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CHAPTER III.

I Confess that I went to bed, after having received Sniggs' account of Tom, and after having transmitted it in my own language to Cuthbert, with an infinitely stronger hope of getting some tolerable rest than I had entertained for many previous nights. I had done what I felt to be my duty to a brother, who, eccentric as he might be, had always shown me the greatest kindness, and of whose mutability of disposition towards me I might, even now, have formed the most groundless and unjustifiable anticipations; and, in so doing, had conquered a pride and prejudice which I ought probably never to have entertained in such a case.

The moment my mind was a little relieved under these circumstances, my thoughts naturally directed themselves to an object which most especially claimed an undivided interest, but which the agitating events of the last few days had separated—I mean, the state, condition, and prospects of my son and heir. What his inheritance might be it seemed somewhat difficult to calculate; but I thought, young as he was, that it was time to consult with Harriet as to the steps to be taken with regard to his baptism, and whether, if Tom should happily recover, I might venture to remind Cuthbert of his promise of standing godfather.

Nothing in the world, I am convinced, is more seriously or more constantly worrying than the possession of a very near relative with a very whimsical disposition. The moment I made my suggestion to Harriet, which I did dandling the dear little baby in my arms—only think—she instantly started the difficulty which existed in taking the first step: if we did not remind Cuthbert of the promise he had made, he might take the trouble to be offended with us; and if we did jog his memory, the chances were a hundred to one that he would be in as great a passion as he could muster because we bored him on the subject. Then there was to be another godfather and a godmother; now we thought over one or two eligible men for Cuthbert's brothersponsor, in case he stood; but then we dare not whisper our wishes to any one of them until we had taken counsel from the nabob: and, as for a godmother, we did not know where to turn for one. The Nubleys were away, and had let their house to a sporting gentleman, with three or four questionable nieces, or cousins, or sisters, or something of that sort; so that neither Mr. Nubley on the one hand, nor Mrs. Nubley on the other, were available. Mrs. Wells might perhaps officiate; but then—in short, all seemed to depend upon Cuthbert's fiat, and Cuthbert and his fiat depended on Tom's recovery.

As far as this very important event went, it was my good fortune to receive a favourable account soon after ten o'clock: things looked better, and Sniggs had hopes, which, however, were tempered conditionally, "if" so and so happened in the course of the day, and " if" so and so did not happen in the night, "we might anticipate a favourable result;" which, if I had not felt sanguinely, and had been by any means jocosely inclined, I should have construed into a sort of sage declaration on the part of Sniggs, that, under all circumstances, it was his opinion that if poor Tom did not die, he would recover.

Nevertheless there was hope—and a brighter hope than had beamed a day before; and, as Sniggs was good enough to inform me in a postscript, that he would be at Ashmead as usual at one—an hour at which he was as certain to appear as Monk Lewis's popular ghost was to exhibit itself in its immediate opposite in the twenty-four hours, I felt convinced that he was in his own mind satisfied of the chances, at least, in the young uncouth patient's favour.

Having talked placidly with Harriet, played my child into a squalling fit, and received a sort of reproachful look from the nurse for having jumped it about at much too violent a rate for its age and size—for I had not at that period any just notion of the relative strength of materials, I proceeded to strengthen my outward man with breakfast; at which time the post arrives, and which, by an admirable contrivance of the General Post Office, under the actual, though not nominal guidance of one of the worthiest of men and most efficient public officers that ever lived, does me the favour to bring to my hand my London and my cross-country letters all at once, "simultaneously," as poor Nubley would have muttered while picking his dear old chin, so that my news flowed in from all quarters, if I had any to receive from more than one.

My bag arrived—was deposited, unlocked— one letter from London about furniture—one from Winchester about books—one from Bath, about what, I wonder?—a strange hand, evidently a woman's, a long, delicate, nearly unintelligible scrawl—a seal I know not—who can this be ?—Bath—not Cuthbert? Yes, thought I, it is from my dear indolent Indian, who, in the

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