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Most of the marvels or impossibilities in here are to be found in the picture there presented to us of Scottish names, manners and costumes. It will hardly be denied that such a Scotch family name as Ursiclos, and such clans as the clan McDouglas and the clan Melville, are sufficiently impossible ; nor can it be counted as anything less than a marvel for a lowland gentleman’s butler to wait at dinner and perform all his other duties clad in the ‘garb of old Gaul!’ But these and innumerable errors of the same kind are all due, apparently, to a fixed idea on the part of M. Verne that all Scotchmen are Highlanders. The story is a perfect setting for the admirable descriptions of Scotch scenery which are the best feature in the book.
185 pages, with a reading time of ~3.0 hours (46,453 words), and first published in 1883. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2016.
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One after another these names re-echoed through the hall of Helensburgh; it was the way the brothers Sam and Sib had of summoning their housekeeper.
But just now these diminutives had no more power of bringing forth the worthy dame than if her masters had bestowed on her her rightful title.
It was Partridge the factor, who, with his hat in his hand, made his appearance at the hall-door.
Addressing the two good natured-looking gentlemen seated in the embrasure of a bow-window in the front of the house, he said,—
“You were calling Dame Bess, masters, but she is not in the house.”
“Where is she, then, Partridge?”
“She has gone out with Miss Campbell for a walk in the park.”
Then, at a sign from his masters, Partridge gravely retired.
These gentlemen were the brothers Sam and Sib—christened Samuel and Sebastian—Miss Campbell’s uncles, Scotchmen of the old school, and of an ancient Highland clan; they reckoned a hundred and twelve years between them, with only fifteen months’ difference in age, Sam the elder, and Sib the younger.
To give a slight sketch of these paragons of honour, benevolence, and unselfishness, it need but be said that their whole lives had been consecrated to their niece. Her mother, their only sister, was left a widow a year after her marriage, and survived her husband a very short time. Sam and Sib were thus left sole guardians of the little orphan, who very soon became the one object of their thoughts and mutual affection.
For her sake they remained celibates, being of that number of estimable persons whose earthly career is one long course of self-denial. And does it not say much for them when the elder brother constituted himself father, and the younger one mother to the child, so that it came quite naturally to Helena to address them with,—
“Good morning, Papa Sam. How are you, Mamma Sib?”
And to whom can they better be compared, though not business-men, than to those two charitable merchants, so generous, united, and affectionate, the brothers Cheeryble, of London, the most worthy characters that ever emanated from the imagination of Dickens? It seems impossible to find a more exact likeness, and should the author be accused of borrowing their type from that chef-d’œuvre “Nicholas Nickleby,” no one can for a moment regret such an appropriation.
Sam and Sib Melville were united by their sister’s marriage to the ancient family of Campbell.
They had been to the same college and sat in the same class, thus their ideas of things in general were much alike, and they expressed them in almost identical terms; the one could always finish the other’s sentence with similar expressions and gestures. In short, these two beings might have been one, save for some slight difference in their physical constitutions; Sam was a little taller than Sib, and Sib a little stouter than Sam. They might easily have exchanged their grey hair without altering the character of their honest faces, stamped with the nobility of the descendants of the clan Melville.
Need it be added that in the cut of their clothes and the choice of the cloth their tastes were alike, except that—how can this slight difference be accounted for?—except that Sam seemed to prefer dark blue and Sib dark maroon.
In truth, who would not have been glad to know these two worthy gentlemen? Accustomed to tread the same path through life, most probably they would not be far apart when the final halt should come. These last pillars of the house of Melville were solid, and might for a long while yet support the old edifice of their race, which dated back as far as the fourteenth century—from the time of Robert Bruce and Wallace, that heroic period during which Scotland disputed her right of independence with England.
But because Sam and Sib Melville had no longer occasion to fight for the welfare of their country, because their lives were passed in the ease and affluence which fortune had bestowed upon them, they are not to be reproached with it, nor must it be thought that they had degenerated, for their benevolence alone carried out the generous traditions of their ancestors.
Now each of them enjoying good health, and without a single irregularity in their lives to reproach themselves with, were destined to become aged without growing old either in body or mind.
Perhaps they had one failing—who can boast of being perfect? This was a habit of embellishing their conversation with quotations borrowed from the celebrated master of Abbotsford, and more especially from the epic poems of Ossian, which they doted upon. But who could blame them for it in this land of Walter Scott and Fingal?