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Street, and all the prosaic realities of poverty. A little boy, “ Johnson,” was engaged in heating the tongs for his mamma when they grew cold, and trying them on parts of an unsuccessful pamphlet of his papa's, which, with the self-devotion of a Marcus Curtius, the latter had given to be so used.
“Swift,” another son—for they were all named after the men of genius they were intended to emulate—was trying, with large supplies of the same pamphlet, to make the water boil, as Sappho was awaiting it to make, from a second infusion of her father's, the family tea! Sappho, a merry, rosy, girl of thirteen, was presiding, with great hilarity, over the most dilapidated and forlorn of“ tea equipages.” Not only were no two cups of the same size or pattern, but cup and saucer were nor kith nor kin to each other. Here a large blue earthenware cup sat, like an incubus, on a little china saucer, similar to a huge city dame, leaning on some weak and delicate aristocrat — there, in a large white saucer, stood a small blue cup — again a dispropor
tioned match! A huge black tea-pot, which evidently had seen service, had been adroitly supplied with a tin spout and a brass coverbrown sugar (well named moist) melted in a broken bason, and a milk-jug, which had lost its nose in the Fitzcribbs' service, was not on that account ungratefully dismissed. A piece of salt-butter, wrapped in its original paper, lay on the broken plate-two knives stuck in it, and crumbs and fragments of bread were scattered around; but, in the midst of all, was a small plate of toast, very nicely made by Sappho for poor Benoni—the best bread and the freshest butter had been expended on the little invalid's toast, and a fine china cup,
with his name in gold letters, had been bought for him by his fond father, who himself drank indifferently out of any of the motley group spread over the table.
The extreme discomfort of the domestic arrangements we have described were not the result of poverty. There are few ménages where order cannot give some appearance of comfort, and Fitzcribb's earnings (consider
able as his extreme industry made them) might, judiciously expended, bave secured a cheerful and agreeable home. But what avail means without management ? Mrs. Fitzcribb-kind, good, and devoted, was, alas! a blue — a regular blue—the worst kind of blue—a woman with the most persevering wish to shine as a literary character, but without genius, and deficient even in a good ear for poetry—in short, a mere poetaster!
With a little correction from Fitzcribb, her verses did to fill corners of country papers, and the smallest and cheapest lady's museums, mirrors, &c. Fitzcribb never discouraged a pursuit which was a real source of delight to one, who for him had sacrificed so many others; but he did sometimes feel that a literary man ought not to have a literary wife. While she wrote “Odes to the Moon,” she more than once Hearly set the house on fire. Her poems on “Domestic Happiness” prevented her securing him any domestic comfort. Her drama on “Goody Two Shoes” caused her own children to go barefoot, and Fitzcribb to bofch (as he
could) his own stockings ; and once she was so much engrossed by a sonnet to “ A Sleeping Infant,” that her own child awoke, and, before she saw him move, overturned his cradle.
In a corner of the room, seated on a pile of huge old folios, sate Corinna Fitzcribb, a beautiful girl of fifteen, who was plaiting her hair before a small glass, supported by a large book, and wreathing in the long and priceless tresses of purest gold some tawdry tableflowers which she had bought for a few pence, and which were not worth even that small
She was dressing for a juvenile literary soirée at a Mrs. Mac Dactyl's, in the next street. She had already distinguished herself by some occasional verses in the humblest of periodicals; and, spite of the table-flowers, and a gaudy, ill-made, second-hand blue gauze dress, she looked, as she sate on the dusty old folios, a fair young muse fresh from Parnassus.
Such was the distribution of all the Fitzcribb party, when Grunter, full of his work, hurried up to Fitzcribb. Mrs. Fitzcribb, as we have said, a regular blue, was of course a
slattern; to bestow on her person the time necessary to be always neat and presentable, would to her have seemed a sort of treason to the muses.
She was still, at about seven-andthirty, a strikingly beautiful woman; but her charms were never set forth by dress, except on very particular occasions, when she adopted some romantic costume-a muse, a priestess, a sybil, a sultana, a Mary Stuart, or a Ninon.
On the present occasion, her beautiful and redundant hair, rough and neglected, was, in front, confined in fragments of paper, and behind twisted and fastened up by an old, broken comb. An ink-stained wrapper loosely enveloped a form which might have been a very fine one — the same disfiguring yet immortalising fluid had stained her hands. Her shoes were down at heel, and her stockings proved that the needle would have been “ mightier than the pen.”
In spite of all these disadvantages of toilet, there was an aristocratic dignity in her manner of receiving Grunter.
She made no apology; for she considered, and justly, that