MY UNCLE IN INDIA
Not that it is my uncle, let me explain. It is Polly’s uncle, as I very well know, from the many times she has thrown him up to me, and is liable so to do at any moment. Having small expectations myself, and having wedded Polly when they were smaller, I have come to feel the full force, the crushing weight, of her lightest remark about “My Uncle in India.” The words as I write them convey no idea of the tone in which they fall upon my ears. I think it is the only fault of that estimable woman, that she has an “uncle in India” and does not let him quietly remain there. I feel quite sure that if I had an uncle in Botany Bay, I should never, never throw him up to Polly in the way mentioned. If there is any jar in our quiet life, he is the cause of it; all along of possible “expectations” on the one side calculated to overawe the other side not having expectations. And yet I know that if her uncle in India were this night to roll a barrel of “India’s golden sands,” as I feel that he any moment may do, into our sitting-room, at Polly’s feet, that charming wife, who is more generous than the month of May, and who has no thought but for my comfort in two worlds, would straightway make it over to me, to have and to hold, if I could lift it, forever and forever. And that makes it more inexplicable that she, being a woman, will continue to mention him in the way she does.
In a large and general way I regard uncles as not out of place in this transitory state of existence. They stand for a great many possible advantages. They are liable to “tip” you at school, they are resources in vacation, they come grandly in play about the holidays, at which season mv heart always did warm towards them with lively expectations, which were often turned into golden solidities; and then there is always the prospect, sad to a sensitive mind, that uncles are mortal, and, in their timely taking off, may prove as generous in the will as they were in the deed. And there is always this redeeming possibility in a niggardly uncle. Still there must be something wrong in the character of the uncle per se, or all history would not agree that nepotism is such a dreadful thing.
But, to return from this unnecessary digression, I am reminded that the charioteer of the patient year has brought round the holiday time. It has been a growing year, as most years are. It is very pleasant to see how the shrubs in our little patch of ground widen and thicken and bloom at the right time, and to know that the great trees have added a laver to their trunks. To be sure, our garden, —which I planted under Polly’s directions, with seeds that must have been patented, and I forgot to buy the right of, for they are mostly still waiting the final resurrection,—gave evidence that it shared in the misfortune of the Fall, and was never an Eden from which one would have required to have been driven. It was the easiest garden to keep