The princess flushing scarlet, the margravine cried,
’There’s no occasion for you to have the whole British army in your cheeks. Goodness me! what’s the meaning of it? Why, you answer me like flags, banners, uhlans’ pennons, fullfrocked cardinals!’
My father stepped in.
‘Ah, yes,’ said the margravine. ’But you little know, my good Roy, the burden of an unmarried princess; and heartily glad shall I be to hand her over to Baroness Turckems. That’s her instituted governess, duenna, dragon, what you will. She was born for responsibility, I was not; it makes me miserable. I have had no holiday. True, while she was like one of their wax virgins I had a respite. Fortunately, I hear of you English, that when you fall to sighing, you suck your thumbs and are consoled.’
My father bowed her, and smiled her, and whirled her away from the subject. I heard him say, under his breath, that he had half a mind to issue orders for an allowance of grog to be served out to the sailors on the spot. I suggested, as I conceived in a similar spirit the forcible ducking of Mr. Peterborough. He appeared to entertain and relish the notion in earnest.
‘It might do. It would gratify her enormously,’ he said, and eyed the complacent clerical gentleman with transparent jealousy of his claims to decent treatment. ‘Otherwise, I must confess,’ he added, ’I am at a loss. My wits are in the doldrums.’
He went up to Mr. Peterborough, and, with an air of great sincerity and courtesy, requested him in French to create a diversion for her Highness the Margravine of Rippau during the extreme heat of the afternoon by precipitating himself headlong into forty fathoms, either attached or unattached. His art in baffling Mr. Peterborough’s attempts to treat the unheard-of request as a jest was extraordinary. The ingenuity of his successive pleas for pressing such a request pertinaciously upon Mr. Peterborough in particular, his fixed eye, yet cordial deferential manner, and the stretch of his forefinger, and argumentative turn of the head—indicative of an armed disputant fully on the alert, and as if it were of profound and momentous importance that he should thoroughly defeat and convince his man—overwhelmed us. Mr. Peterborough, not being supple in French, fell back upon his English with a flickering smile of protestation; but even in his native tongue he could make no head against the tremendous volubility and brief eager pauses besetting him.
The farce was too evanescent for me to reproduce it.
Peterborough turned and fled to his cabin. Half the crew were on the broad grin. The margravine sprang to my father’s arm, and entreated him to be her guest in her Austrian mountain summer-seat. Ottilia was now her darling and her comfort. Whether we English youth sucked our thumbs, or sighed furiously, she had evidently ceased to care. Mr. Peterborough assured me at night that he had still