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Wilson's Border Tales
The New Firm


A LEGEND OF MUTTONHOLE.

"GREAT AND ADVANTAGEOUS OPENING—NO DECEPTION.—Snooks & Grubb respectfully inform the public of Muttonhole and its vicinity, that they have opened those large and commodious premises in Drybob Street, where they have constantly on hand every description of soft goods, at prices 50 per cent. lower than any other house in the kingdom. Mousseline de laines from 3 1/2d. to 1s. 3d. and upwards.

"N.B.—No mousseline de laine dress, of any description whatever, is worth more than 1s. 8d.

"To prevent disappointment, ladies should make an early call."

The above, with the usual abundant sprinkling of italics, capitals, and full-faced type, was the only new advertisement in the columns of The Muttonhole Gazette, on the morning of the 29th of February 18—. "Who are Snooks & Grubb?" inquired the old ladies of the village. "Who are Snooks & Grubb?" echoed the young ladies, who, after studying the Hymeneal record, also glanced at the advertisement.

Snooks & Grubb, two enterprising young men who had served their apprenticeships in one of the London warehouses at Edinburgh, had decided on connecting themselves in business, and astonishing the natives of some country town with a collection of goods, obtained on credit from some of the Manchester houses, who are accustomed to take such risk upon themselves. Muttonhole happened to be the place pitched upon; and so rapidly was their migration effected, and the business of "opening" performed, that, until they were ready for customers, not one knew that such a thing was in contemplation. What! commence business without making six months’ preparatory talk! The thing was preposterous and unprecedented. But they succeeded, nevertheless. The young women had become tired of shop-worn commodities, especially when sold by a crusty old benedict; and the temptation of new goods, and two young bachelors, were irresistible.

Awful was the alarm created in Muttonhole by the new shop. Old Mr Maddox, the proprietor of the old shop, stopped taking in The Muttonhole Gazette, because he liked an "independent press,"and the Gazette had had the impudence to publish the advertisements of Snooks & Grubb, to his manifest injury.

The star of the young firm had been for some days ascendant, and after a good day’s work, both parties waited in the back parlour of the shop, as if each had something to tell the other, with which it would not answer to trust any walls but their own. Each made awkward work of his communication; but ii will be as well to leave unrecorded their stammering preface, and merely state, that each had come to the resolution of taking unto himself a sleeping partner.

In a few days, The Muttonhole Gazette put forth the following:—

"Married—At Glasgow, on the 4th inst., Ferdinando Augustus Snooks, Esq., to Miss Anna Matilda, eldest daughter of Hugo Groat, Esq., merchant.

"At Edinburgh, Mr John Grubb, to Miss Mary Tidd."

The effect of this announcement upon the weak nerves of the inhabitants of Muttonhole was astounding. The old ladies were indignant that this news burst upon the community without giving them even a nibble of it in advance of the general promulgation; and the unengaged young ladies, each of whom had secretly, and in her own mind appropriated one of the firm to herself, began to think of returning their patronage to Mr Maddox. Things began to look squally, when, as is often the case in emergencies, a something was found to stem the current, and save the falling fortunes of the house of Snooks & Grubb. This was nothing more or less than their giving a "blow out," to which all the elite of Muttonhole and its vicinity were invited.

It was over. The party had broken up. Old Maddox, who had lingered the last of the guests, as if determined to do his full share in eating out the substance of the young men, had at last taken his hat. Mr and Mrs Snooks sat alone.

"My dear," said the lady, "I do not see why you should have invited all that canaille to our house."

"Policy, Anna Matilda. I wish to become popular with the Muttonhole people."

"Well, Mr Snooks, I don’t like to be bored to death. I hope you have not so soon forgot my standing in society. My father was never anxious to please the rabble."

"Mrs Snooks, I hope you have not so far forgot my interest as to stand in the way of my business. The distant jingle of your father’s gold will not support us here.

* * * * *

"John," said Mrs Grubb to her husband, as they walked home, "I am afraid I have done you no credit to-night: you know I always told you I was unused to society."

"Why, Mary, I thought to-night you succeeded to admiration, particularly with the mothers and daughters."

"Oh, yes! and I have a great many pressing invitations to visit them. But I am dreadfully afraid of Mrs Snooks. She came and sat by me to-night, and said something about the ‘Great Unknown.’ I didn’t make any answer; and then she said, that Waverley alone is enough to set him up. What did she mean, John? Is there to be another shop in the village?"

Grubb gently explained her mistake to her. It was a bitter evening in conclusion for both parties; one had to drive away his wife’s hysterics with sal volatile, and promises of indulgence; the other to console an intelligent though uncultivated mind, for the lack of that information, which one evening had convinced her was all essential to her creditable appearance.

On the morrow, Mrs Anna Matilda Snooks went back to the house of her father, to recover, as she said, from the effects of an excessive infliction of rusticity. The simple Mary Grubb grew daily in the good graces of the dwellers in Muttonhole. The minister’s wife thought it a pity "she had been neglected," but declared her an intelligent woman, nevertheless. Some others might make the same remark, but all loved her; and, through her popularity, the tide set sadly against the warehouse of Mr Maddox. At the end of a few weeks Mrs Snooks returned.

"My dear," said she to her husband, "I have brought you a present."

"You have brought yourself, Anna Matilda, for which I thank you before opening this package, lest you should accuse me of selfishness in thanking you afterwards." The direction was in the counting-house-hand of Mr Groat. Snooks broke the seal, and found documents possessing him of a large landed property, and a check for several thousands. "Anna Matilda, after the unthinking remark I made a few weeks since, I cannot except of this."

"Mr Snooks—Mr Snooks!"

There was something hysterical in her tone, and Snooks hastily interrupted her by saying, "Allow me at least to secure this to you. I"—

"No, no! take it as I offer it, or"—

Poor Snooks, he pleased his wife alternately with volatile and sugared words; the latter of the remedies brought her to, because they imported an acceptance of her father’s gift. It is said of his Satanic Majesty, and the wight who accepts his favours, that the latter becomes bound to him. I do not intend to compare Mrs Snooks to the devil, but her present was the purchase money of—the inexpressibles Snooks was sold to her from that day.

* * * * *

"Those people pay a great deal of attention to your partner’s wife, Mr Snooks."

"They would pay you the same, if you would accept it."

"But I shall not. Who can endure to drink tea out of earthen-cups, and hear disquisitions upon coals, bread, stocking-yarn, the price of eggs, and the quantity of potatoes requisite to dine a family of thirteen? I cannot, Mr Snooks!"

"Mrs Grubb does."

"Mrs Grubb! It is her element, the hateful ignorant creature. I desire you will not ask her or her husband to the house again."

"He is my partner, my dear."

"Your partner! I don’t see why you need such a partner. You can hire a good clerk cheaper, and not be obliged to court him and his ignorant wife. I wish you would discharge him, Mr Snooks. I don’t like the idea of finding Grubb capital to trade upon."

A few days afterwards saw the following announcement in the first column of The Muttonhole Gazette:—

"DISSOLUTION OF COPARTNERY.—The business heretofore carried on under the name of Snooks & Grubb was this day dissolved by mutual consent.

"P. FLETCHER, witness. F. A. SNOOKS.

"G. AULD, witness. JOHN GRUBB."

"By mutual consent;" yes, "mutual" is the word when a strong man kicks a weaker out of doors.

Agreeable to this arrangement, Mr Grubb and his poor ignorant wife, after making their round of calls, with light hearts, and a purse, which honest gains had pretty well ballasted, stepped into the Muttonhole omnibus, which was to convey them away from that romantic village. Every one who knew them regretted their departure, except Mrs Snooks and Mr Maddox. Indeed, the latter had reason to be pleased; for Grubb’s withdrawal would, he knew, be for his own immediate benefit. And he was right. The tide soon turned into its old channel, and old Maddox saw, with delight, all the old faces back to his counter, with the exception of perhaps a few, who trimmed their bonnets like Mrs Snooks, and esteemed it an honour to get a nod from her. In proportion as business lessened, she, thinking the dowry she had brought inexhaustible, doubled her expenses. She figured in the walks around Muttonhole in dresses which would have attracted notice, for their expensive quality, even in the streets of Edinburgh, and crowds of the family connexions, and the family connexions’ connexions of the Groats, settled on Snooks to rusticate, devouring his substance like a swarm of locusts.

It was not long, therefore, ere old Maddox had the satisfaction of reading, in the public journals, this notice:--

"The creditors of F.A. Snooks, draper in Muttonhole, are requested to attend a meeting in the Town Hall, on Friday, the 21st at two o’clock precisely."

* * * * *

Years had passed. Two persons met in the Trongate of Glasgow. There was a look of uncertain recognition.

"Grubb!"

"Snooks!"

A hearty shaking of hands followed.

"How is your wife, Grubb?"

"Well. She has become acquainted with Mr Waverley."

"And mine has forgotten her hysterics."

The four met on the following Sunday at the country residence of Mr Grubb, who had, by industry, become possessed of considerable property. Snooks also, taught wisdom by his reverses, had retrieved his pecuniary affairs. The husbands came in from the garden together, where they had been walking for an hour.

"Ladies," said Snooks, "we have enetered again into co-partnership. Anna Matilda, do you think you can invite that hateful Mrs Grubb to my house?"

"Mary!" said Grubb, "are you afraid of Mrs Snooks now?"

It is, perhaps, unnecessary to say, that the utmost joy and harmony soon after prevailed between the two families, and they had the satisfaction of seeing a closer alliance, by reason of the intermarriage of their children.


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