Mr. Headstone is revived by a draught of cold water from the Pump, which is applied externally to his person by Phil Squod. Having regained his senses, the pedagogue dries himself off with Mr. George’s jack-towel and is given a nip of brandy from a pewter flask that the Chicken keeps about his person. The owner of the shooting gallery instructs Phil to return the dumb-bells to their rack and to break out the skipping rope, which form of exercise he recommends to Mr. Headstone until such time as that gentleman’s sinews are strengthened by sporting pursuits.
Friday, May 3, 2013
The proprietor of the shooting gallery, alerted by the sounds of counterfeit combat, appears; bare-headed and bare-chested, still in the performance of his morning toilet. Mr. George is a swarthy brown man of fifty; well-made, and good-looking; with crisp dark hair, bright eyes, and a broad chest. His step is measured and heavy, and would go well with a weighty clash and a jingle of spurs. He is close-shaved now, but his mouth is set as if his upper lip had been for years familiar with a great moustache. Altogether, one might guess Mr. George to have been a trooper once upon a time. He rubs, and puffs, and polishes himself upon a large jack-towel, turning his head from side to side on occasion, the more conveniently to excoriate his throat; and when this chafing is over he pulls on a shirt, hoists a pair of braces onto his broad shoulders, and buttons up his tunic.
The Chicken makes the necessary introductions, and Mr.George makes Mr. Headstone’s acquaintance by shaking that gentleman firmly by the hand and clapping him roundly on the back, which gestures of familiarity provide the pedagogue with ample evidence of the trooper’s Herculean qualities. The Chicken having made known the purpose of their visit, Mr. George casts a professional eye upon Mr. Headstone’s lean frame and announces that it wants flesh, and proposes a turn at the dumb-bells. Obedient to his command, Phil Squod fetches a pair. He has a curious way of limping round the gallery with his shoulder against the wall, and tacking off at objects as he wants to lay hold of, instead of going straight to them. Phil returns in the same roundabout fashion with a pair of dumb-bells, which he carries in one hand as if he had no idea what weight was. He tosses these instruments to Mr. Headstone under the mistaken assumption that that gentleman is endowed with both the dexterity and the strength required to receive them. The pedagogue deflects one of these projectiles with his shoulder, and the other with the crown of his head, and is laid out on the matting much as if he had received a knockout blow, which, indeed, he has. Mr.George, the Chicken, and Phil Squod gather round the prostrate form, and shake their heads in disappointment.
Monday, April 29, 2013
The mock hostilities having finally been brought to a close, Mr. Headstone emerges from behind the deal board to find the Game Chicken and the diminutive figure in cap and apron enveloped in a companionable cloud of tobacco smoke. The latter gentleman is introduced as Phil Squod, whom the Chicken is proud to display as a living example of the incombustible nature of man, and whose history of incendiary misfortunes – which include being scorched in an accident at a gas-works, and being blown out of a window whilst case-filling in the firework business – is testament to the fact that (the recent unfortunate demise of a rag and bone dealer in Chancery Lane notwithstanding) individuals are not inclined to burn as easily as wicks or tows. To demonstrate his conviction of this belief, the Chicken applies the smoldering tip of his cigar to the hem of his companion’s apron until it catches fire. With perfect equanimity, Phil Squod inhales the smoke as if it were the finest Virginian leaf, and remarks that it is uncommonly warm for the time of year, which observation causes much merriment between himself and the Chicken. Mr. Headstone, fearful of the imminent immolation of his new acquaintance, looks about him and spies a bucket in the corner. He takes it up, runs outside to the Pump, fills it with exceedingly cold water, and returns. Uncertain of his aim, he douses both gentlemen with the contents, which has the desired effect of dampening both the flames and their humour.
Sunday, April 28, 2013
The Chicken hailed a hackney-coach and they drove away to the neighbourhood of Leicester Square, which is a centre of attraction to indifferent foreign hotels and indifferent foreigners, racket-courts, fighting-men, swordsmen, footguards, old china, gaming-houses, exhibitions, and a large medley of shabbiness and shrinking out of sight. Alighting there, they arrive, by a court and a long whitewashed passage, at a great brick building composed of bare walls, floors, roof-rafters, and skylights; on the front of which, if it can be said to have a front, is painted GEORGE'S SHOOTING GALLERY, &c. The door to this establishment being closed, the Chicken pulled a bell-handle, which hung by a chain to the door-post, and the door was opened by a very singular-looking little man dressed something like a gunsmith, in a green-baize apron and cap, whose face, and hands, and dress, were blackened all over with gunpowder, and begrimed with the loading of guns. By their manner of greeting, which involved an extended bout of playful sparring, Mr. Headstone surmised that the two gentlemen were on such familiar terms that they precluded the more commonplace formalities of acquaintance. He followed them down a dreary passage into a large building with bare brick walls; where there were targets, and guns, and swords, and other paraphernalia of the sporting variety. This assortment of weaponry inspired the combatants to further demonstrations of sportsmanship, which exhibited itself at first in a duel with foils, and then in a display of marksmanship involving pistols and rifles, and clay pipes for targets. Mr. Headstone found it indispensable for his own sense of comfort and personal safety to take up a position in a corner of the room behind a screen of unpainted wood, and resolved not to emerge from this place until the echo of the last report had died down.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Winter, having taken occupancy of the full term of March, is refusing to relinquish his tenancy despite the expiration of his lease, and Spring is forced to shiver out of doors and shake her delicate blooms in the cold. One such unseasonably chilly morning, with snow swirling in the air, finds Mr Headstone unwilling to stir. The pedagogue is not an early riser at the brightest of times, and on this particular morning his senses are dulled by a headache compounded of strong spirits and the fermented air of a crowded tavern. His regrettable state is a consequence of having attended on the previous evening a Harmonic Meeting featuring the Comic Vocalist Little Swills, whose performances are regularly held at The Sol’s Arms under the direction of that establishment’s highly respectable landlord, Mr James George Bogsby.
Mr Headstone had been accompanied by Mr Guppy and Mr Weevle, and, as a consequence of the part these latter two gentlemen had played in obliging Mr Bogsby on a certain occasion, the landlord invited them to give their orders and to be welcome to whatever they put a name to. Thus entreated the three companions (Mr Headstone especially) put names to so many things that in the course of time they found it difficult to put a name to anything quite distinctly. At length with slow retreating steps the night departed, and the lamplighter went his rounds, snuffing out the lamps like so many guttering candles.
And now the day discerns, even with its dim London eye, that Mr Headstone has been up all night. Over and above the pale face that greets the morn, and the heels that lie prone on the hard floor instead of the bed, the brick and plaster physiognomy of the pedagogue’s very room itself looks worn and jaded. The windows peer out blearily onto the street; the hearth exhales the tainted breath of the past night’s revels; and the ceiling wears a wan and pinched expression, as if it were a mirror held up against the pedagogue’s own pale visage. Mr Headstone’s condition is not in any degree improved by a repeated and vigorous knocking at his door. His visitor has a strong arm, and performs that operation which is a traditional prelude to admittance so indefatigably that Mr Headstone feels as if the knuckles were being applied to the exterior of his skull. When at last he can stand no more, he rises and crosses the room (a feat of no small distinction) and opens the door to reveal the Game Chicken, the very picture of health and vitality, boxing his own shadow on the landing. That sporting gentleman, having being apprised of Mr Headstone’s lamentable state from the two gentlemen who presaged him into it, has come to offer aid and succor in the form of gymnastic exercises, and requires the pedagogue to dress himself and accompany him to Leicester Square for that very purpose.
Sunday, March 24, 2013
The appointed time for the commencement of the celebrations had arrived. The members of the society, their guests, and the visiting dignitaries looked for their places at the tables, an operation which was protracted beyond any reasonable notion of convenience by the fact that the copying of the place cards had been performed by Mr Tony Jobling, whose frequent patronage of The Sol’s Arms was inclined to have a detrimental effect on the steadiness of his hand and, in consequence, on the legibility of his script. Once all disputes over the seating arrangements had been settled there remained but one empty chair, and that was the place reserved for the guest of honour. As Mr Headstone rose to initiate the proceedings with a speech of welcome for that absent gentleman, approaching footsteps were heard upon the stairs, and the entire company turned in anticipation of the entrance of the celebrated writer. The door opened, a loud huzzah echoed around the room, and a waiter, bearing a tray of thin slices of ham, tongue and German sausage, presented a countenance of amazement to the equally surprised assembly. When he returned to the kitchen he observed to the cook that it was gratifying to receive such vocal approbation of one’s services, and, rubbing his greasy hands vigorously, anticipated a handsome gratuity at the conclusion of the evening. A second waiter ascended with a large tureen of soup and was greeted with another cheer, albeit not quite as vociferous as the one that had heralded the cold collation. Indeed, with each course – the lobster, the veal, the beef pie – the reception became less and less enthusiastic, and by the time the marrow pudding was succeeded by the cheese, the diners had reconciled themselves to their disappointment with the aid of pints of half and half for the gentlemen and gin and water for the ladies. The members of the committee were at a loss to account for the absence of their guest of honour, and resolved to make it the theme of the first order of business at the next meeting of the society. Only Mr Benjamin Bailey, formerly of Todger’s boarding house, seemed to be able to accept the situation with equanimity as he supped on his rum and pushed the letters of invitation which he had been charged to deliver deeper into the pockets of his fustian trowsers.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The name of Miss Mowcher was announced and, in anticipation of her entrance, Mr Headstone looked at the doorway and saw nothing. He was still looking at the doorway, thinking that Miss Mowcher was a long while making her appearance, when, to his infinite astonishment, there came waddling across the floor a diminutive female individual, of about forty or forty-five, with a very large head and face and a pair of roguish grey eyes. Her chin, which was what is called a double chin, was so fat that it entirely swallowed up the strings of her bonnet, bow and all. Throat she had none; waist she had none; legs she had none, worth mentioning; she was so short that she stood at a common-sized chair as at a table, resting a bag she carried on the seat. From this bag she extracted the instruments of her trade and arranged them before her. She tilted some of the contents of a little blue bottle on to a piece of flannel, and, again imparting some of the virtues of that liquid preparation to a little brush, began rubbing and scraping at the offending bear’s grease with both until it had quite dissolved. Then with a wink and a flourish and - with a sound like that of the weasel - the lady removed Mr Headstone’s hat from his head and tossed it into the air. The fee for this service was five shillings, which Mr Headstone willingly paid. Miss Mowcher tossed up his two half-crowns like a goblin pieman, caught them, dropped them in her pocket, and gave it a loud slap. Her work complete, the lady turned about and waddled off in search of refreshment, followed by the admiring gaze of Mr Poll Sweedlepipe, Miss Mowcher being in his eyes the nonpareil of their trade.