Meaning Mischief

UP came the sun, streaming all over London, and in its glorious impartiality even condescending to make prismatic sparkles in the whiskers of Mr Alfred Lammle as he sat at breakfast. In need of some brightening from without, was Mr Alfred Lammle, for he had the air of being dull enough within, and looked grievously discontented.

Mrs Alfred Lammle faced her lord. The happy pair of swindlers, with the comfortable tie between them that each had swindled the other, sat moodily observant of the tablecloth. Things looked so gloomy in the breakfast-room, albeit on the sunny side of Sackville Street, that any of the family tradespeople glancing through the blinds might have taken the hint to send in his account and press for it. But this, indeed, most of the family tradespeople had already done, without the hint.

“It seems to me,” said Mrs Lammle, “that you have had no money at all, ever since we have been married.”

“What seems to you,” said Mr Lammle, “to have been the case, may possibly have been the case. It doesn’t matter.”

Was it the speciality of Mr and Mrs Lammle, or does it ever obtain with other loving couples? In these matrimonial dialogues they never addressed each other, but always some invisible presence that appeared to take a station about midway between them. Perhaps the skeleton in the cupboard comes out to be talked to, on such domestic occasions?

“I have never seen any money in the house,’ said Mrs Lammle to the skeleton, “except my own annuity. That I swear.”

“You needn’t take the trouble of swearing,” said Mr Lammle to the skeleton; “once more, it doesn’t matter. You never turned your annuity to so good an account.”

“Good an account! In what way?” asked Mrs Lammle.

“In the way of getting credit, and living well,” said Mr Lammle.

Perhaps the skeleton laughed scornfully on being intrusted with this question and this answer; certainly Mrs Lammle did, and Mr Lammle did.

“And what is to happen next?” asked Mrs Lammle of the skeleton.

“Smash is to happen next,” said Mr Lammle to the same authority.

After this, Mrs Lammle looked disdainfully at the skeleton — but without carrying the look on to Mr Lammle — and drooped her eyes. After that, Mr Lammle did exactly the same thing, and drooped his eyes. A servant then entering with toast, the skeleton retired into the closet, and shut itself up.

“Sophronia,” said Mr Lammle, when the servant had withdrawn. And then, very much louder: “Sophronia!”


“Attend to me, if you please.” He eyed her sternly until she did attend, and then went on. “I want to take counsel with you. Come, come; no more trifling. You know our league and covenant. We are to work together for our joint interest, and you are as knowing a hand as I am. We shouldn’t be together, if you were not. What’s to be done? We are hemmed into a corner. What shall we do?”

“Have you no scheme on foot that will bring in anything?”

Mr Lammle plunged into his whiskers for reflection, and came out hopeless: “No; as adventurers we are obliged to play rash games for chances of high winnings, and there has been a run of luck against us.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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