“I hope she steered herself, skiffed herself, paddled herself, larboarded and starboarded herself, or whatever the technical term may be, to the ceremony?” proceeds the playful Tippins.

“However she got to it, she graced it,” says Mortimer.

Lady Tippins with a skittish little scream, attracts the general attention. “Graced it! Take care of me if I faint, Veneering. He means to tell us, that a horrid female waterman is graceful!”

“Pardon me. I mean to tell you nothing, Lady Tippins,” replied Lightwood. And keeps his word by eating his dinner with a show of the utmost indifference.

“You shall not escape me in this way, you morose backwoods-man,” retorts Lady Tippins. “You shall not evade the question, to screen your friend Eugene, who has made this exhibition of himself. The knowledge shall be brought home to you that such a ridiculous affair is condemned by the voice of Society. My dear Mrs. Veneering, do let us resolve ourselves into a Committee of the whole House on the subject.”

Mrs. Veneering, always charmed by this rattling sylph, cries. “Oh yes! Do let us resolve ourselves into a Committee of the whole House! So delicious!” Veneering says, “As many as are of that opinion, say Aye, — contrary, No — the Ayes have it.” But nobody takes the slightest notice of his joke.

“Now, I am Chairwoman of Committees!” cries Lady Tippins.

(“What spirits she has!” exclaims Mrs. Veneering; to whom likewise nobody attends.)

“And this,” pursues the sprightly one, “is a Committee of the whole House to what-you-may-call-it — elicit, I suppose — the voice of Society. The question before the Committee is, whether a young man of very fair family, good appearance, and some talent, makes a fool or a wise man of himself in marrying a female waterman, turned factory girl.”

“Hardly so, I think,” the stubborn Mortimer strikes in. “I take the question to be, whether such a man as you describe, Lady Tippins, does right or wrong in marrying a brave woman (I say nothing of her beauty), who has saved his life, with a wonderful energy and address; whom he knows to be virtuous, and possessed of remarkable qualities; whom he has long admired, and who is deeply attached to him.”

“But, excuse me,” says Podsnap, with his temper and his shirt-collar about equally rumpled; “was this young woman ever a female waterman?”

“Never. But she sometimes rowed in a boat with her father, I believe.”

General sensation against the young woman. Brewer shakes his head. Boots shakes his head. Buffer shakes his head.

“And now, Mr. Lightwood, was she ever,” pursues Podsnap, with his indignation rising high into those hair-brushes of his, “a factory girl?”

“Never. But she had some employment in a paper mill, I believe.”

General sensation repeated. Brewer says, “Oh dear!” Boots says, “Oh dear!” Buffer says, “Oh dear!” All, in a rumbling tone of protest.

“Then all I have to say is,” returns Podsnap, putting the thing away with his right arm, “that my gorge rises against such a marriage — that it offends and disgusts me — that it makes me sick — and that I desire to know no more about it.”

(“Now I wonder,” thinks Mortimer, amused, “whether you are the Voice of Society!”)

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