This morning, while I sat quietly upon a butter-firkin, which had been sawed into an easy-chair, in the drawing-room of the ancient Munchausen chateau, P. Penruthers entered, with Matilda Munchausen hanging upon his arm, and escorted her to a wash-bench, which had been covered with a rag-carpet to represent a luxurious settee? Then, drawing over his hands a pair of white cotton socks, which he had borrowed from Loyola for courting-gloves, and displaying them in a manner to impress her with his splendors of costume, he buttoned his silk basque to his neck to make himself emotionally hoarse, and says he, -
" Miss Munchausen, further concealment of my feelings were useless; by 'r lady, I love - "
Here I coughed to remind them of my presence; whereupon he waved one of the socks toward me, in a haughty manner, and says he, -
" You see, fayre lady, that Nobody is here,"
Matilda ate a slate-pencil dipped in vinegar to keep herself from growing stout, and says she, -
"Yes, my Lord, I see that yonder easy-chair is Vacant".
The faintly scornful sound of these casual remarks stung me into a conciousness that I was indeed a Nobody, and presented a marked aspect of Vacancy; but, even with the misfortunes of my Vandal Northern birth and noiseless name, I have moments of vague self-respect; and, with an air of considerable hauteur, I drew out my piece of Smoked Glass and proceeded to gaze thoughtfully through it at the pageant of Love's Young Dream.
" Matilda," went on Pendragon Penruthers, in a deep base voice, " our Families are equally Old; ancient mortgages draw us together, and it becomes us to complete the holy tie. Hessian Vandals from the scorpion North are buying up our fair domains at about seven dollars per castle and private park, and I expect, by my halidome! to realize some thirteen dollars and a quarter for mine own estate withal. With this amount, I can safely run in debt for one year, and I ask you, ladie fayre, to help me therein".
" My heart's Pendragon Penruthers," sighed Matilda, drawing off a blue worsted mitten and giving him one of her hands to kiss. " I am but a poor weak maiden, unaccustomed to public speaking, and have but onethird-nortgage in mine own right. If that is any inducement, you might take me; but first, let me ask, are you a Ritu-ilist?"
P. Penruthers smote his forehead with one of his locks, then seized a hymn-book lying upon a Louis Seize table (flour-barrel covered with drugget) near at hand, and tore it into thirty-one fragments.
" Matilda," says he, frenziedly, " I cannot tell a lie. A clergyman living next to me once had one of his cherry-trees cut down, and I did it with my little hatchet. I am an infidel, a pagan, and a spiritualist. Let me not hide such facts from thee, dear one, - now that Nobody is listening".
She threw up her white arms, and he, expecting a blow from her, drew hurriedly back and pitched headlong over the sand-box, which (as he chewed) he had taken care to have near his feet before beginning the conversation. She had meant nothing, however, but the most trustful affection; and, as the arrogant knight slowly picked himself up from the floor and made a stealthy reach for the poker, the lady of the chateau, by a sudden movement, caught his head under one of her arms, and spat a loud kiss upon his forehead.
" And think you, my dearest lord," cried she, " that I would turn from you on that account? No! You have said that you cannot tell a lie, and you did it with your little hatchet Could a George Washington do more?"
"Do I remind you of Washington, then? " asked P. Penruthers, softly, wriggling his head out of chancery, and regaining his feet again.
" Very much," she murmured.
An expression of melancholy settled upon his countenance, and he folded his socks over the breast of his silk basque.
"Matilda," said he, huskily, "is the interest on your mortgage all. paid up ? " "Yes, Pendragon".
Again the anguished knight smote his forehead with a sock, and says he, " How can I tell this trustful being the whole truth ? How can I reveal to her that my present home is in-the Almshouse ! "
She darted out her fair hands toward him; and he, anticipating a blow after such a revelation, attempted to withdraw a pace, and tripped heavily over my feet. But her gesture had meant only a demonstration of augmented attachment, and, before he could arise from the ground, she flew at him, took his face between her mittens, and smiled down at him.
"Pendragon Penruthers," she said, very distinctly, "just lie where you are, and listen to me. Bather would I give Matilda's hand, heart, and mortgage to you, a Southerner, though in the Almshouse, than to a Northerner with the carpet-bag of a Croesus".
His position being unfavorable for any other gesture of pleasure, Mr. Penruthers kicked ecstatically in the air with those limbs, on which appeared his red flannel inexpressibles, and says he, -
"Then, by my halidome, I ask no more. Thou art nine, Matilda; and, come weal or woe, we will starve together".
" And allow me," said I, putting up my Smoked Glass, " to congratulate you on the spot".
At the disagreeable Northern sound of my voice, the lady of the chateau permitted the fallen nobleman to reach a standing position once more, and he cast a supercilious glance toward my easy-chair.
" I see Nobody," says he, contemptuously; " and yet I heard a hideous noise".
Matilda tossed her head, and says she, " I heard Nobody speak".
" So did I," quoth Pendragon Penruthers, Esquire.
After which they both looked directly at me for five minutes, in the manner of those who would have their nearest personal friends understand that they are staring at vacancy, and then retired from the apartment with great aristocracy of demeanor.
Had plain John Smith treated me thus, do you think, my boy, that I would have borne it ? No, sir ! I should have gone after John on one foot, and attempted, for a single energetic instant, to climb his backbone with the other. But a man named Pendragon Penruthers, Esquire, must in some way, have a right to exhibit a far greater immensity of aspect than one who is only Yours, unassumingly,
Orpheus C. Kerr.