To mark Charles Dickens's birthday - 201 today - and to celebrate the arrival yesterday from his native New Zealand of my frankly adorable grandson Sam, here's another sample of young Sam's Weller namesake in full flow. This time, Sam Weller has decided to cheer up his distracted master with a blood-curdling anecdote...
They had walked some distance, Mr. Pickwick trotting on before, plunged in
profound meditation, and Sam following behind, with a countenance
expressive of the most enviable and easy defiance of everything and
everybody, when the latter, who was always especially anxious to impart to
his master any exclusive information he possessed, quickened his pace
until he was close at Mr. Pickwick's heels; and, pointing up at a house
they were passing, said—
'Wery nice pork-shop that 'ere, sir.'
'Yes, it seems so,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Celebrated sassage factory,' said Sam.
'Is it?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Is it!' reiterated Sam, with some indignation; 'I should rayther think it
was. Why, sir, bless your innocent eyebrows, that's where the mysterious
disappearance of a 'spectable tradesman took place four years ago.'
'You don't mean to say he was burked, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick, looking
'No, I don't indeed, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, 'I wish I did; far worse
than that. He was the master o' that 'ere shop, sir, and the inwentor o'
the patent-never-leavin'-off sassage steam-ingin, as 'ud swaller up a
pavin' stone if you put it too near, and grind it into sassages as easy as
if it was a tender young babby. Wery proud o' that machine he was, as it
was nat'ral he should be, and he'd stand down in the celler a-lookin' at
it wen it was in full play, till he got quite melancholy with joy. A wery
happy man he'd ha' been, Sir, in the possession o' that 'ere ingin and two
more lovely hinfants besides, if it hadn't been for his wife, who was a
most owdacious wixin. She was always a-follerin' him about, and dinnin' in
his ears, till at last he couldn't stand it no longer. "I'll tell you what
it is, my dear," he says one day; "if you persewere in this here sort of
amusement," he says, "I'm blessed if I don't go away to 'Merriker; and
that's all about it." "You're a idle willin," says she, "and I wish the
'Merrikins joy of their bargain." Arter which she keeps on abusin' of him
for half an hour, and then runs into the little parlour behind the shop,
sets to a-screamin', says he'll be the death on her, and falls in a fit,
which lasts for three good hours—one o' them fits wich is all
screamin' and kickin'. Well, next mornin', the husband was missin'. He
hadn't taken nothin' from the till—hadn't even put on his greatcoat—so
it was quite clear he warn't gone to 'Merriker. Didn't come back next day;
didn't come back next week; missis had bills printed, sayin' that, if he'd
come back, he should be forgiven everythin' (which was very liberal,
seein' that he hadn't done nothin' at all); the canals was dragged, and
for two months arterwards, wenever a body turned up, it was carried, as a
reg'lar thing, straight off to the sassage shop. Hows'ever, none on 'em
answered; so they gave out that he'd run away, and she kep' on the
bis'ness. One Saturday night, a little, thin old gen'l'm'n comes into the
shop in a great passion and says, "Are you the missis o' this here shop?"
"Yes, I am," says she. "Well, ma'am," says he, "then I've just looked in
to say that me and my family ain't a-goin' to be choked for nothin'; and
more than that, ma'am," he says, "you'll allow me to observe that as you
don't use the primest parts of the meat in the manafacter o' sassages, I'd
think you'd find beef come nearly as cheap as buttons." "As buttons, Sir!"
says she. "Buttons, ma'am," says the little, old gentleman, unfolding a
bit of paper, and showin' twenty or thirty halves o' buttons. "Nice
seasonin' for sassages, is trousers' buttons, ma'am." "They're my
husband's buttons!" says the widder beginnin' to faint, "What!" screams
the little old gen'l'm'n, turnin' wery pale. "I see it all," says the
widder; "in a fit of temporary insanity he rashly converted hisself into
sassages!" And so he had, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, looking steadily into Mr.
Pickwick's horror-stricken countenance, 'or else he'd been draw'd into the
ingin; but however that might ha' been, the little old gen'l'm'n, who had
been remarkably partial to sassages all his life, rushed out o' the shop
in a wild state, and was never heerd on arterwards!'