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and I joined now and then in it; but soon sank again into a reverie, from which I only roused myself when I saw Mr. Brandon standing before me, offering his arm, and slightly smiling at the sight of my deep abstraction.
Valentine followed with Lou. “I say, Miss Graham !” he exclaimed, as we began to descend.
“I'm so hungry—there's an unutterable want and void—a gulf, a craving, and a sinking in, as when"
“() stop! at least, I mean, Pax (Taylor), what you have been about since you came home is very obvious.” Mr. Brandon glanced at me with amused surprise.
Obvious,” replied Valentine ; “ of course it is. I would be loth to cast away my speech; for besides that it is excellently
Here he was stopped by the “Pax.”
“Now that is what I complain of,” said his brother, “ if you will quote, what you say should not only be applicable, but droll in the application."
"You 're always stamping on me," said Valentine.
Both he and Liz had a delightful little way of being sulky for an instant, and then forgetting it again. So, as he came out of that sulks and sat down beside me, I murmured to him, “O Knight, thou lackst a cup of canary; when did I see thee so put down !'” but I felt on the whole that quoting was a tiresome trick, and I would not help him with it any more.
We passed rather a dull evening : the guests were familiar with the household without being intimate ; every one present seemed used to every one else. But, as the evening advanced, I again had the pleasure of seeing Tom get into a most vehement argument. He and Mr. Brandon were on one side, and Mr. John Mortimer on the other. The gold coinage of England, it appears, is pure, but the silver they called not real money, but tokens. I hardly understood enough to know which side triumphed, or why it mattered. But it was delightful to see Tom so full of fire.
When all the guests were gone, Valentine withdrew, and as we still sat talking, he came in again with a hat in his hand, and, walking up to his brother, held it out to him, just as a beggar sometimes does in the street.
St. George, pretending to misunderstand him, leaned over it as he sat, and looked down into the crown with an air of great interest. “ Well !” he said.
“A poor boy out of work, sir !” said Valentine ; no friends to speak of; earned nothing all the winter ; silver coinage of this wretched country so debased that it's against my principles to spend it. Nothing but gold can do me any good, sir.”
"I never give gold to beggars."
Well, hand out your purse, then, will you ?” said Valentine, “and I'll promise only to take one.” St. George actually did so.
you had much better say two," continued Valentine ; "they would last much longer.”
“ No, I won't," answered Giles, laughing ; " they would not last a day longer.”
Valentine thereupon returned the purse, and, with the sovereign in his hand, marched straight across the room to his father. “ Papa," he exclaimed, in a loud, plaintive voice, as of one deeply injured, “ will you speak to Giles ?”
“ Will I what ?" exclaimed his father, who had been amusing himself by watching the transaction.
“Will you speak to Giles?" repeated Valentine, in the same loud, plaintive tone. “If this sort of thing is allowed to go on, and I can get money from him whenever I like, it will perfectly ruin the independence of my character." (He showed the sovereign in his palm.) “Giles has no strength of mind whatever," he continued, shaking his head in a threatening manner.
“ You'd much better increase my allowance ; for, if not, I'm very much afraid this system will continue.”
“Go to bed, sir ! go to bed !” exclaimed his father. “You are an impudent young dog, if ever there was one ; know very well that you are not to sit up late while you have this cough upon you.”
Valentine retired with great docility; and the next morning when I woke I saw Mrs. Brand holding a great bunch of primroses and violets. She said she had picked them up on the mat outside my door. A little twisted note was stuck into the midst of them. I opened it, and it ran thus :
“ When I awoke, I said to myself, Ale, Squeerey ?' (Dickens) meaning primroses. The same agrecable party answered, with promptitude, ‘Certainly, a glassful' (ditto). You should have had more,
a only I have been studying you can guess what.—His own, V. M.”
In due time I came down, and, as I entered, heard Mr. Nortimer saying, “ Well, if he is not likely to be in time, we must have prayers without him." He was evidently Mr. Brandon : every one else was present.
prayers ; the venerable white head looking more reverend than ever as it bent over the book.
We then proceeded to the dining-room to breakfast, and Mrs. Henfrey said, " I don't quite understand this matter yet."
“Why, sister," said Valentine, “it is simple enough. Giles was out, and saw this boy stuck in the boggy ditch ; upon which, throwing himself into an attitude, he very naturally exclaimed, “Though
thou art of a different Church, I will not leave thee in the lurch.'"
“I'll venture to say he said nothing of the kind,” said Mrs. Henfrey, very tartly.
“ It was the milk-boy, was it not ?"
Well, his parents are not Dissenters. Stuff and nonsense ! They only go to meeting now and then.”
"But he must have said something," argued Valantine. “He may have changed the word 'church' to 'parish,' and added, 'I will not leave thee in the marish.''
“It's extraordinary, I am sure," said Mrs. Henfrey, with a slight groan, how the poets came to write so many lines as if on purpose for him.”
“Well, my boy,” said Mr. Mortimer, now suppose you give us a sensible account of the matter, without any more of this foolery."
" I don't know any more, papa, excepting that I met Giles marching home, covered with mud and clay up to his waistcoat pockets.”
Just then the old thin footman came in, and was asked what he knew of the matter. His reply, given with a toast-rack in his hand, ran thus :
“Yes, sir, Mr. Brandon, sir, was going along just where the ditch is so wide and boggy, and he heard a boy a hollering and a hollering, and he found the milk-boy was stuck in the clay. He had tried to jump the ditch, instead of going round by the plank. That was how it came to pass ; and the more he worked his legs about, the deeper he got, till the ditch was full of puddles of milk. And so, sir, Mr. Giles dragged the boy out, and he had just got him on the bank when I came up, for I had heard the hollering as I went nigh, with the rolls. Says Mr. Giles to me, ' Just scrape the poor child, Sam ; here's sixpence to pay for his milk. And let this be a lesson to you, youngster,' he says, ' never to jump over a bog when there is a plank near at hand.' So, then, sir”—(here the footman uttered a laugh of sudden delight)—“So, then, sir, Mr. Giles went back a few paces, and gave a little run to jump over in the very same place, but the bank, being soft and rotten, broke with him, and he slipped down backwards, and
" And tumbled in himself !” exclaimed Mr. Mortimer, in high delight—“Ha! ha! Well, such things will happen now and then.”
“ Yes, sir, Mr, Brandon tumbled in backwards, and sat himself down in the very thickest of the bog, and splashed himself all over with milk and mud.” Here, the old man, unable to restrain his mirth, retreated hastily, and Mr. Brandon came in.
“Well, Giles, my boy,” said his stepfather, after the customary morning greeting, “how did you get out of that bog? Sam has told us all the rest."
“Did he tell you how, in my adversity, he and that little ungrate
ful wretch stood on the bank perfectly convulsed with laughter, and how I was so excessively surprised when I found myself sitting in the bottom of the ditch, that I did not stir for a full half-minute, but sat staring at them with appealing mildness ?"
They all laughed but Mrs. Henfrey; and she, not in the least amused, inquired how he got out, after all.
“Oh, I floundered up, and Sam held his stick. That part of the business was soon managed.”
“Let this be a lesson to you, youngster,'” said Valentine, with a kind of respectful gravity, never to jump over a bog when there is a plank near at hand' (Brandon).” He took care to speak loud enough for his father to hear, and in the plaintive voice that he generally affected when making a joke.
“Come, come, sir,” said the old man, secretly enjoying it, “let me have no more of this. Giles is a great deal older than you are, sir.”
The elder brother said nothing, but he looked at Valentine with a significant smile, and proceeded to help himself to the viands, and talk with Tom over their last night's argument with John Mortimer. The English sovereign, it appears, is worth much the same all the world over, but the English shilling is alloyed, and this, it seems, is not done with any deliberate intention of cheating the English people, but from motives of policy. Now, Tom and Mr. Brandon had sagely remarked that so long as anybody would give a sovereign for twenty shillings, it mattered nothing to the people that they were not really worth it; but Mr. John Mortimer had maintained that it did matter; it mattered very much to everybody, but especially to the poor.
Tom declared his intention of going into the subject, but this was not merely because Mr. John Mortimer had differed from them, but because he had talked of the whole of that wonderful invention called money as if a great part of the prosperity of nations depended on what their money was made of, and how much they were charged for the making of it. Moreover, in an evil hour for himself, he had declared that these things were so simple that he wondered how there could be any difference of opinion about them.
This discussion being not of much interest to any of us but to me, and that only because it had roused Tom, we all retired to the little morning room except Tom and Mr. Brandon, who had not finished his breakfast, and here Valentine brought a volume of “ Telemachus ” to his sister Lou, and, sitting down by her, began to read aloud, with much mouthing and a particularly bad accent.
“You sce, Miss Graham," said Mrs. Henfrey, casting a reproachful glance at him, “this young gentleman makes no stranger of you.”
I said, truly enough, that I was glad of it; and she was quite right. We might have been staying there a year for
difference we made in
any of their arrangements or any of their gentle, easy household ways.
Valentine remarked that Giles had threatened not to take him to France that year unless he would improve his French, and he stumbled through a page or two, being continually corrected by Lou.
“ It's perfectly abominable,” she exclaimed, “ you will pronounce every e impartially, and how often do I tell you not to divide the words."
Valentine groaned—“What with your being so particular, and this fellow being such a shocking muff, it is too much for my spirits. Now then— Mais dans votre bonheur souvenez vous du malheureux Narbal et ne cessez jamais de m'aimer. Quand il eut achevé ces paroles je l'arrosai de mes larmes (ugh!): de profonds soupirs m'empêchaient de parler (hang this fellow, he's always blubbering !) et nous nous embrassions en silence.' Miss Graham, did you ever read • Telemachus' through ?”
“I shall not tell you ; that might rob the story of its thrilling interest."
“Well, I can't stand much more of this sobbing and crying. Homer himself is bad enough, and Pope makes him worse. They cry quarts :'
- Tears his cheeks bedewed,
Tom and Mr. Brandon now came in.
“Ah !” said Aunt Christie, partly addressing them, “and these are the classics, ye see—these are what ye spend your young lives, all of you, in getting a smattering of.”
“ But it must be done,” answered Valentine, “ and as this fellow waters all the strangers with his tears, I really am afraid he will pour out such a flood if he meets his father, that the consequences to that old buffer will be serious."
“A mere smattering,” repeated Aunt Christie, nodding at them; “and so, as they can't bear to feel that all their time has been wasted, they pretend afterwards to think highly of the classics ; though they know better. Why, what's in this Homer that they make such a work about? What's Achilles but a sort of glorified navvy? He kills his meat as well as his man. Priam runs åway at first (that I never could get over), and what's it all for ? Why, two women, neither of whom is any better than she should be."
“ You shall write another Shorter Catechism,” said Mr. Brandon, " and we shall all be bound to learn it.”
“ First question," said Tom, blandly: “Where is Scotland situated ? Answer: At the top of England."
" Ay, indeed, and ye are very right,” said the old aunt, laughing.