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"We'll talk of it after dinner," said Snipeton suddenly wincing; for his heart could not endure the thought of separation. Business and love were delightful when united ; they gave a zestito each other; but certainly-- at least in the case of Snipeton-were not to be tasted alone. Granted that he sat in a golden shower in St. Mary Axe; how should he enjoy the luck falling direct from heaven upon him, if his wife—that flower of his existence-was transplanted to a distant soil ? Would not certain bees and butterflies hum and flutter round that human blossom? Again, if he himself tended the pretty patient, would not ruin-taking certain advantage of the master's absence-post itself at his doorstep? Doating husband devoted man of money! His heartstrings tore him one way his purse-strings another. “We'll talk of it after dinner,” he repeated. “And Master Crossbone, we'll have a bottle of excellent wine." In some matters Crossbone was the most compliant of men: and wine was one that, offered cost-free, never found him implacable. And, the truth is, Snipeton knowing this, hoped that the wine might contain arguments potent over the doctor's opinions. After one bottle, nay two, it was not impossible that Crossbone might reconsider his judgment. The air of Hampstead might be thought the best of airs for Clarissa. Wine does wonders !
The dinner was served. Crossbone was eloquent. “After your labours in town, Mr. Snipeton, you must find it particularly delightful,"-he said," particularly so, to come home to Mrs. Snipeton,”--the husband smiled at his wife_"and dine off your own greens. One's own vegetables is what I consider the purest and highest enjoyment of the country. Of course, too, you keep pigs ?”
Snipeton had prepared himself for a compliment on his connubial happiness ; and therefore suffered a wrenching of the spirit when called upon to speak to his cabbages. With a strong will he waived the subject ; and merely answered, “We do not keep pigs.”
"That's a pity : but all in good time. For it's hardly possible to imagine a prettier place for pigs. Nothing like growing one's own bacon. But then I always like dumb things about me. And, Mr. Snipeton, after your work in town, you can't think how 'twould unbend your mind-how you might rest yourself, as I may say, on a few pigs. It's beautiful to watch 'em day by day ; to see 'em growing and unfolding their fat like lilies ; to make
'em your acquaintance as it were, from the time they come into the world to the time they 're hung up in your kitchen. In this way you seem to eat 'em a hundred times over. However, pigs are matters that I must not trust myself to talk about."
“Why not?” asked Snipeton with a porker-like grunt. “Why
“Dear Mrs. Crossbone ! Well, she was a woman !” (It was, in truth, Crossbone's primest consolation to know that she was a woman.) “ Our taste in every thing was just alike. In everything.”
“ Pigs included ?" asked Snipeton, with something like a sneer.
But Crossbone was too much stirred by dearest memories to mark it. He merely answered, “ Pigs included.” After a pause. “ However, I must renounce the sweeter pleasures of the country. Fate calls me to London.”
" It delights me to hear it, Mr. Crossbone ; for we shall then be so near to one another,” cried Snipeton. “ Charming news this, isn't it, Clary?” And the old husband chucked his wife's chin, and would smile in her pale, unsmiling face.
“Well, as an old friend, Mr. Snipeton, I may perhaps make no difference with you. Otherwise, my practice promises to be confined to royalty. To royalty, Mr. Snipeton. Yes; I was sure of it, though I never condescended to name my hopes—but I knew that I should not be lost all my life among the weeds of the world. Reputation, Mr. Snipeton, may be buried, like a potato; but, sir, like a potato"--and Crossbone, tickled by the felicity of the simile, was rather loud in its utterance " like a potato, it will shoot and show itself."
“And yours has come up, eh? Well, I'm very glad to hear it,” said Snipeton, honestly, “because you 'll be in London. Your knowledge of Clarissa's constitution is a great comfort to me."
“I have studied it, Mr. Snipeton ; studied it as a botanist would study some strange and beautiful flower. It is a very peculiar constitution—very peculiar.” The dinner being over, Clarissa rose.
“ You ʼll not leave us yet, love ?” cried Snipeton, taking his wife's hand, and trying to look into her eyes that-wayward eyes! --would not meet the old man's devouring stare.
“ Pray excuse me,” said Clarissa, with a politeness keen enough to cut a husband's heart-strings. “I have some orders—directions—for Mrs. Wilton. You must excuse me.'
“ That's a treasure, Crossbone !" exclaimed Snipeton with a laborious burst of affection, as Clarissa left the room. “A diamond of a woman ! A treasure for an emperor !"
“Don't -- don't" - cried Crossbone, hurriedly emptying his glass.
“I said a treasure !" repeated the impassioned husband, striking the table. Crossbone shook his head. " What,” cried Snipeton, knitting his brow, “ you question it? Before me—her husband?"
« Pray understand me, dear sir,” said Crossbone, tranquilly filling his glass. “Mrs. Snipeton is a treasure. She'd have been a jewel-a pearl of a woman, sir, in the crown of King Solomon : and that's the worst of it."
“ The worst of it!" echoed Snipeton.
« In this world, my good friend, if a man knew what he was about, he'd set his heart upon nothing." The apothecary drained his glass. “ Looking, sir, as a moralist and a philosopher, at what the worth of this world at the best is made of what is it, but a large soap and water bubble blown by fate? It shines a minute" -here the moralist and philosopher raised his wine to his eye, contemplating its ruby brightness "and where is it?" Saying this, Crossbone swallowed the wine : a fine practical comment on his very fine philosophy. “I ask where is it?"
“Very true," observed Snipeton, taking truth as coolly as though he was used to it. “Very true ; nevertheless ”
“Mr. Snipeton, my good friend,” cried Crossbone-his hand lovingly round the neck of the decanter—“Mr. Snipeton, he is the wisest man who in this world loves nothing. It's much the safest. Did you ever hear of the river Styx ?”
“Humph! I can't say,” growled Snipeton. “Is it salt or fresh ?"
“One dip in it makes a man invulnerable to all things ; stones, arrows, bludgeons, swords, bullets, cannon-balls."
"'Twould save a good deal in regimentals if the soldiers might bathe there,” said Snipeton, grinning grimly.
“So much for Styx upon the outward man," cried Crossbone : " but I have often thought 'twould be a capital thing, if people could take it inwardly; if they could drink Styx."
“ Like the Bath waters," suggested Snipeton.
“ Exactly so. A course or two, and the interior of a man would then be insensible of foolish weakness,” said Crossbone.