As to THEM, the man who can dream such iced champagne, such claret, port, or sherry, had better go to bed and stop there.
But perhaps the finest feature of the banquet was, that nobody was half so much amazed by everything as John himself, who in his high delight was constantly bursting into fits of laughter, and then endeavouring to appear preternaturally solemn, lest the waiters should conceive he wasn't used to it. Some of the things they brought him to carve, were such outrageous practical jokes, though, that it was impossible to stand it; and when Tom Pinch insisted, in spite of the deferential advice of an attendant, not only on breaking down the outer wall of a raised pie with a tablespoon, but on trying to eat it afterwards, John lost all dignity, and sat behind the gorgeous dish-cover at the head of the table, roaring to that extent that he was audible in the kitchen. Nor had he the least objection to laugh at himself, as he demonstrated when they had all three gathered round the fire and the dessert was on the table; at which period the head waiter inquired with respectful solicitude whether that port, being a light and tawny wine, was suited to his taste, or whether he would wish to try a fruity port with greater body. To this John gravely answered that he was well satisfied with what he had, which he esteemed, as one might say, a pretty tidy vintage; for which the waiter thanked him and withdrew. And then John told his friends, with a broad grin, that he supposed it was all right, but he didn't know; and went off into a perfect shout.
They were very merry and full of enjoyment the whole time, but not the least pleasant part of the festival was when they all three sat about the fire, cracking nuts, drinking wine and talking cheerfully. It happened that Tom Pinch had a word to say to his friend the organist's assistant, and so deserted his warm corner for a few minutes at this season, lest it should grow too late; leaving the other two young men together.
They drank his health in his absence, of course; and John Westlock took that opportunity of saying, that he had never had even a peevish word with Tom during the whole term of their residence in Mr Pecksniff's house. This naturally led him to dwell upon Tom's character, and to hint that Mr Pecksniff understood it pretty well. He only hinted this, and very distantly; knowing that it pained Tom Pinch to have that gentleman disparaged, and thinking it would be as well to leave the new pupil to his own discoveries.
'Yes,' said Martin. 'It's impossible to like Pinch better than I do, or to do greater justice to his good qualities. He is the most willing fellow I ever saw.'
'He's rather too willing,' observed John, who was quick in observation. 'It's quite a fault in him.'
'So it is,' said Martin. 'Very true. There was a fellow only a week or so ago--a Mr Tigg--who borrowed all the money he had, on a promise to repay it in a few days. It was but half a sovereign, to be sure; but it's well it was no more, for he'll never see it again.'
'Poor fellow!' said John, who had been very attentive to these few words. 'Perhaps you have not had an opportunity of observing that, in his own pecuniary transactions, Tom's proud.'
'You don't say so! No, I haven't. What do you mean? Won't he borrow?'
John Westlock shook his head.
'That's very odd,' said Martin, setting down his empty glass. 'He's a strange compound, to be sure.'
'As to receiving money as a gift,' resumed John Westlock; 'I think he'd die first.'
'He's made up of simplicity,' said Martin. 'Help yourself.'
'You, however,' pursued John, filling his own glass, and looking at his companion with some curiosity, 'who are older than the majority of Mr Pecksniff's assistants, and have evidently had much more experience, understand him, I have no doubt, and see how liable he is to be imposed upon.'
'Certainly,' said Martin, stretching out his legs, and holding his wine between his eye and the light. 'Mr Pecksniff knows that too. So do his daughters.