“Not to all soldiers,” observed Lionel. “My father never smoked an ounce of tobacco in his life. I have heard them say so. And he saw some service.”
“Every man to his liking,” returned John Massingbird. “Folks preach about tobacco being an acquired taste! It’s all bosh. Babies come into the world with a liking for it, I know. Talking about your father, would you like to have that portrait of him that hangs in the large drawing-room? You can if you like. I’m sure you have more right to it than I.”
“Thank you,” replied Lionel. “I should very much like it, if you will give it me.”
“What a fastidious chap you are, Lionel!” cried John Massingbird, pulling vigorously; for the pipe was turning refractory, and would not keep alight. “There are lots of things you have left behind you here, that I, in your place, should have marched off without asking.”
“The things are yours. That portrait of my father belonged to my Uncle Stephen, and he made no exception in its favour when he willed Verner’s Pride, and all it contained, away from me. In point of legal right, I was at liberty to touch nothing, beyond my personal effects.”
“Liberty be hanged!” responded John. “You are over fastidious; always were. Your father was the same, I know; can see it in his likeness. I should say, by the look of that, he was too much of a gentleman for a soldier.”
Lionel smiled. “Some of our soldiers are the most refined gentlemen in the world.”
“I can’t tell how they retain their refinement, then, amid the rough and ready of camp life. I know I lost all I had at the diggings.”
Lionel laughed outright at the notion of John Massingbird’s losing his refinement at the diggings. He never had any to lose. John joined in the laugh.
“Lionel, old boy, do you know I always liked you, with all your refinement; and it’s a quality that never found great favour with me. I liked you better than I liked poor Fred; and that’s the truth.”
Lionel made no reply, and John Massingbird smoked for a few minutes in silence. Presently he began again.
“I say, what made you go and marry Sibylla?”
Lionel lifted his eyes. But John Massingbird resumed, before he had time to speak.
“She’s not worth a button. Now you need not fly out, old chap. I am not passing my opinion on your wife; wouldn’t presume to do such a thing; but on my cousin. Surely I may find fault with my cousin, if I like! Why did you marry her?”
“Why does anybody else marry?” returned Lionel.
“But why did you marry her? A sickly, fractious thing! I saw enough of her in the old days. There! be quiet! I have done. If it hadn’t been for her, I’d have asked you to come here to your old home; you and I should jog along together first-rate. But Sibylla bars it. She may be a model of a wife; I don’t insinuate to the contrary, take you note, Mr. Verner; but she’s not exactly a model of temper, and Verner’s Pride wouldn’t be big enough to hold her and me. Would you have taken up your abode with me, had you been a free man?”