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for the indiscretion by an extra show of attention; and therefore begged to recommend to her particular notice a cup which the servant had just brought in and put down; and in which there was something which I thought she would prefer, since it was evident she was a judge.
The mixture which I advocated, was a peculiar sort of punch, really not strong, but rich and agreeable; and which even Cuthbert, if anybody would take the trouble to pour it out for him, would not object to imbibe.
"Thank you Mr. Gurney," said the lady, " it is never too late to learn ; and although I seldom indulge in such combinations, your kindness is such that I find it quite impossible to resist your delicate attentions. I will have one glass."
The tumbler was returned, the lady sipped; and smiled, and smiled and sipped again: her eyes approved, even before her tongue had spoken.
"I fear," said Mrs. Brandyball, " the delightful weather which we have been enjoying during the last few days is drawing to a close. The moon's envelopment in that silvery mist augurs an approaching change, and threatens an accession of cadent humidity."
"Isn't that mist," said Kitty, " what the astrologers call a hayloft?"
This was fatal. Cuthbert, who was in a nap, with Kate's arm round his neck, heard it not. Merman was leaning his head on his hand, with his nose within three inches of Fanny's mouth, and heeded it not; but the eyes of Mrs. Wells, Harriet, Sniggs and myself met. What to do was the doubt of a moment: the struggle was ineffectual, and we burst into a fit of loud laughter. Mrs. Brandyball stared, Merman and Fanny were flurried, Kate tittered, and Cuthbert awoke.
It seemed useless to attempt anything like a restoration of order or tranquillity after this explosion about the astrologer and the hay-loft, and equally impossible to explain to Cuthbert, when he was awakened into consciousness, what had actually occurred; and accordingly Harriet, with an expressive look at me, rose from the table, not exactly as if wishing anybody else to follow her example, but at the same time fully expecting that her move would produce an adjournment—nor was she wrong; for our fair visitor, not exactly knowing the rules and regulations of the family, which were rather lax in the particular of " early to bed and early to rise," immediately quitted her seat—having, however, first finished her last tumbler of what in common parlance was remarkably strong punch. Kitty, who clung about her with what appeared to me a parasitical affectation of affection, said to her in a tone ill suited, as I thought, to her time of life and position in society—
"Oh, don't go, dear, yet—have another glass. I'm sure it will do you good."
"No, dearest," said Mrs. Brandyball, with one of her angelic smiles; "I always attend to the dictates of prudence. The draught is nectareous, but time wears on, and dear Mrs. Gurney is already fatigued."
"Yes, but," said Kitty, "you know you always have three or four glasses at home."
"Never mind, dear love," said Mrs. Brandyball, looking furious, endeavouring to free herself from the girl's embrace, and evidently wishing her—where — it might not be quite decorous here to mention.
The ladies retired; Mrs. Wells had gone home some time before, Wells having sent the carriage for her from the rectory after it had set him down: which violation of his promise to join us after the early dinner-party broke up, I, perhaps uncharitably, attributed to a want of the forbearance which Mrs. Brandyball had recently exhibited. The adieux of the children and Cuthbert occupied nearly a quarter of an hour, and during their progress Kate enumerated all the places which she would lionise in the morning with her dear governess; and having liberally detailed the programme of the performance, completely upset me by telling her visitor that it would take at least a week to see all the things worth seeing in the neighbourhood.
I must do Mrs. Brandyball the justice to say that she endeavoured, or seemed to endeavour, to moderate the energy of her fair pupil; and by mingling with her smiles, approving of the proposition, sundry deferential looks towards Harriet, who stood "pageing her heels" while the animated Miss Falwasser enlarged upon the loveliness of the coast, and the beauty of the drives, contrived to convey very evidently her feeling that the whole of the young lady's