manner, and sings comic ditties of a juvenile complexion, calculated (as the bill says) not to wound the feelings of the most fastidious mind.

Over all the legal neighbourhood, there hangs, like some great veil of rust, or gigantic cobweb, the idleness and pensiveness of the long vacation. Mr Snagsby, law-stationer of Cook’s Court, Cursitor Street, is sensible of the influence; not only in his mind as a sympathetic and contemplative man, but also in his business as a law-stationer aforesaid. He has more leisure for musing in Staple Inn and in the Rolls Yard, during the long vacation, than at other seasons; and he says to the two ’prentices, what a thing it is in such hot weather to think that you live in an island, with the sea a-rolling and a-bowling right round you.

Guster is busy in the little drawing-room, on this present afternoon in the long vacation, when Mr and Mrs Snagsby have it in contemplation to receive company. The expected guests are rather select than numerous, being Mr and Mrs Chadband, and no more. From Mr Chadband’s being much given to describe himself, both verbally and in writing, as a vessel, he is occasionally mistaken by strangers for a gentleman connected with navigation; but, he is, as he expresses it, “in the ministry.” Mr Chadband is attached to no particular denomination; and is considered by his persecutors to have nothing so very remarkable to say on the greatest of subjects as to render his volunteering, on his own account, at all incumbent on his conscience; but, he has his followers, and Mrs Snagsby is of the number. Mrs Snagsby has but recently taken a passage upward by the vessel, Chadband; and her attention was attracted to that Bark A 1, when she was something flushed by the hot weather.

“My little woman,” says Mr Snagsby to the sparrows in Staple Inn, “likes to have her religion rather sharp, you see!”

So Guster, much impressed by regarding herself for the time as the handmaid of Chadband, whom she knows to be endowed with the gift of holding forth for four hours at a stretch, prepares the little drawing- room for tea. All the furniture is shaken and dusted, the portraits of Mr and Mrs Snagsby are touched up with a wet cloth, the best tea-service is set forth, and there is excellent provision made of dainty new bread, crusty twists, cool fresh butter, thin slices of ham, tongue, and German sausage, and delicate little rows of anchovies nestling in parsley; not to mention new laid eggs, to be brought up warm in a napkin, and hot buttered toast. For, Chadband is rather a consuming vessel — the persecutors say a gorging vessel; and can wield such weapons of the flesh as a knife and fork, remarkably well.

Mr Snagsby in his best coat, looking at all the preparations when they are completed, and coughing his cough of deference behind his hand, says to Mrs Snagsby, “At what time did you expect Mr and Mrs Chadband, my love?”

“At six,” says Mrs Snagsby.

Mr Snagsby observes in a mild and casual way, that “it’s gone that.”

“Perhaps you’d like to begin without them,” is Mrs Snagsby’s reproachful remark.

Mr Snagsby does look as if he would like it very much, but he says, with his cough of mildness, “No, my dear, no. I merely named the time.”

“What’s time,” says Mrs Snagsby, “to eternity?”

“Very true, my dear,” says Mr Snagsby. “Only when a person lays in victuals for tea, a person does it with a view — perhaps — more to time. And when a time is named for having tea, it’s better to come up to it.”

“To come up to it!” Mrs Snagsby repeats with severity. “Up to it! As if Mr Chadband was a fighter!”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.