In the midst of all his merriment, and admiration of his captain, Hugh was made sensible by these and other tokens, of the presence of an air of mystery, akin to that which had so much impressed him out of doors. It was impossible to discard a sense that something serious was going on, and that under the noisy revel of the public- house, there lurked unseen and dangerous matter. Little affected by this, however, he was perfectly satisfied with his quarters and would have remained there till morning, but that his conductor rose soon after midnight, to go home; Mr Tappertit following his example, left him no excuse to stay. So they all three left the house together: roaring a No-Popery song until the fields resounded with the dismal noise.
Cheer up, captain!' cried Hugh, when they had roared themselves out of breath. 'Another stave!'
Mr Tappertit, nothing loath, began again; and so the three went staggering on, arm-in-arm, shouting like madmen, and defying the watch with great valour. Indeed this did not require any unusual bravery or boldness, as the watchmen of that time, being selected for the office on account of excessive age and extraordinary infirmity, had a custom of shutting themselves up tight in their boxes on the first symptoms of disturbance, and remaining there until they disappeared. In these proceedings, Mr Dennis, who had a gruff voice and lungs of considerable power, distinguished himself very much, and acquired great credit with his two companions.
'What a queer fellow you are!' said Mr Tappertit. 'You're so precious sly and close. Why don't you ever tell what trade you're of?'
'Answer the captain instantly,' cried Hugh, beating his hat down on his head; 'why don't you ever tell what trade you're of?'
'I'm of as gen-teel a calling, brother, as any man in England--as light a business as any gentleman could desire.'
'Was you 'prenticed to it?' asked Mr Tappertit.
'No. Natural genius,' said Mr Dennis. 'No 'prenticing. It come by natur'. Muster Gashford knows my calling. Look at that hand of mine--many and many a job that hand has done, with a neatness and dex-terity, never known afore. When I look at that hand,' said Mr Dennis, shaking it in the air, 'and remember the helegant bits of work it has turned off, I feel quite molloncholy to think it should ever grow old and feeble. But sich is life!'
He heaved a deep sigh as he indulged in these reflections, and putting his fingers with an absent air on Hugh's throat, and particularly under his left ear, as if he were studying the anatomical development of that part of his frame, shook his head in a despondent manner and actually shed tears.
'You're a kind of artist, I suppose--eh!' said Mr Tappertit.
'Yes,' rejoined Dennis; 'yes--I may call myself a artist--a fancy workman--art improves natur'--that's my motto.'
'And what do you call this?' said Mr Tappertit taking his stick out of his hand.
'That's my portrait atop,' Dennis replied; 'd'ye think it's like?'
'Why--it's a little too handsome,' said Mr Tappertit. 'Who did it? You?'
'I!' repeated Dennis, gazing fondly on his image. 'I wish I had the talent. That was carved by a friend of mine, as is now no more. The very day afore he died, he cut that with his pocket- knife from memory! "I'll die game," says my friend, "and my last moments shall be dewoted to making Dennis's picter." That's it.'
'That was a queer fancy, wasn't it?' said Mr Tappertit.
'It WAS a queer fancy,' rejoined the other, breathing on his fictitious nose, and polishing it with the cuff of his coat, 'but he was a queer subject altogether--a kind of gipsy--one of the finest, stand-up men, you ever see. Ah! He told me some things that would startle you a bit, did that friend of mine, on the morning when he died.'
'You were with him at the time, were you?' said Mr Tappertit.
'Yes,' he answered with a curious look, 'I was there. Oh! yes certainly, I was there. He wouldn't have gone off half as comfortable without me. I had been with three or four of his family under the same circumstances.