“Keeping yourself up to the mark ain’t too easy,” continued Hezekiah; “and when it comes to other folks! play’s all they think of. Talk religion to them—why, they laugh at you! What the world’s coming to, I don’t know. How’s the printing business doing?”

“The printing business,” responded the other, removing his pipe and speaking somewhat sadly, “the printing business looks like being a big thing. Capital, of course, is what hampers me—or, rather, the want of it. But Janet, she’s careful; she don’t waste much, Janet don’t.”

“Now, with Anne,” replied Hezekiah, “it’s all the other way—pleasure, gaiety, a day at Rosherville or the Crystal Palace—anything to waste money.”

“Ah! she was always fond of her bit of fun,” remembered Solomon.

“Fun!” retorted Hezekiah. “I like a bit of fun myself. But not if you’ve got to pay for it. Where’s the fun in that?”

“What I ask myself sometimes,” said Solomon, looking straight in front of him, “is what do we do it for?”

“What do we do what for?”

“Work like blessed slaves, depriving ourselves of all enjoyments. What’s the sense of it? What——”

A voice from the perambulator beside him broke the thread of Solomon Appleyard’s discourse. The sole surviving son of Hezekiah Grindley, seeking distraction and finding none, had crept back unperceived. A perambulator! A thing his experience told him out of which excitement in some form or another could generally be obtained. You worried it and took your chance. Either it howled, in which case you had to run for your life, followed—and, unfortunately, overtaken nine times out of ten—by a whirlwind of vengeance; or it gurgled: in which case the heavens smiled and halos descended on your head. In either event you escaped the deadly ennui that is the result of continuous virtue. Master Grindley, his star having pointed out to him a peacock’s feather lying on the ground, had, with one eye upon his unobservant parent, removed the complicated coverings sheltering Miss Helvetia Appleyard from the world, and anticipating by a quarter of a century the prime enjoyment of British youth, had set to work to tickle that lady on the nose. Miss Helvetia Appleyard awakened, did precisely what the tickled British maiden of to-day may be relied upon to do under corresponding circumstances: she first of all took swift and comprehensive survey of the male thing behind the feather. Had he been displeasing in her eyes, she would, one may rely upon it, have anteceded the behaviour in similar case of her descendant of to-day—that is to say, have expressed resentment in no uncertain terms. Master Nathaniel Grindley proving, however, to her taste, that which might have been considered impertinence became accepted as a fit and proper form of introduction. Miss Appleyard smiled graciously—nay, further, intimated desire for more.

“That your only one?” asked the paternal Grindley.

“She’s the only one,” replied Solomon, speaking in tones less pessimistic.

Miss Appleyard had with the help of Grindley junior wriggled herself into a sitting posture. Grindley junior continued his attentions, the lady indicating by signs the various points at which she was most susceptible.

“Pretty picture they make together, eh?” suggested Hezekiah in a whisper to his friend.

“Never saw her take to anyone like that before,” returned Solomon, likewise in a whisper.

A neighbouring church clock chimed twelve. Solomon Appleyard, knocking the ashes from his pipe, arose.

“Don’t know any reason myself why we shouldn’t see a little more of one another than we do,” suggested Grindley senior, shaking hands.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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