'Wot observations?' inquired Sam.
'Them as she made, arter she was took ill,' replied the old gentleman. 'Wot was they?'
'Somethin' to this here effect. "Veller," she says, "I'm afeered I've not done by you quite wot I ought to have done; you're a wery kind-hearted man, and I might ha' made your home more comfortabler. I begin to see now," she says, "ven it's too late, that if a married 'ooman vishes to be religious, she should begin vith dischargin' her dooties at home, and makin' them as is about her cheerful and happy, and that vile she goes to church, or chapel, or wot not, at all proper times, she should be wery careful not to con-wert this sort o' thing into a excuse for idleness or self-indulgence. I have done this," she says, "and I've vasted time and substance on them as has done it more than me; but I hope ven I'm gone, Veller, that you'll think on me as I wos afore I know'd them people, and as I raly wos by natur."
'"Susan," says I — I wos took up wery short by this, Samivel; I von't deny it, my boy — "Susan," I says, "you've been a wery good vife to me, altogether; don't say nothin' at all about it; keep a good heart, my dear; and you'll live to see me punch that 'ere Stiggins's head yet." She smiled at this, Samivel,' said the old gentleman, stifling a sigh with his pipe, 'but she died arter all!'
'Vell,' said Sam, venturing to offer a little homely consolation, after the lapse of three or four minutes, consumed by the old gentleman in slowly shaking his head from side to side, and solemnly smoking, 'vell, gov'nor, ve must all come to it, one day or another.'
'So we must, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller the elder.
'There's a Providence in it all,' said Sam.
'O' course there is,' replied his father, with a nod of grave approval. 'Wot 'ud become of the undertakers vithout it, Sammy?'
Lost in the immense field of conjecture opened by this reflection, the elder Mr. Weller laid his pipe on the table, and stirred the fire with a meditative visage.
While the old gentleman was thus engaged, a very buxom-looking cook, dressed in mourning, who had been bustling about, in the bar, glided into the room, and bestowing many smirks of recognition upon Sam, silently stationed herself at the back of his father's chair, and announced her presence by a slight cough, the which, being disregarded, was followed by a louder one.
'Hollo!' said the elder Mr. Weller, dropping the poker as he looked round, and hastily drew his chair away. 'Wot's the matter now?'
'Have a cup of tea, there's a good soul,' replied the buxom female coaxingly. 'I von't,' replied Mr. Weller, in a somewhat boisterous manner. 'I'll see you — ' Mr. Weller hastily checked himself, and added in a low tone, 'furder fust.'
'Oh, dear, dear! How adwersity does change people!' said the lady, looking upwards.
'It's the only thing 'twixt this and the doctor as shall change my condition,' muttered Mr. Weller.
'I really never saw a man so cross,' said the buxom female.
'Never mind. It's all for my own good; vich is the reflection vith vich the penitent school-boy comforted his feelin's ven they flogged him,' rejoined the old gentleman.
The buxom female shook her head with a compassionate and sympathising air; and, appealing to Sam, inquired whether his father really ought not to make an effort to keep up, and not give way to that lowness of spirits.
'You see, Mr. Samuel,' said the buxom female, 'as I was telling him yesterday, he will feel lonely, he can't expect but what he should, sir, but he should keep up a good heart, because, dear me, I'm sure we all pity his loss, and are ready to do anything for him; and there's no situation in life so bad, Mr. Samuel, that it can't be mended. Which is what a very worthy person said to me when my husband died.' Here the speaker, putting her hand before her mouth, coughed again, and looked affectionately at the elder Mr. Weller.
'As I don't rekvire any o' your conversation just now, mum, vill you have the goodness to re-tire?' inquired Mr. Weller, in a grave and steady voice.
'Well, Mr. Weller,' said the buxom female, 'I'm sure I only spoke to you out of kindness.'
'Wery likely, mum,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Samivel, show the lady out, and shut the door after her.'
This hint was not lost upon the buxom female; for she at once left the room, and slammed the door behind her, upon which Mr. Weller, senior, falling back in his chair in a violent perspiration, said —
'Sammy, if I wos to stop here alone vun week — only vun week, my boy — that 'ere 'ooman 'ud marry me by force and wiolence afore it was over.'
'Wot! is she so wery fond on you?' inquired Sam.
'Fond!' replied his father. 'I can't keep her avay from me. If I was locked up in a fireproof chest vith a patent Brahmin, she'd find means to get at me, Sammy.'
'Wot a thing it is to be so sought arter!' observed Sam, smiling.
'I don't take no pride out on it, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, poking the fire vehemently, 'it's a horrid sitiwation. I'm actiwally drove out o' house and home by it. The breath was scarcely out o' your poor mother-in-law's body, ven vun old 'ooman sends me a pot o' jam, and another a pot o' jelly, and another brews a blessed large jug o' camomile-tea, vich she brings in vith her own hands.' Mr. Weller paused with an aspect of intense disgust, and looking round, added in a whisper, 'They wos all widders, Sammy, all on 'em, 'cept the camomile-tea vun, as wos a single young lady o' fifty-three.'
Sam gave a comical look in reply, and the old gentleman having broken an obstinate lump of coal, with a countenance expressive of as much earnestness and malice as if it had been the head of one of the widows last-mentioned, said:
'In short, Sammy, I feel that I ain't safe anyveres but on the box.'
'How are you safer there than anyveres else?' interrupted Sam.
''Cos a coachman's a privileged indiwidual,' replied Mr. Weller, looking fixedly at his son. ''Cos a coachman may do vithout suspicion wot other men may not; 'cos a coachman may be on the wery amicablest terms with eighty mile o' females, and yet nobody think that he ever means to marry any vun among 'em. And wot other man can say the same, Sammy?'
'Vell, there's somethin' in that,' said Sam.
'If your gov'nor had been a coachman,' reasoned Mr. Weller, 'do you s'pose as that 'ere jury 'ud ever ha' conwicted him, s'posin' it possible as the matter could ha' gone to that extremity? They dustn't ha' done it.'
'Wy not?' said Sam, rather disparagingly.
'Wy not!' rejoined Mr. Weller; ''cos it 'ud ha' gone agin their consciences. A reg'lar coachman's a sort o' con-nectin' link betwixt singleness and matrimony, and every practicable man knows it.'
'Wot! You mean, they're gen'ral favorites, and nobody takes adwantage on 'em, p'raps?' said Sam.
His father nodded.
'How it ever come to that 'ere pass,' resumed the parent Weller, 'I can't say. Wy it is that long-stage coachmen possess such insiniwations, and is alvays looked up to — a-dored I may say — by ev'ry young 'ooman in ev'ry town he vurks through, I don't know. I only know that so it is. It's a regulation of natur — a dispensary, as your poor mother-in-law used to say.'
'A dispensation,' said Sam, correcting the old gentleman.
'Wery good, Samivel, a dispensation if you like it better,' returned Mr. Weller; 'I call it a dispensary, and it's always writ up so, at the places vere they gives you physic for nothin' in your own bottles; that's all.'
With these words, Mr. Weller refilled and relighted his pipe, and once more summoning up a meditative expression of countenance, continued as follows —
'Therefore, my boy, as I do not see the adwisability o' stoppin here to be married vether I vant to or not, and as at the same time I do not vish to separate myself from them interestin' members o' society altogether, I have come to the determination o' driving the Safety, and puttin' up vunce more at the Bell Savage, vich is my nat'ral born element, Sammy.'
'And wot's to become o' the bis'ness?' inquired Sam.
'The bis'ness, Samivel,' replied the old gentleman, 'good-vill, stock, and fixters, vill be sold by private contract; and out o' the money, two hundred pound, agreeable to a rekvest o' your mother-in-law's to me, a little afore she died, vill be invested in your name in — What do you call them things agin?'
'Wot things?' inquired Sam.
'Them things as is always a-goin' up and down, in the city.'
'Omnibuses?' suggested Sam.
'Nonsense,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Them things as is alvays a-fluctooatin', and gettin' theirselves inwolved somehow or another vith the national debt, and the chequers bill; and all that.'
'Oh! the funds,' said Sam.
'Ah!' rejoined Mr. Weller, 'the funs; two hundred pounds o' the money is to be inwested for you, Samivel, in the funs; four and a half per cent. reduced counsels, Sammy.'
'Wery kind o' the old lady to think o' me,' said Sam, 'and I'm wery much obliged to her.'
'The rest will be inwested in my name,' continued the elder Mr. Weller; 'and wen I'm took off the road, it'll come to you, so take care you don't spend it all at vunst, my boy, and mind that no widder gets a inklin' o' your fortun', or you're done.'
Having delivered this warning, Mr. Weller resumed his pipe with a more serene countenance; the disclosure of these matters appearing to have eased his mind considerably.