“No, we think he’s too young yet,” returned Mrs. Bradley. “He learns a little of something every day from Harriet, who is really a very superior girl. She is a good servant. She hasn’t been in this country very long, and is English to the core, as you’ve probably noticed, not only in her way of comporting herself, but in her accent.”
“Yes, I’ve observed it,” said Bessie. “What does she teach him?”
“Oh, she tells him stories that are more or less instructive, and she reads to him. She’s taught him one or two pretty little songs— ballads, you know—too. Harry has a sweet little voice. Harry, dear, won’t you sing that song about Mrs. Henry Hawkins for mamma?”
“Don’t warn’ter,” said Harry. “Hi’m sick o’ that bloomin’ old song.”
“Seems to me I’ve heard it,” said Thaddeus. “As I remember it, Harry, it was very pretty.”
“It is,” said Bradley. “It’s the one you mean—’Oh, ’Lizer! dear ’Lizer! Mrs. ’Ennery ‘Awkins.’ Harry sings it well, too; but I say, Thad, you ought to hear the nurse sing it. It’s great.”
“I should think it might be.”
“She has the accent down fine, you know.”
“Sort of born to it, eh?”
“Yes; you can’t cultivate that accent and get it just right.”
“I’ll do ‘Dear Old Dutch’ for yer,” suggested Harry. “Hi likes thet better ’n ’Mrs. ‘Awkins.’”
So Harry deserted “Mrs. ’Awkins” and sang that other pathetic coster-ballad, “Dear Old Dutch,” and, to the credit of Harriet, the nurse, it must be said that he was marvellously well instructed. It could not have been done better had the small vocalist been the own son of a London coster-monger instead of the scion of an American family of refinement.
Thus the day passed. Jennie proved herself quite as proficient in the dialect of Seven Dials as was Harry, or even Harriet, and when she consented to stand on a chair and recite a few nursery rhymes, there was not an unnoticed “h” that she did not, sooner or later, pick up and attach to some other word to which it was not related, as she went along.
In short, as far as their speech was concerned, thanks to association with Harriet, Jennie and Harry were as perfect little cockneys as ever ignored an aspirate.
The visit of the Bradleys, like all other things, came to an end, and Bessie, Thaddeus, and the children were once more left to themselves. Teddy junior, it was observed, after his day with Harry, developed a slight tendency to misplace the letter “h” in his conversation, but it was soon corrected, and things ran smoothly as of yore. Only—the Only being the natural sequence of the But referred to some time since—Mr. and Mrs. Perkins changed their minds about the French nurse, and it came about in this way:
“Thaddeus,” said Bessie, after the Bradleys had departed, “what is the tile of a rockin’-’orse?”
“I don’t know. Why?” asked Thaddeus.