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course, remaining in the neighbourhood of her father and mother is extremely agreeable; but I see that poor dear Cuthbert, with all his kindnesses, conferred as they are in the oddest manner, is a bit of a bore to the ladies of the circle. Harriet, disliking the formality of calling him brother-in law,—which, on account of the differences in our ages, she does not approve,—and not venturing to address him as Cuthbert, has transformed him into a cousin, and "cousin" she always calls him. I heard Wells, after she had once used this endearing appellation, say to her, loud enough for me to hear it, " Harriet, don't you wish he was a cousin once removed?"
This naturally worries me. I am one of those few people in the world who see the faults and imperfections of my nearest relations and connexions, perhaps even more plainly than others; and I often wonder to myself, when I hear fathers extolling the eminent powers and abilities of their children, husbands puffing off the talents of their wives, wives speaking of the prodigious merits of their husbands, and whole families swearing to the excellence of everything said or done by any individual member of them. Probably if the late Mrs. Cuthbert were alive, we should hear her talking of the beautiful serenity of her husband's mind—such a quiet gentlemanly man—or quoting him, in comparison with somebody else, as a superior creature. Now, I can see, and can hear; and it is not because of our near connexion that I can shut my eyes to his failings.
One day I had been over to the Rectory to see Wells; and on my return, I found Cuthbert, as usual, extended at full length on a sofa by the drawing-room fire, Harriet and Fanny were working, and Mrs. Wells, who had come over to see them, was sitting, playing company, the family party having been increased by the arrival of Lieutenant Merman, whose name I have had occasion to mention before, and who, I really think, is caught by the bright eyes of my sisterin-law Fanny. Whether Wells is of the same opinion I cannot say, nor can I rightly calculate when the toddy-making season is likely to set in. He is a very constant visitor at Ashmead, or, at least, has been, since Fanny has been with us.
Contrary to my usual habit, for I contrive to make myself occupation of various sorts during the morning, I joined the little circle.
"Well, Gilbert," said my brother, stretching his limbs to their fullest extent, as if to wake himself, "have you been out?"
"Yes, to the parsonage," said I.
"Ah!" replied Cuthbert, "very cold, isn't it? Harriet, dear, just ring the bell—thanks—we have been very comfortable."
"I thought," said I, "you proposed a walk yourself."
"Yes," said Cuthbert, "I did—I had my great coat put on and my shawl wrapper—and meant to call on Mrs. Nubley—but I met him— and I asked him if Mrs. Nubley was at home, and he said no; so I—I came back again— Ah!"
Here a servant entered the room, responsive to the bell.
"Oh!" said Cuthbert, "tell Hutton to bring me a pocket-handkerchief." The man retired. "So I came back again—because I knew it must be dull for the ladies to be left alone—and here, thanks to them, I am quite at my ease, and having nothing on earth to do, I cannot do better than show my gratitude to them. Fanny, dear, give me that eau de Cologne—Ah!"
"I am sure, Mr. Gurney," said Mrs. Wells, "the girls ought to be greatly obliged to you."
"I think they are," said Cuthbert. "A man who has been abroad so long as I have has always something to communicate which is interesting. Oh—Hutton—get me my seal-ring. Harriet, love, I will beg you to seal that letter, which I got Nubley to write for me, about those air cushions. Capital invention that, Mrs. Wells."
"Very good, indeed," replied the lady.
"Ah!" said Cuthbert, "but what was I saying when Gilbert came in? Oh !—I wish somebody would recollect for me—it was"
"About the horses running away with the post-chaise," said Lieutenant Merman, who had not heard the story fifty times before, which the rest of the present company had.
"Ah!" said Cuthbert—" so it was—it is one of the earliest events of my life that I can remember —you weren't born or thought of, Gilbert, then. I forget if I ever told you"
"What," said I, "on Shooter's Hill?"
"Yes," replied Cuthbert, "that place beyond Blackheath, where there's the model of Severndroog—I never shall forget it—my poor father was with me. Something by the road-side frightened the off-horse, and away we went— down the hill at full speed—set the other horse off with him, and we thought—hey dear—thought we should be dashed to pieces."
"And how did you escape, Sir?" said the lieutenant.
"Oh!" replied Cuthbert, "when they got to the bottom of the hill the horses stopped of themselves—Ah!"
I perceived that Cuthbert—having sent for his handkerchief, bathed his temples with the eau de