The ninth sketch published by Charles Dickens was another two-parter, but this time there is a real cliff hanger! In ‘The Boarding House’ Dickens had just used the same situation and central characters to link his two stories but in ‘A Passage In The Life Of Mr. Watkins Tottle’ the plot is left hanging just at the moment when attempts at wooing and seduction have reached their peak! The first part was published in The Monthly Magazine in January 1835.
CHAPTER THE FIRST
Matrimony is proverbially a serious undertaking. Like an over-weening predilection for brandy-and-water, it is a misfortune into which a man easily falls, and from which he finds it remarkably difficult to extricate himself. It is of no use telling a man who is timorous on these points, that it is but one plunge, and all is over. They say the same thing at the Old Bailey, and the unfortunate victims derive as much comfort from the assurance in the one case as in the other.
Mr. Watkins Tottle was a rather uncommon compound of strong uxorious inclinations, and an unparalleled degree of anti-connubial timidity. He was about fifty years of age; stood four feet six inches and three-quarters in his socks–for he never stood in stockings at all–plump, clean, and rosy. He looked something like a vignette to one of Richardson’s novels, and had a clean-cravatish formality of manner, and kitchen-pokerness of carriage, which Sir Charles Grandison himself might have envied. He lived on an annuity, which was well adapted to the individual who received it, in one respect–it was rather small. He received it in periodical payments on every alternate Monday; but he ran himself out, about a day after the expiration of the first week, as regularly as an
eight-day clock; and then, to make the comparison complete, his landlady wound him up, and he went on with a regular tick
Mr. Watkins Tottle had long lived in a state of single blessedness, as bachelors say, or single cursedness, as spinsters think; but the idea of matrimony had never ceased to haunt him. Wrapt in profound reveries on this never-failing theme, fancy transformed his small parlour in Cecil-street, Strand, into a neat house in the suburbs; the half-hundredweight of coals under the kitchen-stairs suddenly sprang up into three tons of the best Walls-end; his small French bedstead was converted into a regular matrimonial four-poster; and in the empty chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, imagination seated a beautiful young lady, with a very little independence or will of her own, and a very large independence under a will of her father’s.
‘Who’s there?’ inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle, as a gentle tap at his room-door disturbed these meditations one evening.
‘Tottle, my dear fellow, how DO you do?’ said a short elderly gentleman with a gruffish voice, bursting into the room, and replying to the question by asking another.
‘Told you I should drop in some evening,’ said the short gentleman, as he delivered his hat into Tottle’s hand, after a little struggling and dodging.
‘Delighted to see you, I’m sure,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, wishing internally that his visitor had ‘dropped in’ to the Thames at the bottom of the street, instead of dropping into his parlour. The fortnight was nearly up, and Watkins was hard up.
‘How is Mrs. Gabriel Parsons?’ inquired Tottle.
‘Quite well, thank you,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons, for that was the name the short gentleman revelled in. Here there was a pause; the short gentleman looked at the left hob of the fireplace; Mr. Watkins Tottle stared vacancy out of countenance.
‘Quite well,’ repeated the short gentleman, when five minutes had expired. ‘I may say remarkably well.’ And he rubbed the palms of his hands as hard as if he were going to strike a light by friction.
‘What will you take?’ inquired Tottle, with the desperate suddenness of a man who knew that unless the visitor took his leave, he stood very little chance of taking anything else.
‘Oh, I don’t know–have you any whiskey?’
‘Why,’ replied Tottle, very slowly, for all this was gaining time, ‘I HAD some capital, and remarkably strong whiskey last week; but it’s all gone–and therefore its strength–‘
‘Is much beyond proof; or, in other words, impossible to be proved,’ said the short gentleman; and he laughed very heartily, and seemed quite glad the whiskey had been drunk. Mr. Tottle smiled–but it was the smile of despair. When Mr. Gabriel Parsons had done laughing, he delicately insinuated that, in the absence of whiskey, he would not be averse to brandy. And Mr. Watkins Tottle, lighting a flat candle very ostentatiously; and displaying an immense key, which belonged to the street-door, but which, for the
sake of appearances, occasionally did duty in an imaginary wine- cellar; left the room to entreat his landlady to charge their glasses, and charge them in the bill. The application was successful; the spirits were speedily called–not from the vasty deep, but the adjacent wine-vaults. The two short gentlemen mixed their grog; and then sat cosily down before the fire–a pair of shorts, airing themselves.
‘Tottle,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘you know my way–off-hand, open, say what I mean, mean what I say, hate reserve, and can’t bear affectation. One, is a bad domino which only hides what good people have about ’em, without making the bad look better; and the other is much about the same thing as pinking a white cotton stocking to make it look like a silk one. Now listen to what I’m going to say.’
Here, the little gentleman paused, and took a long pull at his brandy-and-water. Mr. Watkins Tottle took a sip of his, stirred the fire, and assumed an air of profound attention.
‘It’s of no use humming and ha’ing about the matter,’ resumed the short gentleman.–‘You want to get married.’
‘Why,’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle evasively; for he trembled violently, and felt a sudden tingling throughout his whole frame; ‘why–I should certainly–at least, I THINK I should like–‘
‘Won’t do,’ said the short gentleman.–‘Plain and free–or there’s an end of the matter. Do you want money?’
‘You know I do.’
‘You admire the sex?’
‘And you’d like to be married?’
‘Then you shall be. There’s an end of that.’ Thus saying, Mr. Gabriel Parsons took a pinch of snuff, and mixed another glass.
‘Let me entreat you to be more explanatory,’ said Tottle. ‘Really, as the party principally interested, I cannot consent to be disposed of, in this way.’
‘I’ll tell you,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons, warming with the subject, and the brandy-and-water–‘I know a lady–she’s stopping with my wife now–who is just the thing for you. Well educated; talks French; plays the piano; knows a good deal about flowers, and shells, and all that sort of thing; and has five hundred a year, with an uncontrolled power of disposing of it, by her last will and testament.’
‘I’ll pay my addresses to her,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle. ‘She isn’t VERY young–is she?’
‘Not very; just the thing for you. I’ve said that already.’
‘What coloured hair has the lady?’ inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle.
‘Egad, I hardly recollect,’ replied Gabriel, with coolness.
‘Perhaps I ought to have observed, at first, she wears a front.’
‘A what?’ ejaculated Tottle.
‘One of those things with curls, along here,’ said Parsons, drawing a straight line across his forehead, just over his eyes, in illustration of his meaning. ‘I know the front’s black; I can’t speak quite positively about her own hair; because, unless one walks behind her, and catches a glimpse of it under her bonnet, one seldom sees it; but I should say that it was RATHER lighter than the front–a shade of a greyish tinge, perhaps.’
Mr. Watkins Tottle looked as if he had certain misgivings of mind.mMr. Gabriel Parsons perceived it, and thought it would be safe to begin the next attack without delay.
‘Now, were you ever in love, Tottle?’ he inquired.
Mr. Watkins Tottle blushed up to the eyes, and down to the chin, and exhibited a most extensive combination of colours as he confessed the soft impeachment.
‘I suppose you popped the question, more than once, when you were a young–I beg your pardon–a younger–man,’ said Parsons.
‘Never in my life!’ replied his friend, apparently indignant at being suspected of such an act. ‘Never! The fact is, that I entertain, as you know, peculiar opinions on these subjects. I am not afraid of ladies, young or old–far from it; but, I think, that in compliance with the custom of the present day, they allow too much freedom of speech and manner to marriageable men. Now, the fact is, that anything like this easy freedom I never could
acquire; and as I am always afraid of going too far, I am generally, I dare say, considered formal and cold.’
‘I shouldn’t wonder if you were,’ replied Parsons, gravely; ‘I shouldn’t wonder. However, you’ll be all right in this case; for the strictness and delicacy of this lady’s ideas greatly exceed your own. Lord bless you, why, when she came to our house, there was an old portrait of some man or other, with two large, black, staring eyes, hanging up in her bedroom; she positively refused to go to bed there, till it was taken down, considering it decidedly wrong.’
‘I think so, too,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle; ‘certainly.’
‘And then, the other night–I never laughed so much in my life’– resumed Mr. Gabriel Parsons; ‘I had driven home in an easterly wind, and caught a devil of a face-ache. Well; as Fanny–that’s Mrs. Parsons, you know–and this friend of hers, and I, and Frank Ross, were playing a rubber, I said, jokingly, that when I went to bed I should wrap my head in Fanny’s flannel petticoat. She instantly threw up her cards, and left the room.’
‘Quite right!’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle; ‘she could not possibly have behaved in a more dignified manner. What did you do?’
‘Do?–Frank took dummy; and I won sixpence.’
‘But, didn’t you apologise for hurting her feelings?’
‘Devil a bit. Next morning at breakfast, we talked it over. She contended that any reference to a flannel petticoat was improper;– men ought not to be supposed to know that such things were. I pleaded my coverture; being a married man.’
‘And what did the lady say to that?’ inquired Tottle, deeply interested.
‘Changed her ground, and said that Frank being a single man, its
impropriety was obvious.’
‘Noble-minded creature!’ exclaimed the enraptured Tottle.
‘Oh! both Fanny and I said, at once, that she was regularly cut out
A gleam of placid satisfaction shone on the circular face of Mr.
Watkins Tottle, as he heard the prophecy.
‘There’s one thing I can’t understand,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons,
as he rose to depart; ‘I cannot, for the life and soul of me, imagine how the deuce you’ll ever contrive to come together. The lady would certainly go into convulsions if the subject were mentioned.’ Mr. Gabriel Parsons sat down again, and laughed until
he was weak. Tottle owed him money, so he had a perfect right to laugh at Tottle’s expense.
Mr. Watkins Tottle feared, in his own mind, that this was another characteristic which he had in common with this modern Lucretia. He, however, accepted the invitation to dine with the Parsonses on the next day but one, with great firmness: and looked forward to the introduction, when again left alone, with tolerable composure.
The sun that rose on the next day but one, had never beheld a sprucer personage on the outside of the Norwood stage, than Mr. Watkins Tottle; and when the coach drew up before a cardboard- looking house with disguised chimneys, and a lawn like a large sheet of green letter-paper, he certainly had never lighted to his place of destination a gentleman who felt more uncomfortable.
The coach stopped, and Mr. Watkins Tottle jumped–we beg his pardon–alighted, with great dignity. ‘All right!’ said he, and away went the coach up the hill with that beautiful equanimity of pace for which ‘short’ stages are generally remarkable.
Mr. Watkins Tottle gave a faltering jerk to the handle of the garden-gate bell. He essayed a more energetic tug, and his previous nervousness was not at all diminished by hearing the bell ringing like a fire alarum.
‘Is Mr. Parsons at home?’ inquired Tottle of the man who opened the gate. He could hardly hear himself speak, for the bell had not yet done tolling.
‘Here I am,’ shouted a voice on the lawn,–and there was Mr. Gabriel Parsons in a flannel jacket, running backwards and forwards, from a wicket to two hats piled on each other, and from the two hats to the wicket, in the most violent manner, while another gentleman with his coat off was getting down the area of the house, after a ball. When the gentleman without the coat had found it–which he did in less than ten minutes–he ran back to the hats, and Gabriel Parsons pulled up. Then, the gentleman without
the coat called out ‘play,’ very loudly, and bowled. Then Mr.Gabriel Parsons knocked the ball several yards, and took another run. Then, the other gentleman aimed at the wicket, and didn’t hit it; and Mr. Gabriel Parsons, having finished running on his own
account, laid down the bat and ran after the ball, which went into a neighbouring field. They called this cricket.
‘Tottle, will you “go in?”‘ inquired Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as he approached him, wiping the perspiration off his face.
Mr. Watkins Tottle declined the offer, the bare idea of accepting which made him even warmer than his friend.
‘Then we’ll go into the house, as it’s past four, and I shall have to wash my hands before dinner,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons. ‘Here, I hate ceremony, you know! Timson, that’s Tottle–Tottle, that’s Timson; bred for the church, which I fear will never be bread for him;’ and he chuckled at the old joke. Mr. Timson bowed carelessly. Mr. Watkins Tottle bowed stiffly. Mr. Gabriel Parsons led the way to the house. He was a rich sugar-baker, who mistook rudeness for honesty, and abrupt bluntness for an open and candid manner; many besides Gabriel mistake bluntness for sincerity.
Mrs. Gabriel Parsons received the visitors most graciously on the steps, and preceded them to the drawing-room. On the sofa, was seated a lady of very prim appearance, and remarkably inanimate. She was one of those persons at whose age it is impossible to make any reasonable guess; her features might have been remarkably pretty when she was younger, and they might always have presented the same appearance. Her complexion–with a slight trace of powder here and there–was as clear as that of a well-made wax doll, and her face as expressive. She was handsomely dressed, and was
winding up a gold watch.
‘Miss Lillerton, my dear, this is our friend Mr. Watkins Tottle; a very old acquaintance I assure you,’ said Mrs. Parsons, presenting the Strephon of Cecil-street, Strand. The lady rose, and made a deep courtesy; Mr. Watkins Tottle made a bow.
‘Splendid, majestic creature!’ thought Tottle.
Mr. Timson advanced, and Mr. Watkins Tottle began to hate him. Men generally discover a rival, instinctively, and Mr. Watkins Tottle felt that his hate was deserved.
‘May I beg,’ said the reverend gentleman,–‘May I beg to call upon you, Miss Lillerton, for some trifling donation to my soup, coals, and blanket distribution society?’
‘Put my name down, for two sovereigns, if you please,’ responded Miss Lillerton.
‘You are truly charitable, madam,’ said the Reverend Mr. Timson, ‘and we know that charity will cover a multitude of sins. Let me beg you to understand that I do not say this from the supposition that you have many sins which require palliation; believe me when I say that I never yet met any one who had fewer to atone for, than Miss Lillerton.’
Something like a bad imitation of animation lighted up the lady’s face, as she acknowledged the compliment. Watkins Tottle incurred the sin of wishing that the ashes of the Reverend Charles Timson were quietly deposited in the churchyard of his curacy, wherever it might be.
‘I’ll tell you what,’ interrupted Parsons, who had just appeared with clean hands, and a black coat, ‘it’s my private opinion, Timson, that your “distribution society” is rather a humbug.’
‘You are so severe,’ replied Timson, with a Christian smile: he disliked Parsons, but liked his dinners.
‘So positively unjust!’ said Miss Lillerton.
‘Certainly,’ observed Tottle. The lady looked up; her eyes met those of Mr. Watkins Tottle. She withdrew them in a sweet confusion, and Watkins Tottle did the same–the confusion was mutual.
‘Why,’ urged Mr. Parsons, pursuing his objections, ‘what on earth is the use o giving a man coals who has nothing to cook, or giving him blankets when he hasn’t a bed, or giving him soup when he requires substantial food?–“like sending them ruffles when wanting a shirt.” Why not give ’em a trifle of money, as I do, when I think they deserve it, and let them purchase what they think best?
Why?–because your subscribers wouldn’t see their names flourishing in print on the church-door–that’s the reason.’
‘Really, Mr. Parsons, I hope you don’t mean to insinuate that I wish to see MY name in print, on the church-door,’ interrupted Miss Lillerton.
‘I hope not,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, putting in another word, and getting another glance.
‘Certainly not,’ replied Parsons. ‘I dare say you wouldn’t mind seeing it in writing, though, in the church register–eh?’
‘Register! What register?’ inquired the lady gravely.
‘Why, the register of marriages, to be sure,’ replied Parsons, chuckling at the sally, and glancing at Tottle. Mr. Watkins Tottle thought he should have fainted for shame, and it is quite impossible to imagine what effect the joke would have had upon the lady, if dinner had not been, at that moment, announced. Mr. Watkins Tottle, with an unprecedented effort of gallantry, offered the tip of his little finger; Miss Lillerton accepted it gracefully, with maiden modesty; and they proceeded in due state to the dinner-table, where they were soon deposited side by side. The room was very snug, the dinner very good, and the little party in spirits. The conversation became pretty general, and when Mr. Watkins Tottle had extracted one or two cold observations from his neighbour, and had taken wine with her, he began to acquire confidence rapidly. The cloth was removed; Mrs. Gabriel Parsons drank four glasses of port on the plea of being a nurse just then; and Miss Lillerton took about the same number of sips, on the plea of not wanting any at all. At length, the ladies retired, to the great gratification of Mr. Gabriel Parsons, who had been coughing and frowning at his wife, for half-an-hour previously–signals which Mrs. Parsons never happened to observe, until she had been pressed to take her ordinary quantum, which, to avoid giving trouble, she generally did at once.
‘What do you think of her?’ inquired Mr. Gabriel Parsons of Mr. Watkins Tottle, in an under-tone.
‘I dote on her with enthusiasm already!’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle.
‘Gentlemen, pray let us drink “the ladies,”‘ said the Reverend Mr. Timson.
‘The ladies!’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle, emptying his glass. In the fulness of his confidence, he felt as if he could make love to a dozen ladies, off-hand.
‘Ah!’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘I remember when I was a young man – fill your glass, Timson.’
‘I have this moment emptied it.’
‘Then fill again.’
‘I will,’ said Timson, suiting the action to the word.
‘I remember,’ resumed Mr. Gabriel Parsons, ‘when I was a younger man, with what a strange compound of feelings I used to drink that toast, and how I used to think every woman was an angel.’
‘Was that before you were married?’ mildly inquired Mr. Watkins Tottle.
‘Oh! certainly,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons. ‘I have never thought so since; and a precious milksop I must have been, ever to have thought so at all. But, you know, I married Fanny under the oddest, and most ridiculous circumstances possible.’
‘What were they, if one may inquire?’ asked Timson, who had heard the story, on an average, twice a week for the last six months. Mr. Watkins Tottle listened attentively, in the hope of picking up some suggestion that might be useful to him in his new undertaking.
‘I spent my wedding-night in a back-kitchen chimney,’ said Parsons, by way of a beginning.
‘In a back-kitchen chimney!’ ejaculated Watkins Tottle. ‘How dreadful!’
‘Yes, it wasn’t very pleasant,’ replied the small host. ‘The fact is, Fanny’s father and mother liked me well enough as an individual, but had a decided objection to my becoming a husband.
You see, I hadn’t any money in those days, and they had; and so they wanted Fanny to pick up somebody else. However, we managed to discover the state of each other’s affections somehow. I used to meet her, at some mutual friends’ parties; at first we danced together, and talked, and flirted, and all that sort of thing; then, I used to like nothing so well as sitting by her side–we didn’t talk so much then, but I remember I used to have a great notion of looking at her out of the extreme corner of my left eye– and then I got very miserable and sentimental, and began to write verses, and use Macassar oil. At last I couldn’t bear it any longer, and after I had walked up and down the sunny side of Oxford-street in tight boots for a week–and a devilish hot summer it was too–in the hope of meeting her, I sat down and wrote a letter, and begged her to manage to see me clandestinely, for I wanted to hear her decision from her own mouth. I said I had
discovered, to my perfect satisfaction, that I couldn’t live without her, and that if she didn’t have me, I had made up my mind to take prussic acid, or take to drinking, or emigrate, so as to take myself off in some way or other. Well, I borrowed a pound, and bribed the housemaid to give her the note, which she did.’
‘And what was the reply?’ inquired Timson, who had found, before, that to encourage the repetition of old stories is to get a general invitation.
‘Oh, the usual one! Fanny expressed herself very miserable; hinted at the possibility of an early grave; said that nothing should induce her to swerve from the duty she owed her parents; implored me to forget her, and find out somebody more deserving, and all that sort of thing. She said she could, on no account, think of meeting me unknown to her pa and ma; and entreated me, as she should be in a particular part of Kensington Gardens at eleven o’clock next morning, not to attempt to meet her there.’
‘You didn’t go, of course?’ said Watkins Tottle.
‘Didn’t I?–Of course I did. There she was, with the identical housemaid in perspective, in order that there might be no interruption. We walked about, for a couple of hours; made
ourselves delightfully miserable; and were regularly engaged. Then, we began to “correspond”–that is to say, we used to exchange about four letters a day; what we used to say in ’em I can’t imagine. And I used to have an interview, in the kitchen, or the cellar, or some such place, every evening. Well, things went on in this way for some time; and we got fonder of each other every day. At last, as our love was raised to such a pitch, and as my salary had been raised too, shortly before, we determined on a secret marriage. Fanny arranged to sleep at a friend’s, on the previous night; we were to be married early in the morning; and then we were to return to her home and be pathetic. She was to fall at the old gentleman’s feet, and bathe his boots with her tears; and I was to hug the old lady and call her “mother,” and use my pocket- handkerchief as much as possible. Married we were, the next morning; two girls-friends of Fanny’s–acting as bridesmaids; and a man, who was hired for five shillings and a pint of porter, officiating as father. Now, the old lady unfortunately put off her return from Ramsgate, where she had been paying a visit, until the next morning; and as we placed great reliance on her, we agreed to postpone our confession for four-and-twenty hours. My newly-made wife returned home, and I spent my wedding-day in strolling about Hampstead-heath, and execrating my father-in-law. Of course, I went to comfort my dear little wife at night, as much as I could, with the assurance that our troubles would soon be over. I opened
the garden-gate, of which I had a key, and was shown by the servant to our old place of meeting–a back kitchen, with a stone-floor and a dresser: upon which, in the absence of chairs, we used to sit and make love.’
‘Make love upon a kitchen-dresser!’ interrupted Mr. Watkins Tottle, whose ideas of decorum were greatly outraged.
‘Ah! On a kitchen-dresser!’ replied Parsons. ‘And let me tell you, old fellow, that, if you were really over head-and-ears in love, and had no other place to make love in, you’d be devilish glad to avail yourself of such an opportunity. However, let me see;–where was I?’
‘On the dresser,’ suggested Timson.
‘Oh–ah! Well, here I found poor Fanny, quite disconsolate and uncomfortable. The old boy had been very cross all day, which made her feel still more lonely; and she was quite out of spirits. So, I put a good face on the matter, and laughed it off, and said we should enjoy the pleasures of a matrimonial life more by contrast; and, at length, poor Fanny brightened up a little. I stopped there, till about eleven o’clock, and, just as I was taking my leave for the fourteenth time, the girl came running down the stairs, without her shoes, in a great fright, to tell us that the old villain–Heaven forgive me for calling him so, for he is dead and gone now!–prompted I suppose by the prince of darkness, was coming down, to draw his own beer for supper–a thing he had not done before, for six months, to my certain knowledge; for the cask stood in that very back kitchen. If he discovered me there, explanation would have been out of the question; for he was so
outrageously violent, when at all excited, that he never would have listened to me. There was only one thing to be done. The chimney was a very wide one; it had been originally built for an oven; went up perpendicularly for a few feet, and then shot backward and
formed a sort of small cavern. My hopes and fortune–the means of our joint existence almost–were at stake. I scrambled in like a squirrel; coiled myself up in this recess; and, as Fanny and the girl replaced the deal chimney-board, I could see the light of the
candle which my unconscious father-in-law carried in his hand. I heard him draw the beer; and I never heard beer run so slowly. He was just leaving the kitchen, and I was preparing to descend, when down came the infernal chimney-board with a tremendous crash. He stopped and put down the candle and the jug of beer on the dresser; he was a nervous old fellow, and any unexpected noise annoyed him. He coolly observed that the fire-place was never used, and sending the frightened servant into the next kitchen for a hammer and nails, actually nailed up the board, and locked the door on the outside. So, there was I, on my wedding-night, in the light kerseymere trousers, fancy waistcoat, and blue coat, that I had been married in in the morning, in a back-kitchen chimney, the
bottom of which was nailed up, and the top of which had been formerly raised some fifteen feet, to prevent the smoke from annoying the neighbours. And there,’ added Mr. Gabriel Parsons, as he passed the bottle, ‘there I remained till half-past seven the next morning, when the housemaid’s sweetheart, who was a carpenter, unshelled me. The old dog had nailed me up so securely, that, to this very hour, I firmly believe that no one but a carpenter could ever have got me out.’
‘And what did Mrs. Parsons’s father say, when he found you were married?’ inquired Watkins Tottle, who, although he never saw a joke, was not satisfied until he heard a story to the very end.
‘Why, the affair of the chimney so tickled his fancy, that he pardoned us off-hand, and allowed us something to live on till he went the way of all flesh. I spent the next night in his second- floor front, much more comfortably than I had spent the preceding one; for, as you will probably guess–‘
‘Please, sir, missis has made tea,’ said a middle-aged female servant, bobbing into the room.
‘That’s the very housemaid that figures in my story,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons. ‘She went into Fanny’s service when we were first married, and has been with us ever since; but I don’t think she has felt one atom of respect for me since the morning she saw me released, when she went into violent hysterics, to which she has been subject ever since. Now, shall we join the ladies?’
‘If you please,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle.
‘By all means,’ added the obsequious Mr. Timson; and the trio made for the drawing-room accordingly.
Tea being concluded, and the toast and cups having been duly handed, and occasionally upset, by Mr. Watkins Tottle, a rubber was proposed. They cut for partners–Mr. and Mrs. Parsons; and Mr. Watkins Tottle and Miss Lillerton. Mr. Timson having conscientious scruples on the subject of card-playing, drank brandy-and-water, and kept up a running spar with Mr. Watkins Tottle. The evening went off well; Mr. Watkins Tottle was in high spirits, having some reason to be gratified with his reception by Miss Lillerton; and before he left, a small party was made up to visit the Beulah Spa on the following Saturday.
‘It’s all right, I think,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons to Mr. Watkins Tottle as he opened the garden gate for him.
‘I hope so,’ he replied, squeezing his friend’s hand.
‘You’ll be down by the first coach on Saturday,’ said Mr. Gabriel Parsons.
‘Certainly,’ replied Mr. Watkins Tottle. ‘Undoubtedly.’
But fortune had decreed that Mr. Watkins Tottle should not be down by the first coach on Saturday. His adventures on that day, however, and the success of his wooing, are subjects for another chapter.