‘I am not in the habit of shaking hands with strangers,’ said Belle.

‘I did not presume to request to shake hands with you,’ said the man in black, ‘I merely wished to be permitted to salute with my lips the extremity of your two forefingers.’

‘I never permit anything of the kind,’ said Belle; ‘ I do not approve of such unmanly ways, they are only befitting those who lurk in corners or behind trees, listening to the conversation of people who would fain be private.’

‘Do you take me for a listener then?’ said the man in black.

‘Ay, indeed I do,’ said Belle; ‘the young man may receive your excuses, and put confidence in them, if he please, but for my part I neither admit them nor believe them;’ and thereupon flinging her long hair back, which was hanging over her cheeks, she seated herself on her stool.

‘Come, Belle,’ said I, ‘I have bidden the gentleman welcome, I beseech you, therefore, to make him welcome; he is a stranger, where we are at home, therefore, even did we wish him away, we are bound to treat him kindly.’

‘That’s not English doctrine,’ said the man in black.

‘I thought the English prided themselves on their hospitality,’ said I.

‘They do so,’ said the man in black; ‘they are proud of showing hospitality to people above them, that is, to those who do not want it, but of the hospitality which you were now describing, and which is Arabian, they know nothing. No Englishman will tolerate another in his house, from whom he does not expect advantage of some kind, and to those from whom he does he can be civil enough. An Englishman thinks that, because he is in his own house, he has a right to be boorish and brutal to any one who is disagreeable to him, as all those are who are really in want of assistance. Should a hunted fugitive rush into an Englishman’s house, beseeching protection, and appealing to the master’s feelings of hospitality, the Englishman would knock him down in the passage.’

‘You are too general,’ said I, ‘in your strictures. Lord -, the unpopular Tory minister, was once chased through the streets of London by a mob, and, being in danger of his life, took shelter in the shop of a Whig linen-draper, declaring his own unpopular name, and appealing to the linen-draper’s feelings of hospitality; whereupon the linen-draper, utterly forgetful of all party rancour, nobly responded to the appeal, and telling his wife to conduct his lordship upstairs, jumped over the counter, with his ell in his hand, and placing himself with half-a-dozen of his assistants at the door of his boutique, manfully confronted the mob, telling them that he would allow himself to be torn to a thousand pieces ere he would permit them to injure a hair of his lordship’s head: what do you think of that?’

‘He! he! he!’ tittered the man in black.

‘Well,’ said I, ‘I am afraid your own practice is not very different from that which you have been just now describing; you sided with the Radical in the public-house against me, as long as you thought him the most powerful, and then turned against him when you saw he was cowed. What have you to say to that?’

‘Oh, when one is in Rome, I mean England, one must do as they do in England; I was merely conforming to the custom of the country, he! he! but I beg your pardon here, as I did in the public-house. I made a mistake.’

‘Well,’ said I, ‘we will drop the matter, but pray seat yourself on that stone, and I will sit down on the grass near you.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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