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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 165, 13 October 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CHAPTER XXX. Miserable comforters arc ye all.- JOB.
While Mr. Duncanson was gradually getting into a state of convalesence, he was visited by many friends and acquaintainces, who all, in their own way, condoled with him. Among others, the Rev. Mr. Aspen and his lady, the hero and heroine of the experimental dinner, paid him a visit. They both expressed much regret at the accident which had rendered him an invalid; and Mrs. Aspen spoke sincerely, but the genuineness of her husband’s sympathy may be questioned. Unwittingly, however, the lady touched a painful chord in the young man’s feelings, by referring to current rumors. “ I am sorry to hear,” she said, after making a circuit to the point, “ that your misfortune has been taken advantage of, by the young man who lodged with you, to requite all your kindness to him with dishonesty.” “ I beg your pardon, madam,” replied the student, “ but I must tell you you labor under some mistake in this ; you have been greatly misinformed.”
“ Indeed ! Mr. Duncanson. Then I am very glad to hear it. But have you really not been robbed by your fellowlodger ?” “ Oh, not at all. I believe he is as honest a lad as ever breathed; at any rate, so far from robbing me, he has been the means of recovering the money of which I was robbed by others; and that is by no means the only proof he has given me of the goodness of his disposition. “ Well, sir, I am so glad to hear it; but we heard that he played the rogue and robbed you of a considerable sum.” “ No, no, my dear,” said Mr. Aspen, “ you know that was only a surmise. What we heard was, that a pocket-book belonging to Mr. Duncanson was found in this lad Afleck’s possession, and it was only supposition from that circumstance—very naturally too—that he had stolen the money which the book contained when it went amissing.” “ I do assure you,” said the student, “ that Robert Afleck is not only blameless in the matter but deserving of the highest credit.” “ Ay, ay,” replied the clergyman, “do you say so? It is strange, then, that he has absconded at the very first appearance of inquiry into this and some other delinquency he is said to have been concerned in.”
“Are such reports in circulation, Mr. Aspen ? ” inquired the young man, with evident anxiety. “In circulation ! yes ; the whole town is ringing with them ; and let me tell you candidly, my dear sir, they tend very much to your disadvantage, for they represent the affair as mysterious, not to say suspicious. You are said to have been very desirous to hush it up, and, for reasons best known to yourself, to have connived at Afleck’s escape from justice.” “ Really, Mr. Aspen, these are intolerable aspersions. I say distinctly, Mr. Afleck never wronged me, nor I believe any one else, of a penny. The money I lost has been recovered again, and chiefly through his instrumentality. Why, then, should he or I be exposed to injurious suspicions on the subject ?” “ Nay, that I cannot tell, Mr. Duncanson; but you know it is human nature to be uncharitable. Human nature, sir—fallen, corrupt human nature.”
After Mr. Aspen suggested this comprehensive explanation, he rose as if to depart, and was followed by his wife; but he immediately stopped
short and said to her—“ Rachael, you may step on slowly by yourself a little way, for I wish to have a few words privately with our young friend.” Saying this, he took his seat again, and the lady left the room. When she was fairly out of hearing, he in the blandest manner, addressed Mr. Duncanson as follows : —“ Now, my dear sir, I only wish to assure you that whatever prejudices may exist against you, I, for my part, entertain none of them. The sus picion, no doubt, is afloat that your reluctance to allow any inquiry about the money of which you were robbed, arose from a wish to conceal the source from which you had obtained it.” “ Well, what if I did ? ”
“ Yes, as you say—what if you did ? You might not wish it to be known, and yet have no great reason to be ashamed of it after all.” “ Indeed I had not.”
“Well, that is just what I thought. Even if you received the money from those of another communion—”
“ But I protest—” “ There is no need of you to be ashamed of it for—”
“ But I tell you plainly--” “ For I am above believing that aid from Episcopalians—” “ I assure you I have accepted of no aid from Episcopalians.” “Is to be rejected on Christian grounds ; and I do not think the less of you if you have—” “ Will you not hear me when I say I have not taken it on any grounds ? I have had nothing to do with Episcopacy.” “ Indeed ! then lam sorry for it.”
“ Why should that make you sorry ?” “ Because, young friend, I fear, I fear, you cannot have any cause as excusable for concealment, But with your own conscience I leave it.” “My conscience acquits me of blame Mr Aspen.” “ Very well, sir, see it be so; but I must confess I have my doubts now.” “ You prove your own remark—it is human nature to be uncharitable.” “ I remark further—it is human to err. I fear you have erred grevdously, but we all err ; so good morning, Mr. Duncanson —good morning.” So saying, this modern Teraanite left the room, and had not been long away when a Bildad and Zophar appeared in the persons of his brother clergymen, Messrs. B. and C. They also came to console the sensitive youth, as the east wind soothes an unskinned sore. They wore a look of grave concern; their faces were elongated for the occasion to a solemn pitch of expression, and their heads were poised with nice precision, ready to be shaken on the shortest notice. *‘Brother, brother,” said they both at once, as they each held out a hand to the student, “it grieves us to see you in affliction but there was more of reproach than sympathy in their tone and manner. After conversing for some time in a professional rather than a familiar or friendly manner, and trying to impress on M’ - . Duncanson, by inuendo rather than by direct accusation that he was in a very unfortunate position, but less to be pitied than censured, Mr. B. formally proposed to offer up a petition for htfn. The student started at the proposal; and wondering if anything in his appearance indicated danger which he did not feel, he took a sidelong peep into a looking-glass before he said a word in reply. When he was satisfied by this hasty glance that he did not exhibit any alarming symptoms, he turned to his visitors with some surprise and said, “ I am certainly obliged to you gentlemen, for your kindness, and shall at all times be glad to have an interest in your prayers ; but I must confess I am at a loss to see any special reason you can have at this time for solicitude on my account.” “ Mr. Duncanson, Mr. Duncanson,” said the Rev. Mr. C, in a measured, sententious manner, “ your words savor of a dangerous confidence, and insensibility to your own condition.” “ I am sorry you should think so, for you wrong me, I assure you. I trust lam seriously alive to the imperfections and shortcomings which I share in common with all the race of Adam. All I insist on is, that I know of nothing peculiar in my case to awaken any extraordinary uneasiness among my friends.” “ What you say, my dear young friend, is just a proof that you are in a state of false security, and much in need of faithful admonition and earnest supplication in your behalf. 111, indeed, does it become your profession to object to an exercise at all times wholesome and profitable—” “ Nay, but hear me ! I don’t object except as far as—” “It becomes you ill to object at all, to refuse on any grounds to let your case be made the subject of earnest —” “ Well, I waive all objections if Mr. B. will please to proceed.” Mr. B. accordingly stood up, and placing himself in a devotional attitude, commenced to pour forth a torrent of fervid language, profusely garnished with scriptural phraseology, and pointed with unmistakable reference to the supposed case and conduct of the invalid. He prayed that the young man might be led to see the evil of his ways, and return from his backslidings; that he might take shame to himself, and be humbled in mind for what he had done amiss: that his short-comings and faults might not be followed by others, or allowed to bring discredit on a good cause; and finally, that he might be converted from a stumblingblock into a pillar of the Church and a chosen vessel of the sanctuary. Every wend of this effusion of mistaken zeal smote the student’s soul with the force of wrong and insult, and made his cheek burn and his heart swell painfully. At its conclusion he looked sternly, first at the one, and then at the other of his tormentors, and said, in a voice so choked by agitation as to sound like ventriloquism—- “ What is the meaning of all this ?” The request was met by another—- “ Why, Mr. Duncanson, should you pretend to be ignorant of matters commonly talked of in public?” “ I know not what is said in public,” replied the student with the animation of uncontrollable anger—“ I know not what is said in public ; but I demand to hear from you distinctly the charges against me.”
Mr. B.—“ Dou you mean to deny that you have secretly gone over to the Episcopalians ?” Mr. C —“ Or that 'you have been receiving their money ?” Mr. B. —“ Or that you have also ob-
tained money on false pretences from your Presbyterian friends and relatives ?”
Mr. C.—“ Or that you have been spending these sums in a clandestine, if not an immoral manner?”
Mr. B.—“ Or that you have ‘been robbed in very suspicious circumstances ?”
Mr. C.—“Or that you have been using means to hush up the affair, and dare not venture to accuse those who robbed you for the fear of disclosing your own misconduct ?’•’ “Deny?” exclaimed the student. “ Yes, I not only deny, but despise such monstrous imputations.” Mr. B. —“Don’t despise them, Mr. Duncanson, if they are true —if they have any truth in them—they are not to be despised.” Mr. D.—“ I tell you solemnly, there is not the slightest particle of truth in them.”
Mr. C.—“ Very* good ;if that is the case, all good and well; but remember, young friend, you cannot be exculpated till you have clearly established your innocence.”
Mr. , D.—“ lam not acquainted with any mode of proving a negative. Do you know of any ? ”
Mr. C.—“ That is an evasion Mr. Duncanson.” Mr. D.—“ It is no evasion. I scorn evasion as much as I scorn unfounded aspersions, which only the malicious can originate, or the uncharitable can believe,” Mr. C. —“Do you mean to say that I am malicious ? ”
Mr. B.—“ Or that... I. am uncharitable.” Mr. D.—“ I leave the matter with your own consciences, gentlemen. Let them judge between you and me, and decide whether or not you have, without cause, taken up evil reports against me.”
Messrs. B. and C. —“'We have done nothing of the kind; we have acted only as your friends.” Saying this, simultaneously, the reverend gentlemen, drily bid adieu, and left the house.
They were almost immediately succeeded by Sir John Baldwin and Simon M'Quirkie, who*came on a similiar mission, but were actuated by very different motives. The Baronet’s manner was expressive of kindly concern, while Mr. M'Quirkie, under the affectation of sympathy, betrayed secret glee and satisfaction. Sir John opened the conversation by alluding delicately to the circumstances in which he understood Mr. Duncanson was placed, and from what he said it soon appeared that he had been grossly misinformed, but was by no means disposed to be censorious. Mr. M‘Quirkie enacted the part of the candid friend to perfection, and inwardly chuckled with delight when he found an opportunity of inflicting torture while pretending to administer condolence.” ( To be continued—commenced on yuly 56.)
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 165, 13 October 1880
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