`No,' said she; `you must ask Miss Wilson: she outshines us all in singing, and music too.'
Miss Wilson demurred.
`She'll sing readily enough,' said Fergus, `if you'll undertake to stand by her, Mr Lawrence, and turn over the leaves for her.'
`I shall be most happy to do so. Miss Wilson, will you allow me?'
She bridled her long neck and smiled, and suffered him to lead her to the instrument, where she played and sang, in her very best style, one piece after another; while he stood patiently by, leaning one hand on the back of her chair, and turning over the leaves of her book with the other. Perhaps he was as much charmed with her performance as she was. It was all very fine in its way; but I cannot say that it moved me very deeply. There was plenty of skill and execution, but precious little feeling.
But we had not done with Mrs Graham yet.
`I don't take wine, Mrs Markham,' said Mr Millward, upon the introduction of that beverage; `I'll take a little of your home-brewed ale. I always prefer your home-brewed to anything else.'
Flattered at this compliment, my mother rang the bell, and a china jug of our best ale was presently brought, and set before the worthy gentleman who so well knew how to appreciate its excellencies.
`Now THIS is the thing!' cried he, pouring out a glass of the same in a long stream, skilfully directed from the jug to the tumbler, so as to produce much foam without spilling a drop; and, having surveyed it for a moment opposite the candle, he took a deep draught, and then smacked his lips, drew a long breath, and refilled his glass, my mother looking on with the greatest satisfaction.
`There's nothing like this, Mrs Markham!' said he; `I always maintain that there's nothing to compare with your home-brewed ale.'
`I'm sure I'm glad you like it, sir. I always look after the brewing myself, as well as the cheese and the butter--I like to have things well done, while we're about it.'
`Quite right, Mrs Markham!'
`But then, Mr Millward, you don't think it wrong to take a little wine now and then--or a little spirits either?' said my mother, as she handed a smoKing tumbler of gin and water to Mrs Wilson, who affirmed that wine sat heavy on her stomach, and whose son Robert was at that moment helping himself to a pretty stiff glass of the same.
`By no means!' replied the oracle, with a Jove-like nod; `these things are all blessings and mercies, if we only knew how to make use of them.'
`But Mrs Graham doesn't think so. You shall just hear now, what she told us the other day--I told her I'd tell you.'
And my mother favoured the company with a particular account of that lady's mistaken ideas and conduct regarding the matter in hand, concluding with, `Now don't you think it is wrong?'
`Wrong!' repeated the vicar, with more than common solemnity--`criminal, I should say--criminal!--Not only is it making a fool of the boy, but it is despising the gifts of providence, and teaching him to trample them under his feet.'
He then entered more fully into the question, and explained at large the folly and impiety of such a proceeding. My mother heard him with profoundest reverence; and even Mrs Wilson vouchsafed to rest her tongue
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