'Somebody's a-tappin' at the door,' said Sam.
'Let 'em tap,' replied his father, with dignity.
Sam acted upon the direction. There was another tap, and another, and then a long row of taps; upon which Sam inquired why the tapper was not admitted.
'Hush,' whispered Mr. Weller, with apprehensive looks, 'don't take no notice on 'em, Sammy, it's vun o' the widders, p'raps.'
No notice being taken of the taps, the unseen visitor, after a short lapse, ventured to open the door and peep in. It was no female head that was thrust in at the partially-opened door, but the long black locks and red face of Mr. Stiggins. Mr. Weller's pipe fell from his hands.
The reverend gentleman gradually opened the door by almost imperceptible degrees, until the aperture was just wide enough to admit of the passage of his lank body, when he glided into the room and closed it after him, with great care and gentleness. Turning towards Sam, and raising his hands and eyes in token of the unspeakable sorrow with which he regarded the calamity that had befallen the family, he carried the high-backed chair to his old corner by the fire, and, seating himself on the very edge, drew forth a brown pocket-handkerchief, and applied the same to his optics.
While this was going forward, the elder Mr. Weller sat back in his chair, with his eyes wide open, his hands planted on his knees, and his whole countenance expressive of absorbing and overwhelming astonishment. Sam sat opposite him in perfect silence, waiting, with eager curiosity, for the termination of the scene.
Mr. Stiggins kept the brown pocket-handkerchief before his eyes for some minutes, moaning decently meanwhile, and then, mastering his feelings by a strong effort, put it in his pocket and buttoned it up. After this, he stirred the fire; after that, he rubbed his hands and looked at Sam.
'Oh, my young friend,' said Mr. Stiggins, breaking the silence, in a very low voice, 'here's a sorrowful affliction!'
Sam nodded very slightly.
'For the man of wrath, too!' added Mr. Stiggins; 'it makes a vessel's heart bleed!' Mr. Weller was overheard by his son to murmur something relative to making a vessel's nose bleed; but Mr. Stiggins heard him not. 'Do you know, young man,' whispered Mr. Stiggins, drawing his chair closer to Sam, 'whether she has left Emanuel anything?'
'Who's he?' inquired Sam.
'The chapel,' replied Mr. Stiggins; 'our chapel; our fold, Mr. Samuel.'
'She hasn't left the fold nothin', nor the shepherd nothin', nor the animals nothin',' said Sam decisively; 'nor the dogs neither.'
Mr. Stiggins looked slily at Sam; glanced at the old gentleman, who was sitting with his eyes closed, as if asleep; and drawing his chair still nearer, said —
'Nothing for ME, Mr. Samuel?'
Sam shook his head.
'I think there's something,' said Stiggins, turning as pale as he could turn. 'Consider, Mr. Samuel; no little token?'
'Not so much as the vorth o' that 'ere old umberella o' yourn,' replied Sam.
'Perhaps,' said Mr. Stiggins hesitatingly, after a few moments' deep thought, 'perhaps she recommended me to the care of the man of wrath, Mr. Samuel?'
'I think that's wery likely, from what he said,' rejoined Sam; 'he wos a-speakin' about you, jist now.'
'Was he, though?' exclaimed Stiggins, brightening up. 'Ah! He's changed, I dare say. We might live very comfortably together now, Mr. Samuel, eh? I could take care of his property when you are away — good care, you see.'
Heaving a long-drawn sigh, Mr. Stiggins paused for a response.
Sam nodded, and Mr. Weller the elder gave vent to an extraordinary sound, which, being neither a groan, nor a grunt, nor a gasp, nor a growl, seemed to partake in some degree of the character of all four.
Mr. Stiggins, encouraged by this sound, which he understood to betoken remorse or repentance, looked about him, rubbed his hands, wept, smiled, wept again, and then, walking softly across the room to a well-remembered shelf in one corner, took down a tumbler, and with great deliberation put four lumps of sugar in it. Having got thus far, he looked about him again, and sighed grievously; with that, he walked softly into the bar, and presently returning with the tumbler half full of pine-apple rum, advanced to the kettle which was singing gaily on the hob, mixed his grog, stirred it, sipped it, sat down, and taking a long and hearty pull at the rum-and-water, stopped for breath.
The elder Mr. Weller, who still continued to make various strange and uncouth attempts to appear asleep, offered not a single word during these proceedings; but when Stiggins stopped for breath, he darted upon him, and snatching the tumbler from his hand, threw the remainder of the rum-and-water in his face, and the glass itself into the grate. Then, seizing the reverend gentleman firmly by the collar, he suddenly fell to kicking him most furiously, accompanying every application of his top-boot to Mr. Stiggins's person, with sundry violent and incoherent anathemas upon his limbs, eyes, and body.
'Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, 'put my hat on tight for me.'
Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on his father's head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greater agility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and through the passage, out at the front door, and so into the street — the kicking continuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather than diminishing, every time the top-boot was lifted.
It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller's grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated.
'There!' said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicated kick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from the trough, 'send any vun o' them lazy shepherds here, and I'll pound him to a jelly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a small glass of brandy. I'm out o' breath, my boy.'