Ah, that it isn't indeed, Mr. Bumble, rejoined the lady. And all the infant paupers might have chorused the rejoinder with great propriety, if they had heard it.
A porochial life, ma'am, continued Mr. Bumble, striking the table with his cane, is a life of worrit, and vexation, and hardihood; but all public characters, as I may say, must suffer prosecution.
Mrs. Mann, not very well knowing what the beadle meant, raised her hands with a look of sympathy, and sighed.
Ah! You may well sigh, Mrs. Mann! said the beadle.
Finding she had done right, Mrs. Mann sighed again: evidently to the satisfaction of the public character: who, repressing a complacent smile by looking sternly at his cocked hat, said,
Mrs. Mann, I am a going to London.
Lauk, Mr. Bumble! cried Mrs. Mann, starting back.
To London, ma'am, resumed the inflexible beadle, by coach. I and two paupers, Mrs. Mann! A legal action is a coming on, about a settlement; and the board has appointed me me, Mrs. Mann to depose to the matter before the quarter-sessions at Clerkinwell. And I very much question, added Mr. Bumble, drawing himself up, whether the Clerkinwell Sessions will not find themselves in the wrong box before they have done with me.
Oh! you mustn't be too hard upon them, sir, said Mrs. Mann, coaxingly.
The Clerkinwell Sessions have brought it upon themselves, ma'am, replied Mr. Bumble; and if the Clerkinwell Sessions find that they come off rather worse than they expected, the Clerkinwell Sessions have only themselves to thank.
There was so much determination and depth of purpose about the menacing manner in which Mr. Bumble delivered himself of these words, that Mrs. Mann appeared quite awed by them. At length she said,
You're going by coach, sir ? I thought it was always usual to send them paupers in carts.
That's when they're ill, Mrs. Mann, said the beadle. We put the sick paupers into open carts in the rainy weather, to prevent their taking cold.
Oh! said Mrs. Mann.
The opposition coach contracts for these two; and takes them cheap, said Mr. Bumble. They are both in a very low state, and we find it would come two pound cheaper to move 'em than to bury 'em that is, if we can throw 'em upon another parish, which I think we shall be able to do, if they don't die upon the road to spite us. Ha! ha! ha!
When Mr. Bumble had laughed a little while, his eyes again encountered the cocked hat; and he became grave.
We are forgetting business, ma'am, said the beadle; here is your porochial stipend for the month.
Mr. Bumble produced some silver money rolled up in paper, from his pocket-book; and requested a receipt: which Mrs. Mann wrote.
It's very much blotted, sir, said the farmer of infants; but it's formal enough, I dare say. Thank you, Mr. Bumble, sir, I am very much obliged to you, I'm sure.
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|