Mrs. Wood could stand it no longer.
“I think you’re all bewitched,” she cried.
“So we are, Ma’am, by your charms,” returned Mr. Jackson, gallantly.
“Quite captivated, Ma’am,” added Mr. Smith, placing his hand on his breast.
Mr. Kneebone and Mr. Wood laughed louder than ever.
“Mr. Wood,” said the lady bridling up, “my request may, perhaps, have some weight with you. I desire, Sir, you’ll recollect yourself. Mr. Kneebone,” she added, with a glance at that gentleman, which was meant to speak daggers, “will do as he pleases.”
Here the chapmen set up another boisterous peal.
“No offence, I hope, my dear Mrs. W,” said Mr. Kneebone in a conciliatory tone. “My friends, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Smith, may have rather odd ways with them; but—”
“They have very odd ways,” interrupted Mrs. Wood, disdainfully.
“Our worthy friend was going to observe, Ma’am, that we never fail in our devotion to the fair sex,” said Mr. Jackson.
“Never, Ma’am!” echoed Mr. Smith, “upon my conscience.”
“My dear,” said the hospitable carpenter, “I dare say Mr. Kneebone and his friends would be glad of a little refreshment.”
“They shall have it, then,” replied his better half, rising. “You base ingrate,” she added, in a whisper, as she flounced past Mr. Kneebone on her way to the door, “how could you bring such creatures with you, especially on an occasion like this, when we haven’t met for a fortnight!”
“Couldn’t help it, my life,” returned the gentleman addressed, in the same tone; “but you little know who those individuals are.”
“Lord bless us! you alarm me. Who are they?”
Mr. Kneebone assumed a mysterious air; and bringing his lips close to Mrs. Wood’s ear, whispered, “secret agents from France—you understand—friends to the cause—hem!”
“I see,—persons of rank!”
Mr. Kneebone nodded.