Chapter 52 Involving a serious Change in the Weller Family, and th_ntimely Downfall of Mr. Stiggins
Considering it a matter of delicacy to abstain from introducing either Bo_awyer or Ben Allen to the young couple, until they were fully prepared t_xpect them, and wishing to spare Arabella’s feelings as much as possible, Mr.
Pickwick proposed that he and Sam should alight in the neighbourhood of th_eorge and Vulture, and that the two young men should for the present take u_heir quarters elsewhere. To this they very readily agreed, and th_roposition was accordingly acted upon; Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawye_etaking themselves to a sequestered pot–shop on the remotest confines of th_orough, behind the bar door of which their names had in other days very ofte_ppeared at the head of long and complex calculations worked in white chalk.
‘Dear me, Mr. Weller,’ said the pretty housemaid, meeting Sam at the door.
‘Dear me I vish it vos, my dear,’ replied Sam, dropping behind, to let hi_aster get out of hearing. ‘Wot a sweet–lookin’ creetur you are, Mary!’
‘Lot, Mr. Weller, what nonsense you do talk!’ said Mary. ‘Oh! don’t, Mr.
‘Don’t what, my dear?’ said Sam.
‘Why, that,’ replied the pretty housemaid. ‘Lor, do get along with you.’ Thu_dmonishing him, the pretty housemaid pushed Sam against the wall, declarin_hat he had tumbled her cap, and put her hair quite out of curl.
‘And prevented what I was going to say, besides,’ added Mary. ‘There’s _etter been waiting here for you four days; you hadn’t gone away, half a_our, when it came; and more than that, it’s got “immediate,” on the outside.’
‘Vere is it, my love?’ inquired Sam.
‘I took care of it, for you, or I dare say it would have been lost long befor_his,’ replied Mary. ‘There, take it; it’s more than you deserve.’
With these words, after many pretty little coquettish doubts and fears, an_ishes that she might not have lost it, Mary produced the letter from behin_he nicest little muslin tucker possible, and handed it to Sam, who thereupo_issed it with much gallantry and devotion.
‘My goodness me!’ said Mary, adjusting the tucker, and feignin_nconsciousness, ‘you seem to have grown very fond of it all at once.’
To this Mr. Weller only replied by a wink, the intense meaning of which n_escription could convey the faintest idea of; and, sitting himself dow_eside Mary on a window–seat, opened the letter and glanced at the contents.
‘Hollo!’ exclaimed Sam, ‘wot’s all this?’
‘Nothing the matter, I hope?’ said Mary, peeping over his shoulder.
‘Bless them eyes o’ yourn!’ said Sam, looking up.
‘Never mind my eyes; you had much better read your letter,’ said the prett_ousemaid; and as she said so, she made the eyes twinkle with such slyness an_eauty that they were perfectly irresistible.
Sam refreshed himself with a kiss, and read as follows:—
‘My Dear Sammle,
‘I am werry sorry to have the pleasure of being a Bear of ill news your Mothe_n law cort cold consekens of imprudently settin too long on the damp grass i_he rain a hearing of a shepherd who warnt able to leave off till late a_ight owen to his having vound his–self up vith brandy and vater and not bein_ble to stop his–self till he got a little sober which took a many hours to d_he doctor says that if she’d svallo’d varm brandy and vater artervards inste_f afore she mightn’t have been no vus her veels wos immedetly greased an_verythink done to set her agoin as could be inwented your father had hopes a_he vould have vorked round as usual but just as she wos a turnen the corne_y boy she took the wrong road and vent down hill vith a welocity you neve_ee and notvithstandin that the drag wos put on directly by the medikel man i_ornt of no use at all for she paid the last pike at twenty minutes afore si_’clock yesterday evenin havin done the journey wery much under the regla_ime vich praps was partly owen to her haven taken in wery little luggage b_he vay your father says that if you vill come and see me Sammy he vill tak_t as a wery great favor for I am wery lonely Samivel n. b. he vill have i_pelt that vay vich I say ant right and as there is sich a many things t_ettle he is sure your guvner wont object of course he vill not Sammy for _nows him better so he sends his dooty in which I join and am Samive_nfernally yours
‘Wot a incomprehensible letter,’ said Sam; ‘who’s to know wot it means, vit_ll this he–ing and I–ing! It ain’t my father’s writin’, ‘cept this her_ignater in print letters; that’s his.’
‘Perhaps he got somebody to write it for him, and signed it himsel_fterwards,’ said the pretty housemaid.
‘Stop a minit,’ replied Sam, running over the letter again, and pausing her_nd there, to reflect, as he did so. ‘You’ve hit it. The gen’l’m’n as wrote i_os a–tellin’ all about the misfortun’ in a proper vay, and then my fathe_omes a–lookin’ over him, and complicates the whole concern by puttin’ his oa_n. That’s just the wery sort o’ thing he’d do. You’re right, Mary, my dear.’
Having satisfied himself on this point, Sam read the letter all over, onc_ore, and, appearing to form a clear notion of its contents for the firs_ime, ejaculated thoughtfully, as he folded it up—
‘And so the poor creetur’s dead! I’m sorry for it. She warn’t a bad–disposed ‘ooman, if them shepherds had let her alone. I’m wery sorry for it.’
Mr. Weller uttered these words in so serious a manner, that the prett_ousemaid cast down her eyes and looked very grave.
‘Hows’ever,’ said Sam, putting the letter in his pocket with a gentle sigh, ‘it wos to be—and wos, as the old lady said arter she’d married the footman.
Can’t be helped now, can it, Mary?’
Mary shook her head, and sighed too.
‘I must apply to the hemperor for leave of absence,’ said Sam.
Mary sighed again—the letter was so very affecting.
‘Good–bye!’ said Sam.
‘Good–bye,’ rejoined the pretty housemaid, turning her head away.
‘Well, shake hands, won’t you?’ said Sam.
The pretty housemaid put out a hand which, although it was a housemaid’s, wa_ very small one, and rose to go.
‘I shan’t be wery long avay,’ said Sam.
‘You’re always away,’ said Mary, giving her head the slightest possible tos_n the air. ‘You no sooner come, Mr. Weller, than you go again.’
Mr. Weller drew the household beauty closer to him, and entered upon _hispering conversation, which had not proceeded far, when she turned her fac_ound and condescended to look at him again. When they parted, it was someho_r other indispensably necessary for her to go to her room, and arrange th_ap and curls before she could think of presenting herself to her mistress; which preparatory ceremony she went off to perform, bestowing many nods an_miles on Sam over the banisters as she tripped upstairs.
‘I shan’t be avay more than a day, or two, Sir, at the furthest,’ said Sam, when he had communicated to Mr. Pickwick the intelligence of his father’_oss.
‘As long as may be necessary, Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘you have my ful_ermission to remain.’
‘You will tell your father, Sam, that if I can be of any assistance to him i_is present situation, I shall be most willing and ready to lend him any ai_n my power,’ said Mr. Pickwick.
And with some expressions of mutual good–will and interest, master and ma_eparated.
It was just seven o’clock when Samuel Weller, alighting from the box of _tage–coach which passed through Dorking, stood within a few hundred yards o_he Marquis of Granby. It was a cold, dull evening; the little street looke_reary and dismal; and the mahogany countenance of the noble and gallan_arquis seemed to wear a more sad and melancholy expression than it was won_o do, as it swung to and fro, creaking mournfully in the wind. The blind_ere pulled down, and the shutters partly closed; of the knot of loungers tha_sually collected about the door, not one was to be seen; the place was silen_nd desolate.
Seeing nobody of whom he could ask any preliminary questions, Sam walke_oftly in, and glancing round, he quickly recognised his parent in th_istance.
The widower was seated at a small round table in the little room behind th_ar, smoking a pipe, with his eyes intently fixed upon the fire. The funera_ad evidently taken place that day, for attached to his hat, which he stil_etained on his head, was a hatband measuring about a yard and a half i_ength, which hung over the top rail of the chair and streamed negligentl_own. Mr. Weller was in a very abstracted and contemplative mood.
Notwithstanding that Sam called him by name several times, he still continue_o smoke with the same fixed and quiet countenance, and was only rouse_ltimately by his son’s placing the palm of his hand on his shoulder.
‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘you’re welcome.’
‘I’ve been a–callin’ to you half a dozen times,’ said Sam, hanging his hat o_ peg, ‘but you didn’t hear me.’
‘No, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, again looking thoughtfully at the fire. ‘_as in a referee, Sammy.’
‘Wot about?’ inquired Sam, drawing his chair up to the fire.
‘In a referee, Sammy,’ replied the elder Mr. Weller, ‘regarding her, Samivel.’ Here Mr. Weller jerked his head in the direction of Dorking churchyard, i_ute explanation that his words referred to the late Mrs. Weller.
‘I wos a–thinkin’, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, eyeing his son, with grea_arnestness, over his pipe, as if to assure him that however extraordinary an_ncredible the declaration might appear, it was nevertheless calmly an_eliberately uttered. ‘I wos a–thinkin’, Sammy, that upon the whole I wos wer_orry she wos gone.’
‘Vell, and so you ought to be,’ replied Sam.
Mr. Weller nodded his acquiescence in the sentiment, and again fastening hi_yes on the fire, shrouded himself in a cloud, and mused deeply.
‘Those wos wery sensible observations as she made, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, driving the smoke away with his hand, after a long silence.
‘Wot observations?’ inquired Sam.
‘Them as she made, arter she was took ill,’ replied the old gentleman. ‘Wo_as they?’
‘Somethin’ to this here effect. “Veller,” she says, “I’m afeered I’ve not don_y you quite wot I ought to have done; you’re a wery kind–hearted man, and _ight ha’ made your home more comfortabler. I begin to see now,” she says, “ven it’s too late, that if a married ‘ooman vishes to be religious, sh_hould begin vith dischargin’ her dooties at home, and makin’ them as is abou_er cheerful and happy, and that vile she goes to church, or chapel, or wo_ot, at all proper times, she should be wery careful not to con–wert this sor_’ thing into a excuse for idleness or self–indulgence. I have done this,” sh_ays, “and I’ve vasted time and substance on them as has done it more than me; but I hope ven I’m gone, Veller, that you’ll think on me as I wos afore _now’d them people, and as I raly wos by natur.”
‘“Susan,” says I—I wos took up wery short by this, Samivel; I von’t deny it, my boy—“Susan,” I says, “you’ve been a wery good vife to me, altogether; don’_ay nothin’ at all about it; keep a good heart, my dear; and you’ll live t_ee me punch that ‘ere Stiggins’s head yet.” She smiled at this, Samivel,’ said the old gentleman, stifling a sigh with his pipe, ‘but she died arte_ll!’
‘Vell,’ said Sam, venturing to offer a little homely consolation, after th_apse of three or four minutes, consumed by the old gentleman in slowl_haking his head from side to side, and solemnly smoking, ‘vell, gov’nor, v_ust all come to it, one day or another.’
‘So we must, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller the elder.
‘There’s a Providence in it all,’ said Sam.
‘O’ course there is,’ replied his father, with a nod of grave approval. ‘Wot ’ud become of the undertakers vithout it, Sammy?’
Lost in the immense field of conjecture opened by this reflection, the elde_r. Weller laid his pipe on the table, and stirred the fire with a meditativ_isage.
While the old gentleman was thus engaged, a very buxom–looking cook, dresse_n mourning, who had been bustling about, in the bar, glided into the room, and bestowing many smirks of recognition upon Sam, silently stationed hersel_t the back of his father’s chair, and announced her presence by a sligh_ough, the which, being disregarded, was followed by a louder one.
‘Hollo!’ said the elder Mr. Weller, dropping the poker as he looked round, an_astily drew his chair away. ‘Wot’s the matter now?’
‘Have a cup of tea, there’s a good soul,’ replied the buxom female coaxingly.
‘I von’t,’ replied Mr. Weller, in a somewhat boisterous manner. ‘I’ll se_ou—’ Mr. Weller hastily checked himself, and added in a low tone, ‘furde_ust.’
‘Oh, dear, dear! How adwersity does change people!’ said the lady, lookin_pwards.
‘It’s the only thing ‘twixt this and the doctor as shall change my condition,’ muttered Mr. Weller.
‘I really never saw a man so cross,’ said the buxom female.
‘Never mind. It’s all for my own good; vich is the reflection vith vich th_enitent school–boy comforted his feelin’s ven they flogged him,’ rejoined th_ld gentleman.
The buxom female shook her head with a compassionate and sympathising air; and, appealing to Sam, inquired whether his father really ought not to make a_ffort to keep up, and not give way to that lowness of spirits.
‘You see, Mr. Samuel,’ said the buxom female, ‘as I was telling him yesterday, he will feel lonely, he can’t expect but what he should, sir, but he shoul_eep up a good heart, because, dear me, I’m sure we all pity his loss, and ar_eady to do anything for him; and there’s no situation in life so bad, Mr.
Samuel, that it can’t be mended. Which is what a very worthy person said to m_hen my husband died.’ Here the speaker, putting her hand before her mouth, coughed again, and looked affectionately at the elder Mr. Weller.
‘As I don’t rekvire any o’ your conversation just now, mum, vill you have th_oodness to re–tire?’ inquired Mr. Weller, in a grave and steady voice.
‘Well, Mr. Weller,’ said the buxom female, ‘I’m sure I only spoke to you ou_f kindness.’
‘Wery likely, mum,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Samivel, show the lady out, and shu_he door after her.’
This hint was not lost upon the buxom female; for she at once left the room, and slammed the door behind her, upon which Mr. Weller, senior, falling bac_n his chair in a violent perspiration, said—
‘Sammy, if I wos to stop here alone vun week—only vun week, my boy—that ‘ere ‘ooman ’ud marry me by force and wiolence afore it was over.’
‘Wot! is she so wery fond on you?’ inquired Sam.
‘Fond!’ replied his father. ‘I can’t keep her avay from me. If I was locked u_n a fireproof chest vith a patent Brahmin, she’d find means to get at me, Sammy.’
‘Wot a thing it is to be so sought arter!’ observed Sam, smiling.
‘I don’t take no pride out on it, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, poking the fir_ehemently, ‘it’s a horrid sitiwation. I’m actiwally drove out o’ house an_ome by it. The breath was scarcely out o’ your poor mother–in–law’s body, ve_un old ‘ooman sends me a pot o’ jam, and another a pot o’ jelly, and anothe_rews a blessed large jug o’ camomile–tea, vich she brings in vith her ow_ands.’ Mr. Weller paused with an aspect of intense disgust, and lookin_ound, added in a whisper, ‘They wos all widders, Sammy, all on ’em, ‘cept th_amomile–tea vun, as wos a single young lady o’ fifty–three.’
Sam gave a comical look in reply, and the old gentleman having broken a_bstinate lump of coal, with a countenance expressive of as much earnestnes_nd malice as if it had been the head of one of the widows last–mentioned, said:
‘In short, Sammy, I feel that I ain’t safe anyveres but on the box.’
‘How are you safer there than anyveres else?’ interrupted Sam.
“Cos a coachman’s a privileged indiwidual,’ replied Mr. Weller, lookin_ixedly at his son. ‘‘Cos a coachman may do vithout suspicion wot other me_ay not; ‘cos a coachman may be on the wery amicablest terms with eighty mil_’ females, and yet nobody think that he ever means to marry any vun among ’em. And wot other man can say the same, Sammy?’
‘Vell, there’s somethin’ in that,’ said Sam.
‘If your gov’nor had been a coachman,’ reasoned Mr. Weller, ‘do you s’pose a_hat ‘ere jury ’ud ever ha’ conwicted him, s’posin’ it possible as the matte_ould ha’ gone to that extremity? They dustn’t ha’ done it.’
‘Wy not?’ said Sam, rather disparagingly.
‘Wy not!’ rejoined Mr. Weller; ‘‘cos it ’ud ha’ gone agin their consciences. _eg’lar coachman’s a sort o’ con–nectin’ link betwixt singleness an_atrimony, and every practicable man knows it.’
‘Wot! You mean, they’re gen’ral favorites, and nobody takes adwantage on ’em, p’raps?’ said Sam.
His father nodded.
‘How it ever come to that ‘ere pass,’ resumed the parent Weller, ‘I can’t say.
Wy it is that long–stage coachmen possess such insiniwations, and is alvay_ooked up to—a–dored I may say—by ev’ry young ‘ooman in ev’ry town he vurk_hrough, I don’t know. I only know that so it is. It’s a regulation of natur—_ispensary, as your poor mother–in–law used to say.’
‘A dispensation,’ said Sam, correcting the old gentleman.
‘Wery good, Samivel, a dispensation if you like it better,’ returned Mr.
Weller; ‘I call it a dispensary, and it’s always writ up so, at the place_ere they gives you physic for nothin’ in your own bottles; that’s all.’
With these words, Mr. Weller refilled and relighted his pipe, and once mor_ummoning up a meditative expression of countenance, continued as follows—
‘Therefore, my boy, as I do not see the adwisability o’ stoppin here to b_arried vether I vant to or not, and as at the same time I do not vish t_eparate myself from them interestin’ members o’ society altogether, I hav_ome to the determination o’ driving the Safety, and puttin’ up vunce more a_he Bell Savage, vich is my nat’ral born element, Sammy.’
‘And wot’s to become o’ the bis’ness?’ inquired Sam.
‘The bis’ness, Samivel,’ replied the old gentleman, ‘good–vill, stock, an_ixters, vill be sold by private contract; and out o’ the money, two hundre_ound, agreeable to a rekvest o’ your mother–in–law’s to me, a little afor_he died, vill be invested in your name in—What do you call them things agin?’
‘Wot things?’ inquired Sam.
‘Them things as is always a–goin’ up and down, in the city.’
‘Omnibuses?’ suggested Sam.
‘Nonsense,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Them things as is alvays a–fluctooatin’, an_ettin’ theirselves inwolved somehow or another vith the national debt, an_he chequers bill; and all that.’
‘Oh! the funds,’ said Sam.
‘Ah!’ rejoined Mr. Weller, ‘the funs; two hundred pounds o’ the money is to b_nwested for you, Samivel, in the funs; four and a half per cent. reduce_ounsels, Sammy.’
‘Wery kind o’ the old lady to think o’ me,’ said Sam, ‘and I’m wery muc_bliged to her.’
‘The rest will be inwested in my name,’ continued the elder Mr. Weller; ‘an_en I’m took off the road, it’ll come to you, so take care you don’t spend i_ll at vunst, my boy, and mind that no widder gets a inklin’ o’ your fortun’, or you’re done.’
Having delivered this warning, Mr. Weller resumed his pipe with a more seren_ountenance; the disclosure of these matters appearing to have eased his min_onsiderably.
‘Somebody’s a–tappin’ at the door,’ said Sam.
‘Let ’em tap,’ replied his father, with dignity.
Sam acted upon the direction. There was another tap, and another, and then _ong row of taps; upon which Sam inquired why the tapper was not admitted.
‘Hush,’ whispered Mr. Weller, with apprehensive looks, ‘don’t take no notic_n ’em, Sammy, it’s vun o’ the widders, p’raps.’
No notice being taken of the taps, the unseen visitor, after a short lapse, ventured to open the door and peep in. It was no female head that was thrus_n at the partially–opened door, but the long black locks and red face of Mr.
Stiggins. Mr. Weller’s pipe fell from his hands.
The reverend gentleman gradually opened the door by almost imperceptibl_egrees, until the aperture was just wide enough to admit of the passage o_is lank body, when he glided into the room and closed it after him, wit_reat care and gentleness. Turning towards Sam, and raising his hands and eye_n token of the unspeakable sorrow with which he regarded the calamity tha_ad befallen the family, he carried the high–backed chair to his old corner b_he fire, and, seating himself on the very edge, drew forth a brow_ocket–handkerchief, and applied the same to his optics.
While this was going forward, the elder Mr. Weller sat back in his chair, wit_is eyes wide open, his hands planted on his knees, and his whole countenanc_xpressive of absorbing and overwhelming astonishment. Sam sat opposite him i_erfect silence, waiting, with eager curiosity, for the termination of th_cene.
Mr. Stiggins kept the brown pocket–handkerchief before his eyes for som_inutes, moaning decently meanwhile, and then, mastering his feelings by _trong effort, put it in his pocket and buttoned it up. After this, he stirre_he fire; after that, he rubbed his hands and looked at Sam.
‘Oh, my young friend,’ said Mr. Stiggins, breaking the silence, in a very lo_oice, ‘here’s a sorrowful affliction!’
Sam nodded very slightly.
‘For the man of wrath, too!’ added Mr. Stiggins; ‘it makes a vessel’s hear_leed!’ Mr. Weller was overheard by his son to murmur something relative t_aking a vessel’s nose bleed; but Mr. Stiggins heard him not. ‘Do you know, young man,’ whispered Mr. Stiggins, drawing his chair closer to Sam, ‘whethe_he has left Emanuel anything?’
‘Who’s he?’ inquired Sam.
‘The chapel,’ replied Mr. Stiggins; ‘our chapel; our fold, Mr. Samuel.’
‘She hasn’t left the fold nothin’, nor the shepherd nothin’, nor the animal_othin’,’ said Sam decisively; ‘nor the dogs neither.’
Mr. Stiggins looked slily at Sam; glanced at the old gentleman, who wa_itting with his eyes closed, as if asleep; and drawing his chair stil_earer, said—
‘Nothing for me, Mr. Samuel?’
Sam shook his head.
‘I think there’s something,’ said Stiggins, turning as pale as he could turn.
‘Consider, Mr. Samuel; no little token?’
‘Not so much as the vorth o’ that ‘ere old umberella o’ yourn,’ replied Sam.
‘Perhaps,’ said Mr. Stiggins hesitatingly, after a few moments’ deep thought, ‘perhaps she recommended me to the care of the man of wrath, Mr. Samuel?’
‘I think that’s wery likely, from what he said,’ rejoined Sam; ‘he wo_–speakin’ about you, jist now.’
‘Was he, though?’ exclaimed Stiggins, brightening up. ‘Ah! He’s changed, _are say. We might live very comfortably together now, Mr. Samuel, eh? I coul_ake care of his property when you are away—good care, you see.’
Heaving a long–drawn sigh, Mr. Stiggins paused for a response.
Sam nodded, and Mr. Weller the elder gave vent to an extraordinary sound, which, being neither a groan, nor a grunt, nor a gasp, nor a growl, seemed t_artake in some degree of the character of all four.
Mr. Stiggins, encouraged by this sound, which he understood to betoken remors_r repentance, looked about him, rubbed his hands, wept, smiled, wept again, and then, walking softly across the room to a well–remembered shelf in on_orner, took down a tumbler, and with great deliberation put four lumps o_ugar in it. Having got thus far, he looked about him again, and sighe_rievously; with that, he walked softly into the bar, and presently returnin_ith the tumbler half full of pine–apple rum, advanced to the kettle which wa_inging gaily on the hob, mixed his grog, stirred it, sipped it, sat down, an_aking a long and hearty pull at the rum–and–water, stopped for breath.
The elder Mr. Weller, who still continued to make various strange and uncout_ttempts to appear asleep, offered not a single word during these proceedings; but when Stiggins stopped for breath, he darted upon him, and snatching th_umbler from his hand, threw the remainder of the rum–and–water in his face, and the glass itself into the grate. Then, seizing the reverend gentlema_irmly by the collar, he suddenly fell to kicking him most furiously, accompanying every application of his top–boot to Mr. Stiggins’s person, wit_undry violent and incoherent anathemas upon his limbs, eyes, and body.
‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘put my hat on tight for me.’
Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on hi_ather’s head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greate_gility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and throug_he passage, out at the front door, and so into the street—the kickin_ontinuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather tha_iminishing, every time the top–boot was lifted.
It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red–nosed man writhing i_r. Weller’s grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kic_ollowed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle t_ehold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins’s head i_ horse–trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was hal_uffocated.
‘There!’ said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicate_ick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from th_rough, ‘send any vun o’ them lazy shepherds here, and I’ll pound him to _elly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a smal_lass of brandy. I’m out o’ breath, my boy.’