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CHAPTER XXXVII — continued. Robin soon obtained the desired list, and hurried off in search of his friend Ringan Stimperton, who, he felt certain, would be in Edinburgh at a period so critical to the Church. He found him without much difficulty, and after learning from him what had happened to old Mr. Montgomery, in explanation of Mr. Duncanson’s seclusion, Robin communicated to Stiffriggs the occasion of his own visit to the city. He spoke of the new crotchet which had entered Mr. Bacon’s mind as a serious misfortune, and implored his friend’s aid to cure it.

‘ What can I or ony man do,’ said Stiffriggs, laughing heartily, ‘ to drive sic a. droll bee oot o’ the fule’s bannet ? ’

‘ Pegs, its a bee,’ replied Robin, ‘ that’ll soon flee aff itsel’, that’s a shure case : for his meetin’ the morn can only end in makin’ lauchin’-stocks o him and a’ that may come till’t. Gude will it be for himsel’ if it happen to affront him sair eneuch to keep him frae tryin’ ony sic capers for the time to come. But this depends something on you, Mr. Stimperton.’ ‘On me! Hoo is it possible it can depend on me ? ’ ‘ Because withoot some help frae you I canna get enow o’ names to mak’ a richt stramash o’ the meetin’ the morn. Here’s a list I hae gotten frae James Duncanson’s friend, Mr. Aspen, but they’re owre few to please the Laird; forbye I jalouse they’re a’ o’ ae hen’s dab, and may either no come ava or ’gree owre weel, and mak' the Laird dafter than he is already. But ye ken sae mony o’ the minister tribe, that ye can easily name plenty to mak’ a meeting, and a meeting queer eneuch to affront even Mr. Bacon.”

‘ Let me see your list, then,’ said Stiffriggs; and when he had examined the names, exclaimed laughingly— ‘ Do ye ken what ye ha’e here, lad ? Its the muster roll o’ the forty thieves.’ ‘ Aweel, a weel,’replied Robin, ‘thiefs or no thiefs, just gie us anither batch o’ as mony. But ye’re a droll set o’ Kirk folk. When ye differ ye gi’e ane anither names I wadna fyle my tongue wi’.’

Stiffriggs, regardless of this taunt, proceeded to extend the list by adding the names of some of the most thoroughgoing members of the Established Assembly. Among others of the same stamp, he included Dr. Snapperdudgeon, for the purpose of making part of the joke break on Robin’s head as a reward for his anxiety that it should tell effectively on Mr. Bacon. Robin made no scrutiny of the names, but after being satisfied that he had plenty of them, he folded up the paper and departed, strongly urging Stiffriggs to visit Mr. Bacon the following day in time to be “in at the death.” On his return to Crescent, he found the great man and Neddie labouring hard at the press, and smeared with printing ink as black as negroes. The card, of which they had now thrown off a good many copies, ran as follows ; “ Edinburgh, ißlh May, 1843.

“ Rev. Sir,: —You are respectfully invited to attend a private meeting of the friends of the Church of Scotland in my house, (No. 10, Crescent), to-morrow, at one o’clock, p.m., to hold a confidential consultation on the present alarming crisis of her affairs. ‘ I am, Rev. Sir, ‘ Most respectfully, ‘ Yours, * H. W. Bacon, Esq. of Auchterbardie.’

This was printed in pretty legible characters, but in a style peculiar to everything of Mr. Bacon’s workmanship. No printer of taste would estimate such a specimen of the typographic art as a curiosity inferior to the first page set up by Guttenburg or Caxton. Mr, Bacon himself was highly pleased with his performance, and as good as his word in working till he had the whole of the cards addressed and despatched. When he did tumble into bed, it was not to sleep, but to ponder on the great figure he was to cut next day among the perplexed and disheartened clergy of a ruined Church. As the morning advanced, he reflected with complacency how his circulars would be flying through the city in every letter-carrier’s hand—what surprise and hope they would be awakening in the mind of many a desponding Churchman—and how much speculation they would be occasioning as to his views and power of carrying them into effect. He was in a high flow of spirits and incapable of sitting on one seat, or doing any one thing, for five minutes at once.

‘ Mr. Afleck/ said he to his trusty factor, * can you guess what is the state of my feelings ?’ ‘ Me! no, unless it be that ye’re maybe a wee licht in the head, like a man that’s gotten a dram on an empty stomach; or a kittling after a strae; or a cow newly let oot to grass being a winter in the byre.’ * You have no conception of my state of mind. I feel like Nelson on the morning of Trafalgar, or Napoleon seethe sun of Austerliz arise.’

‘ Fegs ! ye ha’e the better baith o’ Neilston and Buonapartie then, for ye're no rinning the same risk o’ getting a swurd in kyte [stomach] or a ball through yer harragles’ [brains].

1 You neither understand my feelings nor my responsibilities. But it’s little wonder, for my position is perhaps the most extraordinary that ever any man occupied. Strange ! that I, a layman, in a private station too, should be the only individual capable of adjusting the ecclesiastical affairs of a nation !’

‘ I just wish ye had them sortit then, and were back at Auchterbardie to see what can be dune to get the road up to your hoose made passable for man or beast—no to speak o’ wheel carriages —and to gar corn grow on many a swampy spot whare ye ne’er ha’e oucht but a crap o’ rashes.’

In such discourse did master and man pass the time till the hour, big with Mr. Bacon’s fame, if not with the fate of the Church of Scotland, had arrived. The meeting was to be held in his library,, and he thought it most dignified now to shut himself up in another room, and there await the full assembling of the company he had convened. A long half hour passed, and not a mortal appeared. Mr. Bacon was in an agony of anxiety, and frequently popped his

head out at the door to inquire of Robin and Neddie, who were both on the watch, if they were sure the clock was correctly set, and if nobody was seen approaching. At length one came, and then another—only two out of about a hundred who had been invited ! Only two, and these were—the Rev. Mr. Aspen, and the Rev. Dr. Snapperdudgeon! Mr. Aspen came on the strength of Robin’s verbal invitation, and in the hope of profiting by Mr. Bacon’s patronage. All who had received the printed circulars thought the affair was a hoax, and none of them gave themselves any concern on the subject, except Dr. Snapperdudgeon, who conceived himself insulted, and came in a towering passion to discover the hoaxers. On seeing his old enemy, Robin Afleck, when he entered, the Doctor at once concluded that he was the author of this new indignity. His rage then became ungovernable, and Robin’s consternation was as great. Robin would fain have fled, but the Doctor was close on him, and had his cane (a massive blackthorn stick) raised over his head before he was aware. His escape was cut off on the other side by Mr. Aspen, who, on finding how matters stood, turned round on the poor factor with almost equal ferocity. ( To be continued—commenced on July 26.)

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Bibliographic details

THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 180, 30 October 1880

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 180, 30 October 1880

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