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arrangements were subject to the control and permission of the lady of the house.
"Very nice amiable woman," said Cuthbert, after the party had left the room; "so natural —eh—so unaffected."
Sniggs and I exchanged looks.
"What remarkably fine hair she has," said Sniggs somewhat theatrically, sipping his third glass of punch.
Cuthbert did not see the point of Galen's observation, which conveyed to my mind and that of Merman (who waited to walk home with the apothecary) all he meant it should, as regarded what the Lakers would call the "universality of her naturalness." In fact, my poor brother was of so easy a disposition, and so much readier to admit than dispute, that it never once entered his head that the ringlets which wantoned over Mrs. Brandyball's forehead were other than indigenous; and as neither Sniggs nor myself felt at all desirous to mar the serenity with which he seemed inclined to view all the schoolmistress's perfections, or fatigue him with a discussion upon the peculiar merits of the "soft illusion" with which she contrived to set off her somewhat matured charms, we allowed him to continue in his state of credulous blessedness, from which it would have been downright barbarity to disturb him.
"Will any one tell me what o'clock it is?" said Cuthbert. "It is almost time for bed— dear, dear—what a deal of trouble one takes in getting up and going to sleep—it is always the same thing over and over again—just do me the kindness to ring the bell—thank you—that—ah —is not that my pocket-handkerchief on the floor ?—yes, thank you—oh, Hutton, are you there ?—well—ah—it's only to wheel me to my room. Good night, good night, Sniggs — no fear about Tom's eye—eh?"
"None in the least, Sir," said Sniggs.
"Have you thought any more of what I got Hutton to write to you about?" said Cuthbert. "Kitty's ancle-bone—I forgot to talk to you about it—you'll be here to-morrow—come soon, and if you have time we'll have one game of chess before luncheon. Good night, Gilbert— good night, Mr.—psha—dear—Mr. Merman."
And away was he wheeled—having again invited Sniggs to chess and, par consequence, to luncheon. Well! I cannot help it; I suppose it must be so.
"Come Sniggs," said I, "let us finish the
"What!" said Sniggs, "you are in the jugular vein to-night, Sir."
I laughed, and should have laughed more if Sniggs had not made the same wretched pun a hundred times before. Merman did not see any joke in it, but talked of ringing for his great-coat, inasmuch as it was desperately cold in the hall, and he had a cough, and Fanny desired him to take care of himself. I rang the bell, and the coat and cloak were brought, and my guests packed up for departure. I shook hands with both; as Merman was leaving the room he turned suddenly back and said,
"Do you expect me at dinner to-morrow?"
Now I ask the best tactician in the world what answer I could give to such a question but that which I did?
"Too happy to see you."
That I was sincere in saying so, I cannot assert, and yet the invitation, or rather the admission, to my house was sincerely offered. I have already said I disliked Merman; but those who were loved by those whom / loved, were fond of him and enjoyed his society: so that although, as directly relating to Merman and myself, that which I said was not true—still, as affecting the pleasure and amusement of others upon whom my regards were reflected from her who was all the world to me, I conscientiously said that I should be happy to see him. "For their sakes" was the mental reservation. However, as he was to come, and I could not hope to enjoy my much-desired domestic meal while Mrs. Brandyball stayed, I resolved upon having Wells of the party, and accordingly begged Merman, who would in all probability see him before I should in the morning, to ask him to join us; still, I admit wondering to myself how the reverend gentleman came to permit the affair between Fanny and the Lieutenant to linger on so long without coming to a decision. My case had been settled in a fifth part of the time, although I had never—at least I do not think I ever had—made any such manifestations of devotion to Harriet as the Lieutenant has been exhibiting during the last four or five months.
This circumstance brought to my mind the often-repeated axiom of my reverend friend with regard to early marriages, even without the actual possession of fortune, and the singular concatenation of circumstances by which, in my own case, his anticipations, couleur de rose, had been realized; and that again brought to my recollection a most ungenerous and ungracious comparison on my part between the actual state of my present circumstances, and the probabilities of what would have occurred if I had missed my brother on the day of his return, or if, by any unforeseen circumstances, he had lost the fortune he possessed; in which case Harriet and I should have been living upon a much more moderate