THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A BOARDING HOUSE IDYLL. By Miss Braddon. The dining-room of Oholmondeley Mansion presented a rather cheerless aspect on Sunday morning. The younger ladies, limp and feverish from last night’s dance, either breakfasted in bed or Struggled wearily into the room just as the table was being cleared. The Oholmondeley dowagers, o’erspont with chaperon-work, or with the mingled excitement of 100 and a little something hot, made the Saturday ball an excuse for a lie-a-bed Sunday,_ and appeared generally about lunch-time, cross and pious. As for the gentlemen-boarders at the mansion, they had lost heart and appetite overnight, and pulled at their food in a jaded way—an English Sunday sitting heavy on their souls. ■ Indeed, having arrived on the previous Saturday evening, and partaken, in a mild way, of the current festivities, I hardly expected, from an intimate acquaintance with the habits of the house, to find anybody ■ interesting at breakfast except Mrs. Bowser, our respected hostess, presiding at the head of an ocean of clean table-cloth, flanked at intervals by one or two of the disconsolate gentle-, men aforesaid. “ Breakfast on the table from nine to ten,” was th.e order ‘ of the house ; and entering the room midway between these llours, I found it, as usual, but thinly tenanted, and had no difficulty in obtaining the seat I claimed as an habitue of the Oholmondeley, on Mrs. Bowser’s left hand. Of fifty inmates of the house, who with a very few “ outsiders,” had danced out the week in the first-floor drawingroom, there were present at breakfast only some dozen men and two ladies, who had attended an early function, and made a conspicuous display of prayer-books on plates before them. At. the heacl oJL the table, Mrs. Bowser dispensed "lea that had been hot. At the foot Miss Amelia, sister and assis-taut of the hostess, dispensed coflee thatwas still warm. After saluting Mrs. Bowser, inclining my head to Miss Amelia, and including the rest of the company in a bland bow, I became aware of the circumstance that a gentleman, a new comer to the Cholmondeley, occupied the seat of horor on Mrs. Bowser’s right, which from time memorial had been devoted to Mrs. Twistleton, (of whom more hereafter,) and in her absence, to the personage of next importance then in residence. No sooner had my wants been supplied from the hot meats frizzling in the fender, I than Mrs. Bowser begged leave to introduce me to her distinguished friend the Count Bouilli, who was honoring Oholmondeley mansion with his presence. It would be impossible to conceive anything so essentially French as the Count’s general appearance. His dress was Parisian, his beard,j :and especially his moustache, 'could have been nurtured ,s nowhere out of Paris ; the extreme difficulty he experienced in finding the right English words, and pronouncing even tho
easiest of them with an English accent, showed how unusually foreignfhe was, how extravagantly un-English. “To be made introduce to me, it was to him a more happy moment, than he could conceive.” In his struggle after English idiom he seemed to have lost all idiom. The conversation between us was not very animated, for my distinguished “ vis-a-vis ” seemed more inclined to oat than talk. Madame bestowed her smiles upon us alternatively, and noticing my furtive surprise at the Count’s peculiarities of manner and costume, gave me a series of winks with her left eye, as much as to say, “ Oh, yes ; isn’t he a nice man 1 So charmingly French !” My admiring investigations were, however, intenupted by a general rising on the part of the breakfasting gentlemen, which attracted the attention of the Count and myself. It was caused by no less a circumstance than the appearance of “the belle of the Cholmondeley.” Neither the young lady who was at present installed in that office, nor, as far as my experiences went, any of her predecessors, had ever before honored the Sunday breakfast-table with their presence. Their manner was to tell each of their cavaliers severally that they were going to church at a quarter to eleven precisely, and then when the time came and the hall was full of young gentlemen moodily gazing at each other, in may colored scarfs and spotless gloves, to slip demurely out of the back door with mamma, returning at lunch time to ravish such of their admirers as had not started on a twentymile walk in despair, by making them guess who had been the favored companion at church. It will save much confusion if I explain at once that mammas are at a discount at Cholmondeley Mansion ; we know them only as their daughters’ encumbrance, who may prove troublesome at times. These remarks will serve to explain the sudden rising of the male element at the breakfast table—an example which the Count and myself, not to be singular, imitated at once. Half of us were in love with Miss Edie Twistleton, and the other half were struggling feebly with the passion ; so that when she made her gracious appearance in the breakfast-room, and advanced to say “ Good morning,” to Mrs Bowser, it was natural that we should spring to our feet, and that at, least a dozen chairs should be offered by as many gentlemen, who further, with their disengaged hands, made clutches at plates of muffins and remainder portions of frizzled ham as step-ping-stones to the beauty’s favor. While the excitement was at its height, two distinct sniffs were audible from the direction of the ladies with the prayer books, (xo be continued. )
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 72, 11 March 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 72, 11 March 1880
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