“Pummel,” I observed, a little irritated at not getting my coffee, “if you were to carry your kettle and spirits of wine up a mountain of a morning, your water would boil there sooner.” “I should say, sir.” “Or, there are boiling springs in Iceland. Better go to Iceland.” “That’s what I’ve been thinking, sir.”
I have taken to asking him hard questions, and as I expected, he never admits his own inability to answer them without representing it as common to the human race. “What is the cause of the tides, Pummel?”
“Well, sir, nobody rightly knows. Many gives their opinion, but if I was to give mine, it ’ud be different.”
But while he is never surprised himself, he is constantly imagining situations of surprise for others. His own consciousness is that of one so thoroughly soaked in knowledge that further absorption is impossible, but his neighbours appear to him to be in the state of thirsty sponges which it is a charity to besprinkle. His great interest in thinking of foreigners is that they must be surprised at what they see in England, and especially at the beef. He is often occupied with the surprise Adam must have felt at the sight of the assembled animals—“for he was not like us, sir, used from a b’y to Wombwell’s shows.” He is fond of discoursing to the lad who acts as shoe-black and general subaltern, and I have overheard him saying to that small upstart, with some severity, “Now don’t you pretend to know, because the more you pretend the more I see your ignirance”—a lucidity on his part which has confirmed my impression that the thoroughly self-satisfied person is the only one fully to appreciate the charm of humility in others.