As Smangle pronounced the last three words, he stopped suddenly, reclosed the door which he had opened, and, walking softly back to Mr. Pickwick, stepped close up to him on tiptoe, and said, in a very soft whisper—
'You couldn't make it convenient to lend me half-a-crown till the latter end of next week, could you?'
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely forbear smiling, but managing to preserve his gravity, he drew forth the coin, and placed it in Mr. Smangle's palm; upon which, that gentleman, with many nods and winks, implying profound mystery, disappeared in quest of the three strangers, with whom he presently returned; and having coughed thrice, and nodded as many times, as an assurance to Mr. Pickwick that he would not forget to pay, he shook hands all round, in an engaging manner, and at length took himself off.
'My dear friends,' said Mr. Pickwick, shaking hands alternately with Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, who were the three visitors in question, 'I am delighted to see you.'
The triumvirate were much affected. Mr. Tupman shook his head deploringly, Mr. Snodgrass drew forth his handkerchief, with undisguised emotion; and Mr. Winkle retired to the window, and sniffed aloud.
'Mornin', gen'l'm'n,' said Sam, entering at the moment with the shoes and gaiters. 'Avay vith melincholly, as the little boy said ven his schoolmissus died. Velcome to the college, gen'l'm'n.'
'This foolish fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, tapping Sam on the head as he knelt down to button up his master's gaiters—'this foolish fellow has got himself arrested, in order to be near me.'
'What!' exclaimed the three friends.
'Yes, gen'l'm'n,' said Sam, 'I'm a—stand steady, sir, if you please—I'm a prisoner, gen'l'm'n. Con-fined, as the lady said.'
'A prisoner!' exclaimed Mr. Winkle, with unaccountable vehemence.
'Hollo, sir!' responded Sam, looking up. 'Wot's the matter, Sir?'
'I had hoped, Sam, that—Nothing, nothing,' said Mr. Winkle precipitately.
There was something so very abrupt and unsettled in Mr. Winkle's manner, that Mr. Pickwick involuntarily looked at his two friends for an explanation.
'We don't know,' said Mr. Tupman, answering this mute appeal aloud. 'He has been much excited for two days past, and his whole demeanour very unlike what it usually is. We feared there must be something the matter, but he resolutely denies it.'
'No, no,' said Mr. Winkle, colouring beneath Mr. Pickwick's gaze; 'there is really nothing. I assure you there is nothing, my dear sir. It will be necessary for me to leave town, for a short time, on private business, and I had hoped to have prevailed upon you to allow Sam to accompany me.'
Mr. Pickwick looked more astonished than before.
'I think,' faltered Mr. Winkle, 'that Sam would have had no objection to do so; but, of course, his being a prisoner here, renders it impossible. So I must go alone.'
As Mr. Winkle said these words, Mr. Pickwick felt, with some astonishment, that Sam's fingers were trembling at the gaiters, as if he were rather surprised or startled. Sam looked up at Mr. Winkle, too, when he had finished speaking; and though the glance they exchanged was instantaneous, they seemed to understand each other.
'Do you know anything of this, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick sharply.
'No, I don't, sir,' replied Mr. Weller, beginning to button with extraordinary assiduity.
'Are you sure, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, sir,' responded Mr. Weller; 'I'm sure so far, that I've never heerd anythin' on the subject afore this moment. If I makes any guess about it,' added Sam, looking at Mr. Winkle, 'I haven't got any right to say what 'It is, fear it should be a wrong 'un.'
'I have no right to make any further inquiry into the private affairs of a friend, however intimate a friend,' said Mr. Pickwick, after a short silence; 'at present let me merely say, that I do not understand this at all. There. We have had quite enough of the subject.'
Thus expressing himself, Mr. Pickwick led the conversation to different topics, and Mr. Winkle gradually appeared more at ease, though still very far from being completely so. They had all so much to converse about, that the morning very quickly passed away; and when, at three o'clock, Mr. Weller produced upon the little dining-table, a roast leg of mutton and an enormous meat-pie, with sundry dishes of vegetables, and pots of porter, which stood upon the chairs or the sofa bedstead, or where they could, everybody felt disposed to do justice to the meal, notwithstanding that the meat had been purchased, and dressed, and the pie made, and baked, at the prison cookery hard by.
To these succeeded a bottle or two of very good wine, for which a messenger was despatched by Mr. Pickwick to the Horn Coffee-house, in Doctors' Commons. The bottle or two, indeed, might be more properly described as a bottle or six, for by the time it was drunk, and tea over, the bell began to ring for strangers to withdraw.
But, if Mr. Winkle's behaviour had been unaccountable in the morning, it became perfectly unearthly and solemn when, under the influence of his feelings, and his share of the bottle or six, he prepared to take leave of his friend. He lingered behind, until Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had disappeared, and then fervently clenched Mr. Pickwick's hand, with an expression of face in which deep and mighty resolve was fearfully blended with the very concentrated essence of gloom.
'Good-night, my dear Sir!' said Mr. Winkle between his set teeth.
'Bless you, my dear fellow!' replied the warm-hearted Mr. Pickwick, as he returned the pressure of his young friend's hand.
'Now then!' cried Mr. Tupman from the gallery.
'Yes, yes, directly,' replied Mr. Winkle. 'Good-night!'
'Good-night,' said Mr. Pickwick.
There was another good-night, and another, and half a dozen more after that, and still Mr. Winkle had fast hold of his friend's hand, and was looking into his face with the same strange expression.
'Is anything the matter?' said Mr. Pickwick at last, when his arm was quite sore with shaking. 'Nothing,' said Mr. Winkle.
'Well then, good-night,' said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to disengage his hand.
'My friend, my benefactor, my honoured companion,' murmured Mr. Winkle, catching at his wrist. 'Do not judge me harshly; do not, when you hear that, driven to extremity by hopeless obstacles, I—'
'Now then,' said Mr. Tupman, reappearing at the door. 'Are you coming, or are we to be locked in?'
'Yes, yes, I am ready,' replied Mr. Winkle. And with a violent effort he tore himself away.
As Mr. Pickwick was gazing down the passage after them in silent astonishment, Sam Weller appeared at the stair-head, and whispered for one moment in Mr. Winkle's ear.
'Oh, certainly, depend upon me,' said that gentleman aloud.
'Thank'ee, sir. You won't forget, sir?' said Sam. 'Of course not,' replied Mr. Winkle.
'Wish you luck, Sir,' said Sam, touching his hat. 'I should very much liked to ha' joined you, Sir; but the gov'nor, o' course, is paramount.'
'It is very much to your credit that you remain here,' said Mr. Winkle. With these words they disappeared down the stairs.
'Very extraordinary,' said Mr. Pickwick, going back into his room, and seating himself at the table in a musing attitude. 'What can that young man be going to do?'
He had sat ruminating about the matter for some time, when the voice of Roker, the turnkey, demanded whether he might come in.
'By all means,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I've brought you a softer pillow, Sir,' said Mr. Roker, 'instead of the temporary one you had last night.'
'Thank you,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Will you take a glass of wine?'
'You're wery good, Sir,' replied Mr. Roker, accepting the proffered glass. 'Yours, sir.'
'Thank you,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I'm sorry to say that your landlord's wery bad to-night, Sir,' said Roker, setting down the glass, and inspecting the lining of his hat preparatory to putting it on again.
'What! The Chancery prisoner!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.
'He won't be a Chancery prisoner wery long, Sir,' replied Roker, turning his hat round, so as to get the maker's name right side upwards, as he looked into it.
'You make my blood run cold,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'What do you mean?'
'He's been consumptive for a long time past,' said Mr. Roker, 'and he's taken wery bad in the breath to-night. The doctor said, six months ago, that nothing but change of air could save him.'
'Great Heaven!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick; 'has this man been slowly murdered by the law for six months?'
'I don't know about that,' replied Roker, weighing the hat by the brim in both hands. 'I suppose he'd have been took the same, wherever he was. He went into the infirmary, this morning; the doctor says his strength is to be kept up as much as possible; and the warden's sent him wine and broth and that, from his own house. It's not the warden's fault, you know, sir.'
'Of course not,' replied Mr. Pickwick hastily.
'I'm afraid, however,' said Roker, shaking his head, 'that it's all up with him. I offered Neddy two six-penn'orths to one upon it just now, but he wouldn't take it, and quite right. Thank'ee, Sir. Good-night, sir.'
'Stay,' said Mr. Pickwick earnestly. 'Where is this infirmary?'
'Just over where you slept, sir,' replied Roker. 'I'll show you, if you like to come.' Mr. Pickwick snatched up his hat without speaking, and followed at once.
The turnkey led the way in silence; and gently raising the latch of the room door, motioned Mr. Pickwick to enter. It was a large, bare, desolate room, with a number of stump bedsteads made of iron, on one of which lay stretched the shadow of a man—wan, pale, and ghastly. His breathing was hard and thick, and he moaned painfully as it came and went. At the bedside sat a short old man in a cobbler's apron, who, by the aid of a pair of horn spectacles, was reading from the Bible aloud. It was the fortunate legatee.
The sick man laid his hand upon his attendant's arm, and motioned him to stop. He closed the book, and laid it on the bed.
'Open the window,' said the sick man.
He did so. The noise of carriages and carts, the rattle of wheels, the cries of men and boys, all the busy sounds of a mighty multitude instinct with life and occupation, blended into one deep murmur, floated into the room. Above the hoarse loud hum, arose, from time to time, a boisterous laugh; or a scrap of some jingling song, shouted forth, by one of the giddy crowd, would strike upon the ear, for an instant, and then be lost amidst the roar of voices and the tramp of footsteps; the breaking of the billows of the restless sea of life, that rolled heavily on, without. These are melancholy sounds to a quiet listener at any time; but how melancholy to the watcher by the bed of death!
'There is no air here,' said the man faintly. 'The place pollutes it. It was fresh round about, when I walked there, years ago; but it grows hot and heavy in passing these walls. I cannot breathe it.'
'We have breathed it together, for a long time,' said the old man. 'Come, come.'
There was a short silence, during which the two spectators approached the bed. The sick man drew a hand of his old fellow-prisoner towards him, and pressing it affectionately between both his own, retained it in his grasp.
'I hope,' he gasped after a while, so faintly that they bent their ears close over the bed to catch the half-formed sounds his pale lips gave vent to—'I hope my merciful Judge will bear in mind my heavy punishment on earth. Twenty years, my friend, twenty years in this hideous grave! My heart broke when my child died, and I could not even kiss him in his little coffin. My loneliness since then, in all this noise and riot, has been very dreadful. May God forgive me! He has seen my solitary, lingering death.'
He folded his hands, and murmuring something more they could not hear, fell into a sleep—only a sleep at first, for they saw him smile.
They whispered together for a little time, and the turnkey, stooping over the pillow, drew hastily back. 'He has got his discharge, by G—!' said the man.
He had. But he had grown so like death in life, that they knew not when he died.
CHAPTER XLIV. DESCRIPTIVE OF AN AFFECTING INTERVIEW BETWEEN Mr. SAMUEL WELLER AND A FAMILY PARTY. Mr. PICKWICK MAKES A TOUR OF THE DIMINUTIVE WORLD HE INHABITS, AND RESOLVES TO MIX WITH IT, IN FUTURE, AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
A few mornings after his incarceration, Mr. Samuel Weller, having arranged his master's room with all possible care, and seen him comfortably seated over his books and papers, withdrew to employ himself for an hour or two to come, as he best could. It was a fine morning, and it occurred to Sam that a pint of porter in the open air would lighten his next quarter of an hour or so, as well as any little amusement in which he could indulge.
Having arrived at this conclusion, he betook himself to the tap. Having purchased the beer, and obtained, moreover, the day-but-one-before-yesterday's paper, he repaired to the skittle-ground, and seating himself on a bench, proceeded to enjoy himself in a very sedate and methodical manner.
First of all, he took a refreshing draught of the beer, and then he looked up at a window, and bestowed a platonic wink on a young lady who was peeling potatoes thereat. Then he opened the paper, and folded it so as to get the police reports outwards; and this being a vexatious and difficult thing to do, when there is any wind stirring, he took another draught of the beer when he had accomplished it. Then, he read two lines of the paper, and stopped short to look at a couple of men who were finishing a game at rackets, which, being concluded, he cried out 'wery good,' in an approving manner, and looked round upon the spectators, to ascertain whether their sentiments coincided with his own. This involved the necessity of looking up at the windows also; and as the young lady was still there, it was an act of common politeness to wink again, and to drink to her good health in dumb show, in another draught of the beer, which Sam did; and having frowned hideously upon a small boy who had noted this latter proceeding with open eyes, he threw one leg over the other, and, holding the newspaper in both hands, began to read in real earnest.
He had hardly composed himself into the needful state of abstraction, when he thought he heard his own name proclaimed in some distant passage. Nor was he mistaken, for it quickly passed from mouth to mouth, and in a few seconds the air teemed with shouts of 'Weller!' 'Here!' roared Sam, in a stentorian voice. 'Wot's the matter? Who wants him? Has an express come to say that his country house is afire?'
'Somebody wants you in the hall,' said a man who was standing by.
'Just mind that 'ere paper and the pot, old feller, will you?' said Sam. 'I'm a-comin'. Blessed, if they was a-callin' me to the bar, they couldn't make more noise about it!'
Accompanying these words with a gentle rap on the head of the young gentleman before noticed, who, unconscious of his close vicinity to the person in request, was screaming 'Weller!' with all his might, Sam hastened across the ground, and ran up the steps into the hall. Here, the first object that met his eyes was his beloved father sitting on a bottom stair, with his hat in his hand, shouting out 'Weller!' in his very loudest tone, at half-minute intervals.
'Wot are you a-roarin' at?' said Sam impetuously, when the old gentleman had discharged himself of another shout; 'making yourself so precious hot that you looks like a aggrawated glass-blower. Wot's the matter?'
'Aha!' replied the old gentleman, 'I began to be afeerd that you'd gone for a walk round the Regency Park, Sammy.'
'Come,' said Sam, 'none o' them taunts agin the wictim o' avarice, and come off that 'ere step. Wot arc you a-settin' down there for? I don't live there.'
'I've got such a game for you, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller, rising.
'Stop a minit,' said Sam, 'you're all vite behind.'
'That's right, Sammy, rub it off,' said Mr. Weller, as his son dusted him. 'It might look personal here, if a man walked about with vitevash on his clothes, eh, Sammy?'
As Mr. Weller exhibited in this place unequivocal symptoms of an approaching fit of chuckling, Sam interposed to stop it.
'Keep quiet, do,' said Sam, 'there never vos such a old picter-card born. Wot are you bustin' vith, now?'
'Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, wiping his forehead, 'I'm afeerd that vun o' these days I shall laugh myself into a appleplexy, my boy.'
'Vell, then, wot do you do it for?' said Sam. 'Now, then, wot have you got to say?'
'Who do you think's come here with me, Samivel?' said Mr. Weller, drawing back a pace or two, pursing up his mouth, and extending his eyebrows. 'Pell?' said Sam.
Mr. Weller shook his head, and his red cheeks expanded with the laughter that was endeavouring to find a vent.
'Mottled-faced man, p'raps?' asked Sam.
Again Mr. Weller shook his head.
'Who then?'asked Sam.
'Your mother-in-law,' said Mr. Weller; and it was lucky he did say it, or his cheeks must inevitably have cracked, from their most unnatural distension.
'Your mother—in—law, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, 'and the red-nosed man, my boy; and the red-nosed man. Ho! ho! ho!'
With this, Mr. Weller launched into convulsions of laughter, while Sam regarded him with a broad grin gradually over-spreading his whole countenance.
'They've come to have a little serious talk with you, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, wiping his eyes. 'Don't let out nothin' about the unnat'ral creditor, Sammy.'
'Wot, don't they know who it is?' inquired Sam.
'Not a bit on it,' replied his father.
'Vere are they?' said Sam, reciprocating all the old gentleman's grins.
'In the snuggery,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'Catch the red-nosed man a-goin' anyvere but vere the liquors is; not he, Samivel, not he. Ve'd a wery pleasant ride along the road from the Markis this mornin', Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, when he felt himself equal to the task of speaking in an articulate manner. 'I drove the old piebald in that 'ere little shay-cart as belonged to your mother-in-law's first wenter, into vich a harm-cheer wos lifted for the shepherd; and I'm blessed,' said Mr. Weller, with a look of deep scorn—'I'm blessed if they didn't bring a portable flight o' steps out into the road a-front o' our door for him, to get up by.'
'You don't mean that?' said Sam.
'I do mean that, Sammy,' replied his father, 'and I vish you could ha' seen how tight he held on by the sides wen he did get up, as if he wos afeerd o' being precipitayted down full six foot, and dashed into a million hatoms. He tumbled in at last, however, and avay ve vent; and I rayther think—I say I rayther think, Samivel—that he found his-self a little jolted ven ve turned the corners.'
'Wot, I s'pose you happened to drive up agin a post or two?' said Sam. 'I'm afeerd,' replied Mr. Weller, in a rapture of winks—'I'm afeerd I took vun or two on 'em, Sammy; he wos a-flyin' out o' the arm-cheer all the way.'
Here the old gentleman shook his head from side to side, and was seized with a hoarse internal rumbling, accompanied with a violent swelling of the countenance, and a sudden increase in the breadth of all his features; symptoms which alarmed his son not a little.
'Don't be frightened, Sammy, don't be frightened,' said the old gentleman, when by dint of much struggling, and various convulsive stamps upon the ground, he had recovered his voice. 'It's only a kind o' quiet laugh as I'm a-tryin' to come, Sammy.'
'Well, if that's wot it is,' said Sam, 'you'd better not try to come it agin. You'll find it rayther a dangerous inwention.'
'Don't you like it, Sammy?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Not at all,' replied Sam.
'Well,' said Mr. Weller, with the tears still running down his cheeks, 'it 'ud ha' been a wery great accommodation to me if I could ha' done it, and 'ud ha' saved a good many vords atween your mother-in-law and me, sometimes; but I'm afeerd you're right, Sammy, it's too much in the appleplexy line—a deal too much, Samivel.'
This conversation brought them to the door of the snuggery, into which Sam—pausing for an instant to look over his shoulder, and cast a sly leer at his respected progenitor, who was still giggling behind—at once led the way.
'Mother-in-law,' said Sam, politely saluting the lady, 'wery much obliged to you for this here wisit.—Shepherd, how air you?'
'Oh, Samuel!' said Mrs. Weller. 'This is dreadful.'
'Not a bit on it, mum,' replied Sam.—'Is it, shepherd?'
Mr. Stiggins raised his hands, and turned up his eyes, until the whites—or rather the yellows—were alone visible; but made no reply in words.
'Is this here gen'l'm'n troubled with any painful complaint?' said Sam, looking to his mother-in-law for explanation.
'The good man is grieved to see you here, Samuel,' replied Mrs. Weller.
'Oh, that's it, is it?' said Sam. 'I was afeerd, from his manner, that he might ha' forgotten to take pepper vith that 'ere last cowcumber he eat. Set down, Sir, ve make no extra charge for settin' down, as the king remarked wen he blowed up his ministers.'
'Young man,' said Mr. Stiggins ostentatiously, 'I fear you are not softened by imprisonment.'
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' replied Sam; 'wot wos you graciously pleased to hobserve?'
'I apprehend, young man, that your nature is no softer for this chastening,' said Mr. Stiggins, in a loud voice.
'Sir,' replied Sam, 'you're wery kind to say so. I hope my natur is NOT a soft vun, Sir. Wery much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir.'
At this point of the conversation, a sound, indecorously approaching to a laugh, was heard to proceed from the chair in which the elder Mr. Weller was seated; upon which Mrs. Weller, on a hasty consideration of all the circumstances of the case, considered it her bounden duty to become gradually hysterical.
'Weller,' said Mrs. W. (the old gentleman was seated in a corner); 'Weller! Come forth.'
'Wery much obleeged to you, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller; 'but I'm quite comfortable vere I am.'
Upon this, Mrs. Weller burst into tears.
'Wot's gone wrong, mum?' said Sam.
'Oh, Samuel!' replied Mrs. Weller, 'your father makes me wretched. Will nothing do him good?'
'Do you hear this here?' said Sam. 'Lady vants to know vether nothin' 'ull do you good.'
'Wery much indebted to Mrs. Weller for her po-lite inquiries, Sammy,' replied the old gentleman. 'I think a pipe vould benefit me a good deal. Could I be accommodated, Sammy?'
Here Mrs. Weller let fall some more tears, and Mr. Stiggins groaned.
'Hollo! Here's this unfortunate gen'l'm'n took ill agin,' said Sam, looking round. 'Vere do you feel it now, sir?'
'In the same place, young man,' rejoined Mr. Stiggins, 'in the same place.'
'Vere may that be, Sir?' inquired Sam, with great outward simplicity.
'In the buzzim, young man,' replied Mr. Stiggins, placing his umbrella on his waistcoat.
At this affecting reply, Mrs. Weller, being wholly unable to suppress her feelings, sobbed aloud, and stated her conviction that the red-nosed man was a saint; whereupon Mr. Weller, senior, ventured to suggest, in an undertone, that he must be the representative of the united parishes of St. Simon Without and St. Walker Within.
'I'm afeered, mum,' said Sam, 'that this here gen'l'm'n, with the twist in his countenance, feels rather thirsty, with the melancholy spectacle afore him. Is it the case, mum?'
The worthy lady looked at Mr. Stiggins for a reply; that gentleman, with many rollings of the eye, clenched his throat with his right hand, and mimicked the act of swallowing, to intimate that he was athirst.
'I am afraid, Samuel, that his feelings have made him so indeed,' said Mrs. Weller mournfully.
'Wot's your usual tap, sir?' replied Sam.
'Oh, my dear young friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'all taps is vanities!'
'Too true, too true, indeed,' said Mrs. Weller, murmuring a groan, and shaking her head assentingly.
'Well,' said Sam, 'I des-say they may be, sir; but wich is your partickler wanity? Wich wanity do you like the flavour on best, sir?'
'Oh, my dear young friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'I despise them all. If,' said Mr. Stiggins—'if there is any one of them less odious than another, it is the liquor called rum. Warm, my dear young friend, with three lumps of sugar to the tumbler.'
'Wery sorry to say, sir,' said Sam, 'that they don't allow that particular wanity to be sold in this here establishment.'
'Oh, the hardness of heart of these inveterate men!' ejaculated Mr. Stiggins. 'Oh, the accursed cruelty of these inhuman persecutors!'
With these words, Mr. Stiggins again cast up his eyes, and rapped his breast with his umbrella; and it is but justice to the reverend gentleman to say, that his indignation appeared very real and unfeigned indeed.
After Mrs. Weller and the red-nosed gentleman had commented on this inhuman usage in a very forcible manner, and had vented a variety of pious and holy execrations against its authors, the latter recommended a bottle of port wine, warmed with a little water, spice, and sugar, as being grateful to the stomach, and savouring less of vanity than many other compounds. It was accordingly ordered to be prepared, and pending its preparation the red-nosed man and Mrs. Weller looked at the elder W. and groaned.
'Well, Sammy,' said the gentleman, 'I hope you'll find your spirits rose by this here lively wisit. Wery cheerful and improvin' conwersation, ain't it, Sammy?'
'You're a reprobate,' replied Sam; 'and I desire you won't address no more o' them ungraceful remarks to me.'
So far from being edified by this very proper reply, the elder Mr. Weller at once relapsed into a broad grin; and this inexorable conduct causing the lady and Mr. Stiggins to close their eyes, and rock themselves to and fro on their chairs, in a troubled manner, he furthermore indulged in several acts of pantomime, indicative of a desire to pummel and wring the nose of the aforesaid Stiggins, the performance of which, appeared to afford him great mental relief. The old gentleman very narrowly escaped detection in one instance; for Mr. Stiggins happening to give a start on the arrival of the negus, brought his head in smart contact with the clenched fist with which Mr. Weller had been describing imaginary fireworks in the air, within two inches of his ear, for some minutes.
'Wot are you a-reachin' out, your hand for the tumbler in that 'ere sawage way for?' said Sam, with great promptitude. 'Don't you see you've hit the gen'l'm'n?'
'I didn't go to do it, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, in some degree abashed by the very unexpected occurrence of the incident.
'Try an in'ard application, sir,' said Sam, as the red-nosed gentleman rubbed his head with a rueful visage. 'Wot do you think o' that, for a go o' wanity, warm, Sir?'
Mr. Stiggins made no verbal answer, but his manner was expressive. He tasted the contents of the glass which Sam had placed in his hand, put his umbrella on the floor, and tasted it again, passing his hand placidly across his stomach twice or thrice; he then drank the whole at a breath, and smacking his lips, held out the tumbler for more.
Nor was Mrs. Weller behind-hand in doing justice to the composition. The good lady began by protesting that she couldn't touch a drop—then took a small drop—then a large drop—then a great many drops; and her feelings being of the nature of those substances which are powerfully affected by the application of strong waters, she dropped a tear with every drop of negus, and so got on, melting the feelings down, until at length she had arrived at a very pathetic and decent pitch of misery.
The elder Mr. Weller observed these signs and tokens with many manifestations of disgust, and when, after a second jug of the same, Mr. Stiggins began to sigh in a dismal manner, he plainly evinced his disapprobation of the whole proceedings, by sundry incoherent ramblings of speech, among which frequent angry repetitions of the word 'gammon' were alone distinguishable to the ear.
'I'll tell you wot it is, Samivel, my boy,' whispered the old gentleman into his son's ear, after a long and steadfast contemplation of his lady and Mr. Stiggins; 'I think there must be somethin' wrong in your mother-in-law's inside, as vell as in that o' the red-nosed man.'
'Wot do you mean?' said Sam.
'I mean this here, Sammy,' replied the old gentleman, 'that wot they drink, don't seem no nourishment to 'em; it all turns to warm water, and comes a-pourin' out o' their eyes. 'Pend upon it, Sammy, it's a constitootional infirmity.'
Mr. Weller delivered this scientific opinion with many confirmatory frowns and nods; which, Mrs. Weller remarking, and concluding that they bore some disparaging reference either to herself or to Mr. Stiggins, or to both, was on the point of becoming infinitely worse, when Mr. Stiggins, getting on his legs as well as he could, proceeded to deliver an edifying discourse for the benefit of the company, but more especially of Mr. Samuel, whom he adjured in moving terms to be upon his guard in that sink of iniquity into which he was cast; to abstain from all hypocrisy and pride of heart; and to take in all things exact pattern and copy by him (Stiggins), in which case he might calculate on arriving, sooner or later at the comfortable conclusion, that, like him, he was a most estimable and blameless character, and that all his acquaintances and friends were hopelessly abandoned and profligate wretches. Which consideration, he said, could not but afford him the liveliest satisfaction.
He furthermore conjured him to avoid, above all things, the vice of intoxication, which he likened unto the filthy habits of swine, and to those poisonous and baleful drugs which being chewed in the mouth, are said to filch away the memory. At this point of his discourse, the reverend and red-nosed gentleman became singularly incoherent, and staggering to and fro in the excitement of his eloquence, was fain to catch at the back of a chair to preserve his perpendicular.
Mr. Stiggins did not desire his hearers to be upon their guard against those false prophets and wretched mockers of religion, who, without sense to expound its first doctrines, or hearts to feel its first principles, are more dangerous members of society than the common criminal; imposing, as they necessarily do, upon the weakest and worst informed, casting scorn and contempt on what should be held most sacred, and bringing into partial disrepute large bodies of virtuous and well-conducted persons of many excellent sects and persuasions. But as he leaned over the back of the chair for a considerable time, and closing one eye, winked a good deal with the other, it is presumed that he thought all this, but kept it to himself.
During the delivery of the oration, Mrs. Weller sobbed and wept at the end of the paragraphs; while Sam, sitting cross-legged on a chair and resting his arms on the top rail, regarded the speaker with great suavity and blandness of demeanour; occasionally bestowing a look of recognition on the old gentleman, who was delighted at the beginning, and went to sleep about half-way.
'Brayvo; wery pretty!' said Sam, when the red-nosed man having finished, pulled his worn gloves on, thereby thrusting his fingers through the broken tops till the knuckles were disclosed to view. 'Wery pretty.'
'I hope it may do you good, Samuel,' said Mrs. Weller solemnly.
'I think it vill, mum,' replied Sam.
'I wish I could hope that it would do your father good,' said Mrs. Weller.
'Thank'ee, my dear,' said Mr. Weller, senior. 'How do you find yourself arter it, my love?'
'Scoffer!' exclaimed Mrs. Weller.
'Benighted man!' said the Reverend Mr. Stiggins.
'If I don't get no better light than that 'ere moonshine o' yourn, my worthy creetur,' said the elder Mr. Weller, 'it's wery likely as I shall continey to be a night coach till I'm took off the road altogether. Now, Mrs. We, if the piebald stands at livery much longer, he'll stand at nothin' as we go back, and p'raps that 'ere harm-cheer 'ull be tipped over into some hedge or another, with the shepherd in it.'
At this supposition, the Reverend Mr. Stiggins, in evident consternation, gathered up his hat and umbrella, and proposed an immediate departure, to which Mrs. Weller assented. Sam walked with them to the lodge gate, and took a dutiful leave.
'A-do, Samivel,' said the old gentleman.
'Wot's a-do?' inquired Sammy.
'Well, good-bye, then,' said the old gentleman.
'Oh, that's wot you're aimin' at, is it?' said Sam. 'Good-bye!'
'Sammy,' whispered Mr. Weller, looking cautiously round; 'my duty to your gov'nor, and tell him if he thinks better o' this here bis'ness, to com-moonicate vith me. Me and a cab'net-maker has dewised a plan for gettin' him out. A pianner, Samivel—a pianner!' said Mr. Weller, striking his son on the chest with the back of his hand, and falling back a step or two.
'Wot do you mean?' said Sam.
'A pianner-forty, Samivel,' rejoined Mr. Weller, in a still more mysterious manner, 'as he can have on hire; vun as von't play, Sammy.'
'And wot 'ud be the good o' that?' said Sam.
'Let him send to my friend, the cabinet-maker, to fetch it back, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Are you avake, now?'
'No,' rejoined Sam.
'There ain't no vurks in it,' whispered his father. 'It 'ull hold him easy, vith his hat and shoes on, and breathe through the legs, vich his holler. Have a passage ready taken for 'Merriker. The 'Merrikin gov'ment will never give him up, ven vunce they find as he's got money to spend, Sammy. Let the gov'nor stop there, till Mrs. Bardell's dead, or Mr. Dodson and Fogg's hung (wich last ewent I think is the most likely to happen first, Sammy), and then let him come back and write a book about the 'Merrikins as'll pay all his expenses and more, if he blows 'em up enough.'
Mr. Weller delivered this hurried abstract of his plot with great vehemence of whisper; and then, as if fearful of weakening the effect of the tremendous communication by any further dialogue, he gave the coachman's salute, and vanished.
Sam had scarcely recovered his usual composure of countenance, which had been greatly disturbed by the secret communication of his respected relative, when Mr. Pickwick accosted him.
'Sam,' said that gentleman.
'Sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'I am going for a walk round the prison, and I wish you to attend me. I see a prisoner we know coming this way, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, smiling.
'Wich, Sir?' inquired Mr. Weller; 'the gen'l'm'n vith the head o' hair, or the interestin' captive in the stockin's?'
'Neither,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'He is an older friend of yours, Sam.'
'O' mine, Sir?' exclaimed Mr. Weller.
'You recollect the gentleman very well, I dare say, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'or else you are more unmindful of your old acquaintances than I think you are. Hush! not a word, Sam; not a syllable. Here he is.'
As Mr. Pickwick spoke, Jingle walked up. He looked less miserable than before, being clad in a half-worn suit of clothes, which, with Mr. Pickwick's assistance, had been released from the pawnbroker's. He wore clean linen too, and had had his hair cut. He was very pale and thin, however; and as he crept slowly up, leaning on a stick, it was easy to see that he had suffered severely from illness and want, and was still very weak. He took off his hat as Mr. Pickwick saluted him, and seemed much humbled and abashed at the sight of Sam Weller.
Following close at his heels, came Mr. Job Trotter, in the catalogue of whose vices, want of faith and attachment to his companion could at all events find no place. He was still ragged and squalid, but his face was not quite so hollow as on his first meeting with Mr. Pickwick, a few days before. As he took off his hat to our benevolent old friend, he murmured some broken expressions of gratitude, and muttered something about having been saved from starving.
'Well, well,' said Mr. Pickwick, impatiently interrupting him, 'you can follow with Sam. I want to speak to you, Mr. Jingle. Can you walk without his arm?'
'Certainly, sir—all ready—not too fast—legs shaky—head queer—round and round—earthquaky sort of feeling—very.'
'Here, give me your arm,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'No, no,' replied Jingle; 'won't indeed—rather not.'
'Nonsense,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'lean upon me, I desire, Sir.'
Seeing that he was confused and agitated, and uncertain what to do, Mr. Pickwick cut the matter short by drawing the invalided stroller's arm through his, and leading him away, without saying another word about it.
During the whole of this time the countenance of Mr. Samuel Weller had exhibited an expression of the most overwhelming and absorbing astonishment that the imagination can portray. After looking from Job to Jingle, and from Jingle to Job in profound silence, he softly ejaculated the words, 'Well, I AM damn'd!' which he repeated at least a score of times; after which exertion, he appeared wholly bereft of speech, and again cast his eyes, first upon the one and then upon the other, in mute perplexity and bewilderment.
'Now, Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, looking back.
'I'm a-comin', sir,' replied Mr. Weller, mechanically following his master; and still he lifted not his eyes from Mr. Job Trotter, who walked at his side in silence. Job kept his eyes fixed on the ground for some time. Sam, with his glued to Job's countenance, ran up against the people who were walking about, and fell over little children, and stumbled against steps and railings, without appearing at all sensible of it, until Job, looking stealthily up, said—
'How do you do, Mr. Weller?'
'It IS him!' exclaimed Sam; and having established Job's identity beyond all doubt, he smote his leg, and vented his feelings in a long, shrill whistle.
'Things has altered with me, sir,' said Job.
'I should think they had,' exclaimed Mr. Weller, surveying his companion's rags with undisguised wonder. 'This is rayther a change for the worse, Mr. Trotter, as the gen'l'm'n said, wen he got two doubtful shillin's and sixpenn'orth o' pocket-pieces for a good half-crown.'
'It is indeed,' replied Job, shaking his head. 'There is no deception now, Mr. Weller. Tears,' said Job, with a look of momentary slyness—'tears are not the only proofs of distress, nor the best ones.'
'No, they ain't,' replied Sam expressively.
'They may be put on, Mr. Weller,' said Job.
'I know they may,' said Sam; 'some people, indeed, has 'em always ready laid on, and can pull out the plug wenever they likes.'
'Yes,' replied Job; 'but these sort of things are not so easily counterfeited, Mr. Weller, and it is a more painful process to get them up.' As he spoke, he pointed to his sallow, sunken cheeks, and, drawing up his coat sleeve, disclosed an arm which looked as if the bone could be broken at a touch, so sharp and brittle did it appear, beneath its thin covering of flesh.
'Wot have you been a-doin' to yourself?' said Sam, recoiling.
'Nothing,' replied Job.
'Nothin'!' echoed Sam.
'I have been doin' nothing for many weeks past,' said Job; and eating and drinking almost as little.'
Sam took one comprehensive glance at Mr. Trotter's thin face and wretched apparel; and then, seizing him by the arm, commenced dragging him away with great violence.
'Where are you going, Mr. Weller?' said Job, vainly struggling in the powerful grasp of his old enemy. 'Come on,' said Sam; 'come on!' He deigned no further explanation till they reached the tap, and then called for a pot of porter, which was speedily produced.
'Now,' said Sam, 'drink that up, ev'ry drop on it, and then turn the pot upside down, to let me see as you've took the medicine.'
'But, my dear Mr. Weller,' remonstrated Job.
'Down vith it!' said Sam peremptorily.
Thus admonished, Mr. Trotter raised the pot to his lips, and, by gentle and almost imperceptible degrees, tilted it into the air. He paused once, and only once, to draw a long breath, but without raising his face from the vessel, which, in a few moments thereafter, he held out at arm's length, bottom upward. Nothing fell upon the ground but a few particles of froth, which slowly detached themselves from the rim, and trickled lazily down.
'Well done!' said Sam. 'How do you find yourself arter it?'
'Better, Sir. I think I am better,' responded Job.
'O' course you air,' said Sam argumentatively. 'It's like puttin' gas in a balloon. I can see with the naked eye that you gets stouter under the operation. Wot do you say to another o' the same dimensions?'
'I would rather not, I am much obliged to you, Sir,' replied Job—'much rather not.'
'Vell, then, wot do you say to some wittles?' inquired Sam.
'Thanks to your worthy governor, Sir,' said Mr. Trotter, 'we have half a leg of mutton, baked, at a quarter before three, with the potatoes under it to save boiling.'
'Wot! Has HE been a-purwidin' for you?' asked Sam emphatically.
'He has, Sir,' replied Job. 'More than that, Mr. Weller; my master being very ill, he got us a room—we were in a kennel before—and paid for it, Sir; and come to look at us, at night, when nobody should know. Mr. Weller,' said Job, with real tears in his eyes, for once, 'I could serve that gentleman till I fell down dead at his feet.'
'I say!' said Sam, 'I'll trouble you, my friend! None o' that!'
Job Trotter looked amazed.
'None o' that, I say, young feller,' repeated Sam firmly. 'No man serves him but me. And now we're upon it, I'll let you into another secret besides that,' said Sam, as he paid for the beer. 'I never heerd, mind you, or read of in story-books, nor see in picters, any angel in tights and gaiters—not even in spectacles, as I remember, though that may ha' been done for anythin' I know to the contrairey—but mark my vords, Job Trotter, he's a reg'lar thoroughbred angel for all that; and let me see the man as wenturs to tell me he knows a better vun.' With this defiance, Mr. Weller buttoned up his change in a side pocket, and, with many confirmatory nods and gestures by the way, proceeded in search of the subject of discourse.
They found Mr. Pickwick, in company with Jingle, talking very earnestly, and not bestowing a look on the groups who were congregated on the racket-ground; they were very motley groups too, and worth the looking at, if it were only in idle curiosity.
'Well,' said Mr. Pickwick, as Sam and his companion drew nigh, 'you will see how your health becomes, and think about it meanwhile. Make the statement out for me when you feel yourself equal to the task, and I will discuss the subject with you when I have considered it. Now, go to your room. You are tired, and not strong enough to be out long.'
Mr. Alfred Jingle, without one spark of his old animation—with nothing even of the dismal gaiety which he had assumed when Mr. Pickwick first stumbled on him in his misery—bowed low without speaking, and, motioning to Job not to follow him just yet, crept slowly away.
'Curious scene this, is it not, Sam?' said Mr. Pickwick, looking good-humouredly round.
'Wery much so, Sir,' replied Sam. 'Wonders 'ull never cease,' added Sam, speaking to himself. 'I'm wery much mistaken if that 'ere Jingle worn't a-doin somethin' in the water-cart way!'
The area formed by the wall in that part of the Fleet in which Mr. Pickwick stood was just wide enough to make a good racket-court; one side being formed, of course, by the wall itself, and the other by that portion of the prison which looked (or rather would have looked, but for the wall) towards St. Paul's Cathedral. Sauntering or sitting about, in every possible attitude of listless idleness, were a great number of debtors, the major part of whom were waiting in prison until their day of 'going up' before the Insolvent Court should arrive; while others had been remanded for various terms, which they were idling away as they best could. Some were shabby, some were smart, many dirty, a few clean; but there they all lounged, and loitered, and slunk about with as little spirit or purpose as the beasts in a menagerie.
Lolling from the windows which commanded a view of this promenade were a number of persons, some in noisy conversation with their acquaintance below, others playing at ball with some adventurous throwers outside, others looking on at the racket-players, or watching the boys as they cried the game. Dirty, slipshod women passed and repassed, on their way to the cooking-house in one corner of the yard; children screamed, and fought, and played together, in another; the tumbling of the skittles, and the shouts of the players, mingled perpetually with these and a hundred other sounds; and all was noise and tumult—save in a little miserable shed a few yards off, where lay, all quiet and ghastly, the body of the Chancery prisoner who had died the night before, awaiting the mockery of an inquest. The body! It is the lawyer's term for the restless, whirling mass of cares and anxieties, affections, hopes, and griefs, that make up the living man. The law had his body; and there it lay, clothed in grave-clothes, an awful witness to its tender mercy.
'Would you like to see a whistling-shop, Sir?' inquired Job Trotter.
'What do you mean?' was Mr. Pickwick's counter inquiry.
'A vistlin' shop, Sir,' interposed Mr. Weller.
'What is that, Sam?—A bird-fancier's?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Bless your heart, no, Sir,' replied Job; 'a whistling-shop, Sir, is where they sell spirits.' Mr. Job Trotter briefly explained here, that all persons, being prohibited under heavy penalties from conveying spirits into debtors' prisons, and such commodities being highly prized by the ladies and gentlemen confined therein, it had occurred to some speculative turnkey to connive, for certain lucrative considerations, at two or three prisoners retailing the favourite article of gin, for their own profit and advantage.
'This plan, you see, Sir, has been gradually introduced into all the prisons for debt,' said Mr. Trotter.
'And it has this wery great advantage,' said Sam, 'that the turnkeys takes wery good care to seize hold o' ev'rybody but them as pays 'em, that attempts the willainy, and wen it gets in the papers they're applauded for their wigilance; so it cuts two ways—frightens other people from the trade, and elewates their own characters.'
'Exactly so, Mr. Weller,' observed Job.
'Well, but are these rooms never searched to ascertain whether any spirits are concealed in them?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Cert'nly they are, Sir,' replied Sam; 'but the turnkeys knows beforehand, and gives the word to the wistlers, and you may wistle for it wen you go to look.'
By this time, Job had tapped at a door, which was opened by a gentleman with an uncombed head, who bolted it after them when they had walked in, and grinned; upon which Job grinned, and Sam also; whereupon Mr. Pickwick, thinking it might be expected of him, kept on smiling to the end of the interview.
The gentleman with the uncombed head appeared quite satisfied with this mute announcement of their business, and, producing a flat stone bottle, which might hold about a couple of quarts, from beneath his bedstead, filled out three glasses of gin, which Job Trotter and Sam disposed of in a most workmanlike manner.
'Any more?' said the whistling gentleman.
'No more,' replied Job Trotter.
Mr. Pickwick paid, the door was unbolted, and out they came; the uncombed gentleman bestowing a friendly nod upon Mr. Roker, who happened to be passing at the moment.
From this spot, Mr. Pickwick wandered along all the galleries, up and down all the staircases, and once again round the whole area of the yard. The great body of the prison population appeared to be Mivins, and Smangle, and the parson, and the butcher, and the leg, over and over, and over again. There were the same squalor, the same turmoil and noise, the same general characteristics, in every corner; in the best and the worst alike. The whole place seemed restless and troubled; and the people were crowding and flitting to and fro, like the shadows in an uneasy dream.
'I have seen enough,' said Mr. Pickwick, as he threw himself into a chair in his little apartment. 'My head aches with these scenes, and my heart too. Henceforth I will be a prisoner in my own room.'
And Mr. Pickwick steadfastly adhered to this determination. For three long months he remained shut up, all day; only stealing out at night to breathe the air, when the greater part of his fellow-prisoners were in bed or carousing in their rooms. His health was beginning to suffer from the closeness of the confinement, but neither the often-repeated entreaties of Perker and his friends, nor the still more frequently-repeated warnings and admonitions of Mr. Samuel Weller, could induce him to alter one jot of his inflexible resolution.
CHAPTER XLVI. RECORDS A TOUCHING ACT OF DELICATE FEELING, NOT UNMIXED WITH PLEASANTRY, ACHIEVED AND PERFORMED BY Messrs. DODSON AND FOGG
It was within a week of the close of the month of July, that a hackney cabriolet, number unrecorded, was seen to proceed at a rapid pace up Goswell Street; three people were squeezed into it besides the driver, who sat in his own particular little dickey at the side; over the apron were hung two shawls, belonging to two small vixenish-looking ladies under the apron; between whom, compressed into a very small compass, was stowed away, a gentleman of heavy and subdued demeanour, who, whenever he ventured to make an observation, was snapped up short by one of the vixenish ladies before-mentioned. Lastly, the two vixenish ladies and the heavy gentleman were giving the driver contradictory directions, all tending to the one point, that he should stop at Mrs. Bardell's door; which the heavy gentleman, in direct opposition to, and defiance of, the vixenish ladies, contended was a green door and not a yellow one.
'Stop at the house with a green door, driver,' said the heavy gentleman.
'Oh! You perwerse creetur!' exclaimed one of the vixenish ladies. 'Drive to the 'ouse with the yellow door, cabmin.'
Upon this the cabman, who in a sudden effort to pull up at the house with the green door, had pulled the horse up so high that he nearly pulled him backward into the cabriolet, let the animal's fore-legs down to the ground again, and paused.
'Now vere am I to pull up?' inquired the driver. 'Settle it among yourselves. All I ask is, vere?'
Here the contest was renewed with increased violence; and the horse being troubled with a fly on his nose, the cabman humanely employed his leisure in lashing him about on the head, on the counter-irritation principle.
'Most wotes carries the day!' said one of the vixenish ladies at length. 'The 'ouse with the yellow door, cabman.'
But after the cabriolet had dashed up, in splendid style, to the house with the yellow door, 'making,' as one of the vixenish ladies triumphantly said, 'acterrally more noise than if one had come in one's own carriage,' and after the driver had dismounted to assist the ladies in getting out, the small round head of Master Thomas Bardell was thrust out of the one-pair window of a house with a red door, a few numbers off.
'Aggrawatin' thing!' said the vixenish lady last-mentioned, darting a withering glance at the heavy gentleman.
'My dear, it's not my fault,' said the gentleman.
'Don't talk to me, you creetur, don't,' retorted the lady. 'The house with the red door, cabmin. Oh! If ever a woman was troubled with a ruffinly creetur, that takes a pride and a pleasure in disgracing his wife on every possible occasion afore strangers, I am that woman!'
'You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Raddle,' said the other little woman, who was no other than Mrs. Cluppins. 'What have I been a-doing of?' asked Mr. Raddle.
'Don't talk to me, don't, you brute, for fear I should be perwoked to forgit my sect and strike you!' said Mrs. Raddle.
While this dialogue was going on, the driver was most ignominiously leading the horse, by the bridle, up to the house with the red door, which Master Bardell had already opened. Here was a mean and low way of arriving at a friend's house! No dashing up, with all the fire and fury of the animal; no jumping down of the driver; no loud knocking at the door; no opening of the apron with a crash at the very last moment, for fear of the ladies sitting in a draught; and then the man handing the shawls out, afterwards, as if he were a private coachman! The whole edge of the thing had been taken off—it was flatter than walking.
'Well, Tommy,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'how's your poor dear mother?'
'Oh, she's very well,' replied Master Bardell. 'She's in the front parlour, all ready. I'm ready too, I am.' Here Master Bardell put his hands in his pockets, and jumped off and on the bottom step of the door.
'Is anybody else a-goin', Tommy?' said Mrs. Cluppins, arranging her pelerine.
'Mrs. Sanders is going, she is,' replied Tommy; 'I'm going too, I am.'
'Drat the boy,' said little Mrs. Cluppins. 'He thinks of nobody but himself. Here, Tommy, dear.'
'Well,' said Master Bardell.
'Who else is a-goin', lovey?' said Mrs. Cluppins, in an insinuating manner.
'Oh! Mrs. Rogers is a-goin',' replied Master Bardell, opening his eyes very wide as he delivered the intelligence.
'What? The lady as has taken the lodgings!' ejaculated Mrs. Cluppins.
Master Bardell put his hands deeper down into his pockets, and nodded exactly thirty-five times, to imply that it was the lady-lodger, and no other.
'Bless us!' said Mrs. Cluppins. 'It's quite a party!'
'Ah, if you knew what was in the cupboard, you'd say so,' replied Master Bardell.
'What is there, Tommy?' said Mrs. Cluppins coaxingly. 'You'll tell ME, Tommy, I know.' 'No, I won't,' replied Master Bardell, shaking his head, and applying himself to the bottom step again.
'Drat the child!' muttered Mrs. Cluppins. 'What a prowokin' little wretch it is! Come, Tommy, tell your dear Cluppy.'
'Mother said I wasn't to,' rejoined Master Bardell, 'I'm a-goin' to have some, I am.' Cheered by this prospect, the precocious boy applied himself to his infantile treadmill, with increased vigour.
The above examination of a child of tender years took place while Mr. and Mrs. Raddle and the cab-driver were having an altercation concerning the fare, which, terminating at this point in favour of the cabman, Mrs. Raddle came up tottering.
'Lauk, Mary Ann! what's the matter?' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'It's put me all over in such a tremble, Betsy,' replied Mrs. Raddle. 'Raddle ain't like a man; he leaves everythink to me.'
This was scarcely fair upon the unfortunate Mr. Raddle, who had been thrust aside by his good lady in the commencement of the dispute, and peremptorily commanded to hold his tongue. He had no opportunity of defending himself, however, for Mrs. Raddle gave unequivocal signs of fainting; which, being perceived from the parlour window, Mrs. Bardell, Mrs. Sanders, the lodger, and the lodger's servant, darted precipitately out, and conveyed her into the house, all talking at the same time, and giving utterance to various expressions of pity and condolence, as if she were one of the most suffering mortals on earth. Being conveyed into the front parlour, she was there deposited on a sofa; and the lady from the first floor running up to the first floor, returned with a bottle of sal-volatile, which, holding Mrs. Raddle tight round the neck, she applied in all womanly kindness and pity to her nose, until that lady with many plunges and struggles was fain to declare herself decidedly better.
'Ah, poor thing!' said Mrs. Rogers, 'I know what her feelin's is, too well.' 'Ah, poor thing! so do I,' said Mrs. Sanders; and then all the ladies moaned in unison, and said they knew what it was, and they pitied her from their hearts, they did. Even the lodger's little servant, who was thirteen years old and three feet high, murmured her sympathy.
'But what's been the matter?' said Mrs. Bardell.
'Ah, what has decomposed you, ma'am?' inquired Mrs. Rogers.
'I have been a good deal flurried,' replied Mrs. Raddle, in a reproachful manner. Thereupon the ladies cast indignant glances at Mr. Raddle.
'Why, the fact is,' said that unhappy gentleman, stepping forward, 'when we alighted at this door, a dispute arose with the driver of the cabrioily—' A loud scream from his wife, at the mention of this word, rendered all further explanation inaudible.
'You'd better leave us to bring her round, Raddle,' said Mrs. Cluppins. 'She'll never get better as long as you're here.'
All the ladies concurred in this opinion; so Mr. Raddle was pushed out of the room, and requested to give himself an airing in the back yard. Which he did for about a quarter of an hour, when Mrs. Bardell announced to him with a solemn face that he might come in now, but that he must be very careful how he behaved towards his wife. She knew he didn't mean to be unkind; but Mary Ann was very far from strong, and, if he didn't take care, he might lose her when he least expected it, which would be a very dreadful reflection for him afterwards; and so on. All this, Mr. Raddle heard with great submission, and presently returned to the parlour in a most lamb-like manner.
'Why, Mrs. Rogers, ma'am,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'you've never been introduced, I declare! Mr. Raddle, ma'am; Mrs. Cluppins, ma'am; Mrs. Raddle, ma'am.'
'Which is Mrs. Cluppins's sister,' suggested Mrs. Sanders.
'Oh, indeed!' said Mrs. Rogers graciously; for she was the lodger, and her servant was in waiting, so she was more gracious than intimate, in right of her position. 'Oh, indeed!'
Mrs. Raddle smiled sweetly, Mr. Raddle bowed, and Mrs. Cluppins said, 'she was sure she was very happy to have an opportunity of being known to a lady which she had heerd so much in favour of, as Mrs. Rogers.' A compliment which the last-named lady acknowledged with graceful condescension.
'Well, Mr. Raddle,' said Mrs. Bardell; 'I'm sure you ought to feel very much honoured at you and Tommy being the only gentlemen to escort so many ladies all the way to the Spaniards, at Hampstead. Don't you think he ought, Mrs. Rogers, ma'am?' 'Oh, certainly, ma'am,' replied Mrs. Rogers; after whom all the other ladies responded, 'Oh, certainly.'
'Of course I feel it, ma'am,' said Mr. Raddle, rubbing his hands, and evincing a slight tendency to brighten up a little. 'Indeed, to tell you the truth, I said, as we was a-coming along in the cabrioily—'
At the recapitulation of the word which awakened so many painful recollections, Mrs. Raddle applied her handkerchief to her eyes again, and uttered a half-suppressed scream; so that Mrs. Bardell frowned upon Mr. Raddle, to intimate that he had better not say anything more, and desired Mrs. Rogers's servant, with an air, to 'put the wine on.'
This was the signal for displaying the hidden treasures of the closet, which comprised sundry plates of oranges and biscuits, and a bottle of old crusted port—that at one-and-nine—with another of the celebrated East India sherry at fourteen-pence, which were all produced in honour of the lodger, and afforded unlimited satisfaction to everybody. After great consternation had been excited in the mind of Mrs. Cluppins, by an attempt on the part of Tommy to recount how he had been cross-examined regarding the cupboard then in action (which was fortunately nipped in the bud by his imbibing half a glass of the old crusted 'the wrong way,' and thereby endangering his life for some seconds), the party walked forth in quest of a Hampstead stage. This was soon found, and in a couple of hours they all arrived safely in the Spaniards Tea-gardens, where the luckless Mr. Raddle's very first act nearly occasioned his good lady a relapse; it being neither more nor less than to order tea for seven, whereas (as the ladies one and all remarked), what could have been easier than for Tommy to have drank out of anybody's cup—or everybody's, if that was all—when the waiter wasn't looking, which would have saved one head of tea, and the tea just as good!
However, there was no help for it, and the tea-tray came, with seven cups and saucers, and bread-and-butter on the same scale. Mrs. Bardell was unanimously voted into the chair, and Mrs. Rogers being stationed on her right hand, and Mrs. Raddle on her left, the meal proceeded with great merriment and success.
'How sweet the country is, to be sure!' sighed Mrs. Rogers; 'I almost wish I lived in it always.'
'Oh, you wouldn't like that, ma'am,' replied Mrs. Bardell, rather hastily; for it was not at all advisable, with reference to the lodgings, to encourage such notions; 'you wouldn't like it, ma'am.'
'Oh! I should think you was a deal too lively and sought after, to be content with the country, ma'am,' said little Mrs. Cluppins.
'Perhaps I am, ma'am. Perhaps I am,' sighed the first-floor lodger.
'For lone people as have got nobody to care for them, or take care of them, or as have been hurt in their mind, or that kind of thing,' observed Mr. Raddle, plucking up a little cheerfulness, and looking round, 'the country is all very well. The country for a wounded spirit, they say.'
Now, of all things in the world that the unfortunate man could have said, any would have been preferable to this. Of course Mrs. Bardell burst into tears, and requested to be led from the table instantly; upon which the affectionate child began to cry too, most dismally.
'Would anybody believe, ma'am,' exclaimed Mrs. Raddle, turning fiercely to the first-floor lodger, 'that a woman could be married to such a unmanly creetur, which can tamper with a woman's feelings as he does, every hour in the day, ma'am?'
'My dear,' remonstrated Mr. Raddle, 'I didn't mean anything, my dear.'
'You didn't mean!' repeated Mrs. Raddle, with great scorn and contempt. 'Go away. I can't bear the sight on you, you brute.'
'You must not flurry yourself, Mary Ann,' interposed Mrs. Cluppins. 'You really must consider yourself, my dear, which you never do. Now go away, Raddle, there's a good soul, or you'll only aggravate her.'
'You had better take your tea by yourself, Sir, indeed,' said Mrs. Rogers, again applying the smelling-bottle.
Mrs. Sanders, who, according to custom, was very busy with the bread-and-butter, expressed the same opinion, and Mr. Raddle quietly retired.
After this, there was a great hoisting up of Master Bardell, who was rather a large size for hugging, into his mother's arms, in which operation he got his boots in the tea-board, and occasioned some confusion among the cups and saucers. But that description of fainting fits, which is contagious among ladies, seldom lasts long; so when he had been well kissed, and a little cried over, Mrs. Bardell recovered, set him down again, wondering how she could have been so foolish, and poured out some more tea.
It was at this moment, that the sound of approaching wheels was heard, and that the ladies, looking up, saw a hackney-coach stop at the garden gate.
'More company!' said Mrs. Sanders.
'It's a gentleman,' said Mrs. Raddle.
'Well, if it ain't Mr. Jackson, the young man from Dodson and Fogg's!' cried Mrs. Bardell. 'Why, gracious! Surely Mr. Pickwick can't have paid the damages.'
'Or hoffered marriage!' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'Dear me, how slow the gentleman is,'exclaimed Mrs. Rogers. 'Why doesn't he make haste!'
As the lady spoke these words, Mr. Jackson turned from the coach where he had been addressing some observations to a shabby man in black leggings, who had just emerged from the vehicle with a thick ash stick in his hand, and made his way to the place where the ladies were seated; winding his hair round the brim of his hat, as he came along. 'Is anything the matter? Has anything taken place, Mr. Jackson?' said Mrs. Bardell eagerly.
'Nothing whatever, ma'am,' replied Mr. Jackson. 'How de do, ladies? I have to ask pardon, ladies, for intruding—but the law, ladies—the law.' With this apology Mr. Jackson smiled, made a comprehensive bow, and gave his hair another wind. Mrs. Rogers whispered Mrs. Raddle that he was really an elegant young man.
'I called in Goswell Street,' resumed Mr. Jackson, 'and hearing that you were here, from the slavey, took a coach and came on. Our people want you down in the city directly, Mrs. Bardell.'
'Lor!' ejaculated that lady, starting at the sudden nature of the communication.
'Yes,' said Mr. Jackson, biting his lip. 'It's very important and pressing business, which can't be postponed on any account. Indeed, Dodson expressly said so to me, and so did Fogg. I've kept the coach on purpose for you to go back in.'
'How very strange!' exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.
The ladies agreed that it WAS very strange, but were unanimously of opinion that it must be very important, or Dodson & Fogg would never have sent; and further, that the business being urgent, she ought to repair to Dodson & Fogg's without any delay.
There was a certain degree of pride and importance about being wanted by one's lawyers in such a monstrous hurry, that was by no means displeasing to Mrs. Bardell, especially as it might be reasonably supposed to enhance her consequence in the eyes of the first-floor lodger. She simpered a little, affected extreme vexation and hesitation, and at last arrived at the conclusion that she supposed she must go.
'But won't you refresh yourself after your walk, Mr. Jackson?' said Mrs. Bardell persuasively.
'Why, really there ain't much time to lose,' replied Jackson; 'and I've got a friend here,' he continued, looking towards the man with the ash stick.
'Oh, ask your friend to come here, Sir,' said Mrs. Bardell. 'Pray ask your friend here, Sir.'
'Why, thank'ee, I'd rather not,' said Mr. Jackson, with some embarrassment of manner. 'He's not much used to ladies' society, and it makes him bashful. If you'll order the waiter to deliver him anything short, he won't drink it off at once, won't he!—only try him!' Mr. Jackson's fingers wandered playfully round his nose at this portion of his discourse, to warn his hearers that he was speaking ironically.
The waiter was at once despatched to the bashful gentleman, and the bashful gentleman took something; Mr. Jackson also took something, and the ladies took something, for hospitality's sake. Mr. Jackson then said he was afraid it was time to go; upon which, Mrs. Sanders, Mrs. Cluppins, and Tommy (who it was arranged should accompany Mrs. Bardell, leaving the others to Mr. Raddle's protection), got into the coach.
'Isaac,' said Jackson, as Mrs. Bardell prepared to get in, looking up at the man with the ash stick, who was seated on the box, smoking a cigar.
'This is Mrs. Bardell.'
'Oh, I know'd that long ago,' said the man.
Mrs. Bardell got in, Mr. Jackson got in after her, and away they drove. Mrs. Bardell could not help ruminating on what Mr. Jackson's friend had said. Shrewd creatures, those lawyers. Lord bless us, how they find people out!
'Sad thing about these costs of our people's, ain't it,' said Jackson, when Mrs. Cluppins and Mrs. Sanders had fallen asleep; 'your bill of costs, I mean.'
'I'm very sorry they can't get them,' replied Mrs. Bardell. 'But if you law gentlemen do these things on speculation, why you must get a loss now and then, you know.'
'You gave them a COGNOVIT for the amount of your costs, after the trial, I'm told!' said Jackson.
'Yes. Just as a matter of form,' replied Mrs. Bardell.
'Certainly,' replied Jackson drily. 'Quite a matter of form. Quite.'
On they drove, and Mrs. Bardell fell asleep. She was awakened, after some time, by the stopping of the coach.
'Bless us!' said the lady.'Are we at Freeman's Court?'
'We're not going quite so far,' replied Jackson. 'Have the goodness to step out.'
Mrs. Bardell, not yet thoroughly awake, complied. It was a curious place: a large wall, with a gate in the middle, and a gas-light burning inside.
'Now, ladies,' cried the man with the ash stick, looking into the coach, and shaking Mrs. Sanders to wake her, 'Come!' Rousing her friend, Mrs. Sanders alighted. Mrs. Bardell, leaning on Jackson's arm, and leading Tommy by the hand, had already entered the porch. They followed.
The room they turned into was even more odd-looking than the porch. Such a number of men standing about! And they stared so!
'What place is this?' inquired Mrs. Bardell, pausing.
'Only one of our public offices,' replied Jackson, hurrying her through a door, and looking round to see that the other women were following. 'Look sharp, Isaac!'
'Safe and sound,' replied the man with the ash stick. The door swung heavily after them, and they descended a small flight of steps.
'Here we are at last. All right and tight, Mrs. Bardell!' said Jackson, looking exultingly round.
'What do you mean?' said Mrs. Bardell, with a palpitating heart.
'Just this,' replied Jackson, drawing her a little on one side; 'don't be frightened, Mrs. Bardell. There never was a more delicate man than Dodson, ma'am, or a more humane man than Fogg. It was their duty in the way of business, to take you in execution for them costs; but they were anxious to spare your feelings as much as they could. What a comfort it must be, to you, to think how it's been done! This is the Fleet, ma'am. Wish you good-night, Mrs. Bardell. Good-night, Tommy!'
As Jackson hurried away in company with the man with the ash stick another man, with a key in his hand, who had been looking on, led the bewildered female to a second short flight of steps leading to a doorway. Mrs. Bardell screamed violently; Tommy roared; Mrs. Cluppins shrunk within herself; and Mrs. Sanders made off, without more ado. For there stood the injured Mr. Pickwick, taking his nightly allowance of air; and beside him leant Samuel Weller, who, seeing Mrs. Bardell, took his hat off with mock reverence, while his master turned indignantly on his heel.
'Don't bother the woman,' said the turnkey to Weller; 'she's just come in.'
'A prisoner!' said Sam, quickly replacing his hat. 'Who's the plaintives? What for? Speak up, old feller.'
'Dodson and Fogg,' replied the man; 'execution on COGNOVIT for costs.'
'Here, Job, Job!' shouted Sam, dashing into the passage. 'Run to Mr. Perker's, Job. I want him directly. I see some good in this. Here's a game. Hooray! vere's the gov'nor?'
But there was no reply to these inquiries, for Job had started furiously off, the instant he received his commission, and Mrs. Bardell had fainted in real downright earnest.
CHAPTER XLVII. IS CHIEFLY DEVOTED TO MATTERS OF BUSINESS, AND THE TEMPORAL ADVANTAGE OF DODSON AND FOGG—Mr. WINKLE REAPPEARS UNDER EXTRAORDINARY CIRCUMSTANCES—Mr. PICKWICK'S BENEVOLENCE PROVES STRONGER THAN HIS OBSTINACY
Job Trotter, abating nothing of his speed, ran up Holborn, sometimes in the middle of the road, sometimes on the pavement, sometimes in the gutter, as the chances of getting along varied with the press of men, women, children, and coaches, in each division of the thoroughfare, and, regardless of all obstacles stopped not for an instant until he reached the gate of Gray's Inn. Notwithstanding all the expedition he had used, however, the gate had been closed a good half-hour when he reached it, and by the time he had discovered Mr. Perker's laundress, who lived with a married daughter, who had bestowed her hand upon a non-resident waiter, who occupied the one-pair of some number in some street closely adjoining to some brewery somewhere behind Gray's Inn Lane, it was within fifteen minutes of closing the prison for the night. Mr. Lowten had still to be ferreted out from the back parlour of the Magpie and Stump; and Job had scarcely accomplished this object, and communicated Sam Weller's message, when the clock struck ten.
'There,' said Lowten, 'it's too late now. You can't get in to-night; you've got the key of the street, my friend.'
'Never mind me,' replied Job. 'I can sleep anywhere. But won't it be better to see Mr. Perker to-night, so that we may be there, the first thing in the morning?'
'Why,' responded Lowten, after a little consideration, 'if it was in anybody else's case, Perker wouldn't be best pleased at my going up to his house; but as it's Mr. Pickwick's, I think I may venture to take a cab and charge it to the office.' Deciding on this line of conduct, Mr. Lowten took up his hat, and begging the assembled company to appoint a deputy-chairman during his temporary absence, led the way to the nearest coach-stand. Summoning the cab of most promising appearance, he directed the driver to repair to Montague Place, Russell Square.
Mr. Perker had had a dinner-party that day, as was testified by the appearance of lights in the drawing-room windows, the sound of an improved grand piano, and an improvable cabinet voice issuing therefrom, and a rather overpowering smell of meat which pervaded the steps and entry. In fact, a couple of very good country agencies happening to come up to town, at the same time, an agreeable little party had been got together to meet them, comprising Mr. Snicks, the Life Office Secretary, Mr. Prosee, the eminent counsel, three solicitors, one commissioner of bankrupts, a special pleader from the Temple, a small-eyed peremptory young gentleman, his pupil, who had written a lively book about the law of demises, with a vast quantity of marginal notes and references; and several other eminent and distinguished personages. From this society, little Mr. Perker detached himself, on his clerk being announced in a whisper; and repairing to the dining-room, there found Mr. Lowten and Job Trotter looking very dim and shadowy by the light of a kitchen candle, which the gentleman who condescended to appear in plush shorts and cottons for a quarterly stipend, had, with a becoming contempt for the clerk and all things appertaining to 'the office,' placed upon the table.
'Now, Lowten,' said little Mr. Perker, shutting the door,'what's the matter? No important letter come in a parcel, is there?'
'No, Sir,' replied Lowten. 'This is a messenger from Mr. Pickwick, Sir.'
'From Pickwick, eh?' said the little man, turning quickly to Job. 'Well, what is it?'
'Dodson and Fogg have taken Mrs. Bardell in execution for her costs, Sir,' said Job.
'No!' exclaimed Perker, putting his hands in his pockets, and reclining against the sideboard.
'Yes,' said Job. 'It seems they got a cognovit out of her, for the amount of 'em, directly after the trial.'
'By Jove!' said Perker, taking both hands out of his pockets, and striking the knuckles of his right against the palm of his left, emphatically, 'those are the cleverest scamps I ever had anything to do with!'
'The sharpest practitioners I ever knew, Sir,' observed Lowten.
'Sharp!' echoed Perker. 'There's no knowing where to have them.'
'Very true, Sir, there is not,' replied Lowten; and then, both master and man pondered for a few seconds, with animated countenances, as if they were reflecting upon one of the most beautiful and ingenious discoveries that the intellect of man had ever made. When they had in some measure recovered from their trance of admiration, Job Trotter discharged himself of the rest of his commission. Perker nodded his head thoughtfully, and pulled out his watch.
'At ten precisely, I will be there,' said the little man. 'Sam is quite right. Tell him so. Will you take a glass of wine, Lowten?' 'No, thank you, Sir.'
'You mean yes, I think,' said the little man, turning to the sideboard for a decanter and glasses.
As Lowten DID mean yes, he said no more on the subject, but inquired of Job, in an audible whisper, whether the portrait of Perker, which hung opposite the fireplace, wasn't a wonderful likeness, to which Job of course replied that it was. The wine being by this time poured out, Lowten drank to Mrs. Perker and the children, and Job to Perker. The gentleman in the plush shorts and cottons considering it no part of his duty to show the people from the office out, consistently declined to answer the bell, and they showed themselves out. The attorney betook himself to his drawing-room, the clerk to the Magpie and Stump, and Job to Covent Garden Market to spend the night in a vegetable basket.
Punctually at the appointed hour next morning, the good-humoured little attorney tapped at Mr. Pickwick's door, which was opened with great alacrity by Sam Weller.
'Mr. Perker, sir,' said Sam, announcing the visitor to Mr. Pickwick, who was sitting at the window in a thoughtful attitude. 'Wery glad you've looked in accidentally, Sir. I rather think the gov'nor wants to have a word and a half with you, Sir.'
Perker bestowed a look of intelligence on Sam, intimating that he understood he was not to say he had been sent for; and beckoning him to approach, whispered briefly in his ear.
'You don't mean that 'ere, Sir?' said Sam, starting back in excessive surprise.
Perker nodded and smiled.
Mr. Samuel Weller looked at the little lawyer, then at Mr. Pickwick, then at the ceiling, then at Perker again; grinned, laughed outright, and finally, catching up his hat from the carpet, without further explanation, disappeared.
'What does this mean?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, looking at Perker with astonishment. 'What has put Sam into this extraordinary state?'
'Oh, nothing, nothing,' replied Perker. 'Come, my dear Sir, draw up your chair to the table. I have a good deal to say to you.'
'What papers are those?' inquired Mr. Pickwick, as the little man deposited on the table a small bundle of documents tied with red tape.
'The papers in Bardell and Pickwick,' replied Perker, undoing the knot with his teeth.
Mr. Pickwick grated the legs of his chair against the ground; and throwing himself into it, folded his hands and looked sternly—if Mr. Pickwick ever could look sternly—at his legal friend.
'You don't like to hear the name of the cause?' said the little man, still busying himself with the knot.
'No, I do not indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Sorry for that,' resumed Perker, 'because it will form the subject of our conversation.'
'I would rather that the subject should be never mentioned between us, Perker,' interposed Mr. Pickwick hastily.
'Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir,' said the little man, untying the bundle, and glancing eagerly at Mr. Pickwick out of the corners of his eyes. 'It must be mentioned. I have come here on purpose. Now, are you ready to hear what I have to say, my dear Sir? No hurry; if you are not, I can wait. I have this morning's paper here. Your time shall be mine. There!' Hereupon, the little man threw one leg over the other, and made a show of beginning to read with great composure and application.
'Well, well,' said Mr. Pickwick, with a sigh, but softening into a smile at the same time. 'Say what you have to say; it's the old story, I suppose?'
'With a difference, my dear Sir; with a difference,' rejoined Perker, deliberately folding up the paper and putting it into his pocket again. 'Mrs. Bardell, the plaintiff in the action, is within these walls, Sir.'
'I know it,' was Mr. Pickwick's reply.
'Very good,' retorted Perker. 'And you know how she comes here, I suppose; I mean on what grounds, and at whose suit?'
'Yes; at least I have heard Sam's account of the matter,' said Mr. Pickwick, with affected carelessness.
'Sam's account of the matter,' replied Perker, 'is, I will venture to say, a perfectly correct one. Well now, my dear Sir, the first question I have to ask, is, whether this woman is to remain here?'
'To remain here!' echoed Mr. Pickwick.
'To remain here, my dear Sir,' rejoined Perker, leaning back in his chair and looking steadily at his client.
'How can you ask me?' said that gentleman. 'It rests with Dodson and Fogg; you know that very well.'
'I know nothing of the kind,' retorted Perker firmly. 'It does NOT rest with Dodson and Fogg; you know the men, my dear Sir, as well as I do. It rests solely, wholly, and entirely with you.'
'With me!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, rising nervously from his chair, and reseating himself directly afterwards.
The little man gave a double-knock on the lid of his snuff-box, opened it, took a great pinch, shut it up again, and repeated the words, 'With you.'
'I say, my dear Sir,' resumed the little man, who seemed to gather confidence from the snuff—'I say, that her speedy liberation or perpetual imprisonment rests with you, and with you alone. Hear me out, my dear Sir, if you please, and do not be so very energetic, for it will only put you into a perspiration and do no good whatever. I say,' continued Perker, checking off each position on a different finger, as he laid it down—'I say that nobody but you can rescue her from this den of wretchedness; and that you can only do that, by paying the costs of this suit—both of plaintive and defendant—into the hands of these Freeman Court sharks. Now pray be quiet, my dear sir.'
Mr. Pickwick, whose face had been undergoing most surprising changes during this speech, and was evidently on the verge of a strong burst of indignation, calmed his wrath as well as he could. Perker, strengthening his argumentative powers with another pinch of snuff, proceeded—
'I have seen the woman, this morning. By paying the costs, you can obtain a full release and discharge from the damages; and further—this I know is a far greater object of consideration with you, my dear sir—a voluntary statement, under her hand, in the form of a letter to me, that this business was, from the very first, fomented, and encouraged, and brought about, by these men, Dodson and Fogg; that she deeply regrets ever having been the instrument of annoyance or injury to you; and that she entreats me to intercede with you, and implore your pardon.'
'If I pay her costs for her,' said Mr. Pickwick indignantly. 'A valuable document, indeed!'
'No "if" in the case, my dear Sir,' said Perker triumphantly. 'There is the very letter I speak of. Brought to my office by another woman at nine o'clock this morning, before I had set foot in this place, or held any communication with Mrs. Bardell, upon my honour.' Selecting the letter from the bundle, the little lawyer laid it at Mr. Pickwick's elbow, and took snuff for two consecutive minutes, without winking.
'Is this all you have to say to me?' inquired Mr. Pickwick mildly.
'Not quite,' replied Perker. 'I cannot undertake to say, at this moment, whether the wording of the cognovit, the nature of the ostensible consideration, and the proof we can get together about the whole conduct of the suit, will be sufficient to justify an indictment for conspiracy. I fear not, my dear Sir; they are too clever for that, I doubt. I do mean to say, however, that the whole facts, taken together, will be sufficient to justify you, in the minds of all reasonable men. And now, my dear Sir, I put it to you. This one hundred and fifty pounds, or whatever it may be—take it in round numbers—is nothing to you. A jury had decided against you; well, their verdict is wrong, but still they decided as they thought right, and it IS against you. You have now an opportunity, on easy terms, of placing yourself in a much higher position than you ever could, by remaining here; which would only be imputed, by people who didn't know you, to sheer dogged, wrongheaded, brutal obstinacy; nothing else, my dear Sir, believe me. Can you hesitate to avail yourself of it, when it restores you to your friends, your old pursuits, your health and amusements; when it liberates your faithful and attached servant, whom you otherwise doom to imprisonment for the whole of your life; and above all, when it enables you to take the very magnanimous revenge—which I know, my dear sir, is one after your own heart—of releasing this woman from a scene of misery and debauchery, to which no man should ever be consigned, if I had my will, but the infliction of which on any woman, is even more frightful and barbarous. Now I ask you, my dear sir, not only as your legal adviser, but as your very true friend, will you let slip the occasion of attaining all these objects, and doing all this good, for the paltry consideration of a few pounds finding their way into the pockets of a couple of rascals, to whom it makes no manner of difference, except that the more they gain, the more they'll seek, and so the sooner be led into some piece of knavery that must end in a crash? I have put these considerations to you, my dear Sir, very feebly and imperfectly, but I ask you to think of them. Turn them over in your mind as long as you please. I wait here most patiently for your answer.'
Before Mr. Pickwick could reply, before Mr. Perker had taken one twentieth part of the snuff with which so unusually long an address imperatively required to be followed up, there was a low murmuring of voices outside, and then a hesitating knock at the door.
'Dear, dear,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, who had been evidently roused by his friend's appeal; 'what an annoyance that door is! Who is that?'
'Me, Sir,' replied Sam Weller, putting in his head.
'I can't speak to you just now, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I am engaged at this moment, Sam.'
'Beg your pardon, Sir,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'But here's a lady here, Sir, as says she's somethin' wery partickler to disclose.'
'I can't see any lady,' replied Mr. Pickwick, whose mind was filled with visions of Mrs. Bardell.
'I wouldn't make too sure o' that, Sir,' urged Mr. Weller, shaking his head. 'If you know'd who was near, sir, I rayther think you'd change your note; as the hawk remarked to himself vith a cheerful laugh, ven he heerd the robin-redbreast a-singin' round the corner.'
'Who is it?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Will you see her, Sir?' asked Mr. Weller, holding the door in his hand as if he had some curious live animal on the other side.
'I suppose I must,' said Mr. Pickwick, looking at Perker.
'Well then, all in to begin!' cried Sam. 'Sound the gong, draw up the curtain, and enter the two conspiraytors.'
As Sam Weller spoke, he threw the door open, and there rushed tumultuously into the room, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, leading after him by the hand, the identical young lady who at Dingley Dell had worn the boots with the fur round the tops, and who, now a very pleasing compound of blushes and confusion, and lilac silk, and a smart bonnet, and a rich lace veil, looked prettier than ever.
'Miss Arabella Allen!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, rising from his chair.
'No,' replied Mr. Winkle, dropping on his knees. 'Mrs. Winkle. Pardon, my dear friend, pardon!'
Mr. Pickwick could scarcely believe the evidence of his senses, and perhaps would not have done so, but for the corroborative testimony afforded by the smiling countenance of Perker, and the bodily presence, in the background, of Sam and the pretty housemaid; who appeared to contemplate the proceedings with the liveliest satisfaction.
'Oh, Mr. Pickwick!' said Arabella, in a low voice, as if alarmed at the silence. 'Can you forgive my imprudence?'
Mr. Pickwick returned no verbal response to this appeal; but he took off his spectacles in great haste, and seizing both the young lady's hands in his, kissed her a great number of times—perhaps a greater number than was absolutely necessary—and then, still retaining one of her hands, told Mr. Winkle he was an audacious young dog, and bade him get up. This, Mr. Winkle, who had been for some seconds scratching his nose with the brim of his hat, in a penitent manner, did; whereupon Mr. Pickwick slapped him on the back several times, and then shook hands heartily with Perker, who, not to be behind-hand in the compliments of the occasion, saluted both the bride and the pretty housemaid with right good-will, and, having wrung Mr. Winkle's hand most cordially, wound up his demonstrations of joy by taking snuff enough to set any half-dozen men with ordinarily-constructed noses, a-sneezing for life. 'Why, my dear girl,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'how has all this come about? Come! Sit down, and let me hear it all. How well she looks, doesn't she, Perker?' added Mr. Pickwick, surveying Arabella's face with a look of as much pride and exultation, as if she had been his daughter.
'Delightful, my dear Sir,' replied the little man. 'If I were not a married man myself, I should be disposed to envy you, you dog.' Thus expressing himself, the little lawyer gave Mr. Winkle a poke in the chest, which that gentleman reciprocated; after which they both laughed very loudly, but not so loudly as Mr. Samuel Weller, who had just relieved his feelings by kissing the pretty housemaid under cover of the cupboard door.
'I can never be grateful enough to you, Sam, I am sure,' said Arabella, with the sweetest smile imaginable. 'I shall not forget your exertions in the garden at Clifton.'
'Don't say nothin' wotever about it, ma'am,' replied Sam. 'I only assisted natur, ma'am; as the doctor said to the boy's mother, after he'd bled him to death.'
'Mary, my dear, sit down,' said Mr. Pickwick, cutting short these compliments. 'Now then; how long have you been married, eh?'
Arabella looked bashfully at her lord and master, who replied, 'Only three days.'
'Only three days, eh?' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Why, what have you been doing these three months?'
'Ah, to be sure!' interposed Perker; 'come, account for this idleness. You see Mr. Pickwick's only astonishment is, that it wasn't all over, months ago.'
'Why the fact is,' replied Mr. Winkle, looking at his blushing young wife, 'that I could not persuade Bella to run away, for a long time. And when I had persuaded her, it was a long time more before we could find an opportunity. Mary had to give a month's warning, too, before she could leave her place next door, and we couldn't possibly have done it without her assistance.' 'Upon my word,' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, who by this time had resumed his spectacles, and was looking from Arabella to Winkle, and from Winkle to Arabella, with as much delight depicted in his countenance as warmheartedness and kindly feeling can communicate to the human face—'upon my word! you seem to have been very systematic in your proceedings. And is your brother acquainted with all this, my dear?'
'Oh, no, no,' replied Arabella, changing colour. 'Dear Mr. Pickwick, he must only know it from you—from your lips alone. He is so violent, so prejudiced, and has been so—so anxious in behalf of his friend, Mr. Sawyer,' added Arabella, looking down, 'that I fear the consequences dreadfully.'
'Ah, to be sure,' said Perker gravely. 'You must take this matter in hand for them, my dear sir. These young men will respect you, when they would listen to nobody else. You must prevent mischief, my dear Sir. Hot blood, hot blood.' And the little man took a warning pinch, and shook his head doubtfully.
'You forget, my love,' said Mr. Pickwick gently, 'you forget that I am a prisoner.'
'No, indeed I do not, my dear Sir,' replied Arabella. 'I never have forgotten it. I have never ceased to think how great your sufferings must have been in this shocking place. But I hoped that what no consideration for yourself would induce you to do, a regard to our happiness might. If my brother hears of this, first, from you, I feel certain we shall be reconciled. He is my only relation in the world, Mr. Pickwick, and unless you plead for me, I fear I have lost even him. I have done wrong, very, very wrong, I know.'Here poor Arabella hid her face in her handkerchief, and wept bitterly.
Mr. Pickwick's nature was a good deal worked upon, by these same tears; but when Mrs. Winkle, drying her eyes, took to coaxing and entreating in the sweetest tones of a very sweet voice, he became particularly restless, and evidently undecided how to act, as was evinced by sundry nervous rubbings of his spectacle-glasses, nose, tights, head, and gaiters.
Taking advantage of these symptoms of indecision, Mr. Perker (to whom, it appeared, the young couple had driven straight that morning) urged with legal point and shrewdness that Mr. Winkle, senior, was still unacquainted with the important rise in life's flight of steps which his son had taken; that the future expectations of the said son depended entirely upon the said Winkle, senior, continuing to regard him with undiminished feelings of affection and attachment, which it was very unlikely he would, if this great event were long kept a secret from him; that Mr. Pickwick, repairing to Bristol to seek Mr. Allen, might, with equal reason, repair to Birmingham to seek Mr. Winkle, senior; lastly, that Mr. Winkle, senior, had good right and title to consider Mr. Pickwick as in some degree the guardian and adviser of his son, and that it consequently behoved that gentleman, and was indeed due to his personal character, to acquaint the aforesaid Winkle, senior, personally, and by word of mouth, with the whole circumstances of the case, and with the share he had taken in the transaction.
Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass arrived, most opportunely, in this stage of the pleadings, and as it was necessary to explain to them all that had occurred, together with the various reasons pro and con, the whole of the arguments were gone over again, after which everybody urged every argument in his own way, and at his own length. And, at last, Mr. Pickwick, fairly argued and remonstrated out of all his resolutions, and being in imminent danger of being argued and remonstrated out of his wits, caught Arabella in his arms, and declaring that she was a very amiable creature, and that he didn't know how it was, but he had always been very fond of her from the first, said he could never find it in his heart to stand in the way of young people's happiness, and they might do with him as they pleased.
Mr. Weller's first act, on hearing this concession, was to despatch Job Trotter to the illustrious Mr. Pell, with an authority to deliver to the bearer the formal discharge which his prudent parent had had the foresight to leave in the hands of that learned gentleman, in case it should be, at any time, required on an emergency; his next proceeding was, to invest his whole stock of ready-money in the purchase of five-and-twenty gallons of mild porter, which he himself dispensed on the racket-ground to everybody who would partake of it; this done, he hurra'd in divers parts of the building until he lost his voice, and then quietly relapsed into his usual collected and philosophical condition.
At three o'clock that afternoon, Mr. Pickwick took a last look at his little room, and made his way, as well as he could, through the throng of debtors who pressed eagerly forward to shake him by the hand, until he reached the lodge steps. He turned here, to look about him, and his eye lightened as he did so. In all the crowd of wan, emaciated faces, he saw not one which was not happier for his sympathy and charity.
'Perker,' said Mr. Pickwick, beckoning one young man towards him, 'this is Mr. Jingle, whom I spoke to you about.'
'Very good, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, looking hard at Jingle. 'You will see me again, young man, to-morrow. I hope you may live to remember and feel deeply, what I shall have to communicate, Sir.'
Jingle bowed respectfully, trembled very much as he took Mr. Pickwick's proffered hand, and withdrew.
'Job you know, I think?' said Mr. Pickwick, presenting that gentleman.
'I know the rascal,' replied Perker good-humouredly. 'See after your friend, and be in the way to-morrow at one. Do you hear? Now, is there anything more?'
'Nothing,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick. 'You have delivered the little parcel I gave you for your old landlord, Sam?'
'I have, Sir,' replied Sam. 'He bust out a-cryin', Sir, and said you wos wery gen'rous and thoughtful, and he only wished you could have him innockilated for a gallopin' consumption, for his old friend as had lived here so long wos dead, and he'd noweres to look for another.' 'Poor fellow, poor fellow!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'God bless you, my friends!'
As Mr. Pickwick uttered this adieu, the crowd raised a loud shout. Many among them were pressing forward to shake him by the hand again, when he drew his arm through Perker's, and hurried from the prison, far more sad and melancholy, for the moment, than when he had first entered it. Alas! how many sad and unhappy beings had he left behind!
A happy evening was that for at least one party in the George and Vulture; and light and cheerful were two of the hearts that emerged from its hospitable door next morning. The owners thereof were Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, the former of whom was speedily deposited inside a comfortable post-coach, with a little dickey behind, in which the latter mounted with great agility.
'Sir,' called out Mr. Weller to his master.
'Well, Sam,' replied Mr. Pickwick, thrusting his head out of the window.
'I wish them horses had been three months and better in the Fleet, Sir.'
'Why, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Wy, Sir,' exclaimed Mr. Weller, rubbing his hands, 'how they would go if they had been!'
CHAPTER XLVIII. RELATES HOW Mr. PICKWICK, WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF SAMUEL WELLER, ESSAYED TO SOFTEN THE HEART OF Mr. BENJAMIN ALLEN, AND TO MOLLIFY THE WRATH OF Mr. ROBERT SAWYER
Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer sat together in the little surgery behind the shop, discussing minced veal and future prospects, when the discourse, not unnaturally, turned upon the practice acquired by Bob the aforesaid, and his present chances of deriving a competent independence from the honourable profession to which he had devoted himself.
'Which, I think,' observed Mr. Bob Sawyer, pursuing the thread of the subject—'which, I think, Ben, are rather dubious.'
'What's rather dubious?' inquired Mr. Ben Allen, at the same time sharpening his intellect with a draught of beer. 'What's dubious?'
'Why, the chances,' responded Mr. Bob Sawyer.
'I forgot,' said Mr. Ben Allen. 'The beer has reminded me that I forgot, Bob—yes; they ARE dubious.'
'It's wonderful how the poor people patronise me,' said Mr. Bob Sawyer reflectively. 'They knock me up, at all hours of the night; they take medicine to an extent which I should have conceived impossible; they put on blisters and leeches with a perseverance worthy of a better cause; they make additions to their families, in a manner which is quite awful. Six of those last-named little promissory notes, all due on the same day, Ben, and all intrusted to me!'