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ously popped the tube again into her open mouth : not without a fresh scuffle from the patient. “For the Lord's sake, Ellen,” entreated the Teatotaller, confining her hand, “do, do, pray do sit quiet.” “Pob—wob—wobble,” said Ellen. “Hub—bub—bub— bubble,” attempting to speak with another pipe in her throat besides the windpipe. “Have the goodness, ma'am, to be composed,” implored the doctor. “I won't,” shouted Mrs. Burrage, having again released herself from the instrument by a desperate struggle. “What am I to be pumped out for 2 ” “O Ellen, Ellen,” said the Teatotaller, “you know what you have taken.” “Corrosive salts and narcotics,” put in the doctor. “Assnic and corrosive sublimity,” said the Teatotaller. “Oxalic acid and tincture of opium,” added the doctor. “Fly-water and laurel-water,” said Mr. Burrage. “Vitriol, prussic acid, and aqua fortis,” continued the druggist. “I’ve took no such thing,” said the refractory patient. “O Ellen, you know what you said.” “Well, what?” “Why, that your drinking should never trouble me any more.” “And no more it shall !” screamed the wilful woman, falling, as she spoke, into convulsive paroxysms of the wildest laughter. “No more it shall, for I’ve took — ” “What, ma'am ; pray what?” “In the name of Heaven | What ?” “Why then — I’ve took the PLEDGE | *
“THE disappointment will be dreadful,” said Mrs. Peck, speaking to herself, and looking from the dingy floor, up the bare wall, at the blank ceiling. “But how to get one, Heaven only knows ' "
It was the afternoon of the 24th of December. Christmas Day was at hand, and for the first time in her existence Mrs. Peck was without a plum-pudding. For years past she had been reduced in life ; but never so reduced as that She was in despair. Not that she particularly doted on the composition ; but it was a sort of superstition with her that, if she failed to taste the dish in question on that festival, she should never again enjoy luck in this world, or perhaps in the next. It was a foolish notion: but many enlightened Christians cling religiously to similar opinions; for example, as to pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, or hot cross buns on a Good Friday. So with Mrs. Peck a plum-pudding on Christmas Day was an article of her faith.
Yes — she must have one, though it should prove but a dumpling of larger growth. But how P Buying was out of the question: she had not half a farthing in the house — a widow without a mite — and stealing was not to be thought of—she must borrow or beg. Once arrived at this conclusion, she acted on it without delay. There were plenty of little emissaries at hand, in the shape of her own children, for the necessary errands — namely, Careful Susan, Dirty Polly, Greedy Charley, Whistling Dick, Little Jack, and Ragged Peter, so called from a fragment of linen that usually dangled behind him, like a ship's ensign from its stern.
“Children l’” said Mrs. Peck, “I am going to have a Christmas plum-pudding.” * At such an unexpected announcement, the children shouted, jumped about and clapped their skinny hands. But their mirth was of brief duration. Second thoughts, for once none of the best, soon reminded them that the cupboard was as bare as Mother Hubbard's ; while the maternal pocket was equally empty. How the thing was to happen, therefore, they knew not— unless by some such fairy feat as sent black puddings tumbling down the chimney; or some such scriptural miracle as showered quails and manna in the Wilderness; or that one, which Greedy Charley remembered to have seen depicted in blue and white on a Dutch tile, of horned cattle and sheep coming down from heaven to St. Peter, in a monster bundle. But having vainly watched the hearths, the walls, and the ceiling, for a minute or so, they gave up all such extravagant expectations. The hopes of Ragged Peter were, like his nether garments, in tatters; and the dingy face of Dirty Polly looked darker than ever. There was a dead silence, at last broken by Little Jack. “But, mammy, you have got no plums.” “And no flour,” said Careful Susan. “And no suet,” said Dirty Polly. “Nor no sugar,” said Ragged Peter. “And no almonds and orange-peel,” said Greedy Charley. “No eggs,” said Careful Susan. “And never a sarcepan,” said Whistling Dick. “As to almonds and orange-peel,” said Mrs. Peck, “we must do without. Our pudding will be a very plain one. That is to say, if we get it at all, for there is not one ingredient in the house. We must borrow and beg; so get ready, all of you, to run on my errands.” “Let me go for the plums, mother,” said Greedy Charley; but knowing his failing, she assigned to him to plead to Mr. Crop, the butcher, for a morsel of suet. Dirty Polly was to extract a few currants and raisins and some sugar, if she could, out of Mr. Perry, the grocer; Little Jack was to wheedle a trifle of flour from Mr. Stone, the baker; and Careful Susan was to get three eggs of Mrs. Saukins, who did mangling in her parlor and kept fowls in her cellar. Whistling Dick undertook to borrow a saucepan ; and as Ragged Peter insisted also on a commission, he was sent to hunt about the streets, and pick up a little orange-peel — candied, if possible. As the children had no promenade dresses to put on, they were soon ready. Susan merely reduced the angles of her bonnet front to something of a semicircle; and Dirty Polly, with a single tug, made her short, scanty garment look a little more like a frock, and less like a kilt. She might, indeed, have washed her face, as Ragged Peter might have tucked in some dingy linen, with personal advantage; but as they were not going to a juvenile party, they waived the ceremony. Little Jack clapped on his crownless hat; Greedy Charley took his jew's-harp, the gift of a generous charity-boy; Whistling Dick set up his natural pipe; and away they went, in search of a pudding by instalments. As soon as they were gone, Mrs. Peck, having made up the fire, washed her hands and arms very clean, and then seating herself at the round deal-table, with her elbows on the board, and her chin between her palms, began to calculate her chances of success. The flour, provided Mr. Stone, and not his wife, was in the shop, she made sure of The fruit was certain — the suet was very possible — the eggs probable— the saucepan as good as in her own hand — in short, being of a sanguine temperament, she dreamed till she saw before her a smoking hot plum-pudding, of respectable size, and dappled with dark spots, big and little, like a Dalmatian dog. In the mean time, Charley, twanging all the way on his jew's-harp, arrived at the butcher's, who was standing before the shop with his back to the road, admiring, as only butchers can admire, the rows of fat carcasses and prime joints on the tenter-hooks before him. Could that meat have known his sentiments concerning it, what proud flesh it would have been I Hearing a step behind him, and anticipating a customer, he turned round with the usual “What d'ye buy?” “I have n't got no money to buy with,” said Charley, “or else” — and looking round for the desired object, he pointed to it with his finger—“I’d buy that ere lump of suet.” “And what do you want with suet?” asked the butcher. “If you please, sir,” replied Charley, “it’s for our pudding. But mother is out of money; so if you don't let her have that bit of suet, either on credit or for charity—”
“Well, what then P’’ said the butcher. “Why then,” said Charley, “it will be the first time in our lives that we’ve gone without plum-pudding on this blessed festival.” The butcher was a big florid man, bloated and reddened, as persons of his trade are said to be, by constantly imbibing invisible beef-tea and mutton-broth, or as it is called, the smell of the meat. But, although thus appropriating by minute particles the flesh and fat of sheep, oxen, and pigs, he was far from becoming a brute. He cast a kindly glance at the poor boy, who looked sickly and ill-fed, and then a triumphant one at his halves and quarters, glorious with nature's red and white, and gay with sprigs of holly, suggesting the opportune reflection that Christmas comes but once a year. “There — take it, boy—you're welcome to it, gratis, by way of a Christmas-box — and my compliments of the season to your mother.” “So saying, he tossed the suet to Charley, who, forgetting in his joy to thank his benefactor, ran straight home with the treasure, as delighted as if he had just won the Prize Ox in a Beef-Union Lottery. The success of Dirty Polly was less decisive. Before entering the grocer's shop, she took a long, longing look through the window, unconsciously nibbling at her own fingers, instead of those delicious Jordan almonds, and that crisp candied citron and orange-peel — and sucking in imagination at those beautiful Smyrna figs, and Damascus dates, and French plums, so temptingly displayed in round drums and fancy boxes, with frills of tinted paper round each compartment. And there, too, were the very articles she wanted — new currants from Zante — rich Malaga raisins, or of the sun, or sultanas — with samples of sugar of every shade and quality, from a fine light sand to a coarse dark gravel; but alas ! all ticketed at impracticable rates, in obtrusive figures | The owner had marked a price on everything except the long twisted sticks of sugar-candy and the canes of cinnamon that leaned againste the China figure. “Will he give anything away for nothing,” she asked herself, “if I beg ever so?” The China mandarin nodded his head, and she stepped in. The grocer himself was in the shop, in his snow-white apron, busily dusting, with a clean cloth, some imaginary impurities