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CHAPTER XXX— continued.

Sir John, after some inquiries as to the student’s health, remarked— ‘ Well, Mr. Duncanson, I am glad you feel yourself in the way of recovery, and I hope you will not only recruit your health of body, but your spirits. You seem dejected, but that will never do. You must not allow petty annoyances to harras you.’ Mr. M’Quirkie —‘ Perhaps, however, Sir John, Mr. Duncanson may have annoyances not of a petty sort. There are, you know, some troubles proof against all philosophy.’ ‘Mr. D.—“l don’t think mine will prove of that kind. Indeed some injurious and unfounded reports are almost all I have to complain of.’ Sir John —‘I have heard something of these; but, even were they true, they need not vex you much. I daresay some of your old friends, the highflying Non-intrusionists, will think differently and make great offences of a trifling slip or two ; but you have no such injustice to fear among the reasonable people of the Moderate side.’

‘ 1 assure you, Sir, I have nothing to fear among reasonable people of any side.’ Sir John —‘ Yes ; but I suspect you will only find reasonable people among the Moderates. The other party are so fanatical and self-righteous that they cannot afford to be charitable in the best sense of the wqrd. They cannot think leniently of slight faults, and practise the poet’s maxim— Gently scan your brother man. Still gentler sister woman. Mr. D —‘ lam sorry to say, Sir John, I cannot agree with you in that opinion. I believe there are reasonable people to be found in all parties; but I don’t wish to throw myself on anybody’s leniency. The reports which I learn are in circulation to my prejudice are totally false, and all I ask from my friends is fair play.’ Sir John —‘ Then you don’t admit that you have got into rather an unfortunate scrape as to some money which is said to have been taken off you.’ Mr. D. —‘ Oh yes, sir, I confess the misfortune, but deny the disgraceful circumstances with which suspicion has colored it. The case is this—[Here Mr. Duncanson related particulars with which the reader is already acquainted, and went on to say]—The only error I acknowledge was the attempt to keep a matter secret ivhich I conceived was not properly anybody’s business but my own, and I have been punished for it I think too severely.’

Sir John —‘ Well, Mr. Duncanson, I am proud to hear your explanation. For my part I am perfectly satisfied with it.’

Mr. M'Q. —•' So am I. Malicious people may call it ingenious merely, but I consider it satisfactory—indeed I do. I feel confident it would bring you off with flying colors in any Church court, always supposing that no proof to the contrary should appear.’ Mr. D.— ‘ I care nothing for mere legal exculpation. If I could only clear myself from court censure and not from the taint of suspicion, I should dare to hold up my face, the verdict I claim is not “not proven ” but “ not guilty.” If there could be any evidence to stain my name, I should not wait for its appearance, but anticipate condemnation by shrinking out of sight.’ Mr. M‘Q. —‘Why should you? The worst of it would be a trifling cost of character .’ The words in italics were uttered with a peculiar emphasis to remind Mr. Duncanson that lie had used them on a former occasion, and applied them in a manner not likely to be soon forgotten or forgive. But the sneer they conveyed passed without retort, for just at the moment of its birth the company were surprised by the abrupt entrance of Dr. Snapperdudgeon. The Doctor came equally uninvited and unexpected, and without any anticipation of meeting with his chief enemy the Baronet. He was, however, not the man to be put out of countenance by such a rencontre. In the full glow of insolence, he stared about when he was shown into the room; making a constrained bow to Sir John, he passed Mr. M'Quirkie without the slightest notice, and, advancing to Mr. Duncanson, shook hands as cordially as if he had always been on the most friendly terms with him. The Baronet immediately rose and departed hurriedly, followed by his sycophant M'Quirkie. The Doctor threw himself into the chair which Sir John had left vacant, and roared and laughed immoderately. “ What a treat! what a treat!” he vociferated, and roared and laughed again till his face became swollen. Meantime the student sat looking at him with a mixed feeling of surprise and indignation, and at the first pause in the Doctor’s explosive merriment, calmly] said— ‘ Will you be so good as to let me know, Doctor, to what I owe the honor of your visit ?' The Doctor stared again in astonishment at the rebuke implied in this question, and replied—Tuts, tuts ! don’t go off at half-cock, my good fellow. My visit is a friendly one.’ CHAPTER XXXI. Then Yre came in wkh Sturt and s'rife— His hand was aye upon his knife. Dunbar. ‘My visit is a friendly one,’ said Doctor Snapperdudgeon, as he started from his chair, and with his coat-tails tucked under his arms, paced up and down the room, indulging anew in unrestrained merriment at the sudden retreat of Sir John Baldwin and Mr, M'Quirkie. At length, when he had exhausted this humor, he turned again to Mr. Duncanson, and said— ‘ Now, my good fellow, you and I are to be friends henceforward. You must be done now with the sour-faced Evangelical squad, I’m pretty sure ; so I’ve come to give you the right hand of fellowship,’ ‘ Your observations, Doctor, are as uncalled-for as your friendship is tm ’ was all Mr. Duncanson was allowed to say in answer, when he was interrupted by the Doctor, who guessed at once the nature of the reply, and was not inclined to hear it out.

‘Nay, hold!’ he exclaimed, ‘I know not what you intend to say, but you are wrong—far wrong—and you must take time to think. You mean to tell me that you still hold the same

views and mean to stick to the same party. But I know better. The thing is impossible quite impossible. A man may go with the Pharisees, and be a Pharisee himself, let him be as black at the bone as Satan, as long as he keeps a smooth surface, and is not caught tripping; but not a moment longer. If you don’t cut them they’ll cut you, so you must be done with them either way. And so much the better. You were too good for them —too good for them. You were never of the true puritanical kidney, and I liked you all the better, though you may think I was no friend of yours. And neither I was. I couldn’t, sir, I couldn’t, when I saw you trying to make yourself one ot that fanatical crew. But you’ve done with them now, I know you are; I know you must be, so don’t stultify yourself on the other side. Come frankly out as a hater of humbug, cant, and hypocrisy, and a friend of the good old order of things in Church and State; and my word for it you will have nothing to fear from attacks of a personal nature.’

‘We don’t understand each other, Doctor. You are laboring under some gross mistake as to my position and inclinations, or you would not hold such language to me. I am not aware of any personal attacks I have to fear. Surely you don’t intend to insinuate that my character is in danger ? ’ ‘ Not if you take the right course — if you can despise the silliness of screwing a hat-stick into your face —and have the sense to know the friends who can defend you.’ ‘Why should I need to be defended? What have I done ? ’

“ Weil, what a simpleton you are to be sure ! No offence, you know but really you speak like a child.’ ‘ Perhaps I do ; but I have yet to learn the meaning of your hints. You are just about the last person I should have applied to for information, but since you have thought proper to visit me of your own accord, and to intimate obscurely something affecting my good name,, I beg you will be kind enough to explain yourself Have you heard anything to my disadvantage ? ’ ‘ I’m not deaf, Mr. Duncanson —I don’t wear cotton in my ears, so I can’t help hearing what everybody is talking of. But don’t be afraid. It’s nothing that can keep you back if your case is properly managed ; and, if you leave it to me, I’ll confound your enemies, and and make the boldest of them sing small. I daresay you know that lam the man that can do it, and I will. I, as your minister, am your natural protector you know, and you may depend on me to the utmost. Only there’s to be no more long faces, mind; no more herding with canting people. But you must tell me the whole affair yourself, that I may be armed at all points in your behalf.’

£ What affair do you allude to ?’ ‘ Oh, you don’t know then ? You are not aware that you have been receiving a large sum of money in a mysterious way, losing it in a mysterious way, seeking for it mysteriously, and recovering it very mysteriously ? If you don’t know all this, I say it is prodigiously mysterious. Isn’t it, eh ? Now, you need not blush so much, my good fellow. It’s no great matter after all. Iv’e been in many a worse scrape myself. Upon my word, I have. Your case is not a bad case if it be well managed ; but all depends on that; otherwise it may be serious enough.’ ‘ I will take my chance with it, without any management.’ £ Indeed ! Then you are a greater fool than I thought you. How do you think it possible you can escape with a clear character ?’

‘ Because I have done nothing to tarnish it.’

‘ Ay, you may say so, but see if you will get anybody to believe you. For my part I can’t; and what is more, I may feel it my duty to say so publicly.’ * Why then did you offer but a minute ago to defend me ?’ ‘ Because I expected you would be reasonable.’

‘ That is, you thought I would admit myself to be guilty ? In that case you would be ready to assert my innocence ; but seeing I maintain it myself, you make a matter of conscience of holding the reverse ?’ ‘ Precisely. That is the very position of the case. Had you been candid and admitted freely that you had stepped aside a hair’s breadth or so, I would have lent a hand cheerfully to whitewash you. I can look indulgently on piccadilloes, and should have taken a pleasure in protecting you against the pretenders to immaculate virtue. I should then have some hope of seeing you become a respectable, liberalminded, social, professional brother. But seeing the puritanical stand you are disposecd to take, I give you up as a bad subject, But for all that, I am not done with you. No ; I give you fair warning that since you won’t have me as a friend, you may expect to have me for an enemy.’ (To be continued—commenced on y»ly 2b.)

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 166, 14 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 166, 14 October 1880

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