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CHAPTER XXXVI —continued.

This letter was never forwarded to its destination, and it was perhaps as well for its blunt author that Jean Brown did not receive it, for she probably might have thought it pitched on too high a key even for joking. M‘Corkle perused it and copies of the former letters he had intercepted, with many a fiendish twitch of face, and many an interjected imprecation. When he had concluded, Dr. Snapperdudgeon said— . ‘ Well, all that is provoking enough. This clown Afleck has insulted you as well as me.’

‘ Insulted me !’ exclaimed M'Corkle, ‘if that had been all I would have cared but little ; but he has ruined me ine completely, unless I can ‘find some" wa'y“ yet of circumventing him.’

‘ True, true; that’s worse and worse ; but I don’t see anything in these letters you can lay hold of, even if you had got them in a way that would admit of explanation in a court of law, and you know that is not the case. The fact is, Afleck, simple as he looks, has contrived to injure both of us in such a way as not to lay himself open. I fear I shall make nothing of him in my own case, though I know to a certainty he has been my enemy and done me harm. But he’s a fool, and too insignificant to give one much concern.’ * Faith ye would not say that, Doctor, if ye had suffered as much from him as I have done.’

‘ Oh, I daresay not. But then you see you can’t help yourself. You have let him get too good a hold of your place ever to shake him out of it. You have not looked far enough before you, or you would have taken better care not to let your goose of a Laird get out of your hands. Then you have provided yourself with no documents that can be of any use to you. These papers are not worth a rush. You have not Mr. Bacon’s signature to one of them.’

‘Nothing would have been easier for me, a while since, than to have gotten him to sign any of them, or anything else. But I never thought it necessary to bid him to put pen to paper.’ ‘ Well, the more fool you ; you’ve been blind to your own interest. What might have once been done can’t be done now, so there’s no use in talking. e *No use whatever,’ echoed M'Cheatrie, mortified at his disappointment of his hopes of a law process. ‘As a man acquainted with business,’ he added, addressing M‘Corkle in a grumbling dissatisfied tone, ‘ you ought to have provided yourself with available documents to protect you in such a case as this.’

‘ I see that well enough now,’ replied the ex-factor, ‘ when it’s too late. But is there nothing at all can be done yet ?’ ‘ Perhaps there may,’ answered Dr. Snapperdudgeon, who was the party more immediately addressed. ‘ Perhaps there may, after we have some time to think of it. But, meantime, let us hear something about this fellow Duncanson. I would much rather get at him than Afleck. He, and a bosom friend of his, Stimperton of Stiffriggs, have insulted me grossly, and I’m determined to make them smart for it.’ ‘ Had it not been for them, Afleck would have had no chance against me,’ replied M'Corkle ruefully. ‘What! has Stiffriggs also been at Auchterbardie ?’

‘ Indeed has he, sir; and been the means of depriving me of a farm worth as much to me as my factorship.’ ‘ Has he got it for himself?’ ‘ No, no ; but for one of the present tenantry—a man I intended to drive off the estate.’

‘Yes, Doctor,’said Mr. Smuggerly, ‘he refused to sign a petition in favor of Lord Aberdeen’s Bill.’

‘ Well, he deserved richly to be sent adrift. And has that man got the farm you speak of, Mr. M'Corkle?' said the Doctor, ‘Yes, sir, he has,’answered M’Corkle, ‘ and all through the advice of this infernal scoundrel, Stimperton.’

‘ Hush, hush !’ rejoined the Doctor, with a curious leer, ‘you must remember that Mr. Smuggerly and I _ are ministers; but let us consider a little how we may get at the scoundrels, whether we call them infernal or not. I have something against Duncanson that I hope to humble his pride with, before I have done with him. _ The presumptous puppy, who is a native of my parish, was brought up under my ministry, and owes me some reverence surely. But he will neither be guided nor influenced by me in any way. On the contrary, he has set himself up as a high-flying Non; tries to affront me with a show of professional strictness which I don’t pretend to, -wraps himself up in haughty reserve towards me, whose notice he ought to be glad rather to obtain; and exhibits a marked contempt for all my habits and opinions; gels credit for having put me in the wrong; is friendly with my bitterest enemies, and altogether makes himself an eyesore to me that I can’t endu r e. Now, gentlemen, this demure Timothy, this youthful Pharisee, has got into a scrape, just as beautiful a little scrape as the devil himself could contrive for him. He lost a good round sum of money—a hundred pounds or so—quite in a mysterious way ; a way he would explain to nobody. Then he got back the money just as curiously, and was as close again about that, though I have ascertained that Afleck had some hand in the job. He got himself hurt about the same time too; a very suspicious coincidence, by the way. Now all these circumstances amount to something that may surely be made a handle of against him, if properly managed. Though nothing more were brought, out on the subject, there is surely enough to blackball him if there be anything like a share of cons-cien-ttous faith-ful-tiess and bro-therly con-cern —that is to say, of fanatical zeal and uncharitable spite—in our Church courts, and I know there is. I will set fanatic to roast fanatic, and hypocrite to expose hypocrite. That’s my tactics, and I know no other course that a man persecuted by the whole puritanical crew, as I am, can resort to. You can do something to spread the fama at Auchterbordie. Both of you can do a little, and you ought to do so, keeping altogether out of view the share Duncanson has had

in making the changes you complain of, for otherwise you will find him a dangerous person. His high notions about the purity of the Church and all that kind of stuff, will do a deal of mischief if you don’t get him discredited as a questionable character. He will make the people half Methodists by his example, and I should not wonder but you, Mr. Smuggerly, may soon come to be pointed at in your own parish, as I have been in mine, as an unfaithful shepherd, a wolf among the flock, a reproach to the Church. If you happen to take a glass overmuch, you will be called a drunkard ; if you say a high word now and then in a passion, you will be set down as a brawler; and if you don’t give in to all this nonsense about Spiritual Independence, you will be accounted a time server, a bread-and-butter man, an Esau, willing to sell his birthright for a mess of pottage. All this and more I warn you will be the consequence of letting this sucking fanatic get a footing among the simple people of your parish, and the opportunity of canting freely among them. Therefore, as you value your own comfort or influence, down with him ! Let it be reported broad and wide that his character has been blown upon at home, that he has skulked out of the way of inquiry, and that he can’t show his face in Edinburgh. But avoid making any distinct charge. Keep always on the safe side of the law. Insinuate what you please, but assert nothing positively. Anything will be believed that is only hinted ; so let your hints be dark enough, and you will soon bring down the coxcomb.’

‘ Let me alone for that, Doctor,’ replied the Rev. Mr. Smuggerly; ‘ Mr. M'Corkle will tell you if I’m a man to be over-crowed in my own parish. No, no; I suffer no presuming interloper to come there with impunity.’ ‘ But what does all that signify to me ?’ said M'Corkle peevishly. ‘ Will it do me ony good to get this young swankie blackened ? I trow it’ll not make my case a bit the better.’ ‘ You! ’ shouted Dr. Snapperdudgeon with his natural violence. ‘ You ! Who are you, pray, that we should talk of nothing but your affairs ! ’ M'Corkle, though he had a good spice of the same pepper in his composition, was subdued by the feeling of his unfortunate position as well as by the master insolence of the volcanic divine. He therefore succumbed and humbly begged the Doctor’s pardon, saying, at the same time, in as wheedling a tone as he could assume, that he hoped his peculiar case would receive a little further consideration.

‘ Very well,’ replied the Doctor, mollified by this submission, ‘ we shall still keep it in view, and see what can be done. I don’t doubt but it may be possible to involve Afleck in the same discredit as Duncanson. He was connected in some way with the same suspicious circumstances, that’s certain ; and I have sent for the old harridan, who, I expect, will give me some particulars that may be useful. M'Cheatrie, is Mother Meridith come ! ’

‘ I don’t know, sir,’ replied the lawyer, ‘ but I’ll ring and see.’ This protracted and very remarkable conversation was not so private as the worthies engaged in it intended and supposed, for the room in which it took place was only divided from the kitchen by a wooden partition, in which were sundry chinks sufficiently wide to enable a very inquisitive pair, stationed thereat, to be both ear and eye witnesses of most that passed. One of the listeners was the housemaid Griselda, and the other Mother Meredith, who, as just mentioned, had previously been sent for by Dr. Snapperdudgeon, and remained in attendance, ready to be called in, but curious to know the business beforehand. When she obeyed the summons of M‘Cheatreie and entered the room. Dr. Snapperdudgeon assumed the office of questioner. He looked more than usually stern, and said in a voice intended to intimidate her, ‘ I am not satisfied, mistress, that you have yet told all you know regarding the money you recovered for young Duncanson.’ ‘ I canna help that, sir,’ answered the spaewile with the utmost coolness. ‘ I may perhaps find a way of making you help it though,’ rejoined the Doctor.

‘ Aweel, sir, ye can try.’ ‘ Try ! Yes, I’ll both try and do. I’ll have you punished severely, if I hear more of you impudence. I’ve been too lenient towards you. or you should have been rotting the flesh off your old bones in prison. Do youknow who I am you ugly witch ? ”

(To be continued—commenced on July 26.)

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 172, 21 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 172, 21 October 1880

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