He was observed to close one eye, and to assume a clock-work sort of expression with the other; this has been considered as a wink, and it has been reported that Agnes was its object. We repel the calumny, and challenge contradiction.
Mrs. Tibbs inquired after Mrs. Bloss's health in a low tone. Mrs. Bloss, with a supreme contempt for the memory of Lindley Murray, answered the various questions in a most satisfactory manner; and a pause ensued, during which the eatables disappeared with awful rapidity.
'You must have been very much pleased with the appearance of the ladies going to the Drawing-room the other day, Mr. O'Bleary?' said Mrs. Tibbs, hoping to start a topic.
'Yes,' replied Orson, with a mouthful of toast.
'Never saw anything like it before, I suppose?' suggested Wisbottle.
'No--except the Lord Lieutenant's levees,' replied O'Bleary.
'Are they at all equal to our drawing-rooms?'
'Oh, infinitely superior!'
'Gad! I don't know,' said the aristocratic Wisbottle, 'the Dowager Marchioness of Publiccash was most magnificently dressed, and so was the Baron Slappenbachenhausen.'
'What was he presented on?' inquired Evenson.
'On his arrival in England.'
'I thought so,' growled the radical; 'you never hear of these fellows being presented on their going away again. They know better than that.'
'Unless somebody pervades them with an apintment,' said Mrs. Bloss, joining in the conversation in a faint voice.
'Well,' said Wisbottle, evading the point, 'it's a splendid sight.'
'And did it never occur to you,' inquired the radical, who never would be quiet; 'did it never occur to you, that you pay for these precious ornaments of society?'
'It certainly HAS occurred to me,' said Wisbottle, who thought this answer was a poser; 'it HAS occurred to me, and I am willing to pay for them.'
'Well, and it has occurred to me too,' replied John Evenson, 'and I ain't willing to pay for 'em. Then why should I?--I say, why should I?' continued the politician, laying down the paper, and knocking his knuckles on the table. 'There are two great principles--demand--'
'A cup of tea if you please, dear,' interrupted Tibbs.
'May I trouble you to hand this tea to Mr. Tibbs?' said Mrs. Tibbs, interrupting the argument, and unconsciously illustrating it.
The thread of the orator's discourse was broken. He drank his tea and resumed the paper.
'If it's very fine,' said Mr. Alfred Tomkins, addressing the company in general, 'I shall ride down to Richmond to-day, and come back by the steamer. There are some splendid effects of light and shade on the Thames; the contrast between the blueness of the sky and the yellow water is frequently exceedingly beautiful.' Mr. Wisbottle hummed, 'Flow on, thou shining river.'
'We have some splendid steam-vessels in Ireland,' said O'Bleary.
'Certainly,' said Mrs. Bloss, delighted to find a subject broached in which she could take part.
'The accommodations are extraordinary,' said O'Bleary.
'Extraordinary indeed,' returned Mrs. Bloss. 'When Mr. Bloss was alive, he was promiscuously obligated to go to Ireland on business. I went with him, and raly the manner in which the ladies and gentlemen were accommodated with berths, is not creditable.'
Tibbs, who had been listening to the dialogue, looked aghast, and evinced a strong inclination to ask a question, but was checked by a look from his wife. Mr. Wisbottle laughed, and said Tomkins had made a pun; and Tomkins laughed too, and said he had not.
The remainder of the meal passed off as breakfasts usually do. Conversation flagged, and people played with their teaspoons. The gentlemen looked out at the window; walked about the room; and, when they got near the door, dropped off one by one. Tibbs retired to the back parlour by his wife's orders, to check the green- grocer's weekly account; and ultimately Mrs. Tibbs and Mrs. Bloss were left alone together.
'Oh dear!' said the latter, 'I feel alarmingly faint; it's very singular.' (It certainly was, for she had eaten four pounds of solids that morning.) 'By-the-bye,' said Mrs.