"What else can be the consequence," said Herbert, in explanation,
"if he will cut the cheese? A man with the gout in his right hand -
and everywhere else - can't expect to get through a Double
Gloucester without hurting himself."
He seemed to have hurt himself very much, for he gave another
"To have Provis for an upper lodger is quite a godsend to Mrs.
Whimple," said Herbert, "for of course people in general won't
stand that noise. A curious place, Handel; isn't it?"
It was a curious place, indeed; but remarkably well kept and clean.
"Mrs. Whimple," said Herbert, when I told him so, "is the best of
housewives, and I really do not know what my Clara would do without
her motherly help. For, Clara has no mother of her own, Handel, and
no relation in the world but old Gruffandgrim."
"Surely that's not his name, Herbert?"
"No, no," said Herbert, "that's my name for him. His name is Mr.
Barley. But what a blessing it is for the son of my father and
mother, to love a girl who has no relations, and who can never
bother herself, or anybody else, about her family!"
Herbert had told me on former occasions, and now reminded me, that
he first knew Miss Clara Barley when she was completing her
education at an establishment at Hammersmith, and that on her being
recalled home to nurse her father, he and she had confided their
affection to the motherly Mrs. Whimple, by whom it had been fostered
and regulated with equal kindness and discretion, ever since. It
was understood that nothing of a tender nature could possibly be
confided to old Barley, by reason of his being totally unequal to
the consideration of any subject more psychological than Gout, Rum,
and Purser's stores.
As we were thus conversing in a low tone while Old Barley's
sustained growl vibrated in the beam that crossed the ceiling, the
room door opened, and a very pretty slight dark-eyed girl of twenty
or so, came in with a basket in her hand: whom Herbert tenderly
relieved of the basket, and presented blushing, as "Clara." She
really was a most charming girl, and might have passed for a
captive fairy, whom that truculent Ogre, Old Barley, had pressed
into his service.
"Look here," said Herbert, showing me the basket, with a
compassionate and tender smile after we had talked a little;
"here's poor Clara's supper, served out every night. Here's her
allowance of bread, and here's her slice of cheese, and here's her
rum - which I drink. This is Mr. Barley's breakfast for to-morrow,
served out to be cooked. Two mutton chops, three potatoes, some
split peas, a little flour, two ounces of butter, a pinch of salt,
and all this black pepper. It's stewed up together, and taken hot,
and it's a nice thing for the gout, I should think!"
There was something so natural and winning in Clara's resigned way
of looking at these stores in detail, as Herbert pointed them out,
- and something so confiding, loving, and innocent, in her modest
manner of yielding herself to Herbert's embracing arm - and
something so gentle in her, so much needing protection on Mill Pond
Bank, by Chinks's Basin, and the Old Green Copper Rope-Walk, with
Old Barley growling in the beam - that I would not have undone the
engagement between her and Herbert, for all the money in the
pocket-book I had never opened.
I was looking at her with pleasure and admiration, when suddenly
the growl swelled into a roar again, and a frightful bumping noise
was heard above, as if a giant with a wooden leg were trying to
bore it through the ceiling to come to us. Upon this Clara said to
Herbert, "Papa wants me, darling!" and ran away.
"There is an unconscionable old shark for you!" said Herbert. "What
do you suppose he wants now, Handel?"
"I don't know," said I. "Something to drink?"
"That's it!" cried Herbert, as if I had made a guess of