THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CHAPTER XXXV— continued.
Sir John smiled at the freedom and bluntness of the joke, and resuming his seriousness, said—“ It is easy for you and me, Mr. Stimperton, to make light of the endowments. We are laymen, and their withdrawal cannot affect our means of living. But what is to become of the seceding clergy, who have nothing else to depend on ? I must confess I am deeply grieved for them. Had they regarded the solemn words of Lord Aberdeen, they would have acted cautiously.’ * Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Calmsough, ‘it was surely rash to place themselves beyond the chance of obtaining all they asked at the very moment when ‘the Government seemed at length disposed to yield.’ •' It was madness,’ said Mr. Montgomery ; ‘ madness, if not worse; but the deed is done; and I fear, I fear the Church is ruined.’
‘ I pity the misguided men who have so committed themselves ’ rejoined the Baronet; ‘ but I see no reason why their example should be followed by those who are not yet irrevocably pledged to follow the same course, even though holding similar general principles.’ , .While he said this he looked hard at the student, as if he intended the remark for him, and expected a reply. ‘ I cannot,’ said Mr. Duncanson, admit that they have acted rashly or wrong. Neither can I believe they disregarded any warning worth listening to, or that anything could have been gained by further delay. If the Earl of Aberdeen had a measure to propose calculated to preserve the Church in its integrity, how will he answer at the last day for not producing it in time to prevent her overthrow ? ’
‘ Ay, that’s it Mr. Jimes,’ exclaimed Stiffriggs, rubbing his hands with supreme delight; ‘ that’s the thing, man ! Ye’ve hitten the nail on the head to a tee. Can ye answer that, Laird, can ye answer that ? ’ ‘ Why, Mr. Stimperton,’ replied Sir John, ‘ I confess our young friend has put the matter in rather a new light to me. I indeed can see no reason why Lord Aberdeen should keep back his measure at this crisis, when its production might do much good.’ ‘ Well, Sir John,’ answered Stiffriggs, ‘ though I’m no vera gleg o’ the uptak’ I think I can see a sufficient reason, and that’s just because ony measure he has to propose would do nae good ava. I’ll lay my lugs that’s the true reason, and brawly does he gen his corn’s a’ caff, or he wadna keep the sack mouth tied and try to put us aff wi’ bletheration.’
‘ Now, Ringan,’ replied the Baronet, ‘ you speak uncharitably. I regret as much as you do that his lordship has not seen the propriety of producing his amended Bill in time to give it a chance ; of preventing a disruption of the Church, but I cannot attribute his delay to bad faith.’ * Regret as much as me ? Me regret ! ’ Trowth, I regret naething o’ the kind. It’s mony a day since I ceased to expeck ony gude to the Kirk o’ Scotland frae Acks o’ Pawrliment, an’ I’m no disappointed at the upshot.’ As Stiffriggs said this, the party were rising from table. The two senior gentlemen, Messrs. Calmsough and Montgomery, took their leave, both seemingly much affected by the discussion which thus concluded, and the . latter angry as well as grieved. When they had departed Sir John took the student aside and explained to him his motive for bringing Mr. Montgomery and him together. ‘ I know,’ said he with great kindness and a touch of jocularity, ‘ the fooling on which you stand with the old gentleman, and also the interest you take in a certain young ■ lady nearly related to him. Nay, don’t blush ; you have no occasion. All I intended was to smoothe your road a little, and I thought the opportunity a good one; for though we differed before on Church matters, yet I formed a very favorable opinion of your character, and wished to do you any service in my power. I was in hopes that this news from London would open a prospect of agreement among all the adherents of the Church, and it would have given me very great pleasure indeed had it proved of such a nature. In that case, I feel confident you would at once have become a great favorite with Mr. Montgomery, and no doubt we should have had a wedding in our neighborhood ere long, and, perhaps, an ordination too, for ray implac- . able enemy, Dr. Snapperdudgeon, is surely mortal, like other people. But you see I have been disappointed in my expectations. : The Church, it seems, must go to pieces. You have conscientiously taken one side, and Mr. Montgomery'and I the other, so we must just float hereafter as we may be drifted, for the current is now beyond control. Still, you shall always have my respect; and in spite of differences, you may yet manage to break down the prejudices which exist against you in a quarter where it is more important for you to find favor. So, my dear sir, don’t let present appearances discourage you. Hope—hope—always hope, and the prize will be yours at last. You understand?’ ‘ Oh yes, sir; I cannot pretend I don’t, and I am certainly much obliged to you for your kind intentions and good opinion.’ In this friendly conversation Sir John did not even hint at a circumstance which had in reality operated more powerfully than any other in interesting him in, favor of the student—namely, a disgust which he had taken against his college companion, Mr. M’Qurkie, whose sordid meanness, vanity, intense presumption, and detractive spirit, had gradually developed themselves to the Baronet’s observation, and set off the opposite qualities of Mr. Duncanson’s mind in striking contrast. He could not help regretting the peculiar circumstances that left the emoluments of the Church which he venerated open to the character, and virtually shut them against the other, and though himself a confirmed Moderate in Church matters, and a Tory in politics, he heartily desired some change that, without trenching deeply on aristocratic principles, might yet secure the services of such a youth as Mr, Duncan >
son to the Establishment. In parting with him this regret infused much cordiality into the words and manner of the worthy Baronet. The student and his rustic friends felt highly flattered by his kindness, and were about to withdraw, when Mr. M'Quirkie called, and was shown in. He came uninvited, and' all too late for breakfast; but this was of no consequence, for the first glance he had of the departing company must have spoiled any appetite he came with. Before he saw who they were, his face was beaming with unusual glee, and his tongue, charged with the tidings of the Non-intrusion clergy, having at length resolved to make what he called the fatal plunge. No sooner, however, did he recognise Mrs. Renshaw and her nephew, and perceive the cordiality with which they were treated by the great man whose favor he had tried by every despicable trick to monopolise, than his countenance fell, his words died away unuttered, and he made as abrupt and unceremonious a retreat as on some former occassions already described. All this passed so rapidly that there was no time to recall him had it been thought proper; and it was not. Sir John looked at his guests and smiled, but was too well bred to say a word on the subject; Mrs. Renshaw and Stiffriggs enjoyed the scene immensely, but reserved their remarks till they could speak under less restraint than in the presence of their landlord.
CHAPTER XXXVI. As we drifted on our path. There was silence deep as death, And the boldest held their breath For a time.
CAMPBELL* At an early hour on Thursday the xßth of May, 1843, the portion of St, Andrew’s Church appropriated to the public during the sitting of the Assembly, was crowded with people anxious to witness the last scene of of the Non-intrusion drama, Among these were Stifiriggs and Mrs. Renshaw. Hour after hour they sat in patient expectation of the great event about to transpire—Stiffriggs with an expression of stern satisfaction on his countenance, but taciturn and meditative, and his companion eager to see all that was to be seen, but more outspoken that! judicious in her remarks. By-and-bye their landlord, Sir John. Baldwin, entered, and took a seat beside them. He expressed his surprise to find Stiffriggs there, saying— ‘ I thought, Ringan, you who are so bent on leaving the Establishment would have taken your place in Tanfield Hall among your friends who are mustering there to welcome the seceders from the Assembly.’
‘ j doot na, Laird,’ replied the fanner, ‘ there’ll be plenty there withoot me, and 1 want to see the game played oot, since it’s near the last shot at ony rate. To be present here this day—and on the fight side , Sir John —I consider just next best to the honor of having signed the Solemn League and Covenant Langsyne.’ ‘ Oh, you wish to have it to say to your children, and your children’s children, that you were here on this occasion.’
‘ To be sure Laird, and it’ll be something worth bragging o’.’ ‘ Your children, Ringan !’ said Mrs. Renshaw, with an arch expression, ‘ whaur ha’e ye bairns ? or whan will ye ha’e ony, I wonder ?’ ; ‘ Ay, Mrs. Renshaw,’ rejoined Sir John, ‘ Let him tell us that. He is neither providing a family to harken to his long-winded stories about the Church of Scotland, nor to succeed him in Stiffrigg Mains.’ ‘Ye may as weel gi’e our freen here through the whins,’ answered Ringan, ‘ for providing naebody to succeed her in Whinnyside ?’ ‘ I don’t know, Mr. Stimperton,’ replied the Laird, ‘ but it is you who are to blame in both cases. Is that not true, Mrs. Renshaw ?’ ‘ Whisht, whisht! Laird; whisht, whisht !’ said the lady, looking down and affecting to feel ashamed; but, at the same time, enjoying with infinite relish the great man’s jocularity.
(To be continued —cojnmeneed on July 56. )
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 175, 25 October 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 175, 25 October 1880
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