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Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 58)


'And how's father?' said Sam.

At this inquiry, Mrs. Weller raised her hands, and turned upher eyes, as if the subject were too painful to be alluded to.

Mr. Stiggins groaned.

'What's the matter with that 'ere gen'l'm'n?' inquired Sam.

'He's shocked at the way your father goes on in,' replied Mrs. Weller.

'Oh, he is, is he?' said Sam.

'And with too good reason,' added Mrs. Weller gravely.

Mr. Stiggins took up a fresh piece of toast, and groaned heavily.

'He is a dreadful reprobate,' said Mrs. Weller.

'A man of wrath!' exclaimed Mr. Stiggins. He took a largesemi-circular bite out of the toast, and groaned again.

Sam felt very strongly disposed to give the reverend Mr.Stiggins something to groan for, but he repressed his inclination,and merely asked, 'What's the old 'un up to now?'

'Up to, indeed!' said Mrs. Weller, 'Oh, he has a hard heart.Night after night does this excellent man--don't frown,Mr. Stiggins; I WILL say you ARE an excellent man--come and sithere, for hours together, and it has not the least effect upon him.''Well, that is odd,' said Sam; 'it 'ud have a wery considerableeffect upon me, if I wos in his place; I know that.'

'The fact is, my young friend,' said Mr. Stiggins solemnly, 'hehas an obderrate bosom. Oh, my young friend, who else couldhave resisted the pleading of sixteen of our fairest sisters, andwithstood their exhortations to subscribe to our noble society forproviding the infant negroes in the West Indies with flannelwaistcoats and moral pocket-handkerchiefs?'

'What's a moral pocket-ankercher?' said Sam; 'I never see oneo' them articles o' furniter.'

'Those which combine amusement With instruction, my youngfriend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'blending select tales with wood-cuts.'

'Oh, I know,' said Sam; 'them as hangs up in the linen-drapers'shops, with beggars' petitions and all that 'ere upon 'em?'

Mr. Stiggins began a third round of toast, and nodded assent.'And he wouldn't be persuaded by the ladies, wouldn't he?'said Sam.

'Sat and smoked his pipe, and said the infant negroes were--what did he say the infant negroes were?' said Mrs. Weller.

'Little humbugs,' replied Mr. Stiggins, deeply affected.

'Said the infant negroes were little humbugs,' repeated Mrs.Weller. And they both groaned at the atrocious conduct of theelder Mr. Weller.

A great many more iniquities of a similar nature might havebeen disclosed, only the toast being all eaten, the tea having gotvery weak, and Sam holding out no indications of meaning togo, Mr. Stiggins suddenly recollected that he had a most pressingappointment with the shepherd, and took himself off accordingly.

The tea-things had been scarcely put away, and the hearthswept up, when the London coach deposited Mr. Weller, senior,at the door; his legs deposited him in the bar; and his eyesshowed him his son.

'What, Sammy!' exclaimed the father.

'What, old Nobs!' ejaculated the son. And they shook hands heartily.

'Wery glad to see you, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller,'though how you've managed to get over your mother-in-law, isa mystery to me. I only vish you'd write me out the receipt,that's all.'

'Hush!' said Sam, 'she's at home, old feller.''She ain't vithin hearin',' replied Mr. Weller; 'she always goesand blows up, downstairs, for a couple of hours arter tea; so we'lljust give ourselves a damp, Sammy.'

Saying this, Mr. Weller mixed two glasses of spirits-and-water,and produced a couple of pipes. The father and son sitting downopposite each other; Sam on one side of the fire, in thehigh-backed chair, and Mr. Weller, senior, on the other, inan easy ditto, they proceeded to enjoy themselves with all due gravity.

'Anybody been here, Sammy?' asked Mr. Weller, senior,dryly, after a long silence.

Sam nodded an expressive assent.

'Red-nosed chap?' inquired Mr. Weller.

Sam nodded again.

'Amiable man that 'ere, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, smoking violently.

'Seems so,' observed Sam.

'Good hand at accounts,' said Mr. Weller.'Is he?' said Sam.

'Borrows eighteenpence on Monday, and comes on Tuesdayfor a shillin' to make it up half-a-crown; calls again on Vensdayfor another half-crown to make it five shillin's; and goes on,doubling, till he gets it up to a five pund note in no time, likethem sums in the 'rithmetic book 'bout the nails in the horse'sshoes, Sammy.'

Sam intimated by a nod that he recollected the problemalluded to by his parent.

'So you vouldn't subscribe to the flannel veskits?' said Sam,after another interval of smoking.

'Cert'nly not,' replied Mr. Weller; 'what's the good o' flannelveskits to the young niggers abroad? But I'll tell you what it is,Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, lowering his voice, and bending acrossthe fireplace; 'I'd come down wery handsome towards straitveskits for some people at home.'

As Mr. Weller said this, he slowly recovered his former position,and winked at his first-born, in a profound manner.

'it cert'nly seems a queer start to send out pocket-'ankerchersto people as don't know the use on 'em,' observed Sam.

'They're alvays a-doin' some gammon of that sort, Sammy,'replied his father. 'T'other Sunday I wos walkin' up the road,wen who should I see, a-standin' at a chapel door, with a bluesoup-plate in her hand, but your mother-in-law! I werily believethere was change for a couple o' suv'rins in it, then, Sammy, allin ha'pence; and as the people come out, they rattled the penniesin it, till you'd ha' thought that no mortal plate as ever wasbaked, could ha' stood the wear and tear. What d'ye think it wasall for?'

'For another tea-drinkin', perhaps,' said Sam.

'Not a bit on it,' replied the father; 'for the shepherd's water-rate, Sammy.'

'The shepherd's water-rate!' said Sam.

'Ay,' replied Mr. Weller, 'there was three quarters owin', andthe shepherd hadn't paid a farden, not he--perhaps it might beon account that the water warn't o' much use to him, for it's werylittle o' that tap he drinks, Sammy, wery; he knows a trick wortha good half-dozen of that, he does. Hows'ever, it warn't paid, andso they cuts the water off. Down goes the shepherd to chapel,gives out as he's a persecuted saint, and says he hopes the heartof the turncock as cut the water off, 'll be softened, and turnedin the right vay, but he rayther thinks he's booked for somethin'uncomfortable. Upon this, the women calls a meetin', sings ahymn, wotes your mother-in-law into the chair, wolunteers acollection next Sunday, and hands it all over to the shepherd.And if he ain't got enough out on 'em, Sammy, to make him freeof the water company for life,' said Mr. Weller, in conclusion,'I'm one Dutchman, and you're another, and that's all about it.'

Mr. Weller smoked for some minutes in silence, and then resumed--

'The worst o' these here shepherds is, my boy, that theyreg'larly turns the heads of all the young ladies, about here.Lord bless their little hearts, they thinks it's all right, and don'tknow no better; but they're the wictims o' gammon, Samivel,they're the wictims o' gammon.'

'I s'pose they are,' said Sam.

'Nothin' else,' said Mr. Weller, shaking his head gravely; 'andwot aggrawates me, Samivel, is to see 'em a-wastin' all their timeand labour in making clothes for copper-coloured people as don'twant 'em, and taking no notice of flesh-coloured Christians asdo. If I'd my vay, Samivel, I'd just stick some o' these here lazyshepherds behind a heavy wheelbarrow, and run 'em up anddown a fourteen-inch-wide plank all day. That 'ud shake thenonsense out of 'em, if anythin' vould.'

Mr. Weller, having delivered this gentle recipe with strongemphasis, eked out by a variety of nods and contortions of theeye, emptied his glass at a draught, and knocked the ashes out ofhis pipe, with native dignity.

He was engaged in this operation, when a shrill voice washeard in the passage.

'Here's your dear relation, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller; andMrs. W. hurried into the room.

'Oh, you've come back, have you!' said Mrs. Weller.

'Yes, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller, filling a fresh pipe.

'Has Mr. Stiggins been back?' said Mrs. Weller.

'No, my dear, he hasn't,' replied Mr. Weller, lighting the pipeby the ingenious process of holding to the bowl thereof, betweenthe tongs, a red-hot coal from the adjacent fire; and what's more,my dear, I shall manage to surwive it, if he don't come backat all.'

'Ugh, you wretch!' said Mrs. Weller.

'Thank'ee, my love,' said Mr. Weller.'Come, come, father,' said Sam, 'none o' these little lovin'safore strangers. Here's the reverend gen'l'm'n a-comin' in now.'At this announcement, Mrs. Weller hastily wiped off the tearswhich she had just begun to force on; and Mr. W. drew his chairsullenly into the chimney-corner.

Mr. Stiggins was easily prevailed on to take another glass ofthe hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and a second, and a third, andthen to refresh himself with a slight supper, previous to beginningagain. He sat on the same side as Mr. Weller, senior; and everytime he could contrive to do so, unseen by his wife, that gentlemanindicated to his son the hidden emotions of his bosom, byshaking his fist over the deputy-shepherd's head; a processwhich afforded his son the most unmingled delight and satisfaction,the more especially as Mr. Stiggins went on, quietly drinkingthe hot pine-apple rum-and-water, wholly unconscious of whatwas going forward.

The major part of the conversation was confined to Mrs.Weller and the reverend Mr. Stiggins; and the topics principallydescanted on, were the virtues of the shepherd, the worthiness ofhis flock, and the high crimes and misdemeanours of everybodybeside--dissertations which the elder Mr. Weller occasionallyinterrupted by half-suppressed references to a gentleman of thename of Walker, and other running commentaries of the same kind.

At length Mr. Stiggins, with several most indubitable symptomsof having quite as much pine-apple rum-and-water about him ashe could comfortably accommodate, took his hat, and his leave;and Sam was, immediately afterwards, shown to bed by hisfather. The respectable old gentleman wrung his hand fervently,and seemed disposed to address some observation to his son; buton Mrs. Weller advancing towards him, he appeared to relinquishthat intention, and abruptly bade him good-night.

Sam was up betimes next day, and having partaken of a hastybreakfast, prepared to return to London. He had scarcely set footwithout the house, when his father stood before him.

'Goin', Sammy?' inquired Mr. Weller.

'Off at once,' replied Sam.

'I vish you could muffle that 'ere Stiggins, and take him vithyou,' said Mr. Weller.

'I am ashamed on you!' said Sam reproachfully; 'what do youlet him show his red nose in the Markis o' Granby at all, for?'

Mr. Weller the elder fixed on his son an earnest look, andreplied, ''Cause I'm a married man, Samivel,'cause I'm a marriedman. Ven you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand agood many things as you don't understand now; but vether it'sworth while goin' through so much, to learn so little, as thecharity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is amatter o' taste. I rayther think it isn't.''Well,' said Sam, 'good-bye.'

'Tar, tar, Sammy,' replied his father.

'I've only got to say this here,' said Sam, stopping short, 'thatif I was the properiator o' the Markis o' Granby, and that 'ereStiggins came and made toast in my bar, I'd--'

'What?' interposed Mr. Weller, with great anxiety. 'What?'

'Pison his rum-and-water,' said Sam.

'No!' said Mr. Weller, shaking his son eagerly by the hand,'would you raly, Sammy-would you, though?'

'I would,' said Sam. 'I wouldn't be too hard upon him at first.I'd drop him in the water-butt, and put the lid on; and if I foundhe was insensible to kindness, I'd try the other persvasion.'

The elder Mr. Weller bestowed a look of deep, unspeakableadmiration on his son, and, having once more grasped his hand,walked slowly away, revolving in his mind the numerous reflectionsto which his advice had given rise.

Sam looked after him, until he turned a corner of the road;and then set forward on his walk to London. He meditated atfirst, on the probable consequences of his own advice, and thelikelihood of his father's adopting it. He dismissed the subjectfrom his mind, however, with the consolatory reflection that timealone would show; and this is the reflection we would impressupon the reader.

CHAPTER XXVIIIA GOOD-HUMOURED CHRISTMAS CHAPTER, CONTAININGAN ACCOUNT OF A WEDDING, AND SOME OTHER SPORTSBESIDE: WHICH ALTHOUGH IN THEIR WAY, EVEN AS GOODCUSTOMS AS MARRIAGE ITSELF, ARE NOT QUITE SORELIGIOUSLY KEPT UP, IN THESE DEGENERATE TIMES

As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the fourPickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day ofDecember, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recordedadventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close athand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year waspreparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends aroundhim, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently andcalmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merrywere at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened byits coming.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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