« PreviousContinue »
zebra, because so called by Mr. Vilette, four monkeys " of sorts," and a couple of gray parrots, with shrill voices and excellent lungs.
Such a scene was never represented atSandown cottage as was enacted on this extraordinary day; for strange as were the adjutants, horrible as was the snake, odious as were the monkeys, uncouth as were the goats, and noisy as were the parrots, —the kitmagars and coolies, superintended by Mr. Rice, the nabob's own man, were, to the quiet European establishment assembled, more horrible, more strange, more odious, more uncouth, and more noisy.
First the birds were to be fed—a rabbit or two were to be caught for the rattlesnake—failing of which, a fine fowl ready prepared for an excellent entrte at dinner was hastily applied to the purpose. A charming portion of bread and milk just ready for Miss Fanny's supper was whipped up for the parrots; the zebra took fright at the goats, and broke loose into the kitchen garden, while one of the monkeys, in search of provender, skipped over the head of a maid servant, who was standing at the hall door with the younger daughter of the family in her arms, and having nearly knocked down both nurse and child, whisked up stairs, and hid itself under one of the beds in the nursery.
Such screamings, such pokings and scratchings with brooms and brushes, such squallings of children, such roarings of gardeners and keepers, such agonies of the terrified mother, such horrors of the agitated husband, such squallings of babes, such chattering of servants, in Malabar, Hindostanee, Cingalese, and every other jumbled language of the East, never were seen or heard; and it was near nine o'clock before Jackoo was secured, on the pinnacle of the best bed room chimney pot, and carried down to his proper lodging, amongst the other beauties of Nature, or that peace was restored in the house, or dinner ready for the family.
"Well, my angel," said Burton, as he sipped a glass of wine; "it is all over now—how calm and comfortable every thing seems—one really should occasionally suffer a few little inconveniences, to render the even tenour of our life the more agreeable."
"I care nothing for the noise, it is rather good fun," said Mary; " only I am worried to death about the children. I really do not see what's to be done."
"My sweet girl," replied the affectionate Burton, " every care will be taken of these animals, the men are here expressly for the purpose: and no danger can possibly accrue."
At this moment a most terrific noise was heard in the anteroom, and a maid servant, pale with terror, rushed into the dinner parlour without the smallest ceremony or preparation, and exclaimed in a shrill tone—" Ma'am, Ma'am, his leg is broken!"
"Whose leg?" said Mrs. Burton, somewhat philosophically, recollecting that the only he she cared about in the world had not been in harm's way, but was sitting opposite to her with both his legs safe under the dinner-table.
"The gardener, ma'am, Thomas, the"
"How, when, where V exclaimed Burton.
"You shall hear immediately, sir," said Mr. Rice, chargi d'affaires of Mr. Danvers, who entered the apartment, attended by the kitmagar, not to explain the accident so much as to complain of the conduct of the gardener, who, anxious to ascertain how birds four yards and a half high contrive to roost at night, had ventured into their dormitory, and consequently received a kick from one of their tremendous legs, which had the effect of breaking his, and bringing him upon his back; after which, by his own account, the lively creature performed a sort of dance upon his chest, which, though extremely graceful to look at, it was by no means salutary to endure.
"I will tell you, sir," repeated Mr. Rice, "or perhaps Vinkitachalum will." i
"Yes, Saab," said the kitmagar, who was actually in charge of the birds, and who was dressed in full costume, with the yellow streak of high caste upon his forehead. "Misser Garner come pip in de horse-house, see birds winky, winky; bird hear noise, him kick Misser Garner —because why—why because—bird did not know —pretty bird—bote pretty—Saab."
"And the man's leg is broken ?" said Burton.
"Acha, Saab—him crack in de middle—because why—why because—bird's leg him two times strong as Misser Garner's leg—him kill a little child two times before now, Saab."
"Good Heavens I" exclaimed Mrs. Burton, whose proper feelings were roused by this horrible precedent for the quiet commission of infanticide.
"But we must see about the gardener," said Burton; "desire them to send the carriage immediately for Mr. Kilman, and"
"The carriages have been removed, sir," said the butler, " to make room for the birds."
"Well, then, let horses be sent, and beg Mr. Kilman immediately to come and attend the poor fellow, who is doubtless suffering torment from the accident."
"I don't think it is extremely painful, sir," said Mr. Rice, with infinite composure; "for on the voyage I met with a similar accident, from one of my master's Cashmire goats, and it really is more in idea than in reality."
"Oh! those goats," groaned Mrs. Burton, at the top of the table, in an under tone, inaudible below the salt.
"Well, well, at all events, send off," said Burton; "and take care that nobody disturbs the birds again, or goes near them; without some very strict caution we shall have more accidents, depend upon it."
The domestics retired, all discontented in the highest degree; Rice thought that sufficient respect was not paid him—he could only get tallow candles and port wine in the butler's room, which had such an effect upon his feelings, that he resolved to proceed to his master at Cheltenham the next day. Vinkitachalum thought it cruel to complain of his birds merely for breaking a man's leg; endeavouring at the same time, with all the eloquence of Orientalism, to prove that so far from complaining at the fracture of his limb, he ought, if he had a spark of gratitude in his composition, to have returned thanks to Heaven that his life had been spared under the circumstances.
On the other hand—so differently do different people estimate the same thing—the agitated spider-brusher, who had first rushed into the room, thought that the bird ought instantly to be killed for hurting her sweetheart, and felt that sending for only one doctor to set his leg was a mark of excessive cruelty; and the butler, who cared more for the regularity of the service than any thing else, joined with the cook in execrating both men and things which could have conduced to leave a second course chilling upon the table, and have obviated the necessity of uncorking a second bottle of claret.
Peace, however, was again restored; Mr. Kilman in due time arrived, the fracture was reduced, and so far all went well; except, indeed, that the gardener had been hired by Burton at enormous wages, from his knowledge of pineries, for the express purpose of producing, if possible, finer, larger, and heavier fruit than his grace the neighbouring duke; and that the two months' confinement, consequent upon the kick, put an end to all hopes of aid from him in the pursuit; while prudence, on the other hand, dictated that a second scientific gardener exclusively to superintend pine-apples would be too expensive. After a short deliberation, the pines were for the present season abandoned, and Mr. and Mrs. Burton obliged to satisfy themselves with the prospect of what might be done in another.
When the morning arrived, Burton and his wife, as was their constant custom, and is indeed