Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

expressed her wishes with a sincerity and decision proportionate to Cuthbert's acknowledged affection for the children, and his gradually increasing concessions.

I repeat, 1 am not jealous of this; but I am not blind to the effect of the influence of these young people, who, although as I have ascertained, lamentably ignorant of the rudiments of education, are—at least I speak particularly of Kitty —full of low worldly cunning. I perceive in Cuthbert's manner to my wife less tenderness of feeling, less regard for her comforts, less deference to her wishes, than it exhibited previous to their invasion of my territory—if mine it can be called; and Harriet herself, I am sure, is sensible of the change, although she is too kind even to hint such a thing to me.

I must struggle with these feelings—I find myself growing irritable and querulous—I am not master of my own house.—Aye, there it comes again—is it my own house? Surely, while that is the question, Cuthbert should more carefully than anybody else in the world prevent my feeling how much I owe him, and how dependent, in point of fact, I am upon him. I must, however, check the growing dislike I feel for Kitty —her manner, her conversation, are repugnant to my notions of the attributes of anything so young; it seems to me that every suggestion she makes is founded upon calculation—every look at Cuthbert is studied—her dress, regulated generally by bad taste, is ill suited to her age, if not to her figure; and the very slip-off of her frock from the top of her left shoulder, meant to seem accidental and look negligent, is the result of a study of her attractions, which she fancies increased by the display. And yet this miniature Machiavel, who is at this moment leading Cuthbert about like a child, purposes to get into the Mediterranean through Behring's Straits, and tells us gravely that a quadruped is an animal that runs upon the ceiling with a great many legs. It is wonderful to see how much Nature has done for her, and how little, Art. To my mind, however, bipeds are more likely to interest her attention than quadrupeds at a not much later period of her life.

Dinner came—Mr. Wells came—the Lieutenant came—Tom dined at table because the explosion had lost him his regular dinner—and, for the first time, the two young ladies. I said nothing, but looked at Harriet, who made me understand in a moment that Cuthbert had desired it. We were crowded, and the girls had dined before; and Cuthbert, I thought, saw, not exactly that I was annoyed, but surprised, at the new arrangement; for he presently mentioned that, as poor Tommy had had no dinner, he had told Hutton to tell the butler to lay a cover for him; and that when he had done so, Kitty had said it would be very dull for her and Jane to be by themselves, and that she did not mind where she sat; "and," added he, "so I have put her close by me." And there they did sit, and so did /—not much satisfied with what I saw, but certainly not anticipating the coming events of the evening.

CHAPTER III.

I Am perfectly sure that the growth of affection, so generally admitted to be the inevitable result of juxtaposition and constant association between those whose tastes accord, whose feelings assimilate, and whose habits and principles are congenial, is neither so rapid nor so decided as the progress of dislike when once the sentiment has taken hold of one. I felt as I sat carving a huge haunch of mutton, which in our moderate establishment still maintained its place at headquarters, unbanished to the side-table, that I really was nothing more than purveyor to the party, and likened myself to one of those moun

tains of flesh who were wont to cut slices from
huge rounds of beef in a shop at the corner of
St. Martin's-court, and sell them—
"To every passing villager."
There were seven or eight people to be helped
to mutton, — of which seven or eight, my wife
and brother were the only two who had any
legitimate claim to places at the table. It is all
very true Mrs. Wells is a very nice woman, but
even she, I think, interferes more than is neces-
sary in my domestic affairs, and seems to impress
upon Harriet's mind that the mode in which
matters are managed at the Rectory is the only
system to be adopted and adhered to all over
the world. I hate boiled pork,—so does Harriet,
—a parsnip is my aversion, it reminds me of a
sick carrot. No matter—Mrs. Wells has instilled
into her daughter's mind the necessity of having
certain prescribed joints and dishes on certain
particular days in the week; and accordingly it
was but yesterday that I was taken by surprise
with an odious leg of boiled pork, accompanied
by a mixture resembling nothing but a dab of

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »