'Weller,' said Mrs. W. (the old gentleman was seated in a corner); 'Weller! Come forth.'
'Wery much obleeged to you, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller; 'but I'm quite comfortable vere I am.'
Upon this, Mrs. Weller burst into tears.
'Wot's gone wrong, mum?' said Sam.
'Oh, Samuel!' replied Mrs. Weller, 'your father makes me wretched. Will nothing do him good?'
'Do you hear this here?' said Sam. 'Lady vants to know vether nothin' 'ull do you good.'
'Wery much indebted to Mrs. Weller for her po-lite inquiries, Sammy,' replied the old gentleman. 'I think a pipe vould benefit me a good deal. Could I be accommodated, Sammy?'
Here Mrs. Weller let fall some more tears, and Mr. Stiggins groaned.
'Hollo! Here's this unfortunate gen'l'm'n took ill agin,' said Sam, looking round. 'Vere do you feel it now, sir?'
'In the same place, young man,' rejoined Mr. Stiggins, 'in the same place.'
'Vere may that be, Sir?' inquired Sam, with great outward simplicity.
'In the buzzim, young man,' replied Mr. Stiggins, placing his umbrella on his waistcoat.
At this affecting reply, Mrs. Weller, being wholly unable to suppress her feelings, sobbed aloud, and stated her conviction that the red-nosed man was a saint; whereupon Mr. Weller, senior, ventured to suggest, in an undertone, that he must be the representative of the united parishes of St. Simon Without and St. Walker Within.
'I'm afeered, mum,' said Sam, 'that this here gen'l'm'n, with the twist in his countenance, feels rather thirsty, with the melancholy spectacle afore him. Is it the case, mum?'
The worthy lady looked at Mr. Stiggins for a reply; that gentleman, with many rollings of the eye, clenched his throat with his right hand, and mimicked the act of swallowing, to intimate that he was athirst.
'I am afraid, Samuel, that his feelings have made him so indeed,' said Mrs. Weller mournfully.
'Wot's your usual tap, sir?' replied Sam.
'Oh, my dear young friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'all taps is vanities!'
'Too true, too true, indeed,' said Mrs. Weller, murmuring a groan, and shaking her head assentingly.
'Well,' said Sam, 'I des-say they may be, sir; but wich is your partickler wanity? Wich wanity do you like the flavour on best, sir?'
'Oh, my dear young friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'I despise them all. If,' said Mr. Stiggins — 'if there is any one of them less odious than another, it is the liquor called rum. Warm, my dear young friend, with three lumps of sugar to the tumbler.'
'Wery sorry to say, sir,' said Sam, 'that they don't allow that particular wanity to be sold in this here establishment.'
'Oh, the hardness of heart of these inveterate men!' ejaculated Mr. Stiggins. 'Oh, the accursed cruelty of these inhuman persecutors!'
With these words, Mr. Stiggins again cast up his eyes, and rapped his breast with his umbrella; and it is but justice to the reverend gentleman to say, that his indignation appeared very real and unfeigned indeed.
After Mrs. Weller and the red-nosed gentleman had commented on this inhuman usage in a very forcible manner, and had vented a variety of pious and holy execrations against its authors, the latter recommended a bottle of port wine, warmed with a little water, spice, and sugar, as being grateful to the stomach, and savouring less of vanity than many other compounds. It was accordingly ordered to be prepared, and pending its preparation the red-nosed man and Mrs. Weller looked at the elder W. and groaned.
'Well, Sammy,' said the gentleman, 'I hope you'll find your spirits rose by this here lively wisit. Wery cheerful and improvin' conwersation, ain't it, Sammy?'
'You're a reprobate,' replied Sam; 'and I desire you won't address no more o' them ungraceful remarks to me.'
So far from being edified by this very proper reply, the elder Mr. Weller at once relapsed into a broad grin; and this inexorable conduct causing the lady and Mr. Stiggins to close their eyes, and rock themselves to and fro on their chairs, in a troubled manner, he furthermore indulged in several acts of pantomime, indicative of a desire to pummel and wring the nose of the aforesaid Stiggins, the performance of which, appeared to afford him great mental relief. The old gentleman very narrowly escaped detection in one instance; for Mr. Stiggins happening to give a start on the arrival of the negus, brought his head in smart contact with the clenched fist with which Mr. Weller had been describing imaginary fireworks in the air, within two inches of his ear, for some minutes.
'Wot are you a-reachin' out, your hand for the tumbler in that 'ere sawage way for?' said Sam, with great promptitude. 'Don't you see you've hit the gen'l'm'n?'
'I didn't go to do it, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, in some degree abashed by the very unexpected occurrence of the incident.
'Try an in'ard application, sir,' said Sam, as the red-nosed gentleman rubbed his head with a rueful visage. 'Wot do you think o' that, for a go o' wanity, warm, Sir?'
Mr. Stiggins made no verbal answer, but his manner was expressive. He tasted the contents of the glass which Sam had placed in his hand, put his umbrella on the floor, and tasted it again, passing his hand placidly across his stomach twice or thrice; he then drank the whole at a breath, and smacking his lips, held out the tumbler for more.
Nor was Mrs. Weller behind-hand in doing justice to the composition. The good lady began by protesting that she couldn't touch a drop — then took a small drop — then a large drop — then a great many drops; and her feelings being of the nature of those substances which are powerfully affected by the application of strong waters, she dropped a tear with every drop of negus, and so got on, melting the feelings down, until at length she had arrived at a very pathetic and decent pitch of misery.
The elder Mr. Weller observed these signs and tokens with many manifestations of disgust, and when, after a second jug of the same, Mr. Stiggins began to sigh in a dismal manner, he plainly evinced his disapprobation of the whole proceedings, by sundry incoherent ramblings of speech, among which frequent angry repetitions of the word 'gammon' were alone distinguishable to the ear.
'I'll tell you wot it is, Samivel, my boy,' whispered the old gentleman into his son's ear, after a long and steadfast contemplation of his lady and Mr. Stiggins; 'I think there must be somethin' wrong in your mother-in-law's inside, as vell as in that o' the red-nosed man.'
'Wot do you mean?' said Sam.
'I mean this here, Sammy,' replied the old gentleman, 'that wot they drink, don't seem no nourishment to 'em; it all turns to warm water, and comes a-pourin' out o' their eyes. 'Pend upon it, Sammy, it's a constitootional infirmity.'
Mr. Weller delivered this scientific opinion with many confirmatory frowns and nods; which, Mrs. Weller remarking, and concluding that they bore some disparaging reference either to herself or to Mr. Stiggins, or to both, was on the point of becoming infinitely worse, when Mr. Stiggins, getting on his legs as well as he could, proceeded to deliver an edifying discourse for the benefit of the company, but more especially of Mr. Samuel, whom he adjured in moving terms to be upon his guard in that sink of iniquity into which he was cast; to abstain from all hypocrisy and pride of heart; and to take in all things exact pattern and copy by him (Stiggins), in which case he might calculate on arriving, sooner or later at the comfortable conclusion, that, like him, he was a most estimable and blameless character, and that all his acquaintances and friends were hopelessly abandoned and profligate wretches. Which consideration, he said, could not but afford him the liveliest satisfaction.
He furthermore conjured him to avoid, above all things, the vice of intoxication, which he likened unto the filthy habits of swine, and to those poisonous and baleful drugs which being chewed in the mouth, are said to filch away the memory. At this point of his discourse, the reverend and red-nosed gentleman became singularly incoherent, and staggering to and fro in the excitement of his eloquence, was fain to catch at the back of a chair to preserve his perpendicular.
Mr. Stiggins did not desire his hearers to be upon their guard against those false prophets and wretched mockers of religion, who, without sense to expound its first doctrines, or hearts to feel its first principles, are more dangerous members of society than the common criminal; imposing, as they necessarily do, upon the weakest and worst informed, casting scorn and contempt on what should be held most sacred, and bringing into partial disrepute large bodies of virtuous and well-conducted persons of many excellent sects and persuasions. But as he leaned over the back of the chair for a considerable time, and closing one eye, winked a good deal with the other, it is presumed that he thought all this, but kept it to himself.
During the delivery of the oration, Mrs. Weller sobbed and wept at the end of the paragraphs; while Sam, sitting cross-legged on a chair and resting his arms on the top rail, regarded the speaker with great suavity and blandness of demeanour; occasionally bestowing a look of recognition on the old gentleman, who was delighted at the beginning, and went to sleep about half-way.
'Brayvo; wery pretty!' said Sam, when the red-nosed man having finished, pulled his worn gloves on, thereby thrusting his fingers through the broken tops till the knuckles were disclosed to view. 'Wery pretty.'
'I hope it may do you good, Samuel,' said Mrs. Weller solemnly.
'I think it vill, mum,' replied Sam.
'I wish I could hope that it would do your father good,' said Mrs. Weller.
'Thank'ee, my dear,' said Mr. Weller, senior. 'How do you find yourself arter it, my love?'
'Scoffer!' exclaimed Mrs. Weller.
'Benighted man!' said the Reverend Mr. Stiggins.
'If I don't get no better light than that 'ere moonshine o' yourn, my worthy creetur,' said the elder Mr. Weller, 'it's wery likely as I shall continey to be a night coach till I'm took off the road altogether. Now, Mrs. We, if the piebald stands at livery much longer, he'll stand at nothin' as we go back, and p'raps that 'ere harm-cheer 'ull be tipped over into some hedge or another, with the shepherd in it.'
At this supposition, the Reverend Mr. Stiggins, in evident consternation, gathered up his hat and umbrella, and proposed an immediate departure, to which Mrs. Weller assented. Sam walked with them to the lodge gate, and took a dutiful leave.