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The Pickwick Papers 225







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quickly; is firmly persuaded that their constitution was undermined by the gin-and-water (prolonged cheering). Buys new wooden legs now, and drinks nothing but water and weak tea. The new legs last twice as long as the others used to do, and he attributes this solely to his temperate habits (triumphant cheers). Anthony Humm now moved that the assembly do regale itself with a song. With a view to their rational and moral enjoyment, Brother Mordlin had adapted the beautiful words of Who hasnt heard of a Jolly Young Waterman? to the tune of the Old Hundredth, which he would request them to join him in singing (great applause). He might take that opportunity of expressing his firm persuasion that the late Mr. Dibdin, seeing the errors of his former life, had written that song to show the advantages of abstinence. It was a temperance song (whirlwinds of cheers). The neatness of the young mans attire, the dexterity of his feathering, the enviable state of mind which enabled him in the beautiful words of the poet, to Row along, thinking of nothing at all, all combined to prove that he must have been a water-drinker (cheers). Oh, what a state of virtuous jollity! (rapturous cheering). And what was the young mans reward? Let all young men present mark this: The maidens all flocked to his boat so readily. (Loud cheers, in which the ladies joined.) What a bright example! The sisterhood, the maidens, flocking round the young waterman, and urging him along the stream of duty and of temperance. But, was it the maidens of humble life only, who soothed, consoled, and supported him? No! He was always first oars with the fine city ladies. (Immense cheering.) The soft sex to a man--he begged pardon, to a female--rallied round the young waterman, and turned with disgust from the drinker of spirits (cheers). The Brick Lane Branch brothers were watermen (cheers and laughter). That room was their boat; that audience were the maidens; and he (Mr. Anthony Humm), however unworthily, was first oars (unbounded applause). Wot does he mean by the soft sex, Sammy? inquired Mr. Weller, in a whisper. The womin, said Sam, in the same tone. He aint far out there, Sammy, replied Mr. Weller; they MUST be a soft sex--a wery soft sex, indeed--if they let themselves be gammoned by such fellers as him. Any further observations from the indignant old gentleman were cut short by the announcement of the song, which Mr. Anthony Humm gave out two lines at a time, for the information of such of his hearers as were unacquainted with the legend. While it was being sung, the little man with the drab shorts disappeared; he returned immediately on its conclusion, and whispered Mr. Anthony Humm, with a face of the deepest importance. My friends, said Mr. Humm, holding up his hand in a deprecatory manner, to bespeak the silence of such of the stout old ladies as were yet a line or two behind; my friends, a delegate from the Dorking Branch of our society, Brother Stiggins, attends below. Out came the pocket-handkerchiefs again, in greater force than ever; for Mr. Stiggins was excessively popular among the female constituency of Brick Lane. He may approach, I think, said Mr. Humm, looking round him, with a fat smile. Brother Tadger, let him come forth and greet us. The little man in the drab shorts who answered to the name of Brother Tadger, bustled down the ladder with great speed, and was immediately afterwards heard tumbling up with the Reverend Mr. Stiggins. Hes a-comin, Sammy, whispered Mr. Weller, purple in the countenance with suppressed laughter. Dont say nothin to me, replied Sam, for I cant bear it. Hes close to the door. I hear him a-knockin his head again the lath and plaster now. As Sam Weller spoke, the little door flew open, and Brother Tadger appeared, closely followed by the Reverend Mr. Stiggins, who no sooner entered, than there was a great clapping of hands, and stamping of feet, and flourishing of handkerchiefs; to all of which manifestations of delight, Brother Stiggins returned no other acknowledgment than staring with a wild eye, and a fixed smile, at the extreme top of the wick of the candle on the table, swaying his body to and fro, meanwhile, in a very unsteady and uncertain manner. Are you unwell, Brother Stiggins? whispered Mr. Anthony Humm. I am all right, Sir, replied Mr. Stiggins, in a tone in which ferocity was blended with an extreme thickness of utterance; I am

The Pickwick Papers page 224        The Pickwick Papers page 226