‘Pa,’ whispered Miss Siddons Wopples to Villiers, who sat next to her, ‘is a most wonderful man. Observe his facial expression.’
Villiers observed it, and admitted also in a whisper that it was truly marvellous.
Cold beef formed the staple viand on the table, and everyone did full justice to it, as also to beer and porter, of which Mr Wopples was very generous.
‘I prefer to give my friends good beer instead of bad champagne,’ he said, pompously. ‘Ha! ha! the antithesis, I think, is good.’
The Wopples family unanimously agreed that it was excellent, and Mr Handel Wopples observed to Barty that his father often made jokes worthy of Tom Hood, to which Barty agreed hastily, as he did not know who Tom Hood was, and besides was flirting in a mild manner with Miss Fanny Wopples, a pretty girl, who did the burlesque business.
‘And are all these big boys and girls yours, Madame?’ asked Vandeloup, who was rather astonished at the number of the family, and thought some of them might have been hired for theatrical purposes. Mrs Wopples nodded affirmatively with a gratified flutter, and her husband endorsed it.
‘There are four dead,’ he said, in a solemn voice. ’Rest their souls.’
All the ten faces round the board reflected the gloom on the parental countenance, and for a few moments no one spoke.
‘This,’ said Mr Wopples, looking round with a smile, at which all the other faces lighted up, ’this is not calculated to make our supper enjoyable, children. I may tell you that, in consequence of the great success of “The Cruet Stand”, we play it again to-morrow night.’
‘Ah!’ said Mr Buckstone Wopples, with his mouth full, ’I knew it would knock ’em; that business of yours, father, with the writ is simply wonderful.’
All the family chorused ‘Yes,’ and Mr Wopples admitted, with a modest smile, that it was wonderful.
‘Practise,’ said Mr Wopples, waving a fork with a piece of cold beef at the end of it, ’makes perfect. My dear Vandeloup, if you will permit me to call you so, my son Buckstone is truly a wonderful critic.’
Vandeloup smiled at this, and came to the conclusion that the Wopples family was a mutual admiration society. However, as it was now nearly twelve o’clock, he rose to take his leave.
‘Oh, you’re not going yet,’ said Mr Wopples, upon which all the family echoed, ‘Surely, not yet,’ in a most hospitable manner.
‘I must,’ said Vandeloup, with a smile. ’I know Madame will excuse me,’ with a bow to Mrs Wopples, who thereupon fluttered nervously; ‘but I have to be up very early in the morning.’
‘In that case,’ said Mr Wopples, rising, ’I will not detain you; early to bed and early to rise, you know; not that I believe in it much myself, but I understand it is practised with good results by some people.’
Vandeloup shook hands with Mr and Mrs Wopples, but feeling unequal to taking leave of the ten star artistes in the same way, he bowed in a comprehensive manner, whereupon the whole ten arose from their chairs and bowed unanimously in return.