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an idea; and yet, after all, when it came to truth and reason, what alternative was there? Well, at any rate they could not leave the house for some months longer, unless it were to he sublet, which the landlord probably would not allow, and which, if it were permitted, could not be done on the instant. So they would not be disturbed just yet, and, in the meantime, inquiries could be made concerning a profitable occupation for Miss Maine; but the idea of this he put aside every time that it would occur. The truth is, he had been touched with profound pity for these two poor women, and would gladly have helped them himself if he had known how to do so privately, or how to do so in a manner which they would sanction. By hook or by crook he thought he might manage to get them straight, but this would require time and subtlety: that is why he temporised thus even with himself. He told them as much of these thoughts as would serve to keep them quiet for the time, and began to make inquiry concerning employment for Patty Maine. Being a person much thought of in that neighbourhood, he heard of, and felt sure that he could secure for her, a more lucrative work than he had at first imagined; but he did not tell her how easily this
could be done, still flattering himself that they might make both ends meet without Patty descending from her accustomed position. Of course he was very much at the Woodbines, and certainly his interest in the inhabitants of that dwelling did not decrease on longer acquaintance. It was quite a new life to him, for hitherto he had not sought female society. Perhaps his sister-in-law, of whom he had seen more than of any other woman, did not give him an exalted opinion of the sex.
A PUBLIC DINNER—DISAPPOINTMENT.
While things were in this state an incident happened which perhaps had better be related, as it had a considerable influence on many persons named in this narrative. Gritvale (it ought to have been mentioned before) was a borough, and, before it got into some plaguy schedule, returned two members to Parliament. Consequently it had a Corporation and a Mayor; and one of the most responsible of their duties was to dine together on set occasions. Now it came to pass that a Mayor's feast was held, and that, not the Corporation only, but many other inhabitants were invited. Mr Bateman, being a burgess, was there in his place. It was a grand entertainment, replete with what Gritvale considered delicacies, and the guests did full justice to the repast. It is not, however, with the dinner that we are concerned, but with what took place after. In those days, although claret (or something under that name) would, as a matter of form, appear on the table, the attention of the magnates was principally confined to a liquor or composition which threw down several drams of precipitate in each glass, and was ordinarily spoken of as "black strap," which was probably its correct appellation, although it may have been figuratively alluded to as port wine. This they tossed off in wassail bumpers at intervals of about five minutes, and consumed in smaller gulps between the toasts. As they were in general well seasoned, the first three-quarters of an hour or so after the cloth was drawn saw them a grave and somewhat quiet assembly; but before a dozen healths were down, the black strap permeated the ornamental portions of their natures, and began to bring up fruit, forty, sixty, or a hundred fold. Tongues were loosened all round the table, and as his own fancy moved each, they began to be a little noisy. With some of the company fun had no higher character than the bandying of broad personalities; as, for instance, one gentleman attacked his vis-d-vis, who was no other than Mr Alderman Kewe, by saying that he could spell his name with one letter. To which Mr Alderman Kewe retorted by saying that the broth of his assailant (who was something of a skinflint) was concocted by stirring a pot of boiling water with a halfpenny candle. Then the gentlemen who had anecdotes or remarkable adventures to relate, felt that the time had come when they could no longer in conscience remain silent, and a vast number of interesting disclosures, which had been heard in that chamber at least fifty times before, were entered upon without reservation. One of the most remarkable of these proceeded from a gentleman, who in the days of his youth had gone to visit a brother who had some employment about the Eussian Court. "You never, I suppose," said he, "saw such a devil as that Alexander" (meaning, of course, the Alexander of 1812) "in your born days. If I'd lived a week longer with that fellow I must have been in my grave. Seven, eight, ten bottles,