You are that restless and that roving--"
"Yes! I know I am, Mrs. Bagnet. I know I am."
"You know you are!" says Mrs. Bagnet. "What's the use of that? WHY are you?"
"The nature of the animal, I suppose," returns the trooper good- humouredly.
"Ah!" cries Mrs. Bagnet, something shrilly. "But what satisfaction will the nature of the animal be to me when the animal shall have tempted my Mat away from the musical business to New Zealand or Australey?"
Mrs. Bagnet is not at all an ill-looking woman. Rather large- boned, a little coarse in the grain, and freckled by the sun and wind which have tanned her hair upon the forehead, but healthy, wholesome, and bright-eyed. A strong, busy, active, honest-faced woman of from forty-five to fifty. Clean, hardy, and so economically dressed (though substantially) that the only article of ornament of which she stands possessed appear's to be her wedding-ring, around which her finger has grown to be so large since it was put on that it will never come off again until it shall mingle with Mrs. Bagnet's dust.
"Mrs. Bagnet," says the trooper, "I am on my parole with you. Mat will get no harm from me. You may trust me so far."
"Well, I think I may. But the very looks of you are unsettling," Mrs. Bagnet rejoins. "Ah, George, George! If you had only settled down and married Joe Pouch's widow when he died in North America, SHE'D have combed your hair for you."
"It was a chance for me, certainly," returns the trooper half laughingly, half seriously, "but I shall never settle down into a respectable man now. Joe Pouch's widow might have done me good-- there was something in her, and something of her--but I couldn't make up my mind to it. If I had had the luck to meet with such a wife as Mat found!"
Mrs. Bagnet, who seems in a virtuous way to be under little reserve with a good sort of fellow, but to be another good sort of fellow herself for that matter, receives this compliment by flicking Mr. George in the face with a head of greens and taking her tub into the little room behind the shop.
"Why, Quebec, my poppet," says George, following, on invitation, into that department. "And little Malta, too! Come and kiss your Bluffy!"
These young ladies--not supposed to have been actually christened by the names applied to them, though always so called in the family from the places of their birth in barracks--are respectively employed on three-legged stools, the younger (some five or six years old) in learning her letters out of a penny primer, the elder (eight or nine perhaps) in teaching her and sewing with great assiduity. Both hail Mr. George with acclamations as an old friend and after some kissing and romping plant their stools beside him.
"And how's young Woolwich?" says Mr. George.
"Ah! There now!" cries Mrs. Bagnet, turning about from her saucepans (for she is cooking dinner) with a bright flush on her face. "Would you believe it? Got an engagement at the theayter, with his father, to play the fife in a military piece."
"Well done, my godson!" cries Mr. George, slapping his thigh.
"I believe you!" says Mrs. Bagnet. "He's a Briton. That's what Woolwich is. A Briton!"
"And Mat blows away at his bassoon, and you're respectable civilians one and all," says Mr. George. "Family people. Children growing up. Mat's old mother in Scotland, and your old father somewhere else, corresponded with, and helped a little, and--well, well! To be sure, I don't know why I shouldn't be wished a hundred mile away, for I have not much to do with all this!"
Mr. George is becoming thoughtful, sitting before the fire in the whitewashed room, which has a sanded floor and a barrack smell and contains nothing superfluous and has not a visible speck of dirt or dust in it, from the faces of Quebec and Malta to the bright tin pots and pannikins upon the dresser shelves--Mr. George is becoming thoughtful, sitting here while Mrs. Bagnet is busy, when Mr. Bagnet and young Woolwich opportunely come home. Mr. Bagnet is an ex- artilleryman, tall and upright, with shaggy eyebrows and whiskers like the fibres of a coco-nut, not a hair upon his head, and a torrid complexion.