Budden, with all a mother's pride.
'Now, you know what a verb is?'
'A verb is a word which signifies to be, to do, or to suffer; as, I am--I rule--I am ruled. Give me an apple, Ma.'
'I'll give you an apple,' replied the man with the red whiskers, who was an established friend of the family, or in other words was always invited by Mrs. Budden, whether Mr. Budden liked it or not, 'if you'll tell me what is the meaning of BE.'
'Be?' said the prodigy, after a little hesitation--'an insect that gathers honey.'
'No, dear,' frowned Mrs. Budden; 'B double E is the substantive.'
'I don't think he knows much yet about COMMON substantives,' said the smirking gentleman, who thought this an admirable opportunity for letting off a joke. 'It's clear he's not very well acquainted with PROPER NAMES. He! he! he!'
'Gentlemen,' called out Mr. Budden, from the end of the table, in a stentorian voice, and with a very important air, 'will you have the goodness to charge your glasses? I have a toast to propose.'
'Hear! hear!' cried the gentlemen, passing the decanters. After they had made the round of the table, Mr. Budden proceeded-- 'Gentlemen; there is an individual present--'
'Hear! hear!' said the little man with red whiskers.
'PRAY be quiet, Jones,' remonstrated Budden.
'I say, gentlemen, there is an individual present,' resumed the host, 'in whose society, I am sure we must take great delight--and- -and--the conversation of that individual must have afforded to every one present, the utmost pleasure.' ['Thank Heaven, he does not mean me!' thought Minns, conscious that his diffidence and exclusiveness had prevented his saying above a dozen words since he entered the house.] 'Gentlemen, I am but a humble individual myself, and I perhaps ought to apologise for allowing any individual feeling of friendship and affection for the person I allude to, to induce me to venture to rise, to propose the health of that person--a person that, I am sure--that is to say, a person whose virtues must endear him to those who know him--and those who have not the pleasure of knowing him, cannot dislike him.'
'Hear! hear!' said the company, in a tone of encouragement and approval.
'Gentlemen,' continued Budden, 'my cousin is a man who--who is a relation of my own.' (Hear! hear!) Minns groaned audibly. 'Who I am most happy to see here, and who, if he were not here, would certainly have deprived us of the great pleasure we all feel in seeing him. (Loud cries of hear!) Gentlemen, I feel that I have already trespassed on your attention for too long a time. With every feeling--of--with every sentiment of--of--'
'Gratification'--suggested the friend of the family.
'- Of gratification, I beg to propose the health of Mr. Minns.'
'Standing, gentlemen!' shouted the indefatigable little man with the whiskers--'and with the honours. Take your time from me, if you please. Hip! hip! hip!--Za!--Hip! hip! hip!--Za!--Hip hip!-- Za-a-a!'
All eyes were now fixed on the subject of the toast, who by gulping down port wine at the imminent hazard of suffocation, endeavoured to conceal his confusion. After as long a pause as decency would admit, he rose, but, as the newspapers sometimes say in their reports, 'we regret that we are quite unable to give even the substance of the honourable gentleman's observations.' The words 'present company--honour--present occasion,' and 'great happiness'- -heard occasionally, and repeated at intervals, with a countenance expressive of the utmost confusion and misery, convinced the company that he was making an excellent speech; and, accordingly, on his resuming his seat, they cried 'Bravo!' and manifested tumultuous applause. Jones, who had been long watching his opportunity, then darted up.
'Budden,' said he, 'will you allow ME to propose a toast?'
'Certainly,' replied Budden, adding in an under-tone to Minns right across the table, 'Devilish sharp fellow that: you'll be very much pleased with his speech. He talks equally well on any subject.' Minns bowed, and Mr.