Chapter 42

Illustrative of the convivial sentiment, that the best of friends must sometimes part

THE PAVEMENT of Snow Hill had been baking and frying all day in the heat, and the twain Saracens' heads guarding the entrance to the hostelry of whose name and sign they are the duplicate presentments, looked--or seemed, in the eyes of jaded and footsore passers-by, to look--more vicious than usual, after blistering and scorching in the sun, when, in one of the inn's smallest sitting-rooms, through whose open window there rose, in a palpable steam, wholesome exhalations from reeking coach-horses, the usual furniture of a tea-table was displayed in neat and inviting order, flanked by large joints of roast and boiled, a tongue, a pigeon pie, a cold fowl, a tankard of ale, and other little matters of the like kind, which, in degenerate towns and cities, are generally understood to belong more particularly to solid lunches, stage- coach dinners, or unusually substantial breakfasts.

Mr John Browdie, with his hands in his pockets, hovered restlessly about these delicacies, stopping occasionally to whisk the flies out of the sugar-basin with his wife's pocket-handkerchief, or to dip a teaspoon in the milk-pot and carry it to his mouth, or to cut off a little knob of crust, and a little corner of meat, and swallow them at two gulps like a couple of pills. After every one of these flirtations with the eatables, he pulled out his watch, and declared with an earnestness quite pathetic that he couldn't undertake to hold out two minutes longer.

`Tilly!' said John to his lady, who was reclining half awake and half asleep upon a sofa.

`Well, John!'

`Well, John!' retorted her husband, impatiently. `Dost thou feel hoongry, lass?'

`Not very,' said Mrs Browdie.

`Not vary!' repeated John, raising his eyes to the ceiling. `Hear her say not vary, and us dining at three, and loonching off pasthry thot aggravates a mon 'stead of pacifying him! Not vary!'

`Here's a gen'l'man for you, sir,' said the waiter, looking in.

`A wa'at for me?' cried John, as though he thought it must be a letter, or a parcel.

`A gen'l'man, sir.'

`Stars and garthers, chap!' said John, `wa'at dost thou coom and say thot for? In wi' 'un.'

`Are you at home, sir?'

`At whoam!' cried John, `I wish I wur; I'd ha tea'd two hour ago. Why, I told t'oother chap to look sharp ootside door, and tell 'un d'rectly he coom, thot we war faint wi' hoonger. In wi' 'un. Aha! Thee hond, Misther Nickleby. This is nigh to be the proodest day o' my life, sir. Hoo be all wi'ye? Ding! But, I'm glod o' this!'

Quite forgetting even his hunger in the heartiness of his salutation, John Browdie shook Nicholas by the hand again and again, slapping his palm with great violence between each shake, to add warmth to the reception.

`Ah! there she be,' said John, observing the look which Nicholas directed towards his wife. `There she be--we shan't quarrel about her noo--eh? Ecod, when I think o' thot--but thou want'st soom' at to eat. Fall to, mun, fall to, and for wa'at we're aboot to receive--'

No doubt the grace was properly finished, but nothing more was heard, for John had already begun to play such a knife and fork, that his speech was, for the time, gone.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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