'Hem--show the gentleman in,' said the unfortunate bachelor. Exit servant, and enter Octavius preceded by a large white dog, dressed in a suit of fleecy hosiery, with pink eyes, large ears, and no perceptible tail.
The cause of the pattering on the stairs was but too plain. Mr. Augustus Minns staggered beneath the shock of the dog's appearance.
'My dear fellow, how are you?' said Budden, as he entered.
He always spoke at the top of his voice, and always said the same thing half-a-dozen times.
'How are you, my hearty?'
'How do you do, Mr. Budden?--pray take a chair!' politely stammered the discomfited Minns.
'Thank you--thank you--well--how are you, eh?'
'Uncommonly well, thank you,' said Minns, casting a diabolical look at the dog, who, with his hind legs on the floor, and his fore paws resting on the table, was dragging a bit of bread and butter out of a plate, preparatory to devouring it, with the buttered side next the carpet.
'Ah, you rogue!' said Budden to his dog; 'you see, Minns, he's like me, always at home, eh, my boy!--Egad, I'm precious hot and hungry! I've walked all the way from Stamford-hill this morning.'
'Have you breakfasted?' inquired Minns.
'Oh, no!--came to breakfast with you; so ring the bell, my dear fellow, will you? and let's have another cup and saucer, and the cold ham.--Make myself at home, you see!' continued Budden, dusting his boots with a table-napkin. 'Ha!--ha!--ha! -'pon my life, I'm hungry.'
Minns rang the bell, and tried to smile.
'I decidedly never was so hot in my life,' continued Octavius, wiping his forehead; 'well, but how are you, Minns? 'Pon my soul, you wear capitally!'
'D'ye think so?' said Minns; and he tried another smile.
''Pon my life, I do!'
'Mrs. B. and--what's his name--quite well?'
'Alick--my son, you mean; never better--never better. But at such a place as we've got at Poplar-walk, you know, he couldn't be ill if he tried. When I first saw it, by Jove! it looked so knowing, with the front garden, and the green railings and the brass knocker, and all that--I really thought it was a cut above me.'
'Don't you think you'd like the ham better,' interrupted Minns, 'if you cut it the other way?' He saw, with feelings which it is impossible to describe, that his visitor was cutting or rather maiming the ham, in utter violation of all established rules.
'No, thank ye,' returned Budden, with the most barbarous indifference to crime, 'I prefer it this way, it eats short. But I say, Minns, when will you come down and see us? You will be delighted with the place; I know you will. Amelia and I were talking about you the other night, and Amelia said--another lump of sugar, please; thank ye--she said, don't you think you could contrive, my dear, to say to Mr. Minns, in a friendly way--come down, sir--damn the dog! he's spoiling your curtains, Minns--ha!-- ha!--ha!' Minns leaped from his seat as though he had received the discharge from a galvanic battery.
'Come out, sir!--go out, hoo!' cried poor Augustus, keeping, nevertheless, at a very respectful distance from the dog; having read of a case of hydrophobia in the paper of that morning. By dint of great exertion, much shouting, and a marvellous deal of poking under the tables with a stick and umbrella, the dog was at last dislodged, and placed on the landing outside the door, where he immediately commenced a most appalling howling; at the same time vehemently scratching the paint off the two nicely-varnished bottom panels, until they resembled the interior of a backgammon-board.
'A good dog for the country that!' coolly observed Budden to the distracted Minns, 'but he's not much used to confinement. But now, Minns, when will you come down? I'll take no denial, positively. Let's see, to-day's Thursday.--Will you come on Sunday? We dine at five, don't say no--do.'
After a great deal of pressing, Mr. Augustus Minns, driven to despair, accepted the invitation, and promised to be at Poplar-walk on the ensuing Sunday, at a quarter before five to the minute.