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The intervening month had passed much as such months pass in families; and the quietude of the house was seldom disturbed, except by the occasional invasion of one or two of the Cashmires into the drawing room, to the imminent danger of jars, busts, and lookingglasses, or a temporary elopement of one of the adjutants to a distant part of the county. These evils, however, were removed, and the nuisance abated, by a discovery made on the part of Mr. Danvers, that his snake had been exiled: partly in revenge for this slight, and partly with a view to carry a somewhat important point of his own, he determined upon the strange, and with him somewhat unusual, measure of giving his rare specimens of natural history to a lady of high rank, who had happened to express in his hearing an affection for such curiosities.
Mr. Danvers had a vulgar mind, and, ignorant of the ways of more refined society, fondly imagined that paying a deference to the wife of a great man was a certain mode of obtaining the consideration of her husband: whether his gross view of the thing were correct or not I do not pretend to know; but most true it is, that, vastly to the relief of the Burtons, the menagerie was by special order removed from Sandown, much in the order it arrived, after having, by its temporary stay there, blighted our hero's fondest hopes—endangered his darling child and its exemplary mother—lamed his gardener for life —exterminated his aviary—and completely destroyed his flower garden.
Still resolved to keep on "never minding" it; VOL. III. S
conscious of possessing every earthly comfort within themselves, they looked forward to the day when they might, by the most assiduous attention to Mr. Danvers himself, obliterate from his mind any unpleasant recollections of neglect towards his animals; and Mrs. Burton, with the beforementioned miniature in her hand, almost longed for the time when she might welcome her handsome uncle with the salmon-coloured frogs and the pink-tied tail.
In due time the day of his arrival came, and the hours after breakfast seemed to creep instead of flying, till five o'clock; shortly after which a carriage drove to the door, followed by a hackchaise and pair.
In the first vehicle sat Mr. Frumpton Danvers himself, attended by his own man, Rice; on the dicky were two Indian servants en costume. The top of the carriage was crowned with an imperial, the back of it encumbered by two large trunks. The chaise contained an incalculable quantity of luggage, and an English livery servant, who was completely wedged in by the requisite etceteras for a person of Mr. Danvers's habits and standing.
Mary's heart beat, and she was puzzling herself as to how far she might go with propriety towards warmly receiving so handsome a relative, when the drawing-room door opened, and leaning upon Burton's arm (who had gone out to receive him), appeared the object of all her speculations.
She beheld an old man, considerably bent by years, with yellow cheeks, white lips, and black teeth; a few gray hairs strayed around his head, having escaped the confinement of a minute pigtail, which stuck over his shoulder just under his left ear. He was dressed in a blue coat, with a bilious-looking double-breasted calico waistcoat, pale nankeen breeches, saffron-coloured silk stockings, professing to be white, and a pair of little nankeen gaiters over shoes, with buckles in them: he was, in short, a very fair specimen of that class of returned qui-hi's; individuals of which may be seen any fine spring day, trying to weather the windy corner of Cavendish Square; but as completely different from what Mary had fancied, as his manner was from what she had hoped.
"Well, ma'am," said the old gentleman, gently pushing her away from him, she having, in the ardour of her feelings, rushed into his arms; "well, ma'am, and how d' ye do, eh—pretty well 1—Deucedly altered since I saw you last— not so tall as I expected—your mother sent me your picture—cursed humbugs those painting fellows are—eh 1"
Mary recollected the picture of the beau with the bouquet, and felt half inclined to join in the censure which the old gentleman levelled at the artists.
"So, ma'am," said he, " you did not like my snake, I hear, eh! nor those beautiful birds I sent you."
Unprepared for an attack at the moment of his arrival, Mary hesitated for an answer.
"I don't care, ma'am; you need not try to make a speech; I did not want you to have 'em, I hope my people paid for their keep; it shows what fools there are in the world; I meant them to have been yours: now I've given 'em away to somebody else; it don't matter, I dare say, to you; some people don't like snakes; there's no accounting for taste, eh?"
"My mother, sir," said Mary—
"Ah, your mother was a fool, and I dare say you're not much better! I always told her so;— she had a very great respect for my opinions."
"Why, sir!" said Burton,
"Oh don't make a fuss, sir; when you know me longer, you'll know me better, perhaps: I don't care a cowrie for the snakes—never did— did not know what to do with 'em, or I shouldn't have thought of giving them to you—there's an end of that. Well,—isn't your name Mary, eh?"
"It is, sir."
"So you have had a dead child, Mary; eh ?— great nonsense that, ma'am—Rice told me a rigmarole about my snake; what had my snake to do with your child, eh?"
Mary was overcome with the extraordinary abruptness of Mr. Danvers: and Burton seeing that she was so, caught up the conversation by remarking that one of his children had nearly been destroyed by it.
"Stuff!—I don't believe a syllable of it; all trash—gammon—like the story of the squirrel in the Gentleman's Magazine, or the lie of Nic. Scull, the surveyor '*
"Dr. Mead believed in the power, sir, and I -"
"And who the devil, sir, was Dr. Mead? and why the devil, sir, should Dr. Mead know more tibout the matter than you or I? What does it signify? Don't let us talk about it—eh 1—Snug house you have got;—cursed bad all these jigamaree ornaments, eh ?—hired it so, I suppose, eh 1"
"No, sir, my own taste; I"
"Oh, my! you've got a taste—eh! and a genius, I suppose, eh, Miss Minikin 1"—patting Mrs. Burton under the chin.
"We are satisfied, sir," said Mary, " and contentment is itself a treasure."
"So it is, my little preacher," said Danvers; "but how do you pass your time, eh 1 I don't see any card-tables; have you got a billiardroom, eh?"
"No," said Burton, " sir, we play no cards."
"No cards! then I'm off—I'm off; I meant to have staid six weeks with you, but I could as soon live without smoking as without cards."
"Smoking!" mentally ejaculated Mrs. Burton.
I use this expression because I have found it in every novel which has been published for the last ten years—barring those splendid exceptions to all modern novels, Sir Walter Scott's; I do not profess to understand it, but I imagine it to mean an ejaculation which is not intended to be ejaculated, and which therefore is no ejaculation at all.
"Oh!" replied the master of the house, " we can easily make up a party for you at whist, sir.""That will do," said Danvers, " that will do; then I am your man for a month at least; however, I'll just change my dress—what time did you dine to-day, eh 1"
"We have not dined yet, sir," said Mary.