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by [?]



I have a little circle of friends, among all my other friends quite distinct, though of them. They are four men and four women; the husbands more in love with their wives than on the days when they married them, and the wives with their husbands. These people live for the good of the world, to a fair extent, but much, very much, of their lives is passed together. Perhaps the happiest period they ever knew was when, in different subordinate capacities, they were all on the staff of the same magazine. Then they met daily at the office, lunched together perforce, and could make arrangements for the evening. But, to say true, things differ little with them now, though that magazine long since took wings and went to a better world.

Their names are Felix and Fausta Carter, Frederic and Mary Ingham, George and Anna Haliburton, George and Julia Hackmatack.

I get the children’s names wrong to their faces– except that in general their name is Legion, for they are many–so I will not attempt them here.

These people live in very different houses, with very different “advantages,” as the world says. Haliburton has grown very rich in the rag and paper business, rich enough to discard rag money and believe in gold. He even spits at silver, which I am glad to get when I can. Frederic Ingham will never be rich. His regular income consists in his half-pay as a retired brevet officer in the patriot service of Garibaldi of the year 1859. For the rest, he invested his money in the Brick Moon, and, as I need hardly add, insured his life in the late Continental Insurance Company. But the Inghams find just as much in life as the Haliburtons, and Anna Haliburton consults Polly Ingham about the shade of a flounce just as readily and as eagerly as Polly consults her about the children’s dentistry. They are all very fond of each other.

They get a great deal out of life, these eight, partly because they are so closely allied together. Just two whist-parties, you see; or, if they go to ride, they just fill two carriages. Eight is such a good number– makes such a nice dinner-party. Perhaps they see a little too much of each other. That we shall never know.

They got a great deal of life, and yet they were not satisfied. They found that out very queerly. They have not many standards. Ingham does take the “Spectator;” Hackmatack condescends to read the “Evening Post;” Haliburton, who used to be in the insurance business, and keeps his old extravagant habits, reads the “Advertiser” and the “Transcript;” all of them have the “Christian Union,” and all of them buy “Harper’s Weekly.” Every separate week of their lives they buy of the boys, instead of subscribing; they think they may not want the next number, but they always do. Not one of them has read the “Nation” for five years, for they like to keep good-natured. In fact, they do not take much stock in the general organs of opinion, and the standard books you find about are scandalously few. The Bible, Shakespeare, John Milton; Polly has Dante; Julia has “Barclay’s Apology,” with ever so many marks in it; one George has “Owen Felltham,” and the other is strong on Marcus Aurelius. Well, no matter about these separate things; the uniform books besides those I named, in different editions but in every house, are the “Arabian Nights” and “Robinson Crusoe.” Hackmatack has the priceless first edition. Haliburton has Grandville’s (the English Grandville). Ingham has a proof copy of the Stothard. Carter has a good copy of the Cruikshank.

If you ask me which of these four I should like best, I should say as the Laureate did when they gave him his choice of two kinds of cake, “Both’s as good as one.”