+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

nook by the fireside into a quiet green nest in
the quaint old graveyard; but I remember no
other alteration in the matter or manner of
those quartette meetings.

Shall I ever forget the evening!— a heavy
summer evening, with sultry steel-grey clouds
and thunder in the airwhen the Rev. Julius
brought in the manuscript copy of a quartette by
Spohr, a present to him from a Nüremberg doctor
of music, with whom a community of infusoria-loving
pursuits had made him acquainted. On
this eventful evening the new quartette was to
be tried over by the strength of the company,
not one of whom, I fancy, had ever heard a note
of the composer’s intricate music before.

Tea was on the table when the Reverend
Julius made his appearance at the door with a
corpulent roll of music in his hand. Aunt Bella
and the surviving Miss Standiforth, Miss Rosetta,
were occupied in dispensing it. Madame
Huillier stood at the matchless backgammon
table, close to the lamp, bobbing the brown bow
on her cap up and down like the crest of a Friesland
hen drinking, while she was engaged in a
fierce tussle with a knot in her knitting. The
three dilettanti were standing near the sofa, cup
in hand, discussing a question of meteorology,
in which godpapa was considered a ponderous
authority; and I was lounging near the window,
watching the pale lightning of the approaching
storm throwing out the rugged black silhouette
of Stony Point.

"Good evening, Mrs. Vance. Your servant,
ladies," said Mr. Standiforth, awkwardly offering
the roll instead of his right hand, and then
sheepishly reddening as he shifted it to the
other. Then, shaking hands with the trio of
gentlemen, "Here is the famous quartette,"
said he. "Kanzler assures me"— Kanzler was
the German infusoria-hunter "— that it is one
of Spohr's easiest." And then he sidled into a
chair, and was supplied by his watchful sister
with a steaming cup, and plenty of buttered
tea-cake. Godpapa took the manuscript; unrolled
the parts and began flattening them
backward with both hands, but without looking
at the music; for he had just been plaintively
holding forth on a theme of paramount interest
to him, and he could not leave it quite yet.

"My tables," said he, intent on enlightening
little Monsieur Huillier, who nodded affirmatively
at every pause, with his mouth full of
bread-and-butter "— my meteorological tables
prove beyond doubt that the variations from
the mean temperature during the last six weeks
exceed those of any other summer since ’ninety-seven.
The chances, therefore, you see, in
favour of pleurisy, catarrh, and inflammatory
sore-throat"— here he gave his lips a sort of
smack indicative of relish for the diseases in
question— "are sixteen and seven-eighths per
cent greater than in the autumn months; and so,
as I was saying, temperature is everything
equable temperatureand it is not one man in
fifty-eight and a quarter who——'

"I don't believe temperature has anything to do
with it; at least, I'm sure not in my case," broke
in Mr. Daley. "Say I go to bedwell; that is,
to all appearance well, you know; I sleep my
eight hourseight and a half, maybe; get up
seeminglywell; dress and take my little light
breakfast as usual; none of your heavy beefsteaks
or cutlets, merely a rusk and a cup of
chocolate, and a morsel of marinated fish to
drive it down."

"So much poison, so much poison, my good
friend!" ejaculated godpapa, solemnly.

"Well! I take up my book or my violin for
an hour, when all of a suddendown it comes
upon mepresto! like a shot! I get a tingling
here, and a creeping there, and I swell, and
swell, and swell, till my very waistcoat-buttons
fly offor would, if I did not unfasten them; and
pray, what has temperature to do with that?"

"What you have said," replied godpapa,
"only proves an unpardonable degree of
negligence with regard to diet; and also, no doubt,
a tendency, a very well-defined tendency, to
to the primary symptoms of——"

"Chronic dilation," murmured Mr. Daley,
straightening out his fingers one after another.

"No. I forget the name. Bella! remind
me to look into Carver’s book to-morrow."
(This was said in a parenthesis.) " I
myself," said godpapa, with a sort of mournful
pride in his own dilapidated condition, " have
felt something of what you describe. Only
yesterday, half an hour before dinner, I
experienced that painful, distressing, muscular
agitationyou call it dilation, but it's all one
which one feels especially in the arms and legs."

"A species of the feedgets, is it not, Monsieur
le Capitaine?" quoth Madame Huillier, very
gravely, in her bass voice. She had seen much of
real sickness and suffering in her day, and I think
was apt to pooh-pooh, as far as she dared, the
valetudinarian lamentations which she so
constantly heard. "Make three times the turn of
your chamber, Monsieur le Capitaine,"
continued she, " drink a glass of water, and I
answer you will cure of it."

Godpapa looked at madame over his shoulder
crustily enough, while his fellow hypochondriac
indulged in a furtive smile of intense satisfaction,
under cover of the grimace occasioned by
an extra contortion of his finger-joints. Prudent
Monsieur Huillier hastily huddled up his mother’s
slip of the tongue, and turned the conversation,
by asking Captain Vance to permit him to look
at the new music.

"Oh, to be sure! Of course!" grumbled
godpapa, and handed him the tenor part. With
this he betook himself to a chair at the corner
of the tea-table, close to the bread-and-butter
dish, and there with knitted brows he conned it
over, munching the while, and silently running
over the fingering on the edge of the table.
Then the other two gentlemen approached the
tea-tray to have their cups replenished, and
Aunt Bella, looking up smiling at godpapa, saw
with half a glance that some untoward and ill-timed
cloud had obscured her sun, though her
own avocations and Miss Standiforth's talk had
prevented her hearing the old Frenchwoman's