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.
‘Dance away, my dear; I’ve no objection.’
‘But where’s the music?’
‘Oh, you can always have music.’
‘But where are my partners?’
The squire pointed at me.
‘You don’t want more than one at a time, eh?’ He corrected his error: ’No, the fellow’s engaged in another quadrille. Mind you, Miss Janet, he shall dance to your tune yet. D’ ye hear, sir?’ The irritation excited by Captain Bulsted and Julia broke out in fury. ’Who’s that fellow danced when Rome was burning?’
‘The Emperor Nero,’ said Janet. ’He killed Harry’s friend Seneca in the eighty-somethingth year of his age; an old man, and—hush, grandada!’ She could not check him.
’Hark you, Mr. Harry; dance your hardest up in town with your rips and reps, and the lot of ye; all very fine while the burning goes on: you won’t see the fun of dancing on the ashes. A nice king of Rome Nero was next morning! By the Lord, if I couldn’t swear you’ll be down on your knees to an innocent fresh-hearted girl ’s worth five hundred of the crew you’re for partnering now while you’ve a penny for the piper.’