“She need never be alone, unless she chooses,” says Bobby, winking with dexterous slightness at the others; “there is the beauty of having three kind little brothers!”
“The moment you feel at all lonely,” says Algy, emphasizing his remarks by benevolent but emphatic strokes with his flat hand on my shoulder, “send for us! one of us is sure to be handy! If it will be any comfort to Sir Roger, I shall be most happy to promise him that I will keep all his horses in exercise next winter!”
“I am sorrier than I was before,” says Bobby, reflectively, “that the heavy rains have drowned so many of the young birds.”
“O Nancy!” cries Tou Tou, ecstatically clasping her hands, “have a Christmas-tree!”
“And a dance after it!” adds Bobby, beginning to whistle a waltz-tune.
“And Sir Roger’s not being at home will be a good excuse for not asking father,” cries Algy, catching the prevailing excitement.
“I will not have one of you!” cry I, rising with a face pale, as I feel with anger—with flashing eyes and a trembling voice, “not one of you shall enter his doors, except Barbara!—I hate you all!—you are all g—g—glad that he is going, and I—I never was so sorry for any thing in my life before!”
I end in a passion of tears. There is a silence of consternation on the late so jubilant assembly.
“‘Times is changed,’ says the dog’s-meat man,”
remarks Bobby, presently, veiling his discomfiture in vulgarity, and launching into uncouth and low-lived rhyme:
“‘Lights is riz,’ says the dog’s-meat man!”
However, not all the hot tears in the world—not all the swelled noses and boiled-gooseberry eyes avail to alter the case. Not even all my righteous wrath against the boys profits—and I do keep Bobby at arms’-length for a day and a half. No one who does not know Bobby understands how difficult such a course of proceeding is; for he is one of those people who ignore the finer shades of displeasure. The more delicately dignified and civilly frosty one is to him, the more grossly familiar and hopelessly, obtusely friendly is he. I have made several more efforts to change Sir Roger’s decision, but in vain. He makes the case more difficult by laying his refusal chiefly on his own convenience; dilating on the much greater speed and ease with which he will be able to transact his business, if alone, than if weighted by a woman, and a woman’s paraphernalia, and also on the desirability of having in me a locum tenens for himself at Tempest. But, in my soul, I know that both these are hollow pretenses to lighten the weight on my conscience.
“But,” say I, with discontented demurring, “you have been away often before! how did Tempest get on then?”