The question was
complicated, and different interrogatories put to the oracle
of his mind afforded different responses. The affair was
one, in every respect, so nicely balanced, that "he wist not
what to do. Fortune long hung equal in the balance, and
might have done so much longer, had not an unforeseen
accident made the scale of the widow precipitately mount
aloft, and kick the beam.
It was about ten
oclock on the night of a blustering November day, that a
tall, red-haired, moustachioed, and raw-boned personage,
wrapt up in a military great-coat, alighted from the top of
the Telegraph at the Salutation Inn, and delivered his
portmanteau into the assiduous hands of Bill the waiter. He
was ushered into a comfortable room, whose flickering
blazing fire mocked the cacophony of his puckered features,
and induced him hastily to doff his envelopments, and draw
in an arm-chair to the borders of the hearthrug.
Having discussed a
smoking and substantial supper, he asked Bill, who was in
the act of supplying his rummer with hot water, if a Mrs
Bouncer, an officers widow, resided in the neighbourhood.
Bill, "I know her well; she lives at third house round the
corner, on the second floor, turning to the door on your
"She is quite well, I hope?" asked
the son of Mars.
"Oh! quite well,
bless you; and about to take a second husband. I hear they
are to be proclaimed next week. She is making a good
"Next week to be married!
ejaculated the gallant captain, turning up his eyes, and
starting to his legs with a hurried perplexity.
"So I believe,
sir, continued Bill very calmly. "If you have come to the
ceremony, you will find that it does not take place till
then. Depend upon it, sir, you have mistaken the date of
your invitation card. "
"Well, waiter, you
may leave me, said the captain, stroking his chin in
evident embarrassment; "but stop, who is she about to get?
"Oh, I thought everybody knew Mr
Daniel Cathie, one of the town-council, sir; a tobacconist,
and a respectable man; likely soon to come to the provostry,
sir. He is rather up in years to be sure ; but he is as rich
as a Jew.
"What do you say is his name?"
Esq., tobacconist, and a candlemaker near the Cross. That is
his name and designation,a very respectable man, sir.
"Well, order the
girl to have my bed well warmed, and to put pens, ink, and
paper into the room. In the meantime, bring me the
The captain kept his fiery feelings in
restraint before Bill; but the intelligence hit him like a
cannon-shot. He retired almost immediately to his
bedchamber; but a guest in the adjoining room declared in
the morning, that he had never been allowed to close his
eyes, from some persons alternately snoring or speaking in
his sleep, as if in violent altercation with some one ; and
that, whenever these sounds died away, they were only
exchanged for the irregular tread of a foot measuring the
apartment, seemingly in every direction.
It was nine in the
morning; and Daniel, as he was ringing a shilling on the
counter, which he had just taken for "value received, and
half ejaculating aloud as he peered at it through his
spectacles"Not a Birmingham, I hope "had a card put into
his hand by Jonas Bunting, the Salutation shoe-black.
Having broken the
seal, Daniel read to himself"A gentleman wishes to see Mr
Cathie at the Salutation Inn, on particular business, as
speedily as possible. Inquire for the gentleman in No. 7.A
quarter before nine. A.M.
"Some of these
dunning travellers! " exclaimed Daniel to himself. "They
are continually pestering me for orders. If I had the
lighting up of the moon, I could not satisfy them all. I
have a good mind not to go, for this fellow not sending his
name. It is irnpudence with a vengeance, and a new way of
requesting favoursI" As he was muttering these thoughts
between his teeth, however, he was proceeding in the almost
unconscious act of undoing his apron, which having flung
aside, he adjusted his hair before the glass, carefully
pressed his hat into shape, and drew it down on his temples
with both hands; after which, with hasty steps, he vanished
from behind the counter.
Arriving at the
inn, he was ushered into No. 7 by the officious Bill, who
handed his name before him, and closed the door after him.
"This is an
unpleasant business, Mr Cathie," said the swaggering
captain, drawing himself up to his full length, and putting
on a look of important ferocity. "It is needless to waste
words on the subject: there is a brace of pistols, both are
loaded, take one, and I take the other; choose either, sir.
The room is fully eight paces," added he, striding across in
a hurried manner, and clanking his iron heels on the carpet.
"It would, I
think, be but civil, said Daniel, evidently in considerable
mental as well as bodily agitation, " to inform me what are
your intentions, before forcing me to commit murder.
Probably you have mistaken me for some other; if not, please
let me know in what you conceive I have offended you!
"By the powers!
said Captain 'Thwackeray with great vehemence, "you have
injured me materially,nay, mortally,and either your life,
sir, or my own, sir, shall be sacrificed to the adjustment.
While saying this, the captain took up
first the one pistol, and then the other, beating down the
contents with the ramrod, and measuring with his finger the
comparative depth to which each was loaded.
"A pretty story,
certainly, to injure a gentleman in the tenderest part, and
then to beg a recital of the particulars. Have you no regard
for my feelings, sir?
"Believe me, sir,
on the word of an honest man, that as to your meaning in
this business, I am in utter darkness, said Daniel with
"To be plain,
then,to be explicit,to come to the point, sir, are you
not on the eve of marrying Mrs Bouncer?
echoed the tallow-chandler, starting back, and crimsoning.
Immediately, however, commanding himself, he continued: "As to the truth of the case, that is another matter; but
were it as you represent it, I was unaware that I could be
injuring any one in so doing."
"Now, sir, we
have come to the point ; and you speak out plainly. Take
your pistol, bravoed the captain.
"No, no,not so
fast ;perhaps we may understand each other without being
driven to that alternative?
"Well then, sir,
abjure her this moment, and resign her to me, or one of our
lives must be sacrificed.
While he was
saying this, Daniel laid his hands on one of the pistols,
and appeared as if examining it ; which motion the captain
instantly took for a signal of acquiescence, and "changed
his hand, and checked his pride.
" I hope,
continued he, evidently much softened, "that there shall be
no need of resorting to desperate measures. In a word, the
affair is this :I have a written promise from Mrs Bouncer,
that, if ever she married a second time, her hand was mine.
It matters not with the legality of the measure, though the
proceeding took place in the lifetime of her late husband,
my friend, Captain Bouncer. It is quite an affair of honour.
I assure you, sir, she has vowed to accept of none but me,
Captain Thwackeray, as his successor. If you have paid your
addresses to her in ignorance of this, I forgive you ; if
not, we stand opposed as before."
"Oh ho! if that
be the way the land lies, replied Daniel, with a shrill
whistle, " she is yours, captain, for me, and heartily
welcome. I resign her unconditionally, as you military
gentlemen phrase it. A great deal of trouble is spared by
ones speaking out. If you had told me this, there would
have been no reason for loading the pistols. May I now wish
you a good morning ! Od save us I but these are fearful
weapons on the table ! Good morning. sir.
heart, no," said Captain Thwackeray, evidently much relieved
from his distressing situation. "Oh no, sir; not before we
breakfast together;" and, so saying, before Daniel had a
moments time for reply, he pulled the bell violently.
Bill, bring in breakfast for two, as
expeditiously as possible
"I knew that no man
of honour, such as I know or believe you to be (your
appearance bespeaks it), would act such a selfish part as
deprive me of my legal right; and I trust that this
transaction shall not prevent friendly intercourse between
us, if I come, as my present intention is, to take up my
abode among you in this town.
"By no means,
said Daniel; "Mrs Bouncer is yours for me; and as to matrimonials, I am otherwise provided. There are no grounds
for contention, captain?
discussed with admirable appetite by both. The contents of
the pistols were drawn, the powder carefully returned into
the flask, the two bullets into the waistcoat pocket, and
the instruments of destruction themselves deposited in a
green woollen case. After cordially shaking each other by
the hand, the captain saw Mr Daniel to the door, and made a
very low bow besides kissing his hand at parting.
The captain we leave to fight his own
battles, and return to our hero, whose stoicism,
notwithstanding its firmness, did not prevent him from
feeling considerably on the occasion. Towards Mrs Bouncer he
had not a Romeo-enthusiasm, but certainly a stronger
attachment than he had ever experienced for any other of her
sex. Though the case was hopeless, he did not allow himself
to pine away with "a green and yellow melancholy, but
reconciled himself to his fate with the more facility, as
the transaction between Thwackeray and her was said to have
taken place during the lifetime of her late husband, which
considerably lessened her in his estimation; having been
educated a rigid Presbyterian, and holding in great
abhorrence all such illustrations of military morality. "No, no," thought he; "my loss is more apparent than real:
the woman who was capable of doing such a thing, would not
content herself with stopping even there. Miss Jenny Drybones is the woman for meI am the man for her money.
And here a thousand selfish notions crowded on his heart,
and confirmed him in his determination, which he set about
There was little
need of delicacy in the matter; and Daniel went to work
quite in a business-like style. He commenced operations on
the offensive, offered Miss Jenny his arm, squeezed her
hand, buttered her with love-phrases, ogled her out of
countenance, and haunted her like a ghost. Refusal was in
vain ; and after a faint, a feeble, and sham show of
resistance, the damsel drew down her flag of defiance, and
submitted to honourable terms of capitulation.
Ten days after
Miss Jennys surrender, their names were proclaimed in
church; and as the people stared at each other in half
wonder and half good-humour, the precentor continued, after
a slight pause, There is also a purpose of marriage between
Mrs Martha Bouncer, at present residing in the parish, and
Augustus Thwackeray, Esq., captain of the Bengal Rangers;
whoever can produce any lawful objections against the same,
he is requested to do so, time and place convenient.
Every forenoon and
evening between that and the marriage-day, Daniel and his
intended enjoyed a delightful tete-a-tete in the ladys
garden, walking arm-in-arm, and talking, doubtless, of
home-concerns and Elysian prospects that awaited them. The
pair would have formed a fit subject for the pencil of a
Hogarth,about "to become one flesh, and so different in
appearance. The lady, long-visaged and wrinkled,
stiff-backed and awkward, long as a may-pole; the
bridegroom, jolly-faced like Bacchus, stumpy like an
alder-tree, and round as a beer-barrel.
Ere Friday had
beheld its meridian sunshine, two carriages, drawn up at the
door, the drivers with white favours and Limerick gloves,
told the attentive world that Dr Redbeak had made them one
flesh. Shortly after the ceremony, the happy couple drove
away amid the cheering of an immense crowd of neighbours,
who had planted themselves round the door to make
observations on what was going on. Another coincidence
worthy of remark also occurred on this auspicious day. At
the same hour, had the fair widow Martha yielded up her
lily-white hand to the whiskered, ferocious-looking, but
gallant Captain Thwackeray; and the carriages containing the
respective marriage-parties passed one another in the street
at a good round pace. The postilions, with their large
flaunting ribbon-knots, huzzad in meeting, brandishing
their whips in the air, as if betokening individual victory.
The captain looking out, saw Miss Jenny, in maiden pride,
sitting stately beside her chosen tobacconist; and Daniel,
glancing to the left, beheld Mrs Martha blushing by the side
of her moustachioed warrior. Both waved their hands in
passing, and pursued their destinies.Janus ; or, the
Edinburgh Literary Almanac.
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