Bobby, Tou Tou, and I, having no one to hang over us, or gawk amorously up at us, are sitting in a row in our pew. Bobby has garlanded Tou Tou preposterously with laurel, to give us an idea, as he says, of how he himself will look by-and-by, after some future Trafalgar. Now, he is whispering to me—a whisper accompanied by one of those powerful and painful nudges, with which he emphasizes his conversation on his listener’s ribs.
“Look at him!” indicating his elder brother, and speaking with a tone of disgust and disparagement; “did you ever see such a beast as he looks?”
“Not often!” reply I, readily, with that fine intolerance which one never sees in full bloom after youth is past.
“I say, Nancy!” with a second and rather lesser nudge, “if ever you see any symptoms of—of that—” (nodding toward the pulpit) “in me—”
“If—” repeat I, scornfully, “of course I shall!”
“Well, that is as it may be, but if you do, mind what I tell you—do not say any thing to anybody, but—put an end to me! it does not matter how; smother me with bolsters; run your bodkin up to its hilt in me—”
“Even if I did,” interrupt I, laughing, “I should never reach any vital part—you are much too fat!”
“I should not be so fat then,” returns he, gravely, amiably overlooking the personality of my observation; “love would have pulled me down!”
The Brat has nearly finished. He is nimbly descending the ladder, with a long, guttering dip in his right hand.
“The other two—” begins Bobby, thoughtfully, turning his eyes from pulpit to font.
“I do not mind them half so much,” interrupt I, indulgently; “they are not half so disgusting.”
“Has he done it yet?” (lowering his cheerful loud voice to an important whisper).
I shake my head.
“Not unless he has done it since luncheon! he had not then; I asked her.”
“I am beginning to think that your old man’s plan was the best, after all,” continues Bobby, affably. “I thought him rather out of date, at the time, for applying to your parents, but, after all, it saved a great deal of trouble, and spared us a world of suspense.”
I am silent; swelling with a dumb indignation at the epithet bestowed on my Roger; but unable to express it outwardly, as I well know that, if I do, I shall be triumphantly quoted against myself.
“Who will break it to Toothless Jack?” says Bobby, presently, with a laugh; “after all the expense he has been at, too, with those teeth! it is not as if it were a beggarly two or three, but a whole complete new set—thirty-two individual grinders!”
“Such beauties, too!” puts in Tou Tou, cackling.
“It is a thousand pities that they should be allowed to go out of the family,” says Bobby, warmly. “Tou Tou, my child—” (putting his arm round her shoulders)—“a bright vista opens before you!—your charms are approaching maturity!—with a little encouragement he might be induced to lay his teeth—two and thirty, mind—at your feet!”