THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
THE DISRUPTION A TALE OF TRYING TIMES. CHAPTER XVIII. — Continued. 1 I'll gaur ye baith repent,’ said the ‘ Scooneral Customer,’ ‘ if ye daur to even ought like. dishonesty to me. Though M‘Cheatrie be my name, and I’m no ashamed o’t, I wad ten times rather cheat mysel’ than ony ither body. If ye dinna want cash for the bill, ye ha’e nae mair ado than say No, and see what ye’ll mak’ o’t itherwise. I’ll no bode siller on onybody, far less siller that’s no my ain.’ * Ploo muckle then does five per cent, come to?’ asked Mrs. Renshaw, in a tone indicating her desire to have the money. ‘lt’s five and a half, I said,’ replied Mr. M‘Clieatrie, adding —‘ Let me see ; the bill has a hunder and eighty-three days,to rin, and the three days o’grace; that’s a hunder and eighty-six days. A hunder and eighty-six at five and a half on twenty-two pound ten, is just 12s. fid. to, a fraction. I’m shure that’s no a deadly sum ; but then I maun ha’e one per cent, for commission, and that makes 4s. fid. main’
‘ Commission ! What’s the commission for ?’
‘ It’s for my trouble in the transaction; and I think Til no be overpaid when a’s dune. Twelve and six and four and six, that’s seventeen, and four shillings for the twa half mutchkins o’ brandy, makes the guinea neat.’ ‘ The brandy ! did ever ony mortal hear the like o’ that,’ said Stiffriggs. ‘ I thocht ye were treatin’ Mrs. Renshaw and me to the dram.’
‘ Na faitha ! I ken my trade better than stand treatin’ that way. When ye come to pay me siller, I’ll treat ye decently; but when ye come to seek it, ye maun treat me, or there’ll be nae treatin’ gaun.’ - ‘ Come, then, shell oot and let us ken the warst o’t, Hoo vnuckle do you say Mrs. Renshaw has to get ?’ said Stiffriggs. ‘ One pound one from twenty-two pound ten leaves twenty-one pound nine. That’s the exact sum ; but let me see if I have it; a’ here.’ Slowly,
and with evident reluctance, did Mr. M'Cheatrie table all the money but the odd shillings. ‘ There,’ said he, ‘ there’s the twentyone pound in gude bank notes. Ihe nine shillings may just stand owre till ye ha’e enither account against me.’ ‘Na, na, there’s nae use in that,’ replied Mrs. Renshaw, ‘ for I dinna think there’ll be ony mair dealings betwixt tis. I dinna understand your way o’ doing business, and I find it’ll no fit me, so you had better just gi’e me the nine shillings, and let us be clear for ance and for aye.’ ‘ As for the nine shillings it’s-neither here nor there, though I’ll no be in a hurry paying it, for I’ve paid you lucky weel already. You’ve gotten a pound mair than I intended ; the even twenty would ha’e been just eneuch ; but maybe we may no be dune wi’ ane anither sae soon as ye think after a’, for if I should happen to fail before the bill be run —no to say there’s ony chance o’ that in the meantime —but if I should happen to need to stop ony time within six months o’ this—mind ye the bill will come back on you for payment, for vour name’s on’t as weel as mine ’
‘ Me pay the bill ? what wad I hae for mv meal and cheese ?’
‘ Ay, ye may speer that, but it’ll be o’ nae use grumbling aboot it if sic a misfortune should happen. Ye see you’re no sae clear o’ me as ye thocht, but if you want to make yoursel’ perfectly safe, ye may manage’! by takin’ the richt way.’ * Ay, what’s that ?’ ‘Ou, just get somebody beyond a’ doot to guarantee the bill. If would cost something, to be sure, but it would be weel worth a trifle to make yoursel’ safe. I ken a man that wad do’t as reasonable as ony body in the bill trade, and I will speak to him if you like.’
‘ Na, na ; gae awa’ wi’ your joukery paukery. I’ve just gotten plenty o’t, and I’ll tak’ my chance o’ the bill; and summon you for the balance o’ nine shillings, if ye dinna pay’t immediately.’ ‘You may just do that, then, and see what ye’il make o’t. So gude day to you, mistress. If ye dinna hear frae me again, ye have a chance to hear frae my brother aboot that servant lad o’ yours, Robin Afleck.’ ‘ Robin Afleck is no’ in my service.’ ‘ It’s no sae vera lang since he was then, and ye’ll maybe find ye’re answerable for him yet.’
Stiffriggs did not interpose.a word in this closing colloquy; but on departing with Mrs. Renshaw, he gave the victualler a look expressive of a wish to have an opportunity of dealing with him after another fashion. When they were on their way from M'Cheatre’s shop to the bank to lodge the sum already spoken of, the lady renewed her lamentations over her unprotected condition as ‘ a lone woman,’ without ‘ a man body’ to look after her, and dwelt pathetically on the imposition she had just experienced as a case in point. Stiffriggs, however, could not, or would not, draw the inference she intended. He merely said— ‘ Ye havena been muckle the better o’ having a man body along wi’ you on this errand, then, ye see, for I’m as ill up to the tricks o’ scooonerals like M'Cheatrie as ye are yoursel’, and maybe a hande waur.’
CHAPTER XIX. Again on the moss-cushioned*cliffs let me rest. To muse on the grandeur of mountain and glen. For sweet are thy solitudes to the lone breast,
That rather would commune with nature than men John Imjlah.
While Mr. Bacon was holding the mock drawing-room already described, and Mrs. Renshaw and Ringan Stimperton were squeezing themselves with difficulty through the crowded streets between Mr. M'Cheatrie’s shop and the British Linen Company’s Office in St. Andrew’s Square, James Duncanson, without any definite purpose, took a solitary walk into the fields. The city was swarming with a gaily-dressed and joyous multitude, all in eager, expectation of the Queen’s arrival. Business was almost suspended ; for everbody was, for the time, too intent on sightseeing to attend to anything else. Doubtless there would be, among the many thousands who crowded Prince’s street and all the thoroughfares leading to Leith and Granton, and clustered on every eminence that commanded a seaward view, many an anxious mind and aching heart. But no unhappiness appeared. At that very time misery and destitution were rife in the land, and even in Edinburgh there was an unusual amount of physical wretchedness. There were hundreds of families destitute of the common necessaries of life ; hundreds of human habitations, in which there was neither food nor fuel, and many a wan-worn creature, young and old, crouched amid rags and filth in dark, confined, pestilential dens in almost every street and close of the old royalty, and also in many an odd corner amidst the splendours of the New Town. But all this, was unseen and unthought of. It almost seemed as if the Scottish public had been determined to practice a fraud on her Majesty, and make her believe ‘ the thing that was not.’ Society was on parade, and not only took care to have itself pipe-clayed and polished to the highest pitch, but to have all its squalor disguised or kept out of sight. It might well have puzzled' the ■ royal pair to see any difference between their own condition and that of the countless, couples of well-dressed people who were assembled to welcome them to Scotland, except in the advantage which the lieges had over them in being free from the burden of State formalities. For they all seemed to be possessed of the comforts and even the luxuries of life, and to have no other earthly employment but to enjoy themselves. . .
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