'Such an unlikely spot!'
John rather disputed that. On the contrary, he considered it a very likely spot, indeed. He was constantly passing to and fro there, he said. He shouldn't wonder if it were to happen again. His only wonder was, that it had never happened before.
By this time Ruth had got round on the farther side of her brother, and had taken his arm. She was squeezing it now, as much as to say 'Are you going to stop here all day, you dear, old, blundering Tom?'
Tom answered the squeeze as if it had been a speech. 'John,' he said, 'if you'll give my sister your arm, we'll take her between us, and walk on. I have a curious circumstance to relate to you. Our meeting could not have happened better.'
Merrily the fountain leaped and danced, and merrily the smiling dimples twinkled and expanded more and more, until they broke into a laugh against the basin's rim, and vanished.
'Tom,' said his friend, as they turned into the noisy street, 'I have a proposition to make. It is, that you and your sister--if she will so far honour a poor bachelor's dwelling--give me a great pleasure, and come and dine with me.'
'What, to-day?' cried Tom.
'Yes, to-day. It's close by, you know. Pray, Miss Pinch, insist upon it. It will be very disinterested, for I have nothing to give you.'
'Oh! you must not believe that, Ruth,' said Tom. 'He is the most tremendous fellow, in his housekeeping, that I ever heard of, for a single man. He ought to be Lord Mayor. Well! what do you say? Shall we go?'
'If you please, Tom,' rejoined his dutiful little sister.
'But I mean,' said Tom, regarding her with smiling admiration; 'is there anything you ought to wear, and haven't got? I am sure I don't know, John; she may not be able to take her bonnet off, for anything I can tell.'
There was a great deal of laughing at this, and there were divers compliments from John Westlock--not compliments HE said at least (and really he was right), but good, plain, honest truths, which no one could deny. Ruth laughed, and all that, but she made no objection; so it was an engagement.
'If I had known it a little sooner,' said John, 'I would have tried another pudding. Not in rivalry; but merely to exalt that famous one. I wouldn't on any account have had it made with suet.'
'Why not?' asked Tom.
'Because that cookery-book advises suet,' said John Westlock; 'and ours was made with flour and eggs.'
'Oh good gracious!' cried Tom. 'Ours was made with flour and eggs, was it? Ha, ha, ha! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs! Why anybody knows better than that. I know better than that! Ha, ha, ha!'
It is unnecessary to say that Tom had been present at the making of the pudding, and had been a devoted believer in it all through. But he was so delighted to have this joke against his busy little sister and was tickled to that degree at having found her out, that he stopped in Temple Bar to laugh; and it was no more to Tom, that he was anathematized and knocked about by the surly passengers, than it would have been to a post; for he continued to exclaim with unabated good humour, 'flour and eggs! A beefsteak pudding made with flour and eggs!' until John Westlock and his sister fairly ran away from him, and left him to have his laugh out by himself; which he had, and then came dodging across the crowded street to them, with such sweet temper and tenderness (it was quite a tender joke of Tom's) beaming in his face, God bless it, that it might have purified the air, though Temple Bar had been, as in the golden days gone by, embellished with a row of rotting human heads.
There are snug chambers in those Inns where the bachelors live, and, for the desolate fellows they pretend to be, it is quite surprising how well they get on. John was very pathetic on the subject of his dreary life, and the deplorable makeshifts and apologetic contrivances it involved, but he really seemed to make himself pretty comfortable. His rooms were the perfection of neatness and convenience at any rate; and if he were anything but comfortable, the fault was certainly not theirs.