Timson having conscientious scruples on the subject of card-playing, drank brandy-and-water, and kept up a running spar with Mr. Watkins Tottle. The evening went off well; Mr. Watkins Tottle was in high spirits, having some reason to be gratified with his reception by Miss Lillerton; and before he left, a small party was made up to visit the Beulah Spa on the following Saturday.
On one side of the table two green sauce-tureens, with ladles of the same, were setting to each other in a green dish; and on the other was a curried rabbit, in a brown suit, turned up with lemon. ‘Miss Lillerton, my dear,’ said Mrs. Parsons, ‘shall I assist you?’ ‘Thank you, no; I think I’ll trouble Mr. Tottle.’ Watkins started—trembled—helped the rabbit—and broke a tumbler.
‘Say something to her, man,’ urged Parsons again. ‘Confound it! pay her a compliment, can’t you?’ ‘No! not till after dinner,’ replied the bashful Tottle, anxious to postpone the evil moment. ‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Mrs.
Gabriel Parsons. ‘She went into Fanny’s service when we were first married, and has been with us ever since; but I don’t think she has felt one atom of respect for me since the morning she saw me released, when she went into violent hysterics, to which she has been subject ever since. Now, shall we join the ladies?’ ‘If you please,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle.
‘How is Mrs. Gabriel Parsons?’ inquired Tottle. ‘Quite well, thank you,’ replied Mr. Gabriel Parsons, for that was the name the short gentleman revelled in. Here there was a pause; the short gentleman looked at the left hob of the fireplace; Mr. Watkins Tottle stared vacancy out of countenance.
‘I say that so long as we see you to breakfast,’ replied Timson, ‘we will excuse your being absent from the ceremony, though of course your presence at it would give us the utmost pleasure.’ Mr. Watkins Tottle staggered against the wall, and fixed his eyes on Timson with appalling perseverance.
Watkins Tottle jumped—we beg his pardon—alighted, with great dignity. ‘All right!’ said he, and away went the coach up the hill with that beautiful equanimity of pace for which ‘short’ stages are generally remarkable. Mr. Watkins Tottle gave a faltering jerk to the handle of the garden-gate bell.
‘I beg to deliver this note to you,’ said Watkins Tottle, producing the cocked-hat. ‘From Miss Lillerton!’ said Timson, suddenly changing colour. ‘Pray sit down.’ Mr. Watkins Tottle sat down; and while Timson perused the note, fixed his eyes on an oyster-sauce-coloured portrait of the Archbishop of Canterbury, which hung over the fireplace. Mr.
Lord bless you, why, when she came to our house, there was an old portrait of some man or other, with two large, black, staring eyes, hanging up in her bedroom; she positively refused to go to bed there, till it was taken down, considering it decidedly wrong.’ ‘I think so, too,’ said Mr. Watkins Tottle; ‘certainly.’ ‘And then, the other night—I never laughed so much in my life’—resumed Mr.
‘Disinterested creature!’ exclaimed Miss Lillerton, hiding her face in a white pocket-handkerchief with an eyelet-hole border. Mr. Watkins Tottle thought that if the lady knew all, she might possibly alter her opinion on this last point.