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Book of Scottish Story
Daniel Cathie, Tobacconist


Chapter 2

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 o’clock 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 officer’s widow, resided in the neighbourhood.

“Yes," replied Bill, "I know her well; she lives at third house round the corner, on the second floor, turning to the door on your right hand.”

"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 bargain."

"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?"

"Daniel Cathie, 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 boot-jack."

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 person’s 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 cool firmness.

"To be plain, then,—to be explicit,—to come to the point, sir,— are you not on the eve of marrying Mrs Bouncer? ”

"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 one’s 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.”

"Bless your 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 moment’s 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?

Breakfast was 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 me—I 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 without delay.

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 Jenny’s 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 lady’s 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, huzza’d 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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