'It's an ingenious thing, ain't it?' he inquired, following the direction of my glance, and polishing the elbow with his arm. 'It runs as light as a feather, and tracks as true as a mail-coach. Bless you, my little Minnie — my grand-daughter you know, Minnie's child — puts her little strength against the back, gives it a shove, and away we go, as clever and merry as ever you see anything! And I tell you what — it's a most uncommon chair to smoke a pipe in.'
I never saw such a good old fellow to make the best of a thing, and find out the enjoyment of it, as Mr. Omer. He was as radiant, as if his chair, his asthma, and the failure of his limbs, were the various branches of a great invention for enhancing the luxury of a pipe.
'I see more of the world, I can assure you,' said Mr. Omer, 'in this chair, than ever I see out of it. You'd be surprised at the number of people that looks in of a day to have a chat. You really would! There's twice as much in the newspaper, since I've taken to this chair, as there used to be. As to general reading, dear me, what a lot of it I do get through! That's what I feel so strong, you know! If it had been my eyes, what should I have done? If it had been my ears, what should I have done? Being my limbs, what does it signify? Why, my limbs only made my breath shorter when I used 'em. And now, if I want to go out into the street or down to the sands, I've only got to call Dick, Joram's youngest 'prentice, and away I go in my own carriage, like the Lord Mayor of London.'
He half suffocated himself with laughing here.
'Lord bless you!' said Mr. Omer, resuming his pipe, 'a man must take the fat with the lean; that's what he must make up his mind to, in this life. Joram does a fine business. Ex-cellent business!'
'I am very glad to hear it,' said I.
'I knew you would be,' said Mr. Omer. 'And Joram and Minnie are like Valentines. What more can a man expect? What's his limbs to that!'
His supreme contempt for his own limbs, as he sat smoking, was one of the pleasantest oddities I have ever encountered.
'And since I've took to general reading, you've took to general writing, eh, sir?' said Mr. Omer, surveying me admiringly. 'What a lovely work that was of yours! What expressions in it! I read it every word — every word. And as to feeling sleepy! Not at all!'
I laughingly expressed my satisfaction, but I must confess that I thought this association of ideas significant.
'I give you my word and honour, sir,' said Mr. Omer, 'that when I lay that book upon the table, and look at it outside; compact in three separate and indiwidual wollumes — one, two, three; I am as proud as Punch to think that I once had the honour of being connected with your family. And dear me, it's a long time ago, now, ain't it? Over at Blunderstone. With a pretty little party laid along with the other party. And you quite a small party then, yourself. Dear, dear!'
I changed the subject by referring to Emily. After assuring him that I did not forget how interested he had always been in her, and how kindly he had always treated her, I gave him a general account of her restoration to her uncle by the aid of Martha; which I knew would please the old man. He listened with the utmost attention, and said, feelingly, when I had done:
'I am rejoiced at it, sir! It's the best news I have heard for many a day. Dear, dear, dear! And what's going to be undertook for that unfortunate young woman, Martha, now?'
'You touch a point that my thoughts have been dwelling on since yesterday,' said I, 'but on which I can give you no information yet, Mr. Omer. Mr. Peggotty has not alluded to it, and I have a delicacy in doing so. I am sure he has not forgotten it. He forgets nothing that is disinterested and good.'
'Because you know,' said Mr. Omer, taking himself up, where he had left off, 'whatever is done, I should wish to be a member of. Put me down for anything you may consider right, and let me know. I never could think the girl all bad, and I am glad to find she's not. So will my daughter Minnie be. Young women are contradictory creatures in some things — her mother was just the same as her — but their hearts are soft and kind. It's all show with Minnie, about Martha. Why she should consider it necessary to make any show, I don't undertake to tell you. But it's all show, bless you. She'd do her any kindness in private. So, put me down for whatever you may consider right, will you be so good? and drop me a line where to forward it. Dear me!' said Mr. Omer, 'when a man is drawing on to a time of life, where the two ends of life meet; when he finds himself, however hearty he is, being wheeled about for the second time, in a speeches of go-cart; he should be over-rejoiced to do a kindness if he can. He wants plenty. And I don't speak of myself, particular,' said Mr. Omer, 'because, sir, the way I look at it is, that we are all drawing on to the bottom of the hill, whatever age we are, on account of time never standing still for a single moment. So let us always do a kindness, and be over-rejoiced. To be sure!'
He knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and put it on a ledge in the back of his chair, expressly made for its reception.