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on his side, and of distance and politeness on hers. She might talk of him half contemptuously, but she never durst shew herself otherwise than civil, though she was always longing to bring in some more deferential person in his place; and, whenever illness interfered with his duties, she spoke largely to her friends of the impropriety of a man's undertaking what he could not perform.
One of her reductions had been the economizing the third curate, making the second be always a neophyte, who received his title for Orders, and remained his two years upon a small stipend.
The change last Easter, which had substituted a deacon for a priest, had fallen heavily on Mr. Underwood, and would have been heavier still, but that the new comer, Charles Audley, had attached himself warmly to him. The young man was a son of a family of rank and connection, and Lady Price's vanity was flattered by obtaining his assistance; but her vexation was proportionably excited by his preference for the Underwood household, where, in truth-with all its poverty-he found the only atmosphere thoroughly congenial to him in all the parish of St. Oswald's.
Speedily comprehending the state of things, he put his vigorous young shoulder to the wheel, and full of affectionate love and admiration for Mr. Underwood, spared himself nothing in the hope of saving him fatigue or exertion, quietly gave up his own holidays, was always at his post, and had hitherto so far lightened Mr. Underwood's toil, that he was undoubtedly getting through this summer better than the last, for his bodily frame had long been affected by the increased amount of toil in an ungenial atmosphere, and every access of cold weather had told on him in throat and chest attacks, which, with characteristic buoyancy, he would not believe serious. He never deemed himself aught but 'better,' and the invalid habits that crept on him by stealthi, always seemed to his brave spirit consequent on a day's extra fatigue, or the last attention to a departing cough. Alas! when every day's fatigue was extra, the cough always departing, nerer departed.
Yet, though it had become a standing order in the house, that for an hour after Papa came in from his rounds, no one of the children should be in the drawing-room, except poor little lame Geraldine, who was permanently established there ; and that afterwards, even on strong compulsion, they should only come in, one by one, as quietly as possible, he never ceased to apologize to them for their banishment when he felt it needful, and when he was at ease, would renew the merriment that sometimes cost him dear.
The children had, for the most part, inherited that precious heir-loom of contentment and elasticity, and were as happy in nooks and corners in bed-room, nursery, stair-case, or kitchen, as they could have been in extensive play-rooms and gardens.
See them in full council upon the expenditure of the annual gift, that an old admiral at Vale Leston, who was godfather to Felix, was wont
to send the boy on his birth-day—that third of July, which had seemed so bright, when birth-days had begun in the family, that no name save Felix could adequately express his parents' feelings.
Mr. and Mrs. Underwood bad fancies as to nomenclature; and that stair-case full of children rejoiced in eccentric appellations. To begin at the bottom_here sat on a hassock, her back against the wall, her sharp old fairy's face uplifted, little Geraldine, otherwise Cherry, a title that had suited her round rosiness well, till after the first winter at Bexley, when the miseries of a diseased ancle-joint had set in, and paled her into the tender aliases of White-heart, or Sweet-heart. She was, as might be plainly seen in her grey eyes, a clever child ; and teaching her was a great delight to her father, and often interested him when he was unequal to anything else. Her dark eye-brows frowned with anxiety as she lifted up her little pointed chin to watch sturdy frank-faced Felix, wlio with elaborate slowness dealt with the envelope, tasting slowly of the excitement it created, and edging away from the baluster, on which, causing it to contribute frightful creaks to the general Babel, were perched numbers 4, 6, 7, and 8, to wit, Edgar, Clement, Fulbert, and Lancelot, all three handsome, blueeyed, fair-faced lads. Indeed Edgar was remarkable, eren among this decidedly fine-looking family. He had a peculiarly delicate contour of feature and complexion, though perfectly healthy; and there was something of the same expression, half keen, half dreamy, as in Geraldine, his junior by one year ; while the grace of all the attitudes of his slender lissome figure shewed to advantage beside Felix's more sturdy form, and deliberate or downright movements ; while Clement was paler, slighter, and with a rather precise looking countenance, and shining wavy brown hair, that nothing ever seemed to ruffle, looked so much as if he ought to have been a girl, that Tina, short for Clementina, was his school name. Fulbert, stout, square, fat-cheeked, and permanently rough and dusty, looked as if he ought to have been a pig.
The four eldest were day-scholars at the city grammar-school ; but Lancelot, a bright-faced little fellow in knickerbockers, was a pupil of whoever would or could teach him at home, as was the little girl who was clinging to his leg, and whose name of Robina seemed to have moulded her into some curious likeness to a robin-redbreast, with her brown soft hair, rosy cheeks, bright merry eyes, plump form, and quick loving audacity. Above her sat a girl of fifteen, with the family features in their prettiest development—the chiseled straight profile, the clear white roseately tinted skin, the large well-opened azure eyes, the profuse glossy hair, the long, slender, graceful limbs, and that pretty head leant against the knees of her own very counterpart; for these were Wilmet and Alda, the twin girls who had succeeded Felix, and whose beauty had been the marvel of Vale Leston, their shabby dress the scorn of the day-school at Bexley. And forming the apex of the pyramid, perched astride on the very shoulders of much-enduring
Wilmet, was three years old Angela—Baby (one and a half) being quiescent in a cradle near Mamma. N.B. Mrs. Underwood, though her girls had such masculine names, had made so strong a protest against their being called by boyish abbreviations, that only in one case had nature been too strong for her, and Robina had turned into Bobbie. Wilmet's second name being Ursula, she was apt to be known as W. W.
Make haste, Felix, you intolerable boy ! don't be so slow !' cried Alda.
'Is there a letter ?' inquired Wilmet.
“Yes, more's the pity!' said Felix. "Now I shall have to answer it.'
I'll do that, if you'll give me what's inside,' said Edgar. "Is it there ?' exclaimed Cherry, in a tone of doubt, that sent an electric thrill of dismay through the audience ; Lance nearly toppling over, to the horror of the adjacent sisters, and the grave rebuke of Clement.
• If it should be a sell! gasped Fulbert.
I'd cut him out of my will on the spot,' persisted Edgar. But it is all right,' said Cherry, looking with quiet certainty into her brother's face; and he nodded and coloured at the same time.
*But it is not a pretty one,' said little Robina. Last year it was green, and before that red ; and this is nasty stupid black and white, and all thin crackling paper.' Felix laughed, and held
the document. • What ? cried Fulbert. Five! Why, 'tisn't only five shillings! the horrid old cheat !'
'It's a five-pound note ! screamed Cherry. “I saw one when Papa went to the bank! O Felix, Felix !'
A five-pound note! It seemed to take away the breath of those who knew what it meant, and then an exulting shout broke forth.
"Well,' said Edgar solemnly, 'old Chester is a brick! Three cheers for him!
Which cheers having been perpetrated with due vociferation, the cry began, 'O Felix, what will you do with it ?'
* Buy a pony ! cried Fulbert.
Now a harnionium would be good to us all.'
• Then get some cotton for our ears into the bargain, if Tina is to play on it,' said Edgar.
. 'I shall take the note to Mother,' said the owner.
‘Oh !' screamed all but Wilmet and Cherry, that's as bad as not having it at all !
Maybe Felix thought so, for it was with a certain gravity and solemnity of demeanour that he entered the drawing-room, causing his father to exclaim, “How now ? No slip between cup and lip? Not infelix, Felix ?'
"No, Papa, but it's this ; and I thought I ought to bring it.
The dew at once was in the mother's eyes, as she sprung up and kissed the boy's brow, saying, “Felix, dear, don't shew it to me. You were meant to be happy with it. Go, and be so.'
Stay,' said Mr. Underwood, ‘Felix will really enjoy helping us to this extent more than any private expenditure. Is it not so, my boy? Well then, I propose that the sovereign of old prescriptive right should go to his menus plaisirs, and the rest to something needful; but he shall say to what. Said I well, old fellow ?
Oh, thank you, thank you ! cried Felix ardently. "Thank me for permission to do as you will with your own ? smiled Mr. Underwood.
"You will choose, then, Felix ?" said his mother wistfully, her desires divided between port wine for Papa, and pale ale for Geraldine.
“Yes, Mamma,' was the prompt answer. “Then, please, let Wilmet and Alda be rigged out fresh for Sundays.'
• Wilmet and Alda !' exclaimed Mamma. “Yes, I should like that better than anything, please,' said the boy. All our fellows say they would be the prettiest girls in all Bexley, if they were properly dressed; and those horrid girls at Miss Pearson's lead them a life about those old black hats.'
"Poor dears! I have found Alda crying when she was dressing for church, mused Mrs. Underwood ; 'and though I have scolded her, I could have cried too, to think how unlike their girlhood is to mine.'
"And if you went to fetch them home from school, you would know how bad it is, Mamma,' said Felix. Wilmet does not mind it, but Alda cries, and the sneaking girls do it the more ; and they are girls, so one can't lick them; and they have not all got brothers.'
“To be licked instead !' said Mr. Underwood, unable to help being amused.
• Well, yes, Papa ; and so you see it would be no end of a comfort to make them look like the rest.'
‘By all means, Felix. The ladies can tell how far your benefaction will go ; but as far as it can accomplish, the twins shall be resplendent. Now then, back to your anxious clients. Only tell me first how my kind old friend the Admiral is.' 'Here's his letter, Father; I quite forgot to read it.' Some day, I hope, you will know him enough to care for him
personally. Now you may be off.—Nay, Enid, love, your daughters could not have lived much longer without clothes to their backs.'
Oh, yes, it must have been done,' sighed the poor mother ; 'but I fancied Felix would have thought of you
first.' • He thought of troubles much more felt than any of mine. Poor children! the hard apprenticeship will serve them all their lives.'
Meantime Felix returned with the words, 'Hurrah ! we are to have the sovereign just as usual ; and all the rest is to go to turn out Wilmet and Alda like respectable young females.-Hollo, now !
For Alda had precipitated herself down-stairs, to throttle him with her embraces; while Cherry cried out, That's right! Oh, do get those dear white bats you told me about;' but the public, even there a manyheaded monster thing, was less content.
What, all in girls' trumpery ? That's the stupidest sell I ever heard of ! 'Oh, I did so want a pony!' were the cries of the boys.
Even Robina was so far infected as to cry, 'I wanted a ride.'
And Wilmet reproachfully exclaimed, 'O Felix, you should have got something for Papa. Don't you know, Mr. Rugg said he ought to have a respirator. It is a great shame.'
I don't think he would have let me, Wilmet,' said Felix, looking up; and I never thought of it. Besides, I can't have those girls making asses of themselves at you.'
• Oh no, don't listen to Wilmet ! cried Alda. “You are the very best brother in all the world! Now we shall be fit to be seen at the breakup. I don't think I could have played my piece if I knew everyone was looking at my horrid old alpaca.'
* And there'll be hats for Cherry and Bobbie too! entreated Wilmet. "Oh, don't put it into their heads !' gasped Alda. 'No; I'll have you two fit to be seen first,' said Felix.
*Well, it's a horrid shame,' grumbled Fulbert ; .we have always all gone shares in Felix's birth-day tip.'
So you do now,' said Felix; 'there's the pound all the same as usual.' That pound was always being spent in imagination; and the voices broke out again. 'Oh, then Papa can have the respirator !
Felix, the rocking-horse!' • Felix, do get us three little cannon to make a jolly row every birthday!'
* Felix, do you know that Charlie Froggatt says he would sell that big Newfoundland for a pound, and that would be among us all.'
Nonsense, Fulbert! a big dog is always eating; but there is a concertina at Lake's.'
"Tina-tina-concertina! But, I say, Fee, there's White-beart been wishing her heart out all the time for a real good paint-box.'
"Oh, never mind that, Ed; no one would care for one but you and me; and the little ones would spoil all the paints.'