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CHAPTER XXXII — contimied.

<To be sure ; to be sure. It’s my duty to do that. I may say, Mr. Smuggerly, you and me manage the whole parish between us—you on the strength of the Kirk ; and I on the power of the Auchterbardie property.' ‘We do, we do, M'Corkle.. Nobody can dispute it. We understand each other perfectly, and will continue to rule.the roast together, in spite of the Devil, the Nons, and all interlopers.’ ‘Yes, yes ; that’s all true enough ; but we must look after the interlopers. Here is this fellow Afleck has gotten himself some way or other into our daft laird’s favor, and some other srnatchert, they call Duncanson, it seems, is coming. It’s hard to say what they mayegg on Mr. Bacon to do if they get time. The laird’s a fule, to be sure — a mere bairn, I may say; and I can row him about my finger. But faith I maun keep a fast grip of him, and give nobody else the same opportunity, or wha kens what might happen ? ’ ‘Weil, well, M'Corkle, you know wy have all that cut and dried alreadeWe’ll go over to the laird after we have finished this bottle, and settle the busi. ness. Mr. Bacon has a conceit of contesting religious questions with me, and I give him line enough in that matter, the fool. His hereditary Episcopalian prejudices are never thwarted by me ; you see I humor him in all his mad notions; but you know, too, I have a leetle influence with him when I choose to use it.’

‘No doubt you have; but luckily it’s but seldom there’s ony need to consult his will,-or persuade him one way or the other.’

‘ That’s it, M'Corkle ; that’s it. Mr. Bacon is a goose, so there’s no use saying another word about him. Only if you still think there’s any danger that he may be swayed by this fellow Afleck and the other Duncanson, we, between us, will soon make him all safe.’ ‘Justus well to make sure, at any rate. It’s plain enough an infernal plot has been hatched both against myself and Mr. Bacon. Look what that gipsy, Jean Brown, says at the tail of her letten Somebody they call Saft Shusic is pretending to be in love with him ! And I don’t know but that’s a bait that might catch the poor simpleton in spite of aljthe pains I’ve been at to make him 4 Hate- the whole creation of women.’

‘ Ay, to be sure; then we must look after him immediately, M'Corkle.’ ‘ Faith, sir, we must. _ I did wrang to let him?stop so much in Edinburgh by himself. He might have been inveigled many a way. The danger never struck me before ; but I’ll take better care ■of my gentleman for the time to come. He shall never hereafter stir a fit from Auchterbardie unless I be with him, or you, Mr. Smuggerly, for I know you will take as good care of him as I could do myself. Here’s a toast —‘The world to the worthy.’ ‘So be’t, Mr. M'Corkle; so be’t. The world really belongs to those who, like you and I, have the brains to rule the blockheads who are nominally its owners. They think it’s all their own, but we know better. And then the common people—the beasts !—what were they made for but to carry our burdens and go with our bridle in their mouths? So here’s another toast

—‘ The aristocracy of brains !’ ‘ The aforesaid, with a’ my heart ! You and me, Mr. Smuggerly, must be men of high rank by . that rule of gentility, if drink can try the strength of brains; for I question if there’s other twa between the Forth and Spey could stand as stiff a tipple as us of onything from Ferintosh to claret.’ ‘ Right, M'Corkle j right. One glass more, and we’ll go. I think this fellow Afleck called me a minister body. The blockeead! I’ll show him what a minister body can do.’ ‘ And me a wulcat and an ettercap ! Faith, I’ll let him see he’s right there. He talked of taking me by the nose, the dunce ! and holing me out, too, the born idiot! Well, only notice how I’ll settle him. If he remains another night at Auchterbardie, you may say I’m as great a fule as Mr. Bacon.’ Away, then, went this precious pair, stepping high, but perfectly steady. They found Mr. Bacon, not in his dingy, dilapidated house, as they expected, but on the lawn before the door, discussing with Robin Afleck some points of rural economy. Robin was expatiating on the virtues of tile draining, manuring, fencing, and deep ploughing, and suggesting improvements in the management of trees, cattle, and poultry. In _ short, he was interesting Mr. Bacon in a range of subjects, which, above all others, the silly laird had neglected, and been encouraged to neglect, though the most suitable to his station. Mr. Bacon’s discursive mind was easily led into this new line of speculation; he seized rapidlv on it’s most interesting points, and with charactensac «rJour had his whole soul engrossed with it, when the minister and factor approached. At the sight of them, the flush of animation left his face. He looked blank, and, with an embarrassed, uneasy air, gave up the conversation. It was evident he felt their presence a restraint on his freedom ; and possibly, too, he had some idea of the errand on which they came, for he had already been subjected to several attacks from the factor on the same subject. They approached him not only without ceremony, but with an abruptness not a little disrespectful ; and, after intimating that they wished to have some private conversation with him, led him apart to a considerable distance, without deigning to notice his companion by word or look. But Robin repaid them in their own coin ; for instead of moving away, he doggedly stood his ground, and kept a watchful eye on all their motions. He observed that M'Corkle and his reverend friend immediately entered on some earnest talk with Mr. Bacon, which he could see, from their passionate gestures, soon assumed the character of warm expostulation. ’ r hey spoke alternately, sometimes both together, and with a vehemence which their auditor seemed little able to resist. He often shook his head in a deprecating manner, stammered, looked confused, dejected, and even imploringly. At length the factor left him ; and, coming scowling

to the spot where Robin stood, he addressed him superciliously thus : ‘1 say, you A fleck, or whatever is your name—Mr. Bacon requests you to leave this place immediately. He. does not require your company any longer, so be off as soon as possible.’ Robin was exasperated, but not greatly surprised at this false and insulting intimation, for he already understood M'Corkle pretty well. He accordingly replied with the most perfect composure—‘Mr. Bacon never said ony thing of the kind to me.’ ‘ But he directed me to tell you,’ shouted the enraged factor.

‘ I’m no vera shure o’ that, friend,’ answered Robin, with imperturbable firmness, adding—“ at ony rate it’ll be time eneuch to , believe’t when he tells me himsel’.’

‘ Do you doubt ray word, you scoundrel ? ’ .

‘ Fegs div I; and I wad gi’e ye the name ye ca’ me in your teeth if time and place were answerable.’ * Do you refuse to go, then ? ’ ‘ Ay for you.’ ‘Well, you will hear what Mr. Bacon says himself.’ Saying this, M‘Corkle returned to his master and the minister, and after another scene of peremptory urgency on the one side and faltering resistance on the other, Mr. Bacon was reluctantly dragged towards his rustic friend to pronounce his banishment from Auchterbardie, '

‘Now, Mr. Bacon,’ said the factor, ‘ you may tell this person yourself that his presence here is no longer agreeable to you, since he refuses to take my word for it.’ ‘ls that true Mr. Bacon ? ’ inquired Robin with a searching look. ‘ Why, Mr. Afleck,” replied the Laird, ‘ it is true in one sense and not in another. The fact is lam very far from wishing you to depart, but—but these gentlemen—the minister and Mr. M'Corkle —tell me —though I don’t think it possible—that you are here under suspicious circumstances, and are a person not to be trusted about me. I know very well- they are mistaken in some of the things they hint at; but, but— ’ ‘ You mean Mr. Bacon,’ said M‘Corkle, interupting him, ‘ that it is proper, £t any rate, he should leave this till the charges against him be fully sifted.’ ‘ And till his character be cleared of suspicion,’ added Mr. Smuggerly.’ ‘ Do you say that then, Mr. Bacon ? ’ again Robin inquired, ready to act in a moment on the answer, whatever it might be. Mr. Bacon stuttered with hesitation, and was gasping for breath to reply, when Stiffriggs and Mr. Duncanson were seen coming up the

avenue. (To be continued—commenced on July 26.)

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Bibliographic details

THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 169, 18 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 169, 18 October 1880

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