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I gave him a look of gratitude which reminded him of my father, as he said in so many words."
"Oh, I hope it is valid! How I hope it is!" I exclaimed, turning round to the Major, who smiled rather grimly, and said he hoped so too.
"But surely," he continued, "as we are all here, we should not neglect the opportunity of inspecting the other contents of this box. To me it appears that we are bound to do so; that it is our plain duty to ascertain why there might even be a later will. Erema, my dear, you must be most anxious to get to the bottom of it."
So I was, but desired even more that his curiosity should be foiled. "We must leave that to Mr. Shovelin," I said.
"Then for the present we will seal it down again," the banker answered quietly; we can see that there is no other will, and a later one would scarcely be put under this. The other little packets, whatever they may be, are objects of curiosity, perhaps, rather than of importance. They will keep till we have more leisure."
"We have taken up a great deal of your time, Sir, I am sure," said the Major, finding that he could take no more. "We ought to be, and we are, most grateful."
Well," the banker answered, as we began to move; "such things do not happen every day. But there is no friend like an old friend, Erema, as I mean to call you now; I was to have been your godfather; but I fear that you never have been baptized."
"Is such a thing
"What! cried the Major, staring at us both. possible in a Christian land? Oh, how I have neglected my duty to the Church! Come back with me to Bruntsea, and my son shall do it. The church there is under my orders, I should hope; and we will have a dinner-party afterwards. What a horrible neglect of duty!"
"But how could I help it?" I exclaimed, with some terror at Major Hockin's bristling hair. "I cannot remember-I am sure I cannot say. It may have been done in France, or somewhere, if there was no time in England. At any rate, my father is not to be blamed."
"Papistical baptism is worse than none," the Major said, impressively; never mind, my dear, we will make that all right. You shall not be a savage always. We will take the opportunity to change your name. Erema is popish and outlandish; one scarcely knows how to pronounce it. You shall have a good English Christian name, Jemima, Jane, or Sophy. Trust me to know a good name. Trust me."
"Jemima!" I cried. "Oh, Mr. Shovelin, save me from ever being called Jemima! Rather would I never be baptized at all."
"I am no judge of names," he answered, smiling, as he shook hands with us; "but, unless I am a very bad judge of faces, you will be called just what you please."
"And I please to be called what my father called me. It may be unlucky, as a gentleman told me, who did not know how to pronounce
it. However, it will do very well for me. morrow, Mr. Shovelin?"
You wish to see me then to
"If you please; but later in the day, when I am more at leisure. I do not run away very early. Come at half-past four to this door, and knock. I hear every sound at this door in my room; and the place will be growing quiet then."
He showed us out into a narrow alley through a heavy door sheathed with iron, and soon we recovered the fair light of day, and the brawl and roar of a London street.
"Now where shall we go?" the Major asked, as soon as he had found a cab again, for he was very polite in that way. "You kept early hours with your Uncle Sam,' as you call Colonel Gundry, a slow-witted man, but most amusing when he likes, as slow-witted men very often are. Now will you come and dine with me? I can generally dine, as you with virtuous indignation found out, at Southampton. But we are better friends now, Miss Heathen."
"Yes, I have more than I can ever thank you for," I answered, very · gravely, for I never could become jocose to order, and sadness still was uppermost. "I will go where you like; I am quite at your orders, because Betsy Bowen is busy now. She will not have done her work till six o'clock."
"Well done!" he cried; "bravo Young America! Frankness is the finest of all good manners. And what a lot of clumsy deception it saves! Then let us go and dine. I will imitate your truthfulness. It was two words for myself, and one for you, The air of London always makes me hungry after too much country air. It is wrong altogether, but I cannot help it. And going along I smell hungry smells coming out of deep holes with a plate at the top. Hungry I mean to a man who has known what absolute starvation is-when a man would thank God for a blue-bottle fly who had taken his own nip anywhere. When I see the young fellows at the clubs pick this, and poke that, and push away the other, may I be d-d; my dear, I beg your pardon. Cabby, to the 'Grilled Bone and Scolloped Cockle,' at the bottom of St. Ventricle Lane, you know."
This place seemed, from what the Major said, to have earned repute for something special, something esteemed by the very clever people, and only to be found in true virtue here. And he told me that luxury and self-indulgence were the greatest sins of the present age; and how he admired a man who came here to protest against Epicureans, by dining (liquors not included) for the sum of three-and-sixpence.
All this, no doubt, was wise and right; but I could not attend to it properly now; and he might take me where he would, and have all the talking to himself, according to his practice. And I might not even have been able to say what this temple of bones and cockles was like, except for a little thing which happened there. The room, at the head of a twisting staircase, was low and dark, and furnished almost like a
farm-house kitchen. It had no carpet, nor even a mat, but a floor of black timber, and a ceiling coloured blue, with stars, and comets, and a full moon near the fireplace. On either side of the room stood narrow tables endwise to the walls, enclosed with high-backed seats like settles, forming thus a double set of little stalls or boxes, with scarcely space enough between for waiters, more urgent than New York firemen, to push their steaming and breathless way.
"Square or round, Miss?" said one of them to me as soon as the Major had set me on a bench, and before my mind had time to rally towards criticism of the knives and forks, which deprecated any such ordeal; and he cleverly whipped a stand for something dirty, over something still dirtier, on the cloth.
"I don't understand what you mean," I replied to his highly zealous aspect, while the Major sat smiling dryly at my ignorance, which vexed me. "I have never received such a question before. Major Hockin, will you kindly answer him?"
Square," said the Major; "square for both." And the waiter, with a glance of pity at me, hurried off to carry out his order.
"Erema, your mind is all up in the sky," my companion began to remonstrate; "you ought to know better after all your travels."
"Then the sky should not fall and confuse me so," I said, pointing to the milky way, not more than a yard above me; "but do tell me what he meant if you can. Is it about the formation of the soup ?" "Hush, my dear! Soup is high treason here until night, when they make it of the leavings. His honest desire was to know whether you would have a grilled bone of mutton, which is naturally round, you know, or of beef, which by the same law of nature seems always to be square, you know."
"Oh, I see," I replied, with some confusion, not at his osteology, but at the gaze of a pair of living and lively eyes fastened upon me. A gentleman, waiting for his bill, had risen in the next low box, and stood calmly (as if he had done all his duty to himself) gazing over the wooden back at me, who thus sat facing him. And Major Hockin, following my glance, stood up and turned round to see to it.
"What! cousin Montague! Bless my heart, who could have dreamed of lighting on you here? Come in, my dear fellow, there is plenty of Let me introduce you to my new ward, Miss Erema Castlewood. Miss Castlewood, this is Sir Montague Hockin, the son of my lamented first-cousin Sir Rufus, of whom you have heard so much. Well, to be sure! I have not seen you for an age. My dear fellow, now how are you?"
"Miss Castlewood, please not to move; I sit anywhere. Major, I am most delighted to see you! Over and over again I have been at the point of starting for Bruntsea Island-it is an island now, isn't it? My father would never believe that it was, till I proved it from the number of rabbits that came up. However, not a desolate island now if it contains
you and all your energies, and Miss Castlewood, as well as Mrs. Hockin."
"It is not an island, and it never shall be," the Major cried, knocking a blue plate over, and spilling the salt inauspiciously; "it never was an island, and it never shall be; my intention is to reclaim it altogether. Oh, here come the squares! Well done, well done! I quite forget the proper thing to have to drink. Are the cockles in the pan, Mr. Waiter? Quite right, then; ten minutes is the proper time; but they know that better than I do. I am very sorry, Montague, that you have dined."
"Surely you would not call this a dinner; I take my true luncheon afterwards. But lately my appetite has been so bad that it must be fed up at short intervals. You can understand that perhaps, Miss Castlewood. It makes the confectioners' fortunes, you know. The ladies once came only twice to feed, but now they come three times, I am assured by a young man who knows all about it. And cherry-brandy is the mildest form of tipple."
"Shocking scandal! abominable talk!" cried the Major, who took everything at its word; "I have heard all that sort of stuff ever since I was as high as this table. Waiter, show me this gentleman's bill. Oh well, oh well! you have not done so very badly. Two squares and a round, with a jug of Steinberg, and a pint of British stout with your Stilton. If this is your ante-lunch, what will you do when you come to your real luncheon? But I must not talk now; you may have it as you please."
"The truth of it is, Miss Castlewood," said the young man, while I looked with some curiosity at my frizzling bone, with the cover just whisked off, and drops of its juice (like the rays of a lustre) shaking with soft inner wealth; "the truth of it is just this, and no more—we fix our minds and our thoughts, and all the rest of our higher intelligence, a great deal too much upon our mere food."
"No doubt we do," I was obliged to answer; "it is very sad to think of, as soon as one has dined. But does that reflection occur, as it should, at the proper time to be useful,-I mean when we are hungry?"
"I fear not; I fear that it is rather præterite than practical."
"No big words now, my dear fellow!" cried the Major; "you have had your turn, let us have ours. But, Erema, you are eating nothing; take a knife and fork, Montague, and help her. The beauty of these things consists entirely, absolutely, essentially, I may say, in their having the smoke rushing out of them. A gush of steam like this should follow every turn of the knife-but there, I am spoiling every bit by talking so!"
"Is that any fault of mine?" asked Sir Montague, in a tone which made me look at him. The voice was not harsh, nor rough, nor unpleasant, yet it gave me the idea that it could be all three, and worse than all three upon occasion. So I looked at him, which I had refrained from doing, to see whether his face confirmed that idea. To the best of
my perception, it did not. Sir Montague Hockin was rather goodlooking, so far as form and colour go, having regular features, and clear blue eyes, very beautiful teeth, and a golden beard. His appearance was grave, but not morose, as if he were always examining things and people, without condemning them. It was evident that he expected to take the upper hand in general, to play the first fiddle, to hold the top saw, to "be helped to all the stuffing of the pumpkin," as dear Uncle Sam was fond of saying. Of moderate stature, almost of middle age, and dressed nicely, without any gewgaws, which look so common upon a gentleman's front, be was likely to please more people than he displeased at first onsight.
The Major was now in the flush of goodwill, having found his dinner genial, and being a good man, he yielded to a little sympathetic anger with those who had done less justice to themselves. And, in this state of mind, he begged us to take note of one thing-that his ward should be christened in Bruntsea Church, as sure as all the bells were his, according to their inscriptions, no later than next Thursday week, that being the day for a good sirloin; and if Sir Montague failed to come to see how they could manage things under proper administration, he might be sure of one thing, if no more--that Major Hockin would never speak to him again.
So many things now began to open upon me, to do and to think of, that I scarcely knew which to begin with. I used to be told how much wiser it was not to interfere with anything; to let bygones be bygones, and consider my own self only. But this advice never came home to my case, and it always seemed an unworthy thing even to be listening to it. And now I saw reason to be glad for thanking people who advised me, and letting them go on to advise themselves. For if I had listened to Major Hockin, or even Uncle Sam for that part, where must I have been now? Why, simply knowing no more than as a child I knew, and feeling miserable about it. Whereas I had now at least something to go upon, and enough for a long time to occupy my mind. The difficulty was to know what to do first, and what to resolve to leave undone, or, at least, to put off for the present. One of my special desires had been to discover that man, that Mr. Goad, who had frightened me so about two years back, and was said to be lost in the snowdrifts. But nobody like him had ever been found, to the sorrow of the neighbourhood; and Sylvester himself had been disappointed, not even to know what to do with his clothes.
His card, however, before he went off, had been left to the care of Uncle Sam for security of the 15,000 dollars; and on it was printed;