"I am so out of sorts that I bungle at an easy job like this!"
Mrs. Bagnet concludes that for such a case there is no remedy like a pipe, and fastening the brooch herself in a twinkling, causes the trooper to be inducted into his usual snug place and the pipes to be got into action. "If that don't bring you round, George," says she, "just throw your eye across here at your present now and then, and the two together MUST do it."
"You ought to do it of yourself," George answers; "I know that very well, Mrs. Bagnet. I'll tell you how, one way and another, the blues have got to be too many for me. Here was this poor lad. 'Twas dull work to see him dying as he did, and not be able to help him."
"What do you mean, George? You did help him. You took him under your roof."
"I helped him so far, but that's little. I mean, Mrs. Bagnet, there he was, dying without ever having been taught much more than to know his right hand from his left. And he was too far gone to be helped out of that."
"Ah, poor creetur!" says Mrs. Bagnet.
"Then," says the trooper, not yet lighting his pipe, and passing his heavy hand over his hair, "that brought up Gridley in a man's mind. His was a bad case too, in a different way. Then the two got mixed up in a man's mind with a flinty old rascal who had to do with both. And to think of that rusty carbine, stock and barrel, standing up on end in his corner, hard, indifferent, taking everything so evenly--it made flesh and blood tingle, I do assure you."
"My advice to you," returns Mrs. Bagnet, "is to light your pipe and tingle that way. It's wholesomer and comfortabler, and better for the health altogether."
"You're right," says the trooper, "and I'll do it."
So he does it, though still with an indignant gravity that impresses the young Bagnets, and even causes Mr. Bagnet to defer the ceremony of drinking Mrs. Bagnet's health, always given by himself on these occasions in a speech of exemplary terseness. But the young ladies having composed what Mr. Bagnet is in the habit of calling "the mixtur," and George's pipe being now in a glow, Mr. Bagnet considers it his duty to proceed to the toast of the evening. He addresses the assembled company in the following terms.
"George. Woolwich. Quebec. Malta. This is her birthday. Take a day's march. And you won't find such another. Here's towards her!"
The toast having been drunk with enthusiasm, Mrs. Bagnet returns thanks in a neat address of corresponding brevity. This model composition is limited to the three words "And wishing yours!" which the old girl follows up with a nod at everybody in succession and a well-regulated swig of the mixture. This she again follows up, on the present occasion, by the wholly unexpected exclamation, "Here's a man!"
Here IS a man, much to the astonishment of the little company, looking in at the parlour-door. He is a sharp-eyed man--a quick keen man--and he takes in everybody's look at him, all at once, individually and collectively, in a manner that stamps him a remarkable man.
"George," says the man, nodding, "how do you find yourself?"
"Why, it's Bucket!" cries Mr. George.
"Yes," says the man, coming in and closing the door. "I was going down the street here when I happened to stop and look in at the musical instruments in the shop-window--a friend of mine is in want of a second-hand wiolinceller of a good tone--and I saw a party enjoying themselves, and I thought it was you in the corner; I thought I couldn't be mistaken. How goes the world with you, George, at the present moment? Pretty smooth? And with you, ma'am? And with you, governor? And Lord," says Mr. Bucket, opening his arms, "here's children too! You may do anything with me if you only show me children. Give us a kiss, my pets. No occasion to inquire who YOUR father and mother is. Never saw such a likeness in my life!"
Mr. Bucket, not unwelcome, has sat himself down next to Mr. George and taken Quebec and Malta on his knees. "You pretty dears," says Mr.