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With the help of a good deal of coaxing and begging, I managed to borrow Johnny for the day. Old Jeffry was never proof against humble entreaty, of which, I am sorry to be obliged to confess, I was always deceitfully lavish in my general dealings with him; in fact, I could effect nothing in any other fashion, since, although granting my requests, he usually regarded them but as the wants and wishes of a child, and worthy of no greater consideration. But, from experience, I knew that a strong, active boy, willingly at everybody's command, was an invaluable adjunct to a gipsy party. I have sometimes been amazed to witness the untiring prodigies of work performed by these merry little bipeds on such occasions. Johnny was therefore, to his intense satisfaction, deposited on the box between Thomas and the coachman.
Passing through the bright, happy-looking village, the cottagers hurrying to their doors to affectionately greet the grand-daughter of their kindest benefactor, I stopped finally at the Rectory.
Charles Beechley and Captain Bell decided to accompany us on horseback, the Denzell car
riage conveying Sariann, myself, Dora Bell, and a gentleman cousin of the latter-a Mr. Cherrup, a merry, chatty little man-one of those joyous, genial mortals to whom life seems but a perpetual round of sunshine and enjoyment. He and his equally lively little wife, and a midge of a son, nine or ten years old, were, fortunately, just then staying on a visit at the Bells'.
The remainder of our party (which was rather limited), including Mr. Bell (the paterfamilias), his second daughter Lucy, the aforesaid cousin's little wife and tiny boy, and Monica Dormer, drove in the Bells' oldfashioned, roomy carriage.
The squire, as he was called in Riversdale, his large property lying contiguous to the village, was a fine stalwart specimen of the good old country gentleman, kind-hearted, easytempered, and indolent, and ruled by his children—especially his daughters—who did exactly as they liked both with him and themselves, and had done so during the four since their mother's death.
Fortunately, as Sariann said, his childrentwo daughters and a son were of such
amiable, well-disposed natures that the household was none the worse for this juvenile rule; certainly, as matters seemed, nothing could be better regulated, or flow more smoothly, than did all domestic affairs in and around Oak Cliff; nor did any pater-familias in the country present a more comfortable, flourishing appearance than the worthy squire-too much so, indeed, to judge by a certain obesity enlarging his figure and very considerably impeding his breathing. Dora and Lucy Bell were two rather pretty, tall, slight girls of twenty and eighteen years old; not ungraceful in form, but too natural and heedless to be as elegant in movement and manner as their brother was desirous they should be. Wifely responsibilities and importance would, the good-natured father declared, quickly soften down such little defects into a matronly dignity that would astonish their friends. " And meanwhile," added the old gentleman, "I like them best as they are."
Captain Bell, seven or eight years Dora's senior (other children had come and gone between), was a handsome likeness of his father, allowing, of course, for the slightness
and other differences of youth. He was like, too, in character and temper, and was, in consequence, very popular.
The drive was charming!
such was the
general opinion. Charles and George Bell rode one on either side of our carriage, the leisurely pace of grandmamma's fat white horses rendering such knightly gallantry quite easy.
For some distance the two gentlemen kept together next to me, Charles being on the inside; and Captain George strove to maintain a brisk conversation with me across his friend, at the top of his rather loud, hilarious-toned voice. To my infinite relief he at last succumbed to the unsatisfactory difficulties of the case, and conveyed himself, his high spirits, and gallant attentions to Sariann and little Mr. Cherrup.
THE PICNIC CONTINUED.
PLEASANT, easy movement through sunshine and sweet, fresh air, and with cheerful companionship, was so exhilarating, so decidedly antagonistic to any spirit of gloom, discontent, and ill-humour, that even Charles yielded to their cheering influence, his grave face brightening wonderfully as he opened out into that humorous, agreeable character of which, when he chose, he possessed such unequalled powers.
Frequent were the peals of laughter which his witty sallies on persons and things elicited from the lips of the whole carriage party, especially mine and Dora's (the latter sat opposite me), and ere the conclusion of the drive I felt certain that her heart-long on the point