of all virtues, hospitality is the finest, and the most romantic. Dearest Lorna, kiss your uncle; it is quite a privilege.’

‘Perhaps it is to you, sir,’ said Lorna, who could never quite check her sense of oddity; ‘but I fear that you have smoked tobacco, which spoils reciprocity.’

‘You are right, my child. How keen your scent is! It is always so with us. Your grandfather was noted for his olfactory powers. Ah, a great loss, dear Mrs. Ridd, a terrible loss to this neighbourhood! As one of our great writers says—I think it must be Milton—“We ne’er shall look upon his like again.”’

‘With your good leave sir,’ I broke in, ‘Master Milton could never have written so sweet and simple a line as that. It is one of the great Shakespeare.’

‘Woe is me for my neglect!’ said the Counsellor, bowing airily; ‘this must be your son, Mistress Ridd, the great John, the wrestler. And one who meddles with the Muses! Ah, since I was young, how everything is changed, madam! Except indeed the beauty of women, which seems to me to increase every year.’ Here the old villain bowed to my mother; and she blushed, and made another curtsey, and really did look very nice.

‘Now though I have quoted the poets amiss, as your son informs me (for which I tender my best thanks, and must amend my reading), I can hardly be wrong in assuming that this young armiger must be the too attractive cynosure to our poor little maiden. And for my part, she is welcome to him. I have never been one of those who dwell upon distinctions of rank, and birth, and such like; as if they were in the heart of nature, and must be eternal. In early youth, I may have thought so, and been full of that little pride. But now I have long accounted it one of the first axioms of political economy—you are following me, Mistress Ridd?’

‘Well, sir, I am doing my best; but I cannot quite keep up with you.’

‘Never mind, madam; I will be slower. But your son’s intelligence is so quick—’

‘I see, sir; you thought that mine must be. But no; it all comes from his father, sir. His father was that quick and clever—’

‘Ah, I can well suppose it, madam. And a credit he is to both of you. Now, to return to our muttons—a figure which you will appreciate—I may now be regarded, I think, as this young lady’s legal guardian; although I have not had the honour of being formally appointed such. Her father was the eldest son of Sir Ensor Doone; and I happened to be the second son; and as young maidens cannot be baronets, I suppose I am “Sir Counsellor.” Is it so, Mistress Ridd, according to your theory of genealogy?’

‘I am sure I don’t know, sir,’ my mother answered carefully; ‘I know not anything of that name, sir, except in the Gospel of Matthew: but I see not why it should be otherwise.’

‘Good, madam! I may look upon that as your sanction and approval: and the College of Heralds shall hear of it. And in return, as Lorna’s guardian, I give my full and ready consent to her marriage with your son, madam.’

‘Oh, how good of you, sir, how kind! Well, I always did say, that the learnedest people were, almost always, the best and kindest, and the most simple-hearted.’

‘Madam, that is a great sentiment. What a goodly couple they will be! and if we can add him to our strength—’

‘Oh no, sir, oh no!’ cried mother: ‘you really must not think of it. He has always been brought up so honest—’

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