Lemon at home!'
'Will you say Mrs. Orange and baby?'
'Yes, ma'am. Walk in.'
Mrs. Orange's baby was a very fine one, and real wax all over. Mrs. Lemon's baby was leather and bran. However, when Mrs. Lemon came into the drawing-room with her baby in her arms, Mrs. Orange said politely, 'Good-morning. Fine day. How do you do? And how is little Tootleumboots?'
'Well, she is but poorly. Cutting her teeth, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon.
'O, indeed, ma'am!' said Mrs. Orange. 'No fits, I hope?'
'How many teeth has she, ma'am?'
'My Emilia, ma'am, has eight,' said Mrs. Orange. 'Shall we lay them on the mantelpiece side by side, while we converse?'
'By all means, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon. 'Hem!'
'The first question is, ma'am,' said Mrs. Orange, 'I don't bore you?'
'Not in the least, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon. 'Far from it, I assure you.'
'Then pray HAVE you,' said Mrs. Orange, - 'HAVE you any vacancies?'
'Yes, ma'am. How many might you require?'
'Why, the truth is, ma'am,' said Mrs. Orange, 'I have come to the conclusion that my children,' - O, I forgot to say that they call the grown-up people children in that country! - 'that my children are getting positively too much for me. Let me see. Two parents, two intimate friends of theirs, one godfather, two godmothers, and an aunt. HAVE you as many as eight vacancies?'
'I have just eight, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon.
'Most fortunate! Terms moderate, I think?'
'Very moderate, ma'am.'
'Diet good, I believe?'
'Most satisfactory! Corporal punishment dispensed with?'
'Why, we do occasionally shake,' said Mrs. Lemon, 'and we have slapped. But only in extreme cases.'
'COULD I, ma'am,' said Mrs. Orange, - 'COULD I see the establishment?'
'With the greatest of pleasure, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon.
Mrs. Lemon took Mrs. Orange into the schoolroom, where there were a number of pupils. 'Stand up, children,' said Mrs. Lemon; and they all stood up.
Mrs. Orange whispered to Mrs. Lemon, 'There is a pale, bald child, with red whiskers, in disgrace. Might I ask what he has done?'
'Come here, White,' said Mrs. Lemon, 'and tell this lady what you have been doing.'
'Betting on horses,' said White sulkily.
'Are you sorry for it, you naughty child?' said Mrs. Lemon.
'No,' said White. 'Sorry to lose, but shouldn't be sorry to win.'
'There's a vicious boy for you, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon. 'Go along with you, sir. This is Brown, Mrs. Orange. O, a sad case, Brown's! Never knows when he has had enough. Greedy. How is your gout, sir?'
'Bad,' said Brown.
'What else can you expect?' said Mrs. Lemon. 'Your stomach is the size of two. Go and take exercise directly. Mrs. Black, come here to me. Now, here is a child, Mrs. Orange, ma'am, who is always at play. She can't be kept at home a single day together; always gadding about and spoiling her clothes. Play, play, play, play, from morning to night, and to morning again. How can she expect to improve?'
'Don't expect to improve,' sulked Mrs. Black. 'Don't want to.'
'There is a specimen of her temper, ma'am,' said Mrs. Lemon.