Mr. Smauker dovetailed the top joint of his right-hand little finger into that of the gentleman with the cocked hat, and said he was charmed to see him looking so well.
'Well, they tell me I am looking pretty blooming,' said the man with the cocked hat, 'and it's a wonder, too. I've been following our old woman about, two hours a day, for the last fortnight; and if a constant contemplation of the manner in which she hooks-and-eyes that infernal lavender-coloured old gown of hers behind, isn't enough to throw anybody into a low state of despondency for life, stop my quarter's salary.'
At this, the assembled selections laughed very heartily; and one gentleman in a yellow waistcoat, with a coach-trimming border, whispered a neighbour in green-foil smalls, that Tuckle was in spirits to-night.
'By the bye,' said Mr. Tuckle, 'Smauker, my boy, you — ' The remainder of the sentence was forwarded into Mr. John Smauker's ear, by whisper.
'Oh, dear me, I quite forgot,' said Mr. John Smauker. 'Gentlemen, my friend Mr. Weller.'
'Sorry to keep the fire off you, Weller,' said Mr. Tuckle, with a familiar nod. 'Hope you're not cold, Weller.'
'Not by no means, Blazes,' replied Sam. 'It 'ud be a wery chilly subject as felt cold wen you stood opposite. You'd save coals if they put you behind the fender in the waitin'-room at a public office, you would.'
As this retort appeared to convey rather a personal allusion to Mr. Tuckle's crimson livery, that gentleman looked majestic for a few seconds, but gradually edging away from the fire, broke into a forced smile, and said it wasn't bad.
'Wery much obliged for your good opinion, sir,' replied Sam. 'We shall get on by degrees, I des-say. We'll try a better one by and bye.'
At this point the conversation was interrupted by the arrival of a gentleman in orange-coloured plush, accompanied by another selection in purple cloth, with a great extent of stocking. The new-comers having been welcomed by the old ones, Mr. Tuckle put the question that supper be ordered in, which was carried unanimously.
The greengrocer and his wife then arranged upon the table a boiled leg of mutton, hot, with caper sauce, turnips, and potatoes. Mr. Tuckle took the chair, and was supported at the other end of the board by the gentleman in orange plush. The greengrocer put on a pair of wash-leather gloves to hand the plates with, and stationed himself behind Mr. Tuckle's chair.
'Harris,' said Mr. Tuckle, in a commanding tone. 'Sir,' said the greengrocer.
'Have you got your gloves on?' 'Yes, Sir.'
'Then take the kiver off.'
The greengrocer did as he was told, with a show of great humility, and obsequiously handed Mr. Tuckle the carving-knife; in doing which, he accidentally gaped.
'What do you mean by that, Sir?' said Mr. Tuckle, with great asperity.
'I beg your pardon, Sir,' replied the crestfallen greengrocer, 'I didn't mean to do it, Sir; I was up very late last night, Sir.'
'I tell you what my opinion of you is, Harris,' said Mr. Tuckle, with a most impressive air, 'you're a wulgar beast.'
'I hope, gentlemen,' said Harris, 'that you won't be severe with me, gentlemen. I am very much obliged to you indeed, gentlemen, for your patronage, and also for your recommendations, gentlemen, whenever additional assistance in waiting is required. I hope, gentlemen, I give satisfaction.'
'No, you don't, Sir,' said Mr. Tuckle. 'Very far from it, Sir.'
'We consider you an inattentive reskel,' said the gentleman in the orange plush.
'And a low thief,' added the gentleman in the green-foil smalls.
'And an unreclaimable blaygaird,' added the gentleman in purple.
The poor greengrocer bowed very humbly while these little epithets were bestowed upon him, in the true spirit of the very smallest tyranny; and when everybody had said something to show his superiority, Mr. Tuckle proceeded to carve the leg of mutton, and to help the company.
This important business of the evening had hardly commenced, when the door was thrown briskly open, and another gentleman in a light-blue suit, and leaden buttons, made his appearance.
'Against the rules,' said Mr. Tuckle. 'Too late, too late.'
'No, no; positively I couldn't help it,' said the gentleman in blue. 'I appeal to the company. An affair of gallantry now, an appointment at the theayter.'
'Oh, that indeed,' said the gentleman in the orange plush.
'Yes; raly now, honour bright,' said the man in blue. 'I made a promese to fetch our youngest daughter at half-past ten, and she is such an uncauminly fine gal, that I raly hadn't the 'art to disappint her. No offence to the present company, Sir, but a petticut, sir — a petticut, Sir, is irrevokeable.'
'I begin to suspect there's something in that quarter,' said Tuckle, as the new-comer took his seat next Sam, 'I've remarked, once or twice, that she leans very heavy on your shoulder when she gets in and out of the carriage.'
'Oh, raly, raly, Tuckle, you shouldn't,' said the man in blue. 'It's not fair. I may have said to one or two friends that she wos a very divine creechure, and had refused one or two offers without any hobvus cause, but — no, no, no, indeed, Tuckle — before strangers, too — it's not right — you shouldn't. Delicacy, my dear friend, delicacy!' And the man in blue, pulling up his neckerchief, and adjusting his coat cuffs, nodded and frowned as if there were more behind, which he could say if he liked, but was bound in honour to suppress.
The man in blue being a light-haired, stiff-necked, free and easy sort of footman, with a swaggering air and pert face, had attracted Mr. Weller's special attention at first, but when he began to come out in this way, Sam felt more than ever disposed to cultivate his acquaintance; so he launched himself into the conversation at once, with characteristic independence.
'Your health, Sir,' said Sam. 'I like your conversation much. I think it's wery pretty.'
At this the man in blue smiled, as if it were a compliment he was well used to; but looked approvingly on Sam at the same time, and said he hoped he should be better acquainted with him, for without any flattery at all he seemed to have the makings of a very nice fellow about him, and to be just the man after his own heart.
'You're wery good, sir,' said Sam. 'What a lucky feller you are!'
'How do you mean?' inquired the gentleman in blue.
'That 'ere young lady,' replied Sam.'She knows wot's wot, she does. Ah! I see.' Mr. Weller closed one eye, and shook his head from side to side, in a manner which was highly gratifying to the personal vanity of the gentleman in blue.
'I'm afraid your a cunning fellow, Mr. Weller,' said that individual.
'No, no,' said Sam. 'I leave all that 'ere to you. It's a great deal more in your way than mine, as the gen'l'm'n on the right side o' the garden vall said to the man on the wrong un, ven the mad bull vos a-comin' up the lane.'
'Well, well, Mr. Weller,' said the gentleman in blue, 'I think she has remarked my air and manner, Mr. Weller.'
'I should think she couldn't wery well be off o' that,' said Sam.
'Have you any little thing of that kind in hand, sir?' inquired the favoured gentleman in blue, drawing a toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.
'Not exactly,' said Sam. 'There's no daughters at my place, else o' course I should ha' made up to vun on 'em. As it is, I don't think I can do with anythin' under a female markis. I might keep up with a young 'ooman o' large property as hadn't a title, if she made wery fierce love to me. Not else.'
'Of course not, Mr. Weller,' said the gentleman in blue, 'one can't be troubled, you know; and WE know, Mr. Weller — we, who are men of the world — that a good uniform must work its way with the women, sooner or later. In fact, that's the only thing, between you and me, that makes the service worth entering into.'
'Just so,' said Sam. 'That's it, o' course.'
When this confidential dialogue had gone thus far, glasses were placed round, and every gentleman ordered what he liked best, before the public-house shut up. The gentleman in blue, and the man in orange, who were the chief exquisites of the party, ordered 'cold shrub and water,' but with the others, gin-and-water, sweet, appeared to be the favourite beverage. Sam called the greengrocer a 'desp'rate willin,' and ordered a large bowl of punch — two circumstances which seemed to raise him very much in the opinion of the selections.
'Gentlemen,' said the man in blue, with an air of the most consummate dandyism, 'I'll give you the ladies; come.'
'Hear, hear!' said Sam. 'The young mississes.'
Here there was a loud cry of 'Order,' and Mr. John Smauker, as the gentleman who had introduced Mr. Weller into that company, begged to inform him that the word he had just made use of, was unparliamentary.
'Which word was that 'ere, Sir?' inquired Sam. 'Mississes, Sir,' replied Mr. John Smauker, with an alarming frown. 'We don't recognise such distinctions here.'
'Oh, wery good,' said Sam; 'then I'll amend the obserwation and call 'em the dear creeturs, if Blazes vill allow me.'
Some doubt appeared to exist in the mind of the gentleman in the green-foil smalls, whether the chairman could be legally appealed to, as 'Blazes,' but as the company seemed more disposed to stand upon their own rights than his, the question was not raised. The man with the cocked hat breathed short, and looked long at Sam, but apparently thought it as well to say nothing, in case he should get the worst of it. After a short silence, a gentleman in an embroidered coat reaching down to his heels, and a waistcoat of the same which kept one half of his legs warm, stirred his gin-and-water with great energy, and putting himself upon his feet, all at once by a violent effort, said he was desirous of offering a few remarks to the company, whereupon the person in the cocked hat had no doubt that the company would be very happy to hear any remarks that the man in the long coat might wish to offer.