Chapter 2947559

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Chapter NumberXVI
Chapter Url
Full Date1845-08-30
Page Number4
Word Count2133
Last Corrected2010-04-12
Newspaper TitleThe Courier (Hobart, Tas. : 1840 - 1859)
Trove TitleThe Story of a Feather
article text



JSu JS0UO;In5Í £u*t:trftr.

(A Story from "Po.vcn.")


(Continued fi oin our last.)



DirmNo my sojourn with Madame Spanneu, I had frequent opportunities of considering the various characters of her customers, who-I confess I was at first astonished at the dis- covery- were many of thom most genteel and easy-going people; and, indeed, in their own esteem, co-parcel of the very best society. Still, whatever was their bigoled opinion of their own worldly consequence, their visits to Madame Spanneu gave pleasant proof of their humility of spirit, inasmuch as they all came to habit themselves in the left-off garments of their betters. And this humility was the more christianlikc, inasmuch as 1 verily believe that many of the purchasers would bave gone to the stake in cast brocade, rather tbnn have con- fessed to the meekness which induced thom to buy it They were, it is true, lowly of heart, but would not for the world

have had the virtue made public. I

How often have I seen the gown of a peeress carried off by | the wife of a tallow-chandler I How often has the cloak of an j

earl's daughter been doomed to the shoulders of the spinster oft iv o rooms ! Nny, the Countess's gowns-the rustling per- quisites of Mrs. Pillow-1 saw no less than three of tbom.col<i »« lu.,«», ntiusc crassy looks and bold voices made me tremble for the future destiny of the garments. And can 1 ever forget the cold chill that struck through mo when 1 once felt myself i taken up by such a customer, who blew through mc mid shook Ime, and-my heart of pith sank at the words-inquired, " How ?mich ?" Madame Spanneu, with a just estimate of my virtues, "asked a good round sum, and thanking my stars for my escape, I felt myself dropped from the hand. " Feathers, Jemima, darling, isn't the thing ; no, my rose-bud, they isn't indeed." Thus spoke an old gentlewoman-dear Airs, Gaptooth, as Madame Spanneu called her-to the giri, who desired to make me her own ; but the reproof of the matron, though uttered in the calmest, most maternal voice, appeared by the very force of its sweetness-or certainly by some force-to convince Jemima. She sighed, pouted a second, then seemed resigned. " Gals of your talness, Jemima, don't carry off feathers well j they makes you gawky; and in this wicked world, looks is everything." I was quite charmed with the appearance-the manner of Mrs. Gaptooth. 1 thought I had never seen so venerable a woman ; and even while she spoke of the necessary shows of life, she did so in so passionless a tone-seemed to have so just a value of all the fleshly vanities of the earth, that she appeared to me a kind of lay saint ; a creature, doomed by the imperfection of human nature to cat, drink, and sleep, but ot the same time never forgetting the real value of mere mortal beauty, when most beautiful. " Ha I Madame Spanneu," the dear old soul would cry, "beauty, as 1 often says to my gals, is a flower-a tulip-Madame Spanneu, a painted tulip ; now, a flourishing in a bed, and now on a dunghill." '< True, my dear ; very true-beauty"-Madame Spanneu would reply_ "doesn't last as it ought, not even with the best of us." " Ha I my dear Madame Spanneu, the beauty I've seen come on and go off-beauty ! it's like a guinea, Madame Span neu ; when it's once changed at all, it's gone in a twinkling. That satin, by candle-light, Jemima, will be worth any money." And thus Mrs. Gaptooth-who was a frequent visitor at Madame Spanneu's-Would discourse before her daughters, as I concluded they were, from the maternal tenderness which she would shed upon her mingled talk of the outward loveliness of humanity, and the glories, sold at second-hand, by Madame Spanneu. For Mrs. Gaptooth herself, I must repeat I had the very deepest respect. Charming, easy, lovenble old woman ; her eye had such a soft, half-slumbering look ; her voice came like the gentle breathing of a flute; she always walked as if she trod a church-floor, and seemed fed on nothing coarser than

marmalade and honey. As for her numerous family of daugh- j ters, 1 must confess I have often wished they lind been a little moro like their mother, they must, I am sure, have been at times most troublesome to the good old lady ; they appeared so forward, loud, self-willed, and frolicsome. But be it under- stood once and for all time, that I write from the impressions of characters and scenes as they first rose upon me.

Mrs. Gaptooth on one of her visits caine alone. Madame Sjianneu, who was always with us, received the dear old crea- ture in her show-room. One of Madame's young women_for there were two or three assistant semptresscs in the house was present; and the conversation was carried on between Madame and her visitor in so low a voice that I could only catch here and there a few words. 1 was convinced, however, that Mrs. Gaptooth spoke of Lord Huntingtoppcr with the air and manner of an acquaintance. " There's no accounting for taste Madame Spanneu," said Mrs. Gaptooth in a somewhat piteous voice, "but where she's got to, I'm a sinner if I know." "And .'you've come to tell his lordship as much, my dear I"

"Certainly not, Madame Spnnneu, Lord Huntingtopper's. coming here to-day to see your husband-Mr. Curhvcll told me as much-so I'm come just to throw myself promiscuously into his way, that I may know a little more about the business.

One can't be too safe."

Thus much I could piece out from tbe low-voiced colloquy of the ladies. ¿Madame Span neu was, however, fidget ty under the restraint of a third person, and so told the young woman to go down stairs, and see that those nasty dogs did no mischief. The girl being gone upon lier delicate mission, Madame Spanneu talked freely. " Well, I did hear that Lord Hunt ingtopper was going to marry Lady Dinah Willowby."

« What of that, my dear ? Why shouldn't he? But after

all," said Airs. Gaptooth in her mild, matronlika way, " who

knows if the fellow's serious ?"

"No doubt of it," responded Madame Spanneu ; "he must be in earnest, for he's bought her ladyship a poodle; Julien 's teaching it all sorts of things. Ha I Airs. Gaptooth, men are nice creatures, they are," cried Aladame Spanncu with bitter- ness. Charming, however, most charming was the charity of Airs. Gaptooth, for she gently clasped her hands, twisted her thumbs, and a smile gliding her broad quiet face, she cried

?. Poor fellows ! silly things 1" And then she chuckled, gently


" Don't talk in that way, my love," said Madame. Spanncu, " it makes my flesh crawl to hear you pity 'em, it isn't standing up for your sex. Ha 1 you don't know what I've to suffer."

"Anything new?" asked Airs. Gaptooth, with that peculiar

serenity which characterises the interest of some people in the

misfortunes of their neighbours.

.. .New P' exclaimed the wife, and she closed her eyes, gave a spasmodic shake of the head, and seemed to swallow a rising emotion. Then there was silence for a moment, and then Aladame Spanneu, with an alacrity that appeared to do her

heart good, cried,-" But, my dear, I'll tell you all about the


I had not yet seen Monsieur Julien Spanneu, for his wife rigidly enforced his seclusion to his own room, and, as she would say, to his fittest company, his filthy dogs-his pupil poodles. I had, however, heard more than enough of him ; and had formed in my own mind his outward man from the notes which proceeded from his fiddle as well as from himself; for really, they were so eternally blended, that man and fiddle seemed but one instrument. I have heard men declare that they have only to hear a voice to immediately fit it »ith an anatomy ; albeit the fleshy instrument from which the voice is heard shall, in its reality, be in every point a contradiction to the body which has been, by the fancy of the listener bestowed upon it. I suppose this habit of men, not only »hen hearing persons but also when hearing of them,-this custom of endow- ing them with flesh and blood of some sort, arises from the difficulty that poor human nature has to consider mind in the abstract-to think of the human soul,without head andshoulders, legs and arms. Be this as it may ; I had-from a too frequent overhearing of Monsieur Spanneu-made him a present of a long, thin, lixnrd-like body, a face sharp as a bladebone, twink- ling eyes, grinning jaw«, and a back bending like a willow in a bréete. Hit voice «ame with a cutting scream, far above his catgut. Hour by hour I heard bim raving, stamping, singing, flddlmg, at his canine pupils, witbal so passionately, so earnestly, with such apparent consciousness of the importance of his function, of the great social value of bis teaching a dog to go on three legs at tbe word of command-to limp as if wounded -to tumble head over heels-to feign the last mortal agony and,' steve all, to tots a sixpence from its nose, at any given

number,-that whatever might have been my opinion of the value of Monsieur's labours, I could not but respect tho amount of sincerity, of real heart, he put into them. Then, how he would vociferate I How he would scream-" Chien que tu es," -as if in his indignation bo told the dunce of a dog a startling truth, and then as the gender might be, crying, " Chienne que lu is," as the worst opprobrium he could wreak upon a female learner. With these things fresh in my mind-for Alonsieur Julien kept them day by day smarting like a new sore-I listened with all my ears to the coming narrative of Aladame Spanncu, perceiving that-like a good wife as she was-she never felt so truly happy as when she could convince a dear female friend, who would keep the imparted secret locked for ever in her breast, what a villain she was married to.

When Madame Spanneu, as I have observed, promised Mrs. Gaptooth such happiness, the matron, decorously preparing herself for the pleasure, merely said, .* Da "

" Well, my dear," begins the injured wife, " you recollect that creature, Louisa?"

" A very fine gal," answered Airs. Gaptooth with some vivacity. " Beautiful flaxen hair, and eyes as blue as bl ue chaney. Where is she, my dear ?"

This question Madame Spanncu did not answer, but waving it with a real or affected shiver, kept to the story of her wrongs. " And you know, my dear, that I'm a little particular in my pickles?"

lu the name of the mummy of King Cheops-certainly one of the best preserves of the earth-what can there be in common with domestic wrongs and domestic pickles? This question stirred mc, but not Airs. Gaptooth. She evidently felt there was nothing inharmonious in the matter: for had she been a statue made to speak, she could not willi more tranquility . huuo ausworofl,--*' My dear, I do."

" I'm not a proud woman, Airs. Gaptooth; no; my worst enemy, my dear, if I have s'Sch a thing, can't say that ; but I'll

lum my back upon no woman for pickles. No ; if I cut) stand upon anything in the world, it is my onions."

" Very true, my dear," was the corroboraron of Airs. Gap- tooth. " But the gal ?"

" Well, my dear, I was called to Leatherhead for a week, to see my aunt in the jaundice. She got over that, but she can't live long, my dear, and whenever she goes, there's something for us. Well, there was I, out a week from home, I may say, upon business; leaving that Louisa to keep the house. When I carne back, there wasn't a walnut-a bit of cabbage-not a single onion, my dear, if you'd have died for it !"

" And all with Louisa ?" asked Mrs Gaptooth.

" Aly love," cried Madame Spanneu, most affectionate in her wretchedness, " My love, I afterwards found out she'd been altogether mistress of the house ; and so the wretch had not only destroyed my peace, but ate my pickles !"

(To be continued.)