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I thought I had killed her. I sprinkled water on her face; I went down on my knees; I plucked at my hair ; I implored her forgiveness; I besought her to look up; I ravaged Miss Mills's work-box for a smelling-bottle, and in my agony of mind, applied an ivory needle-case instead, and dropped all the needles over Dora.
At last I got Dora to look at me, with a horrified expression which I gradually soothed until it was only loving, and her soft, pretty cheek was lying against mine.
“Is your heart mine still, dear Dora ?” “O yes! O yes! it's all yours, oh, don't be dreadful.” “My dearest love, the crust well earned "
“O yes; but I don't want to hear any more about crusts. And after we are married, Jip must have a mutton chop every day at twelve, or he'll die.”
I was charmed with her childish, winning way, and I fondly explained to her that Jip should have his mutton chop with his accustomed regularity.
When we had been engaged some half-year or so, Dora delighted me by asking me to give her that cookerybook I had once spoken of, and to show her how to keep accounts, as I had once promised I would. I brought the volume with me on my next visit (I got it prettily bound, first, to make it look less dry and more inviting), and showed her an old housekeeping book of my aunt's, and gave her a set of tablets, and a pretty little pencilcase, and a box of leads, to practice housekeeping with.
But the cookery-book made Dora's head ache, and the figures made her cry. They wouldn't add up, she said. So she rubbed them out, and drew little nosegays, and likenesses of me and Jip, all over the tablets.
Time went on, and at last, here in this hand of mine, I held the wedding license. There were the two names
in the sweet old visionary connection,-David Copper. field and Dora Spenlow; and there in the corner was that parental institution, the Stamp Office, looking down upon our union; and there, in the printed form of words, was the Archbishop of Canterbury, invoking a blessing on us and doing it as cheap as could possibly be expected.
I doubt whether two young birds could have known less about keeping house than I and my pretty Dora did. We had a servant, of course. She kept house for us. We had an awful time of it with Mary Anne.
Her name was Paragon. Her nature was represented to us, when we engaged her, as being feebly expressed in her name. She had a written character, as large as a Proclamation, and according to this document could do everything of a domestic nature that ever I heard of and a great many things that I never did hear of. She was a woman in the prime of life; of a severe countenance, and subject (particularly in the arms) to a sort of perpetual measles. She had a cousin in the Life Guards, with such long legs that he looked like the afternoon shadow of somebody else. She was warranted sober and honest; and I am therefore willing to believe that she was in a fit when we found her under the boiler, and that the deficient teaspoons were attributable to the dustman. She was the cause of our first little quarrel.
“My dearest life,” I said one day to Dora, “ do you think Mary Anne has any idea of time?”
“My love, because it's five, and we were to have dined at four.”
My little wife came and sat upon my knee, to coax me to be quiet, and drew a line with her pencil down the middle of my nose; but I couldn't dine off that, though it was very agreeable.
“Don't you think, my dear, it would be better for you: to remonstrate with Mary Anne?”
“O no, please! I couldn't, Doady!” “Why not, my love?”
"O, because I am such a little goose, and she knows I am!”
I thought this sentiment so incompatible with the establishment of any system of check on Mary Anne, that I frowned a little.
“My precious wife, we must be serious sometimes. Come! sit down on this chair, close beside me! Give me the pencil! There! Now let us talk sensibly. You know, dear," what a little hand it was to hold, and what a tiny wedding ring it was to see,—"you know, my love, it is not exactly comfortable to have to go out without one's dinner. Now, is it?"
“N-n-nol” replied Dora, faintly.
"O, but reasoning is worse than scolding! I didn't marry to be reasoned with. If you meant to reason with such a poor little thing as I am, you ought to have told me so, you cruel boy!".
“Dora, my darling!"
“No, I am not your darling. Because you must be sorry that you married me, or else you wouldn't reason with me!"
I felt so injured by the inconsequential nature of this charge, that it gave me courage to be grave.
“Now, my own Dora, you are childish, and are talking nonsense. You must remember, I am sure, that I was obliged to go out yesterday when dinner was half over; and that, the day before, I was made quite unwell
by being obliged to eat underdone veal in a hurry; to-day, I don't dine at all, and I am afraid to say how long we waited for breakfast, and then the water didn't boil. I don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable.”
“Oh, you cruel, cruel boy, to say I am a disagreeable wife !"
“Now, my dear Dora, you must know that I never said that!"
“You said I wasn't comfortable!”
“It's exactly the same thing! and I wonder, I do, at your making such ungrateful speeches. When you know that the other day, when you said you would like a little bit of fish, I went out myself, miles and miles, and ordered it to surprise you.”
"And it was very kind of you, my own darling; and I felt it so much that I wouldn't on any account have mentioned that you bought a salmon, which was too much for two; or that it cost one pound six, which was michiomed more than we can afford.”
“You enjoyed it very much,” sobbed Dora. “And you said I was a Mouse."
“And I'll say so again, my love, a thousand times!"
I said it a thousand times, and more, and went on saying it until Mary Anne's cousin deserted into our coal-hole and was brought out, to our great amazement, by a picket of his companions in arms, who took him away handcuffed in a procession that covered our front garden with disgrace.
Everybody we had anything to do with seemed to cheat us. Our appearance in a shop was a signal for the damaged goods to be brought out immediately. If we bought a lobster it was full of water. All our meat
Land I'll as a Mouseny, much
turned out tough, and there was hardly any crust to our loaves.
As to the washerwoman pawning the clothes, and coming in a state of penitent intoxication to apologize, I suppose that might have happened several times to anybody. Also the chimney on fire, the parish engine and perjury on the part of the beadle. But I apprehend we were personally unfortunate in our page, whose principal function was to quarrel with the cook. We wanted to get rid of him, but he was very much attached to us, and wouldn't go, until one day he stole Dora's watch, then he went.
“I am very sorry for all this, Doady,” said Dora. “Will you call me a name I want you to call me?”
“What is it, my dear?”
"It's a stupid name.-Child-wife. When you are going to be angry with me, say to yourself, 'It's only my Child-wife. When I am very disappointing, say, 'I knew a long time ago, that she would make but a Child-wife. When you miss what you would like me to be, and what I should like to be, and what I think I never can be, say, 'Still my foolish Child-wife loves me.' For indeed I do.”
I invoke the innocent figure that I dearly loved to come out of the mists and shadows of the past, and to turn its gentle head toward me once again, and to bear witness that it was made happy by what I answered.
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