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The Pickwick Papers

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CHAPTER LI. IN WHICH MR. PICKWICK ENCOUNTERS AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE—TO WHICH FORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCE THE READER IS MAINLY INDEBTED FOR MATTER OF THRILLING INTEREST HEREIN SET DOWN, CONCERNING TWO GREAT PUBLIC MEN OF MIGHT AND POWER

The morning which broke upon Mr. Pickwick’s sight at eight o’clock, was not at all calculated to elevate his spirits, or to lessen the depression which the unlooked-for result of his embassy inspired. The sky was dark and gloomy, the air was damp and raw, the streets were wet and sloppy. The smoke hung sluggishly above the chimney-tops as if it lacked the courage to rise, and the rain came slowly and doggedly down, as if it had not even the spirit to pour. A game-cock in the stableyard, deprived of every spark of his accustomed animation, balanced himself dismally on one leg in a corner; a donkey, moping with drooping head under the narrow roof of an outhouse, appeared from his meditative and miserable countenance to be contemplating suicide. In the street, umbrellas were the only things to be seen, and the clicking of pattens and splashing of rain-drops were the only sounds to be heard.

The breakfast was interrupted by very little conversation; even Mr. Bob Sawyer felt the influence of the weather, and the previous day’s excitement. In his own expressive language he was ‘floored.’ So was Mr. Ben Allen. So was Mr. Pickwick.

In protracted expectation of the weather clearing up, the last evening paper from London was read and re-read with an intensity of interest only known in cases of extreme destitution; every inch of the carpet was walked over with similar perseverance; the windows were looked out of, often enough to justify the imposition of an additional duty upon them; all kinds of topics of conversation were started, and failed; and at length Mr. Pickwick, when noon had arrived, without a change for the better, rang the bell resolutely, and ordered out the chaise.

Although the roads were miry, and the drizzling rain came down harder than it had done yet, and although the mud and wet splashed in at the open windows of the carriage to such an extent that the discomfort was almost as great to the pair of insides as to the pair of outsides, still there was something in the motion, and the sense of being up and doing, which was so infinitely superior to being pent in a dull room, looking at the dull rain dripping into a dull street, that they all agreed, on starting, that the change was a great improvement, and wondered how they could possibly have delayed making it as long as they had done.

When they stopped to change at Coventry, the steam ascended from the horses in such clouds as wholly to obscure the hostler, whose voice was however heard to declare from the mist, that he expected the first gold medal from the Humane Society on their next distribution of rewards, for taking the postboy’s hat off; the water descending from the brim of which, the invisible gentleman declared, must have drowned him (the postboy), but for his great presence of mind in tearing it promptly from his head, and drying the gasping man’s countenance with a wisp of straw.

‘This is pleasant,’ said Bob Sawyer, turning up his coat collar, and pulling the shawl over his mouth to concentrate the fumes of a glass of brandy just swallowed.

‘Wery,’ replied Sam composedly.

‘You don’t seem to mind it,’ observed Bob.

‘Vy, I don’t exactly see no good my mindin’ on it ‘ud do, sir,’ replied Sam.

‘That’s an unanswerable reason, anyhow,’ said Bob.

‘Yes, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Weller. ‘Wotever is, is right, as the young nobleman sweetly remarked wen they put him down in the pension list ‘cos his mother’s uncle’s vife’s grandfather vunce lit the king’s pipe vith a portable tinder-box.’

Not a bad notion that, Sam,’ said Mr. Bob Sawyer approvingly.

‘Just wot the young nobleman said ev’ry quarter-day arterwards for the rest of his life,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘Wos you ever called in,’ inquired Sam, glancing at the driver, after a short silence, and lowering his voice to a mysterious whisper—‘wos you ever called in, when you wos ‘prentice to a sawbones, to wisit a postboy.’

‘I don’t remember that I ever was,’ replied Bob Sawyer.

‘You never see a postboy in that ‘ere hospital as you walked (as they says o’ the ghosts), did you?’ demanded Sam.

‘No,’ replied Bob Sawyer. ‘I don’t think I ever did.’

‘Never know’d a churchyard were there wos a postboy’s tombstone, or see a dead postboy, did you?’ inquired Sam, pursuing his catechism.

‘No,’ rejoined Bob, ‘I never did.’

‘No!’ rejoined Sam triumphantly. ‘Nor never vill; and there’s another thing that no man never see, and that’s a dead donkey. No man never see a dead donkey ‘cept the gen’l’m’n in the black silk smalls as know’d the young ‘ooman as kep’ a goat; and that wos a French donkey, so wery likely he warn’t wun o’ the reg’lar breed.’

‘Well, what has that got to do with the postboys?’ asked Bob Sawyer.

‘This here,’ replied Sam. ‘Without goin’ so far as to as-sert, as some wery sensible people do, that postboys and donkeys is both immortal, wot I say is this: that wenever they feels theirselves gettin’ stiff and past their work, they just rides off together, wun postboy to a pair in the usual way; wot becomes on ‘em nobody knows, but it’s wery probable as they starts avay to take their pleasure in some other vorld, for there ain’t a man alive as ever see either a donkey or a postboy a-takin’ his pleasure in this!’

Expatiating upon this learned and remarkable theory, and citing many curious statistical and other facts in its support, Sam Weller beguiled the time until they reached Dunchurch, where a dry postboy and fresh horses were procured; the next stage was Daventry, and the next Towcester; and at the end of each stage it rained harder than it had done at the beginning.

‘I say,’ remonstrated Bob Sawyer, looking in at the coach window, as they pulled up before the door of the Saracen’s Head, Towcester, ‘this won’t do, you know.’

‘Bless me!’ said Mr. Pickwick, just awakening from a nap, ‘I’m afraid you’re wet.’

‘Oh, you are, are you?’ returned Bob. ‘Yes, I am, a little that way, Uncomfortably damp, perhaps.’

Bob did look dampish, inasmuch as the rain was streaming from his neck, elbows, cuffs, skirts, and knees; and his whole apparel shone so with the wet, that it might have been mistaken for a full suit of prepared oilskin.

‘I am rather wet,’ said Bob, giving himself a shake and casting a little hydraulic shower around, like a Newfoundland dog just emerged from the water.

‘I think it’s quite impossible to go on to-night,’ interposed Ben.

‘Out of the question, sir,’ remarked Sam Weller, coming to assist in the conference; ‘it’s a cruelty to animals, sir, to ask ‘em to do it. There’s beds here, sir,’ said Sam, addressing his master, ‘everything clean and comfortable. Wery good little dinner, sir, they can get ready in half an hour—pair of fowls, sir, and a weal cutlet; French beans, ‘taturs, tart, and tidiness. You’d better stop vere you are, sir, if I might recommend. Take adwice, sir, as the doctor said.’

The host of the Saracen’s Head opportunely appeared at this moment, to confirm Mr. Weller’s statement relative to the accommodations of the establishment, and to back his entreaties with a variety of dismal conjectures regarding the state of the roads, the doubt of fresh horses being to be had at the next stage, the dead certainty of its raining all night, the equally mortal certainty of its clearing up in the morning, and other topics of inducement familiar to innkeepers.

‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but I must send a letter to London by some conveyance, so that it may be delivered the very first thing in the morning, or I must go forwards at all hazards.’

The landlord smiled his delight. Nothing could be easier than for the gentleman to inclose a letter in a sheet of brown paper, and send it on, either by the mail or the night coach from Birmingham. If the gentleman were particularly anxious to have it left as soon as possible, he might write outside, ‘To be delivered immediately,’ which was sure to be attended to; or ‘Pay the bearer half-a-crown extra for instant delivery,’ which was surer still.

‘Very well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘then we will stop here.’

‘Lights in the Sun, John; make up the fire; the gentlemen are wet!’ cried the landlord. ‘This way, gentlemen; don’t trouble yourselves about the postboy now, sir. I’ll send him to you when you ring for him, sir. Now, John, the candles.’

The candles were brought, the fire was stirred up, and a fresh log of wood thrown on. In ten minutes’ time, a waiter was laying the cloth for dinner, the curtains were drawn, the fire was blazing brightly, and everything looked (as everything always does, in all decent English inns) as if the travellers had been expected, and their comforts prepared, for days beforehand.

Mr. Pickwick sat down at a side table, and hastily indited a note to Mr. Winkle, merely informing him that he was detained by stress of weather, but would certainly be in London next day; until when he deferred any account of his proceedings. This note was hastily made into a parcel, and despatched to the bar per Mr. Samuel Weller.

Sam left it with the landlady, and was returning to pull his master’s boots off, after drying himself by the kitchen fire, when glancing casually through a half-opened door, he was arrested by the sight of a gentleman with a sandy head who had a large bundle of newspapers lying on the table before him, and was perusing the leading article of one with a settled sneer which curled up his nose and all other features into a majestic expression of haughty contempt.

‘Hollo!’ said Sam, ‘I ought to know that ‘ere head and them features; the eyeglass, too, and the broad-brimmed tile! Eatansvill to vit, or I’m a Roman.’

Sam was taken with a troublesome cough, at once, for the purpose of attracting the gentleman’s attention; the gentleman starting at the sound, raised his head and his eyeglass, and disclosed to view the profound and thoughtful features of Mr. Pott, of the Eatanswill Gazette.

‘Beggin’ your pardon, sir,’ said Sam, advancing with a bow, ‘my master’s here, Mr. Pott.’

‘Hush! hush!’ cried Pott, drawing Sam into the room, and closing the door, with a countenance of mysterious dread and apprehension.

‘Wot’s the matter, Sir?’ inquired Sam, looking vacantly about him.

‘Not a whisper of my name,’ replied Pott; ‘this is a buff neighbourhood. If the excited and irritable populace knew I was here, I should be torn to pieces.’

‘No! Vould you, sir?’ inquired Sam.

‘I should be the victim of their fury,’ replied Pott. ‘Now young man, what of your master?’

‘He’s a-stopping here to-night on his vay to town, with a couple of friends,’ replied Sam.

‘Is Mr. Winkle one of them?’ inquired Pott, with a slight frown.

‘No, Sir. Mr. Vinkle stops at home now,’ rejoined Sam. ‘He’s married.’

‘Married!’ exclaimed Pott, with frightful vehemence. He stopped, smiled darkly, and added, in a low, vindictive tone, ‘It serves him right!’

Having given vent to this cruel ebullition of deadly malice and cold-blooded triumph over a fallen enemy, Mr. Pott inquired whether Mr. Pickwick’s friends were ‘blue?’ Receiving a most satisfactory answer in the affirmative from Sam, who knew as much about the matter as Pott himself, he consented to accompany him to Mr. Pickwick’s room, where a hearty welcome awaited him, and an agreement to club their dinners together was at once made and ratified.

‘And how are matters going on in Eatanswill?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick, when Pott had taken a seat near the fire, and the whole party had got their wet boots off, and dry slippers on. ‘Is the Independent still in being?’

‘The Independent, sir,’ replied Pott, ‘is still dragging on a wretched and lingering career. Abhorred and despised by even the few who are cognisant of its miserable and disgraceful existence, stifled by the very filth it so profusely scatters, rendered deaf and blind by the exhalations of its own slime, the obscene journal, happily unconscious of its degraded state, is rapidly sinking beneath that treacherous mud which, while it seems to give it a firm standing with the low and debased classes of society, is nevertheless rising above its detested head, and will speedily engulf it for ever.’

Having delivered this manifesto (which formed a portion of his last week’s leader) with vehement articulation, the editor paused to take breath, and looked majestically at Bob Sawyer.

‘You are a young man, sir,’ said Pott.

Mr. Bob Sawyer nodded.

‘So are you, sir,’ said Pott, addressing Mr. Ben Allen.

Ben admitted the soft impeachment.

‘And are both deeply imbued with those blue principles, which, so long as I live, I have pledged myself to the people of these kingdoms to support and to maintain?’ suggested Pott.

‘Why, I don’t exactly know about that,’ replied Bob Sawyer. ‘I am—’

‘Not buff, Mr. Pickwick,’ interrupted Pott, drawing back his chair, ‘your friend is not buff, sir?’

‘No, no,’ rejoined Bob, ‘I’m a kind of plaid at present; a compound of all sorts of colours.’

‘A waverer,’ said Pott solemnly, ‘a waverer. I should like to show you a series of eight articles, Sir, that have appeared in the Eatanswill Gazette. I think I may venture to say that you would not be long in establishing your opinions on a firm and solid blue basis, sir.’

I dare say I should turn very blue, long before I got to the end of them,’ responded Bob.

Mr. Pott looked dubiously at Bob Sawyer for some seconds, and, turning to Mr. Pickwick, said—

‘You have seen the literary articles which have appeared at intervals in the Eatanswill Gazette in the course of the last three months, and which have excited such general—I may say such universal—attention and admiration?’

‘Why,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, slightly embarrassed by the question, ‘the fact is, I have been so much engaged in other ways, that I really have not had an opportunity of perusing them.’

‘You should do so, Sir,’ said Pott, with a severe countenance.

‘I will,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘They appeared in the form of a copious review of a work on Chinese metaphysics, Sir,’ said Pott.

‘Oh,’ observed Mr. Pickwick; ‘from your pen, I hope?’

‘From the pen of my critic, Sir,’ rejoined Pott, with dignity.

‘An abstruse subject, I should conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Very, Sir,’ responded Pott, looking intensely sage. ‘He crammed for it, to use a technical but expressive term; he read up for the subject, at my desire, in the “Encyclopaedia Britannica.”’

‘Indeed!’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I was not aware that that valuable work contained any information respecting Chinese metaphysics.’

‘He read, Sir,’ rejoined Pott, laying his hand on Mr. Pickwick’s knee, and looking round with a smile of intellectual superiority—‘he read for metaphysics under the letter M, and for China under the letter C, and combined his information, Sir!’

Mr. Pott’s features assumed so much additional grandeur at the recollection of the power and research displayed in the learned effusions in question, that some minutes elapsed before Mr. Pickwick felt emboldened to renew the conversation; at length, as the editor’s countenance gradually relaxed into its customary expression of moral supremacy, he ventured to resume the discourse by asking—

‘Is it fair to inquire what great object has brought you so far from home?’

‘That object which actuates and animates me in all my gigantic labours, Sir,’ replied Pott, with a calm smile: ‘my country’s good.’

I supposed it was some public mission,’ observed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes, Sir,’ resumed Pott, ‘it is.’ Here, bending towards Mr. Pickwick, he whispered in a deep, hollow voice, ‘A Buff ball, Sir, will take place in Birmingham to-morrow evening.’

‘God bless me!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes, Sir, and supper,’ added Pott.

‘You don’t say so!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick.

Pott nodded portentously.

Now, although Mr. Pickwick feigned to stand aghast at this disclosure, he was so little versed in local politics that he was unable to form an adequate comprehension of the importance of the dire conspiracy it referred to; observing which, Mr. Pott, drawing forth the last number of the Eatanswill Gazette, and referring to the same, delivered himself of the following paragraph:—

          HOLE-AND-CORNER BUFFERY.
‘A reptile contemporary has recently sweltered forth his black venom in the vain and hopeless attempt of sullying the fair name of our distinguished and excellent representative, the Honourable Mr. Slumkey—that Slumkey whom we, long before he gained his present noble and exalted position, predicted would one day be, as he now is, at once his country’s brightest honour, and her proudest boast: alike her bold defender and her honest pride—our reptile contemporary, we say, has made himself merry, at the expense of a superbly embossed plated coal-scuttle, which has been presented to that glorious man by his enraptured constituents, and towards the purchase of which, the nameless wretch insinuates, the Honourable Mr. Slumkey himself contributed, through a confidential friend of his butler’s, more than three-fourths of the whole sum subscribed. Why, does not the crawling creature see, that even if this be the fact, the Honourable Mr. Slumkey only appears in a still more amiable and radiant light than before, if that be possible? Does not even his obtuseness perceive that this amiable and touching desire to carry out the wishes of the constituent body, must for ever endear him to the hearts and souls of such of his fellow townsmen as are not worse than swine; or, in other words, who are not as debased as our contemporary himself? But such is the wretched trickery of hole-and-corner Buffery! These are not its only artifices. Treason is abroad. We boldly state, now that we are goaded to the disclosure, and we throw ourselves on the country and its constables for protection—we boldly state that secret preparations are at this moment in progress for a Buff ball; which is to be held in a Buff town, in the very heart and centre of a Buff population; which is to be conducted by a Buff master of the ceremonies; which is to be attended by four ultra Buff members of Parliament, and the admission to which, is to be by Buff tickets! Does our fiendish contemporary wince? Let him writhe, in impotent malice, as we pen the words, We will be there.’

‘There, Sir,’ said Pott, folding up the paper quite exhausted, ‘that is the state of the case!’

The landlord and waiter entering at the moment with dinner, caused Mr. Pott to lay his finger on his lips, in token that he considered his life in Mr. Pickwick’s hands, and depended on his secrecy. Messrs. Bob Sawyer and Benjamin Allen, who had irreverently fallen asleep during the reading of the quotation from the Eatanswill Gazette, and the discussion which followed it, were roused by the mere whispering of the talismanic word ‘Dinner’ in their ears; and to dinner they went with good digestion waiting on appetite, and health on both, and a waiter on all three.

In the course of the dinner and the sitting which succeeded it, Mr. Pott descending, for a few moments, to domestic topics, informed Mr. Pickwick that the air of Eatanswill not agreeing with his lady, she was then engaged in making a tour of different fashionable watering-places with a view to the recovery of her wonted health and spirits; this was a delicate veiling of the fact that Mrs. Pott, acting upon her often-repeated threat of separation, had, in virtue of an arrangement negotiated by her brother, the lieutenant, and concluded by Mr. Pott, permanently retired with the faithful bodyguard upon one moiety or half part of the annual income and profits arising from the editorship and sale of the Eatanswill Gazette.

While the great Mr. Pott was dwelling upon this and other matters, enlivening the conversation from time to time with various extracts from his own lucubrations, a stern stranger, calling from the window of a stage-coach, outward bound, which halted at the inn to deliver packages, requested to know whether if he stopped short on his journey and remained there for the night, he could be furnished with the necessary accommodation of a bed and bedstead.

‘Certainly, sir,’ replied the landlord.

‘I can, can I?’ inquired the stranger, who seemed habitually suspicious in look and manner.

‘No doubt of it, Sir,’ replied the landlord.

‘Good,’ said the stranger. ‘Coachman, I get down here. Guard, my carpet-bag!’

Bidding the other passengers good-night, in a rather snappish manner, the stranger alighted. He was a shortish gentleman, with very stiff black hair cut in the porcupine or blacking-brush style, and standing stiff and straight all over his head; his aspect was pompous and threatening; his manner was peremptory; his eyes were sharp and restless; and his whole bearing bespoke a feeling of great confidence in himself, and a consciousness of immeasurable superiority over all other people.

This gentleman was shown into the room originally assigned to the patriotic Mr. Pott; and the waiter remarked, in dumb astonishment at the singular coincidence, that he had no sooner lighted the candles than the gentleman, diving into his hat, drew forth a newspaper, and began to read it with the very same expression of indignant scorn, which, upon the majestic features of Pott, had paralysed his energies an hour before. The man observed too, that, whereas Mr. Pott’s scorn had been roused by a newspaper headed the Eatanswill Independent, this gentleman’s withering contempt was awakened by a newspaper entitled the Eatanswill Gazette.

‘Send the landlord,’ said the stranger.

‘Yes, sir,’ rejoined the waiter.

The landlord was sent, and came.

‘Are you the landlord?’ inquired the gentleman.

‘I am sir,’ replied the landlord.

‘Do you know me?’ demanded the gentleman.

‘I have not had that pleasure, Sir,’ rejoined the landlord.

‘My name is Slurk,’ said the gentleman.

The landlord slightly inclined his head.

‘Slurk, sir,’ repeated the gentleman haughtily. ‘Do you know me now, man?’

The landlord scratched his head, looked at the ceiling, and at the stranger, and smiled feebly.

‘Do you know me, man?’ inquired the stranger angrily.

The landlord made a strong effort, and at length replied, ‘Well, Sir, I do not know you.’

‘Great Heaven!’ said the stranger, dashing his clenched fist upon the table. ‘And this is popularity!’

The landlord took a step or two towards the door; the stranger fixing his eyes upon him, resumed.

‘This,’ said the stranger—‘this is gratitude for years of labour and study in behalf of the masses. I alight wet and weary; no enthusiastic crowds press forward to greet their champion; the church bells are silent; the very name elicits no responsive feeling in their torpid bosoms. It is enough,’ said the agitated Mr. Slurk, pacing to and fro, ‘to curdle the ink in one’s pen, and induce one to abandon their cause for ever.’

‘Did you say brandy-and-water, Sir?’ said the landlord, venturing a hint.

‘Rum,’ said Mr. Slurk, turning fiercely upon him. ‘Have you got a fire anywhere?’

‘We can light one directly, Sir,’ said the landlord.

‘Which will throw out no heat until it is bed-time,’ interrupted Mr. Slurk. ‘Is there anybody in the kitchen?’

Not a soul. There was a beautiful fire. Everybody had gone, and the house door was closed for the night.

‘I will drink my rum-and-water,’ said Mr. Slurk, ‘by the kitchen fire.’ So, gathering up his hat and newspaper, he stalked solemnly behind the landlord to that humble apartment, and throwing himself on a settle by the fireside, resumed his countenance of scorn, and began to read and drink in silent dignity.

Now, some demon of discord, flying over the Saracen’s Head at that moment, on casting down his eyes in mere idle curiosity, happened to behold Slurk established comfortably by the kitchen fire, and Pott slightly elevated with wine in another room; upon which the malicious demon, darting down into the last-mentioned apartment with inconceivable rapidity, passed at once into the head of Mr. Bob Sawyer, and prompted him for his (the demon’s) own evil purpose to speak as follows:—

‘I say, we’ve let the fire out. It’s uncommonly cold after the rain, isn’t it?’

‘It really is,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, shivering.

‘It wouldn’t be a bad notion to have a cigar by the kitchen fire, would it?’ said Bob Sawyer, still prompted by the demon aforesaid.

‘It would be particularly comfortable, I think,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Mr. Pott, what do you say?’

Mr. Pott yielded a ready assent; and all four travellers, each with his glass in his hand, at once betook themselves to the kitchen, with Sam Weller heading the procession to show them the way.

The stranger was still reading; he looked up and started. Mr. Pott started.

‘What’s the matter?’ whispered Mr. Pickwick.

‘That reptile!’ replied Pott.

‘What reptile?’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking about him for fear he should tread on some overgrown black beetle, or dropsical spider.

‘That reptile,’ whispered Pott, catching Mr. Pickwick by the arm, and pointing towards the stranger. ‘That reptile Slurk, of the Independent!’

‘Perhaps we had better retire,’ whispered Mr. Pickwick.

‘Never, Sir,’ rejoined Pott, pot-valiant in a double sense—‘never.’ With these words, Mr. Pott took up his position on an opposite settle, and selecting one from a little bundle of newspapers, began to read against his enemy.

Mr. Pott, of course read the Independent, and Mr. Slurk, of course, read the Gazette; and each gentleman audibly expressed his contempt at the other’s compositions by bitter laughs and sarcastic sniffs; whence they proceeded to more open expressions of opinion, such as ‘absurd,’ ‘wretched,’ ‘atrocity,’ ‘humbug,’ ‘knavery’, ‘dirt,’ ‘filth,’ ‘slime,’ ‘ditch-water,’ and other critical remarks of the like nature.

Both Mr. Bob Sawyer and Mr. Ben Allen had beheld these symptoms of rivalry and hatred, with a degree of delight which imparted great additional relish to the cigars at which they were puffing most vigorously. The moment they began to flag, the mischievous Mr. Bob Sawyer, addressing Slurk with great politeness, said—

‘Will you allow me to look at your paper, Sir, when you have quite done with it?’

‘You will find very little to repay you for your trouble in this contemptible thing, sir,’ replied Slurk, bestowing a Satanic frown on Pott.

‘You shall have this presently,’ said Pott, looking up, pale with rage, and quivering in his speech, from the same cause. ‘Ha! ha! you will be amused with this fellow’s audacity.’

Terrible emphasis was laid upon ‘thing’ and ‘fellow’; and the faces of both editors began to glow with defiance.

‘The ribaldry of this miserable man is despicably disgusting,’ said Pott, pretending to address Bob Sawyer, and scowling upon Slurk.

Here, Mr. Slurk laughed very heartily, and folding up the paper so as to get at a fresh column conveniently, said, that the blockhead really amused him.

‘What an impudent blunderer this fellow is,’ said Pott, turning from pink to crimson.

‘Did you ever read any of this man’s foolery, Sir?’ inquired Slurk of Bob Sawyer.

‘Never,’ replied Bob; ‘is it very bad?’

‘Oh, shocking! shocking!’ rejoined Slurk.

‘Really! Dear me, this is too atrocious!’ exclaimed Pott, at this juncture; still feigning to be absorbed in his reading.

‘If you can wade through a few sentences of malice, meanness, falsehood, perjury, treachery, and cant,’ said Slurk, handing the paper to Bob, ‘you will, perhaps, be somewhat repaid by a laugh at the style of this ungrammatical twaddler.’

‘What’s that you said, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Pott, looking up, trembling all over with passion.

‘What’s that to you, sir?’ replied Slurk.

‘Ungrammatical twaddler, was it, sir?’ said Pott.

‘Yes, sir, it was,’ replied Slurk; ‘and blue bore, Sir, if you like that better; ha! ha!’

Mr. Pott retorted not a word at this jocose insult, but deliberately folded up his copy of the Independent, flattened it carefully down, crushed it beneath his boot, spat upon it with great ceremony, and flung it into the fire.

‘There, sir,’ said Pott, retreating from the stove, ‘and that’s the way I would serve the viper who produces it, if I were not, fortunately for him, restrained by the laws of my country.’

‘Serve him so, sir!’ cried Slurk, starting up. ‘Those laws shall never be appealed to by him, sir, in such a case. Serve him so, sir!’

‘Hear! hear!’ said Bob Sawyer.

‘Nothing can be fairer,’ observed Mr. Ben Allen.

‘Serve him so, sir!’ reiterated Slurk, in a loud voice.

Mr. Pott darted a look of contempt, which might have withered an anchor.

‘Serve him so, sir!’ reiterated Slurk, in a louder voice than before.

‘I will not, sir,’ rejoined Pott.

‘Oh, you won’t, won’t you, sir?’ said Mr. Slurk, in a taunting manner; ‘you hear this, gentlemen! He won’t; not that he’s afraid—, oh, no! he won’t. Ha! ha!’

‘I consider you, sir,’ said Mr. Pott, moved by this sarcasm, ‘I consider you a viper. I look upon you, sir, as a man who has placed himself beyond the pale of society, by his most audacious, disgraceful, and abominable public conduct. I view you, sir, personally and politically, in no other light than as a most unparalleled and unmitigated viper.’

The indignant Independent did not wait to hear the end of this personal denunciation; for, catching up his carpet-bag, which was well stuffed with movables, he swung it in the air as Pott turned away, and, letting it fall with a circular sweep on his head, just at that particular angle of the bag where a good thick hairbrush happened to be packed, caused a sharp crash to be heard throughout the kitchen, and brought him at once to the ground.

‘Gentlemen,’ cried Mr. Pickwick, as Pott started up and seized the fire-shovel—‘gentlemen! Consider, for Heaven’s sake—help—Sam—here—pray, gentlemen—interfere, somebody.’

Uttering these incoherent exclamations, Mr. Pickwick rushed between the infuriated combatants just in time to receive the carpet-bag on one side of his body, and the fire-shovel on the other. Whether the representatives of the public feeling of Eatanswill were blinded by animosity, or (being both acute reasoners) saw the advantage of having a third party between them to bear all the blows, certain it is that they paid not the slightest attention to Mr. Pickwick, but defying each other with great spirit, plied the carpet-bag and the fire-shovel most fearlessly. Mr. Pickwick would unquestionably have suffered severely for his humane interference, if Mr. Weller, attracted by his master’s cries, had not rushed in at the moment, and, snatching up a meal-sack, effectually stopped the conflict by drawing it over the head and shoulders of the mighty Pott, and clasping him tight round the shoulders.

‘Take away that ‘ere bag from the t’other madman,’ said Sam to Ben Allen and Bob Sawyer, who had done nothing but dodge round the group, each with a tortoise-shell lancet in his hand, ready to bleed the first man stunned. ‘Give it up, you wretched little creetur, or I’ll smother you in it.’

Awed by these threats, and quite out of breath, the Independent suffered himself to be disarmed; and Mr. Weller, removing the extinguisher from Pott, set him free with a caution.

‘You take yourselves off to bed quietly,’ said Sam, ‘or I’ll put you both in it, and let you fight it out vith the mouth tied, as I vould a dozen sich, if they played these games. And you have the goodness to come this here way, sir, if you please.’

Thus addressing his master, Sam took him by the arm, and led him off, while the rival editors were severally removed to their beds by the landlord, under the inspection of Mr. Bob Sawyer and Mr. Benjamin Allen; breathing, as they went away, many sanguinary threats, and making vague appointments for mortal combat next day. When they came to think it over, however, it occurred to them that they could do it much better in print, so they recommenced deadly hostilities without delay; and all Eatanswill rung with their boldness—on paper.

They had taken themselves off in separate coaches, early next morning, before the other travellers were stirring; and the weather having now cleared up, the chaise companions once more turned their faces to London.






CHAPTER LII. INVOLVING A SERIOUS CHANGE IN THE WELLER FAMILY, AND THE UNTIMELY DOWNFALL OF MR. STIGGINS

Considering it a matter of delicacy to abstain from introducing either Bob Sawyer or Ben Allen to the young couple, until they were fully prepared to expect them, and wishing to spare Arabella’s feelings as much as possible, Mr. Pickwick proposed that he and Sam should alight in the neighbourhood of the George and Vulture, and that the two young men should for the present take up their quarters elsewhere. To this they very readily agreed, and the proposition was accordingly acted upon; Mr. Ben Allen and Mr. Bob Sawyer betaking themselves to a sequestered pot-shop on the remotest confines of the Borough, behind the bar door of which their names had in other days very often appeared at the head of long and complex calculations worked in white chalk.

‘Dear me, Mr. Weller,’ said the pretty housemaid, meeting Sam at the door.

‘Dear me I vish it vos, my dear,’ replied Sam, dropping behind, to let his master get out of hearing. ‘Wot a sweet-lookin’ creetur you are, Mary!’

‘Lor’, Mr. Weller, what nonsense you do talk!’ said Mary. ‘Oh! don’t, Mr. Weller.’

‘Don’t what, my dear?’ said Sam.

‘Why, that,’ replied the pretty housemaid. ‘Lor, do get along with you.’ Thus admonishing him, the pretty housemaid pushed Sam against the wall, declaring that he had tumbled her cap, and put her hair quite out of curl.

‘And prevented what I was going to say, besides,’ added Mary. ‘There’s a letter been waiting here for you four days; you hadn’t gone away, half an hour, when it came; and more than that, it’s got “immediate,” on the outside.’

‘Vere is it, my love?’ inquired Sam.

‘I took care of it, for you, or I dare say it would have been lost long before this,’ replied Mary. ‘There, take it; it’s more than you deserve.’

With these words, after many pretty little coquettish doubts and fears, and wishes that she might not have lost it, Mary produced the letter from behind the nicest little muslin tucker possible, and handed it to Sam, who thereupon kissed it with much gallantry and devotion.

‘My goodness me!’ said Mary, adjusting the tucker, and feigning unconsciousness, ‘you seem to have grown very fond of it all at once.’

To this Mr. Weller only replied by a wink, the intense meaning of which no description could convey the faintest idea of; and, sitting himself down beside Mary on a window-seat, opened the letter and glanced at the contents.

‘Hollo!’ exclaimed Sam, ‘wot’s all this?’

‘Nothing the matter, I hope?’ said Mary, peeping over his shoulder.

‘Bless them eyes o’ yourn!’ said Sam, looking up.

‘Never mind my eyes; you had much better read your letter,’ said the pretty housemaid; and as she said so, she made the eyes twinkle with such slyness and beauty that they were perfectly irresistible.

Sam refreshed himself with a kiss, and read as follows:—

‘MARKIS GRAN
‘By DORKEN
Wensdy.

‘My DEAR SAMMLE,

‘I am wery sorry to have the pleasure of being a Bear of ill news your Mother in law cort cold consekens of imprudently settin too long on the damp grass in the rain a hearin of a shepherd who warnt able to leave off till late at night owen to his having vound his-self up vith brandy and vater and not being able to stop his-self till he got a little sober which took a many hours to do the doctor says that if she’d svallo’d varm brandy and vater artervards insted of afore she mightn’t have been no vus her veels wos immedetly greased and everythink done to set her agoin as could be inwented your father had hopes as she vould have vorked round as usual but just as she wos a turnen the corner my boy she took the wrong road and vent down hill vith a welocity you never see and notvithstandin that the drag wos put on drectly by the medikel man it wornt of no use at all for she paid the last pike at twenty minutes afore six o’clock yesterday evenin havin done the jouney wery much under the reglar time vich praps was partly owen to her haven taken in wery little luggage by the vay your father says that if you vill come and see me Sammy he vill take it as a wery great favor for I am wery lonely Samivel N. B. he vill have it spelt that vay vich I say ant right and as there is sich a many things to settle he is sure your guvner wont object of course he vill not Sammy for I knows him better so he sends his dooty in which I join and am Samivel infernally yours

‘TONY VELLER.’ 

‘Wot a incomprehensible letter,’ said Sam; ‘who’s to know wot it means, vith all this he-ing and I-ing! It ain’t my father’s writin’, ‘cept this here signater in print letters; that’s his.’

‘Perhaps he got somebody to write it for him, and signed it himself afterwards,’ said the pretty housemaid.

‘Stop a minit,’ replied Sam, running over the letter again, and pausing here and there, to reflect, as he did so. ‘You’ve hit it. The gen’l’m’n as wrote it wos a-tellin’ all about the misfortun’ in a proper vay, and then my father comes a-lookin’ over him, and complicates the whole concern by puttin’ his oar in. That’s just the wery sort o’ thing he’d do. You’re right, Mary, my dear.’

Having satisfied himself on this point, Sam read the letter all over, once more, and, appearing to form a clear notion of its contents for the first time, ejaculated thoughtfully, as he folded it up—

‘And so the poor creetur’s dead! I’m sorry for it. She warn’t a bad-disposed ‘ooman, if them shepherds had let her alone. I’m wery sorry for it.’

Mr. Weller uttered these words in so serious a manner, that the pretty housemaid cast down her eyes and looked very grave.

‘Hows’ever,’ said Sam, putting the letter in his pocket with a gentle sigh, ‘it wos to be—and wos, as the old lady said arter she’d married the footman. Can’t be helped now, can it, Mary?’

Mary shook her head, and sighed too.

‘I must apply to the hemperor for leave of absence,’ said Sam.

Mary sighed again—the letter was so very affecting.

‘Good-bye!’ said Sam.

‘Good-bye,’ rejoined the pretty housemaid, turning her head away.

‘Well, shake hands, won’t you?’ said Sam.

The pretty housemaid put out a hand which, although it was a housemaid’s, was a very small one, and rose to go.

‘I shan’t be wery long avay,’ said Sam.

‘You’re always away,’ said Mary, giving her head the slightest possible toss in the air. ‘You no sooner come, Mr. Weller, than you go again.’

Mr. Weller drew the household beauty closer to him, and entered upon a whispering conversation, which had not proceeded far, when she turned her face round and condescended to look at him again. When they parted, it was somehow or other indispensably necessary for her to go to her room, and arrange the cap and curls before she could think of presenting herself to her mistress; which preparatory ceremony she went off to perform, bestowing many nods and smiles on Sam over the banisters as she tripped upstairs.

‘I shan’t be avay more than a day, or two, Sir, at the furthest,’ said Sam, when he had communicated to Mr. Pickwick the intelligence of his father’s loss.

‘As long as may be necessary, Sam,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘you have my full permission to remain.’

Sam bowed.

‘You will tell your father, Sam, that if I can be of any assistance to him in his present situation, I shall be most willing and ready to lend him any aid in my power,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Thank’ee, sir,’ rejoined Sam. ‘I’ll mention it, sir.’

And with some expressions of mutual good-will and interest, master and man separated.

It was just seven o’clock when Samuel Weller, alighting from the box of a stage-coach which passed through Dorking, stood within a few hundred yards of the Marquis of Granby. It was a cold, dull evening; the little street looked dreary and dismal; and the mahogany countenance of the noble and gallant marquis seemed to wear a more sad and melancholy expression than it was wont to do, as it swung to and fro, creaking mournfully in the wind. The blinds were pulled down, and the shutters partly closed; of the knot of loungers that usually collected about the door, not one was to be seen; the place was silent and desolate.

Seeing nobody of whom he could ask any preliminary questions, Sam walked softly in, and glancing round, he quickly recognised his parent in the distance.

The widower was seated at a small round table in the little room behind the bar, smoking a pipe, with his eyes intently fixed upon the fire. The funeral had evidently taken place that day, for attached to his hat, which he still retained on his head, was a hatband measuring about a yard and a half in length, which hung over the top rail of the chair and streamed negligently down. Mr. Weller was in a very abstracted and contemplative mood. Notwithstanding that Sam called him by name several times, he still continued to smoke with the same fixed and quiet countenance, and was only roused ultimately by his son’s placing the palm of his hand on his shoulder.

‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘you’re welcome.’

‘I’ve been a-callin’ to you half a dozen times,’ said Sam, hanging his hat on a peg, ‘but you didn’t hear me.’

‘No, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, again looking thoughtfully at the fire. ‘I was in a referee, Sammy.’

‘Wot about?’ inquired Sam, drawing his chair up to the fire.

‘In a referee, Sammy,’ replied the elder Mr. Weller, ‘regarding her, Samivel.’ Here Mr. Weller jerked his head in the direction of Dorking churchyard, in mute explanation that his words referred to the late Mrs. Weller.

‘I wos a-thinkin’, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, eyeing his son, with great earnestness, over his pipe, as if to assure him that however extraordinary and incredible the declaration might appear, it was nevertheless calmly and deliberately uttered. ‘I wos a-thinkin’, Sammy, that upon the whole I wos wery sorry she wos gone.’

‘Vell, and so you ought to be,’ replied Sam.

Mr. Weller nodded his acquiescence in the sentiment, and again fastening his eyes on the fire, shrouded himself in a cloud, and mused deeply.

‘Those wos wery sensible observations as she made, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, driving the smoke away with his hand, after a long silence.

‘Wot observations?’ inquired Sam.

‘Them as she made, arter she was took ill,’ replied the old gentleman.

‘Wot was they?’

‘Somethin’ to this here effect. “Veller,” she says, “I’m afeered I’ve not done by you quite wot I ought to have done; you’re a wery kind-hearted man, and I might ha’ made your home more comfortabler. I begin to see now,” she says, “ven it’s too late, that if a married ‘ooman vishes to be religious, she should begin vith dischargin’ her dooties at home, and makin’ them as is about her cheerful and happy, and that vile she goes to church, or chapel, or wot not, at all proper times, she should be wery careful not to con-wert this sort o’ thing into a excuse for idleness or self-indulgence. I have done this,” she says, “and I’ve vasted time and substance on them as has done it more than me; but I hope ven I’m gone, Veller, that you’ll think on me as I wos afore I know’d them people, and as I raly wos by natur.” ‘“Susan,” says I—I wos took up wery short by this, Samivel; I von’t deny it, my boy—“Susan,” I says, “you’ve been a wery good vife to me, altogether; don’t say nothin’ at all about it; keep a good heart, my dear; and you’ll live to see me punch that ‘ere Stiggins’s head yet.” She smiled at this, Samivel,’ said the old gentleman, stifling a sigh with his pipe, ‘but she died arter all!’

‘Vell,’ said Sam, venturing to offer a little homely consolation, after the lapse of three or four minutes, consumed by the old gentleman in slowly shaking his head from side to side, and solemnly smoking, ‘vell, gov’nor, ve must all come to it, one day or another.’

‘So we must, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller the elder.

‘There’s a Providence in it all,’ said Sam.

‘O’ course there is,’ replied his father, with a nod of grave approval. ‘Wot ‘ud become of the undertakers vithout it, Sammy?’

Lost in the immense field of conjecture opened by this reflection, the elder Mr. Weller laid his pipe on the table, and stirred the fire with a meditative visage.

While the old gentleman was thus engaged, a very buxom-looking cook, dressed in mourning, who had been bustling about, in the bar, glided into the room, and bestowing many smirks of recognition upon Sam, silently stationed herself at the back of his father’s chair, and announced her presence by a slight cough, the which, being disregarded, was followed by a louder one.

‘Hollo!’ said the elder Mr. Weller, dropping the poker as he looked round, and hastily drew his chair away. ‘Wot’s the matter now?’

‘Have a cup of tea, there’s a good soul,’ replied the buxom female coaxingly.

‘I von’t,’ replied Mr. Weller, in a somewhat boisterous manner. ‘I’ll see you—’ Mr. Weller hastily checked himself, and added in a low tone, ‘furder fust.’

‘Oh, dear, dear! How adwersity does change people!’ said the lady, looking upwards.

‘It’s the only thing ‘twixt this and the doctor as shall change my condition,’ muttered Mr. Weller.

‘I really never saw a man so cross,’ said the buxom female.

‘Never mind. It’s all for my own good; vich is the reflection vith vich the penitent school-boy comforted his feelin’s ven they flogged him,’ rejoined the old gentleman.

The buxom female shook her head with a compassionate and sympathising air; and, appealing to Sam, inquired whether his father really ought not to make an effort to keep up, and not give way to that lowness of spirits.

‘You see, Mr. Samuel,’ said the buxom female, ‘as I was telling him yesterday, he will feel lonely, he can’t expect but what he should, sir, but he should keep up a good heart, because, dear me, I’m sure we all pity his loss, and are ready to do anything for him; and there’s no situation in life so bad, Mr. Samuel, that it can’t be mended. Which is what a very worthy person said to me when my husband died.’ Here the speaker, putting her hand before her mouth, coughed again, and looked affectionately at the elder Mr. Weller.

‘As I don’t rekvire any o’ your conversation just now, mum, vill you have the goodness to re-tire?’ inquired Mr. Weller, in a grave and steady voice.

‘Well, Mr. Weller,’ said the buxom female, ‘I’m sure I only spoke to you out of kindness.’

‘Wery likely, mum,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Samivel, show the lady out, and shut the door after her.’

This hint was not lost upon the buxom female; for she at once left the room, and slammed the door behind her, upon which Mr. Weller, senior, falling back in his chair in a violent perspiration, said—

‘Sammy, if I wos to stop here alone vun week—only vun week, my boy—that ‘ere ‘ooman ‘ud marry me by force and wiolence afore it was over.’

‘Wot! is she so wery fond on you?’ inquired Sam.

‘Fond!’ replied his father. ‘I can’t keep her avay from me. If I was locked up in a fireproof chest vith a patent Brahmin, she’d find means to get at me, Sammy.’

‘Wot a thing it is to be so sought arter!’ observed Sam, smiling.

‘I don’t take no pride out on it, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, poking the fire vehemently, ‘it’s a horrid sitiwation. I’m actiwally drove out o’ house and home by it. The breath was scarcely out o’ your poor mother-in-law’s body, ven vun old ‘ooman sends me a pot o’ jam, and another a pot o’ jelly, and another brews a blessed large jug o’ camomile-tea, vich she brings in vith her own hands.’ Mr. Weller paused with an aspect of intense disgust, and looking round, added in a whisper, ‘They wos all widders, Sammy, all on ‘em, ‘cept the camomile-tea vun, as wos a single young lady o’ fifty-three.’

Sam gave a comical look in reply, and the old gentleman having broken an obstinate lump of coal, with a countenance expressive of as much earnestness and malice as if it had been the head of one of the widows last-mentioned, said:

‘In short, Sammy, I feel that I ain’t safe anyveres but on the box.’

‘How are you safer there than anyveres else?’ interrupted Sam.

‘’Cos a coachman’s a privileged indiwidual,’ replied Mr. Weller, looking fixedly at his son. ‘’Cos a coachman may do vithout suspicion wot other men may not; ‘cos a coachman may be on the wery amicablest terms with eighty mile o’ females, and yet nobody think that he ever means to marry any vun among ‘em. And wot other man can say the same, Sammy?’

‘Vell, there’s somethin’ in that,’ said Sam.

‘If your gov’nor had been a coachman,’ reasoned Mr. Weller, ‘do you s’pose as that ‘ere jury ‘ud ever ha’ conwicted him, s’posin’ it possible as the matter could ha’ gone to that extremity? They dustn’t ha’ done it.’

‘Wy not?’ said Sam, rather disparagingly.

‘Wy not!’ rejoined Mr. Weller; ‘’cos it ‘ud ha’ gone agin their consciences. A reg’lar coachman’s a sort o’ con-nectin’ link betwixt singleness and matrimony, and every practicable man knows it.’

‘Wot! You mean, they’re gen’ral favorites, and nobody takes adwantage on ‘em, p’raps?’ said Sam.

His father nodded.

‘How it ever come to that ‘ere pass,’ resumed the parent Weller, ‘I can’t say. Wy it is that long-stage coachmen possess such insiniwations, and is alvays looked up to—a-dored I may say—by ev’ry young ‘ooman in ev’ry town he vurks through, I don’t know. I only know that so it is. It’s a regulation of natur—a dispensary, as your poor mother-in-law used to say.’

‘A dispensation,’ said Sam, correcting the old gentleman.

‘Wery good, Samivel, a dispensation if you like it better,’ returned Mr. Weller; ‘I call it a dispensary, and it’s always writ up so, at the places vere they gives you physic for nothin’ in your own bottles; that’s all.’

With these words, Mr. Weller refilled and relighted his pipe, and once more summoning up a meditative expression of countenance, continued as follows—

‘Therefore, my boy, as I do not see the adwisability o’ stoppin here to be married vether I vant to or not, and as at the same time I do not vish to separate myself from them interestin’ members o’ society altogether, I have come to the determination o’ driving the Safety, and puttin’ up vunce more at the Bell Savage, vich is my nat’ral born element, Sammy.’

‘And wot’s to become o’ the bis’ness?’ inquired Sam.

‘The bis’ness, Samivel,’ replied the old gentleman, ‘good-vill, stock, and fixters, vill be sold by private contract; and out o’ the money, two hundred pound, agreeable to a rekvest o’ your mother-in-law’s to me, a little afore she died, vill be invested in your name in—What do you call them things agin?’

‘Wot things?’ inquired Sam.

‘Them things as is always a-goin’ up and down, in the city.’

‘Omnibuses?’ suggested Sam.

‘Nonsense,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Them things as is alvays a-fluctooatin’, and gettin’ theirselves inwolved somehow or another vith the national debt, and the chequers bill; and all that.’

‘Oh! the funds,’ said Sam.

‘Ah!’ rejoined Mr. Weller, ‘the funs; two hundred pounds o’ the money is to be inwested for you, Samivel, in the funs; four and a half per cent. reduced counsels, Sammy.’

‘Wery kind o’ the old lady to think o’ me,’ said Sam, ‘and I’m wery much obliged to her.’

‘The rest will be inwested in my name,’ continued the elder Mr. Weller; ‘and wen I’m took off the road, it’ll come to you, so take care you don’t spend it all at vunst, my boy, and mind that no widder gets a inklin’ o’ your fortun’, or you’re done.’

Having delivered this warning, Mr. Weller resumed his pipe with a more serene countenance; the disclosure of these matters appearing to have eased his mind considerably.

‘Somebody’s a-tappin’ at the door,’ said Sam.

‘Let ‘em tap,’ replied his father, with dignity.

Sam acted upon the direction. There was another tap, and another, and then a long row of taps; upon which Sam inquired why the tapper was not admitted.

‘Hush,’ whispered Mr. Weller, with apprehensive looks, ‘don’t take no notice on ‘em, Sammy, it’s vun o’ the widders, p’raps.’

No notice being taken of the taps, the unseen visitor, after a short lapse, ventured to open the door and peep in. It was no female head that was thrust in at the partially-opened door, but the long black locks and red face of Mr. Stiggins. Mr. Weller’s pipe fell from his hands.

The reverend gentleman gradually opened the door by almost imperceptible degrees, until the aperture was just wide enough to admit of the passage of his lank body, when he glided into the room and closed it after him, with great care and gentleness. Turning towards Sam, and raising his hands and eyes in token of the unspeakable sorrow with which he regarded the calamity that had befallen the family, he carried the high-backed chair to his old corner by the fire, and, seating himself on the very edge, drew forth a brown pocket-handkerchief, and applied the same to his optics.

While this was going forward, the elder Mr. Weller sat back in his chair, with his eyes wide open, his hands planted on his knees, and his whole countenance expressive of absorbing and overwhelming astonishment. Sam sat opposite him in perfect silence, waiting, with eager curiosity, for the termination of the scene.

Mr. Stiggins kept the brown pocket-handkerchief before his eyes for some minutes, moaning decently meanwhile, and then, mastering his feelings by a strong effort, put it in his pocket and buttoned it up. After this, he stirred the fire; after that, he rubbed his hands and looked at Sam.

‘Oh, my young friend,’ said Mr. Stiggins, breaking the silence, in a very low voice, ‘here’s a sorrowful affliction!’

Sam nodded very slightly.

‘For the man of wrath, too!’ added Mr. Stiggins; ‘it makes a vessel’s heart bleed!’

Mr. Weller was overheard by his son to murmur something relative to making a vessel’s nose bleed; but Mr. Stiggins heard him not.

‘Do you know, young man,’ whispered Mr. Stiggins, drawing his chair closer to Sam, ‘whether she has left Emanuel anything?’

‘Who’s he?’ inquired Sam.

‘The chapel,’ replied Mr. Stiggins; ‘our chapel; our fold, Mr. Samuel.’

‘She hasn’t left the fold nothin’, nor the shepherd nothin’, nor the animals nothin’,’ said Sam decisively; ‘nor the dogs neither.’

Mr. Stiggins looked slily at Sam; glanced at the old gentleman, who was sitting with his eyes closed, as if asleep; and drawing his chair still nearer, said—

‘Nothing for me, Mr. Samuel?’

Sam shook his head.

‘I think there’s something,’ said Stiggins, turning as pale as he could turn. ‘Consider, Mr. Samuel; no little token?’

‘Not so much as the vorth o’ that ‘ere old umberella o’ yourn,’ replied Sam.

‘Perhaps,’ said Mr. Stiggins hesitatingly, after a few moments’ deep thought, ‘perhaps she recommended me to the care of the man of wrath, Mr. Samuel?’

‘I think that’s wery likely, from what he said,’ rejoined Sam; ‘he wos a-speakin’ about you, jist now.’

‘Was he, though?’ exclaimed Stiggins, brightening up. ‘Ah! He’s changed, I dare say. We might live very comfortably together now, Mr. Samuel, eh? I could take care of his property when you are away—good care, you see.’

Heaving a long-drawn sigh, Mr. Stiggins paused for a response. Sam nodded, and Mr. Weller the elder gave vent to an extraordinary sound, which, being neither a groan, nor a grunt, nor a gasp, nor a growl, seemed to partake in some degree of the character of all four.

Mr. Stiggins, encouraged by this sound, which he understood to betoken remorse or repentance, looked about him, rubbed his hands, wept, smiled, wept again, and then, walking softly across the room to a well-remembered shelf in one corner, took down a tumbler, and with great deliberation put four lumps of sugar in it. Having got thus far, he looked about him again, and sighed grievously; with that, he walked softly into the bar, and presently returning with the tumbler half full of pine-apple rum, advanced to the kettle which was singing gaily on the hob, mixed his grog, stirred it, sipped it, sat down, and taking a long and hearty pull at the rum-and-water, stopped for breath.

The elder Mr. Weller, who still continued to make various strange and uncouth attempts to appear asleep, offered not a single word during these proceedings; but when Stiggins stopped for breath, he darted upon him, and snatching the tumbler from his hand, threw the remainder of the rum-and-water in his face, and the glass itself into the grate. Then, seizing the reverend gentleman firmly by the collar, he suddenly fell to kicking him most furiously, accompanying every application of his top-boot to Mr. Stiggins’s person, with sundry violent and incoherent anathemas upon his limbs, eyes, and body.

‘Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘put my hat on tight for me.’

Sam dutifully adjusted the hat with the long hatband more firmly on his father’s head, and the old gentleman, resuming his kicking with greater agility than before, tumbled with Mr. Stiggins through the bar, and through the passage, out at the front door, and so into the street—the kicking continuing the whole way, and increasing in vehemence, rather than diminishing, every time the top-boot was lifted.

It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller’s grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins’s head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated.

‘There!’ said Mr. Weller, throwing all his energy into one most complicated kick, as he at length permitted Mr. Stiggins to withdraw his head from the trough, ‘send any vun o’ them lazy shepherds here, and I’ll pound him to a jelly first, and drownd him artervards! Sammy, help me in, and fill me a small glass of brandy. I’m out o’ breath, my boy.’






CHAPTER LIII. COMPRISING THE FINAL EXIT OF MR. JINGLE AND JOB TROTTER, WITH A GREAT MORNING OF BUSINESS IN GRAY’S INN SQUARE—CONCLUDING WITH A DOUBLE KNOCK AT MR. PERKER’S DOOR

When Arabella, after some gentle preparation and many assurances that there was not the least occasion for being low-spirited, was at length made acquainted by Mr. Pickwick with the unsatisfactory result of his visit to Birmingham, she burst into tears, and sobbing aloud, lamented in moving terms that she should have been the unhappy cause of any estrangement between a father and his son.

‘My dear girl,’ said Mr. Pickwick kindly, ‘it is no fault of yours. It was impossible to foresee that the old gentleman would be so strongly prepossessed against his son’s marriage, you know. I am sure,’ added Mr. Pickwick, glancing at her pretty face, ‘he can have very little idea of the pleasure he denies himself.’

‘Oh, my dear Mr. Pickwick,’ said Arabella, ‘what shall we do, if he continues to be angry with us?’

‘Why, wait patiently, my dear, until he thinks better of it,’ replied Mr. Pickwick cheerfully.

‘But, dear Mr. Pickwick, what is to become of Nathaniel if his father withdraws his assistance?’ urged Arabella.

‘In that case, my love,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick, ‘I will venture to prophesy that he will find some other friend who will not be backward in helping him to start in the world.’

The significance of this reply was not so well disguised by Mr. Pickwick but that Arabella understood it. So, throwing her arms round his neck, and kissing him affectionately, she sobbed louder than before.

‘Come, come,’ said Mr. Pickwick taking her hand, ‘we will wait here a few days longer, and see whether he writes or takes any other notice of your husband’s communication. If not, I have thought of half a dozen plans, any one of which would make you happy at once. There, my dear, there!’

With these words, Mr. Pickwick gently pressed Arabella’s hand, and bade her dry her eyes, and not distress her husband. Upon which, Arabella, who was one of the best little creatures alive, put her handkerchief in her reticule, and by the time Mr. Winkle joined them, exhibited in full lustre the same beaming smiles and sparkling eyes that had originally captivated him.

‘This is a distressing predicament for these young people,’ thought Mr. Pickwick, as he dressed himself next morning. ‘I’ll walk up to Perker’s, and consult him about the matter.’

As Mr. Pickwick was further prompted to betake himself to Gray’s Inn Square by an anxious desire to come to a pecuniary settlement with the kind-hearted little attorney without further delay, he made a hurried breakfast, and executed his intention so speedily, that ten o’clock had not struck when he reached Gray’s Inn.

It still wanted ten minutes to the hour when he had ascended the staircase on which Perker’s chambers were. The clerks had not arrived yet, and he beguiled the time by looking out of the staircase window.

The healthy light of a fine October morning made even the dingy old houses brighten up a little; some of the dusty windows actually looking almost cheerful as the sun’s rays gleamed upon them. Clerk after clerk hastened into the square by one or other of the entrances, and looking up at the Hall clock, accelerated or decreased his rate of walking according to the time at which his office hours nominally commenced; the half-past nine o’clock people suddenly becoming very brisk, and the ten o’clock gentlemen falling into a pace of most aristocratic slowness. The clock struck ten, and clerks poured in faster than ever, each one in a greater perspiration than his predecessor. The noise of unlocking and opening doors echoed and re-echoed on every side; heads appeared as if by magic in every window; the porters took up their stations for the day; the slipshod laundresses hurried off; the postman ran from house to house; and the whole legal hive was in a bustle.

‘You’re early, Mr. Pickwick,’ said a voice behind him.

‘Ah, Mr. Lowten,’ replied that gentleman, looking round, and recognising his old acquaintance.

‘Precious warm walking, isn’t it?’ said Lowten, drawing a Bramah key from his pocket, with a small plug therein, to keep the dust out.

‘You appear to feel it so,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick, smiling at the clerk, who was literally red-hot.

‘I’ve come along, rather, I can tell you,’ replied Lowten. ‘It went the half hour as I came through the Polygon. I’m here before him, though, so I don’t mind.’

Comforting himself with this reflection, Mr. Lowten extracted the plug from the door-key; having opened the door, replugged and repocketed his Bramah, and picked up the letters which the postman had dropped through the box, he ushered Mr. Pickwick into the office. Here, in the twinkling of an eye, he divested himself of his coat, put on a threadbare garment, which he took out of a desk, hung up his hat, pulled forth a few sheets of cartridge and blotting-paper in alternate layers, and, sticking a pen behind his ear, rubbed his hands with an air of great satisfaction.

‘There, you see, Mr. Pickwick,’ he said, ‘now I’m complete. I’ve got my office coat on, and my pad out, and let him come as soon as he likes. You haven’t got a pinch of snuff about you, have you?’

‘No, I have not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘I’m sorry for it,’ said Lowten. ‘Never mind. I’ll run out presently, and get a bottle of soda. Don’t I look rather queer about the eyes, Mr. Pickwick?’

The individual appealed to, surveyed Mr. Lowten’s eyes from a distance, and expressed his opinion that no unusual queerness was perceptible in those features.

‘I’m glad of it,’ said Lowten. ‘We were keeping it up pretty tolerably at the Stump last night, and I’m rather out of sorts this morning. Perker’s been about that business of yours, by the bye.’

‘What business?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick. ‘Mrs. Bardell’s costs?’

‘No, I don’t mean that,’ replied Mr. Lowten. ‘About getting that customer that we paid the ten shillings in the pound to the bill-discounter for, on your account—to get him out of the Fleet, you know—about getting him to Demerara.’

‘Oh, Mr. Jingle,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily. ‘Yes. Well?’

‘Well, it’s all arranged,’ said Lowten, mending his pen. ‘The agent at Liverpool said he had been obliged to you many times when you were in business, and he would be glad to take him on your recommendation.’

‘That’s well,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘I am delighted to hear it.’

‘But I say,’ resumed Lowten, scraping the back of the pen preparatory to making a fresh split, ‘what a soft chap that other is!’

‘Which other?’

‘Why, that servant, or friend, or whatever he is; you know, Trotter.’

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a smile. ‘I always thought him the reverse.’

‘Well, and so did I, from what little I saw of him,’ replied Lowten, ‘it only shows how one may be deceived. What do you think of his going to Demerara, too?’

‘What! And giving up what was offered him here!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Treating Perker’s offer of eighteen bob a week, and a rise if he behaved himself, like dirt,’ replied Lowten. ‘He said he must go along with the other one, and so they persuaded Perker to write again, and they’ve got him something on the same estate; not near so good, Perker says, as a convict would get in New South Wales, if he appeared at his trial in a new suit of clothes.’

‘Foolish fellow,’ said Mr. Pickwick, with glistening eyes. ‘Foolish fellow.’

‘Oh, it’s worse than foolish; it’s downright sneaking, you know,’ replied Lowten, nibbing the pen with a contemptuous face. ‘He says that he’s the only friend he ever had, and he’s attached to him, and all that. Friendship’s a very good thing in its way—we are all very friendly and comfortable at the Stump, for instance, over our grog, where every man pays for himself; but damn hurting yourself for anybody else, you know! No man should have more than two attachments—the first, to number one, and the second to the ladies; that’s what I say—ha! ha!’ Mr. Lowten concluded with a loud laugh, half in jocularity, and half in derision, which was prematurely cut short by the sound of Perker’s footsteps on the stairs, at the first approach of which, he vaulted on his stool with an agility most remarkable, and wrote intensely.

The greeting between Mr. Pickwick and his professional adviser was warm and cordial; the client was scarcely ensconced in the attorney’s arm-chair, however, when a knock was heard at the door, and a voice inquired whether Mr. Perker was within.

‘Hark!’ said Perker, ‘that’s one of our vagabond friends—Jingle himself, my dear Sir. Will you see him?’

‘What do you think?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick, hesitating.

‘Yes, I think you had better. Here, you Sir, what’s your name, walk in, will you?’

In compliance with this unceremonious invitation, Jingle and Job walked into the room, but, seeing Mr. Pickwick, stopped short in some confusion.

‘Well,’ said Perker, ‘don’t you know that gentleman?’

‘Good reason to,’ replied Mr. Jingle, stepping forward. ‘Mr. Pickwick—deepest obligations—life preserver—made a man of me—you shall never repent it, Sir.’

‘I am happy to hear you say so,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘You look much better.’

‘Thanks to you, sir—great change—Majesty’s Fleet—unwholesome place—very,’ said Jingle, shaking his head. He was decently and cleanly dressed, and so was Job, who stood bolt upright behind him, staring at Mr. Pickwick with a visage of iron.

‘When do they go to Liverpool?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick, half aside to Perker.

‘This evening, Sir, at seven o’clock,’ said Job, taking one step forward. ‘By the heavy coach from the city, Sir.’

‘Are your places taken?’

‘They are, sir,’ replied Job.

‘You have fully made up your mind to go?’

‘I have sir,’ answered Job.

‘With regard to such an outfit as was indispensable for Jingle,’ said Perker, addressing Mr. Pickwick aloud. ‘I have taken upon myself to make an arrangement for the deduction of a small sum from his quarterly salary, which, being made only for one year, and regularly remitted, will provide for that expense. I entirely disapprove of your doing anything for him, my dear sir, which is not dependent on his own exertions and good conduct.’

‘Certainly,’ interposed Jingle, with great firmness. ‘Clear head—man of the world—quite right—perfectly.’

‘By compounding with his creditor, releasing his clothes from the pawnbroker’s, relieving him in prison, and paying for his passage,’ continued Perker, without noticing Jingle’s observation, ‘you have already lost upwards of fifty pounds.’

‘Not lost,’ said Jingle hastily, ‘Pay it all—stick to business—cash up—every farthing. Yellow fever, perhaps—can’t help that—if not—’ Here Mr. Jingle paused, and striking the crown of his hat with great violence, passed his hand over his eyes, and sat down.

‘He means to say,’ said Job, advancing a few paces, ‘that if he is not carried off by the fever, he will pay the money back again. If he lives, he will, Mr. Pickwick. I will see it done. I know he will, Sir,’ said Job, with energy. ‘I could undertake to swear it.’

‘Well, well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, who had been bestowing a score or two of frowns upon Perker, to stop his summary of benefits conferred, which the little attorney obstinately disregarded, ‘you must be careful not to play any more desperate cricket matches, Mr. Jingle, or to renew your acquaintance with Sir Thomas Blazo, and I have little doubt of your preserving your health.’

Mr. Jingle smiled at this sally, but looked rather foolish notwithstanding; so Mr. Pickwick changed the subject by saying—

‘You don’t happen to know, do you, what has become of another friend of yours—a more humble one, whom I saw at Rochester?’

‘Dismal Jemmy?’ inquired Jingle.

‘Yes.’

Jingle shook his head.

‘Clever rascal—queer fellow, hoaxing genius—Job’s brother.’

‘Job’s brother!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. ‘Well, now I look at him closely, there is a likeness.’

‘We were always considered like each other, Sir,’ said Job, with a cunning look just lurking in the corners of his eyes, ‘only I was really of a serious nature, and he never was. He emigrated to America, Sir, in consequence of being too much sought after here, to be comfortable; and has never been heard of since.’

‘That accounts for my not having received the “page from the romance of real life,” which he promised me one morning when he appeared to be contemplating suicide on Rochester Bridge, I suppose,’ said Mr. Pickwick, smiling. ‘I need not inquire whether his dismal behaviour was natural or assumed.’

‘He could assume anything, Sir,’ said Job. ‘You may consider yourself very fortunate in having escaped him so easily. On intimate terms he would have been even a more dangerous acquaintance than—’ Job looked at Jingle, hesitated, and finally added, ‘than—than-myself even.’

‘A hopeful family yours, Mr. Trotter,’ said Perker, sealing a letter which he had just finished writing.

‘Yes, Sir,’ replied Job. ‘Very much so.’

‘Well,’ said the little man, laughing, ‘I hope you are going to disgrace it. Deliver this letter to the agent when you reach Liverpool, and let me advise you, gentlemen, not to be too knowing in the West Indies. If you throw away this chance, you will both richly deserve to be hanged, as I sincerely trust you will be. And now you had better leave Mr. Pickwick and me alone, for we have other matters to talk over, and time is precious.’ As Perker said this, he looked towards the door, with an evident desire to render the leave-taking as brief as possible.

It was brief enough on Mr. Jingle’s part. He thanked the little attorney in a few hurried words for the kindness and promptitude with which he had rendered his assistance, and, turning to his benefactor, stood for a few seconds as if irresolute what to say or how to act. Job Trotter relieved his perplexity; for, with a humble and grateful bow to Mr. Pickwick, he took his friend gently by the arm, and led him away.

‘A worthy couple!’ said Perker, as the door closed behind them.

‘I hope they may become so,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘What do you think? Is there any chance of their permanent reformation?’

Perker shrugged his shoulders doubtfully, but observing Mr. Pickwick’s anxious and disappointed look, rejoined—

‘Of course there is a chance. I hope it may prove a good one. They are unquestionably penitent now; but then, you know, they have the recollection of very recent suffering fresh upon them. What they may become, when that fades away, is a problem that neither you nor I can solve. However, my dear Sir,’ added Perker, laying his hand on Mr. Pickwick’s shoulder, ‘your object is equally honourable, whatever the result is. Whether that species of benevolence which is so very cautious and long-sighted that it is seldom exercised at all, lest its owner should be imposed upon, and so wounded in his self-love, be real charity or a worldly counterfeit, I leave to wiser heads than mine to determine. But if those two fellows were to commit a burglary to-morrow, my opinion of this action would be equally high.’

With these remarks, which were delivered in a much more animated and earnest manner than is usual in legal gentlemen, Perker drew his chair to his desk, and listened to Mr. Pickwick’s recital of old Mr. Winkle’s obstinacy.

‘Give him a week,’ said Perker, nodding his head prophetically.

‘Do you think he will come round?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘I think he will,’ rejoined Perker. ‘If not, we must try the young lady’s persuasion; and that is what anybody but you would have done at first.’

Mr. Perker was taking a pinch of snuff with various grotesque contractions of countenance, eulogistic of the persuasive powers appertaining unto young ladies, when the murmur of inquiry and answer was heard in the outer office, and Lowten tapped at the door.

‘Come in!’ cried the little man.

The clerk came in, and shut the door after him, with great mystery.

‘What’s the matter?’ inquired Perker.

‘You’re wanted, Sir.’

‘Who wants me?’

Lowten looked at Mr. Pickwick, and coughed.

‘Who wants me? Can’t you speak, Mr. Lowten?’

‘Why, sir,’ replied Lowten, ‘it’s Dodson; and Fogg is with him.’

‘Bless my life!’ said the little man, looking at his watch, ‘I appointed them to be here at half-past eleven, to settle that matter of yours, Pickwick. I gave them an undertaking on which they sent down your discharge; it’s very awkward, my dear Sir; what will you do? Would you like to step into the next room?’

The next room being the identical room in which Messrs. Dodson & Fogg were, Mr. Pickwick replied that he would remain where he was: the more especially as Messrs. Dodson & Fogg ought to be ashamed to look him in the face, instead of his being ashamed to see them. Which latter circumstance he begged Mr. Perker to note, with a glowing countenance and many marks of indignation.

‘Very well, my dear Sir, very well,’ replied Perker, ‘I can only say that if you expect either Dodson or Fogg to exhibit any symptom of shame or confusion at having to look you, or anybody else, in the face, you are the most sanguine man in your expectations that I ever met with. Show them in, Mr. Lowten.’

Mr. Lowten disappeared with a grin, and immediately returned ushering in the firm, in due form of precedence—Dodson first, and Fogg afterwards.

‘You have seen Mr. Pickwick, I believe?’ said Perker to Dodson, inclining his pen in the direction where that gentleman was seated.

‘How do you do, Mr. Pickwick?’ said Dodson, in a loud voice.

‘Dear me,’ cried Fogg, ‘how do you do, Mr. Pickwick? I hope you are well, Sir. I thought I knew the face,’ said Fogg, drawing up a chair, and looking round him with a smile.

Mr. Pickwick bent his head very slightly, in answer to these salutations, and, seeing Fogg pull a bundle of papers from his coat pocket, rose and walked to the window.

‘There’s no occasion for Mr. Pickwick to move, Mr. Perker,’ said Fogg, untying the red tape which encircled the little bundle, and smiling again more sweetly than before. ‘Mr. Pickwick is pretty well acquainted with these proceedings. There are no secrets between us, I think. He! he! he!’

‘Not many, I think,’ said Dodson. ‘Ha! ha! ha!’ Then both the partners laughed together—pleasantly and cheerfully, as men who are going to receive money often do.

‘We shall make Mr. Pickwick pay for peeping,’ said Fogg, with considerable native humour, as he unfolded his papers. ‘The amount of the taxed costs is one hundred and thirty-three, six, four, Mr. Perker.’

There was a great comparing of papers, and turning over of leaves, by Fogg and Perker, after this statement of profit and loss. Meanwhile, Dodson said, in an affable manner, to Mr. Pickwick—

‘I don’t think you are looking quite so stout as when I had the pleasure of seeing you last, Mr. Pickwick.’

‘Possibly not, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, who had been flashing forth looks of fierce indignation, without producing the smallest effect on either of the sharp practitioners; ‘I believe I am not, Sir. I have been persecuted and annoyed by scoundrels of late, Sir.’

Perker coughed violently, and asked Mr. Pickwick whether he wouldn’t like to look at the morning paper. To which inquiry Mr. Pickwick returned a most decided negative.

‘True,’ said Dodson, ‘I dare say you have been annoyed in the Fleet; there are some odd gentry there. Whereabouts were your apartments, Mr. Pickwick?’

‘My one room,’ replied that much-injured gentleman, ‘was on the coffee-room flight.’

‘Oh, indeed!’ said Dodson. ‘I believe that is a very pleasant part of the establishment.’

‘Very,’ replied Mr. Pickwick drily.

There was a coolness about all this, which, to a gentleman of an excitable temperament, had, under the circumstances, rather an exasperating tendency. Mr. Pickwick restrained his wrath by gigantic efforts; but when Perker wrote a cheque for the whole amount, and Fogg deposited it in a small pocket-book, with a triumphant smile playing over his pimply features, which communicated itself likewise to the stern countenance of Dodson, he felt the blood in his cheeks tingling with indignation.

‘Now, Mr. Dodson,’ said Fogg, putting up the pocket-book and drawing on his gloves, ‘I am at your service.’

‘Very good,’ said Dodson, rising; ‘I am quite ready.’

‘I am very happy,’ said Fogg, softened by the cheque, ‘to have had the pleasure of making Mr. Pickwick’s acquaintance. I hope you don’t think quite so ill of us, Mr. Pickwick, as when we first had the pleasure of seeing you.’

‘I hope not,’ said Dodson, with the high tone of calumniated virtue. ‘Mr. Pickwick now knows us better, I trust; whatever your opinion of gentlemen of our profession may be, I beg to assure you, sir, that I bear no ill-will or vindictive feeling towards you for the sentiments you thought proper to express in our office in Freeman’s Court, Cornhill, on the occasion to which my partner has referred.’

‘Oh, no, no; nor I,’ said Fogg, in a most forgiving manner.

‘Our conduct, Sir,’ said Dodson, ‘will speak for itself, and justify itself, I hope, upon every occasion. We have been in the profession some years, Mr. Pickwick, and have been honoured with the confidence of many excellent clients. I wish you good-morning, Sir.’

‘Good-morning, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Fogg. So saying, he put his umbrella under his arm, drew off his right glove, and extended the hand of reconciliation to that most indignant gentleman; who, thereupon, thrust his hands beneath his coat tails, and eyed the attorney with looks of scornful amazement.

‘Lowten!’ cried Perker, at this moment. ‘Open the door.’

‘Wait one instant,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Perker, I will speak.’

‘My dear Sir, pray let the matter rest where it is,’ said the little attorney, who had been in a state of nervous apprehension during the whole interview; ‘Mr. Pickwick, I beg—’

‘I will not be put down, Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick hastily. ‘Mr. Dodson, you have addressed some remarks to me.’

Dodson turned round, bent his head meekly, and smiled.

‘Some remarks to me,’ repeated Mr. Pickwick, almost breathless; ‘and your partner has tendered me his hand, and you have both assumed a tone of forgiveness and high-mindedness, which is an extent of impudence that I was not prepared for, even in you.’

‘What, sir!’ exclaimed Dodson.

‘What, sir!’ reiterated Fogg.

‘Do you know that I have been the victim of your plots and conspiracies?’ continued Mr. Pickwick. ‘Do you know that I am the man whom you have been imprisoning and robbing? Do you know that you were the attorneys for the plaintiff, in Bardell and Pickwick?’

‘Yes, sir, we do know it,’ replied Dodson.

‘Of course we know it, Sir,’ rejoined Fogg, slapping his pocket—perhaps by accident.

‘I see that you recollect it with satisfaction,’ said Mr. Pickwick, attempting to call up a sneer for the first time in his life, and failing most signally in so doing. ‘Although I have long been anxious to tell you, in plain terms, what my opinion of you is, I should have let even this opportunity pass, in deference to my friend Perker’s wishes, but for the unwarrantable tone you have assumed, and your insolent familiarity. I say insolent familiarity, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, turning upon Fogg with a fierceness of gesture which caused that person to retreat towards the door with great expedition.

‘Take care, Sir,’ said Dodson, who, though he was the biggest man of the party, had prudently entrenched himself behind Fogg, and was speaking over his head with a very pale face. ‘Let him assault you, Mr. Fogg; don’t return it on any account.’

‘No, no, I won’t return it,’ said Fogg, falling back a little more as he spoke; to the evident relief of his partner, who by these means was gradually getting into the outer office.

‘You are,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, resuming the thread of his discourse—‘you are a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.’

‘Well,’ interposed Perker, ‘is that all?’

‘It is all summed up in that,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick; ‘they are mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers.’

‘There!’ said Perker, in a most conciliatory tone. ‘My dear sirs, he has said all he has to say. Now pray go. Lowten, is that door open?’

Mr. Lowten, with a distant giggle, replied in the affirmative.

‘There, there—good-morning—good-morning—now pray, my dear sirs—Mr. Lowten, the door!’ cried the little man, pushing Dodson & Fogg, nothing loath, out of the office; ‘this way, my dear sirs—now pray don’t prolong this—Dear me—Mr. Lowten—the door, sir—why don’t you attend?’

‘If there’s law in England, sir,’ said Dodson, looking towards Mr. Pickwick, as he put on his hat, ‘you shall smart for this.’

‘You are a couple of mean—’

‘Remember, sir, you pay dearly for this,’ said Fogg.

‘—Rascally, pettifogging robbers!’ continued Mr. Pickwick, taking not the least notice of the threats that were addressed to him.

‘Robbers!’ cried Mr. Pickwick, running to the stair-head, as the two attorneys descended.

‘Robbers!’ shouted Mr. Pickwick, breaking from Lowten and Perker, and thrusting his head out of the staircase window.

When Mr. Pickwick drew in his head again, his countenance was smiling and placid; and, walking quietly back into the office, he declared that he had now removed a great weight from his mind, and that he felt perfectly comfortable and happy.

Perker said nothing at all until he had emptied his snuff-box, and sent Lowten out to fill it, when he was seized with a fit of laughing, which lasted five minutes; at the expiration of which time he said that he supposed he ought to be very angry, but he couldn’t think of the business seriously yet—when he could, he would be.

‘Well, now,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘let me have a settlement with you.’

Of the same kind as the last?’ inquired Perker, with another laugh.

‘Not exactly,’ rejoined Mr. Pickwick, drawing out his pocket-book, and shaking the little man heartily by the hand, ‘I only mean a pecuniary settlement. You have done me many acts of kindness that I can never repay, and have no wish to repay, for I prefer continuing the obligation.’

With this preface, the two friends dived into some very complicated accounts and vouchers, which, having been duly displayed and gone through by Perker, were at once discharged by Mr. Pickwick with many professions of esteem and friendship.

They had no sooner arrived at this point, than a most violent and startling knocking was heard at the door; it was not an ordinary double-knock, but a constant and uninterrupted succession of the loudest single raps, as if the knocker were endowed with the perpetual motion, or the person outside had forgotten to leave off.

‘Dear me, what’s that?’ exclaimed Perker, starting.

‘I think it is a knock at the door,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as if there could be the smallest doubt of the fact.

The knocker made a more energetic reply than words could have yielded, for it continued to hammer with surprising force and noise, without a moment’s cessation.

‘Dear me!’ said Perker, ringing his bell, ‘we shall alarm the inn. Mr. Lowten, don’t you hear a knock?’

‘I’ll answer the door in one moment, Sir,’ replied the clerk.

The knocker appeared to hear the response, and to assert that it was quite impossible he could wait so long. It made a stupendous uproar.

‘It’s quite dreadful,’ said Mr. Pickwick, stopping his ears.

‘Make haste, Mr. Lowten,’ Perker called out; ‘we shall have the panels beaten in.’

Mr. Lowten, who was washing his hands in a dark closet, hurried to the door, and turning the handle, beheld the appearance which is described in the next chapter.






CHAPTER LIV. CONTAINING SOME PARTICULARS RELATIVE TO THE DOUBLE KNOCK, AND OTHER MATTERS: AMONG WHICH CERTAIN INTERESTING DISCLOSURES RELATIVE TO MR. SNODGRASS AND A YOUNG LADY ARE BY NO MEANS IRRELEVANT TO THIS HISTORY

The object that presented itself to the eyes of the astonished clerk, was a boy—a wonderfully fat boy—habited as a serving lad, standing upright on the mat, with his eyes closed as if in sleep. He had never seen such a fat boy, in or out of a travelling caravan; and this, coupled with the calmness and repose of his appearance, so very different from what was reasonably to have been expected of the inflicter of such knocks, smote him with wonder.

‘What’s the matter?’ inquired the clerk.

The extraordinary boy replied not a word; but he nodded once, and seemed, to the clerk’s imagination, to snore feebly.

‘Where do you come from?’ inquired the clerk.

The boy made no sign. He breathed heavily, but in all other respects was motionless.

The clerk repeated the question thrice, and receiving no answer, prepared to shut the door, when the boy suddenly opened his eyes, winked several times, sneezed once, and raised his hand as if to repeat the knocking. Finding the door open, he stared about him with astonishment, and at length fixed his eyes on Mr. Lowten’s face.

‘What the devil do you knock in that way for?’ inquired the clerk angrily.

‘Which way?’ said the boy, in a slow and sleepy voice.

‘Why, like forty hackney-coachmen,’ replied the clerk.

‘Because master said, I wasn’t to leave off knocking till they opened the door, for fear I should go to sleep,’ said the boy.

‘Well,’ said the clerk, ‘what message have you brought?’

‘He’s downstairs,’ rejoined the boy.

‘Who?’

‘Master. He wants to know whether you’re at home.’

Mr. Lowten bethought himself, at this juncture, of looking out of the window. Seeing an open carriage with a hearty old gentleman in it, looking up very anxiously, he ventured to beckon him; on which, the old gentleman jumped out directly.

‘That’s your master in the carriage, I suppose?’ said Lowten.

The boy nodded.

All further inquiries were superseded by the appearance of old Wardle, who, running upstairs and just recognising Lowten, passed at once into Mr. Perker’s room.

‘Pickwick!’ said the old gentleman. ‘Your hand, my boy! Why have I never heard until the day before yesterday of your suffering yourself to be cooped up in jail? And why did you let him do it, Perker?’

‘I couldn’t help it, my dear Sir,’ replied Perker, with a smile and a pinch of snuff; ‘you know how obstinate he is?’

‘Of course I do; of course I do,’ replied the old gentleman. ‘I am heartily glad to see him, notwithstanding. I will not lose sight of him again, in a hurry.’

With these words, Wardle shook Mr. Pickwick’s hand once more, and, having done the same by Perker, threw himself into an arm-chair, his jolly red face shining again with smiles and health.

‘Well!’ said Wardle. ‘Here are pretty goings on—a pinch of your snuff, Perker, my boy—never were such times, eh?’

‘What do you mean?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Mean!’ replied Wardle. ‘Why, I think the girls are all running mad; that’s no news, you’ll say? Perhaps it’s not; but it’s true, for all that.’

‘You have not come up to London, of all places in the world, to tell us that, my dear Sir, have you?’ inquired Perker.

‘No, not altogether,’ replied Wardle; ‘though it was the main cause of my coming. How’s Arabella?’

‘Very well,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘and will be delighted to see you, I am sure.’

‘Black-eyed little jilt!’ replied Wardle. ‘I had a great idea of marrying her myself, one of these odd days. But I am glad of it too, very glad.’

‘How did the intelligence reach you?’ asked Mr. Pickwick.

‘Oh, it came to my girls, of course,’ replied Wardle. ‘Arabella wrote, the day before yesterday, to say she had made a stolen match without her husband’s father’s consent, and so you had gone down to get it when his refusing it couldn’t prevent the match, and all the rest of it. I thought it a very good time to say something serious to my girls; so I said what a dreadful thing it was that children should marry without their parents’ consent, and so forth; but, bless your hearts, I couldn’t make the least impression upon them. They thought it such a much more dreadful thing that there should have been a wedding without bridesmaids, that I might as well have preached to Joe himself.’

Here the old gentleman stopped to laugh; and having done so to his heart’s content, presently resumed—

‘But this is not the best of it, it seems. This is only half the love-making and plotting that have been going forward. We have been walking on mines for the last six months, and they’re sprung at last.’

‘What do you mean?’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick, turning pale; ‘no other secret marriage, I hope?’

‘No, no,’ replied old Wardle; ‘not so bad as that; no.’

‘What then?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick; ‘am I interested in it?’

‘Shall I answer that question, Perker?’ said Wardle.

‘If you don’t commit yourself by doing so, my dear Sir.’

‘Well then, you are,’ said Wardle.

‘How?’ asked Mr. Pickwick anxiously. ‘In what way?’

‘Really,’ replied Wardle, ‘you’re such a fiery sort of a young fellow that I am almost afraid to tell you; but, however, if Perker will sit between us to prevent mischief, I’ll venture.’

Having closed the room door, and fortified himself with another application to Perker’s snuff-box, the old gentleman proceeded with his great disclosure in these words—

‘The fact is, that my daughter Bella—Bella, who married young Trundle, you know.’

‘Yes, yes, we know,’ said Mr. Pickwick impatiently.

‘Don’t alarm me at the very beginning. My daughter Bella—Emily having gone to bed with a headache after she had read Arabella’s letter to me—sat herself down by my side the other evening, and began to talk over this marriage affair. “Well, pa,” she says, “what do you think of it?” “Why, my dear,” I said, “I suppose it’s all very well; I hope it’s for the best.” I answered in this way because I was sitting before the fire at the time, drinking my grog rather thoughtfully, and I knew my throwing in an undecided word now and then, would induce her to continue talking. Both my girls are pictures of their dear mother, and as I grow old I like to sit with only them by me; for their voices and looks carry me back to the happiest period of my life, and make me, for the moment, as young as I used to be then, though not quite so light-hearted. “It’s quite a marriage of affection, pa,” said Bella, after a short silence. “Yes, my dear,” said I, “but such marriages do not always turn out the happiest.”’

‘I question that, mind!’ interposed Mr. Pickwick warmly.

‘Very good,’ responded Wardle, ‘question anything you like when it’s your turn to speak, but don’t interrupt me.’

‘I beg your pardon,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Granted,’ replied Wardle. ‘“I am sorry to hear you express your opinion against marriages of affection, pa,” said Bella, colouring a little. “I was wrong; I ought not to have said so, my dear, either,” said I, patting her cheek as kindly as a rough old fellow like me could pat it, “for your mother’s was one, and so was yours.” “It’s not that I meant, pa,” said Bella. “The fact is, pa, I wanted to speak to you about Emily.”’

Mr. Pickwick started.

‘What’s the matter now?’ inquired Wardle, stopping in his narrative.

‘Nothing,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Pray go on.’

‘I never could spin out a story,’ said Wardle abruptly. ‘It must come out, sooner or later, and it’ll save us all a great deal of time if it comes at once. The long and the short of it is, then, that Bella at last mustered up courage to tell me that Emily was very unhappy; that she and your young friend Snodgrass had been in constant correspondence and communication ever since last Christmas; that she had very dutifully made up her mind to run away with him, in laudable imitation of her old friend and school-fellow; but that having some compunctions of conscience on the subject, inasmuch as I had always been rather kindly disposed to both of them, they had thought it better in the first instance to pay me the compliment of asking whether I would have any objection to their being married in the usual matter-of-fact manner. There now, Mr. Pickwick, if you can make it convenient to reduce your eyes to their usual size again, and to let me hear what you think we ought to do, I shall feel rather obliged to you!’

The testy manner in which the hearty old gentleman uttered this last sentence was not wholly unwarranted; for Mr. Pickwick’s face had settled down into an expression of blank amazement and perplexity, quite curious to behold.

‘Snodgrass!—since last Christmas!’ were the first broken words that issued from the lips of the confounded gentleman.

‘Since last Christmas,’ replied Wardle; ‘that’s plain enough, and very bad spectacles we must have worn, not to have discovered it before.’

‘I don’t understand it,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ruminating; ‘I cannot really understand it.’

‘It’s easy enough to understand it,’ replied the choleric old gentleman. ‘If you had been a younger man, you would have been in the secret long ago; and besides,’ added Wardle, after a moment’s hesitation, ‘the truth is, that, knowing nothing of this matter, I have rather pressed Emily for four or five months past, to receive favourably (if she could; I would never attempt to force a girl’s inclinations) the addresses of a young gentleman down in our neighbourhood. I have no doubt that, girl-like, to enhance her own value and increase the ardour of Mr. Snodgrass, she has represented this matter in very glowing colours, and that they have both arrived at the conclusion that they are a terribly-persecuted pair of unfortunates, and have no resource but clandestine matrimony, or charcoal. Now the question is, what’s to be done?’

‘What have you done?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘I!’

‘I mean what did you do when your married daughter told you this?’

‘Oh, I made a fool of myself of course,’ rejoined Wardle.

‘Just so,’ interposed Perker, who had accompanied this dialogue with sundry twitchings of his watch-chain, vindictive rubbings of his nose, and other symptoms of impatience. ‘That’s very natural; but how?’

‘I went into a great passion and frightened my mother into a fit,’ said Wardle.

‘That was judicious,’ remarked Perker; ‘and what else?’

‘I fretted and fumed all next day, and raised a great disturbance,’ rejoined the old gentleman. ‘At last I got tired of rendering myself unpleasant and making everybody miserable; so I hired a carriage at Muggleton, and, putting my own horses in it, came up to town, under pretence of bringing Emily to see Arabella.’

‘Miss Wardle is with you, then?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘To be sure she is,’ replied Wardle. ‘She is at Osborne’s Hotel in the Adelphi at this moment, unless your enterprising friend has run away with her since I came out this morning.’

‘You are reconciled then?’ said Perker.

‘Not a bit of it,’ answered Wardle; ‘she has been crying and moping ever since, except last night, between tea and supper, when she made a great parade of writing a letter that I pretended to take no notice of.’

‘You want my advice in this matter, I suppose?’ said Perker, looking from the musing face of Mr. Pickwick to the eager countenance of Wardle, and taking several consecutive pinches of his favourite stimulant.

‘I suppose so,’ said Wardle, looking at Mr. Pickwick.

‘Certainly,’ replied that gentleman.

‘Well then,’ said Perker, rising and pushing his chair back, ‘my advice is, that you both walk away together, or ride away, or get away by some means or other, for I’m tired of you, and just talk this matter over between you. If you have not settled it by the next time I see you, I’ll tell you what to do.’

‘This is satisfactory,’ said Wardle, hardly knowing whether to smile or be offended.

‘Pooh, pooh, my dear Sir,’ returned Perker. ‘I know you both a great deal better than you know yourselves. You have settled it already, to all intents and purposes.’

Thus expressing himself, the little gentleman poked his snuff-box first into the chest of Mr. Pickwick, and then into the waistcoat of Mr. Wardle, upon which they all three laughed, especially the two last-named gentlemen, who at once shook hands again, without any obvious or particular reason.

‘You dine with me to-day,’ said Wardle to Perker, as he showed them out.

‘Can’t promise, my dear Sir, can’t promise,’ replied Perker. ‘I’ll look in, in the evening, at all events.’

‘I shall expect you at five,’ said Wardle. ‘Now, Joe!’ And Joe having been at length awakened, the two friends departed in Mr. Wardle’s carriage, which in common humanity had a dickey behind for the fat boy, who, if there had been a footboard instead, would have rolled off and killed himself in his very first nap.

Driving to the George and Vulture, they found that Arabella and her maid had sent for a hackney-coach immediately on the receipt of a short note from Emily announcing her arrival in town, and had proceeded straight to the Adelphi. As Wardle had business to transact in the city, they sent the carriage and the fat boy to his hotel, with the information that he and Mr. Pickwick would return together to dinner at five o’clock.

Charged with this message, the fat boy returned, slumbering as peaceably in his dickey, over the stones, as if it had been a down bed on watch springs. By some extraordinary miracle he awoke of his own accord, when the coach stopped, and giving himself a good shake to stir up his faculties, went upstairs to execute his commission.

Now, whether the shake had jumbled the fat boy’s faculties together, instead of arranging them in proper order, or had roused such a quantity of new ideas within him as to render him oblivious of ordinary forms and ceremonies, or (which is also possible) had proved unsuccessful in preventing his falling asleep as he ascended the stairs, it is an undoubted fact that he walked into the sitting-room without previously knocking at the door; and so beheld a gentleman with his arms clasping his young mistress’s waist, sitting very lovingly by her side on a sofa, while Arabella and her pretty handmaid feigned to be absorbed in looking out of a window at the other end of the room. At the sight of this phenomenon, the fat boy uttered an interjection, the ladies a scream, and the gentleman an oath, almost simultaneously.

‘Wretched creature, what do you want here?’ said the gentleman, who it is needless to say was Mr. Snodgrass.

To this the fat boy, considerably terrified, briefly responded, ‘Missis.’

‘What do you want me for,’ inquired Emily, turning her head aside, ‘you stupid creature?’

‘Master and Mr. Pickwick is a-going to dine here at five,’ replied the fat boy.

‘Leave the room!’ said Mr. Snodgrass, glaring upon the bewildered youth.

‘No, no, no,’ added Emily hastily. ‘Bella, dear, advise me.’

Upon this, Emily and Mr. Snodgrass, and Arabella and Mary, crowded into a corner, and conversed earnestly in whispers for some minutes, during which the fat boy dozed.

‘Joe,’ said Arabella, at length, looking round with a most bewitching smile, ‘how do you do, Joe?’

‘Joe,’ said Emily, ‘you’re a very good boy; I won’t forget you, Joe.’

‘Joe,’ said Mr. Snodgrass, advancing to the astonished youth, and seizing his hand, ‘I didn’t know you before. There’s five shillings for you, Joe!”

‘I’ll owe you five, Joe,’ said Arabella, ‘for old acquaintance sake, you know;’ and another most captivating smile was bestowed upon the corpulent intruder.

The fat boy’s perception being slow, he looked rather puzzled at first to account for this sudden prepossession in his favour, and stared about him in a very alarming manner. At length his broad face began to show symptoms of a grin of proportionately broad dimensions; and then, thrusting half-a-crown into each of his pockets, and a hand and wrist after it, he burst into a horse laugh: being for the first and only time in his existence.

‘He understands us, I see,’ said Arabella.

‘He had better have something to eat, immediately,’ remarked Emily.

The fat boy almost laughed again when he heard this suggestion. Mary, after a little more whispering, tripped forth from the group and said—

‘I am going to dine with you to-day, sir, if you have no objection.’

‘This way,’ said the fat boy eagerly. ‘There is such a jolly meat-pie!’

With these words, the fat boy led the way downstairs; his pretty companion captivating all the waiters and angering all the chambermaids as she followed him to the eating-room.

There was the meat-pie of which the youth had spoken so feelingly, and there were, moreover, a steak, and a dish of potatoes, and a pot of porter.

‘Sit down,’ said the fat boy. ‘Oh, my eye, how prime! I am so hungry.’

Having apostrophised his eye, in a species of rapture, five or six times, the youth took the head of the little table, and Mary seated herself at the bottom.

‘Will you have some of this?’ said the fat boy, plunging into the pie up to the very ferules of the knife and fork.

‘A little, if you please,’ replied Mary.

The fat boy assisted Mary to a little, and himself to a great deal, and was just going to begin eating when he suddenly laid down his knife and fork, leaned forward in his chair, and letting his hands, with the knife and fork in them, fall on his knees, said, very slowly—

‘I say! How nice you look!’

This was said in an admiring manner, and was, so far, gratifying; but still there was enough of the cannibal in the young gentleman’s eyes to render the compliment a double one.

‘Dear me, Joseph,’ said Mary, affecting to blush, ‘what do you mean?’

The fat boy, gradually recovering his former position, replied with a heavy sigh, and, remaining thoughtful for a few moments, drank a long draught of the porter. Having achieved this feat, he sighed again, and applied himself assiduously to the pie.

‘What a nice young lady Miss Emily is!’ said Mary, after a long silence.

The fat boy had by this time finished the pie. He fixed his eyes on Mary, and replied—

‘I knows a nicerer.’

‘Indeed!’ said Mary.

‘Yes, indeed!’ replied the fat boy, with unwonted vivacity.

‘What’s her name?’ inquired Mary.

‘What’s yours?’

‘Mary.’

‘So’s hers,’ said the fat boy. ‘You’re her.’ The boy grinned to add point to the compliment, and put his eyes into something between a squint and a cast, which there is reason to believe he intended for an ogle.

‘You mustn’t talk to me in that way,’ said Mary; ‘you don’t mean it.’

‘Don’t I, though?’ replied the fat boy. ‘I say?’

‘Well?’

‘Are you going to come here regular?’

‘No,’ rejoined Mary, shaking her head, ‘I’m going away again to-night. Why?’

‘Oh,’ said the fat boy, in a tone of strong feeling; ‘how we should have enjoyed ourselves at meals, if you had been!’

‘I might come here sometimes, perhaps, to see you,’ said Mary, plaiting the table-cloth in assumed coyness, ‘if you would do me a favour.’

The fat boy looked from the pie-dish to the steak, as if he thought a favour must be in a manner connected with something to eat; and then took out one of the half-crowns and glanced at it nervously.

‘Don’t you understand me?’ said Mary, looking slily in his fat face.

Again he looked at the half-crown, and said faintly, ‘No.’

‘The ladies want you not to say anything to the old gentleman about the young gentleman having been upstairs; and I want you too.’

‘Is that all?’ said the fat boy, evidently very much relieved, as he pocketed the half-crown again. ‘Of course I ain’t a-going to.’

‘You see,’ said Mary, ‘Mr. Snodgrass is very fond of Miss Emily, and Miss Emily’s very fond of him, and if you were to tell about it, the old gentleman would carry you all away miles into the country, where you’d see nobody.’

‘No, no, I won’t tell,’ said the fat boy stoutly.

‘That’s a dear,’ said Mary. ‘Now it’s time I went upstairs, and got my lady ready for dinner.’

‘Don’t go yet,’ urged the fat boy.

‘I must,’ replied Mary. ‘Good-bye, for the present.’

The fat boy, with elephantine playfulness, stretched out his arms to ravish a kiss; but as it required no great agility to elude him, his fair enslaver had vanished before he closed them again; upon which the apathetic youth ate a pound or so of steak with a sentimental countenance, and fell fast asleep.

There was so much to say upstairs, and there were so many plans to concert for elopement and matrimony in the event of old Wardle continuing to be cruel, that it wanted only half an hour of dinner when Mr. Snodgrass took his final adieu. The ladies ran to Emily’s bedroom to dress, and the lover, taking up his hat, walked out of the room. He had scarcely got outside the door, when he heard Wardle’s voice talking loudly, and looking over the banisters beheld him, followed by some other gentlemen, coming straight upstairs. Knowing nothing of the house, Mr. Snodgrass in his confusion stepped hastily back into the room he had just quitted, and passing thence into an inner apartment (Mr. Wardle’s bedchamber), closed the door softly, just as the persons he had caught a glimpse of entered the sitting-room. These were Mr. Wardle, Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, and Mr. Benjamin Allen, whom he had no difficulty in recognising by their voices.

‘Very lucky I had the presence of mind to avoid them,’ thought Mr. Snodgrass with a smile, and walking on tiptoe to another door near the bedside; ‘this opens into the same passage, and I can walk quietly and comfortably away.’

There was only one obstacle to his walking quietly and comfortably away, which was that the door was locked and the key gone.

‘Let us have some of your best wine to-day, waiter,’ said old Wardle, rubbing his hands.

‘You shall have some of the very best, sir,’ replied the waiter.

‘Let the ladies know we have come in.’

‘Yes, Sir.’

Devoutly and ardently did Mr. Snodgrass wish that the ladies could know he had come in. He ventured once to whisper, ‘Waiter!’ through the keyhole, but the probability of the wrong waiter coming to his relief, flashed upon his mind, together with a sense of the strong resemblance between his own situation and that in which another gentleman had been recently found in a neighbouring hotel (an account of whose misfortunes had appeared under the head of ‘Police’ in that morning’s paper), he sat himself on a portmanteau, and trembled violently.

‘We won’t wait a minute for Perker,’ said Wardle, looking at his watch; ‘he is always exact. He will be here, in time, if he means to come; and if he does not, it’s of no use waiting. Ha! Arabella!’

‘My sister!’ exclaimed Mr. Benjamin Allen, folding her in a most romantic embrace.

‘Oh, Ben, dear, how you do smell of tobacco,’ said Arabella, rather overcome by this mark of affection.

‘Do I?’ said Mr. Benjamin Allen. ‘Do I, Bella? Well, perhaps I do.’

Perhaps he did, having just left a pleasant little smoking-party of twelve medical students, in a small back parlour with a large fire.

‘But I am delighted to see you,’ said Mr. Ben Allen. ‘Bless you, Bella!’

‘There,’ said Arabella, bending forward to kiss her brother; ‘don’t take hold of me again, Ben, dear, because you tumble me so.’

At this point of the reconciliation, Mr. Ben Allen allowed his feelings and the cigars and porter to overcome him, and looked round upon the beholders with damp spectacles.

‘Is nothing to be said to me?’ cried Wardle, with open arms.

‘A great deal,’ whispered Arabella, as she received the old gentleman’s hearty caress and congratulation. ‘You are a hard-hearted, unfeeling, cruel monster.’

‘You are a little rebel,’ replied Wardle, in the same tone, ‘and I am afraid I shall be obliged to forbid you the house. People like you, who get married in spite of everybody, ought not to be let loose on society. But come!’ added the old gentleman aloud, ‘here’s the dinner; you shall sit by me. Joe; why, damn the boy, he’s awake!’

To the great distress of his master, the fat boy was indeed in a state of remarkable vigilance, his eyes being wide open, and looking as if they intended to remain so. There was an alacrity in his manner, too, which was equally unaccountable; every time his eyes met those of Emily or Arabella, he smirked and grinned; once, Wardle could have sworn, he saw him wink.

This alteration in the fat boy’s demeanour originated in his increased sense of his own importance, and the dignity he acquired from having been taken into the confidence of the young ladies; and the smirks, and grins, and winks were so many condescending assurances that they might depend upon his fidelity. As these tokens were rather calculated to awaken suspicion than allay it, and were somewhat embarrassing besides, they were occasionally answered by a frown or shake of the head from Arabella, which the fat boy, considering as hints to be on his guard, expressed his perfect understanding of, by smirking, grinning, and winking, with redoubled assiduity.

‘Joe,’ said Mr. Wardle, after an unsuccessful search in all his pockets, ‘is my snuff-box on the sofa?’

‘No, sir,’ replied the fat boy.

‘Oh, I recollect; I left it on my dressing-table this morning,’ said Wardle. ‘Run into the next room and fetch it.’

The fat boy went into the next room; and, having been absent about a minute, returned with the snuff-box, and the palest face that ever a fat boy wore.

‘What’s the matter with the boy?’ exclaimed Wardle.

‘Nothen’s the matter with me,’ replied Joe nervously.

‘Have you been seeing any spirits?’ inquired the old gentleman.

‘Or taking any?’ added Ben Allen.

‘I think you’re right,’ whispered Wardle across the table. ‘He is intoxicated, I’m sure.’

Ben Allen replied that he thought he was; and, as that gentleman had seen a vast deal of the disease in question, Wardle was confirmed in an impression which had been hovering about his mind for half an hour, and at once arrived at the conclusion that the fat boy was drunk.

‘Just keep your eye upon him for a few minutes,’ murmured Wardle. ‘We shall soon find out whether he is or not.’

The unfortunate youth had only interchanged a dozen words with Mr. Snodgrass, that gentleman having implored him to make a private appeal to some friend to release him, and then pushed him out with the snuff-box, lest his prolonged absence should lead to a discovery. He ruminated a little with a most disturbed expression of face, and left the room in search of Mary.

But Mary had gone home after dressing her mistress, and the fat boy came back again more disturbed than before.

Wardle and Mr. Ben Allen exchanged glances.

‘Joe!’ said Wardle.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘What did you go away for?’

The fat boy looked hopelessly in the face of everybody at table, and stammered out that he didn’t know.

‘Oh,’ said Wardle, ‘you don’t know, eh? Take this cheese to Mr. Pickwick.’

Now, Mr. Pickwick being in the very best health and spirits, had been making himself perfectly delightful all dinner-time, and was at this moment engaged in an energetic conversation with Emily and Mr. Winkle; bowing his head, courteously, in the emphasis of his discourse, gently waving his left hand to lend force to his observations, and all glowing with placid smiles. He took a piece of cheese from the plate, and was on the point of turning round to renew the conversation, when the fat boy, stooping so as to bring his head on a level with that of Mr. Pickwick, pointed with his thumb over his shoulder, and made the most horrible and hideous face that was ever seen out of a Christmas pantomime.

‘Dear me!’ said Mr. Pickwick, starting, ‘what a very—Eh?’ He stopped, for the fat boy had drawn himself up, and was, or pretended to be, fast asleep.

‘What’s the matter?’ inquired Wardle.

‘This is such an extremely singular lad!’ replied Mr. Pickwick, looking uneasily at the boy. ‘It seems an odd thing to say, but upon my word I am afraid that, at times, he is a little deranged.’

‘Oh! Mr. Pickwick, pray don’t say so,’ cried Emily and Arabella, both at once.

‘I am not certain, of course,’ said Mr. Pickwick, amidst profound silence and looks of general dismay; ‘but his manner to me this moment really was very alarming. Oh!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick, suddenly jumping up with a short scream. ‘I beg your pardon, ladies, but at that moment he ran some sharp instrument into my leg. Really, he is not safe.’

‘He’s drunk,’ roared old Wardle passionately. ‘Ring the bell! Call the waiters! He’s drunk.’

‘I ain’t,’ said the fat boy, falling on his knees as his master seized him by the collar. ‘I ain’t drunk.’

‘Then you’re mad; that’s worse. Call the waiters,’ said the old gentleman.

‘I ain’t mad; I’m sensible,’ rejoined the fat boy, beginning to cry.

‘Then, what the devil did you run sharp instruments into Mr. Pickwick’s legs for?’ inquired Wardle angrily.

‘He wouldn’t look at me,’ replied the boy. ‘I wanted to speak to him.’

‘What did you want to say?’ asked half a dozen voices at once.

The fat boy gasped, looked at the bedroom door, gasped again, and wiped two tears away with the knuckle of each of his forefingers.

‘What did you want to say?’ demanded Wardle, shaking him.

‘Stop!’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘allow me. What did you wish to communicate to me, my poor boy?’

‘I want to whisper to you,’ replied the fat boy.

‘You want to bite his ear off, I suppose,’ said Wardle. ‘Don’t come near him; he’s vicious; ring the bell, and let him be taken downstairs.’

Just as Mr. Winkle caught the bell-rope in his hand, it was arrested by a general expression of astonishment; the captive lover, his face burning with confusion, suddenly walked in from the bedroom, and made a comprehensive bow to the company.

‘Hollo!’ cried Wardle, releasing the fat boy’s collar, and staggering back. ‘What’s this?’

‘I have been concealed in the next room, sir, since you returned,’ explained Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Emily, my girl,’ said Wardle reproachfully, ‘I detest meanness and deceit; this is unjustifiable and indelicate in the highest degree. I don’t deserve this at your hands, Emily, indeed!’

‘Dear papa,’ said Emily, ‘Arabella knows—everybody here knows—Joe knows—that I was no party to this concealment. Augustus, for Heaven’s sake, explain it!’

Mr. Snodgrass, who had only waited for a hearing, at once recounted how he had been placed in his then distressing predicament; how the fear of giving rise to domestic dissensions had alone prompted him to avoid Mr. Wardle on his entrance; how he merely meant to depart by another door, but, finding it locked, had been compelled to stay against his will. It was a painful situation to be placed in; but he now regretted it the less, inasmuch as it afforded him an opportunity of acknowledging, before their mutual friends, that he loved Mr. Wardle’s daughter deeply and sincerely; that he was proud to avow that the feeling was mutual; and that if thousands of miles were placed between them, or oceans rolled their waters, he could never for an instant forget those happy days, when first—et cetera, et cetera.

Having delivered himself to this effect, Mr. Snodgrass bowed again, looked into the crown of his hat, and stepped towards the door.

‘Stop!’ shouted Wardle. ‘Why, in the name of all that’s—’

‘Inflammable,’ mildly suggested Mr. Pickwick, who thought something worse was coming.

‘Well—that’s inflammable,’ said Wardle, adopting the substitute; ‘couldn’t you say all this to me in the first instance?’

‘Or confide in me?’ added Mr. Pickwick.

‘Dear, dear,’ said Arabella, taking up the defence, ‘what is the use of asking all that now, especially when you know you had set your covetous old heart on a richer son-in-law, and are so wild and fierce besides, that everybody is afraid of you, except me? Shake hands with him, and order him some dinner, for goodness gracious’ sake, for he looks half starved; and pray have your wine up at once, for you’ll not be tolerable until you have taken two bottles at least.’

The worthy old gentleman pulled Arabella’s ear, kissed her without the smallest scruple, kissed his daughter also with great affection, and shook Mr. Snodgrass warmly by the hand.

‘She is right on one point at all events,’ said the old gentleman cheerfully. ‘Ring for the wine!’

The wine came, and Perker came upstairs at the same moment. Mr. Snodgrass had dinner at a side table, and, when he had despatched it, drew his chair next Emily, without the smallest opposition on the old gentleman’s part.

The evening was excellent. Little Mr. Perker came out wonderfully, told various comic stories, and sang a serious song which was almost as funny as the anecdotes. Arabella was very charming, Mr. Wardle very jovial, Mr. Pickwick very harmonious, Mr. Ben Allen very uproarious, the lovers very silent, Mr. Winkle very talkative, and all of them very happy.






CHAPTER LV. MR. SOLOMON PELL, ASSISTED BY A SELECT COMMITTEE OF COACHMEN, ARRANGES THE AFFAIRS OF THE ELDER MR. WELLER

Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, accosting his son on the morning after the funeral, ‘I’ve found it, Sammy. I thought it wos there.’

‘Thought wot wos there?’ inquired Sam.

‘Your mother-in-law’s vill, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘In wirtue o’ vich, them arrangements is to be made as I told you on, last night, respectin’ the funs.’

‘Wot, didn’t she tell you were it wos?’ inquired Sam.

‘Not a bit on it, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘We wos a adjestin’ our little differences, and I wos a-cheerin’ her spirits and bearin’ her up, so that I forgot to ask anythin’ about it. I don’t know as I should ha’ done it, indeed, if I had remembered it,’ added Mr. Weller, ‘for it’s a rum sort o’ thing, Sammy, to go a-hankerin’ arter anybody’s property, ven you’re assistin’ ‘em in illness. It’s like helping an outside passenger up, ven he’s been pitched off a coach, and puttin’ your hand in his pocket, vile you ask him, vith a sigh, how he finds his-self, Sammy.’

With this figurative illustration of his meaning, Mr. Weller unclasped his pocket-book, and drew forth a dirty sheet of letter-paper, on which were inscribed various characters crowded together in remarkable confusion.

‘This here is the dockyment, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller. ‘I found it in the little black tea-pot, on the top shelf o’ the bar closet. She used to keep bank-notes there, ‘fore she vos married, Samivel. I’ve seen her take the lid off, to pay a bill, many and many a time. Poor creetur, she might ha’ filled all the tea-pots in the house vith vills, and not have inconwenienced herself neither, for she took wery little of anythin’ in that vay lately, ‘cept on the temperance nights, ven they just laid a foundation o’ tea to put the spirits atop on!’

‘What does it say?’ inquired Sam.

‘Jist vot I told you, my boy,’ rejoined his parent. ‘Two hundred pound vurth o’ reduced counsels to my son-in-law, Samivel, and all the rest o’ my property, of ev’ry kind and description votsoever, to my husband, Mr. Tony Veller, who I appint as my sole eggzekiter.’

‘That’s all, is it?’ said Sam.

‘That’s all,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘And I s’pose as it’s all right and satisfactory to you and me as is the only parties interested, ve may as vell put this bit o’ paper into the fire.’

‘Wot are you a-doin’ on, you lunatic?’ said Sam, snatching the paper away, as his parent, in all innocence, stirred the fire preparatory to suiting the action to the word. ‘You’re a nice eggzekiter, you are.’

‘Vy not?’ inquired Mr. Weller, looking sternly round, with the poker in his hand.

‘Vy not?’ exclaimed Sam. ‘’Cos it must be proved, and probated, and swore to, and all manner o’ formalities.’

‘You don’t mean that?’ said Mr. Weller, laying down the poker.

Sam buttoned the will carefully in a side pocket; intimating by a look, meanwhile, that he did mean it, and very seriously too.

‘Then I’ll tell you wot it is,’ said Mr. Weller, after a short meditation, ‘this is a case for that ‘ere confidential pal o’ the Chancellorship’s. Pell must look into this, Sammy. He’s the man for a difficult question at law. Ve’ll have this here brought afore the Solvent Court, directly, Samivel.’

‘I never did see such a addle-headed old creetur!’ exclaimed Sam irritably; ‘Old Baileys, and Solvent Courts, and alleybis, and ev’ry species o’ gammon alvays a-runnin’ through his brain. You’d better get your out o’ door clothes on, and come to town about this bisness, than stand a-preachin’ there about wot you don’t understand nothin’ on.’

‘Wery good, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘I’m quite agreeable to anythin’ as vill hexpedite business, Sammy. But mind this here, my boy, nobody but Pell—nobody but Pell as a legal adwiser.’

‘I don’t want anybody else,’ replied Sam. ‘Now, are you a-comin’?’

‘Vait a minit, Sammy,’ replied Mr. Weller, who, having tied his shawl with the aid of a small glass that hung in the window, was now, by dint of the most wonderful exertions, struggling into his upper garments. ‘Vait a minit’ Sammy; ven you grow as old as your father, you von’t get into your veskit quite as easy as you do now, my boy.’

‘If I couldn’t get into it easier than that, I’m blessed if I’d vear vun at all,’ rejoined his son.

‘You think so now,’ said Mr. Weller, with the gravity of age, ‘but you’ll find that as you get vider, you’ll get viser. Vidth and visdom, Sammy, alvays grows together.’

As Mr. Weller delivered this infallible maxim—the result of many years’ personal experience and observation—he contrived, by a dexterous twist of his body, to get the bottom button of his coat to perform its office. Having paused a few seconds to recover breath, he brushed his hat with his elbow, and declared himself ready.

‘As four heads is better than two, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, as they drove along the London Road in the chaise-cart, ‘and as all this here property is a wery great temptation to a legal gen’l’m’n, ve’ll take a couple o’ friends o’ mine vith us, as’ll be wery soon down upon him if he comes anythin’ irreg’lar; two o’ them as saw you to the Fleet that day. They’re the wery best judges,’ added Mr. Weller, in a half-whisper—‘the wery best judges of a horse, you ever know’d.’

‘And of a lawyer too?’ inquired Sam.

‘The man as can form a ackerate judgment of a animal, can form a ackerate judgment of anythin’,’ replied his father, so dogmatically, that Sam did not attempt to controvert the position.

In pursuance of this notable resolution, the services of the mottled-faced gentleman and of two other very fat coachmen—selected by Mr. Weller, probably, with a view to their width and consequent wisdom—were put into requisition; and this assistance having been secured, the party proceeded to the public-house in Portugal Street, whence a messenger was despatched to the Insolvent Court over the way, requiring Mr. Solomon Pell’s immediate attendance.

The messenger fortunately found Mr. Solomon Pell in court, regaling himself, business being rather slack, with a cold collation of an Abernethy biscuit and a saveloy. The message was no sooner whispered in his ear than he thrust them in his pocket among various professional documents, and hurried over the way with such alacrity that he reached the parlour before the messenger had even emancipated himself from the court.

‘Gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pell, touching his hat, ‘my service to you all. I don’t say it to flatter you, gentlemen, but there are not five other men in the world, that I’d have come out of that court for, to-day.’

‘So busy, eh?’ said Sam.

‘Busy!’ replied Pell; ‘I’m completely sewn up, as my friend the late Lord Chancellor many a time used to say to me, gentlemen, when he came out from hearing appeals in the House of Lords. Poor fellow; he was very susceptible to fatigue; he used to feel those appeals uncommonly. I actually thought more than once that he’d have sunk under ‘em; I did, indeed.’

Here Mr. Pell shook his head and paused; on which, the elder Mr. Weller, nudging his neighbour, as begging him to mark the attorney’s high connections, asked whether the duties in question produced any permanent ill effects on the constitution of his noble friend.

‘I don’t think he ever quite recovered them,’ replied Pell; ‘in fact I’m sure he never did. “Pell,” he used to say to me many a time, “how the blazes you can stand the head-work you do, is a mystery to me.”—“Well,” I used to answer, “I hardly know how I do it, upon my life.”—“Pell,” he’d add, sighing, and looking at me with a little envy—friendly envy, you know, gentlemen, mere friendly envy; I never minded it—“Pell, you’re a wonder; a wonder.” Ah! you’d have liked him very much if you had known him, gentlemen. Bring me three-penn’orth of rum, my dear.’

Addressing this latter remark to the waitress, in a tone of subdued grief, Mr. Pell sighed, looked at his shoes and the ceiling; and, the rum having by that time arrived, drank it up.

‘However,’ said Pell, drawing a chair to the table, ‘a professional man has no right to think of his private friendships when his legal assistance is wanted. By the bye, gentlemen, since I saw you here before, we have had to weep over a very melancholy occurrence.’

Mr. Pell drew out a pocket-handkerchief, when he came to the word weep, but he made no further use of it than to wipe away a slight tinge of rum which hung upon his upper lip.

‘I saw it in the ADVERTISER, Mr. Weller,’ continued Pell. ‘Bless my soul, not more than fifty-two! Dear me—only think.’

These indications of a musing spirit were addressed to the mottled-faced man, whose eyes Mr. Pell had accidentally caught; on which, the mottled-faced man, whose apprehension of matters in general was of a foggy nature, moved uneasily in his seat, and opined that, indeed, so far as that went, there was no saying how things was brought about; which observation, involving one of those subtle propositions which it is difficult to encounter in argument, was controverted by nobody.

‘I have heard it remarked that she was a very fine woman, Mr. Weller,’ said Pell, in a sympathising manner.

‘Yes, sir, she wos,’ replied the elder Mr. Weller, not much relishing this mode of discussing the subject, and yet thinking that the attorney, from his long intimacy with the late Lord Chancellor, must know best on all matters of polite breeding. ‘She wos a wery fine ‘ooman, sir, ven I first know’d her. She wos a widder, sir, at that time.’

‘Now, it’s curious,’ said Pell, looking round with a sorrowful smile; ‘Mrs. Pell was a widow.’

‘That’s very extraordinary,’ said the mottled-faced man.

‘Well, it is a curious coincidence,’ said Pell.

‘Not at all,’ gruffly remarked the elder Mr. Weller. ‘More widders is married than single wimin.’

‘Very good, very good,’ said Pell, ‘you’re quite right, Mr. Weller. Mrs. Pell was a very elegant and accomplished woman; her manners were the theme of universal admiration in our neighbourhood. I was proud to see that woman dance; there was something so firm and dignified, and yet natural, in her motion. Her cutting, gentlemen, was simplicity itself. Ah! well, well! Excuse my asking the question, Mr. Samuel,’ continued the attorney in a lower voice, ‘was your mother-in-law tall?’

‘Not wery,’ replied Sam.

‘Mrs. Pell was a tall figure,’ said Pell, ‘a splendid woman, with a noble shape, and a nose, gentlemen, formed to command and be majestic. She was very much attached to me—very much—highly connected, too. Her mother’s brother, gentlemen, failed for eight hundred pounds, as a law stationer.’

‘Vell,’ said Mr. Weller, who had grown rather restless during this discussion, ‘vith regard to bis’ness.’

The word was music to Pell’s ears. He had been revolving in his mind whether any business was to be transacted, or whether he had been merely invited to partake of a glass of brandy-and-water, or a bowl of punch, or any similar professional compliment, and now the doubt was set at rest without his appearing at all eager for its solution. His eyes glistened as he laid his hat on the table, and said—

‘What is the business upon which—um? Either of these gentlemen wish to go through the court? We require an arrest; a friendly arrest will do, you know; we are all friends here, I suppose?’

‘Give me the dockyment, Sammy,’ said Mr. Weller, taking the will from his son, who appeared to enjoy the interview amazingly. ‘Wot we rekvire, sir, is a probe o’ this here.’

‘Probate, my dear Sir, probate,’ said Pell.

‘Well, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller sharply, ‘probe and probe it, is wery much the same; if you don’t understand wot I mean, sir, I des-say I can find them as does.’

‘No offence, I hope, Mr. Weller,’ said Pell meekly. ‘You are the executor, I see,’ he added, casting his eyes over the paper.

‘I am, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘These other gentlemen, I presume, are legatees, are they?’ inquired Pell, with a congratulatory smile.

‘Sammy is a leg-at-ease,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘these other gen’l’m’n is friends o’ mine, just come to see fair; a kind of umpires.’

‘Oh!’ said Pell, ‘very good. I have no objections, I’m sure. I shall want a matter of five pound of you before I begin, ha! ha! ha!’

It being decided by the committee that the five pound might be advanced, Mr. Weller produced that sum; after which, a long consultation about nothing particular took place, in the course whereof Mr. Pell demonstrated to the perfect satisfaction of the gentlemen who saw fair, that unless the management of the business had been intrusted to him, it must all have gone wrong, for reasons not clearly made out, but no doubt sufficient. This important point being despatched, Mr. Pell refreshed himself with three chops, and liquids both malt and spirituous, at the expense of the estate; and then they all went away to Doctors’ Commons.

The next day there was another visit to Doctors’ Commons, and a great to-do with an attesting hostler, who, being inebriated, declined swearing anything but profane oaths, to the great scandal of a proctor and surrogate. Next week, there were more visits to Doctors’ Commons, and there was a visit to the Legacy Duty Office besides, and there were treaties entered into, for the disposal of the lease and business, and ratifications of the same, and inventories to be made out, and lunches to be taken, and dinners to be eaten, and so many profitable things to be done, and such a mass of papers accumulated that Mr. Solomon Pell, and the boy, and the blue bag to boot, all got so stout that scarcely anybody would have known them for the same man, boy, and bag, that had loitered about Portugal Street, a few days before.

At length all these weighty matters being arranged, a day was fixed for selling out and transferring the stock, and of waiting with that view upon Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, stock-broker, of somewhere near the bank, who had been recommended by Mr. Solomon Pell for the purpose.

It was a kind of festive occasion, and the parties were attired accordingly. Mr. Weller’s tops were newly cleaned, and his dress was arranged with peculiar care; the mottled-faced gentleman wore at his button-hole a full-sized dahlia with several leaves; and the coats of his two friends were adorned with nosegays of laurel and other evergreens. All three were habited in strict holiday costume; that is to say, they were wrapped up to the chins, and wore as many clothes as possible, which is, and has been, a stage-coachman’s idea of full dress ever since stage-coaches were invented.

Mr. Pell was waiting at the usual place of meeting at the appointed time; even he wore a pair of gloves and a clean shirt, much frayed at the collar and wristbands by frequent washings.

‘A quarter to two,’ said Pell, looking at the parlour clock. ‘If we are with Mr. Flasher at a quarter past, we shall just hit the best time.’

‘What should you say to a drop o’ beer, gen’l’m’n?’ suggested the mottled-faced man.

‘And a little bit o’ cold beef,’ said the second coachman.

‘Or a oyster,’ added the third, who was a hoarse gentleman, supported by very round legs.

‘Hear, hear!’ said Pell; ‘to congratulate Mr. Weller, on his coming into possession of his property, eh? Ha! ha!’

‘I’m quite agreeable, gen’l’m’n,’ answered Mr. Weller. ‘Sammy, pull the bell.’

Sammy complied; and the porter, cold beef, and oysters being promptly produced, the lunch was done ample justice to. Where everybody took so active a part, it is almost invidious to make a distinction; but if one individual evinced greater powers than another, it was the coachman with the hoarse voice, who took an imperial pint of vinegar with his oysters, without betraying the least emotion.

‘Mr. Pell, Sir,’ said the elder Mr. Weller, stirring a glass of brandy-and-water, of which one was placed before every gentleman when the oyster shells were removed—‘Mr. Pell, Sir, it wos my intention to have proposed the funs on this occasion, but Samivel has vispered to me—’

Here Mr. Samuel Weller, who had silently eaten his oysters with tranquil smiles, cried, ‘Hear!’ in a very loud voice.

‘—Has vispered to me,’ resumed his father, ‘that it vould be better to dewote the liquor to vishin’ you success and prosperity, and thankin’ you for the manner in which you’ve brought this here business through. Here’s your health, sir.’

‘Hold hard there,’ interposed the mottled-faced gentleman, with sudden energy; ‘your eyes on me, gen’l’m’n!’

Saying this, the mottled-faced gentleman rose, as did the other gentlemen. The mottled-faced gentleman reviewed the company, and slowly lifted his hand, upon which every man (including him of the mottled countenance) drew a long breath, and lifted his tumbler to his lips. In one instant, the mottled-faced gentleman depressed his hand again, and every glass was set down empty. It is impossible to describe the thrilling effect produced by this striking ceremony. At once dignified, solemn, and impressive, it combined every element of grandeur.

‘Well, gentlemen,’ said Mr. Pell, ‘all I can say is, that such marks of confidence must be very gratifying to a professional man. I don’t wish to say anything that might appear egotistical, gentlemen, but I’m very glad, for your own sakes, that you came to me; that’s all. If you had gone to any low member of the profession, it’s my firm conviction, and I assure you of it as a fact, that you would have found yourselves in Queer Street before this. I could have wished my noble friend had been alive to have seen my management of this case. I don’t say it out of pride, but I think—However, gentlemen, I won’t trouble you with that. I’m generally to be found here, gentlemen, but if I’m not here, or over the way, that’s my address. You’ll find my terms very cheap and reasonable, and no man attends more to his clients than I do, and I hope I know a little of my profession besides. If you have any opportunity of recommending me to any of your friends, gentlemen, I shall be very much obliged to you, and so will they too, when they come to know me. Your healths, gentlemen.’

With this expression of his feelings, Mr. Solomon Pell laid three small written cards before Mr. Weller’s friends, and, looking at the clock again, feared it was time to be walking. Upon this hint Mr. Weller settled the bill, and, issuing forth, the executor, legatee, attorney, and umpires, directed their steps towards the city.

The office of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, of the Stock Exchange, was in a first floor up a court behind the Bank of England; the house of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was at Brixton, Surrey; the horse and stanhope of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, were at an adjacent livery stable; the groom of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was on his way to the West End to deliver some game; the clerk of Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, had gone to his dinner; and so Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, himself, cried, ‘Come in,’ when Mr. Pell and his companions knocked at the counting-house door.

‘Good-morning, Sir,’ said Pell, bowing obsequiously. ‘We want to make a little transfer, if you please.’

‘Oh, just come in, will you?’ said Mr. Flasher. ‘Sit down a minute; I’ll attend to you directly.’

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Pell, ‘there’s no hurry. Take a chair, Mr. Weller.’

Mr. Weller took a chair, and Sam took a box, and the umpires took what they could get, and looked at the almanac and one or two papers which were wafered against the wall, with as much open-eyed reverence as if they had been the finest efforts of the old masters.

‘Well, I’ll bet you half a dozen of claret on it; come!’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, resuming the conversation to which Mr. Pell’s entrance had caused a momentary interruption.

This was addressed to a very smart young gentleman who wore his hat on his right whisker, and was lounging over the desk, killing flies with a ruler. Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was balancing himself on two legs of an office stool, spearing a wafer-box with a penknife, which he dropped every now and then with great dexterity into the very centre of a small red wafer that was stuck outside. Both gentlemen had very open waistcoats and very rolling collars, and very small boots, and very big rings, and very little watches, and very large guard-chains, and symmetrical inexpressibles, and scented pocket-handkerchiefs.

‘I never bet half a dozen!’ said the other gentleman. ‘I’ll take a dozen.’

‘Done, Simmery, done!’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.

‘P. P., mind,’ observed the other.

‘Of course,’ replied Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, entered it in a little book, with a gold pencil-case, and the other gentleman entered it also, in another little book with another gold pencil-case.

‘I see there’s a notice up this morning about Boffer,’ observed Mr. Simmery. ‘Poor devil, he’s expelled the house!’

‘I’ll bet you ten guineas to five, he cuts his throat,’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.

‘Done,’ replied Mr. Simmery.

‘Stop! I bar,’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps he may hang himself.’

‘Very good,’ rejoined Mr. Simmery, pulling out the gold pencil-case again. ‘I’ve no objection to take you that way. Say, makes away with himself.’

‘Kills himself, in fact,’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.

‘Just so,’ replied Mr. Simmery, putting it down. ‘“Flasher—ten guineas to five, Boffer kills himself.” Within what time shall we say?’

‘A fortnight?’ suggested Wilkins Flasher, Esquire.

‘Con-found it, no,’ rejoined Mr. Simmery, stopping for an instant to smash a fly with the ruler. ‘Say a week.’

‘Split the difference,’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. ‘Make it ten days.’

‘Well; ten days,’ rejoined Mr. Simmery.

So it was entered down on the little books that Boffer was to kill himself within ten days, or Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, was to hand over to Frank Simmery, Esquire, the sum of ten guineas; and that if Boffer did kill himself within that time, Frank Simmery, Esquire, would pay to Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, five guineas, instead.

‘I’m very sorry he has failed,’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. ‘Capital dinners he gave.’

‘Fine port he had too,’ remarked Mr. Simmery. ‘We are going to send our butler to the sale to-morrow, to pick up some of that sixty-four.’

‘The devil you are!’ said Wilkins Flasher, Esquire. ‘My man’s going too. Five guineas my man outbids your man.’

‘Done.’

Another entry was made in the little books, with the gold pencil-cases; and Mr. Simmery, having by this time killed all the flies and taken all the bets, strolled away to the Stock Exchange to see what was going forward.

Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, now condescended to receive Mr. Solomon Pell’s instructions, and having filled up some printed forms, requested the party to follow him to the bank, which they did: Mr. Weller and his three friends staring at all they beheld in unbounded astonishment, and Sam encountering everything with a coolness which nothing could disturb.

Crossing a courtyard which was all noise and bustle, and passing a couple of porters who seemed dressed to match the red fire engine which was wheeled away into a corner, they passed into an office where their business was to be transacted, and where Pell and Mr. Flasher left them standing for a few moments, while they went upstairs into the Will Office.

‘Wot place is this here?’ whispered the mottled-faced gentleman to the elder Mr. Weller.

‘Counsel’s Office,’ replied the executor in a whisper.

‘Wot are them gen’l’men a-settin’ behind the counters?’ asked the hoarse coachman.

‘Reduced counsels, I s’pose,’ replied Mr. Weller. ‘Ain’t they the reduced counsels, Samivel?’

‘Wy, you don’t suppose the reduced counsels is alive, do you?’ inquired Sam, with some disdain.

‘How should I know?’ retorted Mr. Weller; ‘I thought they looked wery like it. Wot are they, then?’

‘Clerks,’ replied Sam.

‘Wot are they all a-eatin’ ham sangwidges for?’ inquired his father.

‘’Cos it’s in their dooty, I suppose,’ replied Sam, ‘it’s a part o’ the system; they’re alvays a-doin’ it here, all day long!’

Mr. Weller and his friends had scarcely had a moment to reflect upon this singular regulation as connected with the monetary system of the country, when they were rejoined by Pell and Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, who led them to a part of the counter above which was a round blackboard with a large ‘W.’ on it.

‘Wot’s that for, Sir?’ inquired Mr. Weller, directing Pell’s attention to the target in question.

‘The first letter of the name of the deceased,’ replied Pell.

‘I say,’ said Mr. Weller, turning round to the umpires, there’s somethin’ wrong here. We’s our letter—this won’t do.’

The referees at once gave it as their decided opinion that the business could not be legally proceeded with, under the letter W., and in all probability it would have stood over for one day at least, had it not been for the prompt, though, at first sight, undutiful behaviour of Sam, who, seizing his father by the skirt of the coat, dragged him to the counter, and pinned him there, until he had affixed his signature to a couple of instruments; which, from Mr. Weller’s habit of printing, was a work of so much labour and time, that the officiating clerk peeled and ate three Ribstone pippins while it was performing.

As the elder Mr. Weller insisted on selling out his portion forthwith, they proceeded from the bank to the gate of the Stock Exchange, to which Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, after a short absence, returned with a cheque on Smith, Payne, & Smith, for five hundred and thirty pounds; that being the money to which Mr. Weller, at the market price of the day, was entitled, in consideration of the balance of the second Mrs. Weller’s funded savings. Sam’s two hundred pounds stood transferred to his name, and Wilkins Flasher, Esquire, having been paid his commission, dropped the money carelessly into his coat pocket, and lounged back to his office.

Mr. Weller was at first obstinately determined on cashing the cheque in nothing but sovereigns; but it being represented by the umpires that by so doing he must incur the expense of a small sack to carry them home in, he consented to receive the amount in five-pound notes.

‘My son,’ said Mr. Weller, as they came out of the banking-house—‘my son and me has a wery partickler engagement this arternoon, and I should like to have this here bis’ness settled out of hand, so let’s jest go straight avay someveres, vere ve can hordit the accounts.’

A quiet room was soon found, and the accounts were produced and audited. Mr. Pell’s bill was taxed by Sam, and some charges were disallowed by the umpires; but, notwithstanding Mr. Pell’s declaration, accompanied with many solemn asseverations that they were really too hard upon him, it was by very many degrees the best professional job he had ever had, and one on which he boarded, lodged, and washed, for six months afterwards.

The umpires having partaken of a dram, shook hands and departed, as they had to drive out of town that night. Mr. Solomon Pell, finding that nothing more was going forward, either in the eating or drinking way, took a friendly leave, and Sam and his father were left alone.

‘There!’ said Mr. Weller, thrusting his pocket-book in his side pocket. ‘Vith the bills for the lease, and that, there’s eleven hundred and eighty pound here. Now, Samivel, my boy, turn the horses’ heads to the George and Wulter!’






CHAPTER LVI. AN IMPORTANT CONFERENCE TAKES PLACE BETWEEN MR. PICKWICK AND SAMUEL WELLER, AT WHICH HIS PARENT ASSISTS—AN OLD GENTLEMAN IN A SNUFF-COLOURED SUIT ARRIVES UNEXPECTEDLY

Mr. Pickwick was sitting alone, musing over many things, and thinking among other considerations how he could best provide for the young couple whose present unsettled condition was matter of constant regret and anxiety to him, when Mary stepped lightly into the room, and, advancing to the table, said, rather hastily—

‘Oh, if you please, Sir, Samuel is downstairs, and he says may his father see you?’

‘Surely,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Thank you, Sir,’ said Mary, tripping towards the door again.

‘Sam has not been here long, has he?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Oh, no, Sir,’ replied Mary eagerly. ‘He has only just come home. He is not going to ask you for any more leave, Sir, he says.’

Mary might have been conscious that she had communicated this last intelligence with more warmth than seemed actually necessary, or she might have observed the good-humoured smile with which Mr. Pickwick regarded her, when she had finished speaking. She certainly held down her head, and examined the corner of a very smart little apron, with more closeness than there appeared any absolute occasion for.

‘Tell them they can come up at once, by all means,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Mary, apparently much relieved, hurried away with her message.

Mr. Pickwick took two or three turns up and down the room; and, rubbing his chin with his left hand as he did so, appeared lost in thought.

‘Well, well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at length in a kind but somewhat melancholy tone, ‘it is the best way in which I could reward him for his attachment and fidelity; let it be so, in Heaven’s name. It is the fate of a lonely old man, that those about him should form new and different attachments and leave him. I have no right to expect that it should be otherwise with me. No, no,’ added Mr. Pickwick more cheerfully, ‘it would be selfish and ungrateful. I ought to be happy to have an opportunity of providing for him so well. I am. Of course I am.’

Mr. Pickwick had been so absorbed in these reflections, that a knock at the door was three or four times repeated before he heard it. Hastily seating himself, and calling up his accustomed pleasant looks, he gave the required permission, and Sam Weller entered, followed by his father.

‘Glad to see you back again, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘How do you do, Mr. Weller?’

‘Wery hearty, thank’ee, sir,’ replied the widower; ‘hope I see you well, sir.’

‘Quite, I thank you,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘I wanted to have a little bit o’ conwersation with you, sir,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘if you could spare me five minits or so, sir.’

‘Certainly,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Sam, give your father a chair.’

‘Thank’ee, Samivel, I’ve got a cheer here,’ said Mr. Weller, bringing one forward as he spoke; ‘uncommon fine day it’s been, sir,’ added the old gentleman, laying his hat on the floor as he sat himself down.

‘Remarkably so, indeed,’ replied Mr. Pickwick. ‘Very seasonable.’

‘Seasonablest veather I ever see, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Weller. Here, the old gentleman was seized with a violent fit of coughing, which, being terminated, he nodded his head and winked and made several supplicatory and threatening gestures to his son, all of which Sam Weller steadily abstained from seeing.

Mr. Pickwick, perceiving that there was some embarrassment on the old gentleman’s part, affected to be engaged in cutting the leaves of a book that lay beside him, and waited patiently until Mr. Weller should arrive at the object of his visit.

‘I never see sich a aggrawatin’ boy as you are, Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, looking indignantly at his son; ‘never in all my born days.’

‘What is he doing, Mr. Weller?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘He von’t begin, sir,’ rejoined Mr. Weller; ‘he knows I ain’t ekal to ex-pressin’ myself ven there’s anythin’ partickler to be done, and yet he’ll stand and see me a-settin’ here taking up your walable time, and makin’ a reg’lar spectacle o’ myself, rayther than help me out vith a syllable. It ain’t filial conduct, Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, wiping his forehead; ‘wery far from it.’

‘You said you’d speak,’ replied Sam; ‘how should I know you wos done up at the wery beginnin’?’

‘You might ha’ seen I warn’t able to start,’ rejoined his father; ‘I’m on the wrong side of the road, and backin’ into the palin’s, and all manner of unpleasantness, and yet you von’t put out a hand to help me. I’m ashamed on you, Samivel.’

‘The fact is, Sir,’ said Sam, with a slight bow, ‘the gov’nor’s been a-drawin’ his money.’

‘Wery good, Samivel, wery good,’ said Mr. Weller, nodding his head with a satisfied air, ‘I didn’t mean to speak harsh to you, Sammy. Wery good. That’s the vay to begin. Come to the pint at once. Wery good indeed, Samivel.’

Mr. Weller nodded his head an extraordinary number of times, in the excess of his gratification, and waited in a listening attitude for Sam to resume his statement.

‘You may sit down, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, apprehending that the interview was likely to prove rather longer than he had expected.

Sam bowed again and sat down; his father looking round, he continued—

‘The gov’nor, sir, has drawn out five hundred and thirty pound.’

‘Reduced counsels,’ interposed Mr. Weller, senior, in an undertone.

‘It don’t much matter vether it’s reduced counsels, or wot not,’ said Sam; ‘five hundred and thirty pounds is the sum, ain’t it?’

‘All right, Samivel,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘To vich sum, he has added for the house and bisness—’

‘Lease, good-vill, stock, and fixters,’ interposed Mr. Weller.

‘As much as makes it,’ continued Sam, ‘altogether, eleven hundred and eighty pound.’

‘Indeed!’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘I am delighted to hear it. I congratulate you, Mr. Weller, on having done so well.’

‘Vait a minit, Sir,’ said Mr. Weller, raising his hand in a deprecatory manner. ‘Get on, Samivel.’

‘This here money,’ said Sam, with a little hesitation, ‘he’s anxious to put someveres, vere he knows it’ll be safe, and I’m wery anxious too, for if he keeps it, he’ll go a-lendin’ it to somebody, or inwestin’ property in horses, or droppin’ his pocket-book down an airy, or makin’ a Egyptian mummy of his-self in some vay or another.’

‘Wery good, Samivel,’ observed Mr. Weller, in as complacent a manner as if Sam had been passing the highest eulogiums on his prudence and foresight. ‘Wery good.’

‘For vich reasons,’ continued Sam, plucking nervously at the brim of his hat—‘for vich reasons, he’s drawn it out to-day, and come here vith me to say, leastvays to offer, or in other vords—’

‘To say this here,’ said the elder Mr. Weller impatiently, ‘that it ain’t o’ no use to me. I’m a-goin’ to vork a coach reg’lar, and ha’n’t got noveres to keep it in, unless I vos to pay the guard for takin’ care on it, or to put it in vun o’ the coach pockets, vich ‘ud be a temptation to the insides. If you’ll take care on it for me, sir, I shall be wery much obliged to you. P’raps,’ said Mr. Weller, walking up to Mr. Pickwick and whispering in his ear—‘p’raps it’ll go a little vay towards the expenses o’ that ‘ere conwiction. All I say is, just you keep it till I ask you for it again.’ With these words, Mr. Weller placed the pocket-book in Mr. Pickwick’s hands, caught up his hat, and ran out of the room with a celerity scarcely to be expected from so corpulent a subject.

‘Stop him, Sam!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick earnestly. ‘Overtake him; bring him back instantly! Mr. Weller—here—come back!’

Sam saw that his master’s injunctions were not to be disobeyed; and, catching his father by the arm as he was descending the stairs, dragged him back by main force.

‘My good friend,’ said Mr. Pickwick, taking the old man by the hand, ‘your honest confidence overpowers me.’

‘I don’t see no occasion for nothin’ o’ the kind, Sir,’ replied Mr. Weller obstinately.

‘I assure you, my good friend, I have more money than I can ever need; far more than a man at my age can ever live to spend,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘No man knows how much he can spend, till he tries,’ observed Mr. Weller.

‘Perhaps not,’ replied Mr. Pickwick; ‘but as I have no intention of trying any such experiments, I am not likely to come to want. I must beg you to take this back, Mr. Weller.’

Wery well,’ said Mr. Weller, with a discontented look. ‘Mark my vords, Sammy, I’ll do somethin’ desperate vith this here property; somethin’ desperate!’

‘You’d better not,’ replied Sam.

Mr. Weller reflected for a short time, and then, buttoning up his coat with great determination, said—

‘I’ll keep a pike.’

‘Wot!’ exclaimed Sam.

‘A pike!’ rejoined Mr. Weller, through his set teeth; ‘I’ll keep a pike. Say good-bye to your father, Samivel. I dewote the remainder of my days to a pike.’

This threat was such an awful one, and Mr. Weller, besides appearing fully resolved to carry it into execution, seemed so deeply mortified by Mr. Pickwick’s refusal, that that gentleman, after a short reflection, said—

‘Well, well, Mr. Weller, I will keep your money. I can do more good with it, perhaps, than you can.’

‘Just the wery thing, to be sure,’ said Mr. Weller, brightening up; ‘o’ course you can, sir.’

‘Say no more about it,’ said Mr. Pickwick, locking the pocket-book in his desk; ‘I am heartily obliged to you, my good friend. Now sit down again. I want to ask your advice.’

The internal laughter occasioned by the triumphant success of his visit, which had convulsed not only Mr. Weller’s face, but his arms, legs, and body also, during the locking up of the pocket-book, suddenly gave place to the most dignified gravity as he heard these words.

‘Wait outside a few minutes, Sam, will you?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Sam immediately withdrew.

Mr. Weller looked uncommonly wise and very much amazed, when Mr. Pickwick opened the discourse by saying—

‘You are not an advocate for matrimony, I think, Mr. Weller?’

Mr. Weller shook his head. He was wholly unable to speak; vague thoughts of some wicked widow having been successful in her designs on Mr. Pickwick, choked his utterance.

‘Did you happen to see a young girl downstairs when you came in just now with your son?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes. I see a young gal,’ replied Mr. Weller shortly.

‘What did you think of her, now? Candidly, Mr. Weller, what did you think of her?’

‘I thought she wos wery plump, and vell made,’ said Mr. Weller, with a critical air.

‘So she is,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘so she is. What did you think of her manners, from what you saw of her?’

‘Wery pleasant,’ rejoined Mr. Weller. ‘Wery pleasant and comformable.’

The precise meaning which Mr. Weller attached to this last-mentioned adjective, did not appear; but, as it was evident from the tone in which he used it that it was a favourable expression, Mr. Pickwick was as well satisfied as if he had been thoroughly enlightened on the subject.

‘I take a great interest in her, Mr. Weller,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Mr. Weller coughed.

‘I mean an interest in her doing well,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick; ‘a desire that she may be comfortable and prosperous. You understand?’

‘Wery clearly,’ replied Mr. Weller, who understood nothing yet.

‘That young person,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘is attached to your son.’

‘To Samivel Veller!’ exclaimed the parent.

‘Yes,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘It’s nat’ral,’ said Mr. Weller, after some consideration, ‘nat’ral, but rayther alarmin’. Sammy must be careful.’

‘How do you mean?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Wery careful that he don’t say nothin’ to her,’ responded Mr. Weller. ‘Wery careful that he ain’t led avay, in a innocent moment, to say anythin’ as may lead to a conwiction for breach. You’re never safe vith ‘em, Mr. Pickwick, ven they vunce has designs on you; there’s no knowin’ vere to have ‘em; and vile you’re a-considering of it, they have you. I wos married fust, that vay myself, Sir, and Sammy wos the consekens o’ the manoover.’

‘You give me no great encouragement to conclude what I have to say,’ observed Mr. Pickwick, ‘but I had better do so at once. This young person is not only attached to your son, Mr. Weller, but your son is attached to her.’

‘Vell,’ said Mr. Weller, ‘this here’s a pretty sort o’ thing to come to a father’s ears, this is!’

‘I have observed them on several occasions,’ said Mr. Pickwick, making no comment on Mr. Weller’s last remark; ‘and entertain no doubt at all about it. Supposing I were desirous of establishing them comfortably as man and wife in some little business or situation, where they might hope to obtain a decent living, what should you think of it, Mr. Weller?’

At first, Mr. Weller received with wry faces a proposition involving the marriage of anybody in whom he took an interest; but, as Mr. Pickwick argued the point with him, and laid great stress on the fact that Mary was not a widow, he gradually became more tractable. Mr. Pickwick had great influence over him, and he had been much struck with Mary’s appearance; having, in fact, bestowed several very unfatherly winks upon her, already. At length he said that it was not for him to oppose Mr. Pickwick’s inclination, and that he would be very happy to yield to his advice; upon which, Mr. Pickwick joyfully took him at his word, and called Sam back into the room.

‘Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, clearing his throat, ‘your father and I have been having some conversation about you.’

‘About you, Samivel,’ said Mr. Weller, in a patronising and impressive voice.

‘I am not so blind, Sam, as not to have seen, a long time since, that you entertain something more than a friendly feeling towards Mrs. Winkle’s maid,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘You hear this, Samivel?’ said Mr. Weller, in the same judicial form of speech as before.

‘I hope, Sir,’ said Sam, addressing his master, ‘I hope there’s no harm in a young man takin’ notice of a young ‘ooman as is undeniably good-looking and well-conducted.’

‘Certainly not,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Not by no means,’ acquiesced Mr. Weller, affably but magisterially.

‘So far from thinking there is anything wrong in conduct so natural,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘it is my wish to assist and promote your wishes in this respect. With this view, I have had a little conversation with your father; and finding that he is of my opinion—’

‘The lady not bein’ a widder,’ interposed Mr. Weller in explanation.

‘The lady not being a widow,’ said Mr. Pickwick, smiling. ‘I wish to free you from the restraint which your present position imposes upon you, and to mark my sense of your fidelity and many excellent qualities, by enabling you to marry this girl at once, and to earn an independent livelihood for yourself and family. I shall be proud, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, whose voice had faltered a little hitherto, but now resumed its customary tone, ‘proud and happy to make your future prospects in life my grateful and peculiar care.’

There was a profound silence for a short time, and then Sam said, in a low, husky sort of voice, but firmly withal—

‘I’m very much obliged to you for your goodness, Sir, as is only like yourself; but it can’t be done.’

‘Can’t be done!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick in astonishment.

‘Samivel!’ said Mr. Weller, with dignity.

‘I say it can’t be done,’ repeated Sam in a louder key. ‘Wot’s to become of you, Sir?’

‘My good fellow,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, ‘the recent changes among my friends will alter my mode of life in future, entirely; besides, I am growing older, and want repose and quiet. My rambles, Sam, are over.’

‘How do I know that ‘ere, sir?’ argued Sam. ‘You think so now! S’pose you wos to change your mind, vich is not unlikely, for you’ve the spirit o’ five-and-twenty in you still, what ‘ud become on you vithout me? It can’t be done, Sir, it can’t be done.’

‘Wery good, Samivel, there’s a good deal in that,’ said Mr. Weller encouragingly.

‘I speak after long deliberation, Sam, and with the certainty that I shall keep my word,’ said Mr. Pickwick, shaking his head. ‘New scenes have closed upon me; my rambles are at an end.’

‘Wery good,’ rejoined Sam. ‘Then, that’s the wery best reason wy you should alvays have somebody by you as understands you, to keep you up and make you comfortable. If you vant a more polished sort o’ feller, vell and good, have him; but vages or no vages, notice or no notice, board or no board, lodgin’ or no lodgin’, Sam Veller, as you took from the old inn in the Borough, sticks by you, come what may; and let ev’rythin’ and ev’rybody do their wery fiercest, nothin’ shall ever perwent it!’

At the close of this declaration, which Sam made with great emotion, the elder Mr. Weller rose from his chair, and, forgetting all considerations of time, place, or propriety, waved his hat above his head, and gave three vehement cheers.

‘My good fellow,’ said Mr. Pickwick, when Mr. Weller had sat down again, rather abashed at his own enthusiasm, ‘you are bound to consider the young woman also.’

‘I do consider the young ‘ooman, Sir,’ said Sam. ‘I have considered the young ‘ooman. I’ve spoke to her. I’ve told her how I’m sitivated; she’s ready to vait till I’m ready, and I believe she vill. If she don’t, she’s not the young ‘ooman I take her for, and I give her up vith readiness. You’ve know’d me afore, Sir. My mind’s made up, and nothin’ can ever alter it.’

Who could combat this resolution? Not Mr. Pickwick. He derived, at that moment, more pride and luxury of feeling from the disinterested attachment of his humble friends, than ten thousand protestations from the greatest men living could have awakened in his heart.

While this conversation was passing in Mr. Pickwick’s room, a little old gentleman in a suit of snuff-coloured clothes, followed by a porter carrying a small portmanteau, presented himself below; and, after securing a bed for the night, inquired of the waiter whether one Mrs. Winkle was staying there, to which question the waiter of course responded in the affirmative.

‘Is she alone?’ inquired the old gentleman.

‘I believe she is, Sir,’ replied the waiter; ‘I can call her own maid, Sir, if you—’

‘No, I don’t want her,’ said the old gentleman quickly. ‘Show me to her room without announcing me.’

‘Eh, Sir?’ said the waiter.

‘Are you deaf?’ inquired the little old gentleman.

‘No, sir.’

‘Then listen, if you please. Can you hear me now?’

‘Yes, Sir.’

‘That’s well. Show me to Mrs. Winkle’s room, without announcing me.’

As the little old gentleman uttered this command, he slipped five shillings into the waiter’s hand, and looked steadily at him.

‘Really, sir,’ said the waiter, ‘I don’t know, sir, whether—’

‘Ah! you’ll do it, I see,’ said the little old gentleman. ‘You had better do it at once. It will save time.’

There was something so very cool and collected in the gentleman’s manner, that the waiter put the five shillings in his pocket, and led him upstairs without another word.

‘This is the room, is it?’ said the gentleman. ‘You may go.’

The waiter complied, wondering much who the gentleman could be, and what he wanted; the little old gentleman, waiting till he was out of sight, tapped at the door.

‘Come in,’ said Arabella.

‘Um, a pretty voice, at any rate,’ murmured the little old gentleman; ‘but that’s nothing.’ As he said this, he opened the door and walked in. Arabella, who was sitting at work, rose on beholding a stranger—a little confused—but by no means ungracefully so.

‘Pray don’t rise, ma’am,’ said the unknown, walking in, and closing the door after him. ‘Mrs. Winkle, I believe?’

Arabella inclined her head.

‘Mrs. Nathaniel Winkle, who married the son of the old man at Birmingham?’ said the stranger, eyeing Arabella with visible curiosity.

Again Arabella inclined her head, and looked uneasily round, as if uncertain whether to call for assistance.

‘I surprise you, I see, ma’am,’ said the old gentleman.

‘Rather, I confess,’ replied Arabella, wondering more and more.

‘I’ll take a chair, if you’ll allow me, ma’am,’ said the stranger.

He took one; and drawing a spectacle-case from his pocket, leisurely pulled out a pair of spectacles, which he adjusted on his nose.

‘You don’t know me, ma’am?’ he said, looking so intently at Arabella that she began to feel alarmed.

‘No, sir,’ she replied timidly.

‘No,’ said the gentleman, nursing his left leg; ‘I don’t know how you should. You know my name, though, ma’am.’

‘Do I?’ said Arabella, trembling, though she scarcely knew why. ‘May I ask what it is?’

‘Presently, ma’am, presently,’ said the stranger, not having yet removed his eyes from her countenance. ‘You have been recently married, ma’am?’

‘I have,’ replied Arabella, in a scarcely audible tone, laying aside her work, and becoming greatly agitated as a thought, that had occurred to her before, struck more forcibly upon her mind.

‘Without having represented to your husband the propriety of first consulting his father, on whom he is dependent, I think?’ said the stranger.

Arabella applied her handkerchief to her eyes.

‘Without an endeavour, even, to ascertain, by some indirect appeal, what were the old man’s sentiments on a point in which he would naturally feel much interested?’ said the stranger.

‘I cannot deny it, Sir,’ said Arabella.

‘And without having sufficient property of your own to afford your husband any permanent assistance in exchange for the worldly advantages which you knew he would have gained if he had married agreeably to his father’s wishes?’ said the old gentleman. ‘This is what boys and girls call disinterested affection, till they have boys and girls of their own, and then they see it in a rougher and very different light!’

Arabella’s tears flowed fast, as she pleaded in extenuation that she was young and inexperienced; that her attachment had alone induced her to take the step to which she had resorted; and that she had been deprived of the counsel and guidance of her parents almost from infancy.

‘It was wrong,’ said the old gentleman in a milder tone, ‘very wrong. It was romantic, unbusinesslike, foolish.’

‘It was my fault; all my fault, Sir,’ replied poor Arabella, weeping.

‘Nonsense,’ said the old gentleman; ‘it was not your fault that he fell in love with you, I suppose? Yes it was, though,’ said the old gentleman, looking rather slily at Arabella. ‘It was your fault. He couldn’t help it.’

This little compliment, or the little gentleman’s odd way of paying it, or his altered manner—so much kinder than it was, at first—or all three together, forced a smile from Arabella in the midst of her tears.

‘Where’s your husband?’ inquired the old gentleman, abruptly; stopping a smile which was just coming over his own face.

‘I expect him every instant, sir,’ said Arabella. ‘I persuaded him to take a walk this morning. He is very low and wretched at not having heard from his father.’

‘Low, is he?’ said the old gentlemen. ‘Serve him right!’

‘He feels it on my account, I am afraid,’ said Arabella; ‘and indeed, Sir, I feel it deeply on his. I have been the sole means of bringing him to his present condition.’

‘Don’t mind it on his account, my dear,’ said the old gentleman. ‘It serves him right. I am glad of it—actually glad of it, as far as he is concerned.’

The words were scarcely out of the old gentleman’s lips, when footsteps were heard ascending the stairs, which he and Arabella seemed both to recognise at the same moment. The little gentleman turned pale; and, making a strong effort to appear composed, stood up, as Mr. Winkle entered the room.

‘Father!’ cried Mr. Winkle, recoiling in amazement.

‘Yes, sir,’ replied the little old gentleman. ‘Well, Sir, what have you got to say to me?’

Mr. Winkle remained silent.

‘You are ashamed of yourself, I hope, Sir?’ said the old gentleman.

Still Mr. Winkle said nothing.

‘Are you ashamed of yourself, Sir, or are you not?’ inquired the old gentleman.

‘No, Sir,’ replied Mr. Winkle, drawing Arabella’s arm through his. ‘I am not ashamed of myself, or of my wife either.’

‘Upon my word!’ cried the old gentleman ironically.

‘I am very sorry to have done anything which has lessened your affection for me, Sir,’ said Mr. Winkle; ‘but I will say, at the same time, that I have no reason to be ashamed of having this lady for my wife, nor you of having her for a daughter.’

‘Give me your hand, Nat,’ said the old gentleman, in an altered voice. ‘Kiss me, my love. You are a very charming little daughter-in-law after all!’

In a few minutes’ time Mr. Winkle went in search of Mr. Pickwick, and returning with that gentleman, presented him to his father, whereupon they shook hands for five minutes incessantly.

‘Mr. Pickwick, I thank you most heartily for all your kindness to my son,’ said old Mr. Winkle, in a bluff, straightforward way. ‘I am a hasty fellow, and when I saw you last, I was vexed and taken by surprise. I have judged for myself now, and am more than satisfied. Shall I make any more apologies, Mr. Pickwick?’

‘Not one,’ replied that gentleman. ‘You have done the only thing wanting to complete my happiness.’

Hereupon there was another shaking of hands for five minutes longer, accompanied by a great number of complimentary speeches, which, besides being complimentary, had the additional and very novel recommendation of being sincere.

Sam had dutifully seen his father to the Belle Sauvage, when, on returning, he encountered the fat boy in the court, who had been charged with the delivery of a note from Emily Wardle.

‘I say,’ said Joe, who was unusually loquacious, ‘what a pretty girl Mary is, isn’t she? I am so fond of her, I am!’

Mr. Weller made no verbal remark in reply; but eyeing the fat boy for a moment, quite transfixed at his presumption, led him by the collar to the corner, and dismissed him with a harmless but ceremonious kick. After which, he walked home, whistling.






CHAPTER LVII. IN WHICH THE PICKWICK CLUB IS FINALLY DISSOLVED, AND EVERYTHING CONCLUDED TO THE SATISFACTION OF EVERYBODY

For a whole week after the happy arrival of Mr. Winkle from Birmingham, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller were from home all day long, only returning just in time for dinner, and then wearing an air of mystery and importance quite foreign to their natures. It was evident that very grave and eventful proceedings were on foot; but various surmises were afloat, respecting their precise character. Some (among whom was Mr. Tupman) were disposed to think that Mr. Pickwick contemplated a matrimonial alliance; but this idea the ladies most strenuously repudiated. Others rather inclined to the belief that he had projected some distant tour, and was at present occupied in effecting the preliminary arrangements; but this again was stoutly denied by Sam himself, who had unequivocally stated, when cross-examined by Mary, that no new journeys were to be undertaken. At length, when the brains of the whole party had been racked for six long days, by unavailing speculation, it was unanimously resolved that Mr. Pickwick should be called upon to explain his conduct, and to state distinctly why he had thus absented himself from the society of his admiring friends.

With this view, Mr. Wardle invited the full circle to dinner at the Adelphi; and the decanters having been thrice sent round, opened the business.

‘We are all anxious to know,’ said the old gentleman, ‘what we have done to offend you, and to induce you to desert us and devote yourself to these solitary walks.’

‘Are you?’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘It is singular enough that I had intended to volunteer a full explanation this very day; so, if you will give me another glass of wine, I will satisfy your curiosity.’

The decanters passed from hand to hand with unwonted briskness, and Mr. Pickwick, looking round on the faces of his friends with a cheerful smile, proceeded—

‘All the changes that have taken place among us,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I mean the marriage that has taken place, and the marriage that WILL take place, with the changes they involve, rendered it necessary for me to think, soberly and at once, upon my future plans. I determined on retiring to some quiet, pretty neighbourhood in the vicinity of London; I saw a house which exactly suited my fancy; I have taken it and furnished it. It is fully prepared for my reception, and I intend entering upon it at once, trusting that I may yet live to spend many quiet years in peaceful retirement, cheered through life by the society of my friends, and followed in death by their affectionate remembrance.’

Here Mr. Pickwick paused, and a low murmur ran round the table.

‘The house I have taken,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘is at Dulwich. It has a large garden, and is situated in one of the most pleasant spots near London. It has been fitted up with every attention to substantial comfort; perhaps to a little elegance besides; but of that you shall judge for yourselves. Sam accompanies me there. I have engaged, on Perker’s representation, a housekeeper—a very old one—and such other servants as she thinks I shall require. I propose to consecrate this little retreat, by having a ceremony in which I take a great interest, performed there. I wish, if my friend Wardle entertains no objection, that his daughter should be married from my new house, on the day I take possession of it. The happiness of young people,’ said Mr. Pickwick, a little moved, ‘has ever been the chief pleasure of my life. It will warm my heart to witness the happiness of those friends who are dearest to me, beneath my own roof.’

Mr. Pickwick paused again: Emily and Arabella sobbed audibly.

‘I have communicated, both personally and by letter, with the club,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘acquainting them with my intention. During our long absence, it has suffered much from internal dissentions; and the withdrawal of my name, coupled with this and other circumstances, has occasioned its dissolution. The Pickwick Club exists no longer.

‘I shall never regret,’ said Mr. Pickwick in a low voice, ‘I shall never regret having devoted the greater part of two years to mixing with different varieties and shades of human character, frivolous as my pursuit of novelty may have appeared to many. Nearly the whole of my previous life having been devoted to business and the pursuit of wealth, numerous scenes of which I had no previous conception have dawned upon me—I hope to the enlargement of my mind, and the improvement of my understanding. If I have done but little good, I trust I have done less harm, and that none of my adventures will be other than a source of amusing and pleasant recollection to me in the decline of life. God bless you all!’

With these words, Mr. Pickwick filled and drained a bumper with a trembling hand; and his eyes moistened as his friends rose with one accord, and pledged him from their hearts.

There were few preparatory arrangements to be made for the marriage of Mr. Snodgrass. As he had neither father nor mother, and had been in his minority a ward of Mr. Pickwick’s, that gentleman was perfectly well acquainted with his possessions and prospects. His account of both was quite satisfactory to Wardle—as almost any other account would have been, for the good old gentleman was overflowing with hilarity and kindness—and a handsome portion having been bestowed upon Emily, the marriage was fixed to take place on the fourth day from that time—the suddenness of which preparations reduced three dressmakers and a tailor to the extreme verge of insanity.

Getting post-horses to the carriage, old Wardle started off, next day, to bring his mother back to town. Communicating his intelligence to the old lady with characteristic impetuosity, she instantly fainted away; but being promptly revived, ordered the brocaded silk gown to be packed up forthwith, and proceeded to relate some circumstances of a similar nature attending the marriage of the eldest daughter of Lady Tollimglower, deceased, which occupied three hours in the recital, and were not half finished at last.

Mrs. Trundle had to be informed of all the mighty preparations that were making in London; and, being in a delicate state of health, was informed thereof through Mr. Trundle, lest the news should be too much for her; but it was not too much for her, inasmuch as she at once wrote off to Muggleton, to order a new cap and a black satin gown, and moreover avowed her determination of being present at the ceremony. Hereupon, Mr. Trundle called in the doctor, and the doctor said Mrs. Trundle ought to know best how she felt herself, to which Mrs. Trundle replied that she felt herself quite equal to it, and that she had made up her mind to go; upon which the doctor, who was a wise and discreet doctor, and knew what was good for himself, as well as for other people, said that perhaps if Mrs. Trundle stopped at home, she might hurt herself more by fretting, than by going, so perhaps she had better go. And she did go; the doctor with great attention sending in half a dozen of medicine, to be drunk upon the road.

In addition to these points of distraction, Wardle was intrusted with two small letters to two small young ladies who were to act as bridesmaids; upon the receipt of which, the two young ladies were driven to despair by having no ‘things’ ready for so important an occasion, and no time to make them in—a circumstance which appeared to afford the two worthy papas of the two small young ladies rather a feeling of satisfaction than otherwise. However, old frocks were trimmed, and new bonnets made, and the young ladies looked as well as could possibly have been expected of them. And as they cried at the subsequent ceremony in the proper places, and trembled at the right times, they acquitted themselves to the admiration of all beholders.

How the two poor relations ever reached London—whether they walked, or got behind coaches, or procured lifts in wagons, or carried each other by turns—is uncertain; but there they were, before Wardle; and the very first people that knocked at the door of Mr. Pickwick’s house, on the bridal morning, were the two poor relations, all smiles and shirt collar.

They were welcomed heartily though, for riches or poverty had no influence on Mr. Pickwick; the new servants were all alacrity and readiness; Sam was in a most unrivalled state of high spirits and excitement; Mary was glowing with beauty and smart ribands.

The bridegroom, who had been staying at the house for two or three days previous, sallied forth gallantly to Dulwich Church to meet the bride, attended by Mr. Pickwick, Ben Allen, Bob Sawyer, and Mr. Tupman; with Sam Weller outside, having at his button-hole a white favour, the gift of his lady-love, and clad in a new and gorgeous suit of livery invented for the occasion. They were met by the Wardles, and the Winkles, and the bride and bridesmaids, and the Trundles; and the ceremony having been performed, the coaches rattled back to Mr. Pickwick’s to breakfast, where little Mr. Perker already awaited them.

Here, all the light clouds of the more solemn part of the proceedings passed away; every face shone forth joyously; and nothing was to be heard but congratulations and commendations. Everything was so beautiful! The lawn in front, the garden behind, the miniature conservatory, the dining-room, the drawing-room, the bedrooms, the smoking-room, and, above all, the study, with its pictures and easy-chairs, and odd cabinets, and queer tables, and books out of number, with a large cheerful window opening upon a pleasant lawn and commanding a pretty landscape, dotted here and there with little houses almost hidden by the trees; and then the curtains, and the carpets, and the chairs, and the sofas! Everything was so beautiful, so compact, so neat, and in such exquisite taste, said everybody, that there really was no deciding what to admire most.

And in the midst of all this, stood Mr. Pickwick, his countenance lighted up with smiles, which the heart of no man, woman, or child, could resist: himself the happiest of the group: shaking hands, over and over again, with the same people, and when his own hands were not so employed, rubbing them with pleasure: turning round in a different direction at every fresh expression of gratification or curiosity, and inspiring everybody with his looks of gladness and delight.

Breakfast is announced. Mr. Pickwick leads the old lady (who has been very eloquent on the subject of Lady Tollimglower) to the top of a long table; Wardle takes the bottom; the friends arrange themselves on either side; Sam takes his station behind his master’s chair; the laughter and talking cease; Mr. Pickwick, having said grace, pauses for an instant and looks round him. As he does so, the tears roll down his cheeks, in the fullness of his joy.

Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them.

It is the fate of most men who mingle with the world, and attain even the prime of life, to make many real friends, and lose them in the course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the full extent of their misfortunes; for they are required to furnish an account of them besides.

In compliance with this custom—unquestionably a bad one—we subjoin a few biographical words, in relation to the party at Mr. Pickwick’s assembled.

Mr. and Mrs. Winkle, being fully received into favour by the old gentleman, were shortly afterwards installed in a newly-built house, not half a mile from Mr. Pickwick’s. Mr. Winkle, being engaged in the city as agent or town correspondent of his father, exchanged his old costume for the ordinary dress of Englishmen, and presented all the external appearance of a civilised Christian ever afterwards.

Mr. and Mrs. Snodgrass settled at Dingley Dell, where they purchased and cultivated a small farm, more for occupation than profit. Mr. Snodgrass, being occasionally abstracted and melancholy, is to this day reputed a great poet among his friends and acquaintance, although we do not find that he has ever written anything to encourage the belief. There are many celebrated characters, literary, philosophical, and otherwise, who hold a high reputation on a similar tenure.

Mr. Tupman, when his friends married, and Mr. Pickwick settled, took lodgings at Richmond, where he has ever since resided. He walks constantly on the terrace during the summer months, with a youthful and jaunty air, which has rendered him the admiration of the numerous elderly ladies of single condition, who reside in the vicinity. He has never proposed again.

Mr. Bob Sawyer, having previously passed through the Gazette, passed over to Bengal, accompanied by Mr. Benjamin Allen; both gentlemen having received surgical appointments from the East India Company. They each had the yellow fever fourteen times, and then resolved to try a little abstinence; since which period, they have been doing well. Mrs. Bardell let lodgings to many conversable single gentlemen, with great profit, but never brought any more actions for breach of promise of marriage. Her attorneys, Messrs. Dodson & Fogg, continue in business, from which they realise a large income, and in which they are universally considered among the sharpest of the sharp.

Sam Weller kept his word, and remained unmarried, for two years. The old housekeeper dying at the end of that time, Mr. Pickwick promoted Mary to the situation, on condition of her marrying Mr. Weller at once, which she did without a murmur. From the circumstance of two sturdy little boys having been repeatedly seen at the gate of the back garden, there is reason to suppose that Sam has some family.

The elder Mr. Weller drove a coach for twelve months, but being afflicted with the gout, was compelled to retire. The contents of the pocket-book had been so well invested for him, however, by Mr. Pickwick, that he had a handsome independence to retire on, upon which he still lives at an excellent public-house near Shooter’s Hill, where he is quite reverenced as an oracle, boasting very much of his intimacy with Mr. Pickwick, and retaining a most unconquerable aversion to widows.

Mr. Pickwick himself continued to reside in his new house, employing his leisure hours in arranging the memoranda which he afterwards presented to the secretary of the once famous club, or in hearing Sam Weller read aloud, with such remarks as suggested themselves to his mind, which never failed to afford Mr. Pickwick great amusement. He was much troubled at first, by the numerous applications made to him by Mr. Snodgrass, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Trundle, to act as godfather to their offspring; but he has become used to it now, and officiates as a matter of course. He never had occasion to regret his bounty to Mr. Jingle; for both that person and Job Trotter became, in time, worthy members of society, although they have always steadily objected to return to the scenes of their old haunts and temptations. Mr. Pickwick is somewhat infirm now; but he retains all his former juvenility of spirit, and may still be frequently seen, contemplating the pictures in the Dulwich Gallery, or enjoying a walk about the pleasant neighbourhood on a fine day. He is known by all the poor people about, who never fail to take their hats off, as he passes, with great respect. The children idolise him, and so indeed does the whole neighbourhood. Every year he repairs to a large family merry-making at Mr. Wardle’s; on this, as on all other occasions, he is invariably attended by the faithful Sam, between whom and his master there exists a steady and reciprocal attachment which nothing but death will terminate.

END