Brother and Sister

MAGGIE was obliged to go to Tom's lodgings in the middle of the day, when he would be coming in to dinner, else she would not have found him at home. He was not lodging with entire strangers. Our friend Bob Jakin had, with Mumps's tacit consent, taken not only a wife about eight months ago, but also one of those queer old houses pierced with surprising passages, by the water-side, where, as he observed, his wife and mother could keep themselves out of mischief by letting out two `pleasure-boats' in which he had invested some of his savings, and by taking a lodger for the parlour and spare bedroom. Under these circumstances, what could be better for the interests of all parties, sanitary considerations apart, than that the lodger should be Mr Tom? It was Bob's wife who opened the door to Maggie. She was a tiny woman, with the general physiognomy of a Dutch doll, looking, in comparison with Bob's mother who filled up the passage in the rear, very much like one of those human figures which the artist finds conveniently standing near a colossal statue to show the proportions. The tiny woman curtsied and looked up at Maggie with some awe as soon as she had opened the door; but the words, `Is my brother at home?' which Maggie uttered smilingly, made her turn round with sudden excitement and say,

`Eh, mother, mother - tell Bob! - it's Miss Maggie! Come in, Miss, for goodness do,' she went on, opening a side door, and endeavouring to flatten her person against the wall to make the utmost space for the visitor.

Sad recollections crowded on Maggie as she entered the small parlour, which was now all that poor Tom had to call by the name of `home' - that name which had once, so many years ago, meant for both of them the same sum of dear familiar objects. But everything was not strange to her in this new room: the first thing her eyes dwelt on was the large old Bible, and the sight was not likely to disperse the old memories. She stood without speaking.

`If you please to take the privilege o' sitting down, Miss,' said Mrs Jakin, rubbing her apron over a perfectly clean chair, and then lifting up the corner of that garment and holding it to her face with an air of embarrassment, as she looked wonderingly at Maggie.

`Bob is at home, then?' said Maggie, recovering herself, and smiling at the bashful Dutch doll.

`Yes, Miss; but I think he must be washing and dressing himself - I'll go and see,' said Mrs Jakin, disappearing.

But she presently came back walking with new courage a little way behind her husband, who showed the brilliancy of his blue eyes and regular white teeth in the doorway, bowing respectfully.

`How do you do, Bob?' said Maggie, coming forward and putting out her hand to him. `I always meant to pay your wife a visit, and I shall come another day on purpose for that, if she will let me. But I was obliged to come today, to speak to my brother.'

`He'll be in before long, Miss. He's doin' finely, Mr Tom is: he'll be one o' the fust men hereabouts - you'll see that.'

`Well, Bob, I'm sure he'll be indebted to you, whatever he becomes: he said so himself only the other night, when he was talking of you.'

`Eh, Miss, that's his way o' takin' it. But I think the more on't when he says a thing, because his tongue doesn't over- shoot him as mine does. Lors! I'm no better nor a tilted bottle I arn't - I can't stop mysen when once I begin. But you look rarely, Miss - it does me good to see you. What do you say now, Prissy?' - here Bob turned to his wife. `Isn't it all come true as I said? Though there isn't many sorts o'goods as I can't over-praise when I set my tongue to' t.'

Mrs Bob's small nose seemed to be following the example of her eyes in turning up reverentially towards Maggie, but she was able now to smile and curtsy, and say, `I'd looked forrard like aenything to seein' you, Miss, for my husband's tongue's been runnin' on you like as if he was light-headed, iver since first he come a-courtin' on me.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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