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A SKETCH OF AN OLD BACHELOR,…

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A SKETCH OF AN OLD BACH- ELOR, WITH A HOUSE TO LET. There it was most unquestionably-an appeal, in fat black letters, wound up by a huge exclamation point, to the attention of all house-hunting sufferers. This house to let-and no mistake about it, either," mused Mr. Briggs, stirring his cup of cold coffee, and looking distastefully at the one boiled egg that lay before him. The fact is, I'm sick of keeping house coal always out—taxes always due-carpets always wearing away-grocer's bills enough to make a man's hair stand on end, and housekeeper always asking for higher wages I won't stand it Piny longer—I'll be boiled alive if I do! As Mr. Nahum Briggs was a little fat, fussy man, with starting eyes and a tout-ensemble not unlike a comfortably sized lobster, the "boiling" part of the business was not at all nappropiiate. And as if to carry out the simile, he i nraed a lively scarlet as the door slowly swung open, a ad his housekeeper stalked majestically in. In truth and ia fact, Mr. Briggs was a little afraid of Mrs. Parley, but Mr. Briggs was resolved to break the baleful spell, and stood boldly to his guns. "Mr. Briggs!" begaE. the lady, solemnly, "can I believe my eyes ? Well, ma'am," said the old bachelor, I never heard that anything was amiss with your eyesight." Is it possible that you have posted a bill on the front of this house without consulting me ? Quite so, ma'am," responded Nahum. And you intend-" To shut up shop-to close my establishment-to break up housekeeping, ma'am," said Nahum. "That's exactly my intention." "Very well, sir," said Mrs. Parley, grimly, "if you will settle the trifling question of salary between us, I will take my departure." "What? now?" ejaculated Mr. Briggs, somewhat taken by surprise. "Immediately," responded the lady, frigidly. And who's to keep house for me until the 1st of May? and who's to show the premises to all in- quirers ? demanded Nahum, a little apprehensively. That is your own business, sir," said Mrs. Parley. "I, for one, cannot consent to remain in a house where I have been so markedly excluded from the con- fidence of its owner." Just so, ma'am—exactly," said Mr. Briggs, count- ing out several banknotes. "There's your money, and now oblige me by going off as quick as you con- veniently can." Mrs. Parley withdrew and Nahum was left to his own meditations. Singular to relate, they took the shape of a species of war-dance, exeouted in the middle of. the floor, to the musical snapping of fingers. "Bravo! bravo three cheers! hurrah, I'm free! chuckled our hero. "If ever there was a miserable slave, I've been one to that hatchet-faced woman, and now I'm free! Who would have supposed-tO He stopped abruptly—there was a ring at the door bell. And nobody to answer it," mused Mr. Brisrgs, a little depressed from his high spirits. Well, I'll go myself." A spectacled old lady stood on the door steps, in a shabby bombazine and furs that looked as if they might have grown en the back of some dissipated oat. This 'ere house to let ? Yes, ma'am." Can I look at it ? Certainly, ma'am." Water-pipes in order ? cellar dry ? paint new ? ovens good ? roof sound ? chandeliers go with the house ? possession at once ? neighbourhood good ? a church anywhere near? any objection to children? ventilators in the rooms ? closets in the bedrooms ? "Ma'am?" ejaculated poor Nahum, fairly stunned by the torrent of questions. Servants is so stupid ?" sighed the old lady. Can I see your master ?" "I'm my own master, ma'am," said Mr. Briggs, irritably. Oh-I thought you was the porter," said the old lady, scornfully. What's the rent ? A hundred a year." "A hundred fiddlesticks!" shrieked the old lady, holding up both her hands. "Who on earth do you s'pose is goin' to pay a hundred a year for such an old tumble-down rat-hole as this? Why you must be crazy Say seventy. five, and I'll look at the rooms." "I wont say anything of the sort," said Nahum, turning red and feeling apoplectic. "If you don't like the rent of my house, ma'am, you're not obliged to pay it, and 1 wish you a very good morning, ma'am." So saying, Nahum Briggs closed the door in the face ef the old lady with the mangy furs, who immediately commenoed rapping on the panels with her umbrella- handle, and calling out abusive messages through the key-hole. Scarcely had the old lady got safely round the corner, and Mr. Briggs recovered his ruffled faculties, when there came another sharp tintinnabulation to the bell wires, a languid young lady this time, with a stiff- looking gentleman who appeared engaged in holding on his moustache. With this couple Mr. Nahum trotted to the very top of the house and down again. Adolphus, my dear," said the lady. "Well, my dear?" "Don't you think these ceilings are very low ? "Well, I don't know." And then the back yard is so very small." Well-I really don't know." "And the dining-room is so inconvenient." Well-on my soul I don't know." And—I'm really afraid there are obnoxious insects in the bedrooms." Really, ma'am," said Nahum, bristling up, is .here any other fault to find? Because, if there isn't, there's the front door open, and I really don't think it's too narrow for you to walk out of." "Adolphus, my dear," saidthe lady, "we won't re- main any longer in the society of this exceedingly abrupt person." "No, my dear." And Adolphus and his wife departed, Well!" quoth Mr. Briggs to himself, I wonder if people leave their manners at home when they go house-hunting. Obnoxious-insects in my bedrooms, indeed! Well, I wonder who's coming next. Jewish the confounded house was let and off my hands. The next arrival was a tall, stylish lady, who promptly fell in love with the house and all its be- longings.. "Such a delightfully convenient mansion! And if Mr.-Mr. 11 "Briggs, ma'am." Mr. Briggs," with a charming bow, would con- sent to take the rent out in board-" Oh-ah-you keep a boarding house P "Not exactly a boarding house; my family consists of seventeen select friends, five servants, and six children." "Seventeen, plus five, plua six, plus one Twenty- nine people," hurriedly calculated Nahum. I—I really think, ma'am, I couldn't consent to let the house to you." And the lady flounced out in a rage. Two young damsels and a spinster aunt followed, and after a lengthy inspection of the premises, came to a state council in the parlours. I like the house very much," said the spinster aunt, solemnly, and, with a few slight alterations, I will engage it for my brother's family." "Very good, ma'am," said Nahum, rubbing his hands, and scentiag a speedy termination to his trials. Naine 'em." "The door-handles must all be gilded, and I should like the house new papered in velvet and gold, and re- painted, and the partition between the parlours taken down and replaced by an arch, and an extension dining-room built out behind, and a bay window thrown out of the parlour, and a new style of range in the kitchen, anu a dumb waiter put in, and new bronze chandeliers throughout, and Held on, ma'am—just hold on one minute," said Nahum, feebly grasping for breath. Wouldn't you like the old house carted away and a new one put in its place ? I think it would be rather less trouble than to make the trifling alterations you suggest." Sir! said the spinster, loftily. I don't think we can agree, ma'am." "Very well- very well-come, girls." With prim dignity the lady marshalled her two charges out, muttering something about "the extor- tionate ideas of landlords now-a-days." While Nahum, wildly rumpling hia iron-gray hair with both hands, soliloquised— II Well, if Job had been alive, and had a house to let, there never would have been any Book of Job written. There goes that everlasting bell again; III- haul it out by the roots if this sort of thing goes on much longer. I'll tear down the bill and put the place nPAanother l £ dy, but quite different from the other-a slender, little, cast-down lady, with a head that drooped like a lily of the valley, and a dress of brown silk that had been mended, and darned, and turned, and re-trimmed, until even Nahum Briggs, man and baohelor though he was, could see how very shabby it was. Yet she was pretty, with big blue eyes, and shining brown hair, and cheeks tinged with a faint, fleeting colour, where the velvety roses of youth had once bloomed in vivid carmine; and the golden-haired little lasses who clung to her dress were as like her as tiny lily-buds to a full bloomed chime of flower-bells. As Nahum Briggs stood looking at her, there came back to him the sunshiny days of his youth-a field of blooming clover, crimson in the June light, like waves of blood, and a blue-eyed girl leaning over the fence, with her bright hair tied with ribbons, and he knew that he was standing face to face with Barbara Wylie, the girl he had quarrelled with years and years ago, and whose blue eyes had kept him an old bachelor all his life long. This house is to let, I believe? she asked, timidly, with a little quiver in her mouth. I believe it is, Barbara Wylie." She looked up, starting with a sudden flush of re- cognition. Mr. Briggs! And then Barbara turned very pale, and began to cry, with the little golden-haired girls clinging to her skirts, and wailing, Mamma, mamma-what's the matter, mamma ? "Nothing, now," said Barbara, resolutely brushing away the tears. "If you please, Mr. Briggs, I will look at the house. I am a widow now, and very poor, and-and I think of keeping a boarding house to earn my daily bread. I hope the rent is not very hjgb ? 11 "We'll talk about the rent afterwards," said Mr. Briggs, fiercely swallowing down a big lump in his throat that threatened to choke him. Come here, little girls, and kiss me; I used to know your mamma when she wasn't much bigger than you are." Barbara, with her blue eyes still drooping, went all over the house without finding a word of fault, and Nahum Briggs walked at her side, wondering if it really was fifteen years since the June sunshine lay so brightly on the clover field. I think the house is beautiful," said meek Barbara. Will you rent it to me, Nahum ?" "Well, yes," said Nahum, thoughtfully. "I'll let you have my house if you want it, Barbara." With the privilege ef keeping a few boarders ? No, rna'am!" Barbara stopped and looked wistfully at him. But I don't think you understand how very poor I am, Mr. Briggs." "Yes, I do." "And that I cannot afford to take the house with- out the privilege of boarders." "I'll tell you what, Barbara," said Mr. Briggs, aic- tatorially, I'll give you the privilege of keeping just one boarder, and him you've got to keep all your lite long, if you once take him." I don't think I quite understand you, Mr. Briggs, said Barbara, but she blushed very becomingly, and we are rather inclined to think she told a naughty little fib. What do you say to me for a boarder, Barbara ? said the old baohelor, taking both the widow's hands in his. "Barbara, we were young fools once, but that is no reason we should be old fools now. I like you as well as I ever did, and I'll do my best to be a good husband to you, and a good father to your little girls, if you'll be my wife." Barbara blushed again and hesitated, but Nahum was not to be eluded thus. Shall I take down the To Let,' Barbara ?" "Yes," she murmured, almost under her breath. So Nahum went deliberately out, and coolly tore down the bill, to the great astonishment and disap- pointment of a party of rabid houae-hunters who were just ascending the steps. "And when shall we be married, Barbara?" he next demanded. In the summer, parhaps," said Mrs. Barbara, shyly. "To-morrow," said Nahum, decisively, and "to- morrow it was. Upon my word, Barbara," said Nahum, on the 1st of May, aa he watched his wife's blooming face behind the coffee urn, you can't think how much jollier it is with you for a, housekeeper than that hag, Mrs. Parley." Barbara only laughed, and said, "He was a dear, good old stupid." So the probabilities are that neither Mr. Nahum Briggs nor his brown stone house will be in the market again as To LET INQUIRE WITHIN."

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