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“But they are not gone !” said my mother.

“ As completely,” said my father, “as if the note had lighted a candle. The last money in the house too, and which ought to have paid the butcher. That accounts, then, for Lobb's insolence about the tainted mutton."

“Well, well,” said my mother, "we shall soon get rid of Lobb after the drawing. The ticket is sure to come up a prize.”

“I wish it may!” said my father.

"It is sure to come up a prize,” repeated my mother, “for I dreamt three times running of the number.”

My father jumped up from his seat, and after pacing a few turns up and down the room, suddenly stopped short and addressed himself to himself in the mirror. “ If ever there was a minister deserved impeachment

if ever a chancellor of the exchequer who ought to have lost his head on the block — it was the man who first invented a mode of raising money by the encouragement of public gambling !” He then turned abruptly to my mother, and inquired whether the ticket was registered.

“ Yes, and the lottery was to be drawn on the 16th.” “ And this is the 18th,” said my father.

My mother instantly started up from her seat, and rang the bell, to know if the post had come in, and whether there were any letters.

“ Yes, one,” which Kezia had laid on the kitchen shelf, where, in the unusual bustle of the morning, it had been forgotten. It was addressed to my mother, who seized the letter, broke the seal, glanced over the contents, and dropping the paper from her hand, sank, gasping, on the sofa — the blankness of her face sufficiently indicating the nature of the intelligence.

“ Then the money is gone!” exclaimed my father.

My mother sobbed, and covered her face with her hands ; Kezia wrung hers in mute despair. Our evil stars were verily shooting ones, and were practising on our devoted family as at a target !

Well, what is this new disaster?” inquired the voice of Uncle Rumbold, who had just entered the parlour, but stopped short at two paces from the door, clutching his beard in his right hand.

“ Nothing, nothing,” replied my father, forgetting his own vexation in the affliction of my mother only a lost bank-note.”

" What, another robbery?”

“ No,” replied my father, “ thrown into the fire blown out of window - washed down the sink

-a mere trifle.” “ A trifle !” exclaimed my mother, unwilling to forego any benefit to be derived from her brother's sympathy — "our last twenty pounds in the world — intended to pay the butcher.”

But her indirect appeal had no effect. Liberal of advice and personal exertion, Uncle Rumbold, from habit and inclination, was slow in drawing his purse-strings. The amount, he admitted, was no trifle; but sometimes a loss became a gain in the end, by teaching those who had neglected their twenties to care of their fifties. This new misfortune, however, seemed gradually to touch him, for shortly afterwards, having deliberately seated himself, he addressed

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his unlucky relatives as follows :- “Sister, I have been thinking over your various troubles, and have come to the conclusion, brother-inlaw, that, what with your loss of the parish appointment and other drawbacks, your affairs are, or soon will be, in any thing but a prosperous condition. Such being the case, I feel called upon, as a near relative, to step a little beyond my original intentions for the family benefit, and especially as regards my twin nephews, though I trust I have sufficiently testified my regard for them already by that invaluable present, the Light of Nature. However, as I said before, I have determined to stretch a point, but on the condition that what I do shall be done in my own way.”

“ I am sure,” said my mother, we shall be truly grateful for your kindness in any way."

“ I am not so certain of that,” replied Uncle Rumbold : “ however, what I propose is this, to relieve you altogether of the care and maintenance of one of those two boys. As soon, therefore, as my godson can run alone, I am ready to adopt him; to board, lodge, and educate-in short, to provide for him through life at my own cost and charge, and of course according to my own system and views.”

Here he paused, expecting an answer, whereas his proposition was met by a dead silence. My father, taken by surprise, was at a loss what to say, and my mother looked absolutely aghast. She had not forgotten certain features of the system alluded to, and in her mind's eye saw her poor offspring, now climbing a tree for his food, at the risk of his neck, and now thrown doglike into a river, to sink or swim as might happen -- in short, undergoing all the hard discipline associated with a young Indian savage, or child of nature.

“ Humph! I see how it is,” said Uncle Rumbold; “ but I do not press an immediate answer. Perhaps you will make up your minds before my departure. I have ordered a chaise at five o'clock, which will carry me to Wisbeach, where I shall meet the coach ;- - no words ; my arrangements once made are never altered, and, let me add, my offers once refused are never repeated.”

So saying, he rose and walked off to make his preparations for his departure; whilst my mother took the opportunity of expressing her sentiments to her helpmate on the godfatherly offer.

“No, I never will consent to it,” she said — “never, never! To have a child of mine climbing trees, and swimming ponds, and sleeping in the open air, like a gypsy, or Peter the Wild Boy! And taught bird's nesting, and tomahawking, and all sorts of savage tricks, instead of the accomplishments of a young gentleman - and, at any rate, dressed up more like a Guy Fawkes than a Christian — and with a beard, when he's old enough, like a Jewish rabbi, Oh! it would break my heart, it would indeed, George! to have a boy of mine begin the world with such a prospect before him!”

“ Well, well,” said my father, “so be it. I am as loth as you are to have a son of mine bred up into a bearded oddity, like his uncle, or old Martin Van Butchell. So go and see to the dinner, and in the interim I will invent the best excuse I can to offer to my redoubtable kinsman."

Thus comforted, my mother applied herself to the arrangement of the dinner, which, thanks to what Kezia called the “supperfluities” of the night before, presented an unusual variety and profusion of the delicacies of the season. The meal, nevertheless, passed off very drearily. The spirits of the presiding pair were weighed down by the communication they had to make, and the certain resentment that awaited their decision ; whilst the temper of Uncle Rumbold himself was still ruffled by a short but sharp argument on somnambulism with Mr. Postle in the surgery. The conversation, such as it was, had fagged into silence, when the post-chaise drew up at the door.

"Now then, sister,” cried Uncle Rumbold, rising from his seat, "now then, brother-in-law, for your ultimatum. Am I to have the boy or not?”

“Why then, brother," began my mother, but her voice failed and died away in an inarticulate croak.

“ The truth is,” said my father, “we are deeply sensible of your kindness, and sorry to decline it. If the children had not been twins, we might have felt and decided otherwise; but we really cannot find in our hearts to separate, so early in life, a pair of brothers, that nature herself has so closely united.”

“That's enough !” said Uncle Rumbold. “ A plain offer has met a plain refusal — no offence on either side; but, by my beard, if ever I offer to adopt a child again—” What followed was inaudible or suppressed : he hastily shook hands with his relatives, and hurried into the gaping vehicle, wherein he threw himself back, as if determined on sulks and silence. In another moment, however, his face and beard appeared at the open window.

“God bless you, sister,” he said; “ brother-in-law, God bless you, though how you are to be blessed, is more than I know, for you will never be guided by the light of nature!”

Every word of this leave-taking was overheard by Kezia, who with outstretched neck and straining ears listened eagerly for his least syllable. But those words were his last, — not a breath about the dear twins, his own nephews. The whip cracked, the horse-shoes clattered, the wheels rattled; and the few boys who had assembled set up a cheer for the Grand Mogul. The last chance was gone. In another minute, the black and yellow body, which contained Uncle Rumbold, was out of sight ; and with it vanished, alas! all the hopes that he had engendered!

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CHAPTER XXI.

A DEMONSTRATION.

“ So much for relatives !” said my mother, as she poured out the tea, and handed a cup of the beverage to my father. "My precious brother, who would not shave off a hair of his beard for love or money, will now cut off his own nephews without a scruple!”

“ Nothing more likely,” said my father.

“Do you really think then,” inquired my mother, " that he will leave them quite out of his will ?”

She waited in vain for an answer; and at last obtained, in lieu of it, another query, far wide of her mark. Throughout his troubles and vexations, my father's mind had been haunted by a vague sense of a something amiss; but his thoughts had always been diverted elsewhere before his fears could assume a definite shape ; now, however, his misgivings, after many gleamings and vanishings, suddenly recurred to him, and taking a distinct character prompted the abrupt question " Where is Catechism Jack ?”

Nobody knew. In the crowding events of the day he had not been missed; there had been no medicine to deliver, so that his services were not in requisition, and even Mr. Postle could not tell what had become of him. On comparing notes, he had not been seen by any one since an early hour in the morning, when he had slipped out at the surgery door. Here was a new cause of anxiety for my father; if any

mischance happened to the idiot, the blame in the present temper of the parish was certain to be visited on the master, who had taken the halfwitted boy from the care of the old dame, and become responsible for his safety and welfare. Many were the conjectures that were hazarded on the cause of his absence. In my father's opinion, Jack had gone on a visit to his former guardian, and was spending the day with her: my mother, prone to dream of disasters, at once pronounced him drowned in the river; Kezia’s fancy sent him tramping after a recruiting party which had passed through the village ; and the assistant supposed that he was playing truant and chuck-farthing with other young dogs as idle as himself. The last guess was most probably the true one ; however, in the midst of their speculations, his voice was clearly recognised, and in another moment Jack, in an unusual state of excitement, burst into the parlour, round which he pranced with a sort of chimney-sweep's caper, exclaiming with ecstasy, “The tongs and bones! The tongs and bones !”

“Why, Jack," asked my father, “ what is the matter with you ?”

“ The tongs and bones,” said Jack, standing still for a moment, and then resuming his dance and his song.

Speak, idiot !” cried Mr. Postle, seizing the boy by the shoulder and shaking him. “ What is the meaning of this mummery ?”

“O don't, pray don't beat me,” whined Jack. “I will say my catechism."

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“ Poor fellow !” said my father. “ Be gentle with him.”

“ Huzza! The tongs and bones!” shouted Jack, extricating himself by a sudden twist from the grasp of the assistant; and darting through the parlour door, and across the hall, into the kitchen, to the infinite horror of Kezia, who really believed, as she declared afterwards, that the boy had been bitten by “ a rapid dog." Here he continued his capering and his cry; till observing the table with food on it, by one of those abrupt transitions common to weak intellects, his thoughts fastened on a new object; and at once subsiding into his usual demeanour, and seating himself at the board, he asked Kezia to give him his supper. The maid-of-all-work immediately complied ; and as after some minutes he continued to eat and drink very quietly, Mr. Postle returned to the surgery and my parents to the parlour.

“ The tongs and bones," muttered my mother as she resumed her seat at the tea-table, “ what on earth can it mean?”

“ Why, I suspect it means,” said my father, “ that the tag-rag and bobtail of the village have been treating some quarrelsome couple with what is called rough music; and Jack has been present and perhaps performing at the concert."

This explanation was so satisfactory to both parties, that Jack and his chorus were speedily forgotten ; and the pair had resumed their quiet confidential intercourse, when Mr. Postle entered, with an ominous face, and placed in my father's hands something which he said he had just found upon the counter. It was a scrap of dirty coarse paper, folded note-fashion, and containing only the following words : “ Let the Dockter and Fammily keep in Dores to nite And look to yure Fastnings. A Frend.” “Well, and what do you make of this document?” asked my

father. “ That it is what it professes to be,” answered the assistant, looking uneasily at my mother, as if embarrassed by her presence.- “ I will put the thing technically. There is, you know, sir, a certain local epidemic in the parish, of a very malignant type, and attended with extensive irritation. Now this party intends to say that probably there will be an eruption."

“ I understand,” said my father, with a nod of intelligence—“ but doubt very much if the disease will take that active turn."

“ There is no doubt at all,” said Mr. Postle. “I know a party who has been round amongst the infected, on purpose to feel their pulse; and the symptoms are of a most unfavourable character. For instance, tongue hot — breath acrimonious and offensive - voice loud and harsh — with the use of expressions bordering on furious mania.”

A mere temporary fever," said my father, “ that will pass off without any dangerous paroxysm."

“I wish it may,” said Mr. Postle, “and without a nocturnal crisis.”

My mother's head during this mysterious discussion had turned mechanically from speaker to speaker, as if moved by internal clockwork; but she could gather no more information from their faces than from their words; and as the consultation might be a long one, and she hated medical matters, she briefly intimated to my father that she should go up-stairs to the children, and left the room.

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