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"Hash, William," exclaimed Mrs. Abberly, holding up her hand in a menacing posture.
"And that course," continued the master of the house, " if there be a chance yet left of preserving the young man, it will be absolutely necessary to pursue."
"Tell me, then, for God's sake," said the colonel, deeply interested, and highly agitated, "what you propose should be our first measure."
"George, my love," exclaimed Mrs. Abberly to her husband, "will you be good enough to speak to Robert, he won't leave Sophy alone, and he don't mind me the least in the world."
"Robert, be quiet," thundered out his father in an awful tone.
"She won't give me any cherries, pa," said Robert.
"That's a story, now, Robert," cried the eldest girl, who was nearly ten years old, and was screwed in, and poked out, to look like a woman; with curls, and a necklace, and a dress exactly like her mother's, who was forty.
"I'm sure you have had more than Sophy,— only you are such a rude boy."
"Bless my heart!" said the colonel, half aside, and warming a little with the events, "I beg your pardon, what did you say you would advise, Mr. Abberly?"
"Decidedly this," said Abberly, " I"
"My love," interrupted Mrs. Abberly, once more, "is that port or claret near you? Dr. Mango says Maria is to have half a glass of port wine every day after dinner, this hot weather,— half a glass—thank you—there—not more—that will do, dear;"—here Mr. Abberly had concluded the operation of pouring out. "Tom," said mama, "go and fetch the wine for your sister, there's a dear love."
Tom did as he was bid, tripped his toe over a corner of the rug in passing round the table, and deposited the major part of the port wiue in the lap of Miss Louisa Neville, who was habited in an apple green silk pelisse (which she had not taken off since her arrival), that was by no means improved in its appearance by the accidental reception of the contents of Miss Maria's glass.
"Good God! Tom," exclaimed Mrs. Abberly, "what an awkward child you are!—dear Miss Neville,—what shall we do?—ring the bell, Sophy, send for Simmons, or send for Miss Neville's maid.—Miss Neville, pray take off your pelisse."
"Oh, I assure you it is not of the slightest consequence," said Louisa, with one of her sweetest smiles, at the same moment wishing Tom had been at the bottom of the Red Sea before he had given her the benefit of hisgaucherie; a stain upon a silk dress being, as every body knows, at all times and seasons a feminine aggravation of the first class.
Tom, anticipating a beating from some quarter, but which he did not stop to calculate, set up a most mellifluous howling; this awakened from its peaceful slumbers a fat poodle, who had been reposing, after a hearty dinner, beneath the table, and who forthwith commenced a most terrific barking.
"Be quiet, Tom," said Mr. Abberly,—" Maria, iny ingel, do keep the children still."
"Ma," exclaimed Maria junior, " I'm not to lose my wine,—am I, pa F"
"No, my love, to be sure," said Abberly; "come here and fetch it yourself, my darling."
"She had better drink it there, Mr. A.," said the prudent mother.
And accordingly, under the surveillance of his wife, who kept watching him as to the exact quantity, periodically cautioning him with—There, my love—there, my dear—that will do—no more, my love, &c. Mr. A., as she Bloomsburily called him, poured out another half glass of port wine, as prescribed by Dr. Mango, for his daughter.
Old Arden, whose patience was nearly exhausted, and who thought that Mrs. Abberly was, like Lady Cock's chairs upon state occasions, screwed to her place, sought what he considered a favourable " lull," as the sailors call it, to endeavour to ascertain what Abberly's plan for the redemption of his nephew actually was, and had just wound himself into an interrogative shape, when Mrs. Abberly called his attention, by observing, "that a certain little lady," looking very archly at Miss Maria, " wanted very much to let him hear how well she could repeat a little poem without book."
Mrs. Abberly had prepared Louisa for this, by whispering to her, that such exhibitions created emulation in the nursery; and that Dawes was a very superior person, and with Miss Gubbins (who was quite invaluable) brought them on de. lightfully.
"I shall be charmed, ma'am," said the colonel, heaving a sigh. And accordingly, the child stood up at his side, and began that beautiful bit of Barbauldism, so extremely popular in the lower forms of preparatory schools, called " The Beggar's Petition." Arden could not, however, suppress a significant ejaculation, quite intelligible to his niece, when the dear little Maria, smelling of soap and bread and butter, with her shoulders pushed bask, her head stuck up, and her clariculse developed like drum sticks, squeaked out the opening line—
"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man."
"Ah!" exclaimed Arden, at the same time pushing back his chair and twirling his thumbs.
"Pity the sorrows of a poor old man," continued the sweet innocent,
"Whose trembling limbs has bore him to oo door, Whose dace are dwilden'd to is sortest pan,
said Mrs. Abberly.
"Give a leaf," said the child.
"And Heaven," continued Mrs. Abberly.
"Give a leaf and Heaven,"— repeated Maria,
"Well, what's next?" said Mrs. Abberly."Give a leaf and Heaven, well, what's next?" said the child.
"No, my dear love," said her papa, patting her little head,—
"Heaven will bless your store."
Why, you said it yesterday, my darling, without missing a single word."
"Heaven—will bless your store,"
said the child.
"Now that's all learnt from the book, colonel," said Mrs. Abberly, " not by rote!"
"Very pretty indeed, ma'am," said the colonel, "very clever!"
"Ah! but there are six more verses, sir," said Sophy; "she only knows three,—I can say 'em all!"
"That you can't," said Tom; " I can say 'em better than you; besides, I can say all about 'The Black-beetle's Ball,' and ' The Bull and the Watering-pot.'"
"Oh, you story teller, Tom!"
"I can," said Tom; "you may go and ask Miss Gubbins if I can't."
"I know you can't, Tom, and Miss Gubbins said so only yesterday," replied Sophy.
"Hush, hush, my dears \" said the master of the house, "never mind who says that; you know you are older than Tom, my love. Pray, colonel," said the fond father, turning to the agitated old man, " do you think Sophy grows like her mother?" Hook,