‘That makes good the old rhyme,’ said Belle, ‘which I have heard sung by the old women in the great house:-

‘Ash, when green,
Is fire for a queen.’

‘And on fairer form of queen ash fire never shone,’ said I, ‘than on thine, O beauteous queen of the dingle.’

‘I am half disposed to be angry with you, young man,’ said Belle.

‘And why not entirely?’ said I.

Belle made no reply.

‘Shall I tell you?’ I demanded. ‘You had no objection to the first part of the speech, but you did not like being called queen of the dingle. Well, if I had the power, I would make you queen of something better than the dingle - Queen of China. Come, let us have tea.’

‘Something less would content me,’ said Belle, sighing, as she rose to prepare our evening meal.

So we took tea together, Belle and I. ‘How delicious tea is after a hot summer’s day and a long walk,’ said she.

‘I daresay it is most refreshing then,’ said I; ‘but I have heard people say that they most enjoy it on a cold winter’s night, when the kettle is hissing on the fire, and their children playing on the hearth.’

Belle sighed. ‘Where does tea come from?’ she presently demanded.

‘From China,’ said I; ‘I just now mentioned it, and the mention of it put me in mind of tea.’

‘What kind of country is China?’

‘I know very little about it; all I know is, that it is a very large country far to the East, but scarcely large enough to contain its inhabitants, who are so numerous, that though China does not cover one-ninth part of the world, its inhabitants amount to one- third of the population of the world.’

‘And do they talk as we do?’

‘Oh no! I know nothing of their language; but I have heard that it is quite different from all others, and so difficult that none but the cleverest people amongst foreigners can master it, on which account, perhaps, only the French pretend to know anything about it.’

‘Are the French so very clever, then?’ said Belle.

‘They say there are no people like them, at least in Europe. But talking of Chinese reminds me that I have not for some time past given you a lesson in Armenian. The word for tea in Armenian is - by the bye what is the Armenian word for tea?’

‘That’s your affair, not mine,’ said Belle; ‘it seems hard that the master should ask the scholar.’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘whatever the word may be in Armenian, it is a noun; and as we have never yet declined an Armenian noun together, we may as well take this opportunity of declining one. Belle, there are ten declensions in Armenian!

‘What’s a declension?’

‘The way of declining a noun.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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