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THRONES FOR THREE
Till the rosy
That first sunny day by the sea,
Away in the Welsh little bay, When we wander'd, the happiest three,
So careless and buoyant and gay! Even Maud, with the seventeen years
She had managed at last to attain, Protested she felt like a child,
Quite joyous and playful again. And Minnie agreed, though severe,
As one who ‘ propriety' play'dShe was older than Maud by a year,
And of course must be frigidly staid. We waited the tide's going down,
wet sand it had clear'd; Then, through the skein foam of the waves,
Three green little islands appear’d. Then the girls, with a cry of delight,
Would each have an isle of her own Would be queen in her absolute right.
I might take the third isle for my throne. What slippery kingdoms they were,
With seaweed all slimy and green ! It was pleasant enough to get there;
But to stay was too much for each queen.
But I, as the neighbouring state,
And forced them to wait and to wait.
At last, when of fun we'd enough,
My forces I blandly withdrew;
Must at least be an island for two.
Of that mind she has ever remain'd,
Time could not the mood overwhelm ;
A BACK WINDOW IN AFRICA
BY GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA
I am not aware whether you are acquainted with my old friend Bob Vates (his father, old Jeremiah Vates the West-India planter, married a Miss Cassandra Whichley-the Whichleys of Endor, you know); but all I can say is, that if Bob is really on your list of friends, I don't envy you. A worthier fellow and a more detestably unpleasant companion it would be difficult to meet on a day's march—or a year's, for the matter of that. When men see Bob Vates coming towards them, they cross over to the other side, and avoid him if they can. More than once, at sea, his behaviour has excited among the ship's company a well-nigh uncontrollable desire to pitch him overboard; and the last time he went to Jamaica, to look after the coffee-plantation at Spanish Town he inherits from his papa, Potbury of St. Kitts -a peppery little man, who had been billeted for the
upper berth in Vates's state-room—actually paid the Scotch assistant-surgeon of the West Indian mail-packet seventeen-pounds-ten to be allowed to sling a hammock in his cabin, sooner than pass his nights in the society of that dreaded Vates. If you were to put his name up at any new club, the black balls would come tumbling into the ballotboxes like hailstones in a summer storm ; but, unfortunately, he belongs to several old clubs already, paying his subscription with undeviating punctuality, so that they can't get rid of him; and a nice life he leads the members, and the servants, yea, even down to the little foot-pages in buttons.
Why, it may be asked, is Bob Vates so intensely disliked? Well, dislike perhaps is not precisely the word for the feeling with which he is regarded. He is a gentleman; his character is blameless, his honour spotless. It is very well known that he is charitable to a fault. He would be hospitable too, I have no doubt, if people could only get over their repugnance to dine with him. What on earth, then, is the matter with the man? I think I hear you inquire petulantly. He isn't a cagot, or a leper, or a man with a death'shead. He isn't an atheist, or a red -republican socialist. He is not even a button-holing bore; not even a retailer of stale Joe-Millers, a raconteur of worn-out scandals, or an exponent of the course of tactics pursued by the antagonistic commanders at the battle of Waterloo, illustrated by nut-cracker and dessert-spoon diagrams on a dining-room table, with a doyley for Mont St. Jean, three grapes for Hougoumont, and half an apple for La Haye Sainte. Whence,
SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. F.S. VOL. XII.
then, this morbid terror and avoidance of Bob Vates? I will tell you in four words. He is a prophet: and, moreover, he prophesies nothing but evil; and, rightly or wrongly, society declares that Bob Vates's predictions have an unpleasant habit of coming true. Now, Dr. Cumming is a prophet; but you can endure somehow with tolerable equanimity the prediction that the world is coming to an end in the year 1899; whereas you wouldn't like to be told that you would have acute bronchitis next winter, or that you would be bankrupt in the ensuing spring, and charged with an indictable offence in the course of the summer. And these are precisely the things which Bob Vates does prophesy. When Cyril Beaumanoir (they used to call him Chickweed, I don't know why, about town) married his cousin Milly, everybody was delighted. It was a genuine
spooney' match. Both had plenty of money, and both were eminently handsome. Mortimer Stocrell (the poet, who wears a pucevelvet coat and a pork-pie hat of the same material turned-up with miniver) went about chanting the praises of the young couple, in all kinds of metre, and quoting the hackneyed verses,
• When Hervey the handsome was wedded
To the beautiful Molly Lepell.' Bob Vates, in an unlucky moment, was bidden to the wedding; and on the steps of St. George's Hanover - square, when the ceremony was over, he turned abruptly to friendly George Gafferer, who had been the bridegroom's best-man, and remarked, George, this business will be a most disastrous one. Friendly George Gafferer stood aghast; and it is reported that a pew-opener who stood by, locking the church-door, heard the prophecy, and shuddered. Sure enough, Mr. and Mrs. Beaumanoir led a dog -and-cat life. He beat her, they say, and she drank; and Lord Penzance is now undoing the nuptial knot with his legal teeth.
If I were to recount a tithe of the dreadful things which Bob Vates has foretold, I should never get to Africa or the Back Window, which stands at the head of this article. How Snood of the Waroffice, who was rising fast to five hundred a year, was told by Vates that he would be superannuated on a pension of a hundred and twenty, and how he was; how Eaglet the author told Vates that he had written a burlesque for the Impropriety Theatre, and how Vates predicted that it would be damned, and how it was damned; how Meagrem mentioned to him that he was suffering from neuralgia, and how Vates replied, “Neuralgia, psha ! incipient paralysis ;' how he went to the début of Miss Philomel the soprano, and while the audience were showering bouquets upon her, murmured, 'Two years' run, and then small-pox and extinction of voice;' how he shook his finger at the great Paracelsus Windblower, Chairman of the Desert of Gobi Caravan Tea Company, in full board meeting, and said, “ You won't pay fourpence in the pound when you smash' (Windblower paid ex