Charles Dickens >> The Pickwick Papers (page 72)

'And I'd give him somethin' as 'ud turpentine and beeswax hismemory for the next ten years or so, if I wos you,' interposed Sam.

'Stop a minute,' said Mr. Weller; 'I wos a-going to say, healways brings now, a flat bottle as holds about a pint and a half,and fills it vith the pine-apple rum afore he goes avay.'

'And empties it afore he comes back, I s'pose?' said Sam.

'Clean!' replied Mr. Weller; 'never leaves nothin' in it but thecork and the smell; trust him for that, Sammy. Now, these herefellows, my boy, are a-goin' to-night to get up the monthlymeetin' o' the Brick Lane Branch o' the United Grand JunctionEbenezer Temperance Association. Your mother-in-law wosa-goin', Sammy, but she's got the rheumatics, and can't; and I,Sammy--I've got the two tickets as wos sent her.' Mr. Wellercommunicated this secret with great glee, and winked soindefatigably after doing so, that Sam began to think he must havegot the TIC DOLOUREUX in his right eyelid.

'Well?' said that young gentleman.'Well,' continued his progenitor, looking round him verycautiously, 'you and I'll go, punctiwal to the time. The deputy-shepherd won't, Sammy; the deputy-shepherd won't.' Here Mr.Weller was seized with a paroxysm of chuckles, which graduallyterminated in as near an approach to a choke as an elderlygentleman can, with safety, sustain.

'Well, I never see sitch an old ghost in all my born days,'exclaimed Sam, rubbing the old gentleman's back, hard enoughto set him on fire with the friction. 'What are you a-laughin' at,corpilence?'

'Hush! Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, looking round him withincreased caution, and speaking in a whisper. 'Two friends o'mine, as works the Oxford Road, and is up to all kinds o' games,has got the deputy-shepherd safe in tow, Sammy; and ven hedoes come to the Ebenezer Junction (vich he's sure to do: forthey'll see him to the door, and shove him in, if necessary), he'llbe as far gone in rum-and-water, as ever he wos at the Markis o'Granby, Dorkin', and that's not sayin' a little neither.' And withthis, Mr. Weller once more laughed immoderately, and oncemore relapsed into a state of partial suffocation, in consequence.

Nothing could have been more in accordance with SamWeller's feelings than the projected exposure of the real propensitiesand qualities of the red-nosed man; and it being verynear the appointed hour of meeting, the father and son tooktheir way at once to Brick Lane, Sam not forgetting to drop hisletter into a general post-office as they walked along.

The monthly meetings of the Brick Lane Branch of the UnitedGrand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association were held ina large room, pleasantly and airily situated at the top of a safeand commodious ladder. The president was the straight-walkingMr. Anthony Humm, a converted fireman, now a schoolmaster,and occasionally an itinerant preacher; and the secretary wasMr. Jonas Mudge, chandler's shopkeeper, an enthusiastic anddisinterested vessel, who sold tea to the members. Previous to thecommencement of business, the ladies sat upon forms, and dranktea, till such time as they considered it expedient to leave off; anda large wooden money-box was conspicuously placed upon thegreen baize cloth of the business-table, behind whichthe secretary stood, and acknowledged, with a gracious smile,every addition to the rich vein of copper which lay concealed within.

On this particular occasion the women drank tea to a mostalarming extent; greatly to the horror of Mr. Weller, senior, who,utterly regardless of all Sam's admonitory nudgings, stared abouthim in every direction with the most undisguised astonishment.

'Sammy,' whispered Mr. Weller, 'if some o' these here peopledon't want tappin' to-morrow mornin', I ain't your father, andthat's wot it is. Why, this here old lady next me is a-drowndin'herself in tea.''Be quiet, can't you?' murmured Sam.

'Sam,' whispered Mr. Weller, a moment afterwards, in a toneof deep agitation, 'mark my vords, my boy. If that 'ere secretaryfellow keeps on for only five minutes more, he'll blow hisself upwith toast and water.'

'Well, let him, if he likes,' replied Sam; 'it ain't no bis'nesso' yourn.'

'If this here lasts much longer, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, inthe same low voice, 'I shall feel it my duty, as a human bein', torise and address the cheer. There's a young 'ooman on the nextform but two, as has drunk nine breakfast cups and a half; andshe's a-swellin' wisibly before my wery eyes.'

There is little doubt that Mr. Weller would have carried hisbenevolent intention into immediate execution, if a great noise,occasioned by putting up the cups and saucers, had not veryfortunately announced that the tea-drinking was over. Thecrockery having been removed, the table with the green baizecover was carried out into the centre of the room, and thebusiness of the evening was commenced by a little emphatic man,with a bald head and drab shorts, who suddenly rushed up theladder, at the imminent peril of snapping the two little legsincased in the drab shorts, and said--

'Ladies and gentlemen, I move our excellent brother, Mr.Anthony Humm, into the chair.'

The ladies waved a choice selection of pocket-handkerchiefs atthis proposition; and the impetuous little man literally movedMr. Humm into the chair, by taking him by the shoulders andthrusting him into a mahogany-frame which had once representedthat article of furniture. The waving of handkerchiefs wasrenewed; and Mr. Humm, who was a sleek, white-faced man, in aperpetual perspiration, bowed meekly, to the great admiration ofthe females, and formally took his seat. Silence was then proclaimedby the little man in the drab shorts, and Mr. Humm roseand said--That, with the permission of his Brick Lane Branchbrothers and sisters, then and there present, the secretary wouldread the report of the Brick Lane Branch committee; a propositionwhich was again received with a demonstration of pocket-handkerchiefs.

The secretary having sneezed in a very impressive manner, andthe cough which always seizes an assembly, when anythingparticular is going to be done, having been duly performed, thefollowing document was read:


'Your committee have pursued their grateful labours during thepast month, and have the unspeakable pleasure of reporting thefollowing additional cases of converts to Temperance.

'H. Walker, tailor, wife, and two children. When in bettercircumstances, owns to having been in the constant habit ofdrinking ale and beer; says he is not certain whether he did nottwice a week, for twenty years, taste "dog's nose," which yourcommittee find upon inquiry, to be compounded of warm porter,moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg (a groan, and 'So it is!' from anelderly female). Is now out of work and penniless; thinks it mustbe the porter (cheers) or the loss of the use of his right hand; isnot certain which, but thinks it very likely that, if he had drunknothing but water all his life, his fellow-workman would neverhave stuck a rusty needle in him, and thereby occasioned hisaccident (tremendous cheering). Has nothing but cold water todrink, and never feels thirsty (great applause).

'Betsy Martin, widow, one child, and one eye. Goes outcharing and washing, by the day; never had more than one eye,but knows her mother drank bottled stout, and shouldn't wonderif that caused it (immense cheering). Thinks it not impossiblethat if she had always abstained from spirits she might have hadtwo eyes by this time (tremendous applause). Used, at everyplace she went to, to have eighteen-pence a day, a pint of porter,and a glass of spirits; but since she became a member of theBrick Lane Branch, has always demanded three-and-sixpence(the announcement of this most interesting fact was receivedwith deafening enthusiasm).

'Henry Beller was for many years toast-master at variouscorporation dinners, during which time he drank a great deal offoreign wine; may sometimes have carried a bottle or two homewith him; is not quite certain of that, but is sure if he did, that hedrank the contents. Feels very low and melancholy, is veryfeverish, and has a constant thirst upon him; thinks it must bethe wine he used to drink (cheers). Is out of employ now; andnever touches a drop of foreign wine by any chance (tremendousplaudits).

'Thomas Burton is purveyor of cat's meat to the Lord Mayorand Sheriffs, and several members of the Common Council (theannouncement of this gentleman's name was received withbreathless interest). Has a wooden leg; finds a wooden legexpensive, going over the stones; used to wear second-handwooden legs, and drink a glass of hot gin-and-water regularlyevery night--sometimes two (deep sighs). Found the second-handwooden legs split and rot very quickly; is firmly persuaded thattheir constitution was undermined by the gin-and-water (prolongedcheering). Buys new wooden legs now, and drinksnothing but water and weak tea. The new legs last twice as longas the others used to do, and he attributes this solely to histemperate habits (triumphant cheers).'

Anthony Humm now moved that the assembly do regale itselfwith a song. With a view to their rational and moral enjoyment,Brother Mordlin had adapted the beautiful words of 'Who hasn'theard of a Jolly Young Waterman?' to the tune of the OldHundredth, which he would request them to join him in singing(great applause). He might take that opportunity of expressing hisfirm persuasion that the late Mr. Dibdin, seeing the errors of hisformer life, had written that song to show the advantages ofabstinence. It was a temperance song (whirlwinds of cheers). Theneatness of the young man's attire, the dexterity of his feathering,the enviable state of mind which enabled him in the beautifulwords of the poet, to

'Row along, thinking of nothing at all,'

all combined to prove that he must have been a water-drinker(cheers). Oh, what a state of virtuous jollity! (rapturous cheering).And what was the young man's reward? Let all young men presentmark this:

'The maidens all flocked to his boat so readily.'

(Loud cheers, in which the ladies joined.) What a bright example!The sisterhood, the maidens, flocking round the young waterman,and urging him along the stream of duty and of temperance.But, was it the maidens of humble life only, who soothed, consoled,and supported him? No!

'He was always first oars with the fine city ladies.'

(Immense cheering.) The soft sex to a man--he begged pardon,to a female--rallied round the young waterman, and turned withdisgust from the drinker of spirits (cheers). The Brick LaneBranch brothers were watermen (cheers and laughter). That roomwas their boat; that audience were the maidens; and he (Mr.Anthony Humm), however unworthily, was 'first oars'(unbounded applause).

'Wot does he mean by the soft sex, Sammy?' inquired Mr.Weller, in a whisper.

'The womin,' said Sam, in the same tone.

'He ain't far out there, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller; 'theyMUST be a soft sex--a wery soft sex, indeed--if they let themselvesbe gammoned by such fellers as him.'

Any further observations from the indignant old gentlemanwere cut short by the announcement of the song, which Mr.Anthony Humm gave out two lines at a time, for the informationof such of his hearers as were unacquainted with the legend.While it was being sung, the little man with the drab shortsdisappeared; he returned immediately on its conclusion, andwhispered Mr. Anthony Humm, with a face of the deepest importance.'My friends,' said Mr. Humm, holding up his hand in adeprecatory manner, to bespeak the silence of such of the stoutold ladies as were yet a line or two behind; 'my friends, a delegatefrom the Dorking Branch of our society, Brother Stiggins,attends below.'

Out came the pocket-handkerchiefs again, in greater forcethan ever; for Mr. Stiggins was excessively popular among thefemale constituency of Brick Lane.

'He may approach, I think,' said Mr. Humm, looking roundhim, with a fat smile. 'Brother Tadger, let him come forth andgreet us.'

The little man in the drab shorts who answered to the name ofBrother Tadger, bustled down the ladder with great speed, andwas immediately afterwards heard tumbling up with the ReverendMr. Stiggins.

'He's a-comin', Sammy,' whispered Mr. Weller, purple in thecountenance with suppressed laughter.

'Don't say nothin' to me,' replied Sam, 'for I can't bear it. He'sclose to the door. I hear him a-knockin' his head again the lathand plaster now.'

As Sam Weller spoke, the little door flew open, and BrotherTadger appeared, closely followed by the Reverend Mr. Stiggins,who no sooner entered, than there was a great clapping of hands,and stamping of feet, and flourishing of handkerchiefs; to all ofwhich manifestations of delight, Brother Stiggins returned noother acknowledgment than staring with a wild eye, and a fixedsmile, at the extreme top of the wick of the candle on the table,swaying his body to and fro, meanwhile, in a very unsteady anduncertain manner.

'Are you unwell, Brother Stiggins?' whispered Mr. Anthony Humm.

'I am all right, Sir,' replied Mr. Stiggins, in a tone in whichferocity was blended with an extreme thickness of utterance; 'Iam all right, Sir.'

'Oh, very well,' rejoined Mr. Anthony Humm, retreating a few paces.

'I believe no man here has ventured to say that I am not allright, Sir?' said Mr. Stiggins.

'Oh, certainly not,' said Mr. Humm.'I should advise him not to, Sir; I should advise him not,' saidMr. Stiggins.

By this time the audience were perfectly silent, and waitedwith some anxiety for the resumption of business.

'Will you address the meeting, brother?' said Mr. Humm, witha smile of invitation.

Title: The Pickwick Papers
Author: Charles Dickens
Viewed 153443 times


Page generation 0.001 seconds