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“ But for the children of the mighty mother's,
When Johnson was ordered to open the door of Mr. Grunter's prison, Mrs. Fitzcribb sate in her turban and shawl, with all the air of a sultana, on an old sofa, over which she had hastily thrown Fitzcribb's cloak. Mr. Fitzcribb was ready to receive him, and Sappho was waiting, while Swift made the water boil.
Mr. Grunter entered, a large streak of the dust of Hume and Smollet all across his brow and cheek, and his wig perched quite awry. But of these mishaps he was unaware, and, therefore, with a ludicrous look of importance, he took his seat on the sofa beside Mrs. Fitzcribb, and tried to express, by his admiring glances, how fine a creature he thought her.
Sappho, my dear,” said the mamma, “make some tea for Mr. Grunter."
Directly the water boils,” replied Sappho. “What are you burning there, Swift ?” asked Mr. Fitzcribb, as the boy added a new supply of paper to the fire, “ I hope that is nothing of importance.
“It's only your last unsuccessful pamphlet, pa,” replied the pert and merciless boy.
Which, Swift ?” said the papa, with heroic forbearance.
“ That on the State of the Nation, pa, and a few sheets of that on the · Aristocracy of Intellect.'
“ That ought to have succeeded,” said Fitzcribb, with a sigh.
“It is succeeding,” said Swift.
“How so, my boy?” said the papa, who always expected something clever from Swift.
· Why, it's succeeding in making the pot
boil; and wasn't that what you aimed at,
“It was, indeed, my boy."
“ Besides, if it hasn't set the Thames on fire, pa, it's making the Thames water boil, so that's something like it."
“ Bravo, Swift! And to what,” asked Fitzcribb, still rather irritated, and anxious to complete his toilet, for Sappho had just whispered to him that the washerwoman had brought his things, “to what,” addressing himself to Grunter, “ do I owe this unexpected pleasure, my dear sir ?""
“Imprimis,” replied the old pedant, “I want to consult you about the opening of my second chapter; here it is, just look at it, I fear it begins the same as the other.”
“It does, precisely; that won't do. It's too much of a good thing,” said Fitzcribb.
Well, just alter a word or two, Fitzcribb. I'm so impressed with the importance of that grand truth I have advanced, that nothing else will come into my head just at present. Yesterday my ideas flowed so rapidly, I could hardly follow them with my pen; but, generally speaking, Fitzcribb, the lighter parts are your fortes, and the strong, deep, classical argument mine; we are well suited for a literary partnership, ma’am; he has knack, and I have knowledge.
“Without the knack of displaying it ?” asked Mrs. Fitzcribb, with apparent naïveté, but provoked at heart for her darling husband, of whom she was extremely proud.
Why, no, ma'am! not exactly that,” said Grunter, “as I think you will say, if you honour me with perusing my first chapter. It strikes me, ma'am, that I have brought my forces well into the field, and I doubt whether the most spiteful critic can find one false concord, one mistaken government, or one undistributed middle. But, spite, ma'am, of deep research and classical acumen, an unaccustomed writer wants knack, and knack, I consider, that Fitzcribb possesses in a high degree."
“What you call knack, sir,” said Mrs. Fitzcribb, with some irritation, “ I call genius. It is only a difference of definition.”
We may here remark that there was a strong esprit de corps, a real pride in and attachment for each other, remarkable in all the Fitzcribbs. The secret of this affectionate union, so rare, alas ! in modern families, lay, perhaps, in their having suffered together, in their being all the world to each other, for, on the step-children of Fortune, on those more likely to ask than to confer favours, the outward world looks coldly or scowlingly, and the Fitzcribbs met few kind smiles or soothing words, or attentions sweetly officious, but those that they reciprocated among themselves. And oh, how strong a tie is that of mutual suffering! We easily forget the gay companion of our pleasures, but who forgets the kind sharer and soother of a long captivity, or of a blighting grief? Few summer friends are loved as the poor prisoner loved the spider, whose death has made him immortal. No, we remember not the companions of the pleasure-boat, but those of the storm and the shipwreck we cannot forget.
And so with the poor Fitzcribbs. They