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The Box Tunnel

The Box Tunnel image
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The 10:15 train glided f rom PaddingtOD, May 7, 1847. In the lcft compartment of a certain first-class carriage were fonr passengers; of these two were wortb description. The lady had a smooth, white, delicate brow, strongly marked eyebrows, long laBhes, eyes that seemed to change color, and a good-sized, delicious mouth, with teeth as white as milk. A man cotdd not see her nose forher eyes and mouth ; her own sex conld and would have told us some nonsense about it. She wore an unpretending grayish dress, buttoned to the throat with lozenge-shaped buttons, and a Scottish shawl that agreeabJy evaded color. She was like a duck, so tighther piain feathers fltted her, and there she sat, smooth, snug, and delicious, with a book in her hand, and a soupcon of her wrist just visible as she held it. Her opposite neighbor was what I cali a good style of man - the more to bis credit, since he belonged to a Corporation that f requently turns out the worst imaginable style of yonng men. He was a cavalry officer, aged 25. He had a mustache, but not a very repulsive one; notone of those subnasal pigtails on which soup is suspended like dew on a shrub ; it was short, thick, and black as a coal. His teeth had not yet been turned by tobáceo smoke to the color of juice ; his clothes did not stick to nor hang to him ; he had aa engaging smile, and, what I liked the dog for, his vanity, which was inordinate, was in its proper place, his heart, not in his face, jostling mine and other people's who have none - in a word, he was what one qftener hewrs of than meets- a young gentleman. He was conversing in an animated whisper with a companion, a f ello w officer; they were talking about what it is far better not to - women. Our friend clearly did not wish to be overheard ; for he cast ever and anón a furtive glance at his fair vis-a-vis and lowered his voice. She seemed completely absorbed in her book, and that reassured him. At last the two soldiers came down to a whisper (the truth must be told); the one who got down at Slough, and was lost to posterity, bet ten pounds to three that he who was going down with us to Bath and immortality would not kiss either of the ladies opposite on the road. "Done, done!" Now I am sorry a man I have hitherto praised should have leut himself, even in a whisper, to such a speculation; "but nobody is wis? at all hours," not even when the clock is striking five and twenty; and you are to consider his profession, his good looks, and the temptation - ton to three. After Slough the party was reduced to three; at Twylforci one lady dropped her handkerchief; Oapt. Dolignan feil on it like a larab; two or three words were interchanged on this occasion. At Beading the Marlborough of our tale made one of the safe investments of that day, he bought a Times and Punch; the latter full of steel-pen thrusts and woodcuts. Valor and beauty deigned to laugh at some inflamed humbug or other punctured by Punch. Nowlaughing together thaws onr human ice - at Swindon it was a talking match - at Swindon who so devoted as Oapt. Dolignan ? - he handed them out - he soupeel them - he tough-chickened them - he brandied and cochinealed one, and he brandied and burnt-sugared the other; on their return to the carriage, one lady passed into the inner compartment to inspect a certain gentleman's seat on tha1 , side of the line. Reader, had it been you or I, the beauty would have been the deserter, the average one would have stayed with us till all was blue, ourselves included not more surely does our slice of breac and butter, when it escapes from our ! hand, revolve it ever so often, aliglit I face downward on the carpet. But this was a bit of a fop, Adonis, dragoon - so Venus remained in tetoa-tete with him You have seen a dog meet an unknown female of his species, how handsome how empresse, how expressive he be comes; such was the Dolignan after ', Swindon, and, to do the dog justice, hc j got handsomer and handsomor; and yoi have seen a cat conscious of approach ing cream - such was Miss Haytborn; she became demurer and demurer; presently our Captain looked out of the winilow md laughed; this elicited an inquiring look from Haytborn. " We are only a mile from the Box Tunnel." "Do you always laugh a mile from the Box Tunnel ?" said the lady. " Invariably. " "Whatfor?" " Why, hem ! it is a gentleman's oke." Oapt. Dolignan then recounted to Miss Haythorn the following: " A lady and herhusband sat together going through the Box Tunnel - there was one gentleman opposite; it was pitch dark; after the tunnel the lady said, ' George, how absurd of you to salute me going through the tunnel.' 'I did no such thmg. ' ' You didn't ?' ' No ! why ?' ' Because somehow I thought you did ?' " Here Oapt. Dolignan laughed and endeavored to lead bis companion to laugh, but it was net to be done. The train entered the tunnel. Miss Haythorn - Ah ! Dolignan - What is the matter? Miss Haythorn - I am frightened. Dolignan (moving to her side) - Pray do not be alarmed ; I am near you. Miss Haythorn - You are near me - very near me, indeed, Capt. Dolignan. Dolignan - You know my name ? Miss Haythorn - I heard you mention it. I wish we were out of this dark place. Dolignan - I could be content to spend hours here, reassuring you, my dear lady. Miss Haythorn - Nonsense ! Dolignan - Pweep ! (Grave reader, do not put your lips to the next pretty creature you meet, or you will understand what this means.) Miss Haythorn - Ee ! Ee ! Friend - What is the matter ? Miss Haythorn - Open the door ! Open the door ! There was a sound of hurried whispers, the door was shut, and the blind pulled down with hostile sharpness. If any critio falls on me for putting inarticulate sounds in a dialogue as above, I answer, with all the ineolence I cancommand at present, " Hit boys as big as yourself ;" bigger, perhaps, such as Sophocles, Eurípides, and Aristophanes ; they began it, and I learned it of them, sore against my will. Miss Haythorn's scream lost most of its effect because the engine whistied 40,000 murders at the same moment ; and fictitious grief makes itself heard when real cannot. Between the tunnel and Bath our young friend had time to ask whetner his conduct had been marked by that delicate reserve which is supposed to distinguish the perfect gentleman. With a long face, real or feigned, he held open the door ; his late f riends ; tempted to escape on the other side - . impossibln ! they must pass liim. She whoni he liad insulted (Latín for kissed) deposited somewhere at his feec a look of gentle, blushing reproach ; the other, whom he had not insulted, darted redhot daggers at him from her eyes ; and o they parted. It was, perhaps, fortúnate for Dolignan that he had the grace to bc a friend to Major Hoskyns of his regiment, a veteran laughed" at by the youngsters, or the Major was too apt to look coldly ipon billiard-balls and cigars ; he had een cannon-balls and linstocks. He ïad also, to teil the trutb, swallowed a good bit of the mess-room poker, whioh aade it as impossible for Major Hosmis to descend to an ungentlemanlike work or action as to brtish his own rousers beneath the knee. Capt. Dolignan told this gentleman lis story in gleeful accent s, but Maj. loskyns heard him coldly, and as coldly answered that he had known a man to ose his life for the same thing. " That is nothing," continued the yiajor, " but, unfortunately, he deserved ;o lose it." At this, blood mounted totheyounger man's temples; and his senior added, "I mean to say he was 35; you, I presume, are 21! " "Twenty-five." "That is much the same thing; you will be advised by me ? " " If you will advise me." " Speak to no one of this, and send White the L2, that he may think you ïave lost the bet." " That is hard, when I won it." "Doit, for all that, sir." Let the disbelievers in human per'ectibility know that this dragoon, capadle of a blush, did this virtuous action, albeit with violent reluctance ; and this was his flrst damper. A week after the events he was at a ball. He was in that state of factitious diRContent which beongs to us amiable English. He was looking in vain for a lady, equal in personal attraction to the idea he had 'ormed of George Dolignan as a man, wheu suddenly there glided past him a most delightf ui visión ! a lady whose beauty and symmetry took him by the eyes - another look : "Itcan'tbe! Yes, it is ! " Miss Haythorn (not that he fcnew her name) ! but what an apotheoHfl! The duck had become a peahen- radiant, dazzling, she looked twice as beautif ui and almost twice as large as bef ore. He lost sight of her. He found her again. She was so lovely she made him ill - and he, alone, must not dance with her, speak to her. If he had been content to begin her acquaintance the usual way it might have ended in kissing; it must end in nothing. As she danced, sparks of beauty feil from her on all around, but him - she did not see him; it was clear she never would see him - one gentleman was particularly assiduous; she smiled on his aseiduity; he was ugly, but she smiled on him. Dolignan was surprised at his success, his ill taste, his ugliness, his impertinence. D.jlignan at last found himself injured; " who was this man ? and what right had he to go on so? He never kissed her, I suppose," said Dolle. Dolignan could not prove it, but he feit that somehow the rights of property were invaded. He went home and dreamed of Miss Haythorn, andhated all the ugly successful. He spent a fortnight trying to find out who his beauty was - he never could encounter her again. At last he heard of her in this way: A lawyer's clerk paid him a little visit and commenced a little action against him in the name of Miss Haythorn, for insulting her in a railway train. The young gentleman was shocked; endeavored to sof ten the lawyer's clerk; that machine did not thoroughly comprehend the meaning of the term. The lady's name, however, was at last revealed by this untoward incident; from her name to her addross was but a short step, and the sanio day our crestfallen hero lay in wait at her door, and many a suoceeding day, without effect. Bufc one iine aftemoon she israued forth quite naturally, as if she did it every day, and walked briskly on the parade. Dolignan did the same; met and passed her many times on the parade, and searched for pity in her eyes, but found neither look nor recognition, nor any other sentiment; for all this she walked aud walked, till all the other promenaders were tired and gone. Then her culprit summoned resolution, and, taking off his hat, with a voice for the flrst time tremulous, besought permission to address her. Sho stopped, blushed, and neither acknowlodged nor disowned his acquaintance. He blushed, stammered out how ashamed he was, how he deserved tobepunished, how he was punished, how little she knew how unhappy he was, and conoluded by begging her not to let all the world know the disgrace of a man who was already mortified enough by the loss of her acquaintance. She asked an explanation; he told her of the aotion that had been oommenced in her name; she gently shrugged her shoulders and said, "How stupid they are I" Emboldened by this, he begged to know whether or not a life of distant, unpretending devotion would, atter a lapse of years, erase the memory of his madness - his crime ! "She did not know!" " She must now bid him adieu, as she had some preparations to makefor aball in the Oresoent, where everybody was to be." They parted and Dolignan determined to be at the ball whers everybody was to be. He was there, and, after some time, he obtained an introduction to Miss Haythorn, and he danced with her. Her manner was graoious. With the wonderf ui tact of her sex, she seemed to have commenced the acquaintance that evening. That night, for the first time, Dolignan was in love. I will spare the reader all a lover's arts, by which he succeeded in dining where she dined, in dancing where she danced, inovertaking her by accident when she rode. His devotion f ollowed her to church, where the dragoon was rewarded by learning there is a world where they neither polk nor smoke - the two capital abominations of this one. He made an acquaintance with her uncle, who liked him, and he saw, at last, with joy, that her eye loved to dweil upon him, when she thought he did not observe her. It was three months after the Box Tunnel that Capt. Uolignan called upon Oapt. Haythorn, E. N., whom he had met twice in his life, and slightly propitiated by violently listening to a cutting-out expedition; he called, and, in the usual way, asked permission to pay his addresses to his daughter. The wórthy Captain straightway began doing quaiter-deck, when suddenly he was summoned from the apartment by a mysterious message. On his return he i announced, with a total change of voice, that "It was all right, and the visitor might run alongside assoon as he chose." My reader has divined the truth; this nautical commander, terrible to the foe, was in complete and happy subjugation to his daugliter, our heroïne. As he was taking his leave, üolignan saw his divinity glide into the drawingroom. He followed her, observed a sweet consciousness deepen into confusión - she tried to laugh, and cried instead, and then she smiled again; when he kissed her hand at the door it was "George" and "Marian" instead of "Captain" this and " Miss " the other. A reasonable time after this (for my tale is merciful and skips formalities and torturing delays), these two were very happy; they were once more upon the railroad, going to enjoy their honeymoon all by themselves. Marian Dolignau was dressed just as before - ducklike and delicious: all bright exoept her elothes; bnt George sat beside her this time instead of opposite; and she drank him in gently from her eyelashes. "Marian," said George, "married jeople should teil each other all. Will pou ever forgive me if I own to you ; no- " "Yes; yes I" " Weil. then, yon remember the Box Tunnel." (This was the first allnsion a e had ventured to it.) "I am ashamed to say I had L3 to L10 with White I wouid kiss one of you two ladies," and George, pathetic externally, chuckled within. "I know that, George; Í overheard you," was the demure reply. "Oh! you overheard me! impossible." " And did yon not hear me whisper to my oompanion ? I made a bet with her." "You made a bet! how singular! What wasit?" " Only a pair of gloves, George." " Yes, I kuow; but what about it?" " That if you did you should be my husband, dearest." "Oh, but stay; then you could not have been so very angry with me, love. Why, dearest, then you brought that aotion against me ?" Mrs. Dolignan looked down. "I was af raid you were forgetting me ! George, you will never forgive me?" "Sweet angel, why, here is the Box Tunnel !" Now, reader - fie ! no ! no such thing ! you can't expect to be indulged in this way every time we come to a dark place. Besides, it is not the thing. Consider, two sensible married people. No such phenomenon, I assure, took place. No scream in hopeless rivalry of the engine - this time!


Old News
Michigan Argus