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Authoress of "Dr. Harcourt's Assistant," "The Hunlock Title Deeds," &c



HAD Mrs. Thorold been passing through Georges Square a few hours later, she would have seen that Mark's reception of company was a somewhat large one,whilst she probably would have marvelled at the quality of the guests for whom he had declined her invitation to dinner.

They all arrived on foot, the women's dresses and shawls showing the most gaudy and flaming colours, whilst most of them carried small brown paper bags, doubtless containing their caps. The men, who were in the minority, had evidently donned clean shirts for the occasion; and they all had short pipes in their mouths, which they carefully extinguished and put away before going down. the area steps.

Amongst the first arrivals was that same old piper, whom Mrs. Thorold had alluded to, with his pipes carefully tucked under his arm.

Now, all these guests, male and female, were either relatives or friends of the servants of the house, invited, however, by the master's stepson, Mark Unsworth, in a spirit of fun and mischief. Flora had raised a feeble protest against the entertainment, a feeble one indeed, for she was fond of Jenny, being too young to be much shocked at her dirt and disorder, and amongst those invited were Jenny's mother, two sisters, an aunt, and a cousin five times removed. Mark's first calculations had not extended beyond a dozen or so of invitations, but the list of invited swelled by degress, till the party bid fair to resemble one of those entertainments in fashionable life where half the guests stay on the staircase all night. This rapid increase in the number of those who were to be entertained arose from Mark having given leave to the servant's relatives to bring a friend, and this friend was construed into meaning three or four friends; so that Mark was amazed himself as the guests came pouring in, and he exclaimed as

he waved his stumps, with a theatrical air, "The cry is, still they


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 tones.

"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 I hands, looking at the strange assemblage in their drawing-room.

In a minute or two the ominous words, "The master anl mistress!" circulated round the apartments, and almost instantaneously there was a tumultous crowding towards the door of the front drawing-room. But, for a minute or two, they hal 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.



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 revela


"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

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