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my granduncle, Rumgudgeon, was accessible and pacific only upon the points which happened to chime in with the hobby he was riding.
I had lived with the old gentleman all my life. My parents in dying had bequeathed me to him as a rich legacy. I believe the old villain loved me as his own child-nearly if not quite as well as he loved Kate—but it was a dog's existence that he led me after all. From my first year until my fifth, he obliged me with very regular floggings. From five to fifteen, he threatened me, hourly, with the House of Correction. From fifteen to twenty not a day passed in which he did not promise to cut me off with a shilling. I was a sad dog it is true, but then it was a part of my nature—a point of my faith.
In Kate, however, I had a firm friend, and I knew it. She was a good girl, and told me very sweetly that I might have her (plum and all) whenever I could badger my granduncle, Rumgudgeon, into the necessary consent. Poor girl! she was barely fifteen, and without this consent her little amount in the funds was not come-at-able until five immeasurable summers had “dragged their slow length along.” What then to do? In vain we besieged the old gentleman with importunities. It would have stirred the indignation of Job himself to see how much like an old mouser he behaved to us two little mice. In his heart he wished for nothing more ardently than our union. He had made up his mind to this all along. In fact he would have given ten thousand pounds from his own pocket (Kate's plum was her own) if he could have invented anything like an excuse for complying with our very natural wishes. But then we had been so imprudent
as to broach the matter ourselves. Not to oppose it under the circumstances, I sincerely believe, was not in his power.
My granduncle was, after his own fashion, a man of his word, no doubt. The spirit of his vows he made no scruple of setting at naught, but the letter was a bond inviolable. Now it was this peculiarity in his disposition of which Kate's ingenuity enabled us one fine day, not long after our interview in the drawingroom, to take a very unexpected advantage.
It happened then—so the Fates ordered itthat among the naval acquaintances of my betrothed were two gentlemen who had just set foot upon the shores of England, after a year's absence, each, in foreign travel. In company with these gentlemen, Kate and I, preconcertedly, paid uncle Rumgudgeon a visit on the afternoon of Sunday, October the tenth—just three weeks after the memorable decision which had so cruelly defeated our hopes. For about half an hour the conversation ran upon ordinary topics; but at last we contrived, quite naturally, to give it the following turn:
Capt. Pratt. “Well, I have been absent just one year. Just one year to-day, as I live—let me see! yes !—this is October the tenth. You remember, Mr. Rumgudgeon, I called this day year, to bid you good-bye. And by the way, it does seem something like a coincidence, does it not—that our friend, Captain Smitherton, has been absent exactly a year also, a year to-day?”.
Smitherton. “Yes! just one year to a fraction. You will remember, Mr. Rumgudgeon, that I called with Captain Pratt on this very day last year, to pay my parting respects.”
Uncle. “Yes, yes, yes—I remember it very well —very queer indeed! Both of you gone just one year. A very strange coincidence indeed! Just what Doctor Dubble L. Dee would denominate an extraordinary concurrence of events. Doctor Dub—”
Kate (interrupting). “To be sure papa, it is something strange; but then Captain Pratt and Captain Smitherton didn't go altogether the same route, and that makes a difference you know.”
Uncle. “I don't know any such thing, you hussy! How should I? I think it only makes the matter more remarkable. Doctor Dubble L. Dee—”
Kate. Why, papa, Captain Pratt went round Cape Horn, and Captain Smitherton doubled the Cape of Good Hope.”
Uncle. “Precisely! the one went east and the other went west, you jade, and they have both gone quite round the world. By the bye, Doctor Dub—”
Myself (hurriedly). “Captain Pratt, you must come and spend the evening with us to-morrowyou and Smitherton—you can tell us all about your voyage, and we'll have a game of whist, and—”
Pratt. “Whist, my dear fellow-you forget. To-morrow will be Sunday. Some other evening,”
Kate. “Oh, no, fie!—Robert's not quite so bad as that. To-day's Sunday.”
Uncle. “To be sure—to be sure.”
Pratt. “I beg both your pardons—but I can't be so much mistaken. I know to-morrow's Sunday, because—”
Smitherton (much surprised). “What are you all thinking about? Wasn't yesterday Sunday, I should like to know?”
All. “Yesterday, indeed! you are out!”.
Uncle. “To-day's Sunday, I say—don't I know?”
Pratt. “Oh, no!—to-morrow's Sunday.”
Smitherton. “You are all mad—every one of you. I am as positive that yesterday was Sunday as I am that I sit upon this chair.”
Kate (jumping up eagerly). “I see it-I see it all. Papa, this is a judgment upon you, about, about you know what. Let me alone, and I'll explain it all in a minute. It's a very simple thing, indeed. Captain Smitherton says that yesterday was Sunday: so it was; he is right. Cousin Bobby, and papa and I, say that to-day is Sunday: so it is, we are right. Captain Pratt maintains that to-morrow will be Sunday: so it will, he is right, too. The fact is, we are all right, and thus three Sundays have come together in a week.”
Smitherton (after a pause). “By the bye, Pratt, Kate has us completely. What fools we two are! Mr. Rumgudgeon, the matter stands thus: the earth, you know, is twenty-four thousand miles in circumference. Now this globe turns upon its own axisrevolves—spins around—these twenty-four thousand miles of extent, going from west to east, in precisely twenty-four hours. Do you understand, Mr. Rumgudgeon?”
Uncle. “To be sure—to be sure. Doctor Dub—”
Smitherton (drowning his voice). “Well sir, that is at the rate of one thousand miles per hour. Now, suppose that I sail from this position a thousand miles east. Of course I anticipate the rising of the sun here at London by just one hour. I see the sun rise one hour before you do. Proceeding,