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TO-DAY'S SHORT STORY.J I Teaching Him a Lesson "Thank Heavin for that!" r I bad just taken my seat in a "third smoker," and was opening my evening paper, when the above exclamation caused me to look up in surprise. The speaker— who when I got in had been hidden behind I a stained and crumpled newspaper—was a sallow-faced young man of the "out-at- elbows" description, and he spoke in a tone of such fervency that I concluded he must have some pressing appointment, and was impatient at the train's stoppage. I was about to ask him if this was so when he anticipated hie. "Pardon my habitation, sir," he said, wip- j ing his brow with a coloured handkerchief, "but if you only knew what I've endured this last "arf-hour." j Then I smiled, for I remembered that a plump, good-looking young woman with three small children, each armed with a monster stick of gaudily striped "toffee," had got out of the carriage at the last station; indeed, I had given the young woman a lift with the children, with the result that there were five distinct impres- sions of sticky fingers on my coat-sleeve. "You don't care for children?" I said. "It wasn't the childer, bless you," my com- panion returned. "It was their mother. I nearly 'ad a fit di'rectly I saw 'er makin' j for the door, an' I'd only time to 'ide j behind the noospaper, when hin she gets with the kids." I The young man paused here and drew out B. short day pipe. "I used to know 'er, you see, sir," he resumed, helping himself to my tobacco. "In fact, we were sweethearts. Lemme see, it'll be eight 'ear ago now. I'd a good job 1 at the time as assistant to a pawnbroker, an' I should ha' been there yet, an' master of the shop-for old Flint's dead-if it 'adn't been for 'er," and he frowned gloomily. She-slie treated you badly?" I observed. I I don't suppose you'd say that. What she did, she did simply out of revenge. Ah, she 'ad me proper. You see, I was always what you might call a practical chap. I looked after number one, an' on one thing I'd made up my mind—I meant to marry well. I'd a good job with the prospect of a rise. I was a s,martish young II feller. I could out most of 'em out with the i gals, an' I sw no reason why I shouldn't marry someone with a bit of property, or even with money in the' funds. That was what I meant to do. What I did do was to get reg'lar gone on 'er d'reotly I set eyes on 'er, which was one Bank 'Oliday at Blackpool. It was at the Tower I dropped across 'er. i. She was standin' in the ball-room—splendid [ place that, ain't it?—watchin' the dancers. | She took my fancy at once, for she was one i of the plumpish sort, with rosy cheeks and i bright eyes an' such a fringe, right into 'er eyes, an' she was dressed all in white, with a row of pearls round 'er neck, a big 'at trimmed with red roses, an' yellow sand shoes. I waa no end of a toff myself, for I'd just bought myself a reg'lar flash get-up —white trousers an' a stripped jacket, crim- 1 son and black, an' a new straw 'at. Well I edged near 'er, an' after a bit I i caught 'er eye. Then I smiled, an'—well, she smiled back. You know the way. Then I went up and raised my 'at, an' asked 'er if she'd 'ave a turn, an' she said she 'didn't mind,' an' in another minute we was a a trippin' on the light fantastic. After it was over I took 'er to 'ave a email lemon. Then we'd another dance, I an' after that we went an' sat down to cool. I asked 'er 'er name, but she only i laughed an' said she 'ain't got one. But I know yours,' she ses. I Bet yer don't,' ses I. 'What is it?' begins with a J- your Christian she ses.. Your other begins with a » S.' j • Well, I stared then, for she was right, my name being Joseph Scarratt. 'Ow did you know it?' I ses. "Ow? Well, do you know Miss Hopkins?' I k 'Very well,' I ses. 'She comes from where 4 S I do.' Yes, she ses, 'an' so do I.' t G-o on,' ees I; you're a kiddin' me.' 0, well, you needn't believe me unless you like,' she ses. Well, in a, bit I found out that it was the truth. She worked at Ribbon an' Chiffon's, an' the reason I 'adn't seen 'cr before wa3 that she lived a bit out of the town, an' went by train night an' mornin'. "Well, I met 'er again the next mornin', an' I spent the rest of the week with 'er, for I was 'avin' my 'oildaya at the time. I spent a lot of money on 'er too, one way an' another I bought 'er hice creams an' ohoc'lates, an' I paid for 'er 'avin' 'er fortune told by the gipsies. They said she'd marry a good-look- in' young man with hauburn 'air, an' she said afterwards it was very funny they should say haaiburn 'air, for my 'air's that j colour, as I daresay you'll 'ave noticed." Air. Soarratt paused a moment here to [ relight his pipe, and I mad-e a reply that was I polite rather then truthful. I think even the longest-'eaded folk lose ] their 'eads at the seaside," he went on. "I know I lost mine, for that same afternoon there was a chap on the sands takin' forty- graphs. 'E wanted to take us together, said we'd make the prettiest pictur' 'e'd ever took. She seemed inclined for it, an' so we went in an' were took 'er a sitting down, me a stand- in' up. A bob it cost me. I thought it was cheap at the time, but—well, it was the mad- 1 fc. dest thing I ever did. Of oourse, before the ,i week was crat I'd reg'larly proposed to 'er, an' that although I knew 'er father was only a joiner, an' 'er mother took in sewin'. "Perhaps you'd think as when I got back, to the shop an' began work again I should come to my senses and back cut, but not a bit of it. I was arf orf my dot about 'er, an I used fairly to look forward to Sundays, when I took 'er walks. Very soon I started goin' to the 'ouse to tea. Although they was what you would call in 'umble circumstances, they wa3 very respectable, an' they'd a nice LE, r front parler where me an' Polly used to sit ?; on the sofa. iP "Well, things went on pretty amoothly-lihe! s for some time, an' then, one fine mornin,' ? old Flint surprised me by tellin' me 'e'd ? niece a-oomin' to keep 'oru;e for 'im, 'is old missis gettin' too old to do much, an' as she'd 'ad a fancy education 'e said she'd be able to give us a 'and with the books. "Well, it was a bit of a novelty this, to f 'ave a lady clerk, but when I told Polly she didn't arf seem to like it. t She'll be wantin' to flirt with you arf 'cr time, I know,' she ses. She'll 'ave to want then,' ses I, an' then, of course, she made me promise not to carry on with 'etr. Girls is awful jealous one of another. As for me, I never thought of nothin' of the sort, for the fact was I'd got it into my 'ead she wouldn't be up to much, for old Flint an' 'is IILÏBsis were not what you t could call good lookin'. '"Owever, as things turned out, I was f mistook for once, for though she wasn't any- t ways equal to Polly, yet I've seen far wor-e- lookin' gads. She was big an' tall, with black eyes-fine eyes they were; an' from the very first she seemed to make 'erself haff- able. Of course I always did the polite to a lady, but I wasn't more than polite, though I could see she was ready enough to take on; an', what is more, it soon struck me tha.t the old Flint 'ad no objection to it, either, for' whenever 'e found us chattin' he said nothin'. "I soon found I was right about this, for one day 'e actually asked me if I'd come to tea the followin' Sunday..As luck would 'ave it, Polly couldn't see me that day, as 'er mother an' 'er were gcin' to see a haunt who was ill, an' so I said I'd be very pleased. Of course, I didn't tell Polly. "It was a lot better evenin' than I expected, We'd a rare spread, chicken an' 'am, an' all sorts of cakes an' jams, an' Loo was reg'l,arly toffed up an' looked better than I thought it possible. After tea she played for us, an' she could play, all the latest oomic songs, an' I gave 'em 'When my 'air began to curL' It fairly knocked 'em, the old chap espe- oially. You must come an' sing for us again, Joe,' 'e ses, when I was goin'. 'Me an' the missis is very fond cf a bit of real good singin', an' Loo will always play your aooom. paniments.' "A day or two after that the old man draws me aside very confidential like. 'Joe,' ses 'e, 'that niece of mine is a niie player of the pianny, ain't she?' 'Very fine,' ses 1. 'An' she's a nice girl, too,' ses 'he, next. 'Very nice,' ses I. 'An' 'e'll be a lucky man what gets 'er,' ses 'e. "To this I said nothin', but my 'eart jumped, for it occurred to me what 'e was a drivin' at. A day or two after 'e oomes to me again. 'Joe,' 'e ses, after a bit there's some- thin' I want to say to you this afternoon, an' as I'm a plain man I'll say it in plain words. It's this—me an' the missis 'ave took a fancy to you, an' we want you to marry Loo. She's well worth marryin', for when we're gone she'll 'ave all there is. Now, if you'll say yes I'm ready to make the busi- ness over to you, for I'm thinkin' of takin' things a bit easier, an' you can be married d'rectly.. Come, what do you say?' "Well, I could only stammer an' 'um an' a.w. 'Ah, I see I've took you by surprise,' 'e ses, 'so I'll give you a bit to think it over. Let me know by to-morrow mornin'> I didn't sleep much that night, I'll tell you. A poor beggar at twenty-five bob a week doesn't get such a hotfer every day. an' I shouldn't 'ave hesitated a second if it 'adn't been for Polly. The business was a good one, an' when the old folks pegged out I should drop in for a big lump I knew, for the old chap 'ad money hinvested in more than one concern. I was in two minds, as you might say. I liked Polly the best; but then, when you can get a wife with a bit of tin! Well, I'd always plenty of common sense, an' the next day I told the old man I was willin' And then, bless me, if 'e didn't take me by the arm an' drag me to the parler! Wo',s 'ere by 'erself,' 'e ses. 'Go in an' settle it at once,' and there was nothin' for it but to do as 'e said, an' when I came out of that parler I was engaged to two girls. "Pretty pickle, wasn't it? An' I made up my mind I'd be out of it as soon as I could, for if old Flint got to know Ifrnew e'd cut up rough. Well, I soon found this wasn't so easy. In the first place, Loo was one of the jealous sort, an' grew suspicious if I couldn't spend every evenin' with 'er—which was impos- sible when there was Polly to see. It was a queer game I carried on for a oit. 1 used to send Polly notes, sayin' I was workin' late, an' on Sundays I said I'd to see a huncle who was very bad. "This acted all right for a while, but, of course, there soon came a time when Polly got suspicious, an' one day I gets a note from. 'er askin' me to come up on Sunday night. She said she'd somethin' very partic- ular to say to me, an' that if I didn't come she should come for me. Well, I told Loo the story about the uncle who was bad this time, an* I wrote to Polly tellin' 'er I'd be sure to turn up, an' I decided I'd settle the affair one way or another, for I was on quicksilver, as you might say. Polly opened the door an' led the way into the parler. I couldn't 'elp wishin' that she 'ad the tin instead of Loo, for when it came to looks Loo wasn't in it. On this par- ticular night she looked better than ever, an' I couldn't 'elp 'kissin' 'ex, though I'd meant not to. 'Owever, she soon stopped me at that. 'Ere, don't be a kissin' me,' she ses. 'I want an explanation, I do. What about this Miss Flint your a mashin'?" 'Who told you I was mashin' 'er?' I ses. come, Joe, that won't do,' she ses. 'I know all about it. You can't deceive me. I suppose it's 'er money you're after?' Poll,' I ses, 'I'll be plain with you. It'is 'er money. You see, I've been thinkin' matters over a bit lately, an' I've come to the conclusion that I'm a doin' wrong in askin' you to wait for me, seein' that I 'aven't no reasonable prospects of gettin' married, an' you can do so much better for yourself. I 'ope you'll see this in a paraper light, an' let us part friends.' I'd found it jolly hard work to say this, I'll tell you, for I was afraid there'd be a scene, but to my surprise she took it better than I thought. 'I don't want to spoil your chances in life, Joe,' she ses, 'only tell me one thing: you don't care for 'er as you do for me, do yo -a ?' 'Care for 'er as I do for you!' I ses. 'You wouldn't ask that if you could see 'er. 'Er 'air's the colour of carrots, an' she's as freckled as a butterwoman. I "As I spoke there was a curious noise in the comer behind a screen. 'It's only the cat,' Poll ses* 'She's after a mouse. See, 'ere's all you letters an' presents; you'd better take 'em with you,' an' she 'anded me a. little parcel ready done up. 'You seem to 'ave known "what I was comin' about,' I ses. 'I 'ad an idea,' ses she, 'an' there's nothin' like bein' in time. I think you 11 find 'em all right. An now I won't keep you any longer.' "Well, to say that 'er ooolness staggered me is to put it mildly, but I did my best to carry it off in the same fashion. 'You're a sensible lass, Poll,' I ses, 'an' I'm glad to see you look at this matter in a proper light.' 'It's no use eryin' over spilt milk,' she ees. "Ave you got y<)-ur $;at P I'll let you out,' an' she led the way an' opened the door, just for all the world as if she'd been lettin' out some ordinary visitor instead oif the man she loved an' might never see again. As I shook 'anas I was about to ki&s 'er, but she wasn't 'avin' any. "'I can 'ear the cat,' she ses; I believe she's caught that mouse, an' she slams the door to, an' I walked off, feeling a trifle muzzled, as, you may say, for I never imagined Polly 'u'd give me up so coolly. 'Owever, it was some satisfaction to know I'd settled it. After all, a girl with prospects like Loa's was better than a joiner's daughter any day. When I reached the shop next mornin' the old man asked me if I'd step into the parler a minit or two. I fol- i lowed 'im, wonderin' what was wrong, an' I wondered more when I found Loo there with a lock on 'er face that made me stare. 'What's to do?' I ses. Well, then she began, an' what she said fair took my tflfeath away. She knew all about Polly. In fact, she'd been present at our interview the previous evenin'. When she said that, I stared at 'er like one moon- struck. was there?' I Goes. 'Yes,' ses she; 'I was the cat. I 'eard everythin', an' thank goodness I did!' I didn't say nothin'. It seemed as if there wasn't nothin' I could say. I just stood an' listened like one dazed, while they both told me what they thought of me. Of course, I 'ad to clear out at once, an' clear cut I did that very day. Xext mornin' I 'ad a letter from Polly. She said I'd be glad to 'ear that the cat 'ad caught the mouse. She told me other things, too: 'ow she'd gone to Lao an' asked 'er to come an' see 'er, telling 'er she'd open 'er eyes as to my real charac- ter. She also said 'er aunt was dead an' 'ad left 'er five undred pound, an' that she thought she'd so'on be able to buy a sweet- heart with it. An' so she did, for six months later she married a well-to-do grocer. You won't wonder at my habitation now, I daresay. The sight of 'er brought it all back, as if it 'ad been yesterday." The train was stopping now, and I got out, leaving Mr. Scarratt to reflect upon tne bitter past.


I Passing Pleasantries. i






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