The Colonel, standing beside her, used language that was unrefined. His aspirations as to the future of Mr. Kennaston and Mr. Jukesbury, it appeared, were both lurid and unfriendly.
“But why, attractive?” queried his daughter.
“May they be qualified with such and such adjectives!” desired the Colonel, fervently. “They tried to lend me money—wouldn’t hear of my not taking it! In case of necessity.’ Bah!” said the Colonel, and shook his fist after the retreating carriages. “May they be qualified with such and such adjectives!”
How happily she laughed! “And you’re swearing at them!” she pouted. “Oh, my dear, my dear, how hard you are on all my little friends!”
“Of course I am,” said the Colonel, stoutly. “They’ve deprived me of the pleasure of despising ’em. It was worth double the money, I tell you! I never objected to any men quite so much. And now they’ve gone and behaved decently with the deliberate purpose of annoying me! Oh!” cried the Colonel, and shook an immaculate, withered old hand toward the spring sky, “may they be qualified with such and such adjectives!”
And that, so far as we are concerned, was the end of Margaret’s satellites.
My dear Mrs. Grundy, may one point the somewhat obvious moral? I thank you, madam, for your long-suffering kindness. Permit me, then, to vault toward my moral over the shoulders of a greater man.
Among the papers left by one Charles Dickens—a novelist who is obsolete now because he “wallows naked in the pathetic” and was frequently guilty of a very vulgar sort of humour that actually made people laugh, which, as we now know, is not the purpose of humour—a novelist who incessantly “caricatured Nature” and by these inartistic and underhand methods created characters that are more real to us than the folk we jostle in the street and (God knows!) far more vital and worthy of attention than the folk who “cannot read Dickens”—you will find, I say, a note of an idea which he never afterward developed, running to this effect: “Full length portrait of his lordship, surrounded by worshippers. Sensible men enough, agreeable men enough, independent men enough in a certain way; but the moment they begin to circle round my lord, and to shine with a borrowed light from his lordship, heaven and earth, how mean and subservient! What a competition and outbidding of each other in servility!”
And this, with “my lord” and “his lordship” erased to make way for the word “money,” is my moral. The folk who have just left Selwoode were honest enough as honesty goes nowadays; kindly as any of us dare be who have our own way to make among very stalwart and determined rivals; generous as any man may venture to be in a world where the first of every month finds the butcher and the baker and the candlestick-maker rapping at the door with their little bills: but they cringed to money. It was very wrong of them, my dear lady, and in extenuation I can only plead that they could no more help cringing to money than you or I can help it.