'Here, ma'am?' said the magistrate. 'Where, ma'am?'
'In Ipswich.' 'In Ipswich, ma'am! A duel in Ipswich!' said the magistrate, perfectly aghast at the notion. 'Impossible, ma'am; nothing of the kind can be contemplated in this town, I am persuaded. Bless my soul, ma'am, are you aware of the activity of our local magistracy? Do you happen to have heard, ma'am, that I rushed into a prize-ring on the fourth of May last, attended by only sixty special constables; and, at the hazard of falling a sacrifice to the angry passions of an infuriated multitude, prohibited a pugilistic contest between the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam? A duel in Ipswich, ma'am? I don't think—I do not think,' said the magistrate, reasoning with himself, 'that any two men can have had the hardihood to plan such a breach of the peace, in this town.'
'My information is, unfortunately, but too correct,' said the middle-aged lady; 'I was present at the quarrel.'
'It's a most extraordinary thing,' said the astounded magistrate. 'Muzzle!'
'Yes, your Worship.'
'Send Mr. Jinks here, directly! Instantly.'
'Yes, your Worship.'
Muzzle retired; and a pale, sharp-nosed, half-fed, shabbily-clad clerk, of middle age, entered the room.
'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate. 'Mr. Jinks.'
'Sir,' said Mr. Jinks. 'This lady, Mr. Jinks, has come here, to give information of an intended duel in this town.'
Mr. Jinks, not knowing exactly what to do, smiled a dependent's smile.
'What are you laughing at, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate.
Mr. Jinks looked serious instantly.
'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, 'you're a fool.'
Mr. Jinks looked humbly at the great man, and bit the top of his pen.
'You may see something very comical in this information, Sir—but I can tell you this, Mr. Jinks, that you have very little to laugh at,' said the magistrate.
The hungry-looking Jinks sighed, as if he were quite aware of the fact of his having very little indeed to be merry about; and, being ordered to take the lady's information, shambled to a seat, and proceeded to write it down.
'This man, Pickwick, is the principal, I understand?' said the magistrate, when the statement was finished.
'He is,' said the middle-aged lady.
'And the other rioter—what's his name, Mr. Jinks?'
'Tupman, Sir.' 'Tupman is the second?'
'The other principal, you say, has absconded, ma'am?'
'Yes,' replied Miss Witherfield, with a short cough.
'Very well,' said the magistrate. 'These are two cut-throats from London, who have come down here to destroy his Majesty's population, thinking that at this distance from the capital, the arm of the law is weak and paralysed. They shall be made an example of. Draw up the warrants, Mr. Jinks. Muzzle!'
'Yes, your Worship.'
'Is Grummer downstairs?'
'Yes, your Worship.'
'Send him up.' The obsequious Muzzle retired, and presently returned, introducing the elderly gentleman in the top-boots, who was chiefly remarkable for a bottle-nose, a hoarse voice, a snuff-coloured surtout, and a wandering eye.
'Grummer,' said the magistrate.
'Is the town quiet now?'
'Pretty well, your Wash-up,' replied Grummer. 'Pop'lar feeling has in a measure subsided, consekens o' the boys having dispersed to cricket.'
'Nothing but vigorous measures will do in these times, Grummer,' said the magistrate, in a determined manner. 'If the authority of the king's officers is set at naught, we must have the riot act read. If the civil power cannot protect these windows, Grummer, the military must protect the civil power, and the windows too. I believe that is a maxim of the constitution, Mr. Jinks?' 'Certainly, sir,' said Jinks.
'Very good,' said the magistrate, signing the warrants. 'Grummer, you will bring these persons before me, this afternoon. You will find them at the Great White Horse. You recollect the case of the Middlesex Dumpling and the Suffolk Bantam, Grummer?'
Mr. Grummer intimated, by a retrospective shake of the head, that he should never forget it—as indeed it was not likely he would, so long as it continued to be cited daily.
'This is even more unconstitutional,' said the magistrate; 'this is even a greater breach of the peace, and a grosser infringement of his Majesty's prerogative. I believe duelling is one of his Majesty's most undoubted prerogatives, Mr. Jinks?'
'Expressly stipulated in Magna Charta, sir,' said Mr. Jinks.
'One of the brightest jewels in the British crown, wrung from his Majesty by the barons, I believe, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate.
'Just so, Sir,' replied Mr. Jinks.
'Very well,' said the magistrate, drawing himself up proudly, 'it shall not be violated in this portion of his dominions. Grummer, procure assistance, and execute these warrants with as little delay as possible. Muzzle!'
'Yes, your Worship.'
'Show the lady out.'
Miss Witherfield retired, deeply impressed with the magistrate's learning and research; Mr. Nupkins retired to lunch; Mr. Jinks retired within himself—that being the only retirement he had, except the sofa-bedstead in the small parlour which was occupied by his landlady's family in the daytime—and Mr. Grummer retired, to wipe out, by his mode of discharging his present commission, the insult which had been fastened upon himself, and the other representative of his Majesty—the beadle—in the course of the morning.
While these resolute and determined preparations for the conservation of the king's peace were pending, Mr. Pickwick and his friends, wholly unconscious of the mighty events in progress, had sat quietly down to dinner; and very talkative and companionable they all were. Mr. Pickwick was in the very act of relating his adventure of the preceding night, to the great amusement of his followers, Mr. Tupman especially, when the door opened, and a somewhat forbidding countenance peeped into the room. The eyes in the forbidding countenance looked very earnestly at Mr. Pickwick, for several seconds, and were to all appearance satisfied with their investigation; for the body to which the forbidding countenance belonged, slowly brought itself into the apartment, and presented the form of an elderly individual in top-boots—not to keep the reader any longer in suspense, in short, the eyes were the wandering eyes of Mr. Grummer, and the body was the body of the same gentleman.
Mr. Grummer's mode of proceeding was professional, but peculiar. His first act was to bolt the door on the inside; his second, to polish his head and countenance very carefully with a cotton handkerchief; his third, to place his hat, with the cotton handkerchief in it, on the nearest chair; and his fourth, to produce from the breast-pocket of his coat a short truncheon, surmounted by a brazen crown, with which he beckoned to Mr. Pickwick with a grave and ghost-like air.
Mr. Snodgrass was the first to break the astonished silence. He looked steadily at Mr. Grummer for a brief space, and then said emphatically, 'This is a private room, Sir. A private room.'
Mr. Grummer shook his head, and replied, 'No room's private to his Majesty when the street door's once passed. That's law. Some people maintains that an Englishman's house is his castle. That's gammon.'
The Pickwickians gazed on each other with wondering eyes.
'Which is Mr. Tupman?' inquired Mr. Grummer. He had an intuitive perception of Mr. Pickwick; he knew him at once.
'My name's Tupman,' said that gentleman.
'My name's Law,' said Mr. Grummer.
'What?' said Mr. Tupman.
'Law,' replied Mr. Grummer—'Law, civil power, and exekative; them's my titles; here's my authority. Blank Tupman, blank Pickwick—against the peace of our sufferin' lord the king—stattit in the case made and purwided—and all regular. I apprehend you Pickwick! Tupman—the aforesaid.'
'What do you mean by this insolence?' said Mr. Tupman, starting up; 'leave the room!'
'Hollo,' said Mr. Grummer, retreating very expeditiously to the door, and opening it an inch or two, 'Dubbley.'
'Well,' said a deep voice from the passage.
'Come for'ard, Dubbley.'
At the word of command, a dirty-faced man, something over six feet high, and stout in proportion, squeezed himself through the half-open door (making his face very red in the process), and entered the room.
'Is the other specials outside, Dubbley?' inquired Mr. Grummer.
Mr. Dubbley, who was a man of few words, nodded assent.
'Order in the diwision under your charge, Dubbley,' said Mr. Grummer.
Mr. Dubbley did as he was desired; and half a dozen men, each with a short truncheon and a brass crown, flocked into the room. Mr. Grummer pocketed his staff, and looked at Mr. Dubbley; Mr. Dubbley pocketed his staff and looked at the division; the division pocketed their staves and looked at Messrs. Tupman and Pickwick.
Mr. Pickwick and his followers rose as one man.
'What is the meaning of this atrocious intrusion upon my privacy?' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Who dares apprehend me?' said Mr. Tupman.
'What do you want here, scoundrels?' said Mr. Snodgrass.
Mr. Winkle said nothing, but he fixed his eyes on Grummer, and bestowed a look upon him, which, if he had had any feeling, must have pierced his brain. As it was, however, it had no visible effect on him whatever.
When the executive perceived that Mr. Pickwick and his friends were disposed to resist the authority of the law, they very significantly turned up their coat sleeves, as if knocking them down in the first instance, and taking them up afterwards, were a mere professional act which had only to be thought of to be done, as a matter of course. This demonstration was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He conferred a few moments with Mr. Tupman apart, and then signified his readiness to proceed to the mayor's residence, merely begging the parties then and there assembled, to take notice, that it was his firm intention to resent this monstrous invasion of his privileges as an Englishman, the instant he was at liberty; whereat the parties then and there assembled laughed very heartily, with the single exception of Mr. Grummer, who seemed to consider that any slight cast upon the divine right of magistrates was a species of blasphemy not to be tolerated.
But when Mr. Pickwick had signified his readiness to bow to the laws of his country, and just when the waiters, and hostlers, and chambermaids, and post-boys, who had anticipated a delightful commotion from his threatened obstinacy, began to turn away, disappointed and disgusted, a difficulty arose which had not been foreseen. With every sentiment of veneration for the constituted authorities, Mr. Pickwick resolutely protested against making his appearance in the public streets, surrounded and guarded by the officers of justice, like a common criminal. Mr. Grummer, in the then disturbed state of public feeling (for it was half-holiday, and the boys had not yet gone home), as resolutely protested against walking on the opposite side of the way, and taking Mr. Pickwick's parole that he would go straight to the magistrate's; and both Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman as strenuously objected to the expense of a post-coach, which was the only respectable conveyance that could be obtained. The dispute ran high, and the dilemma lasted long; and just as the executive were on the point of overcoming Mr. Pickwick's objection to walking to the magistrate's, by the trite expedient of carrying him thither, it was recollected that there stood in the inn yard, an old sedan-chair, which, having been originally built for a gouty gentleman with funded property, would hold Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman, at least as conveniently as a modern post-chaise. The chair was hired, and brought into the hall; Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Tupman squeezed themselves inside, and pulled down the blinds; a couple of chairmen were speedily found; and the procession started in grand order. The specials surrounded the body of the vehicle; Mr. Grummer and Mr. Dubbley marched triumphantly in front; Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle walked arm-in-arm behind; and the unsoaped of Ipswich brought up the rear.
The shopkeepers of the town, although they had a very indistinct notion of the nature of the offence, could not but be much edified and gratified by this spectacle. Here was the strong arm of the law, coming down with twenty gold-beater force, upon two offenders from the metropolis itself; the mighty engine was directed by their own magistrate, and worked by their own officers; and both the criminals, by their united efforts, were securely shut up, in the narrow compass of one sedan-chair. Many were the expressions of approval and admiration which greeted Mr. Grummer, as he headed the cavalcade, staff in hand; loud and long were the shouts raised by the unsoaped; and amidst these united testimonials of public approbation, the procession moved slowly and majestically along.
Mr. Weller, habited in his morning jacket, with the black calico sleeves, was returning in a rather desponding state from an unsuccessful survey of the mysterious house with the green gate, when, raising his eyes, he beheld a crowd pouring down the street, surrounding an object which had very much the appearance of a sedan-chair. Willing to divert his thoughts from the failure of his enterprise, he stepped aside to see the crowd pass; and finding that they were cheering away, very much to their own satisfaction, forthwith began (by way of raising his spirits) to cheer too, with all his might and main.
Mr. Grummer passed, and Mr. Dubbley passed, and the sedan passed, and the bodyguard of specials passed, and Sam was still responding to the enthusiastic cheers of the mob, and waving his hat about as if he were in the very last extreme of the wildest joy (though, of course, he had not the faintest idea of the matter in hand), when he was suddenly stopped by the unexpected appearance of Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass.
'What's the row, gen'l'm'n?'cried Sam. 'Who have they got in this here watch-box in mournin'?'
Both gentlemen replied together, but their words were lost in the tumult.
'Who is it?' cried Sam again.
once more was a joint reply returned; and, though the words were inaudible, Sam saw by the motion of the two pairs of lips that they had uttered the magic word 'Pickwick.'
This was enough. In another minute Mr. Weller had made his way through the crowd, stopped the chairmen, and confronted the portly Grummer.
'Hollo, old gen'l'm'n!' said Sam. 'Who have you got in this here conweyance?'
'Stand back,' said Mr. Grummer, whose dignity, like the dignity of a great many other men, had been wondrously augmented by a little popularity.
'Knock him down, if he don't,' said Mr. Dubbley.
'I'm wery much obliged to you, old gen'l'm'n,' replied Sam, 'for consulting my conwenience, and I'm still more obliged to the other gen'l'm'n, who looks as if he'd just escaped from a giant's carrywan, for his wery 'andsome suggestion; but I should prefer your givin' me a answer to my question, if it's all the same to you.—How are you, Sir?' This last observation was addressed with a patronising air to Mr. Pickwick, who was peeping through the front window.
Mr. Grummer, perfectly speechless with indignation, dragged the truncheon with the brass crown from its particular pocket, and flourished it before Sam's eyes.
'Ah,' said Sam, 'it's wery pretty, 'specially the crown, which is uncommon like the real one.'
'Stand back!' said the outraged Mr. Grummer. By way of adding force to the command, he thrust the brass emblem of royalty into Sam's neckcloth with one hand, and seized Sam's collar with the other—a compliment which Mr. Weller returned by knocking him down out of hand, having previously with the utmost consideration, knocked down a chairman for him to lie upon.
Whether Mr. Winkle was seized with a temporary attack of that species of insanity which originates in a sense of injury, or animated by this display of Mr. Weller's valour, is uncertain; but certain it is, that he no sooner saw Mr. Grummer fall than he made a terrific onslaught on a small boy who stood next him; whereupon Mr. Snodgrass, in a truly Christian spirit, and in order that he might take no one unawares, announced in a very loud tone that he was going to begin, and proceeded to take off his coat with the utmost deliberation. He was immediately surrounded and secured; and it is but common justice both to him and Mr. Winkle to say, that they did not make the slightest attempt to rescue either themselves or Mr. Weller; who, after a most vigorous resistance, was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. The procession then reformed; the chairmen resumed their stations; and the march was re-commenced.
Mr. Pickwick's indignation during the whole of this proceeding was beyond all bounds. He could just see Sam upsetting the specials, and flying about in every direction; and that was all he could see, for the sedan doors wouldn't open, and the blinds wouldn't pull up. At length, with the assistance of Mr. Tupman, he managed to push open the roof; and mounting on the seat, and steadying himself as well as he could, by placing his hand on that gentleman's shoulder, Mr. Pickwick proceeded to address the multitude; to dwell upon the unjustifiable manner in which he had been treated; and to call upon them to take notice that his servant had been first assaulted. In this order they reached the magistrate's house; the chairmen trotting, the prisoners following, Mr. Pickwick oratorising, and the crowd shouting.
CHAPTER XXV. SHOWING, AMONG A VARIETY OF PLEASANT MATTERS, HOW MAJESTIC AND IMPARTIAL Mr. NUPKINS WAS; AND HOW Mr. WELLER RETURNED Mr. JOB TROTTER'S SHUTTLECOCK AS HEAVILY AS IT CAME—WITH ANOTHER MATTER, WHICH WILL BE FOUND IN ITS PLACE
Violent was Mr. Weller's indignation as he was borne along; numerous were the allusions to the personal appearance and demeanour of Mr. Grummer and his companion; and valorous were the defiances to any six of the gentlemen present, in which he vented his dissatisfaction. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle listened with gloomy respect to the torrent of eloquence which their leader poured forth from the sedan-chair, and the rapid course of which not all Mr. Tupman's earnest entreaties to have the lid of the vehicle closed, were able to check for an instant. But Mr. Weller's anger quickly gave way to curiosity when the procession turned down the identical courtyard in which he had met with the runaway Job Trotter; and curiosity was exchanged for a feeling of the most gleeful astonishment, when the all-important Mr. Grummer, commanding the sedan-bearers to halt, advanced with dignified and portentous steps to the very green gate from which Job Trotter had emerged, and gave a mighty pull at the bell-handle which hung at the side thereof. The ring was answered by a very smart and pretty-faced servant-girl, who, after holding up her hands in astonishment at the rebellious appearance of the prisoners, and the impassioned language of Mr. Pickwick, summoned Mr. Muzzle. Mr. Muzzle opened one half of the carriage gate, to admit the sedan, the captured ones, and the specials; and immediately slammed it in the faces of the mob, who, indignant at being excluded, and anxious to see what followed, relieved their feelings by kicking at the gate and ringing the bell, for an hour or two afterwards. In this amusement they all took part by turns, except three or four fortunate individuals, who, having discovered a grating in the gate, which commanded a view of nothing, stared through it with the indefatigable perseverance with which people will flatten their noses against the front windows of a chemist's shop, when a drunken man, who has been run over by a dog-cart in the street, is undergoing a surgical inspection in the back-parlour.
At the foot of a flight of steps, leading to the house door, which was guarded on either side by an American aloe in a green tub, the sedan-chair stopped. Mr. Pickwick and his friends were conducted into the hall, whence, having been previously announced by Muzzle, and ordered in by Mr. Nupkins, they were ushered into the worshipful presence of that public-spirited officer.
The scene was an impressive one, well calculated to strike terror to the hearts of culprits, and to impress them with an adequate idea of the stern majesty of the law. In front of a big book-case, in a big chair, behind a big table, and before a big volume, sat Mr. Nupkins, looking a full size larger than any one of them, big as they were. The table was adorned with piles of papers; and above the farther end of it, appeared the head and shoulders of Mr. Jinks, who was busily engaged in looking as busy as possible. The party having all entered, Muzzle carefully closed the door, and placed himself behind his master's chair to await his orders. Mr. Nupkins threw himself back with thrilling solemnity, and scrutinised the faces of his unwilling visitors.
'Now, Grummer, who is that person?' said Mr. Nupkins, pointing to Mr. Pickwick, who, as the spokesman of his friends, stood hat in hand, bowing with the utmost politeness and respect.
'This here's Pickvick, your Wash-up,' said Grummer.
'Come, none o' that 'ere, old Strike-a-light,' interposed Mr. Weller, elbowing himself into the front rank. 'Beg your pardon, sir, but this here officer o' yourn in the gambooge tops, 'ull never earn a decent livin' as a master o' the ceremonies any vere. This here, sir' continued Mr. Weller, thrusting Grummer aside, and addressing the magistrate with pleasant familiarity, 'this here is S. Pickvick, Esquire; this here's Mr. Tupman; that 'ere's Mr. Snodgrass; and farder on, next him on the t'other side, Mr. Winkle—all wery nice gen'l'm'n, Sir, as you'll be wery happy to have the acquaintance on; so the sooner you commits these here officers o' yourn to the tread—mill for a month or two, the sooner we shall begin to be on a pleasant understanding. Business first, pleasure arterwards, as King Richard the Third said when he stabbed the t'other king in the Tower, afore he smothered the babbies.'
At the conclusion of this address, Mr. Weller brushed his hat with his right elbow, and nodded benignly to Jinks, who had heard him throughout with unspeakable awe.
'Who is this man, Grummer?' said the magistrate.
'Wery desp'rate ch'racter, your Wash-up,' replied Grummer. 'He attempted to rescue the prisoners, and assaulted the officers; so we took him into custody, and brought him here.'
'You did quite right,' replied the magistrate. 'He is evidently a desperate ruffian.'
'He is my servant, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick angrily.
'Oh! he is your servant, is he?' said Mr. Nupkins. 'A conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice, and murder its officers. Pickwick's servant. Put that down, Mr. Jinks.'
Mr. Jinks did so.
'What's your name, fellow?' thundered Mr. Nupkins.
'Veller,' replied Sam.
'A very good name for the Newgate Calendar,' said Mr. Nupkins.
This was a joke; so Jinks, Grummer, Dubbley, all the specials, and Muzzle, went into fits of laughter of five minutes' duration.
'Put down his name, Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate.
'Two L's, old feller,' said Sam.
Here an unfortunate special laughed again, whereupon the magistrate threatened to commit him instantly. It is a dangerous thing to laugh at the wrong man, in these cases.
'Where do you live?' said the magistrate.
'Vere ever I can,' replied Sam.
'Put down that, Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, who was fast rising into a rage.
'Score it under,' said Sam.
'He is a vagabond, Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate. 'He is a vagabond on his own statement,—is he not, Mr. Jinks?'
'Then I'll commit him—I'll commit him as such,' said Mr. Nupkins.
'This is a wery impartial country for justice, 'said Sam.'There ain't a magistrate goin' as don't commit himself twice as he commits other people.'
At this sally another special laughed, and then tried to look so supernaturally solemn, that the magistrate detected him immediately.
'Grummer,' said Mr. Nupkins, reddening with passion, 'how dare you select such an inefficient and disreputable person for a special constable, as that man? How dare you do it, Sir?'
'I am very sorry, your Wash-up,' stammered Grummer.
'Very sorry!' said the furious magistrate. 'You shall repent of this neglect of duty, Mr. Grummer; you shall be made an example of. Take that fellow's staff away. He's drunk. You're drunk, fellow.'
'I am not drunk, your Worship,' said the man.
'You ARE drunk,' returned the magistrate. 'How dare you say you are not drunk, Sir, when I say you are? Doesn't he smell of spirits, Grummer?'
'Horrid, your Wash-up,' replied Grummer, who had a vague impression that there was a smell of rum somewhere.
'I knew he did,' said Mr. Nupkins. 'I saw he was drunk when he first came into the room, by his excited eye. Did you observe his excited eye, Mr. Jinks?'
'I haven't touched a drop of spirits this morning,' said the man, who was as sober a fellow as need be.
'How dare you tell me a falsehood?' said Mr. Nupkins. 'Isn't he drunk at this moment, Mr. Jinks?'
'Certainly, Sir,' replied Jinks.
'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, 'I shall commit that man for contempt. Make out his committal, Mr. Jinks.'
And committed the special would have been, only Jinks, who was the magistrate's adviser (having had a legal education of three years in a country attorney's office), whispered the magistrate that he thought it wouldn't do; so the magistrate made a speech, and said, that in consideration of the special's family, he would merely reprimand and discharge him. Accordingly, the special was abused, vehemently, for a quarter of an hour, and sent about his business; and Grummer, Dubbley, Muzzle, and all the other specials, murmured their admiration of the magnanimity of Mr. Nupkins.
'Now, Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate, 'swear Grummer.'
Grummer was sworn directly; but as Grummer wandered, and Mr. Nupkins's dinner was nearly ready, Mr. Nupkins cut the matter short, by putting leading questions to Grummer, which Grummer answered as nearly in the affirmative as he could. So the examination went off, all very smooth and comfortable, and two assaults were proved against Mr. Weller, and a threat against Mr. Winkle, and a push against Mr. Snodgrass. When all this was done to the magistrate's satisfaction, the magistrate and Mr. Jinks consulted in whispers.
The consultation having lasted about ten minutes, Mr. Jinks retired to his end of the table; and the magistrate, with a preparatory cough, drew himself up in his chair, and was proceeding to commence his address, when Mr. Pickwick interposed.
'I beg your pardon, sir, for interrupting you,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'but before you proceed to express, and act upon, any opinion you may have formed on the statements which have been made here, I must claim my right to be heard so far as I am personally concerned.'
'Hold your tongue, Sir,' said the magistrate peremptorily.
'I must submit to you, Sir—' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Hold your tongue, sir,' interposed the magistrate, 'or I shall order an officer to remove you.'
'You may order your officers to do whatever you please, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'and I have no doubt, from the specimen I have had of the subordination preserved amongst them, that whatever you order, they will execute, Sir; but I shall take the liberty, Sir, of claiming my right to be heard, until I am removed by force.'
'Pickvick and principle!' exclaimed Mr. Weller, in a very audible voice.
'Sam, be quiet,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Dumb as a drum vith a hole in it, Sir,' replied Sam.
Mr. Nupkins looked at Mr. Pickwick with a gaze of intense astonishment, at his displaying such unwonted temerity; and was apparently about to return a very angry reply, when Mr. Jinks pulled him by the sleeve, and whispered something in his ear. To this, the magistrate returned a half-audible answer, and then the whispering was renewed. Jinks was evidently remonstrating. At length the magistrate, gulping down, with a very bad grace, his disinclination to hear anything more, turned to Mr. Pickwick, and said sharply, 'What do you want to say?'
'First,' said Mr. Pickwick, sending a look through his spectacles, under which even Nupkins quailed, 'first, I wish to know what I and my friend have been brought here for?'
'Must I tell him?' whispered the magistrate to Jinks.
'I think you had better, sir,' whispered Jinks to the magistrate. 'An information has been sworn before me,' said the magistrate, 'that it is apprehended you are going to fight a duel, and that the other man, Tupman, is your aider and abettor in it. Therefore—eh, Mr. Jinks?'
'Therefore, I call upon you both, to—I think that's the course, Mr. Jinks?'
'To—to—what, Mr. Jinks?' said the magistrate pettishly.
'To find bail, sir.'
'Yes. Therefore, I call upon you both—as I was about to say when I was interrupted by my clerk—to find bail.' 'Good bail,' whispered Mr. Jinks.
'I shall require good bail,' said the magistrate.
'Town's-people,' whispered Jinks.
'They must be townspeople,' said the magistrate.
'Fifty pounds each,' whispered Jinks, 'and householders, of course.'
'I shall require two sureties of fifty pounds each,' said the magistrate aloud, with great dignity, 'and they must be householders, of course.'
'But bless my heart, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, who, together with Mr. Tupman, was all amazement and indignation; 'we are perfect strangers in this town. I have as little knowledge of any householders here, as I have intention of fighting a duel with anybody.'
'I dare say,' replied the magistrate, 'I dare say—don't you, Mr. Jinks?'
'Have you anything more to say?' inquired the magistrate.
Mr. Pickwick had a great deal more to say, which he would no doubt have said, very little to his own advantage, or the magistrate's satisfaction, if he had not, the moment he ceased speaking, been pulled by the sleeve by Mr. Weller, with whom he was immediately engaged in so earnest a conversation, that he suffered the magistrate's inquiry to pass wholly unnoticed. Mr. Nupkins was not the man to ask a question of the kind twice over; and so, with another preparatory cough, he proceeded, amidst the reverential and admiring silence of the constables, to pronounce his decision. He should fine Weller two pounds for the first assault, and three pounds for the second. He should fine Winkle two pounds, and Snodgrass one pound, besides requiring them to enter into their own recognisances to keep the peace towards all his Majesty's subjects, and especially towards his liege servant, Daniel Grummer. Pickwick and Tupman he had already held to bail.
Immediately on the magistrate ceasing to speak, Mr. Pickwick, with a smile mantling on his again good-humoured countenance, stepped forward, and said—
'I beg the magistrate's pardon, but may I request a few minutes' private conversation with him, on a matter of deep importance to himself?'
'What?' said the magistrate. Mr. Pickwick repeated his request.
'This is a most extraordinary request,' said the magistrate. 'A private interview?'
'A private interview,' replied Mr. Pickwick firmly; 'only, as a part of the information which I wish to communicate is derived from my servant, I should wish him to be present.'
The magistrate looked at Mr. Jinks; Mr. Jinks looked at the magistrate; the officers looked at each other in amazement. Mr. Nupkins turned suddenly pale. Could the man Weller, in a moment of remorse, have divulged some secret conspiracy for his assassination? It was a dreadful thought. He was a public man; and he turned paler, as he thought of Julius Caesar and Mr. Perceval.
The magistrate looked at Mr. Pickwick again, and beckoned Mr. Jinks.
'What do you think of this request, Mr. Jinks?' murmured Mr. Nupkins.
Mr. Jinks, who didn't exactly know what to think of it, and was afraid he might offend, smiled feebly, after a dubious fashion, and, screwing up the corners of his mouth, shook his head slowly from side to side.
'Mr. Jinks,' said the magistrate gravely, 'you are an ass.'
At this little expression of opinion, Mr. Jinks smiled again—rather more feebly than before—and edged himself, by degrees, back into his own corner.
Mr. Nupkins debated the matter within himself for a few seconds, and then, rising from his chair, and requesting Mr. Pickwick and Sam to follow him, led the way into a small room which opened into the justice-parlour. Desiring Mr. Pickwick to walk to the upper end of the little apartment, and holding his hand upon the half-closed door, that he might be able to effect an immediate escape, in case there was the least tendency to a display of hostilities, Mr. Nupkins expressed his readiness to hear the communication, whatever it might be.
'I will come to the point at once, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick; 'it affects yourself and your credit materially. I have every reason to believe, Sir, that you are harbouring in your house a gross impostor!'
'Two,' interrupted Sam. 'Mulberry agin all natur, for tears and willainny!'
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'if I am to render myself intelligible to this gentleman, I must beg you to control your feelings.'
'Wery sorry, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'but when I think o' that 'ere Job, I can't help opening the walve a inch or two.'
'In one word, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'is my servant right in suspecting that a certain Captain Fitz-Marshall is in the habit of visiting here? Because,' added Mr. Pickwick, as he saw that Mr. Nupkins was about to offer a very indignant interruption, 'because if he be, I know that person to be a—'
'Hush, hush,' said Mr. Nupkins, closing the door. 'Know him to be what, Sir?'
'An unprincipled adventurer—a dishonourable character—a man who preys upon society, and makes easily-deceived people his dupes, Sir; his absurd, his foolish, his wretched dupes, Sir,' said the excited Mr. Pickwick.
'Dear me,' said Mr. Nupkins, turning very red, and altering his whole manner directly. 'Dear me, Mr.—'
'Pickvick,' said Sam.
'Pickwick,' said the magistrate, 'dear me, Mr. Pickwick—pray take a seat—you cannot mean this? Captain Fitz-Marshall!'
'Don't call him a cap'en,' said Sam, 'nor Fitz-Marshall neither; he ain't neither one nor t'other. He's a strolling actor, he is, and his name's Jingle; and if ever there was a wolf in a mulberry suit, that 'ere Job Trotter's him.'
'It is very true, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, replying to the magistrate's look of amazement; 'my only business in this town, is to expose the person of whom we now speak.'
Mr. Pickwick proceeded to pour into the horror-stricken ear of Mr. Nupkins, an abridged account of all Mr. Jingle's atrocities. He related how he had first met him; how he had eloped with Miss Wardle; how he had cheerfully resigned the lady for a pecuniary consideration; how he had entrapped himself into a lady's boarding-school at midnight; and how he (Mr. Pickwick) now felt it his duty to expose his assumption of his present name and rank.
As the narrative proceeded, all the warm blood in the body of Mr. Nupkins tingled up into the very tips of his ears. He had picked up the captain at a neighbouring race-course. Charmed with his long list of aristocratic acquaintance, his extensive travel, and his fashionable demeanour, Mrs. Nupkins and Miss Nupkins had exhibited Captain Fitz-Marshall, and quoted Captain Fitz-Marshall, and hurled Captain Fitz-Marshall at the devoted heads of their select circle of acquaintance, until their bosom friends, Mrs. Porkenham and the Misses Porkenhams, and Mr. Sidney Porkenham, were ready to burst with jealousy and despair. And now, to hear, after all, that he was a needy adventurer, a strolling player, and if not a swindler, something so very like it, that it was hard to tell the difference! Heavens! what would the Porkenhams say! What would be the triumph of Mr. Sidney Porkenham when he found that his addresses had been slighted for such a rival! How should he, Nupkins, meet the eye of old Porkenham at the next quarter-sessions! And what a handle would it be for the opposition magisterial party if the story got abroad!
'But after all,' said Mr. Nupkins, brightening for a moment, after a long pause; 'after all, this is a mere statement. Captain Fitz-Marshall is a man of very engaging manners, and, I dare say, has many enemies. What proof have you of the truth of these representations?'
'Confront me with him,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that is all I ask, and all I require. Confront him with me and my friends here; you will want no further proof.'
'Why,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'that might be very easily done, for he will be here to-night, and then there would be no occasion to make the matter public, just—just—for the young man's own sake, you know. I—I—should like to consult Mrs. Nupkins on the propriety of the step, in the first instance, though. At all events, Mr. Pickwick, we must despatch this legal business before we can do anything else. Pray step back into the next room.'
Into the next room they went.
'Grummer,' said the magistrate, in an awful voice.
'Your Wash-up,' replied Grummer, with the smile of a favourite.
'Come, come, Sir,' said the magistrate sternly, 'don't let me see any of this levity here. It is very unbecoming, and I can assure you that you have very little to smile at. Was the account you gave me just now strictly true? Now be careful, sir!' 'Your Wash-up,' stammered Grummer, 'I-'
'Oh, you are confused, are you?' said the magistrate. 'Mr. Jinks, you observe this confusion?'
'Certainly, Sir,' replied Jinks.
'Now,' said the magistrate, 'repeat your statement, Grummer, and again I warn you to be careful. Mr. Jinks, take his words down.'
The unfortunate Grummer proceeded to re-state his complaint, but, what between Mr. Jinks's taking down his words, and the magistrate's taking them up, his natural tendency to rambling, and his extreme confusion, he managed to get involved, in something under three minutes, in such a mass of entanglement and contradiction, that Mr. Nupkins at once declared he didn't believe him. So the fines were remitted, and Mr. Jinks found a couple of bail in no time. And all these solemn proceedings having been satisfactorily concluded, Mr. Grummer was ignominiously ordered out—an awful instance of the instability of human greatness, and the uncertain tenure of great men's favour.
Mrs. Nupkins was a majestic female in a pink gauze turban and a light brown wig. Miss Nupkins possessed all her mamma's haughtiness without the turban, and all her ill-nature without the wig; and whenever the exercise of these two amiable qualities involved mother and daughter in some unpleasant dilemma, as they not infrequently did, they both concurred in laying the blame on the shoulders of Mr. Nupkins. Accordingly, when Mr. Nupkins sought Mrs. Nupkins, and detailed the communication which had been made by Mr. Pickwick, Mrs. Nupkins suddenly recollected that she had always expected something of the kind; that she had always said it would be so; that her advice was never taken; that she really did not know what Mr. Nupkins supposed she was; and so forth.
'The idea!' said Miss Nupkins, forcing a tear of very scanty proportions into the corner of each eye; 'the idea of my being made such a fool of!'
'Ah! you may thank your papa, my dear,' said Mrs. Nupkins; 'how I have implored and begged that man to inquire into the captain's family connections; how I have urged and entreated him to take some decisive step! I am quite certain nobody would believe it—quite.'
'But, my dear,' said Mr. Nupkins.
'Don't talk to me, you aggravating thing, don't!' said Mrs. Nupkins.
'My love,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'you professed yourself very fond of Captain Fitz-Marshall. You have constantly asked him here, my dear, and you have lost no opportunity of introducing him elsewhere.'
'Didn't I say so, Henrietta?' cried Mrs. Nupkins, appealing to her daughter with the air of a much-injured female. 'Didn't I say that your papa would turn round and lay all this at my door? Didn't I say so?' Here Mrs. Nupkins sobbed.
'Oh, pa!' remonstrated Miss Nupkins. And here she sobbed too.
'Isn't it too much, when he has brought all this disgrace and ridicule upon us, to taunt me with being the cause of it?' exclaimed Mrs. Nupkins.
'How can we ever show ourselves in society!' said Miss Nupkins.
'How can we face the Porkenhams?' cried Mrs. Nupkins.
'Or the Griggs!' cried Miss Nupkins. 'Or the Slummintowkens!' cried Mrs. Nupkins. 'But what does your papa care! What is it to HIM!' At this dreadful reflection, Mrs. Nupkins wept mental anguish, and Miss Nupkins followed on the same side.
Mrs. Nupkins's tears continued to gush forth, with great velocity, until she had gained a little time to think the matter over; when she decided, in her own mind, that the best thing to do would be to ask Mr. Pickwick and his friends to remain until the captain's arrival, and then to give Mr. Pickwick the opportunity he sought. If it appeared that he had spoken truly, the captain could be turned out of the house without noising the matter abroad, and they could easily account to the Porkenhams for his disappearance, by saying that he had been appointed, through the Court influence of his family, to the governor-generalship of Sierra Leone, of Saugur Point, or any other of those salubrious climates which enchant Europeans so much, that when they once get there, they can hardly ever prevail upon themselves to come back again.
When Mrs. Nupkins dried up her tears, Miss Nupkins dried up hers, and Mr. Nupkins was very glad to settle the matter as Mrs. Nupkins had proposed. So Mr. Pickwick and his friends, having washed off all marks of their late encounter, were introduced to the ladies, and soon afterwards to their dinner; and Mr. Weller, whom the magistrate, with his peculiar sagacity, had discovered in half an hour to be one of the finest fellows alive, was consigned to the care and guardianship of Mr. Muzzle, who was specially enjoined to take him below, and make much of him.
'How de do, sir?' said Mr. Muzzle, as he conducted Mr. Weller down the kitchen stairs.
'Why, no considerable change has taken place in the state of my system, since I see you cocked up behind your governor's chair in the parlour, a little vile ago,' replied Sam.
'You will excuse my not taking more notice of you then,' said Mr. Muzzle. 'You see, master hadn't introduced us, then. Lord, how fond he is of you, Mr. Weller, to be sure!'
'Ah!' said Sam, 'what a pleasant chap he is!'
'Ain't he?'replied Mr. Muzzle.
'So much humour,' said Sam.
'And such a man to speak,' said Mr. Muzzle. 'How his ideas flow, don't they?'
'Wonderful,' replied Sam; 'they comes a-pouring out, knocking each other's heads so fast, that they seems to stun one another; you hardly know what he's arter, do you?' 'That's the great merit of his style of speaking,' rejoined Mr. Muzzle. 'Take care of the last step, Mr. Weller. Would you like to wash your hands, sir, before we join the ladies'! Here's a sink, with the water laid on, Sir, and a clean jack towel behind the door.'
'Ah! perhaps I may as well have a rinse,' replied Mr. Weller, applying plenty of yellow soap to the towel, and rubbing away till his face shone again. 'How many ladies are there?'
'Only two in our kitchen,' said Mr. Muzzle; 'cook and 'ouse-maid. We keep a boy to do the dirty work, and a gal besides, but they dine in the wash'us.'
'Oh, they dines in the wash'us, do they?' said Mr. Weller.
'Yes,' replied Mr. Muzzle, 'we tried 'em at our table when they first come, but we couldn't keep 'em. The gal's manners is dreadful vulgar; and the boy breathes so very hard while he's eating, that we found it impossible to sit at table with him.'
'Young grampus!' said Mr. Weller.
'Oh, dreadful,' rejoined Mr. Muzzle; 'but that is the worst of country service, Mr. Weller; the juniors is always so very savage. This way, sir, if you please, this way.'
Preceding Mr. Weller, with the utmost politeness, Mr. Muzzle conducted him into the kitchen.
'Mary,' said Mr. Muzzle to the pretty servant-girl, 'this is Mr. Weller; a gentleman as master has sent down, to be made as comfortable as possible.'
'And your master's a knowin' hand, and has just sent me to the right place,' said Mr. Weller, with a glance of admiration at Mary. 'If I wos master o' this here house, I should alvays find the materials for comfort vere Mary wos.' 'Lor, Mr. Weller!' said Mary blushing.
'Well, I never!' ejaculated the cook.
'Bless me, cook, I forgot you,' said Mr. Muzzle. 'Mr. Weller, let me introduce you.'
'How are you, ma'am?' said Mr. Weller.'Wery glad to see you, indeed, and hope our acquaintance may be a long 'un, as the gen'l'm'n said to the fi' pun' note.'
When this ceremony of introduction had been gone through, the cook and Mary retired into the back kitchen to titter, for ten minutes; then returning, all giggles and blushes, they sat down to dinner. Mr. Weller's easy manners and conversational powers had such irresistible influence with his new friends, that before the dinner was half over, they were on a footing of perfect intimacy, and in possession of a full account of the delinquency of Job Trotter.
'I never could a-bear that Job,' said Mary.
'No more you never ought to, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller.
'Why not?' inquired Mary.
''Cos ugliness and svindlin' never ought to be formiliar with elegance and wirtew,' replied Mr. Weller. 'Ought they, Mr. Muzzle?'
'Not by no means,' replied that gentleman.
Here Mary laughed, and said the cook had made her; and the cook laughed, and said she hadn't.
'I ha'n't got a glass,' said Mary.
'Drink with me, my dear,' said Mr. Weller. 'Put your lips to this here tumbler, and then I can kiss you by deputy.'
'For shame, Mr. Weller!' said Mary.
'What's a shame, my dear?'
'Talkin' in that way.'
'Nonsense; it ain't no harm. It's natur; ain't it, cook?'
'Don't ask me, imperence,' replied the cook, in a high state of delight; and hereupon the cook and Mary laughed again, till what between the beer, and the cold meat, and the laughter combined, the latter young lady was brought to the verge of choking—an alarming crisis from which she was only recovered by sundry pats on the back, and other necessary attentions, most delicately administered by Mr. Samuel Weller. In the midst of all this jollity and conviviality, a loud ring was heard at the garden gate, to which the young gentleman who took his meals in the wash-house, immediately responded. Mr. Weller was in the height of his attentions to the pretty house-maid; Mr. Muzzle was busy doing the honours of the table; and the cook had just paused to laugh, in the very act of raising a huge morsel to her lips; when the kitchen door opened, and in walked Mr. Job Trotter.
We have said in walked Mr. Job Trotter, but the statement is not distinguished by our usual scrupulous adherence to fact. The door opened and Mr. Trotter appeared. He would have walked in, and was in the very act of doing so, indeed, when catching sight of Mr. Weller, he involuntarily shrank back a pace or two, and stood gazing on the unexpected scene before him, perfectly motionless with amazement and terror.
'Here he is!' said Sam, rising with great glee. 'Why we were that wery moment a-speaking o' you. How are you? Where have you been? Come in.'
Laying his hand on the mulberry collar of the unresisting Job, Mr. Weller dragged him into the kitchen; and, locking the door, handed the key to Mr. Muzzle, who very coolly buttoned it up in a side pocket.
'Well, here's a game!' cried Sam. 'Only think o' my master havin' the pleasure o' meeting yourn upstairs, and me havin' the joy o' meetin' you down here. How are you gettin' on, and how is the chandlery bis'ness likely to do? Well, I am so glad to see you. How happy you look. It's quite a treat to see you; ain't it, Mr. Muzzle?'
'Quite,' said Mr. Muzzle.
'So cheerful he is!' said Sam.
'In such good spirits!' said Muzzle. 'And so glad to see us—that makes it so much more comfortable,' said Sam. 'Sit down; sit down.'
Mr. Trotter suffered himself to be forced into a chair by the fireside. He cast his small eyes, first on Mr. Weller, and then on Mr. Muzzle, but said nothing.
'Well, now,' said Sam, 'afore these here ladies, I should jest like to ask you, as a sort of curiosity, whether you don't consider yourself as nice and well-behaved a young gen'l'm'n, as ever used a pink check pocket-handkerchief, and the number four collection?'
'And as was ever a-going to be married to a cook,' said that lady indignantly. 'The willin!'
'And leave off his evil ways, and set up in the chandlery line arterwards,' said the housemaid.
'Now, I'll tell you what it is, young man,' said Mr. Muzzle solemnly, enraged at the last two allusions, 'this here lady (pointing to the cook) keeps company with me; and when you presume, Sir, to talk of keeping chandlers' shops with her, you injure me in one of the most delicatest points in which one man can injure another. Do you understand that, Sir?'
Here Mr. Muzzle, who had a great notion of his eloquence, in which he imitated his master, paused for a reply.
But Mr. Trotter made no reply. So Mr. Muzzle proceeded in a solemn manner—
'It's very probable, sir, that you won't be wanted upstairs for several minutes, Sir, because MY master is at this moment particularly engaged in settling the hash of YOUR master, Sir; and therefore you'll have leisure, Sir, for a little private talk with me, Sir. Do you understand that, Sir?'
Mr. Muzzle again paused for a reply; and again Mr. Trotter disappointed him.
'Well, then,' said Mr. Muzzle, 'I'm very sorry to have to explain myself before ladies, but the urgency of the case will be my excuse. The back kitchen's empty, Sir. If you will step in there, Sir, Mr. Weller will see fair, and we can have mutual satisfaction till the bell rings. Follow me, Sir!'
As Mr. Muzzle uttered these words, he took a step or two towards the door; and, by way of saving time, began to pull off his coat as he walked along.
Now, the cook no sooner heard the concluding words of this desperate challenge, and saw Mr. Muzzle about to put it into execution, than she uttered a loud and piercing shriek; and rushing on Mr. Job Trotter, who rose from his chair on the instant, tore and buffeted his large flat face, with an energy peculiar to excited females, and twining her hands in his long black hair, tore therefrom about enough to make five or six dozen of the very largest-sized mourning-rings. Having accomplished this feat with all the ardour which her devoted love for Mr. Muzzle inspired, she staggered back; and being a lady of very excitable and delicate feelings, she instantly fell under the dresser, and fainted away.
At this moment, the bell rang.
'That's for you, Job Trotter,' said Sam; and before Mr. Trotter could offer remonstrance or reply—even before he had time to stanch the wounds inflicted by the insensible lady—Sam seized one arm and Mr. Muzzle the other, and one pulling before, and the other pushing behind, they conveyed him upstairs, and into the parlour.
It was an impressive tableau. Alfred Jingle, Esquire, alias Captain Fitz-Marshall, was standing near the door with his hat in his hand, and a smile on his face, wholly unmoved by his very unpleasant situation. Confronting him, stood Mr. Pickwick, who had evidently been inculcating some high moral lesson; for his left hand was beneath his coat tail, and his right extended in air, as was his wont when delivering himself of an impressive address. At a little distance, stood Mr. Tupman with indignant countenance, carefully held back by his two younger friends; at the farther end of the room were Mr. Nupkins, Mrs. Nupkins, and Miss Nupkins, gloomily grand and savagely vexed. 'What prevents me,' said Mr. Nupkins, with magisterial dignity, as Job was brought in—'what prevents me from detaining these men as rogues and impostors? It is a foolish mercy. What prevents me?'
'Pride, old fellow, pride,' replied Jingle, quite at his ease. 'Wouldn't do—no go—caught a captain, eh?—ha! ha! very good—husband for daughter—biter bit—make it public—not for worlds—look stupid—very!'
'Wretch,' said Mr. Nupkins, 'we scorn your base insinuations.'
'I always hated him,' added Henrietta.
'Oh, of course,' said Jingle. 'Tall young man—old lover—Sidney Porkenham—rich—fine fellow—not so rich as captain, though, eh?—turn him away—off with him—anything for captain—nothing like captain anywhere—all the girls—raving mad—eh, Job, eh?'
Here Mr. Jingle laughed very heartily; and Job, rubbing his hands with delight, uttered the first sound he had given vent to since he entered the house—a low, noiseless chuckle, which seemed to intimate that he enjoyed his laugh too much, to let any of it escape in sound. 'Mr. Nupkins,' said the elder lady,'this is not a fit conversation for the servants to overhear. Let these wretches be removed.'
'Certainly, my dear,' Said Mr. Nupkins. 'Muzzle!'
'Open the front door.'
'Yes, your Worship.'
'Leave the house!' said Mr. Nupkins, waving his hand emphatically.
Jingle smiled, and moved towards the door.
'Stay!' said Mr. Pickwick. Jingle stopped.
'I might,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'have taken a much greater revenge for the treatment I have experienced at your hands, and that of your hypocritical friend there.'
Job Trotter bowed with great politeness, and laid his hand upon his heart.
'I say,' said Mr. Pickwick, growing gradually angry, 'that I might have taken a greater revenge, but I content myself with exposing you, which I consider a duty I owe to society. This is a leniency, Sir, which I hope you will remember.'
When Mr. Pickwick arrived at this point, Job Trotter, with facetious gravity, applied his hand to his ear, as if desirous not to lose a syllable he uttered.
'And I have only to add, sir,' said Mr. Pickwick, now thoroughly angry, 'that I consider you a rascal, and a—a—ruffian—and—and worse than any man I ever saw, or heard of, except that pious and sanctified vagabond in the mulberry livery.'
'Ha! ha!' said Jingle, 'good fellow, Pickwick—fine heart—stout old boy—but must NOT be passionate—bad thing, very—bye, bye—see you again some day—keep up your spirits—now, Job—trot!'
With these words, Mr. Jingle stuck on his hat in his old fashion, and strode out of the room. Job Trotter paused, looked round, smiled and then with a bow of mock solemnity to Mr. Pickwick, and a wink to Mr. Weller, the audacious slyness of which baffles all description, followed the footsteps of his hopeful master.
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, as Mr. Weller was following.
'Sir.' 'Stay here.'
Mr. Weller seemed uncertain.
'Stay here,' repeated Mr. Pickwick.
'Mayn't I polish that 'ere Job off, in the front garden?' said Mr. Weller. 'Certainly not,' replied Mr. Pickwick.
'Mayn't I kick him out o' the gate, Sir?' said Mr. Weller.
'Not on any account,' replied his master.
For the first time since his engagement, Mr. Weller looked, for a moment, discontented and unhappy. But his countenance immediately cleared up; for the wily Mr. Muzzle, by concealing himself behind the street door, and rushing violently out, at the right instant, contrived with great dexterity to overturn both Mr. Jingle and his attendant, down the flight of steps, into the American aloe tubs that stood beneath.
'Having discharged my duty, Sir,' said Mr. Pickwick to Mr. Nupkins, 'I will, with my friends, bid you farewell. While we thank you for such hospitality as we have received, permit me to assure you, in our joint names, that we should not have accepted it, or have consented to extricate ourselves in this way, from our previous dilemma, had we not been impelled by a strong sense of duty. We return to London to-morrow. Your secret is safe with us.'
Having thus entered his protest against their treatment of the morning, Mr. Pickwick bowed low to the ladies, and notwithstanding the solicitations of the family, left the room with his friends.
'Get your hat, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'It's below stairs, Sir,' said Sam, and he ran down after it.
Now, there was nobody in the kitchen, but the pretty housemaid; and as Sam's hat was mislaid, he had to look for it, and the pretty housemaid lighted him. They had to look all over the place for the hat. The pretty housemaid, in her anxiety to find it, went down on her knees, and turned over all the things that were heaped together in a little corner by the door. It was an awkward corner. You couldn't get at it without shutting the door first.
'Here it is,' said the pretty housemaid. 'This is it, ain't it?'
'Let me look,' said Sam.
The pretty housemaid had stood the candle on the floor; and, as it gave a very dim light, Sam was obliged to go down on HIS knees before he could see whether it really was his own hat or not. It was a remarkably small corner, and so—it was nobody's fault but the man's who built the house—Sam and the pretty housemaid were necessarily very close together.
'Yes, this is it,' said Sam. 'Good-bye!'
'Good-bye!' said the pretty housemaid.
'Good-bye!' said Sam; and as he said it, he dropped the hat that had cost so much trouble in looking for.
'How awkward you are,' said the pretty housemaid. 'You'll lose it again, if you don't take care.'
So just to prevent his losing it again, she put it on for him.
Whether it was that the pretty housemaid's face looked prettier still, when it was raised towards Sam's, or whether it was the accidental consequence of their being so near to each other, is matter of uncertainty to this day; but Sam kissed her.
'You don't mean to say you did that on purpose,' said the pretty housemaid, blushing.
'No, I didn't then,' said Sam; 'but I will now.'
So he kissed her again. 'Sam!' said Mr. Pickwick, calling over the banisters.
'Coming, Sir,' replied Sam, running upstairs.
'How long you have been!' said Mr. Pickwick.
'There was something behind the door, Sir, which perwented our getting it open, for ever so long, Sir,' replied Sam.
And this was the first passage of Mr. Weller's first love.
CHAPTER XXVI. WHICH CONTAINS A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE PROGRESS OF THE ACTION OF BARDELL AGAINST PICKWICK
Having accomplished the main end and object of his journey, by the exposure of Jingle, Mr. Pickwick resolved on immediately returning to London, with the view of becoming acquainted with the proceedings which had been taken against him, in the meantime, by Messrs. Dodson and Fogg. Acting upon this resolution with all the energy and decision of his character, he mounted to the back seat of the first coach which left Ipswich on the morning after the memorable occurrences detailed at length in the two preceding chapters; and accompanied by his three friends, and Mr. Samuel Weller, arrived in the metropolis, in perfect health and safety, the same evening.
Here the friends, for a short time, separated. Messrs. Tupman, Winkle, and Snodgrass repaired to their several homes to make such preparations as might be requisite for their forthcoming visit to Dingley Dell; and Mr. Pickwick and Sam took up their present abode in very good, old-fashioned, and comfortable quarters, to wit, the George and Vulture Tavern and Hotel, George Yard, Lombard Street.
Mr. Pickwick had dined, finished his second pint of particular port, pulled his silk handkerchief over his head, put his feet on the fender, and thrown himself back in an easy-chair, when the entrance of Mr. Weller with his carpet-bag, aroused him from his tranquil meditation.
'Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick. 'Sir,' said Mr. Weller.
'I have just been thinking, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, 'that having left a good many things at Mrs. Bardell's, in Goswell Street, I ought to arrange for taking them away, before I leave town again.'
'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'I could send them to Mr. Tupman's, for the present, Sam,' continued Mr. Pickwick, 'but before we take them away, it is necessary that they should be looked up, and put together. I wish you would step up to Goswell Street, Sam, and arrange about it.'
'At once, Sir?' inquired Mr. Weller.
'At once,' replied Mr. Pickwick. 'And stay, Sam,' added Mr. Pickwick, pulling out his purse, 'there is some rent to pay. The quarter is not due till Christmas, but you may pay it, and have done with it. A month's notice terminates my tenancy. Here it is, written out. Give it, and tell Mrs. Bardell she may put a bill up, as soon as she likes.'
'Wery good, sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'anythin' more, sir?'
'Nothing more, Sam.'
Mr. Weller stepped slowly to the door, as if he expected something more; slowly opened it, slowly stepped out, and had slowly closed it within a couple of inches, when Mr. Pickwick called out—
'Yes, sir,' said Mr. Weller, stepping quickly back, and closing the door behind him. 'I have no objection, Sam, to your endeavouring to ascertain how Mrs. Bardell herself seems disposed towards me, and whether it is really probable that this vile and groundless action is to be carried to extremity. I say I do not object to you doing this, if you wish it, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
Sam gave a short nod of intelligence, and left the room. Mr. Pickwick drew the silk handkerchief once more over his head, And composed himself for a nap. Mr. Weller promptly walked forth, to execute his commission.
It was nearly nine o'clock when he reached Goswell Street. A couple of candles were burning in the little front parlour, and a couple of caps were reflected on the window-blind. Mrs. Bardell had got company.
Mr. Weller knocked at the door, and after a pretty long interval—occupied by the party without, in whistling a tune, and by the party within, in persuading a refractory flat candle to allow itself to be lighted—a pair of small boots pattered over the floor-cloth, and Master Bardell presented himself.
'Well, young townskip,' said Sam, 'how's mother?'
'She's pretty well,' replied Master Bardell, 'so am I.'
'Well, that's a mercy,' said Sam; 'tell her I want to speak to her, will you, my hinfant fernomenon?'
Master Bardell, thus adjured, placed the refractory flat candle on the bottom stair, and vanished into the front parlour with his message.
The two caps, reflected on the window-blind, were the respective head-dresses of a couple of Mrs. Bardell's most particular acquaintance, who had just stepped in, to have a quiet cup of tea, and a little warm supper of a couple of sets of pettitoes and some toasted cheese. The cheese was simmering and browning away, most delightfully, in a little Dutch oven before the fire; the pettitoes were getting on deliciously in a little tin saucepan on the hob; and Mrs. Bardell and her two friends were getting on very well, also, in a little quiet conversation about and concerning all their particular friends and acquaintance; when Master Bardell came back from answering the door, and delivered the message intrusted to him by Mr. Samuel Weller.
'Mr. Pickwick's servant!' said Mrs. Bardell, turning pale.
'Bless my soul!' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'Well, I raly would not ha' believed it, unless I had ha' happened to ha' been here!' said Mrs. Sanders.
Mrs. Cluppins was a little, brisk, busy-looking woman; Mrs. Sanders was a big, fat, heavy-faced personage; and the two were the company.
Mrs. Bardell felt it proper to be agitated; and as none of the three exactly knew whether under existing circumstances, any communication, otherwise than through Dodson & Fogg, ought to be held with Mr. Pickwick's servant, they were all rather taken by surprise. In this state of indecision, obviously the first thing to be done, was to thump the boy for finding Mr. Weller at the door. So his mother thumped him, and he cried melodiously.
'Hold your noise—do—you naughty creetur!' said Mrs. Bardell.
'Yes; don't worrit your poor mother,' said Mrs. Sanders.
'She's quite enough to worrit her, as it is, without you, Tommy,' said Mrs. Cluppins, with sympathising resignation.
'Ah! worse luck, poor lamb!' said Mrs. Sanders. At all which moral reflections, Master Bardell howled the louder.
'Now, what shall I do?' said Mrs. Bardell to Mrs. Cluppins.
'I think you ought to see him,' replied Mrs. Cluppins. 'But on no account without a witness.'
'I think two witnesses would be more lawful,' said Mrs. Sanders, who, like the other friend, was bursting with curiosity.
'Perhaps he'd better come in here,' said Mrs. Bardell.
'To be sure,' replied Mrs. Cluppins, eagerly catching at the idea; 'walk in, young man; and shut the street door first, please.'
Mr. Weller immediately took the hint; and presenting himself in the parlour, explained his business to Mrs. Bardell thus—
'Wery sorry to 'casion any personal inconwenience, ma'am, as the housebreaker said to the old lady when he put her on the fire; but as me and my governor 's only jest come to town, and is jest going away agin, it can't be helped, you see.'
'Of course, the young man can't help the faults of his master,' said Mrs. Cluppins, much struck by Mr. Weller's appearance and conversation.
'Certainly not,' chimed in Mrs. Sanders, who, from certain wistful glances at the little tin saucepan, seemed to be engaged in a mental calculation of the probable extent of the pettitoes, in the event of Sam's being asked to stop to supper.
'So all I've come about, is jest this here,' said Sam, disregarding the interruption; 'first, to give my governor's notice—there it is. Secondly, to pay the rent—here it is. Thirdly, to say as all his things is to be put together, and give to anybody as we sends for 'em. Fourthly, that you may let the place as soon as you like—and that's all.'
'Whatever has happened,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'I always have said, and always will say, that in every respect but one, Mr. Pickwick has always behaved himself like a perfect gentleman. His money always as good as the bank—always.'
As Mrs. Bardell said this, she applied her handkerchief to her eyes, and went out of the room to get the receipt.
Sam well knew that he had only to remain quiet, and the women were sure to talk; so he looked alternately at the tin saucepan, the toasted cheese, the wall, and the ceiling, in profound silence.
'Poor dear!' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'Ah, poor thing!' replied Mrs. Sanders. Sam said nothing. He saw they were coming to the subject.
'I raly cannot contain myself,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'when I think of such perjury. I don't wish to say anything to make you uncomfortable, young man, but your master's an old brute, and I wish I had him here to tell him so.' 'I wish you had,' said Sam.
'To see how dreadful she takes on, going moping about, and taking no pleasure in nothing, except when her friends comes in, out of charity, to sit with her, and make her comfortable,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins, glancing at the tin saucepan and the Dutch oven, 'it's shocking!'
'Barbareous,' said Mrs. Sanders.
'And your master, young man! A gentleman with money, as could never feel the expense of a wife, no more than nothing,' continued Mrs. Cluppins, with great volubility; 'why there ain't the faintest shade of an excuse for his behaviour! Why don't he marry her?'
'Ah,' said Sam, 'to be sure; that's the question.'
'Question, indeed,' retorted Mrs. Cluppins, 'she'd question him, if she'd my spirit. Hows'ever, there is law for us women, mis'rable creeturs as they'd make us, if they could; and that your master will find out, young man, to his cost, afore he's six months older.'
At this consolatory reflection, Mrs. Cluppins bridled up, and smiled at Mrs. Sanders, who smiled back again.
'The action's going on, and no mistake,' thought Sam, as Mrs. Bardell re-entered with the receipt.
'Here's the receipt, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell, 'and here's the change, and I hope you'll take a little drop of something to keep the cold out, if it's only for old acquaintance' sake, Mr. Weller.'
Sam saw the advantage he should gain, and at once acquiesced; whereupon Mrs. Bardell produced, from a small closet, a black bottle and a wine-glass; and so great was her abstraction, in her deep mental affliction, that, after filling Mr. Weller's glass, she brought out three more wine-glasses, and filled them too.
'Lauk, Mrs. Bardell,' said Mrs. Cluppins, 'see what you've been and done!'
'Well, that is a good one!' ejaculated Mrs. Sanders.
'Ah, my poor head!' said Mrs. Bardell, with a faint smile.
Sam understood all this, of course, so he said at once, that he never could drink before supper, unless a lady drank with him. A great deal of laughter ensued, and Mrs. Sanders volunteered to humour him, so she took a slight sip out of her glass. Then Sam said it must go all round, so they all took a slight sip. Then little Mrs. Cluppins proposed as a toast, 'Success to Bardell agin Pickwick'; and then the ladies emptied their glasses in honour of the sentiment, and got very talkative directly.
'I suppose you've heard what's going forward, Mr. Weller?' said Mrs. Bardell.
'I've heerd somethin' on it,' replied Sam.
'It's a terrible thing to be dragged before the public, in that way, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell; 'but I see now, that it's the only thing I ought to do, and my lawyers, Mr. Dodson and Fogg, tell me that, with the evidence as we shall call, we must succeed. I don't know what I should do, Mr. Weller, if I didn't.'
The mere idea of Mrs. Bardell's failing in her action, affected Mrs. Sanders so deeply, that she was under the necessity of refilling and re-emptying her glass immediately; feeling, as she said afterwards, that if she hadn't had the presence of mind to do so, she must have dropped.
'Ven is it expected to come on?' inquired Sam.
'Either in February or March,' replied Mrs. Bardell.
'What a number of witnesses there'll be, won't there?' said Mrs. Cluppins.
'Ah! won't there!' replied Mrs. Sanders.
'And won't Mr. Dodson and Fogg be wild if the plaintiff shouldn't get it?' added Mrs. Cluppins, 'when they do it all on speculation!'
'Ah! won't they!' said Mrs. Sanders.
'But the plaintiff must get it,' resumed Mrs. Cluppins.
'I hope so,' said Mrs. Bardell.
'Oh, there can't be any doubt about it,' rejoined Mrs. Sanders.
'Vell,' said Sam, rising and setting down his glass, 'all I can say is, that I vish you MAY get it.'
'Thank'ee, Mr. Weller,' said Mrs. Bardell fervently.
'And of them Dodson and Foggs, as does these sort o' things on spec,' continued Mr. Weller, 'as vell as for the other kind and gen'rous people o' the same purfession, as sets people by the ears, free gratis for nothin', and sets their clerks to work to find out little disputes among their neighbours and acquaintances as vants settlin' by means of lawsuits—all I can say o' them is, that I vish they had the reward I'd give 'em.'
'Ah, I wish they had the reward that every kind and generous heart would be inclined to bestow upon them!' said the gratified Mrs. Bardell.
'Amen to that,' replied Sam, 'and a fat and happy liven' they'd get out of it! Wish you good-night, ladies.'
To the great relief of Mrs. Sanders, Sam was allowed to depart without any reference, on the part of the hostess, to the pettitoes and toasted cheese; to which the ladies, with such juvenile assistance as Master Bardell could afford, soon afterwards rendered the amplest justice—indeed they wholly vanished before their strenuous exertions.
Mr. Weller wended his way back to the George and Vulture, and faithfully recounted to his master, such indications of the sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg, as he had contrived to pick up in his visit to Mrs. Bardell's. An interview with Mr. Perker, next day, more than confirmed Mr. Weller's statement; and Mr. Pickwick was fain to prepare for his Christmas visit to Dingley Dell, with the pleasant anticipation that some two or three months afterwards, an action brought against him for damages sustained by reason of a breach of promise of marriage, would be publicly tried in the Court of Common Pleas; the plaintiff having all the advantages derivable, not only from the force of circumstances, but from the sharp practice of Dodson & Fogg to boot.
CHAPTER XXVII. SAMUEL WELLER MAKES A PILGRIMAGE TO DORKING, AND BEHOLDS HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW
There still remaining an interval of two days before the time agreed upon for the departure of the Pickwickians to Dingley Dell, Mr. Weller sat himself down in a back room at the George and Vulture, after eating an early dinner, to muse on the best way of disposing of his time. It was a remarkably fine day; and he had not turned the matter over in his mind ten minutes, when he was suddenly stricken filial and affectionate; and it occurred to him so strongly that he ought to go down and see his father, and pay his duty to his mother-in-law, that he was lost in astonishment at his own remissness in never thinking of this moral obligation before. Anxious to atone for his past neglect without another hour's delay, he straightway walked upstairs to Mr. Pickwick, and requested leave of absence for this laudable purpose.
'Certainly, Sam, certainly,' said Mr. Pickwick, his eyes glistening with delight at this manifestation of filial feeling on the part of his attendant; 'certainly, Sam.'
Mr. Weller made a grateful bow.
'I am very glad to see that you have so high a sense of your duties as a son, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'I always had, sir,' replied Mr. Weller.
'That's a very gratifying reflection, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick approvingly.
'Wery, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; 'if ever I wanted anythin' o' my father, I always asked for it in a wery 'spectful and obligin' manner. If he didn't give it me, I took it, for fear I should be led to do anythin' wrong, through not havin' it. I saved him a world o' trouble this vay, Sir.'
'That's not precisely what I meant, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick, shaking his head, with a slight smile.
'All good feelin', sir—the wery best intentions, as the gen'l'm'n said ven he run away from his wife 'cos she seemed unhappy with him,' replied Mr. Weller.
'You may go, Sam,' said Mr. Pickwick.
'Thank'ee, Sir,' replied Mr. Weller; and having made his best bow, and put on his best clothes, Sam planted himself on the top of the Arundel coach, and journeyed on to Dorking.
The Marquis of Granby, in Mrs. Weller's time, was quite a model of a roadside public-house of the better class—just large enough to be convenient, and small enough to be snug. On the opposite side of the road was a large sign-board on a high post, representing the head and shoulders of a gentleman with an apoplectic countenance, in a red coat with deep blue facings, and a touch of the same blue over his three-cornered hat, for a sky. Over that again were a pair of flags; beneath the last button of his coat were a couple of cannon; and the whole formed an expressive and undoubted likeness of the Marquis of Granby of glorious memory.
The bar window displayed a choice collection of geranium plants, and a well-dusted row of spirit phials. The open shutters bore a variety of golden inscriptions, eulogistic of good beds and neat wines; and the choice group of countrymen and hostlers lounging about the stable door and horse-trough, afforded presumptive proof of the excellent quality of the ale and spirits which were sold within. Sam Weller paused, when he dismounted from the coach, to note all these little indications of a thriving business, with the eye of an experienced traveller; and having done so, stepped in at once, highly satisfied with everything he had observed.
'Now, then!' said a shrill female voice the instant Sam thrust his head in at the door, 'what do you want, young man?'
Sam looked round in the direction whence the voice proceeded. It came from a rather stout lady of comfortable appearance, who was seated beside the fireplace in the bar, blowing the fire to make the kettle boil for tea. She was not alone; for on the other side of the fireplace, sitting bolt upright in a high-backed chair, was a man in threadbare black clothes, with a back almost as long and stiff as that of the chair itself, who caught Sam's most particular and especial attention at once.
He was a prim-faced, red-nosed man, with a long, thin countenance, and a semi-rattlesnake sort of eye—rather sharp, but decidedly bad. He wore very short trousers, and black cotton stockings, which, like the rest of his apparel, were particularly rusty. His looks were starched, but his white neckerchief was not, and its long limp ends straggled over his closely-buttoned waistcoat in a very uncouth and unpicturesque fashion. A pair of old, worn, beaver gloves, a broad-brimmed hat, and a faded green umbrella, with plenty of whalebone sticking through the bottom, as if to counterbalance the want of a handle at the top, lay on a chair beside him; and, being disposed in a very tidy and careful manner, seemed to imply that the red-nosed man, whoever he was, had no intention of going away in a hurry.
To do the red-nosed man justice, he would have been very far from wise if he had entertained any such intention; for, to judge from all appearances, he must have been possessed of a most desirable circle of acquaintance, if he could have reasonably expected to be more comfortable anywhere else. The fire was blazing brightly under the influence of the bellows, and the kettle was singing gaily under the influence of both. A small tray of tea-things was arranged on the table; a plate of hot buttered toast was gently simmering before the fire; and the red-nosed man himself was busily engaged in converting a large slice of bread into the same agreeable edible, through the instrumentality of a long brass toasting-fork. Beside him stood a glass of reeking hot pine-apple rum-and-water, with a slice of lemon in it; and every time the red-nosed man stopped to bring the round of toast to his eye, with the view of ascertaining how it got on, he imbibed a drop or two of the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and smiled upon the rather stout lady, as she blew the fire.
Sam was so lost in the contemplation of this comfortable scene, that he suffered the first inquiry of the rather stout lady to pass unheeded. It was not until it had been twice repeated, each time in a shriller tone, that he became conscious of the impropriety of his behaviour.
'Governor in?' inquired Sam, in reply to the question.
'No, he isn't,' replied Mrs. Weller; for the rather stout lady was no other than the quondam relict and sole executrix of the dead-and-gone Mr. Clarke; 'no, he isn't, and I don't expect him, either.'
'I suppose he's drivin' up to-day?' said Sam.
'He may be, or he may not,' replied Mrs. Weller, buttering the round of toast which the red-nosed man had just finished. 'I don't know, and, what's more, I don't care.—Ask a blessin', Mr. Stiggins.'
The red-nosed man did as he was desired, and instantly commenced on the toast with fierce voracity.
The appearance of the red-nosed man had induced Sam, at first sight, to more than half suspect that he was the deputy-shepherd of whom his estimable parent had spoken. The moment he saw him eat, all doubt on the subject was removed, and he perceived at once that if he purposed to take up his temporary quarters where he was, he must make his footing good without delay. He therefore commenced proceedings by putting his arm over the half-door of the bar, coolly unbolting it, and leisurely walking in.
'Mother-in-law,' said Sam, 'how are you?'
'Why, I do believe he is a Weller!' said Mrs. W., raising her eyes to Sam's face, with no very gratified expression of countenance.
'I rayther think he is,' said the imperturbable Sam; 'and I hope this here reverend gen'l'm'n 'll excuse me saying that I wish I was THE Weller as owns you, mother-in-law.'
This was a double-barrelled compliment. It implied that Mrs. Weller was a most agreeable female, and also that Mr. Stiggins had a clerical appearance. It made a visible impression at once; and Sam followed up his advantage by kissing his mother-in-law.
'Get along with you!' said Mrs. Weller, pushing him away. 'For shame, young man!' said the gentleman with the red nose.
'No offence, sir, no offence,' replied Sam; 'you're wery right, though; it ain't the right sort o' thing, ven mothers-in-law is young and good-looking, is it, Sir?'
'It's all vanity,' said Mr. Stiggins.
'Ah, so it is,' said Mrs. Weller, setting her cap to rights.
Sam thought it was, too, but he held his peace.
The deputy-shepherd seemed by no means best pleased with Sam's arrival; and when the first effervescence of the compliment had subsided, even Mrs. Weller looked as if she could have spared him without the smallest inconvenience. However, there he was; and as he couldn't be decently turned out, they all three sat down to tea.
'And how's father?' said Sam.
At this inquiry, Mrs. Weller raised her hands, and turned up her eyes, as if the subject were too painful to be alluded to.
Mr. Stiggins groaned.
'What's the matter with that 'ere gen'l'm'n?' inquired Sam.
'He's shocked at the way your father goes on in,' replied Mrs. Weller.
'Oh, he is, is he?' said Sam.
'And with too good reason,' added Mrs. Weller gravely.
Mr. Stiggins took up a fresh piece of toast, and groaned heavily.
'He is a dreadful reprobate,' said Mrs. Weller.
'A man of wrath!' exclaimed Mr. Stiggins. He took a large semi-circular bite out of the toast, and groaned again.
Sam felt very strongly disposed to give the reverend Mr. Stiggins something to groan for, but he repressed his inclination, and merely asked, 'What's the old 'un up to now?'
'Up to, indeed!' said Mrs. Weller, 'Oh, he has a hard heart. Night after night does this excellent man—don't frown, Mr. Stiggins; I WILL say you ARE an excellent man—come and sit here, for hours together, and it has not the least effect upon him.' 'Well, that is odd,' said Sam; 'it 'ud have a wery considerable effect upon me, if I wos in his place; I know that.'
'The fact is, my young friend,' said Mr. Stiggins solemnly, 'he has an obderrate bosom. Oh, my young friend, who else could have resisted the pleading of sixteen of our fairest sisters, and withstood their exhortations to subscribe to our noble society for providing the infant negroes in the West Indies with flannel waistcoats and moral pocket-handkerchiefs?'
'What's a moral pocket-ankercher?' said Sam; 'I never see one o' them articles o' furniter.'
'Those which combine amusement With instruction, my young friend,' replied Mr. Stiggins, 'blending select tales with wood-cuts.'
'Oh, I know,' said Sam; 'them as hangs up in the linen-drapers' shops, with beggars' petitions and all that 'ere upon 'em?'
Mr. Stiggins began a third round of toast, and nodded assent. 'And he wouldn't be persuaded by the ladies, wouldn't he?' said Sam.
'Sat and smoked his pipe, and said the infant negroes were—what did he say the infant negroes were?' said Mrs. Weller.
'Little humbugs,' replied Mr. Stiggins, deeply affected.
'Said the infant negroes were little humbugs,' repeated Mrs. Weller. And they both groaned at the atrocious conduct of the elder Mr. Weller.
A great many more iniquities of a similar nature might have been disclosed, only the toast being all eaten, the tea having got very weak, and Sam holding out no indications of meaning to go, Mr. Stiggins suddenly recollected that he had a most pressing appointment with the shepherd, and took himself off accordingly.
The tea-things had been scarcely put away, and the hearth swept up, when the London coach deposited Mr. Weller, senior, at the door; his legs deposited him in the bar; and his eyes showed him his son.
'What, Sammy!' exclaimed the father.
'What, old Nobs!' ejaculated the son. And they shook hands heartily.
'Wery glad to see you, Sammy,' said the elder Mr. Weller, 'though how you've managed to get over your mother-in-law, is a mystery to me. I only vish you'd write me out the receipt, that's all.'
'Hush!' said Sam, 'she's at home, old feller.' 'She ain't vithin hearin',' replied Mr. Weller; 'she always goes and blows up, downstairs, for a couple of hours arter tea; so we'll just give ourselves a damp, Sammy.'
Saying this, Mr. Weller mixed two glasses of spirits-and-water, and produced a couple of pipes. The father and son sitting down opposite each other; Sam on one side of the fire, in the high-backed chair, and Mr. Weller, senior, on the other, in an easy ditto, they proceeded to enjoy themselves with all due gravity.
'Anybody been here, Sammy?' asked Mr. Weller, senior, dryly, after a long silence.
Sam nodded an expressive assent.
'Red-nosed chap?' inquired Mr. Weller.
Sam nodded again.
'Amiable man that 'ere, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, smoking violently.
'Seems so,' observed Sam.
'Good hand at accounts,' said Mr. Weller. 'Is he?' said Sam.
'Borrows eighteenpence on Monday, and comes on Tuesday for a shillin' to make it up half-a-crown; calls again on Vensday for another half-crown to make it five shillin's; and goes on, doubling, till he gets it up to a five pund note in no time, like them sums in the 'rithmetic book 'bout the nails in the horse's shoes, Sammy.'
Sam intimated by a nod that he recollected the problem alluded to by his parent.
'So you vouldn't subscribe to the flannel veskits?' said Sam, after another interval of smoking.
'Cert'nly not,' replied Mr. Weller; 'what's the good o' flannel veskits to the young niggers abroad? But I'll tell you what it is, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller, lowering his voice, and bending across the fireplace; 'I'd come down wery handsome towards strait veskits for some people at home.'
As Mr. Weller said this, he slowly recovered his former position, and winked at his first-born, in a profound manner.
'It cert'nly seems a queer start to send out pocket-'ankerchers to people as don't know the use on 'em,' observed Sam.
'They're alvays a-doin' some gammon of that sort, Sammy,' replied his father. 'T'other Sunday I wos walkin' up the road, wen who should I see, a-standin' at a chapel door, with a blue soup-plate in her hand, but your mother-in-law! I werily believe there was change for a couple o' suv'rins in it, then, Sammy, all in ha'pence; and as the people come out, they rattled the pennies in it, till you'd ha' thought that no mortal plate as ever was baked, could ha' stood the wear and tear. What d'ye think it was all for?'
'For another tea-drinkin', perhaps,' said Sam.
'Not a bit on it,' replied the father; 'for the shepherd's water-rate, Sammy.'
'The shepherd's water-rate!' said Sam.
'Ay,' replied Mr. Weller, 'there was three quarters owin', and the shepherd hadn't paid a farden, not he—perhaps it might be on account that the water warn't o' much use to him, for it's wery little o' that tap he drinks, Sammy, wery; he knows a trick worth a good half-dozen of that, he does. Hows'ever, it warn't paid, and so they cuts the water off. Down goes the shepherd to chapel, gives out as he's a persecuted saint, and says he hopes the heart of the turncock as cut the water off, 'll be softened, and turned in the right vay, but he rayther thinks he's booked for somethin' uncomfortable. Upon this, the women calls a meetin', sings a hymn, wotes your mother-in-law into the chair, wolunteers a collection next Sunday, and hands it all over to the shepherd. And if he ain't got enough out on 'em, Sammy, to make him free of the water company for life,' said Mr. Weller, in conclusion, 'I'm one Dutchman, and you're another, and that's all about it.'
Mr. Weller smoked for some minutes in silence, and then resumed—
'The worst o' these here shepherds is, my boy, that they reg'larly turns the heads of all the young ladies, about here. Lord bless their little hearts, they thinks it's all right, and don't know no better; but they're the wictims o' gammon, Samivel, they're the wictims o' gammon.'
'I s'pose they are,' said Sam.
'Nothin' else,' said Mr. Weller, shaking his head gravely; 'and wot aggrawates me, Samivel, is to see 'em a-wastin' all their time and labour in making clothes for copper-coloured people as don't want 'em, and taking no notice of flesh-coloured Christians as do. If I'd my vay, Samivel, I'd just stick some o' these here lazy shepherds behind a heavy wheelbarrow, and run 'em up and down a fourteen-inch-wide plank all day. That 'ud shake the nonsense out of 'em, if anythin' vould.'
Mr. Weller, having delivered this gentle recipe with strong emphasis, eked out by a variety of nods and contortions of the eye, emptied his glass at a draught, and knocked the ashes out of his pipe, with native dignity.
He was engaged in this operation, when a shrill voice was heard in the passage.
'Here's your dear relation, Sammy,' said Mr. Weller; and Mrs. W. hurried into the room.
'Oh, you've come back, have you!' said Mrs. Weller.
'Yes, my dear,' replied Mr. Weller, filling a fresh pipe.
'Has Mr. Stiggins been back?' said Mrs. Weller.
'No, my dear, he hasn't,' replied Mr. Weller, lighting the pipe by the ingenious process of holding to the bowl thereof, between the tongs, a red-hot coal from the adjacent fire; and what's more, my dear, I shall manage to surwive it, if he don't come back at all.'
'Ugh, you wretch!' said Mrs. Weller.
'Thank'ee, my love,' said Mr. Weller. 'Come, come, father,' said Sam, 'none o' these little lovin's afore strangers. Here's the reverend gen'l'm'n a-comin' in now.' At this announcement, Mrs. Weller hastily wiped off the tears which she had just begun to force on; and Mr. W. drew his chair sullenly into the chimney-corner.
Mr. Stiggins was easily prevailed on to take another glass of the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, and a second, and a third, and then to refresh himself with a slight supper, previous to beginning again. He sat on the same side as Mr. Weller, senior; and every time he could contrive to do so, unseen by his wife, that gentleman indicated to his son the hidden emotions of his bosom, by shaking his fist over the deputy-shepherd's head; a process which afforded his son the most unmingled delight and satisfaction, the more especially as Mr. Stiggins went on, quietly drinking the hot pine-apple rum-and-water, wholly unconscious of what was going forward.
The major part of the conversation was confined to Mrs. Weller and the reverend Mr. Stiggins; and the topics principally descanted on, were the virtues of the shepherd, the worthiness of his flock, and the high crimes and misdemeanours of everybody beside—dissertations which the elder Mr. Weller occasionally interrupted by half-suppressed references to a gentleman of the name of Walker, and other running commentaries of the same kind.
At length Mr. Stiggins, with several most indubitable symptoms of having quite as much pine-apple rum-and-water about him as he could comfortably accommodate, took his hat, and his leave; and Sam was, immediately afterwards, shown to bed by his father. The respectable old gentleman wrung his hand fervently, and seemed disposed to address some observation to his son; but on Mrs. Weller advancing towards him, he appeared to relinquish that intention, and abruptly bade him good-night.
Sam was up betimes next day, and having partaken of a hasty breakfast, prepared to return to London. He had scarcely set foot without the house, when his father stood before him.
'Goin', Sammy?' inquired Mr. Weller.
'Off at once,' replied Sam.
'I vish you could muffle that 'ere Stiggins, and take him vith you,' said Mr. Weller.
'I am ashamed on you!' said Sam reproachfully; 'what do you let him show his red nose in the Markis o' Granby at all, for?'
Mr. Weller the elder fixed on his son an earnest look, and replied, ''Cause I'm a married man, Samivel,'cause I'm a married man. Ven you're a married man, Samivel, you'll understand a good many things as you don't understand now; but vether it's worth while goin' through so much, to learn so little, as the charity-boy said ven he got to the end of the alphabet, is a matter o' taste. I rayther think it isn't.' 'Well,' said Sam, 'good-bye.'
'Tar, tar, Sammy,' replied his father.
'I've only got to say this here,' said Sam, stopping short, 'that if I was the properiator o' the Markis o' Granby, and that 'ere Stiggins came and made toast in my bar, I'd—'
'What?' interposed Mr. Weller, with great anxiety. 'What?'
'Pison his rum-and-water,' said Sam.
'No!' said Mr. Weller, shaking his son eagerly by the hand, 'would you raly, Sammy-would you, though?'
'I would,' said Sam. 'I wouldn't be too hard upon him at first. I'd drop him in the water-butt, and put the lid on; and if I found he was insensible to kindness, I'd try the other persvasion.'
The elder Mr. Weller bestowed a look of deep, unspeakable admiration on his son, and, having once more grasped his hand, walked slowly away, revolving in his mind the numerous reflections to which his advice had given rise.
Sam looked after him, until he turned a corner of the road; and then set forward on his walk to London. He meditated at first, on the probable consequences of his own advice, and the likelihood of his father's adopting it. He dismissed the subject from his mind, however, with the consolatory reflection that time alone would show; and this is the reflection we would impress upon the reader.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A GOOD-HUMOURED CHRISTMAS CHAPTER, CONTAINING AN ACCOUNT OF A WEDDING, AND SOME OTHER SPORTS BESIDE: WHICH ALTHOUGH IN THEIR WAY, EVEN AS GOOD CUSTOMS AS MARRIAGE ITSELF, ARE NOT QUITE SO RELIGIOUSLY KEPT UP, IN THESE DEGENERATE TIMES
As brisk as bees, if not altogether as light as fairies, did the four Pickwickians assemble on the morning of the twenty-second day of December, in the year of grace in which these, their faithfully-recorded adventures, were undertaken and accomplished. Christmas was close at hand, in all his bluff and hearty honesty; it was the season of hospitality, merriment, and open-heartedness; the old year was preparing, like an ancient philosopher, to call his friends around him, and amidst the sound of feasting and revelry to pass gently and calmly away. Gay and merry was the time; and right gay and merry were at least four of the numerous hearts that were gladdened by its coming.
And numerous indeed are the hearts to which Christmas brings a brief season of happiness and enjoyment. How many families, whose members have been dispersed and scattered far and wide, in the restless struggles of life, are then reunited, and meet once again in that happy state of companionship and mutual goodwill, which is a source of such pure and unalloyed delight; and one so incompatible with the cares and sorrows of the world, that the religious belief of the most civilised nations, and the rude traditions of the roughest savages, alike number it among the first joys of a future condition of existence, provided for the blessed and happy! How many old recollections, and how many dormant sympathies, does Christmas time awaken!
We write these words now, many miles distant from the spot at which, year after year, we met on that day, a merry and joyous circle. Many of the hearts that throbbed so gaily then, have ceased to beat; many of the looks that shone so brightly then, have ceased to glow; the hands we grasped, have grown cold; the eyes we sought, have hid their lustre in the grave; and yet the old house, the room, the merry voices and smiling faces, the jest, the laugh, the most minute and trivial circumstances connected with those happy meetings, crowd upon our mind at each recurrence of the season, as if the last assemblage had been but yesterday! Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!
But we are so taken up and occupied with the good qualities of this saint Christmas, that we are keeping Mr. Pickwick and his friends waiting in the cold on the outside of the Muggleton coach, which they have just attained, well wrapped up in great-coats, shawls, and comforters. The portmanteaus and carpet-bags have been stowed away, and Mr. Weller and the guard are endeavouring to insinuate into the fore-boot a huge cod-fish several sizes too large for it—which is snugly packed up, in a long brown basket, with a layer of straw over the top, and which has been left to the last, in order that he may repose in safety on the half-dozen barrels of real native oysters, all the property of Mr. Pickwick, which have been arranged in regular order at the bottom of the receptacle. The interest displayed in Mr. Pickwick's countenance is most intense, as Mr. Weller and the guard try to squeeze the cod-fish into the boot, first head first, and then tail first, and then top upward, and then bottom upward, and then side-ways, and then long-ways, all of which artifices the implacable cod-fish sturdily resists, until the guard accidentally hits him in the very middle of the basket, whereupon he suddenly disappears into the boot, and with him, the head and shoulders of the guard himself, who, not calculating upon so sudden a cessation of the passive resistance of the cod-fish, experiences a very unexpected shock, to the unsmotherable delight of all the porters and bystanders. Upon this, Mr. Pickwick smiles with great good-humour, and drawing a shilling from his waistcoat pocket, begs the guard, as he picks himself out of the boot, to drink his health in a glass of hot brandy-and-water; at which the guard smiles too, and Messrs. Snodgrass, Winkle, and Tupman, all smile in company. The guard and Mr. Weller disappear for five minutes, most probably to get the hot brandy-and-water, for they smell very strongly of it, when they return, the coachman mounts to the box, Mr. Weller jumps up behind, the Pickwickians pull their coats round their legs and their shawls over their noses, the helpers pull the horse-cloths off, the coachman shouts out a cheery 'All right,' and away they go.