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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 161, 5 October 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION: A TALE OP TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXVII — contmued. A long time passed before the crowd began to abate, and when at length all had entered, and no new visitors appeared, Mr. Bacon and Miss Stiraperton were called on to advance. The lady went first, carrying her train under her left arm till she was fairly in the royal presence, when she dropped it, as she : had been instructed to do. On the whole, she conducted herself with a propriety which might have put some of her betters to the blush, and was faulty in nothing, except in taking steps rather long to be ladylike, and in not being very dignified in her carriage. Mr, Bacon followed, with dignity enough for both. When he reached the throne, and was announced, he went down on both knees as if at prayers, and kissed her Majesty’s hand with a fervor’ that made her start. She, however, seemed to enjoy the absurdity of the incident exceedingly, and to be disposed to see more of this most eccentric of all her subjects. As the poet says— A little notisense, now and then, Is relished by the wisest men ; and it is not to be supposed that even the Queen is insensible to the value of a little fun, especially after sustaining for several hours the irksome formalities of Court ceremony. Accordingly, when Miss Stimperton and Mr Bacon got to their feet, her Majesty detained them by.. saying to the latter, in a manner at once royally gracious and mirthfully-waggish—“l understand, Mr. Bacon, you are a.philosopher, and have some advice to give my Ministers.” Mr. Bacon made acknowledgment by a deep, bow, to the infinite amusement of all the company, except Sir Robert Peel and Lcrd Aberdeen, who had not been apprised of the intention to enact this comic afterpiece, and whose surprise and looks of astonishment at what appeared to them an unccountable violation of etiquette and decorum, only heightened the humor of the scene. “ And why may not I also,” continued her majesty, “ have the advantage of hearing what you have to say on matters of State ?”
“ Most Gracious Sovereign !” replied Mr. Bacon, with a more profound bow than the former, “ I am entirely at your Majesty’s command. Order me according to your royal pleasure, and I shall obey; but permit me to say that I do not charge your Majesty’s Ministers with, wilful mismanagement, but flatter myself I could point out to their own conviction many errors in their policy, both foreign and domestic.”
“ Very well, sir ; but you must let me into the secret too. I wish to know how lam served ; so, pray, do let us hear what has been done wrong, and who is to blame. ”
“ The calls of imperative duty and your Majesty’s command must be obeyed—so I proceed at once to my task ; and in your Majesty’s presence warn Sir Robert Peel, as first Minister of this great empire, that he is trifling with the best interests of the community by not settling immediately the affairs of the Church of Scotland upon a safe and lasting foundation.” “ This is a heavy charge. Sir Robert,” said the Queen with arch gravity. “ Pray, what have you to say for yourself ?” “Please your Majesty, Mr. Bacon ought to speak to Lord Aberdeen on that subject,” replied Sir Robert, entering into the joke with his usual tact, slily turning the laugh against his more grave colleague, who looked laughably confused, disconcerted and angry. “ I speak to you both,” shouted Mr. Bacon with increasing boldness—“l speak to you both for you are both in fault in the matter; most grievously in fault. You have committed an enormous error in letting the rebellious Presbyterian Church of Scotland proceed so far in defiance of law and dutv —”
“ Hush, Mr. Bacon,” interposed the Queen; “ the Church of Scotland has this day testified through several highly respectable deputations, the utmost loyalty and dutifulness. You must be careful in your wisdom not to judge harshly of such a venerable institution.”
• “It is not for a loyal subject,” replied Mr. Bacon, “to gainsay your Majesty’s opinion; nevertheless I feel constrained by the duty I owe you, and conscious as I am of a cool, unbiassed, and mature judgment, to say that this Scotch Establishment of Presbyterianism is a curse to the land and dangerous to your Majesty’s authority. This I am prepared amply to prove by documents in ray portfolio.” , <f Ay, where is it, Mr. Bacon ? ” “ Please your Majesty, it is carried by my secretary, Mr. Afleck, who is waiting outside.” “ Let Mr. Afleck be brought in; and be sure, Mr. Bacon, you prove the serious charges you have made, or I cannot ansvver for the consequences.” “ Most Gracious Sovereign, I Horace Wilkin Bacon of Auchterbadie, am ready to suffer martrydom to attest the truth of what I have uttered, which I shall presently support by irrefragible documentary evidence. I make so bold in your royal presence, because I feel assured that I can render your Majesty important services. The name I, bear is already doubly illustrious in the history of a female reign. But neither Sir Nicholas Bacon, nor the great Francis Bacon, Lord Verulam, did more to distingu’sh Queen Elizabeth’s reign than I humbly hope to do for, yours, and will do if I be graciously permitted. But let no one of your Majesty’s Ministers suppose I covet his place. No ; I shall be content to give them the benefit of all my views if they will only do me the justice to act on my advice and acknowledge their obligations to me. I am perfectly disinterested. I ask nothing for myself but the credit due to superior intellect; the only prize I strive for is fame. In one word, I aim at nothing short of correcting—not reforming, for I detest the word—but correcting the entire social and political system.” Mr. Secretary Afleck and his Jean had kept their places in the carriage, and by this means escaped being ejected from the grounds. Properly speaking they had no right there, for it was expressly ordered that none should
be admitted at the gates but such as were to attend "the reception. When the carriage was called round again to the Palace door, and Robin received notice that he was to proceed upstairs with Mr. Bacon’s portfolio, he managed to prevail upon the attendant who was sent for him, to permit Jean Brown to accompany him to the top of the stairs, and get a peep, at the Throne-Room door, at the scene upon which he was about to figure. This could not have been allowed, had the regulations pre viously observed been in force, but there was for the moment a relaxation of all laws of etiquette, on the general understanding that a comedy was going forward in the royal presence, under special indulgence, if not by particular desire. • ■
Robin stammered into the Royal presence without feeling much abashed by the courtly splendours which met his view, and on being announced, he advanced close to the throne, but forgot to kneel, and instead of kissing the Queen’s hand, took it in his own, and shook it heartily in homely fashion. All the grandee's in attendance looked blank at his awkwardness and audacity, and her Majesty herself coloured slightly, as if displeased, but immediately resumed her gaiety, and laughed as heartily as if she had never worn a crown. Eyeing the huge portfolio, she remarked sportively to the Premier and Lord Aberdeen, that as the lesson they were about to receive threatened to be a long one, she could not wait to hear it; and gracefully taking leave, her Majesty withdrew by a side door, along with her female attendants, to the suite of rooms set apart for her private use. Mr. Bacon was thus saved from the necessity of repeating his perilous attempt to retire walking backwards ; but he had still something to do and to suffer before completing his career at Court. Opening his portfolio with as much solemnity as a divine about to preach opens the Bible, he took out a closely - written paper, containing extracts from the writings and speeches of Presbyterian leaders, to substantiate his assertions as to the dangerous nature of their principles. At this moment some of the people entrusted with the arrangements of the house began to make preparations for restoring the apartment to its usual state, by bringing in the various articles of furniture which had been removed to give room for the Reception. T his necessarily caused the company to shift here and there, and created a bustle in which Mr. Bacon could scarcely ; make his voice audible. It also gave the company a pretence for moving about, and eluding his harangues, admonitory, explanitory and argumentative. Finding it impossible to fix himself to the attention both of Sir Robert Peel and Lord Aberdeen, as these great tacticians carefully kept separate, he stuck staunchly by the former, as the most important personage, and followed him into a corner from which it appeared impossible the wily baronet could escape. While he was in the act of pressing home what he thought a point of cardinal importance, two _of the persons employed in replacing _ the furniture, probably on a hint received, ran between them with a sofa, and set the statesman once'more free.
A running colloquy of the.most extraordinary kind was kept up during all these movements and counter-move-ments ; the philsopher declaiming on the one hand on the folly of Ministers in disregarding the plainest symptoms of approaching confusion ; and on the other, his auditors jocosely punning on the words, and replying that he ought to blame the people who were moving all the tables and chairs for the confusion, or bandying serio-comic defences and recriminations. This grotesque scene was brought to a conclusion in a manner most derogatory to Mr. Bacon’s dignity, and which he felt with the keenness of mortal disgrace. A coarse foot cloth, which had been laid down to preserve the magnificent velvet carpet from damage during the Reception, was now in the course of being removed. Just as Mr. Bacon was following up the Premier’s retreat to another part of the room, a sudden tug was made at cloth over which he was treading, that brought him again down on his knees less gracefully than before. His portfolio at the same time flew out of his hand, and all his precious documents were scattered hither and thither. When he had time to rally, and get on his legs, he found to his dismay the hall deserted by Sir Robert Peel, Lord Aberdeen, Prince Albert, and all the rest who had witnessed his fall, except the little party who had accompanied him, and the people engaged in making the disastrous re-arrangements. Thus vanished all his hopes of achieving greatness and immortal honor as adviser of the Queen’s advisers. There was, therefore, nothing left for him but to get his papers collected, and to quit the scene of his disappointed ambition with all possible despatch; so tucking the sympathising Shusie under his arm, he left the hall, followed by Robin Afleck and Jean Brown. Jean had been-gratified by getting a stolen look at the Queen, and the closing scene with Mr. Bacon; but the shame of retreating with him would have more than counterbalanced all her pleasure, had she not felt secure from observation under the concealment of her veil.
When they reached the carriage, it was discovered that the most substantial part of their errand had beer, neglected—namely the delivery of Mrs. Renshaw’s presents. Robin regretted this exceedingly, and remarked that no one could ever have a better opportunity of putting them into the Queen’s orvn hand than he had enjoyed. As the best that could now be done, however. he took ’the articles from the coach and calling to one of the Royal Archers who stood near, he said—“ I say you chap \vi’ the green claes ! if ye be a flunky or ought to the Queen, tak’ up that basket and jawer to her, and tell her it’s a present o’ cakes and grosset-jam frae Mrs. Renshaw o’ Whinnyside.” The Archer looked curiously at the party by whom he was thus addressed, and then began to examine the articles handed over to his charge. Robin imagined he was* disposed do appropriate some of the cakes to his own use when he saw him prying under thereover of the basket, and lifting his hand in a menacing attitude, said—“ Od, sir, if ye touch a single farle ye’ll be cheap o’ getting your neck drawn.” Another of the Archers stept up to Robin and whispered in his ear—- “ You stupid fellow, do you know you’re
speaking to a Duke?” “I don’t care,” retorted Robin in a loud voice, “ though he was a Yerl. What business has he or ony o’ you to meddle wi’ the Queen’s presents. High treason 'or sedition is the vera least it can be ca’d.” This altercation being ended, Robin joined his friend in the carriage, and the party drove off more rapidly than they came. On the way home Mr. Bacon ; spoke little, but that little was ominous. He declared with much feeling that alter the treatment he had received, he neither would nor could do anything to save the country from the calamities he saw impending. The Queen herself he acquitted of all blame, and spoke very warmly of the gracious reception she had given him ; but her Ministers and Court he remorselessly consigned to perdition. : (To be continued—commenced on Yuly 2 6. )
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 161, 5 October 1880
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