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he waved his stumps, with a theatrical air, "The cry is, still they come."
Mark was decidedly in one of his most joyous humours, the boys were in their element, as cook had provided a most plentiful and appetizing tea and supper, and Flora was probably the only one who felt any fear or uneasiness; as it was, she flitted in and out of the rooms, looking very nervous and troubled, and she said, more than once, to Mark, "Oh, what would papa and mamma say?"
Meanwhile, as the evening wore on, the guests became more bouyant and excited, and as they wished to dance off the effects of a very hearty tea, and prepare for a fresh relay of good things at supper, the services of the old piper were called into requisition. The apartment chosen for the dance was the front drawing-room, from which the furniture had been partially removed, and the rest stowed away in nooks and corners. All the chairs in the house were called into requisition, and were ranged round the room. The piper was elevated on to the drawing-room table, where he gravely watched the dancers beneath, as he droned away with his pipes. The folding-doors leading into the back drawing-room were placed wide open, and as the different reels terminated, those who had taken part in them passed into the inner room, to refresh themselves with a little whiskey, either diluted or undiluted, according to taste. The keg which Mrs. Thorold had observed in the hall had been broached, and pretty nearly exhausted, and as its supply diminished, so did the spirits of the guests rise.
The dancers grew wild and excited, and the different motions used during the progress of the reel became more impassioned. As the men snapped their fingers, the sound was like the cracks of so many rifle shots; they waved their arms aloft, as though they were performing incantations, and their yells, as they figured about, before and around their partners, were almost demoniacal. Mark was the gayest of the gay, his stumps performing wonderful flourishes, as he took his part in the reel. But let us leave, for a few moments, this scene of wild revelry, and laughter, and tumult, and descend into the quiet square beneath, where a small mob of idlers have collected in front of the house. Now and then, some one comes out from the adjoining houses, and expresses his or her astonishment at the conduct of those boys of Dr. Norris, in having such low riotous company in the house. The windows of the drawing-room, have been lowered a little from the top, doubtless, on account of the heat, and now the din waxes louder and more violent; and above the voices and laughter and shouts of the guests, is heard the screech and drone of the pipes. No wonder that those within the house should fail to hear any sound without, so the arrival of a hackney-coach, which drew up at the front door, failed.
to excite any attention. Equally futile were all applications at the door bell; and amidst the ill-suppressed laughter, and varied surmises of the bystanders, a gentleman and lady alighted from the coach and gazed in bewildered surprise at the drawing-room windows, the shadows of the dancers being reflected on the canvas blinds.
My dear, is this the right house?" asked the lady in fluttering
"Good Heavens! I must surely be dreaming!" ejaculated the gentleman, in a tone of the bitterest wrath: "these orgies are worthy of the worst and most obscure pot-house in the Cowgate."
The coachman, by this time, had succeeded in breaking the bell wire; but he still plied the knocker with great energy. One voice from the crowd suggested the advisability of sending for the parish engines, while a call for the watchman, was heard with a shout of derisive laughter. Just at this moment, a ferret-eyed boy, perched on the railings, discovered through the darkness, that the area door was ajar, and the gentleman lost no time in descending the steps, and as little in passing into the house, and re-appearing at the front door, where, in eager, hasty, and ill-concealed wrath he paid the coachman his fare, assisted him in handing the luggage into the hall, and then closed the door precipitately on the little mob outside, who seemed, however, in no haste to disperse, for they were, doubtless, expecting to witness, in a few moments, the abrupt exit of the guests. Though the dancers had now been exerting themselves manfully for some time, there seemed no abatement of their vigour and spirit. Mark, was, however, reposing, for awhile, and watching their evolutions with no small enjoyment. From the back drawing-room, there stole in a subtle odour of tobacco and whiskey, so objectionable to Flora, that she had made up her mind to retire from the scene so soon as she should have heard the end of a thrilling tale of a banshee, which Jenny's mother, an old lady of Hibernian extraction, was relating with much gusto, amidst a chorus of groans and ejaculations from the three or four friends of the old piper who were grouped round the narrator.
"Well, sure," shricked the old lady, in her highest key, that her voice might be heard above the screech of the pipes; "the poor young craythur sat in the ould arm chair, as white as a corpse, for she couldn't take her eyes off that window; she knew she would be afther seeing the banshee, for hadn't she heard it wailing round the house."
Here the old lady paused abruptly. Struck by the look of terror and astonishment on Flora's face, she followed the direction of her eyes, and, certainly, had the banshee herself been standing in the doorway, her appearance could hardly have caused greater consternation, than did that of Robert Norris and his wife, as they
stood at the open folding-doors in mute indignation, with uplifte hands, looking at the strange assemblage in their drawing-room.
In a minute or two the ominous words, "The master an mistress!" circulated round the apartments, and almost instantaneously there was a tumultoas crowding towards the door of the front drawing-room. But, for a minute or two, they had seemel spell-bound, and for that space of time the expressions and attitudes of the different persons formed no inapt resemblance to the grouping of the characters on the stage of a theatre before the curtain drops.
There were the dancers, motionless now as statues, Jenny's mother and the auditors transfixed as though they had seen the banshee, the old piper calm and dignified; for was he not fifteenth cousin to the laird of McGunn, and why should he be feared of the English gentleman ? and Mark, with uplifted stumps, caricaturing with impudent bravado, the attitude of those two motionless figures standing at the folding-doors.
"Oh, horrible! oh, horrible! most horrible!" exclaimed Robert, in his deep bass voice.
"Oh, horrible! oh, horrible! most horrible!" re-echoed Mrs. Norris.
"Oh, horrible! oh, horrible! most horrible!" reiterated Mark, imitating the tone of voice and putting himself into the attitude of the ghost in Hamlet.
A POOR FATHER.
MRS. THOROLD and Teresa were sitting together, the former working and the latter reading aloud, the morning after their visit to Georges Square, when the door opened, and the butler announced, to their utter amazement, "Dr. Norris."
Robert entered the room rather abruptly, and the gloomy expression of his face, together with his unexpected appearance in Edinburgh, when he was supposed to be in the Hebrides, filled both the ladies with fear and apprehension.
"Is anything the matter? Is Mrs. Norris well? Are the children all right?" they exclaimed in a breath.
Robert dropped into the chair, which Teresa, knowing his predilections, had placed near the fire for him, but he seemed too overpowered to speak for a few moments.
"My dear madam," he began, addressing Mrs. Thorold in his deepest and most tragical tones, "I have been asking myself, since last night, what sins I can have committed that I should be thus
heavily punished. I trust that I am not murmuring against the decrees of Providence, but I am a most afflicted man.'
"Dear me, Robert! what has happened?" exclaimed Mrs. Thorold, who, as she told Teresa afterwards, expected nothing less than that Norris had become a widower for the second time. "Pray, do not speak in riddles."
I have been treated with the blackest and vilest ingratitude,” said Norris solemnly. "Never was a poor father so used. Insults have been heaped on my head; I am set at nought in my own house; I am derided and scoffed at-I, who have sacrificed myself for my unnatural offspring, who have laboured and toiled for them in, the sweat of my brow. I returned home unexpectedly last night, Mrs. Thorold, weary and fatigued with rapid travelling, and with the prospect of another unavoidable journey before me. And what kind of a reception awaited me, do you think? Most dreadful! Shocking, beyond all powers of description! I hardly know how to speak of it." Here Norris paused, the two ladies looked at each other in utter amazement, and the expression of their countenances denoted their fears as to the awful nature of the disclosures their visitor was about to make. At length, he resumed his revelation.
"For a long space of time I could not gain admission into my own habitation, and when I did, it was to find collected in my drawing-room the refuse of the Potter Row and Cowgate, all the scum and rabble of the West Port, the air redolent of whiskey and tobacco, my reprobate sons mingling in these saturnalia; and that tattered, drunken, insolent old piper, whom Mr. Mark Unsworth has chosen to encourage, out of a spirit of opposition to his parents, mounted up on the drawing-room table. The scene baffles all description."
Here Norris again paused, and Teresa, whose face had brightened up towards the end of her cousin's recital, exclaimed, with a sigh of relief.
"Is that all? I was afraid, at first, that some dreadful calamity had happened."
Norris surveyed his cousin with a look of mute surprise and indignation, which deepened when he glanced at Mrs. Thorold, and detected a smile lurking round the corners of her mouth.
"Teresa," he said at length, after a long pause, and in a tone of mingled anger and pity, "I am both grieved and surprised to find, from your most strange remark, how lightly you are disposed to treat an affair which has given myself and Mrs. Norris the deepest concern and grief. Indeed, you seem disposed to take part with these lads against their poor father. I consider the whole transaction as unparalleled in its insolence and audacity; and you
treat it as a bagatelle! Such a blind and erroneous view of anything so scandalous I should never have expected from a person of your discretion.”
"Do not misunderstand me, cousin," said Teresa, gently passing by unnoticed Robert's wrathful looks and angry tone of voice, "I think the boys have acted very wrong, and, of course, it must have shocked you to witness such a scene in the house; but I apprehended something very dreadful, and it was a relief to me, when I found it was no worse than the escapade of a parcel of gay, thoughtless boys."
"Boys will be boys, you know," said Mrs. Thorold, who could now speak without danger of laughing. "It is a pity the elders are too old for a good thrashing. That graceless Mark was at the bottom of it; he told me, yesterday, he was going to receive company, and, oddly enough, I said to Teresa, 'What company can he haye beyond that old piper? Well, but really, Robert, though, of course you were naturally indignant, it must have been a laughable sight to have seen the company, and that impudent old piper perched up on the drawing-room table. I should have liked to have been in a
“Oh, it was very laughable!" answered Norris savagely, “and, I dare say, it would have been vastly interesting to you and my cousin, had you been present; but I can assure you that neither Mrs. Norris nor I felt the slightest approach to merriment; and, indeed, I think your emotions of pleasure would have been confined to yourself; for there was not, I confess, after our appearance, anything resembling a laugh to be heard, except from Mr. Mark Unsworth, whose mind, as to its moral state, appears to be of the lowest."
"Oh, I can quite believe that your unexpected arrival was a perfect kill-joy," answered Mrs. Thorold; "but, pray, don't be angry with Teresa and myself, because we cannot see this matter in the awful aspect in which you view it. Of course, you have dismissed the servants, or will dismiss them; you have rated the lads well, and will punish them in some way, and there you must let the matter rest: such an affair will not happen again."
'Well, certainly, it would not be a desirable thing for my drawing-room to be turned habitually into a dancing saloon for the inhabitants of the Cowgate," remarked Norris sarcastically; "but really, my dear madam, your sang-froid, and very practical decisions amuse and divert me. Unfortunately, you give me credit for powers of endurance which you yourself possess, doubtless, but which I do not. Whatever visitation or calamity befalls me, you bid me think no more about it; I am obliged to you for the recipe, but I cannot make use of it.”