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"I should be very sorry for him to exchange his style for any such pompous writing," said Captain Brown.
Miss Jenkyns felt this as a personal affront, in a way of which the captain had not dreamed. Epistolary writing she and her friends considered as her forte. Many a copy of many a letter have I seen written and corrected on the slate, before she "seized the half-hour just previous to posttime to assure" her friends of this or of that; and Dr. Johnson was, as she said, her model in these compositions. She drew herself up with dignity, and only replied to Captain Brown's last remark by saying, with marked emphasis on every syllable, "I prefer Dr. Johnson to Mr. Boz."
Major Monsoon and the King of Spain's Story
'Now, then, for the King of Spain's story. Out with it, old boy; we are all good men and true here!" cried Power, as we slowly came along upon the tide up the Tagus, "So you've nothing to fear."
"Upon my life," replied the major, "I don't half like the tone of our conversation. There is a certain freedom young men affect nowadays regarding morals that is not at all to my taste. When I was five or six and twenty-❞
"You were the greatest scamp in the service," cried Power.
"Fie, fie, Fred! If I was a little wild or so"-here the major's eye twinkled maliciously-"it was the ladies that spoiled me. I was always something of a favourite, just like our friend Sparks there. Not that we fared very much alike in our adventures; for somehow I believe I was generally in fault in most of mine, as many a good man and many an excellent man has been before." Here his voice dropped into a moralising key, as he added, "David, you know, didn't behave well to old Uriah. Upon my life, he did not; and he was a very respectable man.”
But the story, major-the story."
"You sha'n't have a bit of it."
'What," said Power, "will you break faith with us?" "There's none to be kept with reprobates like you. Fill my glass."
"Hold there! Stop!" cried Power. "Not a spoonful till he redeems his pledge!"
"Well, then, if you must have a story-for most assuredly I must drink-I have no objection to give you a leaf from my early reminiscences; and, in compliment to Sparks there, my tale shall be of love."
"I dinna like to lose the king's story. I hae my thoughts it wasna a bad ane."
Nor I, either, doctor; but
Come, come, you shall have that, too, the first night we meet in a bivouac, and, as I fear the time may not be very far distant, don't be impatient; besides, a love-story—"
"Quite true," said Power; "a love-story claims precedence. Place aux dames. There's a bumper for you, old Wickedness; so go along."
The major cleared off his glass, refilled it, sipped twice, and ogled it as though he would have no peculiar objection to sip once more, took a long pinch of snuff from a box something the shape of a child's coffin, looked around to see that we were all attention, and thus began:
"When I have been in a moralising mood, as I very frequently am about this hour in the morning, I have often felt surprised by what little, trivial, and insignificant circumstances our lot in life seems to be cast; I mean especially as regards the fair sex. You are prospering, as it were, to-day; to-morrow a new cut of your whiskers, a novel tie of your cravat, mars your destiny and spoils your future-varium et mutabile, as Horace has it. On the other hand, some equally slight circumstance will do what all your ingenuity may have failed to effect. In fact, you are never safe. They are like the guerillas, and they pick you off when you least expect it, and when you think there is nothing to fear. Therefore, as young fellows beginning life, I would caution you. On this head you can never be too circumspect. Do you know,
I was once nearly caught by so slight a habit as sitting thus, with my legs across."
Here the major rested his right foot on his left knee, in illustration, and continued:
"We were quartered in Jamaica. I had not long joined, and was about as raw a young gentleman as you could see; the only very clear ideas in my head being that we were monstrous fine fellows in the 50th, and that the planters' daughters were deplorably in love with us. Not that I was much wrong on either side. For brandy-and-water, sangaree, Manilla cigars, and the ladies of colour, I'd have backed the corps against the service. Proof was, of eighteen only two ever left the island; for it's very hard to leave the West Indies if once you've been quartered there. In fine, if you don't knock under to the climate you become soon totally unfit for living anywhere else. Preserved ginger, yams, flannel jackets, and grog won't bear exportation; and the free-and-easy chuck under the chin, cherishing, waist-pressing kind of way we get with the ladies would be quite misunderstood in less favoured regions, and lead to very unpleasant consequences. It is a curious fact how much climate has to do with love-making. In our cold country the progress is lamentably slow; fogs, east winds, sleet, storms, and cutting March weather, nip many a budding flirtation; whereas, warm sunny days, and bright moonlight nights, with genial air and balmy zephyrs, open the heart, like the cup of a camellia, and let us drink in the soft dew of
Devilish poetical, that!" said Power.
"Isn't it, though?" said the major, smiling graciously 66 Where was I?"
"Out of my latitude altogether," said the poor skipper, who often found it hard to follow the thread of a story.
"Yes, I remember. I was remarking that sangaree, and calipash, mangoes, and guava jelly dispose the heart to love, and so they do. I was not more than six weeks in Jamaica when I felt it myself. Now, it was a very dangerous symptom, if you had it strong in you, for this reason. Our colonel, the most cross-grained old crabstick that ever breathed, happened himself to be taken in when young, and resolving, like the fox who lost his tail, and said it was not the fashion to wear one, to pretend he did the thing for fun, resolved to make every fellow marry upon the slightest provocation. Very hard this was, for me particularly; for, like poor Sparks there, my weakness was ever for the petticoats. I had, besides, no petty contemptible prejudices as to nation, habits, language, colour, or complexion; black, brown, or fair, from the Muscovite to the Malabar, from the voluptuous embonpoint of the adjutant's widow-don't be angry, old boy to the fairy form of Isabella herself, I loved them all round. But were I to give a preference anywhere, I should certainly do so to the West Indians, if it were only for the sake of the planters' daughters. I say it fearlessly, these colonies are the brightest jewels in the crown. Let's drink their health, for I'm as husky as a lime-kiln.”
This ceremony being performed, with suitable enthusiasm, the major cried out:
Another cheer for Polly Hackett, the sweetest girl in Jamaica! By Jove, Power, if you only saw her, as I did, five-and-forty years ago, with eyes black as jet, twinkling, ogling, leering, teasing, and imploring, all at once, do you mind, and a mouthful of downright pearls pouting and smiling at you, why man, you'd have proposed for her in the first half-hour, and shot yourself the next, when she refused you. She was, indeed, a perfect little beauty, rayther dark, to be