THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
WRITTEN ON SAND.
Four romantic girls sat together in a pleasant parlour one day. They were all country girls, and it so happened that they were very soon to part. One said, “ And probably if we ever see each other anywhere, we will all he married women. ”
“ You may,” said the tallest of the group, a black-eyed, very handsome girl, “but I doubt if I shall. I never will marry any one but a distinguished man—a man of high position in society and of very great talents. I don’t think I shall ever meet any one quite distinguished enough to suit me.” “ What I should care for,” said the girl who sat next her, a blue-eyed morsel of a creature, “would be height. I must have a tall man.”
“ And I should only be contented with a man who was very handsome,” said another; “ something really superb. I’m no beauty myself, and I want some good looks in the family. ” “All that I should desire would be that my husband should be a good talker” said a fourth. “I care more for a talent for conversation than for any other that a man can have.”
At this moment a fifth girl entered the room, and took a vacant chair beside the others. She was the hostess, and had been out to see about tea.
“ Talking about your future husbands?” she said. “I here declare, that sooner than be an old miad, I’ll have any one who asks me. I’ll be married, even if I’m not quite suited in every particular, before I’m twenty.” “Good!” said the first who had spoken. “Now I’ve something to propose. Let ns take that blank-book we were looking at, and write in it each a description of the man we should choose of all the world for a lover. Ellen can keep the book, and when we are all married we will see whether the description tallies with our choice.”
“It is a splendid idea,” said Ellen ; and ran to bring the book. Then they all gathered about a table, and the tall dark beauty wrote on tbe first page the words that follow :
“ December—, 18—.” “I, Bella Norton, aged eighteen, declare that it would be impossible for me to marry any but a man of the highest social position, who had achieved distinction for himself in some profession or by some wonderful deed. Personal appearance would be nothing to me. If no great man ever asks me to marry him I will remain single.”
This she read, amidst the applause of her friends. And the blue-eyed girl seized the pen : “If I ever marry,” she wrote, “it must be a very tall and finely built man. Ido not think little men ever are splendid. “ Fanny Rose, aged fifteen.” December —, 18 —.” “Never be ashamed of your sentiments,” said the next in order, putting back her long curls. “ I, Netty Grey, here record my intention to marry only a fine man. He must have a handsome face, or let him never offer himself to me. I am sixteen years old.
“ December —, 18 —,” “ December —, 18—wrote the fourth —“ I am nineteen, and know my own mind. I will have no husband who is not a brilliant conversationalist. “Jean Brown,”
“And I” wrote the young hostess, — “I Ellen May, will have any nice man whom I can like. I don’t intend to be too particular. lam seventeen.” And she also added the date.
Having laughed awhile over the record, the young girls shut the book solemnly into the bureau, and obeyed the summons of the tea-bell.
It was a merry evening, and the last they ever spent together as girls. In a few days Ellen May was the only one of the five left in town.
At first they corresponded regularly, but after awhile their letters grew fewer, and in time only occasional. She heard, however, of the marriage of each in turn. As for herself, she did not marry. She had offers but none of them suited her, despite her recorded resolution ; and at the age of forty was yet single. So that four letters which, strangely enough reached her in one day, were all addressed to Miss May instead of to Mrs. Somebody. These four letters wore from the four friends. Each had written to the other, they had resolved to come and pay her a visit, and they would be with her on Saturday with their husbands. Neither had ever seen the others husband; it would be a general meeting and introduction.
Miss May, on the receipt of these letters, first cried and then laughed, and then set to work to put her house in order, and to get ready some of the things “ the girds ” liked in old times. As the day approached, she grew quite nervous ; and when early in the afternoon four black silk dresses fluttered upon her porch, she really felt as though she should run away and hide hot-self. However, that would not do, and so the four ladies met the next moment in the little parlor. They had all changed, but they were fine looking women still. Time had not done his worst. “But where arc the husbands 1” said Miss May. “ Coming up by the evening train to tea,” answered a chorus. Then the bonnets were removed and chat began ; and after awhile Miss May went to the old book-case and took out the old blank-book, and, amid much laughter, read what had been written so many years before. “ Has it been carried out ? ” she asked. “Is your husband great, Bell ? Yours tall, Fanny ? Yours very handsome, Nettie? And, Jean, does yours converse so well? ”
Silence fell upon the group. No one answered. At last “ And have you never had an offer, Ellen ? ” said Bell—now Mrs. Smith. Ellen looked down. “I've had five,” she said; “but I—somehow I liked none of them. However’—l -—l’ve just accepted a gentleman—a person of suitable age, quite rich, very handsome, highly educated, and of good family. I could not feel content to marry an ordinary person.” “ So you carry out. your intentions,” said Mrs. Smith, with a laugh. “ Well, I congratulate you. And now, girls, I confess I did marry a great man. Mr. Smith i 3 — a —a tailor, and he’s very nice and good-looking. I found, somehow, I cared more for that; the distinguished men were so personally unattractive.” “ Candid confession is good for the soul,” said Fanny, now Mrs. Hope. “ Small as I am, my husband is just my height; but he is such a dear fellow you can’t think—and girls are so silly. ” “ I suppose it is my turn,” said Nettie, now Mrs, Clark. “I declared in yonder book that I’d have a handsome man, or none ; but dear Horace is not handsome. He met with a dreadful accident in his youth, and broke his nose aud put out one of his eyes, and spoiled his face altogether ; but he has such a fine mind and such a good heart that he is only dearer to me for his blemishes aud Mrs. Clark put her hankerchief to her eyes. Jean—now Mrs. Hudson —said nothing. “Perhaps your husband is a fine_ conversationalist,” said Bella, with a smile.
“I think he would be” said Jean, trifling with her fan, “If—if —well, to cJiifcsa the truth, my husband never spoke a word in his life ; he was born deaf and dumb. But he’s just the dearest soul and so fond of me ! ” “ Good ! ” said Bella. None of us can laugh at the other ; but since matters are as they are, what do you say to burning that book before the gentlemen come in.” Every one agreed. Later in the day, the husbands appeared upon the scene, and Miss May’s suitor also arrived to take tea with them; and any unprejudiced observer must have admitted that of all men Mr. Smith was perhaps the least distinguished : Mr. Hope, the shortest; Mr. Clarke, the plainest, and Mr. Hudson, the dumbest they ever met; while Mr. Porter, who was about to marry the lady who had declared her intention of taking anyone who offered, was distinguished, handsome, tall, and a good talker.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, 6 May 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER. Ashburton Guardian, 6 May 1880
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