'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.