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By “ Mask.” CHAPTER I. The c'ock over the chimney-piece struck five, and Mr Septimus Dormouse closed his books, washed his hands, and carefully locking the office door put the key in his pocket and stnlled up town. Then, having nothing particular to do, he lit his pipe and sauntered towards the railway station to see the train arrive from the “ City of the Plains,” which was the event of the day in the sleepy little township of Waipotato. Hah ! if

B it we anticipate, as the novelists say.

There was the little crowd of loungers on tle platform waiting to see the train com ? in by way of killing time and Mr. Dor nouse had hardly done nodding to his acquaintances when the train hove in sight and a minute or two later drew up at° the platform. Instantly the usual bustle commenced. Yan doors were jerked open and banged to, porters ran about with bags and boxes, passengers alighted and jostled one another on the platform, and Mr Dormouse was just thinking of beating a retreat homewards, when he received a slap on the back which nearly knocked the pipe out of his mouth, and turning sharply round found himself confronted by a jolly looking individual with reddish whiskers and a sun-burnt face, what the novelist aforesaid, in fact, would describe as a “ bronzed

complexion.” “ Septimus ! ” “ Saddripp ! ” The recognition was simultaneous. “ Why, who the deuce would have thought of meeting you in this outlandish place?” exclaimed Mr Saddripp, shaking Mr Dormouse by the hand in a way that threatened to jerk it off. “ And where on earth have you sprung from ? ” said Mr Dormouse, in accents of unfeigned pleasure. “Ex ‘ Ocean Queen ’ now unloading at Lyttelton,” replied Mr S. “ But let us get out of this. I was going on by this train to Dunedin to-night. Now I shad stop here, at least for the present, with you, and yarn about the good old times of long ago. By jove is it seven or eight years since we met ?—well, well, never mind ; here I stop pro. tem, at any rate and to celebrate this, this auspicious occasion as the newspapers say, I tell you what we’ll do Septimus, my buck, —we’ll make a night of it ! ” “What’s the matter old man ?—anything wrong ? ” Mr Dormouse looked rather embarrased.

“ Why no,” he said, with a feeble little laugh after pausing for a moment, “ but the fact is I, I have sown my wild oats, olfl boy —I, lam married.” !«■' Wh—ew—the dickens you are, you sly old dog, you ! ” said Mr Saddripp, with a serio-comic expression of countenance, giving Mr D. one of those playful digs fin the ribs that facetious people usually bestow, on learning that a friend has entered the married state or is about to do so. “ Poor old boy ! ” |Why Mr Saddripp should have commiserated his friend on hearing that he a married man it would be hard to saj, unless he had detected something in Mr Dormouse’s face which led him to do SO, “ And this is the mansion of all the Dormouses—perhaps I should say dormice—is it 1" continued Mr S., as his friend opened the garden gate of one of those neat T shaped cottages so common in this colony. “ Hah ! Hah !” laughed Mr Dormouse, rather nervously, as he rapped at the door.

“ Ta your mistress at home, Mary Ann 1” he enquired of the servant-maid, as she appeared iu answer to the knock. “ Missis ’avo gone bout, sir, to the Ladies’ Sewing Club ; and you wasn’t to wait tea because she mi"ht notbe’ome. ” “ Good ! ” exclaimed Mr Dormouse, with an alacrity that was suspicious, all his dejection disappearing-, as i ! l y magic. “ Gone out to the Ladies’ Club aud may not he back to tea eh 1 hah ! hah ! —conic in Saddripp, my boy, and make at home. You’re hungry I know—So am T, we’ll have tea at once. Dinner we seldom have, for I am away all day at the

office, you see. and Mrs Dormouse likes to have her afternoons quite fiee ; and so ;you see, Saddripp, we make a dinner-tea of it.”

And so they had tea, and adjourned to ; the back garden afterwards to smoke :pipes and talk about old times and old friends at home.

“ Talking is dry work,” exclaimed Mr Saddripp at length after spinning yarns innumerable about his adventures since he and Dormouse met. “What do you say if we take a turn down town and play a game at billiards—you used to be able to give me points—and get a glass of beer or something ; my throat is like a limekiln.”

“ I am awfully sorry, Saddripp,” said Septimus “ that I have nothing in the house to offer you. If Mrs Dormouse was at home I would get her to let us have a bottle of her ginger wine—home made Sir, and goes oft" the palate like Sherry.” “ No thanks,” said Mr S. with a alight shudder. “ Never touch home-made wines ; and remember the time when you would never touch anything of the kind either. Yery singular thing how marriage alters people. Seems to have a sort of taming-down effect so to speak. Excuse my freedom of speech Septimus but this is a thing I could understand.” Mr Dormouse looked embarrased and yielding to his friend’s persuasions consented to take a turn down town, leaving word with Mary-Anne that he would bo back in half-an-hour. “ Not that I play billiards now, Saddripp, and I never stay out after 10 o’clock at night. Oh it is all very well to laugh, but ‘ early to bed early to rise ’ you know ;—and besides you don’t know Matilda.” And so arm in arm they went. Ah if they had but paused in time ! CHAPTER 11. Somehow, in spite of his protestations that he “ never took anything after tea,” the two friends very soon found themselves in the private bar of the Waipotato Hotel, and under the influence of a couple of whiskies, Mr D. began to expand, and to become communicative. “ After all, you know, Saddripp, said he, depositing his gl.tss on the bar counter, “after all, I think you bachelors are better off than we benedicks—that is, when there are two of them, yon know.” “ Good gracious, man, you talk like a Mormon,” said Mr Saddripp, pausing in the act of lighting a cigar to gaze in astonishment at his friend, “ Why, you can’t be married to two women at the same time ? ”

“ That’s all you know about it,” replied Dormouse. “ You wait and see, my boy. Did you ever hear of mothers-in-law ? ” “Poof!” ejaculated Mr Saddripp proccerling with the lighting of his cigar, with as much indifference as if he had a houseful of mothers-in-law at home of his own.

“ Ah, it’s all very fine to say ‘ poof,’ ” said Mr Dormouse, with a bitter smile, “ but you don’t know Mrs Nagger. That woman, sir,” dropping his voice to a confidential whisper, “ would would make a missionary forget himself. Sadripp,” solemnly, “ take the advice of one who knows, and never get married ; but if you must go and do it, never allow your wife’s mother in the house on any pretence whatever. Don’t do it. Don’t be deceived if she says she is coming for a week. Mrs Nagger said she was coming for a week-—that was in June, and it’s February now—think of that. And it’s my firm conviction that she never means to go away. Before I was a married man I used to think that mothers-in-law were libelled, and shamefully abused, but,” with a sigh, “ I know better now. ” “ Surely you are master in your own house,” said Mr S. “ ’Nglishman’s housesis castle, isn’t it?” enquired Mr D., as he once more emptied his glass, and folded his arms solemnly, “ very well; that’s-allright—except when he’s got a mother-in-law, and then it’s her castle, he !he! he ! D’ye see ? But let’s have ’nother liquor—we’re going to make a night of it; eh ? ” Saddripp laughed. The other liquor was called, and the two gentlemen adjourned to the billiard room.


The clocks chimed the hour of midnight. Most of the inhabitants of Waipotato were in their beds and sound asleep. Mrs Dormouse had returned home with her mother at nine o’clock, and was amazed to hear from Mary Ann that Mr D. had gone out with a strange gentleman half an hour before, and left word that he would not be long. Mrs D. rmouse said little. Mrs Nagger, on the other hand, said a'good deal. She really thought that if. Septimus wanted to go out he might have walked as far as the Sewing Club with them, and seen them home again. But then, men f ■rget these little attentions after marriage. At ten o’clock she wondered wiuu-o that. man could be. At eleven o’clock insisted on Mrs Dormouse-retirnig to bed, and would take no denial. Thera was no reason why they should Imth suffer in health through the dissipated conduct of “that man.” At half past eleven Mrs Nagger, “ nursing her wrath, to keep it warm,” complained bitterly to herself of Septimus’ selfishness in depriving her of her night’s rest. The servant girl, who was sharing her vigil with her, suggested that “ master could let himself in at the hack door,” which he certainly could have done, and got severely snubbed for her pains, Then Mrs Nagger amused himself by thinking of all the disagreeable things which it would be her “ duty ” to say to the culprit when he did arrive. At ten minutes to twelve she gently closed her eyes, and in another minute was snoring tho snore of the just. She dreamt that Septimus had returned, and was-suing for pardon at her feet. Suddenly she awoke with a start—awoke to find a figure standing opposite to her, regarding her with a stouey and rather meaningless stare. The figure was that of a rather small man, with a very red face, dishevelled hair, crossed arms and a hat stock at the back of his head. Mrs Nagger sat bolt upright in her chair, and gave a little scream. Presently the figure opened its lips and remarked, “ 'sallright 1 ” Then Mrs Nagger recovered her speech and her presence of mind at once, and exclaimed in accents that would have frozen Mr D. ’s blood at any other time—- “ Septimus ! ”

Mr "H"rmonse, for if was indeed that u I d man, smiled feebly, snapped his Ungers, and very nearly sat down on the coal-scuttle in his efforts to appear easy aiVd unconstrained. “ S6ptMiis ! p ’ exclaimed Mrs Nagger,

in a still higher key, “ Why, your’e—your’e tipsy, sir ! ” “ Have (hie) have some bran’yansoda,” said Mr Dormouse, with an idiotic smile. “ Leave the house, sir, this moment, and do not dare to return until you are sober, continued the lady, majestically, pointing to the door. “ Not at all,” said Mr Dormouse, sitting on the open pianoforte, and attempt-, ing to whistle some “ Pinafore ” music. “ Out of the house I go to-morrow,” exclaimed the excited and indignant Mrs Nagger, in the air of one who was holding out one of the most terrible threats imaginable. “ ’Nd a jolly good riddance too !” said the heartless and intoxicated Dormouse ; only I know very well you won’t go—lay you five to two you’ll think better -of it in the morning. ” ! . Mrs Nagger swept majestically from the room.

How Mr Dormouse got through the remainder of the night, and how he contrived to make peace with his better half, is more easily imagined than described, as our friend the novelist would put it. But Mrs Nagger really did go away, and she hasn’t been near the house since. Mr Dormouse has not again forgotten himself. Since the departure of his mother-in-law he has been an altered man, but, seeing the up-shot, he says he does not regret, “ Making a night of it.”

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Bibliographic details

MAKING A NIGHT OF IT., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 515, 22 December 1881, Supplement

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MAKING A NIGHT OF IT. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 515, 22 December 1881, Supplement

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