Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 11


Mr. Nicodemus Dumps, or, as his acquaintance called him, 'long
Dumps,' was a bachelor, six feet high, and fifty years old: cross,
cadaverous, odd, and ill-natured. He was never happy but when he
was miserable; and always miserable when he had the best reason to
be happy. The only real comfort of his existence was to make
everybody about him wretched--then he might be truly said to enjoy
life. He was afflicted with a situation in the Bank worth five
hundred a-year, and he rented a 'first-floor furnished,' at
Pentonville, which he originally took because it commanded a dismal
prospect of an adjacent churchyard. He was familiar with the face
of every tombstone, and the burial service seemed to excite his
strongest sympathy. His friends said he was surly--he insisted he
was nervous; they thought him a lucky dog, but he protested that he
was 'the most unfortunate man in the world.' Cold as he was, and
wretched as he declared himself to be, he was not wholly
unsusceptible of attachments. He revered the memory of Hoyle, as
he was himself an admirable and imperturbable whist-player, and he
chuckled with delight at a fretful and impatient adversary. He
adored King Herod for his massacre of the innocents; and if he
hated one thing more than another, it was a child. However, he
could hardly be said to hate anything in particular, because he
disliked everything in general; but perhaps his greatest
antipathies were cabs, old women, doors that would not shut,
musical amateurs, and omnibus cads. He subscribed to the 'Society
for the Suppression of Vice' for the pleasure of putting a stop to
any harmless amusements; and he contributed largely towards the
support of two itinerant methodist parsons, in the amiable hope
that if circumstances rendered any people happy in this world, they
might perchance be rendered miserable by fears for the next.

Mr. Dumps had a nephew who had been married about a year, and who
was somewhat of a favourite with his uncle, because he was an
admirable subject to exercise his misery-creating powers upon. Mr.
Charles Kitterbell was a small, sharp, spare man, with a very large
head, and a broad, good-humoured countenance. He looked like a
faded giant, with the head and face partially restored; and he had
a cast in his eye which rendered it quite impossible for any one
with whom he conversed to know where he was looking. His eyes
appeared fixed on the wall, and he was staring you out of
countenance; in short, there was no catching his eye, and perhaps
it is a merciful dispensation of Providence that such eyes are not
catching. In addition to these characteristics, it may be added
that Mr. Charles Kitterbell was one of the most credulous and
matter-of-fact little personages that ever took TO himself a wife,
and FOR himself a house in Great Russell-street, Bedford-square.
(Uncle Dumps always dropped the 'Bedford-square,' and inserted in
lieu thereof the dreadful words 'Tottenham-court-road.')

'No, but, uncle, 'pon my life you must--you must promise to be
godfather,' said Mr. Kitterbell, as he sat in conversation with his
respected relative one morning.

'I cannot, indeed I cannot,' returned Dumps.

'Well, but why not? Jemima will think it very unkind. It's very
little trouble.'

'As to the trouble,' rejoined the most unhappy man in existence, 'I
don't mind that; but my nerves are in that state--I cannot go
through the ceremony. You know I don't like going out.--For God's
sake, Charles, don't fidget with that stool so; you'll drive me
mad.' Mr. Kitterbell, quite regardless of his uncle's nerves, had
occupied himself for some ten minutes in describing a circle on the
floor with one leg of the office-stool on which he was seated,
keeping the other three up in the air, and holding fast on by the

'I beg your pardon, uncle,' said Kitterbell, quite abashed,
suddenly releasing his hold of the desk, and bringing the three
wandering legs back to the floor, with a force sufficient to drive
them through it.

'But come, don't refuse. If it's a boy, you know, we must have two

'IF it's a boy!' said Dumps; 'why can't you say at once whether it
IS a boy or not?'

'I should be very happy to tell you, but it's impossible I can
undertake to say whether it's a girl or a boy, if the child isn't
born yet.'

'Not born yet!' echoed Dumps, with a gleam of hope lighting up his
lugubrious visage. 'Oh, well, it MAY be a girl, and then you won't
want me; or if it is a boy, it MAY die before it is christened.'

'I hope not,' said the father that expected to be, looking very

'I hope not,' acquiesced Dumps, evidently pleased with the subject.
He was beginning to get happy. 'I hope not, but distressing cases
frequently occur during the first two or three days of a child's
life; fits, I am told, are exceedingly common, and alarming
convulsions are almost matters of course.'

'Lord, uncle!' ejaculated little Kitterbell, gasping for breath.

'Yes; my landlady was confined--let me see--last Tuesday: an
uncommonly fine boy. On the Thursday night the nurse was sitting
with him upon her knee before the fire, and he was as well as
possible. Suddenly he became black in the face, and alarmingly
spasmodic. The medical man was instantly sent for, and every
remedy was tried, but--'

'How frightful!' interrupted the horror-stricken Kitterbell.

'The child died, of course. However, your child MAY not die; and
if it should be a boy, and should LIVE to be christened, why I
suppose I must be one of the sponsors.' Dumps was evidently good-
natured on the faith of his anticipations.

'Thank you, uncle,' said his agitated nephew, grasping his hand as
warmly as if he had done him some essential service. 'Perhaps I
had better not tell Mrs. K. what you have mentioned.'

'Why, if she's low-spirited, perhaps you had better not mention the
melancholy case to her,' returned Dumps, who of course had invented
the whole story; 'though perhaps it would be but doing your duty as
a husband to prepare her for the WORST.'

A day or two afterwards, as Dumps was perusing a morning paper at
the chop-house which he regularly frequented, the following-
paragraph met his eyes:-

'BIRTHS.--On Saturday, the 18th inst., in Great Russell-street, the
lady of Charles Kitterbell, Esq., of a son.'

'It IS a boy!' he exclaimed, dashing down the paper, to the
astonishment of the waiters. 'It IS a boy!' But he speedily
regained his composure as his eye rested on a paragraph quoting the
number of infant deaths from the bills of mortality.

Six weeks passed away, and as no communication had been received
from the Kitterbells, Dumps was beginning to flatter himself that
the child was dead, when the following note painfully resolved his

'Great Russell-street,
Monday morning.

DEAR UNCLE,--You will be delighted to hear that my dear Jemima has
left her room, and that your future godson is getting on capitally.
He was very thin at first, but he is getting much larger, and nurse
says he is filling out every day. He cries a good deal, and is a
very singular colour, which made Jemima and me rather
uncomfortable; but as nurse says it's natural, and as of course we
know nothing about these things yet, we are quite satisfied with
what nurse says. We think he will be a sharp child; and nurse says
she's sure he will, because he never goes to sleep. You will
readily believe that we are all very happy, only we're a little
worn out for want of rest, as he keeps us awake all night; but this
we must expect, nurse says, for the first six or eight months. He
has been vaccinated, but in consequence of the operation being
rather awkwardly performed, some small particles of glass were
introduced into the arm with the matter. Perhaps this may in some
degree account for his being rather fractious; at least, so nurse
says. We propose to have him christened at twelve o'clock on
Friday, at Saint George's church, in Hart-street, by the name of
Frederick Charles William. Pray don't be later than a quarter
before twelve. We shall have a very few friends in the evening,
when of course we shall see you. I am sorry to say that the dear
boy appears rather restless and uneasy to-day: the cause, I fear,
is fever.

'Believe me, dear Uncle,
'Yours affectionately,

'P.S.--I open this note to say that we have just discovered the
cause of little Frederick's restlessness. It is not fever, as I
apprehended, but a small pin, which nurse accidentally stuck in his
leg yesterday evening. We have taken it out, and he appears more
composed, though he still sobs a good deal.'

It is almost unnecessary to say that the perusal of the above
interesting statement was no great relief to the mind of the
hypochondriacal Dumps. It was impossible to recede, however, and
so he put the best face--that is to say, an uncommonly miserable
one--upon the matter; and purchased a handsome silver mug for the
infant Kitterbell, upon which he ordered the initials 'F. C. W.
K.,' with the customary untrained grape-vine-looking flourishes,
and a large full stop, to be engraved forthwith.

Monday was a fine day, Tuesday was delightful, Wednesday was equal
to either, and Thursday was finer than ever; four successive fine
days in London! Hackney-coachmen became revolutionary, and
crossing-sweepers began to doubt the existence of a First Cause.
The Morning Herald informed its readers that an old woman in Camden
Town had been heard to say that the fineness of the season was
'unprecedented in the memory of the oldest inhabitant;' and
Islington clerks, with large families and small salaries, left off
their black gaiters, disdained to carry their once green cotton
umbrellas, and walked to town in the conscious pride of white
stockings and cleanly brushed Bluchers. Dumps beheld all this with
an eye of supreme contempt--his triumph was at hand. He knew that
if it had been fine for four weeks instead of four days, it would
rain when he went out; he was lugubriously happy in the conviction
that Friday would be a wretched day--and so it was. 'I knew how it
would be,' said Dumps, as he turned round opposite the Mansion-
house at half-past eleven o'clock on the Friday morning. 'I knew
how it would be. _I_ am concerned, and that's enough;'--and
certainly the appearance of the day was sufficient to depress the
spirits of a much more buoyant-hearted individual than himself. It
had rained, without a moment's cessation, since eight o'clock;
everybody that passed up Cheapside, and down Cheapside, looked wet,
cold, and dirty. All sorts of forgotten and long-concealed
umbrellas had been put into requisition. Cabs whisked about, with
the 'fare' as carefully boxed up behind two glazed calico curtains
as any mysterious picture in any one of Mrs. Radcliffe's castles;
omnibus horses smoked like steam-engines; nobody thought of
'standing up' under doorways or arches; they were painfully
convinced it was a hopeless case; and so everybody went hastily
along, jumbling and jostling, and swearing and perspiring, and
slipping about, like amateur skaters behind wooden chairs on the
Serpentine on a frosty Sunday.

Dumps paused; he could not think of walking, being rather smart for
the christening. If he took a cab he was sure to be spilt, and a
hackney-coach was too expensive for his economical ideas. An
omnibus was waiting at the opposite corner--it was a desperate
case--he had never heard of an omnibus upsetting or running away,
and if the cad did knock him down, he could 'pull him up' in

'Now, sir!' cried the young gentleman who officiated as 'cad' to
the 'Lads of the Village,' which was the name of the machine just
noticed. Dumps crossed.

'This vay, sir!' shouted the driver of the 'Hark-away,' pulling up
his vehicle immediately across the door of the opposition--'This
vay, sir--he's full.' Dumps hesitated, whereupon the 'Lads of the
Village' commenced pouring out a torrent of abuse against the
'Hark-away;' but the conductor of the 'Admiral Napier' settled the
contest in a most satisfactory manner, for all parties, by seizing
Dumps round the waist, and thrusting him into the middle of his
vehicle which had just come up and only wanted the sixteenth

'All right,' said the 'Admiral,' and off the thing thundered, like
a fire-engine at full gallop, with the kidnapped customer inside,
standing in the position of a half doubled-up bootjack, and falling
about with every jerk of the machine, first on the one side, and
then on the other, like a 'Jack-in-the-green,' on May-day, setting
to the lady with a brass ladle.

'For Heaven's sake, where am I to sit?' inquired the miserable man
of an old gentleman, into whose stomach he had just fallen for the
fourth time.

'Anywhere but on my CHEST, sir,' replied the old gentleman in a
surly tone.

'Perhaps the BOX would suit the gentleman better,' suggested a very
damp lawyer's clerk, in a pink shirt, and a smirking countenance.

After a great deal of struggling and falling about, Dumps at last
managed to squeeze himself into a seat, which, in addition to the
slight disadvantage of being between a window that would not shut,
and a door that must be open, placed him in close contact with a
passenger, who had been walking about all the morning without an
umbrella, and who looked as if he had spent the day in a full
water-butt--only wetter.

'Don't bang the door so,' said Dumps to the conductor, as he shut
it after letting out four of the passengers; I am very nervous--it
destroys me.'

'Did any gen'lm'n say anythink?' replied the cad, thrusting in his
head, and trying to look as if he didn't understand the request.

'I told you not to bang the door so!' repeated Dumps, with an
expression of countenance like the knave of clubs, in convulsions.

'Oh! vy, it's rather a sing'ler circumstance about this here door,
sir, that it von't shut without banging,' replied the conductor;
and he opened the door very wide, and shut it again with a terrific
bang, in proof of the assertion.

'I beg your pardon, sir,' said a little prim, wheezing old
gentleman, sitting opposite Dumps, 'I beg your pardon; but have you
ever observed, when you have been in an omnibus on a wet day, that
four people out of five always come in with large cotton umbrellas,
without a handle at the top, or the brass spike at the bottom?'

'Why, sir,' returned Dumps, as he heard the clock strike twelve,
'it never struck me before; but now you mention it, I--Hollo!
hollo!' shouted the persecuted individual, as the omnibus dashed
past Drury-lane, where he had directed to be set down.--'Where is
the cad?'

'I think he's on the box, sir,' said the young gentleman before
noticed in the pink shirt, which looked like a white one ruled with
red ink.

'I want to be set down!' said Dumps in a faint voice, overcome by
his previous efforts.

'I think these cads want to be SET DOWN,' returned the attorney's
clerk, chuckling at his sally.

'Hollo!' cried Dumps again.

'Hollo!' echoed the passengers. The omnibus passed St. Giles's

'Hold hard!' said the conductor; 'I'm blowed if we ha'n't forgot
the gen'lm'n as vas to be set down at Doory-lane.--Now, sir, make
haste, if you please,' he added, opening the door, and assisting
Dumps out with as much coolness as if it was 'all right.' Dumps's
indignation was for once getting the better of his cynical
equanimity. 'Drury-lane!' he gasped, with the voice of a boy in a
cold bath for the first time.

'Doory-lane, sir?--yes, sir,--third turning on the right-hand side,

Dumps's passion was paramount: he clutched his umbrella, and was
striding off with the firm determination of not paying the fare.
The cad, by a remarkable coincidence, happened to entertain a
directly contrary opinion, and Heaven knows how far the altercation
would have proceeded, if it had not been most ably and
satisfactorily brought to a close by the driver.

'Hollo!' said that respectable person, standing up on the box, and
leaning with one hand on the roof of the omnibus. 'Hollo, Tom!
tell the gentleman if so be as he feels aggrieved, we will take him
up to the Edge-er (Edgeware) Road for nothing, and set him down at
Doory-lane when we comes back. He can't reject that, anyhow.'

The argument was irresistible: Dumps paid the disputed sixpence,
and in a quarter of an hour was on the staircase of No. 14, Great

Everything indicated that preparations were making for the
reception of 'a few friends' in the evening. Two dozen extra
tumblers, and four ditto wine-glasses--looking anything but
transparent, with little bits of straw in them on the slab in the
passage, just arrived. There was a great smell of nutmeg, port
wine, and almonds, on the staircase; the covers were taken off the
stair-carpet, and the figure of Venus on the first landing looked
as if she were ashamed of the composition-candle in her right hand,
which contrasted beautifully with the lamp-blacked drapery of the
goddess of love. The female servant (who looked very warm and
bustling) ushered Dumps into a front drawing-room, very prettily
furnished, with a plentiful sprinkling of little baskets, paper
table-mats, china watchmen, pink and gold albums, and rainbow-bound
little books on the different tables.

'Ah, uncle!' said Mr. Kitterbell, 'how d'ye do? Allow me--Jemima,
my dear--my uncle. I think you've seen Jemima before, sir?'

'Have had the PLEASURE,' returned big Dumps, his tone and look
making it doubtful whether in his life he had ever experienced the

'I'm sure,' said Mrs. Kitterbell, with a languid smile, and a
slight cough. 'I'm sure--hem--any friend--of Charles's--hem--much
less a relation, is--'

'I knew you'd say so, my love,' said little Kitterbell, who, while
he appeared to be gazing on the opposite houses, was looking at his
wife with a most affectionate air: 'Bless you!' The last two
words were accompanied with a simper, and a squeeze of the hand,
which stirred up all Uncle Dumps's bile.

'Jane, tell nurse to bring down baby,' said Mrs. Kitterbell,
addressing the servant. Mrs. Kitterbell was a tall, thin young
lady, with very light hair, and a particularly white face--one of
those young women who almost invariably, though one hardly knows
why, recall to one's mind the idea of a cold fillet of veal. Out
went the servant, and in came the nurse, with a remarkably small
parcel in her arms, packed up in a blue mantle trimmed with white
fur.--This was the baby.

'Now, uncle,' said Mr. Kitterbell, lifting up that part of the
mantle which covered the infant's face, with an air of great
triumph, 'WHO do you think he's like?'

'He! he! Yes, who?' said Mrs. K., putting her arm through her
husband's, and looking up into Dumps's face with an expression of
as much interest as she was capable of displaying.

'Good God, how small he is!' cried the amiable uncle, starting back
with well-feigned surprise; 'REMARKABLY small indeed.'

'Do you think so?' inquired poor little Kitterbell, rather alarmed.
'He's a monster to what he was--ain't he, nurse?'

'He's a dear,' said the nurse, squeezing the child, and evading the
question--not because she scrupled to disguise the fact, but
because she couldn't afford to throw away the chance of Dumps's

'Well, but who is he like?' inquired little Kitterbell.

Dumps looked at the little pink heap before him, and only thought
at the moment of the best mode of mortifying the youthful parents.

'I really don't know WHO he's like,' he answered, very well knowing
the reply expected of him.

'Don't you think he's like ME?' inquired his nephew with a knowing

'Oh, DECIDEDLY not!' returned Dumps, with an emphasis not to be
misunderstood. 'Decidedly not like you.--Oh, certainly not.'

'Like Jemima?' asked Kitterbell, faintly.

'Oh, dear no; not in the least. I'm no judge, of course, in such
cases; but I really think he's more like one of those little carved
representations that one sometimes sees blowing a trumpet on a
tombstone!' The nurse stooped down over the child, and with great
difficulty prevented an explosion of mirth. Pa and ma looked
almost as miserable as their amiable uncle.

'Well!' said the disappointed little father, 'you'll be better able
to tell what he's like by-and-by. You shall see him this evening
with his mantle off.'

'Thank you,' said Dumps, feeling particularly grateful.

'Now, my love,' said Kitterbell to his wife, 'it's time we were
off. We're to meet the other godfather and the godmother at the
church, uncle,--Mr. and Mrs. Wilson from over the way--uncommonly
nice people. My love, are you well wrapped up?'

'Yes, dear.'

'Are you sure you won't have another shawl?' inquired the anxious

'No, sweet,' returned the charming mother, accepting Dumps's
proffered arm; and the little party entered the hackney-coach that
was to take them to the church; Dumps amusing Mrs. Kitterbell by
expatiating largely on the danger of measles, thrush, teeth-
cutting, and other interesting diseases to which children are

The ceremony (which occupied about five minutes) passed off without
anything particular occurring. The clergyman had to dine some
distance from town, and had two churchings, three christenings, and
a funeral to perform in something less than an hour. The
godfathers and godmother, therefore, promised to renounce the devil
and all his works--'and all that sort of thing'--as little
Kitterbell said--'in less than no time;' and with the exception of
Dumps nearly letting the child fall into the font when he handed it
to the clergyman, the whole affair went off in the usual business-
like and matter-of-course manner, and Dumps re-entered the Bank-
gates at two o'clock with a heavy heart, and the painful conviction
that he was regularly booked for an evening party.

Evening came--and so did Dumps's pumps, black silk stockings, and
white cravat which he had ordered to be forwarded, per boy, from
Pentonville. The depressed godfather dressed himself at a friend's
counting-house, from whence, with his spirits fifty degrees below
proof, he sallied forth--as the weather had cleared up, and the
evening was tolerably fine--to walk to Great Russell-street.
Slowly he paced up Cheapside, Newgate-street, down Snow-hill, and
up Holborn ditto, looking as grim as the figure-head of a man-of-
war, and finding out fresh causes of misery at every step. As he
was crossing the corner of Hatton-garden, a man apparently
intoxicated, rushed against him, and would have knocked him down,
had he not been providentially caught by a very genteel young man,
who happened to be close to him at the time. The shock so
disarranged Dumps's nerves, as well as his dress, that he could
hardly stand. The gentleman took his arm, and in the kindest
manner walked with him as far as Furnival's Inn. Dumps, for about
the first time in his life, felt grateful and polite; and he and
the gentlemanly-looking young man parted with mutual expressions of
good will.

'There are at least some well-disposed men in the world,' ruminated
the misanthropical Dumps, as he proceeded towards his destination.

Rat--tat--ta-ra-ra-ra-ra-rat--knocked a hackney-coachman at
Kitterbell's door, in imitation of a gentleman's servant, just as
Dumps reached it; and out came an old lady in a large toque, and an
old gentleman in a blue coat, and three female copies of the old
lady in pink dresses, and shoes to match.

'It's a large party,' sighed the unhappy godfather, wiping the
perspiration from his forehead, and leaning against the area-
railings. It was some time before the miserable man could muster
up courage to knock at the door, and when he did, the smart
appearance of a neighbouring greengrocer (who had been hired to
wait for seven and sixpence, and whose calves alone were worth
double the money), the lamp in the passage, and the Venus on the
landing, added to the hum of many voices, and the sound of a harp
and two violins, painfully convinced him that his surmises were but
too well founded.

'How are you?' said little Kitterbell, in a greater bustle than
ever, bolting out of the little back parlour with a cork-screw in
his hand, and various particles of sawdust, looking like so many
inverted commas, on his inexpressibles.

'Good God!' said Dumps, turning into the aforesaid parlour to put
his shoes on, which he had brought in his coat-pocket, and still
more appalled by the sight of seven fresh-drawn corks, and a
corresponding number of decanters. 'How many people are there up-

'Oh, not above thirty-five. We've had the carpet taken up in the
back drawing-room, and the piano and the card-tables are in the
front. Jemima thought we'd better have a regular sit-down supper
in the front parlour, because of the speechifying, and all that.
But, Lord! uncle, what's the matter?' continued the excited little
man, as Dumps stood with one shoe on, rummaging his pockets with
the most frightful distortion of visage. 'What have you lost?
Your pocket-book?'

'No,' returned Dumps, diving first into one pocket and then into
the other, and speaking in a voice like Desdemona with the pillow
over her mouth.

'Your card-case? snuff-box? the key of your lodgings?' continued
Kitterbell, pouring question on question with the rapidity of

'No! no!' ejaculated Dumps, still diving eagerly into his empty

'Not--not--the MUG you spoke of this morning?'

'Yes, the MUG!' replied Dumps, sinking into a chair.

'How COULD you have done it?' inquired Kitterbell. 'Are you sure
you brought it out?'

'Yes! yes! I see it all!' said Dumps, starting up as the idea
flashed across his mind; 'miserable dog that I am--I was born to
suffer. I see it all: it was the gentlemanly-looking young man!'

'Mr. Dumps!' shouted the greengrocer in a stentorian voice, as he
ushered the somewhat recovered godfather into the drawing-room half
an hour after the above declaration. 'Mr. Dumps!'--everybody
looked at the door, and in came Dumps, feeling about as much out of
place as a salmon might be supposed to be on a gravel-walk.

'Happy to see you again,' said Mrs. Kitterbell, quite unconscious
of the unfortunate man's confusion and misery; 'you must allow me
to introduce you to a few of our friends:- my mamma, Mr. Dumps--my
papa and sisters.' Dumps seized the hand of the mother as warmly
as if she was his own parent, bowed TO the young ladies, and
AGAINST a gentleman behind him, and took no notice whatever of the
father, who had been bowing incessantly for three minutes and a

'Uncle,' said little Kitterbell, after Dumps had been introduced to
a select dozen or two, 'you must let me lead you to the other end
of the room, to introduce you to my friend Danton. Such a splendid
fellow!--I'm sure you'll like him--this way,'--Dumps followed as
tractably as a tame bear.

Mr. Danton was a young man of about five-and-twenty, with a
considerable stock of impudence, and a very small share of ideas:
he was a great favourite, especially with young ladies of from
sixteen to twenty-six years of age, both inclusive. He could
imitate the French-horn to admiration, sang comic songs most
inimitably, and had the most insinuating way of saying impertinent
nothings to his doting female admirers. He had acquired, somehow
or other, the reputation of being a great wit, and, accordingly,
whenever he opened his mouth, everybody who knew him laughed very

The introduction took place in due form. Mr. Danton bowed, and
twirled a lady's handkerchief, which he held in his hand, in a most
comic way. Everybody smiled.

'Very warm,' said Dumps, feeling it necessary to say something.

'Yes. It was warmer yesterday,' returned the brilliant Mr.
Danton.--A general laugh.

'I have great pleasure in congratulating you on your first
appearance in the character of a father, sir,' he continued,
addressing Dumps--'godfather, I mean.'--The young ladies were
convulsed, and the gentlemen in ecstasies.

A general hum of admiration interrupted the conversation, and
announced the entrance of nurse with the baby. An universal rush
of the young ladies immediately took place. (Girls are always SO
fond of babies in company.)

'Oh, you dear!' said one.

'How sweet!' cried another, in a low tone of the most enthusiastic

'Heavenly!' added a third.

'Oh! what dear little arms!' said a fourth, holding up an arm and
fist about the size and shape of the leg of a fowl cleanly picked.

'Did you ever!'--said a little coquette with a large bustle, who
looked like a French lithograph, appealing to a gentleman in three
waistcoats--'Did you ever!'

'Never, in my life,' returned her admirer, pulling up his collar.

'Oh! DO let me take it, nurse,' cried another young lady. 'The

'Can it open its eyes, nurse?' inquired another, affecting the
utmost innocence.--Suffice it to say, that the single ladies
unanimously voted him an angel, and that the married ones, nem.
con., agreed that he was decidedly the finest baby they had ever
beheld--except their own.

The quadrilles were resumed with great spirit. Mr. Danton was
universally admitted to be beyond himself; several young ladies
enchanted the company and gained admirers by singing 'We met'--'I
saw her at the Fancy Fair'--and other equally sentimental and
interesting ballads. 'The young men,' as Mrs. Kitterbell said,
'made themselves very agreeable;' the girls did not lose their
opportunity; and the evening promised to go off excellently. Dumps
didn't mind it: he had devised a plan for himself--a little bit of
fun in his own way--and he was almost happy! He played a rubber
and lost every point Mr. Danton said he could not have lost every
point, because he made a point of losing: everybody laughed
tremendously. Dumps retorted with a better joke, and nobody
smiled, with the exception of the host, who seemed to consider it
his duty to laugh till he was black in the face, at everything.
There was only one drawback--the musicians did not play with quite
as much spirit as could have been wished. The cause, however, was
satisfactorily explained; for it appeared, on the testimony of a
gentleman who had come up from Gravesend in the afternoon, that
they had been engaged on board a steamer all day, and had played
almost without cessation all the way to Gravesend, and all the way
back again.

The 'sit-down supper' was excellent; there were four barley-sugar
temples on the table, which would have looked beautiful if they had
not melted away when the supper began; and a water-mill, whose only
fault was that instead of going round, it ran over the table-cloth.
Then there were fowls, and tongue, and trifle, and sweets, and
lobster salad, and potted beef--and everything. And little
Kitterbell kept calling out for clean plates, and the clean plates
did not come: and then the gentlemen who wanted the plates said
they didn't mind, they'd take a lady's; and then Mrs. Kitterbell
applauded their gallantry, and the greengrocer ran about till he
thought his seven and sixpence was very hardly earned; and the
young ladies didn't eat much for fear it shouldn't look romantic,
and the married ladies eat as much as possible, for fear they
shouldn't have enough; and a great deal of wine was drunk, and
everybody talked and laughed considerably.

'Hush! hush!' said Mr. Kitterbell, rising and looking very
important. 'My love (this was addressed to his wife at the other
end of the table), take care of Mrs. Maxwell, and your mamma, and
the rest of the married ladies; the gentlemen will persuade the
young ladies to fill their glasses, I am sure.'

'Ladies and gentlemen,' said long Dumps, in a very sepulchral voice
and rueful accent, rising from his chair like the ghost in Don
Juan, 'will you have the kindness to charge your glasses? I am
desirous of proposing a toast.'

A dead silence ensued, and the glasses were filled--everybody
looked serious.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' slowly continued the ominous Dumps, 'I'--
(here Mr. Danton imitated two notes from the French-horn, in a very
loud key, which electrified the nervous toast-proposer, and
convulsed his audience).

'Order! order!' said little Kitterbell, endeavouring to suppress
his laughter.

'Order!' said the gentlemen.

'Danton, be quiet,' said a particular friend on the opposite side
of the table.

'Ladies and gentlemen,' resumed Dumps, somewhat recovered, and not
much disconcerted, for he was always a pretty good hand at a
speech--'In accordance with what is, I believe, the established
usage on these occasions, I, as one of the godfathers of Master
Frederick Charles William Kitterbell--(here the speaker's voice
faltered, for he remembered the mug)--venture to rise to propose a
toast. I need hardly say that it is the health and prosperity of
that young gentleman, the particular event of whose early life we
are here met to celebrate--(applause). Ladies and gentlemen, it is
impossible to suppose that our friends here, whose sincere well-
wishers we all are, can pass through life without some trials,
considerable suffering, severe affliction, and heavy losses!'--Here
the arch-traitor paused, and slowly drew forth a long, white
pocket-handkerchief--his example was followed by several ladies.
'That these trials may be long spared them is my most earnest
prayer, my most fervent wish (a distinct sob from the grandmother).
I hope and trust, ladies and gentlemen, that the infant whose
christening we have this evening met to celebrate, may not be
removed from the arms of his parents by premature decay (several
cambrics were in requisition): that his young and now APPARENTLY
healthy form, may not be wasted by lingering disease. (Here Dumps
cast a sardonic glance around, for a great sensation was manifest
among the married ladies.) You, I am sure, will concur with me in
wishing that he may live to be a comfort and a blessing to his
parents. ("Hear, hear!" and an audible sob from Mr. Kitterbell.)
But should he not be what we could wish--should he forget in after
times the duty which he owes to them--should they unhappily
experience that distracting truth, "how sharper than a serpent's
tooth it is to have a thankless child"'--Here Mrs. Kitterbell, with
her handkerchief to her eyes, and accompanied by several ladies,
rushed from the room, and went into violent hysterics in the
passage, leaving her better half in almost as bad a condition, and
a general impression in Dumps's favour; for people like sentiment,
after all.

It need hardly be added, that this occurrence quite put a stop to
the harmony of the evening. Vinegar, hartshorn, and cold water,
were now as much in request as negus, rout-cakes, and bon-bons had
been a short time before. Mrs. Kitterbell was immediately conveyed
to her apartment, the musicians were silenced, flirting ceased, and
the company slowly departed. Dumps left the house at the
commencement of the bustle, and walked home with a light step, and
(for him) a cheerful heart. His landlady, who slept in the next
room, has offered to make oath that she heard him laugh, in his
peculiar manner, after he had locked his door. The assertion,
however, is so improbable, and bears on the face of it such strong
evidence of untruth, that it has never obtained credence to this

The family of Mr. Kitterbell has considerably increased since the
period to which we have referred; he has now two sons and a
daughter; and as he expects, at no distant period, to have another
addition to his blooming progeny, he is anxious to secure an
eligible godfather for the occasion. He is determined, however, to
impose upon him two conditions. He must bind himself, by a solemn
obligation, not to make any speech after supper; and it is
indispensable that he should be in no way connected with 'the most
miserable man in the world.'

Charles Dickens