Mr. Kneebone smiled assent.
“Mercy on us! Well, I thought their manners quite out o’ the common. And so, the invasion really is to take place after all; and the Chevalier de Saint George is to land at the Tower with fifty thousand Frenchmen; and the Hanoverian usurper’s to be beheaded; and Doctor Sacheverel’s to be made a bishop, and we’re all to be—eh?”
“All in good time,” returned Kneebone, putting his finger to his lips; “don’t let your imagination run away with you, my charmer. That boy,” he added, looking at Thames, “has his eye upon us.”
Mrs. Wood, however, was too much excited to attend to the caution.
“O, lud!” she cried; “French noblemen in disguise! and so rude as I was! I shall never recover it!”
“A good supper will set all to rights,” insinuated Kneebone. “But be prudent, my angel.”
“Never fear,” replied the lady. “I’m prudence personified. You might trust me with the Chevalier himself,—I’d never betray him. But why didn’t you let me know they were coming. I’d have got something nice. As it is, we’ve only a couple of ducks—and they were intended for you. Winny, my love, come with me. I shall want you.—Sorry to quit your lord—worships, I mean,—I don’t know what I mean,” she added, a little confused, and dropping a profound curtsey to the disguised noblemen, each of whom replied by a bow, worthy, in her opinion, of a prince of the blood at the least,—“but I’ve a few necessary orders to give below.”
“Don’t mind us, Ma’am,” said Mr. Jackson: “ha! ha!”
“Not in the least, Ma’am,” echoed Mr. Smith: “ho! ho!”
“How condescending!” thought Mrs. Wood. “Not proud in the least, I declare. Well, I’d no idea,” she continued, pursuing her ruminations as she left the room, “that people of quality laughed so. But it’s French manners, I suppose.”
Hawk and Buzzard.
Mrs. Wood’s anxiety to please her distinguished guests speedily displayed itself in a very plentiful, if not very dainty repast. To the duckling, peas, and other delicacies, intended for Mr. Kneebone’s special consumption, she added a few impromptu dishes, tossed off in her best style; such as lamb chops, broiled kidneys, fried ham and eggs, and toasted cheese. Side by side with the cheese (its never-failing accompaniment, in all seasons, at the carpenter’s board) came a tankard of swig, and a toast. Besides these there was a warm gooseberry-tart, and a cold pigeon pie—the latter capacious enough, even allowing for its due complement of steak, to contain the whole produce of a dovecot; a couple of lobsters and the best part of a salmon swimming in a sea of vinegar, and shaded by a forest of fennel. While the cloth was laid, the host and Thames descended to the cellar, whence they returned, laden with a number of flasks of the same form, and apparently destined to the same use as those depicted in Hogarth’s delectable print—the Modern Midnight Conversation.