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4. The R. Wilfer Family
Reginald Wilfer is a name with rather a grand sound, suggesting on first
acquaintance brasses in country churches, scrolls in stained-glass windows, and
generally the De Wilfers who came over with the Conqueror. For, it is a
remarkable fact in genealogy that no De Any ones ever came over with Anybody
But, the Reginald Wilfer family were of such commonplace extraction and
pursuits that their forefathers had for generations modestly subsisted on the
Docks, the Excise Office, and the Custom House, and the existing R. Wilfer was
a poor clerk. So poor a clerk, though having a limited salary and an unlimited
family, that he had never yet attained the modest object of his ambition: which
was, to wear a complete new suit of clothes, hat and boots included, at one time.
His black hat was brown before he could afford a coat, his pantaloons were white
at the seams and knees before he could buy a pair of boots, his boots had worn
out before he could treat himself to new pantaloons, and, by the time he worked
round to the hat again, that shining modern article roofed-in an ancient ruin of
various periods.
If the conventional Cherub could ever grow up and be clothed, he might be
photographed as a portrait of Wilfer. His chubby, smooth, innocent appearance
was a reason for his being always treated with condescension when he was not
put down. A stranger entering his own poor house at about ten o'clock P.M. might
have been surprised to find him sitting up to supper. So boyish was he in his
curves and proportions, that his old schoolmaster meeting him in Cheapside,
might have been unable to withstand the temptation of caning him on the spot. In
short, he was the conventional cherub, after the supposititious shoot just
mentioned, rather grey, with signs of care on his expression, and in decidedly
insolvent circumstances.
He was shy, and unwilling to own to the name of Reginald, as being too aspiring
and self-assertive a name. In his signature he used only the initial R., and
imparted what it really stood for, to none but chosen friends, under the seal of
confidence. Out of this, the facetious habit had arisen in the neighbourhood
surrounding Mincing Lane of making christian names for him of adjectives and
participles beginning with R. Some of these were more or less appropriate: as
Rusty, Retiring, Ruddy, Round, Ripe, Ridiculous, Ruminative; others, derived
their point from their want of application: as Raging, Rattling, Roaring, Raffish.
But, his popular name was Rumty, which in a moment of inspiration had been
bestowed upon him by a gentleman of convivial habits connected with the drug-
markets, as the beginning of a social chorus, his leading part in the execution of