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amiable visiter, all the while, interlarding the communication with sundry delightfuls,' how agreeables,' and 'excellents,' that at last the two gossips worked themselves up into such a social and engrossing confabulation that the poor man in the parlour was almost forgotten.
Meanwhile Mrs. B. was unbonneting, and arranging her attire at the glass.
'What a fright I do look!' exclaimed she, alternately turning one side of her face, and then the other, and anon thrusting her 'snubby' nose straightforward at the faithful mirror.
Well, I'm sure!' cried Mrs. Jenks, smiling; but she did not say whether she was sure her friend was right or wrong in her assertion. 'That's a sweet pretty cap,' continued Mrs. Jenks, 'flopping' upon a chair, and gazing admiringly at her head gear.
Have you not seen it afore?' said Mrs. B. indifferently; which, it must be confessed, was a sort of 'fib' on the part of the lady, as it implied she had had the 'article' some time, whereas she had only purchased it at a fashionable shop in S'or'ditch' that very morning.
'Excuse me taking notice,' pursued Mrs. Jenks, but that dress is so werry ilegant. You really have such taste. Is it a challis?' 'Lauk! no, my dear, a chintz.'
'Well, to be sure, now, at a little distance I'm certain nobody could
'That's just what I said, when the young man at Millington's throwed it on the counter. I was struck with it at once. I on'y went in to buy a pair o' common "kid" for every day, but I no sooner see the dress than I makes up my mind to have it, come what would, and I let B. have no peace till I got it, I can tell you.'
'Did Williams make it ?'
'Williams-oh! no-no more Williams for me, my dear; she charged me so shamefully for trimmings and linings for the last thing she did for me, that I've done with her.'
'Lor' on'y think now; and such a customer as you've been, too.'
Yes; I've a notion she'll find out her mistake,' said Mrs. B. with much importance. 'But there's some people as never knows which side their bread's buttered; for my part—
Here a 'rat-tat-tat!' at the door announced the arrival of Mr. Jenks, and put an end to the conversation of the ladies. Mrs. Brown declaring that the sudden knock had made her heart almost jump into her mouth,' bustled after Mrs. Jenks, and followed her friend to the parlour.
Betty had just let in her' master, and the whole party were all standing up and talking together, nearly filling the little band-box of
'Pray sit down, and make yourselves quite at home,' entreated Jenks.
Mrs. B. dear,' said Mrs. Jenks, pointing significantly to a chair. 'No indeed! that is your chair, I'm sure. P'r'aps Mr. Jenks
likes the fire. I can't think-'
'Come, Poll, make yourself less,' interposed Mr. Brown. And after a few more of those tedious preliminaries with which wouldbe-polite people plague themselves and their friends, the party were
at last settled down in a posture as accommodating as the limits of the place would permit.
'It's rather a dusty day for the time o' year,' observed Mr. Jenks. Werry,' replied Mr. Brown.
'Yes; and what do you think?' said Mrs. Brown, the stingy cretur wanted me to walk all the blessed way. But,' says I, 'we'd better spile a shilling than spile a dress, and (as luck woud have it) I remembered 'twas bullock-day, and I should ha' bin frighted out o' my seven senses to have trapes'd through Vhitechapel-so we rid!'
Lauk-a-daisy me! you vimmen's sich fools!' remarked Brown. 'There's a nothin' to be feared on now. I remember ven I vos a 'prentice in S'or'ditch (there vos summat then to be scared at); vy, it vos then a rig'lar thing for every shop to put a chain across their doors for the people to run under. And vasn't there a nice scudding and scuffling in them days! my eye! Mondays a-specially. The veaver chaps from Spitalfields used for to come out vith sticks, and pick out a vild un from the drove, and avay they'd scamper, helter-skelter at his heels, a-hollering like mad. And then the butchers bolted arter 'm vith ropes and a precious lark they had; for, thof they made a rare fuss, they liked the sport as much as t'others. But the primest fun vos ven they cotched the hanimal, and fetched him home at night vith his two horns tied. And vasn't there a partc'lar mob o' tag-rag and bob-tail, that's all! But there 's no doings o' that sort now-a-days,' continued Brown. The new police, and all them 'ere new-fangled notions, has broke the sperrit o' the people, and abridged the liberty o' the subject. I vonder vot ve shall come to next?'
After this elegant lamentation over the lost pleasures and circumscribed amusements of the British subject, with a sympathetic ex-. clamation of Ah! vot indeed!' accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders from Mr. Jenks, his spouse began to make preparations.
for a dish o' tea'
'Sorry to trouble you,' said she, approaching Mrs. B. who was seated against the closet containing the tea and sugar.
'Don't mention it, my dear,' said her friend. And Mrs. Jenks, opening the door a-jar, in order that the prying eyes of her dear friend might not observe that the cupboard was bare,' dexterously extracted a little tin-canister and a whity-brown bag, containing the remnant of a pound of the best lump-sugar.
Begging to be excused for only a few moments, she retreated to the kitchen, followed by the earnest hope of Mrs. B. that she would not put herself in the least out of the way on their account.
An animated gossip ensued in the parlour, which in about a quarter of an hour was interrupted by the appearance of the mistress of the house bringing in the tea-things, and followed by the 'girl' bearing a very black tea-kettle, and a large plate containing several rounds of buttered toast, each about an inch in thickness, which, in the absence of a 'dog' or a 'footman,' was placed on the hob, vis-à-vis to the aforesaid tea-kettle.
'We're all in a homely way,' observed Mrs. J. apologetically. 'Don't mention it-I'm sure,' said Mrs. B.; while her ready spouse aptly quoted, 'Home's home, be it never so homely--Hease
before helegance!'-and, 'Vot's the hodds, so long as you 're happy?'
And then they all laughed, and began to be exceedingly merry. Seating herself at the table, Mrs. J. in due form inquired of her visiters whether they took milk and sugar, although having been acquainted with them for the last ten years, it might be reasonably supposed that she was well acquainted with their palates in this particular.
'B,' said Mrs. Brown, looking hard at her husband, and pointing at the plate.
He obeyed the signal, and handed round the toast.
Now do take the middle-piece,' said Mrs. Jenks, turning towards her friend, and dropping the lump intended for her husband's cup into the slop-basin. 'Dear me! how stupid I am,' continued she. Her economy, however, remedied her stupidity, for she promptly spooned,' out the dissolving sweets, and consigned it to the destined cup. Having duly inquired whether the tea was to their liking
'Hexcellent!' declared Mr. Brown.
'I don't know how it is,' said Mrs. B. 'but you do make the best dish o' tea as ever I tasted anywheres.'
'Glad you like it,' replied Mrs. Jenks.
I always make it a rule to allow one spoonful a-piece for my company and one for the pot-that's my maxum-and I b'lieve it's a good un.'
Having discussed the hot water,' Jenks proposed to his old croney his favourite game of cribbage, to which Brown acceding, hehunted up,' a dirty, well-thumbed pack of cards, the angles of which were considerably rounded, and an old cribbage-board with pegs of his own contrivance; the women' having previously declared that they could amuse themselves' with a social chat. And the Browns, after a great show of resistance to a declaration that they must positively be going, having at last consented to the proposal of Mrs. Jenks, that they should take their bread and cheese' with them in a friendly way, the ladies retired up stairs, leaving the gentlemen to the undisturbed enjoyment of their game.
By the light of a solitary store-candle, stuck in a brass-candlestick, Mrs. Jenks began to display her stock of finery to her dear friend, who vowed that her taste was worth any money;' for her part, she could not conceive how she contrived, &c. &c.
One piece of silk alone occupied above a quarter of an hour of their thoughts and speech.
Mrs. Jenks had had it lying in her 'drawers' for the last three months, unable to make up her mind in what fashion she should have the dress made up. She was really puzzled. Leg of mutton' sleeves were quite out, and Bishops' were in, and unfortu nately she had not enough for that, and could not match it any. where.
'Let me see whether I can contrive it for you, my dear,' said Mrs. Brown, spreading the silk upon her knees. 'How many yards are there?'
Ten,' replied Mrs. Jenks, anxiously.
'Ten-dear me !—no, that will never do. It's the narrow width, too, I declare. Four yards for the sleeves-one for the body-and (goodness me!) where's the six breadths for the skirt?'
'Six breadths, my dear!' exclaimed Mrs. Jenks. 'Anything less would look horrid skimping.'
'Don't you think, now, five, with a stiff cambric linin', would do?'
'It might do; but then there's not enough even for that,' replied Mrs. Brown. You must allow that a yard for each breadth-oh! it's perfectly ridic'lous!'
'It's very vexing-very,' said Mrs. Jenks, emphatically.
So absorbed were the two ladies in this important discussion, that they were not aware of the presence of Betty, who had, unnoticed, opened the door, and was standing in the room with the street-door key in one hand, a market-basket in the other, a dirty cotton shawl, and a black chip bonnet, with faded green ribands, over a smokylooking mob-cap.
"What does the "gal" want?' pettishly demanded the mistress, startled by the sudden apparition.
'Please, mum, the pork is all gone, so I've brought three pound of beef- Sausages, she would have said, but was timely interrupted by her mistress.
Get along with you, do,' cried Mrs. Jenks, hunting the menial from the chamber. 'Excuse me a minute,' continued she, unwillingly leaving her friend to turn over the 'things' in the open drawers. Has the man any pork-chops, pray?' snappishly demanded the annoyed mistress.
'Yes, mum, I seed a wery fine line.'
'Then go back directly,' said she, return his trash, and tell him to cut six of the finest out of the middle, d'ye hear?'
'And, Betty,' continued she, lowering her voice, 'just step over to Davis's, and say, Mrs. Jenks' compliments, and has a few friends unexpectedly come in, and would feel most particular obleeged if she would lend her a table cloth and a table-spoon or two, as- -as-the mangling ooman ain't brought home the things. Now, are you sure you can remember all that? You're such a fool!'
'And call at the "George," and tell the beer-boy to mind and bring two pots of half-and-half at nine to a minute. Now trudge along.'
Away went Betty to execute her multifarious commissions, and Mrs. Jenks hurried back to her apartment with a thousand apologies for keeping her dear friend a-awaiting.
'But really the stupidity of these servants,' said she, 'does rile me so, you don't know. For my part, I don't know what's come to the gals. They go blundering on, and a-thinking of nothin' in the world but dress, I do believe.'
And then the two ladies proceeded to discuss the trimming of a new Tuscan bonnet, which Mrs. Brown declared was one of the sweetest shapes she'd clapped eyes on for an age.'
The bonnet being at length enveloped in tissue paper, consigned to a huge blue box, and stowed away under the bed, Mrs. Jenks, still upon her knees, turned round, and observed Mrs. Brown 'punching' her stays with the thumb of her left hand just below the fifth rib.
'Dear me !' exclaimed Mrs. Jenks, are you in any pain?'
'On'y a spasm,' replied Mrs. Brown, continuing the operation, and biting her nether lip. It'll go off.'
'Do take a little something-now do,' said Mrs. Jenks,-'just a drop o' peppyment;' and proceeding directly to the corner-cupboard, she drew forth a small half-pint bottle, containing about a quartern of the prescribed medicine.
After much pressing, the afflicted lady yielded to her importu nities.
'Well, then, the smallest taste in the world-there-there, that'll do,' continued she, as Mrs. J. poured out a wine-glass.
'Come, drink it up-I insist,' said Mrs. J.; and the fair sufferer having, with many grimaces, complied, she finished the bottle herself, declaring that she felt some queer symptoms,' and that 'prewention was better than cure any day in the week.'
The remedy proved most efficacious, and the two gossips now rattled away without cessation till Betty announced that supper was ready. Come along. Why, really our poor dears will be thinking we've quite forgotten 'em,' observed Mrs. Jenks, as they descended to the canaculum.
Betty had certainly done wonders. The anxious hostess glanced her eye rapidly over the table-Mrs. Davis's cloth and spoons were there-and she smiled complacently. Cribbage and gin-and-water had made the two gentlemen quite animated, and they were both talking away very loudly.
The quartett' was soon arranged.
'Shall I take off the "jackets?" said Jenks, sticking his fork into one of the 'taters,' which were served up in their primitive
'Allow me,' said Mrs. Jenks, putting a huge pork chop into her friend's platter. 'Mr. Brown, do you like it well done?-That, I think, will suit you. Now make yourselves at home.'
'By your leave, I'll have a pull at the half-and-half afore I com. mences hoperations,' said Mr. Brown.
'Stay-do have a tumbler.'
'Thank'ye, no; I prefer it out o' the pewter,' answered he; and taking the quart' in his hand, he blew aside the froth of the snowcapped' beverage, and took a 'pull' (as he termed it) that would not have disgraced a pavior.
The demolition of the savoury viands now seriously occupied the undivided attention of the party, and effectually precluded any farther display of eloquence.
'I do really think,' said Mrs. Jenks, when the cloth was cleared, 'that we haven't only two tumblers in the house-(that gal breaks everythink.) You and me, Mrs. Brown, must "hob and nob" together, and the men must mix in t'other.'
The grog was soon made and distributed in accordance with this amicable arrangement.
The conversation now became general, but not interesting, and Mr. Brown, having tossed off his fourth tumbler of toddy, asked his better half if she was not thinking about going'
Mrs. B., in consequence of this hint, walked off Mrs. J. to put on her things,' and was soon in readiness to depart.
Mr. Jenks yawned, and looked sleepy, and said that he only hoped,