When Mr. George is dry, he goes to work to brush his head with two hard brushes at once, to that unmerciful degree that Phil, shouldering his way round the gallery in the act of sweeping it, winks with sympathy. This chafing over, the ornamental part of Mr. George's toilet is soon performed. He fills his pipe, lights it, and marches up and down smoking, as his custom is, while Phil, raising a powerful odour of hot rolls and coffee, prepares breakfast. He smokes gravely and marches in slow time. Perhaps this morning's pipe is devoted to the memory of Gridley in his grave.
"And so, Phil," says George of the shooting gallery after several turns in silence, "you were dreaming of the country last night?"
Phil, by the by, said as much in a tone of surprise as he scrambled out of bed.
"What was it like?"
"I hardly know what it was like, guv'ner," said Phil, considering.
"How did you know it was the country?"
"On account of the grass, I think. And the swans upon it," says Phil after further consideration.
"What were the swans doing on the grass?"
"They was a-eating of it, I expect," says Phil.
The master resumes his march, and the man resumes his preparation of breakfast. It is not necessarily a lengthened preparation, being limited to the setting forth of very simple breakfast requisites for two and the broiling of a rasher of bacon at the fire in the rusty grate; but as Phil has to sidle round a considerable part of the gallery for every object he wants, and never brings two objects at once, it takes time under the circumstances. At length the breakfast is ready. Phil announcing it, Mr. George knocks the ashes out of his pipe on the hob, stands his pipe itself in the chimney corner, and sits down to the meal. When he has helped himself, Phil follows suit, sitting at the extreme end of the little oblong table and taking his plate on his knees. Either in humility, or to hide his blackened hands, or because it is his natural manner of eating.
"The country," says Mr. George, plying his knife and fork; "why, I suppose you never clapped your eyes on the country, Phil?"
"I see the marshes once," says Phil, contentedly eating his breakfast.
"THE marshes, commander," returns Phil.
"Where are they?"
"I don't know where they are," says Phil; "but I see 'em, guv'ner. They was flat. And miste."
Governor and commander are interchangeable terms with Phil, expressive of the same respect and deference and applicable to nobody but Mr. George.
"I was born in the country, Phil."
"Was you indeed, commander?"
"Yes. And bred there."
Phil elevates his one eyebrow, and after respectfully staring at his master to express interest, swallows a great gulp of coffee, still staring at him.
"There's not a bird's note that I don't know," says Mr. George. "Not many an English leaf or berry that I couldn't name. Not many a tree that I couldn't climb yet if I was put to it. I was a real country boy, once. My good mother lived in the country."
"She must have been a fine old lady, guv'ner," Phil observes.
"Aye! And not so old either, five and thirty years ago," says Mr. George. "But I'll wager that at ninety she would be near as upright as me, and near as broad across the shoulders."
"Did she die at ninety, guv'ner?" inquires Phil.
"No. Bosh! Let her rest in peace, God bless her!" says the trooper. "What set me on about country boys, and runaways, and good-for-nothings? You, to be sure! So you never clapped your eyes upon the country--marshes and dreams excepted. Eh?"
Phil shakes his head.
"Do you want to see it?"
"N-no, I don't know as I do, particular," says Phil.
"The town's enough for you, eh?"
"Why, you see, commander," says Phil, "I ain't acquainted with anythink else, and I doubt if I ain't a-getting too old to take to novelties."
"How old ARE you, Phil?" asks the trooper, pausing as he conveys his smoking saucer to his lips.
"I'm something with a eight in it," says Phil.