THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CHAPTER XXXVI — continued.
‘ Yes, sir, ye’re Dr. Snapperdudgeon; and ye may misca’ me till the morn, and no gi’e me a waur name.’ ‘ I tell you, you wrinkled beldame, I’ll have your heels laid fast if you don’t learn to be civil and answer my questions.’ ‘ I’m no the least fear’d j but what is’t ye want to ken ? ’ ‘ Where was it that Duncanson was robbed ? ’ ‘ I understand it was on the street’ ‘ A very likely story indeed ! You say you understand. Are you not sure ? ’ ‘ I only heard sae.’ ‘ Who did you hear say so ? ’ ‘ The men that robbed him,’ ‘Ay ! who were they ? ’ ‘ I don’t know them. They were strangers.’ ‘ Just so. A very likely story again. You never saw them before, did you not?’ ‘No.’ ‘ Nor since ? ’ 4 No, nor since.’ 4 Now, you old she-fiend, do you expect me to believe all this ? ’ ‘ Deed, Dr. Deevil’s-frien’, I don’t care whether ye believe’t or no.’ ‘ Peace, hag, peace ! Take care you don’t provoke me too far ; and answer this, if you wish to escape the hulks WasJ Duncanson in the house where you found his pocket-book ?’ ‘ No —never to ray knowledge.’ ‘ Was the fellow Afleck there, then ?’ ‘Yes, Robin Afleck was there.’ ‘ Just so; I was sure of it. You hear what she admits, gentlemen. The house is one of the lowest of the low.’
‘ No, sir, it is not; it’s up three pair o’ stairs ; and he was only there because I brought him to get the pocket-book !’ ‘ And was there any woman in the house at the time ?’
‘ Yes ; the mistress of the house was there.’
* Ay—what was she doing ?’ * She was lying drunk in her bed.’ ‘ You hear that, gentlemen ; take notice of that circumstance,’ said the Doctor, with a triumphant smile, and turning to Mother Meredith, he ordered her to leave the room and hold herself ready to come and be interrogated further when he might choose to send for her, or to go to jail for her share in what he was pleased to term a black affair from top to bottom. The spaewife, however, knew too much of her reverend reviler to submit silently to his parting volley of abusive epithets. She retorted in such a style as made him glad to let her have the last word and see the door shut behind her. He then improved on her evidence with a dexterity peculiar to himself. ‘You see, gentlemen,’ said he, ‘ what sort of a creature this is. She is evidently in the confidence of one or both of these young scoundrels. Afleck, she acknowledges, recovered Duncanson’s pocketbook in the infamous den where she lodged, and where some other woman was lying“drurik in bed. How the book came to be there, and whose company Duncanson was in when he lost it, can’t be discovered; but there is room enough for conjectures not much to his advantage. Now, there’s a case for you. Isn’t it a pretty case ? Why. if we don’t make a whip of it to lash the sauciness out of both fellows, we deserve to be spit upon, that’s all.’ ‘Ay, ye deserve mair than that,’ said a person who was at that moment entering, and had caught the last words of the Doctor’s application. When the reader is told that this person was no other than Ringan Stimperton of Stiffriggs, a few words are required to explain how he happened to be there at such a juncture. He had called at Mrs. M‘Glunchagain’s before leaving the city for some small article which had been left there by his sister, and from Mother Meredith and Griselda learned enough of what was going on to. rouse his indignation to an ungovernable pitch. Without waiting to inquire very minutely how they had obtained their information, or to consider if he could act on it with propriety, he burst abruptly into the apartment where the conspirators were seated, and gave vent to his wrath in the words already quoted. Dr. Snapperdudgeon was so astonished at the intrusion that his rage took some time to muster. At length he vociferated— ‘ Get out of this room, sirrah ! What do you want here'?’ ‘ Keep doun your passion, Doctor, and I’ll tell you my errand in a jiffy. It’s no lang since I put you oot o’ this vera room; and ye may put me oot next, for time aboot’s fair play, and the room’s yours noo it seems. But ye maun hear what I have to say before I steer a fit.’
‘l’ll not hear a word from you in this place. Get out of the room immediately, or you shall be turned out by force.’ * That’s easier said than dune, Doctor; I’m no sure if a’ the four o’ you wad find the job easy if ye were to try. Howsomever there’s nae difference aboot that, for I hae nae wish to stay after I warn the hale biling o’ you of the danger ye’re in. I understand ye’ve been plotting 1o ruin the character of twa young freends o’ mine ’ ‘ How do you come to know what we have been doing ?’ ‘ That’s neither here nor there, since I div ken at ony rate. Ye’ve been plotting to ruin the character o’ twa young men as worthy as ye’re worthless. But it’ll tak’ nae plotting to ruin yours. A word oot o’ my mouth wad convict at least ane o’ you (this wee mannie here wi’ the red nose) o’ something he might have to answer for wi’ his neck; I can prove that every skin o’ you have been airt and pairt in his crime. Just move anither step against either James Duncanson or Robin Afleck, and I’ll gar the bardies o’ ye skulk oot o’ sicht, and be glad to dern like rations in the dark. Neither lawyers nor ministers o’ the gospel can stand in the face of the charge I’m prepared to bring against ye. Makin’ free wi’ ither folk’s sealed letters is nae sma’ faut’ if I ha’e ony skill; an’ faith I’ll prove’t on ye if I get the least provocation. There, now, I’ve said my say, and ye ha’e fair warning.’ Saying this, the stalwart farmer strode out of the room with a firm step and threatening look, leaving the accused parties in blank consternation.
CHAPTER XXXV. Now’s day* and now’s the hour ; See the front of battle lour !
The events narrated in the foregoing chapters having occupied a period of from six to seven months, another period of about equal length, which must be passed over at a jump, brings this story up to the ever-memorable month of May, 1843. During the interval, Mr. Duncanson had returned to Edinburgh fairly re-established in health and character, and pursued his studies at the University with unremitting ardour. He still kept up his correspondence with Miss Montgomery, who, in spite of all obstacles, received and answered his letters as fondly as ever. His aunt and Stiffriggs continued to live separate and single, but with sundry occasional movements, originating always with the lady, of a tendency towards union. Ringan Stimperton was too much engrossed with Church matters to think of matrimony, but Mrs Renshaw persevered in making her new-born zeal for Non-intrusion subserve her nuptial views, by echoing every sentiment she heard from the honest farmer on the subject. But she rather over-acted the part, and at times displayed more zeal than knowledge. Miss Stimperton and Jean Brown also remained in single blessedness, notwithstanding a constant bombardment of love letters from Auchterbardie, where Mr. Bacon and Robin Afleck still kept Bachelor’s Hall, in a styß not much more civilised than the Laird’s former extraordinary mode of housekeeping. The bachelor’s epistles to ‘ Salt Shusie’ were high-flown and poetical, and though not devoid of genuine feeling, did not con vey any direct overture of marriage. Robin’s to Jean Brown were full of magnificent descriptions of his prosperity and importance at Auchterbardie, of grumblings at her tardiness, and appeals to her feelings to commiserate the lonely life he had led without her. But Jean was in no particular hurry with her preparations. She wished to see, how her rustic lover would acquit himself in his new situation before venturing to enter with him into the serious responsibilities of wedlock. Dr. Snapperdudgeon and his confederate, in spite of their inclination to follow' a contrary course, had been fairly put upon their good behaviour and compelled to give up their machinations, by the threat held over them by Stiffriggs. Mr. M‘Corkle, finding his influence gone where he was wont to rule with undisputed sway, had “ left his country for his country’s good; ” not by compulsion however, but of his own accord. The Rev. Mr. Smuggerly, deprived of his wonted auxiliary and boon companion, had sank crestfallen into hum drum sloth and clandestine sottishness; and was now despised rather than feared or hated. Mr. M'Quirkie had attended the session of college just closed, and to use his own cool phrase, “ walked through the classes.” Such was the state of matters amongst most of the dramatis pasonce of this veritable story a few days previous to the most important event,in modern Scottish history—the Disruption of the Church. (To be continued-—commenced on Jidy 26. )
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