|Back||1 2 3||Next|
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
The announcement of Henry Rogers's coming was received--variously, for any new arrival into the Den circle was subjected to rigorous criticism. This criticism was not intentional; it was the instinctive judgment that children pass upon everything, object or person, likely to affect themselves. And there is no severer bar of judgment in the world.
'Who is Cousinenry? What a name! Is he stiff, I wonder?' came from Monkey, almost before the announcement had left her father's lips. 'What will he think of Tante Jeanne?' Her little torrent of questions that prejudged him thus never called for accurate answers as a rule, but this time she meant to have an answer. 'What is he exaccurately?' she added, using her own invention made up of 'exact' and 'accurate.'
Mother looked up from the typewritten letter to reply, but before she could say, 'He's your father's cousin, dear; they were here as boys twenty years ago to learn French,' Jinny burst in with an explosive interrogation. She had been reading La Bonne Menagere in a corner. Her eyes, dark with conjecture, searched the faces of both parents alternately. 'Excuse me, Mother, but is he a clergyman?' she asked with a touch of alarm.
'Whatever makes you think that, child?'
'Clergymen are always called the reverundhenry. He'll wear black and have socks that want mending.'
'He shouldn't punt his letters,' declared Monkey. 'He's not an author, is he?'
Jimbo, busy over school tasks, with a huge slate-pencil his crumpled fingers held like a walking-stick, watched and listened in silence. He was ever fearful, perhaps, lest his superior man's knowledge might be called upon and found wanting. Questions poured and crackled like grapeshot, while the truth slowly emerged from the explanations the parents were occasionally permitted to interject. The personality of Cousin Henry Rogers grew into life about them--gradually. The result was a curious one that Minks would certainly have resented with indignation. For Cousinenry was, apparently, a business man with pockets full of sovereigns; stern, clever, and important; the sort of man that gets into Governments and things, yet somewhere with the flavour of the clergyman about him. This clerical touch was Jane Anne's contribution to the picture; and she was certain that he wore silk socks of the most expensive description--a detail she had read probably in some chance fragments of a newspaper. For Jinny selected phrases in this way from anywhere, and repeated them on all occasions without the slightest relevancy. She practised them. She had a way of giving abrupt information and making startling statements a propos of nothing at all. Certain phrases stuck in her mind, it seemed, for no comprehensible reason. When excited she picked out the one that first presented itself and fired it off like a gun, the more inapt the better. And 'busy' was her favourite adjective always.
'It's like a communication from a company,' Mother was saying, as she handed back the typewritten letter.
'Is he a company promoter then?' asked Jinny like a flash, certainly ignorant what that article of modern life could mean.
'Oh, I say!' came reproachfully from Jimbo, thus committing himself for the first time to speech. He glanced up into several faces round him, and then continued the picture of Cousin Henry he was drawing on his slate. He listened all the time. Occasionally he cocked an eye or ear up. He took in everything, saying little. His opinions matured slowly. The talk continued for a long time, questions and answers.
'I think he's nice,' he announced at length in French. For intimate things, he always used that language; his English, being uncertain, was kept for matters of unimportance. 'A gentle man.'
And it was Jimbo's verdict that the children then finally adopted. Cousin Henry was gentil. They laughed loudly at him, yet agreed. His influence on their little conclaves, though never volubly expressed-- because of that very fact, perhaps--was usually accepted. Jimbo was so decided. And he never committed himself to impulsive judgments that later had to be revised. He listened in silence to the end, then went plump for one side or the other. 'I think he'll be a nice man,' was the label, therefore, then and there attached to Mr. Henry Rogers in advance of delivery. Further than that, however, they would not go. It would have been childish to commit themselves more deeply till they saw him.
The conversation then slipped beyond their comprehension, or rather their parents used long words and circumventing phrases that made it difficult to follow. Owing to lack of space, matters of importance often had to be discussed in this way under the children's eyes, unless at night, when all were safe in bed; for French, of course, was of no avail for purposes of concealment. Long words were then made use of, dark, wumbled sentences spoken very quickly, with suggestive gestures and expressions of the eyes labelled by Monkey with, 'Look, Mother and Daddy are making faces--something's up!'
|Back||1 2 3||Next|
A Prisoner in Fairyland -by- Algernon Blackwood