“Think of your ’ealth, Bill,” ses Peter Russet; “your ’ealth is more important than the pledge. Wot made you take it?”
Bill coughed. “I ‘ad reasons,” he ses, slowly. “A mate o’ mine wished me to.”
“He ought to ha’ known better,” ses Sam. “He ’ad ’is reasons,” ses Bill.
“Well, all I can say is, Bill,” ses Ginger, “all I can say is, it’s very disobligin’ of you.”
“Disobligin’?” ses Bill, with a start; “don’t say that, mate.”
“I must say it,” ses Ginger, speaking very firm.
“You needn’t take a lot, Bill,” ses Sam; “nobody wants you to do that. Just drink in moderation, same as wot we do.”
“It gets into my ’ead,” ses Bill, at last.
“Well, and wot of it?” ses Ginger; “it gets into everybody’s ’ead occasionally. Why, one night old Sam ’ere went up behind a policeman and tickled ’im under the arms; didn’t you, Sam?”
“I did nothing o’ the kind,” ses Sam, firing up.
“Well, you was fined ten bob for it next morning, that’s all I know,” ses Ginger.
“I was fined ten bob for punching ’im,” ses old Sam, very wild. “I never tickled a policeman in my life. I never thought o’ such a thing. I’d no more tickle a policeman than I’d fly. Anybody that ses I did is a liar. Why should I? Where does the sense come in? Wot should I want to do it for?”
“All right, Sam,” ses Ginger, sticking ’is fingers in ’is ears, “you didn’t, then.”
“No, I didn’t,” ses Sam, “and don’t you forget it. This ain’t the fust time you’ve told that lie about me. I can take a joke with any man; but anybody that goes and ses I tickled—”
“All right,” ses Ginger and Peter Russet together. “You’ll ’ave tickled policeman on the brain if you ain’t careful, Sam,” ses Peter.
Old Sam sat down growling, and Ginger Dick turned to Bill agin. “It gets into everybody’s ’ead at times,” he ses, “and where’s the ’arm? It’s wot it was meant for.”
Bill shook his ’ead, but when Ginger called ‘im disobligin’ agin he gave way and he broke the pledge that very evening with a pint o’ six ’arf.
Ginger was surprised to see the way ’e took his liquor. Arter three or four pints he’d expected to see ’im turn a bit silly, or sing, or do something o’ the kind, but Bill kept on as if ’e was drinking water.
“Think of the ’armless pleasure you’ve been losing all these months, Bill,” ses Ginger, smiling at him.
Bill said it wouldn’t bear thinking of, and, the next place they came to he said some rather ’ard things of the man who’d persuaded ’im to take the pledge. He ’ad two or three more there, and then they began to see that it was beginning to have an effect on ’im. The first one that noticed it was Ginger Dick. Bill ’ad just lit ’is pipe, and as he threw the match down he ses: “I don’t like these ’ere safety matches,” he ses.
“Don’t you, Bill?” ses Ginger. “I do, rather.”