The Lottery Ticket
By Caroline Preston
(Horatio Alger Jr.)
Mr. Samuel Pellet had reached the age of forty-five without feeling the desire to exchange his condition of single blessedness for the married state. He was cut out for an old bachelor, so his friends all said, and all prophesied that he would die as he had lived—an old bachelor. But the wisest make mistakes, and this was the case with Mr. Pellet’s friends. He was destined to become a married man and that not altogether by his own will. Shall I tell you how?
It chanced that Mr. Pellet had occasion to change his boarding-place. He was recommended to apply to Mrs. Felicia Brewer, who entertained a select number of gentlemen, whom she provided with the comforts and luxuries of an elegant home. So her advertisement read.
It was a very nice house in a fashionable locality, and though Mrs. Brewer's prices were a little steep, Mr. Pellet was not disposed to complain.
His application for board was favorably considered, and he at once became an inmate of Mrs. Brewer’s household.
It might have been a mark of the widow’s partiality—the rest of the boarders said so—that she placed him next to herself at the table. Mr. Pellet being rather bashful, sat very stiff and upright, and for some time did not respond fully to the pleasant advances made by his landlady, but this shyness wore off in time, and he began to feel at home.
Mrs. Brewer was rather a slender lady, not remarkable for beauty, but with great suavity of manner, and very attentive to gentlemen. Her late husband she frequently referred to in terms of the highest eulogy, and was wont to complain of her loneliness. But no gentleman had yet taken the hint, and she still remained without a second protector.
One day, some three months after Mr. Pellet commenced boarding at Mrs. Brewer’s, Mr. Ponsonby, a fellow-boarder, asked Mr. Pellet, as they were sitting around the dinner table, to accompany him to a lecture that evening.
“I had not thought of leaving the house this evening, said Mr. Pellet. “I have been very much engaged to-day and feel quite tired.”
As he said this, he glanced around. Nothing could be pleasanter or more comfortable, he thought than the dining-room, with its large bay window set off with plants in great variety, for the widow was fond of plants, and spent a great deal of time upon them.
Just then the widow interposed—“Do you ever play chess, Mr. Pellet?”
“Sometimes, Mrs. Brewer,” was the reply.
“Do you like it?”
“O, yes, quite well.”
“So do I, Mr. Pellet. Mr. Brewer, my late lamented husband could sit by the hour together, playing. Many and many an evening we have passed in that way. Ah me!”
The widow sighed and raised her handkerchief to her eyes, as she was in the habit of doing whenever allusion was made to the late Mr. Brewer.
“It must be trying to you to think of it,” hazarded Mr. Pellet.
“It is, indeed,” said Mrs. Brewer, sighing and removing her handkerchief, “but I have never ceased to love the game because he loved it. But I have very few opportunities to play it. None of the boarders know it except yourself.”
“If I could be of any service, Mrs. Brewer,” said Mr. Pellet, in drawing your mind from your sorrow, you may command me.”
“Thank you, Mr. Pellet, you are indeed kind. But I hardly dare to ask the favor. It will be so tiresome to you.”
“Not at all. I shall be most happy, I assure you, Mrs. Brewer. I will stop this very evening if you like.”
“I am afraid I shall be keeping you from some more agreeable engagement.”
“By no means, Mrs. Brewer, I have no engagement, whatever.”
“Then I will avail myself of your kind offer.”
So it happened that Mr. Pellet spent the evening with Mrs. Brewer playing chess. The games were long and quite interesting, and really the hours flew rapidly, so that ten o'clock arrived before he knew it. Mr. Pellet was about to retire, being a man of regular habits, when some delicious lemonade was brought in, together with a plate of cake.
“Are you fond of lemonade, Mr. Pellet?” asked the widow.
“Very much so.”
“So was Mr. Brewer. There was nothing he liked so much as a glass of it before he went to bed. I thought you might like it, and ordered the servant to bring it.”
“You are very kind."
“No, you are kind in sacrificing one of your evenings to gratify me.”
“Not at all, Mrs. Brewer. I have myself passed it very pleasantly.”
“I am very glad of it, Mr. Pellet. May I dare to hope you will favor me again with your company ?”
“It will afford me the greatest pleasure, madam.”
So it happened that two or three times a week Mr. Pellet passed the evening playing chess with Mrs. Brewer. Finally the other boarders began to banter him upon it.
“You’re rather particular in your attentions to the widow, Pellet,” said Mr. Ponsonby, a merchant who did business down town. “Positively your attentions are getting marked.”
“Pooh!” said Pellet, turning red, for he didn’t like joking on such a subject.
“O, it’s all very well to say pooh; but when a man spends two or three evenings a week in a lady’s society, it is generally supposed to mean something.”
“You’re entirely mistaken, I assure you, Mr. Ponsonby,” said Pellet nervously. “I like chess and so does she. That’s all.”
“O, yes, no doubt; but what begins in chess-t may end in earnest,” said Ponsonby, with a laugh at his own wit.
This raillery had such an effect upon Mr. Pellet that for an entire week he refrained from chess, and the society of Mrs. Brewer. The widow looked reproachfully at him, and said, sighing, that she had feared Mr. Pellet would find her society tiresome. Mr. Pellet protested that nothing could be farther from the truth.
“Then perhaps you are tired of chess?”
“Not at all.”
“Then why have you given it up?”
Mr. Pellet in an embarrassed manner said that he had been prevented by numerous engagements.
“Of a more agreeable nature,” said Mrs. Brewer.
“Not at all,” said Mr. Pellet, nervously.
“Have you an engagement this evening?”
“Yes—no—I believe not,” stammered Mr. Pellet.
“Then perhaps if you are not tired of it, you would favor me with a game of chess.”
What could Mr. Pellet say? He had no excuses ready, and he consented.
He little knew how much was involved in that consent. He little suspected that it was to change the course of his life, and convert him from a Bachelor into a Benedict.
But we are anticipating.
At eight o’clock Mrs. Brewer and Mr. Pellet sat down to a game of chess. It was in the dining room which was pleasantly lighted, and looked very bright and cheerful. Mrs. Brewer exerted herself to please Mr. Pellet, and certainly he did enjoy his pleasant surroundings. So ten o'clock came, and with it came the cake and lemonade.
By some skilful arrangement of the widow Mr. Pellet found himself sitting beside her—in close contiguity.
“It seems as if I had known you a long time, Mr. Pellet,” said the widow. “In fact I already look upon you as an old friend.”
“I am very glad, I am sure,” said Mr. Pellet. He didn't know what else to say.
“You remind me very much of the late Mr. Brewer,” and the widow, as usual, pressed her handkerchief to her eyes.
“Do I indeed ?” asked Mr. Pellet.
“Very much indeed.”
“He must have been a happy man,” said Mr. Pellet, politely.
“Oh, Mr. Pellet!” ejaculated the lady, “you only say so to flatter me.”
“But I am quite in earnest.”
“You agitate me, indeed you do,” said the widow. “I so little expected such words from your lips.”
“What have I said?” demanded Pellet, surprised and embarrassed.
“Your words are so kind, so flattering,” said Mrs. Brewer. “I am so pleased to find that I have won your favorable opinion.”
“Of course, of course,” said Mr. Pellet. “What does the woman mean?” he thought anxiously.
Mrs. Brewer knew what she meant. She fully intended to capture Mr. Pellet, whether he wished it or not.
It was a favorable moment. She heard two of the gentlemen come into the hall, returning from a lecture which they had attended. Now was the time, if ever, for a stroke of generalship. Without a moment’s hesitation, she rose from her seat, and threw herself into the astonished Mr. Pellet's arms, uttering a loud shriek, which brought the two gentlemen into the room.
When they saw Mr. Pellet with the widow in his arms, they smiled significantly, and said, “O, beg pardon. Don't want to interrupt."
“Really, gentlemen—” commenced poor Pellet.
“O, we didn't mean to interrupt. Pray excuse us.”
“But I assure you.”
“O, there’s no need of an explanation. All right, of course. We congratulate you, Pellet. When will it be?”
“I assure you—" began Pellet again; but here the widow thought it best to rouse from her fainting fit.
“I don't know what you will think, gentlemen. Mr. Pellet has been so kind—has expressed himself in such terms about me, that I—I couldn't help giving way to emotion.
She rose, and removed her seat, and Pellet rose hurriedly and left the room, repairing, with perturbed mind to his chamber.
But the next morning he found himself considered by all as engaged to the widow. In vain he protested—tried to remember what he had said. Nobody would listen to it, and in the course of a month, he actually found himself married to Mrs. Brewer, without knowing exactly how it came about.
Mrs. Brewer is now Mrs. Pellet, and as her husband has abundant means, no longer keeps boarders. On the whole, too, as the late widow is a good manager, and very good tempered, he does not regret the change.(First published in Gleason Literary Companion, January 11, 1868)