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“Well, Miss Pliant,” said the candid spinster, to one who looked and sat as if the toasting-fork had leaped down her throat in revenge for its extra labour in preparing all toastable things for her especial use. “Well, I do not wonder that Mr. Parkes has excused himself to-night, after what he has done. I am sure, ladies, you will all agree with me, we must consider him in future as unworthy of our delightful meetings. My opinion is, that he has no more left the town on business than I have; but only makes this excuse, being ashamed to show his face here: and so, indeed, he ought to be.”
“Now do, Miss Candid," said the good-natured Brewer, “ let us hear what Parkes has been doing, to call forth so much displeasure.
“Doing !" half-screemed Miss Candid, “ surely you must have heard !-you, who live next door to the house he has to let! Why, I learned all about it the same day it occurred, which was yesterday. You heard that a lady and gentleman had been to see the house, I suppose."
“Why, yes," said the Brewer, “ I did hear that much; but it was no business of mine ; so I made no inquiry about it."
"It is every person's business to inquire into anything that is likely to affect themselves and their friends,” said Miss Candid, bridling-up at the observation and inuendo of Mr. Hopman, the import of which she fully comprehended.
“I am sure,” replied our Brewer, “ we are much obliged by the disinterested trouble you have taken by your inquiries ; but may I ask what is the news in store for us, and how have you alone heard it ?”
“ The way I got my information was this," said the philanthropic spinster. “So soon as the lady and gentleman drove off, I sent my Susan to inquire all about them, of the woman in care of the house; and the news, as you term it, is of more importance to us all than you may suspect. The house is let," said she, suiting the action to the words and the words to the action, both as emphatically as if she had learned that all our navy had simultaneously gone to Davy's locker.
“Nothing very extraordinary in that,” said our jovial Rector, " Parkes advertised it to be let or sold."
“Now, really,” joined in Miss Placid, the most good-humoured of the fair Re-unionists,“ your manners would lead one to suppose you considered the house being let as a matter to be regretted. I must say, for my part, I think it would be pleasant to have such agreeable neighbours as the lady and gentleman's appearance bespeaks them as likely to be.”
"I am sure," replied Miss Candid, spitefully, “the lady and gentleman would feel highly flattered by your opinion of them, if they heard it ; but," added she, exultingly, from feeling she had something in store to annoy those who, knowing her, did not attach much credence or importance to her usual gossip, “what would you say, ladies and gentlemen, to having a whole cargo of live beasts as the agreeable neighbours Miss Placid makes so sure of ?"
“ Better those,” joined in the Rector, laughing heartily, “than worse neighbours: beasts are harmless, at any rate."
"I am surprised," said Miss Candid, piqued beyond measure, "to hear a man of your cloth compare neighbours to beasts."
“Why, really, Miss Candid,” replied the imperturbable Rector, “ when I consider the conduct of some neighbours, I beg the beasts' pardon."
“Monstrous,” exclaimed the lady; "but I mus tell you these are not even common beasts : they are,” cried she, at the top of her shrill voice, “they are lions, tigers, hellephants, baboons, and"
At the word “baboons," a loud screem from Miss Johns called the attention of the company to that lady, who threw herself back in her chair, evidently intending to perpetrate a faint, but which was stopped in embryo by a friendly but somewhat forcible shake on the shoulder by Mr. Hopman. “Come, my good lady,” said he, “ rouse yourself. What on earth is the matter with you? pray get a tumbler of coldwater.”
“No, no !” faintly cried Miss Johns, evidently not wishing to make trial of the cold-water cure ; “ oh, my school, my dear ladies—the bab— bab-baboons !” hysterically sobbed the sensitive mistress of Prospect House.
“ Come, come,” said Hopman, the dread of the water or some other cause having brought the lady to something like composure, “now let us hear the end of Miss Candid's extraordinary account.
“My extraordinary account, then," said Miss Candid, “is this: I suppose you have all heard of one Wombwell, who takes his wild beasts to the different fairs ?”
“And his horrible baboons !" half-sobbed Miss Johns__"oh, my school, my school!”
“ I wish you would school yourself into quietness,” somewhat grufily said Hopman.
“ Well, Miss Candid," said he, addressing that lady, “ suppose it is Mr. Wombwell? He can, I believe, very well afford to be a good neighbour. Really, it seems he looks very much like a gentleman, and, depend on it, has no idea of bringing his beasts here."
“Or the baboons," quickly put in Miss Johns.
“I beg to assure you, Miss Johns, and you, Mr. Hopman, that my information is, I am sorry to say, too certain, more shame to Mr. Parkes. Here they will come" (looking maliciously at Miss Johns), “ babboons and all.”
A loud groan was all poor Miss Johns' reply to this seeming fact.
“Now, pray, do tell us, Miss Candid,” said the Rector, “what makes you so certain that it is Mr. Wombwell, or that he intends favouring us by making this a home for his assemblage of wild animals ?”
“My reasons for being certain of both, sir, is only that the woman heard him give Parkes his name; and further” (turning to the lady), " he said, Here will be plenty of room for the meragerie.' Now, ladies and gentlemen,” said Miss Candid, getting up, and making a derisive kind of curtsey, “I hope you are all satisfied.
“ Humph !” ejaculated Hopman, " this does look odd, I must say. We must try, Doctor, and stop this, if I find, on seeing Parkes, it is true.”
Why," replied the Rector, “it would not be a pleasant addition to the neighbourhood, I grant; but, until we find the animals a nuisance, I fear we can't prevent Parkes letting his premises to whom he likes.”
“ Find them a nuisance, Doctor!" sighed Miss Johns—"why, the very names of those horrid baboons are a nuisance. Are they not very large creatures, sir ?”
“Seldom above six feet high,” mischievously replied the Rector.
A lengthened groan, with a despairing look, was now Miss Johns's only reply.
"Miss Pliant, your maid is come," said a servant, entering the room.
“Oh, I dare say," said the lady addressed, “my Mary can tell us all about this affair ; for I told her to make all the inquiries she could, as she was going to several shops in the town. May I ask her in, Mr.
“Oh, by all means," said the host, “ if you wish it.”
On Mary making her appearance, her mistress came to the but of the business at once, by asking if it was known to a certainty that it positively was Mr. Wombwell who had taken Parkes's house?
“Oh lor, yes, ma'am,” replied the soubrette—"everybody knows it ; and Mr. Cutup, our butcher, says it will make his fortune, as he shall sell all his coarse meat for the beastes what's coming."
Another “humph!” and a stifled sigh from Miss Johns, followed this confirmation of all their worst fears, and the worst fears of all the company, who now simultaneously rose and departed, except the General and three ladies, his partners, who were concluding their game at whist, which occupation had prevented their joining in the evening's discussion.
At the conclusion of the game, Mr. Hopman asked the General if he had heard of the expected arrival of the menagerie ?
“Yes, I heard you all talking about it," replied the General. “Well,” said Hopman, “and what do you think of it ?"
"Know no regulation against it," said the old soldier, and marched, upright as a halbert, out of the room.
Now our worthy brewer was much more annoyed at the expected wild residents than he chose to allow to any one but himself, and next morning called on Parkes about it.
“Well, Mr. Parkes," said Hopman, on entering the office, “I find you have let your house."
“ Yes, I have,” said Parkes ; " let for three years certain." “ They tell me you have let it to Wombwell. Now is that correct ?"
"I have let it to Mr. Wombwell, certainly," said Parkes ; "and a good tenant he is likely to be.”
“ But,” added Hoffman, “ I hear he is bringing his menagerie with him."
Parkes gave rather an inquiring look at Hopman, on this remark falling from him, but merely replied by saying, "Mr. Wombwell has a right to bring what he pleases on premises he pays for."
“ Yes,” replied Hopman ;“ but it is not neighbourly in you to bring so great a nuisance among us, and particularly to me, living nextdoor."
“I should be sorry,” said Parkes, “to in any way occasion annoyance to my neighbours ; and particularly to yourself,” most blandiy added the attorney.
One of Hopman's“humphs" here rather interrupted Parkes's speech; but, on continuing it, he a little maliciously remarked, “You know, my dear sir, I have often offered to sell you the premises. If you had bought them, you could have refused any unpleasant tenant."
Another light seemed here to open on Hopman, who bluntly said, “ Are the papers signed between you and Wombwell ?”
“Not signed, certainly,” said Parkes ; “but he has agreed to take them.”
** Then,” said Hopman, "I buy them, at the price for which you offered them to me.
“ Why, you see, my dear sir," said the grasping and wily attorney, "I did offer them to you, as a friend, at less than I hold them to be worth ; but we stand on different ground now. I have let them, at & very handsome rent, for three years ; but, to avoid what you say will be a nuisance to you, you shall only pay me £300 more than the old price, and they shall be yours.”
Hopman here gave a most energetic "Humph! I tell you what, Mr. Parkes—I own you have me in a noose ; and you see it. Have the documents ready to-morrow. And now I way, I suppose, consider the premises mine, though, as with Wombwell, the papers are not signed ?"
“Oh, my dear sir, pray do me the justice to believe I hold you in quite different estimation,” smiling a ghastly smile, said the attorney : “the premises shall be yours by noon to-morrow, on my honour.”
“ Then good evening, sir,” said Hopman, stiffly, and rising to go. “ Humph-honour !” said he, as he left the house. Tomorrow came ; and Hopman was owner of the premises.
Mr. Parkes, having been made fully aware that his having intended letting the premises to the owner of a menagerie had got him into bad odour with his townsfolk, particularly with the Reunion ladies, and most particularly with Miss Johns, took especial care to let it be known that, finding his having let his house was unpleasant to his valued friends, he had sold it to Mr. Hopman; by which he got reinstated in their favour.
An evening or two after Hopman had become the avowed possessor of Parkes's late premises, was one of the réunions, at which, as on former occasions, was our attorney, when in walked Hopman, accompanied by a stranger. A general rising up and looks of surprise took place, on this flagrant infringement of réunion rules. Greater, however, were the dismay and astonishment of the ladies, on Hopman's begging to be allowed to introduce Mr. Wombwell, to whom, he added, he had let the house lately become his.
A look of disgust followed this confession, enlivened by a scream from Miss Johns, from which one might have conceived she had seen one of Wombwell's dreaded baboons enter the room; but the climax of consternation came to its height when Hopman, walking up to Parkes, said sternly
"I have brought this gentleman in my hand, sir, to prove you a sneaking scoundrel, unworthy the notice of these ladies, or any honourable society. You availed yourself of an impression I was under, as well as your neighbours, that we were about to have the annoyance of a menagerie of wild beasts among us. By doing this, you have robbed me of £300 in the price of the purchase of your premises, well knowing this gentleman was no more the Wombwell we took him for than I am, nor has he more to do with a menagerie.
“Did I say he had ?” said the imperturbable attorney. "Take care what you say, sir : words are actionable.”
“I shall open the door for you, sir," said the athletic brewer, “and recommend your walking out of it. Is not his conduct such as to deserve this, General ?"
“ Yes—contrary to regulation," said the old soldier: “turn him out!”
The wary attorney saved that trouble, by sneaking off.
“ And now, ladies,” said Mr. Wombwell, “ allow me to express my regret that a somewhat singular epithet and remark of mine should have occasioned you alarm. The fact is very simple. I married very young; and, having a family of no less than nine, I jokingly, to my wife, call them my menagerie.' I do remember stating that the premises were well calculated for the menagerie. The person who showed the house heard me say this. I saw she looked surprised, but took no further notice of the circumstance. She reported, it seems, my words; and from them, it seems, all but Mr. Parkes believed me the veritable Wombwell : but I trust, ladies, when you permit me the pleasure of presenting my entire menagerie to you, you will not think them likely to cause any serious alarm, or, I hope, dislike."
Neither Mr. Wombwell nor his family were disliked, but for several years were the delight of the whole neighbourhood.
LI T E R A T U RE.
DIAMONDS AND Dust. 3 vols. Newby, Welbeck-street. This novel has been ascribed to Lytton Bulwer, and unquestionably is a work that would do credit to that popular writer. It commands the emotions and sympathies of the reader, and bears evidence not alone of a highly cultivated and refined mind, a fertile imagination, and a quick perception of character, but proves that the author has mixed in the best society at home and abroad. The story is powerfully told, the style is vigorous, the language elegant, the dramatis persono true to nature, and the interest admirably kept up throughout. The name has furnished material for a jocose remark in a journal famed for the severity of its criticisms--the tomahawk and scalping-knife of literary journalsand who, as a matter course, declares the precious gems to be wanting; but there is an old saying of “throwing pearls before swine,” so without following the critic throughout his slashing remarks, we will venture to say, that a more vivid picture of the various phases of society, or a more brilliant novel, has not appeared since Paul Clifford dazzled the world. We strongly recommend it to all classes of readers as one that will class with Bulwer, Dickens, Thackeray, or James. CATHERINE IRVING. By the Author of “Ada Gresham.” Newby,
Welbeck-street. This novel will give additional lustre to the literary fame of Mary Anne Lupton, and will take its place by the side of the best works of fiction of the day. It would be difficult to find a more interesting story, or to meet with one in which the characters are more powerfully delineated ; a certain fascination, too, is evoked, which ensures the attention