“I will not answer any more questions,” reply I, recovering both hands with a sudden snatch: “and if you ask me any more, I will not take you out walking! there!” So I make off, laughing.
“A peck of March dust is worth a king’s ransom,” say I slowly next morning, as I stand by the window, trying to see clearly through the dimmed and tearful pane. “The king would have to do without his ransom to-day.”
It is raining mightily: strong, straight, earnest rain, that harshly lashes the meek earth, that sends angry runlets down the gravel walks, that muddies the gold goblets of the closed crocuses.
“And you without your walk!” says Barbara, lifting her face from her stitching. “Poor Miss Nancy!”
“There is not enough blue sky to make a cat a pair of breeches!” cries Bobby, despondently, and with his usual vulgarity.
Sometimes I am tempted to fear that Bobby is hopelessly ungenteel— ungenteel for life. He has now taken possession of another window, and is consulting the eastern sky.
“A ransomless king, and a trouserless cat! That is about the state of the case!” say I, turning away from the window with a grin.
After all, now I come to think of it, I am nearly as vulgar as Bobby. But I am right. Through the day, through the long, light, cold evening, the posture of the weather changes not. To-day, Barbara, Algy, and I, are all constrained to dine; for have not we a dinner-party, or rather a mild simulation of one?—a squire or two, a squiress or two, a curate or two—such odd-come-shorts as can be got together in a scattered country neighborhood at briefest notice. Barbara and I, as it happens, are both late. It is five minutes past eight, when with the minor details of our toilets a good deal slurred, with a paucity of bracelets and lack of necessary pins, we hurriedly and sneakingly enter the drawing-room, and find all our guests already come together. Mother gives us an almost imperceptible glance of gentle reproach, but father is so occupied in bantering a strange miss—banter in which the gallant and the fatherly happily join to make that manner which is the envy and admiration of the neighborhood—that he seems unconscious of our entrance. An intuition, however, tells us that this is not the case, but that he is making a note of it. This depresses us so much that, until song and sherry have comforted and emboldened us, we have not spirits to make any effort toward the entertainment of our neighbors. We have been paired with a couple of curates. Mine is a strong-handed, ingenuous Ishmael, who tells everybody that he hates his trade, and that he thinks it is very hard that he may not get out of it, now that his elder brother is dead. I am thankful to say that his appetite is as vast as his shoulders; so, after I have told him that I love raw oysters, and that Barbara cannot sit in the room with a roast hare; and have