'The curtain!' reiterated the frantic lady: 'you will be murdered.' This last appeal to his feelings was irresistible. The dismayed Cymon concealed himself behind the curtain with pantomimic suddenness.
Enter the captain, Joseph Tuggs, Mrs. Tuggs, and Charlotta.
'My dear,' said the captain, 'Lieutenant, Slaughter.' Two iron- shod boots and one gruff voice were heard by Mr. Cymon to advance, and acknowledge the honour of the introduction. The sabre of the lieutenant rattled heavily upon the floor, as he seated himself at the table. Mr. Cymon's fears almost overcame his reason.
'The brandy, my dear!' said the captain. Here was a situation! They were going to make a night of it! And Mr. Cymon Tuggs was pent up behind the curtain and afraid to breathe!
'Slaughter,' said the captain, 'a cigar?'
Now, Mr. Cymon Tuggs never could smoke without feeling it indispensably necessary to retire, immediately, and never could smell smoke without a strong disposition to cough. The cigars were introduced; the captain was a professed smoker; so was the lieutenant; so was Joseph Tuggs. The apartment was small, the door was closed, the smoke powerful: it hung in heavy wreaths over the room, and at length found its way behind the curtain. Cymon Tuggs held his nose, his mouth, his breath. It was all of no use--out came the cough.
'Bless my soul!' said the captain, 'I beg your pardon, Miss Tuggs. You dislike smoking?'
'Oh, no; I don't indeed,' said Charlotta.
'It makes you cough.'
'Oh dear no.'
'You coughed just now.'
'Me, Captain Waters! Lor! how can you say so?'
'Somebody coughed,' said the captain.
'I certainly thought so,' said Slaughter. No; everybody denied it.
'Fancy,' said the captain.
'Must be,' echoed Slaughter.
Cigars resumed--more smoke--another cough--smothered, but violent.
'Damned odd!' said the captain, staring about him.
'Sing'ler!' ejaculated the unconscious Mr. Joseph Tuggs.
Lieutenant Slaughter looked first at one person mysteriously, then at another: then, laid down his cigar, then approached the window on tiptoe, and pointed with his right thumb over his shoulder, in the direction of the curtain.
'Slaughter!' ejaculated the captain, rising from table, 'what do you mean?'
The lieutenant, in reply, drew back the curtain and discovered Mr. Cymon Tuggs behind it: pallid with apprehension, and blue with wanting to cough.
'Aha!' exclaimed the captain, furiously. 'What do I see? Slaughter, your sabre!'
'Cymon!' screamed the Tuggses.
'Mercy!' said Belinda.
'Platonic!' gasped Cymon.
'Your sabre!' roared the captain: 'Slaughter--unhand me--the villain's life!'
'Murder!' screamed the Tuggses.
'Hold him fast, sir!' faintly articulated Cymon.
'Water!' exclaimed Joseph Tuggs--and Mr. Cymon Tuggs and all the ladies forthwith fainted away, and formed a tableau.
Most willingly would we conceal the disastrous termination of the six weeks' acquaintance. A troublesome form, and an arbitrary custom, however, prescribe that a story should have a conclusion, in addition to a commencement; we have therefore no alternative. Lieutenant Slaughter brought a message--the captain brought an action. Mr. Joseph Tuggs interposed--the lieutenant negotiated. When Mr. Cymon Tuggs recovered from the nervous disorder into which misplaced affection, and exciting circumstances, had plunged him, he found that his family had lost their pleasant acquaintance; that his father was minus fifteen hundred pounds; and the captain plus the precise sum. The money was paid to hush the matter up, but it got abroad notwithstanding; and there are not wanting some who affirm that three designing impostors never found more easy dupes, than did Captain Waters, Mrs. Waters, and Lieutenant Slaughter, in the Tuggses at Ramsgate.
CHAPTER V--HORATIO SPARKINS
'Indeed, my love, he paid Teresa very great attention on the last assembly night,' said Mrs. Malderton, addressing her spouse, who, after the fatigues of the day in the City, was sitting with a silk handkerchief over his head, and his feet on the fender, drinking his port;--'very great attention; and I say again, every possible encouragement ought to be given him.