Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Sister Peg
By John Arbuthnot (1667–1735)
From The History of John Bull

JOHN had a sister, a poor girl that had been starved at nurse; anybody would have guessed Miss to have been bred up under the influence of a cruel step-dame, and John to be the fondling of a tender mother. John looked ruddy and plump, with a pair of cheeks like a trumpeter; Miss looked pale and wan, as if she had the green-sickness; and no wonder, for John was the darling, he had all the good bits, was crammed with good pullet, chicken, pig, goose, and capon, while Miss had only a little oatmeal and water, or a dry crust without butter. John had his golden pippins, peaches, and nectarines; poor Miss a crab-apple, sloe, or a blackberry. Master lay in the best apartment, with his bedchamber towards the south sun. Miss lodged in a garret, exposed to the north wind, which shrivelled her countenance; however, this usage, though it stunted the girl in her growth, gave her a hardy constitution; she had life and spirit in abundance, and knew when she was ill-used: now and then she would seize upon John’s commons, snatch a leg of a pullet, or a bit of good beef, for which they were sure to go to fisticuffs. Master was indeed too strong for her; but Miss would not yield in the least point, but, even when Master had got her down, would scratch and bite like a tiger; when he gave her a cuff on the ear she would prick him with her knitting-needle. John brought a great chain one day to tie her to the bed-post, for which affront Miss aimed a penknife at his heart! In short, these quarrels grew to rooted aversions; they gave one another nick-names: she called him gundy-guts, and he called her lousy Peg, though the girl was a tight clever wench as any was, and through her pale looks you might discern spirit and vivacity, which made her not, indeed, a perfect beauty, but something that was agreeable. It was barbarous in parents not to take notice of these early quarrels, and make them live better together, such domestic feuds proving afterwards the occasion of misfortunes to them both. Peg had, indeed, some odd humours and comical antipathies, for which John would jeer her. “What think you of my sister Peg,” says he, “that faints at the sound of an organ, and yet will dance and frisk at the noise of a bagpipe?” “What’s that to you, gundy-guts,” quoth Peg, “everybody’s to choose their own music.” Then Peg had taken a fancy not to say her Paternoster, which made people imagine strange things of her. Of the three brothers that have made such a clutter in the world, Lord Peter, Martin, and Jack, Jack had of late been her inclinations; Lord Peter she detested; nor did Martin stand much better in her graces, but Jack had found the way to her heart. I have often admired what charms she discovered in that awkward booby, till I talked with a person that was acquainted with the intrigue.

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