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The Pickwick Papers

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CHAPTER XI. INVOLVING ANOTHER JOURNEY, AND AN ANTIQUARIAN DISCOVERY; RECORDING MR. PICKWICK’S DETERMINATION TO BE PRESENT AT AN ELECTION; AND CONTAINING A MANUSCRIPT OF THE OLD CLERGYMAN’S

Anight of quiet and repose in the profound silence of Dingley Dell, and an hour’s breathing of its fresh and fragrant air on the ensuing morning, completely recovered Mr. Pickwick from the effects of his late fatigue of body and anxiety of mind. That illustrious man had been separated from his friends and followers for two whole days; and it was with a degree of pleasure and delight, which no common imagination can adequately conceive, that he stepped forward to greet Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass, as he encountered those gentlemen on his return from his early walk. The pleasure was mutual; for who could ever gaze on Mr. Pickwick’s beaming face without experiencing the sensation? But still a cloud seemed to hang over his companions which that great man could not but be sensible of, and was wholly at a loss to account for. There was a mysterious air about them both, as unusual as it was alarming.

‘And how,’ said Mr. Pickwick, when he had grasped his followers by the hand, and exchanged warm salutations of welcome—‘how is Tupman?’

Mr. Winkle, to whom the question was more peculiarly addressed, made no reply. He turned away his head, and appeared absorbed in melancholy reflection.

‘Snodgrass,’ said Mr. Pickwick earnestly, ‘how is our friend—he is not ill?’

‘No,’ replied Mr. Snodgrass; and a tear trembled on his sentimental eyelid, like a rain-drop on a window-frame—‘no; he is not ill.’

Mr. Pickwick stopped, and gazed on each of his friends in turn.

‘Winkle—Snodgrass,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘what does this mean? Where is our friend? What has happened? Speak—I conjure, I entreat—nay, I command you, speak.’

There was a solemnity—a dignity—in Mr. Pickwick’s manner, not to be withstood.

‘He is gone,’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Gone!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick. ‘Gone!’

‘Gone,’ repeated Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Where!’ ejaculated Mr. Pickwick.

‘We can only guess, from that communication,’ replied Mr. Snodgrass, taking a letter from his pocket, and placing it in his friend’s hand. ‘Yesterday morning, when a letter was received from Mr. Wardle, stating that you would be home with his sister at night, the melancholy which had hung over our friend during the whole of the previous day, was observed to increase. He shortly afterwards disappeared: he was missing during the whole day, and in the evening this letter was brought by the hostler from the Crown, at Muggleton. It had been left in his charge in the morning, with a strict injunction that it should not be delivered until night.’

Mr. Pickwick opened the epistle. It was in his friend’s hand-writing, and these were its contents:—

‘MY DEAR PICKWICK,—You, my dear friend, are placed far beyond the reach of many mortal frailties and weaknesses which ordinary people cannot overcome. You do not know what it is, at one blow, to be deserted by a lovely and fascinating creature, and to fall a victim to the artifices of a villain, who had the grin of cunning beneath the mask of friendship. I hope you never may.

‘Any letter addressed to me at the Leather Bottle, Cobham, Kent, will be forwarded—supposing I still exist. I hasten from the sight of that world, which has become odious to me. Should I hasten from it altogether, pity—forgive me. Life, my dear Pickwick, has become insupportable to me. The spirit which burns within us, is a porter’s knot, on which to rest the heavy load of worldly cares and troubles; and when that spirit fails us, the burden is too heavy to be borne. We sink beneath it. You may tell Rachael—Ah, that name!—

‘TRACY TUPMAN.’ 

‘We must leave this place directly,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as he refolded the note. ‘It would not have been decent for us to remain here, under any circumstances, after what has happened; and now we are bound to follow in search of our friend.’ And so saying, he led the way to the house.

His intention was rapidly communicated. The entreaties to remain were pressing, but Mr. Pickwick was inflexible. Business, he said, required his immediate attendance.

The old clergyman was present.

‘You are not really going?’ said he, taking Mr. Pickwick aside.

Mr. Pickwick reiterated his former determination.

‘Then here,’ said the old gentleman, ‘is a little manuscript, which I had hoped to have the pleasure of reading to you myself. I found it on the death of a friend of mine—a medical man, engaged in our county lunatic asylum—among a variety of papers, which I had the option of destroying or preserving, as I thought proper. I can hardly believe that the manuscript is genuine, though it certainly is not in my friend’s hand. However, whether it be the genuine production of a maniac, or founded upon the ravings of some unhappy being (which I think more probable), read it, and judge for yourself.’

Mr. Pickwick received the manuscript, and parted from the benevolent old gentleman with many expressions of good-will and esteem.

It was a more difficult task to take leave of the inmates of Manor Farm, from whom they had received so much hospitality and kindness. Mr. Pickwick kissed the young ladies—we were going to say, as if they were his own daughters, only, as he might possibly have infused a little more warmth into the salutation, the comparison would not be quite appropriate—hugged the old lady with filial cordiality; and patted the rosy cheeks of the female servants in a most patriarchal manner, as he slipped into the hands of each some more substantial expression of his approval. The exchange of cordialities with their fine old host and Mr. Trundle was even more hearty and prolonged; and it was not until Mr. Snodgrass had been several times called for, and at last emerged from a dark passage followed soon after by Emily (whose bright eyes looked unusually dim), that the three friends were enabled to tear themselves from their friendly entertainers. Many a backward look they gave at the farm, as they walked slowly away; and many a kiss did Mr. Snodgrass waft in the air, in acknowledgment of something very like a lady’s handkerchief, which was waved from one of the upper windows, until a turn of the lane hid the old house from their sight.

At Muggleton they procured a conveyance to Rochester. By the time they reached the last-named place, the violence of their grief had sufficiently abated to admit of their making a very excellent early dinner; and having procured the necessary information relative to the road, the three friends set forward again in the afternoon to walk to Cobham.

A delightful walk it was; for it was a pleasant afternoon in June, and their way lay through a deep and shady wood, cooled by the light wind which gently rustled the thick foliage, and enlivened by the songs of the birds that perched upon the boughs. The ivy and the moss crept in thick clusters over the old trees, and the soft green turf overspread the ground like a silken mat. They emerged upon an open park, with an ancient hall, displaying the quaint and picturesque architecture of Elizabeth’s time. Long vistas of stately oaks and elm trees appeared on every side; large herds of deer were cropping the fresh grass; and occasionally a startled hare scoured along the ground, with the speed of the shadows thrown by the light clouds which swept across a sunny landscape like a passing breath of summer.

‘If this,’ said Mr. Pickwick, looking about him—‘if this were the place to which all who are troubled with our friend’s complaint came, I fancy their old attachment to this world would very soon return.’

‘I think so too,’ said Mr. Winkle.

‘And really,’ added Mr. Pickwick, after half an hour’s walking had brought them to the village, ‘really, for a misanthrope’s choice, this is one of the prettiest and most desirable places of residence I ever met with.’

In this opinion also, both Mr. Winkle and Mr. Snodgrass expressed their concurrence; and having been directed to the Leather Bottle, a clean and commodious village ale-house, the three travellers entered, and at once inquired for a gentleman of the name of Tupman.

‘Show the gentlemen into the parlour, Tom,’ said the landlady.

A stout country lad opened a door at the end of the passage, and the three friends entered a long, low-roofed room, furnished with a large number of high-backed leather-cushioned chairs, of fantastic shapes, and embellished with a great variety of old portraits and roughly-coloured prints of some antiquity. At the upper end of the room was a table, with a white cloth upon it, well covered with a roast fowl, bacon, ale, and et ceteras; and at the table sat Mr. Tupman, looking as unlike a man who had taken his leave of the world, as possible.

On the entrance of his friends, that gentleman laid down his knife and fork, and with a mournful air advanced to meet them.

‘I did not expect to see you here,’ he said, as he grasped Mr. Pickwick’s hand. ‘It’s very kind.’

‘Ah!’ said Mr. Pickwick, sitting down, and wiping from his forehead the perspiration which the walk had engendered. ‘Finish your dinner, and walk out with me. I wish to speak to you alone.’

Mr. Tupman did as he was desired; and Mr. Pickwick having refreshed himself with a copious draught of ale, waited his friend’s leisure. The dinner was quickly despatched, and they walked out together.

For half an hour, their forms might have been seen pacing the churchyard to and fro, while Mr. Pickwick was engaged in combating his companion’s resolution. Any repetition of his arguments would be useless; for what language could convey to them that energy and force which their great originator’s manner communicated? Whether Mr. Tupman was already tired of retirement, or whether he was wholly unable to resist the eloquent appeal which was made to him, matters not, he did not resist it at last.

‘It mattered little to him,’ he said, ‘where he dragged out the miserable remainder of his days; and since his friend laid so much stress upon his humble companionship, he was willing to share his adventures.’

Mr. Pickwick smiled; they shook hands, and walked back to rejoin their companions.

It was at this moment that Mr. Pickwick made that immortal discovery, which has been the pride and boast of his friends, and the envy of every antiquarian in this or any other country. They had passed the door of their inn, and walked a little way down the village, before they recollected the precise spot in which it stood. As they turned back, Mr. Pickwick’s eye fell upon a small broken stone, partially buried in the ground, in front of a cottage door. He paused.

‘This is very strange,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘What is strange?’ inquired Mr. Tupman, staring eagerly at every object near him, but the right one. ‘God bless me, what’s the matter?’

This last was an ejaculation of irrepressible astonishment, occasioned by seeing Mr. Pickwick, in his enthusiasm for discovery, fall on his knees before the little stone, and commence wiping the dust off it with his pocket-handkerchief.

‘There is an inscription here,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Is it possible?’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘I can discern,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, rubbing away with all his might, and gazing intently through his spectacles—‘I can discern a cross, and a 13, and then a T. This is important,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, starting up. ‘This is some very old inscription, existing perhaps long before the ancient alms-houses in this place. It must not be lost.’

He tapped at the cottage door. A labouring man opened it.

‘Do you know how this stone came here, my friend?’ inquired the benevolent Mr. Pickwick.

‘No, I doan’t, Sir,’ replied the man civilly. ‘It was here long afore I was born, or any on us.’

Mr. Pickwick glanced triumphantly at his companion.

‘You—you—are not particularly attached to it, I dare say,’ said Mr. Pickwick, trembling with anxiety. ‘You wouldn’t mind selling it, now?’

‘Ah! but who’d buy it?’ inquired the man, with an expression of face which he probably meant to be very cunning.

‘I’ll give you ten shillings for it, at once,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘if you would take it up for me.’

The astonishment of the village may be easily imagined, when (the little stone having been raised with one wrench of a spade) Mr. Pickwick, by dint of great personal exertion, bore it with his own hands to the inn, and after having carefully washed it, deposited it on the table.

The exultation and joy of the Pickwickians knew no bounds, when their patience and assiduity, their washing and scraping, were crowned with success. The stone was uneven and broken, and the letters were straggling and irregular, but the following fragment of an inscription was clearly to be deciphered:

[cross]  B I L S T
U M
P S H I
S. M.
ARK

Mr. Pickwick’s eyes sparkled with delight, as he sat and gloated over the treasure he had discovered. He had attained one of the greatest objects of his ambition. In a county known to abound in the remains of the early ages; in a village in which there still existed some memorials of the olden time, he—he, the chairman of the Pickwick Club—had discovered a strange and curious inscription of unquestionable antiquity, which had wholly escaped the observation of the many learned men who had preceded him. He could hardly trust the evidence of his senses.

‘This—this,’ said he, ‘determines me. We return to town to-morrow.’

‘To-morrow!’ exclaimed his admiring followers.

‘To-morrow,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘This treasure must be at once deposited where it can be thoroughly investigated and properly understood. I have another reason for this step. In a few days, an election is to take place for the borough of Eatanswill, at which Mr. Perker, a gentleman whom I lately met, is the agent of one of the candidates. We will behold, and minutely examine, a scene so interesting to every Englishman.’

‘We will,’ was the animated cry of three voices.

Mr. Pickwick looked round him. The attachment and fervour of his followers lighted up a glow of enthusiasm within him. He was their leader, and he felt it.

‘Let us celebrate this happy meeting with a convivial glass,’ said he. This proposition, like the other, was received with unanimous applause. Having himself deposited the important stone in a small deal box, purchased from the landlady for the purpose, he placed himself in an arm-chair, at the head of the table; and the evening was devoted to festivity and conversation.

It was past eleven o’clock—a late hour for the little village of Cobham—when Mr. Pickwick retired to the bedroom which had been prepared for his reception. He threw open the lattice window, and setting his light upon the table, fell into a train of meditation on the hurried events of the two preceding days.

The hour and the place were both favourable to contemplation; Mr. Pickwick was roused by the church clock striking twelve. The first stroke of the hour sounded solemnly in his ear, but when the bell ceased the stillness seemed insupportable—he almost felt as if he had lost a companion. He was nervous and excited; and hastily undressing himself and placing his light in the chimney, got into bed.

Every one has experienced that disagreeable state of mind, in which a sensation of bodily weariness in vain contends against an inability to sleep. It was Mr. Pickwick’s condition at this moment: he tossed first on one side and then on the other; and perseveringly closed his eyes as if to coax himself to slumber. It was of no use. Whether it was the unwonted exertion he had undergone, or the heat, or the brandy-and-water, or the strange bed—whatever it was, his thoughts kept reverting very uncomfortably to the grim pictures downstairs, and the old stories to which they had given rise in the course of the evening. After half an hour’s tumbling about, he came to the unsatisfactory conclusion, that it was of no use trying to sleep; so he got up and partially dressed himself. Anything, he thought, was better than lying there fancying all kinds of horrors. He looked out of the window—it was very dark. He walked about the room—it was very lonely.

He had taken a few turns from the door to the window, and from the window to the door, when the clergyman’s manuscript for the first time entered his head. It was a good thought. If it failed to interest him, it might send him to sleep. He took it from his coat pocket, and drawing a small table towards his bedside, trimmed the light, put on his spectacles, and composed himself to read. It was a strange handwriting, and the paper was much soiled and blotted. The title gave him a sudden start, too; and he could not avoid casting a wistful glance round the room. Reflecting on the absurdity of giving way to such feelings, however, he trimmed the light again, and read as follows:—

  A MADMAN’S MANUSCRIPT

‘Yes!—a madman’s! How that word would have struck to my heart, many years ago! How it would have roused the terror that used to come upon me sometimes, sending the blood hissing and tingling through my veins, till the cold dew of fear stood in large drops upon my skin, and my knees knocked together with fright! I like it now though. It’s a fine name. Show me the monarch whose angry frown was ever feared like the glare of a madman’s eye—whose cord and axe were ever half so sure as a madman’s gripe. Ho! ho! It’s a grand thing to be mad! to be peeped at like a wild lion through the iron bars—to gnash one’s teeth and howl, through the long still night, to the merry ring of a heavy chain and to roll and twine among the straw, transported with such brave music. Hurrah for the madhouse! Oh, it’s a rare place!

‘I remember days when I was afraid of being mad; when I used to start from my sleep, and fall upon my knees, and pray to be spared from the curse of my race; when I rushed from the sight of merriment or happiness, to hide myself in some lonely place, and spend the weary hours in watching the progress of the fever that was to consume my brain. I knew that madness was mixed up with my very blood, and the marrow of my bones! that one generation had passed away without the pestilence appearing among them, and that I was the first in whom it would revive. I knew it must be so: that so it always had been, and so it ever would be: and when I cowered in some obscure corner of a crowded room, and saw men whisper, and point, and turn their eyes towards me, I knew they were telling each other of the doomed madman; and I slunk away again to mope in solitude.

‘I did this for years; long, long years they were. The nights here are long sometimes—very long; but they are nothing to the restless nights, and dreadful dreams I had at that time. It makes me cold to remember them. Large dusky forms with sly and jeering faces crouched in the corners of the room, and bent over my bed at night, tempting me to madness. They told me in low whispers, that the floor of the old house in which my father died, was stained with his own blood, shed by his own hand in raging madness. I drove my fingers into my ears, but they screamed into my head till the room rang with it, that in one generation before him the madness slumbered, but that his grandfather had lived for years with his hands fettered to the ground, to prevent his tearing himself to pieces. I knew they told the truth—I knew it well. I had found it out years before, though they had tried to keep it from me. Ha! ha! I was too cunning for them, madman as they thought me.

‘At last it came upon me, and I wondered how I could ever have feared it. I could go into the world now, and laugh and shout with the best among them. I knew I was mad, but they did not even suspect it. How I used to hug myself with delight, when I thought of the fine trick I was playing them after their old pointing and leering, when I was not mad, but only dreading that I might one day become so! And how I used to laugh for joy, when I was alone, and thought how well I kept my secret, and how quickly my kind friends would have fallen from me, if they had known the truth. I could have screamed with ecstasy when I dined alone with some fine roaring fellow, to think how pale he would have turned, and how fast he would have run, if he had known that the dear friend who sat close to him, sharpening a bright, glittering knife, was a madman with all the power, and half the will, to plunge it in his heart. Oh, it was a merry life!

‘Riches became mine, wealth poured in upon me, and I rioted in pleasures enhanced a thousandfold to me by the consciousness of my well-kept secret. I inherited an estate. The law—the eagle-eyed law itself—had been deceived, and had handed over disputed thousands to a madman’s hands. Where was the wit of the sharp-sighted men of sound mind? Where the dexterity of the lawyers, eager to discover a flaw? The madman’s cunning had overreached them all.

‘I had money. How I was courted! I spent it profusely. How I was praised! How those three proud, overbearing brothers humbled themselves before me! The old, white-headed father, too—such deference—such respect—such devoted friendship—he worshipped me! The old man had a daughter, and the young men a sister; and all the five were poor. I was rich; and when I married the girl, I saw a smile of triumph play upon the faces of her needy relatives, as they thought of their well-planned scheme, and their fine prize. It was for me to smile. To smile! To laugh outright, and tear my hair, and roll upon the ground with shrieks of merriment. They little thought they had married her to a madman.

‘Stay. If they had known it, would they have saved her? A sister’s happiness against her husband’s gold. The lightest feather I blow into the air, against the gay chain that ornaments my body!

‘In one thing I was deceived with all my cunning. If I had not been mad—for though we madmen are sharp-witted enough, we get bewildered sometimes—I should have known that the girl would rather have been placed, stiff and cold in a dull leaden coffin, than borne an envied bride to my rich, glittering house. I should have known that her heart was with the dark-eyed boy whose name I once heard her breathe in her troubled sleep; and that she had been sacrificed to me, to relieve the poverty of the old, white-headed man and the haughty brothers.

‘I don’t remember forms or faces now, but I know the girl was beautiful. I know she was; for in the bright moonlight nights, when I start up from my sleep, and all is quiet about me, I see, standing still and motionless in one corner of this cell, a slight and wasted figure with long black hair, which, streaming down her back, stirs with no earthly wind, and eyes that fix their gaze on me, and never wink or close. Hush! the blood chills at my heart as I write it down—that form is her’s; the face is very pale, and the eyes are glassy bright; but I know them well. That figure never moves; it never frowns and mouths as others do, that fill this place sometimes; but it is much more dreadful to me, even than the spirits that tempted me many years ago—it comes fresh from the grave; and is so very death-like.

‘For nearly a year I saw that face grow paler; for nearly a year I saw the tears steal down the mournful cheeks, and never knew the cause. I found it out at last though. They could not keep it from me long. She had never liked me; I had never thought she did: she despised my wealth, and hated the splendour in which she lived; but I had not expected that. She loved another. This I had never thought of. Strange feelings came over me, and thoughts, forced upon me by some secret power, whirled round and round my brain. I did not hate her, though I hated the boy she still wept for. I pitied—yes, I pitied—the wretched life to which her cold and selfish relations had doomed her. I knew that she could not live long; but the thought that before her death she might give birth to some ill-fated being, destined to hand down madness to its offspring, determined me. I resolved to kill her.

‘For many weeks I thought of poison, and then of drowning, and then of fire. A fine sight, the grand house in flames, and the madman’s wife smouldering away to cinders. Think of the jest of a large reward, too, and of some sane man swinging in the wind for a deed he never did, and all through a madman’s cunning! I thought often of this, but I gave it up at last. Oh! the pleasure of stropping the razor day after day, feeling the sharp edge, and thinking of the gash one stroke of its thin, bright edge would make!

‘At last the old spirits who had been with me so often before whispered in my ear that the time was come, and thrust the open razor into my hand. I grasped it firmly, rose softly from the bed, and leaned over my sleeping wife. Her face was buried in her hands. I withdrew them softly, and they fell listlessly on her bosom. She had been weeping; for the traces of the tears were still wet upon her cheek. Her face was calm and placid; and even as I looked upon it, a tranquil smile lighted up her pale features. I laid my hand softly on her shoulder. She started—it was only a passing dream. I leaned forward again. She screamed, and woke.

‘One motion of my hand, and she would never again have uttered cry or sound. But I was startled, and drew back. Her eyes were fixed on mine. I knew not how it was, but they cowed and frightened me; and I quailed beneath them. She rose from the bed, still gazing fixedly and steadily on me. I trembled; the razor was in my hand, but I could not move. She made towards the door. As she neared it, she turned, and withdrew her eyes from my face. The spell was broken. I bounded forward, and clutched her by the arm. Uttering shriek upon shriek, she sank upon the ground.

‘Now I could have killed her without a struggle; but the house was alarmed. I heard the tread of footsteps on the stairs. I replaced the razor in its usual drawer, unfastened the door, and called loudly for assistance.

‘They came, and raised her, and placed her on the bed. She lay bereft of animation for hours; and when life, look, and speech returned, her senses had deserted her, and she raved wildly and furiously.

‘Doctors were called in—great men who rolled up to my door in easy carriages, with fine horses and gaudy servants. They were at her bedside for weeks. They had a great meeting and consulted together in low and solemn voices in another room. One, the cleverest and most celebrated among them, took me aside, and bidding me prepare for the worst, told me—me, the madman!—that my wife was mad. He stood close beside me at an open window, his eyes looking in my face, and his hand laid upon my arm. With one effort, I could have hurled him into the street beneath. It would have been rare sport to have done it; but my secret was at stake, and I let him go. A few days after, they told me I must place her under some restraint: I must provide a keeper for her. I! I went into the open fields where none could hear me, and laughed till the air resounded with my shouts!

‘She died next day. The white-headed old man followed her to the grave, and the proud brothers dropped a tear over the insensible corpse of her whose sufferings they had regarded in her lifetime with muscles of iron. All this was food for my secret mirth, and I laughed behind the white handkerchief which I held up to my face, as we rode home, till the tears came into my eyes.

‘But though I had carried my object and killed her, I was restless and disturbed, and I felt that before long my secret must be known. I could not hide the wild mirth and joy which boiled within me, and made me when I was alone, at home, jump up and beat my hands together, and dance round and round, and roar aloud. When I went out, and saw the busy crowds hurrying about the streets; or to the theatre, and heard the sound of music, and beheld the people dancing, I felt such glee, that I could have rushed among them, and torn them to pieces limb from limb, and howled in transport. But I ground my teeth, and struck my feet upon the floor, and drove my sharp nails into my hands. I kept it down; and no one knew I was a madman yet.

‘I remember—though it’s one of the last things I can remember: for now I mix up realities with my dreams, and having so much to do, and being always hurried here, have no time to separate the two, from some strange confusion in which they get involved—I remember how I let it out at last. Ha! ha! I think I see their frightened looks now, and feel the ease with which I flung them from me, and dashed my clenched fist into their white faces, and then flew like the wind, and left them screaming and shouting far behind. The strength of a giant comes upon me when I think of it. There—see how this iron bar bends beneath my furious wrench. I could snap it like a twig, only there are long galleries here with many doors—I don’t think I could find my way along them; and even if I could, I know there are iron gates below which they keep locked and barred. They know what a clever madman I have been, and they are proud to have me here, to show.

‘Let me see: yes, I had been out. It was late at night when I reached home, and found the proudest of the three proud brothers waiting to see me—urgent business he said: I recollect it well. I hated that man with all a madman’s hate. Many and many a time had my fingers longed to tear him. They told me he was there. I ran swiftly upstairs. He had a word to say to me. I dismissed the servants. It was late, and we were alone together—for the first time.

‘I kept my eyes carefully from him at first, for I knew what he little thought—and I gloried in the knowledge—that the light of madness gleamed from them like fire. We sat in silence for a few minutes. He spoke at last. My recent dissipation, and strange remarks, made so soon after his sister’s death, were an insult to her memory. Coupling together many circumstances which had at first escaped his observation, he thought I had not treated her well. He wished to know whether he was right in inferring that I meant to cast a reproach upon her memory, and a disrespect upon her family. It was due to the uniform he wore, to demand this explanation.

‘This man had a commission in the army—a commission, purchased with my money, and his sister’s misery! This was the man who had been foremost in the plot to ensnare me, and grasp my wealth. This was the man who had been the main instrument in forcing his sister to wed me; well knowing that her heart was given to that puling boy. Due to his uniform! The livery of his degradation! I turned my eyes upon him—I could not help it—but I spoke not a word.

‘I saw the sudden change that came upon him beneath my gaze. He was a bold man, but the colour faded from his face, and he drew back his chair. I dragged mine nearer to him; and I laughed—I was very merry then—I saw him shudder. I felt the madness rising within me. He was afraid of me.

‘“You were very fond of your sister when she was alive,” I said.—“Very.”

‘He looked uneasily round him, and I saw his hand grasp the back of his chair; but he said nothing.

‘“You villain,” said I, “I found you out: I discovered your hellish plots against me; I know her heart was fixed on some one else before you compelled her to marry me. I know it—I know it.”

‘He jumped suddenly from his chair, brandished it aloft, and bid me stand back—for I took care to be getting closer to him all the time I spoke.

‘I screamed rather than talked, for I felt tumultuous passions eddying through my veins, and the old spirits whispering and taunting me to tear his heart out.

‘“Damn you,” said I, starting up, and rushing upon him; “I killed her. I am a madman. Down with you. Blood, blood! I will have it!”

‘I turned aside with one blow the chair he hurled at me in his terror, and closed with him; and with a heavy crash we rolled upon the floor together.

‘It was a fine struggle that; for he was a tall, strong man, fighting for his life; and I, a powerful madman, thirsting to destroy him. I knew no strength could equal mine, and I was right. Right again, though a madman! His struggles grew fainter. I knelt upon his chest, and clasped his brawny throat firmly with both hands. His face grew purple; his eyes were starting from his head, and with protruded tongue, he seemed to mock me. I squeezed the tighter.

‘The door was suddenly burst open with a loud noise, and a crowd of people rushed forward, crying aloud to each other to secure the madman.

‘My secret was out; and my only struggle now was for liberty and freedom. I gained my feet before a hand was on me, threw myself among my assailants, and cleared my way with my strong arm, as if I bore a hatchet in my hand, and hewed them down before me. I gained the door, dropped over the banisters, and in an instant was in the street.

‘Straight and swift I ran, and no one dared to stop me. I heard the noise of the feet behind, and redoubled my speed. It grew fainter and fainter in the distance, and at length died away altogether; but on I bounded, through marsh and rivulet, over fence and wall, with a wild shout which was taken up by the strange beings that flocked around me on every side, and swelled the sound, till it pierced the air. I was borne upon the arms of demons who swept along upon the wind, and bore down bank and hedge before them, and spun me round and round with a rustle and a speed that made my head swim, until at last they threw me from them with a violent shock, and I fell heavily upon the earth. When I woke I found myself here—here in this gray cell, where the sunlight seldom comes, and the moon steals in, in rays which only serve to show the dark shadows about me, and that silent figure in its old corner. When I lie awake, I can sometimes hear strange shrieks and cries from distant parts of this large place. What they are, I know not; but they neither come from that pale form, nor does it regard them. For from the first shades of dusk till the earliest light of morning, it still stands motionless in the same place, listening to the music of my iron chain, and watching my gambols on my straw bed.’

At the end of the manuscript was written, in another hand, this note:—

[The unhappy man whose ravings are recorded above, was a melancholy instance of the baneful results of energies misdirected in early life, and excesses prolonged until their consequences could never be repaired. The thoughtless riot, dissipation, and debauchery of his younger days produced fever and delirium. The first effects of the latter was the strange delusion, founded upon a well-known medical theory, strongly contended for by some, and as strongly contested by others, that an hereditary madness existed in his family. This produced a settled gloom, which in time developed a morbid insanity, and finally terminated in raving madness. There is every reason to believe that the events he detailed, though distorted in the description by his diseased imagination, really happened. It is only matter of wonder to those who were acquainted with the vices of his early career, that his passions, when no longer controlled by reason, did not lead him to the commission of still more frightful deeds.]

Mr. Pickwick’s candle was just expiring in the socket, as he concluded the perusal of the old clergyman’s manuscript; and when the light went suddenly out, without any previous flicker by way of warning, it communicated a very considerable start to his excited frame. Hastily throwing off such articles of clothing as he had put on when he rose from his uneasy bed, and casting a fearful glance around, he once more scrambled hastily between the sheets, and soon fell fast asleep.

The sun was shining brilliantly into his chamber, when he awoke, and the morning was far advanced. The gloom which had oppressed him on the previous night had disappeared with the dark shadows which shrouded the landscape, and his thoughts and feelings were as light and gay as the morning itself. After a hearty breakfast, the four gentlemen sallied forth to walk to Gravesend, followed by a man bearing the stone in its deal box. They reached the town about one o’clock (their luggage they had directed to be forwarded to the city, from Rochester), and being fortunate enough to secure places on the outside of a coach, arrived in London in sound health and spirits, on that same afternoon.

The next three or four days were occupied with the preparations which were necessary for their journey to the borough of Eatanswill. As any references to that most important undertaking demands a separate chapter, we may devote the few lines which remain at the close of this, to narrate, with great brevity, the history of the antiquarian discovery.

It appears from the Transactions of the Club, then, that Mr. Pickwick lectured upon the discovery at a General Club Meeting, convened on the night succeeding their return, and entered into a variety of ingenious and erudite speculations on the meaning of the inscription. It also appears that a skilful artist executed a faithful delineation of the curiosity, which was engraven on stone, and presented to the Royal Antiquarian Society, and other learned bodies: that heart-burnings and jealousies without number were created by rival controversies which were penned upon the subject; and that Mr. Pickwick himself wrote a pamphlet, containing ninety-six pages of very small print, and twenty-seven different readings of the inscription: that three old gentlemen cut off their eldest sons with a shilling a-piece for presuming to doubt the antiquity of the fragment; and that one enthusiastic individual cut himself off prematurely, in despair at being unable to fathom its meaning: that Mr. Pickwick was elected an honorary member of seventeen native and foreign societies, for making the discovery: that none of the seventeen could make anything of it; but that all the seventeen agreed it was very extraordinary.

Mr. Blotton, indeed—and the name will be doomed to the undying contempt of those who cultivate the mysterious and the sublime—Mr. Blotton, we say, with the doubt and cavilling peculiar to vulgar minds, presumed to state a view of the case, as degrading as ridiculous. Mr. Blotton, with a mean desire to tarnish the lustre of the immortal name of Pickwick, actually undertook a journey to Cobham in person, and on his return, sarcastically observed in an oration at the club, that he had seen the man from whom the stone was purchased; that the man presumed the stone to be ancient, but solemnly denied the antiquity of the inscription—inasmuch as he represented it to have been rudely carved by himself in an idle mood, and to display letters intended to bear neither more or less than the simple construction of—‘BILL STUMPS, HIS MARK’; and that Mr. Stumps, being little in the habit of original composition, and more accustomed to be guided by the sound of words than by the strict rules of orthography, had omitted the concluding ‘L’ of his Christian name.

The Pickwick Club (as might have been expected from so enlightened an institution) received this statement with the contempt it deserved, expelled the presumptuous and ill-conditioned Blotton from the society, and voted Mr. Pickwick a pair of gold spectacles, in token of their confidence and approbation: in return for which, Mr. Pickwick caused a portrait of himself to be painted, and hung up in the club room.

Mr. Blotton was ejected but not conquered. He also wrote a pamphlet, addressed to the seventeen learned societies, native and foreign, containing a repetition of the statement he had already made, and rather more than half intimating his opinion that the seventeen learned societies were so many ‘humbugs.’ Hereupon, the virtuous indignation of the seventeen learned societies being roused, several fresh pamphlets appeared; the foreign learned societies corresponded with the native learned societies; the native learned societies translated the pamphlets of the foreign learned societies into English; the foreign learned societies translated the pamphlets of the native learned societies into all sorts of languages; and thus commenced that celebrated scientific discussion so well known to all men, as the Pickwick controversy.

But this base attempt to injure Mr. Pickwick recoiled upon the head of its calumnious author. The seventeen learned societies unanimously voted the presumptuous Blotton an ignorant meddler, and forthwith set to work upon more treatises than ever. And to this day the stone remains, an illegible monument of Mr. Pickwick’s greatness, and a lasting trophy to the littleness of his enemies.






CHAPTER XII. DESCRIPTIVE OF A VERY IMPORTANT PROCEEDING ON THE PART OF MR. PICKWICK; NO LESS AN EPOCH IN HIS LIFE, THAN IN THIS HISTORY

Mr. Pickwick’s apartments in Goswell Street, although on a limited scale, were not only of a very neat and comfortable description, but peculiarly adapted for the residence of a man of his genius and observation. His sitting-room was the first-floor front, his bedroom the second-floor front; and thus, whether he were sitting at his desk in his parlour, or standing before the dressing-glass in his dormitory, he had an equal opportunity of contemplating human nature in all the numerous phases it exhibits, in that not more populous than popular thoroughfare. His landlady, Mrs. Bardell—the relict and sole executrix of a deceased custom-house officer—was a comely woman of bustling manners and agreeable appearance, with a natural genius for cooking, improved by study and long practice, into an exquisite talent. There were no children, no servants, no fowls. The only other inmates of the house were a large man and a small boy; the first a lodger, the second a production of Mrs. Bardell’s. The large man was always home precisely at ten o’clock at night, at which hour he regularly condensed himself into the limits of a dwarfish French bedstead in the back parlour; and the infantine sports and gymnastic exercises of Master Bardell were exclusively confined to the neighbouring pavements and gutters. Cleanliness and quiet reigned throughout the house; and in it Mr. Pickwick’s will was law.

To any one acquainted with these points of the domestic economy of the establishment, and conversant with the admirable regulation of Mr. Pickwick’s mind, his appearance and behaviour on the morning previous to that which had been fixed upon for the journey to Eatanswill would have been most mysterious and unaccountable. He paced the room to and fro with hurried steps, popped his head out of the window at intervals of about three minutes each, constantly referred to his watch, and exhibited many other manifestations of impatience very unusual with him. It was evident that something of great importance was in contemplation, but what that something was, not even Mrs. Bardell had been enabled to discover.

‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at last, as that amiable female approached the termination of a prolonged dusting of the apartment.

‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell.

‘Your little boy is a very long time gone.’

‘Why it’s a good long way to the Borough, sir,’ remonstrated Mrs. Bardell.

‘Ah,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘very true; so it is.’ Mr. Pickwick relapsed into silence, and Mrs. Bardell resumed her dusting.

‘Mrs. Bardell,’ said Mr. Pickwick, at the expiration of a few minutes.

‘Sir,’ said Mrs. Bardell again.

‘Do you think it a much greater expense to keep two people, than to keep one?’

‘La, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, colouring up to the very border of her cap, as she fancied she observed a species of matrimonial twinkle in the eyes of her lodger; ‘La, Mr. Pickwick, what a question!’

‘Well, but do you?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘That depends,’ said Mrs. Bardell, approaching the duster very near to Mr. Pickwick’s elbow which was planted on the table. ‘That depends a good deal upon the person, you know, Mr. Pickwick; and whether it’s a saving and careful person, sir.’

‘That’s very true,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘but the person I have in my eye (here he looked very hard at Mrs. Bardell) I think possesses these qualities; and has, moreover, a considerable knowledge of the world, and a great deal of sharpness, Mrs. Bardell, which may be of material use to me.’

‘La, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, the crimson rising to her cap-border again.

‘I do,’ said Mr. Pickwick, growing energetic, as was his wont in speaking of a subject which interested him—‘I do, indeed; and to tell you the truth, Mrs. Bardell, I have made up my mind.’

‘Dear me, sir,’ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell.

‘You’ll think it very strange now,’ said the amiable Mr. Pickwick, with a good-humoured glance at his companion, ‘that I never consulted you about this matter, and never even mentioned it, till I sent your little boy out this morning—eh?’

Mrs. Bardell could only reply by a look. She had long worshipped Mr. Pickwick at a distance, but here she was, all at once, raised to a pinnacle to which her wildest and most extravagant hopes had never dared to aspire. Mr. Pickwick was going to propose—a deliberate plan, too—sent her little boy to the Borough, to get him out of the way—how thoughtful—how considerate!

‘Well,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘what do you think?’

‘Oh, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Bardell, trembling with agitation, ‘you’re very kind, sir.’

‘It’ll save you a good deal of trouble, won’t it?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Oh, I never thought anything of the trouble, sir,’ replied Mrs. Bardell; ‘and, of course, I should take more trouble to please you then, than ever; but it is so kind of you, Mr. Pickwick, to have so much consideration for my loneliness.’

‘Ah, to be sure,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I never thought of that. When I am in town, you’ll always have somebody to sit with you. To be sure, so you will.’

‘I am sure I ought to be a very happy woman,’ said Mrs. Bardell.

‘And your little boy—’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Bless his heart!’ interposed Mrs. Bardell, with a maternal sob.

‘He, too, will have a companion,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick, ‘a lively one, who’ll teach him, I’ll be bound, more tricks in a week than he would ever learn in a year.’ And Mr. Pickwick smiled placidly.

‘Oh, you dear—’ said Mrs. Bardell.

Mr. Pickwick started.

‘Oh, you kind, good, playful dear,’ said Mrs. Bardell; and without more ado, she rose from her chair, and flung her arms round Mr. Pickwick’s neck, with a cataract of tears and a chorus of sobs.

‘Bless my soul,’ cried the astonished Mr. Pickwick; ‘Mrs. Bardell, my good woman—dear me, what a situation—pray consider.—Mrs. Bardell, don’t—if anybody should come—’

‘Oh, let them come,’ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell frantically; ‘I’ll never leave you—dear, kind, good soul;’ and, with these words, Mrs. Bardell clung the tighter.

‘Mercy upon me,’ said Mr. Pickwick, struggling violently, ‘I hear somebody coming up the stairs. Don’t, don’t, there’s a good creature, don’t.’ But entreaty and remonstrance were alike unavailing; for Mrs. Bardell had fainted in Mr. Pickwick’s arms; and before he could gain time to deposit her on a chair, Master Bardell entered the room, ushering in Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Pickwick was struck motionless and speechless. He stood with his lovely burden in his arms, gazing vacantly on the countenances of his friends, without the slightest attempt at recognition or explanation. They, in their turn, stared at him; and Master Bardell, in his turn, stared at everybody.

The astonishment of the Pickwickians was so absorbing, and the perplexity of Mr. Pickwick was so extreme, that they might have remained in exactly the same relative situations until the suspended animation of the lady was restored, had it not been for a most beautiful and touching expression of filial affection on the part of her youthful son. Clad in a tight suit of corduroy, spangled with brass buttons of a very considerable size, he at first stood at the door astounded and uncertain; but by degrees, the impression that his mother must have suffered some personal damage pervaded his partially developed mind, and considering Mr. Pickwick as the aggressor, he set up an appalling and semi-earthly kind of howling, and butting forward with his head, commenced assailing that immortal gentleman about the back and legs, with such blows and pinches as the strength of his arm, and the violence of his excitement, allowed.

‘Take this little villain away,’ said the agonised Mr. Pickwick, ‘he’s mad.’

‘What is the matter?’ said the three tongue-tied Pickwickians.

‘I don’t know,’ replied Mr. Pickwick pettishly. ‘Take away the boy.’ (Here Mr. Winkle carried the interesting boy, screaming and struggling, to the farther end of the apartment.) ‘Now help me, lead this woman downstairs.’

‘Oh, I am better now,’ said Mrs. Bardell faintly.

‘Let me lead you downstairs,’ said the ever-gallant Mr. Tupman.

‘Thank you, sir—thank you;’ exclaimed Mrs. Bardell hysterically. And downstairs she was led accordingly, accompanied by her affectionate son.

‘I cannot conceive,’ said Mr. Pickwick when his friend returned—‘I cannot conceive what has been the matter with that woman. I had merely announced to her my intention of keeping a man-servant, when she fell into the extraordinary paroxysm in which you found her. Very extraordinary thing.’

‘Very,’ said his three friends.

‘Placed me in such an extremely awkward situation,’ continued Mr. Pickwick.

‘Very,’ was the reply of his followers, as they coughed slightly, and looked dubiously at each other.

This behaviour was not lost upon Mr. Pickwick. He remarked their incredulity. They evidently suspected him.

‘There is a man in the passage now,’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘It’s the man I spoke to you about,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘I sent for him to the Borough this morning. Have the goodness to call him up, Snodgrass.’

Mr. Snodgrass did as he was desired; and Mr. Samuel Weller forthwith presented himself.

‘Oh—you remember me, I suppose?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘I should think so,’ replied Sam, with a patronising wink. ‘Queer start that ‘ere, but he was one too many for you, warn’t he? Up to snuff and a pinch or two over—eh?’

‘Never mind that matter now,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily; ‘I want to speak to you about something else. Sit down.’

‘Thank’ee, sir,’ said Sam. And down he sat without further bidding, having previously deposited his old white hat on the landing outside the door. ‘’Tain’t a wery good ‘un to look at,’ said Sam, ‘but it’s an astonishin’ ‘un to wear; and afore the brim went, it was a wery handsome tile. Hows’ever it’s lighter without it, that’s one thing, and every hole lets in some air, that’s another—wentilation gossamer I calls it.’ On the delivery of this sentiment, Mr. Weller smiled agreeably upon the assembled Pickwickians.

‘Now with regard to the matter on which I, with the concurrence of these gentlemen, sent for you,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘That’s the pint, sir,’ interposed Sam; ‘out vith it, as the father said to his child, when he swallowed a farden.’

‘We want to know, in the first place,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘whether you have any reason to be discontented with your present situation.’

‘Afore I answers that ‘ere question, gen’l’m’n,’ replied Mr. Weller, ‘I should like to know, in the first place, whether you’re a-goin’ to purwide me with a better?’

A sunbeam of placid benevolence played on Mr. Pickwick’s features as he said, ‘I have half made up my mind to engage you myself.’

‘Have you, though?’ said Sam.

Mr. Pickwick nodded in the affirmative.

‘Wages?’ inquired Sam.

‘Twelve pounds a year,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Clothes?’

‘Two suits.’

‘Work?’

‘To attend upon me; and travel about with me and these gentlemen here.’

‘Take the bill down,’ said Sam emphatically. ‘I’m let to a single gentleman, and the terms is agreed upon.’

‘You accept the situation?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Cert’nly,’ replied Sam. ‘If the clothes fits me half as well as the place, they’ll do.’

‘You can get a character of course?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Ask the landlady o’ the White Hart about that, Sir,’ replied Sam.

‘Can you come this evening?’

‘I’ll get into the clothes this minute, if they’re here,’ said Sam, with great alacrity.

‘Call at eight this evening,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘and if the inquiries are satisfactory, they shall be provided.’

With the single exception of one amiable indiscretion, in which an assistant housemaid had equally participated, the history of Mr. Weller’s conduct was so very blameless, that Mr. Pickwick felt fully justified in closing the engagement that very evening. With the promptness and energy which characterised not only the public proceedings, but all the private actions of this extraordinary man, he at once led his new attendant to one of those convenient emporiums where gentlemen’s new and second-hand clothes are provided, and the troublesome and inconvenient formality of measurement dispensed with; and before night had closed in, Mr. Weller was furnished with a grey coat with the P. C. button, a black hat with a cockade to it, a pink striped waistcoat, light breeches and gaiters, and a variety of other necessaries, too numerous to recapitulate.

‘Well,’ said that suddenly-transformed individual, as he took his seat on the outside of the Eatanswill coach next morning; ‘I wonder whether I’m meant to be a footman, or a groom, or a gamekeeper, or a seedsman. I looks like a sort of compo of every one on ‘em. Never mind; there’s a change of air, plenty to see, and little to do; and all this suits my complaint uncommon; so long life to the Pickvicks, says I!’






CHAPTER XIII. SOME ACCOUNT OF EATANSWILL; OF THE STATE OF PARTIES THEREIN; AND OF THE ELECTION OF A MEMBER TO SERVE IN PARLIAMENT FOR THAT ANCIENT, LOYAL, AND PATRIOTIC BOROUGH

We will frankly acknowledge that, up to the period of our being first immersed in the voluminous papers of the Pickwick Club, we had never heard of Eatanswill; we will with equal candour admit that we have in vain searched for proof of the actual existence of such a place at the present day. Knowing the deep reliance to be placed on every note and statement of Mr. Pickwick’s, and not presuming to set up our recollection against the recorded declarations of that great man, we have consulted every authority, bearing upon the subject, to which we could possibly refer. We have traced every name in schedules A and B, without meeting with that of Eatanswill; we have minutely examined every corner of the pocket county maps issued for the benefit of society by our distinguished publishers, and the same result has attended our investigation. We are therefore led to believe that Mr. Pickwick, with that anxious desire to abstain from giving offence to any, and with those delicate feelings for which all who knew him well know he was so eminently remarkable, purposely substituted a fictitious designation, for the real name of the place in which his observations were made. We are confirmed in this belief by a little circumstance, apparently slight and trivial in itself, but when considered in this point of view, not undeserving of notice. In Mr. Pickwick’s note-book, we can just trace an entry of the fact, that the places of himself and followers were booked by the Norwich coach; but this entry was afterwards lined through, as if for the purpose of concealing even the direction in which the borough is situated. We will not, therefore, hazard a guess upon the subject, but will at once proceed with this history, content with the materials which its characters have provided for us.

It appears, then, that the Eatanswill people, like the people of many other small towns, considered themselves of the utmost and most mighty importance, and that every man in Eatanswill, conscious of the weight that attached to his example, felt himself bound to unite, heart and soul, with one of the two great parties that divided the town—the Blues and the Buffs. Now the Blues lost no opportunity of opposing the Buffs, and the Buffs lost no opportunity of opposing the Blues; and the consequence was, that whenever the Buffs and Blues met together at public meeting, town-hall, fair, or market, disputes and high words arose between them. With these dissensions it is almost superfluous to say that everything in Eatanswill was made a party question. If the Buffs proposed to new skylight the market-place, the Blues got up public meetings, and denounced the proceeding; if the Blues proposed the erection of an additional pump in the High Street, the Buffs rose as one man and stood aghast at the enormity. There were Blue shops and Buff shops, Blue inns and Buff inns—there was a Blue aisle and a Buff aisle in the very church itself.

Of course it was essentially and indispensably necessary that each of these powerful parties should have its chosen organ and representative: and, accordingly, there were two newspapers in the town—the Eatanswill Gazette and the Eatanswill Independent; the former advocating Blue principles, and the latter conducted on grounds decidedly Buff. Fine newspapers they were. Such leading articles, and such spirited attacks!—‘Our worthless contemporary, the Gazette’—‘That disgraceful and dastardly journal, the Independent’—‘That false and scurrilous print, the Independent’—‘That vile and slanderous calumniator, the Gazette;’ these, and other spirit-stirring denunciations, were strewn plentifully over the columns of each, in every number, and excited feelings of the most intense delight and indignation in the bosoms of the townspeople.

Mr. Pickwick, with his usual foresight and sagacity, had chosen a peculiarly desirable moment for his visit to the borough. Never was such a contest known. The Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, was the Blue candidate; and Horatio Fizkin, Esq., of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, had been prevailed upon by his friends to stand forward on the Buff interest. The Gazette warned the electors of Eatanswill that the eyes not only of England, but of the whole civilised world, were upon them; and the Independent imperatively demanded to know, whether the constituency of Eatanswill were the grand fellows they had always taken them for, or base and servile tools, undeserving alike of the name of Englishmen and the blessings of freedom. Never had such a commotion agitated the town before.

It was late in the evening when Mr. Pickwick and his companions, assisted by Sam, dismounted from the roof of the Eatanswill coach. Large blue silk flags were flying from the windows of the Town Arms Inn, and bills were posted in every sash, intimating, in gigantic letters, that the Honourable Samuel Slumkey’s committee sat there daily. A crowd of idlers were assembled in the road, looking at a hoarse man in the balcony, who was apparently talking himself very red in the face in Mr. Slumkey’s behalf; but the force and point of whose arguments were somewhat impaired by the perpetual beating of four large drums which Mr. Fizkin’s committee had stationed at the street corner. There was a busy little man beside him, though, who took off his hat at intervals and motioned to the people to cheer, which they regularly did, most enthusiastically; and as the red-faced gentleman went on talking till he was redder in the face than ever, it seemed to answer his purpose quite as well as if anybody had heard him.

The Pickwickians had no sooner dismounted than they were surrounded by a branch mob of the honest and independent, who forthwith set up three deafening cheers, which being responded to by the main body (for it’s not at all necessary for a crowd to know what they are cheering about), swelled into a tremendous roar of triumph, which stopped even the red-faced man in the balcony.

‘Hurrah!’ shouted the mob, in conclusion.

‘One cheer more,’ screamed the little fugleman in the balcony, and out shouted the mob again, as if lungs were cast-iron, with steel works.

‘Slumkey for ever!’ roared the honest and independent.

‘Slumkey for ever!’ echoed Mr. Pickwick, taking off his hat.

‘No Fizkin!’ roared the crowd.

‘Certainly not!’ shouted Mr. Pickwick. ‘Hurrah!’ And then there was another roaring, like that of a whole menagerie when the elephant has rung the bell for the cold meat.

‘Who is Slumkey?’ whispered Mr. Tupman.

‘I don’t know,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone. ‘Hush. Don’t ask any questions. It’s always best on these occasions to do what the mob do.’

‘But suppose there are two mobs?’ suggested Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Shout with the largest,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

Volumes could not have said more.

They entered the house, the crowd opening right and left to let them pass, and cheering vociferously. The first object of consideration was to secure quarters for the night.

‘Can we have beds here?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick, summoning the waiter.

‘Don’t know, Sir,’ replied the man; ‘afraid we’re full, sir—I’ll inquire, Sir.’ Away he went for that purpose, and presently returned, to ask whether the gentleman were ‘Blue.’

As neither Mr. Pickwick nor his companions took any vital interest in the cause of either candidate, the question was rather a difficult one to answer. In this dilemma Mr. Pickwick bethought himself of his new friend, Mr. Perker.

‘Do you know a gentleman of the name of Perker?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Certainly, Sir; Honourable Mr. Samuel Slumkey’s agent.’

‘He is Blue, I think?’

‘Oh, yes, Sir.’

‘Then we are Blue,’ said Mr. Pickwick; but observing that the man looked rather doubtful at this accommodating announcement, he gave him his card, and desired him to present it to Mr. Perker forthwith, if he should happen to be in the house. The waiter retired; and reappearing almost immediately with a request that Mr. Pickwick would follow him, led the way to a large room on the first floor, where, seated at a long table covered with books and papers, was Mr. Perker.

‘Ah—ah, my dear Sir,’ said the little man, advancing to meet him; ‘very happy to see you, my dear Sir, very. Pray sit down. So you have carried your intention into effect. You have come down here to see an election—eh?’

Mr. Pickwick replied in the affirmative.

‘Spirited contest, my dear sir,’ said the little man.

‘I’m delighted to hear it,’ said Mr. Pickwick, rubbing his hands. ‘I like to see sturdy patriotism, on whatever side it is called forth—and so it’s a spirited contest?’

‘Oh, yes,’ said the little man, ‘very much so indeed. We have opened all the public-houses in the place, and left our adversary nothing but the beer-shops—masterly stroke of policy that, my dear Sir, eh?’ The little man smiled complacently, and took a large pinch of snuff.

‘And what are the probabilities as to the result of the contest?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, doubtful, my dear Sir; rather doubtful as yet,’ replied the little man. ‘Fizkin’s people have got three-and-thirty voters in the lock-up coach-house at the White Hart.’

‘In the coach-house!’ said Mr. Pickwick, considerably astonished by this second stroke of policy.

‘They keep ‘em locked up there till they want ‘em,’ resumed the little man. ‘The effect of that is, you see, to prevent our getting at them; and even if we could, it would be of no use, for they keep them very drunk on purpose. Smart fellow Fizkin’s agent—very smart fellow indeed.’

Mr. Pickwick stared, but said nothing.

‘We are pretty confident, though,’ said Mr. Perker, sinking his voice almost to a whisper. ‘We had a little tea-party here, last night—five-and-forty women, my dear sir—and gave every one of ‘em a green parasol when she went away.’

‘A parasol!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Fact, my dear Sir, fact. Five-and-forty green parasols, at seven and sixpence a-piece. All women like finery—extraordinary the effect of those parasols. Secured all their husbands, and half their brothers—beats stockings, and flannel, and all that sort of thing hollow. My idea, my dear Sir, entirely. Hail, rain, or sunshine, you can’t walk half a dozen yards up the street, without encountering half a dozen green parasols.’

Here the little man indulged in a convulsion of mirth, which was only checked by the entrance of a third party.

This was a tall, thin man, with a sandy-coloured head inclined to baldness, and a face in which solemn importance was blended with a look of unfathomable profundity. He was dressed in a long brown surtout, with a black cloth waistcoat, and drab trousers. A double eyeglass dangled at his waistcoat; and on his head he wore a very low-crowned hat with a broad brim. The new-comer was introduced to Mr. Pickwick as Mr. Pott, the editor of the Eatanswill Gazette. After a few preliminary remarks, Mr. Pott turned round to Mr. Pickwick, and said with solemnity—

‘This contest excites great interest in the metropolis, sir?’

‘I believe it does,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘To which I have reason to know,’ said Pott, looking towards Mr. Perker for corroboration—‘to which I have reason to know that my article of last Saturday in some degree contributed.’

‘Not the least doubt of it,’ said the little man.

‘The press is a mighty engine, sir,’ said Pott.

Mr. Pickwick yielded his fullest assent to the proposition.

‘But I trust, sir,’ said Pott, ‘that I have never abused the enormous power I wield. I trust, sir, that I have never pointed the noble instrument which is placed in my hands, against the sacred bosom of private life, or the tender breast of individual reputation; I trust, sir, that I have devoted my energies to—to endeavours—humble they may be, humble I know they are—to instil those principles of—which—are—’

Here the editor of the Eatanswill Gazette, appearing to ramble, Mr. Pickwick came to his relief, and said—

‘Certainly.’

‘And what, Sir,’ said Pott—‘what, Sir, let me ask you as an impartial man, is the state of the public mind in London, with reference to my contest with the Independent?’

‘Greatly excited, no doubt,’ interposed Mr. Perker, with a look of slyness which was very likely accidental.

‘The contest,’ said Pott, ‘shall be prolonged so long as I have health and strength, and that portion of talent with which I am gifted. From that contest, Sir, although it may unsettle men’s minds and excite their feelings, and render them incapable for the discharge of the everyday duties of ordinary life; from that contest, sir, I will never shrink, till I have set my heel upon the Eatanswill Independent. I wish the people of London, and the people of this country to know, sir, that they may rely upon me—that I will not desert them, that I am resolved to stand by them, Sir, to the last.’

Your conduct is most noble, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick; and he grasped the hand of the magnanimous Pott.

‘You are, sir, I perceive, a man of sense and talent,’ said Mr. Pott, almost breathless with the vehemence of his patriotic declaration. ‘I am most happy, sir, to make the acquaintance of such a man.’

‘And I,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘feel deeply honoured by this expression of your opinion. Allow me, sir, to introduce you to my fellow-travellers, the other corresponding members of the club I am proud to have founded.’

‘I shall be delighted,’ said Mr. Pott.

Mr. Pickwick withdrew, and returning with his friends, presented them in due form to the editor of the Eatanswill Gazette.

‘Now, my dear Pott,’ said little Mr. Perker, ‘the question is, what are we to do with our friends here?’

‘We can stop in this house, I suppose,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Not a spare bed in the house, my dear sir—not a single bed.’

‘Extremely awkward,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Very,’ said his fellow-voyagers.

‘I have an idea upon this subject,’ said Mr. Pott, ‘which I think may be very successfully adopted. They have two beds at the Peacock, and I can boldly say, on behalf of Mrs. Pott, that she will be delighted to accommodate Mr. Pickwick and any one of his friends, if the other two gentlemen and their servant do not object to shifting, as they best can, at the Peacock.’

After repeated pressings on the part of Mr. Pott, and repeated protestations on that of Mr. Pickwick that he could not think of incommoding or troubling his amiable wife, it was decided that it was the only feasible arrangement that could be made. So it was made; and after dinner together at the Town Arms, the friends separated, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass repairing to the Peacock, and Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Winkle proceeding to the mansion of Mr. Pott; it having been previously arranged that they should all reassemble at the Town Arms in the morning, and accompany the Honourable Samuel Slumkey’s procession to the place of nomination.

Mr. Pott’s domestic circle was limited to himself and his wife. All men whom mighty genius has raised to a proud eminence in the world, have usually some little weakness which appears the more conspicuous from the contrast it presents to their general character. If Mr. Pott had a weakness, it was, perhaps, that he was rather too submissive to the somewhat contemptuous control and sway of his wife. We do not feel justified in laying any particular stress upon the fact, because on the present occasion all Mrs. Pott’s most winning ways were brought into requisition to receive the two gentlemen.

‘My dear,’ said Mr. Pott, ‘Mr. Pickwick—Mr. Pickwick of London.’

Mrs. Pott received Mr. Pickwick’s paternal grasp of the hand with enchanting sweetness; and Mr. Winkle, who had not been announced at all, sidled and bowed, unnoticed, in an obscure corner.

‘P. my dear’—said Mrs. Pott.

‘My life,’ said Mr. Pott.

‘Pray introduce the other gentleman.’

‘I beg a thousand pardons,’ said Mr. Pott. ‘Permit me, Mrs. Pott, Mr.—’

‘Winkle,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Winkle,’ echoed Mr. Pott; and the ceremony of introduction was complete.

‘We owe you many apologies, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘for disturbing your domestic arrangements at so short a notice.’

‘I beg you won’t mention it, sir,’ replied the feminine Pott, with vivacity. ‘It is a high treat to me, I assure you, to see any new faces; living as I do, from day to day, and week to week, in this dull place, and seeing nobody.’

‘Nobody, my dear!’ exclaimed Mr. Pott archly.

‘Nobody but you,’ retorted Mrs. Pott, with asperity.

‘You see, Mr. Pickwick,’ said the host in explanation of his wife’s lament, ‘that we are in some measure cut off from many enjoyments and pleasures of which we might otherwise partake. My public station, as editor of the Eatanswill Gazette, the position which that paper holds in the country, my constant immersion in the vortex of politics—’

‘P. my dear—’ interposed Mrs. Pott.

‘My life—’ said the editor.

‘I wish, my dear, you would endeavour to find some topic of conversation in which these gentlemen might take some rational interest.’

‘But, my love,’ said Mr. Pott, with great humility, ‘Mr. Pickwick does take an interest in it.’

‘It’s well for him if he can,’ said Mrs. Pott emphatically; ‘I am wearied out of my life with your politics, and quarrels with the Independent, and nonsense. I am quite astonished, P., at your making such an exhibition of your absurdity.’

‘But, my dear—’ said Mr. Pott.

‘Oh, nonsense, don’t talk to me,’ said Mrs. Pott. ‘Do you play ecarte, Sir?’

‘I shall be very happy to learn under your tuition,’ replied Mr. Winkle.

‘Well, then, draw that little table into this window, and let me get out of hearing of those prosy politics.’

‘Jane,’ said Mr. Pott, to the servant who brought in candles, ‘go down into the office, and bring me up the file of the Gazette for eighteen hundred and twenty-six. I’ll read you,’ added the editor, turning to Mr. Pickwick—‘I’ll just read you a few of the leaders I wrote at that time upon the Buff job of appointing a new tollman to the turnpike here; I rather think they’ll amuse you.’

‘I should like to hear them very much indeed,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

Up came the file, and down sat the editor, with Mr. Pickwick at his side.

We have in vain pored over the leaves of Mr. Pickwick’s note-book, in the hope of meeting with a general summary of these beautiful compositions. We have every reason to believe that he was perfectly enraptured with the vigour and freshness of the style; indeed Mr. Winkle has recorded the fact that his eyes were closed, as if with excess of pleasure, during the whole time of their perusal.

The announcement of supper put a stop both to the game of ecarte, and the recapitulation of the beauties of the Eatanswill Gazette. Mrs. Pott was in the highest spirits and the most agreeable humour. Mr. Winkle had already made considerable progress in her good opinion, and she did not hesitate to inform him, confidentially, that Mr. Pickwick was ‘a delightful old dear.’ These terms convey a familiarity of expression, in which few of those who were intimately acquainted with that colossal-minded man, would have presumed to indulge. We have preserved them, nevertheless, as affording at once a touching and a convincing proof of the estimation in which he was held by every class of society, and the ease with which he made his way to their hearts and feelings.

It was a late hour of the night—long after Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass had fallen asleep in the inmost recesses of the Peacock—when the two friends retired to rest. Slumber soon fell upon the senses of Mr. Winkle, but his feelings had been excited, and his admiration roused; and for many hours after sleep had rendered him insensible to earthly objects, the face and figure of the agreeable Mrs. Pott presented themselves again and again to his wandering imagination.

The noise and bustle which ushered in the morning were sufficient to dispel from the mind of the most romantic visionary in existence, any associations but those which were immediately connected with the rapidly-approaching election. The beating of drums, the blowing of horns and trumpets, the shouting of men, and tramping of horses, echoed and re-echoed through the streets from the earliest dawn of day; and an occasional fight between the light skirmishers of either party at once enlivened the preparations, and agreeably diversified their character.

‘Well, Sam,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as his valet appeared at his bedroom door, just as he was concluding his toilet; ‘all alive to-day, I suppose?’

‘Reg’lar game, sir,’ replied Mr. Weller; ‘our people’s a-collecting down at the Town Arms, and they’re a-hollering themselves hoarse already.’

‘Ah,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘do they seem devoted to their party, Sam?’

‘Never see such dewotion in my life, Sir.’

‘Energetic, eh?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Uncommon,’ replied Sam; ‘I never see men eat and drink so much afore. I wonder they ain’t afeer’d o’ bustin’.’

‘That’s the mistaken kindness of the gentry here,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Wery likely,’ replied Sam briefly.

‘Fine, fresh, hearty fellows they seem,’ said Mr. Pickwick, glancing from the window.

‘Wery fresh,’ replied Sam; ‘me and the two waiters at the Peacock has been a-pumpin’ over the independent woters as supped there last night.’

‘Pumping over independent voters!’ exclaimed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Yes,’ said his attendant, ‘every man slept vere he fell down; we dragged ‘em out, one by one, this mornin’, and put ‘em under the pump, and they’re in reg’lar fine order now. Shillin’ a head the committee paid for that ‘ere job.’

‘Can such things be!’ exclaimed the astonished Mr. Pickwick.

‘Lord bless your heart, sir,’ said Sam, ‘why where was you half baptised?—that’s nothin’, that ain’t.’

‘Nothing?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Nothin’ at all, Sir,’ replied his attendant. ‘The night afore the last day o’ the last election here, the opposite party bribed the barmaid at the Town Arms, to hocus the brandy-and-water of fourteen unpolled electors as was a-stoppin’ in the house.’

‘What do you mean by “hocussing” brandy-and-water?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Puttin’ laud’num in it,’ replied Sam. ‘Blessed if she didn’t send ‘em all to sleep till twelve hours arter the election was over. They took one man up to the booth, in a truck, fast asleep, by way of experiment, but it was no go—they wouldn’t poll him; so they brought him back, and put him to bed again.’

Strange practices, these,’ said Mr. Pickwick; half speaking to himself and half addressing Sam.

‘Not half so strange as a miraculous circumstance as happened to my own father, at an election time, in this wery place, Sir,’ replied Sam.

‘What was that?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘Why, he drove a coach down here once,’ said Sam; ‘’lection time came on, and he was engaged by vun party to bring down woters from London. Night afore he was going to drive up, committee on t’ other side sends for him quietly, and away he goes vith the messenger, who shows him in;—large room—lots of gen’l’m’n—heaps of papers, pens and ink, and all that ‘ere. “Ah, Mr. Weller,” says the gen’l’m’n in the chair, “glad to see you, sir; how are you?”—“Wery well, thank ‘ee, Sir,” says my father; “I hope you’re pretty middlin,” says he.—“Pretty well, thank’ee, Sir,” says the gen’l’m’n; “sit down, Mr. Weller—pray sit down, sir.” So my father sits down, and he and the gen’l’m’n looks wery hard at each other. “You don’t remember me?” said the gen’l’m’n.—“Can’t say I do,” says my father.—“Oh, I know you,” says the gen’l’m’n: “know’d you when you was a boy,” says he.—“Well, I don’t remember you,” says my father.—“That’s wery odd,” says the gen’l’m’n.”—“Wery,” says my father.—“You must have a bad mem’ry, Mr. Weller,” says the gen’l’m’n.—“Well, it is a wery bad ‘un,” says my father.—“I thought so,” says the gen’l’m’n. So then they pours him out a glass of wine, and gammons him about his driving, and gets him into a reg’lar good humour, and at last shoves a twenty-pound note into his hand. “It’s a wery bad road between this and London,” says the gen’l’m’n.—“Here and there it is a heavy road,” says my father.—” ‘Specially near the canal, I think,” says the gen’l’m’n.—“Nasty bit that ‘ere,” says my father.—“Well, Mr. Weller,” says the gen’l’m’n, “you’re a wery good whip, and can do what you like with your horses, we know. We’re all wery fond o’ you, Mr. Weller, so in case you should have an accident when you’re bringing these here woters down, and should tip ‘em over into the canal vithout hurtin’ of ‘em, this is for yourself,” says he.—“Gen’l’m’n, you’re wery kind,” says my father, “and I’ll drink your health in another glass of wine,” says he; vich he did, and then buttons up the money, and bows himself out. You wouldn’t believe, sir,’ continued Sam, with a look of inexpressible impudence at his master, ‘that on the wery day as he came down with them woters, his coach was upset on that ‘ere wery spot, and ev’ry man on ‘em was turned into the canal.’

‘And got out again?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick hastily.

‘Why,’ replied Sam very slowly, ‘I rather think one old gen’l’m’n was missin’; I know his hat was found, but I ain’t quite certain whether his head was in it or not. But what I look at is the hex-traordinary and wonderful coincidence, that arter what that gen’l’m’n said, my father’s coach should be upset in that wery place, and on that wery day!’

‘It is, no doubt, a very extraordinary circumstance indeed,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘But brush my hat, Sam, for I hear Mr. Winkle calling me to breakfast.’

With these words Mr. Pickwick descended to the parlour, where he found breakfast laid, and the family already assembled. The meal was hastily despatched; each of the gentlemen’s hats was decorated with an enormous blue favour, made up by the fair hands of Mrs. Pott herself; and as Mr. Winkle had undertaken to escort that lady to a house-top, in the immediate vicinity of the hustings, Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Pott repaired alone to the Town Arms, from the back window of which, one of Mr. Slumkey’s committee was addressing six small boys and one girl, whom he dignified, at every second sentence, with the imposing title of ‘Men of Eatanswill,’ whereat the six small boys aforesaid cheered prodigiously.

The stable-yard exhibited unequivocal symptoms of the glory and strength of the Eatanswill Blues. There was a regular army of blue flags, some with one handle, and some with two, exhibiting appropriate devices, in golden characters four feet high, and stout in proportion. There was a grand band of trumpets, bassoons, and drums, marshalled four abreast, and earning their money, if ever men did, especially the drum-beaters, who were very muscular. There were bodies of constables with blue staves, twenty committee-men with blue scarfs, and a mob of voters with blue cockades. There were electors on horseback and electors afoot. There was an open carriage-and-four, for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey; and there were four carriage-and-pair, for his friends and supporters; and the flags were rustling, and the band was playing, and the constables were swearing, and the twenty committee-men were squabbling, and the mob were shouting, and the horses were backing, and the post-boys perspiring; and everybody, and everything, then and there assembled, was for the special use, behoof, honour, and renown, of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, one of the candidates for the representation of the borough of Eatanswill, in the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Loud and long were the cheers, and mighty was the rustling of one of the blue flags, with ‘Liberty of the Press’ inscribed thereon, when the sandy head of Mr. Pott was discerned in one of the windows, by the mob beneath; and tremendous was the enthusiasm when the Honourable Samuel Slumkey himself, in top-boots, and a blue neckerchief, advanced and seized the hand of the said Pott, and melodramatically testified by gestures to the crowd, his ineffaceable obligations to the Eatanswill Gazette.

‘Is everything ready?’ said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to Mr. Perker.

‘Everything, my dear Sir,’ was the little man’s reply.

‘Nothing has been omitted, I hope?’ said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

‘Nothing has been left undone, my dear sir—nothing whatever. There are twenty washed men at the street door for you to shake hands with; and six children in arms that you’re to pat on the head, and inquire the age of; be particular about the children, my dear sir—it has always a great effect, that sort of thing.’

‘I’ll take care,’ said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

‘And, perhaps, my dear Sir,’ said the cautious little man, ‘perhaps if you could—I don’t mean to say it’s indispensable—but if you could manage to kiss one of ‘em, it would produce a very great impression on the crowd.’

‘Wouldn’t it have as good an effect if the proposer or seconder did that?’ said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey.

‘Why, I am afraid it wouldn’t,’ replied the agent; ‘if it were done by yourself, my dear Sir, I think it would make you very popular.’

‘Very well,’ said the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with a resigned air, ‘then it must be done. That’s all.’

‘Arrange the procession,’ cried the twenty committee-men.

Amidst the cheers of the assembled throng, the band, and the constables, and the committee-men, and the voters, and the horsemen, and the carriages, took their places—each of the two-horse vehicles being closely packed with as many gentlemen as could manage to stand upright in it; and that assigned to Mr. Perker, containing Mr. Pickwick, Mr. Tupman, Mr. Snodgrass, and about half a dozen of the committee besides.

There was a moment of awful suspense as the procession waited for the Honourable Samuel Slumkey to step into his carriage. Suddenly the crowd set up a great cheering.

‘He has come out,’ said little Mr. Perker, greatly excited; the more so as their position did not enable them to see what was going forward.

Another cheer, much louder.

‘He has shaken hands with the men,’ cried the little agent.

Another cheer, far more vehement.

‘He has patted the babies on the head,’ said Mr. Perker, trembling with anxiety.

A roar of applause that rent the air.

‘He has kissed one of ‘em!’ exclaimed the delighted little man.

A second roar.

‘He has kissed another,’ gasped the excited manager.

A third roar.

‘He’s kissing ‘em all!’ screamed the enthusiastic little gentleman, and hailed by the deafening shouts of the multitude, the procession moved on.

How or by what means it became mixed up with the other procession, and how it was ever extricated from the confusion consequent thereupon, is more than we can undertake to describe, inasmuch as Mr. Pickwick’s hat was knocked over his eyes, nose, and mouth, by one poke of a Buff flag-staff, very early in the proceedings. He describes himself as being surrounded on every side, when he could catch a glimpse of the scene, by angry and ferocious countenances, by a vast cloud of dust, and by a dense crowd of combatants. He represents himself as being forced from the carriage by some unseen power, and being personally engaged in a pugilistic encounter; but with whom, or how, or why, he is wholly unable to state. He then felt himself forced up some wooden steps by the persons from behind; and on removing his hat, found himself surrounded by his friends, in the very front of the left hand side of the hustings. The right was reserved for the Buff party, and the centre for the mayor and his officers; one of whom—the fat crier of Eatanswill—was ringing an enormous bell, by way of commanding silence, while Mr. Horatio Fizkin, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, with their hands upon their hearts, were bowing with the utmost affability to the troubled sea of heads that inundated the open space in front; and from whence arose a storm of groans, and shouts, and yells, and hootings, that would have done honour to an earthquake.

‘There’s Winkle,’ said Mr. Tupman, pulling his friend by the sleeve.

‘Where!’ said Mr. Pickwick, putting on his spectacles, which he had fortunately kept in his pocket hitherto.

‘There,’ said Mr. Tupman, ‘on the top of that house.’ And there, sure enough, in the leaden gutter of a tiled roof, were Mr. Winkle and Mrs. Pott, comfortably seated in a couple of chairs, waving their handkerchiefs in token of recognition—a compliment which Mr. Pickwick returned by kissing his hand to the lady.

The proceedings had not yet commenced; and as an inactive crowd is generally disposed to be jocose, this very innocent action was sufficient to awaken their facetiousness.

‘Oh, you wicked old rascal,’ cried one voice, ‘looking arter the girls, are you?’

‘Oh, you wenerable sinner,’ cried another.

‘Putting on his spectacles to look at a married ‘ooman!’ said a third.

‘I see him a-winkin’ at her, with his wicked old eye,’ shouted a fourth.

‘Look arter your wife, Pott,’ bellowed a fifth—and then there was a roar of laughter.

As these taunts were accompanied with invidious comparisons between Mr. Pickwick and an aged ram, and several witticisms of the like nature; and as they moreover rather tended to convey reflections upon the honour of an innocent lady, Mr. Pickwick’s indignation was excessive; but as silence was proclaimed at the moment, he contented himself by scorching the mob with a look of pity for their misguided minds, at which they laughed more boisterously than ever.

‘Silence!’ roared the mayor’s attendants.

‘Whiffin, proclaim silence,’ said the mayor, with an air of pomp befitting his lofty station. In obedience to this command the crier performed another concerto on the bell, whereupon a gentleman in the crowd called out ‘Muffins’; which occasioned another laugh.

‘Gentlemen,’ said the mayor, at as loud a pitch as he could possibly force his voice to—‘gentlemen. Brother electors of the borough of Eatanswill. We are met here to-day for the purpose of choosing a representative in the room of our late—’

Here the mayor was interrupted by a voice in the crowd.

‘Suc-cess to the mayor!’ cried the voice, ‘and may he never desert the nail and sarspan business, as he got his money by.’

This allusion to the professional pursuits of the orator was received with a storm of delight, which, with a bell-accompaniment, rendered the remainder of his speech inaudible, with the exception of the concluding sentence, in which he thanked the meeting for the patient attention with which they heard him throughout—an expression of gratitude which elicited another burst of mirth, of about a quarter of an hour’s duration.

Next, a tall, thin gentleman, in a very stiff white neckerchief, after being repeatedly desired by the crowd to ‘send a boy home, to ask whether he hadn’t left his voice under the pillow,’ begged to nominate a fit and proper person to represent them in Parliament. And when he said it was Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, the Fizkinites applauded, and the Slumkeyites groaned, so long, and so loudly, that both he and the seconder might have sung comic songs in lieu of speaking, without anybody’s being a bit the wiser.

The friends of Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, having had their innings, a little choleric, pink-faced man stood forward to propose another fit and proper person to represent the electors of Eatanswill in Parliament; and very swimmingly the pink-faced gentleman would have got on, if he had not been rather too choleric to entertain a sufficient perception of the fun of the crowd. But after a very few sentences of figurative eloquence, the pink-faced gentleman got from denouncing those who interrupted him in the mob, to exchanging defiances with the gentlemen on the hustings; whereupon arose an uproar which reduced him to the necessity of expressing his feelings by serious pantomime, which he did, and then left the stage to his seconder, who delivered a written speech of half an hour’s length, and wouldn’t be stopped, because he had sent it all to the Eatanswill Gazette, and the Eatanswill Gazette had already printed it, every word.

Then Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, near Eatanswill, presented himself for the purpose of addressing the electors; which he no sooner did, than the band employed by the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, commenced performing with a power to which their strength in the morning was a trifle; in return for which, the Buff crowd belaboured the heads and shoulders of the Blue crowd; on which the Blue crowd endeavoured to dispossess themselves of their very unpleasant neighbours the Buff crowd; and a scene of struggling, and pushing, and fighting, succeeded, to which we can no more do justice than the mayor could, although he issued imperative orders to twelve constables to seize the ringleaders, who might amount in number to two hundred and fifty, or thereabouts. At all these encounters, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and his friends, waxed fierce and furious; until at last Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, begged to ask his opponent, the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, whether that band played by his consent; which question the Honourable Samuel Slumkey declining to answer, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, shook his fist in the countenance of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall; upon which the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, his blood being up, defied Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, to mortal combat. At this violation of all known rules and precedents of order, the mayor commanded another fantasia on the bell, and declared that he would bring before himself, both Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, and the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, and bind them over to keep the peace. Upon this terrific denunciation, the supporters of the two candidates interfered, and after the friends of each party had quarrelled in pairs, for three-quarters of an hour, Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, touched his hat to the Honourable Samuel Slumkey; the Honourable Samuel Slumkey touched his to Horatio Fizkin, Esquire; the band was stopped; the crowd were partially quieted; and Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, was permitted to proceed.

The speeches of the two candidates, though differing in every other respect, afforded a beautiful tribute to the merit and high worth of the electors of Eatanswill. Both expressed their opinion that a more independent, a more enlightened, a more public-spirited, a more noble-minded, a more disinterested set of men than those who had promised to vote for him, never existed on earth; each darkly hinted his suspicions that the electors in the opposite interest had certain swinish and besotted infirmities which rendered them unfit for the exercise of the important duties they were called upon to discharge. Fizkin expressed his readiness to do anything he was wanted: Slumkey, his determination to do nothing that was asked of him. Both said that the trade, the manufactures, the commerce, the prosperity of Eatanswill, would ever be dearer to their hearts than any earthly object; and each had it in his power to state, with the utmost confidence, that he was the man who would eventually be returned.

There was a show of hands; the mayor decided in favour of the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall. Horatio Fizkin, Esquire, of Fizkin Lodge, demanded a poll, and a poll was fixed accordingly. Then a vote of thanks was moved to the mayor for his able conduct in the chair; and the mayor, devoutly wishing that he had had a chair to display his able conduct in (for he had been standing during the whole proceedings), returned thanks. The processions reformed, the carriages rolled slowly through the crowd, and its members screeched and shouted after them as their feelings or caprice dictated.

During the whole time of the polling, the town was in a perpetual fever of excitement. Everything was conducted on the most liberal and delightful scale. Excisable articles were remarkably cheap at all the public-houses; and spring vans paraded the streets for the accommodation of voters who were seized with any temporary dizziness in the head—an epidemic which prevailed among the electors, during the contest, to a most alarming extent, and under the influence of which they might frequently be seen lying on the pavements in a state of utter insensibility. A small body of electors remained unpolled on the very last day. They were calculating and reflecting persons, who had not yet been convinced by the arguments of either party, although they had frequent conferences with each. One hour before the close of the poll, Mr. Perker solicited the honour of a private interview with these intelligent, these noble, these patriotic men. It was granted. His arguments were brief but satisfactory. They went in a body to the poll; and when they returned, the Honourable Samuel Slumkey, of Slumkey Hall, was returned also.






CHAPTER XIV. COMPRISING A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE COMPANY AT THE PEACOCK ASSEMBLED; AND A TALE TOLD BY A BAGMAN

It is pleasant to turn from contemplating the strife and turmoil of political existence, to the peaceful repose of private life. Although in reality no great partisan of either side, Mr. Pickwick was sufficiently fired with Mr. Pott’s enthusiasm, to apply his whole time and attention to the proceedings, of which the last chapter affords a description compiled from his own memoranda. Nor while he was thus occupied was Mr. Winkle idle, his whole time being devoted to pleasant walks and short country excursions with Mrs. Pott, who never failed, when such an opportunity presented itself, to seek some relief from the tedious monotony she so constantly complained of. The two gentlemen being thus completely domesticated in the editor’s house, Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were in a great measure cast upon their own resources. Taking but little interest in public affairs, they beguiled their time chiefly with such amusements as the Peacock afforded, which were limited to a bagatelle-board in the first floor, and a sequestered skittle-ground in the back yard. In the science and nicety of both these recreations, which are far more abstruse than ordinary men suppose, they were gradually initiated by Mr. Weller, who possessed a perfect knowledge of such pastimes. Thus, notwithstanding that they were in a great measure deprived of the comfort and advantage of Mr. Pickwick’s society, they were still enabled to beguile the time, and to prevent its hanging heavily on their hands.

It was in the evening, however, that the Peacock presented attractions which enabled the two friends to resist even the invitations of the gifted, though prosy, Pott. It was in the evening that the ‘commercial room’ was filled with a social circle, whose characters and manners it was the delight of Mr. Tupman to observe; whose sayings and doings it was the habit of Mr. Snodgrass to note down.

Most people know what sort of places commercial rooms usually are. That of the Peacock differed in no material respect from the generality of such apartments; that is to say, it was a large, bare-looking room, the furniture of which had no doubt been better when it was newer, with a spacious table in the centre, and a variety of smaller dittos in the corners; an extensive assortment of variously shaped chairs, and an old Turkey carpet, bearing about the same relative proportion to the size of the room, as a lady’s pocket-handkerchief might to the floor of a watch-box. The walls were garnished with one or two large maps; and several weather-beaten rough greatcoats, with complicated capes, dangled from a long row of pegs in one corner. The mantel-shelf was ornamented with a wooden inkstand, containing one stump of a pen and half a wafer; a road-book and directory; a county history minus the cover; and the mortal remains of a trout in a glass coffin. The atmosphere was redolent of tobacco-smoke, the fumes of which had communicated a rather dingy hue to the whole room, and more especially to the dusty red curtains which shaded the windows. On the sideboard a variety of miscellaneous articles were huddled together, the most conspicuous of which were some very cloudy fish-sauce cruets, a couple of driving-boxes, two or three whips, and as many travelling shawls, a tray of knives and forks, and the mustard.

Here it was that Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass were seated on the evening after the conclusion of the election, with several other temporary inmates of the house, smoking and drinking.

‘Well, gents,’ said a stout, hale personage of about forty, with only one eye—a very bright black eye, which twinkled with a roguish expression of fun and good-humour, ‘our noble selves, gents. I always propose that toast to the company, and drink Mary to myself. Eh, Mary!’

‘Get along with you, you wretch,’ said the hand-maiden, obviously not ill-pleased with the compliment, however.

‘Don’t go away, Mary,’ said the black-eyed man.

‘Let me alone, imperence,’ said the young lady.

‘Never mind,’ said the one-eyed man, calling after the girl as she left the room. ‘I’ll step out by and by, Mary. Keep your spirits up, dear.’ Here he went through the not very difficult process of winking upon the company with his solitary eye, to the enthusiastic delight of an elderly personage with a dirty face and a clay pipe.

‘Rum creeters is women,’ said the dirty-faced man, after a pause.

‘Ah! no mistake about that,’ said a very red-faced man, behind a cigar.

After this little bit of philosophy there was another pause.

‘There’s rummer things than women in this world though, mind you,’ said the man with the black eye, slowly filling a large Dutch pipe, with a most capacious bowl.

‘Are you married?’ inquired the dirty-faced man.

‘Can’t say I am.’

‘I thought not.’ Here the dirty-faced man fell into ecstasies of mirth at his own retort, in which he was joined by a man of bland voice and placid countenance, who always made it a point to agree with everybody.

‘Women, after all, gentlemen,’ said the enthusiastic Mr. Snodgrass, ‘are the great props and comforts of our existence.’

‘So they are,’ said the placid gentleman.

‘When they’re in a good humour,’ interposed the dirty-faced man.

‘And that’s very true,’ said the placid one.

‘I repudiate that qualification,’ said Mr. Snodgrass, whose thoughts were fast reverting to Emily Wardle. ‘I repudiate it with disdain—with indignation. Show me the man who says anything against women, as women, and I boldly declare he is not a man.’ And Mr. Snodgrass took his cigar from his mouth, and struck the table violently with his clenched fist.

‘That’s good sound argument,’ said the placid man.

‘Containing a position which I deny,’ interrupted he of the dirty countenance.

‘And there’s certainly a very great deal of truth in what you observe too, Sir,’ said the placid gentleman.

‘Your health, Sir,’ said the bagman with the lonely eye, bestowing an approving nod on Mr. Snodgrass.

Mr. Snodgrass acknowledged the compliment.

‘I always like to hear a good argument,’ continued the bagman, ‘a sharp one, like this: it’s very improving; but this little argument about women brought to my mind a story I have heard an old uncle of mine tell, the recollection of which, just now, made me say there were rummer things than women to be met with, sometimes.’

‘I should like to hear that same story,’ said the red-faced man with the cigar.

‘Should you?’ was the only reply of the bagman, who continued to smoke with great vehemence.

‘So should I,’ said Mr. Tupman, speaking for the first time. He was always anxious to increase his stock of experience.

‘Should you? Well then, I’ll tell it. No, I won’t. I know you won’t believe it,’ said the man with the roguish eye, making that organ look more roguish than ever. ‘If you say it’s true, of course I shall,’ said Mr. Tupman.

‘Well, upon that understanding I’ll tell you,’ replied the traveller. ‘Did you ever hear of the great commercial house of Bilson & Slum? But it doesn’t matter though, whether you did or not, because they retired from business long since. It’s eighty years ago, since the circumstance happened to a traveller for that house, but he was a particular friend of my uncle’s; and my uncle told the story to me. It’s a queer name; but he used to call it

  THE BAGMAN’S STORY

and he used to tell it, something in this way.

‘One winter’s evening, about five o’clock, just as it began to grow dusk, a man in a gig might have been seen urging his tired horse along the road which leads across Marlborough Downs, in the direction of Bristol. I say he might have been seen, and I have no doubt he would have been, if anybody but a blind man had happened to pass that way; but the weather was so bad, and the night so cold and wet, that nothing was out but the water, and so the traveller jogged along in the middle of the road, lonesome and dreary enough. If any bagman of that day could have caught sight of the little neck-or-nothing sort of gig, with a clay-coloured body and red wheels, and the vixenish, ill tempered, fast-going bay mare, that looked like a cross between a butcher’s horse and a twopenny post-office pony, he would have known at once, that this traveller could have been no other than Tom Smart, of the great house of Bilson and Slum, Cateaton Street, City. However, as there was no bagman to look on, nobody knew anything at all about the matter; and so Tom Smart and his clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, went on together, keeping the secret among them, and nobody was a bit the wiser.

‘There are many pleasanter places even in this dreary world, than Marlborough Downs when it blows hard; and if you throw in beside, a gloomy winter’s evening, a miry and sloppy road, and a pelting fall of heavy rain, and try the effect, by way of experiment, in your own proper person, you will experience the full force of this observation.

‘The wind blew—not up the road or down it, though that’s bad enough, but sheer across it, sending the rain slanting down like the lines they used to rule in the copy-books at school, to make the boys slope well. For a moment it would die away, and the traveller would begin to delude himself into the belief that, exhausted with its previous fury, it had quietly laid itself down to rest, when, whoo! he could hear it growling and whistling in the distance, and on it would come rushing over the hill-tops, and sweeping along the plain, gathering sound and strength as it drew nearer, until it dashed with a heavy gust against horse and man, driving the sharp rain into their ears, and its cold damp breath into their very bones; and past them it would scour, far, far away, with a stunning roar, as if in ridicule of their weakness, and triumphant in the consciousness of its own strength and power.

‘The bay mare splashed away, through the mud and water, with drooping ears; now and then tossing her head as if to express her disgust at this very ungentlemanly behaviour of the elements, but keeping a good pace notwithstanding, until a gust of wind, more furious than any that had yet assailed them, caused her to stop suddenly and plant her four feet firmly against the ground, to prevent her being blown over. It’s a special mercy that she did this, for if she had been blown over, the vixenish mare was so light, and the gig was so light, and Tom Smart such a light weight into the bargain, that they must infallibly have all gone rolling over and over together, until they reached the confines of earth, or until the wind fell; and in either case the probability is, that neither the vixenish mare, nor the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, nor Tom Smart, would ever have been fit for service again.

‘“Well, damn my straps and whiskers,” says Tom Smart (Tom sometimes had an unpleasant knack of swearing)—“damn my straps and whiskers,” says Tom, “if this ain’t pleasant, blow me!”

‘You’ll very likely ask me why, as Tom Smart had been pretty well blown already, he expressed this wish to be submitted to the same process again. I can’t say—all I know is, that Tom Smart said so—or at least he always told my uncle he said so, and it’s just the same thing.

“‘Blow me,” says Tom Smart; and the mare neighed as if she were precisely of the same opinion.

“‘Cheer up, old girl,” said Tom, patting the bay mare on the neck with the end of his whip. “It won’t do pushing on, such a night as this; the first house we come to we’ll put up at, so the faster you go the sooner it’s over. Soho, old girl—gently—gently.”

‘Whether the vixenish mare was sufficiently well acquainted with the tones of Tom’s voice to comprehend his meaning, or whether she found it colder standing still than moving on, of course I can’t say. But I can say that Tom had no sooner finished speaking, than she pricked up her ears, and started forward at a speed which made the clay-coloured gig rattle until you would have supposed every one of the red spokes were going to fly out on the turf of Marlborough Downs; and even Tom, whip as he was, couldn’t stop or check her pace, until she drew up of her own accord, before a roadside inn on the right-hand side of the way, about half a quarter of a mile from the end of the Downs.

‘Tom cast a hasty glance at the upper part of the house as he threw the reins to the hostler, and stuck the whip in the box. It was a strange old place, built of a kind of shingle, inlaid, as it were, with cross-beams, with gabled-topped windows projecting completely over the pathway, and a low door with a dark porch, and a couple of steep steps leading down into the house, instead of the modern fashion of half a dozen shallow ones leading up to it. It was a comfortable-looking place though, for there was a strong, cheerful light in the bar window, which shed a bright ray across the road, and even lighted up the hedge on the other side; and there was a red flickering light in the opposite window, one moment but faintly discernible, and the next gleaming strongly through the drawn curtains, which intimated that a rousing fire was blazing within. Marking these little evidences with the eye of an experienced traveller, Tom dismounted with as much agility as his half-frozen limbs would permit, and entered the house.

‘In less than five minutes’ time, Tom was ensconced in the room opposite the bar—the very room where he had imagined the fire blazing—before a substantial, matter-of-fact, roaring fire, composed of something short of a bushel of coals, and wood enough to make half a dozen decent gooseberry bushes, piled half-way up the chimney, and roaring and crackling with a sound that of itself would have warmed the heart of any reasonable man. This was comfortable, but this was not all; for a smartly-dressed girl, with a bright eye and a neat ankle, was laying a very clean white cloth on the table; and as Tom sat with his slippered feet on the fender, and his back to the open door, he saw a charming prospect of the bar reflected in the glass over the chimney-piece, with delightful rows of green bottles and gold labels, together with jars of pickles and preserves, and cheeses and boiled hams, and rounds of beef, arranged on shelves in the most tempting and delicious array. Well, this was comfortable too; but even this was not all—for in the bar, seated at tea at the nicest possible little table, drawn close up before the brightest possible little fire, was a buxom widow of somewhere about eight-and-forty or thereabouts, with a face as comfortable as the bar, who was evidently the landlady of the house, and the supreme ruler over all these agreeable possessions. There was only one drawback to the beauty of the whole picture, and that was a tall man—a very tall man—in a brown coat and bright basket buttons, and black whiskers and wavy black hair, who was seated at tea with the widow, and who it required no great penetration to discover was in a fair way of persuading her to be a widow no longer, but to confer upon him the privilege of sitting down in that bar, for and during the whole remainder of the term of his natural life.

‘Tom Smart was by no means of an irritable or envious disposition, but somehow or other the tall man with the brown coat and the bright basket buttons did rouse what little gall he had in his composition, and did make him feel extremely indignant, the more especially as he could now and then observe, from his seat before the glass, certain little affectionate familiarities passing between the tall man and the widow, which sufficiently denoted that the tall man was as high in favour as he was in size. Tom was fond of hot punch—I may venture to say he was very fond of hot punch—and after he had seen the vixenish mare well fed and well littered down, and had eaten every bit of the nice little hot dinner which the widow tossed up for him with her own hands, he just ordered a tumbler of it by way of experiment. Now, if there was one thing in the whole range of domestic art, which the widow could manufacture better than another, it was this identical article; and the first tumbler was adapted to Tom Smart’s taste with such peculiar nicety, that he ordered a second with the least possible delay. Hot punch is a pleasant thing, gentlemen—an extremely pleasant thing under any circumstances—but in that snug old parlour, before the roaring fire, with the wind blowing outside till every timber in the old house creaked again, Tom Smart found it perfectly delightful. He ordered another tumbler, and then another—I am not quite certain whether he didn’t order another after that—but the more he drank of the hot punch, the more he thought of the tall man.

‘“Confound his impudence!” said Tom to himself, “what business has he in that snug bar? Such an ugly villain too!” said Tom. “If the widow had any taste, she might surely pick up some better fellow than that.” Here Tom’s eye wandered from the glass on the chimney-piece to the glass on the table; and as he felt himself becoming gradually sentimental, he emptied the fourth tumbler of punch and ordered a fifth.

‘Tom Smart, gentlemen, had always been very much attached to the public line. It had been long his ambition to stand in a bar of his own, in a green coat, knee-cords, and tops. He had a great notion of taking the chair at convivial dinners, and he had often thought how well he could preside in a room of his own in the talking way, and what a capital example he could set to his customers in the drinking department. All these things passed rapidly through Tom’s mind as he sat drinking the hot punch by the roaring fire, and he felt very justly and properly indignant that the tall man should be in a fair way of keeping such an excellent house, while he, Tom Smart, was as far off from it as ever. So, after deliberating over the two last tumblers, whether he hadn’t a perfect right to pick a quarrel with the tall man for having contrived to get into the good graces of the buxom widow, Tom Smart at last arrived at the satisfactory conclusion that he was a very ill-used and persecuted individual, and had better go to bed.

‘Up a wide and ancient staircase the smart girl preceded Tom, shading the chamber candle with her hand, to protect it from the currents of air which in such a rambling old place might have found plenty of room to disport themselves in, without blowing the candle out, but which did blow it out nevertheless—thus affording Tom’s enemies an opportunity of asserting that it was he, and not the wind, who extinguished the candle, and that while he pretended to be blowing it alight again, he was in fact kissing the girl. Be this as it may, another light was obtained, and Tom was conducted through a maze of rooms, and a labyrinth of passages, to the apartment which had been prepared for his reception, where the girl bade him good-night and left him alone.

‘It was a good large room with big closets, and a bed which might have served for a whole boarding-school, to say nothing of a couple of oaken presses that would have held the baggage of a small army; but what struck Tom’s fancy most was a strange, grim-looking, high backed chair, carved in the most fantastic manner, with a flowered damask cushion, and the round knobs at the bottom of the legs carefully tied up in red cloth, as if it had got the gout in its toes. Of any other queer chair, Tom would only have thought it was a queer chair, and there would have been an end of the matter; but there was something about this particular chair, and yet he couldn’t tell what it was, so odd and so unlike any other piece of furniture he had ever seen, that it seemed to fascinate him. He sat down before the fire, and stared at the old chair for half an hour.—Damn the chair, it was such a strange old thing, he couldn’t take his eyes off it.

‘“Well,” said Tom, slowly undressing himself, and staring at the old chair all the while, which stood with a mysterious aspect by the bedside, “I never saw such a rum concern as that in my days. Very odd,” said Tom, who had got rather sage with the hot punch—“very odd.” Tom shook his head with an air of profound wisdom, and looked at the chair again. He couldn’t make anything of it though, so he got into bed, covered himself up warm, and fell asleep.

‘In about half an hour, Tom woke up with a start, from a confused dream of tall men and tumblers of punch; and the first object that presented itself to his waking imagination was the queer chair.

‘“I won’t look at it any more,” said Tom to himself, and he squeezed his eyelids together, and tried to persuade himself he was going to sleep again. No use; nothing but queer chairs danced before his eyes, kicking up their legs, jumping over each other’s backs, and playing all kinds of antics.

“‘I may as well see one real chair, as two or three complete sets of false ones,” said Tom, bringing out his head from under the bedclothes. There it was, plainly discernible by the light of the fire, looking as provoking as ever.

‘Tom gazed at the chair; and, suddenly as he looked at it, a most extraordinary change seemed to come over it. The carving of the back gradually assumed the lineaments and expression of an old, shrivelled human face; the damask cushion became an antique, flapped waistcoat; the round knobs grew into a couple of feet, encased in red cloth slippers; and the whole chair looked like a very ugly old man, of the previous century, with his arms akimbo. Tom sat up in bed, and rubbed his eyes to dispel the illusion. No. The chair was an ugly old gentleman; and what was more, he was winking at Tom Smart.

‘Tom was naturally a headlong, careless sort of dog, and he had had five tumblers of hot punch into the bargain; so, although he was a little startled at first, he began to grow rather indignant when he saw the old gentleman winking and leering at him with such an impudent air. At length he resolved that he wouldn’t stand it; and as the old face still kept winking away as fast as ever, Tom said, in a very angry tone—

‘“What the devil are you winking at me for?”

‘“Because I like it, Tom Smart,” said the chair; or the old gentleman, whichever you like to call him. He stopped winking though, when Tom spoke, and began grinning like a superannuated monkey.

‘“How do you know my name, old nut-cracker face?” inquired Tom Smart, rather staggered; though he pretended to carry it off so well.

‘“Come, come, Tom,” said the old gentleman, “that’s not the way to address solid Spanish mahogany. Damme, you couldn’t treat me with less respect if I was veneered.” When the old gentleman said this, he looked so fierce that Tom began to grow frightened.

‘“I didn’t mean to treat you with any disrespect, Sir,” said Tom, in a much humbler tone than he had spoken in at first.

‘“Well, well,” said the old fellow, “perhaps not—perhaps not. Tom—”

‘“Sir—”

‘“I know everything about you, Tom; everything. You’re very poor, Tom.”

‘“I certainly am,” said Tom Smart. “But how came you to know that?”

‘“Never mind that,” said the old gentleman; “you’re much too fond of punch, Tom.”

‘Tom Smart was just on the point of protesting that he hadn’t tasted a drop since his last birthday, but when his eye encountered that of the old gentleman he looked so knowing that Tom blushed, and was silent.

‘“Tom,” said the old gentleman, “the widow’s a fine woman—remarkably fine woman—eh, Tom?” Here the old fellow screwed up his eyes, cocked up one of his wasted little legs, and looked altogether so unpleasantly amorous, that Tom was quite disgusted with the levity of his behaviour—at his time of life, too!

‘“I am her guardian, Tom,” said the old gentleman.

‘“Are you?” inquired Tom Smart.

‘“I knew her mother, Tom,” said the old fellow: “and her grandmother. She was very fond of me—made me this waistcoat, Tom.”

‘“Did she?” said Tom Smart.

‘“And these shoes,” said the old fellow, lifting up one of the red cloth mufflers; “but don’t mention it, Tom. I shouldn’t like to have it known that she was so much attached to me. It might occasion some unpleasantness in the family.” When the old rascal said this, he looked so extremely impertinent, that, as Tom Smart afterwards declared, he could have sat upon him without remorse.

‘“I have been a great favourite among the women in my time, Tom,” said the profligate old debauchee; “hundreds of fine women have sat in my lap for hours together. What do you think of that, you dog, eh!” The old gentleman was proceeding to recount some other exploits of his youth, when he was seized with such a violent fit of creaking that he was unable to proceed.

‘“Just serves you right, old boy,” thought Tom Smart; but he didn’t say anything.

‘“Ah!” said the old fellow, “I am a good deal troubled with this now. I am getting old, Tom, and have lost nearly all my nails. I have had an operation performed, too—a small piece let into my back—and I found it a severe trial, Tom.”

‘“I dare say you did, Sir,” said Tom Smart.

‘“However,” said the old gentleman, “that’s not the point. Tom! I want you to marry the widow.”

‘“Me, Sir!” said Tom.

‘“You,” said the old gentleman.

‘“Bless your reverend locks,” said Tom (he had a few scattered horse-hairs left)—“bless your reverend locks, she wouldn’t have me.” And Tom sighed involuntarily, as he thought of the bar.

‘“Wouldn’t she?” said the old gentleman firmly.

‘“No, no,” said Tom; “there’s somebody else in the wind. A tall man—a confoundedly tall man—with black whiskers.”

‘“Tom,” said the old gentleman; “she will never have him.”

‘“Won’t she?” said Tom. “If you stood in the bar, old gentleman, you’d tell another story.”

‘“Pooh, pooh,” said the old gentleman. “I know all about that.”

‘“About what?” said Tom.

‘“The kissing behind the door, and all that sort of thing, Tom,” said the old gentleman. And here he gave another impudent look, which made Tom very wroth, because as you all know, gentlemen, to hear an old fellow, who ought to know better, talking about these things, is very unpleasant—nothing more so.

‘“I know all about that, Tom,” said the old gentleman. “I have seen it done very often in my time, Tom, between more people than I should like to mention to you; but it never came to anything after all.”

‘“You must have seen some queer things,” said Tom, with an inquisitive look.

‘“You may say that, Tom,” replied the old fellow, with a very complicated wink. “I am the last of my family, Tom,” said the old gentleman, with a melancholy sigh.

‘“Was it a large one?” inquired Tom Smart.

‘“There were twelve of us, Tom,” said the old gentleman; “fine, straight-backed, handsome fellows as you’d wish to see. None of your modern abortions—all with arms, and with a degree of polish, though I say it that should not, which it would have done your heart good to behold.”

‘“And what’s become of the others, Sir?” asked Tom Smart—

‘The old gentleman applied his elbow to his eye as he replied, “Gone, Tom, gone. We had hard service, Tom, and they hadn’t all my constitution. They got rheumatic about the legs and arms, and went into kitchens and other hospitals; and one of ‘em, with long service and hard usage, positively lost his senses—he got so crazy that he was obliged to be burnt. Shocking thing that, Tom.”

‘“Dreadful!” said Tom Smart.

‘The old fellow paused for a few minutes, apparently struggling with his feelings of emotion, and then said—

‘“However, Tom, I am wandering from the point. This tall man, Tom, is a rascally adventurer. The moment he married the widow, he would sell off all the furniture, and run away. What would be the consequence? She would be deserted and reduced to ruin, and I should catch my death of cold in some broker’s shop.”

‘“Yes, but—”

‘“Don’t interrupt me,” said the old gentleman. “Of you, Tom, I entertain a very different opinion; for I well know that if you once settled yourself in a public-house, you would never leave it, as long as there was anything to drink within its walls.”

‘“I am very much obliged to you for your good opinion, Sir,” said Tom Smart.

‘“Therefore,” resumed the old gentleman, in a dictatorial tone, “you shall have her, and he shall not.”

‘“What is to prevent it?” said Tom Smart eagerly.

‘“This disclosure,” replied the old gentleman; “he is already married.”

‘“How can I prove it?” said Tom, starting half out of bed.

‘The old gentleman untucked his arm from his side, and having pointed to one of the oaken presses, immediately replaced it, in its old position.

‘“He little thinks,” said the old gentleman, “that in the right-hand pocket of a pair of trousers in that press, he has left a letter, entreating him to return to his disconsolate wife, with six—mark me, Tom—six babes, and all of them small ones.”

‘As the old gentleman solemnly uttered these words, his features grew less and less distinct, and his figure more shadowy. A film came over Tom Smart’s eyes. The old man seemed gradually blending into the chair, the damask waistcoat to resolve into a cushion, the red slippers to shrink into little red cloth bags. The light faded gently away, and Tom Smart fell back on his pillow, and dropped asleep.

‘Morning aroused Tom from the lethargic slumber, into which he had fallen on the disappearance of the old man. He sat up in bed, and for some minutes vainly endeavoured to recall the events of the preceding night. Suddenly they rushed upon him. He looked at the chair; it was a fantastic and grim-looking piece of furniture, certainly, but it must have been a remarkably ingenious and lively imagination, that could have discovered any resemblance between it and an old man.

‘“How are you, old boy?” said Tom. He was bolder in the daylight—most men are.

‘The chair remained motionless, and spoke not a word.

‘“Miserable morning,” said Tom. No. The chair would not be drawn into conversation.

‘“Which press did you point to?—you can tell me that,” said Tom. Devil a word, gentlemen, the chair would say.

‘“It’s not much trouble to open it, anyhow,” said Tom, getting out of bed very deliberately. He walked up to one of the presses. The key was in the lock; he turned it, and opened the door. There was a pair of trousers there. He put his hand into the pocket, and drew forth the identical letter the old gentleman had described!

‘“Queer sort of thing, this,” said Tom Smart, looking first at the chair and then at the press, and then at the letter, and then at the chair again. “Very queer,” said Tom. But, as there was nothing in either, to lessen the queerness, he thought he might as well dress himself, and settle the tall man’s business at once—just to put him out of his misery.

‘Tom surveyed the rooms he passed through, on his way downstairs, with the scrutinising eye of a landlord; thinking it not impossible, that before long, they and their contents would be his property. The tall man was standing in the snug little bar, with his hands behind him, quite at home. He grinned vacantly at Tom. A casual observer might have supposed he did it, only to show his white teeth; but Tom Smart thought that a consciousness of triumph was passing through the place where the tall man’s mind would have been, if he had had any. Tom laughed in his face; and summoned the landlady.

‘“Good-morning ma’am,” said Tom Smart, closing the door of the little parlour as the widow entered.

‘“Good-morning, Sir,” said the widow. “What will you take for breakfast, sir?”

‘Tom was thinking how he should open the case, so he made no answer.

‘“There’s a very nice ham,” said the widow, “and a beautiful cold larded fowl. Shall I send ‘em in, Sir?”

‘These words roused Tom from his reflections. His admiration of the widow increased as she spoke. Thoughtful creature! Comfortable provider!

‘“Who is that gentleman in the bar, ma’am?” inquired Tom.

‘“His name is Jinkins, Sir,” said the widow, slightly blushing.

‘“He’s a tall man,” said Tom.

‘“He is a very fine man, Sir,” replied the widow, “and a very nice gentleman.”

‘“Ah!” said Tom.

‘“Is there anything more you want, Sir?” inquired the widow, rather puzzled by Tom’s manner.

‘“Why, yes,” said Tom. “My dear ma’am, will you have the kindness to sit down for one moment?”

‘The widow looked much amazed, but she sat down, and Tom sat down too, close beside her. I don’t know how it happened, gentlemen—indeed my uncle used to tell me that Tom Smart said he didn’t know how it happened either—but somehow or other the palm of Tom’s hand fell upon the back of the widow’s hand, and remained there while he spoke.

‘“My dear ma’am,” said Tom Smart—he had always a great notion of committing the amiable—“my dear ma’am, you deserve a very excellent husband—you do indeed.”

‘“Lor, Sir!” said the widow—as well she might; Tom’s mode of commencing the conversation being rather unusual, not to say startling; the fact of his never having set eyes upon her before the previous night being taken into consideration. “Lor, Sir!”

‘“I scorn to flatter, my dear ma’am,” said Tom Smart. “You deserve a very admirable husband, and whoever he is, he’ll be a very lucky man.” As Tom said this, his eye involuntarily wandered from the widow’s face to the comfort around him.

‘The widow looked more puzzled than ever, and made an effort to rise. Tom gently pressed her hand, as if to detain her, and she kept her seat. Widows, gentlemen, are not usually timorous, as my uncle used to say.

‘“I am sure I am very much obliged to you, Sir, for your good opinion,” said the buxom landlady, half laughing; “and if ever I marry again—”

‘“If,” said Tom Smart, looking very shrewdly out of the right-hand corner of his left eye. “If—”

“Well,” said the widow, laughing outright this time, “when I do, I hope I shall have as good a husband as you describe.”

‘“Jinkins, to wit,” said Tom.

‘“Lor, sir!” exclaimed the widow.

‘“Oh, don’t tell me,” said Tom, “I know him.”

‘“I am sure nobody who knows him, knows anything bad of him,” said the widow, bridling up at the mysterious air with which Tom had spoken.

‘“Hem!” said Tom Smart.

‘The widow began to think it was high time to cry, so she took out her handkerchief, and inquired whether Tom wished to insult her, whether he thought it like a gentleman to take away the character of another gentleman behind his back, why, if he had got anything to say, he didn’t say it to the man, like a man, instead of terrifying a poor weak woman in that way; and so forth.

‘“I’ll say it to him fast enough,” said Tom, “only I want you to hear it first.”

‘“What is it?” inquired the widow, looking intently in Tom’s countenance.

‘“I’ll astonish you,” said Tom, putting his hand in his pocket.

‘“If it is, that he wants money,” said the widow, “I know that already, and you needn’t trouble yourself.” ‘“Pooh, nonsense, that’s nothing,” said Tom Smart, “I want money. ‘Tain’t that.”

‘“Oh, dear, what can it be?” exclaimed the poor widow.

‘“Don’t be frightened,” said Tom Smart. He slowly drew forth the letter, and unfolded it. “You won’t scream?” said Tom doubtfully.

‘“No, no,” replied the widow; “let me see it.”

‘“You won’t go fainting away, or any of that nonsense?” said Tom.

‘“No, no,” returned the widow hastily.

‘“And don’t run out, and blow him up,” said Tom; “because I’ll do all that for you. You had better not exert yourself.”

‘“Well, well,” said the widow, “let me see it.”

‘“I will,” replied Tom Smart; and, with these words, he placed the letter in the widow’s hand.

‘Gentlemen, I have heard my uncle say, that Tom Smart said the widow’s lamentations when she heard the disclosure would have pierced a heart of stone. Tom was certainly very tender-hearted, but they pierced his, to the very core. The widow rocked herself to and fro, and wrung her hands.

‘“Oh, the deception and villainy of the man!” said the widow.

‘“Frightful, my dear ma’am; but compose yourself,” said Tom Smart.

‘“Oh, I can’t compose myself,” shrieked the widow. “I shall never find anyone else I can love so much!”

‘“Oh, yes you will, my dear soul,” said Tom Smart, letting fall a shower of the largest-sized tears, in pity for the widow’s misfortunes. Tom Smart, in the energy of his compassion, had put his arm round the widow’s waist; and the widow, in a passion of grief, had clasped Tom’s hand. She looked up in Tom’s face, and smiled through her tears. Tom looked down in hers, and smiled through his.

‘I never could find out, gentlemen, whether Tom did or did not kiss the widow at that particular moment. He used to tell my uncle he didn’t, but I have my doubts about it. Between ourselves, gentlemen, I rather think he did.

‘At all events, Tom kicked the very tall man out at the front door half an hour later, and married the widow a month after. And he used to drive about the country, with the clay-coloured gig with the red wheels, and the vixenish mare with the fast pace, till he gave up business many years afterwards, and went to France with his wife; and then the old house was pulled down.’

‘Will you allow me to ask you,’ said the inquisitive old gentleman, ‘what became of the chair?’

‘Why,’ replied the one-eyed bagman, ‘it was observed to creak very much on the day of the wedding; but Tom Smart couldn’t say for certain whether it was with pleasure or bodily infirmity. He rather thought it was the latter, though, for it never spoke afterwards.’

‘Everybody believed the story, didn’t they?’ said the dirty-faced man, refilling his pipe.

‘Except Tom’s enemies,’ replied the bagman. ‘Some of ‘em said Tom invented it altogether; and others said he was drunk and fancied it, and got hold of the wrong trousers by mistake before he went to bed. But nobody ever minded what they said.’

‘Tom Smart said it was all true?’

‘Every word.’

‘And your uncle?’

‘Every letter.’

‘They must have been very nice men, both of ‘em,’ said the dirty-faced man.

‘Yes, they were,’ replied the bagman; ‘very nice men indeed!’






CHAPTER XV. IN WHICH IS GIVEN A FAITHFUL PORTRAITURE OF TWO DISTINGUISHED PERSONS; AND AN ACCURATE DESCRIPTION OF A PUBLIC BREAKFAST IN THEIR HOUSE AND GROUNDS: WHICH PUBLIC BREAKFAST LEADS TO THE RECOGNITION OF AN OLD ACQUAINTANCE, AND THE COMMENCEMENT OF ANOTHER CHAPTER

Mr. Pickwick’s conscience had been somewhat reproaching him for his recent neglect of his friends at the Peacock; and he was just on the point of walking forth in quest of them, on the third morning after the election had terminated, when his faithful valet put into his hand a card, on which was engraved the following inscription:—

     Mrs. Leo Hunter
     THE DEN. EATANSWILL.

‘Person’s a-waitin’,’ said Sam, epigrammatically.

‘Does the person want me, Sam?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘He wants you partickler; and no one else ‘ll do, as the devil’s private secretary said ven he fetched avay Doctor Faustus,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘He. Is it a gentleman?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘A wery good imitation o’ one, if it ain’t,’ replied Mr. Weller.

‘But this is a lady’s card,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Given me by a gen’l’m’n, howsoever,’ replied Sam, ‘and he’s a-waitin’ in the drawing-room—said he’d rather wait all day, than not see you.’

Mr. Pickwick, on hearing this determination, descended to the drawing-room, where sat a grave man, who started up on his entrance, and said, with an air of profound respect:—

‘Mr. Pickwick, I presume?’

‘The same.’

‘Allow me, Sir, the honour of grasping your hand. Permit me, Sir, to shake it,’ said the grave man.

‘Certainly,’ said Mr. Pickwick. The stranger shook the extended hand, and then continued—

‘We have heard of your fame, sir. The noise of your antiquarian discussion has reached the ears of Mrs. Leo Hunter—my wife, sir; I am Mr. Leo Hunter’—the stranger paused, as if he expected that Mr. Pickwick would be overcome by the disclosure; but seeing that he remained perfectly calm, proceeded—

‘My wife, sir—Mrs. Leo Hunter—is proud to number among her acquaintance all those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit me, sir, to place in a conspicuous part of the list the name of Mr. Pickwick, and his brother-members of the club that derives its name from him.’

‘I shall be extremely happy to make the acquaintance of such a lady, sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘You shall make it, sir,’ said the grave man. ‘To-morrow morning, sir, we give a public breakfast—a fete champetre—to a great number of those who have rendered themselves celebrated by their works and talents. Permit Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir, to have the gratification of seeing you at the Den.’

‘With great pleasure,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘Mrs. Leo Hunter has many of these breakfasts, Sir,’ resumed the new acquaintance—‘"feasts of reason,” sir, “and flows of soul,” as somebody who wrote a sonnet to Mrs. Leo Hunter on her breakfasts, feelingly and originally observed.’

‘Was he celebrated for his works and talents?’ inquired Mr. Pickwick.

‘He was Sir,’ replied the grave man, ‘all Mrs. Leo Hunter’s acquaintances are; it is her ambition, sir, to have no other acquaintance.’

‘It is a very noble ambition,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘When I inform Mrs. Leo Hunter, that that remark fell from your lips, sir, she will indeed be proud,’ said the grave man. ‘You have a gentleman in your train, who has produced some beautiful little poems, I think, sir.’

‘My friend Mr. Snodgrass has a great taste for poetry,’ replied Mr. Pickwick.

‘So has Mrs. Leo Hunter, Sir. She dotes on poetry, sir. She adores it; I may say that her whole soul and mind are wound up, and entwined with it. She has produced some delightful pieces, herself, sir. You may have met with her “Ode to an Expiring Frog,” sir.’

‘I don’t think I have,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘You astonish me, Sir,’ said Mr. Leo Hunter. ‘It created an immense sensation. It was signed with an “L” and eight stars, and appeared originally in a lady’s magazine. It commenced—

     ‘“Can I view thee panting, lying
     On thy stomach, without sighing;
     Can I unmoved see thee dying
       On a log
       Expiring frog!”’ 

‘Beautiful!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Fine,’ said Mr. Leo Hunter; ‘so simple.’

‘Very,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘The next verse is still more touching. Shall I repeat it?’

‘If you please,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘It runs thus,’ said the grave man, still more gravely.

     ‘“Say, have fiends in shape of boys,
     With wild halloo, and brutal noise,
     Hunted thee from marshy joys,
       With a dog,
       Expiring frog!”’ 

‘Finely expressed,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘All point, Sir,’ said Mr. Leo Hunter; ‘but you shall hear Mrs. Leo Hunter repeat it. She can do justice to it, Sir. She will repeat it, in character, Sir, to-morrow morning.’

‘In character!’

‘As Minerva. But I forgot—it’s a fancy-dress dejeune.’

‘Dear me,’ said Mr. Pickwick, glancing at his own figure—‘I can’t possibly—’

‘Can’t, sir; can’t!’ exclaimed Mr. Leo Hunter. ‘Solomon Lucas, the Jew in the High Street, has thousands of fancy-dresses. Consider, Sir, how many appropriate characters are open for your selection. Plato, Zeno, Epicurus, Pythagoras—all founders of clubs.’

‘I know that,’ said Mr. Pickwick; ‘but as I cannot put myself in competition with those great men, I cannot presume to wear their dresses.’

The grave man considered deeply, for a few seconds, and then said—

‘On reflection, Sir, I don’t know whether it would not afford Mrs. Leo Hunter greater pleasure, if her guests saw a gentleman of your celebrity in his own costume, rather than in an assumed one. I may venture to promise an exception in your case, sir—yes, I am quite certain that, on behalf of Mrs. Leo Hunter, I may venture to do so.’

‘In that case,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘I shall have great pleasure in coming.’

‘But I waste your time, Sir,’ said the grave man, as if suddenly recollecting himself. ‘I know its value, sir. I will not detain you. I may tell Mrs. Leo Hunter, then, that she may confidently expect you and your distinguished friends? Good-morning, Sir, I am proud to have beheld so eminent a personage—not a step sir; not a word.’ And without giving Mr. Pickwick time to offer remonstrance or denial, Mr. Leo Hunter stalked gravely away.

Mr. Pickwick took up his hat, and repaired to the Peacock, but Mr. Winkle had conveyed the intelligence of the fancy-ball there, before him.

‘Mrs. Pott’s going,’ were the first words with which he saluted his leader.

‘Is she?’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘As Apollo,’ replied Winkle. ‘Only Pott objects to the tunic.’

‘He is right. He is quite right,’ said Mr. Pickwick emphatically.

‘Yes; so she’s going to wear a white satin gown with gold spangles.’

‘They’ll hardly know what she’s meant for; will they?’ inquired Mr. Snodgrass.

‘Of course they will,’ replied Mr. Winkle indignantly. ‘They’ll see her lyre, won’t they?’

‘True; I forgot that,’ said Mr. Snodgrass.

‘I shall go as a bandit,’ interposed Mr. Tupman.

‘What!’ said Mr. Pickwick, with a sudden start.

‘As a bandit,’ repeated Mr. Tupman, mildly.

‘You don’t mean to say,’ said Mr. Pickwick, gazing with solemn sternness at his friend—‘you don’t mean to say, Mr. Tupman, that it is your intention to put yourself into a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail?’

‘Such is my intention, Sir,’ replied Mr. Tupman warmly. ‘And why not, sir?’

‘Because, Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, considerably excited—‘because you are too old, Sir.’

‘Too old!’ exclaimed Mr. Tupman.

‘And if any further ground of objection be wanting,’ continued Mr. Pickwick, ‘you are too fat, sir.’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Tupman, his face suffused with a crimson glow, ‘this is an insult.’

‘Sir,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, in the same tone, ‘it is not half the insult to you, that your appearance in my presence in a green velvet jacket, with a two-inch tail, would be to me.’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Tupman, ‘you’re a fellow.’

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘you’re another!’

Mr. Tupman advanced a step or two, and glared at Mr. Pickwick. Mr. Pickwick returned the glare, concentrated into a focus by means of his spectacles, and breathed a bold defiance. Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle looked on, petrified at beholding such a scene between two such men.

‘Sir,’ said Mr. Tupman, after a short pause, speaking in a low, deep voice, ‘you have called me old.’

‘I have,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘And fat.’

‘I reiterate the charge.’

‘And a fellow.’

‘So you are!’

There was a fearful pause.

‘My attachment to your person, sir,’ said Mr. Tupman, speaking in a voice tremulous with emotion, and tucking up his wristbands meanwhile, ‘is great—very great—but upon that person, I must take summary vengeance.’

‘Come on, Sir!’ replied Mr. Pickwick. Stimulated by the exciting nature of the dialogue, the heroic man actually threw himself into a paralytic attitude, confidently supposed by the two bystanders to have been intended as a posture of defence.

‘What!’ exclaimed Mr. Snodgrass, suddenly recovering the power of speech, of which intense astonishment had previously bereft him, and rushing between the two, at the imminent hazard of receiving an application on the temple from each—‘what! Mr. Pickwick, with the eyes of the world upon you! Mr. Tupman! who, in common with us all, derives a lustre from his undying name! For shame, gentlemen; for shame.’

The unwonted lines which momentary passion had ruled in Mr. Pickwick’s clear and open brow, gradually melted away, as his young friend spoke, like the marks of a black-lead pencil beneath the softening influence of india-rubber. His countenance had resumed its usual benign expression, ere he concluded.

‘I have been hasty,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘very hasty. Tupman; your hand.’

The dark shadow passed from Mr. Tupman’s face, as he warmly grasped the hand of his friend.

‘I have been hasty, too,’ said he.

‘No, no,’ interrupted Mr. Pickwick, ‘the fault was mine. You will wear the green velvet jacket?’

‘No, no,’ replied Mr. Tupman.

‘To oblige me, you will,’ resumed Mr. Pickwick.

‘Well, well, I will,’ said Mr. Tupman.

It was accordingly settled that Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass, should all wear fancy-dresses. Thus Mr. Pickwick was led by the very warmth of his own good feelings to give his consent to a proceeding from which his better judgment would have recoiled—a more striking illustration of his amiable character could hardly have been conceived, even if the events recorded in these pages had been wholly imaginary.

Mr. Leo Hunter had not exaggerated the resources of Mr. Solomon Lucas. His wardrobe was extensive—very extensive—not strictly classical perhaps, not quite new, nor did it contain any one garment made precisely after the fashion of any age or time, but everything was more or less spangled; and what can be prettier than spangles! It may be objected that they are not adapted to the daylight, but everybody knows that they would glitter if there were lamps; and nothing can be clearer than that if people give fancy-balls in the day-time, and the dresses do not show quite as well as they would by night, the fault lies solely with the people who give the fancy-balls, and is in no wise chargeable on the spangles. Such was the convincing reasoning of Mr. Solomon Lucas; and influenced by such arguments did Mr. Tupman, Mr. Winkle, and Mr. Snodgrass engage to array themselves in costumes which his taste and experience induced him to recommend as admirably suited to the occasion.

A carriage was hired from the Town Arms, for the accommodation of the Pickwickians, and a chariot was ordered from the same repository, for the purpose of conveying Mr. and Mrs. Pott to Mrs. Leo Hunter’s grounds, which Mr. Pott, as a delicate acknowledgment of having received an invitation, had already confidently predicted in the Eatanswill Gazette ‘would present a scene of varied and delicious enchantment—a bewildering coruscation of beauty and talent—a lavish and prodigal display of hospitality—above all, a degree of splendour softened by the most exquisite taste; and adornment refined with perfect harmony and the chastest good keeping—compared with which, the fabled gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland itself would appear to be clothed in as many dark and murky colours, as must be the mind of the splenetic and unmanly being who could presume to taint with the venom of his envy, the preparations made by the virtuous and highly distinguished lady at whose shrine this humble tribute of admiration was offered.’ This last was a piece of biting sarcasm against the Independent, who, in consequence of not having been invited at all, had been, through four numbers, affecting to sneer at the whole affair, in his very largest type, with all the adjectives in capital letters.

The morning came: it was a pleasant sight to behold Mr. Tupman in full brigand’s costume, with a very tight jacket, sitting like a pincushion over his back and shoulders, the upper portion of his legs incased in the velvet shorts, and the lower part thereof swathed in the complicated bandages to which all brigands are peculiarly attached. It was pleasing to see his open and ingenuous countenance, well mustachioed and corked, looking out from an open shirt collar; and to contemplate the sugar-loaf hat, decorated with ribbons of all colours, which he was compelled to carry on his knee, inasmuch as no known conveyance with a top to it, would admit of any man’s carrying it between his head and the roof. Equally humorous and agreeable was the appearance of Mr. Snodgrass in blue satin trunks and cloak, white silk tights and shoes, and Grecian helmet, which everybody knows (and if they do not, Mr. Solomon Lucas did) to have been the regular, authentic, everyday costume of a troubadour, from the earliest ages down to the time of their final disappearance from the face of the earth. All this was pleasant, but this was as nothing compared with the shouting of the populace when the carriage drew up, behind Mr. Pott’s chariot, which chariot itself drew up at Mr. Pott’s door, which door itself opened, and displayed the great Pott accoutred as a Russian officer of justice, with a tremendous knout in his hand—tastefully typical of the stern and mighty power of the Eatanswill Gazette, and the fearful lashings it bestowed on public offenders.

‘Bravo!’ shouted Mr. Tupman and Mr. Snodgrass from the passage, when they beheld the walking allegory.

‘Bravo!’ Mr. Pickwick was heard to exclaim, from the passage.

‘Hoo-roar Pott!’ shouted the populace. Amid these salutations, Mr. Pott, smiling with that kind of bland dignity which sufficiently testified that he felt his power, and knew how to exert it, got into the chariot.

Then there emerged from the house, Mrs. Pott, who would have looked very like Apollo if she hadn’t had a gown on, conducted by Mr. Winkle, who, in his light-red coat could not possibly have been mistaken for anything but a sportsman, if he had not borne an equal resemblance to a general postman. Last of all came Mr. Pickwick, whom the boys applauded as loud as anybody, probably under the impression that his tights and gaiters were some remnants of the dark ages; and then the two vehicles proceeded towards Mrs. Leo Hunter’s; Mr. Weller (who was to assist in waiting) being stationed on the box of that in which his master was seated.

Every one of the men, women, boys, girls, and babies, who were assembled to see the visitors in their fancy-dresses, screamed with delight and ecstasy, when Mr. Pickwick, with the brigand on one arm, and the troubadour on the other, walked solemnly up the entrance. Never were such shouts heard as those which greeted Mr. Tupman’s efforts to fix the sugar-loaf hat on his head, by way of entering the garden in style.

The preparations were on the most delightful scale; fully realising the prophetic Pott’s anticipations about the gorgeousness of Eastern fairyland, and at once affording a sufficient contradiction to the malignant statements of the reptile Independent. The grounds were more than an acre and a quarter in extent, and they were filled with people! Never was such a blaze of beauty, and fashion, and literature. There was the young lady who ‘did’ the poetry in the Eatanswill Gazette, in the garb of a sultana, leaning upon the arm of the young gentleman who ‘did’ the review department, and who was appropriately habited in a field-marshal’s uniform—the boots excepted. There were hosts of these geniuses, and any reasonable person would have thought it honour enough to meet them. But more than these, there were half a dozen lions from London—authors, real authors, who had written whole books, and printed them afterwards—and here you might see ‘em, walking about, like ordinary men, smiling, and talking—aye, and talking pretty considerable nonsense too, no doubt with the benign intention of rendering themselves intelligible to the common people about them. Moreover, there was a band of music in pasteboard caps; four something-ean singers in the costume of their country, and a dozen hired waiters in the costume of their country—and very dirty costume too. And above all, there was Mrs. Leo Hunter in the character of Minerva, receiving the company, and overflowing with pride and gratification at the notion of having called such distinguished individuals together.

‘Mr. Pickwick, ma’am,’ said a servant, as that gentleman approached the presiding goddess, with his hat in his hand, and the brigand and troubadour on either arm.

‘What! Where!’ exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, starting up, in an affected rapture of surprise.

‘Here,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘Is it possible that I have really the gratification of beholding Mr. Pickwick himself!’ ejaculated Mrs. Leo Hunter.

‘No other, ma’am,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, bowing very low. ‘Permit me to introduce my friends—Mr. Tupman—Mr. Winkle—Mr. Snodgrass—to the authoress of “The Expiring Frog.”’

Very few people but those who have tried it, know what a difficult process it is to bow in green velvet smalls, and a tight jacket, and high-crowned hat; or in blue satin trunks and white silks, or knee-cords and top-boots that were never made for the wearer, and have been fixed upon him without the remotest reference to the comparative dimensions of himself and the suit. Never were such distortions as Mr. Tupman’s frame underwent in his efforts to appear easy and graceful—never was such ingenious posturing, as his fancy-dressed friends exhibited.

‘Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter, ‘I must make you promise not to stir from my side the whole day. There are hundreds of people here, that I must positively introduce you to.’

‘You are very kind, ma’am,’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘In the first place, here are my little girls; I had almost forgotten them,’ said Minerva, carelessly pointing towards a couple of full-grown young ladies, of whom one might be about twenty, and the other a year or two older, and who were dressed in very juvenile costumes—whether to make them look young, or their mamma younger, Mr. Pickwick does not distinctly inform us.

‘They are very beautiful,’ said Mr. Pickwick, as the juveniles turned away, after being presented.

‘They are very like their mamma, Sir,’ said Mr. Pott, majestically.

‘Oh, you naughty man,’ exclaimed Mrs. Leo Hunter, playfully tapping the editor’s arm with her fan (Minerva with a fan!).

‘Why now, my dear Mrs. Hunter,’ said Mr. Pott, who was trumpeter in ordinary at the Den, ‘you know that when your picture was in the exhibition of the Royal Academy, last year, everybody inquired whether it was intended for you, or your youngest daughter; for you were so much alike that there was no telling the difference between you.’

‘Well, and if they did, why need you repeat it, before strangers?’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter, bestowing another tap on the slumbering lion of the Eatanswill Gazette.

‘Count, count,’ screamed Mrs. Leo Hunter to a well-whiskered individual in a foreign uniform, who was passing by.

‘Ah! you want me?’ said the count, turning back.

‘I want to introduce two very clever people to each other,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter. ‘Mr. Pickwick, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Count Smorltork.’ She added in a hurried whisper to Mr. Pickwick—‘The famous foreigner—gathering materials for his great work on England—hem!—Count Smorltork, Mr. Pickwick.’

Mr. Pickwick saluted the count with all the reverence due to so great a man, and the count drew forth a set of tablets.

‘What you say, Mrs. Hunt?’ inquired the count, smiling graciously on the gratified Mrs. Leo Hunter, ‘Pig Vig or Big Vig—what you call—lawyer—eh? I see—that is it. Big Vig’—and the count was proceeding to enter Mr. Pickwick in his tablets, as a gentleman of the long robe, who derived his name from the profession to which he belonged, when Mrs. Leo Hunter interposed.

‘No, no, count,’ said the lady, ‘Pick-wick.’

‘Ah, ah, I see,’ replied the count. ‘Peek—christian name; Weeks—surname; good, ver good. Peek Weeks. How you do, Weeks?’

‘Quite well, I thank you,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, with all his usual affability. ‘Have you been long in England?’

‘Long—ver long time—fortnight—more.’

‘Do you stay here long?’

‘One week.’

‘You will have enough to do,’ said Mr. Pickwick smiling, ‘to gather all the materials you want in that time.’

‘Eh, they are gathered,’ said the count.

‘Indeed!’ said Mr. Pickwick.

‘They are here,’ added the count, tapping his forehead significantly. ‘Large book at home—full of notes—music, picture, science, potry, poltic; all tings.’

‘The word politics, sir,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘comprises in itself, a difficult study of no inconsiderable magnitude.’

‘Ah!’ said the count, drawing out the tablets again, ‘ver good—fine words to begin a chapter. Chapter forty-seven. Poltics. The word poltic surprises by himself—’ And down went Mr. Pickwick’s remark, in Count Smorltork’s tablets, with such variations and additions as the count’s exuberant fancy suggested, or his imperfect knowledge of the language occasioned.

‘Count,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

‘Mrs. Hunt,’ replied the count.

‘This is Mr. Snodgrass, a friend of Mr. Pickwick’s, and a poet.’

‘Stop,’ exclaimed the count, bringing out the tablets once more. ‘Head, potry—chapter, literary friends—name, Snowgrass; ver good. Introduced to Snowgrass—great poet, friend of Peek Weeks—by Mrs. Hunt, which wrote other sweet poem—what is that name?—Fog—Perspiring Fog—ver good—ver good indeed.’ And the count put up his tablets, and with sundry bows and acknowledgments walked away, thoroughly satisfied that he had made the most important and valuable additions to his stock of information.

‘Wonderful man, Count Smorltork,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

‘Sound philosopher,’ said Mr. Pott.

‘Clear-headed, strong-minded person,’ added Mr. Snodgrass.

A chorus of bystanders took up the shout of Count Smorltork’s praise, shook their heads sagely, and unanimously cried, ‘Very!’

As the enthusiasm in Count Smorltork’s favour ran very high, his praises might have been sung until the end of the festivities, if the four something-ean singers had not ranged themselves in front of a small apple-tree, to look picturesque, and commenced singing their national songs, which appeared by no means difficult of execution, inasmuch as the grand secret seemed to be, that three of the something-ean singers should grunt, while the fourth howled. This interesting performance having concluded amidst the loud plaudits of the whole company, a boy forthwith proceeded to entangle himself with the rails of a chair, and to jump over it, and crawl under it, and fall down with it, and do everything but sit upon it, and then to make a cravat of his legs, and tie them round his neck, and then to illustrate the ease with which a human being can be made to look like a magnified toad—all which feats yielded high delight and satisfaction to the assembled spectators. After which, the voice of Mrs. Pott was heard to chirp faintly forth, something which courtesy interpreted into a song, which was all very classical, and strictly in character, because Apollo was himself a composer, and composers can very seldom sing their own music or anybody else’s, either. This was succeeded by Mrs. Leo Hunter’s recitation of her far-famed ‘Ode to an Expiring Frog,’ which was encored once, and would have been encored twice, if the major part of the guests, who thought it was high time to get something to eat, had not said that it was perfectly shameful to take advantage of Mrs. Hunter’s good nature. So although Mrs. Leo Hunter professed her perfect willingness to recite the ode again, her kind and considerate friends wouldn’t hear of it on any account; and the refreshment room being thrown open, all the people who had ever been there before, scrambled in with all possible despatch—Mrs. Leo Hunter’s usual course of proceedings being, to issue cards for a hundred, and breakfast for fifty, or in other words to feed only the very particular lions, and let the smaller animals take care of themselves.

‘Where is Mr. Pott?’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter, as she placed the aforesaid lions around her.

‘Here I am,’ said the editor, from the remotest end of the room; far beyond all hope of food, unless something was done for him by the hostess.

‘Won’t you come up here?’

‘Oh, pray don’t mind him,’ said Mrs. Pott, in the most obliging voice—‘you give yourself a great deal of unnecessary trouble, Mrs. Hunter. You’ll do very well there, won’t you—dear?’

‘Certainly—love,’ replied the unhappy Pott, with a grim smile. Alas for the knout! The nervous arm that wielded it, with such a gigantic force on public characters, was paralysed beneath the glance of the imperious Mrs. Pott.

Mrs. Leo Hunter looked round her in triumph. Count Smorltork was busily engaged in taking notes of the contents of the dishes; Mr. Tupman was doing the honours of the lobster salad to several lionesses, with a degree of grace which no brigand ever exhibited before; Mr. Snodgrass having cut out the young gentleman who cut up the books for the Eatanswill Gazette, was engaged in an impassioned argument with the young lady who did the poetry; and Mr. Pickwick was making himself universally agreeable. Nothing seemed wanting to render the select circle complete, when Mr. Leo Hunter—whose department on these occasions, was to stand about in doorways, and talk to the less important people—suddenly called out—

‘My dear; here’s Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall.’

‘Oh dear,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter, ‘how anxiously I have been expecting him. Pray make room, to let Mr. Fitz-Marshall pass. Tell Mr. Fitz-Marshall, my dear, to come up to me directly, to be scolded for coming so late.’

‘Coming, my dear ma’am,’ cried a voice, ‘as quick as I can—crowds of people—full room—hard work—very.’

Mr. Pickwick’s knife and fork fell from his hand. He stared across the table at Mr. Tupman, who had dropped his knife and fork, and was looking as if he were about to sink into the ground without further notice.

‘Ah!’ cried the voice, as its owner pushed his way among the last five-and-twenty Turks, officers, cavaliers, and Charles the Seconds, that remained between him and the table, ‘regular mangle—Baker’s patent—not a crease in my coat, after all this squeezing—might have “got up my linen” as I came along—ha! ha! not a bad idea, that—queer thing to have it mangled when it’s upon one, though—trying process—very.’

With these broken words, a young man dressed as a naval officer made his way up to the table, and presented to the astonished Pickwickians the identical form and features of Mr. Alfred Jingle.

The offender had barely time to take Mrs. Leo Hunter’s proffered hand, when his eyes encountered the indignant orbs of Mr. Pickwick.

‘Hollo!’ said Jingle. ‘Quite forgot—no directions to postillion—give ‘em at once—back in a minute.’

‘The servant, or Mr. Hunter will do it in a moment, Mr. Fitz-Marshall,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter.

‘No, no—I’ll do it—shan’t be long—back in no time,’ replied Jingle. With these words he disappeared among the crowd.

‘Will you allow me to ask you, ma’am,’ said the excited Mr. Pickwick, rising from his seat, ‘who that young man is, and where he resides?’

‘He is a gentleman of fortune, Mr. Pickwick,’ said Mrs. Leo Hunter, ‘to whom I very much want to introduce you. The count will be delighted with him.’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Mr. Pickwick hastily. ‘His residence—’

‘Is at present at the Angel at Bury.’

‘At Bury?’

‘At Bury St. Edmunds, not many miles from here. But dear me, Mr. Pickwick, you are not going to leave us; surely Mr. Pickwick you cannot think of going so soon?’

But long before Mrs. Leo Hunter had finished speaking, Mr. Pickwick had plunged through the throng, and reached the garden, whither he was shortly afterwards joined by Mr. Tupman, who had followed his friend closely.

‘It’s of no use,’ said Mr. Tupman. ‘He has gone.’

‘I know it,’ said Mr. Pickwick, ‘and I will follow him.’

‘Follow him! Where?’ inquired Mr. Tupman.

‘To the Angel at Bury,’ replied Mr. Pickwick, speaking very quickly. ‘How do we know whom he is deceiving there? He deceived a worthy man once, and we were the innocent cause. He shall not do it again, if I can help it; I’ll expose him! Sam! Where’s my servant?’

‘Here you are, Sir,’ said Mr. Weller, emerging from a sequestered spot, where he had been engaged in discussing a bottle of Madeira, which he had abstracted from the breakfast-table an hour or two before. ‘Here’s your servant, Sir. Proud o’ the title, as the living skellinton said, ven they show’d him.’

‘Follow me instantly,’ said Mr. Pickwick. ‘Tupman, if I stay at Bury, you can join me there, when I write. Till then, good-bye!’

Remonstrances were useless. Mr. Pickwick was roused, and his mind was made up. Mr. Tupman returned to his companions; and in another hour had drowned all present recollection of Mr. Alfred Jingle, or Mr. Charles Fitz-Marshall, in an exhilarating quadrille and a bottle of champagne. By that time, Mr. Pickwick and Sam Weller, perched on the outside of a stage-coach, were every succeeding minute placing a less and less distance between themselves and the good old town of Bury St. Edmunds.