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CHAPTER XXXVII — continued. Mr. Bacon reached Edinburgh only a few hours after the seceders from the General Assembly’ had marched to Tanfield. When he found he was too late “to prevent the Disruption,” his mortification was extreme. It was long ere he found words to express his disappointment. He paced restlessly through his dust-covered, desolate rooms, often sighing and standing still to ponder on the opportunity he had missed of making his name immortal. At length the words came, and there flowed such a torrent of lamentation from his lips as might have deplored the ruin of Carthage or the burning of Moscow. ‘ I have been a day too late—just a day too late ; but that day is irredeemable. Had I been here yesterday this fatal rupture could hot have happened. No ! I would have seen the hot-heads of both sides, and acted as umpire between them ; I would have taken the whole business of reconciling them into my own hands, and made up all their differences, and secured the country against a flood of innovation and anarchy that cannot now be prevented.’ ‘ Fegs, sir,’ replied Robin A fleck, to whom this Jeremiad was addressed, ‘I think it wad be wyser-like if ye wad try to keep the rain frae coming through your gavle. The house has gaun to wrack for want o’ pottying and plaistering. And -what for need ye fash yoursel’ aboot the Kirk ? Odd, I’m shure it was nae pet o’yours when it was hale and soun’. Mony an ill name it got frae you; and it’s droll that ye vex yoursel’ noo to see the aul flail fleet in twa and fit for neither ae thing nor anither,’

‘ There again, now, Mr. Afleck, you speak without knowledge. I condemned the Church of Scotland for its democratic Presbyterian constitution ; but I did not wish to see it destroyed or split up into fragments. No; my object was to transform it into a splendid Episcopal Church, with all ranks and degrees among its clergy, from the curate to the archbishop. And I could have done it had I just been in time to divulge my scheme before this unlucky rupture happened.’ ‘ Fegs. sir, I jalouse it wadna ha’e signified” the difference between four pence and a groat whether ye proposed that plan o’ yours sune or syne, for the Kirk o’ Scotland never was a horn that could be crookit into any shape but its ain.’

‘ Nonsense, nonsense ! Mr. Afleck. All Churches are essentially the same, and may be twisted into any shape according to circumstances ; but, when they break in pieces, it is then they become unmanageable. Every separate sect and division takes a form of its own, that only the devil himself can deal with. They become turbulent, contentious, and wholly ungovernable. What a noble opportunity I have missed, of preventing this calamity to Scotland.’

£ lf ye think it worth while, ye may maybe get them to gree yet. Fegs ! if you can show them ony profit it’ll be to themsel’s, there’s nae fear but they’ll find some way o’ southerin’ up their differences.’

1 A good idea; upon my word a good idea ! The glory of carrying my project into effect, after what has happened to-day, will be doubly great if I succeed. At all events it is worth trying. Let me see, let me see—how should I proceed ? ’ Here Mr. Bacon paused for a while to meditate, and then exclaimed in a transport of delight— ‘ I have it, Mr. Afleck, I have it 1 I shall convene all the moderate, reasonable men among the clergy —as many of them, at least, as I can get a list of—to meet here to-morrow, and consult on the best means of undoing the mischief that has been done, and placing the Church once more in a position in which my grand scheme may be practicable. The moderate men will influence the rest, and in this way unite the whole body again as firmly as ever.’ “ But hoo will ye manage to gather them thegilher? Suppose there be a dizen or twa o’ saft kind o’ easy-osey men that could straik the rest by the hair and get them to ’gree again, hoo are ye fit to gather them ? Have ye thocht of that, Mr. Bacon ? l Oh yes, I see my way perfectly. You must go immediately into the town and find out Mr. Duncanson, or anybody else likely to know who are the waverers on both sides—the memof Assembly who are sorry for the rupture that has taken place, and not very decided how to act. Bring me a list of the whole of them, and by the time you return I will have cards ready to be addressed to them all, and though I should sit up the whole night, I’ll have the cards posted in good time to be delivered early to-morrow morning. The hour of meeting shall be one o’clock afternoon, so they may all be here who choose to come. I think, Mr. Afleck, you will admit I have laid my plan pretty well’ • ‘ Ou, no amiss, no amiss ava; but hoo ye’re able to write a score or twa o’ cairds between this and the morn’s morning, is mair than I can see for the life o’ me. Od !it takes me the feck o’ a day, whiles, to write ae letter; and its the sairest wark I set me face till.’

‘Pooh, pooh ! I don’t intend to write the cards at all, man. I’ll print them with my little hand-press in the draw-ing-room. I can set up the types myself in half-an-hour, and with the help of Neddie, I shall have at least a hundred thrown off before ten o’clock. So you had better set off at once without loss of time and get me the list of names; and I’ll manage all the rest easily/ Robin did not wait for further orders, but set out on his mission at once, resolving, however, to make more of it than he was authorised. He went straight to Mr. Duncanson’s lodgings, but, on account of the circumstances detailed in last chapter, did not find him. The residence of the Rev. Mr. Aspen {vide the experimental dinner) was not far distant, and thither Robin next bent his way, for he had seen and heard enough of the reverend gentleman, to know that he was one of the waverers. Mr. and Mrs. Aspen were both at home, and the factor of Auchterbardie soon - stated his errand. The minister looked surprised when he

heard it, and began to catechise Robin rather tartly. ‘ You say you are now factor to this Mr. Bacon of Auchterbardie?’ ‘ Yes, to be shure I am.’

_ ‘ Is he the same gentleman that your friend, Mr. Duncanson, was a while ago employed by?’ ‘ Jis the vera man.’ ‘ He was considered a little crazy — wrong in the head—wasn’t he ?’

‘ Folk may consider him what they like ; but I can tell you, sir, he has a hantle mair sense than mony a ane that has mair need o’t.’

‘ What do you mean by that remark, Mr. Afleck?’

‘ Ou, I just mean that Mr. Bacon could afford to be clean daft better than the maist o’ folk can afford to want a penny o’ the shillin’.’

‘ Is he so rich ?’ ‘ Rich ! ay, he’s as rich as a cheese owre fat to baud theg’ther.’ ‘ And what, pray, has he to do with the Church of Scotland?’

‘ Ou, he has the pawtronage o’ his ain parish. That’s a’ I ken he has to do wi’t. But he gars himsel’ believe that he could save the Kirk yet frae couping the crans, if he just had an hour’s crack wi’ some o’ the reasonable’ decent men in’t like yoursel’. ‘ I suspect that is one of his visionary notions; but as it seems he is a gentleman of considerable influence, I don't see harm of complying with his request. He proposes to hold a private meeting in his own house to-morrow, at one o’clock, you say ?’ ‘ Exackly.’ ‘ Where does he reside ? In Crescent, I think.’

‘ Ay, at No. to. Ye’ll see his name —Mr. Horrid Winking Bacon, Esq.— on the door.’

‘ Well, I shall probably attend, and hear what he has to propose.’ * Oh, Charles!’ exclaimed Mrs. Aspen, who had listened to the preceding conversation with much impatience— ‘ how can you think of anything so foolish !’ 1 Foolish ! Rachael, how do you know that Mr. scheme is foolish, till you hear what it is ?’ £ I don’t speak of Mr. Bacon’s scheme, or any other in particular ; but I must say it is foolish of you not to know your own mind yet, and to pay attention to any more schemes either good or bad. Surely you must see now that no scheming whatever can give you any choice between remaining in the Church of Scotland and going out; and it would be well for your peace and credit too if you would make up your mind to take either the one course or the other with a good grace at once.’

‘ Hush, Rachael, hush ! I know very well what I’m about, so keep your mind easy. I may improve my position, but can’t make it much worse, whatever step I may take, and I’ve submitted too long to be a cypher in the Church. By-the-by, Mr. Afleck, is the incumbent at Auchterbardie far up in years ?’ ‘ I dinna ken wha ye mean by the incumbent; but if it’s the minister ye mean, I wad say he’s no just sae far up in years as he’s doun in drink.’ ‘ Drink ! Is he a drunkard, then !’ £ Ou, he’s maybe no just what ye may ca’ sic an ill name as that, as he happens to be a minister; but he drinks like a fish, and often canna preach for the hiccup.’ £ I shall make a point of being at Mr. Bacon’s to-morrow. Is Mr. Duncanson to be there ?’

£ That’s mair than I can say, for I havena seen him yet. There’s nae doot but he’ll be bidden though, and get the chance o’ coming if he likes. But whether he come or no, I’ll warrant there ’ll be plenty there. Mr. Bacon means to send cairds o’ invitation to every man iri the minister tredd worth consulting; and if ye ken o’ ony in the business that ye could particularly recommend, I’ll be obleeged to ye for a bit list o’ their names.’

‘ Mr. Afleck, I very much disapprove of your irreverent mode of speaking. You ought to know that the ministry is not a trade but a profession.’ £ Ou, I beg your pawrdon, sir, for as shure’s ye’re leevin’, I didna ken there was ony difference.’ £ Well, well, I excuse you on the score of ignorance, and shall give you the names of a number of enlightened clergymen whom I should be glad to meet with. No doubt, we have met often enough already to little purpose, but never in circumstances so pressing; so perhaps some good may arise from another consultation, irrespective altogether of what Mr. Bacon may have to propose.’ ( To be continued—commenced on July 26.)

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 179, 29 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 179, 29 October 1880

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