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from a particular friend of his, who, he said, was willing to sell them for less than half their value. Another time, when he happened to find out that my uncle had invited a few friends to dinner, he was haranguing about the indispensable necessity of having down a man-cook from one of the London hotels, otherwise it was impossible to have the dinner dressed fit to set before a party.
My uncle took very little notice of the captain's speeches : I never knew him do a thing, or alter a thing at his suggestion. Though he never spoke of him in his absence, I am persuaded he had no very high opinion of him ; and would not, I suspect, have kept up any intercourse with him, but for a sort of family connexion.
What was his proposal on the occasion first referred to, I do not know, nor does it much signify ; but it was the first time I had heard my uncle make use of the expression, “I cannot afford it,” and it rather startled me, and left a painful impression on my mind. My uncle was reckoned a rich man in the neighbourhood. The house and grounds were his own, and he was landlord to several farmers. Besides this, I knew he had property in the funds; for he always went to London twice a year to receive his dividends. My first journey to London was in company
with him and my cousin Frank. Uncle took us with him to the Bank, and we saw him receive a large sum of money. I knew, too, that he had always plenty of money in the house; and when he wanted more, he only wrote a cheque on his country banker, and the money was sure to come.
I could not at all understand how it was possible that Uncle Barnaby could not afford to have and
do any thing and every thing he chose. I knew, however, that he had paid a great deal of money for building the school-house, and buying books for the children; and, for a moment, I indulged the childish fear, that he might have spent all, and not have saved enough for himself; and I thought, What a sad thing it would be for Uncle Barnaby to become poor, who was so kind to every body, and did so much good with his money!
It was some relief to me to find that my uncle had not quite exhausted his resources ; for in the course of our walk that day, we called at a bookseller's shop in the town, where my
uncle expected to find some books he had ordered. The books were ready; my uncle paid the bill, amounting to several pounds, and taking out of the parcel, “Rollin's Ancient History,” and “Bewick's British Birds,” both handsomely bound; he presented the former to Frank, and the latter to me. We then went to a nursery garden, where my uncle purchased some choice plants for the green-house. On our way home, we called at one of the cottages, where a carpenter was appointed to meet my uncle to take orders for repairing the house and placing a new fence round the garden. This cottage was the dwelling of a poor family, the head of which had been disabled from laborious work by injuries sustained in a benevolent and successful effort to rescue a poor old woman from perishing in the flames of her dwelling. * My uncle had just settled the cottage and orchard on the poor man and his wife for their lives, and he was now doing several little matters for the comfort of the family.
* Sce page 5.
The afflicted man was employed in assorting seaweeds for sale to occasional visitors, or to persons curious in marine botany: and my uncle encouraged the poor woman to hope that, by her own industry and that of her children, with the produce of the garden, orchard, bee-hives, and poultry-yard, they would be enabled to live in comfort. My uncle having given his directions to the carpenter, and spoken a few kind words to the family, hurried away from the grateful acknowledgments which the poor people were pouring forth ; but I saw the tears of benevolent pleasure glisten in his eyes : I remembered the words of Job, “When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the
eye saw me, it gave witness to me. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me,” Job xxix. 11, 13; and I felt glad that Uncle Barnaby could afford to do what he thought right, if he could not do what captain Tankerville advised him. I will here just observe, that the children at the cottage were brought up in industry, credit, and comfort, and the parents lived to a good old age to enjoy the liberality of their kind benefactor.
On our return from our walk, we found an old friend of my uncle's, who was unexpectedly come to spend a few days with him. He was a tall, fine-looking man, about fifty years of age ; in his manners, as fine a combination of frankness, dignity, simplicity, and true politeness, as I ever beheld. My uncle and the visitor seemed perfectly to understand each other's tastes and habits. “I did not write,” said the visitor, “to apprise you of my coming; for it was not till the close of last night's debate, that I found myself at liberty
to take a few days' relaxation : I knew from your letter of Monday that you were at home, and would receive me.” A very few words served to express a cordial welcome, and the stranger seemed at once quite at home with us. There was no fuss or ceremony; the dinner was served and every thing went on just in its usual course. The friends seemed only intent on enjoying and improving their friendly intercourse. Frank and myself were not sent away: much of the conversation was such as would interest and instruct us, and my uncle seemed to encourage us to remain. They spoke of books, and men, and things ; recollections of by-gone days, and acquaintances of youth, widely scattered by the vicissitudes of time, or having passed the boundary of mortality. My uncle and his guest seemed to think and feel alike on the subjects of religion, morality, and human character and conduct. Their remarks and anecdotes were pertinent, lively, and striking; and while this kind of conversation lasted, we young ones were almost as much interested in it as themselves. But when it veered round to the state of affairs on the continent; the debates about the malt tax, and property tax, and such like matters, which were not at all interesting to us, we quietly retreated to the other end of the room to examine the books which had been presented to us.
It was not long before my uncle called us, saying he wanted Frank to make a drawing. It was always a pleasure to be employed for one so kind and so much beloved. While Frank went to fetch his portfolio · and pencils, I was sent into the library for some architectural books; and we were presently all happily engaged in comparing and selecting plans for lodges and rustic cottages, of which it appeared my uncle's friend was intending to erect several. Frank, with much
promptitude and good will, set about the drawings, reducing or extending the plan according to the proportions desired. I had not Frank's abilities or proficiency, but I felt pleased to observe his method, to watch his progress, and to wait upon him with any thing he mightrequire; and I shared his pleasure, too, in the approbation he received for the neatness and accuracy of his performances. Frank's success in drawing, led the conversation on to paintings and artists. The visitor, whom, to my great surprise, my uncle called Lord C., observed that the exhibition that year equalled, if not excelled, any one that he had previously witnessed. He spoke, in particular, with high admiration of a fine Scripture piece by the first English painter of the day. He said it was likely to go out of the country, which he much regretted, and had felt a strong inclination to purchase it ; “but,” added he, “I could not justify myself in the expense; I could not afford it.”
Well,” thought I, “then Lord C. is not richer than Uncle Barnaby, perhaps not so rich; for it
may be that uncle did not wish to have what Captain Tankerville was talking about; but Lord C. says he did wish for the picture, but could not afford to buy it.”
When Frank and I were alone together, something came up about the events of the day, and I observed, that I thought Lord C. “ a remarkably kind, pleasant gentleman. He does not seem to have a bit of pride, any more than my uncle ; and