There are Podsnap the Great, and Mrs Podsnap. There is Twemlow. There are Buffer, Boots, and Brewer. There is the Contractor, who is Providence to five hundred thousand men. There is the Chairman, travelling three thousand miles per week. There is the brilliant genius who turned the shares into that remarkably exact sum of three hundred and seventy five thousand pounds, no shillings, and nopence.
To whom, add Mortimer Lightwood, coming in among them with a reassumption of his old languid air, founded on Eugene, and belonging to the days when he told the story of the man from Somewhere.
That fresh fairy, Tippins, all but screams at sight of her false swain. She summons the deserter to her with her fan; but the deserter, predetermined not to come, talks Britain with Podsnap. Podsnap always talks Britain, and talks as if he were a sort of Private Watchman employed, in the British interests, against the rest of the world. 'We know what Russia means, sir,' says Podsnap; 'we know what France wants; we see what America is up to; but we know what England is. That's enough for us.'
However, when dinner is served, and Lightwood drops into his old place over against Lady Tippins, she can be fended off no longer. 'Long banished Robinson Crusoe,' says the charmer, exchanging salutations, 'how did you leave the Island?'
'Thank you,' says Lightwood. 'It made no complaint of being in pain anywhere.'
'Say, how did you leave the savages?' asks Lady Tippins.
'They were becoming civilized when I left Juan Fernandez,' says Lightwood. 'At least they were eating one another, which looked like it.'
'Tormentor!' returns the dear young creature. 'You know what I mean, and you trifle with my impatience. Tell me something, immediately, about the married pair. You were at the wedding.'
'Was I, by-the-by?' Mortimer pretends, at great leisure, to consider. 'So I was!'
'How was the bride dressed? In rowing costume?'
Mortimer looks gloomy, and declines to answer.
'I hope she steered herself, skiffed herself, paddled herself, larboarded and starboarded herself, or whatever the technical term may be, to the ceremony?' proceeds the playful Tippins.
'However she got to it, she graced it,' says Mortimer.
Lady Tippins with a skittish little scream, attracts the general attention. 'Graced it! Take care of me if I faint, Veneering. He means to tell us, that a horrid female waterman is graceful!'
'Pardon me. I mean to tell you nothing, Lady Tippins,' replies Lightwood. And keeps his word by eating his dinner with a show of the utmost indifference.
'You shall not escape me in this way, you morose backwoodsman,' retorts Lady Tippins. 'You shall not evade the question, to screen your friend Eugene, who has made this exhibition of himself. The knowledge shall be brought home to you that such a ridiculous affair is condemned by the voice of Society. My dear Mrs Veneering, do let us resolve ourselves into a Committee of the whole House on the subject.'
Mrs Veneering, always charmed by this rattling sylph, cries. 'Oh yes! Do let us resolve ourselves into a Committee of the whole House! So delicious!' Veneering says, 'As many as are of that opinion, say Aye,--contrary, No--the Ayes have it.' But nobody takes the slightest notice of his joke.
'Now, I am Chairwoman of Committees!' cries Lady Tippins.