to do as thereby she would have an opportunity of seeing the cakes and jam safely conveyed to the Queen. Mrs. Renshaw swallowed this bait at once, and joined heartily with the young women in trying to overcome Ringan’s scruples. Stiffriggs was somewhat subborn to be sure, but he was not obdurate, and as he began to have a hazy perception of the awful fact that women, when resolved, must have their way, he thought it better to give up the point with a good grace, than make an obstinate resistance and after all to be driven out of it. Robin Afleck had therefore the satisfaction of hearing him give a kind off gruff assent, which, though reluctantly pronounced, was sufficient, and then set off at once to make Mr. Bacon happy with the news. (To be continued—commenced on July sb.)
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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 159, 30 September 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 159, 30 September 1880
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