Mrs. Wood now re-appeared with a very red face; and, followed by Winifred, took her seat at the table. Operations then commenced. Mr. Wood carved the ducks; Mr. Kneebone helped to the pigeon-pie; while Thames unwired and uncorked a bottle of stout Carnarvonshire ale. The woollen-draper was no despicable trencherman in a general way; but his feats with the knife and fork were child’s sport compared with those of Mr. Smith. The leg and wing of a duck were disposed of by this gentleman in a twinkling; a brace of pigeons and a pound of steak followed with equal celerity; and he had just begun to make a fierce assault upon the eggs and ham. His appetite was perfectly Gargantuan. Nor must it be imagined, that while he thus exercised his teeth, he neglected the flagon. On the contrary, his glass was never idle, and finding it not filled quite so frequently as he desired, he applied himself, notwithstanding the expressive looks and muttered remonstrances of Mr. Jackson, to the swig. The latter gentleman did full justice to the good things before him; but he drank sparingly, and was visibly annoyed by his companion’s intemperance. As to Mr. Kneebone, what with flirting with Mrs. Wood, carving for his friends, and pledging the carpenter, he had his hands full. At this juncture, and just as a cuckoo-clock in the corner struck sis, Jack Sheppard walked into the room, with the packing-case under his arm.
“I was in the right, you see, father,” observed Thames, smiling; “Jack has done his task.”
“So I perceive,” replied Wood.
“Where am I to take it to?” asked Sheppard.
“I told you that before,” rejoined Wood, testily. “You must take it to Sir Rowland Trenchard’s in Southampton Fields. And, mind, it’s for his sister, Lady Trafford.”
“Very well, Sir,” replied Sheppard.
“Wet your whistle before you start, Jack,” said Kneebone, pouring out a glass of ale. “What’s that you’re taking to Sir Rowland Trenchard’s?”
“Only a box, Sir,” answered Sheppard, emptying the glass.
“It’s an odd-shaped one,” rejoined Kneebone, examining it attentively. “But I can guess what it’s for. Sir Rowland is one of us,” he added, winking at his companions, “and so was his brother-in-law, Sir Cecil Trafford. Old Lancashire families both. Strict Catholics, and loyal to the backbone. Fine woman, Lady Trafford—a little on the wane though.”
“Ah! you’re so very particular,” sighed Mrs. Wood.
“Not in the least,” returned Kneebone, slyly, “not in the least. Another glass, Jack.”
“Thank’ee, Sir,” grinned Sheppard.
“Off with it to the health of King James the Third, and confusion to his enemies!”
“Hold!” interposed Wood; “that is treason. I’ll have no such toast drunk at my table!”
“It’s the king’s birthday,” urged the woollen draper.
“Not my king’s,” returned Wood. “I quarrel with no man’s political opinions, but I will have my own respected!”