Three Sundays in a Week

"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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