send you the best bit I can think of; it is the
subject of the last of Handel’s six grand fugues and goes thus:—
It would do better for a man, especially for an old man who was very sorry for things, than for a woman, but I cannot think of anything better; if you do not like it for Aunt Alethea I shall keep it for myself.—Your affectionate Godson, ERNEST PONTIFEX.”
Was this the little lad who could get sweeties for two-pence but not for two-pence-halfpenny? Dear, dear me, I thought to myself, how these babes and sucklings do give us the go-by surely. Choosing his own epitaph at fifteen as for a man who “had been very sorry for things,” and such a strain as that—why it might have done for Leonardo da Vinci himself. Then I set the boy down as a conceited young jackanapes, which no doubt he was,—but so are a great many other young people of Ernest’s age.
If Theobald and Christina had not been too well pleased when Miss Pontifex first took Ernest in hand, they were still less so when the connection between the two was interrupted so prematurely. They said they had made sure from what their sister had said that she was going to make Ernest her heir. I do not think she had given them so much as a hint to this effect. Theobald indeed gave Ernest to understand that she had done so in a letter which will be given shortly, but if Theobald wanted to make himself disagreeable, a trifle light as air would forthwith assume in his imagination whatever form was most convenient to him. I do not think they had even made up their minds what Alethea was to do with her money before they knew of her being at the point of death, and as I have said already, if they had thought it likely that Ernest would be made heir over their own heads without their having at any rate a life interest in the bequest, they would have soon thrown obstacles in the way of further intimacy between aunt and nephew.
This, however, did not bar their right to feeling aggrieved now that neither they nor Ernest had taken anything at all, and they could profess disappointment on their boy’s behalf which they would have been too proud to admit upon their own. In fact, it was only amiable of them to be disappointed under these circumstances.
Christina said that the will was simply fraudulent, and was convinced that it could be upset if she and Theobald went the right way to work. Theobald, she said, should go before the Lord Chancellor, not in full court but in chambers, where he could explain the whole matter; or, perhaps it would be even better if she were to go herself—and I dare not trust myself to describe the reverie to which this last idea gave rise. I believe in the end Theobald died, and the Lord Chancellor (who had become a widower a few weeks earlier) made her an offer, which, however, she firmly but not ungratefully declined; she should ever, she said, continue to think of him as a friend—at this point the cook came in, saying the butcher had called, and what would she please to order.