THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES.
CHAPTER XXXVIX. —continued.
Mr. Bacon pursed his brow and stroked his beard, puzzled how to act in the case, and at length replied—--4 The fact is, my friends, I have resolved. to meddle no more in Church matters. I have met with nothing but insult and black ingratitude for anything I have done already, and from henceforth for ever I shall interfere in nothing of the sort. But you may be right enough in desiring to have Mr. Duncanson for your minister. He is a very fine lad—an excellent young man 3 and if you can prevail on him to comply with your wishes, I’m sure I shall have no objections—none whatever. And if you wish me to introduce you to him, I will do so immediately, for I am just going to see him, at any rate.’ This offer was thankfully accepted, and away went Mr. Bacon with the deputation, and entirely forgot the other visitors in waiting for him. But he did not neglect to lock the door. Mr. Aspen and Mr. M‘Quirkle were thus made prisoners. They discovered this to their consternation only after they had waited for an audience till their patience was exhausted. The errand they had come on entitled them, they conceived, to very different treatment. Accident had brought them together, and congeniality of disposition had made them in a short time very intimate. On comparing notes with each other of all they had seen and heard concerning Mr. Bacon, they thought they could demonstrate to him that there was a plot hatching to inveigle him into a match beneath his rank, and to swindle him out of his property. They were delighted to find a number of circumstances which gave some color of plausibility to this suspicion, and Dr. Snapperdudgeon had prompted them well, but taken care not to come forward himself. The Rev. Mr. Aspen’s motives for thus acting the busy-body, were purely mercenary. He still hoped to gain some advantage by currying favor with the Laird of Auchterbardie. Mr. M’Quirkie was actuated partly by the same motives and partly by spite, for he entertained that feeling towards Mr. Duncanson and all his friends, and this was not the first time he had shown it.
But calumnious tale-bearing is seldom a profitable trade, and in this case it yielded nothing but mortification, Mr. Bacon picked up Neddie with his tobacco and rose water by the way, and proceeded in happy obliviousness of the two officious gentlemen he had unconsciously locked up. They knocked and rapped and roared and pulled madly at the bell wires, all to no purpose. The noise they made was only replied to by dreary echoes from the empty passages and deserted rooms, and these they ranged through again and again, in the vain hope of finding an outlet. After they had spent several hours m fretting and expressing themselves as bitterly as the color of their coats would permit, they at last came to the resolution of making known their situation to some of the passers by. For this purpose they threw up one of the front windows, and addressed a policeman who had been drawn to the spot by the noise they had previously made. He looked at them with great suspicion, and asked what they were doing there. To this they replied by explaining that they had been locked in either by accident or a trick, and would thank him to assist them to get out.
The official shook his head incredulously at the explanation, and told them that he was not fool enough to believe such a story. He added that if they spoke the truth, their best plan would be to wait patiently till those who locked them in should return and let them out. ‘ But we have been here three hours and more. already, and can’t remain longer,’ they answered both at once. ‘ Very well, gentlemen,’ said the policeman, ‘if you insist on breaking out, you must come along with me, and answer for yourselves at the office.’ It was in vain they told him their names and station in society. He gruffly replied— 4 That may be all true enough, but I know nothing about you, and must do my duty.’ Seeing him inexorable, and feeling their position becoming every minute more awkward (for by this time a crowd had began to gather), they capitulated on his own terms, only stipulating that he should walk behind them, and allow them to go by the least frequented streets. This being agreed to, they, with some assistance, made a most undignified escape by the window, and escorted by the policeman and a dozen or two of hooting boys, proceeded to the office at double quick time. Here they were strictly interrogated, and the case being thought suspicious, they w r ere only allowed to depart after giving ample security that they would appear again if called on. The curtain must now be dropped on these two worthies, for we have nothing further to say of them. They struggled hard amidst the conflicting elements of the time to obtain an advantageous position, and up to our latest glimpse of them had gained nothing but mortification and disgrace. So much for , the policy of selfishness and doubledealing. Great was Mr. Duncanson’s surprise when, he heard the. errand of the deputies from Auchterbardie. He asked them if they fully understood the controversy which had led to the Disruption, and had made up their minds, after mature deliberation, to leave the Church ?
‘ Deed, no, sir, 7 answered John Braiden for himself and others, ‘ we are but simple country folks, and canna pretend to understaund a 7 the oot and ins o’ the Kirk question, as it’s ca’d. But we see brawly the evils o’ pawtronage, and we are determined to submit til’t nae langer. The Laid here is the pawtron, and he maun just excuse us for speaking sae plain. He had nae haund in putting in Mr. Smuggerly, to be sure—it was his faither afore him that did thatbut be’t ill ta’en or weed ta’en, I maun mak’ bauld to say that we mean to pick our ain minister noo, and for a’ time coming. 7
* You may Choose whom you please, 7 said Mr. Bacon, .'for anything I care. As I told you before, I will never after this interfere in Church matters either one way or the other. No, I've got
enough of that, and only hope to live to see the day it will be regretted that my advice was not taken when it might have saved both the Church and the country from ruin. But you must remember that though you may choose a minister for yourselves, you cannot remove Mr. Smuggerly from his present position.’ ‘ That’s true, Laird, and we’re perfectly sensible o’t. He can just work awa’ the auld way—drinking a’ the drink he can get, and keeping you and the hale parish in a steer about ougmentation of slipen’ and unexhousted tiends. But for the time to come he maun preach his dry, fusionless, hechhow sermons to snivelling Davie the precentor, Tamas Rentoul the bellman, and his drunken cronies o’ the session, for there’s naebody else likely to gang near him.’
‘Then you only intend to leave the Church,’ said Mr. Duncanson, ‘ for the sake of being allowed to choose your own minister?’
‘Preceesely; we ettle at naething else.’
‘ But have you made up your mind to join those who have just seceded on other grounds besides that of patronage, and formed what is called the Free Church of Scotland ?’
‘No just exackly. The lack is we havena thoucht muckle on the matter, and dinna weel understaund what the Free Kirk is, or what it’s to be. But if ye think it’s a right, ye may be sure we’ll mak’ nae objection, for ye should ken far better about sic matters than the likes o’ us.’
‘I cannot,’ replied the student, ‘approve of this mode of proceeding. You ought to consider fully what you are about before you fix on any individual as your minister. If you only make a choice on personal grounds, you may be led into a very improper connection. For anything you can know of me, I may hold heretical doctrines, and, instead of a messenger of truth, might prove an apostle of error among you.’ ‘ We’ll risk you, sir,’ answered John Braiden. ‘ Just say ye’re willing to be our minister, and we’ll tak’ our chance o’ your doctrines. If ye aye preach the'way ye did to the bairns in the Sabbath night school at Auchterbardie, there’s nae fear 0’ your doctrine. And trowth, sir, our wife and the rest 0’ the women have settled a’ the business already, and we only need your ain consent to say the bargain’s made.’ ‘I am much gratified,’ answered Mr. Duncanson with unaffected feeling, ‘ to find that I have gained the good opinion of so many worthy people, but it would be quite premature of me to enter at present into the engagement you propose. You are aware that I have - not quite completed my studies yet, and perhaps I may not, after all, obtain a license.’
‘ Oh the fient a fear 0’ your leeshence, sir. We’ll tak’ our chance o’ that, and be glad to wait on ye if ye’ll just say we may coont on ye when ye’re ready. And trowth, Mr. Duncanson, ye may be sure we’ll do our best to make the place mair like the Fatholm than the Baregang to you 3 so keep your mind easy on that score.’ ‘ Hooly, freends, hooly!’ said Stiffriggs, who was present, and had heard all that passed with a strange mixture of satisfaction and uneasiness. ‘ Hooly, freends, hooly ? Ye mauna rin awa wi’ the harrows that way. By the time that Mr. James here is ready for a kirk, he may have some ither offer that’ll answer him better. I have mair than half a guess that I’ll get the feck o’ my neighbors to join me in gieing him a call to his ain native parish.’ Here the student modestly interposed between the disputants and said—- ‘ There need not be another word said at present on the subject. But if this will satisfy the good people of Auchterbardie, I am ■willing to pledge my word that when I am licensed—if they still wish to have me as their minister, and find they can agree with me in all matters of importance—l will take their offer in preference to any other. And I say so with the fullest sense of the kindness and partiality of you, Mr. Slimperton, and my other friends at home 3 but I feel bound to give my services, such as they may be, to those Who have first applied for them. Besides, I think I could exert myself with inore effect among strangers than among old neighbors, and familiar acquaintances.’ This avowal was received with great satisfaction by John Braiden and his friends, who departed highly pleased and expressing in warm terms their contentment. Stiffriggs, however, seemed surprised and not a little disappointed at the decesion of his young friend. After a little reflection, however, he admiited its propriety, and resumed his good humour. By this time Mr. Bacon was impatient to take the road, and all the rest were ready. Into an open carriage, on the box of which Neddie was hoisted beside the driver, went Mrs. Renshaw and Stiffriggs along with the Laird. Mr. Calmsough also took his place in it, in order to make room for Mr. Duncanson in another —a six seated coach, also open —in which were Mrs. Calrasough and Mr. Montgomery and his daughter. Away they drove, as merrily as a marriage party, with a sky over them of unclouded blue, and protected from the flaming sunshine by a bright canopy of parasols.
(To he continued—commenced on July 26.)
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