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Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 1, November 20, 1841   By:

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VOL. 1.



I dined with my old friend and schoolfellow, Jack Withers, one day last September. On the previous morning, on my way to the India House, I had run up against a stout individual on Cornhill, and on looking in his face as I stopped for a moment to apologise, an abrupt "This is surely Jack Withers," burst from my lips, followed by "God bless me! Will Bayfield!" from his. After a hurried question or two, we shook hands warmly and parted, with the understanding that I was to cut my mutton with him next day.

Seventeen years had elapsed since Withers and I had seen or heard of each other. Having a good mercantile connexion, he had pitched upon commerce as his calling, and entered a counting house in Idollane in the same year that I, a raw young surgeon, embarked for India to seek my fortune in the medical service of the East India Company.

Things had gone well with honest Jack; from a long, thin, weazel of a youngster, he had become a burly ruddy faced gentleman, with an aldermanic rotundity of paunch, which gave the world assurance that his ordinary fare by no means consisted of deaf nuts; he had already, as he told me, accumulated a very pretty independence, which was yearly increasing, and was, moreover, a snug bachelor, with a well arranged residence in Finsbury square; in short, it was evident that Jack was "a fellow with two coats and everything handsome about him."

As for me, I was a verification of the adage about the rolling stone; having gathered a very small quantity of "moss," in the shape of worldly goods. I had spent sixteen years in marching and countermarching over the thirsty plains of the Carnatic, in medical charge of a native regiment salivating Sepoys and blowing out with blue pills the officers until the effects of a stiff jungle fever, that nearly made me proprietor of a landed property measuring six feet by two, sent me back to England almost as poor as I had left it, and with an atrabilarious visage which took a two months' course of Cheltenham water to scour into anything like a decent colour.

Withers' dinner was in the best taste: viands excellent wine superb; never did I sip racier Madeira, and the Champagne trickled down one's throat with the same facility that man is inclined to sin.

The cloth drawn, we fell to discoursing about old times, things, persons, and places. Jack then told me how from junior clerk he had risen to become second partner in the firm to which he belonged; and I, in my turn, enlightened his mind with respect to Asiatic Cholera, Runjeet Sing, Ghuzni, tiger shooting, and Shah Soojah.

In this manner the evening slid pleasantly on. An array of six bottles, that before dinner had contained the juice of Oporto, stood empty on the sideboard. Jack wanted to draw another cork, which, however, I positively forbad, as I have through life made it a rule to avoid the slightest approach towards excess in tippling; so, after a modest brace of glasses of brandy and water, I shook hands with and left my friend about half past nine, for I am an old fashioned fellow, and love early hours, my usual time for turning in being ten.

When I got into the street an unaccustomed spirit of gaiety at once took possession of me; my general feelings of benevolence and goodwill towards all mankind appeared to have received a sudden and marvellous increase. I seemed to tread on eider down, and, cigar in mouth, strolled along Fleet street and the Strand, towards my domicile in Half Moon street "nescio quid meditans nugarum" sometimes humming the fag end of an Irish melody; anon stopping to stare in a print shop window; and then I would trudge on, chewing the cud of sweet and bitter fancy as I conned over the various ups and downs that had chequered my life since Jack Withers and I were thoughtless lads together "a long time ago."

In this mood I found myself standing before the New Strand Theatre, my attention having been arrested by the word PUNCH blazoned in large letters on a play bill... Continue reading book >>

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