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We thanked him for his hint towards the
improvement of our personal appearance,
which was a little dilapidated at that hour of
the morning, and were so much impressed by
the possibility of rivalling the Moke, that we
returned at four o'clock in the afternoon, and
climbed up to the first floor of Mr. Simpson's

A glance at the clock assured us that Mr.
Simpson was a genius. He kept it back ten
minutes, to give stragglers a last chance.
Already, the long table down the whole length
of the long low room was nearly full, and
people were sitting at a side table, looking
out through windows, like stern-windows
aboard ship, at flapping sails, and rigging.
The host was in the chair, with a wooden
hammer ready to his hand; and five several
gentlemen, much excited by hunger and
haste, who had run us down on the stairs,
had leaped into seats, and were menacing
expected turbots with their knives.

We slipped into a vacant chair by a gentleman
from the Eastern Counties, who
immediately informed us that Sir Robert Peel was
all wrong, and the agricultural interest blown
to shivers. This gentleman had little pieces
of sticking-plaster stuck all over him, and we
thought his discontent had broken out in an
eruption, until he informed us that he had
been 'going it, all last week' with some
ruined friends of his who were also in town,
and that ' champagne and claret always had
that effect upon him.'

On our left hand, was an undertaker from
Whitechapel. " Here's a bill," says he;
"this General Interment! What's to
become of my old hands who haven't been what
you may call rightly sober these twenty
years? Ain't there any religious feeling in
the country?"

The company had come, like the fish, from
various distances. There was a respectable
Jew provision-merchant from Hamburg, over
the way. Next him, an old man with sunken
jaws that were always in motion, like a
gutta percha mouth that was being continually
squeezed. He had come from York. Hard
by, a very large smooth-faced old gentleman
in an immense ribbed satin waistcoat, out of
Devonshire, attended by a pink nephew who
was walking the London Hospitals. Lower
down, was a wooden leg that had brought the
person it belonged to, all the way from
Canada. Two ' parties,' as the waiter called
them, who had been with a tasting-order to
the Docks, and were a little scared about the
eyes, belonged to Doncaster. Pints of stout
and porter were handed round, agreeably to
their respective orders. Everybody took his
own pint pot to himself, and seemed supicious
of his neighbour. As the minute hand of
the clock approached a quarter past four,
the gentleman from the Eastern Counties
whispered us, that if the country held
out for another year, it was as much as he

Suddenly a fine salmon sparkled and twinkled
like a silver harlequin before Mr. Simpson.
A goodly dish of soles was set on lower
down; then, in quick succession, appeared
flounders, fried eels, stewed eels, cod fish,
melted butter, lobster-sauce, potatoes.
Savoury steams curled and curled about the
company's heads, and toyed with the
company's noses. Mr. Simpson hammered on the
table. Grace!

For one silent moment, Mr. Simpson gazed
upon the salmon as if he were the salmon's
admiring father, and then fell upon him, and
helped twenty people without winking. Five
or six flushed waiters hurried to and fro, and
played cymbals with the plates; the company
rattled an accompaniment of knives and forks;
the fish were no more, in a twinkling. Boiled
beef, mutton, and a huge dish of steaks, were
soon disposed of in like manner. Small
glasses of brandy round, were gone, ere one
could say it lightened. Cheese melted away.
Crusts dissolved into air. Mr. Simpson was
gay. He knew the worst the company could
do. He saw it done, twice every day. Again
he hammered on the table. Grace!

Then, the cloth, the plates, the salt-cellars,
the knives and forks, the glasses and pewter-
pots, being all that the guests had not eaten
or drunk, were cleared; bunches of pipes
were laid upon the table; and everybody
ordered what he liked to drink, or went his
way. Mr. Simpson's punch, in wicked tumblers
of immense dimensions, was the most in favour.
Mr. Simpson himself consorted with a
company of generous spiritsconnected with a
Brewery, perhapsand smoked a mild cigar.
The large gentleman out of Devonshire: so
large now, that he was obliged to move his
chair back, to give his satin waistcoat play:
ordered a small pint bottle of port, passed it
to the pink nephew, and disparaged punch.
The nephew dutifully concurred, but looked
at the undertaker's glass, out of the corner of
his eye, as if he could have reconciled himself
to punch, too, under pressure, on a desart
island. The 'parties' from the Docks took
rum-and-water, and wandered in their
conversation. He of the Eastern Counties took
cold gin-and-water for a change, and for the
purification of his blood. Deep in the oiled depths
of the old-fashioned table, a reflection of every
man's face appeared below him, beaming.
Many pipes were lighted, the windows were
opened at top, and a fragrant cloud enwrapped
the company, as if they were all being carried
upward together. The undertaker laughed
monstrously at a joke, and the agriculturist
thought the country might go on, say ten years,
with good luck.

Eighteen pence a-head had done it allthe
drink, and smoke, and civil attendance
exceptedand again this was Billingsgate!
Verily, there is ' an ancient and fish-like
smell' about our popular opinions sometimes;
and our hereditary exaltations and depressions
of some things would bear revision!