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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

John Maddison Morton (1811–1891)

How to Let One Room to Two Tenants

From “Box and Cox”


Mrs. B.Good-morning, Mr. Cox. I hope you slept comfortably, Mr. Cox?

Cox.I can’t say I did, Mrs. B. I should feel obliged to you, if you could accommodate me with a more protuberant bolster, Mrs. B. The one I’ve got now seems to me to have about a handful and a half of feathers at each end, and nothing whatever in the middle.

Mrs. B.Anything to accommodate you, Mr. Cox.

Cox.Thank you. Then, perhaps, you’ll be good enough to hold this glass while I finish my toilet.

Mrs. B.Certainly.(Holding glass before COX, who ties his cravat.)Why, I do declare, you’ve had your hair cut!

Cox.Cut? It strikes me I’ve had it mowed! It’s very kind of you to mention it, but I’m sufficiently conscious of the absurdity of my personal appearance already.(Puts on his coat.)Now for my hat.(Puts on his hat, which comes over his eyes.)That’s the effect of having one’s hair cut. This hat fitted me quite tight before. Luckily I’ve got two or three more.(Goes in at L., and returns with three hats of different shapes, and puts them on, one after the other—all of which are too big for him.)This is pleasant! Never mind. This one appears to me to wabble about rather less than the others—(Puts on hat)—and now I’m off! By-the-bye, Mrs. Bouncer, I wish to call your attention to a fact that has been evident to me for some time past—and that is, that my coals go remarkably fast——

Mrs. B.Lor, Mr. Cox!

Cox.It is not the case only with the coals, Mrs. Bouncer, but I’ve lately observed a gradual and steady increase of evaporation among my candles, wood, sugar, and lucifer matches.

Mrs. B.Lor, Mr. Cox! you surely don’t suspect me!

Cox.I don’t say I do, Mrs. B.; only I wish you distinctly to understand that I don’t believe it’s the cat.

Mrs. B.Is there anything else you’ve got to grumble about, sir?

Cox.Grumble! Mrs. Bouncer, do you possess such a thing as a dictionary?

Mrs. B.No, sir.

Cox.Then I’ll lend you one, and if you turn to the letter G you’ll find “Grumble, verb neuter—to complain without a cause.” Now that’s not my case, Mrs. B., and now that we are upon the subject, I wish to know how it is that I frequently find my apartment full of smoke?

Mrs. B.Why—I suppose the chimney——

Cox.The chimney doesn’t smoke tobacco. I’m speaking of tobacco smoke, Mrs. B. I hope, Mrs. Bouncer, you’re not guilty of cheroots or Cubans?

Mrs. B.Not I, indeed, Mr. Cox.

Cox.Nor partial to a pipe?

Mrs. B.No, sir.

Cox.Then, how is that——

Mrs. B.Why—I suppose—yes—that must be it——

Cox.At present I am entirely of your opinion—because I haven’t the most distant particle of an idea what you mean.

Mrs. B.Why, the gentleman who has got the attic is hardly ever without a pipe in his mouth—and there he sits, with his feet upon the mantelpiece——

Cox.The mantelpiece! That strikes me as being a considerable stretch, either of your imagination, Mrs. B., or the gentleman’s legs. I presume you mean the fender or the hob.

Mrs. B.Sometimes one, sometimes t’other. Well, there he sits for hours, and puffs away into the fireplace.

Cox.Ah, then you mean to say that this gentleman’s smoke, instead of emulating the example of all other sorts of smoke, and going up the chimney, thinks proper to affect a singularity by taking the contrary direction?

Mrs. B.Why——

Cox.Then, I suppose, the gentleman you are speaking of is the same individual that I invariably meet coming up-stairs when I’m going down, and going down-stairs when I’m coming up!

Mrs. B.Why—yes—I——

Cox.From the appearance of his outward man, I should unhesitatingly set him down as a gentleman connected with the printing interest.

Mrs. B.Yes, sir—and a very respectable young gentleman he is.

Cox.Well, good-morning, Mrs. Bouncer!

Mrs. B.You’ll be back at your usual time, I suppose, sir?

Cox.Yes—nine o’clock. You needn’t light my fire in future, Mrs. B.—I’ll do it myself. Don’t forget the bolster! A halfpenny worth of milk, Mrs. Bouncer—and be good enough to let it stand—I wish the cream to accumulate.(Exit.)

Mrs. B.He’s gone at last! I declare I was all in a tremble for fear Mr. Box would come in before Mr. Cox went out. Luckily, they’ve never met yet, and what’s more, they’re not very likely to do so; for Mr. Box is hard at work at a newspaper office all night, and doesn’t come home till the morning, and Mr. Cox is busy making hats all day long, and doesn’t come home till night; so that I’m getting double rent for my room, and neither of my lodgers are any the wiser for it. It was a capital idea of mine—that it was! But I haven’t an instant to lose. First of all, let me put Mr. Cox’s things out of Mr. Box’s way.(She takes the three hats, Cox’s dressing-gown and slippers, opens door and puts them in, then shuts door and locks it.)Now, then, to put the key where Mr. Cox always finds it.(Puts the key on ledge of door.)I really must beg Mr. Box not to smoke so much. I was so dreadfully puzzled to know what to say when Mr. Cox spoke about it. Now, then, to make the bed—and don’t let me forget that what’s the head of the bed for Mr. Cox becomes the foot of the bed for Mr. Box—people’s tastes do differ so.(Goes behind the curtains of the bed, and seems to be making it—then appears with a very thin bolster in her hand.)The idea of Mr. Cox presuming to complain of such a bolster as this!(She disappears again behind curtains.)

Box(without).Pooh—pooh! Why don’t you keep your own side of the staircase, sir?(Enters at back, dressed as a printer. Puts his head out at door again, shouting.)It was as much your fault as mine, sir! I say, sir—it was as much your fault as mine, sir!

Mrs. B.(emerging from behind the curtains of bed).Lor, Mr. Box! What is the matter?

Box.Mind your own business, Bouncer!

Mrs. B.Dear, dear, Mr. Box! what a temper you are in, to be sure! I declare you’re quite pale in the face!

Box.What colour would you have a man be who has been setting up long leaders for a daily paper all night?

Mrs. B.But, then, you’ve all the day to yourself.

Box(looking significantly at MRS. BOUNCER).So it seems! Far be it from me, Bouncer, to hurry your movements, but I think it right to acquaint you with my immediate intention of divesting myself of my garments, and going to bed.

Mrs. B.Oh, Mr. Box!(Going.)

Box.Stop! Can you inform me who the individual is that I invariably encounter going down-stairs when I’m coming up, and coming up-stairs when I’m going down?

Mrs. B.Oh—yes—the gentleman in the attic, sir.

Box.There’s nothing particularly remarkable about him, except his hats. I meet him in all sorts of hats—white hats and black hats—hats with broad brims, and hats with narrow brims—hats with naps, and hats without naps—in short, I have come to the conclusion that he must be individually and professionally associated with the hatting interest.

Mrs. B.Yes, sir. And, by-the-bye, Mr. Box, he begged me to request of you, as a particular favour, that you would not smoke quite so much.

Box.Did he? Then you may tell the gentle hatter, with my compliments, that if he objects to the effluvia of tobacco, he had better domesticate himself in some adjoining parish.

Mrs. B.Oh, Mr. Box! You surely wouldn’t deprive me of a lodger?

Box.It would come to precisely the same thing, Bouncer, because if I detect the slightest attempt to put my pipe out, I at once give you warning that I shall give you warning at once.

Mrs. B.Well, Mr. Box—do you want anything more of me?

Box.On the contrary—I’ve had quite enough of you.

Mrs. B.Well, if ever! What next, I wonder?