Page:The Yellow Book - 01.djvu/132

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A Sentimental Cellar

Eugenius," said he, "but you are very welcome to see it if you please; and if you are minded to hear a sermon, perhaps I can preach one different from what you may expect at an Oracle of the Bottle"

We soon reached the cavern, which, indeed, was much less magnificent than that over which Bacbuc presided; and I perused, not without interest (for I had often tasted the contents), the various bins in which bottles of different shapes and sizes were stowed away with a modest neatness. Falernianus amused himself, and did not go so far as to weary me, with some tales of luck or disappointment in his purchases, of the singular improvement of this vintage, and the mortifying conduct of that. For these wine-lovers are curious in their phrase; and it is not disgusting to hear them say regretfully that the claret of such and such a year "has not spoken yet"; or that another was long "under the curse of the seventies." This last phrase, indeed, had a grandiloquent and romantic turn which half surprised me from my friend, a humourist with a special horror of fine speech or writing, and turning sharply I saw a smile on his lips.

"But," said I, "my Falernianus, your sermon? For I scarce think that this wine-chat would be dignified by you with such a name."

"You are right, Eugenius," answered he, "but I do not quite know whether I am wise to disclose even to you the ruling fancy under which I have formed this little liquid museum, or Baccheum if you prefer it."

"I think you may," said I, "for in the first place we are old enough friends for such confidences, and in the second I know you to be too much given to laugh at your own foibles to be greatly afraid of another's ridicule."

"You say well," he said, "so mark! For if my sermon inflicts