'We shall make Mr. Pickwick pay for peeping,' said Fogg, with considerable native humour, as he unfolded his papers. 'The amount of the taxed costs is one hundred and thirty-three, six, four, Mr. Perker.'
There was a great comparing of papers, and turning over of leaves, by Fogg and Perker, after this statement of profit and loss. Meanwhile, Dodson said, in an affable manner, to Mr. Pickwick—
'I don't think you are looking quite so stout as when I had the pleasure of seeing you last, Mr. Pickwick.'
'Possibly not, Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, who had been flashing forth looks of fierce indignation, without producing the smallest effect on either of the sharp practitioners; 'I believe I am not, Sir. I have been persecuted and annoyed by scoundrels of late, Sir.' Perker coughed violently, and asked Mr. Pickwick whether he wouldn't like to look at the morning paper. To which inquiry Mr. Pickwick returned a most decided negative.
'True,' said Dodson, 'I dare say you have been annoyed in the Fleet; there are some odd gentry there. Whereabouts were your apartments, Mr. Pickwick?'
'My one room,' replied that much-injured gentleman, 'was on the coffee-room flight.'
'Oh, indeed!' said Dodson. 'I believe that is a very pleasant part of the establishment.'
'Very,'replied Mr. Pickwick drily.
There was a coolness about all this, which, to a gentleman of an excitable temperament, had, under the circumstances, rather an exasperating tendency. Mr. Pickwick restrained his wrath by gigantic efforts; but when Perker wrote a cheque for the whole amount, and Fogg deposited it in a small pocket-book, with a triumphant smile playing over his pimply features, which communicated itself likewise to the stern countenance of Dodson, he felt the blood in his cheeks tingling with indignation.
'Now, Mr. Dodson,' said Fogg, putting up the pocket-book and drawing on his gloves, 'I am at your service.'
'Very good,' said Dodson, rising; 'I am quite ready.'
'I am very happy,' said Fogg, softened by the cheque, 'to have had the pleasure of making Mr. Pickwick's acquaintance. I hope you don't think quite so ill of us, Mr. Pickwick, as when we first had the pleasure of seeing you.'
'I hope not,' said Dodson, with the high tone of calumniated virtue. 'Mr. Pickwick now knows us better, I trust; whatever your opinion of gentlemen of our profession may be, I beg to assure you, sir, that I bear no ill-will or vindictive feeling towards you for the sentiments you thought proper to express in our office in Freeman's Court, Cornhill, on the occasion to which my partner has referred.'
'Oh, no, no; nor I,' said Fogg, in a most forgiving manner.
'Our conduct, Sir,' said Dodson, 'will speak for itself, and justify itself, I hope, upon every occasion. We have been in the profession some years, Mr. Pickwick, and have been honoured with the confidence of many excellent clients. I wish you good-morning, Sir.'
'Good-morning, Mr. Pickwick,' said Fogg. So saying, he put his umbrella under his arm, drew off his right glove, and extended the hand of reconciliation to that most indignant gentleman; who, thereupon, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and eyed the attorney with looks of scornful amazement.
'Lowten!' cried Perker, at this moment. 'Open the door.'
'Wait one instant,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Perker, I WILL speak.'
'My dear Sir, pray let the matter rest where it is,' said the little attorney, who had been in a state of nervous apprehension during the whole interview; 'Mr. Pickwick, I beg—'
'I will not be put down, Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick hastily. 'Mr. Dodson, you have addressed some remarks to me.'
Dodson turned round, bent his head meekly, and smiled.
'Some remarks to me,' repeated Mr. Pickwick, almost breathless; 'and your partner has tendered me his hand, and you have both assumed a tone of forgiveness and high-mindedness, which is an extent of impudence that I was not prepared for, even in you.'
'What, sir!' exclaimed Dodson.
'What, sir!' reiterated Fogg.
'Do you know that I have been the victim of your plots and conspiracies?' continued Mr. Pickwick. 'Do you know that I am the man whom you have been imprisoning and robbing? Do you know that you were the attorneys for the plaintiff, in Bardell and Pickwick?'
'Yes, sir, we do know it,' replied Dodson.
'Of course we know it, Sir,' rejoined Fogg, slapping his pocket—perhaps by accident.
'I see that you recollect it with satisfaction,' said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to call up a sneer for the first time in his life, and failing most signally in so doing. 'Although I have long been anxious to tell you, in plain terms, what my opinion of you is, I should have let even this opportunity pass, in deference to my friend Perker's wishes, but for the unwarrantable tone you have assumed, and your insolent familiarity. I say insolent familiarity, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition.
'Take care, Sir,' said Dodson, who, though he was the biggest man of the party, had prudently entrenched himself behind Fogg, and was speaking over his head with a very pale face. 'Let him assault you, Mr. Fogg; don't return it on any account.'
'No, no, I won't return it,' said Fogg, falling back a little more as he spoke; to the evident relief of his partner, who by these means was gradually getting into the outer office.
'You are,' continued Mr. Pickwick, resuming the thread of his discourse—'you are a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.'
'Well,' interposed Perker, 'is that all?'
'It is all summed up in that,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick; 'they are mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.'
'There!' said Perker, in a most conciliatory tone. 'My dear sirs, he has said all he has to say. Now pray go. Lowten, is that door open?'
Mr. Lowten, with a distant giggle, replied in the affirmative.
'There, there—good-morning—good-morning—now pray, my dear sirs—Mr. Lowten, the door!' cried the little man, pushing Dodson & Fogg, nothing loath, out of the office; 'this way, my dear sirs—now pray don't prolong this—Dear me—Mr. Lowten—the door, sir—why don't you attend?'
'If there's law in England, sir,' said Dodson, looking towards Mr. Pickwick, as he put on his hat, 'you shall smart for this.'
'You are a couple of mean—'
'Remember, sir, you pay dearly for this,' said Fogg.
'—Rascally, pettifogging robbers!' continued Mr. Pickwick, taking not the least notice of the threats that were addressed to him.
'Robbers!' cried Mr. Pickwick, running to the stair-head, as the two attorneys descended.
'Robbers!' shouted Mr. Pickwick, breaking from Lowten and Perker, and thrusting his head out of the staircase window.
When Mr. Pickwick drew in his head again, his countenance was smiling and placid; and, walking quietly back into the office, he declared that he had now removed a great weight from his mind, and that he felt perfectly comfortable and happy.
Perker said nothing at all until he had emptied his snuff-box, and sent Lowten out to fill it, when he was seized with a fit of laughing, which lasted five minutes; at the expiration of which time he said that he supposed he ought to be very angry, but he couldn't think of the business seriously yet—when he could, he would be.
'Well, now,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'let me have a settlement with you.' 'Of the same kind as the last?' inquired Perker, with another laugh. 'Not exactly,' rejoined Mr. Pickwick, drawing out his pocket-book, and shaking the little man heartily by the hand, 'I only mean a pecuniary settlement. You have done me many acts of kindness that I can never repay, and have no wish to repay, for I prefer continuing the obligation.'
With this preface, the two friends dived into some very complicated accounts and vouchers, which, having been duly displayed and gone through by Perker, were at once discharged by Mr. Pickwick with many professions of esteem and friendship.
They had no sooner arrived at this point, than a most violent and startling knocking was heard at the door; it was not an ordinary double-knock, but a constant and uninterrupted succession of the loudest single raps, as if the knocker were endowed with the perpetual motion, or the person outside had forgotten to leave off.
'Dear me, what's that?' exclaimed Perker, starting.
'I think it is a knock at the door,' said Mr. Pickwick, as if there could be the smallest doubt of the fact.
The knocker made a more energetic reply than words could have yielded, for it continued to hammer with surprising force and noise, without a moment's cessation.
'Dear me!' said Perker, ringing his bell, 'we shall alarm the inn. Mr. Lowten, don't you hear a knock?'
'I'll answer the door in one moment, Sir,' replied the clerk.
The knocker appeared to hear the response, and to assert that it was quite impossible he could wait so long. It made a stupendous uproar.
'It's quite dreadful,' said Mr. Pickwick, stopping his ears.
'Make haste, Mr. Lowten,' Perker called out; 'we shall have the panels beaten in.'
Mr. Lowten, who was washing his hands in a dark closet, hurried to the door, and turning the handle, beheld the appearance which is described in the next chapter.
CHAPTER LIV. CONTAINING SOME PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO THE DOUBLE KNOCK, AND OTHER MATTERS: AMONG WHICH CERTAIN INTERESTING DISCLOSURES RELATIVE TO Mr. SNODGRASS AND A YOUNG LADY ARE BY NO MEANS IRRELEVANT TO THIS HISTORY
The object that presented itself to the eyes of the astonished clerk, was a boy—a wonderfully fat boy—habited as a serving lad, standing upright on the mat, with his eyes closed as if in sleep. He had never seen such a fat boy, in or out of a travelling caravan; and this, coupled with the calmness and repose of his appearance, so very different from what was reasonably to have been expected of the inflicter of such knocks, smote him with wonder.
'What's the matter?' inquired the clerk.
The extraordinary boy replied not a word; but he nodded once, and seemed, to the clerk's imagination, to snore feebly.
'Where do you come from?' inquired the clerk.
The boy made no sign. He breathed heavily, but in all other respects was motionless.
The clerk repeated the question thrice, and receiving no answer, prepared to shut the door, when the boy suddenly opened his eyes, winked several times, sneezed once, and raised his hand as if to repeat the knocking. Finding the door open, he stared about him with astonishment, and at length fixed his eyes on Mr. Lowten's face.
'What the devil do you knock in that way for?' inquired the clerk angrily.
'Which way?' said the boy, in a slow and sleepy voice.
'Why, like forty hackney-coachmen,' replied the clerk.
'Because master said, I wasn't to leave off knocking till they opened the door, for fear I should go to sleep,' said the boy.
'Well,' said the clerk, 'what message have you brought?'
'He's downstairs,' rejoined the boy.
'Master. He wants to know whether you're at home.'
Mr. Lowten bethought himself, at this juncture, of looking out of the window. Seeing an open carriage with a hearty old gentleman in it, looking up very anxiously, he ventured to beckon him; on which, the old gentleman jumped out directly.
'That's your master in the carriage, I suppose?' said Lowten.
The boy nodded.
All further inquiries were superseded by the appearance of old Wardle, who, running upstairs and just recognising Lowten, passed at once into Mr. Perker's room.
'Pickwick!' said the old gentleman. 'Your hand, my boy! Why have I never heard until the day before yesterday of your suffering yourself to be cooped up in jail? And why did you let him do it, Perker?'
'I couldn't help it, my dear Sir,' replied Perker, with a smile and a pinch of snuff; 'you know how obstinate he is?'
'Of course I do; of course I do,' replied the old gentleman. 'I am heartily glad to see him, notwithstanding. I will not lose sight of him again, in a hurry.'
With these words, Wardle shook Mr. Pickwick's hand once more, and, having done the same by Perker, threw himself into an arm-chair, his jolly red face shining again with smiles and health.
'Well!' said Wardle. 'Here are pretty goings on—a pinch of your snuff, Perker, my boy—never were such times, eh?'
'What do you mean?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Mean!' replied Wardle. 'Why, I think the girls are all running mad; that's no news, you'll say? Perhaps it's not; but it's true, for all that.'
'You have not come up to London, of all places in the world, to tell us that, my dear Sir, have you?' inquired Perker.
'No, not altogether,' replied Wardle; 'though it was the main cause of my coming. How's Arabella?'
'Very well,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'and will be delighted to see you, I am sure.'
'Black-eyed little jilt!' replied Wardle. 'I had a great idea of marrying her myself, one of these odd days. But I am glad of it too, very glad.'
'How did the intelligence reach you?' asked Mr. Pickwick.
'Oh, it came to my girls, of course,'replied Wardle. 'Arabella wrote, the day before yesterday, to say she had made a stolen match without her husband's father's consent, and so you had gone down to get it when his refusing it couldn't prevent the match, and all the rest of it. I thought it a very good time to say something serious to my girls; so I said what a dreadful thing it was that children should marry without their parents' consent, and so forth; but, bless your hearts, I couldn't make the least impression upon them. They thought it such a much more dreadful thing that there should have been a wedding without bridesmaids, that I might as well have preached to Joe himself.' Here the old gentleman stopped to laugh; and having done so to his heart's content, presently resumed—
'But this is not the best of it, it seems. This is only half the love-making and plotting that have been going forward. We have been walking on mines for the last six months, and they're sprung at last.'
'What do you mean?' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning pale; 'no other secret marriage, I hope?'
'No, no,' replied old Wardle; 'not so bad as that; no.'
'What then?' inquired Mr. Pickwick; 'am I interested in it?'
'Shall I answer that question, Perker?' said Wardle.
'If you don't commit yourself by doing so, my dear Sir.'
'Well then, you are,' said Wardle.
'How?' asked Mr. Pickwick anxiously. 'In what way?'
'Really,' replied Wardle, 'you're such a fiery sort of a young fellow that I am almost afraid to tell you; but, however, if Perker will sit between us to prevent mischief, I'll venture.'
Having closed the room door, and fortified himself with another application to Perker's snuff-box, the old gentleman proceeded with his great disclosure in these words—
'The fact is, that my daughter Bella—Bella, who married young Trundle, you know.'
'Yes, yes, we know,' said Mr. Pickwick impatiently.
'Don't alarm me at the very beginning. My daughter Bella—Emily having gone to bed with a headache after she had read Arabella's letter to me—sat herself down by my side the other evening, and began to talk over this marriage affair. "Well, pa," she says, "what do you think of it?" "Why, my dear," I said, "I suppose it's all very well; I hope it's for the best." I answered in this way because I was sitting before the fire at the time, drinking my grog rather thoughtfully, and I knew my throwing in an undecided word now and then, would induce her to continue talking. Both my girls are pictures of their dear mother, and as I grow old I like to sit with only them by me; for their voices and looks carry me back to the happiest period of my life, and make me, for the moment, as young as I used to be then, though not quite so light-hearted. "It's quite a marriage of affection, pa," said Bella, after a short silence. "Yes, my dear," said I, "but such marriages do not always turn out the happiest."'
'I question that, mind!' interposed Mr. Pickwick warmly. 'Very good,' responded Wardle, 'question anything you like when it's your turn to speak, but don't interrupt me.'
'I beg your pardon,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Granted,' replied Wardle. '"I am sorry to hear you express your opinion against marriages of affection, pa," said Bella, colouring a little. "I was wrong; I ought not to have said so, my dear, either," said I, patting her cheek as kindly as a rough old fellow like me could pat it, "for your mother's was one, and so was yours." "It's not that I meant, pa," said Bella. "The fact is, pa, I wanted to speak to you about Emily."'
Mr. Pickwick started.
'What's the matter now?' inquired Wardle, stopping in his narrative.
'Nothing,'replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Pray go on.'
'I never could spin out a story,' said Wardle abruptly. 'It must come out, sooner or later, and it'll save us all a great deal of time if it comes at once. The long and the short of it is, then, that Bella at last mustered up courage to tell me that Emily was very unhappy; that she and your young friend Snodgrass had been in constant correspondence and communication ever since last Christmas; that she had very dutifully made up her mind to run away with him, in laudable imitation of her old friend and school-fellow; but that having some compunctions of conscience on the subject, inasmuch as I had always been rather kindly disposed to both of them, they had thought it better in the first instance to pay me the compliment of asking whether I would have any objection to their being married in the usual matter-of-fact manner. There now, Mr. Pickwick, if you can make it convenient to reduce your eyes to their usual size again, and to let me hear what you think we ought to do, I shall feel rather obliged to you!'
The testy manner in which the hearty old gentleman uttered this last sentence was not wholly unwarranted; for Mr. Pickwick's face had settled down into an expression of blank amazement and perplexity, quite curious to behold.
'Snodgrass!-since last Christmas!' were the first broken words that issued from the lips of the confounded gentleman.
'Since last Christmas,' replied Wardle; 'that's plain enough, and very bad spectacles we must have worn, not to have discovered it before.'
'I don't understand it,' said Mr. Pickwick, ruminating; 'I cannot really understand it.'
'It's easy enough to understand it,' replied the choleric old gentleman. 'If you had been a younger man, you would have been in the secret long ago; and besides,' added Wardle, after a moment's hesitation, 'the truth is, that, knowing nothing of this matter, I have rather pressed Emily for four or five months past, to receive favourably (if she could; I would never attempt to force a girl's inclinations) the addresses of a young gentleman down in our neighbourhood. I have no doubt that, girl-like, to enhance her own value and increase the ardour of Mr. Snodgrass, she has represented this matter in very glowing colours, and that they have both arrived at the conclusion that they are a terribly-persecuted pair of unfortunates, and have no resource but clandestine matrimony, or charcoal. Now the question is, what's to be done?'
'What have YOU done?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'I mean what did you do when your married daughter told you this?'
'Oh, I made a fool of myself of course,' rejoined Wardle.
'Just so,' interposed Perker, who had accompanied this dialogue with sundry twitchings of his watch-chain, vindictive rubbings of his nose, and other symptoms of impatience. 'That's very natural; but how?'
'I went into a great passion and frightened my mother into a fit,' said Wardle.
'That was judicious,' remarked Perker; 'and what else?'
'I fretted and fumed all next day, and raised a great disturbance,' rejoined the old gentleman. 'At last I got tired of rendering myself unpleasant and making everybody miserable; so I hired a carriage at Muggleton, and, putting my own horses in it, came up to town, under pretence of bringing Emily to see Arabella.'
'Miss Wardle is with you, then?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'To be sure she is,' replied Wardle. 'She is at Osborne's Hotel in the Adelphi at this moment, unless your enterprising friend has run away with her since I came out this morning.'
'You are reconciled then?' said Perker.
'Not a bit of it,' answered Wardle; 'she has been crying and moping ever since, except last night, between tea and supper, when she made a great parade of writing a letter that I pretended to take no notice of.'
'You want my advice in this matter, I suppose?' said Perker, looking from the musing face of Mr. Pickwick to the eager countenance of Wardle, and taking several consecutive pinches of his favourite stimulant.
'I suppose so,' said Wardle, looking at Mr. Pickwick.
'Certainly,' replied that gentleman.
'Well then,' said Perker, rising and pushing his chair back, 'my advice is, that you both walk away together, or ride away, or get away by some means or other, for I'm tired of you, and just talk this matter over between you. If you have not settled it by the next time I see you, I'll tell you what to do.'
'This is satisfactory,' said Wardle, hardly knowing whether to smile or be offended.
'Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir,' returned Perker. 'I know you both a great deal better than you know yourselves. You have settled it already, to all intents and purposes.'
Thus expressing himself, the little gentleman poked his snuff-box first into the chest of Mr. Pickwick, and then into the waistcoat of Mr. Wardle, upon which they all three laughed, especially the two last-named gentlemen, who at once shook hands again, without any obvious or particular reason.
'You dine with me to-day,' said Wardle to Perker, as he showed them out.
'Can't promise, my dear Sir, can't promise,' replied Perker. 'I'll look in, in the evening, at all events.'
'I shall expect you at five,' said Wardle. 'Now, Joe!' And Joe having been at length awakened, the two friends departed in Mr. Wardle's carriage, which in common humanity had a dickey behind for the fat boy, who, if there had been a footboard instead, would have rolled off and killed himself in his very first nap.
Driving to the George and Vulture, they found that Arabella and her maid had sent for a hackney-coach immediately on the receipt of a short note from Emily announcing her arrival in town, and had proceeded straight to the Adelphi. As Wardle had business to transact in the city, they sent the carriage and the fat boy to his hotel, with the information that he and Mr. Pickwick would return together to dinner at five o'clock.
Charged with this message, the fat boy returned, slumbering as peaceably in his dickey, over the stones, as if it had been a down bed on watch springs. By some extraordinary miracle he awoke of his own accord, when the coach stopped, and giving himself a good shake to stir up his faculties, went upstairs to execute his commission.
Now, whether the shake had jumbled the fat boy's faculties together, instead of arranging them in proper order, or had roused such a quantity of new ideas within him as to render him oblivious of ordinary forms and ceremonies, or (which is also possible) had proved unsuccessful in preventing his falling asleep as he ascended the stairs, it is an undoubted fact that he walked into the sitting-room without previously knocking at the door; and so beheld a gentleman with his arms clasping his young mistress's waist, sitting very lovingly by her side on a sofa, while Arabella and her pretty handmaid feigned to be absorbed in looking out of a window at the other end of the room. At the sight of this phenomenon, the fat boy uttered an interjection, the ladies a scream, and the gentleman an oath, almost simultaneously.
'Wretched creature, what do you want here?' said the gentleman, who it is needless to say was Mr. Snodgrass.
To this the fat boy, considerably terrified, briefly responded, 'Missis.'
'What do you want me for,' inquired Emily, turning her head aside, 'you stupid creature?'
'Master and Mr. Pickwick is a-going to dine here at five,' replied the fat boy.
'Leave the room!' said Mr. Snodgrass, glaring upon the bewildered youth.
'No, no, no,' added Emily hastily. 'Bella, dear, advise me.'
Upon this, Emily and Mr. Snodgrass, and Arabella and Mary, crowded into a corner, and conversed earnestly in whispers for some minutes, during which the fat boy dozed.
'Joe,' said Arabella, at length, looking round with a most bewitching smile, 'how do you do, Joe?'
'Joe,' said Emily, 'you're a very good boy; I won't forget you, Joe.'
'Joe,' said Mr. Snodgrass, advancing to the astonished youth, and seizing his hand, 'I didn't know you before. There's five shillings for you, Joe!"
'I'll owe you five, Joe,' said Arabella, 'for old acquaintance sake, you know;' and another most captivating smile was bestowed upon the corpulent intruder.
The fat boy's perception being slow, he looked rather puzzled at first to account for this sudden prepossession in his favour, and stared about him in a very alarming manner. At length his broad face began to show symptoms of a grin of proportionately broad dimensions; and then, thrusting half-a-crown into each of his pockets, and a hand and wrist after it, he burst into a horse laugh: being for the first and only time in his existence.
'He understands us, I see,' said Arabella. 'He had better have something to eat, immediately,' remarked Emily.
The fat boy almost laughed again when he heard this suggestion. Mary, after a little more whispering, tripped forth from the group and said—
'I am going to dine with you to-day, sir, if you have no objection.'
'This way,' said the fat boy eagerly. 'There is such a jolly meat-pie!'
With these words, the fat boy led the way downstairs; his pretty companion captivating all the waiters and angering all the chambermaids as she followed him to the eating-room.
There was the meat-pie of which the youth had spoken so feelingly, and there were, moreover, a steak, and a dish of potatoes, and a pot of porter.
'Sit down,' said the fat boy. 'Oh, my eye, how prime! I am SO hungry.'
Having apostrophised his eye, in a species of rapture, five or six times, the youth took the head of the little table, and Mary seated herself at the bottom.
'Will you have some of this?' said the fat boy, plunging into the pie up to the very ferules of the knife and fork.
'A little, if you please,' replied Mary.
The fat boy assisted Mary to a little, and himself to a great deal, and was just going to begin eating when he suddenly laid down his knife and fork, leaned forward in his chair, and letting his hands, with the knife and fork in them, fall on his knees, said, very slowly—
'I say! How nice you look!'
This was said in an admiring manner, and was, so far, gratifying; but still there was enough of the cannibal in the young gentleman's eyes to render the compliment a double one.
'Dear me, Joseph,' said Mary, affecting to blush, 'what do you mean?'
The fat boy, gradually recovering his former position, replied with a heavy sigh, and, remaining thoughtful for a few moments, drank a long draught of the porter. Having achieved this feat, he sighed again, and applied himself assiduously to the pie.
'What a nice young lady Miss Emily is!' said Mary, after a long silence.
The fat boy had by this time finished the pie. He fixed his eyes on Mary, and replied—'I knows a nicerer.'
'Indeed!' said Mary.
'Yes, indeed!' replied the fat boy, with unwonted vivacity.
'What's her name?' inquired Mary.
'So's hers,' said the fat boy. 'You're her.' The boy grinned to add point to the compliment, and put his eyes into something between a squint and a cast, which there is reason to believe he intended for an ogle.
'You mustn't talk to me in that way,' said Mary; 'you don't mean it.'
'Don't I, though?' replied the fat boy. 'I say?'
'Are you going to come here regular?'
'No,' rejoined Mary, shaking her head, 'I'm going away again to-night. Why?'
'Oh,' said the fat boy, in a tone of strong feeling; 'how we should have enjoyed ourselves at meals, if you had been!'
'I might come here sometimes, perhaps, to see you,' said Mary, plaiting the table-cloth in assumed coyness, 'if you would do me a favour.'
The fat boy looked from the pie-dish to the steak, as if he thought a favour must be in a manner connected with something to eat; and then took out one of the half-crowns and glanced at it nervously.
'Don't you understand me?' said Mary, looking slily in his fat face.
Again he looked at the half-crown, and said faintly, 'No.'
'The ladies want you not to say anything to the old gentleman about the young gentleman having been upstairs; and I want you too.'
'Is that all?' said the fat boy, evidently very much relieved, as he pocketed the half-crown again. 'Of course I ain't a-going to.'
'You see,' said Mary, 'Mr. Snodgrass is very fond of Miss Emily, and Miss Emily's very fond of him, and if you were to tell about it, the old gentleman would carry you all away miles into the country, where you'd see nobody.'
'No, no, I won't tell,' said the fat boy stoutly.
'That's a dear,' said Mary. 'Now it's time I went upstairs, and got my lady ready for dinner.'
'Don't go yet,' urged the fat boy.
'I must,' replied Mary. 'Good-bye, for the present.'
The fat boy, with elephantine playfulness, stretched out his arms to ravish a kiss; but as it required no great agility to elude him, his fair enslaver had vanished before he closed them again; upon which the apathetic youth ate a pound or so of steak with a sentimental countenance, and fell fast asleep.
There was so much to say upstairs, and there were so many plans to concert for elopement and matrimony in the event of old Wardle continuing to be cruel, that it wanted only half an hour of dinner when Mr. Snodgrass took his final adieu. The ladies ran to Emily's bedroom to dress, and the lover, taking up his hat, walked out of the room. He had scarcely got outside the door, when he heard Wardle's voice talking loudly, and looking over the banisters beheld him, followed by some other gentlemen, coming straight upstairs. Knowing nothing of the house, Mr. Snodgrass in his confusion stepped hastily back into the room he had just quitted, and passing thence into an inner apartment (Mr. Wardle's bedchamber), closed the door softly, just as the persons he had caught a glimpse of entered the sitting-room. These were Mr. Wardle, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and Mr. Benjamin Allen, whom he had no difficulty in recognising by their voices.
'Very lucky I had the presence of mind to avoid them,' thought Mr. Snodgrass with a smile, and walking on tiptoe to another door near the bedside; 'this opens into the same passage, and I can walk quietly and comfortably away.'
There was only one obstacle to his walking quietly and comfortably away, which was that the door was locked and the key gone.
'Let us have some of your best wine to-day, waiter,' said old Wardle, rubbing his hands.
'You shall have some of the very best, sir,' replied the waiter.
'Let the ladies know we have come in.'
Devoutly and ardently did Mr. Snodgrass wish that the ladies could know he had come in. He ventured once to whisper, 'Waiter!' through the keyhole, but the probability of the wrong waiter coming to his relief, flashed upon his mind, together with a sense of the strong resemblance between his own situation and that in which another gentleman had been recently found in a neighbouring hotel (an account of whose misfortunes had appeared under the head of 'Police' in that morning's paper), he sat himself on a portmanteau, and trembled violently.
'We won't wait a minute for Perker,' said Wardle, looking at his watch; 'he is always exact. He will be here, in time, if he means to come; and if he does not, it's of no use waiting. Ha! Arabella!'
'My sister!' exclaimed Mr. Benjamin Allen, folding her in a most romantic embrace.
'Oh, Ben, dear, how you do smell of tobacco,' said Arabella, rather overcome by this mark of affection.
'Do I?' said Mr. Benjamin Allen. 'Do I, Bella? Well, perhaps I do.'
Perhaps he did, having just left a pleasant little smoking-party of twelve medical students, in a small back parlour with a large fire.
'But I am delighted to see you,' said Mr. Ben Allen. 'Bless you, Bella!'
'There,' said Arabella, bending forward to kiss her brother; 'don't take hold of me again, Ben, dear, because you tumble me so.'
At this point of the reconciliation, Mr. Ben Allen allowed his feelings and the cigars and porter to overcome him, and looked round upon the beholders with damp spectacles.
'Is nothing to be said to me?' cried Wardle, with open arms.
'A great deal,' whispered Arabella, as she received the old gentleman's hearty caress and congratulation. 'You are a hard-hearted, unfeeling, cruel monster.'
'You are a little rebel,' replied Wardle, in the same tone, 'and I am afraid I shall be obliged to forbid you the house. People like you, who get married in spite of everybody, ought not to be let loose on society. But come!' added the old gentleman aloud, 'here's the dinner; you shall sit by me. Joe; why, damn the boy, he's awake!'
To the great distress of his master, the fat boy was indeed in a state of remarkable vigilance, his eyes being wide open, and looking as if they intended to remain so. There was an alacrity in his manner, too, which was equally unaccountable; every time his eyes met those of Emily or Arabella, he smirked and grinned; once, Wardle could have sworn, he saw him wink.
This alteration in the fat boy's demeanour originated in his increased sense of his own importance, and the dignity he acquired from having been taken into the confidence of the young ladies; and the smirks, and grins, and winks were so many condescending assurances that they might depend upon his fidelity. As these tokens were rather calculated to awaken suspicion than allay it, and were somewhat embarrassing besides, they were occasionally answered by a frown or shake of the head from Arabella, which the fat boy, considering as hints to be on his guard, expressed his perfect understanding of, by smirking, grinning, and winking, with redoubled assiduity.
'Joe,' said Mr. Wardle, after an unsuccessful search in all his pockets, 'is my snuff-box on the sofa?'
'No, sir,' replied the fat boy.
'Oh, I recollect; I left it on my dressing-table this morning,' said Wardle. 'Run into the next room and fetch it.'
The fat boy went into the next room; and, having been absent about a minute, returned with the snuff-box, and the palest face that ever a fat boy wore.
'What's the matter with the boy?' exclaimed Wardle.
'Nothen's the matter with me,' replied Joe nervously.
'Have you been seeing any spirits?' inquired the old gentleman.
'Or taking any?' added Ben Allen.
'I think you're right,' whispered Wardle across the table. 'He is intoxicated, I'm sure.'
Ben Allen replied that he thought he was; and, as that gentleman had seen a vast deal of the disease in question, Wardle was confirmed in an impression which had been hovering about his mind for half an hour, and at once arrived at the conclusion that the fat boy was drunk.
'Just keep your eye upon him for a few minutes,' murmured Wardle. 'We shall soon find out whether he is or not.'
The unfortunate youth had only interchanged a dozen words with Mr. Snodgrass, that gentleman having implored him to make a private appeal to some friend to release him, and then pushed him out with the snuff-box, lest his prolonged absence should lead to a discovery. He ruminated a little with a most disturbed expression of face, and left the room in search of Mary.
But Mary had gone home after dressing her mistress, and the fat boy came back again more disturbed than before.
Wardle and Mr. Ben Allen exchanged glances. 'Joe!' said Wardle.
'What did you go away for?'
The fat boy looked hopelessly in the face of everybody at table, and stammered out that he didn't know.
'Oh,' said Wardle, 'you don't know, eh? Take this cheese to Mr. Pickwick.'
Now, Mr. Pickwick being in the very best health and spirits, had been making himself perfectly delightful all dinner-time, and was at this moment engaged in an energetic conversation with Emily and Mr. Winkle; bowing his head, courteously, in the emphasis of his discourse, gently waving his left hand to lend force to his observations, and all glowing with placid smiles. He took a piece of cheese from the plate, and was on the point of turning round to renew the conversation, when the fat boy, stooping so as to bring his head on a level with that of Mr. Pickwick, pointed with his thumb over his shoulder, and made the most horrible and hideous face that was ever seen out of a Christmas pantomime.
'Dear me!' said Mr. Pickwick, starting, 'what a very—Eh?' He stopped, for the fat boy had drawn himself up, and was, or pretended to be, fast asleep.
'What's the matter?' inquired Wardle.
'This is such an extremely singular lad!' replied Mr. Pickwick, looking uneasily at the boy. 'It seems an odd thing to say, but upon my word I am afraid that, at times, he is a little deranged.'
'Oh! Mr. Pickwick, pray don't say so,' cried Emily and Arabella, both at once.
'I am not certain, of course,' said Mr. Pickwick, amidst profound silence and looks of general dismay; 'but his manner to me this moment really was very alarming. Oh!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, suddenly jumping up with a short scream. 'I beg your pardon, ladies, but at that moment he ran some sharp instrument into my leg. Really, he is not safe.'
'He's drunk,' roared old Wardle passionately. 'Ring the bell! Call the waiters! He's drunk.'
'I ain't,' said the fat boy, falling on his knees as his master seized him by the collar. 'I ain't drunk.'
'Then you're mad; that's worse. Call the waiters,' said the old gentleman.
'I ain't mad; I'm sensible,' rejoined the fat boy, beginning to cry.
'Then, what the devil did you run sharp instruments into Mr. Pickwick's legs for?' inquired Wardle angrily.
'He wouldn't look at me,' replied the boy. 'I wanted to speak to him.'
'What did you want to say?' asked half a dozen voices at once.
The fat boy gasped, looked at the bedroom door, gasped again, and wiped two tears away with the knuckle of each of his forefingers.
'What did you want to say?' demanded Wardle, shaking him.
'Stop!' said Mr. Pickwick; 'allow me. What did you wish to communicate to me, my poor boy?'
'I want to whisper to you,' replied the fat boy.
'You want to bite his ear off, I suppose,' said Wardle. 'Don't come near him; he's vicious; ring the bell, and let him be taken downstairs.'
Just as Mr. Winkle caught the bell-rope in his hand, it was arrested by a general expression of astonishment; the captive lover, his face burning with confusion, suddenly walked in from the bedroom, and made a comprehensive bow to the company.
'Hollo!' cried Wardle, releasing the fat boy's collar, and staggering back. 'What's this?'
'I have been concealed in the next room, sir, since you returned,' explained Mr. Snodgrass.
'Emily, my girl,' said Wardle reproachfully, 'I detest meanness and deceit; this is unjustifiable and indelicate in the highest degree. I don't deserve this at your hands, Emily, indeed!'
'Dear papa,' said Emily, 'Arabella knows—everybody here knows—Joe knows—that I was no party to this concealment. Augustus, for Heaven's sake, explain it!'
Mr. Snodgrass, who had only waited for a hearing, at once recounted how he had been placed in his then distressing predicament; how the fear of giving rise to domestic dissensions had alone prompted him to avoid Mr. Wardle on his entrance; how he merely meant to depart by another door, but, finding it locked, had been compelled to stay against his will. It was a painful situation to be placed in; but he now regretted it the less, inasmuch as it afforded him an opportunity of acknowledging, before their mutual friends, that he loved Mr. Wardle's daughter deeply and sincerely; that he was proud to avow that the feeling was mutual; and that if thousands of miles were placed between them, or oceans rolled their waters, he could never for an instant forget those happy days, when first—et cetera, et cetera.
Having delivered himself to this effect, Mr. Snodgrass bowed again, looked into the crown of his hat, and stepped towards the door.
'Stop!' shouted Wardle. 'Why, in the name of all that's—'
'Inflammable,' mildly suggested Mr. Pickwick, who thought something worse was coming.
'Well—that's inflammable,' said Wardle, adopting the substitute; 'couldn't you say all this to me in the first instance?'
'Or confide in me?' added Mr. Pickwick.
'Dear, dear,' said Arabella, taking up the defence, 'what is the use of asking all that now, especially when you know you had set your covetous old heart on a richer son-in-law, and are so wild and fierce besides, that everybody is afraid of you, except me? Shake hands with him, and order him some dinner, for goodness gracious' sake, for he looks half starved; and pray have your wine up at once, for you'll not be tolerable until you have taken two bottles at least.'
The worthy old gentleman pulled Arabella's ear, kissed her without the smallest scruple, kissed his daughter also with great affection, and shook Mr. Snodgrass warmly by the hand.
'She is right on one point at all events,' said the old gentleman cheerfully. 'Ring for the wine!'
The wine came, and Perker came upstairs at the same moment. Mr. Snodgrass had dinner at a side table, and, when he had despatched it, drew his chair next Emily, without the smallest opposition on the old gentleman's part.
The evening was excellent. Little Mr. Perker came out wonderfully, told various comic stories, and sang a serious song which was almost as funny as the anecdotes. Arabella was very charming, Mr. Wardle very jovial, Mr. Pickwick very harmonious, Mr. Ben Allen very uproarious, the lovers very silent, Mr. Winkle very talkative, and all of them very happy.
CHAPTER LV. Mr. SOLOMON PELL, ASSISTED BY A SELECT COMMITTEE OF COACHMEN, ARRANGES THE AFFAIRS OF THE ELDER Mr. WELLER
'Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, accosting his son on the morning after the funeral, 'I've found it, Sammy. I thought it wos there.'
'Thought wot wos there?' inquired Sam.
'Your mother-in-law's vill, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller. 'In wirtue o' vich, them arrangements is to be made as I told you on, last night, respectin' the funs.'
'Wot, didn't she tell you were it wos?' inquired Sam.
'Not a bit on it, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller. 'We wos a adjestin' our little differences, and I wos a-cheerin' her spirits and bearin' her up, so that I forgot to ask anythin' about it. I don't know as I should ha' done it, indeed, if I had remembered it,' added Mr. Weller, 'for it's a rum sort o' thing, Sammy, to go a-hankerin' arter anybody's property, ven you're assistin' 'em in illness. It's like helping an outside passenger up, ven he's been pitched off a coach, and puttin' your hand in his pocket, vile you ask him, vith a sigh, how he finds his-self, Sammy.'
With this figurative illustration of his meaning, Mr. Weller unclasped his pocket-book, and drew forth a dirty sheet of letter-paper, on which were inscribed various characters crowded together in remarkable confusion.
'This here is the dockyment, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller. 'I found it in the little black tea-pot, on the top shelf o' the bar closet. She used to keep bank-notes there, 'fore she vos married, Samivel. I've seen her take the lid off, to pay a bill, many and many a time. Poor creetur, she might ha' filled all the tea-pots in the house vith vills, and not have inconwenienced herself neither, for she took wery little of anythin' in that vay lately, 'cept on the temperance nights, ven they just laid a foundation o' tea to put the spirits atop on!'
'What does it say?' inquired Sam.
'Jist vot I told you, my boy,' rejoined his parent. 'Two hundred pound vurth o' reduced counsels to my son-in-law, Samivel, and all the rest o' my property, of ev'ry kind and description votsoever, to my husband, Mr. Tony Veller, who I appint as my sole eggzekiter.'
'That's all, is it?' said Sam.
'That's all,' replied Mr. Weller. 'And I s'pose as it's all right and satisfactory to you and me as is the only parties interested, ve may as vell put this bit o' paper into the fire.'
'Wot are you a-doin' on, you lunatic?' said Sam, snatching the paper away, as his parent, in all innocence, stirred the fire preparatory to suiting the action to the word. 'You're a nice eggzekiter, you are.'
'Vy not?' inquired Mr. Weller, looking sternly round, with the poker in his hand.
'Vy not?' exclaimed Sam. ''Cos it must be proved, and probated, and swore to, and all manner o' formalities.'
'You don't mean that?' said Mr. Weller, laying down the poker.
Sam buttoned the will carefully in a side pocket; intimating by a look, meanwhile, that he did mean it, and very seriously too.
'Then I'll tell you wot it is,' said Mr. Weller, after a short meditation, 'this is a case for that 'ere confidential pal o' the Chancellorship's. Pell must look into this, Sammy. He's the man for a difficult question at law. Ve'll have this here brought afore the Solvent Court, directly, Samivel.'
'I never did see such a addle-headed old creetur!' exclaimed Sam irritably; 'Old Baileys, and Solvent Courts, and alleybis, and ev'ry species o' gammon alvays a-runnin' through his brain. You'd better get your out o' door clothes on, and come to town about this bisness, than stand a-preachin' there about wot you don't understand nothin' on.'
'Wery good, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, 'I'm quite agreeable to anythin' as vill hexpedite business, Sammy. But mind this here, my boy, nobody but Pell—nobody but Pell as a legal adwiser.'
'I don't want anybody else,' replied Sam. 'Now, are you a-comin'?'
'Vait a minit, Sammy,' replied Mr. Weller, who, having tied his shawl with the aid of a small glass that hung in the window, was now, by dint of the most wonderful exertions, struggling into his upper garments. 'Vait a minit' Sammy; ven you grow as old as your father, you von't get into your veskit quite as easy as you do now, my boy.'
'If I couldn't get into it easier than that, I'm blessed if I'd vear vun at all,' rejoined his son.
'You think so now,' said Mr. Weller, with the gravity of age, 'but you'll find that as you get vider, you'll get viser. Vidth and visdom, Sammy, alvays grows together.'
As Mr. Weller delivered this infallible maxim—the result of many years' personal experience and observation—he contrived, by a dexterous twist of his body, to get the bottom button of his coat to perform its office. Having paused a few seconds to recover breath, he brushed his hat with his elbow, and declared himself ready.
'As four heads is better than two, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, as they drove along the London Road in the chaise-cart, 'and as all this here property is a wery great temptation to a legal gen'l'm'n, ve'll take a couple o' friends o' mine vith us, as'll be wery soon down upon him if he comes anythin' irreg'lar; two o' them as saw you to the Fleet that day. They're the wery best judges,' added Mr. Weller, in a half-whisper—'the wery best judges of a horse, you ever know'd.'
'And of a lawyer too?' inquired Sam.
'The man as can form a ackerate judgment of a animal, can form a ackerate judgment of anythin',' replied his father, so dogmatically, that Sam did not attempt to controvert the position.
In pursuance of this notable resolution, the services of the mottled-faced gentleman and of two other very fat coachmen—selected by Mr. Weller, probably, with a view to their width and consequent wisdom—were put into requisition; and this assistance having been secured, the party proceeded to the public-house in Portugal Street, whence a messenger was despatched to the Insolvent Court over the way, requiring Mr. Solomon Pell's immediate attendance.
The messenger fortunately found Mr. Solomon Pell in court, regaling himself, business being rather slack, with a cold collation of an Abernethy biscuit and a saveloy. The message was no sooner whispered in his ear than he thrust them in his pocket among various professional documents, and hurried over the way with such alacrity that he reached the parlour before the messenger had even emancipated himself from the court.
'Gentlemen,' said Mr. Pell, touching his hat, 'my service to you all. I don't say it to flatter you, gentlemen, but there are not five other men in the world, that I'd have come out of that court for, to-day.'
'So busy, eh?' said Sam.
'Busy!' replied Pell; 'I'm completely sewn up, as my friend the late Lord Chancellor many a time used to say to me, gentlemen, when he came out from hearing appeals in the House of Lords. Poor fellow; he was very susceptible to fatigue; he used to feel those appeals uncommonly. I actually thought more than once that he'd have sunk under 'em; I did, indeed.'
Here Mr. Pell shook his head and paused; on which, the elder Mr. Weller, nudging his neighbour, as begging him to mark the attorney's high connections, asked whether the duties in question produced any permanent ill effects on the constitution of his noble friend.
'I don't think he ever quite recovered them,' replied Pell; 'in fact I'm sure he never did. "Pell," he used to say to me many a time, "how the blazes you can stand the head-work you do, is a mystery to me."—"Well," I used to answer, "I hardly know how I do it, upon my life."—"Pell," he'd add, sighing, and looking at me with a little envy—friendly envy, you know, gentlemen, mere friendly envy; I never minded it—"Pell, you're a wonder; a wonder." Ah! you'd have liked him very much if you had known him, gentlemen. Bring me three-penn'orth of rum, my dear.'
Addressing this latter remark to the waitress, in a tone of subdued grief, Mr. Pell sighed, looked at his shoes and the ceiling; and, the rum having by that time arrived, drank it up.
'However,' said Pell, drawing a chair to the table, 'a professional man has no right to think of his private friendships when his legal assistance is wanted. By the bye, gentlemen, since I saw you here before, we have had to weep over a very melancholy occurrence.'
Mr. Pell drew out a pocket-handkerchief, when he came to the word weep, but he made no further use of it than to wipe away a slight tinge of rum which hung upon his upper lip.
'I saw it in the ADVERTISER, Mr. Weller,' continued Pell. 'Bless my soul, not more than fifty-two! Dear me—only think.'
These indications of a musing spirit were addressed to the mottled-faced man, whose eyes Mr. Pell had accidentally caught; on which, the mottled-faced man, whose apprehension of matters in general was of a foggy nature, moved uneasily in his seat, and opined that, indeed, so far as that went, there was no saying how things was brought about; which observation, involving one of those subtle propositions which it is difficult to encounter in argument, was controverted by nobody.
'I have heard it remarked that she was a very fine woman, Mr. Weller,' said Pell, in a sympathising manner.
'Yes, sir, she wos,' replied the elder Mr. Weller, not much relishing this mode of discussing the subject, and yet thinking that the attorney, from his long intimacy with the late Lord Chancellor, must know best on all matters of polite breeding. 'She wos a wery fine 'ooman, sir, ven I first know'd her. She wos a widder, sir, at that time.'
'Now, it's curious,' said Pell, looking round with a sorrowful smile; 'Mrs. Pell was a widow.'
'That's very extraordinary,' said the mottled-faced man.
'Well, it is a curious coincidence,' said Pell.
'Not at all,' gruffly remarked the elder Mr. Weller. 'More widders is married than single wimin.'
'Very good, very good,' said Pell, 'you're quite right, Mr. Weller. Mrs. Pell was a very elegant and accomplished woman; her manners were the theme of universal admiration in our neighbourhood. I was proud to see that woman dance; there was something so firm and dignified, and yet natural, in her motion. Her cutting, gentlemen, was simplicity itself. Ah! well, well! Excuse my asking the question, Mr. Samuel,' continued the attorney in a lower voice, 'was your mother-in-law tall?'
'Not wery,' replied Sam.
'Mrs. Pell was a tall figure,' said Pell, 'a splendid woman, with a noble shape, and a nose, gentlemen, formed to command and be majestic. She was very much attached to me—very much—highly connected, too. Her mother's brother, gentlemen, failed for eight hundred pounds, as a law stationer.'
'Vell,' said Mr. Weller, who had grown rather restless during this discussion, 'vith regard to bis'ness.'
The word was music to Pell's ears. He had been revolving in his mind whether any business was to be transacted, or whether he had been merely invited to partake of a glass of brandy-and-water, or a bowl of punch, or any similar professional compliment, and now the doubt was set at rest without his appearing at all eager for its solution. His eyes glistened as he laid his hat on the table, and said—
'What is the business upon which—um? Either of these gentlemen wish to go through the court? We require an arrest; a friendly arrest will do, you know; we are all friends here, I suppose?'
'Give me the dockyment, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, taking the will from his son, who appeared to enjoy the interview amazingly. 'Wot we rekvire, sir, is a probe o' this here.'
'Probate, my dear Sir, probate,' said Pell.
'Well, sir,' replied Mr. Weller sharply, 'probe and probe it, is wery much the same; if you don't understand wot I mean, sir, I des-say I can find them as does.'
'No offence, I hope, Mr. Weller,' said Pell meekly. 'You are the executor, I see,' he added, casting his eyes over the paper.
'I am, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'These other gentlemen, I presume, are legatees, are they?' inquired Pell, with a congratulatory smile.
'Sammy is a leg-at-ease,' replied Mr. Weller; 'these other gen'l'm'n is friends o' mine, just come to see fair; a kind of umpires.'
'Oh!' said Pell, 'very good. I have no objections, I'm sure. I shall want a matter of five pound of you before I begin, ha! ha! ha!'
It being decided by the committee that the five pound might be advanced, Mr. Weller produced that sum; after which, a long consultation about nothing particular took place, in the course whereof Mr. Pell demonstrated to the perfect satisfaction of the gentlemen who saw fair, that unless the management of the business had been intrusted to him, it must all have gone wrong, for reasons not clearly made out, but no doubt sufficient. This important point being despatched, Mr. Pell refreshed himself with three chops, and liquids both malt and spirituous, at the expense of the estate; and then they all went away to Doctors' Commons.
The next day there was another visit to Doctors' Commons, and a great to-do with an attesting hostler, who, being inebriated, declined swearing anything but profane oaths, to the great scandal of a proctor and surrogate. Next week, there were more visits to Doctors' Commons, and there was a visit to the Legacy Duty Office besides, and there were treaties entered into, for the disposal of the lease and business, and ratifications of the same, and inventories to be made out, and lunches to be taken, and dinners to be eaten, and so many profitable things to be done, and such a mass of papers accumulated that Mr. Solomon Pell, and the boy, and the blue bag to boot, all got so stout that scarcely anybody would have known them for the same man, boy, and bag, that had loitered about Portugal Street, a few days before.
At length all these weighty matters being arranged, a day was fixed for selling out and transferring the stock, and of waiting with that view upon Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, stock-broker, of somewhere near the bank, who had been recommended by Mr. Solomon Pell for the purpose.
It was a kind of festive occasion, and the parties were attired accordingly. Mr. Weller's tops were newly cleaned, and his dress was arranged with peculiar care; the mottled-faced gentleman wore at his button-hole a full-sized dahlia with several leaves; and the coats of his two friends were adorned with nosegays of laurel and other evergreens. All three were habited in strict holiday costume; that is to say, they were wrapped up to the chins, and wore as many clothes as possible, which is, and has been, a stage-coachman's idea of full dress ever since stage-coaches were invented.
Mr. Pell was waiting at the usual place of meeting at the appointed time; even he wore a pair of gloves and a clean shirt, much frayed at the collar and wristbands by frequent washings.
'A quarter to two,' said Pell, looking at the parlour clock. 'If we are with Mr. Flasher at a quarter past, we shall just hit the best time.'
'What should you say to a drop o' beer, gen'l'm'n?' suggested the mottled-faced man. 'And a little bit o' cold beef,' said the second coachman.
'Or a oyster,' added the third, who was a hoarse gentleman, supported by very round legs.
'Hear, hear!' said Pell; 'to congratulate Mr. Weller, on his coming into possession of his property, eh? Ha! ha!'
'I'm quite agreeable, gen'l'm'n,' answered Mr. Weller. 'Sammy, pull the bell.'
Sammy complied; and the porter, cold beef, and oysters being promptly produced, the lunch was done ample justice to. Where everybody took so active a part, it is almost invidious to make a distinction; but if one individual evinced greater powers than another, it was the coachman with the hoarse voice, who took an imperial pint of vinegar with his oysters, without betraying the least emotion.
'Mr. Pell, Sir,' said the elder Mr. Weller, stirring a glass of brandy-and-water, of which one was placed before every gentleman when the oyster shells were removed—'Mr. Pell, Sir, it wos my intention to have proposed the funs on this occasion, but Samivel has vispered to me—'
Here Mr. Samuel Weller, who had silently eaten his oysters with tranquil smiles, cried, 'Hear!' in a very loud voice. —'Has vispered to me,' resumed his father, 'that it vould be better to dewote the liquor to vishin' you success and prosperity, and thankin' you for the manner in which you've brought this here business through. Here's your health, sir.'
'Hold hard there,' interposed the mottled-faced gentleman, with sudden energy; 'your eyes on me, gen'l'm'n!'
Saying this, the mottled-faced gentleman rose, as did the other gentlemen. The mottled-faced gentleman reviewed the company, and slowly lifted his hand, upon which every man (including him of the mottled countenance) drew a long breath, and lifted his tumbler to his lips. In one instant, the mottled-faced gentleman depressed his hand again, and every glass was set down empty. It is impossible to describe the thrilling effect produced by this striking ceremony. At once dignified, solemn, and impressive, it combined every element of grandeur.
'Well, gentlemen,' said Mr. Pell, 'all I can say is, that such marks of confidence must be very gratifying to a professional man. I don't wish to say anything that might appear egotistical, gentlemen, but I'm very glad, for your own sakes, that you came to me; that's all. If you had gone to any low member of the profession, it's my firm conviction, and I assure you of it as a fact, that you would have found yourselves in Queer Street before this. I could have wished my noble friend had been alive to have seen my management of this case. I don't say it out of pride, but I think—However, gentlemen, I won't trouble you with that. I'm generally to be found here, gentlemen, but if I'm not here, or over the way, that's my address. You'll find my terms very cheap and reasonable, and no man attends more to his clients than I do, and I hope I know a little of my profession besides. If you have any opportunity of recommending me to any of your friends, gentlemen, I shall be very much obliged to you, and so will they too, when they come to know me. Your healths, gentlemen.'
With this expression of his feelings, Mr. Solomon Pell laid three small written cards before Mr. Weller's friends, and, looking at the clock again, feared it was time to be walking. Upon this hint Mr. Weller settled the bill, and, issuing forth, the executor, legatee, attorney, and umpires, directed their steps towards the city.
The office of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, of the Stock Exchange, was in a first floor up a court behind the Bank of England; the house of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was at Brixton, Surrey; the horse and stanhope of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, were at an adjacent livery stable; the groom of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was on his way to the West End to deliver some game; the clerk of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, had gone to his dinner; and so Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, himself, cried, 'Come in,' when Mr. Pell and his companions knocked at the counting-house door.
'Good-morning, Sir,' said Pell, bowing obsequiously. 'We want to make a little transfer, if you please.'
'Oh, just come in, will you?' said Mr. Flasher. 'Sit down a minute; I'll attend to you directly.'
'Thank you, Sir,' said Pell, 'there's no hurry. Take a chair, Mr. Weller.'
Mr. Weller took a chair, and Sam took a box, and the umpires took what they could get, and looked at the almanac and one or two papers which were wafered against the wall, with as much open-eyed reverence as if they had been the finest efforts of the old masters.
'Well, I'll bet you half a dozen of claret on it; come!' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, resuming the conversation to which Mr. Pell's entrance had caused a momentary interruption.
This was addressed to a very smart young gentleman who wore his hat on his right whisker, and was lounging over the desk, killing flies with a ruler. Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was balancing himself on two legs of an office stool, spearing a wafer-box with a penknife, which he dropped every now and then with great dexterity into the very centre of a small red wafer that was stuck outside. Both gentlemen had very open waistcoats and very rolling collars, and very small boots, and very big rings, and very little watches, and very large guard-chains, and symmetrical inexpressibles, and scented pocket-handkerchiefs.
'I never bet half a dozen!' said the other gentleman. 'I'll take a dozen.'
'Done, Simmery, done!' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.
'P. P., mind,' observed the other.
'Of course,' replied Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, entered it in a little book, with a gold pencil-case, and the other gentleman entered it also, in another little book with another gold pencil-case.
'I see there's a notice up this morning about Boffer,' observed Mr. Simmery. 'Poor devil, he's expelled the house!'
'I'll bet you ten guineas to five, he cuts his throat,' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.
'Done,' replied Mr. Simmery.
'Stop! I bar,' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, thoughtfully. 'Perhaps he may hang himself.'
'Very good,' rejoined Mr. Simmery, pulling out the gold pencil-case again. 'I've no objection to take you that way. Say, makes away with himself.'
'Kills himself, in fact,' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.
'Just so,' replied Mr. Simmery, putting it down. '"Flasher—ten guineas to five, Boffer kills himself." Within what time shall we say?'
'A fortnight?' suggested Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.
'Con-found it, no,' rejoined Mr. Simmery, stopping for an instant to smash a fly with the ruler. 'Say a week.'
'Split the difference,' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. 'Make it ten days.'
'Well; ten days,'rejoined Mr. Simmery.
So it was entered down on the little books that Boffer was to kill himself within ten days, or Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was to hand over to Frank Simmery, Esquire, the sum of ten guineas; and that if Boffer did kill himself within that time, Frank Simmery, Esquire, would pay to Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, five guineas, instead.
'I'm very sorry he has failed,' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. 'Capital dinners he gave.'
'Fine port he had too,' remarked Mr. Simmery. 'We are going to send our butler to the sale to-morrow, to pick up some of that sixty-four.'
'The devil you are!' said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. 'My man's going too. Five guineas my man outbids your man.'
Another entry was made in the little books, with the gold pencil-cases; and Mr. Simmery, having by this time killed all the flies and taken all the bets, strolled away to the Stock Exchange to see what was going forward.
Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, now condescended to receive Mr. Solomon Pell's instructions, and having filled up some printed forms, requested the party to follow him to the bank, which they did: Mr. Weller and his three friends staring at all they beheld in unbounded astonishment, and Sam encountering everything with a coolness which nothing could disturb.
Crossing a courtyard which was all noise and bustle, and passing a couple of porters who seemed dressed to match the red fire engine which was wheeled away into a corner, they passed into an office where their business was to be transacted, and where Pell and Mr. Flasher left them standing for a few moments, while they went upstairs into the Will Office.
'Wot place is this here?' whispered the mottled-faced gentleman to the elder Mr. Weller.
'Counsel's Office,' replied the executor in a whisper.
'Wot are them gen'l'men a-settin' behind the counters?' asked the hoarse coachman.
'Reduced counsels, I s'pose,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Ain't they the reduced counsels, Samivel?'
'Wy, you don't suppose the reduced counsels is alive, do you?' inquired Sam, with some disdain.
'How should I know?' retorted Mr. Weller; 'I thought they looked wery like it. Wot are they, then?'
'Clerks,' replied Sam.
'Wot are they all a-eatin' ham sangwidges for?' inquired his father.
''Cos it's in their dooty, I suppose,' replied Sam, 'it's a part o' the system; they're alvays a-doin' it here, all day long!' Mr. Weller and his friends had scarcely had a moment to reflect upon this singular regulation as connected with the monetary system of the country, when they were rejoined by Pell and Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, who led them to a part of the counter above which was a round blackboard with a large 'W.' on it.
'Wot's that for, Sir?' inquired Mr. Weller, directing Pell's attention to the target in question.
'The first letter of the name of the deceased,' replied Pell.
'I say,' said Mr. Weller, turning round to the umpires, there's somethin' wrong here. We's our letter—this won't do.'
The referees at once gave it as their decided opinion that the business could not be legally proceeded with, under the letter W., and in all probability it would have stood over for one day at least, had it not been for the prompt, though, at first sight, undutiful behaviour of Sam, who, seizing his father by the skirt of the coat, dragged him to the counter, and pinned him there, until he had affixed his signature to a couple of instruments; which, from Mr. Weller's habit of printing, was a work of so much labour and time, that the officiating clerk peeled and ate three Ribstone pippins while it was performing.
As the elder Mr. Weller insisted on selling out his portion forthwith, they proceeded from the bank to the gate of the Stock Exchange, to which Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, after a short absence, returned with a cheque on Smith, Payne, & Smith, for five hundred and thirty pounds; that being the money to which Mr. Weller, at the market price of the day, was entitled, in consideration of the balance of the second Mrs. Weller's funded savings. Sam's two hundred pounds stood transferred to his name, and Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, having been paid his commission, dropped the money carelessly into his coat pocket, and lounged back to his office.
Mr. Weller was at first obstinately determined on cashing the cheque in nothing but sovereigns; but it being represented by the umpires that by so doing he must incur the expense of a small sack to carry them home in, he consented to receive the amount in five-pound notes.
'My son,' said Mr. Weller, as they came out of the banking-house—'my son and me has a wery partickler engagement this arternoon, and I should like to have this here bis'ness settled out of hand, so let's jest go straight avay someveres, vere ve can hordit the accounts.'
A quiet room was soon found, and the accounts were produced and audited. Mr. Pell's bill was taxed by Sam, and some charges were disallowed by the umpires; but, notwithstanding Mr. Pell's declaration, accompanied with many solemn asseverations that they were really too hard upon him, it was by very many degrees the best professional job he had ever had, and one on which he boarded, lodged, and washed, for six months afterwards.
The umpires having partaken of a dram, shook hands and departed, as they had to drive out of town that night. Mr. Solomon Pell, finding that nothing more was going forward, either in the eating or drinking way, took a friendly leave, and Sam and his father were left alone.
'There!' said Mr. Weller, thrusting his pocket-book in his side pocket. 'Vith the bills for the lease, and that, there's eleven hundred and eighty pound here. Now, Samivel, my boy, turn the horses' heads to the George and Wulter!'
CHAPTER LVI. AN IMPORTANT CONFERENCE TAKES PLACE BETWEEN Mr. PICKWICK AND SAMUEL WELLER, AT WHICH HIS PARENT ASSISTS—AN OLD GENTLEMAN IN A SNUFF-COLOURED SUIT ARRIVES UNEXPECTEDLY
Mr. Pickwick was sitting alone, musing over many things, and thinking among other considerations how he could best provide for the young couple whose present unsettled condition was matter of constant regret and anxiety to him, when Mary stepped lightly into the room, and, advancing to the table, said, rather hastily—
'Oh, if you please, Sir, Samuel is downstairs, and he says may his father see you?'
'Surely,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Thank you, Sir,' said Mary, tripping towards the door again.
'Sam has not been here long, has he?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Oh, no, Sir,' replied Mary eagerly. 'He has only just come home. He is not going to ask you for any more leave, Sir, he says.'
Mary might have been conscious that she had communicated this last intelligence with more warmth than seemed actually necessary, or she might have observed the good-humoured smile with which Mr. Pickwick regarded her, when she had finished speaking. She certainly held down her head, and examined the corner of a very smart little apron, with more closeness than there appeared any absolute occasion for.
'Tell them they can come up at once, by all means,' said Mr. Pickwick.
Mary, apparently much relieved, hurried away with her message.
Mr. Pickwick took two or three turns up and down the room; and, rubbing his chin with his left hand as he did so, appeared lost in thought.
'Well, well,' said Mr. Pickwick, at length in a kind but somewhat melancholy tone, 'it is the best way in which I could reward him for his attachment and fidelity; let it be so, in Heaven's name. It is the fate of a lonely old man, that those about him should form new and different attachments and leave him. I have no right to expect that it should be otherwise with me. No, no,' added Mr. Pickwick more cheerfully, 'it would be selfish and ungrateful. I ought to be happy to have an opportunity of providing for him so well. I am. Of course I am.'
Mr. Pickwick had been so absorbed in these reflections, that a knock at the door was three or four times repeated before he heard it. Hastily seating himself, and calling up his accustomed pleasant looks, he gave the required permission, and Sam Weller entered, followed by his father.
'Glad to see you back again, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'How do you do, Mr. Weller?'
'Wery hearty, thank'ee, sir,' replied the widower; 'hope I see you well, sir.'
'Quite, I thank you,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'I wanted to have a little bit o' conwersation with you, sir,' said Mr. Weller, 'if you could spare me five minits or so, sir.'
'Certainly,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Sam, give your father a chair.'
'Thank'ee, Samivel, I've got a cheer here,' said Mr. Weller, bringing one forward as he spoke; 'uncommon fine day it's been, sir,' added the old gentleman, laying his hat on the floor as he sat himself down.
'Remarkably so, indeed,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'Very seasonable.'
'Seasonablest veather I ever see, sir,' rejoined Mr. Weller. Here, the old gentleman was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which, being terminated, he nodded his head and winked and made several supplicatory and threatening gestures to his son, all of which Sam Weller steadily abstained from seeing.
Mr. Pickwick, perceiving that there was some embarrassment on the old gentleman's part, affected to be engaged in cutting the leaves of a book that lay beside him, and waited patiently until Mr. Weller should arrive at the object of his visit.
'I never see sich a aggrawatin' boy as you are, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, looking indignantly at his son; 'never in all my born days.'
'What is he doing, Mr. Weller?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'He von't begin, sir,' rejoined Mr. Weller; 'he knows I ain't ekal to ex-pressin' myself ven there's anythin' partickler to be done, and yet he'll stand and see me a-settin' here taking up your walable time, and makin' a reg'lar spectacle o' myself, rayther than help me out vith a syllable. It ain't filial conduct, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, wiping his forehead; 'wery far from it.'
'You said you'd speak,' replied Sam; 'how should I know you wos done up at the wery beginnin'?'
'You might ha' seen I warn't able to start,' rejoined his father; 'I'm on the wrong side of the road, and backin' into the palin's, and all manner of unpleasantness, and yet you von't put out a hand to help me. I'm ashamed on you, Samivel.'
'The fact is, Sir,' said Sam, with a slight bow, 'the gov'nor's been a-drawin' his money.'
'Wery good, Samivel, wery good,' said Mr. Weller, nodding his head with a satisfied air, 'I didn't mean to speak harsh to you, Sammy. Wery good. That's the vay to begin. Come to the pint at once. Wery good indeed, Samivel.'
Mr. Weller nodded his head an extraordinary number of times, in the excess of his gratification, and waited in a listening attitude for Sam to resume his statement.
'You may sit down, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, apprehending that the interview was likely to prove rather longer than he had expected.
Sam bowed again and sat down; his father looking round, he continued—
'The gov'nor, sir, has drawn out five hundred and thirty pound.'
'Reduced counsels,' interposed Mr. Weller, senior, in an undertone.
'It don't much matter vether it's reduced counsels, or wot not,' said Sam; 'five hundred and thirty pounds is the sum, ain't it?'
'All right, Samivel,' replied Mr. Weller.
'To vich sum, he has added for the house and bisness—'
'Lease, good-vill, stock, and fixters,' interposed Mr. Weller.
'As much as makes it,' continued Sam, 'altogether, eleven hundred and eighty pound.'
'Indeed!' said Mr. Pickwick. 'I am delighted to hear it. I congratulate you, Mr. Weller, on having done so well.'
'Vait a minit, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, raising his hand in a deprecatory manner. 'Get on, Samivel.'
'This here money,' said Sam, with a little hesitation, 'he's anxious to put someveres, vere he knows it'll be safe, and I'm wery anxious too, for if he keeps it, he'll go a-lendin' it to somebody, or inwestin' property in horses, or droppin' his pocket-book down an airy, or makin' a Egyptian mummy of his-self in some vay or another.'
'Wery good, Samivel,' observed Mr. Weller, in as complacent a manner as if Sam had been passing the highest eulogiums on his prudence and foresight. 'Wery good.'
'For vich reasons,' continued Sam, plucking nervously at the brim of his hat—'for vich reasons, he's drawn it out to-day, and come here vith me to say, leastvays to offer, or in other vords—'
'To say this here,' said the elder Mr. Weller impatiently, 'that it ain't o' no use to me. I'm a-goin' to vork a coach reg'lar, and ha'n't got noveres to keep it in, unless I vos to pay the guard for takin' care on it, or to put it in vun o' the coach pockets, vich 'ud be a temptation to the insides. If you'll take care on it for me, sir, I shall be wery much obliged to you. P'raps,' said Mr. Weller, walking up to Mr. Pickwick and whispering in his ear—'p'raps it'll go a little vay towards the expenses o' that 'ere conwiction. All I say is, just you keep it till I ask you for it again.' With these words, Mr. Weller placed the pocket-book in Mr. Pickwick's hands, caught up his hat, and ran out of the room with a celerity scarcely to be expected from so corpulent a subject.
'Stop him, Sam!' exclaimed Mr. Pickwick earnestly. 'Overtake him; bring him back instantly! Mr. Weller—here—come back!'
Sam saw that his master's injunctions were not to be disobeyed; and, catching his father by the arm as he was descending the stairs, dragged him back by main force.
'My good friend,' said Mr. Pickwick, taking the old man by the hand, 'your honest confidence overpowers me.'
'I don't see no occasion for nothin' o' the kind, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller obstinately.
'I assure you, my good friend, I have more money than I can ever need; far more than a man at my age can ever live to spend,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'No man knows how much he can spend, till he tries,' observed Mr. Weller.
'Perhaps not,' replied Mr. Pickwick; 'but as I have no intention of trying any such experiments, I am not likely to come to want. I must beg you to take this back, Mr. Weller.' 'Wery well,' said Mr. Weller, with a discontented look. 'Mark my vords, Sammy, I'll do somethin' desperate vith this here property; somethin' desperate!'
'You'd better not,' replied Sam.
Mr. Weller reflected for a short time, and then, buttoning up his coat with great determination, said—
'I'll keep a pike.'
'Wot!' exclaimed Sam.
'A pike!' rejoined Mr. Weller, through his set teeth; 'I'll keep a pike. Say good-bye to your father, Samivel. I dewote the remainder of my days to a pike.'
This threat was such an awful one, and Mr. Weller, besides appearing fully resolved to carry it into execution, seemed so deeply mortified by Mr. Pickwick's refusal, that that gentleman, after a short reflection, said—
'Well, well, Mr. Weller, I will keep your money. I can do more good with it, perhaps, than you can.'
'Just the wery thing, to be sure,' said Mr. Weller, brightening up; 'o' course you can, sir.'
'Say no more about it,' said Mr. Pickwick, locking the pocket-book in his desk; 'I am heartily obliged to you, my good friend. Now sit down again. I want to ask your advice.'
The internal laughter occasioned by the triumphant success of his visit, which had convulsed not only Mr. Weller's face, but his arms, legs, and body also, during the locking up of the pocket-book, suddenly gave place to the most dignified gravity as he heard these words.
'Wait outside a few minutes, Sam, will you?' said Mr. Pickwick.
Sam immediately withdrew.
Mr. Weller looked uncommonly wise and very much amazed, when Mr. Pickwick opened the discourse by saying—
'You are not an advocate for matrimony, I think, Mr. Weller?'
Mr. Weller shook his head. He was wholly unable to speak; vague thoughts of some wicked widow having been successful in her designs on Mr. Pickwick, choked his utterance.
'Did you happen to see a young girl downstairs when you came in just now with your son?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Yes. I see a young gal,' replied Mr. Weller shortly.
'What did you think of her, now? Candidly, Mr. Weller, what did you think of her?'
'I thought she wos wery plump, and vell made,' said Mr. Weller, with a critical air.
'So she is,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'so she is. What did you think of her manners, from what you saw of her?'
'Wery pleasant,' rejoined Mr. Weller. 'Wery pleasant and comformable.'
The precise meaning which Mr. Weller attached to this last-mentioned adjective, did not appear; but, as it was evident from the tone in which he used it that it was a favourable expression, Mr. Pickwick was as well satisfied as if he had been thoroughly enlightened on the subject.
'I take a great interest in her, Mr. Weller,' said Mr. Pickwick.
Mr. Weller coughed.
'I mean an interest in her doing well,' resumed Mr. Pickwick; 'a desire that she may be comfortable and prosperous. You understand?'
'Wery clearly,' replied Mr. Weller, who understood nothing yet.
'That young person,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is attached to your son.'
'To Samivel Veller!' exclaimed the parent.
'Yes,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'It's nat'ral,' said Mr. Weller, after some consideration, 'nat'ral, but rayther alarmin'. Sammy must be careful.'
'How do you mean?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'Wery careful that he don't say nothin' to her,' responded Mr. Weller. 'Wery careful that he ain't led avay, in a innocent moment, to say anythin' as may lead to a conwiction for breach. You're never safe vith 'em, Mr. Pickwick, ven they vunce has designs on you; there's no knowin' vere to have 'em; and vile you're a-considering of it, they have you. I wos married fust, that vay myself, Sir, and Sammy wos the consekens o' the manoover.'
'You give me no great encouragement to conclude what I have to say,' observed Mr. Pickwick, 'but I had better do so at once. This young person is not only attached to your son, Mr. Weller, but your son is attached to her.'
'Vell,' said Mr. Weller, 'this here's a pretty sort o' thing to come to a father's ears, this is!'
'I have observed them on several occasions,' said Mr. Pickwick, making no comment on Mr. Weller's last remark; 'and entertain no doubt at all about it. Supposing I were desirous of establishing them comfortably as man and wife in some little business or situation, where they might hope to obtain a decent living, what should you think of it, Mr. Weller?'
At first, Mr. Weller received with wry faces a proposition involving the marriage of anybody in whom he took an interest; but, as Mr. Pickwick argued the point with him, and laid great stress on the fact that Mary was not a widow, he gradually became more tractable. Mr. Pickwick had great influence over him, and he had been much struck with Mary's appearance; having, in fact, bestowed several very unfatherly winks upon her, already. At length he said that it was not for him to oppose Mr. Pickwick's inclination, and that he would be very happy to yield to his advice; upon which, Mr. Pickwick joyfully took him at his word, and called Sam back into the room.
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, clearing his throat, 'your father and I have been having some conversation about you.'
'About you, Samivel,' said Mr. Weller, in a patronising and impressive voice.
'I am not so blind, Sam, as not to have seen, a long time since, that you entertain something more than a friendly feeling towards Mrs. Winkle's maid,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'You hear this, Samivel?' said Mr. Weller, in the same judicial form of speech as before.
'I hope, Sir,' said Sam, addressing his master, 'I hope there's no harm in a young man takin' notice of a young 'ooman as is undeniably good-looking and well-conducted.'
'Certainly not,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Not by no means,' acquiesced Mr. Weller, affably but magisterially.
'So far from thinking there is anything wrong in conduct so natural,' resumed Mr. Pickwick, 'it is my wish to assist and promote your wishes in this respect. With this view, I have had a little conversation with your father; and finding that he is of my opinion—'
'The lady not bein' a widder,' interposed Mr. Weller in explanation.
'The lady not being a widow,' said Mr. Pickwick, smiling. 'I wish to free you from the restraint which your present position imposes upon you, and to mark my sense of your fidelity and many excellent qualities, by enabling you to marry this girl at once, and to earn an independent livelihood for yourself and family. I shall be proud, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, whose voice had faltered a little hitherto, but now resumed its customary tone, 'proud and happy to make your future prospects in life my grateful and peculiar care.'
There was a profound silence for a short time, and then Sam said, in a low, husky sort of voice, but firmly withal—
'I'm very much obliged to you for your goodness, Sir, as is only like yourself; but it can't be done.'
'Can't be done!' ejaculated Mr. Pickwick in astonishment.
'Samivel!' said Mr. Weller, with dignity.
'I say it can't be done,' repeated Sam in a louder key. 'Wot's to become of you, Sir?'
'My good fellow,' replied Mr. Pickwick, 'the recent changes among my friends will alter my mode of life in future, entirely; besides, I am growing older, and want repose and quiet. My rambles, Sam, are over.'
'How do I know that 'ere, sir?' argued Sam. 'You think so now! S'pose you wos to change your mind, vich is not unlikely, for you've the spirit o' five-and-twenty in you still, what 'ud become on you vithout me? It can't be done, Sir, it can't be done.'
'Wery good, Samivel, there's a good deal in that,' said Mr. Weller encouragingly.
'I speak after long deliberation, Sam, and with the certainty that I shall keep my word,' said Mr. Pickwick, shaking his head. 'New scenes have closed upon me; my rambles are at an end.'
'Wery good,' rejoined Sam. 'Then, that's the wery best reason wy you should alvays have somebody by you as understands you, to keep you up and make you comfortable. If you vant a more polished sort o' feller, vell and good, have him; but vages or no vages, notice or no notice, board or no board, lodgin' or no lodgin', Sam Veller, as you took from the old inn in the Borough, sticks by you, come what may; and let ev'rythin' and ev'rybody do their wery fiercest, nothin' shall ever perwent it!'
At the close of this declaration, which Sam made with great emotion, the elder Mr. Weller rose from his chair, and, forgetting all considerations of time, place, or propriety, waved his hat above his head, and gave three vehement cheers.
'My good fellow,' said Mr. Pickwick, when Mr. Weller had sat down again, rather abashed at his own enthusiasm, 'you are bound to consider the young woman also.'
'I do consider the young 'ooman, Sir,' said Sam. 'I have considered the young 'ooman. I've spoke to her. I've told her how I'm sitivated; she's ready to vait till I'm ready, and I believe she vill. If she don't, she's not the young 'ooman I take her for, and I give her up vith readiness. You've know'd me afore, Sir. My mind's made up, and nothin' can ever alter it.'
Who could combat this resolution? Not Mr. Pickwick. He derived, at that moment, more pride and luxury of feeling from the disinterested attachment of his humble friends, than ten thousand protestations from the greatest men living could have awakened in his heart.