‘I know you are. I’m sure of it. I drag this poor woman from the bosom of her family at a minute’s notice, and she goes on getting fainter and fainter before my eyes I’m a pretty fellow! How many children have you got, ma’am?’

‘Two, Sir, besides Kit.’

‘Boys, ma’am?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘Are they christened?’

‘Only half baptised, as yet, Sir.’

‘I’m godfather to both of ’em. Remember that, if you please, ma’am. You had better have some mulled wine.’

‘I couldn’t touch a drop indeed, Sir.’

‘You must,’ said the single gentleman. ‘I see you want it. I ought to have thought of it before.’

Immediately flying to the bell, and calling for mulled wine as impetuously as if it had been wanted for instant use in the recovery of some person apparently drowned, the single gentleman made Kit’s mother swallow a bumper of it at such a high temperature that the tears ran down her face, and then hustled her off to the chaise again, where — not impossibly from the effects of this agreeable sedative — she soon became insensible to his restlessness, and fell fast asleep. Nor were the happy effects of this prescription of a transitory nature, as, notwithstanding that the distance was greater, and the journey longer, than the single gentleman had anticipated, she did not awake until it was broad day, and they were clattering over the pavement of a town.

‘This is the place!’ cried her companion, letting down all the glasses. ‘Drive to the wax-work!’

The boy on the wheeler touched his hat, and setting spurs to his horse, to the end that they might go in brilliantly, all four broke into a smart canter, and dashed through the streets with a noise that brought the good folks wondering to their doors and windows, and drowned the sober voices of the town-clocks as they chimed out half-past eight. They drove up to a door round which a crowd of persons were collected, and there stopped.

‘What’s this?’ said the single gentleman thrusting out his head. ‘Is anything the matter here?’

‘A wedding, Sir, a wedding!’ cried several voices ‘Hurrah!’

The single gentleman, rather bewildered by finding himself the centre of this noisy throng, alighted with the assistance of one of the postilions, and handed out Kit’s mother, at sight of whom the populace cried out, ‘Here’s another wedding!’ and roared and leaped for joy.

‘The world has gone mad, I think,’ said the single gentleman, pressing through the concourse with his supposed bride. ‘Stand back here, will you, and let me knock.’

Anything that makes a noise is satisfactory to a crowd. A score of dirty hands were raised directly to knock for him, and seldom has a knocker of equal powers been made to produce more deafening sounds than this particular engine on the occasion in question. Having rendered these voluntary services, the throng modestly retired a little, preferring that the single gentleman should bear their consequences alone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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