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THE CHIMNEY CORNER.

the disruption A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XXXVlX.— continued. Mr. Bacon was in full feather, and not a little proud of his appearance. Indeed, so much was he improved that Neddie often turned round to look at him, as if to make sure of his identity. His nether-man was clothed in bright nankeens, newly off the needle ; his hat—too small for him by far—was perched on the very crown of his head, and considerably to one side; green spectacles were discarded and instead of them he used a pair of silvermounted old round goggles; and he carried with him as a present to “ Saft Shusie ” a massy copper ring set round with bits of crimson glass. This, however, was as good a love token as if it had been of gold and rubies, for he had paid almost the price of gold and rubies for it, and thought he had got a bargain. His mind was in a happy frame, and his enjoyment would have been supreme had not all the wasps which happened to buzz about the carriage (and they were not few) made a point of settling on his nose. Mrs. Renshaw was amused by this circumstance, and delighted to believe that all the butterflies found their way to her. She called the attention of Stiffriggs to the fact, hoping perhaps that it would extract from him a compliment to herself, but she was disappointed. He only answered, ‘ I never kent yellow butterflies so fond o’ ocht. as cabbage stocks.’

On arriving at Mr. Stimperton’s farm, great was the surprise of all the party to see the style in which preparations had been made for them. The message which Factor Afleck had brought to Jean Brown from her mistress was that she should go to Stiffrigg Mains as soon as she had some necessary household duties performed, and assist Miss Stimperton to prepare for the reception of Mr. Bacon and the other friends who might be expected with her brother. Jean was also directed to take along with her from Whinnyside any articles, such as plate, china, or crystal, which might be required at Stiffrigg Mains to make a display on the occasion ; and this discretionary power lost nothing in being communicated through such a messenger as Robin. The consequence was that nearly all Mrs. Renshaw’s precious movables were carried to the scene of action and turned to excellent account. Miss Stimperton and her female domestics, with the aid of Jean Brown’s natural taste and cleverness, had made the most admirable arrangements which circumstances would permit, and all preparations for a rustic feast were, complete when the party arrived. The spence or parlour was the best apartment in the house, but it was too confined and too dark to be a pleasant summer banquet-room. The table was, therefore spread in the % inclosure behind, which included the bleaching green, garden, and orchard, all surrounded by a tall, thick hedge, in which sweet-brier and honey-suckle were largely mixed with the protecting thorn.The apple and pear trees were numerous, and being in full blossom ' made the whole scene gay, and loaded the air with rich perfume. Under their shade the rustic feast was set forth. It consisted of curds and cream, and every other delicacy of dairy produce, besides hot pancakes, honey, and a due complement of viands more stimulating and substantial, and was succeeded shortly after by tea, when Mrs. Renshaw’s china came into requisition.

; But *' Saft Shusie ’ herself was more attractive than the delightful repast she had provided, Mr. Bacon, at any rate, thought so, and he was not alone in admiring her appearence. In fact, she had never before looked so charming; and even when contrasted with the surpassing loveliness of Miss Montgomery and the bright vivacity of Jean Brown, her comeliness was undeniable. Mr. ifeacon was in raptures, and felt his Lairdship and the copper ring to boot (precious as he thought it) all little enough for such a beauty. Mrs. Renshaw herself admitted that Shusie was ‘ a braw lass,’ and that Miss Montgomery and Jean Brown looked not amiss, but added that, to her taste, not one of them was sonsy enough. As she said this to Ringham, to remind him of somebody who had not the same fault, she plucked from him a bunch of bachelor’s buttons which he had stuck in his waistcoat breast, playfully asking him if he was not ashamed td wear such a flower, and replacing it with a sprig of the forget-me-not. The hilarity of the little party was kept up with unabated spirit till after the repast was over, and old Mr. Montgomery, feeling himself fatigued, began to speak of going home. Just as the Burnbrook people were about to take leave, an accident occurred which hastened their departure rather awkwardly. Mr Bacon after having exhausted all his fine speeches to Miss Sirnperton, was admiring her at a distance, and in a fit of absence sat down on a hive of bees. Scarcely had he taken his seat, when

Out the angry legion sallied

This broke up, the company Immediately. Mr. and Mrs. Calmsough an d the Montgomerys went off without an y ceremonious, delay, and Mr. Duncanson desired to have the privilege of escorting them, and was not refused. Meantime, Mr. Bacon was surrounded by a cloud of winged enemies, and ran like a man distracted from one corner of the garden to another, in the vain attempt to escape from their assaults. Stiffriggs, Mrs. Renshaw, and Jean Brown were all so convulsed with laughter at his droll mishap that they could render him no assistance. But Miss Stimperton took, the seriously, and heightened the absurdity, of the scene by following her admirer, with pitying looks and outstretched; hands, to the no small danger of incurring a share of his punishment. Robin Afleck, although himself unseen, was an enjoying witness of this farce and all that went before. He had stationed himself on the top of a high and steep wooded bank, which overhung and sheltered the garden and farm steading of Stiffrigg Mains, and from which a distant view of Mrs, Renshaw’s house could be obtained, for the two farms were not far apart. His purpose was to gratify himself by watching, with a lover’s eyes, the light step

and graceful movements of his ’(can, as she tripped to and fro through the festive scene, serving all, and observed by none but him; and also to keep a strict look-out towards VVhinnyside, which, for the time, was left only in charge of the juvenile servants. Here he lay upon the grass, hidden by a leafy ’screen, and saw with delight all that passed in the garden beneath. He was laughing with uncontrolled glee at the hunt after Mr. Bacon by the bees, when he happened to turn his eyes towards Whinnyside, and, to his horror, saw a dense cloud of smoke, mixed with flame arising from the house. A suspicion of its origin flashed across his mind in a moment. He involuntarily exclaimed' :‘ ; that villain Rumplebane !’ and shouted ‘fire ! fire ! fire !’• with all his might. But his friends below were too distant or too much engrossed with Mb Bacon and the bees to notice his voice. Without taking time to sound any further alarm or to descend the bank on the Stiffriggs’ side, he darted off by the nearest way to the scene of danger. Mother Meredith immediately afterwards apprised Stiffriggs and his guests of the disaster. She rushed into the garden at a pace much quicker than was usual with her, and abruptly addressing Mrs. Renshaw in the midst of her. merriment,.she said sarcastically- ‘ Ay, rant awa’ laugh awa’ and see Loo mony sticks o’ your hoose will be standing when ye’re dune.’ ‘ What div ye mean, auld wife ?’_ said the mistress of Whinnyside, with a severe look and not in the mildest tone. ‘ I mean,’ replied the aged vagrant, ‘ to do you a good turn —no’ for your ain sake, for ye’ve aye been harsh and close-handed to me and the like o’ me —but . for the sake o’ the kincl young man your nevoye. I warn ye, then, that ye’re owre lang here, for yer hoose is.on fire.’ , ; : •‘ My hoose on fire ! O Ringari Ringan !’ exclaimed Mrs. Renshaw in a dreadful panic, * what shall I do, what shall I do ?’ * Come awa’ wi’ me as fast as your feet can carry you,’ was the only answer she received. A general cry, of ‘ Fire at Whinnyside ’ burst from eVery mouth, and, ere another moment, nobody remained at Stiffrigg Mains to prevent a similar calamity from happening there. [To be continued — commenced,on "July 56.)

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THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 184, 4 November 1880

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