'And got out again?' inquired Mr. Pickwick hastily.
'Why,' replied Sam very slowly, 'I rather think one old gen'l'm'n was missin'; I know his hat was found, but I ain't quite certain whether his head was in it or not. But what I look at is the hex-traordinary and wonderful coincidence, that arter what that gen'l'm'n said, my father's coach should be upset in that wery place, and on that wery day!'
'it is, no doubt, a very extraordinary circumstance indeed,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'But brush my hat, Sam, for I hear Mr. Winkle calling me to breakfast.'
With these words Mr. Pickwick descended to the parlour, where he found breakfast laid, and the family already assembled. The meal was hastily despatched; each of the gentlemen's hats was decorated with an enormous blue favour, made up by the fair hands of Mrs. Pott herself; and as Mr. Winkle had undertaken to escort that lady to a house-top, in the immediate vicinity of the hustings, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Pott repaired alone to the Town Arms, from the back window of which, one of Mr. Slumkey's committee was addressing six small boys and one girl, whom he dignified, at every second sentence, with the imposing title of 'Men of Eatanswill,' whereat the six small boys aforesaid cheered prodigiously.
The stable-yard exhibited unequivocal symptoms of the glory and strength of the Eatanswill Blues. There was a regular army of blue flags, some with one handle, and some with two, exhibiting appropriate devices, in golden characters four feet high, and stout in proportion. There was a grand band of trumpets, bassoons, and drums, marshalled four abreast, and earning their money, if ever men did, especially the drum-beaters, who were very muscular. There were bodies of constables with blue staves, twenty committee-men with blue scarfs, and a mob of voters with blue cockades. There were electors on horseback and electors afoot. There was an open carriage-and-four, for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey; and there were four carriage-and-pair, for his friends and supporters; and the flags were rustling, and the band was playing, and the constables were swearing, and the twenty committee-men were squabbling, and the mob were shouting, and the horses were backing, and the post-boys perspiring; and everybody, and everything, then and there assembled, was for the special use, behoof, honour, and renown, of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, one of the candidates for the representation of the borough of Eatanswill, in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom. Loud and long were the cheers, and mighty was the rustling of one of the blue flags, with 'Liberty of the Press' inscribed thereon, when the sandy head of Mr. Pott was discerned in one of the windows, by the mob beneath; and tremendous was the enthusiasm when the Honourable Samuel Slumkey himself, in top-boots, and a blue neckerchief, advanced and seized the hand of the said Pott, and melodramatically testified by gestures to the crowd, his ineffaceable obligations to the Eatanswill GAZETTE.
'Is everything ready?' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to Mr. Perker.
'Everything, my dear Sir,' was the little man's reply.
'Nothing has been omitted, I hope?' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
'Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir—nothing whatever. There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and six children in arms that you're to pat on the head, and inquire the age of; be particular about the children, my dear sir—it has always a great effect, that sort of thing.'
'I'll take care,' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
'And, perhaps, my dear Sir,' said the cautious little man, 'perhaps if you could—I don't mean to say it's indispensable—but if you could manage to kiss one of 'em, it would produce a very great impression on the crowd.'
'Wouldn't it have as good an effect if the proposer or seconder did that?' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.
'Why, I am afraid it wouldn't,' replied the agent; 'if it were done by yourself, my dear Sir, I think it would make you very popular.'
'Very well,' said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with a resigned air, 'then it must be done. That's all.'
'Arrange the procession,' cried the twenty committee-men.
Amidst the cheers of the assembled throng, the band, and the constables, and the committee-men, and the voters, and the horsemen, and the carriages, took their places—each of the two-horse vehicles being closely packed with as many gentlemen as could manage to stand upright in it; and that assigned to Mr. Perker, containing Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and about half a dozen of the committee besides.
There was a moment of awful suspense as the procession waited for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to step into his carriage. Suddenly the crowd set up a great cheering.
'He has come out,' said little Mr. Perker, greatly excited; the more so as their position did not enable them to see what was going forward.
Another cheer, much louder.
'He has shaken hands with the men,' cried the little agent.
Another cheer, far more vehement.
'He has patted the babies on the head,' said Mr. Perker, trembling with anxiety.
A roar of applause that rent the air.
'He has kissed one of 'em!' exclaimed the delighted little man.
A second roar.
'He has kissed another,' gasped the excited manager.
A third roar.
'He's kissing 'em all!' screamed the enthusiastic little gentleman, and hailed by the deafening shouts of the multitude, the procession moved on.
How or by what means it became mixed up with the other procession, and how it was ever extricated from the confusion consequent thereupon, is more than we can undertake to describe, inasmuch as Mr. Pickwick's hat was knocked over his eyes, nose, and mouth, by one poke of a Buff flag-staff, very early in the proceedings. He describes himself as being surrounded on every side, when he could catch a glimpse of the scene, by angry and ferocious countenances, by a vast cloud of dust, and by a dense crowd of combatants. He represents himself as being forced from the carriage by some unseen power, and being personally engaged in a pugilistic encounter; but with whom, or how, or why, he is wholly unable to state. He then felt himself forced up some wooden steps by the persons from behind; and on removing his hat, found himself surrounded by his friends, in the very front of the left hand side of the hustings. The right was reserved for the Buff party, and the centre for the mayor and his officers; one of whom—the fat crier of Eatanswill—was ringing an enormous bell, by way of commanding silence, while Mr. Horatio Fizkin, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with their hands upon their hearts, were bowing with the utmost affability to the troubled sea of heads that inundated the open space in front; and from whence arose a storm of groans, and shouts, and yells, and hootings, that would have done honour to an earthquake.
'There's Winkle,' said Mr. Tupman, pulling his friend by the sleeve.
'Where!' said Mr. Pickwick, putting on his spectacles, which he had fortunately kept in his pocket hitherto. 'There,' said Mr. Tupman, 'on the top of that house.' And there, sure enough, in the leaden gutter of a tiled roof, were Mr. Winkle and Mrs. Pott, comfortably seated in a couple of chairs, waving their handkerchiefs in token of recognition—a compliment which Mr. Pickwick returned by kissing his hand to the lady.
The proceedings had not yet commenced; and as an inactive crowd is generally disposed to be jocose, this very innocent action was sufficient to awaken their facetiousness.
'Oh, you wicked old rascal,' cried one voice, 'looking arter the girls, are you?'
'Oh, you wenerable sinner,' cried another.
'Putting on his spectacles to look at a married 'ooman!' said a third.
'I see him a-winkin' at her, with his wicked old eye,' shouted a fourth.
'Look arter your wife, Pott,' bellowed a fifth—and then there was a roar of laughter.
As these taunts were accompanied with invidious comparisons between Mr. Pickwick and an aged ram, and several witticisms of the like nature; and as they moreover rather tended to convey reflections upon the honour of an innocent lady, Mr. Pickwick's indignation was excessive; but as silence was proclaimed at the moment, he contented himself by scorching the mob with a look of pity for their misguided minds, at which they laughed more boisterously than ever.
'Silence!' roared the mayor's attendants.
'Whiffin, proclaim silence,' said the mayor, with an air of pomp befitting his lofty station. In obedience to this command the crier performed another concerto on the bell, whereupon a gentleman in the crowd called out 'Muffins'; which occasioned another laugh.
'Gentlemen,' said the mayor, at as loud a pitch as he could possibly force his voice to—'gentlemen. Brother electors of the borough of Eatanswill. We are met here to-day for the purpose of choosing a representative in the room of our late—'
Here the mayor was interrupted by a voice in the crowd.
'Suc-cess to the mayor!' cried the voice, 'and may he never desert the nail and sarspan business, as he got his money by.'
This allusion to the professional pursuits of the orator was received with a storm of delight, which, with a bell-accompaniment, rendered the remainder of his speech inaudible, with the exception of the concluding sentence, in which he thanked the meeting for the patient attention with which they heard him throughout—an expression of gratitude which elicited another burst of mirth, of about a quarter of an hour's duration.
Next, a tall, thin gentleman, in a very stiff white neckerchief, after being repeatedly desired by the crowd to 'send a boy home, to ask whether he hadn't left his voice under the pillow,' begged to nominate a fit and proper person to represent them in Parliament. And when he said it was Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, the Fizkinites applauded, and the Slumkeyites groaned, so long, and so loudly, that both he and the seconder might have sung comic songs in lieu of speaking, without anybody's being a bit the wiser.
The friends of Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, having had their innings, a little choleric, pink-faced man stood forward to propose another fit and proper person to represent the electors of Eatanswill in Parliament; and very swimmingly the pink-faced gentleman would have got on, if he had not been rather too choleric to entertain a sufficient perception of the fun of the crowd. But after a very few sentences of figurative eloquence, the pink-faced gentleman got from denouncing those who interrupted him in the mob, to exchanging defiances with the gentlemen on the hustings; whereupon arose an uproar which reduced him to the necessity of expressing his feelings by serious pantomime, which he did, and then left the stage to his seconder, who delivered a written speech of half an hour's length, and wouldn't be stopped, because he had sent it all to the Eatanswill GAZETTE, and the Eatanswill GAZETTE had already printed it, every word.
Then Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, presented himself for the purpose of addressing the electors; which he no sooner did, than the band employed by the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, commenced performing with a power to which their strength in the morning was a trifle; in return for which, the Buff crowd belaboured the heads and shoulders of the Blue crowd; on which the Blue crowd endeavoured to dispossess themselves of their very unpleasant neighbours the Buff crowd; and a scene of struggling, and pushing, and fighting, succeeded, to which we can no more do justice than the mayor could, although he issued imperative orders to twelve constables to seize the ringleaders, who might amount in number to two hundred and fifty, or thereabouts. At all these encounters, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and his friends, waxed fierce and furious; until at last Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, begged to ask his opponent, the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, whether that band played by his consent; which question the Honourable Samuel Slumkey declining to answer, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, shook his fist in the countenance of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall; upon which the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, his blood being up, defied Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, to mortal combat. At this violation of all known rules and precedents of order, the mayor commanded another fantasia on the bell, and declared that he would bring before himself, both Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, and bind them over to keep the peace. Upon this terrific denunciation, the supporters of the two candidates interfered, and after the friends of each party had quarrelled in pairs, for three-quarters of an hour, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, touched his hat to the Honourable Samuel Slumkey; the Honourable Samuel Slumkey touched his to Horatio Fizkin, Esquire; the band was stopped; the crowd were partially quieted; and Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, was permitted to proceed.
The speeches of the two candidates, though differing in every other respect, afforded a beautiful tribute to the merit and high worth of the electors of Eatanswill. Both expressed their opinion that a more independent, a more enlightened, a more public-spirited, a more noble-minded, a more disinterested set of men than those who had promised to vote for him, never existed on earth; each darkly hinted his suspicions that the electors in the opposite interest had certain swinish and besotted infirmities which rendered them unfit for the exercise of the important duties they were called upon to discharge. Fizkin expressed his readiness to do anything he was wanted: Slumkey, his determination to do nothing that was asked of him. Both said that the trade, the manufactures, the commerce, the prosperity of Eatanswill, would ever be dearer to their hearts than any earthly object; and each had it in his power to state, with the utmost confidence, that he was the man who would eventually be returned.
There was a show of hands; the mayor decided in favour of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall. Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, demanded a poll, and a poll was fixed accordingly. Then a vote of thanks was moved to the mayor for his able conduct in the chair; and the mayor, devoutly wishing that he had had a chair to display his able conduct in (for he had been standing during the whole proceedings), returned thanks. The processions reformed, the carriages rolled slowly through the crowd, and its members screeched and shouted after them as their feelings or caprice dictated.
During the whole time of the polling, the town was in a perpetual fever of excitement. Everything was conducted on the most liberal and delightful scale. Excisable articles were remarkably cheap at all the public-houses; and spring vans paraded the streets for the accommodation of voters who were seized with any temporary dizziness in the head—an epidemic which prevailed among the electors, during the contest, to a most alarming extent, and under the influence of which they might frequently be seen lying on the pavements in a state of utter insensibility. A small body of electors remained unpolled on the very last day. They were calculating and reflecting persons, who had not yet been convinced by the arguments of either party, although they had frequent conferences with each. One hour before the close of the poll, Mr. Perker solicited the honour of a private interview with these intelligent, these noble, these patriotic men. It was granted. His arguments were brief but satisfactory. They went in a body to the poll; and when they returned, the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, was returned also.
CHAPTER XIV. COMPRISING A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPANY AT THE PEACOCK ASSEMBLED; AND A TALE TOLD BY A BAGMAN
It is pleasant to turn from contemplating the strife and turmoil of political existence, to the peaceful repose of private life. Although in reality no great partisan of either side, Mr. Pickwick was sufficiently fired with Mr. Pott's enthusiasm, to apply his whole time and attention to the proceedings, of which the last chapter affords a description compiled from his own memoranda. Nor while he was thus occupied was Mr. Winkle idle, his whole time being devoted to pleasant walks and short country excursions with Mrs. Pott, who never failed, when such an opportunity presented itself, to seek some relief from the tedious monotony she so constantly complained of. The two gentlemen being thus completely domesticated in the editor's house, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were in a great measure cast upon their own resources. Taking but little interest in public affairs, they beguiled their time chiefly with such amusements as the Peacock afforded, which were limited to a bagatelle-board in the first floor, and a sequestered skittle-ground in the back yard. In the science and nicety of both these recreations, which are far more abstruse than ordinary men suppose, they were gradually initiated by Mr. Weller, who possessed a perfect knowledge of such pastimes. Thus, notwithstanding that they were in a great measure deprived of the comfort and advantage of Mr. Pickwick's society, they were still enabled to beguile the time, and to prevent its hanging heavily on their hands.
It was in the evening, however, that the Peacock presented attractions which enabled the two friends to resist even the invitations of the gifted, though prosy, Pott. It was in the evening that the 'commercial room' was filled with a social circle, whose characters and manners it was the delight of Mr. Tupman to observe; whose sayings and doings it was the habit of Mr. Snodgrass to note down.
Most people know what sort of places commercial rooms usually are. That of the Peacock differed in no material respect from the generality of such apartments; that is to say, it was a large, bare-looking room, the furniture of which had no doubt been better when it was newer, with a spacious table in the centre, and a variety of smaller dittos in the corners; an extensive assortment of variously shaped chairs, and an old Turkey carpet, bearing about the same relative proportion to the size of the room, as a lady's pocket-handkerchief might to the floor of a watch-box. The walls were garnished with one or two large maps; and several weather-beaten rough greatcoats, with complicated capes, dangled from a long row of pegs in one corner. The mantel-shelf was ornamented with a wooden inkstand, containing one stump of a pen and half a wafer; a road-book and directory; a county history minus the cover; and the mortal remains of a trout in a glass coffin. The atmosphere was redolent of tobacco-smoke, the fumes of which had communicated a rather dingy hue to the whole room, and more especially to the dusty red curtains which shaded the windows. On the sideboard a variety of miscellaneous articles were huddled together, the most conspicuous of which were some very cloudy fish-sauce cruets, a couple of driving-boxes, two or three whips, and as many travelling shawls, a tray of knives and forks, and the mustard.
Here it was that Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were seated on the evening after the conclusion of the election, with several other temporary inmates of the house, smoking and drinking.
'Well, gents,' said a stout, hale personage of about forty, with only one eye—a very bright black eye, which twinkled with a roguish expression of fun and good-humour, 'our noble selves, gents. I always propose that toast to the company, and drink Mary to myself. Eh, Mary!'
'Get along with you, you wretch,' said the hand-maiden, obviously not ill-pleased with the compliment, however.
'Don't go away, Mary,' said the black-eyed man.
'Let me alone, imperence,' said the young lady.
'Never mind,' said the one-eyed man, calling after the girl as she left the room. 'I'll step out by and by, Mary. Keep your spirits up, dear.' Here he went through the not very difficult process of winking upon the company with his solitary eye, to the enthusiastic delight of an elderly personage with a dirty face and a clay pipe.
'Rum creeters is women,' said the dirty-faced man, after a pause.
'Ah! no mistake about that,' said a very red-faced man, behind a cigar.
After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause.
'There's rummer things than women in this world though, mind you,' said the man with the black eye, slowly filling a large Dutch pipe, with a most capacious bowl.
'Are you married?' inquired the dirty-faced man.
'Can't say I am.'
'I thought not.' Here the dirty-faced man fell into ecstasies of mirth at his own retort, in which he was joined by a man of bland voice and placid countenance, who always made it a point to agree with everybody.
'Women, after all, gentlemen,' said the enthusiastic Mr. Snodgrass, 'are the great props and comforts of our existence.'
'So they are,' said the placid gentleman.
'When they're in a good humour,' interposed the dirty-faced man.
'And that's very true,' said the placid one.
'I repudiate that qualification,' said Mr. Snodgrass, whose thoughts were fast reverting to Emily Wardle. 'I repudiate it with disdain—with indignation. Show me the man who says anything against women, as women, and I boldly declare he is not a man.' And Mr. Snodgrass took his cigar from his mouth, and struck the table violently with his clenched fist.
'That's good sound argument,' said the placid man.
'Containing a position which I deny,' interrupted he of the dirty countenance.
'And there's certainly a very great deal of truth in what you observe too, Sir,' said the placid gentleman.
'Your health, Sir,' said the bagman with the lonely eye, bestowing an approving nod on Mr. Snodgrass.
Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged the compliment.
'I always like to hear a good argument,'continued the bagman, 'a sharp one, like this: it's very improving; but this little argument about women brought to my mind a story I have heard an old uncle of mine tell, the recollection of which, just now, made me say there were rummer things than women to be met with, sometimes.'
'I should like to hear that same story,' said the red-faced man with the cigar.
'Should you?' was the only reply of the bagman, who continued to smoke with great vehemence.
'So should I,' said Mr. Tupman, speaking for the first time. He was always anxious to increase his stock of experience.
'Should YOU? Well then, I'll tell it. No, I won't. I know you won't believe it,' said the man with the roguish eye, making that organ look more roguish than ever. 'If you say it's true, of course I shall,' said Mr. Tupman.
'Well, upon that understanding I'll tell you,' replied the traveller. 'Did you ever hear of the great commercial house of Bilson & Slum? But it doesn't matter though, whether you did or not, because they retired from business long since. It's eighty years ago, since the circumstance happened to a traveller for that house, but he was a particular friend of my uncle's; and my uncle told the story to me. It's a queer name; but he used to call it
THE BAGMAN'S STORY
and he used to tell it, something in this way.
'One winter's evening, about five o'clock, just as it began to grow dusk, a man in a gig might have been seen urging his tired horse along the road which leads across Marlborough Downs, in the direction of Bristol. I say he might have been seen, and I have no doubt he would have been, if anybody but a blind man had happened to pass that way; but the weather was so bad, and the night so cold and wet, that nothing was out but the water, and so the traveller jogged along in the middle of the road, lonesome and dreary enough. If any bagman of that day could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with a clay-coloured body and red wheels, and the vixenish, ill tempered, fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher's horse and a twopenny post-office pony, he would have known at once, that this traveller could have been no other than Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City. However, as there was no bagman to look on, nobody knew anything at all about the matter; and so Tom Smart and his clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, went on together, keeping the secret among them, and nobody was a bit the wiser.
'There are many pleasanter places even in this dreary world, than Marlborough Downs when it blows hard; and if you throw in beside, a gloomy winter's evening, a miry and sloppy road, and a pelting fall of heavy rain, and try the effect, by way of experiment, in your own proper person, you will experience the full force of this observation.
'The wind blew—not up the road or down it, though that's bad enough, but sheer across it, sending the rain slanting down like the lines they used to rule in the copy-books at school, to make the boys slope well. For a moment it would die away, and the traveller would begin to delude himself into the belief that, exhausted with its previous fury, it had quietly laid itself down to rest, when, whoo! he could hear it growling and whistling in the distance, and on it would come rushing over the hill-tops, and sweeping along the plain, gathering sound and strength as it drew nearer, until it dashed with a heavy gust against horse and man, driving the sharp rain into their ears, and its cold damp breath into their very bones; and past them it would scour, far, far away, with a stunning roar, as if in ridicule of their weakness, and triumphant in the consciousness of its own strength and power.
'The bay mare splashed away, through the mud and water, with drooping ears; now and then tossing her head as if to express her disgust at this very ungentlemanly behaviour of the elements, but keeping a good pace notwithstanding, until a gust of wind, more furious than any that had yet assailed them, caused her to stop suddenly and plant her four feet firmly against the ground, to prevent her being blown over. It's a special mercy that she did this, for if she HAD been blown over, the vixenish mare was so light, and the gig was so light, and Tom Smart such a light weight into the bargain, that they must infallibly have all gone rolling over and over together, until they reached the confines of earth, or until the wind fell; and in either case the probability is, that neither the vixenish mare, nor the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, nor Tom Smart, would ever have been fit for service again.
'"Well, damn my straps and whiskers," says Tom Smart (Tom sometimes had an unpleasant knack of swearing)—"damn my straps and whiskers," says Tom, "if this ain't pleasant, blow me!"
'You'll very likely ask me why, as Tom Smart had been pretty well blown already, he expressed this wish to be submitted to the same process again. I can't say—all I know is, that Tom Smart said so—or at least he always told my uncle he said so, and it's just the same thing.
"'Blow me," says Tom Smart; and the mare neighed as if she were precisely of the same opinion.
"'Cheer up, old girl," said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with the end of his whip. "It won't do pushing on, such a night as this; the first house we come to we'll put up at, so the faster you go the sooner it's over. Soho, old girl—gently—gently."
'Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the tones of Tom's voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found it colder standing still than moving on, of course I can't say. But I can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured gig rattle until you would have supposed every one of the red spokes were going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip as he was, couldn't stop or check her pace, until she drew up of her own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs. 'Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong, cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house.
'In less than five minutes' time, Tom was ensconced in the room opposite the bar—the very room where he had imagined the fire blazing—before a substantial, matter-of-fact, roaring fire, composed of something short of a bushel of coals, and wood enough to make half a dozen decent gooseberry bushes, piled half-way up the chimney, and roaring and crackling with a sound that of itself would have warmed the heart of any reasonable man. This was comfortable, but this was not all; for a smartly-dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle, was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels, together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and delicious array. Well, this was comfortable too; but even this was not all—for in the bar, seated at tea at the nicest possible little table, drawn close up before the brightest possible little fire, was a buxom widow of somewhere about eight-and-forty or thereabouts, with a face as comfortable as the bar, who was evidently the landlady of the house, and the supreme ruler over all these agreeable possessions. There was only one drawback to the beauty of the whole picture, and that was a tall man—a very tall man—in a brown coat and bright basket buttons, and black whiskers and wavy black hair, who was seated at tea with the widow, and who it required no great penetration to discover was in a fair way of persuading her to be a widow no longer, but to confer upon him the privilege of sitting down in that bar, for and during the whole remainder of the term of his natural life.
'Tom Smart was by no means of an irritable or envious disposition, but somehow or other the tall man with the brown coat and the bright basket buttons did rouse what little gall he had in his composition, and did make him feel extremely indignant, the more especially as he could now and then observe, from his seat before the glass, certain little affectionate familiarities passing between the tall man and the widow, which sufficiently denoted that the tall man was as high in favour as he was in size. Tom was fond of hot punch—I may venture to say he was VERY fond of hot punch—and after he had seen the vixenish mare well fed and well littered down, and had eaten every bit of the nice little hot dinner which the widow tossed up for him with her own hands, he just ordered a tumbler of it by way of experiment. Now, if there was one thing in the whole range of domestic art, which the widow could manufacture better than another, it was this identical article; and the first tumbler was adapted to Tom Smart's taste with such peculiar nicety, that he ordered a second with the least possible delay. Hot punch is a pleasant thing, gentlemen—an extremely pleasant thing under any circumstances—but in that snug old parlour, before the roaring fire, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful. He ordered another tumbler, and then another—I am not quite certain whether he didn't order another after that—but the more he drank of the hot punch, the more he thought of the tall man.
'"Confound his impudence!" said Tom to himself, "what business has he in that snug bar? Such an ugly villain too!" said Tom. "If the widow had any taste, she might surely pick up some better fellow than that." Here Tom's eye wandered from the glass on the chimney-piece to the glass on the table; and as he felt himself becoming gradually sentimental, he emptied the fourth tumbler of punch and ordered a fifth.
'Tom Smart, gentlemen, had always been very much attached to the public line. It had been long his ambition to stand in a bar of his own, in a green coat, knee-cords, and tops. He had a great notion of taking the chair at convivial dinners, and he had often thought how well he could preside in a room of his own in the talking way, and what a capital example he could set to his customers in the drinking department. All these things passed rapidly through Tom's mind as he sat drinking the hot punch by the roaring fire, and he felt very justly and properly indignant that the tall man should be in a fair way of keeping such an excellent house, while he, Tom Smart, was as far off from it as ever. So, after deliberating over the two last tumblers, whether he hadn't a perfect right to pick a quarrel with the tall man for having contrived to get into the good graces of the buxom widow, Tom Smart at last arrived at the satisfactory conclusion that he was a very ill-used and persecuted individual, and had better go to bed.
'Up a wide and ancient staircase the smart girl preceded Tom, shading the chamber candle with her hand, to protect it from the currents of air which in such a rambling old place might have found plenty of room to disport themselves in, without blowing the candle out, but which did blow it out nevertheless—thus affording Tom's enemies an opportunity of asserting that it was he, and not the wind, who extinguished the candle, and that while he pretended to be blowing it alight again, he was in fact kissing the girl. Be this as it may, another light was obtained, and Tom was conducted through a maze of rooms, and a labyrinth of passages, to the apartment which had been prepared for his reception, where the girl bade him good-night and left him alone.
'It was a good large room with big closets, and a bed which might have served for a whole boarding-school, to say nothing of a couple of oaken presses that would have held the baggage of a small army; but what struck Tom's fancy most was a strange, grim-looking, high backed chair, carved in the most fantastic manner, with a flowered damask cushion, and the round knobs at the bottom of the legs carefully tied up in red cloth, as if it had got the gout in its toes. Of any other queer chair, Tom would only have thought it was a queer chair, and there would have been an end of the matter; but there was something about this particular chair, and yet he couldn't tell what it was, so odd and so unlike any other piece of furniture he had ever seen, that it seemed to fascinate him. He sat down before the fire, and stared at the old chair for half an hour.—Damn the chair, it was such a strange old thing, he couldn't take his eyes off it.
'"Well," said Tom, slowly undressing himself, and staring at the old chair all the while, which stood with a mysterious aspect by the bedside, "I never saw such a rum concern as that in my days. Very odd," said Tom, who had got rather sage with the hot punch—"very odd." Tom shook his head with an air of profound wisdom, and looked at the chair again. He couldn't make anything of it though, so he got into bed, covered himself up warm, and fell asleep.
'In about half an hour, Tom woke up with a start, from a confused dream of tall men and tumblers of punch; and the first object that presented itself to his waking imagination was the queer chair.
'"I won't look at it any more," said Tom to himself, and he squeezed his eyelids together, and tried to persuade himself he was going to sleep again. No use; nothing but queer chairs danced before his eyes, kicking up their legs, jumping over each other's backs, and playing all kinds of antics.
"'I may as well see one real chair, as two or three complete sets of false ones," said Tom, bringing out his head from under the bedclothes. There it was, plainly discernible by the light of the fire, looking as provoking as ever.
'Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old, shrivelled human face; the damask cushion became an antique, flapped waistcoat; the round knobs grew into a couple of feet, encased in red cloth slippers; and the whole chair looked like a very ugly old man, of the previous century, with his arms akimbo. Tom sat up in bed, and rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion. No. The chair was an ugly old gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart.
'Tom was naturally a headlong, careless sort of dog, and he had had five tumblers of hot punch into the bargain; so, although he was a little startled at first, he began to grow rather indignant when he saw the old gentleman winking and leering at him with such an impudent air. At length he resolved that he wouldn't stand it; and as the old face still kept winking away as fast as ever, Tom said, in a very angry tone—
'"What the devil are you winking at me for?"
'"Because I like it, Tom Smart," said the chair; or the old gentleman, whichever you like to call him. He stopped winking though, when Tom spoke, and began grinning like a superannuated monkey.
'"How do you know my name, old nut-cracker face?" inquired Tom Smart, rather staggered; though he pretended to carry it off so well.
'"Come, come, Tom," said the old gentleman, "that's not the way to address solid Spanish mahogany. Damme, you couldn't treat me with less respect if I was veneered." When the old gentleman said this, he looked so fierce that Tom began to grow frightened.
'"I didn't mean to treat you with any disrespect, Sir," said Tom, in a much humbler tone than he had spoken in at first.
'"Well, well," said the old fellow, "perhaps not—perhaps not. Tom—"
'"I know everything about you, Tom; everything. You're very poor, Tom."
'"I certainly am," said Tom Smart. "But how came you to know that?"
'"Never mind that," said the old gentleman; "you're much too fond of punch, Tom."
'Tom Smart was just on the point of protesting that he hadn't tasted a drop since his last birthday, but when his eye encountered that of the old gentleman he looked so knowing that Tom blushed, and was silent.
'"Tom," said the old gentleman, "the widow's a fine woman—remarkably fine woman—eh, Tom?" Here the old fellow screwed up his eyes, cocked up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly amorous, that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his behaviour—at his time of life, too! '"I am her guardian, Tom," said the old gentleman.
'"Are you?" inquired Tom Smart.
'"I knew her mother, Tom," said the old fellow: "and her grandmother. She was very fond of me—made me this waistcoat, Tom."
'"Did she?" said Tom Smart.
'"And these shoes," said the old fellow, lifting up one of the red cloth mufflers; "but don't mention it, Tom. I shouldn't like to have it known that she was so much attached to me. It might occasion some unpleasantness in the family." When the old rascal said this, he looked so extremely impertinent, that, as Tom Smart afterwards declared, he could have sat upon him without remorse.
'"I have been a great favourite among the women in my time, Tom," said the profligate old debauchee; "hundreds of fine women have sat in my lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh!" The old gentleman was proceeding to recount some other exploits of his youth, when he was seized with such a violent fit of creaking that he was unable to proceed.
'"Just serves you right, old boy," thought Tom Smart; but he didn't say anything.
'"Ah!" said the old fellow, "I am a good deal troubled with this now. I am getting old, Tom, and have lost nearly all my rails. I have had an operation performed, too—a small piece let into my back—and I found it a severe trial, Tom."
'"I dare say you did, Sir," said Tom Smart.
'"However," said the old gentleman, "that's not the point. Tom! I want you to marry the widow."
'"Me, Sir!" said Tom.
'"You," said the old gentleman.
'"Bless your reverend locks," said Tom (he had a few scattered horse-hairs left)—"bless your reverend locks, she wouldn't have me." And Tom sighed involuntarily, as he thought of the bar.
'"Wouldn't she?" said the old gentleman firmly.
'"No, no," said Tom; "there's somebody else in the wind. A tall man—a confoundedly tall man—with black whiskers."
'"Tom," said the old gentleman; "she will never have him."
'"Won't she?" said Tom. "If you stood in the bar, old gentleman, you'd tell another story." '"Pooh, pooh," said the old gentleman. "I know all about that."
'"About what?" said Tom.
'"The kissing behind the door, and all that sort of thing, Tom," said the old gentleman. And here he gave another impudent look, which made Tom very wroth, because as you all know, gentlemen, to hear an old fellow, who ought to know better, talking about these things, is very unpleasant—nothing more so.
'"I know all about that, Tom," said the old gentleman. "I have seen it done very often in my time, Tom, between more people than I should like to mention to you; but it never came to anything after all."
'"You must have seen some queer things," said Tom, with an inquisitive look.
'"You may say that, Tom," replied the old fellow, with a very complicated wink. "I am the last of my family, Tom," said the old gentleman, with a melancholy sigh.
'"Was it a large one?" inquired Tom Smart.
'"There were twelve of us, Tom," said the old gentleman; "fine, straight-backed, handsome fellows as you'd wish to see. None of your modern abortions—all with arms, and with a degree of polish, though I say it that should not, which it would have done your heart good to behold."
'"And what's become of the others, Sir?" asked Tom Smart—
'The old gentleman applied his elbow to his eye as he replied, "Gone, Tom, gone. We had hard service, Tom, and they hadn't all my constitution. They got rheumatic about the legs and arms, and went into kitchens and other hospitals; and one of 'em, with long service and hard usage, positively lost his senses—he got so crazy that he was obliged to be burnt. Shocking thing that, Tom."
'"Dreadful!" said Tom Smart.
'The old fellow paused for a few minutes, apparently struggling with his feelings of emotion, and then said—
'"However, Tom, I am wandering from the point. This tall man, Tom, is a rascally adventurer. The moment he married the widow, he would sell off all the furniture, and run away. What would be the consequence? She would be deserted and reduced to ruin, and I should catch my death of cold in some broker's shop."
'"Don't interrupt me," said the old gentleman. "Of you, Tom, I entertain a very different opinion; for I well know that if you once settled yourself in a public-house, you would never leave it, as long as there was anything to drink within its walls."
'"I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir," said Tom Smart.
'"Therefore," resumed the old gentleman, in a dictatorial tone, "you shall have her, and he shall not."
'"What is to prevent it?" said Tom Smart eagerly.
'"This disclosure," replied the old gentleman; "he is already married."
'"How can I prove it?" said Tom, starting half out of bed.
'The old gentleman untucked his arm from his side, and having pointed to one of the oaken presses, immediately replaced it, in its old position.
'"He little thinks," said the old gentleman, "that in the right-hand pocket of a pair of trousers in that press, he has left a letter, entreating him to return to his disconsolate wife, with six—mark me, Tom—six babes, and all of them small ones."
'As the old gentleman solemnly uttered these words, his features grew less and less distinct, and his figure more shadowy. A film came over Tom Smart's eyes. The old man seemed gradually blending into the chair, the damask waistcoat to resolve into a cushion, the red slippers to shrink into little red cloth bags. The light faded gently away, and Tom Smart fell back on his pillow, and dropped asleep.
'Morning aroused Tom from the lethargic slumber, into which he had fallen on the disappearance of the old man. He sat up in bed, and for some minutes vainly endeavoured to recall the events of the preceding night. Suddenly they rushed upon him. He looked at the chair; it was a fantastic and grim-looking piece of furniture, certainly, but it must have been a remarkably ingenious and lively imagination, that could have discovered any resemblance between it and an old man.
'"How are you, old boy?" said Tom. He was bolder in the daylight—most men are.
'The chair remained motionless, and spoke not a word.
'"Miserable morning," said Tom. No. The chair would not be drawn into conversation.
'"Which press did you point to?—you can tell me that," said Tom. Devil a word, gentlemen, the chair would say.
'"It's not much trouble to open it, anyhow," said Tom, getting out of bed very deliberately. He walked up to one of the presses. The key was in the lock; he turned it, and opened the door. There was a pair of trousers there. He put his hand into the pocket, and drew forth the identical letter the old gentleman had described!
'"Queer sort of thing, this," said Tom Smart, looking first at the chair and then at the press, and then at the letter, and then at the chair again. "Very queer," said Tom. But, as there was nothing in either, to lessen the queerness, he thought he might as well dress himself, and settle the tall man's business at once—just to put him out of his misery.
'Tom surveyed the rooms he passed through, on his way downstairs, with the scrutinising eye of a landlord; thinking it not impossible, that before long, they and their contents would be his property. The tall man was standing in the snug little bar, with his hands behind him, quite at home. He grinned vacantly at Tom. A casual observer might have supposed he did it, only to show his white teeth; but Tom Smart thought that a consciousness of triumph was passing through the place where the tall man's mind would have been, if he had had any. Tom laughed in his face; and summoned the landlady.
'"Good-morning ma'am," said Tom Smart, closing the door of the little parlour as the widow entered.
'"Good-morning, Sir," said the widow. "What will you take for breakfast, sir?"
'Tom was thinking how he should open the case, so he made no answer.
'"There's a very nice ham," said the widow, "and a beautiful cold larded fowl. Shall I send 'em in, Sir?"
'These words roused Tom from his reflections. His admiration of the widow increased as she spoke. Thoughtful creature! Comfortable provider!
'"Who is that gentleman in the bar, ma'am?" inquired Tom.
'"His name is Jinkins, Sir," said the widow, slightly blushing.
'"He's a tall man," said Tom.
'"He is a very fine man, Sir," replied the widow, "and a very nice gentleman."
'"Ah!" said Tom.
'"Is there anything more you want, Sir?" inquired the widow, rather puzzled by Tom's manner. '"Why, yes," said Tom. "My dear ma'am, will you have the kindness to sit down for one moment?"
'The widow looked much amazed, but she sat down, and Tom sat down too, close beside her. I don't know how it happened, gentlemen—indeed my uncle used to tell me that Tom Smart said he didn't know how it happened either—but somehow or other the palm of Tom's hand fell upon the back of the widow's hand, and remained there while he spoke.
'"My dear ma'am," said Tom Smart—he had always a great notion of committing the amiable—"my dear ma'am, you deserve a very excellent husband—you do indeed."
'"Lor, Sir!" said the widow—as well she might; Tom's mode of commencing the conversation being rather unusual, not to say startling; the fact of his never having set eyes upon her before the previous night being taken into consideration. "Lor, Sir!"
'"I scorn to flatter, my dear ma'am," said Tom Smart. "You deserve a very admirable husband, and whoever he is, he'll be a very lucky man." As Tom said this, his eye involuntarily wandered from the widow's face to the comfort around him.
'The widow looked more puzzled than ever, and made an effort to rise. Tom gently pressed her hand, as if to detain her, and she kept her seat. Widows, gentlemen, are not usually timorous, as my uncle used to say.
'"I am sure I am very much obliged to you, Sir, for your good opinion," said the buxom landlady, half laughing; "and if ever I marry again—"
'"IF," said Tom Smart, looking very shrewdly out of the right-hand corner of his left eye. "IF—" "Well," said the widow, laughing outright this time, "WHEN I do, I hope I shall have as good a husband as you describe."
'"Jinkins, to wit," said Tom.
'"Lor, sir!" exclaimed the widow.
'"Oh, don't tell me," said Tom, "I know him."
'"I am sure nobody who knows him, knows anything bad of him," said the widow, bridling up at the mysterious air with which Tom had spoken.
'"Hem!" said Tom Smart.
'The widow began to think it was high time to cry, so she took out her handkerchief, and inquired whether Tom wished to insult her, whether he thought it like a gentleman to take away the character of another gentleman behind his back, why, if he had got anything to say, he didn't say it to the man, like a man, instead of terrifying a poor weak woman in that way; and so forth.
'"I'll say it to him fast enough," said Tom, "only I want you to hear it first."
'"What is it?" inquired the widow, looking intently in Tom's countenance.
'"I'll astonish you," said Tom, putting his hand in his pocket.
'"If it is, that he wants money," said the widow, "I know that already, and you needn't trouble yourself." '"Pooh, nonsense, that's nothing," said Tom Smart, "I want money. 'Tain't that."
'"Oh, dear, what can it be?" exclaimed the poor widow.
'"Don't be frightened," said Tom Smart. He slowly drew forth the letter, and unfolded it. "You won't scream?" said Tom doubtfully.
'"No, no," replied the widow; "let me see it."
'"You won't go fainting away, or any of that nonsense?" said Tom.
'"No, no," returned the widow hastily.
'"And don't run out, and blow him up," said Tom; "because I'll do all that for you. You had better not exert yourself."
'"Well, well," said the widow, "let me see it."
'"I will," replied Tom Smart; and, with these words, he placed the letter in the widow's hand.
'Gentlemen, I have heard my uncle say, that Tom Smart said the widow's lamentations when she heard the disclosure would have pierced a heart of stone. Tom was certainly very tender-hearted, but they pierced his, to the very core. The widow rocked herself to and fro, and wrung her hands.
'"Oh, the deception and villainy of the man!" said the widow.
'"Frightful, my dear ma'am; but compose yourself," said Tom Smart.
'"Oh, I can't compose myself," shrieked the widow. "I shall never find anyone else I can love so much!"
'"Oh, yes you will, my dear soul," said Tom Smart, letting fall a shower of the largest-sized tears, in pity for the widow's misfortunes. Tom Smart, in the energy of his compassion, had put his arm round the widow's waist; and the widow, in a passion of grief, had clasped Tom's hand. She looked up in Tom's face, and smiled through her tears. Tom looked down in hers, and smiled through his.
'I never could find out, gentlemen, whether Tom did or did not kiss the widow at that particular moment. He used to tell my uncle he didn't, but I have my doubts about it. Between ourselves, gentlemen, I rather think he did.
'At all events, Tom kicked the very tall man out at the front door half an hour later, and married the widow a month after. And he used to drive about the country, with the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, till he gave up business many years afterwards, and went to France with his wife; and then the old house was pulled down.'
'Will you allow me to ask you,' said the inquisitive old gentleman, 'what became of the chair?'
'Why,' replied the one-eyed bagman, 'it was observed to creak very much on the day of the wedding; but Tom Smart couldn't say for certain whether it was with pleasure or bodily infirmity. He rather thought it was the latter, though, for it never spoke afterwards.'
'Everybody believed the story, didn't they?' said the dirty-faced man, refilling his pipe.
'Except Tom's enemies,' replied the bagman. 'Some of 'em said Tom invented it altogether; and others said he was drunk and fancied it, and got hold of the wrong trousers by mistake before he went to bed. But nobody ever minded what THEY said.'
'Tom Smart said it was all true?'
'And your uncle?'
'They must have been very nice men, both of 'em,' said the dirty-faced man.
'Yes, they were,' replied the bagman; 'very nice men indeed!'
CHAPTER XV. IN WHICH IS GIVEN A FAITHFUL PORTRAITURE OF TWO DISTINGUISHED PERSONS; AND AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF A PUBLIC BREAKFAST IN THEIR HOUSE AND GROUNDS: WHICH PUBLIC BREAKFAST LEADS TO THE RECOGNITION OF AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE, AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF ANOTHER CHAPTER
Mr. Pickwick's conscience had been somewhat reproaching him for his recent neglect of his friends at the Peacock; and he was just on the point of walking forth in quest of them, on the third morning after the election had terminated, when his faithful valet put into his hand a card, on which was engraved the following inscription:—
Mrs. Leo Hunter THE DEN. EATANSWILL.
'Person's a-waitin',' said Sam, epigrammatically.
'Does the person want me, Sam?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'He wants you partickler; and no one else 'll do, as the devil's private secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus,' replied Mr. Weller.
'HE. Is it a gentleman?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'A wery good imitation o' one, if it ain't,' replied Mr. Weller.
'But this is a lady's card,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Given me by a gen'l'm'n, howsoever,' replied Sam, 'and he's a-waitin' in the drawing-room—said he'd rather wait all day, than not see you.'
Mr. Pickwick, on hearing this determination, descended to the drawing-room, where sat a grave man, who started up on his entrance, and said, with an air of profound respect:—
'Mr. Pickwick, I presume?'
'Allow me, Sir, the honour of grasping your hand. Permit me, Sir, to shake it,' said the grave man.
'Certainly,' said Mr. Pickwick. The stranger shook the extended hand, and then continued—
'We have heard of your fame, sir. The noise of your antiquarian discussion has reached the ears of Mrs. Leo Hunter—my wife, sir; I am Mr. Leo Hunter'—the stranger paused, as if he expected that Mr. Pickwick would be overcome by the disclosure; but seeing that he remained perfectly calm, proceeded—
'My wife, sir—Mrs. Leo Hunter—is proud to number among her acquaintance all those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit me, sir, to place in a conspicuous part of the list the name of Mr. Pickwick, and his brother-members of the club that derives its name from him.'
'I shall be extremely happy to make the acquaintance of such a lady, sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'You SHALL make it, sir,' said the grave man. 'To-morrow morning, sir, we give a public breakfast—a FETE CHAMPETRE—to a great number of those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir, to have the gratification of seeing you at the Den.'
'With great pleasure,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Mrs. Leo Hunter has many of these breakfasts, Sir,' resumed the new acquaintance—'"feasts of reason," sir, "and flows of soul," as somebody who wrote a sonnet to Mrs. Leo Hunter on her breakfasts, feelingly and originally observed.'
'Was HE celebrated for his works and talents?' inquired Mr. Pickwick.
'He was Sir,' replied the grave man, 'all Mrs. Leo Hunter's acquaintances are; it is her ambition, sir, to have no other acquaintance.'
'It is a very noble ambition,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'When I inform Mrs. Leo Hunter, that that remark fell from your lips, sir, she will indeed be proud,' said the grave man. 'You have a gentleman in your train, who has produced some beautiful little poems, I think, sir.'
'My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a great taste for poetry,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'So has Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir. She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it; I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up, and entwined with it. She has produced some delightful pieces, herself, sir. You may have met with her "Ode to an Expiring Frog," sir.'
'I don't think I have,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'You astonish me, Sir,' said Mr. Leo Hunter. 'It created an immense sensation. It was signed with an "L" and eight stars, and appeared originally in a lady's magazine. It commenced—
'"Can I view thee panting, lying On thy stomach, without sighing; Can I unmoved see thee dying On a log Expiring frog!"'
'Beautiful!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Fine,' said Mr. Leo Hunter; 'so simple.'
'Very,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'The next verse is still more touching. Shall I repeat it?'
'If you please,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'It runs thus,' said the grave man, still more gravely.
'"Say, have fiends in shape of boys, With wild halloo, and brutal noise, Hunted thee from marshy joys, With a dog, Expiring frog!"'
'Finely expressed,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'All point, Sir,' said Mr. Leo Hunter; 'but you shall hear Mrs. Leo Hunter repeat it. She can do justice to it, Sir. She will repeat it, in character, Sir, to-morrow morning.'
'As Minerva. But I forgot—it's a fancy-dress DEJEUNE.'
'Dear me,' said Mr. Pickwick, glancing at his own figure—'I can't possibly—'
'Can't, sir; can't!' exclaimed Mr. Leo Hunter. 'Solomon Lucas, the Jew in the High Street, has thousands of fancy-dresses. Consider, Sir, how many appropriate characters are open for your selection. Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, Pythagoras—all founders of clubs.'
'I know that,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but as I cannot put myself in competition with those great men, I cannot presume to wear their dresses.'
The grave man considered deeply, for a few seconds, and then said—
'On reflection, Sir, I don't know whether it would not afford Mrs. Leo Hunter greater pleasure, if her guests saw a gentleman of your celebrity in his own costume, rather than in an assumed one. I may venture to promise an exception in your case, sir—yes, I am quite certain that, on behalf of Mrs. Leo Hunter, I may venture to do so.'
'In that case,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'I shall have great pleasure in coming.'
'But I waste your time, Sir,' said the grave man, as if suddenly recollecting himself. 'I know its value, sir. I will not detain you. I may tell Mrs. Leo Hunter, then, that she may confidently expect you and your distinguished friends? Good-morning, Sir, I am proud to have beheld so eminent a personage—not a step sir; not a word.' And without giving Mr. Pickwick time to offer remonstrance or denial, Mr. Leo Hunter stalked gravely away.
Mr. Pickwick took up his hat, and repaired to the Peacock, but Mr. Winkle had conveyed the intelligence of the fancy-ball there, before him.
'Mrs. Pott's going,' were the first words with which he saluted his leader.
'Is she?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'As Apollo,' replied Winkle. 'Only Pott objects to the tunic.'
'He is right. He is quite right,' said Mr. Pickwick emphatically.
'Yes; so she's going to wear a white satin gown with gold spangles.'
'They'll hardly know what she's meant for; will they?' inquired Mr. Snodgrass.
'Of course they will,' replied Mr. Winkle indignantly. 'They'll see her lyre, won't they?'
'True; I forgot that,' said Mr. Snodgrass.
'I shall go as a bandit,'interposed Mr. Tupman.
'What!' said Mr. Pickwick, with a sudden start.
'As a bandit,' repeated Mr. Tupman, mildly.
'You don't mean to say,' said Mr. Pickwick, gazing with solemn sternness at his friend—'you don't mean to say, Mr. Tupman, that it is your intention to put yourself into a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail?'
'Such IS my intention, Sir,' replied Mr. Tupman warmly. 'And why not, sir?'
'Because, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, considerably excited—'because you are too old, Sir.'
'Too old!' exclaimed Mr. Tupman.
'And if any further ground of objection be wanting,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'you are too fat, sir.'
'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, 'this is an insult.'
'Sir,' replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone, 'it is not half the insult to you, that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail, would be to me.'
'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, 'you're a fellow.'
'Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'you're another!'
Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into a focus by means of his spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle looked on, petrified at beholding such a scene between two such men.
'Sir,' said Mr. Tupman, after a short pause, speaking in a low, deep voice, 'you have called me old.'
'I have,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I reiterate the charge.'
'And a fellow.'
'So you are!'
There was a fearful pause.
'My attachment to your person, sir,' said Mr. Tupman, speaking in a voice tremulous with emotion, and tucking up his wristbands meanwhile, 'is great—very great—but upon that person, I must take summary vengeance.'
'Come on, Sir!' replied Mr. Pickwick. Stimulated by the exciting nature of the dialogue, the heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the two bystanders to have been intended as a posture of defence.
'What!' exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, suddenly recovering the power of speech, of which intense astonishment had previously bereft him, and rushing between the two, at the imminent hazard of receiving an application on the temple from each—'what! Mr. Pickwick, with the eyes of the world upon you! Mr. Tupman! who, in common with us all, derives a lustre from his undying name! For shame, gentlemen; for shame.'
The unwonted lines which momentary passion had ruled in Mr. Pickwick's clear and open brow, gradually melted away, as his young friend spoke, like the marks of a black-lead pencil beneath the softening influence of india-rubber. His countenance had resumed its usual benign expression, ere he concluded.
'I have been hasty,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'very hasty. Tupman; your hand.'
The dark shadow passed from Mr. Tupman's face, as he warmly grasped the hand of his friend.
'I have been hasty, too,' said he.
'No, no,' interrupted Mr. Pickwick, 'the fault was mine. You will wear the green velvet jacket?'
'No, no,' replied Mr. Tupman.
'To oblige me, you will,' resumed Mr. Pickwick.
'Well, well, I will,' said Mr. Tupman.
It was accordingly settled that Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, should all wear fancy-dresses. Thus Mr. Pickwick was led by the very warmth of his own good feelings to give his consent to a proceeding from which his better judgment would have recoiled—a more striking illustration of his amiable character could hardly have been conceived, even if the events recorded in these pages had been wholly imaginary.
Mr. Leo Hunter had not exaggerated the resources of Mr. Solomon Lucas. His wardrobe was extensive—very extensive—not strictly classical perhaps, not quite new, nor did it contain any one garment made precisely after the fashion of any age or time, but everything was more or less spangled; and what can be prettier than spangles! It may be objected that they are not adapted to the daylight, but everybody knows that they would glitter if there were lamps; and nothing can be clearer than that if people give fancy-balls in the day-time, and the dresses do not show quite as well as they would by night, the fault lies solely with the people who give the fancy-balls, and is in no wise chargeable on the spangles. Such was the convincing reasoning of Mr. Solomon Lucas; and influenced by such arguments did Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass engage to array themselves in costumes which his taste and experience induced him to recommend as admirably suited to the occasion.
A carriage was hired from the Town Arms, for the accommodation of the Pickwickians, and a chariot was ordered from the same repository, for the purpose of conveying Mr. and Mrs. Pott to Mrs. Leo Hunter's grounds, which Mr. Pott, as a delicate acknowledgment of having received an invitation, had already confidently predicted in the Eatanswill GAZETTE 'would present a scene of varied and delicious enchantment—a bewildering coruscation of beauty and talent—a lavish and prodigal display of hospitality—above all, a degree of splendour softened by the most exquisite taste; and adornment refined with perfect harmony and the chastest good keeping—compared with which, the fabled gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland itself would appear to be clothed in as many dark and murky colours, as must be the mind of the splenetic and unmanly being who could presume to taint with the venom of his envy, the preparations made by the virtuous and highly distinguished lady at whose shrine this humble tribute of admiration was offered.' This last was a piece of biting sarcasm against the INDEPENDENT, who, in consequence of not having been invited at all, had been, through four numbers, affecting to sneer at the whole affair, in his very largest type, with all the adjectives in capital letters.
The morning came: it was a pleasant sight to behold Mr. Tupman in full brigand's costume, with a very tight jacket, sitting like a pincushion over his back and shoulders, the upper portion of his legs incased in the velvet shorts, and the lower part thereof swathed in the complicated bandages to which all brigands are peculiarly attached. It was pleasing to see his open and ingenuous countenance, well mustachioed and corked, looking out from an open shirt collar; and to contemplate the sugar-loaf hat, decorated with ribbons of all colours, which he was compelled to carry on his knee, inasmuch as no known conveyance with a top to it, would admit of any man's carrying it between his head and the roof. Equally humorous and agreeable was the appearance of Mr. Snodgrass in blue satin trunks and cloak, white silk tights and shoes, and Grecian helmet, which everybody knows (and if they do not, Mr. Solomon Lucas did) to have been the regular, authentic, everyday costume of a troubadour, from the earliest ages down to the time of their final disappearance from the face of the earth. All this was pleasant, but this was as nothing compared with the shouting of the populace when the carriage drew up, behind Mr. Pott's chariot, which chariot itself drew up at Mr. Pott's door, which door itself opened, and displayed the great Pott accoutred as a Russian officer of justice, with a tremendous knout in his hand—tastefully typical of the stern and mighty power of the Eatanswill GAZETTE, and the fearful lashings it bestowed on public offenders.
'Bravo!' shouted Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from the passage, when they beheld the walking allegory.
'Bravo!' Mr. Pickwick was heard to exclaim, from the passage.
'Hoo-roar Pott!' shouted the populace. Amid these salutations, Mr. Pott, smiling with that kind of bland dignity which sufficiently testified that he felt his power, and knew how to exert it, got into the chariot.
Then there emerged from the house, Mrs. Pott, who would have looked very like Apollo if she hadn't had a gown on, conducted by Mr. Winkle, who, in his light-red coat could not possibly have been mistaken for anything but a sportsman, if he had not borne an equal resemblance to a general postman. Last of all came Mr. Pickwick, whom the boys applauded as loud as anybody, probably under the impression that his tights and gaiters were some remnants of the dark ages; and then the two vehicles proceeded towards Mrs. Leo Hunter's; Mr. Weller (who was to assist in waiting) being stationed on the box of that in which his master was seated.
Every one of the men, women, boys, girls, and babies, who were assembled to see the visitors in their fancy-dresses, screamed with delight and ecstasy, when Mr. Pickwick, with the brigand on one arm, and the troubadour on the other, walked solemnly up the entrance. Never were such shouts heard as those which greeted Mr. Tupman's efforts to fix the sugar-loaf hat on his head, by way of entering the garden in style.
The preparations were on the most delightful scale; fully realising the prophetic Pott's anticipations about the gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland, and at once affording a sufficient contradiction to the malignant statements of the reptile INDEPENDENT. The grounds were more than an acre and a quarter in extent, and they were filled with people! Never was such a blaze of beauty, and fashion, and literature. There was the young lady who 'did' the poetry in the Eatanswill GAZETTE, in the garb of a sultana, leaning upon the arm of the young gentleman who 'did' the review department, and who was appropriately habited in a field-marshal's uniform—the boots excepted. There were hosts of these geniuses, and any reasonable person would have thought it honour enough to meet them. But more than these, there were half a dozen lions from London—authors, real authors, who had written whole books, and printed them afterwards—and here you might see 'em, walking about, like ordinary men, smiling, and talking—aye, and talking pretty considerable nonsense too, no doubt with the benign intention of rendering themselves intelligible to the common people about them. Moreover, there was a band of music in pasteboard caps; four something-ean singers in the costume of their country, and a dozen hired waiters in the costume of THEIR country—and very dirty costume too. And above all, there was Mrs. Leo Hunter in the character of Minerva, receiving the company, and overflowing with pride and gratification at the notion of having called such distinguished individuals together.
'Mr. Pickwick, ma'am,' said a servant, as that gentleman approached the presiding goddess, with his hat in his hand, and the brigand and troubadour on either arm.
'What! Where!' exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, starting up, in an affected rapture of surprise.
'Here,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Is it possible that I have really the gratification of beholding Mr. Pickwick himself!' ejaculated Mrs. Leo Hunter.
'No other, ma'am,' replied Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low. 'Permit me to introduce my friends—Mr. Tupman—Mr. Winkle—Mr. Snodgrass—to the authoress of "The Expiring Frog."' Very few people but those who have tried it, know what a difficult process it is to bow in green velvet smalls, and a tight jacket, and high-crowned hat; or in blue satin trunks and white silks, or knee-cords and top-boots that were never made for the wearer, and have been fixed upon him without the remotest reference to the comparative dimensions of himself and the suit. Never were such distortions as Mr. Tupman's frame underwent in his efforts to appear easy and graceful—never was such ingenious posturing, as his fancy-dressed friends exhibited.
'Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'I must make you promise not to stir from my side the whole day. There are hundreds of people here, that I must positively introduce you to.'
'You are very kind, ma'am,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'In the first place, here are my little girls; I had almost forgotten them,' said Minerva, carelessly pointing towards a couple of full-grown young ladies, of whom one might be about twenty, and the other a year or two older, and who were dressed in very juvenile costumes—whether to make them look young, or their mamma younger, Mr. Pickwick does not distinctly inform us.
'They are very beautiful,' said Mr. Pickwick, as the juveniles turned away, after being presented.
'They are very like their mamma, Sir,' said Mr. Pott, majestically.
'Oh, you naughty man,' exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, playfully tapping the editor's arm with her fan (Minerva with a fan!).
'Why now, my dear Mrs. Hunter,' said Mr. Pott, who was trumpeter in ordinary at the Den, 'you know that when your picture was in the exhibition of the Royal Academy, last year, everybody inquired whether it was intended for you, or your youngest daughter; for you were so much alike that there was no telling the difference between you.'
'Well, and if they did, why need you repeat it, before strangers?' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, bestowing another tap on the slumbering lion of the Eatanswill GAZETTE.
'Count, count,' screamed Mrs. Leo Hunter to a well-whiskered individual in a foreign uniform, who was passing by.
'Ah! you want me?' said the count, turning back.
'I want to introduce two very clever people to each other,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter. 'Mr. Pickwick, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Count Smorltork.' She added in a hurried whisper to Mr. Pickwick—'The famous foreigner—gathering materials for his great work on England—hem!—Count Smorltork, Mr. Pickwick.' Mr. Pickwick saluted the count with all the reverence due to so great a man, and the count drew forth a set of tablets.
'What you say, Mrs. Hunt?' inquired the count, smiling graciously on the gratified Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'Pig Vig or Big Vig—what you call—lawyer—eh? I see—that is it. Big Vig'—and the count was proceeding to enter Mr. Pickwick in his tablets, as a gentleman of the long robe, who derived his name from the profession to which he belonged, when Mrs. Leo Hunter interposed.
'No, no, count,' said the lady, 'Pick-wick.'
'Ah, ah, I see,' replied the count. 'Peek—christian name; Weeks—surname; good, ver good. Peek Weeks. How you do, Weeks?'
'Quite well, I thank you,' replied Mr. Pickwick, with all his usual affability. 'Have you been long in England?'
'Long—ver long time—fortnight—more.'
'Do you stay here long?'
'You will have enough to do,' said Mr. Pickwick smiling, 'to gather all the materials you want in that time.'
'Eh, they are gathered,' said the count.
'Indeed!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'They are here,' added the count, tapping his forehead significantly. 'Large book at home—full of notes—music, picture, science, potry, poltic; all tings.'
'The word politics, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'comprises in itself, a difficult study of no inconsiderable magnitude.'
'Ah!' said the count, drawing out the tablets again, 'ver good—fine words to begin a chapter. Chapter forty-seven. Poltics. The word poltic surprises by himself—' And down went Mr. Pickwick's remark, in Count Smorltork's tablets, with such variations and additions as the count's exuberant fancy suggested, or his imperfect knowledge of the language occasioned.
'Count,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter. 'Mrs. Hunt,' replied the count.
'This is Mr. Snodgrass, a friend of Mr. Pickwick's, and a poet.'
'Stop,' exclaimed the count, bringing out the tablets once more. 'Head, potry—chapter, literary friends—name, Snowgrass; ver good. Introduced to Snowgrass—great poet, friend of Peek Weeks—by Mrs. Hunt, which wrote other sweet poem—what is that name?—Fog—Perspiring Fog—ver good—ver good indeed.' And the count put up his tablets, and with sundry bows and acknowledgments walked away, thoroughly satisfied that he had made the most important and valuable additions to his stock of information.
'Wonderful man, Count Smorltork,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter.
'Sound philosopher,' said Mr. Pott.
'Clear-headed, strong-minded person,' added Mr. Snodgrass.
A chorus of bystanders took up the shout of Count Smorltork's praise, shook their heads sagely, and unanimously cried, 'Very!'
As the enthusiasm in Count Smorltork's favour ran very high, his praises might have been sung until the end of the festivities, if the four something-ean singers had not ranged themselves in front of a small apple-tree, to look picturesque, and commenced singing their national songs, which appeared by no means difficult of execution, inasmuch as the grand secret seemed to be, that three of the something-ean singers should grunt, while the fourth howled. This interesting performance having concluded amidst the loud plaudits of the whole company, a boy forthwith proceeded to entangle himself with the rails of a chair, and to jump over it, and crawl under it, and fall down with it, and do everything but sit upon it, and then to make a cravat of his legs, and tie them round his neck, and then to illustrate the ease with which a human being can be made to look like a magnified toad—all which feats yielded high delight and satisfaction to the assembled spectators. After which, the voice of Mrs. Pott was heard to chirp faintly forth, something which courtesy interpreted into a song, which was all very classical, and strictly in character, because Apollo was himself a composer, and composers can very seldom sing their own music or anybody else's, either. This was succeeded by Mrs. Leo Hunter's recitation of her far-famed 'Ode to an Expiring Frog,' which was encored once, and would have been encored twice, if the major part of the guests, who thought it was high time to get something to eat, had not said that it was perfectly shameful to take advantage of Mrs. Hunter's good nature. So although Mrs. Leo Hunter professed her perfect willingness to recite the ode again, her kind and considerate friends wouldn't hear of it on any account; and the refreshment room being thrown open, all the people who had ever been there before, scrambled in with all possible despatch—Mrs. Leo Hunter's usual course of proceedings being, to issue cards for a hundred, and breakfast for fifty, or in other words to feed only the very particular lions, and let the smaller animals take care of themselves.
'Where is Mr. Pott?' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, as she placed the aforesaid lions around her.
'Here I am,' said the editor, from the remotest end of the room; far beyond all hope of food, unless something was done for him by the hostess.
'Won't you come up here?'
'Oh, pray don't mind him,' said Mrs. Pott, in the most obliging voice—'you give yourself a great deal of unnecessary trouble, Mrs. Hunter. You'll do very well there, won't you—dear?'
'Certainly—love,' replied the unhappy Pott, with a grim smile. Alas for the knout! The nervous arm that wielded it, with such a gigantic force on public characters, was paralysed beneath the glance of the imperious Mrs. Pott.
Mrs. Leo Hunter looked round her in triumph. Count Smorltork was busily engaged in taking notes of the contents of the dishes; Mr. Tupman was doing the honours of the lobster salad to several lionesses, with a degree of grace which no brigand ever exhibited before; Mr. Snodgrass having cut out the young gentleman who cut up the books for the Eatanswill GAZETTE, was engaged in an impassioned argument with the young lady who did the poetry; and Mr. Pickwick was making himself universally agreeable. Nothing seemed wanting to render the select circle complete, when Mr. Leo Hunter—whose department on these occasions, was to stand about in doorways, and talk to the less important people—suddenly called out—'My dear; here's Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall.'
'Oh dear,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'how anxiously I have been expecting him. Pray make room, to let Mr. Fitz-Marshall pass. Tell Mr. Fitz-Marshall, my dear, to come up to me directly, to be scolded for coming so late.'
'Coming, my dear ma'am,' cried a voice, 'as quick as I can—crowds of people—full room—hard work—very.'
Mr. Pickwick's knife and fork fell from his hand. He stared across the table at Mr. Tupman, who had dropped his knife and fork, and was looking as if he were about to sink into the ground without further notice.
'Ah!' cried the voice, as its owner pushed his way among the last five-and-twenty Turks, officers, cavaliers, and Charles the Seconds, that remained between him and the table, 'regular mangle—Baker's patent—not a crease in my coat, after all this squeezing—might have "got up my linen" as I came along—ha! ha! not a bad idea, that—queer thing to have it mangled when it's upon one, though—trying process—very.'
With these broken words, a young man dressed as a naval officer made his way up to the table, and presented to the astonished Pickwickians the identical form and features of Mr. Alfred Jingle. The offender had barely time to take Mrs. Leo Hunter's proffered hand, when his eyes encountered the indignant orbs of Mr. Pickwick.
'Hollo!' said Jingle. 'Quite forgot—no directions to postillion—give 'em at once—back in a minute.'
'The servant, or Mr. Hunter will do it in a moment, Mr. Fitz-Marshall,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter.
'No, no—I'll do it—shan't be long—back in no time,' replied Jingle. With these words he disappeared among the crowd.
'Will you allow me to ask you, ma'am,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick, rising from his seat, 'who that young man is, and where he resides?'
'He is a gentleman of fortune, Mr. Pickwick,' said Mrs. Leo Hunter, 'to whom I very much want to introduce you. The count will be delighted with him.'
'Yes, yes,' said Mr. Pickwick hastily. 'His residence—'
'Is at present at the Angel at Bury.'
'At Bury St. Edmunds, not many miles from here. But dear me, Mr. Pickwick, you are not going to leave us; surely Mr. Pickwick you cannot think of going so soon?'
But long before Mrs. Leo Hunter had finished speaking, Mr. Pickwick had plunged through the throng, and reached the garden, whither he was shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Tupman, who had followed his friend closely.
'It's of no use,' said Mr. Tupman. 'He has gone.'
'I know it,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'and I will follow him.'
'Follow him! Where?' inquired Mr. Tupman.
'To the Angel at Bury,' replied Mr. Pickwick, speaking very quickly. 'How do we know whom he is deceiving there? He deceived a worthy man once, and we were the innocent cause. He shall not do it again, if I can help it; I'll expose him! Sam! Where's my servant?'
'Here you are, Sir,' said Mr. Weller, emerging from a sequestered spot, where he had been engaged in discussing a bottle of Madeira, which he had abstracted from the breakfast-table an hour or two before. 'Here's your servant, Sir. Proud o' the title, as the living skellinton said, ven they show'd him.'
'Follow me instantly,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Tupman, if I stay at Bury, you can join me there, when I write. Till then, good-bye!'
Remonstrances were useless. Mr. Pickwick was roused, and his mind was made up. Mr. Tupman returned to his companions; and in another hour had drowned all present recollection of Mr. Alfred Jingle, or Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall, in an exhilarating quadrille and a bottle of champagne. By that time, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, perched on the outside of a stage-coach, were every succeeding minute placing a less and less distance between themselves and the good old town of Bury St. Edmunds.
CHAPTER XVI. TOO FULL OF ADVENTURE TO BE BRIEFLY DESCRIBED
There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August. Spring has many beauties, and May is a fresh and blooming month, but the charms of this time of year are enhanced by their contrast with the winter season. August has no such advantage. It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers—when the recollection of snow, and ice, and bleak winds, has faded from our minds as completely as they have disappeared from the earth—and yet what a pleasant time it is! Orchards and cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; and the corn, piled in graceful sheaves, or waving in every light breath that sweeps above it, as if it wooed the sickle, tinges the landscape with a golden hue. A mellow softness appears to hang over the whole earth; the influence of the season seems to extend itself to the very wagon, whose slow motion across the well-reaped field is perceptible only to the eye, but strikes with no harsh sound upon the ear.
As the coach rolls swiftly past the fields and orchards which skirt the road, groups of women and children, piling the fruit in sieves, or gathering the scattered ears of corn, pause for an instant from their labour, and shading the sun-burned face with a still browner hand, gaze upon the passengers with curious eyes, while some stout urchin, too small to work, but too mischievous to be left at home, scrambles over the side of the basket in which he has been deposited for security, and kicks and screams with delight. The reaper stops in his work, and stands with folded arms, looking at the vehicle as it whirls past; and the rough cart-horses bestow a sleepy glance upon the smart coach team, which says as plainly as a horse's glance can, 'It's all very fine to look at, but slow going, over a heavy field, is better than warm work like that, upon a dusty road, after all.' You cast a look behind you, as you turn a corner of the road. The women and children have resumed their labour; the reaper once more stoops to his work; the cart-horses have moved on; and all are again in motion. The influence of a scene like this, was not lost upon the well-regulated mind of Mr. Pickwick. Intent upon the resolution he had formed, of exposing the real character of the nefarious Jingle, in any quarter in which he might be pursuing his fraudulent designs, he sat at first taciturn and contemplative, brooding over the means by which his purpose could be best attained. By degrees his attention grew more and more attracted by the objects around him; and at last he derived as much enjoyment from the ride, as if it had been undertaken for the pleasantest reason in the world.