'Very warm,' said Dumps, feeling it necessary to say something.
'Yes. It was warmer yesterday,' returned the brilliant Mr. Danton.--A general laugh.
'I have great pleasure in congratulating you on your first appearance in the character of a father, sir,' he continued, addressing Dumps--'godfather, I mean.'--The young ladies were convulsed, and the gentlemen in ecstasies.
A general hum of admiration interrupted the conversation, and announced the entrance of nurse with the baby. An universal rush of the young ladies immediately took place. (Girls are always SO fond of babies in company.)
'Oh, you dear!' said one.
'How sweet!' cried another, in a low tone of the most enthusiastic admiration.
'Heavenly!' added a third.
'Oh! what dear little arms!' said a fourth, holding up an arm and fist about the size and shape of the leg of a fowl cleanly picked.
'Did you ever!'--said a little coquette with a large bustle, who looked like a French lithograph, appealing to a gentleman in three waistcoats--'Did you ever!'
'Never, in my life,' returned her admirer, pulling up his collar.
'Oh! DO let me take it, nurse,' cried another young lady. 'The love!'
'Can it open its eyes, nurse?' inquired another, affecting the utmost innocence.--Suffice it to say, that the single ladies unanimously voted him an angel, and that the married ones, nem. con., agreed that he was decidedly the finest baby they had ever beheld--except their own.
The quadrilles were resumed with great spirit. Mr. Danton was universally admitted to be beyond himself; several young ladies enchanted the company and gained admirers by singing 'We met'--'I saw her at the Fancy Fair'--and other equally sentimental and interesting ballads. 'The young men,' as Mrs. Kitterbell said, 'made themselves very agreeable;' the girls did not lose their opportunity; and the evening promised to go off excellently. Dumps didn't mind it: he had devised a plan for himself--a little bit of fun in his own way--and he was almost happy! He played a rubber and lost every point Mr. Danton said he could not have lost every point, because he made a point of losing: everybody laughed tremendously. Dumps retorted with a better joke, and nobody smiled, with the exception of the host, who seemed to consider it his duty to laugh till he was black in the face, at everything. There was only one drawback--the musicians did not play with quite as much spirit as could have been wished. The cause, however, was satisfactorily explained; for it appeared, on the testimony of a gentleman who had come up from Gravesend in the afternoon, that they had been engaged on board a steamer all day, and had played almost without cessation all the way to Gravesend, and all the way back again.
The 'sit-down supper' was excellent; there were four barley-sugar temples on the table, which would have looked beautiful if they had not melted away when the supper began; and a water-mill, whose only fault was that instead of going round, it ran over the table-cloth. Then there were fowls, and tongue, and trifle, and sweets, and lobster salad, and potted beef--and everything. And little Kitterbell kept calling out for clean plates, and the clean plates did not come: and then the gentlemen who wanted the plates said they didn't mind, they'd take a lady's; and then Mrs. Kitterbell applauded their gallantry, and the greengrocer ran about till he thought his seven and sixpence was very hardly earned; and the young ladies didn't eat much for fear it shouldn't look romantic, and the married ladies eat as much as possible, for fear they shouldn't have enough; and a great deal of wine was drunk, and everybody talked and laughed considerably.
'Hush! hush!' said Mr. Kitterbell, rising and looking very important. 'My love (this was addressed to his wife at the other end of the table), take care of Mrs. Maxwell, and your mamma, and the rest of the married ladies; the gentlemen will persuade the young ladies to fill their glasses, I am sure.'
'Ladies and gentlemen,' said long Dumps, in a very sepulchral voice and rueful accent, rising from his chair like the ghost in Don Juan, 'will you have the kindness to charge your glasses? I am desirous of proposing a toast.'
A dead silence ensued, and the glasses were filled--everybody looked serious.