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A Little Mistake, and What Came of It by Caroline F. Preston (pseudonym of Horatio Alger, Jr.)

Author: Alger, Horatio, 1832-1899.
Title: A Little Mistake, and What Came of It.
In: Gleason's Literary Companion. Boston : F. Gleason. Vol. 6, no. 12 (March 25, 1865)
Format: 4 columns ; 28 cm.
Horatio Alger Collection.
Other Title: Gleason's Literary Companion
Location: AP 2 .L546a (Special Collections)
Optically scanned and encoded by Mark A. Williams
Horatio Alger Digital Serials Project, Northern llinois University Libraries
DeKalb, IL
14-April-2000


A young man, attired in a bright-colored dressing-gown, sat before a grate in a fashionable boarding-house with his heels on the fender. He had the morning paper in his hand, and was leisurely running through the advertisements.

"Let me see," he soliloquized. "What's the opera to night? Der Freischutz, on my life. Just what I've been wanting to see—I guess I'll go. But hold, my boy; there's the question of supplies—I must investigate my exchequer."

Edmund Hastings drew his pocket book from its repository and opened it. The contents consisted of two horse railway tickets, three postage stamps, and seventy-five cents in postal currency.

The young man looked rather blank.

"Seventy five cents," he exclaimed. "That would barely pay for a seat in the family circle, and it would never do for me to be seen there. What would Mary Kidder say if, in looking over the house through her opera-glass, she should espy me there? That would dish me completely. As it is, I think there's a fair chance of making her Mrs. Hastings. Her eighty thousand dollars would enable me to live very comfortably."

At this moment, a knock was heard at the door.

Come in.'' said the young man, lazily.

"It's a letter for you, Mr. Hastings." said the servant who entered.

[See Engraving]

Its a letter for you, Mr. Hastings! said the servant who entered

"Its a letter for you, Mr. Hastings!" said the servant who entered

"All right! lay it on the table."

This was done, and the servant retired.

"Wonder who it's from?" said Edmund, Indifferently. "Let me see what it is like."

He took up the letter, and then let it drop with an expression of disgust.

"Poh! how villainously it smells of onions and tobacco! A dirty yellow envelope, too, with the address running up hill. I'm almost afraid to open it. However, I can wash my hands afterwards."

Edmund Hastings finally opened the missive, actuated by curiosity to know the name of his correspondent.

It read as follows :

"Mister hastings:—Sir; it's your bill fur washing I send you, sur, and it's very much I want the money bein' as two of my childers is sick, and it's nine dollars, sur, which you havent pade me anything sur, for too months, and I hope you won't make me wate any longer, for it's tired of waitin I am. I'll come for the money to-morrow mornin', sir, punctooal, and I hope you'll have it reddy, so no more at presant. from bridget murphy."

"No more from Bridget Murphy!" repeated young Hastings. Well, no; I should think Bridget with a small b had said as much as was necessary. By the way, it's rather an interesting question where I'm to get the nine dollars which this interesting female expects to receive from me. My entire funds consisting of seventy-five cents—is there any way of expanding them to nine dollars? My next quarterly allowance doesn't come due for six weeks, and the governor has a decided objection to advancing money."

The young man pondered a moment, and then exclaimed:

"Egad, I have it. I'll offer myself to Mary Kidder at once, and if she says yes, press for an immediate marriage. She can't refuse me. I flatter myself my figure isn't to be met with every day."

He straightened himself up, and surveyed himself complacently in the mirror.

"Well, here goes," he said, after a pause.

"Let me see—I'll write to Bridget first. I'll tell her that I'm on the point of marriage with a wealthy young lady, and will settle her little bill immediately afterwards, and give her a present besides. I must be very polite."

He wrote for five minutes, producing the following note:

"My Dear Madam: (that will flatter her) —I am expecting to marry quite a rich young lady very soon. As soon as I am married, I will pay your little bill, and to pay you for waiting, I will make you a handsome present besides. You may call for my clothes as usual next Monday morning. "Edmund Hastings."

"Now for a letter to Miss Kidder. That will take me longer."

After some time our hero produced a note which it is unneccssary to give here. Enough that it eloquently portrayed the passion which was consuming the heart of the writer, intmating that unless his suit should be favorably regarded, he should he carried away by some untimely disease, if indeed, in his despair, he was not tempted to put an end to his existence.

"I gues that'll do the work," he soliloquized. "At any rate it ought to."

He enclosed the notes in two envelopes, and stamping them, rang for the servant.

"Put them in the post," said he, indolently. Unlucky Hastings! In his haste he had unconsciously put the letters into the wrong envelopes, so that the declaration of love went to Bridget Murphy, while the other epistle was duly opened by Miss Mary Kidder. Of this mistake, Edmund Hastings was blissfully ignorant till the next morning's mail brought him the followirg reply from the young lady:

"Mr. Edmund Hastings:

"Sir—I have to acknowledge the receipt of a very singular note from you, written, as I observe, yesterday. In it you inform me that you are expecting to marry a very rich young lady. I ought to feel flattered that you should make me a confidant in a matter so delicate. I trust the young lady—do I know her?—possesses other qualities in addition to her wealth, for I can hardly suppose that this alone would be sufficient to ensure her husband's happiness. You must excuse my writing so plainly; but you would not have confided in me if you had not supposed I felt an interest in your welfare. There is another part of your letter which I do not so well understand. You say, 'When I am married, I will pay your little bill.' I am quite unconscious of having any bill against you. Nevertheless, I cannot but applaud your honest intentions and integrity of purpose. I trust you will not consider it indelicate in me to request your acceptance of the amount of this little bill, whatever it may be. You will perhaps be kind enough to invest it in some appropriate present for this young lady whom you are expecting to honor with your hand. With it will you be kind enough to offer my best wishes for her happiness?

"There is another allusion which I find it equally difficult to understand. You say 'You may call for my clothes as usual next Monday morning.' Now, Mr. Hastings, what should I want of your clothes? I couldn't wear them, you know. Perhaps you mean that they should be considered a security for the little bill you refer to. But that is quite unnecessary, I am entirely willing to trust to your honesty in the matter, even if your marriage with the nice young lady does not come off. You need not expect me, therefore, on Monday morning."

Yours respectfully,

Mary Kidder "

"The d—ickens!" exclaimed Edmund Hastings. "Here's a pretty pickle. If I haven't gone and exchanged notes. I'm dished in that quarter, that's certain. What a deuced sarcastic letter that girl can write. I wonder what Mrs. Murphy will think of the other."

Unfortunately he was not long left in doubt.

The door was suddenly flung open, and a stout Irish woman rushed in precipitately, over-turning a small stand in her impetuosity, and rushing at our astonished hero, flung her arms round his neck, and embraced him convulsively.

"What does this mean? exclaimed Edmund wildly. "Are you going to murder me?"

"O, my darlint!" she exclaimed, "and have you loved me so long and I niver to know it And it's so much you love me that you'll shoot your brains out if I don't marry you. Shure I will, for you're a jewel, and a handsome gintale young gintleman as ever I set eyes upon."

"Stop, my good woman there's a great mistake!" exclaimed our hero breathlessly.

"No mistake at all. Shore didn't I rade your beautiful letter with my own eyes—leastways me cousin Pat read it to me, and I niver was so affected in all my life, and shure I came right away for fear you'd put an ind to your blessed life, out of despair like. But shure it's Bridget Murphy that's glad to become your dear wife; and the childers cried for joy when I told 'em of the fine young gintleman that they was to have for a new father; and Tim—that's my oldest, he came with me this mornin' to see you."

"Tim, me darlint, don't be bashful like, but come and hug your new father," proceeded the voluble Mrs. Murphy.

A stout boy of thirteen rushed at Mr. Hastings and nearly overpowered him with the fervor of his affection.

"Stop ! stop!" exclaimed our luckless hero, once more. "Are you mad?"

"It's only wid joy," exclaimed Mrs Murphy. "When will we be married, me darlint? Shure I'm ready to go to the praste at once."

She was about to make a second plunge preparatory to another embrace; but Edmund got behind a rocking-chair.

"It's all a mistake," he said, hurriedly. "I didn't mean that letter for you—I wrote it to some one else."

Didn't mane it for me, ye old desaver," exclaimed Bridget wrathfully. "Then give me my money, ye spalpeen. Ye'd chate an honest woman out of her dues, would ye?"

Here Mrs. Murphy seemed approaching in a different, and less affectionate spirit.

Edmund hurriedly promised to pay her the same day, if she would desist, and, with some reluctance, she consented.

He contrived to keep his word, but how he managed to obtain the money was a secret to all but the pawnbroker. The bill paid, he at once changed his washerwoman, having a nervous dread of Mrs. Murphy, which the events of the morning seemed to justify.

Our hero is still on the lookout for a lady with expectations. Miss Kidder is lost to him forever, having accepted the hand of another, less interested lover, with whom she is now making the tour of Europe.