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MRS. SIMPKINSON'S PARTY.

Tule of the Garotters,

[CONCLUDED.)

CHAPTER IV.

Mrs. SIMPKINSON's first troubles were over ; the drawing-room carper was up, and the floor French-chalked to a nicety; the marquee had been put up with no further damage than running the poles through the bed-room windows, the ices had come, the pastry cook had, in the supper, fallen not far short of what he had promised, the waiters for the occasion looked almost as if they belonged to the house ; Weippert's band had been secured; and the mistress of the house, after being dressed, sat down for the first time that day, waiting for her guests, and feeling much more fit to go to bed than to talk platitudes till three in the morning. Presently the two young ladies came down, and very pretty they both looked, Arabilla the brunette, and Fanny the blonde. Both wore plain white tarlatan dresses, looped up and trimmed with natural holly; the only difference being in the head-dresses ; that of Fanny being, like the trimming, of holly ; while a solitary crimson rose set off the dark tresses of her sister. Presently a knock was heard, and the usual speculations hazarded in as to who might be the first arrival. Mrs. Simpkinson took a last glance around the room, and, seeing every thing in its place, put on her best smiles to welcome the ladies who now came ballooning into the room. The rat-tats became more frequent, and carriages kept rolling up to the door, much to the disgust of the next-door neighbours ir: No. 13, who, not having received an invitation, wondered very much how people could make such fools of themselves by attempting to cut a figure in the world, and hoped that poor Mr. Simpkinson would not suffer from his wife and daughter's extravagance. Meanwhile the waiter stationed at the dining room door was rapidly getting hoarse, and making a series of gigantic blunders in ushering in the visitürs. Lucky were the guests whose names were called out with anything like their proper pronunciation.

Mr., Mrs., and Miss Winks; Mr. 'Olfus Winks.” These were Fanny's friends, the De Vincks.

“Mr. and Mrs. Fizzleton !” and in sailed the dreaded Mrs. Fitzhammerton, whose verdict was so anxiously looked for by the hostess. Apparently there was every chance of its being favourable, as she was graciously pleased that evening to be in high good humour, and gladdened Mrs. Simpkinson's heart by praising the appearance of her daughters,

" Who shall I say, Sir ?" inquired the servant of a foreign-looking gentleman.

“ Monsieur de Botteribelli.”

“Monseer Pot-belly,” shouted the domestic, much to the amusement of Redford and Framwell, who were close behind. Dancing had now commenced, and Mrs. Simpkinson began to feel alarmed at the nonappearance of Soppleton. He had promised to be early. Could anything have happened to him ? Just then Mrs. Holmeswell was announced, and, after the usual common-places, enquired after Mr. Simpkinson.

“Oh, such a dreadful thing, my dear Mrs. Holmeswell ; the poor man can't appear; he was attacked last night by some wretches, and has got a shocking black-eye! I really do not know what would have happened had it not been that your nephew and Mr. Framwell were passing by and rescued him."

“Dear me! I had not heard of it,” said Mrs. Holmeswell. “I hope they secured the ruffians.”.

"I am sorry to say they escaped; but the police are set on their track.”

"I do hope they will be able to apprehend them;" and some fresh Arrival put a stop to the conversation.

A short time afterwards, Soppleton made his appearance, looking rather pale. He was not much accustomed to late sittings and brandy-punch, so that last night's amusements had told on him. Part of his vision of the previous evening was realized, for, as he entered the room, the first couple of waltzers he perceived were Fanny and Redford.

“ Confound the fellow,” thought he "Wish I'd been earlier :" and he made his way to Mrs. Simpkinson. That lady was delighted to see him, but commiserated his pale looks.

“I hope you are not unwell, Mr. Soppleton," said she.

“ Thank you, no,” drawled out Augustus ; “but, fact is, I was garotted last night, and I have not yet got over the shock.”

Mrs. Simpkinson was just going to condole with him, and had got as far as “ I am so very sorry" —when a servant whispered that her

presence was required elsewhere. So Soppleton was left to recount his adventure to the ladies who happened to be standing near the hostess.

“Pray tell us the particulars, Mr. Soppleton,” said Miss Singleton, putting on a look of the deepest sympathy.

“Why, fact is, I was walking down the St. John's Wood Road last night, and I was assaulted by a huge ruffian, armed with a bludgeon, who attempted to throw his arms round my neck, but I was too quick for him, and knocked him down. However, we had a tussle, which was luckily decided by some friends of mine coining up."

"How fortunate !" simpered Miss Lovetin, and did you receive no injury ?"

“None whatever, thank you. May I have the pleasure ?" and Soppleton and Miss Lovetin started off at score to the music of the night-Bell Galop. Dancing was the only exercise Augustus was fond of, and as he was a good performer, and was besides a most eligible partner in other respects, he always could command the market. Each young lady he danced with requested him to give an account of his

garotting,” and each time it was related, something was added to it. The only partner from whom he got but little sympathy was Fanny

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Simpkinson, and as he thought he detected something like a smothered laugh in a sudden cough which seized on her, his uneasiness of the last night at the mirth of his companions returned to him.

The ball was going on as well as Mrs. Simpkinson.could wish. Her rooms were full; Mrs. Fitzhammerton had congratulated her on the success of her first party, and Soppleton had been assiduous in his attentions to Fanny. "Even in the crowded ball-room the mother could find time to build castles in the air for her child, and she fervently hoped that the wish of her heart might be realized, and that she might hear, before retiring to rest, Fanny's blushing avowal that she had engaged herself according to her mother's choice. And who shall blame her that she had set her heart on a rich son-in-law ? She had suffered when first married from the res angusta domi, and though she had borne all patiently, had enacted the part of a good wife, and been a comfort and stay to her husband during his early trials, she still shuddered at the thought of her past sorrows and prayed that her daughters might never have to go through similar scenes of suffering. She wished them to take at once the place in society which it had cost her many years to attain. She dreaded lest their now joyous young faces should be marked with tears of grief, or, still worse, be prematurely furrowed with the lines that care stamps on the brow; and so, she had somehow or another, quite forgetting her own choice of William Simpkinson and £250 a-year against her father's will, imbibed the notion that her girls would never think of opposing her in this most vital question-their

settling down in life, and that they would bow meekly to her decision, and accept sans mot dire whoever she might fix upon as suitable matches.

Where were your eyes, Mrs. Simpkinson, during that Burlesque Galop which Fanny danced with Redford ? Had you but looked that way, you must have seen that your castles were but as those frail ones children build of sand on the sea-shore, whose battlements topple down at the incroach of the first ripple. The French proverb says, Ce que femme veut, Dieu veut. But what happens when two female minds are in opposition ! I leave the question to the metaphysicians of the day,

At one o'clock supper was announced, and the noise made by the guests entering the marquee roused Mr. Simpkinson from his first attempt at a doze. The old gentleman was sitting in his den upstairs, heartily wishing he could fall asleep, and trying by vigorous smoking to while away the tedious hours of the night. Several of his friends had come up to see him, and as the murmur of voices in the garden below started him up out of his incipient snoose, the door was opened and Framwell walked in.

“Glad to see you, Mr. Framwell,” said his host; "very kind of you to come up. I really must again repeat my thanks for your conduct last night."

Pray don't mention it,” said Dick. “ I've not come to sit with you, but to bring you down to supper."

“Oh, impossible, I could'nt come. Just look at my eye."

“It is rather black,” said Dick ; “but what of that? It is not as if you had been engaged in a street row. Being garotted is quite sufficient excuse for an extravasation of blood about the eye. Do come down ; we shan't enjoy the supper without you.”

Now this proposal just suited the old gentleman. He was beginning

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to feel hungry, and, naturally enough, wished to see how things were going on below. Besides this, he had, in a fit of liberality, opened his cellar, and sent up three dozen of his best champagne for supper ; and here I

may be allowed a short digression. Why is it that when a man gives a ball he cannot content himself with decent claret and sherry, and sound beer, but must needs order in champagne at 26s. a-dozen, and treat his friends to “gooseberry' in its most abominable shape! And it is not only Brown and Smith who do this; I have known of its being done in what is called “the higher circles.” An anecdote to the point recurs to my mind. At a large ball given by the Viceroy of the island of—say Barataria—one of the guests, a noble lord, a captain in H.M. Life guards (Green) was missing for some time. On his re-entering the room, he was asked by some one who had been sent in search of him, “Why where have you been hiding yourself!"

“My dear fellah," was the answer ; “I've been trying to poison the staff with their own champagne, and 'Gad, I think I've succeeded!"

Mr. Simpkinson thought a glass of this champagne would do him good, and as Framwell would take no denial, he hastily dressed himself, and came down stairs. After answering the numerous inquiries after his health, he was elbowing his way through the supper-marquee, when a fresh irruption of hungry dancers brought him to a stand-still. Close beside him was sitting Soppleton, talking to deaf, old Lady Snarlington.

"Yes," I assure you,” he was saying, “he was just going to put his arm round me, and give me the hug."

“What, Soppleton," asked the host, “have you too fallen among thieves ?"

“Yes, indeed; I was attacked last night."

“Upon my word, it's too bad. I hope your man has been secured ; mine got away, but as my rescuers say they can swear to him, I've been to the police office, and I have great hopes of his being caught. Tell me how it was." And for the fifteenth time that night, Augustus related his story ; each time he repeated it his assailant had grown more and more ferocious, and he now described him as a huge truculent lookiug ruffian, with a beard of a week's growth and à most repulsive coudtenance. When he mentioned the locality he was attacked in, Mr. Simpkinson stared ; but when he introduced the names of Framwell and Redford, the old gentleman gave a start, and looked round with a puzzled countenance for these two. Dick, who had carefully watched all the proceedings, was close at his elbow, and so he listened to the remainder of the story with sundry nervous twitchings of his whole body, which bore witness to his fidgetty state of mind. When the recital, which had been most attentively listened to, was finished, Mr. Simpkinson, in as composed a manner as he could put on, asked Soppleton, “ You

say

this was in the St. John's Wood Road ?"
“ Ye-e-s."
“At what time?"
“About half-past eleven."

" Then-By George, Sir !— Will you swear that you were not the first aggressor ? You have trumped up a cock-and-bull story, Sir! Confound it, Sir, it was you who gave me this;" and the indignant gentleman pointed to his darkened eye-lid.

"Mr. Frumwell, will you explain this? Mr. Soppleton mentions

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you as having rescued him ; I know you took me away from the man I was struggling with."

By this time every one in the room was listening eagerly for what would follow, and Mrs. Simpkinson, hearing her husband's voice, hastened in to know what had happened, and innocently asked

“Why, Mr. Simpkinson, what is the matter ?”

“Matter, Ma'am,” roared out her husband: “I've found out my garotter, that's all-your steady young friend here, Mr. Soppleton !"!

“Mr. Soppleton ?"

“Yes, Ma'am. Mr. Soppleton! I suppose he was drunk-of course he must have been."

“Now, Mr. Framwell, how is this?"

Dick, thus appealed to, hemmed and hawed, and muttered something about a supper party, and Soppleton having through nervousness made a mistake.

“ There, there : that will do," burst in the angry Simpkinson ; “Don't make matters worse by trumping up excuses. Now, Sir, turning to Soppleton, “ My umbrella is a bludgeon, eh ? and I am a truculent looking ruffian with a repulsive countenance, am I ?"

No one could help it; a perfect roar of laughter went round the table ; indeed Mr. Simpkinson's face, red with passion and disfigured by the black eye, did not present a very pleasing appearance. Soppleton, on the contrary, half risen from his seat, pale as death, and utterly at a loss what to say or do, seemed the very picture of misery.

“I'll tell you what, Sir," continued the old gentleman, "you have not only disgraced yourself by your conduct last night, but you have aggravated your folly by boasting of it, and telling a pack of lies. Yes, Sir—I repeat it--a pack of lies. You wished to make yourself out a very fine fellow indeed, and I congratulate you on the result. I will trouble you now to leave my house as soon as may suit

your

convenience, and never let me again see your face within my doors."

And poor Soppleton, his face now crimson with shame, with drooping head and downcast eyes elbowed his way out mechanically, and left the house, half-fancying he was under the influence of some horrible night

As he drove home how he cursed Framwell and his party. He saw it all now; it must have been a preconcerted affair. What a fool he had been to fall into the trap so easily! What could he do? Nothing. Schemes of vengeance rose in his head, and then came the reflection that the story would be all over the town the next day, and that his mere appearance at the Club would cause a general titter. Augustus groaned at the bare idea. There was but one thing to do-get out of town as soon as possible, so he gave orders to his valet, much to that gentleman's disgust, to pack up his portmanteau immediately, and be ready to start for the Continent the next day.

Meanwhile, Mr. Simpkinson's wrath had partly cooled down, and during supper he informed his friends that, sick of the preparations for the ball, he had the previous evening gone to play a rubber of whist at the house of an old friend of his. On his way home he had observed a man in front of him walking rather unsteadily, but had paid no particular attention to him, till

, when close by, he had been staggered by a blow in the face. Recovering from his first surprise, and perceiving he had only one assailant to deal with, he had dropped his umbrella and boldly

mare.

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