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‘I don’t know,’ said Mr Lillyvick, doubtfully. ‘Do you call it a
cheerful language, now?’
‘Yes,’ replied Nicholas, ‘I should say it was, certainly.’
‘It’s very much changed since my time, then,’ said the collector,
‘Was it a dismal one in your time?’ asked Nicholas, scarcely
able to repress a smile.
‘Very,’ replied Mr Lillyvick, with some vehemence of manner.
‘It’s the war time that I speak of; the last war. It may be a cheerful
language. I should be sorry to contradict anybody; but I can only
say that I’ve heard the French prisoners, who were natives, and
ought to know how to speak it, talking in such a dismal manner,
that it made one miserable to hear them. Ay, that I have, fifty
times, sir--fifty times!’
Mr Lillyvick was waxing so cross, that Mrs Kenwigs thought it
expedient to motion to Nicholas not to say anything; and it was not
until Miss Petowker had practised several blandishments, to
soften the excellent old gentleman, that he deigned to break
silence by asking,
‘What’s the water in French, sir?’
‘L’eau,’ replied Nicholas.
‘Ah!’ said Mr Lillyvick, shaking his head mournfully, ‘I thought
as much. Lo, eh? I don’t think anything of that language--nothing
‘I suppose the children may begin, uncle?’ said Mrs Kenwigs.
‘Oh yes; they may begin, my dear,’ replied the collector,
discontentedly. ‘I have no wish to prevent them.’
This permission being conceded, the four Miss Kenwigses sat in
a row, with their tails all one way, and Morleena at the top: while