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These animals, however, were still named Fido and Flo; and if they really were the identical beasts, it must be confessed they were uncommonly sprightly for their age, and a vast deal more affectionate in their conduct towards my father, than old recollections might have led him to expect. In addition to these was a little grinning monkey, who had percbed himself as a chimney ornament on the mantel-piece; and comfortably nestled in the grate was a black cat, with her numerous progeny of kittens.
"Take a seat, Mr. Pike," urged my aunt Dorothea, in her blandest tones.
My father proceeded to comply, but alas ! the room was gloomy, and he saw not that the chair was pre-occupied. The fearful squalling of a cat, announced a catastrophe, and my father started up in agony with a tortoiseshell monster clinging tightly by her claws to the part that would have invaded her right of settlement. The cat remained adherent; my father, I regret to say, swore; my aunts shrieked; the monkey grioned, and the parrot vociferated, without intermission, “ Keep the pot a-boiling !" By the aid of Tom Briton, my suffering ancestor was rescued from his tortures, and, in sufficient time, peace restored ; my aunts making a thousand apologies, and condoling, at the same moment, both sufferers.
"Really, Mr. Pike, it is very unfortunate ;-poor Tom,-but really, -really,"
" Don't mention it, ma'am,–Confound the dog !” One of the affectionate canines bad, in a most conciliating manner, rubbed his sides against the legs of my father's white ducks, which each moment grew, under the operation, “ browner and browner still ;”—a sight of the damage, evident even through the darkness, had called forth my father's sudden ejaculation.
"And so, Mr. Pike, you're a rich man ?-well, now, who'd a-thought it! Only think, now,"
“0, the devil!” roared my father. All the menagerie seemed to have made a dead set at the unfortunate Bob: the little monkey had dropped lightly off the mantel-piece, and was now gripning with unconcealed delight, as he tugged with might and main at my father's hair. .
“ Orlando !-Go away!" said Tabitha, holding up an admonitory finger. Orlando looked up, grinned again, shook his head, and proceeded to tug away with redoubled energy, occasionally, by way of accompaniment, lashing my father's face with his long tail.
“Really, ma'am,” said my father, as well as pain would let him, " this won't do ! I won't be in your house another minute, if you don't turn every one of these animals out into the yard !” Fido, who had made a slight and rapid excursion up and down the muddy street, now entered, pursued by another dog, and jumped upon my father's lap, there forming a clear, black cast in mud of each of his four feet :patience was exhausted ; catching up the offender, my persecuted parent, in blind rage, cast it from him, only to create new disturbance, it fell into the grate among the nest of kittens; a fearful clamour arose
“ Turn them all out!” cried my father ;-"Turn them out, every one, or I'll go away, and never come here again !—Turn them out, every beast of them !”.
My aunt Tabitha would have liked, at that moment, nothing better than to assist Orlando in his efforts to exterminate the hair on my father's head; but-was he not a man of property ? Mammon overcame her love for the dear creatures, and, by a great effort, my father's desire was complied with : the beasts were all turned into the yard, where they ranged themselves on the window-sill, and clamorously endeavoured to obtain forcible re-admission; the monkey and parrot, by combined exertions, broke every pane of glass; but the smallness of the panes and the broken fragments, prevented anything more thaa one or two kittens from passing the boundary. My father, when he heard the windows breaking, told my aunts it served them rigbt; and those amiable ladies, while they pretended unconcern, secretly resolved that the fortune of Bob Pike, Esquire, should liquidate the glazier's bill mcst amply. The broken glass was still falling in. “ Keep the pot a-boiling!” cried the parrot ; and down came another vitreous shower, at which my father chuckled right merrily.
“ How much is the fortune ?” asked aunt Tabitha, with apparent unconcern.
“Money untold,” replied Bob Pike, Esquire.
“You'll have a ball, I suppose, when it's all settled ?" suggested aunt Dorothy.
“ In course,” replied the delighted legatee.
“ But, my dear father,” said I, “ you would not celebrate your brother's death?”
“Omah!- I haven't seen him, though, since I was a boy ;-but yet, I s'pose it isn't customary to give balls and rejoicings when one gets a legacy."
My aunt Tabitha had been calculating :-
-“for you to give such a thing — but this, you know,-this good fortune of an indiwiddel member, is a matter of rejoicing to the whole family; and so, for the matter of that, what say you, Dorothy, suppose we give a party on the occasion ?”
Dorothea had not been calculating, and was, therefore, taken aback, having briefly weighed the matter in her mind :
“ Delightful !” replied she, “ so we will.- We'll do it in a style suitable to the occasion."
“ Let it be genteel,” said my father, — “ nothing low, you know.”
“O, it shall be quite a fashionable rahoonyon, of course; as it's your occasion, you will bring as many friends as you please ; and dear Fitzroy will come, and bring his friends ; and you, sir, (turning to Tom Briton,) I hope we shall have the pleasure of seeing you?" “ I should think so ;" cried Tom.
This was an odd way of accepting an invitation ; my aunts thought it flattering eagerness and delight; had they known what odd thoughts were tumbling through the brain of their invitee, it is very doubtful whether they would have desired his company.
“When shall it be?" asked my father; “ you must give a fortnight's notice to the visiters, that's genteel.”
“Say, then, to-morrow fortnight," suggested Tabitha.
"Mind your invitations, lace envelope and border, pink paper, and no mistake.”
So it was arranged.
Tom now bethought himself of the milkman, and his designs for that gentleman's ultimate felicity. “Are you aware, madam,” said he, " of a report in the neighbourhood,-one with which you ought not to be unacquainted,- that a person named Walter Pump, having addressed some love verses to a lady of your name, attempted to hang himself?"
The gentle Tabitha turned red and white, but Mammon had made a little difference in her feelings :
“Pump?_Who's he?" was her careless inquiry.
How strangely were these fair creatures changed since yester-even! Tom saw the course things were taking, but was not discouraged, trusting to the resources of his own ingenuity to effect the alliance which he had at heart; for the present he let the matter drop, and we took leave just as the large baboon had succeeded in disengaging himself from his chain, and was causing a fearful clamour and commotion among the pets in the court-yard.
“Well,” said my father, when we had left the scene of uproar,“ I can't walk home in this state !" and he looked down on his white ducks,- white no longer : “ Now I'm a man of property, I may call a cab. No, though, l’lì ride in a hackney coach, 'cos that's most like a carriage.” Accordingly, Bob Pike, Esquire, called a coach and deposited himself therein, taking care to hang his arm out of the window, so as to hide that little plate which distinguishes a public conveyance from a dirty carriage; as if no one knew that a similar plate on a larger scale was affixed behind him, and a duplicate on the other door. Ordering the coachman to drive to Belgrave Square, deluded by a vivid imagination into a momentary belief that his own house Was there situated, the unfortunate victim of brutish endearinents was soon borne out of our sight.
When Tom Briton and I returned to our lodgings, we found that the events of the morning had not been forgotten. Eliza, the servant, having answered our knock, no sooner perceived who was at hand, than, leaving the street door wide open, she scampered off to inform her mistress, and we had scarcely reached our own room, when she re-appeared before us in a highly excited state.
"If you please, sir," said she, addressing Tom, “ Mrs. Smith sends her compliments to you, sir, and hopes you're quite well, sir," —
"Much obliged I'm sure, for her inquiries." "
"No, sir ; and says her compliments, and she's very sorry; she says, sir, she's just engaged her lodgings to a gentleman, and she don't want to see you no more; no, nor none of your great, vulgar, brawling visiters; and so, if you please, sir, she says, you'll pack.'
"Anything else, my dear ?"
Tom Briton was a handsome young fellow, and Eliza was decidedly ugly, and “my dear," was uncommonly oily, -the damsel was somewhat appeased : in addition to all which the ghost of a parting fee had suddenly risen before her eyes; she desired to convert the ghost into substance, and acted accordingly :
“Missis says, sir," replied she, “ O, you should hear how she's going on!" (in a conciliatory, confidential tone, pointing with a thumb over her shoulder,)“ Missis says, if that big gen'lman's card comes by post to-morrow, I'm not to take it in; and I a'n't to take in no letier that feel thick like, as if they'd got a card in 'em ?”
“ Where is Mr. Smith ?''
“ Will you ask him to step up here ?” Tom put the expected money in her hand, upon which she dropped a curtsey, and proceeded on her mission.
“Now, Fitzroy," said Tom, “ you back me, and we'll have some sport yet out of this matter."
" What are you about to do ?”
“ Nothing sanguinary, however it may sound; therefore, don't interrupt my progress with a sermon against duelling.”.
Mr. Smith shortly appeared, his face very red, and his stubby locks in great disorder, giving rise to the paradoxical assumption that his wife had been “ combing" them. Making a very awkward bow, he stood, with a sheepish look, in doubt as to what should follow.
“Mr. Smith," said Tom, “ there is a little account between us :I believe this will cover it,” (he laid money on the table,) “ and you will have the kindness to give me a receipt.”
“ Most happy, I'm sure,” replied the landlord, brightening a little as he pocketed the gold, -"most happy,- very sorry,-but-my wife"-and, at the magic word, his jaw fell,-he stood petrified, as though a Gorgon's head had risen before his imagination.
“No matter, my dear sir, no matter," said Tom, “don't mention it.-Are we in private here?”
Mr. Smith looked confused ;--he could not answer for the locality of his partner's ears. “My wife,"_commenced he, but the sound of her angry voice proceeding from the depths below stilled suspicion, “Yes,” said he, “ we are private.”
“This gentleman,” said Tom, looking at me," has been appointed on behalf of Robert Pike, Esquire, whom you this morning challenged, to arrange matters ;—this, in fact, is Mr. Pike's second. Perhaps, to prevent the matter from going farther, as I was the other witness to the transaction, it would be as well if you were to allow me to make arrangements on your part.
“What do you mean, sir ?”
“Really, really, Mr. Briton, I did not intend, I was hot,- I was, I-I never thought of fighting,—I never fought a duel in my life, my wife" *Your wife need know nothing about it."
“Any apology, Mr. Briton, I would really,- I can't fire a pistol. I don't mind, if the gentleman wishes
“Sir,” said Tom, addressing me, “ am I to understand that you are empowered by your principal to accept an apology ?"
“I have heard nothing of the kind,” replied I.
“ Then, Mr. Smith, you really must fight :-remember, it was you that gave the challenge, -besides- "
The unfortunate duellist, seeing no means of escape, changed his tone, determined to face the matter out.
“ I apologize !" said he; “ really, sir, you misunderstand !-I meant no such thing; if Mr. Pike will apologize, I intended to say - "
"He will not,” said Tom; " so that the sooner we arrange the better."
“ Very well, sir; then I leave matters in your hands to arrange as you please. I'm an excellent shot, -tell the other man,- I'm a firstrate shot. My grandfather was an exciseman, and I've got a pistol of his; it's a very large one, and quite a beauty,-only the barrel's gone; it has killed many a man,-tell Mr. Pike,-it's a capital shot.-Who's afraid ?”
" This is as it should be, my dear sir,” said Tom. “When shall this little affair come off ?-Say to morrow, at sunrise."
This was drawing matters too close.
“Impossible!” said Mr. Smith. “My pistol wants mending, and I can't get it done so soon,-and I've got gunpowder to buy and shots,–0,-tell the gentleman I'm a capital shot!"
“You will be provided with all that is necessary on the ground,” said Tom. “Where shall it come off ?-Will Wimbledon Common suit you ?" and he turned to me.
“ Perfectly,” replied I; “ Wimbledon Common, to-morrow morning, at sunrise."
Mr. Smith gasped for breath. “ Too quick,” cried he; “ you are too quick! It requires deliberation !”.
“ Deliberation is murder,” replied Tom Briton.
“Say to-morrow month, - to - morrow, Thursday, - Thursday month!"
“Unheard of procrastination !"
"But,-but, I have not made my will !” As the necessity of making a will suggested itself, the bellicose butterman looked uncommonly frightened.
"It can be done to-night," said Tom; “send at once for a lawyer. I think there is nothing else to arrange.”
“Yes, yes !” cried the unfortunate Smith. “To-morrow morning it is impossible :-I have a large order to execute, a very large order ;besides, Mrs. Smith!-If a month is too long, split the difference, say to-morrow fortnight!"
“My dear sir, only consider,”—but, as Tom spoke, he had considered ; a sudden idea suggested that this day was particularly eligible. “Very well,” said he, “if this gentleman will consent, let us say to-morrow fortnight.”
I, of course, opposed no objection, and Thursday fortnight, the day appointed for my aunt's grand party in commemoration of my father's unexpected fortune, was marked out also by the frolicsome Fates as the period of the hostile encounter.-Thus is the sweet with the bitter intermingled in the cup of life!