For the life and soul of him, Tom could get no further in his writing than, 'A respectable young man, aged thirty-five,' and this, notwithstanding the show she made of being supernaturally quiet, and going about on tiptoe, lest she should disturb him; which only served as an additional means of distracting his attention, and keeping it upon her.
'Tom,' she said at last, in high glee. 'Tom!'
'What now?' said Tom, repeating to himself, 'aged thirty-five!'
'Will you look here a moment, please?'
As if he hadn't been looking all the time!
'I am going to begin, Tom. Don't you wonder why I butter the inside of the basin?' said his busy little sister.
'Not more than you do, I dare say,' replied Tom, laughing. 'For I believe you don't know anything about it.'
'What an infidel you are, Tom! How else do you think it would turn out easily when it was done! For a civil-engineer and land-surveyor not to know that! My goodness, Tom!'
It was wholly out of the question to try to write. Tom lined out 'respectable young man, aged thirty-five;' and sat looking on, pen in hand, with one of the most loving smiles imaginable.
Such a busy little woman as she was! So full of self-importance and trying so hard not to smile, or seem uncertain about anything! It was a perfect treat to Tom to see her with her brows knit, and her rosy lips pursed up, kneading away at the crust, rolling it out, cutting it up into strips, lining the basin with it, shaving it off fine round the rim, chopping up the steak into small pieces, raining down pepper and salt upon them, packing them into the basin, pouring in cold water for gravy, and never venturing to steal a look in his direction, lest her gravity should be disturbed; until, at last, the basin being quite full and only wanting the top crust, she clapped her hands all covered with paste and flour, at Tom, and burst out heartily into such a charming little laugh of triumph, that the pudding need have had no other seasoning to commend it to the taste of any reasonable man on earth.
'Where's the pudding?' said Tom. For he was cutting his jokes, Tom was.
'Where!' she answered, holding it up with both hands. 'Look at it!'
'THAT a pudding!' said Tom.
'It WILL be, you stupid fellow, when it's covered in,' returned his sister. Tom still pretending to look incredulous, she gave him a tap on the head with the rolling-pin, and still laughing merrily, had returned to the composition of the top crust, when she started and turned very red. Tom started, too, for following her eyes, he saw John Westlock in the room.
'Why, my goodness, John! How did YOU come in?'
'I beg pardon,' said John--' your sister's pardon especially--but I met an old lady at the street door, who requested me to enter here; and as you didn't hear me knock, and the door was open, I made bold to do so. I hardly know,' said John, with a smile, 'why any of us should be disconcerted at my having accidentally intruded upon such an agreeable domestic occupation, so very agreeably and skillfully pursued; but I must confess that I am. Tom, will you kindly come to my relief?'
'Mr John Westlock,' said Tom. 'My sister.'
'I hope that, as the sister of so old a friend,' said John, laughing 'you will have the goodness to detach your first impressions of me from my unfortunate entrance.'
'My sister is not indisposed perhaps to say the same to you on her own behalf,' retorted Tom.
John said, of course, that this was quite unnecessary, for he had been transfixed in silent admiration; and he held out his hand to Miss Pinch; who couldn't take it, however, by reason of the flour and paste upon her own. This, which might seem calculated to increase the general confusion and render matters worse, had in reality the best effect in the world, for neither of them could help laughing; and so they both found themselves on easy terms immediately.
'I am delighted to see you,' said Tom. 'Sit down.'
'I can only think of sitting down on one condition,' returned his friend; 'and that is, that your sister goes on with the pudding, as if you were still alone.'
'That I am sure she will,' said Tom.