Page:Pieces People Ask For.djvu/136

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laugh. Was I ever in love? and did I laugh then? Why, yes, never laughed heartier in my life. It's a good many years ago now. I was living in lodgings down Clerkenwell way, and the landlady's daughter was as pretty a creature as ever you see, bright and cheery, like a robin, when first I knew her. But, by and by, she grew pale and peaky,—used to go about the house without singing, and had such big, sad-looking eyes. Pier home wasn't a particularly happy one, for her mother was a nagger. Perhaps you've never come across a woman of that pertikler character. Well, then, you should say double the prayers of ordinary people; for you've much to be thankful for. I never looked at her without feeling that her husband must have been very happy indeed when he got to heaven. I sometimes think, sir, that women of this sort might be made use of, and prisons, and all other kind of punishment, done away with: perhaps, though, the lunatic asylums 'ud get too full.

Well, I grew to be quite intimate with Bessie; and one evening, I don't know how it was, she told me all her troubles. She was engaged to a young man; and her mother wouldn't consent to them marrying, and was always worrying her to break it off. I asked her if there were any thing against him. Nothing, except that her mother had taken a dislike to him: he wasn't very strong, but he was the best, cleverest, dearest fellow that ever lived. All the time she was talking I felt a gnawing sort of pain somewhere in my inside. First, I thought I must be hungry; but, when I came to eat, all my food seemed to get in my throat, and stick there. This won't do, old fellow, thinks I: there must be a joke to be got out of it somewhere. So I set to consider; and there, clear enough, it was. Why, the joke 'ud be to let Bessie marry her young man, and see the pretty cheeks grow round and pink again. But how to do it, there was the rub. I began to cultivate the old lady's society with a view to finding out her weak point: for, being a woman, of course she had a weak point; and, being a very ugly woman, what do you think it was? Why, vanity, to be sure. I soon noticed a change in her. She took her hair out of paper every day, instead of only on Sundays, as she had been used to do; and she put on a clean cap sometimes, and smirked whenever I passed her. Why, here's a bigger joke than I bargained for, thinks I! While I've been studying the woman to find out her weak point, she thinks I've been admiring her. But