‘No, sir; they are Balls given by a distinguished gentleman.’
‘Take care it’s not another name for tradesmen’s Balls, William.’
‘I do not attend tradesmen’s Balls, sir.’
‘Take care o’ that, William.’
The captain was very angry. ‘What,’ said he, turning to us, ’what does the squire mean by telling an officer of the Royal Navy that he is conducting his wife to a tradesmen’s Ball?’
Julia threatened malicious doings for the insult. She and the squire had a controversy upon the explication of the word gentleman, she describing my father’s appearance and manners to the life. ’Now listen to me, squire. A gentleman, I say, is one you’d say, if he wasn’t born a duke, he ought to have been, and more shame to the title! He turns the key of a lady’s heart with a twinkle of his eye. He ’s never mean—what he has is yours. He’s a true friend; and if he doesn’t keep his word, you know in a jiffy it’s the fault of affairs; and stands about five feet eleven: he’s a full-blown man’: and so forth.
The squire listened, and perspired at finding the object of his abhorrence crowned thus in the unassailable realms of the abstract. Julia might have done it more elegantly; but her husband was rapturous over her skill in portraiture, and he added: ’That’s a gentleman, squire; and that ‘s a man pretty sure to be abused by half the world.’
‘Three-quarters, William,’ said the squire; ’there’s about the computation for your gentleman’s creditors, I suspect.’
‘Ay, sir; well,’ returned the captain, to whom this kind of fencing in the dark was an affliction, ‘we make it up in quality—in quality.’
’I ‘ll be bound you do,’ said the squire; ’and so you will so long as you ‘re only asked to dance to the other poor devils’ fiddling.’
Captain Bulsted bowed. ‘The last word to you, squire.’
The squire nodded. ’I ‘ll hand it to your wife, William.’
Julia took it graciously. ’A perfect gentleman! perfect! confound his enemies!’
‘Why, ma’am, you might keep from swearing,’ the squire bawled.
‘La! squire,’ said she, ‘why, don’t you know the National Anthem?’
’National Anthem, ma’am! and a fellow, a velvet-tongued—confound him, if you like.’
‘And where’s my last word, if you please?’ Julia jumped up, and dropped a provoking curtsey.
‘You silly old grandada!’ said Janet, going round to him; ’don’t you see the cunning woman wants to dress you in our garments, and means to boast of it to us while you’re finishing your wine?’
The old man fondled her. I could have done the same, she bent over him with such homely sweetness. ’One comfort, you won’t go to these gingerbread Balls,’ he said.
‘I’m not invited,’ she moaned comically.
‘No; nor shan’t be, while I can keep you out of bad company.’
’But, grandada, I do like dancing.