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his temper was soured by ill health; while, unfortunately for his associates, his immense fortune gave him, at least he thought it did, the power and authority to display all its little varieties in their full natural vigour.
He was the meanest and most liberal man alive, the gentlest and the most passionate, alternately wise and weak, harsh and kind, bountiful and avaricious, just as his constitution felt the effects of the weather or of society—he was, in short, an oddity, and had proved himself through life constant but to one object alone—his own aggrandizement: in this he had succeeded to his heart's content; and had at seventy-four amassed sufficient wealth to make him always extremely uneasy, and at times perfectly wretched.
When it is recollected that Mrs. Burton was his only existing relative, that he was far advanced in years, infirm, and almost alone in the world, and that he had sought her out and addressed a kind and affectionate letter to her, it may be easily supposed that she was not a little flattered and pleased by the event. She communicated to the dear partner of all her joys the unexpected incident. He entered immediately into her feelings, saw with her the prospects which the affections of this old gentleman opened to their view, and, without a moment's delay, resolved, as she had indeed suggested, that an invitation should be despatched to Mr. Danvers to visit Sandown Cottage.
The days which passed, after this request was, with all due formality, sealed with the Burton arms, addressed and conveyed to the post, were consumed in a sort of feverish anxiety. Mary had never known her uncle, never of course seen him, and the only thing intended to bear a resemblance to his person with which her eyes had been gratified, was a full-sized miniature, painted when he was twenty-one years of age, by a second-rate artist, representing him with his hair extremely well powdered, rolled in large curls over his ears, and tied behind with pink ribands, his cheeks blooming like the rose, his solitaire gracefully twining round his neck and falling over his shoulders, well contrasted with a French gray coat, edged with silver, and adorned with salmon-coloured frogs; a sprig of jessamine sprang from his button hole, and a diagonal patch of court plaster rested upon his off cheek : by this record of his appearance, Mrs. Burton had regulated her notions of his attractions; and whenever she heard her rich uncle Danvers spoken of, and his wealth descanted upon, she sighed with the Countess's page, " he is so handsome, Susan!"
In four days, however, the anxious couple received the following letter in reply to their invitation, which, as it is perhaps characteristic, I have transcribed verbatim et literatim from the original.
"Ibbotson's Hotel, Vere Street, Cavendish Square, April —, .
"MY DEAR NIECE,
"1 duly received your's, dated the 5th inst. and have to acknowledge same. You might have spared your compliments, because as the proverb says, ' Old birds are not caught with chaff.'—It will please me very much to go and see you and your husband: hope you have made a suitable match; at the same time cannot help observing that I never heard the name of Burton, except as relating to strong ale, which I do not drink because it makes me bilious. I cannot get to you yet, because I have promised my old friend General M'Cartridge to accompany him to Cheltenham, to drink the waters, which are recommended to me. I will perhaps go to you from Cheltenham the end of May, but I never promise, because I hate breaking a promise once made, and if I should find Cheltenham very pleasant, perhaps I shall not go to see you at all.
"I thank you for your attention certainly, but I hate to be under obligation; I have therefore directed my agent to send you down with great care my two adjutants, which 1 have brought home with vast trouble, together with the largest rattle-snake ever imported alive into England. I meant them as presents to the Royal Society, but they have no place to keep them in, and therefore I want you to take care of them, as you tell me you have space about your house.
"My kitmagar and a couple of coolies, or rather beasties, who have attended me to England, will look after them and keep them clean. The fact, that one of the adjutants is a cock, is satisfactory, and I am not without hopes of securing a breed of them to this country. I consider them a treasure, and I know by confiding them to you, I shall secure good treatment for them. You will allow the men to remain with them till further advice from your affectionate uncle,
"P. S. I am in hopes of being able to add two or three bucks from Cashmire to the collection."
"Bucks and adjutants, my dear?" exclaimed Mrs. Burton, looking at her husband, and laying down the letter.
"Goats and rattlesnakes, my love," replied Burton, taking it up, and beginning mechanically to reread it.—" Why, my angel, has your uncle got a menagerie?"
"I am sure I do not know, Mr. Burton," said his wife, quite alarmed at the approaching invasion of their quiet retreat by a selection from the plagues of the universe.—" What an extraordinary fancy!"
"Yes, Mary," said Burton, " it is certainly eccentric; but he is your uncle, my angel, and if he proposed to turn my paddock into playgrounds for a brace of elephants, I should consider it quite my duty to endeavour to accommodate myself to his wishes; the adjutants shall have the coachhouse to themselves, and we will send the carriages down to the inn; as for the rattlesnake—"
"Hideous monster!" exclaimed Mary.
"Curious pet," said Burton, " we must take care of him at all events, or he will fascinate little Emma's canary birds, and eat up Fanny's lap-dog."
"Do you know I dread that animal more than all?" said Mrs. Burton.
"And in your situation, Mary," said Burton, —by which we are to infer, that the said Mary was shortly expected to afford him a third pledge of affection—" What is to be done, dearest?"
"But now really, Tom, what are adjutants; and why put them into the coach-house?" asked Mary.
"They are birds," said Burton.
"Birds!" exclaimed the astonished lady, who had made up her mind to a couple of well dressed officers with an epaulette and strap a-piece; "if they are only birds, why not have their cage put either into our bed chamber, or into the dressing room?"
"Dressing room! cage!" exclaimed Burton; "why, my dear girl, they are fourteen feet high, if they are an inch, as ravenous as tigers, and kick like donkeys."
"Dear, dear!" murmured the affectionate Mary, " and the poor children, what will become of them 1"
"Never mind, my little woman," said the kind husband; "we shall soon get used to them, and at all events, if we are doing our duty to an old and respected relation of yours, I shall be satisfied."
All, however, that had been anticipated, did by no means equal the reality of the arrival of these hideous animals: in less than five days appeared in a caravan, the enormous brace of birds, the coiling snake, seven Cashmire goats, a Cape jackass, imagined by Mr. Danvers to be a