The Dinner

NOTWITHSTANDING Jawleyford’s recommendation to the contrary, Mr Sponge made himself an uncommon swell. He put on a desperately stiff starcher, secured in front with a large gold fox-head pin with carbuncle eyes; a fine, fancy-fronted shirt, with a slight tendency to pink, adorned with mosaic-gold-tethered studs of sparkling diamonds (or French paste, as the case might be); white waistcoat with fancy buttons; a blue coat with bright plain ones, and a velvet collar, black tights, with broad black-and-white Cranbourn-Alley- looking stockings (socks rather), and patent leather pumps with gilt buckles -- Sponge was proud of his leg. The young ladies, too, turned out rather smart; for Amelia, finding that Emily was going to put on her new yellow watered silk, instead of a dyed satin she had talked of, made Juliana produce her broad- laced blue satin dress out of the wardrobe in the green dressing-room, where it had been laid away in an old tablecloth; and bound her dark hair with a green-beaded wreath, which Emily met by crowning herself with a chaplet of white roses.

Thus attired, with smiles assumed at the door, the young ladies entered the drawing-room in the full fervour of sisterly animosity. They were very much alike, in size, shape, and face. They were tallish and full-figured, Miss Jawleyford’s features being rather more strongly marked, and her eyes a shade darker than her sister’s; while there was a sort of subdued air about her -- the result, perhaps, of enlarged intercourse with the world -- or maybe of disappointments. Emily’s eyes sparkled and glittered, without knowing perhaps why.

Dinner was presently announced. It was of the imposing order that people give their friends on a first visit, as though their appetites were larger on that day than on any other. They dined off plate: the sideboards glittered with the Jawleyford arms on cups, tankards, and salvers; ‘Brecknel & Turner’s’ flamed and swealed in profusion on the table; while every now and then an expiring lamp on the sideboards or brackets proclaimed the unwonted splendour of the scene, and added a flavour to the repast not contemplated by the cook. The room, which was large and lofty, being but rarely used, had a cold, uncomfortable feel; and, if it hadn’t been for the looks of the thing, Jawleyford would, perhaps, as soon that they had dined in the little breakfast parlour. Still there was everything very smart; Spigot in full fig, with a shirt-frill nearly tickling his nose, an acre of white waistcoat, and glorious calves swelling within his gauze-silk stockings. The improvised footman went creaking about, as such gentlemen generally do.

The style was perhaps better than the repast: still they had turtle-soup (Shell & Tortoise, to be sure, but still turtle-soup); while the wines were supplied by the well-known firm of ‘Wintle & Co.’ Jawleyford sank where he got it, and pretended that it had been ‘ages’ in his cellar: ‘he really had such a stock that he thought he should never get; through it;’ -- to wit, two dozen old port at 36s. a dozen, and one dozen at 48s.; two dozen pale sherry at 36s., and one dozen brown ditto at 48s.; three bottles of Bucellas, of the ‘finest quality imported,’ at 38s. a dozen; Lisbon ‘rich and dry,’ at 32s.; and some marvellous creaming champagne at 48s., in which they were indulging when he made the declaration: ‘Don’t wait of me, my dear Mr Sponge!’ exclaimed Jawleyford, holding up a long needle-case of a glass with the Jawleyford crests emblazoned about; ‘don’t wait of me, pray,’ repeated he, as Spigot finished dribbling the froth into Sponge’s glass; and Jawleyford, with a flourishing bow and waive of his empty needle-case, drank Mr Sponge’s very good health, adding, ‘I’m extremely happy to see you at Jawleyford Court.’

It was then Jawleyford’s turn to have a little froth; and having sucked it up with the air of a man drinking nectar, he set down his glass with a shake of the head, saying,

‘There’s no such wine as that to be got nowadays.’

‘Capital wine! -- Excellent!’ exclaimed Sponge, who was a better judge of ale than of champagne. ‘Pray, where might you get it?’

‘Impossible to say! -- Impossible to say!’ replied Jawleyford, throwing up his hands with a shake, and shrugging his shoulders. ‘I have such a stock of wine as is really quite ridiculous.’

Quite ridiculous,’ thought Spigot, who, by the aid of a false key, had been through the cellar.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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