"You hard-headed, dunder-headed, obstinate, rusty, crusty, musty,fusty, old savage!" said I, in fancy, one afternoon, to my grand uncleRumgudgeon–shaking my fist at him in imagination.Only in imagination. The fact is, some trivial discrepancy did exist,just then, between what I said and what I had not the courage tosay–between what I did and what I had half a mind to do.The old porpoise, as I opened the drawing-room door, was sitting withhis feet upon the mantel-piece, and a bumper of port in his paw, makingstrenuous efforts to accomplish the ditty.Remplis ton verre vide!Vide ton verre plein!"My dear uncle," said I, closing the door gently, and approachinghim with the blandest of smiles, "you are always so very kind andconsiderate, and have evinced your benevolence in so many–so very manyways–that–that I feel I have only to suggest this little point to youonce more to make sure of your full acquiescence.""Hem!" said he, "good boy! go on!""I am sure, my dearest uncle (you confounded old rascal!), that youhave no design really, seriously, to oppose my union with Kate. This ismerely a joke of yours, I know–ha! ha! ha!–how very pleasant you areat times.""Ha! ha! ha!" said he, "curse you! yes!""To be sure–of course! I knew you were jesting. Now, uncle, all thatKate and myself wish at present, is that you would oblige us with youradvice as–as regards the time–you know, uncle–in short, when will itbe most convenient for yourself, that the wedding shall–shall come off,you know?""Come off, you scoundrel!–what do you mean by that?–Better wait tillit goes on.""Ha! ha! ha!–he! he! he!–hi! hi! hi!–ho! ho! ho!–hu! hu! hu!–that’sgood!–oh that’s capital–such a wit! But all we want just now, youknow, uncle, is that you would indicate the time precisely.""Ah!–precisely?""Yes, uncle–that is, if it would be quite agreeable to yourself.""Wouldn’t it answer, Bobby, if I were to leave it at random–some timewithin a year or so, for example?–must I say precisely?""If you please, uncle–precisely.""Well, then, Bobby, my boy–you’re a fine fellow, aren’t you?–since youwill have the exact time I’ll–why I’ll oblige you for once:""Dear uncle!""Hush, sir!" (drowning my voice)–"I’ll oblige you for once. You shallhave my consent–and the plum, we mus’n’t forget the plum–let me see!when shall it be? To-day’s Sunday–isn’t it? Well, then, you shallbe married precisely–precisely, now mind!–when three Sundays cometogether in a week! Do you hear me, sir! What are you gaping at? I say,you shall have Kate and her plum when three Sundays come together in aweek–but not till then–you young scapegrace–not till then, if Idie for it. You know me–I’m a man of my word–now be off!" Here heswallowed his bumper of port, while I rushed from the room in despair.A very "fine old English gentleman," was my grand-uncle Rumgudgeon, butunlike him of the song, he had his weak points. He was a little, pursy,pompous, passionate semicircular somebody, with a red nose, a thickscull, (sic) a long purse, and a strong sense of his own consequence.With the best heart in the world, he contrived, through a predominantwhim of contradiction, to earn for himself, among those who only knewhim superficially, the character of a curmudgeon. Like many excellentpeople, he seemed possessed with a spirit of tantalization, which mighteasily, at a casual glance, have been mistaken for malevolence. To everyrequest, a positive "No!" was his immediate answer, but in the end–inthe long, long end–there were exceedingly few requests which herefused. Against all attacks upon his purse he made the most sturdydefence; but the amount extorted from him, at last, was generally indirect ratio with the length of the siege and the stubbornness of theresistance. In charity no one gave more liberally or with a worse grace.For the fine arts, and especially for the belles-lettres, he entertaineda profound contempt. With this he had been inspired by Casimir Perier,whose pert little query "A quoi un poete est il bon?" he was in thehabit of quoting, with a very droll pronunciation, as the ne plus ultraof logical wit. Thus my own inkling for the Muses had excited his entiredispleasure. He assured me one day, when I asked him for a new copy ofHorace, that the translation of "Poeta nascitur non fit" was "a nastypoet for nothing fit"–a remark which I took in high dudgeon. Hisrepugnance to "the humanities" had, also, much increased of late, byan accidental bias in favor of what he supposed to be natural science.Somebody had accosted him in the street, mistaking him for no less apersonage than Doctor Dubble L. Dee, the lecturer upon quack physics.This set him off at a tangent; and just at the epoch of this story–forstory it is getting to be after all–my grand-uncle Rumgudgeon wasaccessible and pacific only upon points which happened to chime in withthe caprioles of the hobby he was riding. For the rest, he laughed withhis arms and legs, and his politics were stubborn and easily understood.He thought, with Horsley, that "the people have nothing to do with thelaws but to obey them."I had lived with the old gentleman all my life. My parents, in dying,had bequeathed me to him as a rich legacy. I believe the old villainloved me as his own child–nearly if not quite as well as he lovedKate–but it was a dog’s existence that he led me, after all. From myfirst year until my fifth, he obliged me with very regular floggings.From five to fifteen, he threatened me, hourly, with the House ofCorrection. From fifteen to twenty, not a day passed in which he did notpromise to cut me off with a shilling. I was a sad dog, it is true–butthen it was a part of my nature–a point of my faith. In Kate, however,I had a firm friend, and I knew it. She was a good girl, and told mevery sweetly that I might have her (plum and all) whenever I couldbadger my grand-uncle Rumgudgeon, into the necessary consent. Poorgirl!–she was barely fifteen, and without this consent, her littleamount in the funds was not come-at-able until five immeasurable summershad "dragged their slow length along." What, then, to do? At fifteen, oreven at twenty-one (for I had now passed my fifth olympiad) five yearsin prospect are very much the same as five hundred. In vain we besiegedthe old gentleman with importunities. Here was a piece de resistance (asMessieurs Ude and Careme would say) which suited his perverse fancy to aT. It would have stiffed the indignation of Job himself, to see how muchlike an old mouser he behaved to us two poor wretched little mice. Inhis heart he wished for nothing more ardently than our union. He hadmade up his mind to this all along. In fact, he would have given tenthousand pounds from his own pocket (Kate’s plum was her own) if hecould have invented any thing like an excuse for complying with ourvery natural wishes. But then we had been so imprudent as to broachthe subject ourselves. Not to oppose it under such circumstances, Isincerely believe, was not in his power.I have said already that he had his weak points; but in speaking ofthese, I must not be understood as referring to his obstinacy: which wasone of his strong points–"assurement ce n’ etait pas sa foible." WhenI mention his weakness I have allusion to a bizarre old-womanishsuperstition which beset him. He was great in dreams, portents, et idgenus omne of rigmarole. He was excessively punctilious, too, upon smallpoints of honor, and, after his own fashion, was a man of his word,beyond doubt. This was, in fact, one of his hobbies. The spirit of hisvows he made no scruple of setting at naught, but the letter was a bondinviolable. Now it was this latter peculiarity in his disposition,of which Kates ingenuity enabled us one fine day, not long after ourinterview in the dining-room, to take a very unexpected advantage, and,having thus, in the fashion of all modern bards and orators, exhaustedin prolegomena, all the time at my command, and nearly all the room atmy disposal, I will sum up in a few words what constitutes the wholepith of the story.It happened then–so the Fates ordered it–that among the navalacquaintances of my betrothed, were two gentlemen who had just set footupon the shores of England, after a year’s absence, each, in foreigntravel. In company with these gentlemen, my cousin and I, preconcertedlypaid uncle Rumgudgeon a visit on the afternoon of Sunday, October thetenth,–just three weeks after the memorable decision which had socruelly defeated our hopes. For about half an hour the conversation ranupon ordinary topics, but at last, we contrived, quite naturally, togive it the following turn:CAPT. PRATT. "Well I have been absent just one year.–Just one yearto-day, as I live–let me see! yes!–this is October the tenth. Youremember, Mr. Rumgudgeon, I called, this day year to bid you good-bye.And by the way, it does seem something like a coincidence, does itnot–that our friend, Captain Smitherton, here, has been absent exactlya year also–a year to-day!"SMITHERTON. "Yes! just one year to a fraction. You will remember, Mr.Rumgudgeon, that I called with Capt. Pratol on this very day, last year,to pay my parting respects."UNCLE. "Yes, yes, yes–I remember it very well–very queer indeed! Bothof you gone just one year. A very strange coincidence, indeed! Just whatDoctor Dubble L. Dee would denominate an extraordinary concurrence ofevents. Doctor Dub-"KATE. (Interrupting.) "To be sure, papa, it is something strange; butthen Captain Pratt and Captain Smitherton didn’t go altogether the sameroute, and that makes a difference, you know."UNCLE. "I don’t know any such thing, you huzzy! How should I? I think itonly makes the matter more remarkable, Doctor Dubble L. Dee–"KATE. "Why, papa, Captain Pratt went round Cape Horn, and CaptainSmitherton doubled the Cape of Good Hope."UNCLE. "Precisely!–the one went east and the other went west, you jade,and they both have gone quite round the world. By the by, Doctor DubbleL. Dee–"MYSELF. (Hurriedly.) "Captain Pratt, you must come and spend the eveningwith us to-morrow–you and Smitherton–you can tell us all about yourvoyage, and well have a game of whist and–"PRATT. "Wist, my dear fellow–you forget. To-morrow will be Sunday. Someother evening–"KATE. "Oh, no, fie!–Robert’s not quite so bad as that. To-day’sSunday."PRATT. "I beg both your pardons–but I can’t be so much mistaken. I knowto-morrow’s Sunday, because-"SMITHERTON. (Much surprised.) "What are you all thinking about? Wasn’tyesterday, Sunday, I should like to know?"ALL. "Yesterday indeed! you are out!"UNCLE. "To-days Sunday, I say–don’t I know?"PRATT. "Oh no!–to-morrow’s Sunday."SMITHERTON. "You are all mad–every one of you. I am as positive thatyesterday was Sunday as I am that I sit upon this chair."KATE. (jumping up eagerly.) "I see it–I see it all. Papa, this is ajudgment upon you, about–about you know what. Let me alone, and I’llexplain it all in a minute. It’s a very simple thing, indeed. CaptainSmitherton says that yesterday was Sunday: so it was; he is right.Cousin Bobby, and uncle and I say that to-day is Sunday: so it is; weare right. Captain Pratt maintains that to-morrow will be Sunday: so itwill; he is right, too. The fact is, we are all right, and thus threeSundays have come together in a week."SMITHERTON. (After a pause.) "By the by, Pratt, Kate has us completely.What fools we two are! Mr. Rumgudgeon, the matter stands thus: theearth, you know, is twenty-four thousand miles in circumference.Now this globe of the earth turns upon its own axis–revolves–spinsround–these twenty-four thousand miles of extent, going from westto east, in precisely twenty-four hours. Do you understand Mr.Rumgudgeon?-"UNCLE. "To be sure–to be sure–Doctor Dub-"SMITHERTON. (Drowning his voice.) "Well, sir; that is at the rate of onethousand miles per hour. Now, suppose that I sail from this position athousand miles east. Of course I anticipate the rising of the sun hereat London by just one hour. I see the sun rise one hour before youdo. Proceeding, in the same direction, yet another thousand miles, Ianticipate the rising by two hours–another thousand, and I anticipateit by three hours, and so on, until I go entirely round the globe, andback to this spot, when, having gone twenty-four thousand miles east,I anticipate the rising of the London sun by no less than twenty-fourhours; that is to say, I am a day in advance of your time. Understand,eh?"UNCLE. "But Double L. Dee-"SMITHERTON. (Speaking very loud.) "Captain Pratt, on the contrary, whenhe had sailed a thousand miles west of this position, was an hour, andwhen he had sailed twenty-four thousand miles west, was twenty-fourhours, or one day, behind the time at London. Thus, with me, yesterdaywas Sunday–thus, with you, to-day is Sunday–and thus, with Pratt,to-morrow will be Sunday. And what is more, Mr. Rumgudgeon, itis positively clear that we are all right; for there can be nophilosophical reason assigned why the idea of one of us should havepreference over that of the other."UNCLE. "My eyes!–well, Kate–well, Bobby!–this is a judgment upon me,as you say. But I am a man of my word–mark that! you shall have her,boy, (plum and all), when you please. Done up, by Jove! Three Sundaysall in a row! I’ll go, and take Dubble L. Dee’s opinion upon that."
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