“He was nice to look at!” reply I cautiously.
“That is a very different thing!” says Barbara, laughing. “But was he nice in himself?”
“No,” say I, “I do not think he was: at least, he wanted a great deal of alteration.”
“As I have no doubt that you told him,” says Algy, with a smile.
“I dare say I did,” reply I, distantly, for I am not pleased with Algy.
A little pause.
“I think he was nice, too, in a way” say I, rather compunctiously. “I used to tell him about all of you, and—I dare say it was pretense— but he seemed to like to hear about you! When I came away, he sent his love to Barbara; he would not send any messages to you boys—he said he hated boys!”
“Humph!” Another short silence. The elders have gone in to tea. Through the windows, I see the lamp-light shining on the tea-cups.
“Algy!” say I, in a rather low voice, edging a little nearer to where he lies gracefully outspread, “you did not mean it, really? You do not think I—I—I—neglected the general, do you?—you do not think I—I— liked to be away from him?”
“My lady!” replies he, teasingly, “I think nothing! I only know what your ladyship was good enough to tell me!”
Then we all get up, shoulder our rugs, and walk in.
Well, no one will deny that Sunday comes after Saturday; and it was Saturday evening, when the heavens painted themselves with fire, and the sun lit up all the house-windows to welcome us home. Sunday is not usually one of our blandest days, but we must hope for the best.
“General,” say I, standing before him, dressed for morning church, after having previously turned slowly round on the point of my toes, to favor him with the back view of as delightful a bonnet, and as airily fresh and fine a muslin gown, as ever young woman said her prayers in— “by-the-by, do you like my calling you general?”
“At least I understand who you mean by it,” he says, a little evasively; “which, after all, is the great thing, is not it?”
“It is my own invention,” say I, rather proudly; “nobody put it into my head, and nobody else calls you by it, do they?”
“Not now?” cry I, surprised; “but did they ever?”
“Yes,” he says, “for about a year, most people did; I was general a year before my brother died.”
“Your brother died?” cry I, again repeating his words, and arching my eyebrows, which have not naturally the slightest tendency toward describing a semicircle. “What! you had a brother, too, had you? I never knew that before.”
“Did you think you had a monopoly of them?” laughing a little.
“So you were not ‘Sir’ always?”
“No more than you are,” he answers, smiling. “No, I was not born in the purple; for thirty-seven years of my life I earned my own bread—and rather dry bread too.”