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Port In A Storm
by [?]

“The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have Know,
And what will my uncle do then, poor thing?
He’ll run for his port,
But he will run short,
And have too much water to drink, poor thing!

“With the influences of the chamber of my childhood crowding upon me, I kept repenting the travestied rhyme to myself, till I fell asleep.

“Now, boys and girls, if I were writing a novel, I should like to make you, somehow or other, put together the facts–that I was in the room I have mentioned; that I had been in the cellar with my uncle for the first time that evening; that I had seen my uncle’s distress, and heard his reflections upon his father. I may add that I was not myself, even then, so indifferent to the merits of a good glass of port as to be unable to enter into my uncle’s dismay, and that of his guests at last, if they should find that the snow-storm had actually closed up the sweet approaches of the expected port. If I was personally indifferent to the matter, I fear it is to be attributed to your mother, and not to myself.”

“Nonsense!” interposed my mother once more. “I never knew such a man for making little of himself and much of other people. You never drank a glass too much port in your life.”

“That’s why I’m so fond of it, my dear,” returned my father. “I declare you make me quite discontented with my pig-wash here.

“That night I had a dream.

“The next day the visitors began to arrive. Before the evening after, they had all come. There were five of them–three tars and two land-crabs, as they called each other when they got jolly, which, by-the-way, they would not have done long without me.

“My uncle’s anxiety visibly increased. Each guest, as he came down to breakfast, received each morning a more constrained greeting.–I beg your pardon, ladies; I forgot to mention that my aunt had lady-visitors, of course. But the fact is, it is only the port-drinking visitors in whom my story is interested, always excepted your mother.

“These ladies my admiral uncle greeted with something even approaching to servility. I understood him well enough. He instinctively sought to make a party to protect him when the awful secret of his cellar should be found out. But for two preliminary days or so, his resources would serve; for he had plenty of excellent claret and Madeira–stuff I don’t know much about–and both Jacob and himself condescended to manoeuvre a little.

“The wine did not arrive. But the morning of Christmas Eve did. I was sitting in my room, trying to write a song for Kate–that’s your mother, my dears–“

“I know, papa,” said Effie, as if she were very knowing to know that.

“–when my uncle came into the room, looking like Sintram with Death and the Other One after him–that’s the nonsense you read to me the other day, isn’t it; Effie?”

“Not nonsense, dear papa,” remonstrated Effie; and I loved her for saying it, for surely that is not nonsense.

“I didn’t mean it,” said my father; and turning to my mother, added: “It must be your fault, my dear, that my children are so serious that they always take a joke for earnest. However, it was no joke with my uncle. If he didn’t look like Sintram he looked like t’other one.

“‘The roads are frozen–I mean snowed up,’ he said. ‘There’s just one bottle of port left, and what Captain Calker will say–I dare say I know, but I’d rather not. Damn this weather!–God forgive me!–that’s not right–but it is trying–ain’t it, my boy?’

“‘What will you give me for a dozen of port, uncle?’ was all my answer.

“‘Give you? I’ll give you Culverwood, you rogue.’

“‘Done,’ I cried.

“‘That is,’ stammered my uncle, ‘that is,’ and he reddened like the funnel of one of his hated steamers, ‘that is, you know, always provided, you know. It wouldn’t be fair to Lady Georgiana, now, would it? I put it to yourself–if she took the trouble, you know. You understand me, my boy?’