Henry had amused himself one day in making a list of all their “ancestors” to whom any sort of worldly or romantic distinction could attach, and it ran somewhat as follows:—
(1) A great-grandmother on the father’s side, fabled to live in some sort of a farm-house chateau in Guernsey, who once a year, up till two years ago, when she died, had sent them a hamper of apples from Channel Island orchards. Said “chateau” believed by his children to descend to James Mesurier, but the latter indifferent to the matter, and relatives on the spot probably able to look after it.
(2) A great-grandfather on the mother’s side given to travel, a “rolling-stone,” fond of books and talk, and rich in humanity. Surviving still in a high-nosed old silhouette.
(3) A grand-uncle on the father’s side who was one of Napoleon’s guard at St. Helena!
(4) A grandfather on the mother’s side, who used to design and engrave little wooden blocks for patterns on calico-stuffs, and whose little box of delicate instruments, evidently made for the tracing of lines and flowers, was one of the few family heirlooms.
(5) A grandmother on the father’s side of whom nothing was known beyond the beautiful fact that she was Irish.
(6) A grandfather on the father’s side who was a sea-captain, sailing his own ship (barque “the Lucretia”) to the West Indies, and who died of yellow fever, and was buried, in the odour of romance, on the Isthmus of Panama.
(7) An uncle who had also been a sea-captain, and who, in rescuing a wrecked crew from an Australian reef, was himself capsized, and after a long swim finally eaten by a shark,—said shark being captured next day, and found to contain his head entire, two gold rings still in his ears, which he wore for near-sightedness, after the manner of common sailors, and one of which, after its strange vicissitudes, had found a resting-place in the secretaire of his brother, James Mesurier.
Such was the only accessible “ancestry” of the Mesuriers, and it is to be feared that the last state of the family was socially worse than the first. James Mesurier was unapproachably its present summit, its Alpine peak; and he was made to suffer for it no little by humble and impecunious relatives. Still, whatever else they lacked, Henry Mesurier loved to insist that these various connections were rich in character, one or two of them inexhaustible in humour; and their rare and somewhat timorous visits to the castle of their exalted relative, James Mesurier, were occasions of much mirthful embarrassment to the young people. Here the reader is requested to excuse a brief parenthetical chapter by way of illustration, which, if he pleases, he may skip without any loss of continuity in the narrative, or the least offence in the world to the writer. This present chapter will be found continued in chapter sixteen.