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"Well, then, thy guess?"
asked Evelyn good-humouredly.
"That you might have the pleasure of another ride for it to-morrow."
"My girl knows me well," said the delighted father. "If the weather is fine, and my mare carries me as well to-day, I shall, I dare say, overcome my objection, and return for the bust tomorrow."
"And pray what was the objection ?" said Tremaine, with curiosity.
"I thought it a shilling all too dear," answered Evelyn.
"A shilling! and with six or eight miles there and back, is it possible you could have hesitated for a shilling?"
"Even so," said Evelyn, coolly; " nay, what is more, upon second thoughts, I think the thing cheap."
"Then why not have bought it?"
"I did not think so at the moment, and it was but going again.”
"Good heaven's !" said Tremaine, in a sort of triumph," is this the value which you men of method put upon your time? To what must you practical people, after all, be reduced, when a trumpery piece of plaister, or perhaps a tea-cup, costs
two journeys, and a great deal of calculation, in a very wise head too, to get it?"
"And very well bestowed," answered Evelyn, "for I assure you I have got already all I intended by it, and that was not a little." "For heaven's sake, what?-"” "I got rid of the spleen."
"I told you so," observed Georgina.
"But I thought you never had the spleen?" retorted Tremaine.
"Not often; but I cannot help my constitution, which generates bile; and all I have for it is to understand and cure its defects. I felt growing out of humour from a two-days' laziness; and therefore endeavoured to make a little business, in order to be obliged to ride. The remedy has done wonders already; and, to complete my cure, I came to my friends the practical philosophers here,"
Just at these words, the rooks, at a seeming signal from a distant centinel who was flying aloof, became particularly clamorous, till all flew off in several divisions to a neighbouring field, where they landed, and seemed (having first again planted centinels around them) engaged in busy conclave, which lasted several minutes.
“I would give something to make them out," said Evelyn.
"And I to make you out," observed Tremaine,
“for in truth such a compound of wisdom and trifling (excuse me) I never knew."
Why the trifling of a wise man is always respectable you know," said the doctor; "I only wish you would make out your first proposition, and prove my wisdom. But suppose this a mere bagatelle; one of the most acute of understandings once relied for happiness upon his famous maxim of vive la bagatelle.* Another, almost as shrewd, and full of wit and high breeding, spent at least an amused life professedly in trifles. It is at least as good as counting the waves, after the manner of Cicero, when he was out of humour, like other patriots, because the state would not do as he would have it."
"But I deny." continued Evelyn, " that my study of these creatures is either trifling or uninteresting." "It will require all your wisdom to prove it otherwise," said Tremaine.
"Why, as to the interest," answered Evelyn, they and their ancestors seem to have belonged, or rather to have gone on as faithful companions, to me and mine for these two hundred years; and the heart must be a little obdurate which is not something touched even by that circumstance alone. They seem to be a colony of kind dependents, who + Horace Walpole.
settle in the very precincts of my habitation, confiding in the protection which they think they are to meet with. Can I sally out and deprive them of what the mere smoke of my chimnies seemed to promise, when it indicated that it was the dwelling of a human being, and therefore of a friend ?"
"Your ride has done wonders, indeed," said Tremaine. "It must have restored to you all your good humour, when you can afford to bestow so much of it on a set of paltry birds."
"Some one has said," answered Evelyn, "(or if not, I will say it now for the first time), that the nature of good-humour is such as to make it matter little what the subject of it is, for it always brings its reward along with it. But my rooks, Sir, are not to be despised, for they shew more intelligence (I am certain it is above instinct) than most, if not all other animals, except human; and occasionally, I verily believe, more than many of them."
"The human animals are very much obliged to you," said Tremaine.
"But," gravely continued Evelyn, "is there in the whole range of zoology, next to our own great selves, any creatures who seem to possess so much design, such prescience in all they say and do?"
66 Say!" exclaimed Tremaine.
"Yes, say! for we must not suppose that, at this moment, they are not in the midst of a debate. I
only wish I were an Indian dervise, and could understand it."
Tremaine, notwithstanding Georgina had intimated her opinion, was about to appeal to her, when she stopped him by saying—
"You will get nothing out of us on this subject, Mr. Tremaine; I side with papa, as usual, and de bon cœur too, for I have often felt and watched all he is pointing out. I am particularly fond of their noise, which seems to tell so much; more even than the song of other birds, sweet as it is; and though the ramage of a modern shrubbery is certainly delicious, I almost prefer our ancient grove, with these its noisy inhabitants;-for such I suppose you will insist on calling them."
"But if you do," added Evelyn, "I shall continue, nevertheless, to respect these companions of our solitude, and must not have them insulted."
"You confess, then, you live in solitude," said Tremaine, catching at the word, "yet you had the choice of your life; why, therefore, blame me?"
"I live in the country," replied Evelyn, "but not in solitude."
"Yet you own you are driven to converse with these common creatures of the air, whom every farmer's boy hoots at all day long."
"I converse with Nature," said Evelyn, "whether in man or birds; you, it seems, only with man.”