The Pickwick Papers
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'The trial's a-comin' on,' replied Sam.
'Vell,' said Mr. Weller, 'Now I s'pose he'll want to call some
witnesses to speak to his character, or p'rhaps to prove a alleybi.
I've been a-turnin' the bis'ness over in my mind, and he may
make his-self easy, Sammy. I've got some friends as'll do either
for him, but my adwice 'ud be this here--never mind the
character, and stick to the alleybi. Nothing like a alleybi, Sammy,
nothing.' Mr. Weller looked very profound as he delivered this
legal opinion; and burying his nose in his tumbler, winked over
the top thereof, at his astonished son.
'Why, what do you mean?' said Sam; 'you don't think he's
a-goin' to be tried at the Old Bailey, do you?'
'That ain't no part of the present consideration, Sammy,'
replied Mr. Weller. 'Verever he's a-goin' to be tried, my boy, a
alleybi's the thing to get him off. Ve got Tom Vildspark off that
'ere manslaughter, with a alleybi, ven all the big vigs to a man
said as nothing couldn't save him. And my 'pinion is, Sammy,
that if your governor don't prove a alleybi, he'll be what the
Italians call reg'larly flummoxed, and that's all about it.'
As the elder Mr. Weller entertained a firm and unalterable
conviction that the Old Bailey was the supreme court of judicature
in this country, and that its rules and forms of proceeding
regulated and controlled the practice of all other courts of justice
whatsoever, he totally disregarded the assurances and arguments
of his son, tending to show that the alibi was inadmissible; and
vehemently protested that Mr. Pickwick was being 'wictimised.'
Finding that it was of no use to discuss the matter further, Sam
changed the subject, and inquired what the second topic was, on
which his revered parent wished to consult him.
'That's a pint o' domestic policy, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller.
'This here Stiggins--'
'Red-nosed man?' inquired Sam.
'The wery same,' replied Mr. Weller. 'This here red-nosed
man, Sammy, wisits your mother-in-law vith a kindness and
constancy I never see equalled. He's sitch a friend o' the family,
Sammy, that wen he's avay from us, he can't be comfortable
unless he has somethin' to remember us by.'
'And I'd give him somethin' as 'ud turpentine and beeswax his
memory for the next ten years or so, if I wos you,' interposed Sam.
'Stop a minute,' said Mr. Weller; 'I wos a-going to say, he
always brings now, a flat bottle as holds about a pint and a half,
and fills it vith the pine-apple rum afore he goes avay.'
'And empties it afore he comes back, I s'pose?' said Sam.
'Clean!' replied Mr. Weller; 'never leaves nothin' in it but the
cork and the smell; trust him for that, Sammy. Now, these here
fellows, my boy, are a-goin' to-night to get up the monthly
meetin' o' the Brick Lane Branch o' the United Grand Junction
Ebenezer Temperance Association. Your mother-in-law wos
a-goin', Sammy, but she's got the rheumatics, and can't; and I,
Sammy--I've got the two tickets as wos sent her.' Mr. Weller
communicated this secret with great glee, and winked so
indefatigably after doing so, that Sam began to think he must have
got the TIC DOLOUREUX in his right eyelid.
'Well?' said that young gentleman.
'Well,' continued his progenitor, looking round him very
cautiously, 'you and I'll go, punctiwal to the time. The deputy-
shepherd won't, Sammy; the deputy-shepherd won't.' Here Mr.
Weller was seized with a paroxysm of chuckles, which gradually
terminated in as near an approach to a choke as an elderly
gentleman can, with safety, sustain.
'Well, I never see sitch an old ghost in all my born days,'
exclaimed Sam, rubbing the old gentleman's back, hard enough
to set him on fire with the friction. 'What are you a-laughin' at,
'Hush! Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, looking round him with
increased caution, and speaking in a whisper. 'Two friends o'
mine, as works the Oxford Road, and is up to all kinds o' games,
has got the deputy-shepherd safe in tow, Sammy; and ven he
does come to the Ebenezer Junction (vich he's sure to do: for
they'll see him to the door, and shove him in, if necessary), he'll
be as far gone in rum-and-water, as ever he wos at the Markis o'
Granby, Dorkin', and that's not sayin' a little neither.' And with
this, Mr. Weller once more laughed immoderately, and once
more relapsed into a state of partial suffocation, in consequence.
Nothing could have been more in accordance with Sam
Weller's feelings than the projected exposure of the real propensities
and qualities of the red-nosed man; and it being very
near the appointed hour of meeting, the father and son took
their way at once to Brick Lane, Sam not forgetting to drop his
letter into a general post-office as they walked along.
The monthly meetings of the Brick Lane Branch of the United
Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association were held in
a large room, pleasantly and airily situated at the top of a safe
and commodious ladder. The president was the straight-walking
Mr. Anthony Humm, a converted fireman, now a schoolmaster,
and occasionally an itinerant preacher; and the secretary was
Mr. Jonas Mudge, chandler's shopkeeper, an enthusiastic and
disinterested vessel, who sold tea to the members. Previous to the
commencement of business, the ladies sat upon forms, and drank
tea, till such time as they considered it expedient to leave off; and
a large wooden money-box was conspicuously placed upon the
green baize cloth of the business-table, behind which
the secretary stood, and acknowledged, with a gracious smile,
every addition to the rich vein of copper which lay concealed within.
On this particular occasion the women drank tea to a most
alarming extent; greatly to the horror of Mr. Weller, senior, who,
utterly regardless of all Sam's admonitory nudgings, stared about
him in every direction with the most undisguised astonishment.
'Sammy,' whispered Mr. Weller, 'if some o' these here people
don't want tappin' to-morrow mornin', I ain't your father, and
that's wot it is. Why, this here old lady next me is a-drowndin'
herself in tea.'
'Be quiet, can't you?' murmured Sam.
'Sam,' whispered Mr. Weller, a moment afterwards, in a tone
of deep agitation, 'mark my vords, my boy. If that 'ere secretary
fellow keeps on for only five minutes more, he'll blow hisself up
with toast and water.'
'Well, let him, if he likes,' replied Sam; 'it ain't no bis'ness
'If this here lasts much longer, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, in
the same low voice, 'I shall feel it my duty, as a human bein', to
rise and address the cheer. There's a young 'ooman on the next
form but two, as has drunk nine breakfast cups and a half; and
she's a-swellin' wisibly before my wery eyes.'
There is little doubt that Mr. Weller would have carried his
benevolent intention into immediate execution, if a great noise,
occasioned by putting up the cups and saucers, had not very
fortunately announced that the tea-drinking was over. The
crockery having been removed, the table with the green baize
cover was carried out into the centre of the room, and the
business of the evening was commenced by a little emphatic man,
with a bald head and drab shorts, who suddenly rushed up the
ladder, at the imminent peril of snapping the two little legs
incased in the drab shorts, and said--
'Ladies and gentlemen, I move our excellent brother, Mr.
Anthony Humm, into the chair.'
The ladies waved a choice selection of pocket-handkerchiefs at
this proposition; and the impetuous little man literally moved
Mr. Humm into the chair, by taking him by the shoulders and
thrusting him into a mahogany-frame which had once represented
that article of furniture. The waving of handkerchiefs was
renewed; and Mr. Humm, who was a sleek, white-faced man, in a
perpetual perspiration, bowed meekly, to the great admiration of
the females, and formally took his seat. Silence was then proclaimed
by the little man in the drab shorts, and Mr. Humm rose
and said--That, with the permission of his Brick Lane Branch
brothers and sisters, then and there present, the secretary would
read the report of the Brick Lane Branch committee; a proposition
which was again received with a demonstration of pocket-handkerchiefs.
The secretary having sneezed in a very impressive manner, and
the cough which always seizes an assembly, when anything
particular is going to be done, having been duly performed, the
following document was read:
'REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE BRICK LANE BRANCH OF THE
UNITED GRAND JUNCTION EBENEZER TEMPERANCE ASSOCIATION
'Your committee have pursued their grateful labours during the
past month, and have the unspeakable pleasure of reporting the
following additional cases of converts to Temperance.
'H. Walker, tailor, wife, and two children. When in better
circumstances, owns to having been in the constant habit of
drinking ale and beer; says he is not certain whether he did not
twice a week, for twenty years, taste "dog's nose," which your
committee find upon inquiry, to be compounded of warm porter,
moist sugar, gin, and nutmeg (a groan, and 'So it is!' from an
elderly female). Is now out of work and penniless; thinks it must
be the porter (cheers) or the loss of the use of his right hand; is
not certain which, but thinks it very likely that, if he had drunk
nothing but water all his life, his fellow-workman would never
have stuck a rusty needle in him, and thereby occasioned his
accident (tremendous cheering). Has nothing but cold water to
drink, and never feels thirsty (great applause).
'Betsy Martin, widow, one child, and one eye. Goes out
charing and washing, by the day; never had more than one eye,
but knows her mother drank bottled stout, and shouldn't wonder
if that caused it (immense cheering). Thinks it not impossible
that if she had always abstained from spirits she might have had
two eyes by this time (tremendous applause). Used, at every
place she went to, to have eighteen-pence a day, a pint of porter,
and a glass of spirits; but since she became a member of the
Brick Lane Branch, has always demanded three-and-sixpence
(the announcement of this most interesting fact was received
with deafening enthusiasm).