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Chapter 27


CHAPTER XXVII
SAMUEL WELLER MAKES A PILGRIMAGE TO DORKING,
  AND BEHOLDS HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW


There still remaining an interval of two days before the time agreed
upon for the departure of the Pickwickians to Dingley Dell, Mr.
Weller sat himself down in a back room at the George and Vulture,
after eating an early dinner, to muse on the best way of disposing of
his time.  It was a remarkably fine day; and he had not turned the
matter over in his mind ten minutes, when he was suddenly stricken
filial and affectionate; and it occurred to him so strongly that he
ought to go down and see his father, and pay his duty to his
mother-in-law, that he was lost in astonishment at his own remissness
in never thinking of this moral obligation before.  Anxious to atone
for his past neglect without another hour's delay, he straightway
walked upstairs to Mr. Pickwick, and requested leave of absence for
this laudable purpose.

'Certainly, Sam, certainly,' said Mr. Pickwick, his eyes
glistening with delight at this manifestation of filial feeling on the
part of his attendant; 'certainly, Sam.'

Mr. Weller made a grateful bow.

'I am very glad to see that you have so high a sense of your
duties as a son, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'I always had, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.

'That's a very gratifying reflection, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick
approvingly.

'Wery, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'if ever I wanted anythin' o'
my father, I always asked for it in a wery 'spectful and obligin'
manner.  If he didn't give it me, I took it, for fear I should be led
to do anythin' wrong, through not havin' it.  I saved him a world
o' trouble this vay, Sir.'

'That's not precisely what I meant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick,
shaking his head, with a slight smile.

'All good feelin', sir--the wery best intentions, as the gen'l'm'n
said ven he run away from his wife 'cos she seemed unhappy
with him,' replied Mr. Weller.

'You may go, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.

'Thank'ee, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; and having made his best
bow, and put on his best clothes, Sam planted himself on the top
of the Arundel coach, and journeyed on to Dorking.

The Marquis of Granby, in Mrs. Weller's time, was quite a
model of a roadside public-house of the better class--just large
enough to be convenient, and small enough to be snug.  On the
opposite side of the road was a large sign-board on a high post,
representing the head and shoulders of a gentleman with an
apoplectic countenance, in a red coat with deep blue facings, and
a touch of the same blue over his three-cornered hat, for a sky.
Over that again were a pair of flags; beneath the last button of
his coat were a couple of cannon; and the whole formed an
expressive and undoubted likeness of the Marquis of Granby of
glorious memory.

The bar window displayed a choice collection of geranium
plants, and a well-dusted row of spirit phials.  The open shutters
bore a variety of golden inscriptions, eulogistic of good beds and
neat wines; and the choice group of countrymen and hostlers
lounging about the stable door and horse-trough, afforded
presumptive proof of the excellent quality of the ale and spirits
which were sold within.  Sam Weller paused, when he dismounted
from the coach, to note all these little indications of a thriving
business, with the eye of an experienced traveller; and having
done so, stepped in at once, highly satisfied with everything he
had observed.

'Now, then!' said a shrill female voice the instant Sam thrust
his head in at the door, 'what do you want, young man?'

Sam looked round in the direction whence the voice proceeded.
It came from a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance, who
was seated beside the fireplace in the bar, blowing the fire to
make the kettle boil for tea.  She was not alone; for on the other
side of the fireplace, sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair,
was a man in threadbare black clothes, with a back almost as
long and stiff as that of the chair itself, who caught Sam's most
particular and especial attention at once.

He was a prim-faced, red-nosed man, with a long, thin
countenance, and a semi-rattlesnake sort of eye--rather sharp,
but decidedly bad.  He wore very short trousers, and black cotton
stockings, which, like the rest of his apparel, were particularly
rusty.  His looks were starched, but his white neckerchief was not,
and its long limp ends straggled over his closely-buttoned waistcoat
in a very uncouth and unpicturesque fashion.  A pair of old,
worn, beaver gloves, a broad-brimmed hat, and a faded green
umbrella, with plenty of whalebone sticking through the bottom,
as if to counterbalance the want of a handle at the top, lay on a
chair beside him; and, being disposed in a very tidy and careful
manner, seemed to imply that the red-nosed man, whoever he
was, had no intention of going away in a hurry.

To do the red-nosed man justice, he would have been very far
from wise if he had entertained any such intention; for, to judge
from all appearances, he must have been possessed of a most
desirable circle of acquaintance, if he could have reasonably
expected to be more comfortable anywhere else.  The fire was
blazing brightly under the influence of the bellows, and the kettle
was singing gaily under the influence of both.  A small tray of
tea-things was arranged on the table; a plate of hot buttered
toast was gently simmering before the fire; and the red-nosed
man himself was busily engaged in converting a large slice of
bread into the same agreeable edible, through the instrumentality
of a long brass toasting-fork.  Beside him stood a glass of reeking
hot pine-apple rum-and-water, with a slice of lemon in it; and
every time the red-nosed man stopped to bring the round of toast
to his eye, with the view of ascertaining how it got on, he imbibed
a drop or two of the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and smiled
upon the rather stout lady, as she blew the fire.

Sam was so lost in the contemplation of this comfortable
scene, that he suffered the first inquiry of the rather stout lady to
pass unheeded.  It was not until it had been twice repeated, each
time in a shriller tone, that he became conscious of the
impropriety of his behaviour.

'Governor in?' inquired Sam, in reply to the question.

'No, he isn't,' replied Mrs. Weller; for the rather stout lady
was no other than the quondam relict and sole executrix of the
dead-and-gone Mr. Clarke; 'no, he isn't, and I don't expect him, either.'

'I suppose he's drivin' up to-day?' said Sam.

'He may be, or he may not,' replied Mrs. Weller, buttering
the round of toast which the red-nosed man had just finished.  'I
don't know, and, what's more, I don't care.--Ask a blessin',
Mr. Stiggins.'

The red-nosed man did as he was desired, and instantly
commenced on the toast with fierce voracity.

The appearance of the red-nosed man had induced Sam, at
first sight, to more than half suspect that he was the deputy-
shepherd of whom his estimable parent had spoken.  The moment
he saw him eat, all doubt on the subject was removed, and he
perceived at once that if he purposed to take up his temporary
quarters where he was, he must make his footing good without
delay.  He therefore commenced proceedings by putting his arm
over the half-door of the bar, coolly unbolting it, and leisurely
walking in.

'Mother-in-law,' said Sam, 'how are you?'

'Why, I do believe he is a Weller!' said Mrs. W., raising her
eyes to Sam's face, with no very gratified expression of countenance.

'I rayther think he is,' said the imperturbable Sam; 'and I hope
this here reverend gen'l'm'n 'll excuse me saying that I wish I was
THE Weller as owns you, mother-in-law.'

This was a double-barrelled compliment.  It implied that Mrs.
Weller was a most agreeable female, and also that Mr. Stiggins
had a clerical appearance.  It made a visible impression at once;
and Sam followed up his advantage by kissing his mother-in-law.

'Get along with you!' said Mrs. Weller, pushing him away.
'For shame, young man!' said the gentleman with the red nose.

'No offence, sir, no offence,' replied Sam; 'you're wery right,
though; it ain't the right sort o' thing, ven mothers-in-law is
young and good-looking, is it, Sir?'

'It's all vanity,' said Mr. Stiggins.

'Ah, so it is,' said Mrs. Weller, setting her cap to rights.

Sam thought it was, too, but he held his peace.

The deputy-shepherd seemed by no means best pleased with
Sam's arrival; and when the first effervescence of the compliment
had subsided, even Mrs. Weller looked as if she could have
spared him without the smallest inconvenience.  However, there
he was; and as he couldn't be decently turned out, they all three
sat down to tea.

'And how's father?' said Sam.

At this inquiry, Mrs. Weller raised her hands, and turned up
her eyes, as if the subject were too painful to be alluded to.

Mr. Stiggins groaned.

'What's the matter with that 'ere gen'l'm'n?' inquired Sam.

'He's shocked at the way your father goes on in,' replied Mrs. Weller.

'Oh, he is, is he?' said Sam.

'And with too good reason,' added Mrs. Weller gravely.

Mr. Stiggins took up a fresh piece of toast, and groaned heavily.

'He is a dreadful reprobate,' said Mrs. Weller.

'A man of wrath!' exclaimed Mr. Stiggins.  He took a large
semi-circular bite out of the toast, and groaned again.

Sam felt very strongly disposed to give the reverend Mr.
Stiggins something to groan for, but he repressed his inclination,
and merely asked, 'What's the old 'un up to now?'

'Up to, indeed!' said Mrs. Weller, 'Oh, he has a hard heart.
Night after night does this excellent man--don't frown,
Mr. Stiggins; I WILL say you ARE an excellent man--come and sit
here, for hours together, and it has not the least effect upon him.'
'Well, that is odd,' said Sam; 'it 'ud have a wery considerable
effect upon me, if I wos in his place; I know that.'

'The fact is, my young friend,' said Mr. Stiggins solemnly, 'he
has an obderrate bosom.  Oh, my young friend, who else could
have resisted the pleading of sixteen of our fairest sisters, and
withstood their exhortations to subscribe to our noble society for
providing the infant negroes in the West Indies with flannel
waistcoats and moral pocket-handkerchiefs?'

'What's a moral pocket-ankercher?' said Sam; 'I never see one
o' them articles o' furniter.'

'Those which combine amusement With instruction, my young
friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'blending select tales with wood-cuts.'

'Oh, I know,' said Sam; 'them as hangs up in the linen-drapers'
shops, with beggars' petitions and all that 'ere upon 'em?'

Mr. Stiggins began a third round of toast, and nodded assent.
'And he wouldn't be persuaded by the ladies, wouldn't he?'
said Sam.

'Sat and smoked his pipe, and said the infant negroes were--
what did he say the infant negroes were?' said Mrs. Weller.

'Little humbugs,' replied Mr. Stiggins, deeply affected.

'Said the infant negroes were little humbugs,' repeated Mrs.
Weller.  And they both groaned at the atrocious conduct of the
elder Mr. Weller.

A great many more iniquities of a similar nature might have
been disclosed, only the toast being all eaten, the tea having got
very weak, and Sam holding out no indications of meaning to
go, Mr. Stiggins suddenly recollected that he had a most pressing
appointment with the shepherd, and took himself off accordingly.

The tea-things had been scarcely put away, and the hearth
swept up, when the London coach deposited Mr. Weller, senior,
at the door; his legs deposited him in the bar; and his eyes
showed him his son.

'What, Sammy!' exclaimed the father.

'What, old Nobs!' ejaculated the son.  And they shook hands heartily.

'Wery glad to see you, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller,
'though how you've managed to get over your mother-in-law, is
a mystery to me.  I only vish you'd write me out the receipt,
that's all.'

'Hush!' said Sam, 'she's at home, old feller.'
'She ain't vithin hearin',' replied Mr. Weller; 'she always goes
and blows up, downstairs, for a couple of hours arter tea; so we'll
just give ourselves a damp, Sammy.'

Saying this, Mr. Weller mixed two glasses of spirits-and-water,
and produced a couple of pipes.  The father and son sitting down
opposite each other; Sam on one side of the fire, in the
high-backed chair, and Mr. Weller, senior, on the other, in
an easy ditto, they proceeded to enjoy themselves with all due gravity.

'Anybody been here, Sammy?' asked Mr. Weller, senior,
dryly, after a long silence.

Sam nodded an expressive assent.

'Red-nosed chap?' inquired Mr. Weller.

Sam nodded again.

'Amiable man that 'ere, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, smoking violently.

'Seems so,' observed Sam.

'Good hand at accounts,' said Mr. Weller.
'Is he?' said Sam.

'Borrows eighteenpence on Monday, and comes on Tuesday
for a shillin' to make it up half-a-crown; calls again on Vensday
for another half-crown to make it five shillin's; and goes on,
doubling, till he gets it up to a five pund note in no time, like
them sums in the 'rithmetic book 'bout the nails in the horse's
shoes, Sammy.'

Sam intimated by a nod that he recollected the problem
alluded to by his parent.

'So you vouldn't subscribe to the flannel veskits?' said Sam,
after another interval of smoking.

'Cert'nly not,' replied Mr. Weller; 'what's the good o' flannel
veskits to the young niggers abroad?  But I'll tell you what it is,
Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, lowering his voice, and bending across
the fireplace; 'I'd come down wery handsome towards strait
veskits for some people at home.'

As Mr. Weller said this, he slowly recovered his former position,
and winked at his first-born, in a profound manner.

'it cert'nly seems a queer start to send out pocket-'ankerchers
to people as don't know the use on 'em,' observed Sam.

'They're alvays a-doin' some gammon of that sort, Sammy,'
replied his father.  'T'other Sunday I wos walkin' up the road,
wen who should I see, a-standin' at a chapel door, with a blue
soup-plate in her hand, but your mother-in-law!  I werily believe
there was change for a couple o' suv'rins in it, then, Sammy, all
in ha'pence; and as the people come out, they rattled the pennies
in it, till you'd ha' thought that no mortal plate as ever was
baked, could ha' stood the wear and tear.  What d'ye think it was
all for?'

'For another tea-drinkin', perhaps,' said Sam.

'Not a bit on it,' replied the father; 'for the shepherd's water-
rate, Sammy.'

'The shepherd's water-rate!' said Sam.

'Ay,' replied Mr. Weller, 'there was three quarters owin', and
the shepherd hadn't paid a farden, not he--perhaps it might be
on account that the water warn't o' much use to him, for it's wery
little o' that tap he drinks, Sammy, wery; he knows a trick worth
a good half-dozen of that, he does.  Hows'ever, it warn't paid, and
so they cuts the water off.  Down goes the shepherd to chapel,
gives out as he's a persecuted saint, and says he hopes the heart
of the turncock as cut the water off, 'll be softened, and turned
in the right vay, but he rayther thinks he's booked for somethin'
uncomfortable.  Upon this, the women calls a meetin', sings a
hymn, wotes your mother-in-law into the chair, wolunteers a
collection next Sunday, and hands it all over to the shepherd.
And if he ain't got enough out on 'em, Sammy, to make him free
of the water company for life,' said Mr. Weller, in conclusion,
'I'm one Dutchman, and you're another, and that's all about it.'

Mr. Weller smoked for some minutes in silence, and then resumed--

'The worst o' these here shepherds is, my boy, that they
reg'larly turns the heads of all the young ladies, about here.
Lord bless their little hearts, they thinks it's all right, and don't
know no better; but they're the wictims o' gammon, Samivel,
they're the wictims o' gammon.'

'I s'pose they are,' said Sam.

'Nothin' else,' said Mr. Weller, shaking his head gravely; 'and
wot aggrawates me, Samivel, is to see 'em a-wastin' all their time
and labour in making clothes for copper-coloured people as don't
want 'em, and taking no notice of flesh-coloured Christians as
do.  If I'd my vay, Samivel, I'd just stick some o' these here lazy
shepherds behind a heavy wheelbarrow, and run 'em up and
down a fourteen-inch-wide plank all day.  That 'ud shake the
nonsense out of 'em, if anythin' vould.'

Mr. Weller, having delivered this gentle recipe with strong
emphasis, eked out by a variety of nods and contortions of the
eye, emptied his glass at a draught, and knocked the ashes out of
his pipe, with native dignity.

He was engaged in this operation, when a shrill voice was
heard in the passage.

'Here's your dear relation, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller; and
Mrs. W. hurried into the room.

'Oh, you've come back, have you!' said Mrs. Weller.

'Yes, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller, filling a fresh pipe.

'Has Mr. Stiggins been back?' said Mrs. Weller.

'No, my dear, he hasn't,' replied Mr. Weller, lighting the pipe
by the ingenious process of holding to the bowl thereof, between
the tongs, a red-hot coal from the adjacent fire; and what's more,
my dear, I shall manage to surwive it, if he don't come back
at all.'

'Ugh, you wretch!' said Mrs. Weller.

'Thank'ee, my love,' said Mr. Weller.
'Come, come, father,' said Sam, 'none o' these little lovin's
afore strangers.  Here's the reverend gen'l'm'n a-comin' in now.'
At this announcement, Mrs. Weller hastily wiped off the tears
which she had just begun to force on; and Mr. W. drew his chair
sullenly into the chimney-corner.

Mr. Stiggins was easily prevailed on to take another glass of
the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and a second, and a third, and
then to refresh himself with a slight supper, previous to beginning
again.  He sat on the same side as Mr. Weller, senior; and every
time he could contrive to do so, unseen by his wife, that gentleman
indicated to his son the hidden emotions of his bosom, by
shaking his fist over the deputy-shepherd's head; a process
which afforded his son the most unmingled delight and satisfaction,
the more especially as Mr. Stiggins went on, quietly drinking
the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, wholly unconscious of what
was going forward.

The major part of the conversation was confined to Mrs.
Weller and the reverend Mr. Stiggins; and the topics principally
descanted on, were the virtues of the shepherd, the worthiness of
his flock, and the high crimes and misdemeanours of everybody
beside--dissertations which the elder Mr. Weller occasionally
interrupted by half-suppressed references to a gentleman of the
name of Walker, and other running commentaries of the same kind.

At length Mr. Stiggins, with several most indubitable symptoms
of having quite as much pine-apple rum-and-water about him as
he could comfortably accommodate, took his hat, and his leave;
and Sam was, immediately afterwards, shown to bed by his
father.  The respectable old gentleman wrung his hand fervently,
and seemed disposed to address some observation to his son; but
on Mrs. Weller advancing towards him, he appeared to relinquish
that intention, and abruptly bade him good-night.

Sam was up betimes next day, and having partaken of a hasty
breakfast, prepared to return to London.  He had scarcely set foot
without the house, when his father stood before him.

'Goin', Sammy?' inquired Mr. Weller.

'Off at once,' replied Sam.

'I vish you could muffle that 'ere Stiggins, and take him vith
you,' said Mr. Weller.

'I am ashamed on you!' said Sam reproachfully; 'what do you
let him show his red nose in the Markis o' Granby at all, for?'

Mr. Weller the elder fixed on his son an earnest look, and
replied, ''Cause I'm a married man, Samivel,'cause I'm a married
man.  Ven you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a
good many things as you don't understand now; but vether it's
worth while goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the
charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a
matter o' taste.  I rayther think it isn't.'
'Well,' said Sam, 'good-bye.'

'Tar, tar, Sammy,' replied his father.

'I've only got to say this here,' said Sam, stopping short, 'that
if I was the properiator o' the Markis o' Granby, and that 'ere
Stiggins came and made toast in my bar, I'd--'

'What?' interposed Mr. Weller, with great anxiety.  'What?'

'Pison his rum-and-water,' said Sam.

'No!' said Mr. Weller, shaking his son eagerly by the hand,
'would you raly, Sammy-would you, though?'

'I would,' said Sam.  'I wouldn't be too hard upon him at first.
I'd drop him in the water-butt, and put the lid on; and if I found
he was insensible to kindness, I'd try the other persvasion.'

The elder Mr. Weller bestowed a look of deep, unspeakable
admiration on his son, and, having once more grasped his hand,
walked slowly away, revolving in his mind the numerous reflections
to which his advice had given rise.

Sam looked after him, until he turned a corner of the road;
and then set forward on his walk to London.  He meditated at
first, on the probable consequences of his own advice, and the
likelihood of his father's adopting it.  He dismissed the subject
from his mind, however, with the consolatory reflection that time
alone would show; and this is the reflection we would impress
upon the reader.


Charles Dickens