This was on the occasion of Mr. Craggs, whose teeth were not of the best, partially choking, when he cried out with great animation, 'I thought he was gone!'
'Now, Alfred,' said the Doctor, 'for a word or two of business, while we are yet at breakfast.'
'While we are yet at breakfast,' said Snitchey and Craggs, who seemed to have no present idea of leaving off.
Although Alfred had not been breakfasting, and seemed to have quite enough business on his hands as it was, he respectfully answered:
'If you please, sir.'
'If anything could be serious,' the Doctor began, 'in such a - '
'Farce as this, sir,' hinted Alfred.
'In such a farce as this,' observed the Doctor, 'it might be this recurrence, on the eve of separation, of a double birthday, which is connected with many associations pleasant to us four, and with the recollection of a long and amicable intercourse. That's not to the purpose.'
'Ah! yes, yes, Dr. Jeddler,' said the young man. 'It is to the purpose. Much to the purpose, as my heart bears witness this morning; and as yours does too, I know, if you would let it speak. I leave your house to-day; I cease to be your ward to-day; we part with tender relations stretching far behind us, that never can be exactly renewed, and with others dawning - yet before us,' he looked down at Marion beside him, 'fraught with such considerations as I must not trust myself to speak of now. Come, come!' he added, rallying his spirits and the Doctor at once, 'there's a serious grain in this large foolish dust-heap, Doctor. Let us allow to- day, that there is One.'
'To-day!' cried the Doctor. 'Hear him! Ha, ha, ha! Of all days in the foolish year. Why, on this day, the great battle was fought on this ground. On this ground where we now sit, where I saw my two girls dance this morning, where the fruit has just been gathered for our eating from these trees, the roots of which are struck in Men, not earth, - so many lives were lost, that within my recollection, generations afterwards, a churchyard full of bones, and dust of bones, and chips of cloven skulls, has been dug up from underneath our feet here. Yet not a hundred people in that battle knew for what they fought, or why; not a hundred of the inconsiderate rejoicers in the victory, why they rejoiced. Not half a hundred people were the better for the gain or loss. Not half-a-dozen men agree to this hour on the cause or merits; and nobody, in short, ever knew anything distinct about it, but the mourners of the slain. Serious, too!' said the Doctor, laughing. 'Such a system!'
'But, all this seems to me,' said Alfred, 'to be very serious.'
'Serious!' cried the Doctor. 'If you allowed such things to be serious, you must go mad, or die, or climb up to the top of a mountain, and turn hermit.'
'Besides - so long ago,' said Alfred.
'Long ago!' returned the Doctor. 'Do you know what the world has been doing, ever since? Do you know what else it has been doing? I don't!'
'It has gone to law a little,' observed Mr. Snitchey, stirring his tea.
'Although the way out has been always made too easy,' said his partner.
'And you'll excuse my saying, Doctor,' pursued Mr. Snitchey, 'having been already put a thousand times in possession of my opinion, in the course of our discussions, that, in its having gone to law, and in its legal system altogether, I do observe a serious side - now, really, a something tangible, and with a purpose and intention in it - '
Clemency Newcome made an angular tumble against the table, occasioning a sounding clatter among the cups and saucers.
'Heyday! what's the matter there?' exclaimed the Doctor.
'It's this evil-inclined blue bag,' said Clemency, 'always tripping up somebody!'
'With a purpose and intention in it, I was saying,' resumed Snitchey, 'that commands respect. Life a farce, Dr. Jeddler? With law in it?'
The Doctor laughed, and looked at Alfred.
'Granted, if you please, that war is foolish,' said Snitchey. 'There we agree. For example.