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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 186, 6 November 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
the disruption A TALE OF TRYING TIMKS. CHAPTER Xl— continued. The meeting was numerously attended, and, in spite of Dr. Snapperdudgeon. was held in the churchyard! He had protested on legal grounds against that place being used for such a purpose, and tried to obtain an interdict against the meeting, but failed for want of the concurrence of Sir John Baldwin. However, what he could do, and more than he had any right to do, he did. He locked the gates of the enclosure, hoping thereby to exclude the people ; but he was disappointed. The walls were too low to present any serious obstacle ; and man, woman and child scrambled over them until the place was crowded. When the Doctor saw this, he entered himself, accompanied by his only steady auxiliary, M'Cheatrie the writer. These worthies were treated with all proper courtesy, until they began to raise some frivolous objection to the proceedings, and then they were interrupted by hisses and exclamations not of the most complimentary nature. As the business went on the storm increased ; for, in reply to a pithy and somewhat personal speech delivered by Stiffriggs, the Doctor furiously opened upon him a broadside of abuse and calumny, and tried to carry into execution his threat to involve him in suspicions in connection with the Whinnyside fire. But in this malicious attempt he signally failed. He had forgotten the relative places which his own character and that of his opponent held in public estimation. But he was painfully reminded of this when he heard the incredulous and deprecatory groans with which his insinuations were received. Still, however, he persevered, in spite of a storm of groans and hisses that would have overwhelmed a man of ordinary feeling. On he went, alike regardless of decency and probability. .In addition to all he had hinted at before, he .openly accused Stiffriggs of having interested motives for his active zeal in Church affai'-s. ‘ la fact,’ said he, ‘ the object Stiffrigs has in view is purely selfish. (Loud hisses.) A certain young gentleman —a divinity student well known in this parish—owes him money (renewed hisses), yes, I know it for a fact —a certain divinity student owes him money, and, on the pretence of zeal for Non-intrusion, he wishes to intrude this said debtor of Ids. (Hisses, groans, and cries of ‘ name him !’) James Duncanson is his name —(cries of ‘ I wish you were like him !’) —he is plotting to get up a call for him —trying to intrude James Duncanson on you as your minister, and tempts you to leave the church of your fathers, only that he may get his debt paid out of your pockets.’ This crowning calumny, which was intended as the finishing stroke to the influence of Stiffriggs, only drew down on its author more unequivocal tokens of displeasure. The exasperated people did not now confine themselves to vocal expressions of disapprobation. They shoved and jostled the obnoxious incumbent to and fro till he could not keep bis feet. He protested against This treatment, but could not make himself heard amidst the shouts of his assailants. He planted himself firmly with his back against an upright headstone, while his friend M'Cheatrie got up on a flat one to harangue the assemblage in his defence. But the lawyer bad not uttered a sentence till he was tumbled over among a luxuriant crop of nettles. The two friends then went off in company under a parting salute of groans and hisses, and showers of missiles, consisting of clods, bones, and fragments of rotten coffins. . Stiffriggs and several other speakers strongly reprobated these outrages as disgraceful to the meeting, notwithstanding the provocation it_ had received; afterwards the business was resumed and proceeded with harmoniously. It was resolved nan. con. to leave the Established section of the Church, and form a congregation in connection with the new body of the seceders who took the designation of, ‘ The Free Church of Scotland.’ It was also resolved, in consideration ofthe injurious manner in which Mr. Duncanson’s name had been mentioned, and of the esteem in which his character was held in the parish, that a deputation from the meeting should confer with him, with a view to giving hiiu a call after he should be licensed. Stiffriggs assured the meeting that there would be no use in taking such a step, for he knew that Mr. Duncanson would not accept the call, even were he ready to enter on ministerial duties. Nevertheless, the resolution was adhered to, and Stiffriggs himself named as one of the coramiUec to carry it into effect. After the fire at Whinnyside, Mr. Duncanson had been invited to lodge with his reverend friend, Mr. Calmsough, at Burncrook —and an irresistible attraction to that spot made the invitation peculiarly acceptable. It was there, in the society of the Calmsoughs and Montgomerys —two families as warmly attached, by habits and position, as any that could be found in Scotland to the old Church Establishment —that the committee of the seceding congregation found Mr. Duncanson, and made an overture to him to become their minister. The circumstances were somewhat incongruous, and would have been irreconcilable had there not been high honor, mutual esteem, and perfect frankness among the parties so strangely brought together. Stiffriggs opened the business with a respectful apology to Mr. Calmsough for coming on such an errand to the house of a minister of the Establishment, and paid him a well deseived compliment, by saying that if all the clergy of the Church had been like him there would have been no occasion for such a visit to his youthful guest. ‘Butyese’, sir,’ said he, ‘ye’re only ane amang a score, and we maun tak’ the matter in the slump, and as we find it touch ourser.s. So, instead o’ lippening to the random chance of getting a minister to our mind when the Doctor slips a fit, we have resolved to shake oursel’s oot 6’ the trammels o’ pawtronage at ance and for ever mair, by joining the. Free Kirk o’ Scotland, and getting a minister o’ our ain pick and wale.’ ‘ J -gm sorry,’ answered the venerable clergyman, ‘ that you have thought it necessary to secede from the Establishment, for, with all its faults, I still
think it one of the best institutions in the country, but since you have resolved on such a step, I admit you have done well to think of trying to secure the services of Mr. Duncanson. I differ from him on many important points, but I esteem him, nevertheless, and must say’ that, in my opinion, you could not make a better choice.’ ‘Ay’, sir,’answered Stiffriggs, ‘we’re a’ clear eneuch on that score already ; but ye see its ae thing to bring a horse to the water, and anither to gar him drink ; and if our young freend here hasna changed his mind, he’ll no be our minister whether we want him or no.’ ‘ Indeed,’ said the student modestly, I am still of the same mind, though nothing can ever efface from my memory the gratitude I feel for such a mark of esteem from my native parish. You, Mr. Stimpcrton know partly my reasons for declining the kind offer that lias been made to me ; but in case my motives should be misunderstood I may state frankly that I cannot adopt the grounds which the Free Church has taken up in separating from the Establishment.’ This declaration took most of the company by surprise, and clouded the manly countenance of Stiffriggs with a ■painful feeling. He was the first to break an interval of silence .which ensued, by saying reproachfully, ‘ Ay, ay, Jimes ; are ye for sticking by the flesh pots o’ Egypt after a’ then ?’ ‘No,’ replied the student, ‘ that is far from my intention. I renounce them unconditionally and for ever, while I renounce the bondage they imply. I differ from the Free Church seceders in this—that while they shake off State control in matters spiritual, they still maintain that they have a right to State support. They assert that the independence of the Church is consistent with her receipt of endowments from the public purse. Now in this principle I cannot acquiesce. Ils erroneousness has gradually dawned on me, until of late it lias become quite apparent; so that I can no more join the Free Church than I can remain in connection with the Establishment. Idp not presume to set up my judgement as a rule for others ; but I claim the privilege of acting on my deliberate convictions, and in this I have the Scripture warrant, “ Let every man be persuaded in his own mind.” ■ I therefore hope that my friends who adhere to the existing Establishment, and those who have only left it under protest for the sake of principles which to me seem incompatible with .the privileges of an Established Church, will give me credit for conscientiously differing alike from them both, and walking according to the light I have received.’
This explanation excited general surprise, though some of the company (Mr. Calmsough and Miss Montgomery particularly) were not unprepared for it, from the opinions they had formerly heard the student avow. All, however, were satisfied with his frankness and good faith. The cloud of suspicion immediately cleared away from the brow of Stiffriggs, but left behind an expression of perplexity to ’ which he soon gave articulate utterance., ‘ What is’t ye’re for being then, Mr. Jimes? Are ye for trying the Burgher, or the Relief, or the Independence set o’t ?’ ‘ I have not yet made up my mind on that point, and. I intend to take some time to consider before I decide.’
‘ Richt, sir! ye’re perfectly straught there. But as for us and the folk doun by, that sent us here —we’re only for swarming aff frae the auld sleep, because o’ the drones in’t like Dr. Snapperpudgeon ; but we’re nane o’ your moorland foggy bummers wi’their bykes in the grund-—we’re the real garden bees after a’, and never will we gi’e up our claim to the auld skep and the honey kainis on the free terms they were held by our forefaithers langsyne. But every ane to his mind. They’re a’ richt in the main that do what, in their conscience, they think is richt; so we needna be the less freens, the mair -we canna a’ see wi’ the same e’en.’
In this charitable spirit the interview ended to the credit of all concerned, though not with the result desired by those who sought it. ,
Here, though somewhat abruptly, must this veritable history conclude, for it has already been carried far beyond the bounds originally intended. It may, however, be proper to add a few brief notices regarding the present position of the principal characters with whom the reader has been made acquainted. As to Mr. Duncanson, he is now the respected pastor of a numerous Dissenting congregation at Auchterbardie —of what particular denomination need not be told. He is also the happy husband of Agnes Montgomery, and the very apple of her father’s eye. The heavenly temper and active virtues of his beauteous wife second well the enlightened teaching and bright example of the young minister, and prove a blessing to his flock and over all the district. Mr. Bacon and his factor only required to make one journey more to Stiffrigg Mains to become married men. The Laird’s vision of the clothes’-horse and baby clothes has been realised. He is now the father of the most wonderful child in the world. His chaotic study has been converted into a comfortable nursery, and is now more his resort than ever. He has discovered to his astonishment that the infant laird, Horace VVykin Bacon, junr., has exactly as many fingers and toes as , himself. The factor, on his last visit to Edinburgh, purchased the swing-cradle he had coveted so long, but it has proved by far too small. Mrs. Afleck demonstrated this, by soon after presenting him with twins, as he naively said, ‘without ever speering leave.’ Stiffriggs has long ago got his dwelling-house enlarged, and made Mrs. Renshaw Mrs. Stimperton ; and their neighbours alt declare that there is not a more prosperous or a happier couple between Tintock and Carsphairn, Noo she sits in his ha r like a wee tappit hen, But as yet there's nae chickens appeared at Cockpen. The End.
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 186, 6 November 1880
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