MERELY A HUMBLE INTERRUPTION AND ILLUSTRATION OF THE LAST
Some peaceable afternoon when Mrs. Mesurier was enjoying a little doze on the parlour sofa, and her three elder daughters were snatching an hour or two from housework—they had already left school—for a little private reading, the drowsy house would suddenly be awakened by one loud wooden knock at the door.
“Now, whoever can that be!” the three girls would impatiently exclaim; and presently the maid would come to Miss Esther to say that there was an old man at the door asking for Mrs. Mesurier.
“What’s his name, Jane?”
“He wouldn’t give it, miss. He said it would be all right. Mrs. Mesurier would know him well enough.”
“Whoever can it be? What’s he like, Jane?”
“He looks like a workman, miss,—very old, and rather dotey.”
“Who can it be? Go and ask him his name again.”
Esther would then arouse her mother; and the maid would come in to say that at last the old man had been persuaded to confide his name as Clegg—Samuel Clegg.
“Tell the missus it’s Samuel Clegg,” the old man had said, with a certain amusing conceit. “She’ll be glad enough to see Samuel Clegg.”
“Why!” said Mrs. Mesurier, “it’s your father’s poor old uncle, Mr. Clegg. Now, girls, you mustn’t run away, but try and be nice to him. He’s a simple, good, old man.”
Mrs. Mesurier was no more interested in Mr. Clegg than her daughters; but she had a great fund of humanity, and an inexhaustible capacity for suffering bores brilliantly.
“Why, I never!” she would say, adapting her idiom to make the old man feel at home, as he was presently ushered in, chuntering and triumphant; “you don’t mean to say it’s Uncle Clegg. Well, we are glad to see you! I was just having a little nap, and so you must excuse my keeping you waiting.”
“Ay, Mary. It’s right nice of you to make me so welcome. I got a bit misdoubtful at the door, for the young maid seemed somehow a little frightened of me; but when I told the name it was all right. ’Samuel Clegg,’ I said. ‘She’ll be glad enough to see Samuel Clegg,’ I said.”
“Glad indeed,” murmured Mrs. Mesurier, “I should think so. Find a chair for your uncle, Esther.”
“Ay, the name did it,” chuckled the old man, who as a matter of fact was anything but a humble old person, and to whom the bare fact of existence, and the name of Clegg, seemed warrant enough for thinking quite a lot of yourself.
“I’m afraid you don’t remember your old uncle,” said the old man to Esther, looking dimly round, and rather bewildered by the fine young ladies. Actually, he was only a remote courtesy uncle, having married their father’s mother’s sister.
“Oh, of course, Uncle Clegg,” said Esther, a true daughter of her mother; “but, you see, it’s a long time since we saw you.”
“And this is Dorcas. Come and kiss your uncle, Dorcas. And this is Matilda,” said Mrs. Mesurier.