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of any of them. A wonderful example of what the actors technically denominate a quick study,' especially when it is considered she had to play so many parts at so short a notice.
Although, like many other people who have nothing to say, she talked a great deal, she was invariably listened to with great deference, and no one ever intimated the slightest indication that she was esteemed a bore.
Opposite to the house where she rented her ready-furnished 'sitting-room and bed-room, with the use of the kitchen,'—which she never used, for she gave no unnecessary trouble-lived the family of the Diggses. Diggs was an honest man in a situation.' Mrs. Diggs was a shrewd, bustling housewife, who could make a guinea go as far as most people, and had brought her dear man a numerous progeny. Notwithstanding there were so many mouths to feed, the thrifty Mrs. Diggs having made Mrs. Wrigglesby's acquaintance at a friend's in the next street, was always glad to see Mrs. Wrigglesby to take a snack with her in her homely way, or a dish of tea, or a bit of supper; and Mrs. Wrigglesby, whose whole life was devoted to her friends, good-naturedly obliged her with more frequent calls than any of the rest of her acquaintance. There were two other cogent reasons besides her natural good-nature which prompted this marked predilection. The climate of our tight little island being rather variable, just crossing the road in any weather was attended with slight inconvenience either to Mrs. Wrigglesby's body or apparel, and secondly, although the Diggses were but middling people, they lived well; and there being a large family, the consumption was great, and hot joints were consequently more prevalent.
Many people looked with rather a jealous eye upon these fre quent visits; but what was a source of disquiet to others, was one of self-gratulation to the managing Mrs. Diggs, who prided herself upon her tact.
One evening, when Diggs had gone to his club, and the children were all a-bed, Mrs. Diggs had the infinite pleasure of having Mrs. Wrigglesby all to herself; and Mrs. Wrigglesby complaining of spasms (having been pressed by her host to take part of a capon and sausages, a favourite dish hers,) the bottle labelled with ‘brandy' was produced with the accompaniments of hot water and sugar, and the two ladies set in for a gossip. The spasms of course went off, and the Mump began to be very confidential and conversant.
Mrs. Diggs hugged herself with the idea of extracting some important communication. She drew herself closer to the fire.
'Do you feel any draught where you sit, my dear Mrs. Wrigglesby inquired the kind-hearted Mrs. Diggs. Do take the sofa now. I know you will feel more comfortable.'
With many thanks, Mrs. Wrigglesby availed herself of the polite offer, for her supper had superinduced an inclination to a reclining posture.
You don't drink, my dear Mrs. W.' continued Mrs. Diggs, as she brewed her dear friend a third tumbler of stiff" brandy-and-water. Thank'ye, my dear Mrs. D. There!-there!-hold! that's enough,' cried the faintly-resisting Mump. Really, now, you have made it too strong. I vow I shall never reach my apartments tonight.'
Oh! Diggs shall see you home when he returns.'
'Dear me, no. I could not suffer
'But he will be quite offended if you refuse. You are such a favourite of Diggs, that I assure you if you were a few years younger I should be a little jealous. He is always talking about you.'
The latter part of Mrs. Diggs' assertion was strictly true; for her husband often complained of the expense of 'keeping up such an acquaintance,' and used to talk in rather a murmuring strain of 'looking after dead men's shoes:' that some old women, like cats, had nine lives; and other unqualified expressions, that indubitably proved his doubt of his partner's skill in being enabled to bring the main object of her ambition to bear. Mrs. Diggs, however, ' ruled the roost,' and persisted in the propriety of her conduct, predicting a golden harvest to her family from her clever exertions.
But to resume. Mrs. Diggs was resolved to carry on the war with spirit; and therefore zealously plied her dear Mrs. Wrigglesby with the strong potation, expecting every moment to unlock the depository of the widow's secrets. Like a skilful artist she was well aware that a wet sponge or varnish applied to an old painting will infallibly bring to view the lights that age has developed in dust and obscurity.
And you have really no family, no kindred, my dear?' said she with a sympathetic sigh; at the same time fixing her scrutinizing eye upon her friend's venerable physiognomy as if she were about to extract not only a truth, but a tooth.
'How lonely you must be !'
'Relations are not always friends,' replied Mrs. Wrigglesby; 'and, for my part, I have received so much kindness, and experienced so much affection from my friends, that I have no reason to regret or complain of my loneliness. Indeed, I am so rich-'
'Yes, a good income is certainly a consolation and a comfort,' interlarded the anxious Mrs. Diggs.
I do not allude to money,' said Mrs. Wrigglesby, but friends. I am so rich in friends, that my worldly wealth is as nothing in the comparison.'
Mrs. Diggs bridled up with a proud consciousness that she formed a portion of the widow's boasted wealth. The widow laid her long bony fingers upon her neighbour's broad red hand, and continued in a strain of maudlin confidence
• And I assure you from my heart, my dear Diggs, that you-you are the first of those friends in my estimation. No daughter could have behaved more kindly than you have done-no mother have received more delicate attentions than I have at your hands. You shall not find me ungrateful. Your name, Mrs. Diggs, is-'
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat! went the knocker at this interesting juncture, and quite startled poor Mrs. Diggs, whose ears and nerves were stretched to the most nervous pitch of hungry expectation.
'Confound the man!' exclaimed Mrs. Diggs, as she rammed her spoon into her tumbler with mingled fright and vexation, 'to come with such a—'
Rat-ta-tat-tat! went the knocker again, her dear husband being rather valorous in spirit, and unreasonably impatient.
Mrs. Diggs ran to the door-down dropped the chain with a sort of rattling accompaniment to the confusion of her scattered thoughts.
Mrs. Wrigglesby heard Diggs' voice in alt,-and a sotto voce reply from his rib, in which the complimentary terms of you fool!' were
alone audible above the sweet tenor of her gentle greeting. She then led the gentleman into the parlour. Fortunately the moony state of Mrs. Wrigglesby's optics prevented her from observing his flushed cheeks and grog-moistened lips: and she received his salutation with a composure which it would have been utterly impossible to have felt, if she had marked the light in his laughing eye.'
Hastily putting on her things, with Mrs. Diggs' assistance, the Mump took the proffered arm of her guide, and he saw her home. The pleasant lecture which awaited him on his return I shall leave to the imagination of my reader. That it was neither moving, nor irritating, nor clamorous, we may charitably deduce from the fact, that Diggs fell fast asleep in the middle of it, and replied to the climax of his spouse's interesting monologue with a snore that resembled the sustained note of a juvenile trombone.
Whether Mrs. Diggs had really anything to regret from the abrupt manner in which her dear guest's confidential communications had been cut short is doubtful; for the habitual caution of Mrs. Wrigglesby had become so natural to her, that it is scarcely within the pale of probability that she would have made any satisfactory disclosures. Certain it is, that what she had dropped' tended greatly to ingratiate her in the favour and affection of the Diggses.
The Wigginses was another family in whose good graces she had particularly insinuated herself. They kep' an excellent table as well as the Diggses She usually sat in their pew, and excused herself to the Diggses (who kindly proffered her a seat) by solely attributing her preference in this respect to its proximity to the pulpit. Now the Wigginses and the Diggses were not on speaking terms,—an admirable point in the Mump's tactics, for it prevented any comparison of notes; and indeed she sedulously avoided visiting anywhere when she discovered any existing acquaintance; for disagreeable consequences might possibly have ensued; and Mrs. Wrigglesby was such a good soul, that she utterly abhorred all tale-bearing and detraction. Among the few valuables which Mrs. W. was in the habit of displaying was a gold watch with an E. W. (Elizabeth Wrigglesby) engraved on the back. It was a curious circumstance that Miss Wiggins' name was Eleanor, and she very pointedly remarked one day to the widow that the said initials happened to be her's likewise. Upon this hint the goodnatured Mump spoke with great effect.
'And the watch, Eleanor, shall be yours,' said the condescending Mrs. Wrigglesby; and that you may not be kept in suspense until my will is opened,-for I intend to live a few years longer,—I'll give it you directly—'
Oh! my dear Mrs. Wrigglesby !' exclaimed Miss Wiggins, her large grey eyes gloating upon the back of the pendant watch.
Nay, I'll give it you directly,'-continued Mrs. Wrigglesby,— 'directly you are married !'
Miss Wiggins drew in a long breath, and the blood crimsoned her pallid pock-marked physiognomy as she viewed the watch—at a distance The Mump either did, or pretended to mistake the cause of her confusion.
'Ah! you may blush, my dear; but these things, you know, will happen in the best regulated families.' And having uttered this sly inuendo, she patted Miss Eleanor on the cheek.
The truth is, the chances were rather against this consummation;
for Miss Wiggins was an ordinary girl, ill-tempered, and rapacious; and the lover must have been as blind as Cupid himself to have solicited her large mottled hand, which was more calculated to light a kitchen fire than to strike a spark.
But, however true and necessary to the development of our subject, this digression is ungallant. To return to Mrs. Wrigglesby. One severe morning in December, Diggs was making his matinal grimaces before his looking-glass, lathering, and scraping, and wincing under the infliction of the uncomfortable operation, grumbling at the lukewarmness of the water, and the bluntness of his razor, when a sudden exclamation from Mrs. Diggs made him start, and make a slight incision upon his half-mown chin.
"Nation!' cried he, stamping. What the deuce is the matter?' Mrs. Diggs, who had spoken so unseasonably, was now mute, as, with a mysterious air, she took her husband by the arm, and leading him to the window, drew aside the muslin curtain, and pointed to the opposite side of the street.
Diggs saw nothing.
'Nothing!' cried Mrs. Diggs. 'You fool! don't you see the house is closed from top to bottom!'
'Gemini!' said Diggs,—'why, I say, as sure as a gun the old 'un's kicked the-'
You unfeeling brute!' said the amiable and agitated Mrs. Diggs. 'Put down your razor, and run over to Mrs. Grigson's, and give a single tap at the door, and say we hope nothing 's the matter.'
Three strides brought Diggs to his destination. He knocked, inquired, and his worst anticipations were realized-poor Mrs. Wrigglesby was gone!
Unfortunately the widow had been taken away from her friends so suddenly, that she had no time to make a will. Many were, of course, very much surprised; but it turned out,' upon investigation, that her husband had bequeathed her a sum of money, which she had prudently laid out in an annuity, which ceased with her life; and her 'plate, linen, and wearing apparel' scarcely produced sufficient to pay her 'just debts and funeral expenses.'
But perhaps her best epitaph is, that the Mump'still lives in the memory of all those who knew her!'
ON THE RUMOURED KNIGHTING OF BRUNEL, OF THAMES TUNNEL CELEBRITY.
By St. George! what a change from the days that have been,
And the knight owes this triumph alone to his shield!
E. L. J.
GHOST GOSSIPS AT BLAKESLEY HOUSE.
'WELL,' said Simon Barnardiston, looking boldly round the room, but wishing he could see the further end of it, 'I do like good ghost stories, because I don't believe them.'
'And,' rejoined Hugh Buckner, like them, because I do believe them; for nobody shall persuade me that there are no such things as ghosts.'
With respect to there actually being such things as ghosts,' remarked Ebenezer Carliel, gravely, 'I don't know exactly what to say, after what happened to my own uncle.'
What was that?' inquired Mary Falconer (a pretty laughterloving lass of eighteen), as she drew her chair nearer to the fire, and asked Mr. Carliel to stir it up and make a blaze.
'Why,' replied Ebenezer, taking out his watch as he spoke, ‘it is almost too late to tell you.'
'Oh, do!' said Mrs. Dagleish, snuffing the candles, as if she liked to have plenty of light for a ghost story.
'Yes, do,' echoed Mary Falconer.
'Do you know it is just twelve?' observed Mr. Carliel.
'Capital!' exclaimed Simon Barnardiston. When it strikes, who knows but we may have the ghost himself.'
'Don't be foolish,' said Mrs. Dagleish; 'there 's many a true word spoken in jest.'
'Ay,' replied Hugh Buckner, and many a jest that 's spoken in bravado. I warrant Simon would be the first to walk out of the window, if he saw a ghost walking in at the door.'
'Try me,' said Barnardiston.
'Try me,' repeated a hollow sepulchral voice, which seemed to come down the chimney close to Simon's elbow, but which in reality came from a half-opened door by the side of the fire-place, that led into the best parlour.
Simon sprang from his chair as if he had been shot out of it by a bomb underneath,-Mary Falconer gave a scream,-Mrs. Dagleish cried, Lord! what is it ?-Hugh Buckner felt a curious sensation run down his back, and out at his toes,-while Mr. Carliel ejaculated 'Humph!' and deliberately finished the pinch of snuff he had just taken from his box; an act of calm self possession for which he was solely indebted to the accidental circumstance of being seated opposite the door, where he saw at that instant the twinkling eye and good-humoured roguish face of Stephen Falconer, Mary's brother, who now burst into the room with an uproarious laugh at poor
'How can you make such a fool of yourself?" said Simon, nettled at having been frightened out of his valour before he had well put it on.
'Why, I never heard you come in,' said his sister. 'Who opened
'Jesse,' replied Stephen, still laughing at his friend Simon, in which he was now joined by the whole party, each having by this time discovered that nobody was afraid but Simon, because he hap