‘The People’s Journal’ was a considerable contributor to the creation of the modern image Christmas in Scotland. The images and aesthetic of the celebration of Christmas we know to day largely began with the publication of ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens in 1843, the publication and celebration of Christmas stories of this ilk became a regular feature of ‘The Journal’, with a special Christmas edition eventually been produced each year due to the demand for festive content.
St Mungo Redivivus, and a Visit to the Necropolis
On reaching his lodgings, at the close of the revival meeting mentioned towards the end of the last chapter, Mr Sturges found a note awaiting him on his table. It was from Mr Frank Moreland, who had arrived in town from New York that morning, and it arranged for a meeting between the writer and Mr Sturges on the afternoon of the following fay, which, it so happened, was to be held as a general holiday. Mr Sturges was delighted at the prospect of meeting Mr Moreland, for he had entirely lost sight of the Misses Aymer since their leaving Pine Grove, and he hoped that Moreland would be able to give him some intelligence regarding them. That very night, too, he had procured the information which Frank was so desirous of obtaining before his departure for New York.
The place appointed for their interview was in the immediate vicinity of St Mungo’s Cathedral. Precisely at the hour indicated, Mr Sturges reached the spot, where he found Mr Moreland impatiently waiting his arrival. Their joy at meeting was mutual. The first inquiry Frank made was as to the residence of Mrs Aymer.
“Don’t you know?” said Simeon in evident surprise.
“No, no, Mr Sturges; and if you can’t tell me no body can,” said Frank.
“Well I can’t,” said Simeon, shaking his head. “Mr Aymer has never seen them, so far I know, and never so much as named them in my hearing since their misfortune. You have heard of that matter no doubt?”
“I have,” answered Frank, much agitated; “before leaving New York a letter reached me from Emma, in which she related the whole tale of their misfortunes, how they were resolved to hide their poverty in retirement, how she released me from any engagement I might have come under to her, and how she had determined on seeing me no more.”
“Could we only discover their residence,” said Simeon, pulling from his pocket a paper, which he thrust into Frank’s hand, “I think that document might be of some use to them.”
“That’s the very thing, Mr Sturges,” cried Frank, after a momentary glance at its contents. “We have the old fellow now, sir; but is he aware of your having it?”
“You don’t suppose I’m a fool,” replied Simeon, with a knowing wink.
“Anything but a fool, Mr Sturges. Well, if old Ben isn’t obliged to fork out now, it shan’t be my blame,” said Frank, with great emphasis; “and if you should happen to be suspected in connection with this business, as it is more than likely you will, never mind, you shall lose nothing.”
Their minds being wholly engrossed in this conversation, they had entered quite unconsciously an open door in St Mungo’s venerable pile, and by-and-bye they found themselves pacing arm-in-arm the damp floor of the crypt—a mouldy, sombre, awe-inspiring chamber, underneath the main body of the edifice, with just light enough in it to render the darkness visible. Pausing for an instant, as most visitors do, to contemplate the tomb of St Mungo, they were startled by an unearthly voice, which seemed to issue from the tomb of the worthy saint.
“Unhallowed mortals,” said the voice, with deep sepulchral solemity [sic], “how dare ye presume to disturb my sleep of a thousand years! St Mungo’s dust is sacred—defile it not! Beware! beware! beware!”
As the words died away in faint echoes through the distant recess, strange chocking-like sounds, as if of some one striving to suppress an outburst of laughter, could be distinctly heard in a part of the chamber, whose obscurity the “dim religious light” struggled in vain to illuminate. Not a spark of superstitution [sic?] adhered to either Frank or Simeon, yet at that moment they owned to an uncomfortable sensation creeping through their nerves. Their suspense was of short duration, however, for Tom Winter, with a loud laugh, burst from his concealment, and grasped Frank by the hand.
“So, my dear Tom, you are still a bit of a ventriloquist,” said Frank. “But come now, we have no time for foolery. Tom can keep a secret,” continued Frank, turning to Mr Sturges, and so saying, he proceeded to unfold to Tom the Sturges, and so saying, he proceeded to unfold to Tom the whole story of Ben’s villany—the main facts of which, Tom assured them, were already guessed at by the public.
“And the old rascal has turned revivalist too, I believe,” remarked Tom, with a sarcastic smile.
“Yes,” replied Simeon, “and our next meeting comes off on Friday evening, at seven o’clock.”
“I’ll be there, as sure as a gun. Good-bye,” said Tom, marching off, snapping his fingers, and humming to himself a tune.
On parting with Tom at the Cathedral gate, Frank and Sturges directed their steps towards the Necropolis. In the mottoes on the tombstones, with which the grounds are thickly dotted, they found sufficient food for reflection. Having spent some time in this way, Frank suggested a visit to the last resting-place of Mr George Aymer. Drawing near to the spot they beheld two ladies sitting beside the grave, gazing intently on the sod, and wiping a tear now and then from their eyes.
“Heavens!” whispered Frank to his companion, “can you be Emma and Rosabelle.” Continue reading “1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 3 (31 December, 1859)”