“I met Lippity-Libby at the gate this morning. ‘Look here,’ I said; ‘this is a pretty poison you are sowing on your rounds’: and I showed him the feathers which young Obed had left with me. ’I know you can’t help it,’ said I, ’but if the Post Office can stop and open suspected circulars, surely it can refuse to help this abomination!’ ‘I’ve delivered pretty well a score, sir,’ said he; ’and I wish you or some person would write to the papers and stop it.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ’it’s not for me to ask if you have a guess who sends this sort of thing about?’ He rubbed his chin for a while and then answered: `No, Parson; nor ’tisn’t for me to tell ’ee if I do: but if you should happen to be strollin’ down t’wards the Quay, you might take a look at Mrs Polsue’s Cochin-China hens. The way them birds have been moultin’ since the War started—’”
“Robert! You don’t tell me that woman plucks the poor things alive!”
“Ay: and takes the bleeding quills to draw more blood from young men’s hearts.”
At certain decent and regular intervals of time (we need not indicate them more precisely) Mrs Polsue was accustomed to order in from the Three Pilchards a firkin of ale. A firkin, as the reader probably knows, is the least compromising of casks, and Mr Latter regularly attended in person to “spile” it. Mrs Polsue as regularly took care to watch the operation.
“The newspaper tells me,” said she, “that this is likely to be a teetotal War.”
“Tell me another, ma’am!” answered Mr Latter in his unconventional way.
“It would be an excellent thing for our troops in the field: and, if you ask my opinion, a little mortifying of the spirit would do the working classes of this country a deal of good. I take a glass of ale myself, under medical advice, because cold water disagrees with me, and I’ve never yet had the aerated drink recommended that wasn’t followed by flatulence.”
“There’s neither mirth nor music in ’em” agreed Mr Latter.
“I do not seek either mirth or music in the little I make use of,” Mrs Polsue corrected him; “and on general grounds I agree with total abstinence.”
[In this the lady said no more than the truth. She had lamented, scores of times, an infirmity of the flesh which, forbidding her to chastise the indulgence of moderate drinking, protected a truly enormous class of fellow-creatures from her missionary disapproval. Often and often she had envied Charity Oliver, who could consume tea with hot sausages and even ham rashers. “To have the stomach of an ostrich must be a privilege indeed,” she had once assured her friend; “though to be sure it tells on the complexion, forcing the blood to the face; so that (from a worldly point of view) at a distance a different construction might be put on it.”]
“Tea with sausages, for instance!”