The Clown Prince of Communism, Aaron Bastani of Jeremy #Corbyn’s #Labour WhatsApp Group …

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Here we see three members of Seumas Milne’s WhatsApp Group, from left to right, Grace Blakeley, Aaron Bastani and Matt Zarb-Cousins, and a wannabe member, Owen Jones, on a boozy Novara Media works outing …
George Aylett is driving.

 

  Waiting for Godot

Does it matter whether Milo Yiannopoulos’ promotion of far right ideas was, as he claimed, just to discombobulate the grandparents?  It won’t have mattered to those who found themselves facing the sharp edge of modern fascism: the terrorism, the racism, the removal of agency from women.  And it didn’t seem to matter to those, like Robert Mercer, who funded him.  But it did matter to Yiannopoulos.  A coquettish flirtation enabled him to avoid the scrutiny that a full blown declaration would require.

We’re right to ask these questions of those who seek seismic change from the right – questions about their true motivations and about who funds them and about who benefits from an ‘ironic when convenient’ stance.  We rightly ask them of institutions like Policy Exchange and the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance and the so-called Institute for Economic Affairs.

But we’re also right to ask them of those who

View original post 896 more words

 

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The Clown Prince of Communism, Aaron Bastani of #Corbyn’s #Labour WhatsApp Group …

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Waiting for Godot

Does it matter whether Milo Yiannopoulos’ promotion of far right ideas was, as he claimed, just to discombobulate the grandparents? It won’t have mattered to those who found themselves facing the sharp edge of modern fascism: the terrorism, the racism, the removal of agency from women. And it didn’t seem to matter to those, like Robert Mercer, who funded him. But it did matter to Yiannopoulos. A coquettish flirtation enabled him to avoid the scrutiny that a full blown declaration would require.

We’re right to ask these questions of those who seek seismic change from the right – questions about their true motivations and about who funds them and about who benefits from an ‘ironic when convenient’ stance. We rightly ask them of institutions like Policy Exchange and the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance and the so-called Institute for Economic Affairs.

But we’re also right to ask them of those who…

View original post 896 more words

.#Labour’s sorry to hear you’re losing your jobs! Jeremy #Corbyn says it’s the Will of the People! Merry Jobs First #BREXIT/#LEXIT in 2019! @JeremyCorbyn & @UKLabour feel your pain … #PeoplesVote

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Tracey Ullman had them down pat.
I can just visualise the clenched fist salute, “The Workers!”

I bet we will not see Jezziah, posing for yet another cynical photo opportunity, whilst chatting to Jaguar workers about the Will of the People and his Jobs First BREXIT/LEXIT.

We have heard a lot from the Cult of Corbyn about the Blessed Tony Benn, but he would have done, he did do, way better than this when he was Labour Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

He would have Tweeted something more than cliché to stop Greg Clark dead in his tracks.

Tony Benn would have been up all night, assembling the information for when the next day he put down an Urgent Question to demand that Rt Hon Greg Clark, MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy come to the House of Commons to explain how his Government were planning to respond to job losses, like those at Jaguar.

Actions have consequences and if they back BREXIT, they should have called long ago for the Government to activate measures to help minimise the socio-economic consequences of BREXIT.

But, instead, they have preferred to passionately debate abstract concepts like the Will of the People.  Anything, but accept that Project Fear is now Project Reality for 5,000 fellow citizens.

They are placing burdens on the narrowest shoulders.

They are putting burdens on the People.

Corbyn and Rees-Mogg are not Children of the People.

They were not brought up amongst them.

They do not know their trials.

And yet they plan to add, immeasurably, to the anxieties which they expect the People and their Children to bear, uncomplaining, with patience and fortitude.

Many cupboards will be barer than today.

The lot of many will be harder than today.

But rest assured, People, all will be well, bright and cheery chez Corbyn, atop McCluskey Towers and at Rees-Mogg Hall this Christmas and at Christmastides yet to come!

They will not share the BREXIT/LEXIT burdens of the People.

For the likes of Corbyn, McCluskey and Rees-Mogg, unemployment and poverty are things that happen to other people.

The Will of the People will not put food on the Table of the People or console the 5,000 Jaguar workers (and how many other poor souls?), now spending Christmas worrying about the prospect of being out of work, early in the New Year.

In 2019, the Year of Unity and getting on with BREXIT/LEXIT!

Happy New Year!

A gurn, a sickly grin and a meaningless slogan …
Jeremy Corbyn’s political career in a single sentence.

With due apologies to David Lloyd George for a little plagiarism and adaptation.

I am sure you would not DLG disapprove of a relative, in spirit, if not blood, taking such liberties at a time such as this?

Under a Jeremy #Corbyn led #Labour Government, will the critically ill, terminally ill and those with degenerative diseases be expected to take up their beds and walk to work?

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Iain Duncan Smith introduced the benefits freeze in April 2015 to force people off Social Security and into work.
Labour in Government, under Jeremy Corbyn, plans to persevere with the policy, indefinitely …

On Tuesday 24th July 2018, Jeremy Corbyn attacked the use of “cheap labour from abroad”.

Labour’s 2017 General Election Manifesto, enthusiastically endorsed by Jeremy Corbyn, would have kept £7 billion of the £9 billion of Tory Social Security cuts for which Jacob Rees-Mogg cheerfully voted and over which IDS resigned.

The benefits freeze hits people on Employment and Support Allowance (including the critically ill, terminally ill and those with degenerative diseases), Income Support (which is mostly claimed by lone parents until their youngest child is 5) and Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Had Kinnock or Smith or Blair or Brown or Miliband gone into a General Election not committed to ending the benefits freeze and scrapping the benefits cap then Corbyn and many of his supporters would have been all over them like a rash.

And rightly so …

But when Jeremy does it, they are ok with it.

Jeremy Corbyn may significantly ease the sanctions regime put in place by the Conservatives since May 2010, but the most effective sanction is one that sees the real value of a benefit decline day by day, forcing people into work.

Under a Corbyn led Labour Government, will the critically ill, terminally ill and those with degenerative diseases be expected to take up their beds and walk to work to fully benefit from his premiership?

The basic weekly rates of Employment and Support Allowance, Income Support and Jobseeker’s Allowance, for someone aged 25 and over, have been £73.10 per week since April 2015.

They are £73.10 per week, today.

They would remain, indefinitely, £73.10 per week under a Labour Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Christmas at Dingley Dell …

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A good-humoured Christmas Chapter, containing an Account of a Wedding, and some other Sports beside: which although in their Way even as good Customs as Marriage itself, are not quite so religiously kept up, in these degenerate Times

As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the four Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day of December, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recorded adventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by its coming.

And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual goodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight; and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition of existence, provided for the blessed and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!

We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!

But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of this saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his friends waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggleton coach, which they have just attained, well wrapped up in great- coats, shawls, and comforters. The portmanteaus and carpet- bags have been stowed away, and Mr. Weller and the guard are endeavouring to insinuate into the fore-boot a huge cod-fish several sizes too large for it–which is snugly packed up, in a long brown basket, with a layer of straw over the top, and which has been left to the last, in order that he may repose in safety on the half-dozen barrels of real native oysters, all the property of Mr. Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at the bottom of the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick’s countenance is most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try to squeeze the cod-fish into the boot, first head first, and then tail first, and then top upward, and then bottom upward, and then side-ways, and then long-ways, all of which artifices the implacable cod-fish sturdily resists, until the guard accidentally hits him in the very middle of the basket, whereupon he suddenly disappears into the boot, and with him, the head and shoulders of the guard himself, who, not calculating upon so sudden a cessation of the passive resistance of the cod-fish, experiences a very unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight of all the porters and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles with great good-humour, and drawing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket, begs the guard, as he picks himself out of the boot, to drink his health in a glass of hot brandy-and-water; at which the guard smiles too, and Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, all smile in company. The guard and Mr. Weller disappear for five minutes, most probably to get the hot brandy-and-water, for they smell very strongly of it, when they return, the coachman mounts to the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickians pull their coats round their legs and their shawls over their noses, the helpers pull the horse-cloths off, the coachman shouts out a cheery ‘All right,’ and away they go.

They have rumbled through the streets, and jolted over the stones, and at length reach the wide and open country. The wheels skim over the hard and frosty ground; and the horses, bursting into a canter at a smart crack of the whip, step along the road as if the load behind them–coach, passengers, cod-fish, oyster-barrels, and all–were but a feather at their heels. They have descended a gentle slope, and enter upon a level, as compact and dry as a solid block of marble, two miles long. Another crack of the whip, and on they speed, at a smart gallop, the horses tossing their heads and rattling the harness, as if in exhilaration at the rapidity of the motion; while the coachman, holding whip and reins in one hand, takes off his hat with the other, and resting it on his knees, pulls out his handkerchief, and wipes his forehead, partly because he has a habit of doing it, and partly because it’s as well to show the passengers how cool he is, and what an easy thing it is to drive four-in-hand, when you have had as much practice as he has. Having done this very leisurely (otherwise the effect would be materially impaired), he replaces his handkerchief, pulls on his hat, adjusts his gloves, squares his elbows, cracks the whip again, and on they speed, more merrily than before. A few small houses, scattered on either side of the road, betoken the entrance to some town or village. The lively notes of the guard’s key-bugle vibrate in the clear cold air, and wake up the old gentleman inside, who, carefully letting down the window-sash half-way, and standing sentry over the air, takes a short peep out, and then carefully pulling it up again, informs the other inside that they’re going to change directly; on which the other inside wakes himself up, and determines to postpone his next nap until after the stoppage. Again the bugle sounds lustily forth, and rouses the cottager’s wife and children, who peep out at the house door, and watch the coach till it turns the corner, when they once more crouch round the blazing fire, and throw on another log of wood against father comes home; while father himself, a full mile off, has just exchanged a friendly nod with the coachman, and turned round to take a good long stare at the vehicle as it whirls away.

And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattles through the ill-paved streets of a country town; and the coachman, undoing the buckle which keeps his ribands together, prepares to throw them off the moment he stops. Mr. Pickwick emerges from his coat collar, and looks about him with great curiosity; perceiving which, the coachman informs Mr. Pickwick of the name of the town, and tells him it was market-day yesterday, both of which pieces of information Mr. Pickwick retails to his fellow-passengers; whereupon they emerge from their coat collars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits at the extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearly precipitated into the street, as the coach twists round the sharp corner by the cheesemonger’s shop, and turns into the market- place; and before Mr. Snodgrass, who sits next to him, has recovered from his alarm, they pull up at the inn yard where the fresh horses, with cloths on, are already waiting. The coachman throws down the reins and gets down himself, and the other outside passengers drop down also; except those who have no great confidence in their ability to get up again; and they remain where they are, and stamp their feet against the coach to warm them–looking, with longing eyes and red noses, at the bright fire in the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries which ornament the window.

But the guard has delivered at the corn-dealer’s shop, the brown paper packet he took out of the little pouch which hangs over his shoulder by a leathern strap; and has seen the horses carefully put to; and has thrown on the pavement the saddle which was brought from London on the coach roof; and has assisted in the conference between the coachman and the hostler about the gray mare that hurt her off fore-leg last Tuesday; and he and Mr. Weller are all right behind, and the coachman is all right in front, and the old gentleman inside, who has kept the window down full two inches all this time, has pulled it up again, and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, except the ‘two stout gentlemen,’ whom the coachman inquires after with some impatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard, and Sam Weller, and Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and all the hostlers, and every one of the idlers, who are more in number than all the others put together, shout for the missing gentlemen as loud as they can bawl. A distant response is heard from the yard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it, quite out of breath, for they have been having a glass of ale a-piece, and Mr. Pickwick’s fingers are so cold that he has been full five minutes before he could find the sixpence to pay for it. The coachman shouts an admonitory ‘Now then, gen’l’m’n,’ the guard re-echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a very extraordinary thing that people will get down when they know there isn’t time for it; Mr. Pickwick struggles up on one side, Mr. Tupman on the other; Mr. Winkle cries ‘All right’; and off they start. Shawls are pulled up, coat collars are readjusted, the pavement ceases, the houses disappear; and they are once again dashing along the open road, with the fresh clear air blowing in their faces, and gladdening their very hearts within them.

Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by the Muggleton Telegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and at three o’clock that afternoon they all stood high and dry, safe and sound, hale and hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion, having taken on the road quite enough of ale and brandy, to enable them to bid defiance to the frost that was binding up the earth in its iron fetters, and weaving its beautiful network upon the trees and hedges. Mr. Pickwick was busily engaged in counting the barrels of oysters and superintending the disinterment of the cod-fish, when he felt himself gently pulled by the skirts of the coat. Looking round, he discovered that the individual who resorted to this mode of catching his attention was no other than Mr. Wardle’s favourite page, better known to the readers of this unvarnished history, by the distinguishing appellation of the fat boy.

‘Aha!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Aha!’ said the fat boy.

As he said it, he glanced from the cod-fish to the oyster- barrels, and chuckled joyously. He was fatter than ever.

‘Well, you look rosy enough, my young friend,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘I’ve been asleep, right in front of the taproom fire,’ replied the fat boy, who had heated himself to the colour of a new chimney- pot, in the course of an hour’s nap. ‘Master sent me over with the shay-cart, to carry your luggage up to the house. He’d ha’ sent some saddle-horses, but he thought you’d rather walk, being a cold day.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily, for he remembered how they had travelled over nearly the same ground on a previous occasion. ‘Yes, we would rather walk. Here, Sam!’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Weller.

‘Help Mr. Wardle’s servant to put the packages into the cart, and then ride on with him. We will walk forward at once.’

Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman, Mr. Pickwick and his three friends struck into the footpath across the fields, and walked briskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and the fat boy confronted together for the first time. Sam looked at the fat boy with great astonishment, but without saying a word; and began to stow the luggage rapidly away in the cart, while the fat boy stood quietly by, and seemed to think it a very interesting sort of thing to see Mr. Weller working by himself.

‘There,’ said Sam, throwing in the last carpet-bag, ‘there they are!’

‘Yes,’ said the fat boy, in a very satisfied tone, ‘there they are.’

‘Vell, young twenty stun,’ said Sam, ‘you’re a nice specimen of a prize boy, you are!’

‘Thank’ee,’ said the fat boy.

‘You ain’t got nothin’ on your mind as makes you fret yourself, have you?’ inquired Sam.

‘Not as I knows on,’ replied the fat boy.

‘I should rayther ha’ thought, to look at you, that you was a-labourin’ under an unrequited attachment to some young ‘ooman,’ said Sam.

The fat boy shook his head.

‘Vell,’ said Sam, ‘I am glad to hear it. Do you ever drink anythin’?’

‘I likes eating better,’ replied the boy.

‘Ah,’ said Sam, ‘I should ha’ s’posed that; but what I mean is, should you like a drop of anythin’ as’d warm you? but I s’pose you never was cold, with all them elastic fixtures, was you?’

‘Sometimes,’ replied the boy; ‘and I likes a drop of something, when it’s good.’

‘Oh, you do, do you?’ said Sam, ‘come this way, then!’

The Blue Lion tap was soon gained, and the fat boy swallowed a glass of liquor without so much as winking–a feat which considerably advanced him in Mr. Weller’s good opinion. Mr. Weller having transacted a similar piece of business on his own account, they got into the cart.

‘Can you drive?’ said the fat boy.

‘I should rayther think so,’ replied Sam.

‘There, then,’ said the fat boy, putting the reins in his hand, and pointing up a lane, ‘it’s as straight as you can go; you can’t miss it.’

With these words, the fat boy laid himself affectionately down by the side of the cod-fish, and, placing an oyster-barrel under his head for a pillow, fell asleep instantaneously.

‘Well,’ said Sam, ‘of all the cool boys ever I set my eyes on, this here young gen’l’m’n is the coolest. Come, wake up, young dropsy!’

But as young dropsy evinced no symptoms of returning animation, Sam Weller sat himself down in front of the cart, and starting the old horse with a jerk of the rein, jogged steadily on, towards the Manor Farm.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pickwick and his friends having walked their blood into active circulation, proceeded cheerfully on. The paths were hard; the grass was crisp and frosty; the air had a fine, dry, bracing coldness; and the rapid approach of the gray twilight (slate-coloured is a better term in frosty weather) made them look forward with pleasant anticipation to the comforts which awaited them at their hospitable entertainer’s. It was the sort of afternoon that might induce a couple of elderly gentlemen, in a lonely field, to take off their greatcoats and play at leap-frog in pure lightness of heart and gaiety; and we firmly believe that had Mr. Tupman at that moment proffered ‘a back,’ Mr. Pickwick would have accepted his offer with the utmost avidity.

However, Mr. Tupman did not volunteer any such accommodation, and the friends walked on, conversing merrily. As they turned into a lane they had to cross, the sound of many voices burst upon their ears; and before they had even had time to form a guess to whom they belonged, they walked into the very centre of the party who were expecting their arrival–a fact which was first notified to the Pickwickians, by the loud ‘Hurrah,’ which burst from old Wardle’s lips, when they appeared in sight.

First, there was Wardle himself, looking, if that were possible, more jolly than ever; then there were Bella and her faithful Trundle; and, lastly, there were Emily and some eight or ten young ladies, who had all come down to the wedding, which was to take place next day, and who were in as happy and important a state as young ladies usually are, on such momentous occasions; and they were, one and all, startling the fields and lanes, far and wide, with their frolic and laughter.

The ceremony of introduction, under such circumstances, was very soon performed, or we should rather say that the introduction was soon over, without any ceremony at all. In two minutes thereafter, Mr. Pickwick was joking with the young ladies who wouldn’t come over the stile while he looked–or who, having pretty feet and unexceptionable ankles, preferred standing on the top rail for five minutes or so, declaring that they were too frightened to move–with as much ease and absence of reserve or constraint, as if he had known them for life. It is worthy of remark, too, that Mr. Snodgrass offered Emily far more assistance than the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full three feet high, and had only a couple of stepping-stones) would seem to require; while one black-eyed young lady in a very nice little pair of boots with fur round the top, was observed to scream very loudly, when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over.

All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficulties of the stile were at last surmounted, and they once more entered on the open field, old Wardle informed Mr. Pickwick how they had all been down in a body to inspect the furniture and fittings- up of the house, which the young couple were to tenant, after the Christmas holidays; at which communication Bella and Trundle both coloured up, as red as the fat boy after the taproom fire; and the young lady with the black eyes and the fur round the boots, whispered something in Emily’s ear, and then glanced archly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emily responded that she was a foolish girl, but turned very red, notwithstanding; and Mr. Snodgrass, who was as modest as all great geniuses usually are, felt the crimson rising to the crown of his head, and devoutly wished, in the inmost recesses of his own heart, that the young lady aforesaid, with her black eyes, and her archness, and her boots with the fur round the top, were all comfortably deposited in the adjacent county.

But if they were social and happy outside the house, what was the warmth and cordiality of their reception when they reached the farm! The very servants grinned with pleasure at sight of Mr. Pickwick; and Emma bestowed a half-demure, half-impudent, and all-pretty look of recognition, on Mr. Tupman, which was enough to make the statue of Bonaparte in the passage, unfold his arms, and clasp her within them.

The old lady was seated with customary state in the front parlour, but she was rather cross, and, by consequence, most particularly deaf. She never went out herself, and like a great many other old ladies of the same stamp, she was apt to consider it an act of domestic treason, if anybody else took the liberty of doing what she couldn’t. So, bless her old soul, she sat as upright as she could, in her great chair, and looked as fierce as might be –and that was benevolent after all.

‘Mother,’ said Wardle, ‘Mr. Pickwick. You recollect him?’

‘Never mind,’ replied the old lady, with great dignity. ‘Don’t trouble Mr. Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody cares about me now, and it’s very nat’ral they shouldn’t.’ Here the old lady tossed her head, and smoothed down her lavender-coloured silk dress with trembling hands.

‘Come, come, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I can’t let you cut an old friend in this way. I have come down expressly to have a long talk, and another rubber with you; and we’ll show these boys and girls how to dance a minuet, before they’re eight-and- forty hours older.’

The old lady was rapidly giving way, but she did not like to do it all at once; so she only said, ‘Ah! I can’t hear him!’

‘Nonsense, mother,’ said Wardle. ‘Come, come, don’t be cross, there’s a good soul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keep her spirits up, poor girl.’

The good old lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her son said it. But age has its little infirmities of temper, and she was not quite brought round yet. So, she smoothed down the lavender-coloured dress again, and turning to Mr. Pickwick said, ‘Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very different, when I was a girl.’

‘No doubt of that, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and that’s the reason why I would make much of the few that have any traces of the old stock’–and saying this, Mr. Pickwick gently pulled Bella towards him, and bestowing a kiss upon her forehead, bade her sit down on the little stool at her grandmother’s feet. Whether the expression of her countenance, as it was raised towards the old lady’s face, called up a thought of old times, or whether the old lady was touched by Mr. Pickwick’s affectionate good-nature, or whatever was the cause, she was fairly melted; so she threw herself on her granddaughter’s neck, and all the little ill-humour evaporated in a gush of silent tears.

A happy party they were, that night. Sedate and solemn were the score of rubbers in which Mr. Pickwick and the old lady played together; uproarious was the mirth of the round table. Long after the ladies had retired, did the hot elder wine, well qualified with brandy and spice, go round, and round, and round again; and sound was the sleep and pleasant were the dreams that followed. It is a remarkable fact that those of Mr. Snodgrass bore constant reference to Emily Wardle; and that the principal figure in Mr. Winkle’s visions was a young lady with black eyes, and arch smile, and a pair of remarkably nice boots with fur round the tops.

Mr. Pickwick was awakened early in the morning, by a hum of voices and a pattering of feet, sufficient to rouse even the fat boy from his heavy slumbers. He sat up in bed and listened. The female servants and female visitors were running constantly to and fro; and there were such multitudinous demands for hot water, such repeated outcries for needles and thread, and so many half-suppressed entreaties of ‘Oh, do come and tie me, there’s a dear!’ that Mr. Pickwick in his innocence began to imagine that something dreadful must have occurred–when he grew more awake, and remembered the wedding. The occasion being an important one, he dressed himself with peculiar care, and descended to the breakfast-room.

There were all the female servants in a bran new uniform of pink muslin gowns with white bows in their caps, running about the house in a state of excitement and agitation which it would be impossible to describe. The old lady was dressed out in a brocaded gown, which had not seen the light for twenty years, saving and excepting such truant rays as had stolen through the chinks in the box in which it had been laid by, during the whole time. Mr. Trundle was in high feather and spirits, but a little nervous withal. The hearty old landlord was trying to look very cheerful and unconcerned, but failing signally in the attempt. All the girls were in tears and white muslin, except a select two or three, who were being honoured with a private view of the bride and bridesmaids, upstairs. All the Pickwickians were in most blooming array; and there was a terrific roaring on the grass in front of the house, occasioned by all the men, boys, and hobbledehoys attached to the farm, each of whom had got a white bow in his button-hole, and all of whom were cheering with might and main; being incited thereto, and stimulated therein by the precept and example of Mr. Samuel Weller, who had managed to become mighty popular already, and was as much at home as if he had been born on the land.

A wedding is a licensed subject to joke upon, but there really is no great joke in the matter after all;–we speak merely of the ceremony, and beg it to be distinctly understood that we indulge in no hidden sarcasm upon a married life. Mixed up with the pleasure and joy of the occasion, are the many regrets at quitting home, the tears of parting between parent and child, the consciousness of leaving the dearest and kindest friends of the happiest portion of human life, to encounter its cares and troubles with others still untried and little known–natural feelings which we would not render this chapter mournful by describing, and which we should be still more unwilling to be supposed to ridicule.

Let us briefly say, then, that the ceremony was performed by the old clergyman, in the parish church of Dingley Dell, and that Mr. Pickwick’s name is attached to the register, still preserved in the vestry thereof; that the young lady with the black eyes signed her name in a very unsteady and tremulous manner; that Emily’s signature, as the other bridesmaid, is nearly illegible; that it all went off in very admirable style; that the young ladies generally thought it far less shocking than they had expected; and that although the owner of the black eyes and the arch smile informed Mr. Wardle that she was sure she could never submit to anything so dreadful, we have the very best reasons for thinking she was mistaken. To all this, we may add, that Mr. Pickwick was the first who saluted the bride, and that in so doing he threw over her neck a rich gold watch and chain, which no mortal eyes but the jeweller’s had ever beheld before. Then, the old church bell rang as gaily as it could, and they all returned to breakfast.

‘Vere does the mince-pies go, young opium-eater?’ said Mr. Weller to the fat boy, as he assisted in laying out such articles of consumption as had not been duly arranged on the previous night.

The fat boy pointed to the destination of the pies.

‘Wery good,’ said Sam, ‘stick a bit o’ Christmas in ’em. T’other dish opposite. There; now we look compact and comfortable, as the father said ven he cut his little boy’s head off, to cure him o’ squintin’.’

As Mr. Weller made the comparison, he fell back a step or two, to give full effect to it, and surveyed the preparations with the utmost satisfaction.

‘Wardle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, almost as soon as they were all seated, ‘a glass of wine in honour of this happy occasion!’

‘I shall be delighted, my boy,’ said Wardle. ‘Joe–damn that boy, he’s gone to sleep.’

‘No, I ain’t, sir,’ replied the fat boy, starting up from a remote corner, where, like the patron saint of fat boys–the immortal Horner–he had been devouring a Christmas pie, though not with the coolness and deliberation which characterised that young gentleman’s proceedings.

‘Fill Mr. Pickwick’s glass.’

‘Yes, sir.’

The fat boy filled Mr. Pickwick’s glass, and then retired behind his master’s chair, from whence he watched the play of the knives and forks, and the progress of the choice morsels from the dishes to the mouths of the company, with a kind of dark and gloomy joy that was most impressive.

‘God bless you, old fellow!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Same to you, my boy,’ replied Wardle; and they pledged each other, heartily.

‘Mrs. Wardle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘we old folks must have a glass of wine together, in honour of this joyful event.’

The old lady was in a state of great grandeur just then, for she was sitting at the top of the table in the brocaded gown, with her newly-married granddaughter on one side, and Mr. Pickwick on the other, to do the carving. Mr. Pickwick had not spoken in a very loud tone, but she understood him at once, and drank off a full glass of wine to his long life and happiness; after which the worthy old soul launched forth into a minute and particular account of her own wedding, with a dissertation on the fashion of wearing high-heeled shoes, and some particulars concerning the life and adventures of the beautiful Lady Tollimglower, deceased; at all of which the old lady herself laughed very heartily indeed, and so did the young ladies too, for they were wondering among themselves what on earth grandma was talking about. When they laughed, the old lady laughed ten times more heartily, and said that these always had been considered capital stories, which caused them all to laugh again, and put the old lady into the very best of humours. Then the cake was cut, and passed through the ring; the young ladies saved pieces to put under their pillows to dream of their future husbands on; and a great deal of blushing and merriment was thereby occasioned.

‘Mr. Miller,’ said Mr. Pickwick to his old acquaintance, the hard-headed gentleman, ‘a glass of wine?’

‘With great satisfaction, Mr. Pickwick,’ replied the hard- headed gentleman solemnly.

‘You’ll take me in?’ said the benevolent old clergyman.

‘And me,’ interposed his wife.

‘And me, and me,’ said a couple of poor relations at the bottom of the table, who had eaten and drunk very heartily, and laughed at everything.

Mr. Pickwick expressed his heartfelt delight at every additional suggestion; and his eyes beamed with hilarity and cheerfulness. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly rising.

‘Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear!’ cried Mr. Weller, in the excitement of his feelings.

‘Call in all the servants,’ cried old Wardle, interposing to prevent the public rebuke which Mr. Weller would otherwise most indubitably have received from his master. ‘Give them a glass of wine each to drink the toast in. Now, Pickwick.’

Amidst the silence of the company, the whispering of the women-servants, and the awkward embarrassment of the men, Mr. Pickwick proceeded–

‘Ladies and gentlemen–no, I won’t say ladies and gentlemen, I’ll call you my friends, my dear friends, if the ladies will allow me to take so great a liberty–‘

Here Mr. Pickwick was interrupted by immense applause from the ladies, echoed by the gentlemen, during which the owner of the eyes was distinctly heard to state that she could kiss that dear Mr. Pickwick. Whereupon Mr. Winkle gallantly inquired if it couldn’t be done by deputy: to which the young lady with the black eyes replied ‘Go away,’ and accompanied the request with a look which said as plainly as a look could do, ‘if you can.’

‘My dear friends,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘I am going to propose the health of the bride and bridegroom–God bless ’em (cheers and tears). My young friend, Trundle, I believe to be a very excellent and manly fellow; and his wife I know to be a very amiable and lovely girl, well qualified to transfer to another sphere of action the happiness which for twenty years she has diffused around her, in her father’s house. (Here, the fat boy burst forth into stentorian blubberings, and was led forth by the coat collar, by Mr. Weller.) I wish,’ added Mr. Pickwick–‘I wish I was young enough to be her sister’s husband (cheers), but, failing that, I am happy to be old enough to be her father; for, being so, I shall not be suspected of any latent designs when I say, that I admire, esteem, and love them both (cheers and sobs). The bride’s father, our good friend there, is a noble person, and I am proud to know him (great uproar). He is a kind, excellent, independent-spirited, fine-hearted, hospitable, liberal man (enthusiastic shouts from the poor relations, at all the adjectives; and especially at the two last). That his daughter may enjoy all the happiness, even he can desire; and that he may derive from the contemplation of her felicity all the gratification of heart and peace of mind which he so well deserves, is, I am persuaded, our united wish. So, let us drink their healths, and wish them prolonged life, and every blessing!’

Mr. Pickwick concluded amidst a whirlwind of applause; and once more were the lungs of the supernumeraries, under Mr. Weller’s command, brought into active and efficient operation. Mr. Wardle proposed Mr. Pickwick; Mr. Pickwick proposed the old lady. Mr. Snodgrass proposed Mr. Wardle; Mr. Wardle proposed Mr. Snodgrass. One of the poor relations proposed Mr. Tupman, and the other poor relation proposed Mr. Winkle; all was happiness and festivity, until the mysterious disappearance of both the poor relations beneath the table, warned the party that it was time to adjourn.

At dinner they met again, after a five-and-twenty mile walk, undertaken by the males at Wardle’s recommendation, to get rid of the effects of the wine at breakfast. The poor relations had kept in bed all day, with the view of attaining the same happy consummation, but, as they had been unsuccessful, they stopped there. Mr. Weller kept the domestics in a state of perpetual hilarity; and the fat boy divided his time into small alternate allotments of eating and sleeping.

The dinner was as hearty an affair as the breakfast, and was quite as noisy, without the tears. Then came the dessert and some more toasts. Then came the tea and coffee; and then, the ball.

The best sitting-room at Manor Farm was a good, long, dark- panelled room with a high chimney-piece, and a capacious chimney, up which you could have driven one of the new patent cabs, wheels and all. At the upper end of the room, seated in a shady bower of holly and evergreens were the two best fiddlers, and the only harp, in all Muggleton. In all sorts of recesses, and on all kinds of brackets, stood massive old silver candlesticks with four branches each. The carpet was up, the candles burned bright, the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, and merry voices and light-hearted laughter rang through the room. If any of the old English yeomen had turned into fairies when they died, it was just the place in which they would have held their revels.

If anything could have added to the interest of this agreeable scene, it would have been the remarkable fact of Mr. Pickwick’s appearing without his gaiters, for the first time within the memory of his oldest friends.

‘You mean to dance?’ said Wardle.

‘Of course I do,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Don’t you see I am dressed for the purpose?’ Mr. Pickwick called attention to his speckled silk stockings, and smartly tied pumps.

You in silk stockings!’ exclaimed Mr. Tupman jocosely.

‘And why not, sir–why not?’ said Mr. Pickwick, turning warmly upon him.

‘Oh, of course there is no reason why you shouldn’t wear them,’ responded Mr. Tupman.

‘I imagine not, sir–I imagine not,’ said Mr. Pickwick, in a very peremptory tone.

Mr. Tupman had contemplated a laugh, but he found it was a serious matter; so he looked grave, and said they were a pretty pattern.

‘I hope they are,’ said Mr. Pickwick, fixing his eyes upon his friend. ‘You see nothing extraordinary in the stockings, as stockings, I trust, Sir?’

‘Certainly not. Oh, certainly not,’ replied Mr. Tupman. He walked away; and Mr. Pickwick’s countenance resumed its customary benign expression.

‘We are all ready, I believe,’ said Mr. Pickwick, who was stationed with the old lady at the top of the dance, and had already made four false starts, in his excessive anxiety to commence.

‘Then begin at once,’ said Wardle. ‘Now!’

Up struck the two fiddles and the one harp, and off went Mr. Pickwick into hands across, when there was a general clapping of hands, and a cry of ‘Stop, stop!’

‘What’s the matter?’ said Mr. Pickwick, who was only brought to, by the fiddles and harp desisting, and could have been stopped by no other earthly power, if the house had been on fire.

‘Where’s Arabella Allen?’ cried a dozen voices.

‘And Winkle?’added Mr. Tupman.

‘Here we are!’ exclaimed that gentleman, emerging with his pretty companion from the corner; as he did so, it would have been hard to tell which was the redder in the face, he or the young lady with the black eyes.

‘What an extraordinary thing it is, Winkle,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rather pettishly, ‘that you couldn’t have taken your place before.’

‘Not at all extraordinary,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a very expressive smile, as his eyes rested on Arabella, ‘well, I don’t know that it was extraordinary, either, after all.’

However, there was no time to think more about the matter, for the fiddles and harp began in real earnest. Away went Mr. Pickwick–hands across–down the middle to the very end of the room, and half-way up the chimney, back again to the door– poussette everywhere–loud stamp on the ground–ready for the next couple–off again–all the figure over once more–another stamp to beat out the time–next couple, and the next, and the next again–never was such going; at last, after they had reached the bottom of the dance, and full fourteen couple after the old lady had retired in an exhausted state, and the clergyman’s wife had been substituted in her stead, did that gentleman, when there was no demand whatever on his exertions, keep perpetually dancing in his place, to keep time to the music, smiling on his partner all the while with a blandness of demeanour which baffles all description.

Long before Mr. Pickwick was weary of dancing, the newly- married couple had retired from the scene. There was a glorious supper downstairs, notwithstanding, and a good long sitting after it; and when Mr. Pickwick awoke, late the next morning, he had a confused recollection of having, severally and confidentially, invited somewhere about five-and-forty people to dine with him at the George and Vulture, the very first time they came to London; which Mr. Pickwick rightly considered a pretty certain indication of his having taken something besides exercise, on the previous night.

‘And so your family has games in the kitchen to-night, my dear, has they?’ inquired Sam of Emma.

‘Yes, Mr. Weller,’ replied Emma; ‘we always have on Christmas Eve. Master wouldn’t neglect to keep it up on any account.’

‘Your master’s a wery pretty notion of keeping anythin’ up, my dear,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘I never see such a sensible sort of man as he is, or such a reg’lar gen’l’m’n.’

‘Oh, that he is!’ said the fat boy, joining in the conversation; ‘don’t he breed nice pork!’ The fat youth gave a semi-cannibalic leer at Mr. Weller, as he thought of the roast legs and gravy.

‘Oh, you’ve woke up, at last, have you?’ said Sam.

The fat boy nodded.

‘I’ll tell you what it is, young boa-constructer,’ said Mr. Weller impressively; ‘if you don’t sleep a little less, and exercise a little more, wen you comes to be a man you’ll lay yourself open to the same sort of personal inconwenience as was inflicted on the old gen’l’m’n as wore the pigtail.’

‘What did they do to him?’ inquired the fat boy, in a faltering voice.

‘I’m a-going to tell you,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘he was one o’ the largest patterns as was ever turned out–reg’lar fat man, as hadn’t caught a glimpse of his own shoes for five-and-forty year.’

‘Lor!’ exclaimed Emma.

‘No, that he hadn’t, my dear,’ said Mr. Weller; ‘and if you’d put an exact model of his own legs on the dinin’-table afore him, he wouldn’t ha’ known ’em. Well, he always walks to his office with a wery handsome gold watch-chain hanging out, about a foot and a quarter, and a gold watch in his fob pocket as was worth–I’m afraid to say how much, but as much as a watch can be–a large, heavy, round manufacter, as stout for a watch, as he was for a man, and with a big face in proportion. “You’d better not carry that ‘ere watch,” says the old gen’l’m’n’s friends, “you’ll be robbed on it,” says they. “Shall I?” says he. “Yes, you will,” says they. “Well,” says he, “I should like to see the thief as could get this here watch out, for I’m blessed if I ever can, it’s such a tight fit,” says he, “and wenever I vants to know what’s o’clock, I’m obliged to stare into the bakers’ shops,” he says. Well, then he laughs as hearty as if he was a-goin’ to pieces, and out he walks agin with his powdered head and pigtail, and rolls down the Strand with the chain hangin’ out furder than ever, and the great round watch almost bustin’ through his gray kersey smalls. There warn’t a pickpocket in all London as didn’t take a pull at that chain, but the chain ‘ud never break, and the watch ‘ud never come out, so they soon got tired of dragging such a heavy old gen’l’m’n along the pavement, and he’d go home and laugh till the pigtail wibrated like the penderlum of a Dutch clock. At last, one day the old gen’l’m’n was a-rollin’ along, and he sees a pickpocket as he know’d by sight, a-coming up, arm in arm with a little boy with a wery large head. “Here’s a game,” says the old gen’l’m’n to himself, “they’re a-goin’ to have another try, but it won’t do!” So he begins a-chucklin’ wery hearty, wen, all of a sudden, the little boy leaves hold of the pickpocket’s arm, and rushes head foremost straight into the old gen’l’m’n’s stomach, and for a moment doubles him right up with the pain. “Murder!” says the old gen’l’m’n. “All right, Sir,” says the pickpocket, a-wisperin’ in his ear. And wen he come straight agin, the watch and chain was gone, and what’s worse than that, the old gen’l’m’n’s digestion was all wrong ever afterwards, to the wery last day of his life; so just you look about you, young feller, and take care you don’t get too fat.’

As Mr. Weller concluded this moral tale, with which the fat boy appeared much affected, they all three repaired to the large kitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled, according to annual custom on Christmas Eve, observed by old Wardle’s forefathers from time immemorial.

From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. The old lady submitted to this piece of practical politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important and serious a solemnity, but the younger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbued with a superstitious veneration for the custom, or imagining that the value of a salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to obtain it, screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until some of the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting, when they all at once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted to be kissed with a good grace. Mr. Winkle kissed the young lady with the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrass kissed Emily; and Mr. Weller, not being particular about the form of being under the mistletoe, kissed Emma and the other female servants, just as he caught them. As to the poor relations, they kissed everybody, not even excepting the plainer portions of the young lady visitors, who, in their excessive confusion, ran right under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up, without knowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying the whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took the opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarily devouring, a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefully put by, for somebody else.

Now, the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow, and curls in a tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking with a very pleased countenance on all that was passing around him, when the young lady with the black eyes, after a little whispering with the other young ladies, made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm round Mr. Pickwick’s neck, saluted him affectionately on the left cheek; and before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was surrounded by the whole body, and kissed by every one of them.

It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick in the centre of the group, now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin, and then on the nose, and then on the spectacles, and to hear the peals of laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a silk handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into corners, and going through all the mysteries of blind-man’s buff, with the utmost relish for the game, until at last he caught one of the poor relations, and then had to evade the blind-man himself, which he did with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause of all beholders. The poor relations caught the people who they thought would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caught themselves. When they all tired of blind-man’s buff, there was a great game at snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the raisins were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller than an ordinary wash- house copper, in which the hot apples were hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were perfectly irresistible.

‘This,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, ‘this is, indeed, comfort.’

‘Our invariable custom,’ replied Mr. Wardle. ‘Everybody sits down with us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now–servants and all; and here we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake up the fire.’

Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred. The deep red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the farthest corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face.

‘Come,’ said Wardle, ‘a song–a Christmas song! I’ll give you one, in default of a better.’

‘Bravo!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Fill up,’ cried Wardle. ‘It will be two hours, good, before you see the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail; fill up all round, and now for the song.’

Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice, commenced without more ado–

A CHRISTMAS CAROL

‘I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing
Let the blossoms and buds be borne;
He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,
And he scatters them ere the morn.
An inconstant elf, he knows not himself,
Nor his own changing mind an hour,
He’ll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,
He’ll wither your youngest flower.

‘Let the Summer sun to his bright home run,
He shall never be sought by me;
When he’s dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud
And care not how sulky he be!
For his darling child is the madness wild
That sports in fierce fever’s train;
And when love is too strong, it don’t last long,
As many have found to their pain.

‘A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light
Of the modest and gentle moon,
Has a far sweeter sheen for me, I ween,
Than the broad and unblushing noon.
But every leaf awakens my grief,
As it lieth beneath the tree;
So let Autumn air be never so fair,
It by no means agrees with me.

‘But my song I troll out, for Christmas Stout,
The hearty, the true, and the bold;
A bumper I drain, and with might and main
Give three cheers for this Christmas old!
We’ll usher him in with a merry din
That shall gladden his joyous heart,
And we’ll keep him up, while there’s bite or sup,
And in fellowship good, we’ll part.
‘In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide
One jot of his hard-weather scars;
They’re no disgrace, for there’s much the same trace
On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
Then again I sing till the roof doth ring
And it echoes from wall to wall–
To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night,
As the King of the Seasons all!’

This song was tumultuously applauded–for friends and dependents make a capital audience–and the poor relations, especially, were in perfect ecstasies of rapture. Again was the fire replenished, and again went the wassail round.

‘How it snows!’ said one of the men, in a low tone.

‘Snows, does it?’ said Wardle.

‘Rough, cold night, Sir,’ replied the man; ‘and there’s a wind got up, that drifts it across the fields, in a thick white cloud.’

‘What does Jem say?’ inquired the old lady. ‘There ain’t anything the matter, is there?’

‘No, no, mother,’ replied Wardle; ‘he says there’s a snowdrift, and a wind that’s piercing cold. I should know that, by the way it rumbles in the chimney.’

‘Ah!’ said the old lady, ‘there was just such a wind, and just such a fall of snow, a good many years back, I recollect–just five years before your poor father died. It was a Christmas Eve, too; and I remember that on that very night he told us the story about the goblins that carried away old Gabriel Grub.’

‘The story about what?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Oh, nothing, nothing,’ replied Wardle. ‘About an old sexton, that the good people down here suppose to have been carried away by goblins.’

‘Suppose!’ ejaculated the old lady. ‘Is there anybody hardy enough to disbelieve it? Suppose! Haven’t you heard ever since you were a child, that he was carried away by the goblins, and don’t you know he was?’

‘Very well, mother, he was, if you like,’ said Wardle laughing. ‘He was carried away by goblins, Pickwick; and there’s an end of the matter.’

‘No, no,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘not an end of it, I assure you; for I must hear how, and why, and all about it.’

Wardle smiled, as every head was bent forward to hear, and filling out the wassail with no stinted hand, nodded a health to Mr. Pickwick, and began as follows–

But bless our editorial heart, what a long chapter we have been betrayed into! We had quite forgotten all such petty restrictions as chapters, we solemnly declare. So here goes, to give the goblin a fair start in a new one. A clear stage and no favour for the goblins, ladies and gentlemen, if you please.

Dulcie Domum (or Christmas at Mole’s) …

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The sheep ran huddling together against the hurdles, blowing out thin nostrils and stamping with delicate fore-feet, their heads thrown back and a light steam rising from the crowded sheep-pen into the frosty air, as the two animals hastened by in high spirits, with much chatter and laughter. They were returning across country after a long day’s outing with Otter, hunting and exploring on the wide uplands where certain streams tributary to their own River had their first small beginnings; and the shades of the short winter day were closing in on them, and they had still some distance to go. Plodding at random across the plough, they had heard the sheep and had made for them; and now, leading from the sheep-pen, they found a beaten track that made walking a lighter business, and responded, moreover, to that small inquiring something which all animals carry inside them, saying unmistakably, `Yes, quite right; this leads home!’

`It looks as if we were coming to a village,’ said the Mole somewhat dubiously, slackening his pace, as the track, that had in time become a path and then had developed into a lane, now handed them over to the charge of a well-metalled road. The animals did not hold with villages, and their own highways, thickly frequented as they were, took an independent course, regardless of church, post office, or public-house.

`Oh, never mind!’ said the Rat. `At this season of the year they’re all safe indoors by this time, sitting round the fire; men, women, and children, dogs and cats and all. We shall slip through all right, without any bother or unpleasantness, and we can have a look at them through their windows if you like, and see what they’re doing.’

The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without. Most of the low latticed windows were innocent of blinds, and to the lookers-in from outside, the inmates, gathered round the tea-table, absorbed in handiwork, or talking with laughter and gesture, had each that happy grace which is the last thing the skilled actor shall capture–the natural grace which goes with perfect unconsciousness of observation. Moving at will from one theatre to another, the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log.

But it was from one little window, with its blind drawn down, a mere blank transparency on the night, that the sense of home and the little curtained world within walls–the larger stressful world of outside Nature shut out and forgotten–most pulsated. Close against the white blind hung a bird-cage, clearly silhouetted, every wire, perch, and appurtenance distinct and recognisable, even to yesterday’s dull-edged lump of sugar. On the middle perch the fluffy occupant, head tucked well into feathers, seemed so near to them as to be easily stroked, had they tried; even the delicate tips of his plumped-out plumage pencilled plainly on the illuminated screen. As they looked, the sleepy little fellow stirred uneasily, woke, shook himself, and raised his head. They could see the gape of his tiny beak as he yawned in a bored sort of way, looked round, and then settled his head into his back again, while the ruffled feathers gradually subsided into perfect stillness. Then a gust of bitter wind took them in the back of the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as from a dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, and their own home distant a weary way.

Once beyond the village, where the cottages ceased abruptly, on either side of the road they could smell through the darkness the friendly fields again; and they braced themselves for the last long stretch, the home stretch, the stretch that we know is bound to end, some time, in the rattle of the door-latch, the sudden firelight, and the sight of familiar things greeting us as long-absent travellers from far over-sea. They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts. The Mole’s ran a good deal on supper, as it was pitch-dark, and it was all a strange country for him as far as he knew, and he was following obediently in the wake of the Rat, leaving the guidance entirely to him. As for the Rat, he was walking a little way ahead, as his habit was, his shoulders humped, his eyes fixed on the straight grey road in front of him; so he did not notice poor Mole when suddenly the summons reached him, and took him like an electric shock.

We others, who have long lost the more subtle of the physical senses, have not even proper terms to express an animal’s inter- communications with his surroundings, living or otherwise, and have only the word `smell,’ for instance, to include the whole range of delicate thrills which murmur in the nose of the animal night and day, summoning, warning? inciting, repelling. It was one of these mysterious fairy calls from out the void that suddenly reached Mole in the darkness, making him tingle through and through with its very familiar appeal, even while yet he could not clearly remember what it was. He stopped dead in his tracks, his nose searching hither and thither in its efforts to recapture the fine filament, the telegraphic current, that had so strongly moved him. A moment, and he had caught it again; and with it this time came recollection in fullest flood.

Home! That was what they meant, those caressing appeals, those soft touches wafted through the air, those invisible little hands pulling and tugging, all one way! Why, it must be quite close by him at that moment, his old home that he had hurriedly forsaken and never sought again, that day when he first found the river! And now it was sending out its scouts and its messengers to capture him and bring him in. Since his escape on that bright morning he had hardly given it a thought, so absorbed had he been in his new life, in all its pleasures, its surprises, its fresh and captivating experiences. Now, with a rush of old memories, how clearly it stood up before him, in the darkness! Shabby indeed, and small and poorly furnished, and yet his, the home he had made for himself, the home he had been so happy to get back to after his day’s work. And the home had been happy with him, too, evidently, and was missing him, and wanted him back, and was telling him so, through his nose, sorrowfully, reproachfully, but with no bitterness or anger; only with plaintive reminder that it was there, and wanted him.

The call was clear, the summons was plain. He must obey it instantly, and go. `Ratty!’ he called, full of joyful excitement, `hold on! Come back! I want you, quick!’

`Oh, come along, Mole, do!’ replied the Rat cheerfully, still plodding along.

`Please stop, Ratty!’ pleaded the poor Mole, in anguish of heart. `You don’t understand! It’s my home, my old home! I’ve just come across the smell of it, and it’s close by here, really quite close. And I must go to it, I must, I must! Oh, come back, Ratty! Please, please come back!’

The Rat was by this time very far ahead, too far to hear clearly what the Mole was calling, too far to catch the sharp note of painful appeal in his voice. And he was much taken up with the weather, for he too could smell something–something suspiciously like approaching snow.

`Mole, we mustn’t stop now, really!’ he called back. `We’ll come for it to-morrow, whatever it is you’ve found. But I daren’t stop now–it’s late, and the snow’s coming on again, and I’m not sure of the way! And I want your nose, Mole, so come on quick, there’s a good fellow!’ And the Rat pressed forward on his way without waiting for an answer.

Poor Mole stood alone in the road, his heart torn asunder, and a big sob gathering, gathering, somewhere low down inside him, to leap up to the surface presently, he knew, in passionate escape. But even under such a test as this his loyalty to his friend stood firm. Never for a moment did he dream of abandoning him. Meanwhile, the wafts from his old home pleaded, whispered, conjured, and finally claimed him imperiously. He dared not tarry longer within their magic circle. With a wrench that tore his very heartstrings he set his face down the road and followed submissively in the track of the Rat, while faint, thin little smells, still dogging his retreating nose, reproached him for his new friendship and his callous forgetfulness.

With an effort he caught up to the unsuspecting Rat, who began chattering cheerfully about what they would do when they got back, and how jolly a fire of logs in the parlour would be, and what a supper he meant to eat; never noticing his companion’s silence and distressful state of mind. At last, however, when they had gone some considerable way further, and were passing some tree-stumps at the edge of a copse that bordered the road, he stopped and said kindly, `Look here, Mole old chap, you seem dead tired. No talk left in you, and your feet dragging like lead. We’ll sit down here for a minute and rest. The snow has held off so far, and the best part of our journey is over.’

The Mole subsided forlornly on a tree-stump and tried to control himself, for he felt it surely coming. The sob he had fought with so long refused to be beaten. Up and up, it forced its way to the air, and then another, and another, and others thick and fast; till poor Mole at last gave up the struggle, and cried freely and helplessly and openly, now that he knew it was all over and he had lost what he could hardly be said to have found.

The Rat, astonished and dismayed at the violence of Mole’s paroxysm of grief, did not dare to speak for a while. At last he said, very quietly and sympathetically, `What is it, old fellow? Whatever can be the matter? Tell us your trouble, and let me see what I can do.’

Poor Mole found it difficult to get any words out between the upheavals of his chest that followed one upon another so quickly and held back speech and choked it as it came. `I know it’s a– shabby, dingy little place,’ he sobbed forth at last, brokenly: `not like–your cosy quarters–or Toad’s beautiful hall–or Badger’s great house–but it was my own little home–and I was fond of it–and I went away and forgot all about it–and then I smelt it suddenly–on the road, when I called and you wouldn’t listen, Rat–and everything came back to me with a rush–and I wanted it!–O dear, O dear!–and when you wouldn’t turn back, Ratty–and I had to leave it, though I was smelling it all the time–I thought my heart would break.–We might have just gone and had one look at it, Ratty–only one look–it was close by–but you wouldn’t turn back, Ratty, you wouldn’t turn back! O dear, O dear!’

Recollection brought fresh waves of sorrow, and sobs again took full charge of him, preventing further speech.

The Rat stared straight in front of him, saying nothing, only patting Mole gently on the shoulder. After a time he muttered gloomily, `I see it all now! What a pig I have been! A pig– that’s me! Just a pig–a plain pig!’

He waited till Mole’s sobs became gradually less stormy and more rhythmical; he waited till at last sniffs were frequent and sobs only intermittent. Then he rose from his seat, and, remarking carelessly, `Well, now we’d really better be getting on, old chap!’ set off up the road again, over the toilsome way they had come.

`Wherever are you (hic) going to (hic), Ratty?’ cried the tearful Mole, looking up in alarm.

`We’re going to find that home of yours, old fellow,’ replied the Rat pleasantly; `so you had better come along, for it will take some finding, and we shall want your nose.’

`Oh, come back, Ratty, do!’ cried the Mole, getting up and hurrying after him. `It’s no good, I tell you! It’s too late, and too dark, and the place is too far off, and the snow’s coming! And–and I never meant to let you know I was feeling that way about it–it was all an accident and a mistake! And think of River Bank, and your supper!’

`Hang River Bank, and supper too!’ said the Rat heartily. `I tell you, I’m going to find this place now, if I stay out all night. So cheer up, old chap, and take my arm, and we’ll very soon be back there again.’

Still snuffling, pleading, and reluctant, Mole suffered himself to be dragged back along the road by his imperious companion, who by a flow of cheerful talk and anecdote endeavoured to beguile his spirits back and make the weary way seem shorter. When at last it seemed to the Rat that they must be nearing that part of the road where the Mole had been `held up,’ he said, `Now, no more talking. Business! Use your nose, and give your mind to it.’

They moved on in silence for some little way, when suddenly the Rat was conscious, through his arm that was linked in Mole’s, of a faint sort of electric thrill that was passing down that animal’s body. Instantly he disengaged himself, fell back a pace, and waited, all attention.

The signals were coming through!

Mole stood a moment rigid, while his uplifted nose, quivering slightly, felt the air.

Then a short, quick run forward–a fault–a check–a try back; and then a slow, steady, confident advance.

The Rat, much excited, kept close to his heels as the Mole, with something of the air of a sleep-walker, crossed a dry ditch, scrambled through a hedge, and nosed his way over a field open and trackless and bare in the faint starlight.

Suddenly, without giving warning, he dived; but the Rat was on the alert, and promptly followed him down the tunnel to which his unerring nose had faithfully led him.

It was close and airless, and the earthy smell was strong, and it seemed a long time to Rat ere the passage ended and he could stand erect and stretch and shake himself. The Mole struck a match, and by its light the Rat saw that they were standing in an open space, neatly swept and sanded underfoot, and directly facing them was Mole’s little front door, with `Mole End’ painted, in Gothic lettering, over the bell-pull at the side.

Mole reached down a lantern from a nail on the wail and lit it, and the Rat, looking round him, saw that they were in a sort of fore-court. A garden-seat stood on one side of the door, and on the other a roller; for the Mole, who was a tidy animal when at home, could not stand having his ground kicked up by other animals into little runs that ended in earth-heaps. On the walls hung wire baskets with ferns in them, alternating with brackets carrying plaster statuary–Garibaldi, and the infant Samuel, and Queen Victoria, and other heroes of modern Italy. Down on one side of the forecourt ran a skittle-alley, with benches along it and little wooden tables marked with rings that hinted at beer- mugs. In the middle was a small round pond containing gold-fish and surrounded by a cockle-shell border. Out of the centre of the pond rose a fanciful erection clothed in more cockle-shells and topped by a large silvered glass ball that reflected everything all wrong and had a very pleasing effect.

Mole’s face-beamed at the sight of all these objects so dear to him, and he hurried Rat through the door, lit a lamp in the hall, and took one glance round his old home. He saw the dust lying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglected house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabby contents–and collapsed again on a hall-chair, his nose to his paws. `O Ratty!’ he cried dismally, `why ever did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this, when you might have been at River Bank by this time, toasting your toes before a blazing fire, with all your own nice things about you!’

The Rat paid no heed to his doleful self-reproaches. He was running here and there, opening doors, inspecting rooms and cupboards, and lighting lamps and candles and sticking them, up everywhere. `What a capital little house this is!’ he called out cheerily. `So compact! So well planned! Everything here and everything in its place! We’ll make a jolly night of it. The first thing we want is a good fire; I’ll see to that–I always know where to find things. So this is the parlour? Splendid! Your own idea, those little sleeping-bunks in the wall? Capital! Now, I’ll fetch the wood and the coals, and you get a duster, Mole–you’ll find one in the drawer of the kitchen table–and try and smarten things up a bit. Bustle about, old chap!’

Encouraged by his inspiriting companion, the Mole roused himself and dusted and polished with energy and heartiness, while the Rat, running to and fro with armfuls of fuel, soon had a cheerful blaze roaring up the chimney. He hailed the Mole to come and warm himself; but Mole promptly had another fit of the blues, dropping down on a couch in dark despair and burying his face in his duster. `Rat,’ he moaned, `how about your supper, you poor, cold, hungry, weary animal? I’ve nothing to give you–nothing– not a crumb!’

`What a fellow you are for giving in!’ said the Rat reproachfully. `Why, only just now I saw a sardine-opener on the kitchen dresser, quite distinctly; and everybody knows that means there are sardines about somewhere in the neighbourhood. Rouse yourself! pull yourself together, and come with me and forage.’

They went and foraged accordingly, hunting through every cupboard and turning out every drawer. The result was not so very depressing after all, though of course it might have been better; a tin of sardines–a box of captain’s biscuits, nearly full–and a German sausage encased in silver paper.

`There’s a banquet for you!’ observed the Rat, as he arranged the table. `I know some animals who would give their ears to be sitting down to supper with us to-night!’

`No bread!’ groaned the Mole dolorously; `no butter, no—-‘

`No pate de foie gras, no champagne!’ continued the Rat, grinning. `And that reminds me–what’s that little door at the end of the passage? Your cellar, of course! Every luxury in this house! Just you wait a minute.’

He made for the cellar-door, and presently reappeared, somewhat dusty, with a bottle of beer in each paw and another under each arm, `Self-indulgent beggar you seem to be, Mole,’ he observed. `Deny yourself nothing. This is really the jolliest little place I ever was in. Now, wherever did you pick up those prints? Make the place look so home-like, they do. No wonder you’re so fond of it, Mole. Tell us all about it, and how you came to make it what it is.’

Then, while the Rat busied himself fetching plates, and knives and forks, and mustard which he mixed in an egg-cup, the Mole, his bosom still heaving with the stress of his recent emotion, related–somewhat shyly at first, but with more freedom as he warmed to his subject–how this was planned, and how that was thought out, and how this was got through a windfall from an aunt, and that was a wonderful find and a bargain, and this other thing was bought out of laborious savings and a certain amount of `going without.’ His spirits finally quite restored, he must needs go and caress his possessions, and take a lamp and show off their points to his visitor and expatiate on them, quite forgetful of the supper they both so much needed; Rat, who was desperately hungry but strove to conceal it, nodding seriously, examining with a puckered brow, and saying, `wonderful,’ and `most remarkable,’ at intervals, when the chance for an observation was given him.

At last the Rat succeeded in decoying him to the table, and had just got seriously to work with the sardine-opener when sounds were heard from the fore-court without–sounds like the scuffling of small feet in the gravel and a confused murmur of tiny voices, while broken sentences reached them–`Now, all in a line–hold the lantern up a bit, Tommy–clear your throats first–no coughing after I say one, two, three.–Where’s young Bill?–Here, come on, do, we’re all a-waiting—-‘

`What’s up?’ inquired the Rat, pausing in his labours.

`I think it must be the field-mice,’ replied the Mole, with a touch of pride in his manner. `They go round carol-singing regularly at this time of the year. They’re quite an institution in these parts. And they never pass me over–they come to Mole End last of all; and I used to give them hot drinks, and supper too sometimes, when I could afford it. It will be like old times to hear them again.’

`Let’s have a look at them!’ cried the Rat, jumping up and running to the door.

It was a pretty sight, and a seasonable one, that met their eyes when they flung the door open. In the fore-court, lit by the dim rays of a horn lantern, some eight or ten little fieldmice stood in a semicircle, red worsted comforters round their throats, their fore-paws thrust deep into their pockets, their feet jigging for warmth. With bright beady eyes they glanced shyly at each other, sniggering a little, sniffing and applying coat- sleeves a good deal. As the door opened, one of the elder ones that carried the lantern was just saying, `Now then, one, two, three!’ and forthwith their shrill little voices uprose on the air, singing one of the old-time carols that their forefathers composed in fields that were fallow and held by frost, or when snow-bound in chimney corners, and handed down to be sung in the miry street to lamp-lit windows at Yule-time.

CAROL

Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
    Joy shall be yours in the morning!

Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet--
You by the fire and we in the street--
    Bidding you joy in the morning!

For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison--
Bliss to-morrow and more anon,
    Joy for every morning!

Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow--
Saw the star o'er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go--
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
    Joy was hers in the morning!

And then they heard the angels tell
`Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
    Joy shall be theirs in the morning!'

The voices ceased, the singers, bashful but smiling, exchanged sidelong glances, and silence succeeded–but for a moment only. Then, from up above and far away, down the tunnel they had so lately travelled was borne to their ears in a faint musical hum the sound of distant bells ringing a joyful and clangorous peal.

`Very well sung, boys!’ cried the Rat heartily. `And now come along in, all of you, and warm yourselves by the fire, and have something hot!’

`Yes, come along, field-mice,’ cried the Mole eagerly. `This is quite like old times! Shut the door after you. Pull up that settle to the fire. Now, you just wait a minute, while we–O, Ratty!’ he cried in despair, plumping down on a seat, with tears impending. `Whatever are we doing? We’ve nothing to give them!’

`You leave all that to me,’ said the masterful Rat. `Here, you with the lantern! Come over this way. I want to talk to you. Now, tell me, are there any shops open at this hour of the night?’

`Why, certainly, sir,’ replied the field-mouse respectfully. `At this time of the year our shops keep open to all sorts of hours.’

`Then look here!’ said the Rat. `You go off at once, you and your lantern, and you get me—-‘

Here much muttered conversation ensued, and the Mole only heard bits of it, such as–`Fresh, mind!–no, a pound of that will do– see you get Buggins’s, for I won’t have any other–no, only the best–if you can’t get it there, try somewhere else–yes, of course, home-made, no tinned stuff–well then, do the best you can!’ Finally, there was a chink of coin passing from paw to paw, the field-mouse was provided with an ample basket for his purchases, and off he hurried, he and his lantern.

The rest of the field-mice, perched in a row on the settle, their small legs swinging, gave themselves up to enjoyment of the fire, and toasted their chilblains till they tingled; while the Mole, failing to draw them into easy conversation, plunged into family history and made each of them recite the names of his numerous brothers, who were too young, it appeared, to be allowed to go out a-carolling this year, but looked forward very shortly to winning the parental consent.

The Rat, meanwhile, was busy examining the label on one of the beer-bottles. `I perceive this to be Old Burton,’ he remarked approvingly. `Sensible Mole! The very thing! Now we shall be able to mull some ale! Get the things ready, Mole, while I draw the corks.’

It did not take long to prepare the brew and thrust the tin heater well into the red heart of the fire; and soon every field- mouse was sipping and coughing and choking (for a little mulled ale goes a long way) and wiping his eyes and laughing and forgetting he had ever been cold in all his life.

`They act plays too, these fellows,’ the Mole explained to the Rat. `Make them up all by themselves, and act them afterwards. And very well they do it, too! They gave us a capital one last year, about a field-mouse who was captured at sea by a Barbary corsair, and made to row in a galley; and when he escaped and got home again, his lady-love had gone into a convent. Here, you! You were in it, I remember. Get up and recite a bit.’

The field-mouse addressed got up on his legs, giggled shyly, looked round the room, and remained absolutely tongue-tied. His comrades cheered him on, Mole coaxed and encouraged him, and the Rat went so far as to take him by the shoulders and shake him; but nothing could overcome his stage-fright. They were all busily engaged on him like watermen applying the Royal Humane Society’s regulations to a case of long submersion, when the latch clicked, the door opened, and the field-mouse with the lantern reappeared, staggering under the weight of his basket.

There was no more talk of play-acting once the very real and solid contents of the basket had been tumbled out on the table. Under the generalship of Rat, everybody was set to do something or to fetch something. In a very few minutes supper was ready, and Mole, as he took the head of the table in a sort of a dream, saw a lately barren board set thick with savoury comforts; saw his little friends’ faces brighten and beam as they fell to without delay; and then let himself loose–for he was famished indeed–on the provender so magically provided, thinking what a happy home-coming this had turned out, after all. As they ate, they talked of old times, and the field-mice gave him the local gossip up to date, and answered as well as they could the hundred questions he had to ask them. The Rat said little or nothing, only taking care that each guest had what he wanted, and plenty of it, and that Mole had no trouble or anxiety about anything.

They clattered off at last, very grateful and showering wishes of the season, with their jacket pockets stuffed with remembrances for the small brothers and sisters at home. When the door had closed on the last of them and the chink of the lanterns had died away, Mole and Rat kicked the fire up, drew their chairs in, brewed themselves a last nightcap of mulled ale, and discussed the events of the long day. At last the Rat, with a tremendous yawn, said, `Mole, old chap, I’m ready to drop. Sleepy is simply not the word. That your own bunk over on that side? Very well, then, I’ll take this. What a ripping little house this is! Everything so handy!’

He clambered into his bunk and rolled himself well up in the blankets, and slumber gathered him forthwith, as a swathe of barley is folded into the arms of the reaping machine.

The weary Mole also was glad to turn in without delay, and soon had his head on his pillow, in great joy and contentment. But ere he closed his eyes he let them wander round his old room, mellow in the glow of the firelight that played or rested on familiar and friendly things which had long been unconsciously a part of him, and now smilingly received him back, without rancour. He was now in just the frame of mind that the tactful Rat had quietly worked to bring about in him. He saw clearly how plain and simple–how narrow, even–it all was; but clearly, too, how much it all meant to him, and the special value of some such anchorage in one’s existence. He did not at all want to abandon the new life and its splendid spaces, to turn his back on sun and air and all they offered him and creep home and stay there; the upper world was all too strong, it called to him still, even down there, and he knew he must return to the larger stage. But it was good to think he had this to come back to; this place which was all his own, these things which were so glad to see him again and could always be counted upon for the same simple welcome.