Her thought at such times may be condensed into the two words that oftenest did duty together in all her conversations: 'My Sept!'
They were a good pair to sit breakfasting together in Minor Canon Corner, Cloisterham. For Minor Canon Corner was a quiet place in the shadow of the Cathedral, which the cawing of the rooks, the echoing footsteps of rare passers, the sound of the Cathedral bell, or the roll of the Cathedral organ, seemed to render more quiet than absolute silence. Swaggering fighting men had had their centuries of ramping and raving about Minor Canon Corner, and beaten serfs had had their centuries of drudging and dying there, and powerful monks had had their centuries of being sometimes useful and sometimes harmful there, and behold they were all gone out of Minor Canon Corner, and so much the better. Perhaps one of the highest uses of their ever having been there, was, that there might be left behind, that blessed air of tranquillity which pervaded Minor Canon Corner, and that serenely romantic state of the mind--productive for the most part of pity and forbearance-- which is engendered by a sorrowful story that is all told, or a pathetic play that is played out.
Red-brick walls harmoniously toned down in colour by time, strong- rooted ivy, latticed windows, panelled rooms, big oaken beams in little places, and stone-walled gardens where annual fruit yet ripened upon monkish trees, were the principal surroundings of pretty old Mrs. Crisparkle and the Reverend Septimus as they sat at breakfast.
'And what, Ma dear,' inquired the Minor Canon, giving proof of a wholesome and vigorous appetite, 'does the letter say?'
The pretty old lady, after reading it, had just laid it down upon the breakfast-cloth. She handed it over to her son.
Now, the old lady was exceedingly proud of her bright eyes being so clear that she could read writing without spectacles. Her son was also so proud of the circumstance, and so dutifully bent on her deriving the utmost possible gratification from it, that he had invented the pretence that he himself could NOT read writing without spectacles. Therefore he now assumed a pair, of grave and prodigious proportions, which not only seriously inconvenienced his nose and his breakfast, but seriously impeded his perusal of the letter. For, he had the eyes of a microscope and a telescope combined, when they were unassisted.
'It's from Mr. Honeythunder, of course,' said the old lady, folding her arms.
'Of course,' assented her son. He then lamely read on:
'"Haven of Philanthropy, Chief Offices, London, Wednesday.
'"I write in the--;" In the what's this? What does he write in?'
'In the chair,' said the old lady.
The Reverend Septimus took off his spectacles, that he might see her face, as he exclaimed:
'Why, what should he write in?'
'Bless me, bless me, Sept,' returned the old lady, 'you don't see the context! Give it back to me, my dear.'
Glad to get his spectacles off (for they always made his eyes water), her son obeyed: murmuring that his sight for reading manuscript got worse and worse daily.
'"I write,"' his mother went on, reading very perspicuously and precisely, '"from the chair, to which I shall probably be confined for some hours."'
Septimus looked at the row of chairs against the wall, with a half- protesting and half-appealing countenance.
'"We have,"' the old lady read on with a little extra emphasis, '"a meeting of our Convened Chief Composite Committee of Central and District Philanthropists, at our Head Haven as above; and it is their unanimous pleasure that I take the chair."'
Septimus breathed more freely, and muttered: 'O! if he comes to THAT, let him,'
'"Not to lose a day's post, I take the opportunity of a long report being read, denouncing a public miscreant--"'
'It is a most extraordinary thing,' interposed the gentle Minor Canon, laying down his knife and fork to rub his ear in a vexed manner, 'that these Philanthropists are always denouncing somebody. And it is another most extraordinary thing that they are always so violently flush of miscreants!'
'"Denouncing a public miscreant--"'--the old lady resumed, '"to get our little affair of business off my mind.