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think of the word 'tenterhooks,' so he said 'broken bottles.'
'Oh, Mr. Bumble!' cried the lady, 'I have been so dreadfully put
'Put out, ma'am!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble; 'who has dared to--? I
know!' said Mr. Bumble, checking himself, with native majesty,
'this is them wicious paupers!'
'It's dreadful to think of!' said the lady, shuddering.
'Then DON'T think of it, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble.
'I can't help it,' whimpered the lady.
'Then take something, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble soothingly. 'A
little of the wine?'
'Not for the world!' replied Mrs. Corney. 'I couldn't,--oh! The
top shelf in the right-hand corner--oh!' Uttering these words,
the good lady pointed, distractedly, to the cupboard, and
underwent a convulsion from internal spasms. Mr. Bumble rushed
to the closet; and, snatching a pint green-glass bottle from the
shelf thus incoherently indicated, filled a tea-cup with its
contents, and held it to the lady's lips.
'I'm better now,' said Mrs. Corney, falling back, after drinking
half of it.
Mr. Bumble raised his eyes piously to the ceiling in
thankfulness; and, bringing them down again to the brim of the
cup, lifted it to his nose.
'Peppermint,' exclaimed Mrs. Corney, in a faint voice, smiling
gently on the beadle as she spoke. 'Try it! There's a little--a
little something else in it.'
Mr. Bumble tasted the medicine with a doubtful look; smacked his
lips; took another taste; and put the cup down empty.
'It's very comforting,' said Mrs. Corney.
'Very much so indeed, ma'am,' said the beadle. As he spoke, he
drew a chair beside the matron, and tenderly inquired what had
happened to distress her.
'Nothing,' replied Mrs. Corney. 'I am a foolish, excitable, weak
'Not weak, ma'am,' retorted Mr. Bumble, drawing his chair a
little closer. 'Are you a weak creetur, Mrs. Corney?'
'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mrs. Corney, laying down a
'So we are,' said the beadle.
Nothing was said on either side, for a minute or two afterwards.
By the expiration of that time, Mr. Bumble had illustrated the
position by removing his left arm from the back of Mrs. Corney's
chair, where it had previously rested, to Mrs. Corney's
aprong-string, round which is gradually became entwined.
'We are all weak creeturs,' said Mr. Bumble.
Mrs. Corney sighed.
'Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney,' said Mr. Bumble.
'I can't help it,' said Mrs. Corney. And she sighed again.
'This is a very comfortable room, ma'am,' said Mr. Bumble looking
round. 'Another room, and this, ma'am, would be a complete
'It would be too much for one,' murmured the lady.
'But not for two, ma'am,' rejoined Mr. Bumble, in soft accents.
'Eh, Mrs. Corney?'
Mrs. Corney drooped her head, when the beadle said this; the
beadle drooped his, to get a view of Mrs. Corney's face. Mrs.
Corney, with great propriety, turned her head away, and released
her hand to get at her pocket-handkerchief; but insensibly
replaced it in that of Mr. Bumble.
'The board allows you coals, don't they, Mrs. Corney?' inquired
the beadle, affectionately pressing her hand.
'And candles,' replied Mrs. Corney, slightly returning the
'Coals, candles, and house-rent free,' said Mr. Bumble. 'Oh,
Mrs. Corney, what an Angel you are!'
The lady was not proof against this burst of feeling. She sank
into Mr. Bumble's arms; and that gentleman in his agitation,
imprinted a passionate kiss upon her chaste nose.
'Such porochial perfection!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, rapturously.
'You know that Mr. Slout is worse to-night, my fascinator?'
'Yes,' replied Mrs. Corney, bashfully.
'He can't live a week, the doctor says,' pursued Mr. Bumble. 'He
is the master of this establishment; his death will cause a
wacancy; that wacancy must be filled up. Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a
prospect this opens! What a opportunity for a jining of hearts
Mrs. Corney sobbed.
'The little word?' said Mr. Bumble, bending over the bashful
beauty. 'The one little, little, little word, my blessed
'Ye--ye--yes!' sighed out the matron.
'One more,' pursued the beadle; 'compose your darling feelings
for only one more. When is it to come off?'
Mrs. Corney twice essayed to speak: and twice failed. At length
summoning up courage, she threw her arms around Mr. Bumble's
neck, and said, it might be as soon as ever he pleased, and that
he was 'a irresistible duck.'
Matters being thus amicably and satisfactorily arranged, the
contract was solemnly ratified in another teacupful of the
peppermint mixture; which was rendered the more necessary, by the
flutter and agitation of the lady's spirits. While it was being
disposed of, she acquainted Mr. Bumble with the old woman's
'Very good,' said that gentleman, sipping his peppermint; 'I'll
call at Sowerberry's as I go home, and tell him to send to-morrow
morning. Was it that as frightened you, love?'
'It wasn't anything particular, dear,' said the lady evasively.
'It must have been something, love,' urged Mr. Bumble. 'Won't you
tell your own B.?'
'Not now,' rejoined the lady; 'one of these days. After we're
'After we're married!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble. 'It wasn't any
impudence from any of them male paupers as--'
'No, no, love!' interposed the lady, hastily.
'If I thought it was,' continued Mr. Bumble; 'if I thought as any
one of 'em had dared to lift his wulgar eyes to that lovely
'They wouldn't have dared to do it, love,' responded the lady.
'They had better not!' said Mr. Bumble, clenching his fist. 'Let
me see any man, porochial or extra-porochial, as would presume to
do it; and I can tell him that he wouldn't do it a second time!'
Unembellished by any violence of gesticulation, this might have
seemed no very high compliment to the lady's charms; but, as Mr.
Bumble accompanied the threat with many warlike gestures, she was
much touched with this proof of his devotion, and protested, with
great admiration, that he was indeed a dove.
The dove then turned up his coat-collar, and put on his cocked
hat; and, having exchanged a long and affectionate embrace with
his future partner, once again braved the cold wind of the night:
merely pausing, for a few minutes, in the male paupers' ward, to
abuse them a little, with the view of satisfying himself that he
could fill the office of workhouse-master with needful acerbity.
Assured of his qualifications, Mr. Bumble left the building with
a light heart, and bright visions of his future promotion: which
served to occupy his mind until he reached the shop of the
Now, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry having gone out to tea and supper:
and Noah Claypole not being at any time disposed to take upon
himself a greater amount of physical exertion than is necessary
to a convenient performance of the two functions of eating and
drinking, the shop was not closed, although it was past the usual
hour of shutting-up. Mr. Bumble tapped with his cane on the
counter several times; but, attracting no attention, and
beholding a light shining through the glass-window of the little
parlour at the back of the shop, he made bold to peep in and see
what was going forward; and when he saw what was going forward,
he was not a little surprised.
The cloth was laid for supper; the table was covered with bread
and butter, plates and glasses; a porter-pot and a wine-bottle.
At the upper end of the table, Mr. Noah Claypole lolled
negligently in an easy-chair, with his legs thrown over one of
the arms: an open clasp-knife in one hand, and a mass of buttered
bread in the other. Close beside him stood Charlotte, opening
oysters from a barrel: which Mr. Claypole condescended to
swallow, with remarkable avidity. A more than ordinary redness
in the region of the young gentleman's nose, and a kind of fixed
wink in his right eye, denoted that he was in a slight degree
intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish