Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 71)

'Wery good, my dear,' replied Sam. 'Let me have nine-penn'oth o' brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, will you, miss?'

The brandy-and-water luke, and the inkstand, having beencarried into the little parlour, and the young lady having carefullyflattened down the coals to prevent their blazing, and carriedaway the poker to preclude the possibility of the fire being stirred,without the full privity and concurrence of the Blue Boar beingfirst had and obtained, Sam Weller sat himself down in a boxnear the stove, and pulled out the sheet of gilt-edged letter-paper,and the hard-nibbed pen. Then looking carefully at the pen tosee that there were no hairs in it, and dusting down the table, sothat there might be no crumbs of bread under the paper, Samtucked up the cuffs of his coat, squared his elbows, and composedhimself to write.

To ladies and gentlemen who are not in the habit of devotingthemselves practically to the science of penmanship, writing aletter is no very easy task; it being always considered necessaryin such cases for the writer to recline his head on his left arm, soas to place his eyes as nearly as possible on a level with the paper,and, while glancing sideways at the letters he is constructing, toform with his tongue imaginary characters to correspond. Thesemotions, although unquestionably of the greatest assistance tooriginal composition, retard in some degree the progress of thewriter; and Sam had unconsciously been a full hour and a halfwriting words in small text, smearing out wrong letters with hislittle finger, and putting in new ones which required going oververy often to render them visible through the old blots, when hewas roused by the opening of the door and the entrance of his parent.

'Vell, Sammy,' said the father.

'Vell, my Prooshan Blue,' responded the son, laying down hispen. 'What's the last bulletin about mother-in-law?'

'Mrs. Veller passed a very good night, but is uncommonperwerse, and unpleasant this mornin'. Signed upon oath, TonyVeller, Esquire. That's the last vun as was issued, Sammy,'replied Mr. Weller, untying his shawl.

'No better yet?' inquired Sam.

'All the symptoms aggerawated,' replied Mr. Weller, shakinghis head. 'But wot's that, you're a-doin' of? Pursuit of knowledgeunder difficulties, Sammy?'

'I've done now,' said Sam, with slight embarrassment; 'I'vebeen a-writin'.'

'So I see,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Not to any young 'ooman, Ihope, Sammy?'

'Why, it's no use a-sayin' it ain't,' replied Sam; 'it's a walentine.'

'A what!' exclaimed Mr. Weller, apparently horror-strickenby the word.

'A walentine,' replied Sam.'Samivel, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, in reproachful accents, 'Ididn't think you'd ha' done it. Arter the warnin' you've had o'your father's wicious propensities; arter all I've said to you uponthis here wery subject; arter actiwally seein' and bein' in thecompany o' your own mother-in-law, vich I should ha' thoughtwos a moral lesson as no man could never ha' forgotten to hisdyin' day! I didn't think you'd ha' done it, Sammy, I didn'tthink you'd ha' done it!' These reflections were too much for thegood old man. He raised Sam's tumbler to his lips and drank offits contents.

'Wot's the matter now?' said Sam.

'Nev'r mind, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, 'it'll be a weryagonisin' trial to me at my time of life, but I'm pretty tough, that'svun consolation, as the wery old turkey remarked wen thefarmer said he wos afeerd he should be obliged to kill him for theLondon market.'

'Wot'll be a trial?' inquired Sam.'To see you married, Sammy--to see you a dilluded wictim,and thinkin' in your innocence that it's all wery capital,' repliedMr. Weller. 'It's a dreadful trial to a father's feelin's, that 'ere,Sammy--'

'Nonsense,' said Sam. 'I ain't a-goin' to get married, don't youfret yourself about that; I know you're a judge of these things.Order in your pipe and I'll read you the letter. There!'

We cannot distinctly say whether it was the prospect of thepipe, or the consolatory reflection that a fatal disposition to getmarried ran in the family, and couldn't be helped, which calmedMr. Weller's feelings, and caused his grief to subside. We shouldbe rather disposed to say that the result was attained by combiningthe two sources of consolation, for he repeated the secondin a low tone, very frequently; ringing the bell meanwhile, toorder in the first. He then divested himself of his upper coat; andlighting the pipe and placing himself in front of the fire with hisback towards it, so that he could feel its full heat, and reclineagainst the mantel-piece at the same time, turned towards Sam,and, with a countenance greatly mollified by the softeninginfluence of tobacco, requested him to 'fire away.'

Sam dipped his pen into the ink to be ready for any corrections,and began with a very theatrical air--


'Stop,' said Mr. Weller, ringing the bell. 'A double glass o' theinwariable, my dear.'

'Very well, Sir,' replied the girl; who with great quicknessappeared, vanished, returned, and disappeared.

'They seem to know your ways here,' observed Sam.

'Yes,' replied his father, 'I've been here before, in my time.Go on, Sammy.'

'"Lovely creetur,"' repeated Sam.

''Tain't in poetry, is it?' interposed his father.

'No, no,' replied Sam.

'Wery glad to hear it,' said Mr. Weller. 'Poetry's unnat'ral; noman ever talked poetry 'cept a beadle on boxin'-day, or Warren'sblackin', or Rowland's oil, or some of them low fellows; neveryou let yourself down to talk poetry, my boy. Begin agin, Sammy.'

Mr. Weller resumed his pipe with critical solemnity, and Samonce more commenced, and read as follows:

'"Lovely creetur I feel myself a damned--"''That ain't proper,' said Mr. Weller, taking his pipe from his mouth.

'No; it ain't "damned,"' observed Sam, holding the letter upto the light, 'it's "shamed," there's a blot there--"I feel myselfashamed."'

'Wery good,' said Mr. Weller. 'Go on.'

'"Feel myself ashamed, and completely cir--' I forget whatthis here word is,' said Sam, scratching his head with the pen,in vain attempts to remember.

'Why don't you look at it, then?' inquired Mr. Weller.

'So I am a-lookin' at it,' replied Sam, 'but there's another blot.Here's a "c," and a "i," and a "d."'

'Circumwented, p'raps,' suggested Mr. Weller.

'No, it ain't that,' said Sam, '"circumscribed"; that's it.'

'That ain't as good a word as "circumwented," Sammy,' saidMr. Weller gravely.

'Think not?' said Sam.

'Nothin' like it,' replied his father.

'But don't you think it means more?' inquired Sam.

'Vell p'raps it's a more tenderer word,' said Mr. Weller, aftera few moments' reflection. 'Go on, Sammy.'

'"Feel myself ashamed and completely circumscribed in a-dressin' of you, for you are a nice gal and nothin' but it."'

'That's a wery pretty sentiment,' said the elder Mr. Weller,removing his pipe to make way for the remark.

'Yes, I think it is rayther good,' observed Sam, highly flattered.

'Wot I like in that 'ere style of writin',' said the elder Mr.Weller, 'is, that there ain't no callin' names in it--no Wenuses,nor nothin' o' that kind. Wot's the good o' callin' a young'ooman a Wenus or a angel, Sammy?'

'Ah! what, indeed?' replied Sam.

'You might jist as well call her a griffin, or a unicorn, or aking's arms at once, which is wery well known to be a collectiono' fabulous animals,' added Mr. Weller.

'Just as well,' replied Sam.

'Drive on, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller.

Sam complied with the request, and proceeded as follows; hisfather continuing to smoke, with a mixed expression of wisdomand complacency, which was particularly edifying.

'"Afore I see you, I thought all women was alike."'

'So they are,' observed the elder Mr. Weller parenthetically.

'"But now,"' continued Sam, '"now I find what a reg'lar soft-headed, inkred'lous turnip I must ha' been; for there ain'tnobody like you, though I like you better than nothin' at all." Ithought it best to make that rayther strong,' said Sam, looking up.

Mr. Weller nodded approvingly, and Sam resumed.

'"So I take the privilidge of the day, Mary, my dear--as thegen'l'm'n in difficulties did, ven he valked out of a Sunday--totell you that the first and only time I see you, your likeness wastook on my hart in much quicker time and brighter colours thanever a likeness was took by the profeel macheen (wich p'raps youmay have heerd on Mary my dear) altho it DOES finish a portraitand put the frame and glass on complete, with a hook at theend to hang it up by, and all in two minutes and a quarter."'

'I am afeerd that werges on the poetical, Sammy,' said Mr.Weller dubiously.

'No, it don't,' replied Sam, reading on very quickly, to avoidcontesting the point--

'"Except of me Mary my dear as your walentine and thinkover what I've said.--My dear Mary I will now conclude." That'sall,' said Sam.

'That's rather a Sudden pull-up, ain't it, Sammy?' inquiredMr. Weller.

'Not a bit on it,' said Sam; 'she'll vish there wos more, andthat's the great art o' letter-writin'.'

'Well,' said Mr. Weller, 'there's somethin' in that; and I wishyour mother-in-law 'ud only conduct her conwersation on thesame gen-teel principle. Ain't you a-goin' to sign it?'

'That's the difficulty,' said Sam; 'I don't know what to sign it.'

'Sign it--"Veller",' said the oldest surviving proprietor of that name.

'Won't do,' said Sam. 'Never sign a walentine with your own name.'

'Sign it "Pickwick," then,' said Mr. Weller; 'it's a wery goodname, and a easy one to spell.''The wery thing,' said Sam. 'I COULD end with a werse; what doyou think?'

'I don't like it, Sam,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'I never know'd arespectable coachman as wrote poetry, 'cept one, as made anaffectin' copy o' werses the night afore he was hung for a highwayrobbery; and he wos only a Cambervell man, so even that's no rule.'

But Sam was not to be dissuaded from the poetical idea thathad occurred to him, so he signed the letter--'Your love-sickPickwick.'

And having folded it, in a very intricate manner, squeezed adownhill direction in one corner: 'To Mary, Housemaid, atMr. Nupkins's, Mayor's, Ipswich, Suffolk'; and put it into hispocket, wafered, and ready for the general post. This importantbusiness having been transacted, Mr. Weller the elder proceededto open that, on which he had summoned his son.

'The first matter relates to your governor, Sammy,' said Mr.Weller. 'He's a-goin' to be tried to-morrow, ain't he?'

'The trial's a-comin' on,' replied Sam.

'Vell,' said Mr. Weller, 'Now I s'pose he'll want to call somewitnesses to speak to his character, or p'rhaps to prove a alleybi.I've been a-turnin' the bis'ness over in my mind, and he maymake his-self easy, Sammy. I've got some friends as'll do eitherfor him, but my adwice 'ud be this here--never mind thecharacter, and stick to the alleybi. Nothing like a alleybi, Sammy,nothing.' Mr. Weller looked very profound as he delivered thislegal opinion; and burying his nose in his tumbler, winked overthe top thereof, at his astonished son.'Why, what do you mean?' said Sam; 'you don't think he'sa-goin' to be tried at the Old Bailey, do you?'

'That ain't no part of the present consideration, Sammy,'replied Mr. Weller. 'Verever he's a-goin' to be tried, my boy, aalleybi's the thing to get him off. Ve got Tom Vildspark off that'ere manslaughter, with a alleybi, ven all the big vigs to a mansaid as nothing couldn't save him. And my 'pinion is, Sammy,that if your governor don't prove a alleybi, he'll be what theItalians call reg'larly flummoxed, and that's all about it.'

As the elder Mr. Weller entertained a firm and unalterableconviction that the Old Bailey was the supreme court of judicaturein this country, and that its rules and forms of proceedingregulated and controlled the practice of all other courts of justicewhatsoever, he totally disregarded the assurances and argumentsof his son, tending to show that the alibi was inadmissible; andvehemently protested that Mr. Pickwick was being 'wictimised.'Finding that it was of no use to discuss the matter further, Samchanged the subject, and inquired what the second topic was, onwhich his revered parent wished to consult him.

'That's a pint o' domestic policy, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller.'This here Stiggins--'

'Red-nosed man?' inquired Sam.

'The wery same,' replied Mr. Weller. 'This here red-nosedman, Sammy, wisits your mother-in-law vith a kindness andconstancy I never see equalled. He's sitch a friend o' the family,Sammy, that wen he's avay from us, he can't be comfortableunless he has somethin' to remember us by.'

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
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