CHAPTER XLIV. DESCRIPTIVE OF AN AFFECTING INTERVIEW BETWEEN Mr. SAMUEL WELLER AND A FAMILY PARTY. Mr. PICKWICK MAKES A TOUR OF THE DIMINUTIVE WORLD HE INHABITS, AND RESOLVES TO MIX WITH IT, IN FUTURE, AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
A few mornings after his incarceration, Mr. Samuel Weller, having arranged his master's room with all possible care, and seen him comfortably seated over his books and papers, withdrew to employ himself for an hour or two to come, as he best could. It was a fine morning, and it occurred to Sam that a pint of porter in the open air would lighten his next quarter of an hour or so, as well as any little amusement in which he could indulge.
Having arrived at this conclusion, he betook himself to the tap. Having purchased the beer, and obtained, moreover, the day-but-one-before-yesterday's paper, he repaired to the skittle-ground, and seating himself on a bench, proceeded to enjoy himself in a very sedate and methodical manner.
First of all, he took a refreshing draught of the beer, and then he looked up at a window, and bestowed a platonic wink on a young lady who was peeling potatoes thereat. Then he opened the paper, and folded it so as to get the police reports outwards; and this being a vexatious and difficult thing to do, when there is any wind stirring, he took another draught of the beer when he had accomplished it. Then, he read two lines of the paper, and stopped short to look at a couple of men who were finishing a game at rackets, which, being concluded, he cried out 'wery good,' in an approving manner, and looked round upon the spectators, to ascertain whether their sentiments coincided with his own. This involved the necessity of looking up at the windows also; and as the young lady was still there, it was an act of common politeness to wink again, and to drink to her good health in dumb show, in another draught of the beer, which Sam did; and having frowned hideously upon a small boy who had noted this latter proceeding with open eyes, he threw one leg over the other, and, holding the newspaper in both hands, began to read in real earnest.
He had hardly composed himself into the needful state of abstraction, when he thought he heard his own name proclaimed in some distant passage. Nor was he mistaken, for it quickly passed from mouth to mouth, and in a few seconds the air teemed with shouts of 'Weller!' 'Here!' roared Sam, in a stentorian voice. 'Wot's the matter? Who wants him? Has an express come to say that his country house is afire?'
'Somebody wants you in the hall,' said a man who was standing by.
'Just mind that 'ere paper and the pot, old feller, will you?' said Sam. 'I'm a-comin'. Blessed, if they was a-callin' me to the bar, they couldn't make more noise about it!'
Accompanying these words with a gentle rap on the head of the young gentleman before noticed, who, unconscious of his close vicinity to the person in request, was screaming 'Weller!' with all his might, Sam hastened across the ground, and ran up the steps into the hall. Here, the first object that met his eyes was his beloved father sitting on a bottom stair, with his hat in his hand, shouting out 'Weller!' in his very loudest tone, at half-minute intervals.
'Wot are you a-roarin' at?' said Sam impetuously, when the old gentleman had discharged himself of another shout; 'making yourself so precious hot that you looks like a aggrawated glass-blower. Wot's the matter?'
'Aha!' replied the old gentleman, 'I began to be afeerd that you'd gone for a walk round the Regency Park, Sammy.'
'Come,' said Sam, 'none o' them taunts agin the wictim o' avarice, and come off that 'ere step. Wot arc you a-settin' down there for? I don't live there.'
'I've got such a game for you, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller, rising.
'Stop a minit,' said Sam, 'you're all vite behind.'
'That's right, Sammy, rub it off,' said Mr. Weller, as his son dusted him. 'It might look personal here, if a man walked about with vitevash on his clothes, eh, Sammy?'
As Mr. Weller exhibited in this place unequivocal symptoms of an approaching fit of chuckling, Sam interposed to stop it.
'Keep quiet, do,' said Sam, 'there never vos such a old picter-card born. Wot are you bustin' vith, now?'
'Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, wiping his forehead, 'I'm afeerd that vun o' these days I shall laugh myself into a appleplexy, my boy.'
'Vell, then, wot do you do it for?' said Sam. 'Now, then, wot have you got to say?'
'Who do you think's come here with me, Samivel?' said Mr. Weller, drawing back a pace or two, pursing up his mouth, and extending his eyebrows. 'Pell?' said Sam.
Mr. Weller shook his head, and his red cheeks expanded with the laughter that was endeavouring to find a vent.
'Mottled-faced man, p'raps?' asked Sam.
Again Mr. Weller shook his head.
'Who then?'asked Sam.
'Your mother-in-law,' said Mr. Weller; and it was lucky he did say it, or his cheeks must inevitably have cracked, from their most unnatural distension.
'Your mother — in — law, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, 'and the red-nosed man, my boy; and the red-nosed man. Ho! ho! ho!'
With this, Mr. Weller launched into convulsions of laughter, while Sam regarded him with a broad grin gradually over-spreading his whole countenance.
'They've come to have a little serious talk with you, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, wiping his eyes. 'Don't let out nothin' about the unnat'ral creditor, Sammy.'
'Wot, don't they know who it is?' inquired Sam.
'Not a bit on it,' replied his father.
'Vere are they?' said Sam, reciprocating all the old gentleman's grins.
'In the snuggery,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'Catch the red-nosed man a-goin' anyvere but vere the liquors is; not he, Samivel, not he. Ve'd a wery pleasant ride along the road from the Markis this mornin', Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, when he felt himself equal to the task of speaking in an articulate manner. 'I drove the old piebald in that 'ere little shay-cart as belonged to your mother-in-law's first wenter, into vich a harm-cheer wos lifted for the shepherd; and I'm blessed,' said Mr. Weller, with a look of deep scorn — 'I'm blessed if they didn't bring a portable flight o' steps out into the road a-front o' our door for him, to get up by.'
'You don't mean that?' said Sam.
'I do mean that, Sammy,' replied his father, 'and I vish you could ha' seen how tight he held on by the sides wen he did get up, as if he wos afeerd o' being precipitayted down full six foot, and dashed into a million hatoms. He tumbled in at last, however, and avay ve vent; and I rayther think — I say I rayther think, Samivel — that he found his-self a little jolted ven ve turned the corners.'
'Wot, I s'pose you happened to drive up agin a post or two?' said Sam. 'I'm afeerd,' replied Mr. Weller, in a rapture of winks — 'I'm afeerd I took vun or two on 'em, Sammy; he wos a-flyin' out o' the arm-cheer all the way.'
Here the old gentleman shook his head from side to side, and was seized with a hoarse internal rumbling, accompanied with a violent swelling of the countenance, and a sudden increase in the breadth of all his features; symptoms which alarmed his son not a little.
'Don't be frightened, Sammy, don't be frightened,' said the old gentleman, when by dint of much struggling, and various convulsive stamps upon the ground, he had recovered his voice. 'It's only a kind o' quiet laugh as I'm a-tryin' to come, Sammy.'
'Well, if that's wot it is,' said Sam, 'you'd better not try to come it agin. You'll find it rayther a dangerous inwention.'
'Don't you like it, Sammy?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Not at all,' replied Sam.
'Well,' said Mr. Weller, with the tears still running down his cheeks, 'it 'ud ha' been a wery great accommodation to me if I could ha' done it, and 'ud ha' saved a good many vords atween your mother-in-law and me, sometimes; but I'm afeerd you're right, Sammy, it's too much in the appleplexy line — a deal too much, Samivel.'
This conversation brought them to the door of the snuggery, into which Sam — pausing for an instant to look over his shoulder, and cast a sly leer at his respected progenitor, who was still giggling behind — at once led the way.
'Mother-in-law,' said Sam, politely saluting the lady, 'wery much obliged to you for this here wisit. — Shepherd, how air you?'
'Oh, Samuel!' said Mrs. Weller. 'This is dreadful.'
'Not a bit on it, mum,' replied Sam. — 'Is it, shepherd?'
Mr. Stiggins raised his hands, and turned up his eyes, until the whites — or rather the yellows — were alone visible; but made no reply in words.
'Is this here gen'l'm'n troubled with any painful complaint?' said Sam, looking to his mother-in-law for explanation.
'The good man is grieved to see you here, Samuel,' replied Mrs. Weller.
'Oh, that's it, is it?' said Sam. 'I was afeerd, from his manner, that he might ha' forgotten to take pepper vith that 'ere last cowcumber he eat. Set down, Sir, ve make no extra charge for settin' down, as the king remarked wen he blowed up his ministers.'
'Young man,' said Mr. Stiggins ostentatiously, 'I fear you are not softened by imprisonment.'
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' replied Sam; 'wot wos you graciously pleased to hobserve?'
'I apprehend, young man, that your nature is no softer for this chastening,' said Mr. Stiggins, in a loud voice.
'Sir,' replied Sam, 'you're wery kind to say so. I hope my natur is NOT a soft vun, Sir. Wery much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir.'
At this point of the conversation, a sound, indecorously approaching to a laugh, was heard to proceed from the chair in which the elder Mr. Weller was seated; upon which Mrs. Weller, on a hasty consideration of all the circumstances of the case, considered it her bounden duty to become gradually hysterical.