George with great expression.
"Just so. When there is any."
"Don't you read or get read to?"
The old man shakes his head with sharp sly triumph. "No, no. We have never been readers in our family. It don't pay. Stuff. Idleness. Folly. No, no!"
"There's not much to choose between your two states," says the visitor in a key too low for the old man's dull hearing as he looks from him to the old woman and back again. "I say!" in a louder voice.
"I hear you."
"You'll sell me up at last, I suppose, when I am a day in arrear."
"My dear friend!" cries Grandfather Smallweed, stretching out both hands to embrace him. "Never! Never, my dear friend! But my friend in the city that I got to lend you the money--HE might!"
"Oh! You can't answer for him?" says Mr. George, finishing the inquiry in his lower key with the words "You lying old rascal!"
"My dear friend, he is not to be depended on. I wouldn't trust him. He will have his bond, my dear friend."
"Devil doubt him," says Mr. George. Charley appearing with a tray, on which are the pipe, a small paper of tobacco, and the brandy- and-water, he asks her, "How do you come here! You haven't got the family face."
"I goes out to work, sir," returns Charley.
The trooper (if trooper he be or have been) takes her bonnet off, with a light touch for so strong a hand, and pats her on the head. "You give the house almost a wholesome look. It wants a bit of youth as much as it wants fresh air." Then he dismisses her, lights his pipe, and drinks to Mr. Smallweed's friend in the city-- the one solitary flight of that esteemed old gentleman's imagination.
"So you think he might be hard upon me, eh?"
"I think he might--I am afraid he would. I have known him do it," says Grandfather Smallweed incautiously, "twenty times."
Incautiously, because his stricken better-half, who has been dozing over the fire for some time, is instantly aroused and jabbers "Twenty thousand pounds, twenty twenty-pound notes in a money-box, twenty guineas, twenty million twenty per cent, twenty--" and is then cut short by the flying cushion, which the visitor, to whom this singular experiment appears to be a novelty, snatches from her face as it crushes her in the usual manner.
"You're a brimstone idiot. You're a scorpion--a brimstone scorpion! You're a sweltering toad. You're a chattering clattering broomstick witch that ought to be burnt!" gasps the old man, prostrate in his chair. "My dear friend, will you shake me up a little?"
Mr. George, who has been looking first at one of them and then at the other, as if he were demented, takes his venerable acquaintance by the throat on receiving this request, and dragging him upright in his chair as easily as if he were a doll, appears in two minds whether or no to shake all future power of cushioning out of him and shake him into his grave. Resisting the temptation, but agitating him violently enough to make his head roll like a harlequin's, he puts him smartly down in his chair again and adjusts his skull-cap with such a rub that the old man winks with both eyes for a minute afterwards.
"O Lord!" gasps Mr. Smallweed. "That'll do. Thank you, my dear friend, that'll do. Oh, dear me, I'm out of breath. O Lord!" And Mr. Smallweed says it not without evident apprehensions of his dear friend, who still stands over him looming larger than ever.
The alarming presence, however, gradually subsides into its chair and falls to smoking in long puffs, consoling itself with the philosophical reflection, "The name of your friend in the city begins with a D, comrade, and you're about right respecting the bond."
"Did you speak, Mr. George?" inquires the old man.
The trooper shakes his head, and leaning forward with his right elbow on his right knee and his pipe supported in that hand, while his other hand, resting on his left leg, squares his left elbow in a martial manner, continues to smoke. Meanwhile he looks at Mr. Smallweed with grave attention and now and then fans the cloud of smoke away in order that he may see him the more clearly.