Luckily the farce demanded laughter, or those parts of the pit which had not known Braintop would have been indignant. Mr. Pole became more and more possessed by the fun, as the contrast of Braintop’s abject humiliation with this glaring testimony to his conceit tickled him. He laughed till he complained of hunger. Emilia, though she thought it natural that Braintop should carry a pocket-mirror if he pleased, laughed from sympathy; until Braintop, reduced to the verge of forbearance, stood up and remarked that, to perform the mission entrusted to him, he must depart immediately. Mr. Pole was loth to let him go, but finally commending him to a good supper, he sighed, and declared himself a new man.
“Oh! what a jolly laugh! The very thing I wanted! It’s worth hundreds to me. I was queer before: no doubt about that!”
Again the ebbing convulsion of laughter seized him. “I feel as clear as day,” he said; and immediately asked Emilia whether she thought he would have strength to get down to the cab. She took his hand, trying to assist him from the seat. He rose, and staggered an instant. “A sort of reddish cloud,” he murmured, feeling over his forehead. “Ha! I know what it is. I want a chop. A chop and a song. But, I couldn’t take you, and I like you by me. Good little woman!” He patted Emilia’s shoulder, preparatory to leaning on it with considerable weight, and so descended to the cab, chuckling ever and anon at the reminiscence of Braintop.
There was a disturbance in the street. A man with a foreign accent was shouting by the door of a neighbouring public-house, that he would not yield his hold of the collar of a struggling gentleman, till the villain had surrendered his child, whom he scandalously concealed from her parents. A scuffle ensued, and the foreign voice was heard again:
“Wat! wat you have de shame, you have de pluck, ah! to tell me you know not where she is, and you bring me a letter? Ho!—you have de cheeks to tell me!”
This highly effective pluralizing of their peculiar slang, brought a roar of applause from the crowd of Britons.
“Only a street row,” said Mr. Pole, to calm Emilia.
“Will he be hurt?” she cried.
“I see a couple of policemen handy,” said Mr. Pole, and Emilia cowered down and clung to his hand as they drove from the place.
It was midnight. Mr. Pole had appeased his imagination with a chop, and was trying to revive the memory of his old after-theatre night carouses by listening to a song which Emilia sang to him, while he sipped at a smoking mixture, and beat time on the table, rejoiced that he was warm from head to foot at last.
“That’s a pretty song, my dear,” he said. “A very pretty song. It does for an old fellow; and so did my supper: light and wholesome. I’m an old fellow; I ought to know I’ve got a grown-up son and grown-up daughters. I shall be a grandpa, soon, I dare say. It’s not the thing for me to go about hearing glees. I had an idea of it. I’m better here. All I want is to see my children happy, married and settled, and comfortable!”