THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TRUSS.
CHAPTER XXXVI — continued.
At length the sounds of martial music, the clatter of horses’ feet, and the hum of a rushing multitude announced that the Commissioner’s procession was at hand. Immediately thereafter the representative of royalty entered and took his seat, and the members of Assembly crowded into the church at every door. This was a moment of intense excitement. No longer was there a listless or a careless attitude to be seen. The long-looked-for crisis had come at last. All was breathless attention among the crowd in the galleries as the opposing parties took their respective places in the area of the house. A whisper might be heard from one eager gazer to another
—‘ There is the Moderator ’ —‘ There is Dr. Chalmers’ —‘Yonder is Dr. Candlish ’ —or a ‘ Here comes Dr. Cook.’ And, according as party feeling dictated, remarks where whispered regarding the appearance of the belligerents —‘ How blanks the Nons are looking !’ ‘ How firm they seem to be !’ —‘ Dr. Chalmers looks dreadfully anxious !’ ‘ See how serene the glorious old man is 1’— ‘ Just observe what a restless fidgetty state .little Candlish is in 1’ ‘ See how animated Dr. Candlish is ‘ The Moderator appears to be terribly agitated 1’ ‘ Did ever you see a man so calm as Dr. Welsh in such a trying situation !’ Remarks and interjections such as these, in subdued whispers, passed among the spectators ofthis stirring scene, till the Moderator rose to pray. So profoundly hushed was the whole assemblage that no individual in it but himself seemed even to breathe, and his impressive words were as distinctly heard by all as if he had been speaking close to every ear. After he had concluded there was a short pause, during which the suspense was absolutely painful. All eyes and ears were strained to unwonted alertness awaiting what should happen next. The pause was awful as that which occurs between the first trembling of an earthquake, and the disastrous shock. At length the good man (now, alas ! removed from among us) calmly rose, and, a firm voice, protested against the legality of the Assembly, and its further procedure. He then read a paper, in which the grounds of this protest weie fully set forth. Having done so, he threw down the protest on the table, and after bowing to the Queen’s Commissioner, left the church, followed by the whole of the Non-intrusion members present. So rapidly did all this pass, that those who witnessed the movement were struck with surprise, and for a brief space could scarcely believe that the die was already and irrevocably cast. All was silent astonishment, as one after another of the seceders moved away ; and even when a shout from the multitude outside welcomed their appearance on the street, there was no audible expression of feeling, except a suppressed murmur, among the crowd within the church. But many a wet eye was to be seen there, denoting sorrow too deep for words. There was indeed one thrilling sound. It was heard after the last of the seceders had departed. It was a groan a deep groan —from old Gideon Montgomery. He was a member of the Assembly, and happened to be seated near his minister, Mr. Calmsough, in an obscure corner of the house, on the Moderate side. The event which made others sigh and weep, agitated him with terrific violence, and when he fully comprehended its decisive character, he groaned with unutterable anguish and same apparently in a fit of apoplexy. The accident was observed by Sir John Baldwin, Mrs. Renshaw, and Stiffriggs, who all started to their feet at once afford assistance to the sufferer. But it was also observed by another person, whom it affected more deeply —namely, Mr. Duncanson. He had come in latter than his friends, and was in a belter position to help the aged father of his Agnes. Before any other could reach him, he was atthe old man’s side, and with the aid of Mr. Calmsough, succeeded in getting him into a carriage and conveyed in safety to a lodging-house in the immediate neighbourhood. Unfortunately Mr. Montgomery had refused to allow Agnes or any other member of his family to accompany him to Edinburgh on this occasion, and Mr. Calmsough had also come alone. There was therefore no female friend or acquaintance at hand to attend to him except Mrs. Renshaw, and her feelings were not sufficiently interested in the case, nor naturally fine enough, to render her the most desirable attendant in affliction. She seemed too conscious of this herself to volunteer her services, when, along with Stiffriggs and Sir John Baldwin, she reached the house to which the patient had been carried. Indeed she spoke so loud and created such a bustle, that the surgeon who was called on the occasion found it necessary to hint to her pretty plainly that the safety of his patient demanded quiet. She accordingly soon departed, and so also did Stiffriggs and his landlord. The afflicted old man was therefore left without any friend near, except Mr. Calmsough and the student, and the former ■was too infirm to ■ endure much watching or fatigue. On this account the medical attendant addressed his directions chiefly to Mr. Duncanson, who willingly undertook to see them carried into effect, and to sit up all night with the patient, should it be necessary for anyone to do so. ‘Yes, that is highly necessary,’said the surgeon, ‘ for it is hard to say what turn his trouble may take in a few hours. Should any change take place at any hour of the night, be sure to send for me immediately. In the meantime, all that can be done is to watch him carefully and keep the house quiet.’ In whispered accents it was arranged that Mr. Calmsough should write to Mr. Montgomery’s family, and then retire to bed, leaving the student alone with the invalid for the night. The surgeon’s language sufficiently indicated that there was imminent danger in the case, and it was therefore with a mind deeply impressed with solemn thoughts that Mr. Duncanson turned to his solitary station at the bedside of the aged sufferer, and watched his laboured breathing and heavyapoplectic sleep. The silent midnight hours wore slowly on —so slowly that lime scarcely
seemed moving. The clock of St. Andrew’s struck the hours at intervals apparently as distant as if the machinery took long rests, and only indicated one hour in two or three. At length the faint light of dawn began to glimmer through the window-blinds, and to dim the feeble flickering of the sickroom taper; the sparrows began to chirp among the housetops, and the sound of footsteps might now and then be heard. The student moved softly to thewindow, whence he had a close view of St. Andrew’s Church and its approaches, lately so crowded and the scene of intense excitement. The massive building and the spacious street, now illuminated by the first rays of morning, exhibited a stillness which contrasted strikingly with the stirring aspect that the same scene had displayed but a few hours before, and awakened in the spectator’s mind an involuntary train of reflection on the mutations of human affairs and the transient nature of everything sublunary. Here, where so lately had occurred an event that would be memorable in all time coming, already not a trace remained of the transaction, any more than if it had occurred a hundred years before, and all the actors in it had been numbered with departed generations. The transition from these musings on the fleeting phantasmagoria of the present scene to higher thoughts, was natural and easy. In this mood, the student —like one who, giddy in a whirl of moving objects, instinctively clings to something fixed and firm —unconsciously turned his wandering mind to the only unchangeable Existence in the universe. The sublime words of adoration occurred to him—
a thousand years appear No more before thy sight Than yesterday, when it is past, Or than a watch by night. As he muttered these words more audibly than he was aware of or intended, he heard a rustling in the bed behind him, and, when he looked round observed that his aged charge had moved his posture, and was awakening. In a moment more the poor old man fairly shook off his trance-like slumber, and turned his heavy eyes with a bewildered stare on his youthful attendant. He looked hard at him for some time before he uttered a syllable, and almost thefirst words he spoke betrayed delirium. ‘ Where am I? ’ he said, ‘ Where am I ? Where is the Church of Scotland ? "What is your name, sir ? Why did you burn the Cuurch of Scotland ? ’ 1 Compose yourself, Mr. Montgomery, you are among friends. You have been unwell, but will be better soon if you will just keep quiet.’ ‘ No, I have not been ill. lam quite well; but you are taking me away in a ship. This is a ship ; let me out ! ’ Saying this, the aged sufferer made a movement as if he would rise out of the bed, and was witli great difficulty restrained. The student, therefore, felt the necessity of arousing Mr. Calmsough, though reluctant to disturb him at such an early hour On the entrance of the reverend gentleman, his poor old friend gazed more wildly than before, and vociferated disjointed questions and assertions so rapidly, that it was hardly possible to get a word said to pacify him. At length, after he had exhausted his breath with violent speaking, the minister said to him soothingly, ‘ Surely, Mr. Montgomery, you know me.’
‘ Yes, I know you. You are the Commissioner, are you not? No, you’re the Moderator; yes, yes, the Moderator. But why did you let this fellow come here to murder me ? ’
‘ Oh, Mr. Montgomery, you know I’m your minister, and this is your young friend, Mr. Duncanson.’ ‘ No, he is not Mr. Duncanson ; Mr. Duncanson is no friend of mine. And you are not my minister. I have no minister. This fellow murdered you and me too. He murdered me too. There, there ! see what he has done. Fie has put the Queen in that press—the Queen and my Agnes. Yes, they are in'the press. I tell you they are in the press. What’s this on my arm ? Who put this on my arm ? No, I’ll not let it alone. Now, that is all nonsense. I have not been bled. Ask Agnes, and she will tell you. _ Agnes ! Mary ! Margaret ! Why did you let them bleed me ? Oh, dear ! oh, dear ! I find there’s something wrong. Is this you, Mr. Calmsough ? is this you, my kind friend ? Oh, I’ve been wandering, I suppose. Oh, yes, yes. True enough. But where am I ? What house is this? Oh, a lodging-house near the church is it ? Then I’ve been carried here. I must have been ill. Well, well, I’ll not speak much. No, not much ; but tell me—is it true they have hanged Dr. Chalmers ? Yes, but I will speak—-let the Queen out of that press, I say ; let the Queen out. You cannot make her pay twice —no, though you be the Sheriff, I defy you. Keep down your heads ! I say, keep down your heads, or you’ll strike against the bridge. Blockheads ! Will you take no telling. Let me out of this boat—let me out instantly ! Oh, you cruel wretches, you durst not do that if I were young.’ In this wild and incoherent manner did Mr. Montgomery continue to rave, till his friends felt they could not be justified in delaying longer to send for the surgeon. Before that gentleman arrived, however, the patient’s violence had subsided into drowsiness, and though still awake, he seemed about to sleep. The symptoms were still alarming, and it was immediately decided that he should be bled again, and to this operation he submitted without insistence or much apparent consciousness. He then fell into a tranquil slumber, which lasted till the day was pretty far advanced. (To be continued—commenced on July 26.)
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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 176, 26 October 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 176, 26 October 1880
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