Paul Schlicke and David Hewitt (eds), The Oxford Edition of Charles Dickens: Sketches by Boz
THE BLOOMSBURY CHRISTENING
[Monthly Magazine, April 1834]
Editor’s NoteMr. Nicodemus Dumps, or, as his acquaintance called him, "long Dumps," was a bachelor, six feet high, and fifty years old,—cross, cadaverous, odd, and ill-natured. He was never happy but when he Critical Apparatuswas miserable (pardon the contradiction); and always miserable when Critical Apparatus5he had the best reason to be happy. The only real comfort of his exist-ence was to make everybody about him wretched—then he might be Editor’s Notetruly said to enjoy life. He was afflicted with a situation in the Bank Editor’s Noteworth five hundred a-year, and he rented a "first floor furnished" at Editor’s NotePentonville, which he originally took because it commanded a dismal 10prospect of an adjacent churchyard. He was familiar with the face of every tombstone, and the burial service seemed to excite his strongest sympathy. His friends said he was surly—he insisted he was nervous; Editor’s Notethey thought him a lucky dog, but he protested that he was "the most unfortunate man in the world." Cold as he was, and wretched as he Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus15declared himself to be, he was not wholly unsusceptible of attachments. Editor’s NoteHe revered the memory of Hoyle, as he was himself an admirable and imperturbable whist-player, and he chuckled with delight at a Editor’s Notefretful and impatient adversary. He adored King Herod for his mas-Critical Apparatussacre of the innocents; for if he hated one thing more than another, it Critical Apparatus20was a child. However, he could hardly be said to hate any thing in particular, because he disliked every thing in general; but perhaps his Editor’s Notegreatest antipathies were cabs, old women, doors that would not shut, Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatusmusical amateurs, and omnibus cads. He subscribed to the Society for the Suppression of Vice for the pleasure of putting a stop to any 25harmless amusements; and he contributed largely towards the sup-Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatusport of two itinerant methodist parsons, under the amiable hope that Critical Apparatusif circumstances rendered many happy in this world, they might per-Critical Apparatuschance be rendered miserable by fears for the next.
Mr. Dumps had a nephew who had been married about a year, and 30who was somewhat of a favourite with his uncle, because he was pg 37an admirable subject to exercise his misery-creating powers upon.
Editor’s NoteMr. Charles Kitterbell was a small, sharp, spare man, with a very large head, and a broad good-humoured countenance. He looked like Editor’s Notea faded giant, with the head and face partially restored; and he had a 35cast in his eye which rendered it quite impossible for any one with whom he conversed to know where he was looking. His eyes appeared fixed on the wall, and he was staring you out of countenance; in short, there was no catching his eye, and perhaps it is a merciful dispensa-tion of Providence that such eyes are not catching. In addition to these 40characteristics, it may be added that Mr. Charles Kitterbell was one of the most credulous and matter-of-fact little personages that ever Editor’s Notetook to himself a wife, and for himself a house in Great Russell-street, Critical ApparatusRussell-square (Uncle Dumps always dropped the "Russell-square," Critical Apparatusand inserted in lieu thereof, the dreadful words "Tottenham-court-45road").
"No, but uncle, 'pon my life you must—you must promise to be godfather," said Mr. Kitterbell, as he sat in conversation with his respected relative one morning.
"I cannot, indeed I cannot," returned Dumps.
50"Well, but why not? Jemima will think it very unkind. It's very little trouble."
"As to the trouble," rejoined the most unhappy man in existence, "I don't mind that; but my nerves are in that state—I cannot go through the ceremony. You know I don't like going out.—For God's sake, 55Charles, don't fidget with that stool so, you'll drive me mad." Mr. Kitterbell, quite regardless of his uncle's nerves, had occupied him-self for some ten minutes in describing a circle on the floor with one leg of the office-stool on which he was seated, keeping the other three up in the air and holding fast on by the desk.
60"I beg your pardon, uncle," said Kitterbell, quite abashed, sud-denly releasing his hold of the desk, and bringing the three wandering Critical Apparatuslegs back to the floor with a force sufficient to drive them through it.
Editor’s Note"But come, don't refuse. If it's a boy, you know, we must have two godfathers."
65"If it's a boy!" said Dumps, "why can't you say at once whether it is a boy or not?"
"I should be very happy to tell you, but it's impossible I can under-take to say whether it's a girl or a boy if the child isn't born yet."
"Not born yet!" echoed Dumps, with a gleam of hope lighting up pg 3870his lugubrious visage; "oh, well, it may be a girl, and then you won't Critical Apparatuswant me, or if it is a boy, it may die before it's christened."
Critical Apparatus"I hope not," said the father that expected to be, looking very grave.
"I hope not," acquiesced Dumps, evidently pleased with the sub-75ject. He was beginning to get happy. "I hope not, but distressing cases frequently occur during the first two or three days of a child's life; fits I am told are exceedingly common, and alarming convulsions are almost matters of course."
"Lord, uncle!" ejaculated little Kitterbell, gasping for breath.
80"Yes; my landlady was confined—let me see—last Tuesday; an uncommonly fine boy. On the Thursday night the nurse was sitting with him upon her knee before the fire, and he was as well as possible. Suddenly he became black in the face, and alarmingly spasmodic. The medical man was instantly sent for, and every remedy was tried, 85but——"
"How frightful!" interrupted the horror-stricken Kitterbell.
"The child died of course. However your child may not die, and if Critical Apparatusit should be a boy, and should live to be christened, why I suppose I Critical Apparatusmust be one of the sponsors." Dumps was evidently good-natured on 90the faith of his anticipations.
"Thank you, uncle," said his agitated nephew, grasping his hand as warmly as if he had done him some essential service. "Perhaps I had better not tell Mrs. K. what you have mentioned."
"Why, if she's low spirited, perhaps you had better not mention the 95melancholy case to her," returned Dumps, who of course had invented the whole story, "though perhaps it would be but doing your duty Critical Apparatusas a husband to prepare her for the worst."
A day or two afterwards, as Dumps was perusing a morning paper at the chop–house which he regularly frequented, the following para-Critical Apparatus100graph met his eye:—
"It is a boy!" he exclaimed, dashing down the paper to the aston-Critical Apparatusishment of the waiters. "It is a boy!" But he speedily regained his 105composure as his eye rested on a paragraph quoting the number of Editor’s Noteinfant deaths from the bills of mortality.
pg 39Six weeks passed away, and as no communication had been received from the Kitterbells, Dumps was beginning to flatter himself that the child was dead, when the following note painfully resolved his 110doubts:—
Critical Apparatus"Great Russell-street,
Critical Apparatus"Dear Uncle: Monday morning.
"You will be delighted to hear that my dear Jemima has left her room, and that your future godson is getting on capitally; he was very 115thin at first, but he is getting much larger, and nurse says he is filling out every day. He cries a good deal, and is a very singular colour, which made Jemima and me rather uncomfortable; but as nurse says it's natural, and as, of course, we know nothing about these things yet, we are quite satisfied with what nurse says. We think he will be a sharp 120child; and nurse says she's sure he will, because he never goes to sleep.
You will readily believe that we are all very happy, only we're a little worn out for want of rest, as he keeps us awake all night; but this we must expect, nurse says, for the first six or eight months. He has been Editor’s Notevaccinated, but in consequence of the operation being rather awk-125wardly performed, some small particles of glass were introduced into the arm with the matter. Perhaps this may in some degree account for his being rather fractious; at least, so nurse says. We propose to have Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatushim christened at twelve o'clock on Friday, at Saint George's church, in Hart-street, by the name of Frederick Charles William. Pray don't 130be later than a quarter before twelve. We shall have a very few friends in the evening, when, of course, we shall see you. I am sorry to say that the dear boy appears rather restless and uneasy to-day: the cause, I fear, is fever.
- "Believe me, dear Uncle,
- 135 "Yours affectionately,
- Critical Apparatus "Charles Kitterbell.
"P. S. I open this note to say that we have just discovered the cause of little Frederick's restlessness. It is not fever, as I apprehended, but a small pin, which nurse accidentally stuck in his leg yesterday evening. 140We have taken it out, and he appears more composed, though he still sobs a good deal."
It is almost unnecessary to say that the perusal of the above interest-ing statement was no great relief to the mind of the hypochondriacal pg 40Critical ApparatusDumps. It was impossible to recede, however, and so he put the best 145face—that is to say, an uncommonly miserable one—upon the matter; Editor’s Noteand purchased a handsome silver mug for the infant Kitterbell, upon which he ordered the initials "F. C. W. K.," with the customary untrained grape-vine-looking flourishes, and a large full stop, to be engraved forthwith.
150Monday was a fine day, Tuesday was delightful, Wednesday was equal to either, and Thursday was finer than ever; four successive fine Editor’s Notedays in London! Hackney coachmen became revolutionary, and Editor’s Notecrossing sweepers began to doubt the existence of a First Cause. Editor’s NoteThe Morning Herald informed its readers that an old woman, in Editor’s Note155Camden Town, had been heard to say, that the fineness of the season Editor’s Notewas "unprecedented in the memory of the oldest inhabitant;" and Editor’s NoteIslington clerks, with large families and small salaries, left off their black gaiters, disdained to carry their once green cotton umbrellas, and walked to town in the conscious pride of white stockings, and Editor’s Note160cleanly brushed Bluchers. Dumps beheld all this with an eye of supreme contempt—his triumph was at hand.—He knew that if it had been fine for four weeks instead of four days, it would rain when he went out; he was lugubriously happy in the conviction that Friday Critical Apparatuswould be a wretched day—and so it was. "I knew how it would be," Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus165said Dumps, as he turned round opposite the Mansion House at half-past eleven o'clock on the Friday morning.—"I knew how it would be, I am concerned, and that's enough;"—and certainly the appear-ance of the day was sufficient to depress the spirits of a much more Critical Apparatusbuoyant-hearted individual than himself. It had rained, without a 170moment's cessation, since eight o'clock; everybody that passed up Cheapside, and down Cheapside, looked wet, cold, and dirty. All sorts of forgotten and long-concealed umbrellas had been put into requi-sition. Cabs whisked about, with the "fare" as carefully boxed up Editor’s Notebehind two glazed calico curtains, as any mysterious picture in any Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus175one of Mrs. Radcliffe's castles; omnibus horses smoked like steam-Editor’s Noteengines; nobody thought of "standing up" under doorways or arches; they were painfully convinced it was a hopeless case; and so every-body went hastily along, jumbling and jostling, and swearing and Editor’s Noteperspiring, and slipping about, like amateur skaters behind wooden Editor’s Note180chairs on the Serpentine on a frosty Sunday.
Dumps paused; he could not think of walking, being rather smart for the christening. If he took a cab he was sure to be spilt, and a pg 41Editor’s Notehackney-coach was too expensive for his economical ideas. An omnibus was waiting at the opposite corner—it was a desperate case—he had 185never heard of an omnibus upsetting or running away, and if the cad Editor’s Notedid knock him down, he could "pull him up" in return.
"Now, sir!" cried the young gentleman who officiated as "cad" to the "Lads of the Village," which was the name of the machine just noticed. Dumps crossed.
Editor’s Note190"This vay, sir!" shouted the driver of the "Hark away," pulling up his vehicle immediately across the door of the opposition—"This vay, sir—he's full." Dumps hesitated, whereupon the "Lads of the Village" commenced pouring out a torrent of abuse against Editor’s Notethe "Hark away;" but the conductor of the "Admiral Napier" settled 195the contest in a most satisfactory manner for all parties, by seizing Dumps round the waist, and thrusting him into the middle of his vehicle, which had just come up, and only wanted the sixteenth inside.
"All right," said the "Admiral," and off the thing thundered, like a 200fire-engine at full gallop, with the kidnapped customer inside, stand-Editor’s Noteing in the position of a half doubled up boot-jack, and falling about Critical Apparatuswith every jerk of the machine, first on one side and then on the other, Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatuslike a "Jack in the green," on May-day, "setting" to the lady with the brass ladle.
Critical Apparatus205"For God's sake, where am I to sit?" inquired the miserable man of an old gentleman, into whose stomach he had just fallen for the fourth time.
"Anywhere but on my chest, sir," replied the old gentleman, in a surly tone.
210"Perhaps the box would suit the gentleman better," suggested a very damp lawyer's clerk, in a pink shirt and a smirking countenance.
After a great deal of struggling and falling about, Dumps at last managed to squeeze himself into a seat, which, in addition to the Critical Apparatusslight disadvantage of being between a window that wouldn't shut, 215and a door that must be open, placed him in close contact with a pas-senger, who had been walking about all the morning without an Critical Apparatusumbrella, and who looked as if he had spent the day in a full water-butt—only wetter.
"Don't bang the door so," said Dumps to the conductor, as he shut 220it after letting out four of the passengers; "I am very nervous—it destroys me."
pg 42"Did any gen'lm'n say any think?" replied the cad, thrusting in his head, and trying to look as if he didn't understand the request.
"I told you not to bang the door so," repeated Dumps, with an 225expression of countenance, like the knave of clubs in convulsions.
Critical Apparatus"Oh! vy it's rayther a sing'ler circumstance about this here door, sir, that it von't shut without banging," replied the conductor, and he opened the door very wide, and shut it again with a terrific bang, in proof of the assertion.
230"I beg your pardon, sir," said a little prim wheezing old gentleman, sitting opposite Dumps, "I beg your pardon; but have you ever observed, when you have been in an omnibus on a wet day, that four people out of five, always come in with large cotton umbrellas, with-out a handle at the top, or the brass spike at the bottom?"
235"Why, sir," returned Dumps, as he heard the clock strike twelve, "it never struck me before; but now you mention it, I——Hollo! hollo!"—shouted the persecuted individual, as the omnibus dashed Editor’s Notepast Drury-lane, where he had directed to be set down.—"Where is the cad?"
240"I think he's on the box, sir," said the young gentleman before noticed in the pink shirt, which looked like a white one ruled with red ink.
"I want to be set down!" said Dumps, in a faint voice, overcome by his previous efforts.
245"I think these cads want to be set down," returned the attorney's clerk, chuckling at his sally.
"Hollo!" cried Dumps again.
Editor’s Note"Hollo!" echoed the passengers; the omnibus passed St. Giles's church.
Critical Apparatus250"Hold hard!" said the conductor, "I'm blowed if we ha'n't forgot Editor’s Notethe gen'lm'n as vas to be set down at Doory-lane.—Now, sir, make haste, if you please," he added, opening the door, and assisting Dumps Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatusout with as much coolness as if it was "all right." Dumps' indignation Critical Apparatuswas for once getting the better of his cynical equanimity. "Drury-255lane!" he gasped, with the voice of a boy in a cold-bath for the first time.
"Doory-lane, sir?—yes, sir,—third turning on the right hand side, sir."
Critical ApparatusDumps' passion was paramount, he clutched his umbrella, and 260was striding off with the firm determination of not paying the fare. pg 43The cad, by a remarkable coincidence, happened to entertain a dir-Critical Apparatusectly contrary opinion, and heaven knows how far the altercation would have proceeded if it had not been most ably and satisfactorily brought to a close by the driver.
265"Hollo!" said that respectable person standing up on the box, and leaning with one hand on the roof of the omnibus. "Hollo, Tom! tell the gentleman if so be as he feels aggrieved, we will take him up to the Critical ApparatusEdge-er (Edgeware) Road for nothing, and set him down at Doory-lane when we comes back. He can't reject that anyhow."
270The argument was irresistible; Dumps paid the disputed sixpence, and in a quarter of an hour was on the staircase of No. 14, Great Russell-street.
Every thing indicated that preparations were making for the recep-tion of "a few friends" in the evening. Two dozen extra tumblers, and 275four ditto wine-glasses—looking anything but transparent, with little bits of straw in them—were on the slab in the passage, just arrived.
There was a great smell of nutmeg, port wine, and almonds on the Editor’s Notestaircase; the covers were taken off the stair-carpet, and the figure of Critical Apparatusthe Venus on the first landing looked as if she were ashamed of the Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus280composition-candle in her right hand, which contrasted beautifully with the lamp-blacked drapery of the goddess of love. The female servant (who looked very warm and bustling) ushered Dumps into a front drawing-room very prettily furnished with a plentiful sprinkling Editor’s Noteof little baskets, paper table-mats, china watchmen, pink and gold 285albums, and rainbow-bound little books on the different tables.
"Ah, uncle!" said Mr. Kitterbell, "how d'ye do? allow me—Jemima, my dear—my uncle,—I think you've seen Jemima before, sir?"
"Have had the pleasure," returned big Dumps, his tone and look making it doubtful whether in his life he had ever experienced the 290sensation.
"I'm sure," said Mrs. Kitterbell with a languid smile, and a slight cough; "I'm sure—hem—any friend—of Charles's—hem—much less a relation is——"
Critical Apparatus"Knew you'd say so, my love," said little Kitterbell, who while he 295appeared to be gazing on the opposite houses, was looking at his wife with a most affectionate air; "bless you." The last two words were Critical Apparatusaccompanied with an interesting simper, and a squeeze of the hand, which stirred up all Uncle Dumps' bile.
"Jane, tell nurse to bring down baby," said Mrs. Kitterbell, addressing pg 44300the servant. Mrs. Kitterbell was a tall thin young lady with very light hair, and a particularly white face—one of those young women who almost invariably, though one hardly knows why, recal to one's mind the idea of a cold fillet of veal. Out went the servant, and in came the nurse, with a remarkably small parcel in her arms packed up in a blue 305mantle trimmed with white fur.—This was the baby.
"Now, uncle," said Mr. Kitterbell, lifting up that part of the mantle which covered the infant's face, with an air of great triumph, "Who do you think he's like?"
"He! he! Yes, who?" said Mrs. K. putting her arm through her 310husband's, and looking up into Dumps' face with an expression of as much interest as she was capable of displaying.
"Good God, how small he is!" cried the amiable uncle, starting back with well-feigned surprise; "remarkably small indeed."
"Do you think so?" inquired poor little Kitterbell rather alarmed. Critical Apparatus315"He's a monster to what he was—an't he nurse?"
"He's a dear;" said the nurse squeezing the child, and evading the question—not because she scrupled to disguise the fact, but because she couldn't afford to throw away the chance of Dumps' half-crown.
Critical Apparatus"Well, but who is he like?" inquired little Kitterbell.
320Dumps looked at the little pink heap before him, and only thought at the moment of the best mode of mortifying the youthful parents.
"I really don't know who he's like," he answered, very well knowing the reply expected of him.
"Don't you think he's like me?" inquired his nephew, with a know-325ing air.
"Oh, decidedly not!" returned Dumps, with an emphasis not to be misunderstood. "Decidedly not like you.—Oh, certainly not."
"Like Jemima?" asked Kitterbell faintly.
"Oh dear, no; not in the least. I'm no judge, of course, in such Critical Apparatus330cases; but I really think he's more like one of those little interesting carved representations that one sometimes sees blowing a trumpet on a tombstone!" The nurse stooped down over the child, and with great difficulty prevented an explosion of mirth. Pa and ma looked almost as miserable as their amiable uncle.
335"Well!" said the disappointed little father, "you'll be better able to tell what he's like by and bye. You shall see him this evening with his mantle off."
"Thank you," said Dumps, feeling particularly grateful.
pg 45"Now, my love," said Kitterbell to his wife, "it's time we were off. 340We're to meet the other godfather and the godmother at the church, uncle,—Mr. and Mrs. Wilson from over the way—uncommonly nice people. My love, are you well wrapped up?"
"Are you sure you won't have another shawl?" inquired the anxious 345husband.
"No, sweet," returned the charming mother, accepting Dumps' prof-fered arm; and the little party entered the hackney-coach that was to take them to the church, Dumps amusing Mrs. Kitterbell by expati-ating largely on the danger of measles, thrush, teeth-cutting, and 350other interesting diseases to which children are subject.
The ceremony (which occupied about five minutes) passed off with-out anything particular occurring. The clergyman had to dine some dis-Critical Apparatustance from town, and had got two churchings, three christenings, and Critical Apparatusa funeral to perform in something less than a hour. The godfathers Editor’s Note355and godmother, therefore, promised to renounce the devil and all his Critical Apparatusworks—"and all that sort of thing,"—as little Kitterbell said—"in less than no time;" and, with the exception of Dumps nearly letting the child fall into the font when he handed it to the clergyman, the whole affair went off in the usual business-like and matter-of-course manner, and Critical Apparatus360Dumps re-entered the Bank-gates at two o'clock with heavy heart, and the painful conviction that he was regularly booked for an evening party.
Critical ApparatusEvening came—and so did Dumps' pumps, black silk stockings, Editor’s Noteand white cravat which he had ordered to be forwarded, per boy, from Pentonville. The depressed godfather dressed himself at a friend's Editor’s Note365counting-house, from whence, with his spirits fifty degrees below proof, he sallied forth—as the weather had cleared up, and the even-ing was tolerably fine—to walk to Great Russell-street. Slowly he paced Editor’s Noteup Cheapside, Newgate-street, down Snow Hill, and up Holborn ditto, looking as grim as the figure-head of a man-of-war, and finding 370out fresh causes of misery at every step. As he was crossing the corner of Hatton Garden, a man, apparently intoxicated, rushed against him, and would have knocked him down had he not been providen-Critical Apparatustially caught by a very genteel young man who happened to be close to him at the time. The shock so disarranged Dumps' nerves, as well 375as his dress, that he could hardly stand. The gentleman took his arm, Editor’s Noteand in the kindest manner walked with him as far as Furnival's Inn. Dumps, for about the first time in his life, felt grateful and polite; and pg 46he and the gentlemanly-looking young man parted with mutual expressions of good will.
380"There are at least some well disposed men in the world," ruminated the misanthropical Dumps, as he proceeded towards his destination.
Rat—tat—ta-ra-ra-ra-ra-rat—knocked a hackney-coachman at Kit-terbell's door, in imitation of a gentleman's servant, just as Dumps reached it, and out came an old lady in a large toque, and an old gentle-385man in a blue coat, and three female copies of the old lady in pink dresses, and shoes to match.
"It's a large party," sighed the unhappy godfather, wiping the per-Editor’s Notespiration from his forehead, and leaning against the area-railings. It was some time before the miserable man could muster up courage to 390knock at the door, and when he did, the smart appearance of a neigh-Editor’s Notebouring green-grocer (who had been hired to wait for seven and six-pence, and whose calves alone were worth double the money), the lamp in the passage, and the Venus on the landing, added to the hum of many voices, and the sound of a harp and two violins, painfully 395convinced him that his surmises were but too well founded.
"How are you?" said little Kitterbell in a greater bustle than ever, Editor’s Notebolting out of the little back parlour with a corkscrew in his hand, and various particles of saw-dust, looking like so many inverted commas, on his inexpressibles.
400"Good God!" said Dumps, turning into the aforesaid parlour to put his shoes on which he had brought in his coat-pocket, and still more appalled by the sight of seven fresh drawn corks, and a cor-responding number of decanters. "How many people are there up stairs?"
405"Oh, not above thirty-five. We've had the carpet taken up in the back drawing-room, and the piano, and the card-tables are in the front. Jemima thought we'd better have a regular sit down supper, in the front parlour, because of the speechifying, and all that. But, Lord! uncle, what's the matter?" continued the excited little man, as Dumps 410stood with one shoe on, rummaging his pockets with the most fright-ful distortion of visage. "What have you lost? Your pocket-book?"
"No," returned Dumps, diving first into one pocket and then into the other, and speaking in a voice like Desdemona with the pillow over her mouth.
415"Your card-case? snuff-box? the key of your lodgings?" continued Kitterbell, pouring question on question with the rapidity of lightning.
pg 47"No! no!" ejaculated Dumps, still diving eagerly into his empty Critical Apparatuspocket.
"Not—not—the mug you spoke of this morning?"
420"Yes, the mug!" replied Dumps, sinking into a chair.
"How could you have done it?" inquired Kitterbell. "Are you sure you brought it out?"
"Yes! yes! I see it all;" said Dumps, starting up as the idea flashed across his mind; "miserable dog that I am—I was born to suffer. I see 425it all; it was the gentlemanly-looking young man!"
"Mr. Dumps!" shouted the green-grocer in a stentorian voice, as he ushered the somewhat recovered godfather into the drawing-room Critical Apparatushalf an hour after the above declaration. "Mr. Dumps!"—every body looked at the door, and in came Dumps, feeling about as much out of 430place as a salmon might be supposed to be on a gravel-walk.
"Happy to see you again," said Mrs. Kitterbell, quite unconscious of the unfortunate man's confusion and misery; "you must allow me to introduce you to a few of our friends:—my mama, Mr. Dumps—my papa and sisters." Dumps seized the hand of the mother as warmly 435as if she was his own parent, bowed to the young ladies, and against a gentleman behind him, and took no notice whatever of the father, who had been bowing incessantly for three minutes and a quarter.
"Uncle," said little Kitterbell, after Dumps had been introduced to a select dozen or two, "you must let me lead you to the other end of Editor’s Note440the room, to introduce you to my friend Danton. Such a splendid fellow!—I'm sure you'll like him—this way."—Dumps followed as tractably as a tame bear.
Mr. Danton was a young man of about five-and-twenty, with a con-siderable stock of impudence, and a very small share of ideas: he was 445a great favourite, especially with young ladies of from sixteen to twenty-six years of age, both inclusive. He could imitate the French horn to admiration, sang comic songs most inimitably, and had the most Critical Apparatusinsinuating way of saying impertinent nothings to his doating female admirers. He had acquired, somehow or other, the reputation 450of being a great wit, and, accordingly, whenever he opened his mouth, everybody who knew him laughed very heartily.
The introduction took place in due form. Mr. Danton bowed and twirled a lady's handkerchief, which he held in his hand, in a most comic way. Everybody smiled.
455"Very warm," said Dumps, feeling it necessary to say something.
pg 48"Yes. It was warmer yesterday," returned the brilliant Mr. Danton.—A general laugh.
Editor’s Note"I have great pleasure in congratulating you on your first appear-ance in the character of a father, sir," he continued, addressing 460Dumps—"godfather, I mean."—The young ladies were convulsed, Critical Apparatusand the gentlemen in ecstasies.
A general hum of admiration interrupted the conversation and Critical Apparatusannounced the entrance of nurse with the baby. A universal rush of the young ladies immediately took place. (Girls are always so fond of 465babies in company.)
"Oh, you dear!" said one.
"How sweet!" cried another, in a low tone of the most enthusiastic admiration.
"Heavenly!" added a third.
470"Oh! what dear little arms!" said a fourth, holding up an arm and fist about the size and shape of the leg of a fowl cleanly picked.
"Did you ever"—said a little coquette with a large bustle, who Editor’s Notelooked like a French lithograph, appealing to a gentleman in three waistcoats—"Did you ever"——475"Never, in my life," returned her admirer, pulling up his collar.
"Oh, do let me take it, nurse," cried another young lady. "The love!"
"Can it open its eyes, nurse?" inquired another, affecting the utmost innocence.—Suffice it to say that the single ladies unanimously voted Editor’s Notehim an angel, and that the married ones, nem. con., agreed that he was 480decidedly the finest baby they had ever beheld—except their own.
The quadrilles were resumed with great spirit, Mr. Danton was universally admitted to be beyond himself, several young ladies Editor’s Noteenchanted the company and gained admirers by singing, "We met"—Critical Apparatus"I saw her at the Fancy Fair"—"Can I believe Love's Wreath will 485pain?"—and other equally sentimental and interesting ballads. "The young men," as Mrs. Kitterbell said, "made themselves very agreeable;" the girls did not lose their opportunity; and the evening promised to go off excellently. Dumps didn't mind it: he had devised a plan for himself—a little bit of fun in his own way—and he was almost happy! 490He played a rubber, and lost every point. Mr. Danton said he could not have lost every point, because he made a point of losing:—every body laughed tremendously. Dumps retorted with a better joke, and nobody smiled, with the exception of the host, who seemed to con-sider it his duty to laugh, till he was black in the face, at everything. pg 49495There was only one drawback—the musicians did not play with quite as much spirit as could have been wished. The cause, however, was satisfactorily explained; for it appeared, on the testimony of a gentle-Editor’s Noteman who had come up from Gravesend in the afternoon, that they had been engaged on board a steamer all day, and had played almost 500without cessation all the way to Gravesend, and all the way back again.
Editor’s NoteCritical ApparatusThe "sit-down supper" was excellent; there were four barley-sugar Critical Apparatustemples on the table, which would have looked beautiful if they had Editor’s Notenot melted away when the supper began; and a water-mill, whose only 505fault was, that instead of going round, it ran over the table-cloth. Then there were fowls, and tongue, and trifle, and sweets, and lobster salad, and potted beef—and everything. And little Kitterbell kept Critical Apparatuscalling out for clean plates, and the clean plates didn't come; and then the gentlemen who wanted the plates said they didn't mind, they'd 510take a lady's; and then Mrs. Kitterbell applauded their gallantry; and the Critical Apparatusgreen-grocer ran about till he thought his 7s. 6d. was very hardly earned; and the young ladies didn't eat much for fear it shouldn't look romantic, and the married ladies eat as much as possible for fear they Critical Apparatusshouldn't have enough; and a great deal of wine was drank, and every-515body talked and laughed considerably.
"Hush! hush!" said Mr. Kitterbell, rising and looking very important. "My love (this was addressed to his wife at the other end of the table), take care of Mrs. Maxwell, and your mama, and the rest of the mar-ried ladies; the gentlemen will persuade the young ladies to fill their 520glasses, I am sure."
"Ladies and gentlemen," said long Dumps, in a very sepulchral Editor’s Notevoice and rueful accent, rising from his chair like the ghost in Don Juan, "will you have the kindness to charge your glasses? I am desir-ous of proposing a toast."
"Ladies and gentlemen," slowly continued the ominous Dumps, "I"—(Here Mr. Danton imitated two notes from the French-horn, in a very loud key, which electrified the nervous toast-proposer, and con-530vulsed his audience).
"Order! order!" said little Kitterbell, endeavouring to suppress his laughter.
"Order!" said the gentlemen.
pg 50"Danton, be quiet," said a particular friend on the opposite side of 535the table.
"Ladies and gentlemen," resumed Dumps, somewhat recovered, and not much disconcerted, for he was always a pretty good hand at a speech—"In accordance with what is, I believe, the established usage on these occasions, I, as one of the godfathers of Master Frederick 540Charles William Kitterbell—(here the speaker's voice faltered, for he remembered the mug)—venture to rise to propose a toast. I need hardly say that it is the health and prosperity of that young gentleman, the particular event of whose early life we are here met to celebrate—(applause). Ladies and gentlemen, it is impossible to suppose that our 545friends here, whose sincere well-wishers we all are, can pass through life without some trials, considerable suffering, severe affliction, and heavy losses!"—Here the arch-traitor paused, and slowly drew forth a long, white pocket-handkerchief—his example was followed by sev-eral ladies. "That these trials may be long spared them, is my most 550earnest prayer, my most fervent wish (a distinct sob from the grand-mother). I hope and trust, ladies and gentlemen, that the infant whose christening we have this evening met to celebrate, may not be removed from the arms of his parents by premature decay (several cambrics were in requisition); that his young and now apparently healthy form, 555may not be wasted by lingering disease. (Here Dumps cast a sardonic glance around, for a great sensation was manifest among the married ladies.) You, I am sure, will concur with me in wishing that he may live to be a comfort and a blessing to his parents. ('Hear, hear!' and an audible sob from Mr. Kitterbell.) But should he not be what we could 560wish—should he forget, in after times, the duty which he owes to Editor’s Notethem—should they unhappily experience that distracting truth, 'how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child' "——Here Mrs. Kitterbell, with her handkerchief to her eyes, and accom-panied by several ladies, rushed from the room, and went into violent 565hysterics in the passage, leaving her better half in almost as bad a condition, and a general impression in Dumps' favour: for people like sentiment after all.
It need hardly be added that this occurrence quite put a stop to the harmony Editor’s Noteof the evening. Vinegar, hartshorn, and cold water, were now Editor’s Note570as much in request as negus, rout cakes, and bon-bons had been a short time before. Mrs. Kitterbell was immediately conveyed to her apart-ment, the musicians were silenced, flirting ceased, and the company pg 51slowly departed. Dumps left the house at the commencement of the bustle, and walked home with a light step, and (for him) a cheerful 575heart. His landlady, who slept in the next room, has offered to make oath that she heard him laugh, in his peculiar manner, after he had locked his door. The assertion, however, is so improbable, and bears on the face of it such strong evidence of untruth, that it has never obtained credence to this hour.
580The family of Mr. Kitterbell has considerably increased since the period to which we have referred; he has now two sons and a daugh-ter: and as he expects, at no distant period, to have another addition to his blooming progeny, he is anxious to secure an eligible godfather for the occasion. He is determined, however, to impose upon him two 585conditions: he must bind himself, by a solemn obligation, not to make any speech after supper; and it is indispensable that he should be in no way connected with "the most miserable man in the world."