THE CHIMNEY COENER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CFI AFTER XXXVl— co?itinued.
Early in the afternoon Miss Montgomery and her sisters arrived, accompanied by Mrs. Calmsough. They had set out instantly for Edinburgh on hearing of their father’s illness, and, though fearing the worst, were not prepared for it. When they reached their father’s bedside they were dreadfully agitated to find him so ill. He was too far gone to speak to them, but sensible enough on re-awakening to recognise them all, and to comprehend that they would not have been sent for had his case not been considered highly critical. The medical attendant forbade conversation with him as dangerous in his weak condition, and a day or two of distressing anxiety followed. The motherless girls remained night and day around the bedside of their surviving parent, tortured with unutterable fears, and only constrained now and then by the matronly solicitude of Mrs. Calmsough to take either rest or refreshment. Their father—when not asleep, or overpowered by the stupor arising from the disease —lay pondering o’er the dark prospect of leaving his daughters unprotected orphans. He often turned his eyes on them with a tenderness unusual to his nature, but seldom infringed the doctor’s rules so far as to attempt to speak. By and by, however, his strength rallied considerably, and the doctor relaxed the strictness of his injunction so far as to permit a little conversation. Hope began to flutter in the young hearts which the anguish of despair had swelled almost to bursting; and the old man himself — when he saw fewer tears shed around him, and now and then a hopeful smile gleaming through them —began to think his recovery, at least for a brief season, not impossible. In one of his livliest intervals he whispered to Agnes—“ I wish your sisters and you to leave me alone with Mr. and Mrs. Calmsough for a little.” The young ladies immediately left the room, tremblingly apprehensive as to what the object of this mysterious consultation might be. When they had departed, the minister and his equally excellent lady drew near to their afflicted neighbour to hear what he had to say. The old man with convulsive effort to overcome his feelings, said in tones thrillingly distinct and impressive—“l am not going to ask you if you think I am dying, for I know that my life is trembling in the balance; and, at any rate, I am too old to have long to live. But —but I rejoice that a return of strength and reason have been vouchsafed to me to discharge a duty which weighs heavily on my mind. It is about Agnes that I wish to speak to you. If it is ordained that lamto be cut off at this time, and my poor girls are to be left fatherless as well as motheiless, I can only hope that he who bereaves them will be their protector, and with this hope I could leave them and not despair of their welfare. But I cannot depart in peace without relieving Agnes from an injunction I laid on her, forbidding her to connect herself with the young man, Duncanson. Oh, it was sinful and cruel. Yes, yes, I know it was. Even then I knew I was acting wrong and harshly, but my pride was touched and my heart was hardened. I did not extort any promise from her. No, for I knew I might as well kill her, so strongly were her affections set on the young man. But I condemned her to a life of sorrow, and perhaps an early grave, by leaving her only the choice of disobedience to me or falsehood to Mr. Duncanson. Which of these courses she would in the end have followed it is hard to say; but my conscience tells me I left her only to choose between equal miseries. I was indeed very cruel, for I knew the keenness of the poor girl’s feelings. God be praised I can yet repair the wrong I did her. My pride of heart, that would not let me own by error, has been broken by the view of death. I now see the obstinacy and wilfulness of my conduct in a fearful light. I see I have been tyrannical and unreasonable. It is not for life itself now that I would wish to live longer, but for the opportunity of acting differently from what I have ever done. What right had I to blight my child’s happiness to gratify my own prejudices ? Yes, my prejudices, Mr. Calmsough ; for, though I still think I was right in my opinion as to the Church, I was wrong to wish to force them on other people. I never could conceal from myself that Agnes had placed her affections well. I knew James Duncanson was a worthy lad, and only stood out against you and me because he honestly held different opinions, I confess to my shame, that you have often told me so, while I turned a deaf ear to your words. I hope it is not too late for me now to repent of the treatment I gave him. What right had I to let difference of opinion make me his enemy ? Oh, no right, no right—neither right nor reason. It is my wish now—my strongest wish—to leave Agnes to follow her own inclination in regard to him. I could not command my feelings to say all this to her, but bring her in now if you please and help me to unburden my heart to her.’
The old man was melted in tears before he had concluded, and neither of his auditors could refrain from betraying their feelings in a similar manner. They both expressed to him the warmest satisfaction, at the relenting turn his mind had taken, and the worthy matron left the room and shortly afterwards returned with Miss Montgomery. The meeting of the father and daughter was indescribably affecting. Agnes had learnt from Mrs. Calmsough the purpose for which she had been called, but she waited with dutiful reverence to hear the welcome words from her parent’s own lips. ‘ Aggy,’ said Mr. Montgomery, in a voice quivering with emotion, * I have been a stern father to you.’
I OH no, father, she replied, but could say no more, for her voice was choked in sobs.
1 Yes, Aggy. I have been very stern and unreasonable, and perhaps—perhaps this may be the only opportunity I may ever have of acting otherwise. While I have strength left, I desire to do what little I can to make you happy/ . ‘ But you are better, father j oh, are you not better?’ ‘Better than I was, Aggy—but weak,
weak, and tottering to the brink of the grave. Perhaps I may be spared a little. God only knows, and His will be done. I desire not to live for myself, for the world has no pleasure for me now ; but for the sake of your sister and you —poor friendless creatures —I would fain hope I may yet be spared a little while. But if it is not so ordered —if—if—if I must leave you, let not the bondage of my harsh commands continue to mar your happiness. I was wrong to forbid your correspondence with the young man, Mr. Duncanson. If the attachment between you still continues, I approve of it. Yes, Aggy, I now approve of it, and wish you to forget that I ever said a word against him. I believe—l well know—he is worthy of you, and you of him Now —now I feel relief. A burden is removed from my mind; and you, my poor girl, whether I must leave you now or not, will no longer have your life made bitter by my severity.’ Agnes could make no reply. Her feelings were too intense for expression, but in a paroxysm of passionate gratitude and affection, she threw her arms about her parent’s neck, and bathed his brow with tears.
CHAPTER XXXVII. A Daniel come to judgment! yes, a Daniel. Shakesi'Karf..
The excitement on Church matters, which prevailed throughout all Scotland immediately before the Disruption, reached Auchterbardie as well as other places, and stirred up anew the volatile elements of Bacon’s mind. His ambition to do something great suddenly revived; and he abruptly intimated to his confidential friend, the factor, that he was going off next day to put the Church of Scotland on a proper footting.
•' Odd, have ye aye that flee in your lug yet ? ’ said Factor Afleck, and added —“ It’s my opinion, Mr. Bacon, there’s mair need for you to byde at hame and get a’ your ain affairs putten right. Ye ken there’s plenty o’ the raveled hasp M‘Corkle left to redd yet; and, fegs, I think it wad be mair baith to your credit and your profit to do that than to put your finger in sic a craw’s nest as the quarrels o’ the Kirk. I thought ye had gotten eneuch o’ that afore.’
‘ You speak in ignorance, Mr. Afleck. You have no conception of the importance of my mission. I was, no doubt, shamefully treated when I formerly tried to let the country have the benefit of my cogitations on matters of state policy; but I feel it my duty, now that a crisis has arrived, to waive all personal considerations and step forth as a deliverer.’
‘ Aweel, aweel, then, a wilfu’ man may ha’e his way, as the saying is. But if ye leave your ain affairs at the braidside, to meddle wi’ things ye’re likely to get nae thanks for, ye needna be the least surprised if I play M'Corkle wi’ you when your back’s turned.’ 1 1 intend you to go with me, Mr. Afleck. I may require your services in more ways than one.’ ‘ Ou, that’s a different story. I’ll say naething against the journey noo, for some gude may come oot o’t after a’.’ ‘ Well, you and Neddie must get all the portable articles we shall require to take with us packed and ready, that we may leave this at an early hour tomorrow morning; for it is of the last importance that I should be in Edinburgh before the Assembly opens.’ ‘ Div ye mean us to tak’ the pats and pans, and tangs, pokers, fireshools, and knives and forks, and spunes ; as weel as a’ the auld claes and hats, and boots and shoon we brought wi’ us when we cam frae Embro ?’
“ Yes, everything the whole of them. There is no use in having such articles unless we use them. You know it is always my principle to make myself comfortable wherever I go ; and there is no comfort without means and appliances.’ ‘ I don’t know what ye ca’ comfort, Mr. Bacon ; but I’m shure it’s but sma pleasure ye can ha’e to mak’ up for the trouble o’ flittin’ a cart load o’ roosty, dunckled clamjaphrey every time ye muve betwixt this and Embro. But it doesna signify ; if ye’re pleased, /eeedna care.’
( To be con tinned—coin men ced on July 26.)
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