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Chapter XIV.

Biddy gives Bob and Maggie a lesson on “genteel manners.” Miss Dottz, the literary lady, gets Biddy to tell her why she was transported.—Horror of Miss Dottz.

“AH, sure! ye look slap-up now, Masther Bob!” exclaimed Biddy Flynn, one afternoon as her young master stood brushing his hat in the dining-room, preparatory to going out for a ride on a handsome gelding which he had bought at Burt's a few days before with the fifty pounds which his father had given him.

“Do you think so, Biddy?” replied Bob, with a pleasant smirk.

“Troth, thin, I do think so, or I wouldn't have said it. I never seed a greater transmogrification in any young chap in the worrld than is come over yourself since ye come to town; an' that's a fact, sir. The tailor has had a good hand in it, no doubt; still, an 'all he didn't do it intirely, for I've sane some counthry bhoys what all the tailors in the colony cudn't pad into the shape of jintlemen, nohow, 'cos they fling their limbs about in sich a slummacking style, as iv they wor all arms an' legs, an' nothin' else. Nature has bin on yer side, honey; an' that's plain enough.”

“You will make him proud, Biddy, if you say any more in his praise,” said Maggie, who was sitting in the room sewing.

“I'd be sorrow to make him a bit prouder nor he is at present, Miss Maggie. Dear knows, he's got enough pride in him, so he has; and it isn't a bad thing for a young feller to have naythir, so long as he don't get consated an' sarcy, same as lots ov gossoons do as soon as iver they get a long-tail'd coat on'em, an' a little bit ov fluff on their upper lip, what they are iverlastin'ly lickin' an' fingerin'.”

“You seem to know a good deal about boys, and their little innocent ways, Biddy,” said Bob.

“Fegs, thin, I do know about 'em, sir, an' about gals too.

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An' what wud I have been doin' wid me gumption all the days ov me life, iv I didn't know summat out of the common way? Haven't I lived nigh fourteen years wid Squire Bligh, an' seed all his illigant bhoys an' gals grow up to men an' women? I have so. An' I shud jist like to see the pair of yez turn out every ha'porth as jintale as thim wor, an' thin ye'd do to go an' live wid the governor, or the chief justice, or any other great nob in the land; so ye wud, an' no mishtake.”

“Don't you think we should do for the best society in Sydney now, Biddy?” asked Bob, with an involuntary glance at his patent leather boots.

“Shure, ye're honest enow to live wid the bishop, or the dean aythir, sir.”

“Yes, but that is not the question. Nobody would think we were dishonest, I should hope. Are we polished enough to mix with gentlefolks, such as you have been accustomed to see at Squire Bligh's? That is the point, Biddy; and as you have begun to talk on the subject, let us know what you mean.”

“It isn't a nice thing to give an honest opinion allers, an' I've found that out in my experience no end ov times. So long as ye say what's in their favour, most folks will look as plisant as little children suckin' sugar-plums; but ony tell 'em ov something they don't want to belave, some of their faults, which iverybody in the worrld can see 'cept themselves, an' ochone! look out, me bhoy, they'll niver respect ye no more, 'cept ye happen to be rich, an' maybe they'll do ye a mischief some day, iv they arn't afeared of bein' cotched at it.”

“You need not be afraid to speak your mind honestly and plainly to us, you know, Biddy. You have done that hitherto, whether we liked it or not.”

“Well, now, I'll jist try iv ye mane what ye say, Masther Bob, ony once't; an' iv ye don't like it, I'll give ye no more ov me brogue. Aisy, sir, afore ye put on yer kid gloves. Do ye think anybody who knows what's what wud mishtake ye for a rale jintleman iv they seed thim long finger-nails ov yourn choke-full ov black dirt? Ugh! not they indeed! Thim nasty nails wud shock dacint society; worser nor the bare toes ov a chimbley-sweep.”

Bob blushed intensely, but said nothing; and Maggie blushed too, for her nails were not much purer than her brother's. “Och! don't ye bite 'em off, Masther Bob, that's shocking vulgar. Go and buy a pair ov nail scissors an' a

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nail-brush, an' use 'em pritty often. Ye'll allers see thim things in ivery jinuine jintleman's kit, an' a tooth-brush too, ye may depind. Ye tould me to shpake plain, sir, an' shure that's plain enow, anyway. Wud ye like me shpake agin? If not, say the worrd, an' I'll shtop where I left off, for, dear knows, I wudn't offind ye for a trifle.”

“Say what you like, Biddy. I know you only mean kindness; and it may do us good, for you have seen more of life than either of us here.”

“That's thrue for ye, Masther Bob. I've sane more of life's troubles nor ayther of yez will iver see, plase God. Now I'll shpake out what's in me mind, an' I'll give ye all the jintale advice I know of; an' shure iv ye don't take it all, I shan't be offinded, same as some clever craythers are iv ye don't swallow ivery worrd they say. Firsht an' foremost, thin, let me tell you, sir, there's as much difference atween a rale jintleman an' what they call a ‘gent' as there is atween a race-horse an' a donkey; an' it's a jintleman as I want to make ov yerself. Now, let me show yez how you should walk intil a drawing-room full ov jintale ladies. Don't grin, but jist walk in gracefully, same as I do now, and say ‘Besum,’ ever so softly, as ye make yer bow. Bravo, Masther Bob! that's illigantly done—cudn't be done betther, anyhow. Now, supposin' ye wor goin' intil a room full of jintlemen, an' they wor all lookin' at yez, ye must walk in in this way, wid aisy dignity, an' say ‘Broom.’ Capital! ye did it firsht-rate, sir. Ye'll do by and bye; niver fear. Now, again, supposin' ye was goin' to make a spache at a public meetin'—though ye're not such a loony as to be thrying yer hand at that game yit awhile; but in case ye've got to do it presently, I'll tell ye how to go about it. Jist walk up to the platform, as straight as a sodger officer, and say ‘Brush!’ Say it again, sir, an' kape yer eyes open, an' yer head up. Well done! that's jist it, sir. Troth, ye did it to the life; didn't he, Miss Maggie? Ha! ha! ha!”

“I don't quite understand your peculiar lessons, Biddy,” said Maggie. “It would seem very funny to me for a gentleman to walk into a drawing-room, and say ‘besum.’ I should laugh at him directly.”

“In coorse ye wud, honey. Ye cudn't help it iv he did that same; but I don't want him to say ‘besum’ out loud, ye know; nor ‘broom,’ nor ‘brush’ naythir—not at all. He is ony to whisper it to himself, so softly that nobody can hear it. Don't ye see now, miss?”

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“Well, I must be stupid, I suppose, Biddy; but I cannot comprehend how that whispering ‘besum,’ ‘broom,’ and ‘brush’ can influence a gentleman's looks in company.”

“Can't ye, darlint? Hisht a bit thin, whiles I explain my manin', an' I'll ingage ye'll see the common sinse ov it as plain as the man's nose in the moon. No jintleman in the worrld can whisper ‘besum’ widout lookin' modest; an' that's the way he should allers look afore ladies. Thin agin, he cudn't say ‘broom,’ iv he tried ever so, widout lookin' manly about the mouth—that's clare enough; an' it wudn't be nateral for him to say ‘brush’ widout standin' up stiff an' lookin' sharp; an' that's jist how a man should do iv he is going to say anythin' in public that he wants a lot ov people to listen to. Now, don't you see what I mane, miss? My word for it, Masther Bob, iv ye'd only practise ‘besum,’ ‘broom,’ and ‘brush’ afore yer lookin'-glass ivery day for a week, ye'd lose the biggest part ov that sheepishness that ye brought down wid ye from the counthry, an' that ye can't git quit ov by strokin' yer little beard, or whackin' yer leg wid yer ridin' whip.”

Bob and Maggie laughed merrily at Biddy's quaint lessons on “jintale manners,” which encouraged the honest old creature to proceed.

“Whin ye go intil a drawing-room for a fashionable call, Masther Bob, don't ye be afther puttin' yer hat on the floor, or under yer chair, bekase that'll make yer look shy an' silly; nor don't ye be puttin' it on the table among the ornaments an' card-baskets naythir, for that'll look bold an' vulgar. Ye'd better put it ontil a chair beside yez, or hould it in yer hand aisily, an' if the lady or jintleman ov the house wanted ye to shtop a bit wid'em, they'll pritty soon be takin' yer hat from yez, or tellin' ye to hang it up, an' make yerself at home. But, mind ye, don't niver stretch out full length on a sofa, or cock yer foot on yer knee as iv ye wor goin' to bite yer toe-nails; nor ye naydn't pick yer ears, or scratch yer head, or twiddle wid yer beard while the lady is shpakin' ta yez, for thim tricks arn't jintale at all at all. Kape the besum in yer mouth all the while, an' I'll ingage ye won't make a mighty big hole in yer manners.

“An' supposin' ye wos axed to shtop to dinner, ye wudn't say nay to that, I'll bet a pinny, for ye are allers ready for yer males, anyway. In coorse, ye'd sit down where the lady or jintleman tould ye to sit; and ye'd kape yer elbows off the

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table. Don't niver be afther makin' pills wid the bread, or rollin' yer napkin up like a snow-ball, or fiddlin' wid yer fork, whiles ye're waitin' for yer plate. Sit up like a man, an' think ov the broom. But don't shpake too much, same as windy fellers allers do; give iverybody a chance to say somethin', for that's ony fair play, ye know. In coorse, ye wudn't think ov fistin' a bone, or lickin' yer fingers, or pickin' yer teeth wid yer thumbs; ye're not sich a haythin as all that; so I naydn't say nothin' about thim things, though I've sane 'em done afore to-day, an' I've sane a nasty feller wipe his mouth on the table-cloth too; but he worn't a born native, I'll say that for the honour ov the counthry. Another thing I'd like ye to kape in mind, sir, while ye're thinking about the brush, an' that is, to brush yer hair tidy—ye're not mighty particular about that same, let me tell yez—an' don't ye forgit to brush it behind as well as in front, bekase sometimes ye may sit afore somebody in church or elsewhere, an' though ye can't see the back ov yer head yerself, the chap behind yer can see it plain enough, 'cept he's blind; and he can see too if ye've forgot to remember to wash yerself behind yer ears. Thin agin, Masther Bob, ye may take my worrd for it, that no rale gintleman talks slang, and”——

“I say. Biddy, I can't stay to hear any more just now,” interrupted Bob. “My horse will break his bridle if I keep him hooked up to the stable door any longer. I am much obliged to you for your useful hints on etiquette and personal cleanliness. I shall try to profit by them, and you may expect to see that your besum has wonderfully improved my rustic manners. Good-bye, Biddy. You had better give Mag a few lessons now.” Bob then departed, and was soon cantering along George Street, muttering “brush!” and looking as bold as a captain of volunteers.

“Ha, ha, ha! I didn't think Misther Bob wud have shtopped half as long to listen to my lingo,” said Biddy, looking quite pleased at the success of her first lecture.

“I think your remarks were very sensible, Biddy, and I'm sure Bob thinks so too; and he will remember you with gratitude,” replied Maggie.

“Bless the hearts ov both ov yez! I love ye like chickens, so I do, an' it's ony for that I shpake up now an' agin. Many's the time I've sane fine handsome bhoys an' gals spoil their good looks intirely, bekase they didn't know how to behave themselves dacintly in company, no more nor young

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bog-trotters, more shame till their parents for not tachin' 'em betther; but, be the same token, many ov thim same parents wor as bad-mannered as the young uns thimselves, an' didn't know no betther. Och! isn't it a shocking thing, Miss Maggie, to see a fine strong strappin' lass wid her hair all touzzled like a wisp ov hay, for want ov a comb an' brush, an', maybe, her dress ripped open at the gathers, an' grate big taters in the heels of her stockin's, to say nothin' about her face bein' a'most as grimy as her hands, an' her teeth niver bin touched wid a brush all the days ov her life! I allers feel cross an' sorry when I see the like; an' I ses to meself, ‘Arrah, mercy on the poor unlucky man who gets you for a wife, ye dawdlin' dolly! Ye'll allers kape him ragged an' miserable, an' not clane naythir’. But I say, Miss Maggie, shure as death, here comes Miss What's-her-name, the ould gal wid spectacles, an' I wisht she ha' shtopped at home.”

“Patience me! I didn't expect her so soon, and I am not dressed. Show her up into the drawing-room, Biddy, and tell her I will be there in ten minutes or so.”

Miss Dottz was a middle-aged lady, who had the reputation of being very clever. She had ample pecuniary means, and was making a tour of the Australian colonies for the avowed purpose of gathering material for a book of travels which she intended to publish on her return to London; not so much with an eye to profit as for the éclat of authorship. She had lodged for some months in the same house with Ben Goldstone, and through him she was introduced to the Stubbles, and appeared to take quite a lively interest in the family. She had a happy way of making herself at home wherever she went: and was, upon the whole, an agreeable companion, for she was very well informed, and had a pleasant communicative manner. Her unreserved use of a note-book sometimes made casual acquaintances dread that she was taking their portraits to embellish her forthcoming volume; but it is only fair to say that she was too well-bred to be guilty of such rudeness, and no one who really knew her was afraid of such a thing. She was generally on the qui vive for any little bits of useful information, or amusing incidents, which nobody could reasonably object to her appropriating; but it would have been in better taste had she kept her suspicious-looking note-book out of sight, and then even strangers would have enjoyed her cheerful society.

Miss Dottz had been invited to tea that evening, and it

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occurred to her that she might take her tatting-bag and go an hour or two earlier, for the sake of a little pleasant gossip with Mrs and Miss Stubble, who she knew would be glad to see her. As I have before stated, Biddy Flynn had a great repugnance to answering questions respecting her earlier history; moreover, she had a settled idea that Miss Dottz was going to put her into her new book, for which honoured position Biddy was not at all ambitious. She was therefore particularly taciturn when that lady was present, and usually returned evasive answers to inquiries when they directly referred to her own affairs.

Biddy showed Miss Dottz into the drawing-room, and was about to retire directly, when that lady detained her by asking a few questions respecting the health of the family.

“They're all hearty enow, ma'am, thank God,” replied Biddy, shuffling towards the door.

“And pray, how long have you been in this colony?” asked Miss Dottz, with a persuasive smile.

“Close up thirty years, ma'am.”

“Thirty years! Bless me, that is a long time. You must have been a mere girl when you came.”

“That's thrue for ye, ma'am.”

“Did ye come with your parents, Biddy?”

“I did not, ma'am.”

“Came here all alone, did you?”

“Shure, thin, I didn't do that naythir, for there was lots ov gals came in the same ship wid me. But iv ye won't be aisy till ye know all about it, whisht while I tell it yez. I was sent here a prisoner, same as hundreds of betther gals nor meself wor in them unlucky days.”

“Dear, dear me! sent here as a prisoner, were you? Poor thing! What a sad blow it must have been for your parents.”

“It was worser for meself, ma'am, a pritty dale.”

“Yes, yes; I daresay it was indeed. May I ask you why you were sent here so young, Biddy? I feel interested in you, and that is why I put the question; but perhaps you don't like to answer it.”

“I'll tell ye all about it, an' more too, ma'am; so, git ready yer pocket-book, an' dot it all down cleverly. This was it, ma'am, wid respect to yez. I was mortial hungry one day as I was tramping through one of the back slums ov Dublin looking for tater palins, an' I seed a purty little boy sittin' on a door-step nursin' a kitten. I was innocently goin' to take

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the pussy from him to ate it up quietly widout killin' it, but whin I took hold ov the little boy's arm, it felt so nice and tender; so I did—shure, I cudn't help it, ma'am; hunger is a savage feelin' ”——

“Mercy me! do you really mean to say you bit it off?”

“Hould on a bit, ma'am; don't ye be so awfully skeered; see, I saved the bone—ha, ha! Here it is, ma'am,” added Biddy, taking from her pocket an old-fashioned ivory needle-case, and offering it to the old lady; “ye shall have it for a kape-sake, as ye're so mighty fond ov me, ma'am.”

“Ugh! Yah! Get away from me, you dreadful creature!” shrieked Miss Dottz.

“Arrah! take that wid yer. Go an' print that in yer new book, ye pryin' ould pen-an'-ink monger,” muttered Biddy, as she hurried down to the kitchen.

“Oh, dear me! Miss Stubble. I have just had such a terrible shock to my nerves! Do get me a glass of water, love!” gasped Miss Dottz, when Maggie entered the drawing-room a few minutes afterwards.

“Whatever is the matter, Miss Dottz? You are looking as pale as death. What has alarmed you?”

“Oh, mercy me! that wicked old servant of yours has given me such a turn. She has got a little boy's bone in her pocket, and”——

“A little boy's what?” exclaimed Maggie; then suddenly surmising that Biddy had been practising some of her comical freaks on the literary lady, she burst out laughing, which further shocked Miss Dottz's sensitive system.

“I humbly beg pardon,” said Maggie, handing Miss Dottz a glass of water. “But I could not help laughing at the idea of you're being so much afraid of poor Biddy, who is the kindest old soul in the world. I am sure she would not hurt a cat.”

“Why, she told me only a few minutes ago, that she was once going to actually eat a live kitten; and,—oh, it's too horrible to repeat what she said beside! I was nearly swooning when you came into the room.”

“Ha, ha, ha!” laughed Maggie again. “Pray excuse me, Miss Dottz; I am ashamed of my rudeness. I think this is the explanation of Biddy's strange conduct. She has a silly idea that you intend to introduce her in your book of adventures, and she is afraid of you on that account. Though she is a crochety old creature, and sometimes says the most extraordinary

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things, she is as good-natured honest a soul as ever lived; and I am sure you would like her if you knew her better.”

The explanation seemed to revive Miss Dottz a little; but it was some time before she resumed her usual vivacity; nor did she seem to make rapid progress towards liking Biddy very strongly, for whenever she entered the room during the evening, Miss Dottz eyed her as suspiciously as she would have eyed a mad dog without a muzzle.