by passion, awed by rumour,
Not grave through pride, nor gay through folly,
An equal mixture of good humour,
And sensible, soft melancholy.
no faults then,’ Envy says, ‘Sir?’
’Yes, she has one, I must aver;
When all the world conspires to praise her
The woman’s deaf, and does not hear.’”
John Mortimer was sitting at breakfast the very morning after this conversation had taken place at Melcombe. No less than four of his children were waiting on him; Gladys was drying his limp newspaper at a bright fire, Barbara spreading butter on his toast, little Hugh kneeling on a chair, with his elbows on the table, was reading him a choice anecdote from a child’s book of natural history, and Anastasia, while he poured out his coffee with one hand, had got hold of the other, which she was folding up industriously in her pinafore and frock, because she said it was cold. It was a windy, chilly, and exasperatingly bright spring morning; the sunshine appeared to prick the traveller all over rather than to warm him. Not at all the morning for an early walk, but John, lifting up his eyes, saw a lady in the garden, and in another instant Mrs. Frederic Walker was shown in.
“What, Emily!” exclaimed John, starting up.
“Yes, John; but my soldier and my valuable infant are both quite well. Now, if you don’t go on with your breakfast, I shall depart. Let me sit by the fire and warm my feet.”
“You have breakfasted?”
“Of course. How patriarchal you look, John, sitting in state to be adored!”
Thereupon, turning away from the fire, she began to smile upon the little Anastasia, and without any more direct invitation, the small coquette allowed herself to be decoyed from her father to sit on the visitor’s knee. Emily had already thrown off her fur wraps, and the child, making herself very much at home in her arms, began presently to look at her brooch and other ornaments, the touch of her small fingers appearing to give pleasure to Emily, who took up one of the fat little pink hands, and kissed it fondly.
“What is that lady’s name, Nancy?” said John.
“Mrs. Nemily,” answered the child.
“You have still a little nursery English left about you, John,” said Emily. “How sweet it is! My boy has that yet to come; he can hardly say half-a-dozen words.”
Then Gladys entering the room with a cup and saucer, she rose and came to the table.
“That milk looks so nice—give me some of it. How pleasant it is to feel cold and hungry, as one does in England! No, John, not ham; I will have some bread and marmalade. Do the children always wait on you, John, at breakfast?”
There was something peculiarly sweet and penetrative in the voices of Brandon and his sister; but this second quality sometimes appeared to give more significance to their words than they had intended.