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SAM TWIDDLEFIELD

A CHRISTMAS TALE

Sam Twiddlefield was not married because he said he did not want to be, neither was he courting because he believed that young women were more trouble than they were worth.  Yet, notwithstanding this, we have it on good authority that before he had lived in Tipny Hill two months he was known to almost every young lady in the village.  Not that he had said anything to any one of them to call forth this marked attention, for he could scarcely have done it had he tried; but the young ladies themselves had made such enquiries respecting him that they knew more about him than he knew about himself.

Everyone was familiar with his form, and could describe it to a nicety.  They could tell how he threw his head back, and swung his arms when walking, and how he put one foot down a little heavier than the other.  They had acquired the information that he was a fair-learned gentleman; that he had a very respectable and remunerative situation, that he had a small fortune at his command, and, moreover, that he was unmarried, and had come to Tipny in quest of a suitable young lady to make him a wife.  This was a rare opportunity for the unmarried and unengaged young ladies of Tipny, and they did not forget to avail themselves of it.  They never ventured out of doors without taking more than ordinary pains with dressing.  There was scarcely one of them who would not sit patiently for a couple of hours betwixt two glasses doing up her back hair, in order to appear more attractive in the eyes of Mr. Twiddlefield, should she chance to meet him.  And should Sam unconsciously turn round to take another glance at one of the young ladies as he passed her in the street, that particularly favoured one would be able to think and talk of nothing else for months.  But should he happen to smile, as he once actually did, and at no less a person than Miss Bings, why it immediately became the talk of the town, and nothing less than an early marriage was anticipated.

Miss Bings declared to one of her friends in perfect confidence that for three nights successively she could not sleep a wink for thinking of it.  Her little tender heart fluttered so much that it really was a wonder how it retained its proper position.  She began to coax her parents for new dresses, new bonnets, and new boots, all of the latest fashion, in order to follow up the tirade.  But Sam, not knowing what was going forward, pursued his course quite innocently, and although he passed Miss Bings every day for some weeks after, he took no notice of her, but walked on as though he was not acquainted with the fact that there was such a person in the whole world.

Miss Bings became indignant, and spoke very harshly to her friends of Mr. Twiddlefield’s cruel conduct, but as Sam was not on speaking terms with any of these friends, he never heard a word about it.  Miss Bings next threatened an action for breach of promise, but as Sam had never spoken to her in his life, neither had he had one word of correspondence with her; in fact, as he did not know who she was, or what she was, and as he did not seem to care a straw about getting the information, Miss Bings abandoned him and declared most positively that she had never wanted him.  The others were not quite so hasty as Miss Bings, but kept on persevering, each hoping and expecting to be successful in the end.

In this manner weeks and months went by, and still nothing important had come to pass.  And now it was near Christmas.  Christmas, that merriest of all merry times, when men of all grades grasp each other by the hand, and wish all the happiness that it is possible for this world to bestow upon anybody; Christmas, that season of all others to which children look forward with joyful expectations and parents with hearts full of hope and fond desires.  Christmas, that time when our young friends have presents showered upon them in abundance, with the donors’ hopes that they will be accepted and enjoyed.  Christmas, when our tables are decked with the choicest delicacies of the land, and when the pudding, crowned with the holly or mistletoe, outshone everything else with its grandeur.  Christmas, with its much-loved mistletoe bough, and the many blushing kisses that are given under it.  Christmas, when everybody is happy and gay, and wishing everybody else happy and gay too; when everybody is blind to the little mistakes and blunders that are frequently made, and which at any other time would doubtless cause ill-feeling and discontent; when everybody, young and old, are ready and willing to forgive any wrong that may be unintentionally done to them, when nobody thinks of himself or herself, but everybody thinks about everybody else, and wishes everybody else in a thoroughly good spirit, “A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.”  Truly Christmas is a merry time, and what a happy, kind, and comfortable world we should live in if every day were a Christmas Day.

Mrs. Muggs was about to have a party, and a jolly good party it was to be too.  Mrs. Muggs had only been married twelve months, and she had made up her mind twelve months before she was married that she would have such a party exactly twelve months after she was married.  Nearly all the young ladies and gentlemen of the village were invited (at least such as were considered of any consequence), and all prided themselves upon the receipt of such an honourable invitation.  But foremost amongst the questions concerning this party was one of very great importance.  Had Mr. Twiddlefield been invited?  No one could tell, so Mrs. George Muggs was consulted about it.  No!  Mrs. George Muggs had certainly omitted him.  What must be done?  Some course must be taken evidently, for half of the ladies declared that unless he was invited they would not go.  This at once decided the matter, and a special note was accordingly dispatched to Mr. Twiddlefield.  Sam was breakfasting quite leisurely the following morning when the postman knocked at the door, opened it, and handed in a letter addressed to “Samuel Twiddlefield, Esq, Twigshaw Lane, Tipny.”

Sam stared.  A letter for him.  He turned it upside down, looked again and again at the address before he had the courage to open it.  At length he did open it, and read as follows:

“Rose Cottage, Bungle Road,
“Tipny, December 24th.
“SIR; — We, that is my husband, Mr. George Muggs, and myself, intend holding a social evening party at our house to-morrow evening, at seven, and you would greatly oblige us if you would kindly condescend to honour us with your presence.
“Yours, &c.,
                                    “(Signed), Mrs. GEORGE Muses.
                          “Samuel Twiddlefield, Esq.

“P.S. — Do not say that you cannot come, for we shall be loth to take any refusals.
G.M.”

Sam read this epistle through and through, but could not understand it.  He looked at the backside of the paper to see if he could find any explanation.  But no, it was quite blank.  He read it over again, but was not a bit nearer.

“Mrs. George Muggs,” said he to himself.  “Who’s Mrs. George Muggs?”

This was a difficult question for Sam, and one which he could not very well answer, so he kept on muttering to himself, “Muggs!  Muggs! who the deuce is Muggs?”

He did not know that he was acquainted with anybody of that name.  Yet there was the letter.  It was quite evident that either Mr. or Mrs. Muggs knew him.  He paced round the room several times, wondering from the bottom of his heart — if such thoughts take up their abode there — who they could be?  Where had he seen them?  Suddenly he bethought himself that he had once, though it was sometime since, met with a gentleman whose name was Muggs, and with whom he had had some very pleasant conversation.  Could it be him?  Sam could not conceive of anybody else being called Muggs, so he at once concluded that it must be him, and he accordingly decided to accept the invitation.

Christmas day came, a bright, frosty day it was, and in due course the clock of the village church announced that it was seven p.m., and it was just about this same time when Sam gave a few gentle taps on Mugg’s door.  Mrs. Muggs opened it, for she had judged from the peculiar knocks who it was.  She welcomed Sam very heartily, and then led him into the little drawing room, and presented him to the select company already assembled there.  Everybody seemed to know him, though how they became possessed of that knowledge Sam had not the ghost of an idea, and all were very sincere in wishing him “A merry Christmas and a happy New Year.”  Sam returned the compliments with much greater ease than he had anticipated, and was not long before he was quite familiar with everyone in the room.

Time passed so smoothly that tea was over before Sam thought it had really commenced.  Not that he wanted to eat a great deal and take up much time, far from it, it was simply in consequence of being placed between two young ladies, who talked so much that they gave him no opportunity of eating at all.  But Sam was satisfied, and when the good old games were introduced he was quite happy. Everybody was so cheerful, and the games were so funny.

Sam never felt so jolly in his life.  All his dislikes for the female sex vanished in a minute, and he almost felt inclined to be in love with everyone of them.  Then there were the forfeits, which were quite plentiful, and of which Sam had contributed no small share.  But what were the forfeits in comparison to the penalties that had to be paid for their redemption.  Mrs. Muggs had to stand on one leg until some gentleman requested her to sit down, which was nearly five minutes, and everyone in the room laughing at her, and at last Sam Twiddlefield had to relieve her, to her utmost gratification.  Miss Jones had to give any gentleman in the room three kisses, but she refused, whereupon every gentleman in the room kissed her as a punishment (though we very much doubt whether it was a punishment or not).
 
At length it came to Sam
s turn.  The ladies looked at one another, and whispered to one another, and then looked at one another again, and altogether created quite a commotion.  If he had to kiss somebody who would it be?  If he had to escort some young lady round the room, whoever would be his happy companion?  They all listened with much eagerness for the verdict.  It came, and with it a jumping and fluttering of hearts as was never known before.  Sam had to kneel to the prettiest, bow to the wittiest, and kiss the one he loved best.  All eyes were immediately fixed on him, nor did they once lose sight of him until he had completed his task.

Sam was a little puzzled, but he did not hesitate long.  He crossed the room, and knelt before Miss Jones as the belle of the room.  Miss Jones was in ecstacies.  She blushed very deeply, and wondered whether he would kiss her too.  Everybody stared at her, and when she saw that she blushed deeper than before.   Sam, however, did not notice it, but looked round, and then went and bowed to Miss Pudding as the wittiest.  Miss Pudding blushed as much as Miss Jones, and considered herself sure of victory, but her poor heart sank, as Sam left her, and, without any ceremony whatever put his arm around Mrs. Pelliwing, and gave her one of the sweetest kisses that was ever given by the most experienced kisser in the world.

The young ladies were much shocked.  Sam had actually kissed a married lady, when there were so many unmarried ladies present.  They really could not have thought it, and they wondered that Mr. Twiddlefield was so ignorant of common manners to do it.  But Sam was quite innocent of having done anything wrong.  He did not know that Matilda Pelliwing was married, nor was he aware that she had ever been, and he was somewhat surprised to find that after this his recent popularity had entirely vanished.  It put a damper upon all the company, and the time began to drag slowly along.

Sam, little thinking that he was the cause of all this was congratulating himself upon the prize he was about to gain, and picturing to himself what a lovely wife Matilda Pelliwing would make.  As the enjoyment of the evening had entirely ceased, the guests began to take their leave, and by and by Mrs. Pelliwing’s husband came to take her home.  Sam felt that he could have knocked him down with the greatest of pleasure.  Not that he then found it out that the gentleman was Mrs. Pel1iwing’s husband, for he never dreamed of any such thing, his only imagination was that it was her father who had come to see her safe home, but he felt annoyed at being deprived of the delightful task he had counted upon, in taking her home himself.  Nevertheless he consoled himself with the thought that as he had now made a little acquaintance with her, and as he knew where she resided, he would probably meet her again.  So he contented himself with an affectionate grasp of the hand, and earnestly wished her good night.

Sam took his leave shortly after the departure of Mrs. Pelliwing, and made his way direct home.  The fire had burned completely out, but Sam took no notice of it.  He sat down in an arm chair, and mused for a considerable length of time, but finding that he began to be all in a shiver with cold, he got up, and thought that he would light the fire.  He found some bits of wood and a few matches, and having set the fire a little agoing, he applied the bellows, and blew with all his might.  But instead of assisting it he only blew it out.  So he tried again, this time without the bellows, but it would not do; it would not draw.  He tried the bellows again, and blew it out, so he gave it up.  But he got colder and colder, and at last he determined to go to bed.  He went, but with no better success.  He might as well have thought of flying as of sleeping, with his unsettled state of mind.  He tumed on one side and then on the other but to no purpose; he tried closing his eyes for a few minutes, but in vain.  The more he tried to sleep the more difficult was it to fall asleep.  Then he thought how uncomfortable and miserable it was being in bed by himself, and he resolved in his own mind that he would not do it much longer.  He put his head under the bed clothes to see how that would do, but it was all to no purpose.  So he got up again, and had another trial at the fire, but with the same effect as before, and at length he gave it up in despair.

Oh! If he had only been married, how different it would have been.  He thought of Matilda, and how he should like to ask her to marry him.  He loved her from the very bottom of his heart, nay, even from the very soles of his feet, if it be necessary to adduce stronger evidence of his affection.  But how could he tell her of his love?  How could he declare unto her his devout adoration?  It might be some time before he saw her again, and meanwhile what would become of him?  He had heard and read of people breaking their hearts through love, and he thought what a sad and terrible thing it would be if his were to follow their example.  He shuddered at the idea, and wondered what in the world he must do to escape it.  Could he not wait every night near to where she lived until he saw her, and then pretend to meet her accidently.  No! he might die before he saw her.  Could he not despatch a message by somebody to the effect that he wanted to see her the following night on some special business?  No! they might fail to deliver it, and he would go mad of suspense.  Could he not write to her and explain everything for himself.  Happy thought.  Of course he could, and he set about it accordingly.  He forgot all about the fire in his exultations over this excellent plan.  He got a pen, some ink and paper, and, after having brushed the pen, to be sure that there was no dust of any kind upon it, and tried it upon about a dozen pieces of paper to see that it did not scratch, he commenced his task.

“Twigshaw Lane,                                    
  December 26th.”            

Here Sam stuck fast.  He did not know how to address her.  He was puzzled as to whether he should put My Dear Miss Pelliwing, My Dear Matilda Pelliwing, or My Dear Matilda, or whether he should put My Dear, My Dearly Beloved, My Darling, My Duck, or a host of other dears, which he had noticed when reading of breaches of promise.  Sam studied awhile, and then stretching himself and his paper, he wrote on

“My Dearly Beloved Darling Matilda Pelliwing.  I do so love you.”

But here Sam again stopped.  It would not do to tell her all at once that he loved her, for it would be too much for her tender feelings.  He must come to it by degrees.  So he crossed it out and began again.

“A merry Christmas to you My Dear.”

But this would not do.  What on earth had Christmas to do with either his Darling Matilda or himself.  Sam got another piece of paper, and made another beginning.

“Twigshaw Lane,
December 26th.
“My Dearly Beloved Darling Matilda Pelliwing,

“Ever since I had the pleasure of seeing you, and speaking to you last night, my poor heart has been all of a tremble, and unless something is done very soon, I fear it will be broken.  I have not been able to sleep through it, and I really believe that it is cracked in two or three places.  Matilda, I implore you to save me from a horrible death.  You are the only person that can save me.  Oh! do not refuse.  I love you, I adore you, Matilda, and I want you to be my wife.  I have heard that you want a husband.  Accept me then, and be happy.  All that I have is yours.  My heart is yours.  You can pluck it out from my breast for it no longer belongs to me.  It has been yours ever since I kissed you last night.  I cannot eat for thinking of you, and if you refuse I cannot help drowning myself.  I feel so lonely by myself.  Have pity on me, my love.  I have a home ready for you, where you can have everything you desire.  I have not got a piano, but if you wish to have one I will purchase one immediately.  I will do anything for you, my dear, but I can do nothing without you.
                                  “I remain your
                                    “Ever loving, adoring, and affectionate,
                 “SAM TWIDDLEFIELD.
“P.S.  If you can, please to meet me tonight, near Mrs. Mugg’s at seven o’clock, but don’t hurry yourself, for I am willing to wait hours rather than disturb your comfort.”

Sam sealed it up, and addressed it to
                                      “Miss Matilda Pelliwing,
                                                           “Paradise Lane,
                                                                           “Tipny.”

He then took it to the Post Office, and returned home to think over the results.  It came sooner than he expected.  About the middle of the forenoon a man came to his house and inquired if Mr. Twiddlefield did not live there.

Sam replied that he did, and begged of the gentleman to be seated.

The gentleman, however, refused, and said that his name was Timothy Twiggs, and that he had called to demand satisfaction on behalf of Mr. Pelliwing for the scandalous letter that had been sent to his wife.

“His wife,” said Sam, in amazement.  
I did not know that she was married.”

“Now, lies won
t improve matters,” replied Timothy Twiggs, “so just name your man and let us settle this business as soon as possible.

“Name my man,” said Sam.  “What for?  I fight a duel?”

“Certainly,” returned Mr. Twiggs.

“But I do not know anybody,
said Sam, thinking that this objection would free him very nicely.

“But you must get somebody,” replied Mr. Twiggs.

“Would Mr. George Muggs do?” inquired Sam.

“Yes, he will,” returned Mr. Twiggs.

“Well, I will ask him,” said Sam, and he took his hat and went out to ask Mr. Muggs if he would be his seconds.

Mr. Twiggs waited very patiently for Sam’s return, but Sam did not put in an appearance, so at last he left and went to his own home.  He went again next morning but Sam had not returned, nor has he ever been seen since within the boundaries of the village of Tipny.

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