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THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 223, 22 December 1880
THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
MR. SQUAB’S DOMESTIC CRISIS.
The next day, true to her word, Mrs. , Squab, with her children, departed from , her husband at Stamford Hill, and , threw herself into the arms of her mamma and sisters at Ball’s Pond. There, in due course, Mr. Squab’s solicitor made his appearance. Mrs. Jones and her seven daughters sharpened their wits and set them against the lawyer, who shortly afterwards left .the. house with a conviction that any one of them would make a better lawyer than he was. A very hard bargain did those fine females make with tire man of tape, as little Mr. Squab ruefully discovered. The only consolation the legal man could give him was conveyed in this paradox—that though he got rid of his wife and her family he would have to keep- them. Very probably the deed of separation would have been put away in the drawer with the wedding-cake ornament, and the whole' family would have lived together in varying misery under one roof with the peccant Squab, had Mrs. Jones lost her faculties. But that, astute woman knew she'was well off, and determined to keep so if possible. She saw her interest lay in keeping alive the animosity of Mr. and Mrs. Squab, and to stir up and feed the flames of their wrath, she applied herself with the diligence of a practical stoker. The desire of her soul was to be so situated that she would give her unhappy son-in-law a “ bit of her mind” at any moment that her mind had anything worthy of his acceptance; but this pleasure she denied herself for the good of her family, confining herself to keeping up a bitter warefare between wife and husband. The most biting sarcasms she dictated to her daughter; but much of their force she felt was lost by pausing for syntax and orthography. A year passed in this manner; and though then Mrs. Jones was unwearied and fresh for further fight, the rage began to subside. Finally, Mrs. Jones had the mortification to find a letter embodying her most caustic sentiments, and which she had proudly regarded as her masterpiece, returned unopened to her daughter. Mr. Squab had not seen his wife during this period, but he had thought of nothing but her. Every Monday’s first post had brought up a rancorous budget. At first he had looked for this letter of hate with eager expectation, and gloated over its scathing contents, from the aggravating note on the flap of the envelope to the abusive postscript at the foot of the letter. Why he exposed himself to the whips and scorns of his mother-in-law is as inexplicable as the motive that leads moths to burn themselves in a candle flame; but in this stupidity Mr. Squab was not at all exceptional. If I hear that a critic has thought me worthy of his spiteful notice, shall I wisely avoid the critic’s obnoxious print ? Rather, shall not I send all over London to get it, and read the scurrility through again and again ? When Mr. Squab had read and digested Mrs. Squab’s opinions of him, he set about putting in black and white his opinions of Mrs. Squab. And as this occupied him until Saturday night, when it was sent off for Mrs. Squab’s Sunday reading and meditation, his mind was pretty fully occupied. But even these delights are finite, and Mr. Squab, who had no tender mother or gentle sister to stir up his bile when it grew quiescent, was the first to find the practice of impolite letter writing monotonous. So, as had been said, he returned Mrs. Squab’s letter unopened ; and, instead of looking through the dictionary for strong and suitable expressions of rage, he devoted himself to reading the Christian World. His study, however, did not inspire him with cheerfulness; and where his hate had been there was an aching void of a vacuum. Gradually this began to fill with roseate recollections of past bliss ; of children in clean pinafores, sitting around the social board, and Mrs. Squab at the head, smilingly presiding over the teapot; of himself in clean sheets with a cold in the head, receiving unctiuus gruel and tender kisses from a compassionate wife. This last vision it was that caused him to do that which Mrs. Jones would have given her top and bottom teeth to have effected— he wept. The next evening he wrote a conciliatory epistle, begging his wife to return to her unhappy Sylvius and all would be forgiven. But to this affectionate invitation was this addendum : “ P.S. inhabit your present apartments until they find a suitable home elsewhere.” Mrs. Squab never received that letter, but it was answered by Mrs. Jones in propria persona. She stated her daughter’s ultimatum, to which Mr. Squab listened in dignified silence; then, when he had asked if, and had been answered that Mrs. Jones had nothing more to say, he opened the door, and, with a very stately bow, said, “ Good evening, madam.” “ What am I to understand is your reply?” asked Mrs. Jones, with one foot on the door-mat.
“I choose to make no reply to you, madam ; but this you may understand, if you are capable ot understanding anything : If ever I find you in this house again, I’ll have you removed to the police station for trespass.” A version of this interview, in which all reference to the letter of conciliation was suppressed, was narrated to Mrs. Squab, whereby she was led to understand that her husband needed only the opportunity to murder her and the whole of her family. As no further answer was made to his overture, Mr. Squab became more bitter toward his wife than before, and not unnaturally. It is very exasperating to be told to put your pardon in your pocket when you have extended it with an impression of your own magnanimity. Mr. Squab determined henceforth to have nothing to dp with nobility of nature, and, like the disappointed lover in a melodrama, lie resolved to be a villian and adict himself to evil courses. He would forget that he had ever been virtuous and respectable in the riot and excitement of dissipation and vice.' Fired with this resolve he seized the newspaper—the idea had occurred to him as he was supping—and eagerly scanned the column of amusements, pondering which sink of iniquity held out the greatest: temptation to the frail or destitute. A bal masque was amongst , the
advertisements, and this means of becoming reprobate he instantly promised ' himself. His dreams were as bad as his intentions, and he rose worse than ever. On the way to the station he winked at the girls, and when one smiled in return his bosom was moved . as it had not been for seven years. He stood in the road and watched the receding fair one ; at the corner she turned and smiled again ; from ahat moment depravity asserted its improper right to his bosom. So facile was the descent to the shady with him that before the night for the bal masque arrived he deemed himself the greatest lady-killer, and was. deemed the greatest ass in his neighborhood. When on that eventful night he appeared in a masquerade dress—not as a wretched Punch, as the ignorant costumer had suggested, but in the more appropriate and elegant character of Don Giovanni this opinion (of his) was increased tenfold. One consideration alone induced him to conceal his face beneath a mask, and that was a pimple had made its inopportune and unpleasant appearance on the side of his nose. But his.mouth could be seen, and so too his eyes, and the fiery gleam of the latter and the amiable smile of the former were weapons sufficient to slaughter the hearts of every lady who looked upon them. The partner upon whom he lavished his charms exclusively was a witching Amy Robsart; and the things he said to her, and the way in which he said them, his gallantries and wanton wiles, would have made Don Giovanni envious had lie been unfortunate enough to be alive and a witness. ■ His partner was no less vivacious and witty, her lips and eyes reflecting the tender wickedness of his. He passed her hand through his arm and led her to a seat. There lie, implored her commiseration of his suffering heart, and entreated her to complete the sum of his mortal happiness by removing her mask. r, ’he lady sighed and then said: “ Alas, sir, I dare not 1” “ Dare not! ; ’ exclaimed Mr. Squab ; “ these are words which no lady should use whilst this right arm of mine has strength to defend her cause.” So saying, he valiantly shook his fist in nobody’s face. The lady smiled and looked full in Mr. Squab’s eyes, then sadness played around her lovely mouth. Through the holes in her mask he beheld her lips twitching convulsively. This tore his tender vitals ; a tear twinkled in each eye, and his mouth had that peculiar expression which is exhibited by the bilious navigator off Sheerness. The lady was moved by this gentle compassion, and, rising from her seat, put her hand within his arm and pressed it to her side. Mr. Squab could have lavished a kiss upon the rosy lips that pouted towards him; but appearances compelled him to condense his emotions into a sigh, and a responsive pressure upon the arm within his.
“ Tell me your grief; let me share your sorrow, that I may know how, if possible, to assuage it,” whispered he, as he led her away. To this entreaty the lady responded, “Never, never!” But Mr. Squab was neither such a fool nor so impolite as to believe her, and gently, yet earnestly, pressed her to reveal, if not her face, at least her cause of woe.
“ Nay, you would be shocked at my revelation, and henceforth loathe her whom now you profess to pity—nay, whom I feel sure, you indeed do sincerely pity.” [Deep glances, sighs, pressures, etc.] “ Ah, me, such happiness as this, of finding one sympathetic friend, is too rare, alas ! to be jeopardized by rashly following the dictates of my heart and reposing in you that confidence you solicit.” The sentence was long and somewhat elaborate, but it will produce no anti-climax to divulge here that the lady was practical, and had that very morning written three chapters of a romance.
“ Nothing you could say could alter my love,” murmured Mr. Squab. “ L-o-v-e !” echoed the lady, giving the word a lingering existence, in which was expressed exquisite joy and agony, that died softly in sweetest sadness. Again she repeated the word, pressing her hand to her side, “ Love ! L-o-v-e for me ?”
“ Aye, for you, oh, loveliest incarnation of ethereal perfection,” said Mr. Squab, catching the high-toned expression of the lady’s conversation. “ You cannot be unaware ofthepassionyouhave awakened in my bosom—nay, your expressive eye tells me you know it, and even leads me to hope that my sentiments are reciprocated. Oh, say it is so, and let me not perish in agonised suspense.”
“My tell-tale eyes too truly have revealed the secret of my heart, which modesty in vain struggles to conceal.” “ Then by that love ; by our love, darling—what’s your name ? ” “ Mabel.”
“By our love, darling Mabel, I conjure you reveal the secret of your sorrow, and why, sorrowing, you are here ? ”
“ I am here to forget my grief, and to revenge myself upon a faithless, wicked—what do I sav ? ”
“ Oh, do not hesitate. I should adore you though those lovely hands were dyed with blood ! ” “ I feel I may trust you, and I will. Strange as it may appear, I am-—”
She hesitated. “Go on,” said Mr. Squab,"relapsing into commonplace. “ Married ! ” she faltered, and, bending her head, she clasped her nether lip with her pearly teeth, and then tremulously continued : “ Oh, do not spurn me—do not leave me until you have heard my story ! Listen, and pity me, for I am more sinned against than sinning.” “ I know it. Pray go on.” (1o be continued. )
THE CHIMNEY CORNER., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 223, 22 December 1880
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