Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/Spirit rapping extraordinary

Illustrated by Frederick Walker.


I fear that the above title will disgust most magazine readers, as our periodicals were glutted with spiritualism a year ago; but the fact is, that I did not dare tell my story at the time when everybody was full of the subject, lest I should be claimed as a friend, or cold-shouldered as an enemy by the disputants in a controversy into which my inexperience utterly disqualifies me from entering. But I may now hope that the following account will be taken just for what it is, a narrative which does not bear upon the serious consideration of the question in any way whatever.

On the 18th of December, 1860, I was standing without a coat in the middle of my chambers, engaged in a violent contest with my portmanteau, trampling shirts and tearing at straps to a Lurline accompaniment, when my strains were interrupted by a knock at the outer door.

“It ithn’t a dun, and I know you are in, because I heard you thinging,” drawled a voice that I knew. Rather disconcerted at having had an audience to my “Gentle Troubadour,” considerably indignant at the assumption that I was in debt, and not so indifferent as I wished to the fact of being caught by so great a swell in such a state of disorder, I admitted Harold Ormond, a man of five-and-twenty, tall, with a good figure, regular features, pink and white skin, nice hair, and dressed as men are who make dress quite a study.

“How are you, old fellah?” said he, giving me a picture of a kid glove to shake. “I am glad I have found you in, by Jove!” and sticking his eye-glass in his eye, he surveyed my unfinished work. “What the dickenth are you up to?”

“I am going down to Suffolk to-morrow, to spend Christmas with my uncle,” I explained.

“That is just what I have called about; but, I thay, why don’t you let your man pack?”

“Because I have not got one.”

“By Jove! and so you pack yourself: I wonder if I could pack. Well, don’t let me interrupt you; I’ll sit in this easy chair and smoke, and we can talk all the thame. I thay, didn’t I hear you thinging ‘Fill this cup with parkling wine,’ as I came up the staircase?”

This being a creditable attempt at jocularity for one of his somewhat solemn set, I rewarded him with sherry, and commenced filling a carpet bag with boots. Ormond settled himself comfortably down, and then said, quietly:

“I am going to Morion Parvus with you, to-morrow, to be introduced as your friend; did not Mr. Morion tell you?”

“No,” I replied; “at least he did not mention your name; he said something about the pleasure they would all have in seeing any friend of mine, who had no better place to spend Christmas at.”

“That is it, he meant me; only the old boy was cautious, seeing that there is no pothitive engagement at prethent. Fact is, I ought to have told you all about it before, but you live so doothid far Eatht. I am going to marry your cousin Alice.”

“Going to marry Alice! You?” cried I.

“Yaas,” drawled the dandy, flicking off the ash of his cigar. “It is rayther a nuisance to have to get marwid so young; in justice to oneself one ought not to do it before forty; but you see I shall come to the title some day, and so my people baw me, and as I hate to be bawed, I am going to sacwifice myself. I thay, I don’t know anything about packing, but do you generally put lucifer-boxes loose among shirts? because, if it’s the thing to do, I don’t think Williams does; and I’ll tell him.”

“And what led you to select our family for the honour of an alliance with the Ormonds?” I asked in a tone intended to be satirical, but I missed fire, for he took my speech as a compliment, and made me a graceful inclination of the head as he replied:

“Well, I met your couthin Alice a good dea latht theathon, and thought if I must marwy, I had sooner it was her than any other girl. And I hinted something of the thort to old Morion at the club, and he of course was awfully glad, and asked me to come and thtay, but said that Alice was rather a self-willed sort of girl, and would set her face against the match if I was asked down on purpose to pwopose, so he said I had better come down in a chance sort of way as your friend: so Williams shall call and tell you the train I am going by.”

I am going by the half-past nine train,” said I.

“What a baw! I don’t get up till eleven.”

“If you miss the train I mentioned, you will not get to Morion Parvus by dinner-time.”

“Bother! Well, then, I thall thee you at the stathon.”

And he went away, I am happy to reflect, without receiving any impulse from my foot, though I never felt more inclined to kick a man down stairs in my life. Alice, that beautiful, soft, plump, rosy, witty, most winning and exquisite Alice, to be disposed of in this cavalier fashion! Why, at the rash and unreflecting age of twelve I had been in love with her myself, only my passion had burnt out for want of a drop of Hope-oil, and I had always wondered at the hardihood of even Frank Jackson, poet, artist, musician, jockey, sparrer, linguist and Engineer officer as he was, in daring to make love, and in appearance not unsuccessfully, to that paragon of a girl. It seemed to me as if the man who should win such a Peri must be unlucky in everything else he undertook, seeing that all the happiness and good fortune which should have been eked out through his whole existence, must be exhausted to distil that drop of concentrated bliss. The prospect of such a joy being reserved for me would have made me miserable lest some accident should rob me of so great happiness; would have caused me to take up wearing flannel waistcoats; to forswear mushrooms; to sell my guns; to shave with a Plantagenet guard on the razor; to eschew travelling by railway; to go miles round rather than pass under a ladder; to relinquish bathing. And here was an affected, insolent puppy, with nothing but a rather pretty face and a certain social position to recommend him, treating the matter in an off-hand way, as if he was conferring a favour. The conceited idiot spoke of sacrificing,—I beg pardon—sacwificing himself!

And so Alice had forgotten all about the young Engineer officer whom she was so thick with two years ago, when staying with her aunt, at Ivybridge. Well, well, so much the better, perhaps, for her father would have never consented to the match. Still it was a bad bit of news to have to tell Frank on his return to England, and I should not have expected her, from all I had seen, to fall in so readily with her father’s views respecting Harold Ormond.

I found that sleek aristocrat at the station next morning, looking just as calm and neat as if he had not been disturbed at so unusual an hour, and became immediately absorbed in the problem which he presents to me whenever I meet him, viz., how on earth he manages to tie that peculiarly elegant knot in his scarf. I had plenty of time for the consideration of this point during the journey, for after a short discussion on the state of the odds, he sank into a gentle slumber, which was only broken once when his servant came to the window and aroused him at a junction available for sherry.

There was a station within a mile of Morion Parvus, the railway having passed through a portion of my uncle’s estate, much to his lamentation and wrath. To this day he considers himself as having been irreparably injured by the innovation, though there are people who would not mind how much of that sort of injustice was done them. For when I say that the railway passed through the estate, I speak advisedly, as it tunnelled under a hill at its extreme northern boundary, and did not injure a rood of land, grass or arable; and for this innocuous trespass my uncle received ten thousand pounds; besides which some house property belonging to him in the neighbourhood was, by the improved communication with the nearest town, quadrupled in value. But then my uncle disapproved of railways, and the penny postage, and geology and free trade, and all those sort of things on principle, and thought so little of the benefit his pocket had received, that he never even mentioned it when detailing his grievances to a stranger.

But we, whose ideas were more modern, and whose hands and feet were half frozen, were glad as we gave up our tickets that we had not far to go to a bright fire, a good dinner, and the warm reception given us by my uncle, an elderly, goodnatured, strong-bodied, morbidly proud country gentleman; proud of his ancestors, proud of his position in the country, and, above all, proud of a reversion he had in a Banshee.

I do not know how it is, perhaps we Morions are of Irish extraction, for I believe the Banshee to be a Paddy; but, however that may be, our fortunes are mysteriously bound up with those of a black cat. Whenever any calamity is about to happen to the head of the family, pussy is sure to make her appearance with dilated eyes and electric tail.

Now one winter’s night, when my uncle was a lad of eleven years old and home for the holidays, he was reading the “Castle of Otranto” in the dining-room, and having finished the first volume, lit a candle and proceeded with a silent, cautious step (his father lying ill at the time, and the house being kept very quiet) to the study for the second. On turning from the book-case he fancied that he saw the curtain which festooned over the window move, and when, to put an end to the dread which came over him, he advanced towards it, a black cat flew out at him, dashed through the open door and disappeared. My grandfather died that night, and this confirmation of the family legend impressed my uncle with a taste for the supernatural, which has clung to him through life. My aunt was a moral chamelion, coloured by her husband, and sharing all his tastes, opinions, prejudices, and beliefs. They both spoilt their only child, and would have given her gold to eat, had her stomach demanded such Spanish liquorice; would have starved for her, died for her, done anything but consent to her marriage with B., while she had a chance of getting A. the better match. Absurd? Inconsistent? Very true: but then everybody, except the reader and the writer, is mad upon some point; and that was the weak spot in their brains.

My uncle met us at the door.

“Glad to see you, Ormond; how are you, Tom? Come in out of the cold,” said he, hurrying my travelling companion through the hall into a little room where hats, coats, &c., were kept, and then falling back and shaking my hand over again, checking me for a moment from following, while he whispered in my ear—

“Are you a medium?”

“Not that I know of,” I replied, rather puzzled.

“Is he?” nodding towards the door.

“He has plenty of the circulating medium, if you mean that,” I rejoined, making a snap shot.

“Ho, ho, Tom; far-fetched that, far-fetched! But it is not a subject to joke about,” he added, shaking his head.

It seemed that I had been witty without knowing it, so I grinned a little, and wondered whether my revered relative had been taking any refreshment before dinner.

“Now I have got wid of my waps,” said Ormond, when we had taken off our great coats, ‘I am weady to pay my wespects to the ladies.”

“Got rid of your raps!” cried my uncle, eagerly. “Oh, but you need not do that! This way.” And we were ushered into the drawing-room.

My aunt gave Ormond a reception which was an acted charade very easy to guess. She did not say “You are a very fine fellow, well-born, rich, in all human probability the future possessor of a title, and a first-rate match for my daughter. Baiting with Alice we have hooked you, but such delicate fish have fine mouths, and I am dreadfully afraid lest you should break away after all; so pray take all the line you require,” but she looked and smiled all this. When she had got her salmon into a comfortable still pool, she turned to me, poor worthless trout. Not that she was not glad to see me; on the contrary, I was a favourite of hers, and in my childhood she had been like a mother to me, dear old aunt! But, you see, business is business. After a kind welcome, she drew me mysteriously on one side, to ask, I supposed, some questions relative to the weight, haunts, or habits of her salmon; but no, her first inquiry was:

“Are you a medium?”

“A medium! what medium?”

“A spirit-medium, to be sure.”

I could only think that she suspected me of being engaged in some conspiracy of a smuggling nature, and answered, with the indignation of a patriot who finds taxes a luxury, in the negative.

“Is Mr. Ormond?”

Before I could reply, the dressing bell rang, and my aunt hurried off to give directions about some domestic matters which were probably in perfect order already.

This gave me an opportunity for a few words with Alice, who seemingly did not consider it the duty of a bait to make itself agreeable to the fish whose capture was intended—that was the fisherwoman’s business—so she treated Ormond in a very polite, cold, easy way, as a stranger of whom she had not seen much, but to whom a hospitable reception under her father’s roof was due, while she greeted me with a warmth of sisterly affection more marked than usual, keeping hold of my hand after shaking it, and giving me her lips instead of her cheek—my usual allowance—to kiss. She seemed more thoughtful, and a trifle thinner in the face, than when I had seen her last. Not that there were any signs of fretting about her; she looked rather as if her will had been opposed, and her majesty consequently offended about something or other.

I sat next to her at dinner, and directly the conversation was general enough for her to address me without being overheard, she asked:

“Are you a medium?”

“I don’t know!” I cried, quite bothered.

“Is your friend?”

My friend! What a way of alluding to the man she was to marry!

“I don’t know,” I repeated. “What on earth are you talking about? Are you all cracked? First of all my uncle, then my aunt, and now you want to know whether Ormond or I are mediums. What is a medium?”

“What! have you heard nothing of spiritualism and table-turning?”

“Oh, ah!” I cried, suddenly enlightened, “now I knew what you mean; but the fact is that I am such a humdrum material sort of animal that I take very little interest in the supernatural.”

“But do you believe that there is anything in it?”

“Well, I don’t know. It is rude to tell people that they are not telling the truth, or that they have been humbugged, when they recount their experiences on the subject; but still I own that the idea of my soul becoming eventually part of the stock-in-trade of a Yankee conjuror does not coincide with my views of immortality, and would not tend to rob the grave of its terrors, and so I hope that I may be excused for being hard to convince.”

She was silent for a minute, and then replied:

“We have been trying to turn a table, but without success. Now, if some night we should be more happy, I hope you will not be too inquiring or sceptical. You may not believe that it is all fair-play, but—”

“But what?”

“Could you not make believe to believe it? To turn a table and hear it rap would so please dear papa.”

“Dutiful child!”

“Am I not?” and she glanced across at Ormond, looked down demurely, and added, “He is not a shy gentleman, your friend!”

“Not very; but why do you persist in calling him my friend?”

“Is he not? You brought him here.”

“In the first place, he is far too great a swell to honour me with his friendship; next—— But I must not abuse him to you. However, I have a friend—an old, tried, real friend—after whom you have not inquired.”

“Whom do you mean?” she asked, in so quiet, indifferent a tone that I thought I had missed; but no, a pink spot came out on her neck and ear.

“Frank Jackson, Jackson of the Engineers,” I answered.

“Ah, yes! I remember him,” said the jilt; “he went out to India, or China, or somewhere, did he not?”

“Yes; but he returned to England six weeks ago.”

“Dear me! I suppose he has changed a good deal, has he not?”

“I have not see him yet.”

“I wonder if one would know him again, if one met him unexpectedly.”

“I should certainly. I do not forget my friends so quickly as that!”

“Really!” she replied, rising from the table, and adding with emphasis as she swept past me, “Even when they do not wish to be remembered?”

And then she vanished, leaving me woefully puzzled. Why should my oldest friend and constant correspondent wish me to forget him? Pooh! there was probably no meaning in her words; but she just uttered any nonsense which first came into her head to hide her confusion. For the slight blush I had detected showed that she still thought with kindness of poor Frank, and that was probably the reason of the cool greeting given by her to Harold Ormond.

Self-possessed as he was, that deliberate lover was slightly disconcerted by the indifference with which the lady to whom he had deigned to throw his handkerchief let it lie where it fell; and he must have been hit harder than his intimates would have supposed possible. Instead, however, of quietly withdrawing the honour which he had proposed to confer upon the family, he seemed to be piqued into a determination to subdue this wonderful girl who did not jump down his throat the moment he opened his mouth, for he got quite earnest and alert in his attentions to the pretty Alice. The very evening of our arrival saw him standing by her side while she sang a song; on the following morning he joined our riding party, though we started at the preposterously early hour of eleven; and shortly afterwards I found him in the hot-house—“picking a nothgay, by Jove!” And a remarkably fine nosegay it was, and a deal of mischief he did in culling it. The gardener took me into his confidence afterwards, and the language made use of by that shocking old man was awful.

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It was in the afternoon of this same day that we all noticed an importance and excitement about my uncle which seemed to betoken the bottling up of important intelligence. At dinner-time he uncorked.

“Well,” he began, “I had a visitor to-day.”

“A visitor?”

“Yes; a medium! A German gentleman, endowed with the power of corresponding with those spiritual beings whom with all our endeavours we have never been able to summon, is now staying in the neighbourhood, and it having been supernaturally intimated to him that I was desirous of communicating with the Unseen World, he has kindly offered to hold a séance here this evening at eight o’clock. What is the matter, Alice?”

“Nothing, papa.”

“Why you are as pale as the tablecloth!”

“Am I? Well, I do feel rather frightened at the idea of this—this mysterious man coming so soon.”

“Don’t be fwightened, Miss Mawion; I’ll thwash him if he twys to hurt you,” said Ormond.

“Thank you,” said Alice.

“Come, come, Alice, you must get over your alarm,” cried her father, “for Herr Fritzjok does not talk English very fluently, and as you are the only German scholar of the party we look to you as our interpreter.”

When we joined the ladies in the drawing-room Alice had recovered her colour, but was still, I thought, rather nervous and excited. She would be silent for a long time, and then begin to laugh and talk louder than anyone, and then relapse into silence, glancing at the door whenever she thought that no one observed her.

“Eight o’clock!” cried my aunt, as the time-piece struck the first stroke of that hour.

And as she spoke we heard a ring at the front-door. There was something awful in such Monte Christo punctuality.

“Herr Fritzjok!” cried the servant.

And there entered a tall, powerful man, with long black hair, black beard, black whiskers, black moustache. He wore a ring on his fore-finger and another on his thumb; and when I first saw him I started, but, catching Alice’s eye on me, recovered myself.

“Ow you does, ladies and gentlemants?” said Herr Fritzjok, bowing all round. “You wish durns de dables? You speaks Deutsch, sir?”

“I speak Dutch! Not I,” cried Ormond.

“You, milady?”

“No, none of us understand your language but my daughter. Alice, speak to the gentleman.”

Alice and Herr Fritzjok bowed to each other, and commenced an animated discussion, which resulted in our adjourning to the dining-room and proceeding to business.

Very solemn business it was. Everything was cleared off the table, the lamp being placed on the sideboard; and we all sat down to a Barmecide feast, with our hands spread before us in the place of plates of mutton. On this occasion we had hardly sat five minutes before the table gave a jerk to the left, with a loud crack.

“Wonderful!” cried my uncle.

Next it began to move round slowly and painfully, an inch at a time.

“Tom, you are pushing!” said Ormond to me.

“Zilenze!” cried Herr Fritzjok, “ve sall make zome qwestions. Sbirrid, if you are a sbirrid, and not a push, give a knock.”

Bang came a great thump under the table, right in the middle.

“Most extraordinary!” cried my uncle.

“I hope it is not wicked,” said my aunt, whose eyes were very wide open indeed; and to satisfy her scruples on this point the table was again appealed to, and a code of signals having been agreed upon, such as that one rap was to stand for “Yes,” two for “No,” and that sentences were to be spelled out by our repeating the alphabet, and the table rapping at the proper letter, it replied that our present occupation was not wrong, but rather virtuous than otherwise.

The table, now fairly started, chatted away at a great pace, telling anecdotes of the Morion family, of Harold Ormond, of myself, which we respectively deemed confined to a very select party of friends, in a way calculated to convince the most sceptical. Even Ormond remarked that it was “a doothed odd thing, you know, how the dooth should Herr Fritzjok, let alone the table, know about that affair, you know?” He even tried to improve the occasion by getting a supernatural tip for the Derby, but it was declared that the winner would be “a horse!” which information, though satisfactory as far as it went, was not available for betting purposes.

After some time, Mr. Morion announced that he wished to enter upon a more serious subject than had yet been broached.

“There is a solemn, an awful phenomenon attached to our family, and to which I myself have been a witness,” said he. “Before any great calamity, a spirit, in the form of a black cat, appears to one of us. I should like to know what spirit that is, and why it takes that shape.”

No sooner were the words out of his mouth, than we heard a scratching mixed with the knocking under the table, and a most distinct Me-ow was audible in one corner of the room. Ventriloquism? O, of course! that is the way to cut the Gordian knot. And yet how very, very seldom one meets with a ventriloquist; what a rare power his is. Why I, who have made the subject a study, have never met with more than one amateur ventriloquist capable of executing that Me-ow, and that was a Crichton of a friend of mine in the Engineers, who could do everything and anything but make his whiskers and moustache grow, and that he never could accomplish.

And even supposing that Herr Fritzjok—but bah! let me content myself with a truthful narrative of what I saw and heard.

“Will you boot a question to the sbirrid?” the Medium asked my uncle.

“Ahem. Are you the family Banshee?”

No answer.

“Why do you not reply?”

“There is one in the room frightened, which I do not like?”

“Who is that person?”

“Alice,” rapped out the spirit.

“It is true,” said that young lady. “It is very foolish of me, I know, papa, but I should like to go away, if you didn’t mind.”

And then she spoke to the German, and he said something to her, and the table-spirit-cat was consulted, and rapped out “Go.”

So Alice rose and bade an affectionate good night to her parents.

“Why, you silly little puss, how you tremble!” said my uncle, as he kissed her; and the caressing tone of his voice made her cry, I think, for the moment after I heard a distinct sob from the ringlets which floated over her mother’s face, as she bade her, in turn, good night.

That placid lady looked surprised and concerned, for Alice was not accustomed to shed tears, being rather a stern little domestic Tartar, of whom her parents stood in some degree of awe.

“Had I not better come with you?” said she.

“Oh, no, mamma, dear, pray don’t.”

“Must ab fibe for the seànce.”

“Ask the table.”

The table rapped out that Alice alone was to leave.

“I wonder she likth to go to bed and be alone, if she is afraid of the gothth,” observed Ormond.

“Hush!” cried my uncle.

Me-ow,” squealed the Banshee, amid renewed scratching and knocking; and then my uncle commenced an inquisition into the affairs of the Family Bogy.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“The spirit who appears at intervals in the form of a black cat.”

“Why do you take that form?”

“Because it is my own. I am the Founder of the Family.”

“The Founder of the Family—a cat!”

“Yes, read ‘Darwin.’ Ten hundred thousand years ago some naughty young mastodons put myself and another kitten into a wooden bowl, and set us afloat on a lake, where we drifted to an island. We there had nothing to eat but swallows which skimmed the ground at about the height of our heads when we stood on our hind legs, but never alighted. So that those of our children, who could stand on their hind legs best, got most swallows, while those who could not do it at all died of starvation. Thus a race of cats arose walking on their hind legs. Then the fore paws being entirely used for catching the swallows, after a few generations turned to hands, and so the cats eventually became monkeys, the transition from which animal to the Morion family is obvious.”

“I don’t see it!” murmured my uncle.

“The monkeys,” the table rapped on, “migrated to a country where they were fed upon by a tribe of wolves, who, as they sprang into the trees, caught them by the tail, and so, those monkeys with the shortest tails having the best chance of life, a species was formed without any tails at all. Various accidents and necessities caused after-generations to grow tall and bare, and taught them to talk and cook, and you are the present specimen. I always take an interest in my descendants.”

“Can we see you?”

“Put out the lights!”

It had taken a long time—upwards of an hour—for the cat-spirit to rap out all this, and we were all wearied, bewildered and excited, so that it was in a frame of mind very different from that sceptical shrewdness which is the normal condition of the civilised European, that we sat in the dark, wondering what was to come next. Presently Herr Fritzjok said quietly:

“Iab being moved.”

And I thought I heard the handle of the door turned; but this must have been a mistake, as his voice came directly after, from the ceiling.

“Iab vloating ober your eds; be quiet, don’t sdir, or I won’t answer for der consequendces.”

We were quiet, and so were the spirits, for some half-hour, when my uncle, wearied out, said:

“Well, Herr Fritzjok, may we not light the lamp now? There seems nothing going on.”

No answer. We sat ten minutes longer, and then my uncle got up and struck a light.

Herr Fritzjok had vanished!

“He has been carried off by the Evil One!” shrieked my aunt, going into hysterics.

“Or was perhaps him himself,” said my uncle.

“Or a burgwar,” suggested Ormond.

“Ring the bell.”

“Look under the table.”

“Count the poonth.”

In the general confusion and fluster of the servants when summoned, no one was concealed anywhere, nor any article of value missing.

My aunt was revived and carried off to bed, very gently, for fear of disturbing Alice, whose room was next her mother’s, and then all the males of the family were summoned together for a grand Fritzjok hunt. We searched the house, the offices, the cellar, the stables, the garden, the shrubbery, for some time without effect, but at last a bold Buttons, a boy who feared nothing but short commons, and who had pursued his investigations with a lantern, to where a wicket-gate opened from a distant part of the garden into a lane, came rushing back to the house shouting:

“I’ve got summut!—I’ve got summut!”

“What have you got?” was the general cry, as we pressed towards him from all directions.

“My, haven’t the Dutchman and the old ’un been having a wrestle for it neither!” Buttons remarked, holding up an entire head of beautiful black hair, with whiskers, moustache, and beard to match.

“No nails left, only the hair?” asked Ormond.

After searching further, and finding nothing more, we shut the house up and went to bed.

Next morning no one brought me my hot water at the usual hour, and when I consequently rang the bell, it remained unanswered. Worse, when I went down stairs, I found no breakfast ready. What on earth could be the matter? Had What’s-his-name, after taking Herr Fritzjok for a whet, come back for the rest of the household? As I had rung my bed-room bell, I now rang that of the dining-room, with a similar lack of results; there was nothing for it but to explore. The hall-door was wide open, and my uncle’s hat and great coat were not on the pegs. Next I tried the stables, but the stalls were empty and the grooms gone. In the kitchen, however, I found a housemaid, with her arms on the dresser and her head on her arms, sobbing like a whipped child.

“What on earth is the matter, Mary?” I asked again and again, without getting any reply but—“Hi, hi, hi! oh, oh, oh!” At last, however, she pulled out of her pocket a letter addressed to me, in my uncle’s handwriting; it ran thus:

Sir, Sir, Sir!—You must have been in this disgraceful plot. You have abused my hospitality, and have acted like a viper. Let me never see your face again. P. Marion.

What did it all mean? how do vipers act? when had I ever formed a plot? My publishers had always complained that I was lamentably deficient in that respect.

“Mary, Mary, tell me, girl, what is the matter?”

“Hi, hi, hi!—oooh!”

“Hah, Buttons!” and I seized him by the collar. “What has happened?”

“You know,” he replied with a grin.

“Now, then,” said I, taking the youth by the ear, “will you answer me, and have half-a-crown, or will you be kicked until there is not a sound spot on your carcase?”

With the eye of genius, Buttons seized on the former alternative, and shouted in a breath:

“Miss Alice has bolted with the Dutchman, which his name is Jackson, and you know it. Give me the half-a-crown.”

On returning to the hall I met Harold Ormond, to whom my uncle had not thought fit to communicate his unjust suspicions of my connivance with the runaways.

“I am going to town,” said he.

“So am I,” I replied: “we can go together.”


And he said no more until the train approached the London station, when he said:

“I shall horthwhip that fellah!”

Poor Frank Jackson! But I have written to warn him to have his knickerbockers lined with leather.

L. Hough.