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Nonpareil on hearing this threw himself into a chair in a state of great agitation.
'Damages for what? You surely do not mean to force me
'Young men ought to have more discretion, Mr. Nonpareil. The damages will be laid at five thousand pounds!"
There was such a tone of sincerity in these words that they failed not to make a great impression on the draper.
'Alas!' cried he, 'what can I do?'
'You are not in a fit state at present to listen to me. Who is your lawyer?'
Mr. Ferrett-Mr. Ferrett,' replied Nonpareil, trembling,' Ferrett, who lives at the end of North Street.'
'Very well. I will see him,' said Stoat, conducting Nonpareil to the door, who followed him like an automaton, a thousand times more confused and bewildered than when he entered. On his way home he thought the best way to get at the truth would be to go to Raven's house. He arrived there, knocked, and asked in a loud tone for Mr. Mrs. or Miss Raven. 'Walk in, sir,-missus is in the parlour.' He entered, and found Mrs. and Miss Raven seated at work.
Ah! sir,' said Mrs. Raven, with a solemn air, 'we have waited to receive this visit for some time.' Then (turning towards her daughter) said, 'Niobe, my dear, take courage; all will be well.'
Miss Niobe, on hearing this, said in a languishing tone, 'No-no;
this is indeed too much to bear.'
'Leave the room, my dear; take the shroud with you, and finish it in the other room.' Then turning to Nonpareil, Mrs. Raven continued, 'You see the sensibility of this dear girl. As she retired, Narcissus could not forbear murmuring to himself, Frightful creature! would the shroud were her own!'
'You see, sir, we are obliged to assist in the work,' said Mrs. Raven, with a ghastly smile. We have so many funerals to complete just now that we cannot find hands enough. You will excuse me if I continue my employment; but Mr. Raven will be here directly.'
During this explanation our hero had heard the noise of hammers in full operation in the back premises. A shuddering came over him, and he turned deathly pale. The entrance of Mr. Raven did not at all tend to allay this feeling of alarm when he said in a sepulchral voice, 'So you're come at last, Mr. Nonpareil; but you seem ill?'
'Yes,' faltered Narcissus,-'I am ill-very ill,' for he found the eye of Mr. Raven fixed on him, as if already measuring him for his coffin.
'You do look ill; and, considering the shameful manner in which you have treated my poor Niobe
'What the devil do you mean by the way in which I have treated your poor Niobe? Do you mean to insinuate that I ever paid any attention to your daughter-that I ever pretended to like her? So far from thinking of her, if she had her weight in gold I would not have her.'
'Oh! oh! you would not have her, eh?' replied Raven, with a frightful grin. No matter, we'll see if you do not marry her. We know how to make you.'
The devil take me if I do, though,' muttered Nonpareil, as he buttoned up his coat with the air of a man prepared for anything.
Fie! fie! gentlemen,' said Mrs. Raven. Simon, my dear, moderate your passion.'
'Once for all,' said Nonpareil,' explain yourself, will you, Mr. Raven ?'
'Well, then, you must marry Niobe, or justice shall take its course. We have your own letters, of the most tender and passionate description; and that's explanation enough, I suppose.'
Narcissus started back a few paces. It's a vile conspiracy,' said he; but Ferrett shall inquire into this affair for me.'
Did I not tell you he would deny them?' said Raven, turning towards his wife.
'He denies his own handwriting, does he? Well, the wickedness of the world! who would believe one of his sex? 'sighed forth Mrs. Raven.
'We have nothing more to say to you,' added Mr. Raven, moving towards the door. We have your letters,—we have your offer in
black and white.'
Narcissus retired more confused than when he entered the house. When he reached home he thought over the affair. These Ravens say that they have several letters of mine to their daughter. I can. not understand it. No matter. They have sworn that I shall marry her; and I really believe them capable of anything, the cannibals ! Marry their frightful daughter-a living spectre! Who's there?' said he, as the door opened, and a head appeared.
'Are you alone?' asked the proprietor of the head, for the body was not yet visible.
'Yes,' replied Narcissus. Come in, Captain Trigger.'
A short stout man accordingly made his appearance, his neck enveloped in an enormous cravat, and his cheeks ornamented with a su perb pair of whiskers. Such was the appearance of the formidable Captain Trigger, who, having retired from the service for some years, had lately settled in the town of Greystone, retaining little from his military services except the title of Captain, and the before mentioned whiskers. This gentleman frequently honoured our friend the draper with an evening call, to play a game of piquet, of which Narcissus was very found, and at which the Captain was very skilful.
'Why, what ails you, man? You look ill,' said the Captain, seating himself. Are you for a game to-night?'
'I am seriously ill, Captain Trigger,' replied Narcissus, putting his hand to his head.
'Take some of Dr. Gargle's pills, and you will be all right to-morrow.'
'Can you keep a secret?' said Narcissus, drawing nearer to the Captain.
As profoundly as the grave. But do not look so very melancholy, for Heaven's sake, or you will give me the blue devils! Let's take a glass of grog. There's nothing better to dispel melancholy.'
'As you like, Captain.' And whilst the Captain was engaged in the agreeable occupation of mixing the grog, the draper recounted to him all the details of his unfortunate position. The Captain took a pinch of snuff, put the stopper into the bottle, looked hard at his friend, tasted his mixture, and said, This is all very strange. You have never made love to this Miss Raven ?'-' Never!'
'Have you never written any letters to her '' Never!'
'Have you ever written any love-letters to any other person?'Nev-ah exclaimed Nonpareil, jumping up suddenly, I have it, I have it, my good friend. Yes, I have written several letterslove-letters, to Penelope Pincroft, who--'
And these letters are in the possession of these Ravens,' said the Captain, interrupting him. Where does this Penelope live? I will go directly to her, and find it all out.'-'Alas! Captain, she has been dead these six months.'
'But these letters were directed to her, and not to Miss Raven?' -'I sent them always by a trusty person, without any address, and never mentioned her name in them, for fear they should fall into old Pincroft's hands.'
This becomes serious,' said Trigger. Then turning to Narcissus, he added, This Raven (the old man, I mean) has feathered his nest well?'-Oh! no doubt of it. He is called rich, and I hear will give his daughter three thousand pounds.'
'Well, why not marry her, then? How can you ask me such a question? I marry one of such a family of spectres! I should soon become a prey to my father-in-law.'
That is all prejudice. You cannot do better than marry the girl; for it will be impossible to prove that these letters were not intended for her. The damages may be considerable, and the affair will half ruin you.'' I would rather beg my bread than marry such a scare.
A silence followed, when the Captain said, 'Listen to me, Nonpareil. You know that I have ruined myself with play and good living; now, three thousand pounds would be most acceptable to me-don't interrupt me,'-(seeing that Nonpareil was going to speak)—' I have a plan in my head by which I can secure the money, and get you out of a scrape.' He then detailed his plan to our friend the draper, who appeared delighted with it. "Tis unnecessary, however, to let our readers into the secret before the proper time.
"You think it will do, then?' said the Captain, and you will try it without hesitation ? Certainly.'
The two friends, after laughing heartily, separated for the night. Nonpareil was up very early the following morning, and very carefully dressed. He took a last look in the glass, and being satisfied with his appearance, sallied forth. His expected had not deceived him. During his walk he met Miss. Niobe. She perceived his approach, and was on the point of turning back; but Narcissus detained her by the eloquence of his persuasive language.
'Am I then so odious, dear Miss Raven?' said he, as he overtook her. I beg, I entreat you to listen to me, whilst I own the reason of my conduct yesterday evening.'
'It certainly was much at variance with your present behaviour, sir. Pray explain yourself.'
'I desire nothing more. You love me-nay, do not deny it—you love me, dear Niobe, and this explains the fiction relative to certain letters very excusable under such circumstances. Do not blush, but tell me tell me the truth, I conjure you-how could your respectable parents think of putting the matter into Stoat's hands? This ruins my hopes completely.'
How so, Mr. Nonpareil ?'
'Will not the world say that I did not love you, and only consented
to be led to the altar to save my pocket. 'Tis terrible to think of such a thing! I have loved you; let us defy the scandal of the world, and elope at once. This will prove our affection for each other.'
'Elope! elope!!' screamed Miss Niobe, at the same time drawing a little nearer to our hero, who saw that he had gained the day.
'I have no time to delay; my business cannot be long left without its master. What say you, my dear Niobe?' He pressed her hand -the pressure was returned. You consent, then,' cried he. Tomorrow morning I will be here with a post-chaise at six o'clock.' Oh! not here,' said Niobe. Let it be at the end of the town, at the lane near Thompson's Mill.' 'Be it so. But here comes Dr. Gargle; do not let him see us together. Adieu!' So saying, he was out of sight in a minute.
It was half-past five the next morning when Nonpareil descended from a post-chaise, which stopped at the lane near the mill. It was not without a feeling of great anxiety for the success of his scheme that he looked in the direction from which he expected Miss Niobe to appear. His fears were groundless. In a few minutes she approached with rapid steps. He took her hand, pressed it with apparent affection, and assisted her into the chaise, in which Captain Trigger was already seated, and (instead of entering himself) closed the door, and gave the signal for instant departure.
When the sound of the wheels had entirely ceased, he turned his steps to the house of Mr. Raven. On arriving there, and telling the servant that he had something of consequence to communicate to Mr. and Mrs. Raven, he was admitted; though this worthy couple were in a sound sleep when the servant entered their bed-room, and surprised them by saying that Mr. Nonpareil waited for them in the parlour.
What can he want?' said Raven, angry at being disturbed. 'Mr. Nonpareil here at this time of the morning!'
'Yes, sir. He says he wants to see you and missus directly.' 'Very well; say we'll be down soon.'
Dressing themselves in haste, and wondering what could be the reason of this early visit, Raven and his better half descended to the parlour, where they found Nonpareil pacing up and down impatiently. 'You're a pretty couple, truly,' cried he, when they entered, to wish me to marry your daughter, who has eloped with-'
'Eloped!' cried they both at once. Yes-with Captain Trigger.'
'Impossible!' exclaimed the father.
'She does not know him.' 'I tell you I saw them together in a post-chaise, and I overheard the direction given to the post-boy to drive to the Salisbury Arms,
at ———————————————- .'
The mother ran up stairs to ascertain if Niobe was in her bedroom. Not finding her there, or in the house, she begged Nonpareil to accompany Raven and herself in search of the fugitives. To this he readily consented, and Raven having procured a chaise, the trio departed for the Salisbury Arms, where in due time they arrived. A waiter (with a napkin under his arm) was at the door.
‘Pray, did a lady and gentleman arrive here in a post-chaise this morning?' said Raven.
'Yes, sir; they're in No. 4.' And he pointed to the room in which Niobe and the gallant Captain were at that moment.
On opening the door, Raven discovered Captain Trigger busily engaged in satisfying a ravenous appetite, while Miss Niobe was seated on a sofa. On seeing her father and mother she rose, and would have thrown herself into the arms of the latter; but she perceived a coldness on the part of her mother towards her demonstration of affection. 'Give me back my child,' said Raven, approaching Captain Trigger, give me back my child. She is engaged to be married to Mr. Nonpareil.'
'No such thing,' replied the Captain, continuing his breakfast with the greatest composure; she is engaged to me. Mrs. Raven, will you do me the favour to take this chair by my side, and I will explain all this to you.' Mrs. Raven seated herself in silent wonder. You see my young friend there,' said the Captain (pointing to Nonpareil, who was seated on the sofa talking earnestly to Miss Raven,) that friend whom you threatened to sue for breach of promise of mar. riage, that friend ought to sue you for conspiracy against him; and it only rests whether you consent that Miss Raven becomes Mrs. Captain Trigger, or that you are indicted for the conspiracy. Do you remember poor Penelope Pincroft?' At this question the countenances of both father and mother became rather clouded.
'I have,' continued the Captain, proofs that the letters now in your possession were written by my friend Nonpareil to Miss Penelope Pincroft, now dead.-Have I your consent that Miss Niobe becomes my wife, or not?'
'What does the Captain mean?' said Raven.
'Oh! my dear,' replied his wife, we must be allowed a little time to think over this affair'
During this time Narcissus had continued his conversation with Niobe. Why refuse the Captain?' said he. He has long loved you-why not make him happy? He only requires a little money to become a Colonel.'
'Mr. Nonpareil tells you nothing but the truth,' chimed in the Captain. My unfortunate modesty has alone hindered me declaring my sentiments sooner.'
Oh!' said Mrs. Raven, in a softened tone, 'you military gentlemen are so pressing. Niobe, my love, you hear what the Captain says-will you accept him?'
'Dear mamma, what can I say?' A tender glance at the Captain decided the affair, much to the satisfaction of all parties,-but to none more than our friend Narcissus Nonpareil.
PRAISE OF WINE..
BY JOHANN MICHAEL MOSCHEROSCH.
WHILE I live, good wine I'll love,
Make dull melancholy flee;
• Moscherosch was bern at Wilstedt in Germany, in 1600, and died in 1669.