The theatres have concluded; every carriage, cab, and “coach ’nhired” in their vicinity is in motion; venders of trotters and ham-sandwiches are in full cry; the bars of the proximate retail establishments are crowded with thirsty gods; ruddy chops and steaks are temptingly displayed in the windows of the supper-houses, and the turnips and carrots in the freshly-arrived market-carts appear astonished at the sudden confusion by which they are surrounded. Amidst this confusion the new man and his friends arrive beneath the beacon which illumines the entrance of the tavern. He descends the stairs in an agony of anticipation, and feverishly trips up the six or eight succeeding ones to arrive at the large room. A song has just concluded, and he enters triumphantly amidst the thunder of applause, the jingling of glasses, the imperious vociferations of fresh orders, and an atmosphere of smoke that pervades the whole apartment, like dense clouds of incense burning at the altar of the genius of conviviality.
The new man is at first so bewildered, that it would take but little extra excitement to render him perfectly unconscious as to the probability of his standing upon his occipito-frontalis or plantar fascia. But as he collects his ideas, he contrives to muster sufficient presence of mind to order a Welsh rabbit, and in the interim of its arrival earnestly contemplates the scene around him. There is the room which, in after life, so vividly recurs to him, with its bygone souvenirs of mirth, when he is sitting up all night at a bad case in the mud cottage of a pauper union. There are its blue walls, its wainscot and its pillars, its lamps and ground-glass shades, within which the gas jumps and flares so fitfully; its two looking-glasses, that reflect the room and its occupants from one to the other in an interminable vista. There also is Mr. Rhodes, bending courteously over the backs of the visiters’ chairs, and hoping everybody has got everything to their satisfaction, or bestowing an occasional subdued acknowledgment upon an habitue who chances to enter; and the professional gentlemen all laying their heads together at the top of the table to pitch the key of the next glee; and the waiters bustling up and down with all sorts of tempting comestibles; and the gentleman in the Chesterfield wrapper smoking a cigar at the side of the room, while he leans back and contemplates the ceiling, as if his whole soul was concentrated in its smoke-discoloured mouldings.
The new man is in ecstasies; he beholds the realization of the Arabian Nights, and when the harmony commences again, he is fairly entranced. At first, he is fearful of adding the efforts of his laryngeal “little muscles with the long names” to swell the chorus; but, after the second glass of stout and a “go of whiskey,” he becomes emboldened, and when the gentleman with the bass voice sings about the Monks of Old, what a jovial race they were, our friend trolls out how “they laughed, ha, ha!” so lustily, that he gets quite red in the face from obstructed jugulars, and applauds, when it has concluded, until everything upon the table performs a curious ballet-dance, which is only terminated by the descent of the cruets upon the floor.