The old man sat outside the Cauliflower Inn, looking crossly up the road. He was fond of conversation, but the pedestrian who had stopped to drink a mug of ale beneath the shade of the doors was not happy in his choice of subjects. He would only talk of the pernicious effects of beer on the constitutions of the aged, and he listened with ill-concealed impatience to various points which the baffled ancient opposite urged in its favour.
Conversation languished; the traveller rapped on the table and had his mug refilled. He nodded courteously to his companion and drank.
“Seems to me,” said the latter, sharply, “you like it for all your talk.”
The other shook his head gently, and, leaning back, bestowed a covert wink upon the signboard. He then explained that it was the dream of his life to give up beer.
“You’re another Job Brown,” said the old man, irritably, “that’s wot you are; another Job Brown. I’ve seen your kind afore.”
He shifted farther along the seat, and, taking up his long clay pipe from the table, struck a match and smoked the few whiffs which remained. Then he heard the traveller order a pint of ale with gin in it and a paper of tobacco. His dull eyes glistened, but he made a feeble attempt to express surprise when these luxuries were placed before him.
“Wot I said just now about you being like Job Brown was only in joke like,” he said, anxiously, as he tasted the brew. “If Job ‘ad been like you he’d ha’ been a better man.”
The philanthropist bowed. He also manifested a little curiosity concerning one to whom he had, for however short a time, suggested a resemblance.
“He was one o’ the ‘ardest drinkers in these parts,” began the old man, slowly, filling his pipe.
The traveller thanked him.
“Wot I meant was”–said the old man, hastily–”that all the time ‘e was drinking ‘e was talking agin beer same as you was just now, and he used to try all sorts o’ ways and plans of becoming a teetotaler. He used to sit up ‘ere of a night drinking ‘is ‘ardest and talking all the time of ways and means by which ‘e could give it up. He used to talk about hisself as if ‘e was somebody else ‘e was trying to do good to.
The chaps about ‘ere got sick of ‘is talk. They was poor men mostly, same as they are now, and they could only drink a little ale now and then; an’ while they was doing of it they ‘ad to sit and listen to Job Brown, who made lots o’ money dealing, drinking pint arter pint o’ gin and beer and calling it pison, an’ saying they was killing theirselves.
“Sometimes ‘e used to get pitiful over it, and sit shaking ‘is ‘ead at ‘em for drowning theirselves in beer, as he called it, when they ought to be giving the money to their wives and families. He sat down and cried one night over Bill Chambers’s wife’s toes being out of ‘er boots. Bill sat struck all of a ‘eap, and it might ‘ave passed off, only Henery White spoke up for ‘im, and said that he scarcely ever ‘ad a pint but wot somebody else paid for it. There was unpleasantness all round then, and in the row somebody knocked one o’ Henery’s teeth out.
“And that wasn’t the only unpleasantness, and at last some of the chaps put their ‘eads together and agreed among theirselves to try and help Job Brown to give up the drink. They kep’ it secret from Job, but the next time ‘e came in and ordered a pint Joe Gubbins–’aving won the toss–drank it by mistake, and went straight off ‘ome as ‘ard as ‘e could, smacking ‘is lips.
“He ‘ad the best of it, the other chaps ‘aving to ‘old Job down in ‘is chair, and trying their ‘ardest to explain that Joe Gubbins was only doing him a kindness. He seemed to understand at last, and arter a long time ‘e said as ‘e could see Joe meant to do ‘im a kindness, but ‘e’d better not do any more.