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Nancy by Rhoda Broughton






"As through the land at eve we went, And plucked the ripened ears, We fell out, my wife and I, Oh, we fell out, I know not why, And kissed again with tears."



"Put into a small preserving pan three ounces of fresh butter, and, as soon as it is just melted, add one pound of brown sugar of moderate quality--"

"Not moderate; the browner the better," interpolates Algy.

"Cannot say I agree with you. I hate brown sugar--filthy stuff!" says Bobby, contradictiously.

"Not half so _filthy_ as white, if you come to that," retorts Algy, loftily, looking up from the lemon he is grating to extinguish his brother. "They clear white sugar with but--"

"Keep these stirred gently over a clear fire for about fifteen minutes," interrupt I, beginning to read again very fast, in a loud, dull recitative, to hinder further argument, "or until a little of the mixture dipped into cold water breaks clear between the teeth without sticking to them. When it is boiled to this point, it must be poured out immediately or it will burn."

Having galloped jovially along, scorning stops, I here pause out of breath. We are a large family, we Greys, and we are _all_ making taffy. Yes, every one of us. It would take all the fingers of one hand, and the thumb of the other, to count us, O reader. Six! Yes, six. A Frenchman might well hold up his hands in astonished horror at the insane prolificness--the foolhardy fertility--of British householders. We come very _improbably_ close together, except Tou Tou, who was an after-thought. There are no two of us, I am proud to say, exactly simultaneous, but we have come tumbling on each other's heels into the world in so hot a hurry that we evidently expect to find it a pleasant place when we get there. Perhaps we do--perhaps we do not; friends, you will hear and judge for yourselves.

A few years ago when we were little, people used to say that we were quite a pretty sight, like little steps one above another. We are big steps now, and no one any longer hazards the suggestion of our being pretty. On the other hand, nobody denies that we are each as well furnished with legs, arms, and other etceteras, as our neighbors, nor can affirm that we are notably more deficient in wits than those of our friends who have arrived in twos and threes.

We are in the school-room, the big bare school-room, that has seen us all--that is still seeing some of us--unwillingly dragged, and painfully goaded up the steep slopes of book-learning. Outside, the March wind is roughly hustling the dry, brown trees and pinching the diffident green shoots, while the round and rayless sun of late afternoon is staring, from behind the elm-twigs in at the long maps on the wall, in at the high chairs--tall of back, cruelly tiny of seat, off whose rungs we have kicked all the paint--in at the green baize table, richly freaked with splashes. Hardly less red than the sun's, are our burnt faces gathered about the fire.

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