'Laughing? If they laugh at a man in real brass armour, they'd laugh when their own fathers were dying. Why doesn't he go into his place, Mr. Jennings? What's he rolling down towards us for? he has no business here!'
'I am afraid, sir--' faltered Mr. Jennings.
'Afraid of what, sir?' said Nicholas Tulrumble, looking up into the secretary's face.
'I am afraid he's drunk, sir,' replied Mr. Jennings.
Nicholas Tulrumble took one look at the extraordinary figure that was bearing down upon them; and then, clasping his secretary by the arm, uttered an audible groan in anguish of spirit.
It is a melancholy fact that Mr. Twigger having full licence to demand a single glass of rum on the putting on of every piece of the armour, got, by some means or other, rather out of his calculation in the hurry and confusion of preparation, and drank about four glasses to a piece instead of one, not to mention the something strong which went on the top of it. Whether the brass armour checked the natural flow of perspiration, and thus prevented the spirit from evaporating, we are not scientific enough to know; but, whatever the cause was, Mr. Twigger no sooner found himself outside the gate of Mudfog Hall, than he also found himself in a very considerable state of intoxication; and hence his extraordinary style of progressing. This was bad enough, but, as if fate and fortune had conspired against Nicholas Tulrumble, Mr. Twigger, not having been penitent for a good calendar month, took it into his head to be most especially and particularly sentimental, just when his repentance could have been most conveniently dispensed with. Immense tears were rolling down his cheeks, and he was vainly endeavouring to conceal his grief by applying to his eyes a blue cotton pocket-handkerchief with white spots,--an article not strictly in keeping with a suit of armour some three hundred years old, or thereabouts.
'Twigger, you villain!' said Nicholas Tulrumble, quite forgetting his dignity, 'go back.'
'Never,' said Ned. 'I'm a miserable wretch. I'll never leave you.'
The by-standers of course received this declaration with acclamations of 'That's right, Ned; don't!'
'I don't intend it,' said Ned, with all the obstinacy of a very tipsy man. 'I'm very unhappy. I'm the wretched father of an unfortunate family; but I am very faithful, sir. I'll never leave you.' Having reiterated this obliging promise, Ned proceeded in broken words to harangue the crowd upon the number of years he had lived in Mudfog, the excessive respectability of his character, and other topics of the like nature.
'Here! will anybody lead him away?' said Nicholas: 'if they'll call on me afterwards, I'll reward them well.'
Two or three men stepped forward, with the view of bearing Ned off, when the secretary interposed.
'Take care! take care!' said Mr. Jennings. 'I beg your pardon, sir; but they'd better not go too near him, because, if he falls over, he'll certainly crush somebody.'
At this hint the crowd retired on all sides to a very respectful distance, and left Ned, like the Duke of Devonshire, in a little circle of his own.
'But, Mr. Jennings,' said Nicholas Tulrumble, 'he'll be suffocated.'
'I'm very sorry for it, sir,' replied Mr. Jennings; 'but nobody can get that armour off, without his own assistance. I'm quite certain of it from the way he put it on.