+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

for the benefit of his health, people said, though
no one seemed to know the nature of his ailments,
nor greatly to believe in their existence.
I remember he was a large shambling square-
shouldered man, red complexioned, and with
hard high-ridged features, which the spinsters
of the South Cove society calleda fine Roman
outline.” His clothes always seemed to me
very glossy and black, but wondrously roomy
and shapeless; the coat sleeves in particular
scarcely showing more than the ends of his
dumpty freckled fingers, which, before tuning
his violin, he was in the habit of twisting and
straining backwards and forwardsI suppose
to twist, a little suppleness into themin an
ungainly fashion, which made my hands ache as
I looked at him.

Mr. Daley was not without some notions of
music, and might have borne his part in the
quartettes creditably enough but for a besetting
fancy he had that he was, owing to some hidden
disease, gradually expanding in person, and
that he should soon inevitably overpass the
utmost dimensions of every-day humanity; for
which reasons, I suppose, he providently had
his coats made very large. But this persecuting
mania would seize upon the poor man at the
most inconvenient times and places; in the
midst of a psalm at church, for instance, or an
intricate minuet of Haydn, and then he would
fling down his prayer-book or fiddlestick, as
the case might be, and, throwing himself back
with closed eyes and outspread fingers, inflate
his ruddy cheeks with an " Ough! ough!"
which was evidently meant to express his perilously
bloated condition, but which made a
rather inopportune interruption to the musical

The Reverend Julius Standiforth was a fan-tail
weak-eyed slip of a man; kindly and inoffensive,
and always absorbed in the study of seaweeds
during the first years of my acquaintance
with him, though he subsequently dropped the
seaweeds and took to infusoria. His playing
was thin and timid, like himself; the time rickety,
and the tune washy and uncertain.

His two maiden sisters were excellent, hard-visaged,
sturdy spinsters; curiously like each
other and unlike him, with severe curled fronts,
strongly-marked grey eyebrows, and figures of
which the waists were very high under the arms,
and the skirts very straight up and down, so
that they looked like old babies in long-clothes,
They adored their delicate near-sighted brother;
and besides making an idol of him, were helpful
to all the poorand the rich too, if they
needed it.

Little Monsieur Huillierwe children, like
most of the South Cove folks, persisted in calling
him Mr. Howly, seeing that his name was
hard to pronounceplayed as he lived; primly,
correctly, drily enough; with a somewhat nasal
puritanical tone, which ran in his blood, perhaps,
for his great-grand-parents had been persecuted
Huguenots at La Rochelle, and he himself had
something of the ascetic in his belief and practice.
Still, he was by far the most reliable of the
quartette party, and the only one who managed
to keep them in any measure together in the
sauve qui peut of a fugue, or an allegro con spirito.

Old Madame Huillier was a well mannered,
rather taciturn body, with a bass voice, twinkling
black eyes, and something of a moustache
on her upper lip. Her gowns were all
brown, and her gloves brown, and her full-
bordered mob-caps were not tied under the
chin, but tightened round the head with a broad
band and bow of brown ribbon. She was a
great and skilful knitter, a great compounder
of cooling drinks and potions from our country
simples, and altogether a good sort of woman;
but the people of South Cove never thoroughly
took to her, owing, I fancy, to a rumour of her
having been seen, in the first days of her stay in
the place, gathering snails in a hand-basket, for the
purpose, it was said,of converting them into jelly.

Godpapa Vance and his beloved Amati violoncello
made the fourth at the natty mahogany
quartette desk. The violoncello was a beautiful
instrument, rich and melodious, with what
Aunt Bella used to call brown velvet notes in
the lower part of its scale, and silvery ringing
upper tones like the piping of a nightingale.
But it needed a stronger and more skilful hand
than godpapa’s to draw out its full merits; for,
despite all dear Aunt Bella's idolatrous reverence
for his musical gifts, I am pretty sure
they were very mediocre, and far inferior to her
own. Yet the great love of her life dazzled her
judgment with regard to this, as well as his
other capacities. He would maunder over the
strings for hours every day for a week before
the quartette meeting, in the attempt to master
the time of some intricate passage; and often,
through the closed door of the study, I have
heard his muttered counting of the bars he had to
rest while he eked out the rhythm by little taps
with his bow, and came in again with a grunt;
as it might be, thus: " one;" tap, tap, " two;"
tap, tap, "three;" tap, "twang, twa-ang!"
And when, on the quartette evening, he managed
somehow to shamble through his partfaintly
and fecklessly I irreverently thought, like a
captive father-longlegs scrambling up and down
a window-panewho so proud as Aunt Bella?
I declare I have seen her plump brown cheek
mantle, on such occasions with the conscious
love and pride of eighteen in the triumph of
the beloved.

Of course, I was not admitted to the honour
of making one of the listeners to the quartettes in
Meadow-row till long after the date of those first
baby remembrances of mine above recorded. But
was little change in the performers or the
performance during all the years in which the
meetings took place. Mr. Daley gradually became
more and more subject to be seized, at such
times, with his fits of "chronic dilation," on
which account Aunt Bella sagaciously substituted
anchovy toast for certain rich and indigestible
dainties called ramakins, which had wont
to be served hot for supper after the music;
and the younger Miss Standiforth, Miss Angelica,
caught a chill and died out of her quiet