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Archive -> 1860-1888 -> ‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 3. Page 7-9



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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 3. Page 7-9

(Playing with brothers)

I had two brothers …..I was always out with one brother and in with the other, and we very seldom played any games with the three of us in harmony. The younger one ruled the roost. Though he was much smaller than we were he used to frighten us/
by his threats. One favourite trick of his was to hold the knob of the nursery door inside, and we were sure he could so hold us in until we starved to death. In this way he was able to extort from us anything he coveted and we possessed. When he was friendly he was the prime mover in all our games and escapades.
One of our favourite games was to take off our shoes and stockings and play street Arabs. He used to play a tin whistle and stand under a street lamp to beg for coppers from passers-by. We sometimes reaped quite a good harvest. But one day my father saw a working man give him a penny and we got such a really serious talking to that we left off this particular misdemeanour. One Sunday afternoon I remember I blacked my younger brother’s face (he was about six and I about ten years old); put him on one blue and one scarlet stocking; turned his coat inside out to show a striped lining; gave him his fiddle on which he could just scrape a tiny bit of a tune, and took him to beg from a very kind old lady, a friend of my Mother’s. She gave us some dessert and a few coppers and we returned triumphant. Finally scolding put a stop to this particular form of mischief. But we used to put a string across the road tied to a lamp post and to a nail we drove into the wall of a coal cellar. Then,/
dodging behind the coal, we used to watch the results. ...

This brother really had very original ideas. When he was once sent to collect a pair of my Mother’s corsets from the cleaners, she saw him arriving home with the corsets on outside his coat and a boy driving him by the laces. I do not think he was ever sent on that errand again.
A dinner party was a gala evening for us. Our landing upstairs looked down on the hall along which the maids had to pass from the kitchen to the dining room. Armed with a bent pin and a long string we used to twitch off their caps as, with both hands occupied with carrying a dish, they passed along. We got quite expert at this. We also got quite expert at catching my father when he went to the bath in the morning in a night-shirt and rather short dressing gown. Armed with a whip with a /
good long lash, we hid behind a door and lashed out, catching his legs as he rushed by. He was afraid to call out lest one of the maids should come to his rescue and catch him in what in those days was a very serious déshabille. …


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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 3. Page 7-9