But this was an endurable misery in comparison with what followed. Mr. Shiner and his watch-chain, taking the intrusive advantage that ardent bachelors who are going homeward along the same road as a pretty young woman always do take of that circumstance, came forward to assure Fancy—with a total disregard of Dick’s emotions, and in tones which were certainly not frigid—that he (Shiner) was not the man to go to bed before seeing his Lady Fair safe within her own door—not he, nobody should say he was that;—and that he would not leave her side an inch till the thing was done—drown him if he would. The proposal was assented to by Miss Day, in Dick’s foreboding judgment, with one degree—or at any rate, an appreciable fraction of a degree—of warmth beyond that required by a disinterested desire for protection from the dangers of the night.
All was over; and Dick surveyed the chair she had last occupied, looking now like a setting from which the gem has been torn. There stood her glass, and the romantic teaspoonful of elder wine at the bottom that she couldn’t drink by trying ever so hard, in obedience to the mighty arguments of the tranter (his hand coming down upon her shoulder the while, like a Nasmyth hammer); but the drinker was there no longer. There were the nine or ten pretty little crumbs she had left on her plate; but the eater was no more seen.
There seemed a disagreeable closeness of relationship between himself and the members of his family, now that they were left alone again face to face. His father seemed quite offensive for appearing to be in just as high spirits as when the guests were there; and as for grandfather James (who had not yet left), he was quite fiendish in being rather glad they were gone.
“Really,” said the tranter, in a tone of placid satisfaction, “I’ve had so little time to attend to myself all the evenen, that I mean to enjoy a quiet meal now! A slice of this here ham—neither too fat nor too lean—so; and then a drop of this vinegar and pickles—there, that’s it—and I shall be as fresh as a lark again! And to tell the truth, my sonny, my inside has been as dry as a lime-basket all night.”
“I like a party very well once in a while,” said Mrs. Dewy, leaving off the adorned tones she had been bound to use throughout the evening, and returning to the natural marriage voice; “but, Lord, ’tis such a sight of heavy work next day! What with the dirty plates, and knives and forks, and dust and smother, and bits kicked off your furniture, and I don’t know what all, why a body could a’most wish there were no such things as Christmases . . . Ah-h dear!” she yawned, till the clock in the corner had ticked several beats. She cast her eyes round upon the displaced, dust-laden furniture, and sank down overpowered at the sight.