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Title: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, v. 1(of 2)
Author: Dickens, Charles
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, v. 1(of 2)" ***

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produced from images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)



  THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS OF
  THE PICKWICK CLUB



  [Illustration: _The Pickwick Club_]



  THE POSTHUMOUS PAPERS
  OF THE
  PICKWICK CLUB

  BY
  CHARLES DICKENS

  ILLUSTRATED BY
  CECIL ALDIN

  VOLUME THE FIRST

  [Illustration]

  NEW YORK
  E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
  31 West Twenty-Third Street



CONTENTS


                 CHAPTER I                                  PAGE
  +The Pickwickians+                                           1

                 CHAPTER II
  +The First Day's Journey, and the First Evening's
    Adventures; with their Consequences+                       7

                 CHAPTER III
  +A New Acquaintance. The Stroller's Tale. A Disagreeable
    Interruption, and an Unpleasant Encounter+                39

                 CHAPTER IV
  +A Field-Day and Bivouac. More New Friends. An Invitation
    to the Country+                                           52

                 CHAPTER V
  +A Short One. Showing, among other Matters, how Mr.
    Pickwick undertook to Drive, and Mr. Winkle to Ride;
    and how they both did it+                                 66

                 CHAPTER VI
  +An Old-fashioned Card-party. The Clergyman's Verses. The
    Story of the Convict's Return+                            78

                 CHAPTER VII
  +How Mr. Winkle, instead of Shooting at the Pigeon and
    Killing the Crow, Shot at the Crow and Wounded the
    Pigeon; how the Dingley Dell Cricket Club played
    All-Muggleton, and how All-Muggleton Dined at the
    Dingley Dell Expense: with other Interesting and
    Instructive Matters+                                      95

                 CHAPTER VIII
  +Strongly Illustrative of the Position, that the Course
    of True Love is not a Railway+                           111

                 CHAPTER IX
  +A Discovery and a Chase+                                  126

                 CHAPTER X
  +Clearing up all Doubts (if any Existed) of the
    Disinterestedness of Mr. Jingle's Character+             136

                 CHAPTER XI
  +Involving another Journey, and an Antiquarian Discovery.
    Recording Mr. Pickwick's Determination to be Present
    at an Election; and containing a Manuscript of the Old
    Clergyman's+                                             152

                 CHAPTER XII
  +Descriptive of a very important Proceeding on the part
    of Mr. Pickwick; no less an Epoch in his Life, than in
    this History+                                            173

                 CHAPTER XIII
  +Some Account of Eatanswill; of the State of Parties
    therein; and of the Election of a Member to Serve in
    Parliament for that Ancient, Loyal, and Patriotic
    Borough+                                                 181

                 CHAPTER XIV
  +Comprising a Brief Description of the Company at the
    Peacock assembled; and a Tale told by a Bagman+          202

                 CHAPTER XV
  +In which is given a Faithful Portraiture of two
    Distinguished Persons; and an Accurate Description of
    a Public Breakfast in their House and Grounds: which
    Public Breakfast leads to the Recognition of an Old
    Acquaintance, and the Commencement of another Chapter+   222

                 CHAPTER XVI
  +Too full of Adventure to be Briefly Described+            238

                 CHAPTER XVII
  +Showing that an Attack of Rheumatism in some cases, acts
    as a Quickener to Inventive Genius+                      261

                 CHAPTER XVIII
  +Briefly illustrative of Two Points;--First, the Power of
    Hysterics, and, Secondly, the Force of Circumstances+
                                                             271

                 CHAPTER XIX
  +A Pleasant Day, with an Unpleasant Termination+           283

                 CHAPTER XX
  +Showing how Dodson and Fogg were Men of Business, and
    their Clerks Men of Pleasure; and how an affecting
    Interview took place between Mr. Weller and his
    Long-lost Parent; showing also what Choice Spirits
    assembled at the Magpie and Stump, and what a Capital
    Chapter the Next One will be+                            300

                 CHAPTER XXI
  +In which the Old Man launches forth into his Favourite
    Theme, and relates a Story about a Queer Client+         319

                 CHAPTER XXII
  +Mr. Pickwick Journeys to Ipswich, and meets with a
    Romantic Adventure with a Middle-aged Lady in Yellow
    Curl-papers+                                             338

                 CHAPTER XXIII
  +In which Mr. Samuel Weller begins to devote his Energies
    to the Return Match between himself and Mr. Trotter+     357

                 CHAPTER XXIV
  +Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the
    Middle-aged Lady apprehensive, which brings the
    Pickwickians within the Grasp of the Law+                367

                 CHAPTER XXV
  +Showing, among a variety of Pleasant Matters, how
    Majestic and Impartial Mr. Nupkins was, and how Mr.
    Weller returned Mr. Job Trotter's Shuttlecock as
    heavily as it came. With another Matter, which will be
    found in its Place+                                      385

                 CHAPTER XXVI
  +Which contains a Brief Account of the Progress of the
    Action of Bardell against Pickwick+                      407

                 CHAPTER XXVII
  +Samuel Weller makes a Pilgrimage to Dorking, and beholds
    his Mother-in-law+                                       415

                 CHAPTER XXVIII
  +A Good-humoured Christmas Chapter, containing an Account
    of a Wedding, and some other Sports beside: which
    although in their Way even as Good Customs as Marriage
    itself, are not quite so religiously kept up, in these
    Degenerate Times+                                        426



ILLUSTRATIONS


IN COLOUR

  _The Pickwick Club_                                   _Frontispiece_

  _"Wo--o!" cried Mr. Pickwick. "Wo--o!" echoed Mr. Tupman
    and Mr. Snodgrass from the bin_                   _Facing page_ 70

  _Mr. Pickwick ran to his assistance_                       "      72

  _"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Winkle, "I declare I forgot
    the cap"_                                                "      98

  _"Love to Tuppy--won't you get up behind?--drive on,
    boys," replied Jingle_                                   "     134

  _Sam at the White Hart_                                    "     142

  _At the table sat Mr. Tupman, looking as unlike a man who
    had taken his leave of this world as possible_           "     156

  _"She looked up in Tom's face and smiled through her
    tears"_                                                  "     220

  _"I won't suffer this barrow to be moved another step
    unless Winkle carries that gun of his in a different
    manner"_                                                 "     286

  _"Take example of your father, my boy, and be very
    careful o' widders all your life"_                       "     310

  _"I trust, ma'am," resumed Mr. Pickwick, "that my
    unblemished character and the devoted respect I
    entertain for your sex----"_                             "     354

  _"Mother-in-law," said Sam, "how are you?"_                "     418

  _A distant response is heard from the yard, and Mr.
    Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it_            "     430


IN TEXT

                                                               PAGE
  _Heading to Chapter I_                                          1

  _Heading to Chapter II_                                         7

  _"Weeks!" said Mr. Pickwick in astonishment--and out came
    the note-book again_                                          9

  _"What's the fun?" said a rather tall thin young man_          11

  _"My name is Winkle, sir"_                                     28

  _Heading to Chapter III_                                       39

  _Heading to Chapter IV_                                        52

  _"Damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again"_                    59

  _Heading to Chapter V_                                         66

  _"T'other side, sir, if you please"_                           71

  _Heading to Chapter VI_                                        78

  _Heading to Chapter VII_                                       95

  _Heading to Chapter VIII_                                     111

  _"He must have been fast asleep," whispered Mr. Tupman_       115

  _Heading to Chapter IX_                                       126

  _"Here I am; but I han't a willin"_                           127

  _Heading to Chapter X_                                        136

  _Sam Weller at the keyhole_                                   146

  _Heading to Chapter XI_                                       152

  _"There is an inscription here," said Mr. Pickwick_           158

  _Heading to Chapter XII_                                      173

  _"Oh, you kind, good, playful dear"_                          176

  _Heading to Chapter XIII_                                     181

  _"He has patted the babies on the head"_                      196

  _Heading to Chapter XIV_                                      202

  _"No other than Tom Smart"_                                   207

  _Heading to Chapter XV_                                       222

  _Mr. Pickwick, with the Brigand on one arm, and the
    Troubadour on the other_                                    230

  _Heading to Chapter XVI_                                      238

  _"Looks as convivial as a live trout in a lime-basket"_       244

  _"Who's there?" screamed a numerous chorus of treble voices_  254

  _Heading to Chapter XVII_                                     261

  _"Open it flew, disclosing Nathaniel Pipkin"_                 268

  _Heading to Chapter XVIII_                                    271

  _Heading to Chapter XIX_                                      283

  _"Who are you, you rascal?"_                                  296

  _Heading to Chapter XX_                                       300

  _Heading to Chapter XXI_                                      319

  _Heading to Chapter XXII_                                     338

  _"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, "Where's my bedroom?"_             355

  _Heading to Chapter XXIII_                                    357

  _Heading to Chapter XXIV_                                     367

  _Heading to Chapter XXV_                                      385

  _"You don't mean to say you did that on purpose?"_            405

  _Heading to Chapter XXVI_                                     407

  _Mrs. Bardell and her two friends were getting on very well_  410

  _Heading to Chapter XXVII_                                    415

  _Heading to Chapter XXVIII_                                   426

  _"Aha!" said the fat boy_                                     432



[Illustration: POSTHUMOUS PAPERS
                      OF
               THE PICKWICK CLUB]



CHAPTER I

THE PICKWICKIANS


The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a
dazzling brilliancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the
public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is
derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of
the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest
pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful
attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which
his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been
conducted.

"May 12, 1827. Joseph Smiggers, Esq., P.V.P.M.P.C.,[1] presiding. The
following resolutions unanimously agreed to:--

      [1] Perpetual Vice-President--Member Pickwick Club.

"That this Association has heard read, with feelings of unmingled
satisfaction, and unqualified approval, the paper communicated by
Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C.,[2] entitled 'Speculations on the
Source of the Hampstead Ponds, with some Observations on the Theory of
Tittlebats'; and that this Association does hereby return its warmest
thanks to the said Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., for the same.

      [2] General Chairman--Member Pickwick Club.

"That while this Association is deeply sensible of the advantages
which must accrue to the cause of science from the production to which
they have just adverted,--no less than from the unwearied researches
of Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., in Hornsey, Highgate, Brixton,
and Camberwell,--they cannot but entertain a lively sense of the
inestimable benefits which must inevitably result from carrying the
speculations of that learned man into a wider field, from extending his
travels, and consequently enlarging his sphere of observation, to the
advancement of knowledge, and the diffusion of learning.

"That, with the view just mentioned, this Association has taken into
its serious consideration a proposal, emanating from the aforesaid
Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., and three other Pickwickians
hereinafter named, for forming a new branch of United Pickwickians,
under the title of The Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club.

"That the said proposal has received the sanction and approval of this
Association.

"That the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club is therefore
hereby constituted; and that Samuel Pickwick, Esq., G.C.M.P.C., Tracy
Tupman, Esq., M.P.C., Augustus Snodgrass, Esq., M.P.C., and Nathaniel
Winkle, Esq., M.P.C., are hereby nominated and appointed members of
the same; and that they be requested to forward, from time to time,
authenticated accounts of their journeys and investigations, of their
observations of character and manners, and of the whole of their
adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local scenery
or associations may give rise, to the Pickwick Club, stationed in
London.

"That this Association cordially recognises the principle of every
member of the Corresponding Society defraying his own travelling
expenses; and that it sees no objection whatever to the members of
the said society pursuing their inquiries for any length of time they
please, upon the same terms.

"That the members of the aforesaid Corresponding Society be, and are,
hereby informed, that their proposal to pay the postage of their
letters, and the carriage of their parcels, has been deliberated upon
by this Association: that this Association considers such proposal
worthy of the great minds from which it emanated, and that it hereby
signifies its perfect acquiescence therein."

A casual observer, adds the Secretary, to whose notes we are indebted
for the following account--a casual observer might possibly have
remarked nothing extraordinary in the bald head, and circular
spectacles, which were intently turned towards his (the Secretary's)
face, during the reading of the above resolutions: to those who knew
that the gigantic brain of Pickwick was working beneath that forehead,
and that the beaming eyes of Pickwick were twinkling behind those
glasses, the sight was indeed an interesting one. There sat the man who
had traced to their source the mighty ponds of Hampstead, and agitated
the scientific world with his Theory of Tittlebats, as calm and unmoved
as the deep waters of the one on a frosty day, or as a solitary
specimen of the other in the inmost recesses of an earthen jar. And
how much more interesting did the spectacle become, when, starting
into full life and animation, as a simultaneous call for "Pickwick"
burst from his followers, that illustrious man slowly mounted into the
Windsor chair, on which he had been previously seated, and addressed
the club himself had founded. What a study for an artist did that
exciting scene present! The eloquent Pickwick, with one hand gracefully
concealed behind his coat tails, and the other waving in air, to assist
his glowing declamation; his elevated position revealing those tights
and gaiters, which, had they clothed an ordinary man, might have passed
without observation, but which, when Pickwick clothed them--if we may
use the expression--inspired involuntary awe and respect; surrounded
by the men who had volunteered to share the perils of his travels, and
who were destined to participate in the glories of his discoveries. On
his right hand sat Mr. Tracy Tupman--the too susceptible Tupman, who to
the wisdom and experience of maturer years superadded the enthusiasm
and ardour of a boy, in the most interesting and pardonable of human
weaknesses--love. Time and feeding had expanded that once romantic
form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and more developed; inch
by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath it disappeared from within
the range of Tupman's vision; and gradually had the capacious chin
encroached upon the borders of the white cravat: but the soul of Tupman
had known no change--admiration of the fair sex was still its ruling
passion. On the left of his great leader sat the poetic Snodgrass, and
near him again the sporting Winkle, the former poetically enveloped
in a mysterious blue cloak with a canine-skin collar, and the latter
communicating additional lustre to a new green shooting coat, plaid
neckerchief, and closely-fitted drabs.

Mr. Pickwick's oration upon this occasion, together with the debate
thereon, is entered on the Transactions of the Club. Both bear a strong
affinity to the discussions of other celebrated bodies; and, as it is
always interesting to trace a resemblance between the proceedings of
great men, we transfer the entry to these pages.

"Mr. Pickwick observed (says the Secretary) that fame was dear to the
heart of every man. Poetic fame was dear to the heart of his friend
Snodgrass; the fame of conquest was equally dear to his friend Tupman;
and the desire of earning fame in the sports of the field, the air,
and the water, was uppermost in the breast of his friend Winkle. He
(Mr. Pickwick) would not deny that he was influenced by human passions,
and human feelings (cheers)--possibly by human weaknesses--(loud
cries of 'No'); but this he would say, that if ever the fire of
self-importance broke out in his bosom, the desire to benefit the human
race in preference effectually quenched it. The praise of mankind
was his Swing; philanthropy was his insurance office. (Vehement
cheering.) He had felt some pride--he acknowledged it freely, and
let his enemies make the most of it--he had felt some pride when he
presented his Tittlebatian Theory to the world; it might be celebrated
or it might not. (A cry of 'It is,' and great cheering.) He would
take the assertion of that honourable Pickwickian whose voice he had
just heard--it was celebrated; but if the fame of that treatise were
to extend to the furthest confines of the known world, the pride with
which he should reflect on the authorship of that production would be
as nothing compared with the pride with which he looked around him,
on this, the proudest moment of his existence. (Cheers.) He was a
humble individual. ('No, no.') Still he could not but feel that they
had selected him for a service of great honour, and of some danger.
Travelling was in a troubled state, and the minds of coachmen were
unsettled. Let them look abroad, and contemplate the scenes which were
enacting around them. Stage coaches were upsetting in all directions,
horses were bolting, boats were overturning, and boilers were bursting.
(Cheers--a voice 'No.') No! (Cheers.) Let that honourable Pickwickian
who cried 'No' so loudly come forward and deny it, if he could.
(Cheers.) Who was it that cried 'No'? (Enthusiastic cheering.) Was it
some vain and disappointed man--he would not say haberdasher--(loud
cheers)--who, jealous of the praise which had been--perhaps
undeservedly--bestowed on his (Mr. Pickwick's) researches, and smarting
under the censure which had been heaped upon his own feeble attempts at
rivalry, now took this vile and calumnious mode of----

"Mr. +Blotton+ (of Aldgate) rose to order. Did the honourable
Pickwickian allude to him? (Cries of 'Order,' 'Chair,' 'Yes,' 'No,' 'Go
on,' 'Leave off,' &c.)

"Mr. +Pickwick+ would not put up to be put down by clamour. He _had_
alluded to the honourable gentleman. (Great excitement.)

"Mr. +Blotton+ would only say then, that he repelled the hon. gent.'s
false and scurrilous accusation, with profound contempt. (Great
cheering.) The hon. gent. was a humbug. (Immense confusion, and loud
cries of 'Chair' and 'Order.')

"Mr. +A. Snodgrass+ rose to order. He threw himself upon the chair.
(Hear.) He wished to know whether this disgraceful contest between two
members of that club should be allowed to continue. (Hear, hear.)

"The +Chairman+ was quite sure the hon. Pickwickian would withdraw the
expression he had just made use of.

"Mr. +Blotton+, with all possible respect for the chair, was quite sure
he would not.

"The +Chairman+ felt it his imperative duty to demand of the honourable
gentleman, whether he had used the expression which had just escaped
him in a common sense.

"Mr. +Blotton+ had no hesitation in saying that he had not--he had
used the word in its Pickwickian sense. (Hear, hear.) He was bound to
acknowledge that, personally, he entertained the highest regard and
esteem for the honourable gentleman; he had merely considered him a
humbug in a Pickwickian point of view. (Hear, hear.)

"Mr. +Pickwick+ felt much gratified by the fair, candid, and full
explanation of his honourable friend. He begged it to be at once
understood, that his own observations had been merely intended to bear
a Pickwickian construction. (Cheers.)"

Here the entry terminates, as we have no doubt the debate did also,
after arriving at such a highly satisfactory and intelligible point.
We have no official statement of the facts which the reader will find
recorded in the next chapter, but they have been carefully collated
from letters and other MS. authorities, so unquestionably genuine as to
justify their narration in a connected form.



CHAPTER II

[Illustration]

  _The First Day's Journey, and the First Evening's Adventures;
    with their Consequences_


That punctual servant of all work, the sun, had just risen, and begun
to strike a light on the morning of the thirteenth of May, one thousand
eight hundred and twenty-seven, when Mr. Samuel Pickwick burst like
another sun from his slumbers, threw open his chamber window, and
looked out upon the world beneath. Goswell Street was at his feet,
Goswell Street was on his right hand--as far as the eye could reach,
Goswell Street extended on his left; and the opposite side of Goswell
Street was over the way. "Such," thought Mr. Pickwick, "are the narrow
views of those philosophers who, content with examining the things
that lie before them, look not to the truths which are hidden beyond.
As well might I be content to gaze on Goswell Street for ever, without
one effort to penetrate to the hidden countries which on every side
surround it." And having given vent to this beautiful reflection, Mr.
Pickwick proceeded to put himself into his clothes, and his clothes
into his portmanteau. Great men are seldom over-scrupulous in the
arrangement of their attire; the operation of shaving, dressing, and
coffee-imbibing was soon performed: and in another hour, Mr. Pickwick,
with his portmanteau in his hand, his telescope in his great-coat
pocket, and his note-book in his waistcoat, ready for the reception
of any discoveries worthy of being noted down, had arrived at the
coach-stand in St. Martin's-le-Grand.

"Cab!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Here you are, sir," shouted a strange specimen of the human race,
in a sackcloth coat, and apron of the same, who with a brass label
and number round his neck, looked as if he were catalogued in some
collection of rarities. This was the waterman. "Here you are, sir.
Now, then, fust cab!" And the first cab having been fetched from the
public-house, where he had been smoking his first pipe, Mr. Pickwick
and his portmanteau were thrown into the vehicle.

"Golden Cross," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Only a bob's vorth, Tommy," cried the driver, sulkily, for the
information of his friend the waterman, as the cab drove off.

"How old is that horse, my friend?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his
nose with the shilling he had reserved for the fare.

"Forty-two," replied the driver, eyeing him askant.

"What!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, laying his hand upon his note-book.
The driver reiterated his former statement. Mr. Pickwick looked very
hard at the man's face, but his features were immovable, so he noted
down the fact forthwith.

"And how long do you keep him out at a time?" inquired Mr. Pickwick,
searching for further information.

"Two or three veeks," replied the man.

"Weeks!" said Mr. Pickwick in astonishment--and out came the note-book
again.

"He lives at Pentonwil when he's at home," observed the driver coolly,
"but we seldom takes him home, on account of his veakness."

"On account of his weakness!" reiterated the perplexed Mr. Pickwick.

"He always falls down when he's took out o' the cab," continued the
driver, "but when he's in it, we bears him up wery tight, and takes him
in wery short, so as he can't wery well fall down; and we've got a pair
o' precious large wheels on, so ven he _does_ move, they run after
him, and he must go on--he can't help it."

Mr. Pickwick entered every word of this statement in his note-book,
with the view of communicating it to the club, as a singular instance
of the tenacity of life in horses, under trying circumstances. The
entry was scarcely completed when they reached the Golden Cross. Down
jumped the driver, and out got Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass,
and Mr. Winkle, who had been anxiously waiting the arrival of their
illustrious leader, crowded to welcome him.

[Illustration: _"Weeks!" said Mr. Pickwick in astonishment--and out
came the note-book again_]

"Here's your fare," said Mr. Pickwick, holding out the shilling to the
driver.

What was the learned man's astonishment, when that unaccountable person
flung the money on the pavement, and requested in figurative terms to
be allowed the pleasure of fighting him (Mr. Pickwick) for the amount!

"You are mad," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Or drunk," said Mr. Winkle.

"Or both," said Mr. Tupman.

"Come on!" said the cab-driver, sparring away like clock-work. "Come
on--all four on you."

"Here's a lark!" shouted half-a-dozen hackney coachmen. "Go to vork,
Sam,"--and they crowded with great glee round the party.

"What's the row, Sam?" inquired one gentleman in black calico sleeves.

"Row!" replied the cabman, "what did he want my number for?"

"I didn't want your number," said the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

"What did you take it for, then?" inquired the cabman.

"I didn't take it," said Mr. Pickwick, indignantly.

"Would anybody believe," continued the cab-driver, appealing to the
crowd, "would anybody believe as an informer 'ud go about in a man's
cab, not only takin' down his number, but ev'ry word he says into the
bargain" (a light flashed upon Mr. Pickwick--it was the note-book).

"Did he though?" inquired another cabman.

"Yes, did he," replied the first; "and then arter aggerawatin' me to
assault him, gets three witnesses here to prove it. But I'll give it
him, if I've six months for it. Come on!" and the cabman dashed his hat
upon the ground, with a reckless disregard of his own private property,
and knocked Mr. Pickwick's spectacles off, and followed up the attack
with a blow on Mr. Pickwick's nose, and another on Mr. Pickwick's
chest, and a third in Mr. Snodgrass's eye, and a fourth, by way of
variety, in Mr. Tupman's waistcoat, and then danced into the road, and
then back again to the pavement, and finally dashed the whole temporary
supply of breath out of Mr. Winkle's body; and all in half-a-dozen
seconds.

"Where's an officer?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Put 'em under the pump," suggested a hot-pieman.

"You shall smart for this," gasped Mr. Pickwick.

"Informers!" shouted the crowd.

"Come on," cried the cabman, who had been sparring without cessation
the whole time.

The mob had hitherto been passive spectators of the scene, but as
the intelligence of the Pickwickians being informers was spread among
them, they began to canvass with considerable vivacity the propriety
of enforcing the heated pastry-vendor's proposition; and there is no
saying what acts of personal aggression they might have committed had
not the affray been unexpectedly terminated by the interposition of a
new comer.

[Illustration: _"What's the fun?" said a rather tall thin young man_]

"What's the fun?" said a rather tall thin young man, in a green coat,
emerging suddenly from the coach-yard.

"Informers!" shouted the crowd again.

"We are not," roared Mr. Pickwick, in a tone which, to any
dispassionate listener, carried conviction with it.

"Ain't you, though,--ain't you?" said the young man, appealing to
Mr. Pickwick, and making his way through the crowd by the infallible
process of elbowing the countenances of its component members.

That learned man in a few hurried words explained the real state of the
case.

"Come along, then," said he of the green coat, lugging Mr. Pickwick
after him by main force, and talking the whole way. "Here, No. 924,
take your fare, and take yourself off--respectable gentleman--know him
well--none of your nonsense--this way, sir,--where's your friends?--all
a mistake, I see--never mind--accidents will happen--best regulated
families--never say die--down upon your luck--pull him up--put that
in his pipe--like the flavour--damned rascals." And with a lengthened
string of similar broken sentences, delivered with extraordinary
volubility, the stranger led the way to the travellers' waiting-room,
whither he was closely followed by Mr. Pickwick and his disciples.

"Here, waiter!" shouted the stranger, ringing the bell with tremendous
violence, "glasses round,--brandy and water, hot and strong, and
sweet, and plenty,--eye damaged, sir? Waiter! raw beef-steak for the
gentleman's eye,--nothing like raw beef-steak for a bruise, sir;
cold lamp-post very good, but lamp-post inconvenient--damned odd
standing in the open street half-an-hour, with your eye against a
lamp-post--eh,--very good,--ha! ha!" And the stranger, without stopping
to take breath, swallowed at a draught full half-a-pint of the reeking
brandy and water, and flung himself into a chair with as much ease as
if nothing uncommon had occurred.

While his three companions were busily engaged in proffering their
thanks to their new acquaintance, Mr. Pickwick had leisure to examine
his costume and appearance.

He was about the middle height, but the thinness of his body, and the
length of his legs, gave him the appearance of being much taller.
The green coat had been a smart dress garment in the days of
swallow-tails, but had evidently in those times adorned a much shorter
man than the stranger, for the soiled and faded sleeves scarcely
reached to his wrists. It was buttoned closely up to his chin, at
the imminent hazard of splitting the back; and an old stock, without
a vestige of shirt collar, ornamented his neck. His scanty black
trousers displayed here and there those shiny patches which bespeak
long service, and were strapped very tightly over a pair of patched
and mended shoes, as if to conceal the dirty white stockings, which
were nevertheless distinctly visible. His long black hair escaped in
negligent waves from beneath each side of his old pinched-up hat;
and glimpses of his bare wrists might be observed between the tops
of his gloves and the cuffs of his coat sleeves. His face was thin
and haggard; but an indescribable air of jaunty impudence and perfect
self-possession pervaded the whole man.

Such was the individual on whom Mr. Pickwick gazed through his
spectacles (which he had fortunately recovered), and to whom he
proceeded, when his friends had exhausted themselves, to return in
chosen terms his warmest thanks for his recent assistance.

"Never mind," said the stranger, cutting the address very short, "said
enough,--no more; smart chap that cabman--handled his fives well;
but if I'd been your friend in the green jemmy--damn me--punch his
head,--'cod I would,--pig's whisper--pieman too,--no gammon."

This coherent speech was interrupted by the entrance of the Rochester
coachman, to announce that "The Commodore" was on the point of starting.

"Commodore!" said the stranger, starting up, "my coach,--place
booked,--one outside--leave you to pay for the brandy and water,--want
change for a five,--bad silver--Brummagem buttons--won't do--no
go--eh?" and he shook his head most knowingly.

Now it so happened that Mr. Pickwick and his three companions had
resolved to make Rochester their first halting-place too; and having
intimated to their new-found acquaintance that they were journeying to
the same city, they agreed to occupy the seat at the back of the coach,
where they could all sit together.

"Up with you," said the stranger, assisting Mr. Pickwick on to the roof
with so much precipitation as to impair the gravity of that gentleman's
deportment very materially.

"Any luggage, sir?" inquired the coachman.

"Who--I? Brown paper parcel here, that's all,--other luggage gone by
water,--packing cases, nailed up--big as houses--heavy, heavy, damned
heavy," replied the stranger, as he forced into his pocket as much as
he could of the brown paper parcel, which presented most suspicious
indications of containing one shirt and a handkerchief.

"Heads, heads--take care of your heads!" cried the loquacious stranger,
as they came out under the low archway, which in those days formed the
entrance to the coach-yard. "Terrible place--dangerous work--other
day--five children--mother--tall lady eating sandwiches--forgot the
arch--crash--knock--children look round--mother's head off--sandwich
in her hand--no mouth to put it in--head of a family off,
shocking, shocking! Looking at Whitehall, sir?--fine place--little
window--somebody else's head off there, eh, sir?--he didn't keep a
sharp look-out enough either--eh, sir, eh?"

"I am ruminating," said Mr. Pickwick, "on the strange mutability of
human affairs."

"Ah! I see--in at the palace door one day, out at the window the next.
Philosopher, sir?"

"An observer of human nature, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Ah, so am I. Most people are when they've little to do and less to
get. Poet, sir?"

"My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a strong poetic turn," said Mr. Pickwick.

"So have I," said the stranger. "Epic poem,--ten thousand
lines--revolution of July--composed it on the spot--Mars by day, Apollo
by night,--bang the field-piece, twang the lyre."

"You were present at that glorious scene, sir?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Present! think I was;[3] fired a musket,--fired with an idea,--rushed
into wine shop--wrote it down--back again--whiz, bang--another
idea--wine shop again--pen and ink--back again--cut and slash--noble
time, sir. Sportsman, sir?" abruptly turning to Mr. Winkle.

      [3] A remarkable instance of the prophetic force of Mr.
          Jingle's imagination, this dialogue occurring in the year
          1827, and the Revolution in 1830.

"A little, sir," replied that gentleman.

"Fine pursuit, sir,--fine pursuit.--Dogs, sir?"

"Not just now," said Mr. Winkle.

"Ah! you should keep dogs--fine animals--sagacious creatures--dog of my
own once--Pointer--surprising instinct--out shooting one day--entering
enclosure--whistled--dog stopped--whistled again--Ponto--no go; stock
still--called him--Ponto, Ponto--wouldn't move--dog transfixed--staring
at a board--looked up, saw an inscription--'Gamekeeper has orders to
shoot all dogs found in this enclosure'--wouldn't pass it--wonderful
dog--valuable dog that--very."

"Singular circumstance that," said Mr. Pickwick. "Will you allow me to
make a note of it?"

"Certainly, sir, certainly--hundred more anecdotes of the same
animal.--Fine girl, sir" (to Mr. Tracy Tupman, who had been bestowing
sundry anti-Pickwickian glances on a young lady by the roadside).

"Very!" said Mr. Tupman.

"English girls not so fine as Spanish--noble creatures--jet hair--black
eyes--lovely forms--sweet creatures--beautiful."

"You have been in Spain, sir?" said Mr. Tracy Tupman.

"Lived there--ages."

"Many conquests, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman.

"Conquests! Thousands. Don Bolaro Fizzgig--Grandee--only
daughter--Donna Christina--splendid creature--loved me to
distraction--jealous father--high-souled daughter--handsome
Englishman--Donna Christina in despair--prussic acid--stomach pump in
my portmanteau--operation performed--old Bolaro in ecstasies--consent
to our union--join hands and floods of tears--romantic story--very."

"Is the lady in England now, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman, on whom the
description of her charms had produced a powerful impression.

"Dead, sir--dead," said the stranger, applying to his right eye the
brief remnant of a very old cambric handkerchief. "Never recovered the
stomach pump--undermined constitution--fell a victim."

"And her father?" inquired the poetic Snodgrass.

"Remorse and misery," replied the stranger. "Sudden disappearance--talk
of the whole city--search made everywhere--without success--public
fountain in the great square suddenly ceased playing--weeks
elapsed--still a stoppage--workman employed to clean it--water drawn
off--father-in-law discovered sticking head first in the main pipe,
with a full confession in his right boot--took him out, and the
fountain played away again, as well as ever."

"Will you allow me to note that little romance down, sir?" said Mr.
Snodgrass, deeply affected.

"Certainly, sir, certainly,--fifty more if you like to hear
'em--strange life mine--rather curious history--not extraordinary, but
singular."

In this strain, with an occasional glass of ale, by way of parenthesis,
when the coach changed horses, did the stranger proceed, until they
reached Rochester bridge, by which time the note-books, both of Mr.
Pickwick and Mr. Snodgrass, were completely filled with selections from
his adventures.

"Magnificent ruin!" said Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, with all the poetic
fervour that distinguished him, when they came in sight of the fine old
castle.

"What a study for an antiquarian!" were the very words which fell from
Mr. Pickwick's mouth, as he applied his telescope to his eye.

"Ah! fine place," said the stranger, "glorious pile--frowning
walls--tottering arches--dark nooks--crumbling staircases--Old
cathedral too--earthy smell--pilgrims' feet worn away the old
steps--little Saxon doors--confessionals like money-takers' boxes at
theatres--queer customers those monks--Popes, and Lord Treasurers,
and all sorts of old fellows, with great red faces, and broken noses,
turning up every day--buff jerkins too--matchlocks--Sarcophagus--fine
place--old legends too--strange stories: capital;" and the stranger
continued to soliloquise until they reached the Bull Inn, in the High
Street, where the coach stopped.

"Do you remain here, sir?" inquired Mr. Nathaniel Winkle.

"Here--not I--but you'd better--good house--nice beds--Wright's next
house, dear--very dear--half-a-crown in the bill if you look at the
waiter--charge you more if you dine at a friend's than they would if
you dined in the coffee-room--rum fellows--very."

Mr. Winkle turned to Mr. Pickwick, and murmured a few words; a whisper
passed from Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Snodgrass, from Mr. Snodgrass to Mr.
Tupman, and nods of assent were exchanged. Mr. Pickwick addressed the
stranger.

"You rendered us a very important service this morning, sir," said he,
"will you allow us to offer a slight mark of our gratitude by begging
the favour of your company at dinner?"

"Great pleasure--not presume to dictate, but broiled fowl and
mushrooms--capital thing! what time?"

"Let me see," replied Mr. Pickwick, referring to his watch, "it is now
nearly three. Shall we say five?"

"Suit me excellently," said the stranger, "five precisely--till
then--care of yourselves;" and lifting the pinched-up hat a few inches
from his head, and carelessly replacing it very much on one side, the
stranger, with half the brown paper parcel sticking out of his pocket,
walked briskly up the yard, and turned into the High Street.

"Evidently a traveller in many countries, and a close observer of men
and things," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I should like to see his poem," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"I should like to have seen that dog," said Mr. Winkle.

Mr. Tupman said nothing; but he thought of Donna Christina, the stomach
pump, and the fountain; and his eyes filled with tears.

A private sitting-room having been engaged, bed-rooms inspected, and
dinner ordered, the party walked out to view the city and adjoining
neighbourhood.

We do not find, from a careful perusal of Mr. Pickwick's notes on
the four towns, Stroud, Rochester, Chatham, and Brompton, that his
impressions of their appearance differ in any material point from
those of other travellers who have gone over the same ground. His
general description is easily abridged.

"The principal productions of these towns," says Mr. Pickwick, "appear
to be soldiers, sailors, Jews, chalk, shrimps, officers, and dockyard
men. The commodities chiefly exposed for sale in the public streets are
marine stores, hard-bake, apples, flat-fish, and oysters. The streets
present a lively and animated appearance, occasioned chiefly by the
conviviality of the military. It is truly delightful to a philanthropic
mind, to see these gallant men staggering along under the influence of
an overflow, both of animal and ardent spirits; more especially when we
remember that the following them about, and jesting with them, affords
a cheap and innocent amusement for the boy population. Nothing (adds
Mr. Pickwick) can exceed their good humour. It was but the day before
my arrival that one of them had been most grossly insulted in the house
of a publican. The bar-maid had positively refused to draw him any more
liquor; in return for which he had (merely in playfulness) drawn his
bayonet, and wounded the girl in the shoulder. And yet this fine fellow
was the very first to go down to the house next morning, and express
his readiness to overlook the matter, and forget what had occurred.

"The consumption of tobacco in these towns (continues Mr. Pickwick)
must be very great: and the smell which pervades the streets must be
exceedingly delicious to those who are extremely fond of smoking. A
superficial traveller might object to the dirt, which is their leading
characteristic; but to those who view it as an indication of traffic
and commercial prosperity, it is truly gratifying."

Punctual to five o'clock came the stranger, and shortly afterwards the
dinner. He had divested himself of his brown paper parcel, but had made
no alteration in his attire, and was, if possible, more loquacious than
ever.

"What's that?" he inquired, as the waiter removed one of the covers.

"Soles, sir."

"Soles--ah!--capital fish--all come from London--stage-coach
proprietors get up political dinners--carriage of soles--dozens of
baskets--cunning fellows. Glass of wine, sir?"

"With pleasure," said Mr. Pickwick, and the stranger took wine, first
with him, and then with Mr. Snodgrass, and then with Mr. Tupman, and
then with Mr. Winkle, and then with the whole party together, almost as
rapidly as he talked.

"Devil of a mess on the staircase, waiter," said the stranger. "Forms
going up--carpenters coming down--lamps, glasses, harps. What's going
forward?"

"Ball, sir," said the waiter.

"Assembly, eh?"

"No, sir, not Assembly, sir. Ball for the benefit of a charity, sir."

"Many fine women in this town, do you know, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman,
with great interest.

"Splendid--capital. Kent, sir--everybody knows Kent--apples, cherries,
hops, and women. Glass of wine, sir?"

"With great pleasure," replied Mr. Tupman. The stranger filled, and
emptied.

"I should very much like to go," said Mr. Tupman, resuming the subject
of the ball, "very much."

"Tickets at the bar, sir," interposed the waiter; "half a guinea each,
sir."

Mr. Tupman again expressed an earnest wish to be present at the
festivity, but meeting with no response in the darkened eye of Mr.
Snodgrass, or the abstracted gaze of Mr. Pickwick, he applied himself
with great interest to the port wine and dessert, which had just been
placed on the table. The waiter withdrew, and the party were left to
enjoy the cosy couple of hours succeeding dinner.

"Beg your pardon, sir," said the stranger, "bottle stands--pass it
round--way of the sun--through the button-hole--no heeltaps," and he
emptied his glass, which he had filled about two minutes before, and
poured out another, with the air of a man who was used to it.

The wine was passed, and a fresh supply ordered. The visitor talked,
the Pickwickians listened. Mr. Tupman felt every moment more disposed
for the ball. Mr. Pickwick's countenance glowed with an expression of
universal philanthropy, and Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass fell fast
asleep.

"They're beginning up-stairs," said the stranger--"hear the
company--fiddles tuning--now the harp--there they go." The various
sounds which found their way down-stairs announced the commencement of
the first quadrille.

"How I should like to go," said Mr. Tupman again.

"So should I," said the stranger,--"confounded luggage--heavy
smacks--nothing to go in--odd, an't it?"

Now general benevolence was one of the leading features of the
Pickwickian theory, and no one was more remarkable for the zealous
manner in which he observed so noble a principle than Mr. Tracy Tupman.
The number of instances recorded on the Transactions of the Society,
in which that excellent man referred objects of charity to the houses
of other members for left-off garments, or pecuniary relief, is almost
incredible.

"I should be very happy to lend you a change of apparel for the
purpose," said Mr. Tracy Tupman, "but you are rather slim, and I am----"

"Rather fat--grown up Bacchus--cut the leaves--dismounted from the tub,
and adopted kersey, eh?--not double distilled, but double milled--ha!
ha! pass the wine."

Whether Mr. Tupman was somewhat indignant at the peremptory tone in
which he was desired to pass the wine which the stranger passed so
quickly away, or whether he felt very properly scandalised at an
influential member of the Pickwick Club being ignominiously compared
to a dismounted Bacchus, is a fact not yet completely ascertained. He
passed the wine, coughed twice, and looked at the stranger for several
seconds with a stern intensity; as that individual, however, appeared
perfectly collected, and quite calm under his searching glance, he
gradually relaxed, and reverted to the subject of the ball.

"I was about to observe, sir," he said, "that though my apparel would
be too large, a suit of my friend Mr. Winkle's would perhaps fit you
better."

The stranger took Mr. Winkle's measure with his eye, and that feature
glistened with satisfaction as he said--"Just the thing."

Mr. Tupman looked round him. The wine, which had exerted its
somniferous influence over Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle, had stolen
upon the senses of Mr. Pickwick. That gentleman had gradually passed
through the various stages which precede the lethargy produced by
dinner, and its consequences. He had undergone the ordinary transitions
from the height of conviviality to the depth of misery, and from the
depth of misery to the height of conviviality. Like a gas lamp in the
street, with the wind in the pipe, he had exhibited for a moment an
unnatural brilliancy: then sunk so low as to be scarcely discernible:
after a short interval he had burst out again, to enlighten for a
moment, then flickered with an uncertain, staggering sort of light,
and then gone out altogether. His head was sunk upon his bosom, and
perpetual snoring, with a partial choke occasionally, were the only
audible indications of the great man's presence.

The temptation to be present at the ball, and to form his first
impressions of the beauty of the Kentish ladies, was strong upon Mr.
Tupman. The temptation to take the stranger with him was equally great.
He was wholly unacquainted with the place and its inhabitants, and the
stranger seemed to possess as great a knowledge of both as if he had
lived there from his infancy. Mr. Winkle was asleep, and Mr. Tupman
had had sufficient experience in such matters to know that the moment
he awoke he would, in the ordinary course of nature, roll heavily to
bed. He was undecided. "Fill your glass, and pass the wine," said the
indefatigable visitor.

Mr. Tupman did as he was requested, and the additional stimulus of the
last glass settled his determination.

"Winkle's bedroom is inside mine," said Mr. Tupman; "I couldn't make
him understand what I wanted if I woke him now, but I know he has a
dress suit in a carpet bag, and supposing you wore it to the ball, and
took it off when we returned, I could replace it without troubling him
at all about the matter."

"Capital," said the stranger, "famous plan--damned odd
situation--fourteen coats in the packing cases, and obliged to wear
another man's--very good notion, that--very."

"We must purchase our tickets," said Mr. Tupman.

"Not worth while splitting a guinea," said the stranger, "toss who shall
pay for both--I call; you spin--first time--woman--woman--bewitching
woman," and down came the sovereign, with the Dragon (called by courtesy
a woman) uppermost.

Mr. Tupman rang the bell, purchased the tickets, and ordered chamber
candlesticks. In another quarter of an hour the stranger was completely
arrayed in a full suit of Mr. Nathaniel Winkle's.

"It's a new coat," said Mr. Tupman, as the stranger surveyed himself
with great complacency in a cheval glass, "the first that's been made
with our club button," and he called his companion's attention to the
large gilt button which displayed a bust of Mr. Pickwick in the centre,
and the letters "P. C." on either side.

"P. C.," said the stranger--"queer set out--old fellow's likeness, and
'P. C.'--What does 'P. C.' stand for--Peculiar Coat, eh?"

Mr. Tupman, with rising indignation and great importance, explained the
mystic device.

"Rather short in the waist, an't it," said the stranger, screwing
himself round to catch a glimpse in the glass of the waist buttons,
which were half way up his back. "Like a general postman's coat--queer
coats those--made by contract--no measuring--mysterious dispensations
of Providence--all the short men get long coats--all the long men short
ones." Running on in this way, Mr. Tupman's new companion adjusted
his dress, or rather the dress of Mr. Winkle; and, accompanied by Mr.
Tupman, ascended the staircase leading to the ball-room.

"What names, sir?" said the man at the door. Mr. Tracy Tupman was
stepping forward to announce his own titles, when the stranger
prevented him.

"No names at all;" and then he whispered Mr. Tupman, "Names
won't do--not known--very good names in their way, but not
great ones--capital names for a small party, but won't make an
impression in public assemblies--_incog._ the thing--Gentlemen from
London--distinguished foreigners--anything." The door was thrown open;
and Mr. Tracy Tupman and the stranger entered the ball-room.

It was a long room, with crimson-covered benches, and wax candles in
glass chandeliers. The musicians were securely confined in an elevated
den, and quadrilles were being systematically got through by two or
three sets of dancers. Two card-tables were made up in the adjoining
card-room, and two pair of old ladies, and a corresponding number of
stout gentlemen, were executing whist therein.

The finale concluded, the dancers promenaded the room, and Mr. Tupman
and his companion stationed themselves in a corner to observe the
company.

"Charming women," said Mr. Tupman.

"Wait a minute," said the stranger, "fun presently--nobs not come
yet--queer place--Dock-yard people of upper rank don't know Dock-yard
people of lower rank--Dock-yard people of lower rank don't know small
gentry--small gentry don't know tradespeople--Commissioner don't know
anybody."

"Who's that little boy with the light hair and pink eyes, in a fancy
dress?" inquired Mr. Tupman.

"Hush, pray--pink eyes--fancy dress--little boy--nonsense--Ensign
97th--Honourable Wilmot Snipe--great family--Snipes--very."

"Sir Thomas Clubber, Lady Clubber, and the Miss Clubbers!" shouted the
man at the door in a stentorian voice. A great sensation was created
throughout the room by the entrance of a tall gentleman in a blue coat
and bright buttons, a large lady in blue satin, and two young ladies,
on a similar scale, in fashionably-made dresses of the same hue.

"Commissioner--head of the yard--great man--remarkably great man,"
whispered the stranger in Mr. Tupman's ear, as the charitable committee
ushered Sir Thomas Clubber and family to the top of the room. The
Honourable Wilmot Snipe and other distinguished gentlemen crowded to
render homage to the Miss Clubbers; and Sir Thomas Clubber stood bolt
upright, and looked majestically over his black neckerchief at the
assembled company.

"Mr. Smithie, Mrs. Smithie, and the Misses Smithie," was the next
announcement.

"What's Mr. Smithie?" inquired Mr. Tracy Tupman.

"Something in the yard," replied the stranger. Mr. Smithie bowed
deferentially to Sir Thomas Clubber, and Sir Thomas Clubber
acknowledged the salute with conscious condescension. Lady Clubber took
a telescopic view of Mrs. Smithie and family through her eye-glass,
and Mrs. Smithie stared in her turn at Mrs. Somebody else, whose
husband was not in the Dock-yard at all.

"Colonel Bulder, Mrs. Colonel Bulder, and Miss Bulder," were the next
arrivals.

"Head of the Garrison," said the stranger, in reply to Mr. Tupman's
inquiring look.

Miss Bulder was warmly welcomed by the Miss Clubbers; the greeting
between Mrs. Colonel Bulder and Lady Clubber was of the most
affectionate description; Colonel Bulder and Sir Thomas Clubber
exchanged snuff-boxes, and looked very much like a pair of Alexander
Selkirks--"Monarchs of all they surveyed."

While the aristocracy of the place--the Bulders, and Clubbers, and
Snipes--were thus preserving their dignity at the upper end of the
room, the other classes of society were imitating their example in
other parts of it. The less aristocratic officers of the 97th devoted
themselves to the families of the less important functionaries from
the Dock-yard. The solicitors' wives and the wine-merchant's wife
headed another grade (the brewer's wife visited the Bulders); and Mrs.
Tomlinson, the post-office keeper, seemed by mutual consent to have
been chosen the leader of the trade party.

One of the most popular personages in his own circle present was a
little fat man, with a ring of upright black hair round his head, and
an extensive bald plain on the top of it--Doctor Slammer, surgeon to
the 97th. The Doctor took snuff with everybody, chatted with everybody,
laughed, danced, made jokes, played whist, did everything, and was
everywhere. To these pursuits, multifarious as they were, the little
Doctor added a more important one than any--he was indefatigable in
paying the most unremitting and devoted attention to a little old
widow, whose rich dress and profusion of ornament bespoke her a most
desirable addition to a limited income.

Upon the Doctor, and the widow, the eyes of both Mr. Tupman and his
companion had been fixed for some time, when the stranger broke silence.

"Lots of money--old girl--pompous Doctor--not a bad idea--good fun,"
were the intelligible sentences which issued from his lips. Mr. Tupman
looked inquisitively in his face.

"I'll dance with the widow," said the stranger.

"Who is she?" inquired Mr. Tupman.

"Don't know--never saw her in all my life--cut out the Doctor--here
goes." And the stranger forthwith crossed the room; and, leaning
against a mantelpiece, commenced gazing with an air of respectful and
melancholy admiration on the fat countenance of the little old lady.
Mr. Tupman looked on, in mute astonishment. The stranger progressed
rapidly; the little Doctor danced with another lady; the widow dropped
her fan, the stranger picked it up, and presented it,--a smile--a
bow--a curtsey--a few words of conversation. The stranger walked
boldly up to, and returned with, the master of ceremonies; a little
introductory pantomime; and the stranger and Mrs. Budger took their
places in a quadrille.

The surprise of Mr. Tupman at this summary proceeding, great as it
was, was immeasurably exceeded by the astonishment of the Doctor.
The stranger was young, and the widow was flattered. The Doctor's
attentions were unheeded by the widow; and the Doctor's indignation was
wholly lost on his imperturbable rival. Doctor Slammer was paralysed.
He, Doctor Slammer, of the 97th, to be extinguished in a moment, by a
man whom nobody had ever seen before, and whom nobody knew even now!
Doctor Slammer--Doctor Slammer of the 97th rejected! Impossible! It
could not be! Yes, it was; there they were. What! introducing his
friend! Could he believe his eyes! He looked again, and was under
the painful necessity of admitting the veracity of his optics; Mrs.
Budger was dancing with Mr. Tracy Tupman, there was no mistaking the
fact. There was the widow before him, bouncing bodily, here and there,
with unwonted vigour; and Mr. Tracy Tupman hopping about, with a face
expressive of the most intense solemnity, dancing (as a good many
people do) as if a quadrille were not a thing to be laughed at, but a
severe trial to the feelings, which it requires inflexible resolution
to encounter.

Silently and patiently did the Doctor bear all this, and all the
handings of negus, and watching for glasses, and darting for biscuits,
and coquetting, that ensued; but, a few seconds after the stranger had
disappeared to lead Mrs. Budger to her carriage, he darted swiftly from
the room with every particle of his hitherto-bottled-up indignation
effervescing, from all parts of his countenance, in a perspiration of
passion.

The stranger was returning, and Mr. Tupman was beside him. He spoke in
a low tone and laughed. The little Doctor thirsted for his life. He was
exulting. He had triumphed.

"Sir!" said the Doctor, in an awful voice, producing a card, and
retiring into an angle of the passage, "my name is Slammer, Doctor
Slammer, sir--97th Regiment--Chatham Barracks--my card, sir, my card."
He would have added more, but his indignation choked him.

"Ah!" replied the stranger, coolly, "Slammer--much obliged--polite
attention--not ill now, Slammer--but when I am--knock you up."

"You--you're a shuffler! sir," gasped the furious Doctor, "a
poltroon--a coward--a liar--a--a--will nothing induce you to give me
your card, sir!"

"Oh! I see," said the stranger, half aside, "negus too strong
here--liberal landlord--very foolish--very--lemonade much better--hot
rooms--elderly gentlemen--suffer for it in the morning--cruel--cruel;"
and he moved on a step or two.

"You are stopping in this house, sir," said the indignant little man;
"you are intoxicated now, sir; you shall hear from me in the morning,
sir. I shall find you out, sir; I shall find you out."

"Rather you found me out than found me at home," replied the unmoved
stranger.

Doctor Slammer looked unutterable ferocity, as he fixed his hat on his
head with an indignant knock; and the stranger and Mr. Tupman ascended
to the bed-room of the latter to restore the borrowed plumage to the
unconscious Winkle.

That gentleman was fast asleep; the restoration was soon made. The
stranger was extremely jocose; and Mr. Tracy Tupman, being quite
bewildered with wine, negus, lights, and ladies, thought the whole
affair an exquisite joke. His new friend departed; and, after
experiencing some slight difficulty in finding the orifice in his
night-cap, originally intended for the reception of his head, and
finally overturning his candlestick in his struggles to put it on,
Mr. Tracy Tupman managed to get into bed by a series of complicated
evolutions, and shortly afterwards sank into repose.

Seven o'clock had hardly ceased striking on the following morning
when Mr. Pickwick's comprehensive mind was aroused from the state of
unconsciousness in which slumber had plunged it, by a loud knocking at
his chamber door.

"Who's there?" said Mr. Pickwick, starting up in bed.

"Boots, sir."

"What do you want?"

"Please, sir, can you tell me which gentleman of your party wears a
bright blue dress coat, with a gilt button with P. C. on it?"

"It's been given out to brush," thought Mr. Pickwick, "and the man has
forgotten whom it belongs to. Mr. Winkle," he called out, "next room
but two, on the right hand."

"Thank'ee, sir," said the Boots, and away he went.

"What's the matter?" cried Mr. Tupman, as a loud knocking at _his_ door
aroused _him_ from his oblivious repose.

"Can I speak to Mr. Winkle, sir?" replied the Boots from the outside.

"Winkle--Winkle!" shouted Mr. Tupman, calling into the inner room.

"Hallo!" replied a faint voice from within the bed-clothes.

"You're wanted--some one at the door--" and having exerted himself
to articulate thus much, Mr. Tracy Tupman turned round and fell fast
asleep again.

"Wanted!" said Mr. Winkle, hastily jumping out of bed, and putting on a
few articles of clothing; "wanted! at this distance from town--who on
earth can want me?"

"Gentleman in the coffee-room, sir," replied the Boots, as Mr. Winkle
opened the door and confronted him; "gentleman says he'll not detain
you a moment, sir, but he can take no denial."

"Very odd!" said Mr. Winkle; "I'll be down directly."

He hurriedly wrapped himself in a travelling-shawl and dressing-gown,
and proceeded down-stairs. An old woman and a couple of waiters were
cleaning the coffee-room, and an officer in undress uniform was looking
out of the window. He turned round as Mr. Winkle entered, and made
a stiff inclination of the head. Having ordered the attendants to
retire, and closed the door very carefully, he said, "Mr. Winkle, I
presume?"

"My name _is_ Winkle, sir."

[Illustration: "_My name is Winkle, sir_"]

"You will not be surprised, sir, when I inform you that I have
called here this morning on behalf of my friend, Dr. Slammer, of the
Ninety-seventh."

"Doctor Slammer!" said Mr. Winkle.

"Dr. Slammer. He begged me to express his opinion that your conduct of
last evening was of a description which no gentleman could endure: and
(he added) which no one gentleman would pursue towards another."

Mr. Winkle's astonishment was too real, and too evident, to escape
the observation of Dr. Slammer's friend; he therefore proceeded--"My
friend, Doctor Slammer, requested me to add, that he was firmly
persuaded you were intoxicated during a portion of the evening, and
possibly unconscious of the extent of the insult you were guilty of.
He commissioned me to say, that should this be pleaded as an excuse
for your behaviour, he will consent to accept a written apology, to be
penned by you, from my dictation."

"A written apology!" repeated Mr. Winkle, in the most emphatic tone of
amazement possible.

"Of course you know the alternative," replied the visitor coolly.

"Were you entrusted with this message to me by name?" inquired Mr.
Winkle, whose intellects were hopelessly confused by this extraordinary
conversation.

"I was not present myself," replied the visitor, "and in consequence of
your firm refusal to give your card to Doctor Slammer, I was desired by
that gentleman to identify the wearer of a very uncommon coat--a bright
blue dress coat, with a gilt button displaying a bust, and the letters
'P. C.'"

Mr. Winkle actually staggered with astonishment as he heard his
own costume thus minutely described. Doctor Slammer's friend
proceeded--"From the inquiries I made at the bar, just now, I was
convinced that the owner of the coat in question arrived here, with
three gentlemen, yesterday afternoon. I immediately sent up to the
gentleman who was described as appearing the head of the party, and he
at once referred me to you."

If the principal tower of Rochester Castle had suddenly walked from its
foundation, and stationed itself opposite the coffee-room window, Mr.
Winkle's surprise would have been as nothing compared with the profound
astonishment with which he had heard this address. His first impression
was, that his coat had been stolen. "Will you allow me to detain you
one moment?" said he.

"Certainly," replied the unwelcome visitor.

Mr. Winkle ran hastily up-stairs, and with a trembling hand opened the
bag. There was the coat in its usual place, but exhibiting, on a close
inspection, evident tokens of having been worn on the preceding night.

"It must be so," said Mr. Winkle, letting the coat fall from his hands.
"I took too much wine after dinner, and have a very vague recollection
of walking about the streets and smoking a cigar afterwards. The fact
is, I was very drunk;--I must have changed my coat--gone somewhere--and
insulted somebody--I have no doubt of it; and this message is the
terrible consequence." Saying which, Mr. Winkle retraced his steps in
the direction of the coffee-room, with the gloomy and dreadful resolve
of accepting the challenge of the warlike Dr. Slammer, and abiding by
the worst consequences that might ensue.

To this determination Mr. Winkle was urged by a variety of
considerations, the first of which was, his reputation with the club.
He had always been looked up to as a high authority on all matters of
amusement and dexterity, whether offensive, defensive, or inoffensive;
and if, on this very first occasion of being put to the test, he
shrunk back from the trial, beneath his leader's eye, his name and
standing were lost for ever. Besides, he remembered to have heard it
frequently surmised by the uninitiated in such matters that by an
understood arrangement between the seconds, the pistols were seldom
loaded with ball; and, furthermore, he reflected that if he applied to
Mr. Snodgrass to act as his second, and depicted the danger in glowing
terms, that gentleman might possibly communicate the intelligence to
Mr. Pickwick, who would certainly lose no time in transmitting it to
the local authorities, and thus prevent the killing or maiming of his
follower.

Such were his thoughts when he returned to the coffee-room, and
intimated his intention of accepting the Doctor's challenge.

"Will you refer me to a friend, to arrange the time and place of
meeting?" said the officer.

"Quite unnecessary," replied Mr. Winkle; "name them to me, and I can
procure the attendance of a friend afterwards."

"Shall we say--sunset this evening?" inquired the officer, in a
careless tone.

"Very good," replied Mr. Winkle, thinking in his heart it was very bad.

"You know Fort Pitt?"

"Yes; I saw it yesterday."

"If you will take the trouble to turn into the field which borders the
trench, take the foot-path to the left when you arrive at an angle
of the fortification, and keep straight on, till you see me, I will
precede you to a secluded place, where the affair can be conducted
without fear of interruption."

"_Fear_ of interruption!" thought Mr. Winkle.

"Nothing more to arrange, I think," said the officer.

"I am not aware of anything more," replied Mr. Winkle.

"Good morning."

"Good morning:" and the officer whistled a lively air as he strode away.

That morning's breakfast passed heavily off. Mr. Tupman was not in
a condition to rise, after the unwonted dissipation of the previous
night; Mr. Snodgrass appeared to labour under a poetical depression of
spirits; and even Mr. Pickwick evinced an unusual attachment to silence
and soda-water. Mr. Winkle eagerly watched his opportunity; it was not
long wanting. Mr. Snodgrass proposed a visit to the castle, and as Mr.
Winkle was the only other member of the party disposed to walk, they
went out together.

"Snodgrass," said Mr. Winkle, when they had turned out of the public
street, "Snodgrass, my dear fellow, can I rely upon your secrecy?" As
he said this, he most devoutly and earnestly hoped he could not.

"You can," replied Mr. Snodgrass. "Hear me swear----"

"No, no," interrupted Winkle, terrified at the idea of his companion's
unconsciously pledging himself not to give information; "don't swear,
don't swear; it's quite unnecessary."

Mr. Snodgrass dropped the hand which he had, in the spirit of poesy,
raised towards the clouds as he made the above appeal, and assumed an
attitude of attention.

"I want your assistance, my dear fellow, in an affair of honour," said
Mr. Winkle.

"You shall have it," replied Mr. Snodgrass, clasping his friend's hand.

"With a Doctor--Doctor Slammer, of the Ninety-seventh," said Mr.
Winkle, wishing to make the matter appear as solemn as possible; "an
affair with an officer, seconded by another officer, at sunset this
evening, in a lonely field beyond Fort Pitt."

"I will attend you," said Mr. Snodgrass.

He was astonished, but by no means dismayed. It is extraordinary how
cool any party but the principal can be in such cases. Mr. Winkle had
forgotten this. He had judged of his friend's feelings by his own.

"The consequences may be dreadful," said Mr. Winkle.

"I hope not," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"The Doctor, I believe, is a very good shot," said Mr. Winkle.

"Most of these military men are," observed Mr. Snodgrass, calmly; "but
so are you, an't you?"

Mr. Winkle replied in the affirmative; and perceiving that he had not
alarmed his companion sufficiently, changed his ground.

"Snodgrass," he said, in a voice tremulous with emotion, "if I fall,
you will find in a packet which I shall place in your hands a note for
my--for my father."

This attack was a failure also. Mr. Snodgrass was affected, but he
undertook the delivery of the note as readily as if he had been a
Twopenny Postman.

"If I fall," said Mr. Winkle, "or if the Doctor falls, you, my dear
friend, will be tried as an accessory before the fact. Shall I involve
my friend in transportation--possibly for life!"

Mr. Snodgrass winced a little at this, but his heroism was invincible.
"In the cause of friendship," he fervently exclaimed, "I would brave
all dangers."

How Mr. Winkle cursed his companion's devoted friendship internally,
as they walked silently along, side by side, for some minutes, each
immersed in his own meditations! The morning was wearing away; he grew
desperate.

"Snodgrass," he said, stopping suddenly, "do _not_ let me be baulked
in this matter--do _not_ give information to the local authorities--do
_not_ obtain the assistance of several peace officers, to take either
me or Doctor Slammer, of the Ninety-seventh Regiment, at present
quartered in Chatham Barracks, into custody, and thus prevent this
duel;--I say, do _not_."

Mr. Snodgrass seized his friend's hand warmly, as he enthusiastically
replied, "Not for worlds!"

A thrill passed over Mr. Winkle's frame as the conviction that he had
nothing to hope from his friend's fears, and that he was destined to
become an animated target, rushed forcibly upon him.

The state of the case having been formally explained to Mr.
Snodgrass, and a case of satisfaction pistols, with the satisfactory
accompaniments of powder, ball, and caps, having been hired from a
manufacturer in Rochester, the two friends returned to their inn; Mr.
Winkle to ruminate on the approaching struggle, and Mr. Snodgrass
to arrange the weapons of war, and put them into proper order for
immediate use.

It was a dull and heavy evening when they again sallied forth on their
awkward errand. Mr. Winkle was muffled up in a huge cloak to escape
observation, and Mr. Snodgrass bore under his the instruments of
destruction.

"Have you got everything?" said Mr. Winkle, in an agitated tone.

"Everything," replied Mr. Snodgrass; "plenty of ammunition, in case the
shots don't take effect. There's a quarter of a pound of powder in the
case, and I have got two newspapers in my pocket for the loadings."

These were instances of friendship for which any man might reasonably
feel most grateful. The presumption is, that the gratitude of Mr.
Winkle was too powerful for utterance, as he said nothing, but
continued to walk on--rather slowly.

"We are in excellent time," said Mr. Snodgrass, as they climbed the
fence of the first field; "the sun is just going down." Mr. Winkle
looked up at the declining orb and painfully thought of the probability
of his "going down" himself, before long.

"There's the officer," exclaimed Mr. Winkle, after a few minutes'
walking.

"Where?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"There;--the gentleman in the blue cloak." Mr. Snodgrass looked in
the direction indicated by the forefinger of his friend, and observed
a figure, muffled up, as he had described. The officer evinced his
consciousness of their presence by slightly beckoning with his hand;
and the two friends followed him at a little distance, as he walked
away.

The evening grew more dull every moment, and a melancholy wind sounded
through the deserted fields, like a distant giant whistling for his
house-dog. The sadness of the scene imparted a sombre tinge to the
feelings of Mr. Winkle. He started as they passed the angle of the
trench--it looked like a colossal grave.

The officer turned suddenly from the path, and after climbing a
paling, and scaling a hedge, entered a secluded field. Two gentlemen
were waiting in it; one was a little fat man, with black hair; and
the other--a portly personage in a braided surtout--was sitting with
perfect equanimity on a camp-stool.

"The other party, and a surgeon, I suppose," said Mr. Snodgrass; "take
a drop of brandy." Mr. Winkle seized the wicker bottle which his friend
proffered, and took a lengthened pull at the exhilarating liquid.

"My friend, sir, Mr. Snodgrass," said Mr. Winkle, as the officer
approached. Doctor Slammer's friend bowed, and produced a case similar
to that which Mr. Snodgrass carried.

"We have nothing farther to say, sir, I think," he coldly remarked, as
he opened the case; "an apology has been resolutely declined."

"Nothing, sir," said Mr. Snodgrass, who began to feel rather
uncomfortable himself.

"Will you step forward?" said the officer.

"Certainly," replied Mr. Snodgrass. The ground was measured, and
preliminaries arranged.

"You will find these better than your own," said the opposite second,
producing his pistols. "You saw me load them. Do you object to use
them?"

"Certainly not," replied Mr. Snodgrass. The offer relieved him from
considerable embarrassment, for his previous notions of loading a
pistol were rather vague and undefined.

"We may place our men, then, I think," observed the officer, with as
much indifference as if the principals were chess-men, and the seconds
players.

"I think we may," replied Mr. Snodgrass; who would have assented to
any proposition, because he knew nothing about the matter. The officer
crossed to Doctor Slammer, and Mr. Snodgrass went up to Mr. Winkle.

"It's all ready," he said, offering the pistol. "Give me your cloak."

"You have got the packet, my dear fellow," said poor Winkle.

"All right," said Mr. Snodgrass. "Be steady, and wing him."

It occurred to Mr. Winkle that this advice was very like that which
bystanders invariably give to the smallest boy in a street fight,
namely, "Go in, and win:"--an admirable thing to recommend, if you
only know how to do it. He took off his cloak, however, in silence--it
always took a long time to undo that cloak--and accepted the pistol.
The seconds retired, the gentleman on the camp-stool did the same, and
the belligerents approached each other.

Mr. Winkle was always remarkable for extreme humanity. It is
conjectured that his unwillingness to hurt a fellow-creature
intentionally was the cause of his shutting his eyes when he arrived
at the fatal spot; and that the circumstance of his eyes being closed,
prevented his observing the very extraordinary and unaccountable
demeanour of Doctor Slammer. That gentleman started, stared, retreated,
rubbed his eyes, stared again; and finally shouted "Stop, stop!"

"What's all this?" said Doctor Slammer, as his friend and Mr. Snodgrass
came running up. "That's not the man."

"Not the man!" said Dr. Slammer's second.

"Not the man!" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Not the man!" said the gentleman with the camp-stool in his hand.

"Certainly not," replied the little Doctor. "That's not the person who
insulted me last night."

"Very extraordinary!" exclaimed the officer.

"Very," said the gentleman with the camp-stool. "The only question is,
whether the gentleman, being on the ground, must not be considered,
as a matter of form, to be the individual who insulted our friend,
Dr. Slammer, yesterday evening, whether he is really that individual
or not:" and having delivered this suggestion, with a very sage and
mysterious air, the man with the camp-stool took a large pinch of
snuff, and looked profoundly round, with the air of an authority in
such matters.

Now Mr. Winkle had opened his eyes, and his ears too, when he heard his
adversary call out for a cessation of hostilities; and perceiving by
what he had afterwards said, that there was, beyond all question, some
mistake in the matter, he at once foresaw the increase of reputation he
should inevitably acquire by concealing the real motive of his coming
out: he therefore stepped boldly forward, and said--

"I am not the person. I know it."

"Then, that," said the man with the camp-stool, "is an affront to Dr.
Slammer, and a sufficient reason for proceeding immediately."

"Pray be quiet, Payne," said the Doctor's second. "Why did you not
communicate this fact to me this morning, sir?"

"To be sure--to be sure," said the man with the camp-stool, indignantly.

"I entreat you to be quiet, Payne," said the other. "May I repeat my
question, sir?"

"Because, sir," replied Mr. Winkle, who had had time to deliberate
upon his answer, "because, sir, you described an intoxicated and
ungentlemanly person as wearing a coat which I have the honour, not
only to wear, but to have invented--the proposed uniform, sir, of the
Pickwick Club in London. The honour of that uniform I feel bound to
maintain, and I therefore, without inquiry, accepted the challenge
which you offered me."

"My dear sir," said the good-humoured little Doctor, advancing with
extended hand, "I honour your gallantry. Permit me to say, sir, that I
highly admire your conduct, and extremely regret having caused you the
inconvenience of this meeting, to no purpose."

"I beg you won't mention it, sir," said Mr. Winkle.

"I shall feel proud of your acquaintance, sir," said the little Doctor.

"It will afford me the greatest pleasure to know you, sir," replied Mr.
Winkle. Thereupon the Doctor and Mr. Winkle shook hands, and then Mr.
Winkle and Lieutenant Tappleton (the Doctor's second), and then Mr.
Winkle and the man with the camp-stool, and finally, Mr. Winkle and
Mr. Snodgrass--the last-named gentleman in an excess of admiration at
the noble conduct of his heroic friend.

"I think we may adjourn," said Lieutenant Tappleton.

"Certainly," added the Doctor.

"Unless," interposed the man with the camp-stool, "unless Mr. Winkle
feels himself aggrieved by the challenge; in which case, I submit, he
has a right to satisfaction."

Mr. Winkle, with great self-denial, expressed himself quite satisfied
already.

"Or possibly," said the man with the camp-stool, "the gentleman's
second may feel himself affronted with some observations which fell
from me at an early period of this meeting: if so, I shall be happy to
give _him_ satisfaction immediately."

Mr. Snodgrass hastily professed himself very much obliged with the
handsome offer of the gentleman who had spoken last, which he was
only induced to decline by his entire contentment with the whole
proceedings. The two seconds adjusted the cases, and the whole party
left the ground in a much more lively manner than they had proceeded to
it.

"Do you remain long here?" inquired Dr. Slammer of Mr. Winkle, as they
walked on most amicably together.

"I think we shall leave here the day after to-morrow," was the reply.

"I trust I shall have the pleasure of seeing you and your friend at my
rooms, and of spending a pleasant evening with you after this awkward
mistake," said the little Doctor; "are you disengaged this evening?"

"We have some friends here," replied Mr. Winkle, "and I should not like
to leave them to-night. Perhaps you and your friend will join us at the
Bull?"

"With great pleasure," said the little Doctor; "will ten o'clock be too
late to look in for half an hour?"

"Oh dear no," said Mr. Winkle. "I shall be most happy to introduce you
to my friends, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman."

"It will give me great pleasure, I am sure," replied Dr. Slammer,
little suspecting who Mr. Tupman was.

"You will be sure to come?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Oh, certainly."

By this time they had reached the road. Cordial farewells were
exchanged, and the party separated. Doctor Slammer and his friends
repaired to the barracks, and Mr. Winkle, accompanied by Mr. Snodgrass,
returned to their inn.



CHAPTER III

[Illustration]

  _A New Acquaintance. The Stroller's Tale. A Disagreeable
    Interruption, and an Unpleasant Encounter_


Mr. Pickwick had felt some apprehensions in consequence of the unusual
absence of his two friends, which their mysterious behaviour during the
whole morning had by no means tended to diminish. It was, therefore,
with more than ordinary pleasure that he rose to greet them when they
again entered; and with more than ordinary interest that he inquired
what had occurred to detain them from his society. In reply to his
questions on this point, Mr. Snodgrass was about to offer an historical
account of the circumstances just now detailed, when he was suddenly
checked by observing that there were present, not only Mr. Tupman
and their stage-coach companion of the preceding day, but another
stranger of equally singular appearance. It was a care-worn looking
man, whose sallow face, and deeply sunken eyes, were rendered still
more striking than nature had made them, by the straight black hair
which hung in matted disorder half way down his face. His eyes were
almost unnaturally bright and piercing; his cheek-bones were high and
prominent; and his jaws were so long and lank, that an observer would
have supposed that he was drawing the flesh of his face in, for a
moment, by some contraction of the muscles, if his half-opened mouth
and immovable expression had not announced that it was his ordinary
appearance. Round his neck he wore a green shawl, with the large ends
straggling over his chest, and making their appearance occasionally
beneath the worn buttonholes of his old waistcoat. His upper garment
was a long black surtout; and below it he wore wide drab trousers, and
large boots, running rapidly to seed.

It was on this uncouth-looking person that Mr. Winkle's eye rested, and
it was towards him that Mr. Pickwick extended his hand, when he said,
"A friend of our friend's here. We discovered this morning that our
friend was connected with the theatre in this place, though he is not
desirous to have it generally known, and this gentleman is a member of
the same profession. He was about to favour us with a little anecdote
connected with it when you entered."

"Lots of anecdote," said the green-coated stranger of the day before,
advancing to Mr. Winkle and speaking in a low and confidential tone.
"Rum fellow--does the heavy business--no actor--strange man--all sorts
of miseries--Dismal Jemmy we call him on the circuit." Mr. Winkle and
Mr. Snodgrass politely welcomed the gentleman, elegantly designated as
"Dismal Jemmy!" and calling for brandy and water, in imitation of the
remainder of the company, seated themselves at the table.

"Now, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "will you oblige us by proceeding with
what you were going to relate?"

The dismal individual took a dirty roll of paper from his pocket, and
turning to Mr. Snodgrass, who had just taken out his note-book, said in
a hollow voice, perfectly in keeping with his outward man--"Are you the
poet?"

"I--I do a little in that way," replied Mr. Snodgrass, rather taken
aback by the abruptness of the question.

"Ah! poetry makes life what lights and music do the stage--strip the
one of its false embellishments, and the other of its illusions, and
what is there real in either to live or care for?"

"Very true, sir," replied Mr. Snodgrass.

"To be before the footlights," continued the dismal man, "is like
sitting at a grand court show, and admiring the silken dresses of the
gaudy throng--to be behind them is to be the people who make that
finery, uncared for and unknown, and left to sink or swim, to starve or
live, as fortune wills it."

"Certainly," said Mr. Snodgrass: for the sunken eye of the dismal man
rested on him, and he felt it necessary to say something.

"Go on, Jemmy," said the Spanish traveller, "like black-eyed Susan--all
in the Downs--no croaking--speak out--look lively."

"Will you make another glass before you begin, sir?" said Mr. Pickwick.

The dismal man took the hint, and having mixed a glass of brandy and
water, and slowly swallowed half of it, opened the roll of paper,
and proceeded, partly to read, and partly to relate, the following
incident, which we find recorded on the Transactions of the club as
"The Stroller's Tale."


THE STROLLER'S TALE

"There is nothing of the marvellous in what I am going to relate,"
said the dismal man; "there is nothing even uncommon in it. Want and
sickness are too common in many stations of life, to deserve more
notice than is usually bestowed on the most ordinary vicissitudes of
human nature. I have thrown these few notes together, because the
subject of them was well known to me for many years. I traced his
progress downwards, step by step, until at last he reached that excess
of destitution from which he never rose again.

"The man of whom I speak was a low pantomime actor; and like many
people of his class, an habitual drunkard. In his better days, before
he had become enfeebled by dissipation and emaciated by disease, he had
been in the receipt of a good salary, which, if he had been careful
and prudent, he might have continued to receive for some years--not
many; because these men either die early, or, by unnaturally taxing
their bodily energies, lose, prematurely, those physical powers on
which alone they can depend for subsistence. His besetting sin gained
so fast upon him, however, that it was found impossible to employ him
in the situations in which he really was useful to the theatre. The
public-house had a fascination for him which he could not resist.
Neglected disease and hopeless poverty were as certain to be his
portion as death itself, if he persevered in the same course; yet he
_did_ persevere, and the result may be guessed. He could obtain no
engagement, and he wanted bread.

"Everybody who is at all acquainted with theatrical matters knows
what a host of shabby, poverty-stricken men hang about the stage of a
large establishment--not regularly engaged actors, but ballet people,
procession men, tumblers, and so forth, who are taken on during the run
of a pantomime, or an Easter piece, and are then discharged, until the
production of some heavy spectacle occasions a new demand for their
services. To this mode of life the man was compelled to resort; and
taking the chair every night at some low theatrical house, at once
put him in possession of a few more shillings weekly, and enabled him
to gratify his old propensity. Even this resource shortly failed him;
his irregularities were too great to admit of his earning the wretched
pittance he might thus have procured, and he was actually reduced to a
state bordering on starvation, only procuring a trifle occasionally by
borrowing it of some old companion, or by obtaining an appearance at
one or other of the commonest of the minor theatres; and when he did
earn anything it was spent in the old way.

"About this time, and when he had been existing for upwards of a year
no one knew how, I had a short engagement at one of the theatres on
the Surrey side of the water, and here I saw this man whom I had lost
sight of for some time; for I had been travelling in the provinces, and
he had been skulking in the lanes and alleys of London. I was dressed
to leave the house, and was crossing the stage on my way out, when he
tapped me on the shoulder. Never shall I forget the repulsive sight
that met my eye when I turned round. He was dressed for the pantomime,
in all the absurdity of a clown's costume. The spectral figures in the
Dance of Death, the most frightful shapes that the ablest painter ever
portrayed on canvas, never presented an appearance half so ghastly. His
bloated body and shrunken legs--their deformity enhanced a hundred fold
by the fantastic dress--the glassy eyes, contrasting fearfully with the
thick white paint with which the face was besmeared; the grotesquely
ornamented head, trembling with paralysis, and the long skinny
hands, rubbed with white chalk--all gave him a hideous and unnatural
appearance, of which no description could convey an adequate idea,
and which, to this day, I shudder to think of. His voice was hollow
and tremulous, as he took me aside, and in broken words recounted a
long catalogue of sickness and privations, terminating as usual with
an urgent request for the loan of a trifling sum of money. I put a
few shillings in his hand, and as I turned away I heard the roar of
laughter which followed his first tumble on the stage.

"A few nights afterwards, a boy put a dirty scrap of paper in my hand,
on which were scrawled a few words in pencil, intimating that the man
was dangerously ill, and begging me, after the performance, to see him
at his lodging in some street--I forget the name of it now--at no great
distance from the theatre. I promised to comply, as soon as I could
get away; and, after the curtain fell, sallied forth on my melancholy
errand.

"It was late, for I had been playing in the last piece; and as it was
a benefit night, the performances had been protracted to an unusual
length. It was a dark cold night, with a chill damp wind, which blew
the rain heavily against the windows and house fronts. Pools of water
had collected in the narrow and little-frequented streets, and as many
of the thinly-scattered oil-lamps had been blown out by the violence
of the wind, the walk was not only a comfortless, but most uncertain
one. I had fortunately taken the right course, however, and succeeded,
after a little difficulty, in finding the house to which I had been
directed--a coal-shed, with one storey above it, in the back room of
which lay the object of my search.

"A wretched-looking woman, the man's wife, met me on the stairs, and,
telling me that he had just fallen into a kind of doze, led me softly
in, and placed a chair for me at the bedside. The sick man was lying
with his face turned towards the wall; and as he took no heed of my
presence, I had leisure to observe the place in which I found myself.

"He was lying on an old bedstead, which turned up during the day. The
tattered remains of a checked curtain were drawn round the bed's head,
to exclude the wind, which however made its way into the comfortless
room through the numerous chinks in the door, and blew it to and fro
every instant. There was a low cinder fire in a rusty unfixed grate;
and an old three-cornered stained table, with some medicine bottles, a
broken glass, and a few other domestic articles, was drawn out before
it. A little child was sleeping on a temporary bed which had been made
for it on the floor, and the woman sat on a chair by its side. There
were a couple of shelves, with a few plates and cups and saucers: and
a pair of stage shoes and a couple of foils hung beneath them. With the
exception of little heaps of rags and bundles which had been carelessly
thrown into the corners of the room, these were the only things in the
apartment.

"I had had time to note these little particulars, and to mark the
heavy breathing and feverish startings of the sick man, before he was
aware of my presence. In the restless attempts to procure some easy
resting-place for his head, he tossed his hand out of the bed, and it
fell on mine. He started up, and stared eagerly in my face.

"'Mr. Hutley, John,' said his wife; 'Mr. Hutley, that you sent for
to-night, you know.'

"'Ah!' said the invalid, passing his hand across his forehead;
'Hutley--Hutley--let me see.' He seemed endeavouring to collect his
thoughts for a few seconds, and then grasping me tightly by the wrist
said, 'Don't leave me--don't leave me, old fellow. She'll murder me; I
know she will.'

"'Has he been long so?' said I, addressing his weeping wife.

"'Since yesterday night,' she replied. 'John, John, don't you know me?'

"'Don't let her come near me,' said the man, with a shudder, as she
stooped over him. 'Drive her away; I can't bear her near me.' He stared
wildly at her with a look of deadly apprehension, and then whispered in
my ear, 'I beat her, Jem; I beat her yesterday, and many times before.
I have starved her and the boy too; and now I am weak and helpless,
Jem, she'll murder me for it; I know she will. If you'd seen her cry,
as I have, you'd know it too. Keep her off.' He relaxed his grasp, and
sank back exhausted on the pillow.

"I knew but too well what all this meant. If I could have entertained
any doubt of it, for an instant, one glance at the woman's pale face
and wasted form would have sufficiently explained the real state of the
case. 'You had better stand aside,' said I to the poor creature. 'You
can do him no good. Perhaps he will be calmer, if he does not see you.'
She retired out of the man's sight. He opened his eyes after a few
seconds, and looked anxiously round.

"'Is she gone?' he eagerly inquired.

"'Yes--yes,' said I; 'she shall not hurt you.'

"'I'll tell you what, Jem,' said the man, in a low voice, 'she _does_
hurt me. There's something in her eyes wakes such a dreadful fear in
my heart that it drives me mad. All last night her large staring eyes
and pale face were close to mine; wherever I turned, they turned: and
whenever I started up from my sleep, she was at the bedside looking
at me.' He drew me closer to him, as he said in a deep, alarmed
whisper--'Jem, she must be an evil spirit--a devil! Hush! I know she
is. If she had been a woman she would have died long ago. No woman
could have borne what she has.'

"I sickened at the thought of the long course of cruelty and neglect
which must have occurred to produce such an impression on such a man. I
could say nothing in reply; for who could offer hope, or consolation,
to the abject being before me?

"I sat there for upwards of two hours, during which he tossed about,
murmuring exclamations of pain or impatience, restlessly throwing his
arms here and there, and turning constantly from side to side. At
length he fell into that state of partial unconsciousness, in which the
mind wanders uneasily from scene to scene, and from place to place,
without the control of reason, but still without being able to divest
itself of an indescribable sense of present suffering. Finding from his
incoherent wanderings that this was the case, and knowing that in all
probability the fever would not grow immediately worse, I left him,
promising his miserable wife that I would repeat my visit next evening,
and, if necessary, sit up with the patient during the night.

"I kept my promise. The last four-and-twenty hours had produced a
frightful alteration. The eyes, though deeply sunk and heavy, shone
with a lustre frightful to behold. The lips were parched, and cracked
in many places: the hard dry skin glowed with a burning heat, and
there was an almost unearthly air of wild anxiety in the man's face,
indicating even more strongly the ravages of the disease. The fever was
at its height.

"I took the seat I had occupied the night before, and there I sat for
hours, listening to sounds which must strike deep to the heart of the
most callous among human beings--the awful ravings of a dying man.
From what I had heard of the medical attendant's opinion, I knew there
was no hope for him: I was sitting by his death-bed. I saw the wasted
limbs, which a few hours before had been distorted for the amusement of
a boisterous gallery, writhing under the tortures of a burning fever--I
heard the clown's shrill laugh, blending with the low murmurings of the
dying man.

"It is a touching thing to hear the mind reverting to the ordinary
occupations and pursuits of health, when the body lies before you
weak and helpless; but when those occupations are of a character the
most strongly opposed to anything we associate with grave and solemn
ideas, the impression produced is infinitely more powerful. The theatre
and the public-house were the chief themes of the wretched man's
wanderings. It was evening, he fancied; he had a part to play that
night; it was late, and he must leave home instantly. Why did they hold
him, and prevent his going?--he should lose the money--he must go.
No! they would not let him. He hid his face in his burning hands, and
feebly bemoaned his own weakness, and the cruelty of his persecutors. A
short pause, and he shouted out a few doggrel rhymes--the last he had
ever learnt. He rose in bed, drew up his withered limbs, and rolled
about in uncouth positions; he was acting--he was at the theatre. A
minute's silence, and he murmured the burden of some roaring song. He
had reached the old house at last: how hot the room was. He had been
ill, very ill, but he was well now, and happy. Fill up his glass. Who
was that, that dashed it from his lips? It was the same persecutor that
had followed him before. He fell back upon his pillow and moaned aloud.
A short period of oblivion, and he was wandering through a tedious
maze of low-arched rooms--so low sometimes, that he must creep upon
his hands and knees to make his way along; it was so close and dark,
and every way he turned, some obstacle impeded his progress. There
were insects too, hideous crawling things with eyes that stared upon
him, and filled the very air around; glistening horribly amidst the
thick darkness of the place. The walls and ceiling were alive with
reptiles--the vault expanded to an enormous size--frightful figures
flitted to and fro--and the faces of men he knew, rendered hideous by
gibing and mouthing, peered out from among them; they were searing
him with heated irons, and binding his head with cords till the blood
started; and he struggled madly for life.

"At the close of one of these paroxysms, when I had with great
difficulty held him down in his bed, he sank into what appeared to be
a slumber. Overpowered with watching and exertion, I had closed my
eyes for a few minutes, when I felt a violent clutch on my shoulder.
I awoke instantly. He had raised himself up, so as to seat himself in
bed--a dreadful change had come over his face, but consciousness had
returned, for he evidently knew me. The child who had been long since
disturbed by his ravings, rose from its little bed, and ran towards
its father, screaming with fright--the mother hastily caught it in her
arms, lest he should injure it in the violence of his insanity; but
terrified by the alteration of his features, stood transfixed by the
bedside. He grasped my shoulder convulsively, and striking his breast
with the other hand, made a desperate attempt to articulate. It was
unavailing--he extended his arm towards them, and made another violent
effort. There was a rattling noise in the throat--a glare of the eye--a
short stifled groan--and he fell back--dead!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It would afford us the highest gratification to be enabled to record
Mr. Pickwick's opinion of the foregoing anecdote. We have little doubt
that we should have been enabled to present it to our readers, but for
a most unfortunate occurrence.

Mr. Pickwick had replaced on the table the glass which, during the
last few sentences of the tale, he had retained in his hand; and had
just made up his mind to speak--indeed, we have the authority of Mr.
Snodgrass's note-book for stating, that he had actually opened his
mouth--when the waiter entered the room, and said--

"Some gentlemen, sir."

It has been conjectured that Mr. Pickwick was on the point of
delivering some remarks which would have enlightened the world, if not
the Thames, when he was thus interrupted; for he gazed sternly on the
waiter's countenance, and then looked round on the company generally,
as if seeking for information relative to the new comers.

"Oh!" said Mr. Winkle, rising, "some friends of mine--show them
in. Very pleasant fellows," added Mr. Winkle, after the waiter had
retired--"Officers of the 97th, whose acquaintance I made rather oddly
this morning. You will like them very much."

Mr. Pickwick's equanimity was at once restored. The waiter returned,
and ushered three gentlemen into the room.

"Lieutenant Tappleton," said Mr. Winkle, "Lieutenant Tappleton,
Mr. Pickwick--Doctor Payne, Mr. Pickwick--Mr. Snodgrass, you have
seen before; my friend Mr. Tupman, Doctor Payne--Dr. Slammer, Mr.
Pickwick--Mr. Tupman, Doctor Slam--"

Here Mr. Winkle suddenly paused; for strong emotion was visible on the
countenance of Mr. Tupman and the Doctor.

"I have met _this_ gentleman before," said the Doctor, with marked
emphasis.

"Indeed!" said Mr. Winkle.

"And--and that person too, if I am not mistaken," said the Doctor,
bestowing a scrutinising glance on the green-coated stranger. "I
think I gave that person a very pressing invitation last night,
which he thought proper to decline." Saying which the Doctor scowled
magnanimously on the stranger, and whispered his friend Lieutenant
Tappleton.

"You don't say so," said that gentleman, at the conclusion of the
whisper.

"I do, indeed," replied Dr. Slammer.

"You are bound to kick him on the spot," murmured the owner of the
camp-stool with great importance.

"_Do_ be quiet, Payne," interposed the Lieutenant. "Will you allow
me to ask you, sir," he said, addressing Mr. Pickwick, who was
considerably mystified by this very unpolite by-play, "will you allow
me to ask you, sir, whether that person belongs to your party?"

"No, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, "he is a guest of ours."

"He is a member of your club, or I am mistaken?" said the Lieutenant,
inquiringly.

"Certainly not," responded Mr. Pickwick.

"And never wears your club-button?" said the Lieutenant.

"No--never!" replied the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

Lieutenant Tappleton turned round to his friend Dr. Slammer, with a
scarcely perceptible shrug of the shoulder, as if implying some doubt
of the accuracy of his recollection. The little Doctor looked wrathful,
but confounded; and Mr. Payne gazed with a ferocious aspect on the
beaming countenance of the unconscious Pickwick.

"Sir," said the Doctor, suddenly addressing Mr. Tupman, in a tone which
made that gentleman start as perceptibly as if a pin had been cunningly
inserted in the calf of his leg, "you were at the ball here last night!"

Mr. Tupman gasped a faint affirmative, looking very hard at Mr.
Pickwick all the while.

"That person was your companion," said the Doctor, pointing to the
still unmoved stranger.

Mr. Tupman admitted the fact.

"Now, sir," said the Doctor to the stranger, "I ask you once again, in
the presence of these gentlemen, whether you choose to give me your
card, and to receive the treatment of a gentleman; or whether you
impose upon me the necessity of personally chastising you on the spot?"

"Stay, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "I really cannot allow this matter
to go any further without some explanation. Tupman, recount the
circumstances."

Mr. Tupman, thus solemnly adjured, stated the case in a few words;
touched slightly on the borrowing of the coat; expatiated largely on
its having been done "after dinner;" wound up with a little penitence
on his own account; and left the stranger to clear himself as best he
could.

He was apparently about to proceed to do so, when Lieutenant Tappleton,
who had been eyeing him with great curiosity, said with considerable
scorn--"Haven't I seen you at the theatre, sir?"

"Certainly," replied the unabashed stranger.

"He is a strolling actor!" said the Lieutenant, contemptuously; turning
to Dr. Slammer--"He acts in the piece that the Officers of the 52nd get
up at the Rochester Theatre to-morrow night. You cannot proceed in this
affair, Slammer--impossible!"

"Sorry to have placed you in this disagreeable situation," said
Lieutenant Tappleton, addressing Mr. Pickwick; "allow me to suggest,
that the best way of avoiding a recurrence of such scenes in future,
will be to be more select in the choice of your companions. Good
evening, sir!" and the Lieutenant bounced out of the room.

"And allow _me_ to say, sir," said the irascible Doctor Payne, "that
if I had been Tappleton, or if I had been Slammer, I would have pulled
your nose, sir, and the nose of every man in this company. I would,
sir, every man. Payne is my name, sir--Doctor Payne of the 43rd. Good
evening, sir." Having concluded this speech, and uttered the three last
words in a loud key, he stalked majestically after his friend, closely
followed by Doctor Slammer, who said nothing, but contented himself by
withering the company with a look.

Rising rage and extreme bewilderment had swelled the noble breast of
Mr. Pickwick, almost to the bursting of his waistcoat, during the
delivery of the above defiance. He stood transfixed to the spot, gazing
on vacancy. The closing of the door recalled him to himself. He rushed
forward with fury in his looks, and fire in his eye. His hand was upon
the lock of the door; in another instant it would have been on the
throat of Doctor Payne of the 43rd, had not Mr. Snodgrass seized his
revered leader by the coat-tail, and dragged him backwards.

"Restrain him," cried Mr. Snodgrass. "Winkle, Tupman--he must not peril
his distinguished life in such a cause as this."

"Let me go," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Hold him tight," shouted Mr. Snodgrass; and by the united efforts of
the whole company, Mr. Pickwick was forced into an arm-chair.

"Leave him alone," said the green-coated stranger--"brandy and
water--jolly old gentleman--lots of pluck--swallow this--ah!--capital
stuff." Having previously tested the virtues of a bumper, which had
been mixed by the dismal man, the stranger applied the glass to Mr.
Pickwick's mouth; and the remainder of its contents rapidly disappeared.

There was a short pause; the brandy and water had done its work; the
amiable countenance of Mr. Pickwick was fast recovering its customary
expression.

"They are not worth your notice," said the dismal man.

"You are right, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, "they are not. I am ashamed
to have been betrayed into this warmth of feeling. Draw your chair up
to the table, sir."

The dismal man readily complied: a circle was again formed round the
table, and harmony once more prevailed. Some lingering irritability
appeared to find a resting-place in Mr. Winkle's bosom, occasioned
possibly by the temporary abstraction of his coat--though it is
scarcely reasonable to suppose that so slight a circumstance can have
excited even a passing feeling of anger in a Pickwickian breast. With
this exception, their good humour was completely restored; and the
evening concluded with the conviviality with which it had begun.



CHAPTER IV

[Illustration]

  _A Field-day and Bivouac. More New Friends. An Invitation to the
    Country_


Many authors entertain not only a foolish, but a really dishonest
objection to acknowledge the sources from whence they derive much
valuable information. We have no such feeling. We are merely
endeavouring to discharge, in an upright manner, the responsible duties
of our editorial functions; and whatever ambition we might have felt
under other circumstances to lay claim to the authorship of these
adventures, a regard for truth forbids us to do more than claim the
merit of their judicious arrangement and impartial narration. The
Pickwick papers are our New River Head; and we may be compared to the
New River Company. The labours of others have raised for us an immense
reservoir of important facts. We merely lay them on, and communicate
them, in a clear and gentle stream, through the medium of these
numbers, to a world thirsting for Pickwickian knowledge.

Acting in this spirit, and resolutely proceeding on our determination
to avow our obligations to the authorities we have consulted,
we frankly say, that to the note-book of Mr. Snodgrass are we
indebted for the particulars recorded in this, and the succeeding
chapter--particulars which, now that we have disburdened our
conscience, we shall proceed to detail without further comment.

The whole population of Rochester and the adjoining towns rose from
their beds at an early hour of the following morning, in a state of the
utmost bustle and excitement. A grand review was to take place upon the
Lines. The manoeuvres of half a dozen regiments were to be inspected
by the eagle eye of the commander-in-chief; temporary fortifications
had been erected, the citadel was to be attacked and taken, and a mine
was to be sprung.

Mr. Pickwick was, as our readers may have gathered from the slight
extract we gave from his description of Chatham, an enthusiastic
admirer of the army. Nothing could have been more delightful to
him--nothing could have harmonised so well with the peculiar feeling
of each of his companions--as this sight. Accordingly they were soon
a-foot, and walking in the direction of the scene of action, towards
which crowds of people were already pouring from a variety of quarters.

The appearance of everything on the Lines denoted that the approaching
ceremony was one of the utmost grandeur and importance. There were
sentries posted to keep the ground for the troops, and servants on the
batteries keeping places for the ladies, and sergeants running to and
fro, with vellum-covered books under their arms, and Colonel Bulder, in
full military uniform, on horseback, galloping first to one place and
then to another, and backing his horse among the people, and prancing,
and curvetting, and shouting in a most alarming manner, and making
himself very hoarse in the voice, and very red in the face, without any
assignable cause or reason whatever. Officers were running backwards
and forwards, first communicating with Colonel Bulder, and then
ordering the sergeants, and then running away altogether; and even the
very privates themselves looked from behind their glazed stocks with
an air of mysterious solemnity, which sufficiently bespoke the special
nature of the occasion.

Mr. Pickwick and his three companions stationed themselves in the
front rank of the crowd, and patiently awaited the commencement of the
proceedings. The throng was increasing every moment; and the efforts
they were compelled to make, to retain the position they had gained,
sufficiently occupied their attention during the two hours that ensued.
At one time there was a sudden pressure from behind; and then Mr.
Pickwick was jerked forward for several yards, with a degree of speed
and elasticity highly inconsistent with the general gravity of his
demeanour; at another moment there was a request to "keep back" from
the front, and then the butt-end of a musket was either dropped upon
Mr. Pickwick's toe, to remind him of the demand, or thrust into his
chest, to ensure its being complied with. Then some facetious gentlemen
on the left, after pressing sideways in a body, and squeezing Mr.
Snodgrass into the very last extreme of human torture, would request
to know "vere he vos a shovin' to;" and when Mr. Winkle had done
expressing his excessive indignation at witnessing this unprovoked
assault, some person behind would knock his hat over his eyes, and beg
the favour of his putting his head in his pocket. These, and other
practical witticisms, coupled with the unaccountable absence of Mr.
Tupman (who had suddenly disappeared, and was nowhere to be found),
rendered their situation upon the whole rather more uncomfortable than
pleasing or desirable.

At length that low roar of many voices ran through the crowd, which
usually announces the arrival of whatever they have been waiting for.
All eyes were turned in the direction of the sally-port. A few moments
of eager expectation, and colours were seen fluttering gaily in the
air, arms glistened brightly in the sun, column after column poured on
to the plain. The troops halted and formed; the word of command rung
through the line, there was a general clash of muskets as arms were
presented; and the commander-in-chief, attended by Colonel Bulder and
numerous officers, cantered to the front. The military bands struck up
all together; the horses stood upon two legs each, cantered backwards,
and whisked their tails about in all directions; the dogs barked, the
mob screamed, the troops recovered, and nothing was to be seen on
either side, as far as the eye could reach, but a long perspective of
red coats and white trousers, fixed and motionless.

Mr. Pickwick had been so fully occupied in falling about, and
disentangling himself, miraculously, from between the legs of horses,
that he had not enjoyed sufficient leisure to observe the scene before
him, until it assumed the appearance we have just described. When he
was at last enabled to stand firmly on his legs, his gratification and
delight were unbounded.

"Can anything be finer or more delightful?" he inquired of Mr. Winkle.

"Nothing," replied that gentleman, who had had a short man standing on
each of his feet for the quarter of an hour immediately preceding.

"It is indeed a noble and a brilliant sight," said Mr. Snodgrass, in
whose bosom a blaze of poetry was rapidly bursting forth, "to see the
gallant defenders of their country drawn up in brilliant array before
its peaceful citizens; their faces beaming--not with warlike ferocity,
but with civilised gentleness; their eyes flashing--not with the rude
fire of rapine or revenge, but with the soft light of humanity and
intelligence."

Mr. Pickwick fully entered into the spirit of this eulogium, but he
could not exactly re-echo its terms; for the soft light of intelligence
burnt rather feebly in the eyes of the warriors, inasmuch as the
command "eyes front" had been given, and all the spectator saw before
him was several thousand pair of optics staring straight forward,
wholly divested of any expression whatever.

"We are in a capital situation now," said Mr. Pickwick, looking round
him. The crowd had gradually dispersed in their immediate vicinity, and
they were nearly alone.

"Capital!" echoed both Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle.

"What are they doing now?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, adjusting his
spectacles.

"I--I--rather think," said Mr. Winkle, changing colour--"I rather think
they're going to fire."

"Nonsense," said Mr. Pickwick hastily.

"I--I--really think they are," urged Mr. Snodgrass, somewhat alarmed.

"Impossible," replied Mr. Pickwick. He had hardly uttered the word,
when the whole half-dozen regiments levelled their muskets as if they
had but one common object, and that object the Pickwickians, and burst
forth with the most awful and tremendous discharge that ever shook the
earth to its centre, or an elderly gentleman off his.

It was in this trying situation, exposed to a galling fire of blank
cartridges, and harassed by the operations of the military, a fresh
body of whom had begun to fall in on the opposite side, that Mr.
Pickwick displayed that perfect coolness and self-possession, which
are the indispensable accompaniments of a great mind. He seized Mr.
Winkle by the arm, and placing himself between that gentleman and
Mr. Snodgrass, earnestly besought them to remember that beyond the
possibility of being rendered deaf by the noise, there was no immediate
danger to be apprehended from the firing.

"But--but--suppose some of the men should happen to have ball
cartridges by mistake," remonstrated Mr. Winkle, pallid at the
supposition he was himself conjuring up. "I heard something whistle
through the air just now--so sharp; close to my ear."

"We had better throw ourselves on our faces, hadn't we?" said Mr.
Snodgrass.

"No, no--it's over now," said Mr. Pickwick. His lip might quiver, and
his cheek might blanch, but no expression of fear or concern escaped
the lips of that immortal man.

Mr. Pickwick was right: the firing ceased; but he had scarcely time
to congratulate himself on the accuracy of his opinion, when a quick
movement was visible in the line: the hoarse shout of the word of
command ran along it, and before either of the party could form a guess
at the meaning of this new manoeuvre, the whole of the half-dozen
regiments, with fixed bayonets, charged at double quick time down upon
the very spot on which Mr. Pickwick and his friends were stationed.

Man is but mortal: and there is a point beyond which human courage
cannot extend. Mr. Pickwick gazed through his spectacles for an instant
on the advancing mass, and then fairly turned his back and--we will
not say fled; firstly, because it is an ignoble term, and, secondly,
because Mr. Pickwick's figure was by no means adapted for that mode of
retreat--he trotted away, at as quick a rate as his legs would convey
him; so quickly, indeed, that he did not perceive the awkwardness of
his situation, to the full extent, until too late.

The opposite troops, whose falling-in had perplexed Mr. Pickwick a few
seconds before, were drawn up to repel the mimic attack of the sham
besiegers of the citadel; and the consequence was that Mr. Pickwick and
his two companions found themselves suddenly inclosed between two lines
of great length, the one advancing at a rapid pace, and the other
firmly waiting the collision in hostile array.

"Hoi!" shouted the officers of the advancing line.

"Get out of the way," cried the officers of the stationary one.

"Where are we to go to?" screamed the agitated Pickwickians.

"Hoi--hoi--hoi!" was the only reply. There was a moment of intense
bewilderment, a heavy tramp of footsteps, a violent concussion, a
smothered laugh; the half-dozen regiments were half a thousand yards
off, and the soles of Mr. Pickwick's boots were elevated in air.

Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed a compulsory somerset
with remarkable agility, when the first object that met the eyes of
the latter as he sat on the ground, staunching with a yellow silk
handkerchief the stream of life which issued from his nose, was his
venerated leader at some distance off, running after his own hat, which
was gamboling playfully away in perspective.

There are very few moments in a man's existence when he experiences
so much ludicrous distress, or meets with so little charitable
commiseration, as when he is in pursuit of his own hat. A vast deal of
coolness, and a peculiar degree of judgment, are requisite in catching
a hat. A man must not be precipitate, or he runs over it; he must not
rush into the opposite extreme, or he loses it altogether. The best
way is, to keep gently up with the object of pursuit, to be wary and
cautious, to watch your opportunity well, get gradually before it, then
make a rapid dive, seize it by the crown, and stick it firmly on your
head: smiling pleasantly all the time, as if you thought it as good a
joke as anybody else.

There was a fine gentle wind, and Mr. Pickwick's hat rolled sportively
before it. The wind puffed, and Mr. Pickwick puffed, and the hat rolled
over and over as merrily as a lively porpoise in a strong tide; and
on it might have rolled, far beyond Mr. Pickwick's reach, had not its
course been providentially stopped, just as that gentleman was on the
point of resigning it to its fate.

Mr. Pickwick, we say, was completely exhausted, and about to give
up the chase, when the hat was blown with some violence against the
wheel of a carriage, which was drawn up in a line with half-a-dozen
other vehicles on the spot to which his steps had been directed. Mr.
Pickwick, perceiving his advantage, darted briskly forward, secured his
property, planted it on his head, and paused to take breath. He had
not been stationary half a minute, when he heard his own name eagerly
pronounced by a voice, which he at once recognised as Mr. Tupman's,
and, looking upwards, he beheld a sight which filled him with surprise
and pleasure.

In an open barouche, the horses of which had been taken out, the better
to accommodate it to the crowded place, stood a stout old gentleman,
in a blue coat and bright buttons, corduroy breeches and top boots,
two young ladies in scarfs and feathers, a young gentleman apparently
enamoured of one of the young ladies in scarfs and feathers, a lady of
doubtful age, probably the aunt of the aforesaid, and Mr. Tupman, as
easy and unconcerned as if he had belonged to the family from the first
moments of his infancy. Fastened up behind the barouche was a hamper
of spacious dimensions--one of those hampers which always awakens in
a contemplative mind associations connected with cold fowls, tongues,
and bottles of wine--and on the box sat a fat and red-faced boy, in a
state of somnolency, whom no speculative observer could have regarded
for an instant without setting down as the official dispenser of the
contents of the before-mentioned hamper, when the proper time for their
consumption should arrive.

Mr. Pickwick had bestowed a hasty glance on these interesting objects,
when he was again greeted by his faithful disciple.

"Pickwick--Pickwick," said Mr. Tupman: "come up here. Make haste."

"Come along, sir. Pray, come up," said the stout gentleman. "Joe!--damn
that boy, he's gone to sleep again.--Joe, let down the steps." The
fat boy rolled slowly off the box, let down the steps, and held the
carriage door invitingly open. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle came up at
the moment.

"Room for you all, gentlemen," said the stout man. "Two inside, and one
out. Joe, make room for one of these gentlemen on the box. Now, sir,
come along;" and the stout gentleman extended his arm, and pulled first
Mr. Pickwick, and then Mr. Snodgrass, into the barouche by main force.
Mr. Winkle mounted to the box, the fat boy waddled to the same perch,
and fell fast asleep instantly.

[Illustration: "_Damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again_"]

"Well, gentlemen," said the stout man, "very glad to see you. Know
you very well, gentlemen, though you mayn't remember me. I spent some
ev'nins at your club last winter--picked up my friend Mr. Tupman here
this morning, and very glad I was to see him. Well, sir, and how are
you? You do look uncommon well, to be sure."

Mr. Pickwick acknowledged the compliment, and cordially shook hands
with the stout gentleman in the top boots.

"Well, and how are you, sir?" said the stout gentleman, addressing
Mr. Snodgrass with paternal anxiety. "Charming, eh? Well, that's
right--that's right. And how are you, sir (to Mr. Winkle)? Well, I
am glad to hear you say you are well; very glad I am, to be sure. My
daughters, gentlemen--my gals these are; and that's my sister, Miss
Rachael Wardle. She's a Miss, she is; and yet she an't a Miss--eh, sir,
eh?" And the stout gentleman playfully inserted his elbow between the
ribs of Mr. Pickwick, and laughed very heartily.

"Lor, brother!" said Miss Wardle, with a deprecating smile.

"True, true," said the stout gentleman; "no one can deny it. Gentlemen,
I beg your pardon; this is my friend Mr. Trundle. And now you all
know each other, let's be comfortable and happy, and see what's
going forward; that's what I say." So the stout gentleman put on his
spectacles, and Mr. Pickwick pulled out his glass, and everybody stood
up in the carriage, and looked over somebody else's shoulder at the
evolutions of the military.

Astounding evolutions they were, one rank firing over the heads of
another rank, and then running away; and then the other rank firing
over the heads of another rank, and running away in their turn; and
then forming squares, with officers in the centre; and then descending
the trench on one side with scaling-ladders, and ascending it on the
other again by the same means; and knocking down barricades of baskets,
and behaving in the most gallant manner possible. Then there was
such a ramming down of the contents of enormous guns on the battery,
with instruments like magnified mops; such a preparation before they
were let off, and such an awful noise when they did go, that the air
resounded with the screams of ladies. The young Miss Wardles were so
frightened, that Mr. Trundle was actually obliged to hold one of them
up in the carriage, while Mr. Snodgrass supported the other, and Mr.
Wardle's sister suffered under such a dreadful state of nervous alarm,
that Mr. Tupman found it indispensably necessary to put his arm round
her waist, to keep her up at all. Everybody was excited, except the
fat boy, and he slept as soundly as if the roaring of cannon were his
ordinary lullaby.

"Joe, Joe!" said the stout gentleman, when the citadel was taken, and
the besiegers and besieged sat down to dinner. "Damn that boy, he's
gone to sleep again. Be good enough to pinch him, sir--in the leg, if
you please; nothing else wakes him--thank you. Undo the hamper, Joe."

The fat boy, who had been effectually roused by the compression of a
portion of his leg between the finger and thumb of Mr. Winkle, rolled
off the box once again, and proceeded to unpack the hamper, with more
expedition than could have been expected from his previous inactivity.

"Now we must sit close," said the stout gentleman. After a great many
jokes about squeezing the ladies' sleeves, and a vast quantity of
blushing at sundry jocose proposals, that the ladies should sit in the
gentlemen's laps, the whole party were stowed down in the barouche; and
the stout gentleman proceeded to hand the things from the fat boy (who
had mounted up behind for the purpose) into the carriage.

"Now, Joe, knives and forks." The knives and forks were handed in, and
the ladies and gentlemen inside, and Mr. Winkle on the box, were each
furnished with those useful instruments.

"Plates, Joe, plates." A similar process employed in the distribution
of the crockery.

"Now, Joe, the fowls. Damn that boy; he's gone to sleep again. Joe!
Joe!" (Sundry taps on the head with a stick, and the fat boy, with some
difficulty, roused from his lethargy.) "Come, hand in the eatables."

There was something in the sound of the last word which roused the
unctuous boy. He jumped up, and the leaden eyes which twinkled behind
his mountainous cheeks leered horribly upon the food as he unpacked it
from the basket.

"Now make haste," said Mr. Wardle; for the fat boy was hanging fondly
over a capon, which he seemed wholly unable to part with. The boy
sighed deeply, and, bestowing an ardent gaze upon its plumpness,
unwillingly consigned it to his master.

"That's right--look sharp. Now the tongue--now the pigeon-pie. Take
care of that veal and ham--mind the lobsters--take the salad out of the
cloth--give me the dressing." Such were the hurried orders which issued
from the lips of Mr. Wardle, as he handed in the different articles
described, and placed dishes in everybody's hands, and on everybody's
knees, in endless number.

"Now, an't this capital?" inquired that jolly personage, when the work
of destruction had commenced.

"Capital!" said Mr. Winkle, who was carving a fowl on the box.

"Glass of wine?"

"With the greatest pleasure."

"You'd better have a bottle to yourself up there, hadn't you?"

"You're very good."

"Joe!"

"Yes, sir." (He wasn't asleep this time, having just succeeded in
abstracting a veal patty.)

"Bottle of wine to the gentleman on the box. Glad to see you, sir."

"Thankee." Mr. Winkle emptied his glass, and placed the bottle on the
coach-box by his side.

"Will you permit me to have the pleasure, sir?" said Mr. Trundle to Mr.
Winkle.

"With great pleasure," replied Mr. Winkle to Mr. Trundle, and then the
two gentlemen took wine, after which they took a glass of wine round,
ladies and all.

"How dear Emily is flirting with the strange gentleman," whispered the
spinster aunt, with true spinster-aunt-like envy, to her brother Mr.
Wardle.

"Oh! I don't know," said the jolly old gentleman; "all very natural, I
dare say--nothing unusual. Mr. Pickwick, some wine, sir?" Mr. Pickwick,
who had been deeply investigating the interior of the pigeon-pie,
readily assented.

"Emily, my dear," said the spinster aunt, with a patronising air,
"don't talk so loud, love."

"Lor, aunt!"

"Aunt and the little old gentleman want to have it all to themselves, I
think," whispered Miss Isabella Wardle to her sister Emily. The young
ladies laughed very heartily, and the old one tried to look amiable,
but couldn't manage it.

"Young girls have _such_ spirits," said Miss Wardle to Mr. Tupman, with
an air of gentle commiseration, as if animal spirits were contraband,
and their possession without a permit, a high crime and misdemeanour.

"Oh, they have," replied Mr. Tupman, not exactly making the sort of
reply that was expected from him. "It's quite delightful."

"Hem!" said Miss Wardle, rather dubiously.

"Will you permit me," said Mr. Tupman, in his blandest manner, touching
the enchanting Rachael's wrist with one hand, and gently elevating the
bottle with the other. "Will you permit me?"

"Oh, sir!" Mr. Tupman looked most impressive; and Rachael expressed her
fear that more guns were going off, in which case, of course, she would
have required support again.

"Do you think my dear nieces pretty?" whispered their affectionate aunt
to Mr. Tupman.

"I should if their aunt wasn't here," replied the ready Pickwickian,
with a passionate glance.

"Oh, you naughty man--but really, if their complexions were a
_little_ better, don't you think they would be nice-looking girls--by
candle-light?"

"Yes; I think they would," said Mr. Tupman, with an air of indifference.

"Oh, you quiz--I know what you were going to say."

"What?" inquired Mr. Tupman, who had not precisely made up his mind to
say anything at all.

"You were going to say that Isabel stoops--I know you were--you men are
such observers. Well, so she does; it can't be denied; and, certainly,
if there is one thing more than another that makes a girl look ugly, it
is stooping. I often tell her that when she gets a little older she'll
be quite frightful. Well, you _are_ a quiz."

Mr. Tupman had no objection to earning the reputation at so cheap a
rate, so he looked very knowing, and smiled mysteriously.

"What a sarcastic smile," said the admiring Rachael; "I declare I'm
quite afraid of you."

"Afraid of me!"

"Oh, you can't disguise anything from me--I know what that smile means
very well."

"What?" said Mr. Tupman, who had not the slightest notion himself.

"You mean," said the amiable aunt, sinking her voice still lower--"You
mean, that you don't think Isabella's stooping is as bad as Emily's
boldness. Well, she _is_ bold! You cannot think how wretched it makes
me sometimes--I'm sure I cry about it for hours together--my dear
brother is _so_ good, and _so_ unsuspicious, that he never sees it;
if he did, I'm quite certain it would break his heart. I wish I could
think it was only manner--I hope it may be--" (Here the affectionate
relative heaved a deep sigh, and shook her head despondingly).

"I'm sure aunt's talking about us," whispered Miss Emily Wardle to her
sister--"I'm quite certain of it--she looks so malicious."

"Is she?" replied Isabella--"Hem! aunt dear!"

"Yes, my dear love!"

"I'm _so_ afraid you'll catch cold, aunt--have a silk handkerchief
to tie round your dear old head--you really should take care of
yourself--consider your age!"

However well deserved this piece of retaliation might have been, it
was as vindictive a one as could well have been resorted to. There is
no guessing in what form of reply the aunt's indignation would have
vented itself, had not Mr. Wardle unconsciously changed the subject, by
calling emphatically for Joe.

"Damn that boy," said the old gentleman, "he's gone to sleep again."

"Very extraordinary boy that," said Mr. Pickwick; "does he always sleep
in this way?"

"Sleep!" said the old gentleman, "he's always asleep. Goes on errands
fast asleep, and snores as he waits at table."

"How very odd!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Ah! odd indeed," returned the old gentleman; "I'm proud of that
boy--wouldn't part with him on any account--he's a natural curiosity!
Here, Joe--Joe--take these things away, and open another bottle--d'ye
hear?"

The fat boy rose, opened his eyes, swallowed the huge piece of pie
he had been in the act of masticating when he last fell asleep, and
slowly obeyed his master's orders--gloating languidly over the remains
of the feast, as he removed the plates, and deposited them in the
hamper. The fresh bottle was produced, and speedily emptied: the
hamper was made fast in its old place--the fat boy once more mounted
the box--the spectacles and pocket-glass were again adjusted--and the
evolutions of the military recommenced. There was a great fizzing and
banging of guns, and starting of ladies--and then a mine was sprung,
to the gratification of everybody--and when the mine had gone off, the
military and the company followed its example, and went off too.

"Now, mind," said the old gentleman, as he shook hands with Mr.
Pickwick at the conclusion of a conversation which had been carried on
at intervals, during the conclusion of the proceedings--"we shall see
you all to-morrow."

"Most certainly," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"You have got the address."

"Manor Farm, Dingley Dell," said Mr. Pickwick, consulting his
pocket-book.

"That's it," said the old gentleman. "I don't let you off, mind, under
a week; and undertake that you shall see everything worth seeing. If
you've come down for a country life, come to me, and I'll give you
plenty of it. Joe--damn that boy, he's gone to sleep again--Joe, help
Tom put in the horses."

The horses were put in--the driver mounted--the fat boy clambered up by
his side--farewells were exchanged--and the carriage rattled off. As
the Pickwickians turned round to take a last glimpse of it, the setting
sun cast a rich glow on the faces of their entertainers, and fell upon
the form of the fat boy. His head was sunk upon his bosom; and he
slumbered again.



CHAPTER V

[Illustration]

  _A Short One. Showing, among other Matters, how Mr. Pickwick
    undertook to Drive, and Mr. Winkle to Ride; and how they both
    did it_


Bright and pleasant was the sky, balmy the air, and beautiful the
appearance of every object around, as Mr. Pickwick leant over the
balustrades of Rochester Bridge, contemplating nature, and waiting for
breakfast. The scene was indeed one which might well have charmed a far
less reflective mind, than that to which it was presented.

On the left of the spectator lay the ruined wall, broken in many
places, and in some, overhanging the narrow beach below in rude and
heavy masses. Huge knots of sea-weed hung upon the jagged and pointed
stones, trembling in every breath of wind; and the green ivy clung
mournfully round the dark and ruined battlements. Behind it rose the
ancient castle, its towers roofless, and its massive walls crumbling
away, but telling us proudly of its own might and strength, as when,
seven hundred years ago, it rang with the clash of arms, or resounded
with the noise of feasting and revelry. On either side, the banks of
the Medway, covered with corn-fields and pastures, with here and there
a windmill, or a distant church, stretched away as far as the eye could
see, presenting a rich and varied landscape, rendered more beautiful by
the changing shadows which passed swiftly across it, as the thin and
half-formed clouds skimmed away in the light of the morning sun. The
river, reflecting the clear blue of the sky, glistened and sparkled as
it flowed noiselessly on; and the oars of the fishermen dipped into
the water with a clear and liquid sound, as the heavy but picturesque
boats glided slowly down the stream.

Mr. Pickwick was roused from the agreeable reverie into which he had
been led by the objects before him, by a deep sigh, and a touch on his
shoulder. He turned round: and the dismal man was at his side.

"Contemplating the scene?" inquired the dismal man.

"I was," said Mr. Pickwick.

"And congratulating yourself on being up so soon?" Mr. Pickwick nodded
assent.

"Ah! people need to rise early, to see the sun in all his splendour,
for his brightness seldom lasts the day through. The morning of day and
the morning of life are but too much alike."

"You speak truly, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"How common the saying," continued the dismal man, "'The morning's too
fine to last.' How well might it be applied to our every-day existence.
God! what would I forfeit to have the days of my childhood restored, or
to be able to forget them for ever!"

"You have seen much trouble, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, compassionately.

"I have," said the dismal man, hurriedly; "I have. More than those who
see me now would believe possible." He paused for an instant, and then
said abruptly--

"Did it ever strike you, on such a morning as this, that drowning would
be happiness and peace?"

"God bless me, no!" replied Mr. Pickwick, edging a little from the
balustrade, as the possibility of the dismal man's tipping him over, by
way of experiment, occurred to him rather forcibly.

"_I_ have thought so, often," said the dismal man, without noticing
the action. "The calm, cool water seems to me to murmur an invitation
to repose and rest. A bound, a splash, a brief struggle; there is an
eddy for an instant, it gradually subsides into a gentle ripple; the
waters have closed above your head, and the world has closed upon your
miseries and misfortunes for ever." The sunken eye of the dismal man
flashed brightly as he spoke, but the momentary excitement quickly
subsided: and he turned calmly away, as he said--

"There--enough of that. I wish to see you on another subject. You
invited me to read that paper, the night before last, and listened
attentively while I did so."

"I did," replied Mr. Pickwick; "and I certainly thought----"

"I asked for no opinion," said the dismal man, interrupting him, "and
I want none. You are travelling for amusement and instruction. Suppose
I forwarded you a curious manuscript--observe, not curious because
wild or improbable, but curious as a leaf from the romance of real
life. Would you communicate it to the club, of which you have spoken so
frequently?"

"Certainly," replied Mr. Pickwick, "if you wished it; and it would be
entered on their transactions."

"You shall have it," replied the dismal man. "Your address;" and Mr.
Pickwick, having communicated their probable route, the dismal man
carefully noted it down in a greasy pocket-book, and, resisting Mr.
Pickwick's pressing invitation to breakfast, left that gentleman at his
inn, and walked slowly away.

Mr. Pickwick found that his three companions had risen, and were
waiting his arrival to commence breakfast, which was ready laid in
tempting display. They sat down to the meal; and broiled ham, eggs,
tea, coffee and sundries, began to disappear with a rapidity which at
once bore testimony to the excellence of the fare, and the appetites of
its consumers.

"Now, about Manor Farm," said Mr. Pickwick. "How shall we go?"

"We had better consult the waiter, perhaps," said Mr. Tupman, and the
waiter was summoned accordingly.

"Dingley Dell, gentlemen--fifteen miles,
gentlemen--cross-road--post-chaise, sir?"

"Post-chaise won't hold more than two," said Mr. Pickwick.

"True, sir--beg your pardon, sir--very nice four-wheeled chaise,
sir--seat for two behind--one in front for the gentleman that
drives--oh! beg your pardon, sir--that'll only hold three."

"What's to be done?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Perhaps one of the gentlemen would like to ride, sir?" suggested the
waiter, looking towards Mr. Winkle; "very good saddle horses, sir--any
of Mr. Wardle's men coming to Rochester bring 'em back, sir."

"The very thing," said Mr. Pickwick. "Winkle, will you go on horseback?"

Mr. Winkle did entertain considerable misgivings in the very lowest
recesses of his own heart, relative to his equestrian skill; but, as he
would not have them even suspected on any account, he at once replied
with great hardihood, "Certainly. I should enjoy it of all things."

Mr. Winkle had rushed upon his fate; there was no resource. "Let them
be at the door by eleven," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Very well, sir," replied the waiter.

The waiter retired; the breakfast concluded; and the travellers
ascended to their respective bedrooms, to prepare a change of clothing,
to take with them on their approaching expedition.

Mr. Pickwick had made his preliminary arrangements, and was looking
over the coffee-room blinds at the passengers in the street, when the
waiter entered and announced that the chaise was ready--an announcement
which the vehicle itself confirmed, by forthwith appearing before the
coffee-room blinds aforesaid.

It was a curious little green box on four wheels, with a low place
like a wine-bin for two behind, and an elevated perch for one in
front, drawn by an immense brown horse, displaying great symmetry of
bone. An hostler stood near, holding by the bridle another immense
horse--apparently a near relative to the animal in the chaise--ready
saddled for Mr. Winkle.

"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Pickwick, as they stood upon the pavement
while the coats were being put in. "Bless my soul! who's to drive? I
never thought of that."

"Oh! you, of course," said Mr. Tupman.

"Of course," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"I!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

"Not the slightest fear, sir," interposed the hostler. "Warrant him
quiet, sir; a hinfant in arms might drive him."

"He don't shy, does he?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Shy, sir?--He wouldn't shy if he was to meet a vaggin-load of monkeys
with their tails burnt off."

The last recommendation was indisputable. Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass
got into the bin; Mr. Pickwick ascended to his perch, and deposited his
feet on a floor-clothed shelf, erected beneath it for that purpose.

"Now, shiny Villiam," said the hostler to the deputy hostler, "give the
gen'lm'n the ribbins." "Shiny Villiam"--so called, probably, from his
sleek hair and oily countenance--placed the reins in Mr. Pickwick's
left hand; and the upper hostler thrust a whip into his right.

"Wo--o!" cried Mr. Pickwick, as the tall quadruped evinced a decided
inclination to back into the coffee-room window.

"Wo--o!" echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass, from the bin.

"Only his playfulness, gen'lm'n," said the head hostler encouragingly;
"jist kitch hold on him, Villiam." The deputy restrained the animal's
impetuosity, and the principal ran to assist Mr. Winkle in mounting.

"T'other side, sir, if you please."

"Blowed if the gen'lm'n worn't gettin' up on the wrong side," whispered
a grinning post-boy to the inexpressibly gratified waiter.

Mr. Winkle, thus instructed, climbed into his saddle, with about as
much difficulty as he would have experienced in getting up the side of
a first-rate man-of-war.

"All right?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, with an inward presentiment that it
was all wrong.

"All right," replied Mr. Winkle faintly.

"Let 'em go," cried the hostler,--"Hold him in, sir," and away went
the chaise, and the saddle-horse, with Mr. Pickwick on the box of
the one, and Mr. Winkle on the back of the other, to the delight and
gratification of the whole inn-yard.

"What makes him go sideways?" said Mr. Snodgrass in the bin, to Mr.
Winkle in the saddle.

"I can't imagine," replied Mr. Winkle. His horse was drifting up the
street in the most mysterious manner--side first, with his head toward
one side of the way, and his tail towards the other.

[Illustration: _"Wo--o!" cried Mr. Pickwick._

_"Wo--o!" echoed Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from the bin._]

Mr. Pickwick had no leisure to observe either this or any other
particular, the whole of his faculties being concentrated in the
management of the animal attached to the chaise, who displayed various
peculiarities, highly interesting to a bystander, but by no means
equally amusing to any one seated behind him. Besides constantly
jerking his head up, in a very unpleasant and uncomfortable manner, and
tugging at the reins to an extent which rendered it a matter of great
difficulty for Mr. Pickwick to hold them, he had a singular propensity
for darting suddenly every now and then to the side of the road, then
stopping short, and then rushing forward for some minutes, at a speed
which it was wholly impossible to control.

[Illustration: "_T'other side, sir, if you please_"]

"What _can_ he mean by this?" said Mr. Snodgrass, when the horse had
executed this manoeuvre for the twentieth time.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Tupman; "it _looks_ very like shying, don't
it?" Mr. Snodgrass was about to reply, when he was interrupted by a
shout from Mr. Pickwick.

"Wo--o!" said that gentleman; "I have dropped my whip."

"Winkle," said Mr. Snodgrass as the equestrian came trotting up on
the tall horse, with his hat over his ears, and shaking all over, as
if he would shake to pieces, with the violence of the exercise, "pick
up the whip, there's a good fellow." Mr. Winkle pulled at the bridle
of the tall horse till he was black in the face; and having at length
succeeded in stopping him, dismounted, handed the whip to Mr. Pickwick,
and grasping the reins, prepared to remount.

Now whether the tall horse, in the natural playfulness of his
disposition, was desirous of having a little innocent recreation with
Mr. Winkle, or whether it occurred to him that he could perform the
journey as much to his own satisfaction without a rider as with one,
are points upon which, of course, we can arrive at no definite and
distinct conclusion. By whatever motives the animal was actuated,
certain it is that Mr. Winkle had no sooner touched the reins, than he
slipped them over his head, and darted backwards to their full length.

"Poor fellow," said Mr. Winkle, soothingly,--"poor fellow--good
old horse." The "poor fellow" was proof against flattery: the more
Mr. Winkle tried to get nearer him, the more he sidled away; and,
notwithstanding all kinds of coaxing and wheedling, there were Mr.
Winkle and the horse going round and round each other for ten minutes,
at the end of which time each was at precisely the same distance from
the other as when they first commenced--an unsatisfactory sort of thing
under any circumstances, but particularly so in a lonely road, where no
assistance can be procured.

"What am I to do?" shouted Mr. Winkle, after the dodging had been
prolonged for a considerable time. "What am I to do? I can't get on
him."

[Illustration: _Mr. Pickwick ran to his assistance._]

"You had better lead him till we come to a turnpike," replied Mr.
Pickwick from the chaise.

"But he won't come!" roared Mr. Winkle. "Do come and hold him."

Mr. Pickwick was the very personation of kindness and humanity: he
threw the reins on the horse's back, and having descended from his
seat, carefully drew the chaise into the hedge, lest anything should
come along the road, and stepped back to the assistance of his
distressed companion, leaving Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass in the
vehicle.

The horse no sooner beheld Mr. Pickwick advancing towards him with
the chaise whip in his hand, than he exchanged the rotatory motion in
which he had previously indulged, for a retrograde movement of so very
determined a character, that it at once drew Mr. Winkle, who was still
at the end of the bridle, at a rather quicker rate than fast walking,
in the direction from which they had just come. Mr. Pickwick ran to his
assistance, but the faster Mr. Pickwick ran forward, the faster the
horse ran backward. There was a great scraping of feet, and kicking up
of the dust; and at last Mr. Winkle, his arms being nearly pulled out
of their sockets, fairly let go his hold. The horse paused, stared,
shook his head, turned round, and quietly trotted home to Rochester,
leaving Mr. Winkle and Mr. Pickwick gazing on each other with
countenances of blank dismay. A rattling noise at a little distance
attracted their attention. They looked up.

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed the agonised Mr. Pickwick, "there's the
other horse running away!"

It was but too true. The animal was startled by the noise, and the
reins were on his back. The result may be guessed. He tore off with the
four-wheeled chaise behind him, and Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass in the
four-wheeled chaise. The heat was a short one. Mr. Tupman threw himself
into the hedge, Mr. Snodgrass followed his example, the horse dashed
the four-wheeled chaise against a wooden bridge, separated the wheels
from the body, and the bin from the perch; and finally stood stock
still to gaze upon the ruin he had made.

The first care of the two unspilt friends was to extricate their
unfortunate companions from their bed of quickset--a process which
gave them the unspeakable satisfaction of discovering that they had
sustained no injury, beyond sundry rents in their garments, and various
lacerations from the brambles. The next thing to be done was, to
unharness the horse. This complicated process having been effected,
the party walked slowly forward, leading the horse among them, and
abandoning the chaise to its fate.

An hour's walking brought the travellers to a little road-side
public-house, with two elm trees, a horse trough, and a sign-post, in
front; one or two deformed hay-ricks behind, a kitchen garden at the
side, and rotten sheds and mouldering out-houses jumbled in strange
confusion all about it. A red-headed man was working in the garden; and
to him Mr. Pickwick called lustily--"Hallo there!"

The red-headed man raised his body, shaded his eyes with his hand, and
stared, long and coolly, at Mr. Pickwick and his companions.

"Hallo there!" repeated Mr. Pickwick.

"Hallo!" was the red-headed man's reply.

"How far is it to Dingley Dell?"

"Better er seven mile."

"Is it a good road?"

"No, 'tan't." Having uttered this brief reply, and apparently satisfied
himself with another scrutiny, the red-headed man resumed his work.

"We want to put this horse up here," said Mr. Pickwick; "I suppose we
can, can't we?"

"Want to put that ere horse up, do ee?" repeated the red-headed man,
leaning on his spade.

"Of course," replied Mr. Pickwick, who had by this time advanced, horse
in hand, to the garden rails.

"Missus"--roared the man with the red head, emerging from the garden,
and looking very hard at the horse--"Missus!"

A tall bony woman--straight all the way down--in a coarse blue pelisse,
with the waist an inch or two below her armpits, responded to the call.

"Can we put this horse up here, my good woman?" said Mr. Tupman,
advancing, and speaking in his most seductive tones. The woman looked
very hard at the whole party, and the red-headed man whispered
something in her ear.

"No," replied the woman, after a little consideration, "I'm afeered on
it."

"Afraid!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, "what's the woman afraid of?"

"It got us into trouble last time," said the woman, turning into the
house; "I woant have nothin' to say to 'un."

"Most extraordinary thing I ever met with in my life," said the
astonished Mr. Pickwick.

"I--I--really believe," whispered Mr. Winkle, as his friends gathered
round him, "that they think we have come by this horse in some
dishonest manner."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, in a storm of indignation. Mr. Winkle
modestly repeated his suggestion.

"Hallo, you fellow!" said the angry Mr. Pickwick, "do you think we
stole this horse?"

"I'm sure ye did," replied the red-headed man, with a grin which
agitated his countenance from one auricular organ to the other. Saying
which he turned into the house, and banged the door after him.

"It's like a dream," ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, "a hideous dream. The
idea of a man's walking about, all day, with a dreadful horse that he
can't get rid of!" The depressed Pickwickians turned moodily away, with
a tall quadruped, for which they all felt the most unmitigated disgust,
following slowly at their heels.

It was late in the afternoon when the four friends and their
four-footed companion turned into the lane leading to Manor Farm: and
even when they were so near their place of destination, the pleasure
they would have otherwise experienced was materially damped as they
reflected on the singularity of their appearance, and the absurdity of
their situation. Torn clothes, lacerated faces, dusty shoes, exhausted
looks, and, above all, the horse. Oh, how Mr. Pickwick cursed that
horse: he had eyed the noble animal from time to time with looks
expressive of hatred and revenge; more than once he had calculated the
probable amount of the expense he would incur by cutting his throat;
and now the temptation to destroy him, or to cast him loose upon the
world, rushed upon his mind with tenfold force. He was roused from a
meditation on these dire imaginings, by the sudden appearance of two
figures at a turn of the lane. It was Mr. Wardle, and his faithful
attendant, the fat boy.

"Why, where _have_ you been?" said the hospitable old gentleman;
"I've been waiting for you all day. Well, you _do_ look tired. What!
Scratches! Not hurt, I hope--eh? Well, I _am_ glad to hear that--very.
So you've been spilt, eh? Never mind. Common accident in these parts.
Joe--he's asleep again!--Joe, take that horse from the gentleman, and
lead it into the stable."

The fat boy sauntered heavily behind them with the animal; and the old
gentleman, condoling with his guests in homely phrase on so much of the
day's adventures as they thought proper to communicate, led the way to
the kitchen.

"We'll have you put to rights here," said the old gentleman, "and then
I'll introduce you to the people in the parlour. Emma, bring out the
cherry brandy; now, Jane, a needle and thread here; towels and water,
Mary. Come, girls, bustle about."

Three or four buxom girls speedily dispersed in search of the
different articles in requisition, while a couple of large-headed,
circular-visaged males rose from their seats in the chimney-corner
(for although it was a May evening, their attachment to the wood
fire appeared as cordial as if it were Christmas), and dived into
some obscure recesses, from which they speedily produced a bottle of
blacking, and some half-dozen brushes.

"Bustle!" said the old gentleman again, but the admonition was quite
unnecessary, for one of the girls poured out the cherry brandy, and
another brought in the towels, and one of the men suddenly seizing
Mr. Pickwick by the leg, at imminent hazard of throwing him off his
balance, brushed away at his foot, till his corns were red-hot; while
the other shampoo'd Mr. Winkle with a heavy clothes-brush, indulging,
during the operation, in that hissing sound which hostlers are wont to
produce when engaged in rubbing down a horse.

Mr. Snodgrass, having concluded his ablutions, took a survey of the
room, while standing with his back to the fire, sipping his cherry
brandy with heartfelt satisfaction. He describes it as a large
apartment, with a red brick floor and a capacious chimney; the ceiling
garnished with hams, sides of bacon, and ropes of onions. The walls
were decorated with several hunting-whips, two or three bridles, a
saddle, and an old rusty blunderbuss, with an inscription below it,
intimating that it was "Loaded"--as it had been, on the same authority,
for half a century at least. An old eight-day clock, of solemn and
sedate demeanour, ticked gravely in one corner; and a silver watch, of
equal antiquity, dangled from one of the many hooks which ornamented
the dresser.

"Ready?" said the old gentleman, inquiringly, when his guests had been
washed, mended, brushed, and brandied.

"Quite," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Come along, then," and the party having traversed several dark
passages, and being joined by Mr. Tupman, who had lingered behind to
snatch a kiss from Emma, for which he had been duly rewarded with
sundry pushings and scratchings, arrived at the parlour door.

"Welcome," said their hospitable host, throwing it open and stepping
forward to announce them, "Welcome, gentlemen, to Manor Farm."



CHAPTER VI

[Illustration]

  _An Old-fashioned Card-party. The Clergyman's Verses. The Story
    of the Convict's Return_


Several guests who were assembled in the old parlour rose to greet
Mr. Pickwick and his friends upon their entrance; and during the
performance of the ceremony of introduction, with all due formalities,
Mr. Pickwick had leisure to observe the appearance, and speculate
upon the characters and pursuits, of the persons by whom he was
surrounded--a habit in which he, in common with many other great men,
delighted to indulge.

A very old lady, in a lofty cap and faded silk gown--no less a
personage than Mr. Wardle's mother--occupied the post of honour on the
right-hand corner of the chimney-piece; and various certificates of
her having been brought up in the way she should go when young, and
of her not having departed from it when old, ornamented the walls,
in the form of samplers of ancient date, worsted landscapes of equal
antiquity, and crimson silk tea-kettle holders of a more modern period.
The aunt, the two young ladies, and Mr. Wardle, each vying with the
other in paying zealous and unremitting attentions to the old lady,
crowded round her easy-chair, one holding her ear-trumpet, another
an orange, and a third a smelling-bottle, while a fourth was busily
engaged in patting and punching the pillows which were arranged for her
support. On the opposite side sat a bald-headed old gentleman, with
a good-humoured benevolent face--the clergyman of Dingley Dell; and
next him sat his wife, a stout blooming old lady, who looked as if she
were well skilled, not only in the art and mystery of manufacturing
home-made cordials greatly to other people's satisfaction, but of
tasting them occasionally very much to her own. A little, hard-headed,
Ribston-pippin-faced man, was conversing with a fat old gentleman in
one corner; and two or three more old gentlemen, and two or three more
old ladies, sat bolt upright and motionless on their chairs, staring
very hard at Mr. Pickwick and his fellow-voyagers.

"Mr. Pickwick, mother," said Mr. Wardle, at the very top of his voice.

"Ah!" said the old lady, shaking her head, "I can't hear you."

"Mr. Pickwick, grandma!" screamed both the young ladies together.

"Ah!" exclaimed the old lady. "Well; it don't much matter. He don't
care for an old 'ooman like me, I dare say."

"I assure you, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, grasping the old lady's hand,
and speaking so loud that the exertion imparted a crimson hue to his
benevolent countenance, "I assure you, ma'am, that nothing delights me
more than to see a lady of your time of life heading so fine a family,
and looking so young and well."

"Ah!" said the old lady, after a short pause. "It's all very fine, I
dare say; but I can't hear him."

"Grandma's rather put out now," said Miss Isabella Wardle, in a low
tone; "but she'll talk to you presently."

Mr. Pickwick nodded his readiness to humour the infirmities of age,
and entered into a general conversation with the other members of the
circle.

"Delightful situation this," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Delightful!" echoed Messrs. Snodgrass, Tupman, and Winkle.

"Well, I think it is," said Mr. Wardle.

"There an't a better spot o' ground in all Kent, sir," said the
hard-headed man with the pippin-face; "there an't indeed, sir--I'm sure
there an't, sir." The hard-headed man looked triumphantly round, as if
he had been very much contradicted by somebody, but had got the better
of him at last.

"There an't a better spot o' ground in all Kent," said the hard-headed
man again, after a pause.

"'Cept Mullins's Meadows," observed the fat man solemnly.

"Mullins's Meadows!" ejaculated the other, with profound contempt.

"Ah, Mullins's Meadows," repeated the fat man.

"Reg'lar good land that," interposed another fat man.

"And so it is, sure-ly," said a third fat man.

"Everybody knows that," said the corpulent host.

The hard-headed man looked dubiously round, but finding himself in the
minority, assumed a compassionate air and said no more.

"What are they talking about?" inquired the old lady of one of her
granddaughters, in a very audible voice; for, like many deaf people,
she never seemed to calculate on the possibility of other persons
hearing what she said herself.

"About the land, grandma."

"What about the land?--nothing the matter, is there?"

"No, no. Mr. Miller was saying our land was better than Mullins's
Meadows."

"How should he know anything about it?" inquired the old lady
indignantly. "Miller's a conceited coxcomb, and you may tell him I said
so." Saying which, the old lady, quite unconscious that she had spoken
above a whisper, drew herself up, and looked carving-knives at the
hard-headed delinquent.

"Come, come," said the bustling host, with a natural anxiety to change
the conversation,--"What say you to a rubber, Mr. Pickwick?"

"I should like it of all things," replied that gentleman; "but pray
don't make up one on my account."

"Oh, I assure you, mother's very fond of a rubber," said Mr. Wardle;
"an't you, mother?"

The old lady, who was much less deaf on this subject than on any other,
replied in the affirmative.

"Joe, Joe!" said the old gentleman; "Joe--damn that--oh, here he is;
put out the card-tables."

The lethargic youth contrived without any additional rousing to set out
two card-tables; the one for Pope Joan, and the other for whist. The
whist-players were Mr. Pickwick and the old lady; Mr. Miller and the
fat gentleman. The round game comprised the rest of the company.

The rubber was conducted with all that gravity of deportment and
sedateness of demeanour which befit the pursuit entitled "whist"--a
solemn observance, to which, as it appears to us, the title of "game"
has been very irreverently and ignominiously applied. The round-game
table, on the other hand, was so boisterously merry as materially to
interrupt the contemplations of Mr. Miller, who, not being quite so
much absorbed as he ought to have been, contrived to commit various
high crimes and misdemeanours, which excited the wrath of the fat
gentleman to a very great extent, and called forth the good-humour of
the old lady in a proportionate degree.

"There!" said the criminal Miller, triumphantly, as he took up the odd
trick at the conclusion of a hand; "that could not have been played
better, I flatter myself;--impossible to have made another trick."

"Miller ought to have trumped the diamond, oughtn't he, sir?" said the
old lady.

Mr. Pickwick nodded assent.

"Ought I, though?" said the unfortunate, with a doubtful appeal to his
partner.

"You ought, sir," said the fat gentleman, in an awful voice.

"Very sorry," said the crestfallen Miller.

"Much use that," growled the fat gentleman.

"Two by honours makes us eight," said Mr. Pickwick.

Another hand. "Can you one?" inquired the old lady.

"I can," replied Mr. Pickwick. "Double, single, and the rub."

"Never was such luck," said Mr. Miller.

"Never was such cards," said the fat gentleman.

A solemn silence: Mr. Pickwick humorous, the old lady serious, the fat
gentleman captious, and Mr. Miller timorous.

"Another double," said the old lady: triumphantly making a memorandum
of the circumstance, by placing one sixpence and a battered halfpenny
under the candlestick.

"A double, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Quite aware of the fact, sir," replied the fat gentleman, sharply.

Another game, with a similar result, was followed by a revoke from the
unlucky Miller; on which the fat gentleman burst into a state of high
personal excitement which lasted until the conclusion of the game, when
he retired into a corner, and remained perfectly mute for one hour and
twenty-seven minutes; at the end of which time he emerged from his
retirement, and offered Mr. Pickwick a pinch of snuff with the air of
a man who had made up his mind to a Christian forgiveness of injuries
sustained. The old lady's hearing decidedly improved, and the unlucky
Miller felt as much out of his element as a dolphin in a sentry-box.

Meanwhile the round game proceeded right merrily. Isabella Wardle and
Mr. Trundle "went partners," and Emily Wardle and Mr. Snodgrass did
the same; and even Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt established a
joint-stock company of fish and flattery. Old Mr. Wardle was in the
very height of his jollity; and he was _so_ funny in his management of
the board, and the old ladies were _so_ sharp after their winnings,
that the whole table was in a perpetual roar of merriment and laughter.
There was one old lady who always had about half-a-dozen cards to pay
for, at which everybody laughed, regularly every round; and when the
old lady looked cross at having to pay, they laughed louder than ever;
on which the old lady's face gradually brightened up, till at last
she laughed louder than any of them. Then, when the spinster aunt got
"matrimony," the young ladies laughed afresh, and the spinster aunt
seemed disposed to be pettish; till, feeling Mr. Tupman squeezing
her hand under the table, _she_ brightened up too, and looked rather
knowing, as if matrimony in reality were not quite so far off as some
people thought for; whereupon everybody laughed again, and especially
old Mr. Wardle, who enjoyed a joke as much as the youngest. As to
Mr. Snodgrass, he did nothing but whisper poetical sentiments into
his partner's ear, which made one old gentleman facetiously sly,
about partnerships at cards and partnerships for life, and caused the
aforesaid old gentleman to make some remarks thereupon, accompanied
with divers winks and chuckles, which made the company very merry and
the old gentleman's wife especially so. And Mr. Winkle came out with
jokes which are very well known in town, but are not at all known in
the country: and as everybody laughed at them very heartily, and said
they were very capital, Mr. Winkle was in a state of great honour and
glory. And the benevolent clergyman looked pleasantly on; for the happy
faces which surrounded the table made the good old man feel happy too;
and though the merriment was rather boisterous, still it came from the
heart and not from the lips: and this is the right sort of merriment
after all.

The evening glided swiftly away, in these cheerful recreations; and
when the substantial though homely supper had been despatched, and
the little party formed a social circle round the fire, Mr. Pickwick
thought he had never felt so happy in his life, and at no time so much
disposed to enjoy, and make the most of, the passing moment.

"Now this," said the hospitable host, who was sitting in great state
next the old lady's arm-chair, with her hand fast clasped in his--"This
is just what I like--the happiest moments of my life have been passed
at this old fire-side: and I am so attached to it, that I keep up
a blazing fire here every evening, until it actually grows too hot
to bear it. Why, my poor old mother, here, used to sit before this
fire-place upon that little stool when she was a girl; didn't you,
mother?"

The tear which starts unbidden to the eye when the recollection of old
times and the happiness of many years ago is suddenly recalled, stole
down the old lady's face as she shook her head with a melancholy smile.

"You must excuse my talking about this old place, Mr. Pickwick,"
resumed the host, after a short pause, "for I love it dearly, and know
no other--the old houses and fields seem like living friends to me;
and so does our little church with the ivy--about which, by the by, our
excellent friend there made a song when he first came amongst us. Mr.
Snodgrass, have you anything in your glass?"

"Plenty, thank you," replied that gentleman, whose poetic curiosity had
been greatly excited by the last observations of his entertainer. "I
beg your pardon, but you were talking about the song of the Ivy."

"You must ask our friend opposite about that," said the host,
knowingly: indicating the clergyman by a nod of his head.

"May I say that I should like to hear you repeat it, sir?" said Mr.
Snodgrass.

"Why really," replied the clergyman, "it's a very slight affair; and
the only excuse I have for having ever perpetrated it is, that I was a
young man at the time. Such as it is, however, you shall hear it if you
wish."

A murmur of curiosity was of course the reply; and the old gentleman
proceeded to recite, with the aid of sundry promptings from his wife,
the lines in question. "I call them," said he,


THE IVY GREEN

    Oh, a dainty plant is the Ivy green,
    That creepeth o'er ruins old!
    Of right choice food are his meals, I ween,
    In his cell so lone and cold.
    The wall must be crumbled, the stone decayed,
    To pleasure his dainty whim:
    And the mouldering dust that years have made
    Is a merry meal for him.
          Creeping where no life is seen,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

    Fast he stealeth on, though he wears no wings,
    And a staunch old heart has he.
    How closely he twineth, how tight he clings
    To his friend the huge Oak Tree!
    And slyly he traileth along the ground,
    And his leaves he gently waves,
    And he joyously hugs and crawleth round
    The rich mould of dead men's graves.
          Creeping where grim death has been,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

    Whole ages have fled and their works decayed,
    And nations have scattered been;
    But the stout old Ivy shall never fade,
    From its hale and hearty green.
    The brave old plant in its lonely days,
    Shall fatten upon the past:
    For the stateliest building man can raise,
    Is the Ivy's food at last.
          Creeping on, where time has been,
          A rare old plant is the Ivy green.

While the old gentleman repeated these lines a second time, to enable
Mr. Snodgrass to note them down, Mr. Pickwick perused the lineaments
of his face with an expression of great interest. The old gentleman
having concluded his dictation, and Mr. Snodgrass having returned his
note-book to his pocket, Mr. Pickwick said--

"Excuse me, sir, for making the remark on so short an acquaintance; but
a gentleman like yourself cannot fail, I should think, to have observed
many scenes and incidents worth recording, in the course of your
experience as a minister of the Gospel."

"I have witnessed some, certainly," replied the old gentleman; "but the
incidents and characters have been of a homely and ordinary nature, my
sphere of action being so very limited."

"You _did_ make some notes, I think, about John Edmunds, did you not?"
inquired Mr. Wardle, who appeared very desirous to draw his friend out,
for the edification of his new visitors.

The old gentleman slightly nodded his head in token of assent, and was
proceeding to change the subject, when Mr. Pickwick said--

"I beg your pardon, sir; but pray, if I may venture to inquire, who was
John Edmunds?"

"The very thing I was about to ask," said Mr. Snodgrass, eagerly.

"You are fairly in for it," said the jolly host. "You must satisfy the
curiosity of these gentlemen, sooner or later; so you had better take
advantage of this favourable opportunity, and do so at once."

The old gentleman smiled good-humouredly as he drew his chair
forward;--the remainder of the party drew their chairs closer together,
especially Mr. Tupman and the spinster aunt, who were possibly rather
hard of hearing; and the old lady's ear trumpet having been duly
adjusted, and Mr. Miller (who had fallen asleep during the recital
of the verses) roused from his slumbers by an admonitory pinch,
administered beneath the table by his ex-partner the solemn fat man,
the old gentleman, without farther preface, commenced the following
tale, to which we have taken the liberty of prefixing the title of


THE CONVICT'S RETURN

"When I first settled in this village," said the old gentleman, "which
is now just five-and-twenty years ago, the most notorious person among
my parishioners was a man of the name of Edmunds, who leased a small
farm near this spot. He was a morose, savage-hearted, bad man; idle
and dissolute in his habits; cruel and ferocious in his disposition.
Beyond the few lazy and reckless vagabonds with whom he sauntered away
his time in the fields, or sotted in the ale-house, he had not a single
friend or acquaintance; no one cared to speak to the man whom many
feared, and every one detested--and Edmunds was shunned by all.

"This man had a wife and one son, who, when I first came here, was
about twelve years old. Of the acuteness of that woman's sufferings,
of the gentle and enduring manner in which she bore them, of the agony
of solicitude with which she reared that boy, no one can form an
adequate conception. Heaven forgive me the supposition, if it be an
uncharitable one, but I do firmly and in my soul believe, that the man
systematically tried for many years to break her heart; but she bore it
all for her child's sake, and, however strange it may seem to many, for
his father's too; for brute as he was, and cruelly as he had treated
her, she had loved him once; and the recollection of what he had been
to her, awakened feelings of forbearance and meekness under suffering
in her bosom, to which all God's creatures, but women, are strangers.

"They were poor--they could not be otherwise when the man pursued
such courses; but the woman's unceasing and unwearied exertions, early
and late, morning, noon, and night, kept them above actual want. Those
exertions were but ill repaid. People who passed the spot in the
evening--sometimes at a late hour of the night--reported that they
had heard the moans and sobs of a woman in distress, and the sound of
blows: and more than once, when it was past midnight, the boy knocked
softly at the door of a neighbour's house, whither he had been sent, to
escape the drunken fury of his unnatural father.

"During the whole of this time, and when the poor creature often bore
about her marks of ill-usage and violence which she could not wholly
conceal, she was a constant attendant at our little church. Regularly
every Sunday, morning and afternoon, she occupied the same seat with
the boy at her side; and though they were both poorly dressed--much
more so than many of their neighbours who were in a lower station--they
were always neat and clean. Every one had a friendly nod and a kind
word for 'poor Mrs. Edmunds'; and sometimes, when she stopped to
exchange a few words with a neighbour at the conclusion of the service
in the little row of elm trees which leads to the church porch, or
lingered behind to gaze with a mother's pride and fondness upon her
healthy boy, as he sported before her with some little companions,
her care-worn face would lighten up with an expression of heartfelt
gratitude; and she would look, if not cheerful and happy, at least
tranquil and contented.

"Five or six years passed away; the boy had become a robust and
well-grown youth. The time that had strengthened the child's slight
frame and knit his weak limbs into the strength of manhood had bowed
his mother's form, and enfeebled her steps; but the arm that should
have supported her was no longer locked in hers; the face that should
have cheered her, no more looked upon her own. She occupied her old
seat, but there was a vacant one beside her. The Bible was kept as
carefully as ever, the places were found and folded down as they used
to be: but there was no one to read it with her; and the tears fell
thick and fast upon the book, and blotted the words from her eyes.
Neighbours were as kind as they were wont to be of old, but she shunned
their greetings with averted head. There was no lingering among the
old elm trees now--no cheering anticipations of happiness yet in store.
The desolate woman drew her bonnet closer over her face, and walked
hurriedly away.

"Shall I tell you, that the young man, who, looking back to the
earliest of his childhood's days to which memory and consciousness
extended, and carrying his recollection down to that moment, could
remember nothing which was not in some way connected with a long series
of voluntary privations suffered by his mother for his sake, with
ill-usage, and insult, and violence, and all endured for him;--shall I
tell you, that he, with a reckless disregard for her breaking heart,
and a sullen wilful forgetfulness of all she had done and borne for
him, had linked himself with depraved and abandoned men, and was madly
pursuing a headlong career, which must bring death to him, and shame to
her? Alas for human nature! You have anticipated it long since.

"The measure of the unhappy woman's misery and misfortune was
about to be completed. Numerous offences had been committed in the
neighbourhood; the perpetrators remained undiscovered, and their
boldness increased. A robbery of a daring and aggravated nature
occasioned a vigilance of pursuit, and a strictness of search, they had
not calculated on. Young Edmunds was suspected, with three companions.
He was apprehended--committed--tried--condemned--to die.

"The wild and piercing shriek from a woman's voice, which resounded
through the court when the solemn sentence was pronounced, rings in my
ears at this moment. That cry struck a terror to the culprit's heart,
which trial, condemnation--the approach of death itself, had failed
to awaken. The lips which had been compressed in dogged sullenness
throughout, quivered and parted involuntarily; the face turned ashy
pale as the cold perspiration broke forth from every pore; the sturdy
limbs of the felon trembled, and he staggered in the dock.

"In the first transports of her mental anguish, the suffering mother
threw herself upon her knees at my feet, and fervently besought the
Almighty Being who had hitherto supported her in all her troubles, to
release her from a world of woe and misery, and to spare the life
of her only child. A burst of grief, and a violent struggle, such as
I hope I may never have to witness again, succeeded. I knew that her
heart was breaking from that hour; but I never once heard complaint or
murmur escape her lips.

"It was a piteous spectacle to see that woman in the prison yard
from day to day, eagerly and fervently attempting, by affection and
entreaty, to soften the hard heart of her obdurate son. It was in vain.
He remained moody, obstinate, and unmoved. Not even the unlooked-for
commutation of his sentence to transportation for fourteen years,
softened for an instant the sullen hardihood of his demeanour.

"But the spirit of resignation and endurance that had so long upheld
her, was unable to contend against bodily weakness and infirmity. She
fell sick. She dragged her tottering limbs from the bed to visit her
son once more, but her strength failed her, and she sunk powerless on
the ground.

"And now the boasted coldness and indifference of the young man were
tested indeed; and the retribution that fell heavily upon him, nearly
drove him mad. A day passed away and his mother was not there; another
flew by, and she came not near him; a third evening arrived, and yet he
had not seen her; and in four-and-twenty hours he was to be separated
from her--perhaps for ever. Oh! how the long-forgotten thoughts of
former days rushed upon his mind, as he almost ran up and down the
narrow yard--as if intelligence would arrive the sooner for _his_
hurrying--and how bitterly a sense of his helplessness and desolation
rushed upon him, when he heard the truth! His mother, the only parent
he had ever known, lay ill--it might be, dying--within one mile of the
ground he stood on; were he free and unfettered, a few minutes would
place him by her side. He rushed to the gate, and grasping the iron
rail with the energy of desperation, shook it till it rang again, and
threw himself against the thick wall as if to force a passage through
the stone; but the strong building mocked his feeble efforts, and he
beat his hands together and wept like a child.

"I bore the mother's forgiveness and blessing to her son in prison;
and I carried his solemn assurance of repentance, and his fervent
supplication for pardon, to her sick bed. I heard, with pity and
compassion, the repentant man devise a thousand little plans for her
comfort and support when he returned; but I knew that many months
before he could reach his place of destination, his mother would be no
longer of this world.

"He was removed by night. A few weeks afterwards the poor woman's soul
took its flight, I confidently hope, and solemnly believe, to a place
of eternal happiness and rest. I performed the burial service over her
remains. She lies in our little churchyard. There is no stone at her
grave's head. Her sorrows were known to man; her virtues to God.

"It had been arranged previously to the convict's departure, that he
should write to his mother as soon as he could obtain permission, and
that the letter should be addressed to me. The father had positively
refused to see his son from the moment of his apprehension; and it was
a matter of indifference to him whether he lived or died. Many years
passed over without any intelligence of him; and when more than half
his term of transportation had expired, and I had received no letter, I
concluded him to be dead, as, indeed, I almost hoped he might be.

"Edmunds, however, had been sent a considerable distance up the
country on his arrival at the settlement; and to this circumstance,
perhaps, may be attributed the fact, that though several letters
were despatched, none of them ever reached my hands. He remained in
the same place during the whole fourteen years. At the expiration of
the term, steadily adhering to his old resolution and the pledge he
gave his mother, he made his way back to England amidst innumerable
difficulties, and returned, on foot, to his native place.

"On a fine Sunday evening, in the month of August, John Edmunds set
foot in the village he had left with shame and disgrace seventeen years
before. His nearest way lay through the churchyard. The man's heart
swelled as he crossed the stile. The tall old elms, through whose
branches the declining sun cast here and there a rich ray of light
upon the shady path, awakened the associations of his earliest days.
He pictured himself as he was then, clinging to his mother's hand, and
walking peacefully to church. He remembered how he used to look up
into her pale face; and how her eyes would sometimes fill with tears
as she gazed upon his features--tears which fell hot upon his forehead
as she stooped to kiss him, and made him weep too, although he little
knew then what bitter tears hers were. He thought how often he had run
merrily down that path with some childish playfellow, looking back,
ever and again, to catch his mother's smile, or hear her gentle voice;
and then a veil seemed lifted from his memory, and words of kindness
unrequited, and warnings despised, and promises broken, thronged upon
his recollection till his heart failed him, and he could bear it no
longer.

"He entered the church. The evening service was concluded and the
congregation had dispersed, but it was not yet closed. His steps echoed
through the low building with a hollow sound, and he almost feared to
be alone, it was so still and quiet. He looked round him. Nothing was
changed. The place seemed smaller than it used to be, but there were
the old monuments, on which he had gazed with childish awe a thousand
times; the little pulpit with its faded cushion; the Communion-table
before which he had so often repeated the Commandments he had
reverenced as a child, and forgotten as a man. He approached the old
seat; it looked cold and desolate. The cushion had been removed, and
the Bible was not there. Perhaps his mother now occupied a poorer seat,
or possibly she had grown infirm and could not reach the church alone.
He dared not think of what he feared. A cold feeling crept over him,
and he trembled violently as he turned away.

"An old man entered the porch just as he reached it. Edmunds started
back, for he knew him well; many a time he had watched him digging
graves in the churchyard. What would _he_ say to the returned convict?

"The old man raised his eyes to the stranger's face, bid him 'Good
evening,' and walked slowly on. He had forgotten him.

"He walked down the hill, and through the village. The weather was
warm, and the people were sitting at their doors, or strolling in their
little gardens as he passed, enjoying the serenity of the evening, and
their rest from labour. Many a look was turned towards him, and many
a doubtful glance he cast on either side to see whether any knew and
shunned him. There were strange faces in almost every house; in some he
recognised the burly form of some old schoolfellow--a boy when he last
saw him--surrounded by a troop of merry children; in others he saw,
seated in an easy chair at a cottage door, a feeble and infirm old man,
whom he only remembered as a hale and hearty labourer; but they had all
forgotten him, and he passed on unknown.

"The last soft light of the setting sun had fallen on the earth,
casting a rich glow on the yellow corn sheaves, and lengthening the
shadows of the orchard trees, as he stood before the old house--the
home of his infancy--to which his heart had yearned with an intensity
of affection not to be described, through long and weary years of
captivity and sorrow. The paling was low, though he well remembered the
time when it had seemed a high wall to him: and he looked over into the
old garden. There were more seeds and gayer flowers than there used to
be, but there were the old trees still--the very tree, under which he
had lain a thousand times when tired of playing in the sun, and felt
the soft mild sleep of happy boyhood steal gently upon him. There were
voices within the house. He listened, but they fell strangely upon his
ear; he knew them not. They were merry too; and he well knew that his
poor old mother could not be cheerful, and he away. The door opened,
and a group of little children bounded out, shouting and romping. The
father, with a little boy in his arms, appeared at the door, and they
crowded round him, clapping their tiny hands, and dragging him out, to
join their joyous sports. The convict thought on the many times he had
shrunk from his father's sight in that very place. He remembered how
often he had buried his trembling head beneath the bed-clothes, and
heard the harsh word, and the hard stripe, and his mother's wailing;
and though the man sobbed aloud with agony of mind as he left the spot,
his fist was clenched, and his teeth were set, in fierce and deadly
passion.

"And such was the return to which he had looked through the weary
perspective of many years, and for which he had undergone so much
suffering! No face of welcome, no look of forgiveness, no house to
receive, no hand to help him--and this too in the old village. What
was his loneliness in the wild thick woods, where man was never seen,
to this!

"He felt that in the distant land of his bondage and infamy, he had
thought of his native place as it was when he left it; not as it would
be when he returned. The sad reality struck coldly at his heart, and
his spirit sank within him. He had not courage to make inquiries, or
to present himself to the only person who was likely to receive him
with kindness and compassion. He walked slowly on; and shunning the
road-side like a guilty man, turned into a meadow he well remembered;
and covering his face with his hands, threw himself upon the grass.

"He had not observed that a man was lying on the bank beside him; his
garments rustled as he turned round to steal a look at the new-comer:
and Edmunds raised his head.

"The man had moved into a sitting posture. His body was much bent, and
his face was wrinkled and yellow. His dress denoted him an inmate of
the workhouse: he had the appearance of being very old, but it looked
more the effect of dissipation or disease, than length of years. He was
staring hard at the stranger, and though his eyes were lustreless and
heavy at first, they appeared to glow with an unnatural and alarmed
expression after they had been fixed upon him for a short time, until
they seemed to be staring from their sockets. Edmunds gradually raised
himself to his knees, and looked more and more earnestly upon the old
man's face. They gazed upon each other in silence.

"The old man was ghastly pale. He shuddered and tottered to his feet.
Edmunds sprang to his. He stepped back a pace or two. Edmunds advanced.

"'Let me hear you speak,' said the convict in a thick broken voice.

"'Stand off!' cried the old man, with a dreadful oath. The convict drew
closer to him.

"'Stand off!' shrieked the old man. Furious with terror, he raised his
stick and struck Edmunds a heavy blow across the face.

"'Father--devil!' murmured the convict, between his set teeth. He
rushed wildly forward, and clenched the old man by the throat--but he
was his father; and his arm fell powerless by his side.

"The old man uttered a loud yell which rang through the lonely fields
like the howl of an evil spirit. His face turned black: the gore rushed
from his mouth and nose, and dyed the grass a deep dark red, as he
staggered and fell. He had ruptured a blood-vessel: and he was a dead
man before his son could raise him.

       *       *       *       *       *

"In that corner of the churchyard," said the old gentleman, after a
silence of a few moments, "in that corner of the churchyard of which I
have spoken before, there lies buried a man, who was in my employment
for three years after this event: and who was truly contrite, penitent,
and humbled, if ever man was. No one save myself knew in that man's
lifetime who he was, or whence he came:--it was John Edmunds, the
returned convict."



CHAPTER VII

[Illustration]

  _How Mr. Winkle, instead of shooting at the Pigeon and killing
    the Crow, shot at the Crow and wounded the Pigeon; how the
    Dingley Dell Cricket Club played All-Muggleton, and how
    All-Muggleton dined at the Dingley Dell expense: with other
    interesting and instructive matters._


The fatiguing adventures of the day or the somniferous influence of the
clergyman's tale operated so strongly on the drowsy tendencies of Mr.
Pickwick, that in less than five minutes after he had been shown to his
comfortable bedroom, he fell into a sound and dreamless sleep, from
which he was only awakened by the morning sun darting his bright beams
reproachfully into the apartment. Mr. Pickwick was no sluggard; and he
sprang like an ardent warrior from his tent--bedstead.

"Pleasant, pleasant country," sighed the enthusiastic gentleman, as
he opened his lattice window. "Who could live to gaze from day to day
on bricks and slates, who had once felt the influence of a scene like
this? Who could continue to exist, where there are no cows but the cows
on the chimney-pots; nothing redolent of Pan but pan-tiles; no crop but
stone-crop? Who could bear to drag out a life in such a spot? Who, I
ask, could endure it?" and, having cross-examined solitude after the
most approved precedents, at considerable length, Mr. Pickwick thrust
his head out of the lattice, and looked around him.

The rich, sweet smell of the hay-ricks rose to his chamber window; the
hundred perfumes of the little flower-garden beneath scented the air
around; the deep-green meadows shone in the morning dew that glistened
on every leaf as it trembled in the gentle air; and the birds sang as
if every sparkling drop were a fountain of inspiration to them. Mr.
Pickwick fell into an enchanting and delicious reverie.

"Hallo!" was the sound that roused him.

He looked to the right, but he saw nobody; his eyes wandered to the
left, and pierced the prospect; he stared into the sky, but he wasn't
wanted there; and then he did what a common mind would have done at
once--looked into the garden, and there saw Mr. Wardle.

"How are you?" said that good-humoured individual, out of breath with
his own anticipations of pleasure. "Beautiful morning, an't it? Glad to
see you up so early. Make haste down and come out. I'll wait for you
here."

Mr. Pickwick needed no second invitation. Ten minutes sufficed for the
completion of his toilet, and at the expiration of that time he was by
the old gentleman's side.

"Hallo!" said Mr. Pickwick in his turn: seeing that his companion was
armed with a gun, and that another lay ready on the grass. "What's
going forward?"

"Why, your friend and I," replied the host, "are going out
rook-shooting before breakfast. He's a very good shot, an't he?"

"I've heard him say he's a capital one," replied Mr. Pickwick; "but I
never saw him aim at anything."

"Well," said the host, "I wish he'd come. Joe--Joe!"

The fat boy, who under the exciting influence of the morning did not
appear to be more than three parts and a fraction asleep, emerged from
the house.

"Go up, and call the gentleman, and tell him he'll find me and Mr.
Pickwick in the rookery. Show the gentleman the way there; d'ye hear?"

The boy departed to execute his commission; and the host, carrying both
guns like a second Robinson Crusoe, led the way from the garden.

"This is the place," said the old gentleman, pausing after a few
minutes' walking, in an avenue of trees. The information was
unnecessary; for the incessant cawing of the unconscious rooks
sufficiently indicated their whereabout.

The old gentleman laid one gun on the ground, and loaded the other.

"Here they are," said Mr. Pickwick; and as he spoke, the forms of Mr.
Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and Mr. Winkle appeared in the distance. The
fat boy, not being quite certain which gentleman he was directed to
call, had with peculiar sagacity, and to prevent the possibility of any
mistake, called them all.

"Come along," shouted the old gentleman, addressing Mr. Winkle; "a keen
hand like you ought to have been up long ago, even to such poor work as
this."

Mr. Winkle responded with a forced smile, and took up the spare gun
with an expression of countenance which a metaphysical rook, impressed
with a foreboding of his approaching death by violence, may be supposed
to assume. It might have been keenness, but it looked remarkably like
misery.

The old gentleman nodded; and two ragged boys who had been marshalled
to the spot under the direction of the infant Lambert, forthwith
commenced climbing up two of the trees.

"What are those lads for?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, abruptly. He was
rather alarmed; for he was not quite certain but that the distress of
the agricultural interest, about which he had often heard a great deal,
might have compelled the small boys attached to the soil to earn a
precarious and hazardous subsistence by making marks of themselves for
inexperienced sportsmen.

"Only to start the game," replied Mr. Wardle, laughing.

"To what?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Why, in plain English, to frighten the rooks."

"Oh! is that all?"

"You are satisfied?"

"Quite."

"Very well. Shall I begin?"

"If you please," said Mr. Winkle, glad of any respite.

"Stand aside, then. Now for it."

The boy shouted, and shook a branch with a nest on it. Half a dozen
young rooks in violent conversation, flew out to ask what the matter
was. The old gentleman fired by way of reply. Down fell one bird, and
off flew the others.

"Take him up, Joe," said the old gentleman.

There was a smile upon the youth's face as he advanced. Indistinct
visions of rook-pie floated through his imagination. He laughed as he
retired with the bird--it was a plump one.

"Now, Mr. Winkle," said the host, reloading his own gun. "Fire away."

Mr. Winkle advanced, and levelled his gun. Mr. Pickwick and his friends
cowered involuntarily to escape damage from the heavy fall of rooks,
which they felt quite certain would be occasioned by the devastating
barrel of their friend. There was a solemn pause--a shout--a flapping
of wings--a faint click.

"Hallo!" said the old gentleman.

"Won't it go?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Missed fire," said Mr. Winkle, who was very pale: probably from
disappointment.

"Odd," said the old gentleman, taking the gun. "Never knew one of them
miss fire before. Why, I don't see anything of the cap."

"Bless my soul," said Mr. Winkle. "I declare I forgot the cap!"

The slight omission was rectified. Mr. Pickwick crouched again. Mr.
Winkle stepped forward with an air of determination and resolution; and
Mr. Tupman looked out from behind a tree. The boy shouted; four birds
flew out. Mr. Winkle fired. There was a scream as of an individual--not
a rook--in corporeal anguish. Mr. Tupman had saved the lives of
innumerable unoffending birds by receiving a portion of the charge in
his left arm.

To describe the confusion that ensued would be impossible. To tell
how Mr. Pickwick in the first transports of his emotion called Mr.
Winkle "Wretch!" how Mr. Tupman lay prostrate on the ground, and how
Mr. Winkle knelt horror-stricken beside him; how Mr. Tupman called
distractedly upon some feminine Christian name, and then opened
first one eye, and then the other, and then fell back and shut
them both;--all this would be as difficult to describe in detail,
as it would be to depict the gradual recovering of the unfortunate
individual, the binding up of his arm with pocket-handkerchiefs, and
the conveying him back by slow degrees supported by the arms of his
anxious friends.

[Illustration: _"Bless my soul!" said Mr. Winkle, "I declare I forgot
the cap."_]

They drew near the house. The ladies were at the garden-gate, waiting
for their arrival and their breakfast. The spinster aunt appeared; she
smiled, and beckoned them to walk quicker. 'Twas evident she knew not
of the disaster. Poor thing! there are times when ignorance is bliss
indeed.

They approached nearer.

"Why, what _is_ the matter with the little old gentleman?" said
Isabella Wardle. The spinster aunt heeded not the remark; she thought
it applied to Mr. Pickwick. In her eyes Tracy Tupman was a youth; she
viewed his years through a diminishing glass.

"Don't be frightened," called out the old host, fearful of alarming his
daughters. The little party had crowded so completely round Mr. Tupman,
that they could not yet clearly discern the nature of the accident.

"Don't be frightened," said the host.

"What's the matter?" screamed the ladies.

"Mr. Tupman has met with a little accident, that's all."

The spinster aunt uttered a piercing scream, burst into an hysteric
laugh, and fell backwards in the arms of her nieces.

"Throw some cold water over her," said the old gentleman.

"No, no," murmured the spinster aunt; "I am better now. Bella, Emily--a
surgeon! Is he wounded?--Is he dead?--Is he----ha, ha, ha!" Here
the spinster aunt burst into fit number two, of hysteric laughter
interspersed with screams.

"Calm yourself," said Mr. Tupman, affected almost to tears by this
expression of sympathy with his sufferings. "Dear, dear madam, calm
yourself."

"It is his voice!" exclaimed the spinster aunt; and strong symptoms of
fit number three developed themselves forthwith.

"Do not agitate yourself, I entreat you, dearest madam," said Mr.
Tupman, soothingly. "I am very little hurt, I assure you."

"Then you are not dead!" ejaculated the hysterical lady. "Oh, say you
are not dead!"

"Don't be a fool, Rachael," interposed Mr. Wardle, rather more roughly
than was quite consistent with the poetic nature of the scene. "What
the devil's the use of his _saying_ he isn't dead?"

"No, no, I am not," said Mr. Tupman. "I require no assistance but
yours. Let me lean on your arm." He added in a whisper, "Oh, Miss
Rachael!" The agitated female advanced, and offered her arm. They
turned into the breakfast parlour. Mr. Tracy Tupman pressed her hand to
his lips, and sank upon the sofa.

"Are you faint?" inquired the anxious Rachael.

"No," said Mr. Tupman. "It is nothing. I shall be better presently." He
closed his eyes.

"He sleeps," murmured the spinster aunt. (His organs of vision had been
closed nearly twenty seconds.) "Dear--dear--Mr. Tupman!"

Mr. Tupman jumped up--"Oh, say those words again!" he exclaimed.

The lady started. "Surely you did not hear them!" she said, bashfully.

"Oh yes, I did!" replied Mr. Tupman; "repeat them. If you would have me
recover, repeat them."

"Hush!" said the lady. "My brother."

Mr. Tracy Tupman resumed his former position; and Mr. Wardle,
accompanied by a surgeon, entered the room.

The arm was examined, the wound dressed, and pronounced to be a very
slight one; and the minds of the company having been thus satisfied,
they proceeded to satisfy their appetites with countenances to which
an expression of cheerfulness was again restored. Mr. Pickwick alone
was silent and reserved. Doubt and distrust were exhibited in his
countenance. His confidence in Mr. Winkle had been shaken--greatly
shaken--by the proceedings of the morning.

"Are you a cricketer?" inquired Mr. Wardle of the marksman.

At any other time, Mr. Winkle would have replied in the affirmative. He
felt the delicacy of the situation, and modestly replied "No."

"Are you, sir?" inquired Mr. Snodgrass.

"I was once upon a time," replied the host; "but I have given it up
now. I subscribe to the club here, but I don't play."

"The grand match is played to-day, I believe?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"It is," replied the host. "Of course you would like to see it?"

"I, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, "am delighted to view any sport which
may be safely indulged in, and in which the impotent effects of
unskilful people do not endanger human life." Mr. Pickwick paused,
and looked steadily on Mr. Winkle, who quailed beneath his leader's
searching glance. The great man withdrew his eyes after a few minutes,
and added; "Shall we be justified in leaving our wounded friend to the
care of the ladies?"

"You cannot leave me in better hands," said Mr. Tupman.

"Quite impossible," said Mr. Snodgrass.

It was therefore settled that Mr. Tupman should be left at home in
charge of the females; and that the remainder of the guests, under the
guidance of Mr. Wardle, should proceed to the spot where was to be held
that trial of skill, which had roused all Muggleton from its torpor,
and inoculated Dingley Dell with a fever of excitement.

As their walk, which was not above two miles long, lay through shady
lanes, and sequestered footpaths, and as their conversation turned upon
the delightful scenery by which they were on every side surrounded, Mr.
Pickwick was almost inclined to regret the expedition they had used,
when he found himself in the main street of the town of Muggleton.

Everybody whose genius has a topographical bent knows perfectly well
that Muggleton is a corporate town, with a mayor, burgesses, and
freemen; and anybody who has consulted the addresses of the mayor to
the freemen, or the freemen to the mayor, or both to the corporation,
or all three to Parliament, will learn from thence what they ought to
have known before, that Muggleton is an ancient and loyal borough,
mingling a zealous advocacy of Christian principles with a devoted
attachment to commercial rights; in demonstration whereof, the mayor,
corporation, and other inhabitants, have presented at divers times, no
fewer than one thousand four hundred and twenty petitions against the
continuance of negro slavery abroad, and an equal number against any
interference with the factory system at home; sixty-eight in favour of
the sale of livings in the Church, and eighty-six for abolishing Sunday
trading in the street.

Mr. Pickwick stood in the principal street of this illustrious town,
and gazed with an air of curiosity, not unmixed with interest, on the
objects around him. There was an open square for the market-place; and
in the centre of it, a large inn with a sign-post in front, displaying
an object very common in art, but rarely met with in nature--to wit,
a blue lion, with three bow legs in the air, balancing himself on
the extreme point of the centre claw of his fourth foot. There were,
within sight, an auctioneer's and fire-agency office, a corn-factor's,
a linen-draper's, a saddler's, a distiller's, a grocer's, and a
shoe-shop--the last-mentioned warehouse being also appropriated to
the diffusion of hats, bonnets, wearing apparel, cotton umbrellas,
and useful knowledge. There was a red brick house with a small paved
court-yard in front, which anybody might have known belonged to the
attorney; and there was, moreover, another red brick house with
Venetian blinds, and a large brass door-plate, with a very legible
announcement that it belonged to the surgeon. A few boys were making
their way to the cricket-field; and two or three shop-keepers who were
standing at their doors looked as if they should like to be making
their way to the same spot, as indeed to all appearance they might have
done, without losing any great amount of custom thereby. Mr. Pickwick
having paused to make these observations, to be noted down at a more
convenient period, hastened to rejoin his friends, who had turned out
of the main street, and were already within sight of the field of
battle.

The wickets were pitched, and so were a couple of marquees for the
rest and refreshment of the contending parties. The game had not yet
commenced. Two or three Dingley Dellers, and All-Muggletonians, were
amusing themselves with a majestic air by throwing the ball carelessly
from hand to hand; and several other gentlemen dressed like them, in
straw hats, flannel jackets, and white trousers--a costume in which
they looked very much like amateur stone-masons--were sprinkled about
the tents, towards one of which Mr. Wardle conducted the party.

Several dozen of "How-are-you's?" hailed the old gentleman's arrival;
and a general raising of the straw hats, and bending forward of the
flannel jackets, followed his introduction of his guests as gentlemen
from London, who were extremely anxious to witness the proceedings of
the day, with which, he had no doubt, they would be greatly delighted.

"You had better step into the marquee, I think, sir," said one very
stout gentleman, whose body and legs looked like half a gigantic roll
of flannel, elevated on a couple of inflated pillow-cases.

"You'll find it much pleasanter, sir," urged another stout gentleman,
who strongly resembled the other half of the roll of flannel aforesaid.

"You're very good," said Mr. Pickwick.

"This way," said the first speaker; "they notch in here--it's the
best place in the whole field;" and the cricketer, panting on before,
preceded them to the tent.

"Capital game--smart sport--fine exercise--very," were the words which
fell upon Mr. Pickwick's ear as he entered the tent; and the first
object that met his eyes was his green-coated friend of the Rochester
coach, holding forth, to the no small delight and edification of a
select circle of the chosen of All-Muggleton. His dress was slightly
improved, and he wore boots; but there was no mistaking him.

The stranger recognised his friends immediately: and, darting forward
and seizing Mr. Pickwick by the hand, dragged him to a seat with
his usual impetuosity, talking all the while as if the whole of the
arrangements were under his especial patronage and direction.

"This way--this way--capital fun--lots of beer--hogsheads; rounds of
beef--bullocks; mustard--cart-loads; glorious day--down with you--make
yourself at home--glad to see you--very."

Mr. Pickwick sat down as he was bid, and Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass
also complied with the directions of their mysterious friend. Mr.
Wardle looked on, in silent wonder.

"Mr. Wardle--a friend of mine," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Friend of yours!--My dear sir, how are you?--Friend of _my_
friend's--give me your hand, sir"--and the stranger grasped Mr.
Wardle's hand with all the fervour of a close intimacy of many years,
and then stepped back a pace or two as if to take a full survey of his
face and figure, and then shook hands with him again, if possible, more
warmly than before.

"Well; and how came you here?" said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile in which
benevolence struggled with surprise.

"Come," replied the stranger--"stopping at the Crown--Crown at
Muggleton--met a party--flannel jackets--white trousers--anchovy
sandwiches--devilled kidneys--splendid fellows--glorious."

Mr. Pickwick was sufficiently versed in the stranger's system of
stenography to infer from this rapid and disjointed communication
that he had, somehow or other, contracted an acquaintance with the
All-Muggletons, which he had converted, by a process peculiar to
himself, into that extent of good fellowship on which a general
invitation may be easily founded. His curiosity was therefore
satisfied, and putting on his spectacles he prepared himself to watch
the play which was just commencing.

All-Muggleton had the first innings; and the interest became intense
when Mr. Dumkins and Mr. Podder, two of the most renowned members of
that most distinguished club, walked, bat in hand, to their respective
wickets. Mr. Luffey, the highest ornament of Dingley Dell, was pitched
to bowl against the redoubtable Dumkins, and Mr. Struggles was selected
to do the same kind office for the hitherto unconquered Podder. Several
players were stationed, to "look out," in different parts of the field,
and each fixed himself into the proper attitude by placing one hand on
each knee, and stooping very much as if he were "making a back" for
some beginner at leap-frog. All the regular players do this sort of
thing;--indeed it's generally supposed that it is quite impossible to
look out properly in any other position.

The umpires were stationed behind the wickets; the scorers were
prepared to notch the runs; a breathless silence ensued. Mr. Luffey
retired a few paces behind the wicket of the passive Podder, and
applied the ball to his right eye for several seconds. Dumkins
confidently awaited its coming with his eyes fixed on the motions of
Luffey.

"Play!" suddenly cried the bowler. The ball flew from his hand straight
and swift towards the centre stump of the wicket. The wary Dumkins was
on the alert; it fell upon the tip of the bat, and bounded far away
over the heads of the scouts, who had just stooped low enough to let it
fly over them.

"Run--run--another.--Now, then, throw her up--up with her--stop
there--another--no--yes--no--throw her up, throw her up!"--Such were
the shouts which followed the stroke; and, at the conclusion of which
All-Muggleton had scored two. Nor was Podder behindhand in earning
laurels wherewith to garnish himself and Muggleton. He blocked the
doubtful balls, missed the bad ones, took the good ones, and sent them
flying to all parts of the field. The scouts were hot and tired; the
bowlers were changed and bowled till their arms ached; but Dumkins and
Podder remained unconquered. Did an elderly gentleman essay to stop the
progress of the ball, it rolled between his legs or slipped between
his fingers. Did a slim gentleman try to catch it, it struck him on
the nose, and bounded pleasantly off with redoubled violence, while
the slim gentleman's eyes filled with water, and his form writhed with
anguish. Was it thrown straight up to the wicket, Dumkins had reached
it before the ball. In short, when Dumkins was caught out, and Podder
stumped out, All-Muggleton had notched some fifty-four, while the score
of the Dingley Dellers was as blank as their faces. The advantage
was too great to be recovered. In vain did the eager Luffey, and the
enthusiastic Struggles, do all that skill and experience could suggest,
to regain the ground Dingley Dell had lost in the contest;--it was of
no avail; and in an early period of the winning game Dingley Dell gave
in, and allowed the superior prowess of All-Muggleton.

The stranger, meanwhile, had been eating, drinking, and talking,
without cessation. At every good stroke he expressed his satisfaction
and approval of the player in a most condescending and patronising
manner, which could not fail to have been highly gratifying to the
party concerned; while at every bad attempt at a catch, and every
failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at
the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as "Ah,
ah!--stupid"--"Now, butter-fingers"--"Muff"--"Humbug"--and so
forth--ejaculations which seemed to establish him in the opinion of all
around, as a most excellent and undeniable judge of the whole art and
mystery of the noble game of cricket.

"Capital game--well played--some strokes admirable," said the
stranger, as both sides crowded into the tent, at the conclusion of the
game.

"You have played it, sir?" inquired Mr. Wardle, who had been much
amused by his loquacity.

"Played it! Think I have--thousands of times--not here--West
Indies--exciting thing--hot work--very."

"It must be rather a warm pursuit in such a climate," observed Mr.
Pickwick.

"Warm!--red hot--scorching--glowing. Played a match once--single
wicket--friend the Colonel--Sir Thomas Blazo--who should get the
greatest number of runs.--Won the toss--first innings--seven
o'clock +A.M.+--six natives to look out--went in; kept in--heat
intense--natives all fainted--taken away--fresh half-dozen
ordered--fainted also--Blazo bowling--supported by two natives--couldn't
bowl me out--fainted too--cleared away the Colonel--wouldn't give
in--faithful attendant--Quanko Samba--last man left--sun so hot, bat in
blisters, ball scorched brown--five hundred and seventy runs--rather
exhausted--Quanko mustered up last remaining strength--bowled me
out--had a bath, and went out to dinner."

"And what became of what's-his-name, sir?" inquired an old gentleman.

"Blazo?"

"No--the other gentleman."

"Quanko Samba?"

"Yes, sir."

"Poor Quanko--never recovered it--bowled on, on my account--bowled off,
on his own--died, sir." Here the stranger buried his countenance in a
brown jug, but whether to hide his emotion or imbibe its contents, we
cannot distinctly affirm. We only know that he paused suddenly, drew a
long and deep breath, and looked anxiously on, as two of the principal
members of the Dingley Dell club approached Mr. Pickwick, and said--

"We are about to partake of a plain dinner at the Blue Lion, sir; we
hope you and your friends will join us."

"Of course," said Mr. Wardle, "among our friends we include Mr. ----;"
and he looked towards the stranger.

"Jingle," said that versatile gentleman, taking the hint at once.
"Jingle--Alfred Jingle, Esq., of No Hall, Nowhere."

"I shall be very happy, I am sure," said Mr. Pickwick.

"So shall I," said Mr. Alfred Jingle, drawing one arm through Mr.
Pickwick's, and another through Mr. Wardle's, as he whispered
confidentially in the ear of the former gentleman--

"Devilish good dinner--cold, but capital--peeped into the room this
morning--fowls and pies, and all that sort of thing--pleasant fellows
these--well behaved, too--very."

There being no further preliminaries to arrange, the company straggled
into the town in little knots of twos and threes; and within a quarter
of an hour were all seated in the great room of the Blue Lion Inn,
Muggleton--Mr. Dumkins acting as chairman, and Mr. Luffey officiating
as vice.

There was a vast deal of talking and rattling of knives and forks and
plates: a great running about of three ponderous-headed waiters, and
a rapid disappearance of the substantial viands on the table; to each
and every of which item of confusion, the facetious Mr. Jingle lent the
aid of half-a-dozen ordinary men at least. When everybody had eaten as
much as possible, the cloth was removed, bottles, glasses, and dessert
were placed on the table; and the waiters withdrew to "clear away," or
in other words, to appropriate to their own private use and emolument
whatever remnants of the eatables and drinkables they could contrive to
lay their hands on.

Amidst the general hum of mirth and conversation that ensued, there was
a little man with a puffy Say-nothing-to-me,-or-I'll-contradict-you
sort of countenance, who remained very quiet; occasionally looking
round him when the conversation slackened, as if he contemplated
putting in something very weighty; and now and then bursting into a
short cough of inexpressible grandeur. At length, during a moment of
comparative silence, the little man called out in a very loud, solemn
voice--

"Mr. Luffey!"

Everybody was hushed into a profound stillness as the individual
addressed, replied--

"Sir!"

"I wish to address a few words to you, sir, if you will entreat the
gentlemen to fill their glasses."

Mr. Jingle uttering a patronising "hear, hear," which was responded to
by the remainder of the company: and the glasses having been filled
the Vice-President assumed an air of wisdom in a state of profound
attention; and said--

"Mr. Staple."

"Sir," said the little man, rising, "I wish to address what I have
to say to _you_ and not to our worthy chairman, because our worthy
chairman is in some measure--I may say in a great degree--the subject
of what I have to say, or I may say to--to----"

"State," suggested Mr. Jingle.

--"Yes, to state," said the little man, "I thank my honourable friend,
if he will allow me to call him so--(four hears, and one certainly
from Mr. Jingle)--for the suggestion. Sir, I am a Deller--a Dingley
Deller (cheers). I cannot lay claim to the honour of forming an item
in the population of Muggleton; nor, sir, I will frankly admit, do I
covet that honour: and I will tell you why, sir--(hear); to Muggleton
I will readily concede all those honours and distinctions to which
it can fairly lay claim--they are too numerous and too well-known to
require aid or recapitulation from me. But, sir, while we remember
that Muggleton has given birth to a Dumkins and a Podder, let us
never forget that Dingley Dell can boast a Luffey and a Struggles.
(Vociferous cheering.) Let me not be considered as wishing to detract
from the merits of the former gentlemen. Sir, I envy them the luxury
of their own feelings on this occasion. (Cheers.) Every gentleman who
hears me, is probably acquainted with the reply made by an individual,
who--to use an ordinary figure of speech--'hung out' in a tub, to the
emperor Alexander:--'If I were not Diogenes,' said he, 'I would be
Alexander.' I can well imagine these gentlemen to say, 'If I were not
Dumkins I would be Luffey; if I were not Podder I would be Struggles.'
(Enthusiasm.) But, gentlemen of Muggleton, is it in cricket alone that
your fellow-townsmen stand pre-eminent? Have you never heard of Dumkins
and determination? Have you never been taught to associate Podder
with property? (Great applause.) Have you never, when struggling
for your rights, your liberties, and your privileges, been reduced,
if only for an instant, to misgiving and despair? And when you have
been thus depressed, has not the name of Dumkins laid afresh within
your breast the fire which had just gone out; and has not a word from
that man, lighted it again as brightly as if it had never expired?
(Great cheering.) Gentlemen, I beg to surround with a rich halo of
enthusiastic cheering the united names of 'Dumkins and Podder.'"

Here the little man ceased, and here the company commenced a raising of
voices, and thumping of tables, which lasted with little intermission
during the remainder of the evening. Other toasts were drunk. Mr.
Luffey and Mr. Struggles, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Jingle, were, each in
his turn, the subject of unqualified eulogium; and each in due course
returned thanks for the honour.

Enthusiastic as we are in the noble cause to which we have devoted
ourselves, we should have felt a sensation of pride which we cannot
express, and a consciousness of having done something to merit
immortality of which we are now deprived, could we have laid the
faintest outline of these addresses before our ardent readers. Mr.
Snodgrass, as usual, took a great mass of notes, which would no doubt
have afforded most valuable and useful information, had not the burning
eloquence of the words or the feverish influence of the wine made
that gentleman's hand so extremely unsteady, as to render his writing
nearly unintelligible, and his style wholly so. By dint of patient
investigation, we have been enabled to trace some characters bearing a
faint resemblance to the names of the speakers; and we can also discern
an entry of a song (supposed to have been sung by Mr. Jingle), in which
the words "bowl" "sparkling" "ruby" "bright" and "wine" are frequently
repeated at short intervals. We fancy too, that we can discern at the
very end of the notes, some indistinct reference to "broiled bones;"
and then the words "cold" "without" occur: but as any hypothesis we
could found upon them must necessarily rest upon mere conjecture, we
are not disposed to indulge in any of the speculations to which they
may give rise.

We will therefore return to Mr. Tupman; merely adding that within some
few minutes before twelve o'clock that night, the convocation of
worthies of Dingley Dell and Muggleton were heard to sing, with great
feeling and emphasis, the beautiful and pathetic national air of

    We won't go home 'till morning,
    We won't go home 'till morning,
    We won't go home 'till morning,
    'Till daylight doth appear.



CHAPTER VIII

[Illustration]

  _Strongly Illustrative of the Position, that the Course of True
    Love is not a Railway_


The quiet seclusion of Dingley Dell, the presence of so many of the
gentler sex, and the solicitude and anxiety they evinced in his
behalf, were all favourable to the growth and development of those
softer feelings which nature had implanted deep in the bosom of Mr.
Tracy Tupman, and which now appeared destined to centre in one lovely
object. The young ladies were pretty, their manners winning, their
dispositions unexceptionable; but there was a dignity in the air, a
touch-me-not-ishness in the walk, a majesty in the eye of the spinster
aunt, to which, at their time of life, they could lay no claim, which
distinguished her from any female on whom Mr. Tupman had ever gazed.
That there was something kindred in their nature, something congenial
in their souls, something mysteriously sympathetic in their bosoms,
was evident. Her name was the first that rose to Mr. Tupman's lips as
he lay wounded on the grass; and her hysteric laughter was the first
sound that fell upon his ear when he was supported to the house. But
had her agitation arisen from an amiable and feminine sensibility which
would have been equally irrepressible in any case; or had it been
called forth by a more ardent and passionate feeling, which he, of all
men living, could alone awaken? These were the doubts which racked his
brain as he lay extended on the sofa: these were the doubts which he
determined should be at once and for ever resolved.

It was evening. Isabella and Emily had strolled out with Mr. Trundle;
the deaf old lady had fallen asleep in her chair; the snoring of the
fat boy penetrated in a low and monotonous sound from the distant
kitchen; the buxom servants were lounging at the side-door, enjoying
the pleasantness of the hour, and the delights of a flirtation, on
first principles, with certain unwieldy animals attached to the farm;
and there sat the interesting pair, uncared for by all, caring for
none, and dreaming only of themselves; there they sat, in short, like a
pair of carefully-folded kid-gloves--bound up in each other.

"I have forgotten my flowers," said the spinster aunt.

"Water them now," said Mr. Tupman in accents of persuasion.

"You will take cold in the evening air," urged the spinster aunt,
affectionately.

"No, no," said Mr. Tupman, rising; "it will do me good. Let me
accompany you."

The lady paused to adjust the sling in which the left arm of the youth
was placed, and taking his right arm led him to the garden.

There was a bower at the further end, with honeysuckle, jessamine, and
creeping plants--one of those sweet retreats which humane men erect for
the accommodation of spiders.

The spinster aunt took up a large watering-pot which lay in one corner,
and was about to leave the arbour. Mr. Tupman detained her, and drew
her to a seat beside him.

"Miss Wardle!" said he.

The spinster aunt trembled, till some pebbles which had accidentally
found their way into the large watering-pot shook like an infant's
rattle.

"Miss Wardle," said Mr. Tupman, "you are an angel."

"Mr. Tupman!" exclaimed Rachael, blushing as red as the watering-pot
itself.

"Nay," said the eloquent Pickwickian, "I know it but too well."

"All women are angels, they say," murmured the lady, playfully.

"Then what can _you_ be; or to what, without presumption, can I
compare you?" replied Mr. Tupman. "Where was the woman ever seen who
resembled you? Where else could I hope to find so rare a combination
of excellence and beauty? Where else could I seek to----Oh!" Here Mr.
Tupman paused, and pressed the hand which clasped the handle of the
happy watering-pot.

The lady turned aside her head. "Men are such deceivers," she softly
whispered.

"They are, they are," ejaculated Mr. Tupman; "but not all men. There
lives at least one being who can never change--one being who would be
content to devote his whole existence to your happiness--who lives but
in your eyes--who breathes but in your smiles--who bears the heavy
burden of life itself only for you."

"Could such an individual be found?" said the lady.

"But he _can_ be found," said the ardent Mr. Tupman, interposing. "He
_is_ found. He is here, Miss Wardle." And ere the lady was aware of his
intention, Mr. Tupman had sunk upon his knees at her feet.

"Mr. Tupman, rise," said Rachael.

"Never!" was the valorous reply. "Oh, Rachael!"--He seized her passive
hand, and the watering-pot fell to the ground as he pressed it to his
lips. "Oh, Rachael! say you love me."

"Mr. Tupman," said the spinster aunt, with averted head--"I can hardly
speak the words; but--but--you are not wholly indifferent to me."

Mr. Tupman no sooner heard this avowal, than he proceeded to do what
his enthusiastic emotions prompted, and what, for aught we know (for we
are but little acquainted with such matters) people so circumstanced
always do. He jumped up, and, throwing his arm round the neck of the
spinster aunt, imprinted upon her lips numerous kisses, which after
a due show of struggling and resistance, she received so passively,
that there is no telling how many more Mr. Tupman might have bestowed,
if the lady had not given a very unaffected start and exclaimed in an
affrighted tone--

"Mr. Tupman, we are observed!--we are discovered!"

Mr. Tupman looked round. There was the fat boy, perfectly motionless,
with his large circular eyes staring into the arbour, but without the
slightest expression on his face that the most expert physiognomist
could have referred to astonishment, curiosity, or any other known
passion that agitates the human breast. Mr. Tupman gazed on the fat
boy, and the fat boy stared at him; and the longer Mr. Tupman observed
the utter vacancy of the fat boy's countenance, the more convinced
he became that he either did not know or did not understand anything
that had been going forward. Under this impression, he said with great
firmness--

"What do you want here, sir?"

"Supper's ready, sir," was the prompt reply.

"Have you just come here, sir?" inquired Mr. Tupman with a piercing
look.

"Just," replied the fat boy.

Mr. Tupman looked at him very hard again; but there was not a wink in
his eye, or a curve in his face.

Mr. Tupman took the arm of the spinster aunt, and walked towards the
house; the fat boy followed behind.

"He knows nothing of what has happened," he whispered.

"Nothing," said the spinster aunt.

There was a sound behind them, as of an imperfectly suppressed chuckle.
Mr. Tupman turned sharply round. No; it could not have been the fat
boy; there was not a gleam of mirth, or anything but feeding, in his
whole visage.

"He must have been fast asleep," whispered Mr. Tupman.

"I have not the least doubt of it," replied the spinster aunt.

They both laughed heartily.

Mr. Tupman was wrong. The fat boy, for once, had not been fast asleep.
He was awake--wide awake--to what had been going forward.

The supper passed off without any attempt at a general conversation.
The old lady had gone to bed; Isabella Wardle devoted herself
exclusively to Mr. Trundle; the spinster's attentions were reserved
for Mr. Tupman; and Emily's thoughts appeared to be engrossed by some
distant object--possibly they were with the absent Snodgrass.

[Illustration: _"He must have been fast asleep," whispered Mr. Tupman_]

Eleven--twelve--one o'clock had struck, and the gentlemen had not
arrived. Consternation sat on every face. Could they have been waylaid
and robbed? Should they send men and lanterns in every direction by
which they could be supposed likely to have travelled home? or should
they----Hark! there they were. What could have made them so late?
A strange voice too! To whom could it belong? They rushed into the
kitchen whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rather
more than a glimmering of the real state of the case.

Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hat cocked
completely over his left eye, was leaning against the dresser, shaking
his head from side to side, and producing a constant succession of
the blandest and most benevolent smiles without being moved thereunto
by any discernible cause or pretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with
a highly-inflamed countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange
gentleman, muttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle,
supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invoking
destruction upon the head of any member of the family who should
suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; and Mr. Snodgrass
had sunk into a chair, with an expression of the most abject and
hopeless misery that the human mind can imagine, portrayed in every
lineament of his expressive face.

"Is anything the matter?" inquired the three ladies.

"Nothing the matter," replied Mr. Pickwick. "We--we're--all right--I
say, Wardle, we're all right, an't we?"

"I should think so," replied the jolly host.--"My dears, here's
my friend, Mr. Jingle.--Mr. Pickwick's friend, Mr. Jingle, come
'pon--little visit."

"Is anything the matter with Mr. Snodgrass, sir?" inquired Emily, with
great anxiety.

"Nothing the matter, ma'am," replied the stranger. "Cricket
dinner--glorious party--capital songs--old port--claret--good--very
good--wine, ma'am--wine."

"It wasn't the wine," murmured Mr. Snodgrass, in a broken voice. "It
was the salmon." (Somehow or other, it never _is_ the wine, in these
cases.)

"Hadn't they better go to bed, ma'am?" inquired Emma. "Two of the boys
will carry the gentlemen up stairs."

"I won't go to bed," said Mr. Winkle, firmly.

"No living boy shall carry me," said Mr. Pickwick, stoutly;--and he
went on smiling as before.

"Hurrah!" gasped Mr. Winkle, faintly.

"Hurrah!" echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat and dashing it on
the floor, and insanely casting his spectacles into the middle of the
kitchen.--At this humorous feat he laughed outright.

"Let's--have--'nother--bottle," cried Mr. Winkle, commencing in a very
loud key, and ending in a very faint one. His head dropped upon his
breast; and, muttering his invincible determination not to go to his
bed, and a sanguinary regret that he had not "done for old Tupman" in
the morning, he fell fast asleep; in which condition he was borne to
his apartment by two young giants under the personal superintendence of
the fat boy, to whose protecting care Mr. Snodgrass shortly afterwards
confided his own person. Mr. Pickwick accepted the proffered arm of Mr.
Tupman and quietly disappeared, smiling more than ever; and Mr. Wardle,
after taking as affectionate a leave of the whole family as if he were
ordered for immediate execution, consigned to Mr. Trundle the honour
of conveying him up-stairs, and retired, with a very futile attempt to
look impressively solemn and dignified.

"What a shocking scene!" said the spinster aunt.

"Dis--gusting!" ejaculated both the young ladies.

"Dreadful--dreadful!" said Jingle, looking very grave; he was
about a bottle and a half ahead of any of his companions. "Horrid
spectacle--very!"

"What a nice man!" whispered the spinster aunt to Mr. Tupman.

"Good-looking, too!" whispered Emily Wardle.

"Oh, decidedly," observed the spinster aunt.

Mr. Tupman thought of the widow at Rochester: and his mind was
troubled. The succeeding half-hour's conversation was not of a nature
to calm his perturbed spirit. The new visitor was very talkative, and
the number of his anecdotes was only to be exceeded by the extent
of his politeness. Mr. Tupman felt that as Jingle's popularity
increased, he (Tupman) retired further into the shade. His laughter
was forced--his merriment feigned; and when at last he laid his aching
temples between the sheets, he thought, with horrid delight, on the
satisfaction it would afford him to have Jingle's head at that moment
between the feather-bed and the mattress.

The indefatigable stranger rose betimes next morning, and, although
his companions remained in bed overpowered with the dissipation of
the previous night, exerted himself most successfully to promote the
hilarity of the breakfast-table. So successful were his efforts, that
even the deaf old lady insisted on having one or two of his best jokes
retailed through the trumpet; and even she condescended to observe to
the spinster aunt that "he" (meaning Jingle) "was an impudent young
fellow"; a sentiment in which all her relations then and there present
thoroughly coincided.

It was the old lady's habit on the fine summer mornings to repair to
the arbour in which Mr. Tupman had already signalised himself, in form
and manner following: first, the fat boy fetched from a peg behind the
old lady's bed-room door, a close black satin bonnet, a warm cotton
shawl, and a thick stick with a capacious handle; and the old lady
having put on the bonnet and shawl at her leisure, would lean one
hand on the stick and the other on the fat boy's shoulder, and walk
leisurely to the arbour, where the fat boy would leave her to enjoy the
fresh air for the space of half-an-hour; at the expiration of which
time he would return and reconduct her to the house.

The old lady was very precise and very particular; and as this ceremony
had been observed for three successive summers without the slightest
deviation from the accustomed form, she was not a little surprised on
this particular morning, to see the fat boy, instead of leaving the
arbour, walk a few paces out of it, look carefully round him in every
direction, and return towards her with great stealth and an air of the
most profound mystery.

The old lady was timorous--most old ladies are--and her first
impression was that the bloated lad was about to do her some grievous
bodily harm with the view of possessing himself of her loose coin.
She would have cried for assistance, but age and infirmity had long
ago deprived her of the power of screaming; she, therefore, watched
his motions with feelings of intense terror, which were in no degree
diminished by his coming close up to her, and shouting in her ear in an
agitated, and as it seemed to her, a threatening tone--

"Missus!"

Now it so happened that Mr. Jingle was walking in the garden close to
the arbour at this moment. He too heard the shout of "Missus," and
stopped to hear more. There were three reasons for his doing so. In
the first place, he was idle and curious; secondly, he was by no means
scrupulous; thirdly, and lastly, he was concealed from view by some
flowering shrubs. So there he stood, and there he listened.

"Missus!" shouted the fat boy.

"Well, Joe," said the trembling old lady. "I'm sure I have been a good
mistress to you, Joe. You have invariably been treated very kindly. You
have never had too much to do; and you have always had enough to eat."

This last was an appeal to the fat boy's most sensitive feelings. He
seemed touched, as he replied, emphatically--

"I knows I has."

"Then what can you want to do now?" said the old lady, gaining courage.

"I wants to make your flesh creep," replied the boy.

This sounded like a very bloodthirsty mode of showing one's gratitude;
and as the old lady did not precisely understand the process by which
such a result was to be attained, all her former horrors returned.

"What do you think I see in this very arbour last night?" inquired the
boy.

"Bless us! What?" exclaimed the old lady, alarmed at the solemn manner
of the corpulent youth.

"The strange gentleman--him as had his arm hurt--a kissin' and
huggin'----"

"Who, Joe? None of the servants, I hope?"

"Worser than that," roared the fat boy, in the old lady's ear.

"Not one of my grand-da'aters?"

"Worser than that."

"Worse than _that_, Joe!" said the old lady, who had thought this
the extreme limit of human atrocity. "Who was it, Joe? I insist upon
knowing."

The fat boy looked cautiously round, and having concluded his survey,
shouted in the old lady's ear:

"Miss Rachael."

"What!" said the old lady, in a shrill tone. "Speak louder."

"Miss Rachael," roared the fat boy.

"My da'ater!"

The train of nods which the fat boy gave by way of assent, communicated
a _blanc-mange_-like motion to his fat cheeks.

"And she suffered him!" exclaimed the old lady.

A grin stole over the fat boy's features as he said:

"I see her a kissin' of him agin."

If Mr. Jingle, from his place of concealment, could have beheld the
expression which the old lady's face assumed at this communication, the
probability is that a sudden burst of laughter would have betrayed his
close vicinity to the summer-house. He listened attentively. Fragments
of angry sentences such as, "Without my permission!"--"At her time of
life"--"Miserable old 'ooman like me"--"Might have waited till I was
dead," and so forth reached his ears; and then he heard the heels of
the fat boy's boots crunching the gravel, as he retired and left the
old lady alone.

It was a remarkable coincidence perhaps, but it was nevertheless a
fact, that Mr. Jingle within five minutes after his arrival at Manor
Farm on the preceding night, had inwardly resolved to lay siege to the
heart of the spinster aunt, without delay. He had observation enough to
see, that his off-hand manner was by no means disagreeable to the fair
object of his attack; and he had more than a strong suspicion that she
possessed that most desirable of all requisites, a small independence.
The imperative necessity of ousting his rival by some means or other,
flashed quickly upon him, and he immediately resolved to adopt certain
proceedings tending to that end and object, without a moment's delay.
Fielding tells us that man is fire, and woman tow, and the Prince
of Darkness sets a light to 'em. Mr. Jingle knew that young men, to
spinster aunts, are as lighted gas to gunpowder, and he determined to
essay the effect of an explosion without loss of time.

Full of reflections upon this important decision, he crept from his
place of concealment, and, under cover of the shrubs before mentioned,
approached the house. Fortune seemed determined to favour his design.
Mr. Tupman and the rest of the gentlemen left the garden by the side
gate just as he obtained a view of it; and the young ladies, he knew,
had walked out alone, soon after breakfast. The coast was clear.

The breakfast-parlour door was partially open. He peeped in. The
spinster aunt was knitting. He coughed; she looked up and smiled.
Hesitation formed no part of Mr. Alfred Jingle's character. He laid his
finger on his lips mysteriously, walked in, and closed the door.

"Miss Wardle," said Mr. Jingle, with affected earnestness, "forgive
intrusion--short acquaintance--no time for ceremony--all discovered."

"Sir!" said the spinster aunt, rather astonished by the unexpected
apparition and somewhat doubtful of Mr. Jingle's sanity.

"Hush!" said Mr. Jingle, in a stage whisper;--"large boy--dumpling
face--round eyes--rascal!" Here he shook his head expressively, and the
spinster aunt trembled with agitation.

"I presume you allude to Joseph, sir?" said the lady, making an effort
to appear composed.

"Yes, ma'am--damn that Joe!--treacherous dog, Joe--told the old
lady--old lady furious--wild--raving--arbour--Tupman--kissing and
hugging--all that sort of thing--eh, ma'am--eh?"

"Mr. Jingle," said the spinster aunt, "if you come here, sir, to insult
me----"

"Not at all--by no means," replied the unabashed Mr. Jingle;--"overheard
the tale--came to warn you of your danger--tender my services--prevent
the hubbub. Never mind--think it an insult--leave the room"--and he
turned as if to carry the threat into execution.

"What _shall_ I do?" said the poor spinster, bursting into tears. "My
brother will be furious."

"Of course he will," said Mr. Jingle, pausing--"outrageous."

"Oh, Mr. Jingle, what _can_ I say?" exclaimed the spinster aunt, in
another flood of despair.

"Say he dreamt it," replied Mr. Jingle, coolly.

A ray of comfort darted across the mind of the spinster aunt at this
suggestion. Mr. Jingle perceived it, and followed up his advantage.

"Pooh, pooh! nothing more easy--blackguard boy--lovely woman--fat boy
horsewhipped--you believed--end of the matter--all comfortable."

Whether the probability of escaping from the consequences of this
ill-timed discovery was delightful to the spinster's feelings, or
whether the hearing herself described as a "lovely woman" softened the
asperity of her grief, we know not. She blushed slightly, and cast a
grateful look on Mr. Jingle.

That insinuating gentleman sighed deeply, fixed his eyes on the
spinster aunt's face for a couple of minutes, started melodramatically,
and suddenly withdrew them.

"You seem unhappy, Mr. Jingle," said the lady, in a plaintive voice.
"May I show my gratitude for your kind interference by inquiring into
the cause, with a view, if possible, to its removal?"

"Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Jingle, with another start--"removal! remove _my_
unhappiness, and your love bestowed upon a man who is insensible to the
blessing--who even now contemplates a design upon the affections of the
niece of the creature who--but no; he is my friend; I will not expose
his vices. Miss Wardle--farewell!" At the conclusion of this address,
the most consecutive he was ever known to utter, Mr. Jingle applied
to his eyes the remnant of a handkerchief before noticed, and turned
towards the door.

"Stay, Mr. Jingle," said the spinster aunt, emphatically. "You have
made an allusion to Mr. Tupman--explain it."

"Never!" exclaimed Jingle, with a professional (_i.e._ theatrical) air.
"Never!" and, by way of showing that he had no desire to be questioned
further, he drew a chair close to that of the spinster aunt and sat
down.

"Mr. Jingle," said the aunt, "I entreat--I implore you, if there is any
dreadful mystery connected with Mr. Tupman, reveal it."

"Can I," said Mr. Jingle, fixing his eyes on the aunt's face--"Can I
see--lovely creature--sacrificed at the shrine--heartless avarice!" He
appeared to be struggling with various conflicting emotions for a few
seconds, and then said in a low deep voice--

"Tupman only wants your money."

"The wretch!" exclaimed the spinster, with energetic indignation. (Mr.
Jingle's doubts were resolved. She _had_ money.)

"More than that," said Jingle--"loves another."

"Another!" ejaculated the spinster. "Who?"

"Short girl--black eyes--niece Emily."

There was a pause.

Now, if there were one individual in the whole world, of whom the
spinster aunt entertained a mortal and deeply-rooted jealousy, it was
this identical niece. The colour rushed over her face and neck, and she
tossed her head in silence with an air of ineffable contempt. At last,
biting her thin lips, and bridling up, she said--

"It can't be. I won't believe it."

"Watch 'em," said Jingle.

"I will," said the aunt.

"Watch his looks."

"I will."

"His whispers."

"I will."

"He'll sit next her at table."

"Let him."

"He'll flatter her."

"Let him."

"He'll pay her every possible attention."

"Let him."

"And he'll cut you."

"Cut _me_!" screamed the spinster aunt. "_He_ cut _me_;--_will_ he!"
and she trembled with rage and disappointment.

"You will convince yourself?" said Jingle.

"I will."

"You'll show your spirit?"

"I will."

"You'll not have him afterwards?"

"Never."

"You'll take somebody else?"

"Yes."

"You shall."

Mr. Jingle fell on his knees, remained thereupon for five minutes
thereafter: and rose the accepted lover of the spinster aunt:
conditionally upon Mr. Tupman's perjury being made clear and manifest.

The burden of proof lay with Mr. Alfred Jingle; and he produced his
evidence that very day at dinner. The spinster aunt could hardly
believe her eyes. Mr. Tracy Tupman was established at Emily's side,
ogling, whispering, and smiling, in opposition to Mr. Snodgrass. Not a
word, not a look, not a glance, did he bestow upon his heart's pride of
the evening before.

"Damn that boy!" thought old Mr. Wardle to himself.--He had heard the
story from his mother. "Damn that boy! He _must_ have been asleep. It's
all imagination."

"Traitor!" thought the spinster aunt. "Dear Mr. Jingle was not
deceiving me. Ugh! how I hate the wretch!"

The following conversation may serve to explain to our readers this
apparently unaccountable alteration of deportment on the part of Mr.
Tracy Tupman.

The time was evening; the scene the garden. There were two figures
walking in the side path; one was rather short and stout; the other
rather tall and slim. They were Mr. Tupman and Mr. Jingle. The stout
figure commenced the dialogue.

"How did I do it?" he inquired.

"Splendid--capital--couldn't act better myself--you must repeat the
part to-morrow--every evening, till further notice."

"Does Rachael still wish it?"

"Of course--she don't like it--but must be done--avert suspicion--afraid
of her brother--says there's no help for it--only a few days more--when
old folks blinded--crown your happiness."

"Any message?"

"Love--best love--kindest regards--unalterable affection. Can I say
anything for you?"

"My dear fellow," replied the unsuspicious Mr. Tupman, fervently
grasping his "friend's" hand--"carry my best love--say how hard I find
it to dissemble--say anything that's kind: but add how sensible I am
of the necessity of the suggestion she made to me, through you, this
morning. Say I applaud her wisdom and admire her discretion."

"I will. Anything more?"

"Nothing; only add how ardently I long for the time when I may call her
mine, and all dissimulation may be unnecessary."

"Certainly, certainly. Anything more?"

"Oh, my friend!" said poor Mr. Tupman, again grasping the hand of his
companion, "receive my warmest thanks for your disinterested kindness;
and forgive me if I have ever, even in thought, done you the injustice
of supposing that you _could_ stand in my way. My dear friend, can I
ever repay you?"

"Don't talk of it," replied Mr. Jingle. He stopped short, as if
suddenly recollecting something, and said--"By-the-bye--can't spare ten
pounds, can you?--very particular purpose--pay you in three days."

"I dare say I can," replied Mr. Tupman, in the fulness of his heart.
"Three days, you say?"

"Only three days--all over then--no more difficulties."

Mr. Tupman counted the money into his companion's hand, and he dropped
it piece by piece into his pocket, as they walked towards the house.

"Be careful," said Mr. Jingle--"not a look."

"Not a wink," said Mr. Tupman.

"Not a syllable."

"Not a whisper."

"All your attentions to the niece--rather rude, than otherwise, to the
aunt--only way of deceiving the old ones."

"I'll take care," said Mr. Tupman, aloud.

"And _I_'ll take care," said Mr. Jingle, internally; and they entered
the house.

The scene of that afternoon was repeated that evening, and on the three
afternoons and evenings next ensuing. On the fourth, the host was in
high spirits, for he had satisfied himself that there was no ground for
the charge against Mr. Tupman. So was Mr. Tupman, for Mr. Jingle had
told him that his affair would soon be brought to a crisis. So was Mr.
Pickwick, for he was seldom otherwise. So was not Mr. Snodgrass, for
he had grown jealous of Mr. Tupman. So was the old lady, for she had
been winning at whist. So were Mr. Jingle and Miss Wardle, for reasons
of sufficient importance in this eventful history to be narrated in
another chapter.



CHAPTER IX

[Illustration]

  _A Discovery and a Chase_


The supper was ready laid, the chairs were drawn round the table,
bottles, jugs, and glasses were arranged upon the sideboard, and
everything betokened the approach of the most convivial period in the
whole four-and-twenty hours.

"Where's Rachael?" said Mr. Wardle.

"Ay, and Jingle?" added Mr. Pickwick.

"Dear me," said the host, "I wonder I haven't missed him before. Why,
I don't think I have heard his voice for two hours at least. Emily, my
dear, ring the bell."

The bell was rung, and the fat boy appeared.

"Where's Miss Rachael?" He couldn't say.

"Where's Mr. Jingle, then?" He didn't know.

Everybody looked surprised. It was late--past eleven o'clock. Mr.
Tupman laughed in his sleeve. They were loitering somewhere, talking
about _him_. Ha, ha! capital notion that--funny.

"Never mind," said Wardle, after a short pause, "they'll turn up
presently, I dare say. I never wait supper for anybody."

"Excellent rule that," said Mr. Pickwick, "admirable."

"Pray, sit down," said the host.

"Certainly," said Mr. Pickwick: and down they sat.

There was a gigantic round of cold beef on the table, and Mr. Pickwick
was supplied with a plentiful portion of it. He had raised his fork
to his lips, and was on the very point of opening his mouth for the
reception of a piece of beef, when the hum of many voices suddenly
arose in the kitchen. He paused, and laid down his fork. Mr. Wardle
paused too, and insensibly released his hold of the carving-knife,
which remained inserted in the beef. He looked at Mr. Pickwick. Mr.
Pickwick looked at him.

Heavy footsteps were heard in the passage; the parlour door was
suddenly burst open; and the man who had cleaned Mr. Pickwick's boots
on his first arrival, rushed into the room, followed by the fat boy,
and all the domestics.

"What the devil's the meaning of all this?" exclaimed the host.

"The kitchen chimney a'n't a-fire, is it, Emma?" inquired the old lady.

"Lor, grandma! No," screamed both the young ladies.

"What's the matter?" roared the master of the house.

The man gasped for breath, and faintly ejaculated--

"They ha' gone, Mas'r!--gone right clean off, sir!" (At this juncture
Mr. Tupman was observed to lay down his knife and fork, and to turn
very pale.)

[Illustration: "_Here I am; but I han't a willin_"]

"Who's gone?" said Mr. Wardle, fiercely.

"Mus'r Jingle and Miss Rachael, in a po'-chay, from Blue Lion,
Muggleton. I was there; but I couldn't stop 'em; so I run off to
tell'ee."

"I paid his expenses!" said Mr. Tupman, jumping up frantically. "He's
got ten pounds of mine!--stop him!--he's swindled me!--I won't bear
it!--I'll have justice, Pickwick!--I won't stand it!" and with sundry
incoherent exclamations of the like nature, the unhappy gentleman spun
round and round the apartment, in a transport of frenzy.

"Lord preserve us!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, eyeing the extraordinary
gestures of his friend with terrified surprise. "He's gone mad! What
shall we do!"

"Do!" said the stout old host, who regarded only the last words of the
sentence. "Put the horse in the gig! I'll get a chaise at the Lion,
and follow 'em instantly. Where"--he exclaimed, as the man ran out to
execute the commission--"Where's that villain Joe?"

"Here I am; but I han't a willin," replied a voice. It was the fat
boy's.

"Let me get at him, Pickwick," cried Wardle, as he rushed at the
ill-starred youth. "He was bribed by that scoundrel, Jingle, to put me
on a wrong scent, by telling a cock-and-a-bull story of my sister and
your friend Tupman!" (Here Mr. Tupman sunk into a chair.) "Let me get
at him!"

"Don't let him!" screamed all the women, above whose exclamations the
blubbering of the fat boy was distinctly audible.

"I won't be held!" cried the old man. "Mr. Winkle, take your hands off.
Mr. Pickwick, let me go, sir!"

It was a beautiful sight, in that moment of turmoil and confusion,
to behold the placid and philosophical expression of Mr. Pickwick's
face, albeit somewhat flushed with exertion, as he stood with his arms
firmly clasped round the extensive waist of their corpulent host, thus
restraining the impetuosity of his passion, while the fat boy was
scratched, and pulled, and pushed from the room by all the females
congregated therein. He had no sooner released his hold, than the man
entered to announce that the gig was ready.

"Don't let him go alone!" screamed the females. "He'll kill somebody!"

"I'll go with him," said Mr. Pickwick.

"You're a good fellow, Pickwick," said the host, grasping his hand.
"Emma, give Mr. Pickwick a shawl to tie round his neck--make haste.
Look after your grandmother, girls; she has fainted away. Now then, are
you ready?"

Mr. Pickwick's mouth and chin having been hastily enveloped in a large
shawl: his hat having been put on his head, and his great coat thrown
over his arm, he replied in the affirmative.

They jumped into the gig. "Give her her head, Tom," cried the host;
and away they went, down the narrow lanes; jolting in and out of the
cart-ruts, and bumping up against the hedges on either side, as if they
would go to pieces every moment.

"How much are they ahead?" shouted Wardle, as they drove up to the
door of the Blue Lion, round which a little crowd had collected, late
as it was.

"Not above three-quarters of an hour," was everybody's reply.

"Chaise and four directly!--out with 'em! Put up the gig afterwards."

"Now, boys!" cried the landlord--"chaise and four out--make haste--look
alive there!"

Away ran the hostlers, and the boys. The lanterns glimmered, as the men
ran to and fro; the horses' hoofs clattered on the uneven paving of the
yard; the chaise rumbled as it was drawn out of the coach-house; and
all was noise and bustle.

"Now then!--is that chaise coming out to-night?" cried Wardle.

"Coming down the yard now, sir," replied the hostler.

Out came the chaise--in went the horses--on sprung the boys--in got the
travellers.

"Mind--the seven-mile stage in less than half-an-hour!" shouted Wardle.

"Off with you!"

The boys applied whip and spur, the waiter shouted, the hostlers
cheered, and away they went, fast and furious.

"Pretty situation," thought Mr. Pickwick, when he had had a moment's
time for reflection. "Pretty situation for the General Chairman of the
Pickwick Club. Damp chaise--strange horses--fifteen miles an hour--and
twelve o'clock at night!"

For the first three or four miles not a word was spoken by either of
the gentlemen, each being too much immersed in his own reflections to
address any observations to his companion. When they had gone over
that much ground, however, and the horses getting thoroughly warmed
began to do their work in really good style, Mr. Pickwick became too
much exhilarated with the rapidity of the motion, to remain any longer
perfectly mute.

"We're sure to catch them, I think," said he.

"Hope so," replied his companion.

"Fine night," said Mr. Pickwick, looking up at the moon, which was
shining brightly.

"So much the worse," returned Wardle; "for they'll have had all the
advantage of the moonlight to get the start of us, and we shall lose
it. It will have gone down in another hour."

"It will be rather unpleasant going at this rate in the dark, won't
it?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"I daresay it will," replied his friend, drily.

Mr. Pickwick's temporary excitement began to sober down a little, as
he reflected upon the inconveniences and dangers of the expedition
in which he had so thoughtlessly embarked. He was roused by a loud
shouting of the post-boy on the leader.

"Yo--yo--yo--yo--yoe!" went the first boy.

"Yo--yo--yo--yoe!" went the second.

"Yo--yo--yo--yoe!" chimed in old Wardle himself, most lustily, with his
head and half his body out of the coach window.

"Yo--yo--yo--yoe!" shouted Mr. Pickwick, taking up the burden of the
cry, though he had not the slightest notion of its meaning or object.
And amidst the yo--yoing of the whole four, the chaise stopped.

"What's the matter?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"There's a gate here," replied old Wardle. "We shall hear something of
the fugitives."

After a lapse of five minutes, consumed in incessant knocking and
shouting, an old man in his shirt and trousers emerged from the
turnpike-house, and opened the gate.

"How long is it since a post-chaise went through here?" inquired Mr.
Wardle.

"How long?"

"Ah!"

"Why, I don't rightly know. It worn't a long time ago, nor it worn't a
short time ago--just between the two, perhaps."

"Has any chaise been by at all?"

"Oh yes, there's been a shay by."

"How long ago, my friend," interposed Mr. Pickwick, "an hour?"

"Ah, I daresay it might be," replied the man.

"Or two hours?" inquired the post-boy on the wheeler.

"Well, I shouldn't wonder if it was," returned the old man, doubtfully.

"Drive on, boys," cried the testy old gentleman: "don't waste any more
time with that old idiot!"

"Idiot!" exclaimed the old man with a grin, as he stood in the middle
of the road with the gate half-closed, watching the chaise which
rapidly diminished in the increasing distance. "No--not much o'
that either; you've lost ten minutes here, and gone away as wise as
you came, arter all. If every man on the line as has a guinea give
him, earns it half as well, you won't catch t'other shay this side
Mich'lmas, old short-and-fat." And with another prolonged grin, the old
man closed the gate, re-entered his house, and bolted the door after
him.

Meanwhile the chaise proceeded, without any slackening of pace, towards
the conclusion of the stage. The moon, as Wardle had foretold, was
rapidly on the wane; large tiers of dark heavy clouds, which had been
gradually overspreading the sky for some time past, now formed one
black mass over head; and large drops of rain which pattered every
now and then against the windows of the chaise, seemed to warn the
travellers of the rapid approach of a stormy night. The wind, too,
which was directly against them, swept in furious gusts down the narrow
road, and howled dismally through the trees which skirted the pathway.
Mr. Pickwick drew his coat closer about him, coiled himself more snugly
up into the corner of the chaise, and fell into a sound sleep, from
which he was only awakened by the stopping of the vehicle, the sound of
the hostler's bell, and a loud cry of "Horses on directly!"

But here another delay occurred. The boys were sleeping with such
mysterious soundness, that it took five minutes apiece to wake them.
The hostler had somehow or other mislaid the key of the stable, and
even when that was found, two sleepy helpers put the wrong harness on
the wrong horses, and the whole process of harnessing had to be gone
through afresh. Had Mr. Pickwick been alone, these multiplied obstacles
would have completely put an end to the pursuit at once, but old Wardle
was not to be so easily daunted; and he laid about him with such hearty
good-will, cuffing this man, and pushing that; strapping a buckle
here, and taking in a link there, that the chaise was ready in a much
shorter time than could reasonably have been expected under so many
difficulties.

They resumed their journey; and certainly the prospect before them was
by no means encouraging. The stage was fifteen miles long, the night
was dark, the wind high, and the rain pouring in torrents. It was
impossible to make any great way against such obstacles united; it was
hard upon one o'clock already; and nearly two hours were consumed in
getting to the end of the stage. Here, however, an object presented
itself, which rekindled their hopes, and reanimated their drooping
spirits.

"When did this chaise come in?" cried old Wardle, leaping out of his
own vehicle, and pointing to one covered with wet mud, which was
standing in the yard.

"Not a quarter of an hour ago, sir," replied the hostler, to whom the
question was addressed.

"Lady and gentleman?" inquired Wardle, almost breathless with
impatience.

"Yes, sir."

"Tall gentleman--dress coat--long legs--thin body?"

"Yes, sir."

"Elderly lady--thin face--rather skinny--eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"By heavens! it's the couple, Pickwick," exclaimed the old gentleman.

"Would have been here before," said the hostler, "but they broke a
trace."

"It is!" said Wardle, "it is, by Jove! Chaise and four instantly!
We shall catch them yet, before they reach the next stage. A guinea
a-piece, boys--be alive there--bustle about--there's good fellows."

And with such admonitions as these, the old gentleman ran up and down
the yard, and bustled to and fro, in a state of excitement which
communicated itself to Mr. Pickwick also; and under the influence of
which, that gentleman got himself into complicated entanglements with
harness, and mixed up with horses and wheels of chaises, in the most
surprising manner, firmly believing that by so doing he was materially
forwarding the preparations for their resuming their journey.

"Jump in--jump in!" cried old Wardle, climbing into the chaise,
pulling up the steps, and slamming the door after him. "Come along!
Make haste!" And before Mr. Pickwick knew precisely what he was about,
he felt himself forced in at the other door, by one pull from the old
gentleman, and one push from the hostler; and off they were again.

"Ah! we _are_ moving now," said the old gentleman exultingly. They were
indeed, as was sufficiently testified to Mr. Pickwick, by his constant
collisions either with the hard woodwork of the chaise, or the body of
his companion.

"Hold up!" said the stout old Mr. Wardle, as Mr. Pickwick dived head
foremost into his capacious waistcoat.

"I never did feel such a jolting in my life," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Never mind," replied his companion, "it will soon be over. Steady,
steady."

Mr. Pickwick planted himself into his own corner, as firmly as he
could; and on whirled the chaise faster than ever.

They had travelled in this way about three miles, when Mr. Wardle, who
had been looking out of the window for two or three minutes, suddenly
drew in his face, covered with splashes, and exclaimed in breathless
eagerness--

"Here they are!"

Mr. Pickwick thrust his head out of his window. Yes: there was a chaise
and four, a short distance before them, dashing along at full gallop.

"Go on, go on," almost shrieked the old gentleman. "Two guineas
a-piece, boys--don't let 'em gain on us--keep it up--keep it up."

The horses in the first chaise started on at their utmost speed; and
those in Mr. Wardle's galloped furiously behind them.

"I see his head," exclaimed the choleric old man, "damme, I see his
head."

"So do I," said Mr. Pickwick, "that's he."

Mr. Pickwick was not mistaken. The countenance of Mr. Jingle,
completely coated with the mud thrown up by the wheels, was plainly
discernible at the window of his chaise; and the motion of his arm,
which he was waving violently towards the postilions, denoted that he
was encouraging them to increased exertion.

The interest was intense. Fields, trees, and hedges seemed to rush
past them with the velocity of a whirlwind, so rapid was the pace
at which they tore along. They were close by the side of the first
chaise. Jingle's voice could be plainly heard, even above the din
of the wheels, urging on the boys. Old Mr. Wardle foamed with rage
and excitement. He roared out scoundrels and villains by the dozen,
clenched his fist and shook it expressively at the object of his
indignation; but Mr. Jingle only answered with a contemptuous smile,
and replied to his menaces by a shout of triumph, as his horses,
answering the increased application of whip and spur, broke into a
faster gallop, and left the pursuers behind.

Mr. Pickwick had just drawn in his head, and Mr. Wardle, exhausted with
shouting, had done the same, when a tremendous jolt threw them forward
against the front of the vehicle. There was a sudden bump--a loud
crash--away rolled a wheel, and over went the chaise.

After a few seconds of bewilderment and confusion, in which nothing but
the plunging of horses, and breaking of glass, could be made out, Mr.
Pickwick felt himself violently pulled out from among the ruins of the
chaise; and as soon as he had gained his feet, extricated his head from
the skirts of his great-coat, which materially impeded the usefulness
of his spectacles, the full disaster of the case met his view.

Old Mr. Wardle without a hat, and his clothes torn in several places,
stood by his side, and the fragments of the chaise lay scattered at
their feet. The post-boys, who had succeeded in cutting the traces,
were standing, disfigured with mud and disordered by hard riding, by
the horses' heads. About a hundred yards in advance was the other
chaise, which had pulled up on hearing the crash. The postilions, each
with a broad grin convulsing his countenance, were viewing the adverse
party from their saddles, and Mr. Jingle was contemplating the wreck
from the coach-window with evident satisfaction. The day was just
breaking, and the whole scene was rendered perfectly visible by the
grey light of the morning.

"Hallo!" shouted the shameless Jingle, "anybody damaged?--elderly
gentlemen--no light weights--dangerous work--very."

[Illustration: _"Love to Tuppy--won't you get up behind?--drive on,
boys," replied Jingle._]

"You're a rascal!" roared Wardle.

"Ha! ha!" replied Jingle; and then he added, with a knowing wink,
and a jerk of the thumb towards the interior of the chaise--"I
say--she's very well--desires her compliments--begs you won't trouble
yourself--love to _Tuppy_--won't you get up behind?--drive on, boys."

The postilions resumed their proper attitudes, and away rattled the
chaise, Mr. Jingle fluttering in derision a white handkerchief from the
coach-window.

Nothing in the whole adventure, not even the upset, had disturbed
the calm and equable current of Mr. Pickwick's temper. The villainy,
however, which could first borrow money of his faithful follower, and
then abbreviate his name to "Tuppy," was more than he could patiently
bear. He drew his breath hard, and coloured up to the very tips of his
spectacles, as he said, slowly and emphatically--

"If ever I meet that man again, I'll----"

"Yes, yes," interrupted Wardle, "that's all very well: but while we
stand talking here, they'll get their licence, and be married in
London."

Mr. Pickwick paused, bottled up his vengeance, and corked it down.

"How far is it to the next stage?" inquired Mr. Wardle of one of the
boys.

"Six mile, an't it, Tom?"

"Rayther better."

"Rayther better nor six mile, sir."

"Can't be helped," said Wardle, "we must walk it, Pickwick."

"No help for it," replied that truly great man.

So sending forward one of the boys on horseback to procure a fresh
chaise and horses, and leaving the other behind to take care of the
broken one, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Wardle set manfully forward on the
walk, first tying their shawls round their necks, and slouching down
their hats to escape as much as possible from the deluge of rain, which
after a slight cessation had again begun to pour heavily down.



CHAPTER X

[Illustration]

  _Clearing up all Doubts (if any existed) of the Disinterestedness
    of Mr. Jingle's Character_


There are in London several old inns, once the headquarters of
celebrated coaches in the days when coaches performed their journeys in
a graver and more solemn manner than they do in these times; but which
have now degenerated into little more than the abiding and booking
places of country waggons. The reader would look in vain for any of
these ancient hostelries, among the Golden Crosses and Bull and Mouths,
which rear their stately fronts in the improved streets of London. If
he would light upon any of these old places, he must direct his steps
to the obscurer quarters of the town; and there in some secluded nooks
he will find several, still standing with a kind of gloomy sturdiness,
amidst the modern innovations which surround them.

In the Borough especially, there still remain some half-dozen old inns,
which have preserved their external features unchanged, and which have
escaped alike the rage for public improvement, and the encroachments
of private speculation. Great, rambling, queer old places they are,
with galleries, and passages, and staircases wide enough and antiquated
enough to furnish materials for a hundred ghost stories, supposing we
should ever be reduced to the lamentable necessity of inventing any,
and that the world should exist long enough to exhaust the innumerable
veracious legends connected with old London Bridge, and its adjacent
neighbourhood on the Surrey side.

It was in the yard of one of these inns--of no less celebrated a one
than the White Hart--that a man was busily employed in brushing the
dirt off a pair of boots, early on the morning succeeding the events
narrated in the last chapter. He was habited in a coarse-striped
waistcoat, with black calico sleeves, and blue glass buttons; drab
breeches and leggings. A bright red handkerchief was wound in a very
loose and unstudied style round his neck, and an old white hat was
carelessly thrown on one side of his head. There were two rows of boots
before him, one cleaned and the other dirty, and at every addition he
made to the clean row, he paused from his work and contemplated its
results with evident satisfaction.

The yard presented none of that bustle and activity which are the usual
characteristics of a large coach inn. Three or four lumbering waggons,
each with a pile of goods beneath its ample canopy, about the height of
the second-floor window of an ordinary house, were stowed away beneath
a lofty roof which extended over one end of the yard; and another,
which was probably to commence its journey that morning, was drawn
out into the open space. A double tier of bed-room galleries, with
old clumsy balustrades, ran round two sides of the straggling area,
and a double row of bells to correspond, sheltered from the weather
by a little sloping roof, hung over the door leading to the bar and
coffee-room. Two or three gigs and chaise-carts were wheeled up under
different little sheds and pent-houses; and the occasional heavy tread
of a cart-horse, or rattling of a chain at the further end of the yard,
announced to anybody who cared about the matter, that the stable lay
in that direction. When we add that a few boys in smock frocks were
lying asleep on heavy packages, woolpacks, and other articles that
were scattered about on heaps of straw, we have described as fully as
need be the general appearance of the yard of the White Hart Inn, High
Street, Borough, on the particular morning in question.

A loud ringing of one of the bells, was followed by the appearance of a
smart chambermaid in the upper sleeping gallery, who, after tapping at
one of the doors, and receiving a request from within, called over the
balustrades--

"Sam!"

"Hallo," replied the man with the white hat.

"Number twenty-two wants his boots."

"Ask number twenty-two, vether he'll have 'em now, or wait till he gets
'em," was the reply.

"Come, don't be a fool, Sam," said the girl, coaxingly, "the gentleman
wants his boots directly."

"Well, you _are_ a nice young 'ooman for a musical party, you are,"
said the boot-cleaner. "Look at these here boots--eleven pair o' boots;
and one shoe as b'longs to number six, with the wooden leg. The eleven
boots is to be called at half-past eight and the shoe at nine. Who's
number twenty-two, that's to put all the others out? No, no; reg'lar
rotation, as Jack Ketch said, ven he tied the men up. Sorry to keep you
a waitin', sir, but I'll attend to you directly."

Saying which, the man in the white hat set to work upon a top-boot with
increased assiduity.

There was another loud ring; and the bustling old landlady of the White
Hart made her appearance in the opposite gallery.

"Sam," cried the landlady--"where's that lazy, idle--why, Sam--oh,
there you are; why don't you answer?"

"Wouldn't be gen-teel to answer, 'till you'd done talking," replied
Sam, gruffly.

"Here, clean them shoes for number seventeen directly, and take 'em to
private sitting-room, number five, first floor."

The landlady flung a pair of lady's shoes into the yard, and bustled
away.

"Number five," said Sam, as he picked up the shoes, and taking a piece
of chalk from his pocket, made a memorandum of their destination on the
soles--"Lady's shoes and private sittin' room. I suppose _she_ didn't
come in the vaggin."

"She came in early this morning," cried the girl, who was still leaning
over the railing of the gallery, "with a gentleman in a hackney coach,
and it's him as wants his boots, and you'd better do 'em, that's all
about it."

"Vy didn't you say so before," said Sam, with great indignation,
singling out the boots in question from the heap before him. "For all I
know'd he vas one o' the regular threepennies. Private room! and a lady
too! If he's anything of a gen'lm'n, he's vorth a shillin' a day, let
alone the arrands."

Stimulated by this inspiring reflection, Mr. Samuel brushed away with
such hearty good will, that in a few minutes the boots and shoes, with
a polish which would have struck envy to the soul of the amiable Mr.
Warren (for they used Day and Martin at the White Hart), had arrived at
the door of number five.

"Come in," said a man's voice, in reply to Sam's rap at the door.

Sam made his best bow, and stepped into the presence of a lady and
gentleman seated at breakfast. Having officiously deposited the
gentleman's boots right and left at his feet, and the lady's shoes
right and left at hers, he backed towards the door.

"Boots," said the gentleman.

"Sir," said Sam, closing the door, and keeping his hand on the knob of
the lock.

"Do you know--what's-a-name--Doctors' Commons?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where is it?"

"Paul's Churchyard, sir; low archway on the carriage-side, bookseller's
at one corner, hot-el on the other, and two porters in the middle as
touts for licences."

"Touts for licences!" said the gentleman.

"Touts for licences," replied Sam. "Two coves in vhite aprons--touches
their hats ven you walk in--'Licence, sir, licence?' Queer sort, them,
and their mas'rs too, sir--Old Bailey Proctors--and no mistake."

"What do they do?" inquired the gentleman.

"Do! _You_, sir! That an't the wost on it, neither. They puts
things into old gen'lm'n's heads as they never dreamed of. My
father, sir, vos a coachman. A widower he vos, and fat enough for
anything--uncommon fat, to be sure. His missis dies and leaves
him four hundred pound. Down he goes to the Commons, to see the
lawyer and draw the blunt--very smart--top-boots on--nosegay in his
button-hole--broad-brimmed tile--green shawl--quite the gen'lm'n. Goes
through the archvay, thinking how he should inwest the money--up comes
the touter, touches his hat--'Licence, sir, licence?'--'What's that?'
says my father.--'Licence, sir,' says he.--'What licence?' says my
father.--'Marriage licence,' says the touter.--'Dash my veskit,' says
my father, 'I never thought o' that.'--'I think you wants one, sir?'
says the touter. My father pulls up, and thinks a bit--'No,' says
he, 'damme, I'm too old, b'sides I'm a many sizes too large,' says
he.--'Not a bit on it, sir,' says the touter.--'Think not?' says my
father.--'I'm sure not,' says he; 'we married a gen'lm'n twice your
size, last Monday.'--'Did you, though?' said my father.--'To be sure
we did,' says the touter, 'you're a babby to him--this vay, sir--this
vay!'--and sure enough my father walks arter him, like a tame monkey
behind a horgan, into a little back office, vere a feller sat among
dirty papers and tin boxes, making believe he was busy. 'Pray take a
seat, vile I makes out the affidavit, sir,' says the lawyer.--'Thankee,
sir,' says my father, and down he sat, and stared with all his eyes,
and his mouth vide open, at the names on the boxes. 'What's your name,
sir?' says the lawyer.--'Tony Weller,' says my father.--'Parish?'
says the lawyer.--'Belle Savage,' says my father; for he stopped
there wen he drove up, and he know'd nothing about parishes, _he_
didn't.--'And what's the lady's name?' says the lawyer. My father was
struck all of a heap. 'Blessed if I know,' says he.--'Not know!' says
the lawyer.--'No more nor you do,' says my father; 'can't I put that
in arterwards?'--'Impossible!' says the lawyer.--'Wery well,' says my
father, after he'd thought a moment, 'put down Mrs. Clarke.'--'What
Clarke?' says the lawyer, dipping his pen in the ink.--'Susan Clarke,
Markis o' Granby, Dorking,' says my father; 'she'll have me, if I ask,
I des-say--I never said nothing to her, but she'll have me, I know.'
The licence was made out, and she _did_ have him, and what's more she's
got him now; and _I_ never had any of the four hundred pound, worse
luck. Beg your pardon, sir," said Sam, when he had concluded, "but wen
I gets on this here grievance, I runs on like a new barrow vith the
vheel greased." Having said which, and having paused for an instant to
see whether he was wanted for anything more, Sam left the room.

"Half-past nine--just the time--off at once;" said the gentleman, whom
we need hardly introduce as Mr. Jingle.

"Time--for what?" said the spinster aunt, coquettishly.

"Licence, dearest of angels--give notice at the church--call you mine,
to-morrow"--said Mr. Jingle, and he squeezed the spinster aunt's hand.

"The licence!" said Rachael, blushing.

"The licence," repeated Mr. Jingle--

  "'In hurry, post-haste for a licence,
    In hurry, ding dong I come back.'"

"How you run on," said Rachael.

"Run on--nothing to the hours, days, weeks, months,
years, when we're united--_run_ on--they'll fly
on--bolt--mizzle--steam-engine--thousand-horse power--nothing to it."

"Can't--can't we be married before to-morrow morning?" inquired Rachael.

"Impossible--can't be--notice at the church--leave the licence
to-day--ceremony come off to-morrow."

"I am so terrified, lest my brother should discover us!" said Rachael.

"Discover--nonsense--too much shaken by the break down--besides--extreme
caution--gave up the post-chaise--walked on--took a hackney coach--came
to the Borough--last place in the world that he'd look in--ha! ha!
capital notion that--very."

"Don't be long," said the spinster, affectionately, as Mr. Jingle stuck
the pinched-up hat on his head.

"Long away from _you_?--Cruel charmer," and Mr. Jingle skipped
playfully up to the spinster aunt, imprinted a chaste kiss upon her
lips, and danced out of the room.

"Dear man!" said the spinster as the door closed after him.

"Rum old girl," said Mr. Jingle, as he walked down the passage.

It is painful to reflect upon the perfidy of our species; and we will
not, therefore, pursue the thread of Mr. Jingle's meditations, as he
wended his way to Doctors' Commons. It will be sufficient for our
purpose to relate, that escaping the snares of the dragons in white
aprons, who guard the entrance to that enchanted region, he reached
the Vicar-General's office in safety, and having procured a highly
flattering address on parchment, from the Archbishop of Canterbury,
to his "trusty and well-beloved Alfred Jingle and Rachael Wardle,
greeting," he carefully deposited the mystic document in his pocket,
and retraced his steps in triumph to the Borough.

He was yet on his way to the White Hart, when two plump gentlemen and
one thin one entered the yard, and looked round in search of some
authorised person of whom they could make a few inquiries. Mr. Samuel
Weller happened to be at that moment engaged in burnishing a pair of
painted tops, the personal property of a farmer who was refreshing
himself with a slight lunch of two or three pounds of cold beef and a
pot or two of porter, after the fatigues of the Borough market; and to
him the thin gentleman straightway advanced.

"My friend," said the thin gentleman.

"You're one o' the adwice gratis order," thought Sam, "or you wouldn't
be so werry fond o' me all at once." But he only said--"Well, sir?"

"My friend," said the thin gentleman, with a conciliatory hem--"Have
you got many people stopping here, now? Pretty busy, eh?"

Sam stole a look at the inquirer. He was a little high-dried man, with
a dark squeezed-up face, and small restless black eyes, that kept
winking and twinkling on each side of his little inquisitive nose, as
if they were playing a perpetual game of peep-bo with that feature. He
was dressed all in black, with boots as shiny as his eyes, a low white
neckcloth, and a clean shirt with a frill to it. A gold watch-chain,
and seals, depended from his fob. He carried his black kid gloves
_in_ his hands, not _on_ them; and as he spoke, thrust his wrists
beneath his coat-tails, with the air of a man who was in the habit of
propounding some regular posers.

"Pretty busy, eh?" said the little man.

[Illustration: _Sam at The White Hart._]

"Oh, werry well, sir," replied Sam, "we shan't be bankrupts, and
we shan't make our fort'ns. We eats our biled mutton without capers,
and don't care for horse-radish ven ve can get beef."

"Ah," said the little man, "you're a wag, an't you?"

"My eldest brother was troubled with that complaint," said Sam; "it may
be catching--I used to sleep with him."

"This is a curious old house of yours," said the little man, looking
around him.

"If you'd sent word you was coming, we'd ha' had it repaired," replied
the imperturbable Sam.

The little man seemed rather baffled by these several repulses, and a
short consultation took place between him and the two plump gentlemen.
At its conclusion, the little man took a pinch of snuff from an
oblong silver box, and was apparently on the point of renewing the
conversation, when one of the plump gentlemen, who in addition to a
benevolent countenance, possessed a pair of spectacles, and a pair of
black gaiters, interfered--

"The fact of the matter is," said the benevolent gentleman, "that my
friend here (pointing to the other plump gentleman) will give you half
a guinea, if you'll answer one or two----"

"Now, my dear sir--my dear sir," said the little man, "pray, allow
me--my dear sir, the very first principle to be observed in these
cases, is this: if you place a matter in the hands of a professional
man, you must in no way interfere in the progress of the business; you
must repose implicit confidence in him. Really, Mr. (he turned to the
other plump gentleman, and said)--I forget your friend's name."

"Pickwick," said Mr. Wardle, for it was no other than that jolly
personage.

"Ah, Pickwick--really, Mr. Pickwick, my dear sir, excuse me--I shall be
happy to receive any private suggestions of yours, as _amicus curiæ_,
but you must see the impropriety of your interfering with my conduct in
this case, with such an _ad captandum_ argument as the offer of half
a guinea. Really, my dear sir, really;" and the little man took an
argumentative pinch of snuff, and looked very profound.

"My only wish, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "was to bring this very
unpleasant matter to as speedy a close as possible."

"Quite right--quite right," said the little man.

"With which view," continued Mr. Pickwick, "I made use of the argument
which my experience of men has taught me is the most likely to succeed
in any case."

"Ay, ay," said the little man, "very good, very good, indeed; but you
should have suggested it to _me_. My dear sir, I'm quite certain you
cannot be ignorant of the extent of confidence which must be placed in
professional men. If any authority can be necessary on such a point, my
dear sir, let me refer you to the well-known case in Barnwell and----"

"Never mind George Barnwell," interrupted Sam, who had remained a
wondering listener during this short colloquy: "everybody knows vhat
sort of a case his was, tho' it's always been my opinion, mind you,
that the young 'ooman deserved scragging a precious sight more than he
did. Hows'ever, that's neither here nor there. You want me to except
of half a guinea. Werry well, I'm agreeable: I can't say no fairer
than that, can I, sir? (Mr. Pickwick smiled.) Then the next question
is, what the devil do you want with me, as the man said ven he see the
ghost?"

"We want to know--" said Mr. Wardle.

"Now, my dear sir--my dear sir," interposed the busy little man.

Mr. Wardle shrugged his shoulders and was silent.

"We want to know," said the little man, solemnly; "and we ask the
question of you, in order that we may not awaken apprehensions
inside--we want to know who you've got in this house, at present?"

"Who there is in the house!" said Sam, in whose mind the inmates were
always represented by that particular article of their costume which
came under his immediate superintendence. "There's a vooden leg in
number six; there's a pair of Hessians in thirteen; there's two pair
of halves in the commercial; there's these here painted tops in the
snuggery inside the bar; and five more tops in the coffee-room."

"Nothing more?" said the little man.

"Stop a bit," replied Sam, suddenly recollecting himself. "Yes;
there's a pair of Vellingtons a good deal worn, and a pair o' lady's
shoes, in number five."

"What sort of shoes?" hastily inquired Wardle, who, together with Mr.
Pickwick, had been lost in bewilderment at the singular catalogue of
visitors.

"Country make," replied Sam.

"Any maker's name?"

"Brown."

"Where of?"

"Muggleton."

"It _is_ them!" exclaimed Wardle. "By heavens, we've found them!"

"Hush!" said Sam. "The Vellingtons has gone to Doctors' Commons."

"No?" said the little man.

"Yes, for a licence."

"We're in time," exclaimed Wardle. "Show us the room; not a moment is
to be lost."

"Pray, my dear sir--pray," said the little man; "caution, caution." He
drew from his pocket a red silk purse, and looked very hard at Sam as
he drew out a sovereign.

Sam grinned expressively.

"Show us into the room at once, without announcing us," said the little
man, "and it's yours."

Sam threw the painted tops into a corner, and led the way through a
dark passage, and up a wide staircase. He paused at the end of a second
passage, and held out his hand.

"Here it is," whispered the attorney, as he deposited the money in the
hand of their guide.

The man stepped forward for a few paces, followed by the two friends
and their legal adviser. He stopped at a door.

"Is this the room?" murmured the little gentleman.

Sam nodded assent.

Old Wardle opened the door; and the whole three walked into the room
just as Mr. Jingle, who had that moment returned, had produced the
licence to the spinster aunt.

The spinster uttered a loud shriek, and, throwing herself in a chair,
covered her face with her hands. Mr. Jingle crumpled up the licence,
and thrust it into his coat-pocket. The unwelcome visitors advanced
into the middle of the room.

"You--you are a nice rascal, aren't you?" exclaimed Wardle, breathless
with passion.

"My dear sir, my dear sir," said the little man, laying his hat on
the table. "Pray, consider--pray. Defamation of character: action for
damages. Calm yourself, my dear sir, pray----"

"How dare you drag my sister from my house?" said the old man.

"Ay--ay--very good," said the little gentleman, "you may ask that. How
dare you, sir?--eh, sir?"

"Who the devil are you?" inquired Mr. Jingle, in so fierce a tone, that
the little gentleman involuntarily fell back a step or two.

"Who is he, you scoundrel?" interposed Wardle. "He's my lawyer,
Mr. Perker, of Gray's Inn. Perker, I'll have this fellow
prosecuted--indicted--I'll--I'll--I'll ruin him. And you," continued
Mr. Wardle, turning abruptly round to his sister, "you, Rachael,
at a time of life when you ought to know better, what do _you_
mean by running away with a vagabond, disgracing your family, and
making yourself miserable? Get on your bonnet, and come back. Call
a hackney-coach there, directly, and bring this lady's bill, d'ye
hear--d'ye hear?"

"Cert'nly, sir," replied Sam, who had answered Wardle's violent
ringing of the bell with a degree of celerity which must have appeared
marvellous to anybody who didn't know that his eye had been applied to
the outside of the keyhole during the whole interview.

[Illustration]

"Get on your bonnet," repeated Wardle.

"Do nothing of the kind," said Jingle. "Leave the room, sir--no
business here--lady's free to act as she pleases--more than
one-and-twenty."

"More than one-and-twenty!" ejaculated Wardle, contemptuously. "More
than one-and-forty!"

"I an't," said the spinster aunt, her indignation getting the better of
her determination to faint.

"You are," replied Wardle, "you're fifty if you're an hour."

Here the spinster aunt uttered a loud shriek, and became senseless.

"A _glass_ of water," said the humane Mr. Pickwick, summoning the
landlady.

"A glass of water!" said the passionate Wardle. "Bring a bucket and
throw it over her; it'll do her good, and she richly deserves it."

"Ugh, you brute!" ejaculated the kind-hearted landlady. "Poor dear."
And with sundry ejaculations, of "Come now, there's a dear--drink a
little of this--it'll do you good--don't give way so--there's a love,"
&c. &c., the landlady, assisted by a chambermaid, proceeded to vinegar
the forehead, beat the hands, titillate the nose, and unlace the stays
of the spinster aunt, and to administer such other restoratives as are
usually applied by compassionate females to ladies who are endeavouring
to ferment themselves into hysterics.

"Coach is ready, sir," said Sam, appearing at the door.

"Come along," cried Wardle. "I'll carry her downstairs."

At this proposition, the hysterics came on with redoubled violence.

The landlady was about to enter a very violent protest against this
proceeding, and had already given vent to an indignant inquiry whether
Mr. Wardle considered himself a lord of the creation, when Mr. Jingle
interposed--

"Boots," said he, "get me an officer."

"Stay, stay," said little Mr. Perker. "Consider, sir, consider."

"I'll _not_ consider," replied Jingle. "She's her own mistress--see who
dares to take her away--unless she wishes it."

"I _won't_ be taken away," murmured the spinster aunt. "I _don't_ wish
it." (Here there was a frightful relapse.)

"My dear sir," said the little man, in a low tone, taking Mr. Wardle
and Mr. Pickwick apart: "My dear sir, we're in a very awkward
situation. It's a distressing case--very; I never knew one more so; but
really, my dear sir, really we have no power to control this lady's
actions. I warned you before we came, my dear sir, that there was
nothing to look to but a compromise."

There was a short pause.

"What kind of compromise would you recommend?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Why, my dear sir, our friend's in an unpleasant position--very much
so. We must be content to suffer some pecuniary loss."

"I'll suffer any, rather than submit to this disgrace, and let her,
fool as she is, be made miserable for life," said Wardle.

"I rather think it can be done," said the bustling little man. "Mr.
Jingle, will you step with us into the next room for a moment?"

Mr. Jingle assented, and the quartette walked into an empty apartment.

"Now, sir," said the little man, as he carefully closed the door, "is
there no way of accommodating this matter?--step this way, sir, for a
moment--into this window, sir, where we can be alone--there sir, there,
pray sit down, sir. Now, my dear sir, between you and I, we know very
well, my dear sir, that you have run off with this lady for the sake
of her money. Don't frown, sir, don't frown; I say, between you and I,
_we_ know it. We are both men of the world, and _we_ know very well
that our friends here, are not--eh?"

Mr. Jingle's face gradually relaxed; and something distantly resembling
a wink quivered for an instant in his left eye.

"Very good, very good," said the little man, observing the impression
he had made. "Now, the fact is, that beyond a few hundreds, the lady
has little or nothing till the death of her mother--fine old lady, my
dear sir."

"_Old_," said Mr. Jingle, briefly but emphatically.

"Why, yes," said the attorney, with a slight cough. "You are right, my
dear sir, she is _rather_ old. She comes of an old family though, my
dear sir; old in every sense of the word. The founder of that family
came into Kent, when Julius Cæsar invaded Britain;--only one member of
it, since, who hasn't lived to eighty-five, and _he_ was beheaded by
one of the Henrys. The old lady is not seventy-three now, my dear sir."
The little man paused, and took a pinch of snuff.

"Well?" cried Mr. Jingle.

"Well, my dear sir--you don't take snuff?--ah! so much the
better--expensive habit--well, my dear sir, you're a fine young man,
man of the world--able to push your fortune, if you had capital, eh?"

"Well?" said Mr. Jingle again.

"Do you comprehend me?"

"Not quite."

"Don't you think--now, my dear sir, I put it to you, _don't_ you
think--that fifty pounds and liberty, would be better than Miss Wardle
and expectation?"

"Won't do--not half enough!" said Mr. Jingle, rising.

"Nay, nay, my dear sir," remonstrated the little attorney, seizing him
by the button. "Good round sum--a man like you could treble it in no
time--great deal to be done with fifty pounds, my dear sir."

"More to be done with a hundred and fifty," replied Mr. Jingle, coolly.

"Well, my dear sir, we won't waste time in splitting straws," resumed
the little man, "say--say--seventy."

"Won't do," said Mr. Jingle.

"Don't go away, my dear sir--pray don't hurry," said the little man.
"Eighty; come: I'll write you a cheque at once."

"Won't do," said Mr. Jingle.

"Well, my dear sir, well," said the little man, still detaining him;
"just tell me what _will_ do."

"Expensive affair," said Mr. Jingle. "Money out of pocket--posting,
nine pounds; licence, three--that's twelve--compensation, a
hundred--hundred and twelve--Breach of honour--and loss of the
lady----"

"Yes, my dear sir, yes," said the little man, with a knowing look,
"never mind the last two items. That's a hundred and twelve--say a
hundred--come."

"And twenty," said Mr. Jingle.

"Come, come, I'll write you a cheque," said the little man; and down he
sat at the table for that purpose.

"I'll make it payable the day after to-morrow," said the little
man, with a look towards Mr. Wardle, "and we can get the lady away,
meanwhile." Mr. Wardle sullenly nodded assent.

"A hundred," said the little man.

"And twenty," said Mr. Jingle.

"My dear sir," remonstrated the little man.

"Give it him," interposed Mr. Wardle, "and let him go."

The cheque was written by the little gentleman, and pocketed by Mr.
Jingle.

"Now, leave this house instantly!" said Wardle, starting up.

"My dear sir," urged the little man.

"And mind," said Mr. Wardle, "that nothing should have induced me to
make this compromise--not even a regard for my family--if I had not
known that the moment you got any money in that pocket of yours, you'd
go to the devil faster, if possible, than you would without it----"

"My dear sir," urged the little man again.

"Be quiet, Perker," resumed Wardle. "Leave the room, sir."

"Off directly," said the unabashed Jingle. "Bye-bye, Pickwick."

If any dispassionate spectator could have beheld the countenance of
the illustrious man, whose name forms the leading feature of the title
of this work, during the latter part of this conversation, he would
have been almost induced to wonder that the indignant fire which
flashed from his eyes, did not melt the glasses of his spectacles--so
majestic was his wrath. His nostrils dilated, and his fists clenched
involuntarily, as he heard himself addressed by the villain. But he
restrained himself again--he did _not_ pulverise him.

"Here," continued the hardened traitor, tossing the licence at Mr.
Pickwick's feet; "get the name altered--take home the lady--do for
Tuppy."

Mr. Pickwick was a philosopher, but philosophers are only men in
armour, after all. The shaft had reached him, penetrated through his
philosophical harness, to his very heart. In the frenzy of his rage, he
hurled the inkstand madly forward, and followed it up himself. But Mr.
Jingle had disappeared, and he found himself caught in the arms of Sam.

"Hallo," said that eccentric functionary, "furniter's cheap vere you
come from, sir. Self-acting ink, that 'ere; it's wrote your mark upon
the wall, old gen'lm'n. Hold still, sir: wot's the use o' runnin' arter
a man as has made his lucky, and got to t'other end of the Borough by
this time?"

Mr. Pickwick's mind, like those of all truly great men, was open to
conviction. He was a quick and powerful reasoner; and a moment's
reflection sufficed to remind him of the impotency of his rage. It
subsided as quickly as it had been roused. He panted for breath, and
looked benignantly round upon his friends.

Shall we tell the lamentations that ensued, when Miss Wardle found
herself deserted by the faithless Jingle? Shall we extract Mr.
Pickwick's masterly description of that heart-rending scene? His
note-book, blotted with the tears of sympathising humanity, lies open
before us; one word, and it is in the printer's hands. But, no! we will
be resolute! We will not wring the public bosom with the delineation of
such suffering!

Slowly and sadly did the two friends and the deserted lady return next
day in the Muggleton heavy coach. Dimly and darkly had the sombre
shadows of a summer's night fallen upon all around, when they again
reached Dingley Dell, and stood within the entrance to Manor Farm.



CHAPTER XI

[Illustration]

  _Involving another Journey and an Antiquarian Discovery.
    Recording Mr. Pickwick's determination to be present at an
    Election; and containing a Manuscript of the old Clergyman's._


A night of quiet and repose in the profound silence of Dingley Dell,
and an hour's breathing of its fresh and fragrant air on the ensuing
morning, completely recovered Mr. Pickwick from the effects of his late
fatigue of body and anxiety of mind. That illustrious man had been
separated from his friends and followers, for two whole days; and it
was with a degree of pleasure and delight, which no common imagination
can adequately conceive, that he stepped forward to greet Mr. Winkle
and Mr. Snodgrass, as he encountered those gentlemen on his return from
his early walk. The pleasure was mutual; for who could ever gaze on Mr.
Pickwick's beaming face without experiencing the sensation? But still a
cloud seemed to hang over his companions which that great man could not
but be sensible of, and was wholly at a loss to account for. There was
a mysterious air about them both, as unusual as it was alarming.

"And how," said Mr. Pickwick, when he had grasped his followers by the
hand, and exchanged warm salutations of welcome; "how is Tupman?"

Mr. Winkle, to whom the question was more peculiarly addressed, made
no reply. He turned away his head, and appeared absorbed in melancholy
reflection.

"Snodgrass," said Mr. Pickwick earnestly, "how is our friend--he is not
ill?"

"No," replied Mr. Snodgrass; and a tear trembled on his sentimental
eyelid, like a rain-drop on a window-frame. "No; he is not ill."

Mr. Pickwick stopped, and gazed on each of his friends in turn.

"Winkle--Snodgrass," said Mr. Pickwick: "what does this mean? Where
is our friend? What has happened? Speak--I conjure, I entreat--nay, I
command you, speak."

There was a solemnity--a dignity--in Mr. Pickwick's manner, not to be
withstood.

"He is gone," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"Gone!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. "Gone!"

"Gone," repeated Mr. Snodgrass.

"Where?" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick.

"We can only guess, from that communication," replied Mr. Snodgrass,
taking a letter from his pocket, and placing it in his friend's hand.
"Yesterday morning, when a letter was received from Mr. Wardle, stating
that you would be home with his sister at night, the melancholy, which
had hung over our friend during the whole of the previous day, was
observed to increase. He shortly afterwards disappeared: he was missing
during the whole day, and in the evening this letter was brought by the
hostler from the Crown, at Muggleton. It had been left in his charge in
the morning, with a strict injunction that it should not be delivered
until night."

Mr. Pickwick opened the epistle. It was in his friend's hand-writing,
and these were its contents:--

  "+My dear Pickwick+,--You, my dear friend, are placed far beyond the
  reach of many mortal frailties and weaknesses which ordinary people
  cannot overcome. You do not know what it is, at one blow, to be
  deserted by a lovely and fascinating creature, and to fall a victim
  to the artifices of a villain, who hid the grin of cunning beneath
  the mask of friendship. I hope you never may.

  "Any letter, addressed to me at the Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent,
  will be forwarded--supposing I still exist. I hasten from the sight
  of that world, which has become odious to me. Should I hasten from
  it altogether, pity--forgive me. Life, my dear Pickwick, has become
  insupportable to me. The spirit which burns within us, is a porter's
  knot, on which to rest the heavy load of worldly cares and troubles;
  and when that spirit fails us, the burden is too heavy to be borne.
  We sink beneath it. You may tell Rachael!--Ah, that name!--

  +Tracy Tupman.+"

"We must leave this place, directly," said Mr. Pickwick, as he refolded
the note. "It would not have been decent for us to remain here, under
any circumstances, after what has happened; and now we are bound to
follow in search of our friend." And so saying, he led the way to the
house.

His intention was rapidly communicated. The entreaties to remain were
pressing, but Mr. Pickwick was inflexible. Business, he said, required
his immediate attendance.

The old clergyman was present.

"You are not really going?" said he, taking Mr. Pickwick aside.

Mr. Pickwick reiterated his former determination.

"Then here," said the old gentleman, "is a little manuscript, which
I had hoped to have the pleasure of reading to you myself. I found
it on the death of a friend of mine--a medical man, engaged in our
County Lunatic Asylum--among a variety of papers, which I had the
option of destroying or preserving, as I thought proper. I can hardly
believe that the manuscript is genuine, though it certainly is not in
my friend's hand. However, whether it be the genuine production of a
maniac, or founded upon the ravings of some unhappy being (which I
think more probable), read it, and judge for yourself."

Mr. Pickwick received the manuscript, and parted from the benevolent
old gentleman with many expressions of good-will and esteem.

It was a more difficult task to take leave of the inmates of Manor
Farm, from which they had received so much hospitality and kindness.
Mr. Pickwick kissed the young ladies--we were going to say, as if
they were his own daughters, only as he might possibly have infused
a little more warmth into the salutation, the comparison would not be
quite appropriate--hugged the old lady with filial cordiality: and
patted the rosy cheeks of the female servants in a most patriarchal
manner, as he slipped into the hands of each some more substantial
expression of his approval. The exchange of cordialities with their
fine old host and Mr. Trundle, was even more hearty and prolonged; and
it was not until Mr. Snodgrass had been several times called for, and
at last emerged from a dark passage followed soon after by Emily (whose
bright eyes looked unusually dim), that the three friends were enabled
to tear themselves from their friendly entertainers. Many a backward
look they gave at the Farm, as they walked slowly away; and many a
kiss did Mr. Snodgrass waft in the air, in acknowledgment of something
very like a lady's handkerchief, which was waved from one of the upper
windows, until a turn in the lane hid the old house from their sight.

At Muggleton they procured a conveyance to Rochester. By the time
they reached the last-named place, the violence of their grief had
sufficiently abated to admit of their making a very excellent early
dinner; and having procured the necessary information relative to the
road, the three friends set forward again in the afternoon to walk to
Cobham.

A delightful walk it was: for it was a pleasant afternoon in June, and
their way lay through a deep and shady wood, cooled by the light wind
which gently rustled the thick foliage, and enlivened by the songs of
the birds that perched upon the boughs. The ivy and the moss crept in
thick clusters over the old trees, and the soft green turf overspread
the ground like a silken mat. They emerged upon an open park, with an
ancient hall, displaying the quaint and picturesque architecture of
Elizabeth's time. Long vistas of stately oaks and elm trees appeared
on every side: large herds of deer were cropping the fresh grass; and
occasionally a startled hare scoured along the ground, with the speed
of the shadows thrown by the light clouds which swept across a sunny
landscape like a passing breath of summer.

"If this," said Mr. Pickwick, looking about him, "if this were the
place to which all who are troubled with our friend's complaint came,
I fancy their old attachment to this world would very soon return."

"I think so too," said Mr. Winkle.

"And really," added Mr. Pickwick, after half an hour's walking had
brought them to the village, "really, for a misanthrope's choice, this
is one of the prettiest and most desirable places of residence I ever
met with."

In this opinion also, both Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass expressed their
concurrence; and having been directed to the Leather Bottle, a clean
and commodious village ale-house, the three travellers entered, and at
once inquired for a gentleman of the name of Tupman.

"Show the gentlemen into the parlour, Tom," said the landlady.

A stout country lad opened a door at the end of the passage, and
the three friends entered a long, low-roofed room, furnished with a
large number of high-backed leather-cushioned chairs, of fantastic
shapes, and embellished with a great variety of old portraits and
roughly-coloured prints of some antiquity. At the upper end of the room
was a table, with a white cloth upon it, well covered with a roast
fowl, bacon, ale, and et ceteras: and at the table sat Mr. Tupman,
looking as unlike a man who had taken his leave of the world, as
possible.

On the entrance of his friends, that gentleman laid down his knife and
fork, and with a mournful air advanced to meet them.

"I did not expect to see you here," he said, as he grasped Mr.
Pickwick's hand. "It's very kind."

"Ah!" said Mr. Pickwick, sitting down, and wiping from his forehead the
perspiration which the walk had engendered. "Finish your dinner, and
walk out with me. I wish to speak to you alone."

Mr. Tupman did as he was desired; and Mr. Pickwick having refreshed
himself with a copious draught of ale, waited his friend's leisure. The
dinner was quickly despatched, and they walked out together.

[Illustration: _At the table sat Mr. Tupman, looking as unlike a man
who had taken his leave of this world as possible._]

For half an hour, their forms might have been seen pacing the
churchyard to and fro, while Mr. Pickwick was engaged in combating his
companion's resolution. Any repetition of his arguments would be
useless; for what language could convey to them that energy and force
which their great originator's manner communicated? Whether Mr. Tupman
was already tired of retirement, or whether he was wholly unable to
resist the eloquent appeal which was made to him, matters not, he did
_not_ resist it at last.

"It mattered little to him," he said, "where he dragged out the
miserable remainder of his days: and since his friend laid so much
stress upon his humble companionship, he was willing to share his
adventures."

Mr. Pickwick smiled; they shook hands; and walked back to rejoin their
companions.

It was at this moment that Mr. Pickwick made that immortal discovery,
which has been the pride and boast of his friends, and the envy of
every antiquarian in this or any other country. They had passed the
door of their inn, and walked a little way down the village, before
they recollected the precise spot in which it stood. As they turned
back, Mr. Pickwick's eye fell upon a small broken stone, partially
buried in the ground, in front of a cottage door. He paused.

"This is very strange," said Mr. Pickwick.

"What is strange?" inquired Mr. Tupman, staring eagerly at every object
near him, but the right one. "God bless me, what's the matter?"

This last was an ejaculation of irrepressible astonishment, occasioned
by seeing Mr. Pickwick, in his enthusiasm for discovery, fall on his
knees before the little stone and commence wiping the dust off it with
his pocket-handkerchief.

"There is an inscription here," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Is it possible?" said Mr. Tupman.

"I can discern," continued Mr. Pickwick, rubbing away with all his
might, and gazing intently through his spectacles: "I can discern
a cross, and a B, and then a T. This is important," continued Mr.
Pickwick, starting up. "This is some very old inscription, existing
perhaps long before the ancient almshouses in this place. It must not
be lost."

He tapped at the cottage door. A labouring man opened it.

"Do you know how this stone came here, my friend?" inquired the
benevolent Mr. Pickwick.

"No, I doan't, sir," replied the man civilly. "It was here long afor I
war born, or any on us."

Mr. Pickwick glanced triumphantly at his companion.

"You--you are not particularly attached to it, I dare say," said Mr.
Pickwick, trembling with anxiety. "You wouldn't mind selling it, now?"

[Illustration: _"There is an inscription here," said Mr. Pickwick_]

"Ah! but who'd buy it?" inquired the man, with an expression of face
which he probably meant to be very cunning.

"I'll give you ten shillings for it at once," said Mr. Pickwick, "if
you would take it up for me."

The astonishment of the village may be easily imagined, when (the
little stone having been raised with one wrench of a spade) Mr.
Pickwick, by dint of great personal exertion, bore it with his own
hands to the inn, and after having carefully washed it, deposited it on
the table.

The exultation and joy of the Pickwickians knew no bounds, when their
patience and assiduity, their washing and scraping, were crowned
with success. The stone was uneven and broken, and the letters were
straggling and irregular, but the following fragment of an inscription
was clearly to be deciphered:

       +
  =B I L S T
      U M
    P S H I
     S. M.
     A R K=

Mr. Pickwick's eyes sparkled with delight, as he sat and gloated over
the treasure he had discovered. He had attained one of the greatest
objects of his ambition. In a county known to abound in remains of the
early ages; in a village in which there still existed some memorials
of the olden time, he--he, the Chairman of the Pickwick Club--had
discovered a strange and curious inscription of unquestionable
antiquity, which had wholly escaped the observation of the many learned
men who had preceded him. He could hardly trust the evidence of his
senses.

"This--this," said he, "determines me. We return to town, to-morrow."

"To-morrow!" exclaimed his admiring followers.

"To-morrow," said Mr. Pickwick. "This treasure must be at once
deposited where it can be thoroughly investigated, and properly
understood. I have another reason for this step. In a few days, an
election is to take place for the borough of Eatanswill, at which
Mr. Perker, a gentleman whom I lately met, is the agent of one of
the candidates. We will behold, and minutely examine, a scene so
interesting to every Englishman."

"We will," was the animated cry of three voices.

Mr. Pickwick looked round him. The attachment and fervour of his
followers, lighted up a glow of enthusiasm within him. He was their
leader, and he felt it.

"Let us celebrate this happy meeting with a convivial glass," said
he. This proposition, like the other, was received with unanimous
applause. Having himself deposited the important stone in a small deal
box, purchased from the landlady for the purpose, he placed himself in
an arm-chair at the head of the table; and the evening was devoted to
festivity and conversation.

It was past eleven o'clock--a late hour for the little village of
Cobham--when Mr. Pickwick retired to the bed-room which had been
prepared for his reception. He threw open the lattice-window, and
setting his light upon the table, fell into a train of meditation on
the hurried events of the two preceding days.

The hour and the place were both favourable to contemplation; Mr.
Pickwick was roused by the church-clock striking twelve. The first
stroke of the hour sounded solemnly in his ear, but when the bell
ceased the stillness seemed insupportable;--he almost felt as if he had
lost a companion. He was nervous and excited; and hastily undressing
himself and placing his light in the chimney, got into bed.

Every one has experienced that disagreeable state of mind, in which a
sensation of bodily weariness in vain contends against an inability to
sleep. It was Mr. Pickwick's condition at this moment: he tossed first
on one side and then on the other; and perseveringly closed his eyes
as if to coax himself to slumber. It was of no use. Whether it was the
unwonted exertion he had undergone, or the heat, or the brandy and
water, or the strange bed--whatever it was, his thoughts kept reverting
very uncomfortably to the grim pictures downstairs, and the old stories
to which they had given rise in the course of the evening. After half
an hour's tumbling about, he came to the unsatisfactory conclusion,
that it was of no use trying to sleep; so he got up and partially
dressed himself. Anything, he thought, was better than lying there
fancying all kinds of horrors. He looked out of the window--it was very
dark. He walked about the room--it was very lonely.

He had taken a few turns from the door to the window, and from the
window to the door, when the clergyman's manuscript for the first time
entered his head. It was a good thought. If it failed to interest
him, it might send him to sleep. He took it from his coat-pocket, and
drawing a small table towards his bedside, trimmed the light, put
on his spectacles, and composed himself to read. It was a strange
hand-writing, and the paper was much soiled and blotted. The title
gave him a sudden start, too; and he could not avoid casting a wistful
glance round the room. Reflecting on the absurdity of giving way to
such feelings, however, he trimmed the light again, and read as follows:


A MADMAN'S MANUSCRIPT

"Yes!--a madman's! How that word would have struck to my heart, many
years ago! How it would have roused the terror that used to come upon
me sometimes; sending the blood hissing and tingling through my veins,
till the cold dew of fear stood in large drops upon my skin, and my
knees knocked together with fright! I like it now though. It's a fine
name. Show me the monarch whose angry frown was ever feared like the
glare of a madman's eye--whose cord and axe were ever half so sure as
a madman's grip. Ho! ho! It's a grand thing to be mad! to be peeped at
like a wild lion through the iron bars--to gnash one's teeth and howl,
through the long still night, to the merry ring of a heavy chain--and
to roll and twine among the straw, transported with such brave music.
Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it's a rare place!

"I remember days when I was _afraid_ of being mad; when I used to
start from my sleep, and fall upon my knees, and pray to be spared
from the curse of my race; when I rushed from the sight of merriment
or happiness, to hide myself in some lonely place, and spend the weary
hours in watching the progress of the fever that was to consume my
brain. I knew that madness was mixed up with my very blood, and the
marrow of my bones; that one generation had passed away without the
pestilence appearing among them, and that I was the first in whom
it would revive. I knew it _must_ be so: that so it always had been,
and so it ever would be: and when I cowered in some obscure corner of
a crowded room, and saw men whisper, and point, and turn their eyes
towards me, I knew they were telling each other of the doomed madman;
and I slunk away again to mope in solitude.

"I did this for years; long, long years they were. The nights here are
long sometimes--very long! but they are nothing to the restless nights
and dreadful dreams I had at that time. It makes me cold to remember
them. Large dusky forms with sly and jeering faces crouched in the
corners of the room, and bent over my bed at night, tempting me to
madness. They told me in low whispers, that the floor of the old house
in which my father's father died, was stained with his own blood, shed
by his own hand in raging madness. I drove my fingers into my ears,
but they screamed into my head till the room rang with it, that in one
generation before him the madness slumbered, but that his grandfather
had lived for years with his hands fettered to the ground, to prevent
his tearing himself to pieces. I knew they told the truth--I knew it
well. I had found it out years before, though they had tried to keep it
from me. Ha! ha! I was too cunning for them, madman as they thought me.

"At last it came upon me, and I wondered how I could ever have feared
it. I could go into the world now, and laugh and shout with the best
among them. I knew I was mad, but they did not even suspect it. How
I used to hug myself with delight, when I thought of the fine trick
I was playing them after their old pointing and leering, when I was
not mad, but only dreading that I might one day become so! And how I
used to laugh for joy, when I was alone, and thought how well I kept
my secret, and how quickly my kind friends would have fallen from me,
if they had known the truth. I could have screamed with ecstasy when I
dined alone with some fine roaring fellow, to think how pale he would
have turned, and how fast he would have run, if he had known that the
dear friend who sat close to him, sharpening a bright glittering knife,
was a madman with all the power, and half the will, to plunge it in his
heart. Oh, it was a merry life!

"Riches became mine, wealth poured in upon me, and I rioted in
pleasures enhanced a thousand-fold to me by the consciousness of my
well-kept secret. I inherited an estate. The law--the eagle-eyed law
itself--had been deceived, and had handed over disputed thousands to
a madman's hands. Where was the wit of the sharp-sighted men of sound
mind? Where the dexterity of the lawyers, eager to discover a flaw? The
madman's cunning had over-reached them all.

"I had money. How I was courted! I spent it profusely. How I was
praised! How those three proud overbearing brothers humbled themselves
before me! The old white-headed father, too--such deference--such
respect--such devoted friendship--he worshipped me! The old man had a
daughter, and the young men a sister; and all the five were poor. I was
rich; and when I married the girl, I saw a smile of triumph play upon
the faces of her needy relatives, as they thought of their well-planned
scheme, and their fine prize. It was for me to smile. To smile! To
laugh outright, and tear my hair, and roll upon the ground with shrieks
of merriment. They little thought they had married her to a madman.

"Stay. If they had known it, would they have saved her? A sister's
happiness against her husband's gold. The lightest feather I blow into
the air, against the gay chain that ornaments my body!

"In one thing I was deceived with all my cunning. If I had not been
mad--for though we madmen are sharp-witted enough, we get bewildered
sometimes--I should have known that the girl would rather have been
placed, stiff and cold, in a dull leaden coffin, than borne an envied
bride to my rich, glittering house. I should have known that her heart
was with the dark-eyed boy whose name I once heard her breathe in her
troubled sleep; and that she had been sacrificed to me, to relieve the
poverty of the old white-headed man, and the haughty brothers.

"I don't remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl was
beautiful. I _know_ she was; for in the bright moonlight nights, when
I start up from my sleep, and all is quiet about me, I see, standing
still and motionless in one corner of this cell, a slight and wasted
figure with long black hair, which streaming down her back, stirs with
no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gaze on me, and never wink or
close. Hush! the blood chills at my heart as I write it down--that form
is _hers_; the face is very pale, and the eyes are glassy bright; but I
know them well. That figure never moves; it never frowns and mouths as
others do, that fill this place sometimes; but it is much more dreadful
to me, even than the spirits that tempted me many years ago--it comes
fresh from the grave; and is so very death-like.

"For nearly a year I saw that face grow paler; for nearly a year I saw
the tears steal down the mournful cheeks, and never knew the cause.
I found it out at last, though. They could not keep it from me long.
She had never liked me; I had never thought she did: she despised my
wealth, and hated the splendour in which she lived;--I had not expected
that. She loved another. This I had never thought of. Strange feelings
came over me, and thoughts, forced upon me by some secret power,
whirled round and round my brain. I did not hate her, though I hated
the boy she still wept for. I pitied--yes, I pitied--the wretched life
to which her cold and selfish relations had doomed her. I knew that she
could not live long, but the thought that before her death she might
give birth to some ill-fated being, destined to hand down madness to
its offspring, determined me. I resolved to kill her.

"For many weeks I thought of poison, and then of drowning, and then of
fire. A fine sight the grand house in flames, and the madman's wife
smouldering away to cinders. Think of the jest of a large reward, too,
and of some sane man swinging in the wind for a deed he never did, and
all through a madman's cunning! I thought often of this, but I gave
it up at last. Oh! the pleasure of stropping the razor day after day,
feeling the sharp edge, and thinking of the gash one stroke of its thin
bright edge would make!

"At last the old spirits who had been with me so often before whispered
in my ear that the time was come, and thrust the open razor into my
hand. I grasped it firmly, rose softly from the bed and leaned over
my sleeping wife. Her face was buried in her hands. I withdrew them
softly, and they fell listlessly on her bosom. She had been weeping;
for the traces of the tears were still wet upon her cheek. Her face
was calm and placid; and even as I looked upon it, a tranquil smile
lighted up her pale features. I laid my hand softly on her shoulder.
She started--it was only a passing dream. I leant forward again. She
screamed and woke.

"One motion of my hand, and she would never again have uttered cry or
sound. But I was startled and drew back. Her eyes were fixed on mine.
I know not how it was, but they cowed and frightened me; and I quailed
beneath them. She rose from the bed, still gazing fixedly and steadily
on me. I trembled; the razor was in my hand, but I could not move.
She made towards the door. As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew
her eyes from my face. The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and
clutched her by the arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sunk upon the
ground.

"Now I could have killed her without a struggle; but the house was
alarmed. I heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs. I replaced the
razor in its usual drawer, unfastened the door, and called loudly for
assistance.

"They came, and raised her, and placed her on the bed. She lay bereft
of animation for hours; and when life, look, and speech returned, her
senses had deserted her, and she raved wildly and furiously.

"Doctors were called in--great men who rolled up to my door in easy
carriages, with fine horses and gaudy servants. They were at her
bedside for weeks. They had a great meeting, and consulted together
in low and solemn voices in another room. One, the cleverest and most
celebrated among them, took me aside, and bidding me prepare for the
worst, told me--me, the madman!--that my wife was mad. He stood close
beside me at an open window, his eyes looking in my face, and his hand
laid upon my arm. With one effort I could have hurled him into the
street beneath. It would have been rare sport to have done it; but my
secret was at stake, and I let him go. A few days after, they told me I
must place her under some restraint; I must provide a keeper for her.
_I!_ I went into the open fields where none could hear me, and laughed
till the air resounded with my shouts!

"She died next day. The white-headed old man followed her to the grave,
and the proud brothers dropped a tear over the insensible corpse of
her whose sufferings they had regarded in her lifetime with muscles of
iron. All this was food for my secret mirth, and I laughed behind the
white handkerchief which I held up to my face, as we rode home, till
the tears came into my eyes.

"But though I had carried my object and killed her, I was restless
and disturbed, and I felt that before long my secret must be known. I
could not hide the wild mirth and joy which boiled within me, and made
me, when I was alone, at home, jump up and beat my hands together, and
dance round and round, and roar aloud. When I went out, and saw the
busy crowd hurrying about the streets; or to the theatre, and heard the
sound of music, and beheld the people dancing, I felt such glee, that I
could have rushed among them, and torn them to pieces limb from limb,
and howled in transport. But I ground my teeth, and struck my feet upon
the floor, and drove my sharp nails into my hands. I kept it down; and
no one knew I was a madman yet.

"I remember--though it's one of the last things I _can_ remember; for
now I mix up realities with my dreams, and having so much to do, and
being always hurried here, have no time to separate the two, from some
strange confusion in which they get involved--I remember how I let it
out at last. Ha! ha! I think I see their frightened looks now, and
feel the ease with which I flung them from me, and dashed my clenched
fist into their white faces, and then flew like the wind, and left
them screaming and shouting far behind. The strength of a giant comes
upon me when I think of it. There--see how this iron bar bends beneath
my furious wrench. I could snap it like a twig, only there are long
galleries here with many doors--I don't think I could find my way along
them; and even if I could, I know there are iron gates below which they
keep locked and barred. They know what a clever madman I have been, and
they are proud to have me here, to show.

"Let me see;--yes, I had been out. It was late at night when I reached
home, and found the proudest of the three proud brothers waiting to see
me--urgent business, he said: I recollect it well. I hated that man
with all a madman's hate. Many and many a time had my fingers longed to
tear him. They told me he was there. I ran swiftly up-stairs. He had a
word to say to me. I dismissed the servants. It was late, and we were
alone together--_for the first time_.

"I kept my eyes carefully from him at first, for I knew what he little
thought--and I gloried in the knowledge--that the light of madness
gleamed from them like fire. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He
spoke at last. My recent dissipation, and strange remarks, made so
soon after his sister's death, were an insult to her memory. Coupling
together many circumstances which had at first escaped his observation,
he thought I had not treated her well. He wished to know whether he was
right in inferring that I meant to cast a reproach upon her memory,
and a disrespect upon her family. It was due to the uniform he wore to
demand this explanation.

"This man had a commission in the army--a commission, purchased with
my money, and his sister's misery! This was the man who had been
foremost in the plot to ensnare me, and grasp my wealth. This was the
man who had been the main instrument in forcing his sister to wed me;
well knowing that her heart was given to that puling boy. Due to _his_
uniform! The livery of his degradation! I turned my eyes upon him--I
could not help it--but I spoke not a word.

"I saw the sudden change that came upon him beneath my gaze. He was
a bold man, but the colour faded from his face, and he drew back his
chair. I dragged mine nearer to him; and as I laughed--I was very merry
then--I saw him shudder. I felt the madness rising within me. He was
afraid of me.

"'You were very fond of your sister when she was alive'--I said--'Very.'

"He looked uneasily round him, and I saw his hand grasp the back of his
chair: but he said nothing.

"'You villain,' said I, 'I found you out; I discovered your hellish
plots against me; I know her heart was fixed on some one else before
you compelled her to marry me. I know it--I know it.'

"He jumped suddenly from his chair, brandished it aloft, and bid me
stand back--for I took care to be getting closer to him all the time I
spoke.

"I screamed rather than talked, for I felt tumultuous passions eddying
through my veins, and the old spirits whispering and taunting me to
tear his heart out.

"'Damn you,' said I, starting up, and rushing upon him; 'I killed her.
I am a madman. Down with you. Blood, blood! I will have it!'

"I turned aside with one blow the chair he hurled at me in his terror,
and closed with him; and with a heavy crash we rolled upon the floor
together.

"It was a fine struggle that; for he was a tall strong man, fighting
for his life; and I, a powerful madman, thirsting to destroy him. I
knew no strength could equal mine, and I was right. Right again, though
a madman! His struggles grew fainter. I knelt upon his chest, and
clasped his brawny throat firmly with both hands. His face grew purple;
his eyes were starting from his head, and with protruded tongue he
seemed to mock me. I squeezed the tighter.

"The door was suddenly burst open with a loud noise, and a crowd of
people rushed forward, crying aloud to each other to secure the madman.

"My secret was out; and my only struggle now was for liberty and
freedom. I gained my feet before a hand was on me, threw myself among
my assailants, and cleared my way with my strong arm, as if I bore a
hatchet in my hand, and hewed them down before me. I gained the door,
dropped over the banisters, and in an instant was in the street.

"Straight and swift I ran, and no one dared to stop me. I heard the
noise of feet behind, and redoubled my speed. It grew fainter and
fainter in the distance, and at length died away altogether: but on I
bounded, through marsh and rivulet, over fence and wall, with a wild
shout which was taken up by the strange beings that flocked around me
on every side, and swelled the sound, till it pierced the air. I was
borne upon the arms of demons, who swept along upon the wind, and bore
down bank and hedge before them, and spun me round and round with a
rustle and speed that made my head swim, until at last they threw me
from them with a violent shock, and I fell heavily upon the earth. When
I woke I found myself here--here in this gay cell where the sunlight
seldom comes, and the moon steals in, in rays which only serve to show
the dark shadows about me, and that silent figure in its old corner.
When I lie awake, I can sometimes hear strange shrieks and cries from
distant parts of this large place. What they are, I know not; but they
neither come from that pale form, nor does it regard them. For from
the first shades of dusk till the earliest light of morning, it still
stands motionless in the same place, listening to the music of my iron
chain, and watching my gambols on my straw bed."

At the end of the manuscript was written, in another hand, this note:

[The unhappy man whose ravings are recorded above, was a melancholy
instance of the baneful results of energies misdirected in early
life, and excesses prolonged until their consequences could never be
repaired. The thoughtless riot, dissipation, and debauchery of his
younger days, produced fever and delirium. The first effects of the
latter was the strange delusion, founded upon a well-known medical
theory, strongly contended for by some, and as strongly contested by
others, that an hereditary madness existed in his family. This produced
a settled gloom, which in time developed a morbid insanity, and finally
terminated in raving madness. There is every reason to believe that the
events he detailed, though distorted in the description by his diseased
imagination, really happened. It is only matter of wonder to those who
were acquainted with the vices of his early career, that his passions,
when no longer controlled by reason, did not lead him to the commission
of still more frightful deeds.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Pickwick's candle was just expiring in the socket, as he concluded
the perusal of the old clergyman's manuscript; and when the light
went suddenly out, without any previous flicker by way of warning, it
communicated a very considerable start to his excited frame. Hastily
throwing off such articles of clothing as he had put on when he rose
from his uneasy bed, and casting a fearful glance around, he once more
scrambled hastily between the sheets, and soon fell fast asleep.

The sun was shining brilliantly into his chamber when he awoke, and
the morning was far advanced. The gloom which had oppressed him on the
previous night, had disappeared with the dark shadows which shrouded
the landscape, and his thoughts and feelings were as light and gay
as the morning itself. After a hearty breakfast, the four gentlemen
sallied forth to walk to Gravesend, followed by a man bearing the
stone in its deal box. They reached that town about one o'clock (their
luggage they had directed to be forwarded to the city, from Rochester)
and being fortunate enough to secure places on the outside of a coach,
arrived in London in sound health and spirits, on that same afternoon.

The next three or four days were occupied with the preparations which
were necessary for their journey to the borough of Eatanswill. As
any reference to that most important undertaking demands a separate
chapter, we may devote the few lines which remain at the close of
this, to narrate, with great brevity, the history of the antiquarian
discovery.

It appears from the Transactions of the Club, then, that Mr. Pickwick
lectured upon the discovery at the General Club Meeting, convened
on the night succeeding their return, and entered into a variety of
ingenious and erudite speculations on the meaning of the inscription.
It also appears that a skilful artist executed a faithful delineation
of the curiosity, which was engraved on the stone, and presented
to the Royal Antiquarian Society, and other learned bodies--that
heart-burnings and jealousies without number, were created by rival
controversies which were penned upon the subject--and that Mr. Pickwick
himself wrote a pamphlet, containing ninety-six pages of very small
print, and twenty-seven different readings of the inscription. That
three old gentlemen cut off their eldest sons with a shilling a-piece
for presuming to doubt the antiquity of the fragment--and that one
enthusiastic individual cut himself off prematurely, in despair at
being unable to fathom its meaning. That Mr. Pickwick was elected an
honorary member of seventeen native and foreign societies, for making
the discovery; that none of the seventeen could make anything of it;
but that all the seventeen agreed it was very extraordinary.

Mr. Blotton, indeed--and the name will be doomed to the undying
contempt of those who cultivate the mysterious and the sublime--Mr.
Blotton, we say, with the doubt and cavilling peculiar to vulgar minds,
presumed to state a view of the case, as degrading as ridiculous. Mr.
Blotton, with a mean desire to tarnish the lustre of the immortal name
of Pickwick, actually undertook a journey to Cobham in person, and on
his return, sarcastically observed in an oration at the club, that
he had seen the man from whom the stone was purchased; that the man
presumed the stone to be ancient, but solemnly denied the antiquity
of the inscription--inasmuch as he represented it to have been rudely
carved by himself in an idle mood, and to display letters intended
to bear neither more nor less than the simple construction of--"BILL
STUMPS, HIS MARK;" and that Mr. Stumps, being little in the habit of
original composition, and more accustomed to be guided by the sound
of words than by the strict rules of orthography, had omitted the
concluding "L" of his Christian name.

The Pickwick Club (as might have been expected from so enlightened an
Institution) received this statement with the contempt it deserved,
expelled the presumptuous and ill-conditioned Blotton, and voted Mr.
Pickwick a pair of gold spectacles, in token of their confidence and
approbation; in return for which, Mr. Pickwick caused a portrait of
himself to be painted, and hung up in the club-room.

Mr. Blotton though ejected was not conquered. He also wrote a pamphlet,
addressed to the seventeen learned societies, native and foreign,
containing a repetition of the statement he had already made, and
rather more than half intimating his opinion that the seventeen learned
societies were so many "humbugs." Hereupon the virtuous indignation
of the seventeen learned societies, native and foreign, being roused,
several fresh pamphlets appeared; the foreign learned societies
corresponded with the native learned societies; the native learned
societies translated the pamphlets of the foreign learned societies
into English; the foreign learned societies translated the pamphlets
of the native learned societies into all sorts of languages; and thus
commenced that celebrated scientific discussion so well known to all
men as the Pickwick controversy.

But this base attempt to injure Mr. Pickwick, recoiled upon the head
of its calumnious author. The seventeen learned societies unanimously
voted the presumptuous Blotton an ignorant meddler, and forthwith
set to work upon more treatises than ever. And to this day the stone
remains, an illegible monument of Mr. Pickwick's greatness, and a
lasting trophy of the littleness of his enemies.



CHAPTER XII

[Illustration]

  _Descriptive of a very important Proceeding on the part of Mr.
    Pickwick; no less an Epoch in his Life, than in this History_


Mr. Pickwick's apartments in Goswell Street, although on a limited
scale, were not only of a very neat and comfortable description,
but peculiarly adapted for the residence of a man of his genius and
observation. His sitting-room was the first floor front, his bed-room
the second floor front; and thus, whether he were sitting at his desk
in his parlour, or standing before the dressing-glass in his dormitory,
he had an equal opportunity of contemplating human nature in all the
numerous phases it exhibits, in that not more populous than popular
thoroughfare. His landlady Mrs. Bardell--the relict and sole executrix
of a deceased custom-house officer--was a comely woman of bustling
manners and agreeable appearance, with a natural genius for cooking,
improved by study and long practice, into an exquisite talent. There
were no children, no servants, no fowls. The only other inmates of the
house were a large man and a small boy; the first a lodger, the second
a production of Mrs. Bardell's. The large man was always home precisely
at ten o'clock at night, at which hour he regularly condensed himself
into the limits of a dwarfish French bedstead in the back parlour;
and the infantine sports and gymnastic exercises of Master Bardell
were exclusively confined to the neighbouring pavements and gutters.
Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house; and in it Mr.
Pickwick's will was law.

To any one acquainted with these points of the domestic economy of the
establishment, and conversant with the admirable regulation of Mr.
Pickwick's mind, his appearance and behaviour on the morning previous
to that which had been fixed upon for the journey to Eatanswill,
would have been most mysterious and unaccountable. He paced the room
to and fro with hurried steps, popped his head out of the window at
intervals of about three minutes each, constantly referred to his
watch, and exhibited many other manifestations of impatience very
unusual with him. It was evident that something of great importance was
in contemplation, but what that something was, not even Mrs. Bardell
herself had been enabled to discover.

"Mrs. Bardell," said Mr. Pickwick, at last, as that amiable female
approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment--

"Sir?" said Mrs. Bardell.

"Your little boy is a very long time gone."

"Why, it's a good long way to the Borough, sir," remonstrated Mrs.
Bardell.

"Ah," said Mr. Pickwick, "very true; so it is."

Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her
dusting.

"Mrs. Bardell," said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.

"Sir?" said Mrs. Bardell again.

"Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people, than to
keep one?"

"La, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very border
of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial
twinkle in the eyes of her lodger; "La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!"

"Well, but _do_ you?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"That depends--" said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to
Mr. Pickwick's elbow, which was planted on the table--"that depends a
good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it's a
saving and careful person, sir."

"That's very true," said Mr. Pickwick, "but the person I have in my
eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these
qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world,
and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell; which may be of material
use to me."

"La, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Bardell; the crimson rising to her
cap-border again.

"I do," said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in
speaking of a subject which interested him, "I do, indeed; and to tell
you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind."

"Dear me, sir," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

"You'll think it very strange now," said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with
a good-humoured glance at his companion, "that I never consulted you
about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little
boy out this morning--eh?"

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr.
Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once raised to a
pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes had never
dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose--a deliberate plan,
too--sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the way--how
thoughtful--how considerate!

"Well," said Mr. Pickwick, "what do you think?"

"Oh, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, "you
are very kind, sir."

"It'll save you a good deal of trouble, won't it?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir," replied Mrs.
Bardell; "and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you
then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so
much consideration for my loneliness."

"Ah, to be sure," said Mr. Pickwick; "I never thought of that. When I
am in town, you'll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so
you will."

"I'm sure I ought to be a very happy woman," said Mrs. Bardell.

"And your little boy--" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Bless his heart!" interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

"He, too, will have a companion," resumed Mr. Pickwick, "a lively one,
who'll teach him, I'll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would
ever learn in a year." And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

"Oh you dear--" said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

[Illustration: "_Oh you kind, good, playful dear_"]

"Oh you kind, good, playful dear," said Mrs. Bardell; and without more
ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick's
neck, with a cataract of tears and a chorus of sobs.

"Bless my soul!" cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick;--"Mrs. Bardell, my
good woman--dear me, what a situation--pray consider.--Mrs. Bardell,
don't--if anybody should come----"

"Oh, let them come," exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, frantically; "I'll never
leave you--dear, kind, good soul;" and, with these words, Mrs. Bardell
clung the tighter.

"Mercy upon me," said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, "I hear
somebody coming up the stairs. Don't, don't, there's a good creature,
don't." But entreaty and remonstrance were alike unavailing: for Mrs.
Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick's arms; and before he could gain
time to deposit her on a chair, Master Bardell entered the room,
ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless. He stood with his
lovely burden in his arms, gazing vacantly on the countenances of his
friends, without the slightest attempt at recognition or explanation.
They, in their turn, stared at him; and Master Bardell, in his turn,
stared at everybody.

The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, and the
perplexity of Mr. Pickwick was so extreme, that they might have
remained in exactly the same relative situations until the suspended
animation of the lady was restored, had it not been for a most
beautiful and touching expression of filial affection on the part of
her youthful son. Clad in a tight suit of corduroy, spangled with
brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at first stood at the
door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, the impression that his
mother must have suffered some personal damage, pervaded his partially
developed mind, and considering Mr. Pickwick as the aggressor, he set
up an appalling and semi-earthly kind of howling, and butting forward
with his head, commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the
back and legs, with such blows and pinches as the strength of his arm,
and the violence of his excitement, allowed.

"Take this little villain away," said the agonised Mr. Pickwick, "he's
mad."

"What _is_ the matter?" said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Pickwick, pettishly. "Take away the boy"
(here Mr. Winkle carried the interesting boy, screaming and struggling,
to the further end of the apartment). "Now, help me, lead this woman
downstairs."

"Oh, I am better now," said Mrs. Bardell, faintly.

"Let me lead you downstairs," said the ever gallant Mr. Tupman.

"Thank you, sir--thank you;" exclaimed Mrs. Bardell, hysterically. And
downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her affectionate son.

"I cannot conceive--" said Mr. Pickwick, when his friend returned--"I
cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had
merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man servant, when
she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very
extraordinary thing."

"Very," said his three friends.

"Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation," continued Mr.
Pickwick.

"Very," was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and
looked dubiously at each other.

This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their
incredulity. They evidently suspected him.

"There is a man in the passage now," said Mr. Tupman.

"It's the man I spoke to you about," said Mr. Pickwick, "I sent for
him to the Borough this morning. Have the goodness to call him up,
Snodgrass."

Mr. Snodgrass did as he was desired; and Mr. Samuel Weller forthwith
presented himself.

"Oh--you remember me, I suppose?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"I should think so," replied Sam, with a patronising wink. "Queer start
that 'ere, but he was one too many for you, warn't he? Up to snuff and
a pinch or two over--eh?"

"Never mind that matter now," said Mr. Pickwick, hastily, "I want to
speak to you about something else. Sit down."

"Thank'ee, sir," said Sam. And down he sat without farther bidding,
having previously deposited his old white hat on the landing outside
the door. "'Tan't a wery good 'un to look at," said Sam, "but it's
an astonishin' 'un to wear; and afore the brim went, it was a wery
handsome tile. Hows'ever it's lighter without it, that's one thing,
and every hole lets in some air, that's another--wentilation gossamer
I calls it." On the delivery of this sentiment, Mr. Weller smiled
agreeably upon the assembled Pickwickians.

"Now with regard to the matter on which I, with the concurrence of
these gentlemen, sent for you," said Mr. Pickwick.

"That's the pint, sir," interposed Sam; "out vith it, as the father
said to the child, ven he swallowed a farden."

"We want to know, in the first place," said Mr. Pickwick, "whether you
have any reason to be discontented with your present situation."

"Afore I answers that 'ere question, gen'lm'n," replied Mr. Weller,
"_I_ should like to know, in the first place, whether you're a goin' to
purwide me with a better."

A sunbeam of placid benevolence played on Mr. Pickwick's features as he
said, "I have half made up my mind to engage you myself."

"Have you though?" said Sam.

Mr. Pickwick nodded in the affirmative.

"Wages?" inquired Sam.

"Twelve pounds a year," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Clothes?"

"Two suits."

"Work?"

"To attend upon me; and travel about with me and these gentlemen here."

"Take the bill down," said Sam, emphatically "I'm let to a single
gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon."

"You accept the situation?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Cert'nly," replied Sam. "If the clothes fits me half as well as the
place, they'll do."

"You can get a character, of course?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Ask the landlady o' the White Hart about that, sir," replied Sam.

"Can you come this evening?"

"I'll get into the clothes this minute, if they're here," said Sam with
great alacrity.

"Call at eight this evening," said Mr. Pickwick; "and if the inquiries
are satisfactory, they shall be provided."

With the single exception of one amiable indiscretion, in which
an assistant housemaid had equally participated, the history of
Mr. Weller's conduct was so very blameless, that Mr. Pickwick felt
fully justified in closing the engagement that very evening. With
the promptness and energy which characterised not only the public
proceedings, but all the private actions of this extraordinary man,
he at once led his new attendant to one of those convenient emporiums
where gentlemen's new and second-hand clothes are provided, and the
troublesome and inconvenient formality of measurement dispensed with;
and before night had closed in, Mr. Weller was furnished with a grey
coat with the P. C. button, a black hat with a cockade to it, a pink
striped waistcoat, light breeches and gaiters, and a variety of other
necessaries, too numerous to recapitulate.

"Well," said that suddenly transformed individual, as he took his seat
on the outside of the Eatanswill coach next morning; "I wonder whether
I'm meant to be a footman, or a groom, or a gamekeeper, or a seedsman.
I looks like a sort of compo of every one on 'em. Never mind; there's
change of air, plenty to see, and little to do; and all this suits my
complaint uncommon; so long life to the Pickvicks, says I!"



CHAPTER XIII

[Illustration]

  _Some Account of Eatanswill; of the State of Parties therein; and
    of the Election of a Member to serve in Parliament for that
    Ancient, Loyal, and Patriotic Borough_


We will frankly acknowledge, that up to the period of our being first
immersed in the voluminous papers of the Pickwick Club, we had never
heard of Eatanswill; we will with equal candour admit, that we have
in vain searched for proof of the actual existence of such a place
at the present day. Knowing the deep reliance to be placed on every
note and statement of Mr. Pickwick's, and not presuming to set up our
recollection against the recorded declarations of that great man, we
have consulted every authority, bearing upon the subject, to which
we could possible refer. We have traced every name in schedules A
and B, without meeting with that of Eatanswill; we have minutely
examined every corner of the Pocket County Maps issued for the benefit
of society by our distinguished publishers, and the same result has
attended our investigation. We are therefore led to believe, that Mr.
Pickwick, with that anxious desire to abstain from giving offence to
any, and with those delicate feelings for which all who knew him well
know he was so eminently remarkable, purposely substituted a fictitious
designation, for the real name of the place in which his observations
were made. We are confirmed in this belief by a little circumstance,
apparently slight and trivial in itself, but when considered in this
point of view, not undeserving of notice. In Mr. Pickwick's note-book,
we can just trace an entry of the fact, that the places of himself
and followers were booked by the Norwich coach; but this entry was
afterwards lined through, as if for the purpose of concealing even the
direction in which the borough is situated. We will not, therefore,
hazard a guess upon the subject, but will at once proceed with this
history; content with the materials which its characters have provided
for us.

It appears, then, that the Eatanswill people, like the people of many
other small towns, considered themselves of the utmost and most mighty
importance, and that every man in Eatanswill, conscious of the weight
that attached to his example, felt himself bound to unite, heart and
soul, with one of the two great parties that divided the town--the
Blues and the Buffs. Now the Blues lost no opportunity of opposing the
Buffs, and the Buffs lost no opportunity of opposing the Blues; and
the consequence was, that whenever the Buffs and Blues met together at
public meeting, Town-Hall, fair, or market, disputes and high words
arose between them. With these dissensions it is almost superfluous
to say that everything in Eatanswill was made a party question. If
the Buffs proposed to new skylight the market-place, the Blues got up
public meetings, and denounced the proceeding; if the Blues proposed
the erection of an additional pump in the High Street, the Buffs rose
as one man and stood aghast at the enormity. There were Blue shops and
Buff shops, Blue inns and Buff inns; there was a Blue aisle and a Buff
aisle, in the very church itself.

Of course it was essentially and indispensably necessary that
each of these powerful parties should have its chosen organ and
representative: and, accordingly, there were two newspapers in the
town--the _Eatanswill Gazette_, and the _Eatanswill Independent_;
the former advocating Blue principles, and the latter conducted
on grounds decidedly Buff. Fine newspapers they were. Such
leading articles, and such spirited attacks!--"Our worthless
contemporary, the _Gazette_"--"That disgraceful and dastardly
journal, the _Independent_"--"That false and scurrilous print, the
_Independent_"--"That vile and slanderous calumniator, the _Gazette_;"
these and other spirit-stirring denunciations were strewn plentifully
over the columns of each, in every number, and excited feelings of the
most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of the townspeople.

Mr. Pickwick, with his usual foresight and sagacity, had chosen a
peculiarly desirable moment for his visit to the borough. Never was
such a contest known. The Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall,
was the Blue candidate; and Horatio Fizkin, Esq., of Fizkin Lodge, near
Eatanswill, had been prevailed upon by his friends to stand forward
in the Buff interest. The _Gazette_ warned the electors of Eatanswill
that the eyes not only of England, but of the whole civilised world,
were upon them; and the _Independent_ imperatively demanded to know,
whether the constituency of Eatanswill were the grand fellows they had
always taken them for, or base and servile tools, undeserving alike of
the name of Englishmen and the blessings of freedom. Never had such a
commotion agitated the town before.

It was late in the evening, when Mr. Pickwick and his companions,
assisted by Sam, dismounted from the roof of the Eatanswill coach.
Large blue silk flags were flying from the windows of the Town Arms
Inn, and bills were posted in every sash, intimating, in gigantic
letters, that the Honourable Samuel Slumkey's Committee sat there
daily. A crowd of idlers were assembled in the road, looking at a
hoarse man in the balcony, who was apparently talking himself very red
in the face in Mr. Slumkey's behalf; but the force and point of whose
arguments were somewhat impaired by the perpetual beating of four large
drums which Mr. Fizkin's committee had stationed at the street corner.
There was a busy little man beside him, though, who took off his hat
at intervals and motioned to the people to cheer, which they regularly
did, most enthusiastically; and as the red-faced gentleman went on
talking till he was redder in the face than ever, it seemed to answer
his purpose quite as well as if anybody had heard him.

The Pickwickians had no sooner dismounted, than they were surrounded
by a branch mob of the honest and independent, who forthwith set up
three deafening cheers, which being responded to by the main body (for
it's not at all necessary for a crowd to know what they are cheering
about), swelled into a tremendous roar of triumph, which stopped even
the red-faced man in the balcony.

"Hurrah!" shouted the mob in conclusion.

"One cheer more," screamed the little fugleman in the balcony, and out
shouted the mob again, as if lungs were cast iron, with steel works.

"Slumkey for ever!" roared the honest and independent.

"Slumkey for ever!" echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat.

"No Fizkin!" roared the crowd.

"Certainly not!" shouted Mr. Pickwick.

"Hurrah!" And then there was another roaring, like that of a whole
menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for the cold meat.

"Who is Slumkey?" whispered Mr. Tupman.

"I don't know," replied Mr. Pickwick in the same tone, "Hush. Don't ask
any questions. It's always best on these occasions to do what the mob
do."

"But suppose there are two mobs?" suggested Mr. Snodgrass.

"Shout with the largest," replied Mr. Pickwick.

Volumes could not have said more.

They entered the house, the crowd opening right and left to let them
pass, and cheering vociferously. The first object of consideration was
to secure quarters for the night.

"Can we have beds here?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, summoning the waiter.

"Don't know, sir," replied the man; "afraid we're full, sir--I'll
inquire, sir." Away he went for that purpose, and presently returned,
to ask whether the gentlemen were "Blue."

As neither Mr. Pickwick nor his companions took any vital interest in
the cause of either candidate, the question was rather a difficult one
to answer. In this dilemma Mr. Pickwick bethought himself of his new
friend, Mr. Perker.

"Do you know a gentleman of the name of Mr. Perker?" inquired Mr.
Pickwick.

"Certainly, sir; honourable Mr. Samuel Slumkey's agent."

"He is Blue, I think?"

"Oh yes, sir."

"Then _we_ are Blue," said Mr. Pickwick; but observing that the man
looked rather doubtful at this accommodating announcement, he gave him
his card, and desired him to present it to Mr. Perker forthwith, if he
should happen to be in the house. The waiter retired; and reappearing
almost immediately with a request that Mr. Pickwick would follow him,
led the way to a large room on the first floor, where, seated at a long
table covered with books and papers, was Mr. Perker.

"Ah--ah, my dear sir," said the little man, advancing to meet him;
"very happy to see you, my dear sir, very. Pray sit down. So you have
carried your intention into effect. You have come down here to see an
election--eh?"

Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

"Spirited contest, my dear sir," said the little man.

"I am delighted to hear it," said Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his hands.
"I like to see sturdy patriotism, on whatever side it is called
forth;--and so it's a spirited contest?"

"Oh yes," said the little man, "very much so indeed. We have opened
all the public-houses in the place, and left our adversary nothing but
the beer-shops--masterly stroke of policy that, my dear sir, eh?"--the
little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.

"And what are the probabilities as to the result of the contest?"
inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Why, doubtful, my dear sir; rather doubtful as yet," replied the
little man. "Fizkin's people have got three-and-thirty voters in the
lock-up coach-house at the White Hart."

"In the coach-house!" said Mr. Pickwick, considerably astonished by
this second stroke of policy.

"They keep 'em locked up there till they want 'em," resumed the little
man. "The effect of that is, you see, to prevent our getting at them;
and even if we could, it would be of no use, for they keep them very
drunk on purpose. Smart fellow Fizkin's agent--very smart fellow
indeed."

Mr. Pickwick stared, but said nothing.

"We are pretty confident, though," said Mr. Perker, sinking his
voice almost to a whisper. "We had a little tea-party here last
night--five-and-forty women, my dear sir--and gave every one of 'em a
green parasol when she went away."

"A parasol!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Fact, my dear sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols at seven
and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery,--extraordinary the
effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their
brothers--beats stockings and flannel, and all that sort of thing
hollow. My idea, my dear sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you
can't walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half
a dozen green parasols."

Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only
checked by the entrance of a third party.

This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclined to
baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blended with a look
of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in a long brown surtout,
with a black cloth waistcoat, and drab trousers. A double eye-glass
dangled at his waistcoat: and on his head he wore a very low-crowned
hat with a broad brim. The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick
as Mr. Pott, the editor of the _Eatanswill Gazette_. After a few
preliminary remarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said
with solemnity--

"This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?"

"I believe it does," said Mr. Pickwick.

"To which I have reason to know," said Pott, looking towards Mr. Perker
for information,--"to which I have reason to know that my article of
last Saturday in some degree contributed."

"Not the least doubt of it," said the little man.

"The press is a mighty engine, sir," said Pott.

Mr. Pickwick yielded his fullest assent to the proposition.

"But I trust, sir," said Pott, "that I have never abused the enormous
power I wield. I trust, sir, that I have never pointed the noble
instrument which is placed in my hands, against the sacred bosom
of private life, or the tender breast of individual reputation;--I
trust, sir, that I have devoted my energies to--to endeavours--humble
they may be, humble I know they are--to instil those principles
of--which--are--"

Here the editor of the _Eatanswill Gazette_ appearing to ramble, Mr.
Pickwick came to his relief, and said--

"Certainly."

"And what, sir,"--said Pott--"what, sir, let me ask you as an impartial
man, is the state of the public mind in London with reference to my
contest with the _Independent_?"

"Greatly excited, no doubt," interposed Mr. Perker, with a look of
slyness which was very likely accidental.

"The contest," said Pott, "shall be prolonged so long as I have health
and strength, and that portion of talent with which I am gifted. From
that contest, sir, although it may unsettle men's minds and excite
their feelings, and render them incapable for the discharge of the
every-day duties of ordinary life; from that contest, sir, I will never
shrink, till I have set my heel upon the _Eatanswill Independent_. I
wish the people of London and the people of this country to know, sir,
that they may rely upon me;--that I will not desert them, that I am
resolved to stand by them, sir, to the last."

"Your conduct is most noble, sir," said Mr. Pickwick; and he grasped
the hand of the magnanimous Pott.

"You are, sir, I perceive, a man of sense and talent," said Mr. Pott,
almost breathless with the vehemence of his patriotic declaration. "I
am most happy, sir, to make the acquaintance of such a man."

"And I," said Mr. Pickwick, "feel deeply honoured by this expression of
your opinion. Allow me, sir, to introduce you to my fellow-travellers,
the other corresponding members of the club I am proud to have founded."

"I shall be delighted," said Mr. Pott.

Mr. Pickwick withdrew, and returning with his friends, presented them
in due form to the editor of the _Eatanswill Gazette_.

"Now, my dear Pott," said little Mr. Perker, "the question is, what are
we to do with our friends here?"

"We can stop in this house, I suppose," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Not a spare bed in the house, my dear sir--not a single bed."

"Extremely awkward," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Very," said his fellow-voyagers.

"I have an idea upon this subject," said Mr. Pott, "which I think may
be very successfully adopted. They have two beds at the Peacock, and
I can boldly say, on behalf of Mrs. Pott, that she will be delighted
to accommodate Mr. Pickwick and any of his friends, if the other two
gentlemen and their servant do not object to shifting, as they best
can, at the Peacock."

After repeated pressings on the part of Mr. Pott, and repeated
protestations on that of Mr. Pickwick that he could not think of
incommoding or troubling his amiable wife, it was decided that it was
the only feasible arrangement that could be made. So it _was_ made;
and after dining together at the Town Arms, the friends separated, Mr.
Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass repairing to the Peacock, and Mr. Pickwick
and Mr. Winkle proceeding to the mansion of Mr. Pott; it having been
previously arranged that they should all reassemble at the Town Arms in
the morning, and accompany the honourable Samuel Slumkey's procession
to the place of nomination.

Mr. Pott's domestic circle was limited to himself and his wife. All men
whom mighty genius has raised to a proud eminence in the world, have
usually some little weakness which appears the more conspicuous from
the contrast it presents to their general character. If Mr. Pott had
a weakness, it was, perhaps, that he was _rather_ too submissive to
the somewhat contemptuous control and sway of his wife. We do not feel
justified in laying any particular stress upon the fact, because on the
present occasion all Mrs. Pott's most winning ways were brought into
requisition to receive the two gentlemen.

"My dear," said Mr. Pott, "Mr. Pickwick--Mr. Pickwick of London."

Mrs. Pott received Mr. Pickwick's paternal grasp of the hand with
enchanting sweetness; and Mr. Winkle, who had not been announced at
all, slided and bowed, unnoticed, in an obscure corner.

"P. my dear--" said Mrs. Pott.

"My life," said Mr. Pott.

"Pray introduce the other gentleman."

"I beg a thousand pardons," said Mr. Pott. "Permit me. Mrs. Pott, Mr.
----"

"Winkle," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Winkle," echoed Mr. Pott; and the ceremony of introduction was
complete.

"We owe you many apologies, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, "for disturbing
your domestic arrangements at so short a notice."

"I beg you won't mention it, sir," replied the feminine Pott, with
vivacity. "It is a high treat to me, I assure you, to see any new
faces; living as I do, from day to day, and week to week, in this dull
place, and seeing nobody."

"Nobody, my dear!" exclaimed Mr. Pott, archly.

"Nobody but _you_," retorted Mrs. Pott, with asperity.

"You see, Mr. Pickwick," said the host in explanation of his wife's
lament, "that we are in some measure cut off from many enjoyments and
pleasures of which we might otherwise partake. My public station, as
editor of the _Eatanswill Gazette_, the position which that paper holds
in the country, my constant immersion in the vortex of politics----"

"P. my dear--" interposed Mrs. Pott.

"My life--" said the editor.

"I wish, my dear, you would endeavour to find some topic of
conversation in which these gentlemen might take some rational
interest."

"But, my love," said Mr. Pott, with great humility, "Mr. Pickwick does
take an interest in it."

"It's well for him if he can," said Mrs. Pott, emphatically; "I am
wearied out of my life with your politics, and quarrels with the
_Independent_, and nonsense. I am quite astonished, P., at your making
such an exhibition of your absurdity."

"But, my dear--" said Mr. Pott.

"Oh, nonsense, don't talk to me;" said Mrs. Pott. "Do you play
_écarté_, sir?"

"I shall be very happy to learn under your tuition," replied Mr. Winkle.

"Well, then, draw that little table into this window, and let me get
out of hearing of those prosy politics."

"Jane," said Mr. Pott, to the servant who brought in candles, "go down
into the office, and bring me up the file of the _Gazette_ for Eighteen
Hundred and Twenty Eight. I'll read you--" added the editor, turning
to Mr. Pickwick, "I'll just read you a few of the leaders I wrote at
that time upon the Buff job of appointing a new tollman to the turnpike
here; I rather think they'll amuse you."

"I should like to hear them very much indeed," said Mr. Pickwick.

Up came the file, and down sat the editor, with Mr. Pickwick at his
side.

We have in vain pored over the leaves of Mr. Pickwick's note-book,
in the hope of meeting with a general summary of these beautiful
compositions. We have every reason to believe that he was perfectly
enraptured with the vigour and freshness of the style; indeed Mr.
Winkle has recorded the fact that his eyes were closed, as if with
excess of pleasure, during the whole time of their perusal.

The announcement of supper put a stop both to the game at _écarté_,
and the recapitulation of the beauties of the _Eatanswill Gazette_.
Mrs. Pott was in the highest spirits and the most agreeable humour.
Mr. Winkle had already made considerable progress in her good opinion,
and she did not hesitate to inform him, confidentially, that Mr.
Pickwick was "a delightful old dear." These terms convey a familiarity
of expression, in which few of those who were intimately acquainted
with that colossal-minded man would have presumed to indulge. We have
preserved them, nevertheless, as affording at once a touching and
convincing proof of the estimation in which he was held by every class
of society, and the ease with which he made his way to their hearts and
feelings.

It was a late hour of the night--long after Mr. Tupman and Mr.
Snodgrass had fallen asleep in the inmost recesses of the Peacock--when
the two friends retired to rest. Slumber soon fell upon the senses
of Mr. Winkle, but his feelings had been excited, and his admiration
roused; and for many hours after sleep had rendered him insensible
to earthly objects, the face and figure of the agreeable Mrs. Pott
presented themselves again and again to his wandering imagination.

The noise and bustle which ushered in the morning, were sufficient
to dispel from the mind of the most romantic visionary in existence,
any associations but those which were immediately connected with the
rapidly-approaching election. The beating of drums, the blowing of
horns and trumpets, the shouting of men, and tramping of horses, echoed
and re-echoed through the streets from the earliest dawn of day; and an
occasional fight between the light skirmishers of either party at once
enlivened the preparations and agreeably diversified their character.

"Well, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, as his valet appeared at his bed-room
door, just as he was concluding his toilet; "all alive to-day, I
suppose?"

"Reg'lar game, sir," replied Mr. Weller; "our people's a col-lecting
down at the Town Arms, and they're a hollering themselves hoarse
already."

"Ah," said Mr. Pickwick, "do they seem devoted to their party, Sam?"

"Never see such dewotion in my life, sir."

"Energetic, eh?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Uncommon," replied Sam; "I never see men eat and drink so much afore.
I wonder they an't afeer'd o' bustin'."

"That's the mistaken kindness of the gentry here," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Wery likely," replied Sam, briefly.

"Fine, fresh, hearty fellows they seem," said Mr. Pickwick, glancing
from the window.

"Wery fresh," replied Sam: "me, and the two waiters at the Peacock, has
been a pumpin' over the independent woters as supped there last night."

"Pumping over independent voters!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes," said his attendant, "every man slept vere he fell down; we
dragged 'em out, one by one, this mornin', and put 'em under the pump,
and they're in reg'lar fine order, now. Shillin' a head the committee
paid for that 'ere job."

"Can such things be!" exclaimed the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

"Lord bless your heart, sir," said Sam, "why, where was you half
baptized?--that's nothin', that an't."

"Nothing?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Nothin' at all, sir," replied his attendant. "The night afore the last
day o' the last election here, the opposite party bribed the barmaid
at the Town Arms, to hocus the brandy and water of fourteen unpolled
electors as was a stoppin' in the house."

"What do you mean by 'hocussing' brandy and water?" inquired Mr.
Pickwick.

"Puttin' laud'num in it," replied Sam. "Blessed if she didn't send 'em
all to sleep till twelve hours arter the election was over. They took
one man up to the booth, in a truck, fast asleep, by way of experiment,
but it was no go--they wouldn't poll him; so they brought him back, and
put him to bed again."

"Strange practices, these," said Mr. Pickwick; half speaking to himself
and half addressing Sam.

"Not half so strange as a miraculous circumstance as happened to my own
father, at an election time, in this wery place, sir," replied Sam.

"What was that?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Why he drove a coach down here once," said Sam; "'lection time came
on, and he was engaged by vun party to bring down woters from London.
Night afore he was a going to drive up, committee on t'other side
sends for him quietly, and away he goes vith the messenger, who shows
him in;--large room--lots of gen'l'm'n--heaps of paper, pens and ink,
and all that 'ere. 'Ah, Mr. Weller,' says the gen'l'm'n in the chair,
'glad to see you, sir; how are you?'--'Wery well, thank'ee, sir,'
says my father; 'I hope _you're_ pretty middlin,' says he.--'Pretty
well, thank'ee, sir,' says the gen'l'm'n; 'sit down, Mr. Weller--pray
sit down, sir.' So my father sits down, and he and the gen'l'm'n
looks wery hard at each other. 'You don't remember me?' says the
gen'l'm'n.--'Can't say I do,' says my father.--'Oh, I know you,' says
the gen'l'm'n; 'know'd you when you was a boy,' says he.--'Well, I
don't remember you,' says my father--'That's wery odd,' says the
gen'l'm'n--'Wery,' says my father--'You must have a bad mem'ry, Mr.
Weller,' says the gen'l'm'n--'Well, it is a wery bad 'un,' says my
father.--'I thought so,' says the gen'l'm'n. So then they pours him
out a glass of wine, and gammons him about his driving, and gets him
into a reg'lar good humour, and at last shoves a twenty-pound note in
his hand. 'It's a wery bad road between this and London,' says the
gen'l'm'n.--'Here and there it _is_ a heavy road,' says my father.--'
'Specially near the canal, I think,' says the gen'l'm'n.--'Nasty bit
that 'ere,' says my father.--'Well, Mr. Weller,' says the gen'l'm'n,
'you're a wery good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we
know. We're all wery fond o' you, Mr. Weller, so in case you _should_
have an accident when you're a bringing these here woters down, and
_should_ tip 'em over into the canal vithout hurtin' of 'em, this is
for yourself,' says he.--'Gen'l'm'n, you're wery kind,' says my father,
'and I'll drink your health in another glass of wine,' says he; wich he
did, and then buttons up the money, and bows himself out. You wouldn't
believe, sir," continued Sam, with a look of inexpressible impudence
at his master, "that on the wery day as he came down with them woters,
his coach _was_ upset on that 'ere wery spot, and ev'ry man on 'em was
turned into the canal."

"And got out again?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, hastily.

"Why," replied Sam, very slowly, "I rather think one old gen'l'm'n was
missin'; I know his hat was found, but I an't quite certain whether his
head was in it or not. But what I look at, is the hex-traordinary, and
wonderful coincidence, that arter what that gen'l'm'n said, my father's
coach should be upset in that wery place, and on that wery day!"

"It is, no doubt, a very extraordinary circumstance indeed," said Mr.
Pickwick. "But brush my hat, Sam, for I hear Mr. Winkle calling me to
breakfast."

With these words Mr. Pickwick descended to the parlour, where he
found breakfast laid, and the family already assembled. The meal was
hastily despatched; each of the gentlemen's hats was decorated with an
enormous blue favour, made up by the fair hands of Mrs. Pott herself;
and as Mr. Winkle had undertaken to escort that lady to a house-top,
in the immediate vicinity of the hustings, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Pott
repaired alone to the Town Arms, from the back window of which, one of
Mr. Slumkey's committee was addressing six small boys, and one girl,
whom he dignified, at every second sentence, with the imposing title
of "men of Eatanswill," whereat the six small boys aforesaid cheered
prodigiously.

The stable-yard exhibited unequivocal symptoms of the glory and
strength of the Eatanswill Blues. There was a regular army of blue
flags, some with one handle, and some with two, exhibiting appropriate
devices, in golden characters, four feet high, and stout in proportion.
There was a grand band of trumpets, bassoons, and drums, marshalled
four abreast, and earning their money, if ever men did, especially the
drum-beaters, who were very muscular. There were bodies of constables
with blue staves, twenty committee-men with blue scarfs, and a mob
of voters with blue cockades. There were electors on horseback,
and electors a-foot. There was an open carriage and four, for the
Honourable Samuel Slumkey; and there were four carriages and pairs,
for his friends and supporters; and the flags were rustling, and the
band was playing, and the constables were swearing, and the twenty
committee-men were squabbling, and the mob was shouting, and the
horses were backing, and the post-boys perspiring; and everybody, and
everything, then and there assembled, was for the special use, behoof,
honour, and renown, of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey
Hall, one of the candidates for the representation of the Borough of
Eatanswill, in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Loud and long were the cheers, and mighty was the rustling of one of
the blue flags, with "Liberty of the Press" inscribed thereon, when the
sandy head of Mr. Pott was discerned in one of the windows, by the mob
beneath; and tremendous was the enthusiasm when the Honourable Samuel
Slumkey himself, in top-boots, and a blue neckerchief, advanced and
seized the hand of the said Pott, and melodramatically testified by
gestures to the crowd, his ineffaceable obligations to the _Eatanswill
Gazette_.

"Is everything ready?" said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to Mr. Perker.

"Everything, my dear sir," was the little man's reply.

"Nothing has been omitted, I hope?" said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

"Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir--nothing whatever. There are
twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and
six children in arms that you're to pat on the head, and inquire the
age of; be particular about the children, my dear sir,--it has always a
great effect, that sort of thing."

"I'll take care," said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

"And, perhaps, my dear sir--" said the cautious little man, "perhaps if
you _could_--I don't mean to say it's indispensable--but if you _could_
manage to kiss one of 'em, it would produce a very great impression on
the crowd."

"Wouldn't it have as good an effect if the proposer or seconder did
that?" said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

"Why, I am afraid it wouldn't," replied the agent; "if it were done by
yourself, my dear sir, I think it would make you very popular."

"Very well," said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with a resigned air,
"then it must be done. That's all."

"Arrange the procession," cried the twenty committee-men.

Amidst the cheers of the assembled throng, the band, and the
constables, and the committee-men, and the voters, and the horse-men,
and the carriages, took their places--each of the two-horse vehicles
being closely packed with as many gentlemen as could manage to stand
upright in it; and that assigned to Mr. Perker, containing Mr.
Pickwick, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and about half a dozen of the
committee beside.

There was a moment of awful suspense as the procession waited for the
Honourable Samuel Slumkey to step into his carriage. Suddenly the crowd
set up a great cheering.

"He has come out," said little Mr. Perker, greatly excited; the more so
as their position did not enable them to see what was going forward.

Another cheer, much louder.

"He has shaken hands with the men," cried the little agent. Another
cheer, far more vehement.

"He has patted the babies on the head," said Mr. Perker, trembling with
anxiety.

A roar of applause that rent the air.

"He has kissed one of 'em!" exclaimed the delighted little man.

A second roar.

"He has kissed another," gasped the excited manager.

A third roar.

"He's kissing 'em all!" screamed the enthusiastic little gentleman. And
hailed by the deafening shouts of the multitude, the procession moved
on.

[Illustration: _"He has patted the babies on the head"_]

How or by what means it became mixed up with the other procession, and
how it was ever extricated from the confusion consequent thereupon,
is more than we can undertake to describe, inasmuch as Mr. Pickwick's
hat was knocked over his eyes, nose, and mouth, by one poke of a Buff
flag-staff, very early in the proceedings. He describes himself as
being surrounded on every side, when he could catch a glimpse of the
scene, by angry and ferocious countenances, by a vast cloud of dust,
and by a dense crowd of combatants. He represents himself as being
forced from the carriage by some unseen power, and being personally
engaged in a pugilistic encounter; but with whom, or how, or why, he
is wholly unable to state. He then felt himself forced up some wooden
steps by the persons from behind: and on removing his hat found himself
surrounded by his friends, in the very front of the left-hand side
of the hustings. The right was reserved for the Buff party, and the
centre for the Mayor and his officers; one of whom--the fat crier of
Eatanswill--was ringing an enormous bell, by way of commanding silence,
while Mr. Horatio Fizkin, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with their
hands upon their hearts, were bowing with the utmost affability to the
troubled sea of heads that inundated the open space in front; and from
whence arose a storm of groans, and shouts, and yells, and hootings,
that would have done honour to an earthquake.

"There's Winkle," said Mr. Tupman, pulling his friend by the sleeve.

"Where?" said Mr. Pickwick, putting on his spectacles, which he had
fortunately kept in his pocket hitherto.

"There," said Mr. Tupman, "on the top of that house." And there, sure
enough, in the leaden gutter of a tiled roof, were Mr. Winkle and
Mrs. Pott, comfortably seated in a couple of chairs, waving their
handkerchiefs in token of recognition--a compliment which Mr. Pickwick
returned by kissing his hand to the lady.

The proceedings had not yet commenced; and as an inactive crowd
is generally disposed to be jocose, this very innocent action was
sufficient to awaken their facetiousness.

"Oh you wicked old rascal!" cried one voice, "looking arter the girls,
are you?"

"Oh you wenerable sinner!" cried another.

"Putting on his spectacles to look at a married 'ooman!" said a third.

"I see him a winkin' at her, with his wicked old eye," shouted a fourth.

"Look arter your wife, Pott," bellowed a fifth;--and then there was a
roar of laughter.

As these taunts were accompanied with invidious comparisons between Mr.
Pickwick and an aged ram, and several witticisms of the like nature;
and as they moreover rather tended to convey reflections upon the
honour of an innocent lady, Mr. Pickwick's indignation was excessive;
but as silence was proclaimed at the moment, he contented himself by
scorching the mob with a look of pity for their misguided minds, at
which they laughed more boisterously than ever.

"Silence!" roared the Mayor's attendants.

"Whiffin, proclaim silence," said the Mayor, with an air of pomp
befitting his lofty station. In obedience to this command the crier
performed another concerto on the bell, whereupon a gentleman in the
crowd called out "muffins;" which occasioned another laugh.

"Gentlemen," said the Mayor, at as loud a pitch as he could possibly
force his voice to. "Gentlemen. Brother electors of the Borough of
Eatanswill. We are met here to-day for the purpose of choosing a
representative in the room of our late----"

Here the Mayor was interrupted by a voice in the crowd.

"Suc-cess to the Mayor!" cried the voice, "and may he never desert the
nail and sarspan business, as he got his money by."

This allusion to the professional pursuits of the orator was received
with a storm of delight, which, with a bell accompaniment, rendered the
remainder of his speech inaudible, with the exception of the concluding
sentence, in which he thanked the meeting for the patient attention
with which they had heard him throughout,--an expression of gratitude
which elicited another burst of mirth, of about a quarter of an hour's
duration.

Next, a tall thin gentleman, in a very stiff white neckerchief, after
being repeatedly desired by the crowd to "send a boy home, to ask
whether he hadn't left his voice under the pillow," begged to nominate
a fit and proper person to represent them in Parliament. And when he
said it was Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill,
the Fizkinites applauded, and the Slumkeyites groaned, so long, and so
loudly, that both he and the seconder might have sung comic songs in
lieu of speaking, without anybody's being a bit the wiser.

The friends of Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, having had their innings, a
little, choleric, pink-faced man stood forward to propose another
fit and proper person to represent the electors of Eatanswill in
Parliament; and very swimmingly the pink-faced gentleman would have got
on, if he had not been rather too choleric to entertain a sufficient
perception of the fun of the crowd. But after a very few sentences of
figurative eloquence, the pink-faced gentleman got from denouncing
those who interrupted him in the mob, to exchanging defiances with the
gentlemen on the hustings; whereupon arose an uproar which reduced
him to the necessity of expressing his feelings by serious pantomime,
which he did, and then left the stage to his seconder, who delivered
a written speech of half an hour's length, and wouldn't be stopped,
because he had sent it all to the _Eatanswill Gazette_, and the
_Eatanswill Gazette_ had already printed it, every word.

Then Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill,
presented himself for the purpose of addressing the electors; which
he no sooner did, than the band employed by the Honourable Samuel
Slumkey, commenced performing with a power to which their strength
in the morning was a trifle; in return for which, the Buff crowd
belaboured the heads and shoulders of the Blue crowd; on which the Blue
crowd endeavoured to dispossess themselves of their very unpleasant
neighbours the Buff crowd; and a scene of struggling, and pushing,
and fighting, succeeded, to which we can no more do justice than the
Mayor could, although he issued imperative orders to twelve constables
to seize the ringleaders, who might amount in number to two hundred
and fifty, or thereabouts. At all these encounters, Horatio Fizkin,
Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and his friends, waxed fierce and furious;
until at last Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, begged to ask
his opponent the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, whether
that band played by his consent; which question the Honourable Samuel
Slumkey declining to answer, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge,
shook his fist in the countenance of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of
Slumkey Hall; upon which the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, his blood being
up, defied Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, to mortal combat. At this violation
of all known rules and precedents of order, the Mayor commanded another
fantasia on the bell, and declared that he would bring before himself,
both Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and the Honourable
Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, and bind them over to keep the peace.
Upon this terrific denunciation, the supporters of the two candidates
interfered, and after the friends of each party had quarrelled in
pairs, for three-quarters of an hour, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, touched
his hat to the Honourable Samuel Slumkey: the Honourable Samuel Slumkey
touched his to Horatio Fizkin, Esquire: the band was stopped: the crowd
were partially quieted: and Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, was permitted to
proceed.

The speeches of the two candidates, though differing in every other
respect, afforded a beautiful tribute to the merit and high worth
of the electors of Eatanswill. Both expressed their opinion that a
more independent, a more enlightened, a more public-spirited, a more
noble-minded, a more disinterested set of men than those who had
promised to vote for him, never existed on earth; each darkly hinted
his suspicions that the electors in the opposite interest had certain
swinish and besotted infirmities which rendered them unfit for the
exercise of the important duties they were called upon to discharge.
Fizkin expressed his readiness to do anything he was wanted; Slumkey,
his determination to do nothing that was asked of him. Both said
that the trade, the manufactures, the commerce, the prosperity of
Eatanswill, would ever be dearer to their hearts than any earthly
object; and each had it in his power to state, with the utmost
confidence, that he was the man who would eventually be returned.

There was a show of hands; the Mayor decided in favour of the
Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall. Horatio Fizkin, Esquire,
of Fizkin Lodge, demanded a poll, and a poll was fixed accordingly.
Then a vote of thanks was moved to the Mayor for his able conduct in
the chair; and the Mayor, devoutly wishing that he had had a chair to
display his able conduct in (for he had been standing during the whole
proceedings), returned thanks. The processions re-formed, the carriages
rolled slowly through the crowd, and its members screeched and shouted
after them as their feelings or caprice dictated.

During the whole time of the polling, the town was in a perpetual
fever of excitement. Everything was conducted on the most liberal
and delightful scale. Excisable articles were remarkably cheap at
all the public-houses; and spring vans paraded the streets for the
accommodation of voters who were seized with any temporary dizziness in
the head--an epidemic which prevailed among the electors, during the
contest, to a most alarming extent, and under the influence of which
they might frequently be seen lying on the pavements in a state of
utter insensibility. A small body of electors remained unpolled on the
very last day. They were calculating and reflecting persons, who had
not yet been convinced by the arguments of either party, although they
had had frequent conferences with each. One hour before the close of
the poll, Mr. Perker solicited the honour of a private interview with
these intelligent, these noble, these patriotic men. It was granted.
His arguments were brief, but satisfactory. They went in a body to the
poll: and when they returned, the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey
Hall, was returned also.



CHAPTER XIV

[Illustration]

  _Comprising a Brief Description of the Company at the Peacock
    assembled; and a Tale told by a Bagman_


It is pleasant to turn from contemplating the strife and turmoil
of political existence, to the peaceful repose of private life.
Although in reality no great partisan of either side, Mr. Pickwick
was sufficiently fired with Mr. Pott's enthusiasm, to apply his whole
time and attention to the proceedings, of which the last chapter
affords a description compiled from his own memoranda. Nor while he
was thus occupied was Mr. Winkle idle, his whole time being devoted to
pleasant walks and short country excursions with Mrs. Pott, who never
failed, when such an opportunity presented itself, to seek some relief
from the tedious monotony she so constantly complained of. The two
gentlemen being thus completely domesticated in the Editor's house, Mr.
Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were in a great measure cast upon their own
resources. Taking but little interest in public affairs, they beguiled
their time chiefly with such amusements as the Peacock afforded, which
were limited to a bagatelle-board in the first floor, and a sequestered
skittle-ground in the back yard. In the science and nicety of both
these recreations, which are far more abstruse than ordinary men
suppose, they were gradually initiated by Mr. Weller, who possessed a
perfect knowledge of such pastimes. Thus, notwithstanding that they
were in a great measure deprived of the comfort and advantage of Mr.
Pickwick's society, they were still enabled to beguile the time and to
prevent its hanging heavily on their hands.

It was in the evening, however, that the Peacock presented attractions
which enabled the two friends to resist even the invitations of the
gifted, though prosy, Pott. It was in the evening that the "commercial
room" was filled with a social circle, whose characters and manners it
was the delight of Mr. Tupman to observe; whose sayings and doings it
was the habit of Mr. Snodgrass to note down.

Most people know what sort of places commercial rooms usually are. That
of the Peacock differed in no material respect from the generality of
such apartments; that is to say, it was a large bare-looking room,
the furniture of which had no doubt been better when it was newer,
with a spacious table in the centre, and a variety of smaller dittos
in the corners: an extensive assortment of variously shaped chairs,
and an old Turkey carpet, bearing about the same relative proportion
to the size of the room, as a lady's pocket-handkerchief might to the
floor of a watch-box. The walls were garnished with one or two large
maps; and several weather-beaten rough great-coats, with complicated
capes, dangled from a long row of pegs in one corner. The mantelshelf
was ornamented with a wooden inkstand, containing one stump of a pen
and half a wafer: a road-book and directory: a county history minus
the cover; and the mortal remains of a trout in a glass coffin. The
atmosphere was redolent of tobacco-smoke, the fumes of which had
communicated a rather dingy hue to the whole room, and more especially
to the dusty red curtains which shaded the windows. On the sideboard
a variety of miscellaneous articles were huddled together, the most
conspicuous of which were some very cloudy fish-sauce cruets, a couple
of driving-boxes, two or three whips and as many travelling shawls, a
tray of knives and forks, and the mustard.

Here it was that Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were seated on the
evening after the conclusion of the election, with several other
temporary inmates of the house, smoking and drinking.

"Well, gents," said a stout, hale personage of about forty, with
only one eye--a very bright black eye, which twinkled with a roguish
expression of fun and good humour, "our noble selves, gents. I always
propose that toast to the company, and drink Mary to myself. Eh, Mary!"

"Get along with you, you wretch," said the handmaiden, obviously not
ill pleased with the compliment, however.

"Don't go away, Mary," said the black-eyed man.

"Let me alone, imperence," said the young lady.

"Never mind," said the one-eyed man, calling after the girl as she left
the room. "I'll step out by-and-by, Mary. Keep your spirits up, dear."
Here he went through the not very difficult process of winking upon
the company with his solitary eye, to the enthusiastic delight of an
elderly personage with a dirty face and a clay pipe.

"Rum creeters is women," said the dirty-faced man after a pause.

"Ah! no mistake about that," said a very red-faced man, behind a cigar.

After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause.

"There's rummer things than women in this world though, mind you," said
the man with the black eye, slowly filling a large Dutch pipe, with a
most capacious bowl.

"Are you married?" inquired the dirty-faced man.

"Can't say I am."

"I thought not." Here the dirty-faced man fell into fits of mirth at
his own retort, in which he was joined by a man of bland voice and
placid countenance, who always made it a point to agree with everybody.

"Women, after all, gentlemen," said the enthusiastic Mr. Snodgrass,
"are the great props and comforts of our existence."

"So they are," said the placid gentleman.

"When they're in a good humour," interposed the dirty-faced man.

"And that's very true," said the placid one.

"I repudiate that qualification," said Mr. Snodgrass, whose thoughts
were fast reverting to Emily Wardle, "I repudiate it with disdain--with
indignation. Show me the man who says anything against women, as women,
and I boldly declare he is not a man." And Mr. Snodgrass took his cigar
from his mouth and struck the table violently with his clenched fist.

"That's good sound argument," said the placid man.

"Containing a position which I deny," interrupted he of the dirty
countenance.

"And there's certainly a very great deal of truth in what you observe
too, sir," said the placid gentleman.

"Your health, sir," said the bagman with the lonely eye, bestowing an
approving nod on Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged the compliment.

"I always like to hear a good argument," continued the bagman, "a
sharp one, like this; it's very improving; but this little argument
about women brought to my mind a story I have heard an old uncle of
mine tell, the recollection of which, just now, made me say there were
rummer things than women to be met with, sometimes."

"I should like to hear that same story," said the red-faced man with
the cigar.

"Should you?" was the only reply of the bagman, who continued to smoke
with great vehemence.

"So should I," said Mr. Tupman, speaking for the first time. He was
always anxious to increase his stock of experience.

"Should _you_? Well then, I'll tell it. No I won't. I know you won't
believe it," said the man with the roguish eye, making that organ look
more roguish than ever.

"If you say it's true, of course I shall," said Mr. Tupman.

"Well, upon that understanding I'll tell you," replied the traveller.
"Did you ever hear of the great commercial house of Bilson and Slum?
But it doesn't matter though, whether you did or not, because they
retired from business long since. It's eighty years ago since the
circumstance happened to a traveller for that house, but he was a
particular friend of my uncle's; and my uncle told the story to me.
It's a queer name; but he used to call it


THE BAGMAN'S STORY

and he used to tell it, something in this way.

"One winter's evening, about five o'clock, just as it began to grow
dusk, a man in a gig might have been seen urging his tired horse along
the road which leads across Marlborough Downs, in the direction of
Bristol. I say he might have been seen, and I have no doubt he would
have been, if anybody but a blind man had happened to pass that way;
but the weather was so bad, and the night so cold and wet, that nothing
was out but the water, and so the traveller jogged along in the middle
of the road, lonesome and dreary enough. If any bagman of that day
could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with
a clay-coloured body and red wheels, and the vixenish, ill-tempered,
fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher's horse
and a two-penny post-office pony, he would have known at once, that
this traveller could have been no other than Tom Smart, of the great
house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City. However, as there was
no bagman to look on, nobody knew anything at all about the matter; and
so Tom Smart and his clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the
vixenish mare with the fast pace, went on together, keeping the secret
among them: and nobody was a bit the wiser.

"There are many pleasanter places even in this dreary world, than
Marlborough Downs when it blows hard; and if you throw in beside, a
gloomy winter's evening, a miry and sloppy road, and a pelting fall
of heavy rain, and try the effect, by way of experiment, in your own
proper person, you will experience the full force of this observation.

"The wind blew--not up the road or down it, though that's bad enough,
but sheer across it, sending the rain slanting down like the lines they
used to rule in the copybooks at school, to make the boys slope well.
For a moment it would die away, and the traveller would begin to delude
himself into the belief that, exhausted with its previous fury, it had
quietly lain itself down to rest, when, whoo! he would hear it growling
and whistling in the distance, and on it would come rushing over the
hill-tops, and sweeping along the plain, gathering sound and strength
as it drew nearer, until it dashed with a heavy gust against horse
and man, driving the sharp rain into their ears, and its cold damp
breath into their very bones; and past them it would scour, far, far
away, with a stunning roar, as if in ridicule of their weakness, and
triumphant in the consciousness of its own strength and power.

[Illustration: "_No other than Tom Smart_"]

"The bay mare splashed away, through the mud and water, with drooping
ears; now and then tossing her head as if to express her disgust at
this very ungentlemanly behaviour of the elements, but keeping a good
pace notwithstanding, until a gust of wind, more furious than any that
had yet assailed them, caused her to stop suddenly and plant her four
feet firmly against the ground, to prevent her being blown over. It's
a special mercy that she did this, for if she _had_ been blown over,
the vixenish mare was so light, and the gig was so light, and Tom
Smart such a light weight into the bargain, that they must infallibly
have all gone rolling over and over together, until they reached the
confines of earth, or until the wind fell; and in either case the
probability is, that neither the vixenish mare, nor the clay-coloured
gig with the red wheels, nor Tom Smart, would ever have been fit for
service again.

"'Well, damn my straps and whiskers,' says Tom Smart (Tom sometimes had
an unpleasant knack of swearing), 'Damn my straps and whiskers,' says
Tom, 'if this an't pleasant, blow me!'

"You'll very likely ask me why, as Tom Smart had been pretty well blown
already, he expressed this wish to be submitted to the same process
again. I can't say,--all I know is, that Tom Smart said so--or at least
he always told my uncle he said so, and it's just the same thing.

"'Blow me,' says Tom Smart; and the mare neighed as if she were
precisely of the same opinion.

"'Cheer up, old girl,' said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with
the end of his whip. 'It won't do pushing on, such a night as this; the
first house we come to we'll put up at, so the faster you go the sooner
it's over. Soho, old girl--gently--gently.'

"Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the
tones of Tom's voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found
it colder standing still than moving on, of course I can't say. But I
can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up
her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured
gig rattle till you would have supposed every one of the red spokes was
going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip
as he was, couldn't stop or check her pace, until she drew up, of her
own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way,
about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs.

"Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw
the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a
strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with
cross-beams, with gable-topped windows projecting completely over the
pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps
leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a
dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place
though, for there was a strong cheerful light in the bar-window, which
shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on
the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite
window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming
strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing
fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of
an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his
half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house.

"In less than five minutes' time, Tom was ensconced in the room
opposite the bar--the very room where he had imagined the fire
blazing--before a substantial matter-of-fact roaring fire, composed
of something short of a bushel of coals, and wood enough to make half
a dozen decent gooseberry bushes, piled half-way up the chimney, and
roaring and crackling with a sound that of itself would have warmed the
heart of any reasonable man. This was comfortable, but this was not
all, for a smartly dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle,
was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with
his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he
saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the
chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels,
together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled
hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and
delicious array. Well, this was comfortable too; but even this was not
all--for in the bar, seated at tea at the nicest possible little table,
drawn close up before the brightest possible little fire, was a buxom
widow of somewhere about eight-and-forty or thereabouts, with a face as
comfortable as the bar, who was evidently the landlady of the house,
and the supreme ruler over all these agreeable possessions. There was
only one drawback to the beauty of the whole picture, and that was a
tall man--a very tall man--in a brown coat and bright basket buttons,
and black whiskers, and wavy black hair, who was seated at tea with the
widow, and who it required no great penetration to discover was in a
fair way of persuading her to be a widow no longer, but to confer upon
him the privilege of sitting down in that bar, for and during the whole
remainder of the term of his natural life.

"Tom Smart was by no means of an irritable or envious disposition, but
somehow or other the tall man with the brown coat and the bright basket
buttons did rouse what little gall he had in his composition, and did
make him feel extremely indignant: the more especially as he could
now and then observe, from his seat before the glass, certain little
affectionate familiarities passing between the tall man and the widow,
which sufficiently denoted that the tall man was as high in favour as
he was in size. Tom was fond of hot punch--I may venture to say he was
_very_ fond of hot punch--and after he had seen the vixenish mare well
fed and well littered down, and had eaten every bit of the nice little
hot dinner which the widow tossed up for him with her own hands, he
just ordered a tumbler of it, by way of experiment. Now, if there was
one thing in the whole range of domestic art, which the widow could
manufacture better than another, it was this identical article; and
the first tumbler was adapted to Tom Smart's taste with such peculiar
nicety, that he ordered a second with the least possible delay. Hot
punch is a pleasant thing, gentlemen--an extremely pleasant thing under
any circumstances--but in that snug old parlour, before the roaring
fire, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house
creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful. He ordered
another tumbler, and then another--I am not quite certain whether he
didn't order another after that--but the more he drank of the hot
punch, the more he thought of the tall man.

"'Confound his impudence!' said Tom to himself, 'what business has
he in that snug bar? Such an ugly villain too!' said Tom. 'If the
widow had any taste, she might surely pick up some better fellow than
that.' Here Tom's eyes wandered from the glass on the chimney-piece,
to the glass on the table; and as he felt himself becoming gradually
sentimental, he emptied the fourth tumbler of punch and ordered a fifth.

"Tom Smart, gentlemen, had always been very much attached to the public
line. It had long been his ambition to stand in a bar of his own, in a
green coat, knee-cords and tops. He had a great notion of taking the
chair at convivial dinners, and he had often thought how well he could
preside in a room of his own in the talking way, and what a capital
example he could set to his customers in the drinking department. All
these things passed rapidly through Tom's mind as he sat drinking the
hot punch by the roaring fire, and he felt very justly and properly
indignant that the tall man should be in a fair way of keeping such an
excellent house, while he, Tom Smart, was as far off from it as ever.
So, after deliberating over the two last tumblers, whether he hadn't a
perfect right to pick a quarrel with the tall man for having contrived
to get into the good graces of the buxom widow, Tom Smart at last
arrived at the satisfactory conclusion that he was a very ill-used and
persecuted individual, and had better go to bed.

"Up a wide and ancient staircase the smart girl preceded Tom, shading
the chamber candle with her hand, to protect it from the currents of
air which in such a rambling old place might have found plenty of room
to disport themselves in, without blowing the candle out, but which did
blow it out nevertheless; thus affording Tom's enemies an opportunity
of asserting that it was he, and not the wind, who extinguished the
candle, and that while he pretended to be blowing it alight again,
he was in fact kissing the girl. Be this as it may, another light
was obtained, and Tom was conducted through a maze of rooms, and a
labyrinth of passages, to the apartment which had been prepared for his
reception, where the girl bade him good night, and left him alone.

"It was a good large room with big closets, and a bed which might have
served for a whole boarding-school, to say nothing of a couple of oaken
presses that would have held the baggage of a small army; but what
struck Tom's fancy most was a strange, grim-looking, high-backed chair,
carved in the most fantastic manner, with a flowered damask cushion,
and the round knobs at the bottom of the legs carefully tied up in red
cloth, as if it had got the gout in its toes. Of any other queer chair,
Tom would only have thought it _was_ a queer chair, and there would
have been an end of the matter; but there was something about this
particular chair, and yet he couldn't tell what it was, so odd and so
unlike any other piece of furniture he had ever seen, that it seemed
to fascinate him. He sat down before the fire, and stared at the old
chair for half an hour;--Deuce take the chair, it was such a strange
old thing, he couldn't take his eyes off it.

"'Well,' said Tom, slowly undressing himself, and staring at the old
chair all the while, which stood with a mysterious aspect by the
bedside, 'I never saw such a rum concern as that in my days. Very odd,'
said Tom, who had got rather sage with the hot punch, 'Very odd.' Tom
shook his head with an air of profound wisdom, and looked at the chair
again. He couldn't make anything of it though, so he got into bed,
covered himself up warm, and fell asleep.

"In about half an hour, Tom woke up, with a start, from a confused
dream of tall men and tumblers of punch: and the first object that
presented itself to his waking imagination was the queer chair.

"'I won't look at it any more,' said Tom to himself, and he squeezed
his eyelids together, and tried to persuade himself he was going to
sleep again. No use; nothing but queer chairs danced before his eyes,
kicking up their legs, jumping over each other's backs, and playing all
kinds of antics.

"'I may as well see one real chair, as two or three complete sets
of false ones,' said Tom, bringing out his head from under the
bed-clothes. There it was, plainly discernible by the light of the
fire, looking as provoking as ever.

"Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most
extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back
gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old shrivelled
human face; the damask cushion became an antique, flapped waistcoat;
the round knobs grew into a couple of feet, encased in red cloth
slippers; and the old chair looked like a very ugly old man, of the
previous century, with his arms a-kimbo. Tom sat up in bed, and
rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion. No. The chair was an ugly old
gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart.

"Tom was naturally a headlong, careless sort of dog, and he had had
five tumblers of hot punch into the bargain; so, although he was a
little startled at first, he began to grow rather indignant when he saw
the old gentleman winking and leering at him with such an impudent
air. At length he resolved that he wouldn't stand it; and as the old
face still kept winking away as fast as ever, Tom said, in a very angry
tone:

"'What the devil are you winking at me for?'

"'Because I like it, Tom Smart,' said the chair; or the old gentleman,
whichever you like to call him. He stopped winking though, when Tom
spoke, and began grinning like a superannuated monkey.

"'How do you know my name, old nut-cracker face?' inquired Tom Smart,
rather staggered;--though he pretended to carry it off so well.

"'Come, come, Tom,' said the old gentleman, 'that's not the way to
address solid Spanish Mahogany. Damme, you couldn't treat me with less
respect if I was veneered.' When the old gentleman said this, he looked
so fierce that Tom began to grow frightened.

"'I didn't mean to treat you with any disrespect, sir,' said Tom; in a
much humbler tone than he had spoken in at first.

"'Well, well,' said the old fellow, 'perhaps not--perhaps not. Tom----'

"'Sir----'

"'I know everything about you, Tom; everything. You're very poor, Tom.'

"'I certainly am,' said Tom Smart. 'But how came you to know that?'

"'Never mind that,' said the old gentleman; 'you're much too fond of
punch, Tom.'

"Tom Smart was just on the point of protesting that he hadn't tasted a
drop since his last birthday, but when his eye encountered that of the
old gentleman, he looked so knowing that Tom blushed, and was silent.

"'Tom,' said the old gentleman, 'the widow's a fine woman--remarkably
fine woman--eh, Tom?' Here the old fellow screwed up his eyes, cocked
up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly
amorous, that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his
behaviour;--at his time of life, too!

"'I am her guardian, Tom,' said the old gentleman.

"'Are you?' inquired Tom Smart.

"'I knew her mother, Tom,' said the old fellow; 'and her grandmother.
She was very fond of me--made me this waistcoat, Tom.'

"'Did she?' said Tom Smart.

"'And these shoes,' said the old fellow lifting up one of the red-cloth
mufflers; 'but don't mention it, Tom. I shouldn't like to have it
known that she was so much attached to me. It might occasion some
unpleasantness in the family.' When the old rascal said this, he looked
so extremely impertinent, that, as Tom Smart afterwards declared, he
could have sat upon him without remorse.

"'I have been a great favourite among the women in my time, Tom,' said
the profligate old debauchee; 'hundreds of fine women have sat in my
lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh?' The
old gentleman was proceeding to recount some other exploits of his
youth, when he was seized with such a violent fit of creaking that he
was unable to proceed.

"'Just serves you right, old boy,' thought Tom Smart; but he didn't say
anything.

"'Ah!' said the old fellow, 'I am a good deal troubled with this now. I
am getting old, Tom, and have lost nearly all my rails. I have had an
operation performed, too--a small piece let into my back--and I found
it a severe trial, Tom.'

"'I dare say you did, sir,' said Tom Smart.

"'However,' said the old gentleman, 'that's not the point. Tom! I want
you to marry the widow.'

"'Me, sir!' said Tom.

"'You,' said the old gentleman.

"'Bless your reverend locks,' said Tom--(he had a few scattered
horse-hairs left)--'bless your reverend locks, she wouldn't have me.'
And Tom sighed involuntarily, as he thought of the bar.

"'Wouldn't she?' said the old gentleman, firmly.

"'No, no,' said Tom; 'there's somebody else in the wind. A tall man--a
confoundedly tall man--with black whiskers.'

"'Tom,' said the old gentleman; 'she will never have him.'

"'Won't she?' said Tom. 'If you stood in the bar, old gentleman, you'd
tell another story.'

"'Pooh, pooh,' said the old gentleman. 'I know all about that.'

"'About what?' said Tom.

"'The kissing behind the door, and all that sort of thing, Tom,' said
the old gentleman. And here he gave another impudent look, which made
Tom very wroth, because, as you all know, gentlemen, to hear an old
fellow, who ought to know better, talking about these things, is very
unpleasant--nothing more so.

"'I know all about that, Tom,' said the old gentleman. 'I have seen it
done very often in my time, Tom, between more people than I should like
to mention to you; but it never came to anything after all.'

"'You must have seen some queer things,' said Tom, with an inquisitive
look.

"'You may say that, Tom,' replied the old fellow, with a very
complicated wink. 'I am the last of my family, Tom,' said the old
gentleman, with a melancholy sigh.

"'Was it a large one?' inquired Tom Smart.

"'There were twelve of us, Tom,' said the old gentleman; 'fine,
straight-backed, handsome fellows as you'd wish to see. None of your
modern abortions--all with arms, and with a degree of polish, though
I say it that should not, which would have done your heart good to
behold.'

"'And what's become of the others, sir?' asked Tom Smart.

"The old gentleman applied his elbow to his eye as he replied,
'Gone, Tom, gone. We had hard service, Tom, and they hadn't all my
constitution. They got rheumatic about the legs and arms, and went into
kitchens and other hospitals; and one of 'em, with long service and
hard usage, positively lost his senses:--he got so crazy that he was
obliged to be burnt. Shocking thing that, Tom.'

"'Dreadful!' said Tom Smart.

"The old fellow paused for a few minutes, apparently struggling with
his feelings of emotion, and then said:

"'However, Tom, I am wandering from the point. This tall man, Tom, is a
rascally adventurer. The moment he married the widow, he would sell off
all the furniture, and run away. What would be the consequence? She
would be deserted and reduced to ruin, and I should catch my death of
cold in some broker's shop.'

"'Yes, but----'

"'Don't interrupt me,' said the old gentleman. 'Of you, Tom, I
entertain a very different opinion; for I well know that if you once
settled yourself in a public-house, you would never leave it as long as
there was anything to drink within its walls.'

"'I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, sir,' said Tom
Smart.

"'Therefore,' resumed the old gentleman, in a dictatorial tone; 'you
shall have her, and he shall not.'

"'What is to prevent it?' said Tom Smart, eagerly.

"'This disclosure,' replied the old gentleman; 'he is already married.'

"'How can I prove it?' said Tom, starting half out of bed.

"The old gentleman untucked his arm from his side, and having pointed
to one of the oaken presses, immediately replaced it in its old
position.

"'He little thinks,' said the old gentleman, 'that in the right-hand
pocket of a pair of trousers in that press, he has left a letter,
entreating him to return to his disconsolate wife, with six--mark me,
Tom--six babes, and all of them small ones.'

"As the old gentleman solemnly uttered these words, his features grew
less and less distinct, and his figure more shadowy. A film came over
Tom Smart's eyes. The old man seemed gradually blending into the chair,
the damask waistcoat to resolve into a cushion, the red slippers to
shrink into little red cloth bags. The light faded gently away, and Tom
Smart fell back on his pillow and dropped asleep.

"Morning aroused Tom from the lethargic slumber into which he had
fallen on the disappearance of the old man. He sat up in bed, and for
some minutes vainly endeavoured to recall the events of the preceding
night. Suddenly they rushed upon him. He looked at the chair; it was a
fantastic and grim-looking piece of furniture, certainly, but it must
have been a remarkably ingenious and lively imagination, that could
have discovered any resemblance between it and an old man.

"'How are you, old boy?' said Tom. He was bolder in the daylight--most
men are.

"The chair remained motionless, and spoke not a word.

"'Miserable morning,' said Tom. No. The chair would not be drawn into
conversation.

"'Which press did you point to?--you can tell me that,' said Tom. Devil
a word, gentlemen, the chair would say.

"'It's not much trouble to open it, anyhow,' said Tom, getting out of
bed very deliberately. He walked up to one of the presses. The key was
in the lock; he turned it, and opened the door. There _was_ a pair of
trousers there. He put his hand into the pocket, and drew forth the
identical letter the old gentleman had described!

"'Queer sort of thing, this,' said Tom Smart; looking first at the
chair and then at the press, and then at the letter, and then at the
chair again. 'Very queer,' said Tom. But, as there was nothing in
either to lessen the queerness, he thought he might as well dress
himself and settle the tall man's business at once--just to put him out
of his misery.

"Tom surveyed the rooms he passed through, on his way down-stairs, with
the scrutinising eye of a landlord; thinking it not impossible that,
before long, they and their contents would be his property. The tall
man was standing in the snug little bar, with his hands behind him,
quite at home. He grinned vacantly at Tom. A casual observer might have
supposed he did it, only to show his white teeth; but Tom Smart thought
that a consciousness of triumph was passing through the place where the
tall man's mind would have been, if he had had any. Tom laughed in his
face; and summoned the landlady.

"'Good morning, ma'am,' said Tom Smart, closing the door of the little
parlour as the widow entered.

"'Good morning, sir,' said the widow. 'What will you take for
breakfast, sir?'

"Tom was thinking how he should open the case, so he made no answer.

"'There's a very nice ham,' said the widow, 'and a beautiful cold
larded fowl. Shall I send 'em in, sir?'

"These words roused Tom from his reflections. His admiration of the
widow increased as she spoke. Thoughtful creature! Comfortable provider!

"'Who is that gentleman in the bar, ma'am?' inquired Tom.

"'His name is Jinkins, sir,' replied the widow, slightly blushing.

"'He's a tall man,' said Tom.

"'He is a very fine man, sir,' replied the widow, 'and a very nice
gentleman.'

"'Ah!' said Tom.

"'Is there anything more you want, sir?' inquired the widow, rather
puzzled by Tom's manner.

"'Why, yes,' said Tom. 'My dear ma'am, will you have the kindness to
sit down for one moment?'

"The widow looked much amazed but she sat down, and Tom sat down too,
close beside her. I don't know how it happened, gentlemen--indeed my
uncle used to tell me that Tom Smart said _he_ didn't know how it
happened either--but somehow or other the palm of Tom's hand fell upon
the back of the widow's hand, and remained there while he spoke.

"'My dear ma'am,' said Tom Smart--he had always a great notion of
committing the amiable--'My dear ma'am, you deserve a very excellent
husband;--you do indeed.'

"'Lor, sir!' said the widow--as well she might; Tom's mode of
commencing the conversation being rather unusual, not to say startling;
the fact of his never having set eyes upon her before the previous
night, being taken into consideration. 'Lor, sir!'

"'I scorn to flatter, my dear ma'am,' said Tom Smart. 'You deserve a
very admirable husband, and whoever he is, he'll be a very lucky man.'
As Tom said this his eye involuntarily wandered from the widow's face,
to the comforts around him.

"The widow looked more puzzled than ever, and made an effort to rise.
Tom gently pressed her hand, as if to detain her, and she kept her
seat. Widows, gentlemen, are not usually timorous, as my uncle used to
say.

"'I am sure I am very much obliged to you, sir, for your good opinion,'
said the buxom landlady, half laughing; 'and if ever I marry again----'

"'_If_,' said Tom Smart, looking very shrewdly out of the right-hand
corner of his left eye. '_If_----'

"'Well,' said the widow, laughing outright this time. '_When_ I do, I
hope I shall have as good a husband as you describe.'

"'Jinkins to wit,' said Tom.

"'Lor, sir!' exclaimed the widow.

"'Oh, don't tell me,' said Tom, 'I know him.'

"'I am sure nobody who knows him, knows anything bad of him,' said the
widow, bridling up at the mysterious air with which Tom had spoken.

"'Hem!' said Tom Smart.

"The widow began to think it was high time to cry, so she took out her
handkerchief, and inquired whether Tom wished to insult her; whether
he thought it like a gentleman to take away the character of another
gentleman behind his back; why, if he had got anything to say, he
didn't say it to the man, like a man, instead of terrifying a poor weak
woman in that way; and so forth.

"'I'll say it to him fast enough,' said Tom, 'only I want you to hear
it first.'

"'What is it?' inquired the widow, looking intently in Tom's
countenance.

"'I'll astonish you,' said Tom, putting his hand in his pocket.

"'If it is, that he wants money,' said the widow, 'I know that already,
and you needn't trouble yourself.'

"'Pooh, nonsense, that's nothing,' said Tom Smart, '_I_ want money.
'Tan't that.'

"'Oh dear, what can it be?' exclaimed the poor widow.

"'Don't be frightened,' said Tom Smart. He slowly drew forth the
letter, and unfolded it. 'You won't scream?' said Tom, doubtfully.

"'No, no,' replied the widow; 'let me see it.'

"'You won't go fainting away, or any of that nonsense?' said Tom.

"'No, no,' returned the widow, hastily.

"'And don't run out, and blow him up,' said Tom, 'because I'll do all
that for you; you had better not exert yourself.'

"'Well, well,' said the widow, 'let me see it.'

"'I will,' replied Tom Smart; and, with these words, he placed the
letter in the widow's hand.

"Gentlemen, I have heard my uncle say, that Tom Smart said, the widow's
lamentations when she heard the disclosure would have pierced a heart
of stone. Tom was certainly very tender-hearted, but they pierced his
to the very core. The widow rocked herself to and fro, and wrung her
hands.

"'Oh, the deception and villainy of man!' said the widow.

"'Frightful, my dear ma'am; but compose yourself,' said Tom Smart.

"'Oh, I can't compose myself,' shrieked the widow. 'I shall never find
any one else I can love so much!'

"'Oh yes, you will, my dear soul,' said Tom Smart, letting fall a
shower of the largest sized tears, in pity for the widow's misfortunes.
Tom Smart, in the energy of his compassion, had put his arm round the
widow's waist; and the widow, in a passion of grief, had clasped Tom's
hand. She looked up in Tom's face, and smiled through her tears. Tom
looked down in hers, and smiled through his.

"I never could find out, gentlemen, whether Tom did or did not kiss the
widow at that particular moment. He used to tell my uncle he didn't,
but I have my doubts about it. Between ourselves, gentlemen, I rather
think he did.

"At all events, Tom kicked the very tall man out at the front door half
an hour after, and married the widow a month after. And he used to
drive about the country, with the clay-coloured gig with red wheels,
and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, till he gave up business many
years afterwards, and went to France with his wife; and then the old
house was pulled down."

       *       *       *       *       *

"Will you allow me to ask you," said the inquisitive old gentleman,
"what became of the chair?"

"Why," replied the one-eyed bagman, "it was observed to creak very
much on the day of the wedding; but Tom Smart couldn't say for certain
whether it was with pleasure or bodily infirmity. He rather thought it
was the latter, though, for it never spoke afterwards."

[Illustration: _"She looked up in Tom's face and smiled through her
tears."_]

"Everybody believed the story, didn't they?" said the dirty-faced man,
refilling his pipe.

"Except Tom's enemies," replied the bagman. "Some of 'em said Tom
invented it altogether; and others said he was drunk, and fancied it,
and got hold of the wrong trousers by mistake before he went to bed.
But nobody ever minded what _they_ said."

"Tom said it was all true?"

"Every word."

"And your uncle?"

"Every letter."

"They must have been very nice men, both of 'em," said the dirty-faced
man.

"Yes, they were," replied the bagman; "very nice men indeed."



CHAPTER XV

[Illustration]

  _In which is given a Faithful Portraiture of two Distinguished
    Persons; and an Accurate Description of a Public Breakfast in
    their House and Grounds: which Public Breakfast leads to the
    Recognition of an Old Acquaintance, and the Commencement of
    another Chapter_


Mr. Pickwick's conscience had been somewhat reproaching him for his
recent neglect of his friends at the Peacock; and he was just on the
point of walking forth in quest of them, on the third morning after the
election had terminated, when his faithful valet put into his hand a
card, on which was engraved the following inscription:--

   *Mrs. Leo Hunter.*
  _The Den. Eatanswill._

"Person's a waitin'," said Sam, epigrammatically.

"Does the person want me, Sam?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"He wants you particklar; and no one else'll do, as the Devil's private
secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus," replied Mr. Weller.

"_He._ Is it a gentleman?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"A wery good imitation o' one, if it an't," replied Mr. Weller.

"But this is a lady's card," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Given me by a gen'lm'n, hows'ever," replied Sam, "and he's a waitin'
in the drawing-room--said he'd rather wait all day, than not see you."

Mr. Pickwick, on hearing this determination, descended to the
drawing-room, where sat a grave man, who started up on his entrance,
and said, with an air of profound respect:

"Mr. Pickwick, I presume?"

"The same."

"Allow me, sir, the honour of grasping your hand. Permit me, sir, to
shake it," said the grave man.

"Certainly," said Mr. Pickwick.

The stranger shook the extended hand, and then continued.

"We have heard of your fame, sir. The noise of your antiquarian
discussion has reached the ears of Mrs. Leo Hunter--my wife, sir; _I_
am _Mr._ Leo Hunter"--the stranger paused, as if he expected that
Mr. Pickwick would be overcome by the disclosure; but seeing that he
remained perfectly calm, proceeded.

"My wife, sir--Mrs. Leo Hunter--is proud to number among her
acquaintance all those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their
works and talents. Permit me, sir, to place in a conspicuous part of
the list the name of Mr. Pickwick, and his brother members of the club
that derives its name from him."

"I shall be extremely happy to make the acquaintance of such a lady,
sir," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"You _shall_ make it, sir," said the grave man. "To-morrow morning,
sir, we give a public breakfast--a _fête champêtre_--to a great number
of those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and
talents. Permit Mrs. Leo Hunter, sir, to have the gratification of
seeing you at the Den."

"With great pleasure," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Mrs. Leo Hunter has many of these breakfasts, sir," resumed the new
acquaintance--"'feasts of reason, sir, and flows of soul,' as somebody
who wrote a sonnet to Mrs. Leo Hunter on her breakfasts, feelingly and
originally observed."

"Was _he_ celebrated for his works and talents?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"He was, sir," replied the grave man, "all Mrs. Leo Hunter's
acquaintance are; it is her ambition, sir, to have no other
acquaintance."

"It is a very noble ambition," said Mr. Pickwick.

"When I inform Mrs. Leo Hunter, that that remark fell from _your_
lips, sir, she will indeed be proud," said the grave man. "You have a
gentleman in your train, who has produced some beautiful little poems,
I think, sir?"

"My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a great taste for poetry," replied Mr.
Pickwick.

"So has Mrs. Leo Hunter, sir. She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it;
I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up, and entwined with
it. She has produced some delightful pieces, herself, sir. You may have
met with her 'Ode to an Expiring Frog,' sir?"

"I don't think I have," said Mr. Pickwick.

"You astonish me, sir," said Mr. Leo Hunter. "It created an immense
sensation. It was signed with an 'L' and eight stars, and appeared
originally in a Lady's Magazine. It commenced:

   'Can I view thee panting, lying
    On thy stomach, without sighing!
    Can I unmoved see thee dying
                          On a log,
                          Expiring frog!'"

"Beautiful!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Fine," said Mr. Leo Hunter; "so simple."

"Very," said Mr. Pickwick.

"The next verse is still more touching. Shall I repeat it?"

"If you please," said Mr. Pickwick.

"It runs thus," said the grave man, still more gravely:

  "'Say, have fiends in shape of boys,
    With wild halloo and brutal noise,
    Hunted thee from marshy joys,
                          With a dog,
                          Expiring frog?'"

"Finely expressed," said Mr. Pickwick.

"All point, sir," said Mr. Leo Hunter, "but you shall hear Mrs. Leo
Hunter repeat it. _She_ can do justice to it, sir. She will repeat it,
in character, sir, to-morrow morning."

"In character!"

"As Minerva. But I forgot--it's a fancy-dress breakfast."

"Dear me," said Mr. Pickwick, glancing at his own figure--"I can't
possibly----"

"Can't sir; can't!" exclaimed Mr. Leo Hunter. "Solomon Lucas, the Jew
in the High Street, has thousands of fancy dresses. Consider, sir, how
many appropriate characters are open for your selection. Plato, Zeno,
Epicurus, Pythagoras--all founders of clubs."

"I know that," said Mr. Pickwick, "but as I cannot put myself in
competition with those great men, I cannot presume to wear their
dresses."

The grave man considered deeply, for a few seconds, and then said:

"On reflection, sir, I don't know whether it would not afford Mrs.
Leo Hunter greater pleasure, if her guests saw a gentleman of your
celebrity in his own costume, rather than in an assumed one. I may
venture to promise an exception in your case, sir--yes, I am quite
certain that on behalf of Mrs. Leo Hunter, I may venture to do so."

"In that case," said Mr. Pickwick, "I shall have great pleasure in
coming."

"But I waste your time, sir," said the grave man, as if suddenly
recollecting himself. "I know its value, sir. I will not detain you.
I may tell Mrs. Leo Hunter, then, that she may confidently expect
you and your distinguished friends? Good morning, sir, I am proud to
have beheld so eminent a personage--not a step, sir; not a word." And
without giving Mr. Pickwick time to offer remonstrance or denial, Mr.
Leo Hunter stalked gravely away.

Mr. Pickwick took up his hat, and repaired to the Peacock, but Mr.
Winkle had conveyed the intelligence of the fancy ball there, before
him.

"Mrs. Pott's going," were the first words with which he saluted his
leader.

"Is she?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"As Apollo," replied Mr. Winkle. "Only Pott objects to the tunic."

"He is right. He is quite right," said Mr. Pickwick, emphatically.

"Yes;--so she's going to wear a white satin gown with gold spangles."

"They'll hardly know what she's meant for; will they?" inquired Mr.
Snodgrass.

"Of course they will," replied Mr. Winkle, indignantly. "They'll see
her lyre, won't they?"

"True; I forgot that," said Mr. Snodgrass.

"I shall go as a bandit," interposed Mr. Tupman.

"What!" said Mr. Pickwick, with a sudden start.

"As a bandit," repeated Mr. Tupman, mildly.

"You don't mean to say," said Mr. Pickwick, gazing with solemn
sternness at his friend--"you don't mean to say, Mr. Tupman, that it
is your intention to put yourself into a green velvet jacket, with a
two-inch tail?"

"Such _is_ my intention, sir," replied Mr. Tupman, warmly. "And why
not, sir?"

"Because, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, considerably excited, "because you
are too old, sir."

"Too old!" exclaimed Mr. Tupman.

"And if any further ground of objection be wanting," continued Mr.
Pickwick, "you are too fat, sir."

"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, "this is
an insult."

"Sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone, "it is not half the
insult to you, that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet
jacket, with a two-inch tail, would be to me."

"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, "you're a fellow!"

"Sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "you're another!"

Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr.
Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into a focus by means of his
spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle
looked on, petrified at beholding such a scene between two such men.

"Sir," said Mr. Tupman, after a short pause, speaking in a low, deep
voice, "you have called me old."

"I have," said Mr. Pickwick.

"And fat."

"I reiterate the charge."

"And a fellow."

"So you are!"

There was a fearful pause.

"My attachment to your person, sir," said Mr. Tupman, speaking in a
voice tremulous with emotion, and tucking up his wristbands meanwhile,
"is great--very great--but upon that person, I must take summary
vengeance."

"Come on, sir!" replied Mr. Pickwick. Stimulated by the exciting nature
of the dialogue, the heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic
attitude, confidently supposed by the two by-standers to have been
intended as a posture of defence.

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, suddenly recovering the power of
speech, of which intense astonishment had previously bereft him,
and rushing between the two, at the imminent hazard of receiving an
application on the temple from each. "What! Mr. Pickwick, with the eyes
of the world upon you! Mr. Tupman! Who, in common with us all, derives
a lustre from his undying name! For shame, gentlemen; for shame."

The unwonted lines which momentary passion had ruled in Mr. Pickwick's
clear and open brow, gradually melted away, as his young friend
spoke, like the marks of a black-lead pencil beneath the softening
influence of India rubber. His countenance had resumed its usual benign
expression, ere he concluded.

"I have been hasty," said Mr. Pickwick, "very hasty. Tupman; your hand."

The dark shadow passed from Mr. Tupman's face, as he warmly grasped the
hand of his friend.

"I have been hasty, too," said he.

"No, no," interrupted Mr. Pickwick, "the fault was mine. You will wear
the green velvet jacket?"

"No, no," replied Mr. Tupman.

"To oblige me, you will?" resumed Mr. Pickwick.

"Very well, I will," said Mr. Tupman.

It was accordingly settled that Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr.
Snodgrass, should all wear fancy dresses. Thus Mr. Pickwick was led
by the very warmth of his good feelings to give his consent to a
proceeding from which his better judgment would have recoiled--a more
striking illustration of his amiable character could hardly have been
conceived, even if the events recorded in these pages had been wholly
imaginary.

Mr. Leo Hunter had not exaggerated the resources of Mr. Solomon Lucas.
His wardrobe was extensive--very extensive--not strictly classical
perhaps, nor quite new, nor did it contain any one garment made
precisely after the fashion of any age or time, but everything was more
or less spangled; and what _can_ be prettier than spangles! It may be
objected that they are not adapted to the daylight, but everybody knows
that they would glitter if there were lamps; and nothing can be clearer
than that if people give fancy balls in the day-time, and the dresses
do not show quite as well as they would by night, the fault lies solely
with the people who give the fancy balls, and is in no wise chargeable
on the spangles. Such was the convincing reasoning of Mr. Solomon
Lucas; and influenced by such arguments did Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and
Mr. Snodgrass, engage to array themselves in costumes, which his taste
and experience induced him to recommend as admirably suited to the
occasion.

A carriage was hired from the Town Arms, for the accommodation of the
Pickwickians, and a chariot was ordered from the same repository,
for the purpose of conveying Mr. and Mrs. Pott to Mrs. Leo Hunter's
grounds, which Mr. Pott, as a delicate acknowledgment of having
received an invitation, had already confidently predicted in the
_Eatanswill Gazette_ "would present a scene of varied and delicious
enchantment--a bewildering coruscation of beauty and talent--a lavish
and prodigal display of hospitality--above all, a degree of splendour
softened by the most exquisite taste; and adornment refined with
perfect harmony and the chastest good keeping--compared with which,
the fabled gorgeousness of Eastern Fairy-land itself, would appear to
be clothed in as many dark and murky colours, as must be the mind of
the splenetic and unmanly being who could presume to taint with the
venom of his envy, the preparations making by the virtuous and highly
distinguished lady, at whose shrine this humble tribute of admiration
was offered." This last was a piece of biting sarcasm against the
_Independent_, who in consequence of not having been invited at all,
had been through four numbers affecting to sneer at the whole affair,
in his very largest type, with all the adjectives in capital letters.

The morning came: it was a pleasant sight to behold Mr. Tupman in
full Brigand's costume, with a very tight jacket, sitting like a
pincushion over his back and shoulders: the upper portion of his legs
encased in the velvet shorts, and the lower part thereof swathed
in the complicated bandages to which all Brigands are peculiarly
attached. It was pleasing to see his open and ingenuous countenance,
well mustachioed and corked, looking out from an open shirt-collar;
and to contemplate the sugar-loaf hat, decorated with ribbons of all
colours, which he was compelled to carry on his knee, inasmuch as no
known conveyance with a top to it, would admit of any man's carrying
it between his head and the roof. Equally humorous and agreeable was
the appearance of Mr. Snodgrass in blue satin trunks and cloak, white
silk tights and shoes, and Grecian helmet: which everybody knows (and
if they do not, Mr. Solomon Lucas did) to have been the regular,
authentic, every-day costume of a Troubadour, from the earliest ages
down to the time of their final disappearance from the face of the
earth. All this was pleasant, but this was nothing compared with the
shouting of the populace when the carriage drew up, behind Mr. Pott's
chariot, which chariot itself drew up at Mr. Pott's door, which door
itself opened, and displayed the great Pott accoutred as a Russian
officer of justice, with a tremendous knout in his hand--tastefully
typical of the stern and mighty power of the _Eatanswill Gazette_, and
the fearful lashings it bestowed on public offenders.

"Bravo!" shouted Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from the passage, when
they beheld the walking allegory.

"Hoo--roar, Pott!" shouted the populace. Amid these salutations, Mr.
Pott, smiling with that kind of bland dignity which sufficiently
testified that he felt his power, and knew how to exert it, got into
the chariot.

Then there emerged from the house, Mrs. Pott, who would have looked
very like Apollo if she hadn't had a gown on: conducted by Mr. Winkle,
who in his light-red coat, could not possibly have been mistaken for
anything but a sportsman, if he had not borne an equal resemblance
to a general postman. Last of all came Mr. Pickwick, whom the boys
applauded as loud as anybody, probably under the impression that his
tights and gaiters were some remnants of the dark ages; and then the
two vehicles proceeded towards Mrs. Leo Hunter's: Mr. Weller (who was
to assist in waiting) being stationed on the box of that in which his
master was seated.

[Illustration: _Mr. Pickwick, with the Brigand on one arm, and the
Troubadour on the other_]

Every one of the men, women, boys, girls, and babies, who were
assembled to see the visitors in their fancy dresses, screamed with
delight and ecstasy, when Mr. Pickwick, with the Brigand on one arm,
and the Troubadour on the other, walked solemnly up the entrance. Never
were such shouts heard, as those which greeted Mr. Tupman's efforts to
fix the sugar-loaf hat on his head, by way of entering the garden in
style.

The preparations were on the most delightful scale; fully realising
the prophetic Pott's anticipations about the gorgeousness of Eastern
Fairyland, and at once affording a sufficient contradiction to the
malignant statements of the reptile _Independent_. The grounds were
more than an acre and a quarter in extent, and they were filled with
people! Never was such a blaze of beauty, and fashion, and literature.
There was the young lady who "did" the poetry in the _Eatanswill
Gazette_, in the garb of a sultana, leaning upon the arm of the young
gentleman who "did" the review department, and who was appropriately
habited in a field-marshal's uniform--the boots excepted. There were
hosts of these geniuses, and any reasonable person would have thought
it honour enough to meet them. But more than these, there were half
a dozen lions from London--authors, real authors, who had written
whole books, and printed them afterwards--and here you might see
'em, walking about, like ordinary men, smiling, and talking--aye, and
talking pretty considerable nonsense too, no doubt with the benign
intention of rendering themselves intelligible to the common people
about them. Moreover, there was a band of music in pasteboard caps;
four something-ean singers in the costume of their country, and a
dozen hired waiters in the costume of _their_ country--and very dirty
costume too. And above all, there was Mrs. Leo Hunter in the character
of Minerva, receiving the company, and overflowing with pride and
gratification at the notion of having called such distinguished
individuals together.

"Mr. Pickwick, ma'am," said a servant, as that gentleman approached
the presiding goddess, with his hat in his hand, and the Brigand and
Troubadour on either arm.

"What! Where!" exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, starting up, in an affected
rapture of surprise.

"Here," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Is it possible that I have really the gratification of beholding Mr.
Pickwick himself!" ejaculated Mrs. Leo Hunter.

"No other, ma'am," replied Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low. "Permit me
to introduce my friends--Mr. Tupman--Mr. Winkle--Mr. Snodgrass--to the
authoress of 'The Expiring Frog.'"

Very few people but those who have tried it, know what a difficult
process it is, to bow in green velvet smalls, and a tight jacket,
and high-crowned hat: or in blue satin trunks and white silks: or
knee-cords and top-boots that were never made for the wearer, and have
been fixed upon him without the remotest reference to the comparative
dimensions of himself and the suit. Never were such distortions
as Mr. Tupman's frame underwent in his efforts to appear easy and
graceful--never was such ingenious posturing, as his fancy-dressed
friends exhibited.

"Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Leo Hunter, "I must make you promise not to
stir from my side the whole day. There are hundreds of people here,
that I must positively introduce you to."

"You are very kind, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick.

"In the first place, here are my little girls; I had almost forgotten
them," said Minerva, carelessly pointing towards a couple of
full-grown young ladies, of whom one might be about twenty, and the
other a year or two older, and who were dressed in very juvenile
costumes--whether to make them look young, or their mamma younger, Mr.
Pickwick does not distinctly inform us.

"They are very beautiful," said Mr. Pickwick, as the juveniles turned
away, after being presented.

"They are very like their mamma, sir," said Mr. Pott, majestically.

"Oh you naughty man!" exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, playfully tapping the
editor's arm with her fan (Minerva with a fan!).

"Why now, my dear Mrs. Hunter," said Mr. Pott, who was trumpeter in
ordinary at the Den, "you _know_ that when your picture was in the
Exhibition at the Royal Academy, last year, everybody inquired whether
it was intended for you, or your youngest daughter; for you were so
much alike that there was no telling the difference between you."

"Well, and if they did, why need you repeat it, before strangers?" said
Mrs. Leo Hunter, bestowing another tap on the slumbering lion of the
_Eatanswill Gazette_.

"Count, Count!" screamed Mrs. Leo Hunter to a well-whiskered individual
in a foreign uniform, who was passing by.

"Ah! you want me?" said the Count, turning back.

"I want to introduce two very clever people to each other," said
Mrs. Leo Hunter. "Mr. Pickwick, I have great pleasure in introducing
you to Count Smorltork." She added in a hurried whisper to Mr.
Pickwick--"the famous foreigner--gathering materials for his great work
on England--hem!--Count Smorltork, Mr. Pickwick."

Mr. Pickwick saluted the Count with all the reverence due to so great a
man, and the Count drew forth a set of tablets.

"What you say, Mrs. Hunt?" inquired the Count, smiling graciously
on the gratified Mrs. Leo Hunter, "Pig Vig or Big Vig--what you
call--Lawyer--eh? I see--that is it. Big Vig"--and the Count was
proceeding to enter Mr. Pickwick in his tablets, as a gentleman of
the long robe, who derived his name from the profession to which he
belonged, when Mrs. Leo Hunter interposed.

"No, no, Count," said the lady, "Pick-wick."

"Ah, ah, I see," replied the Count. "Peek--Christian name;
Weeks--surname; good, ver good. Peek Weeks. How you do, Weeks?"

"Quite well, I thank you," replied Mr. Pickwick, with all his usual
affability. "Have you been long in England?"

"Long--ver long time--fortnight--more."

"Do you stay here long?"

"One week."

"You will have enough to do," said Mr. Pickwick, smiling, "to gather
all the materials you want, in that time."

"Eh, they are gathered," said the Count.

"Indeed!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"They are here," added the Count, tapping his forehead significantly.
"Large book at home--full of notes--music, picture, science, potry,
poltic; all tings."

"The word politics, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "comprises, in itself, a
difficult study of no inconsiderable magnitude."

"Ah!" said the Count, drawing out the tablets again, "ver good--fine
words to begin a chapter. Chapter forty-seven. Poltics. The word poltic
surprises by himself--" And down went Mr. Pickwick's remark, in Count
Smorltork's tablets, with such variations and additions as the Count's
exuberant fancy suggested, or his imperfect knowledge of the language
occasioned.

"Count," said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

"Mrs. Hunt," replied the Count.

"This is Mr. Snodgrass, a friend of Mr. Pickwick's, and a poet."

"Stop!" exclaimed the Count, bringing out the tablets once more. "Head,
potry--chapter, literary friends--name, Snowgrass; ver good. Introduced
to Snowgrass--great poet, friend of Peek Weeks--by Mrs. Hunt, which
wrote other sweet poem--what is that name?--Frog--Perspiring Fog--ver
good--ver good indeed." And the Count put up his tablets, and with
sundry bows and acknowledgments walked away, thoroughly satisfied that
he had made the most important and valuable additions to his stock of
information.

"Wonderful man, Count Smorltork," said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

"Sound philosopher," said Mr. Pott.

"Clear-headed, strong-minded person," added Mr. Snodgrass.

A chorus of bystanders took up the shout of Count Smorltork's praise,
shook their heads sagely, and unanimously cried "Very!"

As the enthusiasm in Count Smorltork's favour ran very high, his
praises might have been sung until the end of the festivities, if
the four something-ean singers had not ranged themselves in front
of a small apple-tree, to look picturesque, and commenced singing
their national songs, which appeared by no means difficult of
execution, inasmuch as the grand secret seemed to be, that three of
the something-ean singers should grunt, while the fourth howled. This
interesting performance having concluded amidst the loud plaudits
of the whole company, a boy forthwith proceeded to entangle himself
with the rails of a chair, and to jump over it, and crawl under it,
and fall down with it, and do everything but sit upon it, and then to
make a cravat of his legs, and tie them round his neck, and then to
illustrate the ease with which a human being can be made to look like a
magnified toad--all which feats yielded high delight and satisfaction
to the assembled spectators. After which the voice of Mrs. Pott was
heard to chirp faintly forth, something which courtesy interpreted
into a song, which was all very classical, and strictly in character,
because Apollo was himself a composer, and composers can very seldom
sing their own music, or anybody else's, either. This was succeeded by
Mrs. Leo Hunter's recitation of her far-famed Ode to an Expiring Frog,
which was encored once, and would have been encored twice, if the major
part of the guests, who thought it was high time to get something to
eat, had not said that it was perfectly shameful to take advantage of
Mrs. Hunter's good nature. So although Mrs. Leo Hunter professed her
perfect willingness to recite the ode again, her kind and considerate
friends wouldn't hear of it on any account; and the refreshment room
being thrown open, all the people who had ever been there before,
scrambled in with all possible despatch: Mrs. Leo Hunter's usual course
of proceeding being, to issue cards for a hundred, and breakfast for
fifty, or in other words to feed only the very particular lions, and
let the smaller animals take care of themselves.

"Where is Mr. Pott?" said Mrs. Leo Hunter, as she placed the aforesaid
lions around her.

"Here I am," said the editor, from the remotest end of the room; far
beyond all hope of food, unless something was done for him by the
hostess.

"Won't you come up here?"

"Oh pray don't mind him," said Mrs. Pott, in the most obliging
voice--"you give yourself a great deal of unnecessary trouble, Mrs.
Hunter. You'll do very well there, won't you--dear?"

"Certainly--love," replied the unhappy Pott, with a grim smile. Alas
for the knout! The nervous arm that wielded it, with such gigantic
force, on public characters, was paralysed beneath the glance of the
imperious Mrs. Pott.

Mrs. Leo Hunter looked round her in triumph. Count Smorltork was busily
engaged in taking notes of the contents of the dishes; Mr. Tupman
was doing the honours of the lobster salad to several lionesses,
with a degree of grace which no Brigand ever exhibited before; Mr.
Snodgrass having cut out the young gentleman who cut up the books
for the _Eatanswill Gazette_, was engaged in an impassioned argument
with the young lady who did the poetry; and Mr. Pickwick was making
himself universally agreeable. Nothing seemed wanting to render the
select circle complete, when Mr. Leo Hunter--whose department on
these occasions, was to stand about in doorways, and talk to the less
important people--suddenly called out--

"My dear; here's Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall."

"Oh dear," said Mrs. Leo Hunter, "how anxiously I have been expecting
him. Pray make room, to let Mr. Fitz-Marshall pass. Tell Mr.
Fitz-Marshall, my dear, to come up to me directly, to be scolded for
coming so late."

"Coming, my dear ma'am," cried a voice, "as quick as I can--crowds of
people--full room--hard work--very."

Mr. Pickwick's knife and fork fell from his hand. He stared across the
table at Mr. Tupman, who had dropped _his_ knife and fork, and was
looking as if he were about to sink into the ground without further
notice.

"Ah!" cried the voice, as its owner pushed his way among the last
five and twenty Turks, officers, cavaliers, and Charles the Seconds,
that remained between him and the table, "regular mangle--Baker's
patent--not a crease in my coat, after all this squeezing--might
have 'got up my linen' as I came along--ha! ha! not a bad idea,
that--queer thing to have it mangled when it's upon one, though--trying
process--very."

With these broken words, a young man dressed as a naval officer made
his way up to the table and presented to the astonished Pickwickians,
the identical form and features of Mr. Alfred Jingle.

The offender had barely time to take Mrs. Leo Hunter's proffered hand,
when his eyes encountered the indignant orbs of Mr. Pickwick.

"Hallo!" said Jingle. "Quite forgot--no directions to postilion--give
'em at once--back in a minute."

"The servant, or Mr. Hunter, will do it in a moment, Mr.
Fitz-Marshall," said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

"No, no--I'll do it--shan't be long--back in no time," replied Jingle.
With these words he disappeared among the crowd.

"Will you allow me to ask you, ma'am," said the excited Mr. Pickwick,
rising from his seat, "who that young man is, and where he resides?"

"He is a gentleman of fortune, Mr. Pickwick," said Mrs. Leo Hunter, "to
whom I very much want to introduce you. The Count will be delighted
with him."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Pickwick, hastily. "His residence----"

"Is at present at the Angel at Bury."

"At Bury?"

"At Bury St. Edmunds, not many miles from here. But dear me, Mr.
Pickwick, you are not going to leave us: surely, Mr. Pickwick, you
cannot think of going so soon."

But long before Mrs. Leo Hunter had finished speaking, Mr. Pickwick
had plunged through the throng, and reached the garden, whither he was
shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Tupman, who had followed his friend
closely.

"It's of no use," said Mr. Tupman. "He has gone."

"I know it," said Mr. Pickwick, "and I will follow him."

"Follow him! Where?" inquired Mr. Tupman.

"To the Angel at Bury," replied Mr. Pickwick, speaking very quickly.
"How do we know whom he is deceiving there? He deceived a worthy man
once, and we were the innocent cause. He shall not do it again, if I
can help it; I'll expose him! Where's my servant?"

"Here you are, sir," said Mr. Weller, emerging from a sequestered spot,
where he had been engaged in discussing a bottle of Madeira, which he
had abstracted from the breakfast-table, an hour or two before. "Here's
your servant, sir. Proud o' the title, as the Living Skellinton said,
ven they show'd him."

"Follow me instantly," said Mr. Pickwick. "Tupman, if I stay at Bury,
you can join me there, when I write. Till then, good-bye!"

Remonstrances were useless. Mr. Pickwick was roused, and his mind was
made up. Mr. Tupman returned to his companions; and in another hour had
drowned all present recollection of Mr. Alfred Jingle, or Mr. Charles
Fitz-Marshall, in an exhilarating quadrille and a bottle of champagne.
By that time, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, perched on the outside of
a stage coach, were every succeeding minute placing a less and less
distance between themselves and the good old town of Bury St. Edmunds.



CHAPTER XVI

[Illustration]

  _Too full of Adventure to be Briefly Described_


There is no month in the whole year, in which nature wears a more
beautiful appearance than in the month of August. Spring has many
beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month, but the charms of
this time of the year are enhanced by their contrast with the winter
season. August has no such advantage. It comes when we remember nothing
but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers--when the
recollection of snow, and ice, and bleak winds, has faded from our
minds as completely as they have disappeared from the earth,--and yet
what a pleasant time it is! Orchards and corn-fields ring with the hum
of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which
bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful
sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if
it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue. A mellow
softness appears to hang over the whole earth; the influence of the
season seems to extend itself to the very waggon, whose slow motion
across the well-reaped field, is perceptible only to the eye, but
strikes with no harsh sound upon the ear.

As the coach rolls swiftly past the fields and orchards which skirt
the road, groups of women and children, piling the fruit in sieves, or
gathering the scattered ears of corn, pause for an instant from their
labour, and shading the sun-burnt face with a still browner hand, gaze
upon the passengers with curious eyes, while some stout urchin, too
small to work, but too mischievous to be left at home, scrambles over
the side of the basket in which he has been deposited for security,
and kicks and screams with delight. The reaper stops in his work, and
stands with folded arms, looking at the vehicle as it whirls past; and
the rough cart-horses bestow a sleepy glance upon the smart coach team,
which says, as plainly as a horse's glance can, "It's all very fine to
look at, but slow going, over a heavy field, is better than warm work
like that, upon a dusty road, after all." You cast a look behind you,
as you turn a corner of the road. The women and children have resumed
their labour: the reaper once more stoops to his work: the cart-horses
have moved on: and all are again in motion.

The influence of a scene like this, was not lost upon the
well-regulated mind of Mr. Pickwick. Intent upon the resolution he had
formed, of exposing the real character of the nefarious Jingle, in any
quarter in which he might be pursuing his fraudulent designs, he sat
at first taciturn and contemplative, brooding over the means by which
his purpose could be best attained. By degrees his attention grew more
and more attracted by the objects around him; and at last he derived
as much enjoyment from the ride, as if it had been undertaken for the
pleasantest reason in the world.

"Delightful prospect, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Beats the chimbley pots, sir," replied Mr. Weller, touching his hat.

"I suppose you have hardly seen anything but chimney-pots and bricks
and mortar all your life, Sam?" said Mr. Pickwick, smiling.

"I worn't always a boots, sir," said Mr. Weller, with a shake of the
head. "I wos a vagginer's boy, once."

"When was that?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"When I wos first pitched neck and crop into the world, to play at
leap-frog with its troubles," replied Sam. "I wos a carrier's boy at
startin': then a vagginer's, then a helper, then a boots. Now I'm a
gen'l'm'n's servant. I shall be a gen'l'm'n myself one of these days,
perhaps, with a pipe in my mouth, and a summer-house in the back
garden. Who knows? _I_ shouldn't be surprised, for one."

"You are quite a philosopher, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"It runs in the family, I b'lieve, sir," replied Mr. Weller. "My
father's wery much in that line now. If my mother-in-law blows him up,
he whistles. She flies in a passion, and breaks his pipe; he steps out,
and gets another. Then she screams wery loud, and falls into 'sterics;
and he smokes very comfortably 'till she comes to agin. That's
philosophy, sir, an't it?"

"A very good substitute for it, at all events," replied Mr. Pickwick,
laughing. "It must have been of great service to you, in the course of
your rambling life, Sam."

"Service, sir," exclaimed Sam. "You may say that. Arter I run away from
the carrier, and afore I took up with the vagginer, I had unfurnished
lodgings for a fortnight."

"Unfurnished lodgings?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes--the dry arches of Waterloo Bridge. Fine sleeping-place--within
ten minutes' walk of all the public offices--only if there is any
objection to it, it is that the sitivation's _rayther_ too airy. I see
some queer sights there."

"Ah, I suppose you did," said Mr. Pickwick, with an air of considerable
interest.

"Sights, sir," resumed Mr. Weller, "as 'ud penetrate your benevolent
heart, and come out on the other side. You don't see the reg'lar
wagrants there; trust 'em, they knows better than that. Young beggars,
male and female, as hasn't made a rise in their profession, takes
up their quarters there sometimes; but it's generally the worn-out,
starving, houseless creeturs as rolls themselves in the dark corners o'
them lonesome places--poor creeturs as ain't up to the twopenny rope."

"And pray, Sam, what is the twopenny rope?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"The twopenny rope, sir," replied Mr. Weller, "is just a cheap lodgin'
house, where the beds is twopence a night."

"What do they call a bed a rope for?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Bless your innocence, sir, that an't it," replied Sam. "Wen the lady
and gen'l'm'n as keeps the Hot-el first begun business they used to
make the beds on the floor; but this wouldn't do at no price, 'cos
instead o' taking a moderate two-penn'orth o' sleep, the lodgers used
to lie there half the day. So now they has two ropes, 'bout six foot
apart, and three from the floor, which goes right down the room; and
the beds are made of slips of coarse sacking, stretched across 'em."

"Well?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Well," said Mr. Weller, "the adwantage o' the plan's hobvious. At six
o'clock every mornin' they lets go the ropes at one end, and down falls
all the lodgers. 'Consequence is, that being thoroughly waked, they
get up wery quietly, and walk away! Beg your pardon, sir," said Sam,
suddenly breaking off in his loquacious discourse. "Is this Bury St.
Edmunds?"

"It is," replied Mr. Pickwick.

The coach rattled through the well-paved streets of a handsome little
town, of thriving and cleanly appearance, and stopped before a large
inn situated in a wide open street, nearly facing the old abbey.

"And this," said Mr. Pickwick, looking up, "is the Angel! We alight
here, Sam. But some caution is necessary. Order a private room, and do
not mention my name. You understand?"

"Right as a trivet, sir," replied Mr. Weller, with a wink of
intelligence; and having dragged Mr. Pickwick's portmanteau from the
hind boot, into which it had been hastily thrown when they joined the
coach at Eatanswill, Mr. Weller disappeared on his errand. A private
room was speedily engaged; and into it Mr. Pickwick was ushered without
delay.

"Now, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, "the first thing to be done is to----"

"Order dinner, sir," interposed Mr. Weller. "It's very late, sir."

"Ah, so it is," said Mr. Pickwick, looking at his watch. "You are
right, Sam."

"And if I might adwise, sir," added Mr. Weller, "I'd just have a good
night's rest arterwards, and not begin inquiring arter this here deep
'un 'till the mornin'. There's nothin' so refreshin' as sleep, sir, as
the servant-girl said afore she drank the egg-cupful o' laudanum."

"I think you are right, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick. "But I must first
ascertain that he is in the house, and not likely to go away."

"Leave that to me, sir," said Sam. "Let me order you a snug little
dinner, and make my inquiries below while it's a getting ready; I could
worm ev'ry secret out o' the boots's heart, in five minutes, sir."

"Do so," said Mr. Pickwick: and Mr. Weller at once retired.

In half an hour, Mr. Pickwick was seated at a very satisfactory dinner;
and in three-quarters Mr. Weller returned with the intelligence that
Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall had ordered his private room to be retained
for him, until further notice. He was going to spend the evening at
some private house in the neighbourhood, had ordered the boots to sit
up until his return, and had taken his servant with him.

"Now, sir," argued Mr. Weller, when he had concluded his report, "if I
can get a talk with this here servant in the mornin', he'll tell me all
his master's concerns."

"How do you know that?" interposed Mr. Pickwick.

"Bless your heart, sir, servants always do," replied Mr. Weller.

"Oh, ah, I forgot that," said Mr. Pickwick. "Well?"

"Then you can arrange what's best to be done, sir, and we can act
according."

As it appeared that this was the best arrangement that could be made,
it was finally agreed upon. Mr. Weller, by his master's permission,
retired to spend the evening in his own way; and was shortly afterwards
elected, by the unanimous voice of the assembled company, into the
tap-room chair, in which honourable post he acquitted himself so much
to the satisfaction of the gentlemen-frequenters, that their roars of
laughter and approbation penetrated to Mr. Pickwick's bed-room, and
shortened the term of his natural rest by at least three hours.

Early on the ensuing morning, Mr. Weller was dispelling all the
feverish remains of the previous evening's conviviality, through
the instrumentality of a halfpenny shower-bath (having induced a
young gentleman attached to the stable-department, by the offer of
that coin, to pump over his head and face, until he was perfectly
restored), when he was attracted by the appearance of a young fellow
in mulberry-coloured livery, who was sitting on a bench in the
yard, reading what appeared to be a hymn-book, with an air of deep
abstraction, but who occasionally stole a glance at the individual
under the pump, as if he took some interest in his proceedings,
nevertheless.

"You're a rum 'un to look at, you are!" thought Mr. Weller, the first
time his eyes encountered the glance of the stranger in the mulberry
suit: who had a large, sallow, ugly face, very sunken eyes, and a
gigantic head, from which depended a quantity of lank black hair.
"You're a rum 'un!" thought Mr. Weller; and thinking this, he went on
washing himself, and thought no more about him.

Still the man kept glancing from his hymn-book to Sam, and from Sam to
his hymn-book, as if he wanted to open a conversation. So at last, Sam,
by way of giving him an opportunity, said with a familiar nod--

"How are you, governor?"

"I am happy to say I am pretty well, sir," said the man, speaking with
great deliberation, and closing the book. "I hope you are the same,
sir?"

"Why, if I felt less like a walking brandy-bottle, I shouldn't be quite
so staggery this mornin'," replied Sam. "Are you stoppin' in this
house, old 'un?"

The mulberry man replied in the affirmative.

"How was it you worn't one of us, last night?" inquired Sam, scrubbing
his face with the towel. "You seem one of the jolly sort--looks as
conwivial as a live trout in a lime-basket," added Mr. Weller, in an
under-tone.

"I was out last night, with my master," replied the stranger.

"What's his name?" inquired Mr. Weller, colouring up very red with
sudden excitement, and the friction of the towel combined.

"Fitz-Marshall," said the mulberry man.

"Give us your hand," said Mr. Weller, advancing; "I should like to know
you. I like your appearance, old fellow."

"Well, that is very strange," said the mulberry man, with great
simplicity of manner. "I like yours so much, that I wanted to speak to
you, from the very first moment I saw you under the pump."

"Did you though?"

"Upon my word. Now, isn't that curious?"

[Illustration: "_Looks as conwivial as a live trout in a lime-basket_"]

"Wery sing'ler," said Sam, inwardly congratulating himself upon the
softness of the stranger. "What's your name, my patriarch?"

"Job."

"And a wery good name it is--only one I know, that an't got a nickname
to it. What's the other name?"

"Trotter," said the stranger. "What is yours?"

Sam bore in mind his master's caution, and replied--

"My name's Walker: my master's name's Wilkins. Will you take a drop o'
somethin' this mornin', Mr. Trotter?"

Mr. Trotter acquiesced in this agreeable proposal; and having deposited
his book in his coat-pocket, accompanied Mr. Weller to the tap, where
they were soon occupied in discussing an exhilarating compound, formed
by mixing together, in a pewter vessel, certain quantities of British
Hollands, and the fragrant essence of the clove.

"And what sort of a place have you got?" inquired Sam, as he filled his
companion's glass, for the second time.

"Bad," said Job, smacking his lips, "very bad."

"You don't mean that?" said Sam.

"I do, indeed. Worse than that, my master's going to be married."

"No."

"Yes; and worse than that, too, he's going to run away with an immense
rich heiress, from boarding-school."

"What a dragon!" said Sam, refilling his companion's glass. "It's some
boarding-school in this town, I suppose, an't it?"

Now, although this question was put in the most careless tone
imaginable, Mr. Job Trotter plainly showed by gestures, that he
perceived his new friend's anxiety to draw forth an answer to it. He
emptied his glass, looked mysteriously at his companion, winked both of
his small eyes, one after the other, and finally made a motion with his
arm, as if he were working an imaginary pump-handle: thereby intimating
that he (Mr. Trotter) considered himself as undergoing the process of
being pumped by Mr. Samuel Weller.

"No, no," said Mr. Trotter, in conclusion, "that's not to be told to
everybody. That is a secret--a great secret, Mr. Walker."

As the mulberry man said this, he turned his glass upside down, as a
means of reminding his companion that he had nothing left wherewith
to slake his thirst. Sam observed the hint; and feeling the delicate
manner in which it was conveyed, ordered the pewter vessel to be
refilled, whereat the small eyes of the mulberry man glistened.

"And so it's a secret?" said Sam.

"I should rather suspect it was," said the mulberry man, sipping his
liquor, with a complacent face.

"I suppose your mas'r's wery rich?" said Sam.

Mr. Trotter smiled, and holding his glass in his left hand, gave four
distinct slaps on the pocket of his mulberry indescribables with his
right, as if to intimate that his master might have done the same
without alarming anybody much by the chinking of coin.

"Ah," said Sam, "that's the game, is it?"

The mulberry man nodded significantly.

"Well, and don't you think, old feller," remonstrated Mr. Weller, "that
if you let your master take in this here young lady, you're a precious
rascal?"

"I know that," said Job Trotter, turning upon his companion a
countenance of deep contrition, and groaning slightly. "I know that,
and that's what it is that preys upon my mind. But what am I to do?"

"Do!" said Sam; "di-wulge to the missis, and give up your master."

"Who'd believe me?" replied Job Trotter. "The young lady's considered
the very picture of innocence and discretion. She'd deny it, and so
would my master. Who'd believe me? I should lose my place, and get
indicted for a conspiracy, or some such thing; that's all I should take
by my motion."

"There's somethin' in that," said Sam, ruminating; "there's somethin'
in that."

"If I knew any respectable gentleman who would take the matter up,"
continued Mr. Trotter, "I might have some hope of preventing the
elopement; but there's the same difficulty, Mr. Walker, just the same.
I know no gentleman in this strange place, and ten to one if I did,
whether he would believe my story."

"Come this way," said Sam, suddenly jumping up, and grasping the
mulberry man by the arm. "My mas'r's the man you want, I see." And
after a slight resistance on the part of Job Trotter, Sam led his
newly-found friend to the apartment of Mr. Pickwick, to whom he
presented him, together with a brief summary of the dialogue we have
just repeated.

"I am very sorry to betray my master, sir," said Job Trotter, applying
to his eyes a pink checked pocket-handkerchief about six inches square.

"The feeling does you a great deal of honour," replied Mr. Pickwick;
"but it is your duty, nevertheless."

"I know it is my duty, sir," replied Job, with great emotion. "We
should all try to discharge our duty, sir, and I humbly endeavour to
discharge mine, sir; but it is a hard trial to betray a master, sir,
whose clothes you wear, and whose bread you eat, even though he is a
scoundrel, sir."

"You are a very good fellow," said Mr. Pickwick, much affected, "an
honest fellow."

"Come, come," interposed Sam, who had witnessed Mr. Trotter's tears
with considerable impatience, "blow this here water-cart bis'ness. It
won't do no good, this won't."

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, reproachfully, "I am sorry to find that you
have so little respect for this young man's feelings."

"His feelin's is all wery well, sir," replied Mr. Weller; "and as
they're so wery fine, and it's a pity he should lose 'em, I think he'd
better keep 'em in his own buzzum, than let 'em ewaporate in hot water,
'specially as they do no good. Tears never yet wound up a clock, or
worked a steam ingen'. The next time you go out to a smoking party,
young fellow, fill your pipe with that 'ere reflection; and for the
present just put that bit of pink gingham into your pocket. 'Tain't so
handsome that you need keep waving it about, as if you was a tight-rope
dancer."

"My man is in the right," said Mr. Pickwick, accosting Job, "although
his mode of expressing his opinion is somewhat homely, and occasionally
incomprehensible."

"He is, sir, very right," said Mr. Trotter, "and I will give way no
longer."

"Very well," said Mr. Pickwick. "Now, where is this boarding-school?"

"It is a large, old, red-brick house, just outside the town, sir,"
replied Job Trotter.

"And when," said Mr. Pickwick, "when is this villainous design to be
carried into execution--when is this elopement to take place?"

"To-night, sir," replied Job.

"To-night!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

"This very night, sir," replied Job Trotter. "That is what alarms me so
much."

"Instant measures must be taken," said Mr. Pickwick. "I will see the
lady who keeps the establishment immediately."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Job, "but that course of proceeding will
never do."

"Why not?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"My master, sir, is a very artful man."

"I know he is," said Mr. Pickwick.

"And he has so wound himself round the old lady's heart, sir," resumed
Job, "that she would believe nothing to his prejudice, if you went down
on your bare knees, and swore it; especially as you have no proof but
the word of a servant, who, for anything she knows (and my master would
be sure to say so), was discharged for some fault, and does this in
revenge."

"What had better be done, then?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Nothing but taking him in the very fact of eloping, will convince the
old lady, sir," replied Job.

"All them old cats _will_ run their heads agin mile-stones," observed
Mr. Weller in a parenthesis.

"But this taking him in the very act of elopement, would be a very
difficult thing to accomplish, I fear," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I don't know, sir," said Mr. Trotter, after a few moments' reflection.
"I think it might be very easily done."

"How?" was Mr. Pickwick's inquiry.

"Why," replied Mr. Trotter, "my master and I, being in the confidence
of the two servants, will be secreted in the kitchen at ten o'clock.
When the family have retired to rest, we shall come out of the kitchen,
and the young lady out of her bedroom. A post-chaise will be waiting,
and away we go."

"Well?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were in waiting in the
garden behind, alone----"

"Alone," said Mr. Pickwick. "Why alone?"

"I thought it very natural," replied Job, "that the old lady wouldn't
like such an unpleasant discovery to be made before more persons
than can possibly be helped. The young lady, too, sir--consider her
feelings."

"You are very right," said Mr. Pickwick. "The consideration evinces
your delicacy of feeling. Go on; you are very right."

"Well, sir, I have been thinking that if you were waiting in the back
garden alone, and I was to let you in, at the door which opens into it,
from the end of the passage, at exactly half-past eleven o'clock, you
would be just in the very moment of time to assist me in frustrating
the designs of this bad man, by whom I have been unfortunately
ensnared." Here Mr. Trotter sighed deeply.

"Don't distress yourself on that account," said Mr. Pickwick; "if he
had one grain of the delicacy of feeling, which distinguishes you,
humble as your station is, I should have some hopes of him."

Job Trotter bowed low; and in spite of Mr. Weller's previous
remonstrance, the tears again rose to his eyes.

"I never see such a feller," said Sam. "Blessed if I don't think he's
got a main in his head as is always turned on."

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, with great severity. "Hold your tongue."

"Wery well, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"I don't like this plan," said Mr. Pickwick, after deep meditation.
"Why cannot I communicate with the young lady's friends?"

"Because they live one hundred miles from here, sir," responded Job
Trotter.

"That's a clincher," said Mr. Weller, aside.

"Then this garden," resumed Mr. Pickwick. "How am I to get into it?"

"The wall is very low, sir, and your servant will give you a leg up."

"My servant will give me a leg up," repeated Mr. Pickwick,
mechanically. "You will be sure to be near this door that you speak of?"

"You cannot mistake it, sir; it's the only one that opens into the
garden. Tap at it when you hear the clock strike, and I will open it
instantly."

"I don't like the plan," said Mr. Pickwick; "but as I see no other,
and as the happiness of this young lady's whole life is at stake, I
adopt it. I shall be sure to be there."

Thus, for the second time, did Mr. Pickwick's innate good-feeling
involve him in an enterprise from which he would most willingly have
stood aloof.

"What is the name of the house?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Westgate House, sir. You turn a little to the right when you get to
the end of the town; it stands by itself, some little distance off the
high road, with the name on a brass plate on the gate."

"I know it," said Mr. Pickwick. "I observed it once before, when I was
in this town. You may depend upon me."

Mr. Trotter made another bow, and turned to depart, when Mr. Pickwick
thrust a guinea into his hand.

"You're a fine fellow," said Mr. Pickwick, "and I admire your goodness
of heart. No thanks. Remember--eleven o'clock."

"There is no fear of my forgetting it, sir," replied Job Trotter. With
these words he left the room, followed by Sam.

"I say," said the latter, "not a bad notion that 'ere crying. I'd cry
like a rainwater spout in a shower on such good terms. How do you do
it?"

"It comes from the heart, Mr. Walker," replied Job, solemnly. "Good
morning, sir."

"You're a soft customer, you are;--we've got it all out o' you,
anyhow," thought Mr. Weller, as Job walked away.

We cannot state the precise nature of the thoughts which passed through
Mr. Trotter's mind, because we don't know what they were.

The day wore on, evening came, and a little before ten o'clock Sam
Weller reported that Mr. Jingle and Job had gone out together, that
their luggage was packed up, and that they had ordered a chaise. The
plot was evidently in execution, as Mr. Trotter had foretold.

Half-past ten o'clock arrived, and it was time for Mr. Pickwick to
issue forth on his delicate errand. Resisting Sam's tender of his
great-coat, in order that he might have no incumbrance in scaling the
wall, he set forth, followed by his attendant.

There was a bright moon, but it was behind the clouds. It was a fine
dry night, but it was most uncommonly dark. Paths, hedges, fields,
houses and trees, were enveloped in one deep shade. The atmosphere was
hot and sultry, the summer lightning quivered faintly on the verge
of the horizon, and was the only sight that varied the dull gloom in
which everything was wrapped--sound there was none, except the distant
barking of some restless house-dog.

They found the house, read the brass plate, walked round the wall, and
stopped at that portion of it which divided them from the bottom of the
garden.

"You will return to the inn, Sam, when you have assisted me over," said
Mr. Pickwick.

"Wery well, sir."

"And you will sit up, till I return."

"Cert'nly, sir."

"Take hold of my leg; and when I say 'Over,' raise me gently."

"All right, sir."

Having settled these preliminaries, Mr. Pickwick grasped the top of
the wall, and gave the word "Over," which was very literally obeyed.
Whether his body partook in some degree of the elasticity of his mind,
or whether Mr. Weller's notions of a gentle push were of a somewhat
rougher description than Mr. Pickwick's, the immediate effect of his
assistance was to jerk that immortal gentleman completely over the wall
on to the bed beneath, where, after crushing three gooseberry-bushes
and a rose-tree, he finally alighted at full length.

"You ha'n't hurt yourself, I hope, sir?" said Sam, in a loud whisper,
as soon as he recovered from the surprise consequent upon the
mysterious disappearance of his master.

"I have not hurt _myself_, Sam, certainly," replied Mr. Pickwick, from
the other side of the wall, "but I rather think that _you_ have hurt
me."

"I hope not, sir," said Sam.

"Never mind," said Mr. Pickwick, rising, "it's nothing but a few
scratches. Go away, or we shall be overheard."

"Good-bye, sir."

"Good-bye."

With stealthy step, Sam Weller departed, leaving Mr. Pickwick alone in
the garden.

Lights occasionally appeared in the different windows of the house, or
glanced from the staircases, as if the inmates were retiring to rest.
Not caring to go too near the door, until the appointed time, Mr.
Pickwick crouched into an angle of the wall, and awaited its arrival.

It was a situation which might well have depressed the spirits of many
a man. Mr. Pickwick, however, felt neither depression nor misgiving.
He knew that his purpose was in the main a good one, and he placed
implicit reliance on the high-minded Job. It was dull, certainly; not
to say dreary; but a contemplative man can always employ himself in
meditation. Mr. Pickwick had meditated himself into a doze, when he
was roused by the chimes of the neighbouring church ringing out the
hour--half-past eleven.

"That is the time," thought Mr. Pickwick, getting cautiously on his
feet. He looked up at the house. The lights had disappeared, and the
shutters were closed--all in bed, no doubt. He walked on tip-toe to
the door, and gave a gentle tap. Two or three minutes passing without
any reply, he gave another tap rather louder, and then another rather
louder than that.

At length the sound of feet was audible upon the stairs, and then the
light of a candle shone through the key-hole of the door. There was a
good deal of unchaining and unbolting, and the door was slowly opened.

Now the door opened outwards: and as the door opened wider and
wider, Mr. Pickwick receded behind it, more and more. What was his
astonishment when he just peeped out, by way of caution, to see that
the person who had opened it was--not Job Trotter, but a servant-girl
with a candle in her hand! Mr. Pickwick drew in his head again, with
the swiftness displayed by that admirable melodramatic performer,
Punch, when he lies in wait for the flat-headed comedian with the tin
box of music.

"It must have been the cat, Sarah," said the girl, addressing herself
to some one in the house. "Puss, puss, puss,--tit, tit, tit."

But no animal being decoyed by these blandishments, the girl slowly
closed the door, and re-fastened it; leaving Mr. Pickwick drawn up
straight against the wall.

"This is very curious," thought Mr. Pickwick. "They are sitting up
beyond their usual hour, I suppose. Extremely unfortunate, that
they should have chosen this night, of all others, for such a
purpose--exceedingly." And with these thoughts, Mr. Pickwick cautiously
retired to the angle of the wall in which he had been before ensconced;
waiting until such time as he might deem it safe to repeat the signal.

He had not been here five minutes, when a vivid flash of lightning was
followed by a loud peal of thunder that crashed and rolled away in the
distance with a terrific noise--then came another flash of lightning,
brighter than the other, and a second peal of thunder, louder than the
first; and then down came the rain, with a force and fury that swept
everything before it.

Mr. Pickwick was perfectly aware that a tree is a very dangerous
neighbour in a thunderstorm. He had a tree on his right, a tree on his
left, a third before him, and a fourth behind. If he remained where he
was, he might fall the victim of an accident; if he showed himself in
the centre of the garden, he might be consigned to a constable;--once
or twice he tried to scale the wall, but having no other legs this
time, than those with which Nature had furnished him, the only effect
of his struggles was to inflict a variety of very unpleasant gratings
on his knees and shins, and to throw him into a state of the most
profuse perspiration.

"What a dreadful situation!" said Mr. Pickwick, pausing to wipe his
brow after this exercise. He looked up at the house--all was dark. They
must be gone to bed now. He would try the signal again.

He walked on tip-toe across the moist gravel, and tapped at the door.
He held his breath, and listened at the key-hole. No reply: very odd.
Another knock. He listened again. There was a low whispering inside,
and then a voice cried--

"Who's there?"

"That's not Job," thought Mr. Pickwick, hastily drawing himself
straight up against the wall again. "It's a woman."

He had scarcely had time to form this conclusion when a window above
stairs was thrown up, and three or four female voices repeated the
query--"Who's there?"

[Illustration: "_Who's there?_" _screamed a numerous chorus of treble
voices_]

Mr. Pickwick dared not move hand or foot. It was clear that the whole
establishment was roused. He made up his mind to remain where he was,
until the alarm had subsided: and then by a supernatural effort, to get
over the wall, or perish in the attempt.

Like all Mr. Pickwick's determinations, this was the best that could be
made under the circumstances; but, unfortunately, it was founded upon
the assumption that they would not venture to open the door again. What
was his discomfiture, when he heard the chain and bolts withdrawn, and
saw the door slowly opening, wider and wider! He retreated into the
corner, step by step; but do what he would, the interposition of his
own person prevented its being opened to its utmost width.

"Who's there?" screamed a numerous chorus of treble voices from the
staircase inside, consisting of the spinster lady of the establishment,
three teachers, five female servants, and thirty boarders, all
half-dressed, and in a forest of curl-papers.

Of course Mr. Pickwick didn't say who _was_ there: and then the burden
of the chorus changed into--"Lor'! I am so frightened."

"Cook," said the lady abbess, who took care to be on the top stair, the
very last of the group--"Cook, why don't you go a little way into the
garden?"

"Please, ma'am, I don't like," responded the cook.

"Lor', what a stupid thing that cook is!" said the thirty boarders.

"Cook," said the lady abbess, with great dignity; "don't answer me, if
you please. I insist upon your looking into the garden immediately."

Here the cook began to cry, and the housemaid said it was "a shame!"
for which partisanship she received a month's warning on the spot.

"Do you hear, cook?" said the lady abbess, stamping her foot
impatiently.

"Don't you hear your missis, cook?" said the three teachers.

"What an impudent thing that cook is!" said the thirty boarders.

The unfortunate cook, thus strongly urged, advanced a step or two, and
holding her candle just where it prevented her from seeing anything at
all, declared there was nothing there, and it must have been the wind.
The door was just going to be closed in consequence when an inquisitive
boarder, who had been peeping between the hinges, set up a fearful
screaming, which called back the cook and the housemaid, and all the
more adventurous, in no time.

"What is the matter with Miss Smithers?" said the lady abbess, as the
aforesaid Miss Smithers proceeded to go into hysterics of four young
lady power.

"Lor', Miss Smithers dear," said the other nine-and-twenty boarders.

"Oh, the man--the man--behind the door!" screamed Miss Smithers.

The lady abbess no sooner heard this appalling cry, than she
retreated to her own bed-room, double-locked the door, and fainted
away comfortably. The boarders, and the teachers, and the servants,
fell back upon the stairs, and upon each other; and never was such
a screaming, and fainting, and struggling beheld. In the midst of
the tumult, Mr. Pickwick emerged from his concealment, and presented
himself amongst them.

"Ladies--dear ladies," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Oh, he says we're dear," cried the oldest and ugliest teacher. "Oh the
wretch!"

"Ladies!" roared Mr. Pickwick, rendered desperate by the danger of his
situation. "Hear me. I am no robber. I want the lady of the house."

"Oh, what a ferocious monster," screamed another teacher. "He wants
Miss Tomkins."

Here there was a general scream.

"Ring the alarm bell, somebody!" cried a dozen voices.

"Don't--don't!" shouted Mr. Pickwick. "Look at me. Do I look like a
robber? My dear ladies--you may bind me hand and leg, or lock me up in
a closet, if you like. Only hear what I have got to say--only hear me."

"How did you come in our garden?" faltered the housemaid.

"Call the lady of the house, and I'll tell her everything--everything:"
said Mr. Pickwick, exerting his lungs to the utmost pitch. "Call
her--only be quiet, and call her, and you shall hear everything."

It might have been Mr. Pickwick's appearance, or it might have been
his manner, or it might have been the temptation--irresistible to a
female mind--of hearing something at present enveloped in mystery, that
reduced the more reasonable portion of the establishment (some four
individuals) to a state of comparative quiet. By them it was proposed,
as a test of Mr. Pickwick's sincerity, that he should immediately
submit to personal restraint; and that gentleman having consented to
hold a conference with Miss Tomkins, from the interior of a closet
in which the day boarders hung their bonnets and sandwich-bags, he at
once stepped into it, of his own accord, and was securely locked in.
This revived the others; and Miss Tomkins having been brought to, and
brought down, the conference began.

"What did you do in my garden, Man?" said Miss Tomkins, in a faint
voice.

"I came to warn you, that one of your young ladies was going to elope
to-night," replied Mr. Pickwick, from the interior of the closet.

"Elope!" exclaimed Miss Tomkins, the three teachers, the thirty
boarders, and the five servants. "Who with?"

"Your friend, Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall."

"_My_ friend! I don't know any such person."

"Well! Mr. Jingle, then."

"I never heard the name in my life."

"Then, I have been deceived, and deluded," said Mr. Pickwick. "I have
been the victim of a conspiracy--a foul and base conspiracy. Send to
the Angel, my dear ma'am, if you don't believe me. Send to the Angel
for Mr. Pickwick's man-servant, I implore you, ma'am."

"He must be respectable--he keeps a man-servant," said Miss Tomkins to
the writing and ciphering governess.

"It is my opinion, Miss Tomkins," said the writing and ciphering
governess, "that his man-servant keeps him. _I_ think he's a madman,
Miss Tomkins, and the other's his keeper."

"I think you are very right, Miss Gwynn," responded Miss Tomkins. "Let
two of the servants repair to the Angel, and let the others remain here
to protect us."

So two of the servants were despatched to the Angel in search of Mr.
Samuel Weller: and the remaining three stopped behind to protect Miss
Tomkins, and the three teachers, and the thirty boarders. And Mr.
Pickwick sat down in the closet, beneath a grove of sandwich bags,
and awaited the return of the messengers, with all the philosophy and
fortitude he could summon to his aid.

An hour and a half elapsed before they came back, and when they did
come, Mr. Pickwick recognised, in addition to the voice of Mr. Samuel
Weller, two other voices, the tones of which struck familiarly on his
ear; but whose they were, he could not for the life of him call to mind.

A very brief conversation ensued. The door was unlocked. Mr. Pickwick
stepped out of the closet, and found himself in the presence of the
whole establishment of Westgate House, Mr. Samuel Weller, and--old
Wardle, and his destined son-in-law, Mr. Trundle!

"My dear friend," said Mr. Pickwick, running forward and grasping
Wardle's hand, "my dear friend, pray, for Heaven's sake, explain to
this lady the unfortunate and dreadful situation in which I am placed.
You must have heard it from my servant; say at all events, my dear
fellow, that I am neither a robber nor a madman."

"I have said so, my dear friend. I have said so already," replied Mr.
Wardle, shaking the right hand of his friend, while Mr. Trundle shook
the left.

"And whoever says, or has said, he is," interposed Mr. Weller, stepping
forward, "says that which is not the truth, but so far from it, on
the contrary, quite the rewerse. And if there's any number o' men on
these here premises as has said so, I shall be wery happy to give 'em
all a wery convincing proof o' their being mistaken, in this here wery
room, if these wery respectable ladies 'll have the goodness to retire,
and order 'em up, one at a time." Having delivered this defiance with
great volubility, Mr. Weller struck his open palm emphatically with his
clenched fist, and winked pleasantly on Miss Tomkins: the intensity of
whose horror at his supposing it within the bounds of possibility that
there could be any men on the premises of Westgate House Establishment
for Young Ladies, it is impossible to describe.

Mr. Pickwick's explanation having already been partially made, was soon
concluded. But neither in the course of his walk home with his friends,
nor afterwards when seated before a blazing fire at the supper he so
much needed, could a single observation be drawn from him. He seemed
bewildered and amazed. Once, and only once, he turned round to Mr.
Wardle and said--

"How did you come here?"

"Trundle and I came down here, for some good shooting on the first,"
replied Wardle. "We arrived to-night, and were astonished to hear from
your servant that you were here too. But I am glad you are," said the
old fellow, slapping him on the back. "I am glad you are. We shall have
a jovial party on the first, and we'll give Winkle another chance--eh,
old boy?"

Mr. Pickwick made no reply; he did not even ask after his friends at
Dingley Dell, and shortly afterwards retired for the night, desiring
Sam to fetch his candle when he rung.

The bell did ring in due course, and Mr. Weller presented himself.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, looking out from under the bed-clothes.

"Sir?" said Mr. Weller.

Mr. Pickwick paused, and Mr. Weller snuffed the candle.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick again, as with a desperate effort.

"Sir?" said Mr. Weller, once more.

"Where is that Trotter?"

"Job, sir?"

"Yes."

"Gone, sir."

"With his master, I suppose?"

"Friend or master, or whatever he is, he's gone with him," replied Mr.
Weller. "There's a pair on 'em, sir."

"Jingle suspected my design, and set that fellow on you, with this
story, I suppose?" said Mr. Pickwick, half choking.

"Just that, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"It was all false, of course?"

"All, sir," replied Mr. Weller. "Reg'lar do, sir; artful dodge."

"I don't think he'll escape us quite so easily the next time, Sam?"
said Mr. Pickwick.

"I don't think he will, sir."

"Whenever I meet that Jingle again, wherever it is," said Mr. Pickwick,
raising himself in bed, and indenting his pillow with a tremendous
blow, "I'll inflict personal chastisement on him, in addition to the
exposure he so richly merits. I will, or my name is not Pickwick."

"And venever I catches hold o' that there melan-cholly chap with the
black hair," said Sam, "if I don't bring some real water into his eyes,
for once in a way, my name an't Veller. Good night, sir!"



CHAPTER XVII

[Illustration]

  _Showing that an Attack of Rheumatism, in some cases, acts as a
    Quickener to Inventive Genius_


The constitution of Mr. Pickwick, though able to sustain a very
considerable amount of exertion and fatigue, was not proof against such
a combination of attacks as he had undergone on the memorable night,
recorded in the last chapter. The process of being washed in the night
air, and rough-dried in a closet, is as dangerous as it is peculiar.
Mr. Pickwick was laid up with an attack of rheumatism.

But although the bodily powers of the great man were thus impaired,
his mental energies retained their pristine vigour. His spirits were
elastic; his good humour was restored. Even the vexation consequent
upon his recent adventure had vanished from his mind; and he could join
in the hearty laughter which any allusion to it excited in Mr. Wardle,
without anger and without embarrassment. Nay, more. During the two days
Mr. Pickwick was confined to his bed, Sam was his constant attendant.
On the first, he endeavoured to amuse his master by anecdote and
conversation; on the second, Mr. Pickwick demanded his writing-desk,
and pen and ink, and was deeply engaged during the whole day. On the
third, being able to sit up in his bed-chamber, he despatched his valet
with a message to Mr. Wardle and Mr. Trundle, intimating that if they
would take their wine there, that evening, they would greatly oblige
him. The invitation was most willingly accepted; and when they were
seated over their wine, Mr. Pickwick, with sundry blushes, produced the
following little tale, as having been "edited" by himself, during his
recent indisposition, from his notes of Mr. Weller's unsophisticated
recital.


THE PARISH CLERK

A TALE OF TRUE LOVE

"Once upon a time, in a very small country town, at a considerable
distance from London, there lived a little man named Nathaniel Pipkin,
who was the parish clerk of the little town, and lived in a little
house in the little High Street, within ten minutes' walk of the
little church; and who was to be found every day from nine till four,
teaching a little learning to the little boys. Nathaniel Pipkin was
a harmless, inoffensive, good-natured being, with a turned-up nose,
and rather turned-in legs: a cast in his eye, and a halt in his gait;
and he divided his time between the church and his school, verily
believing that there existed not, on the face of the earth, so clever a
man as the curate, so imposing an apartment as the vestry-room, or so
well-ordered a seminary as his own. Once, and only once, in his life,
Nathaniel Pipkin had seen a bishop--a real bishop, with his arms in
lawn sleeves, and his head in a wig. He had seen him walk, and heard
him talk, at a confirmation, on which momentous occasion Nathaniel
Pipkin was so overcome with reverence and awe, when the aforesaid
bishop laid his hand on his head, that he fainted right clean away, and
was borne out of church in the arms of the beadle.

"This was a great event, a tremendous era, in Nathaniel Pipkin's life,
and it was the only one that had ever occurred to ruffle the smooth
current of his quiet existence, when happening one fine afternoon,
in a fit of mental abstraction, to raise his eyes from the slate on
which he was devising some tremendous problem in compound addition for
an offending urchin to solve, they suddenly rested on the blooming
countenance of Maria Lobbs, the only daughter of old Lobbs, the great
saddler over the way. Now, the eyes of Mr. Pipkin had rested on the
pretty face of Maria Lobbs many a time and oft before, at church and
elsewhere; but the eyes of Maria Lobbs had never looked so bright,
the cheeks of Maria Lobbs had never looked so ruddy, as upon this
particular occasion. No wonder then, that Nathaniel Pipkin was unable
to take his eyes from the countenance of Miss Lobbs; no wonder that
Miss Lobbs, finding herself stared at by a young man, withdrew her
head from the window out of which she had been peeping, and shut the
casement and pulled down the blind; no wonder that Nathaniel Pipkin,
immediately thereafter, fell upon the young urchin who had previously
offended, and cuffed and knocked him about, to his heart's content. All
this was very natural, and there's nothing at all to wonder at about it.

"It _is_ matter of wonder, though, that any one of Mr. Nathaniel
Pipkin's retiring disposition, nervous temperament, and most
particularly diminutive income, should from this day forth, have
dared to aspire to the hand and heart of the only daughter of the
fiery old Lobbs--of old Lobbs the great saddler, who could have
bought up the whole village at one stroke of his pen, and never felt
the outlay--old Lobbs, who was well known to have heaps of money,
invested in the bank at the nearest market town--old Lobbs, who was
reported to have countless and inexhaustible treasures, hoarded up in
the little iron safe with the big key-hole, over the chimney-piece
in the back parlour--old Lobbs, who, it was well known, on festive
occasions garnished his board with a real silver tea-pot, cream-ewer,
and sugar-basin, which he was wont, in the pride of his heart, to boast
should be his daughter's property when she found a man to her mind. I
repeat it, to be matter of profound astonishment and intense wonder,
that Nathaniel Pipkin should have had the temerity to cast his eyes
in this direction. But love is blind: and Nathaniel had a cast in his
eye: and perhaps these two circumstances, taken together, prevented his
seeing the matter in its proper light.

"Now, if old Lobbs had entertained the most remote or distant idea of
the state of the affections of Nathaniel Pipkin, he would just have
razed the school-room to the ground, or exterminated its master from
the surface of the earth, or committed some other outrage and atrocity
of an equally ferocious and violent description; for he was a terrible
old fellow, was Lobbs, when his pride was injured, or his blood was
up. Swear! Such trains of oaths would come rolling and pealing over
the way, sometimes, when he was denouncing the idleness of the bony
apprentice with the thin legs, that Nathaniel Pipkin would shake in his
shoes with horror, and the hair of the pupils' heads would stand on end
with fright.

"Well! Day after day, when school was over, and the pupils gone, did
Nathaniel Pipkin sit himself down at the front window, and while he
feigned to be reading a book, throw sidelong glances over the way in
search of the bright eyes of Maria Lobbs; and he hadn't sat there many
days, before the bright eyes appeared at an upper window, apparently
deeply engaged in reading too. This was delightful, and gladdening
to the heart of Nathaniel Pipkin. It was something to sit there for
hours together, and look upon that pretty face when the eyes were cast
down; but when Maria Lobbs began to raise her eyes from her book, and
dart their rays in the direction of Nathaniel Pipkin, his delight and
admiration were perfectly boundless. At last, one day, when he knew
old Lobbs was out, Nathaniel Pipkin had the temerity to kiss his hand
to Maria Lobbs; and Maria Lobbs, instead of shutting the window, and
pulling down the blind, kissed _hers_ to him, and smiled. Upon which,
Nathaniel Pipkin determined that, come what might, he would develop the
state of his feelings, without further delay.

"A prettier foot, a gayer heart, a more dimpled face, or a smarter
form, never bounded so lightly over the earth they graced, as did
those of Maria Lobbs, the old saddler's daughter. There was a roguish
twinkle in her sparkling eyes, that would have made its way to far less
susceptible bosoms than that of Nathaniel Pipkin; and there was such
a joyous sound in her merry laugh, that the sternest misanthrope must
have smiled to hear it. Even old Lobbs himself, in the very height of
his ferocity, couldn't resist the coaxing of his pretty daughter; and
when she, and her cousin Kate--an arch, impudent-looking, bewitching
little person--made a dead set upon the old man together, as, to say
the truth, they very often did, he could have refused them nothing,
even had they asked for a portion of the countless and inexhaustible
treasures which were hidden from the light in the iron safe.

"Nathaniel Pipkin's heart beat high within him, when he saw this
enticing little couple some hundred yards before him one summer's
evening, in the very field in which he had many a time strolled about
till night-time, and pondered on the beauty of Maria Lobbs. But though
he had often thought then, how briskly he would walk up to Maria
Lobbs and tell her of his passion if he could only meet her, he felt,
now that she was unexpectedly before him, all the blood in his body
mounting to his face, manifestly to the great detriment of his legs,
which, deprived of their usual portion, trembled beneath him. When they
stopped to gather a hedge-flower, or listen to a bird, Nathaniel Pipkin
stopped too, and pretended to be absorbed in meditation, as indeed he
really was; for he was thinking what on earth he should ever do, when
they turned back, as they inevitably must in time, and meet him face
to face. But though he was afraid to make up to them, he couldn't bear
to lose sight of them; so when they walked faster he walked faster,
when they lingered he lingered, and when they stopped he stopped; and
so they might have gone on, until the darkness prevented them, if
Kate had not looked slyly back, and encouragingly beckoned Nathaniel
to advance. There was something in Kate's manner that was not to be
resisted, and so Nathaniel Pipkin complied with the invitation; and
after a great deal of blushing on his part, and immoderate laughter on
that of the wicked little cousin, Nathaniel Pipkin went down on his
knees on the dewy grass, and declared his resolution to remain there
for ever, unless he were permitted to rise the accepted lover of Maria
Lobbs. Upon this, the merry laughter of Maria Lobbs rang through the
calm evening air--without seeming to disturb it, though; it had such a
pleasant sound--and the wicked little cousin laughed more immoderately
than before, and Nathaniel Pipkin blushed deeper than ever. At length,
Maria Lobbs being more strenuously urged by the love-worn little man,
turned away her head, and whispered her cousin to say, or at all events
Kate _did_ say, that she felt much honoured by Mr. Pipkin's addresses;
that her hand and heart were at her father's disposal; but that nobody
could be insensible to Mr. Pipkin's merits. As all this was said with
much gravity, and as Nathaniel Pipkin walked home with Maria Lobbs,
and struggled for a kiss at parting, he went to bed a happy man, and
dreamed all night long, of softening old Lobbs, opening the strong box,
and marrying Maria.

"The next day, Nathaniel Pipkin saw old Lobbs go out upon his old
grey pony, and after a great many signs at the window from the wicked
little cousin, the object and meaning of which he could by no means
understand, the bony apprentice with the thin legs came over to say
that his master wasn't coming home all night, and that the ladies
expected Mr. Pipkin to tea, at six o'clock precisely. How the lessons
were got through that day, neither Nathaniel Pipkin nor his pupils
knew any more than you do; but they were got through somehow, and,
after the boys had gone, Nathaniel Pipkin took till full six o'clock to
dress himself to his satisfaction. Not that it took long to select the
garments he should wear, inasmuch as he had no choice about the matter;
but the putting of them on to the best advantage, and the touching
of them up previously, was a task of no inconsiderable difficulty or
importance.

"There was a very snug little party, consisting of Maria Lobbs and her
cousin Kate, and three or four romping, good-humoured, rosy-cheeked
girls. Nathaniel Pipkin had ocular demonstration of the fact, that
the rumours of old Lobbs's treasures were not exaggerated. There were
the real solid silver tea-pot, cream-ewer, and sugar-basin, on the
table, and real silver spoons to stir the tea with, and real china
cups to drink it out of, and plates of the same, to hold the cakes and
toast in. The only eyesore in the whole place was another cousin of
Maria Lobbs's, and a brother of Kate, whom Maria Lobbs called 'Henry,'
and who seemed to keep Maria Lobbs all to himself, up in one corner
of the table. It's a delightful thing to see affection in families,
but it may be carried rather too far, and Nathaniel Pipkin could not
help thinking that Maria Lobbs must be very particularly fond of her
relations, if she paid as much attention to all of them as to this
individual cousin. After tea, too, when the wicked little cousin
proposed a game at blindman's buff, it somehow or other happened that
Nathaniel Pipkin was nearly always blind, and whenever he laid his
hand upon the male cousin, he was sure to find that Maria Lobbs was
not far off. And though the wicked little cousin and the other girls
pinched him, and pulled his hair, and pushed chairs in his way, and
all sorts of things, Maria Lobbs never seemed to come near him at all;
and once--once--Nathaniel Pipkin could have sworn he heard the sound
of a kiss, followed by a faint remonstrance from Maria Lobbs, and a
half-suppressed laugh from her female friends. All this was odd--very
odd--and there is no saying what Nathaniel Pipkin might or might not
have done, in consequence, if his thoughts had not been suddenly
directed into a new channel.

"The circumstance which directed his thoughts into a new channel was
a loud knocking at the street door, and the person who made this loud
knocking at the street door, was no other than old Lobbs himself, who
had unexpectedly returned, and was hammering away like a coffin-maker;
for he wanted his supper. The alarming intelligence was no sooner
communicated by the bony apprentice with the thin legs, than the
girls tripped upstairs to Maria Lobbs's bed-room, and the male cousin
and Nathaniel Pipkin were thrust into a couple of closets in the
sitting-room, for want of any better places of concealment; and when
Maria Lobbs and the wicked little cousin had stowed them away, and put
the room to rights, they opened the street door to old Lobbs, who had
never left off knocking since he first began.

"Now it did unfortunately happen that old Lobbs, being very hungry, was
monstrous cross. Nathaniel Pipkin could hear him growling away like an
old mastiff with a sore throat; and whenever the unfortunate apprentice
with the thin legs came into the room, so surely did old Lobbs commence
swearing at him in a most Saracenic and ferocious manner, though
apparently with no other end or object than that of easing his bosom
by the discharge of a few superfluous oaths. At length some supper,
which had been warming up, was placed on the table, and then old Lobbs
fell to, in regular style; and having made clear work of it in no time,
kissed his daughter, and demanded his pipe.

"Nature had placed Nathaniel Pipkin's knees in very close
juxtaposition, but when he heard old Lobbs demand his pipe, they
knocked together, as if they were going to reduce each other to powder;
for, depending from a couple of hooks, in the very closet in which he
stood, was a large brown-stemmed, silver-bowled pipe, which pipe he
himself had seen in the mouth of old Lobbs, regularly every afternoon
and evening, for the last five years. The two girls went downstairs
for the pipe, and upstairs for the pipe, and everywhere but where they
knew the pipe was, and old Lobbs stormed away meanwhile, in the most
wonderful manner. At last he thought of the closet, and walked up to
it. It was of no use a little man like Nathaniel Pipkin pulling the
door inwards, when a great strong fellow like old Lobbs was pulling
it outwards. Old Lobbs gave it one tug, and open it flew, disclosing
Nathaniel Pipkin standing bolt upright inside, and shaking with
apprehension from head to foot. Bless us! what an appalling look old
Lobbs gave him, as he dragged him out by the collar, and held him at
arm's length.

[Illustration: "_Open it flew, disclosing Nathaniel Pipkin_"]

"'Why, what the devil do you want here?' said old Lobbs, in a fearful
voice.

"Nathaniel Pipkin could make no reply, so old Lobbs shook him backwards
and forwards, for two or three minutes, by way of arranging his ideas
for him.

"'What do you want here?' roared Lobbs. 'I suppose _you_ have come
after my daughter, now?'

"Old Lobbs merely said this as a sneer: for he did not believe that
mortal presumption could have carried Nathaniel Pipkin so far. What was
his indignation when that poor man replied:

"'Yes, I did, Mr. Lobbs. I did come after your daughter. I love her,
Mr. Lobbs.'

"'Why, you snivelling, wry-faced, puny villain,' gasped old Lobbs,
paralysed by the atrocious confession; 'what do you mean by that? Say
this to my face! Damme, I'll throttle you!'

"It is by no means improbable that old Lobbs would have carried this
threat into execution, in the excess of his rage, if his arm had not
been stayed by a very unexpected apparition, to wit, the male cousin,
who, stepping out of his closet, and walking up to old Lobbs, said:

"'I cannot allow this harmless person, sir, who has been asked here,
in some girlish frolic, to take upon himself, in a very noble manner,
the fault (if fault it is) which I am guilty of, and am ready to avow.
_I_ love your daughter, sir; and _I_ am here for the purpose of meeting
her.'

"Old Lobbs opened his eyes very wide at this, but not wider than
Nathaniel Pipkin.

"'You did?' said Lobbs: at last finding breath to speak.

"'I did.'

"'And I forbade you this house, long ago.'

"'You did, or I should not have been here, clandestinely, to-night.'

"I am sorry to record it of old Lobbs, but I think he would have struck
the cousin, if his pretty daughter, with her bright eyes swimming in
tears, had not clung to his arm.

"'Don't stop him, Maria,' said the young man: 'if he has the will to
strike me, let him. I would not hurt a hair of his grey head, for the
riches of the world.'

"The old man cast down his eyes at this reproof, and they met those of
his daughter. I have hinted once or twice before, that they were very
bright eyes, and, though they were tearful now, their influence was by
no means lessened. Old Lobbs turned his head away, as if to avoid being
persuaded by them, when, as fortune would have it, he encountered the
face of the wicked little cousin, who, half afraid for her brother,
and half laughing at Nathaniel Pipkin, presented as bewitching an
expression of countenance, with a touch of shyness in it too, as any
man, old or young, need look upon. She drew her arm coaxingly through
the old man's, and whispered something in his ear; and do what he
would, old Lobbs couldn't help breaking out into a smile, while a tear
stole down his cheek at the same time.

"Five minutes after this, the girls were brought down from the bed-room
with a great deal of giggling and modesty; and while the young
people were making themselves perfectly happy, old Lobbs got down
the pipe, and smoked it: and it was a remarkable circumstance about
that particular pipe of tobacco, that it was the most soothing and
delightful one he ever smoked.

"Nathaniel Pipkin thought it best to keep his own counsel, and by so
doing gradually rose into high favour with old Lobbs, who taught him
to smoke in time; and they used to sit out in the garden on the fine
evenings, for many years afterwards, smoking and drinking in great
state. He soon recovered the effects of his attachment, for we find
his name in the parish register, as a witness to the marriage of
Maria Lobbs to her cousin; and it also appears, by reference to other
documents, that on the night of the wedding he was incarcerated in the
village cage, for having, in a state of extreme intoxication, committed
sundry excesses in the streets, in all of which he was aided and
abetted by the bony apprentice with the thin legs."



CHAPTER XVIII

[Illustration]

  _Briefly illustrative of Two Points;--First, the Power of
    Hysterics, and, secondly, the Force of Circumstances_


For two days after the breakfast at Mrs. Hunter's the Pickwickians
remained at Eatanswill, anxiously awaiting the arrival of some
intelligence from their revered leader. Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass
were once again left to their own means of amusement; for Mr. Winkle,
in compliance with a most pressing invitation, continued to reside
at Mr. Pott's house, and to devote his time to the companionship of
his amiable lady. Nor was the occasional society of Mr. Pott himself
wanting to complete their felicity. Deeply immersed in the intensity
of his speculations for the public weal and the destruction of the
_Independent_, it was not the habit of that great man to descend from
his mental pinnacle to the humble level of ordinary minds. On this
occasion, however, and as if expressly in compliment to any follower
of Mr. Pickwick's, he unbent, relaxed, stepped down from his pedestal,
and walked upon the ground; benignly adapting his remarks to the
comprehension of the herd, and seeming in outward form, if not in
spirit, to be one of them.

Such having been the demeanour of this celebrated public character
towards Mr. Winkle, it will be readily imagined that considerable
surprise was depicted on the countenance of the latter gentleman, when,
as he was sitting alone in the breakfast-room, the door was hastily
thrown open, and as hastily closed, on the entrance of Mr. Pott, who,
stalking majestically towards him, and thrusting aside his proffered
hand, ground his teeth, as if to put a sharper edge on what he was
about to utter, and exclaimed, in a saw-like voice,--

"Serpent!"

"Sir!" exclaimed Mr. Winkle, starting from his chair.

"Serpent, sir!" repeated Mr. Pott, raising his voice, and then suddenly
depressing it; "I said, Serpent, sir--make the most of it."

When you have parted with a man, at two o'clock in the morning, on
terms of the utmost good-fellowship, and he meets you again, at
half-past nine, and greets you as a serpent, it is not unreasonable to
conclude that something of an unpleasant nature has occurred meanwhile.
So Mr. Winkle thought. He returned Mr. Pott's gaze of stone, and in
compliance with that gentleman's request, proceeded to make the most
he could of the "serpent." The most, however, was nothing at all; so,
after a profound silence of some minutes' duration, he said--

"Serpent, sir! Serpent, Mr. Pott! What can you mean, sir?--this is
pleasantry."

"Pleasantry, sir!" exclaimed Pott, with a motion of the hand,
indicative of a strong desire to hurl the Britannia metal teapot at the
head of his visitor. "Pleasantry, sir!--but no, I will be calm, I will
be calm, sir;" in proof of his calmness, Mr. Pott flung himself into a
chair, and foamed at the mouth.

"My dear sir," interposed Mr. Winkle.

"_Dear_ sir!" replied Pott. "How dare you address me as dear sir, sir?
How dare you look me in the face and do it, sir?"

"Well, sir, if you come to that," responded Mr. Winkle, "how dare you
look _me_ in the face, and call me a serpent, sir?"

"Because you are one," replied Mr. Pott.

"Prove it, sir," said Mr. Winkle, warmly. "Prove it."

A malignant scowl passed over the profound face of the editor, as he
drew from his pocket the _Independent_ of that morning; and laying his
finger on a particular paragraph, threw the journal across the table to
Mr. Winkle.

That gentleman took it up, and read as follows:--

"Our obscure and filthy contemporary, in some disgusting observations
on the recent election for this borough, has presumed to violate the
hallowed sanctity of private life, and to refer, in a manner not to
be misunderstood, to the personal affairs of our late candidate--ay,
and notwithstanding his base defeat, we will add, our future member,
Mr. Fizkin. What does our dastardly contemporary mean? What would the
ruffian say, if we, setting at naught, like him, the decencies of
social intercourse, were to raise the curtain which happily conceals
+HIS+ private life from general ridicule, not to say from general
execration? What, if we were even to point out, and comment on,
facts and circumstances, which are publicly notorious, and beheld by
every one but our mole-eyed contemporary--what if we were to print
the following effusion, which we received while we were writing the
commencement of this article, from a talented fellow-townsman and
correspondent!


'LINES TO A BRASS POT

       'Oh Pott! if you'd known
        How false she'd have grown
    When you heard the marriage bells tinkle;
        You'd have done then, I vow,
        What you cannot help now,
    And handed her over to W*****'"

"What," said Mr. Pott, solemnly; "what rhymes to 'tinkle,' villain?"

"What rhymes to 'tinkle'?" said Mrs. Pott, whose entrance at the moment
forestalled the reply. "What rhymes to 'tinkle'? Why 'Winkle,' I should
conceive:" saying this, Mrs. Pott smiled sweetly on the disturbed
Pickwickian, and extended her hand towards him. The agitated young man
would have accepted it, in his confusion, had not Pott indignantly
interposed.

"Back, ma'am--back!" said the editor. "Take his hand before my very
face!"

"Mr. P.!" said his astonished lady.

"Wretched woman, look here," exclaimed the husband. "Look here,
ma'am--'Lines to a Brass Pot.' 'Brass pot;'--that's me, ma'am. 'False
_she_'d have grown;'--that's you, ma'am--you." With this ebullition of
rage, which was not unaccompanied with something like a tremble, at the
expression of his wife's face, Mr. Pott dashed the current number of
the _Eatanswill Independent_ at her feet.

"Upon my word, sir!" said the astonished Mrs. Pott, stooping to pick up
the paper. "Upon my word, sir!"

Mr. Pott winced beneath the contemptuous gaze of his wife. He had made
a desperate struggle to screw up his courage, but it was fast coming
unscrewed again.

There appears nothing very tremendous in this little sentence, "Upon my
word, sir!" when it comes to be read; but the tone of voice in which it
was delivered, and the look that accompanied it, both seeming to bear
reference to some revenge to be thereafter visited upon the head of
Pott, produced their full effect upon him. The most unskilful observer
could have detected in his troubled countenance, a readiness to resign
his Wellington boots to any efficient substitute who would have
consented to stand in them at that moment.

Mrs. Pott read the paragraph, uttered a loud shriek, and threw herself
at full length on the hearth-rug, screaming, and tapping it with the
heels of her shoes, in a manner which could leave no doubt of the
propriety of her feelings on the occasion.

"My dear," said the petrified Pott,--"I didn't say I believed it;--I--"
but the unfortunate man's voice was drowned in the screaming of his
partner.

"Mrs. Pott, let me entreat you, my dear ma'am, to compose yourself,"
said Mr. Winkle; but the shrieks and tappings were louder and more
frequent than ever.

"My dear," said Mr. Pott, "I'm very sorry. If you won't consider
your own health, consider me, my dear. We shall have a crowd round
the house." But the more strenuously Mr. Pott entreated, the more
vehemently the screams poured forth.

Very fortunately, however, attached to Mrs. Pott's person was a
body-guard of one, a young lady whose ostensible employment was to
preside over her toilet, but who rendered herself useful in a variety
of ways, and in none more so than in the particular department
of constantly aiding and abetting her mistress in every wish and
inclination opposed to the desires of the unhappy Pott. The screams
reached this young lady's ears in due course, and brought her into the
room with a speed which threatened to derange, materially, the very
exquisite arrangement of her cap and ringlets.

"Oh, my dear, dear mistress!" exclaimed the body-guard, kneeling
frantically by the side of the prostrate Mrs. Pott. "Oh, my dear
mistress, what is the matter?"

"Your master--your brutal master," murmured the patient.

Pott was evidently giving way.

"It's a shame," said the body-guard, reproachfully. "I know he'll be
the death of you, ma'am. Poor dear thing!"

He gave way more. The opposite party followed up the attack.

"Oh, don't leave me--don't leave me, Goodwin," murmured Mrs. Pott,
clutching at the wrist of the said Goodwin with an hysteric jerk.
"You're the only person that's kind to me, Goodwin."

At this affecting appeal, Goodwin got up a little domestic tragedy of
her own, and shed tears copiously.

"Never, ma'am--never," said Goodwin. "Oh, sir, you should be
careful--you should indeed; you don't know what harm you may do missis;
you'll be sorry for it one day, I know--I've always said so."

The unlucky Pott looked timidly on, but said nothing.

"Goodwin," said Mrs. Pott, in a soft voice.

"Ma'am," said Goodwin.

"If you only knew how I have loved that man----"

"Don't distress yourself by recollecting it, ma'am," said the
body-guard.

Pott looked very frightened. It was time to finish him.

"And now," sobbed Mrs. Pott, "now, after all, to be treated in
this way; to be reproached and insulted in the presence of a third
party, and that party almost a stranger. But I will not submit to
it! Goodwin," continued Mrs. Pott, raising herself in the arms of
her attendant, "my brother, the Lieutenant, shall interfere. I'll be
separated, Goodwin!"

"It would certainly serve him right, ma'am," said Goodwin.

Whatever thoughts the threat of a separation might have awakened in
Mr. Pott's mind, he forebore to give utterance to them, and contented
himself by saying, with great humility:

"My dear, will you hear me?"

A fresh train of sobs was the only reply, as Mrs. Pott grew more
hysterical, requested to be informed why she was ever born, and
required sundry other pieces of information of a similar description.

"My dear," remonstrated Mr. Pott, "do not give way to these sensitive
feelings. I never believed that the paragraph had any foundation, my
dear--impossible. I was only angry, my dear--I may say outrageous--with
the _Independent_ people for daring to insert it; that's all:" Mr. Pott
cast an imploring look at the innocent cause of the mischief, as if to
entreat him to say nothing about the serpent.

"And what steps, sir, do you mean to take to obtain redress?" inquired
Mr. Winkle, gaining courage as he saw Pott losing it.

"Oh, Goodwin," observed Mrs. Pott, "does he mean to horsewhip the
editor of the _Independent_--does he, Goodwin?"

"Hush, hush, ma'am; pray keep yourself quiet," replied the body-guard.
"I dare say he will, if you wish it, ma'am."

"Certainly," said Pott, as his wife evinced decided symptoms of going
off again. "Of course I shall."

"When, Goodwin--when?" said Mrs. Pott, still undecided about the going
off.

"Immediately, of course," said Mr. Pott; "before the day is out."

"Oh, Goodwin," resumed Mrs. Pott; "it's the only way of meeting the
slander, and setting me right with the world."

"Certainly, ma'am," replied Goodwin. "No man as is a man, ma'am, could
refuse to do it."

So, as the hysterics were still hovering about, Mr. Pott said once more
that he would do it; but Mrs. Pott was so overcome at the bare idea of
having ever been suspected, that she was half a dozen times on the very
verge of a relapse, and most unquestionably would have gone off, had it
not been for the indefatigable efforts of the assiduous Goodwin, and
repeated entreaties for pardon from the conquered Pott; and finally,
when that unhappy individual had been frightened and snubbed down to
his proper level, Mrs. Pott recovered, and they went to breakfast.

"You will not allow this base newspaper slander to shorten your stay
here, Mr. Winkle?" said Mrs. Pott, smiling through the traces of her
tears.

"I hope not," said Mr. Pott, actuated, as he spoke, by a wish that
his visitor would choke himself with the morsel of dry toast which
he was raising to his lips at the moment: and so terminate his stay
effectually. "I hope not."

"You are very good," said Mr. Winkle; "but a letter has been received
from Mr. Pickwick--so I learn by a note from Mr. Tupman, which was
brought up to my bed-room door, this morning--in which he requests us
to join him at Bury to-day; and we are to leave by the coach at noon."

"But you will come back?" said Mrs. Pott.

"Oh, certainly," replied Mr. Winkle.

"You are quite sure?" said Mrs. Pott, stealing a tender look at her
visitor.

"Quite," responded Mr. Winkle.

The breakfast passed off in silence, for each member of the party was
brooding over his, or her, own personal grievances. Mrs. Pott was
regretting the loss of a beau; Mr. Pott his rash pledge to horsewhip
the _Independent_; Mr. Winkle his having innocently placed himself in
so awkward a situation. Noon approached, and after many adieux and
promises to return, he tore himself away.

"If he ever comes back, I'll poison him," thought Mr. Pott, as he
turned into the little back office where he prepared his thunderbolts.

"If ever I do come back, and mix myself up with these people again,"
thought Mr. Winkle, as he wended his way to the Peacock, "I shall
deserve to be horsewhipped myself--that's all."

His friends were ready, the coach was nearly so, and in half an hour
they were proceeding on their journey, along the road over which Mr.
Pickwick and Sam had so recently travelled, and of which, as we have
already said something, we do not feel called upon to extract Mr.
Snodgrass's poetical and beautiful description.

Mr. Weller was standing at the door of the Angel, ready to receive
them, and by that gentleman they were ushered to the apartment of
Mr. Pickwick, where, to the no small surprise of Mr. Winkle and Mr.
Snodgrass, and the no small embarrassment of Mr. Tupman, they found old
Wardle and Trundle.

"How are you?" said the old man, grasping Mr. Tupman's hand. "Don't
hang back, or look sentimental about it; it can't be helped, old
fellow. For her sake, I wish you'd had her; for your own, I'm very
glad you have not. A young fellow like you will do better one of these
days--eh?" With this consolation, Wardle slapped Mr. Tupman on the
back, and laughed heartily.

"Well, and how are you, my fine fellows?" said the old gentleman,
shaking hands with Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass at the same time. "I
have just been telling Pickwick that we must have you all down at
Christmas. We're going to have a wedding--a real wedding this time."

"A wedding!" exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, turning very pale.

"Yes, a wedding. But don't be frightened," said the good-humoured old
man; "it's only Trundle there, and Bella."

"Oh, is that all!" said Mr. Snodgrass, relieved from a painful doubt
which had fallen heavily on his breast. "Give you joy, sir. How is Joe?"

"Very well," replied the old gentleman. "Sleepy as ever."

"And your mother, and the clergyman, and all of 'em?"

"Quite well."

"Where," said Mr. Tupman, with an effort--"where is--_she_, sir?" and
he turned away his head, and covered his eyes with his hand.

"_She!_" said the old gentleman, with a knowing shake of the head. "Do
you mean my single relative--eh?"

Mr. Tupman, by a nod, intimated that his question applied to the
disappointed Rachael.

"Oh, she's gone away," said the old gentleman. "She's living at a
relation's, far enough off. She couldn't bear to see the girls, so I
let her go. But come! Here's the dinner. You must be hungry after your
ride. _I_ am, without any ride at all; so let us fall to."

Ample justice was done to the meal; and when they were seated round
the table, after it had been disposed of, Mr. Pickwick, to the intense
horror and indignation of his followers, related the adventure he had
undergone, and the success which had attended the base artifices of the
diabolical Jingle.

"And the attack of rheumatism which I caught in that garden," said Mr.
Pickwick in conclusion, "renders me lame at this moment."

"I, too, have had something of an adventure," said Mr. Winkle, with a
smile; and at the request of Mr. Pickwick he detailed the malicious
libel of the _Eatanswill Independent_, and the consequent excitement of
their friend, the editor.

Mr. Pickwick's brow darkened during the recital. His friends observed
it, and, when Mr. Winkle had concluded, maintained a profound silence.
Mr. Pickwick struck the table emphatically with his clenched fist, and
spoke as follows:

"Is it not a wonderful circumstance," said Mr. Pickwick, "that we
seem destined to enter no man's house without involving him in some
degree of trouble? Does, it not, I ask, bespeak the indiscretion, or,
worse than that, the blackness of heart--that I should say so!--of my
followers, that, beneath whatever roof they locate, they disturb the
peace of mind and happiness of some confiding female? Is it not, I
say----"

Mr. Pickwick would in all probability have gone on for some time, had
not the entrance of Sam, with a letter, caused him to break off in his
eloquent discourse. He passed the handkerchief across his forehead,
took off his spectacles, wiped them, and put them on again; and his
voice had recovered its wonted softness of tone when he said:

"What have you there, Sam?"

"Called at the Post-office just now, and found this here letter, as
has laid there for two days," replied Mr. Weller. "It's sealed with a
vafer, and directed in round hand."

"I don't know this hand," said Mr. Pickwick, opening the letter. "Mercy
on us! what's this? It must be a jest; it--it--can't be true."

"What's the matter?" was the general inquiry.

"Nobody dead, is there?" said Wardle, alarmed at the horror in Mr.
Pickwick's countenance.

Mr. Pickwick made no reply, but, pushing the letter across the table,
and desiring Mr. Tupman to read it aloud, fell back in his chair with a
look of vacant astonishment quite alarming to behold.

Mr. Tupman, with a trembling voice, read the letter, of which the
following is a copy:--

  _Freeman's Court, Cornhill, August 28th, 1830._

  _Bardell against Pickwick._

  _Sir_,

  _Having been instructed by Mrs. Martha Bardell to commence an
  action against you for a breach of promise of marriage, for which
  the plaintiff lays her damages at fifteen hundred pounds, we beg to
  inform you that a writ has been issued against you in this suit in
  the Court of Common Pleas; and request to know, by return of post,
  the name of your attorney in London, who will accept service thereof._

  _We are, Sir,
  Your obedient servants,
  Dodson and Fogg._

  _Mr. Samuel Pickwick._

There was something so impressive in the mute astonishment with which
each man regarded his neighbour, and every man regarded Mr. Pickwick,
that all seemed afraid to speak. The silence was at length broken by
Mr. Tupman.

"Dodson and Fogg," he repeated, mechanically.

"Bardell and Pickwick," said Mr. Snodgrass, musing.

"Peace of mind and happiness of confiding females," murmured Mr.
Winkle, with an air of abstraction.

"It's a conspiracy," said Mr. Pickwick, at length recovering the power
of speech; "a base conspiracy between these two grasping attorneys,
Dodson and Fogg. Mrs. Bardell would never do it;--she hasn't the heart
to do it;--she hasn't the case to do it. Ridiculous--ridiculous."

"Of her heart," said Wardle, with a smile, "you should certainly be the
best judge. I don't wish to discourage you, but I should certainly say
that, of her case, Dodson and Fogg are far better judges than any of us
can be."

"It's a vile attempt to extort money," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I hope it is," said Wardle, with a short, dry cough.

"Who ever heard me address her in any way but that in which a lodger
would address his landlady?" continued Mr. Pickwick, with great
vehemence. "Who ever saw me with her? Not even my friends here----"

"Except on one occasion," said Mr. Tupman.

Mr. Pickwick changed colour.

"Ah," said Mr. Wardle. "Well, that's important. There was nothing
suspicious then, I suppose?"

Mr. Tupman glanced timidly at his leader. "Why," said he, "there was
nothing suspicious; but--I don't know how it happened, mind--she
certainly was reclining in his arms."

"Gracious powers!" ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, as the recollection of the
scene in question struck forcibly upon him; "what a dreadful instance
of the force of circumstances! So she was--so she was."

"And our friend was soothing her anguish," said Mr. Winkle, rather
maliciously.

"So I was," said Mr. Pickwick. "I won't deny it. So I was."

"Hallo!" said Wardle; "for a case in which there's nothing suspicious,
this looks rather queer--eh, Pickwick? Ah, sly dog--sly dog!" and he
laughed till the glasses on the sideboard rang again.

"What a dreadful conjunction of appearances!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick,
resting his chin upon his hands. "Winkle--Tupman--I beg your pardon
for the observations I made just now. We are all the victims of
circumstances, and I the greatest." With this apology Mr. Pickwick
buried his head in his hands, and ruminated; while Wardle measured out
a regular circle of nods and winks, addressed to the other members of
the company.

"I'll have it explained, though," said Mr. Pickwick, raising his head
and hammering the table. "I'll see this Dodson and Fogg! I'll go to
London to-morrow."

"Not to-morrow," said Wardle; "you're too lame."

"Well, then, next day."

"Next day is the first of September, and you're pledged to ride out
with us, as far as Sir Geoffrey Manning's grounds, at all events, and
to meet us at lunch, if you don't take the field."

"Well, then, the day after," said Mr. Pickwick; "Thursday--Sam!"

"Sir?" replied Mr. Weller.

"Take two places outside to London, on Thursday morning, for yourself
and me."

"Wery well, sir."

Mr. Weller left the room, and departed slowly on his errand, with his
hands in his pocket, and his eyes fixed on the ground.

"Rum feller, the hemperor," said Mr. Weller, as he walked slowly up
the street. "Think o' his making up to that 'ere Mrs. Bardell--vith a
little boy, too! Always the vay with these here old 'uns hows'ever,
as is such steady goers to look at. I didn't think he'd ha' done it,
though--I didn't think he'd ha' done it!" Moralising in this strain,
Mr. Samuel Weller bent his steps towards the booking-office.



CHAPTER XIX

[Illustration]

  _A Pleasant Day, with an Unpleasant Termination_


The birds, who, happily for their own peace of mind and personal
comfort, were in blissful ignorance of the preparations which had been
making to astonish them, on the first of September, hailed it, no
doubt, as one of the pleasantest mornings they had seen that season.
Many a young partridge who strutted complacently among the stubble,
with all the finicking coxcombry of youth, and many an older one who
watched his levity out of his little round eye, with the contemptuous
air of a bird of wisdom and experience, alike unconscious of their
approaching doom, basked in the fresh morning air with lively and
blithesome feelings, and a few hours afterwards were laid low upon the
earth. But we grow affecting; let us proceed.

In plain commonplace matter-of-fact, then, it was a fine morning--so
fine that you would scarcely have believed that the few months of an
English summer had yet flown by. Hedges, fields, and trees, hill and
moorland, presented to the eye their ever-varying shades of deep rich
green; scarce a leaf had fallen, scarce a sprinkle of yellow mingled
with the hues of summer, warned you that autumn had begun. The sky
was cloudless; the sun shone out bright and warm; the songs of birds,
and hum of myriads of summer insects, filled the air; and the cottage
gardens, crowded with flowers of every rich and beautiful tint,
sparkled in the heavy dew, like beds of glittering jewels. Everything
bore the stamp of summer, and none of its beautiful colours had yet
faded from the dye.

Such was the morning, when an open carriage, in which were three
Pickwickians (Mr. Snodgrass having preferred to remain at home), Mr.
Wardle, and Mr. Trundle, with Sam Weller on the box beside the driver,
pulled up by a gate at the roadside, before which stood a tall,
raw-boned gamekeeper, and a half-booted, leather-legginged boy: each
bearing a bag of capacious dimensions, and accompanied by a brace of
pointers.

"I say," whispered Mr. Winkle to Wardle, as the man let down the steps,
"they don't suppose we're going to kill game enough to fill those bags,
do they?"

"Fill them!" exclaimed old Wardle. "Bless you, yes! You shall fill one,
and I the other; and when we've done with them, the pockets of our
shooting-jackets will hold as much more."

Mr. Winkle dismounted without saying anything in reply to this
observation; but he thought within himself, that if the party remained
in the open air, until he had filled one of the bags, they stood a
considerable chance of catching colds in their heads.

"Hi, Juno, lass--hi, old girl; down, Daph, down," said Wardle,
caressing the dogs. "Sir Geoffrey still in Scotland, of course, Martin?"

The tall gamekeeper replied in the affirmative, and looked with some
surprise from Mr. Winkle, who was holding his gun as if he wished his
coat pocket to save him the trouble of pulling the trigger, to Mr.
Tupman, who was holding his as if he were afraid of it--as there is no
earthly reason to doubt he really was.

"My friends are not much in the way of this sort of thing yet, Martin,"
said Wardle, noticing the look. "Live and learn, you know. They'll be
good shots one of these days. I beg my friend Winkle's pardon, though;
he has had some practice."

Mr. Winkle smiled feebly over his blue neckerchief in acknowledgment of
the compliment, and got himself so mysteriously entangled with his gun,
in his modest confusion, that if the piece had been loaded, he must
inevitably have shot himself dead upon the spot.

"You mustn't handle your piece in that 'ere way, when you come to have
the charge in it, sir," said the tall gamekeeper, gruffly, "or I'm
damned if you won't make cold meat of some of us."

Mr. Winkle, thus admonished, abruptly altered its position, and in so
doing, contrived to bring the barrel into pretty sharp contact with Mr.
Weller's head.

"Hallo!" said Sam, picking up his hat, which had been knocked off, and
rubbing his temple. "Hallo, sir! if you comes it this vay, you'll fill
one o' them bags, and something to spare, at one fire."

Here the leather-legginged boy laughed very heartily, and then tried
to look as if it was somebody else, whereat Mr. Winkle frowned
majestically.

"Where did you tell the boy to meet us with the snack, Martin?"
inquired Wardle.

"Side of One-tree Hill, at twelve o'clock, sir."

"That's not Sir Geoffrey's land, is it?"

"No, sir; but it's close by it. It's Captain Boldwig's land; but
there'll be nobody to interrupt us, and there's a fine bit of turf
there."

"Very well," said old Wardle. "Now the sooner we're off the better.
Will you join us at twelve, then, Pickwick?"

Mr. Pickwick was particularly desirous to view the sport, the more
especially as he was rather anxious in respect of Mr. Winkle's life and
limbs. On so inviting a morning, too, it was very tantalising to turn
back, and leave his friends to enjoy themselves. It was, therefore,
with a very rueful air that he replied--

"Why, I suppose I must."

"An't the gentleman a shot, sir?" inquired the long gamekeeper.

"No," replied Wardle; "and he's lame besides."

"I should very much like to go," said Mr. Pickwick, "very much."

There was a short pause of commiseration.

"There's a barrow t'other side the hedge," said the boy. "If the
gentleman's servant would wheel along the paths, he could keep nigh us,
and we could lift it over the stiles, and that."

"The wery thing," said Mr. Weller, who was a party interested, inasmuch
as he ardently longed to see the sport. "The wery thing. Well said,
Smallcheck; I'll have it out in a minute."

But here a difficulty arose. The long gamekeeper resolutely protested
against the introduction into a shooting party, of a gentleman in a
barrow, as a gross violation of all established rules and precedents.

It was a great objection, but not an insurmountable one. The gamekeeper
having been coaxed and fee'd, and having, moreover, eased his mind by
"punching" the head of the inventive youth who had first suggested the
use of the machine, Mr. Pickwick was placed in it, and off the party
set; Wardle and the long gamekeeper leading the way, and Mr. Pickwick
in the barrow, propelled by Sam, bringing up the rear.

"Stop, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, when they had got half across the first
field.

"What's the matter now?" said Wardle.

"I won't suffer this barrow to be moved another step," said Mr.
Pickwick, resolutely, "unless Winkle carries that gun of his in a
different manner."

"How _am_ I to carry it?" said the wretched Winkle.

"Carry it with the muzzle to the ground," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"It's so unsportsman-like," reasoned Winkle.

"I don't care whether it's unsportsman-like or not," replied Mr.
Pickwick; "I am not going to be shot in a wheelbarrow, for the sake of
appearances, to please anybody."

"I know the gentleman 'll put that 'ere charge into somebody afore he's
done," growled the long man.

"Well, well--I don't mind," said poor Winkle, turning his gun-stock
uppermost;--"there."

"Anythin' for a quiet life," said Mr. Weller; and on they went again.

"Stop!" said Mr. Pickwick, after they had gone a few yards further.

"What now?" said Wardle.

"That gun of Tupman's is not safe: I know it isn't," said Mr. Pickwick.

[Illustration: "_I won't suffer this barrow to be moved another step
unless Winkle carries that gun of his in a different manner._"]

"Eh? What! not safe?" said Mr. Tupman, in a tone of great alarm.

"Not as you are carrying it," said Mr. Pickwick. "I am very sorry to
make any further objection, but I cannot consent to go on, unless you
carry it as Winkle does his."

"I think you had better, sir," said the long gamekeeper, "or you're
quite as likely to lodge the charge in yourself as in anything else."

Mr. Tupman, with the most obliging haste, placed his piece in the
position required, and the party moved on again; the two amateurs
marching with reversed arms, like a couple of privates at a royal
funeral.

The dogs suddenly came to a dead stop, and the party advancing
stealthily a single pace, stopped too.

"What's the matter with the dogs' legs?" whispered Mr. Winkle. "How
queer they're standing."

"Hush, can't you?" replied Wardle, softly. "Don't you see, they're
making a point?"

"Making a point!" said Mr. Winkle, staring about him, as if he expected
to discover some particular beauty in the landscape, which the
sagacious animals were calling special attention to. "Making a point!
What are they pointing at?"

"Keep your eyes open," said Wardle, not heeding the question in the
excitement of the moment. "Now then."

There was a sharp whirring noise, that made Mr. Winkle start back as if
he had been shot himself. Bang, bang, went a couple of guns;--the smoke
swept quickly away over the field, and curled into the air.

"Where are they?" said Mr. Winkle, in a state of the highest
excitement, turning round and round in all directions. "Where are they?
Tell me when to fire. Where are they--where are they?"

"Where are they?" said Wardle, taking up a brace of birds which the
dogs had deposited at his feet. "Why, here they are."

"No, no; I mean the others," said the bewildered Winkle.

"Far enough off, by this time," replied Wardle, coolly re-loading his
gun.

"We shall very likely be up with another covey in five minutes," said
the long gamekeeper. "If the gentleman begins to fire now, perhaps
he'll just get the shot out of the barrel by the time they rise."

"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Mr. Weller.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, compassionating his follower's confusion and
embarrassment.

"Sir?"

"Don't laugh."

"Certainly not, sir." So, by way of indemnification, Mr. Weller
contorted his features from behind the wheelbarrow, for the exclusive
amusement of the boy with the leggings, who thereupon burst into a
boisterous laugh, and was summarily cuffed by the long gamekeeper, who
wanted a pretext for turning round, to hide his own merriment.

"Bravo, old fellow!" said Wardle to Mr. Tupman; "you fired that time,
at all events."

"Oh yes," replied Mr. Tupman, with conscious pride. "I let it off."

"Well done. You'll hit something next time, if you look sharp. Very
easy, an't it?"

"Yes, it's very easy," said Mr. Tupman. "How it hurts one's shoulder,
though. It nearly knocked me backwards. I had no idea that these small
fire-arms kicked so."

"Ah," said the old gentleman, smiling; "you'll get used to it in time.
Now then--all ready--all right with the barrow there?"

"All right, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"Come along then."

"Hold hard, sir," said Sam, raising the barrow.

"Ay, ay," replied Mr. Pickwick; and on they went, as briskly as need be.

"Keep that barrow back now," cried Wardle when it had been hoisted over
a stile into another field, and Mr. Pickwick had been deposited in it
once more.

"All right, sir," replied Mr. Weller, pausing.

"Now, Winkle," said the old gentleman, "follow me softly, and don't be
too late this time."

"Never fear," said Mr. Winkle. "Are they pointing?"

"No, no; not now. Quietly now, quietly." On they crept, and very
quietly they would have advanced, if Mr. Winkle, in the performance
of some very intricate evolutions with his gun, had not accidentally
fired, at the most critical moment, over the boy's head, exactly in the
very spot where the tall man's brain would have been, had he been there
instead.

"Why, what on earth did you do that for?" said old Wardle, as the birds
flew unharmed away.

"I never saw such a gun in my life," replied poor Mr. Winkle, looking
at the lock, as if that would do any good. "It goes off of its own
accord. It _will_ do it."

"Will do it!" echoed Wardle, with something of irritation in his
manner. "I wish it would kill something of its own accord."

"It'll do that afore long, sir," observed the tall man, in a low,
prophetic voice.

"What do you mean by that observation, sir?" inquired Mr. Winkle,
angrily.

"Never mind, sir, never mind," replied the long gamekeeper; "I've no
family myself, sir; and this here boy's mother will get something
handsome from Sir Geoffrey, if he's killed on his land. Load again,
sir, load again."

"Take away his gun," cried Mr. Pickwick from the barrow,
horror-stricken at the long man's dark insinuations. "Take away his
gun, do you hear, somebody?"

Nobody, however, volunteered to obey the command; and Mr. Winkle, after
darting a rebellious glance at Mr. Pickwick, reloaded his gun, and
proceeded onwards with the rest.

We are bound, on the authority of Mr. Pickwick, to state that
Mr. Tupman's mode of proceeding evinced far more of prudence and
deliberation, than that adopted by Mr. Winkle. Still, this by no means
detracts from the great authority of the latter gentleman, on all
matters connected with the field; because, as Mr. Pickwick beautifully
observes, it has somehow or other happened, from time immemorial, that
many of the best and ablest philosophers, who have been perfect lights
of science in matters of theory, have been wholly unable to reduce
them to practice.

Mr. Tupman's process, like many of our most sublime discoveries, was
extremely simple. With the quickness and penetration of a man of
genius, he had once observed that the two great points to be obtained
were--first, to discharge his piece without injury to himself, and,
secondly, to do so without danger to the by-standers;--obviously, the
best thing to do, after surmounting the difficulty of firing at all,
was to shut his eyes firmly, and fire into the air.

On one occasion, after performing this feat, Mr. Tupman, on opening
his eyes, beheld a plump partridge in the act of falling wounded to
the ground. He was on the point of congratulating Mr. Wardle on his
invariable success, when that gentleman advanced towards him, and
grasped him warmly by the hand.

"Tupman," said the old gentleman, "you singled out that particular
bird?"

"No," said Mr. Tupman--"no."

"You did," said Wardle. "I saw you do it--I observed you pick him
out--I noticed you, as you raised your piece to take aim; and I will
say this, that the best shot in existence could not have done it more
beautifully. You are an older hand at this, than I thought you, Tupman;
you have been out before."

It was in vain for Mr. Tupman to protest, with a smile of self-denial,
that he never had. The very smile was taken as evidence to the
contrary; and from that time forth, his reputation was established. It
is not the only reputation that has been acquired as easily, nor are
such fortunate circumstances confined to partridge-shooting.

Meanwhile, Mr. Winkle flashed, and blazed, and smoked away, without
producing any material results worthy of being noted down; sometimes
expending his charge in mid-air, and at others sending it skimming
along so near the surface of the ground as to place the lives of the
two dogs on a rather uncertain and precarious tenure. As a display of
fancy shooting, it was extremely varied and curious; as an exhibition
of firing with any precise object, it was, upon the whole, perhaps
a failure. It is an established axiom, that "every bullet has its
billet." If it apply in an equal degree to shot, those of Mr. Winkle
were unfortunate foundlings, deprived of their natural rights, cast
loose upon the world, and billeted nowhere.

"Well," said Wardle, walking up to the side of the barrow, and wiping
the streams of perspiration from his jolly red face; "smoking day,
isn't it?"

"It is, indeed," replied Mr. Pickwick. "The sun is tremendously hot,
even to me. I don't know how you must feel it."

"Why," said the old gentleman, "pretty hot. It's past twelve, though.
You see that green hill there?"

"Certainly."

"That's the place where we are to lunch; and, by Jove, there's the boy
with the basket, punctual as clockwork!"

"So he is," said Mr. Pickwick, brightening up. "Good boy, that. I'll
give him a shilling presently. Now, then, Sam, wheel away."

"Hold on, sir," said Mr. Weller, invigorated with the prospect of
refreshments. "Out of the way, young leathers. If you walley my
precious life don't upset me, as the gen'l'm'n said to the driver when
they was a carryin' him to Tyburn." And quickening his pace to a sharp
run, Mr. Weller wheeled his master nimbly to the green hill, shot him
dexterously out by the very side of the basket, and proceeded to unpack
it with the utmost despatch.

"Weal pie," said Mr. Weller, soliloquising, as he arranged the eatables
on the grass. "Wery good thing is weal pie, when you know the lady
as made it, and is quite sure it an't kittens; and arter all though,
where's the odds, when they're so like weal that the wery piemen
themselves don't know the difference?"

"Don't they, Sam?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Not they, sir," replied Mr. Weller, touching his hat. "I lodged in the
same house vith a pieman once, sir, and a wery nice man he was--reg'lar
clever chap, too--make pies out o' anything, he could. 'What a number
o' cats you keep, Mr. Brooks,' says I, when I'd got intimate with him.
'Ah,' says he, 'I do--a good many,' says he. 'You must be wery fond
o' cats,' says I. 'Other people is,' says he, a vinkin' at me; 'they
an't in season till the winter though,' says he. 'Not in season!'
says I. 'No,' says he, 'fruits is in, cats is out.' 'Why, what do you
mean?' says I. 'Mean?' says he. 'That I'll never be a party to the
combination o' the butchers, to keep up the prices o' meat,' says he.
'Mr. Weller,' says he, a squeezing my hand wery hard, and vispering in
my ear--'don't mention this here agin--but it's the seasonin' as does
it. They're all made o' them noble animals,' says he, a pointin' to a
wery nice little tabby kitten, 'and I seasons 'em for beef-steak, weal,
or kidney, 'cordin' to the demand. And more than that,' says he, 'I can
make a weal a beef-steak, or a beef-steak a kidney, or any one on 'em a
mutton, at a minute's notice, just as the market changes, and appetites
wary!'"

"He must have been a very ingenious young man, that, Sam," said Mr.
Pickwick, with a slight shudder.

"Just was, sir," replied Mr. Weller, continuing his occupation of
emptying the basket, "and the pies was beautiful. Tongue; well that's a
wery good thing when it an't a woman's. Bread--knuckle o' ham, reg'lar
picter--cold beef in slices, wery good. What's in them stone jars,
young touch-and-go?"

"Beer in this one," replied the boy, taking from his shoulder a couple
of large stone bottles, fastened together by a leathern strap--"cold
punch in t'other."

"And a wery good notion of a lunch it is, take it altogether," said
Mr. Weller, surveying his arrangement of the repast with great
satisfaction. "Now, gen'l'm'n, 'fall on,' as the English said to the
French when they fixed bagginets."

It needed no second invitation to induce the party to yield full
justice to the meal; and as little pressing did it require to induce
Mr. Weller, the long gamekeeper, and the two boys to station themselves
on the grass at a little distance, and do good execution upon a decent
proportion of the viands. An old oak afforded a pleasant shelter to the
group, and a rich prospect of arable and meadow land, intersected with
luxuriant hedges, and richly ornamented with wood, lay spread out below
them.

"This is delightful--thoroughly delightful!" said Mr. Pickwick, the
skin of whose expressive countenance was rapidly peeling off, with
exposure to the sun.

"So it is: so it is, old fellow," replied Wardle. "Come; a glass of
punch?"

"With great pleasure," said Mr. Pickwick; the satisfaction of whose
countenance, after drinking it, bore testimony to the sincerity of the
reply.

"Good," said Mr. Pickwick, smacking his lips. "Very good. I'll take
another. Cool; very cool. Come, gentlemen," continued Mr. Pickwick,
still retaining his hold upon the jar, "a toast. Our friends at Dingley
Dell."

The toast was drunk with loud acclamations.

"I'll tell you what I shall do, to get up my shooting again," said Mr.
Winkle, who was eating bread and ham with a pocket-knife. "I'll put a
stuffed partridge on the top of a post, and practise at it, beginning
at a short distance, and lengthening it by degrees. I understand it's
capital practice."

"I know a gen'l'man, sir," said Mr. Weller, "as did that, and begun at
two yards; but he never tried it on agin; for he blowed the bird right
clean away at the first fire, and nobody ever seed a feather on him
arterwards."

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Sir?" replied Mr. Weller.

"Have the goodness to reserve your anecdotes till they are called for."

"Cert'nly, sir."

Here Mr. Weller winked the eye which was not concealed by the beer-can
he was raising to his lips with such exquisiteness, that the two boys
went into spontaneous convulsions, and even the long man condescended
to smile.

"Well, that certainly is most capital cold punch," said Mr. Pickwick,
looking earnestly at the stone bottle; "and the day is extremely warm,
and--Tupman, my dear friend, a glass of punch?"

"With the greatest delight," replied Mr. Tupman; and having drank that
glass, Mr. Pickwick took another, just to see whether there was any
orange peel in the punch, because orange peel always disagreed with
him; and finding that there was not, Mr. Pickwick took another glass to
the health of their absent friend, and then felt himself imperatively
called upon to propose another in honour of the punch-compounder,
unknown.

This constant succession of glasses produced considerable effect upon
Mr. Pickwick; his countenance beamed with the most sunny smiles,
laughter played around his lips, and good-humoured merriment twinkled
in his eye. Yielding by degrees to the influence of the exciting
liquid, rendered more so by the heat, Mr. Pickwick expressed a strong
desire to recollect a song which he had heard in his infancy, and the
attempt proving abortive, sought to stimulate his memory with more
glasses of punch, which appeared to have quite a contrary effect;
for, from forgetting the words of the song, he began to forget how to
articulate any words at all; and finally, after rising to his legs to
address the company in an eloquent speech, he fell into the barrow, and
fast asleep, simultaneously.

The basket having been repacked, and it being found perfectly
impossible to awaken Mr. Pickwick from his torpor, some discussion
took place whether it would be better for Mr. Weller to wheel his
master back again, or to leave him where he was until they should all
be ready to return. The latter course was at length decided on; and as
the further expedition was not to exceed an hour's duration, and as
Mr. Weller begged very hard to be one of the party, it was determined
to leave Mr. Pickwick asleep in the barrow, and to call for him on
their return. So away they went, leaving Mr. Pickwick snoring most
comfortably in the shade.

That Mr. Pickwick would have continued to snore in the shade until his
friends came back, or, in default thereof, until the shades of evening
had fallen on the landscape, there appears no reasonable cause to
doubt; always supposing that he had been suffered to remain there in
peace. But he was not suffered to remain there in peace. And this was
what prevented him.

Captain Boldwig was a little fierce man in a stiff black neckerchief
and blue surtout, who, when he did condescend to walk about his
property, did it in company with a thick rattan stick with a brass
ferule, and a gardener and sub-gardener, with meek faces, to whom (the
gardeners, not the stick) Captain Boldwig gave his orders with all due
grandeur and ferocity; for Captain Boldwig's wife's sister had married
a Marquis, and the Captain's house was a villa, and his land "grounds,"
and it was all very high, and mighty, and great.

Mr. Pickwick had not been asleep half an hour when little Boldwig,
followed by the two gardeners, came striding along as fast as his size
and importance would let him; and when he came near the oak tree,
Captain Boldwig paused, and drew a long breath, and looked at the
prospect as if he thought the prospect ought to be highly gratified
at having him to take notice of it; and then he struck the ground
emphatically with his stick, and summoned the head-gardener.

"Hunt," said Captain Boldwig.

"Yes, sir," said the gardener.

"Roll this place to-morrow morning--do you hear, Hunt?"

"Yes, sir."

"And take care that you keep me this place in good order--do you hear,
Hunt?"

"Yes, sir."

"And remind me to have a board done about trespassers, and spring guns,
and all that sort of thing, to keep the common people out. Do you hear,
Hunt; do you hear?"

"I'll not forget it, sir."

"I beg your pardon, sir," said the other man, advancing with his hand
to his hat.

"Well, Wilkins, what's the matter with _you_?" said Captain Boldwig.

"I beg your pardon, sir--but I think there have been trespassers here
to-day."

"Ha!" said the Captain, scowling around him.

"Yes, sir--they have been dining here, I think, sir."

"Why, confound their audacity, so they have," said Captain Boldwig, as
the crumbs and fragments that were strewn upon the grass met his eye.
"They have actually been devouring their food here. I wish I had the
vagabonds here!" said the Captain, clenching the thick stick.

"I wish I had the vagabonds here," said the Captain, wrathfully.

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Wilkins, "but----"

"But what? Eh?" roared the Captain; and following the timid glance of
Wilkins, his eyes encountered the wheelbarrow and Mr. Pickwick.

[Illustration: "_Who are you, you rascal?_"]

"Who are you, you rascal?" said the Captain, administering several
pokes to Mr. Pickwick's body with the thick stick. "What's your name?"

"Cold punch," murmured Mr. Pickwick, as he sunk to sleep again.

"What?" demanded Captain Boldwig.

No reply.

"What did he say his name was?" asked the Captain.

"Punch, I think, sir," replied Wilkins.

"That's his impudence, that's his confounded impudence," said Captain
Boldwig. "He's only feigning to be asleep now," said the Captain, in
a high passion. "He's drunk; he's a drunken plebeian. Wheel him away,
Wilkins, wheel him away directly."

"Where shall I wheel him to, sir?" inquired Wilkins, with great
timidity.

"Wheel him to the Devil," replied Captain Boldwig.

"Very well, sir," said Wilkins.

"Stay," said the Captain.

Wilkins stopped accordingly.

"Wheel him," said the Captain, "wheel him to the Pound; and let us see
whether he calls himself Punch when he comes to himself. He shall not
bully me, he shall not bully me. Wheel him away."

Away Mr. Pickwick was wheeled in compliance with this imperious
mandate; and the great Captain Boldwig, swelling with indignation,
proceeded on his walk.

Inexpressible was the astonishment of the little party when they
returned, to find that Mr. Pickwick had disappeared, and taken the
wheelbarrow with him. It was the most mysterious and unaccountable
thing that was ever heard of. For a lame man to have got upon his legs
without any previous notice, and walked off, would have been most
extraordinary; but when it came to his wheeling a heavy barrow before
him, by way of amusement, it grew positively miraculous. They searched
every nook and corner round, together and separately; they shouted,
whistled, laughed, called--and all with the same result. Mr. Pickwick
was not to be found. After some hours of fruitless search, they arrived
at the unwelcome conclusion that they must go home without him.

Meanwhile Mr. Pickwick had been wheeled to the Pound, and safely
deposited therein, fast asleep in the wheelbarrow, to the immeasurable
delight and satisfaction, not only of all the boys in the village,
but three-fourths of the whole population, who had gathered round, in
expectation of his waking. If their most intense gratification had been
excited by seeing him wheeled in, how many hundredfold was their joy
increased when, after a few indistinct cries of "Sam!" he sat up in the
barrow, and gazed with indescribable astonishment on the faces before
him.

A general shout was of course the signal of his having woke up; and his
involuntary inquiry of "What's the matter?" occasioned another, louder
than the first, if possible.

"Here's a game!" roared the populace.

"Where am I?" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

"In the Pound," replied the mob.

"How came I here? What was I doing? Where was I brought from?"

"Boldwig! Captain Boldwig!" was the only reply.

"Let me out!" cried Mr. Pickwick. "Where's my servant? Where are my
friends?"

"You an't got no friends. Hurrah!" Then there came a turnip, then a
potato, and then an egg; with a few other little tokens of the playful
disposition of the many-headed.

How long this scene might have lasted, or how much Mr. Pickwick might
have suffered, no one can tell, had not a carriage, which was driving
swiftly by, suddenly pulled up, from whence there descended old Wardle
and Sam Weller, the former of whom, in far less time than it takes to
write it, if not to read it, had made his way to Mr. Pickwick's side,
and placed him in the vehicle, just as the latter had concluded the
third and last round of a single combat with the town-beadle.

"Run to the Justice's!" cried a dozen voices.

"Ah, run avay," said Mr. Weller, jumping upon the box. "Give my
compliments--Mr. Veller's compliments--to the Justice, and tell him
I've spiled his beadle, and that, if he'll swear in a new 'un, I'll
come back agin to-morrow and spile him. Drive on, old feller."

"I'll give directions for the commencement of an action for false
imprisonment against this Captain Boldwig, directly I get to London,"
said Mr. Pickwick, as soon as the carriage turned out of the town.

"We were trespassing, it seems," said Wardle.

"I don't care," said Mr. Pickwick, "I'll bring the action."

"No, you won't," said Wardle.

"I will, by--" but as there was a humorous expression in Wardle's face,
Mr. Pickwick checked himself, and said: "Why not?"

"Because," said old Wardle, half-bursting with laughter, "because they
might turn round on some of us, and say we had taken too much cold
punch."

Do what he would, a smile would come into Mr. Pickwick's face; the
smile extended into a laugh; the laugh into a roar; the roar became
general. So to keep up their good humour, they stopped at the first
roadside tavern they came to, and ordered a glass of brandy and water
all round, with a magnum of extra strength for Mr. Samuel Weller.



CHAPTER XX

[Illustration]

  _Showing how Dodson and Fogg were Men of Business, and their
    Clerks Men of Pleasure; and how an affecting Interview took
    place between Mr. Weller and his Long-lost Parent; showing also
    what Choice Spirits assembled at the Magpie and Stump, and what
    a Capital Chapter the Next One will be_


In the ground-floor front of a dingy house, at the very farthest end
of Freeman's Court, Cornhill, sat the four clerks of Messrs. Dodson
and Fogg, two of his Majesty's Attorneys of the Courts of King's Bench
and Common Pleas at Westminster, and solicitors of the High Court of
Chancery; the aforesaid clerks catching as favourable glimpses of
Heaven's light and Heaven's sun, in the course of their daily labours,
as a man might hope to do, were he placed at the bottom of a reasonably
deep well; and without the opportunity of perceiving the stars in the
day-time, which the latter secluded situation affords.

The clerks' office of Messrs. Dodson and Fogg was a dark, mouldy,
earthy-smelling room, with a high wainscoted partition to screen the
clerks from the vulgar gaze: a couple of old wooden chairs: a very
loud-ticking clock: an almanack, an umbrella-stand, a row of hat-pegs,
and a few shelves, on which were deposited several ticketed bundles of
dirty papers, some old deal boxes with paper labels, and sundry decayed
stone ink bottles of various shapes and sizes. There was a glass door
leading into the passage which formed the entrance to the court, and
on the outer side of this glass door, Mr. Pickwick, closely followed
by Sam Weller, presented himself on the Friday morning succeeding the
occurrence, of which a faithful narration is given in the last chapter.

"Come in, can't you!" cried a voice from behind the partition, in reply
to Mr. Pickwick's gentle tap at the door. And Mr. Pickwick and Sam
entered accordingly.

"Mr. Dodson or Mr. Fogg at home, sir?" inquired Mr. Pickwick, gently,
advancing, hat in hand, towards the partition.

"Mr. Dodson ain't at home, and Mr. Fogg's particularly engaged,"
replied the voice; and at the same time the head to which the voice
belonged, with a pen behind its ear, looked over the partition, and at
Mr. Pickwick.

It was a ragged head, the sandy hair of which, scrupulously parted on
one side, and flattened down with pomatum, was twisted into little
semi-circular tails round a flat face ornamented with a pair of small
eyes, and garnished with a very dirty shirt collar and a rusty black
stock.

"Mr. Dodson ain't at home, and Mr. Fogg's particularly engaged," said
the man to whom the head belonged.

"When will Mr. Dodson be back, sir?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Can't say."

"Will it be long before Mr. Fogg is disengaged, sir?"

"Don't know."

Here the man proceeded to mend his pen with great deliberation, while
another clerk, who was mixing a Seidlitz powder, under cover of the lid
of his desk, laughed approvingly.

"I think I'll wait," said Mr. Pickwick. There was no reply; so Mr.
Pickwick sat down unbidden, and listened to the loud ticking of the
clock and the murmured conversation of the clerks.

"That was a game, wasn't it?" said one of the gentlemen in a brown coat
and brass buttons, inky drabs, and bluchers, at the conclusion of some
inaudible relation of his previous evening's adventures.

"Devilish good--devilish good," said the Seidlitz-powder man.

"Tom Cummins was in the chair," said the man with the brown coat.
"It was half-past four when I got to Somers Town, and then I was so
uncommon lushy, that I couldn't find the place where the latch-key went
in, and was obliged to knock up the old 'ooman. I say, I wonder what
old Fogg 'ud say, if he knew it. I should get the sack, I s'pose--eh?"

At this humorous notion, all the clerks laughed in concert.

"There was such a game with Fogg here, this mornin'," said the man in
the brown coat, "while Jack was up-stairs sorting the papers, and you
two were gone to the stamp-office. Fogg was down here, opening the
letters, when that chap as we issued the writ against at Camberwell,
you know, came in--what's his name again?"

"Ramsey," said the clerk who had spoken to Mr. Pickwick.

"Ah, Ramsey--a precious seedy-looking customer. 'Well, sir,' says
old Fogg, looking at him very fierce--you know his way--'well, sir,
have you come to settle?' 'Yes, I have, sir,' said Ramsey, putting
his hand in his pocket, and bringing out the money, 'the debt's two
pound ten, and the costs three pound five, and here it is, sir;' and
he sighed like bricks, as he lugged out the money, done up in a bit
of blotting-paper. Old Fogg looked first at the money, and then at
him, and then he coughed in his rum way, so that I knew something was
coming. 'You don't know there's a declaration filed, which increases
the costs materially, I suppose?' said Fogg. 'You don't say that, sir,'
said Ramsey, starting back; 'the time was only out last night, sir.' 'I
do say it, though,' said Fogg, 'my clerk's just gone to file it. Hasn't
Mr. Jackson gone to file that declaration in Bullman and Ramsey, Mr.
Wicks?' Of course I said yes, and then Fogg coughed again, and looked
at Ramsey. 'My God!' said Ramsey; 'and here have I nearly driven myself
mad, scraping this money together, and all to no purpose.' 'None at
all,' said Fogg, coolly; 'so you had better go back and scrape some
more together, and bring it here in time.' 'I can't get it, by God!'
said Ramsey, striking the desk with his fist. 'Don't bully me, sir,'
said Fogg, getting into a passion on purpose. 'I am not bullying you,
sir,' said Ramsey. 'You are,' said Fogg; 'get out, sir; get out of this
office, sir, and come back, sir, when you know how to behave yourself.'
Well, Ramsey tried to speak, but Fogg wouldn't let him, so he put the
money in his pocket, and sneaked out. The door was scarcely shut, when
old Fogg turned round to me, with a sweet smile on his face, and drew
the declaration out of his coat pocket. 'Here, Wicks,' says Fogg, 'take
a cab, and go down to the Temple as quick as you can, and file that.
The costs are quite safe, for he's a steady man with a large family,
at a salary of five-and-twenty shillings a week, and if he gives us a
warrant of attorney, as he must in the end, I know his employers will
see it paid; so we may as well get all we can out of him, Mr. Wicks;
it's a Christian act to do it, Mr. Wicks, for with his large family
and small income, he'll be all the better for a good lesson against
getting into debt,--won't he, Mr. Wicks, won't he?'--and he smiled so
good-naturedly as he went away, that it was delightful to see him. He
is a capital man of business," said Wicks, in a tone of the deepest
admiration, "capital, isn't he?"

The other three cordially subscribed to this opinion, and the anecdote
afforded the most unlimited satisfaction.

"Nice men these here, sir," whispered Mr. Weller to his master; "wery
nice notion of fun they has, sir."

Mr. Pickwick nodded assent, and coughed to attract the attention of the
young gentlemen behind the partition, who, having now relaxed their
minds by a little conversation among themselves, condescended to take
some notice of the stranger.

"I wonder whether Fogg's disengaged now?" said Jackson.

"I'll see," said Wicks, dismounting leisurely from his stool. "What
name shall I tell Mr. Fogg?"

"Pickwick," replied the illustrious subject of these memoirs.

Mr. Jackson departed up-stairs on his errand, and immediately returned
with a message that Mr. Fogg would see Mr. Pickwick in five minutes;
and having delivered it, returned again to his desk.

"What did he say his name was?" whispered Wicks.

"Pickwick," replied Jackson; "it's the defendant in Bardell and
Pickwick."

A sudden scraping of feet, mingled with the sound of suppressed
laughter, was heard from behind the partition.

"They're a twiggin' of you, sir," whispered Mr. Weller.

"Twigging of me, Sam!" replied Mr. Pickwick; "what do you mean by
twigging me?"

Mr. Weller replied by pointing with his thumb over his shoulder, and
Mr. Pickwick, on looking up, became sensible of the pleasing fact,
that all the four clerks, with countenances expressive of the utmost
amusement, and with their heads thrust over the wooden screen, were
minutely inspecting the figure and general appearance of the supposed
trifler with female hearts, and disturber of female happiness. On his
looking up, the row of heads suddenly disappeared, and the sound of
pens travelling at a furious rate over paper, immediately succeeded.

A sudden ring at the bell which hung in the office, summoned Mr.
Jackson to the apartment of Fogg, from whence he came back to say that
he (Fogg) was ready to see Mr. Pickwick if he would step up-stairs.

Up-stairs Mr. Pickwick did step accordingly, leaving Sam Weller
below. The room door of the one-pair back, bore inscribed in legible
characters the imposing words "Mr. Fogg;" and, having tapped thereat,
and been desired to come in, Jackson ushered Mr. Pickwick into the
presence.

"Is Mr. Dodson in?" inquired Mr. Fogg.

"Just come in, sir," replied Jackson.

"Ask him to step here."

"Yes, sir." Exit Jackson.

"Take a seat, sir," said Fogg; "there is the paper, sir; my partner
will be here directly, and we can converse about this matter, sir."

Mr. Pickwick took a seat and the paper, but, instead of reading the
latter, peeped over the top of it, and took a survey of the man of
business, who was an elderly, pimply-faced, vegetable-diet sort of man,
in a black coat, dark mixture trousers, and small black gaiters: a kind
of being who seemed to be an essential part of the desk at which he
was writing, and to have as much thought or sentiment.

After a few minutes' silence, Mr. Dodson, a plump, portly,
stern-looking man, with a loud voice, appeared; and the conversation
commenced.

"This is Mr. Pickwick," said Fogg.

"Ah! You are the defendant, sir, in Bardell and Pickwick?" said Dodson.

"I am, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Well, sir," said Dodson, "and what do you propose?"

"Ah!" said Fogg, thrusting his hands into his trousers pockets and
throwing himself back in his chair, "what do you propose, Mr. Pickwick?"

"Hush, Fogg," said Dodson, "let me hear what Mr. Pickwick has to say."

"I came, gentlemen," said Mr. Pickwick, gazing placidly on the two
partners, "I came here, gentlemen, to express the surprise with which I
received your letter of the other day, and to inquire what grounds of
action you can have against me."

"Grounds of--" Fogg had ejaculated thus much, when he was stopped by
Dodson.

"Mr. Fogg," said Dodson, "I am going to speak."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Dodson," said Fogg.

"For the grounds of action, sir," continued Dodson, with moral
elevation in his air, "you will consult your own conscience and your
own feelings. We, sir, we, are guided entirely by the statement of our
client. That statement, sir, may be true, or it may be false; it may
be credible, or it may be incredible; but, if it be true, and if it be
credible, I do not hesitate to say, sir, that our grounds of action,
sir, are strong, and not to be shaken. You may be an unfortunate man,
sir, or you may be a designing one; but if I were called upon, as a
juryman upon my oath, sir, to express my opinion of your conduct, sir,
I do not hesitate to assert that I should have but one opinion about
it." Here Dodson drew himself up, with an air of offended virtue, and
looked at Fogg, who thrust his hands further in his pockets, and,
nodding his head sagely, said, in a tone of the fullest concurrence,
"Most certainly."

"Well, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, with considerable pain depicted in
his countenance, "you will permit me to assure you, that I am a most
unfortunate man, so far as this case is concerned."

"I hope you are, sir," replied Dodson; "I trust you may be, sir. If
you are really innocent of what is laid to your charge, you are more
unfortunate than I had believed any man could possibly be. What do
_you_ say, Mr. Fogg?"

"I say precisely what you say," replied Fogg, with a smile of
incredulity.

"The writ, sir, which commences the action," continued Dodson, "was
issued regularly. Mr. Fogg, where is the _præcipe_ book?"

"Here it is," said Fogg, handing over a square book, with a parchment
cover.

"Here is the entry," resumed Dodson. "'Middlesex, Capias _Martha
Bardell, widow, v. Samuel Pickwick_. Damages, £1500. Dodson and Fogg
for the plaintiff, Aug. 28, 1830.' All regular, sir; perfectly." Dodson
coughed and looked at Fogg, who said "Perfectly," also. And then they
both looked at Mr. Pickwick.

"I am to understand, then," said Mr. Pickwick, "that it really is your
intention to proceed with this action?"

"Understand, sir? That you certainly may," replied Dodson, with
something as near a smile as his importance would allow.

"And that the damages are actually laid at fifteen hundred pounds?"
said Mr. Pickwick.

"To which understanding you may add my assurance, that if we could have
prevailed upon our client, they would have been laid at treble the
amount, sir," replied Dodson.

"I believe Mrs. Bardell specially said, however," observed Fogg,
glancing at Dodson, "that she would not compromise for a farthing less."

"Unquestionably," replied Dodson, sternly. "For the action was only
just begun; and it wouldn't have done to let Mr. Pickwick compromise it
then, even if he had been so disposed."

"As you offer no terms, sir," said Dodson, displaying a slip of
parchment in his right hand, and affectionately pressing a paper copy
of it on Mr. Pickwick with his left, "I had better serve you with a
copy of this writ, sir. Here is the original, sir."

"Very well, gentlemen, very well," said Mr. Pickwick, rising in
person and wrath at the same time; "you shall hear from my solicitor,
gentlemen."

"We shall be very happy to do so," said Fogg, rubbing his hands.

"Very," said Dodson, opening the door.

"And before I go, gentlemen," said the excited Mr. Pickwick, turning
round on the landing, "permit me to say, that of all the disgraceful
and rascally proceedings----"

"Stay, sir, stay," interposed Dodson, with great politeness. "Mr.
Jackson! Mr. Wicks!"

"Sir," said the two clerks, appearing at the bottom of the stairs.

"I merely want you to hear what this gentleman says," replied Dodson.
"Pray go on, sir--disgraceful and rascally proceedings, I think you
said?"

"I did," said Mr. Pickwick, thoroughly roused. "I said, sir, that of
all the disgraceful and rascally proceedings that ever were attempted,
this is the most so. I repeat it, sir."

"You hear that, Mr. Wicks?" said Dodson.

"You won't forget these expressions, Mr. Jackson?" said Fogg.

"Perhaps you would like to call us swindlers, sir," said Dodson.

"Pray do, sir, if you feel disposed; now pray do, sir."

"I do," said Mr. Pickwick. "You _are_ swindlers."

"Very good," said Dodson. "You can hear down there, I hope, Mr. Wicks?"

"Oh yes, sir," said Wicks.

"You had better come up a step or two higher, if you can't," added Mr.
Fogg. "Go on, sir; do go on. You had better call us thieves, sir; or
perhaps you would like to assault one of us. Pray do it, sir, if you
would; we will not make the smallest resistance. Pray do it, sir."

As Fogg put himself very temptingly within the reach of Mr. Pickwick's
clenched fist, there is little doubt that that gentleman would have
complied with his earnest entreaty, but for the interposition of Sam,
who, hearing the dispute, emerged from the office, mounted the stairs,
and seized his master by the arm.

"You just come avay," said Mr. Weller. "Battledore and shuttlecock's
a wery good game, ven you an't the shuttlecock and two lawyers the
battledores, in which case it gets too excitin' to be pleasant. Come
away, sir. If you want to ease your mind by blowing up somebody, come
out into the court and blow up me; but it's rayther too expensive work
to be carried on here."

And without the slightest ceremony, Mr. Weller hauled his master down
the stairs, and down the court, and having safely deposited him in
Cornhill, fell behind, prepared to follow whither-soever he should lead.

Mr. Pickwick walked on abstractedly, crossed opposite the Mansion
House, and bent his steps up Cheapside. Sam began to wonder where they
were going, when his master turned round, and said:

"Sam, I will go immediately to Mr. Perker's."

"That's just exactly the wery place vere you ought to have gone last
night, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"I think it is, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I _know_ it is," said Mr. Weller.

"Well, well, Sam," replied Mr. Pickwick, "we will go there at once, but
first, as I have been rather ruffled, I should like a glass of brandy
and water warm, Sam. Where can I have it, Sam?"

Mr. Weller's knowledge of London was extensive and peculiar. He replied
without the slightest consideration:

"Second court on the right-hand side--last house but vun on the same
side the vay--take the box as stands in the first fireplace, 'cos there
an't no leg in the middle o' the table, wich all the others has, and
its wery inconwenient."

Mr. Pickwick observed his valet's directions implicitly, and bidding
Sam follow him, entered the tavern he had pointed out, where the hot
brandy and water was speedily placed before him; while Mr. Weller,
seated at a respectful distance, though at the same table with his
master, was accommodated with a pint of porter.

The room was one of a very homely description, and was apparently
under the especial patronage of stage coachmen: for several gentlemen,
who had all the appearance of belonging to that learned profession,
were drinking and smoking in the different boxes. Among the number was
one stout, red-faced, elderly man in particular, seated in an opposite
box, who attracted Mr. Pickwick's attention. The stout man was smoking
with great vehemence, but between every half-dozen puffs, he took his
pipe from his mouth, and looked first at Mr. Weller and then at Mr.
Pickwick. Then, he would bury in a quart pot as much of his countenance
as the dimensions of the quart pot admitted of its receiving, and
take another look at Sam and Mr. Pickwick. Then he would take another
half-dozen puffs with an air of profound meditation and look at them
again. At last the stout man, putting up his legs on the seat, and
leaning his back against the wall, began to puff at his pipe without
leaving off at all, and to stare through the smoke at the new-comers,
as if he had made up his mind to see the most he could of them.

At first the evolutions of the stout man had escaped Mr. Weller's
observation, but by degrees, as he saw Mr. Pickwick's eyes every now
and then turning towards him, he began to gaze in the same direction,
at the same time shading his eyes with his hand, as if he partially
recognised the object before him, and wished to make quite sure of its
identity. His doubts were speedily dispelled, however; for the stout
man having blown a thick cloud from his pipe, a hoarse voice, like some
strange effort of ventriloquism, emerged from beneath the capacious
shawls which muffled his throat and chest, and slowly uttered these
sounds--"Wy, Sammy!"

"Who's that, Sam?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Why, I wouldn't ha' believed it, sir," replied Mr. Weller with
astonished eyes. "It's the old 'un."

"Old one," said Mr. Pickwick. "What old one?"

"My father, sir," replied Mr. Weller. "How are you, my ancient?" With
which beautiful ebullition of filial affection, Mr. Weller made room on
the seat beside him, for the stout man, who advanced pipe in mouth and
pot in hand, to greet him.

"Wy, Sammy," said the father, "I ha'n't seen you, for two years and
better."

"Nor more you have, old codger," replied the son. "How's mother-in-law?"

"Wy, I'll tell you what, Sammy," said Mr. Weller senior, with much
solemnity in his manner; "there never was a nicer woman as a widder,
than that 'ere second wentur o' mine--a sweet creetur she was, Sammy;
all I can say on her now, is, that as she was such an uncommon pleasant
widder, it's a great pity she ever changed her con-dition. She don't
act as a vife, Sammy."

"Don't she though?" inquired Mr. Weller junior.

The elder Mr. Weller shook his head, as he replied with a sigh, "I've
done it once too often, Sammy; I've done it once too often. Take
example by your father, my boy, and be wery careful o' widders all
your life, specially if they've kept a public-house, Sammy." Having
delivered this parental advice with great pathos, Mr. Weller senior
re-filled his pipe from a tin box he carried in his pocket, and,
lighting his fresh pipe from the ashes of the old one, commenced
smoking at a great rate.

"Beg your pardon, sir," he said, renewing the subject, and addressing
Mr. Pickwick, after a considerable pause, "nothin' personal, I hope,
sir; I hope you ha'n't got a widder, sir."

"Not I," replied Mr. Pickwick, laughing; and while Mr. Pickwick
laughed, Sam Weller informed his parent in a whisper, of the relation
in which he stood towards that gentleman.

"Beg your pardon, sir," said Mr. Weller senior, taking off his hat, "I
hope you've no fault to find vith Sammy, sir?"

"None whatever," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Wery glad to hear it, sir," replied the old man; "I took a good deal
o' pains with his eddication, sir; let him run in the streets when he
was wery young, and shift for his-self. It's the only way to make a boy
sharp, sir."

"Rather a dangerous process, I should imagine," said Mr. Pickwick, with
a smile.

"And not a very sure one, either," added Mr. Weller; "I got reg'larly
done the other day."

"No!" said his father.

[Illustration: "_Take example of your father, my boy, and be wery
careful o' widders all your life._"]

"I did," said the son; and he proceeded to relate, in as few words
as possible, how he had fallen a ready dupe to the stratagems of Job
Trotter.

Mr. Weller senior listened to the tale with the most profound
attention, and at its termination said:

"Worn't one of these chaps slim and tall, with long hair, and the gift
o' the gab wery gallopin'?"

Mr. Pickwick did not quite understand the last item of description,
but, comprehending the first, said "Yes" at a venture.

"T'other's a black-haired chap in mulberry livery, with a wery large
head?"

"Yes, yes, he is," said Mr. Pickwick and Sam, with great earnestness.

"Then I know where they are, and that's all about it," said Mr. Weller;
"they're at Ipswich, safe enough, them two."

"No!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Fact," said Mr. Weller, "and I'll tell you how I know it. I work an
Ipswich coach now and then for a friend o' mine. I worked down the
wery day arter the night as you caught the rheumatiz, and at the Black
Boy at Chelmsford--the very place they'd come to--I took 'em up, right
through to Ipswich, where the man servant--him in the mulberries--told
me they was a goin' to put up for a long time."

"I'll follow him," said Mr. Pickwick; "we may as well see Ipswich as
any other place. I'll follow him."

"You're quite certain it was them, governor?" inquired Mr. Weller
junior.

"Quite, Sammy, quite," replied his father, "for their appearance is
wery sing'ler; besides that 'ere, I wondered to see the gen'l'm'n so
familiar with his servant; and, more than that, as they sat in front,
right behind the box, I heerd 'em laughing, and saying how they'd done
old Fireworks."

"Old who?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Old Fireworks, sir; by which, I've no doubt, they meant you, sir."

There is nothing positively vile or atrocious in the appellation of
"old Fireworks," but still it is by no means a respectful or flattering
designation. The recollection of all the wrongs he had sustained at
Jingle's hands had crowded on Mr. Pickwick's mind, the moment Mr.
Weller began to speak: it wanted but a feather to turn the scale, and
"old Fireworks" did it.

"I'll follow him," said Mr. Pickwick, with an emphatic blow on the
table.

"I shall work down to Ipswich the day arter to-morrow, sir," said Mr.
Weller the elder, "from the Bull in Whitechapel; and if you really mean
to go, you'd better go with me."

"So we had," said Mr. Pickwick; "very true; I can write to Bury, and
tell them to meet me at Ipswich. We will go with you. But don't hurry
away, Mr. Weller; won't you take anything?"

"You're wery good, sir," replied Mr. Weller, stopping short; "perhaps a
small glass of brandy to drink your health, and success to Sammy, sir,
wouldn't be amiss."

"Certainly not," replied Mr. Pickwick. "A glass of brandy here!" The
brandy was brought: and Mr. Weller, after pulling his hair to Mr.
Pickwick, and nodding to Sam, jerked it down his capacious throat as if
it had been a small thimbleful.

"Well done, father!" said Sam; "take care, old fellow, or you'll have a
touch of your old complaint, the gout."

"I've found a sov'rin cure for that, Sammy," said Mr. Weller, setting
down the glass.

"A sovereign cure for the gout," said Mr. Pickwick, hastily producing
his note-book--"what is it?"

"The gout, sir," replied Mr. Weller, "the gout is a complaint as arises
from too much ease and comfort. If ever you're attacked with the gout,
sir, jist you marry a widder as has got a good loud woice, with a
decent notion of usin' it, and you'll never have the gout again. It's
a capital prescription, sir. I takes it reg'lar, and I can warrant it
to drive away any illness as is caused by too much jollity." Having
imparted this valuable secret, Mr. Weller drained his glass once more,
produced a laboured wink, sighed deeply, and slowly retired.

"Well, what do you think of what your father says, Sam?" inquired Mr.
Pickwick, with a smile.

"Think, sir!" replied Mr. Weller; "why, I think he's the wictim o'
connubiality, as Blue Beard's domestic chaplain said, with a tear of
pity, ven he buried him."

There was no replying to this very apposite conclusion, and, therefore,
Mr. Pickwick, after settling the reckoning, resumed his walk to Gray's
Inn. By the time he reached its secluded groves, however, eight o'clock
had struck, and the unbroken stream of gentlemen in muddy high-lows,
soiled white hats, and rusty apparel, who were pouring towards the
different avenues of egress, warned him that the majority of the
offices had closed for that day.

After climbing two pairs of steep and dirty stairs, he found his
anticipations were realised. Mr. Perker's "outer door" was closed; and
the dead silence which followed Mr. Weller's repeated kicks thereat,
announced that the officials had retired from business for the night.

"This is pleasant, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick; "I shouldn't lose an hour
in seeing him; I shall not be able to get one wink of sleep to-night, I
know, unless I have the satisfaction of reflecting that I have confided
this matter to a professional man."

"Here's an old 'ooman comin' up-stairs, sir," replied Mr. Weller;
"p'raps she knows where we can find somebody. Hallo, old lady, vere's
Mr. Perker's people?"

"Mr. Perker's people," said a thin, miserable-looking old woman,
stopping to recover breath after the ascent of the staircase, "Mr.
Perker's people's gone, and I'm a goin' to do the office out."

"Are you Mr. Perker's servant?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"I am Mr. Perker's laundress," replied the old woman.

"Ah," said Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Sam, "it's a curious
circumstance, Sam, that they call the old women in these inns,
laundresses. I wonder what that's for?"

"'Cos they has a mortal awersion to washing anythin', I suppose, sir,"
replied Mr. Weller.

"I shouldn't wonder," said Mr. Pickwick, looking at the old woman,
whose appearance, as well as the condition of the office, which she had
by this time opened, indicated a rooted antipathy to the application
of soap and water; "do you know where I can find Mr. Perker, my good
woman?"

"No, I don't," replied the old woman, gruffly; "he's out o' town now."

"That's unfortunate," said Mr. Pickwick; "where's his clerk? Do you
know?"

"Yes, I know where he is, but he won't thank me for telling you,"
replied the laundress.

"I have very particular business with him," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Won't it do in the morning?" said the woman.

"Not so well," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Well," said the old woman, "if it was anything very particular, I was
to say where he was, so I suppose there's no harm in telling. If you
just go to the Magpie and Stump, and ask at the bar for Mr. Lowten,
they'll show you in to him, and he's Mr. Perker's clerk."

With this direction, and having been furthermore informed that the
hostelry in question was situated in a court, happy in the double
advantage of being in the vicinity of Clare Market, and closely
approximating to the back of New Inn, Mr. Pickwick and Sam descended
the rickety staircase in safety, and issued forth in quest of the
Magpie and Stump.

This favoured tavern, sacred to the evening orgies of Mr. Lowten
and his companions, was what ordinary people would designate a
public-house. That the landlord was a man of a money-making turn,
was sufficiently testified by the fact of a small bulkhead beneath
the tap-room window, in size and shape not unlike a sedan-chair,
being underlet to a mender of shoes: and that he was a being of a
philanthropic mind, was evident from the protection he afforded to a
pie-man, who vended his delicacies without fear of interruption on
the very door-step. In the lower windows, which were decorated with
curtains of a saffron hue, dangled two or three printed cards, bearing
reference to Devonshire cider and Dantzig spruce, while a large black
board, announcing in white letters to an enlightened public that
there were 500,000 barrels of double stout in the cellars of the
establishment, left the mind in a state of not unpleasing doubt and
uncertainty as to the precise direction in the bowels of the earth,
in which this mighty cavern might be supposed to extend. When we add,
that the weather-beaten signboard bore the half-obliterated semblance
of a magpie intently eyeing a crooked streak of brown paint, which the
neighbours had been taught from infancy to consider as the "stump," we
have said all that need be said of the exterior of the edifice.

On Mr. Pickwick's presenting himself at the bar, an elderly female
emerged from behind a screen therein, and presented herself before him.

"Is Mr. Lowten here, ma'am?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes, he is, sir," replied the landlady. "Here, Charley, show the
gentleman in to Mr. Lowten."

"The gen'lm'n can't go in just now," said a shambling pot-boy, with a
red head, "'cos Mr. Lowten's a singin' a comic song, and he'll put him
out. He'll be done d'rectly, sir."

The red-headed pot-boy had scarcely finished speaking, when a most
unanimous hammering of tables, and jingling of glasses announced that
the song had that instant terminated; and Mr. Pickwick, after desiring
Sam to solace himself in the tap, suffered himself to be conducted into
the presence of Mr. Lowten.

At the announcement of "gentleman to speak to you, sir," a puffy-faced
young man, who filled the chair at the head of the table, looked with
some surprise in the direction from whence the voice proceeded: and the
surprise seemed to be by no means diminished, when his eyes rested on
an individual whom he had never seen before.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "and I am very sorry
to disturb the other gentlemen, too, but I come on very particular
business; and if you will suffer me to detain you at this end of the
room for five minutes, I shall be very much obliged to you."

The puffy-faced young man rose, and drawing a chair close to Mr.
Pickwick in an obscure corner of the room, listened attentively to his
tale of woe.

"Ah," he said, when Mr. Pickwick had concluded, "Dodson and Fogg--sharp
practice theirs--capital men of business, Dodson and Fogg, sir."

Mr. Pickwick admitted the sharp practice of Dodson and Fogg, and Lowten
resumed.

"Perker ain't in town, and he won't be, neither, before the end of next
week; but if you want the action defended, and will leave the copy with
me, I can do all that's needful till he comes back."

"That's exactly what I came here for," said Mr. Pickwick, handing over
the document. "If anything particular occurs, you can write to me at
the post-office, Ipswich."

"That's all right," replied Mr. Perker's clerk; and then seeing Mr.
Pickwick's eye wandering curiously towards the table, he added, "Will
you join us, for half an hour or so? We are capital company here
to-night. There's Samkin and Green's managing-clerk, and Smithers and
Price's chancery, and Pimkin and Thomas's out o' door--sings a capital
song, he does--and Jack Bamber, and ever so many more. You're come out
of the country, I suppose. Would you like to join us?"

Mr. Pickwick could not resist so tempting an opportunity of studying
human nature. He suffered himself to be led to the table, where, after
having been introduced to the company in due form, he was accommodated
with a seat near the chairman, and called for a glass of his favourite
beverage.

A profound silence, quite contrary to Mr. Pickwick's expectation,
succeeded.

"You don't find this sort of thing disagreeable, I hope, sir?" said his
right-hand neighbour, a gentleman in a checked shirt, and Mosaic studs,
with a cigar in his mouth.

"Not in the least," replied Mr. Pickwick, "I like it very much,
although I am no smoker myself."

"I should be very sorry to say I wasn't," interposed another gentleman
on the opposite side of the table. "It's board and lodging to me, is
smoke."

Mr. Pickwick glanced at the speaker, and thought that if it were
washing too, it would be all the better.

Here there was another pause. Mr. Pickwick was a stranger, and his
coming had evidently cast a damp upon the party.

"Mr. Grundy's going to oblige the company with a song," said the
chairman.

"No he ain't," said Mr. Grundy.

"Why not?" said the chairman.

"Because he can't," said Mr. Grundy.

"You had better say he won't," replied the chairman.

"Well, then, he won't," retorted Mr. Grundy. Mr. Grundy's positive
refusal to gratify the company occasioned another silence.

"Won't anybody enliven us?" said the chairman, despondingly.

"Why don't you enliven us yourself, Mr. Chairman?" said a young man
with a whisker, a squint, and an open shirt-collar (dirty), from the
bottom of the table.

"Hear! hear!" said the smoking gentleman in the Mosaic jewellery.

"Because I only know one song, and I have sung it already, and it's
a fine of 'glasses round' to sing the same song twice in a night,"
replied the chairman.

This was an unanswerable reply, and silence prevailed again.

"I have been to-night, gentlemen," said Mr. Pickwick, hoping to start a
subject which all the company could take a part in discussing, "I have
been to-night in a place which you all know very well, doubtless, but
which I have not been in before for some years, and know very little
of; I mean Gray's Inn, gentlemen. Curious little nooks in a great
place, like London, these old Inns are."

"By Jove," said the chairman, whispering across the table to Mr.
Pickwick, "you have hit upon something that one of us, at least, would
talk upon for ever. You'll draw old Jack Bamber out; he was never heard
to talk about anything else but the Inns, and he has lived alone in
them till he's half crazy."

The individual to whom Lowten alluded was a little yellow
high-shouldered man, whose countenance, from his habit of stooping
forward when silent, Mr. Pickwick had not observed before. He wondered
though, when the old man raised his shrivelled face, and bent his grey
eye upon him, with a keen inquiring look, that such remarkable features
could have escaped his attention for a moment. There was a fixed grim
smile perpetually on his countenance; he leant his chin on a long
skinny hand, with nails of extraordinary length; and as he inclined
his head to one side, and looked keenly out from beneath his ragged
grey eyebrows, there was a strange, wild slyness in his leer, quite
repulsive to behold.

This was the figure that now started forward, and burst into an
animated torrent of words. As this chapter has been a long one,
however, and as the old man was a remarkable personage, it will be more
respectful to him, and more convenient to us, to let him speak for
himself in a fresh one.



CHAPTER XXI

[Illustration]

  _In which the Old Man launches forth into his Favourite Theme,
    and relates a Story about a Queer Client_


"Aha!" said the old man, a brief description of whose manner and
appearance concluded the last chapter, "Aha! who was talking about the
Inns?"

"I was, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick; "I was observing what singular old
places they are."

"_You!_" said the old man, contemptuously, "What do _you_ know of the
time when young men shut themselves up in those lonely rooms, and read
and read, hour after hour, and night after night, till their reason
wandered beneath their midnight studies; till their mental powers were
exhausted; till morning's light brought no freshness or health to
them; and they sank beneath the unnatural devotion of their youthful
energies to their dry old books? Coming down to a later time, and a
very different day, what do _you_ know of the gradual sinking beneath
consumption, or the quick wasting of fever--the grand results of 'life'
and dissipation--which men have undergone in these same rooms? How many
vain pleaders for mercy, do you think, have turned away heart-sick from
the lawyer's office, to find a resting-place in the Thames, or a refuge
in the gaol? They are no ordinary houses, those. There is not a panel
in the old wainscoting, but what, if it were endowed with the powers
of speech and memory, could start from the wall, and tell its tale of
horror--the romance of life, sir, the romance of life! Commonplace as
they may seem now, I tell you they are strange old places, and I would
rather hear many a legend with a terrific sounding name, than the true
history of one old set of chambers."

There was something so odd in the old man's sudden energy, and the
subject which had called it forth, that Mr. Pickwick was prepared with
no observation in reply; and the old man, checking his impetuosity,
and resuming the leer, which had disappeared during his previous
excitement, said:

"Look at them in another light: their most commonplace and least
romantic. What fine places of slow torture they are! Think of the needy
man who has spent his all, beggared himself, and pinched his friends,
to enter the profession, which will never yield him a morsel of bread.
The waiting--the hope--the disappointment--the fear--the misery--the
poverty--the blight on his hopes, and end to his career--the suicide
perhaps, or the shabby, slipshod drunkard. Am I not right about them?"
And the old man rubbed his hands, and leered as if in delight at having
found another point of view in which to place his favourite subject.

Mr. Pickwick eyed the old man with great curiosity, and the remainder
of the company smiled, and looked on in silence.

"Talk of your German universities," said the little old man. "Pooh,
pooh! there's romance enough at home without going half a mile for it;
only people never think of it."

"I never thought of the romance of this particular subject before,
certainly," said Mr. Pickwick, laughing.

"To be sure you didn't," said the little old man, "of course not.
As a friend of mine used to say to me, 'What is there in chambers,
in particular?' 'Queer old places,' said I. 'Not at all,' said he.
'Lonely,' said I. 'Not a bit of it,' said he. He died one morning of
apoplexy, as he was going to open his outer door. Fell with his head
in his own letter-box, and there he lay for eighteen months. Everybody
thought he'd gone out of town."

"And how was he found at last?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"The benchers determined to have his door broken open, as he hadn't
paid any rent for two years. So they did. Forced the lock; and a very
dusty skeleton in a blue coat, black knee-shorts, and silks, fell
forward in the arms of the porter who opened the door. Queer, that.
Rather, perhaps?" The little old man put his head more on one side, and
rubbed his hands with unspeakable glee.

"I know another case," said the little old man, when his chuckles had
in some degree subsided. "It occurred in Clifford's Inn. Tenant of a
top set--bad character--shut himself up in his bed-room closet, and
took a dose of arsenic. The steward thought he had run away; opened
the door, and put a bill up. Another man came, took the chambers,
furnished them, and went to live there. Somehow or other he couldn't
sleep--always restless and uncomfortable. 'Odd,' says he. 'I'll make
the other room my bed-chamber, and this my sitting-room.' He made the
change, and slept very well at night, but suddenly found that, somehow,
he couldn't read in the evening: he got nervous and uncomfortable, and
used to be always snuffing his candles and staring about him. 'I can't
make this out,' said he, when he came home from the play one night, and
was drinking a glass of cold grog, with his back to the wall, in order
that he mightn't be able to fancy there was any one behind him--'I
can't make it out,' said he; and just then his eyes rested on the
little closet that had been always locked up, and a shudder ran through
his whole frame from top to toe. 'I have felt this strange feeling
before,' said he, 'I cannot help thinking there's something wrong about
that closet.' He made a strong effort, plucked up his courage, shivered
the lock with a blow or two of the poker, opened the door, and there,
sure enough, standing bolt upright in the corner, was the last tenant,
with a little bottle clasped firmly in his hand, and his face--well!"
As the little old man concluded, he looked round on the attentive faces
of his wondering auditory with a smile of grim delight.

"What strange things these are you tell us of, sir," said Mr. Pickwick,
minutely scanning the old man's countenance, by the aid of his glasses.

"Strange!" said the little old man. "Nonsense; you think them strange,
because you know nothing about it. They are funny, but not uncommon."

"Funny!" exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, involuntarily.

"Yes, funny, are they not?" replied the little old man, with a
diabolical leer; and then, without pausing for an answer, he continued:

"I knew another man--let me see--forty years ago now--who took an old,
damp, rotten set of chambers, in one of the most ancient Inns, that
had been shut up and empty for years and years before. There were lots
of old women's stories about the place, and it certainly was very far
from being a cheerful one; but he was poor and the rooms were cheap,
and that would have been quite a sufficient reason for him, if they
had been ten times worse than they really were. He was obliged to
take some mouldering fixtures that were on the place, and, among the
rest, was a great lumbering wooden press for papers, with large glass
doors, and a green curtain inside; a pretty useless thing for him,
for he had no papers to put in it; and as to his clothes, he carried
them about with him, and that wasn't very hard work, either. Well, he
had moved in all his furniture--it wasn't quite a truck-full--and had
sprinkled it about the room, so as to make the four chairs look as
much like a dozen as possible, and was sitting down before the fire
at night drinking the first glass of two gallons of whisky he had
ordered on credit, wondering whether it would ever be paid for, and
if so, in how many years' time, when his eyes encountered the glass
doors of the wooden press. 'Ah,' says he, 'if I hadn't been obliged
to take that ugly article at the old broker's valuation, I might have
got something comfortable for the money. I'll tell you what it is, old
fellow,' he said, speaking aloud to the press, having nothing else to
speak to: 'If it wouldn't cost more to break up your old carcase, than
it would ever be worth afterwards, I'd have a fire out of you in less
than no time.' He had hardly spoken the words, when a sound resembling
a faint groan, appeared to issue from the interior of the case. It
startled him at first, but thinking, on a moment's reflection, that
it must be some young fellow in the next chamber, who had been dining
out, he put his feet on the fender, and raised the poker to stir the
fire. At that moment, the sound was repeated; and one of the glass
doors slowly opening, disclosed a pale and emaciated figure in soiled
and worn apparel, standing erect in the press. The figure was tall
and thin, and the countenance expressive of care and anxiety; but
there was something in the hue of the skin, and gaunt and unearthly
appearance of the whole form, which no being of this world was ever
seen to wear. 'Who are you?' said the new tenant, turning very pale:
poising the poker in his hand, however, and taking a very decent aim
at the countenance of the figure. 'Who are you?' 'Don't throw that
poker at me,' replied the form; 'if you hurled it with ever so sure
an aim, it would pass through me, without resistance, and expend its
force on the wood behind. I am a spirit.' 'And, pray, what do you want
here?' faltered the tenant. 'In this room,' replied the apparition, 'my
worldly ruin was worked, and I and my children beggared. In this press,
the papers in a long, long suit, which accumulated for years, were
deposited. In this room, when I had died of grief and long deferred
hope, two wily harpies divided the wealth for which I had contested
during a wretched existence, and of which, at last, not one farthing
was left for my unhappy descendants. I terrified them from the spot,
and since that day have prowled by night--the only period at which I
can revisit the earth--about the scenes of my long-protracted misery.
This apartment is mine: leave it to me.' 'If you insist upon making
your appearance here,' said the tenant, who had had time to collect his
presence of mind during this prosy statement of the ghost's, 'I shall
give up possession with the greatest pleasure; but I should like to ask
you one question, if you will allow me.' 'Say on,' said the apparition,
sternly. 'Well,' said the tenant, 'I don't apply the observation
personally to you, because it is equally applicable to most of the
ghosts I ever heard of; but it does appear to me somewhat inconsistent,
that when you have an opportunity of visiting the fairest spots of
earth--for I suppose space is nothing to you--you should always return
exactly to the very places where you have been most miserable.' 'Egad,
that's very true; I never thought of that before,' said the ghost. 'You
see, sir,' pursued the tenant, 'this is a very uncomfortable room.
From the appearance of that press, I should be disposed to say that it
is not wholly free from bugs; and I really think you might find much
more comfortable quarters: to say nothing of the climate of London,
which is extremely disagreeable.' 'You are very right, sir,' said the
ghost, politely, 'it never struck me till now; I'll try change of air
directly.' In fact, he began to vanish as he spoke: his legs, indeed,
had quite disappeared. 'And if, sir,' said the tenant, calling after
him, 'if you _would_ have the goodness to suggest to the other ladies
and gentlemen who are now engaged in haunting old empty houses, that
they might be much more comfortable elsewhere, you will confer a very
great benefit on society.' 'I will,' replied the ghost; 'we must be
dull fellows, very dull fellows, indeed; I can't imagine how we can
have been so stupid.' With these words, the spirit disappeared; and
what is rather remarkable," added the old man, with a shrewd look round
the table, "he never came back again."

"That ain't bad, if it's true," said the man in the Mosaic studs,
lighting a fresh cigar.

"_If!_" exclaimed the old man, with a look of excessive contempt. "I
suppose," he added, turning to Lowten, "he'll say next, that my story
about the queer client we had, when I was in an attorney's office, is
not true, either--I shouldn't wonder."

"I shan't venture to say anything at all about it, seeing that I never
heard the story," observed the owner of the Mosaic decorations.

"I wish you would repeat it, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Ah, do," said Lowten; "nobody has heard it but me, and I have nearly
forgotten it."

The old man looked round the table, and leered more horribly than ever,
as if in triumph, at the attention which was depicted in every face.
Then rubbing his chin with his hand, and looking up to the ceiling as
if to recall the circumstances to his memory, he began as follows:


THE OLD MAN'S TALE ABOUT THE QUEER CLIENT

"It matters little," said the old man, "where, or how, I picked up this
brief history. If I were to relate it in the order in which it reached
me, I should commence in the middle, and when I had arrived at the
conclusion, go back for a beginning. It is enough for me to say that
some of the circumstances passed before my own eyes. For the remainder
I know them to have happened, and there are some persons yet living,
who will remember them but too well.

"In the Borough High Street, near St. George's Church, and on the same
side of the way, stands, as most people know, the smallest of our
debtors' prisons, the Marshalsea. Although in later times it has been
a very different place from the sink of filth and dirt it once was,
even its improved condition holds out but little temptation to the
extravagant, or consolation to the improvident. The condemned felon has
as good a yard for air and exercise in Newgate, as the insolvent debtor
in the Marshalsea Prison.[4]

      [4] Better. But this is past, in a better age, and the prison
          exists no longer.

"It may be my fancy, or it may be that I cannot separate the place from
the old recollections associated with it, but this part of London I
cannot bear. The street is broad, the shops are spacious, the noise of
passing vehicles, the footsteps of a perpetual stream of people--all
the busy sounds of traffic, resound in it from morn to midnight, but
the streets around are mean and close; poverty and debauchery lie
festering in the crowded alleys; want and misfortune are pent up in
the narrow prison; an air of gloom and dreariness seems, in my eyes
at least, to hang about the scene, and to impart to it a squalid and
sickly hue.

"Many eyes, that have long since been closed in the grave, have looked
round upon that scene lightly enough, when entering the gate of the old
Marshalsea Prison for the first time: for despair seldom comes with
the first severe shock of misfortune. A man has confidence in untried
friends, he remembers the many offers of service so freely made by
his boon companions when he wanted them not; he has hope--the hope of
happy inexperience--and however he may bend beneath the first shock,
it springs up in his bosom, and flourishes there for a brief space,
until it droops beneath the blight of disappointment and neglect. How
soon have those same eyes, deeply sunken in the head, glared from
faces wasted with famine, and sallow from confinement, in days when it
was no figure of speech to say that debtors rotted in prison, with no
hope of release, and no prospect of liberty! The atrocity in its full
extent no longer exists, but there is enough of it left to give rise to
occurrences that make the heart bleed.

"Twenty years ago, that pavement was worn with the footsteps of a
mother and child, who, day by day, so surely as the morning came,
presented themselves at the prison gate; often after a night of
restless misery and anxious thoughts, were they there, a full hour
too soon, and then the young mother, turning meekly away, would lead
the child to the old bridge, and raising him in her arms to show him
the glistening water, tinted with the light of the morning's sun, and
stirring with all the bustling preparations for business and pleasure
that the river presented at that early hour, endeavour to interest his
thoughts in the objects before him. But she would quickly set him down,
and hiding her face in her shawl, give vent to the tears that blinded
her; for no expression of interest or amusement lighted up his thin
and sickly face. His recollections were few enough, but they were all
of one kind: all connected with the poverty and misery of his parents.
Hour after hour had he sat on his mother's knee, and with childish
sympathy watched the tears that stole down her face, and then crept
quietly away into some dark corner, and sobbed himself to sleep. The
hard realities of the world, with many of its worst privations--hunger
and thirst, and cold and want--had all come home to him, from the first
dawnings of reason; and though the form of childhood was there, its
light heart, its merry laugh, and sparkling eyes, were wanting.

"The father and mother looked on upon this, and upon each other,
with thoughts of agony they dared not breathe in words. The healthy,
strong-made man, who could have borne almost any fatigue of active
exertion, was wasting beneath the close confinement and unhealthy
atmosphere of a crowded prison. The slight and delicate woman was
sinking beneath the combined effects of bodily and mental illness. The
child's young heart was breaking.

"Winter came, and with it weeks of cold and heavy rain. The poor girl
had removed to a wretched apartment close to the spot of her husband's
imprisonment; and though the change had been rendered necessary by
their increasing poverty, she was happier now, for she was nearer him.
For two months, she and her little companion watched the opening of the
gate as usual. One day she failed to come, for the first time. Another
morning arrived, and she came alone. The child was dead.

"They little know, who coldly talk of the poor man's bereavements, as
a happy release from pain to the departed, and a merciful relief from
expense to the survivor--they little know, I say, what the agony of
those bereavements is. A silent look of affection and regard when all
other eyes are turned coldly away--the consciousness that we possess
the sympathy and affection of one being when all others have deserted
us--is a hold, a stay, a comfort, in the deepest affliction, which
no wealth could purchase, or power bestow. The child had sat at his
parents' feet for hours together, with his little hands patiently
folded in each other, and his thin wan face raised towards them. They
had seen him pine away, from day to day; and though his brief existence
had been a joyless one, and he was now removed to that peace and rest
which, child as he was, he had never known in this world, they were his
parents, and his loss sunk deep into their souls.

"It was plain to those who looked upon the mother's altered face,
that death must soon close the scene of her adversity and trial. Her
husband's fellow-prisoners shrunk from obtruding on his grief and
misery, and left to himself alone, the small room he had previously
occupied in common with two companions. She shared it with him: and
lingering on without pain, but without hope, her life ebbed slowly away.

"She had fainted one evening in her husband's arms, and he had borne
her to the open window, to revive her with the air, when the light
of the moon falling full upon her face, showed him a change upon her
features, which made him stagger beneath her weight, like a helpless
infant.

"'Set me down, George,' she said, faintly. He did so, and seating
himself beside her, covered his face with his hands, and burst into
tears.

"'It is very hard to leave you, George,' she said, 'but it is God's
will, and you must bear it for my sake. Oh! how I thank Him for having
taken our boy! He is happy, and in Heaven now. What would he have done
here, without his mother!'

"'You shall not die, Mary, you shall not die!' said the husband,
starting up. He paced hurriedly to and fro, striking his head with his
clenched fists; then reseating himself beside her, and supporting her
in his arms, added more calmly, 'Rouse yourself, my dear girl. Pray,
pray do. You will revive yet.'

"'Never again, George; never again,' said the dying woman. 'Let them
lay me by my poor boy now, but promise me, that if ever you leave
this dreadful place, and should grow rich, you will have us removed
to some quiet country churchyard, a long, long way off--very far from
here--where we can rest in peace. Dear George, promise me you will.'

"'I do, I do,' said the man, throwing himself passionately on his knees
before her. 'Speak to me, Mary, another word; one look--but one!'

"He ceased to speak: for the arm that clasped his neck grew stiff and
heavy. A deep sigh escaped from the wasted form before him; the lips
moved and a smile played upon the face; but the lips were pallid, and
the smile faded into a rigid and ghastly stare. He was alone in the
world.

"That night, in the silence and desolation of his miserable room, the
wretched man knelt down by the dead body of his wife, and called on God
to witness a terrible oath, that from that hour, he devoted himself
to revenge her death and that of his child; that thenceforth, to the
last moment of his life, his whole energies should be directed to this
one object; that his revenge should be protracted and terrible; that
his hatred should be undying and inextinguishable; and should hunt its
object through the world.

"The deepest despair, and passion scarcely human, had made such fierce
ravages on his face and form, in that one night, that his companions in
misfortune shrunk affrighted from him as he passed by. His eyes were
bloodshot and heavy, his face a deadly white, and his body bent as if
with age. He had bitten his under lip nearly through in the violence
of his mental suffering, and the blood which had flowed from the wound
had trickled down his chin, and stained his shirt and neckerchief. No
tear or sound of complaint escaped him: but the unsettled look, and
disordered haste with which he paced up and down the yard, denoted the
fever which was burning within.

"It was necessary that his wife's body should be removed from the
prison, without delay. He received the communication with perfect
calmness, and acquiesced in its propriety. Nearly all the inmates of
the prison had assembled to witness its removal; they fell back on
either side when the widower appeared; he walked hurriedly forward,
and stationed himself, alone, in a little railed area close to the
lodge gate, from whence the crowd, with an instinctive feeling of
delicacy, had retired. The rude coffin was borne slowly forward on
men's shoulders. A dead silence pervaded the throng, broken only by
the audible lamentations of the women, and the shuffling steps of the
bearers on the stone pavement. They reached the spot where the bereaved
husband stood: and stopped. He laid his hand upon the coffin, and
mechanically adjusting the pall with which it was covered, motioned
them onward. The turnkeys in the prison lobby took off their hats as it
passed through, and in another moment the heavy gate closed behind it.
He looked vacantly upon the crowd, and fell heavily to the ground.

"Although for many weeks after this, he was watched, night and day,
in the wildest ravings of fever, neither the consciousness of his
loss, nor the recollection of the vow he had made, ever left him for
a moment. Scenes changed before his eyes, place succeeded place, and
event followed event, in all the hurry of delirium; but they were all
connected in some way with the great object of his mind. He was sailing
over a boundless expanse of sea, with a blood-red sky above, and the
angry waters, lashed into fury beneath, boiled and eddied up, on every
side. There was another vessel before them, toiling and labouring in
the howling storm: her canvas fluttering in ribbons from the mast, and
her deck thronged with figures who were lashed to the sides, over which
huge waves every instant burst, sweeping away some devoted creatures
into the foaming sea. Onward they bore, amidst the roaring mass of
water, with a speed and force which nothing could resist; and striking
the stern of the foremost vessel, crushed her beneath their keel. From
the huge whirlpool which the sinking wreck occasioned, arose a shriek
so loud and shrill--the death-cry of a hundred drowning creatures,
blended into one fierce yell--that it rung far above the war-cry of the
elements, and echoed and re-echoed till it seemed to pierce air, sky
and ocean. But what was that--that old grey-head that rose above the
water's surface, and with looks of agony, and screams for aid, buffeted
with the waves! One look, and he had sprung from the vessel's side, and
with vigorous strokes was swimming towards it. He reached it; he was
close upon it. They were _his_ features. The old man saw him coming,
and vainly strove to elude his grasp. But he clasped him tight, and
dragged him beneath the water. Down, down with him, fifty fathoms down;
his struggles grew fainter and fainter, until they wholly ceased. He
was dead; he had killed him, and had kept his oath.

"He was traversing the scorching sands of a mighty desert, barefoot and
alone. The sand choked and blinded him; its fine thin grains entered
the very pores of his skin, and irritated him almost to madness.
Gigantic masses of the same material, carried forward by the wind, and
shone through by the burning sun, stalked in the distance like pillars
of living fire. The bones of men, who had perished in the dreary waste,
lay scattered at his feet; a fearful light fell on everything around;
so far as the eye could reach, nothing but objects of dread and horror
presented themselves. Vainly striving to utter a cry of terror, with
his tongue cleaving to his mouth, he rushed madly forward. Armed with
supernatural strength, he waded through the sand, until exhausted with
fatigue and thirst, he fell senseless on the earth. What fragrant
coolness revived him; what gushing sound was that? Water! It was indeed
a well; and the clear fresh stream was running at his feet. He drank
deeply of it, and throwing his aching limbs upon the bank, sunk into
a delicious trance. The sound of approaching footsteps roused him. An
old grey-headed man tottered forward to slake his burning thirst. It
was _he_ again! He wound his arms round the old man's body and held
him back. He struggled, and shrieked for water, for but one drop of
water to save his life! But he held the old man firmly, and watched his
agonies with greedy eyes; and when his lifeless head fell forward on
his bosom, he rolled the corpse from him with his feet.

"When the fever had left him, and consciousness returned, he awoke to
find himself rich and free: to hear that the parent who would have let
him die in gaol--_would!_ who _had_ let those who were far dearer to
him than his own existence, die of want and sickness of heart that
medicine cannot cure--had been found dead on his bed of down. He had
had all the heart to leave his son a beggar, but proud even of his
health and strength, had put off the act till it was too late, and now
might gnash his teeth in the other world, at the thought of the wealth
his remissness had left him. He awoke to this, and he awoke to more.
To recollect the purpose for which he lived, and to remember that his
enemy was his wife's own father--the man who had cast him into prison,
and who, when his daughter and her child sued at his feet for mercy,
had spurned them from his door. Oh, how he cursed the weakness that
prevented him from being up, and active, in his scheme of vengeance!

"He caused himself to be carried from the scene of his loss and misery,
and conveyed to a quiet residence on the sea-coast; not in the hope of
recovering his peace of mind or happiness, for both were fled for ever;
but to restore his prostrate energies, and meditate on his darling
object. And here, some evil spirit cast in his way the opportunity for
his first most horrible revenge.

"It was summer time; and wrapped in his gloomy thoughts, he would
issue from his solitary lodgings early in the evening, and wandering
along a narrow path beneath the cliffs, to a wild and lonely spot that
had struck his fancy in his ramblings, seat himself on some fallen
fragment of the rock, and burying his face in his hands, remain there
for hours--sometimes until night had completely closed in, and the
long shadows of the frowning cliffs above his head, cast a thick black
darkness on every object near him.

"He was seated here one calm evening, in his old position, now and then
raising his head to watch the flight of a sea-gull, or carry his eye
along the glorious crimson path, which, commencing in the middle of the
ocean, seemed to lead to its very verge where the sun was setting, when
the profound stillness of the spot was broken by a loud cry for help;
he listened, doubtful of his having heard aright, when the cry was
repeated with even greater vehemence than before, and starting to his
feet, he hastened in the direction whence it proceeded.

"The tale told itself at once: some scattered garments lay on the
beach; a human head was just visible above the waves at a little
distance from the shore; and an old man, wringing his hands in agony,
was running to and fro, shrieking for assistance. The invalid, whose
strength was now sufficiently restored, threw off his coat, and rushed
towards the sea, with the intention of plunging in, and dragging the
drowning man ashore.

"'Hasten here, sir, in God's name! help, help, sir, for the love of
Heaven! He is my son, sir, my only son!' said the old man, frantically,
as he advanced to meet him. 'My only son, sir, and he is dying before
his father's eyes!'

"At the first word the old man uttered, the stranger checked himself in
his career, and, folding his arms, stood perfectly motionless.

"'Great God!' exclaimed the old man, recoiling. 'Heyling!'

"The stranger smiled, and was silent.

"'Heyling!' said the old man, wildly. 'My boy, Heyling, my dear boy,
look, look!' gasping for breath, the miserable father pointed to the
spot where the young man was struggling for life.

"'Hark!' said the old man. 'He cries once more. He is alive yet.
Heyling, save him, save him!'

"The stranger smiled again, and remained immovable as a statue.

"'I have wronged you,' shrieked the old man, falling on his knees, and
clasping his hands together. 'Be revenged; take my all, my life; cast
me into the water at your feet, and, if human nature can repress a
struggle, I will die, without stirring hand or foot. Do it, Heyling, do
it, but save my boy, he is so young, Heyling, so young to die!'

"'Listen,' said the stranger, grasping the old man fiercely by the
wrist: 'I will have life for life, and here is +ONE+. _My_ child died,
before his father's eyes, a far more agonising and painful death than
that young slanderer of his sister's worth is meeting while I speak.
You laughed--laughed in your daughter's face, where death had already
set his hand--at our sufferings, then. What think you of them now? See
there, see there!'

"As the stranger spoke he pointed to the sea. A faint cry died away
upon its surface: the last powerful struggle of the dying man agitated
the rippling waves for a few seconds: and the spot where he had gone
down into his early grave, was undistinguishable from the surrounding
water.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Three years had elapsed, when a gentleman alighted from a private
carriage at the door of a London attorney, then well known as a man of
no great nicety in his professional dealings: and requested a private
interview on business of importance. Although evidently not past the
prime of life, his face was pale, haggard, and dejected; and it did not
require the acute perception of the man of business, to discern at a
glance, that disease or suffering had done more to work a change in his
appearance, than the mere hand of time could have accomplished in twice
the period of his whole life.

"'I wish you to undertake some legal business for me,' said the
stranger.

"The attorney bowed obsequiously, and glanced at a large packet which
the gentleman carried in his hand. His visitor observed the look, and
proceeded.

"'It is no common business,' said he; 'nor have these papers reached my
hands without long trouble and great expense.'

"The attorney cast a still more anxious look at the packet; and his
visitor, untying the string that bound it, disclosed a quantity of
promissory notes, with copies of deeds, and other documents.

"'Upon these papers,' said the client, 'the man whose name they bear,
has raised, as you will see, large sums of money, for some years past.
There was a tacit understanding between him and the men into whose
hands they originally went--and from whom I have by degrees purchased
the whole, for treble and quadruple their nominal value--that these
loans should be from time to time renewed, until a given period had
elapsed. Such an understanding is nowhere expressed. He has sustained
many losses of late; and these obligations accumulating upon him at
once, would crush him to the earth.'

"'The whole amount is many thousands of pounds,' said the attorney,
looking over the papers.

"'It is,' said the client.

"'What are we to do?' inquired the man of business.

"'Do!' replied the client, with sudden vehemence. 'Put every engine of
the law in force, every trick that ingenuity can devise and rascality
execute; fair means and foul; the open oppression of the law, aided by
all the craft of its most ingenious practitioners. I would have him die
a harassing and lingering death. Ruin him, seize and sell his lands and
goods, drive him from house and home, and drag him forth a beggar in
his old age, to die in a common gaol.'

"'But the costs, my dear sir, the costs of all this,' reasoned the
attorney, when he had recovered from his momentary surprise. 'If the
defendant be a man of straw, who is to pay the costs, sir?'

"'Name any sum,' said the stranger, his hand trembling so violently
with excitement, that he could scarcely hold the pen he seized as he
spoke; 'any sum, and it is yours. Don't be afraid to name it, man. I
shall not think it dear, if you gain my object.'

"The attorney named a large sum, at hazard, as the advance he should
require to secure himself against the possibility of loss; but more
with the view of ascertaining how far his client was really disposed
to go, than with any idea that he would comply with the demand. The
stranger wrote a cheque upon his banker, for the whole amount, and left
him.

"The draft was duly honoured, and the attorney, finding that his
strange client might be safely relied upon, commenced his work in
earnest. For more than two years afterwards, Mr. Heyling would sit
whole days together, in the office, poring over the papers as they
accumulated, and reading again and again, his eyes gleaming with joy,
the letters of remonstrance, the prayers for a little delay, the
representations of the certain ruin in which the opposite party must
be involved, which poured in, as suit after suit, and process after
process, was commenced. To all applications for a brief indulgence,
there was but one reply--the money must be paid. Land, house,
furniture, each in its turn, was taken under some one of the numerous
executions which were issued; and the old man himself would have been
immured in prison had he not escaped the vigilance of the officers, and
fled.

"The implacable animosity of Heyling, so far from being satiated by
the success of his persecution, increased a hundredfold with the ruin
he inflicted. On being informed of the old man's flight, his fury was
unbounded. He gnashed his teeth with rage, tore the hair from his head,
and assailed with horrid imprecations the men who had been entrusted
with the writ. He was only restored to comparative calmness by repeated
assurances of the certainty of discovering the fugitive. Agents were
sent in quest of him, in all directions; every stratagem that could be
invented was resorted to, for the purpose of discovering his place of
retreat; but it was all in vain. Half a year had passed over, and he
was still undiscovered.

"At length, late one night, Heyling, of whom nothing had been seen for
many weeks before, appeared at his attorney's private residence, and
sent up word that a gentleman wished to see him instantly. Before the
attorney, who had recognised his voice from above stairs, could order
the servant to admit him, he had rushed up the staircase, and entered
the drawing-room pale and breathless. Having closed the door, to
prevent being overheard, he sunk into a chair, and said, in a low voice:

"'Hush! I have found him at last.'

"'No!' said the attorney. 'Well done, my dear sir; well done.'

"'He lies concealed in a wretched lodging in Camden Town,' said
Heyling. 'Perhaps it is as well we _did_ lose sight of him, for he has
been living alone there, in the most abject misery, all the time, and
he is poor--very poor.'

"'Very good,' said the attorney. 'You will have the caption made
to-morrow, of course?'

"'Yes,' replied Heyling. 'Stay! No! The next day. You are surprised at
my wishing to postpone it,' he added, with a ghastly smile; 'but I had
forgotten. The next day is an anniversary in his life: let it be done
then.'

"'Very good,' said the attorney. 'Will you write down instructions for
the officer?'

"'No; let him meet me here, at eight in the evening, and I will
accompany him, myself.'

"They met on the appointed night, and, hiring a hackney coach, directed
the driver to stop at that corner of the old Pancras Road, at which
stands the parish workhouse. By the time they alighted there, it was
quite dark; and, proceeding by the dead wall in front of the Veterinary
Hospital, they entered a small by-street, which is, or was at that
time, called Little College Street, and which, whatever it may be now,
was in those days a desolate place enough, surrounded by little else
than fields and ditches.

"Having drawn the travelling cap he had on half over his face,
and muffled himself in his cloak, Heyling stopped before the
meanest-looking house in the street, and knocked gently at the door. It
was opened at once by a woman, who dropped a curtsey of recognition,
and Heyling, whispering the officer to remain below, crept gently
up-stairs, and, opening the door of the front room, entered at once.

"The object of his search and his unrelenting animosity, now a decrepid
old man, was seated at a bare deal table, on which stood a miserable
candle. He started on the entrance of the stranger, and rose feebly to
his feet.

"'What now, what now?' said the old man. 'What fresh misery is this?
What do you want here?'

"'A word with _you_,' replied Heyling. As he spoke, he seated himself
at the other end of the table, and, throwing off his cloak and cap,
disclosed his features.

"The old man seemed instantly deprived of the power of speech. He fell
backward in his chair, and, clasping his hands together, gazed on the
apparition with a mingled look of abhorrence and fear.

"'This day six years,' said Heyling, 'I claimed the life you owed me
for my child's. Beside the lifeless form of your daughter, old man, I
swore to live a life of revenge. I have never swerved from my purpose
for a moment's space; but if I had, one thought of her uncomplaining,
suffering look, as she drooped away, or of the starving face of our
innocent child, would have nerved me to my task. My first act of
requital you well remember: this is my last.'

"The old man shivered, and his hands dropped powerless by his side.

"'I leave England to-morrow,' said Heyling, after a moment's pause.
'To-night I consign you to the living death to which you devoted her--a
hopeless prison----'

"He raised his eyes to the old man's countenance, and paused. He lifted
the light to his face, set it gently down, and left the apartment.

"'You had better see to the old man,' he said to the woman, as he
opened the door, and motioned the officer to follow him into the
street. 'I think he is ill.' The woman closed the door, ran hastily
upstairs, and found him lifeless.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Beneath a plain grave-stone, in one of the most peaceful and secluded
churchyards in Kent, where wild flowers mingle with the grass, and the
soft landscape around forms the fairest spot in the garden of England,
lie the bones of the young mother and her gentle child. But the ashes
of the father do not mingle with theirs; nor, from that night forward,
did the attorney ever gain the remotest clue to the subsequent history
of his queer client."

       *       *       *       *       *

As the old man concluded his tale, he advanced to a peg in one corner,
and taking down his hat and coat, put them on with great deliberation;
and, without saying another word, walked slowly away. As the gentleman
with the Mosaic studs had fallen asleep, and the major part of the
company were deeply occupied in the humorous process of dropping
melted tallow-grease into his brandy and water, Mr. Pickwick departed
unnoticed, and having settled his own score, and that of Mr. Weller,
issued forth, in company with that gentleman, from beneath the portal
of the Magpie and Stump.



CHAPTER XXII

[Illustration]

  _Mr. Pickwick Journeys to Ipswich, and meets with a Romantic
    Adventure with a Middle-aged Lady in Yellow Curl-papers_


"That 'ere your governor's luggage, Sammy?" inquired Mr. Weller of his
affectionate son, as he entered the yard of the Bull Inn, Whitechapel,
with a travelling bag and a small portmanteau.

"You might ha' made a worser guess than that, old feller," replied Mr.
Weller the younger, setting down his burden in the yard, and sitting
himself down upon it afterwards. "The governor hisself 'll be down here
presently."

"He's a cabbin' it, I suppose?" said the father.

"Yes, he's a havin' two mile o' danger at eightpence," responded the
son. "How's mother-in-law this mornin'?"

"Queer, Sammy, queer," replied the elder Mr. Weller, with impressive
gravity. "She's been gettin' rayther in the Methodistical order lately,
Sammy; and she is uncommon pious, to be sure. She's too good a creetur
for me, Sammy. I feel I don't deserve her."

"Ah," said Mr. Samuel, "that's wery self-denyin' o' you."

"Wery," replied his parent, with a sigh. "She's got hold o' some
inwention for grown-up people being born again, Sammy; the new birth,
I thinks they calls it. I should wery much like to see that system in
haction, Sammy. I should wery much like to see your mother-in-law born
again. Wouldn't I put her out to nurse!"

"What do you think them women does t'other day," continued Mr. Weller,
after a short pause, during which he had significantly struck the side
of his nose with his fore-finger some half-dozen times. "What do you
think they does, t'other day, Sammy?"

"Don't know," replied Sam; "what?"

"Goes and gets up a grand tea-drinkin' for a feller they calls their
shepherd," said Mr. Weller. "I was a standing starin' in at the pictur
shop down at our place, when I sees a little bill about it; 'tickets
half-a-crown. All applications to be made to the committee. Secretary,
Mrs. Weller;' and when I got home there was the committee a sittin'
in our back parlour. Fourteen women; I wish you could ha' heard 'em,
Sammy. There they was, a passin' resolutions, and wotin' supplies, and
all sorts o' games. Well, what with your mother-in-law a worrying me
to go, and what with my looking for'ard to seein' some queer starts
if I did, I put my name down for a ticket; at six o'clock on the
Friday evenin' I dresses myself out wery smart, and off I goes with
the old 'ooman, and up we walks into a fust floor where there was
tea things for thirty, and a whole lot o' women as begins whisperin'
to one another, and lookin' at me, as if they'd never seen a rayther
stout gen'lm'n of eight-and-fifty afore. By-and-bye, there comes a
great bustle down-stairs, and a lanky chap with a red nose and a white
neckcloth rushes up, and sings out, 'Here's the shepherd a coming to
wisit his faithful flock;' and in comes a fat chap in black, vith a
great white face, a smilin' avay like clockwork. Such goin's on, Sammy!
'The kiss of peace,' says the shepherd; and then he kissed the women
all round, and ven he'd done, the man vith the red nose began. I was
just a thinkin' whether I hadn't better begin too--'specially as there
was a wery nice lady a sittin' next me--ven in comes the tea, and your
mother-in-law, as had been makin' the kettle bile down-stairs. At it
they went, tooth and nail. Such a precious loud hymn, Sammy, while the
tea was a brewing; such a grace, such eatin' and drinkin'! I wish you
could ha' seen the shepherd walkin' into the ham and muffins. I never
see such a chap to eat and drink; never. The red-nosed man warn't by
no means the sort of person you'd like to grub by contract, but he
was nothin' to the shepherd. Well; arter the tea was over, they sang
another hymn, and then the shepherd began to preach: and wery well he
did it, considerin' how heavy them muffins must have lied on his chest.
Presently he pulls up, all of a sudden, and hollers out, 'Where is
the sinner? where is the mis'rable sinner?' Upon which, all the women
looked at me, and began to groan as if they was a dying. I thought it
was rather sing'ler, but hows'ever, I says nothing. Presently he pulls
up again, and lookin' wery hard at me, says, 'Where is the sinner?
where is the mis'rable sinner?' and all the women groans again, ten
times louder than afore. I got rather wild at this, so I takes a step
or two for'ard and says, 'My friend,' says I, 'did you apply that 'ere
obserwation to me?' 'Stead of begging my pardon as any gent'lm'n would
ha' done, he got more abusive than ever: called me a wessel, Sammy--a
wessel of wrath--and all sorts o' names. So my blood being reg'larly
up, I first give him two or three for himself, and then two or three
more to hand over to the man with the red nose, and walked off. I wish
you could ha' heard how the women screamed, Sammy, ven they picked up
the shepherd from under the table--Hallo! here's the governor, the size
of life."

As Mr. Weller spoke, Mr. Pickwick dismounted from a cab, and entered
the yard.

"Fine mornin', sir," said Mr. Weller senior.

"Beautiful indeed," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Beautiful indeed," echoed a red-haired man with an inquisitive nose
and blue spectacles, who had unpacked himself from a cab at the same
moment as Mr. Pickwick. "Going to Ipswich, sir?"

"I am," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Extraordinary coincidence. So am I."

Mr. Pickwick bowed.

"Going outside?" said the red-haired man.

Mr. Pickwick bowed again.

"Bless my soul, how remarkable--I am going outside, too," said the
red-haired man: "we are positively going together." And the red-haired
man, who was an important-looking, sharp-nosed, mysterious-spoken
personage, with a bird-like habit of giving his head a jerk every
time he said anything, smiled as if he had made one of the strangest
discoveries that ever fell to the lot of human wisdom.

"I am happy in the prospect of your company, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Ah," said the new-comer, "it's a good thing for both of us, isn't it?
Company, you see--company is--is--it's a very different thing from
solitude--ain't it?"

"There's no denying that 'ere," said Mr. Weller, joining in the
conversation, with an affable smile. "That's what I call a self-evident
proposition, as the dog's-meat man said, when the housemaid told him he
warn't a gentleman."

"Ah," said the red-haired man, surveying Mr. Weller from head to foot
with a supercilious look. "Friend of yours, sir?"

"Not exactly a friend," replied Mr. Pickwick in a low tone. "The fact
is, he is my servant, but I allow him to take a good many liberties;
for, between ourselves, I flatter myself he is an original, and I am
rather proud of him."

"Ah," said the red-haired man, "that, you see, is a matter of taste.
I am not fond of anything original; I don't like it; don't see the
necessity for it. What's your name, sir?"

"Here is my card, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, much amused by the
abruptness of the question, and the singular manner of the stranger.

"Ah," said the red-haired man, placing the card in his pocket-book,
"Pickwick; very good. I like to know a man's name, it saves so much
trouble. That's my card, sir, Magnus, you will perceive, sir--Magnus is
my name. It's rather a good name, I think, sir?"

"A very good name, indeed," said Mr. Pickwick, wholly unable to repress
a smile.

"Yes, I think it is," resumed Mr. Magnus. "There's a good name before
it, too, you will observe. Permit me, sir--if you hold the card a
little slanting, this way, you catch the light upon the up-stroke.
There--Peter Magnus--sounds well, I think, sir?"

"Very," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Curious circumstance about those initials, sir," said Mr. Magnus.
"You will observe--P.M.--post meridian. In hasty notes to intimate
acquaintance, I sometimes sign myself 'Afternoon.' It amuses my friends
very much, Mr. Pickwick."

"It is calculated to afford them the highest gratification, I should
conceive," said Mr. Pickwick, rather envying the ease with which Mr.
Magnus's friends were entertained.

"Now, gen'lm'n," said the hostler, "coach is ready, if you please."

"Is all my luggage in?" inquired Mr. Magnus.

"All right, sir."

"Is the red bag in?"

"All right, sir."

"And the striped bag?"

"Fore boot, sir."

"And the brown-paper parcel?"

"Under the seat, sir."

"And the leather hat-box?"

"They're all in, sir."

"Now, will you get up?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Excuse me," replied Magnus, standing on the wheel. "Excuse me, Mr.
Pickwick. I cannot consent to get up, in this state of uncertainty. I
am quite satisfied from that man's manner, that that leather hat-box is
_not_ in."

The solemn protestations of the hostler being wholly unavailing, the
leather hat-box was obliged to be raked up from the lowest depth of the
boot, to satisfy him that it had been safely packed; and after he had
been assured on this head, he felt a solemn presentiment, first, that
the red bag was mislaid, and next that the striped bag had been stolen,
and then that the brown-paper parcel "had come untied." At length, when
he had received ocular demonstration of the groundless nature of each
and every of these suspicions, he consented to climb up to the roof of
the coach, observing that now he had taken everything off his mind, he
felt quite comfortable and happy.

"You're given to nervousness, ain't you, sir?" inquired Mr. Weller
senior, eyeing the stranger askance, as he mounted to his place.

"Yes; I always am rather, about these little matters," said the
stranger, "but I am all right now--quite right."

"Well, that's a blessin'," said Mr. Weller. "Sammy, help your master
up to the box: t'other leg, sir, that's it; give us your hand, sir. Up
with you. You was a lighter weight when you was a boy, sir."

"True enough, that, Mr. Weller," said the breathless Mr. Pickwick,
good-humouredly, as he took his seat on the box beside him.

"Jump up in front, Sammy," said Mr. Weller. "Now Villam, run 'em
out. Take care o' the archvay, gen'lm'n. 'Heads,' as the pieman
says. That'll do, Villam. Let 'em alone." And away went the coach
up Whitechapel, to the admiration of the whole population of that
pretty-densely populated quarter.

"Not a wery nice neighbourhood this, sir," said Sam, with a touch of
the hat, which always preceded his entering into conversation with his
master.

"It is not, indeed, Sam," replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the crowded
and filthy street through which they were passing.

"It's a wery remarkable circumstance, sir," said Sam, "that poverty and
oysters always seems to go together."

"I don't understand you, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"What I mean, sir," said Sam, "is, that the poorer a place is, the
greater call there seems to be for oysters. Look here, sir; here's a
oyster stall to every half-dozen houses. The street's lined vith 'em.
Blessed if I don't think that ven a man's wery poor, he rushes out of
his lodgings, and eats oysters in reg'lar desperation."

"To be sure he does," said Mr. Weller senior; "and it's just the same
vith pickled salmon!"

"Those are two very remarkable facts, which never occurred to me
before," said Mr. Pickwick. "The very first place we stop at, I'll make
a note of them."

By this time they had reached the turnpike at Mile End; a profound
silence prevailed until they had got two or three miles further on,
when Mr. Weller senior, turning suddenly to Mr. Pickwick, said:

"Wery queer life is a pike-keeper's, sir."

"A what?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"A pike-keeper."

"What do you mean by a pike-keeper?" inquired Mr. Peter Magnus.

"The old 'un means a turnpike keeper, gen'lm'n," observed Mr. Samuel
Weller, in explanation.

"Oh," said Mr. Pickwick, "I see. Yes; very curious life. Very
uncomfortable."

"They're all on 'em men as has met vith some disappointment in life,"
said Mr. Weller senior.

"Ay, ay?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes. Consequence of vich, they retires from the world, and shuts
themselves up in pikes; partly vith the view of being solitary, and
partly to rewenge themselves on mankind, by takin' tolls."

"Dear me," said Mr. Pickwick, "I never knew that before."

"Fact, sir," said Mr. Weller; "if they was gen'lm'n you'd call 'em
misanthropes, but as it is, they only takes to pike-keepin'."

With such conversation, possessing the inestimable charm of blending
amusement with instruction, did Mr. Weller beguile the tediousness of
the journey, during the greater part of the day. Topics of conversation
were never wanting, for even when any pause occurred in Mr. Weller's
loquacity, it was abundantly supplied by the desire evinced by Mr.
Magnus to make himself acquainted with the whole of the personal
history of his fellow-travellers, and his loudly-expressed anxiety at
every stage, respecting the safety and well-being of the two bags, the
leather hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel.

In the main street of Ipswich, on the left-hand side of the way, a
short distance after you have passed through the open space fronting
the Town Hall, stands an inn known far and wide by the appellation
of the Great White Horse, rendered the more conspicuous by a stone
statue of some rampacious animal with flowing mane and tail, distantly
resembling an insane cart-horse, which is elevated above the principal
door. The Great White Horse is famous in the neighbourhood, in the same
degree as a prize ox, or county-paper-chronicled turnip, or unwieldy
pig--for its enormous size. Never were such labyrinths of uncarpeted
passages, such clusters of mouldy, ill-lighted rooms, such huge numbers
of small dens for eating or sleeping in, beneath any one roof, as are
collected together between the four walls of the Great White Horse at
Ipswich.

It was at the door of this overgrown tavern that the London coach
stopped, at the same hour every evening; and it was from this same
London coach, that Mr. Pickwick, Sam Weller, and Mr. Peter Magnus
dismounted, on the particular evening to which this chapter of our
history bears reference.

"Do you stop here, sir?" inquired Mr. Peter Magnus, when the striped
bag, and the red bag, and the brown-paper parcel, and the leather
hat-box, had all been deposited in the passage. "Do you stop here, sir?"

"I do," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Dear me," said Mr. Magnus, "I never knew anything like these
extraordinary coincidences. Why, I stop here too. I hope we dine
together?"

"With pleasure," replied Mr. Pickwick. "I am not quite certain whether
I have any friends here or not, though. Is there any gentleman of the
name of Tupman here, waiter?"

A corpulent man, with a fortnight's napkin under his arm, and coeval
stockings on his legs, slowly desisted from his occupation of staring
down the street, on this question being put to him by Mr. Pickwick;
and, after minutely inspecting that gentleman's appearance, from
the crown of his hat to the lowest button of his gaiters, replied
emphatically:

"No."

"Nor any gentleman of the name of Snodgrass?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"No."

"Nor Winkle?"

"No."

"My friends have not arrived to-day, sir," said Mr. Pickwick. "We will
dine alone, then. Show us a private room, waiter."

On this request being preferred, the corpulent man condescended to
order the boots to bring in the gentlemen's luggage; and preceding them
down a long dark passage, ushered them into a large, badly-furnished
apartment, with a dirty grate, in which a small fire was making a
wretched attempt to be cheerful, but was fast sinking beneath the
dispiriting influence of the place. After the lapse of an hour, a
bit of fish and a steak were served up to the travellers, and when
the dinner was cleared away, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Peter Magnus drew
their chairs up to the fire, and having ordered a bottle of the worst
possible port wine, at the highest possible price, for the good of the
house, drank brandy and water for their own.

Mr. Peter Magnus was naturally of a very communicative disposition, and
the brandy and water operated with wonderful effect in warming into
life the deepest hidden secrets of his bosom. After sundry accounts
of himself, his family, his connexions, his friends, his jokes, his
business, and his brothers (most talkative men have a great deal to
say about their brothers), Mr. Peter Magnus took a blue view of Mr.
Pickwick through his coloured spectacles for several minutes, and then
said, with an air of modesty:

"And what do you think--what _do_ you think, Mr. Pickwick--I have come
down here for?"

"Upon my word," said Mr. Pickwick, "it is wholly impossible for me to
guess; on business, perhaps?"

"Partly right, sir," replied Mr. Peter Magnus, "but partly wrong, at
the same time: try again, Mr. Pickwick."

"Really," said Mr. Pickwick, "I must throw myself on your mercy, to
tell me or not, as you may think best; for I should never guess, if I
were to try all night."

"Why, then, he--he--he!" said Mr. Peter Magnus, with a bashful titter,
"what should you think, Mr. Pickwick, if I had come down here, to make
a proposal, sir, eh? He--he--he!"

"Think! That you are very likely to succeed," replied Mr. Pickwick,
with one of his beaming smiles.

"Ah!" said Mr. Magnus. "But do you really think so, Mr. Pickwick? Do
you, though?"

"Certainly," said Mr. Pickwick.

"No; but you're joking, though?"

"I am not, indeed."

"Why, then," said Mr. Magnus, "to let you into a little secret, _I_
think so too. I don't mind telling you, Mr. Pickwick, although I'm
dreadful jealous by nature--horrid--that the lady is in this house."
Here Mr. Magnus took off his spectacles, on purpose to wink, and then
put them on again.

"That's what you were running out of the room for, before dinner, then,
so often?" said Mr. Pickwick, archly.

"Hush! Yes, you're right, that was it; not such a fool as to see her,
though."

"No!"

"No; wouldn't do, you know, after having just come off a journey.
Wait till to-morrow, sir; double the chance then. Mr. Pickwick, sir,
there is a suit of clothes in that bag, and a hat in that box, which I
expect, in the effect they will produce, will be invaluable to me, sir."

"Indeed!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes; you must have observed my anxiety about them to-day. I do not
believe that such another suit of clothes, and such a hat, could be
bought for money, Mr. Pickwick."

Mr. Pickwick congratulated the fortunate owner of the irresistible
garments, on their acquisition; and Mr. Peter Magnus remained for a few
moments apparently absorbed in contemplation.

"She's a fine creature," said Mr. Magnus.

"Is she?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Very," said Mr. Magnus, "very. She lives about twenty miles from here,
Mr. Pickwick. I heard she would be here to-night and all to-morrow
forenoon, and came down to seize the opportunity. I think an inn is a
good sort of a place to propose to a single woman in, Mr. Pickwick. She
is more likely to feel the loneliness of her situation in travelling,
perhaps, than she would be at home. What do you think, Mr. Pickwick?"

"I think it very probable," replied that gentleman.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick," said Mr. Peter Magnus, "but I am
naturally rather curious; what may _you_ have come down here for?"

"On a far less pleasant errand, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick, the colour
mounting to his face at the recollection. "I have come down here, sir,
to expose the treachery and falsehood of an individual, upon whose
truth and honour I placed implicit reliance."

"Dear me," said Mr. Peter Magnus, "that's very unpleasant. It is a
lady, I presume? Eh? ah! Sly, Mr. Pickwick, sly. Well, Mr. Pickwick,
sir, I wouldn't probe your feelings for the world. Painful subjects,
these, sir, very painful. Don't mind me, Mr. Pickwick, if you wish to
give vent to your feelings. I know what it is to be jilted, sir; I have
endured that sort of thing three or four times."

"I am much obliged to you, for your condolence on what you presume to
be my melancholy case," said Mr. Pickwick, winding up his watch, and
laying it on the table, "but----"

"No, no," said Mr. Peter Magnus, "not a word more: it's a painful
subject. I see, I see. What's the time, Mr. Pickwick?"

"Past twelve."

"Dear me, it's time to go to bed. It will never do, sitting here. I
shall be pale to-morrow, Mr. Pickwick."

At the bare notion of such a calamity, Mr. Peter Magnus rang the
bell for the chamber-maid; and the striped bag, the red bag, the
leathern hat-box, and the brown-paper parcel, having been conveyed
to his bed-room, he retired in company with a japanned candlestick,
to one side of the house, while Mr. Pickwick, and another japanned
candlestick, were conducted, through a multitude of tortuous windings,
to another.

"This is your room, sir," said the chamber-maid.

"Very well," replied Mr. Pickwick, looking round him. It was a
tolerably large double-bedded room, with a fire; upon the whole, a more
comfortable-looking apartment than Mr. Pickwick's short experience of
the accommodations of the Great White Horse had led him to expect.

"Nobody sleeps in the other bed, of course?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Oh no, sir."

"Very good. Tell my servant to bring me up some hot water at half-past
eight in the morning, and that I shall not want him any more to-night."

"Yes, sir." And bidding Mr. Pickwick good-night, the chamber-maid
retired, and left him alone.

Mr. Pickwick sat himself down in a chair before the fire, and fell
into a train of rambling meditations. First he thought of his friends,
and wondered when they would join him; then his mind reverted to Mrs.
Martha Bardell; and from that lady it wandered, by a natural process,
to the dingy counting-house of Dodson and Fogg. From Dodson and
Fogg's it flew off at a tangent, to the very centre of the history of
the queer client; and then it came back to the Great White Horse at
Ipswich, with sufficient clearness to convince Mr. Pickwick that he was
falling asleep. So he roused himself, and began to undress, when he
recollected he had left his watch on the table down-stairs.

Now, this watch was a special favourite with Mr. Pickwick, having been
carried about beneath the shadow of his waistcoat, for a greater number
of years than we feel called upon to state at present. The possibility
of going to sleep, unless it were ticking gently beneath his pillow,
or in the watch-pocket over his head, had never entered Mr. Pickwick's
brain. So as it was pretty late now, and he was unwilling to ring his
bell at that hour of the night, he slipped on his coat, of which he had
just divested himself, and taking the japanned candlestick in his hand,
walked quietly down-stairs.

The more stairs Mr. Pickwick went down, the more stairs there seemed
to be to descend, and again and again, when Mr. Pickwick got into some
narrow passage, and began to congratulate himself on having gained the
ground-floor, did another flight of stairs appear before his astonished
eyes. At last he reached a stone hall, which he remembered to have
seen when he entered the house. Passage after passage did he explore;
room after room did he peep into; at length, as he was on the point of
giving up the search in despair, he opened the door of the identical
room in which he had spent the evening, and beheld his missing property
on the table.

Mr. Pickwick seized the watch in triumph, and proceeded to retrace his
steps to his bed-chamber. If his progress downward had been attended
with difficulties and uncertainty, his journey back was infinitely
more perplexing. Rows of doors, garnished with boots of every shape,
make, and size, branched off in every possible direction. A dozen times
did he softly turn the handle of some bed-room door which resembled
his own, when a gruff cry from within of "Who the devil's that?" or
"What do you want here?" caused him to steal away, on tiptoe, with a
perfectly marvellous celerity. He was reduced to the verge of despair,
when an open door attracted his attention. He peeped in. Right at last!
There were the two beds, whose situation he perfectly remembered,
and the fire still burning. His candle, not a long one when he first
received it, had flickered away in the drafts of air through which he
had passed, and sank into the socket as he closed the door after him.
"No matter," said Mr. Pickwick, "I can undress myself just as well by
the light of the fire."

The bedsteads stood one on each side of the door; and on the inner side
of each was a little path, terminating in a rush-bottomed chair, just
wide enough to admit of a person's getting into or out of bed, on that
side, if he or she thought proper. Having carefully drawn the curtains
of his bed on the outside, Mr. Pickwick sat down on the rush-bottomed
chair, and leisurely divested himself of his shoes and gaiters. He then
took off and folded up his coat, waistcoat, and neckcloth, and slowly
drawing on his tasselled night-cap, secured it firmly on his head, by
tying beneath his chin the strings which he always had attached to
that article of dress. It was at this moment that the absurdity of his
recent bewilderment struck upon his mind. Throwing himself back in the
rush-bottomed chair, Mr. Pickwick laughed to himself so heartily, that
it would have been quite delightful to any man of well-constituted mind
to have watched the smiles that expanded his amiable features as they
shone forth from beneath the night-cap.

"It is the best idea," said Mr. Pickwick to himself, smiling till he
almost cracked the night-cap strings: "it is the best idea, my losing
myself in this place, and wandering about those staircases, that I ever
heard of. Droll, droll, very droll." Here Mr. Pickwick smiled again,
a broader smile than before, and was about to continue the process of
undressing, in the best possible humour, when he was suddenly stopped
by a most unexpected interruption; to wit, the entrance into the room
of some person with a candle, who, after locking the door, advanced to
the dressing-table, and set down the light upon it.

The smile that played on Mr. Pickwick's features was instantaneously
lost in a look of the most unbounded and wonder-stricken surprise. The
person, whoever it was, had come in so suddenly and with so little
noise, that Mr. Pickwick had had no time to call out, or oppose their
entrance. Who could it be? A robber? Some evil-minded person who had
seen him come up-stairs with a handsome watch in his hand, perhaps.
What was he to do?

The only way in which Mr. Pickwick could catch a glimpse of his
mysterious visitor with the least danger of being seen himself, was by
creeping on to the bed, and peeping out from between the curtains on
the opposite side. To this manoeuvre he accordingly resorted. Keeping
the curtains carefully closed with his hand, so that nothing more of
him could be seen than his face and night-cap, and putting on his
spectacles, he mustered up courage, and looked out.

Mr. Pickwick almost fainted with horror and dismay. Standing before a
dressing-glass was a middle-aged lady, in yellow curl-papers, busily
engaged in brushing what ladies call their "back-hair." However the
unconscious middle-aged lady came into that room, it was quite clear
that she contemplated remaining there for the night; for she had
brought a rushlight and shade with her, which, with praiseworthy
precaution against fire, she had stationed in a basin on the floor,
where it was glimmering away, like a gigantic light-house in a
particularly small piece of water.

"Bless my soul," thought Mr. Pickwick, "what a dreadful thing!"

"Hem!" said the lady; and in went Mr. Pickwick's head with
automaton-like rapidity.

"I never met with anything so awful as this," thought poor Mr.
Pickwick, the cold perspiration starting in drops upon his night-cap.
"Never. This is fearful."

It was quite impossible to resist the urgent desire to see what was
going forward. So out went Mr. Pickwick's head again. The prospect was
worse than before. The middle-aged lady had finished arranging her
hair; had carefully enveloped it in a muslin night-cap with a small
plaited border; and was gazing pensively on the fire.

"This matter is growing alarming," reasoned Mr. Pickwick with himself.
"I can't allow things to go on in this way. By the self-possession
of that lady it is clear to me that I must have come into the wrong
room. If I call out she'll alarm the house; but if I remain here the
consequences will be still more frightful."

Mr. Pickwick, it is quite unnecessary to say, was one of the most
modest and delicate-minded of mortals. The very idea of exhibiting his
night-cap to a lady overpowered him, but he had tied those confounded
strings in a knot, and, do what he would, he couldn't get it off. The
disclosure must be made. There was only one other way of doing it. He
shrunk behind the curtains, and called out very loudly:

"Ha-hum!"

That the lady started at this unexpected sound was evident, by her
falling up against the rushlight shade; that she persuaded herself it
must have been the effect of imagination was equally clear, for when
Mr. Pickwick, under the impression that she had fainted away stone-dead
from fright, ventured to peep out again, she was gazing pensively on
the fire as before.

"Most extraordinary female this," thought Mr. Pickwick, popping in
again. "Ha--hum!"

These last sounds, so like those in which, as legends inform us, the
ferocious giant Blunderbore was in the habit of expressing his opinion
that it was time to lay the cloth, were too distinctly audible to be
again mistaken for the workings of fancy.

"Gracious Heaven!" said the middle-aged lady, "what's that?"

"It's--it's--only a gentleman, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, from behind
the curtains.

"A gentleman!" said the lady with a terrific scream.

"It's all over!" thought Mr. Pickwick.

"A strange man!" shrieked the lady. Another instant and the house would
be alarmed. Her garments rustled as she rushed towards the door.

"Ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, thrusting out his head, in the extremity of
his desperation, "Ma'am!"

Now, although Mr. Pickwick was not actuated by any definite object
in putting out his head, it was instantaneously productive of a good
effect. The lady, as we have already stated, was near the door. She
must pass it, to reach the staircase, and she would most undoubtedly
have done so by this time, had not the sudden apparition of Mr.
Pickwick's night-cap driven her back into the remotest corner of the
apartment, where she stood staring wildly at Mr. Pickwick, while Mr.
Pickwick in his turn stared wildly at her.

"Wretch!" said the lady, covering her eyes with her hands, "what do you
want here?"

"Nothing, ma'am; nothing whatever, ma'am;" said Mr. Pickwick, earnestly.

"Nothing!" said the lady, looking up.

"Nothing, ma'am, upon my honour," said Mr. Pickwick, nodding his head
so energetically that the tassel of his night-cap danced again. "I am
almost ready to sink, ma'am, beneath the confusion of addressing a lady
in my night-cap" (here the lady hastily snatched off hers), "but I
can't get it off, ma'am" (here Mr. Pickwick gave it a tremendous tug,
in proof of the statement). "It is evident to me, ma'am, now, that
I have mistaken this bed-room for my own. I had not been here five
minutes, ma'am, when you suddenly entered it."

"If this improbable story be really true, sir," said the lady, sobbing
violently, "you will leave it instantly."

"I will, ma'am, with the greatest pleasure," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Instantly, sir," said the lady.

"Certainly, ma'am," interposed Mr. Pickwick very quickly. "Certainly,
ma'am. I--I--am very sorry, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, making his
appearance at the bottom of the bed, "to have been the innocent
occasion of this alarm and emotion; deeply sorry, ma'am."

The lady pointed to the door. One excellent quality of Mr. Pickwick's
character was beautifully displayed at this moment, under the most
trying circumstances. Although he had hastily put on his hat over his
night-cap, after the manner of the old patrol; although he carried his
shoes and gaiters in his hand, and his coat and waistcoat over his
arm; nothing could subdue his native politeness.

"I am exceedingly sorry, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low.

"If you are, sir, you will at once leave the room," said the lady.

"Immediately, ma'am; this instant, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, opening
the door, and dropping both his shoes with a crash in so doing.

"I trust, ma'am," resumed Mr. Pickwick, gathering up his shoes, and
turning round to bow again: "I trust, ma'am, that my unblemished
character, and the devoted respect I entertain for your sex, will plead
as some slight excuse for this"--But before Mr. Pickwick could conclude
the sentence the lady had thrust him into the passage, and locked and
bolted the door behind him.

[Illustration: "_I trust, ma'am," resumed Mr. Pickwick, "that my
unblemished character and the devoted respect I entertain for your
sex----_"]

Whatever grounds of self-congratulation Mr. Pickwick might have for
having escaped so quietly from his late awkward situation, his present
position was by no means enviable. He was alone, in an open passage, in
a strange house, in the middle of the night, half dressed; it was not
to be supposed that he could find his way in perfect darkness to a room
which he had been wholly unable to discover with a light, and if he
made the slightest noise in his fruitless attempts to do so, he stood
every chance of being shot at, and perhaps killed, by some wakeful
traveller. He had no resource but to remain where he was until daylight
appeared. So after groping his way a few paces down the passage, and,
to his infinite alarm, stumbling over several pairs of boots in so
doing, Mr. Pickwick crouched into a little recess in the wall, to wait
for morning as philosophically as he might.

He was not destined, however, to undergo this additional trial of
patience: for he had not long been ensconced in his present concealment
when, to his unspeakable horror, a man, bearing a light, appeared
at the end of the passage. His horror was suddenly converted into
joy, however, when he recognised the form of his faithful attendant.
It was indeed Mr. Samuel Weller, who, after sitting up thus late in
conversation with the Boots, who was sitting up for the mail, was now
about to retire to rest.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly appearing before him, "where's my
bedroom?"

[Illustration: "_Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, "where's my bedroom?_"]

Mr. Weller stared at his master with the most emphatic surprise; and it
was not until the question had been repeated three several times, that
he turned round and led the way to the long-sought apartment.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, as he got into bed, "I have made one of the
most extraordinary mistakes to-night, that ever were heard of."

"Wery likely, sir," replied Mr. Weller, dryly.

"But of this I am determined, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick; "that if I were
to stop in this house for six months, I would never trust myself about
it, alone, again."

"That's the wery prudentest resolution as you could come to, sir,"
replied Mr. Weller. "You rayther want somebody to look arter you, sir,
ven your judgment goes out a wisitin'."

"What do you mean by that, Sam?" said Mr. Pickwick. He raised himself
in bed, and extended his hand, as if he were about to say something
more; but suddenly checking himself, turned round, and bade his valet
"Good night."

"Good night, sir," replied Mr. Weller. He paused when he got outside
the door--shook his head--walked on--stopped--snuffed the candle--shook
his head again--and finally proceeded slowly to his chamber, apparently
buried in the profoundest meditation.



CHAPTER XXIII

[Illustration]

  _In which Mr. Samuel Weller begins to devote his Energies to the
    Return Match between himself and Mr. Trotter_


In a small room in the vicinity of the stable-yard, betimes in the
morning, which was ushered in by Mr. Pickwick's adventure with the
middle-aged lady in the yellow curl-papers, sat Mr. Weller senior,
preparing himself for his journey to London. He was sitting in an
excellent attitude for having his portrait taken.

It is very possible that at some earlier period of his career, Mr.
Weller's profile might have presented a bold and determined outline.
His face, however, had expanded under the influence of good living,
and a disposition remarkable for resignation; and its bold, fleshy
curves had so far extended beyond the limits originally assigned
them, that unless you took a full view of his countenance in front,
it was difficult to distinguish more than the extreme tip of a very
rubicund nose. His chin, from the same cause, had acquired the grave
and imposing form which is generally described by prefixing the word
"double" to that expressive feature; and his complexion exhibited that
peculiarly mottled combination of colours which is only to be seen in
gentlemen of his profession, and in under-done roast beef. Round his
neck he wore a crimson travelling shawl, which merged into his chin by
such imperceptible gradations, that it was difficult to distinguish the
folds of the one from the folds of the other. Over this, he mounted a
long waistcoat of a broad pink-striped pattern, and over that again, a
wide-skirted green coat, ornamented with large brass buttons, whereof
the two which garnished the waist, were so far apart, that no man had
ever beheld them both, at the same time. His hair, which was short,
sleek, and black, was just visible beneath the capacious brim of a
low-crowned brown hat. His legs were encased in knee-cord breeches and
painted top-boots; and a copper watch-chain, terminating in one seal,
and a key of the same material, dangled loosely from his capacious
waistband.

We have said that Mr. Weller was engaged in preparing for his
journey to London--he was taking sustenance, in fact. On the table
before him, stood a pot of ale, a cold round of beef, and a very
respectable-looking loaf, to each of which he distributed his favours
in turn, with the most rigid impartiality. He had just cut a mighty
slice from the latter, when the footsteps of somebody entering the
room, caused him to raise his head; and he beheld his son.

"Mornin', Sammy!" said the father.

The son walked up to the pot of ale, and nodding significantly to his
parent, took a long draught by way of reply.

"Wery good power o' suction, Sammy," said Mr. Weller the elder, looking
into the pot, when his first-born had set it down half empty. "You'd
ha' made an uncommon fine oyster, Sammy, if you'd been born in that
station o' life."

"Yes, I des-say I should ha' managed to pick up a respectable livin',"
replied Sam, applying himself to the cold beef, with considerable
vigour.

"I'm wery sorry, Sammy," said the elder Mr. Weller, shaking up the ale,
by describing small circles with the pot, preparatory to drinking.
"I'm wery sorry, Sammy, to hear from your lips, as you let yourself be
gammoned by that 'ere mulberry man. I always thought, up to three days
ago, that the names of Veller and gammon could never come into contact,
Sammy, never."

"Always exceptin' the case of a widder, of course," said Sam.

"Widders, Sammy," replied Mr. Weller, slightly changing colour,
"widders are 'ceptions to ev'ry rule. I _have_ heerd how many ord'nary
women one widder's equal to, in pint o' comin' over you. I think it's
five-and-twenty, but I don't rightly know vether it ain't more."

"Well; that's pretty well," said Sam.

"Besides," continued Mr. Weller, not noticing the interruption, "that's
a wery different thing. You know what the counsel said, Sammy, as
defended the gen'l'm'n as beat his wife with the poker, venever he got
jolly. 'And arter all, my Lord,' says he, 'it's a amiable weakness.' So
I says respectin' widders, Sammy, and so you'll say, ven you gets as
old as me."

"I ought to ha' know'd better, I know," said Sam.

"Ought to ha' know'd better!" repeated Mr. Weller, striking the table
with his fist. "Ought to ha' know'd better! why, I know a young 'un
as hasn't had half nor quarter your eddication--as hasn't slept about
the markets, no, not six months--who'd ha' scorned to be let in, in
such a vay; scorned it, Sammy." In the excitement of feeling produced
by this agonising reflection, Mr. Weller rang the bell, and ordered an
additional pint of ale.

"Well, it's no use talking about it now," said Sam. "It's over, and
can't be helped, and that's one consolation, as they always says in
Turkey, ven they cuts the wrong man's head off. It's my innings now,
gov'rnor, and as soon as I catches hold o' this 'ere Trotter, I'll have
a good 'un."

"I hope you will, Sammy. I hope you will," returned Mr. Weller. "Here's
your health, Sammy, and may you speedily vipe off the disgrace as
you've inflicted on the family name." In honour of this toast Mr.
Weller imbibed at a draught, at least two-thirds of the newly-arrived
pint, and handed it over to his son, to dispose of the remainder, which
he instantaneously did.

"And now, Sammy," said Mr. Weller, consulting the large double-faced
silver watch that hung at the end of the copper chain. "Now it's time
I was up at the office to get my vay-bill, and see the coach loaded;
for coaches, Sammy, is like guns--they requires to be loaded with wery
great care, afore they go off."

At this parental and professional joke, Mr. Weller junior smiled a
filial smile. His revered parent continued in a solemn tone:

"I'm a goin' to leave you, Samivel, my boy, and there's no telling ven
I shall see you again. Your mother-in-law may ha' been too much for
me, or a thousand things may have happened by the time you next hears
any news o' the celebrated Mr. Veller o' the Bell Savage. The family
name depends wery much upon you, Samivel, and I hope you'll do wot's
right by it. Upon all little pints o' breedin', I know I may trust you
as vell as if it was my own self. So I've only this here one little
bit of adwice to give you. If ever you gets to up'ards o' fifty, and
feels disposed to go a marryin' anybody--no matter who--just you shut
yourself up in your own room, if you've got one, and pison yourself off
hand. Hangin's wulgar, so don't you have nothin' to say to that. Pison
yourself, Samivel, my boy, pison yourself, and you'll be glad on it
arterwards." With these affecting words, Mr. Weller looked steadfastly
on his son, and turning slowly upon his heel, disappeared from his
sight.

In the contemplative mood which these words had awakened, Mr. Samuel
Weller walked forth from the Great White Horse when his father had left
him; and bending his steps towards St. Clement's Church, endeavoured to
dissipate his melancholy by strolling among its ancient precincts. He
had loitered about for some time, when he found himself in a retired
spot--a kind of court-yard of venerable appearance--which he discovered
had no other outlet than the turning by which he had entered. He was
about retracing his steps, when he was suddenly transfixed to the spot
by a sudden appearance; and the mode and manner of this appearance, we
now proceed to relate.

Mr. Samuel Weller had been staring up at the old brick houses
now and then, in his deep abstraction, bestowing a wink upon some
healthy-looking servant girl as she drew up a blind or threw open a
bed-room window, when the green gate of a garden at the bottom of the
yard opened, and a man having emerged therefrom, closed the green gate
very carefully after him, and walked briskly towards the very spot
where Mr. Weller was standing.

Now, taking this, as an isolated fact, unaccompanied by any attendant
circumstances, there was nothing very extraordinary in it; because
in many parts of the world, men do come out of gardens, close green
gates after them, and even walk briskly away, without attracting any
particular share of public observation. It is clear, therefore, that
there must have been something in the man, or in his manner, or both,
to attract Mr. Weller's particular notice. Whether there was, or not,
we must leave the reader to determine, when we have faithfully recorded
the behaviour of the individual in question.

When the man had shut the green gate after him, he walked, as we have
said twice already, with a brisk pace up the court-yard; but he no
sooner caught sight of Mr. Weller, than he faltered, and stopped, as if
uncertain, for the moment, what course to adopt. As the green gate was
closed behind him, and there was no other outlet but the one in front,
however, he was not long in perceiving that he must pass Mr. Samuel
Weller to get away. He therefore resumed his brisk pace, and advanced,
staring straight before him. The most extraordinary thing about the
man was, that he was contorting his face into the most fearful and
astonishing grimaces that ever were beheld. Nature's handiwork never
was disguised with such extraordinary artificial carving, as the man
had overlaid his countenance with in one moment.

"Well!" said Mr. Weller to himself, as the man approached. "This is
wery odd. I could ha' swore it was him."

Up came the man, and his face became more frightfully distorted than
ever, as he drew nearer.

"I could take my oath to that 'ere black hair and mulberry suit," said
Mr. Weller; "only I never see such a face as that, afore."

As Mr. Weller said this, the man's features assumed an unearthly
twinge, perfectly hideous. He was obliged to pass very near Sam,
however, and the scrutinising glance of that gentleman enabled him to
detect, under all these appalling twists of feature, something too like
the small eyes of Mr. Job Trotter, to be easily mistaken.

"Hallo, you sir!" shouted Sam, fiercely.

The stranger stopped.

"Hallo!" repeated Sam, still more gruffly.

The man with the horrible face looked with the greatest surprise,
up the court, and down the court, and in at the windows of the
houses--everywhere but at Sam Weller--and took another step forward,
when he was brought to again, by another shout.

"Hallo, you sir!" said Sam, for the third time.

There was no pretending to mistake where the voice came from now, so
the stranger, having no other resource, at last looked Sam Weller full
in the face.

"It won't do, Job Trotter," said Sam. "Come! none o' that 'ere
nonsense. You ain't so wery 'andsome that you can afford to throw avay
many o' your good looks. Bring them 'ere eyes o' your'n back into their
proper places, or I'll knock 'em out of your head. D'ye hear?"

As Mr. Weller appeared fully disposed to act up to the spirit of this
address, Mr. Trotter gradually allowed his face to resume its natural
expression; and then giving a start of joy, exclaimed, "What do I see?
Mr. Walker!"

"Ah," replied Sam. "You're wery glad to see me, ain't you?"

"Glad!" exclaimed Job Trotter; "oh, Mr. Walker, if you had but known
how I have looked forward to this meeting! It is too much, Mr. Walker;
I cannot bear it, indeed I cannot." And with these words, Mr. Trotter
burst into a regular inundation of tears, and, flinging his arms around
those of Mr. Weller, embraced him closely, in an ecstasy of joy.

"Get off!" cried Sam, indignant at this process, and vainly
endeavouring to extricate himself from the grasp of his enthusiastic
acquaintance. "Get off, I tell you. What are you crying over me for,
you portable ingine?"

"Because I am so glad to see you," replied Job Trotter, gradually
releasing Mr. Weller, as the first symptoms of his pugnacity
disappeared. "Oh, Mr. Walker, this is too much!"

"Too much!" echoed Sam, "I think it is too much--rayther! Now what have
you got to say to me, eh?"

Mr. Trotter made no reply; for the little pink pocket-handkerchief was
in full force.

"What have you got to say to me, afore I knock your head off?" repeated
Mr. Weller, in a threatening manner.

"Eh!" said Mr. Trotter, with a look of virtuous surprise.

"What have you got to say to me?"

"I, Mr. Walker?"

"Don't call me Valker; my name's Veller; you know that vell enough.
What have you got to say to me?"

"Bless you, Mr. Walker--Weller I mean--a great many things, if you will
come away somewhere, where we can talk comfortably. If you knew how I
have looked for you, Mr. Weller----"

"Wery hard, indeed, I s'pose?" said Sam, dryly.

"Very, very, sir," replied Mr. Trotter, without moving a muscle of his
face. "But shake hands, Mr. Weller."

Sam eyed his companion for a few seconds, and then, as if actuated by a
sudden impulse, complied with his request.

"How," said Job Trotter, as they walked away, "how is your dear, good
master? Oh, he is a worthy gentleman, Mr. Weller! I hope he didn't
catch cold, that dreadful night, sir?"

There was a momentary look of deep slyness in Job Trotter's eye as
he said this, which ran a thrill through Mr. Weller's clenched fist
as he burnt with a desire to make a demonstration on his ribs. Sam
constrained himself, however, and replied that his master was extremely
well.

"Oh, I am so glad," replied Mr. Trotter. "Is he here?"

"Is your'n?" asked Sam, by way of reply.

"Oh yes, he is here, and I grieve to say, Mr. Weller, he is going on
worse than ever."

"Ah, ah?" said Sam.

"Oh, shocking--terrible!"

"At a boarding-school?" said Sam.

"No, not at a boarding-school," replied Job Trotter, with the same sly
look which Sam had noticed before; "not at a boarding-school."

"At the house with the green gate?" said Sam, eyeing his companion
closely.

"No, no--oh, not there," replied Job, with a quickness very unusual to
him, "not there."

"What was _you_ a doin' there?" asked Sam, with a sharp glance. "Got
inside the gate by accident, perhaps?"

"Why, Mr. Weller," replied Job, "I don't mind telling you my little
secrets, because, you know, we took such a fancy for each other when we
first met. You recollect how pleasant we were that morning?"

"Oh yes," said Sam, impatiently, "I remember. Well?"

"Well," replied Job, speaking with great precision, and in the low tone
of a man who communicates an important secret, "in that house with the
green gate, Mr. Weller, they keep a good many servants."

"So I should think, from the look on it," interposed Sam.

"Yes," continued Mr. Trotter, "and one of them is a cook, who has saved
up a little money, Mr. Weller, and is desirous, if she can establish
herself in life, to open a little shop in the chandlery way, you see."

"Yes."

"Yes, Mr. Weller. Well, sir, I met her at a chapel that I go to: a very
neat little chapel in this town, Mr. Weller, where they sing the number
four collection of hymns, which I generally carry about with me, in a
little book, which you may perhaps have seen in my hand--and I got a
little intimate with her, Mr. Weller, and from that, an acquaintance
sprung up between us, and I may venture to say, Mr. Weller, that I am
to be the chandler."

"Ah, and a wery amiable chandler you'll make," replied Sam, eyeing Job
with a side look of intense dislike.

"The great advantage of this, Mr. Weller," continued Job, his eyes
filling with tears as he spoke, "will be, that I shall be able to leave
my present disgraceful service with that bad man, and to devote myself
to a better and more virtuous life; more like the way in which I was
brought up, Mr. Weller."

"You must ha' been wery nicely brought up?" said Sam.

"Oh, very, Mr. Weller, very," replied Job. At the recollection of
the purity of his youthful days, Mr. Trotter pulled forth the pink
handkerchief, and wept copiously.

"You must ha' been an uncommon nice boy to go to school vith," said Sam.

"I was, sir," replied Job, heaving a deep sigh. "I was the idol of the
place."

"Ah," said Sam, "I don't wonder at it. What a comfort you must ha' been
to your blessed mother."

At these words, Mr. Job Trotter inserted an end of the pink
handkerchief into the corner of each eye, one after the other, and
began to weep copiously.

"Wot's the matter vith the man," said Sam, indignantly. "Chelsea
water-works is nothin' to you. What are you melting vith now? The
consciousness o' willany?"

"I cannot keep my feelings down, Mr. Weller," said Job, after a short
pause. "To think that my master should have suspected the conversation
I had with yours, and so dragged me away in a post-chaise, and after
persuading the sweet young lady to say she knew nothing of him, and
bribing the school-mistress to do the same, deserted her for a better
speculation! Oh! Mr. Weller, it makes me shudder."

"Oh, that was the vay, was it?" said Mr. Weller.

"To be sure it was," replied Job.

"Vell," said Sam, as they had now arrived near the Hotel, "I vant to
have a little bit o' talk with you, Job; so if you're not partickler
engaged, I should like to see you at the Great White Horse to-night,
somewheres about eight o'clock."

"I shall be sure to come," said Job.

"Yes, you'd better," replied Sam, with a very meaning look, "or else I
shall perhaps be asking arter you, at the other side of the green gate,
and then I might cut you out, you know."

"I shall be sure to be with you, sir," said Mr. Trotter; and wringing
Sam's hand with the utmost fervour, he walked away.

"Take care, Job Trotter, take care," said Sam, looking after him, "or
I shall be one too many for you this time. I shall indeed." Having
uttered this soliloquy, and looked after Job till he was to be seen no
more, Mr. Weller made the best of his way to his master's bed-room.

"It's all in training, sir," said Sam.

"What's in training, Sam?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"I've found 'em out, sir," said Sam.

"Found out whom?"

"That 'ere queer customer, and the melan-cholly chap with the black
hair."

"Impossible, Sam!" said Mr. Pickwick, with the greatest energy. "Where
are they, Sam; where are they?"

"Hush, hush!" replied Mr. Weller; and as he assisted Mr. Pickwick to
dress, he detailed the plan of action on which he proposed to enter.

"But when is this to be done, Sam?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"All in good time, sir," replied Sam.

Whether it was done in good time, or not, will be seen hereafter.



CHAPTER XXIV

[Illustration]

  _Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the Middle-aged Lady
    apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within the Grasp of
    the Law_


When Mr. Pickwick descended to the room in which he and Mr. Peter
Magnus had spent the preceding evening, he found that gentleman with
the major part of the contents of the two bags, the leathern hat-box,
and the brown-paper parcel, displayed to all possible advantage on his
person, while he himself was pacing up and down the room in a state of
the utmost excitement and agitation.

"Good morning, sir," said Mr. Peter Magnus. "What do you think of this,
sir?"

"Very effective indeed," replied Mr. Pickwick, surveying the garments
of Mr. Peter Magnus with a good-natured smile.

"Yes, I think it'll do," said Mr. Magnus. "Mr. Pickwick, sir, I have
sent up my card."

"Have you?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"And the waiter brought back word that she would see me at eleven--at
eleven, sir; it only wants a quarter now."

"Very near the time," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes, it is rather near," replied Mr. Magnus, "rather too near to be
pleasant--eh! Mr. Pickwick, sir?"

"Confidence is a great thing in these cases," observed Mr. Pickwick.

"I believe it is, sir," said Mr. Peter Magnus. "I am very confident,
sir. Really, Mr. Pickwick, I do not see why a man should feel any
fear in such a case as this, sir. What is it, sir? There's nothing to
be ashamed of; it's a matter of mutual accommodation, nothing more.
Husband on one side, wife on the other. That's my view of the matter,
Mr. Pickwick."

"It is a very philosophical one," replied Mr. Pickwick. "But breakfast
is waiting, Mr. Magnus. Come."

Down they sat to breakfast, but it was evident, notwithstanding
the boasting of Mr. Peter Magnus, that he laboured under a very
considerable degree of nervousness, of which loss of appetite, a
propensity to upset the tea-things, a spectral attempt at drollery, and
an irresistible inclination to look at the clock, every other second,
were among the principal symptoms.

"He--he--he," tittered Mr. Magnus, affecting cheerfulness, and gasping
with agitation. "It only wants two minutes, Mr. Pickwick. Am I pale,
sir?"

"Not very," replied Mr. Pickwick.

There was a brief pause.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Pickwick; but have you ever done this sort of
thing in your time?" said Mr. Magnus.

"You mean proposing?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Yes."

"Never," said Mr. Pickwick, with great energy, "never."

"You have no idea, then, how it's best to begin?" said Mr. Magnus.

"Why," said Mr. Pickwick, "I may have formed some ideas upon the
subject, but, as I have never submitted them to the test of experience,
I should be sorry if you were induced to regulate your proceedings by
them."

"I should feel very much obliged to you for any advice, sir," said Mr.
Magnus, taking another look at the clock: the hand of which was verging
on the five minutes past.

"Well, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, with the profound solemnity with which
that great man could, when he pleased, render his remarks so deeply
impressive: "I should commence, sir, with a tribute to the lady's
beauty and excellent qualities; from them, sir, I should diverge to my
own unworthiness."

"Very good," said Mr. Magnus.

"Unworthiness for _her_ only, mind, sir," resumed Mr. Pickwick; "for to
show that I was not wholly unworthy, sir, I should take a brief review
of my past life, and present condition. I should argue, by analogy,
that to anybody else, I must be a very desirable object. I should then
expatiate on the warmth of my love, and the depth of my devotion.
Perhaps I might then be tempted to seize her hand."

"Yes, I see," said Mr. Magnus; "that would be a very great point."

"I should then, sir," continued Mr. Pickwick, growing warmer as the
subject presented itself in more glowing colours before him: "I should
then, sir, come to the plain and simple question, 'Will you have me?'
I think I am justified in assuming, that upon this she would turn away
her head."

"You think that may be taken for granted?" said Mr. Magnus; "because if
she did not do that at the right place, it would be embarrassing."

"I think she would," said Mr. Pickwick. "Upon this, sir, I should
squeeze her hand, and I think--I _think_, Mr. Magnus--that after I had
done that, supposing there was no refusal, I should gently draw away
the handkerchief, which my slight knowledge of human nature leads me
to suppose the lady would be applying to her eyes at the moment, and
steal a respectful kiss. I think I should kiss her, Mr. Magnus; and
at this particular point, I am decidedly of opinion that if the lady
were going to take me at all, she would murmur into my ears a bashful
acceptance."

Mr. Magnus started; gazed on Mr. Pickwick's intelligent face for a
short time in silence; and then (the dial pointing to the ten minutes
past) shook him warmly by the hand, and rushed desperately from the
room.

Mr. Pickwick had taken a few strides to and fro; and the small hand of
the clock following the latter part of his example, had arrived at the
figure which indicates the half-hour, when the door suddenly opened. He
turned round to meet Mr. Peter Magnus, and encountered in his stead,
the joyous face of Mr. Tupman, the serene countenance of Mr. Winkle,
and the intellectual lineaments of Mr. Snodgrass. As Mr. Pickwick
greeted them, Mr. Peter Magnus tripped into the room.

"My friends, the gentleman I was speaking of--Mr. Magnus," said Mr.
Pickwick.

"Your servant, gentlemen," said Mr. Magnus, evidently in a high state
of excitement; "Mr. Pickwick, allow me to speak to you one moment, sir."

As he said this, Mr. Magnus harnessed his forefinger to Mr. Pickwick's
button-hole, and, drawing him to a window recess, said:

"Congratulate me, Mr. Pickwick; I followed your advice to the very
letter."

"And it was all correct, was it?" inquired Mr. Pickwick.

"It was, sir. Could not possibly have been better," replied Mr. Magnus.
"Mr. Pickwick, she is mine."

"I congratulate you with all my heart," replied Mr. Pickwick, warmly
shaking his new friend by the hand.

"You must see her, sir," said Mr. Magnus; "this way if you please.
Excuse us for one instant, gentlemen." Hurrying on in this way, Mr.
Peter Magnus drew Mr. Pickwick from the room. He paused at the next
door in the passage, and tapped gently thereat.

"Come in," said a female voice. And in they went.

"Miss Witherfield," said Mr. Magnus, "allow me to introduce my very
particular friend, Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick, I beg to make you known
to Miss Witherfield."

The lady was at the upper end of the room. As Mr. Pickwick bowed,
he took his spectacles from his waistcoat pocket and put them on;
a process which he had no sooner gone through, than, uttering an
exclamation of surprise, Mr. Pickwick retreated several paces, and
the lady, with a half-suppressed scream, hid her face in her hands,
and dropped into a chair; whereupon Mr. Peter Magnus was stricken
motionless on the spot, and gazed from one to the other, with a
countenance expressive of the extremities of horror and surprise.

This certainly was, to all appearance, very unaccountable behaviour;
but the fact is, that Mr. Pickwick no sooner put on his spectacles,
than he at once recognised in the future Mrs. Magnus the lady into
whose room he had so unwarrantably intruded on the previous night; and
the spectacles had no sooner crossed Mr. Pickwick's nose, than the lady
at once identified the countenance which she had seen surrounded by
all the horrors of a night-cap. So the lady screamed and Mr. Pickwick
started.

"Mr. Pickwick!" exclaimed Mr. Magnus, lost in astonishment, "what is
the meaning of this, sir? What is the meaning of it, sir?" added Mr.
Magnus, in a threatening and a louder tone.

"Sir," said Mr. Pickwick, somewhat indignant at the very sudden manner
in which Mr. Peter Magnus had conjugated himself into the imperative
mood, "I decline answering that question."

"You decline it, sir?" said Mr. Magnus.

"I do, sir," replied Mr. Pickwick: "I object to saying anything which
may compromise that lady, or awaken unpleasant recollections in her
breast, without her consent and permission."

"Miss Witherfield," said Mr. Peter Magnus, "do you know this person?"

"Know him!" repeated the middle-aged lady, hesitating.

"Yes, know him, ma'am. I said know him," replied Mr. Magnus, with
ferocity.

"I have seen him," replied the middle-aged lady.

"Where," inquired Mr. Magnus, "where?"

"That," said the middle-aged lady, rising from her seat, and averting
her head, "that I would not reveal for worlds."

"I understand you, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, "and respect your
delicacy; it shall never be revealed by _me_, depend upon it."

"Upon my word, ma'am," said Mr. Magnus, "considering the situation in
which I am placed with regard to yourself, you carry this matter off
with tolerable coolness--tolerable coolness, ma'am."

"Cruel Mr. Magnus!" said the middle-aged lady; here she wept very
copiously indeed.

"Address your observations to me, sir," interposed Mr. Pickwick; "I
alone am to blame, if anybody be."

"Oh! you alone are to blame, are you, sir?" said Mr. Magnus. "I--I--see
through this, sir. You repent of your determination now, do you?"

"My determination!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Your determination, sir. Oh! don't stare at me, sir," said Mr.
Magnus; "I recollect your words last night, sir. You came down here,
sir, to expose the treachery and falsehood of an individual on
whose truth and honour you had placed implicit reliance--eh?" Here
Mr. Peter Magnus indulged in a prolonged sneer; and taking off his
green spectacles--which he probably found superfluous in his fit of
jealousy--rolled his little eyes about, in a manner frightful to behold.

"Eh?" said Mr. Magnus; and then he repeated the sneer with increased
effect. "But you shall answer it, sir."

"Answer what?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Never mind, sir," replied Mr. Magnus, striding up and down the room.
"Never mind."

There must be something very comprehensive in this phrase of "Never
mind," for we do not recollect to have ever witnessed a quarrel in the
street, at a theatre, public room, or elsewhere, in which it has not
been the standard reply to all belligerent inquiries. "Do you call
yourself a gentleman, sir?"--"Never mind, sir." "Did I offer to say
anything to the young woman, sir?"--"Never mind, sir."--"Do you want
your head knocked up against that wall, sir?"--"Never mind, sir." It is
observable, too, that there would appear to be some hidden taunt in
this universal "Never mind," which rouses more indignation in the bosom
of the individual addressed, than the most lavish abuse could possibly
awaken.

We do not mean to assert that the application of this brevity to
himself, struck exactly that indignation to Mr. Pickwick's soul, which
it would infallibly have roused in a vulgar breast. We merely record
the fact that Mr. Pickwick opened the room door, and abruptly called
out, "Tupman, come here!"

Mr. Tupman immediately presented himself, with a look of very
considerable surprise.

"Tupman," said Mr. Pickwick, "a secret of some delicacy, in which that
lady is concerned, is the cause of a difference which has just arisen
between this gentleman and myself. When I assure him, in your presence,
that it has no relation to himself, and is not in any way connected
with his affairs, I need hardly beg you to take notice that if he
continue to dispute it, he expresses a doubt of my veracity, which I
shall consider extremely insulting." As Mr. Pickwick said this, he
looked encyclopædias at Mr. Peter Magnus.

Mr. Pickwick's upright and honourable bearing, coupled with that force
and energy of speech which so eminently distinguished him, would have
carried conviction to any reasonable mind; but unfortunately, at that
particular moment, the mind of Mr. Peter Magnus was in anything but
reasonable order. Consequently, instead of receiving Mr. Pickwick's
explanation as he ought to have done, he forthwith proceeded to work
himself into a red-hot, scorching, consuming passion, and to talk
about what was due to his own feelings, and all that sort of thing:
adding force to his declamation by striding to and fro, and pulling his
hair--amusements which he would vary occasionally by shaking his fist
in Mr. Pickwick's philanthropic countenance.

Mr. Pickwick, in his turn, conscious of his own innocence and
rectitude, and irritated by having unfortunately involved the
middle-aged lady in such an unpleasant affair, was not so quietly
disposed as was his wont. The consequence was, that words ran high, and
voices higher; and at length Mr. Magnus told Mr. Pickwick he should
hear from him; to which Mr. Pickwick replied, with laudable politeness,
that the sooner he heard from him the better; whereupon the middle-aged
lady rushed in terror from the room, out of which Mr. Tupman dragged
Mr. Pickwick, leaving Mr. Peter Magnus to himself and meditation.

If the middle-aged lady had mingled much with the busy world, or had
profited at all by the manners and customs of those who make the laws
and set the fashions, she would have known that this sort of ferocity
is the most harmless thing in nature; but as she had lived for the most
part in the country, and never read the parliamentary debates, she
was little versed in these particular refinements of civilised life.
Accordingly, when she had gained her bed-chamber, bolted herself in,
and begun to meditate on the scene she had just witnessed, the most
terrific pictures of slaughter and destruction presented themselves
to her imagination; among which, a full-length portrait of Mr. Peter
Magnus borne home by four men, with the embellishment of a whole
barrel-full of bullets in his left side, was among the very least. The
more the middle-aged lady meditated, the more terrified she became;
and at length she determined to repair to the house of the principal
magistrate of the town, and request him to secure the persons of Mr.
Pickwick and Mr. Tupman without delay.

To this decision the middle-aged lady was impelled by a variety of
considerations, the chief of which, was the incontestable proof it
would afford of her devotion to Mr. Peter Magnus, and her anxiety for
his safety. She was too well acquainted with his jealous temperament to
venture the slightest allusion to the real cause of her agitation on
beholding Mr. Pickwick; and she trusted to her own influence and power
of persuasion with the little man, to quell his boisterous jealousy,
supposing that Mr. Pickwick were removed, and no fresh quarrel could
arise. Filled with these reflections, the middle-aged lady arrayed
herself in her bonnet and shawl, and repaired to the Mayor's dwelling
straightway.

Now George Nupkins, Esquire, the principal magistrate aforesaid, was as
grand a personage as the fastest walker would find out, between sunrise
and sunset, on the twenty-first of June, which being, according to the
almanacs, the longest day in the whole year, would naturally afford
him the longest period for his search. On this particular morning,
Mr. Nupkins was in a state of the utmost excitement and irritation,
for there had been a rebellion in the town; all the day-scholars
at the largest day-school had conspired to break the windows of an
obnoxious apple-seller, and had hooted the beadle, and pelted the
constabulary--an elderly gentleman in top-boots, who had been called
out to repress the tumult, and who had been a peace-officer, man and
boy, for half a century at least. And Mr. Nupkins was sitting in his
easy chair, frowning with majesty, and boiling with rage, when a lady
was announced on pressing, private, and particular business. Mr.
Nupkins looked calmly terrible, and commanded that the lady should
be shown in: which command, like all the mandates of emperors, and
magistrates, and other great potentates of the earth, was forthwith
obeyed; and Miss Witherfield, interestingly agitated, was ushered in
accordingly.

"Muzzle!" said the magistrate.

Muzzle was an undersized footman, with a long body and short legs.

"Muzzle!"

"Yes, your worship."

"Place a chair, and leave the room."

"Yes, your worship."

"Now, ma'am, will you state your business?" said the magistrate.

"It is of a very painful kind, sir," said Miss Witherfield.

"Very likely, ma'am," said the magistrate. "Compose your feelings,
ma'am." Here Mr. Nupkins looked benignant. "And then tell me what legal
business brings you here, ma'am." Here the magistrate triumphed over
the man; and he looked stern again.

"It is very distressing to me, sir, to give this information," said
Miss Witherfield, "but I fear a duel is going to be fought here."

"Here, ma'am?" said the magistrate. "Where, ma'am?"

"In Ipswich."

"In Ipswich, ma'am! A duel in Ipswich!" said the magistrate, perfectly
aghast at the notion. "Impossible, ma'am; nothing of the kind can be
contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Bless my soul, ma'am, are
you aware of the activity of our local magistracy? Do you happen to
have heard, ma'am, that I rushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May
last, attended by only sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of
falling a sacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude,
prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling and the
Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, ma'am! I don't think--I do _not_
think," said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, "that any two men
can have had the hardihood to plan such a breach of the peace, in this
town."

"My information is unfortunately but too correct," said the middle-aged
lady, "I was present at the quarrel."

"It's a most extraordinary thing," said the astounded magistrate.
"Muzzle!"

"Yes, your worship."

"Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly."

"Yes, your worship."

Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily-clad clerk,
of middle age, entered the room.

"Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate. "Mr. Jinks."

"Sir?" said Mr. Jinks.

"This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of an
intended duel in this town."

Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled a dependent's smile.

"What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks?" said the magistrate.

Mr. Jinks looked serious, instantly.

"Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate, "you're a fool."

Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top of his pen.

"You may see something very comical in this information, sir; but I can
tell you this, Mr. Jinks; that you have very little to laugh at," said
the magistrate.

The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware of the fact
of his having very little indeed, to be merry about; and, being ordered
to take the lady's information, shambled to a seat, and proceeded to
write it down.

"This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand?" said the
magistrate, when the statement was finished.

"He is," said the middle-aged lady.

"And the other rioter--what's his name, Mr. Jinks?"

"Tupman, sir."

"Tupman is the second?"

"Yes."

"The other principal, you say, has absconded, ma'am?"

"Yes," replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough.

"Very well," said the magistrate. "These are two cut-throats from
London, who have come down here to destroy His Majesty's population;
thinking that at this distance from the capital, the arm of the law
is weak and paralysed. They shall be made an example of. Draw up the
warrants, Mr. Jinks. Muzzle!"

"Yes, your worship."

"Is Grummer down-stairs?"

"Yes, your worship."

"Send him up."

The obsequious Muzzle retired, and presently returned, introducing the
elderly gentleman in the top-boots, who was chiefly remarkable for a
bottle-nose, a hoarse voice, a snuff-coloured surtout, and a wandering
eye.

"Grummer," said the magistrate.

"Your wash-up."

"Is the town quiet now?"

"Pretty well, your wash-up," replied Grummer. "Pop'lar feeling has in a
measure subsided, consekens o' the boys having dispersed to cricket."

"Nothing but vigorous measures will do in these times, Grummer," said
the magistrate, in a determined manner. "If the authority of the King's
officers is set at nought, we must have the Riot Act read. If the civil
power cannot protect these windows, Grummer, the military must protect
the civil power, and the windows too. I believe that is a maxim of the
constitution, Mr. Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir," said Jinks.

"Very good," said the magistrate, signing the warrants. "Grummer, you
will bring these persons before me, this afternoon. You will find them
at the Great White Horse. You recollect the case of the Middlesex
Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam, Grummer?"

Mr. Grummer intimated, by a retrospective shake of the head, that he
should never forget it--as indeed it was not likely he would, so long
as it continued to be cited daily.

"This is even more unconstitutional," said the magistrate; "this is
even a greater breach of the peace, and a grosser infringement of His
Majesty's prerogative. I believe duelling is one of His Majesty's most
undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks?"

"Expressly stipulated in Magna Charta, sir," said Mr. Jinks.

"One of the brightest jewels in the British crown, wrung from His
Majesty by the Barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks?" said the magistrate.

"Just so, sir," replied Mr. Jinks.

"Very well," said the magistrate, drawing himself up proudly, "it
shall not be violated in this portion of his dominions. Grummer,
procure assistance, and execute these warrants with as little delay as
possible. Muzzle!"

"Yes, your worship."

"Show the lady out."

Miss Witherfield retired, deeply impressed with the magistrates'
learning and research; Mr. Nupkins retired to lunch; Mr. Jinks retired
within himself--that being the only retirement he had, except the
sofa-bedstead in the small parlour which was occupied by his landlady's
family in the daytime--and Mr. Grummer retired, to wipe out, by his
mode of discharging his present commission, the insult which had been
fastened upon himself, and the other representative of His Majesty--the
beadle--in the course of the morning.

While these resolute and determined preparations for the conservation
of the King's peace were pending, Mr. Pickwick and his friends,
wholly unconscious of the mighty events in progress, had sat quietly
down to dinner; and very talkative and companionable they all were.
Mr. Pickwick was in the very act of relating his adventure of the
preceding night, to the great amusement of his followers, Mr. Tupman
especially, when the door opened and a somewhat forbidding countenance
peeped into the room. The eyes in the forbidding countenance looked
very earnestly at Mr. Pickwick, for several seconds, and were to
all appearance satisfied with their investigation; for the body to
which the forbidding countenance belonged, slowly brought itself into
the apartment, and presented the form of an elderly individual in
top-boots--not to keep the reader any longer in suspense, in short, the
eyes were the wandering eyes of Mr. Grummer, and the body was the body
of the same gentleman.

Mr. Grummer's mode of proceeding was professional, but peculiar. His
first act was to bolt the door on the inside; his second, to polish his
head and countenance very carefully with a cotton handkerchief; his
third, to place his hat, with the cotton handkerchief in it, on the
nearest chair; and his fourth, to produce from the breast-pocket of his
coat a short truncheon, surmounted by a brazen crown, with which he
beckoned to Mr. Pickwick with a grave and ghost-like air.

Mr. Snodgrass was the first to break the astonished silence. He looked
steadily at Mr. Grummer for a brief space, and then said emphatically:
"This is a private room, sir. A private room."

Mr. Grummer shook his head, and replied, "No room's private to His
Majesty when the street door's once passed. That's law. Some people
maintains that an Englishman's house is his castle. That's gammon."

The Pickwickians gazed on each other with wondering eyes.

"Which is Mr. Tupman?" inquired Mr. Grummer. He had an intuitive
perception of Mr. Pickwick; he knew _him_ at once.

"My name's Tupman," said that gentleman.

"My name's Law," said Mr. Grummer.

"What?" said Mr. Tupman.

"Law," replied Mr. Grummer, "law, civil power, and exekative; them's
my titles; here's my authority. Blank Tupman, blank Pickvick--against
the peace of our sufferin Lord the King--stattit in that case made
and purwided--and all regular. I apprehend you Pickvick! Tupman--the
aforesaid."

"What do you mean by this insolence?" said Mr. Tupman, starting up.
"Leave the room!"

"Halloo," said Mr. Grummer, retreating very expeditiously to the door,
and opening it an inch or two, "Dubbley."

"Well," said a deep voice from the passage.

"Come for'ard, Dubbley."

At the word of command, a dirty-faced man, something over six feet
high, and stout in proportion, squeezed himself through the half-open
door (making his face very red in the process), and entered the room.

"Is the other specials outside, Dubbley?" inquired Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley, who was a man of few words, nodded assent.

"Order in the diwision under your charge, Dubbley," said Mr. Grummer.

Mr. Dubbley did as he was desired; and half a dozen men, each with a
short truncheon and a brass crown, flocked into the room. Mr. Grummer
pocketed his staff and looked at Mr. Dubbley; Mr. Dubbley pocketed
_his_ staff and looked at the division; the division pocketed _their_
staffs and looked at Messrs. Tupman and Pickwick.

Mr. Pickwick and his followers rose as one man.

"What is the meaning of this atrocious intrusion upon my privacy?" said
Mr. Pickwick.

"Who dares apprehend me?" said Mr. Tupman.

"What do you want here, scoundrels?" said Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Winkle said nothing, but he fixed his eyes on Grummer, and bestowed
a look upon him, which, if he had had any feeling, must have pierced
his brain. As it was, however, it had no visible effect upon him
whatever.

When the executive perceived that Mr. Pickwick and his friends were
disposed to resist the authority of the law, they very significantly
turned up their coat sleeves, as if knocking them down in the first
instance, and taking them up afterwards, were a mere professional act
which had only to be thought of, to be done, as a matter of course.
This demonstration was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He conferred a few
moments with Mr. Tupman apart, and then signified his readiness to
proceed to the Mayor's residence, merely begging the parties then and
there assembled, to take notice, that it was his firm intention to
resent this monstrous invasion of his privileges as an Englishman, the
instant he was at liberty; whereat the parties then and there assembled
laughed very heartily, with the single exception of Mr. Grummer, who
seemed to consider that any slight cast upon the divine right of
magistrates, was a species of blasphemy, not to be tolerated.

But when Mr. Pickwick had signified his readiness to bow to the laws of
his country; and just when the waiters and hostlers, and chamber-maids,
and post-boys, who had anticipated a delightful commotion from his
threatened obstinacy, began to turn away, disappointed and disgusted,
a difficulty arose which had not been foreseen. With every sentiment
of veneration for the constituted authorities, Mr. Pickwick resolutely
protested against making his appearance in the public streets,
surrounded and guarded by the officers of justice, like a common
criminal. Mr. Grummer, in the then disturbed state of public feeling
(for it was half-holiday, and the boys had not yet gone home), as
resolutely protested against walking on the opposite side of the way,
and taking Mr. Pickwick's parole that he would go straight to the
magistrate's; and both Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman as strenuously
objected to the expense of a post-coach, which was the only respectable
conveyance that could be obtained. The dispute ran high, and the
dilemma lasted long; and just as the executive were on the point of
overcoming Mr. Pickwick's objection to walking to the magistrate's,
by the trite expedient of carrying him thither, it was recollected
that there stood in the inn-yard, an old sedan-chair, which having
been originally built for a gouty gentleman with funded property,
would hold Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman, at least as conveniently as a
modern post-chaise. The chair was hired, and brought into the hall;
Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman squeezed themselves inside, and pulled
down the blinds; a couple of chairmen were speedily found; and the
procession started in grand order. The specials surrounded the body of
the vehicle; Mr. Grummer and Mr. Dubbley marched triumphantly in front;
Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle walked arm in arm behind; and the unsoaped
of Ipswich brought up the rear.

The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a very indistinct
notion of the nature of the offence, could not but be much edified
and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strong arm of the law,
coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upon two offenders from
the metropolis itself; the mighty engine was directed by their own
magistrate, and worked by their own officers; and both the criminals,
by their united efforts, were securely shut up in the narrow compass of
one sedan-chair. Many were the expressions of approval and admiration
which greeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand;
loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidst these
united testimonials of public approbation, the procession moved slowly
and majestically along.

Mr. Weller, habited in his morning jacket with the black calico
sleeves, was returning in a rather desponding state from an
unsuccessful survey of the mysterious house with the green gate,
when raising his eyes, he beheld a crowd pouring down the street,
surrounding an object which had very much the appearance of a
sedan-chair. Willing to divert his thoughts from the failure of his
enterprise, he stepped aside to see the crowd pass; and finding that
they were cheering away, very much to their own satisfaction, forthwith
began (by way of raising his spirits) to cheer too, with all his might
and main.

Mr. Grummer passed, and Mr. Dubbley passed, and the sedan passed, and
the body-guard of specials passed, and Sam was still responding to the
enthusiastic cheers of the mob, and waving his hat about as if he were
in the very last extreme of the wildest joy (though, of course, he had
not the faintest idea of the matter in hand), when he was suddenly
stopped by the unexpected appearance of Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass.

"What's the row, gen'l'm'n?" cried Sam. "Who have they got in this here
watch-box in mournin'?"

Both gentlemen replied together, but their words were lost in the
tumult.

"Who?" cried Sam again.

Once more was a joint reply returned; and, though the words were
inaudible, Sam saw by the motion of the two pairs of lips that they had
uttered the magic word "Pickwick."

This was enough. In another minute Mr. Weller had made his way through
the crowd, stopped the chairmen, and confronted the portly Grummer.

"Hallo, old gen'l'm'n!" said Sam. "Who have you got in this here
conwayance?"

"Stand back," said Mr. Grummer, whose dignity, like the dignity of
a great many other men, had been wondrously augmented by a little
popularity.

"Knock him down, if he don't," said Mr. Dubbley.

"I'm wery much obliged to you, old gen'l'm'n!" replied Sam, "for
consulting my conwenience, and I'm still more obliged to the other
gen'l'm'n, who looks as if he'd just escaped from a giant's carrywan,
for his wery 'ansome suggestion; but I should perfer your givin' me
a answer to my question, if it's all the same to you.--How are you,
sir?" This last observation was addressed with a patronising air to Mr.
Pickwick, who was peeping through the front window.

Mr. Grummer, perfectly speechless with indignation, dragged the
truncheon with the brass crown from its particular pocket, and
flourished it before Sam's eyes.

"Ah," said Sam, "it's wery pretty, 'specially the crown, which is
uncommon like the real one."

"Stand back!" said the outraged Mr. Grummer. By way of adding force to
the command, he thrust the brass emblem of royalty into Sam's neckcloth
with one hand, and seized Sam's collar with the other: a compliment
which Mr. Weller returned by knocking him down out of hand: having
previously, with the utmost consideration, knocked down a chairman for
him to lie upon.

Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species
of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this
display of Mr. Weller's valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that
he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall than he made a terrific onslaught
on a small boy who stood next to him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in
a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one
unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin,
and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He
was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice
both to him and Mr. Winkle to say, that they did not make the slightest
attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller: who, after a most
vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The
procession then re-formed; the chairmen resumed their stations; and the
march was re-commenced.

Mr. Pickwick's indignation during the whole of this proceeding was
beyond all bounds. He could just see Sam upsetting the specials, and
flying about in every direction; and that was all he could see, for the
sedan doors wouldn't open, and the blinds wouldn't pull up. At length,
with the assistance of Mr. Tupman, he managed to push open the roof;
and mounting on the seat, and steadying himself as well as he could, by
placing his hand on that gentleman's shoulder, Mr. Pickwick proceeded
to address the multitude; to dwell upon the unjustifiable manner in
which he had been treated; and to call upon them to take notice that
his servant had been first assaulted. In this order they reached the
magistrate's house; the chairmen trotting, the prisoners following, Mr.
Pickwick oratorising, and the crowd shouting.



CHAPTER XXV

[Illustration]

  _Showing, among a variety of Pleasant Matters, how Majestic and
    Impartial Mr. Nupkins was, and how Mr. Weller returned Mr.
    Job Trotter's Shuttlecock as heavily as it came. With another
    Matter, which will be found in its Place_


Violent was Mr. Weller's indignation as he was borne along; numerous
were the allusions to the personal appearance and demeanour of Mr.
Grummer and his companion; and valorous were the defiances to any six
of the gentlemen present; in which he vented his dissatisfaction. Mr.
Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle listened with gloomy respect to the torrent
of eloquence which their leader poured forth from the sedan-chair,
and the rapid course of which not all Mr. Tupman's earnest entreaties
to have the lid of the vehicle closed, were able to check for an
instant. But Mr. Weller's anger quickly gave way to curiosity when
the procession turned down the identical court-yard in which he had
met with the runaway Job Trotter: and curiosity was exchanged for a
feeling of the most gleeful astonishment, when the all-important Mr.
Grummer, commanding the sedan-bearers to halt, advanced with dignified
and portentous steps to the very green gate from which Job Trotter had
emerged, and gave a mighty pull at the bell-handle which hung at the
side thereof. The ring was answered by a very smart and pretty-faced
servant-girl, who, after holding up her hands in astonishment at the
rebellious appearance of the prisoners, and the impassioned language of
Mr. Pickwick, summoned Mr. Muzzle. Mr. Muzzle opened one half of the
carriage gate, to admit the sedan, the captured ones, and the specials;
and immediately slammed it in the faces of the mob, who, indignant
at being excluded, and anxious to see what followed, relieved their
feelings by kicking at the gate and ringing the bell, for an hour or
two afterwards. In this amusement they all took part by turns, except
three or four fortunate individuals, who, having discovered a grating
in the gate which commanded a view of nothing, stared through it with
the indefatigable perseverance with which people will flatten their
noses against the front windows of a chemist's shop, when a drunken
man, who has been run over by a dog-cart in the street, is undergoing a
surgical inspection in the back-parlour.

At the foot of a flight of steps, leading to the house door, which
was guarded on either side by an American aloe in a green tub, the
sedan-chair stopped. Mr. Pickwick and his friends were conducted
into the hall, whence, having been previously announced by Muzzle,
and ordered in by Mr. Nupkins, they were ushered into the worshipful
presence of that public-spirited officer.

The scene was an impressive one, well calculated to strike terror to
the hearts of culprits, and to impress them with an adequate idea of
the stern majesty of the law. In front of a big book-case, in a big
chair, behind a big table, and before a big volume, sat Mr. Nupkins,
looking a full size larger than any one of them, big as they were.
The table was adorned with piles of papers: and above the further end
of it, appeared the head and shoulders of Mr. Jinks, who was busily
engaged in looking as busy as possible. The party having all entered,
Muzzle carefully closed the door, and placed himself behind his
master's chair to await his orders. Mr. Nupkins threw himself back,
with thrilling solemnity, and scrutinised the faces of his unwilling
visitors.

"Now, Grummer, who is that person?" said Mr. Nupkins, pointing to Mr.
Pickwick, who, as the spokesman of his friends, stood hat in hand,
bowing with the utmost politeness and respect.

"This here's Pickvick, your wash-up," said Grummer.

"Come, none o' that 'ere, old Strike-a-light," interposed Mr. Weller,
elbowing himself into the front rank. "Beg your pardon, sir, but
this here officer o' yourn in the gambooge tops, 'ull never earn a
decent livin' as a master o' the ceremonies any vere. This here,
sir," continued Mr. Weller, thrusting Grummer aside, and addressing
the magistrate with pleasant familiarity, "this here is S. Pickvick,
Esquire; this here's Mr. Tupman; that 'ere's Mr. Snodgrass; and furder
on, next him on the t'other side, Mr. Winkle--all wery nice gen'l'm'n,
sir, as you'll be wery happy to have the acquaintance on; so the sooner
you commits these here officers o' yourn to the tread-mill for a month
or two, the sooner we shall begin to be on a pleasant understanding.
Business first, pleasure afterwards, as King Richard the Third said
wen he stabbed the t'other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the
babbies."

At the conclusion of this address, Mr. Weller brushed his hat with
his right elbow, and nodded benignly to Jinks, who had heard him
throughout, with unspeakable awe.

"Who is this man, Grummer?" said the magistrate.

"Wery desp'rate ch'racter, your wash-up," replied Grummer. "He
attempted to rescue the prisoners, and assaulted the officers; so we
took him into custody, and brought him here."

"You did quite right," replied the magistrate. "He is evidently a
desperate ruffian."

"He is my servant, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, angrily.

"Oh! he is your servant, is he?" said Mr. Nupkins. "A conspiracy
to defeat the ends of justice, and murder its officers. Pickwick's
servant. Put that down, Mr. Jinks."

Mr. Jinks did so.

"What's your name, fellow?" thundered Mr. Nupkins.

"Veller," replied Sam.

"A very good name for the Newgate Calendar," said Mr. Nupkins.

This was a joke; so Jinks, Grummer, Dubbley, all the specials, and
Muzzle, went into fits of laughter of five minutes' duration.

"Put down his name, Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate.

"Two L's, old feller," said Sam.

Here an unfortunate special laughed again, whereupon the magistrate
threatened to commit him, instantly. It is a dangerous thing to laugh
at the wrong man, in these cases.

"Where do you live?" said the magistrate.

"Vare-ever I can," replied Sam.

"Put down that, Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate, who was fast rising
into a rage.

"Score it under," said Sam.

"He is a vagabond, Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate. "He is a vagabond
on his own statement; is he not, Mr. Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir."

"Then I'll commit him. I'll commit him as such," said Mr. Nupkins.

"This is a wery impartial country for justice," said Sam. "There ain't
a magistrate goin' as don't commit himself, twice as often as he
commits other people."

At this sally another special laughed, and then tried to look so
supernaturally solemn, that the magistrate detected him immediately.

"Grummer," said Mr. Nupkins, reddening with passion, "how dare you
select such an inefficient and disreputable person for a special
constable, as that man? How dare you do it, sir?"

"I am very sorry, your wash-up," stammered Grummer.

"Very sorry!" said the furious magistrate. "You shall repent of this
neglect of duty, Mr. Grummer; you shall be made an example of. Take
that fellow's staff away. He's drunk. You're drunk, fellow."

"I am not drunk, your worship," said the man.

"You _are_ drunk," returned the magistrate. "How dare you say you
are not drunk, sir, when I say you are? Doesn't he smell of spirits,
Grummer?"

"Horrid, your wash-up," replied Grummer, who had a vague impression
that there was a smell of rum somewhere.

"I knew he did," said Mr. Nupkins. "I saw he was drunk when he first
came into the room, by his excited eye. Did you observe his excited
eye, Mr. Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir."

"I haven't touched a drop of spirits this morning," said the man, who
was as sober a fellow as need be.

"How dare you tell me a falsehood?" said Mr. Nupkins. "Isn't he drunk
at this moment, Mr. Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir," replied Jinks.

"Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate, "I shall commit that man, for
contempt. Make out his committal, Mr. Jinks."

And committed the special would have been, only Jinks, who was the
magistrate's adviser (having had a legal education of three years in a
country attorney's office), whispered the magistrate that he thought
it wouldn't do; so the magistrate made a speech, and said, that in
consideration of the special's family, he would merely reprimand and
discharge him. Accordingly, the special was abused vehemently, for a
quarter of an hour, and sent about his business; and Grummer, Dubbley,
Muzzle, and all the other specials murmured their admiration of the
magnanimity of Mr. Nupkins.

"Now, Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate, "swear Grummer."

Grummer was sworn directly; but as Grummer wandered, and Mr. Nupkin's
dinner was nearly ready, Mr. Nupkins cut the matter short, by putting
leading questions to Grummer, which Grummer answered as nearly in the
affirmative as he could. So the examination went off, all very smooth
and comfortable, and two assaults were proved against Mr. Weller, and a
threat against Mr. Winkle, and a push against Mr. Snodgrass. When all
this was done to the magistrate's satisfaction, the magistrate and Mr.
Jinks consulted in whispers.

The consultation having lasted about ten minutes, Mr. Jinks retired to
his end of the table; and the magistrate, with a preparatory cough,
drew himself up in his chair, and was proceeding to commence his
address, when Mr. Pickwick interposed.

"I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting you," said Mr. Pickwick, "but
before you proceed to express, and act upon, any opinion you may have
formed on the statements which have been made here, I must claim my
right to be heard so far as I am personally concerned."

"Hold your tongue, sir," said the magistrate, peremptorily.

"I must submit to you, sir," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Hold your tongue, sir," interposed the magistrate, "or I shall order
an officer to remove you."

"You may order your officers to do whatever you please, sir," said Mr.
Pickwick; "and I have no doubt, from the specimen I have had of the
subordination preserved amongst them, that whatever you order, they
will execute, sir; but I shall take the liberty, sir, of claiming my
right to be heard, until I am removed by force."

"Pickvick and principle!" exclaimed Mr. Weller, in a very audible voice.

"Sam, be quiet," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Dumb as a drum with a hole in it, sir," replied Sam.

Mr. Nupkins looked at Mr. Pickwick with a gaze of intense astonishment,
at his displaying such unwonted temerity; and was apparently about to
return a very angry reply, when Mr. Jinks pulled him by the sleeve,
and whispered something in his ear. To this, the magistrate returned
a half-audible answer, and then the whispering was renewed. Jinks was
evidently remonstrating.

At length the magistrate, gulping down, with a very bad grace, his
disinclination to hear anything more, turned to Mr. Pickwick, and said
sharply: "What do you want to say?"

"First," said Mr. Pickwick, sending a look through his spectacles,
under which even Nupkins quailed. "First, I wish to know what I and my
friend have been brought here for?"

"Must I tell him?" whispered the magistrate to Jinks.

"I think you had better, sir," whispered Jinks to the magistrate.

"An information has been sworn before me," said the magistrate, "that
it is apprehended you are going to fight a duel, and that the other
man, Tupman, is your aider and abettor in it. Therefore--eh, Mr. Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir."

"Therefore, I call upon you both, to--I think that's the course, Mr.
Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir."

"To--to--what, Mr. Jinks?" said the magistrate, pettishly.

"To find bail, sir."

"Yes. Therefore, I call upon you both--as I was about to say, when I
was interrupted by my clerk--to find bail."

"Good bail," whispered Mr. Jinks.

"I shall require good bail," said the magistrate.

"Town's-people," whispered Jinks.

"They must be town's-people," said the magistrate.

"Fifty pounds each," whispered Jinks, "and householders, of course."

"I shall require two sureties of fifty pounds each," said the
magistrate aloud, with great dignity, "and they must be householders,
of course."

"But, bless my heart, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, who, together with Mr.
Tupman, was all amazement and indignation; "we are perfect strangers
in the town. I have as little knowledge of any householders here, as I
have intention of fighting a duel with anybody."

"I dare say," replied the magistrate, "I dare say--don't you, Mr.
Jinks?"

"Certainly, sir."

"Have you anything more to say?" inquired the magistrate.

Mr. Pickwick _had_ a great deal more to say, which he would no doubt
have said, very little to his own advantage, or the magistrate's
satisfaction, if he had not, the moment he ceased speaking, been
pulled by the sleeve by Mr. Weller, with whom he was immediately
engaged in so earnest a conversation, that he suffered the magistrate's
inquiry to pass wholly unnoticed. Mr. Nupkins was not the man to ask
a question of the kind twice over; and so, with another preparatory
cough, he proceeded, amidst the reverential and admiring silence of the
constables, to pronounce his decision.

He should fine Weller two pounds for the first assault, and three
pounds for the second. He should fine Winkle two pounds, and Snodgrass
one pound, besides requiring them to enter into their own recognisances
to keep the peace towards all his Majesty's subjects, and especially
towards his liege servant, Daniel Grummer. Pickwick and Tupman he had
already held to bail.

Immediately on the magistrate ceasing to speak, Mr. Pickwick, with a
smile mantling on his again good-humoured countenance, stepped forward,
and said:

"I beg the magistrate's pardon, but may I request a few minutes'
private conversation with him, on a matter of deep importance to
himself?"

"What?" said the magistrate.

Mr. Pickwick repeated his request.

"This is a most extraordinary request," said the magistrate. "A private
interview?"

"A private interview," replied Mr. Pickwick, firmly; "only, as a part
of the information which I wish to communicate is derived from my
servant, I should wish him to be present."

The magistrate looked at Mr. Jinks; Mr. Jinks looked at the magistrate;
the officers looked at each other in amazement. Mr. Nupkins turned
suddenly pale. Could the man Weller, in a moment of remorse, have
divulged some secret conspiracy for his assassination? It was a
dreadful thought. He was a public man: and he turned paler, as he
thought of Julius Cæsar and Mr. Perceval.

The magistrate looked at Mr. Pickwick again, and beckoned Mr. Jinks.

"What do you think of this request, Mr. Jinks?" murmured Mr. Nupkins.

Mr. Jinks, who didn't exactly know what to think of it, and was afraid
he might offend, smiled feebly, after a dubious fashion, and, screwing
up the corners of his mouth, shook his head slowly from side to side.

"Mr. Jinks," said the magistrate, gravely, "you are an ass."

At this little expression of opinion Mr. Jinks smiled again--rather
more feebly than before--and edged himself, by degrees, back into his
own corner.

Mr. Nupkins debated the matter within himself for a few seconds, and
then, rising from his chair, and requesting Mr. Pickwick and Sam to
follow him, led the way into a small room which opened into the justice
parlour. Desiring Mr. Pickwick to walk to the upper end of the little
apartment, and holding his hand upon the half-closed door, that he
might be able to effect an immediate escape in case there was the
least tendency to a display of hostilities, Mr. Nupkins expressed his
readiness to hear the communication, whatever it might be.

"I will come to the point at once, sir," said Mr. Pickwick; "it affects
yourself, and your credit, materially. I have every reason to believe,
sir, that you are harbouring in your house a gross impostor!"

"Two," interrupted Sam, "Mulberry agin all natur, for tears and
willainy!"

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, "if I am to render myself intelligible to
this gentleman, I must beg you to control your feelings."

"Wery sorry, sir," replied Mr. Weller; "but when I think o' that 'ere
Job, I can't help opening the walve a inch or two."

"In one word, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, "is my servant right in
suspecting that a certain Captain Fitz-Marshall is in the habit of
visiting here? Because," added Mr. Pickwick, as he saw that Mr. Nupkins
was about to offer a very indignant interruption, "because, if he be, I
know that person to be a----"

"Hush, hush!" said Mr. Nupkins, closing the door. "Know him to be what,
sir?"

"An unprincipled adventurer--a dishonourable character--a man who preys
upon society, and makes easily-deceived people his dupes, sir; his
absurd, his foolish, his wretched dupes, sir," said the excited Mr.
Pickwick.

"Dear me," said Mr. Nupkins, turning very red, and altering his whole
manner directly. "Dear me, Mr. ----"

"Pickvick," said Sam.

"Pickwick," said the magistrate, "dear me, Mr. Pickwick--pray take a
seat--you cannot mean this? Captain Fitz-Marshall?"

"Don't call him a cap'en," said Sam, "nor Fitz-Marshall neither; he
ain't neither one nor t'other. He's a strolling actor, he is, and his
name's Jingle; and if ever there was a wolf in a mulberry suit, that
ere Job Trotter's him."

"It is very true, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, replying to the magistrate's
look of amazement; "my only business in this town, is to expose the
person of whom we now speak."

Mr. Pickwick proceeded to pour into the horror-stricken ear of Mr.
Nupkins, an abridged account of Mr. Jingle's atrocities. He related how
he had first met him; how he had eloped with Miss Wardle; how he had
cheerfully resigned the lady for a pecuniary consideration; how he had
entrapped himself into a lady's boarding-school at midnight; and how
he (Mr. Pickwick) now felt it his duty to expose his assumption of his
present name and rank.

As the narrative proceeded, all the warm blood in the body of Mr.
Nupkins tingled up into the very tips of his ears. He had picked up
the captain at a neighbouring race-course. Charmed with his long
list of aristocratic acquaintance, his extensive travel, and his
fashionable demeanour, Mrs. Nupkins and Miss Nupkins had exhibited
Captain Fitz-Marshall, and quoted Captain Fitz-Marshall, and hurled
Captain Fitz-Marshall at the devoted heads of their select circle
of acquaintance, until their bosom friends, Mrs. Porkenham and the
Miss Porkenhams, and Mr. Sidney Porkenham, were ready to burst with
jealousy and despair. And now, to hear, after all, that he was a needy
adventurer, a strolling player, and if not a swindler, something so
very like it, that it was hard to tell the difference! Heavens! What
would the Porkenhams say! What would be the triumph of Mr. Sidney
Porkenham when he found that his addresses had been slighted for such
a rival! How should he, Nupkins, meet the eye of old Porkenham at the
next Quarter Sessions! And what a handle would it be for the opposition
magisterial party, if the story got abroad!

"But after all," said Mr. Nupkins, brightening for a moment, after a
long pause; "after all, this is a mere statement. Captain Fitz-Marshall
is a man of very engaging manners, and, I dare say, has many enemies.
What proof have you of the truth of these representations?"

"Confront me with him," said Mr. Pickwick, "that is all I ask, and all
I require. Confront him with me and my friends here; you will want no
further proof."

"Why," said Mr. Nupkins, "that might be very easily done, for he will
be here to-night, and then there would be no occasion to make the
matter public, just--just--for the young man's own sake, you know.
I--I--should like to consult Mrs. Nupkins on the propriety of the step,
in the first instance, though. At all events, Mr. Pickwick, we must
despatch this legal business before we can do anything else. Pray step
back into the next room."

Into the next room they went.

"Grummer," said the magistrate, in an awful voice.

"Your wash-up," replied Grummer, with the smile of a favourite.

"Come, come, sir," said the magistrate, sternly, "don't let me see any
of this levity here. It is very unbecoming, and I can assure you that
you have very little to smile at. Was the account you gave me just now
strictly true? Now be careful, sir!"

"Your wash-up," stammered Grummer, "I----"

"Oh, you are confused, are you?" said the magistrate. "Mr. Jinks, you
observe this confusion?"

"Certainly, sir," replied Jinks.

"Now," said the magistrate, "repeat your statement, Grummer, and again
I warn you to be careful. Mr. Jinks, take his words down."

The unfortunate Grummer proceeded to re-state his complaint, but, what
between Mr. Jinks taking down his words, and the magistrate's taking
them up; his natural tendency to rambling, and his extreme confusion;
he managed to get involved, in something under three minutes, in
such a mass of entanglement and contradiction, that Mr. Nupkins at
once declared he didn't believe him. So the fines were remitted, and
Mr. Jinks found a couple of bail in no time. And all these solemn
proceedings having been satisfactorily concluded, Mr. Grummer was
ignominiously ordered out--an awful instance of the instability of
human greatness, and the uncertain tenure of great men's favour.

Mrs. Nupkins was a majestic female in a pink gauze turban and a light
brown wig. Miss Nupkins possessed all her mamma's haughtiness without
the turban, and all her ill-nature without the wig; and whenever the
exercise of these two amiable qualities involved mother and daughter
in some unpleasant dilemma, as they not unfrequently did, they both
concurred in laying the blame on the shoulders of Mr. Nupkins.
Accordingly, when Mr. Nupkins sought Mrs. Nupkins, and detailed the
communication which had been made by Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Nupkins
suddenly recollected that she had always expected something of the
kind; that she had always said it would be so; that her advice was
never taken; that she really did not know what Mr. Nupkins supposed she
was; and so forth.

"The idea!" said Miss Nupkins, forcing a tear of very scanty
proportions into the corner of each eye; "the idea of my being made
such a fool of!"

"Ah! you may thank your papa, my dear," said Mrs. Nupkins; "how have
I implored and begged that man to inquire into the Captain's family
connections; how have I urged and entreated him to take some decisive
step! I am quite certain nobody would believe it--quite."

"But, my dear," said Mr. Nupkins.

"Don't talk to me, you aggravating thing, don't!" said Mrs. Nupkins.

"My love," said Mr. Nupkins, "you professed yourself very fond of
Captain Fitz-Marshall. You have constantly asked him here, my dear, and
you have lost no opportunity of introducing him elsewhere."

"Didn't I say so, Henrietta?" cried Mrs. Nupkins, appealing to her
daughter, with the air of a much-injured female. "Didn't I say that
your papa would turn round and lay all this at my door? Didn't I say
so?" Here Mrs. Nupkins sobbed.

"Oh pa!" remonstrated Miss Nupkins. And here she sobbed too.

"Isn't it too much, when he has brought all this disgrace and ridicule
upon us, to taunt _me_ with being the cause of it?" exclaimed Mrs.
Nupkins.

"How can we ever show ourselves in society!" said Miss Nupkins.

"How can we face the Porkenhams!" cried Mrs. Nupkins.

"Or the Griggs's!" cried Miss Nupkins.

"Or the Slummintowkens!" cried Mrs. Nupkins. "But what does your papa
care! What is it to _him_!" At this dreadful reflection, Mrs. Nupkins
wept with mental anguish, and Miss Nupkins followed on the same side.

Mrs. Nupkins's tears continued to gush forth, with great velocity,
until she had gained a little time to think the matter over: when she
decided, in her own mind, that the best thing to do would be to ask Mr.
Pickwick and his friends to remain until the Captain's arrival, and
then to give Mr. Pickwick the opportunity he sought. If it appeared
that he had spoken truly, the Captain could be turned out of the house
without noising the matter abroad, and they could easily account to the
Porkenhams for his disappearance, by saying that he had been appointed,
through the Court influence of his family, to the Governor-Generalship
of Sierra Leone, or Saugur Point, or any other of those salubrious
climates which enchant Europeans so much that when they once get there,
they can hardly ever prevail upon themselves to come back again.

When Mrs. Nupkins dried up her tears, Miss Nupkins dried up _hers_,
and Mr. Nupkins was very glad to settle the matter as Mrs. Nupkins
had proposed. So Mr. Pickwick and his friends, having washed off all
marks of their late encounter, were introduced to the ladies, and soon
afterwards to their dinner; and Mr. Weller, whom the magistrate with
his peculiar sagacity had discovered in half an hour to be one of the
finest fellows alive, was consigned to the care and guardianship of Mr.
Muzzle, who was specially enjoined to take him below, and make much of
him.

"How de do, sir?" said Mr. Muzzle, as he conducted Mr. Weller down the
kitchen stairs.

"Why, no con-siderable change has taken place in the state of my
system, since I see you cocked up behind your governor's chair in the
parlour, a little vile ago," replied Sam.

"You will excuse my not taking more notice of you then," said Mr.
Muzzle. "You see, master hadn't introduced us, then. Lord, how fond he
is of you, Mr. Weller, to be sure!"

"Ah," said Sam, "what a pleasant chap he is!"

"Ain't he?" replied Mr. Muzzle.

"So much humour," said Sam.

"And such a man to speak," said Mr. Muzzle. "How his ideas flow, don't
they?"

"Wonderful," replied Sam; "they comes a pouring out, knocking each
other's heads so fast, that they seems to stun one another; you hardly
know what he's arter, do you?"

"That's the great merit of his style of speaking," rejoined Mr. Muzzle.
"Take care of the last step, Mr. Weller. Would you like to wash your
hands, sir, before we join the ladies? Here's a sink, with the water
laid on, sir, and a clean jack-towel behind the door."

"Ah! perhaps I may as well have a rinse," replied Mr. Weller, applying
plenty of yellow soap to the towel, and rubbing away, till his face
shone again. "How many ladies are there?"

"Only two in our kitchen," said Mr. Muzzle, "cook and 'ousemaid. We
keep a boy to do the dirty work, and a gal besides, but they dine in
the washus."

"Oh, they dines in the washus, do they?" said Mr. Weller.

"Yes," replied Mr. Muzzle; "we tried 'em at our table when they first
come, but we couldn't keep 'em. The gal's manners is dreadful vulgar;
and the boy breathes so very hard while he's eating, that we found it
impossible to sit at table with him."

"Young grampus!" said Mr. Weller.

"Oh, dreadful," rejoined Mr. Muzzle; "but that is the worst of country
service, Mr. Weller; the juniors is always so very savage. This way,
sir, if you please; this way."

Preceding Mr. Weller, with the utmost politeness, Mr. Muzzle conducted
him into the kitchen.

"Mary," said Mr. Muzzle to the pretty servant-girl, "this is Mr.
Weller: a gentleman as master has sent down, to be made as comfortable
as possible."

"And your master's a knowin' hand, and has just sent me to the right
place," said Mr. Weller, with a glance of admiration at Mary. "If I
wos master o' this here house, I should alvays find the materials for
comfort vere Mary wos."

"Lor, Mr. Weller!" said Mary, blushing.

"Well, I never!" ejaculated the cook.

"Bless me, cook, I forgot you," said Mr. Muzzle. "Mr. Weller, let me
introduce you."

"How are you, ma'am?" said Mr. Weller. "Wery glad to see you, indeed,
and hope our acquaintance may be a long 'un, as the gen'lm'n said to
the fi'-pun' note."

When this ceremony of introduction had been gone through, the cook and
Mary retired into the back kitchen to titter, for ten minutes; then
returning, all giggles and blushes, they sat down to dinner.

Mr. Weller's easy manners and conversational powers had such
irresistible influence with his new friends, that before the dinner was
half over they were on a footing of perfect intimacy and in possession
of a full account of the delinquency of Job Trotter.

"I never could a-bear that Job," said Mary.

"No more you never ought to, my dear," replied Mr. Weller.

"Why not?" inquired Mary.

"Cos ugliness and svindlin' never ought to be formiliar vith elegance
and wirtew," replied Mr. Weller. "Ought they, Mr. Muzzle?"

"Not by no means," replied that gentleman.

Here Mary laughed, and said the cook had made her; and the cook
laughed, and said she hadn't.

"I han't got a glass," said Mary.

"Drink with me, my dear," said Mr. Weller. "Put your lips to this here
tumbler, and then I can kiss you by deputy."

"For shame, Mr. Weller!" said Mary.

"What's a shame, my dear?"

"Talkin' in that way."

"Nonsense; it ain't no harm. It's natur; ain't it, cook?"

"Don't ask me, imperence," replied the cook, in a high state of
delight: and hereupon the cook and Mary laughed again, till what
between the beer, and the cold meat, and the laughter combined, the
latter young lady was brought to the verge of choking--an alarming
crisis from which she was only recovered by sundry pats on the back,
and other necessary attentions, most delicately administered by Mr.
Samuel Weller.

In the midst of all this jollity and conviviality, a loud ring was
heard at the garden-gate: to which the young gentleman who took his
meals in the wash-house immediately responded. Mr. Weller was in the
height of his attentions to the pretty housemaid; Mr. Muzzle was
busy doing the honours of the table; and the cook had just paused to
laugh, in the very act of raising a huge morsel to her lips; when the
kitchen-door opened, and in walked Mr. Job Trotter.

We have said in walked Mr. Job Trotter, but the statement is not
distinguished by our usual scrupulous adherence to facts. The door
opened and Mr. Trotter appeared. He _would_ have walked in, and was in
the very act of doing so, indeed, when catching sight of Mr. Weller,
he involuntarily shrank back a pace or two, and stood gazing on the
unexpected scene before him, perfectly motionless with amazement and
terror.

"Here he is!" said Sam, rising with great glee. "Why, we were that wery
moment a speaking o' you. How are you? Where _have_ you been? Come in."

Laying his hand on the mulberry collar of the unresisting Job, Mr.
Weller dragged him into the kitchen; and locking the door, handed the
key to Mr. Muzzle, who very coolly buttoned it up in a side-pocket.

"Well, here's a game!" cried Sam. "Only think o' my master havin' the
pleasure o' meeting your'n, up-stairs, and me havin' the joy o' meetin'
you down here. How _are_ you gettin' on, and how _is_ the chandlery
bis'ness likely to do? Well, I am so glad to see you. How happy you
look. It's quite a treat to see you; ain't it, Mr. Muzzle?"

"Quite," said Mr. Muzzle.

"So cheerful he is!" said Sam.

"In such good spirits!" said Muzzle.

"And so glad to see _us_--that makes it so much more comfortable," said
Sam. "Sit down; sit down."

Mr. Trotter suffered himself to be forced into a chair by the fireside.
He cast his small eyes, first on Mr. Weller, and then on Mr. Muzzle,
but said nothing.

"Well, now," said Sam, "afore these here ladies, I should jest like to
ask you, as a sort of curiosity, wether you don't con-sider yourself
as nice and well-behaved a young gen'l'm'n, as ever used a pink check
pocket-handkerchief, and the number four collection?"

"And as was ever a-going to be married to a cook," said that lady
indignantly, "the willin!"

"And leave off his evil ways, and set up in the chandlery line,
arterwards," said the housemaid.

"Now, I'll tell you what it is, young man," said Mr. Muzzle, solemnly,
enraged at the last two allusions, "this here lady (pointing to the
cook) keeps company with me; and when you presume, sir, to talk
of keeping chandlers' shops with her, you injure me in one of the
most delicatest points in which one man can injure another. Do you
understand me, sir?"

Here Mr. Muzzle, who had a great notion of his eloquence, in which he
imitated his master, paused for a reply.

But Mr. Trotter made no reply. So Mr. Muzzle proceeded in a solemn
manner:

"It's very probable, sir, that you won't be wanted up-stairs
for several minutes, sir, because _my_ master is at this moment
particularly engaged in settling the hash of _your_ master, sir; and
therefore you'll have leisure, sir, for a little private talk with me,
sir. Do you understand me, sir?"

Mr. Muzzle again paused for a reply; and again Mr. Trotter disappointed
him.

"Well, then," said Mr. Muzzle, "I'm very sorry to have to explain
myself before ladies, but the urgency of the case will be my excuse.
The back kitchen's empty, sir. If you will step in there, sir, Mr.
Weller will see fair, and we can have mutual satisfaction till the bell
rings. Follow me, sir!"

As Mr. Muzzle uttered these words, he took a step or two towards the
door: and by way of saving time, began to pull off his coat as he
walked along.

Now, the cook no sooner heard the concluding words of this desperate
challenge, and saw Mr. Muzzle about to put it into execution, than she
uttered a loud and piercing shriek, and rushing on Mr. Job Trotter, who
rose from his chair on the instant, tore and buffeted his large flat
face, with an energy peculiar to excited females, and twining her hands
in his long black hair, tore therefrom about enough to make five or six
dozen of the very largest-sized mourning-rings. Having accomplished
this feat with all the ardour which her devoted love for Mr. Muzzle
inspired, she staggered back; and being a lady of very excitable and
delicate feelings, she instantly fell under the dresser, and fainted
away.

At this moment, the bell rang.

"That's for you, Job Trotter," said Sam; and before Mr. Trotter could
offer remonstrance or reply--even before he had time to staunch the
wounds inflicted by the insensible lady--Sam seized one arm and Mr.
Muzzle the other; and one pulling before, and the other pushing behind,
they conveyed him up-stairs, and into the parlour.

It was an impressive tableau. Alfred Jingle, Esquire, _alias_ Captain
Fitz-Marshall, was standing near the door with his hat in his hand, and
a smile on his face, wholly unmoved by his very unpleasant situation.
Confronting him, stood Mr. Pickwick, who had evidently been inculcating
some high moral lesson; for his left hand was beneath his coat tail,
and his right extended in air, as was his wont when delivering himself
of an impressive address. At a little distance stood Mr. Tupman with
indignant countenance, carefully held back by his two younger friends;
at the further end of the room were Mr. Nupkins, Mrs. Nupkins, and Miss
Nupkins, gloomily grand, and savagely vexed.

"What prevents me," said Mr. Nupkins, with magisterial dignity, as Job
was brought in: "what prevents me from detaining these men as rogues
and impostors? It is a foolish mercy. What prevents me?"

"Pride, old fellow, pride," replied Jingle, quite at his ease.
"Wouldn't do--no go--caught a captain, eh?--ha! ha! very good--husband
for daughter--biter bit--make it public--not for worlds--look
stupid--very!"

"Wretch," said Mrs. Nupkins, "we scorn your base insinuations."

"I always hated him," added Henrietta.

"Oh, of course," said Jingle. "Tall young man--old lover--Sidney
Porkenham--rich--fine fellow--not so rich as captain, though?--turn
him away--off with him--anything for captain--nothing like captain
anywhere--all the girls--raving mad--eh, Job?"

Here Mr. Jingle laughed very heartily; and Job, rubbing his hands with
delight, uttered the first sound he had given vent to since he entered
the house--a low noiseless chuckle, which seemed to intimate that he
enjoyed his laugh too much, to let any of it escape in sound.

"Mr. Nupkins," said the elder lady, "this is not a fit conversation for
the servants to overhear. Let these wretches be removed."

"Certainly, my dear," said Mr. Nupkins. "Muzzle!"

"Your worship."

"Open the front door."

"Yes, your worship."

"Leave the house!" said Mr. Nupkins, waving his hand emphatically.

Jingle smiled, and moved towards the door.

"Stay!" said Mr. Pickwick.

Jingle stopped.

"I might," said Mr. Pickwick, "have taken a much greater revenge for
the treatment I have experienced at your hands, and that of your
hypocritical friend there."

Job Trotter bowed with great politeness, and laid his hand upon his
heart.

"I say," said Mr. Pickwick, growing gradually angry, "that I might have
taken a greater revenge, but I content myself with exposing you, which
I consider a duty I owe to society. This is a leniency, sir, which I
hope you will remember."

When Mr. Pickwick arrived at this point, Job Trotter, with facetious
gravity, applied his hand to his ear, as if not desirous to lose a
syllable he uttered.

"And I have only to add, sir," said Mr. Pickwick, now thoroughly angry,
"that I consider you a rascal, and a--a ruffian--and--and worse than
any man I ever saw, or heard of, except that pious and sanctified
vagabond in the mulberry livery."

"Ha! ha!" said Jingle, "good fellow, Pickwick--fine heart--stout old
boy--but must not be passionate--bad thing, very--bye-bye--see you
again some day--keep up your spirits--now, Job--trot!"

With these words, Mr. Jingle stuck on his hat in the old fashion,
and strode out of the room. Job Trotter paused, looked round, smiled,
and then with a bow of mock solemnity to Mr. Pickwick, and a wink to
Mr. Weller, the audacious slyness of which baffles all description,
followed the footsteps of his hopeful master.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Weller was following.

"Sir?"

"Stay here."

Mr. Weller seemed uncertain.

"Stay here," repeated Mr. Pickwick.

"Mayn't I polish that ere Job off, in the front garden?" said Mr.
Weller.

"Certainly not," replied Mr. Pickwick.

"Mayn't I kick him out of the gate, sir?" said Mr. Weller.

"Not on any account," replied his master.

For the first time since his engagement, Mr. Weller looked, for a
moment, discontented and unhappy. But his countenance immediately
cleared up; for the wily Mr. Muzzle, by concealing himself behind the
street door, and rushing violently out, at the right instant, contrived
with great dexterity to overturn both Mr. Jingle and his attendant,
down the flight of steps, into the American aloe tubs that stood
beneath.

"Having discharged my duty, sir," said Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Nupkins,
"I will, with my friends, bid you farewell. While we thank you for
such hospitality as we have received, permit me to assure you in our
joint names, that we should not have accepted it, or have consented to
extricate ourselves in this way, from our previous dilemma, had we not
been impelled by a strong sense of duty. We return to London to-morrow.
Your secret is safe with us."

Having thus entered his protest against their treatment of the
morning, Mr. Pickwick bowed low to the ladies, and notwithstanding the
solicitations of the family, left the room with his friends.

"Get your hat, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"It's below stairs, sir," said Sam, and he ran down after it.

Now, there was nobody in the kitchen but the pretty housemaid; and as
Sam's hat was mislaid, he had to look for it; and the pretty housemaid
lighted him. They had to look all over the place for the hat. The
pretty housemaid, in her anxiety to find it, went down on her knees,
and turned over all the things that were heaped together in a little
corner by the door. It was an awkward corner. You couldn't get at it
without shutting the door first.

"Here it is," said the pretty housemaid. "This is it, ain't it?"

"Let me look," said Sam.

[Illustration: "_You don't mean to say you did that on purpose?_"]

The pretty housemaid had stood the candle on the floor; as it gave a
very dim light, Sam was obliged to go down on _his_ knees before he
could see whether it really was his own hat or not. It was a remarkably
small corner, and so--it was nobody's fault but the man's who built
the house--Sam and the pretty housemaid were necessarily very close
together.

"Yes, this is it," said Sam. "Good-bye!"

"Good-bye!" said the pretty housemaid.

"Good-bye!" said Sam; and as he said it, he dropped the hat that had
cost so much trouble in looking for.

"How awkward you are," said the pretty housemaid. "You'll lose it
again, if you don't take care."

So, just to prevent his losing it again, she put it on for him.

Whether it was that the pretty housemaid's face looked prettier still,
when it was raised towards Sam's, or whether it was the accidental
consequence of their being so near to each other, is matter of
uncertainty to this day; but Sam kissed her.

"You don't mean to say you did that on purpose?" said the pretty
housemaid, blushing.

"No, I didn't then," said Sam; "but I will now."

So he kissed her again.

"Sam!" said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the banisters.

"Coming, sir," replied Sam, running up stairs.

"How long you have been!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"There was something behind the door, sir, which perwented our getting
it open, for ever so long, sir," replied Sam.

And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller's first love.



CHAPTER XXVI

[Illustration]

  _Which contains a Brief Account of the Progress of the Action of
    Bardell against Pickwick_


Having accomplished the main end and object of his journey, the
exposure of Jingle, Mr. Pickwick resolved on immediately returning to
London, with a view of becoming acquainted with the proceedings which
had been taken against him, in the meantime, by Messrs. Dodson and
Fogg. Acting upon this resolution with all the energy and decision of
his character, he mounted to the back seat of the first coach which
left Ipswich on the morning after the memorable occurrences detailed
at length in the two preceding chapters; and accompanied by his three
friends, and Mr. Samuel Weller, arrived in the metropolis, in perfect
health and safety, the same evening.

Here, the friends, for a short time, separated. Messrs. Tupman, Winkle,
and Snodgrass repaired to their several homes to make such preparations
as might be requisite for their forthcoming visit to Dingley Dell;
and Mr. Pickwick and Sam took up their present abode in very good,
old-fashioned, and comfortable quarters: to wit, the George and Vulture
Tavern and Hotel, George Yard, Lombard Street.

Mr. Pickwick had dined, finished his second pint of particular port,
pulled his silk handkerchief over his head, put his feet on the
fender, and thrown himself back in an easy chair, when the entrance
of Mr. Weller with his carpet bag aroused him from his tranquil
meditations.

"Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Sir?" said Mr. Weller.

"I have just been thinking, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, "that having left
a good many things at Mrs. Bardell's, in Goswell Street, I ought to
arrange for taking them away, before I leave town again."

"Wery good, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"I could send them to Tupman's, for the present, Sam," continued Mr.
Pickwick, "but before we take them away, it is necessary that they
should be looked up, and put together. I wish you would step up to
Goswell Street, Sam, and arrange about it."

"At once, sir?" inquired Mr. Weller.

"At once," replied Mr. Pickwick. "And stay, Sam," added Mr. Pickwick,
pulling out his purse, "there is some rent to pay. The quarter is
not due till Christmas, but you may pay it, and have done with it. A
month's notice terminates my tenancy. Here it is, written out. Give it,
and tell Mrs. Bardell she may put a bill up, as soon as she likes."

"Wery good, sir," replied Mr. Weller; "anythin' more, sir?"

"Nothing more, Sam."

Mr. Weller stepped slowly to the door, as if he expected something
more; slowly opened it, slowly stepped out, and had slowly closed it
within a couple of inches, when Mr. Pickwick called out--

"Sam."

"Sir?" said Mr. Weller, stepping quickly back, and closing the door
behind him.

"I have no objection, Sam, to your endeavouring to ascertain how Mrs.
Bardell herself seems disposed towards me, and whether it is really
probable that this vile and groundless action is to be carried to
extremity. I say I do not object to your doing this, if you wish it,
Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

Sam gave a short nod of intelligence, and left the room. Mr. Pickwick
drew the silk handkerchief once more over his head, and composed
himself to a nap. Mr. Weller promptly walked forth, to execute his
commission.

It was nearly nine o'clock when he reached Goswell Street. A couple of
candles were burning in the little front parlour, and a couple of caps
were reflected on the window-blind. Mrs. Bardell had got company.

Mr. Weller knocked at the door, and after a pretty long
interval--occupied by the party without, in whistling a tune, and
by the party within, in persuading a refractory flat candle to
allow itself to be lighted--a pair of small boots pattered over the
floor-cloth, and Master Bardell presented himself.

"Well, young townskip," said Sam, "how's mother?"

"She's pretty well," replied Master Bardell, "so am I."

"Well, that's a mercy," said Sam; "tell her I want to speak to her,
will you, my hinfant fernomenon?"

Master Bardell, thus adjured, placed the refractory flat candle on the
bottom stair, and vanished into the front parlour with his message.

The two caps, reflected on the window-blind, were the respective
head-dresses of a couple of Mrs. Bardell's most particular
acquaintance, who had just stepped in, to have a quiet cup of tea, and
a little warm supper of a couple of sets of pettitoes and some toasted
cheese. The cheese was simmering and browning away, most delightfully,
in a little Dutch oven before the fire; the pettitoes were getting on
deliciously in a little tin saucepan on the hob; and Mrs. Bardell and
her two friends were getting on very well, also, in a little quiet
conversation about and concerning all their particular friends and
acquaintance; when Master Bardell came back from answering the door,
and delivered the message entrusted to him by Mr. Samuel Weller.

"Mr. Pickwick's servant!" said Mrs. Bardell, turning pale.

"Bless my soul!" said Mrs. Cluppins.

"Well, I raly would _not_ ha' believed it, unless I had ha' happened to
ha' been here!" said Mrs. Sanders.

Mrs. Cluppins was a little brisk, busy-looking woman; Mrs. Sanders was
a big, fat, heavy-faced personage; and the two were the company.

Mrs. Bardell felt it proper to be agitated; and as none of the three
exactly knew whether, under existing circumstances, any communication,
otherwise than through Dodson and Fogg, ought to be held with Mr.
Pickwick's servant, they were all rather taken by surprise. In this
state of indecision, obviously the first thing to be done was to thump
the boy for finding Mr. Weller at the door. So his mother thumped him,
and he cried melodiously.

[Illustration: _Mrs. Bardell and her two friends were getting on very
well_]

"Hold your noise--do--you naughty creetur!" said Mrs. Bardell.

"Yes; don't worrit your poor mother," said Mrs. Sanders.

"She's quite enough to worrit her, as it is, without you, Tommy," said
Mrs. Cluppins, with sympathising resignation.

"Ah! worse luck, poor lamb!" said Mrs. Sanders.

At all which moral reflections, Master Bardell howled the louder.

"Now, what _shall_ I do?" said Mrs. Bardell to Mrs. Cluppins.

"_I_ think you ought to see him," replied Mrs. Cluppins. "But on no
account without a witness."

"_I_ think two witnesses would be more lawful," said Mrs. Sanders, who,
like the other friend, was bursting with curiosity.

"Perhaps he'd better come in here?" said Mrs. Bardell.

"To be sure," replied Mrs. Cluppins, eagerly catching at the idea.
"Walk in, young man; and shut the street door first, please."

Mr. Weller immediately took the hint; and presenting himself in the
parlour, explained his business to Mrs. Bardell thus:

"Wery sorry to 'casion any personal inconwenience, ma'am, as the
housebreaker said to the old lady when he put her on the fire; but as
me and my governor's jest come to town, and is jest going away again,
it can't be helped, you see."

"Of course the young man can't help the faults of his master," said
Mrs. Cluppins, much struck by Mr. Weller's appearance and conversation.

"Certainly not," chimed in Mrs. Sanders, who, from certain wistful
glances at the little tin saucepan, seemed to be engaged in a mental
calculation of the probable extent of the pettitoes, in the event of
Sam's being asked to stop to supper.

"So all I've come about, is jest this here," said Sam, disregarding
the interruption: "First, to give my governor's notice--there it is.
Secondly, to pay the rent--here it is. Thirdly, to say as all his
things is to be put together, and give to anybody as we sends for 'em.
Fourthly, that you may let the place as soon as you like--and that's
all."

"Whatever has happened," said Mrs. Bardell, "I always have said, and
always will say, that in every respect but one, Mr. Pickwick has always
behaved himself like a perfect gentleman. His money always was as good
as the bank: always."

As Mrs. Bardell said this, she applied her handkerchief to her eyes,
and went out of the room to get the receipt.

Sam well knew that he had only to remain quiet, and the women were sure
to talk; so he looked alternately at the tin saucepan, the toasted
cheese, the wall, and the ceiling, in profound silence.

"Poor dear!" said Mrs. Cluppins.

"Ah, poor thing!" replied Mrs. Sanders.

Sam said nothing. He saw they were coming to the subject.

"I raly cannot contain myself," said Mrs. Cluppins, "when I think of
such perjury. I don't wish to say anything to make you uncomfortable,
young man, but your master's an old brute, and I wish I had him here to
tell him so."

"I wish you had," said Sam.

"To see how dreadful she takes on, going moping about, and taking no
pleasure in nothing, except when her friends comes in, out of charity,
to sit with her, and make her comfortable," resumed Mrs. Cluppins,
glancing at the tin saucepan and the Dutch oven, "its shocking!"

"Barbareous," said Mrs. Sanders.

"And your master, young man! A gentleman with money, as could never
feel the expense of a wife, no more than nothing," continued Mrs.
Cluppins, with great volubility; "why there ain't the faintest shade of
an excuse for his behaviour! Why don't he marry her?"

"Ah," said Sam, "to be sure; that's the question."

"Question, indeed," retorted Mrs. Cluppins; "she'd question him, if
she'd my spirit. Hows'ever, there _is_ law for us women, mis'rable
creeturs as they'd make us, if they could! and that your master will
find out, young man, to his cost, afore he's six months older."

At this consolatory reflection, Mrs. Cluppins bridled up, and smiled at
Mrs. Sanders, who smiled back again.

"The action's going on, and no mistake," thought Sam, as Mrs. Bardell
re-entered with the receipt.

"Here's the receipt, Mr. Weller," said Mrs. Bardell, "and here's the
change, and I hope you'll take a little drop of something to keep the
cold out, if it's only for old acquaintance' sake, Mr. Weller."

Sam saw the advantage he should gain, and at once acquiesced; whereupon
Mrs. Bardell produced, from a small closet, a black bottle and a
wineglass; and so great was her abstraction, in her deep mental
affliction, that, after filling Mr. Weller's glass, she brought out
three more wineglasses, and filled them too.

"Lauk, Mrs. Bardell," said Mrs. Cluppins, "see what you've been and
done!"

"Well, that is a good one!" ejaculated Mrs. Sanders.

"Ah, my poor head!" said Mrs. Bardell, with a faint smile.

Sam understood all this, of course, so he said at once, that he never
could drink before supper, unless a lady drank with him. A great deal
of laughing ensued, and Mrs. Sanders volunteered to humour him, so
she took a slight sip out of her glass. Then, Sam said it must go
all round, so they all took a slight sip. Then, little Mrs. Cluppins
proposed a toast, "Success to Bardell agin Pickwick"; and then the
ladies emptied their glasses in honour of the sentiment and got very
talkative directly.

"I suppose you've heard what's going forward, Mr. Weller?" said Mrs.
Bardell.

"I've heerd somethin' on it," replied Sam.

"It's a terrible thing to be dragged before the public, in that way,
Mr. Weller," said Mrs. Bardell; "but I see now, that it's the only
thing I ought to do, and my lawyers, Mr. Dodson and Fogg, tell me, that
with the evidence as we shall call, we must succeed. I don't know what
I should do, Mr. Weller, if I didn't."

The mere idea of Mrs. Bardell's failing in her action, affected Mrs.
Sanders so deeply, that she was under the necessity of re-filling and
re-emptying her glass immediately; feeling, as she said afterwards,
that if she hadn't had the presence of mind to do so, she must have
dropped.

"Ven is it expected to come on?" inquired Sam.

"Either in February or March," replied Mrs. Bardell.

"What a number of witnesses there'll be, won't there?" said Mrs.
Cluppins.

"Ah, won't there!" replied Mrs. Sanders.

"And won't Mr. Dodson and Fogg be wild if the plaintiff shouldn't get
it?" added Mrs. Cluppins, "when they do it all on speculation!"

"Ah! won't they!" said Mrs. Sanders.

"But the plaintiff must get it," resumed Mrs. Cluppins.

"I hope so," said Mrs. Bardell.

"Oh, there can't be any doubt about it," rejoined Mrs. Sanders.

"Vell," said Sam, rising and setting down his glass, "all I can say is,
that I wish you _may_ get it."

"Thank'ee, Mr. Weller," said Mrs. Bardell fervently.

"And of them Dodson and Foggs, as does these sort o' things on spec,"
continued Mr. Weller, "as well as for the other kind and gen'rous
people o' the same purfession, as sets people by the ears, free gratis
for nothing, and sets their clerks to work to find out little disputes
among their neighbours and acquaintances as vants settlin' by means o'
law-suits--all I can say o' them is, that I vish they had the reward
I'd give 'em."

"Ah, I wish they had the reward that every kind and generous heart
would be inclined to bestow upon them!" said the gratified Mrs. Bardell.

"Amen to that," replied Sam, "and a fat and happy livin' they'd get out
of it! Wish you good night, ladies."

To the great relief of Mrs. Sanders, Sam was allowed to depart without
any reference, on the part of the hostess, to the pettitoes and
toasted cheese: to which the ladies, with such juvenile assistance
as Master Bardell could afford, soon afterwards rendered the amplest
justice--indeed they wholly vanished before their strenuous exertions.

Mr. Weller went his way back to the George and Vulture, and faithfully
recounted to his master, such indications of the sharp practice of
Dodson and Fogg, as he had contrived to pick up in his visit to Mrs.
Bardell's. An interview with Mr. Perker, next day, more than confirmed
Mr. Weller's statement; and Mr. Pickwick was fain to prepare for his
Christmas visit to Dingley Dell, with the pleasant anticipation that
some two or three months afterwards, an action brought against him for
damages sustained by reason of a breach of promise of marriage, would
be publicly tried in the Court of Common Pleas: the plaintiff having
all the advantages derivable, not only from the force of circumstances,
but from the sharp practice of Dodson and Fogg to boot.



CHAPTER XXVII

[Illustration]

  _Samuel Weller makes a Pilgrimage to Dorking, and beholds his
    Mother-in-law_


There still remaining an interval of two days before the time agreed
upon for the departure of the Pickwickians to Dingley Dell, Mr. Weller
sat himself down in a back room at the George and Vulture, after
eating an early dinner, to muse on the best way of disposing of his
time. It was a remarkably fine day; and he had not turned the matter
over in his mind ten minutes, when he was suddenly stricken filial and
affectionate; and it occurred to him so strongly that he ought to go
down and see his father, and pay his duty to his mother-in-law, that
he was lost in astonishment at his own remissness in never thinking of
this moral obligation before. Anxious to atone for his past neglect
without another hour's delay, he straightway walked up the stairs to
Mr. Pickwick, and requested leave of absence for this laudable purpose.

"Certainly, Sam, certainly," said Mr. Pickwick, his eyes glistening
with delight at this manifestation of filial feeling on the part of his
attendant; "certainly, Sam."

Mr. Weller made a grateful bow.

"I am very glad to see that you have so high a sense of your duties as
a son, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I always had, sir," replied Mr. Weller.

"That's a very gratifying reflection, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick,
approvingly.

"Wery, sir," replied Mr. Weller; "if ever I wanted anythin' o' my
father, I always asked for it in a very 'spectful and obligin' manner.
If he didn't give it me, I took it, for fear I should be led to do
anythin' wrong, through not havin' it. I saved him a world o' trouble
in this vay, sir."

"That's not precisely what I meant, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick, shaking
his head, with a slight smile.

"All good feeling, sir--the wery best intentions, as the gen'lm'n
said ven he run away from his wife 'cos she seemed unhappy with him,"
replied Mr. Weller.

"You may go, Sam," said Mr. Pickwick.

"Thank'ee, sir," replied Mr. Weller; and having made his best bow, and
put on his best clothes, Sam planted himself on the top of the Arundel
coach, and journeyed on to Dorking.

The Marquis of Granby in Mrs. Weller's time was quite a model of a
roadside public-house of the better class--just large enough to be
convenient, and small enough to be snug. On the opposite side of the
road was a large sign-board on a high post, representing the head and
shoulders of a gentleman with an apoplectic countenance, in a red
coat with deep blue facings, and a touch of the same blue over his
three-cornered hat, for a sky. Over that again were a pair of flags;
beneath the last button of his coat were a couple of cannon; and the
whole formed an expressive and undoubted likeness of the Marquis of
Granby of glorious memory.

The bar window displayed a choice collection of geranium plants, and a
well-dusted row of spirit phials. The open shutters bore a variety of
golden inscriptions, eulogistic of good beds and neat wines; and the
choice group of countrymen and hostlers lounging about the stable-door
and horse-trough, afforded presumptive proof of the excellent quality
of the ale and spirits which were sold within. Sam Weller paused, when
he dismounted from the coach, to note all these little indications of a
thriving business, with the eye of an experienced traveller; and having
done so, stepped in at once, highly satisfied with everything he had
observed.

"Now, then!" said a shrill female voice the instant Sam thrust his head
in at the door, "what do you want, young man?"

Sam looked round in the direction whence the voice proceeded. It came
from a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance, who was seated
beside the fire-place, in the bar, blowing the fire to make the
kettle boil for tea. She was not alone; for on the other side of the
fire-place, sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair, was a man in
threadbare black clothes, with a back almost as long and stiff as that
of the chair itself, who caught Sam's most particular and especial
attention at once.

He was a prim-faced, red-nosed man, with a long, thin countenance, and
a semi-rattlesnake sort of eye--rather sharp, but decidedly bad. He
wore very short trousers, and black cotton stockings, which, like the
rest of his apparel, were particularly rusty. His looks were starched,
but his white neckerchief was not, and its long limp ends straggled
over his closely-buttoned waistcoat in a very uncouth and unpicturesque
fashion. A pair of old, worn beaver gloves, a broad-brimmed hat, and
a faded green umbrella, with plenty of whalebone sticking through the
bottom, as if to counter-balance the want of a handle at the top, lay
on a chair beside him, and, being disposed in a very tidy and careful
manner, seemed to imply that the red-nosed man, whoever he was, had no
intention of going away in a hurry.

To do the red-nosed man justice, he would have been very far from
wise if he had entertained any such intention; for, to judge from all
appearances, he must have been possessed of a most desirable circle
of acquaintance, if he could have reasonably expected to be more
comfortable anywhere else. The fire was blazing brightly under the
influence of the bellows, and the kettle was singing gaily under the
influence of both. A small tray of tea-things was arranged on the
table, a plate of hot buttered toast was gently simmering before the
fire, and the red-nosed man himself was busily engaged in converting
a large slice of bread into the same agreeable edible, through the
instrumentality of a long brass toasting-fork. Beside him stood a glass
of reeking hot pine-apple rum and water, with a slice of lemon in it;
and every time the red-nosed man stopped to bring the round of toast
to his eye, with the view of ascertaining how it got on, he imbibed a
drop or two of the hot pine-apple rum and water, and smiled upon the
rather stout lady, as she blew the fire.

Sam was so lost in the contemplation of this comfortable scene, that he
suffered the first inquiry of the rather stout lady to pass unheeded.
It was not until it had been twice repeated, each time in a shriller
tone, that he became conscious of the impropriety of his behaviour.

"Governor in?" inquired Sam, in reply to the question.

"No, he isn't," replied Mrs. Weller; for the rather stout lady was no
other than the quondam relict and sole executrix of the dead-and-gone
Mr. Clarke. "No, he isn't, and I don't expect him, either."

"I suppose he's a drivin' up to-day?" said Sam.

"He may be, or he may not," replied Mrs. Weller, buttering the round of
toast which the red-nosed man had just finished. "I don't know, and,
what's more, I don't care. Ask a blessin', Mr. Stiggins."

The red-nosed man did as he was desired, and instantly commenced on the
toast with fierce voracity.

The appearance of the red-nosed man had induced Sam, at first sight,
to more than half suspect that he was the deputy shepherd of whom his
estimable parent had spoken. The moment he saw him eat, all doubt
on the subject was removed, and he perceived at once, that if he
purposed to take up his temporary quarters where he was, he must make
his footing good without delay. He therefore commenced proceedings by
putting his arm over the half-door of the bar, coolly unbolting it, and
leisurely walking in.

"Mother-in-law," said Sam, "how are you?"

"Why, I do believe he is a Weller!" said Mrs. W., raising her eyes to
Sam's face, with no very gratified expression of countenance.

"I rayther think he is," said the imperturbable Sam; "and I hope this
here reverend gen'lm'n 'll excuse me saying that I wish I was _the_
Weller as owns you, mother-in-law."

[Illustration: "_Mother-in-law," said Sam, "how are you?_"]

This was a double-barrelled compliment. It implied that Mrs. Weller was
a most agreeable female, and also that Mr. Stiggins had a clerical
appearance. It made a visible impression at once; and Sam followed up
his advantage by kissing his mother-in-law.

"Get along with you!" said Mrs. Weller, pushing him away.

"For shame, young man!" said the gentleman with the red nose.

"No offence, sir, no offence," replied Sam; "you're wery right, though;
it ain't the right sort o' thing, when mothers-in-law is young and
good-looking, is it, sir?"

"It's all vanity," said Mr. Stiggins.

"Ah, so it is," said Mrs. Weller, setting her cap to rights.

Sam thought it was, too, but he held his peace.

The deputy shepherd seemed by no means best pleased with Sam's arrival;
and when the first effervescence of the compliment had subsided, even
Mrs. Weller looked as if she could have spared him without the smallest
inconvenience. However, there he was; and as he couldn't be decently
turned out, they all three sat down to tea.

"And how's father?" said Sam.

At this inquiry Mrs. Weller raised her hands, and turned up her eyes,
as if the subject were too painful to be alluded to.

Mr. Stiggins groaned.

"What's the matter with that 'ere gen'lm'n?" inquired Sam.

"He's shocked at the way your father goes on in," replied Mrs. Weller.

"Oh, he is, is he?" said Sam.

"And with too good reason," added Mrs. Weller, gravely.

Mr. Stiggins took up a fresh piece of toast, and groaned heavily.

"He is a dreadful reprobate," said Mrs. Weller.

"A man of wrath!" exclaimed Mr. Stiggins. He took a large semi-circular
bite of the toast, and groaned aloud.

Sam felt very strongly disposed to give the Reverend Mr. Stiggins
something to groan for, but he repressed his inclination, and merely
asked, "What's the old 'un up to, now?"

"Up to, indeed!" said Mrs. Weller. "Oh, he has a hard heart. Night
after night does this excellent man--don't frown, Mr. Stiggins: I
_will_ say you are an excellent man--come and sit here, for hours
together, and it has not the least effect upon him."

"Well, that is odd," said Sam; "it 'ud have a wery considerable effect
upon me, if I wos in his place; I know that."

"The fact is, my young friend," said Mr. Stiggins, solemnly, "he has
an obderrate bosom. Oh, my young friend, who else could have resisted
the pleading of sixteen of our fairest sisters, and withstood their
exhortations to subscribe to our noble society for providing the
infant negroes in the West Indies with flannel waistcoats and moral
pocket-handkerchiefs?"

"What's a moral pocket ankercher?" said Sam; "I never see one o' them
articles o' furniter."

"Those which combine amusement with instruction, my young friend,"
replied Mr. Stiggins: "blending select tales with wood-cuts."

"Oh, I know," said Sam; "them as hangs up in the linen-drapers' shops,
with beggars' petitions and all that 'ere upon 'em?"

Mr. Stiggins began a third round of toast, and nodded assent.

"And he wouldn't be persuaded by the ladies, wouldn't he?" said Sam.

"Sat and smoked his pipe, and said the infant negroes were--what did he
say the infant negroes were?" said Mrs. Weller.

"Little humbugs," replied Mr. Stiggins, deeply affected.

"Said the infant negroes were little humbugs," repeated Mrs. Weller.
And they both groaned at the atrocious conduct of the old gentleman.

A great many more inquiries of a similar nature might have been
disclosed, only the toast being all eaten, the tea having got very
weak, and Sam holding out no indications of meaning to go, Mr. Stiggins
suddenly recollected that he had a most pressing appointment with the
shepherd, and took himself off accordingly.

The tea-things had scarcely been put away, and the hearth swept up,
when the London coach deposited Mr. Weller senior at the door; his legs
deposited him in the bar; and his eyes showed him his son.

"What, Sammy!" exclaimed the father.

"What, old Nobs!" ejaculated the son. And they shook hands heartily.

"Wery glad to see you, Sammy," said the elder Mr. Weller, "though how
you've managed to get over your mother-in-law, is a mystery to me. I
only vish you'd write me out the receipt, that's all."

"Hush!" said Sam, "she's at home, old feller."

"She ain't vithin hearin'," replied Mr. Weller; "she always goes and
blows up, down-stairs, for a couple of hours arter tea; so we'll just
give ourselves a damp, Sammy."

Saying this, Mr. Weller mixed two glasses of spirits and water, and
produced a couple of pipes. The father and son sitting down opposite
each other: Sam on one side of the fire, in the high-backed chair, and
Mr. Weller senior on the other, in an easy ditto: they proceeded to
enjoy themselves with all due gravity.

"Anybody been here, Sammy?" asked Mr. Weller senior, drily, after a
long silence.

Sam nodded an expressive assent.

"Red-nosed chap?" inquired Mr. Weller.

Sam nodded again.

"Amiable man that 'ere, Sammy," said Mr. Weller, smoking violently.

"Seems so," observed Sam.

"Good hand at accounts," said Mr. Weller.

"Is he?" said Sam.

"Borrows eighteenpence on Monday, and comes on Tuesday for a shillin'
to make it up half a crown; calls again on Vensday for another half
crown to make it five shillin's; and goes on, doubling, till he gets
it up to a five-pund note in no time, like them sums in the 'rithmetic
book 'bout the nails in the horse's shoes, Sammy."

Sam intimated by a nod that he recollected the problem alluded to by
his parent.

"So you vouldn't subscribe to the flannel veskits?" said Sam, after
another interval of smoking.

"Cert'nly not," replied Mr. Weller; "what's the good o' flannel veskits
to the young niggers abroad? But I'll tell you what it is, Sammy," said
Mr. Weller, lowering his voice, and bending across the fire-place;
"I'd come down wery handsome towards strait veskits for some people at
home."

As Mr. Weller said this, he slowly recovered his former position, and
winked at his first-born, in a profound manner.

"It cert'nly seems a queer start to send out pocket ankerchers to
people as don't know the use on 'em," observed Sam.

"They're alvays a doin' some gammon of that sort, Sammy," replied his
father. "T'other Sunday I wos walkin' up the road, ven who should I
see, a standin' at a chapel-door, with a blue soup-plate in her hand,
but your mother-in-law! I werily believe there was change for a couple
o' suvrins in it, then, Sammy, all in ha'pence: and as the people came
out, they rattled the pennies in it, till you'd ha' thought that no
mortal plate as ever was baked could ha' stood the wear and tear. What
d'ye think it was all for?"

"For another tea-drinkin', perhaps," said Sam.

"Not a bit on it," replied the father; "for the shepherd's water-rate,
Sammy."

"The shepherd's water-rate!" said Sam.

"Ay," replied Mr. Weller, "there was three quarters owin' and the
shepherd hadn't paid a farden, not he--perhaps it might be on account
that the water warn't o' much use to him, for it's wery little o' that
tap he drinks, Sammy, wery; he knows a trick worth a good half-dozen of
that, he does. Hows'ever, it warn't paid, and so they cuts the water
off. Down goes the shepherd to chapel, gives out as he's a persecuted
saint, and says he hopes the heart of the turncock as cut the water
off, 'll be softened, and turned in the right vay: but he rayther
thinks he's booked for somethin' uncomfortable. Upon this, the women
calls a meetin', sings a hymn, wotes your mother-in-law into the chair,
wolunteers a collection next Sunday, and hands it all over to the
shepherd. And if he ain't got enough out on 'em, Sammy, to make him
free of the water company for life," said Mr. Weller, in conclusion,
"I'm one Dutchman, and you're another, and that's all about it."

Mr. Weller smoked for some minutes in silence, and then resumed:

"The worst o' these here shepherds is, my boy, that they reg'larly
turns the heads of all the young ladies, about here. Lord bless their
little hearts, they thinks it's all right, and don't know no better:
but they're the wictims o' gammon, Samivel, they're the wictims o'
gammon."

"I s'pose they are," said Sam.

"Nothin' else," said Mr. Weller, shaking his head gravely; "and wot
aggrawates me, Samivel, is to see 'em a wastin' all their time and
labour in making clothes for copper-coloured people as don't want 'em,
and taking no notice of flesh-coloured Christians as do. If I'd my vay,
Samivel, I'd just stick some o' these here lazy shepherds behind a
heavy wheelbarrow, and run 'em up and down a fourteen-inch-wide plank
all day. That 'ud shake the nonsense out of 'em, if anything vould."

Mr. Weller having delivered this gentle recipe with strong emphasis,
eked out by a variety of nods and contortions of the eye, emptied his
glass at a draught, and knocked the ashes out of his pipe, with native
dignity.

He was engaged in this operation, when a shrill voice was heard in the
passage.

"Here's your dear relation, Sammy," said Mr. Weller; and Mrs. W.
hurried into the room.

"Oh, you've come back, have you!" said Mrs. Weller.

"Yes, my dear," replied Mr. Weller, filling a fresh pipe.

"Has Mr. Stiggins been back?" said Mrs. Weller.

"No, my dear, he hasn't," replied Mr. Weller, lighting the pipe by the
ingenious process of holding to the bowl thereof, between the tongs, a
red-hot coal from the adjacent fire; "and what's more, my dear, I shall
manage to survive it, if he don't come back at all."

"Ugh, you wretch!" said Mrs. Weller.

"Thank'ee, my love," said Mr. Weller.

"Come, come, father," said Sam, "none o' these little lovins afore
strangers. Here's the reverend gen'lm'n a comin' in now."

At this announcement, Mrs. Weller hastily wiped off the tears which she
had just begun to force on; and Mr. W. drew his chair sullenly into the
chimney corner.

Mr. Stiggins was easily prevailed on to take another glass of the
hot pine-apple rum and water, and a second, and a third, and then to
refresh himself with a slight supper, previous to beginning again.
He sat on the same side as Mr. Weller senior; and every time he could
contrive to do so, unseen by his wife, that gentleman indicated to
his son the hidden emotions of his bosom, by shaking his fist over
the deputy shepherd's head: a process which afforded his son the most
unmingled delight and satisfaction, and more especially as Mr. Stiggins
went on quietly drinking the hot pine-apple rum and water, wholly
unconscious of what was going on.

The major part of the conversation was confined to Mrs. Weller and the
Reverend Mr. Stiggins; and the topics principally descanted on, were
the virtues of the shepherd, the worthiness of his flock, and the high
crimes and misdemeanours of everybody beside; dissertations which the
elder Mr. Weller occasionally interrupted by half-suppressed references
to a gentleman of the name of Walker, and other running commentaries of
the same kind.

At length, Mr. Stiggins, with several most indubitable symptoms of
having quite as much pine-apple rum and water about him, as he could
comfortably accommodate, took his hat and his leave: and Sam was,
immediately afterwards, shown to bed by his father. The respectable old
gentleman wrung his hand fervently, and seemed disposed to address some
observation to his son; but on Mrs. Weller advancing towards him, he
appeared to relinquish that intention, and abruptly bade him good night.

Sam was up betimes next day, and having partaken of a hasty breakfast,
prepared to return to London. He had scarcely set foot without the
house, when his father stood before him.

"Goin', Sammy?" inquired Mr. Weller.

"Off at once," replied Sam.

"I vish you could muffle that 'ere Stiggins, and take him with you,"
said Mr. Weller.

"I am ashamed on you!" said Sam, reproachfully; "what do you let him
show his red nose in the Markis o' Granby at all, for?"

Mr. Weller the elder fixed on his son an earnest look, and replied,
"'Cause I'm a married man, Samivel, 'cause I'm a married man. When
you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as
you don't understand now; but vether it's worth while going through so
much, to learn so little, as the charity boy said ven he got to the end
of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste. _I_ rayther think it isn't."

"Well," said Sam, "good-bye."

"Tar tar, Sammy," replied his father.

"I've only got to say this here," said Sam, stopping short, "that if
_I_ was the properiator o' the Markis o' Granby, and that 'ere Stiggins
came and made toast in _my_ bar, I'd----"

"What?" interposed Mr. Weller, with great anxiety. "What?"

"--Pison his rum and water," said Sam.

"No!" said Mr. Weller, shaking his son eagerly by the hand; "would you
raly, Sammy? would you though?"

"I would," said Sam. "I wouldn't be too hard upon him at first. I'd
drop him in the water-butt, and put the lid on; and if I found he was
insensible to kindness, I'd try the other persvasion."

The elder Mr. Weller bestowed a look of deep, unspeakable admiration on
his son: and, having once more grasped his hand, walked slowly away,
revolving in his mind the numerous reflections to which his advice had
given rise.

Sam looked after him, until he turned a corner of the road: and
then set forward on his walk to London. He meditated, at first, on
the probable consequences of his own advice, and the likelihood and
unlikelihood of his father's adopting it. He dismissed the subject
from his mind, however, with the consolatory reflection that time
alone would show; and this is the reflection we would impress upon the
reader.



CHAPTER XXVIII

[Illustration]

  _A Good-humoured Christmas Chapter, containing an Account of a
    Wedding, and some other Sports beside: which although in their
    Way even as Good Customs as Marriage itself, are not quite so
    religiously kept up, in these Degenerate Times_


As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the
four Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second
day of December, in the year of grace in which these, their
faithfully-recorded adventures, were undertaken and accomplished.
Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it
was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old
year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends
around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass
gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was as the time, and gay and
merry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by
its coming.

And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief
season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members
have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless
struggles of life, are then re-united, and meet once again in that
happy state of companionship and mutual good-will, which is a source
of such pure and unalloyed delight, and one so incompatible with
the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of
the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest
savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition
of existence, provided for the blest and happy! How many old
recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time
awaken!

We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which,
year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many
of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many
of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the
hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their
lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices
and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial
circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our
minds at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had
been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to
the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man
the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the
traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his
quiet home!

But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of this
saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his friends
waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggleton coach, which
they have just attained, well wrapped up in great-coats, shawls, and
comforters. The portmanteaus and carpet-bags have been stowed away, and
Mr. Weller and the guard are endeavouring to insinuate into a fore-boot
a huge cod-fish several sizes too large for it--which is snugly packed
up, in a long brown basket, with a layer of straw over the top, and
which has been left to the last, in order that he may repose safely on
the half-dozen barrels of real native oysters, all the property of Mr.
Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at the bottom of
the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick's countenance is
most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try to squeeze the cod-fish
into the boot, first head first, and then tail first, and then top
upward, and then bottom upward, and then side-ways, and then long-ways,
all of which artifices the implacable cod-fish sturdily resists, until
the guard accidentally hits him in the very middle of the basket,
whereupon he suddenly disappears into the boot, and with him, the head
and shoulders of the guard himself, who, not calculating upon so sudden
a cessation of the passive resistance of the cod-fish, experiences a
very unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight of all the porters
and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles with great good-humour,
and drawing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket, begs the guard,
as he picks himself out of the boot, to drink his health in a glass
of hot brandy and water; at which the guard smiles too, and Messrs.
Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, all smile in company. The guard and Mr.
Weller disappear for five minutes: most probably to get the hot brandy
and water, for they smell very strongly of it, when they return; the
coachman mounts the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickians
pull their coats round their legs and their shawls over their noses,
the helpers pull the horse-cloths off, the coachman shouts out a cheery
"All right!" and away they go.

They have rumbled through the streets, and jolted over the stones,
and at length reach the wide and open country. The wheels skim over
the hard and frosty ground; and the horses, bursting into a canter at
a smart crack of the whip, step along the road as if the load behind
them--coach, passengers, cod-fish, oyster barrels, and all--were but
a feather at their heels. They have descended a gentle slope, and
enter upon a level, as compact and dry as a solid block of marble, two
miles long. Another crack of the whip, and on they speed, at a smart
gallop: the horses tossing their heads and rattling the harness, as
if in exhilaration at the rapidity of the motion: while the coachman,
holding whip and reins in one hand, takes off his hat with the other,
and resting it on his knees, pulls out his handkerchief, and wipes
his forehead: partly because he has the habit of doing it, and partly
because it's as well to show the passengers how cool he is, and what
an easy thing it is to drive four-in-hand, when you have had as much
practice as he has. Having done this very leisurely (otherwise the
effect would be materially impaired), he replaces his handkerchief,
pulls on his hat, adjusts his gloves, squares his elbows, cracks the
whip again, and on they speed, more merrily than before.

A few small houses, scattered on either side of the road, betoken the
entrance to some town or village. The lively notes of the guard's
key-bugle vibrate in the clear cold air, and wake up the old gentleman
inside, who, carefully letting down the window-sash half-way, and
standing sentry over the air, takes a short peep out, and then
carefully pulling it up again, informs the other inside that they're
going to change directly; on which the other inside wakes himself up,
and determines to postpone his next nap until after the stoppage. Again
the bugle sounds lustily forth, and rouses the cottager's wife and
children, who peep out at the house-door, and watch the coach till it
turns the corner, when they once more crouch round the blazing fire,
and throw on another log of wood against father comes home; while
father himself, a full mile off, has just exchanged a friendly nod with
the coachman, and turned round to take a good long stare at the vehicle
as it whirls away.

And now the bugle plays a lively air as the coach rattles through the
ill-paved streets of a country town; and the coachman, undoing the
buckle which keeps his ribands together, prepares to throw them off
the moment he stops. Mr. Pickwick emerges from his coat collar, and
looks about him with great curiosity; perceiving which, the coachman
informs Mr. Pickwick of the name of the town, and tells him it was
market-day yesterday, both of which pieces of information Mr. Pickwick
retails to his fellow-passengers; whereupon they emerge from their coat
collars too, and look about them also. Mr. Winkle, who sits at the
extreme edge, with one leg dangling in the air, is nearly precipitated
into the street, as the coach twists round the sharp corner by the
cheesemonger's shop, and turns into the market-place; and before Mr.
Snodgrass, who sits next to him, has recovered from his alarm, they
pull up at the inn-yard, where the fresh horses, with cloths on, are
already waiting. The coachman throws down the reins and gets down
himself, and the other outside passengers drop down also: except those
who have no great confidence in their ability to get up again; and they
remain where they are, and stamp their feet against the coach to warm
them--looking, with longing eyes and red noses, at the bright fire in
the inn bar, and the sprigs of holly with red berries which ornament
the window.

But the guard has delivered at the corn-dealer's shop the brown paper
packet he took out of the little pouch which hangs over his shoulder
by a leathern strap; and has seen the horses carefully put to; and has
thrown on the pavement the saddle which was brought from London on the
coach-roof; and has assisted in the conference between the coachman
and the hostler about the grey mare that hurt her off-fore-leg last
Tuesday; and he and Mr. Weller are all right behind, and the coachman
is all right in front, and the old gentleman inside, who has kept the
window down full two inches all this time, has pulled it up again,
and the cloths are off, and they are all ready for starting, except
the "two stout gentlemen," whom the coachman inquires after with some
impatience. Hereupon the coachman, and the guard, and Sam Weller, and
Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, and all the hostlers, and every one of
the idlers, who are more in number than all the others put together,
shout for the missing gentlemen as loud as they can bawl. A distant
response is heard from the yard, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come
running down it, quite out of breath, for they have been having a glass
of ale apiece, and Mr. Pickwick's fingers are so cold that he has been
full five minutes before he could find the sixpence to pay for it.
The coachman shouts an admonitory "Now, then, gen'lm'n!" the guard
re-echoes it; the old gentleman inside thinks it a very extraordinary
thing that people _will_ get down when they know there isn't time for
it; Mr. Pickwick struggles up on one side, Mr. Tupman on the other;
Mr. Winkle cries "All right!" and off they start. Shawls are pulled
up, coat-collars are re-adjusted, the pavement ceases, the houses
disappear, and they are once again dashing along the open road, with
the fresh clear air blowing in their faces, and gladdening their
very hearts within them.

[Illustration: _A distant response is heard from the yard, and Mr.
Pickwick and Mr. Tupman come running down it._]

Such was the progress of Mr. Pickwick and his friends by the Muggleton
Telegraph, on their way to Dingley Dell; and at three o'clock that
afternoon they all stood, high and dry, safe and sound, hale and
hearty, upon the steps of the Blue Lion, having taken on the road quite
enough of ale and brandy to enable them to bid defiance to the frost
that was binding up the earth in its iron fetters, and weaving its
beautiful net-work upon the trees and hedges. Mr. Pickwick was busily
engaged in counting the barrels of oysters, and superintending the
disinterment of the cod-fish, when he felt himself gently pulled by the
skirts of the coat. Looking round, he discovered that the individual
who resorted to this mode of catching his attention was no other than
Mr. Wardle's favourite page, better known to the readers of this
unvarnished history, by the distinguished appellation of the fat boy.

"Aha!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Aha!" said the fat boy.

As he said it, he glanced from the cod-fish to the oyster-barrels, and
chuckled joyously. He was fatter than ever.

"Well, you look rosy enough, my young friend," said Mr. Pickwick.

"I've been asleep, right in front of the tap-room fire," replied the
fat boy, who had heated himself to the colour of a new chimney-pot, in
the course of an hour's nap. "Master sent me over with the shay-cart to
carry your luggage up to the house. He'd ha' sent some saddle-horses,
but he thought you'd rather walk, being a cold day."

"Yes, yes," said Mr. Pickwick, hastily, for he remembered how they had
travelled over nearly the same ground on a previous occasion. "Yes, we
would rather walk. Here, Sam!"

"Sir?" said Mr. Weller.

"Help Mr. Wardle's servant to put the packages into the cart, and then
ride on with him. We will walk forward at once."

Having given this direction, and settled with the coachman, Mr.
Pickwick and his three friends struck into the footpath across the
fields, and walked briskly away, leaving Mr. Weller and the fat boy
confronted together for the first time. Sam looked at the fat boy with
great astonishment, but without saying a word; and began to stow the
luggage rapidly away in the cart, while the fat boy stood quietly by,
and seemed to think it a very interesting sort of thing to see Mr.
Weller working by himself.

[Illustration: "_Aha!" said the fat boy_]

"There," said Sam, throwing in the last carpet-bag. "There they are!"

"Yes," said the fat boy, in a very satisfied tone, "there they are!"

"Vell, young twenty stun," said Sam, "you're a nice specimen of a prize
boy, you are!"

"Thankee," said the fat boy.

"You ain't got nothin' on your mind as makes you fret yourself, have
you?" inquired Sam.

"Not as I knows on," replied the fat boy.

"I should rayther ha' thought, to look at you, that you was a labourin'
under an unrequited attachment to some young 'ooman," said Sam.

The fat boy shook his head.

"Vell," said Sam, "I'm glad to hear it. Do you ever drink anythin'?"

"I likes eating better," replied the boy.

"Ah," said Sam, "I should ha' s'posed that; but what I mean is, should
you like a drop of anythin' as 'd warm you? but I s'pose you never was
cold, with all them elastic fixtures, was you?"

"Sometimes," replied the boy; "and I likes a drop of something, when
it's good."

"Oh, you do, do you?" said Sam, "come this way, then!"

The Blue Lion tap was soon gained, and the fat boy swallowed a glass of
liquor without so much as winking; a feat which considerably advanced
him in Mr. Weller's good opinion. Mr. Weller having transacted a
similar piece of business on his own account, they got into the cart.

"Can you drive?" said the fat boy.

"I should rayther think so," replied Sam.

"There, then," said the fat boy, putting the reins in his hand, and
pointing up a lane, "it's as straight as you can go; you can't miss it."

With these words, the fat boy laid himself affectionately down by the
side of the cod-fish: and placing an oyster-barrel under his head for a
pillow, fell asleep instantaneously.

"Well," said Sam, "of all the cool boys ever I set my eyes on, this
here young gen'lm'n is the coolest. Come, wake up, young dropsy!"

But as young dropsy evinced no symptoms of returning animation, Sam
Weller sat himself down in front of the cart, and starting the old
horse with a jerk of the rein, jogged steadily on, towards Manor Farm.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pickwick and his friends having walked their blood into
active circulation, proceeded cheerfully on. The paths were hard; the
grass was crisp and frosty; the air had a fine, dry, bracing coldness;
and the rapid approach of the grey twilight (slate-coloured is a
better term in frosty weather) made them look forward with pleasant
anticipation to the comforts which awaited them at their hospitable
entertainer's. It was the sort of afternoon that might induce a couple
of elderly gentlemen, in a lonely field, to take off their great-coats
and play at leap-frog in pure lightness of heart and gaiety; and we
firmly believe that had Mr. Tupman at that moment proffered "a back,"
Mr. Pickwick would have accepted his offer with the utmost avidity.

However, Mr. Tupman did not volunteer any such accommodation, and the
friends walked on, conversing merrily. As they turned into a lane they
had to cross, the sound of many voices burst upon their ears; and
before they had even had time to form a guess to whom they belonged,
they walked into the very centre of the party who were expecting their
arrival--a fact which was first notified to the Pickwickians, by the
loud "Hurrah!" which burst from old Wardle's lips, when they appeared
in sight.

First, here was Wardle himself, looking, if possible, more jolly than
ever; then there were Bella and her faithful Trundle; and, lastly,
there were Emily and some eight or ten young ladies, who had all come
down to the wedding, which was to take place next day, and who were in
as happy and important a state as young ladies usually are, on such
momentous occasions; and they were, one and all, startling the fields
and lanes, far and wide, with their frolic and laughter.

The ceremony of introduction, under such circumstances, was very soon
performed, or we should rather say that the introduction was soon
over, without any ceremony at all. In two minutes thereafter, Mr.
Pickwick was joking with the young ladies who wouldn't come over the
stile while he looked--or who, having pretty feet and unexceptionable
ankles, preferred standing on the top-rail for five minutes or so,
declaring that they were too frightened to move--with as much ease and
absence of reserve or constraint, as if he had known them for life. It
is worthy of remark, too, that Mr. Snodgrass offered Emily far more
assistance than the absolute terrors of the stile (although it was full
three feet high, and had only a couple of stepping-stones) would seem
to require; while one black-eyed young lady in a very nice little pair
of boots, with fur round the top, was observed to scream very loudly,
when Mr. Winkle offered to help her over.

All this was very snug and pleasant. And when the difficulties of the
stile were at last surmounted, and they once more entered on the open
field, old Wardle informed Mr. Pickwick how they had all been down in a
body to inspect the furniture and fittings-up of the house, which the
young couple were to tenant, after the Christmas holidays; at which
communication Bella and Trundle both coloured up, as red as the fat
boy after the tap-room fire; and the young lady with the black eyes
and the fur round the boots, whispered something in Emily's ear, and
then glanced archly at Mr. Snodgrass; to which Emily responded that
she was a foolish girl, but turned very red, notwithstanding; and Mr.
Snodgrass, who was as modest as all great geniuses usually are, felt
the crimson rising to the crown of his head, and devoutly wished in the
inmost recesses of his own heart that the young lady aforesaid, with
her black eyes, and her archness, and her boots with the fur round the
top, were all comfortably deposited in the adjacent county.

But if they were social and happy outside the house, what was the
warmth and cordiality of their reception when they reached the farm!
The very servants grinned with pleasure at sight of Mr. Pickwick;
and Emma bestowed a half-demure, half-impudent, and all pretty, look
of recognition on Mr. Tupman, which was enough to make the statue of
Bonaparte in the passage unfold his arms, and clasp her within them.

The old lady was seated in customary state in the front parlour, but
she was rather cross, and, by consequence, most particularly deaf. She
never went out herself, and like a great many other old ladies of the
same stamp, she was apt to consider it an act of domestic treason if
anybody else took the liberty of doing what she couldn't. So, bless her
old soul, she sat as upright as she could, in her great armchair, and
looked as fierce as might be--and that was benevolent after all.

"Mother," said Wardle, "Mr. Pickwick. You recollect him?"

"Never mind," replied the old lady with great dignity. "Don't trouble
Mr. Pickwick about an old creetur like me. Nobody cares about me
now, and it's very nat'ral they shouldn't." Here the old lady tossed
her head, and smoothed down her lavender-coloured silk dress, with
trembling hands.

"Come, come, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, "I can't let you cut an old
friend in this way. I have come down expressly to have a long talk, and
another rubber with you; and we'll show these boys and girls how to
dance a minuet, before they're eight-and-forty hours older."

The old lady was rapidly giving way, but she did not like to do it all
at once; so she only said, "Ah! I can't hear him!"

"Nonsense, mother," said Wardle. "Come, come, don't be cross, there's
a good soul. Recollect Bella; come, you must keep her spirits up, poor
girl."

The good lady heard this, for her lip quivered as her son said it. But
age has its little infirmities of temper, and she was not quite brought
round yet. So, she smoothed down the lavender-coloured dress again, and
turning to Mr. Pickwick said, "Ah, Mr. Pickwick, young people was very
different, when I was a girl."

"No doubt of that, ma'am," said Mr. Pickwick, "and that's the reason
why I would make much of the few that have any traces of the old
stock,"--and saying this, Mr. Pickwick gently pulled Bella towards
him, and bestowing a kiss upon her forehead, bade her sit down on the
little stool at her grandmother's feet. Whether the expression of her
countenance, as it was raised towards the old lady's face, called up
a thought of old times, or whether the old lady was touched by Mr.
Pickwick's affectionate good nature, or whatever was the cause, she was
fairly melted; so she threw herself on her grand-daughter's neck, and
all the little ill-humour evaporated in a gush of silent tears.

A happy party they were, that night. Sedate and solemn were the score
of rubbers in which Mr. Pickwick and the old lady played together;
uproarious was the mirth of the round table. Long after the ladies had
retired, did the hot elder-wine, well qualified with brandy and spice,
go round, and round, and round again; and sound was the sleep and
pleasant were the dreams that followed. It is a remarkable fact that
those of Mr. Snodgrass bore constant reference to Emily Wardle; and
that the principal figure in Mr. Winkle's visions was a young lady with
black eyes, an arch smile, and a pair of remarkably nice boots with fur
round the tops.

Mr. Pickwick was awakened, early in the morning, by a hum of voices
and a pattering of feet, sufficient to rouse even the fat boy from his
heavy slumbers. He sat up in bed and listened. The female servants and
female visitors were running constantly to and fro; and there were such
multitudinous demands for hot water, such repeated outcries for needles
and thread, and so many half-suppressed entreaties of "Oh, do come and
tie me, there's a dear!" that Mr. Pickwick in his innocence began to
imagine that something dreadful must have occurred: when he grew more
awake, and remembered the wedding. The occasion being an important one
he dressed himself with peculiar care, and descended to the breakfast
room.

There were all the female servants in a brand new uniform of pink
muslin gowns with white bows in their caps, running about the house in
a state of excitement and agitation which it would be impossible to
describe. The old lady was dressed out in a brocaded gown which had not
seen the light for twenty years, saving and excepting such truant rays
as had stolen through the chinks in the box in which it had been laid
by, during the whole time. Mr. Trundle was in high feather and spirits,
but a little nervous withal. The hearty old landlord was trying to look
very cheerful and unconcerned, but failing signally in the attempt.
All the girls were in tears and white muslin, except a select two or
three who were being honoured with a private view of the bride and
bridesmaids, upstairs. All the Pickwickians were in a most blooming
array; and there was a terrific roaring on the grass in front of the
house, occasioned by all the men, boys, and hobbledehoys attached to
the farm, each of whom had got a white bow in his button-hole, and all
of whom were cheering with might and main: being incited thereunto,
and stimulated therein, by the precept and example of Mr. Samuel
Weller, who had managed to become mighty popular already, and was as
much at home as if he had been born on the land.

A wedding is a licensed subject to joke upon, but there really is no
great joke in the matter after all;--we speak merely of the ceremony,
and beg it to be distinctly understood that we indulge in no hidden
sarcasm upon a married life. Mixed up with the pleasure and joy of the
occasion, are the many regrets at quitting home, the tears of parting
between parent and child, the consciousness of leaving the dearest and
kindest friends of the happiest portion of human life, to encounter its
cares and troubles with others still untried and little known: natural
feelings which we would not render this chapter mournful by describing,
and which we should be still more unwilling to be supposed to ridicule.

Let us briefly say, then, that the ceremony was performed by the
old clergyman, in the parish church of Dingley Dell, and that Mr.
Pickwick's name is attached to the register, still preserved in the
vestry thereof; that the young lady with the black eyes signed her
name in a very unsteady and tremulous manner; that Emily's signature,
as the other bridesmaid, is nearly illegible; that it all went off in
very admirable style; that the young ladies generally thought it far
less shocking than they had expected; and that although the owner of
the black eyes and the arch smile informed Mr. Winkle that she was sure
she could never submit to anything so dreadful, we have the very best
reasons for thinking she was mistaken. To all this, we may add, that
Mr. Pickwick was the first who saluted the bride, and that in so doing,
he threw over her neck a rich gold watch and chain, which no mortal
eyes but the jeweller's had ever beheld before. Then, the old church
bell rang as gaily as it could, and they all returned to breakfast.

"Vere does the mince pies go, young opium-eater?" said Mr. Weller to
the fat boy, as he assisted in laying out such articles of consumption
as had not been duly arranged on the previous night.

The fat boy pointed to the destination of the pies.

"Wery good," said Sam, "stick a bit o' Christmas in 'em. T'other dish
opposite. There; now we look compact and comfortable, as the father
said ven he cut his little boy's head off, to cure him of squintin'."

As Mr. Weller made the comparison, he fell back a step or two, to
give full effect to it, and surveyed the preparations with the utmost
satisfaction.

"Wardle," said Mr. Pickwick, almost as soon as they were all seated, "a
glass of wine in honour of this happy occasion!"

"I shall be delighted, my boy," said Wardle. "Joe--damn that boy, he's
gone to sleep."

"No, I ain't, sir," replied the fat boy, starting up from a remote
corner, where, like the patron saint of fat boys--the immortal
Horner--he had been devouring a Christmas pie: though not with the
coolness and deliberation which characterised that young gentleman's
proceedings.

"Fill Mr. Pickwick's glass."

"Yes, sir."

The fat boy filled Mr. Pickwick's glass, and then retired behind his
master's chair, from whence he watched the play of the knives and
forks, and the progress of the choice morsels from the dishes to the
mouths of the company, with a kind of dark and gloomy joy that was most
impressive.

"God bless you, old fellow!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Same to you, my boy," replied Wardle, and they pledged each other
heartily.

"Mrs. Wardle," said Mr. Pickwick, "we old folks must have a glass of
wine together, in honour of this joyful event."

The old lady was in a state of great grandeur just then, for she
was sitting at the top of the table in the brocaded gown, with her
newly-married granddaughter on one side and Mr. Pickwick on the other,
to do the carving. Mr. Pickwick had not spoken in a very loud tone,
but she understood him at once, and drank off a full glass of wine to
his long life and happiness; after which the worthy old soul launched
forth into a minute and particular account of her own wedding, with
a dissertation on the fashion of wearing high-heeled shoes, and some
particulars concerning the life and adventures of the beautiful Lady
Tollimglower, deceased: at all of which the old lady herself laughed
very heartily indeed, and so did the young ladies too, for they were
wondering among themselves what on earth grandma was talking about.
When they laughed, the old lady laughed ten times more heartily, and
said that these always had been considered capital stories: which
caused them all to laugh again, and put the old lady into the very best
of humours. Then, the cake was cut, and passed through the ring; the
young ladies saved pieces to put under their pillows to dream of their
future husbands on; and a great deal of blushing and merriment was
thereby occasioned.

"Mr. Miller," said Mr. Pickwick to his old acquaintance the hard-headed
gentleman, "a glass of wine?"

"With great satisfaction, Mr. Pickwick," replied the hard-headed
gentleman, solemnly.

"You'll take me in?" said the benevolent old clergyman.

"And me," interposed his wife.

"And me, and me," said a couple of poor relations at the bottom of the
table, who had eaten and drank very heartily, and laughed at everything.

Mr. Pickwick expressed his heartfelt delight at every additional
suggestion: and his eyes beamed with hilarity and cheerfulness.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Pickwick, suddenly rising.

"Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Hear, hear!" cried Mr. Weller, in the
excitement of his feelings.

"Call in all the servants," cried old Wardle, interposing to prevent
the public rebuke which Mr. Weller would otherwise most indubitably
have received from his master. "Give them a glass of wine each, to
drink the toast in. Now, Pickwick."

Amidst the silence of the company, the whispering of the women
servants, and the awkward embarrassment of the men, Mr. Pickwick
proceeded.

"Ladies and gentlemen--no, I won't say ladies and gentlemen, I'll call
you my friends, my dear friends, if the ladies will allow me to take so
great a liberty"----

Here Mr. Pickwick was interrupted by immense applause from the ladies,
echoed by the gentlemen, during which the owner of the eyes was
distinctly heard to state that she could kiss that dear Mr. Pickwick.
Whereupon Mr. Winkle gallantly inquired if it couldn't be done by
deputy: to which the young lady with the black eyes replied, "Go
away"--and accompanied the request with a look which said as plainly as
a look could do--"if you can."

"My dear friends," resumed Mr. Pickwick, "I am going to propose the
health of the bride and bridegroom--God bless 'em (cheers and tears).
My young friend, Trundle, I believe to be a very excellent and manly
fellow; and his wife I know to be a very amiable and lovely girl, well
qualified to transfer to another sphere of action the happiness which
for twenty years she has diffused around her, in her father's house.
(Here, the fat boy burst forth into stentorian blubberings, and was led
forth by the coat collar, by Mr. Weller.) I wish," added Mr. Pickwick,
"I wish I was young enough to be her sister's husband (cheers), but,
failing that, I am happy to be old enough to be her father; for, being
so, I shall not be suspected of any latent designs when I say, that
I admire, esteem, and love them both (cheers and sobs). The bride's
father, our good friend there, is a noble person, and I am proud to
know him (great uproar). He is a kind, excellent, independent-spirited,
fine-hearted, hospitable, liberal man (enthusiastic shouts from the
poor relations, at all the adjectives; and especially at the two last).
That his daughter may enjoy all the happiness, even he can desire;
and that he may derive from the contemplation of her felicity all the
gratification of heart and peace of mind which he so well deserves, is,
I am persuaded, our united wish. So, let us drink their healths, and
wish them prolonged life, and every blessing!"

Mr. Pickwick concluded amidst a whirlwind of applause; and once more
were the lungs of the supernumeraries, under Mr. Weller's command,
brought into active and efficient operation. Mr. Wardle proposed Mr.
Pickwick; Mr. Pickwick proposed the old lady. Mr. Snodgrass proposed
Mr. Wardle; Mr. Wardle proposed Mr. Snodgrass. One of the poor
relations proposed Mr. Tupman, and the other poor relation proposed
Mr. Winkle; all was happiness and festivity, until the mysterious
disappearance of both the poor relations beneath the table warned the
party that it was time to adjourn.

At dinner they met again, after a five-and-twenty mile walk, undertaken
by the males at Wardle's recommendation, to get rid of the effects of
the wine at breakfast. The poor relations had kept in bed all day, with
the view of attaining the same happy consummation, but, as they had
been unsuccessful, they stopped there. Mr. Weller kept the domestics in
a state of perpetual hilarity; and the fat boy divided his time into
small alternate allotments of eating and sleeping.

The dinner was as hearty an affair as the breakfast, and was quite as
noisy, without the tears. Then came the dessert and some more toasts.
Then came the tea and coffee; and then the ball.

The best sitting-room at Manor Farm was a good, long, dark-panelled
room, with a high chimney-piece, and a capacious chimney, up which you
could have driven one of the new patent cabs, wheels and all. At the
upper end of the room, seated in a shady bower of holly and evergreens,
were the two best fiddlers, and the only harp, in all Muggleton. In
all sorts of recesses, and on all kinds of brackets, stood massive old
silver candlesticks with four branches each. The carpet was up, the
candles burnt bright, the fire blazed and crackled on the hearth, and
merry voices and light-hearted laughter rang through the room. If any
of the old English yeomen had turned into fairies when they died, it
was just the place in which they would have held their revels.

If anything could have added to the interest of this agreeable scene,
it would have been the remarkable fact of Mr. Pickwick's appearing
without his gaiters, for the first time within the memory of his oldest
friends.

"You mean to dance?" said Wardle.

"Of course I do," replied Mr. Pickwick. "Don't you see I am dressed for
the purpose?" Mr. Pickwick called attention to his speckled stockings,
and smartly tied pumps.

"_You_ in silk stockings!" exclaimed Mr. Tupman, jocosely.

"And why not, sir--why not?" said Mr. Pickwick, turning warmly upon him.

"Oh, of course there is no reason why you shouldn't wear them,"
responded Mr. Tupman.

"I imagine not, sir, I imagine not," said Mr. Pickwick in a very
peremptory tone.

Mr. Tupman had contemplated a laugh, but he found it was a serious
matter; so he looked grave, and said they were a pretty pattern.

"I hope they are," said Mr. Pickwick, fixing his eyes upon his friend.
"You see nothing extraordinary in the stockings, _as_ stockings, I
trust, sir?"

"Certainly not. Oh certainly not," replied Mr. Tupman. He walked away;
and Mr. Pickwick's countenance resumed its customary benign expression.

"We are all ready, I believe," said Mr. Pickwick, who was stationed
with the old lady at the top of the dance, and had already made four
false starts, in his excessive anxiety to commence.

"Then begin at once," said Wardle. "Now!"

Up struck the two fiddles and the one harp, and off went Mr. Pickwick
into hands across, when there was a general clapping of hands and a cry
of "Stop, stop!"

"What's the matter?" said Mr. Pickwick, who was only brought to by the
fiddles and harp desisting, and could have been stopped by no other
earthly power, if the house had been on fire.

"Where's Arabella Allen?" cried a dozen voices.

"And Winkle?" added Mr. Tupman.

"Here we are!" exclaimed that gentleman, emerging with his pretty
companion from the corner; as he did so, it would have been hard to
tell which was the redder in the face, he or the young lady with the
black eyes.

"What an extraordinary thing it is, Winkle," said Mr. Pickwick, rather
pettishly, "that you couldn't have taken your place before."

"Not at all extraordinary," said Mr. Winkle.

"Well," said Mr. Pickwick, with a very expressive smile, as his eyes
rested on Arabella, "well, I don't know that it _was_ extraordinary
either, after all."

However, there was no time to think more about the matter, for the
fiddles and harp began in real earnest. Away went Mr. Pickwick--hands
across--down the middle to the very end of the room, and half-way up
the chimney, back again to the door--poussette everywhere--loud stamp
on the ground--ready for the next couple--off again--all the figure
over once more--another stamp to beat out the time--next couple,
and the next, and the next again--never was such going! At last,
after they had reached the bottom of the dance, and full fourteen
couple after the old lady had retired in an exhausted state, and the
clergyman's wife had been substituted in her stead, did that gentleman,
when there was no demand whatever on his exertions, keep perpetually
dancing in his place, to keep time to the music; smiling on his
partner all the while with a blandness of demeanour which baffles all
description.

Long before Mr. Pickwick was weary of dancing, the newly-married couple
had retired from the scene. There was a glorious supper downstairs,
notwithstanding, and a good long sitting after it; and when Mr.
Pickwick awoke, late the next morning, he had a confused recollection
of having, severally and confidentially, invited somewhere about
five-and-forty people to dine with him at the George and Vulture,
the very first time they came to London; which Mr. Pickwick rightly
considered a pretty certain indication of his having taken something
besides exercise, on the previous night.

"And so your family has games in the kitchen to-night, my dear, has
they?" inquired Sam of Emma.

"Yes, Mr. Weller," replied Emma; "we always have on Christmas Eve.
Master wouldn't neglect to keep it up on any account."

"Your master's a wery pretty notion of keepin' anythin' up, my dear,"
said Mr. Weller; "I never see such a sensible sort of man as he is, or
such a reg'lar gen'l'm'n."

"Oh, that he is!" said the fat boy, joining in the conversation; "don't
he breed nice pork!" The fat youth gave a semi-cannibalic leer at Mr.
Weller, as he thought of the roast legs and gravy.

"Oh, you've woke up, at last, have you?" said Sam.

The fat boy nodded.

"I'll tell you what it is, young boa-constructer," said Mr. Weller,
impressively; "if you don't sleep a little less, and exercise a little
more, ven you come to be a man you'll lay yourself open to the same
sort of personal inconwenience as was inflicted on the old gen'l'm'n as
wore the pigtail."

"What did they do to him?" inquired the fat boy, in a faltering voice.

"I'm a goin' to tell you," replied Mr. Weller; "he was one o' the
largest patterns as was ever turned out--reg'lar fat man, as hadn't
caught a glimpse of his own shoes for five-and-forty year."

"Lor!" exclaimed Emma.

"No, that he hadn't, my dear," said Mr. Weller; "and if you'd put an
exact model of his own legs on the dinin' table afore him, he wouldn't
ha' known 'em. Well, he always walks to his office with a wery handsome
gold watch-chain hanging out, about a foot and a quarter, and a gold
watch in his fob pocket as was worth--I'm afraid to say how much, but
as much as a watch can be--a large, heavy, round manafacter, as stout
for a watch, as he was for a man, and with a big face in proportion.
'You'd better not carry that 'ere watch,' says the old gen'l'm'n's
friends, 'you'll be robbed on it,' says they. 'Shall I?' says he.
'Yes, you will,' says they. 'Vell,' says he, 'I should like to see the
thief as could get this here watch out, for I'm blest if _I_ ever can,
it's such a tight fit,' says he; 'and venever I wants to know what's
o'clock, I'm obliged to stare into the bakers' shops,' he says. Well,
then he laughs as hearty as if he was a-goin' to pieces, and out he
walks agin, with his powdered head and pigtail, and rolls down the
Strand vith the chain hangin' out furder than ever, and the great round
watch almost bustin' through his grey kersey smalls. There warn't a
pickpocket in all London as didn't take a pull at that chain, but the
chain 'ud never break, and the watch 'ud never come out, so they soon
got tired o' dragging such a heavy old gen'l'm'n along the pavement,
and he'd go home and laugh till the pigtail wibrated like the perderlum
of a Dutch clock. At last one day the old gen'l'm'n was a-rolling along
and he sees a pickpocket as he know'd by sight, a-comin' up, arm in arm
vith a little boy with a very large head. 'Here's a game,' says the
old gen'l'm'n to himself, 'they're a-goin' to have another try, but it
won't do!' So he begins a-chucklin' wery hearty, ven all of a sudden,
the little boy leaves hold of the pickpocket's arm, and rushes head
foremost straight into the old gen'l'm'n's stomach, and for a moment
doubles him right up vith the pain. 'Murder!' says the old gen'l'm'n.
'All right, sir,' says the pickpocket, a-whisperin' in his ear. And
when he come straight agin, the watch and chain was gone, and what's
worse than that, the old gen'l'm'n's digestion was all wrong ever
arterwards, to the wery last day of his life; so just you look about
you, young feller, and take care you don't get too fat."

As Mr. Weller concluded this moral tale, with which the fat boy
appeared much affected, they all three repaired to the large kitchen,
in which the family were by this time assembled, according to annual
custom on Christmas Eve, observed by old Wardle's fore-fathers from
time immemorial.

From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just
suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this
same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of
general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst
of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour
to a descendant of Lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by
the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all
courtesy and decorum. The old lady submitted to this piece of practical
politeness with all the dignity which befitted so important and serious
a solemnity, but the younger ladies, not being so thoroughly imbued
with a superstitious veneration for the custom: or imagining that the
value of a salute is very much enhanced if it cost a little trouble to
obtain it: screamed and struggled, and ran into corners, and threatened
and remonstrated, and did everything but leave the room, until some of
the less adventurous gentlemen were on the point of desisting, when
they all at once found it useless to resist any longer, and submitted
to be kissed with a good grace. Mr. Winkle kissed the young lady with
the black eyes, and Mr. Snodgrass kissed Emily, and Mr. Weller, not
being particular about the form of being under the mistletoe, kissed
Emma and the other female servants, just as he caught them. As to
the poor relations, they kissed everybody, not even excepting the
plainer portions of the young-lady visitors, who, in their excessive
confusion, ran right under the mistletoe, as soon as it was hung up,
without knowing it! Wardle stood with his back to the fire, surveying
the whole scene, with the utmost satisfaction; and the fat boy took the
opportunity of appropriating to his own use, and summarily devouring,
a particularly fine mince-pie, that had been carefully put by for
somebody else.

Now the screaming had subsided, and faces were in a glow, and curls
in a tangle, and Mr. Pickwick, after kissing the old lady as before
mentioned, was standing under the mistletoe, looking with a very
pleased countenance on all that was passing around him, when the young
lady with the black eyes, after a little whispering with the other
young ladies, made a sudden dart forward, and, putting her arm round
Mr. Pickwick's neck, saluted him affectionately on the left cheek;
and before Mr. Pickwick distinctly knew what was the matter, he was
surrounded by the whole body and kissed by every one of them.

It was a pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick the centre of the group,
now pulled this way, and then that, and first kissed on the chin, and
then on the nose, and then on the spectacles: and to hear the peals
of laughter which were raised on every side; but it was a still more
pleasant thing to see Mr. Pickwick, blinded shortly afterwards with a
silk handkerchief, falling up against the wall, and scrambling into
corners, and going through all the mysteries of blindman's buff, with
the utmost relish for the game, until at last he caught one of the poor
relations, and then had to evade the blindman himself, which he did
with a nimbleness and agility that elicited the admiration and applause
of all beholders. The poor relations caught the people who they thought
would like it, and, when the game flagged, got caught themselves. When
they were all tired of blindman's buff, there was a great game at
snap-dragon, and when fingers enough were burned with that, and all the
raisins were gone, they sat down by the huge fire of blazing logs to
a substantial supper, and a mighty bowl of wassail, something smaller
than an ordinary wash-house copper, in which the hot apples were
hissing and bubbling with a rich look, and a jolly sound, that were
perfectly irresistible.

"This," said Mr. Pickwick, looking round him, "this is, indeed,
comfort."

"Our invariable custom," replied Mr. Wardle. "Everybody sits down with
us on Christmas Eve, as you see them now--servants and all; and here
we wait, until the clock strikes twelve, to usher Christmas in, and
beguile the time with forfeits and old stories. Trundle, my boy, rake
up the fire."

Up flew the bright sparks in myriads as the logs were stirred. The deep
red blaze sent forth a rich glow, that penetrated into the furthest
corner of the room, and cast its cheerful tint on every face.

"Come," said Wardle, "a song--a Christmas song! I'll give you one, in
default of a better."

"Bravo!" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Fill up!" cried Wardle. "It will be two hours, good, before you see
the bottom of the bowl through the deep rich colour of the wassail;
fill up all round, and now for a song."

Thus saying, the merry old gentleman, in a good, round, sturdy voice,
commenced without more ado:


A CHRISTMAS CAROL

    I care not for Spring; on his fickle wing
    Let the blossoms and buds be borne:
    He woos them amain with his treacherous rain,
    And he scatters them ere the morn.
    An inconstant elf, he knows not himself,
    Nor his own changing mind an hour,
    He'll smile in your face, and, with wry grimace,
    He'll wither your youngest flower.

    Let the Summer sun to his bright home run,
    He shall never be sought by me;
    When he's dimmed by a cloud I can laugh aloud,
    And care not how sulky he be!
    For his darling child is the madness wild
    That sports in fierce fever's train;
    And when love is too strong it don't last long,
    As many have found to their pain.

    A mild harvest night, by the tranquil light
    Of the modest and gentle moon,
    Has a far sweeter sheen, for me, I ween,
    Than the broad and unblushing noon.
    But every leaf awakens my grief,
    As it lieth beneath the tree;
    So let Autumn air be never so fair,
    It by no means agrees with me.

    But my song I troll out, for +Christmas+ Stout,
    The hearty, the true and the bold;
    A bumper I drain, and with might and main
    Give three cheers for this Christmas old!
    We'll usher him in with a merry din
    That shall gladden his joyous heart,
    And we'll keep him up, while there's bite or sup,
    And in fellowship good, we'll part.

    In his fine honest pride, he scorns to hide
    One jot of his hard-weather scars;
    They're no disgrace, for there's much the same trace
    On the cheeks of our bravest tars.
    Then again I'll sing 'till the roof doth ring,
    And it echoes from wall to wall--
    To the stout old wight, fair welcome to-night,
    As the King of the Seasons all!

This song was tumultuously applauded--for friends and dependents make a
capital audience--and the poor relations, especially, were in perfect
ecstasies of rapture. Again was the fire replenished, and again went
the wassail round.

"How it snows!" said one of the men, in a low tone.

"Snows, does it?" said Wardle.

"Rough, cold night, sir," replied the man; "and there's a wind got up,
that drifts it across the fields, in a thick white cloud."

"What does Jem say?" inquired the old lady. "There ain't anything the
matter, is there?"

"No, no, mother," replied Wardle; "he says there's a snow-drift, and a
wind that's piercing cold. I should know that, by the way it rumbles in
the chimney."

"Ah!" said the old lady, "there was just such a wind, and just such
a fall of snow, a good many years back, I recollect--just five years
before your poor father died. It was a Christmas Eve, too; and I
remember that on that very night he told us the story about the goblins
that carried away old Gabriel Grub."

"The story about what?" said Mr. Pickwick.

"Oh, nothing, nothing," replied Wardle. "About an old sexton, that the
good people down here suppose to have been carried away by goblins."

"Suppose!" ejaculated the old lady. "Is there anybody hardy enough to
disbelieve it? Suppose! Haven't you heard ever since you were a child,
that he _was_ carried away by the goblins, and don't you know he was?"

"Very well, mother, he was, if you like," said Wardle, laughing. "He
_was_ carried away by goblins, Pickwick; and there's an end to the
matter."

"No, no," said Mr. Pickwick, "not an end of it, I assure you; for I
must hear how, and why, and all about it."

Wardle smiled as every head was bent forward to hear; and filling out
the wassail with no stinted hand, nodded a health to Mr. Pickwick, and
began as follows:

But bless our editorial heart, what a long chapter we have been
betrayed into! We had quite forgotten all such petty restrictions as
chapters, we solemnly declare. So here goes, to give the goblin a fair
start in a new one! A clear stage and no favour for the goblins, ladies
and gentlemen, if you please.


END OF VOL. I


  Printed by +Ballantyne, Hanson, & Co.+
  Edinburgh & London



Transcriber's note


Text in italics was surrounded with _underscores_, an antique
font with *asterisks* and small capitals with +signs+.

Small errors in punctuation were corrected without note, also the
following changes were made, on page

   14 "Snodrgass" changed to "Snodgrass" (said Mr. Snodgrass.)
   32 "horizon" changed to "heroism" (but his heroism was invincible.)
   70 "it" removed (replied Mr. Winkle.)
   72 "nothwithstanding" changed to "notwithstanding" (notwithstanding
      all kinds of coaxing and wheedling)
   78 "haraccters" changed to "characters" (and speculate upon the
      characters and pursuits)
  204 "smkoe" changed to "smoke" (who continued to smoke with great
      vehemence.)
  286 "su er" changed to "suffer" (caption: "I won't suffer this
      barrow to)
  289 "tail" changed to "tall" (the very spot where the tall man's
      brain would have been)
  320 "asid" changed to "said" ( said Mr. Pickwick, laughing.)
  359 "aimable" changed to "amiable" (it's a amiable weakness)
  428 "junps" changed to "jumps" (Mr. Weller jumps up behind)
  441 "drive" changed to "derive" (that he may derive from the
      contemplation of her felicity)
  446 "that" changed to "than" (and what's worse than that).

Otherwise the original of this edition was preserved, including
inconsistencies in spelling, hyphenation etc.





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