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with the gilding almost rubbed out—sometimes in the spacious old-fashioned gardens, which I had almost to myself, unless when now and then a solitary gardening man would cross me—and how the nectarines and peaches hung upon the walls, without my ever offering to pluck them, because they were forbidden fruit, unless now and then,—and because I had more pleasure in strolling about among the old melancholy-looking yew trees, or the firs, and picking up the red berries, and the fir apples, which were good for nothing but to look at -or in lying about upon the fresh grass, with all the fine garden smells around me—or basking in the orangery, till I could almost fancy myself ripening too along with the oranges and the limes in that grateful warmth-or in watching the dace that darted to and fro in the fishpond at the bottom of the garden, with here and there a great sulky pike hanging midway down the water in silent state, as if it mocked at their impertinent friskings. -I had more pleasure in these busy-idle diversions than in all the sweet flavors of peaches, nectarines, oranges, and such like common baits of children. Here John slily deposited back upon the plate a bunch of grapes, which, not unobserved by Alice, he had meditated dividing with her, and both seemed willing to relinquish them for the present as irrelevant.
Then in somewhat a more heightened tone, I told how, though their great-grandmother Field loved all her grand-children, yet in an especial manner she might be said to love their uncle, John L because he was so handsome and spirited a youth, and a king to the rest of us; and, instead of moping about in solitary corners, like some of us, he would mount the most mettlesome horse he could get, when but an imp no bigger than themselves, and make it carry him half over the county in a morning, and join the hunters when there were any out-and yet he loved the old great house and gardens too, but had too much spirit to be always pent up within their boundaries—and how their uncle grew up to man's estate as brave as he was handsome, to the admiration of everybody, but of their great-grandmother Field most especially; and how he used to carry me upon his back when I was a lame-footed boy-for he was a good bit older than me-many a mile when I could not walk for pain; and how in after life he became lame-footed too, and I did not always (I fear) make allowances enough for him when he was impatient and in pain, nor remember sufficiently how considerate he had been to me when I was lame-footed; and how when he died, though he had not been dead an hour, it seemed as if he had died a great while ago, such a distance there is betwixt life and death; and how I bore his death as I thought pretty well at first, but afterwards it haunted and haunted me, and though I did not cry or take it to heart as some do, and as I think he would have done if I had died, yet I missed him all day long, and knew not till then how much I had loved him. I missed his kindness, and I missed his crossness, and wished him to be alive again, to be quarreling with him (for we quarreled sometimes), rather than not have him again, and was as uneasy without him, as he, their poor uncle, must have been when the doctor took off his limb. Here the children fell a-crying, and asked if their little mourning which they had on was not for Uncle John, and they looked up, and prayed me not to go on about their uncle, but to tell them some stories about their pretty dead mother.
Then I told how for seven long years, in hope sometimes, sometimes in despair, yet persisting ever, I courted the fair Alice W-n; and, as much as children could understand, I explained to them what coyness and difficulty and denial meant in maidens—when suddenly, turning to Alice, the soul of the first Alice looked out at her eyes with such a reality of re-presentment that I became in doubt which of them stood there before me, or whose that bright hair was; and while I stood gazing, both the children gradually grew fainter to my view, receding, and still receding till nothing at last but two mournful features were seen in the uttermost distance, which, without speech, strangely impressed upon me the effects of speech: "We are not of Alice, nor of thee, nor are we children at all. The children of Alice call Bartrum father. We are nothing; less than nothing, and dreams. We are only what might have been, and must wait upon the tedious shores of Lethe millions of ages before we have existence, and a name"—and immediately awaking, I found myself quietly seated in my bachelor armchair, where I had fallen asleep, with the faithful Bridget unchanged by my side—but John L. (or James Elia) was gone forever.
POOR RELATIONS 1
A Poor Relation-is the most irrelevant thing in nature, -a piece of impertinent correspondency,-an odious approximation,-a haunting conscience,-a preposterous shadow, lengthening in the noontide of our prosperity,an unwelcome remembrancer,-a perpetually recurring mortification,-a drain on your purse,-a more intolerable dun upon your pride,-a drawback upon success, a rebuke to your rising,-a stain in your blood,-a blot on your 'scutcheon,-a rent in your garment,-a death's head at your banquet,—Agathocles's pot,-a Mordecai in your gate,-a Lazarus at your door,-a lion in your path,-a frog in your chamber,-a fly in your ointment,
a mote in your eye,-a triumph to your enemy, an apology to your friends,the one thing not needful, the hail in harvest,—the ounce of sour in a pound of sweet.
He is known by his knock. Your heart telleth you "That is Mr. -"A rap, between familiarity and respect, that demands, and, at the same time, seems to despair of, entertainment. He entereth smiling andembarrassed. He holdeth out his hand to you to shake and-draweth it back again. He casually looketh in about dinner-time-when the table is full. He offereth to go away, seeing you have company—but is induced to stay. He filleth a chair, and your visitor's two children are accommodated at a side table. He never cometh 1 First published in the London Magazine, May, 1822.
upon open days, when your wife says with some complacency, “My dear, perhaps Mr. will drop in to-day.” He remembereth birthdays—and professeth he is fortunate to have stumbled upon one. He declareth against fish, the turbot being small-yet suffereth himself to be importuned into a slice against his first resolution. He sticketh by the port-yet will be prevailed upon to empty the remainder glass of claret, if a stranger press it upon him. He is a puzzle to the servants, who are fearful of being too obsequious, or not civil enough, to him. The guests think "they have seen him before." Every one speculateth upon his condition; and the most part take him to be—a tide waiter. He calleth you by your Christian name to imply that his other is the same with your own. He is too familiar by half, yet you wish he had less diffidence. With half the familiarity he might pass for a casual dependent; with more boldness he would be in no danger of being taken for what he is. He is too humble for a friend, yet taketh on him more state than befits a client. He is a worse guest than a country tenant, inasmuch as he bringeth up no rentyet 'tis odds, from his garb and demeanor, that your guests take him for one. He is asked to make one at the whist table, refuseth on the score of poverty, and-resents being left out. When the company break up he proffereth to go for a coach-and lets the servant go. He recollects your grandfather, and will thrust in some mean and quite unimportant anecdote of the family. He knew it when it was not quite so flourishing as he is "blest in seeing it now.” He reviveth past situations to institute what he calleth favorable comparisons. With a reflecting sort of congratulation, he will inquire the price of your furniture, and insults you with a special commendation of your window-curtains. He is of