What he was in toys, he was (as most men are) in other things. You may easily suppose, therefore, that within the great green cape, which reached down to the calves of his legs, there was buttoned up to the chin an uncommonly pleasant fellow; and that he was about as choice a spirit, and as agreeable a companion, as ever stood in a pair of bull-headed-looking boots with mahogany-coloured tops.
Still, Tackleton, the toy-merchant, was going to be married. In spite of all this, he was going to be married. And to a young wife too, a beautiful young wife.
He didn't look much like a bridegroom, as he stood in the Carrier's kitchen, with a twist in his dry face, and a screw in his body, and his hat jerked over the bridge of his nose, and his hands tucked down into the bottoms of his pockets, and his whole sarcastic ill- conditioned self peering out of one little corner of one little eye, like the concentrated essence of any number of ravens. But, a Bridegroom he designed to be.
'In three days' time. Next Thursday. The last day of the first month in the year. That's my wedding-day,' said Tackleton.
Did I mention that he had always one eye wide open, and one eye nearly shut; and that the one eye nearly shut, was always the expressive eye? I don't think I did.
'That's my wedding-day!' said Tackleton, rattling his money.
'Why, it's our wedding-day too,' exclaimed the Carrier.
'Ha ha!' laughed Tackleton. 'Odd! You're just such another couple. Just!'
The indignation of Dot at this presumptuous assertion is not to be described. What next? His imagination would compass the possibility of just such another Baby, perhaps. The man was mad.
'I say! A word with you,' murmured Tackleton, nudging the Carrier with his elbow, and taking him a little apart. 'You'll come to the wedding? We're in the same boat, you know.'
'How in the same boat?' inquired the Carrier.
'A little disparity, you know,' said Tackleton, with another nudge. 'Come and spend an evening with us, beforehand.'
'Why?' demanded John, astonished at this pressing hospitality.
'Why?' returned the other. 'That's a new way of receiving an invitation. Why, for pleasure--sociability, you know, and all that!'
'I thought you were never sociable,' said John, in his plain way.
'Tchah! It's of no use to be anything but free with you, I see,' said Tackleton. 'Why, then, the truth is you have a--what tea- drinking people call a sort of a comfortable appearance together, you and your wife. We know better, you know, but--'
'No, we don't know better,' interposed John. 'What are you talking about?'
'Well! We DON'T know better, then,' said Tackleton. 'We'll agree that we don't. As you like; what does it matter? I was going to say, as you have that sort of appearance, your company will produce a favourable effect on Mrs. Tackleton that will be. And, though I don't think your good lady's very friendly to me, in this matter, still she can't help herself from falling into my views, for there's a compactness and cosiness of appearance about her that always tells, even in an indifferent case. You'll say you'll come?'
'We have arranged to keep our Wedding-Day (as far as that goes) at home,' said John. 'We have made the promise to ourselves these six months. We think, you see, that home--'
'Bah! what's home?' cried Tackleton. 'Four walls and a ceiling! (why don't you kill that Cricket? _I_ would! I always do. I hate their noise.) There are four walls and a ceiling at my house. Come to me!'
'You kill your Crickets, eh?' said John.
'Scrunch 'em, sir,' returned the other, setting his heel heavily on the floor. 'You'll say you'll come? it's as much your interest as mine, you know, that the women should persuade each other that they're quiet and contented, and couldn't be better off. I know their way. Whatever one woman says, another woman is determined to clinch, always. There's that spirit of emulation among 'em, sir, that if your wife says to my wife, "I'm the happiest woman in the world, and mine's the best husband in the world, and I dote on him," my wife will say the same to yours, or more, and half believe it.'
'Do you mean to say she don't, then?' asked the Carrier.