old Lord Mallowford was burnt to death in his bed, and all the postobits fell in. I'll be married in the bottle- green. Peg--Peg Sliderskew--I'll wear the bottle-green!'
This call, loudly repeated twice or thrice at the room-door, brought into the apartment a short, thin, weasen, blear-eyed old woman, palsystricken and hideously ugly, who, wiping her shrivelled face upon her dirty apron, inquired, in that subdued tone in which deaf people commonly speak:--
`Was that you a calling, or only the clock a striking? My hearing gets so bad, I never know which is which; but when I hear a noise, I know it must be one of you, because nothing else never stirs in the house.'
`Me, Peg--me,' said Arthur Gride, tapping himself on the breast to render the reply more intelligible.
`You, eh?' returned Peg. `And what do you want?'
`I'll be married in the bottle-green,' cried Arthur Gride.
`It's a deal too good to be married in, master,' rejoined Peg, after a short inspection of the suit. `Haven't you got anything worse than this?'
`Nothing that'll do,' replied old Arthur.
`Why not do?' retorted Peg. `Why don't you wear your every-day clothes, like a man--eh?'
`They an't becoming enough, Peg,' returned her master.
`Not what enough?' said Peg.
`Becoming what?' said Peg, sharply. `Not becoming too old to wear?'
Arthur Gride muttered an imprecation on his housekeeper's deafness, as he roared in her ear:--
`Not smart enough! I want to look as well as I can.'
`Look?' cried Peg. `If she's as handsome as you say she is, she won't look much at you, master, take your oath of that; and as to how you look yourself--pepper-and-salt, bottle-green, sky-blue, or tartan-plaid will make no difference in you.'
With which consolatory assurance, Peg Sliderskew gathered up the chosen suit, and folding her skinny arms upon the bundle, stood, mouthing, and grinning, and blinking her watery eyes, like an uncouth figure in some monstrous piece of carving.
`You're in a funny humour, an't you, Peg?' said Arthur, with not the best possible grace.
`Why, isn't it enough to make me?' rejoined the old woman. `I shall, soon enough, be put out, though, if anybody tries to domineer it over me: and so I give you notice, master. Nobody shall be put over Peg Sliderskew's head, after so many years; you know that, and so I needn't tell you! That won't do for me-- no, no, nor for you. Try that once, and come to ruin--ruin--ruin!'
`Oh dear, dear, I shall never try it,' said Arthur Gride, appalled by the mention of the word, `not for the world. It would be very easy to ruin me; we must be very careful; more saving than ever, with another mouth to feed. Only we--we mustn't let her lose her good looks, Peg, because I like to see 'em.'
`Take care you don't find good looks come expensive,' returned Peg, shaking her forefinger.
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