‘Clouds and Sunshine’ by W.D. Latto (1 January, 1859)

Before becoming editor of ‘The People’s Journal’ W.D. Latto made several contributions to the paper. In 1859 he won the New Year’s short story prize for his effort, ‘Clouds and Sunshine’.

The New Year’s Prize Tale.

By Mr W.D. Latto, Johnshaven.

“What a magnificent dress you have got, Maria! Well, upon my word, you will look stunning to-night at the ball. I am quite distressed about having mine spoiled. I think I shall employ Madam Rampline in future when I want anything particularly well fitted; for that Mrs Clarke is so destitute of taste that she always makes a perfect fright of me—always does.”

“Well, Fanny, there is no accounting for tastes, and certainly our’s are quite opposite to each other in this instance. Why, do you know, I think your’s the neater of the two?”

“No, no, Maria, dear, you are astray as to that—most unmistakeably so. I can assure you, if you could only see how well your dress becomes you, the inferiority of mine would appear in a moment. I am so vexed; for everybody at the ball will be drawing contrasts between us, and noticing my frightful appearance. I don’t think I shall go after all.”

“Not go to the ball! after cousin Bill has kindly consented to escort you thither?”

“No, I don’t think I shall. Bill can take his inamorato to bear him company, if he has one,” said Fanny, making an effort to appear the light-hearted girl which in truth she was not.

“Well, that would be using him rather indifferently, I think. Cousin Bill has no lady-love, never had, and never will have one. His love is too universal for that. Allow me to ask you one question, Fanny—Had Jack Oswald been at home, would you have refused to go to the ball with him?”

“Perhaps I would, and perhaps I would not; but then you know the case would have been altogether different,” said Fanny, with a deep sigh.

“Ay, ay, Fanny, it is pretty evident what your reasons are for not going to the ball. Be truthful now, and say if it is not more owing to your not having a sweetheart handy than to your not having a suitable dress.”

“Suppose it does, Maria, what then? Had Mr Duckworth been at sea in the late dreadful storms which have plunged so many dauntless hearts beneath the angry billows, and had no intelligence of him arrived for a week after his ship was due, would you have been in the best mood possible for a ball?”

“My imagination is not lively enough to enable me to realize what would have been my feelings in a situation such as you suppose, and so I cannot possibly say in what sort of a mood I would have been for the ball; but, dearest Fanny, don’t be in the slightest degree alarmed as to Jack’s safety. Did’nt [sic] you hear Captain Bowline say that the good ship Ben Cruachan would ride out, without danger, a much stronger hurricane than any we have had of late.” Continue reading “‘Clouds and Sunshine’ by W.D. Latto (1 January, 1859)”

1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 3 (31 December, 1859)

‘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.

Chapter VIII

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)”

1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 2 (24 December, 1859)

‘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.

Chapter IV

Frank Moreland Gets Acquainted with Mr Simeon Sturges

A day or two subsequent to Ben’s visit to Pine Grove Cottage, as described in the last chapter, Mr Frank Moreland received a note of the following tenor:—

“Pine Grove, Wednesday Evening.

“Dearest Frank,—Uncle Ben was here last night, and surprised us by the unwelcome tidings that my father’s estate has just cleared itself—not to say suspicious, that the balance should have happened to be so very exact? I confess I am not at all satisfied with the result. Something must be wrong. I have told mamma so, but she can’t see the matter in the same light that I do. He has, moreover, prevailed on mamma to invest the remnant of her fortune in Western Bank shares—a most unwise step in my opinion, risking as it does our whole means on a single throw of the dice. Say whether anything, and, if so, what, should be done, and oblige your

“Emma.”

On reading this note Frank’s first impulse was to run down to Pine Grove to learn more of the matter from Emma’s own lips, but on father reflection he decided on obtaining, if possible, an interview with Mr Simeon Sturges, Ben’s clerk, with the view of ascertaining whether he had any knowledge of the transactions connected with the winding up of Mr George Aymer’s estate. Full of this idea he set off in search of Mr Ben’s counting-house, feeling not a little perplexed all the while as to how he should get introduced to Mr Sturges. Threading his way down the Saltmarket, he alighted on an old chum, Tom Winter, a clerk in the office of Messrs Cleekum & Hook, to whom he mentioned his difficulty. Tom knew Sturges intimately, and promised to introduce Frank to him the first opportunity, but refused to call on him at the office lest they should encounter Old Ben, whom he described as a “crusty old bear, who was always either cursing or praying.” As good luck would have it, however, Sturges was soon descried crossing the street, and Tom having hailed him, introduced Frank, and then took his leave.

Frank, having a polished and rather insinuating address, soon got on the most intimate terms with his new acquaintance. Though neither of them cared for drinking, yet, for convenience sake, Frank proposed an adjournment to an adjoining tavern, where, over a bottle of champagne, he explained to Sturges the object of his seeking an interview with him. The simple mention of the family at Pine Grove was a sufficient passport to the confidence of the honest clerk, for, during the preceding winter, he had been on frequent business-visits at Park Place, had seen Rosabelle, and, need it be said, had fallen desperately in love with her, though, being a prudent young man, he as yet cherished the flame in his own bosom.

“Egad, Mr Moreland, but I’m glad to find you know the Misses Aymer, aren’t they nice girls—especially Miss Emma?” said Simeon, singling out the eldest, though in truth, he was all the while thinking of Rosabelle.

“Nice girls—why, yes, very nice girls, Mr Sturges. Rosabelle is, indeed, a sweet fairy-looking creature, though still very young,” said Frank thoughtfully. “But,” added he, staring hard at Simeon, “isn’t it a thousand pities they have no fortune?” Continue reading “1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 2 (24 December, 1859)”

1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 1 (17 December, 1859)

‘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.

Our Christmas Story.

Chapter I

The House of Mourning

The grave had just closed over the mortal remains of Mr George Aymer, who was reputed to have been one of the most thriving, certainly one of the most enterprising, merchants in the great commercial capital of Scotland. It was a keen, cold day in winter—showers of snow and hail fell at intervals—the sun shot forth timid, momentary glances through the rifts of the hurrying clouds—the streets along which the funeral cavalcade slowly crept were gloomy and deserted—wreaths of driven snow found shelter behind the tomb-stones that crowd the noble “city of the dead,” which looks solemnly down on the hallowed fane of St Mungo’s, and in which the dust of George Aymer was that day gathered to its kindred dust. For a moment the crowd of mourners hung sadly over the grave into which the coffin of their deceased friend had been lowered, saw the first shovel-full of earth filled in, and then hurried back to their desk and counting-houses, there to speculate as eagerly as if nothing had happened to warn them of their frail mortality.

Mr Aymer had been snatched away with awful suddenness. But one short week had elapsed since he was in his wonted vigour, and now the elegant mansion in Park Place, so recently the scene of gaiety and happiness, was filled with weeping and lamentation. He left a widow and two daughters. On the latter, who were just blooming into womanhood, he had doted with more than a father’s fondness. Hitherto his had been a happy home, over which love shed her benign influence, and around whose hearth was never heard the jarring sound of a discordant word, nor seen the semblance of an unkind or distrustful glance; all was peace and harmony. In proportion as one is beloved in his life, however, will he be lamented in his death; and hence the bitter, choaking [sic] tears wept by those whom he had let behind to bewail his untimely fate. Continue reading “1859’s Christmas Story ‘The Aymer Family: A Tale of the Western Bank’ Part 1 (17 December, 1859)”