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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
A BOARDING HOUSE IDYLL. By Miss Beaddon. “Mr. Twistleton,” I said, “if you come at once you may be in time to save your daughter from marrying an infamous scamp, a Count Bouilli, who wears a false heard, and is I don’t know what. Put on your coat ” (he was wearing a waistcoat with sleeves) “and come at once.” Mr. Twistleton, rather slow and plethoric in his habits, merely repeated the words “ Count Bully. Yes, I + hink the Missus wrote me about him. Well, perhaps I’d better come down and see to it.” “Perhaps I’d better come down and seeto.it !” When I had been at such pains to expose this rascal, to think that bliss Edie’s own father should speak so. I was so indignant at the cool way in which he treated the whole affair, that I felt half inclined to stop in town and leave him to fight his own battle with the Count. But an exceeding longing for revenge on the man who had so egregiously imposed on the confidence of the Cholmondeley and was acting so basely ■toward Miss Edie, impelled me to accompany Twistleton. I was determined, however, not to tell him whom I suspected the Count to be ; I would not care for the esclandre ; I would sacrifice the peace of Mrs. Bowser’s establishment for the satisfaction of pointing to the Count in face of the assembled company and saying, “ There, Mr. Twistleton, is your creditor, Mr. Fleance.”
We missed our train while Mr. Twistleton was waiting for a coat that was being finished for him to take down to Brighton, “Good heaven!” I thought, “to trouble yourself about a coat, while Miss Edie is in such danger ! ” “ It isn’t often,” he explained to me, “ that I take a customer’s order home ; but this is an exceptional case, one ®f my very largest customers residing now —ahem—at Brighton.” He smiled a fat smile, bought an evening paper, and read it all the way. I was fidgeting about, wondering what the Count was up to, and here was Miss Bdie’s own father quietly reading a paper. We reached the mansion just at half past six the Cholmondeley dinner hour. I led Twistleton into the diningroom with a feeling of triumphant elation. My look was, I believe, so determined that the young curate, who caught sight of me as he was saying grace, lost his voice, and every one sat down in an uncomfortable way, as if they were not quite sure whether he had finished. On Mrs. Bowser’s right was seated Mrs. Twistleton, on her left the Count: and the Count’s left-hand neighbor was Miss Edie. Between these stood Charles, who also had caught my eye, and gloated over the approaching scene. I advanced to Mrs. Bowser’s side, and said in a loud voice, that commanded the attention of the whole room : “ Mrs. Bowser, you have been nourishing a viper in your bosom ” (Mrs. Bowser clutched at her stomacher ;) “ this man is an imposter ! ” If the first shell of a French bombardment had burst in the dining-room of Cholmondeley Mansion it could not have created greater consternation. Every one in the room sprang to their feet ; Charles, in obedience to a gesture of mine, led Miss Edie, who was almost hysterical to her mother’s side. The Count had risen at my approach, and stood before me confused and trembling. Mrs. Bowser was so hopelessly bewildered that she could do nothing but call out “ Charles, Amelia, Amelia, Charles, stop him ! stop him ! ” I was master of the situation, and resol red to complete the scene by stripping Count Fleance of his mock beard. With a quick movement of my arm I had almost accomplished my design, when Mr. Twistleton stepped forward and checked me with his hand laid on mine. Then turning to the Count, he said ; “ Mr. Fleance, I regret to have to announce to you the death of your uncle, Sir Gilbert Fleance. Mrs. Bowser, and ladies and gentlemen, I beg you will calm yourselves, there has been some slight mistake ; this gentleman is not Count Bully, far from it. He is my friend, if he will allow me to call him so, Sir Edward Fleance, baronet,” “ Good heart alive !” was all that Mrs, Bowser could say. “Deary me!” came from Miss Amelia at the other end of the table. To my astonishment Mrs. Twistleton was leaning back in her chair in a fit of laughter that rendered suffocation momentarily eminent. What did it mean 1 No explanation was offered ; every one sat down again, and dinner was resumed in an uneasy sort of way ; Charles, almost useless, paralyzed with perplexity, had to retire several times to empty his waistcoat. Mr. Twistleton occupied the seat Miss Edie had vacated ; Miss Edie sat next to her mother, and never lifted her eyes from her plate, conscious that every eye not fixed on the Count was fastened on her. Dinner was over somehow, and then Mr. and Mrs. Twistleton, Miss Edie, the Count, and myself, adjourned to Mrs. Bowser’s private sitting-room, where, with Mrs. Bowser and Miss Amelia to keep the peace, and the whole of the residents at the Cholmondeley congregated in the hall outside, with Charles stationed at the door to prevent any of them listening at the key-hole, we received the following explanation from Mr. Twistleton. He first addressed himself to the Count. “You, Sir Richard Fleance, as you have chosen to disguise yourself as a Frenchman with a black beard, when your own is a red, stubby one, as I know well, must excuse me if, in fairness to Mrs. Bowser, I explain the state of affairs. I knew you had run away from your creditors ; I knew you were stopping at the Cholmondeley under an outlandish name, and I wrote and told my wife so. I have learned from her that you have been paying attention to my daughter, and that, yesterday, you proposed for her hand. Am I right ? ” “Quite right, Mr. Twistleton,” said the Count in a sheepish voice. Miss Edie gave a fierce little exclamation, and stamped her foot. “I demand from you, Sir Edward, a renewal of that proposal now that ym are a baronet of the United kingdom, and not disinherited by your uncle.” “Not disinherited! Gad, my dear Twistleton, you’ve saved me, I—” But whether he was going to back out of his engagement (I thought at the time he was,) or renew his vows, it is impossible to say, for at that moment Miss Edie, with another little stamp, demanded to be heard in the matter. “ What nonsense you are talking, papa ! I won’t have him, of course I won’t have him. He told me he dyed his moustache, but I did think it was his own beard. ” And she burst into sobs, and asked to be taken out of the room. So Mrs. Twistleton, Mrs. Bowser, and Miss Amelia took her in charge, and as the door opened to let them out we heard a buzz of excited inquiries burst out in the hall. We gentlemen being left alone, my share of the denouement was soon explained, and I received Mr. Twistleton’s thanks for having looked after his daughter’s interests so efficiently. I saw he would have said more, but the fear of offending a real live baronet was in his eyes. Twistleton then entered into an explanation of what he had done in the matter. “When I heard that old Sir Gilbert had cut up rough, and set ail your creditors about your heels, I thought to ray-
self, ; Well, Mr. Edward ain’t got a penny so its no use squeezing him. ’ Was it Sir Edward 1 ”
“ Not a ha’porth,” said Sir Edward. “ Well you owe me a matter of £5,000, or is it £G,COO ? ” “£7,000, I think, including that bill you took up.” “Right you are; £7,000. Well I thought, better than lose the money I’ll call on old Sir Gilbert. We’ve made his breeches, self and father, for nigh on fifty years, and I thought I’d just try what I could do. Blessed if the old man didn’t ask me to stop the night with him, and in the morning he made a new’ will and stuck you down first, as I understand you wore before, and that was all because I told him how r the tradesmen would suffer if he cut you off. Twistleton hugged himself with delight at the existence of one reasonable man on the face of the globe ; but then remembering that this man had died—too good to live, no doubt—be added in a doleful voice. ‘‘ He died three days after, took suddenly with hearfaplcx ” (a confusion probably between apoplexy and heart disease), “and I thought you mightn’t have no black clothes about you, so I made bold to bring you down a suit of a nice soft material, all wool, Sir Edward. And if you’ll excuse me saying so, I think you could make it up with Miss Edie if you was to try. And pray don’t think about that L 7,000 till it’s quite convenient to you.” But the interview lasted a long time, and the narration of it is beginning to grow tedious. I have only to say that Mrs. Bowser eventually forgave Sir Edward Fleance, late Count Bouilli, and that the gentleman, and the days of mourning for his father being over, married Miss Edie Twistleton. A large piece of the bride-cake was sent down at Miss Edie’s particular request, to Cholmondeley, and for some days the house-maids at that establishment were astonished at the number of crumbs and currants they found when they made the beds in the morning. These were the debris of the slices of Miss Edie’s cake which the unmarried boarders placed under-heir pillows nightly, until it was all crumbled away. I often meet Sir Edward and Lady Fleance at the Cholmondeley, and for old acquaintance sake I am allowed to call her ladyship by her Christian name. Charles is growing gray. It is said that Mrs. Bowser drinks too much port. The The Cholmondeley is sceptical on the subject of French Counts, bnt as fond of unromantic romance as ever. [concluded].
BROCKLEBANK’S TENT. A TALE OF UNFOUNDED ACCUSATION. It was now nearly fifteen years ago since I was attacked by an epidemic disorder which prevailed among the young men of the United Kingdom. It was commonly styled the gold-fever, and the fit seized me very suddenly. I called one evening in Camden Town—it was a pleasant airy suburb at that time—to see two bachelor friends of mine who shared lodgings together. I found the floor of their sitting-room lumbered with boxes. “What are you doing?” I asked iu astonishment. “ We’re off for the gold-diggings.” “ By what ship ? ” “The John Taylor; next Wednesday week. ” I recklessly flung my hat to the other end of the room, gave such a leap that my head nearly bumped against the ceiling, and cried—- “ I will go with you.” “That’s right, old boy,” they responded. “ Go and secure your passage the first thing in the morning; She’s filling up quick. ” The London atmosphere was at that time surcharged with auriferous insanity. The grey, sober light of the morning did not induce me to swerve from my resolution of the previous night; on the contrary as soon as the governor appeared at the counting-house I boldly walked into his private room, and discharged myself. The governor was, and, I am thankful to say, is still—for I am once more back in the old shop— a very jolly fellow. “ You going too, Parker? Well, well, I’m sorry for it; but if you young men will insist on seeing the diggings, I suppose you must. Make out a cheque for your salary, and I’ll sign it. ” I next rushed off to the firm who were agents for the John Tayloi’. Dismal news ; every berth on board of her was engaged. I had to take my passage by another vessel, and this accident probably led to the adventure I have undertaken to relate. I shall not describe the voyage on board the Coldstream, but shall merely say that we reached Hobson’s Bay safely in the month of September. Melbourne was a queer place at that time. Emigrants were pouring in at the rate of three thousand a week ; there were eighty thousand people in a town built to hold only twenty-five thousand ; provisions were at famine-prices, and all social distinctions were turned topsy-turvy. The John Taylor had arrived some time before the Coldstream, and her passengers had been scattered over the length and breadth of the colony. After waiting three days at the miserable little post-office window in Elizabeth street—now supplanted by a palatial edifice—in the midst of an eager struggling crowd of letter seekers, I got a communication from my London friends, saying that they were gone to Bendigo, and would let me know where they were as soon as they were settled. I scarcely knew what to do. I had come to Australia solely and entirely for the purpose of going to the diggings, and to the diggings I was determined to go; but I did not care to go up the road all by myself. The hundred miles of bush which lay between Melbourne and Bendigo was swarming at that time with escaped convicts from Van Diemen’s Land, who were making up for a lengthened period of enforced honesty by plundering and maltreating Her Majesty’s lieges right and left. Terrific rumours of their outrages were circulated. It was of no protection to be poor. The man whose pockets were well-lined was robbed and released ; but the wretch who had nothing wherewith to satisfy the cupidity of his savage assailants, was beaten to a jelly ; or, being tied naked to a tree in the lonely forest, was exposed to all the horrors of slow starvation. Moreover, the weather was extremely unfavourable for travelling: rain fell in torrents, and the roads were such hopeless quagmires that one hundred and twenty pounds sterling was gladly paid for the conveyance of a single ton of goods to tho Bendigo Creek. I decided therefore, to wait awhile, and took up my abode at a tavern called the Duke of York, which stood in those days at the corner of Stephen and Collins Stieets. The Duke of York had no doubt been a comfortable hostelry in the primitive clays of the colony, but at the time of my soj®urn there it was crowded to excess. Extra beds had been crammed into all the bed-chambers, and were instantly secured at prices which -would be thought exorbitant in an aristocratic West End hotel. Mattresses were laid at night on all the sitting-room tables, and a large shed in the yard, with rough stone walls and an earthen floor, was filled with iron bedsteads ; but even this apartment—which we nicknamed tho cholera hospital—was fully occupied, and I was fain to pay half-a-crown a night for the privilege of laying my own blankets on the ground in the confined space between two of the afores said beds. There were some clrawbackto this mode of passing the night. As
most of my room-mates indulged in the objectionable practice of smoking in bed, and as I lay on a lower level than they did, I was apt to become the unintentional target for some of the results of their tobacco-vapor. Again, it was not unusual for some jovial gentleman to enter the cholera hospital at two o’clock in the morning, with a bottle of champagne in his hand and a couple more under his arm ; he would wake up everybody in turn, and insist that each of the sleepers so awakened should either drink his health or fight him on the spot. I have several times been aroused by the unwelcome apparition of this veritable “ Champagne Charley” On the whole, however, we had very good fun at the Duke of York. As the weather was cold and wet, and as the streets after dark were full of footpads, we mostly amused ourselves by assembling in the parlor under the superintendance of an experienced chairman, and singing songs in the most approved Sons of Harmony fashion. Mr. Mills took the chair, a man whom we greenhorns looked upon with no small awe, for although only a twelvemonth in the colony, he was reported to have amassed a fortune in the diggings, and was now on the point of returning to England. Moreover, as Mr. Mills was thirty years of age, and had a prematurely bald forehead, he assumed quite a fatherly air towards a youngster like me, for I was not yet out of my teens, and my beard was still all “ underground.” [to be continued.]
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 74, 16 March 1880
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